Isle of Man

Isle of Man

We here at SoCal, love our home—we love the endless summers, the traffic congestion, the ubiquitous out-door-dining and of course the ability to get to the desert, the sea, the vineyards and Mexico quickly, if the electric car would only go that far…so we take to flight, travel, spend time in other cultures and countries. This time, we have sent our best writer, Niki Smart, to visit that small land between England and Ireland, the Isle of Man, for a summer travel report:

As kids, my sister and I spent a year living with our father in the Isle of Man, and to be frank, we both loathed it. We complained endlessly, or at least I did, and gave it unflattering names like the Isle of Bile, the Isle of Vile, the Isle of Just Shoot Me Please…and so on. You’d think then, that some 40 years later when my sister suggested we go back and reevaluate the Isle of Man, that I’d be reluctant, but I was curious and agreed. Maybe it was time to reassess the place.

Fist off, a 3-hour ferry ride from Liverpool to the Isle of Man’s capital, Douglas—and a quick side note; 40 years later, Liverpool has an amazing waterfront area laden with restaurants, cafés, history, art, culture and much visit-worthy coolness.

As a child, the ferry ride had always seemed pretty rough, but I thought maybe that was because I was a little. Surely it couldn’t be that bad? Oh. So. Wrong! The voyage was as grueling as I remembered, meaning, I came very close to losing my lunch. Arriving in pouring rain, three motion-sickly hours later, my sister and I struggled to figure out how to get to our seafront hotel because the entire promenade was seemingly being dug up, traffic was being rerouted without any clear signage, and parking was a messy bitch. To top it off, since it was a rainy, Monday night, not many restaurants were open, and as we trudged about in the grim cold searching for a place to eat, I thought, “Well, we just made a big bloody mistake.”

The Little Fish Café helped cheer us up with the British classic of fish and chips, plus a window seat looking onto the quayside of colorful sailboats. Strangely enough, there was also a brightly painted wallaby in our view. Intrigued, I looked up the significance because—hello—a wallaby in the Isle of Man? I discovered that in roughly 1985 several wallabies escaped Curraghs Wildlife Park (the Isle of Man’s only zoo,) and had since started breeding in the wild. Apparently, there were now nearly one hundred wallabies roaming the Isle of Man. I instantly felt a kinship to the wallabies who had been sent to the island against their will (just like us as kids), and I was certain those poor creatures longed for their Australian home the way I’d longed for mine during my year of no escape.

On day two, the sun came out, and after a warming, cheerful breakfast at Noa Bake House (a bicycle café in an old market warehouse), my sister and I drove to the opposite side of the island— a whole 10 miles away—to visit Peel. For part of this drive we were actually on the racecourse that the motorbikes use during the infamous TT races, complete with padded corners at the sharper turns.

Peel is a quaint seaside/fishing village nestled under the eye of the ruins of Peel Castle. Built in the 11th century by the Vikings, Peel Castle has a long history, and is rumored to be haunted by a ghostly black dog. We walked the circumference of the castle grounds along rugged coastline and landed up on the tiny, but charming, Fenella beach. My brave sister bought a “kipper bap” (a bun with a fried kipper wedged in it) from a food truck parked right by the beach/castle—salty, but delicious. Look at this menu! It’s not one you see everyday.

Driving 3 miles south of Peel, we stumbled upon Glen Maye, a fairytale place of fern-filled woodlands, 20 foot hanging ivy, a bridged gorge and waterfalls. It blew my mind a little bit because it was so ridiculously gorgeous. Why aren’t they filming movies here, I wondered? It would make a magical backdrop for Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or GOT. I was what the British would call “gobsmacked” by nature. After some staring about in disbelief, a friendly passerby suggested our next stop: the Niarbyl Bay Café.

The Niarbyl Café is down a little country road that leads only to the café plus a few historical cottages. The view was impressive, the tea and scones were perfect, and the walk down to the historical cottages was well worth it. I can’t quite explain what was so incredible about this café, but it made me high on life just to be there. Heading back to Douglas, our chosen restaurant for the night was the Tandoor South Indian Restaurant, where both the service and food were first-rate. My perspective of the Isle of Man was improving.

Day three, the wind hit 45 mph and I started worrying a) about our rough ride back to Liverpool and b) that we might be stuck on the island as the ferry was cancelled for the day. Our day of hiking, however, was not cancelled because my sister insisted on going to see Cashtal yn ard—and yes, I spelled that correctly. The well-preserved Cashtal yn ard is one of three Neolithic tombs, dating from about 2000 BC, and I have to say, it’s pretty stirring to stand before such history. We drove along ever-narrowing lanes, splashed through a ford, and hiked in sideways-rain to see the place, and still it was worth it.

This was followed by a quick stop at the iconic Great Laxey Wheel; the largest working waterwheel in the world. We’d planned to visit the wheel by hopping on the vintage electric tram but the heavy rain made the ride sound less appealing. Having had enough weather for one day, we sought refuge in the Manx Museum where the Island’s 10,000-year history is presented through film, galleries and interactive displays. It’s free and quite delightful.

On our last day, the weather turned kinder, helping us have another “off the charts” day exploring. We visited Castle Town’s medieval, 25-foot high Castle Rushen—a stronghold that served as a home to kings in the late 12th century and later as a prison during the 18th century. If you’ve ever wanted a truly medieval experience, this may be the place to go visit. We skipped from castle life to rural life at Cregneash—a folk village that depicts the typical way of life that a small Manx village in the 19th century would have had. Here we got to see a Manx cat (a cat with no tail) as well as several brown haired, four-horned Manx Loaghtan sheep. Other than the biting wind, I imagine the folks living in the village must have been a happy bunch as Cregneash lies on a rolling hillside with stunning panoramas to all sides.

From Cregneash we drove to the very southwest tip of the island to see the Calf of Man— a tiny island that is a Nature Reserve and Bird Observatory. This was our last and favorite stop because the views were simply spectacular.

Our final meal was at Barbary Coast Grill and Bar, a fun place with tasty burgers that let’s you “spin the wheel” —and if your table number hits, your food is free (not your drinks though, but a very generous offer none-the-less).

Dreading our ferry trip home, we bought “Travel Calm”, and thankfully at least our stomachs traveled calmly over yet another seriously rough Irish Sea voyage. To sum up our trip, other than the jarring ferry ride, the Isle of Man was outstanding. I wish I could go back in time and show my young-self all the magical amazingness the island has to offer. And please allow me finish by saying I believe the wallabies have found themselves a rather wonderful place to call home.

Second Home comes to Hollywood

Second Home comes to Hollywood

The area of East Hollywood where the current Target is being built, very slowly, has a new neighbor. At night, driving by St. Andrews Place, one imagines a new mid-century modern hotel has moved in, what with the amber lighting and modern hanging lamps, its look like something that might be found in Palm Springs, not between Western Avenue and St. Andrews Place. It is so new that Google maps has not registered it. It opened last Monday, and it’s called Second Home. No, it is not for senior citizens, thought they are certainly welcome. Second Home is the newest “workspace” to slip into the vast SoCal terrain. Like Soho House, Neuehouse, Second Home caters to a sophisticated clientele in search of space, light, and working conditions that bring creative types together. Created by London-based co-founders and co-CEOs Sam Aldenton and Rohan Silva, Second Home is the new campus was designed by Madrid-based architecture firm Selgascano, with Downtown LA-based Omgivning acting as executive architect for the project. A lush landscape of light, 60 circular acrylic pods and foliage, it is simply, surprising that this somewhat off-beat neighborhood should house anything so glamourous. Second home hollywood will be home to 250 organizations and will feature: a branch of second home’s bookshop libreria, a 200-person auditorium, post-production facilities, a restaurant, outdoor terraces, and meeting and event spaces.

For memberships, a tour, information visit https://secondhome.io/hollywood

Address: 1370 N St Andrew’s Place, Los Angeles, CA 90028

 

AND ON THURSDAY, SPETEMBER 19TH

Antoni is the food and wine guru on Netflix’s Emmy Award-winning sensation Queer Eye, and his passion for food is completely irresistible. A television personality, chef, model, and now cookbook author, Antoni is a man of many talents and even more fascinating stories.

During this evening event, guests will get to meet Antoni and taste recipes from his new cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen (published by HMH Books, on sale September 9).

Antoni in the Kitchen brings together Antoni’s trademark inclusive and accessible attitude to food with one hundred of his all-time favorite recipes.

This cookbook celebrates Antoni’s love for fresh, casual, and healthy cooking, and the occasional indulgent feast, and inspires both newbies and knowledgeable cooks to get back into the kitchen.

The ticket price includes a copy of the cookbook Antoni in the Kitchen and food inspired by his recipes.

FIDM 13th Television Costume Design Exhibit

FIDM 13th Television Costume Design Exhibit

The 13th Art of Television Costume Design exhibition is back this summer for another year of celebrating the artistry of costume designers and their teams. Television’s perpetual evolution through both network and digital platforms gives today’s designers even more opportunity to create bold, memorable characters for a variety of programming. This year’s exhibition will feature a diverse assortment of shows across several genres–science fiction fantasies, contemporary comedies, and historical dramas, to name a few–and as always will include Emmy® Award-nominated programs from the 2018-2019 television season. Look for fan favorites such as Game of Thrones, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Black-ish, plus discover the latest hits like The Masked Singer and Good Omens,

The exhibition is free to the public and will be held in the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles through Saturday, Oct. 26. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

For information, visit FIDMmuseum.org.

NBA Superstar Russell Westbrook Launches Green Tech Program

NBA Superstar Russell Westbrook Launches Green Tech Program

The LA Conservation Corps (the Corps) announces the launch of Westbrook/Brownstein Green Tech Program (WBGT), an initiative steered by a partnership between L.A. native and NBA superstar Russell Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation and L.A. philanthropist Chad Brownstein.

The program will provide digital job skills to at-risk young adults in the Corps and break down the digital divide by providing skill training for green tech job opportunities to 500 Corpsmembers in Los Angeles.

The Westbrook/Brownstein Green Tech Program will expose Corps members to achievable career paths and provide technology related tools and education. The program will include classes that train students in computer literacy and introduce marketable skills like coding, drone piloting, and computer engineering. The partnership will also fund the second pillar, the Westbrook/Brownstein Green Futures Lab, where new computers and necessary equipment for intro classes will be installed. The third core initiative is the advanced drone piloting career path program. It will be the creation of a quarterly advanced training program designed to position students to enter the game-changing career path of drone maintenance and piloting.

It means a lot to me to partner with Chad and the LA Conversation Corps on this new project. As a kid who grew up here in L.A., I know how important it is to feel supported and empowered by the community. By helping to provide these resources, my hope is that the youth will be able to see how bright their future can be and expand the vision of what they think they’re capable of” said Westbrook.

An initial donation will be facilitated by Russell Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation and Chad Brownstein; with their robust network and partners, they will continue to fund raise for additional programming.

It’s an honor to work with Russell who has a track record of benefiting at risk youth. This partnership is a wonderful opportunity to positively contribute to a city we love” said Brownstein.

The Corps family is so grateful for and energized by Russell and Chad’s commitment to our Corps members” shared Wendy Butts, CEO of the L.A. Conservation Corps.  “For over 30 years, the Corps has championed the belief that building a young person’s confidence in themselves and opening their eyes to their educational and career possibilities can change their world. By investing in the technical skills needed to pursue careers in the growing green sector, Russell and Chad are helping Corpsmembers change everyone’s world.

Wendy Butts CEO LACC, Russell, and Chad

Russell Westbrook, a UCLA alumnus and Los Angeles native has always been passionate about empowering children in under-served communities. The mission of the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation is to inspire the lives of children, empower them to ask, “Why Not?” and teach them to never give up. The foundation works to help children that are facing hardships of any kind, and when faced with that adversity, fight to succeed and to never give up. Russell Westbrook and his brother were taught to ask, “Why Not?” every time they were told they could not do something.  It is this encouragement and strength that Russell and his family want to spread to children across the country. Founded in 2012, the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation is dedicated to supporting community-based education and family service programs while encouraging youth to believe in themselves.

Chad Brownstein has been a leader in LA philanthropic endeavors for two decades, including being an initial member of the 2028 LA Olympic Committee. Brownstein has an established relationship with the Corps, as he previously served on its board as finance committee chair. He has also been involved in positively affecting the lives of over 1,000,000 at-risk youth in under-served areas of Los Angeles.

The launch of the Westbrook/Brownstein Green Tech Program took place Monday, August 19, 2019 at 9:30 AM at the LA Conservation Corps’ John Van de Kamp Center, with both Westbrook and Brownstein participating in a tour of the facilities. 

(Photo Credit: LA Conservation Corps)

Journey Up the Nile River

Journey Up the Nile River

TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE

July 2019

There are many kinds of vacations—the relaxing, island vacation, the adventuruous trip up the mountains of Peru, the majestic splendor of old churches throughout Europe, and then there is the Middle East. A term coined in 1850s by a British India official, it is composed of 18 countries, 60+ languages and nearly four million people. It is the birthplace of most of the world’s religions and “has been a major center of world affairs; a strategically, economically, politically, culturally, and religiously sensitive area.”

So, let’s just say, it’s not Hawaii.

There are over 200 Nile cruise ships. Many originate in the small town of Aswan, which is down the Nile. This is where our journey begins—after we leave the hustle of Cairo. To get to Aswan you travel by plane or train—driving is not recommended.

An overnight trip to Aswan by an overnight train is a unique experience. The train station in Cairo grows smaller in the distance as we head south on a 549 mile journey. Waking early morning, a rattling train is now alongside the Nile River; a country with a long history that hasn’t seen, in these parts, enormous change: Men still pull carts with cattle, horses carry cane sugar. In one brief moment a dead cow carcass can be seen in a small pond by the side of the road. Time has stood still in these parts.

Aswan is a smaller version of Cairo. To be sure, there is a McDonalds, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, and likely anyday, a Starbucks, but for now, it is a popular city that sits on the Nile, with a substantial amount of river boats.

Aswan is the “Jewel of the Nile”. Pink and grey granite thrusts upward through the Nubian sandstone, forming mountains, cliffs and jagged outcrops. While there countless mosques, there is also Archangel Michael’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral—a towering catherdral  in the Coptic architecture — the architecture of the Copts, who form the majority of Christians in Egypt. 

Security is a way of life in Egypt. In Cairo and in places like the Coptic Church, security runs high. Armed guards and blockades can be found at many hotels and indeed at this Coptic Church. But retail and restaurants flourish in the city of Aswan—it is only until late one after noon on a Friday that the azan, the call to prayer can be heard by countless speakers throughout the city—these callers, called muezzinine, are a cacophony of  sounds—it becomes a surreal moment in a backstreet hotel as the soundtrack shifts, the sun sets, we are surely not in the West anymore.

The river Nile. The view of the river as seen in Aswan.

Photograph by Zuke Oshiro

“What you can expect from a Nile River cruise is the adventure of a lifetime.”

DAY ONE we board the Santuary IV. The Sanctuary Sun Boat IV is a contemporary chic, sleek boat with heavy art deco influences. There are 36 standard cabins, two presidential suites and two royal suites. We are greeted as enter the plank by the entire staff offering refreshments and introductions. We are divided  into groups and assigned an English-speaking tour guide, who will accompany us to the various temples along the way. Afternoon tea will be served. Everynight an activity is planned—tonight, after a gourmet dinner is served, we watch as traditional fokloric music and a “whirling dervish” perform.

As one look about it becomes clear that this journey invites all kinds of people—local Egytians, A London-based Sufi businessman with his family, and elderly couple from Scotland, a couple from Cape Cod, a Brazilan opera singer and her daughter, and Egyptian family with their California-based son-in-law. The staff is attentive, ocassionaly too attentive, but the dinner, which is buffet-style, is a nice start to the this ride up the Nile.

A felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat used in protected waters of Egypt. Its rig consists of one or two lateen sails.

Photographed by Zuke Oshiro

DAY TWO a large buffet breakfast is served each morning. Groups gather on the first deck and we head out for adventure.  We journey to the majestic Philae Temple on the Island of Agilika. We begin to make friends with some Egytian locals and their California-based relatives. The temples are surreal. Over three thousand years old, the preservation is impressive. We are to dress like and Egyptians for a post-dinner party. We bargain with the locals to buy a “galabeyya”, the traditional Egyptian outfit. Each night, at dinner you are seated in the same place. We are seated next to a Brazilian opera singer and her daughter. The after-dinner party is a chance for everyone to mingle and dance into the wee Egyptian hours. This is the requisite fun of travelling by boat—it’s a small party, you get to know everyone, and their stories.

DAY THREE we set off the visit the Temple of Horus. We begin to understand some aspects of the Egyptian pharoah culture. The mythology is deeply complex. For example Horus, is the sky god and there are two, Horus the Younger and Horus Elder. There is a surprising lack of sexuality in these temples, and everyone is quite fit. The drawings are impeccable and rarely vary in form.

We head to The Temple of Esna. The Temple of Esna, which was buried beneath its own debris for many centuries, is located in the center of the town, close to the River Nile and only a short walk from your boat through the local market. We are given passage by way of carriage. The remains of the Temple contain a hall of columns with 24 pillars beautifully decorated with lotus and palm capitals. Also notable is that while looking up, astrological symbols can be seen, 12 of them.

To suggest that it is overwhelming is an understatement. One has to pinch themselves to remind themselves of the reality—you are in Egypt, in the MIddle East and these are the temples that Hollywood has been in love with for so long.

So that evening, as entertainment, they have set up a projector to show the 1978 film, “Death on the Nile”. This version features Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian sleuth. Actually filmed along the same route we are on, this two hour and twenty minute film runs late into the Egyptian night—we all retire early for our last day.

 

DAY FOUR The east and west banks of Luxor. This is the big one, the grandaddy of temples. We’re suddenly seeing more people at these temples.  First stop, Temple of Luxor, dedicated to the god Amun. We have had a change in our tour guide! The people in our group requested a new guide. Welcome Medhat, looking like something out of a central casting for Indiana Jones, he is informative and affable. We move onto the Temple of Karnak.
After lunch, visit the Valley of the Kings or The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes, as it was once known. We will have the chance to visit at least one tomb in the Valley of the Queens, and visit the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. On the way back to the river Nile, you will pass by the famed Colossi of Memnon, known in Ancient Greek times for their haunting voices at dawn.

 

It’s over. We arrive at our final moments on board the Santuary IV — saying goodby the ship is abuzz with activity. Rooms are quickly seen to. We head to the Luxor airport to head back to Cairo. We have made friends. We travel over vast stretches of desert, broken by the sudden appearance of a great lake, which seems to run for miles. We are back in Cairo for 12 hours.

There was something about this trip, that for the well-worn traveler speaks to that ocassional need for danger—not physical danger, but to be somewhere where your native language is foreign, the landscape, the people, the culture is vastly different than anything previously experienced. Bali was one of those places, The Maldives certainly. Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, all spoke to a distance of things known, flavors never tasted, history seen in terms of thousands instead of hundreds. Dangerous? Sure—you’re in the Middle East—you cannot get to Israel easily from Egypt though it is under 500 miles away. But it’s Egypt, it’s Cairo. It’s the Pyramids! It’s everything you ever imagined and more. To be sure, there was a moment, leaving the hustle of Cairo in a taxi and the Pyramids suddenlhy appear in the distance—it’s a moment. Crusing up the Nile via a five star luxury boat, that too, was many moments.

https://www.sanctuaryretreats.com/egypt-holidays