Posts Tagged ‘California’

Eco-Friendly Hotels that Make Travelers Happy

Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM | 0 Comments

Even though Earth Day reminds us to think about our environmental footprint each April, some hotels make an earth friendly commitment year round. Here are a sampling of eco-friendly hotels worthy of a shout out. One of my favorite hotels — Boone Tavern, made it on Booking.com’s eco-friendly hotel list.

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky is proof that history can meet modern times. Built in 1909, this beauty that’s also a Historic Hotel of America, is part of Berea College and a showcase for its culinary and hotel management programs. The hotel and tavern’s renovations include: energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, energy star lighting, solar tubes and skylights, heat recovery coils, and low VOC paints and adhesives. Guest rooms and common areas feature handcrafted furniture that represent Kentucky’s craft heritage, as well as, Berea’s fame as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Along with the environmentally friendly building that earned Boone Tavern its LEED Gold Certification, Boone Tavern’s restaurant is another reason to visit. The restaurant’s traditional American cuisine features locally grown ingredients. Signature dishes like “Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest” and “Spoonbread” are the don’t miss, although I can vouch that anything on the menu is splendid. Still, the spoonbread is what you will talk about years later.

ecofriendly Bardessono-Courtyard

The eco-friendly Bardessono courtyard has a stunning view

If you go, take time to browse in Boone Tavern’s gift shop and the other shops that line Berea’s streets. There’s a reason why this is the folk art capital. The hotel’s shop includes items made by the college’s students. Hand-woven items and hand-crafted furniture are part of the bounty.

One of Nancy’s favorites also made it on the eco-friendly hotel list. Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville, California is a perfect pairing for a trip to Napa Valley and wine tasting. As Nancy discovered during her stay at Bardessono, one of three LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the United States, “it is easy to be green while looking stunningly chic.”

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point in Sausalito is another California hotel with LEED Certification. The reuse of historic materials and landscaping with native plants are just part of Cavallo Point’s dedication to achieving the Green Seal Environment Standard for U.S. Lodging Properties. The hotel’s energy-efficient appliances that automatically switch to sleep mode when not in use and the programmable thermostats and motion sensors that reduce heating and cooling costs are some reasons why Cavallo Point is an eco-friendly hotel. The property doesn’t use Styrofoam containers and it recycles plastic. Refillable soap dispensers and cloth napkins are other environmentally friendly practices within the hotel.

At Cavallo Point, going green comes with a view. Most of the resort’s guest rooms have views of San Francisco, the bay or the Golden Gate Bridge.

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids--a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids–a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

Michigan is another state with two eco-friendly hotels that deserve applause. City Flats Hotel in Holland was the first hotel in the Midwest to achieve LEED Gold status. Step inside for proof that eco-friendly, luxury and creativity go hand in hand. Each of the hotel guest rooms has its own unique flair. Each hotel room’s green decor includes: cork flooring installed with low-VOC adhesives, naturally hypoallergenic bamboo linens, curtains lined with a black-out fabric to reduce energy needed to heat and cool room, light fixtures with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, and countertops made from Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified recycled glass and concrete. Also, hotel furnishings are locally made.

The CityFlats Hotel in Grand Rapids is another Michigan hotel with LEED Gold Certification. Its eco-friendly combo includes the unique features of the City Flats Hotel in Holland and is an example of turning a city landmark into a new use. The building was once Fox Jewelers.

Along with booking at any of the hotel’s websites, check out Booking.com.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association.  All photos except Bardessono courtesy of Booking.com. Bardessono photo by Nancy D. Brown.

14 for 2014 — Ideas for Kid-friendly Trips

Tuesday January 28, 2014 at 8:08 PM | 0 Comments

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Dreams Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico

For a great all-inclusive resort vacation, I highly recommend Dreams just north of Puerto Vallarta. We stayed for a week in this lovely paradise with enormous crystal clear pools, beach palapas, entertainment, all manner of activities and fantastic restaurant. To lounge and read with feet in the sand and a drink in a coconut shell while the kids splashed around or painted ceramics was, in a word, dreamy.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2012/05/19/mexico-resort-vs-real.html

Train Town, Sonoma, California

Did you know that there’s an amusement park for the shorties in Sonoma! And it’s dirt-cheap! This adorable destination is located a mile from Sonoma Plaza. Zip though tunnels and over bridges on the quarter-scale railroad on your way to Lakeview, the miniature town and petting zoo.

There is also a Ferris wheel, scrambler, roller coaster, and carousel to further delight the young’uns.

Camping in Big Sur, California

I’m not much into camping, but it gets us outdoors, it’s affordable, and kids love it. Fernwood on the Big Sur River offers different levels of lodging —cabins, tent cabins, campground, and a motel. We scored a nice site next on the riverbank to pitch our tent. The kids went tubing, climbed trees and simply explored. Upstairs the hill at the lodge are shops (with lattes in the morning), a restaurant, and a tavern. A nice getaway for nature lovers who also love city amenities.

Legoland, Carlsbad, California

These Danish plastic bricks have taken the world and my son’s bedroom by storm. And Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif is up there next to Disneyland as the ultimate children’s fantasyland. It’s home to to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions and they debuted their first U.S. hotel there last spring. Continue the fun straight into your hotel room!

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/03/06/the-first-u-s-legoland-hotel-debuts-in-april.html

Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Acres (71,028 to be precise) of pristine coastline are located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County. The water is best explored with a wetsuit but since kids are generally impervious to cold, why bother? Pack the sand toys and have a castle contest! The hikes range from easy/moderate to difficult and the views are spectacular. Plan ahead and reserve the Windsong Cottage yurt for an unforgettable family getaway.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/12/13/windsong-cottage-yurt-point-reyes-station-california.html

Ocean Beach dunes/Java Beach Café, San Francisco, California

Being a city dweller close to the ocean, taking the kids to the beach is one of my favorite go-to adventures. Our usual routine is grilled cheese and soup at Java Beach Café then watching the sun set on Ocean Beach. There is a treacherous undertow on this beach (with scary riptide warnings), so the kids mostly stick to rolling down and hiding in the massive dunes.

Kids’ Suite at the Hotel Union Square, San Francisco, California

I love this room! If you’re visiting San Francisco with little ones, this is the place to stay. It’s spacious, cheerful l and equipped with all manner of well-curated kids’ toys and books. From baby toys to a Wii, there is ample in-room entertainment. Then, just step out the door into bustling Union Square for great shopping and restaurants.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/04/03/union-square-hotel-kids-suite.html

The kids' suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

The kids’ suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

New York City

Last summer, I hit the road with the kids for a (very, very hot) summer on the East Coast. My daughter was the right age (eight) for NYC and fell in love with it. My little guy not so much — I ended up leaving him with my mom while Parker and I explored the city on foot, subway, taxi cab, and the Staten Island ferry. We had a blast. There so much to do there with a curious kids — Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building. Even driving through Times Square at night is a thrill.

http://www.nancydbrown.com/2013/09/04/east-coast-summer-new-york-city-provincetown-on-cape-cod-massachusetts.html

Fairyland, Oakland, Califoria

Oakland’s adorable Fairyland is where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland. It is sweet and kind of run down but in a charming way. It definitely skews toward the really young crowd. Take the train to get the lay of the land then visit one of the shows. There are lots of rides, play areas, and a decent café on the premises. Oh, and good luck getting them out of the giftshop!

Boston, Massachusetts

I come here frequently to visit family and one of our rituals is to take the kids to the Boston Public Gardens to ride the swan boats. After, we go for chowder at Union Oyster House that claims to be the oldest restaurant on the East Coast. It certainly looks like it could be with its low ceilings and narrow passageways. You can gaze out the window and picture Paul Revere riding down the cobblestone streets out front.

 Ice Skating at Embarcadero or Union Square, San Francisco, California

This is a fun way to while away the afternoon during winter break when they kids have been cooped up. The Union Square rink is especially festive during the holidays with the humungous Christmas tree nearby. The Embarcadero is less crowded though, and you are right across for the Ferry Building Marketplace for lunch.

Chinatown, San Francisco, California

This is one for slightly older kids who like to explore on foot. It’s always pretty crowded but there are so many interesting and outrageous sites. A bunch of live frogs in a bucked anyone? A must stop is at the Fortune Cookie factory, a teeny hole-in-the wall on a narrow pedestrian alleyway where you can watch the old ladies make the cookies and taste a sample. Don’t forget to have lunch at one of the many dim sum counters.

Coastal Maine

While I might avoid it in the dead of winter (like right now where it’s 10 degrees), Maine has a beautiful austerity. Summer in charming Oqunquit or Kennebunkport is where it’s at. The kids loved the hot summer weather and enjoyed Portland, a laid back Northern town with gorgeous brick buildings, cool people and great seafood restaurants. Maine in fall is lovely also with a spectrum of colorful leaves on the trees.

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

San Francisco Insider Tip:

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, Ca

While it might seem too touristy for us adult folk, kids love Fishermans Wharf. For some tips that we all can enjoy, I suggest a trip to the Musee Mechanique, a collection of 200 antique penny arcade machines. There is also a restored WWII submarine, the Hyde Street Pier with its collection of vintage sea vessels, and the cool Aquarium of the Bay nearby.

Post contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com

 

 

Restaurant Review: Bull Valley Roadhouse, Port Costa

Monday January 20, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 0 Comments

ox, bull valley roadhouse

An ox dangles over the entrance to Bull Valley Roadhouse in Port Costa, California

Tucked away at the end of Canyon Lake Drive in Port Costa, California, The Bull Valley Roadhouse is a collision of pre-Prohibition meets 20th century dining. It also reminds me of a trip to Bolinas, with little in the way of signage directing guests to Port Costa and a slight paranoia that maybe the local residents (all 190 of them) don’t want me to find this place.

Once parked, look for the golden ox dangling from hook and chain over the doorway of Bull Valley Roadhouse. Note the 1897 marker embedded in the front of the old building. Inside, belly up to the wooden bar in the restaurant and ponder a craft beer, glass of wine or specialty cocktail.

My husband ordered the old pal of michter’s single barrel straight rye with dolin dry vermouth and campari, while I was drawn to the winter solstice punch, a mixture of dudognon cognac, apple brandy, cranberry shrub (made locally in Port Costa) lime and old time bitters. All cocktails were priced at $11.

 

fried chicken, bull valley roadhouse

Fried chicken at Bull Valley Roadhouse in Port Costa.

Family style dining

Step into the dining room where communal tables welcome large groups for informal restaurant dining or hope the intimate table for two is available by the window facing the street. Hot towels are brought upon arrival and the family style menu is explained, noting the large portions designed to be shared.

We began my birthday celebration with crispy blue lake beans sprinkled with chile salt ($10) and a salad for two of mixed greens, pear, Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts and topped with a sherry vinaigrette ($10.)

brussel sprouts, Bull Valley Roadhouse

Fried Brussel sprouts from Bull Valley Roadhouse, Port Costa

Supporting local farmers and ranchers

The crispy fried buttermilk chicken ($28), served alongside a cup of pork with black eyed peas and ramekin of spicy pepper jam was served piping hot and worth the wait. I would have loved to have tried Co-owner Earl Flewellen’s honey drizzled over the house made biscuit, but his small batch production was already sold out.

We also ordered the grilled ribeye with roasted shitake, bunshimeji and king trumpet mushrooms slathered in herbed butter ($36.) The steak from Prather Ranch Meat Company was flavorful, well marbled and cooked perfectly. I also appreciate that the Northern California company raises their cattle without antibiotics or hormones.

Hat hit to Executive Chef David Williams and owners Earl Flewellen and Samuel Spurrier of Bull Valley Roadhouse for opting to support local farmers, fishermen and foragers from the San Francisco bay area. If I could prepare Brussels sprouts like those from the Roadhouse, my kids would eat vegetables, same goes for the fried blue lake beans.
 

Bull Valley Roadhouse, cocktail

Cocktails at Bull Valley Roadhouse include Winter Solstice Punch

Insider Tip

Earl Flewellen started out as an art director and then added beekeeper to his resume before he became a restaurateur and next door Burlington Hotel owner. His passion is with his hives and the resulting honey. Save room for the pound cake bread pudding with honey & whipped cream or the wildflower honey ice cream. Sweet!

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter.

If You Go:

Bull Valley Roadhouse (510) 787-1135

14 Canyon Lake Drive, Port Costa, California 94569

Article and photos by Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Bull Valley Roadhouse, but all opinions are my own.