AMG Lifestyle

HOT SPOT: Venice Beach, California

Street performers, mohawkked punks and oiled up body-builders decorate the famous boardwalk that sits alongside a three mile stretch of sandy beach. Venice is full of wonderful freaks, a haven for bohemians and creatives with its plethora of funky seaside vendors, cafes and unique culture.

Built on a system of canals in 1905 by a young entrepreneur Abbot Kinney, Venice was dubbed the “Coney Island of the Pacific” with its amusement piers and carnivale -style atmosphere. After some devastating fires, an annexation and the closing of the nautical theme park in 1967, the town underwent a renaissance.

Today, Venice is eclectic as ever, beautifully offbeat with its quirky roots still very much alive and well. Airy cafes and small, fine restaurants are tucked away in between rickety stalls selling wacky souvenirs and t-shirts. The art scene is thriving, with the annual Venice Art Walk in May showcasing the productivity of the neighborhood artists, offering studio tours, house visits and hundreds original work to bid on. Surfboard rentals can be found anywhere along the beach. Or just hop on a skateboard – the Dogtown native Z-boys did found modern day skateboarding here, after all. On the boardwalk, chainsaw jugglers, musicians and a Freakshow featuring two-headed animals and a sword swallowing act are just a few feet down from the local hulks at the legendary Muscle Beach Gym.

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HOT SPOT: Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the second largest metropolis in Spain. Cradled in between the Mediterranean ocean and the Serra de Collserola hills, it is a sexy, modern yet incredibly ancient city that works to both preserve and celebrate its history.

Art galleries, opera houses, cathedrals and world renowned architecture frame the highly pedestrianized streets. A mornings walk can take you from the original Roman settlement of the medieval Barri Gotic, to the 19th century L’Eixample neighborhood, all decorated in ornamental ceramic, wrought iron and stained glass, and onto the Picasso Museum, which houses one of the most extensive collections of the artist’s work. Restaurants, cafes and nightclubs are always packed, as are the beautiful, sandy beaches the city was built upon.

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HOT SPOT: Palm Springs, California

Almost every morning in Palm Springs consists of blue skies, balmy air and pouring sunshine. A breath fills the senses with the sweet aroma of carob, orange and lemon from the abundant fruit trees that seem to cluster in every backyard and hotel garden along the California Highway 111.

Date palms line the streets of a desert city appropriately named. Pop into Shield’s Date Farm off the side of the road for an assortment of dates hand picked fresh from the fields in the back and the best date milkshake you’ve ever had. Hidden at the rear of the shoppe, a 108 seat theatre, complete with a scratchy looped 8mm reel that tells you all about the romance and sex life of the date. You read that right. Find it just behind the table of coconut encrusted medjools.

There’s a sense of old Hollywood and it’s not just because there’s a boulevard named after Frank Sinatra. Since the 1920s, Palm Springs has been the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of showbiz. Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball were all frequent visitors. Elvis and Pricilla honeymooned here – you can even take a tour of their famous hideaway. Not to mention the long time mayor was none other than Sonny Bono. Palm Springs also has its own Walk Of Stars that honours the likes of Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney and more.

Take a stroll down El Paseo Drive for an eclectic mix of high end designer stores, vintage boutiques and old Hollywood souvenir shops. When you need to refuel, there’s no shortage of great little restaurants along the strip. Stop into Sherman’s Deli and Bakery for a hot corned beef sandwich with all the fixings.

The first Coachella Music Festival was held in 1999 and headlined bands such as Tool, Rage Against the Machine and Beck. Fourteen years later, its become one of the hottest celebrations of music in the Valley and a stomping ground for trendsetters. This April’s line up includes the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Blur.

When the sun sets behind the San Jacinto Mountains, the air cools and the crickets sing. Whether you came to relax or play, there’s something magical about this desert city that is truly like no other.

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Auroville: The City of Dawn

Auroville is an intentional community located near Puducherry in southern India. Formed in 1968 by Mira Alfassa (known as the Mother), the “experimental” town exists for the purpose of human unity, where men and women from all walks of life can live together in peace and harmony, without religion, without prejudice, without judgement.

Alfassa was highly spiritual and believed that man was a transitional being. Her goal in creating Auroville was that it would contribute to the progress of humanity by bringing together people of goodwill. At the community’s inauguration in 1968, Alfassa presented the following four point charter:

1. Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville, one must be the willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
2. Auroville will be a place of an unending education, of constant progress, and a youth that never ages.
3. Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realizations.
4. Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual Human Unity.

In the centre of town is the Matrimandir, a golden metallic sphere conceived to satisfy man’s quest for perfection and a symbol for future realization. The aesthetic of the structure came to Alfassa in a vision and was built by architect Roger Anger. In the mornings, the entire surrounding area (called the Peace area) is filled with individuals meditating. Inside the Matrimandir, a spiraled staircase leads to a vast chamber of pure white marble – this room is referred to as a place to find ones consciousness.

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TRAVEL: The Bob Marley Mausoleum, 9 Mile, Jamaica

The Bob Marley Mausoleum is located in 9 Mile, a small town in Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica, the village where the father of reggae was born and eventually laid to rest. Managed by members of his family, a barefoot walking tour of the mausoleum will take you through different rooms, each that have a significant meaning to Marley’s life. His meditation stone, where he often rested his head to gain inspiration, overlooks a sweeping view of the lush tropical forest. Perhaps the most powerful part of the mausoleum is the crypt, where Marley, his brother and his mother are buried. Surrounded by candles and notes of love, respect and appreciation, the tombs make for an important pilgrimage for anyone who was truly touched by Marley’s music.

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HOT SPOT: San Francisco’s Little Italy

Since the Italians saved their neighborhood from the earthquake and fire of 1906 by uncorking their wine barrels and swaddling the houses with blankets soaked in vino rosso, San Francisco’s North Beach has developed itself into a wonderful hub of ristorantes, caffes and Old World-style delicatessens. Affectionately dubbed Little Italy, it was also famously haunted by Beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

Lively chatter, clinking glasses and the welcoming aroma of Italian cooking greets you as you stroll down Columbus Avenue, North Beach’s main strip. Pizzerias and both casual and gourmet dining are readily available on every block, along with a multitude of great little caffes where you can sit outside and sip espresso while people watching.

But Little Italy isn’t just all about the food – small boutiques carrying local and imported goods and handmade clothing dot the streets in between some of the most spirited watering holes in town. And City Lights, the original publisher of Ginsberg’s Howl, still maintains itself as one of the best bookstores in San Francisco.

Rarely does one find a place that is so sought after by tourists yet still sacred and beloved to those who call it home. Don’t drive – walk through North Beach to experience all that makes this neighborhood so special.

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The Galapagos Islands

Giant tortoises slowly wander the highlands while tiny penguins dive and dart through turquoise waters. Sea birds with bright blue feet waddle along the brilliant white sandy shore as prehistoric iguanas sun themselves on black lava rocks.

The Galapagos Islands are a string of islands best known as the conception site of Darwin’s theories of evolution by natural selection. Famed for being largely undisturbed by human development, these beautiful volcanic isles are located on either side of the equator and off the coast of Ecuador. Rugged and rocky, this remarkable island ecosystem is home to wonderfully strange, diverse and highly adapted creatures that are found nowhere else on Earth.

Traveling through the Galapagos means doing do responsibly and respectfully. Tours of the islands allow just 16-100 people per boat and all groups are accompanied by a licensed guide. Snorkeling and scuba diving here are shaped by moments of taking in the incredibly vivid colors of reef and marveling at the abundance of wildlife that inhabit even the shallowest of water.

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