It is impossible to drive down California's coast and not be enamored by the shimmering ocean, seagulls weaving between palm trees, or an excessively large house on top of a hill. As a little girl, I never noticed the obvious beauty of my surroundings. A trip to the beach was the norm, weather above 70 degrees for most of the year was to be expected. But, after ten years as a New York City resident and a taxing, unforgiving winter, my eyes opened for the first time to Southern California's truly natural beauty. A quick weekend trip led me down the coast from Los Angeles to Newport Beach, California for a weekend of relaxation and rejuvenation as a special gift from me to my wonderful mother.
The California coast is full of small village enclaves with different histories and appeal. If you are looking for a quick weekend trip, Newport Beach in Orange County is a great place to discover distinctive villages like Balboa Peninsula, Corona del Mar and Newport Coast. Bodysurfing, a wide-range of shopping and local fish market hunting are just a few of the activities that you can experience in Newport Beach. It is great weekend trip for families, beach lovers and even golfers.
First, a quick stop in San Juan Capistrano at Ramos House was just as magical as I imagined. The restaurant, located in a home that dates back to 1881, has outdoor seating that is a flower lover's dream, and sits across from a butterfly conservancy on a small dirt road straight out of a fairytale meets country western. My meal, a smoked bacon scramble with wilted rocket and apple fried potatoes, tastes just as outrageously good as it sounds. One could easily spend a full day on this street, taking in the beauty of the various gardens, quaint gift shops and train station, but, there was a bed overlooking the ocean waiting for me, and I could not wait.
At the Resort at Pelican Hill, a view of the Pacific Ocean is majestic at any angle. I am surrounded by Italian architecture mixed with the cool, nonchalant beauty of Southern California living. I spend the day lounging by the Coliseum pool or in my Tuscan bungalow with a perfectly maintained golf course and the ocean below. The ambiance and design feels like it could be anywhere in the world, from a gorgeous Italian city to a mountainous Caribbean village. The next morning, a honey gelato body scrub at the spa successfully takes off any grime and stress that New York City life has amply given to me.
Dinner at Andrea Ristorante provides views another stunning view of the ocean and food that brings people from all over Newport Beach to enjoy. I dig into risotto mixed in a two year aged Parmesan wheel and a tender Chateaubriand. The creamy risotto, easily the best I have ever had, pops with the flavor of the aged cheese. In the evening, the local crowd and visitors gather to watch the NBA playoffs at Pelican Grill Lounge. After a few perfectly made martinis at the bar, I am not certain whom I want to win anymore, and I don't care.
As I return to my room, the thought occurs that if living is this easy, maybe I will return to to the land of my childhood after all. Then the image of Southern California traffic hits me, and I know where home is for now at least- despite this perfect weekend getaway.