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Jul 27th
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Staycation

Blogs - Staycation

The West Cliff Inn’s Got the Look

The West Cliff Inn’s Got the Look

One bed and breakfast gives a Santa Cruz local a new perspective on home
No one has to explain to me the magnetic beauty of Santa Cruz’s West Cliff Drive—I consider myself a lucky local for living around the corner from one of the world’s most romantic, scenic walks. In fact, I sometimes feel so lucky that there are times when I catch myself sympathetically nodding my head (at least in my mind) at the many visitors I dodge past during some daily errand. ‘Poor touristy tourist, lugging your bags into a hotel for a momentary intake of the utopian beauty that I consider home,’ I think to myself, letting run wild an inner condescending voice. Really, what can a hotel in town show me that I don’t already know? Apparently, as West Cliff Inn proved, a lot.

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Blogs - Staycation

Monterey Bay Inn

Monterey Bay Inn

A relaxing home base for a day of play in Cannery Row

There’s nothing quite like falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves—especially when you’re tucked into a plush, king size feather bed. Like sleeping on the beach, but a million times better, Monterey Bay Inn is a 49-room boutique hotel on the waterfront in Monterey’s famous Cannery Row and the perfect balance of luxury and practicality. Unpretentious yet beautiful, the Inn offers perks to be relished.

 

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Blogs - Staycation

Why Monterey’s Hotel Abrego is the Perfect Portal To Reboot

Why Monterey’s Hotel Abrego is the Perfect Portal To Reboot

Years ago, when I lived in Monterey, a friend and I often frequented a Denny’s restaurant that was nestled near the corner of Abrego and Freemont streets. We’d spend countless hours there chatting about life and, whenever we went our separate ways, we barely noticed the hotel that shared the same parking lot with the diner.

Well, those days are over—it’s hard not to pay attention to the hotel now. For starters, the Denny’s bit the dust. In its place is a new structure that makes up just one portion of an impressive 93-room vacation—or staycation—portal that was once dubbed the Sand Dollar Inn.

Welcome to Hotel Abrego.

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Blogs - Staycation

A View to Remember

A View to Remember

Enjoy a magical staycation at luxurious and eco-friendly Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur

It’s the type of place where magic unfolds, where troubles take a backseat, where relaxation hits an all time high, and where perhaps the greatest view in California exists. Perched high on a cliff 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur has earned the status as No. 1 lodging experience in the United States (at least from this reviewer). I have never seen anything like it, and perhaps I never will again—because the Post Ranch Inn is a thoroughly innovative, vastly original, solar-powered, organic cuisine offering, high-end luxury resort in a location that’s one-of-a-kind, with amenities and staff that are impeccable. You won’t find this experience anywhere else. It’s worth every dollar you spend on booking a room with a jaw-dropping view, eating a divine dinner, and partaking in a superb spa treatment.

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Blogs - Staycation

Orient Express

Orient Express

Hotel Kabuki brings Japanese splendor to the Bay

I recently pulled off a visit to Japan—minus the 13-hour flight, minus the jetlag and minus the wallet-busting cost. Well, sort of. Feeling the urge to have an exotic vacation but lacking the means and time to really reach Tokyo, I sought out a hotel in the Bay Area that might be able to satiate my travel bug.

A getaway to the Orient at the 218-room Hotel Kabuki, part of the Joie de Vivre chain of boutique hotels, turned out to be a worthy alternative to jet-setting during these economic times, and it’s a quick jaunt from Santa Cruz.

Great deals can be found online at joieoflife.com; standard rooms range from $99 during weekdays to $119 during weekends, and a Deluxe View King Room at $99 is a steal if you catch the right price at the right time. If you reserve your stay online, you even get a complimentary pass to the nearby (and well-known) Kabuki Springs and Spa communal baths (a $20 value). A special offer until June 15, you can now get a third night free when you book a minimum three-night stay (enter “JOIE” promo code).

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Blogs - Staycation

The Orchard Garden Hotel

The Orchard Garden Hotel

San Francisco’s chic green boutique
I love to travel (who doesn’t?), but I’m also pinching pennies (who isn’t?) and I am increasingly conscious of the carbon footprint I leave behind when embarking on my beloved adventures (who can’t be?).

In light of these facts, but unwilling to twiddle my thumbs at home every weekend, I set out to have a swell staycation (read: a vacation at home, or in your area; a trend that’s growing as the recession toils on) with an environmentally friendly twist. So, one weekend just before Thanksgiving, I found myself at The Orchard Garden Hotel in San Francisco—a boutique hotel that completely breaks the mold. Their tagline, “At our hotel, boutique doesn’t mean small,” is right on: the hotel towers beside the Chinatown gate on Bush Street, just above Union Square, and has a grand total of 86 rooms. With rates ranging from $169 to $369 a night, the hotel offers snazzy “green” accommodations for a reasonable amount.

Ours was a Standard King on the 9th floor, a large room with copious amenities. In addition to the insanely comfy bed, oversized work desk and enormous flat screen TV, there were soft robes and slippers, all organic, natural toiletries (I’ve almost used them all up, and want to go buy more from the brand, EO, a CCOF certified company in Marin), and sparkling water, chocolates and wildflower seeds waiting for us. Large glass doors led out onto a nice deck with sun chairs and a patio table that overlooked the bustling street below and the skyline of the city. We arrived at sunset, and were able to watch as a pink and orange blanket of sky sunk over the rooftops of San Francisco. The bathroom was large and simple, with a powerful overhead shower to remember.

Most notable were the energy-efficient aspects of our lovely, temporary dwelling. Each guest’s key card also serves as an energy control system; upon entering one’s room, you merely stick your key in a small box beside the door and then turn on lights as you please. Take your key with you when you leave, and the lights go out. As one of California’s first hotels to be built according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) stipulations, the Orchard Garden also uses chemical-free cleaning products, natural lighting for its lobby, soy-based inks, recycled paper and maintains a 100 percent tobacco free environment.

Between the chill and drizzle outside and the enthralling coziness of our room, we were tempted to never leave it. However, we did manage to mosey back to the lobby floor for our reservation at the hotel’s award winning organic restaurant, Roots. San Francisco Weekly bestowed it the honor of the 2009 Best Organic Restaurant in San Francisco, and we soon learned why: not only was the staff friendly, attentive and charmingly quirky, the food was truly decadent. The menu boasts of entrees like monkfish, flat iron steak and smoked trout salad (all naturally raised meat and sustainably caught seafood), but, as two vegans, we bypassed the carnage and, instead, were treated to an off-the-menu vegetarian feast.

The chef, Jason, was testing out his vegetarian Thanksgiving options and we were happy to be the guinea pigs. The long and adventurous meal began with Natura water (the result of an in-house water filtering system that produces “the cleanest water in the country”) and oven-warmed bread. Next was an arugula and fennel salad with toasted walnuts and cranberries, followed by a vegan tamale pie that Jason based on his Grandmother’s recipe from the depression era (he gracefully transformed her meaty, canned goods meal to a vegetarian delight with organic, local heirloom beans, red peppers, Chanterelle mushrooms and vegan cornbread). We were stuffed by the time the gluten-free butternut squash risotto came, but did our best to take advantage of the delicious dish that was so creamy you’d never know it was dairy-free.

By this point we were brimming over with satisfaction—we’d also indulged in two interesting cocktails, the Zentini ($12), a blend of organic green tea liqueur and vodka, and (my favorite) the Roots Buzz (also $12), which fused Vive Acai Liqueur, organic agave, and caffeinated Blue Lotus Vodka. But when they brought out the house-made pure pear sorbet, we managed to find a little extra room. “It’s like a fresh pear melting in my mouth,” said my impressed companion, drool pooling at the corners of his mouth. “I think I’m having a peargasm.”

I left the hotel the next morning feeling refreshed and pampered, which is a hard thing to come by when traveling on a budget. And not only had I experienced a genuinely zen, luxurious night away from home, I felt as if I’d given a nod to my good friend Mother Earth in the process. Essentially, for the eco-minded vacationer, the Orchard Garden allows you to take your values with you when you travel. Affordable, just over the hill, posh, and as green as they get, this Downtown San Francisco gem is perfect for your next staycation getaway.

Blogs - Staycation

Doing Joie de Vivre

Make Reservations, Not War—GT writers forget about you life and travel on the fringe with these stellar hotel spots

Editor’s Note: Click off CNN’s “The War Show”, grab your car keys and get out of town. We did. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to decipher this week’s cover story—it’s fun, informative and geared to give you a guide for quick weekend getaways, places near Santa Cruz County that are relatively affordable and, hopefully, nurturing. From the upscale elegance of Hotel Drisco in San Francisco to the rustic backroads of Big Sur, GT’s mini-guide boasts some great escapes. Now get packin’ …

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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.