The city more tourists need to see

I KNEW this was going to be a fun trip as soon as we landed off our QF bird at Los Angeles airport when the longest stretch disco Hummer I’d ever seen was our next mode of transport.

It was that kind of OTT, rock-star, kooky kind of stuff you always look at other people doing, but hey, who was complaining? The Hummer was about to take us to one of the more understated, yet simply gorgeous American if not small cities I’d ever seen.

I had never really heard that much about Santa Barbara (with a population of around 220,000) except that there’d once been a 80s/90s TV soap based on the Californian coastal town all about goings-on of the lives of the wealthy Capwell and Lockridge families. (Fun fact: Santa Barbara aired in over 40 countries and became the longest-running television series in Russia.)

Anyway, back to why I’m here. Santa Barbara is referred to as the Amercian Rivieraand faces south on the longest section of the West Coast of the US and has a climate referred to as Mediterranean. Although, it was pretty chilly when we were there in May (Note to self: pack another sweater next time).

Santa Barbara is popular for its tourism, bay, and its resorts, but it’s not often a place peeps add to their must-see list.

So, here are some of the reasons you should do exactly that:

• As soon as we hit Santa Barbara — a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles — it was bags down and straight to the (downtown) Salt Caves. Yup. Santa Barbara is renowned for Salt Caves which are designed to provide “a unique natural environment to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate the body and mind, especially after a long flight”. So, we sat in the cave rooms for half an hour and soaked in the atmosphere of Himalayan salt rock and its health-enhancing qualities. And yes, it felt good.

• The Urban Wine Trail had us tasting some of the finest wines produced in Santa Barbara County, all within blocks of downtown and the beach. The Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail gave novices (like some of our gang) and aficionados (like others in our gang) the opportunity to learn about and taste wines Santa Barbara County’s best vineyards. Informative, not up themselves and just great fun.

• We also had a “pedicab” — a man-wheeling bike that basically took us for a spin around the town as the driver pointed out some of the best zones in SB.

• Speaking of zones, you do so need to visit The Funk Zone? OK, OK, it’s a shocking name, but it’s a tourist and hot neighbourhood precinct where the best muncheries, restaurants and wine-tasting rooms can be found, surrounded by industrial and manufacturing plants and even crisscross train and car routes.

Visitors and celebs alike hit the F Zone to check out galleries and real SB life. It has become so cool-school, some businesses well outside will even say are Funk Zone-adjacent, just so they can use the spoils of popularity of the zone.

• You can’t help but take in the exquisite Spanish architecture of Santa Barbara and its plethora of deco-style theatres dotted throughout the town. A Monterey-style adobe in California was built on State Street (the main drag of Santa Barbara) by merchant Alpheus Thompson while the dominant architectural themes — Spanish Colonial Revival and the related Mission Revival style are still encouraged through guidelines created after a 1925 earthquake destroyed the downtown district..

• You need to do a Sunset Cruise or the Santa Barbara Sailing Center. Basically, you sit back and enjoy a twirl around a small but dynamic little harbour admiring, either on a kayak — with the chance of spotting a whale to two — or on a boat with views back to shore and out to the Channel Islands. But don’t forget your wind jacket!

• And what about the digs? Wow. yes, wow. We tested out Belmond El Encanto and it is a seriously god-smackingly beautiful hotel. The view was great and the villa/bungalow suites were absolute perfection. As for the service? after arriving home from dinner one night, I had left my key in my room and the staff went totally out of their way to get me back in as soon as possible. That may sound trivial, but it wasn’t a chore or a pain – it seemed just like normal quality service for the staff to be actually wanting to do something for a guest at midnight!

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Melissa Hoyer was a guest on flights from Australia to Los Angeles on Qantas and of Tourism Santa Barbara.

Food fads I am over. Let's just eat!


ONCE upon a time we just ate. We ate perfectly pleasant, healthy food that didn’t have us rushing off to weigh ourselves minutes after, or heading off to hospital for a cholesterol check (OK, maybe that 3am kebab back in 2001 wasn’t one of my smartest choices.)

Anyway, food wasn’t always defined by being organic, paleo, Isagenix, gluten-free or ‘clean’. It wasn’t food defined by being eaten at 5-2 day eating intervals, nor was it Atkins (all meat/fat and no carbs); nor was it a Dukan, Dash, Nordic or Mediterranean diet or whatever other term you wanted to put on it.

So, I read with total and utter delight a piece with these sensible words that nailed it for me.

The piece says that when applied to eating, ‘mindfulness’ means listening to your body and tuning into your natural hunger and fullness signals.

And no, it’s not a diet but more about paying attention to what you’re eating and how you’re eating it. Pretty simple, huh?

I’m not saying to stop right now if you’re into any kind of eating habits or a ‘diet’ or health regimen that is working brilliantly for you. Heck, go for your life.

It’s really about not making food ‘fads’ or alleged ‘life-changing challenges’ the be-all and end-all of your culinary (and coronary) existence.

OK. I’ll stop here for a minute. There are people who, of course, have had and continue to have great results by either giving up sugar or laying off the carbs. Otherwise they are totally gluten or lactose-intolerant and are in grave danger of serious illness if they partake.

Then, there are the peeps who do the most sensible thing: combine moderate eating with some exercise. Easy peasy!?

I am just sick and tired of the bombastic ramming down our throats of the ways we ‘should’ be eating. Food consumption comes down to simple responsibility and sensibility about what goes down your oesophagus.

It seems to have become everyone’s business but our own as to what we are allowed to eat. A colleague reminded me of a time when he would open a wrapper and everyone’s heads would turn around and ask ‘What is it?’ followed by things like ‘ooh, you’re bad!”

I mean. Just go away.

If food-shaming isn’t enough, we then start reading about yawning and how it is better done in a certain way (so says the gospel according to Gwyneth Paltrow).

Let’s not get started on Reese Witherspoon’s bacon-shaming. I mean, the beautiful mumma and actor served her kids a couple of rashes of the stuff, posted a pic to Instagram and the bacon-haters came out, all trotters a-blazing.

And what about the ridiculous trend in eating banana peels? Because you know they’re the new weight loss weapon, right?

Wasn’t there also something about reverse osmosis water the other day? Aah, yes, that’s the latest tool being used to make sure that every drop of water we drink is filtered to an inch of its life.

Then there’s a great piece on Into the Gloss called Is Anything Actually Healthy?’ – which came to the conclusion that blueberries are actually the only completely ‘healthy’ food out there.

In terms of ‘other’ foods, sure, there are soup diets, cabbage diets, chia seeds, almond milk, a2 milk, protein shakes, bulletproof coffee, fermented foods like kefir and kimchi, cacao, coconut water, coconut oil, kale, bone broth soup … and so the list goes on.

So why don’t we just all do something called the Sensible Diet?

The one that basically tells your body that, yes, always remember to throw a few greens and veggies into your system. The one that says ‘yes, I feel like a steak tonight’. The one that says ‘it’s OK to have a bowl of pasta and a glass or red without beating myself up about it for the next few days’.

In one of the most entertaining reviews of a book called Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Under-rated Organ, written by Giulia Enders, the writer outlines just how important ‘the gut’ is to maintain a physically and emotionally healthy life.

And while she doesn’t dictate or ram home what we should or shouldn’t eat, Ms Enders certainly makes you mindful of, yes, we are what we eat.

But without that sense of dogmatic, demanding or intimidating tactics that we tend to be seeing all too often.

Please, may we just eat in peace.

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On The Couch: Larry Emdur talks TV pressures, social media and failing ‘very publicly’

EVER feel embarrassed because you’ve failed at something? Imagine doing it in front of millions of people, on live television.

Well, that’s what it’s like for celebs and TV heads when someone calls ‘time’ on a particular show.

But according to Larry Emdur — a true survivor of the Aussie television industry — when it has happened he takes a (very) deep breath and just lets it go.

“I don’t go out to get noticed or anything which leaves me with Celebrity Splash or Family Doubling Daring in ‘celebrity dogsville’,’’ he laughs.

“But I have enjoyed everything I have done and taken on every challenge with that — the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.”

Larry points out that in the media world, “when you fail, you fail very publicly”.

“I remember when one of the shows got axed many years ago,” he says.

“It was the front page of myself and the dog when I took the dog for a walk on the beach. It was the front page with a big word ‘AXED’ and it said ‘it was the worst show since television was invented’ and it was this whole thing.

“And my grandmother rang me up and said, ‘That’s a lovely photo on the front page of the paper’. And I thought, it doesn’t matter — if your family loves you and your friends are still your mates then that is actually it.”

871100-54857eda-261f-11e5-b856-d650f72d3e25Seven’s The Morning Show co-host joined Studio 10’s Sarah Harris and the madly fitDancing with the Stars contestant Tim Robards for the “On the Couch” series — a new, no-holds-barred video series featuring conversations around just about anything.

Larry says that with the extremely close focus on what high profile and ‘public’ people do, there’s no time for fakery — especially on his relatively new favourite time waster, social media.

“I don’t think you can fake it across so many platforms. I just don’t think you can,’’ he says.868438-c017dc38-261f-11e5-b856-d650f72d3e25

“There was a time when you could go out and host a recorded show and be done with it after an hour and go home and put on the razzle dazzle and all that stuff, but I just think now with live TV every day, you can just see straight through that. People know.

“We hear from them on the internet straight away — if you are looking tired or sad or grumpy, and getting totally exposed. There’s not much left.”

Emdur has managed to stay down to earth, even though he has been through good and not so good televisual times.

“I still have my three best mates from when I was 10 years old,’’ he says.

“And to a large degree, they have kept me well and truly on the ground. They were the first guys to go out and tell me exactly what they think of my show. Or my hair. Or what I wore. And I do appreciate that in a relationship.

“Family as well. To keep you well and truly on the ground. And keep in mind I have hosted a lot of shows, and a large percentage of those haven’t been good shows, and I have had my fair share of being kicked around in the media and fighting critics.

871386-1649dd24-261e-11e5-b856-d650f72d3e25“So at times like this when I’m in a show that is successful I love it and I enjoy that time.” (The Morning Show currently leads the ratings charts in its timeslot.)

As for his current social media love affair, it wasn’t something Emdur warmed to straight away.

“I didn’t understand it and I think I understand it a little bit better now. It’s content, engagement and it’s what we do now all the time,” he says.

“But I do actually enjoy the engagement and think it is a good opportunity for us to connect — whether it’s the good, bad or ugly.”

Emdur says he remembers when he first started out, particularly as a game show host, people would write letters in and if they were a certain ‘tone’, he wouldn’t even get them.

“I enjoy Instagram for the same reason I enjoy my career as it’s just taking the piss and having fun and not taking life too seriously. The opportunities (it gives) to say things that you can’t really say on TV.”

Emdur was recently a magazine cover boy — okay, cover man — on Men’s Health magazine after he went on a mega get-fit program. I asked him whether being healthy was now par for the celebrity course.

“I can tell you from experience that six or seven months ago I wasn’t thinking about that way,’’ says Emdur.868466-0ea57844-261e-11e5-b856-d650f72d3e25

“I was an unhealthy, 49-year-old coming up to 50, on my cholesterol tablets, on my bad diet and I thought, ‘I don’t want to be like this,’ and fortunately I had the opportunity to flick the switch and turn it around.

“In the business where I am, if you put on a few extra kilos then wardrobe have to go and buy you a new jacket and new shirt but, having said that, this is the best thing I have ever done.

“I feel better on TV and off TV and the response has been great as well. The audience sees you’re doing well and it absolutely motivates you. But before that, before I was 50 I could eat as many bacon and egg rolls as I wanted.”

Larry says it was an interesting life experiment: “That’s the most exposed I’ve felt, in fact I was just like, ‘What have I done?’ But the response sent another message to me that people thought it was good to see the non-glossy glamour side which was kind of okay as well.”

Larry tries to avoid taking to heart too much negativity he sees on any social media platforms.

“I always try and think about the other person and what is funny about it is the shot you put up probably has thousands of ‘likes’ and you get drawn to that one negative comment and that’s the problem these days,’’ he adds.

“And I heard from a psychologist on the show talking about cyberspace and about how it’s changing all of our lives. And with school kids particularly, they will get 150 likes on a photo but it’s like, ‘Oh, but SHE didn’t like it’.

“So it’s not even about how many likes you get, people are bummed out by someone not liking it. Or you get drawn in by one or two people who make the bad comments!”

Interestingly, Larry says he does respond to some of the negative communication he receives.

“Some of the nasty emails that have come through to Channel Seven I have responded (to) because I just want to say, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way, thanks for writing in’. I just want to hear all of the views. And some will automatically come back and say, ‘Oh sorry’.”

Larry knows he won’t be on television forever — and you can tell he would like to take his current love for social media even further — realising that deliverable content-driven platforms are a huge and important part of the new and future media cycle.

“I’ve never predicted the future of TV terms but, having said that, I really enjoy calling bingo at Rooty Hill RSL, so I think that if I can work for a schnitzel I am and will be fine.”

And with that, Lazza’s off to the gym to work off any added schnitzel.

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Belle Gibson: Liar has Australia seeing red in 60 Minutes interview

OPINION: Blood. Boil. Mad. As. Hell.

I expect that is exactly how most Australians felt last night as they tuned in to watch Belle Gibson try to explain away the mess she’s in on 60 Minutes.

To see the latest performance from the lying ‘cancer survivor, ‘wellness crusader’ or whatever she used to call herself was excruciating.

Ms Gibson continued to weave her tangled web of deceit, delusion and downright disregard.

“I felt like I had been taken for a ride,” she told the cameras without batting an eyelid.

It was mortifying and quite ugly to watch.

The duped charities, big corporations, book publishers, app designers and most importantly, those who faithfully followed her teachings could only have been left feeling disgusted.

Social media was overwhelmingly negative toward the 26 (or is it 23?) year-old and the reason for that is pretty simple.

Instead of being truthful and upfront about her giant scam, she chose to continue the delusion.

I actually think Belle Gibson believes she hasn’t done anything wrong. When she told of her treating immunologist — a so-called ‘Mark Johns’ who the program was unable to find a record of — coming to her house and diagnosing a life-threatening cancer using a “box with lights on the front” Australia saw an even deeper shade of red.

During the show, I dared to tweet that Ms Gibson looked to have spent more money on an eyebrow-ologist than a oncologist, to which I was told: “You shouldn’t be making jokes, she is obviously very ill”. A trivial tweet it may have been, but last night, right before our eyes, this whole sorry saga turned into a Vaudevillian farce.

Belle Gibson used Australia, the media and people who trusted her story. Veteran 60 Minutes reporter Tara Brown could barely contain her frustration. She looked infuriated with the non-answers, the constant twisting and contorting in Ms Gibson’s Cirque de Sol-lie high wire act.

Here’s the other rub. If it’s true that $45,000 was paid to put a proven liar on national TV just to tell more lies, well, that just makes me angrier.

Viewers actually got very little that was new or revelatory in Belle’s story. It was pure theatre.

We watched as Tara admonishished, tut-tutted, rolled her eyes. It was awkward to witness. In the end, it made no difference.

So what should Belle Gibson have said?

It was her chance to wipe the slate clean(ish) and give herself and her family a chance at a fresh start, a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. A chance to draw a line under it all.

It might have been painful and ugly but it would have been cathartic. And hey, as the old adage goes, the truth will set you free.

It was a golden opportunity, but Belle Gibson totally fluffed it.

If this young woman is being advised by someone, what was the strategy? What on earth were they thinking? What does she do now? Will she have to run away overseas to escape the ignominy?

She is an articulate, well presented young woman and by all accounts, has some artistic talent (yes, and great eyebrows) but is there hope of recovery after last night’s train wreck?

She should absolutely have made a universal apology. To those she gave false hope to, to the people who donated to her cause, to those who took her at her word.

Perhaps Ms Gibson is just an attention seeker. Perhaps she does genuinely have a mental illness. If that’s true, let’s hope she gets proper treatment from someone with actual qualifications.

But in the interim, continuing to deny she did a whole lot of wrong does her no favours at all.

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Ted 2 review: ‘Crude, crass, sexist, but I loved it’

IT is crude, sexually explicit, crass, bad-taste, sexist, stupid, drug-fuelled and full of schoolboy/loo/appendage humour.

So if you can’t cope with any of those, or seeing Mark Wahlberg soaked in rejected sperm, you’d better not see Ted 2. Note to all: this is not a cutesy, school holidays kiddie movie.

But what else can we expect from the fast-paced mind of Seth MacFarlane, the man behind the crassly clever Family Guy franchise?

OK, so the plot. (Yes, there actually is one.) The newly married couple of Ted (the talking bear) and trash-talking Tami-Lynn (supermarket assistant) are having marriage issues.

They conclude that by having, well, adopting a baby, that will fix everything up. But when you are living life as a stuffed toy, things get tricky.

In order to qualify to be a parent in the state of Massachusetts, teddy bear Ted has to ‘prove’ he’s a person in a court of law. Along with his best friend Johnny (Mark Wahlberg) and newbie lawyer Samantha L Jackson played by Amanda Seyfried (and referred to as Gollum throughout the film) they set out to make it a mega legal issue.

Ted starts to liken their plight to the struggle of gay and lesbians to be ‘legally’ married.

Enter a highly publicised courtroom drama, an accidental visit to Comic-Con in New York, a discovery of a huge pot farm and so it goes.

The likes of Liam Neeson, Jay Leno, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and magnificent Morgan Freeman all have cameos, most of which I’m pretty sure they just do as a dare. Or as a favour to Seth MacFarlane.

At times, the political incorrectness and simply bad taste of it all has you closing your eyes and cringing in total embarrassment.

The most cringe worthy and irreverent scene comes when Ted and Johnny accidentally walk into an improv theatre just as the onstage talent ask the audience for improv suggestions.

Ted and Johnny yell out Robin Williams, 9/11, Charlie Hedbro and Bill Cosby. At this point, you could just about feel and hear the whole theatre squirming at the Aussie premiere.

And when Ted and Johnny attempt to break into Tom Brady’s house to ‘milk’ him for sperm? That’s really when my popcorn nearly exploded.

That said, you may wonder whether there is enough fuel in the Ted engine for a Ted 3. While we laughed, yes, really belly laughed, Ted may have done his cinematic dash after this one.

I mean, (spoiler alert here) after the high flying and credible civil rights attorney Morgan Freeman successfully defends Ted; the bear and his bride adopt a baby and Johnny ends up with the Gollum-looking lawyer, where do you go from here?

But then, with a menacing mind like MacFarlane’s behind the Ted franchise, I’m pretty sure he could still take him to further places unknown.

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