Top 10 Best Luxury Hotels In Waikiki, Oahu

Top 10 Best Luxury Hotels In Waikiki, Oahu

In this review, we pick the best luxury hotels in Waikiki based on our own experience of this magical city, so that you can enjoy the best of Waikiki in luxury. Waikiki is easy to get to. Fly into Honolulu (HNL) and you are a short cab or uber ride from Waikiki. If you prefer … Continue reading Top 10 Best Luxury Hotels In Waikiki, Oahu

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Doctor’s Orders: Avoid Getting Sick On A Cruise

Doctor’s Orders: Avoid Getting Sick On A Cruise

Virus outbreaks on cruise ships have made news headlines recently. Still, while these headlines can be alarming, outbreaks on cruise ships affect less than one percent of all passengers, according to the CDC. Cruise lines are very careful about hygiene and sanitary measures on their ships. The main health risk on a ship is through … Continue reading Doctor’s Orders: Avoid Getting Sick On A Cruise

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Review: Salav Guesthouse, Praia, Cape Verde

Review: Salav Guesthouse, Praia, Cape Verde

A charming beachside retreat, the Salav Guesthouse provides the indulgence of a relaxing home away from home experience. A lovely alternative to hotel accommodation, the Salav offers luxury travellers the opportunity of more independence from the comfort, security and privileged location of the residence. Why We Love This Hotel We love the Salav for its … Continue reading Review: Salav Guesthouse, Praia, Cape Verde

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Skiing in California: exploring North Lake Tahoe

This post is brought to you in partnership with Visit California

 

 

I almost always visit California in the Summer – I go for the long days, warming sunshine and beach walks. But this time around, I decided it was a good idea to explore California in the Winter and see how it could surprise me.

We started this trip immediately after Christmas and did go to Newport Beach and Santa Monica  for a couple of days to see the many friends we have in the area. It is one of the things I love about California – we actually have more friends based there now and can never see all of them on each trip. So we keep going back.

Visit California suggested two things I could do on a winter trip: ski in Lake Tahoe and drink wine in Sonoma. Add a bit of shopping and it had the making of another perfect California road trip.

 

How to get to Lake Tahoe

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe

Lake Tahoe is located approximately 3 hours from San Francisco by car and about 9 hours drive from Los Angeles. You can easily drive it in one day, or fly, of course, but we chose to drive and break it up by staying a night in San Jose, which is about 3h30 drive from where we went in Lake Tahoe.

The lake is bordered by both California and Nevada and is marketed as north or south, so just to make things clear, we stayed in North Lake Tahoe, in the California side of it.

 

Where we skied in Lake Tahoe

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe homewood mountain views of lake tahoe single

Well, the way mountains work in this part of California is rather different from what we are used to in Europe. When I was planning the trip, I thought I was going to be bound to one resort town/village and I did not understand the mobility the region offers. You know what I mean – if you ski in Val d’Isere or Verbier, you stay there for the duration of your stay. You may ski across to another resort, but you wouldn’t go for dinner at all (because the drive up and down the mountain would make no sense).

What we didn’t expect was that the motorway from San Francisco goes to maybe 10 miles distance to Squaw Valley, where we based ourselves during this part of the trip. Remember the hour (or more) windy drive from the base of the mountain? Not here.

Each ski area (or mountain) is owned by a different company (or owner) – and sadly, no one markets the area as one, with a ski lift pass that would allow you to mountain hop. You can ski 3 different mountains in 3 days, but you need to buy 3 different lift passes.

 

Squaw Valley

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley

Squaw Valley is where we stayed during our inaugural Lake Tahoe trip and I personally think it was a very good base as it was a very ‘central’ location.

You may have heard of Squaw, which is known for some of the best skiing in the area and also for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1960. The current village is a bit over 10 years old, with quite a few options to eat and shop (all the usual American ski brands are there).

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley village

We stayed at the Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn which is also home to one of the most (almost too) popular bar in the area and ‘upscale’ (in American speak) dining. Our room was huge (albeit quite dated) and we enjoyed our stay. We found service to be very friendly, the wine list incredible (think half bottles of Taittinger at $33) as they are also wine merchants and known to sell wine at retail price and the food was good.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley plumpjack inn restaurant

We weren’t so keen on how the bar area became a children’s playground from 5pm as everyone from everywhere came to have dinner in the bar area and you’d almost have to stand against a wall to hold a drink. America usually does all day dining very well, and something there didn’t quite work.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley plumpjack inn room

We have been told that the current building will be imploded soon and a new Plumpjack will be unveiled in 2020, so watch this space. I would still recommend it as an option to stay.

We hired our skis from the main rental place in Squaw (and took them with us in the car to the other ski resorts, as otherwise we would waste more time each day.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley views ski rentals

We enjoyed skiing in Squaw (I couldn’t quite believe that I skied after bring on crutches the day before, but the ski boot somehow helped me) – and yes, the ski-in ski-out Starbucks isn’t a myth.

Lunch at the ‘canteen’ on top of the mountain didn’t look particularly appealing (something that surprised me with this being in California), so we came down the mountain to the village and had a burger / grilled cheese at Rockers which was fine, but not exactly gourmet.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley starbucks ski in ski out

We booked a massage at the Trilogy Spa which was excellent. Priced at $130 for 90 minutes, it was also good value – and I am very grateful that the therapist understood my sprained foot and really helped me.

We had our first dinner (the evening we arrived) at the Plumpjack dining room (dinner for 2 was $215 excluding service) and on the second night, we went to Tahoe City (15 minutes drive away) and went to Wolfdale’s, which is known to be one of the best places around.

North Lake Tahoe Ski Trip Homewood squaw northstar skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley wolfdales dinner tahoe city

We found it quite old school (which is absolutely fine), but not as inspiring as we thought, except for the Caesar salad (epic) and the Baked Tahoe desert which was excellent (a version of what ‘we’ Brits call Baked Alaska). Dinner for 2 was $170 (excluding service).

Lift passes cost from $89 (advance purchase) to $179 per day (if bought at the resort).

 

Northstar

Northstar is the most upmarket of all resorts in Lake Tahoe (owned by Vail Resorts) and where we were going to be based initially (with the Ritz Carlton being the place to stay). We went on an exceptionally busy week (first week of January) and there was one room available at $1600/night (normal rates are around $300-400, and at Plumpjack, we got the very last room for around $550/night, with its rates being around $250-350).

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe northstar resort

But things happen for a reason and I still think Squaw was a great base.

We were told we had to park and ride in Northstar, but walking wasn’t easy for me (nor was I interested in parking and riding). When we drove all the way to the centre of the resort… we had one of those ‘only in America’ moments, when we realised we could valet park our car right there. These were the best $60 spent all day.

We queued quite a bit to get our ski passes – we felt Northstar was much busier than Squaw. We really enjoyed the skiing, but were quite let down by lunch. We wanted to try lunch ‘on the mountain’ as it made no sense for us to come all the way down to the village and have a meal (as we were just skiing there for one day and only really got on the slopes just before noon), and went to this massive school-style cafeteria. We were given a $200 voucher (which we found excessive) and what you see on the photo below cost $87. Absolutely not worth it – and I really hope they sort this out as skiers do deserve better. And it is California (where we eat always so well).

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe northstar resort zephyr lodge lunch

Apres-ski in Northstar was quite fun – we had our coffees spiked with Baileys (and then looked at everyone drinking coffee in a completely different way), and had a lovely glass of wine and crudité platter at Petra (which I am sure would make for a great venue for dinner).

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe northstar resort apres ski

Our plans were different as we left the main resort and made our way to the Ritz Carlton North Lake Tahoe where we changed for dinner and got to see what whole marshmellow experience was all about (which was very popular). It was interesting to see how different apres-ski was there. Also their lunch (BBQ) looked pretty good, so this is an option for sure on a future trip.

We had cocktails (the best dirty martini of the trip) and dinner at Manzanita – and I have to say, complete redemption in the culinary stakes at dinner. We had a whole fire roasted stripe bass (I love being surprised) and a meal to really remember. Dinner and drinks for 2 were $240 excluding service.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe northstar resort apres ski ritz carlton tahoe

Lift passes at Northstar cost from $143 per day (advance purchase) to $163 (bought on the day).

 

Homewood Mountain

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe homewood mountain views of lake tahoe

Homewood was the absolute wildcard of the trip – and I have to say, a place that stole my heart. If you would consider both Squaw and Northstar as proper ski resorts, Homewood would be the opposite. It was as basic as it gets – but wonderfully pure, in a way I have never seen a mountain like this in my life.

There’s a (free) car park, there’s a shed where you get your lift passes and a coffee and some huts which are the ski school. There’s a chairlift up and once you get up there – you will be greeted by some of the most beautiful views I have ever experienced in my life.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe homewood mountain views of lake tahoe parking

Lake Tahoe is there for you to enjoy. I did not ski much – my foot was killing me, which was not a bad thing as my husband got to ski ‘for real’ (without me slowing him down) with Laura, our ski guide.

They dropped me at the Big Blue bar (well, a tent) where I sunbathed a little and absolutely enjoyed the views before lunch.

I took the chairlift down and couldn’t quite believe that they had no hand rail bars – going up was interesting, but going down not so much.

North Lake Tahoe Ski Trip Homewood Mountain northstar squaw valley California luxury road trip cover

Lunch took place at the West Shore Café, across the road from the car park, also owned by the same company who owns Homewood Mountain and it was lovely. It was good to see a table with a white table cloth and hands down the best ‘mountain meal’ we had, which was made up of American classics such as Caesar salad, crab cakes, fish tacos and calamari.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe homewood mountain views of lake tahoe west shore cafe

The views were incredible. Lift passes cost from $49 (advance purchase) to $109 (bought on the day)

 

 

Truckee

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe truckee trokay fine dining restaurant

For our final dinner, we went to Truckee, which is a lovely town between Squaw and Northstar (kind of). It looked incredibly unique (like in the old American films) and it is home to Trokay, where we had the best meal of our trip. We chose to go a la carte instead of the tasting menus (which was very reasonable at $105/person for the 5-course prix fixe or $210 for the chef’s 7-course menu) – but we couldn’t do 5 courses. If you are in the area, you can’t miss dinner here. Dinner for two was $250 excluding service.

 

Thank you Lake Tahoe

Never ever had I considered skiing in California – and I am so glad we got the chance to. The quality of the snow was excellent, we loved being able to ski in different places – and I still cannot get over the views of Lake Tahoe.

skiing in california luxury travel road trip north lake tahoe squaw valley views

The area has had incredible amounts of snow – we escaped a huge white out which came the day we left for Sonoma and if you are starting or ending a California roadtrip in San Francisco, I would absolutely recommend a visit. I would actually like to go back in the Summer as I could really see the potential.

 

As I said before, California is the gift that keeps on giving for us…

 

Until the next time

 

Xo

Mrs. O

 

Disclaimer and Fact box: this trip was funded and sponsored by Visit California and it was an absolute pleasure (and honour) to work with them on this trip. I know California very well and they have asked me to share this in whichever way I saw fit. I would invite you to begin your California trip planning at their website, which actually is quite useful.

Find out more about North Lake Tahoe by visiting its website. 

British Airways flies to San Francisco and San Jose in Northern California (which are 3-4 hours drive away) and you can fly London Heathrow from £1800 in business class, but average fares are around £2500-3000. The most local airport is Reno.

We hired a car with Avis (if you are a fellow BAEC Gold, use N744400 as your AWD). Our SUV was $50/day including all taxes.

 

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Review: Courthouse Hotel, Soho, London

Review: Courthouse Hotel, Soho, London

Lavish, lively and contemporary, the Courthouse Hotel offers guests the full experience of a modern luxury stay, in the heart of London. Perfect for a city getaway, the Courthouse lets you reminisce in refined style and comfort. Why We Love This Hotel We love the Courthouse Hotel for its ideal location, within reach of all … Continue reading Review: Courthouse Hotel, Soho, London

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Breaking News: Another Boeing 737 Max Crashes With No Survivors

Breaking News: Another Boeing 737 Max Crashes With No Survivors

Breaking news: An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane has just crashed shortly after take-off. None of the 149 passengers and eight crew members have survived. Aeroplane maker Boeing has said that it is “deeply saddened” to learn of the death of all the passengers and crew on its 737 Max aeroplane. The worrying fact … Continue reading Breaking News: Another Boeing 737 Max Crashes With No Survivors

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Top 5 Beauty Essentials for Spring 2019

Spring is almost here and it is time to change some of my skin care routine – this time I am bringing back some all-time favourites because some items really are staples and I cannot really live without them.

Have a look at my Winter 2018-19 list of favourites as some of the items featured are brilliant for a transitional period, and I have bought again every single perfume from my Spring Scents list. Also, if you fancy upgrading some of your electrical beauty items, here is my list of all time favourites.

But without further ado, here are my top 5 beauty essentials for Spring 2019.

 

Aesop Mouthwash

Costs £15/$20 from Selfridges, Space NK (EU), Nordstrom  or Cult Beauty (global)

I bought this without trying it first (not very easy to) and in all honesty, I hadn’t realised it had aniseed, even though it very clearly says so in the bottle, which is a taste I don’t particularly like (unlike most people). I bought it purely because of its container – mouthwashes holders are not the nicest and this looks perfect. My husband loved the taste and had it all, and we have now refilled with our favourite mouthwash.

Aesop-Personal-Mouthwash-top 5 beauty essentials spring

 

La Mer Eye Concentrate 15ml

Costs £165/$200 from Selfridges, Space NK (EU), Sephora (US), Saks Fifth Avenue.

We both use this La Mer cult item – and have been doing so for almost two years, and it is our favourite. It does work – lines are smoother and really plumps up the eye – and the process of applying is actually quite soothing. It is worth the investment and it lasts.

la mer eye concentrate cream best eye cream top 5 beauty essentials spring

 

Balance Me Flash Cleanse Micellar Water

Costs £16 from Marks & Spencer, Fabled by Marie ClaireLook Fantastic (USA/Canada)

I still love the Bioderma Micellar Water, but have been alternating with the Balance Me range, which I am discovering bit by bit and am really enjoying. The range is as natural as possible and I love the subtle fragrance of every product. In this case, I love the packaging too.

balance me flash cleanse best micellar water top 5 beauty essentials spring

 

 

Rosie for Autograph Divine Sugar Body Scrub

Costs £10 from Marks & Spencer (exclusive, and they ship globally)

Hands down the best body scrub available in the UK – and incredible value as well. It is a ‘hard’ scrub and incredibly effective. In my opinion, I have not found anything that even compares (and I have been using the Clarins Tonic for over 10 years). It sells out regularly (it is a best seller), so when I buy it, I tend to stock up.

best body scrub rosie for autograph marks and spencer top 5 beauty essentials spring

 

Korres Ginger & Lime Shower Gel

Costs £8/$10 from Marks & Spencer, Feel Unique (UK), Look Fantastic (USA/Canada), Beauty Expert (Global)

I really like Korres shower gels and and their recent revamp is really good. The scents are quite interesting and it was a tough call between the Bergamot + Jasmine or this Ginger + Lime. They are great value too.

korres ginger lime luxury shower gel top 5 beauty essentials spring

 

 

I hope you find this list useful – I have tried and tested every product and some are firm favourites for year.

xo

Mrs. O

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British Airways First Class Flight Reviews: A380, B787 Dreamliner & B747

British Airways First Class Flight Reviews: A380, B787 Dreamliner & B747

I have reviewed a number of my British Airways flights in First Class. You can find my flight reviews on the A380, B787 Dreamliner & B747 below. The question I also answer in this article is whether it is worth upgrading from British Airways Business Class to British Airways First Class bearing in mind the … Continue reading British Airways First Class Flight Reviews: A380, B787 Dreamliner & B747

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Top 10 Holiday Cottages Near Beautiful Cornish Beaches

Top 10 Holiday Cottages Near Beautiful Cornish Beaches

When I think of Cornwall, it conjures up romantic images of dramatic coastlines, beautiful golden sandy beaches, captivating fishing harbours, picturesque villages and cobbled streets tumbling down into pretty harbours. Located on the far South West of England, with a coastline that wraps around for almost 300 miles, Cornwall is home to one of the … Continue reading Top 10 Holiday Cottages Near Beautiful Cornish Beaches

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What’s The Most Disgusting Thing You Can Find In An Airline Meal?

What's The Most Disgusting Thing You Can Find In An Airline Meal?

Pictured above is my British Airways evening meal in Club Europe last month. It was pretty nice and I have no complaints. That’s because I didn’t find a tooth or a cockroach in it! Sadly, other travellers have been less lucky than me. You can read my review of my most recent British Airways Club … Continue reading What’s The Most Disgusting Thing You Can Find In An Airline Meal?

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