Calistoga Ranch Staycation

This seemingly never ending pandemic fever has generated a few clients craving countryside escapes; fresh air and room to roam in a secure, secluded environment. One of our favorite wine country properties is Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort Collection, several ecstatic clients have stayed in the last month. One arrived for a long weekend and after checking into their upgraded spa lodge, sent photos of their extraordinary view, thanked us for the exquisite upgrade and asked if they could stay for a few extra days, wish granted!

Calistoga Ranch view from deck

One of the most private and serene locations, Calistoga Ranch is a canyon retreat, each spacious lodge is exceptionally private, many have deck Jacuzzis delivering astonishing views of the mountainside. Perched among the massive pine and oak trees, next to a stream and private lake, it’s all about outdoor living at Calistoga Ranch.

Calistoga Ranch Pool

Over a century ago, Napa Valley was known more for wilderness than for wine, its rolling hills covered in misty forests and bubbling creeks. The 50 freestanding guest lodges embrace the natural surroundings of a peaceful canyon while following the twists and turns of a rock-hewn stream on the valley floor. Rustic luxury amid birdsong and dramatic ancient oaks, the property is tucked into a private 157-acre canyon, the free-standing lodges embrace their natural surroundings, blurring the lines between inside and out.

All the lodges are freestanding wooden bungalows with outdoor fireplaces. We adore the one-bedroom lodges with deck Jacuzzis, where you can bubble away under the starlit oak canopy, sipping champers from your in-lodge bar. The lodges have floor to ceiling windows overlooking the oak studded valley below. Outdoor spa pools, surrounded by all this natural beauty, are as relaxing as they are restoring.

Calistoga Ranch Lodge Suite

Amenities: Heated outdoor pool, vineyard, gardens, spa and gym (not open yet), shops, library, free WiFi. In rooms: LCD TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock, indoor-outdoor fireplace, alfresco shower, free minibar.

Poolside: Crisp white sun-loungers dot the heated outdoor pool, where you can soak in both the warming waters and the stunning scenery – a dramatic backdrop of the vineyard, the oak groves and the majestic Mayacama mountains. Lunch service every day by the pool..

Impeccable service, fine dining at the Lake House with options for wine tasting. The Lake House restaurant is open to resort guests and owners only, no outside visitors. Guests can dine inside or out, and take advantage of Lake Lommel and surrounding woodlands, we request the tables closest to the lake line under the inky black star-studded sky. The menu changes seasonally but includes choices like charred octopus with sunchoke and summer vegetable harvest with English pea purée, or black angus beef tenderloin with ramp, maitake, mushroom and brioche.

Calistoga Ranch The Lakehouse dining

Indulge in all day self-guided bike tours through the wine country from the resort doors, hiking, yoga, or just chill on your deck and count the soaring birds overhead! Drag your book bag and catch up with your leisure reading, bring the laptop if you must, you may never want to depart.

We have local private wine tours; these exclusive vineyards are small and not open to the public. A driver will escort you to one or two for a delightful afternoon of tasting with the owners. Personal and private.

There are a couple of two-bedroom lodges in secluded hilltop locations. Tucked amidst towering pine trees and mossy oaks, these rarified forest lodges seamlessly blend indoor and outdoor. Each of the two bedrooms opens onto its own outdoor rain shower, while an outdoor hot tub delivers instant bliss. A large fully-equipped gourmet kitchen will delight any recreational chef, indoor and outdoor dining areas set the scene for relaxed wine country gatherings. Two fireplaces-one on the terrace, the other a see-through indoor-outdoor fireplace that overlooks both living room and terrace-beckon gathering around. Warm furnishings, rich polished woods, and handpicked original artwork accent the natural surroundings. That extra something: concierge service and a private chef, upon request, means you’ll never have to leave your sanctuary.

Stay a week or more and achieve a significant discount. Ring us for our extraordinary offerings, we all need a bit of a secluded sanctuary stay!

Calistoga Ranch Lodge Suite Chef Kitchen

Another month of Covid-19 uncertainty has passed and while some parts of the world begin to open up again, I’m sadly aware that this is far from the case globally and especially domestically. From our client requests, it feels like domestic travel will be the mainstay for many, until we have a broader and more accurate sense of clarity or, better still, a vaccine. We can satisfy your Wanderlust with safe secure stand alone properties. Be well.

‘Amazing Hotels, Life Beyond the Lobby’ – Screen Time

Pandemic Preoccupations. Yes, I’ve enjoyed too much Netflix binging, sharing movie and docuseries faves with friends and colleagues – is Poldark a soap opera, yes! Was Ozarks truly terrifying, yet addictive, yes! My son hung up on me when I inadvertently asked a question that would be revealed in the final episode. Fauda, I adore the lead Israeli actor, Lior Raz, the brooding solider at the heart of the series. He had a nontraditional path to stardom; his role is partly based on his personal service in the Israel Defense Forces. How do I know?  He was in my little Cineplex for three hours every night for 2 weeks! I had scarcely returned from Jordan, the predominantly bleached architecture, a skyline punctuated by gleaming domes and minarets and the sandy landscape was identical to my travels, I had learned a few Arabic words, the costumes, the ethereal call to prayer by the local muezzin, the cuisine and background resonated with my Journey. Wanderlust had barely evaporated. During the pandemic, I’ve adhered to a pretty firm rule of no tv before 5 pm, primarily to maintain my personal dignity; pandemic procedures: cocktails after 5 pm, unless in a foreign country, then no rules apply, or garden lunches – Champers is allowed; all screen binging after 5 pm.

Amman Jordan

Grounded in March after an exquisite 2-week exploration and adventure in Egypt and Jordan followed by several days cocooned at Hotel Bel Air, where I plotted a five-star Hotel Lifestyle – truly, I could live in a hotel for a few weeks every month. Aman Resorts invited me to a travel event, how could I say no? Covid-19 cancelled those reveries. It sounds glamorous, our clients know I stay in every hotel I recommend, but do they know I schlepp a few 60-pound bags with me? Drivers transport me across town and I am warmly welcomed everywhere; my online videos sometimes encourage rivalry between hotels – we can best the elegant Queens Suite in London with the classy Presidential Suite with an immense deck. It’s amusing to arrive and enjoy the furtive smile of the GM and team who surprise me with an OTT (over the top) suite. Champers on ice. Yes, it is a difficult life, and I miss it immensely. Not just the sumptuous suites, but the hotel peeps who have all become my friends, dining with my international partners and catching up on their new exclusive client offerings, wandering to museums, shopping, hearing foreign languages. In between, I perform site inspections at new hotel properties, it’s work, after-all!

My Queens Suite at The Dorchester, London, I shouldn’t have ever left!
The Roosevelt Presidential Suite – where I stayed last year at The Beaumont, London. The fav of one of our clients, he texts when he arrives: Thank you! I know exactly where he is staying!

Living in hotels may belong to novels, these alluring lifestyles have uniquely disappeared, a lingering getaway once belonged to eras past; to the well-heeled, faintly neurotic characters of one my favorite authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Tender Is the Night. Or the legendary Gilded Age’s ladies of leisure who sailed with custom Vuitton trunks to Europe every season. A few years ago, in New York, Louis Vuitton presented an enchanting exhibit “Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” or, “Sail, Fly, Travel” – a captivating look at the brand’s history. Subsequently a book was published on the exhibit: ‘Travelers Tales, Bags Unpacked’. It is a beautiful description of travel in another era. The garments were all there: day and evening dresses, clouds of tulle, muslin, feathers, kimono jackets, velvet jackets – essential attire for a certain lifestyle.

“Volez, Voguez, Voyagez” or, “Sail, Fly, Travel”. Manhattan

To alleviate my five-star Hotel Lifestyle withdrawal, I’ve discovered a fun British series: ‘Amazing Hotels, Life Beyond the Lobby’. Presented by television host and writer Giles Coren (How to Eat Out) and chef and restaurateur Monica Galetti (Monica’s Kitchen: Exciting Home Cooking for All Occasions), are globetrotters who visit extraordinary hotels across the globe. In addition to giving viewers a glimpse of hotel areas that are rarely, if ever, seen by regular peeps, Monica and Giles spend time with hotel staff to learn about their work, the establishment, its impact and more — and then take on some of the staffing duties. Season 1 episodes find Monica and Giles visiting Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador, Giraffe Manor in Kenya, Royal Mansour Marrakech in Morocco, Fogo Island Inn in Canada, and Icehotel in Sweden; in Season 2 they travel to The Brando in French Polynesia, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort in Oman, Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland, Ashford Castle in Ireland, The Silo in South Africa, and Hacienda Vira Vira in Chile, plus Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in the Christmas special.

On arrival, before the suite becomes lived in, take photographs for future blog posts and social media, unpack, respond to emails. Test the bed and scrunch the six pillows, yes, six plush pillows, to form a comfy cocoon, who knew we needed six king size pillows? I belong to The Tribe of the Bed Girl, and work in bed. A king size bed offers bountiful real estate for sleeping, mounds of glossy hotel magazines, work and dining. At home, I sleep in an antique French double bed, purely room for sleep and not much else! Hotel Lifestyle will instill a scrumptious pillow addiction. Of course, the linens are perfectly pressed, and someone watches your whereabouts, if you slip out of the room, all is tidy again on return. One pandemic directive I’ve followed: make my bed every day, to feel slightly civilized. Although my Covid-19 wardrobe has been limited…jammies for winter, sundresses for summer, the gate has been locked since March.

Men of Egypt could have been in Fauda!

Hotel Lifestyle: commute time for client meetings is eliminated – close laptop, mosey amid the tree lined paths or the row of loungers, if I’m in my pool suite and pad down to Wolfgang Puck. When I stay in Beverly Hills, I offer clients and friends a generous invitation – breakfast, lunch cocktails or dinner – at my hotel: Hotel Bel Air or Beverly Hills Hotel, I don’t move, once I arrive, I’m in. For a bit of variety, I may take the hotel car between the sister hotels for meals…my darling niece lives a mile away, she plops at the pool with me for hours of catch up and sharing travel fantasies, her first Journey to Africa was with me – oh, the tales we can tell – lions at our door, and in her magazine bag, spitting Cobras whose venom can blind you, and yet we survived!

Brando Island – amazing property

Hotel Lifestyle – Room service – anything you desire will be delivered with a quick call or iPad swipe. My away from home comfort food used to be a hamburger, over the last few years, Club House sandwiches have reigned. Food I never eat at home, who would prepare and serve? Bacon is not a staple of a plant-based diet! I’ve learned to order a CH sandwich before a travel industry event, much easier to sip wine, gather collateral and chat without an intricate balancing act.

Giraffe Manor, a client favorite Karen, Kenya

I have no intention of replicating the series hosts performing work duties, suite inspection is my specialty! It’s a light fun series with stunning hotels interiors and exteriors. Seeing how local Omani’s have adopted the hospitality business is heartwarming, one grizzled old Omani man is the expert in making rose water for a variety of uses in the hotel. Monica, the chef host, goes to the local animal market to inspect and negotiate the sale of goats for a celebration dinner, who knew you should look at their teeth to understand the age of a goat. You will learn how to pry open a goat’s mouth to calculate its age! If you find hotel towel art droll, several hotels have resident experts, who radiate immense pride in this creative skill.

You can find the series on an Appletv app: Journy.

I find travel the absolute essential antidote to everyday routines. Fresh vistas, foreign languages, interesting foods, curious customs, and people in indigenous dress – seeing places I’ve never seen before. A pleasing adventure of searching new locales for client travel, the pursuit never gets old.

Warning: Wanderlust May Overwhelm you. Be safe, we will wander again.

The Brando Hotel – paradise!