Feel-good Friday: Where am I?

Recently I spent some time in a charming little town.  From the following photos can you take a guess as to which city I visited?

 

If you look up “charming” in the dictionary, you’ll see that it not only has references to strong attraction, but to spells and magic.  Sometimes you don’t have to go too far to find it.

 

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Palm Springs Places: L’Horizon

In keeping with my desire to discover and explore the little hidden gems behind the hedges, I bring you L’Horizon Resort & Spa – a *Steve Hermann Hotel.  A place with a history and a glamorous past; basically everything I’m looking for.  The ultimate holiday escape.

To give you an idea of exactly how clandestine this place is, I’ve passed it on my bike countless times before I knew what was there. One day I spotted a little sign out front and out of curiosity I stopped in.  I liked what I saw on the inside so I contacted the person in charge of PR  to make an appointment to come back and find out more.  Which brings me to this:

Turns out I wasn’t the first one.

     A celebrity hotspot in its original incarnation more than 60 years ago—has been reborn, with three acres of desert land by designer- to-the-stars, Steve Hermann. – Travel and Leisure

     “As for the hotel’s cosseting comforts, there are even complimentary foot and back massages at the pool.” – Architectural Digest

 

Photo: d. king

A bit of history:

L’Horizon was originally designed in 1952 by renowned architect William F. Cody as a private family retreat for the television producer, oil tycoon, and legendary hotel owner Jack Wrather and his wife, Hollywood actress Bonita “Bunny” Granville.  Wrather was one of the most important California figures of the 1950’s, producing both “The Lone Ranger” and “Lassie”, building the Disneyland hotel, and opening the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose. He commissioned a residence with 20 guest houses be built in Palm Springs as a getaway for his Hollywood friends to come join him relaxing poolside.  He named it L’Horizon and the guests of the property included Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Presidents Reagan and Nixon, as well as countless other luminaries.

Now, redeveloped as a luxury resort, it boasts true exclusivity nestled within intimate spaces on 3 acres of gorgeous manicured desert grounds.  The 25 Bungalows are custom designed to emulate luxurious private residences with hand selected materials and finishes. The dramatic mountain backdrop frames the imaginatively designed landscapes to create a striking setting found only at L’Horizon Resort and Spa. L’Horizon Resort and Spa is an Adult only Resort, all guests must be 21 and over.

*STEVE HERMANN

Steve Hermann is a celebrated designer of high-end homes all over the world. As one of the most prolific designers within California, he is known as the design guru for the Hollywood elite, captains of industry, and foreign royalty. His innovative and imaginative homes are owned by A-list celebrities, entertainment executives and members of the Forbes top ten wealthiest list. His designs have been featured on Architectural Digest, Conde Nast Traveler, E!, MTV, ABC, as well as in hundreds of magazines and websites worldwide. One of his recent projects called The Glass Pavilion was published in over a hundred magazines and newspapers. It was featured on over 18 million websites and at one point was the 3rd most viewed house in the world.

Steve has now focused his attention on establishing a world recognized luxury hospitality company, Steve Hermann Hotels, of which L’Horizon Resort and Spa will serve as the initial flagship property.

About some of the private bungalows/suites:

the residence – formerly the home of Jack Wrather
the private pool – photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

The Residence is one of the most spectacular resort accommodations to be had worldwide. The original home of Hollywood mogul Jack Wrather, it boasts a secluded yard and full sized pool. Completely private, the living room and yard feature extraordinary unobstructed views of the mountains.

The pinnacle of desert luxury, the Fireplace suite

Marilyn’s room – The fireplace suite

features a wood burning, indoor copper clad fireplace for cool desert nights. Marilyn Monroe’s personal bungalow at the Wrather’s residence of the 50’s, this large and spacious bungalow is the ultimate way to experience the glamour of old Palm Springs. Featuring a private outdoor shower, you can shower al-fresco under the night desert stars as she was often fond of doing.

Weekend Brunch and nightly dinner is available to the outside public at SOPA

Visit: https://lhorizonpalmsprings.com/

 

 

Palm Springs Places: A Desert Oasis

avalon hotel and bungalows

Photo: d. king

Beyond the yellow door lies a little haven.  I remember when this remarkable little refuge used to be called the Viceroy.  My friend Colleen took me here for a drink one evening about four years ago.  I have her to thank for introducing me to an abundance of chic little retreats that I may have otherwise not known about.  Places I’m now sharing with you.

The avalon is one of those unassuming from the outside places that I love…because when you walk in you immediately feel like you’re on holiday.  And being on holiday or at least feeling like you are, is an escape.

THE ART OF THE GETAWAY

A quick spin from L.A., Palm Springs was truly born as a weekender getaway for industry players, movie stars, mafia and moguls.  But us regular who are you calling regular folk can also revel in the desert hideaway.

Even so, this unassuming sanctuary is only one block from the downtown design district – an easy walk or bike ride with a choice of casual or chic dining, shopping, and entertainment.

The property, known as a Hollywood playground since the 30’s, was common for faces like Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and Errol Flynn. (Crawford famously demanded french bread and 7 packs of cigarettes–3 opened–in hers.)

Enjoy a flowing series of courtyards, lawns, gardens and grounds that reveal romantic pools and cabanas, a hidden spa, studios and suites, and historic bungalows.

Photo: d. king
Private Bungalow Patio.  Photo: d. king

The Estrella Spa can suit whatever mood you happen to be in or want to be in.  Pamper and heal with a natural menu of options.  Try the Milky Way experience which can be made vegan with coconut or almond milk.

Oh yeah, the restaurant…

At Chi Chi restaurant, Jason Moffitt’s fresh, balanced California menu matches your desert mood, be it health or indulgence or somewhere in between.  They’re known for adding rum to their coconuts.

Photo: d. king

That’s simply how we lunch.

I think I can handle this.

To book:  https://www.avalon-hotel.com/palm-springs/

Palm Springs Places: La Sarena Villas

The Getaway.  A serene escape in the center of town with a stunning mountain backdrop.  C’mon…can it get much better?

Photo: d. king

This is the second in my series of desirable places to stay, eat, drink and unwind in and around the Palm Springs area.

La Sarena Villas is an adult only, dog friendly, luxury boutique resort smack in the heart of Palm Springs. With only 18 secluded guest villas each with their own private patio, complete with a romantic claw foot tub, fire pit, and built in benches…it’s pretty much perfect.

Photo: d. king

Redeveloped as a luxury hotel in 2016 by award winning architect, May Sung, with all the modern amenities of a 5 star hotel.   Each piece of furniture, all materials and finishes have been carefully hand picked by interior design group, Avenue Interior Design.

I really love the Happy Hour at Sugar High, a special root top deck.  The bartenders know what they’re doing mixing up amazing cocktails.  Appies are good too.

Then there’s the restaurant Azucar which is dedicated to excellence, serving up modern contemporary cuisine with local ingredients.

Photo: d. king
Unique finds in the fetching little boutique. I can endure this. Photo: d.king

Let’s not forget Whispers Spa: A place of tranquil serenity to unwind and let go of the pressures from everyday life!  There’s also a lovely boutique with great finds.

They have bikes too. Photo: d. king

Yup; I’m hooked!

Available for private parties.  Check them out at:

https://laserenavillas.com/

 

Ahhhhh the life!  If you go please mention where you heard of this little gem.

Palm Springs Places: The Sands Hotel & Spa

So I called up the Captain, ‘Please bring me my wine’
He said, ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine’

Lisa King in front of The Sands Spa.  Photo: d. king

This is the beginning of a series of desirable places to stay, eat, drink and unwind in and around the Palm Springs area.

Photo: Lisa King

As many of you know, I’ve been coming to this desirable desert destination for many years.  Two years ago I purchased a place to escape the rainy Vancouver winters and I love it.  I’ve become somewhat of a homebody preferring to cook meals at home, hang with my dogs and read or watch a movie.  But I also like going out to restaurants and listening to live music.  I especially love to discover the little hidden gems.  Places and spaces that take you away and really make you feel like you’re somewhere special.   Places like this:

Entrance to The Sands Hotel.  Photo:  d. king

So this is what I’ve been doing…in between cooking at home, walking the dogs, exploring new hiking areas, cruising on my bike and watching movies.  Luckily I also found an amazing tango instructor and a place to go dancing swing.  So I’m set.  However I’m still curious and I look forward to exploring the remarkable sprinkling of interesting and exotic places to enjoy.

Photo: d. king

There are so many noteworthy boutique style hotels where you can just stay put.  They’re not only places to spend the night when you come home from late night partying.  They make it hard to want to go elsewhere.  Which brings me to my recent weekend stay at The Sands Hotel & Spa in Indian Wells, CA.  A special birthday weekend with my sister and two longtime girlfriends. We were greeted upon check-in with Moroccan mint tea and pink champagne on ice in a pineapple ice bucket no less, in our gorgeous suite with large outdoor seating area including an outdoor bathtub.  Acqua di Parma bath products – noted.  And if you happened to forgot to pack your sunscreen, no need to worry – they supply “Sun Bum” by the pool.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
Light fare courtesy the Pink Cabana restaurant.  Photo: d. king  fyi: they make excellent cocktails.

The Moroccan-themed property was designed by legendary interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 designers in the world.  And it is simply put; stunning!  I mean these photos do not really do it complete justice.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

A combination of Bullard’s Moroccan-inspired influence and a mid-century vibe that is synonymous with the desert’s everlasting allure, the Sands Hotel & Spa is an exotic, luxurious and personalized take on hospitality. It caters to an adult only environment, therefore all registered guests must be over the age of 18.  I like that too.

Located in close proximity to the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens and glamorous El Paseo Shopping District as well as a short drive to Coachella Polo Grounds,  it features 46 guest rooms, the Pink Cabana restaurant and bar and a full-service spa.  It’s Fabulous darling!

And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’  Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

You can check out any time you like, But you don’t want to leave!

We were well taken care of.  Special thanks to Adam Ramirez; Guest Services Manager and Olivia Prescott; Director of Sales + Public Relations for making our stay extra special.  See you next time! XO

Visit: http://sandshotelandspa.com/

quotes: lyrics from Hotel California

Selfie at the Spa : d. king

EVEN in Eugene

A Happy Hotel

EVEN is the name of a new hotel concept by InterContinental Hotels Group which is marketed to travelers’ holistic wellness needs. It’s a hotel with a conscience. It was the first overnight stay on my drive from Vancouver to Palm Springs.  And it will be the last on my return.

My very first thought when I walked through the reception area was “they’re onto something.”

For a reasonably priced hotel they offer a lot.  Others should follow suit.  They set out to defy that travel needs to be a total disruption to your routine.  They give you choices designed to help you stay on track. You can rest easy, keep active, eat well all under one very well designed roof.

Photo: d. king

The rooms not only have natural eucalyptus fiber bedding which create a cooling effect to promote deeper sleep, they also have workout equipment inside each room.  Aside from a co-ed gym with cork flooring and fitness videos.  Bonus: you can also get Netflix in your room.

Photo: d. king

The room:

Photo: d. king

The restaurant offers delicious healthy calorie-counting options. You can count on it whether you want to or not.  Great cocktails too. Fresh squeezed orange juice and local organic coffee roasters make for a perfect morning start.

Photo: d. king

Stay hydrated with fill your bottle water options like lime/ginger + lemon/mint.

Photo: d. king

Did I mention the friendly, savvy hotel staff?

Not bad right?

Locations to date: New York, Washington, Miami, Sarasota, Fl., Eugene, Or., Seattle (new).  More to follow.

The writing’s on the wall.
Photo: d. king

Visit: https://www.ihg.com/evenhotels/hotels/us/en/reservation

 

 

 

Destination: Galiano

I can now cross Galiano Island off my places to go to list.  It was the only remaining one of all the gulf islands in British Columbia left for me to visit, and luckily the dogs and I were recently and happily invited to spend three nights at a beautiful ocean front home belonging to friends Joanne & Geoff who also happen to be our neighbours. They’ve been going for a number of years and now I understand why.  Their location is unrivaled but Galiano in general has such natural rocky beauty and there’s even a white sandy beach. It is referred to as the untamed Gulf Island and the wildest due to its mountainous geography, rare plant population and generous forest reserves. Plenty of wildlife too. It’s the closest to Vancouver of the southern group of Gulf Islands. Much of it is protected from development thanks to community initiatives from a tight knit group of concerned property owners.

Lunch and Dinner served outdoors with a view you can never tire of.

Galiano is also the driest in the gulf, getting more sunshine than the mainland and most of coastal B.C.  It comes with peaceful beaches, wooded trails, a nine-hole golf course, artists’ studios & galleries, marina and a world class restaurant in the forest. Oh the restaurant by the way deserves a separate mention. It was that good.  But unfortunately I cannot give you the secret recipe for Geoff’s special gin martinis on the rocks…..literally. We were sipping them on the rocks.

I had to take a photo of my bedroom. A little too hazy because of the wildfires to see the water, but the ocean is right outside the window.

And I will soon tell you about an upcoming workshop offered by Joanne, a life coach and our hostess with the mostest who makes a mean everything salad with goddess dressing.  With a background in the arts, Joanne is a founder of The Gulf Islands Film and Television School.  Her upcoming workshop along with co-facilitator Wendy Sidwell is not only very interesting but will prove to be very helpful to most individuals so stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

Destination: Mission Ranch, Carmel

The brochure perfectly describes it.  Ocean sunsets, sheep filled pastures, rocking chairs and award winning grounds.  Piles of pillows and a cozy fire.  Serenity and Relaxation.

Photo: d. king

On my side trip to Carmel I was taken to the charmingly historic Mission Ranch, one of the most spectacular spots on the Monterey Peninsula.  It is a sight to behold with meadows stretching to the south which join the wetlands and Carmel River Beach.  The exquisite views are unrivaled.  Point Lobos, a scenic coastal natural reserve featuring a variety of sea life, wildlife, hiking trails and a whaling museum can be seen in the distance across the bay. Mission ranch is a place unto itself but close enough to the town of Carmel-by-the sea.  You might just want to stay put because there’s also a great restaurant with a view and nightly live piano bar.  On Sundays their live jazz brunch was voted “best brunch” by local newspapers.

The truck was driven by Clint Eastwood for his role in Bridges of Madison County.  d. king

A little history:

In the 1850’s, the property became one of the first of the early California dairies.  The creamery, which supplied the county with cheese and butter, now houses the restaurant.  The barns were used for hay and milking.  The ranch has had some 17 owners.

The Ranch now encompasses 22 acres. Originally it consisted of 160 acres and was owned by Juan Romero, a Native American who is believed to have lived in the village next to the Carmel Mission.  In 1852 he deeded the property to William Curtis, a Monterey storekeeper, for $300.  The Martin family, who owned the Ranch for 60 years, also farmed potatoes for the Sierra gold miners.

The Ranch operated as a private club, an officers’ club for the Army and Navy during World War II.  At that time the windows were occasionally blackened against a possible Japanese landing.  It had a rollicking reputation, with dance bands and a lively bar scene.

In 1986 Clint Eastwood bought the Ranch, rescuing the property from an impending fate as a condominium development. Once again, Dirty Harry to the rescue! He sought out the best craftsmen for renovation, who have replicated moldings, door frames and hardware to match the style of the original buildings.  Each structure reflects a different architectural period: from the 1950’s feel of the restaurant and dance barn, to the century old Martin farmhouse.

The one time Bunkhouse is the oldest structure on the Ranch.  It’s nestled among historic cypress and eucalyptus trees, as well as newly planted gardens, which adorn the entire Ranch.

Sure beats the old bar he used to own in Carmel “Hog’s Breath Inn” although I’m told the artichoke soup is to die for.

Can’t wait to go back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel-good Friday: California Coasting

Monterey + Carmel

When the desert got too hot to handle I decided to stay a few nights with friends who live along the coast.

Top L (product logo from my friends company Reforestation Technologies International – RTi. They did the logo then by chance came across the same vintage truck shown on the logo which was for sale and bought it.  Top R (view from Sakura Japanese Restaurant in Monterey) Bottom L (their beautiful dogs Beau & Chase).  We want to live Carefree; at least that’s the intent. 

It had been several years since I’d been to Monterey and Carmel but I remember liking it a lot. There’s not much not to like about it.  For starters it’s pretty picturesque especially if you take the famous 17-Mile Drive to Pebble Beach, one of the most scenic drives in the world.  You twine through the impressive Del Monte Forest and take in the hypnotic coastline and golf’s greatest landmarks.  Which leads me (and everyone else who does the windy drive) to the beach town called Carmel-by-the-Sea.  The name has a nice ring to it don’t you think?

Top L, middle, R and bottom L taken at historic Mission Ranch (currently owned by Clint Eastwood). I will blog about this separately because it’s so deserving.  I’m standing by the truck Clint Eastwood drove in the movie Bridges of Madison County. Bottom middle taken at Cypress Inn (garden restaurant) owned by Doris Day.  Bottom R – Carmel’s never ending white sandy beach.  Ahhhh…

Carmel is a fairytale.  It’s known for museums, art galleries, a library and little cottages strewn along cobblestone streets.   Unique local shops and restaurants complete this charming village built on the Monterey Peninsula.  A great plus is it’s also dog friendly, even on the beach.  Thank you Doris Day. She was responsible for making Carmel doggy heaven here on earth.  One more reason to want to move there.

Five Fun Facts about Carmel

Clint Eastwood was once the mayor but it has been more than 30 years and visitors continue to ask Is Clint Eastwood still the mayor?

 No chain restaurants.

Whaaat? With no fast food restaurants the city’s enchanting eateries and tasting rooms offer a full range of cuisine and wine tasting all within walking distance from the over 40 hotels and inns.

I love this one: No street addresses. Unwilling to see their village become citified, Carmel’s founding fathers rejected the practice house- to-house mail delivery in favor of a central post office. To this day, there are still no addresses, parking meters or street lights, and no sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area. Those seeking directions receive hints such as fifth house on the east side of Torres Street, green trim, driftwood fence or by the legendary names adorning most houses, such as Hansel or Sea Urchin. It is, by the way, bad luck to change the name on a Carmel cottage.  And why would you?  Afterall I want to be Carefree .

There used to be an unusual law of prohibiting selling and eating ice cream on public streets.  In 1986 Clint Eastwood and the new council elected along with him, overturned the ordinance and other similar laws that they considered to be too restrictive to businesses and visitors. Dirty Harry to the rescue!

This is the best:

You need a permit to wear high heels?

Though often mistakenly thought of as an urban myth, the municipal code of Carmel bans wearing shoes having heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them. While the local police do not cite those in violation of the ordinance, this seemingly peculiar law was authored by the city attorney in 1963 to defend the city from lawsuits resulting from wearers of high-heeled shoes tripping over irregular pavement distorted by tree roots. Permits are available without charge at City Hall.

Whew!  I was worried for a sec.  But for safety purposes I’ll definitely carry a measuring tape in my bag.

Images: d. king (except for the one I’m in – someone else took that).