Jacqueline’s experience of flying with Air New Zealand, a first for her, was very positive, from the excellent service to the friendly staff. She flew out in Premium Economy, which offers so much more space than a standard Economy seat, and she was lucky enough to fly home in Business Premier where seats convert into comfortable lie-flat beds. Both the Premium Economy and Business Premier cabins have a fantastic menu and a wide variety of New Zealand wines to choose from, plus an array of movies, television programmes and music on demand to keep you entertained.
Jacqueline arrived at her first hotel, Shutters on the Beach, late evening and was welcomed with a refreshing drink, before retiring to her room for the night. After a good sleep, Jacqueline woke nice and early to glorious sunshine, so took the opportunity to take a stroll along the promenade before breakfast. The hotel is located directly on the beach and is just a short walk from Santa Monica Pier, as well as shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a centrally located hotel that’s bright and modern, this will suit you down to the ground.
Whilst in Santa Monica, Jacqueline enjoyed an interesting tour of the Farmers Market with a local Chef Tour which she highly recommends; it’s a great way to mingle with the locals (and possibly some celebrities!) and the local produce is fantastic. She also took a guided bicycle tour of Santa Monica’s neighbourhoods, sampling tasty treats in each. If you wish to explore of your own accord, the hotel has an outdoor centre where bikes, roller blades and surf boards can be hired. Jacqueline also had the opportunity for some shopping and also recalls some particularly memorable pre-dinner cocktails at The Bungalow (at the Fairmont Hotel) which is the place to be for locals and has a great outdoor terrace where you can watch the sun and enjoy some tapas.
SANTA BARBARA On arrival at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara Jacqueline had a tour of the resort which she says is almost an institution in Santa Barbara. It’s owned by the famous, Ty Warner, (the creator of beanie babies) and is situated right on the beach in the Montecito area of the city, just a few minutes by car to the shops, restaurants and bars in the town centre. In Jacqueline’s opinion, the resort is most suited to families and couples looking for a larger hotel with a good range of facilities. The resort’s lovely gardens or the spa are perfect places for relaxing, there is a children’s club and three restaurants to choose from, and guests in Premier Rooms or higher receive complimentary access to the Beach Club.
Jacqueline thought that Santa Barbara felt much more laid back and relaxed than Santa Monica, and as her visit was during April, she was also lucky enough to see migrating whales from the beach, along with the resident dolphins. Whilst in Santa Barbara, Jacqueline also visited Belmond El Encanto, which she absolutely adored. It’s set in a stunning location overlooking Santa Barbara and has been recently fully refurbished – an excellent choice for couples looking for a small boutique hotel.
Taking in the region’s best asset, she enjoyed an excursion inland into Santa Barbara’s Wine Country, the San Ynez Valley, for an afternoon of winery tours, wine-tasting and a delicious lunch. Whether you choose to do this or stay locally on Santa Barbara’s own urban wine trail, wine-tasting is an absolute must!
Jacqueline was also treated to an evening in Downtown Santa Barbara that included a tour of the recently opened Santa Barbara Public Market and dinner at Bouchon Restaurant.
The last destination on the itinerary was Newport Beach where Jacqueline stayed at The Resort At Pelican Hill, which she describes as a fantastic place to relax a while. There are spacious villas and suites to stay in, the service is great and she highly recommends the Banana and Peanut Butter Smoothies! If you’re a shopper, head to Fashion Island Mall which is a massive open-air shopping mall with lots of boutiques and designer stores. Another of Jacqueline’s highlights in Newport Beach was a pleasure cruiser trip through the marina and towards the open sea, making a particularly pleasant way to sight-see, while sipping Champagne and savouring some great food!