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Trip of the Week

Friendly La Jolla Shines Like a Jewel

February 07, 1988|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

LA JOLLA — The name translates from Spanish as "the hollow," but residents interpret La Jolla (pronounced la-HOY-ya) in a much more appealing way.

They call their sparkling coastal town the "jewel," an apt description that visitors are also apt to use after roaming around this exclusive enclave just north of San Diego.

As the choicest suburb of the Southland's second most populated city, La Jolla sprawls eastward with new shopping and business centers and commuter traffic jams. But the heart of town--only a block from the ocean--manages to maintain its image as a friendly (and prosperous) village.

A treat for out-of-towners is that most attractions can be reached on foot. Just park and walk to La Jolla's spectacular seaside, art galleries and upscale shops, excellent restaurants and impressive lodgings.

To start your outing from Los Angeles, drive south on Interstate 5 to the La Jolla Village Drive exit. Head west past the campus of the University of California at San Diego, turn left on Torrey Pines Road, then go right on Prospect Place to Prospect Street in the village center.

Park where you can along that thoroughfare of shops and restaurants, or on another main business street called Girard Avenue, or along Coast Boulevard, a noncommercial street that parallels the shoreline.

Via Tunnel to Cave

Stroll on cliff-top sidewalks to view La Jolla's scenic coastline marked by caves, coves and sandy pockets of bathing beach. Nearby at a promontory park named for Ellen Browning Scripps, you can descend 140 steps in a 10-story sandstone tunnel that leads to Sunny Jim Cave at ocean level.

Access is through the La Jolla Cave and Shell Shop, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. Entry to the cave stairway costs $1, children 50 cents.

Above ground you can follow an unpaved trail called Coast Walk for other spectacular views of the rocky coast. After enjoying Mother Nature's show, walk a block inland to the shops and dining spots along Prospect and Girard.

Drop in at the dozen or so galleries that display avant-garde, traditional and Western artworks, as well as photography, fine crafts and ancient art. The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, 700 Prospect St., features post-1950 American work.

The museum and its gift shop are open daily, except Monday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost $3 for adults, students and senior citizens $1, children 5 to 12, 50 cents. On Wednesday the hours are extended to 9 p.m. Admission free.

Shops and Restaurants

Gift stores galore front the main streets and are clustered in pleasant shopping complexes such as Prospect Square and Prospect Mall. You'll find everything from gemstones at The Collector to chocolates at Ethel M.

Favorite stores for browsing include the Sharper Image, Banana Republic and the Nature Company. The 7600 block of Girard Avenue boasts Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin & Co.

Among La Jolla's eating institutions is John's Waffle House in the vintage Arcade Building on Girard. Often on weekends, breakfast patrons must wait patiently on the sidewalk.

To breakfast in style, head for the Mediterranean Room of La Jolla's landmark lodging, the pink La Valencia Hotel on Prospect Street. On warm days you can dine on the tree-shaded patio of this genteel hostelry that welcomed its first guests in 1926.

La Valencia's dimly lit Whaling Bar and Cafe La Rue is a power-lunch place and favorite of locals for dinner and Sunday brunch, but many visitors prefer the ocean views and intimate dining of the top-floor Sky Room. It's open for lunch weekdays and dinner nightly, except Sunday.

Down the street, another historic hotel, the renovated Colonial Inn that dates to 1913, hosts a popular dining spot and watering hole called Putnam's. Also well known along Prospect Street are George's at the Cove and Top O' the Cove, impressive places for Sunday brunch as well as dinner and lunch.

Live Jazz at Chuck's

Nearby is informal Chuck's Steak House, where the entrees include prime rib and seafood, but a major draw is live jazz Wednesday through Saturday evenings.

If you don't want to rush your visit to La Jolla, reserve one of the 100 rooms or suites at La Valencia. Depending on the view and room size, rates range from $108/$200 double (single $10 less); suites from $185/$350. Reservations: (619) 454-0771.

Next door is the Prospect Park Inn, a small 25-room hotel in the European tradition. Included in the tariff are continental breakfast and afternoon tea that guests enjoy on the penthouse terrace with a view of the Pacific. Doubles range from $79/$109, suites $199/$259. Call (619) 454-0133.

Also on Prospect Street is the Colonial Inn, where doubles are $110/$130 (singles $15 less) and suites $140/$200. Call (619) 454-2181.

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