Posts Tagged ‘resorts’

Esperanza in Los Cabos

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

Esperanza Pool and Sea of Cortez

Esperanza Pool and Sea of Cortez

Chirp, chirp, chirp…last month that was what I woke up to every morning, accompanied by the sounds of the gentle surf breaking over the rocks. I could smell the salt air and the seaweed while gazing over the palm trees, the thatched roofs, and the swimming pool to see the rocky coastline and Sea of Cortez. Ahhh, I was blessed by another day in paradise. I spent a week at Esperanza , a spectacular sun-drenched oasis in Los Cabos, and enjoyed every minute.

Esperanza is a top notch resort on the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula, about 5 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It’s a small resort with only 50 rooms and 6 suites in quaint three story adobe buildings which are in a semi-circle with all the rooms overlooking the infinity pool and the Sea of Cortez. The rooms are simple but very tasteful and spacious. The muted colors on the walls, terra cotta tiles, and local original artwork gives each room a warm tranquil feeling. The bathrooms are large with two pedestal sinks, two showers, and tumbled marble tiles giving it an understated elegance. The rooms on the third floor all have hot tubs on the terrace that are connected to the bathroom by means of a massive window. Each room is fully equipped with a TV, DVD player, stereo, safe, plush robes, and quality linens to satisfy the most discriminating guest. The most dramatic feature of the room however is the view, the palm trees and coastline will mesmerize you for hours.

Cabo Wildlife

Cabo Wildlife

Los Cabos is different than many other beach resort areas in the Bahamas or the Caribbean due to the coastline. While the beaches in the Caribbean can have long expanses of floury white sand, Los Cabos is much more rustic. The coast is quite rocky, in fact many stretches are not conducive to swimming. But the combination of these jagged rocks combined with the waves crashing over them is natural beauty at its best.

Los Cabos is an area known for its fishing, and sometimes referred to as the Marlin Capital of the world. There are over 500 boats in Los Cabos available for private charters or group excursions. Although marlin is the most popular, there are also many fishing trips for dorado, yellow fin tuna and wahoo. If you prefer something a little less hands on then you might consider glass bottom boat rides, whale watching or a sunset cruise. Although the whale watching cruises will get you closer to the whales, you can actually see these huge mammals from the shore. It is fascinating that these gray whales swim down from Alaska each year from January through March. The highlight of my trip happened one morning as I was drinking my coffee just after sunrise. I was staring out at the ever tranquil Sea of Cortez and spotted a pod of 4 whales frolicking in the sea. You could see the spray from their spouts, and occasionally you could see them breach the water surface. That scene made my whole trip special.

Fishing is not the only area where Los Cabos excels, the golf courses are

A Lone Sailboat

A Lone Sailboat

spectacular. The hilly terrain along the coastline not only makes for a challenging course, it provides for some sensational scenery. A couple new courses are under construction, and Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan have teamed up, so I would anticipate that things will get even better. This area is filled with activities: fishing, golfing, sailing, visiting many of the beautiful beaches and shopping in the town of Cabo San Lucas are the most common during the day. At night, Cabo San Lucas is known for its night clubs and a wide assortment of good restaurants.

I found the Esperanza resort a tremendous place to stay because it was close enough to all the activities but also because it was small, quiet, and exceptionally beautiful. It has two infinity pools that overlook the Sea of Cortez, each with a hot tub that simmers at the temperature of boiling water. One of the pools has a bar built into it, which becomes very convenient for your afternoon margarita.

Anyone for a Margarita?

Anyone for a Margarita?

The restaurants and bar areas are perched on a cliff overlooking the water, just gorgeous both day and night. Luckily the restaurants are not just pretty, they excel at fresh fish and grilled meats seasoned with local chilies and spices.

The hotel, although intimate in size, has a full service spa, a well appointed gym, and a concierge to fulfill your every desire. Service is first rate at Esperanza, every detail is taken care of, so you can just sit back and enjoy.

I am so glad that I had a chance to return to Los Cabos, the weather, the palm trees, the whales, the coastline, the food, and the people all made it a spectacular week. I hope you are able to visit Los Cabos sometime, and share a little piece of heaven.

Big Sur and The Post Ranch Inn

Thursday, August 19th, 2004

Big Sur Coastline

Big Sur Coastline

I am constantly amazed by the ocean. This massive body of water harnesses incredible amounts of energy. I find it fascinating to watch waves form seemingly out of nowhere, at times reaching heights of over ten feet. They then unleash their power and come crashing onto shore, sounding almost like thunder. Although the ocean may appear violent, as waves break onto the sand, it is rather tame compared to those that explode onto rocky coasts. Black jagged rocks rise 20 feet out of the sand, and the waves crack up against these spires spraying seawater in every direction. The gnarly rock cliffs provide an awe-inspiring backdrop to the fearsome ocean, and it happens to be one of the most beautiful scenes in nature…welcome to Big Sur.

Along the California coast, just south of the Monterey peninsula, is the area best known as Big Sur. It’s a combination of beaches, mountains, and hundreds of acres of National Park that encompasses some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The shoreline is extremely rough, a real contrast to those flat, wide open beaches of southern California. In Big Sur, the mountains seem to rise right from the sea. These craggy cliffs form a dramatic segue to the Pacific Ocean. Along this coastline are a few inlets with spectacular small beaches. These tiny enclaves are never crowded because they can only be reached on foot – yet this remoteness only adds to their beauty. Big Sur is a nature lover’s paradise; a magnificent collection of mountains, canyons, beaches, waterfalls, and all types of wildlife and plants.

Experiencing Big Sur can be achieved on anyone’s budget. There are many campgrounds and RV parks for those wanting to get closest to nature. Quaint bed & breakfasts are available for those that prefer charming accommodations. And for a true mind-blowing experience, I recommend the Post Ranch Inn – perhaps my favorite resort in the entire world.

The Post Ranch Inn is understated elegance that cohabitates with the environment. It is a luxury resort with about 30 rooms, which were built with wood exteriors to blend into the surrounding redwoods and evergreens. Several rooms are built as tree houses, but I assure you they are a little more elegant than the tree houses we played in as children. Inside, the rooms are constructed of natural woods, stone floors, and large glass windows and doors. The rooms that face the ocean are designed so that you see no other rooms on the property – it is just you, a few deer, the cliffs, and the ocean. There is also a small stone terrace outside with a couple of Adirondack chairs. The furnishings in the room are simple, sleek, and of top quality. The marble bathroom is luxurious and warm with a huge slate tub. Each room has a large stone fireplace that roars on those chilly nights. Although there is a full spa at the resort, you may want to take full advantage of the fireplace and have a nightly massage in your room.

A Deer Grazing

A Deer Grazing

Besides a top-notch spa, Post Ranch has a few other enriching activities: morning yoga, guided nature walks with extensive discussions on the local plant life, and stargazing with the resident astronomer. The grounds are stunning; sculpture and reflecting ponds dot the landscape. There is also an infinity pool perched on the edge of a cliff with an unobstructed view of this awesome coastline. Hot tubs are also available, a nice amenity to soothe your aching muscles.

The Post Ranch Inn is a superb resort, and their restaurant, Sierra Mar, will delight any culinary aficionado. Their chef Craig von Foerster has been with Sierra Mar since 1994, and in 2003 the restaurant received the highest rating from Zagat for cuisine in California. The restaurant serves a 4-course prix fixed meal of organic/seasonal fare. A sample meal might include California red abalone with tomato-basil brown butter sauce to start; followed by a wild mushroom soup with nutmeg crème fraise; an entrée of pan roasted pheasant breast with potato puree and foie gras gravy; and for dessert a chocolate napoleon with espresso sauce.

Yucca Plant

Yucca Plant

The wine list is every bit as impressive as the food. The cellar has 22, 000 bottles with over 4, 000 selections. Wine connoisseurs will be in heaven. Everything is so good, it is hard not to over-imbibe. But the good news is that you don’t need to feel guilty, just get out and enjoy the outdoors in the morning.

The Ventana Wilderness of Big Sur straddles the Santa Lucia Mountains providing hundreds of miles of marked hiking trails for every level hiker. Sharp-crested ridges separate V-shaped valleys providing miles of spectacular scenery. These hikes vary greatly, from strenuous mountaintop treks to a leisurely stroll trough the redwoods just enjoying the fresh air. Vertical walled canyons and streams provide beautiful points of interest along the hikes. And if you have interest in the flora, you will see everything from cactus to wildflowers. Big Sur is also home to abundant wildlife. Bald eagles and condors are two truly majestic birds that call these mountains home.

The short hike to Pfiffer Falls is particularly rewarding, and it is easy enough for all to enjoy. It is only 1.4 miles round-trip over rather flat terrain. The trail meanders through a redwood grove and ends at a 60 foot waterfall. My favorite trek in Big Sur however, was on horseback. A guide takes you through a redwood forest, in which trees soar 50 feet into the air. The light is filtered by these skyscrapers providing a very serene ambiance. It was interesting to see evidence of several forest fires on our journey, and learn how this can actually help the forest by clearing out the existing brush and providing fertile soil for new plants. After a couple of miles the landscape changes, we exit the redwoods and enter a mix of sage brush and wild grasses, none reaching a height of over 4 feet. The sun is now blaring, you can smell the sea air, and hear the circling seagulls. Finally we reach the crest of a hill, and see a long sand beach 20 feet below us. Wow! The horses follow a path down to the beach and then prance along the water’s edge. The ride was so unbelievable because it encompassed so much diversity: the redwoods, diverse foliage, wildlife, and the ocean.

The Sun Sets on Big Sur

The Sun Sets on Big Sur

Although the hiking and horseback riding are tremendous, a must adventure is driving your car north on Highway One. It is a two lane road with hairpin turns that winds along the coastline offering dramatic views around every bend. Twenty six miles north of Big Sur Valley is the city of Carmel, which is just a few miles from Pebble Beach and the famous “17 mile drive”. Pebble Beach may be the most spectacular golf course in the country, and is a must for anyone that enjoys playing a round. 17 mile drive is breathtaking, with my favorite site being the famed Lone Cypress, perhaps the most popular tree ever painted. The scenery along this route is beautiful, and the wildlife on the rocks in the ocean is abundant: pelicans, sea otters, seals, and sea lions. After this drive, Carmel offers a nice change of pace. It is a picturesque town filled with boutiques, craft shops, many exquisite art galleries, and a wide selection of fine restaurants.

Big Sur is a sensational vacation destination because it offers a bit of something for everyone. It will offer you endless hours of the most intoxicating landscape imaginable. I have tried to capture the beauty of Big Sur in pictures, but the only way to fully appreciate all it has to offer is to visit in person. Perhaps it will become your favorite place too!

Bellagio in the Heart of Lake Como

Friday, July 30th, 2004

Pool overlooking Lake Como

Pool overlooking Lake Como

Looking across the shimmering blue water of Lake Como you see the Alps form a wall around the lake’s perimeter. These majestic, craggy skyscrapers are very lush on the bottom, but are steep, bare grey cliffs near their apex. Among the cypress and pine trees, are thousands of flowers making the mountains look like botanical gardens. Small villages dot the landscape, and ochre and yellow villas with terracotta roofs illustrate the magnificence of yesteryear. Perched on the northern tip of a peninsula right in the heart of the lake, is the charming town of Bellagio, a true gem.

Bellagio has been a resort town for many, many years. It was the summer residence of the Roman patricians, and then of Lombardy’s noble families. They built mammoth villas overlooking the lake surrounded by perfectly manicured formal gardens. This town became an enchanting retreat for artists, writers, and musicians from around the world: Pliny the Younger, Longfellow, Twain, Shelly, and Toscanini. My expectation of Bellagio was that it would be very formal with a stuffy arrogance, but I was wrong. Yes there is significant wealth here, but the town, and the people in it, are charming and warm.

Lake Como is a massive lake located in the Lombardy area of northern Italy. It is shaped like an upside down Y. Although you can visit the villages along the lake by driving along very narrow one-lane roads, I found it more pleasant to travel by ferry. The ferries stop at all the major towns: Como (the largest) on the southwestern tip of the lake, Lecco on the southeastern tip, Tremmezzo, Varenna, and Bellagio all toward the center of the lake. These towns all provide interesting side trips from Bellagio, which is very centrally located.

As the ferry pulls into Bellagio you see a large open square on your left with tiny cobblestone streets winding up the hill away from the lake. The square is busy: people are waiting for the next ferry, a few vendors have stands set up selling arts & crafts, and others are just lazing while enjoying a gelato. Several hotels face out over this town square with pretty views of the lake. Although there are many lovely accommodations in Bellagio, the five-star hotel is the Grand Hotel Villa Serbolloni. It is a classic, built in the mid 19th century with elaborate interiors and formal gardens. It sits right on the lake with a huge pool, private sand beach, and a landing dock.

The main lobby of this Grande Dame is huge, decorated with chandeliers and period antiques. Although the reception area seems quite calm, the concierge desk is always bustling making dinner reservations or setting up excursions on the lake. Beyond this entry area is the grand ballroom and the main dinning room.

From the terrace of the main dinning room you can see the pool area one level down, with the lake and mountains in the distance. The pool is quite the people scene. Since it gets quite warm during the summer months, most guests spend at least a few hours there per day. The guests are a diverse mix of Europeans and Americans, a unique cross section of many cultures. Watching this cast of characters can provide hours of entertainment. The long pool is surrounded by white lounge chairs that overlook the lake. The scenery, and the boats moving about on the lake, can almost mesmerize you. Lunch, cocktails, or just a gelato can be enjoyed from your chaise lounge as you bask in the sun. On the far side of the pool, the hotel cleared away all the rocks at the lake’s edge and installed a sand beach. This provides another sun bathing area, as well as an easy access for those that want to swim in the lake.

Steps near Restaurant Bilacus

Steps near Restaurant Bilacus

Prior to heading to dinner, you may want to visit the hotel’s beautiful terrace that overlooks the pool. It is the perfect place to start your evening…whether watching the sunset or enjoying the view while sipping a Prosecco. The hotel has excellent food, a combination of fresh regional cuisine and the classic high-end dishes you would anticipate at a five star resort. But as you may suspect, the restaurant is rather formal requiring a sport jacket. Just a few blocks from the hotel are a couple of great restaurants. Bilacus, our favorite, is a trattoria with an outdoor terrace. It is casual with a friendly staff and outstanding food. Typical dishes are melon with prosciutto, fresh pasta with garlic & olive oil, and fresh seafood like lake perch. Barchetta is another good restaurant focusing on the local flavors, with the specialty being lake fish. After dinner, Bellagio is a rather quiet town, don’t expect night clubs or casinos – it’s not Vegas. But the Hotel Villa Serbollini has a four piece band that plays every night in the ballroom. It provides a great place to unwind and reflect on the day.

The town, with its narrow windy cobblestone streets, is enchanting. Bellagio is surrounded on three sides by water, therefore it is not unusual to be constantly enamored by its beauty. The hilly streets are filled with shops: the salumaria, produce store, and wine shop are authentic, with abundant treasures for your palate. There are also many one of a kind craft stores selling pottery, artwork, jewelry, and other trinkets that you can’t do without. For those that didn’t pack enough clothes, don’t fret, there are enough boutiques to satisfy all your urges.

Although the center of Bellagio, and the majority of the village is north of the ferry dock, venturing to the south is rewarding. There is a long promenade that runs along the lake with trees lining the path on one side. It leads to Villa Melzi D’Eril, which contours along the lakefront. It’s a neoclassical villa, with a small Etruscan museum, and a gazebo that juts out over the water. The paths through the gardens are very tranquil, but also alive with bursts of color from the azaleas. It is a wonderful way to enjoy your afternoon. My favorite spot in Bellagio however, is the Villa Serbolloni,

Villa Serbollini

Villa Serbollini

which is on the hill behind the hotel. Note that this villa is not part of the hotel, but is a part of the Rockefeller Foundation, and it serves as a retreat for scholars and artists. Today, guided tours are held twice a day. As you climb up the hill, the path meanders through a combination of tall evergreens, sweeping lawns, and garden beds. You will pass a total of 12 tiny one-room buildings that have each been assigned to a visiting artist for the month. It is almost eerie how these buildings blend into the landscape. At the top there is a larger building, obviously for scholarly gettogethers. Although the trek to the top is a bit of a hike, you will be well rewarded. There is the remains of a building by Pliny the Younger, several formal gardens, and an unobstructed view that is unsurpassed.

Venturing beyond Bellagio is as easy as a ferryboat ride. Como is a medieval walled town that is larger than Bellagio. It has many chic shops, and the outdoor market in the Via Vittorio Emanuele II is fabulous. And just north of Como is the famed Villa d’Este. Varenna is another town that is an ancient gem. Being only a short boat ride from Bellagio makes it a must. As the ferry pulls into Varenna you would think the town was asleep. You walk along the lake on a narrow concrete path and pass dozens of small fishing boats. Finally you reach the beginning of town, and you begin to climb the cobblestone streets. It is a tiny town with a town square and a few charming shops, but the highlight is Villa Monastero. This villa used to house nuns, but now it is impeccably maintained by the town. What makes this villa different is the shape of the property, it is a long, sometimes very narrow, strip that runs along the lake. This 16th century garden is so varied and interesting. It has sculptures, pergolas, pools, a gazebo and several sitting areas overlooking the water.

Bellagio is a place that will warm your heart and dazzle expectations. If you can’t buy a villa overlooking the lake, do the next best thing…book a vacation and enjoy.

Hastings House on Salt Spring Island

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004

The Pacific Northwest is a breathtaking part of North America, and tucked on the tiny island of Salt Spring is a real gem: Hastings House. Just outside of Vancouver you board a ferry to Salt Spring Island, and you feel like you are being transported to a foreign land. The ferry leaves the harbor and heads into the open seas. As you look back, you can see the tall buildings fade into the horizon. The ferry motor purrs as the boat undulates on the waves; you can feel your body begin to relax. The sea air is salty and exhilarating. As you approach Salt Spring Island you see a rugged coastline with water crashing up against the rocks. The island almost looks uninhabited with row after row of huge evergreens. Salt Spring is tiny, only 70 square miles with a population of 10,000, but you feel like it is your own private oasis. The boat pulls into the harbor at the far end of the island, but only a ten minute taxi ride to Hasting House.

Hastings House is an upscale small resort that sits at the water’s edge. There is an old English Manor House, a barn, and several cottages scattered around the property. It looks like a postcard, 25 acres of rolling grass, farms, and gardens sitting on a bluff.

Guest Cottage at Hastings House

Guest Cottage at Hastings House

The Manor House was built in 1940 by William Hastings to replicate his 11th century childhood home in Sussex, England. It is a Tudor style with small pane windows, white stucco walls, and a rough cut stone foundation. Inside dark, wooden beams contrast nicely with the plain white plaster walls. The main sitting room has a huge sofa and comfortable chairs in front of a massive fireplace that roars all day long. Upstairs there are 2 guest bedrooms. There are a total of 18 guest bedrooms on the property, but the tasteful placement of the cottages makes for an open, airy environment. I had the pleasure of staying in one of the Farmhouse suites, which are cottages located on a berm, overlooking the harbor. The rooms are large, typically with a sitting area, a fireplace, and a private balcony. They are decorated with antique furnishings, local artwork and eiderdown quilts on the beds. Fresh flowers from the property are placed in each room, and during turndown service every evening the fireplace is set ablaze. The staff goes out of their way to make you feel special.

Adirondack Chairs by the Sea

Adirondack Chairs by the Sea

Although the service is exquisite, and the accommodations comfortable, it’s the outdoors that makes Hastings House truly memorable. Adirondack chairs sit on the lawn overlooking the sea. In the distance you can see the harbor in the nearby town of Ganges, and the sailboats rock back and forth with the tide. You can hear the birds chirping, and the water churning amongst the rocks. You can smell the sea air and the fresh cut grass. You can just relax, read a book, or contemplate the world – total tranquility. Hastings House has a complete spa to further enhance your needs for relaxation. It offers facials, massages, wraps, and other forms of revitalization.

For the more adventuresome, there are many activities. Salt Spring has beautiful trails for hiking, and Hastings House will outfit you with trail maps and backpacks. The island is quite rural, a mix of national parks and large farms. Complimentary mountain bikes are also offered, and it’s a great way to see the island. But be warned that the terrain has some hills, and they seem to only go up. Exploring the coastline is spectacular. It’s so rustic; rock formations jut out from the sea, and sheer cliffs are softened by the ubiquitous evergreens. The shore also has many interesting inlets filled with small marinas, quaint seaside homes, and private beaches. It’s not unusual to see sea otters swimming, or seals catching some rays on the rocks. Kayaks are a fun way to travel, and you can have guided tours; there is even one by moonlight. For those not looking to do so much paddling, you can take a sailboat around the island. If you are lucky, you will see a bald eagle.

The town of Ganges is just a short walk up the road. It’s a quaint hamlet located in the middle of the island with several marinas supporting the local boating community. Ganges, although quite sleepy, is the most active town on Salt Spring Island, and it’s the heart of the artistic community. Years ago this island became a haven for artists, and they open their galleries 6 days a week, exhibiting art, sculpture and pottery. The big event is on Saturday, when a colorful market takes place with over 100 vendors. This market provides us with an

excellent cross section of the local flavor. Many artists exhibit here selling anything from hooked rugs to homemade jams. The farmers, ranchers, and fishermen also participate. Herbs, vegetables, poultry, game, and seafood are all on display; making you mouth water in anticipation of the next meal.

Roaming Chickens

Roaming Chickens

Complementing the magnificent accommodations and the spectacular natural beauty is a culinary dining experience second to none. Great food always starts with the freshest ingredients, and as you walk the grounds you realize that you are in for a treat. Vegetable and herbs gardens are extensive. Perfect rows of chives, and scallions, and carrots make you dream of being a vegetarian. But the poultry and game are no less fresh. You will see lamb, chickens, ducks and cows; you want to start humming Old MacDonald. A full breakfast is served in the Manor House with eggs, fruit and baskets of fresh baked muffins and scones. For lunch, gourmet picnic baskets are made available for your excursions. Keeping with the British theme, Tea is served in the afternoon, but not just with crumpets. I remember trifle being served one afternoon, and a cobbler the next.

The highlight however is dinner, which is served in a beautiful dining room. Tables are adorned with white tablecloths, fine English bone china, and crystal glasses. But this elegance is made less formal by having simple pastel colored walls and a huge picture window framing the sea. The chef Marcel Kauer has won many awards, and the restaurant recently received 114 out of 120 points from Zagat. He develops a five-course menu featuring the fresh local ingredients, and changes the menu daily. There is always a choice of 5 entrees, and baby Salt Spring Island lamb is their specialty. I had a rack of lamb with a rosemary breadcrumb crust that was delicious. A sample meal might be as follows: eggplant and goat cheese roulade and fennel salad; Thai style sweet peppers and coconut bisque; marinated sablefish, bok choy and sorrel; herb crusted Pacific Halibut, vegetable spaghetti, and citrus salsa; and hot orchard quince soufflé with a white chocolate crème anglais. The food is spectacular, and the presentation exquisite. An outstanding wine list ensures that you will be able make this a true five star dinning experience. Whether it be the food, the service, or the accommodations, Hastings House goes the extra mile to ensure an enjoyable stay.

The Pacific Northwest is known for considerable rainfall, so plan to visit May through September, which is quite dry. The daytime temperatures average in the 70s. As I reflect on Salt Spring Island, I have great memories: the spectacular natural beauty, the beautiful cottages, the quaint town and artistic shops, and the superb food. I remember as the ferry pulled away that this was a special place, and I hope that I will return soon.

Taos, New Mexico

Saturday, February 28th, 2004

The Mountains of Taos

The Mountains of Taos

Taos is a charming town in northern New Mexico that offers culture, history, outdoor adventure and great food. This region in the southwestern U.S. is beautiful because the Rocky Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to the flat Taos valley. As seen below, the mountains almost glow at sunset. The town of Taos is small, about 4,500 people, only 1/10 the size of its better known cousin Sante Fe. But Taos is a terrific place to visit because it’s quaint, friendly, and well proportioned in size allowing you to truly experience all it has to offer.

In the 1890s Bert Phillips and Ernest Blumenschin were passing through Taos. Thankfully a faulty wagon wheel forced them to stop long enough to appreciate the unbelievable light, and how it reflected off the mountains. This natural beauty made them decide to stay; and subsequently set up the Taos Art Society. Artists have been flocking to the town ever since. Today there are many art galleries, museums, and numerous cultural exhibits. The style of art varies dramatically from early American, dating back to the days of Kit Carson, to the ultramodern paintings or metal sculptures of today. Taos is also know for its collections of silver and turquoise jewelry and Indian pottery.

The architecture of Taos is an art form in itself. The buildings, whether business or residential, are almost all adobe. The town square becomes a cultural gathering spot for many events, concerts, and unique festivals. Taos continues to be proud of its history, and two inns that are representative of this heritage are: Hotel La Fonda and the Historic Inn of Taos which has small pueblo fireplaces in most rooms.

Taos Town Square

Taos Town Square

But the beauty is not just found in the art galleries. Taos sits in a wide valley, filled with fields of sagebrush, and is framed on three sides by majestic mountain peaks. The Rio Grande River cuts through the center of the valley in a gorge that is hundreds of feet below the valley floor. Several hundred years ago the river carved a path through this rock, leaving behind this amazing feat of nature. Taos is blessed with over 300 days of sunshine, which brilliantly showcases the red rock in both the mountains and the gorge. Although the valley looks almost barren with miles of the ubiquitous sagebrush, it provides an excellent canvas for the dramatic changes as you near the mountains. Along the riverbeds which are fed by melting snow from the mountains, there are rows of cottonwoods and aspens that provide unbelievable foliage spring through fall.

Bavarian Restaurant

Bavarian Restaurant

These mountains soar to over 13,000 feet and provide a huge playground for outdoor adventure. Taos Ski Valley Resort is about 30 minutes from downtown and offers excellent skiing. It has 110 runs with 51% of them expert. It may not be as large as Vail or St. Moritz, but it has tall peaks, challenging well-maintained runs, and the shortest lift lines you have ever seen. A true highlight is the Bavarian Restaurant located about half way up the mountain. Imagine sitting outside at a large picnic table looking up at the slopes, while the sun beats down on your face. You are served a delicious bowl of goulash, and a pint of good German beer….heaven. After lunch, there are lounge chairs out front to rest and soak up the sun. There are two inns located right on the mountain: Hotel St. Bernard and The Inn at Snake Dance. Each provides the perfect combination of convenience and luxury

As we think of the Southwest, hot spicy chilies come to mind. Orlando’s is an excellent restaurant that serves authentic New Mexican cuisine. Enchiladas, burritos, and tamales are served with red chili sauce, green chili sauce or Christmas (a combination of red & green). But the food in Taos is not all beans and chilies. The Inn at Casa de Las Chimeneas had a five course wine tasting dinner which illustrates it’s sophistication and culinary capabilities. Joseph’s Table was my favorite restaurant, perfecting such dishes as seared foie gras and venison with a port wine sauce. Doc Martins and Lamberts are two other restaurants that stand out as well.

Taos is not for those that want total r&r. It’s a place for those that want to see the mountains, experience the culture, enjoy the art, and eat great food.