Pack a Bag: Monterey Hotel

Until very recently, I had no idea that Spain established Monterey as the OG capital of California circa 1776. It was inevitable as Monterey’s geography boasts a bay and the town is such a central location between the baja and the alta. It was not until over 125 years after the establishment of the capital that the Monterey Hotel was established. The 1904 architecture exemplifies the Victorian style albeit within the middle of the a historic town center populated with Spanish-influenced architecture.


The stained glass, carved woodwork, plantation shutters, and architectural moldings were my favorite tangible features of the hotel, which has 69 guestrooms split between the historic wing and the contemporary wing. The FF&E (layman’s term: furnishings) of the hotel is also impressive. I was particularly into the antique valet, pictured below, of which Jamie snagged nearly as soon as we rolled in our luggage.

Jamie and I stayed in room 409, which is in the historic portion of the hotel. The suite sits on the corner of Calle Principal and West Franklin Street, offering ideal Monterey views. We could even see the Monterey Bay from the bedroom and the sitting room. Swinging open the bedroom window and plantation shutters to the mellow weather and sea breeze followed by the complimentary breakfast was the best way to begin our days.


The location of the Monterey Hotel itself makes it the optimum place to stay. It is my personal belief that one best takes in the built environment while on foot. Every location and attraction you could want to visit is accessible by foot and because Monterey is so dang beautiful, you should absolutely take advantage of the pedestrian friendly nature of the town. Through pedestrian paths and sidewalks, the following attractions are accessible by foot from the Monterey Hotel :

  • Alta Bakery and Cooper Molera Adobe – 0.2 mile walk
  • Monterey Museum of Art – 0.3 mile walk
  • Old Fisherman’s Wharf – 0.3 mile walk
  • Cannery Row – 1.1 mile walk
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium – 1.5 mile walk
  • Lover’s Point Park – 2.5 mile walk


Sincerest thanks to the Monterey Hotel for sponsoring our stay.

Pack a Bag: The Carlton

The Carlton is the ideal midpoint of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Paso Robles is underrated wine country due to its big sisters, Napa and Sonoma, located just up on the 101. This territory should not be missed; I am not lying when I say that I returned home with five bottles from the two vineyards that Jamie and I visited.

Atascadero is the idyllic town about twenty minutes south of Paso Robles and the second stop on the Friendship Road trip. The trip up from Palm Springs was picturesque, at least after passing through Los Angeles. Our stay at The Carlton was the perfect punctuation at the end of the drive.


Located within the Colony District and walkable to seemingly everything worth visiting in Atascadero, The Carlton was established in 1928 as a one story building at the corner of El Camino Real and Traffic Way. The following year brought a second floor annex, consisting of 52 guestrooms, topping the first floor of department stores. (Don’t you just love a mixed use project?) The 1930s brought a new owner, a new neon sign, and celebrity clientele. The hotel changed hands several times in the last half of the twentieth century before it was converted into a senior living complex. Eventually it became nascent until 2005 when it was restored and returned to its former glory as The Carlton.


Jamie and I had a room that opened into the center courtyard. Funny story: We unknowingly kept the French doors open but drew the curtains. Only when we woke up to especially fresh air did we realize that we each were under the impression that the other closed and locked the courtyard door. Regardless, we both felt safe on the property which is something that is of priority when I travel.

No stay at The Carlton is complete without stopping at the Back Porch Bakery. Jamie and I selected a loaf of walnut and blue cheese bread which proved to be necessary (especially for Jamie who was our designated driver) on our vineyard stops. Along with provisions from a local craft cheese and butter store, we took out the entire loaf of the artisanal bread and you know what?

We had no regrets.


Sincerest thanks to The Carlton for sponsoring our stay.

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Pack a Bag: The Monkey Tree Hotel, Part II

Jamie and I stayed at Monkey Tree Hotel in Palm Springs and I cannot wait to make the another trip back. As a preservationist, I can appreciate a storied history and the Monkey Tree Hotel has rich one. The property went through several iterations: the OG Monkey Tree Hotel phase ran from 1960 until 1988 when it switched hands and was rebranded to a men’s resort called The Legacy, the couples’ nudist resort as the Terra Cotta Hotel in 1995, and the reincarnation of the Monkey Tree Hotel in late 2015.

The Monkey Tree Hotel was kind enough to put us in the Presidential Suite. It is named for the rumored rendezvous that JFK and Marilyn Monroe had in the hotel circa 1962. Reportedly, the United States Secret Service was spotted on East Racquet Club Road outside of the private entrance to the suite, making it the ideal accommodations for a clandestine affair.

The same geographic location {away from downtown} that likely made it attractive to John and Marilyn, was one of the reasons that Jamie and I liked it. Rather than hiding an affair (only a friendship roadtrip here!), we loved the Monkey Tree Hotel for the lowkey ambiance; it is perfect for a solo or couples weekend getaway or a girls’ trip. At the same time, it was easy to get back and forth from downtown as the Lyfts are abundant and reasonably priced.

I packed my favorite vintage Lilly Pulitzer dresses for my long weekend at the midcentury gem on East Racquet Court Road. Not exactly fitting to wear the signature designer of Jackie Kennedy in the love shack of John and a mistress, but it is also the only 1960s designer I own. Dress for the decade of the accommodations you are inhabiting, amirite?

While I am in love with these two Lilly Pulitzer dresses, I have a downright obsession with shopping vintage Lilly. It is a sickness. I rounded up several 1960s-era Lilly Pulitzer shift dresses below. Note about shopping vintage: Pay attention to the measurements and if in doubt, go up a size in these frocks. The hemlines tend to be longer but the body tends to be smaller.

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Sincerest thanks to the Monkey Tree Hotel for sponsoring our stay.

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Pack a Bag: The Monkey Tree Hotel, Part I

Jamie and I took a friendship roadtrip from southern California destinations up to Napa. We went sideways, you could say. Our first stop on our friendship roadtrip?

A bucket list destination for both Jamie and I has always been Palm Springs. Fun fact: Jamie and I met in graduate school, where we were both at the Maryland School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. While he was in the architecture and I was in the preservation and real estate development programs, it took a second for our paths to cross but thanks to my social nature, it would not be soon before long.


It was fate that brought us to the Monkey Tree Hotel, a sixteen guestroom boutique hotel established in 1960 and designed by the father of desert modernism, Albert Frey. After checking in I read about the hotel’s history, which included a brief bio of the owners. I was so jazzed to learn that the wife of the husband-wife ownership team also went to school for architecture and worked for Gensler. The grind and the monotony of the eight-to-five (but realistically twelve hour days) that are of the norm to the fields of architecture and finance, drove Kathy and her husband Gary to leave their New York City routines for a change of pace in Palm Springs, and purchased the Monkey Tree Hotel in 2015.

Kathy’s background in architecture informed their decision to procure the Monkey Tree Hotel but it was the location and history of the hotel that directed the renovation; as a preservationist with a pragmatic point of view, I appreciate the hospitality model to preservation but particularly their approach that bypassed purchasing sixteen sets of West Elm furniture in favor of curating pieces that are true to the OG era and salvaging and refurbishing pieces that are original to the property. For instance, the vivid yellow lounge furniture at the pool and courtyard are original Brown Jordan pieces circa the 1970s era of the hotel.


Aside from authentically furnishing the hotel, the time constraints were the biggest challenge in renovating the hotel. The Monkey Tree Hotel has a storied timeline which includes rebranding in the 1980s and 1990s to the Legacy Hotel and the Terra Cotta respectively. The latter of which was a – are you sitting down? – nudist resort! Kathy and Gary officially purchased the property in December 2015, effectively establishing it as a clothing mandatory establishment, and concluded renovation in February 2016, just in time for a soft opening for Palm Springs Modernism Week.

Kathy and Gary acted as the general contractor on the project, but the majority of the renovation was cosmetic: paint, landscape, FF&E (furniture for the uninitiated to the built environment), commercial kitchen, and a Scandinavian spa. The FF&E included architecture books in the breakfast nook bookcase which largely came from that of Kathy’s collection from graduate school. I was confident that the Monkey Tree Hotel was the real deal upon check in, but it was when I spotted two books that were required reading for the History of Modern Architecture at the University of Maryland as taught by Dr. Richard Etlin, that cemented the Monkey Tree Hotel as my go-to as my Palm Springs accommodations going forward.


Sincerest thanks to the Monkey Tree Hotel for sponsoring our stay.

Pack a Bag: Hotel Congress, Part II

part one…

While we were at Hotel Congress, we indulged in adult beverage aplenty, some delicious food, and streamlined but comfortable accommodations. I loved that in keeping with the historic quality of the hotel, the guestrooms are not equipped with televisions. This kept us out of the room and out and about. The measure undoubtedly reduces electricity thus contributes to the Hotel Congress Sustainability Champion nomination for the 2018 Historic Hotels Annual Awards in Excellence.


Was it the third consecutive stop on our margarita tour of the southwest 2018? Confirmed. The beverages at the Hotel Congress Lobby Bar were just delicious and to say that I overindulged in margaritas at the would be an understatement. The absence of a television made it easier to catch up of rest and easing my subsequent margarita fever. Some people call it a hangover. Three beverages were my threshold.

Cup Cafe is another one of the food and drink establishments at Hotel Congress. Dinner started with Kung Pao Calamari and for me, ended with Niçoise Salad. After a diet of pasta and grits and breaded in the preceding days and minutes before my main was served, the green stuff was good stuff.

Dinner was delicious but breakfast is when Cup Cafe really shines. I loved the Trout Benedict and the Cup Cafe team listened and delivered when I asked for extra crispy bacon. My husband was experiencing indecision with his breakfast; he was considered the Chilaquiles Verde and the Braveheart (a dish with smoked beef brisket, sourdough, grilled tomatoes, sautéed spinach, gruyère cheese, two poached eggs, sausage gravy, and hotel potatoes). With help from the waitress, I encouraged him to order the latter as it was so unique and he has had chilaquiles before. He followed up his savory breakfast with a slice of blueberry pie. Who orders pie for breakfast?

My husband.


Sincerest thanks to Hotel Congress for sponsoring our stay.

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Pack a Bag: Hotel Congress, Part I

The sixth night of our cross country road trip brought my husband and me to Tucson, Arizona, specifically the Hotel Congress. The Hotel Congress is not only listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but is also a Historic Hotel of America. It was nominated for two of the categories of the Historic Hotels of America 2018 Awards of Excellence: Sustainability Champion and Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year for the Oseran family, the third owners of the property, who were instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Tucson.

The Applicable National Register Criteria for this property is both the first, or A, and the third, or C. The former being Property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history and the latter being Property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.

The Congress Realty Company, the ownership team, leveraged the selected parcel as it was close to the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot. The National Register application interprets this to tie into criteria A, as the site selection influenced the urban planning, design, and development of Tucson.

Contributing to criteria C, the Hotel Congress was designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style by William Curlett and Sons Architects in 1919. A 1934 fire by the Dillinger Gang damaged a portion of the third floor which was never rebuilt, effectively eliminating twenty guest rooms.

In addition to the historic designations of Hotel Congress, the street for which it is named was selected as one of the American Planning Association’s fifteen Great Places in 2017 in the Streets category.

Sincerest thanks to Hotel Congress for sponsoring our stay.

Pack a Bag: The Hotel Paisano, Part II

In addition to guestrooms, meeting and ballroom spaces, a heated pool, and commercial space, Hotel Paisano is also home to Jett’s Grill. Jett’s Grill has the most phenomenal margaritas in Marfa, and I know margaritas.

Making reservations is essential. While we waited for our table time at the bar and enjoyed a few margaritas and shrimp nachos as the antidote to a long day on the road, my husband and I witnessed Jett’s Grill absolutely fill up. Nevertheless, even had we not made reservations, the time spent waiting for a table would have been worth it because the food was fantastic.

I ate the bacon penne with shrimp and my husband ordered the pistachio fried steak with asparagus, which is a Jett’s Grill classic dish. While I was nearly full from the margs and the nachos earlier at the bar, I found the space to polish off my pasta dish.

Jett’s Grill is open for breakfast burritos from 7:30 to 10 am and the restaurant reopens for late lunch at 2 pm. Dinner service commences at 5 pm.

Sincerest thanks to Hotel Paisano for sponsoring our stay.

Pack a Bag: The Hotel Paisano, Part I

The Hotel Paisano is a prime example of a historic property hospitality success story. This National Register of Historic Places hotel was designed in 1928 by storied architectural and structural engineering El Paso-based firm, Trost & Trost and exemplifies Spanish Revival style as defined by the red stucco roof, arches, and stucco finishes. It concluded construction and subsequently opened in 1930.

The cast and crew of the film Giant stayed at the Hotel Paisano and several of the suites are named for the celebrities who stayed there: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Deen, and Dennis Hopper. Framed black and white vintage photographs featuring behind the scenes of Giant are hung throughout the corridors of the hotel.

Previously known as El Paisano, the Hotel Paisano is listed in the Texas state inventory of historic places in addition to being listed in the National Register. While the criteria is not explicitly stated in the El Paisano application to the National Register of Historic Places, the statement of significance leads me to believe that it was listed under the third criterion, or C. The application details the midwestern architectural influence on Ohioan Trost’s work in the southwest, merging the Prairie style with regional southwestern styles.

The Hotel Paisano was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978; however, the late 1970s brought a change in the use as the then-65 hotel rooms were converted into nine condominiums for time share use. Eventually the time share model went dormant, the hotel fell into disrepair, and tax issues imposed foreclosure by the county. The current owners acquired the property in 2001 and rehabilitated the project. Currently, the Hotel Paisano has 41 rooms and additional suites and historic rooms, a heated pool, ground floor commercial space, meeting and ballroom space, Jett’s Grill which is home to the best margarita in Marfa.

Sincerest thanks to Hotel Paisano for sponsoring our stay.

Pack a Bag: The Stagecoach Inn, Part II

The Stagecoach Inn has one of the choice restaurants in Salado, Texas. While we enjoyed margaritas and appetizers at Alexander’s Craft Cocktail Lounge, we ate all of our meals on site and I would not have had it any other way.sDSC08190While the Stagecoach Inn was established in 1861, the restaurant was not established until 1943, when the property came under ownership of Dion and Ruth Van Bibber. While Mr. Van exemplified hospitality, Mrs. Van built a name for the Stagecoach Inn restaurant. Several of the dishes that Mrs. Van originated have been brought back to the menu, such as the hush puppies, tomato aspic, banana fritters, and signature dessert, Strawberry Kiss.

Mrs. Van’s approach to the restaurant made it the central Texas dining destination. The Stagecoach Inn restaurant received extensive media coverage, as it was featured in midcentury isues of Life Magazine, Ford Times, and Time. It also appeared in traveling salesman and future purveyor of cake mix, Duncan Hines’ list of restaurants. Who knew that Duncan Hines also produced a restaurant guide akin to Michelin?

For dinner, we indulged in cast iron pimento cheese, shrimp and bacon cheddar grits, and blacked catfish with black eyed peas and kale. Some might (all should) consider me a margarita connoisseur, and the Lot 10 Hibiscus Margarita surpassed all expectations. Not only is the food fantastic, but the ambiance of the restaurant and the hospitality of the staff is phenomenal. Fireplaces warm the restaurant after nightfall and the staff is so knowledgeable not only about the menu but also Stagecoach Inn lore.sDSC08200Breakfast was everything. I ate extra crispy bacon and French toast, complete with fruit compote, sweet cream, and syrup. My husband ordered biscuits and gravy with Andouille sausage and eggs. Several cups of coffee each and we were back on the road.

Sincerest thanks to the Stagecoach Inn for sponsoring my stay.

Pack a Bag: The Stagecoach Inn, Part I

From Little Rock, we headed south to Salado, Texas. We stayed at the Stagecoach Inn, which is a Historic Hotel of America, and nominated for the Historic Hotel of America 2018 New Member of the Year. To be considered for Historic Hotel of America (the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest historic hotels across America) status, a hotel must be at least fifty years old, either a National Historic Landmark or on the National Register of Historic Places, and recognized as having historic significance.

Fun fact: While there are 90,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, only 2,500 are National Historic Landmarks. If a property is designated as a latter, it is automatically added as a former. Both programs are administered by the National Park Service. Talk about a dream job!

The Stagecoach Inn was founded in Salado in 1861, though back then it was known as the Shady Villa Hotel; as such it is suspected to be one of the oldest remaining structures in town. During this period, the hotel located on the Chisholm Trail played host to several notables: Sam Houston, General George Custer, and Jesse James. The hotel was renovated by later owners Dion and Ruth Van Bibber, better known as Mr. and Mrs. Van, in 1943. This time period was when Mrs. Van established the Stagecoach Inn as the central Texas dining destination and put the restaurant and its prix fixe menu on the map.

Clark Lyda, one of the current co-owners as of 2015, saw an opportunity to revive the Stagecoach Inn, which had become decrepit since the property had changed hands numerous times in the shadow of the retirement of Mr. and Mrs. Van. The hotel had served as the host for many family vacations throughout Lyda’s youth. This personal connection poised the Stagecoach Inn for a thoughtful and sensitive renovation of both the accommodations and the restaurant by preservation architecture firm, Clayton & Little.

Sincerest thanks to the Stagecoach Inn for sponsoring my stay.


Pack A Bag: Hotel Frederica

While we were in Little Rock, we spent the night at Hotel Frederica. I am a sucker for a historic hotel and this one dates back to 1913 and later expanded. Being over a century old, it one of the oldest historic hotels I have ever stayed in, and you all know that I am nothing if not one historic hotel connoisseur. Hospitality is just such a fantastic model for historic preservation. I said it. I meant it. I am not taking it back.



Ninety years after its completion date, the Hotel Frederica was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register of Historic Places was established by the National Preservation Act of 1966 and a program administered by the National Park Service. The NPS, not the just agency that everyone associates with park rangers! I interned with the NPS while in graduate school for historic preservation and it was just the best experience but I digress.

Per the application for the National Register of Historic Places, the Hotel Frederica embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction. This is the third criterion on the National Register application. The third, or C, criterion refers to the Hotel Frederica’s association with the Arkansas starchitects Theodore M. Sanders and Edward Durrell Stone and the fact the International and the 20th Century Commercial styles are exemplified by the hotel.



I ten-out-of-ten would recommend checking out the National Register for Historic Places application for Hotel Frederica, especially if you have never seen one before and recommend checking into the hotel. It was renovated in 2017 and I can speak to the penthouse suite that we stayed in having a clean, yet noninvasive, update.


Prior to our visit, I had no idea how phenomenal the architecture of Little Rock is. As we were cruising into downtown, I was in complete awe of the built environment. Theaters, mixed use development, municipal buildings, oh my! I love that the hotel was so close to the capitol and that we had a clear shot of it from our suite’s living room. 


Sincerest thanks to Hotel Frederica for sponsoring our stay.

Pack a Bag: Haywood Park Hotel, Part II

for part I…

While we were staying at the Haywood Park Hotel, the hotel kindly made our dining arrangements. Dinner at Hemingway’s Cuba next door and breakfast at Isa’s Bistro.

Our dinner reservations were originally for two, my husband and I; however Hemingway’s Cuba was so flexible. The restaurant was able to accommodate my sister and my brother-in-law, even though the four top was a very last minute request.

I kicked off my dinner with a Cuban Sour, a twist on the whiskey sour. The Cuban Sour was perfect for washing down my Cuban sandwich and black beans; this is a dish I gravitate to if I ever see it on the menu. Ten-out-of-ten, I would order this meal again. My husband had the Picadillo de Res (a beef dish) with rice and black beans. My sister indulged in the Pan con Pollo Especial (chicken sandwich) and my brother-in-law ordered the Masas de Cerdo Fritas (crispy hickory nut gap pork). The table shared croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes).


While on the road, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love that I do not feel like I have to be completely restrained during it (but honestly, am I ever really restrained?) because I feel like I have the entire day to burn it off, even if I do not plan to engage in any physical activity.

Isa’s Bistro, the restaurant within the Haywood Park Hotel, serves Dynamite Roasting Company coffee. Can confirm that the name is accurate; that coffee is dynamite. Bring on cup after cup. I ordered a granola and fruit Greek yogurt parfait and super crispy bacon to accompany my caffeine fix. My husband kept it minimal with toast and two eggs.

And five mugs of coffee.

Sincerest thanks to Haywood Park Hotel and Atrium for sponsoring our stay.