culture · food · international · life curation · luxury · relaxation · travel · wine

My Time in Spain Part 1 – My Time In Malaga

Hi friends! After spending a few days in Portugal (including taking in incredible sights around Lisboa, touring Sintra National Palace, time at Rock in Rio Lisboa, dinner at Hotel do Chiado’s rooftop bar, Entretanto, and an unexpected viewing of Sarah Ferreira’s art, I was off to my next stop. I flew TAP Air Portugal from Lisbon to Malaga, Spain, to embark on the next leg of my adventure.

I arrived in Malaga and was taken by private car to the town of Benalmadena, a beachy stretch a little less than two hours from Granada. I stayed at Hotel Best Siroco, a darling resort that offered all-inclusive packages as well as standard lodging. The hotel was beautiful, and the weather was divine!

My hotel was a short walk away from the beach and some fantastic local eateries. There was also some fantastic art and gorgeous flowers everywhere I went.

One beer, a good tan, some sangria, and many tapas later, I can confirm that Malaga is a must-see for people who love good food and lots of sun.

This one little town in Spain is such a jewel, and I can’t wait to return!

art · culture · international · life curation · luxury · travel

My Time in Portugal, Part 5 – Spotlight on Sarah Ferreira

This is my last Portugal post (I’m sorry to see this series end, but I’ll be sharing multiple posts about Spain next!) First, I wrote about my overall impression of Portugal. Then, I shared the fun I had at Rock in Rio Lisboa. Next, I talked about the beauty that is Sintra National Palace. And last week, I shared my experience at Hotel do Chiado and their rooftop bar restaurant, Entretanto.

At Hotel do Chiado, I visited the rooftop bar, and I was blown away by the beautiful artwork lining the corridors leading to the restaurant. It took me back to my fabulous time at Ibis Styles hotel in Nairobi, and the fabulous pieces created by Kenyan artist Tom Mboya. As I looked around, I found an artist bio posted in Portuguese (cue my rudimentary translation skills). The corridor was lined with art by Paris-born, Portugal-based artist Sarah Ferreira.

Upon further research, I determined that Ferreira doesn’t have a website (there is another Sarah Ferreira that creates art, but she is US-born and based). It appears that she has intentionally maintained a low-profile online. I love that she isn’t hyper-visible, yet her work is still being found by people all over the world (like me).

Here are some of the paintings/drawings done by Ferreira, which are on display in the hall leading to Entretanto. Enjoy!

Some of the depictions were fascinating re-imaginings of famous works (like the Mona Lisa), while others were renderings of famous faces (such as Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Audrey Hepburn). I love how Ferreira don’t try to create depth with subtle shading, but indicates a break in depth and saturation through the use of solid but fluid black lines. This striking visual effect makes her work have a bit of a mosaic effect, but you never forget that you’re looking at blocks of color that have been shaped to simulate human faces. Brilliant!

That’s all for my post about Sarah Ferreira. I certainly hope that she exhibits somewhere near me in the future. Or, maybe a future exhibit in Portugal will be just the motivation I need to book my next trip!

culture · international · life curation · style · travel

My Time in Portugal, Part 1

Admittedly, this probably be more pictures than words, but I had so much fun on my travels that I had to capture as much as I could via my camera!

I started the first leg of my journey in Lisbon, Portugal. A beautiful city with all of the charm of old Europe but an abundance of modern amenities, I found myself spellbound by the city “built on 7 hills”. I’d long held a fantasy of tooling around in Lisbon . . . And I got to live my dream.

While it was uncharacteristically cool in Lisbon during my time there, I still loved what I saw and experienced there. I can see why so many American expats have chosen Portugal as their forever homes.

While in Portugal, I went to Rock in Rio Lisboa 2022 (an incredible music festival), as well as the towns of Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril. I will share more about those experiences in future blog posts. But for today, here are some of my pictures from my time in Lisbon proper. Enjoy!

travel

Hotel Review: Rodeway Inn and Suites, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Happy Sunday, friends! Here is my overdue review of the hotel that I used when I went on my cruise in October.

Prior to, and immediately after, my cruise, I stayed at the Rodeway Inn and Suites Fort Lauderdale Airport and Port Everglades Cruise Port Hotel (now that’s a mouthful!). I selected this hotel because it offered quite a few attractive amenities. Firstly, it was close to the airport and featured a free shuttle service. This service picked up and dropped off guests at both the airport and the cruise port. As someone that has paid for several shuttles to get around before boarding a cruise ship, I appreciated the complimentary service provided by the Rodeway Inn.

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Secondly, the hotel had a complimentary breakfast for guests. The breakfast was available for several hours each day, so it serviced both the early birds as well as the slightly late risers. The offerings weren’t luxe – it was just a step up from a continental breakfast – but it was nice to get some fresh fruit, pastries and coffee before heading out for the day.

Thirdly, the hotel offered a very reasonably priced early check-in option. Since we got to Florida well in advance of the standard check-in time, it was nice to pay the small fee and get into our rooms early. Finally, the hotel had a laundry room on site, as well as a gift shop and restaurant. With so many of amenities at the hotel, I truly didn’t need to go anywhere else to get the things that I needed during my stay.

Now, here’s my review of the staff and room.

The staff was excellent! The ladies at the front desk were all friendly, professional and thorough. They made sure that we knew everything we needed to have a comfortable stay and a seamless transit to the ship and airport. If only all hotel staff would be so spectacular!

The room was clean and adequately sized. I especially liked the fact that the room did not have carpeted floors: while most hotels do an excellent job of keeping carpets clean, I’ve seen a few that made me cringe. The floors at the Rodeway Inn were spotless. The bathrooms, too, were immaculately cleaned. I breathed a deep sigh of relief when I saw how much care had gone into preparing our room.

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In a nutshell, I enjoyed my stay and I will return. The convenience of a complimentary shuttle, combined with great service and a good breakfast, are fantastic reasons to return!

travel

Review: Hyatt Regency Washington on Capital Hill

A couple weeks ago, when I attended the event at the Haitian Embassy, I stayed in DC so that I wouldn’t have to drive home late. I reserved a room at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capital Hill, a hotel that is walking distance from my job. I was impressed with the friendly staff that welcomed me as I walked into the hotel.

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I went to the front desk and was greeted graciously by a charming young lady (I wish I could remember her name – I’d give her a proper shoutout if I could!). The only downside with my check-in experience was getting to my room: the elevator took FOREVER to get to the lobby. However, the hotel is doing some renovations so the elevator delays are to be expected. Aside from that, it was a smooth check-in process.

The room was comfortable, beautiful and quiet. I really liked the immaculate restroom and super comfy bed. Sadly, I didn’t spend much time in the room, since I left out early the next morning. But the time I spent in there was wonderfully restorative.

This was a good hotel experience overall: the location is great, the room was lovely, and I had a great night’s rest there. I’d love to visit again!

relaxation · travel

Review: TownePlace Suites Hotel in Cary, NC

 

I’ve been to Raleigh numerous times, but when I visit, I stay in Cary, a small incorporated town bordering the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. Every time I visit, I stay at the TownePlace Suites, a cozy aparthotel that meets all of my needs.

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Quiet? Check!

Conveniently located? Check!

Reasonably priced? Check!

Ample amenities? Check!

Eligible for reward points? Check!

I always love my stays here and I’ve raved about it each and every time. However, I wasn’t blogging when I’ve visited previously. So now that I’ve had a recent visit, I can finally share this information with you all!

Instead of adding a bunch of photos, you can check out this video room tour. I stayed in the studio-style suite with an “office” (it had a desk area). If you’re ever in the area, I can’t recommend this hotel enough!

travel

Review: Microtel Inn and Suites, Philadelphia Airport

Even though I adore luxury experiences and love sharing those reviews with you, it’s important that I try a variety of things because you may find it necessary to scale back the luxe and enjoy more economical experiences.

 In this spirit of this, I am reviewing a lower priced hotel in the Philadelphia area. I stayed at the Microtel Inn and Suites near Philadelphia International Airport (on Tinicum Drive). The hotel is modest but boasts a continental breakfast, close proximity to the airport, and free wifi.

I reserved a room with a double bed, and I was impressed with the simplicity and tidiness of the room upon settling in. However, there were a few issues that I want to note, for anyone interested in visiting this location.

 For starters, only the suites have microwaves, coffeemakers and refrigerators. Since my room technically wasn’t a suite, there was no way to preserve the takeout that I ordered. Also, the walls are very thin: I heard the television next to my room for quite a few hours. I know that complete soundproofing isn’t possible – nor is it desirable – but I would have enjoyed a quieter stay (for the record, the room next door did turn off/turn down the TV before 12 AM, so I didn’t have to listen to their set all night).

The main issue came after my first night at the hotel. The following morning, I went to use the internet and . . . it wasn’t working. I contacted the front desk and I was advised that they were aware of the issue but they were waiting on a technician to resolve it. It took nearly 4 hours (from the time I woke up around 6:30 AM to sometime before 11 AM) for the internet to be fixed. It wouldn’t have been a major issue except I needed to access systems for my job and send reports. I ended up using my cell phone as a hot spot, but that is my least favorite way of accessing the internet.

My overall takeaway is this: Microtel Inn and Suites Philadelphia Airport location is fine for one night, two maximum. It works out just fine for someone that may need to rest before continuing on their journey, or if you’re traveler that plans to just crash for the night after having a whirlwind tour of the city.

life curation · travel

Review: Drury Inn and Suites Charlotte Arrowood

During my last trip to Charlotte, I stayed at the Drury Inn and Suites in Charlotte’s Arrowood neighborhood. This location is conveniently located directly off of I-77 and is close to lots of Charlotte’s great restaurants and shopping.

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Photo from the Drury Hotels website

There are so many “pros” and only one or two “cons” from my stay. Firstly, the restaurant location is convenient and it has plenty of amenities (indoor AND outdoor pools, whirlpool, 24 hour gym and fitness center, hot breakfast and happy hour, free wi-fi, ample free parking, etc.,).

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The bed, so comfy, and there were plenty of pillows, too.

The room was comfortable and immaculately clean. I really enjoyed the product dispensers in the shower: no more mini-bottles slipping through your fingers when your hands are soapy. For curly girls, the conditioner dispenser is a godsend: you can finally use the hotel conditioner without having to ask housekeeping for extra bottles (ask me how I know about this struggle!)

Photos from the bathroom

The breakfast was tasty and had a lot of variety. Kudos to this hotel for having more than two waffle irons available for customer use. Also, the smell of fresh popcorn in the lobby (it’s available until 9 PM every night) was heavenly.

Now, I did mention that there were one or two “cons”. We contacted housekeeping to receive a few extra clean towels and it took nearly two hours to receive them. To the hotel’s credit, it was earlier in the day, so I’m assuming that the housekeeping staff was just busier than normal. Also, it’s a lower-cost hotel, so don’t expect super luxury. That’s not a true “con” in my opinion: after all, the hotel exceeded my expectations for the price point.

Overall, I loved staying at the Drury Inn and Suites. I recommend them and will stay again in the future!

international · travel

Review: Ibis Styles Nairobi Westlands Hotel

During my incredible trip to Nairobi, I stayed at the Ibis Styles Hotel in the Westlands neighborhood. The recently remodeled hotel is a member of the Accor Hotels family. It is modern, secure and tastefully appointed. I stayed for a week, so I’m pretty comfortable mentioning the pros and cons of the hotel as I experienced it.

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The rooms are small but comfortable. The view isn’t particularly incredible but it’s a major city, so you should expect to see lots of buildings and not a ton of lush greenery. Oh, it was kind of nice to look down from the room and see schoolchildren playing during recess. I could even hear them when the television was turned off: it was fun hearing them laugh.

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Room photo as available on the Accor Hotels website

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Views from my window

The hotel security is top notch, quick and pleasant. Had I chosen to drive, I could have parked there for free all week (that’s a big plus!). The hotel has a restaurant on site that served incredible meals (I chose half board, so breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the room). There was also a small cafe that served quick, tasty snacks and small meals. Sadly, these options weren’t available after 11 PM, so if you want to nibble late at night, you’ll either have to stash goodies in your room or be prepared to go out and grab a bite.

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Utamu is the hotel’s restaurant, and Sky Bar is the Cafe

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Some of the meals I enjoyed during my stay

One of the advantages of this hotel is the excellent insect control: the room did not have – nor did it need – mosquito nets. During the entire stay, I didn’t experience any bug bites. That may have been because I visited during dry season, but my hunch is that the hotel has a stellar repellant setup to make up mosquito nets unnecessary.

Now, as great as this hotel was, there were some drawbacks. For starters, there is NO space for storing clothing. There are no dressers, and very little hanger space in the room. But what it lacks in storage space it makes up for in room under the beds: it was easy to slide my luggage out of sight. There are also no in-room refrigerators, so you’re limited to room-temp snacks (not a big deal, unless you plan on staying for more than a few days). There is also no in-room iron or ironing board, though there is an ironing room on the floor. Every time I went to iron my clothing, no one else was in there, so I’m guessing this setup works for most people.

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Painting in my room

The room shower gets hot enough (yay for that!) but the drainage isn’t so good: water puddled and spilled out of the bathroom no matter how hard I tried to prevent it. That’s a design flaw that I don’t anticipate will be fixed any time soon. However, it was easy to contact room service and get more towels as needed.

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Mirror detailing in the room

Also, despite describing itself as having an exchange counter, the staff seemed uncomfortable and confused about exchanging US dollars for Kenyan shillings. Their rate is MUCH higher than going to the ATM at the mall that I visited (The Hub in the Karen neighborhood). It’s easier and more cost efficient to withdraw from the ATM than to exchange money at the hotel. Not a con, per se, but something I’ll remember during my next visit.

So, would I return to Ibis Style Hotel in Westlands? Yes, absolutely! The pros far outweighed any cons, and I was pleased with my stay overall. The only way I’d consider a different hotel in Nairobi is if I planned to stay longer than ten days: I need a dresser in my room LOL!

art · international

International Art: Tom Mboya, Kenyan Artist

While vacationing in Kenya, I noticed that my hotel (Ibis Styles in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood) had beautiful artwork lining the stairwells. Upon closer inspection, I saw that all of the paintings – about 30 in total, displayed in sets of 3 amongst 10 different floors – were done by Tom Mboya.

My curiosity kicked into overdrive and I started researching Mboya. As it so happens, Tom Mboya is a local Kenyan artist (no surprise there) that started out working in the hospitality industry before pursuing his art fulltime. The paintings are stunning and lively; from dynamic depictions of life in Kenya to breathtaking portraits of his countrywomen, these paintings draw you in and hold you captive.

Here are a few of my favorites from the hotel:

 

 

If you’d like to learn more about Mboya, check out his artist profile here.