Newport Report

I don’t care what the haters say. I love LA…LAX airport sign sculpture… and the entire Cali coastline. Newport was my home base during my latest sojourn to SoCal. Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite things in the area to check out.

Balboa, Newport, CAFor starters, see if you can find a friend who lives on the water and doesn’t have Visiting Friend Fatigue yet. On the ocean side, the California archetype of surfers ride the open waves, while the boardwalk is constant cruiser bike rush hour. You can almost hear the Beach Boys singing.

One the east side of the Balboa Peninsula, small residential islands that you can drive onto by bridge create a canal system that doubles the water frontage in the hood. The extra waterfront doesn’t make for any real estate bargains, but the wave-free aqueducts allow for smooth paddle boarding.

Newport Beach sunset cruiseBut should you be forced onto the open seas in something slightly larger, don’t walk the plank. The captain’s got the wheel! Sit back and have a drink.Getty Villa MalibuThere were closer cultural options, but a mile shy of Malibu, the Getty Villa called my name. Even if antiquities aren’t your thing, the architecture and the gardens here will tug at your heartstrings. Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades, the Getty Family built this museum just below their own ranch house in the 1970’s.Getty Malibu Villa koi pondModeled after a first-century Roman country house to house their collection of  44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, the 64 acre complex seems a world away from busy PCH at the end of the driveway. Due to the extreme drought, this was the only pool that had water in it, luckily for the koi. And Bacchus riding that wineskin waterfall.

Parking Lot Getty VillaFor some reason, it was the art on P3 that spoke to me most. Dude, where’s my car?Fashion IslandBack to Newport and one of my favorite malls ever. And I don’t even like malls. But Fashion Island is an orchestration of outdoor retail beauty. With the ocean misty in the background, those beautiful palm trees are just the beginning — since they border the parking lot. Within the shopping space, dozens of high-end boutiques and restaurants will put your plastic through its paces. Jonathan Adler was my fave. But don’t even think of pulling a fast one here — the mall cop rides a mean Segway.Koi at Fashion IslandFashion Island also has the most extravagant koi pond I’ve ever seen. At least fifty fish swishing at high speeds. Must be the penny-free pool.Crystal Cove Beach CottagesBut you can’t wander a mall forever. Further down the coastline, you’ll find Crystal Cove Beach Cottages. Many of them were built for movie sets in the 1920s.  Part of the state park’s 3.5 miles of pristine beaches, the seaside colony is run by a non-profit, which rents them out at rates way cheaper than any house rental on the Cali coast would normally cost. From my perch above at Ruby’s Shake Shack (definitely stop in for a milkshake) it looked like Super Family Fun Time, so keep that in mind if you’re hunting for a muy romantico situation.Laguna hikingAfter much geeking out online, I discovered parking fees were in the double digits for Crystal Cove State Park. I chose to hike in Laguna instead, where you can park downtown all day for $3. As a Calgarian who enjoys some of the most expensive city core parking in Canada, I had to get some of that.Hike Laguna BowlAfter entering the trail beside Irvine Bowl, a steep climb awaited.Laguna cactus in bloomSo did flowering prickly pear cactus. Bonita!
View above LagunaLaguna Coast Wilderness Park is 7,000 acres of prime real estate, criss-crossed with trails and ocean views.Downtown LagunaAfterwards, reward yourself with a jaunt through downtown Laguna. The vibe is similar to Carmel, except it doesn’t seem to exclusively attract the Honeymoon And Seniors Set. Amble the blocks across from the beach and you’ll discover oodles of independent boutiques and art galleries.Zinc Restaurant, LagunaTake that reward up a notch with an al fresco lunch at Zinc Cafe. In sunny California it seems like every salad is spectacular. And every Chardonnay is buttery. Laguna Beach ice creamThen you’re ready for ice cream and the American dream, at the Laguna beach of MTV fame. Blue Besos

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