Welcome to a series of posts capturing the beginnings of what I’m sure will become a passionate love affair with the United States. There are so many places in this amazing country I am yet to visit, but for a first trip, I think I did rather well, covering a few major areas in the Sunshine State and beyond.
It took about eleven hours to get from London Heathrow to LAX, and another couple of hours driving on the busy highway towards Palm Springs. But in the end when I finally made it to the gorgeous JW Marriott Desert Springs, it was all worth it. The hotel is more than a piece of heaven, an oasis in the middle of the desert dunes, boasting stunning lagoon pools (some of which inhabited by flamingos!) two beautiful 18-hole golf courses, and a luxurious spa. Besides, you can enter the lobby bar via boat, so I’ll go ahead and call this pretty darn cool.
^ The ideal place to grab a spot of lunch by the pool, for amazing views of the resort against the backdrop of the desert ridges.
^ I went for a boat ride in the late hours of the afternoon, when the sun was slanting down through the sky and bathing the gardens in gold.
^ Apparently Justin Timberlake owns one of these houses. I could see why he would pick that complex as a good place for a summer house.
^ The spa. I had an amazing back & neck treatment here!
^ The lobby with its little charming jetty.
I had exciting plans for the evening, which involved a half-hour drive through the sand dunes, that took me to Hotel Lautner, an exclusive place of stunning architectural design, paired with a street food fair set up just moments away from the desert hotel.
^ Beef burger with yoghurt and mint sauce. Let’s all pretend I only had that as a nice, light dinner (no).
John Lautner is considered Hollywood’s most creative architect, but his designs are recognised across the world for their innovative, futuristic nature. I got the sense that his buildings are treated almost as a national treasure, a piece of exquisite art, and when a ‘rare Lautner’ is discovered, its undeniable charm and cosiness can’t fail to attract a loyal crowd of collectors, who bid substantial sums to make it theirs.
Hotel Lautner is owned by Tracy Beckmann and her husband, whom we met on our visit. Tracy was lovely and very welcoming, she was genuinely passionate about the history of Lautner’s desert masterpiece, and told us all about the conservation of the site. She also told us a couple of interesting stories about some famous brand campaigns shot there, but she would not budge on the names of the private hotel guests. Rumour has it that Angelina Jolie, among others, frequents the establishment, but alas, we’ll never know.
What I liked the most about Tracy was that she said she wouldn’t pay more than $300 per night for one of the apartments, so she never charges guests above that price. Unfortunately, this means the place is booked up for months in advance, so do plan early if you want to go!
My fascinating road trip continued on the next day when I got back to L.A. As a proper shopaholic I went straight down to Rodeo Drive, the city’s most famous shopping street in the heart of Beverly Hills.
^ I absolutely love the range of colours in the Dolce & Gabbana summer collection.If I could afford all the shoes, I could even wear them in wacky combinations!
^ A beautiful monochrome window from Agent Provocateur.
^ And another colourful set-up from Stefano Ricci. You can find them at Harrods in the UK.
With a last longing look at the shops, I peeled my eyes off the picture-perfect alleys and started making my way towards my next stop – Hollywood Boulevard.
^ Another iconic site in L.A. – driving down Sunset Boulevard in a convertible is one to add to the US Travel bucket list if you haven’t already.
^ Hollywood Blvd, roughly where the Walk of Fame segment begins.
^ Stunning resemblance! For half a heartbeat I was sure I’d seen Johnny Depp but then I realised Hollywood Boulevard is probably the last place he’d want to spend his Saturday.
^ The TCL Chinese Theatre, hosting many Hollywood film premieres, and famous for the handprints and footprints that celebrities leave upon walking the red carpet.
^ It’s impossible to go through all the names on the Walk, as they are just too many. I’d recommend deciding on a few of your favourite celebrities, and finding their approximate locations on a map before you set out, as otherwise it would take you ages!
^ Dolby theatre is another iconic site for the film industry – it has been hosting the Academy Awards Ceremony (the Oscars) since 2002. It’s located inside the Hollywood and Highland Center shopping & entertainment complex, whose terrace also happens to be one of the good places to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.
Contrary to what movies will make you believe, the sign is not visible from everywhere in Hollywood, it’s quite far away from the Walk of Fame, and is tucked away behind the tall buildings lining the Boulevard.
There was so much more I wanted to see in L.A., like Santa Monica Pier, the Venice Beach Canals, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but unfortunately on this occasion this was all I had time for before my next flight. I’m sure I’ll be back some day to do a full tour … Let me know in the comments what are some other unmissable sites in L.A. I should see next time!
As to where my next flight took me, stay tuned for the next post. Here’s a little preview:
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