03.26.2013 | by: Meghan

Armchair Travel

This should be over. Winter. The vernal equinox is behind us, yet it still snows. If you’re as fed up as I am, here are a handful warm-weather designtripper favorites from the archives for some virtual vitamin D. An armchair escape to get you through the last moments of a particularly clingy winter. Me, I’m headed to New Orleans this afternoon (feel free to follow along on Instagram: @meghanmcewen), and when I get back, Winter, you better be gone.

The Olive Grove


Coqui Coqui

El Garzon

Todos Santos Inn

Monastero

03.21.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Gallery Inn

San Juan, Puerto Rico

An original co-founder of designtripper (who left to renovate and run this), Kelly recently got back from Puerto Rico, where she and her family stayed in a series of noteworthy places–an artist’s apartment and courtyard in Viejo, a remote house in lush Culebra, and finally, the storied Gallery Inn on their way out of town.  Set in a 300-year-old colonial mansion in Old San Juan, this 22-room hotel is 23,000 square feet of old black-and-white tiles, stone floors, grand archways, hidden gardens and trickling fountains. Equestrian enthusiast owners Manuco and Jan–the latter also an esteemed local artist–have decorated with interesting layers of photos of horses, textiles, screen-printing, statues and art.

We particularly love the disclaimer on their site: “We would never want to see our place turn into the bland, cookie-cutter sort. We must warn you! Our inn is over 300 years old, and we feel that the essence of authenticity and beauty is of utmost importance and value to our concept. We do not have any elevators, and never will. If you cannot take staircases, this might not be the hotel for you. Our exotic birds are absolutely precious to look at, but they will occasionally screech. If you feel this would bother you significantly, we might not be your best choice. Also, we are not secluded from the local population, so if you are the kind of traveler who wants to feel “protected” from the locals, you should not come.”

They should also add that if you’re open to beautiful, eccentric spaces full of character, charm, and yes, beautiful, imperfect flaws, then you’ll probably love it here. Major bonuses: the best rooftop deck in town and this cool beach house a few blocks away, where you can do your own bbq-ing and hang out seaside.

 [Photos by Kelly Flamos, except mask image by William Bay Photography via flickr and dining room via Uncommon Caribbean]

03.13.2013 | by: Meghan

Our Little Town in Mexico

Sayulita, Mexico

We’ve been here before, Sayulita, Mexico. Every winter for the past three years. I wanted to try somewhere else–Tulum, Merida, Trancoso–I really did, but in the end, we couldn’t resist the pull of Casa Ninamu or the laid-back town with prayer flags and street food on every block or the sounds and solitude of jungle. We don’t go to town much, but when we do, we travel down a long dusty dirt road that winds through bright-green palms, towering old gnarled trees with immense trunks, Higuera boughs, and unexpected pops of orange and fuchsia bougainvillea that cascade down the rare clay wall or forgotten gate. We pass the candy-colored cemetery for freshly grilled shrimp on a stick at Playa de Los Muertos, or oysters with hot sauce and lime, and in town, we gulp down smoothies on the beach and browse the handmade textiles at the hammock store. The organic farmer’s market is bigger and busier than I remember, and there’s a new shop selling dreamcatchers made from ripped leather, which makes me think things are changing around here, but it still feels unassuming, if not undiscovered. And, most importantly, the sun still shines in the middle of winter.


02.27.2013 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Updated: Domus Civita

Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy

Since my dream trip last summer to Domus Civita — Patrizio Fradiani’s ancient cave house — he’s had professional photographs taken. For those who followed along with the gutsy renovation process, finally a worthy payoff. Chicago photographer Bob Coscarelli captures the magic of the place — the quiet interior, the soft light, the soulful connection between inside and outside, and the depths and history of those miraculous caves. Accessed only by pedestrian footbridge, the town Civita de Bagnoregio is straight out of time. A picturesque mess of cobblestone streets, climbing ivy and a pace that makes the rest of Italy look downright harried, the town and the surrounding landscape (views of the Tibor river valley and clay rooftops out every flung-open window) both play an inextricable part of the experience. The garden… that gazebo, I start feeling euphoric just thinking about sitting out there. But I won’t carry on — I’ve already done enough of that here and here — but I do want to share these photographs, because they do such a beautiful job of finalizing the story.

02.21.2013 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Winter Cabins

I love winter. Just not winter in the city. I want blankets of dense white snow instead of dirty brown slush, and space to romp around in it. Sledding, ice-skating, cross-country skiing, the works. Even if I had a fireplace, it wouldn’t get me through: I crave the icy solitude of a rustic, bare-bones cabin in the country, stocked with wool blankets, snow shoes and plenty of firewood. Somewhere to stave off the stir crazies. This is why the amazing, covet-enducing Cabin Porn is a very dangerous haunt (if you’ve never heard of of it, I don’t recommend checking it out if you don’t have an hour or more to spare). The site’s only drawback, besides making me feel extremely envious, is that there’s not much information about each cabin, and most aren’t for rent. You may end up doing some random googling for “rustic hunting cabins in the woods for rent,” which produces a substantial list of places well-suited for a low-budget horror film, but not exactly Cabin Porn material.

Here are a few rustic spots from the designtripper arsenal that might come in handy:

The William Brown cabin
Mast Farm
Mountain Morning
Folsom Inn
Urnatur 

Next week, I’ll cover some favorites from the warm and sunny end of the spectrum. Because as much as I love snow (and was grateful for actually having some this year), we’ll be happily on our way back here.

[All images via Cabin Porn]
02.08.2013 | by: Meghan

Fireplaces Worth Traveling For

Cicero once said, “There’s no place more delightful than one’s own fireplace.” Even though I live in an old Victorian from the 1890s, I don’t have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, and on blustery, blizzard-y days like today, I feel particularly salty about that fact. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than sitting in front of a blazing fire with a tattered copy of Middlemarch and a cup of steaming tea. Maybe it’s time to outsource.

Nowhere else do I feel closer to home than in front of this fireplace in Maine.

I’d even take this cute little workhorse at the Parkamoor House–an amazing collaboration between the Grizedale Arts organization and the National Trust  It depends on its rustic old hearths and stoves as the only heat source, since there’s no electricity.

Huberhaus is a 16th century traditional alpine log dwelling located in the Upper Valais in Switzerland.

Formerly the home of John Maynard Keynes, this former meeting spot for the Bloomsbury set beckons. The Tilton House.

You can never ever go wrong with a hearth in the kitchen. This 1790s Federal manor in the Hudson Valley looks as tempting for the winter months as the summer.

01.30.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

I first heard about this series of cave hotels from my Italian friend Patrizio, who thought I would love the “diffused hotel” concept: hotel rooms spread across a small medieval hilltop village that maintain their original character (rough stone walls, uneven floors, and old-as-dirt wooden furniture). The mission is to preserve not only the landscape and original architecture of the towns they’ve settled in, but also the history and local tradition–from the craft to the cuisine of the region.

And while Sextantio’s entire concept is pretty special–using tourism to save towns that would otherwise fall into decline– it’s the bit about traditional craft I find particularly inspiring. I didn’t realize, until I spotted photos of the beautiful loom work on Remodelista, that the hotel is so fiercely dedicated to supporting local craft. For instance, linens and coverlets are handmade by ladies who have always made textiles–in a town that has produced textiles for hundreds of years. They’re made with new materials using ancient techniques, often replicated from old drawings and archival photographs. I wish we saw more of this kind of beautiful creative thinking in the hotel industry.

01.16.2013 | by: Meghan
Homes to Stay

Stay: Chateau de la Goujeonnerie

Vendee, France

 


I came across this fantastical, fairytale-channeling property about a year ago in World of Interiors, and more recently mentioned on travelandleisure.com, where the editors referenced its location, Vendee, in the countryside of France, as one Europe’s secret hot spots. It’s not surprising, considering that the owners–the three guys behind London’s much-ballyhooed Les Trois Garcons and Maison Trois Garcons–are the intrepid interior masterminds.

The 1872 chateau, with its floating turrets, spins a whimsical, over-the-top tale on the inside, matching the splendor of the exterior with wit and frivolity. Two-story chandeliers, spiral staircases, anatomical models, stuffed birds, Balinese elephant chairs and century-spanning antiques — everything is an extravagant gesture. Especially those symmetrically mounted horse heads with narwal horns. And a detail that escaped notice the first time I poured over the photos, the holiday chateau can be rented. Well, for a price (ahem, almost $12,000 for a long weekend). After all, the place sleeps 54 across seven ensuite bathrooms (plus 17 more in the ancillary buildings). Beyond the impressively long list of reading rooms, studies and formal dining rooms, there’s an 18-meter pool, 18 acres, and a small forest to frolic in.

01.09.2013 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Mast Farm Inn

Banner Elk, North Carolina

The week before Christmas we had to go to a wedding in Florida. Not great timing, but we loaded up the car and made the most of it with a road trip through the Smoky Mountains (we flew back). One of the most outstanding highlights was the historic Mast Farm Inn. A restored farm inn that dates back to the early 1800s, the place was decorated with antiques, quilts, old farm tools and a countrified array of awesome folk art and crafts. The Loom House, named for Aunt Josie Mast who turned it into a loom house for her coverlets and rugs (some of which are in the Smithsonian), is the oldest log cabin in North Carolina.

We stayed in the old post-and-beam Woodwork Shop with its tin roof, Vermont casting stove and rock terrace. This place is amazing for families. Farm animals, a sprawling organic garden that feeds the restaurant, and impeccable service. Our littlest guy became very sick during our stay, and the staff could not have been more accommodating and doting. They brought dinner (farm-fresh roast chicken, heritage farms pork chop and shaved brussels sprouts) to our room, and made special dishes for our picky eater at breakfast the next morning (what child does not like french toast made with potato and raisin-cinnamon bread with caramelized fruit, egg custard and heavy cream… topped with whipped cream and powdered sugar?). Custom designed with our names dropped into each dish’s description, the menu was such a fun treat for our six-year-old to read. It was pouring rain when we were there, but we can’t wait to make it back during better weather–and health–to take advantage of the beautiful property and all the nearby hiking trails.

12.20.2012 | by: Meghan

Happy Holidays!

Elkhorn, Wisconsin

A couple weeks ago, my talented baker friend Jess and I drove to Wandawega to spend two days making Christmas gifts and crunching around in the woods. We left on a Sunday afternoon and arrived after dark. I really wanted to sleep in the treehouse, which was in mid-construction phase during my last visit, but there’s no heat up there, and well, we’re wimps. Instead, we stayed in the charming (and heated) two-bedroom cabin with sweeping views of the lake. The place was closed (officially), so unofficially, we were the only lucky ones at the resort, and the silence was magic, exhilarating even. Nothing but bird songs, the dull clamor of wooden spoons to ceramic bowl and the sound of own voices.

Since Jess makes a living in her kitchen and I usually have two little boys circling my legs in mine, it felt like such a luxury to set up shop in someone else’s kitchen– especially one with an oversized oven, uncluttered counter space and more antique dinnerware and beautiful vintage utensils than you can ever imagine. Soon enough, it smelled like roasted pecans and ginger, and the days went by in a slow, comfortable rhythm of measuring oats, refilling coffee cups, collecting evergreen branches and cutting fabric squares. In between, we knitted, took long walks and even managed to get a canoe in the water at dusk. Walking the property and ducking in and out of the buildings (Jess had never been and I think an appropriate description of her reaction would be blown away), I can’t believe how much has changed in the last two years. There’s a tiny new cabin, two really enchanting teepees, a vintage tin can trailer waiting in the wings for Tereasa’s magic wand, and my favorite, a Harry Weese-designed shower house. That’s right: Harry Weese designed a shower house for a girl scout camp down the street (!!), and David and Tereasa rescued it this summer (like so many boy and girl scout camps, it closed, sadly). They wheeled it down the road, spruced it up and there it stands–a Harry Weese shower house at Wandawega.

We left feeling immensely productive and equally relaxed–two polar-opposing conditions that don’t coexist easily during the holidays–and in addition to a chunky cream seed-stitch scarf I knitted for a friend, we took home a couple dozen mason jars of the very best granola I’ve ever tasted. It was a good trip. See below for the recipe. Go, bake and be merry.

Holiday Granola by Jessica Hicks of Astro

Mix together in a large bowl:

14 cups rolled oats (about 3lbs)
4 ½ cups pumpkin seeds
4 ½ cups coconut
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
1 ½ Tbls cinnamon
4 tsp fine salt
2 ½ cups pecans, broken
zest of 3 oranges

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine:

2 cups maple syrup (grade b or c has more flavor)
1 cup olive oil
2 1/2 cups apple sauce
1 tablespoons vanilla extract

Add the wet mixture to the dry, fold to thoroughly coat the dry mix. Spread on 2 or 3 baking sheets and bake for 50-70 minutes at 330 degrees (times vary greatly depending on your oven), stirring a couple of times to ensure even baking, until the mixture is golden brown. Ten minutes before the end of baking time, stir though:

2/3 cup maple syrup, extra (optional). This will give the granola a lovely glisten.

Remove from oven and immediately stir through:

3 cups dried cranberries
2 cups finely chopped crystalized ginger

Cool on trays, turning occasionally so as to keep the granola from sticking to tray, and store in airtight jars.

 

12.12.2012 | by: Meghan

Instagram and Winner!

I know, I know.  I’m ridiculously late to the party, but I kind of love Instagram. I’m wishing I would have started using it before our summer travels. I take so many photos that never see the light of this site, and it’s such a great way to share experiences beyond the places we’re staying. It’s like a time capsule of little travel moments–pretty sunsets, roadside fruit stands, an ancient stone wall covered in ivy, a line of Italian boy scouts, a misty apple orchard first thing in the morning. It’s these fleeting, tender, spontaneous, funny, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime moments that make you so grateful you left home to open your eyes somewhere else. You’re welcome to follow along (and for any groaning Twitter or Facebook followers, I actually use Instagram!).

The lucky winner of last week’s Honor & Folly contest is Adi Segal.

11.28.2012 | by: Meghan

Honor & Folly: A Weekend Giveaway

Detroit, Michigan

In the September issue of Martha Stewart Living, I put together a tight little visiting guide to Corktown — my neighborhood for living and inn-keeping (in this post, some bonus photos by Joe Vaughn that didn’t make the story). When I opened Honor & Folly, I was excited about stepping out from behind the computer screen and introducing travelers to the neighborhood-centric Detroit I know — not the Detroit you see from 17th story of some mid-rise hotel downtown. I never gave much thought to the community of neighborhood business owners I was going to be part of, and turns out, that’s a hugely rewarding facet of owning a small business. I’m proud to send guests downstairs to Astro, because the owners, who are my neighbors in real life, are such good people and amazing at what they do. I tell guests to save room for brunch a few blocks away at Brooklyn Street Local, and to make sure to go to Mudgies for a humongous sandwich, the Lager House for a music show, and St. Cece’s for the best unassuming farm-to-table food in the most quirky, unlikely setting. I love bragging about my friend Ryan, who started an urban farm in North Corktown, and rooting on some other friends who are opening a distillery down the street. My brother-in-law runs Pony Ride–an incubator for artists, designers and entrepreneurs–and it’s been fun to watch that grow. If you could have seen this neighborhood when we moved here eight years ago, you would have never believed it would one day in the not-so-distant future end up in the pretty, iconic pages of Martha Stewart Living. There were no working streetlights, hardly any businesses, almost no one walking down the street while I pushed my baby stroller over broken glass. And now. Now I’m giving away a weekend to hang out here for fun! Excuse me while I pinch myself.

In honor of the first-year anniversary of Honor & Folly, I’m giving away a weekend in the neighborhood I love so much. The winner will get two nights at Honor & Folly*, breakfast at Astro, two drinks at Sugar House, and a $50 gift certificate to Slows. I will also give you a personal tour of  the city, including stops at some of my favorite places in Detroit, from Eastern Market to Belle Isle. To enter, just leave a comment below, and I’ll announce a winner — picked at random — at the end of next week. Cut-off for entry Thursday, December 6th at 5pm EST.

You can find the Martha Stewart Living article on the page I finally created for my writing work. Thank you so much for being interested, and for all your support the past year. I am so grateful.

[Photos, all by Joe Vaughn, from top to bottom: Honor & Folly (top three), Acre, Mudgies, Hello Records, Le Petit Zinc, Green Dot Stables, Sugar House]

*Contest assumes mutually agreed upon dates, which must fall between January and the end of March 2013. The sooner you pick dates, the more likely it will be that the dates are available, as the inn tends to book up a month in advance on weekends. If you decide to book mid-week, you will get an extra night.

11.21.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: Shaker Village Inn

Harrodsburg, Kentucky

It’s common knowledge that the Shakers had a  dedication to craft and commitment to quality, but while visiting the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky, where you can bed down and spend a day or two wandering the pastoral landscape and absorbing their agrarian, communal lifestyle,  something occurred to me: the Shakers were like the original hipsters (without booze and sex, of course). Despite the whole celibacy thing, the Shakers are a pretty hip lot by modern standards. They dry herbs, jam, can, craft, carry worn leather bags of their own design, and even make their own shoes!

Anyone interested in simple Shaker architecture and traditional handcraft methods will flip to explore these beautiful grounds, where the Shaker devotion to the marriage of form and function is a natural extension of their honest, hardworking ideals. Messy with the business of creating–fabric scraps, worn leather, spools of colorful thread, baskets spilling wool–the workshops are perhaps the best testament to their credo, “Beauty is in utility.” I’m still in awe. The East Family Sisters Shop, with walls covered in tapestry, cross stitch and fabric, is dedicated to preparing wool, spinning yarn and working on some of the earliest American looms, while the men’s workshop turns out handmade brooms of endless variety: large brooms, buddy brooms, whisk brooms, pot scrubbers, tailor’s brushes, and cake testers. To this day, they’re still one of the largest producers of handmade brooms in the country; you can buy them at the shop. At the Cooper’s shop, the woodworker makes handsome-looking wooden vessels, including buckets, barrels and butter churners. And in the three-storied Centre Family House, the village’s impressive living museum where herb sacks hang on beds to protect the straw mattresses from insects, basketmaking and tanning/cobbling workshops are set up for demonstration, and to admire the old, beautiful tools and original (aesthetically pleasing) results of their labor. I’d know plenty of people who’d buy those leather uppers today.

It’s a good thing there’s an inn with 70 rooms spread across the grounds–above the restaurant and in old washhouses and sex-separated dormitories–because it would be a mad rush to to take it all in during an afternoon viewing. I was so disappointed when the inn was booked solid in October, but the unintentional silver lining: it was all but deserted at the end of November. We had the place to ourselves, and fall lasts longer in the Bluegrass State, so there were still brightly colored leaves in trees and a 10-degree bump in the weather. My six-year-old and I spent two days obsessing over the giant old wooden looms, carding wool, riding in horse-drawn carriages, petting the animals, feeding the ducks, smelling herbs in the medicinal garden, and touring some of the most beautiful old buildings I have ever seen. And because we stayed the night, our pace was slow and unhurried, leaving time to climb atop old farm equipment, linger in the sun-dappled lanes crisscrossing the rolling property, hop up on the wooden swing overlooking a pasture with two white horses, and take a short walk out to the crumbling cemetery at the edge of the village. We ate meals in the Treasury Building restaurant, and at night, after the last bit of sunlight dropped beneath the hills, we read books and played board games in our no-frills Shaker-style room, its white walls marked only by painted trim and peg rails. I think we did the Shakers proud (full disclosure: I may or may not have donned a woven bonnet on occasion).

11.14.2012 | by: Meghan
Inns & Hotels

Check In: The Gladstone

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I’ve been to Toronto a few times in the last couple months, working on some projects and making a 24-hour run just to eat dinner in a different city. Sometimes a girl needs a change of scenery. Plus it’s only four hours from Detroit, and time flies when you’re reading magazines and knitting in the passenger seat (because your husband doesn’t think you’re a good driver). It’s like being on a flight with more leg room and no strangers.

During one of those quick visits, I nabbed a last-minute room at the Gladstone. I had stayed at the Drake before, but had only admired the Gladstone’s hulking brick building from the curb of West Queen West. Inside, art exhibits and makeshift galleries descend on public spaces and hallways, and each room is decorated by a different local artist. Considering the high-octane color palettes of many of the rooms, I was tickled with my room assignment, the dialed-back (soothing even?) Chinoiserie Room by Millie Chen. Subtle and not-so-subtle chinoiserie–decorative art based on mostly European imitations of Asian motifs–is layered and juxtaposed with abandon, and even though Millie’s approach is ironic, creating a kind of “Oriental folly” (her words, not mine) and poking fun at the “postmodern condition by replacing the true elements of chinoiserie with contemporary global references,” the room is as adorable as it is clever. Especially that wallpaper with monkey leopards, Baluch tigers, women in Victorian mourning gowns, dancing tourists and monkeys with saws. It makes me want to write a haiku.