The Perfect Night at the Ojai Retreat in Ojai, California
Circa 1993. Relax. Dream. Rejuvenate. This might well be the mantra of the Ojai Retreat, a 5 acre hilltop bed and breakfast inn that delivers spectacular views. Although just minutes from the artsy, eclectic town of Ojai, California, guests feel like they are a world away, surrounded by lush gardens, wooded walkways, cool lawns, and a small, soothing waterfall. Most of the 12 beautiful rooms have a private garden or patio and every one is free of television and phones, ensuring peace and quiet. Free wireless internet keeps you connected to the outside world, while yoga classes and massage are available to keep you connected to your inner self. A European style breakfast warms guests every morning with organic coffee and jam, home made granola, and assortment of delicious breads, cheese and pastries. Ten of the recently renovated guest rooms have private baths, while two of the rooms share a bath. And all guests can enjoy the cozy atmosphere of the Main House, which features a fireplace and picture windows in the Great Room on the first floor and a Quiet Room on the second floor for reading, writing and meditating. If you are looking for the perfect place to take you away from it all, head for the Ojai Retreat.
If you've ever wished you could escape to a friend's hilltop retreat to recharge your batteries, you'll find that friend in Ulrich Brugger. Ulrich is the founder and director of the Ojai Retreat, which most people do not know is actually a non profit organization whose mission is to "provide a haven of natural beauty and tranquility" on a five acre, wooded oasis. My wife and I recently had the pleasure of experiencing Ulrich's hospitality as guests of this bed and breakfast inn, located a little more than an hour north of Los Angeles and half an hour east of Santa Barbara. This romantic and idyllic retreat features 12 distinctly different rooms, yet each is filled with the same soothing atmosphere. Upon our arrival, Ulrich made sure that we were happy with our room, the cozy Bella Vista - a beautifully decorated garden view room with a queen sized bed, pull out sofa bed and sunny alcove for writing and dining. Like most of the other rooms, ours had a private bathroom and an easy to operate air conditioning unit and a small refrigerator. Quite a deal at $99 for a midweek rate. A few other nice touches included flax seed soap, Quinoa shampoo, and amaranth conditioner. At first, I was unsure what I would do with myself without a television, but found myself watching a better program instead: the spectacular Perseid meteor shower viewed from the small lawn a short walk from our room. The star swathed skies at this inn were a treat for us city slickers. We woke refreshed to another stellar site: a European style breakfast, complete with fresh fruit salad, homemade granola, organic vanilla yogurt, sliced cheeses, whole grain breads orange juice and an organic coffee - all consumed on a sunny patio with a panoramic view of the Ojai Valley. Like any good host, Ulrich was there to make sure every guest was enjoying their breakfast, yet remained respectful of their privacy. This was a retreat, after all. We topped the meal off with a romantic walk on the sprawling grounds, which are surrounded by colorful California Poppy, mint, Cowboy sage and a rainbow of other flowering plants. As I walked, I felt the anxiety of the past workweek disappear in the breeze. A hop in the car took us only seven minutes to downtown Ojai, a picturesque town brimming with one of a kind art galleries and creative energy. We picked up fragrant hand made soaps at Vicki's Pink Thrift shop along the main drag. Then down the road a few miles to Oak View for an amazing lunch at Om Thai restaurant, where I devoured a delectable shrimp and scallops in lobster sauce and my wife was whisked away to taste bud nirvana with the red curry tofu. Upon our return to the Ojai Retreat, we shared our stargazing experience with Ulrich, who offered us the Green Room, a wood-floored room with a queen bed that features a private patio for more stargazing comfort. Sure enough, we were showered with more meteors that evening as we relaxed outside on the patio chairs. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with a few other guests in the Great Room of the main house, sitting next to the fireplace, and reading through some of the interesting books - some autographed by the authors that have visited the retreat.
About the only thing that was difficult about our stay was saying goodbye. Fortunately, Ulrich was at the office to make it easier. He knew by our smiles that our visit had been restful and restorative. And that was enough to make him smile, as well.
So when you feel the need to recharge, head up to the Ojai Retreat for your share of smiles.
Dining suggestions: $$$ - expensive, $$ - moderate - $ - inexpensive
The Ranch House is just down the hill from the Ojai Retreat and features an amazing dining atmosphere, with koi ponds, bridges, a garden and even an oriental teahouse, making it the perfect romantic opportunity to pop that question. The wine list is award winning, and the menu features sizzling staples like New York Steaks and saucy alternatives like Chipotle Chicken Chevrie. $$$
Where The Locals Go
For one of the best chile colorado or bean and cheese burritos that ever came out of a hole in the wall, drop by Ruben's Burritos at 104 N. Signal Street in Downtown Ojai. Don't be surprised to find a small line outside this cubby hole at lunch. It's that good. $
The Village Jester at 139 East Ojai Avenue next to the town's lone movie theater is a pub with a menu that will make you smile. Not only do they have a satisfying stuffed blue cheese burger, plus a very sizable fish and chips platter. And the beers will take off any edge. $$
In Meiner's Oaks, just down the street from the Ranch House, health minded folks head to the Farmer and The Cook at 339 West El Roblar in Ojai, a marketplace/cafe which features organic delights like tofu scrambles, raw tacos and grilled squash quesadillas. $$