Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Welcome Beyond: Tents + Yurts

And now for the second installment of my favorite hotels from the Welcome Beyond website. See here for the first installment.

I always love the idea of camping, communing with nature, etc., but dislike trying to put on contact lenses with dirt all over my hands.

Problem solved. Fancy tents! (There is a very annoying trend to call this "glamping," a.k.a. glamorous camping. I refuse to jump on that bandwagon. It sounds like some gross form of plastic surgery.)

Welcome Beyond features a number of these types of hotels and I want to go to every single one of them.

Patagonia Camp in Patagonia, Chile

Le Camp in Tarn et Garonne, France

Paperbark Camp in New South Wales, Australia

Elqui Domos in Elqui Valley, Chile

All photos above from Welcome Beyond

p.s. It is no coincidence that I am to be married at El Capitan Canyon resort, 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. Look at how sweet that tent is!

Photo from Groupaway

Welcome Beyond: Beach + Jungle

The irony of me having a hotel blog is that I dislike 99% of all hotels. When I scour through the lists of "the world's best hotels," I tend to feel numb and disinterested. Should I be excited about the newly opened Shangri-la in Sydney? It's another office building hotel that looks just like every other nice-enough, high-rise hotel. Fancysterile rooms with an airplane-like hum and 8 bajillion TV stations.

This is why I freaked out when I discovered the exceptionally curated boutique hotel web portal, Welcome Beyond. Started by two Berlin-based brothers, they state on the website that their mission is to, "Hand-pick places that we feel are truly original. Many reflect their owners’ passion for distinctive architecture and design. Some border on quirky (and may have crossed over the line). Several are quite posh. And a few are downright rustic. But what all of our properties have in common is that they’re exclusive – in the best sense of the word. Each is singular, memorable and definitely worth writing home about."

I've highlighted some of my favorites on their site. Note that not all of the hotels they feature are huts, tree houses, and yurts. That's just me.

So as not to overwhelm, here are my favorite beach and jungle locations. I'll put the tents and yurts into a separate post.

Uxua Casa Hotel in Bahia, Brazil

Elsewhere... in Goa, India

Chole Mjini in Mafia Island, Tanzania

Canopy Tower in Greater Panama City, Panama

Villas de Trancoso in Bahia, Brazil

All photos from Welcome Beyond

Stay tuned for tents and yurts!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Morning Reveal

One of the very best parts of traveling to a new place is arriving at night and then waking up in the morning to a location reveal.

Have you seen the movie Enchanted April? I recently watched it again and realized it's not nearly as good as I remembered. BUT the money shot is still the money shot.

After a long train journey from London to Italy, two tired, middle-aged British women arrive to a dark and rainy Italian villa. They think they've made a horrible decision renting the place, but in the morning, they open their wooden shutters to find a glimmering Lake Como (see second 00:57).

My most memorable travel reveal happened on a trip I took 14 years ago from Cairo to northern Israel. After a miserably hot and dusty 12-hour bus ride across the Sinai desert (with the sickest squat toilet I've ever used), through the not-so-friendly Egypt-Israel border crossing, and after getting lost in Tel Aviv searching for a connecting bus, I was dropped at a dark gas station just off of a major highway. 15 minutes after figuring out how to use an Israeli pay phone, Ashley, an old friend, arrived in the back of a pick-up truck to take me to her kibbutz.

In the morning, I opened the door of her pale purple cabin to find I was in a dream. Situated in the middle of a eucalyptus grove, the kibbutz was filled with the fresh smell of citrus and lavender. While Ashley spent the morning picking avocados, I sat on a bench watching a small tortoise's determined journey from one tree to another.

I bring this up now because it just happened again. Jared and I went to Ojai for a wedding last weekend and thanks to a tip off from HBT we rented out The Love Shack instead of staying at a hotel.

We drove up from LA after sunset, arrived in the darkness, and woke up to this.

The best part was that while we could hear water near the the cabin at night, we had no idea how close we were to the river until the morning.

Such a great morning reveal!

p.s. That villa on top isn't the one in Enchanted April. Just a random photo from the internet of a villa that may or may not belong to George Clooney.