North America, Reviews, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

A Review of A Spa For You in Sedona, Arizona

June 24, 2011 • By


The first thing that you notice when you step into A Spa For You Suites in Sedona is the owner, Thea Draaisma’s mega-watt smile that seems to come from somewhere deep in her heart and makes a soft landing on her face. She walks toward me with hands outstretched, “You must be Renee!” a half question and half declarative statement. I confirm it and she responds back with an all encompassing hug.

I am there for a 90 minute session that consists of a 45 minute massage and a 45 minute Japanese facial massage. After escorting me into the session room, she begins to explain exactly what I can expect from each procedure. I have to say that no one has ever taken the time to sit down and confer with me about any issues that I may be having, at least no more than asking where my trouble spots were.READ MORE

North America, Reviews, Trip Reports

A Review of the Best Western Arroyo Roble Hotel & Creekside Villas in Sedona, AZ

June 19, 2011 • By

Have you ever sat down just to look at a sunset without any thought or desire to do anything beyond taking in the glorious sight before you? There’s no expectation, no waiting for anything more than what you see directly ahead.

That was actually one of the primary reasons I wanted to visit the city of Sedona, Arizona. It would be my quite respite where I could sit and stare at the red rocks and commune with nature. So, since I had heard such tempting tidbits about Sedona… it was a nature lover’s dream, a spiritual epi-center, a cultural cornucopia…..I wanted to go and see what all the fuss was about. Was it simply hype? Or did the rumors have any truth to it?

I had the great fortune of staying at two wonderful hotels during my stay there. The first was the Best Western Plus Arroyo Roble Hotel & Creekside Villas (Arroyo Roble translates into Oakbrook; my limited Spanish would have had me guessing that it meant Red Arrow!) and it is such a beautiful and inviting hotel.

I arrived very late at 9:30 PM but I was quickly and efficiently checked-in. The desk clerk told me where breakfast would be served and gave me my room keys. As I turned to face the rest of the lobby, I had to smile because it reminded me of the ranch on Big Valley, like it was owned by very rich ranchers from the old west. It was the perfect rustic setting that I had counted on.




A Love Letter To My Daddy

June 18, 2011 • By

Warning: This post contains music, so turn the speakers down or pause it if you need to, but listen when you can. This is a decidedly different post on my blog, but I wanted to honor Father’s Day by recalling my own.  If your father is still here to receive your own love letter….please give it to him.

What can you say about a man whose heart you possessed at first sight? It’s easy to say that you love and respect him. That’s expected. Or that you’re glad that he stayed when so many didn’t.

How can you ever thank him for teaching you how a man is supposed to love a woman? I know that the smile that mama possessed every time he came through the door asking “Where is that girl I love?” spoke volumes to me.

I’m glad that I had the chance to tell him if only a fraction of what was in my heart……..of how lucky I felt to be his daughter even though communication between us was sometimes difficult. I was touched to see him rubbing his glassy, rose tinted eyes as he read the letter whose words told what I found difficult to say out loud. Though I had nine siblings vying for his attention, I never felt as if I was lost in the shuffle. He made time for all of us and that made us feel mighty special.

He was always soft spoken and possessed a quiet strength that held the family together through good times and bad. Work was his constant companion and it was rare for him to take a day off because he took his commitment to us seriously. I think that is probably what gave him the most satisfaction….knowing that we never went without….we were always clothed, fed and nourished by his love and devotion. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.


He wasn’t my father. He was my dad….my daddy…the man who scooped me up whenever I fell asleep in front of the tv and put me in my bed. Not once did he know that half the time, I was feigning sleep. It just felt good knowing that my dad would take care of me no matter what.

He only remembered us in rare, lucid moments toward the end of his life. But, I could tell that deep in his heart he never forgot. And that’s what matters most. I think of him often and I wish I could have been there to say goodbye. I know when he arrived at the pearly gates his first words undoubtedly were “Where is that girl I love?”

I love and miss you,

Happy Father’s Day

Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler # 18 – Michael Figueiredo

June 17, 2011 • By

Today is my final installment in the Inspired Traveler series. I appreciate all the support from the readers and the participation of some really great travel bloggers who generously shared their wit and wisdom in their interviews. Helping the fat lady sing is one of my faves, Mike Figueiredo, who quite by accident has found himself blogging about traveling in between his day job in La La Land. Mike shares his adventures in his travel blog Strux Travel and as the local guide/contributor to the Los Angeles Examiner.

Standing on a dolphin’s head in Punta del Este, Uruguay!  (not really)

1. What is it about traveling that makes you smile?

Just sitting at an outdoor café, sipping a cappuccino and watching the people go by. It doesn’t really matter what part of the world I’m in—it could be Paris or Istanbul, Buenos Aires or New York City. I really enjoy seeing how people go about their day-to-day lives.

2. What is your favorite place in the world?

That’s a hard one! If I had to narrow it down I’d say Barcelona, Spain. I love the lifestyle there—tapas bars, afternoon siestas, eating dinner at 10 p.m. Plus, the people are so friendly and the city is teeming with spectacular art and architecture. I love that it’s a very cosmopolitan city but at the same time it enjoys a relaxed Mediterranean vibe.

3. What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?

I have yet to go to a place that I disliked so much that I’d never want to return. I hope I never have an answer to this question!

4. What is the best piece of advice that you’ve been given about traveling?


City Views, Europe, Travel Advice

Travel Photo Thursday – Piazza D’ Italia

June 16, 2011 • By

Today’s pic is a shot of the Piazza D’ Italia located right behind the Loews Hotel in New Orleans, LA. It’s a venue where outdoor events are held or is simply a place where you can relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

It was built in 1978 and restored in 2004 a year after the Loews debuted. It was conceived as a tribute to the contributions of Italian Americans to the city of New Orleans since most of the focus seemed to be directed at the French and Spanish.

On a side note:  I wasn’t quite aware of the Spanish connection as it relates to the city until I learned that after the great fire in 1788, most of the french architecture was destroyed. The Spanish rebuilt the city, so the architecture is decidedly in that style and was made even more-so six years later when a fire of similar scope destroyed even more french style buildings.

North America, Reviews, Travel Advice

Rolling On The Mississippi River With The Creole Queen!

June 11, 2011 • By


When you make plans to visit New Orleans, you already know that great food, finger snapping jazz and spectacular scenery is on the menu. What’s even more special is that the Creole Queen riverboat gives you all that and more. I’m sure that you’ve seen paddle wheel boats on movies like “Showboat”, but it’s pretty amazing to see the expansive ship in front of you as you watch the red wheel revolve round and around cutting a swath through the great Mississippi.

I guess I am a romantic at heart, but I immediately envisioned an image of a southern gentleman walking on the promenade deck with his lady love. Perhaps, this is why some people choose to have their wedding on-board this ship. We were privileged to witness a wedding reception during our evening Dinner Jazz Mississippi River Cruise which was a treat and I believe a must do for anyone visiting the city.



Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler # 16 – Lynda Galea

June 10, 2011 • By

Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we will meet the vivacious Lynda Galea who is the founder of Live.Travel.Blog.


1.  What is it about traveling that makes you smile?The  sense of freedom and independence when traveling is what gets a smile  on my dial. When I’m traveling, I feel like I can be whoever I want to  be without a worry in the world! Oh, and possibly the thought of not  having to wake up at 6:20am every morning to get the train into work…  that’s a pretty darn good feeling!

2.  What is your favorite place in the world?

Tough  question – I mean, there were so many cities throughout Europe that I  loved but when push comes to shove, I’m going to have to say the USA,  more specifically, Orlando, Florida. I spent 14 months of my life  interning at Disney World in 2009-2010 and just fell in love with it all  – the lifestyle, the people, the friends, my job! There is not a single  day that goes by where I do not think about my time there and how I’d  give anything to move back!

3.  What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?

Albania…  Lets just say I had a not so great hole-in-the-ground bathroom  encounter in the middle of no where off a beaten track in 45 degree  Celsius heat. Gross.READ MORE

Travel Advice

America and Back……..The Restful Way

June 9, 2011 • By

This is a sponsored guest post from London’s Charlotte Kay with Holiday Extras

As someone who makes the trip over the pond a fair bit I am not unfamiliar with jet lag. In fact, to tell the truth it is the bane of traveling life. I love the trips, visiting people and all that, I don’t even mind the flights – comfy chair and loads of films…..what’s not to like? But every single time I go I am struck by jet lag and it leaves me grumpy and exhausted.

When I get back people always think I’ve had a rubbish time just because the lag has taken hold and I’m too tired to be bothered to share the fun I had. Luckily, a friend with whom I travel with quite a lot has caught onto a genius idea. It’s really very simple but that’s the beauty of it. It works on the premise of taking jet-lag’s nemesis, regular sleep, and deploying it liberally on everyone who flies.

What we’ve started doing is booking into one of the hotels at Heathrow for the night before and after we fly. We have a night before we fly to begin adjusting to the time difference and when we get back we can sleep off our residual drowsiness before resuming normal life.READ MORE

Inspiration, Interviews

The Inspired Traveler # 15 – Jay Jackson

June 3, 2011 • By

Today, we continue our series where we sit down to interview fellow Travel Bloggers and get them to give up some of their best travel tips for you, dear reader. Next up, we get to discuss the wonders of travel with Jay Jackson whose tagline is one of my favorite quotes “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain. Jay is on a mission to see as much of this old planet that he can and he shares his exploits in his popular travel blog Jay Travel.

1)   What is it about traveling that makes you smile?

Learning new things, meeting new people and crossing something off of my Bucket List.

2)    What is your favorite place in the world?

Not sure I have a favorite place, the experiences I’ve enjoyed the most have been the most diverse.  The one that comes to mind was my trip to South Africa.  The big city-concrete jungle feel of Johannesburg felt drastically different than the safari environment of Kruger National Park which also felt a world apart from Cape Town’s laid back nature and extremely beautiful vistas.

3)   What place would have to pay you to come back and even then you’d have to think about it?

None really, every experience is valuable and gives you something – no trip is completely awful.  That said, my least enjoyable trip was to Rome, Italy.  Overall, I was fairly underwhelmed by the city due to the general filth and the so-so attractions.READ MORE


Travel Photo Thursday – A Psalm For My Soldier

June 2, 2011 • By

Photo credit: Nanny Snowflake on Flickr

Today’s photo (is not mine, but it perfectly expresses the heart of this post)  is a little late for Memorial Day, but I wanted to show tribute to those who fight for us daily and to honor the sacrifice that they make at the expense of loved ones.  I wrote a poem from the standpoint of a wife seeing her husband off as he leaves to report for duty.

A psalm for my soldier

My smile flew away the moment you kissed me goodbye and walked through the gate.

It waited patiently for you to come sit beside and hold it within the warmth of the hollow of your hands and safeguard it ’til  you reached your destination.READ MORE