Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn | Sonoma, CA

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa, located in the Sonoma Wine Region of California, is a unique property that sits atop a natural, thermal mineral spring that was discovered by the Native Americans in the early 1800’s.

The Native Americans considered this site sacred healing grounds and as word spread over the years, a hotel was developed and people began to visit the property to “take-in the waters”. The thermal mineral spring is still active and a defining spa element at the hotel to this day.

@2016 Susan Edel

While this property is no longer the newest and trendiest resort in the Sonoma/Napa wine region, there is something to be said about a resort whose history runs deep and who has earned their rightful stature over the decades as a destination spa resort. There is a respective grandeur to the property that can only be derived through time due to a commitment to quality and service. This hotel’s allure is its rich heritage and to this day, is one of the only luxury spa resorts in the country with its own source of thermal mineral water.

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Exploring The Russian River Valley

Napa Valley and Sonoma are world-renowned for its wines, fine restaurants and luxury accommodations. A person could spend weeks and weeks exploring this region and only scratch the surface. So with as many times as I have been to the Napa Valley wine region, it was refreshing to discover yet another sector that I have never visited…the Russian River Valley.

On my drive to the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville (see here for the full review), I drove through the town of Sebastopol and stopped for lunch at The Barlow, a 220,000 square foot culinary and art center. There were many intriguing choices but I went with the Zazu Kitchen+Farm recommended by a friend. It was an excellent choice with unique menu items, open air seating and surrounded by fun and funky art sculptures.

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The Russian River Valley is in the heart of Sonoma County and has become most well-known for producing world-class Pinot Noir wine. Although Napa Valley is the more popular and polished destination, the historic RRV offers a rustic charm with an exciting incoming infusion of sophistication, fun and funk.

On the concierge’s suggestion at the Farmhouse Inn, I drove the proposed route going through several charming towns, some so small if you blinked you would miss them, but full of character just the same.

The town of Graton, now well-known for its Casino* (see hollyhan77’s comment below) seemed to be a pit-stop for cyclists who wanted to take a break at some of the coffee shops, there are a few antique and art stores and the Paul Mathew wine tasting room.

Unfortunately the Bambú Tea House wasn’t open, but it sure looked full of personality.

Freestone was one of those “don’t blink” towns but the colorful market and beautiful landscape are sure to catch your attention.

The largest (in relative terms) town on this route is Occidental. This bohemian town offers several restaurants, shops, a church, market and a hotel. I stopped for lunch at the Howard Cafe and the food was fresh and tasty…just keep in mind, you’re on “bohemian” time here so sit back and relax. 😉

It’s always a fun journey to discover new and unexpected places, and I’m definitely feeling the love for the Russian River Valley now.

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Farmhouse Inn | Forestville, CA

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There is a reason I titled my site No Ordinary Resort, it was my intention from the beginning to feature distinctive, boutique style hotels that offer personalized service, unique locations and experiences, and represent a one-of-a-kind property. And although I have larger properties listed on my site, The Farmhouse Inn falls into my initial concept precisely. This property may be small in size but it is huge in heart, style and luxe abundances.

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17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach

@2015 Susan Edel

In my opinion, I think everyone should take at least one trip to Pebble Beach in their lifetime, it’s the most gorgeous place on earth! Pebble Beach is a gated community on the central coast of California with a rugged, rocky shoreline highlighted by white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters. It’s a beautiful sight.

@2015 Susan Edel

There is a $10 per car entrance fee if you are not in possession of the coveted badge that residents flash when they enter, however, you can get in without paying if you have reservations at one of the luxury hotels or restaurants within the gates.

You ask “why would I want to pay $10 to enter these gates?”…because it costs less than a movie and the scenery is out of this world! $10 will transport you into a fairytale setting that will stay with you for a lifetime.

@2015 Susan Edel

Once you enter the gate, all you have to do is follow the red-brick (lined) road called The 17-Mile Drive. The 17-Mile Drive is…well, a 17-mile long scenic loop through the very affluent community of Pebble Beach. You are given a map at the gate and the wonderful aspect of this is you can sightsee at your leisure and stop at any or all locations you want to.

The road meanders through neighborhoods with mansions whose driveways cost more than the total value of all my belongings…

…follows the stunning Pacific coastline…

…and passes many famous sites such as the Lone Cypress (the iconic symbol for Pebble Beach),

@2015 Susan EdelBird Rock (hard to see the birds on the rock but they are there),

@2015 Susan Edeland the world-renowned golf course, Pebble Beach Golf Links.

And these guys may not be the most affluent residents that reside in Pebble Beach but they certainly are the cutest! How adorable is that family of Geese?

While in the area, I highly recommend stopping by one of the three luxury hotels, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and/or Casa Palmero, for a meal or better yet, an overnight stay. During my stay at Casa Palmero (post here), I took advantage of the Lexus test drive vehicles on property. I reserved the convertible model and let me tell you, there is no better way to see the stunning homes and all the beauty of Pebble Beach than in a convertible!

@2015 Susan Edel

This is a great way to spend the day!

Casa Palmero | Pebble Beach, CA

@2015 Susan Edel

Welcome to Heaven! Alright…welcome to Pebble Beach but this is certainly as close to Heaven as anything on earth!

Pebble Beach, California is a world-renowned destination, and for a very good reason…it is located on the most stunning coastline of Central California; it offers mild weather year-round; and it has the distinction of being the only gated city in the world ~ to say that this is an affluent community would be a serious understatement.

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