Ritz-Carlton | Denver, CO

There is something exhilarating about being in Denver, Colorado…maybe it’s that crisp Rocky Mountain air, maybe it’s the 300+ days of sunshine a year, or maybe it’s the laid-back urban vibe that the city evokes. Whatever it is, the Mile-High City {nicknamed so because its elevation is exactly one mile above sea level} offers a nice juxtaposition between the urban Financial District with its high-rise buildings and the remanence of its old-west history with its historic neighborhoods and iconic landmarks.

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As most of my regular readers know, it is always my intention to stay at the most luxurious accommodations in any given area I visit as well as my preference to stay in a unique, boutique-style hotel; however, when I’m in an urban area, I admit that I enjoy staying in a high-rise that allows me to have a birds-eye view of the city and the bustling activity below. In looking for a luxury hotel in the Denver area, I knew that the Ritz-Carlton Denver would be a great choice. I appreciate the reliability of a luxury brand such as the Ritz-Carlton Hotels that I know I can count on to offer consistent and dependable quality in luxury accommodations.

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L’Auberge de Sedona | Sedona, AZ

Discretely nestled along the banks of Oak Creek in the breathtaking Red Rock region of Sedona, ArizonaL’Auberge de Sedona has created a secluded, luxurious and tranquil setting located steps from Uptown Sedona.

@2016 Susan Edel

Property

The configuration of this property is situated such that it starts creekside then dramatically elevates up the hillside, offering guests the option of staying either by the tranquility of the creekside or on the hillside that offers panoramic Red Rock vistas. The property is intimate with a serene ambiance that almost feels like a well-kept secret from the rest of town. However, when you’re ready to explore all the unique shops, galleries and restaurants, you are just steps away.

One of the most appealing aspects of this property is how much it has to offer. There are several distinctly different accommodations available, an on-site spa/fitness and pool, award-winning dining options, wine bar, and an Artist’s Cottage. It’s no surprise why this resort has been named one of the top hotels by Travel and Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Zagat Survey and has received the Award of Excellence from DiRoNa and Wine Spectator.

Check-In

The resort is tucked stealthily a level below the town’s main street, so keep your eyes open for the modest entrance sign which leads you down a narrow driveway. The driveway opens to a small round-about at the Lobby entrance. Vallet and Bellman are ready to assist you upon arrival.

The cozy lobby is warm and inviting with its reclaimed wood walls, leather chairs and artwork by local artisans. The casual elegance of the lobby is only enhanced by the staff in their professional ensemble along with their friendly and helpful demeanor.

Guest Rooms

A really unique feature of this property is the fact that it offers a number of distinctively different types of accommodations, offering something for everyone.

The property consists of 88 units which include Creekside Cottages, Vista Suites and Cottages, Spa and Garden Cottages, the Creekhouse, and a Lodge with 21 rooms.

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Photo Credit: L’Auberge de Sedona

Creekside Cottages/Suites: The Creekside Cottages are situated on the banks of Oak Creek offering a direct view of the flowing creek and are surrounded by lush trees and vegetation providing a comfortable shaded setting. These cottages have lovely creek views but do not offer direct views of the Red Rocks.  These individual cottages are luxuriously designed in a clean, contemporary style and feature wood-burning fireplaces, king-sized beds, cedar outdoor showers and large outdoor decks. I would say these cottages are perfect for the person who enjoys being outdoors and taking in nature ~ with these units you can sit on your outdoor deck and listen to the babbling creek as it flows by. These cottages are closely located to the creekside restaurant and lobby. The difference between the cottages vs. suites is that the cottages are a studio and suites offer a separate bedroom and living room. Recommendation for best cottages are #6 and #7 along with Creekside Cottage Suite #5.

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Photo Credit: L’Auberge de Sedona

Vista Cottages and Suites: In contrast to the Creekside Cottages, the Vista Cottages and Suites offer a completely different view, these individual cottages are located hillside with panoramic views of the beautiful Red Rocks but do not see the creek. The rooms offer the same clean, contemporary design as the Creekside Cottages with over-sized picture windows, gas fireplaces, soaking tubs, outdoor cedar showers and a large deck to enjoy the views.

As with the Creekside Cottages, the difference between the Vista Cottages and Suites are that the cottages are a studio and the suites are a one-bedroom unit. Another difference between these two categories is that the Vista Suites sit one row higher in elevation above the regular cottages. The advantage to the suites sitting higher is that you’re at a slightly higher elevation for the views {although both categories offer great views} but also that the suites have a little more privacy from their decks because the row of regular cottages below mask the view of the main entrance to the hotel where everyone comes in and out. The regular cottages overlook the main entrance. I would say that these room categories are perfect for the person who enjoys expansive views and enjoys witnessing stunning sunrises and sunsets.

@2016 Susan EdelI stayed in Vista Suite #94 and found it to be a great location. I woke up each morning and drank my coffee on the deck and watched the sunrise, and in the evenings watched the incredible sunsets. The Vista Suite I was in is one of the best rooms for that category and the best Vista Cottages are #87 and #88 – these are located towards the end of the row, not directly overlooking the resort entrance.

Spa Cottages: The Spa Cottages are located in the middle of the property between the Creekside Cottages and the Vista Suites. The rooms are located close to the on-site spa and offer an outdoor terrace to enjoy the garden landscape. These cottages don’t have views of either the creek or the Red Rocks. The Spa Cottages offer many of the same amenities as the other rooms with maybe a bit more of a residential flair to them.

Garden@2016 Susan Edel Cottages: The Garden Cottages are similar to the Creekside Cottages in design and amenities, offering wood-burning fireplaces but do not offer the outdoor showers and are located one row back from the Creekside Cottages. The Garden cottages offer a serene setting overlooking the beautiful landscape. Some Garden Cottages are pet-friendly.

Creekhouse: The Creekhouse is ideal for large gatherings with 2,500 square feet of communal space and five bedrooms – each with its own private bath. This house is ideal for wedding parties, business retreats and group reunions. To book this house you must go through the Sales Department.

The Lodge:@2016 Susan Edel Lastly, there is the Lodge. You could almost call this a resort within a resort. The two-story lodge offers a warm and inviting communal space {lobby} evoking old European charm with a large stone fireplace, wood-beamed ceiling and an antler chandelier along with 21 rooms consisting of standard lodge rooms and {2} suites each with their own patio or private balcony. At the time of my visit {March 2016}, the lodge was closed for renovation so I did not get to see it in its final state ~ the lodge has since re-opened. These rooms do not offer the same amenities as the cottages such as in-room fireplaces and outdoor showers but this accommodation would be perfect for the individual who enjoys being in a cozy lodge setting, or possibly if you are traveling with a group and would like to be in close vicinity to each other. The Lodge does not have a separate check-in, you check-in at the main lobby on property.

All accommodations on property offer:

  • Complimentary high-speed Internet
  • Daily newspaper delivery (upon request)
  • Gilchrist & Soames hair and skin products
  • Italian linens
  • Down bedding and pillows
  • Nightly turndown service
  • Complimentary coffee/tea selection
  • Voicemail
Dining

One of the most magical aspects of L’Auberge is the unique dining experience it offers. There are a variety of options that offer a little something for everyone. The creekside restaurant and bar is a local favorite because of the fine dining and unique setting offered.

Cress on Oak Creek: offers fine dining and provides an almost fairytale setting with its outdoor, creekside setting.

Creekside Reserve: is the most romantic outdoor private gazebo, canopied in dripping ivy and a crystal chandelier. The perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or to pop that special question!

Etch Kitchen & Bar: Etch offers a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere with tapas style dishes and a variety of great libations.

Chef’s Table: For the true “foodie”, reserve the Chef’s Table for the ultimate culinary experience.

Wine Cellar: Not to be missed is the award-wining Wine Cellar, a recipient of Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” 22 consecutive times.

L’Auberge’s dining experience has been named “One of the Top Ten Restaurants in the Southwest” by Condé Nast Traveler, and one of the “Top 100 Al Fresco Dining” spots in the U.S. by OpenTable.

DSC_2008Spa/Fitness/Pool

Upon entering the L’Apothecary Spa your senses are immediately awakened by the fragrant offerings presented at the apothecary bar. An interactive station allows you to select ingredients, herbs, oils and local botanicals to create personalized bath soaks and body scrubs to be used in your treatment or to take home with you.

This full-service spa offers a variety of treatments* and wellness classes to rejuvenate your body and spirit. Experience the spa’s more unique offerings such as a moonlit meditation, daily yoga and hiking the stunning Red Rocks around the property. Be sure to visit SpiritSong, the highest point on property, for a little spiritual rejuvenation.

*With only 4 treatment rooms, reservations are highly recommended.

Located next to the spa is a nice fitness room consisting of treadmills, stationary bicycles and weights available to all guests. The room has a cottage style feel with french doors overlooking the pool.

Unique to the Property

A few special events that are unique to this property are:

The Artist in Residence Program: This program brings local Sedona artists on property to interact with guests to share their techniques and artistry and offers some art classes that you can participate in. You will find the local artisan’s artwork throughout the resort.

Summer Music Series: The resort offers an exclusive summer music series featuring talented singers and musicians every Friday and Saturday evening in May and June. The live music is complimentary and open to the public. Quite a treat to experience an intimate musical performance in a beautiful setting.

Guided Star Gazing: Sedona offers the perfect environment to explore the night sky and L’Auberge takes it a step further by providing an astronomer to guide you through the brilliant star formations.

The resort also offers a car service within a two-mile radius of town.

In Summary

I found L’Auberge de Sedona to be a lovely, serene property offering a true luxury experience along with a plethora of unique activities that reflect the flavor of this incredibly beautiful region. The staff is friendly, professional and always willing to help. The Bellman are happy to tote you around the resort in the golf carts to get you from one location to another. I found all staff members to engaging and interested in my well-being at all times. You won’t find better service than this in Sedona!

L’Auberge de Sedona offers the idyllic location from which to explore Sedona, visit the ever-growing Verde Valley Wine Trail, or to just relax and pamper yourself on property.

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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

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