Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > United States
Reload this Page >

Ojai, Calfornia, A Week Home Exchange, March 2011

Ojai, Calfornia, A Week Home Exchange, March 2011

Old Mar 1st, 2011, 08:52 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ojai, Calfornia, A Week Home Exchange, March 2011

This is not my first visit to Ojai, probably my fourth, but it has been about 5 years since our last visit. Ojai is about 2 to 2 1/2 hours north of us and a about 45 minutes south of SantaBarbara. It's about 90 minutes north of LA. It's a small town, about 8000 people, in the hills, fairly rural, lots of trees and rolling farmlands, horses and an occasional cow. The backdrop on this clear, sunny , relatively mild winter day is the Los Padres Mountain. The town's small main street has a Spanish styled arcade, some pleasant restaurants, nice shopping, some of it fairly chic, or new age and some spas. There are also some upscale hotels with complete facilities including nice restaurants, spas, and golfling, etc. They are pricey, but probably very nice for a relaxed get-away. There is also at least one playhouse.

This home exhange marks our 20th exchange; it is also our shortest and the closest one yet to our home. It is remarkable how 2 and a half hours can bring such a change of scenery. What an easy, inexpensive exchange this is proving to be. The drive up from LA, remarkably for LA involved no freeway tie-ups. We stopped midway for a drink and arrived comfortably in time for a late lunch.

I remembered from our trip here five years ago enjoying a pleasant dinner at Sea Fresh and I spotted the place on the main street. It looks pretty much the same, but the Mexican place adjacent to it has been moved as the restaurant is expanding. N and I had each the Halibut platter which included a baked potato, overly seasoned and greasy vegetables and a choice of salmon chowder or a salad. Our two meals without tax or drinks cost us $40 for lunch. I was underwhemed, but probably not a fair assessment as I was feeling a bit queasy from the ride up. I thought my soup very heavy and too rich. The vegetables were badly seasoned and overly salty. The sour cream on the overcooked potato did not taste like real sour cream - perhaps, it had an extender in it? The halibut was okay. Anyay, I just remember it tasting a lot better.

More to go. . . .
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2011, 09:05 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Our home exchangers' home is very pretty and comfortable. They are in walking distance to the town; we tried out two of the local markets: Starrs and Rainbow Bridge. The latter's name may be wrong. We picked up some produce and a few odds and ends. Told by a local, the shopping is a lot less stressful at Starrs, than at Von's which we did not visit. Certainly, the locals are friendly and everyone is helpful and smiling.

So not much more to report for day 1, other than the mundane, food shopping an unpacking.

Any suggestions from locals or recent visitors will be appreciated. We may try one of the high end restaurants while here, since this trip takes place about 2 weeks before our anniversary and we like to begin celebrating early!

Anyone have thoughts on the new Vegan restaurant that opened recently in town? Thanks
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2011, 04:39 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Day 2, our first full day in Ojai. We awoke to overcast, sometimes rainy, and by our standards very cool weather. We had decided to explore town, visit the locals shops, have a leisurely lunch and do little else. The weather was not particularly attractive for walking, even though we're minutes from town, but being hardy Californians, we decided driving was our only option. After all we did not want to melt.

We wandered into an antiques concession store, full of someones' once valued household possessions. It looked liked a huge estate sale. Sadly the relatives saw no value in all these objects. Here were all these loved possessions cast aside. Why would not one want 3 ivory horse heads supporting a glass table top or a poorly painted plein air painting by their talentless aunt. I can't imagine.

I'm sure there were some lovely things there, I guess I wasn't in the mood, maybe the weather outside made everything inside dismal.

We wandered into Rains' Department Store owned by the same family since 1914, but its antecedents go back further. Years ago when N and I had camped nearby, we had bought a Vermont hardwood salad bowl there. I loved it and we still have it. Today we bought some stainless steel measuring spoons with the sizes engraved on them. This is not easy to find, since many of the newer measuring spoons and cups have the sizes stamped and after a few turns in the dishwasher the stamps are gone.

We had lunch at Hip's Vegan Cafe- a new place in town. Small, cozy, though not high on decor, but filled with people, no empty tables on a Wed at 1:30. The menu is not extensive or expensive and the owners are very pleasant. You order at the counter and the food is brought to you. N had a tempeh burger with a salad and I had a piece of Broccoli quiche, also with a salad. We had a pear crisp for dessert. The crisp used agave for sweetening, which I find too sweet, but eventually I am sure will develop a taste for it. It was inexpensive, probably less than $20 and we will most likely return.

Tried the local ice cream down the street from Rains Dept store. The vanilla was good,though, not too impressed with the chocolate peanut. Did some more food shopping and decided to return back, relax and read or see a movie and hope for better weather tomorrow. Even with the rain, Ojai is still a very pretty and comfortable place to be.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2011, 05:45 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thursday in Ojai turned out to be a beautiful and leisurely day. We walked into town via a wooded path, lots of pretty trees and flowers to admire, the sky was clear, air smelled good, and the backdrop was the Los Padres Mountains. Of course, there's pollution here, even in the North Pole I'm told, but the air feels clean and crisp, probably because of yesterday's rain.

I bought a couple post cards to send to my friends overseas, somehow postcards seem irrelevant to Californian friends when you are 2 plus hours from home. We did a much more thorough investigation of shops and browsing. A lot of pretty things to admire, but nothing that called for my credit card. I was looking for an unusual shirt or scarf, but couldn't see spending $300 plus tax for a shirt.

We wandered into Hips Vegan Cuisine, too early for lunch, but bought a delicious Carob shake to share. I love carob, but not too many health food type places sell it anymore, since dark chocolate is now healthy.

Our home exchangers recommended Bart's Books and I'm glad we took the time to find it. www.BartsBooksOjai.com What an unusual setting for a bookstore. Outdoors! Except for the setting it reminds me of the former Acres of Books in downtown Long Beach which sadly closed down last year because of redevelopment. The store is open 7 days a week until sunset. It was a bit cold when we got there around 4:30 and the employee was huddled in a heavy coat. Some of the store in eclosed, but some of the shelves are outdoors with instructions to throw the coins through the mailbox if purchasing after hrs. I have no idea how large it is, suffice it to say it has a huge inventory and you can wander around its small rooms for an hr easily.

We picked up a late meal, an Asian tofu dish with brown rice, from Rainbow Bridge, the local health food market. Surprisingly good; sometimes food from the deli section feels like its been sitting around for hrs, but not here. The take out/small cafe appears to do a healthy business.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 4th, 2011, 04:39 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Our home exchangers recommended Carpinteria for a day trip; it's a pretty ride from Ojai through rolling countryside and then a short drive on 101 along the Pacific Ocean. Due to recent rains the hillsides are quite green, different from the various golds and browns I saw in October when we drove down the coast from Portland. Traffic was light going, but when we returned about 3:00 or so, the traffic was building for the weekenders rolling into town.

Carpinteria is a small beachside town, not very gentrified, lots of buildings from the 50s. The local school built in Spanish style looks vintage 1930s or so. We drove down Linden to the beach and parked easily. Surprisingly, it was not restricted. The beach is pretty, soft beige colored sand, but few people enjoying the surf, mostly families or couples having a picnic.

We wandered the streets; most of the small non-chain eateries were full. We were looking for lunch, however we ruined our appetites by sharing another carob shake and eating a bagel at Jack's Bistro. We had been making our way to Zookers, a recommendation by our exchangers, but no longer hungry, we decided to head back to Ojai where we eventually picked up a smorgasboard of cartons from the take-out deli at Rainbow Bridge Market. The potato enchillado and spinach lasagne were both good.

A couple trivial observations: Hardly a smoker to be seen on the streets; only counted one thus far. Cars wait for you to cross the street and do not swing in front of you. Going down 33 to 101 today, people actually drove the speed limit. Amazing.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2011, 06:16 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Today was a perfect day, sunny, cool, and very, very leisurely. We woke up late, walked to the Ojai Museum, about 2 blocks away. It was going going through renovations and only one room was opened. There was a lovely docent with a sweet poodle at the desk. She said later in the month the local very talented high school students would be exhibiting paintings. Because only one room was opened we decided to forgo the museum.
We wandered a bit in the arcade. The usual empty Ojai Blvd (the main drag) was full of traffic, in fact for about 3 mintes or so filled with motorcylclists spending the day driving route 33. Lot of day trippers visiting the city, too.

N bought some tofu vegetables and a blueberry smoothie at Rainbow Bridge Mkt which he enjoyed. We, then boarded a trolley (.50/person) for an hour or so loop through Ojai and a few small towns nearby. The countryside was a combination rural, slightly suburban mix. Very pleasant. A nice way to see a bit of the area without driving. Always, the pretty Los Padres Mountains in the backdrop with lots of grassy intervals and some beautiful trees. We stopped in Miners Oaks at the Farmer and the Cook, an organic Mexican cafe for a light lunch around 3:00 or so and split a vegetarian burger, a salad, and some dessert. I enjoyed it all, especially the chocolate chile cookie. We misread the trolley schedule and hung around a bit too long for the return trip (about 1/1/2 mi back to Ojai where we picked up some more items at the Rainbow Bridge for dinner and a bottle of wine.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2011, 06:26 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 16,658
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
great report!
MomDDTravel is offline  
Old Mar 5th, 2011, 07:02 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks, MommDDtravel. Now, I know one person read my report!
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 6th, 2011, 05:02 PM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Our day as usual began late. On our home exchangers' recommendation, we visited the Ojai Farmers' Market, open from 9:00 - 1:00 on Sundays. They described it as "very vibrant" and "one of the fun things they enjoyed doing in Ojai even if we did not intend to buy anything." We walked over around 10:30 or so; the market at first glance appeared small, but that was deceptive as it was in a U shape and quite dense both with stalls and people. It's adjacent to Rainbow Bridge Market, which no doubts helps RB's sales, too. The produce appeared very healthy; there was a large variety, and tons of people buying or just out for a pleasant Sunday morning. Not too much prepared food or crafts, just a Farmers' Market doing what they are supposed to do -- sell farm fresh produce.

Afterward, we wandered around the shops for a bit; I thought I had browsed through most of them, but there's always one or two you miss. On a side street, East Ojai Blvd, I found a small store selling handcrafted fabric handbags. I saw a particularly pretty one for $70 odd, but it wasn't the price that put me off; I hestitated to add more belongings to my recently cleaned out closet shelves that made me hold back. On the plus side, it's fabric, hand washable and extremely light, good for my aching shoulders. I have a lovely leather bag that I bought in Buenos Aires almost 4 years ago, that I carry everyday and hardly shows any wear, which is surprising the way I mistreat it, but it is very heavy. I think I am convincing myself to buy this bag tomorrow. www.Studiosauvageau.com

Later, we picked up some North African Tofu with rice, vegetables with tofu and a third dish which I don't recall for an early dinner or late lunch at the Rainbow Market. The warm shirtsleeves-like weather had drifted away by late afternoon and it was cold, definitely jacket weather. The weather from mid morning to mid evening can vary 50 degrees.

Well, tomorrow marks our last full day in this very, very pleasant small town.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 7th, 2011, 04:25 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Our last day in Ojai was not much different than the six above. We walked, browsed, and enjoyed the sunny, breezy weather.

We walked over to the Ojai Valley Inn to see the lovely grounds, check out the dining rooms for lunch and see the hotel. Monday morning, I suppose gave the place an empty desolate feeling. There was no one sitting around the pool or in either of the two dining rooms. The dining rooms are lovely and look out over the grounds with a view of the Los Padres Mountains. There is outdoor dining, too. We walked through the very attractive hotel lobby, designed with a Spanish rancho flavor, but there were only two people relaxing on the overstuffed sofas besides the concierge. It is a luxurious looking place and probably a wonderful spot, but today there were hardly any customers. We did not want to be the only ones in the dining room, so we walked into town, ate lunch at the crowded and very comfortable cafe at Rainbow Bridge Market for probably one-fourth of the price.

Walked through some shops, decided I love having empty shelf space in my closet at home and did not buy the handbag I saw yesterday, pretty as it was. We bought another carob shake at the crowded Hip Vegan Cafe and walked slowly back to our home exchangers' home to clean up, pack, collect newspapers and get our home exchangers' home looking neat and clean.

I'm not sure if these 7 days fit everyone's dream of an ideal holiday, but walking, seeing pretty scenery, little traffic, clean air, nice weather, and a change of location worked beautifully for us.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2011, 08:07 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Concluding our exchange. We arrived home in two hours; no heavy traffic or tie-ups. Our home was was clean and tidy. So, in a two hr drive, we changed location, did not board a plane, have jet lag or worry about a surcharge for extra luggage. And a very nice vacation, too.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2011, 10:20 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 526
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I loved reading this - thank you! I spent only one day in Ojai when I was in the area. You make me want to return.
Paul is offline  
Old Mar 10th, 2011, 10:35 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, Paul. Ojai really is off the beaten track for most non-Californians. For that matter, my next door neighbor had never heard of it. There are a variety of hotels and restaurants to choose from; Ojai would make a very nice weekend destination. And no, I don't work for the Ojai Chamber of Commerce.
annetti is offline  
Old Mar 30th, 2011, 08:35 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 82,471
Received 46 Likes on 17 Posts
Thanks for a great report!
starrs is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 10:31 AM
  #15  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, starrs for reading!
annetti is offline  
Old Apr 1st, 2011, 01:26 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 523
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for a great report!!! Would be interested in which website(s) you use to find others interested in home exchanges.
adnil1962 is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 12:08 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 3,306
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you, adnil1962. I have used three home exchange organizations. www.homelink.org www.intervac.net www.homeexchange.com My favorite is the first listed, because, I find the website most user friendly, they have a chat thread, and I have always gotten good support from them. I have found lots of exchanges on the first two listed. I'm relatively new to homeexchange.com and have had a few exchanges with them, but I find their website difficult to navigate. Good luck.
annetti is offline  
Old Apr 2nd, 2011, 02:46 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,860
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks annetti. This sounded like a very relaxing vacation!. I grew up in California, and am always surprised how many charming towns there are tucked under the label of "southern California".
lcuy is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
Nepheline
United States
3
May 14th, 2016 12:07 AM
annetti
United States
84
Jun 26th, 2012 03:36 PM
ejcrowe
Caribbean Islands
14
Oct 18th, 2010 06:33 AM
CAPH52
United States
10
Apr 15th, 2008 04:11 PM
plafield
United States
11
Jun 21st, 2006 09:19 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -