From castles to cable cars, big surf to Big Sur, the California Coastline
is one of the world’s most celebrated coastlines, and the liberating
drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco is one of the most spectacular
drives in the world.
Starting our trip in the Greater Los Angeles area we chose the beach
community of Santa Monica for our first home base.
And what better home could one ask for than the Casa del Mar?
The Hotel Casa Del Mar, prominently positioned on the
sun-drenched beach of Santa Monica, is one of the few luxury hotels
in Greater Los Angeles that is nestled right in the sand!
If the walls of this grand hotel could talk, it would tell tales of the
goings on, when it was the most glamorous beach club in Southern
California from 1926 to 1941. Subsequently, the US Navy claimed the
building for enlisted men in WWII and, from the late 1970s until 1997,
Nathan Pritikin (the weight-loss guru) turned it into his renowned
HOTEL CASA DEL MAR
Hotel Casa Del Mar in 1999, this elegant and sophisticated European-style lodging experience is reminiscent of Southern
California’s eclectic seaside resorts of the early 1900s.
Hotel Casa Del Mar is only a short walk from the historic Santa
Monica Pier. With its 1922 carousel, five-story roller
coaster, and giant Pacific Wheel, the Pier is an instantly
recognizable symbol of Southern California. This fun playground
and dining venue is also home to the UCLA Ocean Discovery
Center and a premier spot for watching the sunset.
SANTA MONICA PIER
Avenue, a favorite haunt of Hollywood glitterati with names like Spielberg,
Hanks, and Beatty, has been compared to Rodeo Drive in Beverly
Hills. It is said that while the movie stars dress up to browse
on Rodeo Drive, they dress down to shop on Montana Avenue.
Two blocks off the beach, Main Street is a 12-block long shopper’s
paradise that combines beach casualness with an eclectic collection
of shops. Here, too, you will find the California Heritage
Museum and renowned architect Frank Gehry’s Edgemar Mall, a shopping
center comprised of a variety of shapes and materials.
Driving north for a couple of hours we arrived at our next stop…Santa
With its lush, year-round Mediterranean climate, 100 miles of sweeping
prime Pacific coastline, an annual average of 300+ days of
sunshine and fresh ocean breezes, burgeoning wine country, and Santa
Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara is one of America’s best-kept
(CHAPEL) AT MISSION SANTA BARBARA
the West Coast of the United States) provides soothing
year-round southern exposure and perfect temperatures ranging from 60
to 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.
private rail car, word spread that Santa Barbara was an untapped
Shangri-La. From the sparkling sea to the Santa Ynez
Mountains, this city of about 95,000 quickly evolved into a haunt for the
rich and famous.
Like the French and Italian Rivieras, seductive Santa Barbara
exudes romance. Given its isolated location, 92 miles north of Los
Angeles, Santa Barbara quickly became an ideal escape for celebrities
seeking to slip out of the spotlight.
Celebrities who have tied at least one of their marital knots, or
honeymooned, in the Greater Santa Barbara area include: JFK and
Jackie O, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Julia Roberts, Debra Messing,
Gwenyth Paltrow, Mira Sorvino, Jim Carrey, Will Farrell, Heather Locklear,
Halle Berry, Courtney Cox and David Arquette.
Continuing our drive northward, before heading up to Big Sur. we stopped
in San Simeon to visit the Mediterranean Revival-style Hearst
Castle. An invitation to “join Mr. Hearst at the ranch
at San Simeon” was the most desirable invitation one could receive in
the 1920s and 1930s. Hollywood stars, politicians, and
everyone who was anyone, would come to romp away the weekends with
William Randolph Hearst and his live-in mistress movie star
Marion Davies. This opulent castle, with its 165
rooms, gold-inlayed indoor pool, and spectacular outdoor Neptune Pool,
is one of the world’s greatest showplaces.
Continuing on Northward along California’s Big Sur coast, where mountains
plunge dramatically into the Pacific, we discovered one of the
most dramatic meetings of land and sea in the world. (The
coastal drive northward is less of a cliffhanger than the same trip
southbound). For our luxurious hideaway in this
relatively undeveloped and pristine area we chose Ventana Inn
|LAND MEETS SEA IN BIG SUR
1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean on the Big Sur coast,
secluded Ventana provides a peaceful and soothing atmosphere enhanced
by its proximity to the area’s natural wonders.
Ventana’s weathered cedar accommodations, scattered in a mountain meadow
among landscaped gardens, offer rustic sophistication and romantic
allure along with decks or patios with forest, canyon, mountain or
distant ocean views. Some decks have personal outdoor spas
or hammocks. Most rooms have a wood-burning fireplace,
separate living area, a spacious bath with open enclosure
slate/tub/shower, dressing area and custom bath amenities.
After a week of resorting, it was time for this city gal to get a taste of
And, what better way could there be to end a spectacular coastal journey,
than in the dazzling city of San
Francisco? The legendary “City by the Bay is one of
the most romantic cities in the world.
BENNETT LEFT HIS OWN HEART (SCULPTURE HE PAINTED) IN SAN FRANCISCO.
wonder that I left my heart there!
is the winner of 38 national Travel Writer Awards and an
lnternational Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in