Category Archives: Travel

Taverns and Caverns: 24 Hours in Murphys, CA

May 20, 2015

Last weekend we decided to take a road trip to someplace we’ve never been before, so we headed to Murphys, CA, a little Gold Rush town in the Sierra Foothills. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive east of San Francisco, and it’s full of wineries, cafes, art galleries, restaurants—and a whole lot of history.

First stop: Ironstone Vineyards for a little wine tasting. Our pourer, Bob, was the nicest guy. The kind of down-to-earth guy you want as your neighbor. He pretty much gave us a sip of everything on the menu—and then some—as well as recos for dining and more wine tasting.

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When we booked our hotel the week before, there was only one room left in town (and we soon found out why).

The annual Jumping Frog Jubilee was happening at nearby Angel Camp and there was a huge Harley-Davidson gathering. I’m assuming the two were related, although I hear the gatherings happen a few times a year. I have never seen so many motorcycles in one place. It made for a noisy weekend but was also kind of fascinating.

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We had intended to check out the Saloon on Saturday night, a historic landmark hotel and bar, but decided to do it on a less rowdy weekend.

The town itself is really small, with maybe 3,000 people, so it was really easy to walk from one end to the other. Murphys kind of felt like Yosemite meets Sonoma: charming little historical buildings turned into storefronts, dining spots and tasting rooms, with a touch of the Wild West thrown in.

I have a thing for barns, and there were a bunch of them scattered around the main drag. They have so much character.

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By the way, if you like red wine, check out the Villa Vallecito tasting room in town. Bob recommended it and they have a great Grenache and Payaso (which I hadn’t heard of before).

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We also loved Grounds for breakfast. And Aria for takeout sandwiches. We never made it to Vee’s for dinner, but wish we had. Bob recommended those too.

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There are three things we didn’t do, that I wish we had (and definitely had time for):

1. The Mercer Cavern tour: It’s 16 stories deep (the guide talked me out of it due to fear of heights but I think I could’ve done it).

2. Panned for gold (hey, you know…when in Rome…).

3. Checked out Angel’s Camp, which I thought was a state park, but is actually another small Gold Rush town, and ground zero for the jubilee. So again, maybe next time on a quieter weekend.

Which basically gives us at least three more reasons to go back.

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Palm Springs, Part 3: Hiking

March 10, 2014

Andreas_canyon

Naturally, we went hiking when we were down in Palm Springs. We even went mid-day, and it was a little hot, but nothing crazy. We went to Andreas Canyon in the Indian Canyons, just a few miles from town. There was a small entrance fee to the park, so bring your money—and your camera. The pics below are a combination of the two trails we hit.

The first was the Andreas Canyon Trail: it was only a mile long but really scenic. A nice warm-up hike scattered with those shaggy Fan Palms.

Andreas Canyon

Then we hit the Murray Canyon Trail which leads to a waterfall called Seven Sisters (it was getting hotter at this point). This hike was a bit longer, almost 5 miles, and just as scenic. It was a little more technical too: hopping back and forth across the stream with the help of some rocks.

Murray-Canyon-Trail

I was actually surprised to see any water at all, considering this was the desert. And California is having a drought. You can see the waterfall isn’t exactly gushing, but this whole area was an unexpected oasis just a few miles from our hotel.

Palm Springs Getaway, Part 2: Korakia Pensione

March 7, 2014

Korakia-Pensione

When we first booked our trip to Palm Springs, I really wanted to stay at The Parker or Ace hotels. But I’m so glad we found this little Moroccan-inspired oasis instead. Tucked away at the base of the mountain, The Korakia Pensione was surprisingly quiet, had the BEST breakfast vibe, and felt like we’d been transported to another country.

Korakia-Pensione

The property was beautifully landscaped, with fire pits and twinkly lights flickering at dusk. One of the coolest features was this outdoor “theatre” where old movies were shown against the stucco wall (it doubled as a yoga studio in the morning).

The thing I looked forward to most was breakfast in the courtyard. So charming!

Korakia-Pensione

The Pensione consists of the main house, bungalows scattered throughout the property on either side of the road (each with french doors opening up to a courtyard), a bocce ball court, pool, outdoor beds and lots of nooks and crannies. I would not recommend, however, booking the cheapest room at the inn—which is exactly what I did. We booked the Delphi Room, and it was reasonably priced, but lacked the amenities, space and updates of the other rooms. Lesson learned.

Korakia-Pensione

That being said, this is a place I’d love to come back to and upgrade to one of the suites. Definitely worth the splurge, and a quiet retreat that will have you feeling like you’ve gone to the Mediterranean and back.

Palm Springs Getaway: Part 1

March 6, 2014

Palm Springs

Well, after 13 years of living in California, I finally made it down to Palm Springs. And it was everything I’d hoped for: sunny blue skies, 80 degree temps, those incredibly tall palm trees and miles and miles of mid-century charm. It was fun just driving around the different neighborhoods and checking out all the homes—from the modest to the iconic.

PS1

We arrived at the tail end of Modernism Week, an annual festival that celebrates mid-century design, so we booked a home tour by architect Donald Wexler. No pics allowed inside, but I can tell you it was immaculate. And next year I really wanna check out that Kaufmann house by Richard Neutra. So cool.

Palm Springs

We met some friends for the weekend (my old Cleveland neighbors!), and they rented this place, pictured above. Not only was it very cool, I have to say it was really nice having a BBQ and pool parties all to ourselves.

That being said, another fun thing to do in Palm Springs is check out all the hip hotels. We had dinner at the Purple Palm in the Old Colony Hotel, and lunch at Norma’s in The Parker. Everything was groovy, right down to the menu.

Palm Springs

We stopped into a bunch of other places as well—just to check out the scene. And our own hotel, the Korakia Pensione, was ridiculously charming (I’ll be posting pics of that next).

Visiting The Berkshires

November 14, 2013

great barrington

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I went to visit his family in Great Barrington, MA—part of the southern Berkshires. I’ve been only once before—in the summer when it was very hot. So it was really nice being there in the Fall this time, among the mountains and changing leaves. Most of them had already dropped, but there were pockets of crimson, ochre, and orange to be had. So we went on a lot of walks, and naturally, I took a lot of nature pics. Here are a few to give you a sense of what the #1 small town in America looks like right now.

Clark Museum

One of the highlights was a trip to The Clark Institute, an art museum in nearby Williamstown. It consists of two buildings connected by hiking trails. The main building is under construction and I can’t wait to go back and check it out next year.

I also loved walking through the Great Barrington neighborhood of “the rich and famous”. Most of the homes are huge yet quaint, and very New Englandy looking. I didn’t get a great shot of Chris Noth’s house—or I would have posted it.

great barrington homes

Our main hike was at Beartown State Forest in nearby Monterey. We walked along the Benedict Pond Loop, and I was relieved not to see any bears.

great barrington hikes

I can only imagine how beautiful this area was a few weeks before. I think next year we’ll plan to go a little earlier and see Autumn full-on.