Previous guest-blogger Ana Silva – whose last post on Cape Town can be read here – is back with more tales of exotic gallivanting. This month the food- and wine-loving MBA student ventured to California (who knows where she gets the time!), where she checked out the areas around Los Angeles and Palm Desert. Lucky thing.
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“I first visited the area of Palm Desert by mistake on an otherwise extremely well-planned California road trip some years ago. Turns out it was one of the best mistakes I have ever made. Palm Desert, approximately 90-minutes drive from LA, is one of the six ‘Desert Cities’ – Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Indian Wells and La Quinta – and combines some of my favourite activities in the world, with fabulous hotels, incredible shopping, mouthwatering food and year-round sunbathing. We stayed, as usual, at the Westin Mission Hills resort, which together with the Meridien Parker Palm Springs, is one of the best resorts in the area. We shopped at the Desert Hills Premium Outlets (located in Cabazon, 30-minutes from the Desert Cities on the I-10) and at El Paseo, the desert’s very own Rodeo Drive. I was incredibly impressed how the latter had got bigger and better since my previous visit in April, as two blocks of this great street were built from scratch. A Westfield mall and all the usual retail suspects are present and correct here, too. When it comes to food, you can’t miss Roy’s, Pacifica Seafood and Arnold Palmer’s own restaurant. There are plenty of options for every palette, but be warned – dinner here starts at 5pm, so do not be disappointed to find restaurants empty after 8pm! We always wondered what people did after dark, as we never saw anyone out very late; turns out they were at the Agua Caliente casino (in Rancho Mirage), which was packed with locals and visitors alike flashing the green stuff. My favourite part of the trip? The weather! When it’s cold in Europe, it’s 35ºC in the desert – perfect for those out-of-season breaks. I really can’t wait to go back after Christmas, and after a total of three trips this year I have promised myself I will only return once in 2011; Miami isn’t happy with me!
With my recurring visits to Palm Desert, the LA area became part of my life and I am now a huge fan. Always too tired to even contemplate driving to the desert after landing from London, a one-night stop always takes place in Santa Monica which gets repeated and extended after returning from Palm Desert. Santa Monica has became one of my favourite places to visit, and is a perfect base when in the area. Great hotels (Shutters on the Beach, Loews, Viceroy and the newly-refurbished Sheraton Delfina) are all within walking distance of the city’s two shopping and dining areas, Main Street and 3rd Street Promenade. Santa Monica Place, an open-air mall anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom department stores, has added glamour to the Promenade, which now has two more upscale shopping blocks that includes Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton and a Kitson store. Here you’ll also find four incredible restaurants, of which I’d recommend the Sonoma Wine Bar. Other great locals include The Lobster (just before the pier entrance) and Ivy on the Shore. In Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, the usual cool hotel bar/restaurant scene has an incredible newcomer – the SLS Beverly Hills, designed by Philippe Starck and home to possibly one of the top three restaurants I have ever visited, Bazaar by José Andres, a disciple of creative Spanish chef Adrian Ferran. We also visited the SkyBar and Asia de Cuba at the Mondrian (could I ever go to the area and not go there?) and the Standard Bar at the Standard Hotel. As for shopping… where do start? Of course, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (although the shops are exactly the same as everywhere else) and the Santa Monica Promenade. We also had a lovely lunch and afternoon in nearby old-town Pasadena, a must-visit (where the Walkers from Brothers & Sisters live) en-route to Santa Anita, where you can find Westfield’s Fashion Park – the only place with Abercrombie’s new sister brand Gilly Hicks in California. And if outlet shopping is your thing, the best in the area are in Camarillo, an hour’s drive north of LA (recently extended), which will allow you a drive back to town on the Pacific Coast Highway, the famous US1, through Maliby and straight into Santa Monica. Cant wait to go back again!”