With a decade old U.S. tour business, Ms. Zhong and her team, for the very first time, set their feet in Camarillo, a quaint agricultural town that sits in California’s Pleasant Valley.
Zhong’s Chinese tour goes up and down the 101 freeways on a weekly basis. Though just a half hour from L.A. County, Camarillo had, up until recently, remained well hidden from Zhong’s regular itinerary. Through New San Cai’s partnership with the Camarillo Tourism office, Ms. Zhong and her team set off on their first Camarillo tour, with the aim of discovering new quality experiences and unique offerings.
The group first gathered at the Old Town Café. Located on a quiet street, with ample parking and a few locals passing-by, the café brought an instant calm after the drive from L.A. Ms. Kong, the owner of Bella Capri Inn & Suites, kindly greeted the group.
Ms. Kong’s well-kept hotel swiftly won the hearts of the visitors upon their arrival. After thoroughly checking the beds, sheets, bathroom, and all necessities, the Chinese tour producers decided that the boutique inn should definitely be packaged into their California tour. Ms. Kong had little prior experience with Chinese groups, and was very eager to learn all she could about the potential Chinese business that is coming from across the ocean.
Separated by the Pacific Ocean, the societies of China and America seem both detached and distant. However, a group visit to the Commemorative Air Force Aviation Museum was able to bridge the two together. During WWII, American was the main military force that helped Chinese to fight off Japan’s invasion. It sent airplanes and pilots to join Chinese troops in their front line defense, and maintained critical supply lines that saved many lives.
The museum guide’s passionate narration brought China’s dramatic WWII history to life. Though in English, the museum’s pictures, objects and airplanes were understood heartily by the Chinese visitors. The group discovered a Chinese proclamation for U.S. Air Force from the then Chinese commander-in-chief, Chiang Kai-shek, and also toured an airplane that was actually flown during the war. This unusual piece of history moved and united visitors with its heroic and honorable past.
Adriana Huizar, the Executive Director of Camarillo’s Tourism office, had a packed agenda for the faraway guests. Their lunch at a traditional Mexican restaurant was just in time for the hungry group. Some in the group vaguely recalled having tried Mexican food once somewhere in the east coast many years ago. The local fresh seafood and beans were welcomed as a healthy option. The restaurant was well serviced and a great experience of authentic Mexican food.
An afternoon visit to Camarillo’s Ranch House added another highlight to the trip. This landmark Victorian building, built in 1892 by Camarillo’s founder Adolfo Camarillo, not only carries the history of Camarillo, but also showcases traditional Californian and Western home decor to guests.
The big family style house was not entirely unfamiliar to the group. Chinese traditionally arrange their lives in and around their family house and gardens. Their antiques and furniture are passed down through generations, and kitchens are stocked with good china and silverware. Nowadays however, this setting is often unseen in China due to its traumatic modern history and newly industrialized economy. The tourist group was gratefully reminded of these forgotten customs within the Camarillo Ranch House.
Camarillo offers an abundance of small town experiences, yet is not missing big city amenities. After meeting with Marriott’s Sales Executive, Debi Spinks, the group was able to tour the international hotel’s branch, uniquely located in this rural land. The hotel is designed with Marriott’s high standard, and tailored with country-style open doors and windows, along with a kitchen and barbecue in a beautiful green courtyard. It is a perfect retreat for Zhong’s high-end groups and family tours.
With laughter and smiles, the group ended their most memorable California visit. Camarillo’s local hospitality and quality offerings deeply impressed the Chinese tour producers. On their way back, Ms. Zhong was already making new arrangements for the next round of Californian itineraries.