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Get Out of Town!
The One-Day Get-Away
May, 2010 - Issue #67
California Street, Ventura
California Street, Ventura
The afternoon breeze rustled the palm trees overhead and carried the scent of the Pacific three blocks inland to where I sat at the corner of California and Santa Clara streets in Downtown Ventura.

It was late in the day. April, the four kids and I had wandered Main Street all afternoon. We should have been piling in the car to drive back to Santa Clarita. But the breeze seemed to indicate otherwise.

As it washed away the last traces of worry we left in Santa Clarita, it was a reminder of why we came to Ventura for the day. And it made a compelling case for why we should stay longer. After all, it has been a truly relaxing day.

It started on a whim, with April saying, "Let's go to Ventura today." Common sense immediately called to mind all the reasons why I couldn't.
But next thing I know, we're enjoying lunch at Anacapa Brewing Company. A sign on the wall reads, "Great Minds Think a Pint." As I sipped a crisp, golden CaliKolsch, I couldn't have agreed more.

April and I shared the Ahi Tuna Rolls and the Napa Salad. The rolls matched a wedge of avocado with a strip of seared ahi inside a deep-fried egg roll topped with teriyaki glaze. The salad blended mixed greens, diced tomato, cucumbers and red onion, crunchy pine nuts, crumbled bleu cheese and a tart vinaigrette dressing. It was a satisfying combo that fueled our further exploration of Main Street and its eclectic blend of galleries, shops and thrift stores.

The California State University Channel Islands Art Gallery makes its home in a former bank at the corner of California and Main. It's worth a visit just for the architecture. Marble columns and floors, and gold-detailed ceilings make a remarkable back drop for paintings and sculpture pieces created by students and alumni. Even the vault features artwork.

At Dexter's Camera and Hi-Fi you'll find interesting prints and vintage camera equipment on display in the front windows. Looking for an Indian motorcycle gas tank from the 1940s? Bring $895 and stop at the Treasure Chest Thrift Store. Or ride away on a new beach cruiser. They've got a couple dozen to choose from.

At the San Buenaventura Mission, we crossed to the other side of Main Street and wandered through the church and the grounds. The mission dates to 1782 but has been rebuilt several times after devastating fires and earthquakes. The church's beamed ceiling and tile floors were installed in the 1800s but later covered over in a "modernization" project. They were restored about 50 years ago. Together with the Stations of the Cross paintings and the main altar, they bring to life the earliest chapters of California's history.

Our next stop was Red Brick Gallery and their vibrant mix of photography, sculpture and painting. What caught my eye were the most fascinating prints shot by an intrepid photographer from inside waves at sunset. Although they were out of my price range, I stood and stared awhile.

Palermo is a place that defies easy categorization. They make the most amazing coffee drinks, and with a collection of patio tables out front, you could call it a coffee shop. But then you have to factor in the truffles, gelato, baked goodies, home decor and cards. I'm not sure what you call it, other than a really cool place that begs for extended exploration.

The kids were growing tired of our wandering, so that wasn't an option. We took our coffee to go and headed for the car. Along the way, April herded the kids into the bathroom at Cafe Fiore, a lovely little Italian eatery that looked worthy of a visit on our next trip.

I perched on a planter outside and waited while the sun warmed me and the breeze made its case for lingering in Ventura.

It won me over. We drove to a playground on the beach and let the kids play for another hour while we savored the sunshine, the fresh air and the last little bit of relaxation.
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