San Francisco is a great starting point for a tour of California and The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco offers a slice of tranquillity, yet is just blocks away from Fisherman’s Wharf which is one of most visited attractions. Here you'll find excellent fish and seafood restaurants, along with waterfront souvenir stalls, steaming crab cauldrons and French bakeries that all add to the bustling atmosphere. For a sight-seeing tour with a difference, Debra suggests taking a trip on a ‘Duck’ – that can drive on land and sail through the water – listening to stories about places of interest around the bay from your Captain. Do catch the ferry to Alcatraz for a tour of the island prison that was once home to Al Capone and have your camera handy to take photos of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Leaving the bright lights of San Francisco behind, Debra ventured into the picturesque rolling hills of the Napa Valley where there are plenty of wineries offering opportunities to sample some of the region's delicious wines. And for guests of Meadowood Napa Valley there are wine-related experiences including wine and wine-making lessons and even spa treatments. Debra says that 'foodies' will be in heaven in the Napa Valley and the hotel's main restaurant offers superb gourmet cuisine, but if you wish to venture out, she suggests The Wine Train which is one of the area’s most unique fine dining restaurants. Housed in an antique train that runs along twenty-five miles of track within the valley, it serves up a fantastic blend of regional cuisine that can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner, winery tours and American history.
From one beautiful valley to another, Debra's next stay was at the Carmel Valley Ranch. Set in almost five-hundred acres of extraordinarily beautiful countryside and featuring an 18-hole golf course, tennis complex, scenic hiking trails, horse-riding tracks and beautiful gardens; the resort was seemingly made for relaxing. You’ll find hot tubs and suites with outdoor decks to help you unwind after a day exploring Carmel Beach (just a few minutes away), or hiking through Big Sur's coastal forests. Clint Eastwood fans will be interested to learn that his restaurant at Mission Ranch, is open for dinner and Sunday brunch, as well as evening drinks in the piano bar, accompanied by views of the mountains, the ocean and sheep grazing in the meadows.
After your stay in Carmel, Debra suggests heading to Santa Barbara, making a detour en route at Hearst Castle in the hills at San Simeon. This super-extravagant, showstopping mansion has real ‘wow factor’ and you can take a tour to learn more about it. Why not refuel with some lunch before continuing to Belmond El Encanto that has a blissfully serene ambience and facilities including a swimming pool that has views towards the Pacific Ocean, gardens, fitness studios, a full service spa and gastronomic delights created with locally-sourced seasonal produce including herbs from the garden and cheese made with milk from the hotel’s own cow. Highlights on your ‘to do’ list are very likely to include the golden beach of Santa Barbara and the array of shops in Downtown – the hotel even supplies complimentary electric bikes to help you explore. While Santa Barbara Zoo, the Ty Warner Sea Center and the Sunday artists’ market, are other options.
Next stop Beverly Hills in Los Angeles for a stay at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, which is just steps from Rodeo Drive and its designer boutiques, and features rooms with views of the Hollywood Hills. Embrace the movie-star culture that is alive and kicking in Beverly Hills with a tour of the palatial homes of the stars and spot the names of your favourite film icons on plaques on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Of course, there are five-star restaurants and fashionable bars too, but the hotel’s restaurant, CUT, serves some of the best steakhouse cuisine in Beverly Hills. Guests who want to feel spoilt should order some Champagne, book a private poolside cabana and enjoy!
If you're into outdoor pursuits Debra says that you won't go wrong by adding the Newport Coast to your itinerary. The region enjoys good weather almost year-round and if you stay at The Resort at Pelican Hill you can enjoy activities including championship golf, or a yoga session on the beach. Nearby you can head to Newport Harbor, the largest recreational boat harbour on the west coast and if you are travelling with a group of friends or family, Debra says that hiring an electric ‘Duffy Boat’ is really fun. Each comfortably accommodates up to ten people and it's easy to drive around the harbour − maps are provided − mooring up at one of the local restaurants for a spot of lunch. If getting into the water is more your thing, Newport Beach is renowned for its surfing and tuition can be arranged. Other activities that will have you embracing your surroundings in no time include paddle-board lessons, sea-kayaking and bike tours that take in the best of the coastline. In addition, Disneyland and Universal Studios are also just a short drive away, so there really is something to suit most tastes and interests.