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NEW Chef-Led Culinary Cycling Tour of Sicily Announced by Tourissimo

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by Sophie Ibbotson

(Turin, Italy) — Tourissimo is thrilled to announce a NEW culinary cycling tour of Sicily being led by two different celebrity chefs. Chef Mary Sue Milliken, a James Beard and Julia Child Award-winning chef, cookbook author, activist, and media personality best known for her modern Mexican concept, is back for her seventh tour with Tourissimo. She will be accompanied by her friend, Chef Bob Blumer, Food Network TV host, author, artist, and eight-time Guinness World Record holder. Guests will spend seven days cycling their way through the heart of Southeast Sicily, a seductive and bold region, where every pedal stroke includes a gastronomic journey that mirrors the island’s vibrant cultural tapestry. The tour is scheduled for May 26 – June 1, 2024, and starts at $5,495 per person double. That rate includes bicycles, meals, accommodations, and activities. Non-cyclists are welcome, and e-bikes (pedal-assisted system) are available.

“As you explore the enchanting eastern provinces of Siracusa and Ragusa, let the aromas and tastes of Sicily’s distinct cuisine be your muse and our guest chefs be your expert eye,” said Beppe Salerno, Co-Founder of Tourissimo.

While this region is celebrated for its Baroque and Norman architecture, artistic heritage, and intellectual contributions, it’s the food that truly steals the show. Sicilian cuisine is a delightful blend of influences from Phoenicians, Greeks, Moors, Arabs, and Normans, creating a unique culinary tradition. Citrus, wild fennel, resins, and pine nuts, to name a few, make any dish distinctively Sicilian. Sicily is also a wine-lover’s paradise with 23 DOC zones, offering a wide variety, complexity, and abundance of Bacchus’ unique gift.

“Picture yourself dining under the Sicilian sun, indulging in dishes that showcase the island’s bounty – ripe tomatoes, succulent eggplants, and artichokes bursting with flavor,” said Tourissimo Co-Founder, Heather Dowd. “Seafood takes center stage, reflecting the island’s proximity to pristine waters. And, of course, no Sicilian feast is complete without an abundance of pasta and the finest olive oil.”

But this tour isn’t only about exquisite cuisine; it’s a holistic experience. Guests will cycle through landscapes adorned with rolling hills and vineyards, coastlines kissed by aquamarine waters, and ancient sites steeped in history. The guest chefs will play a vital role in understanding the local productions and the preparations that better tell the story of the territory.

“Immerse yourself in Sicily’s past and present, where every turn of the pedal unveils not only stunning vistas but also the authentic and mouthwatering essence of this captivating island,” said Salerno. “Join us on a journey where each taste tells a story, and every flavor is a piece of Sicily’s unparalleled culinary heritage.”

Highlights

  • Delve into the diversity of Sicilian cuisine (a cultural crossroads)
  • Explore Scicli, Ragusa, Modica, and Noto (UNESCO World Heritage Sites)
  • Savor breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Enjoy an authentic Sicilian cooking class
  • Tour of Ragusa (a Baroque gem)
  • Visit producers and tastings including olive oil, almonds and almond milk (Slow Food presidium), DOP cheese, fruits and vegetables not found in continental Italy
  • Ride the scenic farmland of the southern island dotted by historical sites
  • Learn how and why the Mediterranean Diet (an intangible UNESCO Cultural Heritage) blends with Arab and Moorish Flavors

About Tourissimo: We are Italy experts and have several decades of combined experience in all facets of the adventure travel industry.  We came together to combine our strengths and focus on what we do best: create and operate tour programs that showcase the best of Italy. In addition to offering fixed departures in some of Italy’s most enchanting areas, we work with tour operators, travel agents and group leaders to provide high-quality, intelligently designed and exciting custom itineraries all over the country.

This is a brand-new Chef Bike Tour itinerary. Back in 2018, Mary Sue was our guest chef on the western side of Sicily, and now she is back to cover the rest of the island. Non-riders are welcome. E-bikes are available.

www.tourissimo.travel

Timeless Elegance in Barcelona

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Stepping into the grand lobby of El Palace Barcelona together, we were immediately wrapped in an atmosphere of elegance and history that promised an unforgettable couples’ retreat. The hotel, with its stunning marble floors, majestic chandeliers, and warm, intimate welcome, felt like a portal to another era, a place where luxury and romance have danced together since its opening in 1919. This iconic establishment, which has played host to countless discerning travelers over the years, seemed to welcome us into its storied fold with open arms.

Our room was a testament to the perfect blend of classic elegance and modern amenities, designed to provide an enclave of comfort and luxury for us to retreat to. The high ceilings, plush furnishings, and rich textiles made it a sanctuary where we could unwind together, surrounded by the kind of attention to detail—from bespoke linens to state-of-the-art entertainment systems—that spoke of a commitment to excellence we both deeply appreciated.

Waking up to our first morning, we indulged in a breakfast experience at the Garden, a serene oasis that felt a world away from the bustling city outside. The gourmet selection of local and international delicacies was presented with creativity and care, setting an exquisite tone for the day ahead.

Eager to explore the architectural marvels of Barcelona, we took advantage of a private guided tour arranged by the hotel. Walking hand in hand through the Gothic Quarter, gazing up in awe at the Sagrada Familia, and meandering through the whimsical pathways of Park Güell, we were immersed in the rich tapestry of art and history that defines this vibrant city. With Gaudí’s masterpieces as our backdrop, every moment felt like stepping through a living museum, a shared journey of discovery that brought us even closer.

Returning to El Palace in the afternoon, we were drawn to the tranquility of the Mayan Luxury Spa. Choosing treatments that promised relaxation and revitalization, we found ourselves enveloped in a ritual that was both ancient and luxuriously modern, emerging feeling renewed and deeply connected.

Dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Amar Barcelona, was a highlight of our stay, a culinary journey that celebrated the rich tapestry of Catalan cuisine with innovative twists and global influences. Overseen by chef Rafa Zafra, each dish was a discovery, paired with selections from an expertly curated wine list that elevated our meal into an unforgettable dining experience.

The leisurely pace of our second day allowed us to savor the luxury that is El Palace Barcelona. A late breakfast in bed, a leisurely afternoon by the rooftop pool overlooking the city and the sea, and a sunset yacht charter arranged by the hotel’s concierge—it all felt like a dream crafted just for us, complete with champagne and canapés against the backdrop of the Mediterranean.

Our evenings were spent enveloped in the sophisticated charm of the Bluesman Cocktail Bar, where the live jazz and expertly crafted cocktails provided the perfect soundtrack to our nights, encapsulating the golden age of jazz and the timeless romance of Barcelona.

As our stay drew to a close, we found ourselves lingering over breakfast, not wanting to leave the cocoon of luxury and shared memories that El Palace Barcelona had woven around us. More than just a hotel, it had been our gateway to an experience that transcended the ordinary, leaving us with a longing to return before we had even departed. From the impeccable service to the exquisite surroundings, our time here was not just a journey into the heart of Barcelona’s grandeur but a celebration of love, culture, and the art of travel itself.

Sidebar on Suites:

Signature Suites at El Palace Barcelona:

A Haven of Luxury

El Palace Barcelona, a landmark of luxury and history, offers an array of signature suites that serve as the epitome of opulence and comfort. Each suite is a testament to the hotel’s commitment to elegance, blending classic design with modern luxuries to create unique spaces that cater to the discerning tastes of its guests. Here’s a closer look at the exceptional experiences these suites offer:

The Salvador Dalí Suites

Named after the illustrious surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, who was known to frequent the hotel, these suites embody a blend of artistic flair and luxurious comfort. Featuring unique decor that pays homage to Dalí’s creative genius, guests can immerse themselves in a space that feels both inspiringly artistic and comfortably lavish. With spacious living areas, stunning views of the city, and bespoke furnishings, these suites offer a truly unique stay.

There are a multitude of signature suites, but the one which stand out for us was the Josephine Baker Suite…

The Josephine Baker Suite at El Palace Barcelona

El Palace Barcelona pays tribute to the legendary entertainer and civil rights icon Josephine Baker with its exclusive Josephine Baker Suite. This suite captures the essence of Baker’s dynamic spirit and her glamorous, trailblazing lifestyle, offering guests a unique blend of history, luxury, and style.

Design and Decor

Inspired by the Jazz Age glamor that Josephine Baker epitomized, the suite is a harmonious blend of Art Deco elegance and contemporary comfort. The decor reflects the sophistication and allure of the 1920s and 1930s, with luxurious fabrics, bold geometric patterns, and a palette that mirrors the classic elegance of that era. Every detail, from the furniture to the artworks, has been thoughtfully chosen to evoke the ambiance of the period, creating an immersive experience for guests.

Features and Amenities

The Josephine Baker Suite offers an expansive layout that includes a sumptuous bedroom, a lavish living area, and a sleek, modern bathroom equipped with high-end amenities. The suite’s highlights include a state-of-the-art entertainment system, a fully stocked minibar, and bespoke toiletries. Large windows afford panoramic views of Barcelona, filling the suite with natural light and connecting guests to the vibrant energy of the city.

Exclusive Services

Guests of the Josephine Baker Suite enjoy a range of exclusive services designed to provide an unparalleled stay. This includes personalized concierge service to cater to every desire, from arranging private city tours to securing reservations at Barcelona’s top dining establishments. Additionally, suite guests can avail themselves of private butler service, ensuring that every aspect of their stay is seamless and luxurious.

A Tribute to a Legend

Staying in the Josephine Baker Suite is not just about experiencing the height of luxury; it’s also a homage to Baker’s remarkable life and legacy. The suite serves as a reminder of her impact on the arts and her tireless advocacy for civil rights, making it an inspiring space for guests who appreciate history, culture, and the power of an individual to make a difference.

The Josephine Baker Suite at El Palace Barcelona offers a unique opportunity to step back in time to the Jazz Age, enveloped in the luxury and style that defined Josephine Baker’s life. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking an accommodation experience that combines opulent comfort with a rich historical narrative.

Gastronomic Gallivants: Hostal de la Gavina Spain

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By Sophie Ibbotson

Not too long ago I was told that Girona is the gastronomic capital of Costa Brava, the southeastern coast of Spain. But though that might be true, bigger does not always mean better: sometimes the best food is not to be found in the city but tucked away in a village or small town. The resort of S’Agaró is a case in point: if you are planning a culinary adventure in Catalonia, by all means visit Girona, but then head to Hostal de la Gavina overlooking the Bay of Sant Pol, a 30-minute drive south of Girona.

As you approach Hostal de la Gavina, the proximity of the sea grabs your attention. The sea spray and the breeze cool the air, and the turquoise blue of the water and the gentle sound of waves crashing soothes the mind. This grand old hotel, one of Europe’s finest, has stood here for generations, its gardens growing up around the buildings and creating a green oasis on the coast.  The hotel is intimate enough to feel like a family home, albeit one which has always been the favorite retreat of politicians, film stars, artists, and socialites, but wandering in these expansive grounds you can always find space to be alone. And if you do want to stretch your legs further, the Cami di Ronda coastal path is on your doorstep.

Days typically revolve around meals, not exercise, however. The hotel’s gastronomic delights deter guests from straying too far. Breakfast is on the terrace, lunch by the pool or on the beach, cocktails and snacks are in the garden, and come dusk you will want to dress elegantly for dinner in Candlelight by Romain Fornell.

Having stayed for a long weekend at Hostal de la Gavina and thoroughly indulged, three culinary experiences stand out. The food, atmosphere, and surroundings were distinct, but what they share in common is the freshness of the ingredients, the attention to detail of the chefs, and the extremely high level of service from the waiting staff.

Candlelight by Romain Fornell is Hostal de la Gavina’’s flagship restaurant, a carefully designed space spilling out from the hotel’s main building onto an outdoor terrace whenever the weather is warm enough. And on a balmy September evening, I had no need for a jacket or wrap. Although there is a choice of dishes, opt for a set menu with wine pairings, as the chef and sommelier have worked together  to curate an exquisite combination of flavors that even the most passionate food and wine lover is unlikely to be able to match. The dishes almost looked too good to eat.

But at Candlelight, the food and wine are only half the experience; the rest is the ambience. A talented pianist performed a medley of classical, jazz, and pop favorites, and the music and star-studded sky above created such a romantic atmosphere that one couple left their meal between courses to dance passionately on the patio. I have two left feet and an attention-shy partner, else I’d have been up there too.

For something a little more casual the following day, we dined at Gavina Terrace, a patio restaurant spreading out into the gardens. There is an excellent menu of local wines, including sparkling Cava, and dishes are served tapas style. Spain is renowned for its small plates, and rightly so. It is one of my favorite ways to dine as between two people you can try half a dozen dishes or more. With the sea so close by, it would have been a crime not to opt for the seafood, but the stand-out dish for me was small artichokes lightly battered and fried, dipped in garlic aioli. The fiery tang of the chorizo made quite an impression, too. As we ate and drank, slowly over several hours, we chatted in a relaxed fashion and people-watched. Hostal de la Gavina is a popular location for weddings, and one lucky couple were tying the knot in the gardens that night.

As an Englishwoman abroad, I associate seaside restaurants with fish and chips (fries), especially when from the window you are watching children building sandcastles and splashing in the sea, their mothers sunbathing and casually watching on. But at Taverna del Mar, a short walk away from the hotel on the beachfront, I was in for a surprise. The crisp blue and white interior, though faintly nautical in theme, was the first clue that this was something higher end. The second clue was that the waiter wheeled past a fish trolley. If there was a menu, I did not see it: it is far more rewarding to pick the exact fish or shellfish you want to eat from the morning’s catch.

We popped the cork on a bottle of sparkling wine and started munching our way through a bowl of mixed local olives whilst the waiter talked us through the fish on a bed of ice. The huge prawns and sea bass were easily identifiable; species like the sea urchin, less so. I was enthralled, and had no idea that you can catch great big tuna off the southern coast of Spain. There was a strong temptation to order everything, but with a sigh I passed responsibility for decision making to the chef, asking that he simply prepare a selection of whatever he thought was best that day. As with the set menu at Candlelight, it was the right decision. The chefs are the experts, after all.

The highlight of this lunch was the salt crusted sea bass. It arrived on a platter, the rough sea salt piled high in a mound. Skilfully, the waiter carved through the salt, making a satisfying crunching sound. Removing the top layer, he revealed the creamy white fish inside, soft and lightly cooked to perfection. Despite its outer casing, the taste of the salt wasn’t overly strong; it was just a faint reminder of the sea. I did ask for it with a portion of fries, but they were crisp and a deep, glorious gold color, nothing like the limp seaside fare wrapped in paper that I would have got at home. 

I am increasingly of the mind that, as in Italy, there is no such thing as a bad meal in Spain. But there is still a wide canyon between a good meal and an unforgettable one, and the delightful thing about Hostal de la Gavina is that it delivers the latter time after time.

www.lagavina.com

Luxury Inn Mendocino

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Nestled along the rugged coastline of Mendocino, California, the Brewery Gulch Inn stands as a beacon of luxury, offering a haven for those seeking an escape from the ordinary.

My recent long weekend at this enchanting retreat was nothing short of a symphony of indulgence and relaxation.

As I approached the inn, a sense of tranquility washed over me. The architecture seamlessly blended with the surrounding redwoods, creating a harmonious connection with nature. The scent of the Pacific Ocean lingered in the air, adding an extra layer of coastal charm to the experience.

Stepping into the inn felt like entering a realm of refined elegance. The warm hues of the wood-paneled walls, coupled with tasteful artwork, created an inviting ambiance. The attention to detail was evident in every corner, from the carefully selected furnishings to the strategically placed vases of fresh flowers.

The accommodations were a testament to the inn’s commitment to luxury. My room, adorned with plush linens and antique furnishings, offered a cocoon of comfort. A private terrace provided breathtaking views of the ocean, setting the stage for serene moments of reflection as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Dining at the Brewery Gulch Inn was unique. The evening menu changes frequently and is based on freshly sourced ingredients; hence the fluidity. Guests enjoy wine and beer, also local, as they enjoy a culinary treat that the inn does not refer to as dinner — yet it is heavy enough to be called just that. This evening gathering brings guests together through local flavors and global influences that are quite often the topic of conversation.

One of the highlights of my stay was sipping on rare vintages while overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Since the inn is close to a multitude of wineries, we were spoiled for choice. This activity made for unforgettable evenings, where time seemed to stand still.

For those seeking relaxation, the inn’s spa facilities provided the perfect sanctuary. Indulgent massages and rejuvenating treatments offered a blissful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The serene atmosphere of the spa, coupled with the skilled therapists, transported me to a state of pure serenity.

Exploring the surroundings of Mendocino was a delightful adventure. The inn’s proximity to the coastline allowed for leisurely strolls along pristine beaches, where the crashing waves provided a soothing soundtrack. The nearby redwood forests offered a chance to connect with nature, the towering trees standing as silent witnesses to centuries of tranquility.

As I reluctantly bade farewell to Brewery Gulch Inn, I couldn’t help but reflect on the magical moments that defined my long weekend. The seamless blend of luxury, natural beauty, and impeccable hospitality had created an experience that transcended the ordinary. Mendocino’s hidden gem had left an indelible mark, and I departed with a heart full of memories and a promise to return to this haven of coastal splendor.

A Retreat to Remember: Discovering Bliss at UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge

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Nestled in the mountains of Southern California…

lies a serene destination known as UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge. Recently opened to the public, it was here that my friend Lisa and I embarked on a remarkable journey, immersing ourselves in the beauty of nature while being graciously hosted on this iconic retreat that would serve as our sanctuary for the next few days. Join us as we explore the enchanting UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge, experiencing its breathtaking surroundings, embracing its warm hospitality, and creating memories that would forever hold a special place in our hearts.

The dense forests and shimmering lake…

provided a stunning backdrop, setting the stage for an unforgettable experience. Approaching the lodge, we marveled at its rustic elegance, embraced by the crisp and beautiful surroundings. The UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge emerged in the distance, a charming retreat of alpine-inspired architecture. The true essence lies not only in its picturesque landscapes but also in its warm hospitality. From the moment we set foot into the lodge, we were greeted with genuine smiles, ensuring that our stay would be nothing short of extraordinary. The comfort of our accommodations, along with the impeccable service, made us feel truly at home. The staff, always attentive and friendly, went above and beyond, ensuring that every need was met, making our experience even more memorable. After settling into our two-story cozy chalet nestled amidst towering trees, we breathed in the crisp mountain air, and joined our group for a sunset cruise on the lake.  Golden rays of sunlight spilling behind the mountains. The serene lake shimmered in the gentle breeze, quite yet perfect. As we glided across the lake’s surface, we couldn’t help but be captivated by the beauty of the surrounding homes, nature’s masterpiece adorning the lakesides. Our guides gave us insight on the who’s who of the town and the famous names who have lived and filmed movies at the lake.  Watching the sun tuck behind the mountains was not far from magical.

During our stay…

at UCLA’s Lake Arrowhead Lodge, the plant based meals at the Lodge not only catered to dietary preferences, but also painted an encompassing and enjoyable experience for all palates. The variety of meals exhibited unparalleled culinary brilliance. The freshness and tastiness of our meals were simply extraordinary.   The vegetables embodied a baseline of natural, enriching taste – whether baked, sautéed, or served raw in a light salad. Indulgence like risotto, were topped with a medley of mushrooms, simmered in light, savory sauce that caused a joyful dance of flavors on the tongue. My favorite and most memorable dish was the Chickpea Curry, impeccably prepared and seasoned, offering a hearty balance to the light yet refreshing soup starter.  The cuisine was one of the best parts to experience at the lodge.  We enjoyed buffet style for breakfast and lunch and a plated dinner, always accompanied by a variety of healthy and flavorful options to select from.

UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge offers a myriad of activities, enticing us to explore and create lasting memories. A state of the art Pickle Ball court, hiking trails through the property made for a fun yet challenging adventure, specifically “Cardio Hill”, right outside our chalet.  Lisa enjoyed pushing herself and completing the ropes course climbing session, an obstacle course used for team building and pushing yourself past your mental and physical limits.

While adventures filled our days, moments of relaxation and connection were equally cherished.  The craft chocolate wine pairing and education was an activity to remember. The lodge’s communal spaces provided a tranquil setting to unwind and connect with fellow guests. Fireside chats at the fire pits, making smores created a warm and inviting ambiance. Connecting and rejuvenating were one of our main goals we wanted to get from our stay, and that is exactly what we received.

Evenings at the lodge…

held their own magic. The chill in the air embraced us as we settled down to our chalet’s crackling fireplace, sharing our experience and laughter while sipping on steaming mugs of hot tea from the lobby’s  24 hour self service drink station. The scent of toasted marshmallows lingered, a sweet reminder of the cozy fireside moments we cherished. As darkness blanketed, we walked to the main lawn, gazed up at a sky filled with stars, their twinkling luminescence creating a dreamlike atmosphere.

The next day was filled with wellness activities and mindfulness practices, accompanied by the perfect setting of the mountains, lake, and nature surrounding us.  We started our second day with yoga on the Zen Deck, overlooking the tree scape and the lake.  The perfect way to start off the calm day in the mountains. The transformative mindfulness walk to one of the oldest trees on the property  was the best experience of the day, guided by wellness coach Anne Fernandez.  The poolside social was special with the fresh watermelon cocktails hosted by the amazing lodge management team.

We couldn’t help but reflect on the transformative experience we had encountered. As we woke up to the most beautiful sunrise the next day, we savored our last breakfast, we gazed upon the serene lake one last time. A source of inspiration and solace our new sanctuary, to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Our journey to UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge was nothing short of enchanting. With gratitude in our hearts, we bid farewell to the marvelous lodge and welcoming staff, forever grateful for the haven provided to us.  Every moment was a testament to the power of retreat and rejuvenation. UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge not only provided a haven amidst nature’s greatness but also reminded us of the importance of connection and reflection. As we departed, we carried with us a renewed sense of peace, gratitude, and memories that would forever remain etched in our minds. UCLA Lake Arrowhead Lodge has truly left an indelible mark on our souls, reminding us of the profound impact that nature, great food and heartfelt hospitality can have upon our lives.

For more history and details visit www.lakearrowheadlodge.com

Swellegant Stays: Tsinandali Estate, Georgia

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If your three loves in life are fine wine, great food, and imaginative design, you need to make a pilgrimage to Tsinandali, an historic estate in the Kakheti Region of Georgia.

Nestled in the shadow of the Caucasus Mountains, this is the birthplace of wine. After making 8,000 vintages, Georgian winemakers have certainly mastered their art. Tsinandali has played a critical role in Georgia’s wine journey: owner Prince Alexander Chavchavadze introduced European winemaking techniques to Georgia some 200 years ago, and was the first to bottle wines. His wine collection is still on show in the estate’s chateau-museum, you can tour the vineyard and modern winery, and at the end of the day, you can treat yourself to a tasting at Gaumarjos Wine Bar.

It is no wonder that this location was chosen for an exclusive Radisson Collection Hotel. The scenery is lush, history seeps from every nearby monument, and the estate has a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere. The architects and interior and lighting designers, including the world-famous Ingo Maurer, were also given enough space and free rein to create an iconic building with an unexpectedly modern design, with a jaw-droppingly beautiful spa. They have also created accompanying events venues which attract some of the top live performers from Georgia and abroad. The annual Tsinandali Festival which takes place here every summer is a highlight of the cultural calendar.

Eating and drinking is a major part of Tsinandali’s draw, especially at the Radisson. One night you might enjoy a supra — the legendary Georgian feast — prepared by Silk Hospitality’s brand chef Irakli Asatiani; and the following day you might opt for a casual degustation in the vineyard, or an intimate private dinner in the Mystery Room. The ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal, and Georgian cuisine deserves to be recognised alongside the great cuisines of the world for the freshness and variety of its flavors. Once you have tasted a khachapuri, Georgia’s unbeatable, cheese, cream, and egg-filled bread, a pizza will never again hit the spot. It is the kind of dish which dreams are made of.

www.tsinandaliestate.ge

Swellegant Stays: Little River Inn – Little River, California

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In the heart of the picturesque Mendocino coast, the Little River Inn stands as a beacon of swellegant charm, offering an enchanting retreat for those seeking a taste of coastal elegance. My recent stay at this timeless inn was a journey back in time.

The inn’s exterior exuded classic coastal charm, with its white clapboard facade framed by colorful gardens. As I approached, the scent of saltwater mingled with the sweet fragrance of blooming flowers, setting the stage for the refined atmosphere and sense of place that is the Little River Inn.

Upon entering the lobby, I was immediately struck by the inn’s timeless charm. The warm tones of wood and the subtle coastal hues created an inviting ambiance. Antique furnishings and tasteful artwork adorned the common spaces, hinting at the inn’s rich history and commitment to timeless elegance.

My accommodations were a sanctuary of comfort and style. The room, with its plush linens and thoughtfully chosen decor, offered a perfect blend of modern amenities and classic charm. A private balcony provided panoramic views of the rugged coastline, inviting moments of quiet contemplation as the waves crashed against the cliffs below.

Dining at the Little River Inn was a culinary journey that celebrated the bounty of the region. The inn’s restaurant offered exquisite meals prepared with locally sourced ingredients. Each dish was a testament to the chef’s dedication to showcasing the flavors of Mendocino, from succulent seafood to fresh produce harvested from nearby farms.

One of the highlights of my stay was the inn’s commitment to recreation. The on-site golf course, with its breathtaking views of the Pacific, offered a leisurely way to spend an afternoon.

Exploring the surroundings of Mendocino was a delight, with the inn’s convenient location allowing for easy access to trails and charming boutiques. The nearby Russian Gulch State Park provided an opportunity to immerse myself in the natural beauty of the area, with towering redwoods and cascading waterfalls creating a serene backdrop for exploration.

I carry with me the memories of a swellegant stay that transcended the ordinary. The inn’s timeless charm, coupled with its commitment to warm hospitality, created an experience that will linger in my heart.

www.littleriverinn.com

San Francisco Hits the Mark – Time and Time Again

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Nob Hill is the highest point near downtown San Francisco, built atop its summit on the 19th floor of The InterContinental Mark Hopkins, is their sky lounge, The Top of the Mark, and as I take in one of the world’s most famous panoramas from inside what has been a literal Must See Venue for 75 years, The Top of The Mark’s spectacular wraparound windows frame the Golden Gate and and Bay Bridges, Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, and the shopping and open spaces of Union Square, and save the bridges, all are in walking distance. My outdoors view, especially the skyscrapers and the engineering marvels that are the bridges are wonderful contrasts to the interior, where the Top of the Mark’s old world wood and wrought-iron charm speak or craftsmen from a bygone time.

Through this blend of past and present I see my future, and that future is dinner at 7, downstairs at the Intercontinental’s Nob Hill Club. Meals are available at the Top of The Mark, by special arrangement only, so I arranged one up here for tomorrow when in addition to my meal, light appetizers and desserts will be served. Those take placein the evenings with Nick Rossi and his Swing Four playing live on the first Saturday of each month.

As I step from the elevator, on the far side of the lobby are two historic ballrooms, 4,400 square feet and 2,128 square feet, painstakingly redesigned in 2022 reviving their perennial blend of sophisticated elegance and modern comfort now convey their rich history with the glamour and glitz of vintage San Francisco, but I turn right and am seated at my dinner table in the Nob Hill Club, a shared space restaurant, bar, grab and go, with Club InterContinental ® Lounge posing another iconic setting of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins, this one at ground-level where locally-sourced ingredients drive the seasonal menus and California-centric wine list highlights Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and Alameda Counties.

Beyond dinner hours, The Club InterContinental ® Lounge is particularly convenient, opening at 6:30 daily with a la-carte breakfast and available to guests with a 1 O’Clock late check  out, have continued access to the Lounge until their departure.

I rode the cable car back to the hotel after a day out exploring the city and popped upstairs to find turndown service complete, not hungry enough for room service I pour a glass of red from my welcome basket of fresh fruit and wine.  Mine and the other Full-sized suites on this floor have an enclosed sunroom with wonderful exposures, especially for the stretch of cloudless days that made this weekend by The Bay even more enjoyable. And as it was at The Top of The Mark, the interior’s wonderful appointments and local original art are exactly what a seasoned traveler expects from an InterContinental.

My bed’s a king but double-doubles are an option and like mine, all 26 Full-sized suites and rooms in the Club Category are fitted with flat-screen televisions in living and sleeping areas, with complimentary access to breakfast at Club Intercontinental, for guests not in a suite, that service is available as an add-on.

As wonderful as my Full Sized Suite’s accommodation is, the Mark Hopkins offers another level, their Luxury Suites, and the Nob Hill suite is an exemplar. The building’s French Chateau and Spanish Renaissance architectural style  allow the shape and size of its suites’ physically larger windows and their placement along one of two sides of the building’s central arch, referred to as the hotel’s “arms” lent the designer freedom to present expansive views. And even with the view in mind, the suite’s interior impresses with 1,100 square feet of home away from home, or as guests may call it, home suite home away from home. The Nob Hill Suite offers choice: Either 24-hour laundry, and in-room dining for breakfast and dinner or self sufficiency, there’s a washer-dryer, full kitchen, walk-in closet, daily turndown service.

So as I reflect on my time at The Mark Hopkins InterContinental, I’m reminded the more things change, , the more they stay the same, with service, luxury and comfort watchwords at The Mark Hopkins.

www.sfmarkhopkins.com

Winery Rundown – Mendocino’s wine scene is intoxicating

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Nestled in the bucolic beauty of Mendocino, Lula Cellars and Father & Daughter Cellars beckon wine connoisseurs on an exquisite journey through the region’s vinicultural treasures. Here’s the inside scoop:

Lula Cellars: A Symphony of Sustainably Crafted Elegance

Lula Cellars, a hidden jewel in the Mendocino wine scene, seamlessly blends luxury with a commitment to sustainable practices. The winery, surrounded by rolling hills and ancient redwoods, offers a serene escape for those seeking an intimate and sophisticated tasting experience.

The architecture of Lula Cellars’ estate is a harmonious fusion of contemporary design and rustic charm. The tasting room, which is exclusively outside, is a unique experience in and of itself.  The location provides breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards and pond. As you enter, oak barrels are repurposed as part of the decor hinting at the promise of carefully crafted wines.

It’s not just the location of the tasting room that sets Lula Cellars apart. Its dedication to sustainability is visible throughout the estate, ensuring that each vintage reflects the pure essence of Mendocino’s terroir. The result is a portfolio of wines that captivate the palate, from the crisp Chardonnays to the award-winning Pinot Noirs, each bottle telling a story of its environment and unparalleled craftsmanship..as any good wine should.

Visitors to Lula Cellars are treated to tastings led by a knowledgeable team. The experience extends beyond the glass as guests are invited to explore the vineyards that define Lula Cellars’ commitment to a swanky wine list. It’s a short hike from the tasting table to the rows of grapes that create the final elixir.

www.lulacellars.com

Fathers & Daughters Cellars: A Heritage of Love and Tradition

A short drive away, Fathers & Daughters Cellars stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of familial passion for winemaking. This boutique Cellars, rooted in tradition and familial ties, invites guests to savor the essence of Mendocino through its exceptional wines.

The tasting room at Fathers & Daughters Cellars is also outside, but there is a massive twist. With a name that exudes warmth and heritage, one may envision an oaky room adorned with family artifacts and the unmistakable aroma of aging barrels. That’s where this story takes a turn (and a climb and a few twists) up to the hilltop overlooking the vineyard and the valley. Taste at the Top, as their appointment only tastings are called, offer a dramatic scenic overlook. As one sips…every bottle is a testament to the family’s dedication to crafting wines of distinction. From the elegant Sauvignon Blanc to the bright Rose of Zinfandel, each varietal reflects the artistry and expertise that encircles this family vineyard that is intended to be handed down through generations to come.

The personalized touch at Fathers & Daughters Cellars extends to vineyard tours led by the winemaker and family, if you get so lucky to find them all in the same place at the same time. Guests are welcomed into the heart of the winemaking process, gaining insights into the meticulous care that goes into producing wines that stand as a true expression of the family’s love for the craft.

For those seeking a swanky retreat in Mendocino, Lula Cellars and Fathers & Daughters Cellars offer an unparalleled immersion into the region’s vinicultural excellence. Each sip is an invitation to indulge in the artistry and heritage that define these boutique wineries, creating an unforgettable escape for the wine enthusiast with an appreciation for luxury and tradition.

www.fanddcellars.com

Can You Canoe?

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Embarking on an adventure vacation in Mendocino is incomplete without the unique offerings of Catch A Canoe. Here’s why this outdoor haven should be a must-visit on your next escapade to the region:

Scenic Exploration:

Catch A Canoe provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore the stunning landscapes of Mendocino, particularly along the pristine Big River. Paddle in their distinctive canoes, immersing yourself in the beauty of towering redwoods, lush forests, and the serene waters, creating an unforgettable backdrop for your adventure.

Versatile Outdoor Activities:

Whether you’re an avid kayaker, a leisurely canoe enthusiast, or a biking aficionado, Catch A Canoe caters to a variety of outdoor interests. From peaceful paddling experiences to invigorating bike rides, there’s an activity for every adventurer, ensuring you can tailor your experience to match your preferred level of excitement.

Environmental Stewardship:

Catch A Canoe is committed to environmental sustainability. The eco-friendly redwood outrigger canoes are designed to minimize their impact on the environment, allowing you to explore nature responsibly. This commitment to conservation aligns with the values of travelers who appreciate businesses dedicated to preserving the beauty of the destinations they serve.

Memorable Experiences for All Skill Levels:

Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or a beginner looking to try something new, Catch A Canoe caters to all skill levels. The calm waters of Big River provide a welcoming environment for beginners, while the more adventurous can opt for longer paddles or challenging bike trails, ensuring everyone can participate and enjoy the experience.

Enhanced Vacation Experience:

Adding Catch A Canoe to your adventure vacation itinerary enhances your overall experience of Mendocino. It offers a unique perspective of the region, allowing you to create memories that go beyond the typical tourist experience and providing a sense of accomplishment as you navigate the picturesque waterways and trails.

Incorporating Catch A Canoe into your Mendocino adventure vacation promises not only exhilarating outdoor activities but also a deep connection with the natural beauty that makes this coastal destination so captivating. It’s an opportunity to explore, unwind, and create lasting memories in one of California’s most enchanting settings.

www.catchacanoe.com

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