Friday Fantasy Vacation: Ballynahinch Castle

There are lots of great places to go in Ireland, and many beautiful hotels and country homes to stay at. But since this is Fantasy time, I’m choosing the Ballynahinch Castle in County Galway. Set on 450 acres in Coonemara, a gorgeous wilderness area on the West coast, it’s everything I want out of a vacation. Luxurious rooms and dining, beautiful natural scenery and lots of outdoor activities that I don’t often do at home like fishing and woodcock shooting, not to mention multiple opportunities for long walks and hikes. Take a look and see yourself.

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Koh Lanta, Thailand

When a friend told me that she’s heading to Thailand for a last minute business related trip to Bangkok I knew where I was headed for this Friday’s fantasy vacation. I’ve yet to go to Thailand, but if I do I want to stay here. This resort is set on 100 acres on the southern tip of this island in the southwestern province of  Krabi. The resort itself is in a protected woodland area hidden away by cashew trees. Yes, I did say cashew trees. Besides laying around the beach, swimming and getting massages, there’s great hiking and diving and even elephants to ride. Get ready for fantasy time.

All photos courtesy of Pimalai Resort

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Todos Santos

So I’ve covered where I’d like to have my Friday evening cocktail over at Inside Bars and since I love a good theme, this week’s fantasy vacation spot is also going to be in the sunny surf town of Todos Santos on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. I’d like nothing better than to gather a group of friends and rent this little hacienda outside of town. It’s on 5 acres and surrounded by avocado, banana, mango, lemon, orange, and olive trees and a sugarcane grove. With four bedrooms and a lap pool, the only other thing we’d need is some tequila. Who’s in?

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Huvafen Fushi Maldives

Here’s a little something to get you through to the weekend. It’s hard to imagine a location more remote but more luxurious than this. I may not ever make it to the Maldives, but while I muddle through the late-Winter cold I’ve been saddle with I’ll be picturing my toes dangling in these warm waters.

President’s Day Visit to Monticello

People may have varying opinions about recent and current American presidents but it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t agree that Thomas Jefferson was an extraordinary president and person. You can visit his home and gardens, which he designed of course, and learn not only about the author of the Declaration of Independence but also the complex times in which he lived. Fortunately for future tourists he picked a beautiful section of the country to live in. Located just outside of Charlottesville proper, it makes an easy morning trip from town. The area is also home to wineries which are fun to visit and give you a reason to drive through the stunning countryside.  There’s nothing I can say about Mr. Jefferson that hasn’t been said better by someone more knowledgable than myself. Let’s just get to the good stuff. Happy President’s Day!

Monticello Home and Gardens

Above Images from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Photo: David Jennings

Where to Stay:

Inn at Willow Grove, Orange

Dinsmore House Inn, Charlottesville

The Clifton Inn, Charlottesville

Photo: Southern Living

Bellair Pool House Vacation Home, Charlottesville

Wineries and Food

Barboursville Vineyard

Keswick Vineyards

photo charislogia via flickr

Jefferson Vineyards

Michie Tavern, Charlottesville

Built ca. 1784

The Local, Charlottesville

Palladio Restaurant at Barboursville Vineyard

A Room For London

The concept of a pop-up store is old hat these days and there’s even been a few pop-up restaurants over the last couple of years, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the idea would translate into hotels at some point. A Room for London is the first of such that I’ve seen and it’s pretty fantastic. This one room installation is perched on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall along the Thames river.  It is only there through 2012 and serves as a way for visitors (only allowed a one night rental) and invited artists to take refuge from the busy city and find inspiration from the unique and panoramic view of London. Designed by David Kohn Architects, it was inspired by the boat that Joseph Conrad navigated up the Congo river before writing Heart of Darkness. While this unusual lodging concept has sold out, I can’t help wonder if it will spark imitators in other cities. I’d love to see the inspiration that could result from new and temporary views of places like New York, Vancouver or Rome.

Romance in Greece

Everyone has a different idea of what’s romantic. But while I’m sitting at my desk on this Valentine’s Day watching it hail outside my window I’m thinking that we can probably all agree that the Mystique Resort on Santorini in Greece would make for a pretty sexy getaway. Unlike a lot of “romantic” hotels, there’s no frilliness here, just a modern and relaxing design. And draw-dropping views of the Aegean Sea.

All photos courtesy of Mystique

Spotlight: Race and Religious

With Mardi Gras parades going on in earnest this week and Fat Tuesday on the 21st, it seemed like a good time to look at one of the most unique places to stay in New Orleans. Few other cities have the power to make you feel like you’re walking through the past like New Orleans does. This city has a kind of magic that makes it seem like the past and present are existing all at once. Maybe it’s the unusual, and obviously aged, architecture or maybe it’s the existence of old traditions that make it feel like history is poking itself into your modern life. Whatever it is, if you stay at Race and Religious the past will be all around you. More of a vacation rental than anything else, this group of three buildings, including an old slave quarters, joined by the corner of Race and Religious streets date from 1836 and 1843. They have been lovingly restored over the past 30 years by owner Granville Semmes . If you want to learn about the fascinating history of these buildings I recommend reading this.  Otherwise, I just recommend taking a group of friends or family and stay here.

photos courtesy of Race and Religious

Storm Watching on the Oregon Coast

photo by Justin Larson

Ask most Portlanders when the best time to go to the Oregon coast is and they will almost always say something like “February”. You will be confused and stare at them blankly until they explain that it’s too crowded in the Summer, there are great deals to be had in the year’s shortest (and often dreariest) month and there’s storm watching. Storms are something most people do not look forward to in Winter, but in Oregon sitting around in a beach house or hotel room with a view of the oncoming gale while sipping on some hot tea or wine and playing cards is a highly anticipated activity. While there’s often rain in the cities of Oregon, it’s not usually very dramatic. It gets wet and that’s about it. So to see water-churning, rain-spitting and windy stuff you have to go to the coast. Plus, the best beach-combing happens after storms, especially if you really like kelp. Here’s some great places to stay while watching the action, although I should mention that it’s best to stay indoors. Those waves are fun to watch but they don’t care that you’re on vacation and will suck you out into the ocean anyway.

The Ocean Lodge, Cannon Beach


Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast, Yachats

Salishan Spa and Golf Resort, Lincoln City

Gearhart Ocean Inn, Gearhart

Vacation Home Rental, Seaside

Coast Cabins, Manzanita

Cannery Pier Hotel, Astoria



NYC Entrance

The first Yotel opened in 2007 at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Inspired by the first class cabins on British Airways international flights and austere Japanese designs, these hotels are made for frequent flyers. The airport hotels are currently in terminals at Gatwick, Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol. There is a four hour minimum rental for those with a layover and in need of a nap and shower, but full night rentals are available too. The newly opened New York City hotel, just two blocks from Times Square, is for those actually on vacation. The airport Yotel is a no frills operation with automatic check in kiosks and a “Galley” on every floor offering basics like coffee and fridge space. The New York hotel is a bit more traditional with a bar and restaurant, but without the usual room frills like coffee makers, you can actually stay in Manhattan with a private terrace and hot tub for a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere.

Airport Premium Cabin Corridor

Airport Premium Cabin

Airport Premium Cabin

NYC Premium Cabin

NYC Corner Cabin



NYC Terrace

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