Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jamee's California Adventure

Walking down to Newport Beach.
California Adventure
By Jamee Gregory

Have you ever visited Orange County, California? It is well worth the detour! What a surprise to discover the beauty of Newport Beach, the charm of Balboa Island, the sweeping beaches of Laguna, all less than an hour from Los Angeles.
Carolina, packed and ready for our trip!
Driving along the highway, we arrive at Pelican Hill Resort, part of the original Irvine Ranch, finding ourselves somewhere that looks just like the Mediterranean, with the same trees, bushes and flowers that dot the South of France and the Italian Riviera. Pelican Hill offers a fantastic Tom Fazio-designed golf course, a spa, hotel and villas, designed in the Italian Renaissance style.
The entrance to Pelican Hill.
Pelican Hill's coastal views.
Each villa, comes with a butler, who escorts us to ours, with three bedrooms, a large living room, kitchen and a beautiful terrace on the bluff, overlooking the ocean. Fruit, wine and water await. We unpack and change, ready to explore the resort and the area.
The master bedroom and its terrace.
Our first sight of the beautiful Pelican Hill pool, heated to perfection.
Overlooking the hotel pool at lunch.
The villas have their own pool and restaurant, as does the hotel. Carolina, our almost 5-year-old granddaughter, straps on her watermelon helmet and scoots along the hilly property, working up an appetite. The golf club contains the Pelican Grill, rated one of Newport's top restaurants, where we sample California wines and delicious food. The sweeping view and pink sunset are even better than dessert.
Bacon eyes at the breakfast buffet!
Something fun to keep hungry kids busy: colorful and pliable Wikki Stix!
Something fun to keep hungry adults busy: afternoon tea.
Early bird dinner on the terrace at the Pelican Grill.
Sunset over the ocean.
Happy to see the sun rise outside my window at Shutters on the Beach.
The next day we head for Crystal Cove State Park, 3.2 miles of Pacific coastline beach, surrounded by 2400 acres of wilderness. A shuttle takes us there, crossing the Pacific Coast Highway. We follow a path, leading down to the beach, past the Historic District, preserving rustic cabins for rent, built in the '30s and '40s, and little shops selling souvenirs, books, and offering information on the history of the area and its flora and fauna.
Stores and cabins that can be rented dot the path to the Crystal Cove State Park Beach.
The Beachcomber, a charming seaside restaurant, perches on the sand.  The beach is hard and vast. Tidal pools, filled with everything from shells, to sea anemones and colorful seaweeds, are a major attraction. Carolina, a veteran of aquariums, knew the names of the marine life and shells. Impressed, we sit on the rocks and tag along, moving from pool to pool. Sea air and sunshine make us hungry.
A view of Newport Beach.
Coastal sage scrub.
Terrific signage helps visitors understand the flora and fauna.
Inside the tidal pool ... shells, seaweed, creatures!
Exploring treasures of the tidal pools.
More exploring. Filling clam shells with treasures.
That night we head for Fashion Island, five minutes away. The mall is a huge entertainment area, with fountains, theaters, outdoor palazzos, upscale shops and many restaurants. Torn between the female vote for sushi, that moves on conveyor belts, and the familiar Fig and Olive, my husband, Peter, chooses the latter. The beautiful dining room is white and serene, and rather grown-up, except for Carolina, who nestles into the cushions, wiped out, her feet resting above her head. Flat bread and spaghetti wake her up. Kale salad, grilled shrimps and lamb-kebabs are more our style.
Fashion Island outdoor attractions.
Fashion Island's 2nd floor cinema.
The beautiful fountain.
Fig and Olive's luxurious interior.
Fig and Olive's beautiful bar.
The following morning we take a fast-paced 4-mile loop around the property that has us huffing and puffing uphill. Luckily the views are so incredible, that we soldier on.
A scene from our morning walk.
Another beautiful vista.
Rushing home, we shower fast, taking our daughter, Samantha, and Carolina, to visit Balboa Island. What an enchanting place we find, untouched by time, resembling Maine more than California, with charming homes on a boardwalk, each with a dock, leading into the harbor.
Visitors enjoy strolling around Balboa Island.
The colorful harbor.
An egret takes in the view on Balboa Island. Checking out the dock.
Balboa Island shops.
A Bear-filled house!
Balboa Peninsula Fire Station #1 where friendly firemen greet kids inside.
A vintage fire truck inside the fire house.
American flags fly, kids toss frisbees, boaters float by in covered electric "Duffy" boats and sail boats.  Each home has its own style, with lush plantings of roses, annuals and perennials, in small front yards.  Whimsical signs and unusual planters express the owners' personalities.
Each house has its own style.
A funky Balboa home.
A profusion of roses bloom on the boardwalk.
More gorgeous Balboa roses.
And more roses!
Visitors take a ferry to the island, which takes about two minutes, disembarking to stroll past a Ferris wheel, a FunZone, with rides and trampolines, tourist boats that offer a lovely way to observe whales, bay and some ocean. Old-fashioned and inviting, shops sell sea shells, frozen bananas, penny candy and clothes. The feeling is relaxed and peaceful. Wooden benches are perfect for pausing, and sweet family-style restaurants, like Wilma's Patio, where we lunch, in a cozy booth, are friendly and quick.
Lunch at Wilma's.
Next day we walk and explore more beach and then head for Disney's "Cinderella" at Fashion Island. The theatre is fancy, with big seats and food if you want it. Carolina is not happy when Cinderella's parents die and the wicked step sisters arrive. She covers her eyes until the Fairy Godmother appears, turning pumpkins into a gilded coach, mice into stallions and dressing our heroine in a gorgeous blue gown and glass slippers. She loved Prince Charming and the ball, and hopefully was not traumatized by her first movie!
Watching Cinderella with great interest.
The following morning we discover a flat trail along the beach, with magnificent ocean views and lush foliage. We wonder why the concierge did not suggest this route! Enjoying the view, we are startled by a thump and the sight of a frozen jogger just in front of us, stopping as a large rattle snake crossed. Talk about traumatic! The thick vegetation provides all of God's creatures a place in the sun. Informative signs fail to mention snakes in the grass.
The view as we begin our walk.
Uphill climbs.
Surviving, we set off for Laguna Beach and feel like time is turned back to the 1930s. Original lifesaving stations still stand, and small surf shops are everywhere. The wind whips through the outdoor restaurants with amazing views, making them too cold.  We decide to try Babette's new OC version of her East Hampton restaurant, one of our favorites. We are not disappointed by the new venue, in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, where a charming garden offers shelter.  Local produce is used to create Babette's famous omelettes, salads and sandwiches. An outdoor fire adds warmth and charm. Exhausted from our excursions, we return home to swim. The pool is heated and inviting. That night we sample the restaurant near the hotel pool, sampling small plates and wonderful frozen drinks.
An original lifeguard station from 1929.
The main drag of Laguna Beach.
A charming church.
The local garden club plantings.
Walking along Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach.
We visit Corona del Mar, enjoying its beach and shops and return again to stroll to Balboa Island. We take a boat ride, impressing Carolina, as the ocean rolls and she gets splashed and sights sea lions sunbathing. Heading for the Ferris wheel, we are treated to terrific sky-high views of the island. Carolina waits in line with her parents to try the giant trampoline, while we sip lemonade on a nearby terrace.
Balboa Village, a ferry ride away.
Waiting for the ferry to take us to Balboa Village, two minutes away.
A sea lion sunbathes.
Buying tickets for the Ferris Wheel.
Sky-high view of the harbor.
The Fun Scene, seen from above.
Coming round the wheel.
Samantha and Carolina, ready to ride the giant Ferris Wheel.
A second Ferris Wheel ride!
We meet Samantha's pals at Crystal Cove for lunch, heading for Ruby's Shake Shack, where chocolate milk shakes, french fries and turkey sandwiches hit the spot. This bright yellow shack sits perched over the beach. Guests pull up from the highway, waiting in line, but the swift service and yummy fare make it a must.
Guests approach Ruby's Shake from the beach or highway and wait in line.
The scene from the highway side.
The food and view are worth the wait at this popular hangout.
The view of Crystal Cove Beach below.
Next day we sneak off for grown-up fun, exploring the nearby Montage, another luxury resort. We admire the pool and landscaping, have drinks by the ocean, and rest our bones. That night we try Rick Bayless' restaurant, Red O, and are immediately won over by the frozen Margaritas. After guacamole, tacos, enchiladas, etc. we still make room for ice cream at an old-fashioned parlor.
The beach at the Montage, Laguna Beach.
Elaborate Montage gardens.
Setting up for a wedding.
The Montage swimming pool.
The entrance to Red O, a terrific restaurant with great guacamole and frozen Margaritas.
The bar scene at Rick Bayless' Red O Restaurant at Fashion Island.
An old-fashioned ice- cream parlor.
In the morning we take our walk, and Carolina&Co. hit the beach. We spend our last night at the hotel restaurant, enjoying small plates and another magnificent sunset, hating to leave this beautiful spot.

Back in LA, we enjoy a grown-up dinner with pals, at Wally's, the chic new restaurant on Cannon, that doubles as a gastronomic food hall and wine bar while serving amazing food at rustic tables.
The front entrance of Wally's, Beverly Hills chic new restaurant, wine bar and market. Checking out bread and cheese with my buddy, Kacey McCoy.
Long tables inside.
Beautiful mosaics decorate the food hall with a vast selection of cheese.
Wally's legendary wines.
I spend my last day in Malibu, stopping for lunch with my four generations, enjoying incredible views and finally getting sushi. Leaving California is harder every time.
Enjoying lunch at the Ivy at the Shore with my mother. Nothing beats their roses, dishes, or Sunday scones.
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