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3-HOUR TOUR

QUIRK EN ROUTE : Passers-By Miss Much of the Eclecticism That Is Sunset Beach

June 17, 1993|MAX JACOBSON | Max Jacobson is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition.

The quirky little stretch of PCH between Anderson Street and Warner Avenue comprises a large part of the tiny community called Sunset Beach. In many ways, this is a highly eccentric area, offering more than meets the eyes of those drivers who rocket through on the way to more popular beach areas.

Look beyond the usual scattering of beach-town coffee shops, shopworn storefronts and motels with their signs flashing. That tower-style structure on wooden stilts next to Anderson Street and PCH is actually one of the more distinctive private homes around. The sleepy, partially vacant mall known as Peter's Landing, to give another example, houses one of Orange County's most colorful small marinas, completely hidden from the front.

11 to 11:30: Let's start our Sunset Beach tour here, in one of the most attractively situated malls in the state. Cliche Boutique is full of fashion dresses and costume jewelry, a stylish shop belonging to a friendly woman named Josephine Fawaz.

Across the mall you'll find Art Images, an eclectic art and frame store with 3-D art posters, original pastels and a variety of mobiles for sale. The gallery is Peter's Landing's oldest tenant, and claims to have the largest collection of frames in Orange County.

Now walk to the mall's rear and get an eyeful of the beautiful pleasure craft moored out on the water, almost 1,500 of them.

Many, according to Jerry Sollando of the mall's Adair Yachts, are for sale. If you want to buy, just ask him. Prices start at around $20,000 and sneak on up to about $3 million.

11:30 a.m. to 12:30: If browsing makes you hungry, the most consistent restaurant in the area is directly across PCH, Harbor House Cafe. I'd call this the quintessential beachfront haunt, a dark woody front room with a terrific, partially exposed outdoor patio and walls plastered with the head shots of stars of the silver screen, anyone from Humphrey Bogart, Sean Connery and Shirley Temple to Mae West.

The crowd here is strictly casual: Ray-Bans, sandals and tank tops. Food is upscale coffee shop, solid and delicious.

Try any of the huge, eggy omelets, comforting homemade soups such as chicken vegetable with a slightly Mexican flavor or something called hobo potatoes, crisp hash browns slopped up with mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes and onions. The restaurant, incidentally, serves breakfast 24 hours a day for the insomniac beach bum.

12:30 to 1: Now it's time to take a short beach walk on one of the best expanses of white sand around. Start on the corner of Broadway and Coast Highway and walk toward the beach. When you get to Pacific, you'll pass one of the area's most interesting homes, a stone castle, turrets and all, taking up an entire block.

The beach is just beyond it, a quiet stretch complete with volleyball nets. There are spectacular views of downtown Long Beach and Catalina, never too many people. Note that bottles, glass and crockery of any kind are not permitted on this part of the beach.

1 to 1:30: Back up on the corner of Broadway and PCH, you'll find Antiques of the Sea. This is a serious store for serious buyers, but a little browsing won't hurt.

The store specializes in beautiful objets with nautical beginnings, including brass ship's fittings, nautical lamps and lanterns, authentic harpoons, diving helmets, model ships, compasses and sextants. In short, anything to make your home or apartment look seriously salty.

1:30 to 2: A short walk down PCH brings you to Paula, Sunset Beach's resident psychic. Paula specializes in psychic and Tarot card readings, which she performs in a small reading room filled with Christian icons. She also reads palms.

Sessions last anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, and cost anywhere from $25 to $40, the price for a Tarot card reading.

"Tarot is intense," Paula says. You don't need to be apprehensive. Paula attributes her ability to a natural gift and tries to accentuate the positive in her readings. Ask her to tell you your lucky number. The early afternoon is when her powers are most keen, but if you don't catch her in her reading room, you can catch her in a booth at the Orange County fair, when it opens. She's a regular.

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