Our 10 nights in Southern California

Mar 5th, 2010, 05:28 PM
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Our 10 nights in Southern California

First of course a thank-you to Fodorites who helped me pick hotels, highway routes, etc.

We flew Feb 20 from Anchorage on Alaska Air to Palm Springs. I was surprised to rent a car (albeit a big slushy-driving Impala) for $300 something for 10 days. Once I paid $600 for a 4-day rental at the Boise airport!

We got in late so spent that first night at Best Western Las Brisas. It's not a place I would recommend for planning a more lengthy stay. It was walking distance from several great restaurants. However, if we weren't arriving on a Saturday night, I think Casa Cody and other relatively nearby places would have been half the price. The hotel was a bit noisy and breakfast was a bit 'yick' compared to what I get at Best Westerns in Oregon.

We walked over to Las Cazuelas for dinner which was hopping on a Sat night.

We spent 3 nights at Shadow Ridge Marriott--having of course to listen to their timeshare. Prices on those have really gone down! However, I still like to stay in boutique hotels in Europe and little inns in America and what they offer just didn't fit my bill.

It was clean, modern, small but adequate. We didn't use the grill as it was dirty. We stayed in a lock-off Villa room conveniently right across from the pool. We sneezed our heads off the entire time because Scotch broom was planted all around our back patio and even by the pool.

We had a couple of earlybird dinners at Nick Fado's--good for the price.

One night we had bar appetizers at Tommy Bahamas on the El Paseo. Had to steel myself not to spring for any of the many $300 blouses I liked at Saks. Now that I'm back in Anchorage, kind of wish I had.

You guys helped a lot with route picking, but as it turns out there is no super fast way from PS to the beach--at least where we were going.

We wound through the mountains, and took a small detour through Temecula. We stopped at some wineries but there didn't appear to be anyone there.

We spent a night at Solana Beach. We had lived in San Diego from 1970-73 (boy, no skyscrapers then!) but had never driven farther north than Del Mar. The Courtyard by Marriott was again adequate for a 1-night stay. I usually like them, but they were in midst of renovations. No bar, no breakfast, no pool, no hot tub. You would think they would have given a partial refund. However, when it's done in April should be a nice stay.

I wandered around some on the Cedro St design area. Fell in love with a few things which of course I could not have gotten home. Plus, sales tax is a big deterrent for me. AK and OR do not have them, and Seattle will waive it for me.

Dinner that night was at a tiny hidden Thai restaurant in the mall next door to the hotel. DH's clue that it was good was all the people (obviously locals) pouring out the door with their stacks of take home bags. It was called Bangkok Bay. I don't usually go out of my way for Thai food, but it was delicious.

Breakfast next morning at Naked Cafe or Naked City Cafe. Totally easy to miss. Looked like it had started with a porch and ended up with bamboo ceiling and plastic tarping. HOWEVER, a really great breakfast and hopping busy.

The walk to the beach ended on a clifftop, but the tide was in. Lots of stairs down.

Next: north to San Juan Capistrano and Dana Point.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 07:33 AM
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First backtracking. I forgot to mention we did drive through Joshua Tree. Thanks for all the tips on where the entrances were etc. We came in from the west, out a bit east of Indio. I think it took around 3 hours. We finally decided the trees must have just blooms and their blooms are different than one would expect to call blooms. Loved seeing the red tips to the ocitillo also.

OK, now, driving north on 101, then a bit of I-5. Loved walking around San Clemente. Seemed like a quiet little place. Bought a couple of books at the used bookstore and a huge antique blue and white French faience pitcher at an antique shop. That took up my whole carry-on.

We also walked out on the pier at Oceanside for a clam chowder. The surfers were out; it was beautiful.

I had not seen Mission San Juan Capistrano since 1948, so that was a must see. I suspect they've restored a lot since then. Gardens were blooming.

I know we were only a few blocks from Ramos Cafe and I wanted to go but DH had had enough of the traffic so we didn't.

Next: 3 nights at the Blue Lantern Inn above the harbor at Dana Point. I highly recommend it even though it was a bit spendy. Actually if you subtract what you would have paid for the lovely breakfast spread, and afternoon wine and snacks, it wasn't too bad.

We had a harbor view room with fireplace, balconey, jacuzzi tub and a green marble shower that I loved. Service was good and the lobby areas were warm and well done. Even DH noticed the decorating touches in the room, i.e., crown molding, unusual lamps, etc.

I drove the next day and we went a bit north of Laguna Beach and back. Accidentally stumbled across Las Brisas which was recommended here and had lunch outside--gorgeous warm day.

We didn't actually go out on any beaches which surprised me because DH loves the ocean. He was an Oregon surfer with a woody station wagon in the early '60's.

Dinner was at the Chart House, also on the cliff, and walking distance from our room. Architectural style was maybe a teensy dated, but service, food, and view were good. Lobster bisque was to die for!

There was a rainstorm with high winds during the night, and I guess some flash flooding inland. There was also a high tide. Expectations were for a 3' tsunami from the earthquake in Chile. Crowds came down to the harbor to watch. They took one of the brigantine replicas out to open ocean.

Since we get 6' bore tides in Turnagin inlet I knew there wouldn't be much to see so we went to lunch. Someone recommended Olaminde's Mexican food which was kind of between DP and Laguna Beach. Very, very good. Came back and later learned the bait barge in the harbor had been anchored at each end and had broken in half. However, I doubt the laughing crowd had seen anything.

Breakfast calls; more later.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 11:10 AM
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Great report! Looking forward to more.
Samsaf is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 09:26 AM
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Re-reading this I realize it's probably a bit boring compared to a French trip report. However, maybe it will help some future person doing a search here on hotels and restaurants, etc.

I loved walking around the clifftop neighborhood above the harbor in Dana Point. I even picked out my ideal (Probably $3million) house.

Our final dinner there was again walking up the hill, this time to Cannon. Good for burgers, sandwiches, etc, and the staff was friendly. However, at this place the lobster bisque was downright nasty--and with no lobster.

We took Hwy 74 back as far as Hemet, then north to catch Hwy 10 on our way back to Palm Springs. DH didn't want to stop at the Cabazon outlet malls. I let him get away with it then kicked myself mightily later, when I read they had a Saks Outlet.

For our last 2 nights before flying out we stayed at the Villa Royale which I had found in the little booklet of Palm Springs Historic Inns. They also have the 4 diamond Europa restaurant on property. I had asked about it here but no one seemed to have stayed there. I think it was built around 1947 or so by Sonja Henie (Olympic skater) for entertaining her family and friends. It's sort of a sprawling hacienda/European villa style with 2 nice pools, lots of fountains and little courtyards, mature landscaping which they constantly maintain. Because of the bad economy it was pretty quiet when we were there.

DH loved it and would like to go back. I had inadvertently rented what was probably their smallest room, but the decor was tasteful and included unique antiques and lamps to die for. Nice gas fireplace.

We had filets in the Europa restaurant one night--absolutely excellent. The decor in it was sort of antique Italian or something--lots of ornate mirrors and chandeliers, etc. It was very intimate with lots of nooks and corners, and it looked like a white tablecloth area outside too.

An aside: while driving through Joshua Tree, we of course had to play the U2 CD Joshua Tree in the car.

Uneventful flights home. I raced through 5 books in the 10 days.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 12:11 PM
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Thanks for reporting back. Sounds like Villa Royale worked out OK.

MichelleY is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 08:48 AM
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Yes it did. I'd recommend it for someone who realizes what a historical inn means, and knows that they aren't getting a golf resort.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 10:39 AM
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Good reading and really good information. Thanks for taking the time to do a trip report.

We really love that Dana Point/Laguna Beach area. It is so beautiful - I'm happy that you enjoyed it, too.
LCBoniti is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 11:44 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
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Thanks for writing your report. we are heading to Anza Borrego and Joshua Tree next week. Supposed to warm up a little this week after more rain yesterday so hoping the flowers will be blooming.
joeyi is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 02:27 PM
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I would love to go back to Dana Point sometime, and would want to stay again at the Blue Lantern Inn.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 03:12 PM
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I use this site to get current info on wildflowers.
dbdurand is offline  
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