Oakland Is the Bay Area’s New Style Capital
Visitors to Northern California’s Bay Area have a legendary array of sights to see and experiences to savor, from the natural beauty of Marin County to the cultural cornucopia of Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and other communities. But lately, we’ve noticed that Oakland in particular is setting itself apart when it comes to attracting fashion-forward shoppers.
The city of Oakland itself has taken notice of its stylish status as well, launching a new Oakland Style digital fashion guide to help visitors and locals explore Oakland-based apparel and accessories.
Unique Local Style With Meaning
Shoppers in the know are attracted to Oakland’s style scene not only because the clothing and accessories are original and beautiful but also because Oakland style often holds deeper meaning, reflecting local history (black berets are just one example), popular culture (remember MC Hammer’s parachute pants?) and even politics. Oakland’s Sherri McMullen styled iconic looks for Michelle Obama; Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. launched the Dope Era fashion brand; Oakland native and NFL player Marshawn Lynch created Beastmode, an “athleisure” brand; and local Viscera crafts unique jewelry using a 3D printer.
We love how Oakland-inspired clothing brand Oaklandish pursues a mission to spread “local love”: with local-pride T-shirts and accessories and by creating quality jobs for inner-city locals. And we applaud vintager clothing boutique Regina’s Door for serving as a sanctuary for homeless youth, young creatives, and survivors of sex trafficking.
A Handy Guide for Visitors and Locals
Oakland Style (visitoakland.com/style) highlights five distinct local fashion styles: Town Pride, Vintage and Consignment, A Night on The Town, Elevated Style and Lakeside Lounging. “We are excited to launch the Oakland Style campaign, and to promote shopping at local Oakland businesses to visitors and locals alike,” says Mark Everton, CEO of Visit Oakland. “Oakland’s diverse makers and business owners are what make our city unique, and we are thrilled to highlight their creative products in our digital fashion guide.”
Put Oakland on Your California Must-See List
Oakland is always a good idea, whether you’re visiting for its stylish clothing or for its other ample charms, including great food, the unique urban parkland around Lake Merritt, and the exceptional Oakland Museum of California, which combines art, history, and science in a user-friendly environment. Oakland is an easy day trip across the bay from (the significantly more expensive) San Francisco and a must-stop for anyone exploring Northern California.
Discover the New Frontier of California Wine Country in Paso Robles
One of the most delicious and inspiring ways to spend a day on California’s Central Coast is to drop by one of the fine wineries that are charting the next frontier of California Wine Country. We recently caught up with Eric Jensen, owner and winemaker at Booker Vineyard, in Paso Robles (the up-and-coming wine region about midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles). Jensen shared some tips for first-time vineyard visitors, his top recommendations for wine and coastal fun, and some exciting news about Booker’s most recent bottlings. What are your top tips for novice wine tasters headed to California for the first time? Eric Jensen: Decide what’s most important before you book and this will help set your budget. Is it all about the wine? If so, look for lodging close enough to wineries that is bare bones but clean. If it’s about the area and enjoying the surroundings and you won’t be spending all your money on wine, then you can look for a hotel with amenities like nice pools, restaurants, areas around the property to bike and hike, etc. Don’t forget though, our Paso Robles region has incredible hiking, biking, and gorgeous beaches all within just 30 minutes. What are your tips for aspiring wine collectors who want to shop for wine in California? E.J.: Try it all! Find the varieties and styles you’re passionate about. For me, it was big Syrahs and bright red Grenaches, so I chose Paso Robles as this region just does Syrah and Grenache better. It took me trying lots of bottles though, because, like most, I thought there was only Cabernet and Chardonnay. After finding passions, trust your palate and don’t just drink wines that a sommelier or wine critic says is supposed to be great. I’ve found out I don’t like most of those wines. Also, it’s very important to find the salesperson who learns what you like and seems to always be right. This could be the person at the local wine shop, supermarket, or could be a wine critic. That individual becomes your personal sommelier/critic. Any advice for Budget Travelers who are seeking world-class wine bargains? E.J.: Paso Robles is a world-class bargain. You can stay in a hotel for a third the price of Napa, taste wine and purchase world-class wines with the highest of critical acclaim for $25-$75 that would be $75-$800 in Napa, and be on the beach with your partner, dog, and a glass of Champagne to watch the sunset! Paso also boasts a great food and cocktail scene at small-town prices, great boutiques, and one of America’s great small towns (San Luis Obispo) just 20 minutes away. What do you love about the Central Coast, and Paso Robles in particular. E.J.: I love that there’s no traffic, none of the pretension that sometimes comes with a wine country (think fancy watches and expensive cars), and that I can hike a ridge overlooking the ocean in the morning, eat lunch in the vines on a vineyard, do a bit of wine tasting, and then head to the beach for a relaxing sunset. Paso Robles is that friendly “Mayberry” town where everyone seems to go out of their way to treat you well regardless of the size of your wallet. Tell us about the varietals that you grow at Booker. E.J.: Booker started as a Rhône house, with predominately Syrah- and Grenache-based wines. We have added a world-class Cabernet that outscores every cab in its $79 price point with Robert Parker by a long shot. It has a 12-year history of around 97 points. We would love to hear about your latest offerings. E.J.: Our main wines are Oublié, which is a Grenache-based wine that also includes Mourvedre and a small amount of Syrah. Similar to the French wine Chateauneuf du Pape. Oublié was just Wine Spectator’s No. 10 wine in the Top 100 in the World. Fracture is our 100 percent Syrah and is one of the most coveted Syrahs in the world, selling out in a matter of hours on our list. My Favorite Neighbor is our version of the California Cult Cabernet, critically comparing to the rarest Bordeaux’s and Napa Cabs, but doing it for $79! Are there any Booker wines that might be categorized as “budget”? E.J.: We always make a diverse blend that is usually Grenache-based called RLF for $45 that sells like In-N-Out Burger at a crowded music festival. We have a new Cab-based blend coming out in June called Harvey and Harriet which is $50 and received a 96 point score in barrel, separating it from all the Cabs in its price category. To learn more, visit bookerwines.com.
The First Thing to Do in These 7 European Cities
After arriving in one of Europe’s cultural capitals, you could check into your hotel and take time to rest and reset. Or you could hit the ground running – what jet lag? – and make the most of your trip. From hiking to Prague Castle to people watching in Paris to soaking in thermal waters in Budapest, here are the best ways to spend your first hours in town. 1. When You Arrive in Rome: Stroll Around With a Gelato in Hand The quickest way to start your Roman holiday is to find the nearest gelateria (ice cream shop) and order a cone to go. Traditionally prepared in small batches using natural ingredients, gelato (Italian-style ice cream) has less sugar and fat (and more flavour) than regular ice cream. In spring or summer, choose a flavour made from seasonal fruit, like limone (lemon) or fragola (strawberry), or opt for local favourites like nocciola (hazelnut) and pistacchio (pistachio). Traveling with kids? Ask for stracciatella – it’s the Italian version of chocolate chip. Then take a passeggiata (a leisurely walk) around Rome's beautiful fountains and squares. Staring at the Trevi Fountain or walking through Piazza Navona while gelato drips down the side of your hand is a rite of passage for first-time visitors to Rome, and you’ll see plenty of locals doing exactly the same thing. For the best gelato experience, look for signs indicating that the gelato is made in-house: key phrases are fatto en casa (homemade) and artigianale (artisanal). 2. When You Arrive in Barcelona: Pedal Along the Beach There’s no better way to shake off travel fatigue than to hop on a bicycle and pedal along the beach, watching waves crash in the distance as locals play volleyball on the sand. It’s easy to do in Barcelona, though it’s worth noting that the city bikeshare stands are only for residents. No problem: outfitters all over town rent bicycles starting at around €5 an hour. An hour or two is the perfect amount of time to explore the seaside neighbourhood of Barceloneta and the Passeig Marítim de Barcelona, or waterfront promenade, on two wheels. It’s also a great opportunity to scope out the ideal sunset spot or tapas bar to come back to later: Barceloneta is home to a number of low-key seafood restaurants. 3. When You Arrive in Prague: Hike to Prague Castle for a Beer Overlooking the City Don’t let your non-existent Czech skills stop you from jumping immediately into the fairy-tale scenery of Prague. To get started on an adventure in this city, you won’t need much time to get oriented. Prague Castle looms high above the city: just locate it on the skyline and start walking toward it. If you’re coming from Staré Mesto (Old Town), where many travellers base themselves, the walk toward the castle will take you across the incredibly picturesque Charles Bridge and through the winding streets of Malá Strana (‘Little Quarter’) until you reach the steep uphill climb to the castle. You’ll be rewarded at the top with sweeping views over the city’s red roofs and romantic spires. Many cafés and bars feature outdoor terraces where you can stop for a cold pivo(beer) and toast your good fortune – after all; you’ve just arrived in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 4. When You Arrive in Budapest: Soak in Thermal Waters Whether you’re arriving in Budapest after a long plane ride or a journey by train, you’ll be glad to soak away travel-related aches and pains in the healing waters of the city’s famed public baths. One of the largest natural hot-spring spa baths in Europe, the Széchenyi Thermal Baths is not a tourist attraction (expect to be at least somewhat confused by the signs in Hungarian, not to mention the staggering number of options at the ticket counter), but a functional wellness centre and social space that’s regularly used by locals and visitors alike. Bring flip-flops, a swimsuit and a towel, if you can: towel rental is available, but bringing your own is easier. Check out the website for more information on prices and packages, and book online ahead of time if you’re hoping to try an additional service, like a massage. Note that Széchenyi isn’t your only option in town. There are more than a dozen other public baths to check out. 5. When You Arrive in Paris: People-Watch at an Outdoor Café First-time visitors to Paris often make a beeline for the Eiffel Tower. But there’s a better way to ease into the Parisian lifestyle that doesn’t involve battling crowds of tourists. Simply take a seat in an outdoor café – Le Marais is the perfect neighbourhood for this, but any arrondissementwill do – and watch the world go by over a café (espresso) or café crème(espresso with milk). 6. When You Arrive in Lisbon: Go for a Ride on Tram #28E If you’re feeling too jet-lagged to brave the hilly streets of Lisbon on foot, your next best option is to see the city on the historic tramway. Climb aboard tram #28E, a vintage yellow tram that travels through some of the city’s liveliest neighbourhoods, including Graça, Baixa, Alfama, and Estrela. A 24-hour pass, available in metro stations, costs around €6, and you can hop on and off at key stops along the way, like sweeping views over the city at the Alfama miradouro (viewpoint) and Chiado, Lisbon’s arts district. Don’t be deterred by the long lines at the tram stops: most travellers in line are just waiting for a tram with available seats, but you can climb right on if you don’t mind standing. 7. When You Arrive in Amsterdam: Wander Through the Flower Market There’s so much to see and do in Amsterdam. A great way to get into the swing of things during your first hours in town is to visit the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). At the city’s iconic marketplace, which dates back to 1862 and is located on the Unesco-honoured Canal Ring, glass-encased barges house countless varieties of tulips, peonies, violets and orchids. Especially after a long trip, a wander here is a fragrant and colourful (read: Instagram-worthy) way start to your exploration of the city. Rain or shine, it’s open every day except Sunday.
Lake Como, Italy: Discover Its Affordable & Authentic Side
Lake Como, in Northern Italy, is probably best known as a vacation home for the rich and famous - Clooney, Versace, Madonna, Branson, and others. Consequently, Lake Como’s major towns tend to be crowded with throngs of celebrity seekers as well as upscale travelers. Discovering Lake Como’s Authentic Side But as with all our travels, we made an effort to explore Lake Como to find authentic places away from the crowds. Here are just a few of the many things we’ve discovered - picturesque, delicious, and utterly memorable. Sacro Monte di Ossuccio On the west side is the town of Lecco, above which is the 16th-century Sacro Monte di Ossuccio, a series of 14 chapels leading up the mountain overlooking the lake. (Italy’s alpine lakes are home to nearly a dozen such ancient sites - pilgrimage paths climbing “sacred mountains” leading along a series of Renaissance-era chapels.) Looking down from the peak of Ossuccio, you’ll see the town of Lenno and the extensive green space of Villa del Barbianello, a now-popular tourist attraction that was the filming site for many movies, including Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II. Setting aside James Bond and clone attacks in favor of our interest in food, Lenno is also home to the Oleificio Osvaldo, the maker of a highly-regarded olive oil. Its shop sells the precious culinary commodity as well as soaps and skin creams crafted from it. Sala Comacina & Isla Comacina A bit to the south is the town of Sala Comacina, relatively ignored by tourist throngs due to its driving and parking challenges. It’s a quiet little haven, with ample bars and restaurants but sparse crowds. A small fee buys you passage from the town marina across to Isola Comacina. This little island is the site of ancient monastery ruins and was even the purported home of the Holy Grail for a short time. Its modern point of interest is the iconic Locanda dell'Isola Comacina, a quintessential foodie stop that has served a fantastic and unchanging meal of traditional dishes since 1948. There’s no menu; every table receives the same bountiful courses for a fixed price. The food is simple but perfect, steeped in local tradition and highest quality. The staff here are friendly and relaxed, but the service is impeccable. As you enjoy your leisurely lunch, you’ll observe little boats coming and going from the dock below, delivering some of the prime foodstuffs that the restaurant serves. Trattoria del Porto The city of Como is full of rich history and beautiful architecture, including several stunning and huge churches, but Como town is, for us, dauntingly large. So we skip it and head for the central part of the lake. Here the town of Careno is the location of another historic lake lunch spot. Down in the town - and we mean down - is local treasure Trattoria del Porto. Reservations here are mandatory, as it’s a small restaurant perched 100 feet or so above the water. Diners are treated to a traditional menu that they’ve been serving for decades. Every day. The same menu. For decades. The fish dishes, especially - and there are several of them - are steeped in the tradition of the lake’s old families. Salted & Dried Fish Speaking of food, visitors to Italy’s lakes - especially Como and Iseo - will occasionally see an array of fish splayed and hanging in the sun on racks. These are sarda or agoni - a type of shad. The fish are prepared with salt for two days and then dried for a month or more, before being flattened and preserved in oil and herbs, and packed for later eating. This method of preparation and preservation dates back to the middle ages, when the fish were preserved in a wooden container called a missolta - from which comes the name of this dish, missoltini. Mandello del Lario On the east side of the lake is the town of Mandello del Lario, a small town with a sizable urban sprawl around it, but with a charming historic centro. You can eat well and stay at Mamma Ciccia, in the heart of the old town. The owner, Silvia, runs an albergo diffuso and a cooking academy, so you can lodge at one of her distinctive properties in town and then take a class to learn how to make some traditional pastas and sauce (and tiramisu!). Better yet, her restaurant serves up delicious plates of standard fare, unfettered by the foibles of those who may not know their way around a pasta machine. Abbazia di Santa Maria di Piona Farther north on the east side is the Olgiasca peninsula, a little bit of land that juts out into the lake. At the end of this peninsula is Abbazia di Santa Maria di Piona, the old monastery at the very end of the peninsula. Here, as with the Sacro Monte site, we see the church’s propensity for snagging all the best real estate. This 12th-century monastic settlement is impossibly beautiful, with perfectly kept gardens and an ancient stone church, all in the shadow of the imposing, snow-capped Alps. Better still, every evening at around 6:30, the monks hold a Gregorian chant service, which completes a visitor’s transportation back in time. Nashville musicians and travelers Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker run Little Roads Europe, a travel consulting service, helping clients build itineraries to steer clear of tourist cliches and explore the small towns in Italy and Ireland. Zen and Matt are authors of three award-winning guides to back-roads Italy and Ireland, and recently released a fourth book, a small-town foodie guide to Italy’s Alpine Lakes. Learn more at www.littleroadseurope.com.
Want to Live in Ireland? This Idyllic Island Off the Donegal Coast Is Looking for New Residents
An Irish island is looking to reverse over a century of emigration that has seen its population drop to just 469 people. The beautiful Arranmore Island is located about three miles off the coast of Donegal, and is also known by its Irish name, Árain Mhór. It has just gone through the biggest advancement in its recent history by becoming the recipient of Ireland’s first offshore digital hub. Its community has written open letters to the people of the U.S. and Australia offering their services on the work front, and also presenting them with the unique opportunity of swapping the hustle and bustle of city life for the calm and beauty of Arranmore. Natural Beauty & High-Speed Connectivity Ringed by dramatic cliffs, cavernous sea caves and clean sandy beaches, the island measures just 5.5 x 3 miles. Irish is the main language spoken on Arranmore Island, although most residents also speak English. The community says that traditional industries such as farming and fishing are not enough of a draw to keep young people from leaving the island, but that has changed now that high-speed connectivity has been extended to the island’s schools, medical centre and a number of local businesses and community facilities. The community feels that this makes Arranmore a more attractive place for families and business people to live and work remotely, and reveals that its local talent includes graphic designers, games developers, app developers, photographers and a host of artisan craftspeople. It is hoping that US citizens looking for a change of pace will consider relocating to live there. An Easy Commute “Your commute, no matter where you are, will only ever be five minutes,” it says in its U.S. letter. “You’ll have the best diving in Ireland on your doorstep and seafood to rival the tastiest New England chowder. There are fewer people here than would fit in a couple of Amtrak train cars, but enough musicians and good Irish whiskey to keep the party going well into the night.” Here's How to Contact Arranmore Island's Community Anyone wishing to connect with Arranmore’s community can send them a message via their Facebook page here.