Lakestone Lodge, New Zealand

Lakestone Lodge, New Zealand

From the lodge living room and dining room common area (and from my room) the views of Lake Pukaki and the mountains were impressive. Aoraki Mount Cook (one of the country’s most iconic mountains) was under cloud cover during my entire stay, making it impossible for me to gaze at the naked peak. Despite that I enjoyed my stay in large part thanks to its picture perfect direct lake and mountain views.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge (2017), Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge (2017), Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

At Earth Lodge time disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving me wanting to linger longer by the main area water feature, in a comfy hanging lawn chair with an expansive view of the bush and any four legged visitors or poolside in my spacious and secluded Amber Presidential Suite. It was with regret that we left after two nights, and we look forward to returning in the future.

The River Lodge, Thornybush Nature Reserve, South Africa

The River Lodge, Thornybush Nature Reserve, South Africa

We especially enjoyed the setting. Whether sitting by our suite pool catching a glimpse of a herd of dainty nyala on the dry riverbed below, gazing across the main lodge pool at the wild greenery beyond or at the starlit sky above there was always something to admire. We appreciated that the staff served most of our meals by the north facing main lodge pool, which offered a favorite water and bush vista.

Camp Jabulani, South Africa

Camp Jabulani, South Africa

We looked forward to private game drives with Dean Wilkinson, our erudite ranger. His descriptions and explanations deepened our understanding of wildlife at the reserve. We especially liked his emphasis on high quality sightings that took into account animal behavior and environmental conditions, and that he angled the vehicle for optimal viewing and photography.

The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia

The Jefferson Hotel, Richmond, Virginia

The Jefferson was built by a Richmond importer, Lewis Ginter, who lost his first fortune during the Civil War, after serving as a major in the Confederate Army. He moved to New York, where he became rich again through banking, but lost most of his assets during a recession. At age 50, he returned to Richmond and made more millions in tobacco, sold the company, and entered real estate. He traveled the world and brought back art he planned to place in a new hotel.

Boutique-Hotel Alemannenhof

Boutique-Hotel Alemannenhof

We liked our pretty and functional 18 square meter rooms (what they lacked in size they more than made up for in lake views) and common areas, the hotel’s efforts to blend into the lake scenery and reflect the area history, and the restaurant as well as its responsible tourism practices.

Le Domaine d’Ablon

Le Domaine d’Ablon

Advance planning was required to enjoy the best the tiny property had to offer. For example, to dine in it was necessary to place our dinner order in the morning. In the same vein, booking an onsite massage and selecting breakfast deli options required a day’s notice. Any inconvenience that might have aroused was easily overcome by the many attractive features of Le Domaine d’Ablon.

Savute Safari Lodge

Savute Safari Lodge

It was uncomfortably hot with hardly any respite for the entire duration of our stay. Daytime temperatures reached 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). The property relied on daytime generator power as its sole source of energy, and was not equipped for the intense heatwave that blanketed the region.
We might return to Savute Safari Lodge in a cooler shoulder season in search of quality game viewing and fewer crowds.

Xugana Island Lodge

Xugana Island Lodge

The waterscapes, water settings and sunset views of the Okavango Delta, spacious common area deck with lagoon views, friendly management staff, buffet meals, and birding opportunities made the visit worthwhile. We also appreciated the well appointed (if very hot) luxury tents, curio shop, computer with slow internet connection for guest use, and refreshing outdoor pool. We would return in a cooler season.

Leroo La Tau

Leroo La Tau

Indoors, our rooms, sealed during out absence for game drives, were super heated, making every surface hot to the touch and causing what little ice we had to melt within minutes. Several fellow guests became unwell with heat stroke and dehydration, often failing to recognize the signs until they were forced to stay in from the twice daily safari activities.

We would return in a cooler season.

Chobe Game Lodge

Chobe Game Lodge

We liked the newly renovated modern rooms, the property’s easy river access and views of the river from its elevated walkway, where welcome bubbly drinks, tea and lunch were sometimes served. The main building had a cozy bar and ample space to spread out as well as an inviting outdoor swimming pool, a fitness room and a spa room with several treatment options.

Chobe Savanna Lodge

Chobe Savanna Lodge

Our property trained local guide was particularly adept driving the boat, selecting the stretch of river to visit and approaching the shore to maximum advantage and a minimum of noise to avoid startling the wildlife. We had exceptional bird sightings, including the best and longest viewing opportunities of African fish eagles we have had anywhere.

Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Lodge

Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Lodge

Situated within the Sabi Sand Reserve, one of South Africa’s premier game viewing reserves, the 300 hectare Chitwa Chitwa Private Game Lodge offered an excellent combination of dam front setting, service, intimate ambiance, original art, quiet rooms, luxury accommodations and features, gourmet orientation, and good game viewing with a strong emphasis on the Big Five.

Rattray’s on MalaMala

Rattray’s on MalaMala

Once again the property delivered an outstanding luxury safari experience with optimum game viewing opportunities aboard an uncrowded vehicle, while at the same time providing accommodations, service and amenities designed to enhance our well being in the bush.

Ten Bompas Hotel

Ten Bompas Hotel

A different designer was tasked with the decor of each of the 10 suites. Our suites had sleeping and living areas separated by a wall, a half bath near the entrance, a stocked minibar, air conditioning and a private balcony. The bathrooms had separate bathtubs and steam showers, amenities often only available in large properties and chain hotels.

The Last Word Long Beach

The Last Word Long Beach

The boutique property’s beachfront location combined with the staff’s friendly and helpful attitude, and my comfortable room with an outstanding beach view and private terrace would draw me back easily. It was a favorite property on that voyage. I would seriously consider a return visit and dedicated trip to Long Beach for a stay at The Last Word.

The Last Word Constantia

The Last Word Constantia

Located within a gated one acre property in Constantia, an upscale leafy suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, The Last Word Constantia, a nine room boutique bed and breakfast, offered an intimate ambiance, service oriented staff, a well appointed room with a view, and a pretty pool and garden setting. It was elegant and understated at the same time.

Queen Victoria Hotel

Queen Victoria Hotel

Tucked behind Dock Road, the main street next to the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s most popular attraction-cum-mall, the Queen Victoria was in a coveted location. Although it was across the street from the city’s best known upscale shopping center, the hotel itself never felt crowded. The well maintained boutique hotel with a gourmet restaurant was stylishly decorated and spotless. The staff were friendly and service oriented.

La Cle des Montagnes

La Cle des Montagnes

During a recent visit to Franschhoek, South Africa’s most refined food and wine village, I stayed at the beautiful La Galerie, a 183 square meter artsy and elegantly appointed two bedroom house with a private garden and pool and memorable mountain views. La Galerie was one of only three houses within the La Cle de Montagnes estate, a gated plum and vineyard property a few blocks from the village main street.

The Blue Train Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa

The Blue Train Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa

As I arrived at the 420 square meter welcome lounge for The Blue Train at the Pretoria, South Africa train station, steps away from the entrance to the popular mass transit Gautrain railway, I saw a sea of expectant and excited faces and heard a variety of English accents. Among my fellow passengers I met South Africans, expat residents of South Africa, and American, Australians and New Zealand tourists. Despite the early hour, 7:15 a.m., we were enthusiastic about riding the train together. More than a mode of transport from the Gauteng Province south to Cape Town The Blue Train was a medium for many of us to meet and share quality time in a private luxury vessel while enjoying Five Star service and amenities.

Glen Avon Lodge

Glen Avon Lodge

What I liked most about Glen Avon Lodge, a small historic property (the internal structure and many original features of the main building dated back to 1785 and remained unchanged) in Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, was the owners’ welcoming demeanor. From the moment we met I felt a simpatico connection with Annette Stringer. Later, I had a chance to meet her husband and Wendy Drummond, her daughter and property co-owner. I appreciated their hard working ethic, straightforward communication preference, employee training and empowerment practices, and efforts to give back to their community.

Meranova Guest Inn

Meranova Guest Inn

We felt instantly welcome when we arrived at the Meranova Guest Inn, tired and hungry from a long drive. Within minutes we were settled in our rooms, one fronting a central garden and the other facing the town’s most popular street. While I declined Frank’s generous offer of a cocktail I immediately pounced on one of his homemade brownies. During our stay we found the owners Frank Baiamonte and David Roy to be efficient, punctual, knowledgeable about the area, and gracious hosts.

The name of the property meant Sea Star from the words mer (French for sea) and nova or bursting star. To honor it there was a starfish on the property logo. The location in the heart of Dunedin, steps away from Main Street, could not be beat. We appreciated the amount of labor and dedication the owners had poured into the property over the years. In David’s own words, “We have been able to do everything ourselves on the property except for income taxes and fix refrigerators.”

Karkloof Safari Spa

Karkloof Safari Spa

Perhaps because game viewing at the Karkloof Safari Spa was limited to mostly non predator species the animals we encountered were relatively unafraid of vehicles. Many, including a rhino mom and her young, allowed us to park within scant feet of them with nary a glance in our direction. They knew we were there. They just didn’t mind/ Having a private vehicle with a knowledgeable and friendly guide enhanced the experience manifold.

Grande Roche Hotel

Grande Roche Hotel

From the moment Judain from reception greeted me in the off street gated parking lot until his colleague Fenna waved good-bye from the main building terrace I felt welcome at the Grande Roche Hotel. Amenities like fresh flowers, wine and tasty treats in my suite on arrival added to my comfort. Smiling faces and offers of assistance met me at every turn. The staff followed up courteous words with immediate action. For example, when the WiFi in my suite wouldn’t work Judain bent over backwards until it was fixed. Like her staff Anja Bosken, general manager, who I met for dinner, was a charming and welcoming host.

Montpelier Plantation and Beach

Montpelier Plantation and Beach

My favorite memories of the Montpelier Plantation and Beach in Nevis, of Nevis and Saint Kitts, include the early morning nature sounds of dogs barking, donkeys braying, and doves cooing in the distance. I enjoyed them most while swimming or when I gazed at the sunrise views of Saddle Hill and the ocean from the covered porch behind my room. At that hour, when the rays of the sun were gentle, before many guests had risen from their beds and the staff had arrived, I had the entire pool area to myself.

Inn by the Sea

Inn by the Sea

The Inn by the Sea offered a long list of features we appreciated and enjoyed during our fall visit to Maine. From the beginning, we were impressed with our comfortable and well appointed two bedroom suite with full kitchen, gas fireplace, large balcony and fantastic views of the Atlantic Ocean and colorful fall foliage. Lovingly maintained lawns and planters, excellent spa services, an exercise room, and quick access to walking and running paths added to the property’s desirability.

Inn at Ocean’s Edge

Inn at Ocean’s Edge

Cold, rainy gray weather made it challenging to enjoy the features, facilities and amenities of the Inn to full advantage. The 22 acre property had pretty green lawns and 500 feet fronting a rocky beach. Perhaps because the 32 rooms were spread across three separate buildings the only time we became aware it was full was at breakfast and when the parking lot overflowed.

Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake

Migis Lodge on Sebago Lake

Migis made us think of a luxury summer camp for adults and families. The 150 acre Maine property with 3,500 feet of shorefront on Sebago Lake was home to 35 Cottages. During our fall visit, we stayed in a new looking and spacious stand alone three bedroom two bathroom suite with internet connectivity, a view of the lake and a fireplace. In addition to the convenient meal plan, there were many features with appeal for a multigenerational audience. For example, there were hiking trails, beaches, tennis courts, massage rooms, a playground and a souvenir shop.

Keswick Hall

Keswick Hall

By Virginia standards, Keswick Hall might be considered a newcomer. The original mansion is, after all, a mere century old. But this exquisite property in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains embraced me with all the charm and grace of an antebellum grande dame. And like most grande dames, it had an interesting history. It began in 1908 as Villa Crawford, an 8,000 square foot (745 square meter), two-story Italianate private residence built for Mr. and Mrs. Robert B. Crawford at the original cost of $100,000. After the untimely death of Mr. Crawford in 1919, the villa passed to a variety of owners and experienced diverse fortunes over the next seven decades before ultimately falling on hard times.

Boar’s Head

Boar’s Head

In 1759, Terrell’s Ordinary, a modest roadside inn that welcomed westward travelers, opened on land that was part of Virginia’s 1734 land grant, at the exact location where the Boar’s Head stands today. Since then, this lovely swath of rolling hills in the picturesque outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia, has witnessed much history. It first became a country estate with a successful farming operation before enduring the ravages the Civil War. The property returned to life under a succession of owners before an inn, the Boar’s Head, was once again created in the mid twentieth century. It was subsequently acquired in 1989 by the University of Virginia Foundation. Today, the unique 573 acre (232 hectare), 175 guest accommodations local landmark boasts a championship golf club, outstanding sports facilities with multiple tennis and squash courts, an in house spa and an award winning restaurant.

Shumbalala

Shumbalala

Shumbalala is within the Thornybush Game Reserve, a private fenced game reserve near the southwestern boundary of South Africa’s legendary Kruger National Park. The Big Five (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino), along with close to 150 species of mammals large and small, roam the reserve’s 14,000 hectares of bush. Although Shumbalala game viewing vehicles shared space with game viewing vehicles of 11 other properties on the reserve we seldom crossed paths with vehicles from other lodges. From the instant I passed through the gate of the Thornybush Game Reserve, the game viewing was indeed exceptional. No more than a 15 minute drive into it, the Shumbalala ranger who had welcomed me at the gate (no private vehicles were allowed in Thornybush) stopped within feet of a scene that made my eyes pop: white rhinos, a half dozen of them, snoozing in an untidy heap in the shade of a roadside tree.

Pumulani

Pumulani

Located on the western side of Malawi’s Nankumba Peninsula, an area widely recognized as one of the most scenic around Southern Africa’s Lake Malawi, Pumulani was discretely tucked into a steep hillside. The only luxury property along the protected shores of the 9,400 hectare (36.30 square mile) Lake Malawi National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Center, Pumulani was designed by Dutch architect G. Hooft Graafland. In addition to a striking main lodge high on the hill and wide open to the endless lake vistas and the long aquamarine infinity pool below, he designed the property’s ten spacious rooms nestled into craggy granite outcrops around the hillside, each with a secluded private deck with lake views. Under their vegetal roofs of endemic grass meant to help offset their footprint and regulate their interior temperature, the rooms all but disappeared within their lush forest surroundings.

Mvuu Lodge

Mvuu Lodge

Stretched along the banks of the upper Shire River in southern Malawi, the 580 square kilometer (220 square mile) Liwonde National Park was known for its large population of hippos (mvuu in the local Tonga language). Located at the edge of a lagoon across the river from the park entrance, Mvuu Lodge could be reached only by boat. It immediately lived up to its name as we made our way across under the wary gaze of clustered periscope eyes from several hippo pods scattered around the water. Hippos were ubiquitous around the property as well, from large wooden sculptures in the lounge and guest tents to small beaded table ornaments.

Mumbo Island Camp

Mumbo Island Camp

On rare occasions throughout my traveling life, I have come across a place so exceptional that I knew at first glance the experience would never leave me. Mumbo Island Camp was one such place. Located ten kilometers (six miles) offshore from Cape Maclear, in the heart of the 9,400 hectare (36.30 square mile) Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, the tiny island first appeared as a tumble of giant boulders rising straight up from the shimmering water. As we drew closer small reed and thatch chalets barely distinguishable from the tangle of trees began to materialize. We coasted to as stop at a wooden jetty to the warm welcome of camp manager Juliet Dahmen and her staff, and I set foot onto the most pristine tropical retreat I ever visited. The camp was located on two islands. The common areas were sitting just beyond the soft curve of a pretty golden sand beach on the main island. Meanwhile, a long wooden footbridge led to a granitic promontory jutting into the lake, where guest accommodations were perched at the edge of the rocks under a thick canopy of miombo woodland.

Motswari Private Game Reserve

Motswari Private Game Reserve

It was my first visit to Motswari Private Game Reserve within the larger Timbavati Nature Reserve in South Africa. I had barely settled in and yet, as I made my way along the sandy path toward the common areas of the lodge, I experienced an unexpected sense of familiarity. The azure African sky and blazing early afternoon heat were filtering through the branches of towering native trees. Under their neatly trimmed conical thatched roofs, circular pale adobe structures stood in the dappled shade of the grove. I passed staff members along the way, who greeted me with the earnest warmth of someone who has been looking forward for me to show up.