2018 and our first big trip! This year marks our 16-year wedding anniversary and hubs received a special room rate at the Palazzo. I'll be honest, Vegas isn't my 1st choice to spend such a momentous occasion because it's so tiring and busy for me but I could see the twinkle in his eyes upon receiving that little treat in the mail.
So, we booked our tickets and we were on our way to the city of sin.
We flew in the evening and had the WORST turbulence ever - we legit thought the face masks would fall right in front of us because a few people gasped out loud (me included) - but before we knew it, we made it!
I googled the rooms at Palazzo and I admit I was pleased. They looked bright and spacious and had good views. I agreed to the thought of spending our time in Vegas but only if we got to see a show and eat really good food. HA! Somehow I have a feeling he knew I'd give in because I'm a sucker for nice digs!
Upon check-in, Palazzo's manager left us a nice welcome note, thanking us for choosing Palazzo for our anniversary stay.
'Course I had to get some shots of the interior details! Every inch was beautifully styled in a grand yet feminine way. Flowers and curves were seen everywhere...in the decor and details.
My husband asked about an upgrade and the only one available for the evening was a room at the Venetian with a superb view. I was hesitant because the rooms at the Palazzo enticed me to head to Vegas in the 1st place. When we walked to the upgraded room, we ended up getting lost about 3 times because there are different towers - a nice group of guys tried helping us but they couldn't figure it out either. Once we got closer to our room, we started to see that the decor was becoming more ornate. My husband looked at me and KNEW.
I believe there are different decor styles to choose from at the Venetian and the room we were assigned creeped me out, quite honestly. The decor reminded me of my house as a kid as it always seemed haunted. Now, normally, I would just bite the bullet and deal because I HATE to complain or seem high maintenance but knowing I'd be left alone in there periodically didn't quite sit well with me. I'd be looking over my shoulder constantly! HAHA! So, my husband asked the front desk if we could switch back to the Palazzo and they were happy to accommodate us. BLESS HIS HEART (and bless the front desk's heart for that matter).
I wrote a review on our room at Palazzo so click on the link to our suite here: palazzo.html
Canyon Ranch Spa
Located on the 3rd floor of the Palazzo, this place was convenient for me to get to (had we stayed at our upgraded suite at the Venetian, it would’ve taken a LOT longer).
I booked their Canyon Ranch signature full-body massage and scalp treatment. Hubs knows massages are one of my guilty pleasures and I’d never pass up an opportunity to get one. NOTE: at check-in, ask whether there's a special of the day. I got $50 off my service, which, helped out a LOT! YEAH!
I hung out for a couple hours after my treatment and utilized their co-ed areas - SO KEEP YOUR ROBES ON...I read a magazine in their simulated evening outdoor ranch conservation room; relaxed in their wave room (this has waves of water projected onto the ceiling with sounds of nature playing in the background); and salt room (good for opening the sinuses).
On the women's side, you'll find a hot tub, steam room, igloo, herbal room, sauna, and experiential rain showers. I'm usually okay being alone but I felt like visiting all these specialized rooms would've been better had I brought along a friend or one of my sister-in-laws!
For information, visit www.canyonranch.com/las-vegas/
Cirque du Soleil Beatles LOVE show
This show was probably one of the more colorful ones we’ve been to. Many of the songs were familiar to me (Hey Jude), some I didn’t know they sang (Revolution)...I think you’d have to be a true fan to know. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t know most of the songs.
We actually wanted to see Britney, Boyz II Men or Michael Jackson’s show but they were either not playing for our time there or booked solid. Still, we weren’t disappointed. Like all the other Cirque shows, this one had acrobatics, aerialists, and performers interacting with the audience. I wasn’t able to take many photos because any type of flash photography is strongly discouraged as it could distract the performers while doing their stunts. Plus, I’m not too keen on the idea of getting my phone confiscated.
For more info on this show, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/beatles-love
Walking the Strip
We walked the strip a few times to work off all the food we'd been eating. Our 2nd day, we had a craving to eat at Serendipity but, sadly, it's NO LONGER THERE. However, we did find Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen restaurant! The good news is they take walk-ins - depending on how busy it is (and it was busy as heck); the bad news is it would be a 2-HOUR wait. We arrived around 11:30 a.m. and the next available table would be around 1:45 p.m. Needless to say we didn't eat there but it's definitely at the top of our list when we go back. If I could have taken photos of the beautiful dining space, I would show you in a heartbeat but I'll save it for next time. We ended up finding another restaurant (which, of course, I'll write about here a few days after I publish this entry).
We walked back to Treasure Island since it was directly across from our hotel and hubs could play some video poker (CHA CHING!!!) ;-D
Here's a link to Hell's Kitchen in case you visit: www.caesars.com/caesars-palace/restaurants/hells-kitchen?utm_campaign=Yext&utm_source=yext&utm_medium=local&utm_term=CaesarsPalace&utm_content=Restaurant#.WnOPP6inE2w
You can find info on Treasure Island here: www.treasureisland.com/
Our last day, I ended up getting sick so my husband was rushing to the nearest Walgreens to get me medicine. We'd also heard that there was rain and gray skies to come home to.
Our daughter was itching for our return and, although, I was ready to go back, hubby didn't quite feel the same way since he had to immediately go back to work. LOL - back to rainy Seattle we went.
Despite all the rainy days we have, looking down from above, we sometimes take for granted how beautiful the Pacific Northwest really is. Would you agree?
~ XOXO, Mari
Every summer, we try to go on a week-long family getaway right before the kids start school as a way to recharge for the year. It's been a long-standing tradition with us and we hope it continues until we're old and gray and our kids have their own families.
Our getaways consisted of, more or less, “staycations” - where we’d book something nearby that we could drive to...for example Seaside, OR or Lake Chelan, WA. On these trips, we often invite other family members to join in the fun.
This past year, my husband wanted to fly someplace where we knew no one so we could connect better as a family. What better place to do so than Hawaii! We settled on the island of Maui because, unlike Oahu, it was slower-paced and seemed to be more family-friendly.
The kids didn’t quite take us seriously because “we never go on big trips like that.” So, we did what they thought was the impossible - we booked accommodations, our flight, and car rental. WELL WHADDYA KNOW. Needless to say, they were ECSTATIC. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Hubs and I started shopping, eating right, and working out trying to get bikini-bod ready. Meanwhile the kids excitedly told their friends about our upcoming trip and even started planning what to pack.
Our flight was early in the morning and we had to arrive at the airport around 3 AM to get through security checks in a timely manner but the kids didn’t mind one bit. In fact, THEY were the ones who woke us up to get ready for the airport!
Once we arrived in Hawaii, the first place we hit up was the beach! Palm trees, plumeria, sun, and surf?! We were literally WALKING. INTO. PARADISE.
We stayed at our timeshare/resort in Kihei Maui. Amenities were well-maintained and our unit was nicely decorated and spacious. We had walking access to restaurants, shaved ice stands (Ava’s fave), food trucks, and, most importantly, the beach!
Ava's favorite shaved ice spot in Kihei is S & Q Coffee & Shave Ice: mauishaveshack.com/ We have yet to find a place that makes better shaved ice than Hawaii. They've got it down to a science! LOL
For the 8 days we were there, we ended up at the beach, most times. despite all these plans of doing major sightseeing. All 5 of us were constantly on-the-go and we really just wanted to relax and laze around. However, I still found myself cleaning up our unit, doing laundry, or packing up our necessities daily because I can’t just not do anything...still, I was able to hit up the beach or the pool with the fam a couple times a day!
A couple of the coolest things we did/witnessed at the beach:
For major outings we did as a family, we went through Boss Frogs - a local vacation agency chain found throughout the island. We contacted them via phone and our rep, Sarah, was super sweet - you could feel the warmth in her voice. I couldn't help but book a couple excursions through her - a luau and dinner cruise. We received discounts as well as our tickets via email.
Boss Frogs Dive & Surf can be found at:
www.bossfrog.com OR www.hawaiidiscountactivities.com
Te Au Moana Luau at the Wailea Marriott Beach Resort & Spa
Upon arrival, the grand setting and expansive views were the first things we noticed. The luau was beautifully set in a tropically landscaped area behind the resort, overlooking the ocean. Once we checked in, all the guests were "lei'd" and had the chance to take photos with one of the night's performers...
The luau lasted a few hours complete with songs, ancient stories, traditional dances, buffet goodness, and various family activities. Not only were we all able to witness another glorious sunset, couples in the audience were able to get a slow dance in or two (NICE TOUCH, MARRIOTT)!
Our Boss Frogs rep, Sarah, mentioned this was her favorite luau on the island and I believe it! What a great time we had...we met other people from different parts of the world. (the people we shared a table with were from Europe). The kids even had opportunities to mingle (in fact, our eldest son saw a couple of his friends from WA there)!
Overall, we had the best experience. Just make sure you wear comfy shoes because you'll be doing quite a bit of walking to get to the luau from the lobby. You'll be taking a few sets of stairs down and you'll be walking pathways that aren't totally flat and smooth. I ended up going barefoot most of the night and, holy cow, the ground was burnin' up because of how hot it was. LESSON LEARNED.
As we were leaving, my kids spied this cool architectural light fixture in the lobby and knew I’d love it! Of course they were right, so, I had to snap a photo!
QUICKSILVER DINNER CRUISE on the CALYPSO
Find it here:
My co-worker at the time told me about this activity because he and his wife did this on their honeymoon. When I told the kids, they were totally down for it. They loved that it was something different. The kids led us up to the 2nd deck to sit, in front, so we could have a better view of our surroundings. HEADS UP - despite the warm weather, it gets chilly so bring a sweater or jacket.
LiWHAT TO EXPECT:
If we were to do it again, we would NOT get outdoor seats to eat because of how windy it was. NOTE: there are dining table next to the windows in the covered areas so you're still able to enjoy the scenery.
We didn’t get to savor our food properly because our dishes got cold and we were busy thinking of ways to keep our plates and drinks from flying off into the wind!
See the short video below to get an idea of how crazy the winds were:
LAHAINA / Home of the BIG Banyan Tree
This was another suggestion by my co-worker! This charming town was filled with tourists and had an abundance of boutiques, restaurants, and historical buildings.
The banyan tree located in town is HUGE - there's absolutely no way to miss it. Walking towards it, the sound of birds chirping got louder with each step. As we went underneath it, we noticed hundreds of them sitting on the branches towards the top. All we could think was "please God - don't let us get pooped on." Thank goodness, we didn't! So, we took our photos as quickly as we could to avoid any possible accidents.
TIP: bring some wet wipes because your hands will get soiled with dirt (or maybe it was sap?) if you happen to touch the bark of the tree.
Towards the end of the night, we ate at The Cheeseburger Restaurant, an open dining area with live entertainment, overlooking the streets of Lahaina. This place has some of the best burgers on that side of the island: cheeseburgernation.com/
For these outings, we just kind of went with the flow and what felt right at the moment. We visited the local mall (Christian is a clotheshorse plus I needed to get flip-flops since I forgot mine in WA).
My brother and sister-in-law recommended Geste Shrimp and mentioned they have really amazing crab salad. Of course, they were right - it's one of the best we've tried! If you like shrimp, this food truck is one to try. The menu isn't extensive but sometimes that's better because you're not overwhelmed with having to choose.
This truck is located across from the University of Maui and is literally parked on the side of the highway: www.gesteshrimp.com/default.html
The boys talked about going snorkeling so my husband booked the activity through one of the local agencies down the street from our timeshare. Ava and I decided to forgo the trip so we stayed behind and lounged at the pool.
While the boys snorkeled, their dad stayed on the boat because he said he "almost drowned" - the water went down his breathing tube and he ended up swallowing a bunch of seawater. The swimming lessons we put the boys through when they were younger definitely paid off!
FINAL Outing: HIGHWAY to HANA
Yes, another suggestion by my co-worker (if you ever read this...THANKS AGAIN, JOSH)! Be sure to keep your whole day open if you plan on doing this drive. We left a little later than usual because we slept in. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do the whole drive through but we made it about 3/4 of the way.
The highway is only about 60 miles long (give or take a few miles) but the many hairpin turns make the drive a lot longer than it should be. Also, there are a couple areas (we were told) that people are forbidden to drive through due to unsafe roads, so, plan accordingly.
We decided to stop at only a few places due to the circumstances. We were a little bummed but, looking at the bright side, we can always do the drive again if we ever come back. :-)
1st stop: Twin Falls
Beware the mosquitoes so bring your bug spray! If you forget a can, they sell bug spray - along with food and drinks - at the small trailer parked near the entrance.
You may also want to arrive early enough so that you can find parking. This is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike so parking spots can be hard to find.
And you'll want to wear comfortable shoes because you'll be taking a short hike down to get to the falls.
A great place to pick up banana bread (which, we did) and other fare. There were several (much smaller) stands serving similar items but the stand at the halfway point supposedly had the best banana bread of them all.
The highway passes through many tropical areas featuring waterfalls and lush greenery. With some areas, you are absolutely surrounded by nature. Once you get deeper into the forest, you'll notice that two lanes will suddenly turn into one.
Take great precaution when driving through...the locals tend to drive a little faster than the tourists - perhaps because they're used to the roads. OR maybe they're tourists trying to re-enact scenes from one of the Fast and Furious movies?? Who knows.
Below is a video showing you what to expect when driving along this famous highway:
2nd Stop: Hamoa Beach
Known for it's high waves and crystal-clear blue waters, this beautiful beach is a popular destination for surfers. If you're going to swim here, watch out! If you go out far enough, the current can be strong and, since it's connected to open water a.k.a. the ocean, you can easily get pulled out to sea. The waves reached up to about 6 - 7 feet high and we were totally engulfed in them - scary yet fun...I don't think any of us experienced high waves like these up close and personal. The kids were having so much fun, we ended up staying for a couple hours.
Also, the dry sand gets super hot to the touch so you better be prepared with water shoes or sturdy flip-flops. Mine didn't hold well so I braved it and ran through the hot sand barefoot only to cool them down in the water.
3rd and Final Stop: Wai’anapanapa State Park “Black Sands Beach”
We were absolutely in awe of this place. Not only for the greenery, tropical flowers, and private graveyard along our walk but for the natural rock formations, hidden caves, and "black" sand. The sand wasn't really sand at all and was actually formed by lava. The granules ranged in size - from what looked like coffee grinds to smooth river rock.
Any time the surf rolled in, our feet would sink into it - deeper than they would had they been on regular sand. It was a bit difficult to walk in so there was no point in walking along the beach with your flip-flops on as it would get caught by the tide, pulling them into the sea - we almost lost ours a few times!
It was here we decided to drive back to our timeshare. It was late afternoon and we wanted to avoid driving in the dark since there seemed to be a lack of street lights in many areas. We were so tired and the kids slept for most of the way back.
If you read this far - CONGRATULATIONS! It was a long entry but I felt compelled to write about this trip as it was truly one for the books. THE MOST MEMORABLE FOR US ALL.
I'd been struggling personally and, though I didn't know it at the time, it was what I needed to open my eyes. Maybe call it a "mid-life crisis" but I wasn't happy with where I was in life. I was doing way too much at one time and I had to lessen the load, if you will.
Also, seeing the kids in their true state - not with their YouTube, video games, and influences from (some) questionable peers - they finally seemed to get along with one another in what seemed like forever. It made us realize to cherish our family as it is now before they grow up - believe me that it's true when they say it happens in the blink of an eye. Slow down and just live each day with zest and vigor.
There's this saying "I wasn't born only to pay bills" or something like that. Now, this doesn't mean we would just slack away - we still need to handle our responsibilities, just that we need to find something we truly love and put our hearts and souls into it, whatever that may be.
So, here is where I end this lengthy blog entry. I hope you find the inspiration to do all you can to live life to YOUR fullest and to never take your health and families for granted.
~ XOXO, Mari
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