LE MERIDIEN HOTEL
Riviera di Rimini
By Bonnie Carroll
Le Meridien Hotel on the beach in Rimini is an architectural dream property. The views from the chicly comfortable rooms and suites are nothing short of breath taking. Every inch of this beautiful venue is filled with artistic touches. The bar is small but hot! The restaurant is inviting, and has a very appetizing menu. The hotel spa is simply amazing in the unique treatments it offers, as well as the futurist design. The hotel is built around an atrium, with a group of smart shops nestled at the bottom; and the outside patio area offers wonderful views of the exciting architecture. The outer walls are filled with historic photos of Rimini in sleek modern frames. I found them a terribly attractive and educational addition.
The beach is the thing in Rimini, and each hotel invests countless euros on their appearance and comfort, and trains their staff in the art of beach hospitality. Each hotel has their own section of beach in front of their hotel, and the style depends on the ambiance selected to compliment the individual property. This is not Fort Lauderdale or Miami, not even close. This is leisure in fine Italian style, with all the special amenities to make it blissful in every way. At night this same boulevard becomes a chic party central, and is considered the hot spot for dancing and exciting nightlife.
Personally, I found it exhilarating to just sit by the shore and watch the beautiful Italian men as they stroll along the beach with their briefcase in one hand and cell phone in the other, waiting to answer their next business call. Now, admit it, this must be the La Dolce Vita we’ve all been hearing about for years.
The food is all wonderful along this stretch of stylish hotels, offering a variety of fine dining rooms, pool restaurants and a bevy of little cafes’ that serve fresh and delicious dishes. The food is really outstanding in this region, and eating is always a very happy experience. Lemoncello, a favorite specialty drink in Italy, is served here in colorful Italian pottery, which seems to make it a more authentic experience. Le Meridien is a member of the Starwood hotel group, and is one more reason I enjoy their properties so much. Visit: www.Starwoodhotels.com to view the many destinations in Italy and the Mediterranean where you can enjoy the Starwood style.
Le Meridian Rimini
Viale Lungomare murri 12
An Ojai Secret Garden Where Good Taste is Paramount
by Bonnie Carroll
Gracefully sitting on Matilija Street, directly across the from one of the oldest and finest natural health food stores in America, is the Lavender Inn Historic Bed & Breakfast in Ojai. Five years ago Kathy Hartley and her husband Mark bought the Inn, renamed it and proceeded to turn the historic property into a first class guest property. Originally, this stately looking building had been a school house in the late 1800s, and then went though several lives as a boarding house and finally became the beautiful venue it is today.
The outside façade has an inviting New England style look, and the outside garden area is a real secret garden, hidden by trees and shrubbery, where guests enjoy private relaxation or a game of crocket on the lawn. The large porch overlooking the garden is where guests enjoy a delicious breakfast of fresh coffee, egg dishes, warm muffins or bagels, and fresh juice each morning. A variety of cereals with all the toppings is also on the early menu. Guests are invited to enjoy breakfast or the wine & cheese service in the antique dining room area as well.
The charming guest rooms are all artistic and unique, each different from the next and each with signs of the personal touch and tender loving care of owner Kathy Hartley. The use of relaxing pastels, including lavender, is abundant throughout the color scheme of the living and sleeping areas of the house. There is a private cottage for those wishing more privacy that is separate from the main house. Setting on the side of the main entrance is a delightful little day spa, where guests may enjoy blissful body and skin treatments.
The Ojai Culinary Studio at the Lavender Inn is simply amazing, and offers guests the opportunity to meet renowned chefs and writers such as Karen Evenden, author of A Taste of Croatia, who recently taught a class I attended called “A Croatian Buffet – Cool Cooking for Hot Days”. Chef Evenden and her husband lived on a sail boat in the Mediterranean for nearly seven years, where she learned first hand the secrets of authentic foods from the locals. The kitchen in the Lavender Inn is a dream venue for the Ojai Culinary Studio students, and Kathy informed me that a new studio will be built on the property in 2009 to better accommodate the very popular cooking programs. The Inn offers special guest packages for attendees of the classes. See Publisher's page for Evenden recipe.
On Sunday morning guests find themselves literally twenty steps from the renowned Ojai Farmers Market where local farmers sell their fine fresh produce to the residents and weekend visitors. This market is one of my favorites and I consider it one of, if not the best, in California. Naturally, this produce makes its way into the daily breakfast menus at the Inn, and their 4:00 wine and cheese service includes some of the fine cheese sold at the market each week. Wines used at the Inn are local, and vary from week to week.
On days when you are not cooking and eating the delicious fruits of your culinary labors, you will be pleased with the many different restaurant venues Ojai offers, as well as the numerous cultural programs sponsored throughout the year. November 6-9 will feature The Ojai Film Festival, a local event with International flavors honoring members of the film community (www.ojaifilmfestival.com). The movie theatre in Ojai is also a pet project of Kathy and Mark Hartley. They spent countless hours and dollars completely renovating the theatre to insure its completion for the coming Ojai Film Festival.
As if all this is not enough on their plate, the Hartley’s recently opened a new venture named Watermark on Main, a fantastic two story restaurant with a rooftop lounge, located in an historic building in Ventura, California. The opening included a performance by Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy, and according to Kathy the menu offers wonderful beef selections, fresh seafood and fantastic ribs. For information visit: www.watermarkonmain.com.
The Lavender Inn
210 E. Matilija Street