Friday Fantasy Vacation: Bellevue Syrene Hotel, Sorrento


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This is officially the home stretch of winter, even though most of us are still wearing our long-johns to bed at night. But what better time to fantasize about a few days (or weeks?) at a luxurious hotel in Sorrento, Italy? 

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 Photos curtesy of Bellevue Syrene Hotel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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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.

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Edison House:

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Carriage House Suite:

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Chicken Coop:

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Summer Kitchen:

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Bunk House:

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Hay Loft Suite:

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All photos curtesy of Abeja.

Wanderlust: The all-American Road Trip


If Portland, Oregon is the place where young people go to retire then I recently came out of a productive and happy 14-year retirement. I moved there straight after college; it’s where I met my husband, where our daughter was born, where we all made dear friends. Why leave such a place? There’s only really one thing that makes people move from Portland and it’s work. This spring my husband was offered a job in Fort Worth, Texas and suddenly we were moving. He left a couple of months before myself and our 9-year-old daughter who, while excited, was also nervous about what was to come. Mapping out our drive it appeared the shortest route would take us 3-4 days but was that any way to drive to a new life in the middle of summertime? I wanted to give her an adventure and some perspective on this move, on the distance we were to travel, on its place in what I hope will be a big life. There’s really only one way to do that: the all-American road trip. Given the novels written on the subject already, I can’t increase anyone’s understanding of what it’s like in the wide expanse of the American west; the small towns and surprising beauty and feelings of isolation and also belonging that come from days of driving through nothing and everything. The meaning comes from the experience and having this experience with my little girl seemed like the perfect way to transition our life. We left feeling a bit like adventurers in our own Hero’s Journey, hoping that by leaving all we knew behind and traveling into the unknown (but highly map-able) we’d discover a path home again.

The Route

The Route

Last day in PDX

Last day in PDX

Redwoods Magic Light

Redwoods Magic Light

Founders Tree

Founders Tree

Humbolt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

Humbolt Redwoods State Park Visitor Center

Avenue of the Giants

Avenue of the Giants

Eel River Café, Garberville

Eel River Café, Garberville

Souvenirs from Santa Rosa

Souvenirs from Santa Rosa

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Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara

Last Look at the Pacific

Last Look at the Pacific

Shark Tank Aquarium, Las Vegas

Shark Tank Aquarium, Las Vegas

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Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

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The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

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Winslow, AZ

Winslow, AZ

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Gallup, NM

Gallup, NM

Amarillo, TX

Amarillo, TX

Big Texan 72oz. Steak Challenge

Big Texan 72oz. Steak Challenge

West Texas

West Texas

The Road to Fort Worth

The Road to Fort Worth

Texas Sunset

Texas Sunset

All photos by Morgan Ennis

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.

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More information at Relais & Chateaux

Also available through i-escape

Photos curtesy of Relais & Chateaux

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: travel@voyages.com.au

Le Camp, Midi-Pyrénées, France

Available through Welcome Beyond: welcomebeyond.com

Dunia Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

Available through Asilia Camps/ Lodges/ Safaris:  www.asiliaafrica.com

Treebones Resort, Big Sur, California


Available through i-escape: www.i-escape.com

Dolphin Beach, Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka

Available through Makara Resorts: reservations@dolphinbeach.lk

Elqui Domos, Elqui Valley, Chile

Available through Welcome Beyond: www.welcomebeyond.com

The Serai, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

Available through Relais & Chateaux:  serai@relaischateaux.com

Memories of France


Yes, I realize it’s been a long, long time. I’ve been living in a nebulous world of possibly moving across the country, possibly not for about 6 months now and it all seemed to (happily?) culminate in a multi-generational two week trip to France last month. I still have no idea if I’m staying or going, but I’ll say this: France is the cure for what ails you. Even if nothing ails you. I’ve been about 5 times now and while travel to anywhere resets my psychic clock, travel to France puts me in a mindset that no other place yet has. I feel at home in Britain and Ireland. I feel content and full of life in Italy. I feel rootless and wild while an American road trip. But France does something different to me. It throws me out of my comfort zone just enough to keep me on my toes (and rooting through my mental list of French vocabulary) but surrounds me in so much beauty and elegance that in the end all I want to do is stay and walk slowly through every place and eat ridiculous amounts of cheese.

Many countries value and incorporate beauty into daily life, and almost everyone does it more often and better than Americans, but while Italy and Spain do it in a visceral, passionate way, the French do it in a way that to me is more refined, more subtle. And, yes, sometimes practically invisible if you take the French distance too personally. Although I’ve never been to Japan, it in no way surprises me that French and Japanese chefs have such a connection and sense of mutual respect. They are both doing the same thing without (seemingly) even trying: bringing pleasure in the most basic and yet refined way possible. Am I exaggerating? Quite possibly. But truth be told, I have yet to experience a place where I am so deeply satisfied by what I eat, drink, and see. I’ll be posting more specifics in the future, but here’s some visual memories of my most recent journey.

Sunrise from our bedroom in Paris as taken by my 8-year-old.

Notre Dame and the Seine.

The 900 year old Notre Dame Cathedral in Reims.

Best sardine sandwich in the universe at Le Bocal, Reims.

Eiffel Tower at night over rooftops.

House built into the tuffeau in Amboise, Loire Valley.

The rooftops below medieval Loches.

Medieval architecture in Honfleur, Normandy.

Nearly infinite gravestones at the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy. Plus my thumb 😦

Monet’s lily pond in the charming, if touristy, Giverny.

Wanderlust: Normandy


Unless you’re lucky enough to be on vacation where there is no internet, television, or mail then you’ve probably heard that France has a new leader. Francois Hollande hails from Rouen in Normandy and I will be lucky enough to go there later this Summer, but I thought now might be the perfect time to resurrect the wanderlust feature and take a luxurious look at this part of northern France. Bon Voyage!

 

For photo credits click on photo.

 

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