Sarah Williams, a travel consultant from Uttoxeter’s Journeys à la Carte – and a member of Aito Agents – had stars in her eyes when she joined the Cover Stars trip to California.
Q. Why did you apply for Cover Stars?
A. It was an opportunity to shed the winter blues and experience a varied American state such as California. I did not expect to be picked and was shocked when I was.
Q. Had you been to California before?
A. It was my first time, so I was very excited. The nearest I’d got beforehand was Las Vegas.
Q. How was business class?
A. I love turning left on flights. It was fabulous. We flew out with American Airlines and back with British Airways. It is worth the extra money, absolutely – especially on the night flight coming home, which is about 11.5-12 hours.
Q. How did you find Los Angeles?
A. I loved it. We went sightseeing on a bike tour, so cycled down Rodeo Drive and visited the V Wine Room in West Hollywood, a trendy wine-tasting room, and stopped at the Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame. We packed a lot into a short space of time.
Q. Where did you visit after LA?
A. We went to Pismo Beach – the clam capital of the world – which was more relaxed than LA. We had an exhilarating dune-buggy experience, which is not for the faint-hearted. The destination would appeal to anyone, as there are lots of activities that you can do. We stayed at the Inn at the Pier hotel, where most of the rooms have ocean views. It was great waking up to see the ocean and the pier from my balcony, and listen to the sound of the waves. It’s a funky hotel, with nice touches like Alexa devices in the room, and it’s just five minutes from the restaurants and shops. The following day we had a brewery tour in Paso Robles. It was very well laid out and I thoroughly enjoyed it – it was my first brewery tour. We also went horse riding at Creston Ranch, which was really relaxing. One of the girls on the trip had never ridden a horse before, but they put her at her ease.
Q. Then it was off to Santa Cruz. What did you get up to there?
A. We went down the boardwalk, which made me feel nostalgic for Blackpool, because of the sights, the smells and the rides. In the evening, we had a sunset beach barbecue with a live band.
Q. Where was your photoshoot and what did you wear?
A. Mine was in Santa Cruz on the beach, in front of the big dipper. Journeys à la Carte and Aito tour operators work closely with Young Ideas, a local boutique fashion store, and they were kind enough to give me a selection of outfits to wear. The Michael Kors dress seemed appropriate for the shoot on
Q. What was your highlight of the trip?
A. You must visit the farmers’ market at San Luis Obispo. It was incredible. There was a real buzz about it.
Q. How have California sales gone since your trip?
A. It has definitely been a boost to our office. Since I returned, we’ve done about 20-30 bookings to California and I have encouraged colleagues to do training about the destination. We really bonded as a group on the trip and plan to meet up again soon. We were sad about the forest fires, but as a travel agent you can help clients who might be affected and rearrange their travel.
Sarah’s sales tips
Sell California’s other activities: There’s zip wires, wine-tasting, sailing and horse riding.
Suggest a self-drive in a convertible: Two weeks is ideal and self-drive is easy outside LA.
Don’t rule out October-December: The weather is good and hotel rates and fares are lower.
Sarah on…the star-spangled state
I loved California. I was star-struck. It’s been on my bucket list since childhood, thanks to all the movies I watched growing up. At the Sunset Tower Hotel, we saw Jennifer Aniston and Bill Murray. Jennifer was a few tables away and we also saw her in the foyer as she was waiting to be collected. One of the girls on the trip spoke to her in the ladies. Cycling down Rodeo Drive, we saw the stars’ houses. You see it in films, so it was surreal to do that. I felt like a star. We stopped at the iconic Hollywood sign for an amazing group photograph, then we went to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where celebrities have their stars on the pavement. At TCL Chinese Theatre, I had a photo taken of me as I put my hands in Marilyn Monroe’s handprint – that’s my most ‘liked’ picture on Facebook.