Wednesday, September 07, 2011

[Travel] California Life

California Life: Year 2 in getting Miss Anna settled at college, a new one on the West Coast, involved arranging a trip to Orange County -- Laguna Niguel, to be exact -- with about a week's notice. I really can't describe how such last minute decisions arise because I am incapable of understanding them; they are simply beyond my comprehension. I just accept.

I have been to So Cal many times, but I gravitate to San Diego. Laguna Niguel sits slightly inland from Laguna Beach and Dana Point, just south of the sprawl of L.A.

I don't get L.A. I was there once, saw most of it, but I don't understand the attraction it holds for some people. It seems to me like a place that is mostly notable for being notable. Decent weather, but you can get that in lots of places. Showy beaches, but you can get that in lots of places. Vibrant nightlife, but you can get... You see where I'm going with this. But I suppose if you are interested in being, or being around, a celebrity, or if you have some abiding interest in the entertainment industry it can make or break you. Apart from that, it's just a big crowded city with a sub-normal transportation profile.

Head south, though, and things start to make sense. As suburbs go, Laguna Niguel is a nice one. It is built up stem to stern into cleanly divided neighborhood style developments -- some town houses, some apartment complexes (nothing over two stories), some single family homes -- most of it among pleasant landscaping. Moderately to decidedly upscale. The hills roll gently among malls, shopping centers, office parks, etc. Roads are wide and navigation is straightforward. Most of the young folk in the area refer to it as a bubble, as if it was somehow isolated from the realities of the world around it. Young people say that derisively. Old folks know the world around it ain't so great.

Slide from inland to the shore and things get truly lovely. We bedded down each night in Dana Point at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort, and let me say that in all my travels, I don't think I have encountered better service anywhere. Everyone seemed happy to go above and beyond, from the gift shop clerk who opened a nearby boutique just for us to the valets who packed huge boxes of stuff in the car without even being asked. Just outstanding in every respect. Throw in a sweet lounge with copious outdoor seating, a terrific breakfast buffet, and beautiful foliage and grounds you get a real top tier experience. A+ to Marriott for this one.

Here's another thing: No mosquitoes. All summer I have been unable to go into my back yard without drenching myself in Deep Woods Off. Here in So Cal there was nary a little bugger to slap. This lack of annoyance, along with the nearly persistent ocean breeze and the interminable sunshine, gives one a sense of why So Cal attracts those interested in a more relaxed lifestyle. If you really want to experience the attractive power of Southern California, the span between San Diego and L.A. is what you want to explore - Del Mar up to Laguna Beach. As skeptical as I have been (and still am to some extent) of California life, had I come to this area as a young man with an unconstrained future, I may have just stayed in the bubble. It's that good. I fear we may have seen the last of Anna.