travel

The Downtowner

Hitching a free ride into downtown Manhattan Beach proves both eco-friendly and cost-efficient

Written by Joclene Davey | Photos Courtesy of The Downtowner

Hitting downtown Manhattan Beach for a day of shopping or night on the town has never been easier or more cost-efficient.

The Downtowner shuttle service offers those who need a lift free, on-demand rides into downtown Manhattan Beach. Not only is Downtowner a fun and fast service, its eco-friendly vehicles are 100-percent electric, too. Moreover, the mobile app technology it utilizes makes it easy to transport people all across town. “Our team looks to minimize parking congestion and environmental pollutants in dense areas like the [B]each [C]ities,” shares Jake Allsop, co-founder of Downtowner.

A Manhattan Beach resident, Allsop understands this congestion issue firsthand—and so does Downtowner’s locally-based drivers, also known as “city ambassadors,” employed to provide what the company calls the “X‑Factor” that keeps residents and visitors coming back. These drivers are engaging and in-the-know about what is happening all around the city. Since its March 2017 launch, Downtowner has given 15,500 people rides, shuttling guests seven days a week, from 11a.m. to 11p.m., in an area from 1st street at the Manhattan/Hermosa border to 45th Street in El Porto, and as far east as Pacific Street from the Pacific Ocean.

To order a ride, simply download the free Downtowner app in the iPhone or Android app store, set up a quick rider profile and start requesting rides. All rides are free, but remember, drivers work on tips. (One may also tip drivers via a credit or debit card

added to the app) Traveling with a big group is easy too, with each of the six cars accommodating up to five passengers. The City of Manhattan Beach’s Economic Vitality Manager Andy Sywak also helped bring Downtowner to the community. “The Downtown Association had craved a mobility effort for a long time, and it’s worked out really well. The service has been very successful and has allowed for more cross town travel among residence and visitors,” shares Sywak. Combined, the five locations of Downtowner operations—Manhattan Beach (which is looking to expand its service); Newport Beach; Aspen, CO; Tampa Bay, FL and Delray Beach, FL—has provided over 500,000 people rides and logged 750,000 miles, and there’s no end in sight, either. Downtowner’s philosophy to provide safe rides, ease congestion and increase value in a fun and modern way is intrinsic to that of a community that’s clearly along for the ride.

Cartagena Chic

Explore the Colombian hot spot beguiling travelers with boutique hotels, fine dining and Colonial charm

Written by Michelle Lyn | Photos Courtesy of Casa San Augustin, St. Dom and Michelle Lyn

Nestled on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena de Indias, as it is formally known, is a South American gem that still remains a mystery to many Americans today. Emerging from the shadows of a less than desirable reputation, its home country of Colombia is now safer than ever to visit. The added bonus of a strong U.S. dollar makes this the perfect time to head south and indulge in the beauty of Cartagena.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the city’s historic ports, monuments and extensive fortifications, the best way to get your bearings in Cartagena is a guided tour through an operator like Guianza Express. One of the company’s most affable guides is Walter, who shares the history of the coastal city with visitors to acquaint them with notable sights, like the Cathedral of Cartagena, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, Iglesia de la Trinidad in Getsemaní and La Popa Monastery, situated atop the highest point in Cartagena that affords a sprawling view of the city down below.



The ideal base while exploring Cartagena is Casa San Agustin, a chic boutique hotel located in the heart of the city’s historic center. The swanky property is comprised of 30 rooms and suites—some with private plunge pools—that provide guests with modern, luxurious amenities and a complementary dose of Caribbean design.

Stylishly juxtaposing old and new, Casa San Agustin consists of three Colonial-era white-washed buildings, their architecture reminiscent of the city’s rich history as a 17th-century Spanish stronghold. Original frescoes and centuries-old wood-beamed ceilings in guest rooms complement ironwork beds, chandeliers and sconces specially commissioned by local artists to create a residential feel.

The property’s idyllic location allows you to set out on foot to explore Cartagena’s historic center, a vibrant walled city, complete with cobblestoned streets, horse-drawn carriages and pops of color in every direction.

A delightful way to kick-off your stay in Cartagena is with a rooftop drink at Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. Order a limonada de coco—a national drink akin to a light, refreshing piña colada, but with coconut instead of pineapple—and take in the scenic view of Bocagrande and the Cartagena coastline.

Then, meander through Cartagena’s historic center, following your sense of smell to El Pandequeso, a bakery with lines out the door, where you can indulge in freshly baked, decadent pastries that are often filled with jam and mozzarella.

An exceptional spot for lunch is El Boliche Cebicheria, a tiny ceviche and seafood restaurant owned by a lovely young couple, Oscar Colmenares and Viviana Díaz. Located on one of the most picturesque streets in Cartagena, this is the place for a first-ever ceviche experience. The roasted sea bass with fried coconut rice also leaves such an impression, you might just find yourself imploring Viviana to share the recipe.

While away the afternoon shopping at local favorites St. Dom, a fashion, art and design house; Ábaco Libros y Café, a cozy nook for perusing art and books by the aromatic coffee bar; and Casa Chiqui, popular for home decor. A visit to Las Bóvedas, a vibrant yellow structure originally built as storage vaults for the military, is requisite. Eventually turned into jail cells in the 19th century, the structure is now a popular shopping stop, as the old cells house shops and boutiques with a wide array of Colombian art, jewelry and clothing.



Afternoon treats abound at sites like Gelateria Paradiso, Ciocolatto Pop-Bar and Se Volvió Prisprí. If a sunset cocktail sounds better, head to Café del Mar, a bar atop the historic center’s wall. Endless sea views provide the best spot for a sundowner, if you don’t mind rubbing elbows with other tourists.

A more laid-back option is El Baluarte Tasca-Bar, also atop the wall, but opposite Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. Lounge music and candles set the scene as you relax and cocktail your way through the evening.

The only problem with the dining scene in Cartagena is the abundance of outstanding options. Alma, the restaurant located in Casa San Agustin, is an excellent choice with a warm staff. Handcrafted cocktails served in the courtyard, with live music and a three-course prix fixe menu for $25 USD might very well make it the best deal in town. Sister restaurants María and Restaurante Donjuán are next door to one another, with both offering a contemporary dining experience. The lighter menu is at María, and though Donjuán is naturally heavy on seafood, it also prepares dishes like Oxtail Stew as well.

For a more authentic Colombian experience, head to Candé, a concept that boasts its food is 100-percent Cartagena. Here, dancers weave in and out of tables in the cozy space during a nightly live show. Whether you’re able to spend a long weekend or an extended visit, Cartagena is sure to become a destination that captivates you from morning until night, leaving you wanting more.

CopaAir.com |HotelCasaSanAgustin.com | LureCartagena.com

Taste of Travel

Nosh your way through London at these five gastronomic gems.

Written by Michelle Lyn (Borough Market)| Photography courtesy of restaurants

In a bustling city with thousands of restaurants, it’s hard to find diamonds in the rough. The culinary scene in Central London, however, reflects its diverse constituents. Here, DIGS helps navigate the neighborhoods to make sure your next visit to London leaves you satisfied with “British” food.

Borough Market, Southwark

boroughmarketBuild an appetite, fill your pockets with pounds, and head to Borough Market for incredible eating and drinking in London’s most renowned open-air market, a treat for all the senses. Dating to the 13th century, Borough Market was shut down by Parliament in 1755, but a band of locals pitched in to bring it back to life the next year, and it has been a gourmand’s delight ever since. Countless stalls of cheese, honey, produce, chocolate and more can easily overwhelm, so come hungry and take advantage of all the samples. Must visit stall: Alsop & Walker cheese stall for their award-winning Mayfield semi-hard cheese with a creamy, sweet, nutty flavor BoroughMarket.org.uk


The Goring, Belgravia

goringhotelIn the heart of fashionable Belgravia, The Goring is a quintessentially English luxury hotel that has been owned by the Goring family since 1910. Known for the best Afternoon Tea in town, this much-loved English tradition is served in multiple dining locations and, weather permitting, al fresco on The Veranda. Indulge in delicate pastries, scones and sandwiches served with the finest blended and first-flush teas from around the world—topped off with a glass of Bollinger Rosé Champagne and hand-picked strawberries while overlooking the bucolic gardens.
Tea service of choice: Bollinger Rosé Afternoon TeaeGoring.com


WSDigs_10SUSHISAMBA, Financial District

London’s cultural diversity shines through at this rooftop restaurant situated atop the Heron Tower in the financial district. A sexy sky bar where Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine come together 38 floors up, SUSHISAMBA boasts the highest outdoor dining terrace in Europe, with 360 degree views of London.

The dining room is encased in floor-to-ceiling windows, with strings of incandescent lights hanging at varying heights from an open bamboo ceiling. Views are impressive day or night, but sunset is not to be missed.

The music is loud and the food is delicious, making SUSHISAMBA an excellent choice for a night on the town.Dish to try: Yellowtail Taquitos SushiSamba.com


Berners Tavern, Fitzrovia

bernersKnown for art galleries and trendy cocktail bars, Fitzrovia is home to The London EDITION hotel, which hosts Berners Tavern, a glamorous art-deco space with vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling framed artwork. The opulent space was designed by Ian Schrager, and is perfectly complemented by the decadent food of Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton, who cut his teeth under great chefs like Ferran Adrià and Gordon Ramsay.

The expansive dining room, with its ornate plasterwork ceiling, low, ambient lighting and vibrant bar area, make for a sultry date night. Must try dish: Chargrilled Chicken Paillard drenched in garlic chorizo butter and served with manchego and piquillo pepper BernersTavern.com


The Gallery at Sketch, Mayfair

sketchAn eclectic choice in elegant Mayfair, the Gallery at Sketch is a quirky, artistic space with multiple dining rooms and bars, not to mention futuristic egg pods that serve as bathrooms.

The walls of the Gallery are adorned almost edge-to-edge with strange, funny and often satirical child-like drawings. Food can be seasoned with shakers, including “dirt” (pepper), “dust” (salt) or “nothing” (true to its label, it contains nothing).

Although the dining room is pink and playful, the menu is not to be dismissed. Drawing on influences from Japan, Italy, Spain and Britain, dishes, like Escargots Persillade with cauliflower cream and black garlic, are all underpinned by French cuisine and leave guests wanting more.

Save room for dessert: Sketch Chocolat consists of a Guanaja biscuit served with crushed black currants and crunchy chocolate paper Sketch.London

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.

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.

 

WRITTEN BY CONSTANCE DUNN  |  ILLUSTRATION BY JAY BROCKMAN

 

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
310.377.1650
WayfarersChapel.org