North Block Hotel, # 1 Again, Yountville

One tends to think large lavish hotel properties when thinking of the Napa Valley wine country, after my recent midweek respite, I advise one to rethink their escape plans. Travel & Leisure readers have again confirmed the boutique property, North Block Hotel in Yountville, as Number 1 in their World’s Best Awards survey for best resorts in California.

North Block Hotel lobby, Yountville

Yountville, in the heart of the Napa Valley, is an overlooked gem, a village community off of Hwy 29; per capita, it has more fine dining choices than any of the nearby winery towns. Corner bistros to Michelin starred masterpiece dining, small tasting rooms and all oozing small-town charm. All of the stunning dining options are within walking distance of North Block Hotel! The town was founded by George C. Yount, the first Euro-American permanent settler in Napa Valley. Yount was also the first person to plant grapes in Napa Valley in 1839.

North Block Hotel, Yountville

I happened upon North Block Hotel by accident. Last fall, I savored a hasty Valley visit and on a morning wander, was drawn in by the enchanting Tuscan courtyard with splashing fountains. The sheltered comfy corners with deep seating beckoned for morning coffee and papers, the pool terrace looked picture-perfect!  We peeked in the lobby door and the charming staff invited two unkempt wanderers in for a looksee – doesn’t that say something about a property? Welcome to our home, how can we help? Hiding behind my dark sunglasses, screening the mascara smudges of the previous night, we were invited to take a quick site inspection. Ooh, the perils of roving after just rolling out of the sheets; of course, we ran into the GM, Ty Accornero, he was very welcoming and invited, please come back for a stay. Those who have seen my fancy letter press postcard sized business card with gold edges, would know it doesn’t fit in the pocket of gym shorts. After snail mail thank you with said card enclosed, Ty recognized me when I reached out to visit; oh, the enormous card, yes, I remember you! There are calculated motives for my extravagant distinctive business card! No one knows where to store it, so it sits on desks and I’m never forgotten! It’s not my scintillating personality, it’s my lovely client base and fancy business card which renders me unforgettable!

North Block Hotel Courtyard, Yountville

Months passed, and a mid-pandemic mini-escape was the ideal excuse to wander back to Yountville for an early summer stay. The 20 guestrooms at North Block Hotel are divided into six categories: Premium King with Fireplace, Premium King, Superior King with Fireplace, Deluxe King, Deluxe Queen, and Deluxe Double Queen. All are Mediterranean modern with a yummy coffee and grey palette; sophisticated art adds pops of color. Windows and French doors allow for fresh air and plenty of natural light by day, while plantation shutters provide black out privacy at night, if you are not inclined to wake with first morning light. The rooms are cozy and inviting, the fancy beds are extremely comfy – so snug, the Hotel now sells them, as so many guests begged for the beds!

All rooms feature an espresso machine, television, desk, and small refrigerator. Bathrooms are airy and spacious with heated floors, marble vanities with double sinks, a large soaking tub and a separate rain shower. Many suites boast French doors opening on to balconies overlooking the courtyard or the pool. An upstairs corner suite overlooks the pool and has glorious views of the Mayacamas Mountains with a petite balcony. Mayacamas is believed to have meant “the howl of the mountain lion” in the Wappo tongue. But other possible meanings of the word exist: alternatively, Mayacamas may have meant “the source of the water”, referring to the springs and headwaters of creeks that feed the Napa and Sonoma Rivers. Not on the hotel fact sheet, you also learn local history here as well!

North Block Hotel Suite, Yountville

The arrival sets the stage for your visit – most know, I am a nut on The Arrival!  This is where the magic of escape begins, just one flaw can set the tone for a visit. Make it perfect and a traveler will embrace a hotel property, first impressions do count! The lobby embodies an inviting warm minimalist style with earth tones; and a curious, yet attractive shimmering wall hung with an impressive collection of brass skeleton keys behind the concierge desk. The keys are whimsy, the service is not, it’s friendly and helpful, the staff are all locals who know what to do and where to go. Arrive and receive a welcome glass of bubbly or wine, indulge in a brief sit down, peruse the oversize books and soak in the subtle luxurious touches before moseying through the palm studded courtyard to your chamber. The lobby and courtyard invite lingering, go back for your morning coffee and sit again and take in the inspired design.

Nearby dining: Thomas Keller has four splendid dining palaces within blocks: French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and his latest, La Calenda – offering Mexican Cuisine, Oaxacan style. Toward the south end of town, one of my favorites is the very authentic French Bistro Jeanty – I’ve been dining here for years. Bottega and Coqueta are also within walking distance. The newish RH Restaurant is a North Block neighbor. Park your car and pedal with hotel bikes or walk, everything is within walking distance. Yountville also has a terrific bike store for rentals and the newish nine-mile vine trail is a laidback ride. Hot air balloons can be reserved at sunrise. Or don your Panama hat, mosey to the plunge and plop with a book in a comfy luxe chaise If there was ever a more appropriate summer for delicious ‘beach reads’, it’s now; there should be no shame in idle reading basking by a pool! This is not a summer interrupted with breathtaking views.

North Block is a petite sublime retreat, which feels more like a Mediterranean property, the rooms face lush courtyards open to guests who may uncork a bottle of native California red. It’s cozy and quiet, I saw a small toddler, but it has the feel of an adult resort. The pool has a sound wall that backs up to Hwy 29, a swimmer splashing during laps may be the only background noise.

North Block Hotel, Yountville unique character and chic style

A fine sense of design is an overall arching theme; authentic European heavy wood doors with grated peep holes on entry doors set the stage for the restful rooms and suites.

I spent an entire lazy afternoon at the pool devouring Andre Leon Tally’s astute and canny portrayal of the haute fashion world, an exceptional enviable summertime fancy. Covid-19 has given me more free time to indulge in frothy reading in my garden or sort through mountains of magazines. Time seems to stand still, escape and create some quiet memories.

We can offer exclusive private wine tasting experiences and lunch with local vineyard owners, avoid the crowds and public locations. There is a terrific bike shop a block away, have you ridden the newish Vine Trail ? Nine miles of trails, through neighborhoods and vineyards, eventually it will encompass a 47 mile walking and bike trail connecting the entire Napa Valley.

Yountville is truly an overlooked gem and North Block Hotel is a dazzler, I can’t wait to return!

Four Seasons Bora Bora recent client Journey

There is a dreamy private island paradise that feels safe in this ever changing global oyster; a pearl of a property, Four Seasons Bora Bora, a five-star luxury resort. Many of our clients have escaped to this island paradise, a family of five just returned and we have a couple celebrating in October. The Tahitian government has strict pre-arrival Covid-19 rules. Mandatory 72-hour Covid-19 testing prior to boarding a commercial flight guarantees everyone on your flight is bug free. After landing in Papeete, check in for a quick flight to Bora Bora. The government also delivers another self-administered test during your visit, assuring all hotel guests have been tested again, it feels like a safe haven.

Four Seasons Bora Bora Private Villa Pool
  • Facts: Three-hour time difference, if you must work while in paradise. But do try to practice idleness.
  • Overwater bungalows 108, stretching out into the sapphire hued lagoon. One or two bedrooms, some with deck plunge pools, all with sea ladders.
  • Seven on-land villas – two & three bedrooms on beautifully landscaped private grounds with water access and astonishing views. Perfect for multi-generational families and couples.

Bora Bora is a 50-minute flight west of Papeete. Set on a motu (islet) on the northeast side of the lagoon, the Four Seasons Resort enjoys uninterrupted views of the dramatic peaks of Bora Bora, which are particularly captivating at sunset.

Four Seasons Bora Bora Over water Bungalow Soaking Tub

Enchantment begins on the wooden power boat, speeding across the gorgeous aqua seas to the Four Seasons Bora Bora. The cool breeze and surf splashing as you breathe in the fresh air and absorb the astonishing tropical views.

The beach front Villa estates are secluded, have their own pools, and literally feel like private mansions on the pale azure Bora Bora seas. Each over water bungalow has sections of glass floors, you see fish, stingrays, and other marine life, nature at its best, swimming underneath your room! I found myself sitting on the floor, peering for underwater creatures. Furnished with large, plush, king-size beds, a full living room, a spacious outdoor deck, some with plunge pools and every amenity you’d expect to find in a 5-star hotel room.

The bungalows have been recently refurbished, inspired by a traditional Polynesian village, a collaboration between local architect Pierre-Jean Picart and San Francisco design firm BAMO. Additionally, six plunge pools were added to existing overwater bungalow suites, bringing the total number of overwater accommodations with pools to 27, and the total overwater room count to 108. Designed by BAMO, each of the one and two-bedroom overwater bungalow suites have been refreshed, reflecting a more contemporary Polynesian feel, complete with new furniture, fixtures, lighting and technology including 55-inch Chromecast-enabled televisions.

Four Seasons Bora Bora Room with a View

I visited a few years ago and intend to return soon. A client family of five reluctantly just returned home. They are such a fun family, everyone has a sense of adventure and they don’t sit still! I adore their Journey updates, they sent me photos of the to die for views and videos of their awesome diving experiences. From an email: ‘Reporters and photographers met us on landing as they captured the excitement of welcoming people back. The wildlife was incredible as people traffic has been nonexistent. We had so much fun in the water. Our youngest daughter got her scuba certification diving with mantas, black tipped sharks and eagle rays. We learned how to kite board, we wake boarded and wake surfed, snorkeled, paddle boarded, and jet skied.  Really well managed and run. Definitely a vacation to remember, thanks Gwen!’  Aren’t you yearning to escape?!

Hotel Amenities: there’s a huge pool with teak loungers and thatched cabanas, a state-of-the-art fitness center, watersports, tennis, chic boutiques, plus activities ranging from classes in stand-up paddleboard yoga to time out with the resident marine biologist. It goes without saying the Four Seasons has one of the best reputations for exemplary service…I’ve written several blog posts sharing the diamond level service during my visits all over the FS world.  Pick your pleasure: underwater explorations abound at this sand-fringed paradise or bask undisturbed in the shadow of Bora Bora’s Mount Otemanu.

Four Seasons Bora Bora Over water Bungalow

A snorkel safari beneath the waves: explore lagoon life on a half-day discovery tour, where you’ll cruise past Mounts Otemanu and Pahia and snorkel among rays and sharks. A full-day excursion adds a visit to a local fisherman’s house for a traditional Polynesian lunch.

Four Seasons Bora Bora Overwater Bungalow with plunge pool

Memorable meals: board a canoe to a private white-sand motu, where staff will greet you with Champagne followed by a personalized dinner for two as the sun sets into the water. 

Connect with a local artist: meet renowned painter Alain Despert and connect with the island’s most famous artist. Board a private afternoon yacht to his hilltop studio on the main island, where you’ll meet Alain and his wife Karen. You’ll get to know them and learn of Alain’s inspirations, share stories and see where his colorful masterpieces are created. Upon returning to the Resort, Alain will guide you on a tour of his collection at Four Seasons before enjoying a wine-paired dinner surrounded by some of his signature pieces. Your memorable evening concludes with an original gift from the artist

The Spa. Nestled at the lagoon’s edge, the Kahaia tree-inspired spa combines ancient traditions, native ingredients and transformative treatments. During my visit, I had wandered the gorgeous spa a few times for photos and lingered on the to die for view relaxation decks but hadn’t yet indulged in the services. Everything about the spa whispers rest and unwind – the cathedral like wooden building is sandwiched between a tranquil lagoon and the edge of the sea. Dappled sunlight and shadows play on the lacquered floor – the quiet is truly church like, people passing in robes and soft slippers, disappearing behind enormous dark doors. Sandlewood and frangipani perfumes the space. The spa director encouraged me to try the traditional Polynesian massage using the hotels exclusive monoi oil that contains flecks of 24-carat gold –   I’m not sure when I passed from groggy and wilted to comatose on the massage table – certainly a combination of travel fatigue and massage magic.

Four Seasons Bora Bora Spa View

Magnificent in every detail, Four Seasons Bora Bora – honestly, it is heaven on earth and a very efficient jaunt from our coast.

There is availability until the end of the year – Summer, Thanksgiving, and Festive Season.

We are proud to be Four Seasons Preferred Partners, send dates and we will begin the pampering process!

Bora Bora