Category Archives: Hotel Recommendation

2013 is Happening

In spite of the Mayan prediction and yet another Christmas with the fam,  Danimal and I survived and will be ringing in 2013 tonight with friends. But, we really threw down the weekend of December 15, just in case that was the last weekend on earth.

Spend time here. Check.

Spend time here. Check.

We went to where all the end of the world rumors began, Tulum, Mexico, for the nuptials of our wonderful friends, Kristen and David. Having grown up in Texas, I have vacationed quite a bit in Mexico. And, I can say with confidence that Tulum is the best destination I’ve been to in the country. Perhaps it is the lack of all-inclusive resorts and the plethora of boutique hotels, but this place has authentic charm.

I'm moving to Playa Azul.

I’m moving to Playa Azul.

We stayed at Playa Azul, which also happened to be the location of the welcome party. Every room is different and there are a mix of beach and jungle view rooms. The food and service was personal and kind. (Note: This doesn’t mean fast… remember you’re in Mexico.)

Also, apparently pinatas are for adults now. Awesome.

Also, apparently pinatas are for adults now. Awesome.

Kristen and David are my travel idols. One of their favorite travel activities is scuba diving. That is how they initially discovered Tulum and they wanted their guests to have this experience as well. While we weren’t certified to scuba, they arranged for the wedding party and our loves to have a guided snorkeling tour of the Cenotes.

Cenotes Dos Ojos: "To the Baticueva!"

Cenotes Dos Ojos: “To the Baticueva!”

This is one of the cooler travel experiences I have had. It ranks up there with baby lions. And, I should preface this by saying that I don’t particularly enjoy snorkeling. The cenotes were formed when limestone bedrock collapsed exposing groundwater underneath. You aren’t there to look for marine life, but the underground stalactites and stalagmites are like nothing else I’ve seen.

The #1 thing my mouth tasted.

The #1 thing my mouth tasted.

I don’t want to forget the food on this trip. We could have done nothing but eat and that would have satisfied me. From the brick oven pizza at La Siesta to the steak and fish at Casa Banana, it would have been impossible to starve. But the hands down award winning bite of the trip, was the ceviche at Ak’iin.

No money. No problems.

No money. No problems.

I want to say a huge thank you to Kristen and David for allowing their wedding to be an adventure that included all of us.  And, when I say included all of us, I mean everyone. These cats wondered down the beach in between the ceremony and reception. I tend to think they are less stressed out than I am.

The Danimal and I lovin' us some Tulum.

The Danimal and I lovin’ us some Tulum.

The best thing about the world not ending on December 21 is that you can visit Tulum. Perhaps it can be one of your resolutions for 2013.

Photo credit: I don’t have a fancy underwater camera so the picture of the cenotes are from a cool website called BlooSee: Take the Ocean Further.

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Hotel Recommendation, Travel Recommendations, Trips with Friends

Will Hula Hoop for Drinks

Since Danimal and I began dating, we have been to Birmingham numerous times… his loving and adorable grandparents, Gramma Jeanne + Papa John, live there. However, it was just two years ago, when I began traveling to Birmingham for work, that I began to really experience the city. When Herman (my main partner in crime in Alabama) and I were there in February, I experienced my new favorite SPG hotel property… Aloft. (SPG is one of my FAVORITE hotel families because they have the BEST rewards program.) We walked into the lobby and during check-in discovered that if we could hula hoop for five seconds you got a free drink at the bar. Thankfully, Herman did NOT photograph my performance, but I did get a free drink.

 

Aloft Birmingham Bar

 

How could I not? I’ve been training for this precise moment since 4th grade. During P.E., about once a six weeks, we had hula hoop wars as the activity. We each began with a hula hoop, and the goal was to be the last man standing. And there was no one better than Chris Sweet. Chris was one of the best “chicken scratchers”. (Chicken Scratch is essentially hula hooping at warp speed.) The video below is a great depiction of the hula hoop war contest. If you fast forward fifty-five seconds in, the “battle” really begins.

But, I digress… not only was the bar hip, the whole hotel was. The elevator was hypercolor, another throw back to fourth grade. Before arriving that night Herman and I also got to spend some time at the H Bar, a new jazz bar in Five Points. And as luck would have it, the Kelley O’Neal Band and Top Shelf were playing.  

the H Bar

If you find yourself in Birmingham, stay at Aloft, go eat at Pepper Place, and then head on over to Harlem Bar. Go ahead and start practicing your hula hooping now…

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer Service, Hotel Recommendation

The Tatas Take West Palm

The last several posts have been about the glory of travel, but today’s is about basking in the glow of vacation. The Tatas (group nickname coined on our final Spring Break to Acapulco) are my wonderful girlfriends from college, and this time we took over the Four Seasons in Palm Beach. The occasion… to start our third decade off right. The trip was originally supposed to take place in Puerto Rick this past January, but queue freak snow storm in Texas that canceled 90% of the tatas flights. So, Take 2… June… West Palm Beach.

West Palm Beach

When looking to do absolutely nothing for yourself on vacation, run… don’t walk… to the nearest Four Seasons. And, most importantly, make sure Jason is working so he can bring you blackberry mojitos. All.After.Noon.

All in a days work...

The days consisted of making very important decisions such as what time to move from the beach to the pool and how often to flip. We have clearly matured since Acapulco though… all but one of us now wears double-digit SPF… high double-digit SPF.

We can even still do the sorority photo pose. Please note my general excitement about being on the back row of this photo.

The last night of our trip we ate at my favorite restaurant for all of 2011 so far, Buccan. It is in the adorable (and crazy fancy) portion of Palm Beach down the street from Saks, Neiman’s, and every other expensive store you have ever heard about. The menu changes weekly so I can’t make any recommendations there, but I will say they have an extensive wine list and the tea cocktail is a must order.

Four Seasons = Glorious

This trip made me wish that everyone could have a group of girlfriends like the tatas. You know… people who know so much about you that they could destroy you, but choose to love you instead. This trip also taught me that EVERYONE who has an iPhone needs to have the prank dial app. Talk about a game changer.

2 Comments

Filed under Customer Service, Food, Hotel Recommendation, Travel Recommendations, Trips with Friends

You Think You’re Hot

Even though I was on the other side of the globe, news trickled in about the crazy heat wave going on in the states. The good news for me was that the last stop in our journey was to Dubai making the return to America feel like a cool front. I grew up in Houston (the capital of hot + humid), but even I wasn’t ready for insanely wet heat of “Doo-bai”. The average temperature hovered around 108. And sadly, that was not even the ‘feels like’ temp.

Exploring Jumeirah

Not only is it the hottest place, well… ever, but as a gal visiting the region… I have to be covered. Curse. Once I got past the heat + wastefulness, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by Dubai. The first day we explored a development called Jumeirah… it is a mixed-use development that also has a luxury hotel. (Luxury, yes please!) The quality of the design and the craftsmanship were A+.

The Gold Souk

After our presentations, the next day we went old school + headed to the traditional Souk (market) of Dubai. We started at the Gold Souk where there is literally shop after shop and street after street of all out bling. Much to Dan’s relief, we made no stops in this souk.

Riding the Water Taxi

From there we hopped on the water taxi (literally 30 cents per person) and rode across Dubai Creek to the Old Souk. Let me tell you, my love for the Old Souk knows no bounds. I could have stayed there for hours and purchased almost everything in sight… I settled for purchasing half of everything in sight.
 

Shoes, Shoes, + Shoes

 
Colin got to witness my supreme negotiating skills in the souk. All I can say is that my mom would have been so proud… well, Mom and the Heard ladies. I will be sporting two new pashminas, shirts, and shoes courtesy of this excursion. 
 

Rob, Colin, + I

The culmination of the night ended up being the perfect end to our two-week journey. One of our global practice leaders, Rob, lives in Dubai. He + Marc took Colin + I out for a celebration dinner… and shisha… and cocktails. Nothing compares to experiencing a city with those who live there.  Rob + Marc = Best Hospitality… the night left me looking forward to my next trip to Dubai.

3 Comments

Filed under Hotel Recommendation, Travel Recommendations

Of Course We Needed Hats…

Back in April my three best childhood girlfriends, Kristen (Ka), Jessica (Je), Clare (Cla), and I (Meggo) headed to wine country in celebration of our 30th birthdays. Packing for this trip was stressful… how many wine sleeves to bring, how do I bring one bag + have room for wine, how much will my bag weigh once it has wine in it? Answer: Just be friends with Ka.

Outside Ferrari-Carano

Ka is the ultimate traveler. She is actually my travel idol. She has been to almost all of my dream travel locations for extended periods of time. She is also fantastic at planning trips, packing for trips, and generally making sure everyone is over prepared for trips. Case in point she came with eight wine sleeves, a wine budget, and a luggage weight.

Wine Tasting at Mounts

Let’s get to the good stuff… the wine. We focused on the Russian River Valley this trip and found all kinds of unexpected treasures. (A shout out to Ronnie Latta for seriously great winery recommendations.) My three favorite wineries:

  1. Matanzas Creek – The architecture and setting reminded me of the Texas Hill Country. This wine was a group hit, and my all around favorite. We all went home with half a case… in airplane ready boxes. (Checked bag #2)
  2. Mounts – Talk about off the beaten path – I initially thought we were pulling up to a meth lab, but don’t judge a book by its cover… some amazing Syrahs awaited behind those doors. This family winery is definitely worth a visit.
  3. MacLaren – When they shared that their Syrah went well with BBQ, I knew I was bringing a bottle of this back to Georgia.

     
A long day of wine leads to the purchasing of hats

You can tell we were NOT the designated driver on the day we ended up at Healdsburg’s precious town square. “You have hats we don’t need, we’ll take three.” 

We spent our final evening in Sonoma and ate at the Girl + the Fig. The restaurant was one of my favorites on my first trip there, and it was delicious the second time around as well. Now for the surprise recommendation of my life… our accommodations in Sonoma. Since the four of us don’t get to see each other often, we wanted to maximize our time together and be able to share a hotel room. This is tough in wine country as most rooms don’t sleep four because there are not many large hotel chains (this is a good thing). We stayed at the Best Western in Sonoma. (Yes, you heard me… Best Western.) It was the best bed of the trip and my best night’s sleep.

Putting the luggage weight to good use

 It is safe to say we went through withdrawals for several days after this trip ended. Until next year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Hotel Recommendation, Trips with Friends, Uncategorized, Wine Country

Phoenix or Bust

One reason I love my friend Susie, she convinces me to do wild stuff and then I woefully underprepare for it. Case in point, our trip to Phoenix / Scottsdale (Trip #2) this past January to run the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.

Downtown Phoenix

We signed up in early fall, I had plenty of time to train and then came up with several excuses to not actually train. It was too cold to run outside, it was too dark to run outside alone, and I don’t like running on treadmills. You get the picture. Come race day I had run a whopping five miles… once.

Why did this not matter… we were staying at THE BILTMORE which made this a vacation. (See definition below of the difference between vacation and travel.) As an architect, I instantly geeked out over the Frank Lloyd Wright creation. The customer service was an absolute A+.

Lobby of the Biltmore

Back to the main point of the trip… the dreaded half marathon. Susie and I enthusiastically endorse the Rock n’ Roll series for anyone who is looking to run a race. They host races across the country, are extremely well-organized, and have great swag. The race course in Phoenix gave you a chance to see the unique landscape of Phoenix / Scottsdale. It is just beautiful.

And the winners are... not us, but we finished!

And yes, we actually finished the race and in plenty of time to return our little slice of heaven at the Biltmore and watch the Golden Globes.

Poolside at the Biltmore

(* Vacation – Leaving home with the purpose of relaxation. Travel – Leaving home with the purpose of experiencing a new culture.)

 

1 Comment

Filed under Customer Service, Hotel Recommendation, Race Trips, Trips with Friends