Last of LA, Ojai, Camping at Lake Casitas and Santa Barbara

I stayed in LA for 14 days – longer than anticipated!063003 004 005 006 Alfie and I took one more walk around Laurel Canyon – a circular one that had me panicking when I got lost and night was drawing in. There were some interesting sights.

My time in Sherman Oaks was of the mixed variety. Being tactful, the English couple became strange and I was happy to get out of there. You live and learn! While in Sherman Oaks I really enjoyed the Aroma Cafe and the people I met there, (and Alfie the nearby park) to be found  in nearby Studio City.

It was to that place that I went on my last night in Sherman Oaks and enjoyed a burger with garlic fries (my downfall, as it happens – I have now proven to myself on this trip that too much garlic provokes a migraine) and bumped into an older guy (even older than me!) – Ronnie Caan, Director of PR for Impact Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center –  with a beautiful Russian girl who was meeting to talk to him about working in Rehab. She is Anna Dragost, President of her own Boxing Agency! He turns out to be James Caan’s brother and his nephew is now appearing in Hawaii 5-O. We had a lot of laughs, along with 2 huge slices of chocolate cake and lemon cake.

On Tuesday morning I went to the weekly ‘Brits in LA’ breakfast in Cecconi’s, Melrose Avenue West Hollywood. For 15$ you had valet parking (although I did tip the lovely guy who took and fetched my car), a good choice of breakfast (I went for eggs Benedict), unlimited coffee and a very swanky environment. There was a mixed bunch of mainly British people – including a tosser whose name was something like von Frankenstein and only talks to nubile young women despite being twice their age.001

I had the excellent good fortune to sit on a table with some truly lovely women – Molly (from Vietnam), very pregnant, was great to talk to and gave me brilliant tips for further up the coast. Lorraine went one better and when she realised I hadn’t yet organised where I was staying that evening, insisted I stay with her off Sunset Strip. I also met Alexandra and Kathryn – 2 Brits doing design work that I hope I meet again and a beautiful girl called Inga who designs exquisite lacy clothes. 3 cheers for Facebook as the connections can be made quickly and it is then easy to keep in touch, and refer people to this blog.

For the first time, I had left Alfie alone to go to the breakfast and when I returned to Sherman Oaks he didn’t seem traumatised. I packed methodically and breathed a sigh of relief as I left. I am all too aware of the love-bombing, pedestal, devalue and discard one experiences with a Narcissist (happened with the tosser I thankfully escaped from 6 years ago) but with a couple? Am still trying to work that one out.

008 009 010I drove straight to ‘Bergamot Station’ – great Arts venue and visited the Gallery of Functional Arts: my favourite gallery there. It was my 4th visit and I bought myself some earrings and a pewter arrow with a love-heart on it with ‘through and through and through and through ‘ written on it – it was reasonably priced and I love Tamara Hensick’s work . On my first visit I bought a pewter hare (Jackrabbit, as they call them here) with ‘Good’ on one large foot and ‘Luck’ on the other.

I then hurried over to nearby Peet’s on Michigan Avenue and enjoyed coffee and lemon poppyseed cake with Bob. I am going to miss my coffees with Bob. In another world we might have got it together but neither of us made a suggestion or a move and frankly I am really happy flying solo right now. So much less complicated and who needs a man when you have an Alfie-dog? I shall keep in touch with Bob though – a really lovely gent, as they say!

007 007 002 003 004 005NPR radio station helped me keep my sanity as I negotiated the AWFUL LA traffic (one hour 45 minutes to go 8 miles) – making my way to Lorraine’s just off Sunset Strip – a gorgeous little apartment in a block (or rather a quadrangle) that is only 2 stories high and has a central swimming pool, loads of palm trees and a sense of peace and comfort that an old established place can offer. Apparently, lots of British people live there – attracted by the location, the reasonable rent and the lovely garden environment and little outside areas that are personal to the apartments. Lorraine had made a tasty curry and we followed that bya walk around ‘The Strip’ – talking in the M hotel and other landmarks. I also recognised the hotel I stayed in with John when I had been in LA for the American Film Market a number of years ago.

It was a full moon at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning and neither Lorraine nor I found it easy to get to sleep that night – the very strong wind that tore through LA didn’t help, so we both ended up sleeping in and had a very slow start to the day. I was on day 2 of a migraine but still functioning and decided to take us both for breakfast. Lorraine’s neighbour suggested ‘Republique’ – a really hip place serving interesting breakfast dishes. I went for eggs as I am not eating many on this trip and do enjoy them, especially with maple syrup …

022 021 011 008 009 010Leaving Lorraine, and grateful for her hospitality, Alfie and I made our way to Lake Casitas and the huge campsite there. Whilst in New York, I ordered a ‘3-person’ Coleman tent knowing it would be just right for Alfie and me. I struggled putting it up but it is just right, as is the self-inflating sleeping pad I ordered at the same time.  There was a lovely group of 4 young students: Madison & her boyfriend Zach, Dakota and Daniel, camped near me.

I went into Ojai 018 013 020 to discover what it was that attracted people to this town. It is another of those ‘one horse’ towns with a main street and a lot of watering holes. There is a great atmosphere and obviously a flourishing ‘alternative’ community. Alfie and I tried out the Mexican Restaurant with their ‘fountain’ rootbear. A ‘fountain’ drink means that you can keep asking for refills – yuum. The fried burritos were ok-ish.

Finding my way back in the dark was more complicated than I had expected. Once I found the campsite I had to negotiate the 2 miles around the lake to my tent. On arrival, my new friends had made a roaring fire and we sat, listening to the cayotes, playing cards and then I experienced my first ‘s’more’. This is an American campsite classic that consists of 2 graham crackers (sweet biscuit) chocolate and a melted marshmallow. It is a sugarfest and not one I want to repeat but there is a first time for everything!!015 016

Up with the third (and always final) day of my migraine.  The sun was immediately intense as it shone on my tent, mercifully shaded in parts by the nearby trees. I made my way to Ojai to have a coffee, bought some more cushions for a few dollars in the Thrift Shop. I had heard about the Matilija Canyton hotsprings from Dakota and ended up in the library asking about it. I was overheard by a young guy who said ‘I can find you the place’ and went online to identify the address – they don’t advertise, don’t tell you when they will be open and generally keep the place totally secret.

When I finally got there, negotiating rock-falls on the road, I was told by the rather vague young girl that there was another group coming in and that I could only have an hour. Negotiating the price down from 20 dollars to 10, I made my way down to the natural hot spring that absolutely stank of sulphur: a good sign. I soaked to my heart’s content and chatted to some lovely women there. Alfie stretched out in the shade on the grass under the trees, bless him. There was a cold stream running past that was great to visit to cope with the intense heat of the spring and the sun. It was a lovely experience and helped my migraine to finally lift – The 2 hours I spent there were delightful.

025 024 023Back in Ojai I had a root beer and burger before returning to the tent. I passed a stall on the way back, selling papaya. I adore papaya – it reminds me of Mexico! The old neighbours had gone, to be replaced by, coincidentally, a lovely Mexican family: Sixtos and his wife Maria, his daughter Ambar and grandchildren Gabby and David who immediately made a fuss of Alfie. We had an English cup of tea and sat by the fire talking. Alfie was tired and so we retired to the tent early.

Awaking refreshed, sleeping well in the tent on the pad, Alfie and I trundled down to the lake to do stick throwing and retrieving – I always have to retrieve the stick as well!

Breakfast was papaya, shared with the lovely family, who in turn gave me strawberries and granola and fed me tacos with cheese and thinly sliced beef before I left to drive to Santa Barbara. The rest of their family – son Emilio and his girlfriend Daisy – arrived just as I was leaving.

067Trying to get hold of Joey, the guy who owns the Air BnB in Santa Monica, was a nightmare. Having now met him and experienced his ultra laid-back personality, I can see why. 041Thank heavens for Rocco. Rocco is a sweet man in his 70s – doing a lot of artwork – who has had many jobs (even owned a hair salon) but is now sleeping in his van on Joey’s forecourt and being available to look after the house and Air BnB guests and is totally indispensible.  The garden of the house is picturesque and scruffy in an arty way. Alfie certainly enjoyed sniffing around.

The room, in a house that has seen better days, was nice – comfortable bed and spacious, and Alfie was happy sleeping on the portable bed pad I am taking around for him.

028 029 026On the way to Santa Barbara we stopped off briefly at Refugio State Beach where Alfie and I finally put our paws in the Californian seawater.

Thank heavens for i-phone when I don’t have my laptop as it helps me get around and keep in contact with people. As soon as I arrived, I went online to sort out computer stuff, and then made my way with Alfie to Hendry’s beach – that unusually not only allows dogs but also off the lead – or ‘off leash’ as they say. Another Americanism, while I think about it, is the fact that they call rocket salad ‘arugula’ …. that was confusing for a while!

030 031 032 034 033 035 036 037We patiently waited for people to leave their parking slots so we could park near the beach – for free! What a total contrast to Santa Monica and LA where finding a parking spot is a challenge and it costs around 20 dollars to park at the beach, when you can figure it out. Alfie was in heaven chasing sticks and balls into the sea. The light was beautiful and as the sun went down I felt I was experiencing the real California, and understood why people rave about Santa Barbara.

On the beach, as we returned, a wedding was taking place. A very sweet couple on their second marriages were celebrating with their friends. The Goddess-mother, Amy-Rose, was with her daughter and I had a lovely chat with them both, after the simple ceremony which was complete with rose petals being spread as the bride walked across the sand.

It was night when Alfie and I returned to where we were staying. Rocco, of course, was there and we chatted as I made supper.

039Awaking on Saturday I realised that I have been bitten by some nasty little bugs – probably at the hotsprings…. inevitable, I guess. It was 26 degrees centigrade. This is March so the UK is very different and I guess I should count my blessings, but it feels too hot!!

Alfie and I arrived at the beach at 8.15 and had a lovely 90 minute walk, with Alfie chasing the ball in the sea again. There is a great restaurant on the beach – The Boathouse – and I was able to get a coffee and chat to some nice people. One of them was a man considering his next dog and I, of course, told him that border collies are by far the best dogs!

Blue sky and sunshine… I sat in the garden having my breakfast of bagel followed by papaya and giving Alfie his breakfast of good quality tinned food and chicken.042 043 044 045 049 050 051 052 053

We then went off to the botanic garden – some lovely plants and redwood trees but not the best botanic garden I have ever visited. We then visited the Santa Barbara Mission founded by the Franciscan Order and I finally saw the Indian white sage growing, realising how different it is to UK sage. Feeling hungry I went, on recommendation, to ‘Lilly’s Taqueria’ 057 056where they have lovely tacos that cost $1.80 each and you can smother them with sauce, onions, coriander, cucumber and radishes….

Afterwards, we walked down State Street054 059 060 058 – the main street of Santa Barbara – having a coffee and noticing how many homeless people live here – both in the main street and around the Marina, which was a great place for an evening walk with Alfie.

While I am travelling I take advantage where I can of doing my washing/drying so I got up to date before I take off on my next adventure up the West coast, which will involve more camping. The same applies to getting my blog done – which takes hours!

Sunday, Alfie and I awoke to mist coming in over the sea so we walked around the block and took some local photos of houses and plants 063 064 065and I thought how much I like Santa Barbara, and how much nicer it is than the frenetic atmosphere of LA. When Olivia Woodford (great astrologer) did my chart, she said that of all the places in the world, Santa Barbara suits me the best. I can see that – but I still have to leave!

On Saturday I had noticed a lot of preparation at the huge old court building in the centre of town Inside there were lots of weddings occurring, one after the other, while outside rows and rows of chairs were being put out. I asked a young woman what was happening and she said there was to be a special outside service for Easter, with the band Leeland performing:

068 072 070 071So Alfie and I trotted over, because it was Easter Sunday and I felt I wanted to do at least one thing to mark Easter. The atmosphere was friendly, family-orientated and genuine. There were many hundreds of people there and Alfie got lots of attention from children and adults alike. Leeland were great and I met Michael and Beverley – a lovely husband and wife team dolling out free coffee. Michael is the Architect of the Calvary Chapel and I felt quite moved by the whole experience. When the service ended, more coffee as well as buns, cakes and croissants were available in the nearby street that had been blocked off. It was then time to get back to Joey’s house and pack up, although Rocco was happy for me to stay and finish my blog – thank goodness!

073 074 076 077 081 082After a while, Alfie became stir-crazy so we went off for a long walk around the Marina (so many yachts….) and back to the dog beach where he could play off the lead but took more interest in the children playing. When the sun had gone down, I heard the sound of a flute being played beautifully and took a picture of the man sitting on his own looking out to sea, creating beautiful music….

I shall miss Santa Barbara – 3 nights, 4 days isn’t long – but it is time to carry on up the coast…