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A Roadtrip in California: Where To Go and Stay
16 Mar. 2023
16 Mar. 2023
Bordering the Pacific Ocean for more than 1,350 kilometres, between land and sea, and with a Mediterranean climate, California is a bit of an Eldorado for the United States, a territory that made the conquest of the West a fantasy in the 19th century, and where today, start-ups and the biggest tech companies cohabit with the best vineyards of the Napa Valley, the film industry and magnificent natural landscapes. A California roadtrip is a great way to experience the American dream. A California roadtrip is a great way to experience the American Way of Life.
Located in the northern region of California, Napa Valley is known for being the American Viticultural Area of the United States. Offering vistas and vintages that would enthrall anyone who finds pleasure in the beverage and its history, Napa Valley’s Mediterranean climate and geology makes for the best wine-growing conditions in the country.
The county is home to some of the most prestigious wineries in the world, including Opus One Winery, the brainchild of Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rotschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley winemaker and icon Robert Mondavi, whose ambition was to create a unique Bordeaux-style blend from Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Tastings and tours of the estate are available by appointment. Their unique Opus One wine is priced from $460.
An estate that has witnessed the history of California unfold, Meadowood has earned itself the reputation as an institution for local vintners and winegrowers. Today, the property welcomes guests from all over the world and introduces them to the wondrous vintages of Napa Valley.
Sitting at the heart of a 250-acre estate, Meadowood is where one goes to relish good food, good wine, and more importantly, unrivalled privacy that has made it a favorite among Hollywood A-listers. Meadowood Napa Valley is a little gem for those seeking the intimacy of a country house, a reconnection with nature and local products. A short one-hour drive from San Francisco, guests are welcomed by a classic Napa Valley design, with a wooden façade that evokes conviviality and homeliness.
Inside, the property boasts 36 rooms and suites, sporting rustic aesthetics with panelling and parquet, vintage wooden furniture, stone fireplaces, and Carrera marble bathrooms, as well as private decks offering stunning views of the surrounding gardens.
The hotel has three restaurants, The Forum, The Terrace Café and The Restaurant at Meadowood (the latter is currently closed until 31 December 2023). The Forum Restaurant is an elegant tented structure with a white and yellow striped “madrid” roof, surrounded by glass walls, in a friendly country setting. The Forum and the Terrace Café invite you to enjoy classic dishes.
For those looking for a gastronomic dining experience, The Restaurant at Meadowood is the hotel’s 3-Michelin-starred address, helmed by Executive Chef Christopher Kostow. Usually opened for lunch and dinner from the 1st week of June to the last week of December.
Elsewhere, the hotel’s spa offers a delightfully holistic wellness experience that covers everything from massages and beauty treatments, using local organic ingredients such as in the Tree House Mustard Bath or the Tree House Milk Bath.
The Spa features treatments such as a sports massage using Theragun technology, and Stone massages with heated basalt stones. The spa also provides access to 2 relaxation gardens, 2 swimming pools, and a fully equipped fitness center.
Address: 900 Meadowood Lane, St Helena
Transfer: 30 minutes from Capell Valley Airport
Opening period: All year
Still in northern California, the city of San Francisco is often considered a little piece of Europe in the United States. Famous for its varied topology, iconic trams that run up and down the streets, piers and jetties that flow into San Francisco Bay. The city also has many landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the colourful Victorian houses known as the “Painted Ladies”, the Romanesque Palace of Fine Arts, serpentine Lombard Street, and the quirky, old-world charm of Haigh Street.
Seafood is the city’s culinary speciality and is enjoyed in the clam chowder bowl. Whether at Fisherman’s Wharf or at one of the city’s many restaurants, such as Chowders on Pier 39, you must try this delicious, creamy, flavourful soup with chunks of clam, potato, salt pork or lobster. Other signature dishes include Bread Bowl, Cioppino, a fish and tomato stew, prime rib or Irish Coffee, which can be found on any street corner in the city.
About 30 minutes south of San Francisco, still along the coast, Half Moon Bay offers the possibility to cut off from the rest of the world and enjoy some well-deserved downtime in one of the most scenic locations in California.
With its high cliffs overlooking some of the biggest waves in the United States, Half Moon Bay is pleasantly dramatic, and is one of the destinations that can also be enjoyed in foggy weather, giving it a mysterious air reminiscent of the Irish coast.
And when visitors are done walking along the 4-mile long Half Moon Bay Coastal trail, catching some waves at Surfers Beach or taking a hike along Dunes Beach, or even playing some rounds on the golf course, nothing beats sitting down by the warmth of a fireplace, enjoying a cup of coffee, and looking out at the breathtaking landscapes.
Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Coast, the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay rises like an elegant Old World mansion across the San Francisco Bay landscape, offering guests the chance to isolate themselves from the Californian effervescence.
The iconic Shingle-style property, an understated architectural style emblematic of New England, houses 261 guest rooms and suites. The interior is modern and residential, with a touch of New England interior design, most pronounced in the suites. Rooms are bright and offer views of the bay through floor-to-ceiling windows. The rooms also have a private terrace with a fireplace to enjoy the fresh air while staying warm.
Guests have access to 3 restaurants and bars. The Navio, with its nautical-inspired interior style, is flooded with light from the oversized windows, and offers magnificent views over the Bay. There guests can relish the fresh seafood cuisine of Chef de Cuisine Francisco Simón. The Ocean Terrace is a beautiful al fresco setting, ideal for days when the sun is out. The place offers unbeatable views over the bay and the grounds, along with a mouth-watering grill menu.
The Conservatory is stark-white, bright and elegant, with its huge bay window. There, guests can enjoy all-day dining, as well as a full bar with a focus on homegrown draft cocktails. The restaurant also includes the Wine Room, an intimate room with a wine cellar décor and holding over 4000 bottles, where up to 14 guests can relish a unique wine tasting experience.
Finally, the hotel’s 16,000-square-foot spa offers massages and treatments, including signature treatments such as the Bamboo Muscle Reviving massage with a bamboo massage stick, and the Redwood Forest ritual, inspired by the redwood forests of California and using ingredients such as aromatic herbs and wood.
Address: 1 Miramontes Point Rd, Half Moon Bay
Transfer: 30 minutes from San Francisco International Airport
Opening period: All year
The drive from Half Moon Bay to Carmel-by-the-Sea takes almost two hours. Before arriving in the charming little town of Carmel-by-the-sea, you should stop at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, which is quite sublime, displaying a wide variety of marine species including the impressive whale shark.
A little less than 2 hours from Half Moon Bay, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a beautiful, little city in Monterey Peninsula, known for its scenic landscapes that have inspired artists for generations. The city’s history is so interlinked with art that many of its mayors have been poets and actors, including Clint Eastwood, from 1986 to 1988.
Much of the charm of Carmel is how the place feels like a time capsule and yet timeless at the same time. Visitors can come across Spanish-inspired buildings, rows of mid-century houses (the city even boasts the Mrs. Clinton Walker House, which was designed by the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright), various churches such as Carmel Mission Basilica or the Church of the Wayfarer, as well as a slate of modern art galleries. Ocean Avenue, the main thoroughfare of the city, is lined with medieval houses and quaint little shops that look as if they were lifted from the pages of some fairy tale.
Just outside Carmel-by-the-Sea, Point Lobos National Reserve is also a fantastic place for those who want to experience a picturesque and wild landscape, with places like Sea Lion Point, which, as the name suggests, is where you can find sea lions basking on the rocks.
The Big Sur section of Highway 1 is one of the longest and most scenic routes in all of the United States. With the lush redwood forested mountains on one side and the dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the other, the beauty of the 17-mile drive is striking.
While the view itself is the main attraction of Big Sur, the route is nevertheless lined with landmarks where travelers can stop, such as McWay Falls, the 19th century Point Sur Lightstation, Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur River, and a number of hiking spots and trails.
The 54 rooms are located along the spectacular slopes with views of the Pacific Ocean, and the mountains and Lucia Forest in the background. Straightforward and all-wood, the facilities are contemporary cabin lodges, with natural panelled walls, modern furnishings, fireplaces, large terraces, and wildlife photography decoration, providing the perfect setting for a reconnection with nature. The hotel also offers an adults-only glamping experience for immersion in the redwood forest.
The Alila Ventana Big Sur is also home to the Sur House, a clifftop restaurant where guests can relish delicious, hearty American classics alongside unbeatable views over the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Big Sur Smokehouse is located right at the entrance of the resort, with a classic barbecue menu with a Californian twist.
Even the spa makes the most of the gorgeous setting. Guests can enjoy their massages in outdoor cabanas that open up to the surrounding nature through large glass doors and terraces. The Alila Spa offers signature treatments such as AstroSoma which combines muscle relaxation therapy and astrology, as well as Astrology readings. Guests also have access to an indoor heated pool and fitness center.
Address: 48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, United States
Transfer: 50 minutes from Monterey Regional Airport
Opening period: All year
About 4 hours and 20 minutes south of Big Sur, Santa Barbara is what people are now calling “The American Riviera”, and for a good reason. Boasting a pleasant, Mediterranean climate, an urban landscape that oozes Hispanic influences, and rich natural surroundings, Santa Barbara is the quintessential Californian spirit.
The city is filled with interesting spots and landmarks and is one of the most walkable cities in the country. The State Street Promenade alone could easily take a whole day to visit. The place is filled with quaint little shops, stalls with carnival decorations and vintage street clocks, flea markets, towering palm trees, vintage street lights and numerous restaurants and luxury boutiques. Other landmarks include the Old Santa Barbara Mission, the Museum of National History, the Stearns Wharf where you can see an incredible number of yachts and catamarans resting in the Marina. The Botanical Garden is also a stunning visit, with a pleasant stone trail making it easy for visitors to walk around.
Perched on the hills of Santa Barbara, overlooking the Channel Islands and less than 2 hours from Los Angeles, the El Encanto, A Belmond Hotel, is the perfect destination for guests to enjoy the blitz of the neighborhood, while also relishing the elegance and glamour of Old Hollywood (in the early 1900’s, Santa Barbara held the first major film studio).
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and bathed in sunshine, El Encanto invites guests to experience the American Riviera. With architecture inspired by the Spanish colonial aesthetic, the hotel exudes a 1920s atmosphere. All 92 rooms, suites and bungalows are bright and residential in style, with period furnishings and handcrafted decorative pieces that pay homage to Santa Barbara’s history.
On the culinary front, guests can enjoy the best of California cuisine in the Dining Room & Terrace, a casually elegant room with views of the surrounding gardens and Santa Barbara, and featuring seafood and artisanal products. The Lounge, meanwhile, is an open-air space, ideal for a light lunch while enjoying the beautiful weather.
El Encanto completes its offer with a spa that collaborates with the brand Linda Ross, which has created exclusive treatments for the hotel. The spa also offers meditations with sound baths led by Cristy Candle and has a fitness studio and pool.
Address: 800 Alvarado Place, Santa Barbara
Transfer: 15 minutes from Santa Barbara Airport
Opening period: All year
Located in Southern California, Los Angeles is popular for being the home of Hollywood, the beating heart of the American film industry. However, the city’s rich multicultural history makes for a destination that has a lot more to offer.
Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Holmbly Hills form the golden triangle of Los Angeles. In Beverly Hills, the high-end brands are as common as the towering palm trees that line each road. Along the famous Rodeo Drive and other avenues, visitors can find brands such as Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Prada and more, interspersed by tiny local coffee houses and eateries and craft beer breweries. When in Holmbly Hills, star villas hide and reveal themselves at every turn.
For a dose of culture, the Getty is one of the city’s most popular museums, known for its unique architecture and extensive collection of 19th, 20th and 21st century art.
The Broad Museum features exhibitions and collections of contemporary art, including Yayoi Kusama’s mysterious and sublime Infinity Mirror Rooms.
The Griffith Observatory is a must for space and stargazing enthusiasts. It was the setting for part of the film La La Land.
And for film buffs, the Academy Museum features a collection of objects and treasures used on the sets of iconic films such as Star Wars and The Godfather.
The food is definitely a highlight of the city as well. Given L.A. rich Hispanic heritage, but also cosmopolitan nature, the city is filled with restaurants and eateries with cuisines from all over the world. From Michelin-starred Japanese kaiseki dinner at Hayato to the rustic Filipino flavors and casual atmosphere of Kuya Lord, the city has something for everybody.
Open since the beginning of the 20th century, the is an icon of the Los Angeles luxury hotel industry, its reputation having been forged by visits from the greatest celebrities and stars of Hollywood’s golden age, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and Clark Gable, who have led the way for all the others, right up to the present day. The hotel will often be the scene of post-Oscars parties or shootings. To stay at the Beverly Hills is to experience Hollywood glamour.
The hotel combines several architectural styles (Hispanic Colonial Revival, Mediterranean Revival and Mission Revival) and does not go unnoticed with its iconic terra cotta pink colour. The hotel has 210 rooms and suites, all of which have a California bungalow style with a palette of cream, beige, grey, olive or pink tones, and vintage or Art Deco furnishings. Some rooms and suites have a patio.
On the culinary front, three restaurants and bars welcome guests to the Beverly Hills Hotel. All are dressed in green and white. The Polo Lounge with its white and green striped ceiling, semi-circular velvet banquettes and pink hacienda-like terrace is glamorous and romantic. The Fountain Coffee Room, with its tropical-themed interior, is the typical American diner and is especially famous for its “silver dollar pancakes”. The poolside Cabana Café completes the hotel’s culinary offering.
The Spa at the Beverly Hills Hotel was recently renovated and invites guests to relax and rejuvenate within its brand new interiors by Alexandra Champalimaud. In a setting inspired by Californian flora and fauna, guests can enjoy massages and treatments, the services of Joseph’s Beauty Salon, access to a swimming pool and a gym.
Address: 9641 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Transfer: 25 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport
Opening period: All year
A 1 hour and 20 minute drive from Los Angeles, Laguna Beach offers a tropical setting along the Pacific coast, home to pristine beaches and parks, such as Crystal Cove State Park and Heisler Park, perfect for a surf session and hiking. The town of Laguna Beach is bustling with shops, restaurants, wellness facilities and spas, and has a rich cultural heritage, with galleries and museums, a legacy of the art and hippie community that once called it home. The Laguna Art Museum, for example, is dedicated to the art of local Californian artists from the 19th century to the present day.
Located 2 hours and 20 minutes by car from Los Angeles, San Diego is situated at the southern tip of the state of California, on the Mexican border, and is considered the historical cradle of California.
The city was indeed the territory of the first Kumeyaay Indians but also the first place to be visited by Europeans and in particular the Spaniards in the 16th century who settled there. It passed to the Mexicans and became part of California in 1850, after the Mexican-American War.
San Diego is also known for its military port, cutting-edge businesses, and university medical facilities that make it a centre for biotechnology research.
The city of San Diego is home to many cutting-edge architectural wonders. The Geisel Library at the University of San Diego resembles a floating spaceship, while the San Diego Central Library is a fascinating and complex tangle of steel. The Salk Institute is a masterpiece of brutalist architecture. The California Temple, the city’s Mormon temple, with its two pointed steeples, looks like something out of a movie set. The historic Gaslamp district, known for its nightlife with bars and clubs, is also notable for its Victorian architecture.
San Diego offers a wide range of entertainment and outings with 18 museums, nature parks such as Balboa Park, which covers 486 hectares, and a zoo where you can see giant pandas. Every year in July, the city hosts the very popular comic book festival, San Diego Comic-Con.
Nestled at the heart of a 45-acre property, surrounded by landscaped gardens of citrus trees and olive groves, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa epitomizes the Mediterranean spirit of Southern California.
Featuring Spanish colonial hacienda architecture, with its earthy tones bathed in sunlight, Rancho Valencia is home to no less than 49 casitas. The casitas combine Hispanic colonial charm, particularly through the period furniture, with contemporary loft comfort.
The Pony Room and the Rein are the culinary offerings at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa. The Pony Room features a cozy hacienda-like decor with openings to the gardens throughout, exposed beams and large wrought iron chandeliers. Guests can enjoy Mediterranean and Southern California cuisine. The restaurant offers an impressive selection of wines, tequilas (over 100 varieties) and locally brewed beers. Le Rein offers a casual setting for light meals and refreshing cocktails by the pool.
The Spa at Rancho Valencia offers an array of treatments and massages, using products that include natural minerals, herbs, and oils designed for relaxation. The spa also includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, a new beauty salon with hair, manicure, and pedicure services, as well as a relaxation area.
Address: 5921 Valencia Circle (Box 9126) Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
Transfer: 25 minutes from McClellan-Palomar Airport
Opening period: All year
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