New Year, New Experiences: Part II – Marana, AZ

After a beautiful stay in Phoenix, we knew it would be hard to top that experience. We packed up in the Mustang (yes, I left TJ alone for 2 minutes in the rental car office and we went from compact to sports car), put the top down and headed south.  One of the most surprising things to me is the difference in landscape between Phoenix and Tucson. We left patches of green golf courses and palm trees for an arid, desert terrain, just two hours to the south.  We experienced for the first time what felt like a mirage. After a few hours of driving past cacti and lots of brown, out of nowhere sprung the signs for The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain. Nestled tightly within Tortolina Mountains, sat the sprawling luxury 5 star resort that we would call home for another 3 nights.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

This resort was vastly different than the one we just came from. Dripping in luxury, sat sparkling pools and large open lounge spaces, all surrounded by mountains. The sun was blazing and it was lunchtime, so we made a beeline for the poolside restaurant, Turquesa. After a latin inspired lunch, we settled in to soak up the last few hours of warm, Arizona sun.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZWe checked into our room, only to be greeted by a beautiful view and a spread of desserts. (Someone knew there was a pregnant lady in this room!).  And the bathtub! OH! Readers, you must understand, when you have been unable to soak in a hot tub for months, a bathtub becomes your new best friend.  And one this big meant full submersion. Other room amenities included a dual headed shower, a Nespresso machine and the most perfect morning view of a sunrise, complete with a balcony.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

I made sure to spend every single morning sipping my morning tea with biscotti watching the sunrise, because that is something one doesn’t always have the luxury of doing.  Sunrise for me usually happens driving to work or on the weekends, I’ve already been up and at it for hours and it is long forgotten. Neither situation is ideal, so I made sure to enjoy it while I could.

On our first morning, we ventured out to explore the trails. The hotel is situated among 20+ miles of hiking and biking trails and you better believe I wasn’t going to miss out on that just because I was carrying a bowling ball! The concierge was a bit weary about sending us out on a trail, but eventually we were told there was an out-and-back just past the entrance that was a short, steady climb with a great view.  Little did he know, as soon as I saw that that trail connected to a more significant trail, we’d be gone for hours. We ended up hiking 2 miles that morning, snaking back and forth, up and down the mountain, taking in spectacular views of the area.

By the time we finished, I had definitely earned my lunch at the golf club.

We grabbed the hotel shuttle and headed over to The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, where our favorite on-site restaurant, Cayton’s Burger Bistro was located.  The restaurant sits on the edge of the course with breathtaking views, delicious burgers and a regular guest, a friendly little road runner. After lunch, we finally caught sight of the resort turtle, Rocky.  He was huge! And adorable.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

We spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun and enjoying the mountain views. In the evenings at Dove Mountain, there is an old tradition of playing fluted music from the mountain top, which is naturally broadcast throughout the canyon. On this particular night, we made sure to grab a seat by the fire and listen to the sounds of the flutist against the setting sun, before heading out to meet my cousin in downtown Tuscon at a great restaurant, Wild Garlic Grille.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

On our last full day at Dove Mountain.  TJ was itching to hit the golf course and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to experience my first full spa day. I have to admit that some of the best views at Dove Mountain, came from these one of a kind experiences. If you weren’t there to golf or hit the spa, there are plenty of other activities to take advantage of including guided hikes, mixology classes (we did this, it was delicious…even my virgin cocktail!) and great activities for kids.

The Golf Club @ Dove Mountain

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZMy day at the spa was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  The adults only, heated pool was PERFECT.  The pool at the spa was wedged into a side of the mountain, making guests feel surrounded by nature. My masseuse, Justin, was amazing and treated me to one of the best experiences of my pregnancy – a complicated contraption that allowed me to lay on my belly for my massage.  I spent the rest of the day lounging poolside, enjoying lunch from the spa menu. After a day like that, I finally understood why people *invest* in a spa day at luxury resorts.

After 3 exceptional days enjoying all of the amenities and luxuries the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain had to offer, it was time to head home.  Thank you to the staff here for wonderful food, impeccable service and the perfect way to end our babymoon. Until next time, Arizona…

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

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

 

New Year, New Experiences: Part I – Phoenix

What better way to start a new year than on vacation – am I right?!  If you’re in the industry, you’ve probably heard of the term “babymoon” – essentially an excuse to get in one more amazing trip before the arrival of a baby.  You can bet I was all set to take advantage of any “excuse” to travel.  Trouble was, we needed somewhere warm in January. Not hard, you say?  You forgot about Zika. Sadly, this mama-to-be wasn’t heading anywhere south of Florida and Hawaii seemed like the most financially irresponsible decision one could make before swamped with all of the costs of a newborn. So where did we decide, might you be wondering?  Sunny, dry and BEAUTIFUL Arizona. TJ’s first time to AZ and certainly not my last, we set out to make this a trip filled with grand accommodations, delicious food and luxury services.  And Arizona, my friends, did not disappoint.

What a view!  We stepped out of the car at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa and knew it was going to be a good day.  This boutique style property recently joined the Hyatt family, introducing us to our very first Unbound Collection property.  The Royal Palms is an historic hotel (my fave!) and has hosted many of the rich and famous throughout its years.  The property itself is smaller than when it was first established as a residence in 1929.

Royal Palms Resort - Phoenix, AZWe walked through the breezeway where we were greeted by a warm, sunny courtyard begging for us to kick back and order lunch. For the first time ever in my life, I was glad our room wasn’t ready.  Oprah says there is no such thing as a coincidence and on this day, she was right.  We settled into the courtyard to wait for our room and devour a delicious lunch, when suddenly a friendly, familiar face approached our table.  Little did I know, one of my friends from college, a fellow U of Cinci Hospitality graduate, was now the Director of Engineering at this beautiful resort.  You have to understand, despite Facebook, I had no idea this friend was working at The Royal Palms or even lived in Arizona!  Needless to say, Jeremy made sure this was going to be one trip we wouldn’t forget.

We checked into our (now upgraded) room and I was blown away. From the sitting area, complete with sparkling apple cider and chocolate covered strawberries, to the enormous soaking tub – the room was immaculate.  Jeremy informed us that the rooms recently underwent renovation and from my perspective, they did a fabulous job.

Even with all of the traveling I do, it’s rare I get to indulge in the luxuries a resort has to offer. But this is our babymoon, after all!  The Royal Palms has a gorgeous pool (and hot tub, but I’m not allowed in those!), a poolside restaurant, a full service spa & salon, a famous, fine dining restaurant, T. Cook’s.  Good news, I experienced it all!  We spent every day poolside, soaking up the Arizona sun, eating fresh foods and sipping fresh squeezed juices.  (One thing I love about Arizona – these people seem to appreciate high quality, natural food and healthy cooking. Everything was crisp and fresh. Even the french fries!)

When we weren’t by the pool, we’d alternate walks through the Jardin d’Amore (Garden of Love!), the Orange Grove and the Alegria Lawn.  One of my favorite parts of this resort were the pathways that led to hidden seating areas, orange groves, and flowers teaming with hummingbirds. If you stepped out in the morning before other guests were awake, a stroll to this part of the resort was one of the most romantic places you could find.

Although we didn’t get a chance to enjoy them, the Royal Palms offers daily group fitness classes, a guided History & Art Tour, mixology classes, regular live music, and games. I totally did have my eye on those group fitness classes, but I was easily swayed into a walk to breakfast each morning!

And certainly, all that walking and sunning definitely leaves you hungry.  Offsite, we found two fantastic breakfast spots within walking distance (2 miles is walking distance, right?)  La Grande Orange – a super funky, local grocery and cafe serving up amazing pizza and delicious egg dishes, and one of our

new favorite breakfast spots, O.H.S.O. – a cyclist and dog friendly brewery conveniently located on a bike trail (!) and serving up some of the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time.  We loved that nearly every diner on the outdoor patio brought a pooch. Each doggy guest received his/her own water bowl with their name.  Too bad Mr. Zeus was back in Ohio!  On property, you’ll find T. Cook’s, a famed Phoenix area restaurant.  We enjoyed a fabulous dinner there on our very first night and our server, Sasha, was extraordinary. T. Cook’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner if you visit and at dinner I’d recommend reservations.

The Mix Up Bar ultimately ended up being TJ’s favorite hangout spot and where we spent our NYE.  On this particular holiday occasion the place was glitzed up with NYE hats, beads, and decor; there was a great duo serenading us and lots of inspiring appetizers. We settled in at one of the last empty tables and enjoyed people watching and “noshing”.  To ring in the new year on our last night at The Royal Palms, we eventually retired to the courtyard where it all began and watched the guests attending the blowout party hosted by the hotel on the opposite lawn… TJ with his cigar and bourbon and me with a mocktail.

If this is how 2018 starts, I can’t wait to see how it ends.

A sincere thank you to the staff of the Royal Palms Resort & Spa for treating us to one of our most memorable and top of the chart hotel experiences.

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