I've been a Washingtonian my whole life and this is one of the coolest places in this lovely state of mine. I came across this place when an influencer I follow on my Instagram posted it on her page. I couldn't believe I've never come across this place when my family and I have been to Leavenworth multiple times. It's true that you've got to look beyond...find that "diamond in the rough", if you will.
Leavenworth is an interesting, beautiful place on its own...Washington's own little Bavaria. The beautiful compound featured here - Posthotel Leavenworth - opened to the public in 2017 and is an adults-only wellness retreat that adds an elegant Euro vibe to the community.
Walking the property, you'll find little details:
Our room detAils
Elegant and simple, the design in the guest rooms are well-executed. There is a great mix of feminine and masculine characteristics that balance one another and is easily pleasing to all people. The water bottles found atop the desk is free to guests. Many brought one with them while strolling the property - convenient for staying hydrated. The white robes and slippers are meant for all guests to wear out and about so don't be surprised to see others in their bath garb.
TIP: one thing my cousin suggested is to bring flip-flops if you don't want to wear your room slippers out (especially at the pool area).
The wellness room is the place to be! My husband and I found ourselves there a couple hours at a time. The pool area features an indoor/outdoor heated salt-water chlorinated pool with large arched full-sized windows that open during the warmer months. There are loungers spread across the whole width of the room. When you get hungry, you’re free to leave your things to grab a quick breakfast or lunch upstairs. There are usually several pool attendants overlooking the place.
NOTE: Cameras aren't generally allowed in this area (which is why pics are scarce) to preserve others' privacy...however, if no one is around, you may do so (a secret tip from the staff). A few minutes before the place opens in the morning, you may be able to persuade the pool attendant to enter and take a few pics or video.
Just behind you'll find a number of steam and sauna rooms. Laminated detox guides are found in baskets on the consoles. For further explanation, don't hesitate to ask a pool attendant for clarification.
The nap room is located in a private room overlooking the pool area. The napping beds are actually water beds...YES...water beds. From my last conversation with one of the pool supervisors, however, they are set to remodel the area to better serve guests.
Breakfasts and lunches are complimentary and included in your stay. As our waiter told us, "we want you to relax...order the whole menu if you'd like...YOLO." HAHA! The menu is generally the same each day but will change periodically.
Drinks are on the healthier spectrum so don't expect to find sugary sodas (there are restaurants/bars around for that). You're able to bring in food from outside but it's preferred to eat your order or leftovers in your room.
They serve "evening bites" which range from about $15 - $22 and are good-sized portions. The charcuterie board, however, is a shareable platter and may be too much food for one person.
Desserts are served nightly at 7pm and changes every evening. You have the option of eating it in the dining area or enjoying it in the comfort of your own room. Try their lavender-flavored drinks (they can make lavender-flavored anything for you) to pair with your sweets. We opted for lavender lattes and they were yummy.
Check out My YouTube video on the property!
Just like my last video, this week's vid is JUST UNDER 10 MINUTES. If you haven't seen my last video, Part 1, click youtu.be/oz_v5bsckLg
Without further ado, Part 2 of my Leavenworth trip featuring this blog entry is here:
I hope you get to experience everything this place has to offer. To be honest, prices are on the higher side (as it should be, given the quality and time it took to build this place to accommodate guests comfortably). It truly is a place to relax and, in my opinion, worth the price. The staff are friendly and helpful, the food is healthy yet tasty, and the surrounding views are absolutely breathtaking. What can I say...it's a little slice of heaven on earth.
For more info and pricing, visit here: posthotelleavenworth.com/
LeavenwoRth Reindeer Farm
Admission is $20/person over 3 years old. Tours last about 30 minutes and you will need to be sure you didn't have any contact with sheep or goats prior to the visit because they carry a spore that’s dangerous (and may be deadly) to the reindeer. I thought this was a little strange but, hey, maybe some people are sheep herders or have goat farms or something...
For more info, visit www.leavenworthreindeer.com/
Christmas Until February
It was quite the Christmas-y winter wonderland that we've never experienced of Leavenworth before. Years prior, we were never able to book a room during the holiday season for their famous Christmas tree lighting because everyone and their moms were there. So, this was a magical sight.
The lights and decor are up until around Valentines Day so, if you're interested in checking out all the Christmas goodness, make your way over now!
Rhein haus restaUrant
With COVID, many places were closed or take-out only, so we just decided to walk around and see what place was open for outdoor dining and, lo and behold, we came upon The Rhein Haus restaurant! Located in the middle of their town square, the place seemed lively despite the emptiness of the surrounding areas. Service was great and the staff were really nice.
For a look into their menu, visit https://www.rhleavenworth.com/
Check out My YouTube video here...
I hope you're able to visit this Bavarian village someday - it may be a bit different than most getaways you've probably been to. If not, then it's another place to add to your excursions.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and tips on what your traveling essential are! I'd love to be able to incorporate something new in my routine!
Hey hey hey – I’m back after what feels like forever!
We recently took a trip to NYC after years of debating whether to go and decided to finally do something about it! While we were debating about making NYC this year’s annual Tran family trip, we found that most of my cousins were going to do a joint birthday trip. Purely coincidental – so thought maybe we’ll just go around the same time.
While this was a big change from our usual relaxing getaways, it was something we discussed beforehand as a family to be sure this is where we ALL wanted to go.
Since this trip was basically a whirlwind the whole time we were there, I’m going to share tips with a few places for families to visit in the BIG APPLE.
Before you read, just know I am NOT well-versed in NYC – I can only share my experiences with my family – so I decided to recruit the help of a couple of my cousins…
Say hello to my fam, Albert & Jessica (@jus_bert and @streetp respectively)!
Some HELPFUL Tips:
1. Where are the best places to hang out in NYC?
@jus_bert says, in Manhattan, anything from 45th and below - Chelsea, LES (lower east side), and Soho are some great spots; @streetp has been to NYC 3 times and has stayed in Greenpoint, Lower East Side, and Chelsea. According to her, they’ve all been great and it probably depends on what you’re looking for.
Other essentials are:
3. Are there essential tips for surviving a trip to NYC?
4. What is the best way to get around?
For most, the Subway is great and you can get a 7-day unlimited pass for $33. I mean, it’s always interesting! In our case below, we enjoyed an impromptu subway performance…
Anyone with children, getting an UBER might help especially when heading to the airport. We were able to score a day special with an UBER driver (I don’t think it’s anything that UBER offers but was a personal special from the driver himself…shhh). On our last day, we were getting along great with our UBER driver, and he offered to take us around and ultimately take us to the airport for a flat rate. We had lots of time to kill! While some may say this might not be the best way, it was a huge benefit especially that we had our kids with us. We didn’t have to worry too much about dragging our luggage around nor leaving them anywhere (whether it’d be our hotel or wherever our cousins were staying)! We’re willing to spend a little more to avoid any cranky whining.
5. How much money do you need to save (includes airfare, spending money, hotel) etc.?
This purely depends on how much you shop and where you eat…for an individual, this can range anywhere from 1K – 2K for (5) days – this includes airfare, lodging, and spending money. Since we had our three kids, we spent a little over $3k. So, if you’re planning to make a trip to NYC, you have all year to save. Saving from a set amount each paycheck will add up quickly, and before you know it, you’ll have what you need. Of course, you’ll need to plan a little more if you’re paying for additional people.
6. What accommodations are the most economic?
Aside from staying with family or friends you may have living in NYC, Air BnB’s would probably be the most economical especially if you’re staying with other adults who will be sharing the expense.
My family and I made the mistake of staying in a very crowded and touristy area (Times Square) because we thought it’d be more convenient to be in the middle of everything. NOT SO CONVENIENT…for one, it takes forever to get outside of the area by car. By foot, you’ll find that a “block” can span a mile or so. My daughter was a bit turned off by the area’s “aroma” and we ended up smelling like it at the end of every evening. Anyway (I digress). all the prices in that area are jacked up, as well, since there are so many tourists so be sure to have $$$.
We (now) know that staying outside the city would’ve been our best bet especially if you want fresh air (or as fresh as it can be) that you may not normally get in a more metropolitan area. Most of our family stayed together at an AirBNB and were happy with it. Those of us that have stayed in Times Square had mixed reviews, I'd say.
We stayed at the RIU in Times Square. It’s a fashion-y hotel but we were hardly there to enjoy the amenities. Looking back, I’d say it's not ideal for (many) families, especially that the rooms are on the smaller end. I think it might’ve been okay with just me and the hubs.
Having the kids with us was a little challenging – one wanted to up and leave whenever he pleased, one was always hungry from all the walking and wanted to eat every hour (food in Times Square ain't cheap), and the other was surrounded by too much stimuli.
FUN PLACES to VISIT (in no particular order)
Central Park – there are endless activities here. You can do carriage rides, ride your bike, set up a picnic, attend a concert...the things to do are endless. This park is HUGE so be prepared to walk and stay hydrated. While we wished to have spent a little more time here, our daughter was extremely tired so we took an UBER back to our hotel (with her and one of our sons in tow) and she pretty much conked out as soon as she got strapped into the back seat.
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and spend some time in DUMBO (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). - Sadly, my own little family and I didn’t get to go but I’ll insert a cool (but pixelated) photo of my siblings and cousins at the place. This is someplace to definitely visit if ever we make it back in town. You can walk the bridge, shop, or stop by at the local restaurants.
Grand Central Station – There’s a spot called the “Whispering Wall”, where two people stand on opposite corners of the room and if you talk into the corner, you can hear the other person talking. Pretty wild.
Play with sound on...you can hear my daughter ever so slightly...
Museums – Some museums have a “Pay what you wish” admission on certain days. On our last day, we took our kids to the American Museum of Natural History (by Central Park) and they only required us to pay a donation amount of our choosing. This was probably our family's fave things to do together - it did NOT disappoint. We all loved it so much! Set aside a whole day to spend time here because there are so many exhibits in this building and it's all so educational and well done.
If you've seen it, you might even recognize it for the setting of Ben Stiller’s movie, “Night at the Museum.”
The Highline and Vessel – This was quite a bit of a walk for us (from Time Square) but, hey, we burned off the food we gorged on earlier in the day. Not to mention, we felt so svelte by the end of the night from all that walking!
The Vessel itself reminds me of a honeycomb and is just a cool structure to take photos of and walk to the very top. I believe there’s an entry fee (not sure how much since we opted out…the wait was about an hour, so, no thanks!)
Broadway (any show) – I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone having a bad experience at a Broadway show (they have some of the best performers out there)! If you’re debating whether to attend one, I highly recommend it. Let’s be real, how many times are you going to be able to come to NYC to experience something they’re very well known for?!
Pricing will vary depending on the show you book. We booked Wicked (a show that is centered on the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz) and tickets are over $100 each…plus tax…plus S&H. - IT. ADDS. UP.
Lady Liberty/Ellis Island Tours – Ah yes, the famous Statue of Liberty – she is as majestic in person as you see in movies. To get to her, you would take about a 15-minute ferry from Battery Park (set times are posted on their site, check out… https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/ferry-tickets). Be sure to take one of their electronic tour guides upon arrival and grab a filling lunch at their café conveniently attached to the shop where you can pick up a souvenir or two.
There are different packages in touring the island. We just toured the grounds but you can actually go inside the statue itself.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can buy a package that includes a ferry to Ellis Island. You can definitely feel the history walking through the halls…after all, this is where many of your ancestors had arrived to start anew. They’ve got an in-house infirmary, courthouse, morgue, etc. Pretty cool place and great to discuss with your kids about what these people went through to live in America.
Ground Zero/Oculus – Needless to say this is a MUST. It’s a part of U.S. history – a site once occupied by the twin towers and now a well-known memorial to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11. The Oculus is seen in the background and is definitely one of the most unique structures you’ll ever come across.
The kids were enamored by the whole site and found everything about the place interesting - they asked questions about the people affected by it as well as where we were when it all happened.
Top of the Rock @ Rockefeller Center – Can’t beat 360 degree views of all of Manhattan! This is the prime spot at a look of the Big Apple during sunset. However, it can get pretty crowded so be prepared for that.
Other things to do (via my cousin, @jus_bert):
Needless to say there is so much you can do in NYC - this city truly NEVER sleeps. It seemed like we were doing different things every hour. The place is filled with so many people of various nationalities. that it feels like you’re (in a sense) on a whole different planet. It’s certainly a place like no other!
I think every person should visit at least once in their life but do your research as far as what you’d like to do and dress appropriately for the trip. Your little feet will thank you for it. :)
~ XOXO, Mari
If you've never been to this magnificent place, book a stay here for a few days (or do a day trip if you're nearby) - it's probably one of the most beautiful (and cleanest) places we've visited. Even though it takes roughly 5-6 hours to get here (3 hours drive to the Canadian border from home, 1.5 hours of ferry time, and another 30-60 mins to get to our timeshare), it's still - relatively speaking - in our "backyard."
This beautiful city is located on Vancouver Island, just a ferry ride away from Downtown Vancouver and Richmond BC. Our kids have never been so we opted on taking them to experience what I like to call, "little England." It was their mid-winter break and we wanted to take them away to some place new.
When I was a child, my family used to take us and it always reminded me of Europe - fast forward to many years later and I find that Canada actually falls under the British monarchy (if you know me personally, I've always been fascinated by them).
Even when my kids are in Canada, they often feel like they're in Europe because of the architecture, the many labels and signs that are in French, the colorful currency, the many streets and buildings named after some of the royal monarchs (I wonder if they'll ever have one named after Meghan Markle? HEHE), etc....they find it kind of cool.
Unfortunately, for the first half of our trip, I caught a nasty bug. So, while I was bedridden, my family was able to enjoy some of the sights as well as the fresh air. Luckily, I prepped a list of places for them to visit beforehand. Thanks to my husband, he was able to take some photos of their excursions while I was wasting away in bed. ;-P Can't lie that I was feeling a little jealous and bummed.
We're members of a timeshare so we were lucky in that we were able to book right next to the water. We've never been to this particular property but it was set in a convenient location that most places only took anywhere from a few minutes walk to a 30 minute stroll. We were located right next to Victoria's Fisherman's Wharf (I can imagine how bustling that area can be in warmer months).
Upon opening our front door, we came to find an updated, freshly decorated unit that was clean and ready to welcome us in. It was late by the time we arrived so everything outside was pretty dark (except for the city lights of course). Come morning, our view of the marina was perfect! Not too shabby, eh?!
There are plenty of places to book along the water as well as nearby so make sure you read up on each place, compare prices, and check out reviews. You're bound to come across something that offers great hospitality. And that's the thing here...people are so freakin' NICE.
Places to go
Since I wasn't able to join my family on some of their outings, I'll give a quick rundown of what they thought as well as links and basic info so that you can get a good glimpse of what to do as well as how much money you'll be spending.
When the kids and my husband went, the building was closed but the kids wanted to take photos of its architectural details - the aquamarine domes atop a gothic-like structure just lured them in like a moth to a flame.
This building is located across from the marina and is just as beautiful at night...you'll see photos down below during the evening - it's definitely one to check out. Tours are available here M-F, but, since the building was closed, it's needless to say that there was no money spent here. Just admiring its grand beauty was enough for them.
For more information, check it out here: www.tourismvictoria.com/see-do/activities-attractions/attractions/british-columbia-parliament-buildings
ROYAL BC MUSEUM
To be honest, the boys thought that it was totally going to be lame. But it seem they gave it a chance because they were pleasantly surprised - they told me that the displays were well laid out and they each found something interesting. Also, lots of photo ops kept them amused! There were a LOT of photos so I picked a couple to post specifically for this blog.
Expect to spend around 2 hours at the museum with prices ranging from $11 - $17 depending on your age group. For more information, check out their site at: royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/
Butchart Gardens is generally known for their blooms but this was a first (for me, at least) to see it so barren and covered in snow. The last time I visited, I was just a child (maybe 13??) and it was filled with so many flowers that my brother's allergies would often act up.
Still, the kids wanted to check it out and even though many would see it as a waste of money, we decided to embrace it for what it was at the moment - a winter wonderland!
It was my first outing with the family and, yes, I was still a little under the weather but the fresh air made me feel a bit better. We loved that there were a few people there aside from us. We all made it a day of taking photos - some silly, some suave - and got the carousel all to ourselves! This family day was definitely a good one.
Normally it takes a few hours to spend time here (if filled with flowers) but it took us about 1.5 - 2 hours to go around as well as relax in their cafe. Prices range from $3 - $34 depending on what age group you fall in. Even though there were really no flowers in sight, we had fun! Check out their website for additional information, www.butchartgardens.com/
Just a side note...what you see on their website is what you see in real life so you'll be able to get an idea of how different the gardens look between seasons!
This quaint little tourist attraction was literally located right next to our timeshare. It took us probably under 5 minutes to walk to these docks. With many of the restaurants closed, it was a ghost town. Understandable as the weather was quite chilly. Only one restaurant - a fish & chips joint - was open from what we saw. Unfortunately, it started sprinkling, so we headed back to our unit.
Despite the place being empty, we could tell that its prime time is when the sun's out. There you will find places to dine, little shops to peruse, and docks running alongside so many cute floating homes. These homes were so colorful and compact that my daughter, Ava, was enamored by them.
For more information, check out fishermanswharfvictoria.com/
We took one of the night tours (they have afternoon tours but nights are creepier, yes?). Since it's a walking tour, make sure you have a coat to stave off the chilly breeze from the marina and wear your comfortable shoes because it's 90 mins long!
A large group of us met up and were split into two groups. Our tour guide was a character and you could tell she loves what she does. For every stop we made, she'd tell us a ghost story specific to the building or area. Some of it interesting, some hard to believe. Whatever your beliefs are in the supernatural (or if you like to listen to stories, this is a fun and unconventional family activity.
My little one acted tough throughout most of the tour but when we decided to walk around the marina afterwards, she was a bit paranoid. For every dark corner, she'd make sure she stayed close and would frequently urge me to "HURRY!!" Not going to lie but walking around at night got the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. HAHA! Now don't get me wrong, the stories aren't really scary-scary but they just made you think!
Prices range from $10 - $20, again, depending on your age. Not too bad, so, if you're into ghost stories like we are, check out discoverthepast.com/ghostly-walks/ for something a little different.
TEA @ THE EMPRESS
The menu below showcases all the various teas they offer (the top 6 included with the tower of goodies). While Ava and I got 2 different teas, the boys decided to get the same one. I chose the Rose Congou Emperor tea because, ONE, it was Princess Diana's fave and, TWO, I absolutely love rose-infused drinks. It's now one of my new fave teas (along with jasmine and sencha green tea flavors).
The whole experience was absolutely delightful. The boys took a bunch of pictures and my daughter finished most of her food (which I was a little worried about). Although the dress code was "smart casual", we saw some people dressed to the nines complete with big, floppy hats and some that were dressed in their casual Friday duds. I will say, if you ever go, make an effort to dress for the occasion - since it's not a common thing to fit into most people's schedules.
I'm kind of glad my husband didn't go because I got to spend some quality time with the kids. No cell phones allowed during the meal (except for taking some photos) - so it was quite the bonding time we needed after I was bedridden for half the trip.
I will say it's not cheap to have tea here (well, I guess the word "cheap" is subjective) but you will have an experience nonetheless. Our server was great and very friendly, the atmosphere was most elegant, the food was flavorful, the tea tasted of high quality, and the music was great (the pianist played all the current hits so the kids loved that).
Prices are $78/adult and $39 for children ages 6-12. Pricing includes tea and a tower of goodies (and there is a LOT of it). Expect to spend about 1.5 - 2 hours here. Trust me when I say you get what you pay for so, in my honest opinion, the price was worth it. We all enjoyed it so hopefully hubs will tag along the next time we ever do tea.
For more info, visit www.teaattheempress.com
Until NEXT TIME BC!
Let me know if you've ever visited Victoria BC and, if so, what other suggestions you might have - where to visit and, most importantly, where to EAT! CIAO!
I've been wanting to visit this place for the past couple years! Set in the PNW mountains? Sign me up!
Now I just want to say I'm not truly a nature girl but I do care about the environment and the beauty of the trees and landscapes, not to mention the cool, fresh air! So when I heard about this place, I told my husband we've got to do a weekend trip one day and I"m glad to say that the time has come!
We were coming up on our 17-year wedding anniversary and thought "WHY NOT?!" So, I booked us a stay and am so glad we did. Beautiful surroundings, stylish room, fun things for the both of us to do (i.e. poker for him, spa for me) and the best part? The place is only about 20 minutes away from our house.
Unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on how you look at it), our kids didn't join us because we wanted some time to ourselves. My brother-in-law and his family live about a few minutes east of us so they came by to check up on the kids - ya know, to make sure they don't throw any wild parties while we're away. HAHA! If you do have kids, though, you can actually bring them along to stay. We saw a bunch of families there so they definitely cater to all ages!
The SUITE Life
Upon walking into our suite, we noticed all the updated rustic touches right away. My husband was loving it - "manly" but not so much that I wouldn't appreciate it (he knows my style well by now).
Very "northwest contemporary" interior design - so classy! Simple lines with a little bit of oomph in the details (metal casings, raw edge accessories and accent furniture, lighting fixtures to name a few...). A nice neutral color palette with a touch of warmth in the pillow colors, wood tones, and dark bronze bathroom fixtures. I was getting inspired by some of the elements that I immediately soaked everything in.
The only thing I was disappointed about was that I didn't really like the view that we had. I requested a room alongside the falls but we had trees obstructing our view...we could hear the rushing water as well as the mist but that was it Still, it wasn't a deal-breaker for us. It was so cold outside anyway that we didn't mind the obstruction so much.
One of our favorite things to do when we go someplace new, is trying out the dining establishments at the facility or around the area. We mainly dined at the Salish and were happy with both of their restaurants.
Restaurant #1: The Attic
This is their casual restaurant, located on the 4th floor of their facility. We hadn't eaten since lunch and left immediately after my husband got home from work. By the time we had settled at our suite, we realized we were famished. Since we were more dressed down, we decided to eat here on our 1st night.
Choices of food weren't immense but, still, the selection was great. I had a mushroom truffle mac & cheese and hubs had ribs. Though considered "Large Plates", portions didn't seem overwhelmingly HUGE but I wasn't able to finish mine (maybe because it's a pasta dish).
Of course, we tried a few of their cocktails. My husband liked my choices better but they seemed too feminine for him to order.
There were a few families and the ambiance was casual yet intimate. Children were present and noise volume was what you'd expect at a casual restaurant - a bit loud but not so much you can't hear your table mate(s) talk.
Restaurant #2: The DINING ROOM
Yes, this is the actual name of their second restaurant. Serving breakfast with a casual vibe by day and fancier dining establishment by night...reservations are encouraged. You don't necessarily have to dress up but just don't dine in your schleppiest (is this even a word?) outfit.
We had a chance to eat breakfast here and were able to get ourselves a table by the window (since it was still pretty cold, the misty fog overtook most of the views). Our waitress said that the fog usually lifts by early afternoon so we were a little bummed.
Food was tasty and we definitely felt satiated - enough so that we were good until dinner.
BONUS: They have a Salish tradition where they drizzle honey they harvested in their own backyard (so to speak) on your biscuits from high above. Our waitress was able to demonstrate it for us (there's something satisfying about it that I can't quite explain).
We also had dinner here on the actual date of our anniversary (January 26th) and saw that multiple people were celebrating for the same reason. Our set-up was actually pretty cute - the staff had rose petals strewn at our table and we were seated in the dim-lit section of their restaurant, complete with a wood-burning fireplace. The crackling fire added to the romantic ambience.
Overall, the ambiance was pleasant and the food was flavorful. Good wine (Pinot Noir for me, Merlot for him), good food, and good company always kick the whole experience up a notch!
Snoqualmie Falls is one of the most majestic sites here in the PNW. I sometimes take this state for granted but the nature we have here is incredibly beautiful and it always keeps me grounded. Learning to appreciate what we have at home is definitely a work-in-progress for us.
The last time I was at the falls was way back in high school and I feel like it's only gotten even more beautiful.
It was a bit hard to take a clear picture because of all the mist surrounding us. We were able to sneak in a few pics but, mostly, many were filled with a fog-like haze and droplet particles in front of our face.
The observation decks were somewhat crowded but people were respectful of others' need to take photos. Also, you're able to take your pets (I believe there’s a fee to pay when letting them stay with you in the hotel but definitely check with them before you book a room).
By the way...for those of you who end up bringing your pets along, PLEASE pick up after them. There were a couple of kids behind us who screamed that they accidentally picked up poop. GROSS.
So I didn't really take photos here because it's a place of tranquility and we're supposed to relax.. However, for the purpose of this blog, I was able to take a couple photos but then completely disconnected. Besides I was the first and only client there that morning. Shortly after, however, a bunch of people started to check in (and I was NOT going to be THAT girl).
Compared to other spas I've been to, this spa is on the smaller side but was nice and cozy nonetheless. Oh I should mention that most of these areas are co-ed (at least from my observation). There's a relaxation room, a couple small showers, (1) sauna, (1) steam room, and (2) small heated pools. I believe I heard the attendant mention a locker room but I ended up carrying my small bag with me.
Prices are comparable to some higher-end spas so I didn't find the costs too surprising. There's a small room tucked away next to their check-in desk that houses their spa shop. I was able to pick up a couple of cool new items.
Overall, we had a very relaxing experience. It was nice to fully connect with each other for the weekend. We talked about our future plans, our home life, our jobs (although, a bulk of our conversation was about our children). It's nice to feel like it's just the two of us sometimes.
If you're interested in booking a stay, check out www.salishlodge.com/
~ XOXO, Mari
Our Greece Trip! PLUS What to Know
Trip of a Lifetime
If you've been following my blogs these past couple of months, you'll see that my husband and I went to Greece to celebrate our birthdays (his being September 28th and mine being October 3rd) and, lucky for us, this time of year was the best time to go. The weather is still nice enough that we could get our tan on but cool enough that we wouldn't be burning up.
Vuong has never been overseas and I've never been to Europe so this year's birthday trip was somewhat of an easy decision. All he wanted was to go somewhere "good." I've wanted to go to Greece since I was a teen - the first time I saw a photo of the white buildings and watching movies based on or set in Greece (i.e. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, My Life in Ruins, Mamma Mia, etc...), I knew this was the perfect place.
It took us about 9 hours to fly to Paris for our layover (which lasted about 3 hours) then another 3 hours or so to fly to Athens. We wanted to sleep on our first flight but we were so excited that we stayed up the whole time watching movies on the plane and eat all our meals...is it just me or has plane food become good over the years? I remember it being mushy and somewhat lacking flavor.
Arriving in Athens felt somewhat like we were still in Seattle. I was warned by a few friends that Athens was the most westernized out of all the islands and I couldn't agree more. I saw a bunch of "American" restaurants and cafes (like McDonald's and Starbucks) as well as graffiti on many of the buildings.
We also were welcomed by crazy rain - we found out later that a hurricane just passed through the island and we arrived at the tail-end of it. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed because we wanted to visit the ruins...at least we got a good view of it from our hotel window.
Since we couldn't go anywhere due to the downpour, we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant. There were already a few patrons there and it was about 45 minutes to closing time so we tried to eat fast...much of the menu consisted of pasta and fish dishes.
One thing to note about this hotel is that although it was a nice establishment, the property is flanked by a strip club on each side of the building. In fact, the whole street we were on had adult clubs (Stripclub Row, if you will). I remember getting out of the shower and hearing porn music (haha) and realized upon check-out why that was...hmm, if only we had known beforehand!
Taking the FAST Ferry
To get to the other islands, there are ferries to transport you from one to another. I believe there are flights available in the summer but during the time we went, the ferry was our only option. And, although, they're called "fast" ferries, it takes a few hours to get to your destination. It took us 5 hours to get to the port in Santorini! Not too bad, though, because the views of the other islands were amazing!
Arriving at the port is a little...shall we say...CRAZY. Be prepared for the crowds and the strong smell of gasoline. The traffic is nothing you've ever seen before (or at least it's nothing you've ever seen in the states before). If you ever visit, just keep your eyes open for who you're supposed to meet (there are people with signs waiting for you) and keep your luggage close.
Finally arriving in Santorini felt like a dream come true for me because it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips people take. For Vuong, he was just so fascinated with the way people were driving on the cliffs and how bad-ass they seemed to do so.
The following places are towns we spent time in during our week there...
AKROTIRI - South Santorini
If you want a more relaxed setting, South Santorini is where you should be. It was perfect for us - the air felt fresher and we feel like people were a bit friendlier. Also, parking is easier to find and the beaches here are a lot less busy (it takes about 15 minutes away to get there if you don't have direct access to a beach).
We stayed at a wonderful cliffside resort overlooking the caldera. To learn more, check out my entry here, ambassador-aegean-luxury-suites-akrotiri-santorini.html
Fira (pronounced Fee-Ruh), the capital of Santorini, is a busy place and probably best suited for those looking for the night life. We spent half a day there and parking was crazy - people double parked, blocked entrances, made up parking spaces...you name it. We ended up walking most of the time and it was pretty tiring. We mostly hung out at their town square and did a little souvenir shopping, which, was somewhat unpleasant. We ended up leaving the city shortly after. There were so many people around that it was a bit overwhelming. I must admit, Fira wasn't our (or maybe my) favorite place but it was a nice experience nonetheless.
Our last stop - Oia (pronounced Ee-Yuh)...is the place you see on postcards. Think blue domes and white buildings built into the cliffs. It is more beautiful in person than in photos...as a friend said to me, "Basically everywhere you look, it's Instagram-worthy."
The crowds were gathering in spurts throughout the day and it was hard to take a decent photo at times (see below lol)...
It was starting to get hot and I was ready to go home but, thankfully, my husband talked me into staying since he felt it was (again) a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience. We found a space at a rooftop bar and sat there for a few hours just watching the sun go down.
The crowds were starting to get bigger and our waiter was being a bit aggressive to patrons coming through. I was a bit irritated with his attitude but I wasn't going to let it sour my mood.
Our ferry back to Athens was an adventurous one and NOT in a good way. There was a storm and the ferry was aggressively bobbing up and down every half hour midway through the 5 hour trip. The staff was trying to secure their equipment and people were falling over - needless to say it was crazy. I felt sick to my stomach and, miraculously, I didn't throw up. When we arrived at our port, we met our driver and he took us and a few other couples to the airport hotel, Sofitel, located across the airport...maybe about 300 feet away.
Accommodations were pleasant and we were kind of bummed that we were only staying for a few hours...we had to be at the airport at 3 a.m.! We had dinner in one of the restaurants at the hotel and were pleased with the dishes we ordered.
We were sad we were leaving...our week went by so quick - if we could do it again, we'd go for at least 2-3 weeks. To be able to do more things and visit more islands...who knows when we'll be back. But, of course, we needed to get back to our children and our lives.
Arriving in Paris, we found out our flight was delayed a few hours so we did what we could to keep busy until boarding. The flight didn't seem to last as long this time around but, then again, we slept most of the time because we knew our jet lag would be bad coming back. So, better to train ourselves beforehand!
What to Know...
If you ever visit Greece, here are some tips and also a few things we learned during our short stay there:
So this is the last of my entries of our time in Greece. I still miss it but, alas, I must move on. Also, If you're ever interested in learning more about their food, check out my entry on where we dined, yummy-eats-in-santorini-greece.html
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my entry on our trip and that it gives you a reason to want to visit this beautiful island someday.
If you ever visit beautiful Santorini, try to book a stay at the Ambassador Hotel, located on the Southern part of the island. Staying down South worked out perfectly for us because we were away from all the traffic and tourists. This side of the island is a lot more chill - it actually would've been perfect for the kids had we brought them with us. This property is built into the cliff-side in the Southern town of Akrotiri. From here, you can see Oia in the distance (this is pronounced EE-YUH, and the town you most likely see in all the postcards around the world). You can also see Fira (the capitol of the island) to the middle part of the island.
Upon arrival, you see a small white structure on the side of the street with gates flanking each side. It may not look like much but, walking down further in, you start to see various-sized white buildings sprawled out with undeniable views in the backdrop in addition to the simple yet beautiful landscaping throughout the property.
We had a bellhop escort us to reception then proceeded to take care of bringing down our luggage. We were then greeted by two soft-spoken women, offering us each a glass of white wine native to the island.
One of the women had us sit down for a mini orientation where she went over the property details and its amenities, excursions around the island, as well as information on where we could pick up my "thank you" gift for choosing to stay with them. Hubs didn't get one as it was something special for their lady guests.
Around the Property
There's no doubt this property is very well-cared for. Not one moment did we not see anyone working. The staff was very helpful and accommodated our every need.
One of the maintenance guys on staff bears a striking resemblance to the late Robin Williams and he was a favorite of ours...he had a permanent smile on his face and was just the sweetest guy. We waved to each other every time we saw one another and he'd offer us a ride on one of the hotel carts anytime he saw us walking up the hill. He and I exchanged some words and he even taught me some Greek. I spoke to him with the words I learned whenever we'd see one another.
Also, I can't forget to mention Pepi. She's the nice blonde lady at the front desk - she played a big part during our stay - she was so helpful and very thorough explaining things around the island...where to go as well as where to stay away from. We relied on her when we needed to set things up - she booked our catamaran tour, hooked it up with a beach bag, as well as directed us to select restaurants around the island. All we needed to tell the other places were "we're guests at the Ambassador" or "the Ambassador sent us" to get a deal. The other places would have to verify it, of course. Sounds pretty cool and mysterious when you say it out loud, right?!
Each suite and villa is equipped with their own private pool in addition to the community pool located right outside their restaurant, Cabo Rosso (see below). We used our pool a couple times the whole week we were there because it was so cold! Temps start to cool down in the Fall. Still, very nice touch!
The style of our suite was very minimalistic and organic in style. Black, white, and gray make up the room's color scheme with minimal pops of color. The neutral colors made it feel even more spacious than it already was while the bits of color brought in some warmth so it didn't feel too stark. Although the room was open, it felt cozy just the same.
The room's curves were apparent throughout and played up its cave-like vibe.
Cabo Rosso Restaurant
This place was one of the fancier restaurants we've been to on the Southern part of the island and it just happened to be within walking distance from our suite. Part of our deal with the room was a free multi-course dinner - appetizer, entree, and dessert for each of us. (check out my review on the place and the food in a previous post, yummy-eats-in-santorini-greece.html).
My only regret is that we didn't dine there one more night while we were there. There was a young man that looked like a young Johnny Depp who waited on us (think of his "Nightmare on Elm Street" days)...although, hubs thought he looked more like a young Emilio Estevez in the "Breakfast Club").
We had breakfast here everyday and really loved their fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was honestly the best we've ever had. Fredducinos (these are everywhere on the island and are similar to iced coffee) were part of my meal most days. Food was ordered on a slip of paper where we could choose a la carte.
Every time we go on vacation, I book a massage at whatever hotel we stay at (if there's a spa available, otherwise, I go somewhere close by). It's one of my guilty pleasures and I try to play up the relaxation part as much as possible because Lord knows I'm going to be all over the place when I'm back to my normal schedule.
It was the middle of the week and I think I was the only client at their spa. I loved it, though, because I had the jacuzzi all to myself. Oh and, by the way, there's a separate fee to use the pool as it's not incorporated into the price of the massage. I think it costs 15 euros per pool (I only used one). It was kinda nice...I basically sat there alone and sang to myself, taking advantage of the awesome acoustics in the room. LOL!
The massage I got was nice (however, I would've preferred it just a tad bit stronger) - my therapist was really sweet and I'm not sure if she understood me when I'd tell her something. I noticed there was kind of a disconnect between us so I tried to speak a little simpler so that I could relay my thoughts a bit better. That seemed to work.
During our stay, we (or shall I say primarily me) were gifted with several things. Not only were we hooked up with a bottle of white wine at our suite as well as a multi-course meal at their restaurant but I got a really pretty necklace (which, we picked up in Fira, the capitol of Santorini), a WHOLE fancy-looking chocolate cake for my birthday (whereas we would only get 1 slice of cake elsewhere), and some olive oil lightly scented soaps during checkout.
This place was completely perfect and the views were magical in every sense...sunsets were some of the prettiest we've seen in person, the cerulean blue of the ocean was vibrant and absolutely serene, and the view of the white buildings in the distance were so beautiful (especially at dusk when the lights would come on around them). "Robin" asked me, "why you go?!...You come back again?" So I told him, "I truly hope so...hopefully sooner rather than later."
Check out www.ambassadorhotelsantorini.com/ should you plan to book a stay there!
So, technically, this was a *work trip for me. But since we still haven't gone on our annual summer family trip, my husband and I decided to take the kids to Vegas. The kids have asked a few times to take them so that they could see the sights, try the food, and watch some shows. They've been to Vegas before but only during a layover (so, yeah, that doesn't count).
I've always been hesitant to take the kids here because I don't think it's necessarily kid-friendly despite what some people might say (I mean "hello! You see sex reps everywhere passing out stripper and hooker cards).
Since this work trip was set in Vegas, it set the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
*This work trip actually took place in August 2018, the week before the kids went back-to-school.
To maximize this family vacation, my husband and kids left in the morning while I left in the evening (I had to work during the day). I don't particularly like flying apart from my family but my evening flight wasn't so bad...it was delayed a couple hours but it was nice because I was able to catch up on my emails, reading, and watching lifestyle YouTube videos I subscribe to. Plus I had a whole row to myself on the plane!
Where we Stayed
THINGS to DO
Like I said before, I don't think Vegas is the most kid-friendly but we were able to find some things to do.
We only had a few days in Vegas and we were able to get the kids to experience a few things that one would do in Vegas their first time around (sans the clubs, strip shows, drinking to their hearts content, and tables/slots). ;-P
Most days, we walked around because you never get a dull view. There's so much going on, that the kids are always looking around and taking in all the lights, music, costumed characters, and flashy buildings.
We took them to one of the many buffets in Vegas - one in particular, "Cravings Buffet" located in the Mirage. We only ended up there because we were all ravenous and it was close by - diagonally across the street from the Palazzo. I admit, the food didn't taste the best but it satisfied our hunger. The kids wanted to eat a bit fancier but we didn't quite have the time - we were on a schedule!
The interior was pretty nice for a buffet - every wall seemed to have some architectural element to it and there were splashes of gold everywhere. Each food section was separated by continent (i.e. Asia, South America, etc.) and type (i.e. desserts, beverages, etc.)
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
This was fun - the kids loved that they could take photos with the different wax celebrities. I was solo on this one - hubby needed to work on one of his real estate deals and went back to our hotel. So, naturally, I took one for the team. Madame Tussaud's is always going to be a fave go-to of mine anytime we're in Vegas. They change out their wax figures periodically and it's always fun to see who they have the next time you visit (still hoping for the royal family to make their debut...particularly Meghan Markle - whom I have a major GIRL CRUSH!)
Located right outside the Venetian, you're greeted with a photo op (which you have the option to buy prints at the end of the tour) then you follow the pathways to get to your fave celebrities.
We met up with some family that happened to be there the same time we were. We saw the Jabbawockeez show together at MGM Grand. I personally haven't seen them perform in a few years so it was nice to watch them again with the kids.
We gave the kids a few options to choose from between this, Michael Jackson, and a magic show. Ava and I chose Michael (although, I could've gone either way) and the boys chose Jabbawockeez. We were beat but I'm glad it didn't disappoint.
It was a more intimate and cozy venue than last time but it was perfect because we all had a great view.
I wish I could've taken some photos but the performers made it very clear to the audience before they started that flash photography and video were off-limits. The show consisted of different dream sequences that tied in together and the performers interacted with the audience quite often so the kids loved that. One thing they require is that they're entertained for the most part. Safe to say, the Jabbawockeez fulfilled that requirement!
Before the show started, a photographer walked around taking photos of people. Once again, prints were available for purchase at the end of the show. Normally we wouldn't buy photos but the kids wanted something to keep for remembrance.
Gondola Ride - Venetian
On our last full day in Vegas, the kids wanted to do the famed gondola ride so we walked over next door to the Venetian to indulge them. The lines were pretty long to get tickets and the actual ride took about 15 mins or so to loop around the indoor canal. Gondolas can accommodate up to 4 people so we had to split up - the boys with their dad; Ava and I with a newly married couple (how romantic for them, right?!).
We were, of course, serenaded by the gondola drivers/operators...whatever you call them. It must be nice to be able to sing all day. :-)
Bellagio Fountain Show
The creme dela creme to our last night in Vegas...after our gondola ride, we walked all the way to the Bellagio to catch their fountain show (these run every half hour in the evenings, although, you may want to check the time frames per day because it varies).
We were able to see the Bellagio from the Palazzo/Venetian area but we found out soon enough how close but so far it was. Although it was late afternoon, temps were about 104 degrees (so this made our walk seem longer than it was) and there were a handful of drunk people (a couple of them belligerent). Ava, my youngest, was getting anxious, frustrated, and really not feeling the atmosphere.
On a hot evening, the fountain show is great because not only is the water show beautiful, the mist from the water refreshes you from the heat. We all loved it and instantly felt energized!
Last Day - Wedding Work!
The day of the wedding was all business for me and my assistant, Josette. We were dropped off at Caesar's Palace in the early morning and we set up in one of their bridal suites. While I went to work, the kids were able to sleep in. Later, their dad took them to the pool one last time to cool off some more.
My assistant flew in the night before with her boyfriend to help me with this party of 10. We checked them into Treasure Island across the street from the Palazzo.
The morning of the wedding, Josette did the prep work and touch ups, while I did the rest of the face. It made the whole thing go pretty smoothly. Initially I was supposed to make over all faces on my own but that was going to push it. My call time was at 8 a.m. and they all had to be ready by 1 p.m. Yikes! Thank God for Josette!
Once touch-ups were done and clean-up was complete, we went back to our hotels to check out and my family and I headed straight to the airport. Josette stayed behind to enjoy the rest of her time in Vegas. Yes - I make sure my assistants get some fun in when they work with me!
Heading back home
If you've read my last travel entry on our visit to Arizona, you'll know that my kids and I spent a few days with my mom and stepdad. We started off our trip at the Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. For our second outdoor excursion, my parents wanted to take us to see the Red Rock formations in Sedona. The drive was about 3 hours away and my kids weren't really too thrilled.
Along the way, we made sure to visit a couple rest stops for bathroom breaks, drinks, food, etc. About halfway through our drive, we ended up stopping to get some fresh air, restrooms, and - the kids' favorite - hit up the vending machines.
Although it was just a rest stop, the boys were loving the views as well, taking selfies or photos of the landscape to post on their social medias. If it's one thing I love that I've passed on to them, it's their love of travel and taking in new sights. Many of their peers - especially in this day and age - don't care for stuff like that.
Once we got back on the road, the kids started to notice there were less cactus and more trees that looked like, well, actual trees. The higher the elevation, the less cactus due to weather conditions.
Red Rock State Park
Coming up on the entrance of this popular hiking area with bike trails, we were welcomed with a few formations. The formation pictured below is the Courthouse Butte (pronounced byoot, NOT butt. LOL).
Seeing these in photos don't do its beauty justice, you'd have to be there. These rock formations were once at sea level and formed by the water and surrounding winds.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
One of Sedona's popular landmarks is the majestic Chapel of the Holy Cross. We drove about 20 more minutes to this popular site and parked, then walked up to the entrance.
Walking up, there were views of homes sporadically spread throughout the area with more rock formations in the background. Every way you'd turn, you could see these landscapes. It's a little surreal, actually...it felt like you walked into a spread seen in the National Geographic.
Getting to the actual chapel, you'd find many tourists taking photos or going in to light a few candles and say their prayers. Downstairs, there's a souvenir shop of religious items - my eldest son bought his grandmother and I our early Christmas presents, in fact - a dainty choker gold necklace with a small cross pendant. Very "me" but definitely not my mom's style. HAHA
Apparently, it seems there may be actual mass that takes place in this tiny chapel. The presiding pastor is listed on a plaque right outside the chapel doors.
Inside the chapel, you will find two columns of pews where you could sit and reflect. Much of the interior is built with predominantly natural materials to coincide with its natural surroundings. Everything is well-maintained to welcome daily visitors.
Coconino National Forest
We had lunch at a nearby restaurant in a town about 10 minutes away from the chapel. Since we had to drive a few hours back to Phoenix, we decided to head back before it got dark. Going through the Coconino Forest, there was a viewing point right next to the bridge we had to cross and decided to do one last stop.
Since my mom was a bit tired, she decided to stay in the car. Ava stayed behind because she thought it was too dangerous. My stepdad, boys, and I decided to do the steep hike down. Normally, I probably would have stayed behind but I had my sneakers on. The views from at the base of the bridge did not disappoint...
If only we had more time, we would have visited Slide Rock - a popular attraction that people go to wade in the flowing waters. Unfortunately, we had a late start in the morning. Still, this is definitely an excuse to come back - this time, with my husband. Hopefully, we're able to make another trip out in the next few months.
~ XOXO, Mari
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