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Destinations

California dreaming: Live like an A-lister from LA to the O.C.

Eat, retreat and party your way around some of Southern California's coolest destinations.

By Bella Brennan
Los Angeles might be home to some of the best restaurants, most stunning coastlines and prettiest beaches in the world. But the real reason any self-respecting traveller makes the pilgrimage to the City of Angels is for a healthy injection of shameless celeb watching, obviously.
If you’re an enthusiastic pop culture junkie like myself, then your first port of call has to be the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard. Rich with history and famous faces alike, the notorious A-list hangout provides a safe haven for the A-list thanks to its strict no-camera policy. So pop the iPhone away and let the good times roll.
Thankfully civilians are free to grab a bite to eat at either Bar Marmot or the restaurant terrace.
Within five minutes of arriving on a Friday afternoon, I spied Aussie comedienne Rebel Wilson noshing down in the back corner, Zach Galifianakis keeping a low profile between two ferns, Thor star Chris Hemsworth on what looked to be an intense business brunch and perhaps the highlight of my entire trip – the one and only Mr Aniston. Er, sorry! That should read Justin Theroux.
Fresh from his recent nuptials with Jennifer, the 44-year-old knew how to command a room without even trying. Clad in his trademark leather jacket and tight black jeans, Justin had natural swagger in spades and it was a privilege to breathe the same air as him and I guess by default, Jennifer Aniston.
Six degrees of separation from the one and only Jennifer Anistion, my trip has peaked!
The hills are alive
Once you’re done rubbing shoulders with the elite like a true LA socialite, the Laugh Factory comedy club is only a five minute walk away. Alternatively you can watch the sunset, with a bubble tea cocktail in hand, at the hottest venue in town – L.P Rooftop.
With open fire pits, first-class views of the Hollywood Hills and the ultimate party playlist blaring from the DJ booth you’ll feel just as cool as Justin Theroux himself. Their modern-Asian restaurant downstairs, E.P, is well worth the visit especially for the crispy fried chicken and mango pudding.
For sun-downer drinks with a buzzing atmosphere, L.P Rooftop is a must.
Back to Blighty
After such a tiring day of mingling you’ll need to kick your heels up - look no further than The London West Hollywood. Situated in the heart of West Hollywood, you’ll be hard pressed to find more stylish digs.
Having undergone a recent $25 million renovation to include a Penthouse suite designed by the inimitable Vivienne Westwood, plus three Metropolitan suites and five Gate suites all with a heavy British influence, luxury accommodation has never looked this good.
While I would happily catch some zeds on their fluffy couches in the lobby, their modern suites, complete with killer views, beautiful balconies and spacious bathrooms, are the perfect place to call home. Be sure to make a booking at their Rooftop West restaurant for incredible seasonal offerings by famed head chef Anthony Keene. And don’t miss out on the delicious complimentary breakfast buffet where no one will judge you for consuming a sweet bagel followed by a savoury chaser.
Lobby swag: The London West Hollywood's British-inspired aesthetic is seriously dreamy.
Chic sleeps... Situated in the heart of West Hollywood, you’ll be hard pressed to find more stylish digs.
Be a Beverly babe
Every journey to LA needs a Beverly Hills moment.
Make like a Kardashian and wander down Rodeo Drive, fictional window shopping has never been more fun! For the full-blown local experience, swing by The Ivy for brunch. It’s a hectic sea of waiters in pastel pink shirts, fresh flowers and complimentary champagne and cookies upon arrival - the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills would approve.
Stroll down Rodeo Drive and go nuts with the window shopping.
Make a splash
Or if you really want to be seen, you can’t go past the Mondrian’s chic pool and Skybar. It’s one of WeHo’s most popular hangouts where you can dip your toes in the water, mingle with new pals, nurse a pina colada and watch the world go by. Spend the night in their trendy art deco rooms, designed by the famed Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, and wake up well rested and surrounded by pure style.
To mix up the pace, jump in the car and drive south for about an hour to The O.C., you’ll immediately feel the laid-back beach vibe with an affluent twist. The Newport coastline is dotted with beaches and national parks, including Corona Del Mar which is ideal for non-surfers, or for more swell head to the breathtaking Crystal Cove beach.
The Mondrian's pool is the place to be seen.
Taking in the beauty that is Crystal Cove beach.
Sunny-side up
For the best sunset in Newport, book a room at the Island Hotel and don’t forget to throw on a butter-soft robe as you soak up the pinch-yourself view.
And if you’re really in the mood to end your trip on a decadent note, for just $50 you can elevate your stay and join the Island Club, which includes complimentary breakfast, endless snacks, cocktails during the Wine Down hour, a personal shopper for Fashion Island, newspapers and a dry cleaning service (an absolute god-send if you’ve been on the road and away from amenities).
The impeccable service at Island Hotel is only rivalled by their must-visit restaurant, Oak Grill, which is run by head chef extraordinaire Marc Johnson. I’m still dreaming about the corn beef-stuffed quail and their sea bass (barramundi) is good enough to put on your fictional last meal on earth list. End the night on a sweet note with the pumpkin dipping donuts because calories don’t exist when you’re on holiday.
Dress like a SoCal girl
Just across the road lies the shopping mecca that is Fashion Island, which features a range of popular department stores (think Nordstrom and Bloomingdales) mixed with local Californian designers. Block out a few solid hours to work your way around the beautiful outdoor wonderland of shops.
My personal highlight was the Kate Hudson-inspired off-the-shoulder frock by Capulet that I picked up from American Rag Cie.
There's no better place to watch the sunset than on your balcony at Island Hotel.
Paradise found
And with such a cute dress it was only fitting that I spent my last night in paradise, well, in actual paradise! Enter Pelican Hill, the only destination in Newport Beach which has won the coveted Forbes Travel Guide’s five star rating in 2015 for both the resort and its spa.
Moments after I enter through the grand aqueducts, which are framed by luscious olive trees and immaculate gardens, it’s easy to see why. Pelican Hill, is the kind of place you could spend weeks upon weeks. Or at the very least, it’s the ideal location for your honeymoon.
Arriving at Pelican Hill is a truly jaw-dropping moment! [Image/courtesy of Pelican Hill]
Secluded on 504 acres of land overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you instantly switch to relaxed holiday mode thanks to the private layout, which boasts Italian-inspired architecture. And that’s no exaggeration. Within minutes of arriving, my phone was off, my swimmers were on and I’ve never had a bigger smile on my face.
It would be easy to while away the hours by their coliseum pool - ok even “coliseum” is an understatement – it’s more like an endless swimming island which is brought to life by 1.1 million hand-cut glass mosaic tiles and is one the largest circular pools in the world.
The coliseum pool is one the largest circular pools in the world. [Image/courtesy of Pelican Hill]
But there’s so much more to explore than just the work of art that is the pool. For sports lovers, there’s the Pelican Hill Golf Club with 36 holes, panoramic views and a luxurious clubhouse. For beauty fans, The Spa has an abundance of personalised services and professionals on hand.
Perhaps the best thing about this luxe location is the fact it’s a world unto itself. With an endless amount of café and restaurant options you truly never have to leave. So it was a tough decision as to where I was going to take my new dress for a spin but in the end, I decided on the first-class Andrea eatery, run by head chef Marco Criscuolo.
Andrea restaurant has a mouth-watering section of hand-made pastas and local wines. [Image/courtesy of Pelican Hill]
Famous for their pasta (which is handmade every day in their pasta kitchen, naturally!) no visit to Andrea is complete without trying their famous barrel-aged acquerello risotto with forest mushrooms. The best part? They’ll serve it fresh from within the wheel of cheese in a mouth-watering tableside presentation.
You’ll be spoiled for choice with their comprehensive wine menu with local and international options aplenty but fear not, the wonderful waiters will be on hand with an encyclopedia's amount of knowledge to help with your choice.
Yep, this was definitely the right place to take my dress. Living like an A-lister complete!
A Hollywood ending! Chowing down on hand-made pasta in my new dress.

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