12/11/2015 § Leave a comment
Currently, New York is turning to fall, complete with fiery foliage, dipping temperatures and rain showers. If I’m completely honest, it’s my third favorite season here — firmly ranked only slightly above winter (and spring only gets the slightest of advantages because it means summer is next). You can definitely blame my formative years, spent in the terminal sunshine of Los Angeles. So while I am coping with this seasonal shift, my mind has been traveling back in time to a trip I recently took to the High Desert of California, and Joshua Tree in particular.
Less than a three hour drive from LA, Joshua Tree and its Low Desert sibling, Palm Springs, have become something of a destination with the popularity of concerts like Coachella and interest in what I’m going to loosely call as “desert vibes.” While Palm Springs has always been the more built up of the two destinations, and is now home to some really great resorts, I’d recommend passing on all that for a quieter experience a bit to the north.
I wanted heat, quiet, stars and colors. I got all that AND dinosaurs. AND a ghost town. Who could ask for more?
You’re going to need sustenance.
Fun fact: I’ve never actually had an In-N-Out burger. What you see above is my grilled cheese on the right. I suppose I’m some sort of bad Californian, but I’ll definitely still defend it against all challengers to the “best burger in the universe” crown.
This is the “cracked iPhone screen” filter.
Kinda like those glamour shots at the mall, no?
Recognize these two? No? Are you sure?
(Skip to 4:50…or watch the whole thing like I just did. Again. TEQUILA!)
The Cabazon Dinosaurs are a famous roadside attraction on your way into the desert on Interstate 10, and worth a brief stop. Dinny, the Brontosaurus, was built over a period of eleven years, beginning in 1964; and Mr. Rex followed in 1981. Funnily enough, since the passing of the original owner and sculptor Claude K. Bell, the property has fallen into the hands of a bunch of creationist supporters, so inside Dinny — a larger-than-life dinosaur containing original Bell frescoes of the Cro-Magnon Man — you can find a museum and gift shop dedicated to the idea that dinosaurs appeared the same day Adam and Eve did. Hilars.
Sidenote: I was going to link you to the dinosaurs’ site until I noticed the current feature article is on Ben Carson, the “The Pediatric Neurosurgeon with Gifted Hands.” So, yeah. No. I’d still recommend checking them out for kitsch value, though! Just avoid the nonsense museum and take pictures sitting on the huge dino feet.
50800 Seminole Drive
(immediately north of Interstate 10)
Cabazon, CA 92230
Your best bet for lodgings in Joshua Tree is Airbnb. I found this darling cabin for a song. With cozy spaces to relax and a remarkable outdoor soaking tub, it’s heaven on deserty-earth.
Ok, so you’re all settled in to your cozy desert home. What next?
Go to the Joshua Tree Saloon for beers, burgers and live music.
Take a sound bath at the Integratron in nearby Landers.
Go to Pioneertown in Yucca Valley, an Old West set that was created in the 1940s as a place for actors and crew to live while filming television shows like The Cisco Kid. It’s still somewhat lived in and super weird – a ghost town with living ghosts. While you’re there, hit up Pappy + Harriet’s for…okay, also for beers, burgers and live music, but the live music here is a ticketed sort of thing.
Hike, camp or drive through Joshua Tree National Park, a unique ecosystem where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet. It looks a little like space to me…like if Dr. Seuss designed space.
On the way home, bask in the chill desert vibes and listen to a lot of Fleetwood Mac.
At least, that’s what I did.
Tell me, did I miss anything??
29/04/2012 § 3 Comments
As I mentioned last week, I scooted off to Los Angeles to surprise my family and enjoy a long weekend in my hometown. Armed with an exceptionally affordable rental car that I had to fill with exceptionally expensive gas, I bopped around from Manhattan Beach to Porter Ranch, and from Santa Monica to Downtown. And while I will admit that while I am on the East Coast I frequently have moments when I miss driving, a few minutes of sitting on the 405 definitely cured me of that for awhile…but it didn’t keep me from visiting some great places.
Breakfast at the counter at John O’Groats, a westside institution.
Don’t miss their biscuits.
Drinks at the Beverly Wilshire.
Cole’s, originators of the French Dip sandwich.
Bourbon drinks at Cole’s with Nick.
Breakfast at the Fountain Coffee Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
An excellent travel companion: Bag by The San Fernando Mercantile Company
13/12/2011 § 5 Comments
Weekly on Sundays, the street Defensa in the neighborhood of San Telmo in Buenos Aires becomes a bustling marketplace where one can purchase almost anything. Automobiles are prohibited, vendors set their stalls in the streets and enterprising young people rove the crowds carrying boxes of homemade empanadas for sale. However, the most impressive attractions of the San Telmo market are the amazing antique shops and there are two in particular I wanted to share with you.
Gabriel del Campo was a rather surreal experience. There were so many interesting and immaculate items — from dolls to furniture to fur rugs to an extensive collection of luggage and trunks — and they were staged so beautifully, it felt almost like a museum. Albeit the kind of museum I wanted to live in. And while the exchange rate is currently quite favorable, the shop is well aware of the high quality and value of their items.
For example, a diminutive woman with an accent that sounded like she was from Hong Kong was noisily admiring a Louis Vuitton steamer trunk that was almost as tall as she was. When she asked the price, “18,000” was the answer. “Pesos?” she asked, which would have been a little over $4,000. “No, no. American dollars.”
For those of us who are not on Ralph Lauren’s scouting team and find ourselves without their unlimited funds, rest assured that Gabriel del Campo is an inherently satisfying exercise in antique inspiration and it is definitely worth a look around. Who knows, you might get lucky...
On the other hand, the tiny and adorable shop Antigüo Balcón, was a completely different — but much more lovely — experience. Run by owner Abel Neira for over 20 years, the shop is a dizzying jumble of all sorts of odds and ends and hidden treasures. Mr. Neira seems to somewhat specialize in a few types of items — namely cameras, musical instruments, fans and telephones — but truly, there is a little bit of everything crammed into this tiny space.
Mr. Neira was a delight to speak with. As he pointed out small treasures my untrained eye might have missed, we chatted about my trip and the best places to go in the city — quite like visiting an old friend with an amazing collection. At Antigüo Balcón, unlike at Gabriel del Campo, you can find amazing things that won’t require a second mortgage — or a first one for that matter — and you will consider your time with Mr. Neira as an added bonus.
Related: Field Notes: Buenos Aires, Argentina
12/12/2011 § 7 Comments
Field Notes: Buenos Aires
As you may recall, I recently returned from a trip to Buenos Aires and I have been raving about the city to anyone who will listen. The word amazing has definitely been bandied about quite a bit. Simultaneously cosmopolitan and relaxing, the city makes for a perfect destination when the northern hemisphere turns to winter. With the exchange rate currently in my favor (~4.6 pesos to the dollar), it was an affordable escape as well. Of course, I am plotting my return trip as we speak…
I recommend staying in one of the Palermo neighborhoods: Hollywood or Soho. The neighborhoods are named for their resemblance to the American cities with the same name: Soho with its bustling shopping and dining, Hollywood with its concentration of the city’s media companies. I stayed in Palermo Soho and found it to be well located and felt exceptionally safe after dark. It is, however, a bit of a walk to the Subte (subway), but taxis are plentiful and quite affordable. Instead of staying in a hotel, I rented a flat, which is definitely the most cost-effective option. Through Buenos Aires Rents, I found a sparkling clean studio in a brand new building with 24-hour doorman service, laundry, gym and roof deck with a pool, for a little over $60 per night. While renting a flat means you don’t have a concierge on hand at all times, the folks at Buenos Aires Rents were always immediately available for my questions and also offer car service for airport transfers. If you are the type that requires daily room service, take a look at Esplendor Palermo Soho, which was darling and directly around the corner from where I stayed.
Next time, I will definitely stay at the Hotel del Casco, which is actually in San Isidro, a bit north of Buenos Aires proper. An exceptionally beautiful, 1890s neoclassical palazzo that was formerly the summer home of an aristocratic family, the Hotel del Casco has been converted into a gorgeous 20 room hotel that retains much of its original 19th century aesthetic.
Buenos Aires is a city that easily lends itself to cafe lingering and meandering. I spent many lovely, lazy mornings people-watching over coffee and toast topped with dulce de leche in corner cafes. Afternoons were for siestas. Evenings were for late and lengthy dinners of steak and malbec. But should you be more itinerary-minded, there is plenty to do. Visit one of the many art museums, go to the Plaza de Mayo and see the Casa Rosada, shop for antiques in the San Telmo market on Sundays, board the museum ships of Puerto Madero, and visit the massive Recoleta Cemetary (where you can find the tomb of Eva Peron). I especially recommend Graffitimundo, a great tour of Buenos Aires street art and graffiti, for an inside look at a burgeoning art scene and neighborhoods a bit off the normal tourist route. If you go in mid-November as I did, you can catch the Argentine Polo Open, which I quite enjoyed.
As for cuisine, Buenos Aires is widely known for their red meat and red wine. I had fantastic meals at Don Julio (Guatemala 4691 in Palermo Soho) and El Trapiche (Paraguay 5099 in El Centro). I also dined at what is widely considered the best restaurant in town, Cabaña Las Lilas (A.M. de Justo 516 in Puerto Madero). While Cabaña Las Lilas was quite good and takes full advantage of their picturesque setting, I definitely preferred the atmosphere of Don Julio and El Trapiche, both of which felt more locally authentic and less touristy. It is also worth noting that most of my dinners — with multiple courses and wine — tended to run between $25 and $40 per person. Also, make sure not to miss Cafe Tortoni (Avenida De Mayo 825), the oldest coffee shop in all of Argentina, founded in 1858.
Parting notes: WiFi is plentiful in the city so no need to run up massive roaming data charges. // Bring the plug adapter for Australia and not the one marked “South America.” For some reason, Argentina uses slanted prongs unlike the rest of the continent. // You won’t need a visa, but upon arrival you will have to pay a fee equal to the amount the US charges Argentines for US visas. Currently that amount is $140, but it will also cover any other entries over the next ten years.
You can see the rest of my photos from Buenos Aires here.
18/10/2011 § 10 Comments
Big Sur was pristine, remote and breathtakingly beautiful.
If you haven’t yet made the trip along PCH, move it to the top of your list.
Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.
The blue sky adds “Dont call me eternity, call me God if you like, all of you talkers are in paradise: the leaf is paradise, the tree stump is paradise, the paper bag is paradise, the man is paradise, the fog is paradise”
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur
Breakfast at Big Sur Bakery.
The sea swirls up but seems subdued — It’s not like being alone down in the vast hell writing the sounds of the sea.
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur
Pacific fury flashing on rocks that rise like gloomy sea shroud towers out of the cove, the bingbang cove with its seas booming inside caves and slapping out, the cities of seaweed floating up and down you can even see their dark leer in the phosphorescent seabeach nightlight
Jack Kerouac, Big Sur
A few Allagash Whites at Post Ranch Inn.
Sleep at Deetjens, the original Big Sur roadhouse. Built in the 1930s.