Key West Images: A Romantic Getaway to the Reach Hotel
We recently left the lil’s with their grandparents in Florida and headed to Key West for some well deserved grown up time! While our adventure began at The Reach Hotel that was only the beginning of a great getaway.
When visiting Key West, you can walk to almost anywhere on the island. Be sure to pack your favorite walking shoes and sandals, the humidity will ensure that anything resembling an irritating spot on your shoes will surely a become blister… Fortunately island casual is the dress pretty much anywhere on Key West so comfy sandals will be perfect.
One thing we loved about The Reach was it’s location on the southern side of the island, a block off Duval Street – the epicenter of Key West Nightlife – yet The Reach’s location ensures that you are close to the action, but when you are ready to call it a night you have a peaceful home away from home, a short walk or a pedicab will get you back to your hotel in no time.
Duval street is home to a myriad or restaurants and bars, and restaurants and bars… and bars, which was really fun, just walking the streets made you feel like you were right in the middle of the party.
It’s island tradition to watch the sunset at Mallory Square. Vendor sell their wares, street performers of all sorts vie for your attention, applause, and tips… it’s the perfect spot to have a pre-dinner cocktail and watch day slip into night.
Key West Images emblazoned in our memories
The sunset cruise on the Americas II – if you’re lucky they’ll let you drive for a while and as long as there is wind they will set sail and turn on off the engines.
We took a Jet Ski tour that completely circled the Island of Key West. It was a great way to see the island and get a little adrenalin rush at the same time. Don’t forget to put on a thick layer of sunscreen!
Key West is rich in history, it’s the oldest city in Southern Florida, Hemingway lived on the Island for 10 years and a many places still celebrate his former patronage – so you can walk a few miles in Hemingway’s shoes during your visit.
1435 Simonton Street
Key West, Florida 33040
Where do you love to go for Romantic Getaways? We barely touched the surface of what the southern tip of Florida has to offer, we spent 3 days capturing Key West Images and could have easily stayed longer.
The Montage Beverly Hills Embraces Family
Lil Diva and I were recently invited to the Montage Beverly Hills to experience the hotel and their Paintbox Program. I love the Montage, and was easily sold with the promise of massages and afternoon tea with Lil Diva, but Paintbox? Whats that I wondered?
Happily, on this stay, I found out! Now I keep trying to find Montage Hotels in cities where they don’t yet exist!
Before sharing, let me ask a few travel-with-kids related questions:
- Did you enjoy luxury hotels before you had your children?
- Do you want to travel with you children, and enjoy a relaxing child-free dinner?
- Have you tried to revisit some of your favorite pre-baby spots, only to feel like you had chosen the wrong spot?
- Do you really need a break, but don’t have anyone that you feel comfortable leaving the lil’s with overnight?
The Montage Beverly Hills offer’s visiting lil’s Paintbox
Paintbox is an exclusive childrens’s program that ensures your next visit is just the right mix of family time and mommy & daddy downtime. Paintbox at the Montage Beverly Hills is run by the AMAZING Stacy. She is highly experienced and has extensive child development training, not only did my lil diva love the staff, but all the lil’s in the group wanted to go back at the earliest opportunity.
I’ve seen a number of hotels offer children’s activities that typically wrap by 4PM. which doesn’t really give mom & dad a chance to have quiet time. Paintbox is open Friday and Saturday from 6-10.
The space is located in the lower level of the hotel and don’t be taken aback by it’s compact size – they use the Paintbox room as their operations base, roving around the hotel for games on the terrace, swimming and even meals!
Paintbox Beverly Hills is open from 9 am to 4 pm daily. Rates are $90 per day per child and half days are available. Evenings are $60 per child.
The Montage Beverly Hills has a few other ways to let their pint sized guests feel welcome! Upon check-in younger guests are treated to a mini-Mercedes stuffed with plush animals. Lil’ Diva happily chose her favorite brown bear. I loved that they’ve chosen to offer one nicer quality gift offer their younger guests as opposed to something that would get used once and thrown away.
Once in our room I was impressed with the hotel’s personal touches, from the monogrammed neck roll to the pint sized robe and slippers set on the bed… and while not nearly as elegant, I can’t think of a mom who wouldn’t be completely charmed the personalized greeting awaiting expected paintbox visitor, Lil’s will be excited too!
If you are looking for a relaxing, luxurious getaway, the Montage knows how to pamper their guests! Quality and attention to detail encompassed every aspect of our visit. I was surprised by the Spa – it was more spacious then expected (not sure why I thought it would be smaller!). I loved afternoon tea - the hand painted china it was served on was delightful. The open kitchen at Scarpetta is GORGEOUS, did I mention that Scarpetta just launched a brand new brunch that is laid out in this fantastic kitchen!
One of the highlights of the grown up portion of the visit was a rooftop dinner, served poolside in a private cabana. The company was amazing, Kimberley, The Go To Mom, Jennifer from Modern Mom, Katie from La Jolla Mom, Julie Taylor from Family Finds and Alexandra from The Beverly Hills Mom – the conversation flowed with the food & wine! I think we all shared how we met our spouses. It was delightful… all the while the kids were having a blast at Paintbox.
Back in the room we enjoyed a nice bubble bath and it was time for some much welcomed sleep!
One last note about Paintbox, you don’t have to be a guest of the hotel. Dining and Spa guests are also welcome to take advantage of the paintbox program.
The Montage Beverly Hills Paintbox Spa Offer
Through 2011 the Montage is offering an amazing promotion, book a treatment and your lil’s will enjoy 2 hours at paintbox – complimentary – while you are pampered! LA Mama’s… it doesn’t get any better than this!
Love letter to the FDA – I was invited to visit The Montage Beverly Hills, Lil Diva and I dined, slept, and played as the Hotel’s guests. Even though the beds were sumptuously comfortable, and the massage at the spa melted away my stress, the organic eggs were cooked to perfection… all the opinions expressed remain my own.
The Montage Beverly Hills
225 North Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
The Montage Beverly Hills is Family Friendly Luxury, What is Favorite Family Friendly Destinations?
Park Hyatt Aviara Review
We discovered the Park Hyatt Aviara while we were planning a family trip to Legoland in Carlsbad, CA. Carlsbad is just north of San Diego and just over an hours drive from Los Angeles, making it a perfect local getaway.
One of the ways you can make keep your travel eco savvy is to go on local adventures. I also think local trips are easier on the family in many other ways too. For our family, the children are out of diapers, bottles, pack n plays and our world is beginning to open up again! We are starting to enjoy traveling together as a family!
Those who know me well know that I haven’t been a great a traveling with the lil’s. Frankly, it exhausted me, but now that they are a little older, it’s actually becoming fun. Especially when you find destinations that truly make it a priority to cater to families like the Park Hyatt Aviara.
Back in the day, we’d escape to one of the many Southern California luxury destinations, but once we had children, it wasn’t quite the same. We just didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of imposing our children on others – regardless of how delightful they are. For this trip we were connecting with friends at Legoland, they chose the Park Hyatt Aviara (formerly the Four Seasons Aviara), we decided to go for it. I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous. Would we REALLY be comfortable with the children at a luxury hotel? Would I be so worried about the lil’s behavior that the trip would be exhausting?
I called the Resort directly to discuss which room might best meet the needs of our family for this trip, I have to share, from my very first contact with the hotel they were very welcoming and made a point of sharing their family friendly amenities. While they do offer one bedroom suites, we decided to go with 2 adjoining rooms, this ended up working well for us.
From the minute you arrive at the Park Hyatt Aviara they let you know that they welcome you and your lil’s. The front desk staff wheels out a wagon full of toys and the children get to pick one – now of course the eco savvy in me wished the toys weren’t made in china 2 days toys – but the message they are sending is clear. Bring the family.
Family Friendly Amenities at the Park Hyatt Aviara
- Toy wagon greeting from the front desk
- Toys & DVD’s available for check out from the Concierge
- A separate pool area, spa & wading pool dedicated for families
- A super cool large family room style game room with shuffleboard, pool tables, air hockey and video games (It’s actually 3 rooms)
- Restaurants with children’s menu’s that go beyond mac n cheese
- Step stools in the public restrooms for easier hand washing for the lil’s
- Camp Hyatt. A free day camp for children to enjoy during your visit. Yes… you read that right free.
Our “unofficial” Aviara Itinerary
Everyone practiced their best manners at afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge – TIP – book early or you won’t get a reservation!
While the lil’s played in the pool, we took advantage of the poolside lounge.
While the lil’s slept, we took advantage of the games room (we had a sitter!). Turns out I am clueless when it comes to shuffleboard, but have fun regardless. I might have become a little addicted during our Aviara stay.
Dined at Vivace, a wonderful on site Italian Restaurant – they brought carrot sticks with dip out as a starter for the lil’s! Love that.
Dined at the California Bistro where it’s worth noting children 12 and under dine FREE. Yes, free.
We had an amazing time. We took full advantage of the amenities, although I didn’t get a chance to visit the spa… hmmm…. perhaps we’ll have to go back. SOON!
Love Letter to the FDA: After booking our reservation with the Park Hyatt Aviara I was contacted by their PR firm and accepted the discounted media rate during our stay they extended. As always my opinion remain my own.
Our latest family adventure took us to the Park Hyatt Aviara, where was your last family getaway?
Contact the Park Hyatt Aviara: 760 448 1234
Napa Valley Grille Review
The Napa Valley Grille has always been a special place for Dude and I. It was the restaurant we went to on our second date, THE date where we really connected, after dinner we walked on the beach till 4AM. Life before children!
Every now and then we go back and reminisce.
The Napa Valley Grille is located in the heart of Westwood Village, the perfect location for a pre or post dinner stroll.
Everytime we go, we wonder why it’s been so long since our last visit. The atmosphere of the restaurant is great. High ceilings, lit marble bar, and floor to ceiling wine racks. Not to mention a fantastic outdoor patio.
Our Selections from the Napa Valley Grille Menu
We sat down to the menu… My husband I were both intrigued by the Scallops “Chowda” Style, so we decide to get that with the Alaska Halibut.
We started with a harvest platter – which we liked, but didn’t love. It had American prosciutto, salami, house pickles, marinated tomatoes, mozzarella, hearth nuts, with crispy parmesan toast and might have been the highlight of the dinner. This could explain why we don’t end up going back too often.
We were both pretty disappointed with our entrees. The wild Scallops “chowda” style were served with fingerling potatoes, thumbelina carrots, crispy pancetta… the scallops were a little chewy and the “Chowda” was thin on flavor and more of a broth. The wild Alaskan Halibut summer vegetable bake, tomato fondue, basil emulsion… the halibut was dry and the whole dish just looked like a mess – which would have been fine if it was delish – but it wasn’t.
There was nothing “wrong” with the dishes, they just weren’t yummy. I ended up ordering fries just so I would feel like I had ONE yummy with our dinner.
Dude suggested that perhaps our palettes weren’t sophisticated enough. looking around the half full restaurant on a Saturday night – I wasn’t convinced that we were the problem in this equation.
The meal wasn’t even redeemed by the White Peach Pie, which was fine, but not really worth the calories. The filling was actually pretty yummy, but there wasn’t much of it and the crust was missing that extra touch of butter and could have benefited from an extra touch of sweetness.
I loved seeing organic options on their menu, their support of Community Supported Agriculture , the service is solid, and the memories are perfect. Now, I remember without a doubt the reason we don’t go back more often… they need to focus on the flavor of the food they are serving.
Napa Valley Grille Has History for Us, What Restaurant Brings Back Memories For You?
Our Trip To The Fess Parker Inn & Spa
One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is the numerous day trips only an hour or two from the front door. Fess Parker & Santa Barbara wine country is one of those destinations.
When Fess Parker Inn & Spa invited Dude and I for a visit we jumped at the chance! We skillfully managed to visit during two days of torrential downpour (did I mention the area gets about 8 days of rain a year, so this took special skill!) – but we didn’t let that stop us from having a great getaway.
The hotel is located in the heart of quaint Los Olivos. I’m not sure why, but I imagined finding the property on an actual winery or next door to one, nestled away off the beaten path. Finding it in the heart of town was a delightful surprise to us, enabling us to walk through the town for wine tasting, have a few glasses of wine with dinner and safely walk a few steps back to our room. If you followed our LA Jolla Adventure – you may recall – we really like to walk!
On arrival the exterior hotel looks charming, fresh and inviting. This town is SO charming, it even has a town cat, Maya who greeted us on arrival.
The Hotel lobby and attached Petro’s Restaurant have been recently renovated with outstanding results. They artfully created a contemporary space that is also warm and inviting. Don’t get me started on the use of reclaimed wine casks in the lobby floor. A gorgeous eco savvy touch!
The hotel has two buildings offering a total of 20 guest rooms. The lobby and Petro’s side had 10 rooms – on the other side of Grand you’ll find the second building with an additional 10 guestrooms and the spa. Our room was lobby side, room six with an adjoining sitting room. I loved the fireplace and the vaulted ceilings made the room feel spacious.
The guest rooms will benefit greatly from the scheduled renovations – slotted to for Winter 2011. In particular the bathroom will benefit from a whole new layout & fixtures. Having seen what they have done in the common spaces – I’m super excited about how the renovated rooms will make this entire property a sublime getaway from the everyday and the perfect spot to explore.
Places You Won’t Want To Miss
We were thrilled to discover some great Organic finds on our adventures too! Be sure to check them out on your visit!
Sunstone Winery is quite possibly the most stunning wineries in the region, plus they grow all their grapes organically! Don’t forget to sign up for the reserve tastings that are held in their hillside caves!
Alma Rosa Winery was founded by the father of Pinot Noir in the region, Richard Sanford. They create some amazing certified organic wines. Don’t visit the region without visiting them!
Global Garden’s specialty food products. Stop by for an olive oil tasting featuring numerous local organic.
June Bug – a store full of hand made local treasures and earth friendly products, located in charming Solvang.
Love Letter to the FDA: Dude and I were invited guests of the Fess Parker Inn & Spa. Our room & breakfast were hosted (that means comped) by the hotel, we paid for all of our other adventures during our stay in the area. As always my opinion remain my own.
Fess Parker Inn & Spa
2860 Grand Avenue, Los Olivos, CA 93441
We Loved Our Fess Parker Getaway, Where Do You Love to Escape?
It’s Sunday night in NYC. We had been going nonstop for 4.5 days. I’m talking 4 hours of sleep a night NONSTOP.
Jyl called down to the concierge to get restaurant suggestions. We said the restaurant had to be close to the hotel – The Hilton - and we wanted some good comfort food, please.
The restaurant we were sent to was The Eatery. We happily chatted as we walked the 5 or 6 block to our dinning destination, on arrival we were relieved to find there was no wait. Our server patiently revisited our table a few times before we decided what to order. You know… we all had to check in with whrrl, foursquare and foodspotting before we could even look at the menu. Yeah… we’re that cool.
BTW – the atmosphere in the restaurant was perfect – right down to the “pringle shaped” light sconces that lined the wall. Very contemporary and chic without being cold and unwelcoming.
I had been eyeballing the White Cheddar Meatloaf with Beer Batter Onion Rings until Jyl got word that they had the best Mac N Cheese in NYC, that was all I needed to push me over the edge. Now I haven’t eaten every other mac n cheese in the city, but their “Mac and Jack” was up there. Especially when you bite into the yummy crusty dark brown edge – which I almost neglected to do. Heaven.
Jyl ordered the hummus – Diva note: served with whole wheat pita! Then we shared an Organic Baby Spinach Salad with goat cheese, beats, and pickled pear. Yum. Jyl swears it was the best salad she’s ever eaten in her life. I was excited that it was organic, green and would soak up some of the saturated fat from my calorie laden choice.
Rachel ordered the Edamame – which we all ate. They were fresh and salted just right. Followed by the Eggless Chicken Ceasar salad – which she enjoyed in between bites of my Mack and Jack.
The one dish that fell a little flat seemed to be the Pan Seared Sea Scallop served with Asparagus Risotto & Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette. To be fair, I didn’t try the Scallop, but did take a bite of the risotto, which just felt like it was missing something… when the others swirled it in the vinaigrette it improved the story for them… not so much for this diva.
Stuffed we skipped desert and rolled ourselves back to the hotel, where we left Jyl to run off with her husband. Rachel and Breanne moved in with me for the night – we had a great slumber party and I’m happy to report they made their plane the next day!
I’m so glad to have spent this time with these amazing women, it was definitely a highlight. The food was great, the conversation better and my favorite part was all the hands flying back and forth across the table – stealing nibbles… I mean bites - and truly “sharing” our meal with one another.
This evening was the perfect closing meal for an unbelievable New York City whirlwind!
In terms of Blogher events – this party stood out. It was the perfect combination phenomenal guests and amazing ambiance. The setting allowed for guests to truly connect with one another in a meaningful manner.
If you were lucky enough to snag an invitation – only about 80 of them were available – you knew the party was going to be special!
If you have extra cash in the bank – staying in this penthouse suite will truly make you feel like have arrived and are ready to take on Manhattan. I can’t speak to The London‘s green practices – perhaps they will invite me back and I can do a full review. I can speak to the fact that the penthouse is undeniable chic – at 3K + per night it better be!
I need to talk about my LBD for a minute! This is a dress I wore when I was DATING my husband. I’m so excited that after losing 13″ this year I can wear it again – after having two children! OK – I’m done!
Thank you to Romy for providing me with almost all my Blogher pictures – I really NEED a camera since my Sony Cybershot takes nothing but blurs.
Now… to be fair, when I eat out I lean towards conventional restaurants. When Neha suggested Cafe Blossom I threw caution to the wind and went for it. I was after all – on my own in NYC… and I write a naturally focused organic and eco blog after all…
Sitting down to order was a challenge for me. Being a vegan restaurant meant they had no dairy – which meant no cafe latte for me and even though it was lunch, I had been packing all morning and really could have used that coffee! I settled for Earl Gray Tea with agave and lemon… steeped in a thimble sized cup.
Note to Cafe Blossom – if you are going to serve tea – serve it in a teapot or at least a cup that holds more than 4 oz of water. It took us 20 minutes to get more hot water to dilute the bitter tea.
Back to the menu…. I contemplated the Black Eyed Pea Cakes – but not being a fan of the black eyed pea – that seemed risky. I considered the Autumn Sweet Potato Rolls, but was fairly sure I would be wishing for rice noodles while I munching on their raw coconut noodles and I wondered where the rest of the dish was for the Peas and Carrots – if it’s delish – it needs to be renamed!
I ordered the mushroom soup – which never made it to my table - and the Veggie Grain Burger with sweet potato fries. The sandwich my have looked a little plain, but it was delicious. I didn’t miss the cheese at all (and I always miss the cheese!) and had the server ever returned I would have loved a little more of the yummy hummus.
Overall, service was a little too laid back for my style. No one checked on our meal, to get more water for our tea I had to get up… twice… and by the time we flagged a server to get get our bill, we didn’t even have time to see if they billed us for the mushroom soup that never arrived.
After a little trepidation about the menu, I found the food to be very enjoyable. I just wished the staff had shown even the tiniest care in serving their clientele, on the upside if you are looking for a vegan restaurant where they will leave you to linger in NYC this may be the spot for you!
Living in Southern California – I think I delayed our inevitable first family visit to the Disneyland Theme Park for as long as possible – Lil’ Diva was 4.5 and Lil’ Dude was 3 . We decided to make our first visit special and stay overnight, allowing us to spend 2 days at the park.
My mom & younger sister were also visiting southern California, making the timing perfect. Mom had never taken us, needless to say, being able to go with 2 of her daughter and her grandchildren was quite a treat for her.
I knew the kids were going to have the time of their life and while we were there – I wanted to find out what green efforts were a going on at this classic California theme Park – if any.
Turns out I was able to uncover some of the parks effort without even visiting their website:
Lil Dude hasn’t quite discovered his inner speed demon – yet – so one of his favorite rides was the Disneyland Railroad Train. We rode it a few times. On one of our rides it stopped to get fuel Imagine my surprise when the conductor informed us that the steam was generated with BioDiesel collected from the park restaurants. No fancy stickers or pre-recorded promotion, just a mention in passing by the conductor. Nice. Can they convert the Race Cars to the same fuel – those are a little stinky!
I noticed recycling receptacles throughout the park . These are great – sadly most people don’t bother to use them or use them incorrectly. Imagine my surprise when I noticed one of the park employees dumpster diving!
Having recycling receptacles (say that 5 times fast) is one thing, but I happened to walk by when “Cast Member” Verola was emptying trash and she did something that astounded me… I caught her fishing out the recyclable bottles out of the trash and walking them across the way to the recyling receptacle. I had to investigate further! It turns out that Disney donates the money raised by the recyling to charity – and Verola was motivated. She proudly informed me that it was for the dogs.
While we visited the park we took advantage of the fruit stalls located near Pirates of the Caribbean. It certainly would have been more economical to pack our own fruit, but in the absence good planning it was nice to have a few healthy options to mesh in between the cotton candy and bbq we hit for dinner.
Disney has also set some strong eco milestones. In the next 2-4 years they plan to cut their emissions by 50%, their electricity use by 10% and lastly they plan to reduce their waste by 50%. Their long term goal is zero emission and waste.
I would love to see them taking a stronger stance on the impact of Disney products, but overall they are making inroads in many areas, and have set some lofty goals. I can’t wait to see how close they get to achieving them and in the meantime – we ended up purchasing season’s passes – so the lil’s will be sure to experience more joy at the happiest place on earth.
Where were we – oh yeah – Dude slipped out of our room at Estancia La Jolla while I got my beauty rest.
I eventually woke up and joined Dude in the restaurant. To my delight, while I slept, he booked me a massage at the Estancia Spa.
Before bliss time there was little time for me to eat breakfast and explore the hotel grounds, which were stunning and beautiful and from an eco perspective I enjoyed the properties use of water wise landscaping selections – it was inspiring.
The spa was fully booked save a couple of appointments – so I was surprised that facilities were delightfully serene. It was nice to have time to linger and relish my time at the spa. It was perfection.
After bliss time we decided to take the hike to the ocean that “Ted” suggested – remember “Ted” the bellhop?
Picture a perfect day, stunning vistas and para-sails flitting above the cliffs. We start navigating our way down the winding steep path – if you can call it that. “Ted” definition of this way as a “little aggressive” may have been slightly understated.
We got a third of the way down the path when we had to chose between hiking up to the bluffs or down to the water.
The way to the bluffs involved crossing a narrow ravine via wood plank and what seemed to be an impossibly steep 15′ sheer cliff on the other side of said plank. We made our way towards the water. It was about a third further down the path when Dude packed it in and insisted we turn around.
I was a smidge disappointed until on our way back up Dude decided we should try to scale the sheer path on the way to the bluffs. We climbed our way all the way to the top. We could almost touch the para-sailer’s toes once we reached the top. I was able to torment Dude by moving within 20 fee of the cliff in an attempt to ascertain how high up we were – high.
After a few photos it was time to make our way back to the hotel, but not before I checked out the front of a sign that had caught my attention upon our arrival on the bluff (we approached from the backside) – I was dying to know what it said – it required another photo. Thank you “Ted!”
We managed to safely make our way down the “unstable cliffs” and back to the hotel. Our hike built up quite the appetite for our dinner plans – but for our own safety we decided not to takes Ted’s restaurant suggestion for the evening. We selected Azul La Jolla a Steakhouse with a stunning view of the bay.
Some of you may be dismayed, but Dude and I are big fans of the steakhouse – from a health perspective they couldn’t be much worse for you and the only redeeming thing I can say about them is that the good ones make every calorie fully worth it. I wish all my favorites would start buying their beef from all grass fed ranchers – pretty please! I don’t buy that the steaks won’t be as delectable. Sorry, I digress…
Azul La Jolla did not disappoint. We have dined at some of the best steakhouses and Azul held it’s own – with a view was second to none.
My meal started with a Cosmopolitan that was perfect, ice chips floating in a frosty glass, delicately sweet and smooth. I might have had more than one – it was vacation so no one was counting and no one was driving. It was a perfect sunset dinner, we mingled with our neighbors, invited ourselves to stranger’s home for wine tasting and had a fantastic evening.
One more uninterupted night of sleep and our time at Estancia La Jolla was all to quickly finished. A relaxing breakfast and it was time to slowly wake from our dream and return to reality.
La Jolla, our visit was divine, just what we needed and more. “Ted,” thanks for the adventure, our trip wouldn’t have been the same without you.
We’ll be back soon.