Southern California is at its best in the winter
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Where I stayed
We own a timeshare in Newport Beach, which we bought almost a decade ago. The Marriott Newport Coastal Villas is a lovely resort in one of the finest settings in Southern California. With great views of the Pacific (and on a clear day of Catalina Island as well) and Newport Harbor, the resort is located above Crystal Cove State Park and the Pacific Coast Highway. Crystal Cove State Park is a true gem, one of the last beach nature preserves in the area
We were with on this vacation with my dad and brother, who wanted to return to our old stomping grounds in Ventura County, so we headed there for a visit. Its a bit of a drive, but Dad always loved going to Ventura Harbor and we enjoy driving thru this less crowded part of Ventura county, where strawberry fields, avacado and lemon groves are still plentiful, and where one of our favorite seafood restaurants, Andrei's is located. So we walked around the Harbor area a little, enjoyed the beautiful views of the water and snow-capped mountains in the distance. And we had another terrific meal at Andrei's. Try their fried calamari dinner or Captain's Combo -- its greatChannel Islands National Park visitor center is in this complex of buildings, and whale-watching cruises and trips to the Channel Islands depart this harbor, but we did not partake in those fun adventures today (though we have many times in the past). At the end of our visit we were treated to a magnificent sunset over the Pacific. The oil derricks in the Channel didn't distract from the beauty of the moment.
It had been years since we visited the Long Beach area, so one day we drove to the relatively new aquarium in Long Beach (Aquarium of the Pacific). Its a really fine place to visit, not quite as elaborate or extensive as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but still with plenty of huge tanks and hundreds of species of fish to occupy your attention for a day. Especially memorable were their shark exhibits, including the large "petting" tanks of sharks and manta rays (they feel sort of like soft wet rubber). We enjoyed the brightly colored fish in the tropical fish exhibit and also the avarium outside, home to dozens of magnificiently colored Lorikeets. We walked around the Harbor and enjoyed views of the Queen Mary (once the largest ocean-liner, now a floating hotel, which we'd visited years earlier) and the dome which used to hold the Spruce Goose (not quite sure what's in there now).
Newport Beach is close to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm
Another good place for a day trip from Newport Beach is Mission San Juan Capistrano. This mission offers a nice preservation of the early Spanish influenced period of California history, around 200 years ago. The ruins of the old church are still there. An earthquake destroyed the original chapel shortly after it was built, killing dozens of Indians. It was never rebuilt; rather a small chapel was constructed elsewhere on the grounds. The place is well-shaded, nicely landscaped, and fun to walk around in. The old fountains have koi lazily looking for handout, which we enjoy watching. Nothing quite like the changing rainbow of colors as they swim near the surface
A few trips around Newport and, of course, a walk to the end of the Newport Pier. It was a fun and relaxing time and we're glad we could share it with our family.
If you would like to see high resolution views of the following photos, please go to this link: http://drfumblefinger.com/wrdprs/?p=266. For full screen views click on the right sided icon of the slideshow's toolbar at the bottom of the post.