CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' W/ VISIT CALIFORNIA

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LONDON TO LA

On behalf of Visit California, I was invited on a ‘Rev Up, Rock Out & Revive’ tour of California, taking in three of its most famous, popular and cultural cities: San Diego, Palm Springs and Los Angeles.

The pinnacle of the trip was to attend Coachella, the annual music and arts festival that you will no doubt be familiar with if you don’t, in fact, live under a rock. It’s the American version of Glastonbury - getting bigger and bigger each year, attracting the biggest names and all the visitors from around the world for three days of music, food and dancing in the middle of the desert. Hence the ‘rev up, rock out & revive’ theme. Rev up in San Diego, Rock Out in Palm Springs and Revive in Los Angeles.

But first, before we get to exploring I wanted to tell you about my flight because truly, honestly, deeply this was one of the best flights I’ve ever had. Should you ever have the chance to fly with Air New Zealand - take it! I flew Premium Economy with them and absolutely loved it. The seat was so comfy, staff so good, an easy smooth journey, Crosstown doughnuts on the menu (oh - you heard right) and an inflight entertainment that kept me glued to the screen (I think I watched 6 films in total there and back - unheard of!). As someone who travels a whole lot and is (at least it feels like) constantly on a plane, I can honestly say Air New Zealand is worth your money. No surprises then that they won Airline of the Year 2018.

And for us Londoners to LAers, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Return flights start from £380 in Economy, £823 in Premium Economy and £2,843 in Business Premier. www.airnewzealand.co.uk

So bear that in mind next time you’re planning a Californian escape.

Talking of… shall we get going?

Here’s my (photo heavy) guide to the best of things to do in each city. We didn’t have long in one place, so please don’t expect a definitive guide - but here are some of my recommendations from the things we did on the trip.

www.visitcalifornia.co.uk

S A N D I E G O

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SHOP

Instagram heaven for the home head straight to Pigment in North Park - www.shoppigment.com

For a good salvage snoop if nothing else, pay a visit to Architectural Salvage of San Diego - you’ll want to take home vintage door frames and antique lighting, I guarantee.

What would Coachella be without a flower crown? We indulged ourselves with a whole lot of florals by way of florist Native Poppy and one of their magical workshops www.nativepoppy.com. Find them at Communal Coffee and get your caffeine fix at the same time.

EAT & DRINK

One of the tastiest meals we had on the trip was at Bar Kindred - don’t be fooled by its heavy metal description, it was nothing short of a pretty instagramming paradise with delicious food and cocktails to match (and all vegan). Take my word for it. www.barkindred.com

For a non-vegan experience, try Carnitas Snack Shack - www.carnitassnackshack.com

Would you be in America if you didn’t eat at least one donut? The only place to get one from is the Donut Bar. Why? a) they’re HUGE and b) they have every flavour imaginable (and probably some you’ve never imagined too). www.donutbar.com/san-diego

Into your craft beer? North Park is where you need to head to. Home to craft beer brewers like Modern Times Tasting Room & Mike Hess Brewing.

Nothing fancy but where plenty of carb-loading takes place - try Breakfast Republic (a bit like the Breakfast Club here in London, but 10x bigger because… ‘Merica). www.breakfastrepublic.com

VISIT

With the right weather, a stroll around Balboa Park is a must. The urban cultural park has plenty of open space areas, gardens, walking paths, museums and theatres as well as the California Tower which you can now climb up to the top (it’s not too challenging, I promise) for 360 degree views of San Diego.

If you’re visiting San Diego before Coachella, make sure you see what’s lined up at The Observatory in North Park - many of the acts that perform at the festival will do gigs here. We saw HAIM on our trip and it was a glorious, intimate gig that got us well in the music mood. www.observatorysd.com

Hotel Del Coronado - a legendary hotel on the beachfront that has played host to many a famous name. It’s old school classic and worth a walk around (unless you want to dig into your pockets and stay there). www.hoteldel.com

For a quirky stay in the heart of SD, check out The Lafayette Hotel - the rooms we stayed in were quite outdated (a glance at the hotel’s website makes me think they might have been re-done since our stay) but the hotel itself looks like it’s straight out a movie set and the pool is pretty cool!

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P A L M S P R I N G S

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EAT & DRINK

I can’t offer you many a recommendation here because we didn’t have chance really to explore Palm Springs by foot however I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Kreem for their iced delights. www.ilovekreem.com

DO

An absolute must is the Palm Springs Mod Squad Architecture & Design Tour - founder Kurt is your man for all things mid-century modern and shows you some of Palm Springs finest architecture. Super interesting and thoroughly enjoyable. When I return, I will definitely be doing a repeat tour! www.psmodsquad.com

Get your cultural fix at the Palm Springs Art Museum - www.psmuseum.org

Make sure you visit the iconic Saguaro Palm Springs - gotta do it for the gram. www.thesaguaro.com/palm-springs/

Book a tour with Tall Grass Hiking Tours around Joshua Tree or go it alone and explore this beautifully deserted national park. www.tallgrasshikingandtours.com

Finally, Coachella!

A whirlwhind festival with such an eclectic mix of people. From the ravers to the families, it’s a festival that caters to all and honestly, not as showy as it looks on instagram. If anything, it’s far less intimidating and way more normal than you’d expect. Of course, expect to pass incognito slebs on a regular basis.

We were totally spoilt with on-site VIP safari tents - meaning we could come and go from the festival as we pleased which was pure luxury. It’s a pricey way of doing a festival but the most wonderfully convenient. They come with double beds, air conditioning (though to be honest - Palm Springs in April is hot, hot, hot and there’s not much escaping the heat, wherever you are), golf cart transportation between stages, private parking, shower and toilet facilities, breakfast, an air conditioned lounge and plenty of very welcome h2o.

For more Coachella details and 2019’s line-up, visit here: www.coachella.com

For more info on safari camping, visit here: www.coachella.com/camping/

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The drive between Palm Springs and Los Angeles certainly isn’t a boring one. Mandatory stops include an In-N-Out and oh, the Cabazon Dinosaurs

I can’t really explain, so I’ll just leave this here: www.cabazondinosaurs.com

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L O S A N G E L E S

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For the last part of our trip, we headed to Los Angeles to revive, meaning a little more time to go that bit slower than the rest of the trip and to explore the city at our own pace.

SHOP

Abbott Kinney. A long stretch of cool cafes, independent boutiques and all the juice & coffee you could need. It’s an easy place to spend an afternoon (if not more) and all your money.

Feeling flush? Rodeo Drive, baby.

But for the ultimate LA shopping experience, head to Melrose Ave which has every dream shop imaginable. Swoon in and out of some of the best - from the impeccably designed Mansur Gavriel to my dream clothing store, Reformation. Expect to see a few famous faces - it’s their playground after all.

EAT & DRINK

Wanting delicious plant based food and a heap of goodness? Head to Cafe Gratitude - www.cafegratitude.com which are dotted around the city.

For brunch through to cocktails, swing by Rose Cafe near Venice Beach - www.rosecafevenice.com - and then take a stroll on the beach afterwards.

Make a reservation to enjoy poolside treats at Beverly Hills Hotel - who knows who you’ll come across at this very famous pink palace. www.dorchestercollection.com.

For a decent burger, all the fries and the views, head downtown to the Ace Hotel’s rooftop. Later, let it all digest poolside. www.acehotel.com/losangeles

VISIT

Santa Monica - famous for its pier and a few high street faves including Anthropologie & Sephora.

The Getty Villa is the second museum from oil tycoon when he realised he’d ran out of space in his first! The museum is dedicated to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. Even if that’s not your thing, the breathtaking grounds, hidden corners and architecture will be sure to take your fancy. www.getty.edu/visit/villa

Whilst you’re downtown, make sure to pay a visit to The Bradbury Building - guaranteed you will have seen the interior’s famous staircase in many a movie.

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I was a guest of Visit California’s on this trip. All opinions and recommendations are my own.