Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Crystal Cove Christmas

Crystal Cove is a beach area not far from our house. I remember my parents driving me by it so many times when I was a child; somewhat forbidding; sort of hippy, rather ramshackle, yet always beckoning, with many cottages just visible from the road.

Many of the cottages were used as weekend homes. In the 50's, the crowd that lived there raised the "martini flag" every Saturday at 5pm, to the bugle call of Reveille, the start of weekend cocktail hour; the flag itself is a white martini glass on a black background~

The beach was named in the 20's, for its crystal clear waters. It is indeed a lovely beach; it was a favorite spot of the Irvine Family, who owned the property as part of their Irvine Ranch and let friends and employees build cottages and lean-to structures on the beach and bluffs~

The early movie industry also loved the exotic-looking locale, and shot various films there; the residents kept the thatched roof on the cottages for many years to resemble Tahiti or Hawaii for movie shoots~
The stretch of beach is 3 miles between El Moro and Corona del Mar, and it is dotted then as today with cottages on the bluffs at the little creek that drains from the canyon~
In 1979, three thousand acres of land including the cottage encampment were purchased by the California State Parks from the Irvine family. Today, the area is known as Crystal Cove State Park; it has been about 5 years now since the park first opened, and it's a favorite place to walk, if we go beyond Laguna. Here is the canyon view as we go down to the beach~
Today we went to Crystal Cove for the Christmas tree lighting. On the way to the beach, you pass wonderful reminders of years gone by, like this 1951 Nash Rambler, decked out for the season~
and here, a Woodie-style early SUV, I suppose, it looks tremendously solid! Next to this, free cookies and hot chocolate and cider courtesy of the Beachcomber restaurant there on the sand a few feet away~
While the rest of the country may be freezing, here we have Frosty set among the Yucca trees and agave; this is "winter" to California~
the signature color of the colony is turquoise, here with an XL wreath~
and when you come to the sand, a simple yet lovely 15ft tree, right on the edge of the water!!
The tree is in front of the restaurant, which is itself a converted cottage~
Many of the cottages have been renovated and are for rent, such as this one; which had a fantastic 40's era singer with keyboardist on the steps in front, serenading us with bluesy carols~

To one side of the creek, you see the renovated cottages, for rent HERE.
The Hi-De-Ho cottage in the rear here is well known~
To the south side, there are many cottages which are waiting for some tender care; I wish I could roll the clock back and renovate one before the Park took over...
The broad stretch of beach in front of the cottages, here is the view to the north~
today for the tree lighting there were throngs of people, but still it was very manageable...
Santa arrived at 4pm, from the North, of course, in a Parks vehicle with siren and lights; it was fantastic!!!
A big wave and many people following, I love to see Santa arrive this way!
He hopped out of his "sleigh" and got right to work...
...seated in his big chair and greeting the kiddies~
as the day grew short, we watched the sky change....
we left the pups at home, though the dogs that were there got plenty busy, digging holes in the sand; funny!
As the day drew to a close, the sunlight played with the water and clouds and the sunset was classic SoCal winter~
the cottages that are waiting to be renovated are closed off, but you can imagine their previous life and what enjoyment they gave~
in the 20's there was a shipwreck of a lumber shipment off the coast; it is said that many of the cottages were used with the lumber that washed ashore...
most of the cottages are built with "found" or reclaimed materials and since the 30's no expansion of footprint was allowed per the Irvine family, so these are very "original" and designated historical.
Would these have been too fun, for weekend homes in the 50' 60's and 70's? There is little insulation, so not great for winter, but the ensemble is very very charming even today~
The pelicans skim the water at dusk...
while the picket fences and crumbling cottages sit by.
The bluff at the south end of the beach is well-known. Santa's vehicle is at center here.
And at 5pm, the tree was lit. Perfect, simple, appropriate.
On the way to the car, we stopped to see the lights on the Rambler we had passed a few hours before. No better way to get us all in the Christmas Spirit.
Wishing you a classic Christmas! Many more posts this week for French Basketeer & Metis~


  1. Oh this post is just full of sparkling holiday spirit. Fingers crossed that when I call in Jan. a room will be available for the Gunn's.

  2. I am going to ask Santa for a Nash Rambler!

  3. Andrea, What a fun place to visit. At one time I commuted from Atlanta to California almost weekly for my job. I spent a lot of time in Laguna and I remember reading about Crystal Cove. Seeing this I wish I had visited.

  4. Andrea all of my years living in So California and I was never aware of this wonderful spot!


    Art by Karena

  5. What a beautifully written post! I enjoyed learning more about that part of the country and seeing all of the fabulous photos! Happy holidays to you and your family! ♥

  6. We had a Nash Rambler when I was little...wonderful photos! xxoo :)

  7. We were there too and actually stayed at the Hi De Ho over the weekend. Thanks for your great post detailing this special place and event.