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Dubai & Abu Dhabi: The Evolving Hub of Middle Eastern Culture

Dubai & Abu Dhabi: The Evolving Hub of Middle Eastern Culture

Four Seasons Dubai

Four Seasons Dubai 

Destination Dubai 

By Frank DiMarco

Gliding silently above the Dubai desert in a hot air balloon, one contemplates centuries of Bedouin tribal movements from coastal fishing and trading areas to desert oases and date farms. Suddenly a group of Emirati falconers come out for a morning hunt with the treasured birds, a reminder the old culture has strong traditions. Emirates oil made its debut into the world marketplace after WWII. Prior to then, there weren’t many modern buildings. The magnitude of construction today is boggling to behold.

The 16-hour non-stop flight from LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal on Emirates Airlines takes an extraordinary route over Greenland, Central Russia and over the Arabian Gulf with Iran to the east and Iraq to the west. Emirates flies the wonderful, double-decked A380 Airbus providing a clean and comfortable ride with seat-back video screens and three exterior camera views. Upon arriving at Dubai International Airport, passengers enjoy a multi-story waterfall.

Dubai

Dubai

You must visit the old Souk (market) area which includes souks of gold, spices and flowers. Located along historic Dubai Creek, which divides the Deira and Bur Dubai sections of the city, these souks are filled with dazzling intricate gold treasures. Barrels and bins display spices from Iran, India and other exotic locations and fill the air with tangy aromas. The view along Dubai Creek has mosque minarets and wind towers on the skyline. Ride through the quay on a traditional water taxi and imagine the atmosphere of the early trading days when small vessels would ply the waters bringing trade to the souks. The sounds of call to prayer add to the mystical feel. In this older part of Dubai, there are interesting museums: Coffee Museum (remember, coffee originated in this part of the world), Dubai Museum and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding are all worth a visit.

Dubai is a melting pot of cultures with workers from a myriad of origins: Philippines, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere. New buildings and infrastructure construction draw people looking for work. The diversity of faces, accents and styles are a feast for the senses. Expats from all over the world are employed at new hospitals, colleges and sports and tourism facilities.

The man responsible for Dubai’s smart vision and impressive growth is His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He is hands-on and an involved ruler, often seen driving through Dubai without ceremony. In contrast to the astonishing architecture and development, Sheikh Mohammed encourages sustainability and stewardship of natural resources, including such diverse projects as seawater desalination, solar power and even a sea turtle rehabilitation facility. His extended family’s leadership and his close ties to other Emirati leaders, including Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Kalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is positioning the UAE to a future less dependent on oil.

Dubai

Dubai

The modern architecture that comprises the Dubai skyline is stunning. The Burj Kalifa — 163 floors high and currently the tallest man-made structure in the world — dominates. The observation deck is on the 122nd floor and provides an impressive view of Dubai, the man-made islands offshore in the Gulf and the desert to the west. Combining a visit to the Burj Kalifa with a trip to the Dubai Mall can be a full day, especially staying for dramatic lighted fountains in the evening. The Dubai mall contains a ski slope, an aquarium and about 1,200 shops.

On the coast, along Jumeirah Beach stands the iconic Burj Al Arab, with its one of a kind sail-like architecture, heliport and restaurant appurtenances.  Viewed from any direction, one just wants to stare at this 5-star hotel, built on an artificial island. Further southwest, the causeway to Palm Island Jumeirah takes off and winds around the sand-made island. Rocks hauled from the mountain areas near Oman protect the island. From air, Palm Island looks just like its name (and can be seen from space). This is one of the world’s largest man-made islands with sprawling villas and resorts. The view back towards the shore from Palm Island’s wide promenades is equally impressive with new buildings by the Dubai yacht harbor seemingly springing up weekly.

Dubai

Dubai

You must visit the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, located just an hour from Dubai. The Grand Mosque is a trip highlight. The scale of the mosque is awesome. Inside, the mosque is at once opulent, intricate and holy. Adhering to tradition, women must be covered and abayas are provided at no charge. Guides take groups of visitors though the mosque and describe construction details, history and rituals of worship. As well as the Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi will soon have a branch of The Louvre and the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum Abu Dhabi.

Dubai is trying to get it right for the future. Leadership knows the end of oil is right around the corner. Reinvention is key. A solid, sustainable infrastructure is in place for this growing destination as well as a firm commitment to the safety and security of Dubai’s citizens and visitors. Dubai will host The World Expo 2020 and, based on the progress being made, it promises to be a big success.

Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar F-Type

F Type

F Type

Four hundred ninety-five horsepower, thirty-six-hundred pounds.

This is my third time writing this article. My first submission consisted only of the aforementioned specifications in numerical form along with the photos you’re looking at in this spread. My editor told me that I had to write words. I resubmitted the same content having changed the numbers into the form they appear in the subhead of this iteration. I was informed I’d no longer have a job if this continued. I then posed the question of whether anything else about the Jaguar F-Type really matters aside from the facts that it possesses a power-to-weight ratio that nears supercar status and it’s arguably the best-looking front-engine’d convertible on the market.

Despite it being one of the most beautiful objects I’ve ever laid eyes and hands on, the F-Type and I got off to a rocky start. I suppose it’s often the case with beautiful objects and myself but that’s not a discussion for the automotive column. I picked up our test-vehicle at this magazine’s namesake airport with intentions of a quick jaunt east on the I-10 and up I-15 to Las Vegas to witness the marriage of a dear childhood friend. I did a few (or 20) laps around the vehicle to admire some of the subtle touches that make such a dazzling machine; the forward-slanting grille combined with auxiliary vents and vertical headlights form a ravenous shark-like appearance, flush-mounted door handles which emerge when unlocked, muscular rear arches flexing over massive 295-width tires, a race-inspired rear-diffuser shrouding its quadruple-tipped exhaust, fiber-optic LED taillights… did I mention how gorgeous I think this car is?

F Type

F Type

Hopping in the Jag, I fine-tuned my 10-way power-adjustable seat and it was then that the F-Type and I had our first tiff. At 6’2” and 175lbs, I’m not the largest human being, but owning limbs closer in length to someone a couple inches taller, I was quite devastated to realize that I could not slide back far enough to accommodate my legs without pitching the top of the seat forward — not an ideal sports car seating position.

Gazing around the interior of the F-Type reveals a luxurious leather-shod dash and door surfaces with contrast-stitching, as well as a wide array of high-quality finishes ranging from matte black to satin chrome and dark aluminum. I depressed the brake pedal, eased my index finger into the fluorescent-orange Engine Start button, and brought the beast to life. A strident bark emitted from the tailpipes and a smooth rumble reverberated from the engine compartment as the center air vents rose atop the dashboard. I plugged my destination into the highly intuitive navigation system and was instructed to utilize surface streets. It was 5:30pm on a Friday and the freeway was essentially gridlocked. I dropped the top (which takes a mere twelve seconds to lower or raise and can be done at speeds up to 30MPH) and set off on my way.

F Type

F Type

On city streets with the Adaptive Dynamics system in ‘normal’ mode, the F-Type is quite a docile kitten. The steering is light but tactful, active suspension dampeners adjust their firmness up to 100-times per second according to road conditions, gear changes from the 8-speed ZF transmission are rapid but smooth, and the throttle mapping induces a slight delay in actuation to keep the supercharged V8 manageable in traffic. Pair the aforementioned attributes with an intelligent 2-stage start/stop system that kills the engine at idle and restarts it as soon as your foot lifts from the brake and you end up with a surprisingly tame animal that’s plenty-suitable for everyday city driving.

As the navigation system informed me that I was approaching my onramp I slapped the shifter into manual-actuation and flicked the switch to engage Dynamic mode; the instrument cluster and ambient cabin lighting changed from soothing aqua teal to hellish scarlet red and the exhaust began to roar as the active bypass valve in the mufflers released an unobstructed path for spent gasses to exit. To my delight, the onramp signal was turned off so I (cautiously) stabbed the throttle to its maximum and the roar from the exhaust became a deafening howl; the 5.0-liter supercharged V8 attempted to send each and every one of its 495 horsepower and 460ft-lbs of torque to the pavement. The tail of the F-Type wagged, the traction control intervened, the tires hooked up, and less than a few seconds later I was stomping hard on the 15-inch brakes belting out every explicative in the English language because my speedometer was reading well into the triple-digit range and traffic was coming fast. Jaguar’s official published 50-75 MPH passing acceleration is rated at 2.4 seconds, so extrapolate that as you wish.

Fast forward two days and 500 miles. We’re back at LAX and we’ve confirmed that a two-seat convertible in which I do not fit comfortably and achieves 23 MPG highway is not the ideal road trip car. But we’ve also had a few hard runs through the hills above Malibu and a leisurely cruise up PCH to experience what the F-Type was purposely built to do. And it does that flawlessly.

A two-seat roadster is meant to be the purest expression of a sports car. It’s meant to be compact, lightweight, agile, and it’s meant to inspire a sensation of connection to the  road -— not only through the machine itself but also through the environment which surrounds it. When you remove the roof from a vehicle and expose its occupants to the mechanical snarl that emanates from an engine, the faint squealing of rubber as tires near their limits of adhesion, the echoes of exhaust notes rebounding off of tree-lined back-roads and canyon walls — the driving experience becomes incredibly immersive.

Antonio Lysy, Holidays with Bach

Antonio Lysy, Holidays with Bach

Antonio Lysy Photo credit Paul Flanagan

Antonio Lysy
Photo credit Paul Flanagan

Cellist Antonio Lysy’s upcoming show is generating a lot of buzz with the classical music set. Having recently played to a sold out house for several performances of a production at The Broad Stage in Los Angeles, Lysy will be undertaking the extraordinary feat of performing Johannes Sebastian Bach’s entire collection of solo suites for cello in a single show. In what promises to be a unique musical experience being performed at the very same venue, the rarely performed full set of all six suites, the December 20th show, Holidays with Bach, is a hot ticket.

Lysy’s previous and critically acclaimed show, Te Amo Argentina, engaged the audience in a visually passionate journey through Argentina, celebrating its diverse culture and music. Te Amo also featured music written expressly for the internationally celebrated cellist by well-known Argentine film composer and pianist, Lalo Schifrin. The show went on to become one of the few Cello centered recordings to ever win a Latin Grammy. That is a milestone of which his late father, renowned violinist, Argentina native, and personal inspiration, Alberto Lysy, surely would have been proud.

In a similar concept, Holidays with Bach will enhance Bach’s compositions with multimedia enhancements that further engage the audience to experience and connect more with the music. The concept comes from answering the question, “Where do you want to be when you hear this music? Where do I feel it should be played,” Lysy explained. Keeping the focus on the music, Lysy says the background projections “are simply ornaments, complimentary, and not obtrusive… bringing the audience closer to the music.” The Broad is described by Lysy as one of his absolute favorite venues to perform in citing the perfect intimacy and “balance of size and sound.”

It is a challenge to not only perform the string of suites (with only one intermission), but also evoke the audiences’ emotion. That’s the goal. “It’s like a Grand Slam in Tennis,” the cellist says of the upcoming feat. Recognizing the intensity of this accomplishment, Lysy is readying himself like a champion with a sports psychology coach and implementing techniques as applied to musical training. There is a mental preparation not unlike one who prepares for a marathon. “It is strenuous,” the cellist asserts of the physicality side of it. The coach is basing his training on his dissertation which is instrumental in helping Lysy get into good ‘musical’ shape. The coach is a recent graduate of UCLA, where Lysy also teaches and helped develop the University’s official Department of Music thanks to a generous grant from the Herb Alpert Foundation.

UCLA Professor by day and internationally celebrated cellist by night, the Italian born Lysy seems have a clear goal for the accessibility of classical music both in performing it and a student’s understanding of it. And balance plays a key role in doing so. Soon after graduating and putting his musical talents to use professionally, he also realized his gift for teaching while in Toronto, Canada. Lysy began to understand how each provides “…unique opportunities to nurture. They both motivate and inspire in tandem,” he explains. “I love both and can’t do without either.” Since seizing the opportunities to teach as well as perform in L.A., he, his wife, and their three children have found a “crescendo of welcoming in Los Angeles.”

One of Professor Lysy’s philosophies in teaching and performing is to take a “new perspective” in playing and comprehending classical music. “You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing,” he tells his UCLA students. “I encourage students to find talent in their own uniqueness,” he reveals. One could easily see that with Holidays with Bach, Lysy also teaches by example in applying that philosophy and giving a sensory experience to the audience, to “inspire them in a whole new way. We need that.”

 

Bing Crosby Season, Fall at Del Mar

Bing Crosby Season, Fall at Del Mar

Fall Paddock

It’s all about fall tidings and bringing back the old-school Hollywood vibe the seaside oval was founded on with the ‘Bing Crosby Season’ taking off on Thursday, October 29. This nostalgic season will present superior racing along with a lineup of engaging events during the five-week run. One of those happenings will be the glamorous Opening Day Vintage Hollywood Fashion Contest where fashion historians can conjure their inner golden age starlet or favorite celebrity icon. Up to $3,000 in prizes will be given out to the winners of each category: Best Dressed Couple, Best Celebrity Lookalike and Most Glamorous.

Other seasonal events include a Fall Gourmet Food Truck Festival on Saturday, November 7 and Del Mar’s Beer and Cider Festival offering more than 100 local and international brews and ciders all in one place on Saturday, November 28.  Additionally, there will be a special racing card on Thanksgiving Day with an early 11 a.m. post time along with a One Mile Family Fun Run at 8 a.m., where running enthusiasts and families with kids can stretch their legs on the backstretch as they loop around the 1-mile dirt track.

Vintage Hollywood Fashion

Vintage Hollywood Fashion

Saturday, November 14 is Fleece Pullover Giveaway Day. Guests entering through the gates will receive a free pullover sweater. There are also unique dining opportunities to be had every single weekend throughout ‘Bing Crosby Season’ with re-occurring events such as Daybreak at Del Mar, providing visitors fresh breakfast fare with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean during the morning workouts from 8 – 10 a.m. each Saturday.

Every Sunday brunch lovers can rejoice at Bing+Bubbles+Brunch in the Turf Club and enjoy bottomless mimosas, a rotating menu by popular San Diego chef Brian Malarkey and a Turf Club table for the race day.

L.A. Art Goes BOOM For Real

L.A. Art Goes BOOM For Real

Kent Twitchell

Kent Twitchell

Kent Twitchell

Kent Twitchell has the kind of career that provides a blueprint for aspiring professional visual artists. If you’ve spent time driving in Los Angeles then you’ve undoubtedly seen his work. Huge, photo-realist murals that depict subjects staring back at the viewer. His art includes a giant image of the L.A. Chamber Orchestra; eight stories high, overlooking the Harbor Freeway in downtown Los Angeles. Twitchell didn’t set out to paint murals — he started out in the “hippie days” when it wasn’t unusual to put images on walls. At the time he began painting his Monuments to American Cultural Heroes his passion for it led him to paint more and more murals. In other words, he was driven.

Twitchell has been an artist since childhood. When he went to kindergarten the teacher made “a big fuss” over his drawings. His uncle taught him one stroke lettering when he was 14, and by the time he was in high school, he was able to paint letters on trucks. This was in the 1950s. Kent became used to seeing his work in public — on trucks and other businesses. He credits this early experience as the fundamental reason he became a public artist. After a stint as an illustrator in the Air Force, he became an illustrator for JCPenney in Atlanta. After a year in this work he moved west to Los Angeles and stayed with his uncle in Monterey Park. At that time college beckoned and he attended East Los Angeles College, Cal State L.A. and then Otis College of Art and Design.

The Los Angeles Mural Conservatory was largely started because Twitchell’s The Freeway Lady was painted over by the building owner. Initially, Twitchell felt like the owner of building could do what he liked, but members of the L.A. art community were irate — especially Bill Lasarow, publisher and editor of ArtScene. The initial lawsuit was won in 1992, which established the law which states that building owners are required to notify the artist if they plan to paint over or destroy an existing mural. The artist must be given notice so they can move or archive the mural.

These days, Twitchell has finished his second version of The Freeway Lady at Los Angeles Valley College. Next he will create his second version of Edward Ruscha, which is going up at the American Hotel in the Arts District of Downtown L.A. When asked about retirement, the 73-year-old says that he never thinks about retiring because what he’s doing is not really work. It is just play and most people who do what they love are just playing hard.

Levi Ponce Photo by Leonardo Tejeda

Levi Ponce
Photo by Leonardo Tejeda

Levi Ponce

Levi Ponce is the heir apparent to the large scale Los Angeles, (and San Fernando Valley) mural scene. Inspired by Kent Twitchell in his youth, and his father, Hector Ponce, who is also a muralist; Ponce was five when they moved from the Pico-Union neighborhood in Los Angeles to Pacoima — a community located deep in the San Fernando Valley. He was struck by the lack of art in Pacoima compared to the realist murals by Twitchell that he missed from living in Central Los Angeles. In 2011, at the age of 24, Ponce set out to bring large-scale public art to Pacoima. At the time, he asked the city for funding and was turned down. While city officials wouldn’t financially support his vision, the community of Pacoima donated paint and sometimes residents would hang out while he painted. They would bring music, water and food and some even picked up a paintbrush to help. The community was hungry for art and appreciated his efforts. A feature on Good Day LA brought a lot of attention to his work on Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, and the area quickly became a destination for artistic tours of Los Angeles. Mayor Garcetti even chose this area as part of the Great Streets Initiative. Ponce’s vision is to continue to bring art to underserved communities sharing his knowledge with others who want to create community based art. Keep an eye on www.muralmile.org to stay abreast of his work.

 

Bunnie Reiss

Bunnie Reiss

Bunnie Reiss

Bunnie Reiss is a recent transplant from Oakland to Los Angeles. Educated on full ride scholarships from the SF Art Institute and Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art in France. She took education seriously and achieved a master’s degree in painting. Her latest body of work is based on Plato’s Cosmology. Plato believed the universe needs order and symmetry to exist. That it does not exist in chaos. Her images and characters reflect symmetry and balance taking on both cosmic and human form. Some characters are depicted as delivering messages, searching for their mates and representing their past, present and future selves.

Reiss’ process starts in the sketchbook. She is “big on process” and takes her time drawing and taking notes as she draws. When a bigger idea comes she goes through her previous sketchbooks to map out a story using existing characters. Once it is time to paint, Reiss mixes her own colors. Years of studying color have given her the ability to get the exact color of her vision. She doesn’t shy away from bright colors and paints freehand. She says that she likes to paint on rocks as it’s good practice and she likes the curvature.

With regard to her move from Oakland to L.A., Reiss says that L.A. is better for her at this stage in her career because the city is full of creative people. She says, “It’s one of the only big cities in the United States that can house artists and give them projects and income to survive. With that comes an energy that doesn’t always sustain but is really great to be involved with for as long as it lasts.”

Aaron Rivera

Aaron Rivera

Aaron Rivera

Contemporary painter, Aaron Rivera, made a tough decision more than two years ago with his partner. They decided to leave the changing social landscape of long-time home, San Francisco, for Los Angeles. It is a move many San Francisco artists are making. Ever since, Rivera has continued to find inspiration and create opportunity in the diverse communities of Los Angeles that are reflected in his work.

His latest collection titled Monsters of Leisure is a series of paintings depicting “hedonistic states of revelry…pure emotion, with subjects who are totally oblivious to the concept of responsibility,” as Rivera describes. The bird-like figures portrayed in the leisurely scenes are, as he elaborates, “stylistic vehicle to play with shapes and color while illustrating scenes that people could project their own references onto.” This is reflective of his early inspiration by Greek art which tends to give dimensional storytelling about society.

Today, Rivera’s inspiration has him earning a living in a city burgeoning with possibilities by way of dedicated hard work. He has also found new opportunities professionally in the field of stop-motion animation. His work continues to evolve since his migration south. The artist finds himself more and more influenced by people, a heavy consumption of a variety of media, and the local scenes.

Rivera is fueled by time spent with his family and friends, but that does not prevent him from enjoying travel. He loves the “textured and alive” scene in Mexico City. Back at home in L.A., he explores the assortment of inspiring neighborhoods. Some of his favorite hotspots include Pine and Crane on Sunset Boulevard and the Commissary at the Line Hotel. Rivera also likes outdoor adventures, opting on weekends to leave the car behind and rent a bike, or hop the subway to Pershing Square and roam the popular Grand Central Market, or meander in the fashion district. Sometimes inspiration is easily found in a leisurely walk in his local ‘hood’ of Los Feliz.

Axel Wilhite

Axel Wilhite

Axel Wilhite

Axel Wilhite is a local painter who was born and raised in Los Angeles. He is currently living and working near LAX in Hawthorne; he jokingly says that the township is a few years away from being an art mecca. With no formal training in art he does have a sensitivity to storytelling and creating characters. He loves to bring audiences to strange places by offering familiar images in a skewed context. His latest series of work involves painting on the bills of failed Zimbabwe currency. In a world where economies collapse in the blink of an eye, he loves the fascinating absurdity of painting seascapes, intricate insects or the flaming Deepwater Horizon rig on one hundred trillion dollar bills. He’s working on thirty pieces for a show in Paris scheduled for December.

Raised by a sculptor dad and art conservator mom, he’s been surrounded by art his whole life. After witnessing his father struggle, he did not consider making a living by creating art. He attained a graduate degree in fictional writing at NYU but found that he couldn’t afford to live in New York. He ventured to Japan to continue his Kendo martial arts training while studying swordsmanship. Living in Japan made him feel like a “cultural fish out of water” and he had difficulty connecting with people. Harnessing his cultural anxiety into art, he started painting on Japanese menko cards. Thus began his style of painting on pre-printed surfaces from menko to Audubon bird prints and antique maps.

While he doesn’t show much in Los Angeles — he does get invitations to show in Europe — his fascinating artwork is available to view online or at his studio in Hawthorne.

Brian Ricci

Brian Ricci

Bryan Ricci

Bryan Ricci moved to Los Angeles from New York fifteen years ago to study for his graduate degree at Otis College of Art and Design. That was after finishing his undergraduate degree from SUNY in upstate New York. He supplements his income by teaching and feels teaching art is good for his own practice. Painting is isolating, while accepting a teaching role forces one to be in the company of others, and to reflect on one’s own practice. Ricci’s painting style has evolved from landscapes created in graduate school to his recent bold and colorful abstract pieces. Pushing paint through the back of raw linen creates his current groups of paintings. His work starts with a vision of a group of colors. In the beginning of his process he’s not entirely sure of the outcome. For Ricci, it’s about the “physicality of the paint” versus the actual picture. He interacts with his work by using new layers of pigment as it reacts to previous layers. He knows his painting is complete when his irritation level reaches a breaking point! The process seems to be working for him because his paintings are beautiful. It’s important to see Ricci’s work in person and there are a couple painting available to view at Sherle Wagner in Beverly Hills.

Jovi Schnell

Jovi Schnell

Jovi Schnell

Jovi Schnell lives in Angeleno Heights with her husband who is a wood worker at the woodshop collective, Off The Saw. And, yes, speaking with Schnell feels like walking into an episode of Portlandia. She is lovely, bursting with creativity and says that she gathers inspiration from a hovering vision in her third eye area that emerges on long walks, while bathing, or doodling in her notebook. She’s been working in Los Angeles for several years but is now studying for an MFA from UC Berkeley. Her work has the look of Folk Art but she’s hesitant to describe it as such for fear of not seeming “accessible.” She feels that it’s important for her work to be viewed by different audiences, and her public installations in places such as skate parks are her solution to artwork being available to a wider audience.

Schnell’s creative process starts with a massive flow of ideas. From there she jots down her ideas and literally pulls them out of a bucket to let kismet run its course. Her process goes from thought to brush to paper working diligently. Her collage pieces are very intricate and led to her work using cutouts. She started that series with paint samples from the local hardware store. They were free, colorful and inspiring.

She agrees that over the last decade, Los Angeles has been sourcing great artists. The draw has been the caliber of cultural institutions arriving in Los Angeles as well as the flow of artists moving to L.A. creating a large community of artists with access to space. She adds that the downside is certain galleries are not surviving unless they partake in huge international shows such as Art Basel in Miami.

Deedee Cherie

Deedee Cherie

Deedee Cheriel

The current darling of the L.A. art scene is Deedee Cheriel who just sold out her August 2015 show at MK Gallery. Hailing from Eugene, Oregon she has traveled all over the world which has critically influenced Cheriel’s work. When home in Eugene, she’s surrounded by chickens, bikes, blackberries and organic gardens. It’s a hard adjustment to return to the competitive landscape of Los Angeles where dinner party conversations revolve around the latest professional achievement. She says that she tries not to define herself by accomplishments in an effort to avoid setting herself up for unhappiness. She sticks to working on subjects which are “deeply important” to her and there she finds peace in her work.

Cheriel moved to Los Angeles in her late 20s pursuing a creative life. The Pacific Northwest had yet to develop into the creative mecca that it is today. Her first project in L.A. was as a production designer on a semi-autobiographical movie she co-wrote about a girl rock band. To this day, Cheriel finds that the production and film community support her work. Creative people consume and value art, so they buy it. She’s worked on and off in the film industry to support her ability to work on her art — her film gigs were her “day job” and afforded her a flexible painting schedule.

Cheriel’s style is constantly evolving. Her use of recurring characters is not intentional but is now part of an aesthetic expectation. While Cheriel was living in Santiago, Chile, reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez she fell in love with magical realism. At that time her bandmate’s girlfriend had a pitchy voice and they lived on the 22nd floor of an urban high-rise. This is the precise moment when she imagined the woman as a bird living in a cage. It was the first time she though of painting people as animals, a style that permeates her work to this day.

Chile – Enchantment on the Other Side of the World

Chile – Enchantment on the Other Side of the World

Santiago

Santiago

 

By Lisa France

There are very few places left on the planet where we can travel and feel as if we are truly far away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, while also feeling the ease and comfort of our own homes. The Chiloé Archipelago, a group of islands off the coast of southern Chile, is a destination to quench the thirst for this particular pleasure. This area is rightly described as enchanting, special and magical.

Santiago

There are no lack of activities in the city. The trouble is choosing which of them to enjoy. To see an expansive view of the city, trek out to the second highest point in the metropolis, Cerro San Cristobal. Atop the famous hill sits a 22-meter high statue of the Virgin Mary. The view of the city is spectacular from this vantage point. In addition, the park is lovely for hiking and drinking a distinctive Chilean beverage called mote con huesillo, which is a non-alcoholic drink made of dried peach liquid mixed with wheat. It is a summertime staple of Chile, so much so that there is a well-known saying, “It’s more Chilean than a mote con huesillo.”

A visit to Santiago would not be complete without a visit to the capital square, La Mondea Presidential Palace. It feels more like a village center where anyone can visit and not feel the concern of secret service personnel. Just a small stroll away from “Chile’s White House” as it were, is one of Santiago’s current claims to fame, the Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis did his Jesuitical Studies. In and around Plaza de Armas, there are many cosmopolitan shops and cafes among a plethora of street vendors.

Where to Stay
Torremayor Providencia Hotel 

The rooms are large with picture windows affording an expansive view of the city. Many of the rooms have a view of Coastanera Center which is the tallest building in Latin America and the second tallest building in the southern hemisphere. The hotel has a rooftop pool, a cozy bar and a solid breakfast which comes complimentary with room bookings. Located in central Santiago.

W Santiago

The architecture is stunning with a delightful combination of modern speckled with hints of the old world. Vaulted ceilings, mood lighting and fireplaces are comforting while also hip. Dine at Terraza for a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon or smoky, spicy, short ribs paired with Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon.

Where to Eat
L’Astaria

Enjoy the ceviche with a lovely Chilean Sauvignon Gris from Leyda with enough fruit and mineral to create a burst of new flavor. For a main course try the Antarctic Hake paired with Chardonnay from De Martino. Alone they are amazing, but paired, divine.

Bocanariz

Over 30 wines by the glass and 300 different bottles are available

Chiloé

Chiloé

Chiloé

The Chiloé Archipelago is composed of 30 islands, which can be accessed from Santiago by air. LAN now has flights to Chiloé with a quick stop in Puerto Montt. This part of Patagonia, with rolling hillsides and lush green pastures, is reminiscent of the United Kingdom. As in the countryside of England, there are farms, sheep, horses and cattle roaming around the Chiloten roadways.

In general, the island is quite colorful. From the unique cemeteries, where the Huillinco people bury their beloved dead in bright small homes after passing, to the 18th and early 19th century churches, the array of colors light up the partly cloudy skies while also aiding water navigators to locate their ports.

Huillinco Cemetery

Huillinco Cemetery

Where to Stay
Hotel Parque Quilquico

This is an eco-friendly hotel that promotes sustainability — there are even goats on the grass-covered roof. These folks mean business when it comes to using every single resource on the property. Most of the vegetables served are from the garden out back. Decorations, furniture, carpets and other furnishings for the hotel were chosen for their cultural significance. The landscape is stunning. The buildings are embraced by trees, which are sacred to the indigenous Mapuche people. It was paramount to architect Edward Rojasa to incorporate as many native constructs into the hotel as he could, as well as to protect the land. The view of Dalchanue Channel can be seen from nearly every room. The rooms vary in size, but the cottages are a favorite. They are perfect for families or friends traveling together — spacious yet homey.

For dining at Quilquico, order the pulmay, which is one of the native dishes of Chiloé. Each area of Chile has a variation on this dish, but the one at Quilquico is out of this world. The broth! It’s a wonderful combination of salty chunks of pork, clams, mussels, chicken and potato accents that gave rise to a delightful soup.

Tierra Hotel Chiloé

At first glance one may think the structure of the hotel doesn’t quite fit in with the Chilote culture. The hotel could resemble some sort of hip, celebrity owned Malibu home, but upon closer evaluation, it’s evident this hotel was built on the banks of the Rilán Peninsula with great care and consideration for the cultural history. In addition to paying tribute to the rich culture, Tierra takes it a step further by creating a space which is not only visually stunning, but it manages to be contemporary comingled with rustic. There is not an angle on the property that isn’t photogenic.

Curanto Cooking

Curanto Cooking

Dining at Tierra — Curanto!

Curanto is a traditional method of cooking where a fire is made in a pit with large stones. Once all of the wood has burned, the stones are akin to coals. Layers of food are placed atop the stones with mussels, clams, crabs and lobsters placed first. The nalca leaves separate all layers. Foods that require the most time to cook are on the lower levels, while vegetables and breads are towards the top. One hour later there is a feast for more than twenty people. A fine Coyam, an organic red blend from Colchagua Valley, enhanced the smoky flavors.

Activities

At Tierra there are many excursions to choose from which are included in the price of your room.

Tour of Chelín

The Church of Chelín is one of the 16 churches of the Chiloe Archipelago which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, this, and the other churches are taken apart, literally, shingle by shingle, named, numbered and restored. It takes years to complete the restoration of these churches, but the result is visually stunning.

Sea Kayaking in the Bay of Quehui

“Ocean view” has an entirely new meaning when gliding alongside these cool tropical-like islands in a kayak. There is a delightful quiet and freedom on the edge of the Patagonian waters that allows you to detach from the tech and frenzy waiting back home.

Chilean Wine

If you can afford the time, we recommend you head out to nearby Cousiño Macul Winery. Founded in 1856, Cousiño Macul is the oldest family run winery in Chile and continues to produce limited quantities of fine Chilean wines. Enjoy a tour and tasting. Be careful not to drive too far east or you will end up in Argentina. Chile is a fascinating place in that it is home to so many climates and this is why wine does very well there.

Getting There

From LAX there is nearly a direct flight on LAN, the national airline of Chile, to Santiago. We had a short layover in Lima, but it’s negligible. Get a window seat if you can. Outside you will either see ancient craggy mountaintops piercing the cloud ceiling on the eastside, or see the endless Pacific to the west.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House

Hollyhock House Living Room

Hollyhock House Living Room

In February, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House — an iconic architectural masterpiece -— was reopened, in the heart of the vibrant, artistic, cultural, and recreational Barnsdall Park.

A significant part of Los Angeles’ storied architectural history, Hollyhock House -— a National Historic Landmark — was one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnificent masterpieces marking his first foray into architecture in Los Angeles. Hollyhock House boasts a lyrical and poetic style of architecture, “California Romanza,” or “freedom to make one’s own form,” which complements L.A.’s significance as a trendsetter in the arts and architecture space. Underscoring its importance as one of the world’s architectural gems, Hollyhock House is now among a group of ten Frank Lloyd Wright buildings that are the first works of modern architecture nominated by the United States to the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

“Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House is a crown jewel of Los Angeles architecture,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Restoring this landmark to its original glory is a great example of how the city can preserve its unique history while providing Angelenos access to art in everyday places.”

The storied history of Hollyhock House begins with Aline Barnsdall, a Pennsylvanian oil heiress interested in producing theater in her own venue. Purchasing a 36-acre site in Hollywood known as Olive Hill in 1919, Barnsdall commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build a theater where she could produce avant-garde plays. Soon after, the project morphed into a performing arts complex that included her residence.

A philanthropist, art collector, political radical, and single parent, Barnsdall deeded the land now known as Barnsdall Park and its Frank Lloyd Wright designed structures as a permanent home for the appreciation of art and architecture to the City of Los Angeles in 1927.

Named for Barnsdall’s favorite flower, the Hollyhock is incorporated throughout the design scheme of the residence. The recently completed restoration is an important historical revelation for first-time visitors and regulars alike. Visitors will be able to see and experience the house in much of its original splendor. Floors, windows, doors, decorative molding, and long-forgotten paint colors have been recreated with utmost attention to detail.

Hollyhock House features self-guided “Walk Wright In” tours on Thursdays through Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for a fee of $7 for adults, $3 for students and seniors with identification, and $3 for children under 12 when accompanied by a paying adult. Special arrangements may be made for docent-led tours, group tours, guided tours, and other engagements by calling 323.913.4031.

Bettolino – Redondo Beach

Bettolino – Redondo Beach

Bettolino

Bettolino

Bettolino, a family-owned modern Italian Kitchen has opened at Riviera Village in Redondo Beach. Brother and sister, Vince Giuliano and Andreanna Giuliano Liguore, opened the restaurant with the mantra “We don’t come to the table to eat, we come to eat together.” Michelin Star winning Executive Chef Fabio Ugoletti has recently moved to the South Bay from Florence, Italy. He moved here to open Bettolino, bringing his award-winning techniques and Italian accent to the menu.

Growing up in a South Bay food family, Vince and Andreanna spent their childhood at their parent’s restaurant, Gaetano’s, working alongside them in the kitchen and front of house. “My parents opened Gaetano’s when I was 8 years old and I spent more time there than at home,” Says Andreanna Giuliano Liguore. “Bettolino is a place that we hope our late father would be proud of. It offers everything he stood for — great food, comfortable ambiance and family.”

Vince and Andreanna come from a long list of restauranteurs, their grandparents started the deli Giuliano’s in Gardena, CA, inspiring Vince and Andreanna’s parents, Steve and Dori, to open Gaetano’s Deli in 1993, which eventually transformed into Gaetano’s Restaurant. In 2010, Vince moved to Italy to attend Apicius Culinary Institute in Florence. While there, Vince became close friends with his teacher Chef Fabio Ugoletti, a culinary icon with more than 25 years in the food industry. After Vince met Fabio in class, he persuaded Fabio to visit California and consult for Gaetano’s, before ultimately deciding to move his family from Italy to California to open Bettolino.

Bettolino’s dinner menu features authentic homemade pastas including dishes such as Lasagnetta, with fresh pasta with a hint of cocoa powder, Porcini mushrooms, fresh herbs, lamb ragu, and parmesan; Stracetti, with fresh pasta squares, salmon, asparagus, snap peas, fresh herbs, and white wine sauce; and Ravioli del Plin with chicken and herb stuffed pasta, crimini mushrooms, shrimp, and cream sauce.

211 Palos Verdes Boulevard

Redondo Beach, California

310-375-0500

www.bettolinokitchen.com

Art, Food and Culture on a Swing Through Three European Destinations

Art, Food and Culture on a Swing Through Three European Destinations

Barcelona

Barcelona

By Lucinda Anderson and Frank DiMarco

BARCELONA

Neighborhood Overview
Grácia neighborhood is in a great central location — vibrant and away from most of the tourist hubbub.

Grácia Dining
La Pubilla: The food is fresh, indicative of the Catalan cuisine, and the place is filled with happy locals having long lunches.

Rooftop Bar at the Casa Fuster (A gem of a hotel designed by Catalan architect Luís Dominic i Montaner): Time your visit for “the magic hour” when the sun gets low and, while there doesn’t seem to be a dress code, one feels more comfortable in “going out to dinner” attire.

Cafe Godot: Dependable and very friendly, with a good wine list (the wines of Catalunya are delicious — look for the Priorat label on the bottle).

Parks & Culture
The Picasso Museum is remarkable for its breadth of coverage of the artist’s life.

Stroll down to the nearby 14th-century Basilica of Santa Maria Del Mar. The Basilica of Santa Maria Del Mar can best be enjoyed sitting quietly in a nave or a pew and contemplating the soaring stone arches and intricate sun lit stained glass windows.

Park Guell, designed by Antoni Gaudi, is the famed architect’s idea of a whimsical place for people to stroll with clever winding paths and the expected Gaudi notes of color and tile.

Parc de Collserola, at nearly 20,000 acres, sits like a mantle along the tops of the hills surrounding the city. Sometimes referred to as “the lungs of Barcelona” its abundant green forests support habitats for an enormous number of species of plants and animals.

At Palau de la Música Catalana, the art nouveau theme pervades the entire building and the magnificent stained glass dome is breathtaking. Attend a performance in the main hall and enjoy its acoustics, which are praised by performers from all over the world. Guided tours provide some insight into how the Palau was built.

Hospital de Sant Pau is one of Barcelona’s World Heritage sites. It was built between 1901 and 1930 and wandering the gardens among the modernist buildings is an experience not to be missed.

Eating & Drinking
The outdoor restaurants by the Basilica of Santa Maria Del Mar are decent and fairly priced. We recommend Santa Maria del Mar Café for their great octopus!

Travel Tips
Buy the Barcelona Card, which offers multiple benefits such as public transportation and many discounts at tourist attractions.

Bus Turístic is a great value. For the price of a 24-hour ticket, you can ride around, getting on and off all day to get a thorough idea of the layout of Barcelona and how to plan your daily outings.

Lézignan-La-Cebe

Lézignan-La-Cebe

BEZIERS

Located in the heart of the Languedoc wine region, there is the small village of Lézignan-La-Cebe. It is a food lover’s paradise located in Southern France where you can go to a different market everyday.

Food & Villages
Locals go to butchers and small farms to get just the right cut of pork or a chicken, knowing just how it was raised. There are also wonderful fishmongers in Pézanas, just up the road, where fish is bought off the boat in Sète in the dark hours before dawn. Delicious croissants are available at the adjacent bakery and across the street at the coffee store where a complimentary cup is always offered. The organic fava beans and other produce is lovingly tendered for sale nearby in the town of Gignac.

Sète is where you’ll find commercial fishing vessels that come and go from the blue Mediterranean Sea and where the famous Water Jousting has been celebrated since the mid-1600s.

Moureze offers unique rock formations and hardy hiking trails up to excellent viewpoints. This is a quiet village and very picturesque.

Salasc is a charming small town, minutes from Moureze, where you’ll find beautiful hills.

Canals in Amsterdam

Canals in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM

Holland is a charming country full of gracious, direct and humorous people. Most speak English, sometimes better than we do.

Neighborhood Spotlight
The newly fashionable Oud-West neighborhood is easily accessed by tram from Central Station.

Boat Tours
The iAmsterdam card gives you access to boat tours on either the Blue Boat Company (departing near Museumplein) or the Holland International Canal Cruises (departing near Central Station). These tours — in boats with glass tops — give riders a fantastic sense of Amsterdam’s canals and how the Dutch figured out how to manage the sea and build a city. The boat skippers are an interesting bunch too; they navigate the canals as well as inform passengers of sights passing by.

Culture
At the Van Gogh Museum you will find other artists’ work on exhibit and an extensive collection by Van Gogh.

The Rijksmuseum (the National Museum of the Netherlands) is newly renovated and houses a very good range of Dutch masters including Rembrandt’s famous “Nightwatch”.

Rembrandt House on Jodenbreestraat near Nieumarkt is also a must visit and free with the iAmsterdam card.

The Stedelijk Museum houses a large collection of modern art and designs. Don’t miss “The Beanery” in the Stedelijk.

Visiting the Anne Frank House is time well spent. Some improvements in accessibility have been made but the house remains essentially as Anne Frank experienced it, with the nearby church bells she wrote about still audible in her family’s hiding place. Advance tickets are recommended.

Eating & Drinking
Café de Jaren on Nieuwe Doelenstraat has a unique location at a busy canal intersection. Grab a table outside and watch the parade of boats going back and forth.

Foodism on Nassaukade is simply remarkable for what they can put out of a small kitchen. They offer exceptional food with good portions and reasonable prices including their wine list.

Travel Tips
The 72-hour iAmsterdam card provides you with unlimited bus and tram travel and mostly free or meaningfully discounted entrance to most museums.

“Mind the Bikes”
Bikes rule in Amsterdam and give it much of its character, as do the canals.

RAIL EUROPE

The new TGV line from Barcelona to Beziers takes approximately 2 hours. The TGV generally cruises at around 200 mph between cities and their reservations system is easy to use.

All Images by Frank DiMarco

Sweet, Sweet Music

Sweet, Sweet Music

Motown: The Musical

Motown: The Musical

Motown: The Musical opened last night at Hollywood Pantages Theatre.

It’s not everyday that you get to see music legend, Barry Gordy Jr, dance on stage at the Pantages Theatre. Last night the chairman got down after a terrific show celebrating the story and the history of Motown Records, which he started in 1959 in Detroit. The story is told in a family, feel-good way that chronicles the early days of Junior’s stuttering career and failed marriage. His large, loving family – who worked together in the family grocery business – decided to lend him $800 to start a record company after he had moderate success selling songs. His best friend and constant sidekick throughout the story is Smokey Robinson. His girl – though they never married – was Diana Ross and her story was just as interesting as his.

Motown: The Musical

Motown: The Musical

When watching the show, one can’t help but feel the parallels of today. The riots in Baltimore after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are addressed as Marvin Gaye moves towards protest music. The story of Diana Ross has a Beyoncé feel as the brightest star of a female vocal group goes off on her own and parlays her fame into a movie feature in Lady Sings The Blues.

There’s also the pilgrimage from Detroit to Los Angeles, which is timed with the discovery of Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. And the eventual decline of the label that continued to create hits by Smokey and Stevie Wonder but couldn’t close the gap after losing Marvin, Michael and Diana to larger labels with more money.

The show is simply terrific and filled with brilliantly performed Motown favorites and a heartfelt dialog sharing an American success story when we need it most. Since it was opening night, the producer got on stage to congratulate the cast and to invite the man of the evening, THE Barry Gordy Jr, to say a few words. They were: Thank you.

The show runs until June 7th.

http://www.hollywoodpantages.com/motown

 

2015 Volkswagen Golf & GTI

2015 Volkswagen Golf & GTI

The Golf Family

The Golf Family

With a pedigree backed by 40 years of production, 30 million sales, seven generations, and lifespan innovations ranging from the three-point seatbelt to a seven-speed dual-clutch direct-shift gearbox; the Volkswagen Golf has more than been around the block — the cumulative mileage of all Golfs driven amounts to more than Mars and back. Despite being one of the most popular hatchbacks of all time, the Golf has recently faded from the spotlight in favor of its boxier sedan cousin, Jetta. Having realized this, in its newest form VW was determined to restore notability to one of its most prevalent nameplates.

Building on a flashier appearance, more luxurious proportions, and the prestige of German engineering — it may sound hard to believe given its past accolades, but the people’s carmaker has just unveiled what may become the most renowned Golf in the storied history of its lineage.

Golf TSI

Not only is the ‘standard’ Golf bigger, lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor, its name sounds cooler too! Something about the “TSI” designation invokes the notion that you’re getting more than just a plain old Golf — and you are. Because even the absolute base model ‘Launch Edition’ TSI boasts a plethora of standard features that were paid extras on the outgoing model. Starting with the engine: the new Golf utilizes a 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injected four cylinder power plant mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. This marks the first time in the model’s history that the entire lineup will be powered by turbocharged engines. While the horsepower of the 1.8L turbo (170hp) remains identical to that of the previous 2.5L, it offers gobs more torque (200 ft-lbs vs. 177 ft-lbs) and sips up to 20% less fuel.

Inside the Golf, all iterations are treated to a bigger cabin, cargo capacity larger than any mid-sized sedan, and even a standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system complete with Bluetooth and iPod integration — an offering that’ll usually set a consumer back a couple grand as an optional upgrade. Raise your level from the ‘Launch Edition’ to the Golf S, and you’ll be greeted by V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, leather-wrapped e-brake handle and shifter, and a multifunction steering wheel. Go one step higher with the ‘SE’ model and you’ll be treated to heated front seats and a panoramic tilt/slide sunroof (also offered on ‘Golf S w/ Sunroof’ models). The SE also incorporates a high-end Fender audio system — controlled via the same 5.8” touchscreen found in all the Golf models. Line-topping SEL Golf’s are clad in LED ambient lighting, a navigation system to accompany the infotainment, 12-way power adjustable sport seats, and piano black interior trim. Compare the inside of a Golf SEL to a top-of-the line Subaru Impreza or Ford Focus and you’ll be swiftly bewildered that these cars are of the same competitive set.

Golf TSI Detail

Golf TSI Detail

Golf TDI

Clean diesel has been making waves recently. With fuel economy that compares to — or in some cases, exceeds — that of hybrids, combined with superior drivability characteristics and lower real-world emission outputs; the reasons to not go diesel are rapidly disappearing. Given that the trim-levels and accouterments of Golf TDI’s and gasoline TSI models are relatively static (aside from the diesel lacking a ‘Launch Edition’ base model) we’ll leave this section dedicated solely to the venerable turbocharged and direct-injected engine which motivates it.

The TDI’s power plant has received a thorough makeover. Utilizing lower friction internal components and a new manifold-integrated intercooling solution, which minimizes distance, ingested air travels before entering the combustion cylinder; the new TDI is much peppier and responsive than its predecessor. Opposite to the TSI’s formula, horsepower has been raised by 10, to 150hp overall, while torque output remains equal to the old TDI at 236 ft-lbs. With figures like these, we still found it no surprise that our road test of the TDI left us wanting for nothing in the power department; as we were greeted by smooth, instantaneous sensations of thrust working in perfect harmony with all throttle movements. Even though VW’s published MPG figures of 31 city/45 highway are up only a couple over the last generation model, real world tests have generated figures as high as a whopping 49 MPG!

GTI

Based on the same MQB (modular transverse matrix) platform as the rest of the Golf family, the new seventh-generation GTI follows the same recipe of bigger, lighter, and faster than the old model. By our measure, differentiating the new GTI from its Golf siblings solely based on visual cues is more challenging a task than in years past — credit VW for making its TSI/TDI models more appealing to the eye. Inside the GTI however, the cockpits are worlds apart. Red-stitched leather, carbon fiber trim, and matte aluminum accents meld to create a look and feel that is rarely achieved in cars this side of a $30,000 price tag. The steering wheel of a new GTI has such a sophisticated finish that it reminded me of something found in a Porsche Cayman or Boxster.

Unsurprisingly, the contents of GTI’s technological suite have reached an all-time high. Notable new offerings are anchored by the Driving Mode Selection feature, which allows owners to tailor the car’s inputs to their liking via a menu located in the infotainment system. Toggling between normal and sport settings will raise or lower throttle response and steering weight accordingly; users can also modify the suspension’s damper settings in cars equipped with the optional DCC adaptive suspension system – if you plan on driving this car every day you’ll be glad that you sprung for it, as it offers a pothole-friendly ‘comfort’ setting. While prospective buyers can consider the DCC Suspension Package optional, the $1,495 Performance Package shall be treated as strictly mandatory. Its highlights include bigger brakes all around and a 10hp increase, but its swansong is an utterly magical electronically controlled limited-slip VAQ differential capable of feeding up to 100% of the engine’s power to either front wheel – the difference it makes in corner-exit (and all-around) acceleration is simply remarkable, and for the price at which it is being offered one would be an absolute fool to forego a VAQ diff.

Our overall consensus is that you simply can’t lose with any model. While I personally would suggest going diesel over taking the standard TSI unit, both units can provide the same level of comfort and refinement when equipped similarly. If speed and flash is your MO, the GTI offers design, build quality, and technological superiorities over all its rivals, and it prices out around the same level too.  Although we didn’t mention it in this article, VW has also introduced an all-electric eGolf that’ll knock the socks off a Nissan Leaf. Take our word for it, the Golf family is making the jump to German Engineering more appealing than ever; or take Motor Trend’s word for it, as they’ve just name the VW Golf family as their cars of the year.

Palm Springs Thrives Anew, Arts and Cultural Events Drive a Desert Renaissance

Palm Springs Thrives Anew, Arts and Cultural Events Drive a Desert Renaissance

Villagefest in Palm Springs

Villagefest in Palm Springs

 

Don’t worry, if you miss this week’s festival, there’s another one next week, or so it seems in Palm Springs these days.

Music, Theater, Cinema, Photography and other Fine Arts are being celebrated in new, innovative and elaborate ways in this history-rich “small town”, 90 minutes east of Los Angeles. Here are just a few examples, starting with the star-studded Palm Springs International Film Festival in January. MC Mary Hart accurately said from the stage, “Well, nobody is in Hollywood tonight!” The audience included Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, Bono and his U2 bandmates and producers, directors galore. Streep, Roberts and McConaughey all gave moving tributes to cinema and to a reinvigorated Palm Springs as a cultural destination.

Add in the wildly successful Coachella Valley Music Festival, followed by the Stagecoach Country Music Festival, the nearby Indian Wells Art Festival, the Palm Springs Photo Festival and the weekly music events both in central Palm Springs and adjacent venues, well, you get the idea. Palm Springs is reinventing itself!

Recognizing Palm Springs’ rebirth are some savvy business people, some who showed up a few years ago, such as The Ace Hotel, Saguaro and the terrifically popular Tropicale. Other forward-looking hospitality entrepreneurs like the Kimpton Hotels are partnering with developers to continue the revitalization of a slowly re-awakening downtown shopping district. The long-dormant downtown mall is being rebuilt, anchored by a Kimpton property, and unique shops that will hopefully eschew the cookie-cutter, mind-numbing sameness of the stores-we-see-everywhere.

The pool at Riviera

The pool at Riviera

Speaking of savvy moves, the Noble House group bought the old Riviera Resort in 2006, closed it down and remodeled and refreshed the place without losing the character of this old Rat Pack headquarters. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin and the rest would preview their Las Vegas shows for the locals in the Riviera’s Grand Ballroom. Bob Hope held many a fundraiser in the same vast venue. Now, with the fine-tuning of innovative General Manager Marco Perry, the Riviera Resort and Spa is attracting families, hipsters and weekend couples to the 3-pool and easy-going property. The Riviera is also on the vanguard of bringing corporate gatherings back to Palm Springs, taking advantage of the great air service into Palm Springs International Airport and, like other smart Palm Springs hoteliers, working with

Coachella Valley’s spas are often extraordinary, and the Riviera Spa Terre is at the top of the list. Spa Terre is a full service spa, including a hair and nail salon (great for bridal events). It offers one of the most instantly appealing spa areas you are likely to find. It is centered on the harmony of the Buddha Lounge, adjacent to the facial and massage areas. Plan some extra time before or after your treatment just to relax in this dreamy oasis with the sounds of waterfalls and lovely tubs — you will emerge serene and renewed (we loved Sylvia’s massage work).

Palm Springs Tram

Palm Springs Tram

In addition to the hospitality entrepreneurs, artists have been moving back to Palm Springs again, and where there are artists there are galleries to help them promote their work. Some of the gallery owners like Brian Marki Fine Art and Framing, are artists themselves. An Oakland College of Arts and Crafts graduate, Marki has focused on watercolors in his own work, but chose a career representing regional and international artists and framing their work. His new gallery in the El Paseo blocks downtown, is a great example of the area’s new direction. He represents the new breed of business people who live in town and are putting down committed roots.

While the side trips still abound, such as the 8400-foot elevation Palm Springs Tram, the Joshua Tree National Monument and the popular Indian Canyons trail hikes, central Palm Springs has grown into a great “base of operations” for visitors. With the ongoing revitalizations mentioned above, and the existing shopping and great dining, it’s all here. Fly in, drive in, bike in and have some great desert experiences relaxing in Palm Springs.

By Lucinda Anderson and Frank DiMarco

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival

Cheese from the Sunday Marketplace event Photo by: Derrick Story

Cheese from the Sunday Marketplace event
Photo by: Derrick Story

 

March 20 – 22, 2015

Sonoma County’s bounty is no mystery, but wouldn’t an insider’s tour be great? Last April, I eagerly attended the 8th Annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. I was new to the bay area and love cheese. My co-pilot husband — not a cheese person — was a bit weary of our venture. To my husband’s delight, the festival incorporates a diverse collection of the best artisan’s in Sonoma and neighboring areas, not just for cheeseheads. Be sure to register for the 2015 festival and enjoy a weekend adventure in Sonoma you have never experienced; farm tours, seminars, tastings, pairings, competitions, and markets mesmerize you at the Sonoma Cheese Festival!

Sonoma purveyors of artisanal products are committed to placing value in each aspect of their artful trade. These talented craftspeople open their doors and hearts to share what makes their life enviable. You will leave wanting to cash in your city loft for a plot of hilly land. As the artisans impart valuable cocktail party knowledge on affinage, terroirs, and pinotage, you’ll find yourself with a strong desire for the simple life. Take a break and live life Sonoma style for the weekend!

Farm Tours Photo by: Derrick Story

Farm Tours
Photo by: Derrick Story

Be quick to reserve your farm excursions, last year these intimate visits filled up quickly. Also, be experimental and go outside your comfort zone at the Grand Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition, Saturday evening. As the live band serenaded, I sampled superb cider from Devoto Orchards, robust vintages from Black Kite Cellars, and almost twenty paired chef and artisan teams’ dishes, highlighting…. you guessed it, cheese! The dishes ranged from exotic to comfort food. I specifically enjoyed the Petaluma Pie Company’s “Cuban Sandwich Pie” with Central Coast Creamery Holey Cow, Slow Roast Pork, Ham, Pickles & Mustard, and The Duck Club Restaurant’s Raclette with Valley Ford Highway One, Local Dungeness Crab, Pickled Shallots, Fingerling Potatoes and Chives.

If you are unable to attend the upcoming event, be sure to check out CheeseTrail.org and create a tour through the gorgeous Sonoma landscape to a selection of over twenty artisanal cheese makers.

From Grandeur, To  Grandeur

From Grandeur, To Grandeur

Casa Del Mar Presidential Suite

Casa Del Mar Presidential Suite

Adrian Forty, Professor of Architectural History at University College London insisted, “No design works unless it embodies ideas that are held common by the people for whom the object is intended.” If any grandiose beach club property has achieved this feat, it is Santa Monica’s Hotel Casa del Mar.

In the early 20s, Santa Monica was experiencing an economic boom, and soon became known as the “Atlantic City of the West.” During this time numerous beach clubs sprung up along the coast, including the lavish Hotel Casa del Mar. Constructed in the Renaissance Revival style in 1926 by Los Angeles-based architect Charles F. Plummer for $2 million, Hotel Casa del Mar was originally a glamorous beach club for Hollywood’s A-List, and deemed Santa Monica’s “Grand Dame.” Members paid dues of $10-$12 per month to belong; the club was the hub of L.A.’s “see and be seen” elite social club.

In 1941, during World War II, fear of the Japanese invading the area beaches led the military to enlist the club as military housing. Hence, the US Navy claimed the building and used the hotel for a recreation center for enlisted men. In the early 1960s, the club closed its doors after struggling to regain its pre-war glory. The next 10-year chapter of Hotel Casa del Mar continues its fascinating history, as it served as home to the Synanon Foundation, a drug-rehabilitation program. Synanon was the first of its kind; a self-help (no doctors) drug rehabilitation program founded by Charles “Chuck” Dederich Sr. who directed the program for over a decade. In the late 1970s, Nathan Pritikin purchased the building. He developed a nutrition and health-care facility, the Pritikin Longevity Center, which closed its doors in 1997. Finally, the Edward Thomas Company, comprising brothers Edward and Thomas Slatkin, hailing from a long line of hoteliers, purchased the building and infused it with a $50+ million dollar restoration while working in partnership with the Historic Resources Group. The property reopened as Hotel Casa del Mar in 1999. Today, the property is one of the only remaining examples of the 1920s beach clubs that once monopolized the coast, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Casa Del Mar Ocean View Room

Casa Del Mar Ocean View Room

The 1996-1999 renovation, which restored Hotel Casa del Mar to its former opulence and grandeur, was led by HLW International, a New York/Los Angeles firm in partnership with Thomson Design Associates of Boston. Leslie “Lale” Armstrong was the project manager and senior designer. An architect for 35+ years, she is also responsible for the renovation of the Chantilly House in Bel Air. Structurally speaking, Hotel Casa del Mar is actually three structural systems in one. The underpinnings are concrete, while the second and third floors are built like wooden framed houses. The renovations included removal of the beach lockers and the beach/basement level swimming pool (where Johnny Weissmuller and Esther Williams perfected their swim strokes). In their stead a large ballroom with side spaces was built including insertion of vertical seismic sheer walls and 60” deep beams to carry and balance the weight of the main salon and terrace above. All the rooms and bathrooms were reconfigured, and all electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems were replaced. It was redesigned to be wheelchair accessible throughout the hotel.  As well, a wading pool was built on the terrace two levels above the beach.

Additionally, the eight-story property features a brick-and-sandstone facade, red-tile roof, brown iron balconies, and elaborate relief work with escutcheons adorning the front door. There are an array of sculpted figures throughout the facade including cupids, angels and Renaissance personalities. The interior design was managed by several Los Angeles firms using a 1920s aesthetic including simple, soft lighting and classic materials that were preferred in the 1920s such as damask and velvet draperies, and fruitwood and bronze furnishings. The color schemes reflect both land and sea. Today the fine finishes are in elegant gold and green hues complimented by shades of blue and apricot.

Hotel Casa del Mar offers 129 elegantly appointed guest rooms and suites, imparting the ambiance of a chic beach estate, with a historic sense of place. Most rooms boast panoramic views of the Pacific coastline from Palos Verdes to Malibu, while others offer cityscapes of Santa Monica. Hotel Casa del Mar offers 5,100 square feet of meeting space, a sea wellness spa and several restaurants including the newly opened Terrazza where guests can look forward to a unique aesthetic and culinary experience inspired by the classic Italian Mediterranean seaside.

This was an enormous project that restored Hotel Casa del Mar to its original elegance. It’s a magnificent destination for a family vacation, an anniversary getaway or just a quick weekend jaunt. The hotel is right on the sand of the Santa Monica Southern California beach community surrounded by the Santa Monica Bay and the famous Santa Monica Pier. It is walking distance to the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, the bustling Third Street Promenade, Main Street and the stunning vistas of nearby cliff-top Palisades Park.

In many ways, the architecture and the building itself serves as a link to the past, as the building has come full circle to again host the quintessential grand beachfront club experience. Juhani Pallasmaa, professor of architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology and former Director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture asserted, “A profound design process eventually makes the patron the architect, and every occasional visitor in the building a slightly better human being.” Frankly, who wouldn’t be better for experiencing the grandeur of the Hotel Casa del Mar? Absolutely no one.

Burke Williams

Burke Williams

Santa Monica Wet Room

Santa Monica Wet Room

For the past 30 years, Burke Williams has been providing outstanding spa experiences throughout Southern California. Inspired by European day spas, Burke Williams offers a vast array of treatments that continue to evolve along with the changing needs of their clientele. If you need a spa day or just some time alone to reflect and rejuvenate then planning a day at Burke Williams is just the ticket.

Signature treatments include an Anti-Aging Facial, which uses regenerative technology through a custom blend of stem cells and illuminating concentrate. A unique combination of H2V R3 Transform and Matrixyl Peptides lifts, firms, brightens and evens the skins tone while repairing damage. During the facial, guests have the opportunity to consult with their esthetician to create a custom anti-aging moisturizer specifically for their skin type.

Another fabulous and creative treatment available to guests of Burke Williams is the Dot.com enhancement that can be added to your massage. This massage technique is used to reverse the negative effects of forward posture by incorporates back bolstering, strategic pressure and therapeutic stretching into a relaxing full body massage. Dot.com addresses prevalent issues from the stress of everyday life including head and shoulder forward posture, thoracic outlet syndrome and carpel tunnel syndrome. The service incorporates a back bolstering technique to work the shoulder girdle area, use of a therapeutic ball for shoulder and arm work, and a therapeutic wand as a way to enhance the stretching techniques used to open up the pectoral muscles and extend the front of the chest. This powerful combination of techniques target tensions in the neck, back and shoulders.

Burke Williams has nine locations throughout Northern and Southern California including Santa Monica, Hollywood, San Francisco and San José.  Each location offers the more typical massage therapies, body wraps, facials, manicures, pedicures, baths and other signature services – but each with the exclusive distinct style and service of Burke Williams.  A visit to Burke Williams will provide each guest with an exceptional treat!

www.burkewilliamsspa.com