Friday Wrap: A Lovely Laguna Beach Break

ritz-carlton-on-the-hill

Thanks to my husband, Brandon, we were able to experience a four-day stay in Southern California this week. It was beyond incredible. Even with the rain we encountered, which apparently hasn’t happened in quite some time, we loved every split second of this vacation.

Brandon earned the trip through work, so most of the details were planned for us – including reservations at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Nigel. Whaaat? This palatial resort is perched on top of a cliff in Dana Point.

There was so much to explore, I’ll try my best to summarize our trip in five “buckets.”

I’ll include lots of photos, so you can feel just like you were there with us. And if you ever get a chance to visit this lovely part of the world, by all means, these are definitely things worth checking out.

{ONE} The Destination: Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

entrance-of-hotel

This is the entrance of our hotel. The colorful vinca and juicy succulents that surrounded the grand entrance provided a little foreshadowing…

lobby-flowers

As you stepped inside, you were greeted with a visual display of flowers arranged in incredibly tall vases. Apparently there’s also a signature fragrance at the hotel. It’s a light floral scent and is piped through the vent system. So all of your senses are engaged the moment you walk through the door.

lobby-roses

Gigantic bunches of roses are lined along the main hallways.

top-view-of-ritz-carlton

This is a view of the hotel from the back side. See all of those adirondack chairs down on the right? B and I spent as much time as we could there soaking up some sun – and maybe enjoying a drink or two.

best-mojito-ever

This was the best mojito to ever hit my mouth. It was from one of the hotel bars called 180blu. The drink was bright green and had cucumbers. I didn’t ask questions. I just enjoyed every delicious sip.

pool-view-of-ritz-carlton

Look at this gorgeous pool! It rained the first couple of days, so we didn’t get as much pool time as we would have liked. I guess we’ll just have to go back. Darn. 😉

{TWO} The Sights and Sounds

kate-in-laguna-beach

The moment I heard the waves and smelled the salt air, I knew I had arrived…welcome to the Pacific Ocean!!

beach-with-bird-of-paradise

Remember those adirondack chairs I was telling you about a moment ago? This was the view from that spot. It was the perfect place for watching waves – and even hummingbirds! They loved the Bird of Paradise flowers that were planted all around the resort. I was pretty much in Kate-heaven.

beach-walk-morning

Every morning Brandon and I hiked down the hill and walked along the shore. I loved how different it looked each time. This particular day the water had created a shelf of sand. See it on the right? I could stand here for days…just watching and listening to the waves crash.

sea-stone

Being from Arkansas, I’m more accustomed to the beaches along the Gulf Coast, which are covered in sea shells. So I enjoyed looking at all of the treasures that the Pacific Ocean pulled onto her shores – like this sea stone.

surfer

Dana Point must be a hot spot for surfers, because there were TONS of surfers in the water. All day, every day. It was cool.

fancy-house-on-beach

Okay, so The Ritz-Carlton isn’t the only fancy-pants destination on “the hill”. Check out this mansion. In fact, there were many more like this dotted along the upper ridge. Apparently many of them are owned by stars. Anyone know who this belongs to?! I’d love to know.

tom-cruise-house

We heard this one belongs to Tom Cruise. It was literally right next door to our hotel. Hey, T-Cruise!

 

blackbird-on-ledge

Other than hummingbirds, there were flocks of blackbirds always passing through. This guy was perched on the ledge of an outdoor restaurant at the hotel. I think he wanted my chips. Sorry, dude.

bird-of-paradise

Speaking of birds…here’s a closeup of a Bird of Paradise that was growing next to the pool. I remember the first time I ever saw one of these was in the flower shop where I worked in college. When I unpacked them for the first time, I felt like I had just released a rare bird. And I remember thinking it had the most perfect name.

eucalypus-tree

This photo also reminds me of the flower shop from college. We used seeded eucalyptus all of the time as greenery. And this, my friends, is how it grows. Tall on a tree like this! It smelled so clean and medicinal. I could feel my head clear as I stood in her shade.

{THREE} The Extras: Yoga, Cooking Classes and Parties

yoga-view

Part of the perks of a four-diamond hotel are things like complimentary yoga classes every day. #truestory I got up pretty much every morning and enjoyed my yoga practice – with this view.

fitness-center-at-ritz-carlton

The fitness center had a rows of ellipticals and other machines that faced the ocean. I told B that if I had this view, I’d easily workout every day. No questions asked.

chef-anthony-enosteak

B’s company offered one free activity, and we chose a Cooking with The Masters class. This is Chef Anthony from EnoSteak, which is one of the featured restaurants on the property. He walked us through how to make a rustic rendition of bruschetta using heirloom tomatoes, followed by a sherry dijon vinaigrette that was drizzled over greens and grilled vegetables. Then the main course was chimichurri marinade flank steak that was grilled outside over coals. Talk about de-lish.

b-and-k-in-cooking-class

This was a picture of our table as we enjoyed the full menu that was prepared by Chef Anthony, who was such a kind and soft-spoken man with a deep passion for food.

outdoor-party

This was our view for the final dinner. Brandon’s company invited everyone to dine out on the lawn under the stars. We enjoyed a buffet of pretty much anything you can imagine: steaks, grilled swordfish, lobster risotto, a taco bar, etc. There was also a coffee station next to a full spread of desserts, which included s’mores. You could roast your own handcrafted marshmallow squares over an open fire pit. #todiefor

The people at this event came from all over the country, but we did know one other couple from Arkansas. This is us grabbing a quick pic before I ran over to stuff my face with some lobster risotto. (B and I are on the right, and our friends, Kurt and Leann, are on the left.)

{FOUR} Shopping in Downtown Laguna

laguna-avenue

We squeezed in a tiny bit of shopping. Much like the pool situation, we didn’t give ourselves nearly enough time to enjoy this. Another reason we must go back.

tuvalu

Downtown Laguna is adorable, quaint and perfect for pretty much any kind of shopper. You don’t have to be loaded to shop at many of these stores, which made it super fun. This was one of my favorites called Tuvalu. It had a friendly vibe and reminded me of a beach-themed Anthropologie.

the-flower-stand_laguna-beach

A market-style flower shop. I mean…beauty served on a sidewalk right there.

driftwood-kitchen-logo

If you ever head to Laguna Beach, you must eat here. Trust me. We ate here for dinner one night and I’m still dreaming about that chilean sea bass.

driftwood-kitchen

This will be your view. Look at those ocean waves.

driftwood-kitchen-laguna

Our table was on the far left. I used this pic from the restaurant, which is way better than mine – since it was full of people. The restaurant is surrounded in glass, so there really isn’t a bad view – or seat – in the house.

beach-sunset

We caught the sunset just as we arrived. Talk about taking your breath away.

dinner-with-friends-at-driftwood-kitchen

Hands down, the best part of the day – and maybe even trip – was catching up with Ryan and his girlfriend Jamie. Ryan was the best man in our wedding and lives near Los Angeles. Needless to say, we don’t get to see him very often. We were honored he drove down the coast to see us. We spent hours talking, laughing, swapping stories and learning about various forms of healing. He’s one fascinating dude. And I loved getting the chance to meet Jamie. She’s such a beautiful and warm person. She’s also smart and has her own business making orgonite pieces, which I’ll need to feature in an upcoming post. They’re really beautiful.

{FIVE} Togetherness with Brandon

brandon-and-kate

Okay, so as I wrap up this photo journey of our time in Laguna Beach, I have to say “thank you” to my sweet B for working so hard and making this trip possible for us. I loved every step we took, every meal we ate, every sound we soaked in, and every new experience we had…together. #buddiesforlife

And we’re home…

sweet-girls

While B and I were off splashing in the ocean, my awesome niece stayed at our house with the kids. We couldn’t have made this trip without her, so big kisses to our Sarah!!

XoXo and blessings for a beautiful weekend,

Kate

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