Give them a break.

It’s a fine balance staying with family. You like to be helpful but essentially you are getting in the way of a routine they have in place. So we thought before we came here to California: “Give them a break!”

We booked to go North in a hire car to Santa Barbara and to stay slightly inland at Ojai. For the uninitiated that’s pronounced  Oh Hi! I’d also planned a trip to the coast to have a guided bird watch trip with Jenny, both the accommodation and the outing were booked through Air bandb and both very much lived up to expectations. They don’t much have to factor in bad weather in these parts and this was no exception.

The place we stayed in Ojai was right here: Ojai BandB, and the birding trip with Jenny right here: Birding.

The drive north was a revelation with five lanes of traffic going both ways, ten lanes in all!! Like a moving sea of metal. That’s about as poetic as this gets. Once off Highway 101 we had a pleasant drive up to Ojai up what was quite a normal road for us, and our next day was the birding foray, plus a trip to Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens. I relied on a woman telling me where to go from my dashboard, she had a habit of saying that there was light traffic on our route and sullenly staying quiet when there was not.

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After our great bird watching experience it was a walk along the beach, before a short drive into the hills for our trip to the Botanical gardens. Apart from driving into someone’s driveway in a sat nav glitch, we got there fine and what a lovely place. They are bound to have a cafe with the usual giant snacks? No! They don’t and for lunch we had a thing called a lunchpot from a vending machine, it was truly plastic in every way, but oddly, enough for us on what was a very hot day.

There’s a reason they don’t do catering at the site and it’s all down to fire. This area suffered very badly quite recently from what’s called the Thomas Fire. We saw blackened trees in the area where the leaves were regenerating on some, but not all. It laid large areas to waste. What’s this got to do with lunch? Well the City Council does not want huge numbers going to the gardens ‘for lunch’ as there’s one route in and one out. So in the event of fire there would be a problem. So here’s an attraction that discourages visitors who only want to eat. Neat!

The place is not huge and there are walkways everywhere, with some stunning plants and trees. Here’s a view and here’s more: The Gardens

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The Barking Lot

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It’s the name of a Vet Practice and it can only be in California, or at least the USA. They like these names for businesses, perhaps they have something in common with South Yorkshire where the locals there seem to like business names that are intended to make one chuckle, or not! Judging by the look of the place it was doing ok.

We were on our way to a Vegan Restaurant for a spot of brunch, a bit of a treat for me on Father’s Day, on top of the jar of marmalade bought from Larchmont Farmer’s Market. Marmalade being one of my foodie passions and not very common in these parts where they have enough oranges to be making marmalade all year round, and daughter and family have lemons growing in the garden. Meanwhile back to the vegan brunch. I had a wrap and some spuds, the wrap had chick peas and all sorts of grainy things in it with a spicy tomato ketchup with an exceedingly deep and rich flavour, the whole thing was delicious. Daughter had pancakes that looked like a small tower with fruit on the penthouse level and sweet things at mezzanine. Normal meat eating steak man son in law took to the grains too whilst grandchildren tucked into a pizza, with cheese made from cashew. It was in many ways a revelation, not just from the taste of the food but the vast amounts that is served. It’s not often that “Clean Plate Davies” is defeated but this was a notable success for the server.

Back to base camp to recover, and check out where we are going tomorrow, and there faced with what I’m now told is called “The Black Screen of Death” on my iPhone, which essentially means the thing won’t work. It’s a first world problem that we’ll deal with. We might even have to look at a map.

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We passed Helga on the way, there has to be a story here. Who is Helga and what exactly happened in 1966, or was that just the route? Get your kicks on Route 66?