Our “What We’re About” VIDEO – SOON LAUNCHING THE COMUSE STORE!

Well folks, dreams are coming true in the Bulchandani home!

We are approaching the launch of our online store COMUSE!

The Grand Muse-ning is a couple weeks away, but our VIDEO is ready AND you can begin to peruse our products via our Facebook Page! (Remember, you can follow us on TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest too!)

You are welcome to place an order before the store’s opening by emailing comusetravels@gmail.com

We are very thrilled to be selling wonderful, whimsical items which INSPIRE TRAVEL!

TRAVEL ON!

Silicon Valley's Newest Hotel Is First To Offer Certified Organic Mattresses in Every Room

Well, this is wonderful news! This is the first hotel to offer these organic mattresses!! 

Los Altos, CA (September 16, 2015)  – Silicon Valley’s first romantic luxury hotel, Enchanté Boutique Hotel, opened April 2015, is treating guests to a sleep experience unlike any other as the first hotel in the region to fully equip its rooms with certified organic, sustainably produced mattresses. The mattresses, made by Naturepedic of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, meet the most stringent of green textile certifications without sacrificing the comfort, luxury and durability desired of a high-quality mattress for a restful night’s sleep. Enchanté is the first hotel globally to be outfitted with Naturepedic mattresses.

Enchanté’s owner Abby Ahrens’ commitment to sustainable luxury and a superior guest experience led her to seek a top-quality mattress that also assured a clean and memorable sleep experience. Certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, the only third-party organic certification recognized by the USDA for organic mattresses, Naturepedic mattresses are manufactured using non-GMO, plant-based fabrics and sustainably-harvested wools. Naturepedic mattresses are also produced without the use of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals commonly used in mattress production while meeting and exceeding safety standards and regulations for mattresses.

Founded by Barry A. Cik, an environmental engineer, Naturepedic began by producing fully organic crib mattresses after Cik became aware of the threats that common, chemical-laden mattresses posed to newborns and infants. The company soon expanded their offerings to include hand-crafted mattresses for adults following the same rigorous quality standards.

A Naturepedic EOS mattress is featured in each of Enchante’s 19 rooms, with queen- or king-size options. Fitting squarely within Enchante’s chic and fashionable French aesthetic and European-style hospitality, the EOS mattress’ luxurious design showcases a signature quilt and beautiful fabrics with multiple comfort layers. Enchanté selected Naturepedic mattresses to offer guests a cozy sleep experience that also leaves the body supported for proper rest.

“Enchanté is a part of Silicon Valley, where environmental awareness is at the forefront of every industry, and this was an important consideration when seeking a mattress for my guests.” says Ahrens. “I was certain Naturepedic was the right choice for Enchanté the moment I discovered the company – the rich production history, the values the company was founded upon, the commitment to quality and health all aligned with what I was seeking for Enchanté.”

Enchanté’s guests have been enamored by Naturepedic’s mattresses, calling them “supremely comfortable” and “a unique component in an already stunning hotel,” delivering “the best night’s sleep I’ve had in some time.”

Guests of Enchanté are able to purchase the EOS mattress through the hotel. The EOS mattress is customizable for individual sleep preferences and includes dual customization for shared beds. An EOS Queen mattress is priced at $2,599.

Offering an elegant and romantic overnight experience with a touch of Paris through French artwork, antiques and décor, Enchante’s provides Silicon Valley travelers wary of common options with an unforgettable experience that demands repeat stays.

About Enchanté Boutique Hotel:

Enchanté Boutique Hotel is a brand new experience in luxury hospitality for Silicon Valley and the city of Los Altos, the birthplace of Apple Inc. Each of the public and guest accommodations are unique with a sophisticated, eclectic style that blends elements of a Parisian Inn with French art and memorabilia and modern comforts culminating in a distinctive guest experience. Its elegant, châteauesque architecture commands a striking presence at the entrance to downtown Los Altos.  Enchanté is the vision of Abby Ahrens, a real estate professional, developer of custom homes and beloved member of the Los Altos community for over 30 years. Enchanté is the region’s first chic and fashionable luxury boutique hotel.

Featuring 19 rooms, each with unique interior designs expressive of French culture, highlighting French artwork and antiques, Enchanté offers a cozy retreat and an alternative to chain hotels for the growing number of travelers coming to the Silicon Valley region. www.enchantehotel.com

 

About Naturepedic:

Naturepedic, based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, was founded by environmental engineer Barry A. Cik. Naturepedic specializes in the design and manufacturing of certified organic mattresses for adults and children that promote natural and organic materials, a non-toxic design, fire-safety, and overall health and safety.

Experience a cultural melting pot in Arusha, Tanzania by Heather Hilscher

Arusha, Tanzania is a bustling city that is one of a handful of gateway locations to many local safari adventures, including Serengeti National Park.

Thousands of tourists come to Arusha every year to use the city as an entry and exit point into the country or continent.

However, Arusha is also a city teeming with many different cultural influences and is worth visiting in its own right.

 

There is a large Indian population which has influenced the cuisine of Arusha. Naan bread is a main staple in the Tanzanian diet. One of the best Indian restaurants can be found in the Impala Hotel. 

There is also a heavy influence by the Chinese who have come to work on Arusha’s road system. One of the best bowls of hot and sour soup can be found at China Dragon.

There are many more choices...Mexican food, Italian, Chinese, and more. In fact, it is quite possible with all the choices catering to a multi-cultural population and tourism it is quite possible  to not to experience true Tanzanian food if one is not intentional about seeking it out. 

The expatriate and tourist community also has affected the economy of Arusha, inflating the price of things that price many goods and services out of the range of your average Tanzanian. The price of most items was consistent to what we are used to paying in our home state of California.

 

One of the best places to spend that money is at one the Arusha boasts many roadside markets. This is a wonderful place to buy fresh produce.

 

One of our favorite local purchases were the large creamy avocados that are perfect with a little salt and pepper and fabulous with some sharp cheese on top.

There are also many markets and stores to buy authentic Tanzanian goods, such as baskets, clothing made from Kitange fabric, as well as local favorites, such as sandals fashioned from used automobile tires made by the Maasai.

However, the best items for the price can be found on the roadsides headed towards the tourist destinations.

As you drive out of Arusha to your exotic adventure destination there are some opportunities to invest in the future of Tanzania. The observant traveler will note that the conditions that many Tanzanian live in are less than ideal. There is a large population of orphaned children due to AIDS and other living conditions. The Shalom Centre, right off the A104 Road just past the Arusha Airport, is one of many worthy organizations who are feeding, clothing and educating orphans.

It is well worth the time to stop in and make a donation as well as playing a kick pick-up game of soccer (bring youra bag of deflated soccer balls and you’ll have friends for life).

The people of Tanzania are very friendly and many work in the service industry in some capacity or other and speak a multitude of languages. It’s not unusual for a safari driver to speak three or more languages.

As one would expect for a city that caters to tourism, many of the hotels are in walking distance of downtown and restaurants. However, it is very handy to have a car at your disposal.

There is no organized public transportation system in Arusha. There are, however, many taxis, motorcycles for hire (sometimes you can see three people on the back of one motorcycle!) and seven-passenger mini vans, called a Daladala that can be privately owned and operated or may be owned by an enterprising business person.

However these vans are often clogged with 20 or more people who are literally sitting on each other or hanging out the side. It’s difficult to tell to which destination they are headed and how to extract yourself from the vehicle. It is the cheapest mode of transportation but not what Westernized visitors are used to.


If you are visiting to go on safari, you should employ the services of one of the many transportation companies -- and there are literally hundreds out of Tanzania, Kenya and the surrounding area. It is possible (and advisable) to also have local driving service as part of your larger safari contract. Roy Safaris is our favorite which is conveniently located to the charming boutique hotel, The African Tulip. Both establishments are owned by the same person.

Speaking of The Tulip, this is our favorite place to relax and recover from international flights, long days in the Land Rover, get on their Wi-Fi and see the sights of Arusha.

Whether you are heading out to Ngorongoro crater to view wildlife, traveling to Tarangire Balloon Camp for a hot air balloon adventure, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or heading to the Serengeti, Arusha will offer you fabulous food, friendly faces and cultural delights to impress the most seasoned traveler.

 

What to know before you go:

 

Immunizations & Medications

You will need to get and have proof of immunizations to enter the country of immunizations. Check with the Tanzanian Tourist Board or State Department several months before your plan to travel. Some immunizations must be given on a timed-basis before you travel.

It is highly recommended that you start a course of malaria medication before you travel that you will take during the duration of your trip and likely a few days when you return. If you are unable to take this medication (pregnancy, other conditions), you will need to plan to bring some serious-strength insect repellent to apply continuously.

 

Passport and Country Visa

In addition to your country issued passport, you will need a tourist visit visa to enter Tanzania. Allow plenty of time to send in your passport, visa application, and appropriate fees in order to receive it back for travel.

It is highly recommended that you start a course of malaria medication before you travel that you will take during the duration of your trip and likely a few days when you return. If you are unable to take this medication (pregnancy, other conditions), you will need to plan to bring some serious-strength insect repellent to apply continuously.


Currency
 

The Tanzanian shilling is the currency of the country. You should make sure to bring pristine dollar bills in the denomination of 100’s, 20’s for currency exchange and 5’s and 1’s for tipping. You will get a better rate of exchange with pristine and the newer multi-colored bills featuring the larger faces on the front side.. Many of the hotels offer currency changing service, as well as many establishments in the city. It is also possible to pre-pay for hotels, services before you travel via credit card or wire transfer. Using Visa or Mastercard is also very easy to use in Arusha -- just make sure you have let your bank and credit card companies know that you will be traveling so they don’t assume your card or identity has been stolen. 

 

--

 

Heather Hilscher has visited Arusha, Tanzania twice and would happily move there with her husband and four children one day. She has traveled within Tanzania and Kenya and other destinations in the world. An English major, she puts her degree to work homeschooling her kids and writing on her blog, Mosaic Momma. You can read about her last trip to Arusha and subsequent adventures here and follow on Facebook here.
 

Couple Travels to 7 Wonders of the World in 13 Days (VIDEO)

This story is really inspiring!!! Woohoo!! What an amazing journey!!

_____________________________________________________________________________

What would you do if your doctor revealed you have cancer?

Would your outlook on life change?

It did for Megan Sullivan.

Megan loves to travel. She had been putting off a major trip, visiting the 7 wonders of the world, for quite some time. Then, in a single month’s time, she got into a rock climbing accident, then a car accident, and then she was diagnosed with skin cancer.

She didn’t want to put off her trip anymore. She wanted to seize the day! Life turned around when she met Chris. The couple had only known each other for two weeks before they set off on their journey. The adventurous duo visited Chichen Itza, Christ the Redeemer, Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Petra, Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum just 13 days! What an amazing feat!

Meghan realized life is precious. Yes, they had only just met each other, but she took a risk and it paid off. Not only did she get dream adventure, she also got her man.

This post comes comes from the brilliant folks at www.HooplaHa.com - a great source for positive news!

 

3 Things to Do in Marrakech, Morocco

I adore Morocco. 

Its various cities are a wonder-world of bustling culture and ancient dreams. If you find yourself in Marrakech, in particular, here are three things I strongly recommend doing:

1. Wander Jemaa al-Fnaa. It is, indeed, bustling. By day, it’s a wild marketplace of baskets, jewelry, clothing, woodwork, and souvenirs. By night, it’s a carnival of fresh juice carts, picnic tables to eat at, roasting meat and vegetables, storyteller circles, live music, lanterns for sale, and so on. Dive in, wide-eyed and courageous. 

 

 

2. Get henna. Joyously, I adore henna. I lived in the Middle East for three years; and then married my co-muse and his Indian heritage. To marry into a legacy of henna-appreciation is a dream come true. So, I got married with henna on my feet; and I relish experiencing the henna of various peoples and places. I highly recommend The Henna Cafe. Their henna is “safe” – which means it is without chemicals and other things which may agitate one’s skin. Plus, the place really is a cafe. You can sit and enjoy a light meal or beverage while you are getting adorned and then allowing your adornment time to dry. I think it takes about 20 minutes for me to feel comfortable going about my day newly henna-ed. :)

Whether male or female, go for it! It is both cultural experience and souvenir!

At The Henna Cafe, freshly decorated with tea in hand.

 

3. See the New City. Reach beyond the old city/medina and discover the new city (also known as “Gueliz”). Marrakech is famous and well-photographed for its ancient beauty and mystique, but the modern areas of Marrakech are also enchanting, giving their own glimpses into the zest and style of modern Morocco. It may take you 30+ minutes to walk from Jemaa al-Fnaa to an engaging part of the New City. The walk is lovely, but if it is swelteringly hot or you’d prefer to use your energy otherwise, it’s easy to grab a taxi. It will help to have a specific destination in mind; AND to insist the driver uses the meter.

If you want a mall, go to Carre Eden.

If you want a polished and welcoming restaurant, check out Amaia.

If you want a fascinating tour of an unfinished theatre, get dropped off at The Theatre Royal. There should be someone inside willing to give a tour. That person ought to be tipped at the end of your tour.

Theatre Royal  

Theatre Royal

 

And in the midst of wherever you go and whatever you do: drink the high-poured mint tea; and drink in the unique splendor of Morocco. It is a nation aglow with light and wonder. Once you leave, you will reminisce romantically, tinged in the laughter of Morocco’s quirks and delights, now adding light and wonder to your own place, space, and nation. And, remember,  just because you’ve left Morocco, doesn’t mean you can’t keep pouring your tea higher and higher.

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Hornblower Celebrates Love with the Big Love Ball

NEWS RELEASE

September 10, 2015

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. – Love is in the air and on the water at Hornblower Niagara Cruises as the iconic Canadian tour boats welcome Big Love Ball.

 

The Big Love Ball, heading to various Hornblower ports across North America, began its journey in Niagara Falls this week. Big Love Ball is a giant love note with a heart, a brain and social conscience that has travelled the world celebrating love in all ways. 

 

"It is our little way to celebrate love - and the various ways it is celebrated everyday by different people in distinct ways," said Mory DiMaurizio, General Manager of Hornblower Niagara Cruises. “At Hornblower Niagara Cruises we’ve had more than 40 couples get married on our boats this summer and Big Love Ball is an amazing movement that gives us a nice reminder about feeling the love.”

 

Big Love Ball will be making appearances aboard various Hornblower vessels and yachts across North America, turning them into #theloveboat when it is onboard. Created by Vancouver designer, Wendy Williams Watt, the original ball was placed in her studio window to beckon the open hearts of those who walked by. Big Love Ball soon became an invited guest to weddings, celebrations and anywhere people feel the love.

 

Recently, Big Love Ball was onboard the Niagara Wonder and Niagara Thunder in Niagara Falls, Canada, on Monday September 7th and again on Wednesday September 9th before heading to HornblowerCruises & Events in New York City. 

 

In addition to Hornblower Cruises & Events and Statue Cruises in New York City, Big Love Ball is scheduled to appear at Hornblower’s other locations such as San Francisco’s Alcatraz Cruises, San Diego and Newport.

 

Below is the full schedule of Big Love Ball appearances at Hornblower locations across North America.

 

Sept. 10 - Hornblower Los Angeles

Sept. 19 - Hornblower New York

Sept. 21 - Hornblower San Diego

Oct. 1 - Hornblower Newport Beach

Oct. 18 - Hornblower San Diego

Oct. 24 - Hornblower San Francisco

Oct. 30 – Hornblower San Diego

 

Follow along on Twitter with the hashtags #theloveboat and #hornblower.

 

For images of Big Love Ball’s visit to Niagara Falls, please visit https://flic.kr/s/aHskjNGPM3.

 

About Hornblower Niagara Cruises

Hornblower Canada Co., operating as Hornblower Niagara Cruises, is the official operator of boat tours to the waterfalls of Niagara Falls in partnership with The Niagara Parks Commission, an Operational Enterprise Agency of the Canadian Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Providing early morning, afternoon, evening, falls illumination and fireworks boat tours to one of the world’s natural wonders, Hornblower Niagara Cruises delivers an unforgettable experience to its guests in Niagara Falls, Canada. HornblowerNiagara Cruises is part of the Hornblower Family of Companies – a leader in marine hospitality with locations throughout North America. For more information please visit www.niagaracruises.com.

When I was part of an archaeological dig in Israel

One delicious summer, I was part of an archaeological dig at Bethsaida in Israel. It was fascinating. There is an incredible amount of effort, expertise, and care that goes into a dig. Here’s a wonderful window into a very relevant, groundbreaking dig:

The Kani Shaie Archaeological Project – Biblical Archaeology Society

And here's a glimpse of the site when my husband and I returned to it in August of 2013. 

Want to read more about Israel?

By the way, if you love Israel, check out our "A Shekel for Your Thoughts" Israel Coin Earrings! 

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Birthday Respite with a Seaside Fireplace: Sea Ranch Lodge, Sea Ranch, California

I like surprises, lovely ones, that is.

I like novelty, beauty, creativity, and adventure too.

My husband is not only a connoisseur of these things, but also a connoisseur of my particular predilections in each area. And this is fabulous. 

My husband's knack for awe and thoughtfulness recently came to manifest as a surprise stay at Sea Ranch Lodge in Sea Ranch, California. I knew we were going somewhere for the weekend for my birthday, but I did not know where. Having grown up in California, and spent all but 7 years of my adult life here, I know it pretty well. However, I did not know Sea Ranch. Nor did I know of its glory, majesty, and beauty. 

After about five hours of driving from our home in Redding, California, we entered an alleyway of stunning trees. The alleyway was perpendicular to the Pacific Ocean. So, after perhaps 15 minutes on the final leg of this dimly light-speckled Stewarts Point - Skaggs Springs Road, we burst into brightness! (I captured a video of it, but it didn't turn out well!) It was spectacular! My spirit leapt! 

After hours of driving, we were facing the ocean and the view was intensely marvelous! (I did not capture a great straight-on photograph, but it's the OCEAN!!!)

We turned right and headed north on Highway 1 (one of the most stunning highways to drive in the world). About 45 minutes later, this really smart logo greeted us.  

We were at Sea Ranch Lodge! I was starstruck. The architecture was raw, but refined, and the property was brilliantly resting next to the ocean. After we checked in, the skipping began. I was so happy! I skipped and twirled and effused. I bounced all the way into our room, whereupon Neel started filming my response, without me knowing (initially). 

We stayed in an Ocean King Room, cheerily equipped with a fireplace and absolutely resplendent views!

Tuning in to the swooshing beckoning of the ocean, we went for a walk. Initially, it gave us a better glimpse at the empirically statuesque, but welcoming architecture of the lodge - along with its genteel wildlife.

Then, the walk extended its sea-borne hands and gave us a gift of huge worth: a cloud-dusted, golden-streaked sky over gently grey-blue brooding waters. My eyes and lungs received the gift and put it to good use: relaxing my cells, quieting my soul, and invigorating my heart. 

Our feet grazed the painted sky-land all the way to Black Point Beach, where splendor ebbed and nudged the waves to give added rhythm to the dance of the fading sun. It was so deeply enriching. I danced and hopped my joy, as Neel experimented with echoes, by singing against the rocks, toward the ocean, and into the atmosphere. Those moments on that beach were mythic. Not the kind of myths that take you away from truth for sheer escape though. These myths retell what you intrinsically know in a way that reminds you of truth, life, and what really matters. 

 

When we waltzed back to the lodge, we explored its fabulous interior and appreciated its sleek design elements. The city of Sea Ranch has a fascinating history. The architecture speaks of that. It was the vision of Al Boeke in 1963 which prompted the acquisition of the 10-mile stretch of California's Sonoma Coast, which houses the 5,200-acre of land that is now The Sea Ranch.

The original Sea Ranch concept directed that people would join the natural environment with minimal impact. Overgrazed lands were to be rested and natural processes allowed to take their course, with indigenous planting where needed. The Ranch would become a wildlife and game refuge. Improvements would involve a minimum of grading. Utilities would be located underground, and population density kept low. Residential design would allow homes to blend into and become part of the natural landscape. (source)

And the place certainly does an impeccable job of being a kind neighbor, in consideration and in physicality, to the magnificent ocean and its flora and fauna. It is understandable that some people meet The Sea Ranch and move there - and that its personality is ever-evolving. These assets make for a melange of outings in the area too. 

It also helps that there is a fantastic restaurant, Black Point Grill, on site. And that is where we dined! The continuity of the ocean views paired marvelously with the delicious, unique, and excellent food. 

 After dinner, the sky continued to magnetize us. We went for a stroll to the south of the lodge, partly to get a better glimpse at Condominium One (the groundbreaking architectural icon now on the National Register of Historic Places). I observed its forerunning kindness with appreciation. I love it when someone/someones are visionary in design - particularly eco-friendly design - and that inspires others

(You can slightly see the outline and roofline of Condominium One in the photograph below.) 

My husband is the early (read: very) riser among us. 5 am is like a good book to him. Hence, he wanted to read this proverbial book at Sea Ranch Lodge. He rose early and waited for the dawn. When I saw him later, it was evident that heralding the sun so early in such an austere place was illuminating.

In time, we took our last glances of Sea Ranch Lodge and prepared to leave - to go ZIPLINING at Sonoma Canopy Tours! Still, the solitude of Sea Ranch was euphoric. I knew as I was leaving, that I wanted to return. 

The sunlight agreed with my desire and gave us a big, fat wink as we packed our things in our room. ;-)

As we do with each accommodation we review, we co-wrote a poem for Sea Ranch Lodge. This one is called, "Earthsky." Enjoy.

So, if you are hungering for a cozy and refined spot to enjoy respite, consider Sea Ranch Lodge. If you are working on your latest creative endeavor: book, screenplay, sketch, album - THIS would be a zip-zappy spot to tap in to your inner innovation and bring forth fresh revelation. There are 19 ocean-view guest rooms at Sea Ranch, as well as private homes for rent. It is 2.5 hours north of San Francisco and supremely nestled along the famous Highway 1. (Road trip ideas here.) 

It's wonderful. And if you want to surprise your spouse for his/her birthday, I recommend this rugged coastline and this rare, radiant ranch, and its resplendent Sea Ranch Lodge.

 

 

 

 

*Lodging provided by Sea Ranch Lodge

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Clean, Easy, Repurposed: The Good Hotel, San Francisco: Review ✸✸✸(3 STARS)

I have a strong value for recycling and minimizing waste. I also love creativity and ingenuity. Hence, to come upon a hotel which artfully repurposes materials into a smart, aesthetically delightful, and welcoming environment is fabulous and RE-freshing! This is the visual kindness The Good Hotel extended to us during our stay. 

Most of their furnishings are made from reclaimed and recycled materials, making them San Francisco's first repurpose-focused boutique hotel. Their slogan is “Renew, Reuse, Relax." And the clean, calm spaces support that goal. Others laud their efforts as well. For example, Home+Design put The Good Hotel at #1 for “Coolest Hotel Designs in California!" In addition to being fabulously cool, it's also in a great location: South of Market. This area allows one to walk to awesome restaurants as well as the vibrant Union Square 1.3 miles away! (We recommend ice skating in the winter.)

An added perk of choosing The Good Hotel is the ability to borrow bikes! Yes, you can explore the  beauty of

on bikes! This option makes Neel jump for joy! 

So, if you get a rush from taking your recycling out or you just like the idea of an innovative spot to explore San Francisco from, consider The Good Hotel. Rooms start at $160 USD. 

As we reflected on our Good stay, we wrote this poem. It represents the way we felt The Good Hotel taught us new things, as if we were its temporary students. Enjoy! 

So, if you get a rush from taking your recycling out or you just like the idea of an innovative spot to explore San Francisco from, consider The Good Hotel. Rooms start at $160 USD. 

As we reflected on our Good stay, we wrote this poem. It represents the way we felt The Good Hotel taught us new things, as if we were its temporary students. Enjoy! 

P.S. There's a rad photo booth in the lobby and a collection of visitors' photo strips on a nearby wall! Fun! 

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A Calm SPA-t: Chaminade Resort & Spa: Santa Cruz, California: Review

In 1761, in France a boy was born: William Joseph Chaminade. He later became a Roman Catholic priest and founded the Society of Mary (Marianists). He aimed to create a more adept educational system in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Some say he was a revolutionary. 

Leap from 1700's France to 1929 in the hills of Santa Cruz, California. In those hills, Marianist brothers founded Chaminade Boys High School, starting classes in 1930. Eventually, the site became a retreat center for the church. And in 1979, the site was purchased by a small group of investors from the San Francisco Bay Area. The site became a resort, with its opening day happening on May 5, 1985. Thus, this post is appearing on the 30th anniversary of Chaminade's opening! (Happy anniversary, sweet Chaminade!) 

Now, Chaminade Resort and Spa is a beatific respite for travelers. Yet, it still reaches through history and connects with its past: maintaining a mission-style architecture and using the main building which was once Chaminade Catholic boys school as Chaminade’s Restaurants and Conference Space.

Come and see... 

The forest windows...

The 200 acres of private Redwood and Eucalyptus forest with over 3 miles of hiking trails...

The snazzy and creative design elements...  

or the four lighted tennis courts

volleyball and croquet,

resort pool and hot tub,

and, of course, 

the spa.

During our stay at Chaminade, we found wide and kind respite in those green, foresty hills. We felt tucked in, nestled into a picture frame of gorgeous trees and fresh possibilities. From that place of gentle sighs and brighter eyes, we wrote the following poem for sweet Chaminade

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The Kingdom of Gluten-Free-Dom that is Portland, Oregon

In my mind Portland, Oregon is now crowned with a wonderful, gluten-free, pistachio rosewater donut; and juggling gluten-free falafel balls. 

Truly, this is the most gluten-free embracing place I have ever been! We were astounded and delighted continuously. We've been eating about 95% gluten-free for over a year now. Realizing that I am gluten-sensitive was very clarifying and liberating for me. I'd avoided traditional pasta, bread, cake, etc since childhood, but I never quite knew what it was in them that distressed my body. Now that I know, I feel empowered to make better food choices, not simply out of preference, but out of a desire to treat my body well, that I may live and love well. Plus, it has been fun exploring the land of gluten-free possibilities and recipes with my culinarily adventurous husband, Neel. 

On that note, it was Neel who uncovered the 11th Annual Gluten-Free Food Fair happening in Portland DURING our already planned trip! The event was put on by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of Portland. We contacted the organizer, Dr. Lisa Shaver, who put us on the guest list. It was an awesome honor to be able to advocate over 60 businesses with gluten-free products! 

The event was overflowing with samples: from cupcakes to crackers to muffins to pork stew to beer to fried chicken! It was a feast! Some of our favorites were the baked goods from Petunia's Pies and Pastries, the tasty treats from Gem Bakery, the cookies from Cosmic Crumbles Bakery, the bread bites from Brazi Bites, and the bread at New Cascadia. One of the other splendid attributes of this fair was the live speakers! Yes! We choose to sit in on Dr. Robyn Kutka's talk, "Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease and Hormone Imbalance: Thinking Outside The Bread Box." It was very helpful, informative, and insightful. 

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Beyond the food fair, here are some other culinary highlights from our gluten-free tour-de-force. First off, the delicious Greek Collard Rolls and Coconut Tomato Lentil Soup at Blossoming Lotus were very delicious! The soup was an incredible blend of rich flavors and spices pirouetting in harmony. Amazing. 

Secondly, OH MY GLORIOUS GOODNESS!!!! I'd never heard of a primarily gluten-free Middle Eastern restaurant prior to Dar Salam. I was overjoyed when my husband discovered it, but opulently more overjoyed upon tasting the food!! I had some of the best Middle Eastern food I have ever had! Given that I lived in the Middle East for three years, traveled extensively throughout the region (including Baghdad), and often find Middle Eastern restaurants around the world, that is very impressive! 

We met the owners too. They have a beautiful story. (1) (2) (3

Even if you are merely passing through Portland, I strongly recommend carving a slot for Dar Salam into your plans. 

 

Beyond the delights of Dar Salam, we investigated Luc Lac: Vietnamese Kitchen. While it does not focus on gluten-free food, there are many options and ways to rearrange a dish to make it gluten-free. Be aware that the portions are quite large and the food is excellent! 

Now to dessert you. (haha)

The gluten-free dessert, sweet treats, and baked goods options in the Portland area are astounding. So astounding that one may stumble upon a 100% gluten-free bakery called, "Kyra's Bake Shop" in Lake Oswego that has won multiple Cupcake Wars competitions! If you do, we recommend the "coffee and donuts" cupcake. :-)

Speaking of donuts... 

at 35 years old I had the best donut I've ever had. Yes, it was on our Portland trip. We scoped out the Back to Eden Bakery before our trip and we knew it was a frontrunner in the gluten-free bakery world of Portland. However, there was still space for utter astonishment. And that it was occurred when I took my first bite of their Pistachio and Rosewater donut. Since that marriage of flavors has a very Moroccan sensibility to it and we adore Morocco, it drew me in by its title. However, it was the taste that mesmerized. "This is really the best donut I've ever had!" "I am astounded by how good this is, Neel!" I exclaimed multiple times as we munched our way through its sweet pink veneer and pale green crumbles. 

Back to Eden also serves meals, ice cream, and a variety of delectable pastries. If you do stop in, you may want to bring some pistachio and rosewater donuts back to your friends. We got some for our friends and they relished them.

If you visit the Back to Eden location on Alberta Street (which is the same street Dar Salam is on), you can also jaunt over to Salt and Straw for some outrageously wonderful ice cream. They are not gluten-free exclusive, but much of their ice cream is gluten-free. Moreover, they have a gluten-free and vegan ice cream called, "Coconut with Petunia's Salted Caramel Bars" which is luxuriously tasty. It is some of the very best ice cream I've ever had. We also scooped up some pints for our friends (who agree it's some of the best they've had too).

Well folks, that is the kingdom of gluten-free-dom that is Portland, Oregon! We adored it, we amore-d it, we explored it. It was lovely, enchanting, and inspiring every day. If you are planning a trip to Portland, whether gluten-free or not, the spots we mentioned are glorious lilypads of replenishing and creativity. And if you want lodging ideas, stay tuned for two upcoming reviews from our stay. 

After our return, I came across an article listening the 10 most gluten-free cities in the world. #1? You guessed it. PORTLAND, OREGON! I could almost taste the Pistachio and Rosewater Donut again, I was so thrilled!

If you are looking for gluten-free options beyond Portland, check out Gluten Free Passport. Also, Triumph Dining has a guidebook as well as apps for finding gluten-free groceries, restaurants, etc. 

And if you find yourself scanning the hills and mountains along Interstate 5 in Oregon for tasty treasures, pick a bridge (or let your GPS pick it), and glide through the kind streets of Portland until you find your next munch-time muse. 

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The Flat Tire Song in French

On our recent trip to Morocco, we got a flat tire on Road 203 in the High Atlas Mountains. We spent 3 hours roadside as the mechanic in the nearest village repaired our tire. In our waiting, our friend Vanessa created a spontaneous song about our flat tire experience. 

 

 

Profitez bien! ("Enjoy!")

Romantic Entrancement: Dar Habiba, Marrakech, Morocco ✸✸✸✸ (4 STARS)

I stepped out of bed, my feet hit the cold tile and quickly scampered to the slightly scratchy Moroccan floor rug. It was light out. Palm trees were already singing their morning memories and the tranquil plunge pool was meditating on the stars it reflected through the night. 

My heart giggled its Moroccan-spiced laugh; and delight shot from my eyes toward the not yet seen blue sky. In moments a sweatshirt would be on and we'd be calmly, but ecstatically enjoying our Moroccan breakfast in the open courtyard. Those moments, for me, zing through time - forward to a future where I know this city thoroughly, and backward to the little girl I once was, dreaming of Morocco from a house in Fresno, California. 

We were in Marrakech, Morocco - one of my favorite cities in the world. And we were staying at the lovely Dar Habiba. Dar Habiba is a classic Moroccan riad - a square or rectangular building of two stories with an open courtyard housing a pool, fountain, or garden within. The windows face inside and the architecture is quixotically Moroccan. 

Dar Habiba did a fantastic job of being hospitable while giving us our space. Breakfast was served whenever we specified and Saed, the on-site manager, was very helpful with directing us toward where we wanted to go and giving us great insight into Moroccan life and culture. 

We had a really splendid stay, despite the fact that the shower in our first room did not drain properly our first night so, we had to shift rooms. Saed helped us navigate that smoothly and we were pleased with our second room too. As with each lodging review we do, we wrote a poem for Dar Habiba and gave it to them. Here is that poem...

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