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Writers & Photographers
Berlitz Summer Camp
by K. Pearson Brown
The refurbished vintage Woodie surf mobile that resides in front of Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa is a fitting mascot. Upon close inspection of the gleaming 1950s-era wood-paneled station wagon, one sees it has been pristinely restored. Like the newly renovated hotel that is its home, the classic look and spirit of the carefree California coastal lifestyle is preserved and celebrated, yet no fine touches have been forgotten.
It’s no wonder this picturesque red-roofed Victorian-style resort, set high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is the backdrop for many a wedding and romantic getaway, but there’s also an abundance of family and kid-friendly amenities to keep guests of all ages contented.
For my 4-year-old son, the Splash Zone was the main attraction. This playground of water canons, mounted bouncy surf boards under a water curl and other water features, is smartly set adjacent the kiddie pool and one of the two large swimming pools, so parents can keep an eye on youngsters while relaxing poolside.
The Jacuzzi was also a big hit with my son, though I did have to coax him back to the Splash Zone when were joined in the bubbles by a group of groomsmen from the previous night’s wedding who began regaling each other with R-rated drinking stories. Of course, had my son not been with me, I admit the tales would have been pretty entertaining.
For a more kid-centric environment, the resort offers the Kahuna Laguna Kids Club. The club, which is open during the summer and some holidays, welcomes children ages 5-12 and offers full and half-day activity sessions. They also host Saturday night kid movies in the resort theater with an old-fashioned popcorn machine, free candy and beverages. Children can redeem their ticket stub for a special Kahuna Laguna Breakfast of scrambled eggs, chocolate chip pancakes, bacon and orange juice at resort’s signature Vue restaurant on Sunday morning.
Even on a crisp autumn day, we kept toasty in the heated pools, where my son spent most of his time. While he swam, my partner and I enjoyed poolside food and beverage service in our private cabana and took turns going to the Fitness Club. The gym was well equipped with treadmills, ellipticals and steppers, all featuring personal TV screens – and ear buds for people like me who forgot to bring my own. The locker room, which adjoins the Spa at Laguna Cliffs, was also well appointed, with all the amenities one could possible want to primp and preen, down to make-up remover and mouthwash.
Another experience in luxury was my massage at the spa. My therapist Angela introduced herself as lead therapist and assured me I was in good hands. I could tell by her healing-hands symbol earrings, necklace and matching tattoos on her wrists that she took her profession seriously.
From a menu of indulgent-sounding services, I chose the Tides and Stones Massage, which seemed appropriate for our locale by the ocean. The treatment consisted of hand over hand strokes from head to feet designed to carry away stress and tension from the body, followed by upward strokes from feet to head that bring back fresh energy and a sense of renewal. Angela also gave special attention to a knot in my upper back I’ve had for years. After a few pin-pointed stretches and deep massage, my back felt better than it had in years – better than after months of physical therapy sessions.
After my visit with the miracle worker Angela, our family headed out to explore the local attractions. One of the great things about site seeing around the area was that in-and-out valet privileges at the resort made it all very easy. We could get our car from the valet in a moment, come back to our base, and then leave again without any hassle. The concierge gave us easy directions to the nearby Doheny State Beach parkland, where we were able to park steps from the beach. There we enjoyed watching some local teen boys wake surfing, and my son climbed and tumbled down the steep dunes and played in the surf with some other kids we met there.
We stayed at the beach until the golden hour of sunset, and then went back for dinner at the resort’s signature restaurant, Vue. Though the restaurant is elegant and would make an ideal setting for a romantic dinner, it is also family friendly, as evidenced by the treasure chest of toys at the host station where my son was invited to choose a toy before we were seated.
The menu featured California cuisine with locally sourced fresh meats and seafood. We dined on a fabulous meal of spicy tuna tartare and a wild arugula salad for starters, and Chilean sea bass, served with nutty quinoa grains, and slow-roasted Kobe Short Ribs, served atop lobster risotto and crispy potatoes for entrees. We finished off with crispy waffles, donut holes, blueberry compote and fresh raspberries for dessert. All the dishes were delicious and presented beautifully, like artwork on a canvas on large white plates.
Since it was a cool night, we dined indoors, though a wedding party outside did not seem to mind the mild night air. We chuckled to see the guests dancing to music that we could not hear from inside, and we admired the view from the patio that was sure to create a memorable backdrop for the beaming bride and groom.
Back at our room we settled in for the night. At the late hour of 9:30 p.m., our 4-year-old was still not sleepy. From our balcony overlooking the pool he saw a few late-night swimmers and wanted to join them. Thankfully he accepted a bribe of Rango on pay-per-view instead.
While he and my partner watched the movie, I got some work done. The desk in the room had ample space, power and lighting for me to set up my temporary office. While I didn’t need it this trip, it was good to know the resort offers a Wired-For-Business program for $12.95 that includes wireless internet and domestic long distance calls. The room also had two dual-line telephones, with personal voicemail, and a safe large enough for a laptop.
The resort took care to provide for the needs of both the business and pleasure traveler, and as our family trips are usually a bit of both, it suited us well. Summer is peak season, though the resort has a full slate of activities and packages year-round, including fabulous Thanksgiving and Christmas Day menus at the Vue restaurant.
For Angelenos seeking a short and sweet weekend excursion, Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa is a perfect getaway. It’s not too far a car ride and there’s plenty for kids to do, it offers gorgeous California coastal scenery, outstanding dining and all the comforts of a world-class hotel. It’s run like a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine, but with no attitude and a casual California vibe, just like the Woodie parked out front.
K. Pearson Brown is an L.A. travel writer and mom.
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