Korakia Pensione: Desert Elegance Amidst Hollywood History

A dreamland of architecture, landscape, historic Hollywood, and luxury, Korakia Pensione is a desert oasis nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs, California. Originally two distinctive homes both built in the early 1900s, one inspired by traditional Moroccan riad—a two or more storied home with a center courtyard and fountain–and the other a Mediterranean villa, now combined into a lush property. Korakia Pensione, with its 1.5-acres of bungalows, guesthouses, gardens, rooms, suites, and pools, accented with Moroccan details and whimsy including Moorish horseshoe doors leading into tiled courtyards with flowing fountains, decorative tiles,intricately carved woodwork, and keystone shaped  entranceways.

Escape to the desert this summer and soak up the sun! Stay with us this Sunday – Thursday for two or more nights and save 20% off your stay. Enjoy our special summer enhancements starting May 29th with daytime poolside amenities, nightly dive-in movies, and special wellness offerings.

Book Now: https://bit.ly/3wlBW0P

*Offer valid for stays now until 9/1/22. Excluding Holiday Weekends. Cannot be combined with other offers or promotions. Offer ends 5/31/2022.

Described by both Forbes magazine and The New York Times as “the sexiest hotel in America,” it is a reimagination as well, as a travel to another time and place. With a focus on wellness, peace and relaxation, the day starts with breakfast served in the Moroccan front courtyard, followed by either a private yoga session or guided meditation class.

Afternoons can be spent lounging by the pool backed by spectacular views of the San Jacinto Mountains and indulging in poolside menu choices that include charcuterie boards, salads and sandwiches. Or explore the historic neighborhood and downtown, on foot or on one of the stylish cruiser bikes available at the hotel. The bikes come with baskets in case you pick up a few things. 

As the sun sets, enjoy the warmth of a desert night under the stars while watching the nightly classic movies shown in the courtyard. What could be better? The complimentary smores.

If you’re there this coming Memorial weekend, enjoy the Annual Memorial Day Air Fair and Flower Drop hosted by Palm Desert, a recurring event commemorating the important role of those who fought in World War II with a drop of thousands of white and red carnations from their B-25 aircraft. Honoring those who served and gave the greatest sacrifice for their country is the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.

Crafted after a Mediterranean-style pensione, Korakia blends the silhouette of Tangier with a whisper of the Mediterranean.

The History

It must have been a great neighborhood.

Built in 1924 and originally named Dar Marroc, one of the two historic homes of Korakia Pensione was the former hideaway of Scottish painter Gordon Coutts. The villa with its Moroccan architectural features and décor was the way for Coutts, a flamboyant artist with a stylish mustache, to re-create his earlier life in Tangier. Coutts, who was born in in the Old Machar district of Aberdeen, Scotland, was an extremely successful artist who hosted such luminaries as classic movie actors Rudolph Valentino and Errol Flynn and artists such as John Lavery, Agnes Pelton, Nicolai Fenshin and Grant Wood. It probably is more than just a rumor that Winston Churchill, an artist himself, painted in the villa’s Artist Studio.

But Coutts wasn’t the only celebrity on the block. Neighbor J. Carol Naish has as interesting a life as Coutts. According to his obituary in the New York Times, Naish “brawled his way through the Yorkville‐Harlem area of the turn‐of‐the‐century Irish with considerable success, being tossed out of one school after another.”

After joining the Navy where he was promptly thrown into the brig, Naish deserted to join a buddy in the Army and flew missions over France with the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps. He then made his way round Europe, singing in cafes and picking up a command of eight languages, six of which he spoke fluently.  A tramp steamer finally deposited him in Hollywood in 1926. 

 Fame followed quickly and by the 1940s he was acting in 30 or so films a year. A character actor, he also was successful on Broadway, television, and radio.

We wish we could have attended some of the parties held here back in those days but the present is marvelous enough. Among the rooms and suites available are:       

The Orchard House

A rare 1918 California adobe. Two 1940s steel windows have been welded together to create a dramatic pivoting window wall. The whitewashed stone wall encloses a grove of citrus trees.

Adobe Room

This room is located adjacent to the pool and fountain. Luxuriate in the vintage bathroom or relax in your Queen bed while listening to the peaceful sound of the Moroccan fountain.

Artist Studio

A lovely upper-level studio with high ceilings, a large north facing window overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains. It has a four poster Queen bed, a large sitting and dining area, kitchenette and a balcony overlooking a private courtyard.

Atlas Room

Next to the Moroccan pool, the room features a Queen bed and a stone bathtub. Fall asleep to the peaceful sound of the bubbling Moroccan fountain.

Bedouin Room

This spacious room in the courtyard adobe has an arched entryway, Queen-size built-in bed, stone shower, sitting area and private patio.

Bedouin Suite

This large suite in the courtyard adobe has a Queen-size built-in platform bed and a large indoor/outdoor stone tub with a rain shower. The suite features a full kitchen with breakfast bar, a spacious sitting area with a wood burning fireplace. The private patio offers dramatic views of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Casablanca studio

This sunlit, white washed, upper-level studio offers a semi-private balcony with views of Tahquitz Canyon and the San Jacinto Mountains. The windows overlook our tranquil courtyard. It features a King bed, full kitchen, a stone shower and a sweeping grand staircase.

Kasbah Suite

This spacious suite opens to a view of the pool and the San Jacinto Mountains beyond. The suite features a Queen bed, full kitchen and a dining room with French doors opening to a cozy patio.

Marrakech Suite

This is a large, sunny, upper-level suite with extraordinary views of the mountains, pool and courtyard. The suite has a private stairwell, a large living room, a King bed, private balcony, a tiled bathroom and full kitchen.

Nomad Suite

A large, bright and airy suite situated in the center of the courtyard adobe. The living room overlooks the pool and with views of the San Jacinto Mountains beyond. The suite offers a private patio, a Queen bed, stone bathtub, a kitchen and a living room with a wood burning fireplace.

Sahara Room

This sunlit adobe room opens to a large patio/courtyard with a sweeping view of the San Jacinto Mountains. It features a Queen bed and full bathroom.

Sahara Suite

This large one-bedroom suite features a King bed, sitting and dining area, full kitchen, and a wood burning stone fireplace and a spacious bathroom with a free standing porcelain tub.

Tangier Studio

Adjacent to the pool and fountain, this comfortable studio features a Queen bed built into an arched Moroccan alcove, a full kitchen and French doors opening into a semi-private patio shaded by blooming fruit trees.

ifyougo:


The Korakia Pensione
 (257 S. Patencio Road, Palm Springs; 760-864-6411)
Details: Full breakfast is included. Summer discounts are 20-40% of regular rates.

Take note there are current packages available.

West Baden Springs Resort: Southern Indiana’s calming oasis

By Special Guest Blogger Kathy Witt.

It is fitting that West Baden Springs Hotel, a magnificent domed resort built in 1902 in the manner of the grand spas of Europe, sits along an Indiana Historic Pathways route. The roads tell the story of Indiana and the country, beginning with the hoofs of the bison and moving through time to the wheels of the stagecoach, the tracks laid by the railroads and the cars meandering along today in search of a historic resort that looks more Bavaria than America’s Crossroads.

Located in the southern part of the state, West Baden Springs’ own story begins in the mid-nineteenth century with a stretch of marshland, a hidden natural spring and one man’s dream to create a holiday destination that would ultimately overshadow the prestigious French Lick Springs Resort, built in 1845 and located just a mile down the road.

It is a story of intense rivalry between two visionary hoteliers, devastating fires and full-scale renovations and expansions that brought each resort to national prominence as luxurious health resorts. Both properties took advantage of their location amidst the natural mineral springs of the area, promoting the springs for their medicinal value and successfully marketing the “curative” water as Pluto (French Lick) and Sprudel (West Baden).

Today, the hotels are part of French Lick Resort, a classic, family-friendly destination with three golf courses, two spas and plenty of activities and entertainment to fill a long weekend. While the onsite casino, bowling alley, arcade and children’s activities give French Lick Springs a kickier vibe, West Baden Springs is a calming oasis that retains its Old World charm with European architecture, fairytale towers and a bricked entrance road that rolls out alongside the hotel’s formal gardens.

Favorite pastimes at West Baden Springs are lounging, dining, sipping cocktails and enjoying afternoon tea in the enormous atrium, a light and airy gathering space, once known as a Pompeian Court, with comfy, cushy seating scattered throughout. It is topped by the free-spanning dome, a steel and glass marvel measuring 195 feet in diameter and 130 feet in height and the reason the hotel was branded the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened.

Guests naturally gravitate to this stunning space, where they can see remnants of the mosaic terrazzo tile flooring that, when originally installed in 1916, consisted of two million squares of marble, plus a fireplace that looks like a piece of art and passageways that spoke off to various parts of the hotel, including registration, dining and the pool and spa.

The hotel’s six stories and their 243 guestrooms and suites encircle the atrium, with about 40 of these inviting retreats featuring a balcony that opens up to an incredible view of the dome and everything beneath it. Like the atrium itself, the balcony rooms are a perfect nook for relaxing and listening to the piano player as his fingers travel through a playlist of familiar melodies each evening.

Relaxation

Also relaxing is a visit to the spa, designed using historic photographs to capture the resort’s original two-level natatorium layout. Like the resort itself, the spa combines that Old World sensibility with European elegance to create a tranquil retreat. The spa offers a number of different treatments, including massages, facials and body scrubs.

Hidden History

Hidden off the registration area is the library, a hushed spot that brings to mind Agatha Christie novels, brandy snifters and hound dogs dozing by the fire with its plump chairs, dark paneling and classic rolling library ladder. Another one: The museum gallery tucked off a first floor corridor. It is a history lesson, arranged in glass cases and on the walls, of West Baden Springs as seen through its early hotel décor and dishware, promotional posters and vintage pictures.

Acitivities & Events

West Baden Springs Hotel offers numerous activities – onsite shopping, historic and horse-drawn carriage tours, strolling the formal gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and indoor hot tub, fitness center access, horseback riding, golfing and a variety of scheduled events and concerts.

It also inspires slowing down, relishing being in the moment and appreciating all the stories told through the architecture, activities and traditions of one of the country’s most beautiful and historic resorts.

Plan Your Travels

The AAA Four Diamond West Baden Springs Hotel is a National Landmark Hotel and member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts. Its 243 luxury guest rooms and suites are each individually decorated. The room rate comes with a number of complimentary items: valet and self-parking, resort-wide shuttle service, two bottles of water daily and Wi-Fi/Internet. It is also a pet-friendly hotel. Note that daily housekeeping and nightly turn-down service are currently suspended.

A trolley, running seven days a week, takes guests back and forth between West Baden Springs and French Lick Springs hotels. At West Baden, the depot is located adjacent to the gardens; at French Lick, it is near the casino.

Information and reservations: 888-936-9360, www.FrenchLick.com/hotels/WestBaden.

Packages

The resort offers a number of special packages (www.FrenchLick.com/hotels/packages for details), including these:

  • Mother’s Day (May 7 and 8) – includes overnight accommodations at West Baden Springs on Saturday or Sunday and Mother’s Day Brunch for two in the Atrium on May 8, featuring omelet, waffle and carving stations, chilled seafood bar and more.
  • Romance – includes resort accommodations, red rose on check-in, bottle of house wine and special welcome gift, plus a $105 French Lick Resort dining credit.
  • Happy Birthday – includes resort accommodations, welcome gift, birthday cake, $20 in ice cream credit and a $75 dining credit.

About Kathy Witt

Kathy Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer who writes a monthly syndicated travel column for Tribune News Service, is a regular contributor to Kentucky Living, Georgia and Travel Goods magazines and RealFoodTraveler.com as well as other outlets like County. She is the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger (Fall 2022) Secret Cincinnati and The Secret of the Belles, and is working on another travel-themed book for Fall 2023 release. Kathy is a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Her writing has led to many cherished experiences and memories, including glacier walking in the foothills of Denali; being a Guardian on an Honor Flight from Louisville, KY to Washington D.C.; interviewing Dolly Parton several times; sailing with Oprah with Holland America Cruises; riding BOLT!, the roller coaster aboard Carnival’s Mardi Gras; and attending the 70th Anniversary Re-Premiere of Gone With the Wind, hosted by the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum, where she got to enjoy the company of actress Ann Rutherford (“Carreen O’Hara”) and the “Three Beaus” – Mickey Kuhn, Patrick Curtis and Greg Giese.

4 Self-Care City Vacation Retreats

Taking Care of Yourself

Busy lives and hectic work schedules can take their toll on both the mind and the body, which is why it’s essential you try to take a break to recharge your batteries as you welcome the New Year. One way of energizing your body and calming your mind is to take a trip focused on self-care and general wellness.

Guest blogger, Lisa Walker of Neighborhood Sprout, recommends four cities you can visit to achieve both.

Minneapolis

In 2020, Minneapolis, Minnesota was voted the third-fittest city in the country. More than 75% of residents work out at least once a week. It’s a haven for outdoor lovers, and travelers would be foolish not to visit the town of Brainerd, with its 450 lakes and year-round recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing and opportunities for relaxation.

With lower-than-average health care costs, an incredible park system, good infrastructure, and a seemingly endless stream of things to do, Minneapolis is a great place to live as well as visit.

Knoxville

Being exposed to high levels of traffic daily can lead to chronic stress. However, this isn’t something you’ll experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of the world’s least congested cities. Far less traffic ensures a quicker journey to the country’s most visited national park, just 34 miles away.

The Smoky Mountains spans over 500,000 acres and has 850 miles of trails, including the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.

Besides less congestion, other benefits of moving to Knoxville include lower housing costs. Searching for rental apartments in Knoxville is made easier by visiting sites like Apartment Guide. You can set your price range and other parameters to ensure you only search for properties within your budget and meet other requirements such as a number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, and other amenities. 

San Marcos

San Marcos in San Diego, California, is a fantastic place to recharge and rejuvenate with its tranquil streets, peace, quiet, proximity to the breach, open spaces, and nature. It’s also home to one of the best spas in the world.

The Golden Door features multiple facilities including, a 2,000-square-foot equipment gym, two swimming pools, and a water therapy pool for guests to work out or relax. Discovery Lake, another place of interest, allows visitors to immerse themselves in large tracts of wilderness and connect with nature. Anyone deciding to relocate to the city can enjoy a lower cost of living and a lower crime rate than average. 

Malibu

Escape the crowds at Malibu’s Westward Beach

West of Los Angeles, California, and known for its celebrity homes and beaches, Malibu also boasts an exclusive and sought-after seven-day wellness retreat, The Ranch.

Limited to just 19 guests, visitors immerse themselves in a self-care experience that includes weight loss, fitness programs while also enjoying local plant-based meals.

Eight hours of daily activity include afternoon naps, massages, and an organic vegan diet. Living in a sparsely populated city has many benefits, such as incredible landscapes, top attractions, and a low crime rate. As expected, living costs in the city are considerably higher than the average.

A Necessary Reset

Whether it’s a relaxing massage, a 45-minute workout, or an awe-inspiring visit to a national park or an organic vegan diet, sometimes a change and a reset are not only needed; they’re often necessary. 

Hauntings, History, Chocolates & Cheese: In Vermont’s Green Mountains

          I follow the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe, Vermont where I’ll be spending the week. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, about Emily. As I go to shut my door, I suddenly hesitate, listening to an internal voice telling me not leave my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere. Who is even around on this narrow road? Even Emily has been gone since 1844.

          That’s where I’m wrong. Emily, it seems, despite her sorrows, has a mischievous streak. She wouldn’t take my car for a joyride—after all back in her day it was horse and buggy not Rav-4s. But she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.

          Who was Emily and why has she spent almost 180 years doing these things? In Stowe I learn there are several tales, all with the same theme. Jilted or maybe mourning her dead lover– Emily either hanged herself from the single-lane, 50-foot-long bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people sometimes hear a woman’s voice calling from the other end of the bridge—no matter what side they’re on–and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car. As for the romantic name of Gold Brook, the answer is prosaic enough–gold once was found in the water.

          But those who live in Stowe, Vermont, a picturesque 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, don’t let a ghost, no matter how fearsome she might be deter them from selling Emily’s Bridge products such as t-shirts, puzzles, paintings, and even tote bags. Etsy even has an Emily’s Bridge Products section. I wonder if that makes Emily even angrier.

There are no ghosts as far as I know at Topnotch Resort in Stowe where I’m staying. It’s all hills and history here and each morning, I sip on the patio, sipping the locally roasted coffee named after the nearby Green Mountains.

Located on 120-acres in the foothills of Mount Mansfield on what was once a dairy farm, the sleek resort still has traces of its past in the silvery toned whitewashed barn and vintage butter tubs found in the resort’s public rooms counterpoints to the sleekly designed furniture that manages to be both cozy and comfy at the same time.  

The local and locally sourced mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.

But before heading into town, I have the resort’s experiences to explore.

Though I haven’t played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northwest and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.

As we work on general ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand.

“It’s all about muscle memory,” he tells me noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game, as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.

Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity — a gentle horseback ride on one of the experienced trail horses at the Topnotch Equestrian Center— seems perfect.

We an hour-long path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge—one that isn’t haunted–spanning the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.

Then it’s on to my own self-created food tour. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe, I watch as salted caramels are hand dipped into hot chocolate and ponder the difficult decision of what to buy. It’s a delightful place, in a century old building, with wooden display cases and such yummy and intriguing chocolate fillings such as blue cheese using an artisan blue cheese made by a local creamery.  Who could resist?

Following the winding Hill Road, I stop to chat with Molly Pindell, who co-owns, with her sister Kate, the 27-acre Sage Farm Goat Dairy. We walk amongst the Alpine goats that look up from the sweet grass and fall apples they are munching on to watch us. Goats, Molly tells me, are friendly and loyal. Think dogs with horns.

          After watching the goats frolic, we head to the creamery where Molly needs to pack up her latest cheese, Justice, a 100% raw goat’s milk, bisected by a layer of vegetable ash, and aged just over 60 days. It’s truly a family farm with Molly’s husband Dave and their two children and Katie’s partner Bob, the couples live I think how great would this life be? Cute goats, great cheese, and a chance to get back to the land.

          Though, on second thought, milking goats everyday early in the morning when it’s cold and snowing may lose its appeal pretty quickly. Better just to buy goat’s cheese at wonderful places like this.

          To relax after my endeavors, I head to Topnotch’s spa for their signature massage and then a swim in the slate lined outdoor pool. Slate being another Vermont product. I have just enough energy to end the night as I began my morning, sitting on the patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside, while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.

The following recipe is courtesy of Laughing Moon Chocolates.

  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 1¼ pounds Yucatan chocolate chunks
  • 1½ ounces sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • ⅓ ounce or 500 milligrams Elmore Mountain Therapeutics CBD oil or other CBD oil

Pour the cream into a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until it begins to steam (190 degrees). Turn off heat and add the chocolate, butter, and liquor, stirring with a wire whisk until mixture is blended smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Add CBD oil and whisk well. Pour mixture into shallow baking dish and let cool overnight. When ready to prepare, scoop chocolate mixture with a spoon and roll in cocoa powder.

Additional flavor options are endless! Some favorites include:

Chamomile and Lavender: Steep ⅛ cup tea with the cream on low heat until it steams. Strain into a larger pot to remove herb or tea. At Laughing Moon, they use Vermont Liberty Tea Company’s Moonbeams and Lavender.

Maple: Add Vermont maple syrup to taste.

Substitute vodka with raspberry liqueur, peppermint schnapps or a liquor of your choosing for a subtle additional flavor.