Lux­u­ri­ous laid-back Cal­i­for­nia liv­ing

NI­COLE MCCLURG gets into the Or­ange County way of life, where there’s plenty to fill your days

Rossendale Free Press - - Travel -

NEW­PORT Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, will seem fa­mil­iar. It’s been the set­ting for many a film and tele­vi­sion se­ries over the years, most re­cently Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment, The OC and the Real House­wives of Or­ange County.

It’s long been the des-res for Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters want­ing to get away for a lit­tle R&R, and hav­ing just spent a short break here, it’s easy to see why peo­ple get swept up by its brand of lux­u­ri­ous, laid back coastal liv­ing.

Even in the depths of win­ter the tem­per­a­tures stay in the 20s – per­fect for a dose of sun­shine ther­apy while you’re wait­ing for spring. Its lo­ca­tion just 45 min­utes south of LA also makes it ideally placed for ex­plor­ing south­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

If, like me, you dread long haul flights, the good news is fly­ing with Aer Lin­gus makes it all stress-free. We flew via Dublin Air­port and took ad­van­tage of its US pre-clear­ance fa­cil­ity, which meant skip­ping lengthy pass­port queues at LAX. Up­grade to busi­ness class as we did and you’ll ar­rive feel­ing fresh as a daisy to boot.

The har­bour is the beat­ing heart of New­port Beach and there’s plenty go­ing on here to fill your days. The re­cent­lyre­fur­bished Lido Ma­rina Vil­lage has an ex­cit­ing hub of bou­tique shops and restau­rants. You’ll find the Gwyneth Pal­trow-en­dorsed sta­tionery store Sugar Pa­per LA rub­bing shoul­ders with stal­warts Lido Vil­lage Books, one of the last re­main­ing stores from the 1970s and a true gem worth seek­ing out.

It’s clear how much the res­i­dents care for re­gen­er­a­tion done the right way, as shown in the new Lido House Ho­tel, which we were lucky to be given a sneak pre­view of. The first ho­tel to be built on the penin­sula for more than 50 years, the de­vel­op­ment forms part of a sig­na­ture col­lec­tion for Mar­riott ho­tels.

Sit­ting on the site of the Old City Hall, the ho­tel in­cor­po­rates el­e­ments of its her­itage with Mayor’s Table, a restau­rant which aims to be a din­ing hotspot for res­i­dents as well as guests. Sit­ting in a prime po­si­tion be­tween the har­bour and beach, it opened late March 2018.

To check out the homes of the rich and fa­mous, a tour on an elec­tric duffy boat is a must. Hire your own and cruise along Bal­boa Is­land, tak­ing in the celebrity real es­tate. It’s a ver­i­ta­ble who’s-who from golden-era Hol­ly­wood. Check out where Humphrey Bog­art and Lau­ren Ba­call used to hang out back in the day and pay a visit to John Wayne’s yacht Wild Goose which is docked here.

Fur­ther in­dulge in the nos­tal­gia at the is­land’s ‘fun zone’ com­plete with old-school Fer­ris wheel. What­ever you do, make sure you try the lo­cal del­i­cacy – the Bal­boa bar or frozen ba­nana (Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment fans take note). Both Dad’s and Sugar ’n’ Spice claim to have been the first to of­fer the treats in the For­ties, but you can let them fight it out while you sam­ple the de­lights of both.

Nearby Fash­ion Is­land is dubbed South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s premier coastal shop­ping and din­ing des­ti­na­tion. Here, you’ll find ev­ery­thing from Macy’s to An­thro­polo­gie to Ken­dra Scott de­signer jew­ellery. We found some su­perb restau­rants in Fig and Olive, feast­ing on Mediter­ranean small plates in its open air bar and smart Mex­i­can cui­sine and mar­gar­i­tas at Javier’s cantina close by.

No­body does brunch like the Amer­i­cans and whether it’s eggs and av­o­cado on toast or blueberry pan­cakes, the Beach­comber cafe at Crys­tal Cove is the per­fect place to dine. Where else can you watch hum­ming­birds dart around din­ers’ heads and a whale bask­ing at the shore­line? I saw both within mo­ments of each other and it is a mem­ory I will trea­sure for years to come.

Spend a few mo­ments wan­der­ing down the beach­front to see the his­toric cot­tages on the sands, the for­mer film set for Eight­ies’ film Beaches.

For cof­fee, it has to be a trip to Bal­boa Lily’s, a cafe with a cute home­spun vibe. Try their flavoured cof­fees and sig­na­ture honey laven­der latte. It’s fair to say they had me hooked.

Of course it wouldn’t be right to stay in Cal­i­for­nia with­out at least tast­ing some wine. Se­lect one of the 650 held at The Win­ery, a chic wa­ter­side restau­rant which spe­cialises in wines from Napa Val­ley in ad­di­tion to its world­wide stock. The seafood here is de­li­cious – if you’re feel­ing ex­trav­a­gant, go for the seafood tower and feast on lob­ster, king crab and oys­ters ‘til your heart’s con­tent.

And where to re­lax from it all? There’s nowhere bet­ter than the beau­ti­ful Ital­ian-in­spired Re­sort at Pel­i­can Hill.

This five-star ho­tel, spa and golf re­sort is the ul­ti­mate in lux­ury liv­ing. I stayed in one of their bun­ga­low rooms, which at 847 square feet felt rather ma­jes­tic in­deed.

I opted for an ocean view – to have a panoramic view of the sun­set over the Pa­cific ev­ery evening made for an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence.

The re­sort prides it­self on at­ten­tion to de­tail and the ser­vice from its staff is im­pec­ca­ble. The Coli­seum pool is one of the world’s largest cir­cu­lar pools, each of it’s 1.1 mil­lion glass mo­saics were laid by hand. The pool uses salt­wa­ter only and is heated, mean­ing any time of day is per­fect for a dip. Pool­side din­ing doesn’t come any more lux­u­ri­ous than in a pri­vate ca­bana. Hid­den be­hind el­e­gant drapes, each ca­bana has sun loungers, ceil­ing fans and in­te­grated mu­sic sys­tems.

The re­sort’s award­win­ning spa is the per­fect way to end your stay here. I can tell you whole­heart­edly the Am­ber Gold sig­na­ture mas­sage be­fore a flight comes highly rec­om­mended and is a su­perb way to take home that feel­ing of the New­port Beach life­style.

●● New­port Beach, Cal­i­for­nia

●● Ca­bana din­ing at The Re­sort at Pel­i­can Hill

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