Something To Declare: Santa Barbara; wildfires; jubilee San Francisco; Los Angeles flight times
Friday 24 February 2012
Destination of the week: Santa Barbara
Of all the "mission towns" along El Camino Real (The King's Highway) north of San Diego, Santa Barbara is the most enticing. The city, which is about 80 miles north-west of Los Angeles, has a spectacular setting between the Santa Ynez mountains and the Pacific.
It boasts superb 20th-century Spanish Revival architecture and, on its southern outskirts, it has the Four Seasons Biltmore hotel – one of the candidates for the honour of being the subject of the Eagles' single "Hotel California".
For the next two months, though, the big attraction is whale watching, as the mammals migrate north through the Santa Barbara Channel. Condor Cruises (001 805 882 0088, or within the US 1 888 77 WHALE; condorcruises.com) runs three whale-watching voyages daily (also featuring dolphins) from the harbour at Santa Barbara until 29 April. They last 150 minutes and cost $42 (£28).
Warning of the week: Wildfires
In the first six weeks of the year, California experienced more than twice as many wildfires (325) than the average (158). California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection blames a "lack of precipitation". The Foreign Office adds: "Areas of highest risk are the canyons and hills where dry vegetation and high winds can cause wildfires to move very quickly and threaten property... Visitors are urged to follow the advice of local police especially in respect of orders to evacuate an area under threat." Canada's Travel Report says: "Travellers with respiratory ailments should take into account that air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate."
Bargain of the week: Jubilee San Francisco
While peak-season holiday prices to California are high, there are some remarkable deals available for short breaks to San Francisco over the diamond jubilee holiday at the start of June. Flying from Heath-row on Virgin Atlantic on 1 June, returning overnight on 5 June, gives you exactly four days from touchdown to take-off. The air fare is about £550 return, but for only £642 per person (based on two sharing), you get four nights at the Renoir Hotel – a distinctive, triangular-shaped property that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is almost adjacent to the Civic Center BART (train) station.
The deal is available from Opodo.co.uk – search for flight plus hotel.
Tip of the week: Flight times
If you are keen to maximise your time in California, note that not all planes from Heathrow to Los Angeles take the same time. British Airways' 747s are scheduled for 11 hours exactly, while Virgin Atlantic's A340s and Air New Zealand's 777s take 40 minutes longer. Inbound, BA's Jumbo jets outrun the rival aircraft by about half an hour.
The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations
- 1 Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
- 3 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 4 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Flight from Britain to Turkey delayed by 7 hours after champagne cork damages ceiling
Exclusive Escapes: Upmarket holiday company goes bust on the eve of bank holiday weekend
What's it like on board North Korean airline Air Koryo - the worst in the world?
The 10 Best lightweight luggage
The most powerful passports in the world
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Stock up on canned food for stock market crash, warns former Gordon Brown adviser
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn voters most likely to believe 'world is controlled by a secretive elite'
£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...