Saturday, December 4, 2010

Off the Beaten Path in California:Catalina and Ojai

The island of Catalina is as wonderful as the song that says, “It seems so distant, twenty-six miles away. Restin' in the water serene.” Traverse the “ocean blue” on the Catalina Express that departs from Dana Point, Long Beach Queen Mary, Long Beach Downtown, and San Pedro. Santa Catalina may be “the island of romance, romance, romance, romance” and where the song, Avalon, croons, “I found my love in Avalon by the sea.”

Visitors are sure to fall in love – with the island. The island is only 21 miles long and 8 miles wide at the widest point and best of all it has not been corrupted with high rise buildings and chain stores. Catalina is more than a relaxing island destination. There are a slew of fun things to do. Besides the relaxing on the beaches there is ocean rafting, nautilus underwater tours, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, and para-sailing. Land-based entertainment includes zip-lining, an Inland Adventure Tour to see the free-roaming bison, the botanical gardens, and tours of the iconic Casino where movies are shown every evening.

Locals love to share the island incongruities. There is no gambling in the casino, the private beach is open to the public, no one is interred in the mausoleum, Eucalyptus Street has no eucalyptus trees even though there are many on the island, and more fun facts.
For romance, adventure, or just kicking back Santa Catalina is “Twenty- six miles across the sea” a-waitin' for” thee. It is just west of Los Angeles.

North of Los Angeles, Ojai is another special place. The small-town hideaway between Santa Barbara and Ventura has eucalyptus trees, hiking/biking trails, unique shops, and small ranches. It has drawn artists, free spirits and city-weary folks looking for a respite from the city.
Located conveniently off the main street, the Lavender Inn is one of the oldest buildings in town. It was originally built as a schoolhouse in 1874 and reborn as a luxury B&B with its own spa. Boutique shops, artist galleries, the local museum, and delicious dining are just steps away.

The sporty set will love the hiking and biking trails along with horseback riding, golf, tennis and fishing. While those looking for inner peace will find zen-like places for meditation and yoga. Locavores can visit family-run farms producing olive oil, tangerines, and lavender before dining at one of the town’s many excellent restaurants that focus on locally grown food.

A ride on the inexpensive trolley is an excellent way to get acquainted with the area. One of the stops is across from The Farmer and the Cook where a delightful lunch made from local produce is available.

No visit to Ojai is complete without experiencing a “Pink Moment” – a phenomenon first noticed by the early settlers when the brilliant sunset over the nearby Pacific is reflected on the mountainside creating and eerie and beautiful pink glow.

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