Who doesn’t like to travel and experience new parts of this beautiful world?
I have wanted to go on an American road trip for ages, so combining my desire for vast open landscapes with catching up with a few of my wonderful girlfriends seemed like a fabulous idea.
The last time I went to Los Angeles was about 25 years ago, back then I ticked lots of the usual tourist boxes so I didn’t feel the need to explore as much and, instead focused on hanging out with friends and being close to the beach. I got so run down before I going on this holiday trying to organize my time off, that I caught a stupid chest infection which slowed me down a little but didn’t spoil my sunny mood.
I completely fell in love with the cool vibe in LA. It was not as glittery and fake as I remembered, instead there were more hipsters in flip flops enjoying healthy but very tasty food and living an outdoor lifestyle.
My favourite moments were definitely cycling down (the hotel provides free bicycles J) to Venice Beach and exploring the lovely quaint shopping area around Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and going to Gjusta for brunch ( it was so good we went twice). Should you ever be in LA, please check it out, the atmosphere is fabulous and the food divine, anything from the beetroot home-smoked salmon to home-baked bread and cakes were utterly delicious, and the long communal tables in the courtyard invite you to making new friends.
The other restaurant which stood out for me was True Food Kitchen. The carefully sourced ingredients ( think farmhouse to table) and creative dishes delighted us both.
It was a pleasure to reconnect with Jessica, sip wine by the pool at the Viceroy, explore the vintage shops in Silver Lake, watch the sunset by Santa Monica pier, walk along Malibu beach and catch up over dinner with the lovely Brooke Hogan ( we filmed the Fashion Hero TV show together nearly 2 years ago).
All in all time flew by far too quickly, and before I could recover from my jet lag, Jessica went back to San Jose and my darling friend Angie O’Riley from NY joined me for the next part of the trip.
Next stop was Laguna Beach, only 1 ½ hour’s drive south of LA and definitely worth a visit. The bay is beautiful and although it was still a little cool, it was great to get my feet wet, walk along the beach and watch the sunset from our terrace at the Inn at Laguna beach ( with free wine and nibbles, what’s not to like?)
But again we moved on far too quickly and drove 2 hours further to Palm Springs.
Yes I knew it was located in the desert, but I still didn’t expect such a temperature difference. We got out of the car and were greeted by 39 degrees dry heat.
Palm Springs is weird. Completely man made and far removed from anything quaint or European. The restaurants are all located in malls (have I mentioned I don’t like malls?) but the architecture is really modernist and cool, there are palm trees everywhere ( funny that) and the mountains create a fabulous back drop.There is glorious sunshine all year around and an array of great vintage shops. Cant wait to go back for a photo shoot!
The first 2 days we spent in the quirky and beautiful Moroccan inspired Korakia Pensione. Delicious home-cooked breakfast is served each morning and you relax and refresh with fresh mint tea every afternoon by the pool, which is lit by lanterns and fireplaces at night. The only downside is, no alcohol gets served by the pool :(, so if you are looking for cocktails and loud music this is not the right place, but for romance or chilled girlie get-togethers, this is perfect. We met 2 fabulous women and spent all day giggling and sharing stories.
I gifted Suzy my red dot maxi wrap dress and her happy transformation reminded me why I started up my brand in the first place ( to make curvy women feel fabulous). 🙂
One of the most magical places I have ever been to is only about an hour’s drive from Palm Springs – Joshua Tree National Park. Please go and experience it for yourself, there is something so very special about these huge rock formations and nature out there, the Joshua trees, the cacti and even hiking in the burning heat. I felt energized and pure ( there are supposed to be higher energy vortices at Joshua tree which has attracted many creative types since the 60s). I can’t wait to go again!
We enjoyed Palm Spring so much, that we decided to stay an extra 2 days and check out a completely different vibe hotel (one with cocktails by the pool !) and booked into the Sands Hotel and Spa which is completely new and beautifully designed. Perfect place to lounge by the pool on a variety of day beds, listen to chill out music, order creative cocktails and eat delicious pool snacks. Incredibly comfortable beds, Aqua di Parma toiletries and excellent service.
Next stop was Phoenix in Arizona, to meet up with Angie’s dad, who was an incredibly welcoming host. To be honest I don’t think I got a feel for Phoenix at all, the city felt very spread out and although we visited several neighbourhoods I don’t think I ever went to downtown Phoenix.
But I fell in love with the nature and all the cacti , especially the huge Saguaro – did you know it takes about 100 years for them to grow one arm??
When Angie had to go back to New York, I checked into the new and super modern Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley which is definitely the posh part of town with some amazing houses up in the mountains and some spectacular views.
Last but not least I booked an organized day- trip to the Grand Canyon. I am not really the organized group trip kind of girl, but it saved us 10 hours of extra driving.
I thought Route 66, Sedona and the Grand Canyon were a bit too touristy, and the many gift shops spoilt it a little. But the scenery… wow. Breath-taking. You cant really take it all in, I walked away from the crowds and sat on a rock in silence for 30 minutes just staring into the valley. Next time I would like to be a little more organized and maybe book a night in one of the cabins in the valley and do a major hike. The Grand Canyon is deservedly one of the seven natural wonders of the world and has wet my appetite to visit other places like Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley…..
- I use the app HOTEL TONIGHT for last minute great deals on super hotels. Not booking your entire trip in advance lets you make decisions on where you want to stay longer much easier.
- I flew Norwegian air and they let you bid for an upgrade if business isn’t booked out, which I got and it was super comfortable. I have this thing where I don’t like to book a return flight as it gives me some weird sense of freedom and the idea I might want to stay longer, but if you are travelling on an Esta Visa into the US now, you have to have a return flight otherwise you are not allowed into the country (should have read the small print, as I had to book my return while checking in J)
- I researched all flight combinations from Phoenix back to London, but direct flights were really expensive. The best deal was to fly back to LA and then connect to London as these are very popular routes and therefore much cheaper.
- Book a comfortable car for a road trip! My friend Angie convinced me and got me off the idea of renting a convertible ( Thelma & Louise style). It was so much better to have aircon and escape the heat while driving.
Now, where to go next? 🙂