North America, Reviews, Trip Reports

A Review Of The Orchards Inn Of Sedona

July 12, 2011 • By

I’d had a particularly busy day having taken a short day tour of the city of Sedona, purchasing a few souvenirs, visiting parks and taking a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad.  It was getting late, so I figured it was as good as time as any to make my way to my next hotel, the Orchards Inn of Sedona.  At first glance, I thought it was positioned in a weird spot.  It was set back a couple of blocks from the main drag on Hwy 89A and it was literally two blocks from the Best Western hotel that I stayed at.

It was a unique complex, I would hazard a guess that it had been an apartment complex in another life.  It was expansive, yet welcoming and check-in was easy enough.  I have to admit that I’m no fan of apartments, in fact, hate could be used to describe my feelings toward it.  They must have soundproofed the rooms, because you don’t hear the usual rumblings from next door as I had expected.

I was given my keys and told that a buffet breakfast would be served every morning in the Taos Cantina restaurant located right in front of the hotel on the main highway.  Interesting tidbit: If you booked your room via Expedia, you would have to pay the regular 9.99 charge for breakfast.  If you booked directly from them, the breakfast was included.

I guess their position is you’ve already gotten a great deal on the room, you could at least spring for breakfast.  The good news is that paying 9.99 for that  breakfast was a steal!  They had everything that you could imagine: juices, pancakes, cereals, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee….it was a pretty huge spread that gave no one a reason to leave hungry.READ MORE

Budget Tips, Newbie How-to's, Travel Advice

The Top 12 Ways To Save Money Without Really Trying (If You Ever Hope To Take That Trip You’ve Been Dreaming Of)

July 3, 2011 • By


If only we could travel this easily, but until then, we’ll have to pay our way to our dream destination…

1. If you are expecting a tax refund do not earmark it for anything.  Interest free loans to the government aside, put any surplus funds in a savings account and resist the urge to touch it. Stat!

2. Place any change left from each one dollar bill that you use during a purchase into a large glass jar.   If there’s any change in your pocket, drop it in the jar….no exceptions!  When it’s full, take it to your local Coinstar machine (usually found in grocery stores) or its equivalent and deposit the bills that you get in trade into your savings account.

3. Do side jobs in your spare time.  Cut grass, do a friends hair, mani-pedi, type resumes, etc.  If you have a specialized talent or skill, use it to your advantage.  I paid a twelve year old $5 for wearing a shirt with my website address on it for five consecutive days by using the Fiverr site.  Quirky job, but he’s that much closer to realizing his dream of going on a class trip to Australia.

4. Cliched, but so true!  Forgo the beverage god, Starbucks.  I bristle at the thought of paying $4.00 for a pound of coffee, so I’m downright apoplectic when it comes to the price of a cup of Starbucks!   No offense, but I like the cappuccino at the local Quiktrip or RaceTrac gas stations better than the big ‘S’ and it only sets me back a little over a buck.  Even better drink the coffee that your employer (may) provide for free at work!  Don’t even think about it….just put the money that you would have spent in that jar!

5. Start using coupons religiously.  Whether it’s through your grocery store’s loyalty program, coupons clipped from the newspapers or coupon deals from sites like Groupon or Half Off Depot are growing exponentially by the day.  So if you must reach into the wallet and part with some cash, try to find discounts and bargains that will lessen the pain.  The trick is that whatever you happen to save must go directly into the glass jar.READ MORE

Budget Tips, North America, Reviews, Travel Advice

If You Ever Wanted Know Where Your Lost Luggage Ends Up, It’s Scottsboro, Alabama!

June 26, 2011 • By

This is the second in a series of infrequent articles that will spotlight Hidden Treasures within a city that are usually overlooked by the locals….but they’re not the only ones. We will be searching for some of the best little known secrets from every city imaginable. Lean closer and tell me what’s special about yours…….

Peeking through the trees to check out Lake Guntersville.

Peeking through the trees to check out Lake Guntersville.

Mapquest says it’s a two hour forty five minute drive from my house and I think that they were right on the money. We woke up on a Saturday at 5 am to make our way to Scottsboro, Alabama so that we would get there right at 9 am.  I didn’t know that we would be going through so many two lane country roads, an interstate and a lot of four lane highways, but we did. I guess the drive always seems longer if you’ve never been there and is always shorter on the way back because all you’d have to do is work your way backwards. The drive was as beautiful as it was long. We got to see landscapes untouched by human hands. There were fields of crops, houses were spaced acres in between, and we saw every type of animal you’d expect to see in the country: Goats, cows, donkeys and even alpacas! I had no idea that this road would turn out to be the site of the “Trail of Tears”.

The Trail of Tears is the pathway that native Americans were forced to take after the US Government stole their land. Many died of disease and exposure along the way.


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

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