Total Pageviews

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Greater Los Angeles: Experiencing Orange County

Early last year, my wife and were asked if we'd consider attending a time share presentation in exchange for highly discounted lodging at the Newport Coat Villas, a Marriott time share resort in Newport Beach. 

Sure, why not? I feel like time share presentations get a bad rap. The sales woman showed us around, explained the program they offered, and was very kind when we said it really wasn't for us. It was a really nice place. Just wasn't going to work for us. 

The three days we were there, is was usually sunny each day. The morning we were leaving, the normal coastal fog finally began to roll in (above) creating what's often known as "June Gloom" along the Southern California coast. For whatever reason, we avoided this - fortunately enjoying sunny weather normally associated with much later in the summer. 

"June Gloom" around the pool. The sun would probably be out later in the afternoon. 

Final photo before taking off to explore a bit of Orange County. 

For those of you outside of Southern California, Orange County is a located between Los Angeles and San Diego Counties (as well as San Bernardino and Riverside Counties). While it's considered part of "Greater Los Angeles," Orange County has it's own vibe and feel. 

Unlike Los Angeles or San Diego, Orange County has no single downtown or center. Orange County consists of 34 different cities, including Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach. 

With just over three million people, Orange County has a larger population than 21 US states. And also has a higher population density that Los Angeles County. Perhaps the best way to describe Orange County would be "high density suburban." 

I was also surprised to learn that it has a higher percentage of Asian-Americans than L.A. County (20% in Orange County vs. 14% in L.A. County). 

First stop: Cornell Court, my old street next to the University of California, Irvine. I lived on Cornell Court 1991-1994, while working in campus ministry at UC Irvine. At one point in the 1990's UCI's student population was about 65% Asian-American. Not "international students" -- but Americans, mostly from California, who's families were of Asian decent. 

My last year there, I was able to work with the city planning office - finally getting some very needed street parking at night. Guess what? Over twenty years later, my little project is still there. We also drove the campus, just to show our teenage son, 17 at the time, as he was starting to think seriously about colleges. 

Wide streets, nice cars, office towers, and lots of sunshine. This view out my windshield seems to sum up Orange County. This is on our way to Din Tai Fung, at the South Coast Plaza Mall.

We got to Din Tai Fung before noon - and there was still a wait. This is, without question, the best Chinese restaurant we've ever eaten at. But be prepared to wait. We were at this same restaurant at Americana at Brand a couple years earlier - and waited 2 1/2 hours for a table. I think our wait for lunch this time was more like thirty minutes. 

While waiting for our table, my teenage kids wandered over to watch the chefs prepare jiaozi (potstickers). 

My kids expression is so great. They were horrified that I stepped into the kitchen area to get a photo of them watching the prep work. "Dad! What are you doing?!"

Food was great - I highly recommend it. Just plan ahead for a possible long wait. 

We drove north from South Coast Plaza along Harbor Blvd, through the cities of Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, and into Anaheim. 

Unlike Walt Disney World, which is a 43 square mile resort complex, the Disneyland Resort is 160 acres - a quarter of a square mile - and is located a couple of miles up on Harbor Blvd. Disneyland's actual street address is 1313 Harbor Blvd. 

We stayed at the "The Anaheim Hotel" an older complex, literally across the street (Harbor Blvd) from the Disneyland Resort. Above, you can see at bit of the Paradise Pier section located in Disney California Adventure. For what we paid, and knowing we'd be spending the entire day off site and at Disneyland, it was fine. The "supply and demand" side of me actually likes the fact that there numerous reasonably priced hotels within walking distance of Disneyland. 

Walt Disney World in Florida has it's fans, but I prefer the more manageable, walk-able size of the Disneyland Resort. To the surprise of many, the two parks at the Disneyland Resort actually have more rides than the four combined parks at Disney World. Not shows, or exhibits - but rides. Theres' a total of 57 rides at Disneyland verses just 50 at Walt Disney World. Finally, the weather. California wins hands down on weather. 

The Lego Store at the "Downtown Disney" shopping complex - basically, a nicely themed outdoor mall.

We splurged and saw Cars 3. Mildly entertaining. My kids, especially my daughter, loved it. 

Inside the lobby of the "Frontierland Tower" at the adjacent Disneyland Hotel is a replica of the original model used in the design of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Fun to see on our way back to our motel. We'd be on the real thing the next day

Here's a final image, highlighting several of Orange County's 34 different cities, plus Orange County's location in relationship to downtown Los Angeles. 

© 2018

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Experiencing Greater Los Angeles: Laguna Beach, Orange County

This time last year, my wife, teenage kids and I were in Southern California for about a week. A highlight, for sure, was spending an afternoon enjoying Laguna Beach. 

Laguana Beach is perhaps the most  quintessential California beach town. Certainly, one of - if not the - most beautiful. We parked in neighborhood, and walked a couple blocks to the beach. 

This is one of several different steps leading down to the beach. Tide coming up, and so my kids wanted to find a wider beach. So, drove about a mile north, parking in another neighborhood, and walked to the Main Beach.

After enjoying the water at Main Beach, I decided to walk about and explore a bit. I walked back along the south along the coast to where we originally stopped. This is looking south from the overlook at a set of stairs.

And looking north.

What can you say? Laguna Beach is simply beautiful. Even a broken down wall is gorgeous. Anywhere else, this would probably be covered with graffiti.

In Laguna Beach, local residents instead have painted a classic an beautiful painting. Artwork that, for some reason, is not destroyed by vandalism or taggers. 

Sorry for whoever's house that was ... but I admire the local artists painting over the cement walls and creating something of beauty. 

Another view, looking north. Yes, the beach is small. So what? 

I turned around at some rocks and headed back. 

Another set of stairs - this one with beautiful ceramic tile. 

I decided to head back through a neighborhood. Turning back around, I love the simplicity and beauty of this of the stairs and ocean beyond. In many ways, this one photograph summarizes Laguna Beach. 

Walking south along the Pacific Coast Highway, I noticed other paths towards the beach. Before you get too excited, real estate in this community is expensive. Very expensive. 

Walking along the Pacific Coast Highway, the PCH, south toward Main Beach. I would add that traffic along the PCH has can be horrible on weekends, especially during the summer. If you visit, don't expect to roll into down around 2pm and expect to find a place to park. 

Plants planted along the side of the building. Really impressive. If you'e from Laguna Beach and happen to know the street address of this building, please let us know in the comments below. 

Laguna Beach has a long connection with the arts. The Laguna Beach Artists Associate began in 1918, and the Laguna Playhouse, founded in 1920, is considered the "oldest continuously running theatre on the west coast". Above, some of the colorful and whimsical artistic banners along the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Another banner - celebrating both art and the beach. 

And surfing. What would a California beach community be without surfing?

Above, one of artist Ken Wyland most famous murals. This is the first of what would become 100 "Whaling Walls" painted around the world between 1981 and 2008. The the 100th is located in Beijing, China. 

Back in my single days, I lived in Irvine, about ten miles north of Laguna Beach. I really took for granted. Rather than try to end with something profound, I'll just end it here. 

© 2018