Friday, January 23, 2015

Get Ready to be Charmed by the Poplar Springs Inn in Virginia

I've stayed at plenty of hotel rooms and hostels, but inns are something special. Sure, boutique hotels have personality, but there's something that's very intimate about an inn. It just feels more personable. Poplar Springs Inn tucked away in Warrenton, Virginia, was the very first hotel I stayed in on my very first press trip and holds a special place in my heart. 

I was immediately charmed by my room's tiny outdoor sitting room, and the rolling hills surrounding the inn. I admired the blackout curtains and the regal red bed linens too. Everything just exuded romance and charm. Each room comes complete with its own decor. Don't expect any stale hotel art. Look forward to accessories that make each room feel like an upscale guest room in your favorite relative's home. 

It looks like it's straight out of a movie, doesn't it?

If you're searching for a personable experience, head to the Poplar Springs Inn. The grounds are beautiful. You can have a great dinner in the adjacent dining room. Or just relax in that gorgeous lobby. Get a treatment at the on-site spa and enjoy your pleasant, country surroundings. If you're looking for a way to really getaway from it all, I'd suggest this inn. 

Check out this pool. Pretty sweet, huh?

Isn't that lobby dreamy? All photos by Sarah Hauser, Virginia Tourism Corporation. 

Why San Diego's Extraordinary Desserts is Worth a Visit

San Diego is one of my favorite cities. It's almost always sunny. La Jolla is breathtakingly beautiful. And the food scene is outstanding. As much as I love fish tacos--the city's signature cuisine--I also enjoy a nice slice of cake. And my favorites are from Extraordinary Desserts

This quaint downtown spot serves a great menu featuring small bites like sandwiches and pastas, but the real highlight is what's behind the glass case at the very front. These cakes are beautiful. I almost feel like I'm in a flower shop looking at the gorgeous displays every time I walk in. And the presentation really stands out. Each slice is standing in a small pool of melted chocolate (yes!) and garnished with rose petals. That's right, rose petals. My mind was beyond blown when I saw this. 

This slice of cake was actually more gorgeous than it appears in this photo.

Once you dig into one of these great pieces, your life will probably never be the same. Get ready for a moist and rich creation that's sure to leave you satisfied. Creations like the decadent Triple Chocolate Mousse--dark, milk, and white chocolate mousses are layered in between slices of chocolate cake and topped with chocolate-covered honey comb for an extra crunch--will make you swoon. It's virtually impossible to order a bad dessert. When it comes to great cakes, Extraordinary Desserts makes the best ones around. And that's a fact.

Friday, January 16, 2015

An Ode to the Lost Art of Train Travel

As a traveler, I appreciate the journey just as much as the destination. Some of my best memories are of looking out the window of speeding trains, airplanes and automobiles. The best way to see Italian countryside is via train. I'll never forget the beautiful views I took in when I was driving on the Snoqualmie Parkway as I left Washington state. OK, so I don't love airline travel (who does, really?), but I'll always relish being upgraded to business class when I flew from London to D.C. The first words out of the flight attendant's mouth when I sat down: "Champagne or tea?"

Train views of Virginia countryside. 

And I love the train. It's romantic. The WiFi's always free. You actually have room to move around. The rocking is reassuring. The occasional train whistles break up the monotony. I will admit that some trains are a little outdated, and the food is way overpriced. But there's something about train travel that can't be beat. Whenever I'm on a train, I feel like it could be straight out of a scene from a black and white flick. It's old school and under appreciated in so many ways. I just wish Humphrey Bogart would swoop in and buy me a drink.

I'll admit this isn't the best photo, but doesn't it look like a scene from a really old film?

An editor I worked with once remarked that it's nice to have time set aside where you just have to sit. I find that I get more done. Maybe knock out those latest assignments or make some serious headway on the book I'm reading. I guess the writer in me appreciates that. It was no surprise to me when Amtrak debuted its residency program. The train is the best place to catch up on work and admire your surroundings. Be sure to take the train at some point, put it in your list. And get ready to be transported. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hotels I Love: Nashville's The Hermitage

As much as I admire a boutique hotel, there's something about a city's grand historical hotels that can't be beat. Maybe it's knowing the celebrities have stayed there. Maybe it's the history. Maybe it's that we just don't make 'em like that anymore and never will again. But whatever "it" may be, historical hotels have an undeniable charm. 

And Nashville's The Hermitage is one of the best. This grand hotel hosted me for two nights in Tennessee this past July, and I was swept away from the moment I stepped foot in the building. I mean, just look at that lobby. 

Behold: the magnificent lobby. 

It exudes elegance and old school glamour. Plus, the staff was just beyond friendly. But aside from the impressive building, there's the guest rooms. Oh, my room. I was put in a deluxe room with a view of the Capitol and wow, did it impress. 

This bed was so beyond comfortable. I could have lived on it. Seriously. 

I melted into the sheets as soon I lay down on that big, soft bed. I appreciated the big TV, desk and sitting chair complete with the latest issue of the fabulous American Songwriter magazine. The plush room and slippers in the closet were a nice touch too. 

But what I really loved was the marble bathroom. This could have been featured in Dwell magazine. Two vanities, a deep soaking tub, separate bathroom and deluxe shower rounded out this impossibly plush room. Did I mention the hotel also gives out Molton Brown bath products? This line just smells luxe, and I can never get enough. 

If you think this hotel tub looks great, you're right. 

The Hermitage exceeded my expectations, and even if you're not staying there, be sure to check it out. Also, even if you're a woman, check out the men's bathroom in the restaurant. Reese Witherspoon posted a photo of herself in there, and I missed it when I was there. Yes, even the men's bathroom at this hotel is worth looking at! Just another reason why I'll have to return. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Travel Highlights of 2014

Since 2014 is behind us and 2015 is here, I wanted to recap some of the best places I've visited last year. It was my busiest travel year to date.

1. The Pacific Northwest

I know it's far. I know the plane ticket from the East Coast is expensive. Yes, it does rain. But not as much people think. But the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous. I thought all the cloud cover would depress me, but it works with the aesthetic. The clouds seem to melt off those bright green trees that blanket the mountains. Put Seattle and Portland on your lists of places to see. Both cities are fun, hip and just gorgeous. Portland is pretty much the hippest city in the country right now. And Seattle is just full of so many iconic sights. Plus, the Puget Sound does seem to sparkle when viewed from up high. Both towns are nearby stunning outdoor scenery. I could go on, but I'll stop. Just visit and see for yourself. 

The view from the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon. You can get on the PCT from here.

Seattle as seen from the Columbia Tower. The photo doesn't do it justice. 

2. Kentucky

Don't write off Kentucky. I'll say it again, don't write off Kentucky. Every time I go, I'm always blown away by something. Maybe it's the local pride. Maybe it's how everyone who lives there seems to have an inherent knowledge of bourbon. All I'm really sure of is that I like it. Drink some bourbon. Have a hot brown. Check out uber-cool hotel chain 21c and enjoy Kentucky. 

Plan on drinking plenty of bourbon when you're in Kentucky. Go ahead, and have the Old Fashioned.

3. Michigan

The representative from the tourism bureau put it best, "Once you arrive, it sells itself." And it's true. From beautiful blue Lake Michigan to cute small town Petoskey, Michigan is chock full of cute quirks. You'll fall in love with this unpretentious place as soon as you arrive. 

Pretty Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes Park.

4. St. Croix, USVI

Whenever I'm on an island, I always think, "I could live here." And when I spent a week on St. Croix, I was already imagining where I would buy my groceries. Enjoy the ocean views, white sand and greenery. I couldn't get enough of this beach-side view from my The Buccaneer hotel room. 

I woke up every day to this incredible view in St. Croix. Swoon. 

5. Nashville

The food scene. Barista Parlor. The music. The Hermitage Hotel. Nashville lives up to the hype. It's the perfect size town that's just quirky enough. If you don't fall in love with the honky tonk bars on Broadway that are obsessed with late 90s country, you'll probably enjoy the hot chicken and record shops everywhere. I even bought a CD last time I was here. And I haven't done that since the early 2000s. Music City gets in your veins and stays there. Enjoy.

Nashville's Broadway is happening and touristy. 

6. Salt Lake City 

I wasn't expecting much from Salt Lake City, but I ended up loving it. The city has a really vibrant subculture and is just plain beautiful. I always love a mountain town and this is one of the best ones. I mean, just look at that incredible sunset. Be sure to check out nearby Park City if you're in town too. 

The breathtaking view from the Natural History Museum of Utah. 

Here's to more traveling in 2015!