Laguna's famed Keyhole Rock has been immortalized in many impressionist plein-air paintings...and as you will soon see in our "Art of Living" episode--I even decided to try my hand at it under the expert guidance of Laguna's renowned artist, Cynthia Britain.

Being taught by Laguna's master plein-air painter was a priceless much so that I've decided from now on to feature a renowned artist wherever we go. 🙂 They just see the world through a different set of gifted lenses...and I'm always hungry to learn, especially from the best! This experience truly gave me an understanding of why Laguna Beach became a haven for plein-air artists. Painting outdoors amidst such beauty is so therapeutic...time just flew by. I can't wait to show you my first ever "masterpiece" which is currently drying at Cynthia's studio. Do you have an undiscovered talent that you did not even know you possessed? Ok, I'm probably getting a little carried away here...All I know is I loved painting outdoors and watching my "impressionist art" come to life. Thank you Cynthia for sharing your gift and planting the "artist seed"...I'm ready to take root!

NATURE ABOUNDS ON THE GROUNDS OF MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH. Our photographer, Lisa Hensley documented several of these beautiful hummingbirds. I think they became very accustomed to her lens following them around on a daily basis!

A Very Happy would be too if you resided at Montage!

NO PASSPORT?  NO PROBLEM! –That is if you’re originating from the U.S.  Our ESCAPESEEKER team discovered what it’s like to experience “The Art of Living” for five fantastic days as we explored and embraced one of my favorite American ‘escape’ destinations–the artists’ enclave of LAGUNA BEACH!

On the corner of Forest Avenue where it meets with Pacific Coast Highway in the quaint village-like “downtown” portion of Laguna Beach, there’s a famous gate that was built in 1935 that can still be found today.  And, on it is engraved the following words:  “This Gate Hangs Well and Hinders None, Refresh and Rest, Then Travel On.”

Well, we were definitely not ready to travel on.  Our adventure had just begun, and where we were destined, you can truly “Refresh and Rest”…but that’s not all.  This Laguna Beach resort is often described as “a self-contained work of art”–which definitely works for us!  Can it be scripted any better for our film crew?  I don’t think so.

LUXURY WITH A CAPITAL “L”…Meet the Visionary behind MONTAGE

Our ESCAPESEEKER team has discovered time and time again that behind every incredible destination we have visited is a visionary–a man or woman who had the foresight to see beyond the obvious.  This holds true for MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH resort!

At MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH, even the swimming pool is a WORK OF ART! (Image by Lisa Hensley)

This is the Ocean View from the Loft South Patio~ (Image by Scott Frances) I highly recommend this spot for breakfast...and by the way, you must experience the Loft's Lobster Eggs Benedict. Simply Superb! And, less I forget, DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT HAVING A SLICE OF THE LOFT'S BANANA BREAD!!! It's legendary!

Once upon a time...Treasure Island Trailer Park transformed into MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH!

It is hard to imagine when you step onto its immaculately landscaped grounds and look out into this expanse of vintage California style architecture–presiding over 30 acres, high above the most magnificent stretch of California Riviera beach that graces the grand Pacific–that this was once a domain of trailers and mobile homes!  Well, now even the City of Laguna is quick to boast about their world-renowned resort!  But this was no easy feat–as a matter of fact it took about 15 years of wrangling with the City Planners to gain approval…and much of the credit goes to a single man, ALAN FUERSTMAN,  who rescued the project from its original developers and brought it into full fruition, establishing the name and brand that is now synonymous with impeccable service and luxury:  MONTAGE.

Alan Fuerstman, Founder of MONTAGE, stands at bluff's edge and explains what he envisoned right from the start...

I just had to smile upon learning that the very spot where we stood is exactly where Mr. Fuerstman likes to do his "best thinking". I am not surprised. The scenic view, the gentle ocean breezes, the soothing sound of the waves are harmoniously conducive to inspiration!

In case you’re wondering–Yes, we intentionally are not fully revealing Mr. Feurstman  in these pics!  After all, HELLO–we want you to watch the full episode to learn more about this visionary…who actually began his career as a “bellman”–Yes, truly,  Mr. Fuerstman’s story is the “American Dream” personified!  I know you’ll want to tune in to learn more about his inspiring story!

My film crew shadowed us as we explored the grounds of Montage...and learned first hand the kinds of challenges and eventual triumphs that an undertaking of this magnitude affords.

Speaking of stories, “The Art of Living” episode, we promise, will be filled with stories that will inspire you, make you laugh, and oh, one more thing–it will definitely make you hungry–because if there’s one thing I’ve learned to appreciate in this job–it’s GREAT CUISINE!

We’ll introduce you to Executive Chef Strong of STUDIO–the name is so apropos–after all Chef Strong leads a team of culinary artists and dining professionals!  Here’s a tiny sneak peak.

Chef Strong discusses what he is about to prepare...I could hardly contain my excitement!

Hands down, the very best BEET SALAD I've ever tasted! Chef Strong uses only the freshest ingredients, including miniature California oranges from his neighbor's tree. This dish is not only beautiful, but stock full of vitamins to help you stay healthy and strong. MONTAGE prides itself in affording every guest an opportunity to strive towards a total state of "well-being"--and nutritional California cuisine with a Mediterranean flair is just one of Chef Strong's specialty.

I'm still dreaming about this unforgettable, tenderly exquisite dish of scallops! Oh my gosh, this craving I'm having just looking at this pic is unbearable!

Thank you everyone for being such avid fans of our ESCAPESEEKER blog.  I promise, I will continue to strive to bring you the ultimate in BLISSFUL ESCAPES–whether across continents and oceans, or just down the road–with or without a passport, the travel opportunities are endless!

Please stay tuned as we bring you the greatest destinations in the world, one luxury ESCAPE at a time!

With love,


Do you really want to know what one of the best benefits of being a friend of "ESCAPESEEKER" is? You get to share in my divine dining experiences! But honestly, anything I do, YOU CAN DO TOO! Just go to Have fun, and remember to raise a glass or two for ESCAPESEEKER!


Miristi prepares to try out the very special tailor-made MONTAGE Paddle Board for the very first time with Bennett's help.

JOSH of the STAND UP PADDLE BOARD COMPANY carefully monitoring our ESCAPESEEKER team's progress and condition! A rain storm had rolled in earlier that morning, but we weren't about to let a little rain, or wind, or cool, brisk waves keep us from having this much fun!

ESCAPESEEKER proves once again that age is but a number; we are never too old to learn a new skill...especially when it involves this much water fun! THANK YOU JOSH!

I decided to bring my own "Cheering Squad"--My grandbabies were so excited for their "Paddle Boarding Grandma"! Look at their faces--THAT IS PURE JOY! Our family has always found so much joy just frolicking near, or in the sea! We call it "Marine Therapy".

Our Photographer Lisa Hensley, captured some local action right in front of MONTAGE. So, this is how the LOCALS enjoy their beach at SUNSET! Nice, so very, very nice! This is SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA'S REALITY--LAGUNA BEACH PERFECTION!

POSTCRIPT:  A look back at these CREW CLIPS, also captured by  our “Have camera will travel” still photographer, Lisa Hensley…I just had to give you an inside glimpse on the incredibly hard working ESCAPESEEKER team whose valiant dedication and non-stop STAMINA  makes all of this possible!  Thank you CREW…could not do any of this without YOU!

And, Action!

Our Multi-tasking Director, Jason, is giving instructions to Bennett on how much "bounce" is required on our faces.

We start our days at the first sign of dawn, and by the late afternoon, our Producer, Christina is still smiling!

On board this OASIS IV sailboat is Executive Producer, "Mr. H"--also a seasoned sailor--good to know since it is also carrying our very expensive "Camera A" with talented Director of Photography, Jackson, and Producer Christina--who by the way not only shot our "showboat" The OASIS V from this vessell, but just hours later, boarded a Cessna 182 (with door removed) and flew above us to capture the stunning California Riviera coastline! It was a rather cold day for Christina who later recapped by saying, "I explored the Laguna Beach coastline by car, by boat and by plane, ALL IN ONE NOVEMBER DAY! Christina, we know it got pretty cold in that plane for you, flying without a door, and having to keep your eye on the monitor to make sure Jackson's shots were just perfect, and also making sure he and the camera did not sky dive out? We hope you have finally thawed out; the 12-13 hour days, full of excitement and the unexpected adventures--it's just another ESCAPESEEKER day!

If you think being a BOOM OPERATOR is an easy job, just ask Bennett! By the way, have you seen Bennett's biceps? That should give you a clue. It's not easy, especially when Jason calls out, "Bennett, keep it high and steady!" His response, "NO PROBLEM!"

This image proves once again that our Director, Jason will go to any length to get the perfect shot...especially when it involves getting into the water! 🙂 Even with the wave, the camera never left his hand nor his sight. Impressive boss!

Jackson, patiently waiting for us to set up the shot, and making sure our sound check is perfect!

After an entire day of sailing, yes, we're huddled together because we were really cold! Thanks Mr. H for buying the entire team extra fleece clothing when the weather changed on us. We would have shivered all day otherwise. It's so nice to have such a considerate Exec. Producer!

THANK YOU OASIS SAILING CLUB FOR AN EXCEPTIONALLY, INSPIRING SAILING DAY! This magnificent sunset alone is reason enough to sail the beautiful California coastline. This is just one of the many reasons WE LOVE CALIFORNIA!

What 14-hour days for 5 straight days? From our "final eve photo" one would never guess what our entire team has gone through just so we can hear those sweet words from our Director, "Mel, we have a show!" This is our entire "Art of Living" team, (minus Christina who had to leave earlier for her other Hollywood assignment). We were also very fortunate to meet and discover a young aspiring filmmaker, Drew Fuerstman during our shoot. Our entire team was so impressed with his knowledge and natural abilities that we asked him if he would like to give our team a hand for the rest of the shoot. Drew you were Heaven sent! May I suggest you remember his name--my entire team agrees that Drew is another budding "Spielberg"--kid you not!

Please stay tuned in the Spring of 2011, when our National Presenting Station, PBS Powerhouse, WQED presents ESCAPESEEKER and this "ART of LIVING" episode will totally come into FOCUS! Our special thanks to the entire MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH team for helping make the experience absolutely UNFORGETTABLE!

I guess now, we’re finally ready to follow the sentiments expressed on Laguna’s famous gate…REFRESH AND REST THEN TRAVEL ON,  as we continue to SEEK OUT THE GREATEST DESTINATIONS IN THE WORLD, ONE LUXURY ESCAPE AT A TIME!


  1. Christina says:

    What a wonderful post! Great job Escapeseeker and the entire Escapeseeker team!!! I look forward to the “Art of Living” episode this spring.

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