That's not the temperature predicted for the Valley Monday (although it was close). No, that's the fever my daughter was running when we got home from our weekend in Laguna.
Needless to say, she missed the start of her one-week cheerleading camp -- and I was afraid I was going to have to kiss goodbye the $250 I spent on it. Fortunately, her fever broke yesterday afternoon and today she was raring to go.
"I think she willed that bug out of her little body," my friend Sue Ann surmised. I tend to agree -- I had no idea how much she had been looking forward to camp until it was threatened away. So today, all is good -- and I can reflect upon the fantasy world we lived in over the weekend, at the luxurious Montage resort in Laguna Beach.
The occasion was my friend Debbie's 50th birthday. Those of you who visit regularly may remember that Debbie and I are celebrating our half-century mark -- this entire year. That was the excuse for our recent visit to New York City. But yesterday was Debbie's actual birthday, and when she told her husband she wasn't interested in having a humongous party, he came up with the idea of hosting just a couple of their closest friends for a weekend in one of the most beautiful settings in Southern California.
It gave us a two-day taste of how the other 2% lives.
The hotel is situated on a bluff overlooking a cozy little Laguna cove, with pristine sandy beaches and rocky tidepools. This is where we found our friends after our check-in. Although the beach is public (as are most in California), solicitious resort employees are stationed there to serve hotel guests' every whim: by setting up lounge chairs, umbrellas, towels, and little tables. They also offer food and drink service. It reminded me a lot of the scene in the movie "10," where Dudley Moore's character is carried across a Mexican beach when he complained that the sand was too hot.
Should that happen to a guest at Montage, he or she can retreat to one of four salt-water pools on the property: the super-sized "Mosaic" pool (so named for the tiled sunburst artwork embedded on its floor), a fairly large "kiddy" pool, a spa and another large swimming pool on the grounds of the full-service resort day spa. The Mosaic pool is open 24/7 to guests and is kept at a balmy 82 degrees, and is staffed during the day with an army of attendants to prepare your lounge chairs, hand you ginormous Egyptian cotton towels (as many as you require), and bring you your food and beverage orders. One of their specialties was a champagne and peach schnapps cocktail called "Peach Blanket Bingo," which became our drink for the entirety of the festive weekend. (We'll be experimenting with making our own when we get to Sacramento for 4th of July.)
The service level reminded us of the cruise we took last year, except for the fact that we were stationary... and our cabin on the ship would have easily fit into the bath of this hotel room. Don't believe me? None of the photos I took of the bathroom did it justice -- to see what I'm talking about, click here and select the virtual tour of the bathroom. With separate large marble tub and shower, double sink, etc. -- it was the kind of setup you usually see in Presidential suites... NOT in regular guest rooms.
Of course, there was nothing "regular" about this place - it was "premium" all the way, with feather beds and soft 400-thread count sheets that made you feel like you were sleeping on a cloud.
Our room was situated outside the main building, in a stand-alone structure referred to as the "bungalows." As such, our sliding glass door opened onto a small patio set upon the lushly landscaped grounds, which are home to countless wild bunnies. We spent a lot of time sitting there, watching the little critters scamper around while they munched on the tasty grass.
We sampled the fare in three of the resort's four outlets, and it was as good as one would expect in a five-star hotel. The prices were also what you would expect: astronomical. An appetizer and entree in The Studio restaurant for the adults came to about $75 each (this is without the cost of drinks), kids' meals were about $25. It was a very "foodie" type of menu, heavy on fish and meat (including sweatbreads - yuck!) - but surprisingly, there was no chicken or vegetarian option. However, they were happy to whip up something vegetarian for Tim and he pronounced it good. Had we not been celebrating such a special occasion, I would have opted for the most casual Loft restaurant in the hotel's main building. We dined there for breakfast Sunday morning and it was excellent (and more appropriate when travelling with children -- we were warned that a seating at Studio would take two and one half hours from start to finish... and the kids were all falling asleep by the time dessert was served).
As fantastic as the Montage lifestyle is, there were times over the weekend when the real world slipped in. Just as we got set up on the beach the first day, an incident unfolded before us between a drunken man and some lifeguards who were unsuccessfully trying to subdue him. The men quickly whisked the kids away, so they didn't see much and I was too chicken to watch. But Debbie and her friend Liz witnessed the man beaten with billy clubs when the mace didn't work. (I'm not certain if that was done by the lifeguards or the police who showed up promptly to arrest the man, who by now was shouting obscenities at all who passed). At the time, we weren't sure if what we were watching was real or if it was some kind of weird performance art.
The beach attendants told us the man was sporting a court-ordered ankle bracelet, indicating he was under house arrest and so was not supposed to be on the beach in the first place. We later learned that the man was a repeat alcohol offender and that the bracelet was some kind of alcohol monitoring device.
That night, Megan asked me why the fire department was there. I thought it might have something to do with the gas heaters the hotel had set up on the lawn for a reception outside the pool area. It turned out that they were paramedics, there to whisk away a woman staying in the room next to ours. I'm not sure why.
We had our own little surreal dramas with hotel security, when Megan decided she was unbearably cold during dinner (probably the onset of that fever) and we were unable to retrieve her jacket because our cardkey didn't work. My husband went up to the lobby to get a new one and it didn't work, either -- so he ended up flagging down someone from housekeeping and showing her lots of identification proving we were indeed the guests registered to the room before she would let him in.
All in all, we had a wonderful time and felt honored that our friends invited us to share it with them. On the way home Sunday night, He Who Shall Not Be Named joked that we would have to return the favor someday at the only place our budget would allow: Motel 6. But we'll pick a good one -- something along Highway 1 instead of Interstate 5. And we'll even spring for a festive dinner at In and Out Burger. I'm sure they can whip up some kind of lettuce thing for Tim.