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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Beit Salahieh, Aleppo

UPDATE: This post was penned in the Spring of 2011 following our visit to Syria in March. We had no idea the direction the conflict would take. When we planned our trip Syria had been undergoing an opening up to tourism. Yes, there were protests while we were there but it seemed like the beginning of an Arab Spring. We naively hoped it might be a positive transformation rather than a descent into chaos. I'm horrified to think of what may have happened to the beautiful, friendly and welcoming souls we met in Syria.

Beit Salahieh is one of the most delightful, atmospheric hotels in which we have stayed. Strongly reminiscent of the riads in Morrocco it is a renovation of a historic home, built facing inward from the street and opening up into four lavish courtyards, each overlooked by a series of open walkways, balconies and terraces. The use of indoor and outdoor spaces is spectacular and the restoration and conversion into a hotel is delightful.


We found the hotel through www.i-escape.co.uk a site specializing in boutique properties which we have used in both Slovenia and India. It's a great resource for chic, smaller properties that embody style and substance.
The alabaster bar in the basement was spectacular, lit from beneath it glowed day and night. The lighting, including this enormous custom chandelier, was all made locally and inspired me to buy a lantern on the coppersmith's street.

The rooms are individually decorated in a stylish and romantic manner. When we had a minor problem with the show they upgraded us to a suite which was very generous and much appreciated. The suite bathroom, which included a large bath crafted from a single piece of marble, was lavishly tiled with brass lights hung with a multicolored beaded fringe. The views from the roof were lovely, stretching to the citadel on a hill close by. We'd like to come back in warmer weather to enjoy the rooftop restaurant.
A view of the citadel from the roof
The decor is 'Eastern Potentate' meets 'Design Magazine'. The hotel is filled with areas of low pillowed seating,  tile work,  inlaid wood and brass accents, as well as painted and carved wooden detailing. Highly recommended for those looking for a luxurious base in Aleppo. 
The staff are very friendly and helpful when you ask direct questions, but otherwise you're left pretty much to yourself. This is a superb base for independent travelers who are happy to wander  and discover the city on their own, though I'm sure the hotel could arrange anything specific when asked, guides, tours, cars etc.





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