La Jolla
Grande Colonial Hotel offers European style
If you're tired of the mega-resort  1experience and want to try a classic European-style hotel, the Grande Colonial La Jolla offers the perfect balance of style, amenities and location, with an interesting history thrown in for good measure.

Nothing against those mega-resorts, but sometimes you want a simpler experience. You want to be charmed. You want a certain type of elegance that feels extra special for that getaway with your significant other. You want impeccable service and world-class dining just footsteps from your hotel room or suite.

The Grande Colonial La Jolla does all of that and more, and you realize it the moment you arrive. From the valet service to the pleasant and super-efficient front-desk personnel, staying at the Grande Colonial is like stepping right into a Lincoln commercial with Matthew McConaughey. This place doesn't have just a touch of class -- it's like a fantasy weekend for those who want to really see how the other half lives.

 1It really shouldn't be a surprise when you consider that the Grande Colonial, in fact, is La Jolla's oldest hotel. It's been catering to La Jolla's visitors since 1913, back when there were just 2,000 souls living in this seaside artist colony. Along the way, some of Hollywood's biggest stars have spent time at the hotel. But while some historic hotels are limited by their original design, the Grande Colonial has had numerous multi-million dollar updates and is not only classic, but quite functional.

Our ocean-view room at the Grande Colonial was spacious and comfortable and had views of the ocean as well as La Jolla beach areas. A lounge chair was available for sitting down and diving into that vacation novel, and a small table and chairs proved useful as well. The king bed was delightful and perfect for easy, restful sleep.

Just off the lobby, the Grande Colonial's Nine-Ten restaurant is one of La Jolla's go-to restaurants for elegant dining. It was fun to watch the luxury vehicles pull up as well-dressed diners stepped inside to enjoy the restaurant's fare. The Nine-Ten has a farm-to-table philosophy, featuring the best of the harvest from local artisan farmers. There is inside dining as well as sidewalk dining.

The Grande Colonial's location is right  1in the heart of the La Jolla, with shopping and other incredible restaurants all within a five-minute stroll. We still remember the first time we laid eyes on La Jolla's swaying palms and panoramic seaside views -- to us it seemed like Hawaii without the five-hour flight.

The "Village," as the locals call Girard Avenue and the community surrounding it, is a gourmet blend of those spices that make life so enjoyable—fine dining, world-class shopping, countless outdoor activities, surf, sand, incredible views and, of course, almost-constant sunshine. Nowadays, real estate prices in La Jolla put it out of reach for most people, but it's great to be a tourist in La Jolla. Visitors can pretend they're living the lifestyle for a few days and still go home with money in their pockets.

It all begins with watching the people parade down on Girard Avenue. Plan to have a gourmet sandwich down at one of several cafes and then plop yourself at an outside table to watch young and old, stylish and not-so-stylish visitors to this fascinating town.

You might even see celebrities in this neck of the woods. We came upon Geena Davis and her kids one time, while beautiful people such as Cindy Crawford have actually bought houses in the Village. Barbra Streisand is said to have bought her wedding ring down at Bowers Jewelers. Movie and TV filming are quite common.

Walk down Girard just a little ways and there seems to be plenty of temptation to bring out your credit card. There are specialty stores like Rangoni shoes, art galleries like Cosmopolitan Fine Art and Images of Nature, and then more typical "mall" stores like Banana Republic and the Gap. Side streets have their own offerings, many of them related to health, fitness and well-being — even if you need a little plastic surgery to be well.

Girard is one of two main streets in the Village. The other is Prospect and it, too, has a large quotient of trendy boutiques, art houses and go-there-and-be-cool restaurants. Check out George's for spectacular views of the ocean and award-winning cuisine. Brockton Villa's another one just off Prospect that seems a perennial favorite. A Caesar salad in a sidewalk cafe can be a refreshing and relatively inexpensive pause as the breezes from the shoreline find their way to this part of the shopping district.

Scripps Park is, in fact, just a block down from the main shopping district, and yet is anything but commercial. You might find an ecology tee-shirt stand but mostly it's green lawn and meandering walkways that entice friends, lovers and families to stroll along one of the most picturesque shorelines in all of California. The shoreline is jagged and rocky in places while at the same time offering up just enough beach to lay out your beach towels in some privacy. A 10-minute walk south takes you to the La Jolla Cove and the seals that routinely sun themselves there on the beach.

Skirting the east edge of Scripps Park is a scenic roadway that is often used as a bike route between La Jolla and the more touristy beach town of Pacific Beach. The ride takes you through beautiful neighborhoods—never far away from ocean views—and through the fascinating town of Birdrock. It, too, is artsy and trendy but maybe down a notch in price.

A short drive north is the La Jolla Shores, a one-mile long beach and boardwalk that is ideal for walking, jogging, picnicking or just suntanning on the wide beach. Nearby are the expensive homes of the La Jolla Shores area as well as a few hotels and a tiny shopping district.

Nearby is a marine preserve so it's common to see divers preparing for their scuba sessions out in the deep. If you don't scuba, you'll find other ways to get close to the ocean such as paddling a kayak in an area near what is known as the La Jolla Caves. Or you can actually climb down in the caves by visiting the La Jolla Cave and Shell Shop, where there is a 145-step walkway to the Sunny Jim Cave, the largest of these grottoes.

Another seaside favorite is the Birch Aquarium, a popular place to take families for an up-close look at sea life such as coral reefs, tide pools and even sharks. The Aquarium has a 70,000-gallon tank in which many sea creatures are on display.

If you simply want to drive around the area, the spectacular homes make it worthwhile. One especially rewarding drive is to head up Nautilus Street to the highest elevations in town where the Mt. Soledad Memorial Cross is dedicated to veterans of the two world wars and the Korean War. The views from this part of La Jolla offer one of the best ways to see the topography of the entire San Diego area.

When you've finished your sightseeing, a place like the Grande Colonial is the perfect spot to settle in for the evening. You can watch the sunset from your ocean view room and then head for the Nine-Ten Restaurant for the perfect dinner or perhaps a nightcap before drifting off to sleep in this remarkable village they call La Jolla.

For more information on the Grande Colonial La Jolla, please visit www.thegrandecolonial.com or phone 888-828-5498.
PHOTOS: Grande Colonial
PHOTO CREDITS: Photos by Cary Ordway
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