Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ice skating across Britain

The Santa Ana winds are blowing through Los Angeles tonight, and although it's not cold it at least sounds wintery. We've had a stretch of really warm days and it's making it kind of hard to think about decorating for Christmas. But thanks to the editors at Country Life and their round up of the UK's best places to skate, I can induldge (albeit vicariously) in a bit of icey holiday frolicing.

Winchester Cathedral's ice rink, Hampshire

Small town charms

Fillmore's train depot and city hall.

So I thought I'd sit down and write about our dream of a home in France, but instead, I'm going to write about Fillmore. Yes, Fillmore, California. It's orange groves, orange groves and more orange groves. And, much to my surprise, I kind of fell in love with it. Fillmore is gorgeous! It's craggy brush-covered mountains on one side and a wide open valley on the other. It was just a quick trip up to visit an old friend newly ensconced on a ranch (one formerly owned by Sunkist's president --see, oranges, oranges, oranges) but we spent Sunday morning meandering around the tiny historic downtown area.

The town square.

Now, I'm not going to paint a nicer picture than it is. Fillmore's got issues: no money, not much industry, few jobs and one of the worst school systems in the state. But what it does have, aside from oranges (and a few lemons now, but that's another story) is an incredible history and some wonderful architecture. The old citrus packing houses and train depot are frequently used as film sets (Fillmore's only about an hour north of LA), and the surrounding streets are dotted with Craftsman bungalows. And, just down the highway is the historic Rancho Camulos.

The Ygnacio del Valle adobe, built c. 1853-80, and rose garden at Rancho Camulos.
The winery, which was built about 1867, at Rancho Camulos.

What Fillmore needs is a major influx of DINKs looking for a fixer-up of a weekend country house. For $600k you can snaffle up a ranch house (some historic, some 70s) and find yourself living amid groves that can bring in a hefty annual sum. And let's face it, who couldn't use a supplemental income? Or you can snap up a little bungalow for far less. It's such a pretty area - close to Santa Barbara, close to LA - and has such incredible potential. And, it's got Ay! Chihuahua, right off the 126 highway, where I had the best carne asada tacos ever. Ever. And the pickled onions are to die for.

It's also got some pretty fun shops, like Lost and Found Depot Antiques!

Lost and Found is directly across from the train depot and city hall. It's filled with some crazy things, but a lot of really cool stuff, too. Good old bottles, cast iron cobblers tools, brass headboards, fireside fenders...  
And some fabulous garden furniture. Just imagine this fixed up and set glamorously on the pool terrace of a Paul Williams house in Beverly Hills. It's only $40. There were four!

Another great one. Actually liked this one even better.
The railway bridge heading west out of Fillmore, most recently used in Like Water for Elephants with Reese Witherspoon and the Twilight guy.