27 Jun 2013 America: West Coast Road Trip
With some of the very finest food and wine to be found in the United States, it’s no surprise that the Napa Valley is a hit amongst newlywed gourmands and wine connoisseurs. Newcomers to the ways of the grape will feel equally at home; here the wine is served with a thoroughly New World warmth and friendliness. Those who might have slightly over-indulged can shake off a fuzzy head with a bracing hike through unspoilt wilderness which includes a forest of petrified redwoods. This being NoCal, the weather is pretty benign all year round, but many flock to the Napa Valley in the autumn for the grape harvest, known locally as “the Crush”. If it’s peace and quiet with your new spouse you’re after, then time your visit accordingly. And to enjoy the fruits of the vine without getting sloshed, make like a sommelier. Remember the Six S’s: swirl, sniff, sip, swish, spit and then – and only then – should you swallow.
Appropriately named by gold prospectors in 1849, Death Valley certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but is quite a way to begin your lives of wedded bliss. This is a landscape like no other, where the dunes appear to sing, rocks roam of their own accord and the mountains are tinted green, orange and purple. Worth a look are the Devil’s Golf Course, a vast field of salt crystals where only Beelzebub himself would dare tee off and Scotty’s Castle, an eccentric prospector’s dream home. Visit one of the incredibly well-preserved ghost towns, which have remained how they were left by those hardy pioneers for whom life in one of the most extreme places on earth simply got too much, and provide a profound and uncanny window upon the past.
This paradisiacal slice of the American Riviera just 100 miles north of Los Angeles was for years a well-kept secret amongst the great and the good of Hollywood. Thankfully, news of Santa Barbara’s idyllic beaches and nigh-on perfect climate has now spread amongst us mere mortals. It’s now a key stop-off on the Gold Coast for sun-seekers, surf-riders, architecture buffs and culture vultures alike. Roam through The Mission, the city’s eighteenth-century Spanish colonial old town and see and be seen at the Waterfront, where you’ll find those deservedly celebrated beaches, and a hive of hip restaurants and laid-back, surfy bars.
It’s the Disneyland of the desert. A high-kicking neon oasis rising abruptly out of the Mojave plains. Las Vegas is an intoxicating place, where fortunes are made, but more frequently lost, and everything seems bigger, brighter, louder and more spangly. But whether you go all in and win big, or you stick to the penny slots, there’s more than gambling to be had in Vegas. The original Sin City is also home to some of the finest high-end dining, the most lavish entertainment and the most indulgent shopping in the world. Equally, if you’ve a hankering for the kind of kitschy Americana that showcases the US’s more eccentric side, then you’ve come to the right place. And since what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, should you be so inclined, you and your beau can get married all over again, Vegas-style, at any one of the plethora of quickie wedding chapels.
The citrus groves that gave this swathe of Southern Californian coast its name might be mostly long gone, but the sweet scent of the good life lived amongst pristine beaches and palm trees doesn’t seem to have waned. It’s a way of life so seductive it produced an eponymous American television series, which recorded the trials and tribulations of the beautifully beachified residents of the OC, and if you can’t beat ‘em then why not join ‘em. In Orange County live it up like a local: enjoy some R&R at beach front resorts and spas, sample the bountiful seafood and local produce dished up by top chefs and lose yourselves in sprawlingly bucolic nature reserves. And if you’d like to commemorate your nuptials with matching mouse ears, the OC is also the home of the original Disneyland resort, worth a punt for some good old-fashioned fun with Mickey and the gang.
About the Author: Patrick has over 8 years of experience in luxury travel, and having jet-setted before he could walk, he has racked up enough countries to join the enviable ‘Traveler’s Century Club.’
His favorites include the Indian Ocean, South Pacific, and the Caribbean. In the USA, his top picks are to drive a Mustang down Highway One, take a helicopter over the Vegas strip, or simply sip cosmos at New York’s Grand Central Station. Join Patrick on an Exsus Luxury Holidays.