Looking for a getaway near Los Angeles? Try Ojai.

“But what about the pink moment ?” Despite a mezcal margarita by the pool, I could hear the panic in my voice as I reminded my sisters-...


“But what about the pink moment?”

Despite a mezcal margarita by the pool, I could hear the panic in my voice as I reminded my sisters-in-law of a phenomenon unique to Ojai. We only had 36 hours in this leafy little town nestled in the mountains of Ventura County, California, and we were going to miss our only chance to bask in the pink moment – the fleeting few seconds when the setting sun illuminates the valley of ‘Ojai in an otherworldly shade of dusty pink. I had reserved a room for us Ojai Valley Innpartly so that we could park under the resort’s 200-year-old oak tree and have a commanding view of Chief Peak, part of the Topatopa Mountains, which are known, under the right conditions, to glow with a transcendent hue of coral.

There was just one catch: 36 hours isn’t nearly enough time to experience all that Ojai – charmingly pronounced, “Oh, hi” – has to offer. To get the most out of our trip, about 80 miles from our homes in Los Angeles, we were going to have to combine certain activities, make compromises, and accept that the most rewarding destinations always leave you wanting more.

I should know that Ojai is exactly that type of place: since moving to Los Angeles in 2015, I’ve been there seven times, and each time I discover something new. My inaugural visit to Ojai, in 2017, will be forever remembered for the 50-minute “enlightenment session” I did with Nicola Fiona Behrman, then “Resident Energy Alchemist” of the Ojai Valley Inn who s strove to infuse my “body and soul with nourishing light” by drawing circles around me with a steaming bouquet of sage.

When I told Ms. Behrman that I was anxious about a novel I had started writing but was putting off, she sprayed me with a homemade “inspiration mist.” and told me to use it every time I hit a wall. Was I skeptical? Sure. Did the bottle collect dust on my desk? It made. But this novel,The Goddess Effect, in which Ojai makes a remarkable appearance, will finally be published in October. (Although Mrs. Behrman’s enlightenment session is no longer offered, Katie Manzella, Reiki Master, and Nancy Furst, Spiritual Advisor, offer similar treatmentsstarting at $260.)

If this all sounds too woo-woo to you, know that Ojai has embraced alternative ways of healing and living since its inception. Settled by the native Chumash around 5,000 years ago, the city’s name derives from the Chumash word meaning “moon”. The atypical orientation of the valley, east-west rather than north-south, would make it an electromagnetic vortex of good energy. The philosopher and evangelist of meditation Jiddu Krishnamurti lived in Ojai from 1922 to 1986. Its foundation regularly organizes workshops and welcomes visitors; around the city, there are plenty of opportunities to practice yoga and meditate. In the city center, the crystal corner sells Amethyst Slabs ($600) and Pink Tourmaline Pocket Nuggets ($12). Sanctuary sells decks of “wisdom” cards based on the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture ($16.95).

That said, Ojai also offers a variety of other types of ‘healing’ including eating, drinking and spa therapies and retail persuasions, which is why I found myself stressed, from the moment we are got in the car, about how we were going to have enough time to do everything. On the program: lunch, wine tasting, visit to Bart’s booksthe world’s largest open-air bookstore, a dip in the pool, a four-course dinner, a hike, two facials, a massage and, of course, the pink moment.

“But we can also do none of that and just relax,” I told Ritu Lal (sister-in-law #1) and Nicole Lal (sister-in-law #2), who didn’t take Worth honoring my faked thrill with an immediate response.

“We can do no matter“, said Ritu, as we left the Ojai highway and took a country road lined with orange groves. “Ojai is basically paradise.”

Hunger predicts that we eat before checking into the hotel. We arrived at Ojai Rotie, a Franco-Lebanese patio restaurant in the city center, 15 minutes before its opening, the personalities of Type A are blazing. There was already a line, due to Ojai Rotie’s line of absolutely mouth-watering salads (take the purslane tabbouleh, $10), Lebanese-inspired dips (the muhammara and roasted eggplant especially deserve the emoji of the chef’s kiss, $16 each or three for $28), flatbread sprinkled with za’atar ($7, it comes with the dipping spread), and roast chicken ($16 and up). “Dessert here or shall we walk?” Nicole asked. We chose to keep the car in its free parking spot and walk down the street to Ojai ice cream.

Until: “Oooh wait, can we stop here?”

I don’t know who said it first, because over the next two hours we all did. Ojai is a vacation shoppers paradise. On one side of Ojai Avenue: Curated Living Figa treasure trove of homewares, like earthenware mugs adorned with the iconic lyrics (“I’ll Survive,” $24), Ali Goldena trendy women’s clothing store, and Tala Design, another homeware store where Nicole convinced me to buy a smoked glass candle holder I didn’t know I needed ($80). The real harm has been done to Danski Ojai, where dresses fanned out on tight shelves. “The owner’s hand selects everything from designers around the world,” said Rosemary, the sales associate behind the register. “This dress,” the Kandinsky act I was looking at, “comes from Japan. It is made of recycled plastic bottles.

She had me in Japan. “I can’t believe I didn’t know any of these places,” I told Ritu and Nicole, as we walked back to the car, laden with purchases, with no ice cream. On previous visits, I had obsessed over other attractions, such as drinking wine at Tipple & Ramblea wine bar and market on Ojai Avenue, getting a prime table at Nocciolaan Italian restaurant in a Craftsman-style house, and trawling the Sunday Farmer’s Marketwhere, in season, tangerines and local avocados reign supreme.

During this trip, we discovered a divine dish of clams and spaghettone at olivellathe Ojai Valley Inn’s lavish Italian restaurant (tasting menus start at $95 for three courses), wine tasting rooms with a BYO food policy, which happened when we merged lunch (salads take out, $17, from Nest) with a flight of wine at Ojai Vineyard, a bright haunt across the street. We found that the 1 mile walk from the Ojai Valley Inn to downtown can be as much of a workout as it is a hike. Plateau Road Trail, especially if you’re carrying bags full of used books. We found places to try next time: Pinyona wood-fired pizzeria and natural wine shop that opened last fall, and At Rory’sa farm-to-table restaurant that opened in January.

Before returning to Los Angeles, we had dinner at another new restaurant: the dutch, specializing in Burmese and Indian cuisine. Opened in January, it spans three airy rooms and a large rear patio. “This place looks like an embassy in Bali,” Ritu said, waving a hand over a rattan-backed chair. After shoveling forks of crispy rice salad ($18) and lamb biryani wrapped in puff pastry ($31), we got into Nicole’s car for the drive back to Los Angeles. We had planned to leave before nightfall; the day got the better of us.

“Listen,” Nicole said, meeting my gaze in the rearview mirror. “The pink moment is behind you.” I turned around; flocks of salmon streaked the darkening sky. The glow carried for miles.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Looking for a getaway near Los Angeles? Try Ojai.
Looking for a getaway near Los Angeles? Try Ojai.
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