Weekend in Laguna Beach

This California town is built for quiet, romantic getaways. Here's where to stay and what to do

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  • Walk the dozen or so shops at Laguna Village, which has an arts-and-crafts vibe in a beach-town atmosphere.

    Laguna Beach, California

    Gina Sabatella

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When we get up the next morning, the sun warming up the room, Jan and I both notice the quiet. With doors open wide to the Pacific, we hear the chest-thumping crash of the waves, the raspy bark of sea lions, the singsongy entreaty of a distant jogger calling his dog back from a run on the beach. I say we love the quiet, then I talk about the sounds. But it's different. In summer, beach sounds can be cacophonous. In fall and winter, there's mostly the wind and waves and sea life.

We love the communal feel of the town at this time of year, when locals, who seem to hibernate during the hot months, suddenly reappear to reclaim their favorite eateries and bars.

One morning we laze about Zinc Cafe on boutique-lined Ocean Avenue, reading the paper while digging into massive bowls of oatmeal mixed with dried cherries and nuts and surreptitiously listening to the breezy conversation around us ― like that of the young woman at the next table who's trying to convince a friend to join her in a laughter-yoga workshop on the beach.

"At first you just feel really stupid going hee-hee-hee, haw-haw-haw, but then you really do start laughing and it … it's such a release," she says.

"What the heck is laughter yoga?" I lean over and whisper to Jan. She raises her eyebrows, perplexed, and we both try hard not to laugh.


For exercise, we hike down from Coast Highway to Victoria Beach, a secluded cove hardly anyone goes to, particularly off-season.

I take moody black-and-white photos of Jan on a sea-worn rock in front of an odd little castle turret on the beach, a tower built almost 80 years ago by an early inhabitant who was looking to camouflage spiraling stairs to his house - long gone - on the bluff above us.

We do a lot of beach walking, particularly just before cocktail hour in the late afternoon. Strolling down Treasure Island beach, we come across couples cozy on their blankets, and chilled surf fishermen slapping their hands together while keeping a watchful eye on their poles.

That night we enjoy dinner at Sapphire Laguna restaurant, where the old Pottery Shack, a local landmark, sat for 60 years. We huddle around a firepit on the patio, looking over the roofs of shops along the highway to where the sun is dipping into the dark ocean, and nosh on homemade rosemary and sea-salt potato chips while quaffing Chimay Blue dark ale.

And while it isn't exactly my favorite adventure, in the spirit of the weekend I join Jan one afternoon while she pokes around the shops of Laguna Village, perched on a bluff above the ocean, trying not to act too annoyed when she insists I sniff herbal-scented candles or try on goofy-looking leather hats, the type worn by guys with walrus mustaches and jackets with fringe.

In short, we do everything and nothing at all, which is really the best thing about Laguna at this time of year. And I think Jan appreciated my efforts. Which may explain why she seems completely unruffled when I confess that I had, indeed, forgotten our anniversary.

"Of course you did," she says as we head back home. "Why do you think I sent the orchid?"

A more cynical man might suspect that she'd engineered the whole weekend herself. But what are the odds of that?



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