Catriona Rowntree, Jules Lund and Dermott Brereton took off to Los Angeles to see just what makes that city tick. And tick it certainly does! Where else could the world's movie capital be. It's full of the rich, famous and weird, and Catriona got the ball rolling in Beverly Hills
One of the world's wealthiest neighbourhoods, Beverly Hills has the most prestigious zipcodes in the country 90210. Ferraris and Rolls-Royces with uniformed drivers are the norm.
For a snoop around Rodeo Drive, Catriona linked up with Aly Scott of StyleChic. The fabled drive has every major designer, jewellery stores, shoes at exorbitant heel heights and price tags and posh places to stop for a coffee. There's just as much to tempt men.
Aly's advice is to wear colour. If you want to look younger, fresher and more hip, get rid of the black. Boutique Damiani is a favourite with the rich for statement jewellery.
Aly's shopping trips include a day of personal shopping, champagne, private dressing rooms, discounts and wardrobe overhauls.
At the southern end of Rodeo Drive is one of LA's grandest hotels: The Beverly Wilshire. It was one of the locations for the film Pretty Woman. Its lobby is a 1928 Italian Renaissance structure with an enormous chandelier as its centrepiece. It has 395 luxurious rooms and Wolfgang Puck's restaurant attracts the town's A-list.
Even if you aren't staying there you can book into the spa and pool that was modelled on Sophia Loren's Italian villa. You can also have a beauty makeover in the salon and could quite possibly spot Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom or one of many others who are groomed there.
Jules opted for West Hollywood for budget-friendly accommodation. Banana Bungalow is one of America's most popular hostels. There are several in California and Hawaii.
Comfortable, clean and cheap, there are rooms for six with closet space, bath and shower. Some private rooms have balconies, queen beds and television. There's a common kitchen and dining area, street-side patio and free movies on a big screen.
Banana's location is perfect. In the middle of Melrose Strip you will find lots of things to do. Magic Mountain and Universal Studios are 10 minutes to the north and Disneyland and Queen Mary to the south. Venice Beach is to the west and downtown LA and Chinatown are due east. The very efficient metro costs around $6 for an all-day pass on trains and buses.
West Hollywood is home of the legendary Sunset Strip and it's after dark that you get the true experience.
If nightclubs and fancy restaurants aren't in your budget, you can't go past the Saddle Ranch Chophouse. Rock meets Western in the rustic ranch-style building that offers home-style cooking and down-home hospitality. Saloon girls serve breakfast, brunch, lunch dinner and cocktails and if you fancy a challenge, there's a mechanical bull.
Dermott headed west to Santa Monica, which seems to always have a carnival atmosphere, particularly at the family favourite Santa Monica Pier. It's open every day and entry is free. Pay as you go on rides, though some are free. Enjoy street performers, a carousel that was built in 1922, interactive aquarium and relax on the incredibly wide beaches.
Bubba Gump was recommended to Dermott by locals. Popcorn and Cajun shrimp, clam chowder, towers or onion rings and an endless choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at reasonable prices are on the menu.
Swingers Diner with an all-day breakfast menu has you thinking you're back in the television show Happy Days. It's a rock'n'roll coffee shop and diner, with waitresses in go-go boots, fishnets and miniskirts.
Meals are huge and prices are very affordable. Early-bird brunch is served until 11am and costs around $7. The choice is amazing and will keep you going for hours.
Third Street Promenade is the place to walk off the pancakes and French toast. Four blocks long, it's been in business since the late 1800s and on Friday and Saturday nights is off-limits to traffic. Talented buskers and street performers entertain and there is a huge array of shops, theatres, cafes and restaurants.
Los Angeles on the west coast of the US.
StyleChic six-hour shopping experience is $1670. It includes transport in a town car, VIP discounts, champagne, customised itinerary at selected boutiques, private dressing rooms and personal attention.
Beverly Wilshire rooms start at $440 a night. The Presidential Suite starts at $18,500.
Banana Bungalow dormitories are $19 per person a night. Private rooms are $61. Breakfast, internet, parking and activities are included.
Blue Bus Metro Pass is $6 for a day.
Saddle Ranch Chophouse tower of beer is $45.
The Pier Santa Monica rides range from $3 to $5. Entry is free.
Swingers Diner will satisfy the family's hunger for around $10.
V Australia has return airfares to Los Angeles from:
- Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne $1559
- Adelaide $1859
- Perth $2159
The fares are available for a limited time only so log on to www.vaustralia.com.au for further details.
Prices correct at May 5, 2011.
For further information
8417 Ridpath Drive
Los Angeles, California 90046
Ph: +1 323 806 2626
Beverly Wilshire Hotel
9500 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, California 90212
Ph: +1 617 351 2037
Fax: +1 310 274 2851
603 N Fairfax Avenue
West Hollywood, California 90036
Ph: +1 323 655 2002
Saddle Ranch Chop House
8371 W Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90069
Ph: +1 323 656 2007
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, California 90401
Ph: +1 310 458 8900
Fax: +1 310 656 1698
Bubba Gump Shrimp
301 Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, California 90401
Ph: +1 310 393 0458
Santa Monica, California 90401-2711
Ph: +1 310 393 9793
Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, California 90401
Ph: +1 310 393 8355
Fax: +1 310 458 3921
Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months' validity after the departure day, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta.
Electricity: 110V to 115V at 60Hz. Outlets take two parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.
Time zone: California is GMT -8.
Currency: The American dollar.
International dialling code: +1.