Scenic. That’s one way to describe this particular road trip across California’s luxurious vistas. But there’s plenty more here to stimulate the senses.
Begin in La Jolla, a seaside town known for its boutiques, restaurants, art, and, most notably, Dr. Seuss. The whimsical writer moved to La Jolla after the Second World War and resided atop a hill called Mount Soledad until his death. His influences can be seen everywhere: there’s the life-size bronze sculpture dedicated to him and his towering 7.5-foot alter-ego, the Cat in the Hat, at Geisel Library, UC San Diego; his annual birthday celebration; and “The Art of Dr. Seuss” exhibit at Legends Gallery, which includes his colourful Unorthodox Taxidermy collection.
Art is celebrated here. There are the abundant Murals of La Jolla, a series of commissioned public art projects on privately-owned buildings—a rotating outdoor exhibit of sorts. Then there is the impressively eclectic Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, whose recent one-of-a-kind “San Diego Collects” exhibit gave visitors a peek into the private collections of local residents who lent artwork by the likes of David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, Mimmo Paladino, and Cindy Sherman.
At George’s at the Cove, one can enjoy ocean views and fresh seafood, but the real show-stopper is The Marine Room. Passionate and gregarious, executive chef Bernard Guillas (who has been there for 21 years) is as magnetic a force as the tides in ensuring a magical experience. Fresh, quality ingredients play a key role, and luckily, in San Diego there are 3,000 micro farms, and up to 42 farmers’ markets each month—which means Guillas is able source the very best for his dishes, including a favourite of his: Togarashi Sesame Spiced Ahi Tuna with sticky black rice, avocado fritters, mango, and white port hibiscus reduction.
Soon it’s time for bed at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, which has a laid-back, old world charm. There’s stained glass throughout the property, and even a reading library with books on subjects ranging from gentlemanly etiquette to politics. It overlooks the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course, a mecca with views of the Pacific Ocean; there are also all sorts of hikes available at the nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
No trip to California is complete without a visit to West Hollywood, the land of dreams and dreamers.
Speaking of reserves, one great way to explore California’s wineries is with San Diego Beer & Wine Tours, which can include pizza lunch at Cordiano Winery, plus Orfila Vineyards & Winery and Bernardo Winery. Almost like its own little artsy village, Bernardo allows visitors to pair wine tasting with chocolate samples. There is even a 50-year-old Chocolate Bar Port that is hard to resist, so why bother trying?
An hour-and-a-half on the road later means arrival in Newport Beach. The Cannery, once a fish canning operation, is now a waterfront restaurant with a measure of eccentricity and warmth in its decor, and delicious, fresh seafood. It makes for an ideal stop before wandering around the charming Balboa Island, which is sprinkled with old-fashioned shops and eateries.
From there, it doesn’t take long to arrive at the five-star Montage Resort at Laguna Beach. The Montage takes luxury to a different level with its expansive lobby and meticulously crafted suites, all of which feature ocean views. It may have only been built in 2003, but it has a classic feel. A chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings at one of the resort’s restaurants, Studio, is an indulgence worth partaking in. Chef Craig Strong fuses California influences with modern French cuisine in his Zen-like kitchen, where his staff work with swift precision to put together art on a plate—paired with a collection of over 2,500 wines.
Of course, no trip to California is complete without a visit to West Hollywood, the land of dreams and dreamers. Discreetly tucked away in the Sunset Plaza’s lower level is the Ole Henriksen Spa, which despite its extensive celebrity clientele is completely unassuming. Nearby is The London West Hollywood hotel; modern yet full of Hollywood glamour, its balconies are ideal for enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the city.
If the visit must come to an end, it’s best to say goodbye over drinks at the iconic Sunset Tower Hotel’s Tower Bar, once Bugsy Siegel’s old apartment. Steeped in Hollywood history, mystery, and elegance, it has hosted legends including Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes, and Errol Flynn. A recommended drink of choice: the Tower Smash, a blend of tequila, fresh basil, lemon, and ginger. It’s a fine salute to the California way.
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