Santa Monica: Beachfronts, beer and Bubba Gump Shrimp
Just 12 miles from Los Angeles, Santa Monica is the perfect place to relax, with miles of golden sands and superb seafood
The famous Santa Monica pier is where fact met fiction during an anecdote in the film Titanic and where Forrest Gump found his love of shrimp.
A city in its own right, Santa Monica is just 12 miles west of Los Angeles - with direct flights from London on British Airways - and is increasingly becoming a resort for those wanting get away from the sprawling hustle.
While beachfront locations often rely on patches of golden sands and crisp, clean emerald and ultramarine water scattered up and down the coast, Santa Monica boasts solid miles of toasted beach - peppered with places to eat and relax.
There are any number of options when looking for, not just a place to lay your head for a few days, but to really indulge.
Waking up to clean, clear, palm tree-framed vistas from your window at the Fairmont Miramar and Bungalows is one such way.
Located on Wilshire Boulevard, across the road from the achingly beautiful and seemingly endless ocean, it's a lesson is decadence - with grand and lavish rooms, suites and external bungalows, offering nothing but luxury.
It's also home to The Bungalow bar, which has become a mainstay of the bronzed and beautiful who frequent the bustling and extremely hip surroundings.
And don't be surprised if you see a dozen or more supercars parked outside.
Santa Monica's pier is also the end of Route 66 - the more than 2,000 mile-long road which sweeps through several states, starting off in Chicago.
And aside from the iconic Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and shop, the pier boasts a number of other eateries and food stalls - culminating in the Pacific Park.
There are a number of rides, along with the brilliantly lit Ferris wheel which, like the countless electric Tesla saloons parading around the grid-led streets, is also very green, and the only solar-powered wheel in the world.
If you're thinking of taking advantage of the myriad of fresh seafood on offer, The Lobster - located right on the pier - allows you to fulfil the full bib-on crustacean-cracking experience. It's elbows on tables, and satisfying stuff.
One way to find your way to this cosmopolitan and laid back destination is with British Airways, which operates direct flights from London Heathrow to Los Angeles - with Santa Monica a mere 30 minute trip away.
It's also a chance to make the journey on the world's largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380 - a two-deck giant of the skies which carries up to 469 people. Then it's either a taxi ride away, or bus services which operate from the international hub.
As you can imagine, Santa Monica is not a place that skimps on the traditionally glowing, but not baking heat, that's become associated with Southern California.
And one way to take in the views and exercise the legs after a hearty brunch at the Fairmont's FIG restaurant - which is a favourite spot of former California governor and Austrian-born Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger - is with a relaxed cycle along the dedicated beach path.
It stretches the 3.5 mile Santa Monica sands, and also winds a total of 22 miles throughout the state's ocean front, and is the longest of its kind in the world.
And if there's still an appetite left for lunch, the Back on the Beach cafe offers a host of breakfast and lunch classics, with juicy organic beef burgers, crisp sweet potato fries and homemade lemonade to wash it down.
There's also Perry's Cafe Beach Butler service, where you can eat and drink without moving a muscle, while sprawled out on the sand.
For those who come to shop, Santa Monica doesn't disappoint - with countless big name designer brands packed neatly into a dense retail heart, many cheaper than their counterparts this side of the Atlantic.
And if you want to improve your culinary skills, The Gourmandise School allows visitors of varying degrees of ability to create everything from the sweet to the savoury - including freshly made ricotta cheese, pasta and punchy pesto. For those with a penchant for crisp, full-bodied and well hopped beers - including stunning brews from the reasonably nearby San Diego - there are several options to whet your whistle.
Whether it's the deep, rich and fiery buffalo wings at West 4th and Jane, washed down with a chilled glass of India pale ale, or hearty, dense imperial stout in the Library Alehouse, you are never far from something fresh and local.
Eating right, and eating healthily all seems to be part of Santa Monica's 21st century ethos.
One place to get a taste of the wide range of fresh produce on offer is at the farmers' market - located in the heart of the shopping district on Main Street.
It's where you'll find everything from greens, fresh morel mushrooms and zesty Meyer lemons - a cross between a lemon and an orange.
Why they haven't yet given it the alternative moniker of a 'lorange', we'll never know.
Getting there: British Airways operates two non-stop daily flights from London Heathrow to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) which is just a short distance from Santa Monica.
All flights from Belfast City Airport now arrive into Terminal 5, the airline's flagship Heathrow home so there is no need to change terminals when connecting onto long-haul destinations. The journey time from London to LA is around 11 hours, and a touch shorter on the return. World Traveller fares from Belfast City Airport to LAX start from £575.41 including taxes, charges and fees.
To make a booking, visit ba.com
Staying there: There are dozens of places to stay in the city, across a range of budgets.
More information: santamonica.com