8.09.2020

our Northern California road trip

Nicholson House in Mendocino, (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

It had been six months since my last trip, when a group of Brownell Travel colleagues and I visited Meadowood Napa County (read about it here), and I was truly ready to get out of town! Last Sunday, Claire and I hit the road for a short trip to Mendocino, about a 3 hour drive up the coast from San Francisco.

Mendocino is a cute artists village that I've previously visited. Filled with historic homes from a different era, it's a pleasure to walk its streets, visit the shops, and enjoy the fine dining. Covid-19, however, has taken a dramatic toll on Mendocino tourism. The streets were deserted. You could park virtually anywhere in town. The shops closed at 5 p.m., and we had just a short wait when we ordered a takeout dinner from Cafe Beaujolais. With plenty of tables behind the restaurant, widely spaced in its private garden, we enjoyed our socially-distanced meal. The food was casual, wholesome, and good, and we'd definitely go back. While in town that night, we made a reservation for the next evening at Trillium Cafe, a more upscale restaurant with outside table service and quite good comfort food.

What to do in Mendocino? If you have more than retail therapy on your mind, I can highly recommend spending time at Russian Gulch State Park. We had looked forward to hiking the Fern Canyon Trail to a 36 foot waterfall, but the trail was closed for improvements. We hiked instead on the more ambitious North Trail winding its way through a beautiful forest lined with towering redwood trees. We cut the hike short, a good decision as it left us time to explore the portion of the park on the left side of Highway 1 where we ate our picnic lunch on a table with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, then took an easy hike along the shoreline.

The place to stay in Mendocino — Stanford Inn by the Sea. I highly recommend booking a suite for the added space; we stayed in the Bishop Pine Suite. The inn's restaurant — The Ravens — features gourmet vegan cuisine, a place to dine even if staying elsewhere. However, a recent fire put the kitchen out of operation. Complimentary breakfasts are still provided guests through in-room dining with the chef working out of a temporary kitchen trailer. However, breakfast in takeout containers cannot possibly duplicate the presentation you'll enjoy once the full kitchen is back in operation.

Next ... two days in the Fort Bragg area, a small town with 7,500 residents. Visitors to Fort Bragg can spend the day on the beach, exploring shops and restaurants, or taking a ride on the Skunk Train. We've always enjoyed Cafe One, a diner right on Highway 1 serving a menu of organic, non-GMO food. We had a simple lunch of soup and sandwiches and ordered takeout for dinner that night.

The best luxury accommodations in the Mendocino/Fort Bragg area are to be found at The Inn at Newport Ranch, a high four-star resort about 20 minutes north of Fort Bragg. We spent two evenings in The Captain's Quarters, the nicest of the three guestrooms in the Main Inn. The photo below will give a sense of the room's commanding view. The room provides a King bed, small workdesk, sitting area with table, and large bathroom with dual vanities and rainshower. We were not able to have a site inspection, but we did peek into the Grove Suite after its guest had checked out. Much more expansive in space, I would definitely recommend booking a suite at the Inn at Newport Ranch. Guest amenities include daily breakfast and complimentary pre-dinner drinks every evening. We enjoyed two breakfasts, one lunch, and one dinner during our stay. And if you're a fan of jetted hot tubs, the Main House has a great one on a deck overlooking the ocean.
Captains Quarters guest room

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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.30.2020

travel souvenirs — part 7



I've been twice to Australia over the past four years. Nearly as large in area as the United States, its total population is about the same as Florida.

Australia offers natural beauty to appeal to all travelers. 
  • The Great Barrier Reef offers some of the world's most amazing snorkeling.
  • The Blue Mountains and Kangaroo Island offer abundant opportunities to witness Australia's marsupials in the wild.
  • Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), the massive natural outcropping in the very center of the continent, has an almost mystical quality if you visit at sunrise (see my photo below) or sunset. 

The souvenir pictured above is a piece of aboriginal art that our group leader gave me during our Swain Destinations tour in 2016. Claire and I had the chance to visit Uluru in 2019. Do drop in to the art shop in the Visitors Center. While there, I watched an aboriginal artist create a painting in the same style, filling her outline entirely with dots of paint.

Uluru at Sunrise (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved
Uluru at dawn (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel,
email me

7.28.2020

travel souvenirs — part 6

hand-painted mandala (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

This mandala is now framed and hanging on the wall in our home. Every time we see this intricate work of art, it reminds us of our wonderful nine-night tour of Bhutan, the Amankora Journey. Circular in design, mandalas are used in Hindu and Buddhist meditation. The artist painted, entirely in gold leaf, the words of a devotional text contained in fifteen concentric circles.

Bhutanese art is incredibly detailed. We met another artist, pictured below, who was kneeling on the floor, bent over the piece he was working on. His creation was accomplished by dropping small amounts of colored powders onto an outline, filling in his design. Literally backbreaking work, its most striking feature is the impermanence of the piece. Never intended to grace the wall of a museum or a home, the colored powders would soon scatter to the wind.

Why devote such time and care to something that will disappear in the wind? Your answer will come in the very act of contemplating that question.


intricate art design (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.25.2020

travel souvenirs — part 5

woman carrying water

Inle Lake is a not-to-be-missed destination if you visit Myanmar. We enjoyed traversing the lake by boat, watching fishermen as they plied their trade, visiting various craft villages, and experiencing the Shew Inn Tain stupas, some 2500 ancient Buddhist pagodas erected on one hillside (pictured below).

Upon leaving the attraction, we of course perused the tables of vendors offering crafts in the covered market. This wooden sculpture of a woman carrying water caught Claire's attention. We brought it home, and it now sits in our living room, reminding us every time we look at the sculpture of our week in Myanmar — Yangon, Inle Lake, and our Irrawaddy River cruise on the Sanctuary Ananda.

Shew Inn Tain stupas (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Not a tour you can easily plan on your own, we're thankful to A&K Southeast Asia for creating a most memorable trip.


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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.20.2020

travel souvenirs — part 4




My favorite travel souvenir ... ever! I enjoyed a 10-day trip to Turkey in February, 2008. Hosted by Virtuoso onsite Sea Song Tours, we arrived in Istanbul during a driving snowstorm. Our first two nights were hosted by the fabulous Four Seasons Sultanahmet, a short walk away from the Grand Bazaar, a covered market with over 4,000 shops that normally attracts between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily.

But because of the cold and driving snow, the Grand Bazaar was virtually empty that day. I wandered the halls and popped in and out of shops selling carpets. I was in the market for a runner for my front hallway, if I found something I liked at a good price. It was a buyers market that day. I entered the shop around 2 in the afternoon, the shop's first [potential] customer of the day. After the ritual cup of tea with the shopkeeper, I asked to see some runners. He brought out several for me to inspect, and I decided on the carpet pictured above.

Haggling over price is expected, so when he quoted $2000 for the carpet, I apparently did a very good acting job. "I really can't pay more than $700," I said — or words to that effect. "But it's woven by hand," he replied, but I replied with a straight face that $700 was all I could pay. He left me in the store, found the shop owner, and returned to tell me my offer had been accepted ... as they hadn't made a sale all day.

Now gracing the front hallway of my home, this carpet brings back memories of Istanbul every day, the perfect travel souvenir.


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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.11.2020

travel souvenirs — part 3




We are still sheltering in place in Northern California. With foreign adventures off the table, I've been fondly recalling some of my favorite travel experiences over the past few years. Looking at souvenirs I've brought home has been a great a way to remember the many wonderful places I've been privileged to visit.

One afternoon, after lunch in Adelaide, Australia, we had time to look (and shop) at the arts and crafts exposition right by the restaurant. Thank you to Swain Destinations for arranging this stop on our 2016 trip. A leatherworker was on hand, making and selling kangaroo leather belts. I thought the belt shown above was quite attractive. He sized it exactly for my waist, and I've been wearing it ever since.

But the best souvenirs are always photographs that I take myself. I combine my best photos each year in a book of travel photography that I give family members for Christmas. On the cover of my 2019 book is a shot of the Sydney Opera House. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Sydney for this return trip. The hotel, located directly across the harbour from the Opera House, is the perfect place to stay if you want to go to the harbour at 5 a.m. to capture sunrise images.

I'd love to return to Australia for a third visit. Melbourne is high on the bucket list for my next trip.


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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

7.08.2020

travel souvenirs — part 2



Souvenirs are, literally, memories — and since foreign travel hasn't been happening this year, I've been looking through some of the souvenirs I've brought back home, remembering some of my favorite travel moments.

Claire and I visited China a number of years ago on a wonderful tour hosted by Imperial Tours. Pro tip: don't try to tour China on your own. We don't speak the language and can't read the signs, the traffic is crazy, the crowds are intimidating. If you want to get see all the highlights, you will be immensely grateful for the experienced English-speaking guide who is leading your tour.

Highlighting our experiences in China were: the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall outside Beijing; Xian's Terracotta Warriors; a raft trip on the scenic Li River in Guilin; the immensely interesting French Concession in Shanghai; and our stay at Amanfayun — an ancient Chinese village outside Hangzhou that has been converted into a luxury resort.

We purchased our book of paper cut art in a small shop in Shanghai. It contains twelve art pieces, one for each of the twelve signs of the Sheng Xiao corresponding to the years of the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Pictured below is a very colorful illustration of a monkey.



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copyright (c) 2020 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.