May 23rd, 2013
Smack dab in the middle of Venice and Malibu, two of our favourite LA haunts, lays the Santa Monica oasis The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. We felt like a Hollywood starlet of old ensconced in one of its signature bungalow suites complete with a private entrance and a lush, bougainvillea-filled patio. Here’s how we managed to get the best of SoCal without ever leaving the hotel:
A-list favourite Exhale Spa is conveniently situated right next to the bungalows, which means you can roll over in your robe and slippers, Hollywood style. Do try the spa’s signature Flow massage where expert therapists roll and kneed (think detoxifying but pain free) with a mix of carrot and avocado oil that will leave you feeling rested and ready for dinner at Fig. www.exhalespa.com
Being big fans of small plates, local ingredients and relaxed rooms, we were thrilled to walk into Fig, Chef Ray Garcia’s farm-to-table restaurant located poolside. The wait staff is incredibly knowledgeable about the locally sourced wines and menu items and we couldn’t get enough of our mains – the Ocean Trout and the Short-rib Meatloaf. You know it’s a winner when more than half the clientele are stylish locals who are on a first-name basis with their waiters. www.figsantamonica.com
We fell in love with the chic décor of the incredibly popular Bungalow Bar (think your ideal beach house complete with requisite ikat pillows, softly glowing lanterns and lounge seating). We were lured in by the smell of Le Labo’s Santal candle exuding the perfect sexy, beachy scent that about sums up the vibe of the bar. Do try the house specialty— fruity sangria that packs a punch. Tip: get there early and camp-out, as it’s shoulder-to-shoulder come 8 p.m. nightly. www.thebungalowsm.com
See our Santa Monica photo album today on our Editors' Diary.
May 18th, 2013
Planning a family holiday with lots of day trips? Here are three packable items that allow you to be prepared, without the bulk.
Hershel’s new Packables range allows you to travel with a variety of bag options. Featuring a duffle, daypack, or tote that all fit into a small pouch, you can whip them out before a day of sightseeing, or at the airport when you’ve stocked up on wine from the duty free. From $9.99 at Herschel.
If you prefer packing your own meals on holiday, Lunchskins are the perfect companion. The reusable snack bags mean you can travel light, but with the equivalent of 20 tupperwares. They can hold fruit, sandwiches, or treats, and are easy to rinse out in a hotel room. From $8.49 at Rasberry Kids.
The nostalgic Claude Klassic K-Way is a reminder of when we were kids and proudly wore our parka tucked into a little bag around our waist. Featuring a variety of prints and a size range from 12 months to teens, this is an absolute must-have when you are out and about anywhere that might greet you with a downpour (Vancouver, ahem!) $54 at K-Way. http://k-way.ca
—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
May 16th, 2013
Yes, Zurich's clean, organized and easy to get around – but there's plenty of creativity to go around, too. Try these stops on your next visit to Switzerland's financial capital.
Switzerland ain't cheap, so why pay for bottled water? Make sure to bring a purse-size bottle to refill in one of the city's more than 1,200 stylish fountains featuring the city's very drinkable water. (The exception? Any fountains marked with the sign "kein trinkwasser", which we in fact never spotted.)
To the Swiss, fondue's a winter food, but we say tourists get to break the rules. Head to Le Dézaley to get your fix and sample other local specialities like rösti (potato pancakes), spätli (dumplings) and Vaudois sausage.
Look for souvenirs with class at Schweizer Heimatwerk, which sells its selection of high-quality goods – think jewellery, home decor items and kids' wooden toys – both in the old town and at the airport. Off the beaten path, head to West Zurich's Viadukt shopping centre, a reclaimed area nestled in the arches of a working 19th-century rail viaduct, for more offbeat retailers; around the corner, stop by Frau Gerolds Garten to browse through several cute clothing boutiques.
Thursday evenings, take a 90-minute city tour in a classic tram complete with wine or champagne and snacks on the Apéritif Tram, which makes its way past some of the city's top sights. The rest of the week, head up early to beat the crowds to the Jules Verne bar with its panoramic views of the cityscape.
Pick up a 24- or 72-hour Zürich Card for unlimited access to the city's beyond-amazing transit system – that means trams, trains, buses, boats and even the cable car – plus free access to most museums and discounted city tours. Don't miss a guided walk around the historic and well-preserved Old Town.
May 9th, 2013
Skip the glitz and glam of Rodeo Drive, and hit up some of Los Angeles’ cooler spots.
Located just below the picturesque West Hollywood hills and five minutes from the notorious Chateau Marmont, Andaz Hotel’s rooftop swimming pool and its indie soundtrack will put you in the right mood to feel like a hip Angeleno. 8401 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA, 323-656-1234, www.westhollywood.andaz.hyatt.com
Forget Britney Spears and her bottomless Starbucks, the best coffee in Los Angeles is in Silver Lake. Everyone drinking and working at Intelligentsia look like they belong in some cool band about to make it big. Who knows? Maybe they are. 3922 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 323-663-6173, www.intelligentsiacoffee.com
Silver Lakers take their vinyl very seriously. As does Vacation, the neighbourhood’s acclaimed record store. Whether you are looking for original pressings of Smiths albums or the new Kurt Vile record, they’ll likely have it. 3815 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 323-666-2111, http://vacationvinyl.com
From Silver Lake, head over to the equally happening Echo Park, and stop by Mohawk Bend to taste one (or two or three) of their 72 local craft beers. This gorgeously retrofitted 100-year-old Vaudeville theatre also features modern pub fare using the finest local ingredients. 2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 213-483-2337, http://mohawk.la
Echo Park is home to writer Dave Eggers, who is also one of the directors of 826LA, a non-profit kids’ writing centre. This adorable place is also home to The Time Travel Mart, where you can pick up the 826LA’s publications like From the Couch to the Kitchen, a cookbook written by high school students, as well as sharp-witted knick-knacks. 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 213-413-3388, http://826la.org
Over on Mid Wilshire, you’ll find the painfully hip Pour Vous. From PYTs to older distinguished types (and we hear Robert Pattinson), this speakeasy features Parisian-inspired cocktails that will quickly go to your head, while you watch trapeze burlesque artists perform to moody Lana Del Rey songs. 5574 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 323-871-8699, http://pourvousla.com
April 25th, 2013
Beach babes, long boards, and bellini bars - it’s all about Huntington Beach, California.
The Shorebreak Hotel’s front desk features a massive wave, there are surf films projected on the walls of the lobby, cruiser bikes and vintage surfboards in the rooms, all done incredibly stylishly. www.jdvhotels.com
Beach volleyball, all year round! And then, of course, there are the surfers (er, we mean the surfing) in and around the famous pier. It’s not called Surf City USA for nothing.
The Huevos Rancheros (pictured, $9) at Zimzala in the Shorebreak Hotel, with excellent coffee and a bellini bar in a breezy room was our idea of brunch heaven. The name of the restaurant means “peace with sand between your toes.”
Order one of the massive longboards from Huntington native Peter Hamborg a firefighter and father of 5 surfing, modelling, lifeguarding boys (why does this sound like a reality TV show in the works)? Cruise The Strand, 10 miles of paved track along the beachfront. www.hamboards.com
Lucky you if you get a sighting of one of the famous surf Woody’s like we did!
March 28th, 2013
With its black sand beaches, lush rainforest and natural hot springs, it’s no wonder we’re crushing on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. We took a trip to the “sleepy south” and found laid back resorts, natural beauty, and plenty of local flavour.
At Anse Chastanet no two rooms are alike but all include local art and a breezy Caribbean vibe. Ask for 14B, which has a tree growing through the rainfall shower (pictured). The hotel has four restaurants - including one that’s exclusively vegetarian - and two beaches with oceanside service. Make the trek over to Anse Mamin, the hotel’s more remote beach, for a Caribbean spice burger tucked between a Jonny Cake, a local bread grilled fresh to order. www.ansechastanet.com
Hotel Chocolat grows 10 per cent of the island’s cocoa. Tour the hotel’s Rabot Estate cocoa groves, pluck a pod, and craft your own dark bar with the Tree to Bar experience. Afterwards, reward yourself with a fresh cacao martini in the hotel bar. http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/home
Locals swear by the healing power of the sulphur springs, part of your entrance fee the Caribbean’s only “drive-in” volcano. Bring a dark swimsuit, cover yourself in volcanic mud, then dip into the natural (45 degree!) hot springs. http://soufrierefoundation.org
Guests at Jade Mountain benefit from more than just in-suite infinity pools and unobstructed views of the Pitons. At the Kai en Cielis spa the chocolate body wrap is good enough to eat but it’s the hotel’s own handmade chocolates, given at the end of the treatment, that really sweeten the experience. www.jademountain.com
Every Friday the town of Anse La Raye plays host to a fish fry dance party. Choose from snapper, mahi mahi, shrimp, box fish or spiny lobster then watch as your plate is piled high with homemade rice and peas, mac and cheese and coleslaw. (Sorry about the lack of photo, but were were too busy eating!)—Shannon Heth Vergette
March 21st, 2013
While the “world’s greatest freakshow” still entices tourists to Venice Beach, we prefer to explore the the spots where laid back cool belies some serious sophistication. What’s the heart of Venice Beach these days? The action has shifted to Rose Avenue, a few blocks over, where rents are cheaper, the stores more eclectic and you can breathe in the potential of a neighbourhood that is about to become the new “it.” Get there before the others do.
333 ½ Rose Avenue, an eco-luxe vacation rental remodelled by a local architect, is spacious and private, and close enough to the beach, restaurants and shops. Park the car, rent a cruiser bike, a.k.a. Venice’s de-facto wheels and you will slip into local mode instantly. www.vacationrentals.com
Oscar’s Cerveteca (pictured) is the neighbourhood joint for all occasions, but brunch is a standout with wild salmon tacos that arrive in steaming tortillas; beer battered waffles with caramelized peaches and applewood bacon; and (for those with lighter tastes,) a tasty breakfast salad with greens, avocado and grapefruit. 523 Rose Ave. Venice, CA, www.cervetecala.com
Located in the Archstone, a new Platinum Leed Certified building that cemented Rose Avenue’s gentrification, Café Gratitude’s Venice outpost features the San Francisco-based organic, vegan chain’s signature juices, elixirs, smoothies and delicious southwest inspired vegan cuisine that will entice you no matter what your eating preferences may be. The raw desserts are exceptional. 512 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.cafegratitudevenice.com
Over at Moon Juice (pictured), try the Goodness Greens for a morning boost and a pure ginger shot with raw honey if you need some more immune boosting zing for your California Glow at this cold-pressed organic juice bar flocked by cleansing devotees. 507 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.moonjuiceshop.com
Venice Beach Wines is where you go for your post sunset glass of prosecco, or perhaps a crisp Belgian ale. The tiny patio is also perfect for a post dinner conversation over a bottle of that hard to find zinfandel from Mendocino. Venice Beach Wines, 529 Rose Ave. www.venicebeachwines.com
Yes, Rose Avenue also has the requisite artsy coffee/ breakfast hangout. That would be Flake. Come for the coffee, stay for the decadent Acai bowls with heapings of fresh fruit and granola. 513 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.veniceflake.com
Eclectic lifestyle store The Golden State pays a nostalgia-meets-today homage to Southern California culture. Browse one of a kind art prints by local artists, find a vintage inspired one-piece by cult swimwear lines Salt or Cali Dreaming, and pick up a hand thrown platter by Venice’s own potters Luna Garcia. 564 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.thegoldenstatestore.com
Founded by a botanist who views plants as the ultimate art, the Big Red Sun is a dreamy emporium filled with things you will want both inside and outside your “perfect” home. It also moonlights as a setting for invite-only pop up dinners. Leaf through a coffee table book on design diva Vera; covet a vintage French linen upholstered armchair; or lose yourself in the inviting garden out back. If you stay long enough, you may snag an invite to dinner. 560 Rose Ave. Venice, CA, www.bigredsun.com
March 20th, 2013
For the travel set, there is nothing more exciting than planning your next adventure.
A perpetual explorer, Calgary photographer Lori Andrews inspires you to go forth and wander in her newly published photo book, I'll Wait Here. Andrews takes both self-portraiture and nature photography to the next level due to the lengths she will go for the perfect snapshot. Climbing mountains, traipsing through fields and camping in tipis - she goes the distance to evoke that special feeling of wanderlust.
A girl and her camera…and the world. —Kait Kucy
February 14th, 2013
Queenstown, one of the filming locations for a little movie about Middle Earth, is the perfect jump-off for exploring New Zealand's South Island. The beautiful scenery and delicious vineyards make for an equally chic and sportif trip.
Queenstown’s Matakauri Lodge is situated on Lake Wakatipu and overlooks The Remarkables mountain range. Book through luxury boutique concierge service Mr & Mrs Smith to receive a complimentary “Smith Extra”, currently a gourmet picnic hamper for two. www.mrandmrssmith.com
Visit the charming Amisfield Winery Bistro for dinner. Select "trust the chef" for a multi-course, simple yet stylish meal. Ours was completed with a chocolate and praline confection expertly paired with their deliciously honeyed sticky wine, produced with the "noble rot" method. Head over to the winery shop after to purchase a few bottles- Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are also good buys from this Central Otago winery. www.amisfield.co.nz
For a little cinematic escape, visit The Dorothy Browns Theatre in neighboring Arrowtown (you may even catch a screening of The Hobbit!). This stylish cinema offers a selection of both blockbusters and art-house films. Order a glass of local wine and a cheese plate to enjoy while you watch your movie. www.dorothybrowns.com
The Postmasters Residence in Arrowtown is a quaint restaurant in a heritage garden cottage. We ordered the caramelized banana and brioche French toast. With bacon. And mimosas. After all, vacation is the time to indulge! Fiending for less sugar and more caffeine? Bob’s Weigh in town brews a good cup. www.postmasters.co.nz
From Queenstown you can charter a helicopter air tour to visit world-renowned Milford Sound. But, we recommend saving your Kiwi dollars and rent a car- when a road has "UNESCO World Heritage" designation you know it'll be worth the drive. Once at Milford Sound, join a 2-3 hour boat tour. Budget two days for the journey, with a night in Te Anau, so you can stop at the many scenic points and wineries along the way.
February 9th, 2013
Taking your kids to Paris? Read this first! Or, “How do you say umbrella stroller in French?”
Get your bearings with day passes for the BatoBus, sightseeing boats that stop every 15 minutes along the Seine so you can hop on and off at all the major monuments ($15 Euros/day). It’s the best way to get the pretty and sprawling Jardins Des Plantes with its Menagerie (the oldest zoo in the world opened in 1794). Don’t miss Nenette, the famous 40 year-old orangutan. Hint: if you go just before closing at 5, you can see the cats get fed whole chickens. Menagerie Du Jardins Des Plantes 9 Euros/7 Euros.
The L’Ouvre and Musee D’Orsay are for a different trip. To get your culture fix, head to the Centre Pompidou, the famous inside-out art gallery. The very best view of Paris is from its rooftop café (try the Vietnamese spring rolls) and there are lots of free activities for kids in and around the lobby and grounds, plus a great gift shop. www.centrepompidouparis.com
Hands down my favourite afternoon was spent at the stunning Jardins Luxemburg. Check out the art exhibits in its Orangerie, ponder the immaculate topiaries, and make sure to rent the affordable wooden boats (pictured) for your kids to play with in the main fountain. There is a pretty garden and wading pool just for kids under 5, which makes a nice oasis for a picnic from nearby Le Petit Luxe (2 Rue de Vaugirard) which has inventive take-away salads and sandwiches for just 3 Euros (hence line-ups).
If your local science centre were designed by Philippe Starck and housed in a massive sculpture park, you are beginning to get a sense of the sheer scale and scope of Paris’ Cite des Enfants. We wished we had a whole day to explore inside and out, but at the very least take them to the main science experiences where they can “work” in a water factory, play with a light wall, collaborate in a kiddie construction site and stimulate their growing grey matter. Cite Des Sciences, www.cite-sciences.fr
Even the best parents deserve a date night in Paris. We used the babysitting service Baby Chou and met a wonderful English-speaking au pair named Aude. Ask for her! It is better to phone rather than book online. 9 Euros/hour plus agency fee. 01 43 65 58 58, www.babychou.com
Be prepared to carry strollers up and down Metro stairs and wait for grumpy attendants to open access doors beside the turnstiles. For shorter journeys, taxis are better (get a business card and reserve a “maxi cab” for your trip to the airport).
Remember: the Eiffel Tower is best viewed from the park at its base, don’t waste half a day dodging pickpockets in the lineups. Instead, take them to the Eiffel Tower Carousel, the prettiest in the city.
We found that picnicking in parks was better than trying to keep the steak knives and wine glasses out of tiny hands. Not to mention all the glares we avoided this way. If you have rented an apartment like we did, even better.
Credit cards and online reservations are de rigeur, but you will find that your booking can’t be retrieved with a foreign credit card. This applies to train tickets, museum passes, etc. Be prepared to line up.
The 12% VAT can add up. Make sure to carry your passport number and ask for a tax form at point of purchase. You can get the tax back in cash at the airport before you check in as long as you have your purchases on hand to present to them.