Category Archives: hotels

The land of high school heroes and good lookin’ fish.


We had planned to go away for a long weekend one time 2 falls ago when I was living the leisurely life of a freelancer new to the Bay Area. We weren’t sure where we were going… maybe the Oregon border? That idea might have been a bit ambitious– we made it 120 miles before stopping off for gas and calling a friend who we remembered had a farm somewhere nearby. After a night spent up in the mountains on a makeshift bed in a Wal-Mart purchased tent, we were directed to the Tallman Hotel for our second night, a chintz-free newly-renovated bed & breakfast with Japanese soaking tubs and Molton Brown soaps where his visiting parents like to stay. “You’ll love it, it’s sooooo romantic,” he cooed. We weren’t disappointed.

The Tallman has since become our go-to getaway spot, our home away from home, a cherished weekend escape where stress, obligations and BlackBerry service magically fade away. Situated among the lakes and wineries of Lake County, CA, you can get there from San Francisco in 2 ½ hours on an average day (okay, maybe 3). The town of Upper Lake doesn’t have a traffic light and the only bar in town is attached to the hotel in what may also be the only restaurant open for dinner, so if you’re looking for a hopping nightlife scene or Napa-like dining options, this isn’t your place. What they lack in recreational activity they make up for in quiet, small town charm: Adirondack chairs on a white planked porch for morning coffee or evening games of gin; high school football games; windy, hilly roads for driving through endless miles of vineyards and orchards with the sunroof open; easy access to the “best bass fishing lake in the state.” Owner/bartender Bernie told us The New York Times might be doing a piece on them (quelle horreur!) but we haven’t seen spikes in rates or traffic yet. We hope it stays that way– if not forever, at least until our BlackBerry thumbs heal.


Sleeves full of Aces.

Ace Hotel, Portland Oregon

While we’re talking about the Ace Hotel guys (okay, it was a couple posts ago… but who’s counting), we also visited that hipster haven while in Portland and drank coffee like rock stars. We ducked in on our last day in town to get out of the rain and kill a few morning hours and were immediately bummed that we were only then making our way over there—this place is Kool with a kapital K. “The country’s most original new hotel” according the NY Times Style Magazine, Ace offers (in their words, this time) “all the comfort of a business class hotel without the soul-killing blandness of a faceless chain or last year’s design school fads,” which rightly sums up about 95% of the hotels I’ve stayed in over the last 5 years of business travel. Each room is unique and amenities include Malin + Goetz bath products, clawfoot bathtubs and free WiFi. Keeping true to their Seattle rocker heritage (Portland was their second outpost and New York will be their third), Ace Portland has $95 “band rooms” complete with bunk-beds, a turntable and fat stack of records, and a shared bathroom down the hall. Private-bathroom rooms start at $130 and max out at $250 for a deluxe suite, which almost seems unfair.

The Ace in Portland smartly shares its historic building with a Stumptown Coffee Roasters, a local mini-chain of coffeeshop-cum-art galleries that serve up excellent single-brewed cups to like-minded customers. The plush couches and big picture windows in the lobby invited lounging and lounge we did, steaming cups of organic Ethiopian blend in hand. We weren’t guests of the hotel but no one seemed to mind. Music ranged from Jose Gonzalez (cup #1) to Animal Collective (half an almond croissant) to The Cure (cup #2), to which a cute brunette sang along while carefully tending to her large collection of spindly coffee table plants.

We could have stayed all day but alas, had quality time with the fam to get back to. We took the vintage photo booth for a spin before heading back out into the rain and the strip of photos the machine spat out were the classic, flattering, black & white kind, not the weird-looking color ones. The devil’s in the details and Ace seems to have nailed every one.