Choosing a Vacation Hotel

Following our California vacation, my friend Katie asked how we always manage to find incredible hotels/resorts when we go on vacation. My answer might surprise you.

Instagram.

I use Expedia to book flights and hotels, but Instagram tells the honest story. I started using Instagram to look into hotels because I wanted to know if pictures people were posting at these places actually looked like the sales photos sponsored by the hotel. Written reviews only tell you so much. Instagram gives you real, present time photos. You simply search the hashtag of the hotel (or surrounding area), for example #hyattregencyhuntingtonbeach or #marriottwaikiki and judge for yourself. Most resort style hotels have their own Instagram, so make sure you’re looking at people’s photos who aren’t getting paid to tell the story.

Since this extra step really seems to work, I wanted to share.

Milwaukee

20131116-101951.jpgIn one day I’ve had the opportunity to explore the city, shop, swim, and even dance to some live music at an Irish pub.

John’s class went until 9:30 last night, and it wasn’t until he was about four Guinness in at Mo’s downtown that he told me the words of the PT professor as they were leaving the course, “Go home, get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow will be a long day!” Ha!

He might be tired, but we are making the most of our time away. The hotel 20131116-101959.jpgwe are staying at is within walking distance to everything! I walked to the mall yesterday, grabbed dinner downtown, and spent the evening around the hotel grading and swimming until John returned and declared he was ready for a drink!

My brother Matt spends A LOT of time in Milwaukee since his company’s corporate office is here, so he was a great resource for entertainment last night. In fact, his recommendation list is longer than we have time for, so we’ll keep notes for next time.

One More Month: Vegas

VegasThe buzz around school is “Where are you going for Spring Break?” “When do you leave?” As annoyed as I could get about this distraction, I’m thrilled Spring is near. I can’t wait to wear capris and sandals, run outsides, and drive with my sunroof open. Bring on the warmer weather!

John and I will spend five days of break in Las Vegas. Although I’ve been to Vegas once, it was ages ago. We are working on a few plans while we’re there, and I’d love your suggestions. We plan on hitting up David Copperfield to see a little magic, we already made dinner reservations on top of the Eiffel Tower (so excited!!!), and the Bellagio fountains are my favorite! We’re not big gamblers, so we’re looking for other sorts of entertainment. If you have favorites from your own trip(s), let us know! Places to see, eat, drink, shop…etc.

Girls’ Weekend Chicago Style

Somehow it’s been four years since college graduation. Every year since 2008 we’ve had weddings, bachelorette parties, and showers consume our calendars and plan reunions. This year, no weddings will bring me together with these incredible ladies, so it was time to make our own plans. With a great friend of ours living in downtown Chicago, we spent the weekend invading her cute apartment as we caught up and she showed us the ways of her city life. We even fit in a surprise baby shower for Kathleen.

Thankfully I had four hours of travel time with Kathleen, who came from Des Moines. If anyone was meant to be a mother, it is Kat. She has been ready and acting the part since long before I knew her, and I loved the glow she gave off proudly patting her expanding baby belly. Thankfully this baby handled our restaurant adventures, walking the city, seeing “The Bean”, and even fireworks at Navy Pier. I hope it’s a girl so we can continue girls’ weekends. 😉

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Titanic: 100 years later

The Titanic (1912) was built in Belfast, Ireland. We didn’t have time to visit on our trip, but I wasn’t even aware that we were there during the grand opening (March 31st) of the largest Titanic museum. After reading up, it seems that tickets were sold out until the end of April before the doors opened. With the 100 year anniversary this weekend (the iceberg was hit April 14th, and the ship sunk in the early hours of the April 15th) the museum is making headlines. Not to mention the top 10 tourist spots of 2012. (This week also marks the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. Someday I’ll get to Boston to experience it!)

While many cities all over the world have created Titanic museums, the place where it all started, Belfast, couldn’t decide the best way to tell the story. Finally, the six-story building designed to ironically resemble both the ship and an iceberg is officially open.

Now, who could forget the scene in James Cameron’s movie (now 3D) where Jack turns around and sees a Rose making her way down the staircase? Well, it seems for now, you’ll only see that setting in the movie. Controversy is heating up because although the staircase is in the promotional photos and videos, apparently it’s located at the top floor of the museum which is only used for conferences. The general public, even will the 13.50 euro fee, is not allowed to this section of the museum. Disappointment!

Here is the walk through video of the six-story Belfast museum. Don’t worry, the “famous” staircase is shown.

Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle

The Cliffs of Moher are a famous tourist spot where Ireland meets the Atlantic Ocean. The dropoff is over 700 feet, and people die every year because they get too close to the edge.

Dunguaire Castle was one we found along the way. It was closed, but we walked around it and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Finally, on to Blarney! I want to explain kissing the Blarney stone because I never knew what it was before I went. You hear about the tradition, but I had no idea that it involved climbing up the narrow, winding stairs of a castle,

being lifted backwards, and kissing a stone in order to receive the “gift of gab”. The first time I took part in this tradition, the line of people was all the way through the castle. This time, we were able to take our time, take photos, and the men holding on to us explained what we were doing. Did you know this is what it meant to kiss the Blarney Stone before now?

Look how high up we get in order to lean back and kiss the stone! It’s quite the drop!

We made Tony go first, as it was his third time. I’m proud of Ashley for completing this tradition although she is scared of heights. And as for John, we’ll see if this man of few words really does end up with the gift of gab!