Hyatt Regency, Newport Beach

Hyatt Regency Newport Beach was my base whilst exploring LA. An hour’s drive from the city, it is more often popular with guests wanting to get away from the hectic city life and relax, or to explore Newport Harbour and the nature reserve around the Back Bay of Newport Beach.

This hotel successfully caters for business, leisure and families. With this in mind, there are three pools onsite including a family-friendly pool complete with a waterslide and sun loungers. There are a variety of rooms to suit all visitors. Our balcony room in the Catalina building looked out to the marina. The spacious and bright room had a luxurious king-size bed and was kitted out with dark wood furniture including a large desk and a flatscreen TV, minibar and fridge. The art canvases on the walls add a splash of colour to the otherwise subtle decorated grey and cream room.

The onsite restaurant, SHOR, specialises in fresh, seasonal produce and is popular with hotel guests and locals. There is also a lounge where you can get your morning coffee fix or an evening cocktail. On turndown service, a charcuterie board with housemade goat ricotta was placed in our room.

For sports enthusiasts, there is a 9-hole golf course, a modern fitness centre, and a number of nearby running routes that the hotel can provide maps for. Giant chess set and giant shuffleboard are popular with young and older guests!

When you want to venture outside the hotel, there is a free shuttle that takes you to nearby Fashion Island with its array of shops, cafes and restaurants, and to Balboa Island. For travelling further afield you can hire a car and onsite with Hertz rental car. Those with their own car will enjoy the hotel’s efficient and useful valet service.

Reliable and comfortable, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is a good option for those exploring Orange County and LA.

More information and book a room here.

The Best of Sonoma

I have the fondest memories of my time in Sonoma. Often forgotten in the shadow of its showbiz neighbour, Napa Valley, this idyllic area of Californian wine country does not get the praise and attention it deserves. I spent three days soaking up the golden sunshine, tasting the finest wines and feasting on the fantastic food. The people here are kind, genuine and welcoming and the setting is stunning.

To Stay

Farmhouse Inn – for me this hotel ticked every box… charmingly rustic yet luxurious rooms, Michelin-star dining, beautiful but unpretentious spa and thoughtful details everywhere you look. I checked in late afternoon and was greeted with a chilled glass of local Chardonnay then offered (as much as I liked) from the pick’n’mix station of homemade bath products. I was already in heaven, and then I entered my room. It was like a double page spread in a glossy interiors magazine with a fire blazing, huge four poster bed adorned with cosy countryside blankets, freshly baked treats, and a giant bathroom complete with private steam room waiting to be utilised. Dinner and breakfast were both unforgettable in the Farmhouse Inn restaurant, highlights included delicate and delicious Smoked Eggplant ravioli and a robust and flavoursome tenderloin of seasonal Durham Ranch Elk with butternut squash and pancetta. For breakfast the buttermilk waffles with strawberries and basil mascarpone was unforgettable. As I sat in the evening by the open fire pits toasting their homemade marshmallows, I could not think of a more perfect hotel.

Flamingo Hotel – for a lively and reasonably priced accommodation the iconic Flamingo Hotel is a fun option. The 60 guestrooms are relaxed and spacious and guests have access to the popular Montecito Heights health club and spa, complete with 25 metre lap pool. The Sunday champagne brunch here is renowned among locals.

To Eat

Bravas – Healdsburg is a lovely neighbourhood to explore in Sonoma. I enjoyed an al fresco feast of Spanish tapas at this authentic eatery from celebrated restaurateurs, Mark and Terry Stark. Don’t miss: Watermelon and Tomato Escabeche Salad with sherried currants and basil; Brussel Sprouts with Sobrasada sausage, tomato and manchego; and the Goat’s Cheese Toast with golden onions and white truffle honey.

While in Healdsburg pop into Moustache Cakes for baked goods and Noble Folk for award-winning ice-cream and pies. Barndiva is a trendy art gallery and bar, and Lulo Gallery sells whimsical jewellery from talented designers Luana Coonen and Sakura Haru and Julia Turner.

The Girl and the Fig – If you need a place to stop for lunch in Sonoma Plaza The Girl and the Fig is a good bet. This friendly casual restaurant serves seasonal ‘country food with a French passion’. I tried the summery and tasty Fig and Aragula salad.

Wine Tasting

Scribe – This boutique biodynamic winery requires a booking before you are able to go and try the wines. The hipster hang-out produces beautiful artisanal wine, I loved the minimalist bottles.

Paradise Ridge Winery – Romanically set at the top of a hill this beautiful winery has a lovely atmosphere and great wine. Many visit to see the striking sculpture park, including the signature LOVE sculpture by Laura Kimpton and Jeff Schomberg.

Francis Ford Coppola – Owned by the world-famous film director, this winery has been done up in true Hollywood style. Have a complimentary tasting of their Bianco and Rosso wines, and head upstairs to see memorabilia from The Godfather and Apocalypse Now.

To Do

The Barlow in Sebastopol – this recently developed industrial space is home to a host of food, drink, shopping and art businesses. My favourites were Tamarind for clothes and accessories and Spirit Works Distillery for their refined sloe gin. Best to visit Thursday to Sunday when the majority of shops and cafes are open.

Buena Vista Winery – The prestigious Buena Vista holds the title of California’s first winery. The founder, self-proclaimed “count of Buena Vista” is the inspiration behind the unique Be The Count Blending Experience. After a masterclass with Spencer I created my own personalised bottle of red wine, a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel. You will be dressed up appropriately and even get the chance to have your own tailor-made label printed for the bottle. After the experience you will be shown round the historic wine tour museum.

Vella Cheese Company – this family owned company has been making award-winning cheese since 1931. All the cheeses are delicious but they are known for their dry Monterey Jack.

To Escape

Napa Valley – in my opinion this famous region pales in comparison to Sonoma. For foodies though it is worth a visit either for a life-changing meal at The French Laundry or to try Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s 1-star French brasserie just down the road. Order their signature Steak Frites or the roasted chicken with mushrooms and leeks.

Many thanks to the Sonoma County Tourist Board for supporting this trip.

Rendezvous Hotel, Palm Springs

The retro Rendezvous Hotel perfectly suits its hip desert location in Palm Springs. This 1950s style hotel only has 10 rooms, each decorated around an appropriate Californian theme. The rooms surround a central pool and Jacuzzi, which is used every evening for complimentary cocktails. There is also a bar and firepit should you wish to spend an evening outdoors by the pool.

The area of Palm Springs is known for its celebrity inhabitants and it is no secret that Marilyn Monroe used to stay at the Rendezvous Hotel. Her preferred room is now named ‘Pretty in Pink’ after her, and is designed with the blonde bombshell in mind.

I was in Route 66 bedroom, an homage to the famous highway with vintage automobile memorabilia on the walls. Quirky and yet luxurious the characterful rooms are thoughtful and very comfortable. The bed was dressed with some of the softest sheets I have ever felt, the bathroom featured a large Jacuzzi style bath, and high quality Bee Kind toiletries. Each day freshly baked treats are left on the bedside table, and the fridge is stocked full of unlimited complimentary soft drinks.

Three course set breakfast is served every morning in the small dining room. The friendly chefs serve a range of treats from strawberry smoothies, freshly made pancakes and blueberry coulis, and yoghurt parfait with granola and fruit.

When you want to venture out into the desert Rendezvous have bikes (free to rent) and the friendly management team are keen to offer city suggestions for tours and restaurants to try.

Fun and fabulous, Rendezvous Hotel is the perfect place to stay to get you in the mood for a Palm Springs adventure.

More information and book a room at Rendezvous Hotel here.