Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Travel Daydreams: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in Washington State

I fell in love with the Pacific Northwest around this time last year. The bright green trees, the clouds that floated off the evergreens, mountains and water everywhere made for one dreamy setting. And even though I was only in Seattle for a weekend, I just missed checking out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which runs throughout April. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Felex Liu.

You can look forward to more than 300 acres of gorgeous flowers. Hopefully I'll be able to check out those stunning flower fields with my own eyes one day.  

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Michelle Lee.

So these aren't tulips, but they are beautiful. 

Courtesy of Flickr user Jessica Hall.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Stops Along the Nelson 151: Blue Mountain Brewery

March is almost over and April is just days away, and I'm craving sunshine. Seriously. I'm tired of winter and ready for it to get warm and stay that way. Goodbye clouds and hello sunny skies. And when the weather's nice, I'd rather be outside sipping an ice cold beer. And I can't think of a better place to fulfill my warm-weather dreams than at Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Virginia. 

Check out that view. Makes you wish you were sitting there right now, doesn't it?

Located on the Nelson 151--a highway dotted with craft breweries and wineries nestled in the mountains--Blue Mountain Brewery serves up suds, killer pizzas and stunning views. When it comes to drinks, try a flight. I'm a pale ale kind of gal, but feel free to try some of the brewery's hop-filled offerings to round out your palette. The sour beer is also very good. Expect a lightly "spiced" beer that goes down surprisingly smooth. And you must, must, must try one of the pizzas here. I was on a press trip here, and all of the journalists on the trip devoured the flatbread topped with bratwurst with apples and onions. I loved the vinegrette-based dressing and enjoyed this savory dish after downing a few drinks. I don't have a great photo since we all ate is so quickly. Oops.

Looks pretty gorgeous, huh?

All photos by Sarah Hauser, Virginia Tourism Corporation

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Beautiful Places: Seattle's Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

Move over, Space Needle. If there's just one place you need to visit in the Emerald City, it's actually the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. Located in the Seattle Center--home of the Needle and Experience Music Project Museum--it's easy to pay a visit when you're by those other attractions. 

The Needle and the fog. You've got to get this shot.

And get ready for one incredible art museum. The space is dedicated to showcasing Tacoma, Washington native Dale Chihuly's whimsical glass creations. If you're aren't familiar with this, change that immediately. Google it and fall in love. At the museum, you'll start with his early work, and it just gets more whimsical from there. I could have literally spent all day photographing and admiring everything. Once you're done with the interior--the glass ceilings (at la The Bellagio) and the other creations, it's time to head outside.

My two favorite spots? The garden that features creations meant to complement the colors of the flowers surrounding each work and the greenhouse decked out with the incredible red and yellow floral sculpture across ceiling. I'm going to the let the images here speak for themselves. 

 All these shots are making me long for spring.

Try to spot the Needle.

If you're searching for a great Seattle art museum, make a point of checking out the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Hotels I Love: Seattle's Hotel Vintage

Kimpton rules. And that's a fact. This boutique hotel chain is the a food-loving travelers' dream come true. I've had some fantastic fried green tomatoes at Alexandria's Jackson 20 and enjoyed some great sushi at D.C.'s Zentan. But last May I was fortunate enough to stay at Seattle's Hotel Vintage.

 Exterior shot of the hotel.

The hotel's theme incorporates wines hailing from Washington state, and each room is named after a winery. You'll find wine maps throughout the halls and a free happy hour in the lobby. Vintners will occasionally drop by the talk about their wares. 

But besides all wine everywhere, what I really fell in love with was this hotel's lush rooms. The adorable headboard is made up of wine corks. I couldn't get enough of this plush purple couch in my room. It was just so regal and comfy. I wish I owned one. 

Wine cork headboard, FTW.

The lush purple couch that I wish was mine. Reminds you of red wine, doesn't it? 

The hotel staff was kind enough to leave me wine from Washington, a cupcake and fruit from Pike Place Market. I ate this instead of dinner one night. Classy.

My room overlooked Seattle's Public Library and was conveniently located within walking distance to historic Pioneer Square, iconic Pike Place Market, the Columbia Tower (insider tip: the views here are better than the ones from the Space Needle. Although you must visit the Needle.) and this nifty monorail that will take you to the Needle. 

Lastly, you'll want to head to the on-site restaurant Tulio. And you must have wine (from Washington, of course), the heart sweet potato gnocchi and sweet semifreddo. Kimpton is great about always making a few signature dishes and these are some of the best ones. 

A must-try dish: the sweet potato gnocchi.

The delicious semifreddo. According to the chefs, it's never been sent back.

Please note: My hotel stay was covered by Hotel Vintage. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hotels I Love: Oregon's The Allison Inn & Spa

Nestled in the heart of Oregon's famed Pinot-producing Willamette Valley, The Allison Inn & Spa is a luxurious resort that feels like your very own cozy retreat. I'm not sure what I loved more: the beautiful landscaped grounds, the way the resort is designed to connect guests with nature, its amazing spa, guest rooms straight out of a story book, the truly inspiring cuisine and Pinot or the fact that the place was dripping with local art. 

 Check out those beautiful grounds. See if you can spot the horse statue in the background.

We'll start with the landscaping. There's a screen saver on my phone that I put up right before I left for Portland because I thought that's what Oregon would look like. What I got was much more beautiful than what I imagined. Describing wilderness is tough, but I'll do my best. The Alison's well-landscaped grounds are surrounded by rolling hills dotted with lush trees that are occasionally obscured by clouds. On clear days, you can even see Mt. Hood. 

 The view from my room. Swoon.

And nature is everywhere in this resort. A stream that runs in front of the entrance to the spa. Each room has a balcony. And the spa is a huge part of that. Some treatment rooms come with sliding glass doors that open up to the outside. I basked in the sun on a luxurious lounger in the waiting room. I'm going to write about the spa in a separate post, but let me assure you that it's magical. 
When guests retreat for the night, they're going to a room they'll dream about. The deluxe king room comes with a bathroom complete with two vanities, a separate shower, and the crown jewel: a deep soaking tub that you can watch TV from. This is America. I also appreciated the plush sheets that you sink into every night and the glass jars filled with filtered water waiting on the side tables. 

And then there's the food. The on-site Jory restaurant is spellbinding. Chef Sunny Jin is quite the character. And his food is incredible. If you only order one item, make it the Pinot burger. Flavored with Oregon's signature wine, this juicy burger is not-to-be-missed. Be sure to finish you meal with decadent Pinot cake.

 The Pinot burger is a must-try.

Pinot cake is another great, gotta-have-it item on the menu. 

I'll end with the art. I'm an art lover, and The Alison is chock full of local art. Each room is decked out with a piece from a local artist. The gardens are dotted with handmade sculptures. But my favorite work was the statue resting outside of the spa's entrance. Each of these creations is made out of the mold of a real woman. Forget that perfect stuff. If you're interested, the spa will create your very own mold for you. 

 The entrance to the spa. Doesn't it look cool? 

I just had to close this with this gorgeous spiral staircase.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My Latest Activewear Obsession: Lucy's Perfect Core Halter

I've written about my love of the brand lucy before, and even though it feels redundant, I'm going to do it again. Because you see, I've fallen in love ... with lucy's Perfect Core Halter. I go through phases with my activewear. I was in love with lululemon's scoop neck tank tops for the longest time. Then I appreciated the cool racerbacks (that's CRB for you lulu newbies) before moving onto the In the Flow crops. Since then, I haven't really had anything that's really gripped me. But then along came lucy activewear's perfect core halter

I had to have this minty blue tank. 

This tank has it all. It comes in a variety of stunning colors. I've got two--one is a light, minty blue and the other is a navy. The flattering back features a cute cut out. My favorite part is that the material really flattering. The tank really smooths everything out and holds you in. The ruching in the middle makes you look slimmer. It's not without its faults though. 

The gorgeous ruching of the middle. 

The tank does ride up during exercise, but it's not too bad. And it is very tight. You'll probably want to size up on this one. But it will be worth it. I'm in the process of working off weight, and this tank makes me feel great--a necessary component of any fitness wardrobe. 

A gorgeous back. 

Here's to great activewear! I hope you've found a few pieces that you can't live without too.