The country lanes in Jersey have nothing on America’s six lane freeways, (astonishingly) we decide to skip the plane and drive instead of fly. Some 60 minutes later, and the somewhat ‘lax’ Satnav finally points us in the right direction – the long stretch of tarmac between LA and Indio, a right of passage for many a cocktail caressing Californian or in this case, four friends about to embark on the trip of a lifetime.
With a lengthy journey ahead of us, we decide to make it more of an adventure and less of a race. The windows are down, the DJ has been appointed and we’re all singing (albeit a little off tune) to a mix of rock, punk, pop, hip-hop and indie. Where are we heading? None other than Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, a celebration as diverse as it is demographic, and an event we’ve all been dying to tick off our bucket list since the age of 21.
Rock reunions and desert dance parties
For two weekends every year, Indio, a small Southern California town, is transformed into the centre of the music world… after what seems like several weeks of planning, we’re now at the heart of it!
Checking into the JW Marriott on the eve of the festival, we spend the next few hours exploring the hotel’s vast grounds in a golf buggy, topping up our tans by the palm-lined pool (this hotel has three, some of which require a gondola to cross) and sipping on organic cocktails by the fire pit. We wake up refreshed and raring to go. Several outfit changes later and we’re ready to hit the desert in style.
Coachella can only be described as ‘a Californian desert extravaganza’ and one that is peppered with more stages, surprise guests and rising upstarts than you dare to imagine. With gourmet festival food and exclusive cocktail bars galore, you can dine on top nosh from over 40 different traders, not to mention three fine-dining restaurants and some unique pop-ups along the way. In three days, we sample everything from soya-stacked sushi to five bean tacos, to broccolini and goat’s cheese pizzas, coconut-infused juices and moreish margaritas — whether you’re a no-nonsense vegan, a gluten-free goddess or a meat-feasting music fanatic, we soon discover there is something for all.
Calvin Harris found love with Rihanna, Diplo teamed up with Major Lazer and Jack Ü, Guns N’ Roses transformed the desert into a jungle, and Sia’s squad included none other than Kristen Wiig, Tig Notaro, Maddie Zieglar and Paul Dano. Needless to say we danced until daylight, inhaled our own body weight in dust and sang our hearts out until our voices were no more.
Next stop on our road trip? Los Angeles. We soon came to realise this happening place has two very different personalities! The old Hollywood history and glamour, vegan attitude and white-sand beaches certainly make up for the claustrophobia-heavy crowds, dubious superheroes, tattoo parlours, gift shops and ragtag lingerie stores. All however make for the experience of a lifetime…
Where we ate…
Café Gratitude boasts a positive, flower-child ambiance – think Disneyland gone vegan. The food (21 dishes between the four of us) was inventive, delightful and wholesome, with each offering brandishing a self-affirming name, guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest of days…although, as we soon discover, there aren’t many of these in L.A.
As our server saddles up to our table in all his vegan glory, we order various fanciful titled dishes, brandishing names including ‘I Am Elated’ (enchiladas), ‘I am Thriving’ (butternut squash chipotle soup), and ‘I Am Transformed’ (corn tacos).
Before wandering off to the open plan kitchen, he gives us a question to ponder over whilst we wait for our food – ‘what are you thankful for?’ This question changes every day and is all part of the restaurant’s positivity campaign.
Our favourite hangout…
Having a friend who has a friend who is best friends with a magician is sometimes all you need to embark on a (excuse the pun) magical evening…
The Magic Castle, with its labyrinth of rooms and old school glamour, is surreal, intriguing and opulent all at the same time. It’s also outrageously exclusive; entry is permitted solely to members and their guests through ushering the words ‘open sesame’ to a bookcase hidden in the wall.
Once inside we breathe in the rare memorabilia and magnificent posters; and soon discover magic shows that are more like miracles and full stage illusions that are all the rage. There’s even a piano that plays itself, or rather plays anything you ask it to…
Excited to start our next adventure, we pack up our worldly belongings and begin our journey to the top of Cajon Pass, just west of Interstate 15 and a short hop from Old Route 66 – a dirt track that wouldn’t go a miss in a classic country and western film. We pass old diners, an antique shop, an ostrich farm, the oldest meteorite in the world and what my trusty guidebook describes as, ‘the diamond of the road’ – the Bottletree Ranch – a jumble of metal trees dressed with ancient glass bottles. Our detour may have added an hour or two to the journey, yet it was certainly worth it for the photo opportunities.
Once in Vegas, we check into what appears to be a small city, which is in fact one of the smaller hotels on the strip. The next few days pass by like a whirlwind, we dine at all hours (think waffles oozing with maple syrup at 4am), spend our days soaking up the sun listening to the hot sounds of Avicii at one of Vegas’ most renowned pool parties, and our nights watching RiRi perform in the flesh. Two days later, we pack up our bags once again and head for the airport. Next stop…Miami.
Miami Beach EDITION – A Next Generation Urban Resort
They say that once you step inside the Miami Beach EDITION, there’s no need to leave. What they say is true. 24 hours later, we’re still firmly ensconced in our new (somewhat elegant) home. In fact, we may have forgotten what the outside world looks like.
Landscaped gardens inspired by the legendary 1950’s Tropicana Nightclub, two pools and private members beach encompass a well-dressed vibe. Inside, you’ll discover two restaurants (one – Jean-Georges’ newest venture), a sophisticated spa, boutique shop, bowling alley and basement nightclub – with custom-made lightscape and state-of-the-art sound system. And that’s not all; this lower level is also home to a 2,000 square-foot ice rink brandishing a Patrick Woodroffe-orchestrated LED show and a backdrop of Collins Av… what’s not to love about this lavishly lush, urban resort?
The hotel presents a meticulous renovation of the prestigious Seville Hotel, which was for many years, a global playground for the rich and famous. It’s kitschy, catchy, unconventional and engaging all at the same time. The staff not only look the part in their elegant crisp white ensembles, they act the part too, and are every bit as welcoming as you’d expect.
The Miami Beach EDITION’s magnificent features take inspiration from Donald Judd and Aldo Rossi; all pay homage to the original Seville establishment. 24-karat glass gold mosaic columns dominate the lobby, a mass of tropical custom-lit palm trees create an elegant glow, whilst oversized silk rugs, bleached rift-cut white oak and a diverse range of antiques add a vintage edge.
With its avant-garde façade – described by many as one of Miami Beach’s most distinguishing architectural delights – it is here well-designed simplicity encounters a dramatic pizazz. Everything about the EDITION oozes old-school glamour.
Finally time to say goodbye, we reluctantly pack up our things and board the ‘faster than lightening’ shuttle to the airport. Six plane journeys later, thousands of miles travelled and many memories made, it’s back to reality. Would I do it again? I’m already looking into options as we speak…