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

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Sliding House, Nova Scotia

I’ve never been to Nova Scotia, and maybe October isn’t the ideal time to go there, but then again maybe it is. I’m picturing blustery afternoons curled up by the window with mugs of tea and playing cards with my family while the wind blows sea spray up on to the porch. This area looks beautiful and when you’ve got the option of being holed up in a great vacation house like this, who cares if you go outside or not.












Available through Boutique Homes

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: Rough Luxe, London

I’ve been meaning to feature this hotel for a long time and have no idea why I haven’t until now. As much as I adore the regular version of “luxe”, I really adore the philosophy behind the Rough Luxe concept, that “luxury should be an enriching personal experience and not simply the ownership or utilisation of an expensive object”. You are entreated to act as a guest in this home. You will be served delicious breakfast, but there is no restaurant and no hip club attached. Your room may be small or larger and it is highly likely that whatever wallpaper may exist there will be peeling, but the “luxury” is in the details like high quality sheets and an artist in residence. It’s a concept that seems to have grown over the last few years as most places have struggled to find a way through a new economy, and it’s one that I think resonates well beyond your vacation time. Finding bits of luxury in your normal life can seem impossible until you realize that things like time and a good bottle of wine can add that bit of luxe to an ordinary life.

Photos curtesy of Rough Luxe Hotel

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Ca Maria Adele, Venice

Ahh, Venice. And, yes, I do take every opportunity I have to quote Indiana Jones, but the real point is that Venice is an amazing place. It really shouldn’t even exist given the lack of actual land and centuries of water lapping on to stone. But luckily for us, it does. There are many gorgeous places to stay in Venice, but this hotel really grabs me. I love that it’s almost over done. The fabrics, furnishings and baroque details are just piled on and the effect is fantastic. It seems like the sort of hotel you stay at when you want to pretend you are someone else. It’s a fantasy and that’s what the best hotels do for me: make me feel like I’m living in the fantasy.


Ca Maria Adele

– for photo credits, click on photo

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: Imnaha

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I rave about my visits to the tiny townlet of Imnaha in the northeastern corner of Oregon state. The main reason for that is because of the Imnaha River House. It must be, because there’s not a whole lot else in Imnaha besides the post office, the general store and one the most beautiful and deepest canyons in the country. I hear there is great hiking and fishing, and Hell’s Canyon is close by as well, not that I’ve ever experienced any of those things while vacationing here as I’ve never managed to leave the property. It is so relaxing and restorative to just sit by the river, walk through the garden (with the best strawberries and cherries I’ve ever eaten!) and play cards on the porch that I have yet to find a reason to leave. Take my advice and load up on groceries in Joseph, don’t forget to stop for beer at Terminal Gravity in Enterprise, and then do what you can never do at home: nothing. Your cell phone will not work here. There is no way to get on the internet. There is no large screen television. Life here is simple and slow and thoroughly rejuvenating.

Inside the general store

River house as seen from the river

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.

Friday Fantasy Vacation: Color!

Happy Summer everyone! It’s officially here and that makes me want to be surrounded by sun and color. Enough with the gray, the dark, the indoors. Here’s two places, one a hotel and one a vacation rental, to welcome in the bright season.

Domina Home Zagarella, Sicily

Photos courtesy of Domina Home Zagarella

Casa dos Chicos, Sayulito, Mexico

Photos courtesy Casa dos Chicos and Welcome Beyond
Welcome Beyond – Luxury vacation rentals

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