The last time I visited Orange Hill Restaurant was pre-pandemic for a friend’s bon voyage party. Though I am certain that the menu has changed here and there since that time, the quality of its culinary offerings, absolutely breathtaking views and stellar service have not changed one iota.
Perched on the hills of Orange County, the restaurant offers panoramic views of Catalina Island, downtown Los Angeles, Disneyland’s nightly pyrotechnic extravaganza and the gorgeous SoCal coastline. Pair the views with a glass of wine from the award-winning house list, or partake in a hand-crafted cocktail.
A contemporary California steakhouse, Orange Hill features aged butcher-cut steaks (including a new menu item - the Steak Progressive showcasing four different cuts of premium beef) and the freshest of seafood (think miso-marinated Chilean sea bass, coconut shrimp and lobster and shrimp risotto).
If you’re searching for a wonderful weekend brunch, this is where Orange Hill truly shines. Start out with a bottomless mimosa mixed and matched with your choice of unique flavor pairings - dragonfruit and watermelon, fresh cucumber mint, lavender-activated charcoal lemonade or pineapple jalapeno.
Raw bar offerings include chilled oysters on the half shell, salmon tartare (miso soy, citrus edamame smash, pickled Fresno peppers), Alaskan king crab legs and citrus poached shrimp cocktail.
A la carte entrees range from traditional favorites like fluffy thick-cut brioche French toast topped with cognac roasted golden apples and three-egg omelets. The “Brunchy Smash Burger” arrives as a cooked-to-your-liking double patty with Tabasco aioli, fried egg and applewood smoked bacon while the Hangover Hash is made from mouthwatering braised prime rib accompanied by roasted potatoes, poached egg and signature Hollandaise.
Love bennys? Orange Hill’s serves up several delicious signature benedicts - Classic, Crab Cake, Smoked Salmon and a trio of beef specialties: the Cape Grim Filet, Prime Zabuton and Dry-Aged Ribeye - all accompanied by Hollandaise, blistered tomatoes and my personal favorite ... chimichurri (an incredibly flavorful traditional Argentine sauce made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic and olive oil that I can literally consume by the spoonful).
Whether you’re celebrating with friends, gathering with family or out for a romantic date night - come to relax, refresh, or reimagine - the possibilities here are lined up like the sights from the patio. All you have to do is drive up the Hill.
The Orange Hill Restaurant
6410 E. Chapman
With the change of seasons always comes an exciting time in food - especially at your favorite restaurants. My new go-to in Orange is O SEA, located in the historic heart of Orange on the circle. Open since June 2021, this innovative eatery features a refreshingly modern, upbeat atmosphere and excellent seafood offerings which shine with the passionate personalities of its founder and general manager Mike Flynn and his team.
Mike’s dream “for a decade” came to fruition after a restaurant journey that took this clearly talented concept creator to popular seafood establishments across the country and back home to his native Orange County. O SEA is the perfect embodiment of his personal and professional passions: great fish, funky wines and catchy songs in a 112-year-old building.
In the few short months since opening its doors, O SEA has already established itself as community favorite for delicious seasonal fare: responsibly sourced seafood complemented by the seasonality and diversity of Southern California cooking so you get the freshest entrees and sides imaginable.
A high energy, yet refined menu marries bold global flavor profiles with high quality, affordable seafood. On a recent night out, my husband and I invited a couple who live in Old Town to join us for dinner at O SEA, thinking we’d be introducing them to its offerings.
Turns out, our foodie friends were already regulars who raved about the menu, service and the carefully curated wine list that mirrors the same philosophy as the menu. Each varietal, by the glass or bottle, is approachable and fun - a Hungarian white “goes with spicy food,” while the ‘Love You Bunches’ sangiovese is “best served chilled.”
To give you an idea of the fun to be had here ... there is no corkage fee here, the only caveat is that you must pour a tasting glass from the bottle you bring and send it to another table. The concept sparks conversation, reciprocal samplings and laughter that lends itself to a true sense of community.
Literally everything we tried was uber flavorful - from the wild British Columbian salmon ceviche served Peruvian style with coconut leche de tigre and habanero oil and the grilled wild Spanish octopus enhanced with creamy adobo and grilled summer sweet corn to the crispy Oaxacan hot shrimp.
Just thinking of the melt-in-your-mouth wild Eastern sea scallops and oysters on the half shell served with Thai red curry cocktail sauce, yuzu mignonette and tajin’d lime are enough to get my tastebuds watering. But what a treat to experience the incredible food and energetic atmosphere at once – O SEA is a standout for every season.
109 S. Glassell St.
Savory is one of those words that gets tossed around indiscriminately. I suppose the synonyms are a bit lackluster (appetizing, toothsome), but none of the adjectives really do an unforgettable meal justice.
At North Italia, it doesn’t matter how you describe the food, as long as you know you’re always in for something special. Every day there are new items waiting to be devoured, like the Chef’s daily pizzas or their house-made cocktails.
On a recent date night, my husband and I spent a considerable amount of time perusing the menu, trying to decide between dishes made with house-made pasta or pizza dough or one of the steak or seafood specialties.
While mulling over options, we noshed on yummy grilled bread and "good olive oil," seasoned with grana padano and herbs and a tuna crudo that quite frankly could have been an entree onto itself enhanced with castelvetrano olive, caper, orange, pine nut, mint, avocado, agrumato and espelette pepper - the latter beautifully presented and as flavorful as it sounds.
Since we couldn't narrow the choices to only two, we ordered three entrees thinking whatever we didn't finish would allow us to revisit our culinary adventure the next night. Each dish more than met our expectations - the bolognese is a house specialty with traditional meat sauce, tagliatelle noodle and grana padano cheese while "The Pig" pizza arrived topped with spicy pepperoni, soppressata and Italian sausage.
The braised short rib with roasted fennel, heirloom carrot, grilled asparagus, marscapone polenta and short rib jus was worth writing home about - mouth-wateringly tender and uber delicious. Other popular picks on our list to try on our next foray into North Italia?
The Diver Scallops with parmesan risotto, roasted corn, asparagus pancetta, crispy shallot and Calabrian agrodolce and the Roasted Salmon with pesto farro, caramelized cauliflower and lemon gremolata.
Impossible to imagine we had enough room for dessert, but we couldn't pass up our server's recommendation of the Bombolini (Italian donuts with Meyer lemon curd and vanilla marscapone) that were deliciously reminiscent of the sugar dusted malasadas (Portuguese donuts) I grew up eating in my native Honolulu.
The standout service and creative Italian cuisine here is enough to craft a novel about, but between the roasted pine nuts, torn basil, house-made pasta and creative cocktails like the ginger blossom margarita, you might just end up muttering the word “savory” under your breath to your friends across the table in between bites.
2657 Michelson Drive
I’m not going to lie. I just tried mezcal for the first time this year. It reminded me of bonfires on camping trips with family friends. The second sip was akin to the Santa Ana winds that blow through around Halloween each year: mysterious, moody. I’ve always had a fondness for fall in Southern California - it can certainly be hot and blustery for a few days, but it's also the best beach weather we get all year.
In San Diego County, cities like Cardiff-by-the-Sea and Carlsbad absolutely shine. The days are barely shorter than high summer, but all of the tourists are back at school or work, far from the verdant links, rugged trails, and luxurious accommodations of the Park Hyatt Aviara.
Tucked away on 200 lush, private acres in Carlsbad, this AAA Five-Diamond and Forbes Five-Star luxury resort is ideally located within easy reach of all of San Diego's offerings, but feels like a private, secluded retreat. While there are abundant attractions off site, there are so many world-class opportunities for recreation and relaxation on property that our family saw no reason to leave on recent weekend stay-cation.
Fresh from a $50 million resort-wide transformation, guests are transported from the moment they step into the gorgeous Mediterranean-style lobby with its open-air design. A one-of-a-kind sculpted chandelier floating down from the ceiling showcases the migration of birds taking refuge in the neighboring Batiquitos Lagoon. A coastal wetland between the glittering Pacific Coast and the Park Hyatt, Batiquitos offers tremendous bird-watching opportunities if you just can’t figure out what to do amidst the multitude of offerings on site.
The luxury coastal-chic accommodations here feature private balconies, stylish artwork, deep marble baths, teak furnishing, uber-comfortable beds and fabulous courtyard, lagoon, golf course or pool views.
With regard to the latter, our kids couldn't wait to spend the afternoon upon arrival at the Splash Pool Deck with its brand-new two-story waterslide (for swimmers 4-feet tall and above), zero-grade entry and splash pad. My husband and I were equally excited to watch them frolic, while sipping a craft cocktail happily ensconced in one of the spacious private cabanas.
From our vantage point on the Ocean View Pool Deck, we reviewed our options. Indulge in a massage or body treatment in the lavish 15,000-square-foot Aviara Spa? Hit the links at the only Arnold Palmer signature designed golf course in coastal California? Try our hand at one of six lit tennis courts (including two Har-Tru clay courts) set against a backdrop of lush botanicals and greenery?
A given was to embark on a locally inspired culinary adventure (or two). Happy hour at Pacific Point Restaurant is defined by craft cocktails, sushi and spectacular sunsets.
For a fine dining experience in the newest of Park Aviara's signature restaurants, Ponto Lago serves up locally sourced coastal cuisine in a refined modern setting. An added attraction for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of where the magic happens? A show kitchen where you can watch the restaurant team in action bringing Chef's creations to center stage.
I fancy myself a fledgling foodie so I was particularly thrilled to learn of the Chef's Corner - a multi-sensory culinary offering where our epicurean journey began with a phone call from Chef. He asked about our dining desires and flavor preferences before crafting a personalized menu that proved to be unbelievably decadent and delicious. He asked about our dining desires and flavor preferences before crafting a personalized menu that proved to be unbelievably decadent and delicious.
Chef de Cuisine Chris Carriker crafted a series of culinary creations, each paired with the perfect wine accompaniment per our server Udi’s suggestion. Local albacore was enhanced with farm fresh melons, watermelon aguachile and speck ham while the octopus taco with saffron potato crema pickled red onions (for me) and the pork belly taco paired with chiccarones, salsa macha and serrano crema (for Tim) were equally flavorful options. Other courses incorporated perfectly grilled ribeye with mole negro and charred onions, wood-fired salmon and roasted duck.
By itself, Ponto Lago is an incredibly refined setting for any of their Baja-inspired dishes, or craft cocktails. But a tequila or mezcal pairing is sure to set things into a different orbit alongside Chef’s Corner. Explore over 50 different tequila and mezcal selections - indulge in a sweet. floral-inspired agave from the Highlands of Jalisco or savor in the spicy, earthy and herbaceous flavors produced in the Lowlands. You might not find the flavors of a bonfire, sharp and smoky, but you’ll certainly have a taste for fall in San Diego for years to come.
Park Hyatt Aviara
7100 Aviara Resort Drive
I’ve always had a case of wanderlust and my husband, Tim, was a seasoned traveler long before I met him, so we’ll use any excuse to explore new environs or revisit favorite vacation destinations. We love traveling so much that we have over the years made a conscious effort to impart in our children a similar desire to trek across the country or traipse around the globe.
In the 15 years since our son was born, we’ve happily traveled far and wide whether for weekend stay-cations within easy driving distance or longer trips that involved a fair number of planes, trains and automobiles. We even embarked on an ambitious plan to visit all 50 states as a family by the time he graduates high school (we have 15 more to go). But what we haven’t done in all that time is leave the kids home for a few adults-only days away - mostly because they were either too little or because we were actively crossing states off the list together.
But as summer was winding down and our now-teenagers were gearing back up for school, my husband and I decided to head south for a sans-kids sojourn to Casa Velas in Puerta Vallarta.
Our idea of a refuge for relaxation involves gourmet food, fine wine, a good book, a sun-soaked beach, snorkeling, swimming, sumptuous spa treatments and ... nowhere particular to be at any specific time. Other guests we met on property said they prefer active daytime endeavors like playing tennis and golf (Casa Velas is nestled in an upscale residential neighborhood overlooking Marina Vallarta, one of the region’s best courses). Luckily for all of us, this gorgeous oceanside oasis offers all of the above and then some. Casa Velas’ specialty? An unforgettable, all-inclusive, adults-only resort experience crafted to your specific desires and tastes.
We already felt worlds away upon arrival - the entrance and lobby reminiscent of a sprawling Spanish hacienda opens out onto canopied gardens characterized by abundant, colorful flora and fauna, picturesque reflecting pools, koi ponds, towering palms, an array of gorgeous fountains and arched terraces.
A luxury spa and salon, world-class championship golf, access to the beautiful Táu Beach Club, and decadent suites furnished with traditional Mexican charm are just a few of the reasons Casa Velas is the top-rated all-inclusive and one of the most celebrated all-inclusives in Puerto Vallarta. Steps from the beach and minutes from downtown, this boutique hotel boasts an estate-like ambiance amidst lush tropical gardens where peacocks roam.
The tranquil coastal ambiance carries through to each of its villa-style accommodations (think private immersion pools, jacuzzi hot tubs, scenic golf course and garden views). Choose from 80 plush suites, each exquisitely furnished and adorned with textures and colors inspired by traditional Mexican design, many including pieces by acclaimed Mexican sculptor Sergio Bustamente.
Dining is a highlight of Casa Velas with a choice of Emiliano Restaurant, and Táu Beach Club (with complimentary transportation to and from Casa Velas) for enjoying the famous Mexican Pacific sunsets in all their glory, and the four specialty restaurants of the nearby Five Diamond-rated sister resort Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.
Casually elegant, the property’s signature award-winning AAA Four-Diamond restaurant, Emiliano showcases gourmet Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner in an intimate and relaxed setting of your choice indoors or on the romantic outdoor terrace surrounded by koi ponds.
I’m the seafood aficionado in our family while my husband leans more toward beef and chicken entrees so we were delighted to discover a plethora of gourmet options in which to partake. My pastor-style salmon accompanied with pineapple puree and avocado mousse was simply divine, as was his grilled-to-perfection ribeye with baked potato and sauteed asparagus. Other indulgent dishes range from a Diabla-style octopus, shrimp served with asparagus risotto and the Veracruz-style catch of the day to the flavorful, falling-off-the-bone tender barbecue pork ribs.
In addition to its regular menu, Emiliano rotates through customized five-course offerings - a different one each night - masterminded by the head chefs at Casa Velas’s sister property Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Drawing inspiration from each of the three on-site award-winning restaurants Frida (Mexican), Piaf (French) and Lucca (Italian), features a dynamic tasting menu paired with tequila, martini and fine wine, respectively. Prefer authentic street food? Emiliano’s also serves up tantalizing takes on favorites found in Mexico’s colorful markets in diverse regions of the country.
For my part, lounging by the stunning free-form, cobalt-blue pool for the better part of each afternoon translated to the copious consumption of a trio of delicious ceviche offerings - shrimp (with tomato, onion, cucumber, coriander and serrano chili), white fish or tuna tartare with avocado, sesame oil and ponzu sauce - on the Aqua Bar menu. Tim says he still daydreams about the chicken burrito that he claims is the best he’s ever tasted with gourmet flavor unlike any preparation he’s sampled before.
An exclusive retreat on the ocean’s edge, Tau Beach Club serves a refreshing menu of spirited cocktails. Enjoy beachfront dining on the charming covered terrace and take in beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. During the day, guests can settle into Bali beds or sun loungers and nosh on sushi to their heart’s content. In the evenings, Táu Beach Club transforms into the perfect place for a romantic sunset dinner at The Ocean Club defined by an innovative menu of Mexican-inspired and Asian cuisine - my personal culinary preferences. The elevated gourmet food and beverage program extends to its extensive list of refreshing craft cocktails, fine wine and premium liquors at the restaurant, 24/7 in suite or served poolside in your own personal cabana or at the swim-up palapa Aqua Bar. Also included are events like wine pairings, tequila, mescal and martini tastings - which gives guests an opportunity to get acquainted with one another.
Needless to say - given the days (and nights) of (over) indulgence, I was especially thankful for the professionally equipped fitness center - complete with an array of cardio and weight machines - and the opportunity to expend a few extra calories. But for the height of relaxation, the full-service ABJA Spa was a most desired destination.
Featuring spa treatments and therapies inspired by local Mexican tradition and international wellness trends, guests can choose from signature treatments, therapeutic massages, beauty services, and holistic rituals using herbs and ingredients harvested in Casa Velas’ own botanical garden and performed by experienced spa specialists who work with each guest to customize services to their specific needs whether the goal is to relieve stress or revitalize your soul.
All of the aforementioned luxurious accommodation, amenity-rich ambiance, epicurean exploits and stunning scenery aside, I would be seriously amiss if I neglected to mention the stellar personalized service extended by every member of the staff here. From check in to departure, each member of the Casa Velas team is clearly dedicated to ensuring a warm, wonderful experience for each of its guests. If you are searching for an immersive, relaxing retreat in the most tranquil of settings and distinguished by exemplary, over-the-top service, trust me ... you need look no further than Casa Velas, Puerta Vallarta.
One of the perks of my job as a magazine editor is being able to interview entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries - an opportunity for a bit of education on businesses I might not otherwise have had exposure to.
In today's market, I've read my share of articles about the importance of hedging against inflation, but it wasn't until I chatted with Ali Soltani, owner of the Dana Point-based Royal Gold Group that I learned about options and benefits in investing in gold and silver.
It doesn't hurt that Ali waxes poetic about all kinds of currency like he was Nicholas Cage’s National Treasure character talking about the George Washington campaign buttons. Before I met him, the concept of investing in coins and precious metals seemed as fantastic as someone attempting to steal the Declaration of Independence.
The more I learned though, its ties to true financial finesse are difficult to ignore.
Following in his father's footsteps, Ali has been a personal collector of coins and currency since he was a child and it's clear that educating clients or the lay public in general about currency is absolutely a passion for him. Much more than a hobby, Ali makes it a specialty rather than a simple customer service transaction. For the last five years, Royal Gold Group has been operating in South Orange County. Part of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, Royal Gold originally started as a small shop in Old Town Tustin and has recently expanded to Dana Point in a much larger space. But why coins? Why currency?
“It isn’t about the formal business for us," says Ali. "I didn’t want to have just another old dirty coin shop. I enjoy the blend of customer service and sales in this specific arena - educating my customers and exchanging knowledge with seasoned collectors.”
Ali and his team at the Royal Gold Group cater to investors of all ages and abilities. If you are a novice investor, they can create an offering based on your specific goals. Are you looking to collect for pleasure, buy and sell for quick profit, or buy and sell for a long-term investment?
Offering private appointments for those clients who might need a little more time or privacy to look at products, “or go over valuable estate items they are looking to sell," jewelry repair, and coin appraisals mean less time out on the market, liquidating the responsibility for a single customer to travel distance for multiple appointments. Easily booked over the phone and offered free of charge, private appointments take the pressure off for clients who need extra time to catch up in a clean, well-organized, stress-free and accessible environment.
“Coins and bullion are not for just a specific type of collector or investor anymore," says Ali. "We see patrons ranging in age from 6 to 76 years old: parents with their kiddos, seasoned collectors who have been in the marketplace for a generation. We welcome all.”
Royal Gold Group
34291 Doheny Park Road
(next to the post office)
My 14-year-old daughter has long been obsessed with all things French - its food (crepes, baguettes, macarons), fashion and the idea of one day experiencing these “for real” in the City of Light. While we’ve traveled extensively within the borders of our own country endeavoring to visit all 50 states as a family by the time our now 15-year-old son graduates high school, we’ve ventured abroad too few times for her (or my) liking.
This summer we made a concerted effort to remedy that with an unforgettable family sojourn across the pond. While flying for upwards of ten straight hours with a pair of teens in tow might not sound like much fun, Paris is one of the most family friendly places to travel. Look beyond Disneyland (though that’s a great option, particularly for families with littles) - think scenic river cruises along the Seine, more gorgeous gardens and verdant green spaces than you can shake a stick at, picturesque outdoor cafes and crepe stands around every corner and rife with both iconic and little-known landmarks rich in history and reflective of Paris’ vibrant art and cultural influences - past and present.
The Highlight Tour
I’d been to Paris as a single woman in my late 20s and spent the better part of a week wandering the City of Light; known so for being the first city in Europe to light its streets with gas lamps; I must have averaged 12 miles on my feet per day. Absolutely torturing my toes to ensure I saw every square inch of every arrondissement, I promised myself if I ever went back, I’d try to be less intimidated by the metro system and even indulge in other modes of public transportation.
This time around, swimming around online to put together ideas for our itinerary, I happily discovered Big Bus Tours (bigbustours.com). Offered in cities all over Europe, Central Asia, America, and the Middle East, their hop-on, hop-off tours give you a front row view of the sights you want to see, for a fraction of the footsteps. We used our ticket for our first day of adventuring, which proved to the perfect way to get the lay of the land, learn a bit of history/background on each of the 10 “stops” along the route and determine which were “must-see” destinations for the coming days.
Choose between a classic ticket, which offers a single day with 10 top landmarks, pre-recorded commentary, and a flexible ticket, or upgrade to a Premium or Deluxe ticket - with all the basics plus an additional day of touring and option for a river cruise as well. Incredibly priced, you can choose to hop off at a particular sight to explore a bit more, or stay on the bus the entire time to snap crystal clear photos from the open top deck for the duration of the 2.5 hour ride. Whichever way you want, the Champs Elysees, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and more are waiting for you. Save your feet for an easy stroll along the Seine at night.
Green River Cruises
Isak Dinesen was famously misquoted as a man for her line from “Seven Gothic Tales,” in which a seaman tells his son “the cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.” Though the Seine, when it travels through Paris like a great wet artery, contains less salinity than the Atlantic, its ability to soothe is unmatched. Green River Cruises (greenriver-paris.fr) offers comfortable, luxurious private river tours for two to twelve guests per pontoon boat. Customizable boats provide a relaxing environment for a sunset aperitif, a romantic dinner for two, a fun team-building experience or in the case of our family, an unforgettable experience of the city “in a different light” as we leisurely cruised past several of the city’s most iconic landmarks while our “captain” shared a bit of history and inside info from a local’s perspective.
With four electric boats in its fleet, Green River Cruises is dedicated to providing the most respectful experience for its guests and the planet alike. Sipping chardonnay as you tour one of the most enchanting cities in the world, you’ll see the evolution of Paris from its medieval heritage to the modern mecca it is today. Choose from a one, one-and-a-half, or a two-hour cruise and celebrate any special occasion or just a gorgeous day or evening on the water.
Hidden Paris Walking Tour
I have a personal rule when traveling abroad - no chain restaurants. Especially American ones. I stand by this for a couple of reasons - to experience the city and its newness, but also that as I’ve followed the advice of locals over the years, I’ve enjoyed better food, better wine, and better sightseeing experiences in general. After all, we know what we like where we live so the local perspective can make all the difference between vacationing like a tourist or experiencing the environs more akin to a native.
Hidden Paris Tours (hidden-paris.com) exists solely to give its guests the most unique and intimate view of Paris there is. Our guide, company co-founder Delphine and her partners have already done all the legwork over the years ... roaming the city in search of delicious cuisine and incredible locales with which to share the colorful history and beauty of their fair city. Choose from a private, group or customized tour, whether your interest is in fine art, gourmet food or haute couture fashion.
We chose to explore the neighborhood of Montmartre and indulged in stories only a local like Delphine knows to share. In addition to witnessing firsthand the postcard perfect landmarks we all associate with Paris, we discovered charming neighborhoods away from the typical tourist destinations, meandered down romantic side streets, viewed the studio spaces that were once home to some of the world’s most famous artists, painters, singers, dancers of years past. From Versailles, museums, and monuments, to the world’s most famous cemetery (Pere Lechaise), experience Paris as though you were born a local and grew up with curiosity as a companion.
One doesn’t necessarily travel to another country hoping to hear about widespread public health problems, especially these days. But deep underground the romantic streets of Paris lie another tale to be told, one you don’t want to miss. In the late 18th century, Parisian officials began to worry about the impact above-ground cemeteries were having on the population of the city. Following the first evacuations of the Saints-Innocents cemetery, which had been in use for nearly ten centuries, the tombs, graves, and charnel house were emptied of their bones, and transported nearly five stories underground to abandoned quarry wells, and stacked high by workers through the night. Tours began in 1809, and have continued ever since.
Welcoming nearly 550,000 visitors annually, the Paris Catacombs (catacombes.paris.fr) are an artistic contemplation on introspection, and a meditation on death itself. The ossuary was carefully organized by Inspector Hericart de Thury, and boast a monumental approach, much like that of the Egyptian pyramids and their masonry monuments. Tours last roughly an hour, and if you were worried about balancing a bit of exercise on your tour de cheese while in Paris, you’ll certainly work off the morning’s baguette with 131 steps into the depths, and 112 steps back up into the sun. Grab a timed ticket, your sweetheart or history-loving counterpart, and drop back a couple of centuries this vacation.
Cirque Bormann Moreno
Who doesn’t love a good circus? Cirque Bormann Moreno (cirquebormann.fr) is a lively throwback to an earlier era when circuses were held in a traditional big top and the performers loved interacting directly with the public. The current “A Journey Through Time” themed show - performed in French - travels from the prehistoric era to ancient Egypt, Africa, the roaring 20s and modern day Paris.
It was such a treat to experience this cirque de la belle Epoque - this seven-generation family of performers work together to entertain audiences of all ages with three weekly shows (Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) featuring acrobats, trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns and an array of impressively trained animals including a quartet of magnificent horses. Before each performance, there is free access to “initiation and animation” workshops where the visitors are afforded a “behind the scenes” experience - the younger attendees especially love this artist-supervised aspect.
After the past few years of waiting to again take to the skies, our family was thrilled to learn that France has lifted Covid restrictions for those flying into the country and lifted mask mandates for those who have their feet on the ground. While many moms like me find that their patience is better these days after having struggled through the past couple of years of a pandemic, I’m certain anything that makes life a little easier is a wonderful respite. One of those things is an easily bookable flight, where you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for nonstop travel from Los Angeles to Paris with the family. French bee (Frenchbee.com) makes that possible.
Founded in 2016, the low-cost long-haul airline is revolutionizing international flights with a fleet of Airbus A350s wide-body aircraft optimized for long flights. One hundred percent flexible tickets (and rail options to make traveling in country that much easier) to tailor your fare and flight experience any way you want it. Basic, Smart or Premium, you pay only for what you’re interested in. Get the lowest price you want, add a few extras, or go for the full package for maximum comfort and amenity. When booking travel, I find there’s often a bit of translating to do: what exactly is a la carte (there are more than 20 add-on options)? What is economy, or premium? French bee defines it all.
If you’re looking for nonstop travel at the best possible rate, French bee offers two classes of economy (with one-way fares starting at only $326): Basic and Smart. Basic is the most economical option that comes with one 26-lb. carry-on included, while Smart includes the carry-on, one 50-lb checked bag and an in-flight meal. Either of these economy options come with leather seats, adjustable headrests, USB and electrical ports (to keep all your devices charged throughout the entire flight) and what French bee bills as “unlimited entertainment.” I personally found the latter to be true ... I have a hard time sleeping on flights so I thoroughly enjoyed binge-watching a series of movies - new releases and older favorites on the individual HD touchscreen outfitted for every traveler.
An upgrade to Premium (with one-way fares starting at $767) takes you a step further with even more leg room, larger seats, two premium meals, complimentary beverage service, priority boarding, line jump and priority baggage (one carry-on and two 50-lb. checked bags) to make your trip a dream. Choose from a Standard seat, Window, or Extra Leg Room. Customize, customize, customize. Down to the Michelin chef designed meal service, French Bee is there to ensure whatever it is that you need while aboard, they’ll ensure quality, custom service.
For our part, we literally experienced all three levels of service: my husband and I opted for Premium class on the outbound while the kids sat together in Smart Economy (our thought was that the little extras would make for a less-jetlagged and thereby less cranky crew at destination). My husband likes the extra leg room, so he traveled back in the Premium cabin while I sat with the kids in Basic economy. Having personally experienced both, either is a terrific option ... I’m only 5’3” so I was just as comfortable on the return and my daughter and I were able to watch shows together for a little extra quality time on the way home.
Bonus! At Paris Orly Airport prior to boarding our return flight, we took full advantage of the Prime Class airport lounge - a spacious, relaxing space close to our departure gate overlooking the runways with complimentary Wi-Fi, French and international newspapers, self-service hot and cold beverages and light bites (including crepes).
The lowest price for your greatest pleasure. Ideal to travel light and affordably, you travel with a carry-on only and add all the services you want. Pay for only what you are interested in.
French bee’s most popular ticket type fare - includes a 50-lb checked bag in addition to your carry-on plus a delicious in-flight meal (with a range of options including vegetarian and fish).
Enjoy the same as above but with faster priority boarding and jump-the-line services at the airport, a larger seat, more leg room and priority baggage - you don’t need to wait for your luggage upon landing. Indulge your inner foodie with an additional in-flight meal and complimentary beverage service, plus an additional 50-lb. checked bag.
In Southern California, our backyards and patio are often viewed as an extension of our entertainment spaces - a place for hosting parties, lounging by the pool or in the case of one of our family’s favorite pastimes, dining al fresco.
Because so much time is spent outdoors, many folks I know invest as much on their patio furniture as they do in appointing their interiors.
The problem is that over time the weather can be particularly hard on the metal and fabrics with constant exposure to the sun, salt air and in the case of homes closer to the ocean, even sand. With four generations of patio furniture repair and refinishing experience, CFR Patio specializes in restoring existing furniture and updating colors/styles for a far more cost-effective alternative to purchasing an entirely new set.
CFR’s services range from custom tailored outdoor cushions, sling fabric replacement, and vinyl strapping replacement and vinyl lacing/weaving replacement to powder coat refinishing and commercial repair and restoration. Clients can choose from a large selection of metal finishes, fabrics and color schemes, including hundreds of colors and fabrics for slings, straps and cushions for a coordinated, polished result.
“CFR Patio is an incredible company to work with from beginning to end,” says Libby, a recent happy customer. “Each person I spoke with was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Their service was fantastic. Pick-up and delivery was on time, and the furniture was very carefully handled. Our chairs, lounges and tables look like new, and I am sure they will last for many years to come. I highly recommend them.”
Another client, AJ agrees with Libby’s assessment and adds “I was so impressed with your prompt and professional service. I felt your pricing was very fair and actually surprising low. I highly recommend your store and staff. First class in every respect.”
Owners Brian Lee and his son Collin and their team offer pick up and delivery so the process couldn’t be more convenient.
They’ll strip the old, dull finish by sandblasting and pre-treating your set in preparation for the powder coating application (available in an array of colors and finishes including high/low gloss, metallic, textured or clear), which is then baked in an industrial oven to cure to a beautiful, long-lasting final finish. New straps or sling materials are then installed and voila! A brand-new look/feel for a fraction of the cost and hassle of removing your old set and purchasing a new one.
“What sets us apart from others in the industry is our attention to detail and a true passion for the industry,” says Brian, a Dana Point resident. “If you’re interested in an estimate, it couldn’t be easier ... simply send photographs of your patio furniture via email or call us directly. Your furniture was intended to last for decades and so is our work. That’s why we offer a three-year real warranty on all of our services.”
It’s a remarkable feeling when you can find someone to take your side. In relationships, sports: you name it. That one person who believes in you, makes you better, fights alongside you.
Michael Cefali matched with his person (his wife Courtney) long before law school - but their partnership extended through the long years studying for the bar and paid off in an even match that has stacked up in their favor many times over. Graduates of Chapman Law and California Western, respectively, they started the San Juan Capistrano-based Cefali & Cefali, APC in July of 2019 and have been fighting for the little guy ever since. From setting clients up with top-tier doctors and specialists, to negotiating stellar settlements, Cefali & Cefali, APC handles cases from start to finish with client health as their top priority.
Focusing on all aspects of personal injury, the Cefalis are what you might expect in such a ring: passionate, aggressive, and most importantly, honest - all traits that have contributed to the couple having recovered millions of dollars per year on behalf of their clients since opening their firm.
“The insurance companies would like you to think that they get to determine the value of your injuries, your suffering,” says Michael. “We’ll fight for every last penny because we know that you deserve it.” Clients appreciate the work that the Cefalis do. In fact, as of the date of this publication, you won’t find a single negative review of their firm anywhere on the internet.
Client Jamie shares, “I am so grateful for everything that Mike Cefali and his team did for me! Not only was he able to help me get what I was owed in my settlement and then some, but he was so responsive and kind and it was very apparent that he cared about me and my case! He and his team are so HONEST and FAIR and it was clear from start to finish that he had my best interest in mind! Not only is he a good lawyer but he is a good person which made a world of difference for me. I could not have asked for a better experience with a personal injury attorney! I have already recommended him to all of my friends and I will continue to recommended him to anyone looking for a good lawyer! Thank you so much Cefali and Cefali!”
Another client Carrie echoes Jamie’s sentiment, “My husband and I were rear-ended on the freeway. We felt bad thinking of contacting a lawyer, but after several months of continuous pain and medical treatments, a friend recommended Michael Cefali. From the beginning, he lived up to his core values of integrity, loyalty, and vigorous advocacy. Michael is a dedicated, friendly, and competent attorney who seamlessly represented our interests and ensured the outcome was in our favor. He treated us not like a client, but like family; he was there any time we needed him. He was empathetic to our situation and worked tirelessly with all parties to represent us. We don’t trust many people, but we trust Michael and his team and would highly recommend him to anyone seeking a professional, effective, and focused attorney.”
With five staff members to back up the stellar work Michael and Courtney produce, the couple remain incredibly hands on, based on a culture of empathy, integrity and advocacy.
“We craft each case personally, build each one for trial, and remain accessible to clients,” says Michael. “Personal injury attorneys get a bad rap when really we’re the good guys. I like to think of our firm as a pirate ship. Nimble, clever, and tenacious in spite of being outspent by the adversary, we pry money from greedy insurance companies and give it to our very deserving clients.”
Giving back is the spirit of the firm, and community work creates a direct link between Michael, Courtney, and their circle in San Juan Capistrano. The couple and their team proudly supports a number of local charitable and community organizations including: The Boys and Girls Club of Capistrano Valley (Courtney is on the Board of Directors), The San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library (Courtney is also a board member), CREER, the Pacific Marine Mammal Foundation, and Project Coyote. Michael is a member of the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club and has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow.
The Cefali team’s ethics, constant communication (every client is given Michael’s personal cell phone for easy accessibility), commitment to their clients and involvement in the community keeps everyone growing stronger and healthier together. Remarkable isn’t it, that feeling when someone takes your side?
Cefali & Cefali, APC