Can You Afford To Stay At A Celebrity-Owned Hotel?

Tennis star Andy Murray, one of the U.K.’s most famous athletes and the reigning Olympic gold medalist, recently purchased the Cromlix House Hotel near his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. Now closed for renovations, the country manor is expected to reopen in the spring, in time for the 2014 Ryder Cup golf tournament.

Perhaps more than any other sport, tennis requires its stars to become globetrotters. The biggest tournaments take place in the world’s most cosmopolitan locales – Dubai, Paris, Madrid, Miami, Shanghai, Monte Carlo – and as much, a multimillionaire star like Murray should know what constitutes a fine hotel.

Still, he’s the rare athlete that has made a foray into hospitality, a hobby (or investment) favored by Hollywood celebs. There’s no shortage of A-listers in the hotel game. And – surprise – staying under their roofs isn’t always a big-budget proposition.

Actor John Malkovich offers the cheapest access to star style. He’s a (reportedly hands-on) investor in The Big Sleep, a chain of budget hotels in England. Basic but contemporary, they advertise rates starting at £29, and reviews commonly cite rates around £50. In Dublin, U2’s Bono and The Edge revamped The Clarence, and rates at the historic property starts at a modest £109.

Director Francis Ford Coppola owns five hotels in Belize, Guatemala, Argentina, and Italy. Both of his top-rated resorts in Belize, Turtle Inn (pictured, top) and Blancaneaux Lodge, ring in under $300 in the offseason (and start upwards of $350 in high season). But La Lancha, his Guatemalan lakefront rainforest lodge, offers rooms in the low season for $125.

Stateside, there aren’t many deals to be had. Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah is hard to book for less than $250 per night. Doris Day’s longtime pet-haven coastal hotel, Cypress Inn in Carmel, California, has online rates starting at $185 (plus $30 per pet – a small price for getting to frolic on the beach off-leash and accompany owners to all 12 restaurants). Cooking-show royalty Paula Deen rents her two-bedroom beach house on Georgia’s Tybee Island, named Y’all Come Inn, for around $295 per night.

Yet those rates don’t come close to the prices that Richard Gere and Robert DeNiro command at their New York properties. Gere co-owns Westchester County’s luxurious Bedford Post Inn, where getaways start at $400 per night. DeNiro’s posh pad in downtown Manhattan, The Greenwich Hotel, runs $525 and up – topping even Donatella Versace’s resort on Australia’s Gold Coast, the grand Palazzo Versace (pictured), which starts in the $300 to $400 range per night.

[Photo credits: top, Turtle Inn by Coppola Resorts]

Wine tasting on a budget with new Wine Walk in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Wine tasting has never been so convenient, or inexpensive! While most people know that California is a premier destination for those looking to sample some of world’s best vino, wine tours can often get a bit pricey. That is why Carmel-by-the-Sea’s new self-guided Wine Walk is a perfect option.

Encompassed within a few blocks of this coastal California village are 13 different wine tasting rooms. Begin at Southern Latitude Wines on Ocean Avenue to sample specialties from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and South America, then pass City Hall and turn onto 7th Avenue to La Bicyclette for some rustic European cuisine with your wine flights. Next door at Galante Vineyards you will have the chance to sample local estate-grown wines from the first tasting room in Carmel. As you continue on this self-guided stroll, you will not only be exposed to delicious vino, but also art and specialty foods, including cheese and olive oil tastings.

To download a complete map of the walk, click here.

The essential Western states travel planning tool: Sunset Magazine

Sunset, the Menlo Park, California-based lifestyle magazine, is an outstanding regional magazine with excellent tips for travel and dining in the Western and Pacific states. The magazine remains fresh issue after issue, and strikes that essential editorial balance between helping and inspiring readers.

Toward the former end, it offers directed tips; toward the latter, it inspires imaginative thinking on the part of its readers about travel, gardening, cooking, and home renovation. Sunset’s brief includes the Western US states from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico on west, and extends to Alaska, Hawaii, and western Canada and Mexico.

The June issue is loaded with good travel stories. Two highlights are Peter Fish’s examination of Carmel on high and low budgets and Rachel Levin’s take on the Idaho Sawtooths, introduced as the “hidden Rockies.” The Sawtooths article concludes with a list of four more “hidden ranges” that don’t get much attention. This pairing is vintage Sunset: one well-known, highly visited spot alongside one much less well-known.

The May 2010 issue, all archived online, is devoted largely to travel. Star features included an insider’s guide to offbeat Maui, a long weekend stay in the San Juan Islands, and a 24-hour trip to Yosemite.

Sunset’s Travel Update blog touts good hotel deals across the Western states. Latest posts include tips on hotels in Ventura, Zion National Park, Healdsburg, San Luis Obispo county, and Palo Alto.

Although Sunset is by no means exclusively a travel magazine, its archive may just provide the best Western states travel guide around. It takes perennially popular destinations as seriously as it takes quirky places on the landscape that get little attention, and it is indispensable in its coverage of both.

(Image: Flickr/stephenhanafin)

Moon Monterey & Carmel Giveaway

If you’ve been following my recent posts on the latest happenings around Monterey and Carmel (a.k.a. read my posts about the scenic Monterey coastline or taking a tour of Carmel’s wine country), then it shouldn’t come as a huge shock to you that I’ve fallen in love all over again with coastal California this summer. I guess I’m not alone — and that I don’t have to be, either!

In celebration of the release of its six new and fully updated California guidebooks (Coastal California , Tahoe, Monterey & Carmel, Northern California, Southern California and California Beaches), Moon Handbooks is giving away a copy of its Moon Monterey & Carmel, along with four tickets (admission for two adults and two children) to the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium. That means you and three friends can enjoy a full day of fun in Monterey. Of course, if you’re there, you might as well make a weekend of it, right?

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is submit your full name, mailing address, and phone number (for shipping purposes only) to by midnight on October 18th. One winner will be selected at random and announced on the staff blog the week of October 19th.

In addition to the giveaway, California trip ideas, and guest blog posts by Liz Hamill Scott, the author of several of Moon’s California guides, can be found this week on the site.

Early fall events in Carmel

My good friend who used to live and work in Carmel took me on a stroll through the historic town earlier this month and she found herself nostalgic. I let her relive her days working in the art gallery that has since been taken over by yet another, different gallery, and her evenings full of meeting military men who attended school nearby in Marina. If that wasn’t enough, we had coffee at her old haunt, where she nearly broke down into tears remembering the smell of the place.

It seems if you’ve been in Carmel long enough it sticks with you long after you leave. Here are a few fall events that will make you want to stay in Carmel for longer – or perhaps for life.

Harvest Carmel – September 26-27: A 2-day event celebrating agriculture, viticulture, cheese, and good times; 50 chefs, more than 100 wineries, organic gardening seminars, barbecue seminars, wine tastings, cheese tastings, kid’s interactive kitchen, live music.

21st Annual Taste of Carmel – October 1: A celebration of food and wine in the Courtyard of the Mission; tickets are $85. ; #831-624.2522

Carmel Art and Film Festival – October 8-11: Total arts immersion, four days filled with world-class film, music, fine art, and photography, photography, art and film lectures throughout the festival, a two-day art fair in Devendorf Park, a juried photography exhibition at the Marjorie Evans Gallery at the Sunset Cultural Arts Center, films curated by John Cooper (the Director of the Sundance Festival)