So early this May Day morning the monkey packs up his gear and heads out on a short road trip to Ojai (pronounced OH-hi). It was a nice drive with the top down under a clement sun, passing through fecund valleys with jasmine in the air. It was the kind of day you wanted to get poetic about. Very bucolic.
First stop for Kongo was the Marché Gourmet Delicatessen right on the main drag next to the theater. What a wonderful place. Kongo had scarcely got out of his car when Gay, one of the partners here, welcomed him on the sidewalk and coaxed him into a cappuccino, truffled eggs, and toasted baguettes. Delicious! This is the perfect way to start a tour of Ojai. Gay also gave him a map of the town and highlighted her favorite places. You simply can’t beat the hospitality or the food here. Kongo also met Pat, the chef, who doubles as an accomplished artist. These two turn food into an art form!
From the deli, Kongo headed for the famous farmer’s market, which is open every Sunday morning and serves and the social center of beautiful weekend mornings in Ojai, which is just about every weekend.
The busy stands were selling local organic (of course) produce, baskets, jewelry, and all the other tempting things you would expect an an eclectic farmer’s market in Ojai.
There are plenty of street musicians to serenade your stroll and if that wasn’t enough, there was one poor, lonely soul offering free hugs but getting no takers. I mean, come on, no monkey is going to drive all the way to Ojai for a free hug. At least not this monkey. But Ojai is that kind of town.
And, this being Ojai, this May Day would not be complete with a troop of ladies with their own little May Day parade. They marched through the market beating drums and jangling tambourines and wishing everyone a giggly “Happy May Day!” They were an interesting group and the monkey would have enjoyed a conversation but he couldn’t really stop the parade, could he?
Another stop was at Bart’s Books. Bart’s is a used bookstore quite unlike anything the monkey has seen before. It’s the kind of place that you can spend hours browsing through the racks or sit at a table on the patio and peruse your choice. If you go to Ojai, you’ve got to stop in at Bart’s.
Ojai also has one of the most picturesque post offices you’ll ever see.
This post office comes complete with its own Spanish tower!
Ojai has a reputation for being a bit snooty, pricey, and well … cool. After his visit today Kongo understands why. Chain stores are prohibited in Ojai. Organic agriculture thrives in the area, along with horses, art galleries, wineries, olive orchards, and elderly dog walkers. Boutique shops line the main drag. There are plenty of gourmet places to eat (and drink) and the town is known for its spas. Montessori schools and preparatory academies abound. It’s kind of a blend of Sedona, Santa Fe, and Napa Valley. It’s sometimes referred to as Shranga-La; scenes (later cut) from the movie were filmed here showing the mountains in the background.
Ojai is a great day trip, or a weekend trip if you want to indulge in the spas. It’s about 15 miles from Ventura on Highway 33 off US 101. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, it’s probably an hour and a half from LAX, depending on traffic.
Travel safe. Have fun.