Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Oaks at Ojai

Ojai is a special place in Southern California with an earthy, artsy, authentic vibe. So it only fits that The Oaks at Ojai should reflect the same image as a spa destination. Which it does. If you're looking for upscale modern with austere and ultra luxury appointments, skip The Oaks. This place is down to earth, earnest, and honest in its goals to help you achieve yours. A taste of Old California only adds to the charm.

My daughters took me for a weekend retreat in August to celebrate a big birthday with healthy meals, workout classes, hikes, and mother-daughter bonding. From the moment we pulled off the highway, cruised onto the covered driveway, and walked through the double door entry, the ambience of Old California greeted us in the nostalgic style of Spanish stucco architecture. 

Inside, the lobby spreads across a wide expanse of carpet where cushioned couches and a wood-framed upholstered chair perch aside a dark coffee table straight from the pages of Ramona. Flower arrangements decorate smaller tables, and a generous stucco and stone fireplace trimmed in Spanish tile complete the cozy sitting area. Off to the right, an antique-inspired wood counter serves as the check-in desk while a gift shop called The Nest with an arch-tiled entryway beckons on the left. Hallways with mission inspired arches lead to a gallery of stone sculptures and wall paintings straight ahead and to spa services and a comfy relaxation room behind the shop. An office and health center off the main lobby offer easy access for guests to approach staff ready to monitor blood pressure and weight during your stay.

From the side hallway off the lobby, we climbed stairs to reach our second floor corner room awash in light. The spacious location was a plus. The bathroom tile in black and white hexagons trimmed in 50's garish green reminded me of an early 70s apartment in Chicago. A small deck overlooking a side street of town gave us a view of locals. Paned windows on the front overlooked the main street where dozens of shop and gallery windows greeted us on an early morning walk. Two double beds and a rollaway bed fit with room to spare. The older bathroom design with a bathtub/shower combo, but only enough counter space for two sets of toiletries, sufficed since Betsy's cosmetic bag with its handy hook was perfect for hanging. 

We found all the food quite good, sans salt and sugar, but with substitutes that worked well enough, except when it came to popcorn. There is no sufficient replacement for real butter and salt to satisfy the crunchy taste of well seasoned popcorn! Regardless, I somehow ate a whole bag during bingo, which awarded two of the three of us with winning games and prizes -- lotion and soap, plus two gift certificates for the shop. Note: The Oaks at Ojai offers recipes for their nutritional cuisine under the Blog item on their website menu: Recipes at The Oaks at Ojai.

Through the gallery hallway, we ventured into the Libbey room where we ate casual breakfasts, lunches and snacks, the gym area with a wide assortment of equipment and access to the pool and spa, and the gymnasium where a variety of classes was held. We took advantage of an ample selection of offerings and particularly enjoyed the morning hike (6:30 am) to hidden succulent gardens, pool cardio with noodle maneuvers and a soothing circle exercise, the gym cardio class with hula hoops-plus, and relaxation yoga. 

 The spa was particularly charming with an elaborately arched tile entry and similar decor throughout, particularly in the locker room and jacuzzi/fountain area. Spa services were the best. I gave my deep tissue massage an 11. Betsy felt her facial was just as delightful and relaxing. 

At the end of the day, what I found most enjoyable was the relaxing time I spent with Betsy and Amy. But the friendly people we met were absolutely delightful, too. The staff were fabulous, with a shout out to Sherry who keeps the Libbey room running smoothly for meals and the bingo hopping along with Hollywood trivia questions between games! The mostly women guests were equally friendly and engaging. We met repeat customers from the Los Angeles area, new people from Portland, Seattle and Kansas City, and  a mother with her eighteen-year-old daughter on their way to a college campus for the daughter's first year of college. 

I highly recommend The Oaks at Ojai for anyone who wants to experience a spa in Southern California with healthy food, numerous options for physical activity, and friendly staff and patrons, with the added bonus of early Spanish architecture in a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains. 
Happy Holidays
The Becks' 2017 Year in Review

Maybe I shouldn't have gone to that 3-day writers' conference two weeks after my knee replacement surgery in January. It meant regular doses of Percocet, but I stopped ASAP after the third day. Serious blahs resulted, which Amy and a Kaiser doctor diagnosed as opioid withdrawal. What? That fast? I couldn't eat, so the girls fed me edible goodies to boost my appetite! 

In February we had a great time at Laura and Mike's Super Bowl Party, and hosted Dan's brother Tom and wife Nickie for a Valentine's dinner. We look forward to their annual visits from Oregon as they escape the cold and rain for warmer destinations.

In March the wildflowers were AMAZING in Anza Borrego Desert. Lots of cameras and cars for the brilliant show in this desert haven. In April we cruised the Western Caribbean and hung out with cousins Billi and Alan in the Sarasota area, and friends at St. Pete's Beach. Cousin Alan sang My Old Kentucky Home for us, a rehearsal for his local choral performance days later.

May started with the Kentucky Derby, a scaled back party with a few neighbors this year, and I flew to Portland, Oregon to visit Betsy and Jeff for Mother's Day weekend. What a delight to see their charming hood and condo, and my grandson, Westin (Amy's son), who lives nearby and works at Chart House. Later in the month, a friend from the Cincinnati area came for a short but sweet visit.

 In June we attended Grandkids McKinley and Beau's confirmations, and Noah's Club soccer team won the regional tournament. So proud of ALL our grandkids!

 In July, we saluted and many of us wore Old Glory colors, stars and stripes at the annual July 4th party at our friends' house in the Vista hills overlooking fireworks displays for miles around. Mid-month we finally found a date to recognize belated June birthdays at our house -- Dan, Mike, Danielle, Beau, and Taylor (our youngest baseball/soccer athlete). We were thrilled to welcome friends from Virginia Beach later in July. As the month came to a close, it was our turn to host the Provence Group, five couples who love to wine and dine together, 10 years counting.

August was the best -- a whole month of 70th Birthday celebrations!

The Summer of Love  (50th anniversary) weekend in SFO with high school friends.
San Diego's Little Italy weekend with Dan, and dinner with my Book Club Buddies.
Laguna Beach annual lunch and self-photo shoot with friends from UCLA days.
Legally Blonde play and lunch with McKinley to celebrate BOTH our birthdays.
Ojai Weekend with Betsy and Amy -- the perfect treat with my daughters.

September was a fitting finale to birthday joy with longtime CT friends for travel to Budapest, Vienna, and Prague. The prize was seeing BOTH Nadal and Federer in separate matches at The Laver Cup, the tennis world's newest tournament to honor Rod Laver, the tennis legend, and our neighbor. We rocked the VIP "200 Club" for Rod's 200 major tournament wins!!

In October, golf, shopping and hiking in the Phoenix area allowed us to catch up with more friends, and to remember our friend's dad, Harold, whom we lost weeks before in Ohio. An avid conversationalist and retired teacher, Harold created magical ponds, gardens, and landscapes. 

Thanksgiving with Dan's kids at the beach house in Oceanside gave us a chance to reflect and appreciate all that's important in life -- family, friends, health, food, and shelter. We count our blessings and remember many in California and beyond who are without these basic needs.

Christmas reminds us of the things we do all year long to keep alert, happy and healthy: Friday movies and dinners, local plays and concerts, great books, my writing and book club groups, Dan's bridge and golf, the football pool he hosts with Craig and Mike, Dane and Riley coming for dinner and putting in the backyard, the kids' sports games, and our Christmas Eve festivities.

But there are drumbeats, too, which give us pause. The biggest challenge of 2017 has been my sister Mila's long hospitalization with a bipolar relapse. She's lived a courageous, successful life in spite of her diagnosis, and continues to recover from this difficult episode. We pray for all our family and friends facing health challenges. Know you are loved and always in our thoughts.

All the Best for a Healthy, Happy New Year!
Dan and Vicki

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