• This time last year I took my first road trip up California's 395 through the eastern Sierra mountains. I went on to Mammoth, Truckee and Yosemite.

It was epic.

The highlights for me were Bodie (Check out my highlights for "ghost town"), Mammoth (reminded me of the Canadian Rockies), and seeing the Donner Party Memorial/area.

It's a super hard state to live in, but it sure is beautiful. (PS: I made a Spotify playlist for just the drive:
  • I posted this in stories but  got so many comments I had to post it here.

I'd read an article which said how common an electric kettle is in the UK/AU but not in America. 
This was so interesting to me because my kettle is probably my most used appliance. But when I stay in homes here I can never find one.

A lot of Americans told me they use their microwave for hot water or they have a stove top.

And @astridpiepschyk explained it had to do with voltage. "Most Americans don’t own an electric kettle because the electricity voltage is too low to power a kettle effectively. In Australia, UK the voyage is 240, but in America it’s 110, and not very effective in boiling an electric kettle. It works, but takes a long time. This is why stove kettles are much more common." So what started as a post about how I love my half shelf for teacups in my 1930s cupboards turned into a great cultural and scientific conversation.

This is why I love Instagram πŸ˜€
  • Ten years ago I moved to Philadelphia to build Anthropologies first Social Media, Content and Community programs.

It was a dream come true for two reasons. One I loved the company and two I was moving in July which meant I'd have an east coast fall.

It did not disappoint.

I spent every weekend out in nature with rosy cheeks, drinking hot apple cider. All this time later, that fall is still one of my favourite s and I miss it every year.

PS: the last photo is my old garage on my one acre property in Chestnut Hill. I had an 18th century stone home which I loved. I don't think I ever really wrote about this place because i never really settled in. Something I wish I'd done but I was just so consumed with work.
  • I like taking photos at Disneyland that don't look like Disneyland.
  • This is my aunt on my french fathers side. During WWII, she got tuberculosis and was sent to a sanatorium to recover.

To pass time, she and her other young female friends would doll up, take photos and send them plus letters to soldiers to flirt with. Some they knew, some they didn't. Like old-fashioned Bumble. πŸ˜€
She was incredibly smart, witty, and fierce. In this photo she was full of possibilities and hope.

She married soon after to an abusive alcoholic, had four sons and quickly got trapped by circumstance and the era.

She was my favourite family member even though I didn't see her that often. I have one hand written letter from her and this photo which are the few family things I have.

I loved her because she always listened to me - patiently and sincerely. She saw who I really was and was so kind about it and oddly relatable. She gave me direction without advice. She laughed often, was direct when needed and sometimes acted soft. She was the only one who ever called me sweetie (my family nickname at the time was Chuck! and my family never used soft names with each other. So sweetie felt so amazingly special). I had 5 other aunts but I called her just "Aunty" as she defined them all. It was only to her that I felt a connection, unconditional love and a sense of family.

Her situation was always pitiful and dire,  but she never acted like a victim. When I saw her on her deathbed she was so small, weak and wilted from a hard life. But somehow she had always given me courage and strength, as if to say to be the possibilities she couldn't be.

Recently I hung out with my two young adult nieces and they both just called me "Aunty." Not Aunty Alex or Alex. Just Aunty.

It made me feel so special and like we have formed the same bonds that I had with my own Aunty. And that I was now being to them what she was to me. 
But more importantly, they helped me change my idea of her - the one that she never accomplished something. 
Because she did. 
She taught me how to be a good Aunty - one of my favourite things to be. That's her legacy which I think is really beautiful.

Well, that and dressing up when you feel poorly. πŸ˜€
  • The @ojaivalleyinn is one of my favourite places either for a day trip or an overnight. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
I always go when I need supreme rest and healing because I really really get that here. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
There's something so magic and calming about Ojai and this place taps into it so perfectly. And they have the best massages.

My recs? Avoid weekends and holidays. It's insane and the spa isn't as relaxing because it's just so overcrowded.

For rooms, avoid the ones above Libby's Market/Pub (I think they are the original rooms). They're just louder & smaller. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
I've had a suite with a patio, bedroom and fireplace down by the spa that was heaven and I've had a larger room by the main restaurant (I can't remember that buildings name) and both were amazing. This past room was in the Topa building which is their main building and it was really lovely (and had a balcony overlooking the golf course). β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I've  been here with girlfriends, alone, on retreats with work and loved all the experiences. I know a lot of people who come here with kids (@couldihavethat has a recent post in IG and her blog on why it's great for families) and it's also totally dog friendly (@ScoutStCharming has been). β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β € I  paid for my room πŸ˜€ and received zero things for free. So not am ad, just sharing what I love.
  • I found hope in Hope thanks to nature and my nieces.
  • Possibilities.
  • "After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains? Nature remains." Happy 200th birthday, Walt Whitman
  • Spring is always the most alive after the darkest and rainiest of winters. #hyggehouse
  • "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." C. S. Lewis. Or, as the Secret Sisters sang, "Tomorrow will be kinder."



Carmel’s Romantic Hotel Holidays

August 30, 2008

I’m asked a lot about staying in Carmel since I lived there for several months this past winter/spring and have stayed in several hotels there over the years. So I’ve decided to share my favourite Carmel by the Sea/Big Sur area hotels with a focus on those best for a romantic or indulgent trip (since that’s the number one question I’m asked!):

The Cypress Hotel: This hotel is famous; it’s hard to read any article on Carmel and not read about this one. But I think it’s lazy journalism and the fact that it is half owned by Doris Day who makes the place very dog friendly and not because of service, amenities or rooms. Now, for Carmel it’s one of the luxurious properties and the location is fabulous but don’t set really high expectations if you’re used to 4 star deluxe properties. The front staff is generally useless and the front office manager is scary (if you see her, you will know who I am talking about!). I have stayed here 4 times as the owners also owned my flat complex when I lived in Carmel. And when my flat was destroyed I was able to stay here (though I stayed here on my own before I moved). The rooms tend to be small but my favourites were the 1 bedroom suites that faced Lincoln street. It had a fireplace, a love updated washroom, a really nice sitting room and faced a courtyard on one end. It’s great if you have dogs because you can just open your door and you’re on the street. I stayed in a corner suite again with a fireplace and a massive amazing tub that I would recommend for a rendez vous. The downside is that it’s overpriced and loud – you’ll hear your neighbour, you’ll hear street traffic, you’ll hear the maids hoovering at 6AM. But the beds/linens are lovely and it’s a nice place to sit for coffee in the evening. But it’s always crowded which, if you want privacy, might not be for you. And if you don’t like dogs, do not stay here.

L’auberge Carmel: Opened in 1929, this hotel has recently been redefined with old school elegance and charm with new school pricing. The location is hard to beat – it’s right in town, blocks from the beach and a block from the main drag, Ocean Avenue. With only 20 rooms, it’s very private and intimate with luxury details you’d expect to find in every room. It can sometimes feel a little too “done” and you’ll see a lot of suits from San Francisco here but there’s no denying that it is beautiful, architecturally stunning and cosy.

La Playa Hotel: I haven’t stayed here but I would walk past it almost every day on my way to the beach. It looks like one of those old grand beach hotels and from walking the halls on the inside, seems to live up to it’s old world sophisticated appearance. It’s only a few short blocks from the beach and from any ocean view room you’ll certainly be able to hear the waves crashing upon shore. The cottages – which are set just off from the main hotel, look amazing, private and very Carmel.

Post Ranch Inn: If you have money, stay here. It is undeniably one of the best hotels not just in the area, but ever. The details, the linens, the privacy, the luxury – it’s all here and understated which is something I love. It brings nature inside in a delicate, beautiful way that really makes you feel peaceful. The views are just some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen, especially from the infinity pool. This place spells romance with in-room massage to Prix Fixe dinners that allow to organically dine for hours. The hotel has even won several green lodging awards. The only downside if you can call it one, is that it is not in Carmel or in walking distance. But if you need a getaway, this is where to go. Drive into crowded Carmel instead!

Bernardus Lodge: Located in Carmel Valley, this luxury hotel spells romance and quiet. Featherbeds, tubs for two, roaring fireplaces and a winery to boot, this place is worth the drive (it’s about 10 minutes to downtown Carmel). There’s also a spa which I haven’t been to but the menu looks amazing and eating here does too (the restaurant is always highly rated).

Tree Bones Resort: What it lacks in luxury (no TV, phones, or private restroom) it makes up in views and simple pleasures (heated ocean-view pool, access to coast line, privacy and quiet). The rates are steep for something basic but this is Big Sur and nothing is ever really cheap. This is more luxury wilderness sleeping but it’s lovely.

Carmel River Inn: Just off Highway one and not in walking distance to town, this is a great value property if you stay in the recently renovated Cottages. I really loved the one I stayed in as it has a gorgeous fireplace, the fluffiest, comfiest bed, a two person tub and a private garden which was great since I brought my dog, Jack. You’ll be nestled amongst trees and birds so you’ll have quiet and privacy and be reasonably close to downtown Carmel. The best parts? You don’t pay the usual area rates!

  • Reply
    ellen p.No Gravatar
    August 30, 2008 at 7:34 PM

    Thanks SO much for putting this together, Alex!!! It is something I had asked for and, boy, do I love your post. Just what I needed!

    Ellen πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Meridith MooreNo Gravatar
    August 31, 2008 at 10:07 AM

    I agree with you about the Cypress Inn, you left out that you can hear the kitchen staff from the Lincoln St. Balcony! If you haven’t heard of the Lincoln Green Inn in Carmel, check it out. Absolutely perfect and dog friendly!

  • Reply
    Tracy D.No Gravatar
    August 31, 2008 at 5:58 PM

    Oooh I definitely want to try some of these out. Thanks for the list, Alex. I’ve stayed at the La Playa and it’s fabulous – I profiled it on my site as I’m always interested in historic houses/hotels.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth MackeyNo Gravatar
    September 1, 2008 at 12:09 PM

    Hi Alex,
    I love La Playa hotel and it’s grandness. We lived in Monterey for two and a half years, while my husband went to the Monterey Institute. While we were poor students at the time, we always longed to come back one day and stay there. We did indeed do it not to long ago. I loved the room, but the restaurant had something to be desired.
    I use to work in an art gallery in Carmel as well, called “Handworks.” It is long gone, and every time I go back for a visit, I miss the Carmel that once was.

  • Reply
    RoseNo Gravatar
    September 3, 2008 at 10:34 AM

    I’m just back from the Cypress Inn! I really enjoyed visiting there with my dog. I had to laugh about the description of the front desk service, it’s right on. I enjoyed the public spaces, the courtyard and the fireplace in the large lounge. My room was pretty small considering the price, but the location of the hotel was great. Thanks for this round-up!

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