ONLY two words are needed to explain why you should jet cross the Atlantic to North America – San Diego.
With a direct British Airways service laid on out of Heathrow's plush Terminal 5, the southern California city (palm trees everywhere) is now within easy reach for UK travellers who want it all and want it all on their doorstep.
A quick trip up the M5/M4, perhaps an overnight stay in one of Heathrow's many hotels and then a relaxing 10-hour flight, and before you know it you are walking along one of the glorious white, sandy, beaches that are justifiably billed as among America's best.
In fact the beach at Coronado, the 'island' just across the bay from San Diego, has been voted the best in America by beach-goers.
San Diego nestles a few miles from Mexico's northern border and as such enjoys as good a climate as any sunseeker could wish for.
If you liked the Mediterranean you'll love this – and it comes complete with the Pacific Ocean.
Although perhaps something of a secret to many, San Diego is a discreet base for a number of US military personnel, notably their world-renowned special forces, the SEALS, and the Top Gun pilots based at Miramar.
Americans are justifiably proud of their armed forces – and the veterans of same – which gives San Diego a real air of dignified authority, reflected in gleaming public buildings, litter and graffiti-free streets and, best of all, cheerful and helpful residents.
They want visitors to see their city in the best possible light and will go to great lengths to make your stay special.
All you have to do is stop on the pavement, look around as if slightly bewildered, and any number of friendly, helpful people will appear and do all they can to set you right.
It is as disarming as it is reassuring and makes America in general and San Diego in particular a wonderful place to stay.
For the lazy visitor the beach is the ideal destination. Mile upon mile of near-empty and pristine shoreline where you can just sit and watch the world, and a few ships, go by.
And when we say pristine that is an understatement – there was not a scrap of litter on any beach we visited – the 3,000 dollar fine for dropping litter does make one really look for litter bins.
Of course if you prefer there is every opportunity to surf, swim, sail and fish – there is even a special Fisherman's Pier, all old wood planking and bait boxes, where the locals will be happy to show you how it's done – and it's great for a ozone-packed wander if you've left your tackle behind.
The pier stretches out from Imperial beach, just a bus ride and short walk from Coronado.
Coronado is to San Diego what Topsham is to Exeter. We stayed at the Glorietta Bay Inn. And what a wonderful surprise it was to get up on the first morning and see yachts bobbing about in the harbour – we had arrived at night and were not quite sure where we were!
The inn was extremely comfortable and Mike's holiday was made, almost literally, when he discovered a pancake-making machine when we toddled down to breakfast on the terrace.
The inn is on the corner of Glorietta Boulevard and Orange Avenue, the main street that runs from one end of Coronado to the other. It has an excellent range of small shops – galleries, books, food, pharmacies, crafts and beach goodies and an even more excellent range of restaurants.
If you have yet to visit America, please don't think that it is just full of fast food chains. The range of eateries is amazing – as is the food.
One evening we dined at 1500 Ocean, one of the restaurants within the Hotel del Coronado complex.
I can think of nothing better than having a gorgeous meal while watching the sun going down over the Pacific. A flavour of the menu: Grilled lamb loin with saffron couscous, snap pea, shiitake, yogurt, mint, pistachio, or perhaps try roasted free range chicken with creamy boursin grits, cipollini onion, wilted baby kale, sherry jus.
And do try the local beers – ask for one of the local craft beers for a long delightful cold drink after a hot day.
Next week Anne and Mike discover the transport system and just what else San Diego has to offer.