Sir Richard Branson has taken time off from helming his global Virgin brand to help promote the fourth year of BritWeek, which highlights all manner of British connections with California. An impressive array of events in the Southland (and for the first time in San Francisco as well) can be found at http://www.britweek.org. And although the celebratory "week" began Saturday, not to fear — it actually runs through mid-May. Meanwhile, here's Sir Richard's L.A.
Days & knights
We like to stay at the Sunset Marquis. It's quiet, the staff is helpful and relaxed, and it's ideal for someone like me who doesn't like to sit in traffic and spend hours driving. Just past the cul-de-sac on Sunset Boulevard is anything you could possibly want: music clubs, lounges, restaurants, people-watching. We stroll down to William Hart Park, where we watch the locals playing with their dogs. Close by is the Andaz Hotel, with an airy, sunny restaurant that serves delicious smoothies. The Standard also has a reliable diner for breakfast.
The active life
I'm running my first marathon this year in London. I enjoy being physical, but when I'm traveling, exercise options can be limited. It's refreshing in L.A. to not be stuck with just a treadmill. Running the Santa Monica stairs means I get both a great workout and gorgeous views. Hiking Runyon Canyon is an L.A. must-do; it's not so bad on the knees and the people-watching, again, is great — people and their dogs. When my son Sam is here, we try to go surfing at Sunset Beach.
A chic sheik
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel pool area is a good afternoon spot to relax with drinks or to sit in the sun and get some reading or work done. My first time at the Hollywood Roosevelt was for a Virgin Unite fundraiser called "Rock the Kasbah," so I dressed head to toe in Moroccan formalwear and rode in from Hollywood Boulevard on horseback. The hotel's hallways have just the most amazing photographs of 1970s and ‘80s film and rock 'n' roll stars.
On the boulevard
Just outside, Hollywood Boulevard has no shortage of entertainment. I rather enjoy walking around and running into its unusual and spontaneous cast of characters. The first — and only — time I was pitched by a guy in a Spider-Man costume was on Hollywood Boulevard, on my way to see Jimmy Kimmel. And I loved it. I love free-spirited, passionate people, even if they are marching to a beat I don't hear.
Tucked away among a sea of bank buildings is the Hammer Museum, which seems to have a great nose for contemporary art and a nice courtyard in the middle. I don't know what half of the art means, but I can count on the shows to surprise me. It's a nice space to walk about. Nearby is Westwood, good for movie theaters and more walking.
Dusk is the right time for drinks at Mondrian SkyBar or Chateau Marmont, where I've been to some brilliant parties. V Australia threw a very memorable party there this spring involving sheep, drag queens and a room full of chocolate. I keep going back hoping to experience the same Aussie debauchery.
Dining in style
Suzanne Goin is a lovely chef and her restaurant on Melrose Avenue, Lucques, has a relaxed, not-rushed Sunday dinner, a really nice tradition. Speaking of tradition, perhaps one day she will consider a Sunday English roast! The back outdoor area with the ivy wall is a treat. Oh, and I'm sure everyone mentions the Ivy restaurant, but who can blame them? It's a reliable spot for good food and atmosphere.