Place // Landmarks

Griffith Observatory has opened new horizons for LA.

From bold notion to star attraction, Griffith Observatory has opened new horizons for LA.

Los Angeles is known for its galaxy of stars, but since bursting on the scene in 1935, Griffith Observatory has been no less a luminary, occupying an orbit all its own.

Essential to the narrative of LA, the Observatory is a testament to exquisite architecture (Art Deco with Greek elements) and “location, location, location,” says its long-tenured director, Dr. E.C. Krupp. From its perch on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the Observatory is the center of the city’s universe. Lording over LA and eyeing a beaming Hollywood sign, it is the place where all points of view converge.

From the start, perspective was everything. At the time the Observatory was first suggested, by Welsh-born visionary Griffith J. For Griffith (“Col. Griffith,” as he liked to be called, despite holding no known qualifiers for the distinction), the idea of public science had been brewing for some years. A public observatory, on the other hand, was a pioneering idea for its day—a real shot at the moon. 

Still Col. Griffith persisted, and upon his death left behind a detailed directive for all aspects involved in its creation (to go with the sizable purse that he earlier gifted to the City of Los Angeles to build it). His plans called for an observatory that would make science accessible to the masses. Truly out of this world was its planetarium—just the third of its kind in North America, the first on the Pacific Rim.

“Col. Griffith believed it was absolutely transformative to put people eyeball to the cosmos,” Dr. Krupp explains of the Observatory’s original intention.

“It was the experience of observing the universe that he wanted to transmit” and tap into our collective romance with the vast heavens above. And so the Observatory came to prominence, a bold and magnificent response to how we feel about a science that prompts the big, ponderous questions.

Public admiration is not without its price, however, and in 1978, four years into his post as director (after a stint as curator, where he worked from little more than a “closet” in the Observatory’s basement), Dr. Krupp penned his first memo suggesting that the Observatory be overhauled. Renovation did come—in 2002—powered by $93 million and an epic effort to mobilize the initiative forward, in part thanks to the Friends of the Observatory, the institution’s base of support.

When the dust on the massive undertaking settled—one that included the addition of nearly 40,000 square feet of public space; an array of venues; and a state-of-the-art reworking of the Samuel Oschin Planetarium—the Observatory reopened in 2006.

Of course, in a show business town, the show must go on, and for the Observatory that means untold appearances in commercials, television shows and major Hollywood movies; the most significant being Rebel Without a Cause, the first film to cast the Observatory as the Observatory, not a fortress for serialized Sci-Fi fare. As the Observatory continues to nurture what Dr. Krupp describes as its “feedback relationship” with Hollywood, he boldly suggests it be given a star “on the Boulevard.”

Until then, there’s the total lunar eclipse on Sept. 27. As with major astronomical events in years past, Dr. Krupp expects thousands to descend on the Observatory to watch the eclipse, an opportunity to connect with the sky above and community below. When it comes to the Observatory, none of it—not the nerve of its founder, the public’s long fascination with the place, or its sheer endurance—surprises Dr. Krupp, who came to the Observatory as a UCLA grad student with professorial dreams.

Still, he says with a sigh, “Griffith Observatory has an identity of its own that insinuates itself into your heart and into your consciousness; you wind up having to do the Observatory’s bidding, and are quite happy to do so. It gets a grip on people, and I fear it got a grip on me.”

Just another mystery of the universe.

Photos courtesy of Griffith Observatory

Border Crossing

Master Chef Rick Bayless brings the authentic flavors of Mexico to Santa Monica

Written By Michelle Lyn | Photos courtesy of Red O and Joe Greto

Last month, Ocean Avenue welcomed another new kid on the block: Red O, by Rick Bayless, debuted in Santa Monica with pristine views of the Pacific Ocean, a resort-inspired look and chic atmosphere that effortlessly transports diners to a luxurious beachfront oasis in Baja.

The original Red O opened in West Hollywood five years ago; a location in Orange County soon followed. True to form, the restaurant’s third incarnation serves Bayless’ signature Mexican cuisine, with an emphasis on authentic sauces from the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Yucatan, as well as Baja. Diners flock to Red O for the familiar flavors of Mexico juxtaposed against elevated cuts of beef like Filet Mignon and New York Strip.

Bayless, a James Beard award-winning chef, has crafted a unique menu that includes items like Bone-In Filet Mignon with mojo de ajo, black kale and amarillo sauce, and Jumbo Scallops Fideos—Georges Bank seared jumbo scallops served with angel hair pasta, roasted tomato chipotle sauce, avocado and shaved radish.

The Surf ‘n’ Turf Tablita, a house specialty, features a prime 32-ounce Tomahawk ribeye chop and jumbo 1 1/2-pound Maine lobster fileted and served tableside with a selection of authentic Mexican-inspired accompaniments, including red rice and black beans. For dessert, the Passion Fruit Butter Cake is baked to order and served with grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble and coconut ice cream.

Equally impressive is the restaurant’s interior, designed by Judy Van Wyk of The Design Studio, whose portfolio also includes The Biltmore Santa Barbara. “We integrated elements like aged floors, wood beams, and sand and rock textures to give guests a true coastal experience that maximizes the stunning ocean views,” says Van Wyk.

The stylish ceiling design is a modern take on a beachfront palapa and pairs seamlessly with the aged walls, Moorish lanterns and rustic tiles. Outside, cozy cabanas and high-top seating cultivate the perfect alfresco dining experience.

Not to be overlooked, Red O’s Mexican-influenced cocktails showcase fresh, seasonal ingredients, and house-made syrups and bitters. Specialties include the Summer Heat with Double Cross Vodka, mango, fresh lemon and habanero honey; the Old Fashioned with Casa Noble Reposado tequila, Clement Creole Shrubb, raw sugar and bitters; and the El Rac with Roca Patrón Reposado, Alvear Pedro-Ximenez sherry, chocolate bitters and an absinthe rinse. A signature tequila wall also displays the restaurant’s dedication to providing a complete culinary experience.

With happy hour daily from 4-6:30 p.m. and live music seven nights a week, it just became a lot easier to get an authentic taste of Mexico on the Westside, no passport necessary.

Beauty Bonanza

Bluemercury, a one-stop shop for pampering, hits Montana Avenue

Written by Michelle Lyn | Photos Courtesy of Bluemercury

Sixteen years ago, husband and wife duo Marla and Barry Beck created an innovative luxury beauty product and spa retail chain that struck a chord with customers looking for high-quality, fresh beauty products and honest, expert advice—with a spa treatment included.

The brand’s newest installment recently opened in Santa Monica, not far from another Westside location in Brentwood. The unique shopping experience is twofold: in front is a retail space where a knowledgeable team provides clients with handfuls of samples; in back are spa treatment rooms, creating a holistic space for result-oriented indulgences.

With over 75 Bluemercury locations, we think this new neighborhood gem is here to stay. Beauty junkies, rejoice!

1402 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403

11640 San Vicente Boulevard, Suite 108, Los Angeles, CA 90049

Petit Paris

Spend a long weekend indulging in fine wine, cheese and strolls along the Seine in the City of Light

Written by Michelle Lyn
Photography by Michelle Lyn and courtesy of Hôtel Plaza Athénée

There’s a reason why artists and writers have flocked to Paris to find inspiration for hundreds of years. The regal architecture, the rich tapestry of art blanketing the metropolis, the sense of grandeur and history that envelopes the entire city, and least not, the enviable culture revolving around food, wine and romance.

If on a first visit to Paris, visiting certain sights is requisite: the Eiffel Tower; museums like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay; the Palace of Versailles; the Avenue des Champs-Élysées; and Notre Dame. On subsequent visits, divert from the guidebook and, with an elementary grasp of the metro system, allow yourself to simply wander through the arrondissements (the 20 districts that collectively make up the city of Paris).

The Seine River, which cuts through the heart of Paris, serves as both a compass when navigating the streets and the most serene place to walk and take in the splendor of the city. The boquinistes—booksellers who line the banks of the river— hawk antique books, artwork and postcards, perfect for those wishing to bring home something authentically Parisian.

Cafes, also lining the river, are ideal spots for people watching and letting creativity percolate while pondering one’s own destiny. It isn’t hard to fall in love with Paris.

Here, a long weekend worth of reasons why.


The best way to arrive fresh for a long weekend in Paris is to take a red eye, flying in style—United Airlines’ Business First Class has flat beds and down comforters that will make you feel like you’ve woken up at a five-star hotel. 

Live like a Parisian for a few days and rent a luxury apartment from A la Carte Paris. The outfit will pick you up at the airport, and then whisk you away to an elegantly restored hideaway in a desirable location.

Spend your morning perusing the local markets of Montmartre with a private chef from Cook’n with Class. Learn the nuances between French cheeses, breads and wines and fill a shopping cart with seasonal provisions that you will prepare together for a four-course meal.

Walk off lunch with a stroll along the Seine and dip into Saint-Germain-des-Prés’ Rue de Buci in the 6th arrondissement. The pedestrian-only street and alleyways are full of flower shops, chocolatiers and brasseries, perfect for an afternoon pint or glass of wine.

While further exploring the 6th, get lost in the labyrinthian Flamant, Paris’ version of Restoration Hardware, where you can find something unique for nearly every room in your house. Exit out of Flamant’s back door and onto a quiet street that leads to La Maison du Chou, a tiny pâtisserie that makes light-as-air cream puffs, filled to order with decadent fillings like salted caramel crème fraîche.

Continue your journey by exploring the Latin Quarter, winding through streets where maîtres d’s competitively try to lure you in for dinner. End the night with a nightcap at cozy jazz club Le Caveau de la Huchette.


After such a full day, sleep in a bit and then rub elbows with locals over a traditional petit déjeuner at Bar du Central, in the non-touristy 7th arrondissement. 

Dedicate the day to shopping at the world’s first department store, Le Bon Marché, on the corner of rue du Bac and rue de Sèvres Le Bon Marché. The store, along with its culinary counterpart, La Grande Epicerie de Paris, are the cornerstones of shopping on  La Rive Gauche, or The Left Bank.

Once you’ve bought more than you’d like to carry, seek out the Jardin des Tuileries and rest your weary legs with a picnic—or a nap—in the garden. One of the most expansive public gardens in Paris, it has been a special place for Parisians to celebrate, meet, stroll and relax for centuries.

Then, treat yourself to a Michelin-starred evening of indulgence at one of Alain Ducasse’s restaurants. At the newly refurbished Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée is a dazzling space, dripping with crystal chandeliers, serving contemporary French cuisine at its very best. Select delicate items like Refreshed Brittany Langoustines with Golden Caviar or Contentin Blue Lobster with Sea Potatoes and Homardine Sauce. At Le Jules Verne, snag a coveted seat overlooking Paris from the center of the Eiffel Tower.

Retire to Ô Chateau, Paris’ largest wine bar that offers 40 rotating unique French wines by the glass—it’s so unique that they don’t even share their wine list online. Test your wine knowledge with owner Olivier Magny in the underground wine cave.


Sundays are quiet in Paris, as many shops and restaurants are closed. The artsy Marais, however, is an exception. Sink into an armchair at Le Café Livres, while surrounded by shelves of books and enjoy a three-course brunch among the locals.

Venture out and explore the eclectic shops, and don’t be surprised if an impromptu costume parade stops you in your tracks. The Marais is full of artists, after all.

Leave the afternoon open for a few hours of relaxation at a world-class spa. The renowned Dior Institute at Hôtel Plaza Athénée touts a two-hour Dior Escape that is guaranteed to melt away your tensions. The spa at the Four Seasons Hotel George V features A Stroll Through Versailles massage—or, two-and-a-half hours of orange blossom scented indulgence.

Finally, cap off your weekend in true Parisian style with dinner at Le Violon d’Ingres, sampling some of their cult dishes like Foie Gras Seared Duck or Farmer Pigeon with Fondant Garlic Cloves for a classic French culinary experience.

All suggestions of course, but the reality is, every corner and alley in Paris surprises, and offers a treat for all the senses.

Photo captions:

Brasserie in Saint-Germain-des-Prés (outdoor eating)

Dining room at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée (silver booths)

Cheese lesson at Cook’n with Class (cheese spread)

Bar du Central

La Maison du Chou (creme puffs)


Handcrafted Nature-Inspired

Meet the creative couple behind marlowe+jay, the go-to Etsy shop for young L.A. bohemians and their tots

Written by Michelle Lyn
Photography by Paul Jonason

When artsy couple Ben and Shannon Watkins had their first child, they made her a teepee for Christmas. Friends started asking for them too, and before they knew it, demand was so high that they decided to launch marlowe+jay. Branded after their children’s middle names, the growing art and design business uses all-natural, non-toxic and recycled materials, expanding beyond teepees to make block-printed tea towels and tablecloths, indigo-dyed throws, hanging driftwood mobiles, succulent planters and hand-screen printed wall art.

Here, Westside DIGS sits down with the L.A. couple for a behind-the-scenes look at their success.

What is the inspiration behind marlowe+jay?

We’ve always been pretty artistic people (I’m a graphic designer and Ben is a filmmaker), and that’s one of the things that drew us to each other. Creating—whether it’s painting or block printing, filmmaking or designing housewares and plant sculptures—has just always been a part of what drives us. We like to call it ‘surf ranch living for the modern rustic home.’

How would you describe your style?

Our lifestyle and personal style tend to be intertwined. I’m a California girl, and Ben was born in Hawaii and fell in love with California when he moved here with his family as a teenager. We’ve lived near the beach for most of our lives and have strong ties to California and its landscapes, whether it’s the ocean, mountains or desert, and that love is definitely reflected in our home. Incorporating natural, textural and handmade elements make your surroundings feel personal, lived-in and vibrant. 

What’s a typical weekend like for you?

We’re big on relaxing as much as possible with one another. We think time is the most precious thing, and just hanging out together as a family—in the sun, in our backyard, in our neighborhood in Venice, or out in nature—is truly priceless. Our kids, Una and Zephyr, love playing in water, digging their hands in the soil or sand and creating mud pits and forts.

Most weekends you can find us at our favorite Topanga beach spot. Ben is a serious waterman, and he likes to surf or swim with the kids and take the family on an occasional sailboat adventure.

Where do you find your design influences?

We’ve always been drawn to natural materials like wood, plants and fabrics, and to pieces that feel like they’ve been loved and come with a story of their own. Finding the perfect vintage textile or one-of-a-kind piece from a local artist is pretty exciting. A lot of our art and designs are influenced by both native California culture and global textiles and patterns.

Who is the marlowe+jay customer?

The marlowe+jay customer appreciates the unique style and handmade details in the products, and the simple natural lifestyle that is reflected in the brand. 

Etsy has a great collaborative community of artists and craftspeople, and gives buyers access to affordable and really eclectic art and products. Our generation relies on social media to help with cross-promotion and getting the word out. There are so many great little businesses out there and it’s awesome to see how supportive everyone can be, especially when most companies don’t have a brick-and-mortar store. Follow us to see what comes next! 


Beach-Minded Contemporary

A local design-build duo plants a hub of modern design in an up-and-coming arts and design neighborhood in Hermosa


“I think there are memories attached to products, and it’s nice to have a product that you could potentially hand down to your kids. I think that’s been lost to an extent recently, and it’s a shame.”

It’s contractor Steve Reneker, who is one half of Hermosa Design in Hermosa Beach, a home design showroom that he and architect wife, Farnaz, opened in March. A stone’s throw from Valley Drive and Ardmore Avenue’s greenbelt, the fresh, airy space is staged with sleek furniture and lighting, streamlined kitchenware, home accessories and more.

The idea for Hermosa Design sprang from the Renekers’ community-minded desire to share a contemporary, clean-line aesthetic with fellow South Bay residents, their thinking being, “We have the space, so let’s turn it into a showroom slash gallery slash event space,’” says Farnaz, who is currently exhibiting the bold black-and-white documentary landscapes of Los Angeles photographer Eric J. Smith.

The aesthetically pleasing showroom is an eye-catching addition to the increasingly creative neighborhood. People slow down their cars for another look; pedestrians and bikers peer inside and pop in. Among the Renekers’ neighbors is an interior designer who has set up shop a few doors down. A surfboard shaper, a media production studio, and even a Buddhist center, are just steps away, and you can walk to the beach and Strand in less than 10 minutes.

Each item in the showroom has been carefully selected by the Renekers to meet their stringent, beach-conscious standards of longevity, performance and look. “I spend so much time looking for the right products for my projects,” says Farnaz. (She and Steve own design-build firm Studio Argente, where projects often focus on interior architecture, which involves “going into a gutted shell and re-building it from scratch,” and often includes interior design duties, too.) When Farnaz successfully finds a needle-in-a-haystack item after an exhaustive search, she’s all for sharing.

Take a sofa we sit on. Framed in teak and stainless steel, it looks so wholly designed for a sleek indoor setting that it’s surprising to learn that it’s actually an outdoor piece, right down to its waterproof fabric cushions. (Even if neglected, the teak will only become more beautiful over time.) Or the totable, flannel-top blankets rolled up on a nearby display; they are waterproof and perfect for the rigors of beach days and picnics. Unfurling a green blanket, Farnaz tells how she discovered the item on a trip to Sweden last summer. “I thought, ‘Why don’t we have these?’ They’re inexpensive. They’re totally functional. But I’ve never seen them before.”

The Reneker family, children included, test drive items through their own beach-centric South Bay lifestyle. “We spend a lot of time at the beach,” says Farnaz, who takes care to showcase items that will functionally and aesthetically suit those with a like-minded lifestyle. “If it’s not going to work here, we’re not going to carry it.”

Items are also chosen for their ability to stylishly conserve space, and in many cases, serve more than one purpose. Farnaz shows off wall-mounted contraptions from the UK that quickly stow away bikes, in addition to a wall-mounted credenza, plus a streamlined wine rack and chic magazine rack. “Functional but sculptural,” she points out. Many of the kitchen items stealthily offer multiple uses as well. A line of porcelain kitchenware, cheerfully striped and visually au courant, turns out to be a line that was designed in the 1950s, and can be used in the freezer, refrigerator, oven or table. “You can bake it and freeze it,” she says.

Then there’s the longevity factor; the Renekers support brands that instill this as a core characteristic of their design. Steve points to modish looking Danish pendant lamp. “That is the traditional light that was given to the bride when she got married,” he explains. “It was the Danish gift, and something she would have for her entire life.”

One of the most important filters for products carried in the Hermosa Design showroom is experiential; if, Steve explains, “an item makes an experience better—whether it be a bonfire or dinner with friends.”

Hermosa Design
618 Cypress Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

City Guide: Esters Wine Shop

Eat. Drink. Shop. 
The Rustic Canyon team turns out another Westside charmer 

Written by Michelle Lyn

Husband-and-wife duo Kathryn and Tug Coker are hoping to create the next go-to neighborhood spot for fine wine and great food with their integrated wine shop, marketplace and wine bar, Esters, which just opened in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. Housed in a 1937 Art Deco building, the space combines raw, modern design elements with an eclectic mix of new and vintage furnishings.

Tuck into the intimate space to enjoy a funky, biodynamic wine from a new Sicilian winemaker, or an affordable weeknight bottle from “Tug’s Picks.” With over 200 bottles from which to choose, the place easily appeals to any palate. On your way to a picnic? Stock up on pantry provisions and peruse bottles in the retail portion of the shop.

And we’d be remiss not to mention the seasonally inspired small plates, meats and cheeses (created and curated by chef Jeremy Fox of Rustic Canyon) that complement Grab-and-Go options like house made sandwiches, fresh baked bread and chocolate truffles.

1314 7th Street

Santa Monica, CA 90401


The Good Life: John Elgin Wool

Hollywood Icon

Architect to the stars John Elgin Woolf gets his close up with a new exhibit at Palos Verdes Art Center.

Written by JocLene Davey

The golden age of Hollywood ushered in new beginnings in film production and celebrity culture. During this time silent film became a thing of the past; production and sound quality improved greatly; and costume and set design became more elaborately detailed, yet always yielded the center of attention to the star. The growing industry paved the way for the dawning of the new Hollywood elite. The studios all but required the celebrities of the day to be seen socializing, hosting grand parties and living lavish lifestyles reflecting the characters they often portrayed on set. As the movement of the mega-star and the glamorous life ensued, so marked the beginning of a new era in architectural style called Hollywood Regency. 

The PV Art Center has been given the rare opportunity to share a large collection of works by one of the originators of Hollywood Regency style, John Elgin Woolf. Woolf’s works have never been released for travel from the University of California Santa Barbara until now; therefore this glimpse into the past right here in the South Bay is both temporary and a must-see for those who appreciate architecture and interior design.

When John Elgin Woolf, an architect from North Carolina, came to Los Angeles, the building trends at the time were modern, clean-lined and simplistic. Everything needed to be thought of as pure. “Woolf’s work was revolutionary, and he was considered to most to be the first postmodern architect on the west coast,” states Joe Baker, CEO and executive director of the PV Art Center. Woolf, who had a gift for theatrics, initially came to Hollywood in hopes of landing a movie role, and instead found himself in the midst of Hollywood’s A-list celebs, building homes for the likes of Joan Crawford, Bob Hope and Errol Flynn, to name a few. Woolf wanted to bring the theater and the love of theater into the homes of the celebrities for whom he built. His approach to architecture was completely fresh and contradictory to the era. He had an uncanny ability to blend perfectly 19th-century French, and Neoclassical Greek Revival, both with a modernist flair. The look was completely avant-garde and after the creation of the famous Pendleton house, everybody in Hollywood wanted one.


“Known for his attention to detail, Woolf was more like a French fine cabinet maker building homes that look like jewel boxes” says Scott Andrews, communications director for the PV Art Center. Mansard roofs with sky-high Pullman doors, columns and oval windows were signature styles in Woolf’s designs, not typical of the time. He and his partner, Robert Koch, filled the highly decorative homes with elaborate fabrics and color while keeping the furniture on a smaller than normal scale to accentuate the celebrity in the room. Rooms were built to stimulate conversation, with sitting areas and settees; rooms weren’t built around the TV, as they are often today. It was a time when people communicated face to face.

Within the exhibit, running at the PV Art Center through July 19, 2015, are original sketches and floor plans, photography, furniture and lighting designs, as well as some very interesting correspondence between Woolf and celebrities like the aforementioned Bob Hope and Joan Crawford as well as Robert Guggenheim.

Woolf-InteriorOne of the many highlights is the case study of Craig Ellwood’s ultra-modern experimental home of glass and steel that Woolf renovated to resemble an elaborate Greek Temple with Doric columns and a Hollywood Regency facade. Thus proving that “anything can be changed into anything,” as stated by John Chase in his book, Exterior Decoration: Hollywood’s Inside-Out Houses.

Another display to not miss is the well-known Pullman doors, a piece featuring some of Woolf’s more famous works with spectacular facades, such as the Pendleton and Menifee homes with the exaggerated Pullman doors reaching to the stars. 

All is, of course, a fitting tribute to a true luminary-one known as the “architect to the stars.”

Photos Courtesy Art, Architecture & Design Museum, UCSB.

City Guide: Harmony Yoga

City Guide_StrikeAPose

Strike a Pose

Slow breathing and deep stretching make for a mindful break from today’s busy world

Written By Constance Dunn
Illustration by Jay Brockman

Sunday evening yoga class at Harmony Yoga begins with a brief meditation, something calm to still pacing minds while setting up the next 90 minutes as a mini-retreat for weary bodies in need of a boost. What follows is a leisurely series of stretches, many seated and some held for five minutes—enough time to lengthen connective tissue and feel the body unfurl from a week spent hunched over a computer or a steering wheel.

Yin Yoga is a daydream of a class that’s ideal for those recuperating from illness or injury—or unaccustomed to the rigors of power yoga. Yet there’s plenty of benefit for athletic types keen to show their hamstrings some love in the form of the Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) or Pigeon Pose, which opens hard-to-reach hip flexor and rotator muscles, where resentment and other ill feelings tend to harbor. Class instructor Kitty Adams guides the group to breathe in deeply, and with the whoosh of an exhale, wipe their slates clean.

Yin Yoga Class
Sundays, 6:00-7:30 pm

Harmony Yoga
901A N Pacific Coast Hwy, Suite #100
Redondo Beach, CA 90277

The Good Life: Santa Fe

Desert in Bloom


Steeped in culture and class, Santa Fe promises Southwest sojourners a sophisticated weekend away.

By Jenn Thornton

Best Accommodations  Ideally situated mere blocks from Santa Fe’s buzzing central Plaza, the Fairmont Heritage Place, El Corazon de Santa Fe, is home away from home with a collection of Southwest-style residences offering hotel services, from an accessible concierge to a fitness center to easy parking. Residences sport generous gourmet kitchens, sizeable master suites with sumptuous beds, kiva fireplaces and bathrooms that could moonlight as spas.

posole_merriam-2Best Cuisine  Perched on the Plaza, all-day eatery Café Pasqual’s packs in patrons for all three mealtimes, but breakfast is most appetizing. Although not on the menu, Chorizo and eggs with green chile sauce is worth requesting. The pancakes, meanwhile, are too delicious to believe. For fast-casual fare, breeze in local favorite Tia Sophia’s for a breakfast burrito that will sustain you all day. Follow the lunch set to The Teahouse for a surprisingly good BLT and freshly made Strawberry Shortcake (one dessert is enough for two), along with about a million different teas. As for the abundant fine dining in town, many guidebooks crown Geronimo as the venue of choice, and while definitely a Santa Fe institution, much like  The Pink Adobe and its legendary Steak Dunigan, local foodies favor  The Compound (skip the wine list, savor the champagne) and The Shed—both James Beard Award winners. When it comes times for cocktails, the swoony La Fonda hotel stirs interest with its atmosphere, but carefree Cowgirl mixes a most delicious Mezcal margarita.

Best Culture  As an arts mecca, Santa Fe sanctions creatives of all stripes. Nowhere is this more apparent than Canyon Road, which paints the town with a half-mile of galleries galore. Of these, top honors go to Morning Star Gallery—a masterfully curated repository of Native American artifacts and turquoise trinkets. For ultra-contemporary works, the Railyard makes the move toward modern. In the astoundingly rich museum category, the undisputed headliner is the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe’s high priestess of New Mexico Modernism, while the Palace of the Governors curates a maze of relics in a stunning example of 17th-century adobe architecture. Live performance hits a high note with Santa Fe’s world-renowned opera, which stages La Scala-caliber productions in an equally epic, open-air venue. And, in celebration of the city’s literary tradition, independent bookstores abound, like Collected Works, rife with local literature, and Downtown Subscription, with a sea of periodicals and the best espresso in town.

Best Shopping  The heart of Santa Fe is its bustling central Plaza—and everything, from haute-off-the-catwalk boutiques to custom boots and luxury leather goods, is here. Elsewhere, Double Take takes fine consign to the next level with vintage looks and high-end Western boots. The galleries, eateries and boutiques along Canyon Road can always be counted on for luxury wares, while taking the scenic High Road to Taos—Santa Fe’s rebel cousin just under an hour away—produces a slew of beautifully-rendered, locally-made finds in small interesting shops.

The Good Life: Alexandre Renoir

Artistic Inspiration

The Peninsula Beverly Hills paints the town—with artist Alexandre Renoir.



It’s not every day that an opportunity to take a private art lesson from an instructor with bona fide bloodlines to famed French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir presents itself. Then again, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, which dreamed up this very scenario for the Peninsula Academy—its experiential collection of curated excursions—is not exactly in the business of the “everyday.”

Dubbed “An Afternoon with Renoir in Beverly Hills: An Artful Immersion,” this crown jewel of Academy offerings features artist Alexandre Renoir, of the Renoirs, one of the most celebrated clans in all of France. As great-grandson of an art-world master, the contemporary Renoir is a master-in-the-making, having been born into the family business (film auteur Jean Renoir is also a relative), but not trading on its name to make his way. Now, through the Peninsula Academy experience he currently fronts, Renoir reveals his artistic side to the aspirational few.

The immersion begins at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, where the hotel’s  luxury car collects, then chauffeurs, guests to Ace Gallery for a private tour before the group saunters a short block to Revolver for another.  From there, it’s off  to Galerie Michael on Rodeo Drive, where Renoir shows his work in the gallery,  then applies his savoir-faire to a discussion of painting and drawing basics.

“In an art lesson with me, the number-one thing to take away is fun,” says Renoir,  remarking on his instructional style. “It’s more about exploring what piques your interest and how to convey that onto a canvas than it is about how well a guest takes instruction.” The aim, he says, is to “coax out” creativity and artistic  ability already present. Then, it’s back to the Peninsula for Afternoon Tea with  Renoir in The Living Room, which stirs conversation about art and the artist’s famous forebears.

Overall, “What I hope guests take away from an experience like this is that art, for all of its antiquity and noble expression, is still something that comes from within,” Renoir offers. “That it’s something that stems from life and from people… everyone with a creative spark has an expression to make.”

To art lovers innately curious but inevitably intimidated about expanding  their artistic horizons in the presence of an instructor with the last name Renoir,  he recommends taking the “do it for yourself” approach, citing the once criticized  now highly celebrated van Gogh as an example of gumption leading to glory.  “Just to be a little cliché—even a journey of 1000 miles starts with one step,” reminds Renoir. A good lesson, indeed.

$12,000 per person,

South Bay Guide: Wayfarers Chapel

Sanctuary by the Sea

Sculpted grounds and a tree-anked glass chapel oer a peaceful site to stop, breathe and dream.




A modest wood sign set along Palos Verdes Drive announces this tucked-away ode to nature, envisioned in the 1920s by local Swedenborgian Church member Elizabeth Schellenberg as a place where travelers could stop for spiritual refreshment.

Gently shaded by an umbrella of slender Italian Stone Pine trees and sturdy Coastal Redwoods, the glass chapel is an inspiring place of respite for anyone who wishes it. Afterwards, your mind refreshed, stroll the tidy flower garden, teeming with lavender and bright roses, or sit on a shaded bench and ponder the ocean.

Completed in 1949 by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank, Wayfarers Chapel is sponsored by the Swedenborgian Church and dedicated to its 18th-century founder, Emanuel Swedenborg. The chapel and grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though it’s best to plan your visit during odd hours, such as 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and so on, since weddings are booked on even hours, and the chapel is home to approximately 700 of them each year.

Wayfarers Chapel

5755 Palos Verde Drive South
Rancho Palos Verde, CA 90275

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