Affordable Southern California Vacation Spot Hides Behind Its Name…Oxnard?

Channel Islands Beach, Oxnard CA

This year my husband and I celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary. Of course we’d have loved to jump in a plane and flown off to some exotic locale. But with time and financial restraints we had to be a little less lavish in our summer vacation planning. I wanted to go somewhere warm, on the ocean and far enough away that we’d feel like we really “went” on vacation.

I pulled up Google Maps and ticked off all the California coastal towns we’d visited together – Mendocino, Bodega Bay, Carmel, Monterey, Morro Bay – until I scanned down to the Santa Barbara area. The hotel prices seemed a little high to sustain us for a full week. I looked around at the nearby towns – Ventura sounded familiar which was next to Oxnard. “Hummm what’s going on in a place called Oxnard?” I thought as I compared hotel prices, beach access and ocean proximity. Between the two towns, I found a nice harbor front hotel for a medium price per night in Oxnard – all requirements met.

When I told my husband John where we were going for our ten year anniversary, he set down the laundry he was folding, looked at me with disgust on his face and asked, “Oxnard?” like I’d lost my mind.

“Hey, it’s really not as bad as it sounds,” I said defending my decision. It’s got to be the words “Ox” and “Nard” together that raise eyebrows. I mean if I said we were going to “Ventura” nobody would screw their face up over that.

Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA

So, I have to admit I became a little nervous I’d made the wrong decision after we got off Highway 1 heading into Oxnard. We’d passed up Santa Barbara’s blue ocean views, brown sandy beaches in the foreground, and outline of the distant Channel Islands breaking horizon sight lines. Acres of flat farmland then barren sand dunes surrounded the road as I thought to myself “this can’t be all there is out here.”

Breaking free from the rural and lonely landscape, we arrived at the vibrant Channel Islands Harbor alive with restaurants, yacht clubs and boaters. Our hotel was on the peninsula which divides the harbor into three prongs. It was dinner time when we arrived. The open late Toppers Pizza we’d eat at within the hour was all aglow in red and gold lights like a Broadway show. Checking in to our modern hotel, the evening breeze wafting through the remaining balmy warmth of the day, I felt reassured that Oxnard would provide everything I wanted in a vacation destination.

Enjoying Channel Islands Beach, Oxnard CA

Over the next few weeks read about our Oxnard adventures. I’ll share stories about exploring Southern California right here in this blog. Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and shades for a fun time under the sun!

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Deer Hollow Farm at Rancho San Antonio, Cupertino CA

Our mission to photograph the perfect hen brought my husband and I to Deer Hollow Farm in the foothills of Mountain View and Cupertino. After a quick Google Maps consult I found that the farm was only a half hour drive from home and in a park setting that I hadn’t explored yet. A perfect combo for a sunny day outside!

Open Field, Photo by Eva Barrows

The drive into Rancho San Antonio County Park passed several parking lots near the main road already full of cars. Continuing on we parked at the main lot near the bathrooms and trailhead. I stared at the trail system map and became puzzled at not spotting the location of the farm. My husband spoke with a jogger who confirmed that the farm was a mile into the park.

Lizard on Bark, Photo by John Barrows

From my previous light research on the area (I knew there were chickens…somewhere…) I didn’t realize we’d have to walk a mile in and out to visit them! The farm was closing within the hour so we put some speed on our walk.

Prairie Dog, Photo by John Barrows

Soon we walked by a large open field with tall grass. Hawks soared over the expanse with no treetops in their way. A prairie dog popped up in the middle of the field becoming the subject in one of my husband’s many photographs. The open land was the former site of St Joseph’s College which suffered Loma Prieta earthquake damage and was torn down. Abandoned tennis courts overgrown with weeds remain.

Forest walk, Photo by Eva Barrows

The path snakes back into the woods to follow a healthy stream trickling with water from recent rains. Eucalyptus trees shade the path and scent the breeze with their medicinal musk. The leaves of overhead trees swim in the wind current creating swooshing and cracking sounds.

Grant Brothers Cabin, Photo by Eva Barrows

As we walked around a bend in the forested path several small white wood paneled buildings greet us. We had made it to the farm! The Grant Brothers 1853 cabin is preserved and furnished with period items to show what early farm life was like.

With only about a half hour left before the farm closed for the day I spent a few minutes listening to the goats having a “baaa”-off where they all sounded tough and tried to outdo the other. I took a sound recording of them but forgot to take their picture!

Hen with Squirrel, Photo by John Barrows

The chickens are located inside the farm gate and behind the large white maintenance barn. At least thirty hens and a few roosters run around the yard and mostly hang out at the fence where they hope visitors will feed them. The entire group of birds ran inside the hen house thinking they’d get fed but it was a false alarm. So the chickens all ran back out together as a flock.

Huge Bunny! Photo by Eva Barrows

The hen’s next door neighbors are bunnies with one especially large furry brown bunny hopping around!

Large Pig, Photo by John Barrows

Across the farm yard there’s a pig shed with two gigantic tan pigs. The pigs ate at their troughs and from the farmers hand.

Picnic Area, Photo by John Barrows

Deer Hollow Farms is a great destination to enjoy the outdoors and be entertained by wild and farm animals. We came to the right place to accomplish our chicken photographing mission!

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Google Maps Point Hungry Travelers in the Right Direction

I stood on tiptoes peering out through the shutter-covered unusually high-placed hotel room window to see what eating establishments existed across the busy and dark Ventura Boulevard of Studio City, CA. My husband’s Fitbit had declared long ago that we’d put in ten thousand steps by midday and we had many more steps to go on our site seeing day.

Art by Eva and John Barrows
Art by Eva and John Barrows

Squinting through the window at the place straight across the street from us I tried to figure out if it was a viable option for dinner. I had a feeling that the place was fancy because the restaurant name was in script lettering and climbing ivy was all over the front of the building.

I took my smart phone out of my purse and brought up Google Maps. I dove into the map and found that I was looking at Bistro Garden, “Continental eatery for upscale dining” with three dollar signs next to it. Yes, that would be an expensive place to eat at.

My husband suddenly hovered next to me to see what I was up to. My head bowed over the phone, “There’s supposed to be a Five Guys over there,” I said continuing to look over Maps.

He glanced out the window and said, “Yeah its right there.” I shifted slightly to the right and there it was! Red block lettering indicating a very affordable burger joint that we’d had the pleasure of experiencing in our own neighborhood.

I was a little embarrassed at my restaurant hunt method. Usually we’d walk around a new place, peer in windows and read over menus. I told my hubby that I just wanted to find a decent place for us to have dinner. I wanted to know what was out there…without having to go out there.

Taking a virtual walk down the street with Google Maps, I found it! Four doors down and on the same side of the street as our hotel was Hyperion Public, “Rustic-chic American gastropub & lounge” with only two dollar signs. That is where we’d go for our night on the town. We grabbed our coats and walked briskly down the street.

Becoming temporary inhabitants of the candlelit and fireplace warmed dining room, we finally relaxed. When the food came, there wasn’t enough light to see the details of it so we had to rely solely on our taste buds to report back.

Despite my husband’s blatant tourist “Oceanside” blaring sweatshirt, the Los Angeles swanky diners and waitstaff couldn’t judge us as outsiders because there wasn’t enough light to make out what his shirt said. I knew we had succeeded in posing as Angelenos when our waiter asked if we’d like to take our leftovers home.

Google Maps was a quick way to get familiar with an unfamiliar neighborhood. Maps helped us make an informed decision to the always pressing question, “Where are we going to eat?”

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