OREGON: Cycling, Wine & National Parks! (and beer too)

Oregon has been on my list of states to visit as long as I can remember, but nothing prepared me for the WOW factor I experienced at every level! “Oregrown” says it all, as just about everything is grown and sourced locally – from incredible wines (think Pinot Noir and Pinto Gris but don’t stop there), to local beers with brewery tours and tastings galore, to spectacular coffee and coffee shops on every corner (no, NOT Starbucks!). Foodies will be delighted by all the state has to offer! I loved the beautiful fresh produce, the pasture raised lamb and wagyu beef, and the local river and ocean fish – all served up at various creative eateries on little plates of happiness! I pulled together a group of dear friends for a week of cycling in the stunning Cascade mountains. We made our way from Bend to Crater Lake to Sisters all the while taking in the stunning mountains, lakes, and deserts in between. The trip started with some pre-cycling fun in the Willamette Valley and ended with a night at the très chic The Nines hotel in Portland. I can’t say enough about the experience, but I hope some of the photos from my handy iPhone will paint the picture!

IMG_1065
First beverages in the Willamette Valley
IMG_1067
Welcome to The Allison
IMG_1068
The Allison is a terrific Oregon wine country hotel
IMG_1070
The Jory restaurant at the Allison is a must do! (English Pea, crab meat, and crème fraîche soup)

Wine tasting in Willamette Valley is always a treat! We had an exceptional day meeting in the homes of small batch producers.

IMG_1071
The Barn at Carlton Hill
IMG_1072
David picked a stunning and fortuitous location to grow his grapes
IMG_1073
David Polite with Gil and Ryan
IMG_1074
Lynne and Steve looking great!
IMG_1077
The boys with our guide, John and owner and wine maker at Carlton Hills, David Polite.

IMG_1079

IMG_1080
David serving his favorite Pinots and even opening some Reserves for us.
IMG_1087
Mo Ayoub in the Red Hills of Dundee share some of his gorgeous wines
IMG_1086
Ayoub was definitely one of this group’s favorite stops on the wine trail!
IMG_1089
Privé is a small family winery run by husband and wife team, Tina and Mark (and their kids!)
IMG_1090
Tina shared some delicious Pinots and other warmer climate varietals plus some great stories of how they got started and sourced their grapes!
IMG_1093
The ladies at Privé.

Onward to Bend to meet the rest of our group and start the cycling adventure with Backroads!

IMG_1130
Backroads is famous for their gorgeous daily picnics always set up in picturesque spots!
IMG_1131
Always healthful, delicious and local
IMG_1132
Jenna and Ryan suiting up for the first ride
IMG_1134
“Snackroads” always fuels everyone up for the ride…
IMG_1138
First day was a 25 mile ride with an optional climb of 3000 feet
IMG_1151
So happy to have made it to Crater Lake at 7000 feet!
IMG_1153
“Partners-in-climb” Leigh and Laura
IMG_1158
Well-deserved drinks! Ladies table at Crater Lake Lodge
IMG_1157 2
Cycling makes you really, really thirsty!
IMG_1163
After Dinner Drinks at the Lodge
IMG_1165
Good morning, Crater Lake!
IMG_1166
I love the roaring fire at the Crater Lake Lodge
IMG_1181
Mid June yet snow still everywhere, even closing some of the passes up to Crater Lake
IMG_1125
Deschutes, one of our favorite local beers!
IMG_1133
One of our super capable trip leaders, Ariel – A.K.A. Super Woman!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Route Rap with our Trip Leaders
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Leigh
IMG_1204
At the end of Day 2 cycling – Gil, Lynne, Steve, Laura, Leigh, Chris Bo, Rachel and Chris Ba
IMG_1209
One last shot of Crater Lake – Sorry but so darn breathtaking!
IMG_1226
The Backroads van is always ready with a beer for our group after a long ride or hike!
IMG_1230
The girls goofing around in the snow!
97BB9EEF-23E1-48BF-95D6-6A702FA8179B
Last one, I promise – hiking the rim of Crater Lake.
IMG_1238
Oregon has so many gorgeous lakes, this one is Diamond Lake.

Photo Jun 20, 2 41 33 PM

IMG_1239
Arriving into Bend after an epic 45 mile bike ride, first stop a brewery tour at the Deschutes Brewery.

IMG_1240

IMG_1249

IMG_1260
Gearing up for the day at our Snackroads table
IMG_1261
Fantastic coffee shops everywhere, this one was a winner! All local and organic!

IMG_1273

IMG_1275
Checking into the Five Pine Lodge in Sisters, OR
IMG_1281
Heading to our cute individual cabins
IMG_1302
The Cabins at Five Pine Lodge
IMG_1289
All cleaned up and heading out to dinner in Sisters on our cruisers
Photo Jul 03, 8 00 51 PM
Ryan and Chris
IMG_1303
Even the Oatmeal is Oregrown – love it!
IMG_1304
Katie, our fabulous trip leader ready to ride with us
IMG_1305
Our other trip leader extra-ordinaire, Ariel
IMG_1306
Another wonderfully health picnic lunch
IMG_1308
Jenna and Gil Chilling after a ride
IMG_1313
Jenna and Ryan all cleaned up
IMG_1314
The ladies ready for final night dinner (yes the guys are here too!)
IMG_1338
Rachel and I hitting the town on our cruisers
IMG_1340
The ladies ROCKED IT!  Here is to fantastic Trip Leaders!
IMG_1346
Last day of riding through the gorgeous lava fields of the McKenzie Pass
IMG_1349
Chris, Rachel and Chris
IMG_1353
Gil loving the 20 mile down hill through McKenzie Pass

IMG_1357

IMG_1358
Final Picnic with the crew – salmon in every way!
IMG_1359
Cold Local Beers – Gil, Ryan, Laura, Chris and Steve
IMG_1363
Well done, Katie, Ariel and Patrick!

Finally on to Portland for last night before the flight home……

IMG_1366
Checking in to our room at the stylish “The Nines” Hotel in Portland
IMG_1367
Sweet welcome amenity at The Nines
IMG_1374
Kushner’s and Madrid’s enjoying roof top cocktails at The Nines
IMG_1375
Drinks and dinner at the delicious “Tasty and Alder”
IMG_1377
Great trip, friends, wine, rides and view! Well played, Oregon, well played!

New Zealand – Luxury Lodges, Food, Wine, & Adventure

New Zealand has long been on my must do list! Each year, I send many clients to the North and South islands to explore beaches and mountains, quirky towns, the ancient Maori culture, breathtaking golf courses, and to experience dart boating, bungee jumping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, glacier climbs, heli-rides, and skiing. There are countless incredible, cozy lodges in which to unwind – each completely unique, with bespoke and customized service, staff, and setting that make you feel very much at home! I have at least a dozen favorite MUST DO places to suggest, but on this trip I will highlight the ones that I can. Keep in mind that when I plan your New Zealand holiday, providing as much lead time as possible will help me to get you in to the most sought after lodges in a nice flow from North to South or South to North with out too much zig–zagging. With less time, we may need to be more flexible on the routings. Either way, you will feel completely cared for. The gastronomic and wine options in New Zealand are very much worth the trip. Some consider New Zealand one big farm with spectacular beef and lamb dotting every hill, but the bountiful seafood all around and the award winning vineyards producing Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz (just to name a few) will keep you well-satiated throughout the journey!

I started my visit in the far north of the North Island in Kerikeri. After landing in Auckland, a short 35 minute flight whisked me up to the spectacular Bay of Islands and on to the famed Relais & Chateaux property, Kauri Cliffs.

The relaxing nature of this perfectly elegant and homey lodge in the tropical Northland was the perfect antidote to jet lag and a climatizing my southern blood to the cool climates of New Zealand.

IMG_0200

IMG_0201

Arriving to the incredibly beautify, understated and elegant Kauri Cliffs.

IMG_0205
Welcome to Kauri Cliffs
IMG_0208
The style and design is understated and elegant – each furnishing and piece of art is worthy of a private collection.
IMG_0209
The golf and the views are certainly worthy, even if you will only bike ride or hike the course.
IMG_0218
The in-room bar and coffee set up is both functional and inviting. Homemade brownies in my jar mysteriously disappeared each day!
IMG_0220
I loved my little cottage.
IMG_0221
Heated floors, comfy tub, all perfect for the New Zealand weather.
IMG_0224
Welcome Home to Kauri Cliffs.
IMG_0225
Balcony with a view
IMG_0227
The Main house
IMG_0228
Pool and hot tub with a view.

Nothing like beating the first day’s jet lag with a picnic at the Pink Beach. What a feast complete with the incredible fish, vegetables and wines from the area!

IMG_0239
Now this is a welcome to the Pink Beach at Kauri Cliffs!

IMG_0242

IMG_0234
Chef in waiting.
IMG_0236
Food for the soul!
IMG_0245
I am happy!
IMG_0250
Pink Beach

IMG_0253

IMG_0254
No detail missed.
IMG_0255
Some of the best wines of the North Island.

IMG_0257IMG_0258IMG_0270IMG_0272IMG_0274

IMG_0281
Cycling the golf course
IMG_0283
Chasing Sheep.
IMG_0287
The Spa
IMG_0290
and tennis
IMG_0292
Oh…. but the food is incredible!
IMG_0293
…and the wines always a treat!!
IMG_0296
Nothing makes me happier than waiting up to a fire, French pressed coffee and a home made brownie, all while still in my robe!

Today we head out to do some touring with a local Mauri (a Native Kiwi). We visited a Saturday Market which is the true gathering spot for the locals.IMG_0298IMG_0299IMG_0302

New Zealand Chocolate is some of the best!

IMG_0305

IMG_0304

A historic government building from the Europeans who settled the area.

IMG_0308IMG_0310

IMG_0312
Stunning water falls…
IMG_0316
The incredibly huge Kauri trees….

Dinner at Kauri Cliffs is served wherever you might like it. This evening in the library was definitely unforgettable!!  Feast your eyes…..

IMG_0318IMG_0319IMG_0320IMG_0321IMG_0322IMG_0323

Next stop to The Landing.

The homes on this spectacular setting are top quality craftsmanship with views to knock your socks off. This is a wonderful place for families who want to settled in with a chef, a wine maker, privacy, and activities-galore!

IMG_0388
Arriving to the landing

The first home we saw was the Boathouse – perfect for an active family on the beach. basketball court, multiple barbecue and entertainment spots, all the bells and whistles.

IMG_0328IMG_0329IMG_0330IMG_0334IMG_0336IMG_0338IMG_0345

This home is located overlooking the vineyard and the coast and has glass walls that open or close depending on the weather.  Loved the privacy and setting here!

IMG_0348IMG_0351IMG_0353

Finally, the creme de la creme was the main house with its own wine cellar, star gazing roof top, incredible indoor and outdoor public areas – this is the place for a big birthday celebration with friends or family!  WOW!

IMG_0357IMG_0358IMG_0360IMG_0361IMG_0364IMG_0366IMG_0367IMG_0368IMG_0372IMG_0373IMG_0374

The Landing has its own wine maker and all the wines are included in the price of your rental. We had a marvelous afternoon with the wine maker who admits that his wines are not where he wants them with such a young vineyard but each year we tried simply got better and better! No complaints whatsoever! Lovely!

IMG_0378

And the chef may have prepared the most healthful and flavorful meal of the week – that is saying something! It was SIMPLY Wow!

IMG_0379IMG_0381IMG_0382IMG_0384IMG_0385

What a delightful surprise to depart in such style after a lovely afternoon.

IMG_0403
Embarking on the Ata Rangi
IMG_0399
The Ata Rangi is something we can most definitely arrange for our clients – it is wonderful for day trips or overnight charters.

IMG_0414IMG_0416

Eagles Nest

We were guests in the 4 bedroom presidential villa, affectionately nicknamed by us as “Villa Rockstar” as that is how we felt staying here!

 

 

Helena Bay

It was a true WOW to be some of the first guests at Helena Bay. This over the top, no expense-spared resort is made up of five one-bedroom villas and approximately 50 staff.  The location alone is incredible with some of the most beautiful and private beaches in the world and a working farm.

IMG_0455
Cocktails on the lawn
IMG_0456
The range of toys and equipment available is mind blowing and always TOP QUALITY! Fun to explore on 4 wheelers, mountain bikes, paddle boards or your own two feet!

 

IMG_0459

IMG_0461
Mr. Ian Swain living it up with the ladies! Love this guy!
IMG_0465
The amount of original and special art throughout the property is over-whelming!

The food is all grown on the farm – livestock, produce, fruit – and only what is needed beyond that is imported. The chef is from Don Alfonso in the Amalfi coast and his whole concept of cooking is SIMPLICITY – let the flavor of the product shine through on its own! Wow, did we eat the most gorgeous foods and chef was right!

IMG_0472IMG_0466IMG_0467IMG_0468IMG_0469IMG_0470

IMG_0471

Today we toured the grounds – visiting the sheep, cows, and gardens! Truly incredible to see how a farm is run and to be able to enjoy the fruits of it all with a cooking class!

IMG_0473IMG_0476IMG_0477IMG_0483IMG_0485IMG_0493IMG_0497IMG_0503IMG_0512IMG_0514IMG_0515IMG_0520

The service at Helena Bay is mind blowing! 50 employees take care of up to 10-14 guests tops!  They do not miss a beat, know your preferences, and can not do enough for you!

One more delicious dinner…..

IMG_0523IMG_0524IMG_0525

All good things must come to and end….but not really – how about being picked up by the fastest and sleekest helicopter operating in New Zealand? I am most definitely up for it!  This shaved off a 3 hour drive to the Auckland airport.  We definitely suggest at least a heli or two for our clients. The best way to set up a golf trip of New Zealand is via helicopter – heli-golf anyone?

Our views from Helena Bay all the way to Auckland are below…

IMG_0529IMG_0530IMG_0535IMG_0541IMG_0554

From the airport we departed Auckland on the North Island bound for the South Island and marvelous Queenstown, Adventure Capital of the World!

IMG_0557IMG_0561

There are many wonderful places to stay in the Queenstown area. The question is do you prefer to stay outside the city in a stunning lodge immersed in nature or inside the city in a chic hotel within walking distance to all?

Matakauri Lodge – Stunning!!

IMG_0576IMG_0577IMG_0578IMG_0580IMG_0583IMG_0585IMG_0591

Next stop Blanket Bay – New Zealand’s Ultimate Alpine Escape! Cozy, comfortable, and quite possibly perfect!

IMG_0601

IMG_0592

IMG_0597IMG_0599IMG_0603IMG_0606IMG_0608IMG_0609IMG_0610IMG_0612IMG_0615

Off on a heli-glacier ride and landing –

IMG_0623IMG_0626

 

IMG_0638IMG_0658

 

Jet boating on the Dart River –

IMG_0672

 

 

For those wanting to be in the wonderful city center of Queenstown, THE place to stay is Eicharts Private Hotel which is walking distance to everything, but chic enough to not want to leave! Eicharts Private Hotel has nearby wonderful residences and a terrific sister hotel – The Spire Hotel.  Just outside of town in a lovely residential neighborhood, we love Azur Lodge.

Quaint shops, fun restaurants and live music await those who chose an in-town location.

IMG_0696

A couple of shots of the fabulous Eicharts Private Hotel –

IMG_0691

IMG_0688IMG_0689

The ultimate thrill, Bungee jumping.  Believe me, this was not planned nor ever even remotely on my radar, but as they say, “When in Rome….do as the Romans do!” Or in this case, do as the Kiwis! How could I resist when I got to personally meet the co-founder of Bungee jumping and being at the exact spot of the original Bungee jump – the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown.

It is completely exhilarating and I am still pinching myself.  I did it! Check!

IMG_0698IMG_0700AJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0001-Cam01AJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0002-Cam02AJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0005-RovingAJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0006-RovingAJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0007-RovingAJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0008-RovingAJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0009-RovingAJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0010-RovingAJH-KB-20170526-045-001-0011-Roving

Farewell, New Zealand! I will absolutely with out question return! One of my most favorite trips and places ever.  Your kindness, hospitality, and genuine love of life shines through! As you say,  “Sweet As!”

If you have a minute and 44 seconds, check out my epic jump video – still makes my hands sweat!

 

 

Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula: Glorious Haciendas & Mayan Culture

Traveling to the Yucatan peninsula is such a short journey but feels like a million miles away! Flights into Merida are currently non-stop from Houston, Miami, and Mexico City. I enjoyed an unplanned stopover in one of my favorite food cities in the world: Mexico City.

I took advantage of this quick stop to check into the gorgeous boutique property, Las Alcobas which has its own fantastic restaurant on property and a renowned restaurant near by.

Anatol Restaurant is a seasonal, consciously-sourced, ingredient-driven restaurant. The menu consists of composed small plates, presented in a social and casual environment. Renowned Chef Justin Ermini has assembled a menu that is ideal for those seeking a laid back dining experience with a touch of Italian influence. Anatol’s contemporary and fresh environment amplifies the passion its food inspires.

Dulce Patria, directed by talented Chef Martha Ortiz, is a 90 seat, high energy venue that has redefined the Mexican dining experience. The menu is comprised of traditional plates reinterpreted in a modern context, set in a lively, stylish and urban environment. The restaurant boasts two terraces that give the inside of the restaurant a serene, spacious and open-air feel.

IMG_3879IMG_3882

As we arrived very late into the city, we walked a block down to Pastor for some truly delicious tacos!

IMG_3883IMG_3885

The next morning we arrived into Merida and were met by our driver for our drive through the beautiful remote and ancient villages of the Yucatan and to our first Hacienda visit.

IMG_3890IMG_3892

 

Welcome to Hacienda Tixnuc! Truly built in the ruins of this old Hacienda. Romantic and authentic with modern Air-Conditioned rooms.

IMG_3896IMG_3898IMG_3901IMG_3907IMG_3908IMG_3910

IMG_3912
The Master bedroom is especially spacious and lovely!

IMG_3913IMG_3915IMG_3917

IMG_3926
Every little snack is a surprise and a treat.
IMG_3927
This simple and delicious and healthy little snack is served all the time – jicama, cucumber, mango with lime and a chile citric spice! Love it!

Hacienda Tamchen was an absolute favorite for me. This 4 bedroom home has a massive master suite and two additional modern suites plus a fabulous bedroom with views in the main house. The suites are so large and set up to easily accommodate a family of 4 who would like to share an accommodation or wonderfully spacious just for a couple.  Ideal hacienda for a couples trip or several families sharing.

IMG_3928

IMG_3930
The pool is surrounded by a lily pond
IMG_3931
Just the place for an after lunch nap
IMG_3932
Looking back at the main house
IMG_3937
The suites have a king bed on one side….
IMG_3939
….and a spot for two kids on the other
IMG_3941
One of the two modern suite additions
IMG_3943
Lunch time on the terrace

IMG_3944

IMG_3952
View from the suite in the main house
IMG_3954
This is a sweet room with a bit of a view of the grounds
IMG_3959
What a delightful surprise to have a cold mini-coronita waiting for me.
IMG_3964
Expect homemade tortillas at every meal
IMG_3966
The meals are always creative and locally sourced – this is a cucumber stuffed with a pumpkin seed puree!
IMG_3968
Delicious frijoles at nearly every meal
IMG_3969
Wonderful Yucatan products
IMG_3972
One of the many Cathedrals and churches throughout the region

Next was Hacienda Itzincab Camara, which boasts 14 bedrooms – five in the main house and eight in the original hacienda outbuildings.  I fell in love with this dramatic property: its gardens, pools, and very own Mayan pyramid!

IMG_3975
The lovely team here was so welcoming!
IMG_3980
Always a delicious welcome drink and cold towel
IMG_3981
The indoor and outdoor public areas
IMG_3983
The natural gardens throughout are stunning!
IMG_3989
One of three swimming pools
IMG_3992
Two Bedrooms in the former Stables
IMG_3996
One bedroom is in the charming school house

IMG_4061

IMG_4067
My room is in the Secret Garden – I love it!
IMG_4003
Morning bird watching with our absolutely wonderful guide!

IMG_4007

IMG_4008
A breakfast surprise
IMG_4010
I love huevos motulenos for breakfast!
IMG_4011
My room is called the Secret Garden – so romantic!

Today we head out to explore the area:

First we are led on a private tour of Uxmal, the largest of the sites famed for their elaborate Puuc-style architecture, whose principal buildings are aligned to observe astronomical events. We visited the Pyramid of the Magician and the Palace of the Governor—two of the finest pre-Hispanic Mexican structures in existence—as well as the Nunnery Quadrangle and the House of the Turtles.IMG_4014IMG_4025

In the afternoon – another WOW experience that we can’t wait to plan for our next clients visiting the Yucatan. Hacienda Xocnaceh—a private & exclusive property is something unique. At its zenith, Xocnaceh produced cattle and henequen, the “green gold” that brought tremendous wealth to the Yucatán in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After a visit to the pyramids, we were surprised and delighted with a  delicious lunch served in the chapel ruins!

IMG_4029
Oh my, what have we come upon…

IMG_4031

IMG_4032
…a jungle affair prepared just for us!
IMG_4035
Bienvenidos!
IMG_4042
“Jungle love, its driving me mad, its making me crazy!” – well they were not playing that, but these musicians made my heart sing.
IMG_4047
Perspective!
IMG_4050
That is my kind of quesadilla!
IMG_4059
Can you name these local fruits?

After a wonderful night’s sleep, I awake to birds singing and wandered in the main house early in search of a coffee. The team informs me that this morning coffee is served at the top of the pyramid (which sits incredibly just adjacent to the main house).

IMG_4080
Out is 7am and the Pyramid climb awaits!
IMG_4074
Oh the details and the view at the top. I imagined what the Mayans felt and saw.
IMG_4076
Indeed worth the trip up – strong and lovely brewed coffee!

This morning as we set out for our next adventure we came upon another simply magnificent restored hacienda. We saw it being prepared for a jet setter wedding from abroad. I envisioned so many over the top parties being held here! We can absolutely help! My iPhone pictures won’t do justice so I won’t try but if you are looking for a truly singular experience ask me about Hacienda Tekik de Regil.

IMG_4083Next I had the privilege of visiting the new Chable Wellness Resort and Spa. I have been talking about it incessantly since its debut and finally got a peek. The groups and buildings are very special, and the spa and wellness regimes are completely customized. It is a first class resort to relax at while visiting the area, but it’s also an excellent destination spa to completely focused on well being. Like all of the properties I am highlighting in this blog, it is a former hacienda with a rich story.  The restoration and modern additions are gorgeous!

IMG_4107

IMG_4091IMG_4092

IMG_4094
The modern bar
IMG_4096
The welcoming terrace

IMG_4098

Their villas are designed for maximum relaxation and boast spectacular jungle views, indoor and outdoor showers, and a private pool. It also features a signature restaurant by Jorge Vallejo, one of the most prominent chefs in Mexico, where we’ll taste their specialties.

IMG_4099IMG_4101

IMG_4104
The entrance to the ruins of the Presidential Suite

IMG_4108IMG_4111IMG_4112IMG_4113IMG_4115

Of course the spa is a significant part of the experience and the resort:

IMG_4116IMG_4118IMG_4119

One of the main pools and restaurants….where we enjoyed lunch

IMG_4121

IMG_4123
The largest tequila selection in the world!

Since the Spanish conquest, Mérida has been the cultural capital of the entire Yucatán Peninsula. At times provincial, at others ‘muy cosmopolitano,’ it is a town steeped in colonial history, with narrow streets, broad central plazas and the region’s best museums and restaurants.  Many consider Merida the new San Miguel de Allende where artists, free spirits, and those looking for something different are settling.

IMG_4131

IMG_4129

IMG_4133
Our hosts were the TOPS!  These are the people that make our clients’ experience in the Yucatan over the top special!
IMG_4134
Some of the best chocolate you will ever have!

IMG_4135

IMG_4137
Perfumes from Coqui Coqui
IMG_4138
Who knew beans and pork is a coveted ice cream flavor!IMG_4139

Finally we arrive to Izamal —where almost every structure is egg-yolk yellow! But Izamal is no mere tourist trap—it’s a living Maya town and art colony.

We stayed at two private villas here: Casa de los Artistas and Casa de Madera. Both full of character and charm and perfect for those wanting a fully serviced home in a more urban setting in order to explore the peninsula.

IMG_4170

IMG_4143

Dinner at the One Bedroom Casa Azul –

IMG_4150IMG_4146IMG_4147IMG_4148IMG_4149IMG_4158

Waking up at the 4 bedroom Casa Madera:

IMG_4165IMG_4168

A morning visit to the 6 bedroom Casa de los Artistas:

IMG_4169IMG_4173IMG_4174IMG_4175IMG_4176IMG_4179IMG_4181IMG_4182

Perhaps my favorite day was our afternoon at  Xocempich, a private cenote on the ruins of an historic ranch. We had a refreshing treat where we swam in the cenote’s crystalline waters and relaxed for hours in total privacy.

The cenotes through out the region are very unique to Yucatan. They are sink holes hundreds of feet deep that have pure filtered water from underground rivers – a pure delight to swim in! Some are in caves and some are in collapsed caves with lovely sunlight.

IMG_4209IMG_4215IMG_4236IMG_4241

The best treat of all was a lunch of cochinita pibil – my favorite Yucatan specialty – pork slow cooked in sour orange, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground.

Here the delicacy is being dug up and served – tremendous!

IMG_4226
The slow cooked pork is unearthed
IMG_4228
succulent local pig is slow cooked in sour orange and banana leaves – incredible.

IMG_4229

IMG_4231
Served with all the local Yucatan accompaniments makes for a feast!

Many people have been to Chichen Itza but if you have tried to go in the past 10-15 years, you know that the crowds are insufferable. Let us set you up with a private after hours tour with a reknowned archeologist!

IMG_4244
Fascinating afternoon with this world renowned expert archeologist

IMG_4246

IMG_4250
Touring after hours with our private guide…
IMG_4253
….means access to areas not open to the general public.
IMG_4259
Another spectacular surprise – a flutist so moving that many of us were in tears.

Farewell dinner was held at one of the three Haciendas that are small hotels, also restored haciendas, and now run as small exclusive hotels managed by the Luxury Collection – Temezon, San Jose and Santa Rosa.

IMG_4263
Here is our fun arrival to Hacienda San Jose for our farewell dinner.

IMG_4269

IMG_2636
I have always loved the Yucatan Peninsula – the Mayan culture, the history, the food, the people!  My heart has been captured yet again and I will most definitely be back to this rich civilization quite simply on our door step!

Venice in the Spring!

We started our journey by flying into Venice for the night. Winter and spring are always my favorite times to visit Venice, when the city is visible and not overrun with tourists. It’s when the Venetians are there and it feels more authentic and beautiful!

Since we have been to Venice many times, we decided to do a food and wine tour through the city, stopping for wonderful Cicchetti and glasses of wine at the best local spots, all in the expert hands of our sommelier and guide.

Here are some of the stops, snacks, and sips we enjoyed on this lovely arrival day:

IMG_3545IMG_3568IMG_3542IMG_3543

IMG_3548
Venetian Cicchettis as we tour Venice
IMG_3555
We stopped in this stunning hospital in Venice just for a look!
IMG_3556
Even the Ambulances are Boats in Venice
IMG_3562
One of two bridges with such architectural style in Venice

IMG_3566IMG_3569

IMG_35701E1DC61A-CEFA-4A8E-B00E-371CAFD6CCC5

C91183FC-C6C2-4863-96E7-7AFA7CB5FFB2
In the great company of our expert sommellier and tour guide through Venice.
C26AEDD4-5789-421B-AEB6-186CBD7A72FA
Heading to dinner in a water taxi!
IMG_3572
Our traveling sommelier introduced us to several of her favorite wines along the way!

CE3F6DEE-D35F-41F3-95EB-6BF2525EE044

There are many magnificent hotels in Venice. This visit we stayed at Ca’Sagredo, a former  palace belonging to an important noble family.  Such character, grandeur and history!

IMG_3623
Ca’Sagredo Hotel

IMG_3620

D67E7BF5-5829-4D7E-924A-06E0B5641954

IMG_3578
The Bar at Ca’Sagredo
IMG_3581
A grand canal junior suite at Ca’Sagredo
IMG_3582
The view from my room!

IMG_3607

E0D5D533-FED6-4591-A7D1-ECABE8072E8F
Venice has many of the beaten path places to dine; a water taxi may come in handy!

We were so happy to learn about Pane Vino (there are two completely un-related so make sure you are heading to the correct one) and you will be treated like royalty by the husband and wife team who run this delicious little place.

IMG_3590IMG_3591

IMG_3592
Beef Cheek on Potatoes

Next we headed off to ski the Dolomites, which you can read about in this blog post!

The Italian Dolomites: Hut-to-Hut Ski Safari

The Dolomites – These UNESCO World Heritage mountains may be the most beautiful in Europe! Located in Northeastern Italy at the Austrian border where “guten morgen” works as well as “buongiorno,” the gorgeous limestone peaks of the Dolomites wind through four ski resorts, seven centuries-old villages, and four mountain passes!

As is typical with European skiing, you’ll have a cappuccino in one village, a “bomarbardino” (a brandy-laced eggnog) in the next, and a Michelin star lunch in another — just a typical day in Alta Badia! Oh and yes, there are also 4,000-vertical-foot runs and off-piste trails that rival the most sought after ski resorts in the world.

This hut-to-hut trip was focused on skiing from village to village and through National Parks, with each night ending at an incredible “rifugio” or small “hut” – (really a nice inn).  The inns are family run with love and passion. The rooms: simple, comfortable, and spotless. The decor is so charming and unique, including collections of mountain and family memorabilia displayed proudly. While the inns just have a hand full of rooms, they each have kitchens, wine cellars, and service to blow your mind and create a culinary experience worth the trip!

While the Sella Ronda is stunning and a photo op “must” for experienced skiers, heading off-piste or from village to village will be much more exciting.

AC772513-E77F-4315-80BE-14834E147241

OFF TO THE MOUNTAINS – DOLOMITES BOUND!!

We had a 2.5 hour drive to Alta Badia – a stunning drive as we approach the majestic Dolomites and arrive into the town of San Cassiano and check into the Five Star, family run Relais & Chateau property, Rosa Alpina.

Cute village of San Cassiano including a cute Chapel and a little apres lounge:

An incredible meal at the two Michelin Star restaurant at Rosa Alpina! What a first night in the Dolomites! Restaurant St. Hubertus with 2 Michelins Star Chef, Norbert Niederkofler!

Day 1 of our Ski Safari – Alta Badia & Cinque Torri area

6F61616A-A49E-4B07-8A61-3D637A16F49F

Meet your local English speaking UIAGM/IFMGA professional mountain guide Marco Spazzini for a trip briefing and enjoy your first ski day in the Dolomites. In the morning you will ski in the area of Alta Badia, located between 1,400 and 2,700 meters (4,593;8,858′) above sea level and this altitude ensures optimal ski conditions throughout the winter, and offers breathtaking views of the most beautiful peaks of the Dolomites. Fast and comfortable ski lift connections (53 total), miles of wide, well; groomed slopes (130km / 81 miles), and the spaciousness of the ski area allow you to enjoy pleasant and safe skiing days. Charming mountain huts and first class mountain restaurants round out the appeal, making Alta Badia a ski area for connoisseurs. You will have the opportunity to venture on the famous World Cup slope of Gran Risa or on the more relaxed slopes of Piz La Villa, Gardenaccia, and Santa Croce. In the afternoon, ski on the slopes of Cinque Torri (Five Towers) area in the heart of the Eastern Dolomites, at the confluence of three valleys: the Ampezzo valley, Val Badia and upper Val Cordevole.

BCC07B34-C941-471C-8FEC-0288A97F7C7E

RIFUGIO GIAU:

After a great day of skiing, we arrived at our first “hut,” or as the Italians call them our first “rifugio.”  These are mountain top family run inns that are incredible! Simple and charming rooms with friendly and immaculate service and wonderful Alpine character. The wines and cuisine are simply spectacular with the local food being a wonderful mix of Italian and Austrian influences.

IMG_3737
Our room with a Panoramic View at Rifugio Giau
IMG_3741
Charming touches throughout the Rifugio including this heater
IMG_3742
Room with a View at Sunset
IMG_3732
The Owner’s Son loves his Harley Davisons and a fun motorcycle collection is found throughout
IMG_3733
The wines in this area are astoundingly delicious and diverse
IMG_3745
What a wonderful surprise to discover this little inn has a wonderful cellar – love the delicious bubbles “Franciacorta”, “TrentoDOC”, and “Prosecco”  –  all bubbles widely enjoyed in this area.
IMG_3746
Pumpkin stuffed pasta called “candies”
IMG_4500
The lovely family who own and run Rifugio Giau – absolutely charming!
IMG_3748
The view as I open my eyes this morning
IMG_3749
Breakfast involves multiple homemade cakes and strudels – I better ski my tail off today!
IMG_3750
Our two incredibly capable and fun mountain guides – Marco and Marco!

IMG_3751

IMG_3752
Breakfast of champions – no shortage of prosciutto in Alta Bada

IMG_3753

Day 2 – Ski Safari Recap – Civetta and Passo San Pellegrino

In the morning, ski down to Passo Giau where you will take a transfer to the Civetta ski area. Surrounded by plenty of uncontaminated views and majestic peaks, the valleys of Alleghe, Selva di Cadore, Zoldo, and Palafavera of Monte Civetta are rich in history and tradition. This area became famous during the 19th century, during the final century of the Venetian Doges, when the first winter guests discovered the imposing beauty and timeless charm of Monte Civetta and in particular Monte Pelmo – known as “God’s Throne.” On the slopes of these two giants surrounded by the Sella Group, the Tofane Massifs and the imposing Marmolada, you will find the largest ski district in the Veneto region. The Ski Civetta area offers a wide range of slopes and attracts skiers of all levels, for a total of 80km / 49,7 miles and 23 lifts. The hotels of the area are very welcoming and comfortable, and families with children are more than welcome. In the afternoon you will have a private transfer to Falcade, where you will ski at Passo Pellegrino, with more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) of slopes of varying length and difficulty, spread out at altitudes between 1,918 and 2,513 meters (6,293;8,245′), all equipped with 26 cutting edge lift systems. At the end of the day of skiing this beautiful terrain, a snowmobile will pick you up on the pass and bring you to your rifugio (1,980m / 6,496′) for the night. Set in a magnificent group of isolated old huts, this rifugio is immersed in the marvelous silence of a wide valley with a view of the Pale di San Martino. You will get to taste delicious dishes typical of the Trentino region. The renowned and traditional restaurant, mentioned in several culinary guides, will be appreciated not only for the quality of the food, but also for its warmth and welcoming hospitality.

5360B2B6-E4BF-4CA8-8C00-65F7B6484BEF

IMG_3761
What a lunch stop!

And if breakfast was not enough to fuel us up for the day, stopping at this little 3 star inn for an incredible lunch, was just what we needed! SUCH A TREAT!!

Arriving to our mountain top rifugio – “Rifugio Fuciade”

It is the end of the season so not as much snow as they often have but an incredible welcome after a long day of skiing!

IMG_3771

IMG_3773
The chapel at Rifugio Fuciade located at Passo San Pellegrino

 

IMG_3777
Always glad to serve you an espresso or a delicious glass of wine!
IMG_3778
Our sweet and bright little room at our rifugio
IMG_3782
Oh my, incredible to find this caliber of a kitchen at this tiny mountain top inn – travelers come from all over just for the food and often find themselves staying the night!
IMG_3797
The restaurant is worth the trip alone!
IMG_3783
Walking down to the wine cellar
IMG_3785
Superb collection of wines!
99A3AA4E-3BC5-481C-815E-467605068ED6
How charming is our dinner table?
IMG_3787
All the cheeses and sausages and hams are house made!
IMG_3789
No words!
IMG_3791
Aperitif time – bubbles of course! With service to match! First class!

IMG_3793

IMG_3794
We were incredibly well cared for by this lovely gentleman!

Day 3 – of the Ski Safari – Val di Fassa – Alta Badia

Today we skied a part of the Sellaronda, one of the most spectacular ski tours of the world, circumnavigating the Sella Massif. Considered somewhat of a “merry-go-round” for intermediate level skiers, this unique circular connection of lifts and runs was once the only way the ancient inhabitants of the Ladin villages could maintain a connection with each other. Nowadays it’s a modern day carousel that connects four Dolomite passes, four Ladin valleys (Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Val di Fassa, and Livinallongo), and three districts – you’ll have the opportunity to see more of the Dolomites in one day than many see on an entire trip! Although the Sellaronda is a relatively short tour that can be easily done in one day, with a length of just under 40 kilometers (25 miles), 26 of which are ski slopes (16 miles), but requiring approximately 2 hours of ski lift travel time and high elevations, you will begin the tour in the morning to ensure ample time for completion before lift service closes for the day.

IMG_3800
First morning stop for the famous hot drink in the Dolomites – the BOMBARDINO – part egg liquor or egg nog and part brandy (it can also include espresso). The Italian name comes from the original imbiber who said it was “like a bomb”!
IMG_3802
What is a few more calories, top it with whipped cream!

We stopped for a fabulous lunch of wonderful cuts of meat, fresh vegetables, and absolutely stunning wines in a cozy mountain top lodge with views!

IMG_3808

So the safari starts and ends at the Five Star fantastic Rosa Alpina. We arrived for our last night in to this welcoming and cozy suite! I know eating wonderful meals like this 3 x a day is not sustainable, but I am also am not ready for our last night to be here already!

IMG_3809IMG_3810

Last meal and yes a little after-dinner antics in the lounge with a fun group of new friends!!

IMG_3832

IMG_3817

These mountains are incredible – I never imagined how beautiful the Dolomites would be! I can’t wait to return in the summer. Hut-to-hut hiking in the summer time is equally fabulous and cycling, rafting and climbing and repelling with our expert mountain guides complete with wonderful dining, make this a fabulous way to explore Italy during the summer months! Contact me to help plan your perfect family or romantic Dolomite adventure!

CE03C0B2-7920-49A4-8DA5-842050AF47B8

Berlin: Germany’s Hip Capital City full of History, Music, Art, & Nightlife!

Berlin is a fascinating city and one of Europe’s most exciting capitals! My last visit was the year the wall came down so returning after so many years was a thrill.  Berlin is an exhilarating city for history, but it is also a creative hub for artists and musicians.   The art scene, museums, and night life here are worth the visit alone!  I stayed at the incomparable Das Stue, Berlin’s first luxury boutique hotels located in the peaceful diplomatic district but a short drive to the art, entertainment and shopping of the East and West sides of Germany’s capital city! Even if you are not staying here, plan on a dinner with famed Spanish chef Paco Perez one evening – you won’t be disappointed!

img_1643
Das Stue ” The Room ” is a cozy life-style and design hotel situation in the former Danish Embassy

 

img_1645
I have definite arrived!
fullsizeoutput_2112.jpeg
Berlin is always energizing, but with this welcome, I am ready to go!

 

img_1618
This is the way one should be treated after an overnight transatlantic flight!
img_1620
Tapas from famed Spanish Chef, Palo Perez, are a treat at Das Stue

 

 

img_1641
A Massage and a Swim kicks any jet lag to the curb!

The Guests rooms  & suites at Das Stue, the former Danish Embassy, are bright and chic and each one a bit different than the others.

 

img_1627img_1631img_1634

img_1638
The Beautiful bath amenities are by Etro
img_1640
How whimsical is this suite?
img_1642
High Drama
img_1644
The Summer Garden

Dinner by Paco Perez is an affair and not for the faint of appetite!!

img_1652

img_1651img_1653img_1656img_1658img_1659img_1660img_1661

Time to Explore Berlin!

img_1663

 

img_1673
Brandenburg Gate
img_1665
Berlin’s Victory Column, The new symbol of Berlin!

 

 

 

img_1666

Reichstag Building -Parliament

img_1675
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
img_1683
Parts of the Wall
img_1687
Check Point Charlie

Great political art on parts of the Wall

 

img_1692

img_1693
The Socialist Fraternal Kiss

The socialist fraternal kiss or socialist fraternal embrace is a special form of greeting between the statesmen of Communist countries. This act demonstrates the special connection that exists between Socialist states.

img_1697
UNESCO HERITAGE Museum Island

img_1698img_1700img_1702

img_1703
Neferiti was an Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife. Someone said I looked related!

 

img_1709
A great little German sandwich shop to recharge the batteries!

img_1712

 

 

 

img_1717
KaDeWe is the Harrods of Berlin and has a most impressive food hall!
img_1716
Look at the size of this claw!
img_1719
Who doesn’t love a beer advent calendar?
img_1720
The Brandenburg Gate created in Chocolate.

img_1725img_1726img_1727

 

img_1729img_1733

 

There are over 80 Christmas markets in Berlin alone! This is the thing to do in December for locals and tourists alike! So much fun!

img_1737img_1738img_1739img_1743

img_1744
Never far from a hot cup of Gluhwein – mulled wien with spices and orange.

img_1746img_1749img_1752img_1754

img_1755
Roasting Chestnuts on An Open Fire!
img_1756
Our fabulous hostesses from Das Stue – Love these girls!

 

img_1758
Typical German meal including Wienerschnitzel
img_1759
..and sausages and kraut
img_1763
How cute are these guys!
img_1762
..and her!
img_1772
Carbon and Electric bikes available at Das Stue. Everyone rides their bike year round in Berlin!

img_1781

img_1779
A little breakfast cake to keep us fueled up!
img_1780
Farewell, Das Stue, you now how to make Berlin feel like home!

Cabo – Sophisticated and Luxurious, if you know where to go!

Cabo is such a perfect beach holiday destination. While arriving by car would be a grueling 25 hour drive from San Diego down to the tip of the Baja Peninsula, arriving by plane from much of the continental USA is a breeze and the remote location pays off quickly!

Cabo is most simply defined as the cities of Cabo San Lucas in the far South and San Jose del Cabo in the North, connected by the “Corridor” made up of a variety of unique and varied resort properties. While the purpose of my trip was to check out the newly opened and spectacular Chilean Bay, I took advantage of my time in Cabo to see and experience several of the properties that clients of Resort to Laura Madrid love.

I was taken aback by the dramatic rocky and cliffy topography where the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific ocean sandwich the desert between! Incredible food, service, design, natural beauty, and a fantastic array of activities are a huge draw for Cabo’s well heeled-clientele.

Chileno Bay is the new kid in town and will absolutely get everyone considering a return to Cabo!

The vibe at Chileno Bay is sleek and sexy, chilled out but fun!  Large rooms with terrace or balcony and large bathroom including outdoor showers are their standard accommodation,  but families or a group of friends will absolutely love their 2, 3 and 4 bedroom suites and villas. I am in love with the 3 and 4 bedroom sky suites!

Due to its geographic location between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez and its rocky nature, most beaches in Cabo are not swimmable.  Chileno Bay has one of the few swimmable beaches in the area and lots of fun toys to take out on its calm waters.

 

img_3224
One of the swimmable beaches at Chileno Bay
img_3203
Three dramatic pools wind down to the beach.
img_3221
One of several comfortable spots to sit and chill through out the resort.
fullsizeoutput_2171.jpeg
Loved my make your own welcome amenity – the Chileno fast became my favorite cocktail!

 

img_3198
Terrific snacks to accompany my welcome cocktail!

 

img_3204

One of the TOP selling points of Chileno Bay is its food. This is not just good resort food, this is incredible cuisine making the resort a destination in itself. The talented culinary team right down to a pastry chef who will knock your socks off is the reason you will not miss a meal while on holiday at Chileno Bay!

Dinner at Comal was absolutely phenomenal!

img_3214

img_3215img_3216

img_3217

img_3218
Mexico offers fantastic wines these days!

img_3213

However, nothing beats lunch and cocktails at T&T (Tacos and Tequila). These tacos are NOT dumbed down for the “hotel” market, they are completely authentic and delicious!

img_3239
The team throughout Chileno Bay is so engaging and so much fun!

img_3200

img_3318

img_3330
Lots of fun toys at Chileno Bay

img_3332img_3315img_3316

With such great food, guests will love the incredible fitness center with top end equipment and fantastic trainers and fitness sessions from Cross Fit Northern Cal.  Here I am at one of the morning boot camps.

img_7154

Next stop was to Ezperanza, like Chileno Bay, part of Auberge Hotels and Resorts.  For foodies, this is another important property to consider. Auberge has a philosophy of insuring the culinary is a prime consideration, never an afterthought. The special touches and service are felt throughout. This property is understated luxury where you can go and completely relax. While the room product is older than some of the competition, Esperanza is romantic and relaxed and has a very loyal following. They come for the service, the view, and the high touch but relaxed service. Children under 18 are not allowed at the main pool, keeping the romantic and sophisticated feel at the main resort. That said, Esperanza has fantastic options for families in their multiple villa and residential units complete with lawns for playing sports, family pools, restaurants and shops at an attractive price point. For couples, I definitely suggest the two  bedroom villa with plunge pool and direct private beach access!

img_3250
Sunset at Esperanza
img_3252
Bienvenidos a Esperanza
img_3248
B
img_3249
Desert meets Sea
img_3256
The service is the best! Love the genuine Mexican hospitality!
img_3258
Homemade and absolutely special micheladas prepared by the Chef (beer with clamato, mulled herbs, chili, lime and vegetables – a meal in itself!)
img_3263
Guacamole station with all the fixings including chicaron.
img_3264
Ahi tacos – incredible combination of fish tacos served sashimi style.

img_3267

img_3273
Oh what a night at Esperanza!

The Resort at Pedregal has always been a favorite of my clients. It’s ideal for couples, but also a terrific option for families.  The location at the Tip of Baja makes it a dramatic and beautiful setting for whale watching and privacy but definitely a dangerous and non-swimmable sea. Enter the resort through a tunnel carved in the mountain and let the magic begin. While completely private and unreachable by non-guests, Pedregal guests have the option to walk through the tunnel and into Cabo San Lucas if they wish to go to some local restaurants. This may be an ideal place to come with teens who may wish to go out and party while the parents enjoy the sophistication of the resort.

img_3146

img_3142
As I exit the vehicle on arrival to Pedregal a margarita is offered.  Si, como no?!

img_3174img_3154

In my room, beers and guacamole await and I am told this is replenished every afternoon during my stay.

My room was charming and romantic!img_3155img_3153img_3157

img_3183

Walking through the resort on my way to the spa, I encountered this tree hung with glass hearts. The following images are of the spa. Terrific spa and outstanding treatment!img_3164img_3169img_3170img_3172

img_3173
Healthy spa snacks
img_3176
For my cliff side dinner, I simply choose my fish and all the chef’s nightly accompaniments come automatically.

img_3179

The day time pool and bar setting is truly beautiful!

img_3186img_3189

My final visit was to One & Only Las Palmilla. This stunning and incredible property is high energy with excellent and scripted service. The staff to guest ration is a jaw-dropping 5 to 1. This property has a swimmable beach, fabulous service and very chic and trendy restaurants. This is the place to see and be seen.

img_3081
Guests are welcomed with a homemade “paleta” – popsicle
img_3082
I chose the guava and coconut – unreal!
img_3083
Welcome to One & Only Palmilla

img_3090

Loved this artist in residence –

 

 

 

 

img_3094
The meats on display in their steak restaurant

The resort has many room types that will appeal to couples and families or groups of friends. They even have multiple types of suites and even queen/queen accommodations if a family prefers to share a room.img_3097img_3098img_3100img_3101img_3102img_3103

img_3105
Tequila and snacks replenished daily.

img_3106img_3109img_3111img_3114img_3115img_3118img_3119

img_3130
The swimmable beach at One & Only Palmilla
img_3133
Lunch with a view
img_3136
In Baja California, it is all about the fish tacos!

The only property that I did not get to see on this trip, is the incredible Las Ventanas. Quiet and romantic, with outstanding attention to detail, this is without doubt a great spot for couples wanting to completely chill out and not be bothered. There are several new hotels in Cabo that I can talk to you about including Grand Velas for those wanting the best of the all inclusive experiences and The Thompson for young couples of friends who want to party. Cabo has something for everyone and is a MUST do destination!

Magical Morocco with Relais & Chateaux

MOROCCO is magical!  I visited Marrakesh and the High Atlas mountains with my husband and kids for Spring Break years ago. I had always wanted to return to see the other fascinating cities of Fes, Rabat, and Essaouira.  Morocco is a captivating destination for adventurous and patient travelers – getting around the country to anywhere besides Marrakesh requires connecting flights through Casablanca or very long drives – 8-10 hours days.  The drives are incredible with gorgeous landscape and village after village living what appears to be a still a very primitive life.

While Marrakesh can easily be a long weekend for those seeking a cosmopolitan and romantic escape complete with dining, shopping, spa and night life, for travelers wanting to see the rest of the country, count on at least a week for adventures from the High Atlas mountains to a tented camp in the Sahara.

img_2042
Our Journey with Relais & Chateaux

The perfect start is to fly into the capital Rabat (or if necessary into Casablanca for a night at the new lovely Four Seasons) or a 90 minute  drive to Rabat, the serene, lush and spotless capital of the country.  Because the Royal Palace is here and all of the embassies, Rabat is very beautiful and polished – this makes for the perfect way to “ease” into what will feel in some cases like a chaotic Morocco.

I loved the 12 room perfectly positioned Villa Difaya – lovely gardens, a superb restaurant, an excellent fitness center, and spa with hammam.  Additionally families will love the two bedroom private villa.

img_1854

img_1855
Living Room at Villa Difaya
img_1857
Gardens at Villa Difaya

img_1860img_1861

img_1862
The Spa and Hammam at Villa Difaya

img_1863

img_1864
Moroccan Pastiche
img_1865
Moroccan Tagine
img_1866
Magical first meal – Fish Tagine

img_1867

img_1869

img_1870
Mausoleum of Mohamed V Rabat

img_1872

img_1873
Hassan Tower Rabat

img_1876img_1877img_1878img_1879

 

FES – What an authentic, marvelous, and raw city.  Fes is like Marrakech with out the European influence.  One feels that they have really arrived in Morocco here.  The markets, the artisans, the history, the food and the Riad Fes are all special highlights.   Arriving to Riad Fes is quite mysterious and exciting.  An original Riad surrounded by 4 other newer Riads built it the same historic architecture and tradition.

 

img_1887
Entering the walled city in Fes
img_1892
The Astonishing Riad Fes
img_1893
The bellmen delivering our luggage to the Riad Fes
img_1898
A Welcome fit for a Sheikh!

img_1899

img_1900
Riad Res Living Room

img_1901img_1902

img_1905
Dramatic and Historic Riad Fes
img_1909
My Room
img_1907
Another beautiful Dinner
img_1911
Each Tagine is better than the last!
img_1912
How beautiful is this place?

img_1915img_1918img_1921

img_1928
Rooftop cocktails overlooking the Medina at Riad Fes

img_1930

img_1941
The Fes Medina

img_1943img_1945img_1949img_1953img_1955img_1956

img_1957
Making pancakes
img_1958
Camel

img_1963

img_1966
Making very sweet sweets
img_1970
Wedding glitter

img_1971

img_1972
Call to Prayer at the Mosque in the Medina
img_1973
Candles

img_1974

img_1975
Breathtaking Lights

img_1979

img_1985
One of oldest Quranic Schools
img_1992
Leather Tannery
img_1997
Dying the leather hydes

img_2002

img_2006
Aspgaragus, poached egg, hollandaise perfection
img_2008
Cermanic workmanship
img_2009
Freestyle design is incredibly precise
img_2011
I almost took home a fountain! Custom made and shipped for an incredible price! They are beautiful!!
img_2013
The work that goes into cutting the tiles alone is astounding
img_2014
Putting together the puzzle – such talent!

img_2016

img_2024
We were invited to tea at this simple home
img_2025
Our hosts were so welcoming. This room is for meals, entertaining guests and for some even sleeping.
img_2020
What a beautiful spread for afternoon team in a Moroccan home
img_2031
Back at Riad Fes, another meal fit for a Sheikh
img_2037
And I got to hold this little guy!!
img_2040
Dessert is always a good idea!
img_2044
Drives in Morocco are very long but unavoidable – a few treasures along the way!

MARRAKESH –

img_2047
Arriving to our hotel in Marrakesh -Villa des Orangers
img_2049
The staff stoke the many fireplaces throughout the Riad
img_2054
Our crew all cleaned up after a 9 hour drive from Fes to Marrakech and ready for dinner with the General Manager, Jean Paul