Californias Hidden Gem
Story and photographs by Greg Aragon
outhern California is full of hidden gems. One of my favorites is the
seaside town of Oxnard,
where lonely beaches give way to island vistas, and classic, small town
charm mixes with gourmet restaurants, fascinating museums and one of
Southern Californias most beautiful resort hotels.
The aforementioned hotel is the luxurious Embassy Suites
Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort, where a friend and I began our recent
Oxnard escape. Located steps from the sand and about 200 yards from
the ocean, the Spanish Mission-styled resort boasts 248 suites, along
with amenities such as a giant pool and two Jacuzzis, fitness room,
tennis courts, business center, bicycle rentals, and its own on-site
Oxnard is a hidden gem on the Southern California
Our spacious suite was highlighted by a large patio,
with lounge chairs sloping down a grassy lawn, overlooking palm trees,
sand dunes, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands a few miles offshore.
It also came with a master bedroom and bathroom with tub and shower,
flat screen TV, large living room with couch/bed, flat screen TV, separate
bathroom and shower, office desk, coffee pot, microwave, and sink.
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort
sits on the beach,
a stone throw from the water
After getting to know the hotel, we drove a couple miles
to Channel Islands Harbor for a wonderful surf & turf dinner at
Restaurant Bar & Grill. With harbor lights and images of colorful
boats and the ocean coming through the bay windows, we began our meal
with California red wine and a memorable dish called Pescado Crudo,
with fresh fish, citrus dressing, Serrano chilies, red onion, avocado
and oregano. For the main course we shared succulent Duck Confit Tacos.
The Waterside Restaurant Bar & Grill serves
fresh California cuisine and fine wine
in classic coastal atmosphere
Back at the hotel, we walked along the hotel's deserted
beach. In the morning we enjoyed the resorts complimentary buffet
breakfast, featuring a made-to-order omelet bar and a buffet bar with
sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, fruits, breads, coffee and juices.
Our next stop was Heritage
Square, the historic heart of Oxnard. Featuring 15 beautifully restored
structures, the site showcases the citys early pioneering families,
whose farms and hard work helped create the town. The homes have been
re-purposed for business use, but still ooze with old-fashioned appeal.
One of the tastiest buildings at Heritage Square is
now a gourmet restaurant called La
Dolce Vita. Here we met Owner/Executive Chef Michelle Kenney, who
led us through a delicious cooking class, where a small group of us
made our own lunch on the restaurants patio. With Kenney leading
the way, we cooked chicken Milanese with tomato fennel sauce, and Sicilian
crepes with orange sauce. While eating, we chatted with Kenny about
her restaurant and her cooking classes that are open to the public.
Located in Oxnard's historic Heritage Square, La
Dolce Vita offers authentic Italian fare led by Chef Michelle Kenney
Back at Embassy Suites, we made new friends and sipped
complimentary cocktails at the resorts daily Manager's Reception,
which is offered to all hotel guests.
The next day we discovered the Mullin
Automotive Museum, the best car collection I've ever seen in one
place. Created as a tribute to the art deco and machine age, the two-story
museum houses more than 50 of the finest historic French cars ever built,
including the legendary Bugatti and Voisin. The 46,821 sq-ft showroom
also displays decorative art from the 1920s and 1930s.
One of the most interesting and expensive
cars in the gallery is the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, which recently
sold for around $30 million. Spinning on a stage in the middle of the
giant warehouse, this majestic machine was the first of only four ever
built. The car, equipped with a four-speed manual transmission, was
shipped to the US in 1946 and after various owners, is now on loan at
The Mullin Automotive Museum is an awe-inspiring
tribute to classic French automobiles
Another mechanical masterpiece is the gorgeous 1948
Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe. Also the first in its production
line, this powerful luxury car came with a six-cylinder aluminum engine
and was noted for its estimated 124 mph top speed. But it is the curves
and style that make this vehicle stand out as a classic piece of French
Art. I understand why Peter W. Mullin calls the cars in his collection
"rolling sculptures" and says the French automobiles of the
1920s and 1930s "represent the pinnacle of 20th Century art and
To help visitors get a better feel for the collection,
the museum shows a fascinating movie in its small theater area that
tells a story of the Bugatti family and the golden age of the auto.
One of the vehicles discussed in the movie is the extremely rare 1925
Bugatti Type 27 Brescia Torpedo, which found its way to Switzerland
where it was sunk in Lake Maggiore by its owner in the 1930s to avoid
heavy registration fees and taxes. The car sat at the bottom of the
lake until it was raised in 2009. Drastically eroded after 73 years
in the lake, the car was "useless as an automobile but priceless
as an object of art" for the Mullin Museum.
Admission to the Mullin is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors,
and $8 for kids. For more information and visiting hours, call 805.385.5400
or visit: www.mullinautomotivemuseum.com.
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort is
located at 2101 Mandalay Beach Road. For more information, call (805)
984-2500 or visit: www.mandalaybeach.embassysuites.com.
For more information on visiting Oxnard, contact the Oxnard Convention
& Visitors Bureau at 1-800-2-OXNARD or visit: www.visitoxnard.com.
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