Birthday Weekend in Laguna Beach

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Back in January, Ryan surprised me with an awesome weekend in Laguna Beach for my birthday.  We’ve hit several other beach towns over the past few years living in LA, but had never been to Laguna.  And it did not disappoint.  

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Driving into town when we arrived

First of all, you drive through a lot of hills and forest bits to get there.  It’s not just right off the PCH like Huntington and Newport are.  It’s kind of secluded, and was apparently started as a kind of artist’s colony in the middle of the 20th century (this is according to a waiter who had grown up in Laguna).  The artsy vibe is definitely there, and I can absolutely see how artists would be influenced by such a gorgeous place.

Ryan also found a super “me” hotel.  It was pure kitsch.

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It’s called the Art Hotel and there are
murals and paintings everywhere

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Carrying up all our bags : )

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Ocean, right across from the hotel

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Hotel pool, also muraled

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Cute outdoor sitting nook

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Ryan got to work making dinner. We picked up groceries on our way.
The room had a fridge and microwave–we brought the toaster oven.

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Birthday margaritas–a beach requisite

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Birthday eve dinner – roast beef, roasted potatoes,
salad, and wine

Even though it was dark out, we decided to get out of room and take a walk into town.  It was about a mile, and a nice walk.

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Insane cake sculptures at one of the many galleries we passed

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Mosaic sculptures at another gallery

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Insane beach mosaic in town

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Detail of above mosaic

We came across a gelato place, which was perfect for dessert.  The guy behind the counter must have been bored (who wants nighttime gelato at the beach in winter?) but was really nice and let us try all kinds of samples.  

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Our final decisions

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We took our gelatos across the street and ate them on the boardwalk
by the beach as waves crashed on the shore.

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View from our gelato boardwalk spot

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The walk back to our hotel was lovely, too

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Crazy light outside a store

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Ryan made me ridiculous breakfast in bed–
cinnamon rolls, sausage, and tea

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Ready to embark on the day’s adventures

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On our way to Thousand Steps Beach

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Gorgeous beach house/castle by Thousand Steps

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Descending the stairs

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…Seriously, so many stairs!

We went to Thousand Steps beach because my friend Kelly had recommended it a year or so back and said it was his favorite.  It was absolutely gorgeous, and pretty empty (I suspect because it was a bitch to get down to and up from).  A lot of people did use the stairs as exercise though.  Bless them, one time down and up was more than enough for me.  

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Made it to the bottom!

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Creative stairways

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More creative stairways

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Insanely clear, gorgeous water

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Such a gorgeous place to spend a birthday

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Ryan was pretty pleased too, even without his fishing poles

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He was also quite happy with his shady spot of sand

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Feets

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Silly, happy birthday selfies

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Seriously, that water!

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Ryan never turns down a chance to climb rocks

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Sea cave

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Finally it was time to head back up the stairs and leave this gorgeous, perfect beach.  But we’ll be back some day.  It’s definitely on my favorites list.

We stopped at this little hole in the wall for lunch.  It’s tiny, and in town, which means it could be a tourist trap.  Or it could be insanely tasty, with a tiny menu, which usually means they do few things but do them all well.  And they really did.  

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Ridiculously yummy gyro. It was reminiscent of the ones we ate on the streets in Greece

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We then checked out actual Laguna Beach

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It was nice, too, but clearly more crowded and touristy than Thousand Steps had been

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Crazy, Jurassic Park-style plants everywhere

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And the views!

There’s a boardwalk/sidewalk that extends all along the beach and up into the hills, and lots of people walked along it.  We walked all along Crescent Bay Point and Heisler Park.  And probably some other places I don’t know the names of.  Everything was so beautiful.

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I think this is called Bird Rock?

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In awe of the nonstop gorgeous views

When the sun started to set (curse you, short winter days!), we headed back to our hotel, watched some Star Wars (hooray, New Year’s Star Wars marathons!) and got ready to go to dinner.

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When we reached our restaurant, they told us there would be a 45 min wait.  It was cold out, so we ducked into the nearest bar….

… Which happened to be a Tommy Bahama.  Which I guess is touristy and probably does quite well.  We found two seats at the bar, which was pretty packed with baby boomer-aged dudes looking like they’d either just finished a round of golf at the country club, moored their yacht, or left a Jimmy Buffet concert. There was also a decent roundup of Orange County-style wives, hair perfectly coiffed, faces botoxed and collagened just so, dressed similarly.  A guy in his forties was playing Dave Matthews covers in the corner on his guitar, amped, but not too loudly.  It was amusing, but so stereotypically so.  We, accordingly, ordered the most Tommy Bahama drinks on the menu.

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a Mai Tai and something called a “Painkiller #2”
Very pineappley and not that strong

We finished our drinks and went back to the restaurant.  It was a strange bar experience, mostly because we were the youngest people there by about 20 years, other than the servers.

On the way, I got puppy birthday greetings from Augie and Cooper, Todd and Thom’s dogs.  Adorable.

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It took a while longer, but we finally got a table.  

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I chose Nick’s for my birthday based solely off of Yelp reviews, and because the other places I was considering looked too snotty, and I didn’t want a snotty birthday dinner. 

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Their “famous” fried deviled eggs didn’t hurt, either, in the restaurant decision process

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Ryan got something short ribby, and macaroni and cheese

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I got cioppino, after I had the most delicious bowl of my life on Catalina for my birthday last year. I could have drunk gallons of that broth.  This, unfortunately, was far from that experience.  The broth was sad and seemed an afterthought, and the shellfishes were all overcooked and rubbery.  It was a very sad bowl of soup, especially for a birthday dinner.  The waiter was nice, though, and Ryan’s food was good, and my tea was good.  

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After dinner, we went back to the room and Ryan baked me a cake.  That’s right.  He had made icing at home before we left, so he worked on his concoction while we watched more Star Wars.

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Few cinematic moments are as awesome as when the Star Wars opening music starts up and the intro text starts scrolling up the screen. Goosebumps, every time.

 

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Putting on the final touches. Luke is passed out in the snow.

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Insane birthday cake by Ryan

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Birthday cake and milk and Darth Vader

We reluctantly checked out in the morning and drove back towards home.  

But not without a final stop, this time for Ramen and boba.Image 

Then it was actually back to work and reality and all that.  But what a weekend!  

One thought on “Birthday Weekend in Laguna Beach

  1. Pingback: Chris comes to LA! | Ramblings of a Twenty-Something Writer

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