Los Angeles, United States

The reality of this sprawling metropolis is certainly more complex than its celluloid image, but it’s no less mesmerising without the special effects. The sheer scale of the city can be overwhelming, but explore the fabled neighbourhoods of Hollywood, Bel-Air and Malibu, and you’ll find those flashes of movie magic unique to LA. Each part of the city has its own distinct character; a cross-city drive feels like a series of rapid set changes. How the plot unfolds is up to you – a day spent surfing on Venice Beach, shopping in Santa Monica and rubbing shoulders with the stars in Beverly Hills actually is real life for the lucky few. Los Angeles is a place where you can write your own storyline.

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When to go

Spring and autumn sees LA is at its best. Days are often warm and sunny but summer can see a rise in smog levels and sea mist (known as ‘June gloom’).

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Getting there

  • Planes

    LAX – aka Los Angeles International Airport (+1 310 646 5252; www.lawa.org) – is the somewhat chaotic international airport 16 miles from Downtown. Forget public transport: if you don’t have a car | take a SuperShuttle minivan (+1 800 258 3826; www.supershuttle.com) or taxi from outside Arrivals. The ride to Beverly Hills will cost about $35 and take around 30 minutes (longer in heavy traffic).
  • Trains

    Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) connects Los Angeles to other US cities via Union Station at 800 North Alameda Street in Downtown; Metrolink serves regional stations (www.metrolinktrains.com).
  • Automobiles

    Let’s cut to the chase: you need one of these to get a real flavour of LA (even if the freeways are hell on wheels). Zoom around like Hollywood starlets in a classic Corvette or Cadillac or, if you care about your carbon footprint, opt for a hybrid vehicle.
  • Taxis

    LA’s sprawl means taxi rides can be expensive. You’re unlikely to find a taxi rank, so book with one of the large cab companies, such as the Yellow Cab Company (+1 877 733 3305; www.layellowcab.com) or United Taxi (+1 800 822 8294; www.unitedtaxi.com).

Room 323 at Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles, United States

Room 323 at Petit Ermitage, Los Angeles, United States

There are few places better for luxurious lounging than Petit Ermitage: its paradisiacal outdoor restaurant is aflutter with butterflies and hummingbirds and the Hollywood-Hills-view rooftop pool is usually surrounded by a host of mojito-sipping beautiful people, especially around sunset, when they gather by the flickering flames of the outdoor fireplace. Room 323, a Junior Suite, is particularly quiet – located in the middle of the floor away from the elevator – leave the balcony door open and let in the night breeze while you sleep (check the minibar first for some, ahem, adults-only treats).

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Los Angeles

Los Angeles

New York may be the de facto ringleader of American cuisine, but Los Angeles is turning gastronomes' heads. Ideally placed for flavourful fresh produce, the city’s inventive culinary offerings are putting the meagre egg-white-omelette meal out of style.

What’s cooking? Beef carnitas-crammed sandwiches, smoky lemon-drizzled mussels and Korean roast duck. Slake your thirst with craft beer.

Don’t miss

• In Koreatown, Sun Ha Jang’s nondescript strip-mall frontage belies little of the perfectly crisped, crackling-coated duck served inside. It's best wolfed down with piquant pickled veggies and a side of kimchi.
• Echo Park eatery Guisados promises down–home, ‘just like Mom used to make’ cooking; whether you find that sentiment sweet or a little sickly, their steak picado, chicharrón and mole poblano are just right.
• Like Italy’s tramezzino and Spain’s bocadillos, Bäco Mercat’s sandwiches are a sophisticated incarnation of the snack. Fillings include beef-tongue schnitzel and harissa, and lamb meatballs with raisins and pine nuts.

Stay at Petit Ermitage; its cuisine is as avant garde as its Kafka-inspired decor. Rattlesnake rillettes and alligator sausage are rustled up for the Gypsy Brunch.