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California Weekend Getaway San Clemente
|ALL ABOARD -- Amtrak's
scenic rail route travels right through the heart of the San Clemente Pier
area. Photo by Cary Ordway |
The International Feel of San Clemente
driving south on Interstate 5 to San Diego will know exactly what we mean when
we say there just is no more spectacular ocean view than the one you encounter
while making your way through San Clemente. On a clear, sunny day, and most of
them are, it's hard to keep your eyes on the road as you take in a landscape
that includes San Clemente's neatly terraced, palm tree-studded hills and the
vast blue ocean with its distant horizon.
These very same views no doubt
influenced Richard Nixon in his decision to buy an estate in San Clemente that
would become the Western White House during the early 1970s. The president would
have Air Force One land at El Toro and then take a Marine helicopter to a San
Clemente beach area where he would ride a golf cart the final few yards to his
prized estate, La Casa Pacifica.
Today the estate still is there on a
bluff overlooking one of California's most pristine beaches, but it's really
only possible to get a glimpse of parts of it from the beach below. Just to get
in position to view La Casa Pacifica, it's a mile-and-a-half walk from the
nearest beach access point at San Clemente State Beach. But what a great mile
and a half it is.
The beach, to us, is one of the main attractions of San
Clemente -- it's possible to walk five miles altogether on a beach that is wide,
scenic and, best of all, hardly used. There is no stumbling over other
beach-goers as you search for some solitude among the masses. At this beach,
there is nothing but solitude along great stretches of sparkling sand where you
can plop down anywhere you like, set up your blanket, chairs and cooler and
pretend that you're Robinson Crusoe for at least the afternoon.
course is a good representation of surfers on any given day along this beach;
this is prime territory for those in search of consistent waves. Boogie-boarders
too are drawn to the beach to ride a curling surf that, in some places, offers a
thrill a minute. But most of the people you see here are simply beach-walkers,
enjoying a gentle stroll on wide sand that seems to go on forever.
A few miles north from San
Clemente State Beach is the pier area, a part of San Clemente that attracts
visitors and locals alike. If you're looking for a weekend getaway, this may
well be the spot with its charming village-like atmosphere where you can dine in
sidewalk cafes, visit the local market or walk out on the pier for some great
views of the surfers and the entire coast. A number of lodgings are available in
this area, many with spectacular views of the ocean and pier area.
our favorite things to do is to stop at the pier on our way through San
Clemente. It's just a little over a mile from the freeway and it's a rewarding
mini-getaway just to drop in at Fisherman's Restaurant on the pier and enjoy
fresh fish and a microbrew while basking in the sun and soaking up the seaside
atmosphere. On a recent weekend, the restaurant's considerable outdoor seating
was fully occupied through most of the afternoon, a sign that we're not the only
ones who have discovered this delightful seaside respite.
nighting or day tripping in San Clemente, one of the first things you notice is
the Spanish street names. Not uncommon in California, the San Clemente city
fathers have taken it one step further with a kind of prohibition against any
street name that does not look or sound Spanish. But all of that just adds to
the charm and blends well with the Spanish architecture that is so dominant
along the gently sloping hillsides of San Clemente.
Come to find out, the
Spanish feel of San Clemente is quite intentional and was brought to the city
not by some Spanish conquistador, but rather by the former mayor of Seattle. Ole
Hanson founded the "Spanish Village by the Sea" way back in 1925 with strict
guidelines that called for Spanish colonial architecture with red tile roofs and
white plaster. In other words, Hanson proposed a theme town before theme towns
The town retains a historical flavor and visitors are
encouraged to see remnants of the original "Spanish Village by the Sea." The
former City Hall is now an antique gallery. Casa Romantica was Hanson's own
Spanish compound that he lost in the stock market crash of 1929; it is now owned
by the city. A San Clemente visitor center and museum offers visitors a quick
overview of the attractions they'll find in San Clemente.
that becomes obvious is that there are few streets in San Clemente that are
straight. Because of the hilly and sloping topography, most roads weave through
and around the hills, again adding a special kind of Mediterranean flavor to the
town. It may be a little harder to find your way from Point A to Point B, but
you will enjoy the figuring out how to get there. And of course it's difficult
to get truly lost when the ocean is visible from just about anyplace in
While in San Clemente, you'll want to stroll down Avenida Del Mar,
where you'll find a wide assortment of shops in a lushly landscaped setting.
This is not some famous shopping district with designer stores and celebrities;
rather it's Main Street USA with the kind of shopping you might find in your
hometown -- a varied collection of shops, boutiques, antique stores, galleries
and sidewalk cafes. It's a fun place to spend a little bit of your San Clemente
San Clemente is an ideal day trip for Southern California
residents, but it's also an excellent base of operations for those coming from
farther away. There are close to 20 different lodgings to choose from, ranging
from bed-and-breakfast inns to motor inns to seaside condos. If you base in San
Clemente, you'll find many attractions are located within a short drive from the
city. For example, Dana Point, once the only major harbor between San Diego and
Santa Barbara , is just north of the city.
The same harbor that attracted
those earlier mariners is still very much a port of call, but leaning more
toward pleasure craft with its 2,500 slips that are usually occupied with a wide
selection of expensive yachts and small boats that would make any boat show
proud. The Dana Point Marina, of course, becomes the centerpiece to the area and
the focus of pictures and paintings that are readily available in local gift
The Dana Point Marina is not just a bunch of boats. A whole
village has grown up dockside to offer tourists shopping and places to enjoy
lunch or dinner. Some 25 shops and 20 restaurants are open in Dana Wharf,
Mariners Village and Mariners Alley. But the boats are a big part of its fun --
it's great strolling along the docks, daydreaming about owning one of these
San Juan Capistrano is close by as well and it's easy to
drive from San Clemente to the famous Mission at San Juan Capistrano where you
can tour the picturesque grounds. Just a bit farther up the coast is Laguna,
where you'll find great shopping, a vibrant arts community and Orange County
Nixon did indeed know what he was doing when he set up his Western
White House in San Clemente. It's about as far away from the pressures of
Washington politics as a president can
Clemente has earned a well deserved reputation as the resort
beach town in Orange
County. Long, white sandy strands invite you to take slow sunset
strolls. But beautiful beaches
and 342 days of sunshine a year are only part of the appeal that makes
people want to call San Clemente home.
San Clemente is experiencing a quiet
and long-time residents
alike are taking care to preserve and revitalize the timeless charm that
makes San Clemente such an attractive place to own
California home. You are personally invited to live life at a slower,
more considered pace - which is exactly what Ole
Hanson had in mind when he founded San Clemente in 1925.
Ole wrote, "I envision a place where people
can live together more pleasantly than in any other place in America." San
Clemente still embodies this vision.
The heart of Ole's "Spanish
village by the sea" still beats true, and downtown,
with its antique
galleries and outdoor
cafes, is the cultural soul. Friends and neighbors stop to chat
as they stroll along the palm-lined sidewalks of Avenida
Del Mar. The weekly farmers
market and monthly crafts
fair draw residents and visitors
from all over Orange County and Southern California. Great events
and wonderful people is what San Clemente is all about.
At water's edge, you'll find the crown jewel
of Avenida Del Mar, the San
Clemente Pier. Surrounded by hotels
and outdoor cafes
has lured locals and fishermen
since 1928. It is also the gathering place for some of San Clemente's
best-loved traditions like the annual clam
chowder cook-off and the Ocean
San Clemente's Avenida Del Mar is a dream
come true for antique
lovers, with numerous galleries,
antique and collectibles
shops dotting the street. Gift
boutiques and surf
shops offer enough variety to please even the most discriminating shopper.
The newly remodeled Casa
Romantica is a cultural,
center for the San Clemente community.
Widely acclaimed for its innovative
educational programs, the Capistrano
Unified School District serves the City
of San Clemente. Five of the district schools have been recipients of
the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program and 17 schools in the district
have been designated as California Distinguished Schools.
Residents have access to both public
schools. Among the public schools currently serving our community are
Vista del Mar, serving grades K-8, Clarence Lobo Elementary School, which
provides preschool through grade 5 education, Bernice
Ayer Middle School, serving grades 6 through 8, and San
Clemente High School, which now serves 2,400 students from San
Beach and portions of San
Juan Capistrano. The private schools accessible to residents of San
Clemente include Our Savior's Lutheran School, St.
Michael's Academy and Our
Lady of Fatima School.
Clemente Hospital and Medical
Center has served south Orange County for over 25 years. Focusing on
building a healthier
community and continuing to expand services in response to needs of
residents, the hospital's mission is to provide high quality, personalized
care in a cost effective manner. The hospital
has received the distinction of "Accreditation with Commendation," the
highest level of accreditation a hospital can receive for outstanding
San Clemente is conveniently located off the
I -5 Freeway. Quick and easy access to other Southern California destinations
is also made possible by the nearby San
Joaquin Transportation Corridor (73).
San Clemente residents who commute to Los
Angeles can relax or catch up on work while riding the rails of Metrolink.
Traveling at an average speed of 50 miles per hour, Metrolink's Orange
service runs from Oceanside through Orange County to Los Angeles'
Union Station, and stops at ten train
stations along the way, including San Clemente.
San Clemente is just 30 minutes from John
Wayne Airport in Newport Beach and less than an hour from San
Diego International Airport.