Winery Stay: Abeja

Fall may be the best, and most difficult, time to visit wineries. Best because of all the luscious fruit coming in for pressing and difficult because everyone is so busy that they may not even be accepting visitors. Of course, the best thing to do is stay at the winery itself (and sometimes even volunteer to help sort fruit) so you can see all the action. One thing I regret from moving away from the northwest is that I never got a chance to stay here, at Abeja in Walla Walla, Washington. Just outside the town, which itself has transformed over the years from sleepy farm town to wine destination, it’s a perfect homebase for exploring the area, or just enjoying the stunning views while doing little to nothing. It’s supposed to be vacation, right?

The winery is in what used to be a mule and horse barn on an old farm and they smartly have turned various outbuildings into comfortable, not-too-country, vacation rentals. Prices vary but most have their own kitchen and a couple even their own garden. All of them have beautiful surroundings.



Edison House:



Carriage House Suite:



Chicken Coop:




Summer Kitchen:




Bunk House:




Hay Loft Suite:








All photos curtesy of Abeja.

Friday Fantasy Vacation: The Serai

Anyone who’s seen this site before has probably picked up on the fact that I have a real soft spot for luxury camping; all the great things about being close to nature without the lumpy ground to sleep on. It doesn’t really get more luxe than the Serai near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. A Relais & Chateaux property that describes itself very accurately as “a luxury desert camp and spa”, it’s set on 30 acres in the Great Thar Desert and really couldn’t be more romantic and serene if it tried. I don’t doubt that a goodly portion of the other “campers” here would be honeymooners but the 14 tent suites are private enough that it should hardly matter. The fact that you can dine anywhere you desire on the property also helps alleviate any problems you may have sharing your private space with snuggly newlyweds. And there are plenty of excursion possibilities to keep one occupied such as Jeep or camel safaris, historical tours of the ancient fortress city of Jaisalmer or plain old pampering spa treatments. But enough talk, let’s take a look at all this beauty.
















More information at Relais & Chateaux

Also available through i-escape

Photos curtesy of Relais & Chateaux

Wine Trip: Monaci delle Terre Nere

While doing some research on a Sicilian winery at work, I came across this amazing hotel on the slopes of Mt. Etna, surrounded by orchards and vineyards and all around gorgeousness. There are currently 6 rooms, but 12 are planned in the future after restorations are complete on some outbuildings. As if I needed another reason to want to visit Sicily!

















Photos curtesy of Welcome Beyond

Last Chance to Camp

I don’t know where you live, but where I am it’s about to turn cold and rain. A lot. While this change of season doesn’t make camping impossible, it does make it a lot less desirable. It is, however, the perfect season for luxury camping. I refuse to use the word “glamping” if only because it sounds like something someone does while sick with the flu, but also because I feel that it cheapens the experience of a real luxury camping experience. The setting is beautiful, nature is at your door and when it pours rain, you can retreat to the interior of an actual structure and snuggle in a real bed. There are often restaurants on-site and while you may or may not have to share a bathroom with your fellow “campers” you are almost always guaranteed a breathtaking view. Below are a few places I would love to visit during this in between season, if only to get in one last camp before winter.

Longitude 131°, Ayers Rock, Australia

Available through Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia:

Le Camp, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Available through Welcome Beyond:

Dunia Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

Available through Asilia Camps/ Lodges/ Safaris:

Treebones Resort, Big Sur, California

Available through i-escape:

Dolphin Beach, Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka

Available through Makara Resorts:

Elqui Domos, Elqui Valley, Chile

Available through Welcome Beyond:

The Serai, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Available through Relais & Chateaux:

Hotel Highlight: Sacred House, Cappadocia, Turkey

Perhaps it’s the barrage of news lately about religious zealots, insulted prophets and intolerant fear-mongerers that is making Sacred House all the more appealing to me. A renovated 250 year old mansion once belonging to a Greek aristocrat, this boutique hotel sits amid 1000 year old cave dwellings in the magical Cappadocia, Turkey. Each of the 12 rooms are decked out in antiques, gothic lights, medieval drawings and a blend of Christian icons and Islamic art. It’s managing to do what much of the world is not lately: blend east and west into a calm and beautiful environment. If only…

Photos curtesy of Sacred House unless linked to other source.

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Sextantio Albergo Diffuso, Abruzzo

It’s hard to precisely describe what this place is. It’s a hotel, but it isn’t. There are 27 rooms and a restaurant but it’s spread out over various buildings in the tiny medieval fortress village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio. It’s rustic but luxurious and about as uniquely beautiful as it could possibly be.  Lovingly restored using local materials it’s a really one of a kind experience. See for yourself.

Hudson Valley Mill House, New York

This is the time of year that I start to get excited about getting into the woods. Either camping or a cabin rental is how I usually achieve that but that’s only because I don’t live near an old re-imagined mill like this one in the Hudson Valley. It’s a perfect getaway for a large family or a couple of families. It’s rustic and old and surrounded by beautiful trees but modern and sleek inside. You’re close to farmer’s markets and some wineries which make perfect day trips, obviously. This is exactly the sort of place I could while away a week with friends.

All images courtesy of:

Welcome Beyond – Luxury vacation rentals

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


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

Hobbit House of Montana

I don’t know anyone who isn’t at least a little bit charmed by the Hobbits of Tolkien’s books and with the new Hobbit movie coming soon (sort of) I imagine that Hobbit fever will only increase. Best you reserve your stay at the Hobbit House soon or you may have to build your own. If you, like me, are not that industrious then this is the place to go. Located in the foothills of the Cabinet Mountains it’s a great getaway, especially with children. Fall is likely the best season to visit as this is also Montana’s huckleberry epicenter. And I imagine that Hobbits love huckleberries.

The Shire

Main House

Bilbo's House in Winter

All photos curtesy of Hobbit House of Montana

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