Instagram Workshop – Washington, DC

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For the first time, I will be co-hosting an Instagram workshop with my friend and local legend, Justin Schuble. Instagram has become a great platform for creators, artists, and really, just about anyone, to make money – whether it is on the side or turns into a full time gig. This platform has helped a lot of people chase their dreams and achieve financial freedom in some way. That being said, Justin and I want to share all our tips and tricks from turning this into a career for ourselves.

We didn’t start out with the intention of this ever being a reality and had to face a lot of trial and error, and error, and error to get there. Let us share with you all our top tips and secrets that will allow you to have success on this platform and skip the years of trial and error.

This workshop is not a “get rich quick” class – as neither of us are rich. However, it is an informative workshop for anyone of any outlet looking to maximize exposure and learn how to work with brands and ultimately make money. If you are ready to take the next step and learn from two industry insiders about this platform, come join us for a 2 hour workshop where we will have tacos and teach you everything you need to know to get you on your way to success.

Who is this workshop for?

ANYONE who wants to learn how to make money on Instagram. Between the both of us we work in food, travel & lifestyle – and have worked with hundreds of brands over the last couple of years.

Whether you are just starting out, middle of the road and need guidance or have a loyal following but can’t figure out how to monetize – this course is for you.

Things you will learn from the workshop:

  • Cultivating a brand/finding a niche
  • Building a following & knowing your audience
  • Photography basics: what to share, how to create
  • Utilizing hashtags: which ones to use, how to use them, maximizing for best results
  • Photo tagging for re-sharing
  • Monetizing Instagram: where to find work, pitching brands, & pitch letter demo
  • Building a media kit

Date & Location:

April 30, 2018 4-6pm

This workshop is being held in Washington, DC at Chaia in their upstairs room.

 

Space is very limited, but we hope to see you there ❤

34 Photos To Inspire Your Caribbean Spring Break

It’s that time again where everyone is ready for warmer weather, swim up bars, toes in the sand, and a week in Paradise! I know the 2017 hurricane season was not kind to the Caribbean but I just spent time in the islands and can report back that most of them are up and running, awaiting your visit.

I just did an epic 14 day cruise through 6 of the islands with Norwegian Cruise Line which allowed me to explore islands I had never been to in the Southern Caribbean. Taking a cruise is a great way to see more places in a shorter time frame – I also like that the food is included. Whether you decide to book a cruise or stay in a resort, your spring break is sure to be a great time.

Here are 34 photos from my recent Caribbean travel that I hope inspire your spring break travels.

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Flying into the Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Aruba

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Bonaire

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St. Kitts

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St. Lucia

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Cafe de Paris – Sandals Montego Bay

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Bonaire

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Bonaire

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Fire dancer – Sandals Montego Bay

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St. Lucia

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Curacao

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Bonaire

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Caribbean Sea

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Martinique

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Jamaica

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Montego Bay, Jamaica

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Bonaire

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Kite Surfing – Bonaire

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St. Lucia

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Curacao

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Aruba

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Aruba

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Curacao

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Martinique

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Bonaire

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Curacao

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Aruba

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Jamaica

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St. Lucia

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St. Kitts

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Curacao

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Jamaica

 

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Caribbean Spring Break

Review: Norwegian Breakaway’s Luxury Haven

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Norwegian Breakaway

As a long time cruiser of Norwegian Cruise Line (some 10 years), I have seen the company go through changes and upgrades on their ships overtime. For those looking for a more elevated luxury experience, the creation of the Haven has been their most advanced upgrade.

This was my second time cruising on the Norwegian Breakaway but the experience was entirely different. I had the opportunity to stay in the Haven, which is a luxury enclave, or “ship within a ship” as NCL would call it. If you are not familiar with the Haven, the concept is that you have a private area perched atop the ship that was designed for those who book Haven rooms.

Benefits of booking a Haven room:

  • Priority embarkation/disembarkation – no waiting in lines
  • 24 hour butler – a phone is given to you in your room that you can take anywhere on the ship to contact them
  • Dedicated concierge inside the Haven Courtyard
  • White tablecloth in-suite dining
  • Evening turn down service
  • Priority restaurant and entertainment reservations
  • Exclusive access to The Haven Courtyard area with private pool, sundeck, hot tub and fitness area
  • Sparkling wine, bottled water and fruit on embarkation day (For 2-Bedroom villa, Courtyard Penthouse, Spa Suite, and Penthouse only)
  • Mini-bar and deluxe coffee/espresso/cappuccino machine
  • Special Haven Menus
  • Grab and go breakfast items including parfaits, diced fruit in a martini glass, fresh pastries and gourmet meats
  • Treats delivered to your suite each evening
  • Invitations to an exclusive breakfast and lunch
  • Invitations to exclusive cocktail parties
  • Cocktail party with ship’s officers
  • Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress
  • Fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu
  • Plush bathrobes, slippers and oversized bath towels
  • Luxury bathroom products

The extended benefits of booking a Haven room truly change the experience of your cruise. Having been on 10 cruises, this one was entirely different but I still received the same service that I have come to love from Norwegian.

From the moment I arrived at the pier in New York, there was staff for the Haven waiting to take me to a private check-in where afterwards I could enjoy food and be the first to board. In the Haven lounge I met with the concierge staff that would be available during the cruise for Haven guests only.

Once on the ship, my room was ready and waiting for me. There was a bottle champagne on ice, chocolate covered strawberries and fresh flowers awaiting my arrival. Technically there were a few bottles of champagne because of my Latitudes status as well.

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The Room:

For this 14 day cruise I checked into a Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with a Balcony. The room was located within the enclave of the Haven where key card access is required to get in. Within the courtyard is a private pool, deck, sunning deck, bar, and restaurant – which are exclusive to Haven guests only.

Room Features:

  • Room: 328 sq. feet
  • Balcony: 58 sq. feet
  • Bliss Collection by Norwegian pillow-top mattress
  • Fine linens, feather duvet and pillow menu
  • Plush bathrobes, slippers and oversized bath towels
  • Luxury bathroom products – Bvlgari
  • Bathtub/shower combo
  • 2 closets
  • HD TV
  • Dining set for 2
  • Lavazza Coffee machine
  • Mini Bar and glasses for most drinking occasions
  • Love seat sofa that folds out into a bed
  • Extended room service menu – at no cost
  • Movies on the TV were free
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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

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Haven Courtyard Penthouse Suite with Balcony

What I loved about this room was the extra space – and believe me – every foot matters when you are on a cruise, the much larger luxury bathroom that had a bathtub and vessel sink with 2 faucets, the ability to make my own espresso or cappuccino, in-room dining, the room service selections were abundant and included, and the balcony chairs and table were a step above the other rooms – and by that I mean cushioned seats and they were a bit bigger.

The balcony views I found to be much better as well since I was on a higher floor of the ship, giving me a wider view.

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Curacao

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Caribbean Sea

I did in-room dining several times because I had a table, it was easy and I liked to be lazy on sea days. There is an extended Haven menu for room service and there is no charge.

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Room service breakfast

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Egg white omelet

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Lunch – Greek salad

My room was on the 15th floor and had a door down the hall with direct access to the spa and gym, which was nice since I had a thermal spa suite pass (you can either book a spa room with access or buy a thermal spa suite access pass for the duration of your cruise). So many sea days and nights I spent winding down in the hot tubs, sauna or just relaxing on the heated chairs overlooking the ocean.

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Thermal Spa Suite

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Thermal Spa Suite

*Highly recommend getting the thermal spa access – it was such a great place to relax.

The Restaurant: 

The restaurant that is exclusive to Haven guests IS the best restaurant on the ship. I know this because I have dined at most of them on previous sailings and the food is just a cut above the rest. In fact, I ate 90% of my meals on board in the Haven restaurant .. on a 14 day cruise – that good! To be honest, I think the restaurant alone is worth booking the Haven for and that’s without adding all the extra upgrades!

I want to be fair though – the food on the ship is good everywhere, I just found it to be an elevated dining encounter in the Haven.

*Note: the menu for each of the 3 daily meals never changed. There was a new dinner special each night, but otherwise did not change.

Breakfast:

Breakfast IS my favorite meal of the day .. why? Because I love bacon and croissants. My absolute favorite breakfast dish in the Haven restaurant was the huevos rancheros and I did not try it until my last day. Take note, try it the first day!

*The Haven restaurant has a small buffet of meats, cheeses, cereals, yogurts, fruits, danishes, breads, etc for you to take as you please and has menu items in addition.

Lunch:

After discussing with fellow cruise guests, I would strongly argue that lunch was the best meal for the restaurant. I must have eaten the goat cheese galette 7 times and the prosciutto and mozzarella salad was just divine.

Dinner:

With the exception of a couple nights, I ate here for dinner every night. And every night I always ordered the butternut squash soup with duck confit and the slow roasted pork belly.

Butler:

During the duration of the cruise I had 2 butlers, one of them worked from 8am-8pm and then the other covered the overnight shift. Both butlers were incredible. Essentially they were a direct line to take care of all your needs on board, should you have any.

I remember telling the butler when I got on board that I loved souffle and towel animals .. and he delivered, literally.

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One of the amazing towel animal creations

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Coconut souffle

Butler Features:

  • Private phone to use throughout the ship that they would answer & assist
  • Direct line for room service – and would deliver white tablecloth dining in room
  • Delivered daily treats to the room
  • Took care of reservation, spa, or any other requests
  • Delivered anything you request
  • Left daily fruit
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Daily treats delivered

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Daily treats delivered

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Concierge: 

Easily one of the most beneficial perks of the Haven. Having a dedicated team that is inside the Haven (and rarely a line to speak with them) – that escorts you priority off the ship, takes you to priority seating at shows and assists you in every possible way you could imagine, was essentially like having a team of people working to make sure your trip was the best it could be.

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Haven Courtyard Area:

The courtyard was one of the driving reasons I wanted to be in a Haven room on a 14 day cruise. This ship is newer and holds a lot of people and this specific itinerary had about 8 sea days in total. Having this extra space to go to where it seemed no one ever was, gave me somewhere to go and relax outside of my room that was private.

The courtyard area had a pool, 2 hot tubs, private sun deck, inside deck with chairs, beverage station, bar, restaurant, lounge, private spa rooms exclusive to Haven guests, and the concierge desk. In addition, staff were always present with beverages and ready to assist in anything.

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Haven Bar

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Haven Pool

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Haven Lounge

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Beverage Station

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Haven Deck

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Haven Pool

Overall:

Loved the upgraded luxury experience of the Haven and all the bells and whistles it came with. There was no detail missed in this experience – every staff member in the Haven knew me and all the other Haven guests by name and face and always greated us with lovely smiles. I have cruised in every level of room categories now with Norwegian and this was by far my favorite – however, every cruise I have been on with NCL has been just as great and in different ways. The one major thing I would note about this cruise in the Haven compared to all other cruises outside of it was that I spent most of my time on board in the Haven, and that is because it was simply a marvelous experience.

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**Disclosure: I did partner with Norwegian Cruise Line but as always, opinions are entirely my own

Checking In: Sandals Montego Bay, Jamaica

Surely you have seen a Sandals commercial gracing your TV at some point with fun music, perfect white sand beaches, couples having the time of their life, and the promise of a luxury included vacation .. and that is exactly what I got when I stayed at Sandals in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I’ll admit, I was skeptical – the commercials I see at home show people always smiling and doing amazing things – BUT that is what its really like.

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**Tip: always get a window seat flying in and out of the island .. the views are unbelievable!

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The Resort:

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Sandals Montego Bay

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Beachfront Village

The Sandals Montego Bay location is located about a 10 minutes drive from the Sangster International Airport and set on Jamaica’s BEST private beach. From the moment we arrived in Jamaica, all our needs were taken care of. The hotel provided a private car transfer to the resort (this feature is available with butler suites, otherwise you will get a complimentary transfer via shuttle) and we were on our way to Paradise!

When we arrived we noticed that most of the hotel has an open air concept. I really loved this because the property is steps from the beach and you get the breeze from the water. Because we had a butler suite, we had a private check-in separate from the main check in. We came to a smaller building next door and were greeted with a cool towel and a welcome drink. After we checked in we met our butler where he gave us a personal phone to contact him for whatever we needed and he showed us around the property.

The main entrance to the resort is the lobby and called the “living room.” The resort wants you to feel at home when you are there – and you do. Most of the restaurants & bars are located right off of the living room in each direction overlooking the water, the rest of them are just on the other side of the main pool.  I found that the resort was not overwhelmingly big and just big enough for everyone to have privacy and spread out but close enough to get to everything in under a couple minutes – nothing was ever far and very walk-able.

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Living room

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Living room

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Lobby

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Outside the entrance

The gorgeous beach is lined with chairs, umbrellas, cabanas, and activities. In addition, you will find outdoor showers throughout for you to rinse the sand off before returning to your room. I actually love this feature because I don’t love sand and it is hard to get rid of – but having these showers makes it so much easier.

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Grounds

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Beachfront Cabana – these are for rent

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If you walk out here you can see most of the resort

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Beach volleyball

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Outdoor showers

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Lazy beach days

The best part of this resort was the VIEWS!! In every direction it was gorgeous! We had amazing weather our entire stay and really felt like we were in paradise. Each morning was a magical sunrise and each night a sunset. We could not have asked for a better 3 nights.

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Balcony sunrise views

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Dinner sunset

All-Inclusive:

When they say they are the only 5 star resort with luxury all inclusive, they truly mean it. High end spirits, gourmet food, Mondavi wine, impeccable service, land and water sports, scuba, WiFi, entertainment, and so much more! – its included.

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One of the best benefits of visiting this resort in Montego Bay was that we had the option to stay at 1 resort and play at all of them. This exchange program is available to all the resorts in Jamaica in their locations. There is a shuttle that leaves every hour and goes to the other 2 local resorts where you can explore the resorts, eat at their restaurants, use the facilities, etc. Bonus: your WiFi works at all the resorts!

We met a couple during our stay and we all went over to the Sandals Royal Caribbean on the shuttle to spend the afternoon on their private island and eat jerk chicken and pork at the Jerk Shack. During this adventure we also got to see the over water bungalows adjacent to the private island and they are STUNNING (please adopt me)!

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean – private island

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean

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Sandals Royal Caribbean – the Jerk Shack

There was a beach party on one of the nights we were there and they brought out all kinds of food, beverages, entertainment and fun for everyone to enjoy. I was so happy that the crowd was able to play along with the entertainment they had – seemed like everyone was constantly laughing and having a great time.

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Beach party foods

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Dancer

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Dancers at the beach party

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Fire dancer

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Crowd dancing 😉

The Rooms:

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Beachfront Village

The resort offers quite an array of rooms to suit every need. During our stay we checked into a ‘Beachfront Super Luxe One-Bedroom Butler Suite w/ Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub.’ Trust me, it was as amazing as it reads. Offering modern Caribbean color decor, 2 HD Smart TV’s, custom wood bed, bistro dining set, sofa, tranquility soaking tub on the balcony overlooking the ocean, massive spa like bathroom with walk in shower, vessel sink, and luxury bath amenities, 24 hour room service, fully stocked bar and spirits, butler, and 24 hour room service.

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Beachfront Super Luxe One-Bedroom Butler Suite w/ Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub

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In room bar

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Tranquility patio tub

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Luxury bath amenities

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Bathroom

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Room service breakfast

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Self service bar

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Enjoying a local beer from the patio

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Caribbean Village

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Butler villas

One of the things I really loved about our butler Jermaine, was that he was so kind. I had my sunscreen taken away at the airport and went out and found me some, drew me a gorgeous bath with flowers, got us last minute reservations at restaurants, and was just an all around fun guy to be around. He would find us on the resort and make sure everything was going good – basically he is the best and you should request him when you visit!

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Bath fit for a queen

Restaurants and Bars:

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Outdoor dining: cuciana romano, bayside & oleander

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Jerk Shack

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Cafe de Paris

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Cucina Romano

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Tokyo Joe’s

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Tokyo Joe’s

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Dinos Pizzeria

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Cafe de Paris

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Tokyo Joe’s

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Cucina Romano

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Cucina Romano

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Tokyo Joe’s

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Front row dinner sunset views at Stew Fish

Sandals is known for being the luxury included vacation, which includes food and alcohol! The Sandals Montego Bay Resort has 9 restaurants and 4 bars, not including room service and the self service bar we had in our room. In the 4 days/3 nights we were there we were able to try 7 of the 9 restaurants and the food was delicious in all of them. My favorite restaurant though was a toss between Stew Fish and Cucina Romano. Stew Fish offered delicious seafood and Cucina Romano had sensational Italian food. *You do need a reservation for both of these restaurants so plan ahead.

My favorite bar was the swim-up bar! We met a lot of amazing people hanging out there and the bartenders played the best music and were always engaging. Definitely try the specialty drinks they make. I cannot pick a favorite but the dirty banana and the hummingbird were top contenders.

**Sandals and their sister property Beaches are really good about food allergies. My husband is allergic to gluten and they prepared his food in a separate kitchen. Just let them know your allergies so you can plan ahead.

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Piano Bar

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Swim up bar

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Dirty Banana

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Pool

Weddings:

Fun fact, I was actually married at Sandals sister property Beaches in Turks and Caicos. They are the same except Beaches is family friendly whereas Sandals is a couple resort.

There are many places at this resort to get married, including a chapel! I took a tour of the chapel and the wedding planning area and I think the grounds are just beautiful and having had a wedding with the Sandals team, I can tell you that it was near perfect and effortless on our end to put together. They do everything for you – all you have to do is make selections on what you want for your special day, pick a location and show up – easy as that.

**One of the cool features that was pointed out to me was in the bridal room mirrors – there are 3 sets of lights you can press so that you can see what your make-up will look like in different scenarios.

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Wedding Salon

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Bridal room

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Chapel

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One of the outdoor wedding sites

Overall:

LOVED the resort – I cannot get over how perfect it was for me. I hope to return to Jamaica and explore their other resorts on the island. The hospitality is excellent and it shines in the Jamaican culture.

Additional Information:

  • Address: Kent Avenue, Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Phone: +1 876-952-5510
  • Distance from Sangster International Airport: about 10-15 minutes
  • Hotel provides shuttle round trip from airport
  • WiFi: available throughout the resort and if you visit neighboring Sandals properties

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**Disclaimer: I was hosted by Sandals, but as always, opinions are entirely my own.

26 Photos To Inspire You To Visit Bonaire

I just recently got back from a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line where the itinerary included 6 island stops. Among those stops were the ABC Islands. Bonaire was my favorite stop along this route and I give the credit for that to the driver I hired outside the port. Unlike myself, I didn’t do any research prior to arriving, I had planned to take an excursion through the ship but something was telling me to get a private island tour and I am SO happy I went that route (but there are amazing tours the cruise line offers).

We ended up getting a driver for about 3-4 hours and the cost was $100 USD plus I tipped him nicely for showing us everything and telling us the history of the island, being extremely kind and helpful and for chasing down a flying pack of flamingos so I could photograph them! That sounds weirder than it was – but he saw them across the road flying over the ocean and knew they would cross back and fly over the salt flats, so he sped up so I had time to get out of the car and take photos. If that’s not customer service, I don’t know what is.

I hope these 26 photos inspire you to visit Bonaire. One of the main benefits of going on a cruise is being able to see multiple places in one trip and making the decision if you want to return later for an extended trip. The island left such a lasting impression on me and I cannot wait to return.

**I including images of the slave huts because it IS an important part of the history in Bonaire. They are lined on the southern coast of the island, and while they stand alone, are colorful and have a painful history, they are beautiful in their own way. I’m really glad they were not taken down as it serves as a reminder of the past and how far we have come.

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Arriving in Bonaire

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Bonaire

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Jibe City

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Kite Surfing

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Colorful Hotel

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Cactus Fence

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Slave huts from the past

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Jibe City

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Flying Flamingos

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Jibe City

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Salt Flats

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Flamingos

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Coral “sand”

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Neal’s Lighthouse

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Residential Homes

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Salve huts from the past

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Bonaire

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Jibe City

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Salt Flats

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Residential Area

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Kite Surfing

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Jibe City

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Bonaire

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Jibe City

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Jibe City

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Bonaire

 

PINS FOR YOUR PINTEREST ❤

 

**Disclaimer: I did partner with Norwegian Cruise Line, but as always, opinions are entirely my own

7 Experiences To Have In San Jose, California

I spent a week in San Jose, California exploring the best of the area with the Tourism Board. I, like many others, know San Jose as Silicon Valley and a tech city, but to be honest – I didn’t do any tech tours or visits during my entire stay!  San Jose has so much to offer its visitors beyond the tech world and that was the focus of this trip.

So here are my favorite 7 experiences to have in San Jose!

Check in at the Luxurious Valencia Hotel 

Located in the beautiful Santana Row, Hotel Valencia is set among the shops. If you ask anyone in the area where Hotel Valencia is their eyes light up and they say “Oh that is right down the street!” The locals even know this property is a shining beacon of luxury and the only hotel in Santana Row.

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Santana Row

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Santana Row

Offering just 215 rooms and suites, this boutique property has it all. Besides its fabulous location, you will find two on-site restaurants, a full service bar, and a rooftop bar that is open seasonally .. where you can catch an amazing sunset! Did I mention they offer a full continental breakfast with their room rate? And it’s a pretty amazing breakfast with a lot of options.

During my stay I checked into a Deluxe Balcony room. My favorite part of the room was the balcony view overlooking Santana Row. You can’t help but love the area – it is really beautiful, even from new heights. Offering 350 square feet of generous living space, I found the room to be perfect for my stay. The bed was unbelievably comfortable with 300-thread count designer Egyptian cotton linens, and when I touched my head to the pillow each night, I was out like a light! The bathroom was gorgeous, offering an Italian white marble.

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Hotel Valencia

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Hotel Valencia

Room inclusions:

Guest Room Amenities:

  • Custom design by Rottet Studios of Houston
  • 16-foot oak credenzas with custom stenciling
  • Elegant plantation shutters
  • Custom-designed Hotel Valencia beds with oak-plank headboards
  • 50″ flat-panel televisions with High Definition
  • Complimentary wireless Internet
  • Individual climate control
  • Honor Bar
  • Iron and full-sized ironing board
  • Complimentary weekday newspaper, on request
  • Coffeemaker
  • In-room safes
  • Clock radios with smartphone charging and audio capability
  • Handicap Accessible rooms available*

Guest Bath Amenities:

  • Lighted makeup mirror
  • Hairdryers
  • Bath amenities by famed California modern apothecary LATHER®
  • Waffle-weave bathrobes
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Sunrise Balcony Views

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Courtyard

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Outside the hotel

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Balcony views

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Santana Row

I would highly recommend dining at Oveja Negra, one of the on-site restaurants. The dining experience here was one of the best I had while in San Jose and the food was incredible. Every dish the chef created looked like a work of art. You could tell he had a real passion about his work and it shined through visually and in taste. If you only get one dish here I HIGHLY recommend the Beer Braised Mussels. I am STILL thinking about how good they were… and I was there about a month ago. Lasting impressions.

Eat your way around town!

You would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t  eat some of the delicious food San Jose is serving up. I ate way too much during my stay so I could tell you guys all about how good the food is. Every place I ate at was better than the rest and never once did I eat something that wasn’t delectable!

Some of my favorite restaurants were:

Read more: Foodies Guide to San Jose!

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Recess Ice

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Huevos Rancheros – Fountain

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Cheese and Charcuterie – Fountain

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Mussels at Oveja Negra

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Fondue Aux Fromages – Left Bank

Visit the Winchester Mystery House

Before visiting I had never even heard of the Winchester Mystery House .. and then after hearing its history I was scared to even go in (I scare easily).. BUT I went anyway because I was fascinated to see what the hype was about. I don’t want to give too much away because you actually learn about the history of the house during a tour – which I recommend you do while visiting. I have never seen anything like this before – the mansion has 160 rooms over 24,000 square feet. The sheer size of this house is incredible – but what is even more fascinating is the stairway that leads to nowhere, the window in the floor, the low level stairs with switchbacks, and why this house is so intense.

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

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Winchester Mystery House

Find the Street Art 

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I actually did not have enough time to see all that I wanted to – BUT I found the best piece in town and that makes up for it.

Visit Wineries

Just outside the city I had the opportunity to visit a couple wineries. They were easy to get to, the wine was amazing and each winery was beautiful in their own way.

These are a must when visiting the area:

Ridge Vineyard is a bit further of a drive than Testarossa and its uphill most of the way, but I promise the wine is sensational and the views are just as great. I would highly recommend doing the private tasting with the food pairing as you get in-depth knowledge and history of the winery. The vineyard almost did not exist and I won’t give anything away but it is definitely worth it to learn about it while there. I did get the chance to taste their current wines and some of their vintage. I am a big fan of red wine (Cabernet to be more exact) and their wines just blew me away. Each wine I tasted was unbelievable .. that typically does not happen for me. There is always a wine I do not like – but Ridge knows what they are doing and that is worth noting.

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Views from Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

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Ridge Vineyard

Testarossa winery has a more laid back vibe with an abundant amount of indoor space of tastings, including several private rooms. We did a tour of the grounds and learned all about the history of the property and how they make their wine.One of my favorite things about this winery is their outdoor patio area – its expansive, beautiful, there was a band playing, and a cute man drawing portraits of people. He would just spot someone and draw them and then bring them their drawing. It was really fun.

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

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Testarossa Winery

 

Get a massage 

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Now I know what you are thinking, “Nicki I can get a massage anywhere” and you are right. However, both my friend and I got a massage in Santana Row at InSpa and both had an incredible massage. This place is not the type of spa you find in a resort or luxury hotel, however it WAS one of the very best massages I have ever had .. and a 2 minute walk from the Hotel Valencia.

Catch a sunset 

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Santana Row

If you don’t already know, I am a sunset chaser by trade and lately a sunrise chaser as well. While San Jose is not by the beach – it is a great place to catch some beautiful sunsets in the urban jungle. I was lucky enough to catch 2 during my trip, one of which I was in an UBER and the driver pulled over for me to photograph ❤

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Sunset

These are my top picks for visiting San Jose – on my next visit I will make sure to cover the things I didn’t see on this trip!

 

A big thank you to the San Jose Tourism Board for hosting me during my stay. As always opinions are entirely my own. 

Checking In: Fairmont San Francisco’s $20 Million Dollar Penthouse Suite

Reading that title I know you opened this because you really want to know what makes a room worth $20 million dollars. You are probably expecting to find gold lined walls  and lavish chandeliers holding real diamonds, but not in this suite, no. What you are going to find is my favorite hotel suite I have ever been in and it holds none of those things. Well maybe a little.

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Living Room 

Taking up the entire 8th floor of the Historic Main Building at the Fairmont San Francisco, this Penthouse Suite comes in at a massive 6,000 square feet offering 3 spacious bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a library, billiards room, kitchen, and a terrace with unbelievable views of the city. As luck would have it, the fog was incredibly thick during my stay – but still, the view was magnificent.

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Penthouse Suite Views

What I love about this suite is how different it is from every other Penthouse Suite I have seen AND how unique each room within the suite is. No two rooms are the same and they all have their own unique vibe.

I want to start with my favorite room, the 2-story circular library with a celestial map on the ceiling covered in gold leaf and a sapphire sky. What makes this room special? Lets just say if you are a millionaire and you don’t own a library, you are spending your money entirely wrong. This room is reminiscent of my childhood dreams (and now 34 year old dreams) of having a library like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The design elements are not exact but this library is stunning in its own way. Complete with a circular staircase to the second floor, first editions on the shelves and a secret passage way that is rumored to have been used by a president and his mistress. It would be easy to spend a day in here looking through old books and staring at the ceiling.

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Penthouse Library

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Penthouse Library

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Penthouse Library

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Penthouse Library

My second favorite room in this suite is the Moroccan themed billiards room. The second I walked into this room I felt like I had just been transported back to Morocco. The details of this room are marvelous and the walls are made of handcrafted Persian tile. You can see throughout the room in every arch, every color selection, each carefully hung lamp, and its full grandeur that this room is delivered straight from a Riad in Marrakech. If someone dropped you into that room without having seen the rest of the suite, you would think you were in Morocco in someones home, waiting on your mint tea and figs before a challenging game of pool.

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Penthouse Billiards Room

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Penthouse Billiards Room

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Penthouse Billiards Room

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Penthouse Billiards Room

Each of the three bedrooms were all decorated differently, but as a traveler I was drawn to one of the rooms because it had a map covering the wall. Now this was not just any map thrown up, it was special and it was designed perfectly with animals on it. It was definitely designed to be a kids room but I love this room the most because I am fascinated with geography and the world.

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Bedroom #1

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Bedroom #1

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #2

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Bedroom #3

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Bedroom #3

As you can see each room is so different and has many themes throughout. In bedroom #2 we see the Moroccan sink details and in bedroom #3 we see a bit of an Asian theme with the armoire.

The last room I saw before heading out to the beautiful patio was the dining room. As you can see there is ample space and seating for 14. This dining room is not decorated at all like the rest of the suite offering darker colors on white walls and lets in the most light from outside. The tiled patio is directly off of this room allowing easy access between the two spaces.

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Dining Room 

There are a few ways to get to the grand balcony: through the library, the living room and through the dining room. This balcony has stunning tile work covering the flooring, fountain and railing and non- obstructed views of the city. There is no class or netting blocking your view, it is completely wide open.

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Balcony

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Balcony

Beyond all the gorgeous details and grandeur each room exudes, booking a stay in this Penthouse Suite comes with so much more!

  • Personal Butler
  • Kitchen stocked with organic items from the Farmers Market
  • Selection of California wines
  • Designer stem wear and china
  • Personalized robes
  • Luxury linens & bath products
  • Fresh flowers
  • and exclusive amenities developed for each guest personally

I haven’t stayed in or been to every Penthouse Suite in the world, but I have stayed in quite a few – but this one is currently my favorite. Granted, they are all wonderful in their own ways – but this room offered so much more. The library and billiards room are hands down the most incredible rooms I have seen in a hotel before – and that is reason enough to book a stay in this room.

Fairmont San Francisco Penthouse Suite

**Disclaimer, I was hosted during my stay at the Fairmont – but as always, opinions are entirely my own 

Checking In: The Fairmont San Jose, California

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I think we all know it is no secret that I love Fairmont Hotels. When you create a great brand and keep things consistent, people remember and that is what brings them back. The Fairmont in San Jose is just as amazing as all the other Fairmont properties I have stayed in and that continues to make me a very satisfied guest.

Located about an hour from San Francisco, San Jose is a bustling metropolis and widely popular for being a tech city. Located just steps from the Tech Museum and San Jose Museum of Art, the Fairmont is in a great location of the city that is walk able and easy to access. But I must note – beyond the tech world, San Jose is also a foodie destination and striking distance from many amazing wineries.

The Hotel

Located across two towers and rising up 20 stories, the hotel offers 805 luxurious rooms, including 77 suites, you are sure to find a room that fits all of your needs.

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South Tower Lobby

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Walkway between main building and south tower

One of my favorite features of the hotel is the rooftop pool. When you walk out there you can see over San Jose but with the palm trees you actually feel like you are whisked away in a far off Caribbean destination. It is a lovely change from the city life.

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Fairmont San Jose

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Fairmont San Jose

The Rooms:

 

During my stay I checked into the Mirassou Suite. I love when the bedroom is separate from the living area because it gives me space to work and relax away from where I am sleeping. This room is between 900 sq.ft. to 1350 sq.ft. in size which is perfect for all size travelers: solo, families, business, etc.

My favorite feature in the room was the over-sized marble bathroom that comes with a tub and shower. I like to have options and baths are very relaxing after long travel days. I also really loved the vanity area between the two big rooms by the bathroom – it is nice to have a big area to sit down with mirrors to get ready.

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Fairmont San Jose

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Fairmont San Jose

Room Features:

  • Easy chair and a coffee table
  • The parlor is equipped with a 32″ HDTV, working desk, a speakerphone with multiple lines, a cordless phone, a separate modem connection, a double bedded pull out sofa and an easy chair
  • Luxurious bath amenities
  • Bedroom is equipped with plush king size bed, 32″ HDTV, & sitting area
  • Vanity area
  • Dual thermostats for bedroom and parlor
  • Large closet space
  • Mini bar and coffee station

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For an even more luxurious stay:

I requested to tour a couple of the bigger suites the hotel offers and took a peek at the International Luxury Suite and the Presidential Luxury Suite. Surprisingly so, the International Luxury Suite is actually a bigger room by over 600 sq. ft. and I liked the design elements of this room better – however both rooms were absolutely stunning.

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Dining:

One of my favorite things about traveling is eating. I love good food and Fairmont knows how to pick their chefs. Every Fairmont I have stayed in and dined at I have walked away and thought myself “wow, that was sensation.” Whether its avocado toast or a more elaborate dish, I have always been overly pleased by the food.

During my stay I ordered room service twice and dined in Fountain Restaurant twice.

When I first arrived from a long day of travel I ordered a reuben from room service and I loved it. On my last night I ordered spaghetti and garlic bread and it was so scrumptious!  I knew then and there that all my dining experiences with the Fairmont San Jose were going to be perfection.

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Reuben – Room Service

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Room Service

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Room Service

Fountain Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and brunch – and they do it very well. My favorite dishes from brunch were the croissant french toast and cold pressed juice (I got the Fairmont Signature Blend). Whoever invented croissant french toast deserves an award – think flaky, battered and delicious!

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Fountain Restaurant

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Fountain Restaurant

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Croissant French Toast

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Brunch spread

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Eggs Benny

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Huevos Rancheros

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Avocado Toast

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Personalized syrup

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Cheese and Charcuterie

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Turkey Club Panini

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Lunch treats

One thing not to miss is a cocktail in the amazing hotel lobby lounge. I tried their signature cocktail “Bubbles & Berries” which included Ketel One vodka, raspberries, lemon, and Domaine Chandon Brut and – and I fell in love. Typically I am a whisky/scotch/bourbon girl but I like to try new things and it was fantastic. The ambiance of the lounge is amazing as well, complete with high ceilings, gorgeous decor (which is changing soon) and the staff takes care of all your needs before you even ask.

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Activities/Services:

There is a plethora of things to do outside the hotel, but when you are in the hotel, here are some of the amenities and services you can enjoy:

  • 4th floor roof top pool
  • Tova Day Spa
  • Fitness center
  • 24 hour business center

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Overall:

I cannot tell you in enough words how much I loved this hotel. I know I said this earlier but the consistency in high quality service, luxurious accommodations, amazing food, and an overall perfect stay – is what keeps me coming back. I never have to guess if my stay is going to be amazing when I check into a Fairmont and that is exactly the type of service that I love.

Additional Information:

  • Address: 170 South Market Street San Jose California, 95113
  • Phone: 1 408 998 1900
  • Distance from San Jose International Airport: about 10 minutes
  • Valet parking available for a fee
  • Internet available for a fee – however, if you sign up for the Fairmont President’s Club, you can get free access
  • UBER is available in the city

Fairmont San Jose

*Dislaimer: I was hosted by the Fairmont, but as always, opinions are entirely my own. 

**Some images belong to Fairmont San Jose

21 Photos To Inspire You To Visit San Jose, California

I was recently invited by the tourism board of San Jose to visit their AMAZING city and I am still fawning over how much I thoroughly enjoyed my time there (even though I did not experience the tech side of the city). It would have been an easy YES for me to just move in and stay for a week or two more exploring every area of the city. I know I just barely scratched the surface (so please adopt me?) but I hope these photos inspire you to visit AND EAT – and enjoy some of what I enjoyed during my visit!

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Santana Row

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Mussels at Oveja Negra

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Testarossa Winery

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Brekky at Fairmont San Jose

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Ridge Vineyard

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Recess Ice

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Whiskey Flight

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Milk & Wood

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Sunrise over Santana Row

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French Toast – Fairmont San Jose

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Charcuterie & Cheese – Fairmont San Jose

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Fairmont San Jose

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Sunset

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Testarossa Winery

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Ridge Vineyard

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Suite life at Fairmont San Jose

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Testarossa Winery

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Ridge Vineyard

Checking In: Royal Sonesta New Orleans

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Located right in the heart of it all and on Bourbon Street sits the Royal Sonesta New Orleans. With its balcony rooms overlooking the street below and secret courtyard pool and pool tucked inside, this is going to be one of your favorite hotels in the Crescent City!

I was only able to stay 1 night with the Royal Sonesta during my trip but it was a wonderful introduction to the city for me and so easy to access everything in the area. I went during the Christmas season so the hotel was decked out in beautiful holiday decor throughout.

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Holiday Decor

The Hotel:

 

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The AAA Four Diamond-rated hotel offers 483 rooms in 13 categories to its guests including suites that have all been newly renovated for our enjoyment!

The hotel offers 2 bars, 2 restaurants, a jazz house, and a coffee shop. Because my stay was so short I did not get to go to any of these establishments BUT when I was walking around Bourbon street I saw Le Booze (one of the hotels bars) and its lobby level right on Bourbon Street and touted as a ‘Whiskey Destination.’ I would definitely recommend a stop in there.

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Interior courtyard and pool

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Jazz House

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Courtyard 

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Oyster Bar

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Oyster Bar

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Coffee Cafe

Services and Facilities:

  • Concierge
  • Room service
  • Boarding Pass Kiosk
  • 24-hour business center
  • All new 24-hour fitness center
  • Outdoor heated swimming pool and Oasis Pool Bar
  • Complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access in guest rooms, public space and meeting space
  • Sundries located in PJ’s Coffee Cafe

The Room:

During my stay I checked into an interior patio room and had direct access to the pool and patio through a door in the backside of my room, I also had access to chairs and tables outside that door. The patio and pool are not on ground level so outsiders cannot just walk in, you would need to gain access from a room or with a key card. Having that area is a nice little break from everything else going on outside the hotel walls on Bourbon Street. To me it felt like a secret escape.

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Each room comes with the following:

  • Flat screen TV
  • Complimentary wireless Internet
  • Keurig coffee maker
  • Dual line telephones
  • Robe
  • iHome clock radio
  • Refrigerator
  • In-room movies
  • Pillow top mattresses and king size pillows
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Hair dryer and make-up mirrors
  • Laptop size electronic safe

Because I got in pretty late and only stayed the 1 night – I utilized the free WiFi and work station to catch up on work and I ordered room service (no picture because I was starving) with the doors open to the patio and pool because it was SO nice outside.

Later that evening I took a nice bath and relaxed before I jumped into the ever so comfy king size bed and slept like a baby!

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Bedroom

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Bathroom

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Patio outside room

 

Overall:

My stay was less than a day and mostly overnight but as the saying goes, it was “short and sweet.” This was my first stay at a Sonesta property and I am hoping to stay at more of them in the future because I loved the customer service, the hotel cleanliness (especially being right off of a party street), the easiness of check in and getting around, and the overall vibe of the hotel.

Additional Info:

  • Address:  300 Bourbon Street New OrleansLA 70130
  • Phone: 1.504.586.0300
  • Check In/Out: 4:00pm/12:00pm
  • Distance from Louis Armstrong International: about 30-45 minutes depending on traffic
  • Getting around: the city is very walk able but also has street cars and Uber available

Royal Sonesta New Orleans

*Disclaimer: I was hosted by Royal Sonesta, but as always – opinions are entirely my own. 

**Some images belong to the hotel. 

 

29 Photos To Inspire You To Visit New Orleans

Just recently I got back from New Orleans where I spent Christmas with my family. We ate lots of amazing food that the city has to offer, walked the streets endlessly and just had an overall amazing experience in this colorful city that call the Crescent City.

I really narrowed down the amount of photos I am sharing and NOLA is a very easy place to take a million photos – there is such a great use of color everywhere, street performers, food, and just amazing things going on everywhere.

I hope these photos inspire you to visit!

*Some of these are holiday themed and will only look this way during the Christmas season*

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Sunset over Jackson Square

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Colorful homes

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Beignets at Cafe du Monde

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Mardi Gras Beads

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Colors

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Mardi Gras Vibes

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Best Breakfast – Ritz Carlton Club Lounge

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Best Christmas Decor – Roosevelt Hotel

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Street Art

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Colorful homes

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Fried okra – Willie Mae’s

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Walking Bourbon Street

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Street Performs in Jackson Square

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Lafayette Cemetery

 

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Garden District Home

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Colorful homes

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Carousel Bar

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Bourbon Street area

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Frenchman Street

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Street Art

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Fun

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Royal Sonesta

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Colorful Streets

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Colorful Streets

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Courtyard – RItz Carlton

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Colorful homes

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Street Performers

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Darling Home

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Ritz Carlton Reception area