The Farmhouse Inn

Due to the distance, The Farmhouse Inn doesn’t quite fall into a ‘StayCation’, however with their winter and early spring one night stay policy, it could easily fall into a StayCation location!

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The Farmhouse Inn Suite

As you must know, most wine country properties have strict two night minimums and strict cancel policies. These policies don’t leave much room for an impromptu impulsive getaway.

Voted #1 Best Resort Hotel in California and #12 Best Hotel in the World by Travel & Leisure 2016. This little gem is a marvelous escape and just a bit over 2 hours from the peninsula. I’ve loved our rainy weather, however the combination of a flooded street, a leaky roof and a power outage inspired me to seek relief as soon as the sun popped out for a few days.

Driving toward Healdsburg, we stopped for cappuccinos in Marin; we plotted the retail therapy along the route as we passed each small town – resisting a bit, our mantra became – let’s check out the luxury Farmhouse Inn and if it doesn’t pass muster, we can continue on to St. Helena for gallery browsing.

Enter the cozy reception building and the congenial staff inquired: can we offer you a glass of wine, water or coffee? Did we appear to be woeful bedraggled travelers? One glance and mind reading: we’ve reached the oasis and we are staying! Gracious hospitality, the arrival, as you know is my personal aphorism. Set the stage and everything else should fall into place, lesson one in the hospitality handbook!

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The Farmhouse Inn

Bellman appears with a quaint farm wagon – yes, one must have options, so a small wagon is required even for an overnight stay…there’s dinner, hiking, swimming, spa attire, one must have choices. Dear Daniel, managed to schlep the bags upstairs without any effort.

Outside reception, the pool terrace beckoned, the winter afternoon sunshine perfectly slanted to warm up the loungers, we succumbed to the view of ancient redwood trees and curled up. Have you ever noticed that a pool and a lounger are the perfect medium to a quick snooze? Catnapping is a gift of the gods.

The Farmhouse Inn Spa

Awakened only by the unexpected chill as the sun dropped behind the steep hill, a natural alarm clock for spa appointments. Mosey to the adjacent Carriage House Spa, wine in hand. Roll back the substantial barn door to be welcomed by a massive fireplace of local stone and a small boutique. Fireplace crackling, comfy leather chairs make the perfect place to plop and slowly peruse the clothing and jewelry in The Farmhouse Boutique. Are you imagining a perfectly restful unscheduled afternoon?

The back-story: fifth generation Forestville native Catherine Bartolomei Smith and her brother Joe Bartolomei toured this once run down 1879 farmhouse B&B when it was on the market. Without a hotel reputation or starred credentials, she convinced her brother to partner with her, purchase and transform it into a luxury Sonoma inn. A quick transformation combined with the notion that fine food would contribute to the attraction.

Their insight paid off, The Farmhouse Restaurant gained excellent reviews and attention and in 2006, they added four luxury suites in a new barn style building. Barn, think: rustic design, however, luxurious details; simple architecture, and a suggestion of farm elements all executed with sophistication. Interiors are warm, decorated in subtle natural textures – restful without being overdone.

The Farmhouse Inn Spa

The newish barn style Carriage House Spa is decorated in pale cool whites, former local decorator Myra Hoefer, was brought in to add her magic. Using the base of natural elements, her transformation of the massage barn is evident. A long wide corridor, with open-air light filtering louvers is the entry to each massage room, more like a paddock room actually. Dutch style stable doors open into the treatment rooms. The focal point of each room is a whitish mural of a life-size horse painted by Tina Wain, the paintings almost appear to be faded, as if they once decorated barn walls. Secluded outdoor patios are furnished with loungers and soaking tubs.

Each successive addition was rewarded by increased success and over time the owners have added two successive luxury suite barn buildings. Tin roofs, board and batten siding, rock fireplaces, all contribute to the feel of a sophisticated farm style inn. The property has a small footprint and amazingly each addition has been incorporated into the footprint and The Farmhouse Inn is still an intimate easy flowing landscape of rooms/suites and connecting gardens. Personally, I like barn like architecture and the suggested design elements, which a farmyard would incorporate. Galvanized containers and barn style doors accented with iron hardware, one feels these buildings have been here for generations.

Twenty-five beautiful comfortable rooms/suites, a Michelin star restaurant, congenial staff and apparently a long list of very happy return clients, The Farmhouse has been added to my slightly planned ‘StayCation’ list.

The Farmhouse Inn

Outdoor dining terraces, enjoy s’mores around the fire ring are offered every eveing after dinner.

I am not one to head to the wine country in the summer with the crush of travelers, but for me, this little gem is the solution to a brief escape in spring, fall and winter. In talking to the office/concierge team, The Farmhouse Inn will happily organize, biking, canoeing, fishing and achieve high profile Restaurant reservations just across the valley floor, with drivers to boot!

If you are seeking a wine country sojourn, we highly recommend…cozy, carefully thought out, refined and the antidote to an overly scheduled lifestyle.

Dining in separate post!

La Réserve, Paris

Traditional Parisian Opulence is practiced at La Réserve on Avenue Gabriel, a block from the Champs-Elysées, with encompassing grand views of the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais. An admitted Francophile, it’s natural for me to swoon over palatial Parisian hotels. However, my ‘there is a perfect hotel for each traveler’ philosophy allows me to recognize a sophisticated dramatic property and perhaps a less decorated, yet still charming Parisian hotel, discovering the perfect property for each and every client…

La Réserve Paris

Originally constructed in this Haussmann style neighborhood, in 1854 for Charles de Mornay, the half brother of Napoleon III, the boutique property is a sumptuous pleaser in every way. The last owner, Pierre Cardin may have set the tone, however the inspired renovation by Jacques Garcia is a vision of a particular period and ambience. Its origins as a home truly set the mood, if your home is a dramatic Parisian Salon and includes an indoor pool and spa. On a winter day, I would suggest a stay in day, tote an engrossing book and mosey from the library to a decadent lunch in the charming restaurant Le Gabriel, scoot back to the roaring fire in the main salon or the library. An afternoon espresso, the French have incorporated massive amounts of coffee into their lifestyle, will liven you up for a short saunter to the spa for a traditional hamam and deep tissue massage before cocktails and dinner! A delectable decadent, off the grid day, as one might have enjoyed in another era, do indulge.

Soaking tub La Reserve Paris

The details in the 26 suites and 14 rooms are authentic and mesmerizing: bold colors, acres of fine silk drape the windows and in some rooms, the walls. A dramatic palette of white, gold and black and red in many of the suites and rooms instill a restful ambience. I felt cocooned in my massive suite – velvet covered sofas, a sleek glass bar outfitted with fine crystal and complimentary drinks and snacks, triple glass floor to ceiling windows  swathed by silk or heavy velvet drapes, ensure the city noise remains outside, layers of elegance. The bathrooms are worthy of their own photo shoot, mountains of white and grey Carerra marble covers the floor, the vanities and the massive soaking tubs – tubs to die for. Stand alone showers with several shower heads, really these massive sized bathrooms could host a small group! If you prefer a lighter touch, say grey or pale champagne tones, do state a room preference, as not everyone loves decadent dark tones. The rooms all glow and are warm and inviting.

I should mention the very comfortable beds; the mattress is topped with feathers and down pillows, and all covered with custom Italian Quagliotti linens. At turn down, besides slippers, a puffy floor mat is placed next to the side of your bed. I never knew I needed a pillowed mat, but now I know, a very special touch. Modern technology has been combined with the old world glamour. Use the Ipad to control all conveniences or a simple toggle switch to turn off the lighting; I love less complication in shutting off lighting in a hotel. Another mention, my jumble of travel cosmetics sprawled out on any surface with the best light, were tidily organized when I went out; however, one very thoughtful staff person upgraded my makeup remover with a new bottle from the spa, La Roche-Posay micellar water, from what I’ve been told, it is the latest chic product..details do matter!

La Réserve Paris bedroom

The public rooms are ornate and exquisitely decorated in layers of traditional French fabrics and antiques. Intimate in scale, the sumptuous dark wood and book lined library and the smoking/cigar bar are available only to hotel guests. A fireplace burns in the library and in front of a petite table for two adjacent to the stunning dining room. Summer dining can be enjoyed alfresco on the terrace off the breakfast room and library. Indoor dining is intimate and once seated in the oversize cushioned chairs, one feels compelled to tarry.  Tables are arranged salon style with overstuffed sofas and exquisitely upholstered neoclassic bergere chairs, tres inviitng. The snug bar sparkles at night, although it’s not large enough to host many outsiders, small tables are surrounded by comfy chairs, this is not a crowded stand up bar scene. Perfect for hotel guests to savor fine wines and traditional cocktails, lingering encouraged!

Le Bar La Réserve Paris

Library, La Réserve Paris

Le Grande Salon La Réserve Paris

Chef Jérôme Banctel

I’ve published my brief interview with the charming and cuisine passionate Chef Jérôme Banctel who helms the two Michelin Stars Restaurant Le Gabriel. Extraordinary imaginative dishes, combined with delicate technique, the menu offers authentic French dining displaying the particular flair of the chef. Allow hours to savor lunch or dinner; this is an experience not to be rushed. Restaurant Le Gabriel is romantic and elegant adorned in black lacquered furnishings, delicate gold trimmed walls and mirrors – you will feel as if you have stepped into a romantic French film. http://www.gwenbooks.com/2017/01/executive-chef-jerome-banctel-la-reserve-travel-tales/

Also on property is La Pagode de Cos with a spice-route themed menu. In tribute to Cos d’Estournel, Second Grand cru classé, owned by hotel proprietor Michel Reybier, La Pagode de Cos invites you to on a culinary spice route journey. Since its beginnings, Cos d’Estournel wine surpassed the ratings of the most prestigious vintages and was exported as far afield as India. Its founder, Louis Gaspard d’Estournel became the “Maharaja of Saint-Estèphe” and to celebrate his far-off conquests, he had exotic pagodas built over his cellars.

There’s more! Le Réserve Spa is a bold statement in glossy red detail, located downstairs in a whisper quiet environment. Forget weather, stress, fatigue and even what time it is… let go and recharge your batteries with vital energy in an intimate hushed haven, sheltered from the hustle and bustle outside.

Set around the 16-meter indoor pool are just three treatment rooms, a fitness area with a sports coach, creating a peaceful atmosphere where one is relieved of pressure and can succumb to a complete disconnect from the daily grind. Men are not forgotten, with a range of services indispensable to modern-day gentlemen.

Le Spa La Réserve Paris

La Réserve Paris spa offers Nescens-Swiss anti-aging science cosmetic products. An oasis of calm and serenity awaits you in the Spa.

La Réserve Library Paris

La Réserve Paris

La Réserve Paris

Heavenly corner at Le Gabriel – La Réserve Paris

Our clients are spoiled, upgraded, and are repeat guests, what else would you need to know?

My French is sorely lacking, however I can advise you Oui, La Reserve, J’adore!