'It's just BEAUTIFUL, you guys'...is how Californians describe pretty much everything. Americans are, generally speaking, prolific users of the superlative, and Californians are no exception. And I don't blame them for their permanent state of enthusiasm; they live in one of the best places in the world...
California has it all
A stunning coast line, a mountain range ripe for adventure, a scorching desert, world famous vineyards, an array of National Parks, some of the best cities in the world, Hollywood and a laid-back, fun-loving attitude to boot... it's exhausting just thinking about it. Enter stage left two of my favourite hotels in the state, Post Ranch Inn and El Encanto, the perfect places to rest your head after a day of exploring.
This all-encompassing state sets itself apart from the rest not only because it literally ticks every box, but also because it has managed to escape the stereotypes that engulf the rest of America. It would be a lie to say it was junk food free, but California is 'Captain Healthy' in comparison to its neighbours. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that the main cities are all on the coast but Californians are fitness fanatics. Gym attire or wetsuits are practically the uniform for locals in the mornings as they power walk from yoga to the local juice bar or run along the beach looking for the perfect break! When it comes to food, 'farm-to-table' is very much their mantra. Restaurants pride themselves on the fact that everything is locally grown and that very little of the produce is brought in from elsewhere. As a result the culinary scene in Cali is vastly improving and becoming another selling point of this already hugely popular destination. My favourite 'farm-to-table' experience was in Santa Barbara at a new and exciting restaurant, recently opened by two young guys who are taking the foodie scene by storm with their creation 'Barbareño'.
As I mentioned, Cali is home to a stunning coastline, most famously Big Sur, the stretch between San Francisco and Santa Barbara. A Big Sur road trip down Highway One is something of a rite of passage and it's easy to see why; rolling green hills on one side give way to wild beaches with waves crashing down upon the sand on the other. It is honestly just beautiful, you guys! It is not just the beauty that attracts locals and tourists alike, it is the vast array of things to do. San Diego is renowned for its zoo, its beaches and its Mexican influences however, what a lot of people do not know, is that it has a huge naval scene. It is home to the USS Midway and the training base for the Navy Seals, which can be alarming as the apaches fly overhead. I was lucky enough to embark on the 1992 Americas Cup sailing boat for a sunset sail through the harbour; a great experience and a wonderful way to see the city.
When people talk about Los Angeles it generally evokes images of movies, glitz and glamour, and stars in the streets. However, there is more to LA than the rich and famous and, in my humble opinion, Santa Monica is LA's best asset. Located on the water, this beach town is like LA's cooler, more laid back little brother. One of the main attractions for visitors and locals alike is that you don't have to drive, everywhere is walkable, which is a welcome relief from LA's often nightmarish traffic. It has great shopping, great food, great bars, a great beach and really great hotels. If you haven't cottoned on, it's pretty great! It's better to stay by the beach, wake up to 'yoga by the ocean', head into LA for the day to see the Walk of Fame, Beverley Hills and Hollywood, and hurry back to the beach for a cocktail to watch the sun go down behind the pier.
To sum up...
California has something for everyone and sometimes all in one day; you can hit the early morning surf on the coast and be skiing in one of the mountain ranges in the afternoon. If outdoor pursuits are not your thing, don't panic, you can explore the state hopping from vineyard to vineyard starting in the Napa Valley and finishing in Santa Barbara. Whatever it is that you want to experience in this fabulous destination you will not be disappointed, because, you guys, it's all just so darn BEAUTIFUL!