Vail Daily Travel: So-Cal in the spring
May 23, 2011
Even though Southern California isn’t as exotic as say Costa Rica or Panama – popular destinations for locals this time of year – it still makes for a nice offseason getaway. Especially since Allegiant Air (www.allegiantair.com) offers one-way tickets for as low as $34.99 from Grand Junction into Los Angeles. Last week I hopped on a plane with my aunt Heather and cousin Kylie for a girl’s getaway. The idea was to fly into L.A., rent a car and work our way south along the coast, to San Diego, where we bought a one-way ticket (around $115) back to Grand Junction. Four days of sun, sand and time away from Happy Valley was just what I needed after a somewhat snowy, dreary spring here in the mountains.
Our plane out of Grand Junction was delayed six hours (the plane we were supposed to take was leaking jet fuel), so we didn’t arrive in L.A. until nearly 10:30 Thursday night. We picked up our rental car and after a quick stop at In-N-Out Burger for a late dinner (fries and a hamburger, Animal style of course) we drove to our accomodations for the night, The Georgian Hotel, a circa 1933 bright gold-and-turquoise-colored historic hotel on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, right across from the ocean. Over the years, the funky art-deco style hotel has been a hideout for Hollywood actors and actresses, authors and politicos. Today, its location – a short walk from the Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier – combined with the comfortable rooms and suites, make it an ideal place to stay in Santa Monica.
The next morning we took a stroll along the Ocean Avenue, breathing in the sweet white jasmine flowers blooming abudantly in the hedges lining the sidewalk. We briefly eyed the shops lining the Third Street Promenade before ducking into Jinky’s Cafe (1447 2nd Street, Santa Monica) where the slogan is “Better than breakfast in bed.” Indeed it was. The Santa Fe Scramble, one of the delicious house specialties, was rife with turkey-chicken chorizo, green onions, tomatoes, cilantro and corn tortilla strips and was served with “guacomole” made from peas that we couldn’t wait to get back home to replicate.
After breakfast, we headed for the Santee Alley in the fashion district in downtown L.A. for a little shopping. In the crowded, narrow alleyway, vocal vendors hawk everything from namebrand makeup, leather purses and lacy underwear, to designer jeans, shoes and toys. More than 150 stores are crammed into a very crowded two-block alleyway and we scored a few bargains, like $5 sunglasses and $3 MAC eyeshadow before jumping back into the car and navigating our way to Interstate 5, to head south.
Our next destination was The plush Grand Del Mar resort, located on the fairways of the Tom Fazio-designed Grand Golf Club. The Mediterranean-style resort was named one of the top resorts in the U.S./Canada by Travel + Leisure magazine in 2009 and it was easy to see why. From the cold towel, lemonade and cookies we were served with upon check in, to the super attentive pool boys who refused to let you spread your own towel out, the hotel has remarkable service. Our lavish 1,010 square foot room had a 40-inch flat screen television, marble bathroom with sunken tub and super comfy beds, and looked out onto the resort’s bright, blooming gardens.
After a relaxing afternoon spent reading poolside, we headed to the resort’s Tuscany-inspired restaurant, Amaya. We dined on a roasted baby beet salad, creamy mushroom risotto and lobster and crab pappardelle but it was the spicy Catalan-style shrimp appetizer that stole the show. Big shrimp swam in a Sambal chile and lime broth I wanted to slurp up with a spoon. Likewise, the seared sea bass with wilted arugula, king trumpet mushrooms and roasted chicken au jus was outstanding. The meal’s finale, a tiered carrot cake with cream cheese ice cream, had us fork fighting for the last bite.
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The next morning, we were up early to take part in the free four-mile “Canyon to Waterfall Hike” in the adjacent 4,000-acre Los Penasquitos Canyon. Our super-enthusiastic naturalist, Dylan Jones, was a wealth of information when it came to the local flora and fauna. Over the course of two hours we saw a bobcat, a slew of birds, a giant bullfrog and a prehistoric looking horned toad lizard, which he was particularly excited about since he only spots them once or twice a year. The verdant canyon is home to more than 500 plant species, more than 175 types of birds and plenty of reptiles and mammals and at every turn, our guide was stopping the group to talk about an interesting plant, or give us some insight into the area’s rich history.
As soon as we returned to the resort, I headed for the spa, for one of the signature treatments they offer: the Renaissance Treatment (90 minutes, $310). My therapist had me climb onto a special free-floating bed a applied mud to most of my body and then wrapped me up in a sheet and pulled the tables flaps around me. With the push of a buttom, he lowered the plank supporting me and I was left warm, and relaxed, floating in way that felt very womblike. After showering off the mud with no less than seven showerheads in the Swiss shower, my therapist gave me a rhythmic massage where he stretched out my arms and legs. It was different than any massage I’ve ever had and I walked away feeling limber and supremely relaxed.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.