PAUL'S PICKS: Toasts, possible ghosts and definitely interesting equipment.

Editor's Note: This is the first article in a new series by contributor Paul Ross featuring field-tested reviews of places, products and services that enhance the travel experience. All are evaluated honestly. If something is just bad, he won’t write about it. If it's really bad, or darn right dangerous, he will warn you. 

Here’s what he's found for you this time:

  • One vintage California hotel with a retro restaurant and a speakeasy bar.
  • One steal of a deal at a top eatery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, that’s ideal for celebrating anything.
  • Two pieces of gear: an easy, convenient and affordable way to communicate while overseas, and a compact, dedicated, hi-def time-lapse camera for less than $300.

 

by Paul Ross

California Retro

Part of my cred as a native Angeleno is that the hospital where I was born has been torn down. I lived a lot of my life in the crawling sprawl of that city. I can’t really say I grew up there because showbiz’s youth obsession has always eschewed “growing up.” Los Angeles is where history barely clings to the margins and a restaurant can boast without irony that it’s been “a tradition since this afternoon.”

I love the rarity of the Big Orange’s old buildings that survive in the corners of reinvention central. The Georgian (www.Georgianhotel.com) is just such a place; her face is a blend of Romanesque Revival and Art Deco and, like many in Southern California, she’s had a few cosmetic touchups over the years. For one who is now celebrating her 8th decade, the old girl looks pretty good.

 

As a nostalgic anniversary nod, the indoor restaurant and the veranda with a view of the Pacific Ocean are offering a ”Prohibition Era” menu that includes both historic cocktails and vintage culinary specialties. Among the classic imbibables are a French 75 (sparkling wine & gin), the martini-esque Negroni, the whisky-based Manhattan and Rob Roy and a harken-back-to-Hollywood’s heyday Brown Derby (bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey). All of these are in the $9 to $12 range. After sipping a couple samples, and eating bygone staples like the Monte Cristo sandwich and Waldorf salad, I was glowing like the sunset and sinking into the woven wicker chair. 

Once the sun was down, I wandered inside the hotel, where deco design furnishings graced the lobby. Somewhere there was music: Sinatra, Satchmo, Cole Porter, show tunes. 

“ ’want to see our secret surprise?” the bartender asked. 

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Use It Or Lose It - A Tea Story

by Jean Kepler Ross

 

Thirty years ago, I was dazzled by my action-packed month visiting a friend and his family in Japan. They live in Fukui Prefecture near the Sea of Japan, but I gazed in wonder at the Gion Festival and temples in Kyoto, kabuki theater in Tokyo, the deer park in Nara and Himeji castle from shogun days. The most delicate and intimate thing I recall was a tea ceremony performed by a friend of my friend at her home. 

 

Garbed in a kimono, our host greeted us and led us to her tea area where a small shrine, with incense and blossoms, dedicated to her ancestors, stood in a prominent spot. She went through ritual preparations and whisked the powdered green tea with hot water in special bowls, then presented them to us to admire. We turned the bowls three times to appreciate the decorations inside each bowl before we drank the frothy tea. At the end of the ceremony, our host presented me with a fine tea bowl painted with fall leaves and gold leaf to take home with me. It’s been keeping me company ever since as a treasured objet d’art and memento of my trip. 

Before I left Japan, I purchased a bamboo whisk and a tin of special powdered green tea with the thought of trying my hand at preparing the tea once I got home. I’ve kept them with my kitchen spices above my stove for thirty years, admiring the Japanese letters, waiting for that perfect moment when I would perform my own tea ceremony and savor the tea. Somehow, the moment never arrived. Maybe I was too busy with life and the years somehow passed. I often looked at my whisk and tea and enjoyed the anticipation, the possibility of someday re-creating the tea ceremony.

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Farewell, My Home Sweet Home

 by Carolyn Handler Miller

 

The sign went up about two weeks ago. It was probably a good thing I wasn’t in Los Angeles to witness the event. I might have started to cry. But a few days later, one of the realtors sent me a photo of it. There it was, firmly planted in the ivy by the stairs leading up to the house: the sign proclaiming that my house was up for sale.

photo by Chris AbbottGoodbye, house! Technically, of course, it’s still mine, until an offer is made and accepted and the deed changes hands. But with multiple showings and strangers tromping through, checking out the rooms and peering into closets, it feels like it has already passed out of my possession and somehow become a public space, like a library, or, God forbid, a gas station restroom. And eventually, it will truly belong to someone else.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m totally behind the decision to sell it. I’m not being forced into this by the sorts of miserable circumstances that have recently propelled so many people out of their homes. Actually, I’m letting it go for a positive reason – to become a fulltime resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place I truly love. My husband and I have been splitting our time between Santa Fe and L.A. for the past eight years, but a new opportunity has now made living full time in Santa Fe completely feasible.

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