What is it? A short break in a luxury hotel – the Balboa Bay Club & Resort (BBC) – where even mere mortals can feel rich and famous.

Where? Located in the middle of beautiful Newport Beach, California just off the Pacific beach highway, this resort has one of the most beautiful marinas in the state.

Description: [club-pool.jpg]It’s not every day that one has the chance to pretend to be rich (and maybe famous). But if you visit Newport Beach’s Balboa Bay Club & Resort on the California coast, there’s really no other option, as Wendy Sloane and her family found out

To enjoy a break in the heart of luxury in a hotel that has spectacular views, brilliant service and lots to do.

We spent our time enjoying the pool, private beach and marina, although there is also a lot to do outside the BBC. Touted as the “Real OC”, the best part of the area apart from the resort itself is probably the Balboa Pavilion, a stretch of peninsula with private jetties, a fun zone and trips to Catalina Island. The mainland also has fab shopping, lots of tiny restaurants and shops, public golf courses and cinemas. What’s not to like?

We loved Joe’s Crab Shack, but the BBC also has two fine restaurants of its own: the First Cabin Restaurant and Duke’s Place, which is less formal and has nightly entertainment. The member’s club also has evening events that may appeal: ask what’s on offer during your stay.

Ask at the hotel for help.

The on-site Spa is touted as a “state-of-the-art sanctuary for health and relaxation” and it certainly lives up to its reputation. Nine treatment rooms, a full fitness centre and hair and nail salons all combine to provide guests with the utmost in pampering. A dry sauna, eucalyptus room and relaxation lounge all add to the atmosphere. Look for the Monthly Spa Specials, which can include anything from a Cranberry-Orange Body Scrub to a Pumpkin Peel Masque.

Local activities: See above and below.

Wish we had known: That the valet parking comes as part of the deal. We parked our own car and later wished that we hadn’t!

Our top tip: Try to book as many days as your budget will allow. The perfect stay would allow several days’ relaxation in the luxurious rooms, followed by days out in the area and in the pool and whirlpools. And don’t forget the Spa…

Kids say: “I liked the fact there was a beach and a swimming pool, and I loved the slide that went straight into the sea,” says Josie, 12. “I really liked the Duffy boat because I liked being just by ourselves with a table where we could eat lunch,” says Clementine, seven. “The Crab Shack was awesome!” adds Tilly, 10.

Getting There: Newport Beach is about an hour-and-a –half drive from San Diego up the coast. Taking the Coastal Highway is the most fun – aka most scenic – way to do it. Rooms can be pricey, but not extortionate at all by British standards – and you get what you pay for. A family of five at peak season can expect to pay about L450 per night for the most affordable room, although cheaper deals and packages are available. Visit http://www.balboabayclub.com/ for more information. Travelling to San Diego is always a bit of a long haul, but BA has now made it a lot easier, thanks to the return of its non-stop flights from London. The trip takes about 11 hours, but it’s made bearable with decent airline food and unlimited personal entertainment, albeit it on tiny screens. The price of a ticket will depend on what time of year you go – and whether it’s during school holidays or not. We paid about L750 per return ticket on average – book months in advance to get the best deals.

About our stay: The view from our hotel window was simply spectacular. “I could use one of those,” I thought to myself, gazing in envy at one of the yachts majestically moored in the Newport Beach harbour. Yeah, if I had at least half a million dollars to spend! If a taste of classy California is what you’re hankering after, the Balboa Bay Club & Resort could be right up your alley. The best thing, however, is that even if your budget doesn’t stretch to $5,000 a day, you can still enjoy a taste of the high life. The BBC, as it is affectionately known, was founded in 1948 as a private beach club, and today lives up to its reputation as one of the finest hotels/private members club in California. Located directly on the Newport Harbour waterfront, it caters not only to well-heeled clientele from around the world, but also to mere tourists such as myself who want to pretend – just for a fleeting day or two – that they are better off than they are. I dragged my three bedraggled daughters and scruffily-dressed husband into the air-conditioned lobby of the BBC, to be met with ice water with floating citrus and complimentary apples, so perfect they exuded a glossy, almost waxy shine. The concierge was courteous and helpful, the main receptionist gently pointed out the lift to our adjoining rooms – sumptuous and scrupulously clean. The girls loved the beds, which 12-year-old Josie exclaimed were the comfiest she had ever experienced – and were in raptures over the enormous bathrooms, which had both deep bathtub and shower. The view, however, was what captured my heart – although strawberries dipped in chocolate, the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted and a bottle of Champagne at bedtime came pretty damn close. So much for a simple choccie on the pillow! What my progeny really loved, however, was the Club’s own marina, which can accommodate up to 150 boats – and has its own slide going down directly into an enclosed part of the sea. Second to that came our ride on a Duffy boat, a small electric-powered boat which we took out for an hour around the harbour, eating a packed lunch inside on the vessel’s small table. [duffy.jpg] Newport Beach itself is the coastal centre of Orange County, in between San Diego and Los Angeles. While it has about 87,000 residents, it gets as many as 100,000 tourists every day during the peak summer months, most of whom come to see the marina and sample the fine restaurants and shops. An affluent area, it has a wide array of attractions, including everything from sex shops to Chinese foot massage parlours to an enormous upscale shopping mall. The Club – which only opened to the public in 2003 – has had it fair share of rich and important visitors, and it’s easy to see why. Notables include John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Humphrey Bogart and Jerry Seinfeld, all of whom reportedly took advantage of the great library, bars and restaurants, as well as activities that included tennis tournaments and regattas. [library.jpg] We chose to eat down the road – the BBC is located on the Pacific Highway – and enjoyed a delicious if rather loud meal at Joe’s Crab Shack. We split a spicy bucket of crab for three, and also had several kid’s meals and sides. Wearing plastic bibs with bits of crab stuck in our teeth was in stark contrast to the genteel atmosphere back at the BBC, so it made a nice change. Apart from Joe’s, we stayed largely within the confines of the BBC – who wouldn’t? – and were given a “membership” to its members-only area, where we enjoyed a private beach, outdoor barbecue and private pools/hot tubs. For a brief period of time, we got to be like Mrs Thurston Howell the Third, instead of Marianne, and I must admit that it felt great. Sadly, it all ended far too soon… Wendy Sloane is Travel Editor of entertainthekids.com and a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at London Metropolitan University. She divides her time between writing, teaching, and taking care of her three daughters (and a dog!).

Created: 2012-10-21 19:46:22.330

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