There are so many hidden gems around the world, and one of the great pleasures of working in the world of travel is that friends generously offer me their favorite picks of hotels and restaurants. This happens frequently, and it gives me the greatest pleasure to be led to these special finds.
Here is the latest. Los Poblanos is a 20-room historic inn with an organic farm and one of the best farm to table restaurants in the country.
Set among 25 acres of lavender fields, enormous cottonwood trees and lush formal gardens, Los Poblanos is one of the most magnificent historic properties in the Southwest.
The ranch was designed in 1932 by the region’s foremost architect, John Gaw Meem, the “Father of Santa Fe Style”. The Los Poblanos land was originally inhabited by the Anasazi (ancient pueblo Indians) in the 14th century. Many of the original settlers in this area were thought to have come from Puebla, Mexico, a citizen of which is called a “Poblano.” The land became part of the Elena Gallegos land grant around 1716. The original ranch land was owned by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo through the 19th century but was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms in the 1930s.
In 1932, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms commissioned architect John Gaw Meem and numerous WPA artists and craftsmen to renovate the ranch house and create the Cultural Center for political and community events and recreation with gardens designed by Rose Greeley. In addition to the architecture, Meem and the Simms contracted some of New Mexico’s leading artists and craftsmen of the period to create artwork for the building. There is a true fresco by Peter Hurd, carved doors and mantels by Gustave Baumann, tinwork by Robert Woodman, ironwork by Walter Gilbert, photography by Laura Gilpin, and the landscape architecture by the famed Rose Greely.
Los Poblanos was a model experimental farm in the 1930s and 1940s. It was home to the original Creamland Dairies, and supplied Albuquerque with a considerable portion of its milk. It boasted one of the finest purebred herds of Guernsey and Holstein cows in the Southwest and played a significant role in building up the dairy industry in New Mexico.
Los Poblanos also experimented with raising sugar beet seed in an effort to wean American dependence on imported sugar beets. Alfalfa, oats, corn, and barley were also grown on the property. On the base of the Sandias, purebred rams were raised with the intention of helping sheep herders of the state improve their flocks. The greenhouse was used as a laboratory for raising new varieties of roses and chrysanthemums commercially. Photos by Laura Gilpin showing the ranch during this period hang in the gallery.
What also pleases me is that Albuquerque is the necessary stepping stone for East Coasters to get to Santa Fe. Often, the flights are not very convenient for a one-day trip ,and a layover in Albuquerque is recommended. Now that I know about Los Poblanos, a stopover is required.
The Alpina Gstaad opened in this lovely alpine village in 2012. With only 56 rooms and two chalets, a fantastic Six Sense Spa, and three sought after restaurants (Megu is the only Japanese restaurant in Gstaad and, so popular, it does three sittings a night in season), it is the first new five star hotel to open in Gstaad in the last one hundred years. Imagine! In a world that changes faster than milk sours on the shelf, Gstaad has managed to keep its physical chalet profile as well as its coziness and charm.
The Alpina was built with private money that spared nothing. The interiors blend the rustic with sophistication; ceilings, walls and floors are constructed out of old timber and local stone and are decorated with pieces from the family’s extensive contemporary art collection.
In two years, The Apina has walked away with a passel of awards recognizing its design, culinary excellence and service. It is a great addition to a refined tradition in this most special mountain resort.
My son, Jeremy, sent me this photograph today of his encounter with an orphaned orangutan at Dr. Galdikas’ Camp Leakey in Pangkalan Bun, Borneo. Dr. Galdikas‘ story is extraordinary. She has given a lifetime’s work and passion to understanding and protecting orangutans in Borneo, a commitment that may yet end with appalling results. They say that, with poaching and habitat destruction, viable natural orangutan populations maybe extinct within the next 20 years.
There are no words needed. Please get involved.
Egypt might not be the first place you would consider traveling to these days, but the Siwa Oasis may strike you as it did Herodotus – “an island of the blessed.” Accessible by charter, by train or by 9-hour bus ride from Cairo, the Siwa depression lies in the Western sector of Egypt and just 50 miles to the east of Libyan border. Its claim to fame is as a place visited by Alexander the Great. He came to consult the Oracle of Amun – in fact he came twice – and while there may have been antiquities to write home about, today there are few. Some of the land has succumbed to sand dunes, some of the lakes have become so saline as to be useless. But there are other land formations and lakes that make a visit here stunningly beautiful, mystical, even mythological. Cleopatra’s pool, the Mountain of the dead induce the imagination to spin stories. And at night, as Benedict Allen wrote, “it is so quiet that you begin to hear the stars.”
The place to stay is Adrar Amelal, a divine, simply divine, hotel, one of those rare places that is the product of one person’s imagination coupled with an unerring eye and some money. This is a place that marries quality with simplicity, a place that even the most spoiled of aesthetes would fine infinitely satisfying. With hundreds of beeswax candles in lieu of electrical light and an architecture that melds into the desert, you sleep like a queen in the desert, on perfect sheets, with all amenities, having fed on organic produce grown on the hotel’s grounds.
There was a story this week on the cities with the happiest residents. The top three were in Louisiana; the city with the most unhappy people was said to be New York.
It is foolish to say, “How is it possible?” because we are a city of millions, with millions of different histories, millions of different dreams, and with different hands dealt to us. I am fortunate, and I recognize that every day. But I also enjoy my days and there is no time I love my city more than during the summer.
The day starts with a walk in the park where I have pockets of garden flowers that fill me with joy.
There are the baseball games with school kids and grown kids, the families settled in for a happy afternoon with picnics and folding chairs.
And there is my Oliver who finds, in every season, some aspect of the park to love. Now it is the long grasses, the shade, and the rocks that are cool on the tummy.