A full slate of work and family responsibilities during the past few weeks have barely left an ounce of spare time for the Rose and Peach to get together and explore the area. Persevering, the gals finally were able to find a couple of hours this past week to spend solely on themselves.
A previous suggestion of Crystal Cove was quickly dashed, as neither of us relished the thought of sitting in the middle of a month-long road construction project on Pacific Coast Highway to get there. Anything else that might require cutting a pathway through the Atlanta rush hour-reminiscent traffic also was postponed. Hence, no Balboa Island, no Fashion Island ... you get the picture.
So, it looked like we were going south — and we only had a short time for our getaway. Although we had been to the nearby beach town of Dana Point previously and written about the shops and dining of the harbor, we decided we’d give the downtown area a “mooch” (the Rose’s term for a look around).
On a weekday, at about 11:30 a.m., we easily found free parking for as long as we wanted in the Renaissance Dana Point parking lot right off Coast Highway. Exiting the car, we stopped for a moment to take in the sweet smell of jasmine in the air and to scope out our destinations on what was a windy, yet absolutely gorgeous and sunny California postcard kind of day.
Strolling past the Harbor House Café (open 24 hours and popular among locals for its breakfast fare), we continued on our way to the family-owned Browne’s Flowers (34156 Pacific Coast Highway, 949.661.4748, www.brownesflowers.com) — “a great place to get a wide variety of good-quality roses for $9.95 a dozen,” says the Rose (and who would know better? After all, she is the “Rose”). Browsing the store both inside and out, we also found a range of other fresh flowers and plants along with gifts from candles to vases.
Next door we spied the new digs for Bike Religion (at 34150 Pacific Coast Highway, in the spot recently vacated by Revo Cycles), offering custom bike fitting and building alongside a cafe serving coffee and snacks.
Continuing down the street, we popped inside the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center (a great place to start your visit, at 24681 La Plaza) and picked up some free local magazines, a visitor map and calendar of events (did you know the 12th annual Boat Show is coming up May 31-June 3 at the harbor, and the 30th annual Concours d’Elegance automobile and motorcycle show is June 23 and 24 at the St. Regis Monarch Beach?).
Passing the town’s clock tower, we crossed the street to enter the La Plaza Park area, on Coast Highway past Golden Lantern — the site of eateries such as Hennessey’s Tavern (a great place to watch a football game and nosh on a burger); stores such as the Cycleogical specialty bike shop, Dana Point Grooming & Pet Spa (where, evidently cats are welcome, too, according to the sign) and the old-timey Kings Club Barbershop (complete with red, white and blue rotating pole); and a certified Farmers Market held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month.
At the far end of the plaza is Hobie’s Surf Shop (34174 Pacific Coast Highway, 949.496.2366, www.hobie.com), a great one-stop shop for everything California- and surf-related — from Rainbow sandals (yes,they have the cute new braided ones!) to apparel by Hurley, Quiksilver and O’Neill and stylish fashions from fun zippered hoodies and pajamas to swimsuits and more.
Having thoroughly checked out one area surf shop, we decided to head to another — Killer Dana (24721 Del Prado, 949.489.8380, www.killerdana.com). The store, although currently in the process of branching out to the space next door, still is open for business and selling everything from surfboards to T-shirts, board shorts and shoes (the Rose picked up a pair of Sanuks for her young one, and then ended up finding out she was actually old friends with the checkout dude). Oh, rentals are also available here for those who are just thinking about paddling out for the first time and aren’t yet ready to invest in the sport.
Not yet hungry for lunch, we ventured across the street to JunQie’s (24662 Del Prado, 949.496.4406, junqies.net), with a weekly rotating stock of men’s and women’s vintage fashions and unique costumes (a huge photo book of costume ideas holds court out front in the small seating area). Be sure to check out additional racks of clothing out back. We then noticed a building undergoing renovation and ducked inside to find Laura Seeley (www.lauraseeley.com), an award-winning author and artist who soon will be opening a working studio and gallery there to feature her whimsical animal characters and more.
After perusing her works already on display (and, of course, inquiring as to what it would take to get one of her beautiful works depicting my beloved Freckles), we made our way to our last stop of the day: lunch at Peking Dragon (34171 Coast Highway, 949.493.9499, www.pekingdragonrestaurant.com), a Dana Point mainstay for Mandarin and Szechuan-style dining. While devouring our hot green tea, we eagerly awaited our crab rangoon. The tasty cream cheese and crab filled morsels arrived at about the same time as our soup and egg rolls, both of which accompanied our lunch special orders of Mongolian beef for the Rose and spicy garlic fried chicken for the Peach (both under $10). It struck me as your typical Chinese fare, with the exception of the house horseradish that was so strong it made my nose tingle each and every time I tried to take a bite (not a bad thing, in my book).
As is the tradition, we finished off with our fortune cookies. “You know you have to add the words ‘in bed’ to the end of your fortune,” the Peach informed the Rose, who had never quite heard of that joke.
The result — and a perfect way to end our day together: “Be careful and systematic in your business arrangements … in bed” was the Rose’s fortune, while the Peach garnered, “There is a prospect of a thrilling time ahead for you … in bed.”