Our arrival in the coastal city of Ventura was somewhat eventful. Having jittered and jolted us across California, survived Coachella and the desert dusts of Vegas, and sputtered to life to carry us the last few miles along the coastal road; the camper finally gave up the ghost right on a junction on the edge of town. Thankfully, on the corner of that junction was a garage, and after much swearing and frantic key turning the engine managed to coast us across the road and onto the forecourt.
Our plan had been to go straight to the campsite, check in and head to the beach; but with the van in the garage for the day we found ourselves pleasantly stranded in the centre of Ventura. Located between Malibu and Santa Barbara, Ventura is a beach side city with great surfing and an artsy, historical feel. The pretty streets are lined with palms and strings of light bulbs, the houses are painted in pastel pinks and yellows and chalky blue. The place has a creative, quirky atmosphere; embodied by tiny boutiques selling hand made trinkets and photography books, painted shopfronts and hidden shopping arcades tiled in mediterranean blue and yellow.
One of my favourite ways to discover a new place is just to wander; getting lost down side streets, reading glass framed restaurant menus and taking lots of photographs. We spent the afternoon exploring the main street, nosing around market stalls selling jewellery and trinkets, and found a bar open for lunch where we wolfed down Vietnamese chicken salad wraps and discussed our next move. We climbed steep hills to admire the pretty houses and gaze down the pristine streets to the ocean, and we crossed the train tracks to the beach to watch the light fade over the sea.
Ventura exceeded my expectations; from it’s beautiful palm lined streets, it’s quirky residents and nostalgic shopfronts the place exudes character and charm. It’s a city with a small town feel and a relaxed, beach town vibe that I could happily have spent a lot longer exploring – and I’m really glad our van broke down in the middle of it.
Have you ever stumbled across a place that surprised you?