Inn of the Seventh Ray
The beauty of a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu can easily dissolve a day’s worth of frustration as long as you can handle the traffic and not be too distracted by the surf pounding the beaches where surfing is a way of life. Still a better place to relax lies just west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu on the west and Pacific Palisades on the east.
You can take a trip back to a nostalgic time by driving up into Topanga Canyon with its eclectic mixture of hippie vibes, homes of folk musicians, artists, and faith healers, and small stores and restaurants. The drive itself is an unforgettable trip into the past, but the best part of Topanga is an organic food restaurant called Inn of the Seventh Ray.
The setting is rumored to have been a private retreat for Aimee Semple McPherson during the 1930’s. Later it was the location of Topanga’s first church, and then it deteriorated into a garage, gas station, and junk yard until it was finally transformed into a restaurant.
My first trip there was about seven years ago when my daughter and her fiancé lived in Santa Monica. Since then, dinner at the Inn of the Seventh Ray has become a tradition whenever a special occasion occurs and we are in Los Angeles. The canyon road is both scenic and treacherous with a number of sharp hairpin turns. Then you turn off the main road and drive to an area that truly deserves the description of magical. You park at the top of the canyon and descend a long, spiral staircase built into the rock. The outdoor tables are set up at varying levels and are surrounded by flower gardens, fountains, statuary, shimmery sheer white curtains, and tiny white lights set up among the trees, all creating private areas for dining and romance. At the bottom level tables are set up next to the creek where the gurgling of the water and night sounds provide their own kind of peace. Heat lamps warm you on cool evenings year round. There is also an indoor eating area with a fireplace. The dinner is almost an afterthought. Artistry creates the flavors and arrangement of the food on the plate, all organic, healthy yet satisfying.
After dinner the thing to do is visit the New Age gift shop at the entrance to the restaurant. The Spiral Staircase features New Age CDs, an eclectic mixture of books about angels, spirituality, astrology, and health, hand-crafted jewelry, crystals, toys and gifts for children, and much more. I have never been able to leave the restaurant without purchasing something that could later bring back that sense of peace I associate with Topanga Canyon.
A visit to the Inn of the Seventh Ray can be as relaxing as a weekend retreat. If you go to Los Angeles, find time to take the drive up the canyon, stop at dusk to eat dinner, browse the gift shop and take home a gift just for you, bask in the peace there, and take it with you until next time.