Monday, February 23, 2015

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I've spent most of the post-holiday season trying to avoid winter. There have been a lot of Netflix and red wine marathons in the apartment. And anytime I go outdoors, it's usually underneath three layers with my chin tucked in and eyes on the ground, trying to avoid slush and ice. (Well, except for yesterday...yesterday was beautiful, slush and all.)

But a couple of weeks ago, we decided to embrace winter with a quick getaway to Winvian in Connecticut. I've been wanting to visit for a long time, so it was really nice to get the chance to stay here. It's a quick drive from New York City - just under 2 hours - and really a perfect spot to enjoy the season as it's meant to be...quiet, with feathery snowfall and a real wood-burning fireplace.

It's so easy to get caught up with the busyness of the city and forget just how different the rest of New York is from Manhattan and the other boroughs. You drive about 45 minutes northeast of our apartment and the scenery changes entirely. Highrises are replaced with towering pine trees and the snow turns from gray sludge to brilliant white powder.

Even without the signs, it was easy to tell when we crossed from New York into Connecticut. We opted for a path with no tolls and it led us through some of the most charming small towns I've seen. Really, there's something about Connecticut that just makes you feel like you're in a movie set. There's also so much history in that part of the country. It's pretty awe-inspiring.

Speaking of history, Winvian's definitely got it. It started as a family home and the original structure was built in 1775 - a year before the Declaration of Independence made the United States of America its own country. Later, in the 1940s, the property and surrounding land was purchased by Winthrop and Vivian Smith (he was a founder of Merrill Lynch and she was a model). They turned it into a working farm and summer getaway.

Now, Winvian is a collection of 18 luxury cottages, each with their own design, plus the Hadley Suite, which was the family's home. It's still owned and operated by the Smith family and you're likely to meet them during your stay.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

We stayed in the Woodlands Cottage, a spacious cabin with tall ceilings propped up by towering tree trunks...one of which doubles as a chimney! There was so much beautiful detail in this cottage and I'll never forget the warm, calming scent of pine. I loved the placement of the bed. It served as the divider between the bedroom and bathroom and on the back of it is a trickling waterfall.

At night you could watch the sunset from all around and, in the morning, I could see the blue sky and icicles peeking in from windows placed just below the roof. Everything about the cottage was relaxing...it was exactly what you'd want in a woodsy retreat.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

We toured a couple of the other cottages that weren't occupied, including the Beaver Lodge, which had the coolest bed I've seen in a long time! A winding staircase led up to a loft area where you could play a game of chess with the snowy branches as your backdrop. Every cottage at Winvian has these kinds of thoughtful details.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

The details extend into their public spaces, too. In the main house, where you'll find the bar, restaurant and games, walls and shelves are decorated with old American art and Smith family photos. When we first checked in, I felt like I was coming to a friend's house to stay for the weekend. We played some pool and shuffleboard, drank some wine and then got ready for dinner at Winvian's restaurant.

I wish I had photos of our dinner, but the restaurant is just so quiet and intimate that I didn't want to disturb the experience for anyone. There are a handful of small dining rooms with just a few tables in each. We sat in a dining room with three other couples, in front of a roaring fireplace, and were treated to what I can only describe as a "beautiful" four-course meal.

Winvian's menu is pre-fixe and you can do three or four courses. Almost everything the restaurant serves - about 80 percent of the ingredients when we were there - comes from their own onsite farm. They grow produce and raise their own livestock. It makes sense, given Winvian's farming history. The selection changes almost daily.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

One other thing I don't have a photo of for blogging is the spa, which is more modern than the main house but still really cozy. I booked a facial with Susan and am so glad I did because her facial massage skills, I'm almost positive, cured my congestion-fueled headaches.

Winvian was beautiful in the winter, but I'm sure it's equally enchanting during other months, too. In the spring and summer, they roll out free lawn games for guests and I can only imagine the brilliant foliage in fall.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

MORE INFO: Winvian
GOOD FOR: Weddings, Romantic Retreats
PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Oh, Hi, 2015!


I thought it would be fun to take a look at the 5 most-popular blog posts from 2014. I know you're all on the edge of your seats...
Wow, putting that list together was actually a pretty fun look back at my 2014 travels. What a ride it was! This year is shaping up to be a great one, too. In the next few weeks alone, we're heading to Connecticut to stay at Winvian and then later this month flying to the British Virgin Islands.

And then the trip I'm most excited for: Back to Arizona for a few days to celebrate my brother and sister-in-law's Baby-Q. YES, the first grandchild on our side of the family is due to make his appearance 4th of July weekend. (As my SIL pointed out - how beautifully ironic that the little half-foreign babe may share a birthday with America.)

Winvian is a sweet setup. I first wrote about it a few years back for SheKnows when I did a piece on hotels for music lovers. It's got a really cool lineup of themed cottages - even a tree house! - and I'm looking forward to a peaceful overnight in the Woodlands Cottage. All I can think about is snow falling out the window and a quiet, wintry night.

Winter just doesn't have the same charm here in the city, where the snow comes in several shades of gray, yellow and brown, but not so much powdery white.

And then of course our trip to the British Virgin Islands is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: Sandy beaches, blue water and hopefully a lot of warm sun. I'm still in disbelief that we're staying at Peter Island and am really interested to see how the B.V.I compare to the US Virgin Islands, which we visited last summer.

But, mostly, I'm just trying not to jinx myself here because there have been so many travel delays in and out of NYC this past month. I just hope we make it down in time!

Other than that, still working to flesh out the travel schedule for this year. I have so many places I want to go and many potential trips in the works. I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

In the meantime, I'm putting the final touches on a Kickstarter campaign for a really exciting passion project of mine that I've been working on for the past year or so. I'm actually launching a new online woman's publication!

It's all about female camaraderie and supporting sisterhood. I can't wait to share more details in the upcoming week. Stay tuned.

It's going to be a very exciting New Year, indeed.
 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

All three of the U.S. Virgin Islands have a very different vibe. St. Thomas has the nightlife, the cruise ships and the big-name resorts. St. John has the outdoorsy activities, the hiking and the snorkeling. St. Croix is where you'll find remnants of the Danish influence - historic towns, pastel buildings and lots and lots of expats.

We stayed at three different hotels during our USVI visit (two on St. Thomas) and our stay on St. Croix, at Renaissance St. Croix Carambola, was my favorite. It's a trek to get there - up a mountain, along winding roads, but so worth the trip. Renaissance Carambola is secluded and quiet. The beach amenities aren't as luxurious as what you'll find at Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, naturally, but it's a pretty and clean beach with plenty of space and chairs.

The drinks are fairly priced, the food is really good (the dinner menu was actually downright impressive, I thought!) and the resort is beautifully designed with dark wood finishing, billowing white curtains and spacious rooms. It's a very lush, tropical setting. The staff was friendly, helpful and chatty. I loved it!

If you have some time to kill on St. Croix, definitely visit the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Tours aren't particularly earth-shattering, but the distillery is a local point of pride and it's a cool 45-minute-or-so geek-out session. For $8, you get the tour plus four tastings and two full drinks in the bar afterward! In one visit, we snagged up cheap souvenirs (duty free booze!), tasted really good rum, got introduced to the wonder that is Velvet Cinn and learned where bananas really come from. (Random, I know.)

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: On the "Rum" in St. Croix - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me and Stjepan Alaupovic

Monday, January 12, 2015

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Our day exploring St. John had a lot of those "I don't ever want to forget this" moments. First, it's absolutely beautiful. Sixty percent of the island is a natural preserve, so it's mostly emerald-green, overgrown foliage that cascades from the mountaintop down into white sandy beaches and crystal-blue waters.

Second, it's super easy to reach from St. Thomas...just a quick (and scenic!) 20-minute ferry ride. Because our trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands was a relatively quick one, we decided to only overnight on St. Thomas and St. Croix. If I could do it all over again, I'd probably opt out of staying on St. Thomas and just split my time between St. John and St. Croix. Nothing wrong with St. Thomas - it's just a little more built-up than the others and St. John is, well, everything they say it is.

If you plan on trekking around St. John, I recommend hiring a taxi service. We (me, the husband, my brother and my sister-in-law) worked with a man named Kenneth Louis and he was great. (He's a preferred vendor of the USVI tourism board.) We did a kayaking, hiking and snorkeling tour with VI Ecotours, which was awesome because it gave us access to the otherwise very exclusive Caneel Bay. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen! The water was perfect. The kayak over to the beach from the meeting spot is really pretty and the hike - albeit too long in my opinion (really, you should be in the water as much as humanly possible in a place like St. John!) - was an interesting view into island life.

(Plus, we saw deer at the Caneel Bay Resort!)

It was one of those perfect-weather days and I didn't want to get out of the water. My brother loves anything to do with snorkeling and seeing as how we don't see each other much these days (he's still in AZ), I was mostly just happy to have the time with him. The little things, you know?

The sun was just starting to set as the four of us kayaked back to the meeting spot from Caneel Bay. I'll never forget that fiery sunset or the clear Caribbean water...or the fact that I got to see it with three of my favorite people paddling alongside me.

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Snorkeling St. John - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me and Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: VI Ecotours

Monday, January 5, 2015

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

It's been a gross pattern of snow, freezing rain and in-your-face wind here in New York City lately, so in an effort to at least mentally escape, I started combing through pictures from our U.S. Virgin Islands trip last August.

As fate would have it, we were able to line things up so that we could visit at the same time as my sister-in-law and brother, so the four of us got to spend a few days together enjoying the island vibe. Our first night was at the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas and we just spent our stay on the beach, which, as you can imagine at a resort like that one, was pretty perfect: plenty of lounge chairs, free standup paddle boards and snorkeling gear, and a full day of sun and blue skies.

The sunny weather was a happy treat considering a hurricane had come through the islands just days before our trip. That's the trade off when you go during low season - less crowds and less hassle, but a risk of storms. As a result, the island dealt with rolling power outages for the first two days of our trip, but it really wasn't anything too bad. It was resolved fairly quickly and then we enjoyed a stretch of great beach days.

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Beaching it in St. Thomas - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Me!
MORE INFO: Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas

Monday, December 8, 2014

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I wish I had had more time in Charlottesville. The few days that I spent in Virginia were mostly packed with back-to-back site visits of destination wedding venues. That's what most people don't tell you about travel writing - when you're on assignment, you're lucky to spend an hour in any one place.

In fact, you're often rushing from appointment to appointment, connecting with and interviewing sources, snapping photos for reference, burying your head in a notebook, trying to write down all of the things that you'll need to remember for that article that's due next week, next month, maybe a year from now. It's a lot of fun, but it's no vacation.

Travel writing is my job, but it's also something that I love to do. So, I've decided to try and slow down on my trips and take the time to really enjoy a moment when it draws me in. In Charlottesville, that moment was the two hours (!!!) we spent at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. After a lunch of cheese, brick-oven pizza and an arugula salad (for good measure), we took advantage of the free picnic blankets they hand out to guests and sat down with our bottle to take in the rolling hills of fall foliage.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

How do I describe the vibe at Pippin Hill? I'm not even sure...it just...was. It was busy enough to have a good flow, but not too busy to where you couldn't find your own plot of grass on the lawn. There were couples, groups of friends, families with infants flailing about happily in their Baby Bjorns. There was a carefree Saturday afternoon buzz in the air. Staff was friendly; not for the tips, but because they just are friendly in Virginia. It was perfect.

Pippin Hill is owned by a husband and wife team. He's got a background in advertising and she's a local weddings expert. It makes total sense. They've nailed it as far as hospitality goes...and it's not all about the superficial. Pippin Hill is absolutely beautiful, yes, but the food is also delicious and the wine is great.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

While in Charlottesville, we stayed at The Boar's Head Inn, another place I would have loved to spend more time. It's charming, comfortable and very low-key - the kind of inn where guests congregate in the living room for coffee every morning and tea and pastries every afternoon. Our room was cozy but also very modern and it looked out onto the lake.

We woke up early one morning to take a walk around the property and ended up chatting with a couple who's daughter is going to college here in New York City. They were both UVA alums, in town for the big homecoming game that weekend, and en route to catch a party bus that was taking them to the stadium. They almost missed it because they were giving me their recommendations on other beautiful wedding venues to check out for my story. This is Virginia, friends.

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Destinations: Charlottesville, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I also wanted to mention - on our ride up to Charlottesville from Richmond, we made a stop at Tuckahoe Plantation (pictured up top). It's Thomas Jefferson's childhood home. Now, the family that lives in the house rents the outdoor spaces for weddings and special events. The Southwestern girl in me still can't believe places like this exist...

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Virginia Is For Lovers

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

On a trip to Virginia in October, I spent a few days in Richmond. Most of the time was reserved for touring the city's weddings venues as part of research for a story, but I did manage to sneak in a few nerdy-fun history stops, The Virginia State Capitol being one of them (where a lot of movies have been shot, including Lincoln...they used it as The White House).

I hopped on a Segway to tour the city's other historical landmarks and of course made sure to try out some of Richmond's best restaurants. My favorite was Comfort, where Chef Travis Milton's Appalachian family recipes take center stage. During a site tour at Maymont, a preserved 1800s mansion with vast lawns and beautiful views, I spotted one of the coolest and most ornate beds (IT'S A SWAN!) I've ever seen.

Fall was in full swing during my visit and I'll never forget the colors that I saw peeping out around the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Photo Tour: Richmond, VA - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
MORE INFO: Virginia Is For Lovers