Seeking your Inner Hippie? – Private Healdsburg Ranch Stay

Have you just for a minute pondered escaping the burbs or the city to make a date with Mother Nature? I am not envisioning a sleeping bag or dining on packaged pouches…but perhaps getting in touch with your inner hippie?  I know that’s not my style, but follow along and enjoy a lovely Ranch escape!

Healdsburg Ranch

We are always on the hunt for unique Villa visits, or in this case, a unique Ranch visit. The Ranch is described as an Eco Luxury Farm Stay, I feel the description limits the true flavor of the Ranch. The narrative includes sustainable retreats offering a plant-based lifestyle.

My initial thought was a woo-woo retreat with healthy food, and holistic experiences. Personally, I like a plant-based diet; however, I struggle when dining out and modifying my years of meat-based recipes; after my visit, I completely embraced my weekend experience at the Ranch.

Located a few miles from downtown Healdsburg on a gorgeous pastoral estate set in Sonoma county’s stunning Dry Creek Valley. Guests can wander the 120 pristine acres of Pacific Redwood Forest. The main four-bedroom home sleeps eight guests, an expansive self-sustainable farm. The ranch estate has four expansive ensuite bedrooms equipped with king-sized beds. Several sizable common rooms for a family or a group of friends to comfortably spread out to relax, assemble puzzles or watch the horizon for enormous vultures, hawks, and owls to soar across the tree studded hills. The outdoor space of the main Ranch Home has areas for dining, lazing, and floating in the solar heated black bottom pool.

For those wishing for a Glamping night, the luxury canvas tent is equipped with a wood-burning stove and luxurious king-size bed.  Two deep clawfoot tubs are perched outside, imagine soaking under an open jet-black starry sky.

There is also a newly built two-bedroom Barn residence overlooking the amazing garden of vegetables and flowers. Amazing in the sense that the team has deeply invested in bio dynamic farming which produces show stopping fruit and vegetables. The just picked lettuce for my salad was the size of a small car wheel – not only stunning, but delicious. Everything is grown on property; the garden tour alone is worth a stay!  A sprawling biodynamic farm resides at the heart of the estate, creating a closed-loop food system in which all the cuisine for the plant-based culinary program. The chemical- and pesticide-free farm supplies all your meals.

Several activity options for a stay include joining in the Ranch’s farming workshops who partner with seasoned agriculturalists to learn the principles of self-sufficient ecology, from compost building to permaculture. In the garden, tea-making seminars explore the basics of growing, pruning, hanging, and drying medicinal herbs. The ranch also teaches children the fundamentals of gardening and agriculture, along with crafts classes inspired by the natural surroundings.

Both residences are well furnished and very comfortable – it would be easy to stay a week and wander the Ranch. Hiking and biking through the wooded property. There is a bocce court, a horseshoe pit, and a nearby lake for kayaking or SUP. On property stables for horseback riding for kids or adults, a small animal farm just below the main house kept me entertained…

I relished feeding the two Nigerian dwarf goats, John and Sally and two miniature horses, Horcelain and Ginger, who also wander the field near the chicken coop with 22 hens producing fresh eggs. The stable has bins of treats for these extraordinarily friendly animals – I hate to say pets, but they were beyond fun and sociable – kids can easily hang with the animals.  There are also two of the famed Scottish Highlander Cows roaming an adjacent fenced pasture – not as friendly as the Hairy Coos I saw in the Scottish Highlands, but interesting, nonetheless.

After a few days of cleansing the body through conscious eating, quieting the mind with forest walks, soaking in the warm pool, one can’t help but feel an inner calm, more serene, and certainly a bit healthier. Be as secluded as you wish or we can add discreet staffing.

Ranch Photo Credit Rachel Weill

A couple of friends went with me for our Forest Bathing walk, try getting three chatty women to be quiet on a woodland walk, we followed the instructions from our Forest Guide and experienced nature on another level. The term Forest Bathing emerged in Japan in the 1980s as a physiological and psychological exercise called shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) One experiences nature on a path which improves your overall well-being. Mindful walking can be as simple or elaborate as you desire. Our walk concluded at the lake where one can swim or canoe.

The Ranch invites guests to discover their inner curiosity, Relax, Reset, and Reconnect with what’s around them and restore the mind, body, and spirit. Through an array of spiritual and outdoor excursions, guests become more attuned to how adventure and wellness intersect. There is an abundant offering of walks, baths, to open this world to typically stressed travelers. Yoga alongside 100-year-old Redwood trees, hands-on, plant-based cooking class with chef which guides guests through a seed-to-table meal, an extraordinary mindfulness Wim Hof Experience, a calming Sound Journey as well as flower picking and arranging, nature hikes, tea making and more.

Bike on its untouched land, hike or just sit and contemplate the stillness with the quiet sounds of nature, the wind rustling the trees, and birdsong. Dazzling dragonflies strut and dance across the terrace in the setting sun as they eat half their body weight in drifting bugs.

Outings in the ranch’s Tesla Model X can also be arranged in the surrounding area, including kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming in Lake Andreas, wine tasting and driving up the coast.

Meals: Plant based can be delivered to your refrigerator to be warmed up, an abundant supply of garden-fresh vegetables to compose boundless delicious salads, two pantries of dried legumes and grains are stocked for guests. Chef can be brought in as well if you don’t feel up to preparing meals. At our first peek into the refrigerator, we had a moment of panic, none of us were at all versed in plant-based cooking – we joked that we should call in food delivery from town! We effortlessly heated the yummy, mashed potatoes topped with fresh scallions, a casserole of eggplant and some type of spaghetti bean and composed a very delicious salad.

Ginormous Fresh Lettuce

The next day we enjoyed an enchanting lunch prepared by our chef in the middle of the amazingly productive vegetable/flower garden – the outdoor kitchen has two pizza ovens, and a massive bar for food prep. Join the chef, wander the garden, watch the flight of the hummingbirds, soak in the atmosphere – do whatever feels right. A late dinner back at our Ranch house consisted of a garden-fresh salad, we were sated from the divine garden lunch.

I don’t want to say, I visited with skepticism; the idea of an ice- bath wasn’t on my radar, but I feel this mini-introduction could lead to more expansive experiences. Our all too brief stay was extremely relaxing, we felt no need to escape to town, we lacked for no amenity or comfort. It was a delightful, restful escape, we all could have stayed longer. We padded about in swimsuits and caftans, barely altering outfits for our garden lunch – a slumber party of casual comfort and effortless escape.

Ranch Pond

The delightful hosts Ed & David are either invisible or as sociable as one desires – we loved them and learned so much from both easy-going enlightened Ranch owners. They have made a conscious transition from high powered on the go lifestyles to this calming oasis and want to share the transformative options – whether you choose to make a change doesn’t matter, what matters is taking moments from our structured busy lives to accept calm and absorb a mindful shift – temporary or permanent.

Kids are welcome and with a small fee, dogs may also visit.

Highly recommend this Ranch Escape and I hope to return. Flexible to guests request, this is not a sanctuary hoping to change your life, it is merely a suggestion and the owners will discuss each client lifestyle. The Ranch is a marvelous location for a corporate retreat, a gathering of friends and family – a peaceful private oasis, with or without the ice bath!

Isn’t he adorable? Truly worth a visit!

Live Well, Dine Well, Travel Well.

Six Degrees of Separation – Jnane Tamsna, Magic in Marrakech

Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people are six or fewer social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of “friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It is also known as the six handshakes rule.

This is how I met Meryanne Loum-Martin and her husband Dr. Gary Martin the charming owners of Jnane Tamsna (Big Garden), in Marrakech. I love a story; I love connections and this meeting has blossomed into a full-blown novella!

Before I departed last November on my Moroccan 19 Day Camel Caravan, an old friend asked if I was visiting Jnane Tamsna, I wasn’t sure, my Journeys are greatly mapped out and sometimes don’t leave much time for impulsiveness in my schedule. A week in the chaos that is Marrakech had me begging for serene settings, gardens for late afternoon lunch. Amangena is always on the top of my list as is Royal Mansour and La Mamounia…when I remembered Jnane Tamsna, voila!

Arrive and meet the stunning proprietress, Meryanne, a striking natural beauty. Extending my enormous, gilded business card, I mention my bay area friends and I am quickly cloaked in a hug! Oh, you are friends with Jenny’s parents? My husband Gary was in their wedding in Berkeley!  Yes, I knew the background – I was now practically family!

Mosey through the beautiful wild gardens, and nosh at the edge of the pool on a sumptuous salad and yummy ice cream for dessert. Meryanne and Gary return to chat, she mentions she is leaving soon for Paris- Me too!  My son was planning to meet me for Thanksgiving and mounting Covid cases sent him home early. I mention I have reservations for the Alain Ducasse Pop up Dinner and the Louis Foundation exhibit – Meryanne checks calendar, and we have two dates in Paris next week! We add a delightful and delicious rainy-day lunch at Pavilion de la Reine as a guest of her friend, the owner, Jérôme Chevalier.

The story continues as I plot a month of working from Morocco before European spring travel. Three days stay at Jnane Tasmna and Meryanne consulting with one of my visiting clients. She has a design studio in the souk where one can purchase local décor, pieces which she has designed or had made by her legion of fine local craftsmen. She has an impeccable eye and amazing resources – and is frequently involved in community projects for local businesspeople.

I realized when I returned home, her book, Inside Marrakesh: Enchanting Homes and Gardens was in my library.

Jnane Tamsna blends Meryanne Loum-Martin’s splendid interior design and Gary Martin’s serene nine-acre garden. Integrating 5 houses, 5 pools and a tennis court, this unique boutique property offers 24 individual rooms, scattered about between five private villas with pools and gardens and can be reserved fully exclusive for private events. 

To describe this property as a hotel is not quite accurate, it is more like an extension of a gorgeous rambling family home. Multiple salons are connected by gardens and stunning sunny terraces. Cushy loungers, cozy corners for reading, napping or working. At six pm, an assistant wanders through the property, lighting hundreds of candles and all the fireplaces – it’s truly a magical transformation. Bubbly is served and all is well in the world at Jnane Tasmna!

Wander the paths of the botanical garden, enjoy a refreshing swim in one of the five swimming pools and savor a delicious lunch in the shade of the elegant date palms… all part of a refreshing and rejuvenating day at Jnane Tamsna. Ride a camel through the date palms, improve your back hand at tennis, cruise the medina in a sidecar …or simply lunch and lounge around the pool. My clients arrived in a horse drawn carriage for a romantic private dinner in one of the candle lit salons.

This is a very relaxed atmosphere, I could have moseyed about barefoot, but I didn’t! Located in the Palmeraie, the historic palm grove that borders Marrakech, town is not far, but the jumble of Marrakech is left behind in the quiet garden oasis. The entire property feels like a large secret garden.

The rooms vary in size and are impeccably decorated in an eclectic combination of colorful textiles, African art, all with Meryanne’s elegant boho chic sense of style. A delightful mix of Moroccan crafts with Middle Eastern furnishings and bright colorful walls, it’s beyond comfortable. Many rooms have fireplaces, most have deep soaking tubs and spacious bathrooms. It’s abundantly clear they share a deep passion and deep knowledge of Morocco and its culture.

All the 24 rooms are light and airy, and open out onto verandahs that overlook the gardens. Decorated with Meryanne’s impeccable and eclectic style, with an amazing collection of African textiles, reflecting the Martin’s wide-ranging travels and interests. Meryanne’s flawless style is present everywhere throughout the property.

Gary Martin, a respected ethnobotanist, tends the ever-changing garden, Meryanne, a French-Senegalese designer, is responsible for the interiors and the elegant meals and an abundance of ever-changing floral bouquets.

Gary, wanders through the property greeting guests, and has an impressive CV as a cultural anthropologist and ethnobotanist. A former University lecturer, he is the founder of the Global Diversity Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports local communities along with agricultural, biological, and cultural diversity. Gary oversees farm gardens off property which grow herbs and crops for local restaurants.

Dinners in the salon or on a private terrace make the most of sun-ripe vegetables and pungent herbs plucked directly from the organic gardens. Meals are never in one prescribed location, and the tables are beyond spectacular in settings and décor. It’s magic, truly! Every meal I’ve enjoyed has been fresh, creative, and delicious.

 Jnane Tamsna is an enchanting oasis just outside the city of Marrakech and is far from a typical hotel property in Marrakech. Creature comforts abound, casual chic style and effortless dining in stunning salon locations or amid the garden palms, poolside. Highly Recommend for short or long visit, I can envision moving in for a month or longer!