If it’s a lathering of American luxury with a generous dash of Mediterranean vibes you’re after, look no further than The Resort at Pelican Hill in sunny Orange County, California.
I journeyed to the Golden State direct from Dublin with Aer Lingus. Flight time to Los Angeles International Airport was 11 hours – or two movies, three episodes of Modern Family, four gin and tonics and a lengthy snooze.
Nestled in the hills above beautiful Newport Beach, a peaceful Pacific coast city roughly 40 miles south of Los Angeles, The Resort is a dream retreat.
Its design borrows heavily from the classical repertoire of renowned Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, whose Greco-Romano masterpieces still decorate the Veneto region of northern Italy.
Newport’s Palladian homage was completed rather fittingly almost 500 years to the day the architect entered the world, in 1508, and its bright array of Tuscan columns, pantiled porticos and rotundas are an impressive sight.
After check-in, guests were driven by golf caddy – The Resort boasts two immaculate courses – to our dwellings for the next three nights.
Mine was a sumptuously furnished bungalow with private terrace and the most spell-binding views over palm-tree laden Pelican Hill and the Pacific Ocean. Watching the sky turn cherry-red as the sun dipped behind the silhouette of Catalina Island each evening was a particular highlight of this trip.
On the first night, we were invited to a light dinner at Andrea, The Resort’s main restaurant, which specialises in the “fresh flavors of Italy”. A memorable moment was when one of the chefs prepared a piping hot risotto dish within a wheel of Parmesan right at our table.
Flanked by Huntington Beach to the northwest and Laguna Beach to the southeast, Newport is an attractive corner of southern California’s Pacific coast, and boasts enough bars, beaches and bespoke boat trips to keep you busy for a two-week stay. Young families will be pleased to hear that Anaheim’s Disneyland resort is just an hour’s drive to the north.
We were shown the sights by representatives from Visit Newport Beach, whose employees boast first-rate knowledge of the area and were beyond hospitable.
First port of call for my group of guests was Lido House, an up-and-coming boutique hotel situated bang in the centre of Newport.
This Cape Cod-inspired creation’s 130 rooms each have their own unique beach house vibe. Special touches embedded here and there capture the essence of the city and its people, such as the hero of Hollywood westerns and unofficial emperor of Newport, John Wayne.
Once our Lido House loitering was done, we headed over to the charming Lido Marina Village to embark on a sun-kissed Duffy boat tour of the marina.
Passing golden beaches and glitzy private residences, our charismatic guide, Carolyn Clark, showed us, among other notable shore-side sights, the Ferris wheel on which The O.C.’s Ryan and Marissa first shared a snog (Newport is where the popular noughties teen drama was set) and Wayne’s prized yacht, the Wild Goose.
Carolyn also gave me a shot at steering the boat. With the sun on my back and the hits of the Beach Boys ringing out, it was bliss.
Lunch was served by the water at Zinqué – where I consumed quite possibly the most delicious gourmet burger of all time. We then took a walk around a selection of the marina’s many independent shops and luxury outlets.
As dusk fell, we dined at The Winery, filling up on seafood platters and high-end plonk.
Our second full day began with a gentle stroll along Balboa Pier, where, rather amazingly, we spotted schools of dolphins, followed by a paddle board lesson, memorable not least for my failure to remain standing –or dry – for long on Newport Bay’s version of the Venetian gondola.
In the afternoon we headed to Fashion Island, the premier shopping precinct, with more than 300 unique stores and restaurants. Special mention goes to the lovely ladies at Kendra Scott who helped me pick out a dazzling necklace for my better half.
A trip to California would hardly have been complete without sampling the state’s prized viniculture, and so our next destination (on the road north towards the local airport, named after John Wayne, of course) was Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, where we sampled a selection of the best local produce.
That evening, I dug out my very best threads for a trip to Javier’s, a lavishly-appointed Mexican haunt serving mouth-watering fajitas and enchiladas.
On our final day we ventured out to Crystal Cove, a picture postcard beach area punctuated by seaside shacks and grass-topped cliffs.
At Corona del Mar we embarked on what turned out to be my favourite part of the trip: a Pedego bike tour of Newport Beach and Balboa Island with its famous ice cream bars. This is a fantastic way to spend a day with friends and see as much as possible while being in the open air. Pedego bikes have optional electric propulsion, ideal for tired or lazy legs. None the less, I greedily devoured my signature Balboa Island frozen banana, deciding that I must have burned off at least a few dozen calories.
Arriving back at Pelican Hill we had lunch at the Coliseum Pool & Grill. The circular pool which gives it its name – one of the world’s largest we were told – is the finest feature of the entire resort and a joy to splash around in.
Suitably fed, it was time to cap off our stay with a massage at the spa. I was given the Amber Gold treatment for a full 60 minutes and came out feeling refreshed and raring to go.
Our stay at The Resort having reached its conclusion, we checked out and headed up the Interstate 405 to LAX and the long return leg to Europe.
As the Forbes list lifestyle of Pelican Hill vanished from our rear view mirror, I began to feel the first pangs of separation and decided there and then it wouldn’t be my last glimpse of Newport Beach, California.
Getting there: Aer Lingus, Ireland’s only 4 Star airline, offers seamless connections to Los Angeles, California from Scotland, flying from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
Travel via Aer Lingus’ Dublin gateway and preclear US immigration before you step on board your transatlantic flight, avoiding any lengthy delays stateside.
Fares from Scotland to Los Angeles via Dublin start from £289 each-way including, taxes and charges, when booked as a return trip. Visit aerlingus.com for more info.
Staying there: David stayed at one of the luxury Pelican Hill bungalows, which start at $425 a night.
For more information please visit the website of Visit Newport Beach.