Wednesday, June 12, 2024

06-12-24 - PORTUGAL - NOMADS CAN LIVE LARGE IN A UNIQUE HOTEL & ENJOY THE ALENJETO REGION

I am an architect. I love great design. I passionately love modern design. This place, The Ecork Hotel, shows the elegance, and minimalist grammar of great modern architecture. In addition to the sophisticated design, this hotel is the perfect place to lay your weary head after a day of enjoying the Alentejo Region.


This boutique hotel, with only fifty-six rooms, has it all - great design, outdoor and indoor swimming pools, spa, Turkish Bath, sauna, gym, rooftop bar, and one of the most interesting environments to explore and enjoy. Portugal is the largest producer and importer of cork in the world, and it is seen everywhere at Ecork.

From Ecork Hotel's Website:

"Among cork oaks, holm oaks, and native vegetation, it is the ideal destination for those looking for a sensory experience associated with the comfort, flavors, and colors of the Alentejo landscape. Here you will find the ideal conditions to enjoy a sabbatical break, as a couple or with the whole family. Regardless of the company, a peaceful and relaxing stay is always guaranteed for leisure or business."

Of course - All Wanderers need stuff to do. Walks, massages, swimming, day trips, etc., etc.. Ecork delivers everything. Whatever you and yours want to do, this hotel can provide. Take a quick short drive to the World Heritage City Evora, a member of the Network of Oldest European Cities. Additionally, the hotel is about an hour from Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Like all large cities, there is a lot to see and do. 

This hotel, in one of the most unique environments I have ever seen, is on my Top 10 List of places to stay before you die. And its price? A Suite Deluxe - from $108 / night - complete with a gorgeous interior,  comfy bed, large shower, and nice terrace to enjoy the views. You also have access to the luxurious spa. 

So, get crackin' and enjoy this hotel and one of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. Next week we enjoy a very cool hotel on the Atlantic coast.

D.L.Stafford

thenomadARCHITECT

This week's tune is by the multi-award-winning British Folk Rock Band - Mumford and Sons. With innovative writing and performing this band turns out great power rock with a folk underpinning. They take rock music to a completely different place for their loyal listeners. We had the pleasure of hearing them along with 9,000 of our closest friends at Red Rock Amphitheatre about thirty minutes from Denver. Just copy th link below. The blog people are not cooperarting this week.

https://youtu.be/rGKfrgqWcv0?si=G_jsVyLJCJQIj2M0


Wednesday, June 5, 2024

06/05/24 - A very wise traveler once said - “I followed my heart and it led me to Portugal.”

OUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE IN PORTUGAL - WHEN YOU'RE TRAVELING WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE, JUST POUR SOME LOCAL VINHO AND ENJOY ROMANCE AT ITS BEST.

We had enjoyed a trip to the amazing country of Greece on the island of Santorini. If you want to read about that beautiful and interesting place just click - Santorini! The people, the food, the buildings, and the colors of this romantic island make travel a truly pleasurable experience.

We took a fairly quick flight from Athens to Lisbon, rented a car, and drove to the cool, inexpensive Convento Hotel in the small fishing village of Olhao in the Southern region of Algarve. We checked into a large double room with easy access to a small light-filled courtyard and a rooftop pool with views everywhere. This place confirms this blog's always-opined viewpoint of travel - All Vagabonds must travel for high pleasure at low cost. Our first-rate designed room is $165 in today's high-cost world.

There we were! A shorefront boutique hotel with views to die for. Beautiful sand, beautiful waves, and the sound of nature with my one and only. Plus, there are many things to see and do in this small village with beautiful buildings, some great museums and restaurants everywhere. 

After three nights of pleasure in Southern Portugal, we headed north to one of the most interesting areas of Portugal to enjoy a first-class stay in an absolutely modern hotel just outside the ancient city of  Evora. I'll give some thoughts and opinions on this place and hotel next week.
 
When in doubt all Wanderers must just get up and GO!

D.L.Stafford

“I have found out there ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” - Mark Twain

Travel Tune of The Week - From one of the greatest drummers in the world of jazz - Buddy Rich and his Big Band perform a classic jazz tune written by Weather Report - Birdland. We had the distinct pleasure of hearing Buddy Rich and his band perform this classic and many other great tunes while in architecture school. 

















Wednesday, May 29, 2024

05/29/24 - FINDING A HOTEL WORTHY OF YOUR MONEY & PLEASURE!

Great Hotels Are Like Great Art - Know What You're Looking At!

 
My favorite professor in architecture school was on a mission. Both in the studio and in his favorite class - History and Mystery - his obsession was a long and arduous journey to impart knowledge to his students. As a former student of the founder of The International Style - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, he insisted his young charges leave his classroom and studio with as much knowledge of the aesthetics, structure, and meaning of great architecture, art, and other artistic accomplishments, great and small, as he could impart. Many people are fond of the statement - I don't know anything about art, but I know what I like. Statements like that, in the presence of Professor Gettle, would get you a stern reprimand and an intense lecture on the nuances of Renaissance painters versus Cubism or the reasons for the fluted grooves in Greek columns, which are many and beyond the scope of this post.
 
Determining the coolness factor or the aesthetic worthiness of a small hotel and its surroundings requires much the same level of "knowledge" about what you are looking at and looking for in a place that can take your vagabonding to the next level. It's similar to comparing a Frank Lloyd Wright house to one designed by a lesser talent. By combining the notions presented throughout this blog with your own timely travel research, you will develop an appreciation of all the factors that make a place worthy of your time and money. Ultimately, the goal is to develop the knowledge and experience to ensure you know what you are looking at. If you believe, as any aesthetic vagabond believes, that architecture and design, when done well, can actually make your travels, indeed your life, better, then read on. Otherwise, skip the esoteric lingo and check out the latest "deal" from Kayak or Hotels.com. As someone once said when asked why he would spend $1,000 on a new suit as opposed to $200, he replied - Because I look much better in a $1,000 suit.
 
But Wait - It's Not Always About The Money

The focus of this blog has slowly transitioned, over many years, into an obsessive search for great hotels or other unique places to sleep that don't require a second mortgage to pay the rent. If you stay at The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, for the princely sum of $3,500 to $4,800 per night, everything, and I do mean everything, better be otherworldly, or there will be trouble. Just sayin'.
 
If you have unlimited funds, you will always have the perceived best at your disposal. Expensive hotels, especially "resort" hotels, spend an inordinate amount of time and money on services that a true vagabond doesn't need. You really don't need your luggage hauled to your room with the mandatory explanation of how the television works or where the hair dryer is. A hotel we stayed in a while back in Jacksonville Beach, of all places, did not have a coffee maker in the room or ice makers on the floor, requiring you to call room service to have those rather pedestrian conveniences delivered to your room with the expectation of a tip for each delivery. All part of the "total service" hotel experience - tedious!
 
Finding a great hotel at a great price is not always easy. It depends on where you are headed and what you are looking for. It's easy in Europe, the UK being the one exception. Italy, France, Spain, Greece et al have scores of great places at great prices. And it's harder in the good ole USA. If you do a lot of homework, you can find reasonably priced hotels in parts of California, the Northwest, and the East Coast. Florida? Fugetaboutit, unless you go to Miami. And why would anyone do that on purpose? Boutique hotels are, indeed, rare in the Sunshine State. When planning a trip, you should include a few places where you would never tell your in-laws what you spent because they would try to have you committed. As my old roomie used to say - What's a few hundred dollars in a lifetime? As in life, travel is about balance, right?
 
Many factors go into the creation of a great hotel. Today, I am going where no other travel blogger has gone before. I am taking the plunge. I am waxing eloquent. I am going out on a limb. I am barking up the big tree. I am going to give my favorite nomads a short version of the unadulterated, unfettered, unabashed, and extremely opinionated checklist to use when searching for the perfect place to R & R like a true Nomad.

My List

i-escape - This hotel website is my favorite place to find great hotels with reasonable prices. They even have some great reasonably-priced hotels listed in California. They only list 15 hotels in the USA. They list 157 hotels in Italy, 165 in Spain, 124 in Greece, and 173 in the United Kingdom. One unique, castle-turned-boutique hotel in Tuscany we stayed in a few years ago is $154 per night in today's high-priced world - Castello di Tornano.

AIRBNB  - A close No. 2 for sites to find amazing places to lay your head after an eight-hour day trip. They list thousands of homes, apartments, condos, and villas in America and Europe. If you're planning on visiting the West Coast of the USA, this site will be of immense help.

Mr & Mrs Smith Boutique Hotels - Another great site to find reasonably priced boutique hotels. Some as low as $50 per night. 

VRBO - This site is decent, but, IMHO, not as good as AIRBNB. But it does have many places to lodge. 

Tablet Hotels - A bit more expensive, but every hotel on any of their lists will be high-end and they do have places that are reasonably priced, mostly in Europe.

Aesthetics DO Matter
 
A well-designed hotel, like a beautiful woman, gives one pause to smile. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In hotels, less so. One of the discussions we have around here fairly regularly is the attempt to answer the modern architect's lament - Why do Americans embrace the McMansion model of residential design, as opposed to the beautiful, simple, and elegant "modern" residential designs that were immensely popular in the fifties and sixties but gave way to the faux estatelettes that litter suburbia today. Whether it's a sleek modern, minimalist design or a repurposed prison built in the fourteenth century that is now an elegant twenty-room boutique, the design of the place makes a difference.
 
Size Really DOES Matter

If anyone within the sound of this blog has ever stayed in a mega hotel and thought it worthy of their hard-earned cash, by all means, please let me know. Nothing is more tedious than a thousand-room hotel that is overstaffed and overpriced to respond to your every need. You become a bit player in a kind of Groundhog Day of valets,  room service with average food, and lobbies full of hundreds of people thinking they have found the best of the best. The smaller, the better in my book. You get more real personal service because the people serving you are usually the owners who have invested their money and their lives in running their little part of paradise. Only in environs like the AIRBNB featured in the photo above will you truly appreciate the pleasure of sleeping in a special small place - Joshua Tree Olive Farm -Serene Farm Retreat - Spa. Cool romantic place with a hot tub in the middle of the desert. I recommend going in late Fall as it's very hot in the summer. Honesty always - we have not stayed there, but the reviews are all five-star.
 
And Speaking of Food
 
Food is the WD-40, if you will, of travel. We all agree you have to have a great place to sleep, but, without great food, you will eventually become a creaky, cranky vagabond. If you are staying in an urban hotel, the food choices are usually many. You should always check with the owners of your hotel for the best spots. Many boutique hotels are located in places far away from the madding crowd. This fact usually requires that food be served on-site. Dining on rabbit at Castello de Tornano, in the heart of Tuscany, was both a culinary and sensory delight that we still talk about. The fact that it was served in the former great hall of a vintage castle built in 1110 didn't hurt.
  
You Need Stuff To Do Too

OK, you've slept well. You've eaten well. And you have money to burn because you didn't spend the ridiculous sums and you didn't pay all the fees and tips associated with a big fat resort. No, if you followed all the Do's and Don'ts of finding the perfect little place, you ended up in an intimate boutique with a view to die for at a price you can brag about. But after the sleeping and the eating, a vagabond needs something to do. That's where the local environs of a hotel come into play. And personal preference becomes critical. If you happen to be one who lives for the urban delights of Paris, then, an isolated former hayloft turned country chic suite to die for in the middle of nowhere probably isn't your first choice. But, if communing with cows and rural artifacts is your thing, then say hello to the country life.
 
Recently, on our annual anniversary trip to a small five-unit boutique, Wild Springs Guest Habitat, in the even smaller town of Port Orford, Oregon, we enjoyed the wild beauty and isolation of the Pacific, as well as world-class art galleries and edgy art exhibits. All in a community with no more than three traffic lights. If you do your homework, you can have your travel cake and eat it too.

At The End Of The Day

When it's all said and done, the perfect vagabond hotel comprises those attributes that take you to a different time and place that feels right. Everyone is looking for God's Country. If you are passionate about travel and do your due diligence while planning your dream vacation, you will find your little piece of heaven on earth. In the city, in the country, by the sea, or in the desert. Travel changes you in ways you never expected. And it goes a lot better when you are in a place that meets your aesthetic, emotional, and cultural needs. So, happy hunting. Great travel requires inspiration and an unwillingness to settle. But when you sit with the ones you love and raise that glass of local vintage, under the big tree overlooking the big sea, you will know that it was worth it.

I hope 2024 takes you to places you never knew existed. Remember, the yellow brick road had a lot of curves in it, not to mention the interesting characters along the way.
 
See You Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
 
d.l.stafford
 
Travel Quote of The Week - “The major advantage of domestic travel is that, with a few exceptions such as Miami, most domestic locations are conveniently situated right here in the United States.” – Dave Barry
 
Video Artist of The Week - Here's a very unique group of artists/singers I recently discovered performing their take on a great song written by Ben E. King in 1962 - STAND BY ME by Music Travel Love.








Wednesday, May 22, 2024

05/22/24 - TODAY - THE NOMAD ARCHITECT IS TAKING A BREAK - LET'S JUST LAUGH!

I SEARCHED YOUTUBE NORTH, EAST, SOUTH & WEST TO MAKE THIS POST - FUNNY STUFF!

To give my legions of fans a break from my erudite offerings and opinions on where to go, where to sleep, and where to eat (LOL), I thought I would share some funny, often hilarious takes and scenes on travel. 

Here Goes!

1 - One of the most popular comics performing today - Jim Gaffigan on Disney and other thoughts on travel!

2 - The crankiest comedian in America - his take on traveling in Canada!

3 - A comic that really understands - K-von - Air Travel isn't what it used to be!

4 - Another comic that tells the truth we all know - Kevin Bozeman on Air Tavel!

5 - Something we can all relate to - a classic scene from Seinfeld!

6 - Traveling with five kids - Jim Gaffigan!

7- A scene from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - he's not happy and needs a taxi!

Always remember my Fellow Vagabonds - Travel will always bring things into your world on the road, on the train, on the boat, or in the air that are funny!

D.L.Stafford

thenomadARCHITECT

Today's tune is from one of the most unique Texas Troubadours to ever write and perform great music. Someone once said - "Texas is like a whole other country". We've been to Texas numerous times, and that statement is the perfect description of the second-largest state in America. Here's a song about travel and Texas by one of the greats - LYLE LOVETTE & HIS LARGE BAND performing THAT'S RIGHT YOU'RE NOT FROM TEXAS.





Wednesday, May 15, 2024

5-15 -24 IF YOU ARE EVER IN BARTLESVILE - THIS IS THE PLACE TO STAY

                        
Today is a quick invite to all 
lovers of travel to see the only skyscraper designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. The building is located in the old oil town of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a quick 45 minutes from Tulsa International Airport. We only stayed two nights to enjoy this unique place - there's not a lot to do in Bartlesville. LOL! However, like all Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, this restored boutique hotel will be a great place to experience. You can listen and view the history and current-day standing of this one-of-a-kind place to repose at your leisure. Just click on the video.


Bentonville!
Then we drove a pleasant 2-1/2 hours to the ninth-largest town in Arkansas. Its claim to fame is the location of the headquarters of WALMART. Bentonville has been the home of Walmart since 1950, now the largest private employer in the world. Because of Walmart's location just outside the small quaint downtown of Bentonville, there are many things to see and enjoy. Number one on the list of things to do - CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART established by Alice Walton, the daughter of the late Sam Walton. There is a beautiful nature trail you can walk to this amazing museum from the boutique 21C Hotel downtown. This hotel, in addition to great rooms with comfortable beds and huge showers, has over 12,000 square feet of modern art space within the hotel. And, depending on when you go, the prices are not too high. 

One last place to see, only a short drive from Bentonville, is THORNCROWN CHAPEL. This beautiful wood and glass chapel, built in the forests of Northwest Arkansas, is truly amazing. It was designed by E. Faye Jones, the most famous architect in Arkansas. This ingenious architect studied under Wright. I had the distinct pleasure of attending a lecture by Jones in architecture school. One of the most memorable experiences we had when we visited this chapel - an older gentleman, in a wheelchair,  rolled into the chapel from behind a screen and sang several religious hymns acapella as about forty people sat and listened intently.

So, if you and your favorite Travel Vagabond are venturing west, The Nomad Architect highly recommends these places.

D.L.Stafford


Since today's post is all about cutting-edge architecture and art, this week's music features one of the most cutting-edge jazz artists to ever sit down at a piano. We had the pleasure of seeing this innovative pianist and his quartet twice - 1969 at The First Atlanta Pop/Rock Festival and 2006 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida at the age of 86 - Never missed a beat! This tune - TAKE FIVE - features his quartet with Dave Brubeck-piano, Paul Desmond-alto sax, Joe Morello-drums & Eugene Wright-bass recorded live in 1964. This song is the highest-selling jazz recording of all time.







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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

05/08/2024 - ONLY IN AMERICA! THE BEST OF THE BEST - MUST SEE GREAT ARCHITECTURE BY AMERICA'S GREATEST ARCHITECT

Today's post will continue to explore the work of master architect Frank Lloyd Wright - his masterful creation of a house built in 1936 that showed the world the power and grace of brilliant design for a weekend pleasure house built over a waterfall. Click the following heading to see the details and history of this amazing house.

 Fallingwater 

This incredible home should be 
on every Vagabond's Bucket List. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built from 1936 - 1938, it is listed in Smithsonian's "Life List of 28 Places to See Before you Die". It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. In 1991, the American Institute of Architects named Fallingwater the "best all-time work of American Architecture". When we visited this amazing "weekend house", we were mesmerized by the beauty, the details, and the energy of this incredible structure. As its cantilevers spread out over the stream and waterfall below, we didn't want to leave this place of power and grace. For those who are interested in the details and history of this amazing work of design, just click on the video below.


Just fly into Pittsburgh and check into a hotel or AIRBNB. The Pittsburgh Airport is about an hour and half from Falling Water. We stayed at the Falling Rock Resort when we visited. However, like all hotels in America, its price has increased substantially. 

Other places can be found close to Fallingwater:

The Historic Summit Inn is a genuinely nice place with excellent reviews for prices starting at $170 per night. It's only twenty-four minutes from Fallingwater.

Polymath Park has four houses designed by Wright you can reserve only thirty minutes from Fallingwater. They are not cheap. Prices start at $475/night, but they are much lower than Falling Rock and they are all designated as Usonian Houses, a term used by Wright to describe the design of smaller middle-class residences.

Shipping Container In Acme Pennsylvania is a very cool AIRBNB only 30 minutes from Fallingwater. It has excellent reviews and is only $96 per night in May. As always, The Nomad Architect is looking out for fellow Vagabonds to stay in great places on the cheap.

If you're a real Vagabond just find a place to your liking that likes your pocketbook. They're everywhere!


This amazing home designed by the master is a mere twelve minutes from Falling Water. A descriptive quote from the website for this amazing house:

"Both dramatic and serene, Kentuck Knob is situated just below the crest of a great hill and appears part of the landscape itself. An organic floor plan, cantilevered overhangs, and imaginative expanses of glass effortlessly integrate the interior of the house with its stunning surroundings. On a tour of Kentuck Knob, visitors will learn about the Hagan family, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the architect's vision for the house. Our experienced staff of tour guides share stories, historical information, and offer unique insights into this wonderful house". In addition to the house, designed and built 1953-1956, there are a number of sculptures placed in a sculpture meadow on the eighty-acre site around the house. It's a must see for all Vagabonds.

Seeing great architecture as designed by America's greatest architect was an absolute pleasure. The landscapes of Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands are perfect for some of the greatest design ever created. I hope all Vagabonds will go and see these amazing works of architectural art.


D.L.Stafford

For this week's video, enjoy this interesting song by Simon & Garfunkel. The video shows many examples of work accomplished by Wright - As someone once said - "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright can be interpreted as a tribute to a revered artist and a reflection on the lasting impact of artistic relationships. It underscores the power of creative connections to shape our lives and leave a lasting impression even after those connections have faded."







Wednesday, May 1, 2024

05-01-25 A GREAT PLACE TO BUNK AND AN EVEN GREATER PLACE TO EXPERIENCE NOT FAR FROM THE WINDY CITY

Before leaving the Windy City, there are several buildings you can experience designed by Frank Lloyd Wright - The Robie House, The Rookery, Frank Lloyd Wright House & Studio and Unity Temple just to name a few. Just click the link below for tour information.

Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago | Tours and Events | Choose Chicago

 Places to See and Rest Your Weary Head Just Outside Chicago

After a few days enjoying America's Second City hop in your rental car and make your way west to an amazing house with insane views where you can rest your tired body and brain after a day of walking and exploring. Then head on over to tour one of the greatest modern homes in America.

Seth Peterson Cottage - It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny. The drive from Chicago is around three hours. When we visited, we stayed a couple of nights in Madison, Wisconsin at the Concourse Hotel. It's only about an hour from Madison to the cottage and reasonably priced. Or you can just drive to the cottage and enjoy the scenery. There are things to enjoy in Madison such as several Frank Lloyd Wright Houses and other structures. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is worth a visit as well.

This intimate small villa, one of the last houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at the tender young age of ninety, is a completely refurbished cottage immersed deep in the woods of Mirror Lake State Park, Wisconsin. With magnificent views high above Mirror Lake, this place is full of design as only Wright could provide. At only 800 square feet, built in 1958, it was a tiny house long before tiny houses became the thing. The cottage is a quick one-hour drive from Madison. Be prepared to enjoy your culinary skills. Buy some groceries in nearby Lake Delton and prepare meals at your leisure. You can also find numerous restaurants in Delton just a few minutes away. It's also one of the most romantic places you could ever enjoy. If you want to see some of the details of the cottage and read more about this unique place, just click - AMAZING HISTORY

A Perfect Day TripTaliesin

A short one hour from the cottage is Frank Lloyd Wright's second home and studio - TaliesinJust click on Taliesin above to read the story behind this famous house by America's greatest architect. This house/studio has a long history of design and building of many structures from 1911 to 1955. It also has tragedy in its long-complicated life. As an architecture student, I studied Wright in architecture school. But, like all great works of design and art, when you see them up close and personal it completely affects you. This house of powerful design with grace for living a life of purpose is truly one of a kind. I highly recommend the Estate Tour (just click for tickets) to see this extraordinary masterpiece of architecture started in 1911. 

After the Estate Tour, grab some lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants in Lake Delton a quick 45 minutes from Taliesen and only 5-10 minutes from the cottage.

From Chicago, this trip is easy and comfortable. A great, romantic place to stay. A lot of things to do - boating, kayaking and canoeing on the lake plus experiencing one of the greatest works of residential architecture ever designed and built and immaculately restored. And of course, touring Wright's second house and studio is a must for all Vagabonds.

D.L.Stafford

Today's tune/video for the week features a compelling romantic tune with an interesting video featuring the multiple award-winning Norah Jones in a song released in 2002 - Come Away With Me. A perfect tune to inspire all Vagabonds to just go somewhere with the one you love!