I've wanted to visit Ojai since I first saw an article about it in Sunset magazine. There's nothing like Sunset magazine for making you want to visit some artisan enclave. So I bamboozled TLOML into thinking it's on the way to Paso Robles (as he discovered, it's really not).
Ojai is just as beautiful as I had expected. And that pink mountain sunset is just gorgeous. It's a town full of hippies, I think, based on the artisanal honey tasting rooms, the fact that chain stores are banned, and the protesters with 'ban the bomb' placards. I'm not kidding - and they were being honked supportively by most of the Subarus that drove by.
|Friday night in Ojai|
All the buildings in downtown Ojai have to fit that mould, and chain stores (except banks and petrol stations) are prohibited. Banning the big chains and maintaining a strictly uniform building code makes for a very charming main street. Between dinner, ice cream and morning coffee we patronized three different, interesting, locally owned businesses.
But stretching that Colonial Revival style still further to accommodate, for example, 21st century gas stations and supermarkets, starts to feel more than a little bit phoney. I wrote about this last year when we visited Santa Barbara, another triumph of 'historical' preservation over diversity and innovation.
|Ye olde Chevron garage|
Speaking of phoney, on our way back from Paso Robles we stopped at Solvang. It's another town I'd been curious about, having heard it described as a Danish town. How Danish can it be, nestled in the Santa Ynez valley, I wondered?
Quite Danish, it turns out. It is apparently a great place to buy clogs - and the pastries there were the best I've ever had in the US.
But it's a peculiar slice of Danish culture. Solvang was built in 1911 by a group of Danish settlers. Eager to maintain their traditions they built in the sixteenth century style - which is rather an odd thing to do in the twentieth century. Half-timbered buildings abound, as if steel, plate glass and concrete had never been invented.
As a Brit I find it all rather unsettling. spending time in these fake old places. In London you can stick any tatty old shop on the front of what might once have been a rather attractive Georgian (Victorian? Whatever... rest assured it's older than Solvang) terrace.
scruffy, determinedly non-uniform Hermosa.