Entries in ‘Lodging’ Journal

Atlanta, Georgia Walking Tour

Wednesday June 11, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

"CNN" "Atlanta" "Georgia"

Discovering Atlanta, Georgia

Being a competitive ballroom dancer I am able to explore new cities all the time. I recently competed at the Atlanta Open in none other than downtown Atlanta, Georgia. I had never competed in the Atlanta Open before or even been to the South, so my mother and I decided to take a few extra days after the competition to explore the 1996 Summer Olympics host city with our own Atlanta, Georgia walking tour.

We checked into the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta late on a Thursday evening. Because of the time I expected the hotel to be quiet and the check-in process to be quick and easy. The check-in went smoothly but the hotel lobby looked as if it was hosting its own party. The entire lobby was packed with guests, the hotel’s restaurant Sway was closed but the bar Twenty-Two Stories was full of chatty businessmen, dancers and Atlanta natives.

The hotel had a large open concept with four elevators that looked as if they came right out of the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The all glass elevator allowed us to watch the people in the lobby get smaller as we ventured up to the 19th floor.

Of course room service was available for us in the morning, as we tend to cozy up in our beds in the morning rather than get dressed up to dine in the restaurant downstairs. The menu from Sway was filled with Southern comfort food. Grits, a Georgia delicacy I had never tried, along with Georgia Peach yogurt parfaits, cornbread, warm biscuits and gravy were all potential options for our morning feast. Of course we did not try everything in one meal but eventually we got around to tasting every bit of the South that we could.

"Margaret Mitchell House"

Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta, Georgia

Discovering Atlanta, Georgia
We had hoped to visit the historic Sweet Auburn Village but our cab driver accidentally dropped us off at the opposite side of town. Being the spontaneous women that we are, we decided to walk around the area for a bit, that small walk turned into a 3-mile trek back to our hotel. If the hot sun and humidity is something you can handle throughout the day it is completely worth venturing through downtown and midtown Atlanta. We saw almost ever nook and cranny of the Atlanta streets that one would completely miss by catching a cab. Historic treasures such as the Georgian Hotel, Fox Theatre and the Margaret Mitchell House (the place Gone with the Wind was written) were just some of the old Victorian buildings that were hidden by modern-day skyscrapers.

"Coca Cola" Atlanta, Georgia

Coca Cola Factory in Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta Southern comfort

After our hike through downtown, the only energy we had left was used to walk across the street to a five-star restaurant where we could rest our feet. White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails, located on Peachtree St., is a gourmet Southern Comfort restaurant. The atmosphere is that of a rustic yet classy Southern home. We dined on braised beef, homemade tomato soup and warm whole-grain bread for our appetizer. Since we were celebrating Mother’s Day, my wonderful mother decided to treat herself to a Filet Mignon steak, which was perfectly cooked and full of savory flavors. A side of mashed sweet potatoes was served in a small cast-iron skillet along with her meal. I ordered the baked chicken, which was yet again perfectly cooked and full of sweet Southern flavor.

CNN Newsroom

CNN Newsroom, Atlanta, Georgia

CNN studio tour in Atlanta

Our next day of adventure included the renowned Coca-Cola Factory, a tour of CNN and a walk through the Olympic National Park. We arrived at the Coca-Cola factory at about the same time as 100 elementary school children. We felt as though we had just become chaperones on an end of the year field trip. We quickly escaped the crowd of little humans and ventured through the factory on our own. Filled with copious amounts of historic Coca-Cola memorabilia, an inside look at the bottling process, a small museum on the history and even a tasting room, this Atlanta staple is a not to miss attraction. The tasting room was where we found all of the children so we ventured back down to the museum where we both got to hold the 2014 London Olympic Torch, as Coca-Cola is the Olympics’ largest sponsor.

For a more serious tour, thinking it wouldn’t be filled with more children, was the Inside the Studio CNN Tour. Being a journalism major myself, you could imagine my excitement as I walked into the international epicenter of news. I assume I felt the same way those kids did in the Coca-Cola tasting room. Walking into CNN you can feel the buzz of a newsroom, but the tour is where we really got a feel for the news station. We toured three of the recording studios, took a turn reading off the teleprompter, viewed the news rooms of CNN and HLN and even saw Monte Ball recording his “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” top picks for the season. Because of our love for 24/7 news, my mother and I decided to have lunch at CNN, underneath the giant TV screen and pretended we were journalist, just for the afternoon.

"Atlanta" Georgia

Downtown Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta’s Olympic National Park

We ventured out once again into the sticky Georgia air to end our day with a stroll through the Olympic National Park. On our way there we couldn’t miss the Atlanta Skyline Wheel of Excellence, 3-story Ferris Wheel. Our quick decision to ride the Ferris Wheel came as we noticed storm clouds rolling in and realized we had a short time frame before we were stuck in a glass bubble 40ft off the ground during a thunderstorm. Once my mother got over her brief fear of heights, we saw Atlanta in a way I would have never imagined. Just the other day we were walking down every street in downtown and now we were seeing the whole city from the sky. Located next to the National Olympic Park, the Wheel of Excellence gave us a more than perfect view of the architecture of the park that held hundreds of Olympians only 18 years earlier.

With its rich history, unique culinary taste and importance to the entire nation, Atlanta was truly a city to experience. Even after four days of an Atlanta, Georgia walking tour, there was still so much more to discover in this sweet southern city.

This is a guest post by Natalie Crandall. Natalie last wrote about Oahu, Hawaii.

Morro Bay Lodging

Friday May 2, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

mini cooper, morro bay roadtrip

Mini road trip to Morro Bay, California

As the Mini Cooper rolled down Morro Bay’s Main Street, the ocean sea breeze spilled into my open sun roof. It had been three years since my last road trip to California Wine Coast Country in San Luis Obispo County. That trip was for our teenager to check out Cal Poly as a potential college. This road trip found me footloose and fancy free as a solo boomer traveler – my husband is saving his vacation time to help our senior move to Oxford, Mississippi in the fall. After three plus hours of easy driving from San Francisco, I was ready to stretch my legs. My Morro Bay lodging for the next three days would be Estero Inn.

Waterfont Estero Inn hotel

If you think the Mini Cooper had a nice view of Morro Rock, wait until you see the view I enjoyed from my queen bed.  The owner of this four year old boutique hotel is a building contractor; clearly he put a lot of thought into the building of each of the eight hotel rooms. As the Kelp Forest Suite was on the first floor, I worried that I would have to close the blinds in the evening for privacy. Turns out, the windows looking out to the waterfront are one-way windows allowing me to enjoy the water views, while protecting my privacy from the outside of the hotel.

Another feature that I enjoyed at Estero Inn was the in-room gas fireplace. While many hotel guests don’t travel with laptop computers, those of us who have to work on the road appreciate a comfortable desk, bathed in natural light and the shimmering water from Estero Bay, the fireplace radiating heat on a blustery day. And did I mention fast, free Wi-Fi throughout the property?


"Estero Inn" breakfast

Complimentary breakfast at Estero Inn

Estero Inn amenities

The Estero Inn is a romantic hotel designed with couples in mind. From the pillowtop king and queen beds, to the soft linens and welcome package of salt water taffy left on the bed, guests are meant to feel right at home. The in-room coffee maker features SLO Roasted Coffee from Central Coast Coffee Roasting Company.

The rooms include flat screen tv’s, granite vanities with combination tub and shower, hair dryer, mini fridge and microwave. Also included in your hotel stay is a complimentary breakfast buffet available from 7:30 – 11:00 a.m. The sparkling clean breakfast room offers yogurt with local farmers’ market fresh fruits, bagels and cream cheese, mini cinnamon rolls and muffins, as well as SLO Roasted Coffee, orange juice, hot cocoa and make your own waffle station. Estero Inn also offers complimentary parking on site, but street parking was not an issue during my April stay.

"Estero Inn" "Kelp Forest Suite"

Estero Inn Kelp Forest Suite, Morro Bay

Estero Inn specials & packages

If your stay in Morro Bay is a romantic getaway, Estero Inn offers specials and packages from champagne and chocolates to a boating or fishing trip on the bay. I rented a kayak in Morro Bay and went horseback riding on Morro Strand State Beach in Cayucos during my visit. Estero Inn offers a great location on the Embarcadero with most of the restaurants within walking distance.

Estero Inn offers discounts to hotel guests for the on-site Awaken Harmony Massage and Spa treatments. I headed up Main Street to Serenity By the Sea day spa and thoroughly enjoyed 60+ minutes of serenity with a deep tissue massage following my horseback riding outing. Sweet!

"Estero Inn"

Estero Inn, Morro Bay, California central coast hotel

Hotel room rates at Estero Inn range from $129 – $329 depending on the room and time of year. There is not a two night minimum on the weekends at Estero Inn. Sorry pet lovers, dogs are not welcome at Estero Inn.

Check in: 3:00 p.m.

Check out: 11:00 a.m.

Insider tip

The 8 room Estero Inn is geared to couples, but there is one family-friendly room (The Marine Suite) with one king bed, one queen futon and a single futon for families.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @MorroBayTravel on Twitter.

"Estero Inn"

Estero Inn, Morro Bay lodging


If You Go:

Estero Inn  (805) 772-1500

501 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, California 93442

Article written by, video and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I was a guest of Morro Bay Travel. All opinions are my own.

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Eco-Friendly Hotels that Make Travelers Happy

Wednesday April 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM | 0 Comments

Even though Earth Day reminds us to think about our environmental footprint each April, some hotels make an earth friendly commitment year round. Here are a sampling of eco-friendly hotels worthy of a shout out. One of my favorite hotels — Boone Tavern, made it on Booking.com’s eco-friendly hotel list.

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Historic and eco-friendly Boone Tavern, Berea Kentucky

Boone Tavern in Berea, Kentucky is proof that history can meet modern times. Built in 1909, this beauty that’s also a Historic Hotel of America, is part of Berea College and a showcase for its culinary and hotel management programs. The hotel and tavern’s renovations include: energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, energy star lighting, solar tubes and skylights, heat recovery coils, and low VOC paints and adhesives. Guest rooms and common areas feature handcrafted furniture that represent Kentucky’s craft heritage, as well as, Berea’s fame as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Boone Tavern rooms feature hand-crafted furniture

Along with the environmentally friendly building that earned Boone Tavern its LEED Gold Certification, Boone Tavern’s restaurant is another reason to visit. The restaurant’s traditional American cuisine features locally grown ingredients. Signature dishes like “Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest” and “Spoonbread” are the don’t miss, although I can vouch that anything on the menu is splendid. Still, the spoonbread is what you will talk about years later.

ecofriendly Bardessono-Courtyard

The eco-friendly Bardessono courtyard has a stunning view

If you go, take time to browse in Boone Tavern’s gift shop and the other shops that line Berea’s streets. There’s a reason why this is the folk art capital. The hotel’s shop includes items made by the college’s students. Hand-woven items and hand-crafted furniture are part of the bounty.

One of Nancy’s favorites also made it on the eco-friendly hotel list. Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville, California is a perfect pairing for a trip to Napa Valley and wine tasting. As Nancy discovered during her stay at Bardessono, one of three LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the United States, “it is easy to be green while looking stunningly chic.”

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point where almost every room has a stunning view

Cavallo Point in Sausalito is another California hotel with LEED Certification. The reuse of historic materials and landscaping with native plants are just part of Cavallo Point’s dedication to achieving the Green Seal Environment Standard for U.S. Lodging Properties. The hotel’s energy-efficient appliances that automatically switch to sleep mode when not in use and the programmable thermostats and motion sensors that reduce heating and cooling costs are some reasons why Cavallo Point is an eco-friendly hotel. The property doesn’t use Styrofoam containers and it recycles plastic. Refillable soap dispensers and cloth napkins are other environmentally friendly practices within the hotel.

At Cavallo Point, going green comes with a view. Most of the resort’s guest rooms have views of San Francisco, the bay or the Golden Gate Bridge.

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids--a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

City Flats Hotel, Grand Rapids–a resuse of a landmark jewelry building

Michigan is another state with two eco-friendly hotels that deserve applause. City Flats Hotel in Holland was the first hotel in the Midwest to achieve LEED Gold status. Step inside for proof that eco-friendly, luxury and creativity go hand in hand. Each of the hotel guest rooms has its own unique flair. Each hotel room’s green decor includes: cork flooring installed with low-VOC adhesives, naturally hypoallergenic bamboo linens, curtains lined with a black-out fabric to reduce energy needed to heat and cool room, light fixtures with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, and countertops made from Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified recycled glass and concrete. Also, hotel furnishings are locally made.

The CityFlats Hotel in Grand Rapids is another Michigan hotel with LEED Gold Certification. Its eco-friendly combo includes the unique features of the City Flats Hotel in Holland and is an example of turning a city landmark into a new use. The building was once Fox Jewelers.

Along with booking at any of the hotel’s websites, check out Booking.com.

Post courtesy of Jamie Rhein of Midwest Travel Writers Association.  All photos except Bardessono courtesy of Booking.com. Bardessono photo by Nancy D. Brown.