California Dreaming

Of the 48 states in mainland USA, on the west coast just three lie beside the seaside (California, Oregon and Washington). And while the Pacific Coast Highway is a great route for a V6 convertible, if you prefer not to chauffeur as you soak up the sites, why not choose to cruise the California coastline?

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La la land

The west coast’s main port, LA Harbor, is at San Pedro, 30 kilometres south of downtown LA. Shuttle bus transfers from LAX International Airport are effortless and relatively inexpensive, but before you hit the gangway for your coastal getaway, spend a few days in the City of Angels.

There are scores of delicious eateries along the Santa Monica Boulevard. Burn off coffee and croissants with a seaside stroll and a spot of shopping, or rent a bicycle and take one of the designated beachside bike tracks to Venice Beach Pier.

Breakfast in Santa Monica. There are scores of delicious eateries along the eponymous boulevard. Burn off coffee and croissants with a seaside stroll and a spot of shopping, or rent a bicycle and take one of the designated beachside bike tracks to Venice Beach Pier.

“The Hollywood Walk of Fame is fifteen blocks of brass and terrazzo pavement stars, from Andrea Bocelli to Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

No trip to LA would be complete without a little movie magic. Start with the Hollywood Walk of Fame – fifteen blocks of brass and terrazzo pavement stars, from Andrea Bocelli to Zsa Zsa Gabor. It’s a leisurely 15-minute stroll, leaving plenty of time to caper across town for a visit to Oscar’s old house, the TLC Chinese Theatre, and a tour of Universal Studios.

Post Meridians are for afternoon tea at The Huntington Library, followed by a ramble through the Japanese Gardens. Later, catch an opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Once the fat lady has warbled her last, nightcap at The Varnish speakeasy with a prohibition-style cocktail. Discover your inner jazz baby-boomer from 9pm on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. “Cocktail attire is admired, not required.”

Santa Barbara

If LA is angelic, California is most certainly saintly. Santa (Saint) Barbara is an easy 150-kilometre zip northwards. Known as the American Riviera, it’s an enticing blend of food, fashion and fun. Whales for watching and wine for coifing are enjoyable excursions, but for something different, head to Solvang. It’s a little piece of Scandinavia, complete with half-timbered, thatched cottages, windmills and traditional bakeries. Founded by Danish pioneers in 1911, this petite city remains a place of pilgrimage for Danish expats and tourist alike, including the Danish Royal Family.

Know the way to San Jose?

San Jose’s affluent and polished capital, Silicon Valley, is best known as the home of Stanford University, whose notable alumni include presidents, princes and prime ministers, as well as billionaire founders of Yahoo, Google and Nike.

While you’re in town, check out the bizarre monument to eccentricity, Winchester Mystery House, which sprawls over six acres and has 160 rooms. Legend has it Sarah Winchester, heiress to the repeating-rifle fortune, was advised by a medium in 1884 to build the house (and keep building) in penance for those slain by the famous guns. Building only stopped 36 years later, when Sarah died.

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Winchester Mystery House

Monterey

Satisfy your passion for poisson at Bistro Moulin on the Old Fisherman’s Wharf.

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If you prefer Italian, the Clam Chowder and Lobster Paella at Café Fina are heaven when paired with local drop, Jekel Riesling. After lunch, grab a gelato and saunter along the quaint quay, browsing souvenir stores and charming boutiques.

San Fran

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When Cunard’s Queen Mary II first passed under the Golden Gate Bridge in 2007, crowds of nautical enthusiasts gasped as the mighty ship’s funnels passed within just a foot of the rust-coloured central span. While the approach is less of a squeeze for most other ships, it’s still a majestic treat to arrive by water.

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Snatch a glimpse of Al Capone’s former digs on the haunting Alcatraz Island as you pass through San Francisco Harbour, or board a ferry for a more intimate encounter. Shopping at Pier 39 is a desirable alternative if it’s damp, which it is … often.

Don’t leave without trying Oysters Rockefeller at Scomas on Pier 47!

“Crowds of nautical enthusiasts gasped as the mighty ship’s funnels passed within just a foot of the rust-coloured central span.”

Catalina Island

After San Fran, many ships hit return and head back south to Catalina Island. Here, you’ll drop anchor in the bay and take a launch to picturesque Avalon. With only “autoettes” (golf carts) allowed to help preserve the feel of yesteryear, it’s a pedestrian’s dream for languid meanderings through art deco facades as you soak up the ambiance of this picturesque little city.

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Snorkelling at Catalina Island

Chewing gum tycoon William Wrigley transformed the sleepy islet into a playground for millionaires and movie stars building a stunning casino on the waterfront. But the only chips you’ll find here are hot. It’s ‘casino’ as in meeting place, not home to the swirling pickpockets.

San Diego

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Although home to the world-famous, San Diego Zoo, Sea World and Wild Animal Park, this city of one million people is not just for animal lovers. Its proximity to the Mexican border lends an exotic, cross-cultural flavour to dining, shopping and architecture. And with a steady diet of sunshine, it’s alfresco all the way.

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