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On the Road in the OC

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LAist was on the road last weekend – to the OC and Laguna Beach. While we didn’t run into Kristin Cavalleri and company, we did manage to have a good time despite the fact that we’re a) not rich; b) not blonde and c) not driving a 7 Series.

Now, here’s a good tip if you want to do a relaxing summer getaway to Laguna: Stay in Irvine. Most of the hotels in Laguna are terribly expensive; they usually won’t let you book for a single night; and the traffic on PCH is a nightmare. We chose the Hyatt in Irvine for the night, located right off the 5, and about a 20-minute drive from Laguna Beach. It wasn’t exactly a super bargain ($129 plus a $12 parking fee and an $11 daily Internet fee), but compared to other Laguna Beach hotels, it was. (Even though the Hyatt's located in the middle of a corporate park setting, we have to give props to the Portico products and the great fitness center.)

For breakfast/lunch recommendations, we asked the Hyatt staff and concierge for local diners or greasy spoons. But we blanched at their IHOP and Mimi’s Café recommendations. Like we don’t have those in LA? So we ended up at South Coast Plaza and had lunch at Lawry’s Carvery, which was a yummy choice.

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For those who know Lawry’s the Prime Rib, think of this restaurant as its fast-food equivalent, with carved turkey, prime rib and roast beef sandwiches, salads and platters. The prime rib was good, a little fatty, but the roast turkey and gruyere sandwich was freakin’ awesome. (Maybe even as good as the turkey sandwich at Breadbar.)

Later in the afternoon, we drove to Laguna Beach to see some art. The Pageant of the Masters/Festival of Arts and Sawdust Festival happen every summer. (The Pageant, if you can get tickets, is a must-see production at least once. Actors, set designers and artists recreate life-sized replicas of famous works of art onstage with real people posing in these living canvases.)

But before checking out any art, we hit the surf and sand. And so did everyone else in the OC, it seemed. The beach was crowded but made for great people watching: checking out the pickup basketball on the courts, the sun-worshippers and swimmers. Hell, we even expected Summer and Seth to stroll by (But not Marissa because she's dead and Ryan's too busy punching someone out.)

The sidewalks of Laguna are just as crowded as PCH, so we only did a little window shopping before heading into the Festival of Arts and dinner at its seasonal restaurant Tivoli Terrace. It was packed, but we had reservations and a $100 gift certificate burning a hole in our pocket (hence, the reason for the Laguna road trip). The restaurant serves decent enough fare (fish, steaks, pork chops, etc.), but the volume is so large, the meal's akin to something served at a wedding reception. The halibut with a dill sauce, while tasty, wasn't as piping hot as we would have liked. Our martinis, though, were ice cold and stiff. Perfect.

After dinner, we walked to the Sawdust Festival up the road to pay $7 each to see more art that we didn't really like. So save your bucks on the art stuff if you're planning to head down to Laguna before the end of summer (the Festival of Arts closes on Sept. 1 and Sawdust on Sept. 3). The people watching on the beach is better - and free.