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The Golden State

To prove that vacationing in the States can be as much fun as taking off for foreign lands we chose California--a viable Holiday destination for every season--as the subject of this issue. The vastness of the Golden State made covering all of it on one jaunt overwhelming. We, therefore, opted to highlight a few of the southern parts. California here we come!

Marina del Rey

Old Town San Diego (credit: Edwin Fancher)

Visitors planning to tour the lower reaches of the state and who arrive by plane usually land in San Diego or Los Angeles. Remarkably, San Diego's terminal is situated in the very attractive center of the city and close to major hotels. Those who disembark in Los Angeles face a string of airport accommodations–many of the well-known chains have lodgings here– that somewhat resemble an industrial complex. To immediately experience the region at its lushest and sunniest, take a 20-minute drive to neighboring Marina del Rey. Even after a long and late-arriving flight, it's worth the trip for it's near enough to the airport to get there quickly and start your vacation with a snap.

If you're staying at the Ritz-Carlton, the town's premier hotel, transportation is complimentary. From the outside it looks like a condominium and easily blends in with the mostly nondescript buildings on Admiralty Way. But inside the Ritz-Carlton has the spirit of a private English club. Antique-filled public rooms are high-ceilinged, furnished with dark woods polished to a mirror finish and display a museum-quality collection of European and American art produced in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s. Oddly this London look—the lobby has several separate sitting areas–is not out of place as the anchor of the world's largest man-made marina, just steps from the Pacific Ocean. Every room has a balcony facing the marina and/or ocean.

Although there are many restaurants and clubs within the marina, we chose the hotel's own Terrace Bistro for both indoor and outdoor dining and were not disappointed. At breakfast, a portion of excellent Nova Scotia salmon was so generous it could have topped a dozen bagels. Even the most revved up early morning jogger would be satisfied by the bountiful buffet. Lunch and dinner featured some overlapping items, all of which were fresh and filling. Prawns prepared in a variety of ways with several different garnishes were a menu standout. Prices are very reasonable.

Sports with a marine theme are a big draw in Marina del Rey. Deep-sea fishing, whale watching cruises or sailing excursions leave from the Ritz-Carlton's private pier. Guests can also play volleyball at the beach and windsurf. The Promenade along the dockside of the hotel is part of a 21-mile coastal path from Malibu to Manhattan Beach an d is ideal for walking, jogging and roller blading. Or you can rent a bike, pack a picnic and peddle the route. Venice, an enclave of funky street artists; Santa Monica, a hip shopping spot; and Fisherma n's Village, home of New England-style cobblestone paths; are all doable on wheels.

Marina del Rey (credit: Edwin Fancher)

Attractions For brochures contact Marina del Rey Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Convention Bureau, 411 Via Marina, P. O. Box 441, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. Tel. 800-919-0555, 310-821-0555, fax 310-823-0461.

For information on the Greater Los Angeles area call at the Visitor Information Centers, 685 S. Figueroa Street or 6541 Hollywood Boulevard. Tel. 213-689-8822 for directions.

To receive a Visitors Guide packet including a complete guide book, coupons and six area pocket guides telephone 1-800-CATCH LA. There is a charge for shipping and handling. Where To Stay The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey, 4375 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. Tel. 800-241-3333, 310-823-1700, fax 310-305-0019. Rates start at $219 including parking and breakfast. www.ritzcarlton.com

Santa Barbara and Channel Island Harbor

Since it was built nearly 60 years ago, the Pacific Coast Highway (1) has summed up, scenically that is, what California dreaming and cruising are all about. From Marina del Ray head north along Route 1 to Santa Barbara, our next stopover suggestion. Veering northwest about as close to the Pacific as it can get, the road carves the di vide between ocean and seashore on the left and cliffs and greenery on the right. Ever-changing vistas of one beach community blending into another provide a backdrop to enjoy sights never seen from most freeways.

Channel Island Harbor

A pleasant diversion along the way might be a sojourn at Channel Island Harbor in Oxnard. Attractions Ventura County Maritime Museum, sport fishing charter fleets, a water taxi, scuba diving, restaurants, shopping, parks, beaches, bicycle and surrey rental, a lighthouse and a Sunday Farmer's Market.

For more information contact Channel Islands Harbor Visitor Center, 3810 West Channel Island Boulevard, Suite G, Oxnard, CA 93035. Tel. 805-985-4852, fax 805-985-7952.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, known as the American Riviera, shares with its European counterpart a setting bordered by lofty mountains (the Santa Ynez range) and a sweeping shoreline overlooking nearby islands. Both are uniquely positioned facing south for Santa Barbara sits on the only stretch of coastline running east to west between Alaska and Cape Horn. Although architecturally the town has elements that are found near the Mediterranean, its style is singular. It is a mixture of Spanish, Provincial, Moorish, Islamic, Victorian, early Californian, Mexican, Mission and Colonial design.

Tucked away on 10 acres of hillside, El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas is as eclectic as the city that it overlooks. First built in 1915, it is gradually being restored to its early California Craftsman Cottage and Spanish Colonial origins. Cottages and villas cluster around a main house, a charmer right out of a 1930s movie.

El Encanto, Santa Barbara (credit: Edwin Fancher)

The grounds here are the draw. Lushly planted, one would need a botanist for a guide in order to identify every species. A lily pond surrounded by a wisteria-covered arbor is one of the most enchanted (which is what encanto means in Spanish) hideaways on the 10-acre grounds. Winding paths connect the cottages and a map is needed to find your lodging. Indeed, you are given one upon arrival.

"Please excuse our dust. Improvements are being made," reads a sign. And if you are in a renovated accommodation–22 separate structures house 84 individual rooms or suites in a range of categories –you will find that your furnishings are quite spiffy. When reserving ask for something that's been done over as it will be flawless. Details from the old days such as fireplaces, tiles and wide wooden floors have been retained. Our room, one that has yet to be spruced up, might best be described as "retro chic," somewhat like a summer house. Outfitted with pieces that are comfortable, they could have been inherited or acquired from an estate sale, auction or country antique shop. The private patio was very welcome. Although there's no air- conditioning–fans are provided–the villas are cool even in warm weather.

El Encanto's kitchen is overseen by award-winning (Best Meal in Santa Barbara, 1994 and 1995) chef, Belgian-born Vincent Vanhecke. Dinner on the terrace combines a romantic setting–guests look down on the city and the ocean–and stellar food. This being California nearly half of the dishes on the large and innovative menu were designed for the health-conscious. But reducing the salt and fat did not diminish the flavor and the goat cheese in filo, soft-shell crabs, bouillabaisse and fish en papilotte were all very special. Breakfasts were delicious, too, with the usual offerings made more tempting because they included hefty helpings of the Golden State's luscious fruits.

The weekend champagne brunch at the famous San Ysidro Ranch is another highly recommended dining experience. Although this celebrated hostelry is pricey, the Saturday and Sunday midday meal was a best buy. The stucco-walled Stonehouse Restaurant is much like an updated hacienda. The ranch sampling of appetizers—tuna spring roll, tenderloin, wild rice, shrimp salad and asparagus with blue cheese— was practically a meal in itself. There were several choices for entrees including well-prepared roasted tuna and a whole lobster with tamale. Maple pecan bread pudding and lemon cake desserts were good, too. Service was notable. We asked for so many refills of iced passion fruit tea that the waiter gave us a large package of it to take home.

A congenial staff member showed us some of the impressive rooms. As we toured the property Cynthia Woo, director of catering, was overheard in true California style asking a guest, "Are you here for the wedding? We have some suntan lotion for you."

For a city as small as Santa Barbara (90,000 population) there is much happening. To soak up the Spanish flavor take the "red tile tour" in the downtown area. The directions for this walk, as well as those for a scenic drive to 15 points of interest, are available at the Visitor Center. A few of the highlights of both include El Paseo, a Spanish style shopping plaza; the Mission; Stearn's Wharf, the oldest working pier on the West Coast; the Sunday Arts and Crafts Show near the beach; the Botanical Gardens; and the Zoological Gardens. The Chamber of Commerce also provides an outline of four do-it-yourself all-day trips: shopping, flora and fauna, outdoor adventure and history. The Santa Barbara Trolley Company runs a hop on and off route between 15 cultural and tourist sites.

Santa Ynez Valley is the state's second most important wine region with 30 wineries that host tastings for visitors.

The little-known, 37-acre Lotusland is one of the area's horticultural treasures. Except among garden afficionados and landscape designers, its existence is virtually a secret. Because it is in a residential neighborhood, only 9,000 visitors a year are permitted. Reservations must be made many months in advance. Those who have visited the estate can confirm that it is well worth the wait.

Attractions For reservations for Lotusland write to Tour Reservations, Ganna Walska Lotusland, 695 Ashley Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108 or telephone 805-969-9990.

Visitor Center, One Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Tel. 805-965-3021.

Santa Barbara Trolley Company, PO Box 22316, Santa Barbara, CA 93121. Tel. 805-9 65-0353.

For an 80-page destination guide contact the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau, 12 E. Carrillo Street, Santa Barbara 93101. Tel. 800-927-4688, 805-966-9222, fax 805-466-1728. Where To Stay El Encanto Hotel and Garden Villas, 1900 Lasuen Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93103. Tel. 800-346-7039, 805-687-5000, fax 805-687-3903. Room rates start at $140. Dinner is moderately expensive. www.elencantohotel.com

Where To Dine San Ysidro Ranch, 900 San Ysidro Lane, Santa Barbara CA 93108, tel. 800-368-6788, 805-969-5046, fax 805-565-1995, is a member of Relais & Chateaux. Prices vary. www.sanysidroranch.com

Palm Springs

For a shift in topography drive from the Santa Ynez Valley to Riverside County. Eight desert resort communities line up in the Coachella Valley at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. Palm Springs may be the one with the most cachet. Adding to that image is the resort's newest hostelry, Givenchy Hotel & Spa. Anyone who has visited the Givenchy Spa and the Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles, France will have a sense of déjà vu—the white columned facade, the immaculate and spacious spa pavilion, formal French gardens and interiors that are in keeping with the legendary couturier's high standards.

The spa program is very flexible just as it is at the affiliate outside Paris. You can sign up for a variety of eight packages, ranging from one to seven days, purchase a few individual treatments or none at all. Guests who come for weight loss, as well as beauty treatments and exercise, can eat the Cuisine Lègêre in the Cafe or request meals prepared according to their dietary requirements in the main dining room.

The hotel's Le Restaurant is sure to become a magnet for fine dining in Palm Springs. Chef Jean-Pierre Lemanissier's forte is interpreting the dishes of Gérard Vié who presides over the kitchen at the original Givenchy Spa. Dinner was inspirational. Service was attentive, albeit leisurely, the only way to eat French food in the desert. At Le Restaurant you make an evening of it. Warm duck confit salad, white asparagus and morels; loin of ostrich, dried fruit strudel served with a terrine of polenta and vegetables; and roasted quail with date risotto was as good as any French cuisine found outside that country.

Dinner in town at Elan Brasserie was not satisfying. The French Provençal cuisine was overpriced and of poor value. A sprightly Mediterranean salad was tasty and big enough for two, but it was downhill after the opener. Veal picatta was sinewy and tough and the sauce on the tasteless shrimps and penne was too thick and lacked seasoning. The white and deep blue decor is pleasant and a cheerful accordion player added a nice touch. Perhaps the Wednesday night Moroccan barbecue ($11.95) featuring a belly dancer may be a preferable alternative.

The host, Mr. Salmea, and his neighbors all use misting machines to cool the fronts of their restaurants and shops, making it possible to stroll on Canyon Drive, the main street, even when the temperature is high.

The buffet lunch at the Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, one of the other desert communities, is very reasonable at $10.95. Served in the casual Bella Vista Room, diners can select from a variety of salads, fruits, cheeses, salsas, breads and sweets as well as soups and several lovely entrees. The 360-acre property with its many southwestern-looking pavilions features two championship golf courses, three pools and a myriad of other facilities. Don't just eat and drive off. Take time to wander around this very posh resort.

The Living Desert, Palm Desert (credit: Edwin Fancher)

The Living Desert, a wild life and botanical park, is dedicated to preserving nature in the desert and has an astonishing collection of extremely rare and seldom seen plant and animal life. A rtists from Disney Studios used the meerkats at The Living Desert to create the character, Timon, in "The Lion King." The animators visited the park to observe the animals' behavior and to sketch them. Take the Desert Explorer, a 50-minute narrated interpretive tour on a shaded electric car, or walk the trails on your own.

The Aerial Tramway, a thrilling and scenic 14-minute ride up and down Mt. San Jacinto, has a vertical ascent of approximately 5,900 feet. Immediately behind the mountain station is the 13,000-acre Wilderness State Park with 54 miles of hiking trails, five campgrounds, ranger station and Nordic ski center, which is open when snow conditions permit. A summer outing is particularly inviting since it's at least 30 degrees cooler up top, providing a respite from what sometimes turn out to be very hot days in the desert Attractions The Living Desert, 47-900 Portola Avenue, Palm Desert, CA 92260. Tel. 619-346-5694.

Aerial Tramway, Tramway Road off SR 111, 619-325-1391. The Ride `n' Dine Special, available after 4 p.m. is reasonable and features chicken or ribs and a wide selection of salads. The food looked edible.

For more information contact the Palm Spring s Convention & Visitors Bureau, 69-930 Highway 111, Suite 201, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Tel. 800-41 RELAX, 619-770-9001, fax 619-770-900 Where To Stay Givenchy Hotel & Spa, 4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264. Tel. 800-276-5000, 619-770-5000, fax 619-324-7280. Rates start at $300. Dinner is expensive. www.ratesandavailability.com/10207196.htm

Where To Dine Elan Brasserie, 415 North Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA. Tel. 619-323-5554. Moderate.

The Westin Mission Hills Resort, Dinah Shore and Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. Tel. 619-328-5955. Prices vary. www.starwood.com/westin/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=1008&ratePlanName=WYPRST


Follow up the stay in the desert with a drive in a southwesterly direction through the mountains and forests, a terrain that is partly desolate, barren and gorgeous to another magical location, Coronado, "San Diego's enchanted island." Just across the bay from San Diego, Coronado, which is not really an island, but a peninsula, looks like a picture book seaside town, replete with grand old mansions, white sand beaches and a colorful history dating back to 1886.

Most of that rich chronicle involves the Hotel del Coronado, a commanding pink Victorian structure with cupolas, terraces, pennants and a red shingled roof, which catches your eye as you cross the bridge from the mainland. Completed in 1888, it remains one of the world's most illustrious wooden buildings. Publisher Rand-McNally credits "The Del" as enjoying "more fame and historical significance than perhaps any hotel in North America." During the 1996 Republican National Convention the entire New York State delegation and press corps booked "The Del" and filled the media with on-premises stories about intrigue, feuds, deals and even a romance (New York's junior senator and an attendee). A perfectly preserved National Historic Landmark, it stretches across 33-oceanfront acres and is the largest beach resort on the North American Pacific coast.

Hotel del Coronado (credit: Edwin Fancher)

Elisha Babcock, one of the original partners in the construction, asked the architects for an American castle and they fulfilled his dream. To preview the hotel you might watch "Some Like It Hot," which was filmed there.

To best enjoy the setting and the hotel's dreamy look-back-in-time ambiance, reserve a room with a balcony facing the very wide beach and the ocean. Opt for a stay in the main and oldest building rather than the blander Ocean Towers and Poolside additions, which went up two decades ago. Although the furnishings, from the bentwood accent pieces to the signature lime and white color scheme, are dated, they are neither quaint nor shabby. An ongoing renovation keeps the building up-to-snuff.

At its opening the hotel's Crown Room restaurant boasted America's largest unsupported dome ceiling held together solely by wooden pegs. The fixtures in the oval-shaped room are fashioned like crowns. But it is "The Del's" extravagant balconied lobby, looking like an elaborate parlor built with redwood oak and sugar pine that receives the most attention. Tours frequently walk through the double-height room with its dazzling chandelier.

The Prince of Wales Grill was recently renovated to a contemporary style, giving it a different appearance than the rest of the property. For example, light wood salt and pepper shakers that look like telephones are part of a set of specially designed sleek table accessories. But it is the food that shines. Some very well conceived dishes included stuffed roast quail, prawns as large as lobster tails and pan-seared striped bass.

Another praise-worthy Coronado restaurant is Azzura Point at Loews Coronado Bay. Built in a semicircle, the windows face San Diego and afford spectacular views. Decor is informal with wicker chairs and planked tables painted white. The climate provides the chef with the fortunate opportunity to raise his own herbs, which does wonders for the food. A lagniappe of abalone was splendid as were several other fish dishes.

The one and one- half hour Coronado Walking Tour leaving from the Glorietta Bay Inn on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday is leisurely and informative. You learn details of how Coronado was founded and about the personalities that had a hand in its legends.

The easiest and most agreeable way to see San Diego is to use the Old Town Trolley, making nine stops at the city's most important sites like Balboa Park, the zoo, Horton Plaza and so forth. Board and reboard at will. If you disembark at the Seaport Village and walk from there to the marina, you can cover most of the harbor. An attractive spot to stop for lunch is Old Town. Built like a colorful Mexican village square, it houses many restaurants and shops. The Bazaar del Mundo, a complex of eaterie s and boutiques, is the frequent site of mariachi music and Hispanic dancers. Casa de Bandini, one of the oldest adobe homes in the vicinity, serves reasonably priced and tasty Mexican food.

If you're up for some pampering before saying "good-bye" to Coronado, try the Clarins Institut de Beauté at the spa in the Meridian Hotel. A variety of treatments and packages are featured.


Coronado Touring, 1110 Isabella Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118. Te l. 619-435-5892, 619-435-5993.

Old Town Trolley Tour, Historic Tours of America. Tel. 00-868-7482, 619-298-8687. Clarins Institut de Beauté, Le Meridian San Diego at Coronado, 2000 Second Street, Coronado, CA 92118. Tel. 619-43 5-3000 ext. 6270.

Where To Stay Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118. Tel. 800-HOTELDEL, 619-435-6611, fax 610-522-8262. Rates start at $179. Dinner in the Prince of Wales is expensive. W here To Dine Azzura Point, Loews Coronado Bay Resort, 4000 Coronado Bay Road, Coronado, CA 92218. Tel. 619-424-4000. Expensive. Casa de Bandini, next to Bazaar del Mundo, Old Town, San Diego State Historic Park. Tel. 619-297-8211. Inexpensive.

For more information about Coronado contact the Coronado Visitors Bureau, 1111 Orange Avenue, Suite A, Coronado, CA 92118. Tel. 800-622-8300, 619-437-8788, fax 619-437-6006.

Newport Beach, La Jolla and Catalina Island

La Jolla

From Coronado it's just a short hop to Newport Beach, but don't go all the way without pausing in La Jolla, a pretty little place where the shopping street and the coastline are separated by a very narrow strip of land. If you enter La Valencia, fronting on Prospect Avenue, a commerical thoroughfare, and walk to the back of the hotel, you will almost have reached the water. And if it's midday the hotel's tree-shaded, garden-like Tropical Patio is an inviting choice for lunch.

Attractions For information about La Jolla contact the La Jolla Town Council, P. O. Box 1101, 1055 Wall Street, Suite 110, La Jolla, CA 92038. Tel. 619-454-1444. Where To Stay La Valencia Hotel, 1132 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037. Tel. 800 451-0772, 619-454-0 771, fax 619-456-3921. www.lavalencia.com

Newport Beach

Although Newport Beach in Orange County is called the "colorful coast," it's also home to a burgeoning group of corporate headquarters. The emergence of a business community, which is conveniently centered in one enclave, does not detract from the traditional appeal of the town. Executives who fly in for meetings frequently bed down for a few extra days to enjoy sun, sand and water. The Sutton Place, the largest hotel near the John Wayne Orange County airport, hub to 11 commercial airlines, is five minutes away. The hotel's proximity to offices and transportation makes it a favorite for those who are here primarily to work. But on the weekends in chameleon-like fashion the guest list is transformed with families and vacationers taking up most of the chairs around the pool, the stationary bikes in the fitness club and the reservations on the tennis courts.

To most enjoy The Sutton Place stay on the executive panache club level. Rooms are larger, filled with tasteful contemporary furniture and have reasonably-sized terraces. The facade and public areas were attractively redone during the last make-over. A staff that is eager to help gives this hotel an extra spin.

If you're in the mood for beauty therapy or fitness, The Spa at South Coast Plaza is the just the ticket. With its cheerfully designed treatment rooms, gyms and pool, it's more like a sleep-over spa than a day center. Massages here are highly touted. Conversation in the jacuzzi centered around raves for the masseurs and masseuses. There wasn't an unpopular one among them.

Quiet Balboa Island faces Newport Harbor and can be accessed by way of the Marina Avenue Bridge or by the historic ferry, which departs throughout the day from the peninsula, carrying three cars and 30 passengers. The island is best explored on foot. Wander down the north bayfront walkway for a view of the boat basin. Stroll the main street, Marine Avenue, to enjoy the shops and cafes and walk on the narrow side streets for a look at the New England-type cottages, of which there are 1500.

Fun Zone, Newport Beach (credit: Edwin Fancher)

Every seaside community with class also has some kitsch. In Newport Beach it is to be found on Balboa Peninsula in the Fun Zone, site of a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, arcades and the dock from which the The Fun Zone Boat Company cruises depart. Along with the boat ride, entertainment includes a spiel on who lives where. Mansions priced at many millions sit so close to the shore that their owners might easily hear their names and the estimated value of their homes announced over the public address system.

Built in 1905, the Balboa Pavilion on the peninsula is a landmark that was used as a Victorian bathhouse and an electric car terminal. Today it is the point of departure for Catalina Passenger Service, offering whale watching excursions and trips to Santa Catalina Island aboard the Catalina Flyer, a catamaran. The unspoiled island, 26 miles offshore and the largest of the Channel group, is a favorite destination for day-trippers.

Avalon, the harbor community that could be mistaken for Jessica Fletcher's Cabot Cove in "Murder She Wrote" and the center of the island, is one-square mile, making it possible to walk about the entire hamlet. You can venture further out by renting a golf cart or taking the inland motor tour or skyline drive with Discovery Tours. They also arrrange undersea and glass bottom boat trips Like many vacation locales Newport Beach is crowded with choice restaurants. The backdrop at John Dominis, a seafood eatery overlooking the harbor and marina, is Hawaiian with water tumbling over walls built of rocks. Ask for a table near the windows so that you can watch the boats and the action in the bay. The food was accented by the flavors of the island. Portions are gargantuan; even shares are hard to finish. The many novelties that the kitchen sends out began with an unusual peanut bread. Halibut encased with thin browned potato slices, which sealed in the juices, was paired with grilled vegetables and napped with pesto, balsamic reduction and beurre blanc, ingredients that blend well. If you've never eaten the seldom served fish, onaga or opakapaga, try them here.

The adobe-style brightly colored Chimayo Grill in Fashion Island is as much in tune with "anything goes California" as it would be in the Southwest. The strong flavors, the surfeit of grilled foods and the unexpected combinations appeal to appetites weaned in the Golden State. For starters soups, spicy black bean and polenta-like corn, each filling one-half of the bowl, were a contrast in colors and textures. A Caesar salad, whose Romaine lettuce leaves were given a brief turn on mesquite, had a wonderfully smoky taste. Chili-blackened rare and thick ahi tuna was accompanied by another surprise, a crisp risotto cake with corn as an ingredient. Salmon grilled in a corn husk and topped with poblano pesto was teamed with a twist on a culinary standard, mashed potatoes made with red bliss spuds. The tequila-raisin and the pumpkin ice creams that were created just for Chimayo are not to be missed.

When you finish dining you might like to browse in Fashion Island, an upscale mall, whose architecture is better than most and whose stores are on a par with one of its anchors, Neiman Marcus.

The recipes at Five Crowns could have come straight from Betty Crocker's cookbook. Typical American fare was prepared with quality ingredients, fastidiously seasoned (Lawry 's Seasonings owns the establishment) and presented with flair by a wait staff dressed to match the English Tudor inn surroundings. Salads were fresh, steaks were well-aged and the rotisserie roast chicken was just about as moist and succulent as can be. When you've had too many dinners out the simple, home-style food at Five Crowns is a welcome change. Attractions The Spa at South Coast Plaza, 695 Town Center Drive, Suite 180, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Tel. 714-850-0050, fax 714-8 50-0825. Fun Zone Boat Company, 700 East Edgewater, Balbao CA 92661. Tel. 714-673-0240.

Catalina Passenger Service, Balbao Pavilion. Tel. 714-673-5245.

Catalina Chamber of Commerce, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, CA. T el. 30-510-1520. Discovery Tours. Tel. 800-343-44911. For more information about Newport Beach contact the Newport Beach Conference and Visitors Bureau, 3300 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA. 92663. Tel. 800-94-COAST, 714-722-1611, fax 714-722-1612. Where To Stay Sutton Place Hotel, 4500 MacArthur Boulevard, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Tel. 800-810-6888, 714-476-2001, fax 714-476-0153. Rates start at $110 with breakfast. www.suttonplace.com Where To Dine John Dominis, 2901 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, CA 92663. Tel. 714-650-5112, fax 714-650-2059.

Chimayo Grill, Fashion Island, 327 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Tel. 714-640-2700. www.culinaryadventures.com/Pages/ChimGrill.html

Five Crowns , 3801 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625. Tel. 714-760-0331. www.lawrysonline.com/fivecrowns

Sources for More Information

The California Division of Tourism publishes an annual "California Visitor's Guide." Organized by county as well as by special interests it is relatively easy to use. Major attractions are highlighted and the addresses and telephone numbers of all other attractions are included. The California Fun Spots card at the beginning of the book is good for several special promotions. Travel inquiries should be made at the California Division of Tourism, 801 K Street, Suite 1600, Sacramento, CA 95814. Tel. 916-322-2881, 800-862-2543, fax 916-322-3402. Travel information is also available on the Internet at http://gocalif.ca.gov

Thomas Bros. Maps' wire bound 8 x10-inch 300-page California Road Atlas and Driver's Guide was not as handy as we had hoped. The areas that were covered in every grid, albeit extensively, were small, making page turning frequent and frustrating. The company has a virtual monopoly on the sale of California atlases, but for those of us who are still in the Stone Age of map reading, nothing beats those old foldouts from AAA.

Maps may be purchased at company headquarters, Thomas Bros. Maps, 17731 Cowan, Irvine, CA 92714. Tel. 714-863-1984, fax 714-757-1564 or at their retail store 521 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles., CA. For additional information or the nearest Thomas Bros. Maps' dealer call 800-899-MAPS. www.thomas.com

Winter 1996-97