janna conner travel

Food, Los Angeles CA, Travel

How to do Catalina Island like a native

Avalon  Harbor, Catalina Island. Boats, paddle boarders and swimmers abound!

Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island. Boats, paddle boarders and swimmers abound!

This summer I'm all about weekend trips and short getaways.   My next door neighbor, now friend, grew up on Catalina, and invited me home with her to experience another side to the island. Previously, I had only thought of it as a summer tourist destination or for sleep away camp.  I hadn't visited Catalina Island since ninth grade on a sleep away trip with high school and my husband and son had never been so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Catalina Express  ferry from Long Beach, CA to Avalon, Catalina

Catalina Express ferry from Long Beach, CA to Avalon, Catalina

To get to Catalina, you take an hour long ferry ride from several ports in LA. The closest one for us was Long Beach so we departed from there on a Friday afternoon. Cars are restricted on Catalina, with a wait list as long as 20 years +!  So the ferry is only for people and dogs (either caged or in muzzles). We took our dachshund Junior with us, he didn't love the ferry but he did pretty well overall. Once there, you can walk around the main city part of Avalon on foot or rent a golf cart or bike.

Lovely bougainvillea, quaint beach cottages, license plate birdhouses, colorful murals, proud Democrat (not too many of those on Catalina), and Casino at night on Avalon, Catalina

I had never driven a golf cart before and was surprised to find it was a blast! My son loved it too and would tell me to "Hit it!" and we would blast down the road. A golf cart's engine is similar to a lawnmower so by blast I mean when we were chugging up the hill, you could probably run alongside us.

Thierry Lasry  Sunglasses, Zara beach cover up,  Zara kids t shirt . Janna Conner  Amina hoop earrings ,  Catori cuff bracelet

Thierry Lasry Sunglasses, Zara beach cover up, Zara kids t shirt. Janna Conner Amina hoop earrings, Catori cuff bracelet

Avalon Casino, Junior the island dog, stairs at Casino Point Dive Park

One of my favorite things we did was swim at Lover's Cove. Dries had fallen asleep and Raf and I snuck out for an hour to tool around in the golf cart, exploring the city and to take a dip in the water. It's been so hot lately, it felt great! The water was a little cold at first but instantly warmed up. Catalina's rocky coastline reminded me of Sardinia where we honeymooned because it too is mostly rocky beaches. Pro tip: Don't forget the water shoes, you will want them! The current was pretty strong the weekend we were there and some of the beaches (Descanso) had sharp rocks but Lover's Cove had really smooth ones which also made them a bit slippery. My friend Katie prefers Pebbly Beach, but there was a construction site nearby to it so we opted for Lover's Cove. You be the judge!

My plastic Eva birkenstocks were no match for the rocks at Lover's Cove!

The next day we did Descanso Beach Club, which is Catalina's version of a family friendly Miami Beach. They have a DJ on the weekends, and a section that has cabanas and beach chairs for day rental and an outdoor café & bar (that will also serve on the beach), a smoothie & ice cream shop, and a shop that sells pool floaties, paddle ball racquets, hats, umbrellas and all with decent prices. The day we were there, the private section was sold out so we just sat on the public beach part, immediately adjacent to it. It was just fine, the restaurant brought us our fish tacos, fries and margies and everything was alright with the world. 

 Descanso Beach Club. Janna Conner Aleeza rock crystal ring, Catori brass cuff, 14k gold initial bracelet.

There are a lot of boats docked in the harbor and you can swim up in one section, another is reserved for kayaks, jet skis and paddle boards. Dries wanted to kayak so we rented a two person one with Dries sitting in the middle for an hour. Once he got over screaming "Oh nooooooooo, we're going to die, this was a terrrrrrrible idea!" he actually enjoyed the last 15 minutes or so. It was lovely out on the water, sunny but not too hot and with no waves.

Catalina kayaking.jpg

The next day we headed into the hills, which requires a car (no golf carts there!). We winded our way up and around, passing the zip line station that goes all the way down to Descanso and then paused for a moment to admire some bison and heron at Haypress reservoir. The bison were brought to the island in the 1920's for a movie, but were never used and then left on the island because they didn't want to deal with taking them back. Not very nice. Now they casually wander the island. We saw one just chilling on the side of the road, minding his own business.

Catalina island bison.jpeg

We stopped at the Airport for lunch at DC-3 café and gift shop. It's very scenic high up with all the little planes flying in and out. Some of the famous pilots that have flown in include Angelina Jolie and Harrison Ford. It's not for the weak of heart, the runway is only 3000 feet! I think I'll stick to driving up for the food, I had a great salad and Raf had a buffalo burger. No meal is complete without one of their killer homemade cookies, the oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip are delicious. They also sell Rusack wine, wish I had a bought a bottle because it seemed a good price at $30 since Rusack isn't that easy to find, at least in LA. I didn't though because we were on our way to do the Trans Catalina trail and didn't think it was a great idea to keep the wine in the car. Oh well, next time!

Airport in the Sky, Catalina Island

With full bellies, we continued on our way to Little Harbor, the starting point for our afternoon hike along the Trans Catalina Trail. Little Harbor was largely deserted except for a few campers, (there's a nearby campground) it was perfectly peaceful. The Trans Catalina Trail stretches 37.2 miles across the island, seemingly never ending but we did just a portion of it since we had Dries and Junior, our mini dachshund with us and we wanted to get some beach time in. It wasn't difficult, and provided lovely vistas along the soapstone path with striking red flowers.

Trans Catalina Trail from Little Harbor and Whale's Tail Catalina Island.  Unusual red flowers everywhere along with cacti.

Catalina makes for a great weekend trip, or longer. They have great camps for kids and many scenic options for both the casual traveler and camping options for the outdoorsman. Now that I've done part of the TCT, I think I would like to try doing the whole trail!

Food

My Must Have's for 4th of July

This year the 4th falls on a Tuesday so it's a particularly long weekend.  That means lots of bbqs, parties and socializing with friends. I've been watching my calories lately, trying to lose the last of my baby weight and I've switched it up from my usual wine to tequila. The reason why is that tequila has fewer calories (64 per ounce), is naturally sweet (since it comes from agave) and has a lower glycemic impact and no hangover! This makes it one of the healthiest options for alcohol around. I usually drink mine with a few limes squeezed and a dash of sparkling water but for the holiday weekend I may splurge and throw in a splash of fresh squeezed grapefruit!

The Paloma

Picture by Sam Linsell (Drizzle & Dips)

Picture by Sam Linsell (Drizzle & Dips)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 ounces of reposado tequila (or a good quality blanco)
  • juice of half a ruby grapefruit
  • 0.5 ounces of agave syrup or simple syrup
  • 2.5 ounces of club soda
  • a dash of fresh lime juice (optional)
  • Ice cubes

 

Instructions

  • Mix the grapefruit juice, tequila and agave syrup until well mixed.
  • Pour over a tall glass filled with ice and top with soda water.

 

Options

  • Add a dash of lime juice
  • Rim the glass with salt
  • Leave the sugar out, it won't be sweet but it's still delicious!

What do I intend to be doing this weekend whilst sipping my tequila you ask? I grew up in Manhattan Beach and my parents still live there so summer weekends often include a little beach time. I like to keep things simple when beach bound. My favorite accessories I'll be rocking will definitely include some festive shades of blue!

I first learned about Teixits Vicens from a friend of mine who has a vacation home in Mallorca, Spain. I've never been to Mallorca, (or Spain for that matter) but am dying to go. Teixits Vicens is a family owned and operated textile company that hails back all the way to 1854! They use all natural fibers like cotton and linen and they make all their patterns in house. There are so many beautiful colors and designs to choose from it's hard to pick just one. I ultimately chose the Petate beach bag in blue ikat. It's huge and fits everything (I"m a bit of a pack rat, I like to be prepared for anything) They also make home accessories, clothing, shoes and bags even chairs. In this day and age when it's increasingly difficult to find items that are not mass produced, it's so special to find something unique and hand made.

Anyone who is familiar with my jewelry line, knows I LOVE lapis. I love it's rich vivid blue hue, reminiscent of an Yves Klein painting. I use lapis a lot in my pieces, both in my fashion and fine collection. One of my favorite fashion lapis styles are these elongated Sarotte drops. I purchased these lapis stones on one of my annual trips to the Tucson Gem Show and then electroformed 18k gold on them to make a minimal bezel. I really wanted the emphasis to be on the beauty of the lapis rather than a flashy setting, which is why I often opt for a minimalist clean setting when making my jewelry.

I hope whatever you're doing this holiday weekend, you're having fun and staying safe! Cheers!

Photo with flag: Kim Myers Robertson / Trunk Archive

Art, Los Angeles CA, Travel, Fashion

Desert X: 6 must sees in Palm Springs

I love Palm Springs. I love that it's far enough from LA that it seems like a getaway while being close enough that you could go for a day if you wanted. I love the dry heat, the mountain views and the hot air blowing through the palm trees at night. I love the desert landscape, the modern architecture with its relaxed California lifestyle. Palm Springs enjoys a history of being both a past favorite for Hollywood's glamorous like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope back in the late 1930's yet is still relevant today.

I gave up on going to Coachella years ago, love the music but didn't love the crowds, dust and traffic. Now that I'm a parent, kid friendly adult activities are what I'm all about. When Desert X popped up on my radar, it seemed like the perfect combination of all things I enjoy most: art, nature, discovery and travel. I was not disappointed. I loved it and hope it becomes a yearly recurrence!

Jeffrey Gibson - Alive! Location: Palm Springs Art Museum

Desert X is a two month long, interactive outdoor art installation located throughout the Coachella Valley. Its like a modern day treasure hunt! Not only did it expose me to some new artist's work that I wasn't previously familiar with but it introduced me to some parts of the Coachella Valley I didn't know very well either. When I come to Palm Springs, I usually rent a house or stay in a hotel and spend the entire time poolside with drink in hand. Desert X encouraged me to venture out and explore Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and other cities that I had been so close to all these years but had never seen. Desert X is also free to the public, so there is no barrier to entry. It was great seeing entire families out with their kids enjoying and interacting with the art.

First stop on Desert X, checking in at the Ace Hotel Palm Springs. Grab a program guide here and get on your way! There were 16 installations in all, both from local and internationally acclaimed artists. Ideally we would have been able to see them all but we had our son with us, and only 24 hours to do it in, so realistically we knew we had to be strategic before burning out. We started with the Jeffrey Gibson wind turbine at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Any visitor to Palm Springs is familiar with the famous drive in surrounded by all the wind turbines. A ready made object, the turbine is covered with the words: I AM ALIVE! YOU ARE ALIVE! THEY ARE ALIVE! WE ARE LIVING! It also has opalescent paint that shimmers in the sun and looks quite pretty with the palm tree background.

Doug Aitken - Mirage        Location: 1111 West Racquet Club Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Zara bomber, Goyard St Louis purse

If you've seen an image of Desert X, it was most likely Doug Aitken's Mirage. It is the longest running of all the installations and the most permanent structure. It is a completely mirrored house, both interior and exterior.  You simultaneously see your reflection along with the surrounding mountains sky and desert landscape. It's pretty incredible. As you walk through the maze like interior you see yourself and the other visitors and surrounding landscape from all angles, which is both an exhilarating and disorienting experience. The home is a suburban ranch style without any doors or windows, providing a seamless transition between interior and exterior. I went when it first opened at opens at 3 pm and there was a line snaking through the door. Because it reflects the surrounding landscape, its appearance changes depending on what time of day it is. I would love to go back at night and see it in the dark with all the lights twinkling on the valley below. While the rest of Desert X closes April 30, Mirage will remain open until October 31, 2017 so go!!!!!

Next up, Swiss artist, Claudia Comte's Curves and Zigzags, is the third in a series of black and white optical painting walls. The lines start out angular and morph into a curvilinear pattern reminiscent of a Bridget Riley painting. As a kid, I was always drawn to black and white op art, getting lost in deciphering where the graphic pattern changed and evolved into something else entirely. The Homme Adams park is the perfect location for this undulating wall. It houses trails that lead to a vista where you can look down on the sculpture. Desert X also coordinated a walk with the artist herself, on the morning I was there. Dries had fun running around it and looking at the giant ants that were on the ground.

Desert X is such a unique experience because it completely turns on its head the traditional notion of how one views art. It allows complete interaction between the viewer and the subject. I marveled at the lack of security, for the most part there were no guards securing the pieces with the exception of Mirage. The Richard Prince house was vandalized and subsequently closed which is a shame but I suspect that had more to do with the animosity towards his appropriation of other artists work for his own profit rather than general vandalism.  I was impressed that there was no graffiti or trash surrounding the works. I did notice the influx of bloggers that were posing with the wall, some even by putting their feet up on the walls they leaned back on it.  I wonder, why shouldn't the same rules of decorum apply to an outdoor work as would a piece of art hanging in a museum? Just because someone isn't standing there to tell you not to do it doesn't mean you should. It made me think, is this the new way we interact with art?  I do see the value in as many people interacting with art in their daily lives but fear people ruining art installations with their own curiosity and desire to touch.

Aerial photo of I am by David Blank.

Last up for day 1 was Bahamian artist Tavares Strachan's piece I am. Unlike the other daytime installations, it's only open at night Weds-Sat from 7-10 pm. We visited at closing time and it was a surreal experience. You drive down a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere, turning into a dark field. You then wander down a longish path and see in the distance neon lights embedded in metal shapes cordoned off in a field. You have to sign a waiver to go in, since it is so dark you can hardly see anything except for the neon lights, adding to the element of anticipation and spookiness. The shapes spell out "I am" scattered throughout the desert floor spanning two American football fields.  Meandering through the cutouts in the dark night with only the glow of neon and the desert wind blowing was pretty incredible. It creates a spiritual experience that is truly unlike anything I've ever seen. 

Phillip K. Smith III - The Circle of Land and Sky

After a little time in the pool, we set off the next day for Phillip K Smith - The Circle of Land and Sky. Comprised of 300 polished stainless steel rods they are inserted into the sand at 10 degree angles in the shape of a circle. Reflecting the land and sky and the interplay of light and shadow, the resulting colors never look the same depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun. Like Mirage, it's fascinating to see the interaction of mirrored image with the Sonoran landscape. The reflectors bring the sky to the ground and the desert floor to the sky, creating a unique perspective.  The Los Angeles born artist began the installation with a 1/4 mile arc in Laguna Beach in this past November and then continued the theme for Desert X.

Raf Conner Desert X (131 of 132).jpg

Will Boone - Monument    Enter at your own risk!

Last stop before heading back to LA, was Will Boone - Monument. It was out in the middle of a field, again usually easy to spot the Desert X installations by a swarm of people milling around in the middle of nowhere. We parked and waited in a short line to go down the bunker where JFK was waiting for us. I was surprised at how many people I had overheard the day previously at the other Desert X sites and this one who didn't know who it was! What I liked about this work was that it was more of a private moment than the other pieces and that it was meant to be experienced alone. If you were the first one to arrive on site and it was closed, you texted or emailed for the pass code to the lock to the bunker, then swing open the hatch and down the stairs to a mini tunnel. JFK is a bronze statue painted in the style of a hobby kit. Hailing from Texas, Boone said he has always felt a connection to JFK being that was where he died. The bunker also touches upon the fear of nuclear attack and invasion of the other, something we as a society seem to be grappling with even in 2017.

Desert X was such a memorable event, I really hope that it will become a recurring exhibition.  Even if most of the installations close today, Doug Aitken's Mirage is open until the end of October so you still have time to have some of the Desert X experience!