Martyn Allen, of Hays Travel, talks celeb spotting, dune buggying and avoiding forest fires on Travel Weekly’s Cover Stars trip to California.

Q. How did flying business class help with the jetlag?
A. It was my first experience of flying business class and was unbelievable. I did not expect it at all! I had a great sleep, particularly on the way back. However, I was still jetlagged. It’s nice to get a bit of privacy and to stretch out – I am 6ft 2in.

Q. What did you do on your first day?
A. On the first full day we got up for breakfast at the Mondrian Hotel, which was my favourite hotel. After that we did a cycle tour of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. It started off quite hilly but later flattened out. It just did not feel real. We saw the Osbournes’ old home and went past where Michael Jackson’s body was found. I am not massively into the celebrity world, but it was a good day.

Q. Did you visit the Hollywood sign?
A. We saw it from the Griffith Observatory. It was fantastic. We had seen it so much in films and on social media that it didn’t feel real. We walked about the observatory and then took a group photo with the sign in the background. The views were breathtaking and we could see Downtown LA and West Hollywood.

Q. Given you were in California, did you bump into anyone famous?
A. We ate at Sunset Tower Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. I had done a bit of research before going and had seen that you were not allowed to take photos inside. I thought it was a bit strange, but as soon as I walked in I saw Bill Murray so then it clicked why we weren’t allowed to take photos. The hotel manager gave us a tour of the pool and bar area and asked if we had seen any other celebrities. One of the girls had spotted Jennifer Aniston.

Q. How was dune buggying at the same time as the Californian forest fires were making headlines?
A. When we set off to Pismo Beach I got an emergency notification on my phone from the local authorities about forest fires and we drove past some of the fires on the way to the beach. It was quite scary. It felt like night during the day because of the smoke. I just felt sorry for the locals, you could smell it in the air. Of all the activities, dune buggying was my favourite. It was a major adrenalin rush and I love driving. I was paired up with Lauren, who is also from Hays Travel. We got stuck in the sand a few times.

Q. What else did you get to experience?
A. We went to the Splash Cafe on Pismo Beach. It was the first time I had tried chowder. I thought I should try it as it’s a local delicacy. We checked in at the Inn At The Pier, a fantastic hotel. It was on a par with the Mondrian, I think.

Q. Where was your photo shoot?
A. My photo shoot was on Chardonnay II, a chartered sailing yacht. It was a great experience. The photographer Steve said he had never done a shoot on a moving boat before and he found it a bit difficult. We had hoped to see whales. We didn’t see any but we saw wild otters. For the shoot I wore a long-sleeved shirt with brown chino jeans and white trainers.

Q. What did you do after your shoot?
A. We went to the amusement park in Santa Cruz where they filmed The
Lost Boys. I’ve not seen the film before but my mum said I had to get a photo next to the bridge. We had a good walk around.


Martyn’s sales tips

Scenic route: Suggest your customers take the the coastal roads.

Upgrade seats: Your clients will feel much more refreshed on arival.

Visit: The traditional farmers’ market in San Luis Obispo.


Martyn on…dune buggying

After a tutorial – and being told that we’d have to pay for any damage – I was a bit worried, but once we got out there we put our foot down and hit speeds of 30mph. That might sound slow but it felt a lot quicker. We were driving on the dunes for about an hour and a half but it felt much longer. We got stuck a few times and when we did it took about five minutes to get out. The buggies were not the easiest things to drive, but a lot of fun.