This past weekend Grace and I drove up to Ojai for my birthday, and I am so grateful. Leading up to this trip, even though it had been booked for weeks, I refused to let myself be excited for it. I've been in the busiest season of my life and honestly a bit down--feeling like it's impossible to count on any plans or set good boundaries with work. Up until we were physically in the car driving to Ojai, a big part of me didn't believe the trip would happen. But I fought for it, and it was so worth fighting for! A couple days before the trip, I asked Grace if we should still go, given that I'd probably be working a good bit of the trip and had been in a stressed-out mood for days. She said it was my call, but she reminded me that road trips are our sweet spot, and what sets us on fire as a couple. I knew she was right and we had to make it work.
I feel very humbled by the fact that this trip happened at all, and the down-to-the-wire nature of whether we'd get to go actually set me up for a really beautiful experience of letting go of control with planning trips. Normally, for a weekend getaway, I'd spend a good bit of time researching the area and having a few options in mind for each meal or activity, and maybe even some advance reservations. But because I didn't know until that day whether we'd actually get to go, I didn't spend any time planning ahead, and it was actually SO special. Everything felt really magical, like we'd just stumbled upon things, whereas if I'd researched in advance, it would have lost a bit of that wonder I think. I'm not saying I'm now totally converted to only spontaneous travel--I did book this hotel weeks in advance after all--but I think it was really meant to be that we got to just wing it.
For example, on Friday night when we drove up, it turned that there was an oyster food truck right in the parking lot of the hotel! We'd already eaten dinner on the road, but we decided to get some raw oysters as an after-dinner snack, and they were SO good. It put me in the best mood and just felt so FUN--an oyster food truck steps away from our hotel room--how cool and serendipitous is that?! But had I researched in advance, I would have seen that it was on the hotel's schedule, and I would have pressed Grace to make sure we got there in time to go to it. We ended up getting there only 20 minutes before the food truck was supposed to leave, which would have stressed me out had we been counting on going to it, but because I didn't know in advance, it just felt like perfect timing. And had the truck driven away before we got there, well, ignorance is bliss.
It's a good reminder, especially with our honeymoon coming up, that knowing all the local hot spots in advance can actually minimize your ability to stumble upon something and make the trip your own, not the internet's version of the perfect trip to that area.
Now with that dose of travel philosophy out of the way, here's the recap of our trip!
We stayed at the Ojai Rancho Inn, which is now our favorite place in Ojai! This was our third trip; we previously stayed at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa and a Hipcamp treehouse in Ojai. By the way, if you have never heard of this small town and are perplexed at how to say the name, it's pronounced like this: OH-hi. Kind of like Ohio, but without the "o" at the end, and the emphasis is on the first O rather than the hi. Hence lots of "Oh hi, Ojai" puns. It is a beautiful, lush town in the foothills, historically an artists' community. Similar to Palm Springs in some ways, but more of a green hilly feel than the desert like Palm Springs.
Here are some pictures I snapped for a visual feel for the property at Rancho:
While we had a fabulous time at both the Ojai Valley and the Ojai treehouse in the past, we both agreed that Ojai Rancho just felt like the "Goldilocks" of places in Ojai. The Ojai Valley was our first foray into all that Ojai has to offer, and it's really special that we got to go there with Casper. But it's more of a golf course resort/pool scene kind of place, which is fine, but a little bit less our style. It's also slightly more removed from Ojai town, which is SO cool. The Ojai treehouse is also incredible but VERY removed from town (up a mountain), and rustic. I would totally go back there for camping, but it's not ideal if you want to explore the actual town.
Ojai Rancho was a dream. It's sort of rustic, but spotlessly clean, and had a funky cool vibe that just put us in the best mood. Our room, which felt more like our own cabin, was one of the coolest hotel rooms we've ever stayed in. Here are some pictures of that:
And the Rancho is dog friendly! We decided not to bring Bean (although they do allow up to two dogs per room), because I just never want to be "that person" who brings a puppy that ends up peeing on something or disturbing guests. Bean got some extra social time being boarded at his favorite home away from home, Posh Pet Care in West Hollywood, and Willie got to be reminded of the good ole days when he was an only child. Just kidding :)
If you're curious, the room we stayed in was the King Garden Cottage. It's the only one like it at the hotel, and if you stay at the Rancho, I HIGHLY recommend the little bit extra it costs to rent this room. The other rooms seemed nice from pictures, but this one is a little bigger and more special. You also have direct access to the pool from your room (which we didn't use, but would be perfect if traveling with kids), and out the other door, you walk straight out onto a little patio and green space for your dog. Plus, the piano, cool leather sofa, and record player make a stay all the more unique and cozy. I think the other rooms are more like traditional hotel rooms with just a bed, though some have a Jacuzzi, which ours didn't have. I didn't take any photos of the bathroom, but it was nice and big.
Since we didn't have any plans in advance, we decided to just explore the town and have down time in our room, pretty much alternating those two things the whole weekend. It was great. The first night we stayed in and had the above-mentioned oysters.
On Saturday morning we went down the street for some breakfast and to walk around in the parks with Willie. Funny story, the road in front of the hotel is kind of busy so we drove (2 mins) into town, later realizing there is an AWESOME greenway trail that runs behind the hotel and all the businesses in the main district of Ojai! So everything is super walkable and pedestrian--I just didn't know in advance that you could get there by strolling behind the actual street where things are. Here's a picture of us on the greenway:
The first morning we ate breakfast at the Marche Gourmet Delicatessen--so good and friendly! Super European, right in the middle of Ojai.
Ojai is a very small town and easily walkable, though old man Willie was a little tired. We saw the sights and then headed back to the hotel for some rest time (after our extremely busy morning, clearly).
Ojai has the prettiest tile work everywhere. I love it. Walking around Saturday morning is when we really started to both say we could see ourselves living here. It's not that we don't love LA, but we are the type of people to think about retirement when we're 27, and this is exactly where we want to be when we retire. And maybe even buy property earlier than that so we can fix it up and spend time on the weekends there. A part of me even wants to move to Ojai to raise a family, because it seems like such a great place to do that. But that's probably not in the cards in the immediate future.
Anyway, after some down time in the afternoon, we ventured back out on the greenway for dinner. We had a few names in mind of places that had outdoor seating for Willie, and ended up selecting The Nest, which was a really cute place with a nice patio. The food was yummy. Grace got an anchovy margarita pizza and I got calamari tacos.
I also had one of my favorite cocktails I've had in a while there. The one I got was called the Ventura Fog, which was fitting because it was a pretty foggy/chilly weekend. It was made with earl grey infused gin, lavender, meyer lemon, and egg white. It reminded me of a lavender macaron, but not super sweet, which I always prefer in drinks.
After dinner we got some fro yo and walked back to our home away from home! Walking along the greenway, we passed right behind a local amphitheater with an event going on, and we heard some familiar tunes trickling through the trees. I looked up the schedule for that amphitheater and saw that it was actually the band Vampire Weekend playing. I had never heard them live so we lingered a little bit on that part of the walk, thinking how fun it was to unexpectedly hear a band we knew playing in the park in this little town. It was a sweet, simple night. We drank some champagne when we got back and randomly watched the original Jurassic Park which was on TV. I'm not sure if I'll see the new movie coming out, but the original has always been a favorite.
The next day was my birthday! And also the one year anniversary of Casper (our first dog) dying. It felt really full circle to wake up on my birthday and hug Willie (last year I was awoken on my birthday at 5am to basically Casper's last moments/getting really sick) and just feel grateful for all the healing--and new fur babies--we've had in the year following Casper's death.
I opened some gifts and then we checked out of our hotel and drove to the Ojai Coffee Roasting Co. for breakfast. It was definitely the hot spot in town that morning (which was also Father's Day), and Grace waited in line while I sat outside with Willie. We got some lox, a really good PB&J, a parfait, and some coffee and a chai latte for me. It was all delish.
And after that we headed back to LA! We clocked how long it took for us to get down to the coast, and it was only about 15-20 minutes. That was also a big selling point on our plans to move to Ojai one day--I think of Ojai as being more inland, but it's actually quicker to the beach than where we live in West Hollywood!
All in all, the weekend away was just what we both needed. I honestly could have spent a week at Ojai Rancho Inn, and we hope to go back for a longer vacation soon! I can't wait to spend more time in Ojai and get to know it better. We feel like we just scratched the surface of all there is to do there. Ojai also has a big wine scene with a bunch of tasting rooms, which is something I would love to try out next time. If you are looking for a getaway in Southern California that isn't a far drive but feels like a world away, I cannot recommend Ojai enough. The sign below says it all--Ojai vibes are very real!