How to live like a celebrity on a trip to Los Angeles

IT MAY have been just a few days but, boy, experiencing a handful of places in Los Angeles that give you that celebrity feel is worth every single moment. And every single cent.

In this certified capital of celebrity-watching, it literally is who you know in LA, not what you know, especially when it comes to testing out some the city’s serious hot spots.

The best of the best from eating to drinking, shopping, facials, spin classes and one mighty fine hotel, this is just a taste of LA’s finest.

We checked into the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood

This is the hotel that, for the past 50 years, has been the home away from home for actors, comedians, writers, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, supermodels, restaurateurs, billionaire entrepreneurs and the newest breed of entertainer when the hotel opened its doors in 1963, rock stars.

What started out as a well-kept secret on a secluded residential street has matured into a world-class destination with fine dining, luxurious suites and villas, a recording studio where dozens of Grammy-winning songs have been recorded, tranquil gardens, and one of the most notorious bars anywhere. Yes, the kind of bar, where you bump into anyone, even Aussie actor Michael Caton and 60 Minutesreporter Michael Usher.

“Party like a rock star” is the hotel’s mantra but the great thing about this place is its proximity, its discretion and its simply fantastic rooms.

The exclusive private members’ club Soho House

On the famed Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, Soho House is a serious social star. It is a members-only bar, restaurant and screening room. (There are a few Sohos dotted around the world, by the way.)

We had a brilliant dinner and after-dinner drinks and couldn’t help but crane our necks to see if any stars were trying to go under the radar. The best part of arriving at Soho House is the only way to get in is via a suburban-like underground carpark. It is secret society stuff but once you are in, your lips are sealed.

SoulCycle Spin Class

SoulCycle doesn’t just change bodies, it changes lives. With inspirational instructors, candlelight,

epic spaces and rocking music, after a big night out, this was just what the jet lag doctor ordered. Riders can let loose, clear their heads and empower themselves with strength that lasts beyond the studio walls. Getting the entire upper class into really good shape seems to be the mission of SoulCycle, which has diehard followers such as Victoria Beckham, Chelsea Clinton, J Crew’s Mickey Drexler, Katie Holmes and Lady Gaga, who took two $2200 custom-made bikes on her tour and threw her 26th-birthday party at their studio in West Hollywood.

Lunch at one of the hippiest foodie spots in LA, Gracias Madre

With the arrival of Gracias Madre in Los Angeles, Chef Chandra Gilbert found herself once again reliving her lifelong dream of opening a vegan Mexican restaurant featuring bold flavours and seasonally conscious ingredients. This is cool school, clean eating central.

Red Carpet Facials at Kinara Skin Care

Originally designed for those who need a glowing complexion on demand, Kinara’s famous

signature Red Carpet Facial is perfect for special occasions, or monthly maintenance. The secret is in the proprietary formula, which combines lactic and amino acids, creating a uniquely intelligent exfoliation system that literally steam cleans the pores, dissolving impurities and evening skin tone. We all came out of here totally glowing.

•Drinks and dinner at EP & LP

Perched on N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, EP & LP is a two-floor Asian influenced restaurant with a rooftop bar and sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills. The venture is backed by Australian DJ Grant Smillie (also of Melbourne’s Pony Fish Island and Melbourne City Brewing Company), with business partners David Combes (ex Trunk), models Ashley Hart and Buck Palmer, as well as Axwell from Swedish House Mafia.

Sydney chef Louis Tikaram, formerly head chef at Longrain and Australian Young Chef of the Year 2014, is being brought over from Sydney in August to be the venue’s executive chef. The team from Projects of Imagination worked on the interior design.

Brunch at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel

This is an absolute must do. The Polo Lounge has been the favourite breakfast spot and watering hole for generations of stars and Hollywood deal-makers.

Guests enjoy indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and late-night suppers and adding to the atmosphere, The Polo Lounge offers live entertainment every day for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Taking a walk around the grounds and down to the guests-only pool features some of the best cabanas I have ever seen. It was pure, great fun.

Blow outs at My Blow Beverly Hills

In the US, a blow dry is called a blowout (just clearing that one up) and some of the most inexpensive and best are from the highly affordable My Blow LA in Beverly Hills. Coupled with a little trip to Blushington for make-up next door, you come out feeling red carpet fabulous without having spend a stupid about of money!

Bestia in Downtown LA

Wow. Executive chef Ori Menashe (former chef of Angelini Osteria) and pastry chef Genevieve Gergis are the husband and wife team that is Bestia, a multi-regional Italian restaurant in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles. Going downtown isn’t something lots of LA visitors choose not to do, but this place is definitely worth a look.

Cool, industrial-looking and with fab food, it was the best precursor to a night when we really did hang out with bona fide celebrity, Rebel Wilson, at the LA fashion Week Aussie event.

In-N-Out Burger:

A trip to LA isn’t complete without a late-night stop into In-N-Out Burger. Seriously. When you are tired, you’ve partied hard, you need a burger just to, well, get you to sleep. This is the place for you. And you get all types, in all types of dress, every hour of the day — as you can see below.

After we spent two days in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, we zipped to the “City of Roses”, Pasadena. Nestled in the San Gabriel Valley and 15km northeast of Los Angeles, the city reeks of old-money with a whole lot of grand mansions, museums and gardens, many of which are underwritten by prominent local families.

We were shown around the exquisite Langham Hotel — and were hosted with a brilliant, cake-fuelled high tea before we ventured for manicures and a pedicure at Olive and Jones. If that wasn’t enough to do, we had our own mixologist mix up the best drinks, parred with amazing food at Bar 1886 at The Raymond. By then we were ready to jump onto that plane and recuperate before getting back into work mode.

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The only way to see the Grand Canyon is by helicopter

PERCHED like a phoenix in Arizona, the 446km long Grand Canyon is totally awe-inspiring, majestic and also kind of daunting.

Can you believe it is up to 1.6km deep and 29km wide (at its broadest point) with the canyon forged just a mere 17 million years ago. That was way back, when the Colorado River was rampant and raging.

If you take a look at the geology of the canyon, you can tell where water once sat, like it has been carved into the land. Yes, nature is its own best architect.

Anyway, that piece of geographical history, there is no question the best way to see one of the world’s greatest natural ‘Seven Wonders’ is by helicopter.

It seems such a contrast, but to take off just minutes away from the glitzy, fun-fuelled and gambler-filled strip of Las Vegas and twenty minutes later be in the middle of a natural seventh wonder is simply breathtaking.

Anyone who visits Vegas needs to take some time away from the bright lights to stand in awe of it. And there is no question the best way to see it is by chopper.

The one we took picked us up from our downtown Vegas hotel and shuttled us to the company’s terminal at Maverick Helicopters.

Once we are weighed — boots and all (so they can work out the right weights to fit each chopper) we were given a thorough safety lesson and asked to wear a small life jacket that just wrapped around our waist.

Our helicopter had total clear vision with top to bottom glass — made for perfect vision and once we had lift-off, the tour soared over the mega strip that is Las Vegas; over Hoover Dam, Fortification Hill, Lake Mead and Lake Las Vegas.

Once we were near the Canyon, we descended 1066m into Hualapai Indian Territory, where we landed, popped open a few bottles of bubbles (no, no, the pilots did not partake) while we could look in awe down the Colorado River and the surrounding canyon area.

The return trip included a detailed flight over the Las Vegas Strip — ‘oh look over there, there’s our hotel!’ — with the whole trip taking just over three hours. If you drove there it would take over four hours just to get there.

The breathtaking Grand Canyon via chopper

To be honest, a trip to the Grand Canyon this way totally blows your mind.

It really is one of the natural seven wonders of the world that shows what ‘nature’ is capable of providing; pure, awe-inspiring wonder.

In a strange way, it also makes you think about how small the humans race in comparison to the majesty of nature. And to be able to experience it on a holiday with great friends made it even a better experience.

My travel bucket list: Tick!

Follow Melissa on Instagram and Twitter @melissahoyer

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Now THIS is a holiday treehouse: Nihiwatu on Sumba Island, Indonesia

The luxury Indonesian resort Nihiwatu (Nihi), most recent winner of the 2015 PURE Design Award, has launched three new signature villa residences to complete the resort’s existing 21 villa estate offering, including the long awaited Mamole Tree House which has just been unveiled in November 2015.
Designed by German architect Walter Wagner, with interiors by Marco Scarani and Susan Colley, Mamole Tree House is ‘Sumbanese’ in style and features traditional touches including beautiful local carvings, antiques and Ikat prints.

The Tree House is a unique, whimsical and spacious 3-bedroom tree house complex, elevated on wooden stilts between Nihi’s ancient trees. The tree-house configuration has been designed for the fun-hearted, adventure lover and is perfect for families, groups of friends or honeymoon romance. Mamole has the best view of the beach and brings the outdoors in. Two of the two-storey, circular villas offer a lounge area on the entry level, with the bedroom, bathroom and balcony on the upper level.

A bamboo bridge connects the two tree-houses and a shared infinity pool with lounging deck features on the front. The main Mamole Tree House includes a private infinity pool and large living area with bathroom on the entry level, and upstairs, a bedroom with a bathroom, balcony and connecting bridge to the main outdoor bathroom. Traditional Sumbanese carvings, antiques, local wood and Ikat prints are featured throughout the tree house complex.

The new tree house villas all epitomise responsible, understated luxury reflecting the simplicity and beauty of Sumbanese architecture, allowing the wild natural surrounds to take centre stage.

Mamole Tree House 1-Bedroom Villa rates for November 2015 starts from US$1,500++ per villa per night based on double occupancy for a minimum of 3 nights including all meals and non-alcoholic beverages as well as Wi-Fi. Garuda Indonesia currently operates a daily flight from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport to Sumba Island (50 minutes).

For reservations or enquiries, please email

Revealed: the 'best' hotels in the world according to renowned travel website Mr and Mrs Smith

COOL, creative and sometimes a touch kooky, the winners of the world’s hottest hotels according to Mr & Mrs Smith have just been announced in London.

The charmingly offbeat UK bolthole The Pig — on the Beach, which overlooks Studland Bay on Dorset’s Jurassic coast, has been named Best Smith Hotel 2015. Meanwhile, the ‘sexiest’ hotel sash has gone to Italy’s drop-dead, sensual and grotto-like Bellevue Syrene just near Naples, complete with a four poster bed and your own pool.

And three mega chic Australian hotels have made the hallowed hotel list too. Runner-up to the UK inn is Halcyon House — a bright, bold and brilliant surf-motel makeover at Cabarita in northern New South Wales that has been garnering rave reviews.

As well as taking second place in Best Smith Hotel, Halcyon House was a runner-up in the Best Newcomer category. The other Australian properties named runners-up in two other categories were Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley in ‘Best for Families,’ and Southern Ocean Lodge in the ‘Above and Beyond’ category.

Mr & Mrs Smith is a hotel website, booking service and free-to-join travel club which specialises in finding the world’s most inspiring boutique hotels.

Founded in 2003, Smith has published nine coffee-table guidebooks and maintains a hand-picked and anonymously reviewed collection of more than 1,000 of the world’s most stylish stays at It has gained cult-like status for its objective hotel reviews.

‘The boutique hotel industry is at the cutting edge of hospitality,’’ says James Lohan Co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith.

“That’s what we want to celebrate with the Smith Hotel Awards — the places that do things differently, where you come back with stories of chefs creating impromptu dishes tailored just for you, or where the general manager personally drives you the scenic route to the airport.

“We hope this year’s hotlist of 12 winners inspires people to make 2016 the year they go out and find them.’

More than 1,000 hotels in the Smith collection battled for a place in the 12 specially selected categories, including Best Pool, Best Hotel Restaurant and Hottest Hotel Bar.

More than 22,000 hotel-loving members of the public had their say, voting for their favourite stays during the month of September, after which shortlists were put to panels of expert judges.


Best-Dressed Hotel

•Ett Hem, Sweden: ‘Ilse Crawford’s bespoke interior is sublime — timeless and contemporary in equal measure. The design references the traditional Swedish Gustavian colour palette, brilliantly and luxuriously updated with modern and vintage furnishings. It’s an architectural jewel, too,’’ says Neale Whitaker Editor-in-chief, Vogue Living Australia.

Runners-up were The Battery in San Francisco and Ham Yard Hotel, London.

Sexiest Bedroom in the World

•The Roccia Suite at Bellevue Syrene, Italy: ‘In-room massage pool and canopied four-poster in an Italian grotto: Hellooooo hat trick,’” says Immodesty Blaize, Burlesque star.

By the way, bellevue Syrene happens to be in Sorrento, which is on the southern extreme off the azure waters of Naples. I mean, could this place have a sexier location?

Runners-up Sansovino Suite at Aman Canal Grande Venice, Italy and Water Villa 5 at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

Hottest Hotel Bar

•The Zetter Townhouse, London, UK: ‘It’s a masterpiece by Tony Conigliaro that continues to rack up awards and turn out superb bar talent,” says Paul Gabie Founder of 28 Hong Kong Street and CEO of Proof & Company.

Runners-up The Elephant Bar at the Nomad, USA and Cafe Gray Deluxe at the Upper House, Hong Kong

Best Hotel Restaurant

•Oreade at Monteverdi, Italy: ‘This is one very special place, a farm to table homage to the surrounding Tuscan bounty and where chef Giancarla Bodoni serves up delectable Italian dishes from a killer menu, with daily specials thrown in so you can dine with indulgence every night of your stay,” says Tamara Heber-Percy Co-founder, Mr & Mrs Smith.

Runners-up Belmond Le Manoir aux. Quat’ Saisons, UK and Nomad at The Nomad, USA

Best Spa Hotel

•The Nam Hai, Hoi An, Vietnam: ‘A beautiful part of Vietnam and a stunning resort. The spa is set in pavilions: the ultimate in privacy and luxury,” Peony Lim Fashion and lifestyle blogger.

Runners-up Corinthia Hotel London, UK and Dormy House, UK

The Eco Award

•Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia: “I’m amazed at how much they are doing with the environment and the local community,” Livia Firth Founder, Eco Age.

Best for Families

WINNER Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji: ‘This looks like such a dreamy place, both for kids and grown-ups. My sea-creature-obsessed kids would absolutely LOVE to visit here,” Courtney Adamo Co-founder, Babyccino Kids and Instamum.

Runners-up are Aarbella Club, Spain and One & Only Emirates Wolgan Valley, Australia, which we’ve featured in our pics above.

Best Budget Boutique Hotel

WINNER Masseria Cervarolo, Italy: “After recently visiting the region I feel like a traditional Puglian farmhouse is the perfect way to explore the gorgeous surrounding areas, “ Henry Holland Fashion designer.

Best Hotel Pool

Amangiri, Utah, USA: ‘You can’t beat it: the light, the rocks, the pool snaking around this wondrous gleaming edifice that changes colour as the day wears on. The best mixture of natural and sophisticated.,” Melinda Stevens Editor in chief, Condé Nast Traveller.

Runners-up are Rayavadee, Thailand and Cap Estel, France

Above and Beyond

•Huka Lodge, New Zealand: ‘The guest comments on the personalised service of this property are amazing — the general manager personally driving guests to the airport, and the front-desk attendant jumping off her bus as she passed by when she spotted guests they were going the wrong way. They really do go above and beyond the call of duty, and that made this hotel stand out for me.” Amanda Shadforth Founder, Oracle Fox blog

Runners-up Aenaon Villas, Greece and Southern Ocean Lodge

Best Newcomer

• The Battery San Francisco, USA: ‘For all its hipness, San Francisco sorely lacks the type of hotel you get giddy at the thought of staying at. Or at least it did. The Battery practically aches cool. So much so that you want to check in, and stay in … regardless of what’s going on outside,” says Susan Riley Deputy editor, Stylist magazine.

Runners-up Hotel Urso, Spain and Halcyon House, Australia

Best Smith Hotel 2015

•The Pig — on the Beach, UK: ‘The Pig has come of age, transplanting its winning code to the natural playground of the Dorset coastline. Timeless interiors, top-notch food and spot-on service all help it continue to flourish,’’ says Sophie Lam Head of travel at The Independent. The runners-up are Soneva Fushi, Maldives and Halcyon House, Australia.

Follow the conversation in Instagram and Twitter @melissahoyer

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36 hours on the big Golden Princess from Sydney to Melbourne: genius or simply silly?

OK, SO cruising isn’t for everyone. There are lovers and loathers.

But if it is something you have been tempted to try but worry about potentially being ‘stuck’ on a ship for 10 days, the two-day cruise I’ve just disembarked from gives you a perfect taste of cruise life.

Whether you are ‘Rousey’ and his mates (all in matching embroidered T-shirts and on board celebrating his 40th); a family of six doing a trip back home to Melbourne from a visit to Sydney, gentle retired couples, a gang of race-going mates, a gaggle of girlfriends, or someone like me, who is heading to the Spring Racing Carnival, the journey between Sydney and Melbourne was never more, well, different.

During those 538 nautical miles (that’s around 990km or approximately one hour on a plane) you actually have time to take a tour of the galley and the bridge. And while some of you may roll your eyes with boredom as soon as I mention that, I actually learnt some interesting stuff.

Like this particular ship — the Golden Princess — left Sydney with 150 tonnes of totally fresh produce on board, as the ship was going onto another trip for eight more days.

With a huge Australian guest list, I learned from the head chef Andrea Baiardo, that Aussies prefer lamb over lobster (crustaceans are an American cruiser fave, by the way); that we drink more cocktails than any other nationality on board, tea consumption is greater from Australians and we prefer our beer straight out of a bottle. Standard. (But a nice little slice of Aussie culinary behaviour for you.)

The thing about this ship is that is took about 36 hours to go from Sydney to Melbourne. While that is a big chunk out of any working week, it was, for many, a mini holiday, with one full day at sea and two nights. And there are Wi-Fi packages: so (intermittent) connection guaranteed. Hallelujah!

We arrived in Melbourne very, very early on Friday, having left late on Wednesday, and were picked up by a river pilot about 3am before we sailed into Port Melbourne with all of the fanfare of helicopters flying around the ship with huge “Welcome to Melbourne” flags.

Sure, cruising is not for everyone. But if you pick and choose your on and off board activities — whether that includes lots or none at all — I actually found it a really pleasant way to get to Melbourne.

I got some work done; was in a new environment and like so many of us can do now, worked remotely the entire time. Perfect!

And we haven’t even spoken about the cost yet. (See below for those some pretty impressive details.)


• The food is seriously endless and bloody good. The Princess Cruises group have done a culinary deal with celebrity chef Curtis Stone. There are a handful of dishes (created mainly by Italian chefs) including Stone’s famous roasted pork belly (570 servings of that went down on Thursday night) and his chicken and leek pot pie which are both on the menu in a handful of the ‘smarter’ restaurants on board. And don’t forget there are seemingly countless bars and buffets of all varieties dotted around the ship and the pools.

• Never forget that on a ship, you can do as little as you want or as much as you want. There is no pressure to do a thing.

• On any one day there are personal training sessions, LGBT get-togethers, musical bingo, karaoke madness, origami lessons, pampering seminars and yes, something called the Skywalkers Nightclub. A disco divas paradise. (Of course I popped in!)

• Oh, and there are acupuncture sessions, Zumba classes, trivia challenges, carpet bowls, blackjack tournaments, piano recitals, outdoor movies, ping pong tournaments, impressionists, line dancing lessons and one very full on British Invasion theatre show. Think Rolling Stones, The Beatles et al …

• I love the fact that once you are unpacked, you are unpacked. No schlepping from hotel to hotel or city to city with constant packing and unpacking.

• And if you are not liking your two days sojourn, don’t fret. It is ONLY two days, but I seriously challenge you to find something you will NOT savour. Even looking out to sea from your balcony gives you a sense of quiet, calm, thinking time.

• There were 200 kids on this ship and we saw hardly any — they are SO well catered for that you’d never know they were on board.

• Everyone on board is genuinely friendly — whether that’s because many were en route to the Spring Racing Carnival, who knows? Spirits just seemed to be high as most guests are in holiday mode

• You arrive relaxed, maybe slightly overweight (boy, the food never stops) and provided you don’t get motion sickness, you are going to have a brilliant sleep. I promise.

• The Lotus Spa — the ships signature named pampering posse — gave me the most wicked hot stone massage — my muscles are still reeling in ecstasy. There are also facials, manis, pedis, teeth whitening treatments (yup!) and whatever your beauty heart desires.


• Like everything, you get what you pay for — so you’re not going to get caviar and Krug champagne — but this isn’t one of those smaller, much pricier cruises where that is the culinary norm.

• You really have to be careful of your on-board account card, as it is used for drinking, gaming, shopping and spa treatments. It’s easy to rack up ‘unexpected’ bucks you didn’t realise you were spending.

• Like everywhere in life, not every guest is going to be your cup of, well, whatever, but this ship is SOO big it is incredibly easy to avoid anyone who may have rubbed you up the wrong way.

• I am being honest here, but the slight odour from the poor guest who threw up not far from my room took a while to subside but there were plenty of cleaners on duty 24/7 trying getting rid of the stench.

• This particular cruise is not a runway fashion show: I really wouldn’t bother packing anything too grand or glam. The bejewelled earrings and killer designer heels stayed in my suitcase.

• A few guests twirled around the ship sans shoes — something I never quite get — not for any silly style reason but more from a safety point of view. There are a few moments of delicate walkway diplomacy needed.

• Oh, and there is no way you can make the ship go any faster — this is a ‘commitment’ travel. So be prepared.


Packages for this particular two night jaunt started at $470 per person. And when you do your sums and work out what you get, it’s mighty good value.

Considering that includes an extremely comfortable room (it had the best bed and fabulous linen), all food, a small balcony with an uninterrupted sea view (that’s an essential, I reckon), as much entertainment as you want, adults-only and all-ages pools, in room TV, a good size bathroom and basically whatever activity you want to do. Yes. It’s great value.

And while the Princess Line isn’t in the incredibly up-market league of Seabourn or Silver Seas or Crystal Cruises, 1.7 million people make a journey on one of the cruise company’s 18 ships each year. And that number is growing ridiculously huge each year. Australians, it seems, love cruising

Sure, it may have only been 36 hours, but it gave me a taste of a new way of affordable and everyday cruising from one major city to the other.

As of today, this ship is now calling Melbourne home over summer and the one thing it is out to prove is that mainstream and affordable cruising has gone from daggy and at-times questionable to fun very, very tasty, super organised and efficient..

And, hey, what a terrific way for my race day hatbox to travel.

Now, it’s time to hop off and gear up to giddy up!

• Melissa Hoyer was a guest of Princess Cruises on the Golden Princess from Sydney to Melbourne just in time to #giddyup!

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