"Santa Monica Proper introduces a looser kind of luxury to Santa Monica. Here, along sun-drenched Wilshire Boulevard, within walking distance to the beach, each of the 271 rooms, suites and spaces successfully optimize the city’s abundant ocean breezes and natural light, while the interior design finds inspiration in the organic tones and textures of the local coastline. Santa Monica Proper beckons guests with the only rooftop pool deck on the Westside, a one-of-a-kind setting that includes a Balearic restaurant, bar, and cabanas, where guests are front-row for sunsets over the Pacific; meanwhile, the landmark restaurant, Onda, marks an iconic collaboration between James Beard award-winning chefs Jessica Koslow and Gabriela Cámara." Read more about the incredible details of Santa Monica Proper on their website (and check out more photos below!
Back in September, I did a six-day mountaineering course on Mount Baker, a 10,781 foot active volcano in Washington's northern Cascades. This might very well have been the coolest thing I did all year. In one week's time, I learned how to strap crampons onto my double-walled mountaineering boots (and walk on a glacier in them), set up a tent on a glacier using snow anchors, tie an alpine butterfly knot, self-arrest with an ice axe, and pee in a Nalgene water bottle.
Thanks to David and Ari of Alpine Ascents, for taking good care of our crew, making sure we didn't die, and leading us across countless crevasses, to the summit of Mount Baker.
Staying in a French chateau such as the elegant and historic Château de Marçay is a once in a lifetime experience. With history as a fortress dating back to the eleventh century, the chateau is filled with stone-hewn spiraling staircases and circular rooms built into its fortified walls. But the individually decorated and themed rooms boast inviting furnishings, marshmallow-soft beds, and plush robes. We had a delightful stay at the chateau, enjoying a memorable dinner and a delightful morning at the chateau before continuing on to Paris.
Chateau Fleur de Roques is a beautiful 16th century chateau in the heart of French wine country in Saint-Émilion, France. We stayed there on a recent extended road trip through Germany and France, and were shown wonderful hospitality from their staff and inspiration from the surrounding countryside. With so many beautiful stone details, winding passageways, and comfy corners built for sitting and reading, we almost didn’t want to leave (but we eventually had to keep exploring wine country).
Qasr Al Sarab by Anantara, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
THE DWARIKA’S HOTEL | KATHMANDU, NEPAL | APRIL 22-23, 2019
The Dwarika’s Hotel is a 5-star destination resort in Kathmandu, Nepal. Walk around the Old Baneshwor neighborhood and you would never know such an oasis of culture and beauty exists, but one step inside the sculpted brick walls and you are transported away from the noise and pollution of the streets into a secret garden of tranquility.
The hotel, conceived and founded by Dwarika Das Shrestha in the early 1950s, fulfills a profound dual-purpose: to preserve and celebrate Nepal’s rich cultural and architectural heritage through the vehicle of a world-class hotel experience. In this way, the hotel is a living museum. Each architectural detail is a work of art.
Lemongrass and flowering wisteria waft on the breeze. Babbling fountains attract sparrows and doves that flap heavenward to roost in the tiled rooftops. Whole flowers float in water-filled cisterns and vines clamber up palm trees. The hotel is constructed around a central pool that is reminiscent of 12th century Malla Dynasty baths, and several buildings arranged around interconnecting courtyards evoke a palatial feel. One might get lost exploring the narrow alleyways and vine-shaded brick pathways and discovering new delights around every corner. Shrines dot the property, bedecked in smoking incense and colorful red and yellow ritual powders. The secret oasis feeling is enhanced by countless private nooks where one might while away the afternoon hours with a cappuccino and a travel companion. And when the afternoon thunderstorm arrives to clear the air and refresh the many flowering vines, the covered veranda and indoor fireplaces offer cozy and dry places to curl up with a book and cashmere blanket.
Each luxuriously heeled suite includes such amenities that might make your stay more comfortable: a lounge area, soaking tub, coffee and tea bar, desk (complete with pressed paper house stationery for dropping a note in the mail), two sinks, a basket bursting with every necessity a weary traveller might need or have forgotten (toothbrushes, razors, lotions, soaps, slippers, bathrobes, bottled water, and the like), and of course a dreamy four-poster bed bursting with pillows.
The staff offer world class, personalized hospitality at a moment’s notice. With room service, pool-side delivery, a cozy bar and fine dining options, the hungry guest can certainly find anything to satisfy their hunger. True to the resort tradition, The Dwarika’s Hotel offers a sumptuous breakfast buffet feast.
The highlight, for me, was the daily 7am yoga practice, offered by the house yoga teacher and Sanskrit master. Situated in a sunny glassed-in studio on the roof, the traditional postural practice was energizing, aligning, and educational to this Western yogi.
After yoga, then breakfast, we spent most of the morning intermittently splashing in the pool then drying off in the sun before checking out and continuing our journey westward via the Kathmandu airport (a 5-minute taxi ride away).
In summer 2018, I had the privilege of working for Pepperdine as the assistant director for an international program in which 25 students spent a month living and serving with the Mission at Natuvu Creek in Fiji. If you scroll through the photos below, if it looks like we played a lot of volleyball, it's because we did. If it looks like everywhere you looked was an idyllic island scene, that's because it was. But you'll also see images of work, human connection, learning, studying, worship, beauty, laughter, and helping out any way we could. Check out Pepperdine's international program website for more information about Pepperdine's summer international programs, including Fiji >>
I love staycations as much as the next girl, so when the stunningly beautiful luxury beach front hotel, Malibu Beach Inn, reached out for photography in exchange for a free stay on a weeknight, it took me about 0.3 seconds to say heck yeah and offer a date.
Day 5 is the last day in the 5-day Marangu Route, and the least exciting, because it's all back tracking across the distance you covered on Day 1 and Day 2. All downhill meant no more "pole-pole," much less water consumed, and fewer short stops. I took very few photos and just enjoyed the walk down.
Catch up on the story so far by jumping to >> DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4 DAY 5 ...and as always, please don't hesitate to email me (email@example.com) with additional questions.
^^ These aren't my photos, but I for some reason didn't take any photos at Kibo Hut, so I wanted readers to know what the sleeping quarters are like.
11:00 PM, Kibo Hut, 15,845 feet --
"The lights in our barrack flicker on and I hear Alex, our guide's voice, "It's time to wake up!" Against all odds, I feel like I got a full night's sleep, even though I know it was just 2 hours ago that I closed my eyes. I hate waiting for anything, especially things that cause anxiety, so I'm thrilled to finally be awake and making movements toward the summit.
"First things first, after pulling on my SmartWool leggings and a pair of sweats and zipping up my down parka, I grab my camera and travel tripod and scamper out into the gravel yard to set up some shots of the awe-inspiring Milky Way. At over 15,000 feet and miles from the nearest city, Kibo Hut has the best view of the night sky I've ever seen."
12:00 AM, Kibo Hut, 15,845 feet--
"Headlamps flicker on and Dusty and I tighten our grips on the handles of our hiking poles as we (Patrick, Dusty, me, Alex) take our first steps in single file across the gravel yard, straight toward the towering wall of starless space that identifies Kibo. For the first of many times tonight, I thank God that I can't actually make out the top, some 3,000 feet above. It would just be too demoralizing."
?? AM --
"I have intentionally ignored my watch all morning/night long because I really just don't want to know what ungodly hour it is that I am gasping for air in the subzero darkness. All I know is Dusty is in front of me, Patrick is in front of him, and Alex is behind me, as we lockstep the switchbacks like a cold, derailed choo choo train. Every few minutes, we stop for a sanctioned water break, announced by Alex's chirp of, "Sippy sippy." and then without fail, five minutes later, Dusty or I or both ask for a "Quick stop!" to recycle the results of that hydration back into the earth. Needless to say, it is slow going.
"The walking is not difficult. Our pace is the same "pole-pole" we've been observing since Day 1. Each footstep is laid a couple inches in front of the last one. The agonizingly slow pace is set by whichever of our guides happens to be in front. At this particular moment, it's Patrick. Thus we make our way up the trail like an outdoorsy funeral procession. So no, it's not the walking that's difficult. It's everything else. It's the freezing air with it's unnerving lack of oxygen that leaves me dissatisfied with every breath. It's the cold, constantly waging war on the easy & weak prey of my fingers and toes. It's my tummy, so angry to have been forced awake at 2 am and thus sends me queasy mixed messages. It's the knowledge that this little outing can and will become immeasurably more difficult and miserable as the night wears on and as the altitude increases.
"We pass Williams Point. It's less than a third up the face of Kibo, and well before the going gets tough. A couple hours pass, punctuated by water breaks, quick stops, wardrobe changes, and the growing realization that my stomach is very angry with me. The jelly beans and Skittles I brought along to satisfy me for this journey are unappetizing and not enough. I'm craving real food, not sugar."
Around 5:00 AM --
"Someone comments that it is starting to get light, and I turn my gaze to the Eastern horizon, where a scarlet layer has emerged, like food coloring pooling in the bottom of a glass of water. I also notice the tiny sliver of moon and what appears to be city lights, twinkling in clusters thousands of feet below."
Around 6:00 AM --
"I know we're getting close to the crater rim because the footing has changed from scree and gravel to large, glittery, jagged volcanic boulders that are exceedingly difficult to navigate, especially now that we are above 17,000 feet. Dusty has started asking for "short stops" with increasing frequency and I silently grumble that he's going to set us behind schedule (even though we're not working on any kind of schedule.)"
Sunrise, Gillman's Point --
"We finally reach Gillman's Point (18,638 feet), traditionally the most daunting milestone of the Marangu Route. People say that if you can make it to Gillman's, you can make it to the summit. Dusty calls another "short stop" and comments to me how exhausted he is, and asks if I'm exhausted too. "Yep," my reply is curt. We did, after all, just climb from 14,000 feet to 18,800 feet in the middle of the night. Yes, I'm exhausted. Our guides tell us we've got another hour hand a half walk along the crater rim to reach the summit, Uhuru Peak. "Lots of up and down. Not hard," they say. Dusty's sigh is less than enthusiastic."
Two hours later --
"We are still trudging along the rim at a snail's pace. The sun is well past risen and has brought strong, cold winds along with it. Dusty's "short stops" are getting longer and longer and more frequent. I begin to wonder if we'll ever reach the summit. My wondering turns to concern as I watch his feet stumble aimlessly up the trail and his crestfallen plea to me, "How much farther?" I wonder if I should suggest the unthinkable: to pull the plug and turn around. His strength and resolve seem to be dwindling fast. I had wanted to stride up the last hill to the summit with him, hand in hand, but now I'm starting to regret suggesting Kilimanjaro as our vacation."
8:17 AM, summit at Uhuru Peak --
"Somehow, through brute force of Dusty's will, we reach the summit. Instead of hugging and photo-op-ing and high-fiving like the rest of the hikers around us, Dusty sits down on a rock, completely spent, and stares blankly ahead. I hit the ground in front of him, "What's going on??" I demand. He mumbles something about throwing up and altitude sickness and emphatically states he need to go down right away. "Let's get this picture and go. I need to go down." Done. Three minutes later, we're hoofing it back along the crater rim. This is going to be a rough descent, I can tell.
"Dusty makes it back to Gillman's Point before violently throwing up the contents of his stomach. Our guides are helpful and reassuring, "This is normal. Happens to a lot of people," but Dusty and i both agree that he needs to get down the mountain as quickly as possible. Considering he's staggering, even with his hiking poles, I wonder how this will go.
"Terribly. It went terribly. With legs buckling from exhaustion and a barely conscious Dusty, we inch our way down the same boulders and jagged scree we shuffled over hours earlier. The only thing that has changed is the blessed sun has risen, offering easy visibility and removing the challenge of the biting cold. Now we have different problems: we're exhausted, running out of water, and Dusty is barely staying upright. Just kidding, he just tripped and fell headlong over some boulders. He weakly gasps, "Short stop!" after righting himself to sit on the same boulder he just fell on. His hand is bleeding. From our vantage point at the top of the scree slope, Kibo Hut looks so close and inviting. All that lay between us and the end of our misery are a few thousand feet of down-climbing. By the time we reach the bottom, Dusty was being physically supported by Patrick, and still stopping to rest every hundred feet or so."
11:30 AM --
"We inch back into camp amid high fives and applause from our porters, one of whom offers a tray of celebratory mango juice, no doubt carried on his own back, every step of the way from the gate, some 8,000 feet below. I do my best to act celebratory, relieved, and appreciative as I accept one of the mugs of juice, but all I'm feeling is broken. And worried sick about Dusty, who is still being supported by Patrick a few paces behind me. He hungrily guzzles the juice and half a liter of water and we both immediately sit on the edges of our bunk beds back in Kibo Hut. He already looks ten times better—just an exhausted version of himself, which is understandable at this point. We exchange a few short sentences of congratulations, he takes an Advil, and then violently vomits up all the juice and water and Advil he just swallowed. He runs out into the gravel yard and vomits again. All the porters stop their conversations and stare at this shirtless bearded mzungu and his wife, wearing only base layers, having a rough moment. Looks like no rest for the weary. And no food for the hungry. We go back inside, pack up our rucksacks, and leave Kibo to see if the "lower" altitude of Horombo Hut (12,204 feet) stabilizes his stomach."
3 hours later, at Horombo Hut --
"Dusty is completely back to normal, which confirms our suspicion of altitude sickness. Walking down the trail that took us 6 hours to walk up yesterday shows us the astonishing effect altitude has on our ability to do just about anything. It also reveals the genius of the "pole-pole" pace, which keeps hikers from reaching exhaustion and turns this 20-mile assault on the mountain into a war of attrition that pretty much anyone can win. As long as you go slow enough, hydrate enough, and breathe enough, you CAN summit Kilimanjaro."
I live in Malibu, Calif.,