I don’t know if you know this about me, but, as much as I love Los Angeles, and always have tons of fun in my own backyard, I also love discovering new areas of California, especially if they’re not too far away. But, besides that I never seem to have any time to explore, even before the pandemic, you know that hermitic Mr. X doesn’t like to leave his home base much. (Unless it’s to go to Home Depot, of course.) So we’ve rarely ever traveled anywhere, except for work. (I’m not complaining, because both of our careers have taken us to many wonderful places; I’m just explaining.)

A pretty area of Orange County. Photo by Karen Salkin.

A pretty area of Orange County. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Enter Laura, one of my contributing writers and, more importantly, my most fun friend in years. We laugh about our many differences, (like that one of us adores make-up and nail polish, and the other shuns those cosmetics enhancements,) but we’re on so many of the same wavelengths. And exploring is a major one of them.

So, when we recently met a dentist from Ladera Ranch, (which, of course, we had never heard of, but later found-out is in Orange County,) we were interested. He told us that a specialty of his office is teeth whitening, (which I feel that everyone with natural choppers needs from time to time,) so we decided to take a day trip down there to check it out.  And then we just lingered.  For hours.

We so adored just about everything we did down there that Laura suggested I share some of our adventures with you, in case you’d like to emulate our trip. I’ll go in order.

The well-stocked water fridge in the dentist's office. Photo by Karen Salkin.

The well-stocked water fridge in the dentist’s office. Photo by Karen Salkin.

First up was our teeth whitening at that dental office, Hales Parker. Let me tell you—the whole place was spacious, beautiful, and actually elegant. I’ve never seen anything like it before, even in Beverly Hills! The ladies who manned the front desk, Randy and Stacey, could not have been lovelier. And, as an H2O guzzler, I really appreciated that the glass-covered mini-fridge, (located right below the complimentary coffee and tea station,) was loaded with tons of bottles of cold water for us to partake in whenever the need arose.

Claudia and Lucia did our procedures, and stayed with us the whole time, explaining every step of the process. I had never had it done that way before, so it was comforting to know they were there the whole time. It was all new to Laura, who had never had her teeth whitened before; she was ecstatic with the results. And as the icing on the cake, all three cute young dentists stopped in to chill with us for a few minutes. It felt more like a fun frat party, (but at a high-class institution like Stanford,) than a dentist visit, which you know I loved! When does that ever happen?!

We had planned on having Afternoon Tea while we were down there. I had literally spent weeks researching places in the area, even though I had no idea what part of SoCal we’d be in. Laura had just taken me to tea in LA for my birthday earlier that week, so we were really looking forward to enjoying another one so soon, especially since that repast is hard to find in our neck of the woods. I had narrowed it down to about eight places in Orange County, and then Stacey and Randy had narrowed it down even further for us. We all agreed on The Tearoom at Los Rios, and from the pictures on-line, Laura and my mouths were watering for that fare.

The outside of The Tearoom at Los Rios. Photo by Karen Salkin.

The outside of The Tearoom at Los Rios. Photo by Karen Salkin.

But—and this is a major but—when Claudia finished doing my whitening, she told me the aftercare rules. She said for the next twenty-four hours, “No coffee or red wine,” to which I retorted, “I don’t ever drink either, so no problem.” And then she continued her list, “And no tea.” I heard Hitchcock music in my mind when I heard those dreaded words! So that was it for our planned and appetite-whetting Afternoon Tea. We were heartbroken.

But Stacey told us that there are some good places to eat around there, anyway, so we decided to explore the entire area. And that’s how we wound-up in the legendary town of San Juan Capistrano, for both of our first time ever! After scouting for a fun eatery, (we were starving at that point,) I remembered that Stacey had suggested Trevor’s at the Track’s. So that’s where we headed.

Part of the massive patio at Trevor's at the Tracks, with Alex Toto on music.  Photo by Karen Salkin.

Part of the massive patio at Trevor’s at the Tracks, with Alex Toto on music. Photo by Karen Salkin.

And it was the perfect choice for that chilly-yet-crisp afternoon. We got to sit outside on their gigantic patio, at a table right next to the fireplace, overlooking the actual train tracks, (although we never saw a train itself.)  The poutine, (fries with gravy, and in this case, melted cheese,) was perfect, the entire restaurant was full of interesting spaces, and the whole time we were serenaded by Alex Toto, who accompanied himself on guitar. And all the people who worked there were nice. (Well, being completely honest, except for the woman who manned the separate cookie area.) So, perhaps we’ll go back there one day to do a full review of the place.

When we were done eating, we decided to torture ourselves and check-out the tea place, to see what we were missing. And it appeared that we were, indeed, missing a lot! The Tearoom at Los Rios is adorbs! So we hope to have the opportunity to review it for you, as well. (Now we want a full week-end there, not just a day trip! You always need to continue relaxing after Afternoon Tea!)

The interesting thing is that all of those adorable and charming places are in that same area along the train tracks! Those San Juan Capistrano denizens sure have it good!

Photo by Karen Salkin.

Photo by Karen Salkin.

And all of that is only two hours away from Los Angeles! It was a revelation to us.

Even the drive was fun. We noticed plenty of unique drive-thrus along the way, but, alas, we didn’t have time for them. But that just means more for us to do on our next trip down there.

To ease us back into civilization, (i.e. LA,) we stopped at a–don’t judge us–99 cent store on the way back home, and even that felt a bit different from the ones here!

But don’t get me wrong—I was thrilled to be back home in the city that I’ve loved since I was a teen. That little trip just reminded me to explore the not-too-far-away towns more often, now that we’re emerging from the main throes of the pandemic. And to not wait for another excuse, (such as our newly-pearly whites,) to do so!



  1. Thank you for this info. My friends and I r going to copy you for our next girls day trip. We hope it’s all as fun as you say it is.

    The Wolf Pack

  2. Hi Karen.
    Did you go to that tea shop yet? Please give us your review of it. I really wnat to go after you try it first.

  3. omg–i love poutine! i’m from canada, so of course. I’m going to trust you on this place and go there asap to have some. thanks.

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