Bodega Bay, CA

If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area, a fun little road trip is to head north on Hwy 1 to the small town of Bodega Bay. Many of you will be familiar with Bodega Bay because of it’s Hollywood history. This small town is where Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movie The Birds was filmed with Tippi Hedren.

DSC_7090The original schoolhouse and church still stand proudly in the midst of town.

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This tiny town now cashes in on its Hollywood legacy and you will find fun references to the movie throughout town.

Tippi Hedren comes to town every Labor Day and will sign autographs for a small fee that go towards her exotic animal sanctuary, The Roar Foundation Shambala Preserve. The County Store sells many signed photos and I found some great reproductions of Edith Head’s costume designs for the movie. I’m really kicking myself for not purchasing one now.

If you’re feeling adventurous, continue heading north on Hwy 1 along the stunning Pacific Ocean. It’s a fun drive on the windy road and you will see such beautiful landscape.

And who doesn’t love coming across old barns?

If you drive north to Jenner, you will spot a huge Totem pole and I highly suggest stopping at the Timber Cove Inn for lunch, you may even want to make this a pit-stop for the night…however, let me make this very clear – ask for a renovated ocean view room – trust me on this one! The view is spectacular from the dining patio…

…and you may even spy a movie star. Kathleen Turner sat at the table next to me, no mistaking her with that sexy, deep, raspy voice.

If you take the time to explore this area, you will be surprised at how much history there is in these tiny little towns and the original structures that still stand. There was a time in the late 1800’s that these towns were thriving communities and it’s fun to discover the history of the area.

Explore. It’s good for your soul. Happy traveling!

Point Arena Lighthouse

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’m obsessed with lighthouses. There is something so eerie, mystical and ruggedly beautiful about them. The Point Arena Lighthouse in Northern California is no exception.

DSC_6259This lighthouse is located on the stunning rocky coast of Mendocino County. Come take a tour with me…I hope you’re not afraid of heights.

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DSC_6305Let’s start climbing the 145 steps, up 115 feet.

Enjoy the view along the way…

We made it to the top. I love this gorgeous copper ceiling.

DSC_6336Your reward, a bird’s eye view of the incredible landscape.

DSC_6332If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by to take a look at the museum and learn about the history of this interesting area and lighthouse. There are rental accommodations located on site as well.

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The Sea Ranch, CA

At the risk of repeating myself I will once again say, Northern California has some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

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DSC_6632There are a variety of towns along the California coast where the ocean views will take your breath away. Some of them are world-renowned such as Pebble Beach and others are unknown, tiny towns guarding their anonymity from the masses, yet all share the same stunning seaside.

Less than 3 hours north of San Francisco, between Bodega Bay and Mendocino, is the environmentally-conscious, unincorporated community of The Sea Ranch (yes, “The” is a part of the name but it is usually referred to just as Sea Ranch).

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Sea Ranch spans over a 10 mile range and offers a 19-room lodge, Sea Ranch Lodge, with a fantastic restaurant called the Black Point Grill. It is also an established community of approximately 1800 residences, with the majority of these homes being vacation rentals.

Sea Ranch is noted for its distinctive architecture which consists of simple straight-lined structures clad in wooden siding or shingles with large picture windows. There are specific guidelines to be met when building within The Sea Ranch and all exterior architectural designs are subject to a review process for approval. The beauty of these strict guidelines is that it has created a cohesive and homogenous environment that gives this community a serene and peaceful feeling.

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I’ve stayed at the lodge before which is lovely, however on this visit, I decided to rent an oceanfront home (The Woodland). The vacation rentals throughout this community are individually owned and managed by several different realty companies and a quick Google search for Sea Ranch vacation rentals will pull up numerous property options. A tip for you, this is an extremely large community and the homes are located on either side of Hwy 1, so if your desire is to be by the water with access to the walking trails be sure to confirm that the property is located on the west side of Hwy 1.

Staying at Sea Ranch is the perfect place to decompress and rejuvenate your soul. The view below was what I woke up to each morning. This photo was literally taken from my iPad while I was still in bed. Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this each morning? It was a great way to start the day.

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The sunsets were even more spectacular. It was such a treat to go to sleep to the sound of the crashing waves against the rocky cliffs.

There are miles and miles of walking trails along the water’s edge and through the woods.

Sea Ranch is also a very dog friendly environment so don’t forget your furry babies.

DSC_6504Should you feel like exploring beyond Sea Ranch, there are numerous interesting places to visit such as the lighthouse at Point Arena, the town of Bodega Bay where Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Bird’s was filmed, the charming town of Mendocino and for meal options, gas and groceries visit the closest town of Gualala (the G is pronounced like a W).

Here’s another insider tip, almost everything closes down by 8:00 pm in this area. You will want to be sure that you have visited or picked up any items from the grocery store before this time or you will be out-of-luck. As mentioned above, the Sea Ranch Lodge has a wonderful restaurant but because it’s the only eating establishment within The Sea Ranch it tends to be quite busy and reservations are highly recommended. There are restaurants in Gualala but even those close down early. I was looking for a place to eat after 8:00 pm and the restaurants were in the process of shutting down. I luckily found one pizza place that had one medium dough left to make a pizza…so keep that in mind.

Sea Ranch is an amazing place to restore and rejuvenate and I look forward to returning soon.

Here is a gallery of all my images.

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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!

Defining My Ultimate Luxury Hotel

I will fully admit it’s hard not to become a little spoiled when you have the opportunity to stay at some of the most luxurious hotels in the United States and beyond. With each trip I take, I find a new, indulgent feature that finds its way onto my fantasy list for, what I would consider, the makings of the Ultimate Luxury Hotel.

Sure there are the no-compromise standards for me such as:

Service*Service*Service: My saying is that just as location, location, location is to real estate, so is service, service, service to the luxury hotel industry: in my book ~ No. Compromises. Ever. Good service is the first and foremost attribute that defines any luxury hotel ~ bar none.

Decadent Beds: This is a must for me because a big part of a vacation is being able to relax and sleep well in order to rejuvenate yourself ~ which is what a vacation is all about, right? Many hotels are very aware that this is a growing request among their guests and are now going to extreme lengths to provide this luxury. The Four Seasons Hotel brand has gone as far as to implement custom-designed beds for their guests’ comfort, Travel and Leisure printed an interesting Battle-of-the Beds article on this trend, and hotel beds are now even making “Top 25” lists. Great news for all of us!

Aside from the expected standard-of-excellence at a luxury hotel, I relish in the fine details and the little extras that many places offer. These touches are what can make or break a hotel. Throughout my travels, I have accumulated a fantasy list of what I wish every resort would offer, so here are some of the top items on my list:

A Great Welcome: I love arriving at a resort and having the staff greet me by name. Sometimes I’m not even sure how they know it but it certainly makes me feel special. I also love a nice Welcome Amenity. There is something about walking into an unfamiliar room and finding a little treat awaiting you with a welcome note that immediately makes you feel special and at home. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way. The Rosewood Mayakoba is memorable to me in that the staff have a stealth way of communicating with one another throughout the property, ensuring that you are always greeted by name. The Rosewood Mayakoba also offered me one of the best welcome amenities, when upon my arrival, I was presented with a custom-monogrammed napkin with a welcome drink, as well as monogrammed pillow cases, a tote bag, a tequila set and a baseball hat placed in my room…talk about feeling special!

Breakfast Included: I know this might seem basic but I find this a nice perk as breakfast is my favorite meal of the day….and not any ol’ breakfast, let’s make this a gourmet breakfast! The Post Ranch Inn offers one of the most delicious breakfast meals I’ve ever had, not to mentioned it’s served in their Sierra Mar restaurant with stunning views of the Pacific. At Chateau du Sureau, a Relais & Chateaux property, I was awakened as the aroma of breakfast cooking seeped in through the floor boards and engulfed my room. It doesn’t get any better than that and obviously made for a memorable experience.

Outdoor Shower: I’m no exhibitionist but I adore an outdoor shower. There is something so invigorating about taking a shower outdoors in the fresh air. This has become one of my favorite amenities. Calistoga Ranch offers wonderful outdoor showers located under the beautiful mighty oaks on their property. It’s exotically rustic and decadent at the same time.

Luxury Car Program: Many luxury resorts offer a house driver that will usually take you anywhere within a few miles radius which is an extremely convenient service ~ and let me tell you, nothing feels more celebrity-like then when a place like the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills picks you and your besties up at the hottest restaurant in town in their stunning Rolls Royce.

But what is even more fun, is when a hotel offers a luxury car loaner program that allows you to complementarily use the car for the day. I’ve done this at many resorts but one of my favorite memories is when I rented a convertible Mercedes at Solage Calistoga and spent a gorgeous California day driving through the beautiful vineyards in Napa’s Wine Country. I can still feel the wind blowing through my hair!

Pool Amenties: Pool time is always a priority for me on my trips. So for that reason, I absolutely love pool amenities. Not just the water buckets, Evian spritzers, or occasional popsicles ~ although nothing wrong with any of those…but I’m talking about complimentary cabanas, having my sunglasses cleaned, my neck massaged, and yes, even a Margarita bar rolled over my way. To me, there is nothing more luxuriously self-indulgent than pampering pool amenities.

Valet Closet: Many of you may not even know what this is, and it’s probably not what you’re thinking, but it is one of my very favorite features and I wish that every hotel I stayed at had one these. This is a small pass-thru cabinet with a door opening from the hotel hallway and then another door opening from inside the hotel room that allows room service or other personnel to slip items into the cabinet and then you can retrieve the item from your room without having to open the main door to hotel personnel. Brilliant!! How many times have you been in your room relaxing, not appropriately dressed and someone knocks on the door with something for you? Too many times for me to count, so I really appreciate this privacy feature that allows me to remain in complete comfort when my room service order is delivered. The Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas is one of the few hotels that I have been to that has this feature ~ other resorts please take note!

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This is just the tip of the iceberg of what I would like to see at my Ultimate Luxury Hotel…complimentary minibars, Club Level perks, downloadable hotel apps, resort bikes are just a few others that come to mind as well. How about you? What defines your Ultimate Luxury Hotel? I would love to know.

 

Mendocino, CA

Mendocino

Written by

Susan Edel
Fade in:
Int. Downtown Mendocino on a picture perfect day
SUSAN
(strolling the sidewalk window shopping)

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Ok, ok…that might be the closest I ever get to a Hollywood script but Mendocino certainly is no stranger to the limelight of Hollywood. Many movies have been filmed in and around this charming town such as The Karate Kid, Overboard, Dying YoungSummer of ’42 and so many more, with the iconic movie filmed here being East of Eden starring James Dean.

@2014 Susan EdelThis sleepy little town in Northern California hasn’t changed much in…oh…150 years or so but it garners a lot of attention for its white picket fences and gingerbread trim charm.

Many of the businesses operate out of the original buildings, circa 1850’s. Replace the cars with horse and buggies and you would be immediately transported in time.

With numerous water towers still standing tall in town, in many ways it feels like the town that time forgot…

…with a slight touch of sophistication emerging from the San Francisco Bay Area. When in town, treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Trillium Cafe serving locally grown, organic California cuisine.

Add this charming town to your list, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and let’s not forget the stunning ocean view.

@2014 Susan Edel

The End
Fade Out: 

Int. Slide show showcasing the town rolls.

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Related Links:

The Brewery Gulch Inn
Elk, CA