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Montage Laguna Beach

Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Fred Thompson, March/April 2009

Described in architectural terms, the Montage Laguna Beach resort and spa is an expression of the Arts and Crafts style, set in the California epicenter of that movement, the very artsy Laguna Beach. But viewed from its grand cottage exterior to its elegantly understated interiors, its plein air landscapes and, of course, its 30-acre site on a bluff above the Pacific, Montage is, most of all, an expression of pure California posh.

While Montage Laguna Beach, the first of the Montage properties to be developed, just turned six years old in February, it feels comfortingly older, like a place that's been in the family for generations. Its classic lines are more suggestive of a residence than a resort, and its public spaces are intimate, even homey. And it's certainly plush. A standard room is 500 square feet, a standard suite is a thousand and the Presidential suite is 2,800. Each room is decorated in muted tones of either yellow or green. Irish cotton towels, 400-thread-count linens, goose down pillows and comfy furniture provide the cushiness. The rooms with balconies facing the Pacific display watercolor views of Catalina Island and, on really clear days, Dana Point and San Clemente Island. The sunsets can be worth the price of admission ($695 and up) and the breezes invite a continual open-door policy.

The 250-room hotel (it never quite seems that big) has a 20,000-square-foot health and pampering facility known as Spa Montage. The spa offers a large menu of massage and therapeutic indulgences, including its Surrender program in which a guest and a therapist (team of them) create a series of therapies and activities to enhance body and mind. Mustard and eucalyptus hydrotherapy, anyone? How about a clay body sculpting treatment with mineral enriched mud? The Spa, located above the ocean, offers a lap pool and a cold plunge. There are separate clubby locker rooms for men and women with saunas and steambaths, and fireplaces to cozy up to with a glass of some decadently healthy juice concoction.

Montage has four dining options from casual to elegant, with Studio, formerly under the direction of executive chef James Boyce, at the top of the food chain. The menu, often changing, features as many local products as can be obtained. The restaurant champions local farmers and artisanal food producers, but is not averse to importing top-quality products such as John Dory fish, served with fennel and Cipollini onions. A recent white truffle menu met with great success. If you can tear yourself away from Montage, the village of Laguna Beach lives up to its worldwide reputation as an arts and crafts colony with dozens of purveyors. Or you could walk down the steps to the beach in front of the resort for a barefoot stroll or invigorating swim. The beach affords a splendid isolation and the chance for a chat with a local out walking the dog. It will make you feel at home. It's the sort of thing that Montage does to you.

Visit montagelagunabeach.com.

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