Finally….Camping Done Right

Summer is in full swing and many people I know are currently on vacation. An African safari is on my travel bucket list, but since I am not a camper I have a hard time convincing anyone to join me. I keep telling people that I’m not looking to “rough it” and there are several safari camps and lodges that really are quite luxurious by camping standards. In fact, I remember reading about one particular campsite that comes equipped with private bath facilities, including a clawfoot tub. I read about another site, which was described as “Hermes in a Hut”. It might be tough, but I think I can manage…

Several years ago I was trying to talk some family members into going with me on safari.  They weren’t convinced that I would enjoy myself so they suggested that we do a “trial run” by first signing up for the Roar and Snore program at San Diego Wild Animal Park to see how I could handle “roughing it”. Knowing that this was a prerequisite for any future real safari trip, I happily obliged. Three different sleeping arrangements were offered: a simple tent with sleeping bags, a tent with cots, or a premium tent with an actual bed. The decision was a no-brainer so naturally, we opted for the premium tent. It came furnished with a queen bed, nightstands, electrical outlets and even a wood floor. A nearby portable bathroom trailer was part of the premium tent package (a huge selling point) that provided sinks, flushable toilets, and shower facilities. It wasn’t ideal, but it was clean. I still haven’t experienced a real African safari. I lived up to my end of the bargain by being willing to participate in a “trial run”. I think it’s time my family members live up to their end of the bargain. Auntie, if you are reading this….what do you think? Care to join me someday?

This wasn’t really intended to be a post about Roar and Snore and I know it can’t be considered a true, authentic camping experience. But living without modern amenities and the comforts of home is something I am not interested in.  However, after recently learning about Maine’s new glamping site at Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport I might be willing to reconsider my position on the matter! 

The campground officially opened this month with elaborately furnished (for campground standards) spacious tents that include a mini refrigerator, small heater/fan, and bath amenities (a shared bathhouse). Twelve interior designers were called upon to decorate each rustic-luxe tent in high style. Let’s take a look at a few of the designer tents available for rental…Sandy Pines Campground. Kennebunkport, Maine.Blixen's Oasis, bysandy pines campground maineSandy Pines Campground. Kennebunkport, MaineSandy Pines Campground. Kennebunkport, MaineSandy Pines CampgroundSandy Pines Campground. Kennebunkport, MaineSandy Pines Campground. Kennebunkport, MaineSandy Pines Campground. Kennebunkport, MaineIt’s refreshing to see that campgrounds are starting to provide more and more glamping opportunities and a rough-luxe experience as an alternative to traditional tent camping for someone like me. Provide a few comforts of home and I just might be willing to reconsider the concept of camping…in style, of course.

To learn more about Sandy Pines Campground or to view additional detailed pictures of the tents, be sure to check their website.  

Images via Boston Home Magazine and Sandy Pines Campground.

Checking into the U.S Grant

On the morning of July 4th, we left the laid back life of La Jolla and headed into the City for a bit of urban action. We checked into the historic U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego for a single night before heading back to our seaside ranch house. It had been many, many years since previously visiting the U.S Grant so I was looking forward to checking-in since the hotel finished the final touches of a multi-year renovation earlier this year. All I can say is that my one night made me want to come back for more…

us grant hotel san diego

For those of you interested in architecture and historic preservation, you might be interested in knowing that the U.S. Grant is officially designated on the National Register of Historic Places and over the years it has hosted 15 Presidents, countless dignitaries, and celebrities. It was built by the son of U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, whose portrait (below) hangs prominently at the entrance to the hotel accessible from the lower level valet drop off. It’s as if President Grant is personally welcoming you to the hotel and when you walk inside you immediately realize that you’ve entered a very special place. The portrait is original to the hotel since its opening in 1910 and is just one of the many pieces that make up the hotel’s $6.5 million dollar art collection scattered throughout the hotel.US Grant Hotel PortraitofPresidentUlyssesSGrant

us grant hotel lobby design

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An original chandelier from 1910 still hangs in the lobby.

us grant Reviving Charm

When we got off the elevator to our room on the 5th floor, I took notice of the fact that the color scheme shifted to a bolder color palette and included palm tree upholstered wall panels. Each floor also has a unique piece of artwork on display.
us grant san diego 1Upholstered wall detail.  us grant san diego 9

The windows next to the bank of elevators provide a great view of the hotel garden and cityscape beyond. us grant san diego

Our room was compact and cozy (i.e. small) but very comfortable. I didn’t mind the size of the room, particularly since we were staying for only one night. However, if we plan another visit I will opt for a larger room and I’ll tell you why….I slept on the right side of the bed closest to the window. The only downside to this was the fact that there is no room for a nightstand on this side of the bed. The hotel could easily remedy this issue by constructing a simple, shallow shelf to at least accommodate a phone or bottle of water. Luckily, there was an outlet on this side of the bed so I was able to charge my phone but I had nowhere to put it other than on the bed itself. This is far from ideal, especially when you are trying to relax and disconnect. This was really the only negative about the room and besides this one inconvenience, I was actually very comfortable here. The bed was perfect and I felt like l was sleeping on the clouds. I could have slept in for days….

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Did you notice the interesting artwork that acts as a headboard? It is definitely a focal point of the room and the hotel’s website describes the artwork quite well:

Masterfully blended within the custom moldings of the headboards in each guestroom is a one-of-a-kind art piece by French artist, Yves Clement. A “Sleeping with Art” concept integrates the large black-on-canvas paintings, which he calls “drippings.” Clement employed an “action painting” process by virtue of his controlled gestures and dribbling paint directly onto a floor canvas with a paint stick rather than a brush. The outcome is evocative, loosely figurative, abstract artwork with a value of $10,000 – $15,000 each.

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The hotel is said to be designed in “presidential colors”, such as blue and gold, as seen in our room. The gold drapes are a nice contrast against the blue and beige houndstooth patterned carpet. Houndstooth is such a classic pattern but here it feels fresh and modern due to its color scheme and scale. Houndstooth is definitely an up and coming trend…us grant interior design

Our room had an interesting three tier cabinet which was a nice change from the predictible furniture typically seen in a hotel room. A coffee maker, bottled water, snacks, stationery, ice bucket, safe and mini refrigerator are all neatly tucked away and concealed behind closed doors.
us grant hotel san diego

The design palette for the bathroom was a bit of a change from the rest of the room design and had a slightly masculine feel to it. us grant san diego 3I am picky about my bath products and I will typically bring my own toiletries to a hotel if I don’t know what type of products will be provided. I was pleasantly surprised to see that our room was stocked with bath products from the British company, Elemis. Even Mr. B commented on how much he enjoyed the Elemis products. Shhh…don’t tell him… but when we got home I ordered him some products as a small “just because” surprise. No matter how big or small, everyone deserves a surprise every now and then! us grant san diego 6

At one point in the evening, I noticed a red glow through the window sheers. I pulled the curtains back and realized that the exterior of the hotel was lit up in alternating blue and red “stripes”. I told Mr. B that we had to go outside to see what the building looked like from the street. This is what we saw… us grant san diego 11We didn’t come here for the fireworks and, in fact, didn’t learn until that evening that the City of San Diego hosts the “Big Bay Boom'” each year. Fireworks are launched from four separate barges located in the San Diego Bay and can be seen from a variety of locations around town. Based on news reports, there were 500,000 people in attendance to view the Big Bay Boom. Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with crowds and were able to enjoy the show from the comfort of our room.

big bay boom san diego

The hotel is located within walking distance to the City’s Gaslamp district that serves as downtown’s restaurant row. Block after block you will find a lively scene home to a wide variety of restaurants and bars. The U.S. Grant is located so very close to the Gaslamp but the location can feel a bit sketchy at times so if you decide to stay here, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Would that deter me from staying here again? No. Would I like to come back for a future stay? Absolutely. However, next time I will opt for a larger room and take advantage of the dining opportunities onsite. Having been there before, the Grant Grill is a wonderful place for a convenient meal.

Weekend Getaway: La Jolla, California

Our recent weekend getaway to La Jolla and San Diego over the 4th of July weekend reminded me that the Mr. and I must take long weekend vacations more often! Today’s post is a quick recap to touch upon some of the highlights of La Jolla, California. We stayed at La Estancia, which you may remember from a previous post. I spent a good amount of time getting some R&R, as well as spending time at the spa to indulge in an 80-minute massage and 50-minute facial. One of the highlights of my spa experience was when my therapist remarked that I must not wear any makeup because my skin looked so good. Coming from a professional, that is quite the compliment. It’s good to know that my fairly involved skin care regimen is working. I also took long naps to catch up on some much-needed sleep. The atmosphere of La Estancia fits the bill for a nice relaxing getaway. If you choose to book your own vacation at La Estancia just be sure to reserve a room on the third (top) floor of the hotel so you won’t get any noise from upstairs guests.

La Estancia La Jolla Reviving Charm sleep

My favorite dining experience was finally getting to try the French restaurant, Bistro Du Marche. I was able to get my fix of escargot as well as try some other wonderful dishes. My dessert, Tarte à la Banane, was a delicious banana tart with toasted hazelnuts, brûléed bananas, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. It was the perfect end to a wonderful meal. I even had a nice drink, the Twisted Negroni, comprised of Aperol, sweet vermouth, and sparkling wine. There is a quote on their website from John Walters that I couldn’t agree with more: “The only thing I like better than talking about Food is eating.” Amen!
La Jolla dining Reviving CharmNo trip would be complete without a little shopping. Luckily, I have a great husband who enjoys shopping just as much as I do….although sometimes that can become dangerous! We went through a few vintage and antique shops, even visiting those I mentioned in this post. However, I was a little disappointed to learn that my favorite antique shop, Etcetera’s, is now closed. I only brought home one souvenir, which is the straw clutch purse that I mentioned in yesterday’s post. I should have bought the vintage silverware shown below for appetizers. I’m still kicking myself…

shopping in La Jolla Reviving Charm

So there you have it…a quick recap in pictures of how we spent a couple of days in La Jolla. In an upcoming post I will be highlighting one of the unique shops in La Jolla that I paid a visit to. I will also be sharing a bit about the remainder of the trip spent in San Diego. I am excited to share a new discovery with you. Stay tuned…