March/April 2024 | Santa Barbara Life & Style Magazine

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For over forty years we have designed exquisite, award-winning garden environments throughout California and U.S. always maintaining architectural integrity. We have proudly been featured in a variety of publications including AD, Robb Report, Europe’s Millionaire Magazine, Sunset Magazine, among others. Designers of the famous landmark “Harold Lloyd Greenacres Estate” showcased on Beverly Hills Virginia Robinson Garden Tours.

TRUE LOVE ALWAYS A Highly Curated Lifestyle Boutique 1115 Coast Village Road, Montecito | 805.679.5456 | @tlagoods | Owner, Lori Runnfeldt

Discover the highly rated wines of Alma Rosa Winery in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor tasting room in downtown Solvang or at its stunning 628-acre estate.


1623 Mission Drive Solvang

Vineyard Estate Tastings By Appointment 805-691-9395


10,000 Steps in the Right Direction


Saturday July 22, 2023


May 18, 2024

Alma Rosa Winery is pleased to announce its fifth annual fundraiser to support mental health

Peace of Mind:

10,000 Steps In The Right Direction

$55 registration fee

All additional donations are matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $35,000 for each charity and a total of $70,000

100% proceeds benefit Mental Wellness Center and One Mind






PHOTOGRAPHERS Jackie Beran, Anna Delores, Andrew Kuykendall

WRITERS Isabella

Laura Hupp, Nicole Johnson, Alexandra Lee, Katie Seefeldt, Alexandra Sharova

Santa Barbara Life & Style Magazine is published by Santa Barbara Life & Style, Inc. 26 West Mission Street #5, Santa Barbara, CA 93101 For distribution, advertising and other inquiries: ON THIS COVER MARCH/APRIL 2024 Dress ZIMMERMANN Shoes PALOMA BARCELO Allora By Laura Sunglasses VINTAGE HUGO BOSS Cynthia Benjamin PHOTOGRAPHY Andrew Kuykendall STYLIST Tilly Mills MODEL Megan Blake Irwin with The Industry LA HAIR & MAKEUP Ja’nice Ramos LOCATION Hotel Californian


18 MARCH/APRIL 2024 FASHION SPRING FORWARD 48 A spring dream at Hotel Californian. TRAVEL A DESERT OASIS 56 Luxor, where legend and luxury converge. BEYOND THE BUNGALOWS 64 There’s more to Tahiti than overwater bungalows on Bora Bora. ADRIATIC SUMMER 68 Indulge in the land of a thousand islands. FROM LUCCA, WITH LOVE 76 Where wine, cheese, pasta, and gelato are acceptable at any time of day. CONTENTS MARCH/APRIL 2024 DINING BREAK OF DAWN 26 Wake up and smell the Dawn spring menu. BLACK SHEEP 30 A visit to France and back in cuisine form. CLANDESTINE COCKTAILS 36 Sip easy at the Plow & Angel Speakeasy.
SBLS SPOTLIGHT 21 Florals for spring? Groundbreaking. COVET & CRAVE 22 Home is where the sculptural decor is. THIS SEASON 24
latest and greatest between the mountains and the sea. 48 HOURS 82 No travel agent needed. WEDDING SOMETHING NEW 40 A refreshing approach to wedding prep. YOUR WEDDING 44 IS UNDER ATTACK Keep your wedding yours.


Known for its objet d’art ethos, couture brand Cult Gaia’s newest launch features bespoke flower arrangements, freshly cut and hand-painted to last two weeks or more. Available in two playful colorways for LA delivery, these whimsical bouquets are sure to liven any space with a hint of eccentricity.



We wined and dined with DAOU at SBIFF’s 16th annual Kirk Douglas Gala, which honored Ryan Gosling with an award for Excellence in Film and hosted stars such as Greta Gerwig and Steve Carell.


Tea time just got better with the expansion of Versace’s Butterfly Garden collection, now including teapots, cups, and coup plates in its enchanting pastel butterfly motif. Now available at Coast 2 Coast Collection in La Arcada Courtyard! | 805-845-7888

Follow @sblifeandstyle for daily behind the scenes content, new restaurants, events, getaways, and more...


This April 5-7, Cuyama Buckhorn is hosting its fourth annual Wild Flour weekend, centering around curated events to educate about the Central Valley’s wildflowers and grains. Enjoy a baking class with Loria Stern, afternoon tea, wildflower viewing, live music, and beyond!





House of Honey “Ortega”

Home Fragrance

Inspired by the sensation of driving Ortega Ridge, this fresh interior scent contains base notes of orange, pomelo, basil, and bergamot with top notes of cedarwood and black spruce to bring the aromas of Montecito from the outside in.


Coco Republic La Scala Console

Out with the boring side pieces, in with the sculptural details. This walnut console, available at the reimagined HD Buttercup Design Center, has arched legs that are built to last, ensuring an eye-catching design for years to come.


Opame Sana Objects in Polished Brass, Fred Segal Home

Let these abstract polished brass pieces serve as your home’s own miniature art display. In varying geometric shapes and sizes, mix and match materials for a world of graphic possibilities. Available at newly launched and artfully curated Fred Segal Home.


Barclay Butera The New Traditional Book

The accessory your coffee table is missing! In The New Traditional, renowned interior designer Barclay Butera delves into the art of combining classic style and historic elements with distinctive textures and bold fabrics.


Regina Andrew Indie

Jade Table Lamp

This 100% solid jade table lamp adds a touch of elegance to any space, each base entirely unique in its natural variation. Bonus points: its pearlescent hues match with any interior style, both classic and modern.

22 MARCH/APRIL 2024 SBLS covet & crave


Harness a holistic spring from natural local sources


Wary of caffeine leaving you wired? Clevr Blends’ plant-powered brews won’t let you sweat the small stuff, using naturally medicinal ingredients to fuse functionality into your morning cup. Baristastyle SuperLattes synchronize an oat milk base with adaptogens, probiotics, and superfoods, immediately energizing focus, and lastingly soothing stress. Iced just-add-water SuperTeas pack afternoon sips with electrolyte hydration and digestive ease. Partnered with the Santa Barbara Food Action Network, Clevr’s grounding in food justice seeks to sustainably restore both the pureness of caffeine and equitability in the systems that unearth it.


Sideyard Shrubs’ earth-born elixirs have all the trimmings of California’s natural bounty. Originally fermented in founder and forager Sarah Bourke’s own Santa Barbara side yard, the growing collection of organic, fruit-infused apple cider vinegars are a probiotic pick-me-up. Sideyard’s small-batch varieties—including yuzu, prickly pear, and passion fruit blends—enliven everyday cocktails, dressings, marinades, and vinaigrettes. A champion of regional agriculture and regenerative practices, each bottle of shrub sources from small farms spotting the Central Coast, and each label salutes their names in pride. Optimize gut health while relishing in acidic-meets-sweet flavor that, as Bourke puts it, “reminds us that good food grows slowly.”


Recovering from physical overdrive, cognitive exhaustion, or the whole of 2023 (can we still say that)? Restore Hyper Wellness’ newly opened State Street location has your remedy ready. Helmed by Corepower Yoga co-founder and fitness guru Brandon Cox, the studio hosts an intricate range of results-driven technologies including red light, infrared, and hyperbaric oxygen therapies, intramuscular injections, and IV hydration otherwise unavailable under one roof. A recharging retreat for all walks of life, RHW welcomes athletes seeking performance optimization, those hoping to revamp their immunity, and the mindful crowd looking for a one-stop-shop for a physical and mental reset. Prioritizing wellness necessitates consistency: RHW makes this whole-body healing habitual.

24 MARCH/APRIL 2024 SBLS this season


Hang ten in an experience personalized to the nines. Rosewood Miramar Beach’s newest sandy society, the Miramar Surf Club, invites locals and visitors alike to test the storied waters of Montecito’s iconic shoreline. Learn from the best in a two-hour private lesson guided by local surfing legend Adam Lambert’s team of professionals. Surfers of all levels will ride out their session in premium gear, replenish with a beachside picnic for two, and take home custom Surf Club hats and a highlight reel of images and videos captured in real time by SURFER Magazine’s official photographer. It’s wave-riding, the Miramar way; catch our drift?


PHOTOGRAPHY Silas Fallstich

For 24 hours, I strip myself of the Santa Barbara local title and cosplay a tourist. After a humaninteraction-free check-in, the ideal on a Monday afternoon, my Drift Hotel stay begins in a sun-soaked room on the second floor. The classic Spanish style, stucco façade, and minimalist contemporary aesthetic embody everything that is good about Santa Barbara. Anacapa Architecture’s historic spot revamp boasts a coveted spot on central State Street, making it the perfect retreat for travelers seeking to maximize their American Riviera experience sans the need for a car.

While the room's gray, brown, and white color palette and unassuming decor might hint at an austere atmosphere, the reality is quite the opposite. A woven wicker lounge chair sits in the corner bathing in the warmth of the rays permeating through the French door, making it

the spot for State Street people watching.The king sized bed adorned with a white duvet and linen accent pillows is practically begging me to get in, but there is no time to succumb to the allure. My 4 p.m. Latte Art class awaits.

Aside from its ideal location and quiet luxury appearance, Drift Hotel’s coffee and cocktail counterparts, fittingly called Dawn and Dusk, are two additional reasons to call it your home away from home. Alex Werth, coffee connoisseur and head barista at Dawn, is our maestro this evening, expertly “pulling” shots of espresso and creating intricate steamed milk tulips. I soon find out that latte art is not for the faint of heart. For one, I am not particularly artistically inclined. Secondly, just steaming the milk is a talent in itself with specific angles, temperatures, and timing all required to create the right consistency. “Coffee-making is all about how willing you


are to be hyper consistent,” Alex preaches. He points us towards a sticky note attached to the top of the espresso machine. What is written on it looks like a different language and in some ways it is. Every morning, the opening barista specifies the perfect extraction time for the espresso beans that day. The code on that sticky note is today’s numbers. After successfully mastering milk steaming, we move on to the pouring. Werth tells us that we will start simple with a heart. Well, it turns out a heart is not all that simple. Five lattes later, we have improved enough to attempt tulips. All this is to say: tip your baristas. They are doing Louvre level work.

Jazzed on espresso at 5 p.m., I retreat to my personal sanctuary and unwind to the light bustle of downtown. I receive a text from a friend who is meeting me for dinner and drinks— “Is it the hotel bar at Drift?” While technically it is that, this is not your average hotel bar. Dusk can stand all on its own. Cubbies with dripping pillar candles emit a glow from the cement walls behind the bar and the woven cage chandeliers pay homage to Drift’s Cabo San Lucas location. Soft music and low voices create a sort of intimate speakeasy aura that matches the cool ambience of the rest of the hotel. One Into the Sky, Sweet Gidget, and ceviche later, we settle in for the night, put on a film, and bask in our 24 hour getaway.

Awakening to the aroma of fresh coffee, I momentarily mistake Drift Hotel for home. The entirely glass shower, cloudlike comforter, and State Street view quickly dispel that illusion. Peeling myself from comfort, I carry myself down to the “lobby” where my new friend Alex is dialing in espresso behind the cafe bar. The window that once separated the busy street and the workshop is no longer in sight, creating an indoor/outdoor experience. We sit just outside the bar with a view of lovely Downtown

Santa Barbara on one side and a mountain sunrise mural on the other. Regulars bustle in and out on their way to work as Alex starts us off with the Hazy Juice IPA Cold Brew. At first read this name can seem intimidating at 9 a.m., but after giving it a taste, I can confirm it is an astonishingly refreshing start to your morning. The citra hops and “hazy syrup” help tame the strong coffee flavor of the cold brew. Taking the best parts of both kinds of brews, the beverage is an unlikely fusion that is incredibly likable. On a warm spring morning, this drink is guaranteed to cool you down and wake you up.

Though I wish every Santa Barbara spring day was warm enough for the cold brew, the weather whiplash this coastal town causes says otherwise. For a colder morning sip, the Salted Pistachio Latte is a warm wonder. The pistachio syrup infused into the drink is a product of raw pistachio brittle strained before fully caramelized. Smooth and sweet with a hint of nutty pistachio traces, the soft green latte is spring in drink form.

The final March/April menu item I indulge in is the Fade to Green, a matcha-based elixir. While I normally wouldn’t gravitate towards the Japanese tea, I was tempted to learn what all the fuss around it was. I get it now. Served in a coupe, the Mizuba matcha, Ugandan vanilla, and saline trio creates a sweet, moss green beverage delightful to drink and look at. Ugandan vanilla is special in its fruity— fig and raisin specifically—undertones that complement the umami goodness of a traditional matcha. Dawn’s matcha mocktail is a velvety sip with the ideal amount of earthiness and vanilla.

While my staycation ends here, I luckily get to call this town home. Like the aftertaste of the cold brew I enjoyed just an hour prior, the tranquility found at Dawn and Drift Hotel lingers.*


“All this is to say: tip your baristas. They are doing Louvre level work.”




PHOTOGRAPHY Silas Fallstich

Ruben Perez is—contrary to what his brasserie’s namesake and bubbly anecdotes may tell you— not the Black Sheep of his family. Staying true to idioms, he is perhaps its dark horse: hailing from a Northern California clan of chefs, maître d’ Perez is a front-of-the-house restaurateur. That he strayed from his kitchen-loving kin is a delight for downtown’s creative culinary scene.

Perez’s one-year-old Black Sheep SB Brasserie— a French-coastal revolution of his original Black Sheep eatery of Ortega Street—is already a fan-favorite. It’s an inspired project starring consulting chef Jake Reimer, a virtuoso of high-end resort cuisine, whose guidance has graced exclusive properties such as the Bacara and Ojai Valley Inn. Tucked off State Street, Black Sheep is the unhurried, unhushed, and most consequentially, unpretentious Provence-meets-Pacific fusion of the now.

Perez hails from a heritage of fine dining (most notably, David Myer’s Michelin-starred Sona); 18 East Cota descends from a line of beloved French eateries. Black Sheep honors both histories while breaking their mold, fusing upscale panache with a family-style undertone that feels just right. Despite its spiritual soundness, courtesy of ever-flickering candlelight, Perez did a precautionary saging of the storied location before settling in. “You can definitely feel the rich saloon history here,” he laughs. Ghosts of Francophile past no longer linger, but whether from Mousse Odile’s charming cuisine bourgeoise, or the intimate buzz of Gene Montesano’s Café Luck, an everlasting coziness coats the space’s sleek facade.

The Black Sheep’s interior accoutrements offer a chic spin on the contemporary California bistro. Glossy black trim neatly lines the ceilings, brass pendant bulbs curve airily through space, and the warmly up-lit bar, with its glassware aglow, gives a sultry stamp of sophistication.

As my friend and I sink into our luxe, silvery suede seating, Perez brings good tidings: we’ll be indulging in the four-course tasting menu—and to our surprise, a palate-prepping prelude is almost instantly served. A honeynut squash bisque, steeped with vanilla bean, pumpkin spice, and sauteed apples, features tart, tangy sweetness that readies the appetite and warms the soul. The sunny blend is paired with a bright crémant de loire poured in the most petite glass I’ve ever held; its citrusy effervescence sparkles us with anticipation.


Next in line: the crudo du jour—tonight’s centerpiece is an impossibly tender bigeye tuna—feasibly just plucked from Hawaiian waters. Perched on a bed of energizing cucumber-radish salad, doused in a sublimely tangy raspberry yuzu kosho, and speckled with chives, the crudo ideally marries lightweight exuberance with a savory kick. An accompanying splash of peachy Riesling cuts through its fishiness, but respects the enduring saltiness that plays on my tongue well after each bite. Polishing the plate, I’m suddenly nostalgic for the past few minutes.

An imaginative butter gem and endive salad—complete with lively cara cara orange, dates, and supremely creamy fromage blanc—sits nearby, the duo imbuing our table with a vibrant, springtime blend of pink and green. As our plates are seamlessly cleared, raspy notes of jazz embrace my ear and level my eyeline. Once a hostess myself, I deem watching wait staff weave around as a true test of a restaurant’s atmospheric ease; Black Sheep’s servers swiftly dance amongst each other, and present our courses with such zest that it seems they may have tasted a dollop prior to plating them before me. I wouldn’t blame them.

The hamachi “popper,” an Asian-influenced callback to the original Black Sheep’s seafood forte, follows. A perfectly crusted, fried Anaheim chili—delicately stuffed with a spiced cream cheese and calrose rice blend—wears cuts of amberjack sashimi like an expensive coat. Roosted on a tomatillo-rich mole verde and garnished with wild arugula that playfully curls in all directions, the spicy serving is a Mexican and sushi-style delight that’s by no means French, yet packs a colorful, coastal punch. I’m told our dynamic fare is seasonally shifting and farmer’s market-sourced—manifested by these ambitious fusions, it’s also fueled by the kitchen’s apparent aversion to monotony.

My friend, enviously fluent in French, waxes poetic about each dish and paired wine to staff as they float by; I, meanwhile, communicate in spirited nods of celebration and furrowed brows of concentration. Given the come-as-you-are casual air to the brasserie’s elegant aura, I can skirt around menu mispronunciations for the night, letting the multifaceted flavors (and nodding) do the talking.

I’m particularly tongue-tied when the intensely aromatic, hand-rolled ricotta cavatelli announces itself. As a mushroom enthusiast, I relish in the earthy modesty of the dish’s stinging nettle pesto, mellowness of its white port sauce, and succulence of each pasta pillow, all of which grant the fungi room to shine. The next course’s cassoulet—which Perez dubs the bistro’s deluxe “pride and joy”—is likewise a refreshing twist on a classic: the duck confit’s gold-standard crisp, hearty bed of beans, and fresh herb crumble bear none of the domineering stuffiness of traditional countryside staples. An invigorating cioppino—a medley of silky Hope Ranch mussels, lushly buttered rockfish, and veggie-brimmed broth—closes out our dinner portion with gusto.

How we aren’t full is a miracle, but dessert, signaling our gastronomic coda, is a fair final note. A brown sugar crème brûlée—which satisfyingly takes two taps to break—flows with lavish caramel and floral Tahitian vanilla that just tastes expensive. The hot-and-cold, tart-and-sweet interplay of our raspberry chocolate fondant equally delivers. It’s time to bid Black Sheep adieu, but I know I’ll be back: perhaps for a “Meet the Winemaker” dinner, a series toasting to local enological excellence—and testifying to the eatery’s enthusiasm for cultivating community.*

“Black Sheep is the unhurried, unhushed, and most consequentially, unpretentious Provence-meets-Pacific fusion of the now.”

clandestine cocktails



Lights abound in every direction, twinkling on trees in blue, red, and white, it’s clear that the holiday celebration is never over at San Ysidro Ranch. We enter The Speakeasy at Plow & Angel below the restaurant, giving a furtive effect. A live rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “I’m On Top of the World'' plays over the crackle of firewood and lively chatter. Families, friends, and dates are spread out across red velvet booths, tufted leather couches, and tiger-striped bar stools. Our waitress dons a flapper-inspired look—a nod to the Prohibition. The theme is gently woven throughout the space. To start, I choose from the Seasonal Cocktail selection while my mom orders from the San Ysidro Ranch Originals. Much like the famed restaurant above us, presentation is as paramount to the experience as taste. The Blind Tyger, a frothed gin concoction topped with swirls of orange bitters, befitting its name, goes down like silk, which I attest to the unexpected addition of a locallymade rosemary olive oil. While a bespoke Beanie Baby tag garnish—paying homage to the property’s owner, Ty Warner—adds an air of welcome nostalgia, the Casa de Sevilla steals the show by being “flambéed” at the table. The cocktail is tropical yet biting due to Thai chileinfused mezcal and yuzu bitters. We cheers and begin reminiscing over the highs, lows, and most memorable moments of the past year.

The band plays jazz classics amplifying the swanky vibes. We flip through the menu, struggling to choose a second drink because every item is so carefully crafted. Ingredients like golden milk and rose petals mingle with the finest liqueurs, mocktail creations are as enticing as “real” drinks, and for those who dare,

there’s even absinthe—burnt sugar cube and all. Given we’re celebrating, an order of the Royal Ossetra Caviar is a must. It’s been a while since I’ve indulged, and the healthy dollop of caviar atop crostini takes me back to the Russian winters of my youth—minus the heaps of snow, glazing the Red Square

My Hemingway Daiquiri and my mom’s bespoke “Surprise Me” cocktail arrive mid-caviar toast, so we swap to clinking crystal. The deliciously fruity rum blend is served on a coaster embroidered with the eponymous writer’s wise words: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.” Perhaps a sign of what my resolution ought to be. I taste the made-to-order wonder; notes of pear and fig dance with an herbal gin as if they’ve been lifelong partners—it’s the perfect last sip before dinner.

Giddy as ever, we order more caviar and drinks over at Stonehouse. The crisp winter air has a sobering effect, and we quickly realize that we sat at the same table nearly a year ago. Coincidence or kismet? With us, it’s always magic over logic. Because the Speakeasy takes its pours seriously, we split the SYR Blood Orange Margarita to experience an encore of last year’s at-table smokey infusion, which makes the citrus cocktail unforgettable. We share stories over oysters adorned with strawberries and an ingenious yuzu and rosé mignonette, and a buttery Japanese Yellowtail Crudo. Both appetizers are undeniably fresh thanks to Executive Chef Matthew Johnson’s use of primarily local ingredients, many of which are sourced from the on-site organic garden.

PHOTOGRAPHY Silas Fallstich

Round two of caviar is served on buckwheat blinis and an obligatory (split) flute of champagne. We reminisce on how we nearly flew off a ferry amidst a storm in Bali a few months back. Our uncontrollable laughter begins to draw stares; it’s one of those perfect mother-daughter moments, and I feel a wave of gratitude wash over me—no pun intended. Thankfully our waiter arrives to save the night by filleting our English Channel Dover Sole with the dexterity of an illusionist. Each bite melts with paired sips of Chablis, which enhances the rich olive beurre blanc. The surfeit of delectable flavors and the fact that we’re the last outdoor table has us forgoing dessert—a decision I consider all but criminal. We say our thank yous for an incredible evening, and just as I’m about to walk out, a to-go bag with a famous Meyer Lemon Tart is presented to me. It’s like they knew it's my favorite dessert. We chalk it up to another miracle, and the impeccable service SYR is renowned for.*

40 MARCH/APRIL 2024 SBLS wedding

something new


Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue, but what about you? Fitness pioneer and creator of The Sculpt Society, Megan Roup is no stranger to the stress of wedding planning. Amongst the chaos of flower arrangements, place settings, dress fittings, and every step in between, it is no wonder the bride’s feelings get lost in it all.

Megan’s Santa Barbara micro-wedding with just 14 guests was not always the plan, but the pandemic had other ideas for her original 150-guest soiree. “Even with that amount of people, I still felt stressed,” she recalls. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Megan and gain insight on what she recommends for brides, after all, she’s the expert on feeling our best mentally and physically.

The Sculpt Society is just that—a community that feels good. This past May, she released her bridal fitness program on the app that aims to break the “shredding before the wedding” mentality and remove the pressures of looking a certain way. When preparing for her own big day, she valued “shifting the focus of the wedding to not be about being my thinnest but being my happiest and true self.” The eight-week fitness plan is complete with low-impact sculpting workouts, fueling recipes, and advice from wedding experts across all fronts that focus on how you feel.

“This diet culture mindset sets us up to fail. I always say working out is not for the next thirty days, it’s for the rest of our lives,” Megan notes. The Sculpt Society as a whole and her bridal program offer a sustainable way to get results while still having all “those amazing feelings” of strength and confidence. A former professional dancer, Megan struggled to find workouts that balanced mental and physical fulfillment for her. “I felt like there was a class I wanted to create that was inclusive, that was focused on having fun, that was effective, and that left my community feeling empowered and feeling good in their own bodies.”

Her outlook on exercise is music to a busy bride’s ears. Roup would rather her clients engage fully in a tenminute workout five times a week than do a lengthy intense workout that causes them to feel guilty about not being able to stick to it consistently. “Commit to less so that you can show up more,” she encourages. This is not to say her ten-minute sculpts are not going to have you

breaking a sweat. “You get so much in ten minutes, and then are able to go on with the rest of the day.”

She resonates with brides wanting to feel their best and most confident on their big day but reminds her clients that this feeling comes from within. “You’re going to want to look back and recognize yourself on your wedding day,” Roup adds that nothing is going to change because you did not get your thirty-minute workout in, and each week is going to be different. In the most comforting and sincere way imaginable, she affirms, “It’s okay.”

While avoiding these pressures is much easier said than done, as are most things in life, Roup’s bridal program offers some direction in the form of guided meditations and advice sessions from wedding experts Elizabeth Fillmore and Jennifer Behr. Asking for help and support is also important to Megan. She recommends all brides ask family and friends to take some of the physical and mental burdens of the wedding off their shoulders.

“I always say working out is not for the next thirty days, it’s for the rest of our lives.”

There is no diet associated with the bridal plan (for good reason), but she does offer some of her favorite nutritious recipes—food that feels good. Another plus for the busy bride? These ideas are inspired by what Megan would actually have time to do herself. “We’re all busy, so when I’m looking at recipes, it’s what am I making in the kitchen? What am I enjoying?” As an intuitive eater, Roup doesn’t cancel out any food groups. “I allow my body to have what it wants and what it craves, and I am trying to show my community that as well within those recipes.”

Her biggest piece of advice for all brides? Be present. “When you look back at your wedding, you don’t remember those small details. I remember dancing and feeling so loved by my family and my husband. I cannot tell you what our place settings looked like. I can kind of remember flowers…If you can feel that sense of being grounded and physically present, you’ll be able to enjoy it so much more.”*

your wedding is under ATTACK


PHOTOGRAPHY Anna Delores LOCATION San Ysidro Ranch


“What will my Aunt Susan think? Her opinion has always been such a thorn in my side, and she never shies away from sharing.” A bride confided in me in 2009, presocials, in a linen meeting when she decided to go off the rails on her fabric choice. You remember, the old days when the opinions of those on the guest list were not only the sole opinions that mattered, but really the only people privy to the sights, sounds, taste, environment, and textiles of a wedding. Now, the world is your wedding’s oyster. And yes, be prepared for attack.

This wedding season marks a new beginning that’s so different than weddings coming out of the pandemic. Everything was a “pivot” in ‘21 (micro-weddings, elopements, breaking the rules more often than not) and we finally got our sea legs in ‘22 (Okay, so my wedding is NOT going to be cancelled!? Dancing is allowed, yeah?) and this year we have finally hit our stride with full blown budgets, mega guest lists and actual plan A-plans coming to fruition. With that being said, I had this dread, a feeling that no one is safe. All weddings are subject to peer review and it’s no longer Aunt Susan you’re worried about impressing. From the lighting company you hire to the photographer’s IG following, the details of your wedding are splashed across various vendor pages, guest hashtag usage, location tags, or god forbid a “wedding fails” TikTok.

Today, brides more than ever are wanting to keep up with a tone or aesthetic that they believe embodies their relationship, their story and more than all the rest: their brand. Our culture breeds connection, in a way we have never been wired to understand. Dating sites link to socials and socials give the clout to back the “personality pic.” The justifications follow with the “See, she really does love doing community outreach in the Sudan.” Thanks Duchess. No sooner than someone swipes in the correct direction does the brand now need leverage and that reaches peak horsepower at the day of I Do. How do we mitigate or manage the obsession with the brand and is it healthy? On some levels I think it can be. I think we have changed our roles as women, and as a planner I have seen this ten fold in the planning context. Men are more involved than ever, taking a meeting when

the bride has a big pitch or stepping up on a timeline decision when the bride is otherwise sidelined with work commitments. I started to see this phenomenon post pandemic, as women and men began sharing roles more evenly, seemingly out of necessity. Brides explained that their groom had honed a multitude of skills in quarantine, becoming well versed in laundry care, a wiz in curating wedding floral inspiration, and even picked up golf. While the groom gushed about how he’s proud that the bride has taken up weight lifting, she earned a promotion at work or flexed her creative muscles on DIY invites. At first this gave me pause, was this temporary, the fluidity of roles in the planning paradigm? How does this impact my process? Slowly and through action I saw that the shared responsibility proved to provide a deeper and more balanced emotional connection to the wedding day. Then, one Saturday in October, it all clicked. I had never had a groom hug me because of the detail on the printed menus. Or thank his vendor team in a welcome speech, or truly even knew who their vendors were. I had also never had a bride pay for the entire wedding with the fun money she earned with the IPO of her self-made business.

This brought me back to this idea, that pressure to perform, to match the bar of representing your BRAND. I thought it so unfair and unnatural. It was hard enough impressing Aunt Susan and now you are scrutinized by the whole world?! See, that’s where I was wrong. This body of work, the building of a life with someone who supports and respects your passions, the ability to create a persona that lives outside of the parameters of a screen or a day, the ability to not just take the weight of criticism but to stare it down and make it your mission to master, that is the power of today’s woman. She is ready to show up and show off. And damn, that’s a brand I can get behind.*

Wedding Kate (@weddingkate) has planned over 500 weddings in CA, Hawaii, Mexico, etc. over the last 18 years. She has been featured by every major publication and on many podcasts, and is regarded as an expert in the wedding industry.

SBLS fashion
PHOTOGRAPHY Andrew Kuykendall | STYLIST Tilly Mills HAIR & MAKEUP Ja’nice Ramos | MODELS Megan Blake Irwin & Oleksa with The Industry LA LOCATION Hotel Californian
ZIMMERMANN Shoes PALOMA BARCELO Allora By Laura Sunglasses VINTAGE HUGO BOSS Cynthia Benjamin
Shoes PALOMA BARCELO Allora by Laura
Swimsuit SO DE MEL
On Oleksa Dress ZIMMERMANN On Megan Suit & top ZIMMERMANN Sunglasses UDM Cynthia Benjamin On Megan Swimsuit SO DE MEL On Oleksa Bikini top MALIA MILLS Skirt ZIMMERMANN



SBLS travel

Mythology and the rich history of Egypt have long called me to explore the mystical land. Although I made countless rough plans to visit with friends over the years, nothing ever materialized— it seemed the reality of the unknown was a hindrance. If I learned anything from my travels across Southeast Asia last year, it’s that if a place pulls your soul, it holds something for you. So, I booked a one-way flight, solo.

A quick stop over in Giza to see the pyramids, and I continue to Luxor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After a short, albeit bumpy flight, my driver and I cross the Nile, effectively checking off a bucket list item—it is the longest River in Africa, afterall. On the West Bank we pass sugar cane fields, donkey-drawn carts, and locals on walks. Isolated from the troves of tourists and kitschy shops, life is slower here, more simple. Golden Hour covers Al Moudira’s terracotta facade with effulgence. The honeyed glow beckons and I’m drawn like a moth to a flame. An accommodating attendant assists me in drafting an itinerary for the upcoming days while I sip on refreshing karkade, a customary hibiscus tea.

I’m escorted through the central courtyard, passing a tranquil fountain glistening like stardust in the remnants of twilight. Antique vanities and plush daybeds sit below arches, befitting another time. That’s the idea. The handcrafted wooden door of my suite opens to reveal what I imagine once resembled royal quarters of the region. Artisan-painted arabesques decorate the ceiling, drawing my gaze to a four-post bed that’s naturally made with Egyptian cotton sheets. Between the change in time zone and climate, I’m exhausted. I’ve waited over fifteen years to see Luxor; what’s one more night? I rationalize, adjusting a rosy “M” embroidered pillow.

If there’s one thing you need to know about traveling to Egypt, waking early is a must to beat the swelter. I open the wooden shades, flooding the suite with light and warmth. The space personifies a color swatch: peach, coral, and

amber tones echo the surrounding terrain. With fresh eyes, I examine the details. The carved armoire, writing desk, merlot velvet chairs, and lamps are all sourced from palaces, private estates, and secondhand stores across the Middle East. Each piece in the 55 rooms, four villas, and three apartments is selected by the discerning eye of the founder, Zeina, whose essence is immortalized throughout the grounds. From its name, “Al Moudira,” which is Arabic for the feminine of a “boss,”—given to her by workers during the property’s initial build—to her favorite breakfast order.

Clad in white linens, I arrive at the Main Court with an appetite. The Eastern Bar holds an extensive breakfast buffet, while classic dishes are made to order. I journal my impression of Egypt so far, noting how safe I’ve felt, while enjoying creamy Greek yogurt topped with native dried fruits. Though I lean towards matcha, I always try local offerings. Unlike the variants in actual Turkey, the Turkish coffee here is more viscous, with a kick of spice. Jolted awake by the unassuming cup—renowned for its strength—I proceed to explore the property. Weaving through domed quarters, I find wings adorned with fuchsia bougainvillea and hallways that end in jeweltoned sofas. Painted glass accents crafted in Alexandria add color to locally made terracotta structures. I feel like I’m simultaneously in a museum and someone’s very opulent home. A member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux group, Al Moudira boasts a fruitful garden, two libraries, a spa with a hammam, a gym where yoga can be arranged, and three pools (two of which are private) for escaping the over-90-degree temperatures. And if “common” accommodations won’t do, there’s a 5-suite sequestered villa—once Zeina’s home—that comes outfitted with one-of-a-kind art and a butler service. Needless to say, I got lost on more than one occasion.

While taking photos, I nearly back into Eva, a fellow Russian who runs the hotel’s boutique. Like everyone on staff, she’s warm and welcoming. We instantly


bond over our background and travels while drinking limonana—a mint lemonade born in Egypt around the 12th century. She tells me the property is primarily stocked with goods from local artisans, and produce that’s not grown onsite comes from neighboring farms to support the community. Even the pillows on my bed are part of a giving-back effort through Threads of Hope. The organization, founded by one of the hotel’s owners, empowers women in the region by training them in weaving and embroidery; they are responsible for the cursive “M” I admired before bed. I make a point to interact with locals when traveling, so I ask to see the pottery studio a few miles away. As we drive through the village, sand swirls like golden fairy dust. Cars are scarce, and the grandeur of Al Moudira is nowhere in sight, a reminder that the reality of life in developing countries is a stark contrast to the comforts of Santa Barbara. Several men sit on the floor making clay bowls, cups, and vases while others paint finished pieces. The china is striking, making me regret my carry-on suitcase. We chat about life in Luxor over sweet mint tea with the owner as kittens dart between our feet. On the way back, Eva points out an excavation project: a 3,400-year-old royal city was recently discovered.

I awake with the sun, exhilarated for the adventure ahead. I’m heading to Qena, a city over two hours away due to slow roads and tourist restrictions, to see one of the region’s best-preserved sites. Fueled by green juice, shakshuka, and various pastries, I meet Tamer, an Egyptologist, and my guide for the next two days. Our driver, Moustafa, is local and just shy of nineteen. I’m told that Dendera Temple was one of ancient Egypt’s most important centers, housing three sanctuaries dedicated to a deity. Today, the grande Sanctuary of Hathor is all that remains. It’s not quite high-season—that’s November to March—leaving the attraction largely unfilled. I feel it’s a sign.

An iridescent glow hangs like a halo above the entryway of the 60-foot-high structure. I step inside, frozen amidst blistering heat. Eighteen columns tower above me, depicting Hathor, the goddess of the sky, love, women, fertility, beauty, music, and rebirth. I take a few steps to the right and am engulfed by an energetic wave. Tears flood my eyes, but there’s no sadness. The limited nature of words cannot convey the sensation, but it’s clear as the preserved panorama of hieroglyphs, that this is precisely where I am supposed to be; I feel it in my bones. The initial impact subsides, and I marvel at the depictions on the ceiling: there’s the creation myth, the story of Nut (a goddess who swallowed

“The limited nature of words cannot convey the sensation, but it’s clear as the preserved panorama of hieroglyphs, that this is precisely where I am supposed to be.”

the sun every night and birthed it in the morning), and that of Osiris—notorious for his dramatic resurrection from the afterlife. Over 5,000 years have passed, but pops of marigold and turquoise remain within intricate motifs.

Though the main hall is captivating, the temple’s energy center is believed to be in a subterranean crypt. Tamer guides me down several staircases and through a tiny opening (note: this journey is not for the claustrophobic), where he translates the depictions on the walls. The next crypt is closed to the public, but luck is on our side; a visiting archeologist has access. I go in solo—it’s that narrow—and am immediately confronted with her, Hathor dead-center at the end of the hall. She’s hypnotic, and the space is all but buzzing with energy. I kneel to pause and take it all in, accidentally losing balance, essentially bowing at her altar... Have I declared my worship?

We return to the air conditioned car and head to our next destination, Karnak. It’s nearly three, and I’m famished. Recently inspired by The Grand Tour, I’ve committed to trying authentic cafes and street food everywhere I visit. My classic Egyptian lunch consists of a foul mudammas—stewed fava beans with spices—sandwich. It’s oddly delicious and gets me to the site. The entry is flanked by criosphinxes, who don the head of a ram and the body of a lion, representing the power of a pharaoh. Unlike our first stop, the colossal complex, which houses temples, pylons, chapels, and sculptures, is bustling with tourists. We end the tour at The Great Hypostyle Hall; at a sweeping 4,983 square meters, it’s the largest singlechamber temple in the world.

I return to Moudira, enervated. My cool room offers a soft repose from the sensory overwhelm. I chug a carafe of water, nearly inhale the complimentary baklava, and finally head down to the pool. Birds chirp a calming melody, and scattered palms sway with lethargy through the hazy desert air. The silence here is unbelievable—no neighbors, cars, or heavy winds to rustle greenery. With distant crickets as my playlist, I forgo a guided meditation and let the lull of the desert take me away, or rather in I open my eyes, returning to reality, which still feels like a dream. My pizza, from the wood-fired oven of the Poolside Pavillion, should be arriving any minute. I dive into the water, cutting through the liquid gold reflection of the fleeting sun.

By 6:30 in the morning, I’m already sipping on a cappuccino. Mostly couples occupy the surrounding tables; one is even on their honeymoon, as I later learn. Intent on learning from the previous day, I load up on

fresh fruit, an omelet, falafel, a mango yogurt, and a glazed-date pastry. Reunited with Tamer, we head to the Temple of Hatshepsut. A bevy of colorful hot air balloons hang in the sky. Dressed in my own version of royal garb, a backless floor-length dress, I make my way up towards the striking limestone structure that emerges from the cliff like a mirage. Erected in the 15th century BC as a mortuary for Egypt’s longest reigning female pharaoh, the temple’s size and splendor inform the importance of afterlife in the culture. Walking on the same steps as such a powerful woman once walked is surreal—the entire trip feels like a lucid dream. When we surrender, we allow the life we’re meant to live to unfold in magical ways.

Along with throngs of tourists, I line up beneath the torrid sun at the Valley of the Kings, where over 60 tombs lay below the ground. The nearly 300-foot descent to Pharaoh Ramses V’s burial room—later taken over by Ramses VI—is covered with engravings and hieroglyphs. Tales from the Book of Gates, depicted with ornate precision, are surprisingly preserved. Initially, the tomb was filled with everything the pharaohs would need in the afterlife: clothes, food, furniture, etc. When I reach the bottom, I am out of breath and drenched in sweat. The stagnant air and well-over 100-degree temperature outside creates an atmosphere akin to a sweat lodge.

I walk through four more tombs, looking out for the heart-weighing story from the Book of the Dead Egyptians believed the heart was the key and would be weighed against a feather to determine if one lived an honorable life, granting them passage to the afterlife. Sticky and dehydrated, we head back to the hotel. I take my afternoon baklava in the daybed before returning to the pool for a relaxing dip. Dinner follows, and I actually make it to the Ottoman Hall. The mood is reminiscent of a glamorous gathering of the ’20s, with live jazz and romance in the air. I opt for light traditional dishes: a beetroot and lentil salad with rich hummus and a vegetable curry over couscous. For a sweet treat, I get Halva ice cream. Although the food is delicious, the attentive staff who dote, ready to fulfill any ask with an inviting smile, make the evening.

The next day, Moustafa takes me to the airport. We stop along the Nile, and I go down to the dock—women walking alone can draw unwanted attention, but I feel safe. My travel mindset is: lead with heart but never ignore your gut; in other words, be as tuned in to your intuition as you are to the present moment. I film a ferry gliding across the glassy river, its vibrant flags dancing in the breeze. What a life.*




I’ve dreamt of returning to Tahiti since I first swam in its crystal clear waters five years ago. It’s where I learned to dive, fostered a stray kitten in my beachfront hotel room, and became comfortable with sharks. Memories beckon, offering lush peaks with jungle hikes to towering waterfalls, and crystalline lagoons where velvet rays gently caress sun-kissed skin. I’d initially visited the South Pacific islands when affordable airline French bee made it more accessible—offering rates starting at $361 each way for their SFO to Papeete direct flight (truly a breeze with the Alaska Airlines interline connection from LAX). With a week off, and flights too good to pass up (a sign, obviously), a girls' trip was in order.

Champagne and California rolls served by denim-clad flight attendants are a warm welcome aboard. I pull on the “Wake me up in Tahiti” eye mask, take advantage of the generous recline in French bee’s Premium cabin, and awake to sunrise in Tahiti. Having done the overwater bungalows previously, this trip we delve into the rich culture of French Polynesia’s Society Islands. The sweet smell of leis soon to be placed around our necks fills the air and within minutes we arrive at Te Moana Tahiti Resort.

A stroll to waterfront Blue Banana leads to pina coladas and poisson cru (a traditional Tahitian dish with raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk) on the dock,

followed by a lazy afternoon at the hotel’s infinity pool. We watch children splash and play until the sun goes down and the restaurant, bar and bridge illuminate with lights. Like moths to a flame, my friends and I convene at the restaurant. We can’t help getting up a couple times to take photos of the bridge silhouetted against the orange sky—the captivating scene a beautiful backdrop to our delectable meal.

The next morning we embark on a flavorful tour around Papeete, Tahiti’s bustling capital city, with Moorea Food Adventure. Our guide takes us from a spot with the most authentic poisson cru to Lucky Luke’s—a hole-inthe-wall that hasn’t changed since opening 70 years ago. Locals sit at the bar, no tourists in sight—I enjoy seeing restaurants we wouldn’t have otherwise known to go to. We try perfectly crispy tuna beignets and guava pais, which are like luxe pop tarts. The local snacks highlight the Chinese, Tahitian and French influences that make up Tahitian cuisine. We wrap up a morning of delicious food at Kozy Restaurant—aptly named, the quaint yet refined cottage serves up French and Asian fusion.

A visit to Marché de Papeete yields vibrant fruit, local crafts and remedies, and dozens of pearl vendors. I buy gifts from a stand where the owner has his cat on the table wearing a pearl necklace. Irresistible marketing if I’ve ever seen it. At sunset we head to Vaipoopoo Park where


we order poke bowls and decadent banana coconut crepes from food trucks, barely conversing as our eyes are transfixed on boats speeding across the sunset.

We transition to Hilton Hotel Tahiti for a couple days spent sipping cocktails by the expansive pool, and contemplating the choice between on-property sushi or Italian cuisine. Italian prevails, given the abundance of fresh raw fish available anytime and place. The only five-star property on Tahiti, the design is polished and modern, a contrast from the quaint guest houses we stay at the rest of the trip.

Our journey continues to neighboring island Moorea, where we immediately head out for a hike with Moorea by Foot. Our guide Asher leads us through lush fern-lined trails of the Atira'a Valley as we follow his jelly sandal prints up to a waterfall. On the way back we stop at his family’s house, picking mulberries, eating grapefruit, and sipping fresh lemonade. He unintentionally convinces us to want to move to Tahiti and live the same lifestyle, weak WiFi, outdoor showers and all.

Our home for the next few days, Cook’s Bay Hotel & Suites, offers a light and bright retreat. The one-yearold property’s 48 rooms are surrounded by a pool and views of the stunning lagoon and mountain peaks. Mini pineapples sprout along the shore where I spend the afternoon swimming. Come evening, one of the four resident octopuses reveals itself in the tide pool. I watch mesmerized as it morphs and changes colors, turning blue to camouflage, interacting with fish. It’s the first octopus I’ve ever seen and I now understand how he fell in love with the one in My Octopus Teacher.

The next morning, Corallina Tours picks us up to unveil more of Tahiti’s underwater world, complete with reef sharks, eagle rays, green sea turtles, and a lunch at Coco Beach with our toes in the ocean. They recommend going early on a weekday and you won’t see another boat. Yet on our busy holiday weekend, the islanders laughing and snorkeling only adds to the charm.

Taha'a, the vanilla island, beckons as our last stop. We dock at Pension Anahata, a secluded hotel opened by a school teacher as an extension of their successful restaurant, which we soon learn is the ideal sunset perch.

My beachfront bungalow opens up to an overwater swing and private beach. The traditional Tahitian guesthouse (like a bed & breakfast) is rustic, and we happily trade polished rooms for getting to learn about the family’s lives and culture as they serve us dinner.

I fall asleep to the waves and awake to golden rays peeking through the curtains. I return to the restaurant where the cat Minuet is sunbathing and the table is spread with fresh tropical fruit, croissants, baguettes, and homemade yogurt speckled with vanilla bean.

A full-day tour with Poerani Tours takes us to a vanilla plantation, rum distilleries, and a pearl farm, each stop offering a unique sensory experience. Our guide Tura leads with optimism and an infectious laugh—we’d hire him again just to hangout with us.

The first stop is a plantation where greenhouses of organic vanilla vines are hand pollinated, as the bees that pollinate vanilla live only in Madagascar and Mexico. Our guides show us how to pollinate them then let us try, only to cry that “I lost the baby” when I drop the pollen. I redeem myself when they give me a second chance. Phew

“We can’t help getting up a couple times to take photos of the bridge silhouetted against the orange sky— the captivating scene a beautiful backdrop to our

delectable meal. ”

Vanilla fragrance fills the air as we learn about the pod drying process and shop for vanilla beans to take home, which I’ve since added to everything from oatmeal to ice cream. We then hop back in Tura’s truck to a couple rum distilleries. Inside a molasses scented room of vats and oak barrels, they teach us about the distilling process then move onto a tasting. We purchase a bottle as our guides promise to concoct us a punch on the boat.

A rum punch-infused cruise leads us to a deserted island. We eat lunch on the boat—crudo fresh from the crystal clear water. We jump in and tip toe around sea cucumbers to arrive on a white sandy shore where a purring kitten welcomes me, epitomizing the authentic charm of Tahiti—a place where dreams come to life.*


at d i ic

s umm r

“Having eaten ourselves into a relaxed daze, we settle into lounge chairs and swim in the salt water pool that’s fed by the sea.”


It’s a quintessential Mediterranean summer. We spend our days jumping off yachts and cliffs into sundrenched turquoise water post three-hour lunches, and our nights wandering historic streets, gelato dripping down our fingers.

On one such afternoon in Dubrovnik, I step onto my balcony at Hotel Excelsior and look out to the sparkling Adriatic Sea. I have a bird’s eye view of guests lounging on chaises shaded by white umbrellas, steps from one of the world’s cleanest seas. Wondering why on earth I’m still indoors, I head downstairs. I meet my friends for a Mediterranean fusion lunch of octopus bao buns at on-property Prora Restaurant, the view peeking through stone archways. Having eaten ourselves into a relaxed daze, we settle into lounge chairs and swim in the salt water pool that’s fed by the sea.

Come evening, we walk five minutes along the winding road to Old Town Dubrovnik, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Slick limestone streets steeped in history are lined with uniform stone buildings, souvenir shops, gelatarias (Pepino’s is a must-try), and churches dating back to the 1700s. My friends and I stroll around, admiring the intricate details in the facades and petting every stray cat that will let us. As the sun sets behind the city walls, hostesses welcome pedestrians into alleyway eateries. We head upstairs for our reservation at Restaurant Dubrovnik, elevated above the hustle and bustle. The basil and brown clarified butters stand alone as some of the most memorable bites of the trip, rather than simply a bread accouterment. The Dentex fish, only found in the Adriatic, is light and flavorful, and the retractable roof—revealing a starlit sky—sets the tone for a beautiful evening.

Curiosity about the island opposite Hotel Excelsior lures us to Lokrum Island. We take the ferry from the Old Town Harbor and 15 minutes later we’re greeted by peacock families wandering sunlit pathways. While supposedly cursed and hence not allowing overnight visitors, it’s magical during the day. We spend the afternoon sunbathing on rocks, walking around the botanical garden, and fawning over peacock chicks.

Having gotten a taste for the islands, we want more. The next day Hotel Excelsior books us a yacht with Dubrovnik Boat Charter to explore the Elaphiti Islands. Rosé flows freely from the minute we board. Our first stop is the Blue Cave; we dive off the boat and swim through the narrow cave entrance at the base of a cliff. Once inside, the light filtering through the water makes us glow like we’re bioluminescent.

We anchor at Lopud, the most populated of the Elaphiti Islands with 244 people, for a leisurely lunch at La Villa. Waves lap the rocks steps from our table. A Royal 75 in hand, we start with a caprese salad followed by tomato risotto, sesame-crusted seared tuna, and cakes almost too pretty to eat—I wish we’d ordered more desserts just to see the plating. After a three hour lunch, watching boats come and go in the marina, I feel relaxed beyond measure. The pace encourages you to slow down and enjoy each bite, sip, and view. En route back to Dubrovnik and our next hotel, we take our time, stopping to jump off the yacht’s upper deck in a secluded tree-lined cove.

Hotel Bellevue, carved into a cliff, is as breathtaking as its surroundings. A theme of elegance persists, from bright, clean aesthetics to balconies with panoramic views of the Dalmatian Coast. Feeling like I’ve gotten in my steps for


the week, I allow the glass elevator to escort me from my room to the pristine beach below.

The day before departure, we move to Hotel Supetar in undiscovered Savtat, a quiet town closer to the airport and away from the bustling streets of Dubrovnik. My suite in the 16 room property overlooks the promenade and marina. I have breakfast in the garden then swim in the pool lined by impossibly aesthetic tasseled umbrellas.

Savtat is quaint and I feel I could explore its entirety in a day. Strolling along the boardwalk, the fragrance of the trees weighted down with pinecones mixes with the salt air. I’m swept up in a stream of European tourists licking ice cream cones, looking down on what appears to be a Slim Aarons photograph of bikini and Speedo clad sunbathers reading books in the rock crevices lining the shore and diving into the Adriatic.

I hike up to the mausoleum for a view of the whole town. On the way down, I wander residential neighborhoods to the tune of a woman playing Moon River on her flute. Historic touches like original street number tiles, delicately painted with butterflies or fish, make me want to walk down every narrow street, curious what I’d uncover.

You can’t speak of Savtat without mentioning Vlaho Bukovac, whose paintings cover the walls of many buildings, from his own historic home to the charming shell museum. I comb the cases looking for familiar shapes, finding mostly exotic specimens. Owner Ines admits that the museum is “A family hobby that got a little out of hand.” For current art I slip into Hotel Supetar’s wine bar, which has a rotating local artist exhibition, followed by dinner of Kvarner shrimp risotto, Croatian wines, and a honey curd cake—an elevated cheesecake and sweet ending to the trip.

Throughout our Dubrovnik journey, nature and lifestyle intertwine seamlessly. Outdoor meals, crisp clean air, and garden-framed homes characterize the region’s charm. The Adriatic Luxury Hotel properties’ prime locations provide both proximity to main attractions and secluded escapes, allowing for a perfect blend of poolside relaxation and cultural immersion. Every detail, from seaside dining to aesthetic pools, reflects the leisurely pace and beauty of the Mediterranean.*


From Lucca,

with Love.


Isit on a shaded bench overlooking a verdant sculpture garden, sipping from a half-bottle of sangiovese red blend somewhere in the heart of Tuscany. I’m blissfully aware of the fact that it’s only one in the afternoon, but as they say, when in Rome! Here, I try my best to do as the locals do, which means solo lunch breaks in the piazzas and sticking to the four main food groups: wine, cheese, pasta, and gelato. And bread, and Aperol spritzes. The list goes on.

My lunch, a hearty picnic of focaccia with smoked salmon and cream cheese and a side of olive oil cake, has long since been devoured, though I take my sweet time before leaving my secret spot and hopping back on my trusty steed, the cruiser bike. Pedaling back through the 500-year-old city walls, I revel in the romance of traveling solo, as if I’m starring in my own remake of Under the Tuscan Sun—without the quarter-life crisis, that is.

My temporary home is the charming Renaissance town of Lucca, which, in my opinion, is severely underrated within the list of top Italian cities. Yes, there’s the classic might of Rome and unparalleled culture of Florence, even the beauty of neighboring Tuscan towns San Gimignano and Siena; yet Lucca’s signature superpower lies in one simple characteristic: authenticity. As a lesser hotspot on the tourist itinerary, visitors trade bustling

chaos for a laid-back small town bursting with medieval history, Renaissance architecture, and traditional Tuscan flavor, in the company of charming locals indulging in an espresso doppio and a cigarette break. Though not as iconic as the Colosseum, Lucca’s enchanting city walls hold the history of half a millennium. Besides, unhurried afternoons spent strolling piazzas and indulging in the world’s finest wine encapsulates la dolce vita much better than the chaos of Roman life.

I arrive back at my humble abode, the only luxury hotel within the inner circle of Lucca’s city walls. Erected out of a meticulously restored 16th century palazzo, Grand Universe Lucca has served previous lives as a glassblower’s atelier, a Renaissance family home, and finally many decades as a monumental hotel. 19th century art frames the walls of both the pearlescent arched lobby and the 55 sumptuous velvet-clad suites, its rich furniture reflecting Lucca’s heritage in silks and textile production. A grand piano sits in its lobby, both as an ode to the city’s musical history, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, and an immersive experience for visitors—a classical composer sits with guests to create their own custom melody in the hotel’s “Prelude of Existence.” Everything here is proudly tied to the city’s storied past. I park my bike and resort to exploration by foot, off to discover if Lucca is truly the city of 100 churches.

A stop for gelato is involved, evidently. “Pistachio, per favore,” I order in my bad Italian accent. Wandering the city’s maze of narrow alleyways, I step aside for a horsedrawn carriage pulling two passengers with matching aperitifs, another signature trademark offered by Grand Universe. The fact that Fiats, Vespas, and horse-drawn carriages alike traverse the same roads here is a charming fusion of medieval past and present. As I stroll, I catch glimpses of the iconic San Michele in Foro between looming buildings. Standing before the real thing, which dates back to 795 AD, is just as awe-inspiring as any Roman monument. A wander through Palazzo Pfanner’s ancient Greek sculpture garden is the perfect cap to an idyllic afternoon. Now, all I’m in need of is a refreshment.

It just so happens that I have friends from Los Angeles staying in town, doing their own version of a house swap (yes, like in The Holiday) while the owners of their eclectic Lucca apartment are staying in Manhattan Beach. I meet them for an aperitif date back at Grand Universe’s Sommità Champagne Rooftop, which serves strictly Martin Orsyn deluxe champagne with a sweeping view of the city’s many iconic towers. We order Hugo spritzes and snack on cornichons, reveling in the early evening’s stillness as golden hour illuminates ancient buildings. We have the place to ourselves, only one other couple to our left – though, not even ten minutes later, a sudden commotion draws our gaze, and we gasp with the realization that one half of our rooftop company has gotten down on one knee. A Tuscan proposal.

We stare, stunned, witnessing their love story unfold in front of us, until the couple introduces themselves as Hollie and Tom from England and apologizes for ruining our evening. We assure them it’s been quite the opposite. My friend orders another bottle of champagne; a toast to the newly engaged. “He’s been acting so weird all day!” Hollie exclaims, remarking that Tom had been oddly attached to his backpack. We’re astonished to learn that Tom had only planned to propose here that day, after deciding the original location wasn’t up to par. But the moment is fleeting, as the lovebirds are late for a dinner reservation and fly off into the night.

I come to find that the unassuming Lucca is in fact full of mischievous surprises. Every April, they celebrate the Festival of the Flowers to honor patron Saint Zita with a blooming flower market and spring displays throughout the city. I happen to be visiting right before Lucca Summer Fest, as the usually sleepy town is preparing to host an influx of famous bands and tourists. The opener? KISS. My lively concierge, Cinzia, explains that my current suite is to be given to one of the band members after my departure. The time I gave up my room for KISS, I think. Has a nice ring to it. Sure enough, I later spy a conspicuous figure in shorts and a T-shirt asking


for directions in the lobby—he would have blended in, except for the massive mop of flowing black hair. Tommy Thayer. There you have it: a rooftop fit for a proposal, and a suite fit for a rock legend.

After the best rooftop toast imaginable, my evening culminates with a reservation at Legacy, Grand Universe’s traditional Italian restaurant with an emphasis on regionally sourced ingredients. In a country whose history is so tied to its food, simplicity is king, though Legacy elevates Italian dishes up a notch through luxurious textures and ingredients—not to mention, a wine list chock-full of the world’s most coveted bottles, from the iconic Brunello di Montalcino to Chianti and Super Tuscan galore. I dive into my antipasti, marinated cod in hummus with Tropea onions, but the tagliolini with black truffle and zucchini flower is the true star of the show. Although I love a good truffle (as I’d later prove at an osteria in Florence), the best part of this dish is the masterfully delicate execution of a flavor that is usually overpowering. Crema Catalana, the Spanish sister of crème brûlée, is my ultimate demise. I crack through the burnt sugar crust and into the heavenly custard beneath, hoping my indulgence won’t come to an end.

Alas, it does, and though I’d love to stay and polish off another glass of Super Tuscan, my eyelids beg for sleep. After all, in the last 48 hours I’d taken a flight from San Francisco to Paris and Paris to Pisa without so much as a good night’s rest. As I take one last gaze from my window, perfectly positioned over the deserted Piazza del Giglio, and curl up inside my velvet-upholstered bed, I think to myself… Lucca is well worth it.

I wake refreshed after a solid 8 hours and return to Legacy Restaurant in desperate need of a cappuccino. Although it’s already sweltering outside, I can’t do a disservice to the Italians by ordering iced coffee. My last day of city excursions takes me right up to the central gates, Porta San Pietro, where I stop to take a peek inside Grand Universe’s La Residenza building. If possible, it exudes even more Renaissance character than the hotel; Michelangelo-style frescos splash across the ceilings, and gilded carpets meet decadent velvet furniture. Good thing I don’t have a month free, or I’d be in danger of hiding out here.

But, the show must go on, and later that day my train wistfully whisks me away from Tuscany’s perfected authenticity onto some other adventure. Lucca is its own grand little universe indeed, full of surprises, old-world charm, and the all-too-Italian celebration of simplicity. La dolce vita and garbo lucchese remain on my mind as the train pulls away from Lucca, with love.*


Tuscan Spring






Bring on the Italian sunshine! This brandnew, clean formulation of the cult-favorite sunscreen will leave skin protected all day, from biking the city walls to climbing Guinigi Tower. Plus, zero white cast means it’s suitable for all skin tones.



Sporting an Italian leather bag in Lucca just makes sense. Versatile as a clutch, crossbody, shoulder, or belt, this supple lambskin minibag is an everyday staple for venturing both inside and outside the city walls.




When life gives you lemons, you take them to Tuscany in the form of a Limoncello-inspired dress. Reflect the blooming hues of the Italian countryside as you dine on truffle tagliolini at Legacy Restaurant—and sip on a golden liqueur to match.


The statement heels that every sun-chasing globetrotter needs in their rotation. These citrusy, floral-printed mules with classic logo heels pair expertly with champagne toasts at the Martin Orsyn Rooftop.





California comfort is best found at Hideaway Santa Barbara. Just blocks from the beach and only nine rooms, the intimate coastal lifestyle is at your fingertips. Settle into your temporary Craftsman style home with a glass of vino on the solarium and bask in the American Rivera sun.




Get up and at ‘em with some morning movement at Pilates & Or. Try their Reformer Pilates for core strengthening and body toning or sweat it out in their Infrared Hot Studio.



As the daughter of an antique dealer, Marisa Haskell has an eye for unique pieces. Marisa Mason Jewelry is a reflection of this. Discover the beauty of her hand made rings, bracelets, and necklaces along with home pieces and other local designs.



Oat Bakery is our bread-andbutter. Small batch, organic, handmade, and topped with chia seeds and oats, the product at the Danish inspired shop is filled with freshness and nutrition.



Explore all eleven of California’s ecosystems in one place. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden has a mission: to conserve native plants and habitats for the sake of the people and the planet. Join the mission and pay this spectacle a visit.


in Santa Barbara


California lifestyle meets performance apparel at Vuori Inspired by the combination of sport, surf, and art of the coast, the fitness clothing company designs pieces that are built for all aspects of life. See for yourself at their State Street store.



Lilac Patisserie’s new Montecito location is the ideal gluten-free fine dining spot. More than just beautiful cakes, the restaurant’s menu is complete with house made ravioli and yellowtail crudo.



The best in blowouts has finally made it to Santa

Barbara. Whether keeping it classic with The Manhattan and letting it loose with The Cosmo, Drybar is the answer to all your hair wants and needs.



Tanada Isehikari rice is stepping out of its Japan home and into the Funk Zone. The intimate


Fresh as a daisy. Locally sourced dishes like Smoked Brisket Banh Mi, Smoked Salmon Toast, and Cauliflower & Fritters at The Daisy are a wonderful way to end a wellness-filled day.


Silvers Omakase, Michelin Starred chef Lennon Silvers Lee’s newest project, is the compilation of craftsmen, sake brewers, fishmongers, and farmers.



Peruse home decor that never goes out of style at House of Rio shop and design store. Elevate your bedroom with a leather magazine rack, a set of woven nightstands and luxe ceramic lamps. If you need a little interior design guidance, they’ve got you covered with a design team ready to help.


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