Laguna Beach

Laid back in Laguna Beach

Pageant of Masters

An outing to Laguna Beach has become a summer tradition in order to attend the Pageant of the Masters. This year we were a gang of seven: Jim and Angela, Bob and Carolyn, Bob's cousin Kathy and husband Chuck, and myself.

The Pageant of the Masters is an extraordinary presentation of tableaux vivants:

Ninety minutes of "living pictures" - incredibly faithful art re-creations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces. An outdoor amphitheater, professional orchestra, original score, live narration, intricate sets, sophisticated lighting, expert staff, and hundreds of dedicated volunteers have won recognition for the Pageant as the best presentation of its kind. (
Click picture to enlarge. Currier and Ives print of horse and sleigh

The Currier and Ives print (right) was in this year's show, the theme of which was Seasons. It's simply magical, even when you know how they do it. I guarantee that once you see it, you will be hooked. This was my fourth year! The Pageant of the Masters is performed nightly during July and August. It always sells out, so get tickets early!

The Festival of the Arts is a fine-art show held on the grounds of the Pageant of the Masters. For the past two years I've purchased objets d'art at the festival: an exquisite print and, of course, my people! But that's not the only art game in town: just down the road a ways is the Sawdust Festival, that has a lot of fine art work, but also a lot of what should probably be called arts and crafts.

This year I was sorely tempted to buy a large hanging sculpture of an oarfish that I saw at the Sawdust Festival. I thought it would look stunning on the big, blank, white wall by the dining table.

oarfish sculpture The sculpture as seen at the Sawdust Festival. Artist: Dion Art, Flagstaff, AZ
simulation of sculpture Chez Paul The sculpture as it would look Chez Paul

In the end, I decided it was just too big and cost way too much money; plus, I couldn't quite see myself still wanting to look at it every day five years from now. But it was stunning!

Besides the Pageant

Over the years, several little rituals have become part of these trips to Laguna Beach.

Click picture to enlarge

Diedrich's coffee house. For the early risers among us, an early morning coffee and newspaper session is de rigueur. It's the thing to do.

Madison Square logo

Madison Square. On our first trip, The Cottage was recommended for brunch. When we got there, we found a very long line, and we quickly realized that outdoor seating next to the Pacific Coast Highway didn't seem conducive to proper digestion and camaraderie. So, we went right next door to Madison Square & Garden Cafe where we were able to get a table immediately and enjoy our breakfast in a cool, quiet garden surrounded by an eclectic mixture of kitch and antiques. Madison has now become our standard breakfast venue.

Brass door knocker

Everything at Madison has a price tag, and we've frequently asked ourselves, "Do you suppose anybody ever buys any of this stuff?" It can now be said that the answer is "Yes." Yours truly bought a brass door knocker this year. I plan to install it on the patio. Watch for it on the webcam!

Watching from bench

Ocean. There is something about an ocean that requires watching. We never tire of it. At the gazebo (by Las Brisas), a Beach Bum Extraordinaire introduced himself to us and even entertained us by singing a song he is composing. It probably won't make the Top 40, but it wasn't half bad!

Hennessey's, home of mini-burger sampler

Hennessey's. Here we all are having a late lunch at Hennessey's Tavern. At night, this place fills up with partying twenty-somethings, but during the day it's a fine lunch destination. Myself, I'm particularly fond of the burger sampler, a basket of four mini-hamburgers, each with different toppings and stuffings. (Left to right: Angela, Jim, Bob, Kathy, Chuck, Carolyn)

Aegean cafe logo

Aegean. A trip to Laguna Beach wouldn't be complete without dinner at the Aegean. It's on a second floor, giving it a smashing view of the ocean, and the sunsets are glorious. There is live Greek music and energetic belly-dancers. Oh, yeah, the food is excellent!

Ocean Brewing Las Brisas logo

We've always gone to Las Brisas to enjoy las brisas, the ocean view, and great food. And, I have a feeling that the Ocean Brewery may become a favorite as well. The food was good, it's an easy walk from there to the Pageant, and the Ocean pale ale was quite tasty (although they were out of the beer we all wanted to try: Red Sunshine).

By the Sea Inn

Lodging. For the past three years we've stayed at By the Sea Inn. Originally, we stayed there because we could get reservations for a weekend stay at a reasonable price, not easy in the summer. It turned out we liked the location: an easy walk to downtown and to the Pageant.

What's wrong with this picture

We've always had "pool-level" rooms on the second floor (the ground floor is parking and lobby). These rooms do have "ocean view" but if you sit in the chairs lined up along the pool facing the ocean, this is what you see.

Force of habit has kept us going back. However, the front desk is often staffed by a woman with an English accent who could use a refresher course in Pleasant and Satisfying Customer Interactions. Now that we appreciate how much less crowded Laguna Beach is mid-week, we may look for alternate accommodations next time. Update: We have found a much better place to stay - Eiler's Inn.

Coming Out sculpture

This intriguing sculpture is titled Coming Out and sits outside an art gallery we always pass on the way from the hotel downtown or to Las Brisas.

Pageant of Morons

At the Pageant of the Masters, life imitates art. Meanwhile, on the streets of Laguna Beach, a band of street performers staged this year a counter pageant where life makes a spectacle of itself.

Jim re-enacting a pedestrian crossing sign. Pedestrian crossing, by Jim
Bob re-enacting statue of a dog Bob depicts sculpture of dog

You get the idea.

Home again, sl-o-w-ly

traffic at the junction of 241 and 91

The sad part about these summer outings to Laguna is that one can't simply stay. One has to go home again. Nothing like an encounter with the freeways to negate a relaxing sojourn.