When it comes to air miles, our expert Travel Consultants have amassed a fair few as they endeavour to seek out the finest travel experiences for our discerning clients, and when it comes to stylish travel, they know more than most. Therefore, when Air New Zealand invited our Senior Travel Consultant, Vicky Arrowsmith, to experience their London to Los Angeles service, her expectations were high.
Flying business class, Vicky was instantly impressed by the spacious and stylish setting which set the tone for a luxurious and sophisticated journey. Vicky especially admired Air New Zealand’s state-of-the-art amenities and attention to detail, including such novelties as being able to use the entertainment facilities from the moment you board, until the plane has arrived at the terminal, thereby addressing one of Vicky’s personal bugbears – missing the end of a film because the entertainment is turned off! In keeping with these thoughtful touches, Vicky was impressed with the friendly and relaxed approach to service on board, which ensured each passenger was catered to and cared for in a non-intrusive and non-formal way, ensuring comfort and privacy for the entire flight. She also notes the fabulous food, which made for a truly enjoyable journey and really set the tone for a fantastic trip.
Ever the action-packed destination, Vicky’s Californian itinerary boasted a vibrant variety of activities that really showcased all that the glorious Golden State has to offer. After departing her business class haven, Vicky enjoyed a delectable dinner at The Resort at Pelican Hill and had a well-advised early night ahead of a busy few days. The Resort at Pelican Hill’s luxurious suites practically guarantee a restful night’s sleep and Vicky was certainly grateful for the resort’s peaceful ambience as she returned from each day’s adventurous activities.
Newport Beach is one of California’s most desirable neighbourhoods and showcases some of the finest eateries, best recreational activities and truly stunning views. Deciding to live like a local, Vicky took to the water on one of Newport Harbour’s iconic Duffy boats.
Newport Beach natives regularly hire these light sailing vessels to enjoy a picnic with picturesque views. Vicky notes that these boats would be ideal for families seeking a fun and unique luxury holiday experience, as well as being the ideal way to tour the harbour. It is well known that Californian’s love the outdoors, and Vicky wasn’t shy about embracing the great outdoors in LA style. A real highlight was her bike tour from Santa Monica to Venice Beach, which not only proved to be the ideal way to see some of California’s most captivating landscapes, but felt like a refreshing departure from the typical bustle of travel and city living. Bikes are freely available along the coast, whilst most of our featured luxury Californian hotels offer complimentary bike rental as standard. Vicky particularly praised the safe and secure cycle and hiking paths, easily accessible across California, thoughtfully designed with families in mind. Segways are an alternative transport for those seeking a more sedate pace during their stay.
Keen to showcase California’s abundance of natural beauty and outdoor attractions, Vicky’s itinerary included two standout tours that she says will stay with her forever. After enjoying a scenic drive to Palm Springs, which Vicky recommends for anyone seeking an extension to their Californian holiday, she arrived at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Describing the temperature as “baking”, Vicky was somewhat bemused when the guide asked if she had a jumper ready to wear. As the cable-car began its slow and steady journey to the Alpine Zone, 10,834ft above ground level, the temperature began to fall and the need for extra layers made sense. Vicky departed the cable car in astonishment as snowy mountains and frost-flaked fir trees came into view. Standing in the heart of Mount San Jacinto State Park, Vicky fell in love with a different perspective of California that felt a world away from the sun-soaked, beachfront city she’d left behind just ten minutes before.
It is no wonder that Californian families regularly take this trip to spend a day hiking in the magnificent valleys, with a temperature far more favourable for active pursuits than those at ground level.
It would take something very special to top the awe-inspiring Aerial Tramway, but fortunately California knows how to put on a show. Next up, was Indian Canyons in Palm Springs, a sacred setting in American history and the former settling of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. An area of truly unspoilt natural splendour, Vicky says, “I didn’t realise the desert could be so beautiful” as Indian Canyons is far more than the dry dustbowl many imagine when picturing a desert hike. With endless trails and scenic tours to explore, Indian Canyons would be an ideal daytrip for anyone seeking to uncover a lesser known side of California as rich in history as it is with beauty.
Returning to Palm Springs, Vicky found the Old Hollywood glamour of the town beautifully alluring. “I was walking around imagining I’d see the Rat Pack performing or Marilyn Monroe relaxing by the pool.” However, there is a contemporary cool emerging within Palm Springs as Los Angeles’ younger elite seek out an exclusive and secluded setting to enjoy weekends away from the city. After a day’s hiking, there is no shortage of elegant eateries and upbeat bars to unwind and enjoy a perfectly crafted cocktail in a town oozing with relaxed style.
Similarly, Vicky felt at home back in Santa Monica’s ambient high-end luxury, encapsulated as she dined at Viceroy Santa Monica one evening. Choosing a stylish monochrome poolside cabana as the setting for a delectable dinner, Vicky delighted in the luxury hotel’s exceptional service. “They really went to town with the food. The Head Chef is Jamaican and the menu is a great blend of classic Californian cuisine with a spicy spin and who knew purple carrots would be so delicious?”
With the bar having been set so high at Viceroy Santa Monica, Vicky didn’t think her epicurean experiences could be topped. However, an afternoon spent at one of Santa Monica’s fantastic farmers’ markets made her reconsider. A maze of vibrant, freshly grown food and perfectly appointed stalls invited an adventure of tasting and sampling of everything from wild beetroot, to iron-rich purple potatoes. Vicky advises that anyone planning to visit a farmers’ market during their stay should avoid eating lunch before hand; such is the availability of sizeable samples on offer!
The taste tour didn’t stop there, however. Vicky turned her hand to a little gourmet cooking, under the watchful eyes of an experienced chef, by taking a cooking class at The Gourmandise School, located at Santa Monica Place. Thoroughly hands-on, Vicky describes the ambience as being more like a fun dinner party than a formal cooking lesson. Classes can take half a day for a full, in-depth experience and Vicky advises guests to pre-book this experience as the school is in high demand with tourists and Los Angeles locals.
Whilst all this divine dining may seem at odds with the famously health-conscious lifestyle of Los Angeles and beyond, Vicky reveals she didn’t have to count calories or steps during her stay as her new-found love for beachfront cycling and hiking with a view took care of any excess baggage she might have brought home!
Speaking of baggage, confessed shopaholic Vicky did squeeze in a short shopping stint during her stay. Having just an hour to spare, but a favourable exchange rate to enjoy, she came away with two designer handbags and some new shoes; an apparent necessity for a night out in Los Angeles’ stylish social scene!
After such an action packed few days, Air New Zealand’s luxurious business class was the ideal setting in which Vicky could relax on the flight home, and to recall all of the incredible experiences she’d amassed along the way. “I forgot how much I love America” she said upon her return, “California is such a fantastic place for anyone to travel; families, couples or independents. All you need is a good pair of (walking) shoes!”