Carmel Valley Ranch | Carmel, CA

Many of us know Carmel, California for its beautiful coastline, storybook-style architecture, fine art community and abundance of hotels, restaurants, and shops. The beauty of this area draws people from around the world and is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on earth.

What many people don’t realize is that there is an entirely different side of Carmel. Just a few miles from downtown is what could be considered the rural side of Carmel, known as Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley offers a distinctively different experience with its serene countryside setting, rolling hills, vineyards, golf courses, equestrian trails and so much more that make this a perfect destination for the outdoor and wine enthusiast wanting to experience the peaceful, slower paced lifestyle of this beautiful region.

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Belmond El Encanto | Santa Barbara, CA

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Discretely nestled in the foothills overlooking Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean you will find an enchanting hideaway called the Belmond El Encanto. This property exudes glamour and elegance in an understated manner and offers a sophisticated comfort that is captivating from the moment you arrive.

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Monterey, CA: Whale Watching

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Sailors enjoying the day.

Spring in California is an incredible time to go on a whale watching excursion. The whales are still migrating at this time which makes for an active outing.

It’s a misconception that if you don’t go at a certain time of year that you won’t see a whale. As a matter of fact, the company I usually use for whale watching, Sanctuary Cruises, guarantees you will see one any day of the year or your next trip is free. I can attest that I have gone at different times of the year and have seen whales each time. It’s the type of whale you see that will vary during the year.

Sanctuary Cruises heads out from Moss Landing in the Monterey Bay Area, CA. This boat is a smaller vessel than what some of the other tours use which allows you a closer, more intimate view of the animals and enhanced experience.

The boat takes off from the Moss Landing Harbor.

The greeting committees…

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This area is great for kayakers, one side is the Elkhorn Slough Reserve where you can see sea otters, tiger sharks, birds and so much more; or you can be a little more adventurous and head out for some ocean paddling where you will see otters, sea lions, dolphins and whales (yes they do come in close to the shore line at times).

It doesn’t take long once you’re out of the harbor to start spotting whales…

…and pods of dolphins.

This has been an amazing experience every time I have gone out and I highly recommend it any time of year.

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Pebble Beach Stables

I finally made time to visit the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center. It’s a quaint and rustic center that is filled with charm and character.

@2014 Susan Edel

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The stables are open to the public and you can take forest or beach trail rides…or just stop by and visit the horses.

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I developed a little crush on Quincy.

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This one here was a bit of a ham and likes to strike a pose.

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I had to laugh at this cat, in the background of a few photos, who is clearly the king of the stables the way he prances around.

Do you think this one is mocking me? I see you looking at me and sticking your tongue out!!

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And I always make time to stop by my favorite spot in Pebble Beach, Roy’s Restaurant at The Inn at Spanish Bay.

My favorite experience at Roy’s is listening to the nightly Bag Piper play at sunset. 

If you haven’t been to Pebble Beach, make your way out here. It’s one of the prettiest places on earth!

Brewery Gulch Inn | Mendocino, CA

While reading Travel and Leisure’s World’s Best List, I came across something that caught my attention. The #20 on this world’s best list is a 10 room inn located in Mendocino, CA ~ The Brewery Gulch Inn.

Being familiar with the small town of Mendocino, I was intrigued by this achievement and felt that I had to explore this quaint inn.

@2014 Susan Edel

After arriving at the property, I chatted with the inn’s proprietor, Guy Pacurar, who shared his story with me of how he became the owner of the Brewery Gulch Inn (BGI).

He revealed how as a young boy he took annual trips with his family to a property in Palm Springs where the owner would BBQ dinner and the guests would mingle each night. The fond memories of those gatherings stayed with him, and as the years passed it became his desire to purchase an inn and create that same atmosphere for his guests. After looking at numerous properties across the U.S., Guy chose this inn located in the charming town of Mendocino.

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The Property

Located about a mile south of historic downtown Mendocino, BGI is located on the East side of Hwy 1 perched on a bluff and offers views of Smuggler’s Cove and the Pacific Ocean.

The grounds are expansive and natural in habitat along with some colorful plantings, an herb garden and some quiet alcove areas. There are hiking trails throughout the property for fun exploration.

Numerous bird feeders throughout the property help to attract an extraordinary array of bird species that are located in this region such as Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Hummingbirds, Osprey and so much more. It’s no wonder that several of the rooms at the inn are named after a bird.

The gem of the property is the back deck which faces the Pacific Ocean and is the perfect place to relax, enjoy a glass wine and watch a gorgeous sunset.

Main Inn/ Guest Rooms

@2014 Susan Edel

As you enter the inn, there is a warm and welcoming feeling as though you are visiting a favorite relative’s house. A large wood-burning fireplace resides in the middle of the Great Room dividing the intimate reception desk and small gift shop area from the living and dining room.

Arts and Crafts style furniture in rich wood tones and chestnut leather seating create a comfortable gathering room for the guests.

Large, oversized doors open up from the living area to a large deck facing ocean views for a wonderful indoor/outdoor experience. A large bookcase houses a library of literature, an extensive DVD collection and numerous games for the guest’s enjoyment.

There are guest rooms off each side of the Great Room on the first floor, and a staircase takes you up to a second and third level to the remaining rooms. As I was walking up the stairs, there was an intimate feeling of being shown to “my bedroom” and not the impersonal feeling of being directed to a room at a hotel. As I entered the room, I was greeted with some sweet amenities (delicious sea salt caramels) and a bottle of wine.

I had the distinct pleasure of staying in one of the most requested rooms, the Osprey room. The Opsrey is a corner room located at one end of the second floor with three exterior walls with large windows so the room has a very light and airy feeling and offers serene views of the property along with views of Smuggler’s Cove and the Pacific Ocean.

@2014 Susan Edel

I enjoyed the fact that there were no screens on the windows which offered a clear view of the gorgeous greenery of the trees and the property grounds. The weather was beautiful during my stay so I left my windows open letting the air flow through and allowing the sounds of the birds and the ocean to filter through the room.

The same was true for the large bathroom window over the soaking tub/shower which I was able to completely open and it almost provided the experience of taking a shower outdoors. And one of the best treats for me was waking up to the stillness of the morning engulfed in fog which was so peaceful and serene.

@2014 Susan Edel

The Raven room mirrors the Osprey at the other end of the second floor and is a great choice as well. Due to the location of these two rooms, they would be my first choice when booking a stay here. Having said that though, all the rooms face out towards the ocean view, have en-suite bathrooms (some with jetted soaking tubs), Asprey bath amenities, fireplaces, flat screen tv’s and a sitting area.

The inn does have WiFi throughout the building, however, I did find it to be sporadic while trying to use it. I also did not have any cell service while I was in the building but if I stepped outside I received service – of course, that may vary from person to person depending on their carrier.

The rooms do not have refrigerators or coffee makers, however, there is a mini-refrigerator located in the common area on the second floor with some sodas and waters for all the guests. A beverage bar in the Great Room offers a Keurig coffee maker, teas and hot chocolate which are available 24/7, along with freshly brewed coffee at breakfast time.

Dining

@2014 Susan Edel

In the true manner of an inn, and included in the price of your stay, is a full breakfast and a generous “Happy Hour” that serves more as a full dinner experience. The offering of fine food and wine is as much an integral part of the experience at BGI as the accommodations itself.

Breakfast is served from 8-10 am. You can choose to eat in the Great Room, the outside patio or in your guest room. You order off of a menu of various items such as delicious egg dishes, hearty bacon and sausages, pancakes, granola along with fruit and the daily fresh-baked pastry. It’s an amazing start to the day.

In the evenings, Happy Hour is from 5:30-6:30 pm. When your nose starts to tingle from the aroma floating throughout the inn, you know it’s time to make your way down to the Great Room.

The reception desk is converted into a bar offering wines from the nearby wineries and locally brewed beers. I love this concept, not only in the sense of supporting the local community, but also as a visitor to the area, I want to experience what is local to the region. On one of the evenings, Handley Cellars an Anderson Valley winery, was pouring their wine.

During Happy Hour, there is also a generous buffet-style “dinner” served each night. Chef Peg Davis, does an amazing job using local ingredients in the farm-to-table concept and the meals rival any first-class restaurant.

@2014 Susan Edel

Some of the dishes offered during my stay were Goat Cheese Tartlettes, Bacon Wrapped Figs, Golden Polenta Cakes, Boneless Chicken and Mild Herbed Italian Sausage with Chocolate dipped Strawberries for dessert…and that was just the first night I was there! The meal was delicious.

The following day, I considered going to a restaurant for dinner but in the end, I knew that something amazing would be served and I wanted to relax and experience all the inn had to offer (the photo is of the next night’s meal that was just as delicious).

A funny thing would happen in the early evening, it’s not uncommon for it to be a quiet environment in the public spaces during the day; but when the clock strikes 5:30 pm, the Great Room fills up with the inn guests and every table gets taken. Only fifteen minutes earlier, you would never have realized that all these people were staying at the inn. It’s that feeling of your mom calling you to dinner and everyone rushes down to gather around the table. In this case, although you may not know these people, I can guarantee you that by the end of the meal you have made some new friends.

After dinner, most everyone lingered around in the living room. I chatted and shared many laughs with several interesting people during dinner and throughout the evening, as other guests played games, read magazines or socialized with each other. By the end of the second night, the inn was feeling very “homey” to me and I felt that everyone there had become, at the very least, a friendly acquaintance. Overall the experience really exudes a family gathering atmosphere that leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy.

As my last evening ended, I began to understand the feeling Guy must have experienced in Palm Springs all those years ago…and I thought how satisfying it must be for him that he has truly recreated the experience of his youth for the guests of his own inn.

Activities

@2014 Susan Edel

If you have not been to the Mendocino area, don’t hesitate another moment to make your way to this stunning region of Northern California.

In my personal opinion, I have always believed that this is one of the most beautiful coastlines I have ever seen. Not to mention the fact that the charming historic town of Mendocino offers quaint shops, restaurants and museums, with a twist of sophistication influenced from the San Francisco Bay Area. The town is still made up of original buildings from the mid-1800’s, it’s truly the town that time forgot ~ in the best way possible.

The charm of Mendocino is frequently compared to the towns in the northeastern state of Maine and has lured many production companies to film around this area. The iconic TV show Murder She Wrote was fictitiously based on the East Coast but the exterior shots that aired each week for 12 seasons was actually filmed in Mendocino.

@2014 Susan Edel

There is so much to do within the vicinity of the inn that BGI offers the option of utilizing their Pre-Arrival Concierge services to help you plan your time effectively. Activities such as kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, whale-watching or relaxing with an in-room massage are readily available and the staff at BGI will help you plan it all.

One of the great aspects I noticed about Guy is that he seems to really know the surrounding area well and has made strong connections within the community. The bonds that he has made with community members seems to enhance and offer the BGI guest a more personalized experience while visiting the shops, restaurants and wineries in the surrounding area. On the weekend I was visiting, the town was having its annual Mushroom Festival and Guy had entered a soup cook-off…never did hear if he won or not…but it’s this type of involvement that makes him endearing.

I spent some time in Elk, a tiny town that if you blink as you drive through you will miss it…but don’t blink because it’s worth the view. I didn’t stop in Boonville but it is obvious that this is an up and coming little town making itself over into a trendy area.

@2014 Susan Edel

A huge draw to this region now are the Anderson Valley wineries. Driving north from the San Francisco Bay Area, the drive alone is enchanting as you pass llama farms and wind your way through the beautiful redwoods on Hwy 128, then as you approach the wineries, the landscape opens up to lush vineyards and rustic barns used as tasting rooms. If you are a wine lover, this is a great way to spend a day.

Summary

@2014 Susan Edel

For me, the allure of quaint properties is about the warmth and personal engagement offered that engenders a deep sense of comfort and wellbeing in your soul. If there is anything I have learned in my years of exploring luxury travel, it’s that true luxury is constituted by the emotional connection of your experience and not necessarily by who has the fanciest silk linens.

The Brewery Gulch Inn offers a very personal experience and manages to make you feel like family in the process of serving you the finest in food, wine and accommodations that the area has to offer…and the stunning beauty of the Mendocino coastline is certainly an added perk that not just any place can offer.

Coming back to Mendocino made me realize that I need to spend way more time in this area with all there is to do here.

Related Links:

Elk, CA