Acqualina Resort and Spa

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IMG_9159ROOMS: Spacious and elegantly appointed rooms with amazing bathrooms all with a  deep soaking tub.  We had booked the Intracoastal Room and requested a room with a split floor plan so our bedroom was separate from the living room. This is a great option for families traveling with kids.  When we arrived there was a plate of cookies for the kids with a letter with both kids’ names on it.  The crib was high quality with a nice hotel blanket and upgraded baby bath amenities. There was a TV in the living room and bedroom also great for families so the kids can watch cartoons in their own separate area. The bath products by Espa smelled amazing and we each took advantage of the Jacuzzi tub.  Our room had a very high tech Illy Espresso Machine equipped with detailed instructions that were easy to follow.

IMG_9179POOL:  The pools sat just off the beach with some green space and lawn furniture in between. There were four pools to enjoy one of which was zero entry which was perfect for small kids.  This is where we spent most of our time.  On one of our pool days we had a cabana reserved and spent at least half of the day by the pool.  This came in handy as Samantha napped on daddy for a couple of hours while a thunderstorm passed through.  The cabana came with a fruit platter that was delivered in perfect timing for when Sam got hungry and cranky.  We ordered lunch from our cabana and received excellent service and food. Emma made instant friends and worked on her swimming and jumping skills as long as we would let her. Every hour staff came around with refreshing smoothie samples and the pool concierge was quick to get our chairs ready and bring us cold water.

IMG_9145BEACH: The beach was one of the best I have seen in Miami.  There was a small area set up for kids to play in the sand with buckets and shovels for them to borrow.  There is a wonderful lawn area just behind the beach in case you wanted to move between the pool and the beach. On the lawn they have all kids of sports equipment set up for the kids to play soccer and basketball.  Yes, Emma jumped in on a game with the older boys!

 RESTAURANTS:  AQ is their newest restaurant which was farm to table modern American Cuisine.  We had dinner there and everyone enjoyed their meals including the kids who ordered a cheese pizza.  The restaurant was casual and sat off of the lobby bar.  We also had our breakfast buffet at AQ which had a great selection of pastries, hot items and fresh juices.  Il Mulino is their Italian Fine Dining restaurant which has excellent reviews.  Will spent the second night alone with the kids while I attended a business meeting and they were all very happy with the room service!  He even made mention of how friendly and prompt they were.

IMG_9186KIDS: Our kids were truly little VIPS!  I don’t recall a hotel that has treated Emma and Sam so special.  From the moment we checked in the ladies from Guest Relations was chatting with Emma and giving her their full and undivided attention.  It didn’t end there…. they made sure to come and visit her throughout our stay.  They have a kids club for kids 5 and over but for those younger kids you can come and play you just need a parent there.  Emma spent some time painting while waiting out the afternoon showers. When we checked in they gave Emma a penny to toss into the fountain, she had so much fun they made sure to have pennies on hand for her every time she was down there.  As we came down to check out Victoria in Guest Relations called Emma over and gave her and Sam a gift to open.  Each of my girls got a cute little lavender stuffed animal!

SPA: ESPA: Holistic, meditative, and restorative treatments based on Ayurvedic principles are the basis of this elite Miami Beach spa in South Florida, where guests are invited to enjoy the full day-spa experience. Quiet lounges, sauna and steam rooms, a spa pool and terrace, and a selection of spa cuisine comprise the ESPA Journey.

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SERVICE:  I had to add a category just for the service!  It was the people of Acqualina that made our stay so special.  The whole family was treated with such genuine care and attention that made us feel so special.  Everyone from the Guest Relations to Concierge, Pool Staff, Room Service and Housekeeping were amazing!

Jen Mitchell Travel Clients Receive:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Food & Beverage credit
  • Complimentary spa access to the thermal heat areas (including the Crystal Steam Rooms and Finnish Saunas)
  • Early check-in/late check- out
  • Daily $40 USD spa treatment credit for up to two adults
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Hong Kong

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IMG_6885My whirlwind visit to Hong Kong while very short was packed with great food, culture and shopping. This was my first visit to Hong Kong and before I left I had heard so many times what a great shopping city it was.  What I learned is that it is so much more then that. I flew in on Cathay Pacific airlines on business class which was very comfortable and the service wonderful. We spent some time in the BA lounge at JFK and it was a great place to recharge and relax before the flight. Our flight departed at 1:00 AM so right after a light meal I went to sleep. Flat beds to Asia is the way go! I watched a couple movies after getting some rest and we were served a full breakfast. An insider at Cathay Pacific shared with me that their signature drink is the Pacific Sunrise but you have to ask for it.

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I arrived in Hong Kong at 5:00 AM and went to the Cathay arrival lounge to take a shower and get ready for a full day.  Our first stop for our day was a little fishing village called Lama on Lantau Island. We passed a little market with every king of dried fish.

Interesting fact: they dry fish stomach and use in soups to thicken it up.

I had to say it looks pretty unsavory to me but that is their tradition. The homes on the waterway are mostly very old but still have electricity and plumbing! We visited the Tai O Heritage Hotel and had tea. This colonial- style hotel, overlooking the South China Sea, is an old jail converted into hotel only a few years ago.

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We took a coach to the giant Buddha which was also built not too long ago. This extremely large Buddha was quite a site and the story our guide told us as we walked around the small museum brought it to life. Having a good guide makes all of the difference. Angela was very captivating and at times very funny. There was a gate at the bottom of the stairs where you are supposed to leave behind all of your troubles as you pass through. This must have worked because the time spent away from my two small kids was not as hard as I thought it would be. We took the tram back down and purchased the cars with the glass bottom. I thought it was great although there were a few members of my group very afraid of heights. The lush greenery was not natural, we were told these trees we’re planted by school kids.

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By the afternoon we were ready for our first food tour! We went to Sham Shui Po, an old Kowloon district,  a very poor area of Hong Kong lined with street vendors. You won’t find as many tourists there at all. We walked the market with our guide Angela and she had us sampling many different local snacks. My favorite was the coconut pudding wrapped in a leaf. I also loved the fried donuts with sesame and chocolate filling. We had fish balls in a spicy curry, noodle dish with spam and eggs and some others in-between.

Satisfied and exhausted we finally arrived at the Peninsula to check in. I was escorted to my Deluxe city view Room in the new tower. The hotel was fabulous. I loved the modern aesthetic  and the rich comfortable furnishing. The technology was very easy to navigate, they even had everything loaded on an ipad. The bed was one of the most comfortable I have slept in and the bathroom quite impressive.  I did not go to sleep and instead went for a walk to some nearby shopping areas.  That night I had scheduled a massage and stayed up for that and went right to bed.

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Virtuoso Amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • $100 USD Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability

The highlight of our day was a visit to the Chi Lin Nunnery at Diamond Hill. Built in 1930 this nunnery was built according to the principles of the Tang Buddhist architecture.  It was really quite impressive down to the smallest of details. As I took pictures of the gardens I thought of my husband who would be very interested in the plants, sculptures and ponds. We had lunch at the Naan Yuen Garden which was a vegetarian delight.  Desert served was a longevity Peach Bun typically had after dinner or for birthdays.  The meaning of the dish is good luck and peace.

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Dinner at the China Club Hong Kong was a sure highlight of our trip! The Club is Hong Kong’s most exclusive private members club. Owned by two wealthy Hong Kong entrepreneurs, the China Club is a showcase for Chinese culture old and new. The artwork and people watching was quite impressive.  We were put in a private room and served what seemed to be endless courses of dim sum. The food surely did not disappoint.  After dinner we took in the views on the rooftop of the China Club.

Breakfast buffet at the Peninsula has everything you could possibly want and more! After fueling up for the day we started out our morning with a tour of the New Territories. Mr. Nevin Lim was our extremely knowledgeable guide who stayed with us for the whole day.  What we saw today was extreme contrast between two very different cultures. First stop was at the Sam Tung Uk Hakka Walled Village – an 18th century walled village built in 1786 by the Chan Clan, Sam Tung Uk means “three beam dwelling”, as originally three rows of houses were erected with supporting beams called “Tang”. The Hakka people were hardworking and we really got a good look into the way they lived. Our next stop was the Tai Fu Mansion built in 1865. Tai Fu Tai is a richly embellished residence complete contrast from how the Hakka people lived. The building is elegantly decorated with fine monochrome and polychrome plaster moldings, woodcarvings, and murals of auspicious Chinese motifs and pictures. We were surprised at the end when our guide showed up in full dress!

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Lunch today was a very traditional dim sum and one of my favorite meals.  We started our meal with a cooking demo where the chef came out and taught us how he made the fried rice. He included a spice called zeodary powder, Chinese wine, and corn starch. We all took careful notes hoping to replicate when we got home. Of the dishes one of my favorites was pinnacle BBQ buns filled with BBQ pork and topped with a sugar flour mix. We tried bean curd sheet and vegetables, rice noodles with beef and black bean sauce, salt baked chicken, steamed BBQ pork bun, and sui mai with scallop on top.  Desert was an interesting dish called Yung Gee Gan Kan Lo. It was made with coconut milk, mango, and pomelo.  The pomelo reminded me of my year in Israel when we ate those all the time!

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In the afternoon we were in for a real treat!  We went to Tai Pan Reflexology Beauty & Foot Spa where I had the best hour long food massage of my life! They gave me an eye mask and heated neck pillow, and 10 min in I was half asleep in a state of pure relaxation.  The spa was a short distance from the hotel so we walked back in time to get ready for dinner.  Our dinner was a nice surprise ending to our trip a Virtuoso Culinary Journey.  We had each course of our dinner in a different restaurant in the Peninsula.  It was quite an elaborate event and everything was outstanding.

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As I sat in the departure lounge Cathay Pacific I wished I had left earlier for the airport just to take advantage of the lounge!  They had a noodle dish that I was told I just had to try at the noodle bar and even though it was only 9:00 am I had some.  I flew home in premium economy which was not quite business class but still an upgrade from economy.  I would recommend splurging on premium economy if traveling on a budget.  The seats were slightly larger with more of a recline, and they had an upgraded menu for meal service.

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My only regret was not staying longer!

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Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa

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LOCATION: Bonita Spring Florida.

HOTEL TYPE: Family friendly resort

ROOMS: Freshly appointed modern rooms. The room felt comfortable most with an extended balcony to sit on and enjoy the view. We were surprised not to get children’s bath amenities for the Samantha but the crib was nice. I would recommend the Island Suite for a spacious living room with separate bedroom.

POOL:  There were three pools, two of which were filled with only adults and a zero entry lagoon style pool packed with kids. The kids’ pool had a couple slides, one that was great for smaller kids and a really big one for the older kids/ adults. Emma mastered the slide and we were so proud, as was she! There was a DJ pumping out family friendly music and activities arranged poolside.

RESTAURANTS:  There were several great restaurants located on property. We had lunch poolside at Corkscrew which had a nice selection. Dinner was great at Tarpon Bay with fresh seafood selections. I enjoyed the Bay Scallops and Will enjoyed the Surf and Turf. Samantha devoured the kid’s mac and cheese. Emma saved room for ice cream at Cool Beans. Tanglewood had the most terrific Easter Brunch and we managed to get through the entire thing while Sam and Emma behaved themselves! They do a brunch like this one for Christmas, Easter, and Mother’s Day…. I highly recommend it.

BAR: Two. The poolside bar at Corkscrew: and Braxtons, which is a great place to catch a game or hang with your friends. The patio was full this weekend with the gorgeous weather we had!

SPA: Stillwater Spa is well known by both guests of the hotel as well as Naples locals.

ACTIVITES: 26 acres of resort is located along the Gulf of Mexico. The Hyatt had a boardwalk which takes you to a marina where a ferry will transport you to their private island. Take a kayak into the mangroves for a more adventurous day. The property had some great green space for the kids to play ball, burn some energy running around or roll around in the grass like Emma did.

WIFI:Wireless Internet is available throughout the hotel and additional wired Internet is available in guestrooms and meeting rooms.

KIDS: Definitely. The restaurants were great with the kids all offering kids menu, kids camp, and even nightly bonfires with s’mores!

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New Zealand

My travels to New Zealand had to be both the best destination and experience I have ever had! I visited the North and the South Islands and stayed in some incredible lodges and villas.

Flight

I took Air New Zealand both on my way to and from Auckland.  On my flight from LAX to Auckland I was seated in economy which was not as bad as I expected.  I think that the flight is what most people are afraid of when traveling all the way to New Zealand.  It was a 16 hour flight from LA and I flew non-stop from Fort Lauderdale to LA and had a long layover during the day.  The seats were fairly comfortable and there was an entertainment center behind each seat with plenty of free movies on demand as well as movies for purchase.  I had a charger for my iphone and my ipad.  The flight went a lot faster then I thought and I didn’t even get to watch all the movies I wanted to because I slept quite a bit on this red eye flight.

charger for devices

charger for devices

Business Class

Business Class

Premium Economy

Premium Economy

Premium Economy

Premium Economy

economy Air New Zealand

economy Air New Zealand

media center with on demand movies

media center with on demand movies

My layover was 8 hours long so I decided to visit the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Ray.  I love this hotel for those clients who want to break up the travel time and stay over before catching the longer fight from LA to Auckland.

Ritz Marina Del Rey

Ritz Marina Del Rey

I arrived in Auckland at around 6 am two days later from when I left.  What one needs to remember is when traveling to New Zealand you cross the date line so you have the travel time plus a day.  On the way back you get there the same date as you left! I stayed at the Sofitel in Auckland which was was a Westin only 7 weeks before our stay.  I didn’t think that it was quite ready for opening yet.  My recommendation would be to stay at the Hilton on the waterfront. Since it was early and I wanted to adjust to the time difference I opted to stay up and walk around Auckland for a bit.  I found a little sushi place on the water and had some of the freshest most delicious Salmon.

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My next stop was the Bay of Islands where I stayed at Kauri Cliffs. I can’t recall one negative thing about this most amazing Lodge.  This is a great hotel for both couples and families.  I loved the soft decor of the rooms and the fireplace.  It was April when I was there so it was starting to get pretty cold.  To this Florida girl there is nothing better then some cool weather and a crackling fireplace. The bed was just perfect as was the huge deep tub.  They have a complimentary mini bar fully stocked with drinks snacks and brownies!

We enjoyed a delicious light 3 course set menu  for lunch over looking the golf course.

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The dinner menu changes nightly and features local produce and seafood. The best New Zealand lamb and beef are served. Executive Chef Barry Frith oversees the culinary team and the Pastry Chef is a master of exotic and tempting desserts.

Unfortunately we only had that one night at Kauri Cliffs and made our way to spend a night in a villa at Eagles Nest. We got there by way of Catamaran which made for a wonderful morning.

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Our next night was at Eagles Nest in a private Villa.  I shared my villa with just one other person but could have fit a large family.  There are no restaurants on property so its great for those who like to go into town and go out to eat or even hire a private chef to come in and cook for you.  The kitchen is amazing and is stocked breakfast foods.  There is a nice infinity plunge pool or even a hot tub for soaking.

IMG_2589 IMG_2590 IMG_2593 IMG_2598 IMG_2601 IMG_2604 IMG_2616 IMG_2629 IMG_2644 IMG_2646Our itinerary said we were going to take a helicopter to Wharekauhau Country Estate from the airport but the weather said otherwise.  It was too windy for a helicopter so instead we had a private car take us.

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We flew to vibrant Queenstown for the last nights of our New Zealand trip.  We visited Blanket Bay which is 45 minutes outside of town and wonderful! If you want to be right in the middle of it all Eicharts is perfect! For those seeking a place that has some nightlife this is a great stop.  There are nice restaurants and bars for those who want to stay out a bit later.

I took a helicopter trip over Milford Sound which was amazing! The pictures I got were probably the best of the trip.  I ended my trip with the jump of my life.  I never thought I would bungee jump EVER! On our way to the airport someone had a brilliant idea we should do it.  I was hesitant at first but decided I would do it just this one so I can say I experienced the thrill.  It was crazy and exhilarating and I will probably never do it again but it was fun.

Blanket Bay

Blanket Bay

Eicharts

Eicharts

Matakauri

Matakauri

Over the Top

Over the Top

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Glaciers

Glaciers

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Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Over the Top

Over the Top

Remarkables

Remarkables

Bungy

Me bungy jumping for first time!!!

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Venice

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Venice was the last stop on my week in Italy.  I took the train from Florence and was seated in first class seats for about a two hour trip.  The train ride was a simple process and comfortable way to travel.  If you are traveling without a group I recommend adding services so you can have help with your luggage getting onto the train.  When I arrived in Venice I was met by my guide and taken to the private water taxi.

Ca’Sagredo– One of my two favorites in Venice the Ca’Sagrego is located close to St. Marks Square. This museum of a hotel is in a great location for shopping and is located directly across from a market.  On Saturdays the chef takes small groups of guests to the market.

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The Cipriani was closed at the time of our visit being that it was in November but never the less we got a good feel of why this is such a top selling property.

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Bauer II Palazzo- Located right next to the Danieli the Bauer is often selected by many of the luxury cruiselines as a pre-hotel.

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo

Restaurant with a view

Restaurant with a view

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo

Bauer II Palazzo Suite

Bauer II Palazzo Suite

Londra Palace– If you don’t want the price tag of the Danieli but like the location on the Grand Canal the Londra Palace is an excellent choice right next door.  Just finishing a huge renovation while we were visiting the rooms look fantastic.

Londra Palace

Londra Palace

Londra Palace Lobby

Londra Palace Lobby

Londra Palace- One

Londra Palace- One

Junior Suite

Junior Suite

Junior Suite- 310

Junior Suite- 310

Deluxe-310

Deluxe-310

Deluxe- 306

Deluxe- 306

Deluxe- 304

Deluxe- 304

Deluxe- 304

Deluxe- 304

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Classic-222

Classic-222

View

View

Luna Baglioni– My home for three nights while in Venice.  This was one of my favorites in Venice.  The Luna is an aristocratic venetian palace located very close to St. Marks Square.

Luna

Luna

Luna Lobby

Luna Lobby

Welcome amenity

Welcome amenity

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Rooms are Venetian style and very elegant.

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Wonderful buffet breakfast

Wonderful buffet breakfast

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San Clemente Palace– An old Monastery on an island the San Clemente Palace is a 20 minute ferry away.   This hotel is a great option for families as there are many activities to do such as tennis, gold and swimming.

Ferry to San Clemente Palace

Ferry to San Clemente Palace

San Clemente Palace

San Clemente Palace

Double Deluxe-322

Double Deluxe-322

Double Deluxe-322

Double Deluxe-322

Double Deluxe-322

Double Deluxe-322

Junior Suite-314 (double sink)

Junior Suite-314 (double sink)

Junior Suite-314 (double sink)

Junior Suite-314 (double sink)

Classic Suite (great for kids under 14) 315

Classic Suite (great for kids under 14) 315

Classic Suite (great for kids under 14) 315

Classic Suite (great for kids under 14) 315

Classic Suite (great for kids under 14) 315

Classic Suite (great for kids under 14) 315

San Clemente Palace

San Clemente Palace

Europa and Regina– Also located right near St. Marks the Europa and Regina is a popular option in Venice although I would prefer the Londra Palace.

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

Westin Europa and Regina

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Presidential Terrace Suite

Presidential Terrace Suite

Presidential Terrace Suite

Presidential Terrace Suite

IMG_1009 IMG_1013 IMG_1014Danieli– One of the most well known hotels in Venice located right on the Grand Canal.

IMG_1003 IMG_1004   IMG_1005  Premium Room

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Danieli One Bedroom Suite

Luxury Lagoon Room

Luxury Lagoon Room

Florence

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Florence is a wonderful city for walking. It is a great place to pick up some leather bags and shoes. A highlight of our touring was the Ufffizzi filled with amazing artwork.  I think since there is so much to see it helps to have a private guide taking you around.

Villa Cora- A nice place to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Florence.  The lobby is a gorgeous open area with fresco roses on a white backdrop. Angels everywhere and amazing fresco ceiling. This hotel could best be described as baroque and sexy!  It is a great place to get married.

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Dinner at Villa Cora was one of the best meals I had in Florence.  The food and ambiance was incredible.

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Villa Cora

Of course we had to ask our guide where the best gelato was in Florence to see if it could compete with Rome.  She was absolutely right in recommending Grom!

Best Gelato in Florence

Best Gelato in Florence

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Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Hotel Lugarno-  This amazing hotel owned by Ferregamo is right on the river.  The lobby and the rooms were very bright and uplifting.  The hotel was decorated with plenty of classic and 21st century artwork. This hotel is very personal and private for those clients not looking for something quite so grand as the St. Regis.

Hotel Lugarno

Hotel Lugarno

Hotel Lugarno

Hotel Lugarno

Hotel Lugarno- Ferragamo Products

Hotel Lugarno- Ferragamo Products

Hotel Lugarno

Hotel Lugarno

Hotel Lugarno- Bento Box

Hotel Lugarno- Bento Box

Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Halvetia and Bristol- This is where I stayed while in Florence and was very happy with my time there.  The hotel is located right on Republica Square which is great for those looking for designer shopping.

Helvetia and Bristol

Helvetia and Bristol

Helvetia and Bristol

Helvetia and Bristol

Helvetia and Bristol

Helvetia and Bristol

The only complaint I would have would be the bedding and the room was a little dark and dated. A nice touch were the real keys for the room vs the electronic keys most hotels use.

Hotel Savoy-  A Rocco Forte property located in Republica Square which is is the most desirable location in Florence.  It can also be a bit noisy but I can request a room in a quieter location of the hotel for you.  A great feature is the hotels soundproof glass on their balcony rooms and I can request a view of the Duomo.  Style is contemporary and can be described as “art of simple luxury”.

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

The sheets were  not very soft but it was explained to be they were Italian linen and we can request softer cotton sheets.

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Pizza della Republica

Hotel Savoy

Hotel Savoy

Westin- The Westin is also located on the river.  I would descrbe the lobby as opulent.

Westin

Westin

Westin

Westin

Westin

Westin

Westin

Westin

St. Regis- Not just my favorite hotel in Florence but in all of Italy.  The decor is amazing and rooms and suites come in multiple styles (Medichi, Renaissance and Florentine) that can be reserved based on your taste. The suites are just amazing, my favorite being the DaVinci Presidential Suite. I had lunch at the restaurant which recieved 3 Michelin stars only one month after opening.

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

St Regis

Botega Veneta Suite

Botega Veneta Suite

Botega Veneta Suite

Botega Veneta Suite

Botega Veneta Suite

Botega Veneta Suite

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Monna Lisa Suite

Monna Lisa Suite

Monna Lisa Suite

Monna Lisa Suite

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Da Vinci Suite

Da Vinci Suite

Da Vinci Suite

Da Vinci Suite

Da Vinci Suite

Da Vinci Suite

Four Seasons- Complete contrast from the St. Regis but equally impressive.  The hotel is 10 minutes outside of Florence city center and transportation is provided on the hour by the hotel. I would describe this Four Seasons as ornate, peaceful, and opulent. The two buildings are made up of a converted sanctuary and convent.

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Four Seasons

Four Seasons

Four Seasons

Four Seasons

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Villa La Masa

Villa La Masa

Villa La Masa

Villa La Masa

Villa La Masa

Villa La Masa

Villa La Masa

Villa San Michele

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Rome

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Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

My Trip to Italy was a complete whirlwind as I traveled to Rome, Florence and Venice all in one week .  I visited 4-7 hotels a day and did a half day tour in each city.  Since there were so many hotels to review I thought I would keep my focus on the hotels and my thoughts on each.

Hotel Eden is where I stayed in Rome and I thought it was overall a wonderful choice in hotel.  Recently they have become part of the Dorchester Collection but not until after my stay.  The location was convenient and I was able to check in and take a nice walk to the Spanish Steps and have a cup of coffee at a near by cafe.  My only complaint for this hotel was the beds.  I thought that the beds were a little uncomfortable and the sheets were not as soft as I would have liked them to be.  Otherwise the bathroom was nice and the meals we ate there were very  nice.  The restaurant was at the top floor of the hotel with a very nice view of Rome.

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Della Palma

Della Palma

Della Palma…. during the small amount of free time in Rome we hired a private car and driver to take us to some of the highlights and of course the best Gelato in Rome.  Della Palma had endless flavors and was top notch! This coming from a real ice cream critique. I have to say hiring a car with driver and guide was a great value in Rome as the driver was able to drop us in point A with our guide and let us do some walking where we would meet him later at a different location.  They were quick on the spot to suggest a restaurant and make a reservation for us for dinner that night. I don’t think we would have been able to see as much as we did without them.

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Hassler

Hassler

The highlight of the Hassler had to be the location and the view.  This building used to be a private residence which was converted into a hotel.  The bedding was plush with soft sheets which is very important to me.  The rooms were all unique in style, all being fun and plenty of red, white and black.

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

Hassler

One thing I have to say about going to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel is its best to go with a guide so you can get there at a reserved time early in the morning and don’t have to wait in line with the crowds.  If you are there early enough (we were there at 8) there are much less people inside.  An even better option would be for me to arrange for you to take a tour after hours with little to no other tourists inside other then your small group.

st peter's basilica

st peter’s basilica

Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel

Vatican

Vatican

Vatican

Vatican

Vatican

Vatican

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

Hotel Eden

D'Inghilterra

D’Inghilterra

The D’Inghilterra also has a great location at the bottom of the Spanish Steps at a slightly lower price point then the Hassler. Its in a great spot for shopping being near many designer stores.

D'Inghilterra

D’Inghilterra

D'Inghilterra

D’Inghilterra

The lobby is cozy with warm and friendly staff. The rooms were not too impressive and bedding looked disappointing for my high standards. 50% of the rooms were renovated on floors 6, 4, and 3.  The fourth floor has a very contemporary look.

D'Inghilterra

D’Inghilterra

D'Inghilterra

D’Inghilterra

D'Inghilterra

D’Inghilterra

Hotel De RussieThe Hotel de Russie was one of my favorites. It is located between the Piazza de Populo and the Spanish Steps.  The courtyard is just gorgeous as is their garden.

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

Lunch in their garden was just amazing.  I can still remember how fresh the mozzarella cheese was.

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

The rooms were all very clean, fun, modern and trendy. While modern they still remained comfortable.

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

Hotel De Russie

Intercontinental

Intercontinental

The Intercontinental was a converted convent. The courtyard here was worth taking a photo of.  The lobby is small and intimate and their is a great view of the Vatican. For those with families they have outside connecting rooms.

Intercontinental

Intercontinental

I give their bedding a high rating…

Intercontinental

Intercontinental

Bernini Bristol

Bernini Bristol

The highlight for this hotel has to be the rooftop restaurant, which is a must for a luxury hotel in Italy.

Bernini Bristol

Bernini Bristol

Bernini Bristol

Bernini Bristol

bedding seemed a little “lumpy” and less then to be desired.  The Deluxe rooms was slightly small but comfortable. This is also a good hotel for families with many interconnecting rooms.

St. Regis

St. Regis

I just loved the St. Regis in all three of the cities I visited in Italy.  The St. Regis in Rome was in a great location if you are looking for something a little more quiet.

St. Regis

St. Regis

I loved the decor in all the rooms!

St. Regis

St. Regis

St. Regis

St. Regis

St. Regis

St. Regis

Westin Excelsior

Westin Excelsior

Westin Excelsior

Westin Excelsior

Westin Excelsior

Westin Excelsior

Regina Hotel Baglioni

Regina Hotel Baglioni

Regina Hotel Baglioni Junior Suite

Regina Hotel Baglioni Junior Suite

The Regina Baglioni was located on Via Veneto which is a great location for both shopping and sightseeing.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

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Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne

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Let me start off by mentioning this was our first attempt at a family vacation with both Samantha who is now 5 months old and Emma who is 2.5 years old.  We were a little nervous on how her sleep would go with all four of us in one room.  She only recently started sleeping through the night and I was not expecting her to keep that up while in a hotel room.

We started off our vacation right by having a nice casual lunch at Scotty’s Landing.   It was at a Marina with a nice view and Miami Breeze. Poor Emma thought it was the beach and was ready to take a swim in the water, but took it well when we explained that was not the case.  The food was very good here and got us in vacation mode.

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We got to the hotel around 1:30 and thought it would be a good time to nap the kids before heading to the pool.  When we got there we were surprised to see a beautiful chocolate amenity which was eaten so fast I couldn’t snap a pic, and a little tray for the kids to decorate their own cupcakes.  What a cute idea!

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Our first nap was a complete failure.  Emma was too excited to be on “cation” as she called it and wanted to go to the pool so would not sleep no matter what we tried.  Finally around 3:30 we gave in and got us all dressed to go to the pool.  The Ritz has a zero entry pool which was great for Emma to be able to stand on her own and for me to sit with Sam so she can wade in the water.  There were many families there and we felt very comfortable.  There were 5 cabanas at the family pool, a couple of them slightly larger, with amenities such as a fridge stocked with drinks, snacks, and even a tv! It was a great idea for families who are looking to spend the whole day at the pool. Make sure to reserve those in advance as they were all filled up when we were there.

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Our first night we dined at Cantina the hotels casual Mexican restaurant on the beach.  The view was perfect and we just happened to sit down during sunset.  The temperature had dropped a little and the breeze picked up. That combined with the ambiance of the soft music made for a perfect setting for dinner.  My sister and her husband were kind enough to watch Sam while we went to dinner. It was a nice to be able to spend a little time with just Emma.  She also really enjoyed herself getting to watch the guacamole being made table side and sway to the music (seriously she was swaying). After dinner we stopped in the lobby where they had live music.  There was another little toddler there dancing and of course Emma was totally into the idea of dancing too.  We were all sitting there taking pics of the two of them dance together.  Totally a melt your heart moment!

 

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We came back to a delicious chocolate cake in our room in which we preceded to quietly eat in the dark. Those of you with kids understand the importance of not waking a sleeping child once you are lucky enough to get them to sleep. I would recommend a suite with separate bedroom or connecting rooms for the kids.

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That night my sister and I watched the kids while the guys went down to the Rum Bar to watch football. I wish I could say that the kids slept through the night but that did not happen.  Emma would not sleep in her cot the first night so as soon as I got in the bed she started cuddling which was super cute.  What was not cute was the constant tossing and turning the rest of the night and even sitting up and talking to me up until 4am.  Luckily this did not wake Sam who woke a couple hours after Emma finally quieted down so I could sleep.  We were fortunate to have been staying in the Club level on this trip so I could sneak Sam upstairs at 7:00 am when they opened to hang out until the rest of the Fam woke up.  This was 10:00 am by the way!!! I was ok with that because I did not want a cranky hubby and two year old on my hands all day.

I have to stress what a godsend the club lounge was on this vacation.  I think that all families should seriously consider paying a little extra for this at the Ritz.  The Ritz really goes the extra mile with their Club as they have food and beverages there almost all day and the staff there are super helpful and friendly.  I have to mention the famous Ritz cookie jar…  and it’s almost like a hotel within a hotel.  Its super convenient to just pop in for a snack or even lunch with the kids.   They have breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, evening apps and desert! Not to mention they have a kids room with dvds and games and tables just their size. They also have a great little club lounge set up by the beach on most days.

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The full day we were there we really took advantage of the pool and beach.  Emma loved playing in the sand. It was a bit hot so of course I ended up carrying her back and forth from the pool to the beach.

IMG_6139 IMG_6141 We had such a long full day playing in the Sun we decided to keep it simple that night.  We told my sister and her husband to enjoy an adults night out at Cioppino and we watched their one year old and our kids.  We thought it would just be easier to have some apps at the club lounge and then go back to the room to get them to bed at a reasonable hour.  Surprisingly Emma fell asleep in the cot this time and Sam was asleep in the crib so I thought we were golden! WRONG!!!! 11:00 my sister came back from dinner and popped in to close the connecting door and boom Sam was up.  There was nothing we tried that got her to calm down and stop crying.  It was now midnight and I was so scared that she would wake Emma.  I threw on some shorts and walked the hotel a couple hours with a completely awake and happy baby.  We did manage to get a couple hours of sleep that night before the short drive back home.

IMG_6151 IMG_6152How can you be mad at this adorable little face for not letting you sleep on your vacation…. The sleep factor was a little messy on this trip but the fun we had and memories we created during the day more then made up for it. Our next vacation is in 3 months when we fly up to Vermont to see family and have an adults only retreat at Twin Farms.  Stay tuned……

Sea Island Cloister

Sea Island Cloister was a fabulous end to our very long roadtrip to Vermont.  The best comparison I have for this resort is the Breakers in Palm Beach.  The grounds are perfect, the rooms amazing, the staff welcoming and always trying to please.

At check-in Emma got her a little stuffed turtle and sunglasses that got her all excited.  We were taken to our room by golf cart and walked into a fabulous welcome amenity! Thank you Christen!

Thank you Christen for the welcome amenity!

The room was very large for the smallest room in the resort with gorgeous vaulted ceilings.  The bathroom really is what blew us away.  I was excited to see that they have DVR so if you are staying a little longer then we were you could record some of your favorite shows that you didn’t want to miss.

 

Emma inspecting roomCloister Main Building where we stayed

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The spa had a sense of total relaxation with a full fitness center if you are keeping up your workout routine while on vacation.

relaxation area in spa

relaxation area in spa

IMG_3708spa poolThe beach club is a great place to stay if you are traveling with kids.  They have a great pool, playground and even an ice cream and candy shop! I was excited to hear they had a movie theater.  If we were staying longer that would be something I would love to do.

beach club pool

beach club pool

Ocean Villa

Ocean Villa

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playground at beach club

playground at beach club

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Beach Club Lobby

Beach Club Lobby

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The lobby was grand and had a large fireplace which was a centerpiece of the building.  There are several restaurants and a pianist the night we were there.  We opted to dine in Tavola which was very good.  Emma wasn’t in the mood to sit still so we took turns taking her outside the restaurant to walk around the lobby.

Dinner at Tavola

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Breakfast in Georgian Room

Breakfast in Georgian Room

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Beautiful landscaping

Beautiful landscaping

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preggo shot

Book with me for these fabulous perks:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
    • (excludes room service)
  • US $100 resort credit that can be applied to any Sea Island
    • amenity (excluding accommodations)

Inn at Palmetto Bluff

IMG_3460Inn at Palmetto Bluff was the first stop on our roadtrip to Vermont.  We braved the long trip with a toddler and set off on the road.  Emma did surprisingly well although we did have Winnie the Poo on a loop in the backseat for her as well as many games and toys to rotate.

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IMG_3516IMG_3517Inn at Palmetto Bluff was tucked away in Bluffington South Carolina and is sort of its own little town.  They have lots of restaurants and even a little grocery store. The landscaping was incredible and Will was very happy to walk the grounds and take pictures.

We were in a Cottage Suite which had a separate bedroom so we could put Emma’s crib in the living room. I was still experiencing some morning sickness so I woke up early to catch the sunrise which was incredible. The room had a mini bar with some complimentary snack and drinks.

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Breakfast was pure southern deliciousness! We had it delivered to our room to enjoy in front of the fire.

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We were welcomed by this lovely amenity, which was enjoyed by all of us, especially the nuts!IMG_3491

 

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We had dinner at Canoe Club and it was the best meal my husband said he ever had.  The staff was warm and welcoming and extremely sweet to Emma.  Unfortunately since it was only one night on the way to Vermont we did not get to experience as much as we would have liked but we will definitely be returning soon.

All Virtuoso Guests Receive:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Complimentary one-way private airport transfers