Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hotel Chimayo: A Charming, Dog-friendly Santa Fe Hotel

Every once in a while, I'll stay a hotel that really does feel its own tiny little world. As soon I've stepped in the lobby, I'm somewhere else, and I'm glad to be there. The Hotel Chimayo in Santa Fe is one of those places. Located just off of the Plaza--the heart of Santa Fe's downtown district--the hotel only contributes to the charm. The exterior resembles a cute white house complete with an adorable balcony. Inside, it's very Southwestern with dark wood decor and prints. After checking in, the front desk clerk printed out a map of a nearby park where I could walk my dogs--another great pet owner perk. 

 My cute dog Rocket snug in his chair.

After walking out of the lobby, you'll enter the courtyard of this hotel--and my favorite spot of the whole place. All the rooms here face inward and this secluded spot honestly made me like I was in Southern Spain--minus the red chilies hanging from the wooden balconies. It's secluded, quiet and although just steps from the plaza, feels like it's own little slice of paradise. I loved walking through here to get back to my room.

And my suite was more than enough space for me and my dogs. It featured a separate sitting area complete with a fireplace, bedroom and bathroom. My dogs loved hanging out on the chairs while I was away. We all loved snuggling in the bed at night. I appreciated that my dogs had space to roam around while I was away during the day. The tiled bathroom was great for putting their water and food bowels in case they spilled any of it. The only downsides here are that you have to pay for parking and occasionally, other owners would leave their dogs off leash with their hotel room doors open. This never (thankfully) was an issue for me, but it's something to keep in mind. The pet policy here is fairly standard. The hotel also charges a $25 per day pet fee unless you book its pet-friendly package. Dogs weighing more than 50 pounds are not permitted at the hotel. Only two dogs are allowed per room.


When I first checked in, the front desk employee gave me a map and showed me where a dog park was. And I love how close the hotel was to many different parks. Cross of the Martyrs--probably the best place in the city to watch the sunset--is less than half a mile from the hotel. Hillside Park Cathedral Park, albeit very small, was just a few blocks from the hotel too.  

I watched the sunset at this park with my dogs my last night in Santa Fe, and I can't think of a better way to cap off a trip to this enchanting city than that. Pet owner searching for a charming hotel in this great city should consider Hotel Chimayo.

Please note: I was given a discounted media rate during my stay here. All thoughts are my own.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mountains You Should Climb: Tempe's "A" Mountain

When I first visited Phoenix back in January, I wanted a good hike and a great place to watch the Southwest's magnificent sunsets. And I found just what I was looking for at Tempe's "A" Mountain. This is a short, but steep, hike that will provide you with stunning views of the entire city. I mean, just look at that photo.
 Stunning, huh?

The path is all paved. You'll want to be careful at the top since you're fairly high up and many of the rocks you'll be standing on aren't exactly the sturdiest surfaces. A part of the summit is fenced off, but you can climb over that. Wherever you decide to end your hike, be sure to enjoy sweeping views of the Phoenix skyline. I always imagined a desert landscaped like Phoenix being drab and flat and dry, and it is all of that, but so much more. Take in the river. Appreciate the trees. Dig the view.

Either way, if you're a temporary visitor or a long-time resident, watching the Arizona sunset is a must-do. And so is hiking. If you're looking for a place where you can combine the best of both worlds, make it A Mountain. Plus, then you can tell your friends that you hiked "a" mountain when you were in Phoenix. Get it? I know, I know. How very punny.

Either way, enjoy the view from the top.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A New Mexican Escape: The Abiquiu Inn

Yes, this is a real photo that I took at Ghost Ranch.

I spent almost all of July road tripping across the country, and I was absolutely swept away by the beauty of New Mexico. This state's landscapes are so stunning it's almost unbelievable. Just look at the photo above for proof.

I planned on originally just staying in Santa Fe for a few days before heading off to Arizona, but I ended up spending an entire week here. The most remote place I ventured to during my whole trip was Abiquiu--a tiny town in northwestern New Mexico that is perhaps best known as one of the homes of artist Georgia O'Keefe. I was visiting the beautiful and remote Ghost Ranch, and I needed a place to stay that was close by. 

There aren't many options in Abiquiu, but that doesn't mean your options are bad. I almost immediately fell in love with The Abiquiu Inn. This ultra modern hotel in the middle of the desert is as magical as the rest of New Mexico. The grounds were the perfect place to walk my dogs. I admired the tall trees and grassy areas that almost made me feel like I was back on the East Coast whenever I'd walk by. I know my dogs loved having the area to explore.

The rooms themselves are spacious and surprisingly luxurious. Mine featured a large bed where I could snuggle with my dogs, a fireplace, a flat panel and a big bathroom complete with a shower/tub combination and a counter top too. I appreciated the very Southwestern adobe-looking fireplace and the fact that my room opened up to a gorgeous inner courtyard. My room--like all the rooms--was on the ground floor and directly in front of a parking space, which made it easy to get my dogs in and out of there. I appreciated the amenities as much as the starkness of the land that surrounded this place. It made for one incredible setting. 
 My sweet porch.

 You've gotta that love that bed.

The hotel's restaurant was located just off the lobby and featured outdoor seating in the heart of the grounds. Although the kitchen received mixed reviews on Yelp, I enjoyed a delicious egg breakfast there just before I left. It nice to admire the grounds while I enjoyed my food.
The alfresco dining room is the centerpiece of this hotel. 
Abiquiu was by far the hardest destination for me to reach. It's about an hour's drive from both Taos and Santa Fe, making it just a little too far to be a quick day trip from either city. But I've never been more captured by a tiny town like this one in quite some time. I hate to be so cliche, but most of the time, the toughest journeys are that are worth the trouble. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Graduate: A Chic, Trendy and Pet-Friendly Arizona Hotel

As a pet owner, I always appreciate a trendy and chic pet-friendly hotel. Especially since those two adjectives typically don't apply to hotels that allow dogs. And that's what makes The Graduate in Tempe, Arizona such a great option for pet parents. This hotel chain is one of the hottest ones right now. And it's not hard to see why. The Tempe location is designed to look like a retro Mad Men-era hotel. Think prints, dark colors and old-looking decor inside the hotel room. 

 Pretty chic, huh?

 Psychedelic hallway, man.
As the name suggests, it's also designed to transport visitors back to their college days. Imagine how you would have decorated your dorm room if you actually had money. I appreciated the room keys that resembled ID cards, the composition notebook on the counter that served as a visitor's guide and the very Southwestern hanging art behind the bed. I loved most of the details here, but I especially liked the old school lamp in my room and bikes in the lobby. Just walking into the bright white hotel lobby made me feel like a film star from the 60s. 

 Anyone want to go cycling?
The mix of patterns and colors felt warm and inviting, not overdone or too busy.

And I love that the hotel is pet-friendly. As a pet owner, I appreciated the grassy area located behind the hotel and down a hallway beside the elevator where they could frolic and take care of business. The space comes complete with a handy waste bag dispenser too. It's a bit odd since this area is located right behind a bunch of sliding glass doors that lead to hotel rooms, but the curtains were always closed when I was out there with my dogs so it was never a problem.

The dog area. It's always nice to have one.

 Always helpful. Always.

 Don't you just want to chill by that pool?

I appreciated this at night so I didn't have to trek right through the lobby to let them out or venture too far from the property when it was dark outside. The area also leads to the hotel pool, but that wasn't a problem either.  

The room featured a balcony where I could sit outside with them. My dog's favorite feature was the comfy chair covered in fabric. I loved sitting with them there too.

 Rocket gettin' comfy.
Autumn in front of the mod-looking table top.

 The only words needed to describe this: Southwestern, collegiate chic.
 Rocket looking patriotic.
 I wish I owned this pillow.
 Gotta love that art.
 I want this lamp too.
 Room keys made to look like IDs. Plus, I love that old school library card holder.

Best of all was the hotel's location. It's across the street from ASU, less than a mile from the heart of Tempe--Mill Avenue--has two on-site restaurants and is right in front of a quiet and cute neighborhood. I loved being able to walk my dogs in this area. It made me and (probably them) feel right at home.

I loved walking down this charming, tree-lined street.

Let's all hope that the hottest hotels continue to allow dogs. Pet owners shouldn't have to miss out on the fun. 

 Please note: My stay was paid for as part of a press trip. Thoughts are my own.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My Ode to My Favorite Magazine Growing Up

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet, but I wrote an ode to my favorite magazine that was published on Bustle a few weeks ago. I've been meaning to write this for years now, and it feels good to finally see it online. Here's to you, CosmoGirl!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Paradise in Paradise: A Review of The Ikal Spa at InterContinental's Cancun Hotel

The best spas really are like paradise. You're whisked away somewhere fabulous, invited to stay just a few hours before it's back to the daily grind. But what's a hotel to do when it's smack dab of the middle of a stunning stretch of Cancun beach and all the guests are constantly surrounded by paradise? That's what the InterContinental Presidente Cancun Resort has attempted to answer with its brand new Ikal spa--the first on property. 

Isn't that just gorgeous?

After you've slid open a glass door, get ready to be surrounded by a soothing gray and off-white environment. Hibiscus flowers are floating in standing water. After you're greeted at the front desk, you'll get to relax on some comfy lounge chairs. Nosh on fresh fruit or tasty oatmeal cookies (I may have had three or four) while you wait for your treatment. 

                                       You'll love this table full of treats. Tip: Try the cookies first.

                                              The doorway to spa heaven.

Treatment rooms all have Mayan names. The rooms are standard spa rooms. There's a massage table, a counter with a sink and a heater for towels. There's a couples massage room too if you'd like to receive a treatment at the same time as your lover or friend. 

The treatment menu features massages, aromatherapy and reflexology. The menu also incorporates Mayan techniques into the mix with offerings like the Aroma Mayan Experience--a massage that uses scents like lavender, bergamot and chamomile to help you and your muscles really unwind. My 80-minute signature massage helped me relax and worked out some of the tight spots in my muscles. I carried that feeling with me throughout my day. 

The centerpiece of the spa is this gorgeous pool. Yes, I had a great time relaxing in here.

The centerpiece of the spa is a pool modeled after a cenote--a natural pit that fills with groud water. The pool in the center--turn on the jets to soothe your muscles or leave them off to relax in the still water. The white loungers surrounding the pool are exactly where you'll want to lay back and read or rest. I had my trusty September issue of Glamour with me the whole time.

You'll love lounging on these chic white loungers when you're not taking dip.

I found it very soothing to relax in the water and then lounge by the pool. My only complaint was the door faced the hallway where the staff was wandering around, which meant the noise from the hall spilled over into the lounge area. It's a small space, so I understand that there's not much that can be done about that though. 

Additional amenities include a salon and a locker room that comes complete with showers and a steam room too. I personally loved the ultra-modern rainwater showerheads. 

                                                    The spa's locker room. 

                                                       I loved this shower. 

Overall, I can say that the spa is a perfect place to relax and enjoy a treatment if you're in Cancun. And after you're done, you can lay on the beach that's just a few steps away to sink deeper into a state of tranquility. After all, you're in paradise wherever you are at this hotel.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Old School Meets New School: Cross Country Road Trip Maps

So, we all know the (relatively) cliched image of a cross country road map where the push pins represent stops. But modern times call for modern technology, which is where Google maps comes into play.

Pretty, isn't it? Photo courtesy of Flickr user Marc Levin.

I recently made a map featuring all of my different stops along my cross country journey. You can see it here: It's relatively easy to do, if you're so inclined.

I figured that years from now, I'd want to look back in remembrance. I made this Spotify road trip playlist too. The only song missing from it is "Bad Blood."

Here's to maps, playlists, cross country drives and trips that you'll never forget.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What Is It About Hip Coffee Shops? Lux Central in Phoenix, Arizona

I've just moved Phoenix, and I'm in love with Lux Central--the city's impossibly cool coffee shop. Every city has one. You know it. That hip spot where the hipsters hang, teenagers go to chill after school and the 20-something crowd hits up after work. Maybe you're in one right now. Regardless, each city needs one.

I wish I was drinking this. Right. Now.

It's hard to see this shop that's just off Central, but if you've past the light rail station, you're close. Turn down W Turney Avenue, park and enter through the back. Once you're inside, you'll be greeted by a buzzing crowd in a dark space. I totally dug the work-from-home vibe I got from this place. Walk up the counter on the left, read the chalkboard menu and drool over the pastries behind the glass counter. I had a decadent, moist espresso bundt cake in January that I'm still thinking about. It will cost you at $8 or $9 a slice, but it's worth every penny if you've got the extra cash.

While you wait for your coffee and food, you'll find a seat at a intentionally worn wooden table or impossibly plush chairs. Enjoy the people watching. School kids will be working on their homework. One woman I saw had this impossibly cool black heels with this ruffled, flower center that almost made it look like the shoes were bleeding.

I ordered a hummus and vegetable plate that was fresh, but forgettable. The latte was smooth, even if it was a bit pricey. But what you'll really want to seek out here is the atmosphere. It's the kind of place you imagine the next big thing is being cooked up. Or maybe just that great piece of gossip.

Regardless of why you go to Lux, you'll enjoy the exclusive, but not snobby environment and awesome drinks. Here's to hip coffee shops across the land. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hidden, Charming Gems: Ellicott City, Maryland

I grew up in Northern Virginia, returned after college for five years, and it still amazes me that I can find a neighborhood I've never heard of. Case in point: Ellicott City, Maryland. This tiny town's Main Street is absolutely worth your time. Get ready for cobble stone buildings, quirky shops and a quaint setting that's straight out of a storybook.

Looks like a scene out of the 50s, doesn't it? But it's just historical and charming Ellicott City. 
Photo courtesy of Flickr user: Scott Saghirian
The most convenient time to visit would be if you're ever in the area seeing a show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, since E.C. is in the next town over. I paid a visit to Ellicott City right before seeing Florence and the Machine live (if you haven't seen this band, go. Do it. Like right now. And if you haven't heard of the artist, pull up a YouTube video immediately. Stat.), and was instantly taken. It really is like stepping back in time.

 Be sure to find the clock when you're in town.

Stroll down Main street. Check out a few funky boutiques, all with brick exteriors. A hallowed out department store houses vintage-inspired Sweet Elizabeth Jane, a store you're sure to love. The dresses are beautiful. You'll also find artisanal bath products, accessories and maybe even a book or two. I even enjoyed a meal on the rooftop of the Pure Wine Cafe

 My view from the restaurant.

The food was OK and a tad overpriced, but the view was unbeatable. If wine isn't you thing, you could try the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. They were closed when I visited, but it looked good. No matter what, put this town on your must-see list. Even if you just do a driving tour.

Here's to small (town) surprises.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Great Neighborhood Coffee Shops: M.E. Swing in Alexandria, Virginia

Finding a great coffee shop is like meeting your new best friend. You know in those first few minutes that this is the start of something beautiful, and you're not about to let it go. My latest experience with this? Alexandria, Virginia's M.E. Swing. Located just north of Del Ray's Mount Vernon Avenue on Monroe Avenue, this spot oozes cool.

It's a light-filled space that comes complete with garage door windows, vintage soda boxes and worn furniture. I feel just as much in love with the tiny details as I did the coffee itself. I saw many a freelancer typing away at their computers here. Like many neat places, the little details made all the difference. I loved the wooden doors separating the counter from the rest of the space. That old school scale. The newspaper reams. I only spent a few hours in the shop, but I'm sure there's even more to be discovered. And that's the beauty of spaces like this one. Visitors can always look forward to discovering a new detail, whether it be their second or hundredth. I'll raise a glass (of java, of course) to that.