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Laguna Beach, Montage, Stephanie Johnson copy

Hey there – it’s Sarah, Stephanie’s P.R. girl and the editor of this blog, popping in for a guest post!

One of my best buddies calls Laguna Beach home so on a recent July weekend, I opted to beat the 100 degree heat of the San Fernando Valley and head south for the cooler clime of the Southern California coast.  I’ve traveled all up and down the state of California in the 13 years I’ve lived here, and I think Laguna has one of the prettiest coastlines I’ve seen with steep cliffs down to the sea, robin’s egg blue skies, turquoise sparkling water, lush vegetation and pristine beaches.  It’s a popular tourist destination and summer is peak season with art festivals bringing even more people into the coastal town.  Even with packed streets, the sense of tranquil relaxation can’t help but pervade as soon as you hit PCH.  Here are some highlights.

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With seven miles of gorgeous coastline and approximately 20 public beaches, hitting the surf and sand is a must.  To make beach-hopping even easier, the city offers a free trolley/bus service between downtown and South Laguna (ending at the Ritz Carlton) that operates during the summer months.  Choose one of the open air trolleys and enjoy the breeze whipping through your hair as you cruise along Pacific Coast Highway.  Ah, summer.

Walk.  There are no shortage of carefully curated boutiques, art galleries, cafes, and breathtaking vantage points along PCH, not to mention insane people watching.  South Laguna boasts the spectacular Montage Resort, with its gorgeous ocean views and acres upon acres of immaculately landscaped gardens.  The perfect spot for a summer wedding, on any given weekend you can catch a glimpse of a bride and groom posing for photographs along the pretty garden pathways.

Laguna Beach, Trolley Ride, Stephanie Johnson copyGet artsy.  Laguna is an artist’s colony and in addition to the countless art galleries that populate downtown, summer also brings in the Sawdust Art Festival (celebrating local Laguna Beach artists) and the renowned Pageant of the Masters, which brings famous masterworks to life in a live stage show.  Expect both to be crowded, and advance tickets are a must for the popular Pageant of the Masters.

STAY

If you’re going the luxury route, the Montage is a must-stay.  Set on thirty acres of pristine oceanfront property, the stunning grounds and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean are impossible to beat.  Even if you’re not a hotel guest, indulge in the laidback luxury that’s so quintessentially California with an outdoor meal at Mosaic Bar & Grille or an evening cocktail on the patio of the Lobby Lounge.

Situated halfway between the Montage and downtown, Casa Laguna is a romantic boutique hotel with historic Mission architecture and offering personal touches like an evening wine and cheese reception.  With a maximum occupancy of two per room, Casa Laguna is uniquely designed for couples.

If it’s history you’re after, you’ll enjoy Laguna Beach’s oldest hotel, The Hotel Laguna, situated in the heart of downtown along the ‘California Riviera.’

Laguna Beach, Montage, Stephanie Johnson, Laguna Coral Laura Large Trapezoid and Katie Turq Folding Cosmetic copy

EAT

Downtown offers a ton of mouth-watering restaurants and anything with an ocean view will be popular (and crowded).  I like Asada on PCH for upscale Mexican food and a killer tequila bar.  A few doors down from Asada is Nick’s, a trendy bistro with a welcoming atmosphere and lots of delish comfort food options.  Try the fried deviled eggs, a Nick’s original.  No-fuss California cuisine can be sampled at Zinc, while C’est La Vie is a French restaurant and bakery that specializes in delicious crepes.  And I would be remiss without mentioning Taco Loco, a sidewalk taco bar south of downtown with a hippie surfer vibe that stays open late and offers plenty of good, cheap grub.  The vegetarians in the bunch will appreciate the yummy blackened tofu mushroom burger.

SPA

If you’re craving luxury but can’t quite afford the price tag, consider signing up for a yoga class at Spa Montage.  On off peak nights (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays) $40.00 will get you a one-hour yoga session as well as access to their world class spa.  Totally worth it.

Want more Laguna?  Shop the BRAND NEW Stephanie Johnson Laguna collection, available in Coral, Turquoise, Emerald and Brown, and stay tuned for Style Guide:  Laguna Beach, next week on Style Compass!

Laguna Beach, Montage, Laguna Turquoise Pouches, Stephanie Johnson copy

Stephanie-Johnson,-Deer-Val

I’ve been hanging at home this winter catching up on the latest Ina Garten recipes but couldn’t resist a trip out west with friends to ski.  I’m an Aspen girl but jumped at the chance to give Utah a try.  They say Deer Valley is for the pampered set so my expectations were high.  After five days of comparing every last detail to Aspen/Snowmass, I’m pretty sure my traveling companions wanted to throw me off the high speed quad.  Truth is:  it took me about five days to really appreciate what Deer Valley has to offer.

STAY

We rented an amazing townhouse at the base of the mountain.  We shared with friends, cooking most dinners at home with a glass of wine in hand, a fire roaring and children underfoot.  Wearing my pjs and reading by the light of the fire is my ski trip fantasy.

I checked out The Montage, The St. Regis and The Stein Eriksen Lodge.  I would stay at any of these fab resorts.  Ski-in, ski-out, each serves a delicious skiers’ buffet lunch and is nestled into the mountain.  As a rule, Deer Valley is more accessible than Aspen via direct flights into Salt Lake City and therefore makes it a perfect weekend destination.  Despite a great kids ski school and a family friendly reputation, DV felt more like a lovers’ long weekend retreat.  Any of these hotels will do the trick.

EAT

Fireside Dining was worth the hype but the accompanying optional sleigh ride wasn’t.  If it’s a sleigh ride you want, try Sun Valley or Aspen as this short ten minute ride around the parking lot will likely disappoint.  The dining, however, was superb.  Imagine a starter course of raclette cheese melted by an open fire with cornichon, fruit and charcuterie.  Followed by short ribs, trout, lamb and rosti potatoes. The fondue dessert came three ways:  dark chocolate, white chocolate Grand Marnier, and caramel with a buffet of fruit and cakes to dip.

Although the service should have been better at this Four Diamond restaurant, the burger was one of the best I’ve had at the Goldener Hirsch.  A favorite for fondue and a busy evening spot, try a relaxing lunch between runs on Bald Eagle Mountain.  You will feel as if you’ve been transported to an Austrian village no matter what you order.

Stephanie-Johnson,-Deer-Val

Pop into the St. Regis après ski for quite possibly the best hot chocolate bar EVER.  I think the secret is in the whipped cream.  And did I mention it’s free?

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Well, ski, of course!  Deer Valley has the requisite ski valet on mountain and great dining options, but what makes this mountain special is the fact they groom nearly 100% of their terrain nightly.  Die hards will argue that the snow is drier in Utah than Colorado and they may have a point.  Deer Valley also doesn’t allow snow boarders on mountain.

SHOP

No post about DV would be complete without including a little plug for one of our fave SJ retailers, Splendor, located at the Redstone Town Center in Park City.  A cozy apothecary stocking high-end beauty products and boasting a skin bar offering a full menu of treatments, Splendor has been carrying Stephanie Johnson products for years, and is a must-stop if you ever find yourself in Park City!

SPA

All of the above-mentioned Deer Valley luxury resorts have great spa options, so indulge in a massage after a day on the bumps.

Deer Valley had me wanting for Snowmass’ wide slopes, mountain maps on every chairlift, and the temperature display at every chair download.  However missed these small perks were, I still would hop the four hour flight to SLC for a weekend of guaranteed groomed trails and a greater likelihood of snow. After all it’s about the skiing, right?

Stephanie-Johnson,-Deer-Val

stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

I rang in the New Year in Hong Kong, one of my favorite cities.  So culturally different from New York, I know I’m not at home anymore when I arrive at CDG and see the familiar surgical masks that many wear on their face, and I pass through the ‘temperature check’ on route to immigration.  This time I asked my greeter if people wear the masks to prevent disease as I once heard they do not act as a barrier to such.  She confirmed but then surprised me by saying many of the young girls also wear them if they have a pimple outbreak they would rather no one see!  Couple that with all the girls at the mall taking photos of themselves in front of every store window, store ad, logoed wall and random orchid, and I know ‘we are not in Kansas anymore.’

STAY

In order to keep things fresh I decided to stay at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental.  Right out of the gate (literally), they impressed me by having a greeter wait for my arrival on the jetway and efficiently usher me through immigration and baggage claim.  Something else I won’t see back home unless of course I’m Reese Witherspoon.  (Wink, wink as I recently ran into new mom Reese at JFK.)  The service upon arrival was no less exceptional.  The rooms – however well-appointed – felt modest compared to my lofty Upper House experience and left me longing for a view.  After two lovely days I missed my Hong Kong skyline view and dutifully checked into Upper House on the 47th floor.  View?  Check.

stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

SPA

One thing Upper House lacks is a spa.  This is where The Landmark Mandarin Oriental excels.  I fully spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve lounging by the indoor pool and reading the new Tom Wolfe.  New Year’s Day was spent having a reflexology treatment and reading in the most sublime relaxation room I’ve ever seen.  Heated stone recliners and ‘massage’ chairs in the whirlpool round out the experience.  Worth the trip and worth the stay if you don’t miss the view.

EAT

Unfortunately I was plagued with stomach issues for the duration of the stay, making a 3 a.m. visit to the hospital for mild dehydration, so I didn’t get to indulge in one of Hong Kong’s best assets:   its food.  I did venture out for a New Year’s Eve dinner to a local Cantonese restaurant, Island Tang, as it was one of the only spots where I didn’t have to order the price fixe menu.  Despite the very ordinary meal of white rice, I loved the art deco ambience and classic feel with servers in white tie.

Stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

I’ve been dreaming about the breakfast at Cafe Gray at Upper House for the past year.  You can’t beat a homemade ten grain hot cereal with stewed raspberries and a peppermint tea while watching the container tankers and the star ferry cross the harbor from the 49th floor.  Good morning Hong Kong!

Don’t miss Yardbird, a Japanese style Yakitori bar just off the Hollywood Road.  They offer Yakitori from all parts of the chicken so be sure to try the oyster (the juiciest part) and meatball.  The more adventurous among you might like the neck, knee, heart or gizzard.  The cucumber salad is a refreshing delight with miso, pine nuts and sesame.  Homemade salted peanut butter ice cream with orange zest is the only dessert on the menu (um, yes!).  Meet a friend at the bar and enjoy.

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I thought I may spend New Year’s Day at Hong Kong Disneyland but alas, my stomach begged me not to.  Next trip.

stephanie-johnson,-hong-kon

 

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