Posts Tagged With: review

Hotel Review: Four Points Calgary West

I spent the week in Calgary and had an opportunity to stay at the Four Points Sheraton Calgary West. Let me just say I had the oddest and strangely coolest room I’ve had in a while.

When I checked in I was thanked for my loyalty, I appreciate that. Spending almost 100 nights a year away from home, it’s nice to be acknowledged for my time I guess. I was reminded I had booked a standard 2 queen bed room, but had been upgraded to a king suite with spa tub.

I was intrigued, I’ve had a few spa tub rooms in my day (not by choice). And they are usually interesting, and many times not very classy and downright cheesy.

So upon entering my room after walking past the minibar set up I was greeted by a two person corner tub. And within arms length if your arms were as long as an albatross, was the king bed and to form a nice triangle was the flat screen. It was oddly weird and cool at the same time.

The room was spacious, clean and modern it just sported a tub in the room. The bathroom was not large but it had a rain shower modern sink and glass tile in the shower. Except for the size I would not mind having these fixtures and finishes in my house. I guess since I work in the flooring industry cool finishes and flooring are definitely NOT lost on me. Nameless designer you’ve done good.

The hotel is on the West side and about 10-15 minutes from downtown without traffic. It’s main strength is that it’s literally across the street from the 1988 Olympic Park, where the Ski Jump and a few other winter events were held. So if you want to ski or do a few other in town winter sports it’s great for that.

It also has a full restaurant that was actually packed, I was pleasantly surprised at the menu selection too. They also have a spa and gym. Sorry no pictures of this, just the room

When and if I make it back here I’d have no problem staying here again, even I’m this room.

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Categories: Hotels, Review, Starwood Hotels, Travel, Travel Blog | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Nemo, Dory, Nemo, Dory, Nemo

My kid loves the aquarium, anytime we tell her we’re going it really makes her day and I just love that. “S” loves the ocean, loves looking at fish and just can’t get enough of it, just like I did when I was young. Last weekend we spend a very nice afternoon at the Academy of Sciences and the Steinhardt Aquarium in Golden Gate Park. We have an annual pass and do our best to get there as often as we can, that being said it’s probably been three months since I’ve been there. This place is just amazing, and every visit I marvel at how great a place it is, coupled with the fact that I get to see it with a new set of eyes, just make it that much cooler.

The funny part about coming here or going any place that has an aquarium, is that “S’s” first words are always where’s Nemo and Dory. It’s pretty amazing she’s only two years old and knows who they are and knows what they look like. I guess we’ve trained her well, ha ha. But seriously, that’s the only movie she’s ever seen, granted about five times maybe more, but she’s incredibly observant. Damn smart kids. The funny part is that she saw the movie on our trip to the Maldives last December on the inflight TV, and ever since when she sees a TV on a plane she expects they will play it. Oh how little she knows about air travel.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves about the Academy, but I will say that if you’re ever in the city this is definitely a place to check out for sure.
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Categories: Americana, Family, Ordinary Life, Photography, Random, Review, Travel Blog, Traveling with kids, Uncategorized, Wandering the city | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My week in Auckland

This was my second time visiting Auckland, but this time I was here for work, so although I had a little free time in the evenings, I didn’t have as much time to explore the city as I did the last time. I find this city to be pretty easy to navigate but the traffic to be worse than most anything I’ve experienced in the US. For a country with more sheep then people and a size smaller then California with only 4 million inhabitants, I don’t get how there can be so much traffic. On my last night there it took me two hours to travel 14 KM (about 9 miles), of which almost one hour was to travel 1 KM. I was tempted to ditch my car, but that would not have been a good idea since it was a rental.
I stayed in the CBD, because it seemed like the best option for entertainment and food choices in the early to late evenings. I’m sure there are other possibly better options, but with only four nights here, and being most familiar with this area it made sense to me. Plus being alone it seemed to offer the most in the way of entertainment and food choices.
I stayed at the Crowne Plaza Auckland, which is on Albert Street, about ½ a block from the Mega Casino complex of Sky City and one block from Queen Street, the main drag in my opinion. I found the hotel to be pretty good, the rooms were clean and spacious, with a mall on the first four floors of the building, plus the central location made for easy access to most of the CBD. If I had to stay in town again I’d gladly stay here although the Hilton Auckland (another very nice hotel) is my favorite, but in this case way out of my budget.

The Crowne Plaza offered a spacious room with a comfortable bed and good pillows (a must in my opinion), decent TV selection and good internet speed, but not free. This was a super bummer; they charged $12 for 2 hours and 100 MB or $29 for 1000 MB per day. Ouch, again I get that companies can really stick the traveler when it comes to internet, but man for something you only pay for in US hotels occasionally, this is ridiculous, let alone making it a maximum MB per day to boot. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves in regards to the room, there’s really not much else to say.
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I had a couple of solid meals here to and some pretty fabulous ice cream too. It wasn’t Gelataria Messina in Sydney, but it would have to do, and my belly sure didn’t complain about it. As for other food I had along the way, well let’s just say I travelled 8000 miles and the first meal I had was New York Pizza, and YES it was good. I had it the last time I was here and was dreaming about it on my trip down. Sure it’s not exactly NY Pizza, but its damn sure close.
I also had some really great ice cream at Giappo, on Queen Street. They tout all organic and as much local ingredients as they can get their hands on, and it was just delicious. I also went to The Grill by Sean Connolly at Sky City and had a really great piece of meat. It was a rump steak with red wine Jus and a side of potato gratin. Needless to say I polished off the whole thing, I do love my steak but don’t eat them too often, and this one sure didn’t disappoint. If I’m ever in town again I’ll be sure to hit up the Grill again, but next time make a reservation, for sure. The only thing I was not in love with was the Wedge salad with Blue Cheese and capers. The odd part was the olive oil dressing that was just a little too greasy, but hey blue cheese makes anything taste good.
Lastly Fish and chips at the O’Hagans at the Viaduct. Again a solid meal, and an even better glass of Guinness. MMMM. The fish was something local, sorry can’t remember what it was, but I liked it.

Sal's

Sal’s

Burrito in Auckland, no thanks

Burrito in Auckland, no thanks

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Giappo Gelato, 100% organic ingrediants

Giappo Gelato, 100% organic ingrediants

Star City

Star City

My goodness, my Guinness

My goodness, my Guinness

Fish and chips

Fish and chips

Blue cheese salad with capers, it was interesting

Blue cheese salad with capers, it was interesting

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Gratan

Gratan

Rump steak w/ red wine Jus. Just amazing

Rump steak w/ red wine Jus. Just amazing

Categories: Food, Hotels, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Review, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joe’s Farm Grill-Gilbert Arizona, Oh how I love you

Super cool logo and sign

Super cool logo and sign

Oh how I love Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert Arizona, a suburb 20 minutes from Phoenix International Airport. Several years ago on a trip to Phoenix for a Spring Training trip, one of my buddies “G” suggested we check it out. We’re all fans of the show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri on the Food Network, and he featured the place on his show. In our eternal quest for good food, this place had hit the mark for him on a previous trip, so it made the list of places to come back to when in PHX . Well several years later, I still come here when I have the time to make it out to Gilbert. Joe’s is just one of those cool places to eat that has a great vibe, excellent fresh food (mostly local) and an incredible atmosphere. The restaurant is in an area called Agritopia that is a 12 acre urban garden in the middle of the city. Now granted Gilbert is not a large city like Phoenix or Los Angeles but it is large enough and quite sprawling. Driving from one end of town to the other you cross malls, shopping centers and tons of new and old construction homes plus the random farm. So having Agritopia is not really unusual but it sure is cool. The farm has citrus, olives, dates, and seasonal vegetables and apparently back in the 60’s they grew cotton and alfalfa and a bunch of other stuff too. Now it’s mainly used for seasonal ingredients for the restaurant. Joe’s was a family homestead built in the 60’s and sometime in the early 2000’s it turned into a restaurant. It has a cool 60’s Eichler feel, and is just a homey open place with alfresco dining outside too. I wasn’t able to get many exterior shots, it got too dark while I was there, but I did get a few.

On this trip I had a shrimp platter that was just amazing, it was fresh and had just the right amount of breading, it came with fries and cole slaw (I choose Asian). I also got the daily special Milk Shake it was butter pecan and vanilla ice cream with caramel. Just writing this makes my mouth water, oh and it had a radioactive maraschino cherry. No I didn’t try it, not a fan of maraschino cherries, no matter what color. For $20 bucks this was a good meal, probably for Phoenix a little on the pricy side, but in SF where I live it would be a bargain. I’ve had several other items on previous trips from the Ahi Tuna, Pizza, Chicken Burger and Pizza to name a few. On every visit I have never been disappointed, it has always been fresh and tasty. The only downside long lines on good weather days or on weekends. I’ve had to wait in line 45 minutes to order. You order first at the open kitchen/counter and then take a seat, but once you order food comes up pretty fast.

Next time in Phoenix make sure to check it out.

http://joesfarmgrill.com/
3000 East Ray Road
Gilbert, AZ 85296
(480) 563-4745

The facade of Joe's.

The facade of Joe’s.

One of the many mature fruit trees on property

One of the many mature fruit trees on property

A sign honoring the original architect and the one who redesigned it for the restaurant

A sign honoring the original architect and the one who redesigned it for the restaurant

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My fabulous meal, fried shrimp, fries, asian cole slaw and a butter pecan shake.

My fabulous meal, fried shrimp, fries, asian cole slaw and a butter pecan shake.

Radioactive cherry

Radioactive cherry

Categories: Food, Photography, Review, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Disneyland here we come

A few weeks ago on the heels of a weeklong trip to San Antonio, the family and I spent the weekend at Disneyland in Anaheim, Ca. I’ve been a Disney fanatic for a long long time, and enjoy heading down to the parks whenever we can. This was our first trip of the year, to visit the Mouse, and I was excited to take the kid since she’s starting to recognize him from books, toys and TV. Every time she sees him she goes “mouse… mouse…mouse” it’s very cute and I enjoy hearing it. It’s amazing what kids pick up, I have to remind myself to watch what I say and do, because they are just sponges, even when they are still so young.

Well this was a short trip only 1 1/2 days in the park, but two glorious nights at Disney’s Grand California Hotel. We’ve been lucky enough to stay at all three of the Disney properties over the years, and a few of the ones at Walt Disney World, and this is our favorite on property hotel. This hotel is modeled after the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite and has a beautiful massive open lobby with open beam construction and views up to the ceiling. It seems to inspire days old with staff dressing like they were straight out of The Great Gatsby or the roaring 20’s minus the flappers. It’s just a very very warm space even though it’s so massive, it has small alcoves to sit and visit, a large fireplace and even a kids corner to hang out in. It’s always bustling with activity, but I’ve never had trouble finding a spot to sit and relax or just people watch. They even have a well stocked bar, for those nights when the kids go to sleep early and the adults need a “break”, we were there till after midnight one night and the joint was still jumping.

The grand lobby

The grand lobby

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We had a nice room on the fourth floor overlooking a courtyard, the monorail tracks and a side view of Downtown Disney. Overall it was nice and quite. As far as I know all rooms have balconies and if you’re lucky you may get a park view. The design of the rooms are inspired by Mission style furniture, which features beautifully carved wooden furniture. If they wouldn’t notice I’d love to pilfer it for my bedroom at home. Unfortunately I was not able to get many pictures of the room before we messed it up with all of our stuff. So the lobby and pic of the bed will just have to do. We arrived late on Friday, with a kid who was hours past her bedtime, and luggage and kid paraphernalia for bedtime that just exploded across the room. In any event the beds are very comfortable, they have soft pillows, and offer a pack in play in every closet. Plus nice cotton robes to use for your visit. As for toiletries, they have my favorite H2O, I’m always inclined to ask for an extra set before I leave, cause they just smell so great, and are the perfect size for my carry-on bag. And as an added bonus they provide a Redwood tree seed package to take home and plant in your backyard. How cool is that.

Our bed at The Grand Californian

Our bed at The Grand Californian

The view

The view

Even thought we were at the park on a long weekend with lots of kids getting Monday off from school, the rain and colder weather kept the locals and tourists away. So we really never had to wait in long lines. The only two rides with stupidly long lines were Midway Mania w/out a fast pass option with waits close to an hour and Radiator Springs Racers which sold out of fast passes by noon both days, and the standby was well over 75 minutes long. Otherwise most lines were 10 minutes or less or even no waiting. Thank you LA for having locals that go to ball games in the third and skip Disney when the weather is nothing but sunny. Not once that weekend did it rain, nor did I need a jacket, it was 65-70 all day, what more can you ask for.

There were many highlights to the trip, from surprising our friends daughter at the airport when she found out we were going to Disneyland for her birthday or going to Club 33 come to mind. Even one I never expected, my daughter asking to ride a ride numerous times. Even though I missed the birthday’s girls live reaction to her finding out that the trip to the airport was not just to drop off my family, but for both families to head south, I got to see the video and it was awesome. But to be fortunate to visit the uber exclusive and EXPENSIVE Club 33 was definitely fun too. For those non Disneyfiles, Club 33 is in the French Quarter above Blue Bayou, and was to be Walt’s apartment on property, it never was converted to that but became an exclusive restaurant instead. If you’re at street level at Pirates of the Caribbean or Bayou the balcony above where you might see people hanging out and wonder “how did they get there”, well that’s Club 33 . I understand the members waiting list is tens of thousands long, and the annual fee to be a member is too. Definitely something we can’t afford to attempt to become members of. Because of its exclusivity you have to know someone who is a member and in our case my wife does, thank you again for hooking us up. That being said, we try not to use that favor too often, nor do we have the income to support a visit to the club each time we visit Disneyland. But for a special occasion like a 12 year olds birthday, it’ll do just fine.

Mouse mouse mouse

Mouse mouse mouse

The Chew Chew Train

The Chew Chew Train

Smell the watermellon

Smell the watermellon

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I love that Abominable Snowman, hanging out at the Matterhorn

I love that Abominable Snowman, hanging out at the Matterhorn

Getting ready for Fat Tuesday

Getting ready for Fat Tuesday

Check out these great tourists.

Check out these great tourists.

The club offers a price fixe lunch or dinner, we chose lunch, cause it fit our schedule and it didn’t disappoint. You get a complimentary glass of champagne and access to a spectacular buffet spread plus a made to order entree. The buffet included crab claws, shrimp, puff pastry appetizers, three salads and a few meat and cheese options. Plus a mouthwatering desert buffet, with all kinds of cakes, cookies and sweets. Definitely a decadent lunch! Oh yeah did I mention this is the only place in Disneyland you can get an alcoholic drink. Sure all the other parks offer booze, but Disneyland bucks the trend, we’ll see for how much longer.

The Club!!!

The Club!!!

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Is it obvious where I am?

Is it obvious where I am?

The crab and shrimp bar

The crab and shrimp bar

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round one

round one

Sirloin with Bernaise and red wine reduction

Sirloin with Bernaise and red wine reduction

Desert

Desert

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So what were some of the hidden gems of this trip (sorry I’m a bad blogger) I didn’t take any pictures of the new entrance to California Adventure or Carthay Circle, I’ll leave that to others to document. I will say the reimagining of the old Buena Vista lost where Walt came up with Mickey and the franchise is just amazing. I have nothing to compare it too though, I don’t know what Buena Vista looked like back in the 20’s, but compared to how it use to look, it is fabulous. Although I do miss the giant California letters out front that are now gone. What also comes to mind is the AMAZING corn dogs on the pier and on Main Street, by far one of the finest corn dogs on the planet. If you’ve never had one you’ve not lived, oh and now they offer a spicy version, and man was it good.

So even though we had a short trip this time, it was great. We got to spend time with a ton of friends and were able to take our kid on a ton of rides, which made it even more fun. Sure she couldn’t ride the Matterhorn, but she went on Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyears Astro Blaster, both Merry Go Rounds which we’d probably still be on if we were still there (and she kept calling King Triton Santa), plus all the rides in Bugs Land. Even though we couldn’t take her on all the rides, the parent switch option we were able to hit almost of the ones we wanted too. But frankly, just walking around the park seeing her happy face amongst all the fun, was treat enough, and I can’t wait to plan my next trip.

Santa

Santa

Categories: Disney, Food, Hotels, Photography, Review, Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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