Exploring the California Desert: The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium


Interior of the World’s 1st Cactarium

Palm Springs is famous for it’s meticulously kept lawns and mid-century architecture. It’s also the home of the Moorten Botanical Gardens and Cactarium, which houses over 3,000 cacti, succulents, and other plants native to the desert.


Cactarium Exterior

The $5.00 price of admission is well worth it to check out some of the unique and well maintained cacti. If you’re looking for things to do in Palm Springs and are over the overly manicured golf courses, The Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium is a nice change of pace. It’s also centrally located.


Rare varieties of cacti not for sale

There is also an event space and nursery on the one-acre property. There are guided tours as well, and if you want to take one it is is recommended that you book ahead.


Cool looking cactus

The Moorten Botanical Garden was founded in 1939 by desert lover (and former Keystone Cop) Chester “Cactus Slim” Moorten and his wife, Patricia.


Curvy cacti

The Moortens collected specimens themselves from Guatemala and Mexico. Today the couples son, Clark Moorten is in charge. He grew up in Palm Springs and shares his parents’ love of living desert flora.


Prickly Pear

The Cactarium houses some of the funkiest shaped cacti I’ve ever seen.


Desert still life

Visitors can bring home a bit of Palm Springs by purchasing a cactus at the on-site nursery.


Sunshine at the Moorten Botanical Garden

If you are visiting Palm Springs and want a hit of nature that feels a bit wild and don’t have time for a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park, the Moorten Botanical Gardens and Cactarium is a great option.


Pretty desert species

The gardens are open year-round, although the hours change according to season.


Gorgeous greenery

You need not be a plant lover to appreciate this place. It’s compact and just plain cool.

Moorten Botanical Garden is open year round.

1701 S Palm Canyon Dr — Palm Springs, CA — 92264

note: street parking only!

Phone: (760) 327-6555

Hours are reduced during the summer heat.

Fall, Winter, and Spring

10AM — 4PM daily, except Wednesdays

First day of Summer to First day of Fall (6/21 — 9/21)

9AM — 1PM daily, except Wednesdays

As you walk through the gates you will see our nursery to your left. Please pay at the counter and be sure to get your map!

$5.00 — Adults and Seniors

$2.00 — Children 15 and Under

Free! — Children Under 5

Exploring the American Southwest: A Stay at the Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah


The stunning entrance to the Amangiri

The sublimely designed Amangiri Resort in Canyon Point Utah is one of the most stunning resorts I’ve ever visited, and it’s here in the American Southwest. The resort’s minimalist design effortlessly showcases the amazing landscape of southern Utah. You feel the five star service that Aman Resorts are known for the second you pull up to the resort and are welcomed by the staff, and make your way into the reception area.


The Amangiri’s amazing pool (photo courtesy of Amangiri)

Architects Rick Joy, Marwan Al-Sayed, and Wendell Burnette embraced the natural features of the property into the resort’s design. The pool is built around a natural rock formation. The landscape is dramatic from every angle, and one could easily never Amangiri’s grounds and have a great time.

Time Lapse at the Amangiri with rabbit

Located within an area known as the Grand Circle, the Amangiri resort is located close to Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Monument Valley. The hotel has a fleet of BMW vehicles that guests can borrow (and test drive) to explore the nearby attractions that are off site. They hotel fleet remained spotless despite the dusty environment of the surrounding desert.


Lovely light in a corridor at the Amangiri

The Amangiri does not come cheap. In early February, our Desert View Suite cost $1,400 per night, including food.  We had to book a Desert View Suite since we brought our two dogs on this trip. Yes! The Amangiri is pet-friendly, although additional fees apply.


The Amangiri’s architecture makes the most of the magical desert light

While our room was spacious, I don’t think it technically qualified as a “suite” since it did not have a door which physically divided the sleeping space from the living space in the room. I’m not complaining, but I don’t understand why such a luxurious and small 34 room resort wouldn’t have this feature in every level of accommodation, especially since the Amangiri is stretched out over more than 600 acres of space.


Concrete and blue sky at the Amangiri

The resort also has a few homes available as accommodations. These are favored by celebrities who want to ensure privacy. I recognized the surroundings when my social media feeds showed me that Kylie Jenner announced her daughter’s birth while I was staring at the same starkly beautiful backdrop where she cradled her baby bump.


Water feature in the Amangiri

The hotel has a beautiful 25,000 square foot spa that has all the usual and some specialty treatments. The facilities are just as impressive as the rest of the property and my deep tissue massage (complete with a sage smudge) was definitely higher quality than one would expect from a hotel in the desert.


The front patio of our Desert Suite

As I exited the spa I came across a s’mores station set up on an outdoor fire pit, where a staff member helped us keep away the evening chill by toasting marshmallows and various kinds of chocolate on graham crackers. It was a next-level s’mores experience!


Neutral hues and modern simplicity in our Desert Suite


Afternoon light on a water feature at the Amangiri

The food is included in the room rate and when the weather allowed, we preferred to eat outside in sunshine by the pool, where our dogs could join us. The menu featured local cuisine including bison burgers and Navajo fry bread tacos as well as the usual salads and pizzas. The standout was the excellent margaritas which tasted especially delicious in the desert air.


Daybeds by the Amangiri’s pool

Breakfast standouts were the Huevos Rancheros and Tamale Benedict. Since breakfast and lunch tended to be hearty, we ate light at dinner. The fire roasted Tortilla Soup and Three Sisters Consommé were delicious.


The Amangiri looks magical after dusk

While the food was included in the room rate, an additional charge applies for room service.


Table with a view in the Amangiri’s dining room


A gorgeous outdoor patio space at the Amangiri


Bison burger & fries


The mushroom pizza was delicious


Navajo fry bread tacos served by the pool

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Don’t miss the margaritas at the Amangiri

Tequila drinks taste better in the desert.


Tamale Benedict for breakfast

Tamale Benedict served on a masa cake with smoked pork, poached hen egg, roasted corn relish, and chipotle hollandaise. Yum!


Pastel desert skies with beautiful views

There is so much natural beauty that you can get your fill just by hiking the trails on the Amangiri grounds. But I’d highly recommend taking the Slot Canyon tour with a Navajo Guide. Our three hour tour of Antelope, Rattlesnake, and Side Canyon was one of the best three hour tours I’ve ever taken. You can read my previous post about it here.


Minimalist yet gorgeous winter trees and February skies

We also borrowed one of the hotel’s BMWs to venture to nearby Horseshoe Bend, located just over the state border in Arizona. It was a nice place to watch the sun rise and didn’t require a tour.


Utah desertscape


My morning view of Horseshoe Bend

While the clouds weren’t particularly interesting the morning we drove to Horseshoe Bend to see the sunrise, the view was spectacular and it was an easy area to explore with the dogs. It’s a user-friendly and intimate canyon experience.


Here I am in action photographing Horseshoe Bend


Zeppelin & Ribeye enjoyed their walks on the Amangiri property

My labs really enjoyed their stay at the Amangiri. We kept them on leash since they were extremely tempted to chase after the wild hares in the area.


Amangiri Signage

My trip was booked through Thom Bissett of TheFussyFlyer.com


1 Kayenta Road, Canyon Point Utah. 84741-0285, USA

Tel: +1 435 675 3999
Fax: +1 435 675 8999
Email: amangiri@aman.com

Playing in the Slot Canyons of the American Southwest: Private Luxury Tour of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon


Looking up in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is the most famous (and most photographed) slot canyon in the American Southwest. And there is good reason why. It’s virtually impossible to take a bad picture in this amazingly beautiful area. February is a great time to visit the amazing slot canyons located along the Utah-Arizona border. The mild winter meant the weather was pleasant. As an added bonus, while Antelope Canyon is always popular, it’s significantly less busy during winter months.


Dillon, our guide, gave us a visual demonstration of how the canyons were formed

Antelope Canyon is actually two different canyons. Upper Antelope Canyon is the most popular and colorful with curvy walls that reach 120 feet high. Lower Antelope Canyon is narrower and less user-friendly (and I did not visit it on this tour).


Climbing out of Rattlesnake Canyon on a ladder

The three slot canyons I toured were Upper Antelope, Side Canyon, and Rattlesnake Canyon. Different outfitters have access to different slot canyons, so who you book with will determine which slot canyons you get to visit.


The heart of Upper Antelope Canyon

The canyon’s uniquely smooth and colorful sandstone was formed over millions of years exposed flash floods, water erosion, and wind. The resulting walls are smooth and curvy, with variations in texture and color.


Dust and shaft of light in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located within the Navajo Nation land about 10 miles southeast of Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope, Side Canyon, and Rattlesnake Canyon are also located along the same Antelope Canyon wash and they are hidden gems of the area.


color and curves in a slot canyon

Of the three slot canyons I visited, Rattlesnake Canyon might have been my favorite, simply because it involved ladders and very few other people. It was not as accessible for travelers who aren’t as mobile.


Sandstone walls of the slot canyons

Our private three slot canyon tour was arranged by the staff of the Amangiri, where we were staying for this trip. Our guide was Dillon, and he was excellent. He also knew the best photo spots.


Blue coat and red canyon walls

Many photographers like to visit Antelope Canyon during June, July, and August when the light beams are at their strongest. This is also the season for peak heat in the area, with average daily high temperatures of over 90 degrees. If it’s cloudy, you won’t see the light beams.


Upper Antelope Canyon is amazing

All visitors to the area (especially photographers)  should be aware that the area is very dusty. And tour leaders will often stir up dust to make the light beams more photogenic.


The parking lot outside Antelope Canyon

Different tour providers use different types of vehicles to bring visitors into Antelope Canyon. Most used converted pick up trucks. I was glad that our tour was in a comfortable dust-free Suburban.


Lines of rock and and blue puffer coat

Our private luxury Three Canyon tour for two people was  arranged by the Amangiri. It took about 3 1/2 hours door to door and cost $725 + 10% service charge. Not cheap, but it was totally worth it if you want to see the slot canyons in comfort and minimize crowds.


Not a bad angle in this slot canyon

If you’re looking for things to do in the American Southwest, I highly recommend taking a tour of the slot canyons. As much as I liked exploring Upper Antelope Canyon, it was hard to beat having Side Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon almost all to ourselves.


Selfie with ladder in Rattlesnake Canyon

Pro tip: wear hiking boots when exploring the slot canyons of the southwest. You might be able to get away with everyday shoes in Upper Antelope Canyon, the terrain can be challenging and you’ll be better off in appropriate footwear.


Our ride to Antelope Canyon

While the Amangiri is located just over the border in Utah, they arranged our Three Slot Canyon tour. It was highly memorable experience and well worth the price.


1 Kayenta Rd, Canyon Point, UT 84741, USA

The closest airport is Page, Arizona.

Exploring Germany: Private Street Art Tour of Berlin



Jadore Tong’s Elephant Playing with a Balloon mural

If you’re a fan of street art, Berlin is a must-see destination. Even if you consider all painting on the side of a building, graffiti, exploring Berlin might make you stop and look a little closer. The city is an ever-changing gallery filled with large scale murals by world-renowned artists as well as random graffiti tags. I recently visited Berlin, and took a fantastic private street art tour called Writing on the Walls to see some of the best known works in world of street art.


Our tour guide, William

A good tour guide can make all the difference and our tour guide, William, was excellent. In addition to showing us some of the city’s urban art highlights, he gave us context for each work. Berlin once was as a city divided by communism, and political street art was a form of expression and protest. Since the Berlin wall came down in 1989, the city has remained one of the best cities in the world for street art.


The colorful alley of Hackescher Markt

In addition to seeing well known works on buildings and exploring street art rich neighborhoods like Kreuzberg, we also visited Urban Nation, the museum for urban contemporary art, which opened in 2017. It’s a really great space that features works by some of the best known street artists in the world.



Left: I want to revisit this alley when the weather is better Right: Anne Frank mural in Berlin


Photographing street art in Berlin

A necessary stop on any tour of Berlin is the Berlin Wall Museum and Eastside Gallery, a former stretch of the Berlin Wall which as been transformed into the which the largest open air gallery in the world.

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Section of the Berlin Wall help visitors get a sense of what the city felt like before it came down

Berlin has a rich history and dynamic present. It’s a city with buzzy vibe that feels like things are happening here. And street art is part of that vibe.


Meat mural that depicts the history of Berlin

One of the most interesting stops on the tour was the meat mural by Marcus Haas that depicts the history of Berlin as a divided city from 1961-1989. It’s really smart when you take the time to look at it for a few minutes.


Street art has long been an expression of political protest

Another perk of this private street art tour was being able to escape the miserable January weather in the comfort of our own van. Private transportation is also included.

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The bathrooms at Urban Nation encourage guests to create their own street art

I’ve never felt compelled to photograph a bathroom until I visited the one at Urban Nation, where visitors are allowed to write on the walls and contribute to the street art scene themselves.


The stairs at Urban Nation



Some of the works currently on display at Urban Nation

Urban Nation does a really good job of making art feel accessible. There is no snobby vibe.


Nick Walker’s Marge Simpson-inspired work at Urban Nation



street art on the side of the Mecure Hotel in Berlin by  Interbrigadas

Some of the city’s best known works were commissioned, which shows just how intrinsically linked Berlin is to it’s street art. The mural on the side of the Mercure Hotel by Interbrigadas is a great example of this.


The Cosmonaut by Victor Ash 

If you’re looking for things to do in Berlin, the Berlin Graffiti & Street Art Tour: Writing on the Walls is great option. It’s a great alternative culture tour and feels very of-the-moment. The itinerary for this tour changes with the street art scene.


Magazine of Street Art in Berlin

Berlin Experiences

Our guide was William

tel: +49 1762 9913011

email: info@berlinexperiences.com

Exploring France: Paris during Men’s Fashion Week


Sleeping bags on the runway at the Thom Browne NY show

Attending a show in Paris for Fashion Week was never something I thought I’d have a chance to experience. So when my friend, architect and designer Tim Campbell invited me to be his guest at the Thom Browne NY show, I immediately booked a ticket to France.

Video of the Thom Browne Paris Fashion Week show

What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the experience. The Thom Browne NY Fall/Winter 2018 show took place in the heart of Saint Germain at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts. The gorgeous courtyard was set up with a floor of faux snow and bare Aspen trees set around a row of cots. Gray down blankets with the designer’s distinctive red, white and blue signature stripe were waiting in chairs to help attendees ward off the January cold.


A runway look at Thom Brown NY’s #tbfw18 show

The show felt like a brief and beautiful piece of performance art. Male models wore long braids, gray hats and the vibe felt like a mystical apre-ski fairytale. The coats were beautiful and made with a range of fabrics including performance down to knits to black lace. The accessories were theatrical and fun. There were man muffs! There were puffy gators paired with shorts!


A beautifully tailored coat at the Thom Browne NY show

While the models walked the runway to hauntingly beautiful music, I got kind of caught up in the theater of it all and could barely focus on the clothes.


Gorgeous outerwear over a classically tailored gray suit

To see more looks from the show, check out Thom Brown’s instagram feed.


Models all tucked in at the end of the Thom Browne NY show

After each model showed their final look, they returned to the runway in gray long johns and tucked themselves into bed by unrolling the sleeping bags on the cots revealing the adorable gray Thom Browne suits quilted on them.


Model all tucked in at Thom Browne

After the show, the audience was allowed to photograph the models in their designer cots. Up close the sleep shades and details like the occasional teddy bear had me totally charmed.


Photographing after the show

The amount of work it must take a designer to do multiple shows a year blows my mind. While I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in, I came away with an appreciation of the art of the runway show. Beyond the challenge of designing multiple collections, the ephemeral beauty of the runway presentation really left me impressed.


Guy in Gucci photographing the show

Fashion week people watching was seriously next level. Watching the crowd proved quite entertaining.


Personal Thom Browne comforters for the guests 

While I often skip picking up swag at industry events, I definitely love my Thom Browne down throw blanket!


Backstage with Lucas Langellier and Tim Campbell  

Suffice it to say, the place was full of sharp dressed men and women. If you’re coming to Paris for Fashion Week, you better bring your style A-game.


Tim Campbell being photographed outside the show

Fun fact: Thom Browne wrote the foreword to Tim Campbell’s book, Intentional Beauty. You can follow Tim on instagram at Studio Tim Campbell.


Tim Campbell with designer Thom Browne

My first fashion week blew me away. I found the whole experience fun and enchanting. Much thanks to Tim Campbell for inviting me to join him as his guest.

If you want to see more of  Thom Browne’s work, visit his website: https://www.thombrowne.com/us/

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