O X ………….nard,
on California's Strawberry Coast
spells L O V E.
This is a beach city where time stands still and embraces you with the passion for life that is intoxicating!
When I was a kid, summer vacations were filled with five kids, mom and dad and grandma packed into a green 1959 Pontiac sedan. Mom packed food and we hung our heads out the window trying to escape the heat of eight bodies in a cramped car. We visited museums, beaches, and picnicked at roadside tables. These vacations were affordable, easy and created memories that bonded our family for life. I thought those times were gone for good, until I experienced Oxnard.
Summer in Oxnard.
The second I stepped out of my car my heart was captivated.
The temperature was a cool refreshing 68 degrees (year around).
The harbor breeze kissed my cheeks and gave me that tingly vacation feeling. For three days my veins pulsed with that everlasting summer feeling . . .anxious to get up in the morning and thrilled to have experienced my day!
Boater's paradise at Channel Islands Harbor.
We stayed at the Oxnard Hampton Inn Channel Islands at the Harbor. Our Mariner View room was spacious and serene. I loved the white crisp duvet cover that graced the bed. It was luxurious, inviting and I slept like a baby. Our host had sent up a welcome package of Herzog Wine from the local winery. I poured two glasses of deep red Cabernet, for my husband and me. We opened the sliding glass door to our comfortable patio and soaked in the afternoon sun.
The familiar call of the sea gulls with the clanking of the boat masts in the wind evaporated my worries of the world, (Our room had complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access — if I wanted the world to intrude.) I opted to replace the rush of the high tech world with that precious high touch “vacation” feeling.
Every morning we woke up to the hotel’s complimentary hot and scrumptious breakfast complete with fresh juices, fruits, yogurt, breads & bagels, waffles, sausage, cereals and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. It was just like being at my Mom’s, only we didn’t have to do the dishes.
We truly stepped back in time with our first dining experience at La Dolce Vita located in the historic Heritage Square. The turn of the century Victorian buildings were lovingly restored and in this downtown plaza. I felt like I had just landed in Pollyanna’s home town. The red cobblestone square set against the white trim of Victorian buildings reminded me of a place in time when life was slower and much simpler. The grounds were lushly landscaped with over 140 varieties of shrubs and flowers that bloomed in a home town welcome.
Our evening at La Dolce Vita was amazing in so many ways. The white linens were crisp and the flowers on the table were fresh and elegant. The art work made me feel like I was dining at my rich aunt’s home.
La Doce Vita in Oxnard's Heritage Square.
Everything was prepared to perfection with a loving elegance that only a family member can extend to her guests. Michelle Kenny, who is the proprietor, was our family for the evening. The food was prepared with that amazing blend of Italian/ Mediterranean love. It was an evening filled with the charm of Tuscany cuisine paired with this California coast. But the fusion of old world with the new wasn’t the only pairing that was a surprise.
Michelle had invited the winemaker George Gilpatrick and his life partner Faye Hawes to pair their memorable wines with our dinner! As I listened to their story of how they founded Rancho Ventavo Cellars I was awestruck. Never had I imagined that I would be breaking bread with the winemakers. What an evening!
Michelle Kenny at La Dolce Vita
George’s eye’s sparkled with excitement as he watched me taste the first paring of Rancho Ventavo Tempranillo 2005 with the Mediterranean Tarlet and Olive Tapenade appetizer. It was love at first sip. The wine was spicy and complex and rich ruby red in color. The sweet taste of the tomatoes and olives blended perfectly with the wine aromas and flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla and leather. This was only the beginning in dining “The sweet life.”
My palate was awakened by myriads of sensual pleasures that I had only read about in glossy travel magazines — such as experiencing the opulent flavors of ripe blueberry and black cherry in Rancho Centavo’s 2005 Syrah that was paired with my entrée, Penne con Salmon laced with spinach and tomato, tossed in a light cream sauce — which curled my toes.
Victorian charm is found
in Oxnard's Heritage Square.
I didn’t think my dining experience could get any better until dessert. The Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding was upstaged by a juicy Chocolate Covered Strawberry. When the sweetness of a ripe strawberry is combined with rich chocolate and then paired with George’s 2005 Zinfandel, my olfactory senses grew wings. This supple, mouth-filling vintage blended with the juicy blueberry and ripe blackberry fruit was enchantment. George, Fay, Michelle and the culinary staff at La Dolce Vita, you are fabulous! (www.ladolcevitadimare.com)
Feeling right at “home” in our private seaside resort only got better as the week progressed. Friday was dedicated to the adventure of exploring “California’s Galapagos.”
Island Packers Cruises is a family-owned business started by Bill Connally and his four children after he bought an old fishing boat named the Venra F and rebuilt it to be the Island Packer. We ventured on the 60 minute boat ride across the breakwaters to Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands as the Connally family did on their maiden voyage on Mother’s Day in 1968.
Our day cruise was magnificently smooth as we peered intensely at the horizon hoping to catch a glimpse of a Pacific Gray Whale, that migrate from the Bering Sea to the lagoons in Mexico to breed and bear their young. We didn’t spy a whale but we were entertained by dolphins and sea lions as we crossed the short 12 miles.