By Greg Aragon
The year 2018 is upon us and that means it’s time to look ahead to new and exciting adventures for Greg’s Getaway. But before I do this, I would like to look back on 2017 and a few of my favorite California getaways from the past year.
After reviewing my map and hundreds of pictures and memories from 2017, I have narrowed things down to three unforgettable excursions: a weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea; a couple nights in La Quinta; and a trip to Huntington Beach.
Officially known as “Surf City,” Huntington Beach (www.surfcityusa.com) is legendary around the world as one of the best surfing spots. But as I quickly learned, the town is more than just tasty swells and beautiful white sand; it also boasts gourmet restaurants, luxury, ocean-front hotels, great shopping, and tons of California coastal charm.
My visit to Huntington Beach began in July at the Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel (www.shorebreakhotel.com), a surfer-chic boutique hotel centrally located in the heart of downtown, across from the iconic pier. Featuring four-star touches and ocean view guestrooms with modern furnishings, the Shorebreak makes a perfect beachfront base camp. My fourth floor room came with colorful beach-inspired décor and a balcony overlooking town, the Pacific Ocean and the Huntington Beach Pier.
When not relaxing at the Shorebreak, I was exploring town on a bicycle I rented from Huntington Beach Surfboard & Bike Rentals (surfboardandbikerentals.com). With an ocean breeze at my back I pedaled down the 10-mile-long paved bike path paralleling the sand, enjoying fantastic views of the water, Catalina Island and the historic pier.
For dinner I experienced BlueGold (dinebluegold.com). With an open kitchen and an intimate and classy ambiance, the restaurant overlooks the ocean and serves a creative, eclectic mix of California land and sea. Here I enjoyed bloody Mary oyster shooters with fried uni chips and a glass of champagne, along with shrimp & crab ravioli.
The next day I walked to the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach (www.huntingtonbeach.regency.hyatt.com). At this Spanish-styled, water-front resort I had a soothing 50-minute massage at the hotel’s Pacific Waters Spa. Rated as one of the best spas in Southern California, the 20,000 sq-ft oasis is replete with ponds and trickling fountains.
From the sands of Huntington Beach I found more Californian Paradise at the The Chateau at Lake La Quinta (www.thechateaulakelaquinta.com). As the only lake-front hotel in the Palm Springs area, The Chateau is a chic boutique hotel with 24 guest rooms, a gourmet restaurant with full bar, and a pool and Jacuzzi. Set on beautiful Lake La Quinta, the resort is designed like a European manor and features rolling lawns with lush gardens and numerous outdoor nooks to sit and relax beside the water and take in the beauty.
My summer rendezvous to The Chateau began in a gorgeous suite overlooking the lake. Like all Chateau rooms, it boasted complimentary Wi-Fi, designer furnishings, a comfy king bed, fireplace, giant flat screen TV, mini-fridge and coffee pot. It also came with a luxurious bathroom with upscale tiling, a two-sink vanity, and a huge soaking tub with a separate walk-in shower.
The highlight of the 425 sq-ft of room was the patio, overlooking the lawn and the 25-acre man-made lake. From here, I sipped wine and watched small boats sail past and enjoyed the warm desert wind.
When it came time for dinner, I experienced Melange, the Chateau’s signature restaurant. Led by Chef Nestor Ruiz, Mélange showcases California family farm-sourced ingredients and offers a menu of classic and contemporary dishes, all with a side of lake-front charm.
And then there was my getaway to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a postcard village of shady, tree-lined streets, charming hotels and inns, unique shops, gourmet restaurants, and a big, beautiful beach at the end of town.
This Northern Californian adventure began at Hotel Carmel (www.thehotelcarmel.com), a boutique property with 27 inviting guest rooms and suites designed in traditional cottage-style architecture, with a modern seaside feel. The hotel is located steps from renowned shops, galleries and restaurants, and a couple blocks from Carmel Beach, which welcomes visitors with giant Monterey Pine and cypress trees, gorgeous, rolling sand dunes and lots of lazy sea otters.
Carmel is also famous for Mission Carmel. This historic structure was originally built in nearby Monterey in 1770 and relocated to Carmel a year later. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It is the only California Mission to still have its original bell tower dome.