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Hansen: Sí, Laguna Beach, like on TV

January 18, 2012|By David Hansen

TULUM, Mexico — With private beaches, aqua tide pools and local lobster, there are times here when you can squint and see Laguna Beach.

At least in spirit.

The reality is a little bit different, just as the name "Laguna Beach" conjures up different realities for the world travelers who come to this beach resort 90 minutes south of Cancun.

In a completely unscientific poll, the international brand of Laguna Beach needs some work.

Nearly everyone I talked to believes Laguna Beach is either some exclusive Beverly Hills-like enclave dripping in gold, or a spindly suburb of vapid Orange County, filled with bratty kids and silicone.

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A Scandinavian woman, with funny translation challenges, said she thought Laguna was "hills and very nice homes and hot palm trees."

An English woman, perhaps confusing us with Santa Monica, said we were the place with the "rickety roller coaster and nice beaches."

But it was model Anna Friden from Sweden who had the most nuanced impression of Laguna. She currently lives in New York but has traveled to Los Angeles about 10 times.

"I love it there, but I don't know that much about Laguna Beach," she said. "First of all, I love the fact that you can go hiking, swimming, surfing and drive two hours and you're in the desert. You can go skiing in the winter. You have all the different sceneries in one city."

She said there are clear differences between New York and L.A., of course, especially among her N.Y. friends, who have made certain assumptions about the West Coast lifestyle.

"People are not driven there. They don't have a goal in life," she said. "They surf. They hang around a lot. It's beautiful weather, but if you want to do something, you have to get out of there, unless you want to be an actor or whatever."

Her friend, German photographer Jaan-Eric Fischer, said L.A. was too wimpy.

"I need a pushy city," he said. "L.A. is not like that."

So it's all about brawn and movies.

Many people mentioned the MTV reality show about Laguna Beach. Others confused it with the "Real Housewives" series.

Either way, "reality" was far from the truth. Or was it?

Is the comparison fair when you are sitting on the water at world-class resorts, one in Mexico and one in California?

Both have Spanish street names and panga boats. Both have class systems, busboys who speak little to no English but are trying to learn so they can become waiters and make more money to support their family.

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