I flew to LAX International Airport from London Heathrow with Virgin on their 11 hour flight. First stop on landing the Viceroy Santa Monica. I was pleasantly surprised by the chilled out atmosphere and laid back vibe. After a few glasses of fizz we checked into our rooms, freshened up and headed out for dinner. What a fabulous place Santa Monica was! Miles of sandy beaches, seafood restaurants, lively bars and the famous pier where route 66 ends. The Viceroy is a small boutique Hotel, many famous faces stay there and dine there - think outdoor cabanas, classy cocktails and very attentive staff.
On day 2 we hit Rodeo Drive, Beverley Hills and the famous Hollywood Hills! Glitz and Glamour all the way - I of course had to take some pictures of the famous Marilyn Monroe handprints! We had a City Tour and a very enthusiastic guide who showed us all the homes of the rich and famous, from Halle Berry to George Clooney. We also snuck into the Beverley Wilshire Hotel where Pretty Woman was filmed to use the restrooms!
The Hollywood sign can be seen from the Griffiths Observatory where we stopped for a photo opportunity.
This evening was the beautiful L'Ermitage Beverley Hills Hotel - the service was out of this world, they could not do enough for you, the rooms boasted private dressing rooms, twin sinks, walk in wardrobes and were decorated in plush neutral colours. One of the best hotels I have stayed in. This area of LA is perfect for a few days- especially for film buffs who want to see the stuff of legends.
Next stop Pelican Hills Golf Resort and the Park Hyatt Hotels en route to San Diego. We picked up hire cars as a group and hit the open road! Golf Resorts and Retreats are big business in America, the scenery is stunning, food out of this world- we stopped for lunch with the Park Hyatt, we ended up staying for a few hours as there was so much local food and wine to try! Lots of shrimp, steak and local fresh food. Excellent hosts. Stop for the evening the Pendry San Diego, by the time we reached San Diego the temperature had dropped by about 20 degrees! You really do need to pack for all weathers! The Pendry in San Diego was a sultry hotel, dark colours and quirky decorations - great location right in the heart of the city with bars and restaurants in immediate walking distance. The first place I have ever seen a champagne vending machine! This was our home for 2 nights.
San Diego is such a Vibrant place with lots to see and do- and would even be perfect for a City break over a weekend as British Airways now offer the direct flights from London. We visited the Del Mar Coronado on our second day here, where Marilyn Monroe filmed "Some Like it Hot". This was an old style all American Hotel with a fabulous history and ghost stories in abundance! This very iconic hotel has a beautiful beachfront location, offers Villas, Cottages and Main Hotel rooms. They don't tell you which are the haunted rooms when booking though...
We then spent the rest of the day with the San Diego Tourist board- we visited the USS Midway Museum, a great place to try out the different aircraft used in the war, Veterans are on hand offering talks about how to fly and land the planes. A great family day out- we found the famous seals next after a drive along the coast (the mammals not the navy!) and finished off with cocktails watching the sunset.
After San Diego we headed to my personal favourite place of the whole itinerary... Palm Springs. Driving in looks like you are travelling to the middle of nowhere, Desert for miles around. We headed for the mountains and took the Palm Springs cable car to the top. There are tons of hiking and wilderness trails in Palm Springs, its a great location to discover. We then took a Desert Safari Trip out to learn more about the Native Americans who still own the land here, this trip is well worth doing- your guide talks you through the flora and fauna in the location and takes you out to explore the Canyonlands. Check in for the night was the Ritz Carlton Rancho Mirage. Amazing Hotel, understated glamour with fire pits on the balcony. The rooms were stunning, you had a walk in shower, bath, dressing areas and cupcakes waiting for you on arrival. The spa at the Ritz Carlton is hands down the best I have ever been in- prices here start at $300 for a massage, they treat you like royalty- the spa features separate jacuzzi area, saunas, massage showers with different scents, separate hair and make up area, nutrition guides and personal plans and champagne is of course on tap.
Joshua Tree National Park was our next visit- quirky tree formations for miles that seem to grow from nowhere. We hit an old-style saloon for lunch and carried on our journey onwards to Santa Barbara. Joshua Tree is a great spot for hiking and taking a picnic and is very popular with the locals.
Santa Barbara - we finished the trip with a laid-back beach vibe again, we checked into the eclectic Hotel Californian for the last night. An almost Moroccan style Hotel that was separated into 3 buildings and featured huge pictures on the walls of Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean.
Santa Barbara is great for hiring bikes and seeing the local area, wine buffs will love the wineries on offer- go careful when taking a bicycle back after that though! A beautiful place, great temperature and again miles of sandy beach on offer, this was a lovely place to end the trip.
After visiting the Belmond Hotel for breakfast on the last day, again understated elegance, villas set out in lush gardens with turtles and butterflies in abundance. We headed back to the airport for our flight home. What a fabulous trip - I will happily tailor make a luxury Southern California itinerary for anyone wanting to experience something similar and can recommend some great local guides and restaurants to visit along the way.