July 4th, 2013
In his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, British author James Hilton created a mythical utopia, a sort of heaven-on-earth, that he called Shangri-La. Now all the earthly pleasures of this aptly named hotel in Toronto are available to all. You may even feel like it’s all too good to be true.
Take tea in the vast lobby lounge, where a fresh menu of macarons is baked daily- try the one with fois gras. Sit back a people watch, especially come film fest: we saw Kiefer Sutherland stroll by (perhaps on his way to the private screening room)?
The Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris combines Moroccan luxury with French refinement, a marriage made in pampering heaven. Exotic décor, private hammam treatment rooms and wine-infused skincare products that are gentle and natural make for one-of-a-kind experience.
Adjoining the hotel is New York chef David Chang’s first Canadian outpost of Momofuku, with three levels offering different dining experiences. We love the ground floor Momofuku Noodle Bar with its communal tables and bustling lunch crowd.
The hotel’s award-winning pool also features deck side infrared saunas, perfect for detoxing after a night at Soho House, the elite private club right next to the hotel.
The beautiful Asian-inspired Bosk restaurant offers very attentive service in a bright and airy space off the main lobby. Come summer, a patio opens up onto University Avenue, offering fresh seafood platters right in the heart of downtown.
Hotel rooms are more like luxury apartments with lots of storage space, ample desks, boudoir-like bathrooms, and one suite even has it own spin bike. See, why would one ever leave?
June 27th, 2013
Having spent a fair amount of time in Santa Monica with an ex-beau, I thought I had the area covered. But some 10 years later, I realized that most of our activities took place within the confines of his oceanfront apartment. Thankfully, true love (and a 40th birthday) prompted another visit to the 'hood, this time with my husband and three-year-old son in tow.
We fell in love with the boutique Oceana Beach Hotel the moment we stepped through its modernist doors. Once an apartment complex in the '50s, the Oceana’s public spaces were remodeled a few months back leaving warm blue and taupe hues with pops of colour and beach house décor. We loved the kidney shaped pool and in-house restaurant (think farmers market finds and local wines) – both were ideal for people watching as guests ran the gamut from fashion types to chic Euro families. But our favourite feature was the service, which rivaled the Four Seasons – everyone from front desk staff to wait staff were incredibly helpful and genuine – a rarity in these days of hipster cool. Do splurge on a top floor ocean view room – the view is killer and the higher floors enjoy a quieter stay. www.hoteloceanasantamonica.com
We shopped like a chef at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market on Arizona and West 2nd. Local hospitality types abounded scoring finds for dinner and the bar (you can see them with their dollyies everywhere). We loved the probiotic tomato basil bread from Bezian Bakery and scored great hotel snacks like organic dried plums and raw nuts.
Blue Plate Tacos is one of three neighbourhood eateries that are kid-friendly, boast fun wait staff and use tons of local ingredients. We loved the soft shell tacos (chicken, fish and beef were all excellent) and the grilled corn on the cob served with hint of spice and a slice of lime. Their classic margarita made with top shelf Reposado Tequila had us reminiscing about our 20s (and feeling no pain).
Kicks Sole Provider is a sweet little shoe shop on the very trendy Montana Street (home to Splendid, Jonathan Adler and other LA essentials) carrying limited edition and unique finds for men, women and kids from big name brands like Nike, Adidas, Converse and Toms. We loved the limited edition Birkenstocks by Tatami Amadora (pictured). www.KSPLA.com
Do try to plan your trip around the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series coming July 11. Done in partnership with NYC’s Central Park, these free outdoor shows are well-loved by locals. This year’s line-up includes killer acts such as Meshell Ndegeocello and No Age. RSVP here.
—Tara Parker Tait
June 20th, 2013
Whether it’s 7 European cities in 10 days, or a local long weekend, packing the wrong pieces can be downright disasterous. Herewith, our packing guide for planes, trains and automobiles.
A scarf is a travel essential – use it as a blanket when the air conditioner is blasting, or protection from icky airplane or rental car seats; plus, it polishes an outfit without much effort. This bows and arrows scarf by Yarnz is large enough to offer good coverage, but light enough to store in our purse. $225 at Augustina Boutique, www.augustinaboutique.com
For lounging around all morning (hey, it’s vacation) or doubling as a beach cover-up that you actually don’t mind walking through the hotel in, this Christine Lingerie caftan is light, colourful and takes up zero space in the suitcase. Win, win, win. $295 at www.christinelingerie.com
The carry-on is quite the point of contention – some people swear by it, and some people think that with all the security restrictions it is not worth it. I’m firmly in the former category – this Hershel bag is unisex and fits a surprising amount of clothes. Bonus points for the secret shoe compartment, which easily fit two pairs of heels and a pair of flats on my last long weekend trip. From $80, http://shop.herschelsupply.ca
Everlane, a rising star on the e-retailer scene, is know for “radical transparency” with its factories and true cost of production. Its first shoe is an Italian leather summer sandal and made in the USA. The design is simple and chic, and the no-fuss closure comes in handy at airport security. $105 at https://ca.everlane.com
June 6th, 2013
With Mexico trending right now from architecture, to cuisine, to hotels, there’s no time like the present to book that beach cabana.
With the most ocean-view suites on the Mexican Riviera, the all-inclusive hotel Grand Velas Riviera Maya is all-inclusive luxury at its most opulent. With its outsized suites bedecked in white marble and pristine and private beach, it’s where South American heads of state meet to discuss politics. As for us, we were happy making decisions such as “French or Asian for dinner?” or “Kayak or paddleboard today?”
Icing-sugar sand with the shadows of palm fronds swaying the breeze is enough entertainment for us at the ample beachfront cabanas. We suggest reading The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles with a glass of cold prosecco. The beach is ideal for running in the early morning, or there is sunrise yoga at the gym. Oh so busy!
Famous for its custom margarita cart that wends its way through the restaurant, Frida, like its artist namesake, is a restaurant that abounds in culture, flavor and Mexican authenticity.
Take the five-minute drive into the charming town of Playa del Carmen for your shopping fix. While strolling along the busy, pedestrian-only main street, spy charming vignettes like this.
A huge highlight of the resort is the spa’s water journey, a 30-minute guided experience through hot and cold pools, massaging water “beds,” steams, saunas and a detoxifying mud masque. You’ll feel so refreshed to won’t even know those tequila flights ever happened.
Even if you’re not getting married there, you’ll lust over the private beach settings and simple white set-ups, thinking “why didn’t we do it that way?” Maybe next time.
June 1st, 2013
We head to Tough City for a family-friendly vacation that brings new meaning to surf and turf.
Pacific Sands Beach Resort has outstanding oceanfront beach houses on Cox Bay with lots of room for the whole family to spread out: You in the massive view jacuzzi tub, the kids enjoying fresh baked goods and granola delivered on the doorstep from Red Can Gourmet www.redcangourmet.com ($9.50), and Dad catching some early morning waves (or is that you?). We played bingo and Twister, built forts and made kelp skipping ropes. Who needs satellite TV? www.pacificsands.com
Beyond surfing (lessons and rentals are offered at the new Surf Shop at Long Beach Lodge), we saw golfing, Frisbee, jogging, and even sand hockey on the beach. Don’t miss the short walk to the private Pettinger Point (pictured) belonging to Pacific Sands Beach Resort to search the tide pools, picnic amongst the wildflowers or watch the sunset. Rooms come with pint-sized rain slickers should the weather turn, and come summer, the Kids Camps are free. www.pacificsands.com
Perfect for early risers (like your little groms), weekend brunch at the Spotted Bear starts at 9 a.m. Chef/owner Vincent Fraissange spends the season working yachts on the Med, then returns to Tofino in the summer to dish up his brand of French inspired comfort food. Try a refreshing grapefruit soda in a mason jar, crispy pork belly and baked beans, or the outsize “Marie Antoinette” banana bread pudding French toast ($15). 101 Fourth St., Tofino, 250-725-2215, www.spottedbearbistro.com
When the door lifts at the Tacofino taco truck precisely at 11 a.m., there’s already a line up (in high summer, the lunch wait can be up to 45 minutes). The gooey grilled Gringa tacos were a huge hit with the kids (ok, and adults) and the icy mint and lime Freshie drinks ($4.50) pair perfectly with the tuna “ta-taco” garnished with seaweed ($6.50). 1184 Pacific Rim Highway, 250-726-8288, www.tacofino.com
Getting there: Make a reservation on www.bcferries.com
For more pictures of this Tofino trip, visit the Editors' Diary.
May 30th, 2013stay
The luxurious Laguna Nigel Ritz Carlton is perched on a hill overlooking the Salt Creek surf break where local high school teams practice every morning. After checking the beach cam at the front desk, have your Beach Butler ferry you down on a cart, set up your chairs and towels, and even build sand castles for your kids (yes you read that correctly). Wetsuits and Ritz Carlton skim boards are available, naturally, while free yoga and pilates, tennis courts, a playground and Kids EcoAdventure Center round out the day. A cucumber and Meyer lemon margarita at the oceanview 180Blu lounge is a great way to cap it off. www.ritzcarlton.com
If you think whale watching is something you do shivering in a neon GoreTex jacket on a wet catamaran, think again. The tours out of Dana Point are more like luxury cruises with a full bar and lots of interesting narrative. Fifty grey whales per day migrate through this area in the spring, but at the very least you will see lots of sea lions and dolphins (we followed a mega-pod of 3,000) and of course, the local species known as stand up paddle boarders. www.danawharf.com
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 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
May 1st, 2013
If there's one thing that would get us to exercise more, it's a personal assistant finding the best classes for our schedule and putting them in our calendar.
But until our imaginary Great Aunt releases the trust fund (ahem!), we'll have to make do with the next best thing: Lululemon's free new Om Finder for iOS. It helps us browse classes near us by date and time, stalk our favourite teachers and browse the listings at our neighbourhood yoga or Pilates studio. Better yet, we can add selected classes straight our calendar and invite friends to join us, too.
Now, would it be too much to ask it to do our ironing, too? —Kat Tancock
Available on iTunes.