My California: Anna Friel

By Anna Friel, Award-winning British actress

Photography by Myles McGuinness

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January 2018

Anna Friel, British film, television and stage star – who first catapulted to fame in British soap-opera Brookside – and now resides in California reveals why cruising around the Golden State makes for the ultimate road trip.

The open road

Road trips are exciting because you don't know what's going to happen next - I'm a big fan of spontaneity. My favourite memory of California is the first time I drove along Big Sur, from Los Angeles up to San Francisco. We stayed in little motels along the way and made it up as we went along. I loved going to Napa Valley and taking a hot air balloon trip over the vineyards at six in the morning. California's pretty awesome.

I like live music, so I go to Silver Lake and see who's playing. California is very good for music

Back to nature

Every part of my most recent California road trip was stand-out. I had the best fun. I really liked driving through Joshua Tree. I think it was the quality of light, I felt really re-energised there. It was epic. The paddle boarding and biking were great, too. I’ve loved every single bit. The scenery was so entertaining all of the time and there were the most incredible sunsets.

  • While away the hours on the 16-kilometre-long Huntington Beach © Myles McGuinness

    Shore thing

    Huntington Beach was named ‘Best Beach in America’ by TIME Magazine in 2015 and ‘Best Beach on the West Coast’ by Coastal Living in 2016. Book flights from London to Los Angeles, plus a five night stay at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort from:£863 pp

    Book flights and hotels

California dreamin’

You think of California, and you think of these incredible palm trees against a perfect blue sky. It's got everything – you can be down by the beach or you can be up in the mountains. It is completely unique. It’s like all those movies you watched as a kid coming to life – it just makes me happy every time I'm there. It's the epitome of cool. And people are really laid-back and relaxed, too.

Local flavour

Top things to do? Obviously you have to go to Los Angeles – have a cocktail at Chateau Marmont go hiking in Runyon Canyon Park, and visit the flea market in the La Brea district. Go down to the beautiful Santa Monica Pier. Do the drive up to Malibu, and get out of LA and visit the wonderful Palm Springs.

  • Cycling is a great way to take in the coastline © Myles McGuinness 

    Beside the ocean

    Loews Santa Monica Beach has an on-site rental shop, so hire a bike during your stay and explore the promenade.

    Discover healthy LA
  • Discover the extraordinary Joshua Tree National Park © Myles McGuinness

    Branching out

    Popular with climbers and walkers, the are trails and climbs for all levels in the park – and don’t miss the eerily looking Skull Rock. Book flights from London to Los Angeles from:£316 return

    Fly to Los Angeles
  • Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding © Myles McGuinness

    Walk on water

    There are lots of places to get out onto the water in surf-friendly California. Try Marina del Ray if you’re a beginner or try the Venice canals.

    Discover Los Angeles

Suite dreams

My favourite hotel in the world is in California, it's called the Post Ranch Inn. It is expensive, but if you want a real treat it has one of the best infinity pools ever, with views out onto Big Sur. It's a big ranch, so you can go horse riding and the food's amazing. The other thing everyone should do is the Madonna Inn. Staying at this motel is like stepping onto a film set and it's affordable.

Food for the soul

In Los Angeles, La Poubelle on Franklin Avenue is my kind of local. It's a French restaurant, which is always busy and has a great atmosphere. There’s a good juice place on Franklin, too. When it comes to bars, it depends what you're into. I like live music, so I go to Silver Lake and see who's playing. California’s very good for music.

  • Make sure your road trip passes through Joshua Tree National Park © Myles McGuinness

    Star struck

    Joshua Tree National Park is great for stargazing as it’s known for dark skies, free from light pollution. Book flights from London to Los Angeles, plus car hire for seven days from:£379 pp

    Plan an LA road trip

Spring into action

I’d been living in Los Angeles for two and a half years and people kept saying ‘you should go to Palm Springs, you'd really like it’. It is really cool – I'm definitely going back there. It's totally entertaining. I think it's a more relaxed Los Angeles, there doesn't seem to be the same amount of pressure on people.

A warm reception

The weather has such an effect on people's moods. When you're in England and the sun comes out just for an hour, you see people's spirits lift – you constantly have that in California. When I’m here for a lengthy time, I start to miss seasons though. But you don't really get fed up with the weather, it’s like happy juice – plus you get to see these huge 360-degree sunsets.

Adventure time

I love travelling and my aim in life is to put as many dots on the earth as possible. You've got to be adventurous. Save up so you can go to the one place you really want to, rather than the same place every year. Make a different choice, do something new, something that frightens you.