PART 7 – DANA POINT AND LAGUNA BEACH
One mile to Pacific Coast Highway 1 and the traffic is pretty heavy this morning.
At Dana Point you reach a “Fork in the Road”. Left will take you to Hwy 1 and the beach cities and right will take you to San Juan Capistrano where the swallows don’t return so much anymore, but the Mission is a wonderful place to spend the day.
Dana Point Harbor is said to be one of the most spectacular man-made harbors in the world. Dana Point was named for Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of “Two Years Before The Mast”. He referred to the area as “the only romantic spot on the coast”, I don’t know about that, but it certainly is one of the most visited areas with approximately 2.5 million people visiting the community annually.
You’ll have to judge the merits of Dana Point yourself because in my perspective it’s a coast line that is difficult to get to because of the limited access resulting from the enormous marina and dwellings along the coast.
One also has to wonder if part of the draw of Dana Point is its proximity to Laguna Beach.
Tourism is the primary industry of Laguna Beach with well over 3 million people visiting the community annually. Laguna Beach is more than just a beach, a beautiful shoreline and phenomenal sunsets. It is notably one of the most artistic communities in the United States. In 1920 Laguna Beach was a isolated small town of approximately 300 residents of whom the majority made their living creatively. They were painters, photographers, filmmakers and writers. While it has continued to grow to a population of over 23,000 it has managed to maintain the small town feeling of an art colony.
In the late 60s and early 70s when we would visit Laguna Beach we would be greeted by “The Greeter”. At the corner of Coast Hwy and Foster a shaggy-haired, bearded Danish vagabond waving, grinning and in his booming voice shouted “Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o- How Ar-r-re You?” at passing vehicles. He brought joy into people’s lives, and became a cultural icon. He passed away in 1975 and in the ensuing years others have tried to assume his role. It brought back a wonderful memory when we drove through Laguna Beach this winter and a young man was standing on Eiler Larsen’s corner waving, grinning and shouting out “Hello – How Are You?”
But we came to visit the coast line
There is one event that takes place annually in Laguna Beach that is truly amazing it is the Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters. This 82 year old tradition brings paintings to life. It was conceived by Laguna Beach artists during the depression and put into play the week following the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics hoping that visitors would travel to Laguna Beach before heading home. It was a HIT.
Famous paintings are portrayed on a large stage by local artists and residents. The subjects are so well trained that you will not see a muscle move or an eyelid flicker. Watching the famous paintings come to life is beautiful and truly amazing. An unforgettable experience. For more information on the Pageant of the Masters check out the following links.