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-   -   A Tale of Two Ritz's (RC Laguna Niguel, RC Half Moon Bay, AA J, B6 Mint, and more!) (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-reports/1866267-tale-two-ritzs-rc-laguna-niguel-rc-half-moon-bay-aa-j-b6-mint-more.html)

benjahman Sep 10, 17 11:36 pm

A Tale of Two Ritz's (RC Laguna Niguel, RC Half Moon Bay, AA J, B6 Mint, and more!)
 
A Tale of Two Ritz's (RC Laguna Niguel, RC Half Moon Bay, AA J, B6 Mint and more!)

Part 1. AA J/LAX Silvercar/In-N-Out Plane Spotting
Part 2. Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel
Part 3. VX F LAX-SFO and Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Part 4. Hyatt Highlands Inn + Big Sur
Part 5. JetBlue Mint SFO-JFK

It's been a while since we took a vacation without some other family or friend joining us. We were looking forward to our first solo adventure with our daughter. With some award stays to burn and AS miles to use, we started planning a few months back and decided on California. Our 11 month old daughter had been on 6 flights already, with the longest being Colorado, so we figured we could push it a bit and give a transcontinental to L.A. a whirl.


Day 1: September 1st, 2017
AA 171
Dep JFK: 6:00am
Arr LAX: 9:25am
Seats 7D/F + lap infant

After debating about parking at long term parking and taking the Air Train to Terminal 8, we decided against that, as having 4 bags (2 rollers + car seat + travel crib) was going to be too much to handle with the little one. We reserved a car via Carmel for the ungodly time of 3:45AM. FML.

Terminal 8 - JFK
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Deserted Check-in
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An empty Terminal 8 ahead of us. Precheck was empty at that hour and we were through in minutes.
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Headed straight to the Flagship Lounge, which had opened minutes earlier.
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Flagship Lounge check-in and entry
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As expected, it was empty.
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Spent about 45 minutes at the lounge, which was just enough time to let the little one run herself back to sleep. The lounge is decently sized (however I have seen SFO777s recent afternoon pics, which looks like it's annoyingly crowded). The food was simple and hit the spot as I wasn't counting on AA J breakfast to be anything to write home about.

Walked over to gate 43 at about 5:20am.https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4418/...6f44231c_b.jpg

We arrived just as boarding opened up and we boarded easily. F and J cabin were full. I noticed availability for F via AA and BA websites the day before. I asked my wife what she thought about burning some more miles and going F, but she felt being next to each other would be more important as we did not know what to expect with the little one and figured it would be easier than being an aisle apart. I thought easier would be me in F and her in J with baby...that only got me dagger eyes and a "don't even f'ing think about that". In the end, I'm glad we went business.

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Boarded an AA 321 that was delivered 3.5 years ago.
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Cabin
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Menu
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Cream cheese omelette was OK, the smoked salmon hash was not OK. The biscuit was delicious.
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Arrived about 45 minutes early at LAX. Our bags were one of the first to arrive at baggage claim and then on to our next adventure: Getting to LAX Silvercar. I decided to give Silvercar a try. My brother has used them in the past and has had decent experiences. I then remembered, he only used them when traveling solo. I was with wife, daughter, 4 bags, stroller, diaper bag and it just happened to be almost a 100F in L.A. I wanted to laugh but I was crying inside.

We got our bags and up the elevator to departure level to find the shuttle that would take us to the off airport lot so that we can then walk to the Silvercar garage. Departure level was a mess, many different shuttles and passengers being dropped off, 4 lanes of traffic. We looked for the yellow and maroon shuttle. Ah, we found it! yes, it's coming, yes, it sees us, he's going to stop, i think he's stopping, holy F, it just passed us by, he's not stopping!
Well f this. Uber it is. $30 later we arrive at the wrong Silvercar location (apparently they have two) but the guy says no problem, fires up the app on my phone, shows me how to get in the car and we are good. Two t-shirts, $30, one dirty diaper later, we are loading our luggage into a 2016 Audi A4. I then remember I'm 6'4'' and man, this car is not easy to get into.

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We needed to stretch our legs a bit so we stopped at the LAX In-N-Out to grab some burgers and do some plane spotting. Arrived just as this OZ A380 was landing, what a great location!

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OZ A380
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A buddy of mine had just finished up a meeting nearby and came over to hang and spot with us. Watching JL 787 land.
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Baby J too busy looking at the planes
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JL 777
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We then drove an hour and 45 minutes to the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, which would be home for the next 3 nights. To be continued tomorrow....

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offerendum Sep 11, 17 10:47 am

Nice so far! I´m looking Forward how you liked Half Moon Bay, I stayed in 2013.

benjahman Sep 11, 17 2:36 pm


Originally Posted by offerendum (Post 28802358)
Nice so far! I´m looking Forward how you liked Half Moon Bay, I stayed in 2013.

Thanks offerendum Working on it and will post asap. HMB was the highlight of our trip.

benjahman Sep 11, 17 4:32 pm

Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel
 
Arrived at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel at around 130pm, along with everyone else checking in that weekend. I was using the free night certificates acquired from the credit card bonus and had been checking availability of rooms up until our arrival, hoping for some sort of upgraded room (e.g. ocean view) Champagne was offered while waiting in line and after a few minutes it was my turn. The front desk agents were friendly and noted my upgrade request but politely informed me the hotel was fully sold out with no rooms available. OK, that's fine I thought. I get it, stays are "free" and I really hold no status other than the granted Gold Elite via the credit card. They were happy to tell me that the room was available early and we could check in now. Bellman helped us to room 3049.

I had looked at many pictures online and the rooms do present similarly, however, this was the lowliest of rooms available. The view (or lack thereof) of the friendly valet/gate area was slightly amusing, as I said to my wife when we arrived: "I bet that will be our room".
Upon entering, the air conditioning was cool, around 70, which was great as California was having a heat wave and outside temps were in the 90s. After looking around a bit more, the room is a bit dated, the outlets in the bathroom did not work, the phone in the lav fell off 4 different times and low and behold, the air conditioning had a mind of its own and would turn off or crap out midway through the night, leaving us to wake up soaked in sweat.

Check in
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Arrival champagne
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Front desk flower display
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Lobby
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Bar/Marketplace area
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enoSteak, which was empty every time I passed by it, day and night
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Slightly dated hallways
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Room 3049
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"The View"
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Closet
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Bathroom
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Minifridge, ice bucket, safe, etc.
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The views throughout the rest of the hotel are gorgeous. The beach was busy as it was a holiday weekend and the weather was warm.

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After our first whirl around the hotel property, we came back to some local bubbly and chocolate cake for my wife's birthday
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Breakfast next morning at Raya was lovely, with amazing views to be had.
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A friend from NYC happened to be staying nearby, so she came and met us for breakfast.
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The McLarens, Bentleys, etc, seemed to be the norm at the porte cochere.
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We had breakfast in Dana Point at "What A Dish", which was excellent. Great eggs bene and tasty cold brew.
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Fitness Center with amazing views. Well equipped with cold towels and waters.
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The hotel provides a beach shuttle down the public, Salt Creek Beach. The hotel has chairs and umbrellas and also provides towels and cold water. It's a bit of a hike back up so the shuttle is ideal.
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Overall, it was a pleasant stay but I had some gripes, which sound a bit more like first world problems. The hotel was packed with guests and visitors. No less than two weddings a night were being held at the property. Everywhere we went, the pace was frenetic and almost frantic, so it was not very relaxing. The A/C didn't really work well anywhere in the hotel. The food at Raya was great but room service was a bit boring and sad. The pool area was so crowded and poorly maintained. Towels everywhere, empty bottles and cups all over the place. I think if I had paid to stay over this weekend, I'd be even more disenchanted with the place. I also wonder if having stayed on on the Club Level would have made a difference, as you'll see from our stay at Half Moon Bay, where Club Level felt like a world away from the norm. Service was friendly and responsive, but I must be jaded from our last real vacation to Chedi and Amankila, as it all sort of seemed a bit forced and by the book.

david55 Sep 11, 17 6:18 pm


Originally Posted by benjahman (Post 28803723)
I also wonder if having stayed on on the Club Level would have made a difference, as you'll see from our stay at Half Moon Bay, where Club Level felt like a world away from the norm. Service was friendly and responsive, but I must be jaded from our last real vacation to Chedi and Amankila, as it all sort of seemed a bit forced and by the book.

It certainly did for us. The Club Level at the Laguna RC was the highlight of our stay. Incredible service, enough complimentary food for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Open bar. And no request impossible.... in fact only a mere suggestion and it appeared. It also provided a much needed sanctuary from the busyness of the rest of the hotel.

kcmd Sep 11, 17 7:26 pm

What's up with A/C issues at the RC's our last stay at the Aruba RC was hampered with A/C not working as well...RC's better up their game or I'm heading to St. Regis'..oh wait..same company?! crap

benjahman Sep 12, 17 9:48 am


Originally Posted by david55 (Post 28804128)
It certainly did for us. The Club Level at the Laguna RC was the highlight of our stay. Incredible service, enough complimentary food for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Open bar. And no request impossible.... in fact only a mere suggestion and it appeared. It also provided a much needed sanctuary from the busyness of the rest of the hotel.

david55 Not surprised. If I do go back, I would definitely look to stay with Club Level access. A sanctuary is definitely what I was seeking after our stay.


Originally Posted by kcmd (Post 28804309)
What's up with A/C issues at the RC's our last stay at the Aruba RC was hampered with A/C not working as well...RC's better up their game or I'm heading to St. Regis'..oh wait..same company?! crap

kcmd Interesting. I'm not too familiar with Southern California weather but my understanding is that this week was exceptionally warm for them and everything seemed damp and very warm in all areas of the hotel.

david55 Sep 12, 17 10:00 am


Originally Posted by benjahman (Post 28803723)
. The pool area was so crowded and poorly maintained. Towels everywhere, empty bottles and cups all over the place. I think if I had paid to stay over this weekend, I'd be even more disenchanted with the place.

Benjahman..... did you discover the second pool in a smaller courtyard? We spent our time there and we were almost without exception the only one around the pool. There was a bar area (closed) so no food service.....but we just brought munchies down from the Club. It felt like a private pool.

benjahman Sep 12, 17 10:21 am


Originally Posted by david55 (Post 28806472)
Benjahman..... did you discover the second pool in a smaller courtyard? We spent our time there and we were almost without exception the only one around the pool. There was a bar area (closed) so no food service.....but we just brought munchies down from the Club. It felt like a private pool.

Hi david55 we did, it was actually our other view, however, the majority of the time it was being occupied by wedding prep, with vendors constantly maneuvering flowers, chairs, AV equipment, etc., in and out, so we hesitated to use it. I believe the hotel referred to it as the "quiet pool"

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benjahman Sep 13, 17 9:54 am

VX F LAX - SFO and Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
 
VX F LAX - SFO and Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

Checked out of RC Laguna Niguel, hopped in the Audi A4 and boogied up the CA-73 to the 405. No traffic at all this morning as it was Labor Day. Dropped off the Silvercar at the correct location this time, Uber to LAX and checked in for our shot VX F flight up to SFO. Stopped by the Alaska Airlines Board Room lounge to grab a drink, change a diaper, and to see the pancake machine in person.

LAX
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VX F check in
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Alaska lounge was crowded, managed to find a seat and drop the bags for a few minutes before continuing on to the gate. Offerings were slim and included bagels, fruit, coffee and juice.
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Aforementioned pancake machine
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Departing from Gate 69A today
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First time in VX F. Great amount of legroom, however, the seats are quite dated. White leather may have not been the best choice as the seats looked quite grimey and could use a good bleaching. The mood lighting does a good job of masking that. Drinks and some snack basket choices were offered.

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Red entertainment
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Definitely in SFO. That way to the Yoga room.
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Having had mixed feelings about Silvercar, I cancelled my SFO reservation and booked a large SUV with Enterprise. The getting in and out of the Audi A4 was too difficult for me and with the baby and car seat, it was just way too small. Also, not being on the airport property is a bit of a haul with many bags. I assume they are not targeting the family demographic.
Took the air train to the rental car center. Enterprise check in was a complete mess. They have a number of kiosks, which are supposed to make the check in process more seamless but just added another step after the kiosks could not complete the reservation. I then got on line behind a clearly frustrated customer who then turned around and asked me in her most pissed off motherly tone "why are you hovering?". I politely smiled at her and that was that. Finally was able to check in, you then have to go a level down, where you then wait on another line to be shown to your car. Finally we arrive at a 2017 Ford Expedition and a large SUV it is. Lovely.

AirTrain views
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2017 Ford Expedition
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Before we headed off to Half Moon Bay, we needed breakfast. I had flown into SFO a few years back for the Super Bowl and met up with my dad at the airport. We were both starving so I Yelp'd the nearest breakfast spot. Millbrae Pancake House came up as #1 and it's been on my go-back-to list ever since. It's a lovely slice of Americana.

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Crowded but the wait was not longer than 10 minutes. When you're starving, that seemed like an eternity.
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All the omelettes come with a side order of pancakes. This must be heaven.
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Back in the ride for a quick 40 minute drive to Half Moon Bay via CA-92.

Arriving at the Ritz Carlton
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Front desk was a bit crowded, but check in moved quickly. We were upgraded to a direct ocean view room. I had booked one award night + one cash night with a club upgrade certificate. Upgraded to Club Level room for both nights and worth every penny.
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Very nice, bright hallways, with lots of surfing artwork along the walls.
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Room 523 was at the end of the hallway.
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Entrance/foyer
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Welcome gift of amazing pumpkin spice chocolate chunk cookies.
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Spectacular ocean and golf course views.
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I'm fairly certain the hotel has been recently renovated. Everything seemed new and fresh. The rooms, all the facilities, carpeting, lighting, etc, were in great shape and it really showed.
Access to the Club Lounge is a complete game changer and now I get the "hype"

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Great sanctuary to do some work and when it's that season, a fantasy football online draft.
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First day we arrived in time for canapés and cocktails. The food and wine selections were great and plentiful.
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The Provenance 2015 SB was very nice.
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The service at the Club Lounge was truly some of the best and most genuine I've encountered in all my travels. They welcomed us each time they heard the door click open with the swipe of our key cards. I felt a bit shy about bringing a rambunctious 11 month old into this oasis of calm but every attendant was more than welcoming and helpful. They spent time engaging us and were literally on the floor playing with my daughter. The encouraged us to take food back to our room and to take glasses of wine out and about throughout the hotel. The hotel was empty, which is another reason why our stay here was so much more enjoyable than Laguna Niguel. The lounge never had more than 2 couples in it.

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The scenery is spectacular.
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Stopped back at the lounge for dessert. The blueberry crostada with vanilla sauce was ridiculously delicious.

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Chocolate fondue station
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The lemongrass rice pudding was tasty
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For breakfast the next morning, the offerings were eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurts, smoked salmon, breads, cheese, cured meats, etc. Very good.

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The Le Creuset bakeware was a nice touch, albeit a bit heavy.
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Great breakfast views
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Some more scenery
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More shots of the hotel
Entrance
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Fitness center
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Our stay here was great. The A/C worked amazing, all the outlets had power, the staff was super friendly and helpful. I'm sure it being right after Labor Day and with the hotel at half capacity it lent itself to a more relaxing stay and the staff were most likely in better spirits and not overworked. Not much to do at HMB, but it was an enjoyable two days.

ntamayo Sep 13, 17 1:05 pm

Awesome experience you had in HMB! It's also one of my favorite properties, and they especially treat you well in the lounge. I can vouch for the lounge experience as an oasis even on high-occupancy days. With basically nothing else around the property, club access is the way to go.

Did you end up driving over through Pacifica / Hwy 1, or San Mateo / Hwy 92?

kevincrumbs Sep 13, 17 3:07 pm

Wow, the RC Half Moon Bay looks way better than the RC Laguna Niguel. In fact, One Mile at a Time posted a review of the Laguna Niguel property today and he largely echoes your sentiments.


Originally Posted by benjahman (Post 28810655)
Great sanctuary to do some work and when it's that season, a fantasy football online draft.
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:D ^

My favourite fantasy football draft experience is when I was in Osaka a few years back and went back to my room post-breakfast to "take a work call" so that I could knock the draft out. I did mine this year while assembling a picnic table in the back yard, so a little less glamorous than at the RC Half Moon Bay.

benjahman Sep 13, 17 4:13 pm


Originally Posted by ntamayo (Post 28811549)
Awesome experience you had in HMB! It's also one of my favorite properties, and they especially treat you well in the lounge. I can vouch for the lounge experience as an oasis even on high-occupancy days. With basically nothing else around the property, club access is the way to go.

Did you end up driving over through Pacifica / Hwy 1, or San Mateo / Hwy 92?

Hi ntamayo Good to know re: lounge at HMB even when busy. It was truly a great place to relax and take in the sights and sounds of the coast. We took 280 to 92. Hit about 20 minutes of traffic (fender bender on 92) but we didn't mind as we were stuck here on 92 taking in the sights and smells:

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4400/...65777438_b.jpg


Originally Posted by kevincrumbs (Post 28812085)
Wow, the RC Half Moon Bay looks way better than the RC Laguna Niguel. In fact, One Mile at a Time posted a review of the Laguna Niguel property today and he largely echoes your sentiments.



:D ^

My favourite fantasy football draft experience is when I was in Osaka a few years back and went back to my room post-breakfast to "take a work call" so that I could knock the draft out. I did mine this year while assembling a picnic table in the back yard, so a little less glamorous than at the RC Half Moon Bay.

Thanks kevincrumbs I wish I could say the view and wine helped with my draft strategy, but that was clearly not the case, however I did end week 1 with a W. I saw that OMAAT review today and apparently we were staying at the hotel over the same weekend and had the same experiences.

Andriyko Sep 14, 17 6:30 am

Great report and pictures! Some of the views are simply amazing. Thank you for sharing^

david55 Sep 14, 17 8:29 am


Originally Posted by kevincrumbs (Post 28812085)
In fact, One Mile at a Time posted a review of the Laguna Niguel property today and he largely echoes your sentiments.

Do you have a link to the review by One Mile....... I can't seem to find it.

Thanks


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