Venice . . . as the day begins

Venice . . . as the day begins
Ah Venice, La Serenissima, you temptress, you beauty, you moody city on the water. It never loses its attraction – Venice is a living city that is hounded and trampled on by thousands of tourists every year, her waters are cruised by mega-liners that dwarf and threaten the low-rise city silhouette and the Grand Canal has so many boats washing the waters to the foundations of the ancient buildings that you would think the whole place would crumble in a minute.
Flooded by ‘aqua alta, a natural phenomenon that has occurred for centuries when especially high tides force water from the Adriatic into the Venetian lagoon. This happens about four times a year and especially during winter. (Walking platforms are erected and the water normally drains off by midday. Take your wellies.)
St Mark’s Square under water – extra hands on deck needed to keep the tourists dry.
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But not so. ‘Venice is sinking’; has been the harbinger of doom for a couple of centuries but she still stands. Admittedly, she’s high maintenance and her upkeep is costly – but – still standing.
And Venice is expensive and complicated. But let’s look away from the seductive beauty for a minute and peek beneath the practicalities of this city:
* All the food consumed on the islands has to be brought in from the mainland. Deliveries continue all day long with boats carrying crates of fruit and veg – and remember – this is Italy, and fresh food every day is on the table! The fish – and what a mighty fine display for piscatorial indulgence is being snapped up at the Rialto markets and being delivered at dawn each day.

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Top: best from the local market; early morning window cleaning – all the shops are spic and span; above: picking up the trash.

* Much of the breads and pastries are made in-house – but all the ingredients have a high price as they are delivered by hand after a journey from all over the country.
* Those crisp linen towels, tablecloths and napkins that we enjoy in hotels and restaurants are all taken off the islands to laundries for cleaning – imagine the number of items that leave here and have to be delivered back again to the restaurants and hotels.
* And the garbage. Large bags have to be transported every day off the island – and there’s a lot of it. Interesting is the fact that the locals – and there are 60,000 residents here, who lower their bags down on little pulleys as there are rarely any lifts (elevators) in any of the buildings except the big hotels. Men, running through the tiny lanes with carts, pick the bags up and take them to the boats. And the empty bottles – not all mine either.

Bagsdropped down over night to be picked up by the garbos.

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When you leave the touristy areas of Venice – and discover the life of the city beyond a gondola ride and an aperitif on a balcony overlooking the Grand Canal – there’s the domestic hum and buzz like any other city,.
And the locals! Someone said that if anyone is seen running or jogging around Venice, they are tourists. Venetians and all who work here do not need to do this. Because all of Venice is walkways and canals – there is no transport at all – except for the feet. You don’t see any overweight Venetians, they are lean and wiry. The older folk here, with or without walking sticks, tread slowly, firmly and determinedly as they stick to the right sides of the walls of the lanes and alleys; younger people with high heels, or flat shoes, walk everywhere briskly, and anyone delivering or removing anything by cart – runs.

Morning delivery.

I had two days of blinding beauty under an unseasonal bright blue autumn sky in the city and was fortunate enough to head out early in the morning as Venice was waking up. Start your walk early in the morning and you’ll feel the rhythm of the streets and lanes start to crank up. The side of the city that we don’t see is working hard to give the visitors the true elegant, charming, Venetian experience.

So where do you think those pristine sheets came from, who ironed your pillow cases, who delivered the wine, and who is taking out the trash today?
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Writer Bev Malzard first visited Venice in a misty, cold February years ago and likes to go back in autumn or winter to avoid the crazy crowds and the stifling heat contained within the lanes. A journey across the lagoon through the moody blues of the winter day will take you to the pretty islands – yet again, without the crowds.
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How to make cheese, the easy whey!

How to make cheese, the easy whey!

A couple of years ago I was in New Zealand’s North Island, hanging out with an old friend who had matured like fine wine – and good cheese. We were once young gals, way back,  tearing the town up in a village in Greece – there’s more to that story. Following is how she taught me to make cheese. Her and her husband and the goats have moved locations now and I’m waiting to see where the next cheesemaking establishment will appear. Following is my experience:

I like cheese. Cheese is my hero. Cheese is my friend. As a friend it introduces me to the world. Certain tastes send me to Provence in France, a dry parmesan cut from a huge, aged wheel takes me to a remembered trattoria in Perugia, Italy, a large slice of room temperature manchego transports me back to Spain and has me singing ‘the man from La Mancha’. My relationship with cheese had been rather shallow, but last year I saw my first cheese master (mistress) at work creating heaven. (See blog post In Praise of Cheeses, posted 29 April, 2017). Narcissi Municio was making a raw milk cheese that I can only describe after eating far too much of it – if that’s a thing – as life-changing – Torta del Casar.

Absolutely nothing to do with cheese making, but look at these pretty eggs that came from the chooks at Franklin Gardens.

And to see the workings on a biggish scale opened my eyes to the creation from whoa to go! Well, not quite. I didn’t meet the animals from whence the mighty milk came from.

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Recently I had the opportunity to make cheese! I’m not now going into full artisan cheese making in my postage stamp size kitchen, but it was a wonderful experience and made me more appreciative of what went into my indulgences.

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An old friend of mine who I used to party hard with many moons ago now lives in New Zealand on a little farm where six goats (three pregnant), two dogs (rescue cuties), three cats (one a mongrel thief), 12 sociable chooks and several ducks and geese that scurry, and a husband reside.

Jas milking, me stirring, one dog staring . . .

My mate Jasmin learned to make cheese when she acquired the goats. She travelled to Italy to take master classes and now does modest cheesemaking courses for keen enthusiasts – what are they called? Formagios, Cheddarists? She lives in Paparoa, Northland New Zealand, a couple of hours drive north of Auckland, on a drive through an impossibly beautiful green landscape.

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So time for me to don the apron and learn how to make cheese – today it will be haloumi. The goat was milked the day before and the fresh, creamy, raw, organic milk was refrigerated overnight. Next morning, three litres of the milk were strained into a vat and then heated til temp. reached 32deg. exactly, and kid rennet was added to set the curd.

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This was serious, it was all about the temperature.

Straining the milk. This cat was nowhere near the cheesemaking, even though he would like to be – just thought he would add to the ambience of the post! (His name is Roo.)

The milk cooled and I could see it separating away from the edge of the vat. Just looked like junket – back to curds and whey again! (After production the whey went to the chooks for happy hour.) The curd is soft because it is goat’s milk and doesn’t have a lot of fat. The long spatula was inserted and I began the process of slicing through the curd in lines, crisscrossing in an even measurement.

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Cutting the strained curd. There’s that damn cat again – he was not in the cheese making room, I promise!

I lifted the mixture out and placed it in square plastic tubs, evenly packing it so the whey would drain into a tray beneath. The little containers were left for a while until all the whey had disappeared down the whey way! Turning the blocks of dry cheese out onto a board I then sliced through the squares in reasonably straight lines to create rectangles of haloumi.

The (almost perfect, if I do say so myself) rectangles, that had been salted on both sides were then dropped into the whey that had been heated up ,and let cook for a few minutes until the pieces floated to the top.

They were then removed from the whey and set aside to cool. When cool the slices were gently placed in a storage box destined to become dinner that night.

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All in all it was the best experience and even though it looks like I’m the Cheese Whisperer, the real champion of this venture was the Big Cheese Jasmin Futter in the background guiding me every step of the way.

We ate the cheese that night (little olive oil in pan – cook one minute each side), had it with salad and thought it ever so fine.

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We took several slices back to Auckland to have the next night. Same drill and it was better than the night before. I can honestly say I have eaten my share of haloumi over the years but this was the best squeaky haloumi I ever tasted. So thank you Jasmin and thank you goats.

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey . . . what the heck is a tuffet?

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Cheesy grins from the Big Cheese and The Cheese Whisperer.

If you are interested in learning the dark arts of cheese making have a look at @Fromage at Franklin in Paparoa Cheesemaking Classes on Facebook or email Jasmin Futter jasfutter14@gmail.com

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Take me to the Greek!

Take me to the Greek!

It was a few years ago now. Time has taken on another meaning since the pandemic has stifled our yearnings for far away places and hindered actual travelling, but memories never fade.

The journey began in Athens. SeaDream 1 was waiting for us in Piraeus and it wasn’t too long before we had stowed our gear in elegant staterooms. Up on deck, guests were catching the last of summer’s bright rays. (SeaDream yachts chase the sun, and after the Mediterranean, the Caribbean was the ships next playground for November to March.)

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We departed Piraeus on an afternoon, fresh from summer in October through a flint-like clarity of light.

BUT this is about food – before we took off on our cruise from Greece to Italy, we had two days in Athens. So, this posting is pictures of food – which we ate lots of.

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More cats on Hydra and a splendid lunch of bread, maridaki (white bait), Greek salad and Greek beer. Nothing could be finer.

 

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Now, being a Greek tragic (I claim it as my spiritual home) I wanted to show off to my travelling companion. I wanted to drop in a few words from the language (which I was trying to remember), point out the ancient tiles along the footpath, order a diabolical ‘cafe metreo’, find the best baklava in town and generally want her to fall as much in love with the capital city as I was.

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This cat on the island of Hydra is not edible.

I had lived in Greece many years ago. I came here for three months and ended up staying intermittently over a period of three years. It was love at first step off the plane. I embraced the lifestyle and took to the afternoon siesta like a sloth in syrup.

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There are many nuts in Greece!

I worked at anything (almost) to keep me here and found a perverse joy in lugging watermelons, picking oranges, cooking in restaurants (yep, don’t know how that happened), cleaning houses, running holiday villas for English tourists and hosting (with a couple of other Aussie mates), barbecues on remote beaches to make money. It was the time of my life and there are so many stories to still tell.

I love the food, and as an-on-the-cheap traveller, a fresh salad, a pot of divine yoghurt, honey, bread straight from the bakery and a coffee was always affordable.

I wanted to revisit the food and markets – and my mate Jane Hodges took these images as mine have gone the way of an unnatural cyber disaster. The markets in Athens are a marvellous introduction to the variety of fresh produce to be had here. The fish selection is splendid, the cheeses astounding and the fruit and veg crying out to be cooked! And the sweets. The history of honey being used in sweets for thousands of years blows the mind. Some things never change

Thanks for the pics Jane and your company on the cruise and our visits to Athens, and the Greeks islands. Yassou filos mou!

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TIPS: Eat everything.

Food generally in villages is served warm not hot, and it’s quite OK to ask to see what’s cooking in the kitchen. Beware of Ouzo – you’ll think it’s your fiend, but trust me, it’s not.

When in Athens, check out all the museums but get to the new Acropolis Museum as it is beautiful and as the name explains, the artefacts and pieces in the museum have all been found in and around the acropolis. Acropolis means a rocky mound or hill constructed in many Greek cities where their temples were to be built (e.g.the Parthenon) and it was a place for the people to retreat to if they were under attack.

The writer, Bev Malzard loves Greece and intends to head back there again in 2018. In the meantime, she’ll drag out some of the old Greek-days stories for this blog until her readers protest and say: “No more”.

Update: She visited again in 2019 and spent a few days on Poros, which was here first port of call many years ago. And if this pandemic ever lets up she’ll be back in Ellas for a month or so. Yassou.

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How long is Long Beach? or How long do I stay there?

How long is Long Beach? or How long do I stay there?

It wasn’t a long visit to Long Beach, California. I was to stay overnight before I headed across to Catalina Island. I didn’t know what to expect as I couldn’t quite get the gist of the geography – where’s the beach? I could see the bay from my hotel and in the distance the static Queen Mary, and the bay turned into the ocean . . . maybe it’s time to explore.

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Rainbow Harbour.

My expectations were average and it wasn’t until I was given a quick tour of downtown by my friend who is an enthusiastic local that I began to absorb the charm of this quiet achiever. Long Beach doesn’t have the bold sprawl of Los Angeles, nor the confined slick commercialism of Beverly Hiills, it almost feels familiar to a Sydney girl.

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Downtown is pretty cool and ultimately walkable. The cafes, restaurants, galleries and boutiques of Fourth Street (retro row) are accessible and the county of Long Beach has many little urban pockets that are charming and offer several worldly experiences ranging from romantic rides in sleek Italian gondolas followed by dinner at one of the fine Italian restaurants, Michael’s on Naples and L’Opera Ristorante, to tasting tapas, sipping Sangria and watching live Flamenco dancers at the famed Spanish eateries Café Sevilla or Alegria Cocina Latina.

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The Dog Beach.

I experienced transatlantic history aboard the majestic Queen Mary for a night. I had dinner onboard, slept in an original cabin (the bed was new) and took a tour around the old girl. She was still well-mannered and royal but looking a little tired. But the good news is she’s in the middle of a major makeover. This is worth a night to remember and you are on one of the finest ships ever built and – you won’t get seasick.

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On deck on the Queen Mary.

 

 

Looking across to the Queen Mary from the Maya Hotel.

Told ya so! Named one of the ‘Most Walkable’ Cities in America by Walkscore.com, Long Beach boasts more than 120 quality restaurants within an eight-block area in the downtown waterfront, top hotel brands, along with dynamic shopping and entertainment options along the shoreline. Stroll the 5½ mile (8.8km) beach path that has stunning views of the Pacific coastline. And for some retail therapy –  The Pike Outlets feature name brand merchandise at great prices, or take a stroll down 4th Street’s Funky Retro Row or Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street, two popular districts offering myriad boutique shops and eclectic restaurants.

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Fourth Street.

 Averaging 345 days of sunshine per year Long Beach, with its comfortable Mediterranean climate, is ideal for a winter escape to defrost and decompress.

 

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Wall art downtown.

LONG BEACH IS BIKE FRIENDLY

Long Beach is listed as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S.  An expanding Bike Share program is available to residents and visitors. With a simple swipe of a credit card, visitors can rent bikes at a nominal fee and explore throughout the city. Additionally, the bikes can be returned to any bike station throughout the city.

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Looking out from the porthole of the Queen Mary in the morning – this is the ‘June gloom, a fine misty fog that creeps in from the Pacific Ocean at this time of year.

LONG BEACH: “THE URBAN WATERFRONT PLAYGROUND”

Centrally located between Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach boasts the ambiance of a sophisticated urban centre and the charm of an ocean side community. Long Beach’s downtown waterfront sets a new standard for “walk-ability,” with first-class accommodations, shopping, dining, and seaside sightseeing, just steps from each other. Located 40 minutes from Universal Studios and 30 minutes from Disneyland, Long Beach’s attractions include: The Queen Mary, featuring a hotel, exceptional restaurants and historical tours, Aquarium of the Pacific, a world-class facility home to more than11,000 inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean, several museums including the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) and Second Street in nearby Belmont Shore, the quintessential beachfront community. With 345 days of sunshine, the Mediterranean climate makes Long Beach the ultimate year-round playground. 

 

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LIGHTS, CAMERA, LONG BEACH!

And of course you never know who you will run into here – with its sparkling waterfront, diverse architecture and film-friendly weather, Long Beach has been a popular location for filming television and movies, including recent features: Iron Man, Knight and Day, Transformers 2 and 3, and Star Trek.

Located less than 30 miles from Hollywood production studios, Long Beach has been and still is the backdrop for many TV shows, including Miami for Dexter and CSI Miami. NCIS: Los Angeles, True Blood and Criminal Minds also filmed in the city. It’s not uncommon to see camera crews in Belmont Shore, Alamitos Bay Marina and on Shoreline Drive for coastal stand-in locations and downtown Long Beach’s East Village Arts District or Third, Cedar and Pine Avenues for urban settings.

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SUSTAINABLE LONG BEACH

Don’t be fooled by the blue skies – Long Beach is a green city! Home to the LEED-certified Aquarium of the Pacific, regal Queen Mary and solar-paneled Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA), several green certified hotels, sustainable seafood serving restaurants and much more — Long Beach is definitely a green city by the sea.

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THE QUEEN MARY

Arriving in Long Beach in 1967 after a distinguished 30-year career as a Trans-Atlantic liner and a Wold War II troopship, the Queen Mary has become a centerpiece of the downtown waterfront. As the fastest and most elegant ship afloat during the heyday of trans-Atlantic travel, the Queen carried the rich and famous as well as thousands of tourists and immigrants. Today, the Queen can still transport her passengers to a bygone era via history and imagination. Visitors to the Queen Mary can stay on board in one of 360 converted 1st class staterooms, dine in the ship’s restaurants and shop on the Promenade Deck. Guided and walking tours bring back the grand history of this famous ship. The Ghosts & Legends show and tour conjures up some of the ship’s ghostly passengers.

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AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC

The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is also a world-class educational and research facility.  The Aquarium staff received global attention when they became the first to breed weedy sea dragons (a cousin of the seahorse) in captivity. Exhibit areas are divided by Pacific Ocean regions and feature fish, birds, and mammals from each region. At Shark Lagoon visitors can actually touch several varieties of sharks and rays. In the Lorikeet Forest, these colorful little parrots from down under can be fed by hand.

Join in the fun and excitement of viewing some of the earth’s most incredible sea mammals, year round off the coast of Long Beach. From June through October, visitors can expect to see and learn about Blue Whales, the largest animals to have ever lived on this planet. From December through mid-May the California Gray Whales pass close by Long Beach on their annual migration from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.

 THE CALIFORNIA DREAM IS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

From sandy beaches to eclectic neighbourhoods, Long Beach offers the great adventures of a big city with the laid-back atmosphere of a resort town.  You can be as active as you wish or just sit back and bask in the sunshine.  Long Beach gets 345 days of sunshine each year.  Seldom is an outdoor activity ruined by weather.  Stroll, rollerblade or pedal down the bike path winding along more than five miles of beachfront.

 ARTS & CULTURE

Long beach boasts five distinctive museums, The Long Beach Museum of Art, perched atop the bluffs with spectacular Pacific Ocean views, the Museum of Latin American Art, the only museum of its kind in the country, the Pacific Islands Ethnic Art Museum, the University Art Museum on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, and the Long Beach Historical Society Museum. Long Beach aso has two historic Spanish-era Ranchos, complete with adobe ranch houses and formal gardens. Rich in history and diversity, our city offers unique neighborhoods to explore, from the whimsical East Village Arts District, to effervescent Belmont Shore, the ultimate beach community.  Long Beach is proud to have its own symphony orchestra, municipal band, opera, ballet and numerous theatrical, dance and performing arts troupes. 

LONG BEACH IS ‘PAWS-A-TIVELY’ PET FRIENDLY!

I know we can’t travel with our dogs from Australia – but if you need a froendly pooch fix head the the beach! Recognized four years in a row by Dog Fancy Magazine as one of the most dog-friendly cities in America, Long Beach is full of treasures that Fido and family alike can enjoy, ranging from pet friendly hotels, shopping, dining to dog parks and the only off leash dog beach in Los Angeles County!

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This little fella was waiting patiently at the beach for an extended run.

50 THINGS TO DO IN LONG BEACH

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  1. Immerse yourself with underwater life at the Aquarium of the Pacific with an interactive experience that has you swimming with the fishes, ogling otters, petting sharks and promenading with penguins.

2. Channel all your senses during the Paranormal Ship Walk Tour on The Queen Mary          or step back into the glorious heyday of Trans-Atlantic travel on a historical ship                tour.

  1. Cruise the Naples Canals in style with Gondola Getaway on romantic Italian gondolas.
  2. Visit the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), the only museum of its kind in the U.S., featuring art from Latin America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean.
  3. Enjoy “Breakfast on the Bluffs,” or lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean on Claire’s patio at the Long Beach Museum of Art, then stroll the museum’s captivating exhibitions.
  4. Explore the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM), showcasing sculptures, painting and carvings from across the Pacific.
  5. For a glimpse of today’s cutting-edge art, visit the University Art Museum on the Campus of Cal State Long Beach.
  6. Sail away to a “not so faraway” island. Catalina Express has daily high-speed catamaran service to the City of Avalon on Catalina Island. See where the film stars of yesteryears vacationed and where many celebrities of today still do.
  7. Walk, run, bike or skate along a 5 ½ mile beachfront bike and pedestrian path right on the sand. Wide separated lanes keep walkers and riders safe. Rent a bike, a pedal surrey or a Segway and explore our many downtown and shoreline bike paths.
  8. From Irish pubs to multi-million dollar dance clubs, piano bars to a sexy after hour lounge, dance your way through the many nightclubs and bars in downtown Long Beach.
  9. Let art and culture enrapture you as you take a walking tour through the East Village Art’s District.
  10. Celebrate with cocktails and take in the downtown skyline at The Sky Room.
  11. Keep steady doing stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking in Alamitos Bay.
  12. Visit the largest population of Cambodians outside of Phnom Penh at Cambodia Town. Enjoy exotic cuisine and unique shopping opportunities.
  13. Take a lesson in Kite Surfing on one of the best kite Surfing beaches in Southern California.
  14. Enjoy a scenic Sunday brunch at the Queen Mary, the Reef, Fuego at Hotel Maya, or the Queensview Steakhouse.
  15. Stroll one of the Most Walkable Cities in the U.S. (Downtown, Belmont Shore, Belmont Heights, Bixby Knolls and the East Side of Long Beach).
  16. Marvel at the Egyptian architectural style of the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. One of only three pyramids in the U.S., it is the largest space-frame structure in North America.
  17. See whales on the Long Beach Arena mural, “Planet Ocean,” by Wyland, which the Guinness Book of Records recorded as the World’s Largest Mural.
  18. Run, Forrest, Run! Not only can you enjoy a fun meal at Bubba Gump’s, you can also participate in the JetBlue Long Beach Marathon.
  19. Do a ‘tap dance’ at Yard House in Shoreline Village, boasting one of the largest selections of beers on tap in the world.
  20. Choose from more than 125 restaurants within an eight block area of downtown Long Beach; many of which have won accolades from the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association.
  21. Rent and drive your own electric Duffy Boat and cruise through the Naples canals.
  22. Come out and be proud; our Gay Pride Festival is one of the largest in the country.
  23. Get pickled eggs at legendary Joe Jost’s — one of Long Beach’s oldest bars.
  24. Have an “All Star” meal at Legends Sports Bar.
  25. Drive ‘round and ‘round the Long Beach Traffic Circle.
  26. Take a refreshing water taxi cruise around the Long Beach Harbor and Alamitos Bay aboard the AquaBus or the high-speed Aqualink
  27. Golf is par for the course in Long Beach. Enjoy the great outdoors with five public golf courses.
  28. Watch the boats go by while sitting under the lighthouse at Shoreline Aquatic Park in Rainbow Harbor.
  29. Place your bid during the Koi Fish Auction at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens at Cal State Long Beach.
  30. Explore the vibrancy of downtown Long Beach at night with its array of multi-colored LED lighting.
  31. Take your favorite Fido to Rosie’s Dog Beach, the only off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles County.
  32. Taste the world (and leave your Passport at home) by savoring International eateries along Pine Avenue: George’s Greek Café, L’Opera, Alegria, Gaucho Grill, and Wokcano.
  33. Enjoy sumptuous seafood while overlooking the marina and Rainbow Harbor at Parker’s Lighthouse.
  34. Take Salsa lessons and dance the night away at Café Sevilla.
  35. Explore Southern California history at Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos.
  36. Let your inner child soar freely with a Ferris wheel ride at the Pike Outlets at Rainbow Harbor.
  37. Put the pedal to the metal and watch the checkered-flag soar at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. If squealing tires and burning rubber are your “thing,” don’t miss our Formula Drift
  38. Buy some new “old” threads at the vintage shops along Funky 4th Street’s Retro Row.
  39. Explore the Pacific Ocean and enjoy Harbor Breeze whale watching cruises year-round off the coast of Long Beach.
  40. Stroll Shoreline Village’s boardwalk and discover an array of waterfront restaurants, plus shops featuring gifts, souvenirs, collectibles, hats, gourmet chocolates and much more.
  41. Get acquainted with the abundant great green outdoors with the city’s many parks and gardens that feature fishing lakes, picnic shelters and bike trails.
  42. Unleash your appetite at the many food festivals and tastings that occur throughout the year, including Belmont Shore’s Stroll & Savor and Taste of Downtown.

45. Rev up those muscle cars and take in the Belmont Shore Car Show, the largest one-day car show on the West Coast.

46. Stroll along downtown Long Beach’s beautifully landscaped and brightly lit Promenade, which stretches from Rainbow Harbor to CityPlace on 6th Stop and enjoy some of the great eateries along the way: SIP at the Renaissance Hotel, The Stave Wine Bar, Beachwood BBQ & Brewery and Michael’s Pizzeria.

47. Pedal across Alamitos Bay and through the Naples canals on your self-powered Hydro-Bike.

48.  Join the fun on the “first Friday” of every month in Bixby Knolls. Shops and restaurants stay open late as folks stroll along Atlantic Avenue while being entertained by live bands and entertainers.

49. Get “inked” at Outer Limits Tattoos, the oldest tattoo parlor in the U.S.

50.  Last but not least…just go outside and bask in Long Beach’s near perfect climate. With 345 days of sunshine each year, seldom is any outdoor activity ruined by bad weather, so have fun in the sun.

Writer Bev Malzard got most of this fab info from the Long Beach Conventions & Visitors Bureau. But she did spend two days there being shown the local haunts by her friend who is a tried and true local! 

Fave finds: the dog beach and an amazing diner called the Breakfast Bar (70 Atlantic Avenue; Long Beach) for waffles, eggs, French toast, chicken wings – all on one plate for brekkie – yay!

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How to tea-tease and please

How to tea-tease and please

I reckon I’ve had more than a 1000 afternoon teas. Call them Cream Teas, Afternoon Tea, Devonshire Tea, Afternoonsies, or a mid-arvo cuppa and cake – I’ve had them.

This wasn’t a genteel affectation I grew up with. As a kid it was a biscuit and a glass of cordial and as a teenager, “there’s a biscuit in the tin and I’ll have a cuppa too love”.

My emerging addiction to the afternoon ritual began in the 1970s when I ended up in a little kiosk in the Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains after a rigorous three-day bush walk.

Tired and footsore we ordered tea and scones. The heavenly warm scone-clouds wafted towards us and we had a bowl of strawberry jam and thick, just-whipped fresh cream. I was hooked – and happy.

I didn’t seek out the afternoon tea in my day-to-day working life. I saved the event for special guests at home (cake and homemade biscuits only as I am a terrible scone baker) and as part of my holiday plans.

I’ve indulged in the grand teas of the establishment hotels and traditional tea houses, casual café catch-ups around the world and surprise teas served in the bush and even in the jungle.

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Sacher torte – a sweet treat from Austria.

Years ago I was in Darwin visiting my dad. Now, Bill was a pretty cool dad and a rough diamond who did like a beer or several. My partner and I persuaded him to head down the track to Katherine in the ute for a road trip. It was a wonderful couple of days and on the way back home to Darwin I insisted we stop at Daley Waters for afternoon tea. My father was in a lather of panic. Cups of tea in pretty china and slices of packet rainbow cake was served on a rickety table on the lawn of a truck stop joint. As we sipped tea overlooking the highway my father said: “what if someone sees me”. Nah, it will be fine, who would think you were here.

And while he drew the cup to his lips and jokingly stuck his little finger out a truck drove past and tooted its horn and the voices called out “Onya Bill”.

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Aside from out-of-the-way afternoon locations I’ve managed to enjoy exquisite pastries served with fragrant teas in many places all over the world.

Austria is up there for beautiful cakes and I’ve been known to linger over a Vienna schnitzel lunch so that I can call strudel and cream afternoon tea instead of dessert.

Years ago in England around the Devon region I convinced a none-dairy eater to try clotted cream lathered on fat, hot scones with a scrape of raspberry jam. I promised them heaven – and I delivered. A committed clotted cream convert now.

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My homemade lemon yoghurt cake – yum.

I’ve enjoyed aromatic Chinese teas in China served with delicate egg tarts with buttery, crumbly pastry. It’s not exactly called afternoon tea there – just another small meal among many during the day.

I was at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne once having afternoon tea and sipping on a Lady Grey when I overheard a conversation behind me and it was one of the Twining’s’ family. And he was drinking coffee – quel traitor!

Strudel in a welcoming window in Innsbruck, Austria.

I do love a hotel afternoon tea – there is so much design put into the presentation. Little finger sandwiches around the bottom level, baby quiche and crab tarts second level, scones next one and on the top petit pastries and creamy cakes – and hopefully refillable pots of tea.

I was recently in Beverly Hills, California and slipped into the new Laduree café on Beverly Drive. It’s so fresh and new and green and white! It hasn’t quite settled into itself yet but the coffee was ok and I had two macarons – research!

I’ve also devised a way of eating while on holidays that keeps the weight down. True! Stick to two and a half meals a day.

Late breakfast, mid afternoon tea (with cake and pastry) and a late-ish dinner – do not order dessert.

But of all the afternoon tea experiences – it’s when I manage to bake a decent cake, have friends around, bring out the best cups and saucers, use a pretty tablecloth and go old-school all the way – that this institution of culinary happiness is enjoyed the most.

Following, the recipe for Ginger Earthquake Cookies, adding a little spice to your afternoon tea:

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Ingredients

100g butter (chopped)

1/3 cup (80ml) golden syrup

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour

3/4 cup (155g) brown sugar

1 egg, lightly whisked

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/4 (45g) pure icing sugar

Method

  1. Combine the butter and golden syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until butter melts and mixture is well combined. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the flour, brown sugar, egg, ginger, mixed spice, cloves and bicarbonate of soda and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 45 minutes or until cool and firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 180deg.C. Line 2 oven trays with baking powder. Sift the icing sugar onto a small plate. Roll tablespoon of mixture into balls and roll in icing sugar. Place on the lined trays, 6cm apart, allowing room for spreaading.
  4. Bake in preheated oven, swapping trays halfway through cooking, for 15 mins or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside on trays to cool completely.

Writer Bev Malzard recommends these cookies for an afternoon break with a cup of Chinese White tea. She intends to continue searching for the definitive afternoon tea – and welcomes all suggestions.

Visit: http://www.thehotelwindsor.com.au

https://www.austria.info

My two scents worth

My two scents worth

There is nothing that screams ‘GREEK’ than an image of a building whitewashed to perfection with the blazing helios (sun) spotlighting its surfaces and reflecting good housekeeping practices with not a speck of dirt to be found. AND across the eaves and tumbling down the walls is the Queen of Colour, the vibrant and saucy Bougainvillea.

 

A riot of colour against the walls of villas excites the senses and adds a special playfulness to the overall effect the Greek islands are unashamedly proud of.

But for me, and I’m not dissing the Bougainvillea, it’s about scents and aroma.

My first time in Greece, I landed in the old, gloomy airport in Athens. It was towards the end of summer and after midnight. Out into the night for my first breath of Greece and I could smell oil, leather and diesel. Oh, it was good.

As I was to spend a couple of years in Greece on and off, I can remember the scents that if I smell them now, take me to the heart of Greece, my spiritual home.

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Recently in Sydney, my first whiff of jasmin hit me and transported me back to Ellas, where I would be smothered in the scent in the late spring when night fell. The days would be stifling and the only aromas wafting through my village was lamb on spits in the restaurants, coffee and diesel.

But when the sun went down and the flowers could again breathe in the cool air – jasmin was queen of the night.

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Jasminum polyanthum.

I’m writing this innocuous blog with a nod to my past but thoughts of the future.

In the early 90s in Sydney I lived in a house where the side wall was a factory wall as high as my two-storey house. The great blank vertical wall was slowly being taken over by Virginia Creeper and jasmin. The creeper was a beautiful display of autumn shades before it became green in the summer and the ‘jasmin festival’ lasted almost two weeks with an abundant, aromatic riot from late September. I always held a ‘Great Wall of Jasmin’ party on the October long weekend and it was a blooming great event.

As I write today, 17 August, I have come back from a walk where I stole several sprigs of jasmin to put in my house to give me the bounty of the scent.

So, now, let’s think about it. Years ago, the jasmin bloomed in late September and now it is almost spent by mid August.

Climate change, changes everything. I’m not saying that it’s only jasmin. Read between the lines. Glaciers are melting in Switzerland, the seas are rising around the islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Nature is confused and she might just throw her hands up in the air and go on strike.

What have you noticed in the weather patterns around you? Talk about it, scream it out. You know, it won’t make any difference to me and people of my age, we’ll be dead, but there are hard times a-comin’ to do with lack of water and weather-affected agriculture. Human beings need water and food to survive.

If it starts with me, good, and will it continue on with you.

I love science, and if it makes a mistake, it goes back and revisits to make it right and give us the correct information.

I love science, Greece, diesel and jasmin.

Writer Bev Malzard will continue stealing jasmin (see picture below), beating the drum on climate change and telling stories about Greece. 

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Spain: 24 hours in Madrid

Spain: 24 hours in Madrid

Apart from short periods of time in my misspent youth, Spain was just a passing flirtation. Someone I had a few drinks with.
But recently as a grown-up I discovered a few choice locations in Spain and fell head over heels.

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As we couldn’t cover the entire country on this visit we stopped short of a whistle stop trip and picked the eyes out of culture, gastronomy and a little history and some time for reflecting on the cult of gluttony. Gluttony was my failing in Spain – but hey! The country has no mercy and takes no prisoners – just eat!


Arriving in Madrid on a pleasant end of summer day, we drove along tree-lined boulevards and were delivered to Villa Magna in the elegant Salamanca barrio (precinct). This is the time when jet-lag kicks in but it’s too exciting being in a new city and it’s afternoon – lunch time, yay.
And this is when the eating frenzy began.

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First stop was a five-minute walk from the hotel to the beautifully restored and beloved Platea Madrid (featured image at top). The old art deco theatre has had new life breathed into it and has become a fragrant complex of tapas bars, Michelin starred restaurants and snack bars with rustic market-style décor. A cooling ale and a plate of potatas bravas (fried chunks of potato with spicy, paprika ridden tomato sauce) and small bites of battered cod – I was hooked.
And an early dinner eschewed.

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Mercado De San Miguel, undercover market housing dozens of gourmet food producers.

This was the disjointed part of the trip – our timing was not always conducive to being ‘hungry’. Breakfast isn’t a big deal here. Coffee and a little pastry maybe or two coffees. Lunch is from anywhere between 2pm and 4pm and if you are on a schedule, you’ll find yourself having dinner within a couple of hours after a banquet at lunch.

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Plaza Mayor.

So after a quick change in my room and a studious count of the threads in the cotton sheets, we were off to  nearby Tatal, a fancy restaurant owned by Rafael Nadal and Julios Ingelsias (both of them stood us up for the shared plate). The restaurant began to fill up and by the time we left at 10pm (early by local standards) the place was packed with well-dressed patrons – and on a week night too.

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Next day we fitted in a visit to the mighty Prado, and soaked up Velasquez, Goya, Van Gogh and the major Spanish artists; sashayed through a couple of the BIG squares, walked the gardens and snacked along the way on creamy, sexy pastries and cakes. The divine Plaza Mayor is portico-lined and tiny shops offer up traditional goods and cafes will take a lot of money from you to enjoy a café con leche.

Moving again and it’s to the Buen Retiro, a popular city park for locals.

Churros is almost the sweet national dish and the best place to eat this is at Chocolateri San Gines where you will be served by grumpy staff – if they feel like it. But jump right in and join the Madrilians who are stuffing their faces with vast amounts of this beautiful chocolate-dipped stripey doughnut.

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In this tiny tapas bar, mushrooms and green peppers are the hero ingredients.

We finished off our short time in Madrid with a Tapas tour. Our host was a vivacious American woman who had come to Spain with her Spanish boyfriend. The boyfriend is gone, but the woman studied the language and stayed as she fell in love with Spain – who is treating her very well indeed. (During this trip, I met three women, one an Australian, who had the same story – left home for a Spanish bloke, ditched the bloke but stayed)
It was short, it was sweet, but after Madrid there were windmills to tilt at further afield.

The writer Bev Malzard reignited a long past food love affair in Madrid – garlic prawns. They are back in her life again. And several pairs of espadrilles were purchased in Madrid too.

DSC01010Spain   visitspain.com

 

Switzerland’s Bag Men

Switzerland’s Bag Men

After spending a couple of days digging into the past of the buzzy city of Zurich, a visitor can be completely mellowed out by the beautiful old buildings, historic structures and the cosy vibe of the inner working of the old town. But as pleasant and pretty as Zurich is, there’s the ‘other’ side of town where light industry chugs away and the buildings aren’t going to win the princess pageant.

Zuerich West, Viadukt-Boegen, Frau Gerolds Garten

There are parts of the industrial sector here, but no longer traditional industry or fabrication. And like many diminishing industrial areas throughout European metropolises, neglect and dilapidation were the starting points for gentrification and new beginnings in the 21st century.

Zurich west used to tap along to the sounds of machines and black soot would hang in the air – but now it’s the hippest place to visit in town, Buildings have been renovated and windows made over in a modern way – sympathetic to the past and the people who slogged away here – architecture on every street is innovative and thoughtful. Facades remain and the buildings behind them peep through with a wink to previous generations and a nod to the future.

One such standout here is a building block constructed of steel containers – the flagship store of Freitag.

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Freitag is a ‘bag concept’. Freitag’s original products are made from recycled materials – used truck tarpaulins, car seat belts, air bags and bicycle inner tubes. Because these materials are tough, the products are too. Wonderful bags, wallets, satchels, back packs and overnighters are part of this super cool range – and there is not one product the same as another because they are made from original pieces of tarps, Every Freitag item is an individual.

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The first bag was sewn 24 years ago – a messenger bag sewn by hand from an old tarp. Early pieces were put together in a Zurich apartment by the young founders themselves, two graphic designer brothers Markus and Daniel Freitag. They had been inspired by the multicoloured, heavy freight traffic that hummed through the Zurich transit intersection in front of their apartment.

The first bags were sold out of the brothers’ living room and in 2006 they decided to sell their bags from a store made of freight containers – the ‘floors’ are home to more than 1600 individual bags for sale.

The Freitag Store Zurich is completely built from recycled containers which were gutted, reinforced, piled up and secured. Zurich’s first bonsai skyscraper: low enough not to violate the city’s restrictions on high-rise buildings; high enough to produce vertigo.

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From the Freitag Store Zurich looking into the colour of the west end – the coolest address in town.

Freitag has grown rapidly ever since the first tarps were washed in the brothers’ bathtub. The bag makers have gone from two to around 170 employees, from one to more than 40 bag models, and is now producing cool, and comfortable workwear – t-shirts and shorts and accessories.

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Head west in Zurich to stroll the area and visit the shop that started a worldwide trend and if you can depart that little high-rise without making a purchase, you have more self-control than this writer.

Writer Bev Malzard purchased a cool bag after much deliberation over the colour. Of course I did!

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My bag.

 

FACTS & FIGURES

Headquarters: FREITAG lab. ag / NŒRD, Zurich-Oerlikon, Switzerland

Year founded: 1993

Proprietors: Markus and Daniel Freitag
Number of staff: around 170
Production: around 400,000 products per year

Number of stores: 17 F-Stores, with six in Switzerland (Davos, Flagship Store Zurich, Grüngasse Zurich, Zurich Noerd, Lausanne, Basel), four in Germany (Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt), one in Milan, one in Vienna, one in Bangkok, one in Taipei, one in Melbourne and two in Tokyo
An Online Store based in Zurich-Oerlikon and 450 retail partners worldwide

Materials used: 390 tons of truck tarpaulins, 150,000 car seatbelts and  15,000 bicycle inner tubes per year

Products: around 40 bags, around 30 accessories and FREITAG F-ABRIC workwear

Visit: www.freitag.ch

Vist here for some fun videos:  https://www.freitag.ch/en/tarpblanche

Read the origins of this tarp tale from rooms to riches from the source:

hhttps://www.freitag.ch/en/about/history

 

 

 

 

 

Free stuff in Beverly Hills – yes, FREE!

Free stuff in Beverly Hills – yes, FREE!

My previous blog told a tale of my first visit to the city where the Bold and the Beautiful hang out. This one is all about today and as much as a credit card is your token to get through the hallowed gates – there is FREE stuff. Yay! 

Just check out this lineup and see how many items you can tick off the list without having to sell a kidney.

 

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1. Try to spot your favourite celebrities on Rodeo Drive and restaurants around the Golden Triangle – an area ripe for star sightings!

2. Capture a perfect souvenir by snapping a picture in front of the famed Beverly Hills sign in Beverly Gardens Park.

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3. Window shop ’til you drop on Rodeo Drive! These three blocks of luxury shopping are the best in the world for day-dreaming and indulging!

4. Spot your favorite designer, model or other fashion legend on Rodeo Drive’s Walk of Style. Each honoree has a plaque embedded in the sidewalk with their name, a quote and their autograph.

5. Watch the Electric Fountain come alive with varying light and water patterns. Look familiar? The fountain has made appearances in the movie Clueless and the Go-Go’s Our Lips Are Sealed music video.

6. Admire Bijan’s signature Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé which is nearly always parked outside the Bijan store on Rodeo Drive.

7. Get lost in the vast department stores along Wilshire Blvd – aptly nicknamed Department Store Row. Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus provide hours of shopping entertainment.

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8. Feel like a celebrity when you walk the red carpet entrance at The Beverly Hills Hotel.

 

9. Admire the silver torso sculpture in the Rodeo Drive median at Dayton Way. “Torso” by world-renowned artist Robert Graham is the symbol for the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style.

10. Head to the edge of town to view the signature Beverly Hills city limits street signs. One is located on the northeast corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Moreno Drive.

11. Strike a pose with the family of statues outside the Fred Hayman commemorative building on North Canon. The building, with eye-catching yellow and white striped awnings, is a recreation of Hayman’s storefront of Giorgio Beverly Hills, the first luxury retailer on Rodeo Drive.

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12. Take a seat on any street in the Golden Triangle and see some of the world’s finest cars whiz by. Ferraris, and Maybachs, and Lamborghinis, oh my!

13. Pick which public art sculpture in Beverly Gardens Park is your favourite, from the wildly colorful Hymn of Life: Tulips by Yayoi Kusama or the stainless steel Erratic that measures 15 feet long.

14. Don’t miss a look at City Hall’s Spanish Renaissance-style architecture, including an eight-story tower with blue, green and gold tiled dome.

15. Head into Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel to admire the beautiful lobby floral display and get a peek inside this famous hotel where Pretty Woman was filmed.

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The original post box in The Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel.

16. Walk just north of Beverly Gardens Park onto a quiet residential neighbourhood and receive a major surprise as you stumble upon a real life Witch’s House! This whimsical cottage was built on a film studio lot and relocated to its current location, where it is used as a private residence.

17. Take a seat inside the lobby of The Beverly Hills Hotel and absorb the luxurious grounds that many celebrities have walked upon throughout the hotel’s 100 year history.

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18. Pause on the 300 Block of Rodeo Drive to see the Frank Lloyd Wright designed “Anderton Court,” marked by the identifiable spiral ramp and triangular tower.

19. Take a somber moment and reflect on the events of 9/11 at the 9/11 Memorial Garden. A structural beam recovered from Ground Zero acts as the centerpiece of this space.

20. Hotel hop! You don’t have to be a guest to check out the impressive exteriors and lobbies of a dozen hotels around town, each with their own interior décor style from mid-century modern to Italian Renaissance.

The Beverly Hilton Hotel.

21. See the state-of-the-art Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts which opened in 2013. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts transforms a Beverly Hills city block into a vibrant new cultural destination with two distinct, elegant buildings: the historic 1933 Italianate-style Beverly Hills Post Office and the new, contemporary 500-seat, state-of-the-art Goldsmith Theater. Together these two structures embrace the city’s history and future, creating a new cultural landmark.

22. Head up to Greystone Mansion & Park, a legendary estate built by the Doheny family, which is now a park open to the public. Can you find the koi and turtles on the grounds?

 

Greystone Mansion, way up in the rarified air of Beverly Hills.

23. Print a Beverly Hills Walking Tour from LoveBeverlyHills.com or pick one up at the Beverly Hills Visitor Center and then explore the city on foot!

24. Take in the sunshine and sounds of the courtyard’s babbling fountain as you relax, on the grass or at café tables, in Beverly Canon Gardens.

25. Jog on the pedestrian trail down 11 blocks of Beverly Gardens Park. Shaded by ample trees, it’s also a great trail for a leisurely stroll.

 

26. Make your way to the “Mecca for cheese aficionados.” If you call yourself a cheese lover, then you cannot miss the sight – and smell! – of The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. The staff is delighted to share their extensive knowledge of cheese as well as offer free samples.

27. See the world’s first 24-hour Cupcake ATM at Sprinkles Cupcakes. Though it’s viewable without making a purchase, it’s worth every dollar to try Sprinkles’ signature Red Velvet treats.

28. Indulge your sweet tooth at Edelweiss Chocolates, one of the oldest confectionaries in America that still processes its chocolates by hand. You may have the opportunity to take a tour of their chocolate factory.

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29. Check out the gourmet candy shop Sugarfina and indulge in a sample of their candy at their Tasting Bar. For a specil experience, chat with their Candy Concierge to create a custom Sugarfina gift.
30. Peruse the Beverly Hills Famers’ Market every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. A feast for the senses, the market features farm fresh produce, artisanal packaged foods, and flowers alongside live music and activities for kids.

31. Groove to the sounds of live music – from rockabilly to jazz – in Beverly Canon Gardens during the summertime Concerts on Canon series.

32. Get fit with Lululemon! The fitness apparel retailer offers free yoga classes and a weekly run club, all open to the public at no cost!

33. Wednesday through Sunday, visit The Paley Center for Media where you can access a library of some of the best television programming of the past decades or catch a screening. Visit the Paley Center’s website for daily screening schedules.

34. Explore the literary world at Beverly Hills Public Library. With 2-hour free parking adjacent to the library, you have the time to curl up and read a favorite book.

 

35. Let the Beverly Hills Visitor Center Concierge assist you with all of your needs, from securing sightseeing tour tickets to making dinner reservations at one of the exquisite restaurants.

36. Not quite free, but at just $1 for children under 12 years of age, the Beverly Hills trolley tour is quite a deal! Hop aboard for a 40-minute narrated tour of art, architecture, historical and renowned areas of the city.

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37. Stop by the newly opened Community Dog Park to watch the posh pooches frolic in the fenced-in area. If you wish for your pup to partake, be sure to register in advance as it is exclusive to Beverly Hills residents and those staying in the city.

38. Enjoy two-hour free parking at one of the many City of Beverly Hills operated lots on S. Beverly Drive, Brighton Way, Rexford Drive and N. Canon Drive.

39. Pick up a booklet of Exclusive Offers at the Beverly Hills Visitor Center which can be redeemed at shopping, dining, sightseeing, and spa and salon locations throughout Beverly Hills. Including two-for-one ice cream at Sprinkles and 20% off lunch or dinner at CIRCA 55 at The Beverly Hilton, these special offers are not to be missed!

40. Access free Wi-Fi at many of the local coffee shops and on the Beverly Hills Civic Center grounds.

Visit the Beverly Hills Visitor Center, the gateway to the city! Our Visitor Center Concierge are pleased to help you plan the remainder of your time in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, provide insider tips and help you shop for Beverly Hills-branded merchandise.

visitbeverlyhill.com

Beverly Hills – the first time around

Beverly Hills – the first time around

Just returned from a sensational trip to Beverly Hills, California and I came back satisfied and with memories of inspired shopping, friendly natives and a relaxed and inclusive vibe.

It was many years ago that I first strolled the streets of Beverly Hills. I admit I was a bit of an inverted snob and didn’t really want to connect with what I perceived as brashness, shallowness and the high and mighty exclusivity of the bold and beautiful; less than six square miles of high maintenance characters and unrealistic real estate desires.

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In fact, I was intimidated and nervous about entering shops to check out the fashion, I expected to get the ‘Pretty Woman’ treatment. And indeed I met many a fashionable boutique skeleton who had no interest in me nor my credit card with its small limit.

I stayed at the Beverly Hills Peninsula which was and is pretty classy and I now thank the Peninsula for my bed linen buying habits – it was all about the bed I slept in at the hotel. After sliding around on that thread count – you can’t go back.

I took off on an adventure from that wonderful hotel and caught a local bus downtown. This was such a social faux pas! Nobody walked in Beverly Hills and busses weren’t even considered a form of civilised transport. But I had a chat with my fellow travellers and exited the bus in a lovely Mexican market precinct. I ate great food, shopped and purchased an excellent pair of riding boots. The boots were not of the Big Label ilk, they were made in Mexico and they cost me about $50.

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On my return to the hotel, the doorman drew me aside and quietly asked me to hand over my shopping bags (all scrappy white plastic bags). He whisked  them away and before I actually entered the foyer he handed me two rather large and spiffy paper bags with Beverly Hills Peninsula written across the front.

Would madam like to try on a Chanel bracelet?

I went red and realised that I has come close to shaming him, the hotel and myself! But instead of sheepishly slinking away I sashayed through the hotel like I owned it, swinging my ‘shopping’ bags. Without turning into a total wanker, that taught me the lesson that it doesn’t take much to feel at home in the world of the rich and famous:

  • Dress suitably and nicely;
  • Walk with your head high and smile at your fellow rich bastards, they’ll always smile back;
  • Act as if – there’s no shame in taking your place in the world of the rich and famous, they’re lucky to have you.
  • DON’T carry anything around in a plastic bag.

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The Beverly Hilton, the original part of the building – it’s rad to be retro.

Over the years, this has worked well for me, and on a recent visit to Beverly Hills, me being older and wiser, I stayed at another beautiful hotel, was welcomed like a long-lost rich bastard, and I was at home as soon as I saw the beautiful bed linen.

The hotel had a private car for special guests (yep, me) and me in a cool and worldly manner said to the driver, “this is a lovely car, what is it”, he coolly replied, “this is a new Rolls Royce Ghost madame”. So much for the local busses . . .

Writer Bev Malzard travelled under her own steam the first time around. And she still has the boots she purchased and sleeps on a million thread sheets!

Beverly Hills – the first time around