Have you ever visited a new destination and taken a tour of some kind? Maybe you’ve traveled for the entire length of a trip with a tour group? This is not something I have a lot of experience with. I’ve done funky city tours (Seattle duck tours) and brewery tours (Olympia Brewhouse), but not a WALKING tour, until recently.
This summer I had the opportunity to visit my friend Natalie for a few days to celebrate her 40th birthday. We had so much fun that I felt like I was celebrating my fortieth birthday too!
Natalie, who was born and raised in the Texas panhandle, now lives in southern California. Ironically, California is where I was born and raised, but have resided in Amarillo, TX for the last 8 years! We both have clear ideas of what we hope to see and eat 🙂 when we visit our “homeland.” She loves iced tea and tex-mex; I love fresh seafood and the ocean. What better way to indulge in seaside luxuries than a day in Laguna Beach?
Although my first night in town did not include the beach, I felt it was worth mentioning because we dined at a lovely little spot with her whole family. It’s always good to be with friends. And Natalie and I agreed that fried squash blossoms are delicious! (Along with good wine, calamari, sunflower seed hummus and roasted veggies!)
The following morning we wound over the hills from Irvine into a screen of fog at Laguna Beach. Although it didn’t take long for the gray to dissipate into a typically perfect PCH afternoon. We were excited to see what Laguna had to offer!
Laguna Beach is a small beach community located along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. In the early 1900’s, it attracted plein-air painters with its canyons, rocky cliffs and beaches and eventually became a noted artist community for photographers, filmmakers, and writers.
After finding parking ($20 for the afternoon), we caught up with our guide and the other members of our tour. We met at a french bakery for cronuts and a little area history. Then we strolled beach-side, people-watched and did very touristy things, like stop for photos in front of lifeguard towers.
Our guide was eager to tell us about points-of-interest: The Lumberyard; one of the oldest houses in Laguna; the famous hotel where all the movie stars stayed back in the 50’s… She had us stop off at the historical society and even the local farmer’s market!
Along the way, we gorged ourselves as we stopped for fries smothered in clam chowder; empanadas from the Farmer’s Market; margaritas and tacos; pizza that you can have delivered to your beach towel (!); gelato…
I love that our guide, Jeanne, even had art galleries thrown in!
We got the scoop on the city’s answer to pan-handling:
Meters have been painted by local artists and installed downtown in hopes of collecting change (not for parking-but for homeless individuals). The city is expecting about $3,000 in proceeds to come from meter donations this year, which help fund the Alternative Sleeping Location, the city’s homeless shelter in Laguna Canyon. Apparently Denver does this too!
It was fun to meet new people, learn what makes the town unique and treat ourselves to local food.
After departing from our group, Natalie and I scored a parking spot in the Victoria Beach neighborhood and spent some time with our toes in the sand.
This crazy tower was all the funk you’d hope to see on a beautiful California beach. The 60-foot structure, known as “La Tour” (french for “tower”), was built at the same time as the house at the top of the bluff, in 1926, and was used as a way to get from the house down to the beach. The house, known as the “Norman House” (due it’s Norman-style architecture) is a landmark of Laguna Beach and was built for California State Senator William Edward Brown.
The beach tower is made of poured concrete with an ocean stone foundation and cone-shaped roof made of shingles. Several narrow window openings in the tower allow light to pass through to the wooden spiral stairway inside.
If you happen to be driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, I suggest stopping in this artist community. The food is delicious, the history rich, and the beaches serene!
If you are planning a trip to the area, here are some things to do and tips to help make your visit memorable:
Savor Laguna is the tour company we used; I am in no way being paid to advertise for any of this. I thought Jeanne did a great job letting us go at a leisurely pace; I also loved that she was able to to have vegetarian options for me to taste! (FYI-we did the “Farmer’s Market” tour on a Saturday) Their website is here: SavorLaguna.com
Some places where we ate that I found especially delicious and very reasonably priced: C’est La Vie, French Bakery & Restaurant; Slapfish, a sustainable seafood eatery; Tortilla Republic, Mexican food with organic and locally-sourced produce (and the BEST MARGARITA I’ve ever had!) and Gelato Paradiso (so many flavors and so little time!)
Laguna Beach Historical Society
Dawson Cole Fine Art Gallery (this was an awesome gallery that featured several local artists).
Wyland Gallery (the upper deck view was lovely!)
“La Tour” on Victoria Beach
The Lumberyard Mall, located on the site of an early 20th century lumber yard.
Saturday Farmer’s Market
Other notes of interest in Laguna Beach:
Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters
Sawdust Art Festival
Have YOU ever been on a fantastic tour? Where was it and what did you do?