Okay, to continue where I left off in my last post . . .
After spending a few hours in L.A., exploring the Grove and the farmer’s market, we decided to drive down to Laguna Beach, where I would be spending the next three days on my own. It was only lunchtime and Michael’s flight didn’t leave until 8 p.m., so I thought it would be fun if he could see the bed and breakfast where I’d reserved a room and maybe grab something to eat at a restaurant with an ocean view.
The wine course for which I was in Laguna Beach was held at the Montage, an immaculate hotel with rates to match. After doing a little TripAdvisor research, I opted instead for more the more reasonably priced but no less charming Casa Laguna Inn. It isn’t right on the beach, but it’s just across the street, and it has all the little luxuries you’d find at a swankier hotel but it feels much more quaint and personal.
We got to Laguna Beach early in the afternoon and the day was sunny and warm. I checked into the inn, dropped off my things in my cozy little room, and then Michael and I set out in search of sustenance. We ended up at the Rooftop Lounge at La Casa del Camino hotel and had one of those lovely, lazy lunches where one drink turns into three. With the mountains on one side and the sparkling Pacific on the other, it was hard to find anything wrong in the world. The only thing that made me sad was that Michael wouldn’t be able to spend the next few days there with me. How could he leave me alone with these sunsets?
But I had to focus. On wine.
We lingered at our table until nearly sunset and then took a walk on the beach before driving back to the airport in L.A. Laguna Beach is one of those places that makes you wonder how anyone (yourself included) could be happy living anywhere else in the world. It also kind of makes you mad that there are people who get to wake up there every day and call it home. But oh well, it makes me even more aspirational.
After a tearful airport goodbye (I don’t know why I was so sad for Michael to leave—I’ve traveled alone plenty of times, but part of me was disappointed that he wouldn’t get to share this beautiful place with me, and the other part was nervous about my wine class and I knew I’d miss the moral support he so unfailingly provides), I drove back to the inn, cleaned myself up, and studied for day one of my intro wine course with some Christmas movies on for background noise.
I had trouble sleeping, which I always do in a bed that’s not my own, and woke up around 6 a.m. to get ready and do a little cramming. I got to the Montage at 8 a.m. and the class started shortly thereafter. I’ll save the details of the course for another post, but I will mention here that if you’ve never started the day with a sampling of four top-notch wines at 8:30 a.m., I highly recommend it.
After the first class day was over I was wiped out. The inn has a complementary wine and cheese happy hour, so I went back, nabbed two glasses of wine and some snacks, then went back to my room, got in my jammies, and studied until well past midnight. No time for a real dinner when you have to fill your brain with things like which is the northernmost wine region of Burgundy!
The next morning I woke up with the sun for more cramming. I only had time for coffee, not breakfast, which was fine because I was too nervous to eat anyway. I also skipped lunch, instead choosing to sit with my study guide in the Montage’s palatial lobby. I mean, just look at this view:
Again, I’ll save the details of the course for another post, but depriving myself of food and sleep in favor of studying paid off: I passed!
Glowing from my tiny little victory, I briefly debated staying at the hotel and indulging in a glass of Champagne at the bar, but I decided to go back to the inn instead, and I’m glad I did because my dear husband had had a bottle of bubbles sent to my room to congratulate me. By this point I was starving, so I left the bottle on ice, ventured out to Laguna Beach’s picturesque “main street” area, and got some take-out from a cozy hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant (Polina’s Solerno—I highly recommend it).
I went back to my room to sip my celebratory bubbles, stuff my face with pasta, and catch up on Vanderpump Rules.
My flight didn’t leave until 8 p.m. the next day so I had all of Wednesday to myself. I slept in a bit and reluctantly packed my bags. It was terribly hard to leave such a beautiful place.
I had lunch at Nick’s Laguna Beach, one of my all-time favorite restaurants. While I was sitting there a retirement-aged couple came in and sat at the bar. They each ordered a glass of white wine—it was all of noon, on a Wednesday, no less—and I couldn’t help but hope that that might be how Michael and I can spend our later years. Years and years from now, of course. There is much life left to be lived. But that seems like such a pleasant way to spend it as it’s winding down.
I filled the rest of my afternoon with a trip to Fashion Island in Newport Beach, which is exactly as magical as it sounds. I mean, you can see the ocean from the parking lot. Then I meandered my way back to L.A., fought the traffic that is always even worse than you expect it to be, and made my way to the airport.
It was hard to jolt myself back into the real world the next day, and I still feel that lingering resentment toward all those lucky folks who get to live such a lush existence. But, at the very least, I find some degree of cold comfort in knowing that places like that exist and they’re there, waiting for me to work hard enough to earn their rewards.