Where to Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet in LA’s Hip West Third Street Neighborhood

As a New Yorker, I think of Los Angeles as being very spread out. Then again, every city in America is spread out compared to Manhattan. For the most part, I actually like its spread, and even the driving sometimes, too—sans traffic. It’s no surprise, though, that I find myself craving the walkability of New […]

As a New Yorker, I think of Los Angeles as being very spread out. Then again, every city in America is spread out compared to Manhattan. For the most part, I actually like its spread, and even the driving sometimes, too—sans traffic. It’s no surprise, though, that I find myself craving the walkability of New York whenever I’m visiting its West Coast counterpart. Continue reading

Yucatan Three Ways

As we dip our toes back into travel after a year of social distancing, it may feel hard to decide where to go and what to do first. Does a beach vacation sound most appealing or would you prefer an urban getaway focused on shopping, dining, and culture? Perhaps an escape to the country and days of waking to birdsong, dining on farm fresh meals, and exploring small towns is the trip you are dreaming of.

 

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula makes the process of picking a destination easier, as you can choose from all three of these holiday options in one place. It also offers the convenience of flying into and out of Cancun, with flights from more than a dozen American hubs. After you land, you just have to decide whether to drive south, to the beaches along the Riviera Maya; west, to the lively and charming capital of the state of Yucatan, Mérida; or into the countryside, for a stay at a sprawling hacienda reborn as a luxury hotel.

 

Escape to the Seashore

With its dramatic Maya ruins sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Caribbean and its small resorts strung along the sea, it’s not surprising that Tulum has become a favorite of those travelers looking for beach time in the winter but who aren’t interested in the mega-resorts of Cancun.

 

God of Winds Temple, Tulum, Mexico (Shutterstock)

 

The plus of Tulum’s emergence as a destination has been the opening of new hotels and restaurants that have transformed what was once a sleepy backpacker destination into a decidedly stylish one.

 

Getting There: From Cancun it’s a straight shot south on a well-maintained highway. If you are driving, expect the journey to take between 90 minutes to two hours. There are also buses and shuttles, though renting a vehicle will give you the freedom to explore some nearby sites like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere and the Maya ruins at Coba, a much larger complex than the one in Tulum.

 

Where to Stay: Olas Tulum is a small B&B that has a very Tulum-like boho-chic atmosphere and attitude. A plus is that it is to the south of most of Tulum’s hotels—you can enjoy the quiet of the location for naps on the sand in the afternoon but when cocktail hour comes around it’s a short walk to Tulum’s other bars and restaurants.

 

Don’t Miss: Make sure to have at least one meal at Hartwood Tulum which helped lead Tulum’s transition from modest beach town to jet-setter destination. Chefs and owners Eric Werner and Mya Henry opened the restaurant in 2010 and it has made its way on to many “best-restaurant” lists thanks to dishes featuring farm-fresh produce from the Yucatan and seafood straight from the Caribbean in simple preparations that let the ingredients shine.

 

Country Living

Much of the Yucatan peninsula is dotted with haciendas that used to produce henequen (a fiber that is, in English, more commonly called sisal, after the port of Sisal where much of it was exported from). Sisal was essential to rope-making and huge fortunes were made growing the crop. The Mexican Revolution and, more importantly, the invention of nylon led to the bust of that boom though today many haciendas are enjoying second lives having been reborn as luxury hotels where you can spend days lounging by pools or visiting off-the-beaten path villages, convents, and Maya sites. You’ll fall asleep each night to the captivating sounds of the jungle wildlife at night.

Getting there: There are haciendas throughout the peninsula, though there tend to be more of them in the states of Yucatan and Campeche (on the northern and western sides of the peninsula—Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, runs along its eastern side). You’ll want to rent a car if you intend to spend your days exploring the backroads, but most haciendas will happily arrange for transfers to their properties if you intend to spend your days relaxing on the grounds.

Chablé, Yucatan

 

Chablé Yucatan

Where to Stay: Chablé Yucatan is the most luxurious of the reborn haciendas, though most accommodations there are in newly built free-standing casitas while the historic buildings house common areas, lounges, and restaurants. Hacienda Petac is an appealing smaller hacienda that is rented exclusively to one group at a time and can accommodate up to 14 guests. Marriott’s Luxury Collection includes five beautifully restored haciendas.

 

Don’t Miss: The Maya sites of Chichen Itza and Coba are world-famous, and the crowds at them are evidence of that. An advantage of a stay at a hacienda, however, is that it’s easier to visit some of the less-popular Maya sites. Uxmal, which is just over an hour south of Mérida, is one of the most magical of them. It is built in the so-called Puuc style which is known for being more decorative than other Maya styles with intricate carved geometric patterns and designs.

 

Uxmal Pyramid

 

A City Escape

Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatan (and the largest city on the Yucatan peninsula) has emerged in recent years as one of the most exciting cities in Mexico. It has long been known for its laidback pace and impressive collection of historic buildings spanning the 16th to 19th centuries (within Mexico, only Mexico City has a larger historic district). Now the city can also boast about its lively dining and shopping scene, supported by both a growing expat community and travelers who have discovered Mérida’s appeals.

 

Getting There: Mérida is roughly 3.5 hours from Cancun on a toll road. The colonial town of Valladolid and the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza are appealing stops en route. (It is also possible to fly to Mérida directly.)

Guilermina Restaurant, Merida

Where to Stay: Mérida has an abundance of rental properties in historic homes that have been lovingly restored and you will want to check out the options on AirBnB and VRBO. If you prefer a hotel, the recently opened Wayam has a cool, contemporary style and also one of Mérida’s best new restaurants, Cuna, which serves delicious updated takes on Yucatecan cooking.

Cuna Restaurant at Wayam (Photo: Orbitz)

Don’t Miss: Mérida is not only a state capital but a culinary one too. It’s a place to sample both street food like the simple tacos served at stands at the Santiago Market (a small neighborhood market that is less intimidating than the central one) to the innovative Mexican cuisine of Picheta which overlooks Mérida’s cathedral and central square.

—John Newton, Founder, Signal Custom Content. (John previously worked as an editor at AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel+Leisure and has written travel stories for many other publications and websites.)

Beyond Pebble Beach

If you’re heading to the Monterey Peninsula to play golf (or watch the pros play), why not stick around after it’s over? Monterey County has a plethora of pleasures to offer from world-renowned golf courses to interesting restaurants to craggy terrain. Continue reading

Where to Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet in Scottsdale, AZ

Billed as “the greatest show on grass” the WMPO is truly a unique tournament for both the players and spectators alike. Construction of the stands and other venues at TPC Scottsdale’s stadium course start nearly four months in advance. I can vouch for this timeline as I’ve played the course in late October and construction crews had more than begun work, with workers out on a Saturday, assembling the grandstand. It takes construction crews months of ‘round-the-clock’ work to build the “city” at TPC Scottsdale for this one-of-a-kind tournament.

“The People’s Open”—as it is affectionately known—was named the Tournament of the Year by the PGA TOUR in 2019, an honor it has received four times in the last six years (2014, 2015, 2018, 2019) helping the tournament gain legendary status for being perhaps the most lively, if not rowdy event in golf. The most popular spot on the Stadium Course is the 16th hole, a par 3 that, during the tournament, is the only fully enclosed hole on the PGA tour. A 20,000-seat grandstand plays host to fans who typically respond to great—and bad—shots alike with raucous excitement.

Grandstand at TPC Scottsdale’s Waste Management Phoenix Open

While the WMPO is certainly a treat for golf enthusiasts, a weekend in Scottsdale itself is no consolation prize. There are numerous reasons to visit this part of Arizona in January, February or March—weather being the focal point of course. Nearly 314 days of sunshine per year and some of the warmest year-round temps in the U.S. make this a top desert destination for 8.9 million visitors per year. 51 area golf courses, diverse shopping hotspots, and engaging arts and culture attractions elevate Scottsdale to the top of the must-visit list for anyone in search of warmer weather.

The Jewel of Sonoran

Known as the jewel of the Sonoran Desert, Scottsdale is located on the eastern edge of Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by sun-drenched mountains and dotted with brightly colored cacti that radiates its natural beauty. The city’s warm climate will come as no surprise, but its desert location might mean you don’t expect to also find world-class food, art, architecture and golf courses that have earned Scottsdale its “Beverly Hills of the Southwest” reputation.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet of where to “Stay, Play and Eat Gourmet” in Socttsdale, AZ.

Where to Stay:

The Phoenician Resort and Spa

Mother of Pearls Pool at Phoenician

Since 1988, Scottsdale’s The Phoenician Resort has been a vast oasis in the desert, a 250-acre luxury property offering guests some of the Southwest’s best in dining, spa, golf and more. In short, it has everything you could possibly want—great rooms, restaurants, a world-class spa, newly redesigned 18-hole golf course and 9 (yes 9!) pools—while unwinding in the desert.

If you’ve been to The Phoenician pre-2016 you might be surprised to know that it has undergone a multi-year renovation, because, quite frankly, it didn’t appear to need one. But great hotels are always evolving. In 2016, the 60 guestrooms in the Canyon Suites, a AAA Five Diamond, Forbes Five Star boutique hotel within the resort, were redesigned as was its pool area and lobby. Also that year, the Phoenician’s main building was renovated, 557 rooms total.

Most of the public areas got a face-lift in 2017, and 2018 brought a new three-story spa that features a rooftop pool as well as a fresh golf course and athletic club.

Mother of Pearls

Perhaps the most impressive asset on their 250-acre property is the pools—a three-tiered complex that features the iconic, hand-tiled Mother of Pearl pool on the lower level; and three separate, recreational-styled pools on the upper level. A newly designed center lounge area offers reserved, family-friendly seating on the north side; and adult-only accommodations with pool and cabanas on the south side. For kids, a variety of imaginative escapades awaits at the premiere treehouse and waterslide, along with the splash pad.

Phoenician Spa Exterior

Also impressive is the Phoenician Spa. Called the Centre for Well-Being, the 22,000-square-foot complex offers everything you could want to make your stay just a touch—or a whole lot—more relaxing. Featuring 24 treatment rooms—including a Tranquility Suite for couples—as well as a quiet relaxation room and locker rooms with a vitality pool, steam and sauna, this brand-new, three-story facility allows you to unwind from everyday stresses and feel completely rejuvenated. Enjoy aerial yoga, meditation and cardio classes in the Movement Studio, or work out in the Fitness Center. Or tap into your competitive side with some outdoor tennis, pickleball or half-court basketball action at their “athletic club.”

Athletic Club at Phoenician
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa 
Spa in arizona desert at dusk with mountains in background
Sanctuary Spa Courtyard

Built into the side of Camelback Mountain (the 900m-high rocky outcrop shaped like a camel’s head that dominates the local skyline) is the upmarket Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa. While it may not have the pure scale of offerings as the Phoenician—smaller pool(s), fewer dining options and no golf course, it’s about quality over quantity at this relaxation-centric resort, especially if you like a world-class spa. Retreat to ultimate comfort within a spacious casitas, suites or Sanctuary’s exclusive villas, each offering the most spectacular views of the famed Paradise Valley.

When all the relaxation has you hungry they have you covered, compliments of Food Network star and Executive Chef Beau MacMillan and his award-winning cuisine. With unrivalled views of the area, an award-winning spa, an excellent restaurant and bar and famous mid-century modern design, it understandably attracts a high-end crowd. Rumor has it that Jay-Z and Beyoncé even honeymooned there.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North 

With 40 acres of awe inspiring desert scenery as a backdrop, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North sits in a prime location between downtown Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix. 210 well-proportioned rooms are spread out over the property in a series of one and two-story casita-style designs. The resort recently completed a $13 million renovation inspired by the natural grandeur of its Sonoran Desert setting.

Designed by Whitespace Interiors, all of the resort’s spacious casitas and suites got a makeover. Intended to enhance the luxury desert experience with natural elements set against a subtle earth tone palette the contemporary new furnishings, streamlined décor, and modern artwork capture the warm, peaceful essence of this rocky desert retreat.

Other solid choices: Fairmont Scottsdale, W Scottsdale, Andaz Scottsdale.

Where to Play:

This part is hard because golf courses are very personal in taste. Also, there are literally dozens of great golf courses in Scottsdale—54 to be exact. Here are a few I like. And these also happen to be—purely by coincidence—some of the most popular (if that matters to you).

Troon North

Golf course in arizona desert with cactus and foothills in background
Troon North Golf Club

If Scottsdale is the “crown jewel” of the Sonoran Desert, many might consider Troon North to be the crown jewel of Scottsdale golf courses. Newer courses have taken some of the spotlight away from this desert classic, but Troon North’s two 18-hole courses remain a hallmark of Scottsdale golf. Immaculately groomed fairways, bentgrass greens and exceptional customer service create the renowned Troon Golf Experience. Troon North’s Monument and Pinnacle courses consistently rank at the top of every golfer’s must-play list. Recent course renovations by original designer and British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf have created two new layouts that bring his original concept to life.

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club "Saguaro" Course showing fairway, sand traps and green in the arizona desert
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club “Saguaro” Course

Offering breathtaking views of the McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks and the Superstitions, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club—which opened in 2001—lies on Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation land that will never be commercially developed. With two award-winning golf courses, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club delivers one of the best golf experiences in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. Scott Miller designed the Cholla Course, while Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw teamed up to create Saguaro. The results have captivated the golf world ever since opening for public play to much acclaim by industry leading publications such as Golf Magazine, Golfweek and Golf Digest.

GreyHawk Golf Club

Grayhawk "Talon" Course green in the arizona desert

Established in 1994, Grayhawk Golf Club features two par-72 golf courses—Talon and Raptor—engineered with their own distinctive personalities. Talon offers a desert-style test of golf that skirts thick stands of Sonoran Desert and box canyons on the way to large multi-tiered greens. Raptor delivers more traditional challenges clearly laid out come-and-get-it style with generous fairways and deep greenside bunkers guarding crowned greens. Both of the highly acclaimed layouts at Grayhawk Golf Club are widely considered to be among the best golf courses in Scottsdale.  are available to gear up before golf as well as clean up after.

If you are heading straight to the golf course from the airport Grey Hawk is a great place to start as the club house is fully loaded with amenities including full service men’s and women’s locker rooms and great food and beverages at Phil’s Grill when you are finished.

TPC Scottsdale (Stadium and Champions Courses)
13th Green with fairway beghind it at TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course
TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course 13th Hole

Surrounded by the stunning McDowell Mountains, TPC Scottsdale boasts two championship courses for players to enjoy—the world famous Stadium Course and the stunning Champions Course. As Arizona’s only PGA Tour property, you’ll experience the standards of quality and service normally reserved for the tour professionals. Home to the Waste Management Phoenix Open,

The Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale has hosted some of contemporary golf’s greatest moments since opening in 1986. The course was designed by Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf specifically to serve as the stage for the tournament—what’s now become the largest spectator golf event in the world.

Rivaling its famous sister course in both beauty and playability, the Randy Heckenkemper-designed Champions Course offers an ideal desert golf experience. Built on the former site of TPC Scottsdale’s Desert Course, the layout was completely revamped in 2007 to flow seamlessly within the naturally rugged terrain, meandering between natural ravines and through picturesque foothills.

And Eat Gourmet:

Mastros City Hall Steak House

Lighted exterior of Mastros City Hall Steak House at night in Scottsdale Arizona
Mastros City Hall Steak House Exterior

If you only have one night to dine out in Scottsdale and you like red meat, there is only place to go—Mastros. Not necessarily because they have the best steak in town—Scottsdale has a lot of competition in that department—but because it’s simply a great scene (though the steak, sides, appetizers and wine list will not disappoint). The sleek, if not gaudy interior screams American opulence, but in a fun, lighthearted way that is exciting. If that’s not reason enough, the restaurant also just underwent a renovation that encompasses nearly every aesthetic from floor to ceiling of the 12,000-square foot space, along with new menu items.

One of the more visually noticeable changes is the wine bottle display that hangs over the bar. It has been adjusted to display on both sides for maximum admiring. A new wine wall displays an impressive collection of reds while temperature control makes it fully functional. As for new menu items? What new menu items could a cavernous steakhouse with a huge menu really add. How about Authentic Kobe beef: The restaurant recently acquired a license to sell the meat coveted for its pedigree, exclusivity and marbling. Diners can choose a 4-ounce portion served in one of two ways: Sliced and served on a hot stone accompanied by jalapeno ponzu, hot sesame mustard and chimichurri sauces; or, a hand-cut steak divvied up in 2-ounce pieces that’s seasoned with coarse salt and cracked black pepper.

Dominick’s Steakhouse
Table and bar at Dominick's Steak House in Scottsdale Arizona
Dominick’s Steak House

While Mastros may reign supreme when it comes to history and word of mouth- driven cache, Dominick’s Steakhouse is hard to beat—in any category. From their 28 day wet-aged steaks, to the thoughtfully manicured wine list to their crowd-pleaser sides (corn brulle, shishito peppers) and appetizers (from fresh burrata to a loaded seafood tower) they have everything you want in a steakhouse. But the atmosphere is perhaps its greatest asset—a vibe of sophistication and elegance that even Mastros can’t challenge. With leather embossed walls lined with tasteful artwork and hand-crafted chandeliers hanging from the ceiling the main floor offers guests one of the most luxurious restaurant settings in Scottsdale while the second floor gives diners a modern feel as they enjoy steaks at one of the tables surrounding the rooftop pool.

Virtu Honest Craft

Celebrated as one of the top 20 “Best New Restaurants” in the U.S. by Esquire Magazine immediately upon opening in 2013, as well as nominated by the prestigious James Beard Foundation for “Best New Restaurant” in 2014, Virtù is Chef Gio Osso’s intimate, stylish gathering spot tucked inside Old Town Scottsdale’s charming Bespoke Inn bed and breakfast. Menus feature handmade pastas, premium seasonal produce sourced from some of Arizona’s most celebrated farmers, superb seafood imported from the most notable fish markets in North America and southern Europe, as well as a seasonal cocktail program crafted with fresh-pressed juices and unique spirits.

ShinBay

Variety of sushi at ShinBay Japanese restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona
Sushi at ShinBay (Facebook)

Chef Shinji Kurita specializes in the traditional Japanese coursing menu with modern twist. In 2012, ShinBay in Scottsdale was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best New Restaurant”. In 2013, Chef Shinji Kurita was a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for “Best Chef Southwest”. Kurita’s two-hour omakase dinner (Japan’s freewheeling version of the tasting menu) is a fish-centric joyride with one of the city’s great talents, a perfectionist who sources rare, top-quality fish, uses age-old cooking methods and applies the Japanese principle of subtraction (akin to “less is more”) to every dish – painstakingly creating beautiful bite-size masterpieces that honor time and place. In Kurita’s capable hands, simplicity looks so easy.

FnB

Once called “the epicenter of creative Arizona cuisine” by Food & Wine Magazine, as well as named “Best New Restaurant” by nearly every major publication in the Phoenix area upon its debut in 2009, FnB has continued to receive acclaim both locally and beyond for its richly flavored, globally accented seasonal menus, continually showcasing the best of Arizona’s abundant farming and agricultural community. Tucked inside the charming and historic Craftsman Court, in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, FnB owes its praise and passion to its owners, Chef Charleen Badman and Front of House Manager and Beverage Director Pavle Milic. Notes the New York Times “Few restaurants have done as much as FnB in Old Town to illuminate the agricultural bounty of Arizona.”

Roaring Fork

The Roaring Fork’s Wood Fired Cooking captures the spirit of bold American cuisine, creating flavors that crackle with a rugged edge. In the Old West, the best food was prepared on a simple wood fire. This same spirit, freshness and flavor are at the heart of every dish we serve. Select from lamb, chicken, beef, pork and fresh fish entrees all perfectly prepared by wood fire rotisserie, open flame grill or wood oven roasting. Add to this our impeccable service and an atmosphere as inviting as our food, and you’ve got a dining experience you’ll come back for again and again. Roaring Fork’s ideal blend of energy and intimacy has made it a favorite for over a decade.

Mowry & Cotton 
Empty dining room at Mowry & Cotton restaurant at Phoenician Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, AZ
Mowry & Cotton Dining Room at Phoenician

Located at the Phoenician, Mowry & Cotton offers modern American cuisine  prepared using cooking techniques of fire, coal and smoke. A large, hearth oven stands as the central focal point of the lively, approachable restaurant. Chef de Cuisine Tandy Peterson injects her own signature style and knowledge of international cooking techniques into the eatery’s regionally inspired American dishes. From flatbreads adorned with locally-sourced ingredients to fresh fish, hearty proteins and ample options for vegetarian diners, Mowry & Cotton’s straightforward menu features great fare from one of the area’s top emerging culinary talents.

Thirsty Camel
Thirsty Camel Lobby Bar at Phoenician at night with bay window and dark blue sky
Thirsty Camel Lobby Bar at Phoenician

Also at the Phoenician, located right in the lobby, is The Thirsty Camel—one of most beautiful, relaxing and visually magnificent “lobby bars” you will ever come across. But don’t just take my word for it. They happened to be awarded the Forbes Travel Guide “World’s Best Hotel Bars” for 2019. Thirsty Camel features spectacular panoramic views of the resort and valley beyond, as well as a Sonoran inspired food and beverage menu with diverse and exceptional selections of bourbons, whiskies, premium spirits, and handcrafted cocktails for locals and resort guests alike. Their spicy margarita is spot on perfect.

LATEST

6 Sneaky Cool Features of the Rivian R1

The Gear Tunnel

I would not be surprised if most Rivian owners name the gear tunnel as their favorite feature. It’s a simple yet brilliant utility. Exactly like it sounds, the gear tunnel is an 11.6 cubic foot storage area that runs right through the middle of the truck, between the cab and bed, accessible through small doors on both sides of the truck’s exterior. You can also access the Gear Tunnel through an opening between the rear seats.

 

 

The uses for the gear tunnel are endless. As the name suggests, it is obviously great for storing gear—fishing rods, skis, golf clubs, camping gear…whatever your jam is. The tunnel’s doors also double as seats or as a foot stool to reach the truck’s roof. And since the engineers at Rivian don’t like any wasted space, the doors also have small cubbies for additional storage. But Rivian did not stop there. Realizing that this space has so many applications, they thoughtfully outfitted a few custom products—designed specifically for this space—that slide in and out of the tunnel.  The coolest one by far is the…

 

Portable “Camp Kitchen”

 

 

While an expensive option, there is no denying how cool this custom feature is. The camp kitchen includes a countertop, a two-burner electric stove, a 4-gallon water tank for the sink, and a 30-piece dish-ware set that includes plates, utensils, carving knives, and more. All of this folds up like a transformer into a unit that slides into the gear tunnel, like a glove, so you’ll never hear it bouncing around. Of course, if you are not planning on camping anytime soon, then simply take it out and leave it in your garage until it’s needed and use the storage space for something else.

 

 

Onboard air compressor

 

 

The obvious use for an air compressor would seem to be if you got a flat tire or had a slow leak and needed some quick air in a tire in order to make it to a mechanic. And having an onboard air compressor is certainly a comforting accessory should this scenario present itself. But the Rivian was built for rugged terrain and sometimes—whether it be driving on a beach or over rocks on a mountain road—deflating your tires can be prudent.  The integrated compressor—seamlessly built into the side of the bed—comes with a kit that includes a 20-foot hose that extends to all four wheels, for inflating your tires after airing down for rough terrain. It also includes a quick-connect nozzle and adapters to fill up myriad other gear including your bike tires, an air mattresses, raft, or even just a basketball. Just set the pressure and hit a button, and voila, you have air whenever you need it.

 

Portable Blue-tooth Speaker

 

 

The built-in (but portable) Bluetooth speaker weighs only 5 pounds and docks seamlessly within the truck’s center console for easy storage when not in use. It charges when docked or can be plugged into an external USB Type-C port when docking isn’t an option.

 

The flashlight with its own integrated door pocket

 

 

Powered by a single cell from Rivian’s battery pack, the flashlight fits—James Bond-style—right into a cylindrical opening on the side of the door (when the door is open). Assuming you always pop it back into place, it will always be fully charged. To access the flashlight you simply press inward on the end of the device (almost like pressing a button) and it pops out. Taking up virtually no space, who wouldn’t want this?

 

LED lights built into sideview mirrors

 

 

The Rivian is the ideal vehicle to go camping with. The folks at Rivian know this and added a lot of simple features that do not add any bulk to its overall form factor. The LEDs built into the side-view mirrors—which can light up a campsite or tailgate—is a perfect example. While they are not as bright as the headlights, they add additional lighting from different angles to your camp site or beach BBQ. Don’t like them? Don’t use them. They blend in seamlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coq au Vin

A Hot French Classic for a Cool Night

Some say that Coq au Vin dates all the way back to the times of Julius Caesar, whereas others are quick to point out that the earliest known recipe was found in a cookbook from the 1860s. This classic dish—often served during the colder months—is the very definition of French comfort food. Continue reading

These Are The Best New Hotels Around The World

Christopher Parr—Editor and Chief of Pursuitist and contributing writer for USA Today and Business Insider—weighs in on the hottest new luxury hotels across the globe.
Ring in the new year at some of the newest and most exotic hotels around the world. Travel has rebounded to unprecedented levels.  People are eager to take advantage of credits they have been saving for the past few years. General managers, travel experts and travel agents/advisors are encouraging people to book early if they want to get the best deal for 2023 travel. These luxurious, high-end accommodations, opened in 2022 or coming soon in 2023, should be at the top of your bucket list. Where will you go first?

Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama

Exterior of white hotel with balconies at night in the tropics

Panama City is flush with luxury hotels, but few are located in the old town. Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama is within a historic building in the “casco viejo,” but still close to the city’s more modern tourist sights and dining options. Such guests as Queen Elizabeth II and Charles Lindbergh have stayed here. The property is also famous for its starring role in a James Bond movie. The guest rooms showcase old-fashioned glamor to fit in with this historic neighborhood.

NUMU, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

modern hotel with gardens in outdoor atrium

 

Numu, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, is a new boutique option in San Miguel de Allende’s charming town center, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come for the historic landmarks, world-famous Mexican cuisine and nearby Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel cathedral, but stay for the rooftop pool and craft cocktails. It’s the perfect treat after a day of exploring.

 

Waldorf Astoria Cancun

modern looking resort on beach in Mexico

If sprawling resorts are more your style, Cancun has a new high-end luxury property in the recently opened Waldorf Astoria Cancun. Only 15 minutes from the international airport, but a world away from the hubbub of the busiest attractions, this is the ideal weekend getaway. Beachfront pools, panoramic guest room balconies and a spa combining Mayan culture techniques with modern treatments prove to be the perfect siren call.

 

Four Seasons Nashville

modern metal and glass highrise hotel

In the SoBro neighborhood of downtown Nashville, this new luxury hotel is the latest entrant to The Music City’s hospitality scene. Within walking distance of the popular tourist areas, Four Seasons Nashvilleoffers beautiful guest rooms with subtle musical design touches and panoramic city views.

Nobu Atlanta

modern hotel building in city

Foodies visiting Atlanta should make a beeline for the new Nobu Atlanta, part of the celebrated global hotel chain. Not only are the guest rooms luxurious, but the hotel’s rooftop swimming pool is sure to be a winner in the warmer months. In the chic Buckhead area of town and part of Phipps Plaza, the hotel is a destination in itself.

The Ned Doha

modern white hotel with pool

Part members club, part luxury hotel, the new Ned Doha is within the city’s former Ministry of Interior close to the waterfront and popular tourist attractions. Designers took a 1970s luxury approach to the hotel to match the architecture. What they came up with is a strikingly chic and different resort for the Qatari capital. An outdoor swimming pool, comprehensive health club and spa are also part of the redesign of this historic building.

Emerald Faarufushi Resort & Spa, Maldives

beach resort with bungalows on water in Maldives

 

Part of The Leading Hotels of the World group, this luxury newcomer to the Maldives has 80 overwater and beach villas. The Raa Atoll resort, with more than 17 acres on a private island, is all-inclusive. With five restaurants and numerous bars, Emerald Faarufushi Resort & Spa has something for everyone including a lavish spa and one of the largest kids’ clubs in the Maldives.

The Anam Mui Ne

spanish hotel with pool and palm trees

It’s no secret that Vietnam has incredible luxury at prices half that of other parts of the world. Untouched beaches and amazing food add to the excitement, and The Anam Mui Ne’s arrival onto the scene is the perfect time to visit. The Indochine design of this southeastern Vietnam resort shows off local woodwork, handicrafts, statues and art. It’s more than just a resort. This is a total immersion in Vietnamese culture that will make you want to return over and over.

AYANA Segara Bali

two modern chaise lounge chairs on wood deck with infinty pool

Part of the larger AYANA Estate in Jimbaran, this new resort is an extension of AYANA with numerous swimming pools and spa amenities. Guest rooms at AYANA Segara Bali here have both indoor and outdoor spaces and beautiful views. The restaurant Mediterranean-themed menus and the newest rooftop bar use ingredients from the resort’s own organic garden.

Mandarin Oriental Palace Luzern

palace

 

Luzern now has a new top hotel within a historic Belle Époque landmark building. From the brand with world-famous Asian hospitality, Mandarin Oriental Palace Luzern has lake-view guest rooms, a holistic spa, palatial meeting areas, and best of all, convenience to the charming Swiss city’s famous bridge and surrounding shopping areas.

Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Hotel

palatial building

 

Fresh from a complete renovation, Anantara is bringing its southeast Asian resort name to Europe, most recently to the Italian capital. Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Hotel sits in the middle of the city on Piazza della Repubblica is a historic and palatial building. Inside, the glamorous accommodations and public areas create the perfect home base for a visit to Rome. But it’s the rooftop terrace and swimming pool that steals the show.

Thompson Madrid

hotel room

 

Part of Hyatt’s luxury and design focus, Thompson Hotels has made its Spanish debut in Madrid. Not far from Puerta del Sol and the city’s most famous art museums, Thompson Madrid wows with its modern design within a historic building. Many of the rooms have balconies with panoramic views of the city’s skyline. The rooftop bar has quickly catapulted to one of the see-and-be-seen evening terraces in town.

 

Six Senses Crans-Montana

ski lodge fireplace

Champagne skiing, relaxation in the Six Senses Spa and 300 days of Swiss Alps sunshine will be the big draw when Six Senses Crans-Montana opens in early 2023. Blending Swiss chalet design with modern and contemporary interiors will bring a new style of luxury to the mountaintops. Ski fans should book one of the Terrace rooms with balconies facing the final turn of the Chetzeron slope run.

Emerald Zanzibar Resort & Spa

beachfront pool

 

Along Matemwe’s Muyuni Beach, Emerald Zanzibar Resort & Spa is another of The Leading Hotels of the World’s new all-inclusive properties giving guests plenty of delicious food and drinks in paradise. Views of Mnemba Island are beautiful. Then, there’s the sparkling coastline providing plenty of opportunity for watersports or relaxation, your choice.

 

Nobu Hotel Marrakech

minaret and palm trees

 

Nobu Hotels has been on an opening spree choosing iconic locations for its foodie-favored properties. In the city’s Hivernage district and steps from the souk and famous city walls, Nobu Hotel Marrakech is one of the latest openings with 71 rooms and suites. Indoor and outdoor pools plus a lavish spa are in place for guests to relax after a day of shopping. Be sure to book early for a dinner reservation. This property is sure to make a big splash with its 2023 opening.

Healthy Travel Means Business

In today’s high tech world—where even email threads seem archaic in comparison to a Google hangout—the continued merits of business travel are up for debate. Ask the salespeople and the dealmakers, and they’ll laugh in the face of the modern digital landscape. In their world, nothing beats an in-person meeting when a deal is on the line and you’re looking to close. But does that triumph outweigh the mental and physical strain of balancing on-the-go with on-the-job? Continue reading

5 Standing Desks to Keep You Healthy at the Office

Standing desks allow you to stand—or alternate between sitting and standing—while working.  Due to myriad benefits, including lower blood sugar levels, reduced back pain, and boosts in mood, not to mention improved productivity, standing desks have become increasingly popular in office settings. In addition, people are also investing in shoe inserts for hard surfaces in order to ensure a great posture.

Pursuitist scoured the market for the top standing desks and narrowed the field to our top five favorites. Here, we list them in ascending order:

 

 

Vari Electric Standing Pro Desk 60 ($699)

A top standing desk offering from one of the original standing desk converter industry giants, so it comes from a name that is trusted and reliable. Coming in five colors, this standing desk has quick and easy assembly and good stability and lift capacity. We also like that it has a programmable controller with three separate height presets.

 

 

Poppin Series L 25 Adjustable Height Sit-Stand Single Desk ($999)

Truly a modern workspace. Designed for ideal ergonomic working, users can transition from sitting to standing in seconds with its electric legs that travel quickly and quietly. The desk adjusts from 25″ to 50.5″ to accommodate a variety of heights, and it can support up to 300 pounds of weight. All that, and the warranty lasts for a full 5 years.

 

 

Sabine Height Adjustable Standing Desk ($440)

A workhorse at a great price. Quick assembly — the website claims under 10 minutes — yields a desk that adjusts from 28″ to 48″ using a programmable controller with a 225 lb weight capacity. We especially love its sophisticated style, with rounded corners and smooth edges, as well as its one soft-close drawer. With no steady-bar necessary, it allows for reversible orientation. This standing desk, which comes in four finishes, also boasts built-in USB ports and cable management.

 

 

 Uplift V2 Standing Desk ($539)

Accommodates a range of heights from 41.3″ to 72.7″ with whisper quiet operation controlled by a keypad on the desk. Also boasting an industry-leading 355 lift capacity, this standing desk is stable even at its tallest, and comes with a wide selection of desktops, four frame colors, and a variety of other customization options. It has stability braces at the top of each leg for maximizing stability without the need for a lower crossbar between the legs. It also also truly raises the standard with a ten year warranty and an excellent price-point.

 

 

 

iMovR Lander Standing Desk with Solid Wood Top ($1899)

Our top pick in the standing desk category for its features as well as its American quality craftsmanship. Fully customizable from 36 varieties of solid wood tops, this heirloom quality standing desk is ergo-contoured for excellent comfort and wear resistance. In addition to its form and finishes, it also has a variety of power management device functions, including Qi wireless charging pads, USB outlets in both Type-A and -C, and even two way Bluetooth speakers. Monitor arms even make monitor positioning as personalized as possible.

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission.

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Vitamin Myth Busting

Vitamins & supplements are a $43.5 billion industry and nearly 50% of Americans take them. Consumers are inundated with options and many are self-prescribing their own vitamin cocktails. But it seems that almost every month a report comes out either blessing or blasting the efficacy of vitamins and the latest offerings from this unregulated industry. Continue reading

Family Friendly in Turks & Caicos

Turks & Caicos has been a hot travel destination for years, but more recently, family-friendly resorts – those with activities for parents and kids to enjoy separately – have been popping up along its beautiful beaches, making the locale more popular than ever.

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A Virgin Paradise

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What is a “Michelin Green Star” and Which Restaurants in the US Have One?

Since GLR launched in 2010, we have pledged to dedicate a certain amount of our coverage to the eco-friendly lifestyle niche—from hotels, to restaurants, to products you can buy on Amazon.  In particular, we love to cover businesses in the hospitality arena whose products and services are enhanced—not compromised—by their environmental stewardship. In fine dining, for example, the attenion to sustainability by sourcing produce, meats and other ingredients from local farmers and fine food purveyers, actually leads to fresher, tastier and more wholesome dishes. When these restaurants and chefs are already among the best in the world, the results are both delicious and good for the planet.

It is no wonder then that the world’s best known independent restaurant guide, The Micheline Guide, has launched a new “Green Star” award to highlight restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices. According to The Michelin Guide a Michelin Green Star is awarded (annually) to restaurants that “offer dining experiences that combine culinary excellence with outstanding eco-friendly commitments and are a source of inspiration both for keen foodies and the hospitality industry as a whole.”

 

What Kind of Things Do Michelin Green Star Restaurants Do?

According to Michelin, all Green Star recipients are different in unique ways but they all make a quantifiable difference and act as role models.

This includes, working directly with growers, farmers, fishermen and foragers; including those that use “regenerative methods such as no-dig vegetable gardens and successional cover crop growing.”

Many of these suppliers go beyond environmental considerations to also address “issues related to ethics and wellbeing, as well as contributing to local, national or global charitable and educational projects.”

 

Does the Michelin Guide Have Any Specific Criteria?

In terms of specific criteria, Michelin does not give a lot of information on what the inspectors are looking for, noting, “there is no specific formula for awarding a Michelin Green Star, as every restaurant and its surrounding region has a unique set of conditions.”

While the guide does give some insight into common “green” practices that these restaurants follow to produce delicious food with a small carbon footprint there is also the issue of the restaurant itself and its carbon footprint. The guide is somewhat vague on these practices.

Having covered this area quite a bit over the past 12 years, however, we can make an educated guess as to what sort of sustainability practices these restaurants incorporate.

Examples might include:  Menus printed on recycled paper; tables made from reclaimed wood; reusing and recycling flatware; composting vegetable waste; incorporating solar power; reusing LED, halogen or fluorescent bulbs (or using low energy light bulbs); reducing water usage with low flow spray valves; rain water reclamation systems.

 

Who Are the Leaders in Green Fine Dining?

To date The Michelin Guide has awared 359 restaurants around the world with Green Stars. So which countries are leading the green, fine dining movement? Not surprisingly, France has the most green stars with 87, followed by Germany with 67, Italy with 30, UK and Spain with 27 each and Japan with 23. Perhaps a bit surprising, the US—despite having 1366 restaurants with at least 1 Michelin star—has only 11 Green Stars, leaving us with plenty of room for improvement in the green, fine dining space.

 

Here Are The 11 US Recipients of a Michelin Green Star

Blue Hill at Stone Barns—Tarrytown, NY

Photo: Yelp

 

The Inn at Little Washington—Washington, DC

Photo: Inn at Little Washington

 

Osteria Mozza—Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Osteria Mozza

 

Chi Spacca—Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Quince—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Quince

 

Bar Crenn—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Atelier Crenn—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Atelier Crenn

 

The French Laundry—Yountville, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

SingleThread—Healdsburg, CA

Photo: SingleThread

 

Chez Pannise—Berkley, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Harbour House—Elk (Mendicino), CA

Photo: Yelp

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While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

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Nomad Hotel Library Bar

Best Library Bars

Ah, the library bar. An urban oasis steeped in history (quite literally). Vintage, deep-seated armchairs, mahogany shelves and leather bound books ease the soul, while a single malt scotch calms the nerves after a long day of work. Ron Burgundy’s kind of place. My kind of place. Continue reading

Fields of Plenty—A Foray into the Best Ballpark Food

Although the temperature is still in the 40’s in some cities, the 2019 baseball season is in full swing. It’s impossible to predict what will happen over the course of a 162-game season—that’s already evident, with the reigning World Series Champion Red Sox team having trouble finding a victory while the seemingly hapless (on paper) Baltimore Orioles have managed a winning record in the first week of play. They are forecast to win 58 games. Continue reading

The Lovely Lillet

Like many delicious aperitifs, digestifs, liqueurs, and other items in bottles, Lillet was underutilized for many years. In those somewhat barren times (and here I’m talking about, oh, the early 1960s through about the turn of the century) many of the more intriguing mixtures fell a bit off the cocktail map. Continue reading

OPINION & VARIETY

Interview with Travel Flights Analyst Adam Kwan of TomFlies.com

TomFlies.com is an NYC-based, new-concept travel agency that aims to provide several essential aspects of travel that may have been overlooked throughout the years. Not selling exaggerated experiences, but rather leading their clients to genuine discovery is a key goal at the new age travel agency. We asked their Lead Flights Analyst, Adam Kwan some questions about the future of travel and how TomFlies.com plans to be a part of it. Here is what he had to say.

 

Q.It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

 

A.What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

 

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively.

 

Right now, travelling in a pandemic-stricken world, people are more nervous than ever. Their confidence has been shaken and many people are unsure what will await them when they exit their plane. Making sure that people are confident that their travel will go off without a hitch has always been one of our main goals, so we view travel consultants as more beneficial than ever. There is a deluge of information out there with each country having different regulations. The last thing someone wants to do is spend their hard-earned money on a trip, only to find out they cannot board the plane or leave quarantine during their stay. That’s where we step in, making sure that our clients are making completely informed decisions with confidence.

 

Shutterstock

 

Q. Loyalty and rewards programs play a much larger role for airlines and hotels than meets the eye. Can you discuss how and why these programs are so vital for the travel industry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

A. We see two main benefits to loyalty programs. The first is obvious—reducing customer churn and encouraging purchases with your company over your competitors; i.e. customer loyalty. The second benefit is liquidity through corporate partnerships.

 

Reducing customer churn (the rate at which customers stop buying your product over time) is important for every industry, but even more so in leisure travel where each individual customer may only purchase something once a year or less. It is tantamount that a travel company remains prominently in view of their clientele. Regular newsletters, deals, and targeted ads help with this, but a loyalty program will take this a step further. Loyalty programs create a sense of investment in your clients and strongly encourage them to return to you for their travel needs. There have been many detailed studies done on the psychological effects of loyalty programs, but the benefits are essentially the following:

 

  • Goal Anticipation – Creating something for your client to work for. By giving them a concrete goal and a way for them to track their progress towards that goal, people will be strongly motivated to complete that goal; i.e. purchase more. Not only that, but customers will invest more to complete the goal the closer they are to achieving it.
  • Positive Reinforcement – Encouraging customers to stick with you by giving them rewards is an obvious example of positive reinforcement. But just as important is the converse. Not only are you encouraging people to purchase through your company, but you also create a sense of “lost value” when they book with your competitors. Studies have shown that people generally tend toward being risk-averse when faced with a value-loss proposition.
  • Creating a sense of exclusivity – Simply put, people like being in exclusive groups and feeling unique and appreciated. Top-tiers of loyalty programs offer this prestige. If you make JetBlue Mosaic, you’re going to feel pretty good being the first one on the plane.

 

 

The second main benefit is more simply explained. Airlines and hotels will create liquidity by selling their points to corporate partners. When Chase or American Express offer their cardholders point exchanges or deals with specific travel partners, that likely means the bank has purchased points in bulk from the travel provider. This accounts for a surprisingly significant portion of the liquidity for several travel companies and is important in supporting daily operations and business development.

 

Both of these benefits are eminently important during the pandemic. When your clients are ready to travel again, you want to make sure they come back to you. And while traditional sales dry up, you want the extra liquidity from corporate points sales to keep things running.

 

Q. Should consumers be thinking any differently about their loyalty/rewards memberships during this period? Are there any tips or strategies you have for people who travel frequently and accrue a lot of points?  

 

A. There are a few tips and tricks we have for maximizing the value of your points, however more so in general rather than specifically during the pandemic.

 

First is to absolutely do your research. There’s no way of knowing if you’re getting a good value for your points unless you know the baseline value of them. For example, TrueBlue points are worth 1.1 cents each on average. I would only book flights with points where you meet or exceed that exchange rate. During COVID, we’d suggest to make sure that there is no expiration on your points and benefits, at least until you’re ready to travel again. If there is, ask the airline or hotel if they can extend the expiration for you.

 

Second is to shop around. Just because you have points with American Airlines doesn’t mean you can’t buy a British Airways ticket with them. Airlines have partners which often allow you to book the same exact flight through them. For example, Alaska Airlines offers many of the same flights operated by its partner American Airlines, however the flights usually cost fewer Alaska Airlines miles than AAdvantage Points. You can simply transfer your points from AA to Alaska and use them there for more value per point.

 

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

 

Q. What have been the most frequently asked questions by your clients during the pandemic and how are you advising them? 

 

A. Far and away the most asked question is whether a traveler will have to quarantine when they arrive at a destination or if they will have to take a COVID test before travelling. We’re keeping track of the ever-changing regulations for each of our most popular destinations so we can make sure all of our clients are fully informed.

 

Q. What destinations, US and international, do you expect to see the most interest in once virus fears subside and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels—or close? 

 

A. Hard to tell, but it’s between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in our opinion. We’re already seeing a large uptick of interest in the Caribbean, especially for all-inclusive resort destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana. The amount of interest can only go up from here. We think that the private and comprehensive experience offered by all-inclusive resorts does add a sense of security for their guests. Knowing that everything you need is in an environment you’ve seen being sanitized goes a long way towards making people feel safe during a pandemic. They can have it all without having to go out into unfamiliar surroundings that may not be clean.

 

Positano at sunset/Shutterstock

 

We also think people are just itching to head back to the Mediterranean, we know we are. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece et al have always been some of our most requested destinations, and people miss those places more than ever now that travel is restricted.

 

Q.What is the single biggest reason to use a travel advisor?

 

A.Simply that the cost to benefit ratio is great. With our agency’s negotiated rates and worldwide reach, we can offer prices competitive with OTAs while also offering the added benefit of travel planning expertise and dedicated e-concierge services and support before, during, and after travel. Essentially, people will be able to pay roughly the same amount of money for their travel as if they booked it themselves, without actually having to do anything themselves.

 

Q.In just a few words, what is your philosophy at TomFlies.com?

 

A.“Always wander!”

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

Nomadic Nutrition—Foraging Tips From an Expert Forager

In the Time of Covid, the wide blue yonder is both my escape hatch and my sanity maintenance pill. Specifically the swath of public lands east and west of my home in Seattle. Out there, in the ancient forests and lonesome mountains of the Cascades and Olympics, I can breathe in the fresh air and not worry about tainted particles of disease, those “air-born droplets” we’ve heard so much about.

 

Only, those same mountains aren’t so lonely these days.

 

It turns out there are plenty other Americans with cabin fever, and outdoor recreation is seeing a boom like never before. Retail stores are sold out of camping equipment, fishing gear, bikes, and cross-country skis. Trailheads overflow with cars. Popular spots for hiking and angling are busier than Grand Central Station.

I enjoy all those activities, too, but thankfully I’m also a forager, which encourages me to get off the beaten path to go on a more solitary outdoor treasure hunt for wild edible foods. Foraging is a perfect way, in fact, to forget about the downward spiraling news cycle and find literal sustenance in nature.

 

Chokecherries, common across much of North America, make tasty jam

 

And in case you’ve been squirreled away in deep quarantine, foraging is hip these days. It’s now cool to traipse through the woods, woven Guatemalan basket in hand, in search of chanterelle mushrooms for the table, or to brave the bite of stinging nettles for a pot of soup. Every Michelin-aspiring chef has wild foods on the menu, and the bearded hipsters in their logging shirts from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, are learning how to tell a Death Cap mushroom from a delicious clump of porcini.

 

Fiddlehead ferns, lovely and full of earthy flavor

 

But…about those Death Caps… If you’d like to learn how to find a few untamed foods to spice up dinner during lockdown, just remember the forager’s Golden Rule: Never, ever, eat anything from the wild without one-hundred percent certainty of its identification. While there aren’t many deadly poisonous plants and mushrooms, there are a few, meaning it’s a good idea to learn how to recognize, for instance, a common weed such as poison hemlock (looks a bit like parsley!), yes the same one that killed Socrates.

If you’re new to foraging, try to go beyond leafing through field guides or surfing YouTube videos. Take a class or workshop if possible, join a mycological or horticultural society (most club meetings are via Zoom these days, but it’s a start), and best of all, find a more experienced friend or willing teacher who can mentor you.

 

Pan-seared diver scallops with morels and potatoes in stinging nettle sauce

 

There’s ample foraging just about everywhere across this stricken nation, including within city limits. Every region boasts of a few specialties: prickly pear cactus in the Southwest desert; wild rice in the Great Lakes; onion-y ramps up and down Appalachia. In many places you can harvest something as ubiquitous as the humble-yet-nutritionally-off-the-charts dandelion year-round, or go for the more advanced art of clam digging or mushroom hunting in season.

Regardless of quarry, wild food foraging is a great way to get outside for a while and forget about what ails us.

Langdon Cook, award-winning author of Upstream and The Mushroom Hunters.

Venice Beach—With Kids?

Fifi+Hop’s Corey Cook takes us to energetic Venice Beach which, despite it’s edginess, can be a great place to take kids. You just need to know where to go.

Some may look at the title of this post – Venice Beach with Kids – with speculation, but Venice was actually my girls’ self-proclaimed favorite part of our L.A. family vacation. They loved it. This post is all about things to do in Venice with kids, and why it should be on every family’s L.A. must-see list.

Venice Beach with Kids

 

Venice, CA, bohemian in spirit, has always been the funkier side of town, filled with eclectic shops and people, restaurants, street entertainers, and, in general, an off-beat vibe all its own. It’s never really had a reputation as a family-oriented kind of hood. Yet it’s this colorfulness of Venice which is exactly why I wanted to take my kids – all the action and eye-candy, I knew, would entertain them for hours.

 

We decided to allot 1 day in Venice, out of our 5 days. How did we go about planning our 1 day in Venice itinerary? I knew just who I wanted to show us around – my blogging friend Hilary from the blog HilaryStyle. She is the eyes and ears of L.A. and would be the perfect person to show my kids everything that makes Venice, Venice.

 

Venice Beach with Kids, HilaryStyle and mePin this image on Pinterest

 

Hilary and Me!

Hilary was on board for our visit, and then some. We covered it all, and by the end of the day my girls were reeling from all the fun they had. Here’s all the fun things to do in Venice Beach with kids. (Tip: we went first thing in the morning around 9:30, which was a perfect time to start our day, as there were hardly any crowds and it was very manageable with the kids).

WALK ALONG THE VENICE BOARDWALK (AKA OCEAN FRONT WALK)
Venice Beach with kids, walk along the Venice Boardwalk

 

The famous Venice Boardwalk spans about 1 ½ miles, with beautiful, white sand and the Pacific Ocean on one side, and funky storefronts and eateries on the other. Whatever bric-a-brac shops you can think of, the Ocean Front Walk has: souvenirs, sunglasses, surf and skate shops, t-shirts, tattoos, etc. My girls got their L.A. souvenirs here, in the form of sweatshirts, and have been wearing them ever since. Both say Venice Beach in different patterns, and they think they are the coolest girls in town when they wear them!

We walked for a while along the path, and Hilary pointed out all the other interesting things to see that make Venice the happening place it is. We saw people biking, rollerblading, playing paddle tennis, which are some of the activities you can do while you’re there (though we did not). And then there is of course Muscle Beach, an iconic part of the boardwalk where all the body builders work out. This is where Gold’s Gym got its start, begun by 70’s and 80’s superstar body builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Later in our walk the girls got henna tattoos, which was a big hit – there are tattoo shops, fortune tellers and other off-beat things like that scattered all over the boardwalk. As well as restaurants – we ate at Wee Chippy at the recommendation of Hilary as having the best fries anywhere, and I have to say, she was right! In general, the Venice Boardwalk has an energy that appeals to any age, and is just plain FUN.

 

WATCH THE SKATEBOARDERS AT VENICE SKATE PARK
Venice Beach with kids, Venice Skate Park

Venice Skate Park is truly an amazing skate park, and definitely worth a visit. If you’re like us then you will love watching all the skate boarders do their tricks. The boarders span all ages, and you can see older men as much as younger kids skate about. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and it can take up as much or little time as you want it to.

CHECK OUT ALL THE STREET ART AND WALL MURALS
Looking at the Venice Beach street art with kidsPin this image on Pinterest

 

Venice Beach wall mural

Venice is known for its abundance of street art, and seeing as Hilary is the street art expert, she showed us mural after mural, art piece after art piece, all throughout Venice. I’ll get to some of these places below, but we saw street art in many of the side streets off of the boardwalk, on our way over to the canals, and along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There are wall murals everywhere, some I would have probably walked right by had it not been for them being pointed out – so make sure to keep your eyes open and on the look-out. They are colorful and whimsical and great fun for the kids to pose in front of for vaca pics.

 

Venice Art Walls with kidsPin this image on Pinterest

One of the highlights of our day in Venice was making some street art/ graffiti of our own! Hilary brought cans of paint with her, which the kids sprayed out on the beach. There is a designated area called the Venice Art Walls where the public can spray paint themselves, and the kids went to town – a great, unique activity that they will always remember!

 

WATCH THE STREET PERFORMERS
Watching the street performers and dancers on Venice Beach

We’re from New York, and whenever there are street performers doing their thing (always) in the subway, on the streets, Union Square, Times Square, wherever, we like to check them out. The girls love watching their shows. Venice is no stranger to street performers so we of course had to see them too. They are a big part of the chemistry that makes up Venice, with a contagious energy that you can’t help but feel a part of. Until they want you to join the show! We watched one group do their break dance, gymnastic stunts, etc. until they started to head our way to get the kids to participate. We immediately high-tailed it, but up until then it was a lot of fun for the kids, with a huge crowd getting into it.

 

WALK ALONG THE VENICE CANALS
Walking along the Venice Canals in Venice Beach, CA

It is no coincidence that the “Venice of America” has the same name as its Italian counterpart. Venice was founded by millionaire developer Abbot Kinney and modeled after his favorite European city, Venice. In the early 1900’s the canals that we see today used to be wetlands, and the perfect spot to build canals. Today (especially after a major renovation project completed in the 90’s), they are one of L.A.’s most unique neighborhoods and so much fun to walk around. I really enjoy walking along the canals and over the bridges, and so did my kids.

 

Giant Unicorn float in the Venice Beach canals in Venice Beach, CAPin this image on Pinterest

 

With the renovation came many newly built, modern homes, and looking at the houses is just as much a part of the appeal. So many of the city’s beautiful homes are located in the Venice Canals. We particularly liked looking at all the different boats home owners had, from canoes to kayaks to unicorn rafts!

STROLL ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD

Checking out the wall murals in Abbot Kinney in VenicePin this image on Pinterest

 

Having fun at Avatar Nation in Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach           

 

Perhaps the chicest part of L.A., Abbot Kinney Blvd. is filled with Boho fashion stores, home design shops, fabulous restaurants and an overall trendy vibe. You can’t go to Venice without hitting Abbot Kinney. What’s in it for the kids? Good question – it’s mostly for adults. But for the adults who are visiting with their kids and don’t want to miss out, there are some gems to take the kids. We went to Salt n Straw ice cream, which has amazing, unique flavors and which the kids loved. We found plenty of street art to take pics of them with, and we found fun stores to take them in too – one of them being Avatar Nation. The kids played ping pong in the back, it’s full of bright colors, and they loved it. It was a welcome respite for us adults too to take a break and let the kids play.

Why MeCabo Should Be On Your 2023 Travel List

Well-known as a chic, party-themed hotel, ME Cabo reopened in the fall of 2021 after a complete transformation. The weekend of the Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s biggest holidays of the year was the rebirth of this popular destination. Drawing scores of bikini-clad, well-heeled travelers from the west coast, all over Mexico and a growing number from the rest of the United States, ME Cabo opened its doors again and is ready to impress after investing over $10 million in its total redesign. These are the five top reasons why the seaside ME Cabo resort should be on the bucket list for every Mexico-bound reveler.

The location

 

beach

 

Within walking distance of town, this resort doubles down on the nightlife and fun-in-the-sun vibe. Not only are you in perfect view of the famous El Arco from much of the resort, but you can be shopping, “cheersing” or boating just minutes after leaving the hotel. It may be hard to pull yourself away from the resort’s own beautiful stretch of beach, oceanfront pool and bevy of highly celebrated restaurants though.

 

The resort sits at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and during the winter months, it is possible to see whales frolicking offshore. While the beaches are public, the resort does have a roped-off section with private chairs and umbrellas where guests can relax uninterrupted. The water is warm (this is Los Cabos’ only swimmable beach), and servers circle around to take orders from the nearby bar.

The party vibe

 

lounge

 

This is not the kind of place you come to for a quiet nap by the pool with cucumbers over your eyes. And the guest list here knows that. The upscale crowd here seeks out the party vibe making nightlife part of their daily routine, too. The rates here prohibit the Spring Break crowd from coming to the resort meaning it is ready and waiting for the often young, elite and chic crowds of Mexico City and Los Angeles.

 

 

saxophonist

 

As one of Meliá Hotels International’s brands, ME hotels are known globally for their sophisticated and fashionable party spirit. By the pool, dancers shimmy and shake from morning to night on pedestals as guests sip fruity cocktails or chilled Mexican beer. Clubby music emanates from speakers morning to night, and it is hard not to wake up in a good mood here. Even the hotel’s top suite has its own DJ booth for those that want to try their hand at mixing music. Poolside musicians perform throughout the day to entertain the crowd including jazz-style violinists and saxophonists.

 

A swim-up bar complements the roving pool servers, and visiting DJs often entertain at the beach club. The same thumping music continues in many of the bars and restaurants keeping the party mood alive throughout the day. It’s the kind of young and hip party place that is designed to impress.

This resort is not a mecca for conferences, but it does draw plenty of social events and weddings that take advantage of the beach club platform and pool area for parties.

Headline-worthy food and beverage

 

cocktail

 

Rosa Negra, famed for its numerous dining outlets in Mexico, is at the helm of the food and beverage experience here. It is responsible for the four dining and drinking outlets here, each with a focus to serve Latin American flavors using local ingredients.

Confessions Skybar & Tapas serves light bites of mostly Spanish fare with a mix of meat, seafood and veggie options. Arrive before sunset to catch the beautiful views, but once the sun goes down, the lights turn up for a DJ-fueled party atmosphere with coastal breezes. Dress to impress up here.

 

restaurant

 

Expect Thai, Chinese and Japanese fare at Funky Geisha while Mamazzita Mexican Soul serves three meals a day focused on traditional Mexican fare. Like the pool, musicians and entertainers perform throughout the space as guests dine on beautifully presented dishes. The Rosa Negra affiliation has brought tremendous buzz among foodies and from around the country to the resort. Don’t miss the fruit and grain bowls and chilaquiles at breakfast, which luckily serves until late.

 

lamb

 

At Taboo Beach Club, Mediterranean fare is the go-to option with everything from Greek-style rack of lamb to healthy platters of vegetables and chilled gazpacho. The outdoor setting is meant to feel like you’re at the beach on a Greek island or Turkish cafe.

 

The redesigned rooms

 

guest room

 

Perhaps the highlight of a stay here is the quiet spot you have to seek respite after a day partying by the pool or dancing on the beach. If you had stayed here before, you will hardly recognize the new look of the guest rooms. Polished tile floors and white-washed walls show off minimalist design with the occasional pops of color in the Mexican art and design pieces. Throughout the hotel, regional touches in Mexican art and design abound.

 

 

bed

 

The bedding features chic, yet unpretentious, bespoke bedding with power and USB outlets on either side of the bed. I particularly like how the bed is positioned to maximize the window views in many rooms. Open-plan bathrooms continue the edgy design with vanities stocked with towels and C.O. Bigelow toiletries. Separate marble rain shower and water closet sections make the entire bathroom and dressing area feel more spacious. Built-in luggage racks above drawers are another well-thought-out touch.

 

 

suite

 

Minibars (which the hotel calls “maxibars”) are stocked with regional Mexican products, but all rooms come with complimentary Evian bottled water. Suites add separate living room areas with day beds and Nespresso machines. There is a variety of suite types, some of which have outdoor whirlpools on the balcony and the most up-front-and-personal views of El Arco. Guests in the ME+ Suite enjoy a pre-reserved day bed at Taboo Beach Club each day of their stay.

 

The spa

lobby
The hotel’s redesigned lobby
 

With all of that partying, your body deserves a touch of pampering in between the ruckus. The spa is tucked away into a corner of the resort as if it were an afterthought, but once you pass through the changing rooms, you realize there is much more than meets the eye.

Grab a glass of chlorophyll water and head for the relaxation areas to feel the ocean breeze in the shade. Splashing waterfalls bring you into another world as you wait for your treatment. On the menu are facials, massages and medical treatments from a well-trained staff.

 

design details
The design details around the resort are beautiful.

In addition to sauna and steam room areas, there’s also a modern fitness center with the latest workout equipment, stacks of towels and a fridge stocked with chilled bottled water. It’s clear that many of those parading around the pool have spent at least some time in the gym or spa. For most of us though, the views and food are what clinches the deal when considering a top resort for a trip to famous Cabo.

How To Take Cool Instagram Photos—From a Pro

The art of photography once was a closed world, filled with mystery and concrete details. It was commonly considered that to make a decent photograph, you should at least obtain a few professional items – camera, lights, etc. But the technologies stepped forward, and with the appearance of the first smartphone models with cameras, the ethereal world of photography has shaken. At first, no one took it all seriously, but nowadays, mobile photography has become a separate kind of art form that can compete with classic techniques. By now, iPhone owners can create outstanding works using their phones solely.

There is a proven way to make your works popular, like the possibility to buy custom Instagram comments or likes. But in this article, we shall concentrate on mobile photography tips for beginners.

 

Turn On The Grid

 

The grid will divide your screen into nine equal segments. This is one of the key points that will help you create a decent composition for your photos. Remember that the objects you want to accentuate on your work should be situated either in the central segment or on the crossings of the lines. The grid also will help you to keep the horizon line parallel to the frame. The crooked horizon line is a fact that effortlessly reveals that you are a newbie in taking photos, so train a bit, or use framing later. But if your grid is turned on, it will be easier to shoot accurately at once.

 

Don’t Make Things Complicated

 

Getting back to the composition, as it is a prominent aspect in photography. At some time, if you feel the urge to put more and more details in your frame – drop it like it’s hot! Adding too many objects to your composition distracts the viewer’s attention from the one you want to show as the central piece. But you can also interact with your followers in the comment section and ask them what they think about your works. Minimalism is easier to shoot and requires fewer corrections later. Of course, shooting a single object on a monotone background can seem tedious, but you should focus on the textures and colors, which can add accents to your photo.

 

Find A New Angle

 

The secret of being a good photographer is to be able to see things differently. Thinking outside of the box is a must if you really want to impress people with your works. While the majority of people shoot, holding the device in the chest area, a true photography enthusiast will find another angle to make a great shot. Use your fantasy and try out all the ideas that you come up with. Don’t always give a deep sense to your pictures – sometimes, the desired result is a pure visual delight. Pay attention to things that happen around you, and try to show how colorful and engaging the world can be.

 

Aim For Depth

 

Creating a three-dimensional effect on your photos makes the shot more engaging and storytelling. This factor is especially vital for landscapes, where animated objects are often absent. The easiest way to add depth to your photo is to include leading lines in your composition. Mostly, a role of a leading line is played by roads of different kinds. Still, it can be rivers, clouds, or fences – basically, anything that can lead the viewer’s eyes through the architecture of the shot from the foreground to the background.

The second popular method to add a sense of depth in the photo is to use closed composition. Closed composition means adding an object into the foreground, which is partly visible, so the picture tunnels. This way, you have objects in your frame’s front, middle, and back, imitating the actual sight.

 

Show More Details Closely

 

The devil is in details, and sometimes a close-up can reveal a whole new world for your viewers. Macro-shooting discovers textures and colors deeper, making your works more engaging as well. In a few years before, to catch the minor details, a specific camera objective was required. Still, modern smartphones can now capture high-resolution images as well, so in your search for a perfect frame, you can get closer to the object. Shortening the distance between the photographer and the object works not only for exciting nature shoots but for portraits too. With the current possibilities of the camera, you can catch emotions and tiny face features that would visualize the character of your model. If you work well enough on the details, it will all pay off in the comments, likes and followers on your profile.

 

Retouching And Enhancing

 

Of course, it is hard to create a masterpiece in one click. Most photos require a particular correction after the initial shooting. For mobile photography, the main tool that helps to improve the shot is color correction, along with cropping, graining, exposure settings, etc. These are fundamental changes that are implemented in most mobile appsfor photo retouching. Nowadays, one of the most popular apps for iPhones is VSCO, which offers a free set of basic enhancements (contrast, white balance, graining, etc.) and a range of more complicated instruments available to users for paid subscriptions. The main benefit of this app is creating, and saving presets that can be applied to several photos – making a series. VSCO presets are also sold and distributed freely by people who are mobile photography enthusiasts, so you can choose the ones you like and apply them to your shots, having a brilliant result.

 

Look For Symmetry

 

Another excellent technique for creating interesting and beautiful photos is capturing symmetry in your works. The human eye loves perfection, and symmetrical shots easily drive attention and impress the public. Besides, it is easy – nature is all about symmetry and perfect forms, so the world around you is filled to the top with the objects to catch in your camera. However, beware of making a totally symmetric composition. To make the picture look more natural, move the central part of the composition to any side slightly, or allow one tiny detail to intrude on it. Imperfections are also natural, so this way, you will make your scene look lively. Find symmetry in the real things – reflection in the water, leaf patterns, or the structure of human features.

 

Place Objects By Diagonal

 

Along with centered perspective, you can also add intrigue and engagement to your shot if the objects in your frame are placed diagonally. Such method allows you to add more details to the shot and provides visual harmony that pleases the eye of your viewers and will make him leave the like or comment organically. The technique works perfectly if you want to introduce two or three objects in your shot. The diagonal lines in your composition can be displayed by the patterns and shades as well – thus, you also create a direction for the viewer’s eye to follow.

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission.