“But what about the pink moment?”
I could feel the panic in my voice, even though I had a poolside mezcal margarita. I also reminded my sisters-in law of an Ojai phenomenon. We only had 36 hours in this small, verdant city nestled in the mountains of California’s Ventura County, and we were going to miss our only chance to bask in the pink moment — the fleeting few seconds when the setting sun illuminates the Ojai Valley in an otherworldly shade of dusty rose. I had booked us a hotel room at the Ojai Valley Inn, in part so that we could park ourselves beneath the resort’s 200-year-old oak tree and get an unobstructed view of Chief Peak, a part of the Topatopa Mountains, which are known, in the right conditions, to glow a transcendent shade of coral.
There was only one hitch: 36 hours is not nearly enough time to experience all that Ojai — pronounced, charmingly, “Oh, hi” — has to offer. To make the most out of our trip, which was about 80 miles from Los Angeles, we had to combine some activities, compromise, as well as accept that the most rewarding destinations always leave us wanting more.
I ought to know that Ojai is exactly this type of place: Since moving to Los Angeles in 2015, I’ve been there seven times, and every time, I discover something new. The 50-minute visit to Ojai in 2017 will be a part of my life forever. “illumination session” I did with Nicola Fiona Behrman, the Ojai Valley Inn’s then “resident energy alchemist”who tried to infuse me “body and soul with nourishing light”You can draw circles around me with a smoldering bunch or sage.
Ms. Behrman was ecstatic when I told her I was anxious about a novel I had begun writing but kept putting off. She spritzed me with homemade lemonade. “inspiration mist”He told me to use it whenever he hit a wall. Was I skeptical? Yes. Did the bottle gather dust on your desk? It did. But that novel? The Goddess EffectOjai will be featured in the final edition of, which will be published in October. (While Ms. Behrman’s illumination session is no longer offered, Katie Manzella, a Reiki master, and Nancy Furst, a spiritual counselor, Similar treatments availableStarts at $260
If all this sounds too woo-wooy, be assured that Ojai has been embracing alternative ways of healing and living since its conception. Settled by the native Chumash approximately 5,000 years ago, the city’s name derives from the Chumash word for “moon.” The valley’s atypical orientation, east-west rather than north-south, purportedly make it an electromagnetic vortex of good energy. The philosopher and meditation evangelist Jiddu KrishnamurtiLived in Ojai between 1922 and 1986. His foundationWorkshops are held regularly and visitors are welcome. There are many opportunities to practice yoga or meditate around town. Downtown, the Crystal CornerSlabs of amethyst ($600), and small pink tourmaline nuggets ($12) are available for sale. SanctumDecks for sale “wisdom”Cards based upon the Bhagavad Gita (the holy Hindu scripture) ($16.95
Ojai also offers many other types of products. “healing,”This included eating, drinking, and therapies for the spa and retail. I was worried about how I would manage it all. Lunch, wine tasting, and a visit to Bart’s Books, the world’s largest outdoor bookstore, a dip in the pool, a four-course dinner, a hike, two facials, one massage and, of course, the pink moment.
“But we can also do none of these things and just relax,”Ritu Lal (sister in-law No. 1) and Nicole Lal, (sister-in law No. 2), who didn’t bother to dignify my falsified chill with an immediate response.
“We can do whatever,”Ritu said this as Ritu and I turned off the Ojai Freeway onto a country road lined by orange groves. “Ojai is basically heaven.”
We were hungry so we ate before we checked into the hotel. We arrived at Ojai RotieThe French-Lebanese patio restaurant, opened downtown 15 minutes prior to its opening. Type A personalities were already blazing. There was already a line, owing to Ojai Rotie’s utterly craveable array of salads (get the purslane tabbouleh, $10) Lebanese-inspired dips (the muhammara and roasted eggplant are particularly deserving of the chef’s kiss emoji, $16 each or three for $28), za’atar-dusted flatbread ($7, it comes with the spread of dips), and rotisserie chicken ($16 and up). “Dessert here or shall we walk?” asked Nicole. We chose to leave the car at its free spot and continue our walk down the street. Ojai Ice Cream.
Until: “Oooh wait, can we stop in here?”
I don’t know who said it first, because over the course of the next two hours, we all did. Ojai is a vacation shopper’s paradise. Ojai Avenue can be found on one side. Fig Curated LivingThis site is a treasure trove for home goods, including earthen mugs with iconic lyrics.“I will survive,” $24), Ali Golden, an on-trend women’s clothing store, and Tala Design, another homewares store where Nicole convinced me to buy a smoked glass candle holder I didn’t know I needed ($80). The real damage was done at Danski OjaiThis is where dresses are spread out from tightly packed racks. “The owner hand selects everything from designers around the world,”Rosemary, Rosemary was the sales associate responsible for the register. “That dress,” The Kandinsky-esque number that I had been eyeing. “is from Japan. It’s made of recycled plastic bottles.”
She took me to Japan. “I can’t believe I didn’t know about any of these places,”As we walked back to our car, full of purchases, I told Ritu, Nicole that ice cream was gone. In previous visits, I’d been fixated on other attractions, like drinking wine at Tipple & RambleA wine bar and market located off Ojai Avenue. Get a prime table at NocciolaThe Italian restaurant is located in a Craftsman-style home. Sunday Farmer’s Market, where, and when in season, local pixi tangerines or avocados rule.
This trip was a great opportunity to discover a wonderful dish of clams & spaghettone. Olivella, the Ojai Valley Inn’s plush Italian restaurant (tasting menus start at $95 for three courses), wine tasting rooms with a B.Y.O. We have a food policy. This is what happened when we combined lunch (takeout salads $17) from the Nest) with a wine flight at the Ojai VineyardThe light-filled hangout is located across the street. The approximate mile-and-a-half walk between downtown and the Ojai Valley Inn can be as challenging as hiking. Shelf Road Trail, especially if you’re toting bags full of used books. We found places to go next time: Pinyon, a wood-fired pizzeria/natural wine shop that opened in fall last year. Rory’s Place, a farm to table restaurant that opened in January.
Before we headed back to Los Angeles, we had dinner in a new restaurant. The Dutchessspecializes in Indian and Burmese cuisines. It opened in January and has three spacious rooms and a large back patio. “This place looks like an embassy in Bali,”Ritu sat down on a cane-backed stool and ran her hand over it. After shoveling forkfuls of crispy rice salad ($18) and lamb biryani encased in puff pastry ($31) we climbed into Nicole’s car for the ride back to Los Angeles We’d planned to set off before it got dark; the day got the better of us.
“Look,”Nicole said, “I was catching my attention in the rearview mirror.” “The pink moment’s behind you.”I turned around and saw streaks of salmon streaking the darkening sky. The glow continued for miles.