Friday, March 29, 2013

At the Malibu Country Mart

Because I hate driving on the freeways in L.A., I will often take the slower, more scenic route down the Pacific Coast Highway.  Okay, I confess, it gives me the opportunity to swing into the Malibu Country Mart and the Malibu Lumber Yard for a quick shopping fix.  I love the lazy, laid back vibe of these places, but don't be fooled by the dancing pigs and home grown deli, this is upscale shopping.   Because I'm now retired, it's a look- and- touch- only kind of place.  I have recently stored away my "dress-up" clothes.  Babette is being replaced by Urban Outfitters.   My twenty pairs of heels are covered in cobwebs.  It's Converse, baby, from now on.

There are some beachwear places tucked in between Ralph Lauren and Missoni and some great outdoor places to eat.  There's a large playground and wonderful pieces of whimsical sculptures strewn about the posh grounds.  So even if you're on a budget, like me, you can enjoy the place.  Go ahead and grab that $7.00 burger and soak up some rays.
And who knows?   You might even get lucky.  I popped into Anouk and found this great top on the sale rack for only $60.00.  I tell you, Mimi is getting a little worried about my new lifestyle.  California funk is not her taste, but she'll take what she can get!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Fjords of Norway

The Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Rose Valley.  Nojoqui.  Qualicum.  All names of recent waterfalls I have hiked to.  My head, these days,  is filled with images of white water plunging over vertical cliffs.  I dream about waterfalls.  I plan trips to waterfalls.  I have discovered a new favorite website:  World of Waterfalls, put together by another rabid traveler.  What, you may ask, is she rambling on about?  I thought this post was about fjords.  Well, where there are fjords, there are waterfalls.

It is at this waterfall in Norway where my travel buddy slipped on a rock and disappeared from my sight.  What seemed like an eternity was probably a mere two seconds.  He jumped back up, turned around, waved, and flashed me a big goofy grin.  "That was close," he yelled.  I did not talk to him for the rest of the day.

I like to think of my life as one long string of trips.  Some of the trips are little ones--weekend road trips; others, are epic.  Our trip to Norway was epic.  From Oslo, we took a train to Bergen.  There, we caught a ferry to Flam and I wrote in my journal:  Further on, the outer fjord became quite barren, probably because of the intense winds, but as we got closer and closer to Flam, the fjords grew in height and the passage narrowed.  There were numerous waterfalls and cameras were clicking left and right.

We stayed overnight in Flam, a small village, surrounded by mountains and jade-colored water.  We picnicked by the sea on a meal of mussels, bread and cheese.  The next day we caught the train to Myrdal and it is here where the train stopped so we passengers could get a closer look at the waterfalls.  It is here where my travel buddy fell.
Dreaming.  Reading.  Planning.  That is what travelers do during their "down" time.  Another epic trip is on the horizon.  We are exploring the possibility of going somewhere in South America, a continent we have not yet set foot on.  And in my dreams?  Iguazu.  Iguazu.  Iguazu.  This magnificent waterfalls is calling me.   This time, however, I will take my buddy's hand and keep it firmly clasped in mine.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Short Walk to Rose Valley Falls

I love it when spontaneity leads me to a waterfalls.  I love it even more when the trail is marked by big red hearts.  My travel buddy was annoyed by the graffiti, but that Sunday afternoon,  I was a city mouse in a country setting.  I felt right at home!

The hike to the lower falls is a short half mile on an easy trail.  Park in the Rose Valley Campground (off Highway 33, north of Ojai) and walk to the end where the trail starts out.  Because we were in street clothes and leather shoes, we could not scramble up the boulders to the upper falls.  We will leave that for another day.  Today, the beauty of this little falls, the respite from the heat, the realization that an hour before we were having lunch at a fine Italian restaurant in town and that now we were in the middle of the wilderness . . . well, life doesn't get much better.  Southern California is a great place to live.   Graffiti and all.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Drive on State Route 33

A six mile stretch along Highway 33, north of Ojai, has been designated a Scenic Highway by Caltrans and a Scenic Byway by the U.S. Forest Service.  It is one of the most beautiful drives in Southern California.

Leaving Ojai, you pass through a series of three tunnels, which were built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps.  It took 500 men and 400 tons of explosives to complete this highway in a four year period.  Once finished,  travelers gained access through the mountains.  The road is twisty and slow-going.  Don't expect to go more than 40 mph.  Do expect to stop at the many turnouts for the breathtaking views!
The road follows Matilija Canyon, along the eastern edge of the Santa Ynez Mountains.  Be forewarned, however.  Because you are traveling through national forests, an Adventure Pass is needed if you stop at any of the campgrounds or trail heads for a picnic or a short hike.  We get an annual pass every year and keep it in the glove box of our van for spontaneous road trips such as this one.  Also, this is a popular route for motorcycle clubs.  On this particular Sunday afternoon, we encountered several groups of them.
Groups of backpackers were heading out on the Sespe Creek Trail for a week-long trek.  There were day hikers, as well.  The Piedras Blancas rock formation, shown above, is a popular 2.5 mile hike, and one my travel buddy and I intend to return to and explore ourselves.  We didn't have the proper attire or hiking boots with us that day.  Instead, we had a sassy mannequin in tow who insisted we head back to town.  She was not done shopping!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shopping in Ojai Village

Bart's Books.  Bohemia.  V is for Vintage.  Love Heals Jewelry.  White Sparrow.  Chameleon.  You won't find Gap or Forever 21 in this shopping arcade.  Oh, no.  And this is exactly why I love coming to Ojai Village.  The arcade itself is an historical landmark.  Built in 1917 with the financial support of Edward Drummond Libbey (of Libbey Glass fame) who wintered here, the shops that line the arcade continue to be independently owned and absolutely charming.
The Ojai Post Office Tower anchors one end of the shopping street.  It, too, is an historical landmark built in 1917.  The architects modeled it after the Christopher Columbus Cathedral in Havana, Cuba.   The tower, the pergola and the arcade all blend together to make walking (and shopping) in Ojai a pleasant experience.
HOWEVER, because there is no Starbucks here, my travel buddy tagged along as Mimi and I toured the shops.  Now, you have to understand, most of the clothes in Ojai are made of natural fabrics in muddy colors.  Loose and comfortable.  Our buddy went bananas.  This is the first time (EVER) I have gone on a shopping trip and not bought a single thing.  He bought a shirt and some other items.  Mimi was very confused.
But herein lies the rub.  Men cannot wear women's clothes, but women can wear their clothes!  Mimi immediately borrowed his shirt.  "I guess I don't mind if he comes along," she generously consented.
 Besides the shops, the town is loaded with art galleries.  After lunch we spent two hours looking at art (and wishing we were rich).  In one gallery, an exhibit of photographs taken at last year's Burning Man really caught our attention.  Burning Man.  Hmmm.  We talked about the possibility of going there.  We had no idea the art was so incredible.  Three-story structures of pure imagination built within a few days.  The creativity alone is a reason to go.  We're going to look into it despite the heat, the crowds and the craziness.  And, of course, we'd take Mimi!