View of the Grand Plage, Hotel du Palais and lighthouse from my flat.

View of the Grand Plage, Hôtel du Palais and lighthouse from my flat.

 

I spent last June in France, including a week in the Basque Country. I’d wanted to visit Biarritz for ages and it absolutely lived up to my expectations. The quaint fishing village transformed into a lavish seaside resort thanks to Napoleon’s wife, Empress Eugenie, who vacationed there as a child. Napoleon built her a villa in 1855 that, today, is the Hôtel du Palais overlooking the Grand Plage.

A favored retreat of Coco Chanel, she opened her third boutique in Biarritz in 1915, which today is a bookstore at 2 Edouard VII avenue.

The bookstore was once home to Coco Chanel's boutique.

The bookstore was once home to Coco Chanel’s third boutique.

 

Surfing was introduced to Biarritz’s rugged coast in the 1950s by California screenwriter Peter Viertel when he arrived to shoot the film adaptation of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. (And, of course, my boyfriend Hemingway stayed at the Hôtel du Palais during his time in France.)

Because of its location on the Bay of Biscay, the climate is temperate and slightly chilly even in the summertime with moody skies that change briskly, carrying the threat of a hard rain. For the most part, I lucked out with the weather on my trip.

Today, the small city’s French Beaux Arts opulence is coupled with a laid-back Southern California surfer vibe, along with both Spanish and French influences, populated by effortlessly chic, beautiful people. For me, a Newport Beach native and longtime francophile, it was absolute bliss.

Take this Walk

My friend Anouck Jourdaa, an artist and surfer living in South Beach, is originally from Biarritz. When I asked her advice on where to go and what to do, she recommended this walk as orientation. A small and immensely walkable city with lovely vistas at every turn, you can hit all of these spots in one afternoon, as I did.

Miramar &  Lighthouse – The residential neighborhood of Miramar with picturesque chateaus leads to the Biarritz Lighthouse on a cliff at the northern edge of the city for panoramic views.

A view of the bluffs from the lighthouse.

A view of the bluffs from the lighthouse.

 

Grand Plage & Casino – My Airbnb was directly on the Grand Plage where Biarritz’s Casino is located. You can cruise along the promenade and watch the surfers.

A foot bridge leading to a little island along the walk before reaching Port des Pecheurs.

A foot bridge leading to a little island along the walk before reaching Port des Pêcheurs.

 

Le Port des Pêcheurs – A beautifully landscaped sidewalk with stairs crawls up a hill blooming with purple, blue and pink hydrangea leading to Port des Pêcheurs, a marina edged by an ancient stone wall to protect the ships. Here, a smattering of open air restaurants on the water serve fresh fish in a laid-back setting.

The protected marina of the Port de Pecheurs.

The protected marina of the Port des Pêcheurs.

 

Rocher de la Vierge – Translated to the Rock of the Virgin, a small statue of the Virgin Mary is perched atop a rocky tunnel accessed by a small footbridge that juts out to sea for more stunning views. Here, you’ll also walk past the Aquarium and the Eglise Sainte Eugenie.

at sunset.

The Rocher de la Vierge at sunset.

 

La Villa Belza & Côte des Basques – The coast takes a curve past the Villa Belza, a dramatic Romanesque villa with turrets perched on a cliff, towards the long Côte des Basques. Another popular surfing beach, high tides are extreme here and completely cover the sandy shore.

Rue Gambetta – Towards the end of the Côte des Basques, a sidewalk with steps zig-zag their way up to a cliff at rue d’Espagne. This leads to a roundabout where you can pick up rue Gambetta back towards the center of town at the Grand Plage. You’ll walk past adorable, independently-owned boutiques, patisseries and restaurants, as well as Les Halles market lined with trendy sidewalk cafes.

Surf & Spa

Catching a wave!

Catching a wave!

 

Hastea Surf School – I took surf lessons two days in a row at Hastea Surf School on the Côte des Basques and lived out a long held dream of surfing in France. If you think surfing is tricky, try taking a lesson in French! Ouai, ça va!

Irresistible opulence.

Irresistible opulence at Hôtel du Palais.

 

Guerlain Spa at Hôtel du Palais – Not one to pass up a fancy spa inside a historic hotel built for, literally, a damn princess, I booked a lavish massage at the Hôtel du Palais’ Guerlain Spa post-surf. It was heavenly with a massage oil scented with gardenia, night blooming jasmine and magnolia flowers. Worth every penny.

Restaurants

Les Halles – I’m weird. I don’t get very excited when it comes to markets, even in Europe, but I loved Les Halles in Biarritz for its neat, tidy layout and stalls selling everything from the regional gâteau basques (gooey tarts made with cherries, chocolate or cream), fromage, fresh fruit, jambon Ibérico, quiche, sandwiches, café crème and all variety of delicious items to build a lunchtime picnic on the beach out of.

Miremont – This lovely tea house and patisserie made for a perfect lunch at a cafe table outside overlooking the ocean with a fresh salad followed by a thick hot chocolate, which Biarritz is famous for.

Chez Albert – This was my pick for a dinner of fresh fish at the Port des Pêcheurs.

Les Contrabandiers.

Les Contrebandiers.

 

Le Comptoir à Burger & Les Contrebandiers – I stumbled upon Les Casetas festival on the Côte Basques during the June weekend I was visiting. There was live music and food stands from local restaurants. I enjoyed a delicious burger from Le Comptoir à Burger and drank some cold beer at Les Contrebandiers, a Spanish tapas and wine bar, while listening to a pair of musicians play the guitar and cajon box drum. I would gladly visit either of their permanent locations on a future visit.

Shopping

Duchatel – A super chic concept shop with windows displaying wares by designers like Saint Laurent, Haider Ackerman, Attico, Lanvin and The Row. Swoon.

Natacha – A similarly chic boutique carrying everything from Stella McCartney to Dior to Moncler and all the other fancy brands you love to ooh and ahh over.

Hermès – Just a casual Hermès on boulevard du Général de Gaulle next to my flat.

BTZ – This is a local surf shop and brand selling very cool t-shirts, sweatshirts and sneakers.

64 – An iconic, sportswear brand based in Biarritz that’s popular amongst the locals. Pick up a logo t-shirt or a pair of striped espadrilles here.

Angele – Cute, little jewelry shop on rue Gambetta selling so many bangles, baubles and beaded bracelets at an affordable price. Perfect for a souvenir to bring home to friends.

Where to Stay

My Airbnb directly on the Grand Plage, which I highly recommend.

Women's March Daily Tribune

My Women’s March experience makes front page news in Bartow County, Georgia’s Daily Tribune.

 

When 76 percent of the county where you went to high school voted for Trump and your father has the instinct of a publicist, your experience at the Women’s March on Washington makes front page news–and gets more ink than the residents who attended the inauguration!

At least that’s what happened today in The Daily Tribune, Bartow County, Georgia’s only daily newspaper. As a graduate of Cartersville High School, I’m honored to share my perspective with the town of my adolescence.

I emailed my reflections on the weekend’s historic demonstration to features editor Marie Nesmith on my way home to Miami from D.C.

Here’s an excerpt from her story or you can read the full article at The Daily Tribune’s website.

“The rally and march was a total adrenaline rush. There were so many great signs and chants. The message was inclusive and intersectional and powerful. We marched slowly with a crowd up Independence Avenue along the [National] Mall, past the Washington Monument and toward the White House. There was a small band playing patriotic music at one point and a group carrying a giant Constitution for people to sign. When we reached the White House, we made it all the way to the gate and it felt so empowering to be at the foot of the White House with this crowd demanding our voices be heard.”

For Benowitz, the recent presidental election and the Women’s March have underscored her interest in advocating for civil rights.

“It’s been reported that three times more people attended the Women’s March on Washington than Trump’s inauguration and 3 million people marched worldwide,” Benowitz said. “It was the largest presidential protest in U.S. history. I knew a lot of women would show up in D.C., but I was overwhelmed by all the marches across our country and around the world. What a strong statement of resistance.

“On Sunday, I walked past the Newseum on the Mall, which displays the front pages of newspapers from every state, as well as national and international. Every newspaper, except for maybe two, had the Women’s March as front page news.

Walking though the National Portrait Gallery’s American President wing, which turns into the Civil Rights wing, on Sunday was also powerful. It was filled with women in town for the march and on the walls hung nothing but portraits of white men. The disconnect was jarring in the diverse America we live in today. But to see the Civil Rights wing, after having participated in the protest the day before, I felt connected to a legacy of fighting for social justice and equality in our nation, and I felt extremely proud and humbled.”

Read the full article at The Daily Tribune. Let’s get radical! Join the loving revolution! Peace! Thanks Dad!

Edward Hopper Hotel Room

Edward Hopper’s ‘Hotel Room,’ 1931, with an updated meditation on solitude in the 21st century.

If you really, really want to know how I feel, this is an excerpt from On the 2016 presidential election, a personal history and sociological rumination.

“It’s okay, fine, even mandatory to take a political position and not care if you gain or lose readership.” ~ Rachel Kushner at Key West Literary Seminar, January 13, 2017

When Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in June 2015, I had one reaction: This makes me wanna barf.

I may have even tweeted it as a reaction to the Page Six story that appeared on my timeline. Yes, I am a Millennial (albeit the eldest cap of that generation) who gets all of her news and information from her carefully curated Twitter feed.

I was done with Trump as far back as 2011 when he became an outspoken voice of the birther movement falsely accusing our first black president of not being born in the United States and therefore insinuating that he was ineligible to hold office. Not only was it a cruel lie, it was outright racist. Full Stop. Period. End of Story.

I’ve tuned out Trump ever since, turning off the television anytime his face appeared. I had absolutely no room for someone who I considered an arrogant and unapologetic blowhard and bigot. I have found nothing funny, entertaining or compelling about him since.

My small protest throughout the primaries was to continue to drown out Trump to the best of my abilities. I abstained from publishing his name on social media or elsewhere, feeling that any attention given to him was too much. More to the point, I thought it was dangerous and ill advised.

Still, no matter how hard I tried, his voice seeped in through every crack and crevice like a noxious fume. The media, entertainment industry and American public collectively salivated over Trump with wide, lascivious eyes, savoring his name as it tripped across their tongues.

I became increasingly flabbergasted by the tepid rebuffs and conciliatory reporting of Donald Trump, so much of it applied with star-struck awe or horror. Comedians and late night talk show hosts guffawed at their dumb luck, lauding him “good for comedy.” Liberals had a field day on social media, expressing their outrage and dismay through a competition of clever punch lines and memes. The culture industry at large held Trump in a warm embrace.

The “culture industry” is a term coined in 1944 by a group of Jewish German sociologists and philosophers from the Frankfurt School, known as critical theorists. Two of its leading thinkers, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, penned Dialectics of Enlightenment during their exile in the United States from Nazi Germany, where they argue that the culture industry is a tool of mass deception masquerading as enlightenment, composed of film, television, radio, magazines, popular music and, therefore, all art. Today, this would most certainly include the Internet and social media.

“The whole world is passed through the filter of the culture industry,” Adorno and Horkheimer write. From the Frankfurt School’s point of view, the culture industry was a tool to subdue the public during their leisure hours after the economic forces of capitalism subdued them in their working hours. The result being the submission to “the total power of capital.”

For the culture industry’s part, this became possible when high art transformed into mass produced popular entertainment through standardization and the mechanics of industry. Disseminated to the public rapidly through new technology, the culture industry was “democratically [making] everyone equally into listeners.” The effect, Adorno and Horkheimer conclude, is that “culture today is infecting everything with sameness.”

In the 1940s, they were criticizing the tyranny of technology as it shifted from the telephone to radio programs and from silent films to talkies. (“The basis on which technology is gaining power over society is the power of those whose economic position in society is strongest.”)

Even then, the critical theorists were seen as cranky and antiquarian (Adorno famously loathed jazz music). To abide by their theory is to surrender pleasure in almost any amusement.

However, as we forge ahead through the new millennium, with western democracy and capitalism in a state of crisis, the culture industry, with the added velocity of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, has reached a new crucible. I can’t help but think that critical theory is especially prescient in the world we live in today.

What I observed throughout the election was that whether it was a news brief on NPR, a pundit analyzing the election on NBC, the punch line of a joke on a late night talk show, the cold open on SNL, the headline of a New York Times or CNN .com article, what my friends were railing about on Facebook and what the Twittersphere was hyperventilating over on Twitter, everyone was talking about the same thing.

As a populace, we were ground into submission by this constant barrage. While it may appear that we have more choice than ever before from which we get our news, the culture industry’s swindle is in presenting us with “the freedom to choose what is always the same.”

At the advent of the Internet’s primacy and social media, the publishing industry predicted that their future was in the decentralization of media and the move towards niche products. This may have happened. There are more websites, blogs, media outlets, voices, avatars and pundits in the public cultural sphere than ever before.

Each one of us has the ability to add our voice to the conversation through multiple channels. However, what may have begun as a radical, unregulated cacophony of diverse voices and platforms has become a rigid structure. This happened precisely as the industries figured out how to monetize this new medium and they continue to do so with ever-growing sophistication.

What we consume and create on the Internet is filtered through the elusive algorithms of a handful of powerful Silicon Valley companies: Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Twitter. They are the economic forces of the culture industry in the new millennium and they make their profit by exploiting their users through the illusion of control and choice when, in fact, the choice is being made for them. In order to be heard, we have to play by their rules.

From publications to for-profit companies to personal brands, there’s competition for clicks, likes and capital, forcing all of these competing outlets to winnow down their strategy into what gets the most traffic. This is how sameness bleeds through everything we’re exposed to. It’s the standardization and mass production that the critical theorists warned of.

There is something to be said of the information silos created by the left and right during the election. I’d personally never heard of Breitbart News before Trump’s win and I still can’t name any of the major right-wing publications off the top of my head. I don’t watch cable news. My media consumption consists of The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, NPR and, on occasion, NBC News.

Still, this optic of choice is an illusion. As Adorno and Horkheimer explain, these preferences “do not so much reflect real differences as assist in the classification, organization and identification of consumers. Something is provided for everyone so that no one can escape… Even the aesthetic manifestations of political opposites proclaim the same inflexible rhythm.”

Social media is often lauded for its ability to democratize voices. If Adorno and Horkheimer were concerned about radio and movies as authoritarian tools of submission, then surely the participatory nature of social media is a positive progression. There are plenty of instances of these platforms giving voice to social movements, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter.

That’s precisely the potential the critical theorists saw in latter day forms of art and expression. Their criticism of technology was not “attributed to the internal laws of technology itself but to its function within the economy today.”

In the new millennium, the culture industry has been constructed so that opting out is not an option. Technology today holds the false promise of freeing us from the bondages of worker and consumer through mobility and entrepreneurship. In reality, it’s only tightening the vice grip on our dependence of and allegiance to its sovereignty. It’s the stranglehold of a choke collar that, once clamped down, will not give way, but can only be tightened.

So much of how we absorbed and digested the election has been filtered through the Internet and social media because that is how we absorb and digest most things these days. I’ve long been suspicious that we’ve all gravely fooled ourselves as a society into thinking that social media is a positive tool for connection and communication.

We all use it. We all know its benefits. Let’s get those out of the way up front. It’s a tool for self-promotion, staying in touch with friends and acquaintances, and sharing and acquiring information. It’s also a fun diversion.

More than anything, though, it’s a mirror. We look into our phones and we’re looking for ourselves. Not other people — but how other people react to something we’ve posted. It’s become such a deeply embedded extension of narcissism, a trait we clearly can’t escape as human beings, that we’ve all bought into the idea that it is an appropriate manner to view the world and communicate.

This election was exhaustively described as divisive. That’s because everyone is talking and no one is listening. When was the last time you read a political opinion that you disagreed with on Facebook and by doing so, it made you change your mind? When have you ever had a productive debate in the comments section? What catharsis have you achieved by venting your private frustrations in a public forum for all to scrutinize without your knowledge? What urge are you addressing by prefacing your statements with “I don’t usually post things like this, but…?”

We are starved for connection and empathy, but we are not getting it from social media. Instead, we sanctimoniously unfollow, unfriend, block, mute, or worse, I suppose, troll or lament being trolled. But we are not communicating.

It’s one thing to post a snarky comment or spew something hateful directed towards a social media avatar in a comment thread on your computer screen, but it’s far different to look someone in the eyes, another human being, made of soft flesh with blood coursing through his veins, fallible and vulnerable, and actually listen and engage in civil discourse. So much venom is removed in doing so, yet somehow, we’ve stopped doing this as Americans. The result is dehumanizing, racking us with fear, cowardice, paranoia and isolation on all fronts.

This inability to communicate nullifies the effort poured into social media. The effect of everyone talking without listening is the equivalent of everyone listening to their own version of the truth propagated by the culture industry’s algorithms. We’re still listeners and consumers, but in the new millennium, it’s under the insidious guise of self-expression and communication. We’re producing little more than white noise and wasting an awful lot of time and energy.

“Distraction becomes exertion,” Adorno and Horkheimer warn.

The American public, propelled by the culture industry, gracefully dove into the swirling cesspool of election discourse. We’ve become a nation of pundits, with a loose grasp on facts and an aversion to critical thought, baited just as easily as the president-elect, fed by a constantly churning cycle of outrage. We feel an overwhelming urge to participate in this immolation through whatever means of publication we possess, making our fickle knee jerk reactions known to the world with the potential of infinite reverberation

This ecosystem has created fertile ground for the frighteningly rapid proliferation of so-called “fake news,” but, please, let’s call it what it is: propaganda. Fake news is a little too benign. After all, that’s what we’ve labeled programs like The Daily Show and SNL’s Weekend Update for decades. In that case, perhaps we had it coming.

It’s proven such a corrosive phenomenon that on Christmas Eve, a Pakistani defense minister threatened nuclear war with Israel via Twitter because of a fictional quote on a propaganda site attributed to a former Israeli defense minister. There is now concrete evidence that Russia used these tools to influence the outcome of our election, according to an intelligence brief released on January 6.

We are living in Dr. Strangelove 2.0. And we’ve appointed a commander in chief who relishes the blurred lines between true and false, fact and opinion, wrong and right.

Donald Trump has proven himself a master manipulator of the culture industry. To him, they handed over $2 billion worth of free press, more than twice that of Clinton and six times that of his closest Republican rival Ted Cruz, accounting for half of all presidential campaign coverage. One cannot deny that Trump was very, very good for the culture industry’s bottom line.

Where did this American appetite for Trump’s foibles originate? Was it justly served to us because we devoured it with deep satisfaction? Adorno and Horkheimer argue that this phenomenon is merely “a cycle of manipulation and retroactive need… unifying the system ever more tightly.” It seems that entertainment was easier to digest than substance, fact and analysis.

In casual conversation, I’ve heard time and again that at least Trump isn’t boring like Hillary, that people can’t wait to see what he’ll do next, from SNL’s latest parody to the inauguration to his tweets, say what you will, these next four years will be entertaining! Yes, at least we will still be entertained while the world crumbles around us! we rejoice in chorus. There will still be plenty of fodder for your Facebook feed.

“Entertainment,” Adorno and Horkheimer warn, “fosters the resignation which seeks to forget itself in entertainment.” It’s the symbol of a snake eating its own tail.

Despite the post-election bloom of intelligent op-eds repudiating Trump, I get the sinking feeling that the culture industry is happy he’s still around to foment over. After all, they created him and they’ve been having a fun, wild ride at our expense this whole time. As the plot gets stranger by the day, it feels like we’re zealously absorbing the news of what’s happening to our country like a thrilling comic strip or spy novel.

With so much information at our disposal, the culture industry’s over-arching narrative of the 2016 presidential election was astoundingly uniform. As a result, we were stripped of our ability to comprehend the high stakes of our vote.

We the people of the United States of America approached the election as entertainment-starved dimwits hypnotized and manipulated by the gladiatorial spectacle of politics as reality television, while the fate of our nation hung in the balance.

And we haven’t diverted our eyes yet.

If you really, really want to know how I feel, this is an excerpt from On the 2016 presidential election, a personal history and sociological rumination.

zuckputinweb

The world is going loco. I wrote a 1,000 word joke in response and published it on a website called Bullshit.ist. Maybe you’ll find it funny too. Here’s how it starts… 

Mark Zuckerberg looked down at his Apple Watch to check Steve Jobs’ weather forecast. Since Steve died a few years ago, he’d taken on a more omnipotent role at Apple, chief amongst his new responsibilities, updating the iPhone’s worldwide weather forecasts. Now, whenever anyone opened the Weather app on their iPhone, they were getting Steve Jobs’ analysis straight from his Cloud in heaven. Zuck needed to know how cold it was going to get in Menlo Park that evening so he could pick out the right hoodie for his top secret investors meeting with the Russians. Continue reading at Bullshit.ist.

The pool at The Standard Spa Miami, my pick for the best hotel for locals.

The pool at The Standard Spa Miami, my pick for the best hotel for locals.

 

The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler Lucas Peterson recently paid our fair, seaside city of South Beach a visit and like so many travel writers and first time visitors before him, he fell into the typical tourist traps of Ocean Drive and its surrounding streets, rattling off (for the most part) a list of bars that no self respecting local would be caught dead in. He even called Mango’s the “quintessential” South Beach club experience—uh, not quite, bro. See: LIV, Story.

To be fair, South Beach isn’t the easiest place to penetrate with pockets of coolness hiding in plain sight amidst, well, a lot of weirdness. Having lived in South Beach for the last six years, I’ve created a no nonsense guide distilling down the best locals spots in the ‘hood. And, yes, they happen to be places that I personally enjoy frequenting.

So what makes a spot local? 

First, it’s gotta have a good vibe. We like a place that’s both approachable and stylish with serious quality backing it up.

Second, the price needs to be right. It’s far too easy to drop $80 to $100 a head at restaurants of wildly varying quality on the beach (most places being just okay). We want to pay half that. Also, spare us the $18-$24 cocktails, please! We live here. We need a place we can go any night of the week and not feel totally ripped off and despondent when the bill comes.

Finally, we love anything locally owned and operated. That’s how we’re slowly, but surely building a community on this crazy, neon-festooned, tacky, tourist loving, melting pot of an island that’s slowly sinking into the Atlantic. We like a place where we might run into our neighbors that still feels somewhat undiscovered by the masses who live elsewhere.

The Neighborhood

Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. If you want to know where South Beach locals like to hang, the answer is simple: Sunset Harbour. This picturesque micro-neighborhood (it’s all of about three blocks) overlooking Biscayne Bay is where we grocery shop and work out. It’s also where some of our favorite bars, restaurants and boutiques are found. With a central parking garage, it’s easy to access and everything is walkable.

(The only caveat is that this infant neighborhood is ground zero for Mayor Levine’s resiliency plan to combat sea level rise. From tearing up the streets to raising the sidewalks, it’s been in a perpetual state of construction for, well, as long as the neighborhood’s been on the map with no signs of letting up anytime soon.) What can we do?

These are the best local spots in Sunset Harbour:

Where to Eat:

With its wide-ranging menu (from short rib pappardelle to tofu gado gado) featuring plenty of healthy options, Icebox is my go-to, post-yoga dinner spot. With a solid wine list, cocktail menu and crave-worthy selection of homemade cakes by the slice, you can make a meal here as indulgent as you wish.

The dining room at Paradigm Kitchen

The dining room at Paradigm Kitchen

 

Fast, casual and healthy is the name of the game in South Beach and I love the latest from Jugofresh’s Matthew Sherman. Paradigm Kitchen opened in October, dishing up fresh poke bowls, haloumi salads, lamb kebab wraps and (free!) crystal enhanced water at breakfast and lunchtime. Yes, your chakras will be aligned and your body will be nourished after a meal here.

Locals love anything Pubbelly and Pubbelly Sushi, with its delicious, creative, deconstructed sushi and tapas, reigns supreme.

Al fresco dining at Lucali for the best pizzas on the beach

Al fresco dining at Lucali for the best pizzas on the beach

 

It might be imported from Brooklyn, but South Beach locals have claimed Lucali for their own. Inside an industrial space that still manages to feel homey, Lucali’s brick oven pizzas are the best on the beach. Other standout dishes include their meatballs and kale Caesar salad.

Where to Drink:

And speaking of Lucali, their adjacent cocktail bar Bay Club is my favorite drinking den on the beach. With a well-edited cocktail list, talented bartenders and personal sized pizzas served in a charming indoor-outdoor setting, it’s perfection post-work or late night.

Lights up at the dirty Purdy.

Lights up at the dirty Purdy.

 

And if you’re at Bay Club late, you might as well swing by Purdy Lounge to dance off the pizza and cocktails—and order some high ABV Chimays to keep the party going. This slightly divey bar (lovingly called the “dirty Purdy”) was here before the neighborhood developed into what it is today and longtime Miami locals love it—or at the very least, have fond memories of their younger days here.

Where else in South Beach can you order a locally roasted cup of coffee, set up your laptop and (pretend? to) get to work? That’s what Panther Coffee is here for. Also, for mini Vegan cupcakes.

Where to Exercise:

Amy Dannheim and Paul Toiuszis, Miami's finest.

Amy Dannheim and Paul Toliuszis, Miami’s finest.

 

Two of Miami’s most gifted yoga teachers, Amy Dannheim and Paul Toliuszis, teamed up to open Tropical Vinyasa in September. The bright, airy yoga studio has serious good vibes and a talented, diverse roster of teachers.

Sunset paddles with South Beach Kayak.

Sunset paddles with South Beach Kayak.

 

South Beach Kayak is the neighborhood’s original kayak and standup paddleboard outfitter. Owned by longtime Miami Beach locals, the Sherman family, this is the place to go for a whirl on Biscayne Bay.

Where to Shop:

Selling soft, sumptuous lingerie, loungewear, bikinis and cover-ups, Eberjey, founded in 1996 by Mariela Rovito and Ali Mejia, is one of Miami’s fashion success stories.

Trendy shopping abounds at Frankie.

Trendy shopping abounds at Frankie.

 

Frankie. is where to shop when you’re in the mood to splurge on a trendy outfit for a night out or chic casual wear.

Market is where to shop when you want to save on trendy basics.

On the racks at Sunset Clothing Co.

On the racks at Sunset Clothing Co.

 

Sunset Clothing Co. is where to shop if you’re a dude. (There’s also casual women’s clothing).

 

Local Bars

We like to keep things fresh in South Beach, so when a new cocktail bar pops up tucked away off Collins Park, we’re all about it. Conceived by legendary Miami mixologist John Lermayer, Sweet Liberty serves up a sweet cocktail and food menu (cauliflower nachos, anyone?). It was also named Best New American Bar at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards in July.

You're really cool if you like the Deuce.

You’re really cool if you like the Deuce.

 

A certain breed of Miami hipster dudes take great pride in their love of Mac’s Club Deuce, South Beach’s ultimate dive bar—and for good reason. It’s dark and dingy with a pool table, the drinks are cheap, the jukebox is good and the characters who hang out there are stranger than fiction. We’re talking eye patches and face tattoos. Drink up!

For a bar-lounge-club hybrid—you know, a place where you can have equal amounts of fun on the dance floor or at the bar and still end up getting hit on, head to Bodega or Radio.

 

Local Restaurants

For crepes in a cozy café that transports you to a sidewalk in France, look no further than A La Folie, hidden on the non-touristy end of Española Way.

We like healthy, organic food in South Beach, so we frequent the newly opened fast-casual Dirt for its super fresh and delicious menu of salads, bowls and sandwiches.

After lunch at The Cafe, don't forget to browse the shelves at Books & Books

After lunch at The Cafe, don’t forget to browse the shelves at Books & Books

 

As far as I’m concerned, The Café at Books & Books is the only palatable restaurant on Lincoln Road (aside from Shake Shack, of course). They serve a wide-ranging menu of salads, sandwiches and entrees. Bonus: You can browse the shelves at Books & Books afterwards.

Some Italian options: Macchialina (helmed by James Beard Award Best Chef semifinalist Michael Pirolo, pasta dishes are only $10 on Thursdays)Via Emilia 9 (with outrageous charcuterie boards and sumptuous pasta) and Sylvano’s(authentic, rustic Italian in a romantic, indoor-outdoor setting off Collins Park).

 

Locally Loved Hotels

I’m anointing The Standard (pictured at top) as the best hotel for locals. Whether you’re a member or not, the place is a picturesque haven on Biscayne Bay, perfect for a spa day, sunset happy hour, yoga class or meditation workshop. It’s one of those places that reminds us how lucky we are to live amidst beautiful weather and beautiful people.

Cool dude Chef Spike!

Cool dude Chef Spike!

 

While its tourist-central location at 15th and Collins stacks the decks against it, I’m rooting for The Hall to become a popular locals spot. With chilled out, surfer dude, celeb chef Spike Mendelsohn behind the menu at pool bar Sunny’s and beer garden Campton Yard, the grub is tasty and priced right. It might be the only place on the beach with a solid cocktail menu at $10, plus they’re wooing locals with a 15 percent discount.

When You Really Want to Get Crunk

DAVINCII!!!!!!

DAVINCII!!!!!!

 

It’s not a total accident that we’ve chosen to live on a barrier island swimming with debauch nightclubs that go hard until sunrise. When we really want to throw down, we head to LIV or Story 

For a party in a smaller venue that can be just as wild, head to Basement at The Miami Beach EDITION (also see: Rec Room at Gale hotel) where there’s not only a Discobox dance club, but also an ice skating rink and four-lane bowling alley. I’m a big fan of the hotel’s casual dining restaurant Market by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Matador Bar for top-notch cocktails in a sexy setting. Neither, however, are priced for locals.

While the crowd here often skews to bizarre beyond explanation, Faena is still just too damn pretty to completely ignore. See if you can charm your way into their speakeasy Saxony Bar accessed down a spiral staircase to the right of the gilded lobby cathedral for your best shot at a good vibe.

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

Women of Impact dinner honorees

Women of Impact dinner honorees

 

On Sunday evening, I joined a group of 20 Miami women for a special dinner party thrown by Vanessa James of Vanessa James Media and the Lincoln Motor Company. Held at one of my favorite South Beach restaurants, Lure Fishbar at the Loews Hotel, it was an evening to honor multicultural Women of Impact in the arts, media and entertainment industries.

jen-van-shayne

With fellow writer Jennifer Agress and our hostess with the mostest Vanessa James.

 

Vanessa was a gracious hostess and emcee for the evening, bringing us together to connect, share our stories and discuss our triumphs and our struggles.

Check out the fancy recap video above to get an idea for how the evening unfolded.

The evening was also presented by DELL and we were all gifted MantraBands. I got a silver one that reads, “You Got This,” and a gold one that says, “Be you. Love you. All ways. Always.” They’re beautiful and a gift I would definitely give to my girlfriends.

Obvs the first three words you think of to describe me!

Unmatched. Delightful. Inspiring… Obvs the first three words you think of to describe me!

 

As I said in the recap video posted above, “It was a great dinner. It was a great evening to connect with a really dynamic group of women. I learned a lot. I think we really felt like we came together on a lot of common themes.”

smile

Congrats to all the honorees. I was honored to be a part of it.

 

I left with a feeling of solidarity and sense of purpose for the year ahead. Thank you Vanessa James!

champagne

Cheers, y’all!

NaplesSunset

The sunset from a balcony at Edgewater Beach Hotel.

 

Perhaps you just need a change of scenery.

Once you emerge on the other side of Alligator Alley after a two-hour drive, the west coast of South Florida unfurls against the powder white sands of the Gulf of Mexico where Naples is nestled into a corner of the Everglades. Here, you’re never far from a mangrove estuary as herons and brown pelicans swoop peacefully through the sky and you can consistently rely upon dolphin sightings just offshore.

It’s a favored destination of wealthy snowbirds and retirees—their stucco and limestone manses are built waterfront along the gulf and its canals. But there’s also a more down to earth year round locals scene to be discovered.

After a long weekend there, I decided Naples has a touch of sophistication with its neatly landscaped Mediterranean Revival downtown district, and a touch of the rough-and-tumble as locals stream down the avenue on longboards, barefoot in cutoff jeans on their way to the beach.

Where to Beach

ClamPass

The boardwalk to the beach through Clam Pass Park.

 

For Miamians accustomed to the Atlantic Ocean, a trip to Naples should involve the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico if only to be reminded of their difference and, more importantly, to relax. For an experience that feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret stretch of beach, head to Clam Pass Park, a mangrove estuary at the foot of the Naples Grande hotel. After a 15-minute walk through a hardwood hammock along a boardwalk made of recycled milk cartons, I reached the sparkling aquamarine gulf and spotted a gopher tortoise and dune rabbit as soon as I reached the sand. There’s an open air Greek restaurant with shaded patio seating on a wooden deck, adding to the “paradise found” charm.

A popular beach for locals is accessed at the end of Vanderbilt Beach Road near the rowdy Beach Box Cafe. To the north, you’ll find The Turtle Club where you can enjoy dinner or drinks with your toes in the sand and front row views of the sunset and to the south, the Ritz-Carlton’s Gumbo Limbo tiki bar offers a casual, yet chic setting for oceanfront cocktails.

Dining & Nightlife Downtown

DowntownNaples

Fifth Avenue South with its Mediterranean Revival architecture.

 

The thrust of Naples dining and nightlife scene is found downtown along Fifth Avenue South, along with its boutiques and galleries. I met friends at Bistro 821 for pre-dinner cocktails and appetizers where their espresso martini is extremely popular amongst locals. Already starving, I ordered their chili relleno stuffed with garlic shrimp, spicy beef and mozzarella smothered in a refined roasted tomato-chipotle sauce that perfectly hit the spot.

We moved onto Tulia for dinner, with its shabby chic décor, earnest cocktail program and sophisticated menu of sumptuous Italian small plates. It’s as close to hipster as it gets in Naples and would easily be at home amongst Miami’s hot spots with dishes ranging from house-made ricotta with artichokes and Meyer lemon to a simple cacio e pepe bucatini with sheep’s cheese and wood-roasted salmon. Across the street is Paddy Murphy’s Irish Pub, if you’d like your night to devolve into a drunken spiral in a strange, dimly lit pub-meets-club atmosphere.

Otherwise, The Continental is a short Uber away on Third Street where a chic patio lined in white umbrellas hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights and a sophisticated cocktail menu is organized by the spirit. This stretch of Third Street is worth exploring during the day for its chic shops (ranging from Oscar de la Renta to local boutiques) in a village-like setting. You’ll also find Sea Salt here, one of Naples’ hottest restaurants of the moment, specializing in sophisticated Italian by Venetian chef-owner Fabrizio Aielli.

Avenue Five at the Inn on Fifth offers an exceptionally sophisticated place to sip champagne in a champagne-colored dining room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street. Opt for their Lobster Cobb or duck confit flatbread. A more casual option is Shea’s at Landsdowne Street, tucked away in a plaza across the street from Avenue Five. This newly opened spot serves up a wide variety of sandwiches, salads and burgers alongside an extensive beer selection in a sports bar setting.

Where to Stay

NaplesGrande

A guest room at Naples Grande Beach Resort.

 

Naples Grand Beach Resort – With chic poolside landscaping that includes three pools and a water slide, Naples Grande also boasts a spa, golf course and beach access. Rooms are spacious and chic with balconies and a cool palette of blues, silvers and creams. Don’t miss a meal at The Catch of the Pelican with their decadent and perfectly chilled raw bar, farm fresh salads and prime cuts of steak paired with fine wines and peaceful views. From $246.

Bathroominnonfifth

The chic marble bathroom at Inn on Fifth.

 

Inn on Fifth – For a sophisticated stay in downtown Naples, the Inn on Fifth is decked out in a sophisticated Art Deco motif in black, white and red. Rooms and suites are spacious and stylish with large marble bathrooms. From $169.

Edgewater –This all-suite hotel is situated directly on the gulf for stunning sunset views. Take a paddleboard for a spin from their beach hut where you’ll spot dolphins along the nearby jetty. From $215.

Why Go:

For Miamians, a weekend in Naples offers a relaxed pace, the nature and tranquility of the Gulf of Mexico and some pretty hotels to hide away for a getaway that’s easy to pull off.

The Logistics: Two-hour drive from Miami across I-75 Alligator Alley.

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

TheBreakers

The lobby at The Breakers hotel.

 

It’s all beautiful excess in Palm Beach where limestone mansions peer over manicured hedges to pristine, private beaches on South Ocean Boulevard. It’s here, on this four square-mile strip of a barrier island where drivers instinctually slow down, angling for a glimpse  at swimming pools and tennis courts and maybe a Kennedy beyond the gilded gates.

One of the wealthiest enclaves in the U.S., Palm Beach is a mere hour drive from Miami and while it effuses exclusivity, its riches are there for anyone who pulls into a parking spot on unhurried Worth Avenue, so long as you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with those who drape pastel pink cashmere sweaters over theirs while walking a pair of standard poodles past the Everglades Club.

To get a taste of quintessential Palm Beach, check these five activities off your list for the perfect weekend itinerary.

WorthAve

Kristy and Judy living the Worth Avenue life.

 

1. Shop Worth Avenue

As soon as you set foot on Worth Avenue, you’ll observe a quiet that simply doesn’t exist in Miami. Whether it’s window-shopping or power shopping, Worth Avenue has all the spoils in a beautifully landscaped, Mediterranean setting with high arcades, ivy climbing up storefronts and pocket gardens blossoming with bougainvillea. The street is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, with every designer flagship under the sun, as well as boutiques, like Calypso St. Barth and contemporary fashion labels, like Sandro and Maje.

2. Lunch at Ta-Boo

With its long onyx bar and dark, cool interiors, Ta-Boo, in the heart of Worth Avenue, is a comforting lunchtime respite from that perfect sunny day outside. An icon on par with Joe’s Stone Crab in South Beach, Ta-Boo feels like a fabulous fall from Eden with black and white zebra banquettes and leafy potted palms. The amiable owner Franklyn P. De Marco loves holding court at the end of the bar while models from boutiques on Worth Avenue swan through the casual-chic dining room luring the post-lunch crowd and their pocketbooks. The menu of salads, pizzas and sandwiches skews rather traditional with appetizers like shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs, and the wine list figures in just as prominently. Ta-Boo is the kind of place where a large glass of Chardonnay with lunch is de rigueur.

221 Worth Ave., Palm Beach; 561-835-3500

TheColony

Inside a Technicolor guest room at The Colony.

 

3. Cabaret at The Colony’s Royal Room

Step back in time at The Colony hotel’s Royal Room where dinner-and-a-show cabarets ($120 per person) are hosted every night of the week in season and over the weekends in the summertime. Talent ranges from Broadway belters to jazzy crooners singing their way through the American Song Book with a full band. Dress is formal (a suit and tie is required for gentlemen), but the real party starts at the adjacent Polo Lounge post-show. Here, a live pianist keeps the crowd singing and dancing late into the night and the Royal Room’s headliner might just come out for an informal encore.

155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach; 561-655-5430

TheCircle

The dessert spread is a highlight of brunch at The Circle.

 

4. Brunch at The Circle at The Breakers

The Breakers is a Palm Beach institution. Founded in 1896 by Henry Flagler, the sweeping resort covers 140 oceanfront acres, and while it’s certainly a grand dame, she’s not stuffy. Independently owned by descendants of Flagler, The Breakers invests no less than $30 million annually into capital improvements, so these hallowed halls are always at the peak of chic. Sunday brunch in The Circle—a dramatic oceanfront dining room with a 30-foot high vaulted frescoed ceiling and grand chandelier—is a Palm Beach tradition. The spread and service is beyond impressive with a dessert bar that could be a meal unto itself. $105 per person.

One South County Rd., Palm Beach; 888-273-2537

5. Visit the Flagler Museum

Not far from The Breakers is Flagler’s Palm Beach estate known as Whitehall, which was built in 1902. Today, it’s a museum dedicated to his life and career as one of South Florida’s earliest developers. The impressive Beaux Arts home boasts original furnishings for a glimpse into the Gilded Age, a time in Florida when Flagler built the Overseas Railroad connecting Key West to the mainland and a slew of luxury resorts at major stops along the way.

One Whitehall Way, Palm Beach; 561-655-2833

A version of this story originally appeared on Miami.com.

In an effort to share my travels with you in a more timely fashion, I’m trying out a new column: The Hit List. It’s a fast and dirty rundown highlighting what I’ve uncovered in different destinations. Not meant to be a comprehensive guide, it’s simply a list of recommendations to hit on your itinerary if you go–in a similar vein to the Daily Dose. After all, my first impulse to write about travel came from wanting a few good restaurant and bar recommendations in San Francisco many years ago. So I present you with the first installment of The Hit List… Sedona. 

Sedona

The road leading to Verde Valley School.

 

I recently returned from a week at the inaugural Sedona Summer Artist Colony at the Verde Valley School in the Village of Oak Creek. It was my first time in the high desert of Arizona’s Red Rocks and the experience was pretty magical. I spent the week hiking through energy vortexes, exploring Sedona’s New Age-y side and getting to know a diverse cross section of artists from across the country.

ArtistColony

Daniel & Yona entertaining the group at a farewell party for the Sedona Summer Artist Colony.

 

Trailheads

At first I was a little nervous to set off on long hikes in the desert alone, but I quickly tapped into my Wild (á la Cheryl Strayed) side and relished in the solitude surrounded by this otherworldly nature.

LittleHorse

The view approaching Chicken Point.

 

Little Horse + Chapel – approx. 4.8 miles – This trail is part of the Bell Rock Pathway with crazy views at the end at Chicken Point. I also tacked on the Chapel trail, which takes you to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Modernist church built in the middle of the desert mountains.

Creek

Views up to Cathedral at the creek.

 

Baldwin to the Creek – The Colony was located right by a creek for swimming with views to Cathedral. I went with my new buddies Ashley and Chris.

Cathedral

At the peaks of Cathedral.

 

Cathedral – approx. 1.4 miles – This is pretty monumental, more of a climb than a hike, up the side of the Cathedral rock energy vortex with an incredible payoff at the top.

DevilsBridge

On Devil’s Bridge.

 

Devil’s Bridge – approx. 4 miles – Once you arrive, the name is pretty self-explanatory.

BoyntonVista

My heart-shaped rock with the masculine energy vortex at Boynton Vista in the background.

 

Boynton Canyon + Vista – approx. 8 miles – My friend Betsy tipped me off to this hike, where she said a man along the trail plays the flute and gives heart shaped rocks to people he meets. After a long hike through the canyon forest and back with big yellow butterflies following me, I scaled the vista, hearing the sounds of the flute in the distance. When I reached the top, I looked up to see a man with a thick white mustache. He greeted me: “Welcome, you’ve reached the point of two powerful energy vortexes, the masculine over here and the divine feminine, Kachina. Soak it all in and spread the love.” Then, he handed me a heart-shaped rock and made his way down the trail.

Restaurants

Elote – Upscale Mexican in a laidback atmosphere.

CoffeePot

Bomb town huevos rancheros at Coffee Pot.

 

Coffee Pot – Okay, I loved this place. It’s a cross between a funky diner and a Mexican restaurant. They’re known for their 101 omelettes, but I was on a huevos rancheros kick. After my five mile Litte Horse hike, I was famished. I added chorizo and avocado, plus a side of hash browns, coffee and fresh-squeezed OJ. Heaven.

Local Juicery – Self explanatory.

Chocolate Tree – A chocolaterie/Vegan restaurant. I ordered a ginger lemonade with a shot of wheat grass and the Sedona 2012 wrap, which is basically a Vegan chimichanga. It was delicious and filling. They also have blue corn “se’donuts” baked with coconut oil and maple syrup for dessert, which were kind of gross/good.

New Age-y Stuff

Mystical BazaarIn Sedona, there are more “sacred lights” and “healing arts” centers on the side of the road than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means). And, yes, I stopped in all of them. Ultimately, my energy drew me to the Mystical Bazaar where the woman covered in glitter behind the counter explained that her healers approach their readings without ego, working with abundant white light and accessing the higher angels. Sold. I had my chakras balanced and learned that my third chakra, the solar plexus, has trouble firing up, keeping me from experiencing true joy. Other than that I’m fine.

Crystal Magic – Crystal shops have also run amok in Sedona and Crystal Magic was my favorite. I bought some rose quartz for myself, hoping to attract love, and picked out crystals for my friends that I intuitively matched to their auras.

Stupa

The Amitabha Stupa.

 

Amitabha Stupa – I popped into the McLean Meditation Institute right before a monsoon swept across the red rocks, and I was tipped off to a Buddhist stupa in the middle of the desert. What, you might ask, is a Buddhist stupa? It’s an alter with a little baby Buddha on it that you walk around three times praying for peace and the end of world suffering. I loved it.

PHX Stopover

Sedona’s a two-hour drive from Phoenix where I flew in. Here’s a couple of bomb breakfast spots.

Richardsons

Eggs and rellenos at Richardson’s. This was so good!

 

Richardson’s – My bros Tommy & Casey took me to Richardson’s, a New Mexican restaurant, where I ordered one beef and one cheese chili relleno with eggs over easy, hashbrowns and beans smothered in a green chili sauce. Out of control delicious.

Snooze, an AM Eatery – I had huevos rancheros here.

StrandedonLand

My dear friend Eunique Fowler recently launched Stranded on Land, a website connecting travel and outdoor adventure sport enthusiasts. She was kind enough to invite me to be profiled on her site. Eunique recently embarked on a solo cross-country road trip from Miami to San Diego to put down roots on the West Coast and pursue a new passion. I can’t be more proud of her for having the courage to strike out on her own.

Spearfishing in Bahamas' Cay Sals on one of my most recent adventures. Photo by Ian Miller.

Spearfishing in Bahamas’ Cay Sals on one of my most recent adventures. Photo by Ian Miller.

 

As someone who’s made similar moves, I know that as exciting as it can be, it’s never easy and can also be incredibly scary. In my profile on Stranded on Land, Eunique picks my brain about the moves I’ve made charting a course of independence that revolves around the water. I tell her: “I love having the freedom to pursue my interests, to push myself intellectually and creatively, and I love that I’m in control.” I talk about moving from New York to Key West, learning to sail and surf, and developing my career as a travel and lifestyle writer.

You can read my full interview with Eunique on Stranded on Land. Definitely click around the site for other inspiring stories and photos of the beautiful outdoors and people pushing their boundaries.