Sonoma

A hotel has “made it” when it’s honored as a Relais & Chateaux property. After all, established in 1954 in France (mais bien sur?!), this exclusive association is made up of just about 500 hotels and restaurants, combined, that introduce guests “to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.” Or, in much simpler Oyster terms, they show guests a darn good time by providing gorgeous rooms, luxurious facilities and amenities, and top-notch service. We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in quite a few of these R&C properties (don’t get too jealous — as hotel experts, we also have to stay in spots like this), and here bring you the real creme de la creme of the best of the best.

1. Saint James Paris

St James

It makes sense to start in grand Paris, non? With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale Saint James is a rare find in Paris — in fact, the 19th century manor is considered the only chateau-hotel in the city. It’s fitting that the hotel is located in the wealthy 16th arrondissement (and yes, valet parking is included). The 48 rooms and suites are large by Paris standards, and decorated in plush luxurious fabrics. But the common areas are more impressive — especially the black and white grand staircase on the main floor. The terrace is a beautiful spot for lunch on a nice summer day. And there’s also a small fitness center, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. The rates here are steep, but guests who want to experience luxury in Paris (and can afford it) should give the Saint James a look.

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

As much as we would all love to pack our bags and fly off to some remote corner of the world, the reality is that the majority of Americans won’t be leaving the “Land of the Free” any time soon. In fact, as of last year, a study showed that more than half of Americans have never left the country. A full third does not have a passport. When asked why, many of those Americans who participated in the study said they felt everything worth seeing was already in their own backyards. While we’d like to contest the veracity of that statement, we have to give credit where credit is due. The States DO have lots to offer travelers. From crystal clear waters that rival those in the Caribbean, to insurmountable mountain peaks that wow even the most experienced adventure traveler, the geography of America is as varied as the citizens that call it home. By that logic, you technically don’t have to leave the States to feel miles away. This summer, explore the far corners of America and discover just how diverse your country — you won’t even know you’re still on your home turf.

Getaway: The Florida Keys 

florida keys

The Florida Keys are as close to the Caribbean (and its nice weather) as you can get in the U.S. Formerly thriving on the loot from wrecked ships, the Keys now thrive on tourism. Visitors flock to the area during the winter and spring to soak up the year-round heat and swim in the beautiful, calm waters. Situated on the third largest barrier reef in the world, the Keys are a great destination for snorkeling and scuba diving, and there are tons of other outdoor activities, too — tennis, golf, kayaking, fishing…the list goes on.

Stay: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Reachable only by boat or seaplane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island where wild key deer roam. It includes 30 luxurious suites, many with private oceanfront verandas. A favorite getaway for celebrities, it provides a secluded place to unplug from the world (use of technology is discouraged) and experience a romantic vacation in a lush, tropical environment. Read More »

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It’s hard to resist the complex flavors and rich history that comes with drinking a glass of vino. And heck, it’s hard to resist sipping on wine even without all that history…but it is noteworthy: In a process dating back to 6000 BC (well before the Romans epitomized the drink across the Mediterranean), the transformation from crushed grapes to delectable alcoholic beverage has been an important part of the human tradition for reasons celebratory, religious, or just plain appetizing.

From the Greek Isles to Australia’s Yarra Valley, from Chardonnay to Shiraz, some variation of the grape stuff can be found the world over. And for the discerning traveler looking to explore a region’s gustatory offerings, many wineries await with open arms to offer tours of their operation and — most importantly — samples of their best vintages. Picturesque backdrops set the scene across the globe for a truly delicious (and perhaps tipsy) experience. So whether you’re a wine aficionado or an eager wino student, pack your bags and make sure to bring a corkscrew, because these far flung locales have just the bottle of wine for you.

1. Napa Valley, California

napa

Napa Valley — home to some of the most charming cities in the U.S. — is also one of the world’s best wine-growing regions, with hundreds of wineries sprawling across the rolling hills. Wineries can occasionally feel a little touristy (it’s not uncommon to see a tour bus parked outside), but perhaps that’s inevitable in one of the world’s top wine-tasting destinations. The valley is actually divided into fourteen sub-regions, each suited to a particular grape, so you can map your tour based on your wine preferences.

Where to Stay: If you’re daydreaming of a luxury stay in the heart of wine country — complete with impressive views, rustic-luxe charm, and lavish  amenities — you can’t do much better than the Harvest Inn. Each guest receives a bottle of wine upon arrival, and many rooms overlook the neighboring vineyards of St. Helena.  Read More »

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It happens every year — suddenly it’s May and you have no idea what to do for Mother’s Day. Again. Brunch is handy and easy, and you know she will appreciate you spending some time with her. But how about you surprise her with something different this year? Whether she’s outdoorsy, artsy or just downright stressed out, we’ve got you covered. Check out our top picks for Mother’s Day and make her feel special! You’re welcome in advance.

If Mom is outdoorsy…

PLAN: Play a round of golf (and let her win)
STAY:
The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, Sonoma County

Sonoma Golf Club at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa; Sonoma County, CA

Fore! Tiger's got nothing on mom this Sunday.

Housed in a Spanish mission-style building, the upscale Fairmont Sonoma is perfect for some pampering and golf days. It boasts an 18-hole championship golf course, a top-notch spa complete with its own thermal mineral spring, and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Round up the day with the free daily wine tastings, and then head to one of the hotel’s homey rooms for some rest.

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