Jazzy Weekend in Dayton

Discovering Ohio - Lodging in Greater Dayton

I’m an Ohio girl, born and raised.  From the Cleveland area, went to school in Cincinnati and now live in Columbus.  I tell people I get around the state quite a bit, but I definitely have had my go-to entertainment districts and up until this weekend, Dayton was not one of them.  I’ll be honest, nearly every time I’ve gone to Dayton it’s been raining and there’s construction. But a few weeks ago I had a taste of something I wanted to sink my teeth into and I had to schedule a time to go back.  Our trip centered around one key adventure – the Blue Note Bistro & Lounge.  You probably haven’t heard of it, and I’m a bit nervous to divulge my secrets, but if you’re looking for something new to try – follow me…

Miamisburg, OH is about an hour and twenty minutes from Columbus. We decided it would be best to make an overnight out of our trip to the Blue Note. Word on the street? They’ve got great music and a wine cellar – ’nuff said.  This particular Saturday afternoon was unseasonably perfect and we didn’t want a minute of it to go to waste.  We thought the best bet would be to stop somewhere on the way that we could check out – walk around, see some shops, (for TJ) drink some beer – so we set our sights on Yellow Springs, OH. I had the chance to visit Yellow Springs a few months ago and wrote about its cool new hotel the Mills Park Hotel.  That time, I didn’t get a chance to explore the town which has a huge art scene, but I wanted to. It was too cute! There are little shops everywhere and musicians on the street.  Who would have thought?

Discovering Ohio - Yellow Springs

Feeling Funky – Yellow Springs

As we’re driving, TJ proclaims that he is pretty sure there is a brewery in Yellow Springs (he would know!).  After a quick Google search I confirm this and now he is interested.  Yellow Springs is situated on a bike path (or maybe the bike path is situated around Yellow Springs, but you get the picture!) and today, bicyclists were out in full force.  Despite the crowds, we found easy parking on the street (it’s free! for all you city slickers), just across from the Mills Park Hotel. We headed to find a latte for me – very important when the sun is setting and you’re window shopping.  We found the cutest store – Oats.  They sold all kinds of neat antique pieces for the home. You

Discovering Ohio - Yellow Springs

Feeling Funky – Yellow Springs

probably could guess that we left with an old metal BEER sign for our at-home bar. After that we wound our way to the Yellow Springs Brewery and Taproom, located a few blocks from downtown.  This place was happenin’. A food truck was parked outside and nearly every seat indoor and outdoor (in February!) was full. Something a bit different about this taproom is that there wasn’t a TV in sight.  The place was filled with artwork and there was a big cart of games for people to play. A startling idea – a bar not having TV’s, but instead you walked in to the sound of conversation, laughter and glasses clinking.  We decided to have a light appetizer because our dinner reservation was late.  The food truck parked outside, Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q, was

dishing out Mac n’ Cheese Waffles with Pulled Pork & Slaw – so we split one!  Delicious!

With full bellies, we decided we should make our way to Miamisburg with a quick pit stop at our hotel.  We were so fortunate to have been graciously hosted by the team at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Dayton Mall/I-675.  The staff was super friendly and ready to make our night a memorable

Discovering Ohio - Lodging in Greater Dayton

Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Miamisburg

one.  Our room was beautiful!  I’ve said it before, but if you haven’t been in a new package Holiday Inn recently, make sure to check one out. Our suite was spacious and beautiful.  I loved the homey accents – rounded ottomans and small lamps.  This hotel had a pool (which we didn’t have time to use) and great fitness center and complimentary breakfast. Highly recommend it!

Even better, the hotel is a straight shot to downtown Miamisburg, where the Blue Note was located. We were running a bit ahead of schedule so we swung into A Taste of

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

I’ve Got That Feeling, Inside My Sole @ A Taste of Wine

Wine for a glass of vino.  We were pleasantly surprised to see a packed house and a live band. The staff selected fantastic wine for us and we spent an hour listening to the sounds of Mind Reels.  We were walking distance to our final stop, so parking and navigating was easy.  We arrived at Blue Note just before the next show started and were quickly seated at our stage side table.  There are so many amazing things about this venue, I can’t capture it all in one post.  To begin, this space is a converted bank building, so it’s unique and in a great location.  The high ceilings and beautiful archways are a fantastic backdrop for a live music venue.  The whole place is lit by blue lighting and portraits of famous jazz musicians.  The menus? They light up!  The food was delicious.  I started with the Blue Note Salad and had the Chicken La Poire. TJ also started with the Blue Note Salad and had the Tournedos Dumas.  We split a great bottle of wine with our company, sat back and relaxed.  On stage that night was The Satchmo Show featuring Dean Simms – a Louis Armstrong impersonator. They were amazing and kept the crowd engaged all evening. After an outstanding show, good food and great company, we tucked in for the evening, but not before grabbing donuts at Bear Creek Donuts for breakfast the following morning.

One of my favorite things is discovering new ways to enjoy the great state of Ohio.  No matter how much  I travel, or how many people I meet, there are surprises around every corner.  If you haven’t yet visited Yellow Springs or Miamisburg, you are missing out on some amazing experiences. So what are you waiting for?

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

Video

Season of Love – Step it Up!

Ohio Date Ideas

All Smiles @ Cedar Point – Sandusky

I love holidays, particularly ones that give me an excuse to really wow someone – birthdays…Valentine’s Day. It’s the month of love, so I thought I’d step in to give you some ideas to really amp up your dating game or, your life experiences game. Whether you’re committed or single – these are some fun ways to get that extra mile out of love and life. Follow me as we try this, not that!

THAT – Buying chocolates

There are people in life who say, “don’t buy me flowers, they just die.” That’s depressing, but also true. Food isn’t just the way to a man’s heart – it’s the way to mine. But this time of year, stores roll out display after display of overpriced chocolates in heart shaped boxes. You could to that. Or, you could do…

THIS – (SAFE!) Raw Cookie Dough

Ohio Date Ideas

NomNomNom @ Cookie Dough Creamery

Good thing I surround myself with some pretty cool 11 year olds. I give full credit for this discovery to one of my favorite babysitees.  Next time you’re in the market for buying you’re loved one something sweet, stop by the Cookie Dough Creamery in Worthington, OH.  You can choose from containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (my favorite), Sugar Cookie Dough, Oreo Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough; Chocolate covered Oreos filled with cookie dough and all kinds of other delectable “raw” treats. In the event you’re worried about the safety of eating this raw dough (I certainly am not), this dough doesn’t contain eggs and they use heat treated flour.  GENIUS.

THAT – A Round of Golf

It’s OK, you can admit it.  You’re re-purposing some old Silent Auction item you won as a “super cool” gift.  Let me guess, it’s at a ritzy-titzy, exclusive course and perfect for 4!  If it’s so great, why haven’t you used it?  Because it isn’t so great. Wonder if you could recreate the golf experience in a private setting and when you’re ready to take a break from the links of Pinehurst, you can sit right down in your lounge seats, crack open a beer and enjoy a filet?  Next time, try…

THIS – Golf Simulator @ The Capital Club

What? Yes! You’ve totally been missing out. I had the chance to experience the Golf Simulator firsthand. Not just the golf simulator itself, but the opportunity to wow my Sig-O with an experience he didn’t even know existed.  We were escorted up to the Capital Club (by way of the DoubleTree Suites Columbus Downtown) to the Simulator room. We were able to select from over 20 courses.  We pre-ordered TJ’s favorite beer to the room (CBC Bodhi!) and you can even order food.  This is seriously one of the coolest dates I’ve been on. I’m pretty sure TJ has already lined up friends to join him next time. I’m thinking this would pretty cool for a Bachelor party too! Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Capital Club member to take advantage of this place!

****Special for Followers!*** Just in time to polish those skills before golf season hits! Now through March 30, 2017, mention this blog post and receive 1 Hour of Golf & a Free Appetizer for $15! Contact Kyle to book.

Love sports but not in Columbus? Have you checked out TopGolf in West Chester, OH?  That’s next on my list! Or what about Canton’s own Pro Football Hall of Fame? Hall of Fame Village coming soon!

THAT – Wine Tasting

Don’t get me wrong, wine tasting is fun. I love wine!  There are a million great places to do a wine tasting in Ohio…but, that’s old school, what about….

Ohio Date Ideas

Bourbon Cocktails @ Buckeye Bourbon House

THIS – Bourbon Tasting

This week, I got to check out a super cool new place, the Buckeye Bourbon House. I love Bourbon. Believe it or not, this girl has been on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail (highly recommend eating breakfast before visiting Jim Beam). The new Buckeye Bourbon House located on Gay Street in Columbus has over 50 curated Bourbons and Whiskeys (they are not the same, people!).  If you stop by, you can try a tasting and they ‘guarantee’ they’ve got something you haven’t tried.

Want more Bourbon? Try the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar in Covington, KY! I haven’t been in a while, but last time I checked, it’s still happenin’!

THAT – Date Night

It’s OK. Date night dinners are still cool, but there is something a tiny bit cooler…

THIS – Date Morning

What about fantastic brunch?  Fortunately, Ohio has finally figured things out.  People like to eat all times of day! Lucky for you, cities across the state are

Ohio Date Ideas

Brunch Farrotto @ The Whitney House

seriously stepping up their breakfast game.  So no matter where you are, there are places to brunch. Some new faves:

Hoof Hearted Brewing – Columbus, OH (Hate the name, love the food <3)

TownHall Ohio City – Cleveland, OH (Patio is perfect!)

Taste of Belgium – Cincinnati, OH (It’s been around a while, but those waffles. They still do Chicken & Waffles the best)

Blue Note Bistro & Lounge – Miamisburg, OH (On the menu next week, have you tried it??)

The Whitney House – Worthington, OH (I sold my sole for the Brunch Farratto)

Cherry Street Pub – Lancaster, OH (Christi’s pick!)

 

THAT – Shores of the Atlantic

Don’t get me wrong, I hit the Atlantic coast every year and I count down until that vacation. But, let’s get real, when was the last time you checked out Ohio’s shores? Have you even tried…

THIS  Shores of Lake Erie

When was the last time you visited Sandusky? I am not just talking about Cedar Point (but go there too). Downtown Sandusky has had a revitalization.  One can now have a fantastic dinner, settle in for a cocktail at a local speakeasy and book a night at a trendy hotel, all within walking distance.  Go. Now. Check it out.

There are so many more cool ways to experience life with someone you care about – share your favorites from around the state!

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

Pit Stops Ohio – All Shiny & New

New Lodging around Ohio

Twenty20 Taphouse @ Holiday Inn Canton

OK, gang, we’re getting down and dirty. Well, I guess not dirty – these places are all shiny and new!  But speaking of dirt, in the event you’ve been living under a rock, Ohio has all kinds of cool things popping up across the state. Anything from a face lift to a ground lift (new build!) there are so many hotels to be excited about.  Luckily, I’m in the biz, and have the somewhat daunting task of keeping track of all things hotel across the state. Today I’m going to take you into (or outside of) three exciting changes to our great state.  Buckle up!

The Timberlanes Inn – Salem, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Boneshakers @ The Timberlanes – Salem

My road trip started with a crazy flash back.  But before I get there, let me set the stage. I drove through winding roads and a blustery wintry-mix storm through the American Standard plant on the south side of town, finally arriving at Boneshakers in Salem, OH. I was meeting a local businessman who had taken the old Timberlanes complex under his wings, opening first Boneshakers.  Trying to avoid wet feet or hair, I sprinted into the new restaurant without much of a look at the outside. I was greeted by very friendly staff, even though I was a few minutes ahead of the opening bell.  I used my extra time to check out the new place.  I will be completely honest, I was shocked. I did not expect to see such a trendy looking joint in Salem, OH.  After a quick, yummy Cobb salad, I was ushered through the restaurant to the hotel which is still undergoing renovation.  A little history on the way – the old complex used to house bowling lanes (hence the name!) and it caught fire mid 1900s. When they rebuilt the property, they did not rebuild the bowling lanes (much to my dismay), but focused on the banquet hall, restaurant and motor inn. The Timerblanes complex was shut down in 2009.

New Lodging around Ohio

The Timberlanes – Salem

My two hosts swept me into the lobby.  As I was checking out the new guestroom furniture, I started to get this feeling…just a little something creeping through the cobwebs of distant memories.  I paused and took a moment to scan my surroundings.  The lobby is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows.  I looked outside – noticing that the valet area ran under the front and then continued along the side of the building to the banquet hall, running parallel to the street, thus serving dual purposes – valet for hotel guests and valet for banquet guests, something you don’t see everyday.  I turned back around as my hosts were explaining the inverted motel concept.  I followed their gaze through the lobby doors into the room corridors.  There’s something here and I can’t put my finger on it! I kept thinking.   We walk through the doors and I’m greeted by cold.  My host explaining that the rooms are connected by an outside corridor covered by a glass roof.  We walk into the first room and she’s saying “this room used to be greens and” burgundy, I say.  I’ve been here! I’ve been here!

New Lodging around Ohio

The Timberlanes – Salem

I blurted out.  She looks at me perplexed, “really?!”  Yes!  It has such a unique layout.  The valet. The small, cozy glass lobby, the reserve motel room layout.

And… I’m in Salem!  My memories come crashing back to me. I stayed here in high school as a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards participant.  It was a big, annual “over-nighter” hosted by the Salem Rotary Club for high school students demonstrating leadership. Of course, in high school, I didn’t drive myself there so the valet only played a small role in my memory. It was the late nights of running between rooms, gossiping and sharing stories that I remembered. Although in my high school memory, the old Timerlanes was fine, but in my adult memory, this place needed a major overhaul and Brooke & Brandy are the ones to do it.  They are moving those cool restaurant grade indoor heaters into the center space with nice patio furniture for lounging. I can picture myself cozied up under a blanket of winter snow on the glass roof with a blanket and a book. This place is going to be really neat. The lobby has been fitted with reclaimed barn wood and the new bedroom furniture has a similar feel.  Sticking to a modern, clean and simple design, Brandy is working hard to transform the space.  The banquet space is massive for any size town, but for Salem, OH and the surrounding areas, it’s a game changer, seating 400 in rounds. I’m excited to check out the hotel when it’s complete and you should be too.

Holiday Inn Canton – Canton, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Shiny & New @ Holiday Inn Canton

Yowza!  You know when you go somewhere you’ve been before and you think you know what you’re walking into, but then it isn’t anything like you remembered? That’s what happened to me at the newly renovated Holiday Inn Canton. Ask any of the staff here and they will tell you, “it’s about time!” They’ve been waiting to show off this renovation for a while and for good reason.  I was delighted that Emily was willing to take me on a full tour of the space. If you haven’t been in any Holiday Inn in a while, you might be surprised to know, the brand is making some big changes.  The new HI package is extremely modern with sleek finished, bright colors and well-placed art. Last time I was at this specific property, the lobby was in a different place, so that was confusing, but once I found my way, it was breathtaking. GOOD JOB!

New Lodging around Ohio

Shiny & New @ Holiday Inn Canton

The new lobby is an open floor plan with lots of seating for guests, computer stations and windows.  The rooms are – stunning.  I love all of the blues and silver.  One of the suites I saw has a pretty neat feature – the option to connect to a small board room. I think this would be great for groups hosting large or multi-day meetings on site.  It makes for a great private office space for meeting organizers. Or, traveling into town for an event at the Hall of Fame?  What a great place to order in and share with family so you don’t have to sit around on the beds.

The Holiday Inn Canton is in a great location – just off the highway but next to the former Belden Village Mall area. But should you not feel like navigating mall traffic for a cold beer or dinner, another addition is Twenty20 Taphouse, the new restaurant and taproom. And, you guessed it! There are 20 beers on tap for your pleasure.  Even if you’re just passing through and not looking for a place to stay, check it out. I bet it’ll wow you too!

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Project – Orrville, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Nearly new! Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville, OH

This one is near and dear to my heart and unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of pictures to show you. My hometown is Orrville, OH. A quaint little industrious town nestled between Canton and Wooster along historic Route 30. When I first heard news that Orrville, home of the Red Riders, Bobby Knight and this little jelly place called the J.M. Smucker Company, was getting a hotel, I was aghast.  What do we need a hotel for? I thought to myself.  But I left “home” 10+ years ago, and a lot has changed. Smucker’s is booming, industry is moving in and Orrville now has overnight guests that aren’t just family visiting loved ones.  It was a pet project of mine to find out more about a new project in Ohio – a small town hotel chain concept out of Pennsylvania breaking ground in Ohio in my very own hometown.  The new hotel will have 40 rooms, a bar/restaurant and a pool. The Cobblestone brand is built for towns just like Orrville, focusing on small town values and “big town” amenities. The hotel should be open in the coming months, but here is a sneak peek about what locals are saying about the build and the brand. For a full story on the property, check this article written by Megan Coddington, student at The Ohio State University. Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Introduction to Ohio by Megan Coddington Rumor has it, Cobblestone is already scoping out other communities across our state, one could be coming to your backyard soon!

We have some many great things happening around our state.  If you are wondering just what’s going in at this corner or if a rumor is true, let me know!  I’m happy to give you the scoop.

 “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

 

A Hidden Gem

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Stately Beauty @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

I am such a lucky girl.  I finally found that perfect career that allows me to immerse myself in something I’m passionate about.  I love travel, I love culture, I love experiences.  Lodging big or small, I’m a firm believer that the lodging you choose can make or break an experience.  And, over the past few months, I’ve actually had people tell me they like when I let them in, just a little bit, to come along with me on these experiences, from the comforts of their desk, their home or wherever InnLove finds them each Friday morning. Today I’m going to let you in, just a little bit more, into something I discovered this week while traveling for work.  For many of you, it’s in your backyard and it’s truly one of Ohio’s hidden gems.

As most of you know, I’ve worked in a few hotels, but what some of you might not know is that my childhood dream has been to own an award winning inn. I’ve been collecting favorite breakfast recipes for years. So when I find one that gives me so many feels…I must share it with you. This week, while making a very windy tour of Northeastern Ohio, I visited one of my favorite people, Lynne Biery at her hospitality masterpiece – Sebring Mansion Inn & Spa.

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

I’ve never been to the Mansion, but I have heard stories.  All good, of course, but THIS. I did not expect. I hadn’t heard of Sebring, OH until I learned of Lynne’s place –

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Rotunda @ Sebring Mansion

how could there be something this spectacular in a place I’ve never been? Even though the day was typical January in Ohio weather – you know the sort, gray, 33° and raining – the mansion was sparkling.  It is massive and stately, sitting

 

on the corner, beckoning me into its warmth.  I sprinted across the street, snapping a quick picture of the entrance, and ducked inside. As if he was waiting for me, I was greeted by Dick, a cheerful member of the Mansion’s team. He ushered me inside the most breathtaking foyer I’ve seen in quite some time. Once you catch your breath,

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Dining Room @ Sebring Mansion

you immediately gaze upward into a rotunda with 3 floors of views to a stained glass dome.  While waiting for Lynne, I snapped a few pictures of the foyer before being escorted into the dining area.  I was told a bride would be arriving soon and this was to be the dinner room.  The room was dripping with winter decor that made you feel

 

like you were in a fairy tale. Lynne walked me through the many rooms of the first floor including the parlor and oval music room.  The piano in the music room is original to the home!

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Oval Music Room @ Sebring Mansion

Sebring Mansion has 9 rooms with more being built.  Each room is individually decorated and is named after a famous potter. (Sebring, OH is the Pottery capital of the world!) Each room has a beautiful, hand selected bed and whirlpool.  In many of the rooms, you can be served dinner for two on the balcony or in the sitting area and each guest is greeted with a rose. No children are allowed at Sebring at this time, which allows for an indulgent adults-only retreat. Make sure to check out all of the room pictures in the 2017 Visual Adventure Gallery because there are a million!

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Stained Glass @ Sebring Mansion

The third floor of the Mansion has another dining area where Lynne and her team had set up an immaculate dining experience for the weekend’s wedding party.  The room is surrounded by stained glass and little private alcoves. There is a built in bar to serve guests.  Lynne also tells me she hosts a number of special events such as Murder Mystery Dinners.  I think I should sign up for one of those really soon!

The lower level of the Mansion houses the spa, with a maze of rooms for massages, mani/pedis, hair, mud baths and more. All guests are able to soak in the 102° indoor or outdoor therapy pool.  Even on a dank day like the one I was visiting on, I could have easily slipped into the outdoor pool, surrounded by plants and stone walls.  Also on the lower level are his and hers locker rooms, a wine cellar and The Pub – a bar area for guests to order evening cocktails.

Sadly, I was not visiting Lynne for an overnight stay, just a quick tour and some history.  But, if anyone has ever convinced me to make a weekend out of Sebring, OH, it was Lynne, her team and this spectacular Mansion. I’ll be counting down the days until we can stay.  (Hunny, are you reading this??)

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Un Bon Voyage

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

Oh, the beaches! @ La Martinique

Friends.  I have fallen Inn Love. You know when you find one of those places that after you visit, you just keep dreaming about it?  You even consider packing up and moving?  My goodness – I have found it.  It was by chance. A delightfully inexpensive (OK, this was a Christmas present from my parents, so it was free, but even so…) trip to the far reaches of the Caribbean could not have been more perfect.  I know many people choose “safe” Caribbean destinations – they speak English, an all inclusive resort with American food, etc. People, I’m telling you. BREAK THAT HABIT. Go beyond English and all-inclusive and you find the true majesty of travel. There is something so fantastic about feeling like a local in a place as beautiful and rich as this.

This island is situated between more well known, St. Lucia and Dominica and is part of the Lesser Antilles. It’s a fantastic place for Americans to travel because as a a region of France, its currency is the Euro and the current exchange rate is ($1=.93 Euro!!), but even better than that are the high standards of French cuisine. You can be at a little run down, beach

side cafe and the food is far better than what you would find in the States…and we all know how important that is to me! So come along with me and discover the French island of Martinique.

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

Oh, the beaches! @ La Martinique

I like giving my readers gifts, so here is one.  Now, don’t go blabbing to all of your friends. This is our little secret. 

We traveled to Martinique on a relatively new low-cost European airline called Norwegian Air. I see your eyebrow furrowing.  THAT’S RIGHT. Norwegian Air. Don’t believe me?  As of writing this, you could leave Friday, January 27 and return February 3 for $250 round trip from Baltimore. THAT IS INSANE!  Don’t worry, this isn’t a paper plane with a monkey for a pilot, the service and comfort of this airline is top notch.  The *only* downside is luggage restrictions. You get one carry on bag that must weigh no more than 10KG (~22 pounds). Don’t worry though, what more do you need than sunscreen, a bathing suit and sandals?  (Sidebar: On this note, please do not be concerned that I only own one dress as you’ll think from photos. This is my bathing suit coverup! And, when every restaurant is on a beach, why wouldn’t you always have a bathing suit on and snorkeling gear ready? That’s what my carry on consisted of! Priorities, people!)

We arrived at our HomeAway property – a 3 bedroom villa overlooking Les Anses-d’Arlet complete with a kitchen and private pool. In traditional Runion (that’s my maiden name) fashion, we had just enough time to have a fabulous dinner. We arrived at L’Escale, a beautiful restaurant tucked down off of a hillside, surrounded my nature.  It was at this restaurant where I was reminded that the French love their cheese. I, of course, ordered my first of, probably 10, Salade au Chevre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad!).

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

La Martinique

In our family, my dad and I are the explorers. Luckily, TJ was up for a stroll, so the three of us set off the first morning to find the boulangerie (bakery!) – essentially the most important thing any French island has to offer. Also lucky for the fitness fanatic in me, our villa was on top of a very steep hill and the boulangerie … at the bottom (in the photo, you’ll see me on the road and the boulangerie is by the water).  Each morning, we hiked this hill in search of croissants and a baguette to start the day off right. On that first morning, we were up early enough to see the local fisherman pull up to the town center with the daily catch. We bought this one night to grill at home and it was delicious and fresh and only 16 euros!

We spent the next day discovering our new neighborhood.  Martinique has quite a history.  One of our favorite stops was in Le Diamant which had an over look

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

Le Diamant, Martinique

of Le Diamant Roche (Diamond Rock). Can you imagine, this rugged rock sticking up from the water was a fort which housed a hospital and more???

We arrived in the village of Le Diamant and found lunch at La Voille Blanche where for the first time I tried Marlin…raw, and it was phenomenal. In addition to my obsession with goat cheese, I now wanted to eat anything raw on the menu as did my sister. Our trip basically consisted of rotating Salade au Chevre Chaud and Beef, Marlin or Tuna Tartar. Every dish was served with so much color!

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

The food in Martinique is OUT OF THIS WORLD @ La Voile Blanche

Mid week we discovered the most perfect beach, Anse Noire (black sand beach!).  Nestled in between two cliffs, this nearly private beach isn’t so easy to access. If you don’t have a boat, the only

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

A slice of paradise – Anse Noire, Martinique

option is down a flight of about 100 stairs. We arrived early with snorkeling equipment as we were told this was one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island.  Unfortunately, I don’t have an underwater camera, so it’s left to my memory.  The only thing I brought back from that excursion was very burnt shoulders from hours of slow swimming!

Other than sunbathing and eating, my mom really wanted to do a boat excursion.  We found Louis at La ronde Pecheur who took us on a 4 hour boating, snorkeling and snacking trip.  We had a beautifully sunny day on the water and got to do some great snorkeling in areas only accessible by boat. If visiting the area I would highly recommend him!

The final day in Martinique was heaven.  We finally learned what the locals knew – you must get to Chez Fab et Claude early for a beach side table.  We saw Claude a couple of days prior, literally running to and from, singing in French, taking orders. He was marvelous. His energy level was 10x mine (can you imagine!?) and he was happy as a clam.  There is a reason he has regulars. The food here is top-notch and you cannot beat the setting.  I had the Poulet Boucane  – a creole BBQ chicken with frites (fries!).  His is the best. Served with a shot of local Rhum (rum!) and a berry cobbler. I adored Claude, I hope to be like him one day.

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

The food in Martinique is OUT OF THIS WORLD @ Chez Fab et Claude

Our trip finally came to a close. I write this entry just a week after our return and gosh do I miss it already.  Part of me hopes I have convinced some of you to add this to your bucket list, but the other part of me hopes it remains my little treasure to return to.  But if you go, brush up on your French, order things you don’t understand and take plenty of sunscreen. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Taking on the Queen

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

Whew! I’m back in the saddle and on the road again (how many cheesy phrases can I use?). I kicked off 2017 in the Queen City – visiting one of my standbys and checking out something new. It’s one of our unspoken traditions that we spend New Year’s Eve in Cincinnati.  This year was

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

exceptional because so many friends traveled in from afar to be there. We checked in at my Alma Mater’s hotel – Kingsgate Marriott located in the

Uptown/University Area of Cincinnati. Kingsgate is perfectly situated for access to the University of Cincinnati Main Campus and Medical Campus, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Xavier University and just a short ride to downtown Cincinnati.  I have stayed at Kingsgate many times and it’s the phenomenal staff that keeps me coming back. Usually around New Year’s Eve it’s a quiet place, but not this year. With a wedding in house and a much anticipated Cincinnati Bengals game, the place was packed!

We checked into our corner suite to get ready for the big night out.  As tradition, TJ always makes a trip down to the Bearcat Lounge for a drink

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

while I get spruced up for NYE. The same bartender has been on duty for 4 years running.  In an industry with a lot of turnover, it’s amazing to see staff there year after year. You know this is because the hotel treats its employees well.  Not only is the bartender a familiar face, but many of the banquets staff and front office team are the same.

Finally! It’s time for a night on the town! We had big plans. I love holidays and planning one in the Queen City is my forte.  We met up with friends for dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants, Mita’s.  Chef Jose Salazar knows how to wine & dine his guests. I could have sat there for hours, sipping bubbly, passing tapas and people watching. Mita’s is situated on the corner of 5th & Race with floor to ceiling windows.  And on New Year’s Eve? EXCELLENT people watching. We shared a Cheese plate consisting of Manchego, Valdeon and Murcia al Vino. YUM. Then we passed around an Ensalad Mixta and an Ensalad Jicama Y Mango – both delicious. We opted for a round of Tapas in lieu of entrees and shared the Coles de Bruselas Asadas (brussels sprouts!); Pulpo Gallego (galician style octopus!); Arepa Con Queso Fresco Y Chorizo (Cheese & chorizo cornmeal cakes!) and the special of the evening – Blood Sausage.  We each had a favorite – obviously we either all have exceptional taste or Jose only makes awesome dishes (or both!). We wrapped up the evening with an Olive Oil Rosemary Cake for dessert.  If you haven’t been to Mita’s, you’re missing out. BIG TIME. And they’re open for lunch!

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

After Mita’s we met up with friends at 21C Museum Hotel.  I’ve been to

21C before, but this time I had a chance to check out some of the aspects that make it unique including the “body art” in the shower and the beautiful art display on the guestroom floors. One of the signature’s of the 21C brand are the fun little penguin mascots.

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

We left 21C and headed to our final destination – a new cocktail lounge in The Banks called The Stretch. The Stretch is swanky with double bars and a narrow space that allows for an intimate atmosphere. It was packed for NYE, but the outdoor space was a nice retreat from the sweat of the dance floor with fire places and cozy furniture on a chilly Ohio winter night. I’d love to come check it out on a regular weekend night – I guarantee it’s just as busy!

Believe it or not, after a night on the town, I’m still hitting the gym in the morning.  I told you before, this was not my first rodeo at Kingsgate, so when I walked into the all-to-familiar gym I was ECSTATIC at what I found.  I’m a gym snob, we know this.  Rarely do I come across one of my

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Fitness Center @ Kingsgate Marriott

favorite pieces of gym equipment. I love it so much that even if I wasn’t planning to run, I do. I’m totally going to geek out on you guys for a second.  LifeFitness makes these super cool treadmills with courses you can run all around the world! It is seriously the coolest invention.  If you haven’t been on one, try it. If you run a hotel, get one!

But honestly people, what would this trip be without a final food suggestion?  I’m not much for hotel breakfasts and normally I head somewhere else, but I knew that the breakfast buffet at Kingsgate would be just what I needed on New Year’s Day. Those omelettes…OH!

If you find yourself in Cincinnati, check out one of these two great hotels and most definitely eat at Mita’s – you’d be a fool not to.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

California Dreamin’ Part II

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Darioush – Napa, CA

If you haven’t already set up your Fare Alerts for a trip to Cali after last week’s post, you will today! We’re going to cruise north towards our final destination, Napa Valley. After a jam-packed city adventure in San Francisco, we were ready to relax.  I’d done a lot of research on where to stay in Napa Valley. Luckily, Joe (yes, my boss!) suggested I look north towards St. Helena and Calistoga where the terrain gets more interesting and hikers flock.  I found a fabulous independent property – The Bergson in downtown Calistoga where we booked our three night getaway. I’ll tell you more about that later – first… WINE!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

The Boon Fly Cafe – Napa, CA

Our first day in Napa we were attending the 2016 Napa B&B Holiday Tour & Tasting Event. HOW COOL. It was perfect for me and only happened one day of the year – the day we were there! On

our way to that, we made a few pitstops to kick off the wine tasting extravaganza.  First stop, breakfast (of course!!). We had a recommendation to visit Boon Fly Cafe and I was glad we went. The vibe of the place was super fun and whenever given the chance, TJ and I always opt for community tables. We ordered the famous donuts as an appetizer, because appetizers at breakfast are the best, and followed up with fantastic eggs. The Bloody Maries looked to die for, but we needed to pace ourselves.

After breakfast we headed to our first wine stop, Domaine Carneros.  If you haven’t been, DC makes sparkling wine and has a large chateau overlooking the valley. It was a popular place to sip bubbly, that’s for sure. It was pretty good, but doesn’t beat my favorite Napa sparkling. (We’ll get there!).

Next, we went for something smaller and checked out Monticello Vineyards – Corley Family (They only produce 15,000 cases a year of their Estate Grown Chardonnay!). Things were a bit more casual here. We had a wonderful tasteur, Dave, who walked us through the tasting menu at a bar while looking out over Monticello – a 1/3 replica of the Virginia home.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Monticello Vineyards – Corley Family – Napa, CA

For our third and final stop before the big holiday inn tour, we stumbled upon (pun totally intended) Darioush.  This was not part of our plan, but it was impressive and we’re so glad we stopped.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Darioush – Napa, CA

The backstory here is amazing.  Darioush Khaledi was born in Iran, where the country has been in prohibition since 1979.  Darioush found his love of wine through his father who made wine in their basement. When he was able to, he emigrated to the US and eventually opened Darioush. (Follow more of his story in the Visual Adventure Gallery!)  The wine here is so good and our tasteur, Toni, walked us through every last drop. Virtually impossible to find through retailers in Ohio and rare to find on fine dining menus (we found one at M at Miranova in Columbus!) this wine was worth the visit.  We shipped home two bottles of Chardonnay – one for us and one as a gift.

After our three amazing tastings, we were finally headed to the 2016 Napa B&B Holiday Tour.  You’ll have to check out the Visual Adventure Gallery for all of the highlights of this tour, but we definitely had some favorites. The B&B I took the most pictures at was Churchill Manor – it was a massive property with unique furnishings, cool rooms and good food. I also loved the unique grounds of the Arbor Guest House, the arbors lit for the holidays.  There were so many fun stops, be sure to check them out.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

2016 Napa Historic Inns of Napa Holiday Tour @ Churchill Manor – Napa, CA

All of that wine and we were ready to EAT.  We made reservations at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery. Our food was amazing. I had the Gnocchi with butternut squash, spinach, mushroom and truffled turnip coulis – YUMMO. I would argue this was one of the “hardest” days of my life. So much wine. So much food. We were drained. We were so happy we could retreat to our perfect little inn for a good night’s sleep because we were doing it all again the next day!

I mentioned earlier that Calistoga appeals to hikers.  I searched for a place we could get a hike in and was pleasantly surprised to find a trail head leaving from downtown Calistoga.  The Oat Hill Mine Trail was literally one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever been on and I’ve been on some pretty cool ones, including the Boiling Lake Trail in Dominica. Anyway –  this trail is 8 miles each way, but you can do a mile in or so and have a great hike. I recommend doing this at sunrise or slightly thereafter while the fog is burning off the vineyards. I just have to take a minute to flood you with beautiful pictures from our hike…

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Oat Hill Mine Trail – Calistoga, CA

Now that I’ve fed your soul, let’s move on to your belly! One of the best features at our hotel was a wonderful (complimentary!) breakfast. I believe on the weekends they add an egg dish, as we had a quiche awaiting our arrival in addition to the continental spread. Then, we kicked off the morning with a stop at my ALL TIME FAVORITE winery – Mumm Napa.  I visited

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Mumm Napa – Napa, CA

Mumm on my first trip and fell

 

Inn Love with the experience of sipping fantastic bubbly on a cool fall morning with a warm sun shining on your face.  Mumm has done a remarkable job at tailoring this experience just for that. The view is amazing. The wine is amazing. If you get a chance, visit Mumm before 11AM and it will be quiet and peaceful.

After Mumm, our driver took us to Sunshine Foods, a great little market in downtown St. Helena.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Sherwin Family Vineyards – St. Helena, CA

There, we were able to grab some picnic items for our final wine stop of the day – Sherwin Family Vineyards. The Sherwin Family has quite a story. Situated on top of Spring Mountain, this vineyard is private and hard to find, but well worth the adventure. We sat for a private picnic overlooking

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Sherwin Family Vineyards – St. Helena, CA

their vineyard where we had a tasting paired with stories from the staff.

The Sherwin Family coined themselves the Patriotic Pour, due to the fact that they’re the only company in the U.S. with permission to print the American flag on their bottles. The story is pretty neat and the custom bottles are gorgeous. You’ll have to stop for the story! But if you do, make sure to try the Cellar Scraps. We bought two bottles!

We wrapped our wine tasting a bit sooner so that we could indulge in a few more Napa Valley specialties – mud and food.

I knew from my last trip that mud baths in Calistoga were super popular. We booked ourselves at the Golden Haven Hot Springs and Resort for a mud bath for two.  I know a lot of people are skeptical of the process and probably laughed at me when I told them we did this, but it’s a great experience. The mud is really relaxing and does wonders for the skin. Next time you’re in town, go outside of your comfort zone and give it a try!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Meaningful Mudding @ Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort

FINALLY! Dinner time. If you know anything about Napa Valley dining, you’ve probably heard of

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Dining with the Best @ Bouchon Yountville

Yountville, or at least the famous French Laundry.  Sorry gang, we didn’t eat there, but we ate at the next best place – Bouchon.  Also a repeat from my last trip, but with different company, Bouchon is definitely at the top of my list for best places I’ve ever eaten. One of the interesting items we tried was recommended by our waiter – Fried Pig Ears. Never would I have ordered this on my own, but I’m so glad we did. TJ must have been feeling particularly adventurous that evening! Bouchon has excellent service. Seriously, some of the best service I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant. The food is, of course, phenomenal.  I cannot wait to return.

By now, I’m guessing you’re hungry and you’re already looking at flights, but we aren’t done yet.

Thus far, I planned everything. The food, the wine, the rental car.  TJ had one request – “can we go to a brewery?” TJ’s cousin told him about this “great place” he needed to check out. But of course, it was an hour in the wrong direction.  TJ was such a good sport with the mud bath, how could I say no? We packed up our things and headed to Santa Rosa. The good news is, we met a lot of locals on our trip and one local told us if we wanted to see the Redwoods, we should avoid Muir Woods and go to Armstrong Redwoods. Guess where that is?  Right around the corner from Russian River Brewing. TJ lucked out.

This trip was so far been extraordinary, but the Redwoods? Magical. Make sure to check out all of the pics in the Visual Adventure Gallery, but here are a few to get you started!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Armstrong Redwoods – Guerneville, CA

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Armstrong Redwoods – Guerneville, CA

After taking in the majesty of the forest, we headed to Russian River. Surprisingly, the food was superb and Santa Rosa is an adorable little hipster town! I would definitely go back.

In all, we had a whirlwind trip to California, but I couldn’t have asked for nicer wine, better weather or a more perfect travel partner. Until next time, California…

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Darioush – Napa, CA

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

California Dreamin’ Part I

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA

2017! What do you have in store for me this year?  2016 was amazing.  I got to wrap up 2016 with a fabulous trip that I eluded to in my last post.  It was 4 years since I was last in Napa, California.  It was also 6 months after college graduation, so I was on a post-college budget – which isn’t the best way to do California.  TJ and I were able to maximize our time there and we absolutely fell INN LOVE with San Francisco and Napa Valley.  This post is so jam-packed and loaded with pictures (and food) that we’re doing it in two weeks. Our trip started in San Francisco, so let’s go!

United takes flight with something fresh!

United takes flight with something fresh!

I’m not lying when I say I love to fly. It’s a cool experience. Of course, TSA and terrorists have made it less fun, but it’s always nice when an airline can find a way to WOW you.  I don’t fly United often (Cincinnati was a Delta hub and my new Sister-in-Law, Tracy, flies for Southwest), so maybe this isn’t new to all of you, but they really upgraded these in-flight snacks!  I could have eaten an entire box of these babies.  Apparently, they’re from the Netherlands. GENIUS. The lady told me to let it sit on top of my steaming tea for a few minutes and the insides MELTED.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

UBER Cool – San Francisco, CA

Also amazing was what happened when we got to the airport. OK, when we were leaving. We grab an Uber (not as easy as it should have been, mind you) and the Uber app asks TJ to play in their game. If you didn’t know, Uber started in San Francisco which is a hotbed of technology experts.  While riding in the comfort of your Uber car, they set up this program – if you can “hack” their code, they’ll give you a job! In theory, anyway…. BUT, as we quickly discovered, TJ isn’t a hacker and failed the aspiring-Uber-programmer test. So, moving on…

We finally arrived at our hotel.  We were so fortunate for the chance to stay at the Fairmont San Francisco.  This hotel is ancient and magnificent. Built in 1907, it has withstood earthquakes, fires and significant political & celebrity moments including the drafting of the United Nations Charter. With the history comes the class. The property exudes luxury from the doormen to the décor.  The concierge (yes, they still have those AND she was a Les Clef

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Nob Hill Cafe – San Francisco, CA

d’Or concierge!) pointed us to a “quaint Italian place” around the corner – Nob Hill Café. I was skeptical of the suggestion because she said there wasn’t a lot within an easy walk (it was pouring down rain) but, oh! was it fantastic.  We were able to snag a table in a little window for some hand crafted pizza and salads.

That night, I had the opportunity to take a peak into the lives of the rich and famous. Our party was in the Penthouse at the Fairmont SF. I must say, I will probably never have the chance to return. This room rents for $25,000 a night, I’m told, so it probably won’t be part of our next trip.  (You must check out the Visual Adventure Gallery to see these pics!) Other than the view from the patio, the coolest part of the penthouse is the hidden staircase.  I was caught taking pictures and escorted to the “secret” room.  Rumor has it that JFK snuck Marilyn Monroe out this secret door for a bottle of wine, unbeknownst to the Secret Service keeping watch.  The door itself is sealed off now, but you can still find the secret doorway in the bookshelves!

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Secrets at the Penthouse @ Fairmont San Francisco

Before our last night at the Fairmont SF, we visited the iconic Tonga Room for one of their famous Mai Tais.  I don’t drink a lot of cocktails, but let’s just say, it’s probably best I only had one of these bad boys. Whoooie! It was strong! If you haven’t visited or read about the Tonga Room, it rains inside. You should check it out!

When planning this trip, I had one place I wanted to make sure we saw – Alcatraz Island. I heard mixed reviews, we shouldn’t do it, we should, only if it’s nice out, blah blah blah. But guys, I’m fascinated with Alcatraz and the story of prisoners there.  We were lucky it was 62 and sunny on the December afternoon that we set sail for the island.  Did you know Native Americans inhabited the island after it closed?! I had no idea! You can find signs of this all over the island if you look closely. One of my favorite parts was the Agave Trail (the picture at the top of the post!).  Great views and less tourists. Originally, the Agave was planted to prevent erosion, beautify “the Rock” and specifically chosen because of it’s sharp edges to help discourage escape. While we were touring the penitentiary,we were treated to an unlocking ceremony of the doors, even with all the lights and the tourists around, it was pretty eerie. Check out the video (and make sure your volume is up for full effect!)

I know you’re wondering – “Halle. What is this? Did you not eat while you were in San Francisco – a food mecca?!”  Don’t you worry. We sure did! But, I was there for a conference, so a lot of my meals were provided.  Of course, we found opportunities to eat and I’ve got a list of them for you! As with any major city, it can be really tricky to figure out where to eat. If you’re planning a trip to SanFran anytime soon, in addition to those mentioned above, here are some great places we discovered to help you narrow down the options. OK, maybe we did eat a lot…

Aliment (Lower Nob Hill) – neighborhood restaurant featuring a seasonal menu with local ingredients.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Hillstone – San Francisco, CA

Top of the Mark (Nob Hill @ InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel San Francisco) – Go here for a drink on top of the world. Ascend to the 19th floor for dizzying views, great cocktails and if you’re lucky, an awesome Motown Band (like when we were there!!)

Restaurant LuLu (South of Market) – set in a super cool converted 1910 warehouse, offering seasonal Provencal fare.

Hillstone (Embarcadero) – best choice near Pier 33. There are not a lot of dining options down by the piers. This is an upscale chain, but THAT BURGER. YUM.

Rogue Ales Public House (Russian Hill) – Rogue community hall – TJ likes their beer.

1st Amendment Inc. (South of Market) – Also a brewery, TJ recommends visiting for a great brew and good food.

Barrell Head Brewhouse (North of the Panhandle) – NOM. NOM. NOM. ‘Nuff said.

The first half of our trip was mostly business and kind of a whirlwind. That’s OK though, because the back end was all wine and relaxation.

California Dreamin - Great lodging, Wine Country and San Francisco

Alcatraz Island – San Francisco, CA

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

That’s a Wrap!

2016 was a great year. Personally, it was pretty cool because I got to marry my favorite boy; my little sister moved to Columbus and we had an inaugural Christmas party in our new home. Oh yea, and I started this blog!  In the world of travel, I got to do some pretty cool things this year and it’s been a great experience sharing it with you. I thought it would be wise to sum up 2016 in the event you missed some of the highlights – it’ll be a photo-heavy recap, some food is involved (duh!).  Enjoy!

I wouldn’t even want to suggest that the first quarter of 2016 was boring for me. I was trying to remember what I was preparing for a year ago today and had to consult the calendar. The multitude of colors on my calendar was kind of frightening.  No wonder I couldn’t remember what I was doing… all of which was overshadowed by the planning of our wedding. For those of you that don’t remember, I’m a meeting planner as well, so I was devoting lots of energy to throwing the PERFECT party come April. Unbeknownst to me, I must have been saving up my travel energy for what was to come…

March 2016

I visited Kalahari for the first time ever (!) and also the first of three times in 2016. In March I was attending the Meeting Professionals International Mid America Conference (MAC).  I learned a lot and met some great new friends. I was also recognized for receiving my Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) Certification, which is pretty cool!

MAC 2016 – Photo Credit: Chris Joyce Photography

Also in March, I got to see two brand new hotels – one open and one not quite open!  I was able to visit the new Kimpton Schofield Hotel, just after opening. We returned to stay overnight in May, when the idea for the blog came to fruition!  I was fortunate enough to get a hard hat tour of the new Hilton Cleveland Downtown. It was SO COOL. If you haven’t been there yet (it’s open now!) please go check it out. Whether you’re there to see the living wall in the lobby, the lake views from the rooftop bar or to eat at one of their awesome restaurants, it’s worth the trip.

Hard Hat Tour @ Hilton Cleveland Downtown

Hard Hat Tour @ Hilton Cleveland Downtown

April 2016

I can’t help but first point out – I got married!  This was by far the coolest thing that happened in 2016.  But, before all of those shenanigans, I had a Bachelorette Party.  Don’t worry folks, this blog is pretty PG.  I’m not your typical Bachelorette Party Go-er. I’m super lame. Really, all I wanted were my best friends in one place that had sunshine. After all, I didn’t want to be the same color as my wedding gown (Boo!). My girlfriends and I got to stay at the BRAND NEW Residence Inn Miami Beach South Beach. The hotel has just opened and it was super flashy. It wasn’t anything like what you’d see in Ohio, but then again, is anything in South Beach like Ohio?

South Beach – Photo Credit: Jackie Runion

Following our wedding, we visited Punta Islita, Costa Rica. We chose to stay at the Hotel Punta Islita which is an Autograph Collection property frequented by the rich and famous.  We didn’t get to meet any celebrities, but we had an awesome time. When I’m on vacation like this one, my routine is pretty simple – wake up, do a non-traditional workout (hike a mountain, swim in the ocean, beach side yoga…), eat breakfast, sit by the pool and read, eat lunch, sit by the pool and read, eat dinner – repeat. This is the view from my book.

Hotel Punta Islita - Costa Rica

Hotel Punta Islita – Costa Rica

May 2016

What happened in May is pretty spectacular. TJ and I were sitting in Adega after a long holiday weekend.  I’m sipping my tea, TJ his coffee. We’re playing one of our favorite post-trip games, “What was your favorite part?” when it happens. It was TJ’s idea. I can take no credit.  InnLove was born.

Cleveland Breakfast Hot Spot

Adega at Metropolitan at the 9

June 2016

One of the coolest things in June was the ability to share one of my favorite things with other people.  Maybe you haven’t picked up on this yet but I work in the hospitality industry. One thing I know you have picked up on is that I love to eat. Any chance I have to put those two things together for work – IRRESISTIBLE! In June, I was able to host a hospitality reception of sorts at one of our favorite places in Columbus – Wolf’s Ridge Brewing. TJ goes for the beer, I go for the brunch – Toad in a Hole is hands down the BEST BRUNCH food I have ever had. Sadly, I didn’t get to share brunch with my guests, but we did get to break in the brand new WRB Taproom. If you haven’t been there yet, go. I’d start with brunch.

Wolf's Ridge Brewing Taproom - Columbus, OH

Wolf’s Ridge Brewing Taproom – Columbus, OH

July 2016

Oh July, how I miss you. That might seem crazy, but more crazy is that I divide my year up into two major events – Christmas and July (not to be confused with Christmas IN July).  We go on our family vacation every July to Ocean Isle Beach. It’s the best. It is so easy and we just sit around in the sun for a solid week.  This year was particularly cool because we actually discovered something new! Guys, when you go the same place nearly 30 years in a row, it’s hard to break the mold, but this year it happened. My parents found this super cool hotel that I guarantee will become part of the annual experience because our time there was that great.  Tucked in the little town of Wytheville, VA along I-77 is the Bolling Wilson Hotel (and, also important…their restaurant, Graze on Main). What a fabulous find. If you want to read more about it, let me direct you here…Ascending to New Heights in Wytheville, VA.

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to new Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

August 2016

Summer was super busy for me both personally and professionally. I had the awesome opportunity to round out a fabulous summer travel season with my first trip to Gervasi Vineyard. Gervasi is located near my hometown, so the chances that I’m in that area and not just staying with mom and dad are slim. I am SO GLAD I went! The Villas at Gervasi are super romantic and luxurious.  I had a fire by my bed (I totally turned it on at bedtime even though it was easily 80 degrees out.), refreshments in the common area and a beautiful patio overlooking the pond. The dinner served at The Bistro was top notch and the atmosphere was that of the valleys of Sonoma or Napa, not Canton, OH.  If you haven’t had a chance to lose yourself at Gervasi – do it, before everyone finds out!

The Villas at Gervasi - Canton, OH

The Villas at Gervasi – Canton, OH

September 2016

Not to be outdone by Summer, Fall came swirling in in grand fashion. Remember that post about sleeping in 5 different hotels in 10 days or something absurd like that? That was in the month of September. So here, I feel like I really need to narrow down the best of September, but truthfully it’s easy and in the light of the most recent events, I think it’s important to highlight the beauty of Gatlinburg, TN. We were called to Sevierville, TN for a wedding the last weekend in September. It was the final stop on a month long travel rodeo and we were beat. I couldn’t have been more relieved when I discovered where we would be spending a long weekend, celebrating the marriage of one of my childhood friends.  The setting was majestic and the cabin we stayed in was super cool. We had a lofted bed in a room with floor-to-ceiling glass on three walls that made you feel as though you were quite literally sleeping in the trees. I cannot wait for the opportunity to go back, because Gatlinburg and the surrounding communities will come out of this year’s tragedy with a stronger and even more impressive travel experience to share with the world, mark my words!

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Mountain Side/Pool Side @ Brother’s Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

October 2016

So, October was a super crazy month for work and I didn’t get to travel very much. I did, however, discover a lot of cool new places in my own backyard while working hard to put on a big travel industry conference with the rest of the OHLA crew. Some of the hotspots we discovered are:

Brunch: Hoof Hearted Brewery – Columbus, OH Those house-made biscuits. 

 

Drinks out: Pins Mechnical – Columbus, OH TJ threw the ball so hard he broke the lane we were on.  #ProBowlerProbs

Entertainment: Columbus Blue Jackets How have I never been to a hockey game?! SO. FUN.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets

November 2016

November was cool because we got to do some fun things for TJ. In all honesty, my calendar dictates a lot of our schedule. He is a good sport for going along with everything I try to cram into our lives. Each year, my West Virginian plans a trip to Morgantown, WV to visit with his friends.  We all know by now I love traditions and one of my favorite fall traditions is the drive along the West Virginian “ridges” (those are the winding roads of the mountains for us Ohio folk) to Morgantown. I haven’t had a chance yet to cover this expedition in the blog, but I want to share a quick snip of this particular trip because it was so fun. We had our first snow of the season on a frigid night in Milan Puskar Stadium. I actually had one of our property members tell me that she has always wanted to experience a football game at Mountaineer stadium.  I’ve gotta tell you, kids, the emotion wrapped up in 60,000 fans singing Country Roads at one time is something else…even for a Bearcat. This photo does depict how similar WV weather is to Ohio… one day it’s sunny and warm, the next day it’s snowing and frigid. Here’s to seasons!

Morgantown, WV

December 2016

December. Much like July, it has really been a highlight of our year. We were able to take a trip to Napa that was unreal.  You haven’t read about it yet, as it will be the opening piece for 2017. But, I do like to share gifts this time of year, so here is a little snip it to tie you over until then. Isn’t it beautiful?

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I will not be posting again until January 6. See you next year!

xo

I’m Back! And My Belly is Full of Cookies!

 

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Beautiful Ohio Amish Country

I’M BACK! I seriously missed you guys. Traveling is hard work! A quick “thank you” to Christi and Cindy for stepping in and sharing with you some of their most recent experiences!
Guys. I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I love everything about the “holiday season.” I need the cheer, I want the decorations and I gotta have the snow. Good lord, how do people in no-snow places even do it? TJ and I were in California recently (you’ll hear about that next week!) and it just isn’t the same. It’s like, Christmas on the surface – Christmas music playing, holiday décor, cinnamon pine cones everywhere… but it just isn’t. It doesn’t have the same…feeling. But you know what puts me in the holiday spirit? Holiday traditions. And I am so happy to report that we successfully completed the 9th Annual Amish Country Cookie Tour for the second year in a row. If you have no idea what I’m talking about or for some reason don’t associate cookies with Christmas – I guess I’ll just have to show you! To explain further, this is a tour of inns in Amish Country (OHIO!) that comes complete with Christmas decorations, Christmas cookies, Christmas music, this year – snow (!) and even a goat. So! Feet and hands inside the sleigh…

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Guggisberg Swiss Inn – Charm, OH

1st Stop – Guggisberg Swiss Inn

If someone blindfolded you and dropped you at the Guggisberg Swiss Inn you would think you were in Switzerland. Holiday décor aside, innkeepers Julia and Eric Guggisberg have done an excellent job of making this inn feel authentic. One of my favorite aspects of the inn, although I didn’t get a chance to snuggle them this year, are their horses. They roam free on the property and are happy for a pet or to take you on a trot around the property. Decked out for the holidays, the Guggisberg Swiss Inn is exactly where you picture yourself with a warm mug of hot chocolate and a book. As always, at this stop, you can taste some of their Doughty Glen Wines!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

The Barn Inn – Millersburg, OH

2nd Stop – The Barn Inn
Every. Time. Innkeeper Loretta Coblentz out does herself. The Barn Inn is magnificently decorated for the holidays – although she gives her staff all the credit. Each guestroom is immaculately appointed, each with its own holiday theme. Some extra special touches are always waiting for you at The Barn Inn – quilts handmade by Loretta (check out this one that is the 12 Days of Christmas!) and during the tour, this sweet little goa—ahem—reindeer greets you at the door.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Berlin Resort – Berlin, OH

3rd Stop – Berlin Resort
Yowza! Talk about a non-traditional Amish Country lodging experience. The new suites at the Berlin Resort are top of the line. Covered in all things shimmery and glittery for the holidays, the Berlin Resort is the type of place I want to have a Girls Weekend. The massive suites building is ideal for a Bridal Suite or the whole family! Rooms are cleverly situated to continue to be joined until you have just the right number of impressive bedrooms, fireplaces and enormous bathrooms to suit you and your guests. I couldn’t get over the views from the suites facing the lake. The crew here did a great job of accenting the contemprary nature of the design with the contemporary Christmas pizzazz!

 

4th Stop – Comfort Suites Berlin

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Comfort Suites – Berlin, OH

It’s a funny feeling when you think you know what something will be like and you’re wrong. That is exactly what happens every time I visit a Comfort Suites, particularly the one in Berlin. With so many great lodging options around the area, the Comfort Suites Berlin has made sure you have a unique experience while enjoying the comforts of brand recognition. I absolutely loved what the staff did for the holidays. The rooms were festively decorated in different ideas of Christmas – from blue, gold and all things glitter, to a classic farmstead Christmas with plaids and wood. The Comfort Suites Berlin always does a great job of showcasing local

businesses in the area at the end of the tour too – those cupcakes were phenom!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Berlin Grande Hotel – Berlin, OH

5th Stop – Berlin Grande Hotel
Always one of the hot spots on the tour, the Berlin Grande Hotel was pulsing with holiday spirit and people! The tree that greets you in the lobby is nothing to contest with. One of my favorite decorations on the tour was what we playfully called the “Winter is Coming” room (Game of Thrones – anyone?). The white fur blanket on the bed was a luxurious touch! At this point in the tour, I was ready to cozy up for a nap with that blanket. This stop is also the hub for the shuttle that takes you to two more stops – onward!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Carlisle Country Inn – Berlin, OH

6th Stop – Carlisle Country Inn
Wow. This is the first time I’ve been to this property and I was glad we went. Innkeepers were welcoming guests into a warm cozy living room (it was freezing that day!) and Jim was busy cookie (I’m going to leave this typo here to give you a sense of where my mind is at…) COOKING** up a special Apple Cider on the stove top – complete with whipped cream and spice! The rooms at this inn had the highest ceilings! I found one of the best wingback chairs near a fireplace at this stop. If I’d only brought my kindle!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Garden Gate Get-A-Way – Millersburg, OH

7th Stop – Garden Gate Get-A-Way
Also a new stop for me on the tour and we were impressed. Far removed from the bustle of downtown Berlin, this little spot is a great “get a-way.” The main room was packed with people clamoring for an iced Ginger Cookie (my favorite cookie of the tour!) and some of their German Tea. We snagged a tea and headed to one of the cottages. The cottages would be a great place to spend a weekend away from home – no doubt! I also loved their Teddy Bear Christmas Room – something unique for the tour!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Oak Ridge Inn – Walnut Creek, OH

8th Stop – Oak Ridge Inn at Walnut Creek
Exhausted yet? We should have done this in two days for sure. Luckily, the crew at Oak Ridge Inn was ready to save the day. Not only did they have our cookies, but little containers of grapes and cheese. After all, it was almost dinner time and we were working hard! I have visited several Nivea Hospitality properties but the Oak Ridge Inn was something different. Right around the corner from the ultra-modern Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek, this quaint little inn is tucked back off the main drag. The guest rooms here are massive with big Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces waiting to help you unwind. Definitely worth a longer visit (and soak!) next time I’m in town.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek – Walnut Creek, OH

9th Stop – Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek
Talk about competing with your siblings. The Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek and Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek were battling it out for most over the top, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping holiday display. The Christmas tree at the entrance to the Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek is impressive to say the least. Actually, the cool thing about this place is there are many entrances. We came in from the “bottom” level and were greeted by a secondary lobby display where we were able to snap an official blog picture (Check out that shirt!). Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek is a big property and they made sure not a corner went unturned. Every inch of the property was dressed for the holidays.Thank you for a great back drop!

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Inn at Walnut Creek – Walnut Creek, OH

10th Stop – Inn at Walnut Creek
New Kids on the Block – Welcome! Not totally new, just new to the tour! We are SO GLAD you joined us this year and it sounds like your staff is too! I was pleasantly greeted by the new innkeeper’s mother who was handing out handmade French Madeleine’s – YUM. I was on my way out of the Welcome building when I overheard someone was getting a room tour – so I jumped in line. The guestrooms were classically decorated for the holidays with festive wreaths and Christmas trees. This place is a great stop for a visit to Amish Country – centrally located, easy to access and great hospitality.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek – Sugarcreek, OH

11th Stop – Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek
We made it! Not to be outdone by its sister property, the Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek has an even more impressive tree and lots of them. I have to give them kudos for my favorite room of the day. I took so many pictures of this room and immediately turned to TJ and asked, “could we do this?” to which he rolled his eyes and said, “No. We’re missing a jacuzzi tub, a four-poster bed, a fireplace and a miniature lamb.” SHOOT. I wasn’t the only one taking pics of this room. The photos say enough. Nice work.

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Inn at Amish Door – Wilmot, OH

12th Stop – Inn at Amish Door
Sadly, we hit our step count by tenfold, stood in the frigid December air for the shuttle and digested as many cookies as possible, only to come up short of hitting the LAST STOP before the end of the tour. Luckily, I’m from Amish Country so I’ve had the fortunate pleasure to visit the Inn at Amish Door many times before and know that it is an excellent addition to the tour this year. The team there was happy to share some pictures with me to share with all of you so please check them out in the Visual Adventure Gallery!

Lesson learned. Two Day tour tickets next year!

Of course, I can’t miss the opportunity to thank Leon Troyer and the staff of the Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek for hosting TJ and me for our 2nd Annual Tour. The Wallhouse is one of my favorite places to stay for an awesome breakfast, beautiful views, and excellent hospitality. Until next time…

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck