Santa Barbara

santa barbara.

[spotlight series. nic george | lindsey ross | andrew elialinnea villegas]

[santa barbara soundtrack. sugar man]

Santa Barbara. A place of perfect, idyllic beauty - nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean – and the place that became my home for a big chunk of 2013. The eternal sunlight, the endless blue sky, the starry nights, the beaches, the mountains…the seamless harmony and perfection. This is what draws people here…but it’s the people themselves, that keep them here, and keep them coming back. A friendly, welcoming and nurturing community – the energy here is one of love, creativity and encouragement.

A popular tourist and resort destination, playing home to many of Hollywood’s elite, Santa Barbara is also home to university students (University of California Santa Barbara is nearby), artists, surfers, yogis, families and retirees alike. There is something very special about living in a small community where every barista knows you by name, where you can walk or cycle everywhere, where you bump into friends at the weekly farmers market, and where each morning you wake deciding which hike, or which beach you should walk that day.

Ninety miles north of LA, Santa Barbara is a leisurely (and scenic) drive up the PCH, beside the ocean, which makes for a perfect day trip or weekend away. You will be completely hooked after your first visit, so be prepared to get used to that drive…

We have had endless happy moments here in Santa Barbara. Long, sun-drenched, beach-filled, jam-packed-full-of friends, wonderful moments. This is a special place.

To caffeinate.

French Press: a Santa Barbara staple, and our daily coffee or chai fix. Grab a seat outside in the sun, a coffee, a pastry…and set up shop for a couple of hours. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, grab a loaf of bread from the friendly boys at the Genuine Bread Co. who sell their seriously luxe sourdough loaves out the front of the cafe. Two locations. We favor the bigger one, on the corner of Anacapa and Cota Streets.

Handlebar Coffee: our other go-to. This daily coffee stop (where all coffee is roasted in-house, and served with all organic milk from Straus Family Creamery), offers super friendly service, great coffee, delicious pastries (and vegan muffins) and seating in the sun.

Lucky Penny: a new and wonderful addition to the Funk Zone scene. This cute copper coin-covered shack is next to the Lark, and dishes out tasty La Colombe coffee. A small menu, and only a few outdoor tables, but the perfect spot for a coffee to-go, or a quick bite (their wood-fire pizzas are the business - if you are drinking at the neighboring Figueroa Mountain Brewery, Lucky Penny can also deliver food to you there at no extra charge).

To eat.

Via Maestra: we love nothing more than a weekly Saturday morning breakfast here, after the Farmers Market. A cute and cozy, authentic Italian resto – run by the most lovely of Italians, Renato – tucked away near Loreto Plaza on Upper State Street. Come here for brunch, lunch, dinner, gelato, or coffee. By far the best Italian food you will find in these parts (amazing homemade pasta), plus the most entertaining and wonderful service you will find in Santa Barbara (courtesy of one Mr Andy). Get ready to be wowed!

Sama Sama: for the best Indonesian food in California. Sama Sama is a MUST on any vissie to Santa Barbs. Delicious Indonesian (order the Gado Gado salad to start), great cocktails, super cute setting. Nab a seat in the outdoor courtyard.

D’Angelos: great breads (we love their olive loaf, or the Rudolph Steiner bread)… great for weekend breakfast or lunch.

Backyard Bowls: our go-to spot for a healthy breakfast to-go. Think big bowls of acai, fruit, granola, yoghurt etc. Also delicious smoothies on offer, and friendly service. Just around the corner from Yoga Soup. 

Kotuku Elixir Bar & Superfood Store: go and visit Olly, an expert in Chinese Tonic Herbalism, for a superfood hit. We are huge fans of his fresh juices, cold brew coffee smoothies, spicy hot chocolate, chia puddings for breakfast, and his awesome salads for lunch. Not only that, Olly is always up for some deep and insightful chat, and would love to meet you.

Mesa Verde: for incredible organic, plant-based vegetarian food. Every dish on the menu is perfect. One of our favorites: the grilled polenta with braised garbanzo, beet greens, grilled kale, asparagus, harissa, romesco and muhammara.

Santa Barbara Public Market: another exciting new addition to the Santa Barbara food scene in 2014, the Public Market is a one-stop shop for all things groceries, wine, ice cream, bread etc…plus an impressive selection of quality purveyors, from who you can grab a quick and easy lunch or dinner (we love The Pasta Shoppe, and the Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar).

To drink.

We find it hard to go past the bar at Sama Sama for a delicious wine or cocktail, but other good options include:

Paradise Café: our favorite bar in town. Serving locals for over 30 years! This cute corner spot – housed in a 1915 brick and stucco building – has an art deco feel and is reminiscent of a 50s diner. Choose a booth or prop yourself up at the bar, nurse a cocktail or two, enjoy the tunes. We love it here.

Municipal Winemakers: “handmade, honest wines”. One of our other go-to’s. Great local wines and a fun atmosphere. Often host fun events, like October’s Kinfolk gathering- to release the new Kinfolk Cookbook; the holiday season’s “Pies for the people”: the vision of private chef Lori Stern – three classic Thanksgiving pie flavors (old-fashioned apple, pecan, and pumpkin), all made to order and available for pickup on Thanksgiving Eve – with 10% of proceeds going back to the Santa Barbara Foodbank; and the Chinese New Year dinner – celebrating all things pork!

Elsie's Tavern: this neighborhood hangout is low-key, divey and always a good time. Cash only.

Funk Zone bars…take your pick. New bars seem to be popping up in the funk zone on a regular basis these days. Start near the Lark and then cruise around from there.

To shop.

Make Smith Leather Co. : come here for the best handmade leather goods in town. Stevie is an incredible leather craftsman, and we love coming here anytime we need a gift of any sort. Leather bags, wallets, belts, key chains, home goods…you name it, Stevie can do it.

Whistle Club: we were so excited when this beautiful store popped up in Santa Barbara in 2014. Come here for a perfectly-curated mix of emerging designers and industry favorites. We especially love that we can find one of our Aussie favorites, Zimmerman, on their shelves. A coffee bar, serving Stumptown coffee, makes this cute stop even more appealing. It's beautiful here.

To sleep.

El Encanto: recently renovated and reopened, this luxe property provides magnificent views over Santa Barbara, offering hilly seclusion, and a lovely option if you are wanting somewhere fancy to rest your head. We love the Damien Hirst installations inside, and the 60-foot-long infinity pool.

Four Seasons Biltmore: see Montecito guide.

El Capitan: just 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, this simple, nature lodging experience is the perfect place to unwind.

Canary Hotel: a beautiful boutique hotel, perfectly located halfway along State Street (in walking distance to everything) – this spot offers a stunning rooftop bar and pool, with spectacular views across town to the ocean and the mountains.

Oceana: the hotel may be a little dated, but the beachside location is unbeatable. In easy walking distance to the beach and State Street, this is a good option.

To do.

Saturday Farmers Market: our favorite way to start any weekend. Swing by the Cota Street market for live music, fresh fruit (be sure to try the cherimoyas) and veg, flowers, delicious homemade breads, organic almonds, olive oils, etc. (also held on Tuesday afternoon, in lower State Street). Some of our go-to stops include: Roots Organic Farm, and Fairview: for all our greens and veggies (we love Roots’ heirloom cherry tomatoes as well). BD of Earthtrine Farm: for all our herbs. Baba Hummus: for homemade hummus in more flavors than you could possibly imagine. Fat Uncle Farms: for blistered almonds. Red Hen Cannery: for artisanal, small-batch jams using fruit and herbs from local Foley Farm and Bailard Ranch. We love their spicy orange marmalade.

Butterfly Beach: after grabbing some goods from the market, pack a picnic and head to Butterfly Beach for lunch in the sun and some swim time.

Funk Zone: artsy industrial district – swan around the galleries, vintage stores, city wineries and bars.

Surf…plenty of options if you feel like catching a few waves. Known as the “Queen of the Coast” – Rincon Point is a good option, while Hammonds Point offers a powerful right-breaking wave. Leadbetter Point is good for beginners. As are Butterfly, West Beach and East Beach – calm, and good for stand-up paddle boarding as well. Additional breaks can be found at El Capitan, Jalama Beach and Santa Claus Lane Beach. Treat yourself to a custom hand shaped surfboard - made with the most environmentally friendly materials available - from our dear friends at Free Range Surfboards.

Municipal Winemakers: as above.

Catch a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. One of our ultimate favorite things to do in these parts. We were completely WOWED by Icelandic dreamboats - Sigur Ros - one of the most beautifully hauntingly beautiful shows we have ever seen. This historical, outdoor amphitheater, tucked amongst the trees, is an idyllic setting for any live show. Aussies Tame Impala supported the Flaming Lips back in November. Sting also appeared. Coming up – be sure to nab ticks to The National (with Portugal.The.Man) on 25 April; and Jack Johnson on 31 August. We will be.

See a band at SOHO – we recently saw local boys, Gardens & Villa, doing their thing.

Santa Barbara Fish Market: come here for the freshest of fresh fish, oysters, prawns, scallops, mussels, and very friendly, local Santa Barbara service with a smile.

Wander around the Santa Barbara Mission.

Yoga Soup: do what the locals do, and limber up at Yoga Soup.

La Playa Pilates: try one of Kristen's classes (it might just kill you! in the very best way!), or book a private session with our favorite Pilates trainer, Colleen Ferguson (

Linnea Villegas: after your Pilates workout, book in a massage with this divine massage therapist in downtown Santa Barbara. You will leave feeling light, and full of love. 

Rock climbing: Australian-turned Santa Barbara-local Josh Gold swears by this place. So get rock-ready and have fun hanging from the walls.

Drive-in: mix up your film-going experience, and enjoy some good ol’ fashioned drive-in action in nearby Goleta.

KCHEN Project: a recent culinary startup – thanks to a kickstarter campaign – the KCHEN Project is a supper club offering themed dinners – multiple-course meals of locally grown ingredients paired with complimentary cocktails – held at various locations around town.

Out of town…

Potter around the antique stores in nearby Summerland:

Cold Spring Tavern on a Sunday: Established in 1886, the Cold Spring Tavern is an essential Sunday afternoon experience. Only 30mins from Santa Barbara, hidden away in the mountains, come here for the best damn tri-tip sandwiches, mountain brews and a bikie crowd. Big slaps of meat of a bread roll with sauce. Bang! Nothing better. Grab a table under the trees, and enjoy the live music. We especially love it when the Rainbow Girls are playing.

Take a trip out to the Santa Ynez Valley. Remember one word - Demetria. Think blush-coloured bottles of Rose, shared under big shady trees overlooking incredible rolling hills and vineyards. 

Palm Springs

palm springs.

[spotlight series. natasha casemarlene marchewka]

[palm springs soundtrack. love like a sunset]


There’s nothing quite like escaping LA’s urban sprawl for a weekend in the desert. Driving east on the open road, past endless windmills and retro dinosaurs, to the sun-kissed oasis that is Palm Springs. Blues and browns dominate the desert scenery here. Mid-century architecture, roadside motels, color pops, and our favorite thing of all – The Parker Hotel. We first visited the Parker in 2010 on our maiden voyage to the Coachella festival. It was love at first sight. A colorful, kitsch and calm oasis amongst palm trees and manicured lawns. There are lush swimming pools, bocce ball courts and a lemonade stand. In winter, the firepit will keep you warm. Once here, there is no need to leave. If its springtime in Palm Springs, the desert flowers are in full bloom, and pink is everywhere. Hummingbirds, too. Come to the desert to rest and recharge. If you want more action though, there is definitely enough to keep you busy for a few days. Here’s how to spend a perfect desert weekend.

To caffeinate.

For easily the best coffee in town, check out Ernest. They serve Stumptown, and they get it.

If a juice is more your thing, head to Palm Greens Café. It’s not fancy, and it’s in a strip mall, but they do a mean smoothie or green juice if coffee’s not your thing.

And for something totally unhealthy and again, not so fancy, order the s’mores shake from Great Shakes. I mean, come on. You know you are in America when you can get s’mores in a cup.

To eat.

Brunch at Norma’s: for a breakfast bigger than your head. The food here is consistently good. The French toast will blow your mind. Even the fruit bowl will impress. Its not cheap, but it is wonderfully delicious. A perfect terrace to enjoy the sunny desert light.

Cheeky’s: this laid-back Palm Springs brunching institution is always busy. Be prepared to wait. The food is fresh and organic. Order the breakfast tacos, and try the “flights” of bacon.

Lunch at the ACE: the perfect poolside lunching (or casual dinner) spot. We always stop by here on our drive into Palm Springs. Order the lentil burger, or the kale salad with chicken. Great poolside-party-people watching.

The lemonade stand at the Parker. Need we say more.

King’s Highway at The Ace: housed in a retrofitted Denny’s, this is a cute retro-luxe diner, especially busy during Coachella. Come here for farm-to-table brunch or dinner offerings. DJ sets and live music, sometimes.

Birba: the same owners as Cheeky’s, this is a good alfresco dinner spot. Enjoy pizza and cocktails under the palm trees. Live music as well. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Workshop Kitchen and Bar: our favorite desert dinner option. This impressive minimalist space, all concrete and wood, is the spot for fresh, seasonal and local food. The outdoor seating is tempting, but can get pretty hot out there, so go for a booth.

S’mores by the firepit at the Parker: the ultimate way to end your dreamy desert day. Order the s’mores tray and roast your own marshmallows over the fire, layering them in dark chocolate, and sandwiching them between graham crackers. This is insanely good. BYO bottle of red, and meet new friends by the fire. The perfect end to a perfect desert day.

To do.

Hang at the Parker: there is so much (or so little) to do here, you seriously don’t ever have to leave. Pool time, bocce, croquet on the lawn, ping-pong, s’mores by the fire pit, spa treatments or gym time.. It’s all here, and it’s all amazing. Our happy place.

Rent bikes (or borrow from your hotel) and cruise around downtown Palm Springs. Check out some of the design stores.

Visit the Kaufmann House for mid-century modern at its finest. Arguably Palm Springs’ most famous home, designed by architect Richard Neutra in 1946. Continue by taking yourself on a self-guided tour. Or time your visit with Mid-Century Modern week (February) for open home visits, architecture tours, talks, and cocktail parties.

Take the Aerial Tramway to the top of the San Jacinto Mountains for some knockout desert views of the Coachella Valley. Once there you can also hike Mount San Jacinto State Park.

Palm Springs Art Museum: visit here for western American art and craftworks. Free admission on Thursday evenings.

Coachella: a no-brainer if you like music, and you find yourself in the desert in April (along with most of LA). Founded by Paul Tollett in 1999, the festival (now held over 2 consecutive weekends) takes place at the Empire Polo Club in Indio (about 45mins from Palm Springs).

To sleep.

The Parker Palm Springs: sometimes described as an “adult-playground”, this Jonathan Adler-designed hotel is a lush and private oasis. A favorite at any time of year, we like to visit every other month. Once inside, there is no real reason to leave. Rest and recharge with poolside hang time, a good book in the hammock, a spa treatment, a round of croquet on the lawn, bocce ball, maybe take out some bikes, or the s’mores tray, with some red wine, by the fire.

Sparrows Lodge: one of the original restored getaways for Hollywood elite, this completely restored 1950s retreat, is somewhat hidden off the main road and has a charming modern rustic vibe and wonderful feeling of simplicity. An outdoor fire pit, veggie garden, swimming pool, and bar…it has everything you need for a totally restful Palm Springs stay. We love it here.

Airbnb: we stumbled across this boutique little airbnb rental when planning our recent visit (February 2015). A desert-chic hideaway, perfectly tucked away behind the city’s center. Behind its bright orange door lie five refurbed apartments surrounding a pool. Simple and clean, with colorful design touches, these rooms make a perfect base. You can choose to rent one room only, or book out the entire place – perfect for a group. There’s an awesome bbq, and plenty of sun lounges to lie poolside in the sun.

Ace Hotel & Swim Club: this is where you stay if you are wanting party, not rest. Swamped at Coachella time, these mod-retro desert digs is another good option for your Palm Springs visit. Think Navarro rugs, earthy tones, and vintage furniture. Live music, poolside parties, that kind of thing.  

Korakia: this gorgeous Moroccan-style pensione is a private and calm oasis tucked off the main drag. Known to host evening movies here, there is also a lovely pool. A good option if you are wanting something quiet and low-key.



[spotlight series. paul blackthornechris sewell & lori anna stern]

Just one and half hours north of LA, and a short skip south from Santa Barbara, Ojai is a magical and spiritual mecca, often referred to as “The Shangri-La of Southern California”. A haven for hippies and healthy living, Ojai has long been home to artists and bohemians, and is one of our favorite stopovers.

Ojai’s charms are many, from the changing colors of the mountains (get ready for the “pink moment” at sunset, whereby the fading sunlight creates a brilliant shade of pink over the Topatopa Bluffs), to the stunning oak-shaded laneways, the horse stables, the rambling country properties, and the warm and friendly people – life moves at a slower beat here, and the energy is intoxicating. An equally charming hideaway for a romantic weekend getaway, or a well-needed rest.

While living in Santa Barbara, we would come to Ojai on a weekly basis – mainly for our dose of chai and cookies, or smoothies and salads at the Farmer & The Cook – but also for hikes, or visits to Meditation Mount. One of our most favorite times to visit however, is on the first weekend of December, when the Ojai Rancho Inn hosts an amazing, artisanal pop-up Christmas market known as “Deck the Halls”. The Rancho’s 16 rooms get taken over by more than 50 seriously cool and creative local vendors, as well as live music, a fully stocked bar and food stalls. The best way to kick off the holiday season.

1. To eat…

Farmer & The Cook (actually located nearby in Meiner Oaks, not Ojai itself): is our firm favorite, and a quintessential Ojai experience. Soulful, healthy, wholefood paradise. Vegetarian, and renowned for its hand-made Mexican food, salad bar, smoothies (try the avocado ones!), chai, and baked goods (we cant go past the “birdfeeder cookie”). People travel for miles to feast here. This is a special place. Forever indebted to you, Paul Blackthorne, for introducing us to the chai here back on our first trip to Ojai in December 2012! The start of a long and illustrious love affair with this magical spot.

Hip Vegan Café: tucked off the main drag, this super cute spot offers seriously classy vegan food at friendly prices, with outdoor seating.

Deer Lodge: originally a gas station and market that opened in 1932, the Deer Lodge, is now a local watering hole and a great spot to grab some local farm fresh organic tucker, as well as to hear some live tunes.

2. To sleep…

Ojai Rancho Inn: the only place (in our minds) to sleep when in Ojai. The Rancho is brought to you by Chris Sewell and Kenny Osehan – the ever-talented husband and wife duo behind the Shelter Social Club – also responsible for other boutique shelters including the Agave Inn, and the Hamlet Inn; as well the most legit Indonesian restaurant California has to offer, Sama Sama Kitchen, our favorite place to eat when in Santa Barbara. Reminiscent of an old summer camp, this laid-back, affordable, oasis is hard to get into, so make sure you book early. Simple, stylish and understated cool. We love it here.

As a back-up option, the Capri Hotel has recently undergone a renovation, and offers modern, mid-century-esque guest rooms and pool cabanas.

3. To shop…

Mosey along Ojai’s Spanish style shopping arcade, and pop into cute boutiques and vintage stores. Lori Stern recommends the thrift store across the street from the Ojai Roasting Company on Signal Blvd. We also love Modern Folk: for a beautifully curated selection of homewares, clothes and jewelry.

If it’s a book you are looking for – pop into outdoor bookshop, Bart’s Books – to see what goodies are on offer. We love their 24/7 honor system as well, where you can choose a book to buy from their outdoor shelves. So sweet.

4. To do…

Experience the “pink moment” at sunset, from the serene garden of Meditation Mount.

Hike: there are so many special hikes to choose from in this area, but we do love the 6.5mile Last Chance Trail, which winds through the Santa Paula Canyon. Dramatic valley views, through the lush forest, await.

Meditate: our favorite time to do this is at dusk, as the sun is going down, from the beautiful rock platforms atop of Meditation Mountain. The views over the valley here are spectacular, and there is an incredibly powerful spiritual energy from this vantage point. Even my most non-spiritual friend, was swept away from a feeling she had never experienced before, when atop the mountain. A very powerful place.

Drive: the mountain road back from Ojai to Santa Barbara (about 45mins). You will pass Lake Casitas (swimming is not allowed, but you can rent a boat, or a kayak, or do some fishing!). Stop at one of the vista points on the hill, and look back over the stunning lake. It may just take your breath away. Pure magic!

Spa treatment at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa: detox and recharge.

Bike ride along the Ojai Valley Trail: from Ojai to the coast (9.5miles).

Go horseback riding into the foothills.

Hot springs: natural hot springs located in the hills of Matilija, just minutes from Ojai.

Visit the Ojai Farmers’ Market: held each Sunday morning. Local produce and friendly vibes.



[spotlight series. taiana giefersky gilbarjill nelsen]

[Montecito soundtrack. California sunrise]

Tucked perfectly between the mountains and the sea, and boasting constant sunshine and a near-perfect climate all year round, it is no surprise Montecito is considered one of the most beautiful communities in California. A very special place, we feel lucky to have called this coastal beauty our on-again-off-again home (one of many) for the past couple of years.

We are so grateful to our three Montecito insiders - all of whom have spent the most part of their lives here – for their insider knowledge and recommendations. Be sure to check out their favorite spots. In the meantime, here are some of ours…

To eat.

Weekend brunch at Tre Lune: order poached eggs, and fresh oJ.

For lunch on the run: grab a burrito from Little Alex’s (the vegetarian one –add avocado – is amazing), or a big, delicious sandwich fromPanino.

Great sushi at Sakana Sushi Bar, just next to the Montecito Country Mart on Coast Village Road.

Grab a seat at the bar, and order a steak and glass of red at Lucky’s: a Montecito institution. Amazing people watching.

Cocktails and dinner in the stunning sandstone courtyard at the San Ysidro Ranch: this is our most favorite spot in all of Montecito. A beautifully private retreat at the food of the mountains – surrounded by manicured lawns and a stunning garden of lavender, rosemary and pink bougainvillea – this is heaven. Request a table in the courtyard, and sit under fairy-lit trees (wrapped in blankets if its cold), and enjoy the most amazing meal and incredible cocktails (the Blood Orange margarita is always our guy). Oh and make sure you try the chocolate soufflé, or the fresh (from their very own garden) mint/choc chip ice cream. If it was good enough for JFK and Jackie…

A cocktail on the outdoor patio at the Four Seasons Biltmore is always a good idea. Order Oprah’s Pomegranate Martini, and look out over the Pacific Ocean and out to the Channel Islands.

Ice cream from Rori’s. This place will blow your mind. Hand-crafted and organic ice creams – made from only whole and simple ingredients (Straus Family Creamery organic milk, cream (from Grass-fed cows) and eggs) – we cant resist their dairy-free coconut and chocolate; and the fresh mint chip. Oh and our current favorite – the chunky peanut butter with home made choc/peanut butter cups.

To sleep.

San Ysidro Ranch will always be our #1: a splurge, yes, but one of the most beautiful and luxe retreats we know. Channeling old-Hollywood (JFK and Jackie Onassis honeymooned here)…the 21 private cottages are scattered among acres upon acres of manicured lawns and beautiful gardens. Private terraces, stacked firewood by the door, even your own personalized stationary once inside. This is a treat worth investing in.

Understandably though, if the budget wont quite stretch that far, there is always Airbnb. You will find so many awesome options, including this super cute “surf shack” right near the lower village.

And lastly, you could always try the Montecito Inn(conveniently located on Coast Village Road, right near Lucky’s).

To shop.

Upstairs at Pierre Lafond is the perfect stop if you need a gift. Books, homewares, candles, clothes, kids stuff, and more. In the upper village.

Also in the upper village, the Jenny Kayne home store has some beautiful things. Likewise, check out Elu – for beautiful clothes and our all-time favorite felt scarves by Taiana.

At the Montecito Country Mart (same owner as the Brentwood and Malibu ones as well), we loveHudson Grace – for beautiful interiors – andSpace NK for all things skin and delicious fragrances.

To do.

Start the day with a hike. So many amazing trails to choose from. Some of our favorites including the Hot Springs trail (up to Saddle Rock), theCold Springs trail, or the trail that starts at the entrance to the San Ysidro ranch. All pretty steep in parts, but stunning views over the mountains and the ocean, and a great workout.

Hang on the beach – Butterfly, Hammonds – or any of the others nearby. These beaches are peaceful and beautiful, and sometimes get decent waves as well.

Pilates at La Playa: this is the most beautiful Pilates studio we have found so far, with exceptional trainers as well. If you have time, be sure to book a private session with Colleen Ferguson (of Atwill Pilates), or founder, Kristin Turner – both brilliant trainers, who will work you hard. One visit will not be enough.

Visit the Friday morning farmers market on Coast Village Road: for fresh flowers, organic fruit and veg, nuts, cheese and more.

Check out Lotus Land.

Visit the antique stores in nearby Summerland.

Joshua Tree

[spotlight series. kathrin smirke and kristo torgersen]

[joshua tree soundtrack. sunshine]

Located in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree is a remarkably special place. We love time spent here. The magic is undeniable. The Mojave first cast its spell over us after a chance invite back in March 2013. A friend of a friend invited us to a birthday event they were hosting at the Integratron (see below), a magnetic dome in the middle of the high desert that was built on a powerful energy vortex, where sound baths are conducted. On our first visit, we found ourselves with twelve random new friends, lying on yoga mats inside the dome, listening to the resonating sounds of the quartz bowls bouncing off the rounded walls of the dome and trembling through the floorboards. A meditation like no other. We were even lucky enough to spend the night inside the dome. It was magic. We hiked through the National Park, weaving between the funny looking yucca trees. We drove out to explore Giant Rock. We shopped and snacked in the main street in town. And we spent hours gazing at starry-filled desert skies. From that weekend on, we were hooked.

Returning again last month, the experience was equally as intoxicating.

In Joshua Tree, you will swim in a sea of Mojave calm. It’s a place for solitude and clarity. It is easy to see why it has long attracted nature lovers, musicians, artists, New Age spiritual seekers and other urban refugees. A perfect, peaceful and private Idaho in which to soak up all the best of the desert wonders.

Below you will find all our updated recommendations. We are also excited to introduce Kathrin Smirke, owner of Dome in the Desert and fashion label, Gypsan, as one of our new desert insiders.

To eat.

Natural Sisters Café: for decent coffee and lots of organic, healthy favorites. Great juices, smoothies, baked goods, salads, sandwiches and vegan options as well.

Crossfoods: for good breakfasts, burgers, tacos and more.

Joshua Tree Health Foods: for all your healthy staples.

Pappy and Harriet’s (see below): where all the food is amazing. Definitely order some meat from the grill. The steak equals perfection. The ribs are famed. And we love their veggie burger as well.

To shop.

Joshua Tree Farmers Market: held every Saturday (8am-1pm) just off the Twentynine Palms Highway.

The End: for recycled designer finds. Contemporary and vintage. Anything from Band of Outsiders to Opening Ceremony.

BKB Ceramics: for beautiful pottery and other handcrafted goods. BKB’s ethos is pure, sustainable, conscious, handcrafted design.

Hoof & The Horn: a cute, well-curated boutique in the Yucca Valley for modern and vintage desert gems. Stocked full of hi-desert essentials, as well as some great brands including Commune, Minnetonka moccasins and local jewelry designers.

Ricochet: we love this cute spot for unique vintage finds. Dresses, bags, sunglasses, cowboy boots and more. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

To do.

Explore the National Park. This can take hours, days, weeks. Take as long as you need. Hike. There are so many trails to choose from. One of our favorites is the 49 Palms Oasis Trail (a 3 mile return trip) where you hike into a desert oasis filled with the coolest looking pineapple-palm trees. We pretended it was hundreds of years earlier and how stoked we would have been to find this shady little patch of desert heaven.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: no trip to Joshua Tree is complete without a visit to this awesome honky-tonking, BBQing, live music venue in nearby Pioneertown. A town that was built solely to be used as a country and western film set, Pappy’s stands alone here as the go-to destination in this faux town. Hang out with desert-rats and escaped city-slickers. Hoedown to the local Sunday band (the Hot Fudge Sunday). Or if its around Coachella time, catch one of the side shows under the stars – War on Drugs play 15 April, Jamie XX plays 15 April.

Integratron: come to this magical and powerfully energetic site (mentioned above) – the only all-wood, acoustically perfect sound chamber in the US – to rejuvenate, meditate, and to take part in one of the incredible sound baths.  With your heads in the center of the dome, you will lie on yoga mats, and listen as a series of quartz bowls (all of various frequencies) are played. The sound waves are incredibly meditative. Hard not to find this an incredibly positive and healing experience. Come also for the meteor shower party.

High Desert Test Sites: founded and administered in 2002 by the queen of the hi-desert’s art community, Andrea Zittel, HDTS is a series of open-desert locations providing an experimental way for emerging and established artists to show their experimental art installations, and performances, exploring desert themes of “contemporary art and life at large.”

Noah Purifoy Joshua Tree Outdoor Desert Art Museum: over ten acres of crazy outdoor sculptures, this desert museum has to be seen. Using recycled materials, Noah Purifoy created these surreal sculptures using castoff metals, burnt wood, blown-out rubber tires and more, over a fifteen-year period from 1989 to 2004.

Take a side trip to Idyllwild. Nestled into the San Jacinto mountains, this peaceful mountain getaway is perfect for day hikes, longer hiking journeys and rock climbing. Perfect in Springtime. Rent a cabin.

Salvation Mountain: a whacky art installation covering a hill in the Colorado Desert (kind of in the middle of nowhere) near Slab City, and further on than the Salton Sea. Created by local resident Leonard Knight (who passed away last year), Salvation Mountain is made from adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of paint. It is filled with bright colored murals and areas painted with Christian sayings and Bible verses. It is a big detour from wherever you are, and wherever you are going, but it’s a brilliant photo opportunity if nothing else.

The Salton Sea: a shallow, saline rift lake located directly on the San Andreas Fault line, in California’s Imperial and Coachella valleys. We detoured via here on the way to Joshua Tree (its quite a detour!). The Salton Sea, with an estimated surface area of 343 square miles (890 km2) or 350 square miles (910 km2), is the largest lake in California. The day we visited (a Sunday) we were lucky enough to stumble across a cute local farmers market, mainly Mexican stallholders, selling homemade tamales, tostadas, and tacos. 


To sleep…

Dome in the Desert: this magical little dome is our most beloved Airbnb find so far. Only 5 minutes from town, you have your own little patch of desert here. This dome itself has a modern-gypsy aesthetic, a beautiful mix of mid-century modern and vintage furnishings. Fully self-contained, it also comes complete with a meditation loft, vintage palm-reading books, hanging chairs, a guitar, and miles and miles of clear open skies made perfect for star-gazing. We wanted to stay forever.

29 Palms Inn: surrounded by the vast Mojave Desert looking up to the National Park, this 70-acre property is a desert institution. Stay here for cute bungalows and wood-frame cabins all set in an oasis of palms. Peacefully and perfectly located for trips into the National Park, it’s a great base for your desert stay. There is a cute pool, and a simple-looking (but delicious) restaurant. The service was uber-friendly and the steak was on point. There is a lovely organic garden to wander around, and hammocks to chill out on. The stars here shine brighter than ever. A perfect desert base, bursting with character and good vibes.

Big Sur

big sur.

[spotlight series. josh gold]

[our big sur soundtrack.]

there is a pleasure in the pathless woods; there is a rapture on the lonely shore; there is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar: i love not man less, but nature more.*

The isolated beauty of Big Sur is breathtaking. Nestled into the steep curves of the Santa Lucia Mountains, surrounded by remarkable redwoods and rocky beaches, there is magic in the air here. A long and windy journey north of Los Angeles, or south from San Francisco, the scenery along the Pacific Ocean is totally awe-inspiring. We were wowed by a pod of gray whales, on their migration north back to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific. These amazingly humble and beautiful creatures, perhaps ten of them, entertained us for what seemed like hours. Seals, dolphins, birds as well, as if on queue, on stage, showing off in their stunning surrounds. The air is clear, the nature wild and free, and the energy intoxicating…and as Henry Miller said, there is at once, an “eloquent silence” here. Just wait to be swept away by the magical energy.

1. To sleep…

Sleeping options are somewhat limited…but there are definitely a couple of choices for every budget. If you are craving a little bit of luxe, and don’t mind spenny, then I would definitely recommend Post Ranch Inn orVentana (where the “rustic charm of Ventana’s weathered cedar buildings belie the luxury within”). For something a little more affordable, try Deetjen’s: a charming bed and breakfast nestled into a lush and windy part of the coastal drive; or Glen Oaks: an updated 1950s motor lodge/turned cabins (I hear good things about their River View cabins. Or lastly, save your pennies altogether, and pitch a tent. There are countless campgrounds to choose from. Be one with nature - so many magical spots. We loved the look of the Andrew Molera State Park Trail Camp, perfectly located within walking distance of the Big Sur Rivermouth. Bordered on one side by the Big Sur River, this campground is in a grassy meadow dotted with large trees, and is just a short walk to the beach. None more perfect a place to set up camp.

2. To eat…

Eat at the Big Sur Bakery: breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner - or all of the above! A Big Sur staple. We love starting the day here, and then ending it here as well. Take home a copy of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: filled with Big Sur history, Big Sur personalities, and some seriously delicious recipes.

Deetjen’s: for the best eggs benedict in town (according to my beloved Big Sur aficionado – Skye Byrne). A charming, rustic and woody atmosphere, on the edge of the redwood forest in Big Sur.

2. To drink…

Our favorite place for a sunset drink is the Cliffside restaurant and bar at the Post Ranch Inn. We couldn't quite afford the $1500+ price-tag to stay the night, but figured a bottle of rose, watching the sun go down from the outside bar, was just as good. Clear skies, so many stars, pure magic.

Nepenthe: a great place to grab a drink or bite at sunset. Killer views over the Pacific as the sun goes down. If you have already eaten, or have dinner plans later, just pop in for a drink…and cosy up by the fire if it’s chilly outside.

Night cap at the Big Sur Village Pub: we had a very fun night at this quaint little pub, just meters down the hill from the Big Sur Bakery. Friendly service, live music [ryan dishen was playing the night we were there: so good, we took home a copy of his album, new windows. the kid can sing], and good brews. A perfect way to end the most perfect of days.

3. To do…

Hike: to the McWay Falls in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – a picturesque waterfall, which drops over jagged cliffs into the Pacific Ocean, just a short walk from Highway 1. Sadly, you can’t get down close to the waterfall, but this is a main feature of the park and definitely worth checking out. Just go early, as the crowds start to roll up pretty soon after breakfast.

Visit: the Big Sur River Mouth, through the Andrew Molera State Park - a lovely beach you can access by walking through a stunning meadow. We had the beach completely to ourselves when we visited shortly after sunrise.

Surf: exploring the rugged Big Sur coastline on a surfboard is an experience not to be missed. Jaw-dropping coastal scenery, empty lineups, and enough wilderness to get truly lost in! The ocean here demands respect. The Big Sur Rivermouth, for example, can sometimes have good waves, but beware of fast currents that can close out the waves, and the shallow sandbar.

Get nude: at the Esalen Institute’s Public Night Hot Springs (1am-3am). A spectacular setting – natural hot springs, which hug the cliff-side of the Pacific Ocean. Reservations essential. Relax, unwind and get naked. The famed (and famously private) Esalen Institute opens to the public for 2 hours each evening. A maximum of 20 visitors are allowed each night. The hot springs can reach temperatures of 115 °F (46 °C), but are cooled significantly by the coastal air. Total darkness keeps this sanctuary shrouded in secrecy.

Hikes: so many wonderful options, for all different levels. You can’t go wrong.

Whale Watching: watch these stunning creatures – gray whales – pass Big Sur in December and January, on their migration south to their breeding and calving grounds off the Baja California coast. In March and April, they can be seen returning north to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific.

A MUST: if you are very lucky, and you time it right, catch a live show at the Henry Miller Library. An unbelievably magical and hidden experience – a little stage tucked deep in the forest, among the big Reds, secluded and only for an audience of 300. Grizzly Bear, Beach House and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs all played in this mystical place last summer. Doesn’t get more radical than that.


oakland [california].

[spotlight series. lauren geremia]

[oakland soundtrack. sara]

What Brooklyn is to New York City, Oakland is to San Francisco. Still gritty in parts, but rich in culture, diversity and history. Cheaper living and constant growth has made it appealing to many finding it hard to cope with crazy rents in the city. We only had a day to explore this side of the bridge, but we loved what we saw (thanks to some awesome local lowdown from friends in SF) and we found lots of fun things to share. There were also a bunch of other recos that we didnt manage to get to, but we decided to include them below in case you might have more time. We know we will back there soon. The Oakland seed has been planted, and we want to see it grow.

To caffeinate.

Blue Bottle: our favorite of all the Blue Bottles we have found so far. Housed in the old WC Morse building, there are more beautiful big windows here than you could possibly imagine. A light, bright and happy space - the coffee, as is always the case with Blue Bottle - will not disappoint.

Bicycle Coffee: there is nowhere to sit or hang out, but the coffee is good (in the less pretty/more industrial part of town).

To eat.

Bakesale Bettys: an Oakland institution. You come here for a fried chicken sandwich, and you come here bang on 11am (because they are only open from 11am-2pm, and they sell out everyday). Founded by a fellow Australian - Alison Barakat - these sandwiches mean business. A must when in Oakland.

Curbside Creamery: for ice cream in the Temescal Alley. Quality, artisanal scoops - both dairy and (amazing) cashew-based vegan.

Ramen shop: a purveyor of artistic, organic, and sustainable ramen. A must.

To shop.

Temescal Alley: a cute little alleyway filled with bright boutiques and friendly faces. A barbershop, a florist, clothing, jewelery, ice cream, and more. We especially like:

Ali Golden: beautiful airy dresses, and other goodies, all handmade locally. 

Crimson Hort: the most gorgeous plant store, for all things hoticultural.

Neigbor: a gorgeous home and garden shop with artisan and vintage pieces for home decor, gifts and interior design.

Cruise along Piedmont Avenue, check out these:

Good stock: for gifts and accessories.

Mercy vintage now: for awesome vintage and consignment. 

To do.

Book a tour of St George Spirits, a Gin Distillery - their bottles are stunning. Im obsessed.


We ran out of time to check out these awesome recos (shout out to Timmy Crosland, Lauren Geremia, Ali Hall) - so if you go, let us know what you think! Need to get back there, stat…


Pizzaiolo. For pizza, obviously. Awesome wood-fired pizza. A neighborhood favorite. Get there early.

Chez Panisse, Berkeley. Enough said. If you are lucky enough to get a table, that is.

Ippuku: Japanese Izakaya style dining bar.

Penrose: for dinner.

Boot and shoe service: busy pizzeria.

Brunch outside at the colorful, Doña Tomás.

Kronnerburger: seriously recommended.

Real Miss Ollies: for Caribbean soul food.

Donut dolly: the daughter of chez panisse pastry chef, Hannah Hoffman now applies the same Alice Water’s simple, thoughtful cooking policy to her doughnuts. Amazingly interesting flavors. 

Bartavelle Coffee and Wine Bar: for toast and coffee: great after a hike in Berkeley Hills.

Camino: a rustic Californian eatery, very photo-worthy (we hear).


Starline Social: a very new and eclectic restaurant, bar, and performance space on the edge of Uptown Oakland. Opened in April 2015.

Prizefighter: cocktails and patio.

Cafe van Cleef: for craft cocktails.

Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon: a super old, circa-1883 bar featuring cocktails & draft brews. And patio.


Erica Tanov (Berkeley): for soft, beautiful, clean and pure women’s wear and home wear collections.

Tokyo Fish Market (Berkeley): Japanese grocery store, also carrying many household items.

Atelier Dion: for small scale, custom ceramics.