Travel tips: Your guide to bona-fide cool breezes and a chill SoCal escape
Springtime in Austin has arrived and swept in like a cool breeze, well kind of. We all know April temperatures in Austin aren’t always filled with perfect temps, so we booked a trip to Southern California to get some rest, relaxation and bona fide cool currents.
During our getaway, we divided our time between tony Beverly Hills and the laid back beach town of Santa Monica. Not only is LA a direct flight away on many airline carriers, there is also a little bit of Austin in LA, including local jewelry boutique, Kendra Scott, a second outpost of our own La Condesa coming soon and a relaxed, Austin-like vibe in the beach areas.
We landed at the Long Beach Airport on a direct JetBlue flight. They are renovating this once retro airport to include a new concourse, improved seating, concessions and include solar technology. We still had the experience of landing old school-style on the tarmac and walked outdoors to the terminal — the only other airport where I've experienced this kind of arrival was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Hopefully, Long Beach will retain this feature; it gives a feel of yesteryear, when flying was somewhat glamorous.
We arranged our accommodations at the posh SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills and the newly built Shore Hotel in Santa Monica. Once settled we traded in our shorts for scarves. I never truly understood the L.A. look of tee shirts and scarves until this trip. The sun is so warm, but the shade and evenings are welcomingly chilly, those extra layers come in handy.
SLS was designed by Phillippe Starck and has a whimsical, almost Alice in Wonderland, feel. The common areas are furnished with welcoming seating areas each more interesting than the next.
The front outdoor area has plush couches and rugs giving it a living room feel. The hallways are dimly lit and each elevator landing has a pool table. We didn’t see anyone playing, but if you are so inclined the front desk provides balls and sticks. Modernized rooms are made to feel large and sexy with smoke mirrors at every turn. A built-in wall cabinet conceals a closet and fully stocked minibar (dangerous). Gray slate and stainless steel dress the bath with a large rain shower and more smoke mirrors.
The star of the show here is The Bazaar by José Andrés, the hotel’s main restaurant. They describe it as an indoor piazza; I describe it as simply fabulous. Interesting seating areas wind through a shop area to the right, a main bar and lounge area in the center (where they cleverly invite you to begin your dining experience while you wait for your table).
To the left is the main dining room with an open kitchen, cozy banquettes and intimate tables situated close enough together for you to drool over your neighbor’s dishes, but not too close to overhear conversations. The atmosphere is definitely lively and attracts the L.A. A-listers. The menu consists of traditional and innovative tapas and small plates meant to be shared. Our friends (and frequent diners) tipped us off to the Brussels spouts salad, the olives and the jamon. We also enjoyed a bottle of Reserve Rioja that had characteristics of an earthy Cabernet Franc, perfect for food pairing.
We awoke the next day to a healthy jog and spotted Austin’s own, Kendra Scott jewelry boutique, located right off the ritzy Rodeo Drive at the corner of famed Santa Monica Boulevard. This is Kendra's second retail boutique, and she recently opened a third in Dallas. She is taking L.A. by storm and celebrities including Hilary Duff, Luke Wilson and Mike Judge attended the opening of this Austin original boutique.
We finished our work out in the expansive gym before heading up to the pool to enjoy more of Andrés’ cuisine and some poolside lounging (and working). Later that night we made our way into the revived downtown area known as L.A. Live, home to the Staples Center were the Lakers were playing a game that night.
We made ourselves comfortable at Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 lounge on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton with sweeping downtown views. We snacked on his upscale bar snacks, sushi and creative cocktails while we watched the final moments of the nail-biting game. After the game, ecstatic fans poured into the restaurant for celebratory eats and drinks.
The next day we headed to the seashore and checked into the newly LEED Gold certified Shore Hotel just steps from the famed Santa Monica Pier. Here, it’s all about keeping it eco-friendly and their motto is “trading in carbon footprints for footprints in the sand.”
What they lack in little luxuries such as turndown service, mini bars, etc., they more than make up for in luxurious Zero Percent Collection bath amenities by the Gilchrist & Soames line, plush robes and towels and a bed dressed in high thread-count sheets. Shore Hotel also boasts a heated swimming pool and adjacent hot tub spa. They have partnered with the Sea●thos Foundation, a non-profit which exists to promote education and awareness of the human impact on the world’s oceans.
A stay here is definitely one you can feel good about and we have it on the list for a return visit for the opening of Blue Plate Taco, a sister location to Santa Monica’s wildly popular Blue Plate Oysterette and Blue Plate on Montana. It will serve fresh, healthy and authentic cuisine of coastal Mexico with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean.
While in the beach city, we forwent a rental car and instead rented bikes to make our way around the city’s 8.3 square miles. We locked our bikes (not that you have to, the area is extremely safe) and strolled the shops on Montana Avenue (think upscale South Congress), avoiding the crowds along Third Street Promenade.
Our meals consisted of a stop at Whole Foods Market (there are three within a few block radius) to enjoy a picnic overlooking the ocean on our patio, brunch at the Ivy at the Shore (sister location to the star-filled original on Robertson Avenue in LA), and a stop at an authentic British Pub, the Ye Olde King’s Head, for some Bangers and Mash. We learned there is a somewhat large British presence in Santa Monica and spotted a few pubs and markets.
With bellies full and scarves snuggly wrapped around our necks we wrapped up a chill, cool and laid back escape to Southern California.