Luxury in the Heart of Athens, Greece

Visiting a new city can be so exciting! Researching what to do and where to stay can be overwhelming. Online photos can be deceiving.  If you are booking the trip yourself, you really are on your own, and mistakes can be hard to fix once you have arrived.  The hotel is booked and now you are second guessing yourself, have you made the right decision?

My recommendation is that you use a travel consultant always, so you have help, recommendations, and someone to go to if you have a problem.  If you are a do it yourselfer, hopefully the information on this luxury hotel in Athens will help you.

Let’s get started….

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National Parks 100th Anniversary ~ Hidden Gems

The National Parks are celebrating their 100th Anniversary this year. The National Park System protect some of the most special places in the United States and each one is a treasure.

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Cavallo Point ~ Historic Luxury

San Francisco, the city by the bay is a vibrant city and so much fun to explore, but sometimes, you want to get out of the city and breathe.

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Morro Bay Getaway

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Do you ever feel the need to get away for a day or two?  A short change in scenery and quick getaway can renew the soul.

For those that live in California, Morro Bay is one of those destinations that is peaceful,  quaint  and perfect for a weekend away.  If you are visiting the coast of California, Morro Bay is a must see.

Where to stay, the Anderson is in my opinion the best place to stay on the bay.  This tiny boutique property is right on the Embarcadero.  The Anderson family is friendly, really fun and helpful in offering places to eat and things to do. Mollie works in the front office and runs the Inn with both of her brother’s and they are fantastic people.  After meeting them, you will know why this Inn is so special.

The Inn has 8 rooms, a few with full bay views and the remainder have partial bay views.  The rooms are spotlessly clean and really bring the bay and beach indoors with the hues of the ocean.  While staying here you can easily walk the entire Embarcadero and enjoy the activities the bay has to offer. The rooms are contemporary, yet comfortable and spacious.

http://www.andersoninnmorrobay.com/index.html

Along the Embarcadero you will find little eateries and shops.   A few steps away from the Inn is Chateau Margene tasting room.  We discovered this winery in Paso Robles and they now have a tasting room in Morro Bay.  This beautiful tasting room is bright and comfortable with a fun staff, so pull up a stool and the only choice you will have to make is which wine path to take.  Taste either the El Pistolero wines or the luxurious Chateau Margene wines.  Personally, I love the El Pistolero and their Pinot Noir has a beautiful smokey taste, yet it is smooth with many layers of fruit and leather.  I know leather doesn’t sound good when tasting wine, but it is the only way to explain the richness and smokiness of this beautiful wine.

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From Chateau Margene, wander, stroll or walk towards Morro Rock just around the corner you will find Stax Wine Bar.  A really cool spot to sit up at the bar, soak in the many wine varietals on the menu.  They have some fantastic appetizers to pair with the wines.

Having skipped lunch, I needed something a bit substantial before dinner and their appetizer menu has some excellent choices. Finally settling on one of the many Crostini choices, Crostini ala Filet Mignon.IMG_20160610_171558The bread was toasted to perfection, topped with shaved Parmesan cheese, fresh Arugula, tender strips of Filet and a fresh basil aioli.  The dish was scrumptious and the perfect accompaniment to the red wine.

http://www.staxwine.com/#/home

 

 

 

 

After hanging out, eating and savoring a glass of wine, it is time to move on to dinner.  Directly below the rooms at The Anderson is The Galley restaurant.  The restaurant came highly recommended and I understand why.  Most of the staff have been working at the Galley for many years or have had family employed for a long time, they love the restaurant and take pride in the food and service.

The Galley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The staff could not have been more friendly and knowledgeable.  Each dish was explained in detail and in a way that makes you want each and every one.  Finally making a decision, the scallops and crab cakes were amazing.  The scallops had a nice sear on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh grilled asparagus.

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The dungenous crab cakes are some of the best I have had.  How many times have you ordered crab cakes and they come with a little bit of crab and a lot of breading and filler, not so at The Galley.  These beauties, had a bit of breading on the outside and filled with pure sweet and juicy crab in the middle.

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The red pepper and herb coulis was spicy and creamy and had a fresh herb flavor that elevated the crab to pure perfection.

http://www.galleymorrobay.com/welcome

The next morning, I was headed to Sausalito and needed a quick bite of breakfast.  Stopped into Crills II, a little candy shop, with salt water taffy, but they also make huge Cinnamon Rolls, and who can resist an Cinnamon Roll?  You will have choices to make, plain or covered in freshly chopped nuts with cream cheese icing on the side.

IMG_20160611_101304 Drove down towards Morro Rock, parked overlooking the bay, watched all the boats, paddle boarders and kayaker’s play in the water and savored my sweet treat and feeling sad to be leaving Morro Bay.

Next stop, Cavallo Point, Sausalito.

 

Travel Safe,
Terri

 

Victoria, British Columbia

Beautiful view of Inner Harbour of Victoria, B.C., Canada

Beautiful view of Inner Harbour of Victoria, B.C., Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Victoria, British Columbia.  Have you been?

Victoria is a beautiful little city, sitting right on the harbor and there is so much to do.

I have been to Victoria twice in the last 6 month’s and find something new with each visit.

sunken gardens, butchart gardens

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria is known for Butchart Gardens and honestly everyone needs to visit the gardens at least once.

The gardens are set on what use to be a cement factory and quarry when Jennie Butchart created these stunning gardens over the quarry.  They change with the season and are a must do when in Victoria.

http://www.butchartgardens.com/

An informative and fun way to get an overview on the city is to take a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour.  I use to not be a fan of these and I can’t tell you why, but now I try to take them in every city.  They are not only informative, but allow you to get on and off at your leisure and you get a great overview and history of the city.  There are two companies that operate in Victoria, Gray Line Tours and the Big Bus Victoria.

http://www.bigbusvictoria.com/web/
http://sightseeingvictoria.com/

There are flightseeing opportunities from the harbor in a float plane if that is on your bucket list.  If you are looking to get out on the water, these adorable little boats cruise the harbor not only as taxi’s, but they offer a harbor tour and a gorge tour.

Floating Home Village Water Taxis Inner Harbor Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.victoriaharbourferry.com/

Maybe you just want to stroll through town, it is beautiful, you will find great restaurants and cafe’s, along with a few pubs. Chinatown is small but fascinating.

I highly recommend the Royal B.C. Museum.  You could easily spend a day in the museum and want another day.  There is so much history in exquisite galleries and exhibits in this gem.  The museum also offers an IMAX theater, along with a restaurant for your convenience.  Included in the ticket price is a 1 hour tour.  Take it, you will get a very informative tour guide who will walk you around the museum telling you about each gallery, history of Victoria and the First People.  This is a great activity if you are traveling with kids.

http://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/

The High Tea at the Empress Hotel is another must do.  This has been on my list for the longest time and my last trip I was with a girlfriend, so we decided to make reservations and go since the men in our lives would do it, but wouldn’t love it.  It was such a fun experience and well worth the money.

The tea room and the entire hotel will take you back in time, it is gorgeous and full of history.  Seated at a table near the window with a view of the harbor, the server brings fresh berries, tea and then a tiered tray of tea sandwiches, scones, jam and cream and tiny pastries that leave you longing for more.  Don’t miss it.  Reservations can be made directly online, open table and if you are arriving by cruise line, many will offer this option as an excursion.

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Tea Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One last fun thing to do is wander through the Waterfront Village, or Fisherman’s Village.  There are floating homes, with little shops mixed in between and eateries.  Don’t miss it!

If you are arriving by cruise ship and aren’t taking an excursion or tour directly from the ship, there are several ways to get yourself into town.  Walk, it is about 2 to 3 miles into town, and the walk will take you through neighborhoods and along the waterfront.

There will be Pedicabs at the ship.  The pedicabs will take you through neighborhoods and along James Bay and in 2015, the rates to get into town from the ship were $18 to $20 per pedicab.  You will find shuttle buses that will also take you and they currently are charging $10 to $12 round trip.

Until next time, travel safe.
Terri

 

On Your Own in Skagway, Alaska

Skagway is beautiful, the scenery exquisite.  The town is quaint, but leans on the side of being a bit touristy.  Lots of shops and jewelry shops. There are a few little treasures amidst the shops. Skagway is a normal port of call on most Alaska cruises and there is plenty to do.

On our first trip to Skagway, we took a jet boat along the coastline watching the wildlife and abundance of eagles in the area.  It was a lot of fun.  This trip we wanted to explore on our own and it is easy to do.

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San Francisco in a Day

San Francisco

I just got back from an amazing trip to Alaska with family and friends. Over the next few I will be sharing some of it with you.   The ship left from San Francisco, so we all decided to fly up a day ahead to enjoy the city even for a day. My recommendation is to always fly to your cruise departure city at least a day ahead, you never know what airline snag you may hit, and you don’t want to miss the ship.

We all have our bucket list ideas and one of mine has been to sail under the massive and majestic Golden Gate Bridge. This cruise aboard the Celebrity Infinity allowed me to do it.  There is something to be said about sailing beneath this landmark. Having driven over the bridge to now be under it is pretty cool.  As the ship slowly makes its way under and walkers above wave, there is a silence yet an echo at the same time.  I pause and take in the brief moment.

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Bora Bora, A Slice of Paradise

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Bora Bora is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and is also one of the best places to go in 2015.

Years ago, Bora Bora was a destination only for the rich and famous, that is no longer the case.  With the economic problems that have plagued the world the last few years, several hotels on Bora Bora have closed.  At the same time, several hotels have been built off the main island out on the motu’s that surround the lagoon. They are a short boat ride from the airport and main island.

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The main island is surrounded by a lagoon and barrier reef with water so crystal clear you will see the bottom in many places.  Mt. Otemanu stands tall guarding the island with its jagged  green peaks and the sunsets will look as though the hilltops are on fire with the vibrant reds and oranges.

The hotels offer a variety of accommodations, overwater bungalows, beach villas and garden villas.

The activities on the island all involve water sports.  Scuba Diving and snorkeling are the most popular.  If your looking for something to check off your bucket list, snorkel with the rays or tiger sharks.

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Looking for an land based adventure?  On the main island of Bora Bora there is a tiny little Avis rental car where you can pick up a car reasonably priced to drive around the island.  I recommend you drive the entire island.  The scenery is exquisite, there are great places to stop and take pictures and meet the people and experience their culture.  The drive will take you about 30 to 45 minutes without stopping.  One recommendation is that you plan for filling the car with gas before returning the car to the rental agency.  Don’t be surprised if you find the 2 gas stations on the island closed for lunch or simply out of gas.

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Funny story, we picked up the car with about a quarter of a tank of gas, and we still had a quarter of a tank when we finished a few hours later.  Just for fun we were going to put a bit of gas back into the car, only to find that the 2 gas stations on the island were closed in the middle of the day.  Cars started lining up and we decided to just take the car back.  Explaining to the woman in the office that we tried to put gas in the car, she smiled and said “yes, the ship hasn’t come in and they are both out of gas.”  Life is always on island time, relaxed and they don’t worry about it.  So plan accordingly.

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Another fun adventure is to take a 4 x 4 trip up to the World War II Cannons that the U.S military brought in during the war.  It is so much fun to get off the beaten path and bounce and bump your way to the top.  The cannons are cool and the views will take your breath away.

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I’m not a huge fan of touristy restaurants and stores, but while on Bora Bora please stop and eat at Bloody Mary’s.  Yes, it is touristy, you won’t find many locals if any in the restaurant, but it is fun and one of those places that you just need to try.  With the sand floors, tree stumps for seats and spicy Bloody Mary’s, you really won’t be disappointed. Stop out front and read the names of all the celebrities who have graced the tables.

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Getting to Bora Bora is fairly easy from the West Coast, fly Air Tahiti Nui from LAX to Papeete.  Transfer to Air Tahiti for a short 45 minute flight.  If you are staying on one of the outer motu’s you will have a short 15 to 20 minute boat ride to the resort.

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Bora Bora and French Polynesia is a destination that will forever leave an imprint on your heart, the people are relaxed, friendly and genuine.

Travel Well,
Terri

 

The Island Hotel ~ Newport Beach, Pure Luxury

Island HotelThe Island Hotel located in Newport Beach is 5 star and pure luxury.

It is not very often that I have a chance to stay at a hotel close to home, but the opportunity presented itself and I grabbed it.  I have been to the hotel quite a few times over the past few years for travel consultant events, but never to stay.  While the hotel was very nice, it was a bit dark and needed some updating.  That is exactly what happened a little over a year ago and I was excited to take a look.

They have brought the outside in as far as the color palette.  The lobby is light and bright and decorated in beach tones, beige’s, blues and greens.  It is beautiful and modern.

Lobby

Hotel Lobby

The Island Hotel has 294 rooms, with 82 suites.  Each guestroom has views of either the coast, the hills or Back Bay.  Each room has a walkout balcony which is so nice, even just to get fresh air in the room.  If you happen to be staying in a suite, you will have a balcony with a couple of chairs and a small table.

Island King Room

Island King Room

Another Island King Room with a different view and color palette.

 

Living room in a corner suite, sofa is a sofa bed.

Bedroom in a corner suite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice amenity that I recommend you add to your stay is The Island Club.  For $35 a day for 2, you will have access to the private lounge on the 20th floor of the hotel.  They serve a nice continental breakfast in the mornings, wine and snacks in the afternoon and evenings.  There is plenty of space to relax and read the many newspapers offered.  There are flat screen TV’s around the room and if you want to hear the news, they have wireless headsets for your private listening.  There is a small balcony overlooking the mall and the beautiful coastline along with the bay in the background. Get your light breakfast and head to the balcony to watch Newport Beach come to life.  Looking for tea, they have plenty of options.  If coffee is your morning addiction, they have it and have a coffee/capuccino machine the size of a small car, it will meet your needs. The staff is welcoming, helpful and there to assist you.

The Island Club

The Island Club

The Island Club across the room to the snack area and breakfast area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pool has been redone as well and is a great spot to forget the day.  There is a large fireplace that is lit each night around 7:00 pm.  Cozy up next to the fire with a drink under the stars, it doesn’t get much better.

Walkway to the pool area. The large fireplace is seen in the background.

Walkway to the pool area. The large fireplace is seen in the background.

The fitness center wasn’t forgotten, it is clean and fresh with large windows in front of the treadmills overlooking the pool with all new equipment.

The hotel has 2 lounges and a restaurant.  The Aqua Lounge is a beautiful bar, bringing in the beach colors.  Thursday through Sunday they bring a DJ to spin your favorite music.  On the weekends this is a hot spot.

Aqua Lounge

Aqua Lounge

The Fireside Cafe is a great outdoor space to enjoy fireplaces, a cocktail and time with friends.  Monday through Wednesday they bring in an acoustic guitarist.

Fireside Cafe

Fireside Cafe

The restaurant, Oak Grill is fantastic.  I’m not going to say much, I have droned on long enough, but join me later in the week for a blog post on just the restaurant.

The hotel is located across the street from Fashion Island Mall, where you will find plenty of shopping, great restaurants and a high end movie theater where you can enjoy snacks, wine or beer with your movie.  The beach is a short 10 minute drive, or rent a Duffy boat to cruise the harbor.  The hotel is the perfect place for a group of girlfriends to getaway for the weekend with all of the shopping right at your fingertips.  A family would have a great time hanging at the pool, shopping or hitting the beach.  If you are looking for a romantic getaway for the weekend, it is perfect.

Belize ~ A Family Destination

Belize is another hot destination in 2015.  Located on the Eastern coast of Central America, Belize is a great family destination.

The official language in Belize is English; it is a destination with a very diverse ecosystem and a rich culture, with a Colonel British influence.

I wrote about Belize back in 2013 after I had planned several dive trips for clients.  Each one coming back and raving about the destination. I will include a link to that post here, so you can easily find it for more information.

http://secretsofatravelconcierge.com/belize-adventurers-paradise/

If you are looking to snorkel or dive, get off the mainland of Belize and head to one of the Caye’s, such as Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker.

Ambergris Caye is the largest of the 200 + islands off the coast of Belize.  A premier destination for scuba divers as it is about 1/2 mile from the Barrier Reef and the Great Blue Hole.  A really cool place to stay is Portofino Resort.  They have about 16 villas, it is very low key, but a 4 to 5 star resort.

http://portofinobelize.com/

If you are looking for a dive company, two recommendations are Amigos Del Mar and Ramon’s.  My clients had a great experience with both.

Travel helps for Belize:

1.  Suggested vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid and make sure you to have your Tetanus and Diphtheria shots up to date

2.  Visa’s are not required for stays 30 days and under.  You need to have at least one blank page in your passport for stamping.  Your passport needs to have at least 6 month’s remaining from the time you return, otherwise, it is time to renew your passport.

3.  High season is late November to late April.

For more safety tips to Belize, jump over to the travel.state website at;

http://travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/consularnotification/belize.html