Santa Monica // EXPERIENCES

If you spent all your time stretched out on sand or frolicking in the Pacific Ocean, nobody would blame you – but Santa Monica has a lot more up its sleeve for visitors. World-class shopping, for starters: the city’s retail scene is hard to beat. Whatever your style, and whatever you’re after – one-off artworks, covetable homewares, beauty-boosting lotions and potions, big-budget designers or boxfresh streetwear and skater-garms– you’ll find it all here. Since the city is so easy to get around, you won’t waste valuable shopping time stuck in traffic jams or searching for parking.

Explore at your own pace on foot – pausing to refuel at the bohemian beachfront cafés whenever you need an energy boost. Montana Avenue is where the A-list perfect their high-gloss style (it’s also home to some cool local designers); Main Street has its own bounty of quirky boutiques. Santa Monica Place mall boasts amazing stores (from high-end to high-street), breathtaking views and delicious dining; sign up for a personal shopping experience to add a dose of LA-cool to your wardrobe.

Talking of LA-cool, don’t miss Santa Monica’s thriving arts scene; the city has helped shape Southern Cali’s cultural identity, after all. Santa Monica was recently nicknamed ‘Silicon Beach’, thanks to its bounty of tech and internet start-ups; the city is home to a large and influential art community. Pick from more than 120 galleries, public art installations, museums and theatres; you can also expect a packed calendar of concerts, plays, dance shows and other performances. Don’t miss Bergamot Station, a former rail yard that hosts a wealth of contemporary art galleries.

MUST DO ATTRACTIONS

At Santa Monica Beach, you can get your fix of ocean adventures, including sunbathing, surfing, biking and volleyball. You don’t have to be a Hollywood movie star to feel like one, thanks to Perry’s At the Beach: a beachside butler service. Let your obliging butler set up your beach chair, equip you with suntanning lotion and treat you to a chilled drink. Come sunset, stroll along Santa Monica Pier and hop on the Pacific Park Ferris Wheel for bird’s-eye views of the sinking sun. Don’t miss the South Bay Bicycle Trail, which wends 22 miles from North of Santa Monica to the bluffs and beyond. If you want to gawp at some of LA’s most iconic sights, just hop on the Metro to the attraction of your choice – they’re all within reach from Santa Monica.

Santa Monica // HEALTH & WELLBEING

Yogis and gym-bunnies: welcome to your spiritual and physical home. Southern California’s exercise craze kicked off in Santa Monica in the early 20th century. For proof, visit the original Muscle Beach (south of the Santa Monica Pier), which started back in the 1930s. A lean, keen group of acrobats, gymnasts and other talented athletes gathered here regularly to work out by the beachfront, leading to the official moniker, Muscle Beach, in 1933. (Seventeen years later, nearby Venice Beach followed suit with its own version; stroll over to compare the two.

Santa Monica continues to be a trailblazer when it comes to fitness and wellness. Stand-up paddleboarding was invented here, as was roga: a pulse-racing combination of running and yoga, which you can try for yourself on the pier. Join the locals perfecting their downward-dog on the sand, have a yoga session at peaceful Palisades Park (followed by a smoothie at Wildflower Café), or banish jet-lag with a class at BoxUnion: a beats-driven boxing studio that will make your heart race.

For an ‘only-in-LA’ fitness experience, sign up for a trapeze lesson on Santa Monica Pier with Trapeze School New York, go surfing with friendly instructors at Aqua Surf or try aqua-yoga on surf boards. Prefer spectator sports? You’re in the right place. Just relax on the sand or in your favourite beachfront café – matcha or turmeric latte in hand – and watch admiringly while others work up a sweat. You could also detoxify without moving a muscle at Shape House day spa, an urban sweat lodge.

WELLNESS DINING AND FITNESS TRENDS

Health and wellness shape Santa Monica’s menus, too. The craze for beauty-boosting smoothies and juices took root here; try the Cream Party (coconut water and coconut cream) from Juice Served Here, which is a hit with the locals. If you’ve had one too many cocktails at ONYX Rooftop Bar the night before, combat the consequences with the powerful Hangover Cure (featuring pineapple, ginger, cayenne, black pepper and herbal extracts) from the Hive, another favourite at 606 Broadway.

Enjoy doctor-approved dishes at True Food Kitchen in Downtown, which champions farm-to-table fare, or have a very-LA breakfast – including a Beautify syringe with a health shot – at Kreation Juice on Montana Avenue. For the ultimate indulgence, book some spoiling spa treatments at the serene Alchemie Spa and relax back, Santa Monica-style. If your stamina for exercise classes and health kicks hasn’t been exhausted, head into Downtown LA on the Metro Expo Line , for more park life, fitness classes and gyms, and healthy-living cafés, shops and restaurants…

Santa Monica // FOOD & DRINK

Santa Monica’s menu is healthy, playful, exciting and diverse – just like the city itself. Of course, Mother Nature takes centre stage here: all that sunshine (300-plus days a year, to be precise) makes for delicious, vitamin-packed produce, and the local waters are home to delicious fish and succulent seafood. Come hungry and thirsty: Michelin-star restaurants, relaxed taquerias, bustling farmers’ markets, beachfront wine bars, nocturnal bars and enticing delis await.

The good news is, Santa Monica’s relaxed spirit prevails throughout – gents don’t have to don a tie and jacket anywhere (unless they want to, of course). In addition to noteworthy cuisine, California is famous for its world-class wine: sign up for a Wine and Hiking tour with Malibu Discovery to familiarise your palate with the region’s best bottles.

Santa Monica, the birthplace of Cali-Fusion food, has always had a soft spot for farm-to-table produce. To meet the region’s friendly farmers and artisan producers, visit one of the weekly markets. There are worthy contenders on Main Street and Pico Boulevard, but the Wednesday Farmers’ Market in Downtown Arizona Avenue is particularly ripe for the picking. Head here and you’re likely to see celebrity chefs stocking up their larders and scouting for next-big-thing ingredients. Get tips from the pros by having a cookery lesson in Santa Monica: the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savouries offers a range of excellent classes. You’ll learn about classical cookery techniques and be introduced to a tastebud-tempting array of local ingredients.

WHY EAT IN SANTA MONICA

We don’t have enough room to put all of Santa Monica’s gourmet lures on your metaphorical plate, but here are a few more morsels to whet your appetite. For fine dining and unforgettable flavours, visit Cassia on Seventh Street, which pairs Southeast Asian flavours and a Californian philosophy; kick proceedings off with a drink at the wine-shop-cum-deli opposite. Fancy something a little more casual? Enjoy Caribbean-style jerk chicken – and rum-splashed cocktails – from Cha Cha Chicken, a relaxed beachside shack with buckets of character. (Make sure you get the jerk sauce, which stars fresh mango, pineapple and habanero pepper.)

If you love street-food, don’t miss the city’s Food Truck Tuesdays, when an array of gourmet food trucks tout their tasty wares at 2612 Main St. Trusted favourites include Roll’n Lobster, India Jones Chow Truck and Straight Outta the Grill. Since Santa Monica is rightly famous for its sunsets, don’t miss a scenic sunset dinner: try The Lobster restaurant on the pier, or head to Mexican-fave Mariasol for huge portions of guac, hefty burritos and unforgettable views. Of course, LA has its own bounty of world-class restaurants, all within easy reach from Santa Monica: try Italian seafood at Cal Mare, Peruvian cuisine and pisco sours at Rosaliné and ambitious fine-dining at Vespertine…

LA // Choose Santa Monica

Planning a trip to LA? Ditch the stuffy city-centre hotels and traffic-clogged roads: instead, come to Santa Monica and stay at the beach. It really is an incredible place, but don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what some fellow Santa Monica fans had to say, from well-travelled journalists and bloggers to love-struck locals…

‘‘A far cry from the sprawling metropolis that is LA, the independent city of Santa Monica is home to laid-back beaches, burgeoning start-ups and a wellness culture all of its own.’’
Kate Wills, Suitcase Magazine

‘‘Santa Monica is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. My favourite thing to do there is to run on the bike path in the morning. I was fortunate to make it out on some early runs to be able to see the sunrise, and the scenery is unmatched. Santa Monica truly is a world-class city, and I hope to make it back there again someday!’’
Sam Schilling, Santa Monica fan

As well as an amazing beach, Santa Monica has the most amazing farmers’ market too. Not what you’d expect from LA at all. The produce is fantastic.’’
James Martin, celebrity chef

‘‘Being a Santa Monica resident myself, I’m admittedly pretty smitten with my charming corner of this big city. From beautiful beaches to scenic hikes to gourmet restaurants, this coastal neighborhood of LA has so much to offer to anyone who chooses to visit.’’
Allison Norton, blogger

‘‘Whether it’s a low-key choice, like the world-famous Joe’s Pizza, or a more high-end choice such as Giorgio Baldi (Rihanna’s favourite restaurant!), Santa Monica has all bases covered when it comes to eating out. My personal favourite restaurant is Fig: if you don’t order the bread balloon, you’ll regret it.’’
Jessica Barret, Daily Mail Online

I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the ocean coming over the hill of Ocean Park Boulevard. That’s when I decided I was moving from Burbank to Santa Monica. I started looking for apartments that day.’’
Rachel Lazor, local

‘‘Santa Monica, a neighbourhood filled with organic cuisine, expensive shopping and overtly trendy Westsiders, might just be one of my favourite spots in Los Angeles. It isn’t just the raging bar scene or the endless sunshine that keeps me coming back. It’s the local shops, cliffside beach views, irresistible sunsets and the ultimate ‘California vibe’ that leaves me wishing I lived in this affluent and eclectic city.’’
Gwen Lane, The LA Girl

‘‘My first great memory of Santa Monica is when I was five years old; I went to the Santa Monica Pier and rode one of the horses on the carousel. Whirling round and round and seeing the wonderful beach, the ocean and the entire spectrum of Santa Monica – it was delightful.’’
David Partie, local

Enchanting Greece // City Break

PLEASURES CLASSICAL AND MODERN AWAIT IN GREECE’S COSMOPOLITAN CITIES, PARTICULARLY CAPITAL ATHENS

Athens

You already know about ancient Athens; what about modern Athens? The city makes for a brilliant long-weekend destination, especially if you use it as a hopping-off point to the surrounding islands. Embark on a crawl of Athens’ wine bars and Michelin-starred restaurants, including Hytra, Varoulko and Funky Gourmet. There’s no shortage of noteworthy nightspots – try Bios at 84 Pireos Street, which combines a bar with a gallery space and a music venue. Time your visit so that it coincides with one of the city’s festivals: the Open Air Film Festival (June–September) sees some of Athens’ historic sites and buildings transformed into open-air cinemas, with the help of 20 projection screens. Athens & Epidaurus Festival is an annual celebration of the arts, also held between June and August. Have a Saturday night worthy of the ancient Greeks by seeing an ancient Greek drama staged at the Epidaurus Theatre, a two-hour drive from Athens, or watching an opera, ballet or tragedy performed at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, against the epic backdrop of the Acropolis.

BEDTIME

A Modernist Fifties building houses New Hotel but on the inside, it’s colour-pop, cutting-edge and contemporary, courtesy of the madcap Campana brothers, who have styled the joint with bravado. The city-central location, close to the Acropolis and Syntagma Square, makes exploring easy.

There’s nothing stale about Fresh Hotel, set in the hectic heart of downtown Athens: the front desk is an eye-popping neon-pink-perspex affair, and rooms are bright-white and minimalist. The real highlight, though, is the rooftop pool and bar area: you can practically tour the monuments of ancient Greece without leaving your lounger, admiring fabulous views of the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the city itself.

Peru – The Land Of Hidden Treasures

Adventurous Peru

Whether you’re an adrenaline addict, enthusiastic explorer or nature-lover, you ought to have Peru on your wanderlust-bucketlist. Home to some of the richest bio-diversity on the planet, this Latin-American country offers an astounding array of plants, exotic animals and jaw dropping scenery.

If you’re chasing the sun or looking to witness some of the most breathtaking views imaginable, join an early morning trekking tour to Colca Canyon in Arequipa, where you can catch the sunrise turning the distant white peaks every shade of pink in the spectrum. This is unique stuff!

Machu Picchu is world famous with good reason. The Inca city is, without doubt, the most awe-inspiring sight. You’ll have seen thousands of images of the site, but nothing compares to reaching the top, breathing in the fresh Peruvian air, and taking in the raw beauty of this ancient, breathtaking scene.

The citadel is connected with various archaeological sites through the Qhapaq Ñan network (known as the great Inca Road). Varying in degrees of difficulty, you can choose from six routes currently available for hiking the Inca Trail, one of the most sought-after trekking experiences in South America.

Canoeing, mountain biking, horse-riding, trekking and whitewater rafting are just a selection of adrenaline-pumping activities you can experience in the breathtaking Sacred Valley of Urubamba in Cusco.

If you’re a brave adventure-sports-lover, grab a sand-board and glide down some of Peru’s desert dunes… yes, you can surf on sand! Ica is home to the world’s highest sand dune, “Cerro Blanco” (2078m above sea level)… leave this one to the pros. For an enthusiastic beginner, Sarapampa (in Lima) and Camaná (in Arequipa) are two great spots to start your sand-surfing adventures.

If waves are more your style, then the 1000km of crowd-free coastline provides plenty of choice. Be sure to surf in Pico Alto, Lima, which boasts some of the biggest waves in the whole of South America… not for the faint hearted. If your adrenaline levels need yet another boost, Peru also boasts two of the best rivers in South America for white water rafting, and for a bird’s eye view of Peru, pick the ever-popular paragliding.

After all that, you’ll be needing a sit down!

 

Amazing Lima

Lima is the only South American capital with access to the sea. You can start or end the day with a walk or bike ride on the Miraflores boardwalk- the gentle breeze combined with a beautiful landscape makes this the perfect place to enjoy an amazing sunset whilst looking over the pacific ocean.

The capital city achieves the perfect harmony between tradition and contemporary architecture. Touring its streets is to admire its churches, archaeological sites and houses with balconies that coexist with modern buildings housing art, fashion, music, culture, cuisine and endless nights of adventure. In every district and corner of the city, new and stimulating artistic movements are constantly taking shape. Lima shares its secrets with visitors bold enough to discover, explore and experience the city.

Without a doubt, Lima should be visited with a fork in hand. Recognized for being the Gastronomic Capital of America, its streets offer exquisite dishes for all budgets. In addition to hosting the most important food fair in Latin America, Mistura, which brings together all the regional cuisines of Peru, Lima´s culinary variety delights locals and visitors alike. It is also home to three of the fifty best restaurants in the world: Central, Astrid and Gastón and Maido.

Lima is prepared to please everyone. If you like a thrill, you can go paragliding in Raimondi Park, located on the Miraflores boardwalk, where the authorized instructors will give you an incredible ride over the sea. If you prefer something more traditional, you can choose to visit its historical center, which is characterized by its beautiful architecture and is declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. Make sure you take a tour of the Plaza Mayor and enter the Cathedral, which is home to historical treasures including the Baltasar Noguera choir stalls, several side altars and the remains of Francisco Pizarro.

 

Peruvian Flavours

After embracing all of the cultural activities and adrenaline-fueled experiences that Peru has to offer, you’ll be needing some lunch!

To get the full culinary experience you should visit northern Peru, the Highlands and the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. Traditional cuisine never tasted better.

The northern coast prides itself on freshly caught fish and other delicious seafood, as well as Sudado fish stew and locally raised Cabrito kid goat, all cooked to perfection.

Andean cuisine consists of stews, soups, meats, and exquisite desserts made from corn, milk and fruits. These highly nutritional Andean ingredients are fused together in a traditional earthen pot over a wood fire to create the most delicious, hearty dishes. Chicha corn beer was the traditional beverage of the ancient inhabitants of the Andes, and the tradition still lives on today.

In Arequipa the local restaurants, also known as picanterías, are the modern expression of an ancestral custom. These traditional restaurants still cook over a wood fire; a natural source of heat that intensifies the aromas of the food’s seasonings. A symbolic dish from Arequipa is the rocoto pepper stuffed with pieces of meat, cheese, eggs and olives and blanketed with a generous slab of melted cheese.

The alluring Amazonian cuisine conjures up all kinds of exotic treats: ‘must-eats’ include grilled cuts of Majaz (an agouti) with plantain, along with a host of tropical juices from the Cocona fruit (otherwise labelled the “jungle jewel”).

Taste just one of these Peruvian delights and you will discover why Peru was voted the World’s leading Culinary Destination at the World Travel Awards, 2016 (for the fifth consecutive time!)

 

Moche Route, A Walk Through Time

Situated on the northern coast of Peru, where year-round sunshine is the order of the day, lies the magnificent Moche Route, the historical cradle of the ancient Moche civilisation (100 – 900 A.D). These people existed long before the Incas were on the map and archaeological excavations have revealed tremendous tombs, packed with gold and treasures, belonging to the Lord of Sipán (an ancient governor). These ground-breaking discoveries have aided a deeper understanding of the great Moche civilization, which is deemed one of most creative and successful cultures of the pre-Hispanic world, proven by the fascinating mural paintings that can be found in the the El Brujo Archaeological Complex.

Many of the sites are recent discoveries (identified a mere 30 years ago), meaning visits to areas currently under excavation are still possible. The site still gives off an air of Indiana Jones excitement, as archaeologists continue to uncover new artifacts and learn more about this intriguing historical period. The “Huaca Del Sol”, a gigantic ancient Moche temple (consisting of over 130 million bricks), is fascinating and should not be missed. The nationally-renowned Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum is another fantastic place to learn more about the intriguing Moche culture. You can also buy local crafts and authentic food at the site.

After a day of stepping back in time, reward yourself with a delicious cebiche dish in one of the nearby traditional eateries by the beach. Relaxing in South America, overlooking the Pacific Ocean… go on, you deserve it.