"Where are you going next, Jolene?"
"I have a quick weekend in Ojai planned."
"Oh, cool! I've never been to Ohio."
Although it's been making its rounds in the trendy Instagram universe, I still consider the sleepy town of Ojai a hidden gem, nestled between so many more popular California destinations. With two of my favorite girlbosses at my side, we headed off to start our Ojai adventure early Friday evening.
A couple hours later, we were lead off of the usual 101-N to the CA-33, also known as the Ojai Highway. We braved unfamiliar territory as we continued down the long, winding road in the darkness. Despite some serious difficulty finding our way around and my accidental driving into a bush, we made it to our adorable Airbnb.
Unfortunately for me, my girlfriends are early-risers, meaning I wouldn't get to excessively sleep in like I usually do on weekends. The good news is we were able to take our time throughout the day, instead of cramming a lot of activities into a shorter period of time. I made eggvocados for my girls, then we headed off to start our Ojai adventures.
I also highly recommend finding yourself some friends who will willingly fangirl with you, and take fangirl photos with you.
First, we stopped by Ojai Olive Oil Company, a local, independently owned olive oil producer. It didn't look like much on the outside, but you know what they say - it's what's on the inside that counts.
We learned a lot about their olive oil producing process, seeing the machines and centrifuges they use to turn the olives, which are grown and harvested on site, into that delicious liquid gold. After our short tour, we were encouraged to head into the tasting room and stimulate our palate with all of the unique olive oil and balsamic vinegar flavors.
I was able to exercise self control and only walk away with a bottle of Ojai Pixie olive oil, and a white peach balsamic vinegar. Sounds like a dream salad dressing in the making, no?
We drove back up the winding, semi-paved road to explore Downtown. If you've been following my adventures for a while, you know that I rarely embark on a trip without some kind of plan. My main reasoning for this is that my greatest fear is wasting precious time and not educating myself to know what is worth spending my time and money on. However, I took a leap of faith on this trip, and I'm glad I did! We meandered around Ojai, starting with the notoriously trendy Summer Camp, took some fun photos and continued onto Ojai's downtown area.
We did some shopping, explored the hidden nooks and crannies Ojai had to offer, and embraced the easygoing pace of life there, so contrary to what all of us were used to. In Ojai, it doesn't seem like anyone is in any kind of rush to get anywhere.
I won't go into detail regarding all of the shops we went to, but honorable mentions go to Fig, Rains Department Store, and deKor & Co.
For a late lunch, we ate at AZU Restaurant and Ojai Valley Brewery, an upscale but casual dining location with a moderately broad menu. I ordered the braised lamb plate, complete with hummus, tzatziki, lemon potatoes, quinoa tabouli house salad, grilled pita, and the most beautiful pomegranate seeds you've ever seen. It was the perfect dish - AZU was generous with the lamb, complemented by the creamy hummus, refreshing tzatziki and tart pomegranate.
We called it a "night" early, but not before venturing into the orange orchard adjacent to our Airbnb. We were encouraged by our host to pick some of the local produce, and we couldn't leave Ojai without doing so.
Jenay was kind enough to bring a bottle of something fun and sparkling, so we made mimosas to go with the charcuterie plate we picked up at a local deli. It was the perfect girls night in, and the perfect end to a relaxing, meandering day in Ojai.
We said a bittersweet goodbye to our Airbnb and grabbed a hearty, locally-made breakfast from Knead Baking Co. We enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice, fresh pastries, homemade bread, and delicious breakfast sandwiches. Seating was limited, and there was no shortage of customers, but we were able to find a table outside.
The last items on our list were Bart's Books and the Ojai Farmer's Market. We discovered that both were within a few blocks of each other, so we stopped at Bart's Books first.
Bart's Books is the largest independently owned outdoor bookstore in the US. Built out of an actual house, Bart's Books is a labyrinth of books, including almost every topic you can think of. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the whimsy of each section, the handmade signs and tunnels of books hiding surprises around every corner. I felt like I'd stumbled upon the real life book-filled version of Wonderland.
Finally, we made it to the Ojai Farmer's Market. Buzzing with locals toting wagons full of gorgeous, fresh produce, the Farmer's Market hits it out of the park. We were greeted by large flower bouquets, all locally grown, picked and arranged by small business owners. The smell of fresh strawberries was intoxicating, and the Ojai Pixie samples were irresistible. I walked away with a beautiful bunch of rainbow carrots, some strawberries, Ojai Pixies and a bouquet of roses!
We took a few final photos with our spoils before loading the car up and heading home. I feel that these photos really capture the spirit of our weekend - just some girlfriends taking a slow, quiet break from their busy, exceptionally bustling lives. We didn't do anything particularly extravagant, but we had a great time.
Sometimes it's the simple things that give you the greatest pleasure and happiness. When was the last time you bought yourself a bouquet of roses?
Until next time,