Central Coast Magazine
The Lightness of Being in OJAI
By Michael Vidor
Your approach into this perfect dell is spectacular whether you traverse from the north or south. Cresting the summit, the budding spring flora is awe-inspiring - a panorama smattered with Mother Nature's initial strokes against the distant glimpse of an azure Pacific Ocean.
It becomes clear how distant indigenous people recognized the natural occurrence of the Ojai Valley nestled with the Los Padres National Forest: the fertility of the ground, drenced by the abudance of warm sunlight, and blanketed by cool nightly ocean breezes. Famous and flourishing citrus orchards of intense yellow and organge (home of the Ojai Pixie Tangerine) pervade the landscape.
When you enter the City of Oja, at first glance, the town appears to be simply another sparsely populated hamlet at the foot of the golden hills for which the Central Coast region is known. However, when you are fortunate enough to spend lingering leisure here, you begin to realize that the sum total of the Ojai Valley is greater that the part that immediately meets the eye.
Begin your stay by checking into lovely Su Nido Inn tucked away behind adobe walls just a few blocks off of Ojai Avenue, the main street. Surrounding a flower-filled, cobblestone courtyard, this luxurious and intimate Inn of one and two-bedroom suites lives up to its name, which means "your nest" in Spanish. The reasonably priced suites are homey, with plush upholstered furniture, fireplaces, unique tile bathrooms with inlaid mosaics, feather beds topped with luxurious linens, and a small kitchen area with refrigerator and microwave, gourmet coffee makers, ceramic dishes, and a complimentary basket of snacks.
The kitchen setup is perfect for storing the gourment goodies you can pick up at a one-of-a-kind market nearby. Westridge Market & Fine Foods is one of those rare places with a plethora of local varieties in produce, deli, and baked goods on the shelves.
Whether sipping morning coffee or afternoon wine, Su Nido's penchant for elegance allows you to comfortably experience the Ojai Valley's fabled dawn and twilight that transform the sky into a canvas of rare and breathtaking hues.
Leave your car behind because, from Su Nido, you can stroll to the various shops, cafe's, and galleries on a whim. If you do decide to venture farther off, you can take the Ojai Trolley, which operates seven days a week. Eager explorers will want to start their days with some java form the Ojai Coffee Roasting Company and eggs over easy across the street at Bonnie Lu's Country Cafe, an excellent breakfast and lunch spot.
If it's art you seek, simply start at the Beatrice Wood Center or Arts or the Ojai Art Center. There are dozens of fine and acclaimed artists purveying their work in formal galleries.
Ojai is one of California's better know retreat destinations, with a few renowned spirtual and personal spa options. The Krishnamurti Retreat, located in the master's home, is secluded and quiet. The Jiddu Krishnamurti Library preserves a record of his teachings, as he lived in Ojai for over 50 years. Be sure to check out Meditation Mount, a spiritual retreat/event center for individuals and groups know for its profoud stillness, with magnificent gardens and inspiring views. Indulge your body and your mind with the The Day Spa of Ojai's private garden services. The Ojai Culinary Studio offers casual cooking classes and private cooking parties for all ages and levels of expertise.
There is much to choose from in dining options, but you won't want to miss Azu, a fine Mediterranean inspired restaurant that reflects the sophisticated Ojai resident and visitor. The tapas and small plate menu is perfectly suited for sharing and social dining, a result of Chef/Owner Laurel Moore's many trips to Spain; Arugula and Fig Salad with Crispy Jamon Serrano; Stuffed Date with Chorizo and Wrapped in Bacon; Gambas; Marianted Spanish Anchovy Bruschetta. The charming staff loves the food and makes excellent recommendations, reveling in guests' satified sounds.
A bar full of premium cocktails and specialty drinks attracts a crowd each evening. The Ojai Orange Martini includes a dash of the famed local citrus. If Richie is behind the bar, ask him for his secret concoction, the Dick Smith. Or, in honor of Ojai's notorious setting sunlight, have a pink Moment: Ruby Red Absolut Vodka with splashes of orange, cranberry, and grapefruit juices.
After the pink moment, stroll back to your nest, indulge in the fine trappings of the Su Nido Inn, and rest up to wander and explore another day.