Orange County is the California I’ve always fantasized about.
Our press group arrived in the town of Laguna Beach after a 1 1/2 hour drive south from Los Angeles early this morning. Our route briefly took us on the Pacific Coast Highway, undoubtedly one of the world’s most spectacular drives. The mixture of coastal views, lightly swaying palms and salty air drifting into our van told me I was arriving in one of the most quintessential SoCal areas.
Laguna Beach’s Main Beach.
Laguna Beach may be best known in popular culture as the home of Kristen Cavalleri, Lauren Conrad and the other ultra rich stars of MTV’s Laguna Beach reality series. While status – think flashy cars, million dollar hillside homes and gorgeous bodies – is certainly the goal of many in this part of California, surf culture and Laguna Beach’s artistic roots define the area just as much.
For more than 100 years, Laguna Beach has been a haven for artists inspired by the beauty of the area. In 1918, the Laguna Art Association was established to promote the town’s artists. Laguna’s first gallery opened the same year. Today, many galleries and arts stores – offering such crafts as oil paintings, glass sculptures and jewelry and maps of the U.S. made from old license plates – dot Laguna’s main core, generously scattered among clothing boutiques, candy shops and surf supply outlets.
Main Beach is situated across the street from the shopping core of Laguna Beach. It’s the perfect place to sit and watch waves crash against the sand while enjoying a gourmet frozen yogurt or test out a newly acquired surf board. It’s also soon to be the location of Pure Light, a niche candle making store big on unique wax creations.
Pure Light is currently located in Festival Center on Laguna Canyon Road, but plans to move to the more pedestrian friendly South Coast Highway in Laguna Beach in the coming weeks. Candle making was an activity arranged for our group to demonstrate the rich arts and crafts culture in Laguna. It quickly became one of my favourite activities of the week and tore down any conceptions I had about the traditional art of candle making.
After arriving in the cozy, fragrant candle store, owner Judy Kelly helped us choose wax colours, a candle mold, a scent and shells, stones and other trinkets which would be used to adorn the top of our unique “candle bouquets.”
More than 20 fragrances are offered at the store, where prices start at $8 to create a small candle and go up to $38 for the large, triple wick variety. I chose a barrel-shaped mold and shades of green and purple waxes to compliment my vineyard scent choice.
Using a sturdy tool, I broke my chunks of wax into long strips and began placing them inside my mold. After filling my mold with seafoam, deep green and purple waxes, Judy poured translucent wax over my creation to give it its final shape. We then arranged small shells, bits of crystal, stones and a small mermaid statuette on top of the still-hot wax to create my bouquet.
Candles can take two to three hours to cool, so I’ll have to wait until I’m reunited with my creation tomorrow to see the final product.
After our crafts session, more sun and sand was in order. Our group dined on the roof of the Hotel La Casa Del Camino, an unassuming property steps from beach with very affordable room rates, 10 custom rooms designed by surf companies like Quicksilver and a rooftop lounge and indoor restaurant that was still buzzing with locals when we departed around 9 p.m.
The sunset over the Pacific Ocean, viewed while dining on a surprisingly cheap – in cost, definitely not taste - filet mignon and sipping a pineapple mojito, was as fiery and pink as I’d ever seen. Boarders tested the waves of the ocean below us well into the evening. Perhaps they were reluctant to let the SoCal heat wave go to waste. Or, perhaps, this is just another typical Wednesday evening in Orange County.
- Nicole Feenstra