If you’re anything like me you’ll have spent your twenties seeing yourself as a groovy, bohemian, independent traveller, floating around far-flung spots and believing that having an itinerary was ‘cheating’. Well, those carefree days are long gone, girlfriend. With three children to herd, a business to run, and barely enough time to indulge in an afternoon swing on the chandelier or – frankly – brush my hair, I actively welcome having someone else sort out my summer holiday. Bring it on!
Which is why I’m loving long-haul travel specialists Turquoise Holidays – national and brilliant but handily based in Beaconsfield! Not only do they sort all the irritating logistical stuff out in terms of your itinerary, needs and budget, but they know all the most chic boutique hotels and coolest beaches, and they’ll ensure you don’t accidentally have a day that involves 12 soul-destroying hours of driving because you’ve misjudged a distance.
The company has always been hot on Asia, Australia & NZ and the Caribbean, but – tickle me with a palm frond – they’re now doing California. The West Coast might not be somewhere you’ve thought about exploring for a while or you might see it solely as a stop-off en route elsewhere, but it’s actually brilliant for a family holiday – my kids are desperate to go. Basically it’s road-trip heaven, the flight is the doable side of long haul (around 10 hours), California has mountains, vineyards, beaches and cities – and it’s nearly always sunny.
To give you a taster, we’ve picked our three favourite iconic itineraries for a California jaunt, while having a little reminisce about our previous trips out that way.
The route: Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Los Angeles
Turquoise says: Starting in the city that knows how to party 24/7, travelling via Hollywood’s desert playground and ending in the City of Angels, this week long itinerary takes you from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the desert delights of Palm Springs with the grand finale in Los Angeles. This road trip works brilliantly as the prelude to a week on a beach in the South Pacific islands of Fiji, Tahiti or the Cook Islands.
Muddy says: “In my glossy magazine days, I’d regularly whizz to LA to interview celebrities in their natural habitat. They’d often choose to meet at Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, the French-style castle that’s legendary for Hollywood hedonism.The bar by the pool, with its nooks and crannies shaded by tropical plants, is a super-cool spot. In fact, there’s a great run of hotels there in West Hollywood along the Sunset Strip, including The Standard and The Mondrian – you don’t have to be in residence to pop in for a poolside beer and rub shoulders with A-listers, just slide on and prop up the bar like you belong there. ” Hero Brown, chief Muddier
The route: San Francisco, Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park, Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley, Las Vegas
Turquoise says: As the world’s number 4 wine producer, it’s hard to resist a taste (literally) of California’s wonderful wine regions, and where better than the picturesque valleys of renowned Napa and lesser known Sonoma to experience some satisfying quaffing. Combine this with the wilderness of the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountain range, the phenomenal scenery in Yosemite and the desert expanse of Death Valley, then top and tail your holiday with cosmopolitan San Fran and rambunctious Las Vegas.
Muddy says: ‘Napa Valley is very special to me – and no, not just because of its endless boozing opportunities. I got engaged during a road trip here, after a magical day of touring vineyards. The next day, we treated ourselves to massages at the blissful, 5 star Calistoga Ranch spa, before driving south in our open-top Mustang, across the Golden Gate bridge and into San Francisco. There, we met friends to celebrate and, well, drank some more.’ Kerry Potter, Associate Editor
The route: San Francisco, Big Sur, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica
Turquoise says: This classic, all-American road trip takes you along one of the USA’s most renowned routes, Highway One. A cliff-hugging, twisting, turning, awe-inspiring coastal extravaganza, Highway One – the Pacific Coast Highway – never fails to impress. Viewed best when driving from north to south (right-hand driving takes you to the very edge of this spectacular coastline), Highway One isn’t the most direct route between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it’s one of the most scenic drives in the world.
Muddy says: ‘I have very fond memories of driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with my now-husband. We couldn’t believe how unspoilt, undeveloped and rugged the coastline is – when you think of California, you tend to think of its bustling cities. We loved stopping off at all the cute coastal towns like Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. Then there was Big Sur state park with one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen, and along the way, we regularly spotted pods of seals, basking in the sunshine on the rocks.’ Katie Molloy, Commercial Director