Autumn Rambling, Oysters and Wine?

Ever in pursuit of an endless summer, don’t dive into your winter woolies yet! Combining two sundry locations Croatia City and Coast, a marvelous mode of travel, ancient ramparts, fine dining, and beach solitude. For now, the concept of a Grande Tour may not be on everyone’s datebook. These summer favorites easily glide into autumn, it’s not too late to plot!

Dubrovnik Old Town

Montenegro, Portonovi and Dubrovnik. Five-star hotel choices add an exceptional enticement: Villa Dubrovnik and in Montenegro – two superb choices Aman and the new One & Only in Portonovi. The summer crowds have moseyed home, autumn is the perfect time to enjoy day trips to islands near Dubrovnik.


Croatia by yacht is the ultimate in grande tour, but for fall, meandering cobbled streets and a day hire boat will be just peachy. A combination of culture, relaxation and stunning scenery. Bordering Slovenia, Hungary, Herzegovina and Bosnia, Croatia is a picturesque country with long stretches of coast and dotted with over 1000 islands. History, culture, and gorgeous views blur with pristine waters and pebbly coves. Dubrovnik is known as ‘The Pearl of the Adriatic’ and despite earthquake damage in 1667, it has managed to preserve its old town of beautiful Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance churches, palaces, and fountains. A major UNESCO restoration program ensures the medieval buildings, stone ramparts, and the cobblestone streets will be enjoyed for ages. Approximately 7.2 hours of sunshine warm the city every day, the city of Dubrovnik is the Eastern European Paradise. It is sort of what Hawaii is to North America.


You won’t want to miss exploring the Elaphite archipelago just a short boat ride from Dubrovnik. Soak in the amazing scenery, enjoy wine tasting and fresh seafood at small coastal cafes. Among the hidden gems is food at Bowa on the secluded Sipan Island, tables perched over the water or for a group reserve a cabana for lunch! The restaurant specializes in seafood and has several local wines and beers available. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the crystal-clear water for swimming or just reading a book in the sunshine on the lounge chairs along the beach. Close your eyes and think of Mediterranean. Imagine the bluest sea, and beautiful untouched islands with old olive, fig, cypress and orange trees… Imagine the sunlight on your face and the smells, the sounds. Imagine the secured bays, secret beaches, the forest. Welcome to Sipan, the largest of islands near Dubrovnik, a place where Mediterranean culture shaped lives and culture since the Roman times. At the secluded reached by water only, Bowa restaurant – a simple motto: A Passion for Food. The menu is simplicity itself: the daily catch of fresh fish; hand-picked vegetables; fruit from the garden; island olive oil. What they catch that day is what is served. A nostalgic tribute to the days when the three owners spent summers with their grandparents. It is very traditional, plain Dubrovnik cuisine – but fresh, and the best!

Korcula Island is one of the most beautiful islands in Croatia. Korcula Town, the ancient city is perched on a small peninsula and wrapped in defensive stone walls. The town’s pedestrian-only streets were designed like a fishbone; the main thoroughfare runs through the center with angled side streets branching off each side. The layout was thoughtfully planned to welcome the summer breeze and limit and the winter wind. If you are a history buff, it is not to be missed. Home to ancient sites, stunning coastline, local wineries and considered to be the birthplace of Marco Polo. People say that the Silk Road started from this island; Korčula has good reason to be proud to be home to Marco Polo’s house, a stone’s throw from Lešić Dimitri Palace. The building’s history dates back to the 17th century, when the Lešić family, rich property owners and merchants combined a number of semi-detached houses to create a palace worthy of that name. The island gem foodie scene is within the Relais & Chateaux 17th-century Lesic Dimitri Palace. And within, a foodie palace, Michelin Restaurant LD, curated by chef Marko Gajsk.

1 - Marko Sitar - Les?ic? Dimitri P alace - HD Landscape Cover photo
Lešić Dimitri Palace.

A gastronomic tour can include several different wineries and an oyster farm in Ston. You’ll learn how to farm oysters and enjoy the most delectable lunch on a private island. Traces of oyster farming in the Mali Ston Bay have existed since the period of Roman rule in this area. The first written documents on shellfish hunting date from the 16th century, and on breeding from the 17th century, records from the time of the Dubrovnik Republic.

And where to stay? Five-star luxury waterside hotel on the Lapad peninsula, the resplendent Hotel Dubrovnik Palace! Sea views from every room, within walking distance to most attractions in the Old Town, yet very secluded, hugging the shoreline of the Adriatic. Fifty-five modern rooms with a world class spa and four restaurants.

Mosey an hour north to unwind in Montenegro and explore the picturesque Sveti Stefan island by boat, stop for fresh caught seafood on sunny restaurant balconies hovering above the placid turquoise seas.

Portonovi – the new Riviera Destination, the gateway to Boka Bay an idyllic Mediterranean-style village set amid the wild beauty of Montenegro’s Boka Bay. This is one of Europe’s most spectacular coastlines, a breathtaking region famed for its history, culture and wild natural beauty, mountain roads sweep through ancient towns and every turn holds another discovery. From days on the water to sun-filled afternoons spent exploring the ancient towns of Perast and Kotor, there’s no limit to the experiences to be relished.

Bringing refined luxury to the heart of Boka Bay, this is the first-ever European location from renowned brand One & Only. The property sits resplendently at the entrance of Boka Bay, a fjord-like idyll on Montenegro’s Adriatic Sea, a jewel sitting on Europe’s most fashionable new riviera. Slip into a glamorous nautical lifestyle, exploring rugged coastlines lapped by Adriatic waves and decorated with charming historic palaces. A palatial Adriatic resort on 60 lush acres overlooking a dramatic coastline of mountain vistas and calm waters. Definitely a destination hotel, with fine dining, a world-renowned spa and private beach. With a sheltered location on spectacular Boka Bay, the resort is the perfect base from which to explore the dramatic Montenegrin coastline. Rent a super yacht for an afternoon, hire a sailboard, or simply spend the day on the private white-sand beach, soaking up the scenic wonders of Boka Bay.

In summer, the place to be is at Aman Sveti Stefan. Within a country famed for its beauty, Montenegro’s most iconic destination is the tiny islet of Sveti Stefan. Overlooked by Villa Miločer, a graceful stone residence set on a pink sand beach. The former summer residence of Queen Marija Karađorđević, Villa Miločer offers several elegant suites, while the island provides accommodation in 15th-century stone cottages. Together they comprise the unequalled Aman Sveti Stefan. NB: Aman Sveti Stefan has closed for the 2021 season.

Endless summer with seven hours of sunshine a day guaranteed! Živjeli – A very common phrase in Croatia will be met with a shot of Rakija. This is the local drink of choice and used in every social gathering. Živjeli is pronounced “ji vo li” with the meaning of cheers!

The ABC of Croatia – a unique guide to Croatia customs, folklore and history.

Serenity Now! Ojai and Montecito, Village Life.

My longing for an Epic Voyage is almost crushing. Have you ever analyzed your favorite travel, have you created a list? What does it look like? Is Beach Therapy your go to? Is it adventure and the African savanna’s whispering to you? Or are you craving the majestic calm beauty of Bhutan?

I’ve been safely venturing to boutique properties I hadn’t visited due to a much more intense travel program, and I’ve truly enjoyed re discovering the wine country, Malibu, and Santa Barbara again. Epic Adventure is in planning stage, I will triple vaccinate and mosey to Morocco, Madrid, and Paris.

San Ysidro Ranch, Montecito

New clients asked, how do we create a combo Journey? I.E. we are considering the Maldives and Singapore – and yes they have read my posts on the two Four Seasons in the Maldives and understand my obsession with the magical seas. One of my most favorite Journeys was to the Maldives and despite the long trek, you will want to stay longer than planned!  It may sound exaggerated, but it is true: there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the staggering natural beauty of the Maldives fully and accurately. Note to the dear Four Seasons GM – who invited me for a two-week exploration, sending clients soon, promise!

Discovering that SW airline fly’s direct from Oakland to Santa Barbara, I reserved immediately! I can’t tell you how many times United has forsaken me on their SFO/ SBA routing. My elderly godmother and ancient aunties deserved a visit, off I went.

Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai

Summer heat and pink moment sunsets at the Ojai Valley Inn didn’t disappoint. Two legendary properties, the Inn, and San Ysidro Ranch in the hills of Montecito are a great combo. Sun and the sea. Frank Capra used a long view shot of the Ojai Valley to represent the mythical paradise in the classic film Lost Horizon. In 1923, Edward Drummond Libbey, a wealthy Ohio glass manufacturer and philanthropist, commissioned California architect Wallace Neff to build a private Ojai Country Club. The architectural remnants of the original Spanish-colonial-style design are still in evidence; the hotel offers a little over 300 spacious and tastefully decorated rooms, a relaxing spa, four pools and several restaurants. I’ve always loved sitting beneath the massive Oak Tree terrace for lunch or dinner. The property spreads across a gentle rolling hillside into a deep green valley punctuated by massive Oak trees; the rambling flow of Spanish Revival style buildings resemble a picturesque village of red tile roofs sheltering white stucco walls, typical of what you might view in remote Spanish or Tuscan villages. I met a lovely mom and daughter enjoying a week together, bicycling into town and I shared in my favorite retail therapy boutiques. Several VV Chic Summerland and Montecito shops have added outposts here.

Moving a bit north to Montecito, several first-class options, sadly the Four Seasons is temporarily closed, if you need beach therapy, it is truly la tragédie. Montecito exudes a quiet glam, it doesn’t scream opulence, mansions yes, but most are gated or secreted behind walls of expertly pruned shrubbery and manicured gardens, an enclave of concealed wealth. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, San Ysidro Ranch is another legendary hideaway. The Ranch has a historical guest list: Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill, Sinclair Lewis, and John Huston, who finished writing the screenplay for The African Queen while in residence. Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh exchanged midnight wedding vows on the grounds, and Camelot began here with John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooning in the cottage that now bears their name.

Ultimate seclusion and almost perpetually blessed by sunshine if the beach below is foggy. Tucked away in the leafy foothills of Montecito, San Ysidro Ranch offers a unique blend of privacy, peace, and tranquility in an idyllic setting. Thirty-eight vine-covered cottages surrounded by incredibly landscaped gardens with flowers always in bloom under a canopy of stately sycamores and gnarled oaks make this exclusive property destination unplugged from the rest of the world. Citrus groves, olive trees, brilliantly colored lantanas, lily pond, and the sweet smell of orange blossoms, fragrant magnolias, and jasmine make you think that you have just discovered a slice of paradise. Pass the guard cabin and another world awaits. Oprah and Harry live just up the winding San Ysidro Road.

The Ranch provides several premier dining settings featuring a palate of herbs and vegetables harvested from the onsite chef’s garden. The Stonehouse, a Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning restaurant, is in a 19th-century citrus packing house and has a romantic full-bar lounge and separate dining room with an outdoor terrace and a crackling fireplace. For a more casual destination, the Plow & Angel offers more regional cuisine and a convivial ambiance as a local favorite. Housed in a storybook setting, the Carriage House features fireside dining with French doors opening to a private stone-paved courtyard.

San Ysidro Ranch, Montecito

Montecito is chock-a-block with charming boutiques, fancy deli’s, delicious dining, and if you perch front and center outside the entrance of the very popular Lucky’s Restaurant, you may think you’ve been transported to Palm Beach. Oh my, peacocks parade each evening… it’s splendid people watching, as Dorothy uttered to Toto – “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Safe, luxurious, easy to and fro – Our local car service can also motor you down the coast, he has been driving a client weekly to Santa Barbara since last year!

Taking a break or a vacation may save your life, we live in the country of No Vacation Nation, which is unhealthy, time off is integral to emotional health. An attorney friend once told me he billed for shower time as it was the most productive time for thinking. According to health experts you have your best ideas in the shower or on a walk—or on vacation!

Ojai Valley Inn, Ojai

Serenity Now means taking good care of yourself.