Unique Hotels So much more than just a bed! http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels <![CDATA[ Country Inn & Suites, Port Columbus Airport]]> Pros:reasonable price, newly remodeled, great bed, nice spa
Cons:none offhand
The Bottom Line:
Why-O, Why-O do I continue to return to Ohio?

Another trip to Ohio, another hotel.   This time I selected Country Inn & Suites, located adjacent to the Port Columbus Airport.    I find most of the accommodations near the airport are well appointed, maintained, have a great staff and are loaded with amenities.    I wasn't disappointed this time either.

Amenities [room & hotel]:
~Hi-speed internet
~fitrness center
~indoor pool & spa
~complimentary hot breakfast buffet
~cable TV
~coffee maker
~iron/ironing board
~work desk
~children 18 & under stay free
~complimentary airport shuttle
~same day valet dry cleaning
~read it and return lending library

My room:
I chose the Country King Suite because I was going to be there several days and wanted the convenience of the fridge & microwave.    I also liked the fact that it was a suite type room with separate living and sleeping rooms, divided by french doors.  The sofa, which was quite comfortable to just relax on, also made up into a queen size bed.   Televisions were in both the living & sleeping areas, as well as telephones.   The bathroom was of ample size with soft towels and double ply toilet paper.  

They also have a country double queen room available, comprising of two queen beds but no separation between living/sleeping area. 

Breakfast:
hot waffles, muffins, fresh fruit, bagels, breakfast drinks, coffee/tea, grits, oatmeal, yogurt, danishes, wheat bread.   There is also a rotating breakfast of omelet burrito, french toast, bacon, sausage, biscuits & gravy & rosemary potatoes.   Breakfast is served 6-9 M-F; 7-10 S, S.   All breakfast items are free and plentiful and a respite from eating out at a restaurant so early in the morning.

Overall:
I did not avail myself of the fitness center but I did soak up the spa to my hearts content.   The heated indoor pool was still a bit too chill for me.    The pool area was appointed with plentiful lounge chairs and towels, accessed by your room key.   I enjoyed the breakfast variety as they switched it out twice during my stay.

I found the staff very enjoyable and helpful.   Housekeeping was prompt on your requests and since I discovered I had forgotten my toothpaste ... again ... I received a complimentary service at the front desk.  

The room I selected was large with great blackout drapes and for once the room temperature was easy to maintain.   Television reception was clear and internet was fast and free.   I really enjoyed kicking back in my room each night after my trip to the spa, sipping a hot tea and propping my feet up to catch some local television.

Rating this on a scale from the other two place I have stayed on my last two trips, Best Western PLUS and Embassy Suites I would probably bring this one in at third.   Not because I found anything particularly bad but the spa at Best Western was uber-outstanding and the room amenities at Embassy Suites was geared more for an extended stay than Country Inn.   However, the bed at Country Inn was far more comfortable and I liked the defined areas of the room.    I'd stay here again, if I wasn't on a quest to try out all the hotels in Columbus.


Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Columbus Airport
2900 Airport Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43219
1-800-596-2375

thanks,
Susi

 
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/d/UserReview-Country_Inn_Suites_By_Carlson_Columbus_Airport-50-1784683-215714-Country_Inn_Suites_Port_Columbus_Airport.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/d/UserReview-Country_Inn_Suites_By_Carlson_Columbus_Airport-50-1784683-215714-Country_Inn_Suites_Port_Columbus_Airport.html Fri, 25 Nov 2011 02:19:55 +0000
<![CDATA[ Best Western PLUS Port Columbus Hotel]]> Pros: convenient, well appointed, friendly staff, reasonable rates

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:


"and now, a year since we met
my Best Western beauty I just can't forget"
~Savoy



Generally I don't make the trip to Ohio by myself anymore but some unsettling information came up and Diane wasn't able to accompany me so off I went.   Traveling alone can be daunting, even when you are returning to your birth home, and locating a safe and secure sleeping arrangement even more so.   That is why I settled on the Best Western PLUS Port Columbus Hotel for my nights sleep.   Even though this is at the airport, I still felt it was a safe environment because all the hotels in this particular area cater to the business world, their clients, and meetings, etc.    Although there are several in the area, Best Western was the first one I came to when I exited the freeway and I was exhausted after that lengthy drive, so they won.

Check in/out:
Although I had no reservation, the check in process was quick and efficient.   Check out was equally painless.   Check in time is 3 pm, check out 12 noon.   Counter personnel were pleasant and helpful.

Services and Amenities:
There is a small business center located in an alcove off the lobby.   It had all the requirements; 3 computer stations, fax, printer.   Free Hi Speed wireless service is available in both the business center and your personal room.   I had no reason to visit the business center so I cannot attest to the reliability of the equipment there.

Another room I had no desire to use was the exercise room.    However I did stick my head in to check it out.   It had free weights, stairmaster, and some other tortuous looking device.   Located in this room was a TV and fresh water supplies.   Since I did not use the equipment, I cannot testify to how it operated.   In my three days at the hotel, passing by it several times a day, I never saw one person using any of the equipment.

Off the lobby is a small sundries shop.   It carried various food items and drinks.   I did utilize this shop and bought some frozen food item that I could heat up in the microwave in my room.   After an 8 hour drive and then spending 6 hours after that involved with police, falsified documents, and evicting a family from my mothers house, I had no will power or stamina to go out to find anything decent to eat.  

Another area I was deeply committed to was the indoor pool/spa area.   This is located off the main lobby, accessed by your room card.   The pool was actually quite large for a hotel indoor pool but most peoples version of heated is quite different from mine.   The spa, however, was decidedly delicious and just what I needed after a trying day or two.   The pool area had two large umbrella tables [umbrellas?  indoors?  boggles the mind] as well as ample lounges and chairs scattered about.   Towels are furnished in the pool room.  It is an unsupervised area, they ask that no one swims alone but don't seem to enforce it.   Hours are 8 am - 10 pm.

Also available is a guest laundry, pay as you go, free local calls, 24 hour coffee/tea in lobby, free USA today, meeting rooms with catering available and complimentary breakfast.   This is a hot breakfast, served off to the side of the lobby, with adequate seating and your choice of what you want to eat.    We aren't talking Eggs Benedict or anything, but waffles, eggs, breakfast meats, toast, hot and cold cereals, various juices and fruits as well as pastries. 

Standard guest room:
I had the basic room, there are three types available.   Mine had king-size bed with pillowtop mattress, plenty of pillows, and the bedding smelled fresh and clean without an overwhelming bleach stench like I've found in other hotels.   In addition to a large L-shaped desk area with an extremely comfortable chair, I had a roomy overstuffed chair with footstool, several side tables scattered about, and a large dresser/TV stand which also housed a mini-fridge and regular size microwave oven.  

The bathroom was compact but adequate in size.  Plenty of toweling available and an outstanding shower experience w/heat lamp.   I've never seen so many adjustments on a showerhead and I worked in the plumbing business for several years.  Toiletries were supplied but I did not use them since I bring my own.   The sink area is outside the bathroom in an alcove next to the closet.   It is a large area with a generous counter, large mirror, and hair dryer.   Coffee/tea supplies are located on a shelf in this area.   Ironing board & iron are in the closet, a safe is on a shelf under one of the night stands.

The TV was smaller, probably 26" and not flat screen.  It did have a large number of channels available and a decent picture.   A game station is hooked to the TV for those that are jonesing for their favorite game.

General hotel info:
This is a three story hotel with 331 rooms.   The other room selections are two queen beds or king bed with whirlpool tub.   One downfall of the hotel is no eating on site other than the breakfast or what you can purchase in the sundries shop.   It is close to several fast food places for a quick snack and really close to the interstate so you can travel to a regular restaurant for a full meal.   They do offer what they call "Order Inn" which is a room service type of system from local eating establishments.   It covers every type of food you can think of, the prices are very reasonable but you must have an order of know about delivery time, quality of foods, or any delivery charges.

The hotel overall was very clean and well kept.   Furnishings throughout the hotel and my room were comfortable, well made and showed no signs of wear and tear.   Sofas and comfortable chairs are spaced throughout the floors in nooks and crannies where you could relax outside the confines of your room.   Soft drink machines and ice machines are on the first and third floors, just off the elevator.   There is only one elevator to serve the entire hotel, used by patrons and staff alike.   It is quite slow and the wait could be a while during peak hours.  I understand they have a managers meet-n-great sometime in the early evening but I saw no sign posted about it and never saw it happening despite the fact I passed through the lobby several times through the day and night.

This must be a popular hotel for meetings, although I only saw one large meeting room.   It was populated day and night by several different groups but their presence in the hotel was not intrusive.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at this hotel and was pleased I made the choice.   The price was reasonable at $109 a night, considering all I got, the size of the room, the great breakfasts, and that outstanding spa.   I'd stay here again and would recommend it to anyone traveling through the area.

thanks,
Susi

Best Western PLUS Port Columbus Hotel
1450 Airpointe Drive • Columbus, Ohio 43219
Phone: (614) 337-8400

Recommended:
Yes]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/product/UserReview-Best_Western_PLUS_Port_Columbus_Hotel-50-1771020-214055-Best_Western_PLUS_Port_Columbus_Hotel.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/product/UserReview-Best_Western_PLUS_Port_Columbus_Hotel-50-1771020-214055-Best_Western_PLUS_Port_Columbus_Hotel.html Thu, 6 Oct 2011 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Embassy Suites - Airport, Columbus, OH]]> Pros: clean, convenient, well designed and great staff

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:


"She Say I Sound Funny
At Embassy Suites Sittin On The Bed
Countin Money"
~Eightball & Mjg



Another trip to Ohio, another hotel.   This time we selected the Embassy Suites, Columbus-Airport because it was close to both the airport and I-270, which I  take to reach the nursing home where my mom is staying now. 

Check in was a breeze with no problems, same held true with check out.   The desk was well staffed and they were polite and courteous.  The lobby is  well appointed with an eating area off to one side, where you get your delicious breakfast.  It does face out to the open air atrium at the center of the hotel accompanied by a large fountain.  Quite a nice space to take a little break and relax.   The atrium lounge is where they hold the Manager's Reception nightly.   Adjacent to this area is their restaurant, Flying Spoons, where you can get a light lunch or snacks. 

The room:
Let me tell you what we like about Embassy Suites ... the fact that it is a suite, without the extra expense.   It offers a separate bedroom area and living area, as well as a kitchenette.    The bedroom had a king-size bed outfitted with a Serta Suite Dreams mattress.   The living area had a sleeper sofa, queen-size, so it could accommodate a family of four with no problem.   Both rooms offered a 42" HDTV with movies in-suite.   They also offer, which is unusual, hard wired and wireless connection for your computer, for a nominal fee.

The kitchenette is smaller but accommodating.   It had an under counter refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and wet bar.   They also supply basic utensils and plates, both disposable.   The large desk in the living area doubles as an eating surface but it does only have the one chair.    There is a safe in the room large enough to store your laptop if you are out and about and don't want it disturbed.  

The bathroom was good size with a full tub/shower, complimentary toiletries, and - oh, yeah, double ply toilet paper.   Towels were large, soft, and plentiful.  

Amenities:
Some amenities offered by the hotel are a 24-hour business center, complimentary, sundry shop, in house laundry and dry cleaning services,  24-hour fitness center, indoor pool with whirlpool, and a sun deck.  We did indulge in the pool and whirlpool, which were both wonderful and well needed.   The area surrounding the pool is large with quite a few chairs & lounges with scattered tables. 

We did not utilize their shuttle service which goes to both the airport and Easton Town Center, since we had our own rental vehicle.   In addition we did not attend the nightly Manager's Reception that offers finger food and complimentary drinks, including adult beverages.   We did partake in the cooked-to-order breakfast each morning which offers fresh fruits, pastries, waffles, pancakes, eggs, breakfast meats, juices, coffee & tea.  

This location also has The Flying Spoons Restaurant but since we either dined out or at friends and family, we never even stepped foot in the place.   It is convenient, however, for out of town people staying at this facility for work or conventions since it does offer an eating establishment on site if you are without transportation.   From what I understand they offer a decent fare at a reasonable price and don't rush you out after your meal is done.   In fact they encourage you to stay.

For those interested, they have a full array of banquet, meeting,  and convention possibilities.   They have several meeting rooms as well as a large reception area outside the rooms.
 
Overall impression:
Overall I was very impressed with this location, the staff, and my stay.   I've stayed in other Embassy Suites and have always been pleased with the accommodations, staff, and pricing.   If it wasn't my goal to try out new hotels each time I visit Columbus, I'd definitely stay there again. 

thanks,
Susi

Embassy Suites
2886 Airport Drive, 
Columbus, Ohio,  43219
Tel: 1-614-536-0500

PS they utilize the Hilton Hhonors Reward Program

Recommended:
Yes]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/product/UserReview-Embassy_Suites_Columbus_Airport_OH-50-1759963-212137-Embassy_Suites_Airport_Columbus_OH.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/product/UserReview-Embassy_Suites_Columbus_Airport_OH-50-1759963-212137-Embassy_Suites_Airport_Columbus_OH.html Thu, 25 Aug 2011 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ Incredibly well-executed local treasure with breathtaking views!]]> This has to be one of the best local treasures we've discovered in ages.  My husband and I wound up here after a mishap with our original plans for a weekend getaway to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Turned out to be the best thing that could've happened!

Terranea offers the best unobstructed views I've seen from anywhere in or around Los Angeles.  The view is simply spectacular, and offers a south-facing view off of the Palos Verdes peninsula that Angelenos rarely get to see (we're usually looking west, naturally), as well as awesome views of Catalina Island.

We felt like we'd gone abroad, yet were literally in our own backyard.  Amazing!

The most impressive thing about the resort, aside from the luxury amenities, is how they've integrated the property into the local terrain, and also maintained so much free access for locals

We were very familiar with this area from when it was the old Marineland that had since closed and become a great spot to hike around and kayak in the cove (though that was quite hard to access).  The resort has now made a fantastic nature trail around the entire property, added a small lovely beach in the cove (where you can rent kayaks as well).  There's a very cool cave to explore in the cove, and the property will coordinate a dive trip or even horsebackriding for you.  You'll see a lot of wildlife, particularly the pelicans, herons and seagulls swooping along the bluffs.  There was even a golf cart roaming with a rare eagle and giant owl on display -- random, though pretty cool to see.

It's VERY kid-friendly, which is a plus for families, and noteworthy if you're looking for a quiet adult getaway.  There is an adult pool though, however it wasn't open when we were there.  The spa also has a pool though, where kids aren't allowed (I believe).  If you are with kids - the pool offers a jumping water fountain and tiny sand area -- SO perfect for toddlers, and even a swirly slide for bigger kids (and grown ups too ; ) 

One drawback - we were there on a packed weekend and there were no chairs available at the pool - which was a pretty big bummer, though we wound up having a much better time down at the more secluded (and much quieter) cove beach.

The pool also offers cabanas you can reserve, with full-service, if you're going big ; )  You can't access the pool if you're not a guest - however you can get a day pass to the Spa (which has stunning views from the pool area).

Locals are welcome at any of the properties restaurants (There are three or four)  - and you won't want to miss Nelson's restaurant!  It's a sports bar so the food is simple, but the sunset views are unrivaled -- perfect place for a cocktail or a group party. 

There's free parking for local beach access, as well as parking in the lot just south of the lighthouse - which leads down the trail to the resort where you can explore the property or stop to dine at the restaurants.

The rooms are done in a chic beach decor, and are well-appointed.  The balconies are a bit tiny, but comfortable and that view trumps any issues.  I also did wonder why the bed wasn't situated to face the view head-on - seems like that could've been laid out better.  Also, there was a private party going on at the adult pool area until well into the night, so we couldn't sleep with our veranda doors open as I'd have liked - you might inquire if there are any special events happening outdoors on the nights of your stay, and reposition your room based on that.  However, our south-facing view couldn't be beat and I'd probably have opted for that side of the hotel, even if we'd known.

The staff was VERY gracious and helpful, all around.  The rates reflect the hotel's luxury status, however aren't obscene and are in keeping with the quality of the experience.

There are also casitas that offer a couple bedrooms, patios and private fire pits -- would be awesome for a family trip or bachelor/ette trip.  The property has a beautiful spot for weddings, and you see a lot of them - though man is that cliff windy!  Hope the brides have some serious hairspray on hand ; )

Weather note -- the forecast will be key to your stay, as it's often foggy up on the bluffs which makes for cool weather and can affect the view. 

All in all, the resort is a total gem.  The architecture and design of the buildings make them fade away into the hillside and feels like it's just part of the cliffs, surrounded by indigenous flora and fauna.  Just lovely.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Terranea_Resort-50-1444890-208410-Incredibly_well_executed_local_treasure_with.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Terranea_Resort-50-1444890-208410-Incredibly_well_executed_local_treasure_with.html Tue, 7 Jun 2011 18:35:36 +0000
<![CDATA[The Palazzo Las Vegas Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/LuxuryHotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_Palazzo_Las_Vegas-706-1388472-206513.html http://www.lunch.com/LuxuryHotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_Palazzo_Las_Vegas-706-1388472-206513.html Wed, 27 Apr 2011 16:19:15 +0000 <![CDATA[ Some things never go out of style]]>
I spent a wonderfully relaxing half day at the Spa where I received the best massage of my life! I ate several delicious meals from the in-room dining menu including a superb dish of braised short ribs. I also had a wonderful meal at Michael Mina. The concierge was very helpful in getting me an aisle seat to The Lion King at Mandalay Bay. I also had the best luck on the slots here of anywhere else I played all week.

I also appreciated the security at the guest elevators that prevents anyone from getting on the elevator without a room card.

As much as I was impressed by the amenities and beauty of The Bellagio, what really stood out for me the most was the impeccable service. Every single person I came in contact with treated me with courtesy. These guys really get it. Their people are their best asset!

Don't miss the Conservatory and the chocolate fountains at Jean Philippe Patisserie. And the tram that connects The Bellagio to the Crystals, Aria and the Monte Carlo is very convenient. A tram comes every 3 minutes so no waiting!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Bellagio-50-1438539-204478-Some_things_never_go_out_of_style.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Bellagio-50-1438539-204478-Some_things_never_go_out_of_style.html Wed, 23 Mar 2011 22:31:54 +0000
<![CDATA[Trump International Las Vegas Quick Tip by vegaslove]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Trump_International_Las_Vegas-50-1388470-203427.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Trump_International_Las_Vegas-50-1388470-203427.html Thu, 10 Mar 2011 22:58:35 +0000 <![CDATA[Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas Quick Tip by vegaslove]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Hard_Rock_Hotel_and_Casino_Las_Vegas-50-1686531-203425.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Hard_Rock_Hotel_and_Casino_Las_Vegas-50-1686531-203425.html Thu, 10 Mar 2011 22:46:45 +0000 <![CDATA[ Grand Luxury Heaven on Earth]]>
The Hyatt is located on the south shore of Kauai. This side of the island is known for sunny weather and warm temperatures, a summer calm summer swell and a large population of Hawaiian Monk Seals. 

The Hyatt is the at the end of the road, the last property in the stretch of development on the south shore . This makes for a very secluded, quiet property. The neighboring properties located to the left of the resort are all residences and long term condominium rentals. To the right of the property is famous Shipwrekcs beach and beyond that, Mahaulepu. Though Shipwrecks is a popular local surfing spot, it is only really busy when the swell is up. The parking lot is very small, so it is rarely crowed like other south shore beaches. 

Rooms

I have stayed at the Hyatt more times then I can count on my fingers, starting from my 5th birthday party. The rooms are always nice, clean, comfortable. They have only improved over time, as the Hyatt recently converted to the Grand Hyatt. 

The beds are some of the more comfortable things I have ever slept in. There are layers and layers of padding, blankets and sheets and ample pillows. There are no itchy or uncomfortable linens here. 

In the bathrooms, sometimes the water pressure can be a little low, but that is to be expected of an island resort. 

The soaps and shampoos are from the Anara Spa on the property and smell and feel delicious. I always steal the lotions as they are very soothing for a sunburn. The towels are high quality and there are plenty of them. 

Pool

The pool, at the center of the resort, is the crown jewel of the Hyatt. I always am amazed that it does not make more top 10 best pools lists, as I am always checking them to see if the Hyatt made it. 

The pool is a multi level lazy river with 6 "mini pools" connected by a decent water slide. The very top part of the pool is adults only.  They have mini cabanas that are first come first serve and lots of lounge chairs to spread out on. The adult pool then flows under a bridge to a mini slide, perfect for babies who are too small to go on the regular waterslide. The mini slide connects to a larger pool area that has the jets for the lazy river. This is usually where my family and I camp for the day. It is easy to get in and out of the water, and there are a lot of waitresses walking around. The jets are strong, but not overwhelming. It's very easy to float down the river, coming back up is a fun challenge. It's a fun workout! The waterslide is long, and pretty large for a resort pool. It is a fun ride that people of all ages will enjoy. Recently one of my 6' + family members got stuck on the slide, so make sure you listen to the instructions!

Food
 The breakfast buffet at the Ilima Terrace is wonderful. The Ilima terrace is an partially outdoor restaurant with a mini lagoon and partial ocean views. The buffet has a wide variety of hot breakfast foods, fresh fruits and pastries, and omelet and crepe stations. The poolside cafe is great, the food is good, and you can order from any of the waitresses walking around the pool. Their soft serve frozen yogurt is my most favorite fro yo I have ever had. They have great romanic dinner spots, including Tidepools and Donderos. I have never eaten at Tidepools, but have heard great things, and Donderos not for a long time. Their menu recently changed, and it looks yummy!


For kids - Babies love the pool and the lagoon. The waters in the lagoon are warm and very calm. Kids will LOVE the pool and will spend hours going down the water slide. Floaties are allowed as are inner tubes and balls on the lower lever so your tot will not run out of fun activies to do. You can rent kyaks and snokling gear for the lagoon. There is also a Camp Hyatt for kids, which I know I attened when I was young but I cannot for the life of me remember. I do know I enjoyed it though.

For teens - They will also love the pool, and they will love getting away from the family and checking out the beach next to the resort. It is a super popular surf and body boarding site all year around but in the summer is when the waves really get going. A lot of teens hang out after school and on the weekends. For the adventurous older kids, there is a 30 ft cliff to jump off (Only do this in the winter, when the waves are calm) 

This past February, my sister got married at the Hyatt. It was a beautiful wedding. From what I know, the staff was very accommodating and great to work with. They let my sister switch rooms, when we decided that the one room was too far away from the wedding site. We had an issue with a leaky rain gutter, they fixed the problem, and served champagne before the ceremony to our guest to comp us for any stress that the problem had caused us. There was a slight issue with the catered food, ie, not what the bride had requested, but overall good. The wedding cake was amazing! The reception ended at 10 PM, but the staff was gracious and did not rush us out of the restaurant. 

This might not be the nicest hotel in Hawaii or the grandest but I can certainly say you will not be disapointed as this is a very well rounded amazing hospitality driven resort with something for anyone and everyone]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Grand_Hyatt_Regency_Kauai-50-1615621-203304-Grand_Luxury_Heaven_on_Earth.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Grand_Hyatt_Regency_Kauai-50-1615621-203304-Grand_Luxury_Heaven_on_Earth.html Tue, 8 Mar 2011 17:34:34 +0000
<![CDATA[ Great, Affordable Hotel Right in the Tourist Heart of San Francisco]]>                                                                

Cost: Standard (2 Queens): Daily: $149; 1 Bedroom Suite with Sofa Bed: Daily: $179

Location: Literally in the tourist heart of SF, one block from Fisherman's Wharf, two blocks from Ghiradelli Square, two blocks from the Cable Cars, one block from bike rentals to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and a close jaunt to Union Square.

Amenities:
  • Fitness center and a Bistro on the second floor that serves Starbucks and breakfast until 10am. The Bistro serves your usual breakfast fare of eggs, muffins, fruit, granola, etc. The fitness center has your usual treadmills and stair climbers and faces the courtyard.
  • The Market for 24-hour snacking at reasonable prices where you can find beer, wine, snack foods, candy, etc.
  • There's a business center with books and free business services with printers, faxes, computers, and an area to print out Boarding Passes.They also have free WiFi througout the hotel for guests to use. Rooms also have a wired option that you can plug into as well, in case your laptop isn't WiFi friendly.
  • Concierge 
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Laundry Facilities
  • Valet Parking ($36/daily includes in and out privileges) 
  • For a full list of their Amenities, feel free to check out that link, no need to bore you with all they have to offer here.

When we first got there, it was a bit early to check-in though my friend had arranged for early check-in online, the suite wasn't ready. However, the friendly staff took our bags and gave us bag claims. We ventured out into a beautiful, sunny SF day- the ones that are so rare that each time they happen, you just have to be outdoors, soaking it all up, truly enjoying the beauty of the City.

Must Sees Near the Hotel:

DINE: Restaurant #1: Las Margaritas, the name says it all. They had outdoor seating, fresh and delicious food, fantastic servers and possibly, best of all, a Mayan hangover cure. It's off the menu and it comes from the Mayan busboys who will only give you the recipe in Mayan. It works like a charm, all of us agreed and then, we dipped into our margaritas LOL.

                                                            

Restaurant #2: The Franciscan was next on our stop with mussels and shrimp that came out sizzling on a cast iron skillet which we had with some local SF brews. This is a must do if you're going to stay at the Marriott, it's an institution of great SF seafood with pictures of classic and current stars lining the walls in black and white photos. Not to mention a great view of the Bay with Alcatraz in the background. The meals here are a bit pricey, so you may want to dress up a bit, if you'll be dining during dinner hours. Otherwise, sit at a booth for appetizers and drinks. The booths also have binoculars attached so you can get a close up view of Alcatraz.

                                                                    

Restaurant, well OK, dining spot #3: Crab Market.at Fisherman's Wharf If this list wasn't in chronological order, it'd be my #1. I take all my friends that are visiting SF here and it's totally worth the crowds. This is where you get your clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, the REAL San Francisco treat, and an Anchor Steam which will only set you back $6-$8. They also have fish and chips, calamari, cracked crab, or any other yummy seafood treats for cheap! My favorite is Guardino's and the classic Nick's.

                                                                       

DRINKS:

Las Margaritas: above, has fantastic margaritas. 'Nuff said.

Fog Harbor: at Pier 39, a little tricky to find but, as you get into Pier 39, look to your left, there will be some stairs that lead directly up to Fog Harbor. The food here is really good but, I come for their drinks. They have an open air lounge with lounge couches and chairs, two waterfalls, and a huge fireplace. The managers never care if you rearrange the furniture to suit your needs, I do it every time I go there. Their drinks are strong and delicious and they have both a great wine list as well as a cocktail menu.

                                                              
For drinks, pool and dancing: The Parlour is AWESOME! Our night ended up here when my girls wanted to stop in for shots on the way back to the hotel. Yeah, that's how they roll. It's right next door with a huge neon sign, BAR, on it and on Sunday night, it was the only thing open. We walked into The Parlour and saw a DJ and a pool table with little booths that each had their own flatscreen TV. The drinks were strong, the music was amazing (and I'm picky when it comes to DJs) and the crowd was random, just how I like it!

                                                             

WINE TASTING! What would be a trip to SF without some wine tasting and there are a bunch of great tasting rooms in the City; however, for walking distance's sake- head to the Wattle Creek Winery at the Ghiradelli Square where tastings are $10 each off their regular menu or $20 off of their VIP list- each come with five tastings. That is, until you join their club- free to join, free tastings, and you can buy 2 bottles every 6 months which can run you only $36-$48. Once you join, Jesse (hi Jesse! You ROCK!), will just keep you plied with tastings until you make him stop. We had so many flights and walked out without paying anything, except for the bottle I bought for my friend for a belated b-day gift. Added bonus: it's next to Kara's Cupcakes (definitely worth a visit after the wine!).

                                                                
Shopping: You've got the funky tourist shops that actually have quite a bit of cute stuff for good prices, Ghiradelli Square, and Pier 39 within walking distance of the hotel. Directly across from the hotel is a huge Levi's store with a big pair of jeans hanging out front. You're also a short distance to Union Square which has every imaginable department store or boutique you could ever want.

Enjoy your stay in the lovely San Francisco- my favorite City, so far!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Courtyard_Marriott_Fisherman_s_Wharf-50-1714152-203149-Great_Affordable_Hotel_Right_in_the_Tourist_Heart.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Courtyard_Marriott_Fisherman_s_Wharf-50-1714152-203149-Great_Affordable_Hotel_Right_in_the_Tourist_Heart.html Sun, 6 Mar 2011 00:48:29 +0000
<![CDATA[ Affordable, clean self-catering apartments in the heart of Bruges]]>
The Mistral has two bedrooms - one with a queen size bed on the main floor, and two smaller beds located in the loft upstairs. The apartment was spacious and very clean. There are a couple of comfortable couches in the main room, and a flat panel TV with multiple channels in Dutch, French, and English. In the kitchen there is a table for dining. There are two bathrooms - one full with shower, and one half. Parking was around the corner at the underground garage, and we were given parking vouchers as part of our stay. The building itself is very safe and secure. There is an elevator in the building, so no need to lug your baggage up the stairs.

One of the main attractions about staying here was the kitchen. Silverware, plates, glasses and some cookware are provided. There is a coffeemaker that uses "pods", a stove top, and a microwave. There is also a small dishwasher, and dishwasher tablets and dish soap are provided. Note that the nearest grocery store closes rather early, at 6 pm. There is a convenience store about a block away that sells some prepackaged foods, and there are others that are not a far walk from there. Many restaurants are willing to provide takeaway meals - just ask.

Walking to main attractions from the apartment was quick and easy. The walk to the main square took about ten minutes.

The cost of the Mistral per night was 220 euros, but we visited during the off season, so expect prices to be higher in the peak season. Overall, our experience at House of Seasons was nearly perfect. One problem we had with our stay was the noise coming from the street below at night while we were trying to sleep. It sounded like there was a nightclub or bar that stayed open very late, and we heard what sounded like drunken revelry into the early morning. With that in mind, take a good pair of earplugs! Also, note that when punching in the security code, you must push the "bell" button after the numbers. This caused a lot of confusion for our party, but fortunately a resident or guest eventually opened the door and explained this to us.

*There are many lovely photos of the apartment interior that are better than mine on the House of Seasons web site, so I have just shared the views from the balcony of the belfry and the courtyard.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-House_of_Seasons-50-1711719-203032-Affordable_clean_self_catering_apartments_in_the.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-House_of_Seasons-50-1711719-203032-Affordable_clean_self_catering_apartments_in_the.html Thu, 3 Mar 2011 18:06:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Perfect NYC Hotel: Cool Decor, Good Location and Great Value]]> Hotels.com. I’m always torn between location and value when looking for a hotel in NYC. I've often found great hotel deals that end up being obsolete because I'll spend tons of money on cabs trying to get to where I need to go in the evenings. In the past I’ve stayed in the Midtown and Midtown East area. And though I’ve always enjoyed it, this time I wanted to be closer to the funky restaurants and fun shopping in Soho and the Village.


I found The Gild Hall on Hotels.com for $147/night. I had never heard of it, but I did my research and found that Gild Hall is a Thompson hotel located in the Financial district. The reviews on the place were hit and miss, mostly because of the semi-deserted location during the weekends and lack of cabs, but the place looked like a classy, boutique hotel on their website.

Still undecided I actually googled the address and looked up the location on the map. I then noticed that Booking.com had an even better listing price of $135/night. Sold! After comparing other hotel ratings, I didn't think I could find a better deal. And though slightly weary of the location, I thought it would be worth the risk. And it was!


Location:
Gold Street is a small, quiet street a couple blocks off of Ground Zero. There is very little traffic or noise, which makes it easy to sleep soundly at night. The reviews are right regarding transportation issues. It is more difficult to find a cab here. You can't walk out your front door and flag one down with ease. That being said, the subway is only a couple blocks away and if you need a cab the bellman will hunt one down for you or the front desk will call one for you. My tip would be plan ahead! At night it can take 20+ minutes to grab a cab, so go downstairs early, ask the front desk to help you, enjoy a drink at the bar and relax while you wait. We didn't find it to be much a problem, but perhaps going in to the situation with knowledge that cabs could be a concern also prevented disappointment or frustration with that issue. 

The Financial District doesn't have the same charm as other areas of New York and there are certainly not as many cute restaurants or pubs to just pop into at the end of the night, but the walk from our hotel to Broadway and the Soho area was short and enjoyable. A cab ride wasn't very expensive, and frankly it seemed easier to get around then when I stayed in Midtown East.

If you are look for something to eat that is quick and close, there is a pizza place just kitty-corner to the hotel that was friendly, inexpensive and tasty.

Service:

I thought the service was very good. Upon arrival we were checked in quickly by friendly faces and offered a glass of prosecco. We asked for help from the bellman and front desk several times regarding cabs and they went out of their way to call for one and even run down the street to flag one for us.  I also needed an iron at one point and received it in only a couple of minutes.

The Lobby:



This place is cool. It was designed by Jim Wolward and every detail seems to have been considered. The lobby and rooms have an upscale modern, lodge feel. Light leather chairs and sofas decorate the lobby. A small bar adjoins the lobby seating area. Dark wood, antler chandeliers and book shelves make this a cozy place for a vintage cocktail. 

The Room:



I had read complaints that the rooms were small, and yes there wasn't a ton of space, but for NYC it was very comfortable. The large leather headboard, plaid blanket on the bed, and large metal chandelier made this a uniquely appointed room. It was cozy. And though it was a bit dark in the room, we didn't really mind. The bathroom had a decent size shower and was clean.  The bed was quite comfortable and I actually slept really well. It was a tad bit cold in the room, so I recommend requesting an extra blanket.

Overall, I was extremely happy with our stay at the Gild. It has a fun aesthetic, comfortable rooms, and is of great value, especially for NYC. I will definitely stay at the Gild again!





 


  ]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Gild_Hall-50-1703049-202875-The_Perfect_NYC_Hotel_Cool_Decor_Good_Location.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Gild_Hall-50-1703049-202875-The_Perfect_NYC_Hotel_Cool_Decor_Good_Location.html Mon, 28 Feb 2011 18:38:52 +0000
<![CDATA[ Outstanding All Around]]>
The staff is very professional and service all around is excellent. We dined at the Copperleaf Restaurant and were very pleased with the service and food quality. There is an emphasis on local food and drink, which we appreciate since one of the main reasons we travel is for the "foodie" experience.

The free breakfast buffet is without a doubt the BEST we have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. Items offered include house-made granola with dried fruit, hazelnuts, and almonds; smoked salmon; an assortment of breads, rolls, and bagels; boiled eggs; oatmeal; cold cereal; coffee, juices, hot cider, hot cocoa, and my favorite (and not a cheap item, either!) - a selection of Mighty Leaf teas!

While we were walking the outdoor paths along the protected wetlands area, we saw a few garden beds and several fig trees - we were later told that the restaurant grows some of its own fruit, vegetables and herbs. The landscaping is beautiful; we enjoyed just being outdoors and were amazed at how clean and crisp the air is, even though the hotel is close to an airport.

We stayed in one of the suites with a fireplace. It was more spacious than we expected, and very clean. Each building has a common area with a fireplace and free snacks such as potato chips, malted milk balls, yogurt, string cheese, bottled water (usually NOT free at hotels!), and mini containers of Haagen Dazs.

We received an incredible deal as AAA members (about 2/3 off regular price for staying 3 nights), so I hope that they continue offering AAA discounts. We will certainly return to Cedarbrook when we visit Seattle. The value for the price is hard to beat.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Cedarbrook_Lodge-50-1692743-201089-Outstanding_All_Around.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Cedarbrook_Lodge-50-1692743-201089-Outstanding_All_Around.html Fri, 11 Feb 2011 21:11:04 +0000
<![CDATA[ A classic Northern Minnesota Lodge.]]> Solglimt review for the first half) and our final destination was the Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen, Minnesota. Located only a hop, skip and jump away from the Canadian border (around 50 miles), Lutsen is about as far north as you can go. It’s also long been a destination for skiing, snow shoeing and exploring lodge living.



Perched on the edge of the mountain, with ski trails running through the property, Caribou is the perfect place to stay if you want easy access to the ski slopes. The main chalet and ski lift is just a short walk up the street, so you don’t have to deal with the parking lots that are over-flowing with adrenaline-pumped skiers and boarders.

Upon arrival, our check-in was quick and painless. I had booked us the Nordic Whirlpool room (considered a condo) which faced slope-side and was next door to the main lodge. The room included a whirl pool, kitchen complete with small fridge, stove, and necessary plates, pots and utensils, a wood-burning fireplace and deck. It sounds luxurious and cozy. And it was, but I found the wear and tear of the room took away from some of these extra amenities. The carpet was older; the comforter on the bed had seen better days and the bathroom was not stocked with any conditioner. The whirlpool stuck out into the middle of the room, making it’s positioning a bit awkward and in general, not so enticing (we didn’t even use it).



On the positive side, the wood burning fireplace was awesome. The lodge has wood, matches, newspaper and fire starter set up and ready to go in your room. There are also wood stations positioned around the property if you run out. The crackling of the fire on a very chilly day is the epitome of a perfect Northern Minnesota experience. As such, the second you stepped outside the whole area smells like a wood- burning fire. It’s such a lovely smell, especially in the winter.


On the first floor of our building was the main pool, hot tub and game area. The hot tub was large, clean and perfect for relaxing with a beverage. My recommendation is avoid this area after 4 pm. It becomes crowded once the skiers get off the mountain and children run rampant. The ping-pong table is fun for a short game, though its close proximity to the pool results in repeated attempts to extract the balls from the water.

The main lodge has a ski-in, ski-out dining area that hosts breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ate there for the tail end of a brunch buffet and for lunch. Their food was decent, not overly exciting, but reasonable for the price and satisfied our hungry bellies.

Our friends were also staying at the Caribou Highlands in one the Townhomes. The Townhome included three bedrooms (a loft room with private bathroom, and two downstairs bedrooms – one with bunk beds). A separate living room with a huge fireplace made this a great hang out spot for a group of friends. The only drawback I heard about was the lack of heat on the first night and cold shower water.

This was a great lodge experience for New Years. The Lodge provided a shuttle service on New Year’s Eve which took us up the mountain to Charlie’s (a bar) that had live music and entertainment for the evening. A firework show was held earlier in the night before the party really got started and the atmosphere was jovial.

If you’re there to be active, you won’t mind the outdated aesthetic of the condo-suites. After all, you're there to be outside, not in. And lodges are meant to be a bit rustic. But if you’re craving a lodge with more of a spa-like feel, there are quite a few in Grand Marais that might be more appealing.

It was bitterly cold while we were there (around -10 at one point) and the freezing rain earlier in the week had made the slopes less than ideal, so unfortunately we didn’t end up skiing. However other activities such as snow shoeing, dog sledding and tubing are available and lots of fun. And if you’re craving a bit of shopping or a new restaurant, the town of Grand Marais is only 20 minutes north and certainly worth checking out!  Overall an enjoyable lodge experience with great friends!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Caribou_Highlands-50-1685529-200544-A_classic_Northern_Minnesota_Lodge_.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Caribou_Highlands-50-1685529-200544-A_classic_Northern_Minnesota_Lodge_.html Tue, 1 Feb 2011 17:47:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Just like sleeping at home, only better!]]>
Luckily, my fiancé had wisely predicted this course of action and done his research regarding places to stay. We ended up at a very cute and quaint B & B called The Solglimt. The location was perfect, only a block past the lively Canal Street, and would have been a very convenient walk across the lift bridge to restaurants, pubs and shopping if it hadn’t been for the freezing rain.

The Solglimt is highly lauded as one of the top B &B’s in Minnesota. It has been recognized as having one of the best breakfasts around and it is green certified! They enforce green building practices, purchase and serve only local and organic food and recycle. Awards aside, it’s charming, well-kept and the owners are thoughtful, friendly and make their home a very welcoming place.

Parking:

The Solglimt has parking in their driveway enough to accommodate most guests. This makes it easy to carry your suitcases up to the front door and it’s always nice not to have to worry about permits, street parking etc. If you arrive late and there are no spots, they do have a lot across the street that is free.

The Arrival & Tour:



We were greeted by both owners at the front door (where we removed our shoes) and were given a tour of the house. There is a cozy living room with a nice DVD selection, a computer with internet access and some sweet treats for nibbling. Downstairs is a sitting area and kitchen. The kitchen is stocked with coffee, tea, water and soda for the taking. They also allow you to keep your leftovers in their fridge if you have dinner out.

Our Room:

The Inn hosts 5 suites and ours was The Kandinsky Loft. The top suite in the house, it indeed had an open loft layout. The room theme was inspired by Kandinsky’s “Open Green” painting which adorned the wall, and the decorations throughout the suite utilized primary colors with a contemporary style. Small, but comfortable and quite cozy (like you’re staying in a good friends home), the room was perfect for a romantic one-night stay. It fit a queen bed which had soft sheets and was positioned next to a gas fireplace. There was a skylight over the bed that gave us a cool view of the drawbridge and we even saw a barge moving through the harbor late at night.


The bathroom had everything we needed from towels, shampoo, conditioner, and soap to thoughtful details like make-up removal packets. They also had two glasses available for wine or champagne, which we made use of upon arrival. And there was a small TV in the corner of the room.

Price:

Our room was around $115 a night. During peak season the rate is $135. I believe this is the lowest priced room available, but still had all the luxuries of the other suites. Relative to hotel prices for the night, this was slightly more expensive, but certainly worth it for the unique experience.

Overall, it was a treat. I love staying in places with character and special attention to detail. One word of caution -  the general nature of a B & B is very different than that of a hotel. You don’t have that anonymous feeling, rather you feel like you are staying as a guest in someone’s home (even though you are paying for it!). If you enjoy saying hello to the owners and other guests as you come in and out of the house, and don’t mind being considerate of your noise level, then you’ll love staying here.

Unfortunately I can’t give you a verdict on their breakfast. The weather continued to get worse and by morning. The rain had turned to ice. The roads were slick and it took us almost a half an hour to get into my car (doors were frozen shut). I had to shimmy in through the hatchback of my car, all the way up to the front seat to turn it on! And it was snowing. As a result, we left early in the hopes of getting to our final destination before the weather got any worse. Next time I will definitely be staying for the breakfast though, my mouth was watering as I left!

My recommendation:

I would definitely stay here again, but only in the summer or fall. One of the perks of this B & B is the location. It’s right on the beach, so you want to be able to enjoy sitting on the deck, watching the ships pass by and sticking your toes in the water.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Solglimt_Bed_and_Breakfast-50-1685530-200542-Just_like_sleeping_at_home_only_better_.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Solglimt_Bed_and_Breakfast-50-1685530-200542-Just_like_sleeping_at_home_only_better_.html Tue, 1 Feb 2011 16:08:37 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Spot To Stay In Pittsburgh]]>
Location - It is perfectly centrally located in the heart of downtown with views of the river, adjacent to the Heinz Hall (concerts/shows), an extremely short walk to PNC Park (home of the Pirates), to Heinz Field (home of Steelers) and many restaurants, bars and retail..

Rooms - What you would expect from a Fairmont 2010 opening hotel, high quality through and through. Very nice furniture, comfortable bed, high end bathroom fixtures. I received a free suite upgrade which was huge, but imagine regular rooms are good size as well.

Amenities - Everything in the hotel is state of the art, featuring one of the nicest health clubs/gyms I have ever seen in a hotel, including a steam room and dry sauna. There is also a full spa.

Food/drinks - The lobby features Andy's, a lounge that has become a happening happy hour spot that serves casual fare. A full restaurant, Habitat, offers cuisine focused on local, sustainable ingredients. I did not end up making it to Habitat, so I can't shed any light there.

Cost - The two room, upgraded suite I had, with "river view" was $204/night. This was over MLK weekend in January, Steelers playoff game.

Quote - I'll leave you with this. The opposing team, Baltimore Ravens, were staying at the hotel while I was there. Heading from gym back to the room, i was greeted in elevator by six of the Ravens players. Talking about the hotel, one of them said, "This is the nicest hotel we've stayed at, the only other one maybe as nice was the Ritz Carlton in St Louis".]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Fairmont_Pittsburgh-50-1690440-199584-The_Spot_To_Stay_In_Pittsburgh.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Fairmont_Pittsburgh-50-1690440-199584-The_Spot_To_Stay_In_Pittsburgh.html Thu, 20 Jan 2011 08:56:24 +0000
<![CDATA[The Best Over-the-Water Bungalows]]> Romantic Honeymoon Hotels list got me thinking about all the different exotic bungalow accommodations in the world. Since this is my dream vacation - honeymoon or not - I want to make an informed choice based on a variety of global locations and property features. Which one do you think sounds the best? ]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2817-The_Best_Over_the_Water_Bungalows.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2817-The_Best_Over_the_Water_Bungalows.html Tue, 18 Jan 2011 16:25:52 +0000 <![CDATA[ Vegging Out in the Desert]]>
The first 4 nights of my stay are using Starwood Points. I've wanted to check out The Parker for quite some time, so I was super excited I could stay here as a reward. I made the decision to extend my stay by two nights (and pay for it, since I'm out of points) at 3 in the morning when my drunk self thought I had to check out the next day and staying 2 extra days seemed like an appropriate solution. The plan was to go to The Ace since I'm attending a gala there, but I hate The Ace, so paying an extra $70 or so bucks to stay put isn't THAT bad.

The Good:
  • Jonathan Adler. Personally, he's one of my favorite designers, so seeing Oh So Jonathan elements throughout the property just makes me giddy.
  • "Up front" staff. The front desk staff have been nothing but kind, friendly and warm throughout my many interactions with them. The valets are all very sweet and have come running even when I've rolled up at 3 in the morning.
  • The grounds- AMAZING. I've hung out all over the property on comfy furniture with beautiful plants & flowers all around. It's a really fun place to be and very relaxing.
  • The food- I'd stay away from the curry tofu on the room service menu but other than that everything I've had is divine. Overpriced, for sure- but delicious nonetheless. 
  • Housekeeping- I've been working at night, sleeping weird midmorning hours & coming in & out of my room all day, but still manage to have a beautifully clean room. Today I was in my room until 2pm, ran downstairs to greet some friends and take them back to my room and in that 5 minutes housekeeping had come & gone. 
The Bad:
  •  "Wake up with complimentary coffee"- I was so excited when the gal checking me explained that, because there are no coffee makers in the room, they would do a wakeup call with coffee brought to my room in the morning. This has yet to happen as scheduled. The first morning I ended up calling room service & they stated I wasn't on the list for wake up service. The next morning I got a wake up call... but the coffee didn't arrive until 90 minutes later. This morning I ended up over sleeping and missing two film premiers because I never got a call. In each case they eventually brought coffee after I called, but it's pretty annoying that they can't just do what they said they would.
  • Turn Down Service- This is my fourth night here but it's the first time I came back to my room and had received turn down service. Ok, who really cares, right? I can crawl into my own covers without someone folding down the top, but at a hotel like The Parker, you should get every single service every single night. I'm convinced the only reason I even got it tonight is because I mentioned it to the manager last night.
  • Outlet Issues- There is wifi access in each room but other than in the bathroom there isn't a single easily accessible outlet in the entire room! The tv sits on a big heavy dresser, so I assume there's an outlet back there, but it's too far from the table to plug my laptop in even if I could move the dresser. The lamps are plugged into a power strip that sits directly in the middle of the floor under the king bed. I had to literally crawl under the bed to plug in my laptop and cell phone. Since the far lamp has to be plugged in, I can't pull the power strip out enough so if I want to unplug one of my power cords I have to crawl back under the stupid bed again.
  • Second-Hand Smoke- Each room is "non smoking" but they also each have a patio or balcony with an ashtray sitting on the table. Since it's beautiful in Palm Spring in January, I've been keeping my patio door open when I'm in the room or sitting out there at night. This was all fine and dandy until Smokey McSmokerson took the room next door. I'm on a corner, so our balconies make an L-shape and her smoke comes right in my door. It doesn't seem that difficult to make one side of the building smoking & one not.
  • The Heat! My God! The Heat! Like I said, it's beautiful out, but when I walked into my room it was SO stuffy & hot. Again, it's a small issue, since the AC works fine & I just sat out on the balcony while the room cooled down, but if the Courtyard by Marriott can turn the air on in my room as I'm checking in, it seems The Parker could manage the same.
  • $25 cab fare- If you're planning to spend most of your time partying in Downtown Palm Springs this is not the right place for you. After a night of drinking at Toucans (admittedly, the furthest point that's still considered "downtown") it took $25.60 for a cab to get me back to The Parker. This is really more of a destination of it's own than a "Palm Springs hotel", so keep that in mind. 
The Ugly:
  • Some taste issues: Keep in mind that The Parker is a very unique hotel. There's a lot of orange and, as I said, a ton of Jonathan Adler everywhere. The decor is not going to make everyone happy. Things like a gigantic pair of lips with a cigarrette hanging out of them or a large plaque above the fireplace with "DRUGS" spelled out in faux-light bulbs might not be your cup of tea.
The Final Thought:
I don't think I'd stay here again if I was visiting Palm Springs, but that's only because I come here to shop & see movies. If I was going to honeymoon in Palm Springs or just wanted to sit by a pool and have a massage or two, I might be more inclined to return. The service and incredible grounds could surly keep you happy if you just wanted to veg out in the desert.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_Parker_Palm_Springs-50-1607214-199002-Vegging_Out_in_the_Desert.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_Parker_Palm_Springs-50-1607214-199002-Vegging_Out_in_the_Desert.html Mon, 10 Jan 2011 06:30:21 +0000
<![CDATA[ Couldn't Have Asked For A Better Hotel Deal in New York City]]>
A couple of weeks prior to my trip to the East Coast, I was still undecided about whether I would pass through New York City or not during my stay, so I totally put off looking at hotel rooms until the very last minute.  Once the travel plans were finalized, I was kicking myself for not having decided earlier.  

I dreaded Kayak-ing or Googling because I expected even the cheapest of hotels to have sky high prices seeing that I was passing through during the holiday season, especially so close to new years.  I ended up being totally right to dread, though, because hotel prices were indeed insane.

After more internet searching on all of the various popular travel sites out there, I ended up completely lucking out when I stumbled upon the Herald Square Hotel for, get this, $109 a night, so about $130'ish total with tax and everything.  $109 a night hotel in the heart of NYC during new years?  Unheard of.  $109 in general is amazing for anywhere.  I was expecting to fork over much more.

Location
This hotel is located in the Flatiron District by many subway stations, as well as the Penn Station, which was fantastic for me because I arrived by Amtrak and ended up being able to walk to the hotel from the station.  It's pretty hip and happening in the area with plenty of stores, restaurants and people.
http://www.trainweb.org/chris/swm131.jpg

Customer Service
We were promptly checked in upon arrival.  The lady that checked us in was really nice.  When we called in with questions, they kindly answered them, and they also extended our checkout time by an hour and a half when we requested it.  Extra bonus points when I found out that this is a family business because I like supporting those!

Room
The room that I got was very tiny and quaint.  My arrival there made me feel like I was really finally in New York City.  The room was pretty much the size of the queen sized bed, plus room for a desk, closet and super mini bathroom.
http://images.pegs.com/imageRepo/1/0/31/71/598/new%20queen%20room_J.jpg
 
Amenities
The room was highly lacking in amenities, but for that price, that's passable.  The four notable things that the room had was a large LG flat screen television with cable, a Sony Dream Machine for playing CDs and to read time, free wifi, and they also had an Aveda soap bar in the bathroom.  Otherwise, it was lacking shampoo, lotions, mints, hair dryer and telephone.  I did highly enjoy this one amenity in the lobby though.  So very cool and nice of them.  Oh, and did I mention there were candies on the table, too? :D
http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5088/5313404141_96a2244a76.jpg

If you're looking for an inexpensive hotel to stay at in NYC and you don't mind a few missing amenities, then I highly recommend the Herald Square Hotel.  Such a great deal!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/business/UserReview-Herald_Square_Hotel-50-1683929-198331-Couldn_t_Have_Asked_For_A_Better_Hotel_Deal_in_New.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/business/UserReview-Herald_Square_Hotel-50-1683929-198331-Couldn_t_Have_Asked_For_A_Better_Hotel_Deal_in_New.html Sat, 1 Jan 2011 04:49:09 +0000
<![CDATA[ Great variety of cabins, easy process gave us a really fun getaway!]]>
Overall, it was a great experience!  There are several of these services in the Big Bear area, I've come to learn, and I can't compare it to the others - but on it's own I'd recommend them for sure. 

We stayed in the cabin called "Cornerstone" - but for sake of this review, I'll focus on the booking service more than the actual property we chose. 



What we liked the most about Big Bear Cool Cabins:

  • Wide Selection of Cabin Styles, Locations, and Sizes
    This was my favorite thing about the service.  They cover the whole range from super swanky  lakefront mansions, to very quaint - and affordable!! - little cozy cabins.  The architectural styles offer great range, to suit your desire for aesthetics and decor.  They also offer many options for the type of location (right in the action, off the beaten path, walk to lake, walk to ski resorts, etc), as well as size - from one bedroom to places that can sleep 20 or more people.

    Also, they have a nice number of pet-friendly properties, which is awesome.  Who wants to go on a cozy mountain getaway without having their pup to snuggle by the fire with?  Our place had a great yard, which was perfect for the dog (not to mention us humans ; )  we had room to sled on the property, and there was an awesome tree swing we all played on too).
        
  • Easy to Browse Website
    While it's kind of an old-school website in terms of layout and design, it still functions quite well.  I was able to really easily view tons of listings, check out several pics of each property, sort by # of bedrooms, people it sleeps, or amenities (like fireplaces and jacuzzi).  I could see the location on a map, to gauge proximity to ski slopes, shopping, or other local activities.  I suppose you'd expect all of this in a vacation rental site - but I just found that it met every need I had in terms of how to browse the info, and I don't have that experience on many other websites, so I found it a plus.
     
  • Availability of Cabins w/o 2 or 3 Night Minimum Stay
    This was crucial - part of what made the trip so affordable was heading up for just one night.  It's an easy couple hour drive, so a two-day trip with one overnight works well.  Very few services offer less than a two or three night minimum, especially over a holiday - but BBCC was willing to work with you up until the last minute to allow a one night stay at any of the properties still open. I'd imagine over a non-holiday weekend it would be even easier to accommodate.
     
  • Friendly,Knowledgeable and Helpful Staff - easily reachable by phone
    It's comforting to me to talk to a live human when I'm spending any large sum of money.  Also, it can just feel quicker and easier. I spoke with 3 different reps at varying points in the process, with questions, etc - and they were all very polite and professional.  Great experience - and unfortunately not the norm in today's sub par customer service culture. 
     
  • Great Communication (thorough emails)
    We received great, thorough emails at every step of the process, with everything we needed to know in terms of how the cabin was stocked, directions, how to get in w/ lock box codes for keys, and how to check out.  It was seamless and super easy.  They also called me to confirm things at the crucial points.

  • Nice, Clean Home
    The property was clean, nicely decorated with cozy cabin accouterments, and well stocked with kitchen supplies and the like.  Towels were like sandpaper and the microwave was probably the first one ever manufactured (hence took FOREVER to heat - oven wound up being better option) - that'd be my only complaint.  Very minor issues, overall.

    TIP -- pay attention to their instructions on checking the hot water so it's turned on.  Cold showers in a snowy locale are not fun ; )  Also - bring a humidifier... it's SUPER dry between the altitude, having the heater on blast and then the fire burning on top of that.

  • Cool Extras Available
    We didn't opt for any of these perks - but for a fee you can have them bring anything from firewood to a Christmas tree to the house.  That's pretty full service.  You can get a decorated tree or get ornaments separately to have a tree trimming party.  Personally, I'd always choose the more economic approach of bringing our own - but I liked that they'll offer all encompassing packages like this for those who may like to.  I could see it being useful if you had a big group coming and too many other details to handle.

Things that were less than great:

  • "Guest Web" Online Booking Feature Broke / Gave $ Error
    They were able to resolve this glitch quickly, but for a time the login wasn't working and then it showed that I was billed triple the correct amount.  Software they use for that Guest Web seems buggy and not reliable, hopefully they'll switch to something else.

  • Check-In and Check-Out times Make for Brief Stay
    Granted, it was a holiday weekend we were staying over, so the early check in and late check out options were not available.  Still though, check in was around 3pm, which means you don't really have the house for that much time if you're only staying one night (check out is 11a)- I guess that's part of why they encourage the two night minimum stay.  Kind of a buzz kill as we were planning - though practically speaking, by the time we got on the road and got up there, there was plenty of time to hang out in town or hike or ski and just go check in afterward, so it's doable to work around.

I'm really considering making this a standing tradition for Thanksgiving weekend.  We drove up the day after -- love how that felt like the polar opposite of "Black Friday" shopping gluttony - instead we literally ran for the hills.  Worked out great - just packed up all the leftovers and then had a delicious potluck, sharing our friends holiday dishes and keeping the fun holiday festivities going for a few extra days.  Perfect kick off to the season!]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/d/UserReview-Big_Bear_Cool_Cabins-50-1682470-197857-Great_variety_of_cabins_easy_process_gave_us_a.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/d/UserReview-Big_Bear_Cool_Cabins-50-1682470-197857-Great_variety_of_cabins_easy_process_gave_us_a.html Mon, 27 Dec 2010 20:47:39 +0000
<![CDATA[ This is why I stay at the London and ONLY the London when Im in LA]]>

I've lived in LA before so I know my way around and rented a car. The lady at the counter had the personality of drying wallpaper. Sometimes I feel like asking if there are any upgrades available. I mean, why not, right? She had the driest answer of "not today sir, unless you pay for it." Thanks lady. Then it's not really an upgrade is it? It's just getting more by paying for it. She tells me to pick any car in the intermediate SUV aisle. Ok. The row is filled with Jeep Patriots, Liberties, and some other like-sized SUVs. At the very end of the aisle in the last spot sat a nice shiny and still wet from its car wash Jeep Grand Cherokee. She did say ANYTHING in that aisle. Looks like I got my upgrade after all. :P to you, lady at the counter.  On the way from the airport I usually take the back roads for the sights. And for Randy's Donuts. It may not always be the most picturesque route (note the Beverly Hills Cop II Dent oil fields) but I'd take La Cienega up into Bev Hills /
WeHo are over the 405 to the 10 ANY DAY!
I get to the hotel almost two hours before the early check in.

Let's talk about the hotel. The London in West Hollywood (http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/) may possibly one of my all time favorite hotels to stay in. Why, do you ask? For many reasons, the first is more of a prerequisite when traveling within the US: they take pets. It's also how they treat pets that stay with them. When we arrived early, our room wasn't ready yet. I asked if I could go sit up by the pool with the dog while I waited. Not a problem. So I sit at a booth in the corner and order a bloody mary. It was the best bloody mary I've ever had. I could taste the fresh horseradish and fresh tomato juice. The lemon lime garnish and chili salt topped it off. It tasted like a spicy V8, I almost doubted there was even liquor in it (until I stood up - then I felt the vodka). The server took the initiative to ask if the dog would like some water and brought over some ice water in a martini glass. Does it get better than that?
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yes, it does. From the second I walked into the hotel, the staff was as on point as it gets. They remember your name from check-in to check-out. When you call for your car, no matter what event is going on at the hotel, it's there in 5 minutes. Every door is held for you and every staff member instinctively gives you the right of way. Every inch of the hotel is spotless, including the coolest suede walls which are also kept immaculately groomed (if you've been there you know what I mean and I bet you wrote something on them too). The view from the rooftop pool and gym is amazing and the weather was a nice 72. By the way, I HIGHLY recommend eating at least one meal up there. We ate breakfast up there and it was fantastic. 
 
After finally settling in the room, I was able to wash up, get the dog situated and get ready to go back out again.  For the rest of the weekend, the London and its staff took great care of us. Great service that is friendly, professional and personable make all of the shiny amenities shine that much brighter.  In my opinion, there is no other place to stay whenever I go to the Los Angeles area.
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_London_West_Hollywood_Hotel-50-1464140-197839-This_is_why_I_stay_at_the_London_and_ONLY_the.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_London_West_Hollywood_Hotel-50-1464140-197839-This_is_why_I_stay_at_the_London_and_ONLY_the.html Mon, 27 Dec 2010 03:27:56 +0000
<![CDATA[St. Regis Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/starwood/reviews/hotel/UserReview-St_Regis-248-1433584-197396.html http://www.lunch.com/starwood/reviews/hotel/UserReview-St_Regis-248-1433584-197396.html Sun, 19 Dec 2010 05:54:08 +0000 <![CDATA[ Opulent 7*]]> While it is true that some of the best things in life are free, often we have to pay a great deal to enjoy other things. It is then prudent to ask what we are actually paying for. In the past, we pay for quality, authenticity, uniqueness and beautiful stuff. In recent years, the trend is to not only pay for all of the above but also something else. Not only do we need these factors to be present we also need it to be a special experience. Yes, we are most likely be willing to pay a lot more for the experience of it all.

Since this is a review about a *dream* hotel, let's look at it from this perspective. So, other than it being a hotel with good design, architecture, hardware and service, what makes a hotel an experience of a lifetime? Why are we so much more willing to pay for this home away from home? Simply, why do we have a tendency to pay for extra for a hotel room?

I've stayed in thousands of hotels so I guess to answer this question, I'm more than qualified. I also did a course in Hotels & Tourism Management recently so I ought to know about this answer more than majority of the people. Yes, when we are away from home we need a room to stay. It is not just a simple room, we need one that gives us something more than what our homes have not offered us (be it for the average or the rich). We (at least majority of us) will choose a specific hotel and many hotels compete to not only give their customers the best, they also compete for the best customers. Hence, to see who did well or best in the industry would be most revealing.

To build a world class hotel, it is not as simple as just building the best infrastructure and architecture. A hotel is not like an office, it is not just a mere building. It comes alive and has its own magnetic field. A hotel is only as good as the people living in it. If one takes a quick look at the best hotels in the world, most often cited are those with the best services. If you take an even closer look, many of them are those in developing countries. For example, the most famous of them all is the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. So, what is it about these employees and what is it in their training and attitude that puts them above the others? Yes, it is fascinating when you think about it, isn't it?

In recent years, the Americans have contributed in some way to the rise of spectacular hotels in the world; either through the many business trips that executives took or due to the high prices of oil we all paid which had flushed the Arabs with plenty of cash to spend (and spent they indeed on many of the hotels in Dubai as well as the best sports cars in the world)! Yes indeed, if there is anything that remains out of our spend spend spend generation, it is these spectacular skyscrapers we see around the world. The most famous and awesome of which ought to be the Burj Al Arab.






I recall seeing the Burj Al Arab on a documentary in Discovery some years ago. It was a fantastic sight! Back then it was the only 7* hotel in the world (now, there is at least another one in China)! So, one wonders what 7* entails. Don't you?

Well, for one, you need to pay just to enter it. As for the others, let's take a visual tour of it so you may decide for yourself :-) 



I know a friend who had entered it for the experience. He didn't stay there for the night but he did experience it like no other. How? Well, he went there for golf. And here is what is distinctive about it, he played golf on its roof top!!! Is that awesome or what?!!!

 

So, other than golf, what is in store for you, you may ask. How about some of these:
  • Never been on a Rolls-Royce? No problem! A Rolls-Royce fleet will pick you up from the airport to begin with.
  • If you are fed up with traffic jams, how about a helicopter for transfers instead?
  • Reception desks on every floor. Private butler service around the clock.
  • In-suite check-in & check-out.
  • Rain showers & Jacuzzis in every suite (yes, suites, not rooms).
  • Dining under the seas and stars.
  • Your very own private beach. 
  • Presidential suite featuring 7200 sq feet of living space which overlooks the Arabian Gulf!

No, I have yet been there (since the last time I was in Dubai, nothing as great as this was in sight yet!) but it is an experience that I'll have to make sure I do experience one fine day, hopefully in near future! As for the rest of you, I leave it up to you to decide for yourself if you're willing to pay for a few thousand bucks a night just for an experience ;-) For those of us who are passionate about hotels, we'll find a way :-)

If you're in any way tempted and the high expense is no consideration, do make your way to the Burj Al Arab (aka Tower of the Arabs) when in Dubai. This is the link for reservation to the official site. Do let us know when you returned how the experience go; we'd all be most jealous!!! :-P

For now, this is the best I can offer, two excellent documentaries on the building of the Burj Al Arab & Burj Dubai (the tallest building in the world unless it's been overtaken by another building in Dubai recently). Dream on it! :--)











]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Burj_Al_Arab-50-1440456-196879-Opulent_7_.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Burj_Al_Arab-50-1440456-196879-Opulent_7_.html Sun, 12 Dec 2010 01:52:22 +0000
<![CDATA[Most Romantic Honeymoon Hotels in the World]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2752-Most_Romantic_Honeymoon_Hotels_in_the_World.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2752-Most_Romantic_Honeymoon_Hotels_in_the_World.html Fri, 10 Dec 2010 21:49:11 +0000 <![CDATA[Hotels for the Adventure Lover]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2742-Hotels_for_the_Adventure_Lover.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2742-Hotels_for_the_Adventure_Lover.html Tue, 7 Dec 2010 17:43:33 +0000 <![CDATA[Budget Boutique Hotels]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2725-Budget_Boutique_Hotels.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2725-Budget_Boutique_Hotels.html Tue, 30 Nov 2010 17:32:08 +0000 <![CDATA[Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach and Private Island Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Sofitel_Bora_Bora_Marara_Beach_and_Private_Island-50-1670172-194045.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Sofitel_Bora_Bora_Marara_Beach_and_Private_Island-50-1670172-194045.html Sat, 20 Nov 2010 15:31:36 +0000 <![CDATA[Amankora Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
]]>
http://www.lunch.com/amanjunkies/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Amankora-690-1670171-194044.html http://www.lunch.com/amanjunkies/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Amankora-690-1670171-194044.html Sat, 20 Nov 2010 14:59:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Aman Summer Palace Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/amanjunkies/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Aman_Summer_Palace-690-1444991-193915.html http://www.lunch.com/amanjunkies/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Aman_Summer_Palace-690-1444991-193915.html Thu, 18 Nov 2010 15:31:36 +0000 <![CDATA[Amanjiwo Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Provided that money is of not of great concern! Otherwise, a spa experience at this resort would be excellent too!]]> http://www.lunch.com/goindonesia/reviews/d/UserReview-Amanjiwo-142-1669696-193913.html http://www.lunch.com/goindonesia/reviews/d/UserReview-Amanjiwo-142-1669696-193913.html Thu, 18 Nov 2010 15:23:59 +0000 <![CDATA[Amandari Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/goindonesia/reviews/d/UserReview-Amandari-142-1669694-193911.html http://www.lunch.com/goindonesia/reviews/d/UserReview-Amandari-142-1669694-193911.html Thu, 18 Nov 2010 14:59:27 +0000 <![CDATA[Amankila Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Bali. I have the fortune to visit it when it was first launched, back then in early 90s. The resort is not in the touristy areas of Bali, hence, it's far away from the maddening crowd. The best part of it is that it overlooks the ocean and with private pools in each of the beach houses. That was way too cool back then. Imagine, even today, the concept of having your own pools in your backyard and the visionary illusion of it stretching as far as the oceanI was totally awed!

Official Site: http://www.amanresorts.com/amankila/home.aspx]]>
http://www.lunch.com/goindonesia/reviews/d/UserReview-Amankila-142-1669693-193910.html http://www.lunch.com/goindonesia/reviews/d/UserReview-Amankila-142-1669693-193910.html Thu, 18 Nov 2010 14:51:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Eco-friendly Boutique Hotels for Your Next Green Vacation]]> There is a huge demand right now for travelers looking for luxury boutique hotels, but with environmentally friendly standards. As such hotels are adopting green policies in both cities and suburbs. Here's a list of the latest LEED certified and eco-friendly boutique hotels. Next time you travel, go green!

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/MotherNatureNetwork/Lists-734-2710-Eco_friendly_Boutique_Hotels_for_Your_Next_Green.html http://www.lunch.com/MotherNatureNetwork/Lists-734-2710-Eco_friendly_Boutique_Hotels_for_Your_Next_Green.html Tue, 16 Nov 2010 17:28:58 +0000
<![CDATA[ Charming French hotel]]> The first time I stayed at this hotel back in 2004 it was standing very lonely in a barren lot and the whole scene was industrial with this darling little gem shining in the middle. Since that time it has grown up quite a bit. There is a very good Thai restaurant next door and the grounds of the hotel have been landscaped and have had time to mature. The hotel is decorated in simple, clean, solid colors with vintage French country accents. I've not had the pleasure of eating at the cafe as it has been closed during each of my stays. The menu is  limited but would make a nice and quick breakfast or snack. The hotel is run very much like a mom&pop village inn...it's almost like you are staying at a dear friend's home who has left the keys under the mat and put a pitcher of water on the nightstand along with a little snack. One standout feature  of this hotel is the lighting....it's all on sensors which really speaks to the conservationist in me. The halls are kept dark but the lights turn on perfectly as you advance though the hall. I've noticed that typically sensor lights turn on too late or turn on very abruptly. These lights turn on well before you need them and brighten ever so subtly so that you feel enveloped in a warm glow as you walk. The effect is  dreamlike.]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Metro_Hotel_and_Cafe-50-1659846-192025-Charming_French_hotel.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Metro_Hotel_and_Cafe-50-1659846-192025-Charming_French_hotel.html Wed, 27 Oct 2010 09:29:58 +0000 <![CDATA[ "To infinity and beyond!"]]> The Sheraton Waikiki in Oahu, HI was a fantastic hotel experience.  The hotel property had recently been updated prior to my stay.  With the addition of an infinity pool and restaurant area, this hotel is definitely one I will remember.  It is located in a great central location on the strip of Waikiki beach.  A block away from amazing shopping, from Hermes to Gap.  All we needed and more however could be purchased within the hotel property. 

The staff was amazing.  I experienced the best service I have ever received from Diane, a server at the swim up infinity pool bar, and The Edge restaurant.  Our last night there I happened to forget my camera by a lounge chair near the pool area and a pool boy actually turned it into security.  I could not believe it!  Those two people and their kindness alone would be reason enough for my return. 

The grounds were stunning and seemed to handle both adults and families very well.  The property was divided by The Rum Fire bar and tapas restaurant.  An adult only infinity pool on one side and a family friendly pool equipped with a water slide and lagoon style hot tubs on the other side.  We could enjoy great drinks, tapas, and live music at The Rum Fire.  Fire dancers on the patio outside "The Edge bar", or fine dining at The Twist, 30 stories up to a loft dining experience overlooking Waikiki beach.  There were a total of five restaurants on site, including buffet and market style options.  The musicians at the Rum Fire and the talents of the fire dancers were beautiful enough for us to skip going to a Luau. 

The rooms were great with a unique window/ mirror in the bathroom that opened up so you could see through the room to the ocean.  The fitness center was equipped with anything you would want and the entire hotel was very clean and consistently aesthetically pleasing.  On my next stay I want to try out the Spa Khakara as I did not have time to experience it on this trip.  The hotel has daycare available just down the hall from the spa so you can rest assured your children are being cared for as you are being pampered.  Yet another reason I love this hotel!! 

  

I would highly recommend this beautiful and unique hotel!!  Hope you get to experience it one day!!
Aloha!!
 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Sheraton_Waikiki-50-1444975-191983-_To_infinity_and_beyond_.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Sheraton_Waikiki-50-1444975-191983-_To_infinity_and_beyond_.html Tue, 26 Oct 2010 19:58:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ Have it all at the Amangani without paying the price tag]]>
For example, rooms cost $600/night in the off season and $1500/night in the high season. I'm sure the rooms are spectacular (there are only 40 rooms at the resort) but if you compare that to staying across the valley at the Four Seasons you can have a luxury hotel at a fraction of the price. On our recent trip we saved money at the Four Seasons at an off season rate of $183/night.

So how do you experience the Amangani and save a couple grand??

First: Go to the Amangani for the view. I'm a sucker for a good view so I love this place!!  Have a cocktail by the fire and enjoy the modern but still cozy/warm lobby. It's high end for sure... they even have nice wines by the glass... I had Patz and Hall Sonoma Pinot for $16/glass. Not too shabby for a cowboy ski town.

View in lobby by fire place


















In this photo, i'm standing outside taking  a pic of Susan inside by the fire.  You can see my reflection and the reflection of the mountains and impending sunset.  Pretty cool and I just snapped it with the iPhone.































Second:   Go to the restaurant for dinner, which is directly next to the lobby and seats by the windows have the same stunning views. We liked our experience so much having a drink and watching the sunset that we decided to back a second night and try dinner.  Dinner, as expected, isn't cheap. Entree price $30-50 but it was one of the most delicious meals we've ever had. The bison short ribs, were off the charts!!! I will go back there someday to have them again. The elk tenderloin on the other hand was... well... elk. More loin than tender and a bit gamey for my tastes, but at no fault of the restaurant. It's elk, but i wanted to try it.

The Amangani part of the Aman Resorts (one of the nicest luxury hotel brands in the world) and they only have two resorts in the US.  Jackson Hole and Lake Powell.... random right?  But still they do it right.  I hope I can some day stay at both of them and not worry about paying the hefty room rate, because from the service that we had in the lobby and the restaurant, I'm sure the hotel guests are well taken care of.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Amangani-50-1440517-191774-Have_it_all_at_the_Amangani_without_paying_the.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Amangani-50-1440517-191774-Have_it_all_at_the_Amangani_without_paying_the.html Fri, 22 Oct 2010 18:35:28 +0000
<![CDATA[Songtsam Retreat Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/living/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Songtsam_Retreat-128-1655989-191674.html http://www.lunch.com/living/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Songtsam_Retreat-128-1655989-191674.html Thu, 21 Oct 2010 03:40:21 +0000 <![CDATA[W Chicago - Lakeshore Quick Tip by dbranan13]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-W_Chicago_Lakeshore-50-1444084-190895.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-W_Chicago_Lakeshore-50-1444084-190895.html Tue, 19 Oct 2010 20:17:39 +0000 <![CDATA[ Comfort and Convenience in the Heart of Munich]]> I had the opportunity to stay at the Holiday Inn in the Schwabing borough of Munich, Germany this past spring. As a non-German speaking American, I found it an extremely convenient place to stay with helpful staff and comfortable accommodations.

The hotel staff was incredibly friendly and did their best to help us out throughout our stay, whether it was merely pointing us in the right direction or recommending a good place to grab an afternoon beer or two (or more).

Beyond the hotel itself, one of the other great features of the Holiday Inn Schwabing was the location. As long as you don't mind a leisurely stroll, there are many great Munich attractions to be seen by just taking a short walk from the hotel. Nearby attractions include: The English Garden (a great place for an afternoon walk and people watching), Marienplatz (the city center), and the numerous shops and cafes located upon Leopold Street. The hotel is also a short walk from the subway, which you can take all over Munich and beyond.

I'd definitely recommend the Holiday Inn Schwabing to any Americans looking to experience Munich while also enjoying the comforts of home.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Holiday_Inn_Munich_Schwabing-50-1656971-190894-Comfort_and_Convenience_in_the_Heart_of_Munich.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Holiday_Inn_Munich_Schwabing-50-1656971-190894-Comfort_and_Convenience_in_the_Heart_of_Munich.html Tue, 19 Oct 2010 20:09:45 +0000
<![CDATA[Songtsam Retreat Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Songtsam_Retreat-50-1655989-190206.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Songtsam_Retreat-50-1655989-190206.html Mon, 18 Oct 2010 14:04:41 +0000 <![CDATA[Great Hostels in Europe]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2647-Great_Hostels_in_Europe.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/Lists-50-2647-Great_Hostels_in_Europe.html Sun, 17 Oct 2010 21:51:47 +0000 <![CDATA[ I'm Forever Blowing (Brown) Bubbles]]>  

On our arrival in Kosovo we were thrown into a bit of a pickle. We had come from Nis in Serbia, a country that strictly speaking does not even acknowledge Kosovo's existence and our bus should have deposited us, not as one might expect in the country's capital Prishtina, but in Gracanica, a Serb enclave a few kilometres away; this is what the lady in the bus station told us, anyway. For whatever reason, we were rather unceremoniously deposited in Prishtina but we didn't have much of an idea where exactly. Fortunately I spotted a sign for the university halls of residence and guessed we were somewhere near the university, and on that assumption, we headed for what we thought should be Prishtina's "Old Town", where, our guidebook said, there were two reasonably priced hotels, situated next to each other.

Potential visitors to Prishtina should not get excited by the mention of the "Old Town"; Prishtina actually has very little in the way of an old town and what it does have is hard to appreciate because of the sheer volume of traffic and the number of people in the streets. However, there are a couple of attractive mosques (one of which is currently being restored) and one or two well preserved Ottoman houses in the area. This is also the market area, and Prishtina's is as interesting and exciting as any you'll find in this part of Europe. That said, in other respects, this is very much the "Old Town"; this part of town reminded me a lot of small Turkish towns where a lot of business is conducted in the street. The manager of Hotel Begolli spent more time out in the street talking to shop keepers and passersby than I saw him spend in the hotel.

We actually went into Hotel Sara first, where we were told that a double room, including breakfast, would cost €50 a night. This seemed a bit steep to us so we tried next door at Hotel Begolli. We were not so tempted by this hotel, in spite of its cheery orange facade, because the entire front of the hotel was covered in scaffolding; however, we figured that the work would not continue into the evening so it would be unlikely to disturb us. The manager, having seen us go into and leave the hotel next door, jumped off a chair on the pavement, and ushered us into his hotel. The price was the same as next door and, in spite of our best attempts to get a discount (including asking if we could get a discount for multiple nights) the manager held firm, telling us that the room was a very good one and even had a jacuzzi; frankly I would rather have paid less and not had a jacuzzi, but even though this was the only room with a jacuzzi, we couldn't have an alternative room for a cheaper price. A jacuzzi, it seems, is a free gift at hotel Begolli.

 Having finally persuaded us to part with €50 for our room (and jacuzzi) he asked us how long we wanted to stay. I was about to say "Two nights please" when a swift kick in the shin stopped me. "Just the one, please" Himself told the manager. Later he explained that since the rooms were the same price, we should stay in both on successive nights (two reviews!) and this is what we did.

The manager led us past a rather odd seating area that contained the most awful furniture I've ever seen, but what passes for high class quality in this part of Europe; my mother would use the Geordie word "clarty" to describe it. Essentially it's pretentious, over the top and its excessive attempts to look grand just makeit look cheap and terrible. Surrounded by frivolously upholstered chairs, a glass topped coffee table was mounted on the most intricate arrangement of twisted gold-look legs.

Our room was on the second floor and the hotel had no lift; fortunately the stairs were wide so easy to negotiate while carrying luggage, not too steep and were tiled rather than carpeted, so safe underfoot too. The room itself was a generous size but, curiously, the corner bath was situated in the main part of the room, behind a half height glass brick partition. This was our jacuzzi, or more correctly a whirlpool bath.

Although you couldn't really call it tasteful (let's be honest it had never been even acquainted with tasteful) the room did, on first glance look quite modern and well equipped. However, as we investigated further, the flaws started to become apparent. The en suite (toilet and wash basin) smelled really bad, but unavoidable in a country like Kosovo and down to the drains rather than to poor cleaning. Actually the room and bathroom were very clean so full marks in that department.

The room was very blue. The curtains, bedding and even the sparkly tiles on the floor were all blue. The large cheese plant near the door to the patio was not blue but green; it was a lovely big plant but it was in the way of the door. The balcony was small and there weren't any seats to put on it; even if there were it wouldn't have been that nice with the scaffolding up so maybe it'll be possible to sit out there when the work has been done.

One wall of the room was dominated by a vast piece of furniture of the type we feel incomplete for not having in our flat in Slovenia; the wall unit with its grid of shelves and cupboards. This one combined a wardrobe space with shelving and a table section for a big television set which we were unable to operate without assistance. There was a desk/table next to this.

Beside our bed there was a lamp of the like I have never before seen, nor would I hope ever to see again. It comprised an intricate wrought iron stand with a glass table top perched on it. Then, two curved pieces of metal came up from the back and supported what looked like a wooden pepper mill, on top of which leaned (at a jaunty angle) a tassled lamp shade. When I switched on the lamp no light came on; an investigation showed that it was not missing electricity as I had at first assumed, but a bulb. However, after some twiddling, I discovered that there was another bulb, in a fitting under the glass table top. Unfortunately with part of the lamp, the telephone and three remote controls on the table, there wasn't much room for the light to escape. Another light-related issue was that of the two four-bulb ceiling lights, one had four "arms" but only two working bulbs, while the other had three "arms" and one working bulb.

All these things were unimportant really; the room was clean and comfortable and the hotel didn't seem very busy so would probably be quiet at night. Most important of all, the room had functioning air conditioning which was vital as the weather was scorching, even in mid September.

After an afternoon sightseeing and an evening enjoying Prishtina's excellent café culture, we returned to the hotel hoping to catch a little football on television. We had to enlist the help of the night manager who scratched his head, made a phone call, disappeared for a minute, and returned to fix the television. Success! And football!

I decided at this point to try the jacuzzi - sorry the corner bath with bubble making thing - and set it off to fill. The water was a rather murky rusty brown colour but I let it continue to run and added a modest squirt of something from a large shampoo bottle on the side of the bath which I presumed had been left there for this alternative use. The bath full, I climbed in and pressed the button to start the jets. I have to say that at this point I was pretty unimpressed. Himself came over and said he thought it needed more bubbles so he poured in more of the green pine-smelling stuff from the bottle and we swapped places. It turned out that I hadn't had it switched on "Full"; once it was operating at full pelt it did seem to be much more effective as the rapidly multiplying froth spilling over the side of the bath proved. As there was no bath mat, one of the hotel towels had to be sacrificed to mop up the bubbles as the floor would have been treacherous if wet. Unfortunately, the following morning, once all the froth had disappeared, a horrible residue of brown scum covered the whole of the bottom of the bath tub and I had to spend ten minutes rinsing it before we could have showers.

Breakfast was served in the hotel's adjoining restaurant. The manager was in the street and ushered us into the restaurant which is accessed by leaving the front door of the hotel and going into the restaurant from the street. It was only small but it was cosy and nicely decorated. We had been hoping that we might get a Turkish style breakfast in Kosovo but instead we were offered various egg dishes, and combinations of ham and eggs, or a continental breakfast. We were also offered a choice of milky coffee, coffee, tea or juice. Himself asked for juice and coffee and the manager took this to mean just coffee; himself repeated his request, this time asking for "coffee and juice" and this time the manager repeated it back as just juice. Two drinks were not allowed!

Himself asked for an omelette which was nicely cooked and quite tasty. It was pretty small, though. My continental breakfast comprised a plate of various packaged spreads and preserves laid out in a very twee way. There was a little foil dish of chicken pate (which looked pretty awful), honey, mixed fruit jam and a foil wrapped wedge of soft cheese. There was also a sliver of feta style cheese and a sliver of butter. Unfortunately there wasn't really sufficient bread for two people to breakfast on and once he had served us the manager disappeared.

After breakfast we packed up and went downstairs, leaving the key on the reception desk as the manager was still not around. Seizing our chance we dived into Hotel Sara unseen. A minute later Himself had to go back to collect the passports which were still in the safe at Hotel Begolli. So much for a secret getaway.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad hotel; For one thing it's clean and it's definitely comfortable. There was plenty of hot water and this part of the city does not have planned power cuts (scheduled outages are still the norm in a few areas of Kosovo). We had a good night's sleep and we were happy that the hotel was secure.

However, it is a little pricy for what you get; this is a capital city but it is an expensive one because there are so many workers from NGOs in Prishtina and there are relatively few hotels still. The hotel wasn't very busy so we were surprised not to be able to get a discount, especially when there is another hotel next door. The other issues were fairly small but were ones you would expect attention to be given to; a hotel charging €50 a night should have no problems getting a supply of light bulbs. Likewise, allowing guests to have a juice AND a hot drink at breakfast is hardly going to send the accounts plummeting into the red.

We didn't hate it, we didn't love it. For €50 I'd personally expect a little more but it seems that in Prishtina, more comes at a much higher price.

 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Hotel_Begolli-50-1655557-190160-I_m_Forever_Blowing_Brown_Bubbles.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Hotel_Begolli-50-1655557-190160-I_m_Forever_Blowing_Brown_Bubbles.html Sun, 17 Oct 2010 17:31:16 +0000
<![CDATA[ Travel back to a time when Americans went to the seashore as a way of life]]> The Queen Victoria is the kind of bed and breakfast that I imagine Lily Langtree would have liked.  Not only does it have wonderful decor, beautiful gardens and spaceous rooms, just being there gives you the feeling you are special. 
 

Cape May, New Jersey will be a shock to anyone who thinks that New Jersey means traffic jams, tacky boardwalks and pollution.  The whole town has been kept much the way it was a hundred years ago.  (Okay there are lots of souvenier shops but hey, they had those a hundred years ago too.)  The classic Victorian houses and inns in Cape May have been maintained right down to the very expensive gingerbread paintwork. 
 

The Queen Victoria is located in the heart of Cape May, just a block from the town beach. The Inn is actually a complex of four landmark buidlings each with its own character.  The one that I would say is most unique is the orginal Queen Victoria, which includes just nine rooms and is the building showcased in the photograph.    Each room has a separate name and specially picked antique furniture.  When we visited the rooms in the Queen Victoria building  were without televisions.  I don't know if that is still the case, but I do hope so as it made the visit seem like a trip back in time.

The inn is surrounded by excellent restaurants, within walking distance.  In fact just about everything at the Inn can be accessed on foot. 
 

Once of the best things about the Inn is the communal breakfast.  When you rise and go to breakfast you are greeted by your fellow guests and the owners.  People eat, drink a leisurely cup of coffee and, when they leave, are often replaced by slightly later risers.  There is tea in the afternoon on the broad front porch, which features homemade baked goods.

We stayed in the main inn at Cape May for years, and moved to the annex when we had our baby.  In the summer the Inn has a minimum stay.  The Inn is open year round however, and its a great way to view the ocean and walk and empty beach. 

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Queen_Victoria_Bed_and_Breakfast-50-1648155-183691-Travel_back_to_a_time_when_Americans_went_to_the.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Queen_Victoria_Bed_and_Breakfast-50-1648155-183691-Travel_back_to_a_time_when_Americans_went_to_the.html Sat, 9 Oct 2010 16:25:57 +0000
<![CDATA[Hotel Kapok, Beijing Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Hotel_Kapok_Beijing-50-1636944-174420.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Hotel_Kapok_Beijing-50-1636944-174420.html Tue, 5 Oct 2010 14:07:09 +0000 <![CDATA[ This Hotel Inspired my new LIFE GOAL]]> I've been to a few Four Seasons; San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Maui, and the incredible George V in Paris.  For the last few years I had been hearing about the Four Seasons in Punta Mita from friends who had been there and, therefore, I had been dying to go.  Well, thanks to our friends who chose an incredible destination for their wedding...I made it!!
Four Seasons Punta Mita does not disappoint!!  But then, again, Four Seasons has never once disappointed me.  At the Punta Mita Four Seasons, the service is always impeccable.  For example, the groundskeepers and bellmen would literally stop in their tracks or stop their golf carts in order to let me pass.  Even when there was plenty of room for both of us to keep moving, they stopped.  Simply a courtesy to show they are respectful of their guests.  The food was delicious, especially the chilaquiles http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilaquiles I had for breakfast.  The views from our room were beyond tranquil and the pools far exceeded any expectations i had for this resort.  When i judge a hotel, I use their lounge chairs to judge them.  It might sound odd, but if my husband is trying to talk me into a certain hotel, I log onto their website and look at the pool.  If I see plastic lounge chairs with those plastic straps, no thank you.  If it is a full teak lounge chair with a thick cushion...I'm booking my trip!  But the Four Season goes far beyond that at the pool.  They actually seat you at your chair, wrapping it in a fitted towel, leave extra towels for you, offer cold washcloths with a lemon scent, magazines and even sunscreen.  I was surprised and impressed to see that there were options of sunscreen, SPF30, SPF55, SPF 75 for the face or the body...all for free.  Then the ice cream cart pulled up to the pool at about 3:00 offering free ice cream to the guests.  I'm sure it is meant for children but I saw plenty of adults enjoying their Hagen Das.  Its the little things that make the Four Seasons so much better than other hotels. 

After spending 3 FANTASTIC days at the Four Seasons, Punta Mita, I decided to make a goal of staying at every Four Seasons in the world.   When I returned home, I checked and there are currently 82 Four Seasons world wide.  Don't laugh..I'm very serious.  Even my husband really likes the idea.  I'm not sure if he is just happy that i finally have some "goals" or because he will get to stay with me in these amazing hotels as i check them off my list.  ;-)

Thank you Four Seasons Punta Mita for the inspiration!!!!!

]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Four_Seasons_Punta_Mita_Punta_de_Mita_Mexico_-50-1519861-147670-This_Hotel_Inspired_my_new_LIFE_GOAL.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Four_Seasons_Punta_Mita_Punta_de_Mita_Mexico_-50-1519861-147670-This_Hotel_Inspired_my_new_LIFE_GOAL.html Tue, 7 Sep 2010 22:16:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ My home away from home]]>
The hotel itself is located just 3 blocks from the central DC Metro and the Dupont Circle fountain.  It sits on tree-lined New Hampshire Avenue and surrounded by the most beautiful buildings, embassies, and parks. It's a very safe neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and nightlife all within walking distance.

The hotels art-deco decor is unique, especially the lobby.  The Bar needs a facelift, but it is quickly overlooked by the good food and friendly bartender.

All of the guest rooms have kitchens complete with stove-top, microwave, and plates and glasses for 4.  The room I had faced the parking lot, but it did have a view of the Washington Monument which was pretty cool! 
The Tempur-Pedic beds that they feature on their website are amazing.  

There is free parking in the back (a great amenity), but there are only 20 spaces available, so if you get one, grab it and use the nearby Metro!  Overall, this is a great hotel at an incredible value.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_Carlyle_Suites_Hotel-50-1498588-145134-My_home_away_from_home.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-The_Carlyle_Suites_Hotel-50-1498588-145134-My_home_away_from_home.html Wed, 1 Sep 2010 13:27:50 +0000
<![CDATA[ Lush tropical paradise!]]>
Arriving
My family(wife and two sons (6 weeks and 3 years old)) recently traveled to Punta de Mita for my sisters wedding.   We started our vacation at this hotel arriving late (10pm) on a Tuesday evening in mid August.  Upon arriving at the front security gate we were asked if this was the Edds party (-; Again upon pulling into the lobby we were greeted by name(Mr and Mrs Edds).   After traveling for 11 hours we were escorted into the lobby and seated in the lobby.  Cold towels and fruit drinks were brought for the three of us.  Upon our 3 year promptly spilling his drink on the floor the staff didn't miss a beat and had another juice for him to drink, while encouraging us to move on and not cleanup after him.   All of our bags(6+) were unloaded from the van and taken to our room.   We were checked in immediately and asked if we would like to join my sister and her fiance(now husband) at the restaurant as they were finishing up dinner.  We were taken by golf cart to the restaurant and seated with the happy couple.   We had a refreshing beverage or two and some chicken quseadillas to ease our fast food weary stomachaches.  After dinner we were taken to our room by golf cart and upon entry found our bags put away nicely in the room.   The names of our sons had been spelled out in block letters in the crib and Four Seasons t-shirts had been laid out for them to wear to bed.  Our room had been upgraded(Thx) to a one bedroom suite, which included a nice porch and a plunge pool(more on that later).  Our room was equipped with several flat screen TV's, the AC was cranked and the dehumidifier was working hard(It was 85 with a dewpoint of 79 at midnight).  

The Morning
We awoke that night to some of the most intense thunderstorms of our lives, after falling back asleep we were awoken by our 3 year old who wanted to "go downstairs" for breakfast.  I suggested a morning swim in the plunge pool instead.  40 minutes later I convinced my son to go inside and watch TV as I had sum enough for the morning    The pool was relatively cool (compared to the 80+ degree air) After getting ready we headed to the brunch that was included with our room.  The brunch restaurant is located outside, over looking the pool and ocean  After a night of rain and a warm day ahead, the humidity at breakfast was a little hot for those not yet accustomed to PM in August.   The food looked great, but the heat prevented us from eating very much. Coffee, part of a made to order omelet, yogurt, granola and fruit was all I could get down.   The cart returned us to our room and the driver waited for us to pack and brought our bags to the cart for us to check out and head over to Casa Siete.   The cart driver must have spent 30 minutes with us that morning, driving, waiting, hauling bags, but refused a forceful tip attempt.  

Return to the river
On Saturday we snuck back to the resort to spend time with family and friends and conquer the lazy river which had evaded us on our stay.  The lazy river is well lazy.  I did the first lap on foot as I was corralling two three year olds on makeshift rafts of noodles.  This was an effort to work around the fact that kids were too small to fit in the tubes used to run the river.  I later took a kidless lap on the tube and found the river to be quite lazy.  My best basis for comparison is the lazy river at MGM grand in Vegas, which as I remember is much faster.    While the MGM grand river has a concrete feel to it, the FS PM river is all palm trees and several small bridges to pass under.  It was morning, and I had not yet had a drink, but I found the FS PM river to be a bit too lazy for my tastes.  

Other notes
- We had several iguana spottings while on property.  Rumor has it that amaradillos roam as well, but we will have to come back to see them.
- FS PM is VERY kid friendly.  We had mistakenly set an expectation for chocolate chip cookies upon arrival.  We did in fact receive a bag of candy for the 3 year old, but cookies were still desired.  After breakfast the FS PM came through and brought 2 excellent cookies to our table(with our approval).  When we returned for our river adventure, box of cereal spilled, cookies were brought to the rescue.  
- We didn't have the opportunity to buy any food at the FS, but our brunch would have cost $90 for the two of us.  Food and drink are spendy at the FS....
- I'm not usually one to let other take my bags, my advice, let them, it changes your entire perspective on vacation...
- Next time we need to stay more than one night]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Four_Seasons_Punta_Mita_Punta_de_Mita_Mexico_-50-1519861-144602-Lush_tropical_paradise_.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Four_Seasons_Punta_Mita_Punta_de_Mita_Mexico_-50-1519861-144602-Lush_tropical_paradise_.html Tue, 31 Aug 2010 03:26:10 +0000
<![CDATA[ bitter-sweet tale of real people in a wounded world]]>
In 1942, twelve-year-old Henry was the only non-white student attending Raleigh elementary school in Seattle. Since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Henry's father, who spoke only Chinese, forbade his son to speak anything but English in the home, and made him wear a badge declaring "I am Chinese." But that didn't stop white students treating Henry as the enemy, or local Chinese kids mocking him as "white."

Henry's father would have been appalled to learn that in Japantown, just a few streets away, the Okabe family were deciding to entrust their daughter Keiko to the same school system. Henry's family did not associate with Japanese, not after the way they'd bombed the Chinese homeland over the years.

Isolation, bullying and shared kitchen duties bring the two Asian American children together. Music and young love binds them. But the country's mis-communications are mirrored at home. Keiko's neighbors, so American they scarcely see differences in ethnicity, are hated, while Henry's family, still planning to complete their son's education back in China, are safe except for the unfortunate shape of their eyes. And the street musician Sheldon waits for a break.

Henry's father left home at thirteen. As his birthday approaches, Henry ponders the meaning of home and family, and the country goes to war against its own. But in 1986 everything has changed. Possessions left behind by the Japanese are unearthed in an old hotel, reawakening the past and revitalizing the present for Henry and his son. The man who couldn't speak to his father learns at last to speak to his son. Family means more than two parents and an obedient child. And love still crosses those all too human barriers to reveal the music of the soul.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/book/UserReview-Hotel_on_the_Corner_of_Bitter_and_Sweet_A_Novel-50-1550809-168991-bitter_sweet_tale_of_real_people_in_a_wounded.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/book/UserReview-Hotel_on_the_Corner_of_Bitter_and_Sweet_A_Novel-50-1550809-168991-bitter_sweet_tale_of_real_people_in_a_wounded.html Fri, 27 Aug 2010 12:00:00 +0000
<![CDATA[ If you're looking for a great Mexico time, give a read to this hotel review rhyme...]]>


Just got back from spending three nights in Mexico at the gorgeous Four Season's resort in Punta Mita...

For the wedding of senor @jrjohnson and @Savvygirl, his now better half senorita



The resort shuttle from the airport was ready when we got there, the driver holding a sign, donning a most welcoming smile on his face...

Of course, he had a cooler of ice cold Modelo's for those looking to immediately start their Mexico style drinking pace



Our driver showed amazing composure as he swerved out of the way as an oncoming speeding driver was trying to pass directly into a crazy blind spot...

It was seriously a matter of inches, the driver's cool and poise was unreal, skills he was clearly born with, this reaction was not something that can be taught



We safely made it to the grounds of the Four Seasons, where just pulling in you had the feeling of being on vacation...

The stresses and big city hustle bustle you left behind, suddenly a distant sensation



This premier resort, 26 miles from Puerto Vallarta, featuring panoramic ocean views of Mexico's Pacific, has been overindulging its guests since 1999...

With the cold towels in the lobby, the on call golf carts to get you around and the variety of fresh juices by the pool, they're always making sure you're always feeling more than fine



There are 165 units equipped with the usual high class amenities,
some featuring telescopes and an outdoor shower which is always cool...

If you feel like stepping it up, 30 are suites, some on top of ocean crashing waves, but all including your own personal plunge pool



There are no shortages of activities to partake in when you're looking to do more than just chill and be doted on by the overly attentive service crew...

Golfing on a Nicklaus designed course, tennis, snorkeling, surfing and deep sea fishing just to name a few



Basically, however you wish to spend your Mexican holiday, this resort will attempt to eagerly deliver...

I just wish I had more time, perhaps I could have shared first hand knowledge of the fitness room, spa or lazy river



There are four choices of restaurants all with amazing views; the table side guac at Ketsi and the carne asada at Bahia are what I dug the most...

The extensive complimentary buffet breakfast more than exceeded expectations, I heard more than once, "this is the best ever french toast!"



A special shout out to our bartender Andreis for being so tolerant of our loud group after the rehearsal dinner night...

I hear he pours a mean drink and looking back, him not keeping the bar open after closing time was probably a good call in hindsight



If you feel like venturing out of the resort, Salyulita is the place to be, it's a small, mainly locals town, around 15 minutes away...

Whether just having an authentic meal at Don Pedro's overlooking the surfers catching waves or cruising around and getting lost in this quaint city for the day



So, whether you're Jay Z and Beyonce who have been known to frequent this luxurious spot...

Or just someone simply looking for an amazing Mexico experience, I definitely would hit up the Four Seasons Punta Mita, that's all I've got]]>
http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Four_Seasons_Punta_Mita_Punta_de_Mita_Mexico_-50-1519861-139044-If_you_re_looking_for_a_great_Mexico_time_give_a.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Four_Seasons_Punta_Mita_Punta_de_Mita_Mexico_-50-1519861-139044-If_you_re_looking_for_a_great_Mexico_time_give_a.html Fri, 27 Aug 2010 00:08:53 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Best Sunsets in Cabo!]]>
Location:

Situated on the side of a mountain, this Sunset Beach hotel has villas sprinkling the mountainside.  To combat the steep nature of the mountain, golf carts deliver guests up and down the mountain to your villas and to the variety of pools positioned from the top to the bottom of the hotel. The views are gorgeous and the hotel is aptly named for it’s beautiful sunsets.



Though the Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach is on the Pacific (which means the water is treacherous and you can’t swim in the ocean) and a good 15 minute cab ride from the shops and restaurants of downtown Cabo, the location is actually closer to the downtown area than the other hotels on the strip (the Marquis, Las Ventanas, etc).  A free shuttle will take hotel guests to the Pueblo Bonito Rose (5 minutes from downtown) every hour, making it a low cost trip.  Honestly, though, I found it easier to hop in a cab, which only costs about $10 one way and would drop you right at the marina, close to the restaurants, shopping and bars.


Accommodations and Price:

I’ve stayed here twice now and both times have been impressed by the high-end rooms for such reasonable prices.  Rooms have both King bed or Queen bed options; bathrooms are large and spa-like with double vanity sinks, jacuzzi tubs, and large tiled showers.  Each room includes a balcony that overlooks the ocean. On this last trip my room was upgraded to an executive suite which was enormous and included two full bathrooms, a full kitchen and bar, living room and dining area, as well as a double wide balcony.  Cost per night was a mere $140!






Amenities:

The main lobby is rich in design with a castle-like ambiance. Imagine rustic chandeliers, swords on the walls, vases of flowers, a cigar bar, and a beautiful ( hello, scenic!) outdoor bar positioned just off the main check-in area. In addition, Sunset Beach includes a high-end (and unfortunately pricey spa), a small chapel, fitness room and deli (perfect for an afternoon sandwich, morning coffee, or late evening dessert to be brought back to your room).



Note: The fitness room costs $15 per person if you're not an owner of a Sunset Beach condo.  I found this unreasonably steep and after a bit of complaining was able to get in for free.

The highlight of the hotel is the tiered pools.  The main pool is located on the beach, at the bottom of the mountain, and includes an outdoor swim up bar and hot tub. Chairs go fast each morning, so get up early and secure a spot facing the ocean!



If you're not into crowds, or squealing youngin's, I would also recommend the smaller and quieter pool situated just up the hill and to the left of the main pool.  This is a great pool for happy hour (4 – 5 pm you get 2 for 1 beverages). Service is faster and there are less people swimming there. 

There are three main restaurants at Sunset Beach: The Bistro, La Frida and La Nao.  I had an unfortunate experience at the Bistro where the delivery of a pizza and sandwich took over an hour (however, the hotel comped the meal, which made up for the ridiculously long wait). I did not go to The Frida which is more expensive and formal and requires a reservation 24 hours in advance. The La Nao was the best dining option and located right on the main pool. This restaurant has culinary theme nights and is also perfect for breakfast.  Sunday I enjoyed a fantastic buffet complete with sushi, eggs, omelets, fish, beef tenderloin, salads, fruit, seafood, a spread of 25+ desserts, plus unlimited mimosas! For around $40 per person this was one of the highlights of the trip and a great deal.
 
Tips:
-Pre-book a roundtrip airport shuttle. This should cost around $30/per person. I used Grey Line shuttles and found their service to be prompt and professional.  Pre-booking a shuttle also reduces confusion upon arrival at the Cabo airport (you’ll be hounded by dozens of cab drivers soliciting your business).

-While waiting for your shuttle to go to the hotel check out the bar just outside the airport. A Corona or Pacifico is a great way to get the trip started!

-Go into downtown Cabo at least once or twice to experience more of the area and culture. The small flea market is fun to walk through and offers a variety of cheap trinkets that make great gifts.



-Also, if you can stand the constant banter of restaurant managers luring you into their eateries near the marina (and are prepared to be harassed!), check out La Galleria for dinner. Though prices are a bit more expensive that your casual Mexican restaurant, their homemade Caesar salad is delicious and worth the price.  
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http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Pueblo_Bonito_Sunset_Beach-50-1440441-115188-The_Best_Sunsets_in_Cabo_.html http://www.lunch.com/uniquehotels/reviews/hotel/UserReview-Pueblo_Bonito_Sunset_Beach-50-1440441-115188-The_Best_Sunsets_in_Cabo_.html Wed, 18 Aug 2010 23:06:01 +0000