Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Napa Valley, California












This is a good blog to request comments, Napa has so much to do, it's hard to cover everything. But, here are some tips on things to do, and places to stay.

We have stayed at the Villagio in Yountville (on the main drag, but you feel like you are miles from anything), as well as the Auberge de Soleil resort and spa, which has unprecedented views of the valley. Auberge can also offer you a great spa experience, with the massages, mud baths (I would recommend this), and the pool overlooking the valley. The Villagio has beautiful rooms with fireplaces, high beam ceilings, and beautiful grounds. The Villagio is mid priced, the Auberge is high priced.

For dining, there is always the famous and outragiously priced French Laundry, but it takes about two months in advance to get in, however, if you stay at the Villagio, they will do what they can to help get your reservations. If you have the budget, it's worth it once. There are all kinds of restaraunts, from high to low priced, just check with the hotel.

For entertainment, there are the wineries, definitely do Coppola's (Francis Ford Coppola's), it is unique with all the movie trimmings, Sterling, Mondavi, Opus One, Cakebread, Jarvis (the winery in the cave) and the new one - Darioush (the Iranian, and it is worth the time). They all offer tastings, and the price is minimal.

Finally, take the balloon ride. We have done it twice, I would suggest a smaller basket, more maneuverable, they take off early in the morning (around 6ish), and you land around 10ish. You get the chance to see the vineyards from above, maybe some deer, mountains, and the sunrise.

Here are some pictures of the Auberge spa and outside the Darioush winery.

Crete, Greece












If you have ever wanted to visit Greece, I would recommend the island of Crete. It is about 60 miles long, the largest of the islands, and has the most variety (in my opinion) of anywhere in Greece in a compact area. The best way to get there is to work your way to Athens, then take a quick flight (about an hour or less) to Heraklion. Once there, I would recommend the village of Elounda.

On our last trip (I have visited many times), we stayed in Elounda at the Elounda Beach hotel. Directly on the water, our room had a spa, sauna, fitness room, and a few minutes from the village (pricey but worth it, you will save by dining and drinking in the villages).

There are tons of places to visit, the monastery town of Vai (the only place with palm trees, supposedly ancestors of seeds brought from traders from Africa), of course the Minoan ruins of Knossos in Heraklion, the sleepy town of Chersonnisos (which is not actually sleepy now and plenty of restaraunts and cafes on the water), Agios Nikolaos (the beautiful village on the water) the villages in the mountains (people still ride donkeys in some villages as main transportation, rent a car for sure so you can get around), Crete has it all.

The people are fantastic, very polite and accommodating, and will welcome you like no other place. At night, the clubs and discos go till almost dawn (but they don't crank up until 10 or 11). Enjoy the Metaxa with coke, the Ouzo, the greek salads, the lamb, the tsaziki (cucumber and garlic yogurt dip), the house wines, etc. It's all authentic and great.
As part of our trip, we also took a day trip to the volcanic island of Santorini on the high speed ferry (catch it out of the town of Heraklion), well worth the day.

Here are a few pictures of the island and the hotel. Don't go for less than 10 days to two weeks, you will need that much time to see a good portion of the island.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Aspen, Colorado
















We decided to head to the West and the Colorado mountains on one of my birthdays, so we chose Aspen, and decided to do a little skiing. There are tons of places to go in Colorado, but Aspen fits nicely if you are looking for an upscale town where you can walk around, visit all the shops, have no need for a car, and step out to the ski slopes.

We stayed at the Little Nell, which is high end on the dollar side, but for the romantic feel of being in the mountains, it would be hard to beat. The rooms were very comfortable, the bar downstairs is warm with a fire going, plenty of people watching, crowded most of the time, but that is good for the activity.

The slopes are right behind the hotel, we rented all of our equipment there (the hotel can hook you up with all your passes and equipment in advance), so no need to take any along, unless you want your own stuff. They have all the latest and greatest equipment.

We also took a late evening horse-sled ride to dinner, it was about 2 degrees, but they give you plenty of blankets as you head out to a remote restaraunt in the snowy wilderness with beautiful stars above (very romantic, cold, but I would highly recommend it as well, and the hotel can set it up).

Also, if you have some extra time, you can take a drive down the mountain to Glenwood Springs, about an hour away, and sit in the olympic size and shape pool, with natural hot spring water keeping you warm (probably one evening of that would be enough).

You can fly to Denver and drive, or fly to Denver, then hop a flight into Aspen (I would recommend the flight, some of our friends drove and the weather turned and got stuck another night).

Aspen is a beautiful place, if you are thinking of an easy trip to ski, but have a decent sized budget. Here are a few pictures.

Paris




There's so much to do in Paris, it would be hard to put it all in this posting (but adding to it is welcome). If you've decided to go there, you probably have an idea of what to see. HOWEVER, I do want to tell you where we stayed on two occasions, if you are looking for GREAT ACCOMODATIONS - stay at the Marriott on the Champs-Elysees, which is the only hotel on the Champs-Elysees.

You are a walk from the Lido, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and other great places. Late in the evenings, you can walk directly across the road and have fantastic French Onion Soup at Fouquet's, or just step out to numerous cafe's any time of the day.

We were able to use Marriott points for our complete stay. The rooms are spacious, cozy, and have all the ammenities, and the staff is very accomodating, polite and welcoming.

A little higher end would be the Hotel de Crillon, down at the end of the Champs-Elysees, frequented by embassy members, and owned by the Tattinger family. I had the best lamb I have ever had in my life in their restaraunt, but it is definitely costly.

I don't have much in the way of pictures for the Marriott, but you can go online and check it out. The winding staircase in the lobby makes you feel like you are in a palace, and the wood detail and rooms can't be beat for a hotel in Europe. If you visit Paris and you are looking for a central, wonderful and comfortable place to stay, I think this is the best.

Here are a couple of pics of the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
















We decided to take a trip in the winter to Jackson Hole, and see what that was all about. Since we weren't too sure where to stay, we picked the Amangani, another of the incredible Aman resorts. The good thing about the Aman resorts, they will provide any and everything you need as far as comfort. We dined anywhere we liked, sometimes in the dining room, sometimes by the fireplace, sometimes in our room, and everything was perfect.

They hooked us up on a snowmobile trip in the park, which took about half a day, and we ended up at a natural hot springs with several feet of snow, soaking in the 100 plus degree water, while waiting for out guides to grill our steaks and vegetables for us!

All the rooms face the Tetons, so the view is fantastic, and the pool is heated to over 100 degrees, where we sipped champagne as late as we liked.

For a romantic get-away in the winter, I would highly recommend it, but it is on the high end.

Here are some pictures of the view, the hotel romm, and the view on the snowmobile trip.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Turk and Caicos





























Last year, we decided on a more remote trip and chose the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos in the Carribean, and stayed at the Amanyara resort. There really aren't many resorts like the Aman resorts, we stay at them when we can (and when the cost is reasonable, which they usually are very expensive).

But, the service is undescribable, you are waited on hand and foot, the food is always the best, and the accomodations just have to be experienced.

We had a pond villa, all are on the water of some sort, but ours was not on the beach. The servers and staff were mostly from the Phillipines, and they must be trained to anticipate your every need.

The water is crystal blue, rocky areas for views, and fantastic beaches.

No need to go downtown here, just stay on the resort. But, for us, 4 days was plenty. With the lack of downtown activity and nightlife, 4 days was restful enough.

I would give this place a 10 out of 10 for relaxation, comfort and attention to your needs.

Watercolor, Florida, Destin











Here's a great place in the panhandle area of Florida. They say the sand is like sugar, and they are so right. The WaterColor Inn was our choice of hotel there, and we were definitely pleased with our choice. The hotel has a great beachy feel (as it should, since it is on one of the most pristine beaches on the east coast), the price was definitely affordable (I would put it in the upper medium cost level), and the location was fantastic.

There is plenty to do, an easy walk to the town, with plenty of bars, stores, restaraunts. Easy to get to, plenty of airlines fly to the panhandle area, it's in Destin, so depending on where you are coming from, you have a couple of choices on where to land.

Since it's North Florida, it's a bit cooler than what you would expect, depending on the time of year, so check the weather. The water is turquoise, and the sand is the color and texture of sugar. Plenty of areas to walk and be alone, or share with your other half. Take a good book and relax.

Here are some pictures of the WaterColor Inn and the beach.