San Clemente . California

I visited friends and family in Orange County, and hit the surf town of San Clemente. In four years of living in L.A. from 1996 – 2000 I never checked out any of these hip little towns off the 5 freeway.

My loss, as stepping into San Clemente is like being transported back to the 60s. The style of architecture hasn’t changed much, and unlike other beach towns I didn’t see any “tear downs”, which are small bungalows demolished to make room for huge narrow homes on small lots. Instead most homes on the hills are small, well proportioned slant frames with big glass fronts, along the sunsets to pour right in.

Another nostalgic feature are these 1970s style malls. There’s still one downtown in Grandville, Michigan where I grew up. Rather than the immense sea of parking spaces and standard connected beige boxes of various shapes (containing Petco’s, Dress Barns, and Radio Shacks), these small malls usually have one parking lane with angled spaces on each side. Note the V shaped supports holding up the flat overhangs.

It’s where Carol Brady probably shopped. Oh wait Alice did the shopping. No one really knows what Carol Brady did all day.

Amtrak’s California Surfliner is a great way to forget traffic and see the coast up close. From L.A. it runs south through Orange County. The Surfliner stops right on the beach in San Clemente, before continuing to San Deigo.

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