The world beckons, but there are places here at home to which I always long to return. In 2013, I drove north from Los Angeles to Paso Robles, Carmel, Monterey, Napa and Mendocino. This time, I set out from San Francisco and headed north to Healdsburg, Mendocino and Fort Bragg, before returning to Sonoma County by way of the unspoiled Anderson Valley.
Both trips yielded discoveries: fine inns, exceptional restaurants and hospitable wineries, as well as the natural wonders that are a staple of any California journey and a reliable source of inspiration and delight. This time I got lucky from the outset: SingleThread Farms in Healdsburg, a five-room inn and 52-seat restaurant, provided sophisticated comfort, as well as one of the most memorable gastronomic experiences in recent memory. In contrast, The Inn at Newport Ranch, about 10 miles north of Fort Bragg, sits on a mile of oceanfront bluffs, backed by stately redwood forests. The Heritage House Resort in Little River, spread over a 37-acre hillside, also provided stunning ocean vistas, while The Madrones, set on a mini-estate near the small town of Philo, is a fragment of Tuscany translocated to North America.
This issue also includes an account of my recent trip to Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Many Americans now choose to fly through Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, en route to the Indian subcontinent, the Maldives and East Africa, because of the modern aircraft, generous cabin layouts and superior service offered by the Persian Gulf airlines. Dubai is now the busiest international airport in the world.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are ultra-modern, high-rise city-states spawned by the oil industry, whereas Oman is an ancient country with a long and fascinating history. I have always enjoyed visits to its atmospheric capital, Muscat, but this time I headed into the stark and imposing Al Hajar Mountains. There, at an elevation of 7,000 feet, surrounded by fruit orchards and rose terraces, I found the remarkable new Alila Jabal Akhdar resort. It alone would have made my journey to the Middle East worthwhile.