Welcome to the OC…..
Convinced that my wife Helena’s surprise 30th birthday long weekend vacation was a gambling trip Las Vegas, she was super happy to see an Orange County sign as we headed south from LAX airport. This excitement was driven by her love of Seth, Summer, Ryan, Sandy, Julie and Caleb from the hit TV series aptly named the OC!
Accommodation – The Balboa Bay Resort
The OC is known as one of California’s more affluent areas, and so we decided given it was Helena’s birthday to treat ourselves and check into the exclusive Balboa Bay Resort after being attracted by the blue skies and waterfront location on their website.
On check in Paul realized he should have maybe done his research a little better on what to pack. The Resort’s welcome guide stipulated that a dinner jacket was required for evening reservations in the Resort’s First Cabin Restaurant. With only a suitcase containing flip flops, board shorts and surf t-shirts our hopes of a steak dinner in our sailing club home for the night were dashed!
After checking in, we went for a walk and soon discovered super yacht after super yacht adorning the hotel’s southern edge; a true boat lovers paradise!
The centre of the Resort had a lovely swimming pool, surrounded by sun loungers and waiting staff who were keen to serve you whatever drink you fancied!
On the walk to back to our room we passed the Wall of Fame, which showed some the Resort’s more distinguished guests including former US Presidents such as Nixon and Hollywood A-listers including Jack Nicklaus…..although we were disappointed to find that Sandy Cohen had not stayed there!
The Resort also had its own private beach and another pool which were for use by residents of the complex, but could be used by guests ….discreetly.
Our room was a fairy tale with exquisite furniture and without doubt the most comfortable bed we have ever slept in (the mattress alone was about 3ft thick!)
The Resort also had a great Spa which Helena thoroughly enjoyed, while the patio breakfast (no jacket needed) overlooking the water in the morning sunshine was also exceptional!
Restaurant – The Rusty Pelican
With our initial restaurant plans scuppered, we adopted the let’s walk and just find something approach! After scouring the area for about 30 minutes we were unable to find the diner that Ryan, Seth, Marissa and Summer frequently visited, so we decided upon the Rusty Pelican which was incredibly busy inside!
After a short wait we managed to negotiate a table in the upstairs bar area, and ended up a cosy corner booth overlooking the harbor. The service was lively and fun, the fresh fish exceptional, the wine flowing and the views of the harbor terrific!
Newport Beach town center was not what we had imagined. The expected high end wine bars and Gucci shops were non-existent. Instead they had been replaced by numerous cheap bars with young locals and tourists bar hopping from one loud music playing venue to another.
However, we headed down the beach a few hundred yards where peace and quiet was restored, and Paul tried to act out a scene from Baywatch (clearly no slow motion action shots required in this take).
We spent the rest of the afternoon driving around trying to find some OC classic venues such as the pier, the Cohens’ house and the sailing club. We failed on all fronts. It was at this point, we actually found out from a quick check on Wikipedia that the show OC was filmed at Redondo Beach, very little of the OC was actually filmed in Orange County! #Scandal
A few miles north of Newport Beach lies Huntington Beach, which claims to be the home of California surfing, This town was altogether different and had a very relaxed vibe, with market stalls selling homemade necklaces and small booths selling fish and chips. It is the place that Hollister have a live video feed from in their stores if you ever visit.
Top Driving Tip
We would suggest hiring a SATNAV if you are driving – you definitely need one to get to the OC, or drive anywhere in LA for that fact. To get to the OC from LAX Airport be prepared to drive on Freeways which are up to 8 lanes wide in each direction (16 in total). An alternative is to fly to Anaheim (John Wayne) Airport for a shorter drive!