Villa Astor in Sorrento

Ciao from Italia! Mr. B and I are still traveling around Italy and although we’re actually in northern Italy at the moment (Lake Como, to be exact), I couldn’t help but share the beautiful Villa Astor located in Southern Italy. The property is probably one of the finest in Sorrento perched high above the Bay of Naples looking out toward Mount Vesuvius. The neoclassical structure was originally built by the late William Waldorf Astor, a diplomat (former Ambassador to Rome), developer (including New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel), and financier. Astor passed away in the early 1900’s and the home was then passed onto the Italian government. In the 1970s the home was purchased by shipping tycoon Mario Pane and his wife Rita. They held onto it for more than three decades before selling it in 2012. The new owners completely renovated the property in 2016 and hired famed French designer Jacques Garcia to renovate the interiors. The property is breathtaking and the renovations were documented in the book “Villa Astor: Paradise Restored on the Amalfi Coast” published earlier this year. The book also contains a foreword by Lord Astor of Hever, William Waldorf Astor’s great-grandson. For today let’s enjoy a bit of the beautiful Villa Astor. The current owners will actually rent it and if money is no object you might consider renting it to call it your own for a few nights. Just remember that if you decide to rent it, you must allow me to tag along!

The White Garden at Kensington Palace

Princess Diana resided in Kensington Palace for 15 years during her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. During her time at Kensington, one area of the grounds that gave her much joy is known as the Sunken Garden. She was known to often stroll through this area to admire the garden and chat with the gardeners. This past Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. And as a special tribute to Diana, the Sunken Garden was transformed into a beautiful “White Garden” that opened to the public beginning in May 2017. The Sunken Garden was intended to be viewed as a complete picture from the surrounding “Cradle Walk”, so access into this area is typically off limits. However, the gates are open to the public through the end of this month to coincide with a temporary exhibit inside the Palace known as “Diana: Her Fashion Story” displaying some of Diana’s most memorable outfits. The plant scheme was inspired by colors and textures of Diana’s wardrobe as she often wore shades of cream and white. As a result, over 12,000 bulbs were hand planted last fall to create an stunning show of nature with flowers to be freshened up throughout the Spring and Summer seasons. While the White Garden is scheduled to be open only through the end of this month, it is a lovely tribute to the People’s Princess.

If you would like to add an array of beautiful white flowers to your own garden, be sure to view and print the official White Garden planting list.
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The French Garden of John-Mark Horton

I love a beautiful garden and I look forward to the time when I can start properly planning the gardens of our seaside ranch home. Patience is probably the most important virtue of a gardener but unfortunately, it is not a trait that I possess when it comes to gardening. When dealing with landscaping, I have to remind myself that things come slow and steady. After all, it took many years for even the most beautiful gardens in the world to evolve and literally bloom into something unique and special. And speaking of beautiful gardens, the current issue of Elle Decor features the French home of Los Angeles designer John-Mark Horton. Friends of his mother, Raymond Poteau, a French antique dealer, and Henry Clarke, an American photographer for Vogue, purchased several properties one by one to create a lovely hillside home. As a child, John would visit the property with his mother and play in the garden. He recalled “The extremes of light and shade, and all the little corners you could hide in – it was glorious”. After the death of the couple, John decided to purchase the home after learning that it would be auctioned off. The home, perched on a terraced French hillside overlooking the beautiful blue sea, was in a state of disrepair and was reworked through a labor of love. I can definitely see how John was captivated by such a stunning location.

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The three pictures of John’s garden above are the only ones featured in the Elle Decor spread. They made me long for more so I hopped on over to his website and Instagram feed where I found a few additional pictures. The one below was particularly intriguing to me since I love a good “before” and “after”. It’s amazing to see how this particular part of the garden had filled in completely over time. It would be a treat to visit in person. 

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PART 1: AN OVERVIEW OF BACARA RESORT AND SPA

Toward the end of last year, I started thinking about a long weekend vacation. I booked a suite at Bacara Resort and Spa as a surprise for Mr. B. I hid my surprise for a couple of weeks and when the time came we jumped in our car and off we went…despite the notorious California traffic on a long holiday weekend. reviving-charm-on-the-road

On the upside…the sunset was beautiful and I am sure glad I was able to capture this picture from the car. santa-barbara-sunset-via-reviving-charm

I previously posted bits about our trip here and here and have been meaning to write about the resort itself since a few people have asked me questions about the property. I decided to break up my experience at the resort into a 3 part series. Today I’ll provide you with a general look around the resort. Stay tuned for future posts about the spa and our suite. The goal of this series is to provide information that will hopefully be helpful in planning your own stay at Bacara Resort and Spa someday.

Although the resort is touted as being located in Santa Barbara, it is technically located in the town of Goleta, a quick 15-20 minute drive north of Santa Barbara, California. I know that Goleta doesn’t sound as “sexy” as Santa Barbara but it does have views of the Pacific Ocean that are equally as breathtaking. Keep reading…I’ll share those with you in a bit.

Let me first provide you with the lay of the land. The resort is sprawled over 78 acres of prime oceanfront property with direct access to the beach. The resort boasts 358 guest rooms and they are situated among 18 villas throughout the property. We were located in Villa 8 which overlooks the pool and is denoted with the yellow star on the map. The main lobby is situated at the top of a hill (shown far left on the map). If you have a hard time getting around, don’t worry. The hotel offers golf cart service to transport you anywhere you need to go on the property. We didn’t use this service so I can’t comment on it. There is also a nice walking trail adjacent to the resort (shown far right of the map).

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When we pulled off the street and into the Bacara’s motor court, I immediately knew that this vacation would be all that I had hoped for. I was wanting a nice, relaxing vcation and realized that I couldn’t have picked a better place. The motor court is surrounded by Spanish/Mediterranean style architecture and beautiful drought tolerant and California native plantings. Bacara made a very good first impression! bacara-motor-court-via-reviving-charm-1I have the need for speed and can appreciate a fine automobile. At Bacara, there was definitely no shortage of luxury cars sightings. cool-cars-by-reviving-charm-2

As we walked into the lobby we were greeted with the most stunning floral arrangement made up of fresh white daisies. Beauty in simplicity.
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The lobby is a grand, spacious area with several separate sitting areas. There is also a strategically placed console table that holds a beautiful display of orchids, succulents and candles. It also acts as a refreshment center during certain times of the day. When we arrived in the evening it was used as a bar area as the the hotel was offering a complimentary wine tasting. This provided hotel guests with a wonderful an opportunity to mingle. What a wonderful welcome. The following evening complimentary s’mores were served on the lobby terrace.

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The seating area by the lobby fireplace is not surprisingly one of the most popular spots for guests to gather. Even Mr. B and I shared a couple of wonderful fireside chats.bacara-lobby-fireplace-via-reviving-charm

There are beautiful details throughout the hotel. This grand fireplace is situated along the corridor of the hotel where banquet facilities are located.
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Angel Oak Restaurant is known for their steak and seafood and is only open for dinner. We made a reservation for our first night at the resort which worked out beautifully. Being able to enjoy a meal on the property after a long drive made things easy and convenient for us. If you love wine, you’ll be happy to know they also have an extensive wine list. bacara-angel-oak-restaurant-via-revivingcharmHere is Villa 10, one of the many villas situated on the property. bacara-resort-via-reviving-charm-2

The sweeping staircase is beautifully designed with decorative tile work.
bacara-resort-stair-tile-via-reviving-charmbacara-landscape-via-reviving-charmbacara-resort-and-spa-via-revivingcharm-5bacara-resort-and-spa-via-revivingcharmThere is a total of three outdoor saltwater pools located on the property. Two of them are situated overlooking the Pacific Ocean (shown below). The other is situated next to the spa building.
bacara-resort-pool-via-revivingcharmPrivate poolside cabanas are available for rental. cabanas-at-bacara-resort-via-reviving-charmbacara-beach-shower-via-revivingcharmThere is a pathway from the resort that leads you directly to the sand. I took this walk each morning. I can’t think of a better way to start the day.
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So there you have it…a  brief tour of the grounds of Bacara Resort and Spa. Stay tuned for more about the spa and a look at our suite.
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WORLD FAMOUS NUCCIO’S NURSERIES

In Friday’s post, I mentioned wanting to buy a few new varieties of camellias for our garden this past weekend. I was keeping my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t rain because Mr. B and I planned on paying a visit to Nuccio’s Nurseries located in Altadena, California. We headed out to Nuccio’s yesterday. It was gloomy and wet but we had no rain during our visit. Mother Nature was on our side. We were off to a great start! nuccios-nursery-sign-altadena-california-via-reviving-charm

Since 1935 the Nuccio family has grown their nursery business into a one that has become somewhat of a horticultural niche specializing in camellias and azaleas known across the globe. We traveled over an hour to Nuccio’s and while we were there we encountered another couple from Montecito, California who happened to be repeat customers. That’s easily over a two-hour drive away…on a good day. And while speaking with one of the owner’s he mentioned something about an out of state customer. Even domestic goddess Martha Stewart has paid a visit.

As you walk up to the main entrance of the nursery you are greeted by a sign asking you not to start picking out flowers without the help of a salesperson. I was happy to see this because I came armed with specific questions and the help of a professional is something I already knew I would need. nuccios-nursery-altadena-california-via-reviving-charm

When we walked in, Mr. B and I made a beeline for a display table filled with a wide array of camellia cuttings. We oohed and ahhed over the beautiful flowers; most of which we had never seen before. We were greeted by one of the owners, Jim Nuccio, who was very friendly and so very helpful. We mentioned a few qualities and characteristics that we were looking for in a camellia. Base on our needs, Jim was able to immediately narrow down a few varieties for us that were located on the cutting table. The cutting table is genius as it makes the selection process so much easier with so many varieties in one central location. Jim also brought out a huge photo album full of pictures for additional options. The book is not tabbed nor does it have page numbers but Jim went straight to the pages that would be most helpful for us and highlighted a few additional plant options. He definitely knows his stuff! I was originally concerned that the process might be a bit daunting but Jim made it easy-peasy.  Thanks, Jim! 

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Here is the cutting table showing off the dazzling array of colorful blooms. Each flower is labeled by name. Below are some of the famous Nuccio’s Jewel variety.camellia-varieties-nuccios-altadena-via-reviving-charm-1

We decided to purchase a couple of the Ferris Wheel camellias because of their beautiful show-stopping color and pattern. ferris-wheel-camellia-by-reviving-charm-1a

camellia-varieties-nuccios-nursery-altadena-via-reviving-charmCamellias are slow growing and they tend to grow upward. There is one area in our garden that we were hoping for a smaller variety. With the assistance of Jim, we selected Bonanza that has a smaller flower and grows bushier rather than upright. We debated about purchasing it in white but we selected it in red as shown below. nuccios-nurseries-altadena-california-via-reviving-charmnuccios-nurseries-altadena-california-via-reviving-charm-1a

After we made our purchase, we wandered through the nursery and took a ton of pictures. Everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to look at. nuccios-nurseries-altadena-california-via-reviving-charm-1

I love that I was able to capture a few bees in my pictures. I have read that the bee population is declining so adding flowers to the garden is a great way to do our small part in helping them. Actually, it is something we mutually benefit from. nuccios-nurseries-altadena-california-via-reviving-charm-2

Nuccio’s Nurseries also has a cutting table for many of the azalea’s they offer up for sale.
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I particularly liked the Green Glow for its unusual color and Baker’s Lavender for its feminine frilly petals. bakers-lavendar-azalea-via-reviving-charm

We didn’t come to Nuccio’s expecting to buy azaleas. However, when we saw Duc de Rohan we fell in love with its unusual salmon/pink color and decided to purchase it also.
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We ended up purchasing a total of six plants so if anyone needs me this morning you can find me in the garden planting our new lovelies. camellias-and-azaleas-reviving-charm

If you are unable to visit Nuccio’s they will ship to you. However, if you are in Southern California I strongly urge you to visit Nuccio’s Nurseries for yourself. It’s tucked off a tiny road that we actually missed but once inside you will be rewarded with a beautiful selection and wonderful service. nuccios-nurseries-contact-information-via-reviving-charm

Important note: Nuccio’s only accepts cash or check. If you find yourself short on cash they will allow you to mail in a check. Yes, you read that right! This is truly a family operated business and it is refreshing to know that they operate the good ‘ol fashion way.

To learn more about Nuccio’s check out this video segment by Martha Stewart and visit Nuccio’s website.

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NATURE INSPIRES

As I write this post I am sitting at my desk looking out the window and admiring my neighbor’s lovely tree. My neighbor is a sweet lady and her and I have swapped comments on a couple of occasions making note of how beautiful the tree is. Unfortunately, we have no idea what kind it actually is. This wasn’t my original post for today but sometimes there is nothing more inspiring than Mother Nature herself and you just have to go with it. I spent some time gathering a few other images that  inspired me today… I can only hope they have the same effect on you!  —xoox, V.

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In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.    –John Muir

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HAPPY FRIDAY

Happy Friday! This picture of a secluded little resting place nestled in the garden is simply lovely. It’s making me re-think about my plans for the weekend. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just lounge around all weekend long in a spot like this curled up with a good book or magazine? The weather has been so nice here in Southern California so I hope to be out and about enjoying the days while I run errands. The plan is to fit in some “fun” time also…although I am not quite sure what that will be yet. Have a great weekend…I hope wonderful things are in store for you.  –XOXO, V.

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