Finglas House – Camp, Ireland

As I mentioned, the second we would get to our rooms after each day our bags would explode. The hiking bootes would come off, clean clothes found and often a quick lay down was needed before dinner. Hence the horrendous picture of our room. Aside from the thrown aside bedding and the opened bags, the point however is to point out that while our accommodations along the way were not always fancy, they were clean and comfortable. Which is exactly what we needed given the type of trip we were on.

Day two ended in Camp and as previously mentioned this is in fact the name of a town. This was also the first day we had experienced the baggage transfer done by our touring company and as promised our bags were awaiting our arrival in the lobby of our guesthouse. We were greeted by a very lovely woman named Kathleen who owns the Finglas Guesthouse. She showed up to our rooms and then the exploding of the bags happened. Then off to the Ashes Pub for dinner which I talked about in a previous post.

After dinner and a shower I set myself up in the lovely second floor lounge. There was tea and cookies provided by Kathleen, which I took full advantage of. The rest of the group congregated after their respective adulations and we spent a lovely evening planning our next day.

Thanks to jet lag I was up bright and early. Dressed, repacked and ready to eat breakfast approximately and hour before it was ready. C’est la vie. Breakfast was severed on time in the downstairs dining room that overlooks the bay. There were a variety of options, I of course chose the “Full Irish” plus coffee, toast and a little more coffee. It was perfection as expected from the quaint little place. We were also given a sack lunch again, this time a suspect sandwich and chips. My chips were cheese and onion, though there was a chicken flavor floating around in one of my groups sack lunches as well. Turns out the suspect sandwich was cheese and tomato which was quite good. Chips weren’t bad either.

 

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Salishan Resort – Lincoln City, Oregon

This spring we took a quick jaunt to the coast to relax and just be away from things. The late winter/early spring is hard in Oregon, it’s about the time we all start to go a little crazy from all the clouds and rain. Having the trip to look forward to certainly helped eliminate some of “okay I am all done with this now” thoughts that are constantly circling around in my brain that time of year.

We chose to head down to the central part of the coast, and spend our few days at the Salishan just south of Lincoln City. The resort is lovely, spread out over a large swath of land. Part forest part golf course with three main building complexes and room buildings scattered around the property.

The rooms themselves are wonderful, they have a variety of sizes, we went with the base king sized room which had a mini kitchen and a fireplace, as well as the usual bed, balcony, bathroom and seating area. It was built in 1961 and remains the premier golf resort on the coast.

The main complex houses the registry desk, restaurants and a bar as well as conference rooms and the pool accessed by outdoor breezeways. The restaurants overlook the gold course and provides ample indoor and outdoor seating.

The sports complex is up the hill down a few winding roads (walkable via foot path if you wish to hoof it) and provides access to basketball courts, tennis and golf rentals.

The spa complex is back down the main entry road across the highway, also accessible via foot path, but there is ample parking if dashing across a busy highway isn’t your thing (there is a traffic light and cross walk though).

We had grand designs to explore the coast all weekend, and you can very easily given the resorts central location. However we wound up just settling in to a cozy routine of eat, walk, read, swim, repeat that we wound up doing very little else in the end. We really couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

 

The Tralee Park Guesthouse- Tralee, Ireland

The first night of our Ireland trek was in Tralee. We were collected at the Kerry Airport by our tour company and dropped at the charming Tralee Park Guesthouse.

The driver called the owner of the inn and waited until the door was opened for us, often these smaller inn’s and b&b’s keep their doors locked 24hours a day. Guests are given a front door key as well as a room key. Once we were introduced to the owner we were shown our rooms and left to our own devices.

Since it wasn’t a large hotel the lobby was small, but clean and bright. There was entire wall of brochures to help plan your trip. Given we were already on a schedule though we had no need for them. The dining room was downstairs, a small but cozy room that made to order breakfast for those staying. Options ranged from a Full Irish Breakfast (which we quickly came to love) to a light meal of cereal and fruit. There was also a buffet of breads and fruit as you waited for your meal.

The rooms themselves were lovely, high ceilings with classic European decor. Which included a very modern bathroom and an electric kettle with a variety of instant coffees and teas. It also, as did all our accommodations, had wi-fi which was appreciated. The beds were incredibly comfortable. Don’t judge the inn based on my pictures, our bags sort of self exploded when ever we got into our rooms. For more information and good pictures see their website. Good pictures or not though it was a perfect way to kick off our first night.

Hotel Condon – Condon, Oregon

Condon Oregon was established in 1893, named by the first post master David B Trimbel after Harvey Condon whoes firm first sold the townsite lots in 1884 after having acquired the land from a local homesteader. The town was once the last southern stop on the Union Pacific line that ran down from the Columbia River. And like most towns in Oregon when the trains stopped running the people stoped coming.

The hotel sits on the main street of town, which thanks to an 1998 initiative has been listed on the National Registry of Historic places and has enjoyed some refurbishment money. Some new businesses have opened up including a number of excellent restaurants, a gift and bookshop as well as the theater and of course Hotel Condon.

Hotel Condon was first opened in 1920. It has been updated with modern amenities and offered complimentary breakfast as well as a wine and cheese reception in the evenings. Our room was just lovely, bright and clean. Updated with comfortable furniture, wi-fi and television. We thoroughly enjoyed the wine and cheese, which we ate outside as it was such a wonderful evening. Then we got burgers to go from down the street and hung around our room. I would highly recommend the hotel, even if it weren’t the only place in town.

Wonderful Ireland Walking Holiday

Traveling is a very unique thing, you have to balance how far out of your comfort zone you are willing to go, with the kind of creature comforts that will ultimately keep you sane while your whole world is turned upside down. Traveling is wonderful and adventurous and important to  knowing ourselves and enjoying life, but it is also hard and scary. So knowing what you want out of the experience and what you can handle are very important when booking travel.

If you do not want to spend 8 hours a day walking through the middle of nowhere or if you do but you want to rough sleep in the wilderness then Wonderful Ireland Walking Holidays is not for you, and that is absolutely okay. But if you want to see things off the beaten path, get a lot of fresh air and exercise but you also want the safety net of an emergency out in case anything happens then read on my friends.

Wonderful Ireland Walking Holidays offers several self guided walking tour vacations throughout Ireland. We chose the Dingle Peninsula tour which is 112 miles split up between 10 days of walking. Some of my group did the whole loop, I however opted for the shorter trip. I started with my group and then left after 5 days of walking. The company offers a variety of options for the peninsula from 3-10 days.

Included in the cost of the tour is airport/train station pickup and drop off. Booked rooms which include breakfast and sack lunches. Luggage transfer from inn to inn so you don’t have to carry your bag with you. Maps, guide-book, emergency cell phone, and hiking poles if you want them.

I wound up hurting myself on day two, so I can attest to how helpful and kind the individuals at the company are. I called on what we took to calling the “bat phone” the morning of a day of hiking, they organized a private ride for me from one town to the next. They showed up on time and I didn’t have to pay for the ride as it was included in the tour price.

The accommodations that were booked for us were above and beyond our expectations. Every single inn was clean, comfortable and the owners incredibly kind.  The food was exceptional every night and the sack lunches exactly what one would need for a 14 mile hike. As an added bonus every place we stayed had wifi so we could connect with our people back home and let them know we had made it to each town safe and sound.

Our bags were always waiting for us when we got to the next inn, clean, undamaged and undisturbed. Not that we were expecting anything less, but I do know people worry about others handling their personal property and there was never an issue with this group.

We were given a packet of very detailed instructions to go along with our maps. Not only is the trail marked to help guide you but the instructions provided down to the turn precise directions to keep you on track and keep you from wondering if you were headed the right way. They were detailed enough that never once did you have to worry that you might have taken a wrong turn. We spent the entire trek feeling confident we wouldn’t be lost or trespassing and that we would be safe the entire trip.

I cannot recommend the tour group enough. The owner is incredibly kind and helpful. He will answer as many ridiculous questions as you can throw at him and do so with a smile. Never once did we feel confused, worried or unsure of ourselves from inquiring about booking the tour all the way to being dropped back off at the airport on the way home.

Historic Balch Hotel – Dufur, Oregon

I had been wanting to stay at the Historic Balch Hotel for years, but given its location to myself it was always just too close and just too far away to drive out for a single night. Luckily this last year my mom and I decided to embark on a central Oregon road trip and I knew that without a doubt we would be finally getting to stay here.

Dufur is a small town in North Central Oregon, only a few miles south of The Dalles. It sits on the east side of Mt. Hood. I woke up extra early the night we stayed so I could try to get some pictures of the sunrise reflecting off the snow and clouds around the mountain. But it was a whole mess of private property between me and the view so I didn’t get a chance to get as clear of a shot as I had hoped.

The town was established in 1893 by Andrew and Enoch Dufur. The Dufur family were reglious refugees in early America, fleeing one of the many Huguenot conflicts in France around the time of the French Revolution, likely right before Louis XVI signed equal rights for Protestants in France. Andrew was educated at Pacific University in Forest Grove Oregon.  In 1872 the brothers purchased the land that is now Dufur.

The Balch Hotel was built in 1907 by Charles Balch. It was the height of luxury at the time with hot running water and electricity. Made popular by business men and individuals passing through town to and from The Dalles or beyond due to the Great Southern Railroad station in town at the time.

The hotel itself is a charming little place and beautifully maintained grounds. They are often host to small wedding parties, and concert goers as they offer coach service to Mary Hill Winery in The Gorge. They have a fully functioning dining room, dinner was delicious and breakfast is complimentary. They do not offer modern convinces like televisions but they do have wi-fi. As well as a fully functioning spa, and several lounge areas with a large selection of tea and books.

 

 

 

Danubius Hotel Astoria – Budapest, Hungry

I don’t have the highest regard for traditional hotels but that doesn’t mean that I dislike them all. And certainly in many travel situations a hotel is the easiest way to travel. Particularly if you are planning on seeing multiple locations in a short period of time. Or if you are the type of person with the type of budget to eat at restaurants for every meal when you travel.


That being said I would whole heartedly recommend the Danubius Hotel Astoria in Budapest. It was in fact the first hotel I ever stayed in outside of the United States (excluding Canada) on my first ever European adventure. I was 17, a senior in high school, traveling with some of my best friends and some very kind teacher chaperones.

After driving to Portland getting on a plane, laying over in Chicago, laying over again in Frankfurt, landing in Budapest and taking a shuttle stuffed with 15 of my class mates, we were all tried, hungry, cranky and totally regretting our decision to come on the trip. Admit it, we have all been there. Travel fatigue is real.

Looking at the pictures I think they have done a few renovations, not a real surprise given I was there 15 plus years ago. But it still appears to retain the simple old world comforts I recall.

As a side note we were all thrilled at staying at a hotel called Astoria (since we were from Astoria). Whether or not the name was coincidence or on purpose remains to be seen. The rooms were impeccably clean, with traditional twin beds or twin beds pushed together depending on the configuration of the room. Clean white linens, duvet covers (which most of us uncultured youth thought were too short sleeping bags) and beautifully tiled showers. Speaking of uncultured youth we were all convinced the hotel was haunted. In retrospect we were just dealing with a very old finicky elevator, but we spent our time riding the service elevator and sneaking through the back kitchen to the lobby because we were too scared to ride the main elevators.

My favorite thing about the hotel was the dining room and breakfast. When we landed it was late but our teachers made us walk around the city until lights-out to help us adjust to jet lag. We were tired, cranky and mostly just walking with our eyes half open.

So my first real European experience was the stunning banquet room and European style breakfast provided to us. I vividly recall stuffing my face with croissants and cheeses whose names I could never even begin to pronounce and the MANY trips back to the silver samovars filled with hot chocolate. I felt like royalty sitting in a marble dining room, with velvet tufted chairs and floor to ceiling windows overlooking a city halfway across the world to where I was 48 hours prior.


As an added bonus the hotel was nicely situated walking distance to quite a few locations, in the three days we were there we got to see the Great Market Hall one of the oldest indoor markets in Hungry. As well as the main market square in the inner city that hosts outdoor vendors on a regular basis. The Hungarian State Opera House is in walking distance.  Which I loved and never wanted to leave after our tour.

It is also a quick jaunt to the Danube River and the Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) which takes you directly across the river to the Gellért Monument and Döbrentei squareRudas Thermal Bath (Rudas gyógyfürdő) and the Citadell which was built under the Haspburg name during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I hope someday to get the chance to revisit this beautiful hotel and enchanting city. As my first European jaunt and the first view into a wider world at large it holds a special place in my heart. And stomach, I seriously cannot stop thinking about that breakfast!

Side note on the pictures, these were taken pre-digital age so the quality is expectantly poor. Also I am not cropping out anyone out of unkindness, just protecting the innocent.

Hilton Minneapolis – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The last time I was in Minneapolis for work I was put up in the Hilton Minneapolis downtown but toward the end of the skyway. It is the third hotel I have stayed in for work out there and by far my favorite.

Despite the lobby being torn up for remodeling and the fact that every single time I went back to the hotel via the front entrance (rather than the skyway) I had to go through a different door the experience on a whole was quite lovely. I actually didn’t even mind the musical doors, it just made me chuckle.

The rooms were simple, clean and well equipped. Complete with hair dryer, nice sample sized shampoo, coffee pot and a TV with normal channels. Have you ever been to a hotel where they have cable but they have the strangest channels accessible?! So strange. The shower did not make strange squealing noises which seems to be common for me, and the temperate control was actually controllable.

They also had a really nice dining room/bar area. A REALLY great breakfast buffet full of fresh cut, not wilted sad, fruit. Fresh pastries, oatmeal, hard boiled eggs, tons of cereal choices, bagels, fresh lox and GREAT coffee. The gym on the mezzanine level was also nicely equipped, clean, new and not stuffy. I didn’t try to pool but plenty of other people did and they clearly loved it.

In addition to all the other pluses and a must have for any hotel in Minneapolis if you are there for work, is the connection to the skyway. Never have I spent more time in a place with such changeable and challenging weather. And while I still find it odd in concept, I find the skyway a complete lifesaver when getting to and from meetings pretty much year round. No more worrying about wearing or carrying things that work for both subzero or crazy hot and humid PLUS office. You can get from hotel to office without ever leaving a climate controlled environment even if it is several blocks away. Brilliant.

McMenamins Hotels – Oregon

I am sure locals to the Portland Metro Area have a lot to say about McMenamins franchise as a whole. Some love them and some hate them. It is just one of those things.

I have no strong feelings either way on the restaurants. The food is fine, the service is usually fast and the interiors are pretty interesting. The thing that my husband and I really like though as the destination hotels. Particularly the Edgefield, Kennedy School and Grand Lodge locations.

Edgefield will always be my favorite. With cheap beautiful rooms, several bars and restaurants, a golf course, spa, music venue and theater it is really an mini vacation just outside the city. I have spent several birthdays there, playing golf and using the spa. They also have a large outdoor music venue that I have enjoyed several concerts at.


**Sunset on Grand Lodge table tops**

Kennedy School was our go two for a long time, it was near our house. And with several bars, billiard games, a soaking pool and a theater it was a great place for date nights and with hotel rooms if you couldn’t drive home, you could always check in and get a delicious breakfast before going home. We had our VERY informal rehearsal dinner here and had our wedding pictures taken in one of the court yards. A couple months ago a friend and I even stayed over so that we could go to a Bowie cover band and then not have to drive all the way back out of the city after the show.

 

**Kennedy School Views**

The Grand Lodge is new to us, but is currently the closest location to our house. With a hotel, spa, soaking pool, theater, and disc golf course we wind up spending a good deal of time down there. We haven’t managed to make it there for a movie or even Frisbee golf. But we did walk around a medieval festival this spring and I can usually be found sitting on the porch enjoying a cup of coffee or a drink while reading a good book.


**Grand Lodge’s porch**

All the hotel locations are great for weekend getaways, there is plenty to do, you never have to actually leave them and everything is relatively well priced. I love staying for special events, since we now live out of the city it is really fun to stay at one of the hotels so we don’t have to go back. Or even for a special even like New Years, with inclusive design you can have a drink, walk around, try a different bar and then just wander back to your room. No driving needed.