As the sun set on our Californian road trip I was thankful to have spent the last four nights of our trip in the wonderful Orange County. I had little knowledge of this region of California other than a vague recollection of a TV programme with glamorous teenagers living the high life in this beach idyll! Well, I can safely say it’s also a forty something’s idyll too!
We arrived off the back of two full days in Disney and I can’t deny I was really for a bit of a “chill out”. Some lazy days spent pool side and perhaps a few afternoons checking out the local area. The pressure was off, we had seen so much and now it was time to consolidate our experiences and take it easy. This area allows you achieve all of that and more. Whist I am sure there is lots to see, the real attraction of Orange County is the laid back pace of life, the beaches and lovely towns to enjoy an evening meal and a few drinks.
We based ourselves at the Marriott Newport Villas (5 miles from Laguna Beach), a vacation resort where you can enjoy your own self catering condo whilst being in a really nice resort with all that brings… pools, a casual restaurant, games room, kids activity room and its own little mini cinema! The large apartments have everything you could wish for, allowing for easy self catering and full laundry facilities (perfect after nearly three weeks on the road!). The resort was set in large grounds which meant that even on a busier day you didn’t feel too hemmed in. The pools in particular were massive so plenty of room for the kids to mess around without feeling we were encroaching on people’s space. We spent a lot of time in the resort and that was fine, the kids club ran a couple of activities that parents and children could join in with which meant that we could happily spend time without leaving the resort (ideal after a pretty adventurous few weeks!).
When we did venture out we found some amazing places to potter around. Two places in particular captured my heart and still have very special memories that encapsulated all that I dreamed about for my Californian adventure – family time , outdoors, beach games, laid back fun, warm balmy evenings and family meals al fresco! The first was Laguna Beach itself, a 10 min drive from the resort or they offered a shuttle bus which was handy. It’s known for its many little art galleries giving it a bohemian feel and amazing beach and sunsets. We liked to go down late afternoon for the kids to enjoy the beach and playground and then have a meal before heading back. We had some lovely meals out at Romeo Cucina (Broadway Street, Laguna Beach) a casual Italian and on our last night went to The Cliff (South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach) a beach side restaurant serving a wide range of dishes, all with an ocean view to die for thrown in. Again, very laid back and kid friendly, and for those with dogs in tow its got its own dog food menu (I’ve seen it all now!).
For other mini excursions from this base try the Crystal Cove state park just opposite the Marriott resort for amazing walkways and beaches. Head to Balboa Island, a charming little place with New England style condos with their own boats and jetty all crammed into this tiny island with a gorgeous street running through the island lined with delis and restaurants. Ciao Italian (Marine Avenue) was our favourite, a cosy little place with bags of atmosphere.
And here we ended our trip, our last sunset before the flight back to Manchester from Los Angeles. I had no idea what this trip would bring to our family. It was a privilege I thought but I can’t deny before we went I felt we had bitten off more than we could chew!
As I write my last road trip blog, it’s the night before I return to work after my sabbatical. This adventure has undoubtedly been the highlight of my time off, it has been a life changing experience. Its given me confidence to know that as a family we can come together with all our different interests, perspectives, quirks, life stages and take on an adventure and come out of it with shared memories but also new perspectives. It has re ignited my passion for travel that has laid a little dormant for a few years whilst I dealt with nappies and bottles. My greatest hope…. that it has sown a seed in the kiddies minds that there is an incredible, big world out there that’s there to be grabbed with both hands.
Thanks to those that have taken your precious time to join me on my adventures, experienced through my blog ramblings…stick with me.. there is so much more to come x