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The Sunset Strip Stirs Again



Few patches of America have had a greater influence on pop culture than a storied 1.7-mile stretch of Los Angeles, where movie stars, mobsters and musicians all went to blow off steam. From Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe’s first dates to John Belushi and River Phoenix’s final speedballs, the Sunset Strip saw it all.

But every party eventually ends, and now Los Angeles’s most notorious revelry zone is focusing on the morning after. A crop of new luxury developments is cleaning up the Sunset Strip.

Some of them are rising from another era’s ashes. At the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Olive Drive, on the same lot where the corrugated-metal House of Blues stood before it faced the wrecking ball in 2017, The Pendry West Hollywood and Pendry Residences West Hollywood by Montage Hotels & Resorts, a $500 million complex that will include a 149-room hotel, 40 private residences, a music venue and seven Wolfgang Puck-led restaurants, is scheduled to open in the coming months.

The Pendry Residences are designed by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, executed by Cuningham Group Architects and have interiors by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio. An initial sales campaign was put on hold in the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the property is now open for letters of intent on a limited inventory release, and several units were sold over the summer, said Paul Stukin, head of sales for the project.

He expects significant interest this winter when a mix of featured residences will be released before opening.

“There are certain iconic places in Los Angeles that are grounded in the nostalgia of Hollywood,” said Mr. Stukin. “You stand on site, and you see the Chateau Marmont, the Sunset Tower, the Griffith Park Observatory. And it gives you that feeling that is very rare.”

During a site visit in March, just before the pandemic hit, the Pendry was little more than a construction site.

We were standing in the central gallery of the Pendry’s sales office, where a scaled architectural model of the project gleams inside its plexiglass case. Each guest is handed a coin to insert into a Moët Champagne vending machine, and a sliding door can be opened, with a flourish, to reveal a full-scale staged kitchen, bathroom and sitting room, complete with white oak floors and an Italian granite bar the color of fresh cream.

The appeal of the Pendry Residences, said Mr. Stukin, is in line with a larger movement happening not just in and around the Sunset Strip, where five major residential projects are in development, but across all of Los Angeles. It’s a rejection of the far-flung, car-dependent lifestyle that contributed to this city’s notorious sprawl and once sent its residents literally running for the hills.

“Hollywood is a company town, and I’ve spoken to buyers that when they started out here, they were either part of Hollywood or they were feeding Hollywood, so to speak, with their work,” said Mr. Stukin. “They had this rock and roll Hollywood fantasy and then, like everyone else, they moved to Brentwood, or the Palisades, or Malibu or Calabasas. But now we’re seeing that people want to move back into town. They want to be in a walkable area. They want to be in the center of everything.”

In cities like New York or San Francisco, real estate interest in the suburbs has surged since the pandemic erupted in March as residents have sought out more space. Los Angeles is different, said Stukin. “Compared to New York or London, we’re a low-density major metropolitan city. So we don’t have people fleeing here for space.”

The Pendry West Hollywood will roll out its opening, starting with the hotel, in late 2020, followed by the residences early next year.

It will be followed by the Four Seasons Private Residences Los Angeles, a 12-story tower of 59 custom homes just across the West Hollywood border in Beverly Hills; a Frank Gehry-designed mixed-used project at 8150 Sunset Boulevard, whose plans include 229 apartments, including 38 low-income homes; a condo project by Olson Kundig architects at 8899 Beverly Boulevard where developers are rumored to want as much as $100 million for the penthouse unit; a members-only social club from Gwyneth Paltrow on Sunset Boulevard; and a space-age looking mixed-use project at the site of the Viper Room, the notorious Hollywood nightclub where River Phoenix died of a drug overdose in 1993. That project, from Morphosis Architects and Plus Development, will bring 115 more hotel rooms to the Sunset Strip, plus 31 condos and 11 affordable housing units.

Residential units at the Pendry Residences start at 2,300 square feet and $3 million. The penthouse will run in the $30-million range.

All units will feature custom kitchens, private elevator access and floor-to-ceiling windows, and several will have private terraced gardens, the largest clocking in at 3,400 square feet of outdoor space. Eight units will have outdoor Jacuzzis and private outdoor pools, and all residents will have access to the private rooftop pool across the piazza at the Pendry Hotel, as well as perks including housekeeping, room service, a wine locker, bowling alley and gym.

In addition to the hotel and condos, the Pendry’s developers are also counting on a third income stream — a large LED billboard, hoisted up on the project’s Sunset Boulevard-facing facade.

“Outside of Times Square, the Strip is the most valuable outdoor advertising in America,” said Warren Wachsberger, managing director of Aecom Capital, which is developing the project. “Having that large-format digital signage on Sunset Boulevard really gives us an edge.”

It’s not just Mr. Wachsberger who thinks so; Netflix does, too.

In 2018, Netflix snapped up 35 billboards across two dozen structures along the Sunset Strip, reigniting interest in traditional advertising in the process and reminding Los Angeles that the allure of a name in lights and the power of old-school eyeballs were both still very relevant in this town.

“There are a lot of influential people on that thoroughfare, going from Hollywood to the West Side,” Mr. Wachsberger added. “It’s created a demand, and now it’s the billboard to have on the West Coast.”

The Pendry team’s ongoing optimism for sales is most likely derived from the success of a similar project that opened in November 2019.

The West Hollywood Edition — a sleek, sexy complex comprising 190 hotel rooms, 20 residential apartments, a basement nightclub and a rooftop pool — sits at the corner of West Sunset Boulevard and North Doheny Drive, at the site of the former Scandia restaurant, a midcentury icon that opened in 1947 and served extravagant fare to Hollywood’s most powerful players for decades.

The Edition, from Steve Witkoff, a New York developer, was the first new project to open on the Sunset Strip in two decades. Behind it is the hotelier Ian Schrager, whose earlier projects include Studio 54, the Palladium and some of the world’s earliest and most influential boutique hotels.

John Pawson, the London-based design architect, oversaw the Edition’s stark, minimalist aesthetic. An original Sterling Ruby mobile, “The Scale,” greets visitors as they enter the lobby. The hotel reopened to the public on Oct. 1.

The residences at the Edition, only a few of which now remain unsold, are priced between $4 million and $30 million and range from 1,600 to 6,400 square feet. All offer views of the Hollywood Hills and the Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Pawson said he once partied the night away himself on the Sunset Strip, many decades ago.

“I can’t say I remember my time in those clubs well, but I did go to the odd one or two, a long time ago,” he said in a phone interview from his London studio. “The Strip has changed hugely, hasn’t it?”

All new developments in West Hollywood are required to set aside 20 percent of their units for affordable housing, and they may also have to pay a fee.

The Edition paid a fee of $2.2 million, and at the Pendry, developers paid a fee of $3.5 million and are also incorporating five units of affordable housing, which will be one-bedroom rental apartments.

By: Debra Kamin
Title: The Sunset Strip Stirs Again
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Published Date: Mon, 05 Oct 2020 10:18:34 +0000

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Witnessing Peru’s Enduring, if Altered, Snow Star Festival




Stubbornly unfazed by warnings of “soroche,” or altitude sickness, I swung my legs up onto a donkey and began to ascend the steep trails. After trekking for a few dizzying hours alongside hundreds of others, I approached a glacial basin. The scene began to unfold before us: an immense valley flooded with so many pilgrims that it seemed to be covered in confetti, each tiny speck representing a huddled collection of tents and people.

The altitude sickness began to overtake every inch of my body. Even my eyeballs ached. But, undeterred, I slowly navigated through the throngs of people trying to take in every sight and sound.

Each year in late May or early June, thousands of pilgrims trek for hours on foot and horseback through Peru’s Andean highlands — slowly snaking their way up the mountainous terrain — for the religious celebrations of Qoyllur Rit’i, held some 50 miles east of Cusco, once the capital of the Incan empire.

Practiced annually for hundreds of years, the celebrations mark the start of the harvest season, when the Pleiades, a prominent cluster of stars, return to the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere. The syncretic festival, which is on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, interweaves Indigenous and Incan customs with Catholic traditions introduced by Spanish colonizers, who sought to undermine Andean cosmology.

Celebrations were suspended this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with the route to the valley completely blocked off. But when I attended in 2013, the crowds were remarkably dense.

The festival takes place in the Sinakara Valley, a glacial basin that sits around 16,000 feet above sea level. Celebrants swarm in colorful droves with costumes, enormous flags, instruments and provisions in tow.

The festivities begin with the arrival of a statue of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i, transported from the nearby town of Mahuayani, to the valley’s small chapel. For three days, from morning until night, amid the nonstop sounds of drums, flutes, whistles, accordions, cymbals and electric keyboards, the air is filled with billowing clouds of dust kicked up from twirling dancers; it settles on the sequins, neon scarves, ribbons, tassels and feathers that adorn people’s traditional costumes and attire.

Pilgrims here are divided into “nations,” which correspond to their place of origin. Most belong to the Quechua-speaking agricultural regions to the northwest, or to the Aymara-speaking regions to the southeast. The delegation from Paucartambo has been making the pilgrimage for longer than any other.

“It’s important to maintain this tradition, because we have a lot of faith,” said a young Paucartambo pilgrim dressed as an ukuku, a mythical half-man and half-bear creature. Costumed in red, white and black alpaca robes, the ukukus are responsible for ensuring the safety of the pilgrims; they act as intermediaries between the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i and the people.

Other participants include the ch’unchus, who wear headdresses and represent Indigenous communities from the Amazon; the qhapaq qollas, who wear knitted masks and represent inhabitants from the southern Altiplano region; and the machulas, who wear long coats over fake humpbacks and represent the mythological people to first populate the Andes.

Hundreds of ceremonies are held throughout the three-day festival. But the long-awaited main event is carried out by the ukukus in the early morning hours of the last day. Carrying towering crosses and candles, ukukus from each nation ascend the Qullqipunku mountain toward a nearby glacier, regarded as alive and sentient. (The snow-capped mountains circling the valley are also believed to be mountain gods, or Apus, that provide protection.)

According to oral traditions, the ukukus, after scaling the icy slopes, once partook in ritualistic battles that were eventually prohibited by the Catholic Church.

Another tradition was also recently put to rest, this time by Mother Nature.

Up until only a few years ago, ukukus would carve slabs of ice from the glacier, whose melted water is revered as medicinal. Pilgrims would eagerly await the ukukus, backs bent from the weight of the ice, who would place the blocks along the pathway to the temple, to be used as holy water. Sometimes the ice was even transported to Cusco’s main square where, as Qoyllur Rit’i draws to a close, Corpus Christi celebrations kick off with comparable religious zeal.

Many believed that carrying the ice was a penance for sins, and that fulfilling this ritual meant the Apus would offer blessings.

But because much of the glacier has melted, significantly reducing its size, the tradition of carrying chunks of sacred ice down the mountain has been banned.

Climate scientists say that glaciers in the tropical Andes have been reduced by nearly a quarter in the last 40 years. Some scientists predict that such glaciers could disappear entirely by 2070.

These changes have not only affected agricultural practices in the Andes, but also, as witnessed by Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrims, cultural ones, too.

Although the ukukus now carry only wooden crosses back down the mountain, they’re still met with great jubilation — a testament to human resilience in the face of destruction caused by climate change.

By: Danielle Villasana
Title: Witnessing Peru’s Enduring, if Altered, Snow Star Festival
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Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 09:00:33 +0000

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British Airways updates interim catering with – gasp! – hot food




British Airways have been offering an extremely abbreviated on board service during the pandemic. Only passengers in first class received hot meals, with everyone else relegated to cold food. The interim catering has received a mixed reaction, especially as other airlines continue to offer full on board service.

All of this was wrapped in the safety banner, to reduce touch points and protect people. While perhaps admirable in its intention, frequent flyers have pointed the finger squarely at cost cutting, due to various inconsistencies in the approach. Either way, things are now moving back towards normality.

Updated Interim Catering

Hot food is back on British Airways long-haul services. First class continue to have theirs, and now everyone else on the plane gets to experience it too. That means business class passengers flying Club World, premium economy World Traveller Plus and economy World Traveller people can all chow down on something a little more fitting.

The Club World meal will be hot and served on a meal tray with a table cloth, with the second service a chilled item delivered the same way. The second service will come in a box as it does now on some return catered flights.

Those at the back of the bus will also get a hot meal, served on a half tray for the interim catering period. The second service will be chilled and be issued in a box or bag, depending on how lucky you are.

What About European Flights?

There are no changes to the current interim catering for European flights. This means that Club Europe continue to get a meal in a box or bag, and EuroTraveller customers receive a small complimentary on board snack.

The previous buy on board menu from M&S won’t be coming back, as the agreement expired this year and is not being renewed. A replacement British retailer is in the process of being recruited, so we will see a totally new buy on board menu on BA in due course.

Overall Thoughts

It is great to see some changes in the long-haul interim catering offering at British Airways. Not too soon either! Emirates return to their usual pre-Covid service on board from 1 November for example, so competition is afoot.

No doubt we will see further changes from BA as time passes on. Until the catering changes, I see no value in booking a flight with BA in a premium cabin. All my future travel is booked in economy with BA, as the value proposition for me in the higher classes has a lot to do with the food and drinks, which anyone who has read a flight review of mine will well know.

What say you? Are you happy with the improvements to the interim catering at British Airways? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by Rafael Luiz Canossa on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
With thanks to Inflight With James.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: British Airways updates interim catering with – gasp! – hot food
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Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 13:03:17 +0000

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4 Top Stargazing Places to Visit in 2020




Dark skies, bright stars are every stargazer’s main attraction spots. All around the world, people travel to experience the best spot the world has to offer. To most city dwellers, their experience with stargazing is bumping into the latest celebrity at the mall or grocery store checkout line thanks to air pollution and the city lights.

But there is nothing as magical as looking up into the dark skies dotted with constellations, planets, and shooting stars. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) recognizes over 130 spots that preserve the most star-filled skies. UNESCO recognizes several starlight reserves on its Astronomical Heritage sites list. These spectacular spots offer stargazers an opportunity to reconnect with the planet and learn more about the universe.

We believe you deserve to know the top spots that will give you the most magical experience, yet.  Here are 4 top places to visit in 2020 for stargazing.

The Best Stargazing Places to Visit

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Located in the remote Lake Powell of Utah, Natural Bridges was the first to be certified by the IDA as the international dark sky park. The IDA is the leading organization in combating light pollution, it is a big deal. The designation recognizes areas with some of the darkest and clearest skies in the world. It acknowledged darkness as a resource worthy of conservation and protection and appreciates the efforts extended to achieve this. The main attraction of the dark skies of Natural Bridges is a phenomenon that rises over the natural rock formation of Owachomo Bridge creating one of the most spectacular Milky Way you have ever seen. The bridge forms some sort of a window to the sky by beautifully framing thousands of stars, all of which are visible with the naked eye.

Plan to camp here overnight to have the full experience. Night photographers do get some of the most marvelous shots at the Natural Bridges National Monument, but always remember artificial sources of light for photography are prohibited.

Mauna Kea, Hawaii, United States

Located about 2,500 miles Southwest of California, Hawaii has evolved to be one of the leading astronomy destinations. The high volcanic peaks offer some of the most spectacular sceneries around the world.

Mauna Kea Summit is perhaps the most popular stargazing spots in Hawaii.

13,803 feet above the town of Hilo and close to Mauna Kea is the Mauna Kea Observatory, the largest of its kind in the world. It is a major astronomy hub.

What’s more, is that it is one of the few places on earth you can drive nearly 14,000 above sea level. Just make sure you check-in at the Visitors Station to acclimatize. You don’t want to experience altitude sickness. Still, the journey is magical with starry rewards. Make sure to bring the best telescopes as from this spot you get to see the celestial wonders of the Northern Hemisphere from bands of Jupiter to the constellations of Orion. Also because Mauna Kea is close to the equator, the stars of the Southern Hemisphere are visible, too. This means that over 80% of the earth’s stars can be seen from Mauna Kea.

Photographers have been known to capture the rare lunar rainbow from Mauna Kea. Lunar rainbows are essentially lit by the moon and not the sun, and occur under precise conditions.

Pic du Midi, France

Located in the Pyrénées Mountains of France, Pic Ddu Midi is good enough of a spot for NASA to take photos of the moon surface in preparation for their missions; it’s good enough for you.

A cable car from the La Mongie will get you to the summit, where an observatory is perched right above the clouds.

Also, the reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a major French national park. Plan to book an overnight stay to experience an unforgettable night under the stars.

Los Angeles, California

It is primarily known for another kind of star, the Hollywood star, and smog that is ever-present. To many, Lost Angeles does not come off as an ideal place to go stargazing. But those that have visited the iconic Griffith Observatory will tell you otherwise. Perched atop Mount Hollywood, it is one of the most astronomically intriguing places to visit. Depending on the time of the year, from Griffith Observatory you can observe assorted double stars, nebulae, Jupiter, and Venus. And with powerful telescopes, the incredibly detailed view of the Moon’s craggy surface can be visible.

The stars are accessible from most places and to everyone but some locations can get you the most from a night sky. Add these spots to your bucket list and start ticking. Once you do, you’ll be treated to an amazing view few people will even get to see.

The post 4 Top Stargazing Places to Visit in 2020 appeared first on Travel Experta – Family Travel Blog.

By: Marina Villatoro
Title: 4 Top Stargazing Places to Visit in 2020
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Published Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2020 15:30:03 +0000

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