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3-Hour Tour

Simply, Purely Topanga : Step into the town's preservative-free world, where hippies are hip, and visitors can put away ties for tie-dyes.

August 12, 1994|MARYANN HAMMERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Maryann Hammers is a regular contributor to The Times

TOPANGA — With its spectacular backdrop of the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga retains a rustic, wild appeal and a hippie, New Age feel. Spend a few hours in the town's tiny center, sip a glass of organic wine, try on a tie-dyed T-shirt, buy a crystal. You will feel like you spent the day in Big Sur or Marin County.

A word of caution: The town of Topanga may be laid-back, but drivers whiz up and down Topanga Canyon Boulevard with ruthless disregard for pedestrians. There are no sidewalks and plenty of blind spots, so stick to your side of the road, and take care when crossing the street or walking from one point to the next.

11 a.m.: Brunch at Inn of the Seventh Ray will put you in the Topanga mood. A romantic New Age restaurant nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains, the inn is all gardens, fountains and trees. You can sit indoors near a wood-burning fireplace, but if the weather is fine, select an outdoor table near the flowing creek, under a blossoming vine or tucked away in one of many secluded nooks and crannies. Fresh-faced waitresses in gauzy floral frocks and high-tops keep your coffee cup and water glass full.

Brunch items, priced from $3.95 for cereal to $18.95 for the full buffet, tend toward the esoteric, organic and preservative-free. According to the menu, a meal here will raise "your body's light vibration of the violet flame." Wow. All that for the price of an omelet.

Noon: By now, you are no doubt feelin' groovy, so stop at the Spiral Staircase, a New Age boutique upstairs from the inn. If you are running low on incense or crystals, this is the place to stock up. The store also has a good assortment of spiritual, self-help and feminist books, as well as gorgeous gift wrap that you will swear is hand-painted.

12:15 p.m.: Walk back to Topanga Canyon Boulevard and turn right, or south. You will soon reach the Topanga Center. The General Store is an old-fashioned grocery--a good place to pick up trail mix or fruit if you plan to top off your afternoon with a hike in nearby Topanga State Park. You can also buy souvenir Topanga T-shirts here.

Adjacent to the General Store is Sherry's Jubilee, a gift store with more Topanga T-shirts. The shop also stocks unusual picture frames and intricately carved boxes that are perfect for holding paper clips or storing tiny treasures.

Next stop is New Canyon Gallery, an artists' cooperative, with changing exhibitions of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculptures and ceramics. Occasionally, the gallery brings in guest singers and transforms itself into a coffeehouse.

12:45 p.m.: Continue south to Topanga Home-Grown, at 137 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Here, you will find handmade soaps, dried lavender and herbs, fragrant oils and various items crafted by local artisans. The children's section has a decent supply of environmentally and politically correct toys--and, of course, the de rigueur dinosaurs. More Topanga T-shirts, too, but these are tie-dyed. Beginning in late June, locally grown organic produce is marketed in front of the store. Handmade and antique rugs are sold at Woven Legends next door.

1 p.m.: Turn around and head north on Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Across the street is Boubalina, a women's clothing boutique, where you can try on one of those long floral frocks favored by the waitresses at the Inn of the Seventh Ray.

Continue up Topanga to Crystals in the Woods. In addition to crystals of all sizes, you will find handmade Brazilian tabletops, New Age books, jewelry, bookends, angel figurines, wind chimes, and an assortment of other fun and funky items made from precious and semiprecious stones.

Also in stock are a variety of Native American artifacts, such as smoke sticks, which purify the air with the clean scent of sage, or feathered "dream catchers," which, according to legend, ensure a peaceful night's rest by trapping nightmares. Stop by the store on Thursday evenings to take part in a free Meditation Planetary Health Circle.

1:45 p.m.: Your last stop is Sassafras Nursery at 275 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd. Spend a few minutes wandering along the soothing flower-lined paths overlooking the creek. Pick up a plant or a packet of seeds to spruce up your garden or brighten your kitchen windowsill, and head back to your car.

Where to Go

What: The Inn of the Seventh Ray.

Location: 128 Old Topanga Canyon Road.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Dinner 6 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Call: (310) 455-1311.

*

What: New Canyon Gallery.

Location: 129 S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

Call: (310) 455-3923.

*

What: Crystals in the Woods.

Location: 155 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Meditation Planetary Healing Circle at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays.

Call: (310) 455-3708.

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