Category Archives: luxury travel

Luxury Hotel Deals: Le Meridien San Francisco

Two double beds and a view of the Bay!

Yes. Yes. Yes. A few steps from the Ferry Building and Embarcadero, a few streets (or short ride) to North Beach, a Marriott Bonvoy point qualifying property… we give this property a resounding yes.

Le Meridien San Francisco is a steal for any last minute SF vacation or the staycation feels. At around $200-$300/night (depending on the lucky lower rate you get), you’ll be smack dab in the city (but far enough from the Tenderloin sketchiness). With modern, bright, and wonderfully spacious rooms (bigger than my old midtown NYC apartment!), there’s a lovely front door staff and cocktail bar downstairs (Bar 333). Although there’s no longer valet, there’s parking for $35 overnight across the street in the garage beneath the Shops at the Embarcadero which works just fine. The room service menu is limited, but okay. One note: there’s no kid’s menu and not much for dessert so we had to Door Dash as my 8 year son couldn’t find a single thing he wanted to eat. What can I say? He’s used to having warm chocolate chip cookies sent up. The Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, California did a nice job spoiling him with their warm chocolate chip cookies. For moms like me, who want to get the little ones something special on a holiday, warm chocolate chip cookies with milk seems like a staple.

Pros: They have Bravo (hotels need to get with the program and get their Bravo TV!), there’s a decent bar downstairs where you can get a nice G&T (or two), the spaciousness of the rooms, and it’s so centrally located you can’t go wrong. Each of the 360 rooms have floor to ceiling windows and you’ll marvel at the remarkable skyline and unparalleled views of the San Francisco Bay. Win win.

Cons: Room service menu needs an option for kids and families traveling with them

https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/sfomd-le-meridien-san-francisco/overview/

Rating: 9/10

We’ll definitely come back and recommend highly to visitors and locals looking for a staycation.

Carmel Valley Spas: Bernardus Lodge and Spa

Bernardus Lodge and Spa Pool

Where to begin? Let’s start with the awe inspiring drive to the Carmel Valley from our hotel in Carmel-by-the-Sea. One of my favorite things to do in life is to take the top down on my 911 Carrera Cab to drive the 16 minutes from the ocean to the valley. Long stretches of a relaxing winding road, fresh air that moves it’s way through the low languid mountains, and the warmth of the valley embracing my shoulders as we leave the misty cliffs of Carmel to meet the vineyard and spa retreat that is the Carmel Valley.

The Carmel Valley Drive (c) Parker Seibold

During a weekend in Carmel, my partner-in-crime and I decided to book massages as the Bernardus Lodge and Spa along with an All Day Pass to soak up some pool or hot tub time, grab a light lunch, and relax. Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late so only had time for lunch by the pool before our spa appointments were to begin at 3pm (spa closes at 5pm). Alas, we headed to the pool.

Thankfully, it wasn’t crowded. A decent amount of people around gave it some liveliness with couples and a few families. We sat in the full warmth of the sunlight and the spa attendant told us that she would send someone out to take our order. After waiting 20 minutes, we realized that they may have forgotten about us. They had. Instead, they told us to place our orders via a phone by the side of the pool. A little odd that they wouldn’t offer to make the call for us after forgetting about us, but mistakes happen. We dialed in an order for two glasses of New World Sauvignon Blanc and two salads, the Roasted Beet Salad with chicken and a Caesar Salad with chicken.

The wine was cold and the salads substantial, but the chicken, oh the chicken! It was a quarter of a chicken grilled with the skin on, a massive thigh and attached drumstick. Not exactly easy to eat in the hot sun nor as tasty as it may have looked on a salad. We both wished they had served the salad with thin slices of grilled chicken breast. The brunch menu promoted “Where Old World Craft Meets New World Creativity,” but it lacked inspiration or any creativity – Caesar Salad, Burger, Eggs Benedict, Fried Chicken Sandwich, Crab Cake, a few pizza choices, and Huevos Rancheros. Had the chef brought in more thoughtful, interesting seasonal touches like grapefruit, fennel, strawberry, lemon, or kohlrabi and a bit of flair, it has potential based on the beauty and expanse of the property alone, but it wasn’t the sort of menu where you had a hard time deciding what to get because they’re weren’t any stand out choices. It was, for lack of a better word, basic.

The Heated Pool at Bernardus Spa

Onto the spa where the environment was an almost perfect Pottery Barn beige sense of calm. We were kindly welcomed and the spa attendant pointed out candied ginger to aid with digestion, assorted teas, fruit-infused water, and salted nuts as she ushered us inside. When we asked about our lockers and a robe, we were told that daytime spa guests didn’t receive them. That was when, after the large cavegirl leg of chicken on our salads and the spa forgetting to call the server, I realized that Bernardus, as stunning as the property may be nestled in the cozy rustic chic of Carmel Valley, isn’t quite at the level of service nor luxury that you would find at a Ritz Carlton, St. Regis, or Four Seasons.

We headed to the spa for the treatment, took a quick 10 minute dip in the deliciously heated small pool, and were then called to our appointments. The treatment did not disappoint. We had the Bernardus Essential Massage for 50 minutes ($185, approximately $250 with tip; it’s included). My therapist was excellent and the massage was just the perfect amount of Swedish relaxation with a bit of pressure. When we went to pay, the spa director told us – Strike 3 of the experience – that she noticed we had enjoyed the spa pool (this was a mere 10 minutes prior to the massages) and, although trying to be nice, both my friend and I felt slightly scolded when she said, “It’s okay this time, but next time, if you booked a spa appointment for the day, daytime spa guests aren’t permitted to use the facilities.” Not your standard 15 minutes prior nor following the massage that is custom at luxury properties? Que raro! After our confused looks, no doubt because my friend and I, in all of our jaunts to 4 and 5 star properties, had never heard of such a ridiculous rule before, the spa director mentioned something about Covid. It didn’t make much sense as the mask mandate was ending and capacity was minimal. There was no one in the spa pool and we only saw two others in the spa throughout the entire time we were there. It seemed as if it was one of those poorly drafted “rules” that properties implemented to cut corners during Covid to charge the same for less.

Net net: we had a lovely time because the environment was well kept and beautiful, but we’re not sure we would come back for a meal or a massage. Perhaps if I brought my kids for a mini-vacation as the pool was nice. Apparently, the spa facilities are complimentary for hotel guests. Note to Bernardus Lodge & Spa: you have all the makings of greatness, so leverage seasonal California ingredients and bring thoughtfulness to your menu. Don’t disregard the value of loyal Bay Area locals with stingy spa rules that feel a few stars less than what you’re aiming for.

Rating: 8-/10 for the massage and nice spa amenities (points deducted for the chunk of chicken leg and odd very un-luxe spa limitations for day spa guests)

https://www.bernarduslodge.com/

Winter Holiday Travel: The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe

Après Ski, anyone?

Our favorite time of the year is around the corner! Also known as snow crab, champagne, and slope season! So, when this news hit our inbox we thought, ‘what better way to inspire others than to share these winter wonderland vibes? Sometimes we like to report on a town with a roundup, other times, we like to share property specific news because we’re a bunch of hotel hounds.

Enter: The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. A luxe winter wonderland nestled mid-mountain at Northstar California Resort, they’re also presenting a veritable winter world of activities like après ski, gourmet dining, a Claus family meet and greet, Menorah Lighting ceremony, and traditional Christmas dinners.

The Ritz Carlton, Tahoe

As the only ski-in/ski-out destination in Lake Tahoe, the resort is also perfect for families because you can indulge with world-class ski valet services (yes, please!), award-winning dining and culinary offerings (let the diet start on Monday), and, of course, some of the finest hospitality in the world. Insider secret: they’re trained to always say hello to you in the hallways. It’s a small detail that pays off with kindness. The hotel will also host Holiday Days of Magic, special extravaganzas elevating the holiday vibes further. We just love the whole seasonal thing!

A room with a view of the mountains

In addition to deluxe guestrooms and suites, the resort’s two and three-bedroom Luxury Residences are available to book for the ultimate home-away-from-home winter getaway.

Check out this year’s winter and holiday amenities and events below:

Ski-in/ski-out

RESORT & DINING EXPERIENCES

Northstar California Resort

Guests of The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe have privileged access to Northstar California Resort for all their on-mountain plans with its ski-in/ski-out access and ski valet services. This year, Northstar will not require advanced reservations for on-mountain activities, but face masks are required for all indoor activities. Additionally, proof of vaccination and advanced reservations are required for indoor dining.

Après-Ski Experiences

A social and entertaining activity to enjoy after a day on the slopes, après ski in The Backyard is a guest favorite at The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe. This year, beginning November 18 and running throughout the ski season, the hotel will host a Whiskey & Waffles Cabin where guests can savor premium, select whiskeys from around the world paired with warm, fresh waffles loaded with gourmet toppings. OMG!! For an even more elevated après ski experience, weekend guests can also check out the Champagne & Caviar Bar, serving a selection of champagne complemented with an exceptional collection of caviar (we are ALL about caviar these days with interesting flavors from Uruguay and California).

Spa Treatments surrounded by tree tops

Spa

The spa at The Ritz Carlton, Lake Tahoe will also be offering seasonal treatments like the Chocolate Decadence Facial.

Dining

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers a great selection of exceptional dining spots on site, from the casual Café Blue and The Backyard Bar & BBQ to The Living Room and the resort’s upscale restaurant, Manzanita.

Beautiful 5 star fare at The Manzanita

The Manzanita menu serves up delicious California mountain cuisine like rustic “Woodlands” entrees such as branzino with Caponata, fennel and cucumber chimichurri, pork ossobuco, venison accompanied with sweet potato, blackberry demi and roasted heirloom carrots, braised lamb, and more.

With ski-in/ski-out access, The Backyard Bar & BBQ serves up Texas-style BBQ from Thursday through Sundays. Beef brisket, pulled pork and chicken, all smoked in-house with the resort’s onsite smoker and served with an array of traditional sides and house-made sauces. Yeehaw!

This lobby!

The Living Room, for when feeling like you’re at a posh hotel in the mountains and deserve fun posh fare. It will feature elevated, shareable dishes including cheese and chocolate fondue and creative seafood towers from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can also sip delicious cocktails here.

Another fun idea they’ve added to the “make it special and easy” vibe: the little ones in the family can enjoy a daily dinner buffet curated just for them with their favorite foods in mind. Priced at $35 per child, the rotating kids’ menu will consist of one cold dish option, choice of two kids’ favorite meals, and two entrée selections.

Airstream Bar

If that’s not cool enough, located at the Fireside Terrace, the hotel will be featuring an outdoor airstream bar – open daily – where guests can stop by to enjoy a warm bowl of soup, while sipping on their favorite winter-inspired cocktail.

Magical Mountains

HOLIDAY DAYS OF MAGIC – December 18 – January 2

Full Holiday Days of Magic Schedule

Thanksgiving Dinners

Manzanita & The Ballroom | November 25

Advance reservations required

A pre-fixed five-course festive meal will be offered at Manzanita for resort guests only.  Menu items include roasted Brussel sprouts, heirloom roasted carrots, roasted turkey, porcini and coffee rubbed-roasted prime rib, and more.  The five-course menu is priced at $180 per person.

A holiday buffet with chef-action stations, harvested vegetable dishes, artisan pastries and kids’ selections will be offered in the resort’s ballroom.  Priced at $180 per guest adult; $50 per child the buffet option will be served from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Menorah Lighting Ceremony

The Living Room | December 5 at Sundown

Christmas Dinners

Manzanita & The Ballroom | December 25

Advance reservations required

Manzanita will be presenting a five-course Christmas menu. Dishes include baby beet salad, seafood duo – featuring scallops and sea bass, Piedmontese filet and more. Priced at $180 per person, guests can book dinner reservations from 4:00 – 9:30 p.m. Kids’ menu option available.

The holiday buffet will also be offered at Christmas and feature harvested vegetable dishes, artisan pastries and kids’ selections offered in the resort’s ballroom. Priced at $180 / per guest adult; $50 per child the buffet option will be served from 12:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

New Year’s Eve Dinner

Manzanita | December 31 | 4:00 – 9:30 p.m.

$210 per person (bubbles included) | Advance reservations required

Pre-fixed, five-course meal in Manzanita. Kids menu option available.

New Year’s Day Brunch

Manzanita | January 1, 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

$225 per person | Advance reservations required

Guests can start the new year off right and savor a special recovery brunch menu featuring unlimited bottomless drink selection.

Additionally, the resort will play host to special appearances from Mr. and Mrs. Claus, daily live music, and gingerbread house-making activities for families. The resort will also display a giant replica of the resort made entirely of gingerbread in the lobby, crafted by the resort’s talented pastry team.

www.ritzcarlton.com/LakeTahoe

Reservations: 800-241-3333

 

 

Napa, CA: Milliken Creek Inn and Spa

This little luxury gem was such a lucky find that I had to write it up. Thanks to my buddy, Jessica, who heard about this spot from friends, it’s like staying at your wealthy friend’s private home along the Napa River, complete with a fridge stocked with sparkling (or flat) water and sodas just for you. Something between a luxury B&B and a spa, it’s right on the water, feels like a bucolic dream, and worth every penny with their pristine fluffy towels and chic modern amenities.

Milliken Inn and Spa

For a quick jaunt outside the city during Bottlerock, this property was quiet, luxurious perfection. I only wish I had more time to relax in front of the Napa River and enjoy the view with a good book in hand. Breakfast is included and had all the usual favorites for American – or European – palates. Scrambled eggs or chicken sausage, you got it. Oatmeal, croissants, or pastries, they have that too. Basically, they have everything you need if you’re looking for a B&B vibe that’s high-end and private. I’ll definitely be heading back on my next sojourn. They even have a complimentary wine tasting in the afternoon. Win win!

Astra Guestroom

From $575-$1,108

https://www.millikencreekinn.com