On the road with Anna Friel

By Anna Friel, Award-winning British actress

Photography by Myles McGuinness

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January 2018

With its beguiling landscapes and endless sunshine, the Golden State is true road trip territory. Actress Anna Friel, gets behind the wheel and takes us on an adventure from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree via Palm Springs. Here’s how to do it yourself.

Los Angeles

The lowdown

Bright, bustling and bursting with creativity, LA certainly packs a punch. It’s also teeming with freeways, making it the perfect start to a California road trip. Hire a car and, like Anna, head south to Huntington Beach aka ‘Surf City’. It’s here that the cool crowd hang – if they’re not in a hip juice bar, you’ll find them cycling along the palm-fringed beach path or catching waves. Fifteen minutes away, Newport Beach is a picturesque community overlooking a charming harbour.

Road trips are so exciting because you don't know what's going to happen next. I'm a big fan of spontaneity, so not to have to work to an itinerary is continually exciting

Anna says…

California is the epitome of cool. You watch surfers crossing the road in front of you and you just think, this is cool. Whenever I come here it makes me feel like I'm constantly in 1976, the year I was born. The scenery is so entertaining and there are the most incredible sunsets. It's lovely to see the sun.

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  • Shop for vintage clothes in the Uptown Design Centre. © Myles McGuinness

    Uptown art

    Every Thursday, Villagefest transforms the area into an outdoor festival with over 200 stalls with artwork, and entertainment.

    Book car hire
  • Watch for golden hour at Joshua Tree National Park © Myles McGuinness

    Did you know…

    Joshua Tree covers and area of over 3,200 square kilometres and is home to two distinct desert landscapes.

    Find a hotel
  • Find your spiritual side at the Institute of Mentalphysics © Myles McGuinness

    On camera

    Palm Springs became so popular with actors looking to escape Hollywood, as film studios put rule down that their stars should never be more than a two-hour drive from the studios.

    Explore California

Where to stay

Kick off your road trip in style with a stay in LA. For ultra-glam, it has to be the Beverly Hills Hotel. Slap bang on Sunset Boulevard, this candy pink five-star is true old-school Hollywood. For a modernist escape, Ian Schrager’s Mondrian LA combines impeccable service with a laid-back vibe. En route, stop for beachside action at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa with its Andalusian-inspired architecture, or Balboa Bay, Newport Beach’s cool, contemporary waterfront resort.

Grab a bite

From food trucks to fine-dining, steakhouses to seafood shacks, Los Angeles isn’t short on places to eat. With restaurants debuting every week, it’s hard to single out just one. Instead, head to Hollywood’s oldest establishment Musso & Frank Grill, which serves the best martinis in town.

Palm Springs

The lowdown

Less than two hours drive from LA, Palm Springs is deep in the Sonoran Desert and offers scenery that will ramp up any Instagram account. Little wonder the Rat Pack vacationed here (you can rent Frank Sinatra’s home). Admire the mid-century modern architecture, snap up vintage pieces in the Uptown Design Centre and dine in dynamic Downtown. When the desert starts calling, follow in Anna’s footsteps and head north to the Institute of Mentalphysics where a series of workshops will help you find spiritual awareness and healing.

  • Hire a bike and cycle the beachside path © Myles McGuinness

    Beach eats

    Over 500 bonfire spots are available free of charge to the public along the Huntington Beach coastline.

    Fly to LA

Anna says...

Road trips are so exciting because you don't know what's going to happen next. I'm a big fan of spontaneity, so not to have to work to an itinerary is continually exciting. I’ve felt really free and happy. Palm Springs is only an hour and a half away from Mexico and I’ve never been so tempted to go. Should we keep driving? Yes please.

Where to stay

Lounge poolside (they do a great hammock) at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club, and when you’re sunbathed out, hit the bar where the DJ spins great tunes and the cocktails flow. For bling, Desert Springs, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa can’t be beat – man-made lakes, two golf courses, a nightclub… it even has its own flock of flamingos.

  • Relax and refresh at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs © Douglas Lyle Thompson

    Eyes down

    Every Monday evening, check out the hotel’s Fabulous Bingo, which features singing, entertainment and some great prizes.

    Book a stay

Grab a bite

Brunch is the name of the game in Palm Springs. Cheeky’s puts a seasonal twist on breakfast classics, though be prepared to queue. At Wilma & Frieda’s, the blackberry custard French toast is a must. If you like your pancakes poolside, bag a table at Chi Chi, the restaurant at the Avalon Palm Springs.

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Joshua Tree

The lowdown

Just an hour to the east, where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert, Joshua Tree National Park will bewitch you as much as it did Anna. The astonishing fauna and flora can be admired from a network of trails – don’t miss the Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset. In town, both Noah Purifoy’s Outdoor Desert Art Museum and the World Famous Crochet Museum will make for some interesting chat back home.

Anna says...

Joshua Tree is one of my favourite places. I think it’s the quality of light. One of my other favourite places in the world is the Maasai Mara – the light that it creates is breathtaking and I had the same feeling at Joshua Tree. I felt really re-energised. It's the mass of open space, it makes you realise how big and beautiful this world is, and that it’s there to be discovered and explored.

Where to stay

Looking for somewhere eclectic to lay your head? Joshua Tree has it all, from kitsch trailers at Hicksville Trailer Palace to retro motels the likes of the Joshua Tree Inn. But if you want to a little more luxury, you’re best off making the one-hour drive back to Palm Springs. The Palm Mountain Resort & Spa may be moments from Palm Canyon Drive, but you won’t lose your desert zen here. Find a spot on the chilled sun terrace and soak up those mountain views.

Grab a bite

At the Crossroads Café the breakfasts are the stuff of legend, especially for climbers and hikers. Tip: arrive hungry. And no-one can resist Pie For The People, which serves pizzas with such fabulous names as the Barry White and the David Bowie.

Now you’ve channelled your inner Thelma and Louise, it’s time to finish off where you began: Los Angeles. But not before a visit to the legendary music venue Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace – think live bands and barbecue under the stars with a margarita in hand.

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