Maine’s rocky coast

I often hear people say things like, “oh I loved such-and-such a place. Can’t wait to go back!”  While I’ve loved nearly every trip we’ve taken, I don’t have much of a desire to return to most places I’ve visited. The list is quite small for me.

New York. I would go back to NYC because it’s a city that’s always changing and there are always new opportunities for theater, shopping, and dining there. I don’t feel a need to go back to the touristy spots there that we’ve seen. There is so much to do in the city that a visit can be quite full without seeing any of it again.

Maine. After spending summer vacations there as a kid, Maine feels like home to me, so I would be happy to go back and spend some time by the ocean, eating lobster and shellfish. I could just park myself there for a few days without running around and seeing much, since I’ve been to so many towns and areas of the state already.

Ireland and Scotland. These places spoke to my roots in a very deep way and I felt very comfortable and at home here. I could see myself spending time there, just living there for a month or two.

Naples, Florida. We’ve been to Florida every year for the past 17, so there’s no doubt we will keep returning since my parents spend the winters there. Naples is a nice mix of perfect beaches and decent shopping and dining so it’s great for a winter getaway. It’s also relaxing to go someplace where you know where everything is.

I can’t think of any other place I want to go back to. Instead of trying to recreate wonderful trips from the past, I’m more interested in seeing something new and experiencing a new place. Although I’ve been to quite a few Caribbean islands, I haven’t yet found one that is completely perfect. I’ll keep trying new ones. I’m more inclined to use the destinations I’ve loved as inspiration for other places to go. We loved Japan so maybe we should go to China. Italy and France were fantastic, so Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland would likely make us happy.  Hawaii was amazing, so Fiji would be too. Yellowstone was stunning, so Yosemite would be wonderful to visit.

Are there destinations you’ve been to that you are hot to return to? What are they?

I often hear people say things like, “oh I loved such-and-such a place. Can’t wait to go back!”  While I’ve loved nearly every trip we’ve taken, I don’t have much of a desire to return to most places I’ve visited. The list is quite small for me. New York. I would go back to NYC … Read more

Before we went to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, I read that Grace Bay repeatedly gets voted the best beach in the world by various travel sites. I’ve been to a lot of beaches, so I was ready to put this to the test. I was also interested to see if the Grace Bay Club met my expectations. We considered several hotels when planning our February getaway to T&C. The deciding factors for me were that the photos of the Grace Bay Club did not show that tight gaggle of lounge chairs you so often see on Caribbean beaches and the hotel had an adults only pool that is heated. I love to spend time at the beach and in the pool and I want to do so without 400 other people. The hotel’s location also was perfect, right in the heart of Grace Bay and close to restaurants and shops. Another important consideration was the hotel’s reassurance that they had gluten free toast for breakfast. We chose an oceanfront room with a balcony.

Getting Started

Our arrival at the Grace Bay Club was low key. The entrance to the hotel is unassuming. We entered reception and had an awkward greeting where I was directed to sit in a chair in front of the desk while my husband was left standing. We were both offered refreshments and enjoyed the fruit punch, as well as a cool cloth. The check in procedure felt a little weird as the woman assisting us kept coming around the desk and handing us things. My husband was signing things on the corner of the desk. It was just a bit strange.

We were then told we would meet our personal concierge who would show us around the property and to our room. The Grace Bay Club needs to do a much better job with their web site because there was absolutely no mention of a personal concierge on the site or when we called with questions about the accommodations. A personal concierge is not something I wanted as an amenity but it seemed like it could be useful.

Our personal concierge came and took us on a walk through the property which was nice, although she shared so much information at such a rapid speed that it was nearly impossible to follow it all.

The Room

Our room was lovely with a king bed, desk, chairs, and a huge unit that contained the TV, mini fridge, drawers, and hanging space. The balcony had chairs and a table. The view was oceanfront, but the ocean was just past one of the restaurants, so it was not a perfect view.  The bathroom had a separate shower and soaking tub and bi-fold shutters opened onto the bedroom over the tub. This was actually nice since it opened up the bathroom and allowed natural light in.  Our room had a fruit plate (lovely), bottles of water which were replenished each day (also nice), and a bottle of champagne (useless since we don’t drink).

The Resort

The view

The grounds of the hotel are lovely and green, with winding paths throughout. We had access to two pools. One was for everyone and contained a swim-up bar. The other was adults only with an infinity edge and a clear glass side. There was a third pool we did not have access to – the type of room you have controls your access to the different pools, so we paid a bit more for a room that included the adult only pool. The pools are staffed with gentlemen who will place a towel-like cover on the lounger for you and provide you with towels and water, and also take orders for drinks or food. There is a spa (which we did not visit), a business center (which we did use when our flight home was cancelled due to weather and we had to scramble to get another flight). The hotel also has bikes you can borrow at no charge. This is a nice amenity since you could easily bike to most stores and restaurants in the area, while they might be a bit of a hike if you walked. On the beach there are kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and hobie cats for use for guests. We tried the paddle board and the kayaks and had a great time.

It’s also good to note that if you plan to take any boat excursions (for parasailing, snorkeling, or just a tour), the Grace Bay Club is one of the three spots on the entire beach where people can be picked up. There are ropes in the water designating the swimming area all along the beach and one of the few openings where boats can pull up to the beach is right in front of the hotel.

The Beach

The beach was perfect in every way. The sand is soft and there are almost no shells. The water is that magical turquoise color so ubiquitous in the Caribbean. The water is warm and completely clear. Most days there was just a gentle breeze which kept things from getting too hot but was not enough to disturb you. You can walk long distances in either direction. I can see why the beach is rated so high because it was nearly perfect. The sand fleas were the biggest problem and we soon found we were covered in bites on our lower calves. In general we found the beach not to be crowded but we were there in early February before high season truly kicked in.

There is a shelf to put your shoes on just before the steps to the beach and there are foot showers there as well. The property has a lot of ocean frontage, so the chairs are nicely spread out. They are arranged so that there is an umbrella, two loungers, a table, and two low beach chairs at each spot. Some of the loungers have cushions but you have to get there early to get one. The same gentlemen who work at the pools will assist you on the beach and will set you up with chair liners and towels. Each sitting area has a red flag. If you need something, you stand the flag up in the sand.  While it was clear that many of the elderly hotel patrons enjoyed interacting with the beach and pool workers (who often sat and chatted with them), we go on vacation to be left alone. And the biggest problem with this system is there are only one or two guys working at a time so if you need anything, they are likely busy with someone else. We ended up just grabbing our own linens and setting ourselves up each day, instead of standing around and waiting for ten minutes each time. We learned to just bring our own bottled water from the room because it was about a 20 minute wait to get some. It also became clear that those patrons who brought cash to the beach and tipped these guys each time got great service. We didn’t and so were not in favor.


The property has several restaurants, including one right on the beach where all the food is served on skewers. The hotel’s bar has the longest beach front bar in the Caribbean. There was a nice fire pit area near the bar where people congregated at night and although our room was near the bar, we didn’t hear loud music at night. The main restaurant serves Italian food and we go to the Caribbean to eat fish, so we did not partake, but it is generally rated highly. There was a beach buffet one evening that was characterized as Caribbean food. We skipped this as well given questions about what was gluten free and because I just don’t want to eat buffet food.

Breakfast was included each morning at an outdoor restaurant next to a pool, facing the beach. The view is lovely from here. Breakfast was a buffet but eggs could be ordered. We found our servers were generally on island time, not interested in taking our egg orders in a timely way and giving us a little attitude when we asked for service. The food was fine with fruit, cheese, pastries, juice, yogurt, cereal, meat, vegetables, and some hot dishes including bacon, sausage, grits, fish and other items. The first morning there was gluten

free bread (as promised). The second morning there was none (when we asked we were told they didn’t have that). The third morning we had to ask for it and the fourth morning it was left out on the buffet. Not exactly consistent or what we were promised.

Breakfast view

Afternoon tea was also included (and this was not something mentioned on the web site or in our conversations with staff on the phone). We were told they would have gluten free items there. More on that in a minute. The tea was a self-serve affair at the breakfast buffet area with coffee and tea and a few plates of cookies and crustless sandwiches. Not many people seemed to be partaking in it.


Longest bar

Our private concierge Tranay gave us a very strange little inexpensive cell phone we were supposed to use to contact her if we needed anything. This sounded great – immediate access. She offered to make dinner reservations. We called her soon after checking in with a dinner reservation request. She told us the place we wanted was not “the best of the best” and wanted us to dine at the hotel instead. I knew I wanted to go there (and it was a lovely meal) so we insisted ( couldn’t help but feel she was got a kick back if we ate at the hotel). Things went downhill with her from there.  She told us afternoon tea would have gluten free options. We stopped in the first day and they did not. We mentioned this to her and to her credit she made sure they did have options moving forward, however she called us the next day and pressured us and basically told us we “had” to go since she made sure they had options for us. When we said we weren’t sure we would go, she insisted on bringing a plate of food up to our room. When there was no gluten free bread the second day at breakfast we let her know and she took care of it, but it took many phone calls with her.

She was not able to get us a dinner reservation at a popular restaurant and she called us three or four times a day on that little cell phone for various reasons – often just to check in (it seemed to me the concierges must be mandated to make contact with each guest each day). We left it in the room since we had no need to be constant contact with her. One day she told us that when we didn’t answer she went looking for us at the pool and the beach (we were not on the property at the time) which felt over the top. We found her to be pushy and aggressive. I went on vacation to get away from constant phone calls and people who want things from me.  It seemed that she was trying NOT to be a laid back island person, but she went too far in the other direction and became an annoyance. That being said, if you are a person who wants to have someone managing your vacation for you – telling you where and when to eat and scheduling activities for you, this might be a good situation. We were looking for rest and relaxation and not complicated interactions with people on our trip.

My final beef is she told us to leave for the airport four before our flight. The airport is about half an hour away and we needed to drop off the rental car and ride a shuttle to the airport. It is my experience that Caribbean airports often have ridiculously long lines (for no good reason), however there were no lines at all at this airport and we ended up sitting at the airport for three hours before our flight. I would expect a concierge to have a handle on what the wait times are like.

We encountered a few problems with other services.

Housekeeping left dirty dishes in our room several times. We requested a bucket of ice from room service be delivered at a specific time and it arrived half an hour later than we asked (island time apparently). I understand that having an ice machine down the hall is tacky, but I would so much rather buzz down the hall to get some ice myself than have to make phone calls and wait for people who don’t show up.

Despite my picky grievances (which mostly have to do with the service), this is a lovely, wonderful property on a magnificent beach. The facility itself is completely top notch – it was the staff that caused some bumps in the road for us. I would highly recommend a stay here simply because it was so gorgeous and perfect.

Fire pit


Before we went to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, I read that Grace Bay repeatedly gets voted the best beach in the world by various travel sites. I’ve been to a lot of beaches, so I was ready to put this to the test. I was also interested to see if the Grace Bay Club … Read more

img_0928If you haven’t been to Cape Breton you must go. And if you go, you’ll want to stay at the Keltic Lodge. There isn’t a single other inn or B&B on Cape Breton with a location that can rival the Keltic Lodge. Located on the east coast of the Cabot Trail in Ingonish, the lodge is actually inside the Highlands National Park. It’s positioned on a point, so there is ocean on two sides. The views are spectacular. And even the drive into the lodge is wonderful. You wander along a narrow road through a birch forest until you reach the grounds of the lodge.

The lodge is made up of many buildings. There is the main lodge which houses a restaurant and has floors of old style hotel rooms (they are small and cramped and do not have air conditioning), some cabins, a modern hotel style two floor building as well as some connected cabins. There is also a building used for banquets, a building with a casual restaurant, and a spa/gym building. You’ll also drive by a run down, peeling building that appears to be the lodging for the staff ( a la Dirty Dancing). A coat of paint would do wonders for that.img_0865

We had a bit of drama with our room when we arrived. First of all, the hotel is located past the entry point for the Park and you are supposed to buy a pass before you come to the lodge but we had no instructions about this and didn’t figure it out until the next day. The property has no signs, so you have to just guess where to go and where the main lodge is. And once you are in the main lodge, you also have to guess where to check in. There’s no desk in the lobby. Instead, you go into a small office off to the side. Again, no signs. So actually finding your way to check in is your first obstacle.

We reserved our room online and requested an ocean view. We started to make our way to our room, which was in the two story modern hotel building. However we could not find our room. We walked down the hall one way, then the other, and our room number was missing. There was a big gap in how the numbers were laid out. Fortunately there was a courtesy phone in the hall so we called the desk and asked for help. The room numbers do not go in order we were told and were given instructions as to how to find our room — located beyond the next hundreds block of numbers, which made no sense at all. If this is the case, you would think you would put up a sign OR tell the guests when they were checking in. We finally located our room, which had a lovely view of the parking lot. No ocean. The staff then told us we had not reserved an ocean view and they had none. They did a have room in the main lodge with a view. Off we trekked to this room. We wisely did not bring in our luggage, since it turns out the main lodge has no elevator. The room we were offered was sparse and small. The bathroom was ancient. There was no carpeting. There was no air conditioning (and when we asked we were told it was “in the closet” – the only items in the closet were a window fan and a standing fan — this in addition to the ceiling fan is a good indication that that room is an inferno). The ocean view involved a large Canadian flag directly outside the window, flapping loudly in the breeze.img_1025

We declined and went back to our parking lot view room. Once we unpacked, we attempted to open the door to the patio. The door was broken, so we had to get maintenance to come and repair it. Through all of this drama, we found the staff to be unhelpful and unfriendly, which was memorable since everyone else we encountered in Nova Scotia was incredibly friendly and kind. Couple this with the absolute lack of signs and the place felt unfriendly to us.

img_1013In contrast, our room was very comfortable, very modern and attractive. We had a mini fridge, Keurig, and a large luxurious bathroom with heated floors. The ceiling was thin though so we heard all sorts of noises from above us. Our rate was $271 Canadian per night for a September stay.

Breakfast was included and the buffet included eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, baked beans, pancakes, yogurt, cereal, breads and more. We ordered hot chocolate two mornings and both mornings it arrived almost stone cold. We had dinner at the casual restaurant on the property one evening and again found there to be some communication issues with the staff as to what was gluten free and what wasn’t.img_0946

There’s lots of room to walk on the property and there is a trail that goes out to the end of the point if you’d like a longer hike. There is also a golf course on the property. A small gift shop was forgettable. The star here is the view and no matter where you walk on the property you will have breathtaking views of ocean, an island, cliffs, beaches and apparently sometimes whales will make an appearance as well. It was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen at a hotel.img_0927

Ingonish is a bit remote from other Cabot Trail locations. It’s a good stopping point if you’re making your way around the trail, but staying here for several nights, we found we were constantly driving back and forth and it got a bit tedious. Mix things up a bit and take the Ingonish ferry for part of the drive if you’re staying a while. Ingonish is a small area and if you want more shops and restaurants you’ll need to head south to Baddeck which is about an hour and a half. It’s a longer drive to find anything to the north and west on the trail.

img_1017If you book a room, I recommend doing so by phone to avoid a mix up over what type of view you’ll have. Don’t expect a warm Nova Scotia welcome, and instead focus on enjoying the breathtaking scenery at this location.img_0888

Hotel Review: Keltic Lodge, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

If you haven’t been to Cape Breton you must go. And if you go, you’ll want to stay at the Keltic Lodge. There isn’t a single other inn or B&B on Cape Breton with a location that can rival the Keltic Lodge. Located on the east coast of the Cabot Trail in Ingonish, the lodge … Read more

nova-scotia-2016-4Lunenburg is a lovely little town on the Nova Scotia coast and is convenient to Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove, as well as being not far from Halifax, making it a great location. You can also drive a few hours and get to the Bay of Fundy or out to Digby. I had a lot of difficulty finding available lodging in Nova Scotia for the September week we visited. I soon learned that’s because the place is overrun with tour groups all fall. Many of those buses deposited people overnight in Lunenburg, making it tricky to find a room. I found success with the Smuggler’s Cove Inn though.

I didn’t have high hopes for this inn based on their website. Although the rooms themselves looked comfortable, one of their main photos is of a view of other buildings which did make me worried since they had no other photos showing a view (note to the inn: change that photo). The room I reserved was with an ocean view, so I was hopeful. Our rate was $199 per night, Canadian (a bargain with the exchange rate).

The Inn itself does not look inviting from the outside. It’s in a large corner building that is lacking in character (and in UNESCO World Heritage Site Lunenburg, this is unusual). The lobby is on the main floor, sandwiched between a restaurant and a shop. The rooms are all on the upper floors. There are stairs and an elevator.

I was pleased with our room. The bed and furnishings were attractive and comfortable. We did have a view of the harbor, slightly obstructed with some buildings, butnova-scotia-2016-7 it was enough to make me happy. The room had a mini fridge, coffee maker, and a window-style air conditioner built into the wall (and we did need it even though it was September). The bathroom was very small (toilet, corner shower, and pedestal sink), but bright and clean. Overall I would rate the room as quite comfortable but not luxurious. However, I’ll call them out for the ugly poster that was on the wall in our room. It didn’t fit the style and character of the room or the inn and it was just ugly and out of place.

The best part of the inn is its location. You can easily walk to the harbor, to the shops and restaurants, or to the historic area. The town is quite small and walkable and the inn is positioned well to take advantage of it. The inn does have parking kitty-corner across the street as well as an unloading spot in front of the lobby. Parking can be tricky in town, so this is an important feature.


Our view, once I zoomed in past the buildings that were in the way

nova-scotia-2016-6I found the inn a bit lacking in a few other ways. There is no breakfast included, although we were given one day’s worth of coupons for $3 off our breakfasts at the restaurant next door. Fortunately, several of the restaurants in town offer breakfast, so we were able to fuel up easily each morning. While the inn has an elevator, on our floor there were a couple sets of small stairs in a few places where we had to haul our luggage up and down to get to our room. Our room opened off of a living room area with chairs and a couch. Unfortunately, the day we arrived it had been co-opted by a large group of rowdy guests who had made it into their person cocktail party area. They were loud and messy. Although they left for dinner, they were also loud when they returned at night. There was a wide swath under our door that let in noise and light from this common area. After the first night, I stuffed pillows in front of the door to stop the light from shining into our room and to try to stop any noise from bothering us. We also had some trouble with noise outside on the street. One night we slept with windows open and were awakened several times by shouting, music, sirens, or cars starting up. With the air conditioner on, we didn’t notice the outside noise.

The front desk was closed when we checked out at 8 am in the morning, so we had to just leave our key on the desk and head out on our merry way. If you’re looking for accommodations in the area, the Smuggler’s Cove Inn is an affordable and comfortable solution.

Hotel Review: Smuggler’s Cove Inn, Lunenburg, NS

Lunenburg is a lovely little town on the Nova Scotia coast and is convenient to Mahone Bay and Peggy’s Cove, as well as being not far from Halifax, making it a great location. You can also drive a few hours and get to the Bay of Fundy or out to Digby. I had a lot … Read more

It’s easy to get caught up in the magic of movies when you visit LA. On our recent visit we definitely got into the spirit of things. But I couldn’t help but feel something was missing.


IMG_0175Paramount Studies

There are several studios that offer tours so it can be hard to choose just one. We settled on Paramount because of its history and because we had actually seen many of the movies filmed there. Our tour guide drove us around on an oversized golf cart and we saw the exteriors of many great things – Lucille Ball’s office, the street where the marble rye episode of Seinfeld was filmed, the famous Paramount water tower, and the parking lot they flooded to film The Ten Commandments. We also were taken on-set at Dr. Phil, School of Rock, and Grace and Frankie. It was fascinating to see actual TV sets. Our tour guide told us lots and lots of stories about famous actors and directors. It was a satisfying experience and one that definitely allowed us to feel we were in the movie and TV capital of the world. The tour ended on a slightly limp note, at room that contained some items from sets as well as costumes, however we didn’t recognize a single one.

Walk of Fame

You can’t go to LA without experiencing the Walk of Fame, so we made our way to the Chinese Theater, which is an actual functioning movie theater so you don’t actually go inside it. We wandered around the sidewalks, exclaiming at the stars we recognized. In front of the theater we put our feet in the footprints made by stars. We ducked the crazy people dressed inIMG_0191 costumes or shouting Biblical verses at us on the streets. It was exciting to stand in the spot where the Oscars red carpet takes place.

And Then What?

We had such fun on our two movie star stops, but then there was no place else to go that had anything to do with the movie industry! For a city that is the center of all things film, I really expected there to be more things to do. After we took our side trip to Palm Springs, I realized what was missing. In Palm Springs we visited the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway – the house where he and Priscilla lived for the first year of their marriage. It’s preserved in time with all the original furnishings. After visiting this amazing site and hearing all the stories our tour guide shared, IMG_0193I realized that THIS is what is missing in LA. Sure, you can take one of those tours that purportedly drive you past the gates of the stars’ homes, but why aren’t there homes to actually visit? I would have loved to have gone inside Marilyn Monroe’s, Lucille Ball’s, or Rudy Valentino’s homes. I would have even settled for Charlie Sheen’s. Or at the very least why are there not museums dedicated to specific stars themselves? Seeing all the memorabilia and belongings displayed at the Elvis home made me long for some other very real experiences.


It’s easy to get caught up in the magic of movies when you visit LA. On our recent visit we definitely got into the spirit of things. But I couldn’t help but feel something was missing.   Paramount Studies There are several studios that offer tours so it can be hard to choose just one. … Read more



I didn’t expect Palm Springs to be so low key. Everything about this town in the desert is understated and unassuming. The buildings are all low. Even the homes celebrities live in look small from the road. The main strip of the town has small t-shirt shops and nothing that screams wealth or excess. The town hunkers down, surrounded by mountains, quiet in the hot desert air, trying not to be noticed.

The Triada Palm Springs is no exception. It took us a couple of passes to even find it on North Indian Canyon Drive, one block over from North Palm Canyon, the main strip. It doesn’t look like a hotel as you drive past. There’s just one small sign in front of a low building that has no windows. There isn’t even a driveway, but just an area to pull over on the side of the road so the valet can take your car. And that valet? He’s not outside in the hot desert air so you’ll have to go inside to make your first human contact.IMG_0229

The lobby is unassuming and Spanish in style, but calming with its tile floors and architectural couches. If you’re looking for the mid-century modern vibe that Palm Springs is known for, you won’t find it in the lobby.

The hotel is located near the main strip, but it’s several blocks away from the main area of shops and restaurants so it is a walk. The resort next door has a good restaurant (The Purple Palm) and if you want to walk somewhere easily.

The grounds of the resort itself are small and cozy feeling. Everything is arranged around the two pools, all fit within about a half of a block. The Spanish vibe continues as you find rooms arranged in three or four buildings with orange tile roofs and whitewashed walls. The resort felt quiet to us when we visited in the off season in June. The rooms are all carefully tucked under overhangs to shield them from the hot desert sun.

Our first floor room was comfortable with two double beds and an expansive bathroom with walk-in shower. Some mid-century touches make it into the rooms, in the artwork and lamps. We weren’t destined to stay long in this room though since the air conditioning broke down the first night, leading to a very sweaty and uncomfortable night as we tossed and turned, wondering why the room felt stifling. In the morning, once we realized what had happened, a call to management first resulted in an effort to repair it (no luck) and then an offer to either move us to the room next door or upgrade us to a suite. That was a no-brainer and we rolled our bags to the suite.

Our first room

Our first room

IMG_0230The suite was lovely with a full kitchen with granite counters and stainless appliances, including a full refrigerator with an ice maker and water dispenser (no more walks over to the fitness room to get ice for us). Another lovely bathroom, coupled with our double beds and a gorgeous patio that wrapped around the room, complete with outdoor table and chairs and bench seating (although it was simply too hot for us to sit outside in the heat wave) made this a very comfortable upgrade. We found that both rooms were a bit challenged when it came to lighting, with lighting in the wall behind the beds or only on the nightstand, but none elsewhere in the rooms, making them a bit dark. The management also gave us a comp for $10 in free drinks for our trouble.  This time the air conditioning worked, but the toilet was plugged when we went to use it so we had to call for help with that immediately.

While we’re listing the negatives, we had a small problem with room security. We left our room one morning before it had been cleaned, carefully closing the door behind us. We returned in the late afternoon to find the door partially open. The room had been cleaned and the door had not been shut behind the staff when they left (or so we assumed). Not only were we concerned about our belongings, but the room was not the comfortable 72 degrees we had set the temperature at and was close to 90. A call to the front desk evoked concern and relief that nothing was missing. We received apologies and nothing else.

If you’re looking for views, you won’t get many here. The rooms are low and surrounded by trees. Ask for a room that does not face the pool if you want a quiet room.

We enjoyed the two pools. The pool by the bar is smaller and was warmer when we were there. The other pool is larger and a bit cooler. The lounge chairs by the pools were comfortable. If you’re really hot (and we visited during a 122 degree heat wave) you may want to sit by the small pool under the misters that blow off the bar. We had some frozen drinks and found the female bartender aggressive but competent.IMG_0228IMG_0234

Our package included breakfast and one of the reasons we chose the Triada was because they did offer breakfast. It was a bit disappointing since they don’t actually have a restaurant. They serve bar food during the day and breakfast in the morning. We were given a choice of the type of eggs, bacon or sausage, and type of toast. There was no fruit. The breakfast was acceptable but not exciting in any way. It did its job though, and fueled us up for the day.

Room #2

Room #2

We found the resort to have a sleepy vibe that fit the extreme heat and the character of the town. The resort was convenient to everything in town. We enjoyed the pools very much and it it had been cooler, we would have spent more time there. The staff were generally friendly and helpful. Our room was comfortable (once we resolved the many issues) and we felt at home here.

The suite's kitchen

The suite’s kitchen

The suite's patio

The suite’s patio


I didn’t expect Palm Springs to be so low key. Everything about this town in the desert is understated and unassuming. The buildings are all low. Even the homes celebrities live in look small from the road. The main strip of the town has small t-shirt shops and nothing that screams wealth or excess. The … Read more

On our recent trip to Asia we stayed exclusively at Ritz Carlton properties, which provided an excellent point of comparison between them. Kyoto was my favorite.

One brief note about the Ritz hotels in general before I share details about the Kyoto property. We were traveling as a party of three (myself, my husband, and our 23 year old daughter). It is nearly impossible to find hotel rooms in Asia that can accommodate three people, unless you get a roll away cot. We find roll aways to be very uncomfortable for adults, so did not want this option. Most hotels in Asia and Japan have rooms with a king size bed or two twins. The Ritz is the only hotel we found that had double beds, allowing us to fit three people in the rooms. The only alternative was to pay for two rooms and most hotels could not guarantee the rooms would connect or even be on the same floor. It ended up being less expensive to book one room at the Ritz than two rooms at a lesser chain. I’m still stunned that this was the case, but it was. We also found that the level of service and the amenities that came with the hotel provided great value to us.

Another note is that we had great difficulty actually getting our reservations made correctly. We booked directly through the Ritz booking line and were quoted rates for three people in the room with breakfast included. We wrote down the rates we were given. The calls were being recorded. We then received email confirmations that listed higher rates, with additional fees for the third person and not including breakfast for all three of us. Emails to the individual hotel properties did not resolve the issue. My tweet to Ritz went unanswered. We escalated the issue to Ritz corporate headquarters where we were assured the problem would easily and quickly be resolved. It took more than a month to get all three of our reservation corrected. The corporate person who was initially so anxious to help us became unreachable and it took many emails and voicemails to get all the reservations corrected. The good news is everything was eventually corrected. The bad news is it took so long and so much effort on our part to accomplish this.

The Setting

The Kyoto Ritz Carlton hotel is located next to the Kamogawa River and is on a side street, near a busy shopping area. It is centrally located with most areas of interest a short drive away. You don’t even notice the hotel is there as you walk past since the entrance is through a garage. It has a very discrete feeling to it. Once you’re dropped off at the bellman’s desk inside the garage, you walk under a pergola across a bubbling

Hotel entranceway

Hotel entranceway

man-made stream with waterfalls to the unassuming door of the hotel. It’s worth stopping out here for a moment though to enjoy

Hotel garden

Hotel garden

this serene and truly Japanese garden. It provides a soothing moment of calm before entering the hotel. One of the greeters who is always present at the bell area wears a traditional kimono, which is a nice touch.

The Common Areas

The lobby is broken up into areas. When you first enter, you walk directly by the concierge desk and a small seating area. Walk though a large wooden automatic door and you enter the main lobby with seating areas, a macaron counter, a lounge, and eventually the main desk. The lobby is unassuming but quietly elegant. There are jars of Japanese candy in the corner of a sitting area if you need something sweet.

Elevators lead to the upper floors. The hallways are very Japanese with panels and hidden closets. The hallways feel quiet and private.



Side exterior of hotel

Side exterior of hotel

Our Room

Entrance hall in the room

Entrance hall in the room

We entered our room to find it segmented into three areas: a hallway, bathroom, and main bedroom. The hallway ran next to the bathroom but there was curiously no door between the two areas at the bathroom opening right by the front door. The hallway consisted of a bar area, mini fridge, mirror and some shallow storage. It was nice to have this separate area for storage and it made the room

Double beds

Double beds

feel larger to have a separate little space.

The main bedroom area was spacious compared to the other Ritz properties we stayed at. There were two double beds as well as a day bed with a twin size mattress. The beds were of course wonderfully comfortable. The nightstands next to the beds had buttons that controlled the lighting and draperies in the room, which is very convenient. The day bed had a small table next to it. A seating area contained two chairs and a table, as well as a storage unit. A plate of grapes greeted us. A glass door led to the patio which faced the river. Two chairs and a table beckoned us to sit and relax. We could not actually see the river due to the trees, but we could hear it and the sound of it enchanted me. I left the door open to be able to hear it (more on this in a minute!).

Day bed

Day bed

The bathroom was similarly spacious. A double sink vanity with mirror and TV took up one wall. On the counter was a large black lacquer box containing toiletries. There was not a lot of counter space, however. The tub and shower were in a glass enclosed room (which meant there was no way for two people to be



in the bathroom at the same time if privacy was required) with the shower area simply comprising all of the space next to the tub. It had a wooded slat floor. The tub was deep for soaking. The Western style toilet with requisite Japanese toilet seat was in a small room, next to a closet.

We found the room to be extremely comfortable. However, because I had left the door to the patio open, soon the room began to smell like dead fish. We quickly closed the door but the room continued to smell this way for our entire stay. It was distracting and did in part ruin the experience. We did not



complain to the staff because I felt I had caused the problem by leaving the door open for an hour or so and because I really thought the smell would dissipate once the door was closed. Instead it simply reeked for our entire three-night stay. If the housekeeping staff noticed, they did nothing.


The staff at the hotel was excellent. They view themselves as a small high-service hotel, and it shows. I contacted guest services

Tub and shower

Tub and shower

before we left home to get assistance with restaurant recommendations and to arrange transportation. They responded to emails swiftly and with courtesy. We arrived extremely early for check-in and after a brief wait, our room was ready. We were invited to sit on couches during check in while the woman assisting us knelt on the floor at the coffee table. This felt a little odd to us Westerners but we understood the courtesy of the gesture.

We asked to have a bucket of ice brought to the room each evening and that request was handled without an issue. The concierge staff arranged for a car and driver for a day for us, made restaurant reservations, and provided directions to shopping areas. The concierge staff spoke excellent English and were all very accommodating, if a bit perplexed at our reluctance to dine at extremely high-priced restaurants.

All of the Ritz properties have greeters, but we found those at this property to be the most low-key (but still a bit aggressively friendly). Because the lobby is set up around a staircase going down to the restaurant, there are two paths to the elevators, one of which goes by the main desk and one which does not. We sometimes prefer to just be left alone, so we walked on the side away from the desk when we didn’t feel like answering questions about our day.

We found the bell desk to be very helpful in arranging for transportation to and from the train station and providing taxis when necessary. Whenever the hotel arranged transportation for us with a prior reservation (such as reserving a van to take us to the train, not when we just walked up and asked for a taxi), they always stocked the car or van with bottled water for us which was a nice touch. When they called a taxi for us they always communicated with the driver to explain where to take us, since there was usually a language barrier.

When staying in a country like Japan where the language barrier can be great, it was a great comfort to stay someplace where the staff willingly made all the arrangements we needed, including informing restaurants we needed only gluten-free choices.



One of the lovely features of this hotel is that they offer a variety of free activities and classes, such as origami, flower arranging, or use of bicycles. The bath products were high quality and the bathroom was even stocked with a hair brush, combs, nail files, and more. Our supply of bottled water was always replenished in the room.


We enjoyed breakfast in the hotel each morning. Entering the dining room we were subjected to an assembly line greeting from every staff member. Again, the Ritz

A portion of the breakfast buffet

A portion of the breakfast buffet

errs on the side of over-friendliness which can sometimes feel stifling. The dining room is very comfortable with several secluded nooks, offering much privacy. However it was very dark and was not exactly the place to wake up to your day.  The breakfast buffet is scattered throughout the room with several stations – one so well-hidden we didn’t discover it until the second morning. Eggs are prepared in the kitchen to order. Fruit, meats, traditional Japanese breakfast items, cereals, breads, juices, and hot prepared items make up the buffet. The most notable fact for us is that there was a separate gluten-free station set up at the bar with bread, a dedicated toaster, and cereal. We did inquire in advance if gluten-free bread was available, so I’m not sure if this is a standard feature, or created just for us. T We had some difficulties communicating with the

Gluten free breakfast

Gluten free breakfast

wait staff. My husband asked for a glass of ice each morning (to pour his juice over) and some mornings he got it and other mornings he got ice water. Eggs were not always cooked precisely to specifications, but were close enough that we were able to eat them. We all ordered tea one morning but only two of us got it.

Overall, we were extremely pleased with the hotel and any criticism I have is merely nit-picking (except for the smell in the room, which we should have complained about). The level of service and concern for guests here is sky high. The hotel feels quiet, comfortable, private, and personal. I highly recommend it if you will be visiting Kyoto.



On our recent trip to Asia we stayed exclusively at Ritz Carlton properties, which provided an excellent point of comparison between them. Kyoto was my favorite. One brief note about the Ritz hotels in general before I share details about the Kyoto property. We were traveling as a party of three (myself, my husband, and … Read more


It’s so windy in Aruba the trees are permanently bent over

Do you have nightmare vacation stories? Places you’ve been where you would never return? Trips that went so bad you just wanted to get home as fast as possible? I have a few disasters in my past.

1. Aruba. This trip might have been our biggest disaster. We had a 5 day trip planned, which is essentially two days of travel and three days of vacation. Our plane had a mechanical malfunction and we spent our first night in Newark in February with no winter clothes. We finally arrived in Aruba to find it is absolutely true that Aruba is always windy. Hair blowing in your face, sand blowing into your mouth windy. It’s not exactly an idyllic lie-on-the-beach vacation. There is also absolutely NO authentic artisan shopping or crafts to be found anywhere on the island (it’s my passion). I asked everyone, and even went to a flea market and an art school. I came home empty handed for the first time ever. The island was flooded with American chain restaurants and shops and had no identity. The disaster was capped when my son got food poisoning the last day, from an “authentic” lunch. He was too sick for dinner, so we ended up missing out on reservations at restaurant positioned on a dock over the water at sunset. I didn’t care much for what I saw of the island and would never go back.

2. St. Michael’s, Maryland.  This is a very ancient disaster as it happened more than 20 years ago. Before we went, the AC in our car broke and we left a day late while waiting for it to be repaired. On the way there we spent one night in Philadelphia during which the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. My husband and I stayed in a quaint B&B in St. Michael’s. How quaint was it? Well, there were no innkeepers. Keys were left on the hall table. Breakfast mysteriously was laid out when we arose and we never ever saw a single soul who worked there. I don’t know what we were supposed to do if our toilet got plugged or we had a question about the inn. The other problem was the room. It was a small room with an attached bath. How attached was the bath? So attached that the sink was at the foot of the bed and the toilet was just behind two western style swinging doors next to the bed. Howdy, pardner. The room had a view of the Chesapeake Bay which was impeded by a) a window air conditioner and b)the balcony outside the window that was filled with other guests all day and night. Thus our blinds were shut the entire time and w had no view. There were a handful of shops in town and the one I wanted to go in the most was never open any time we checked. We did enjoy some crabs and a little boat ride on the water but there wasn’t much to do there. We ended up driving to Ocean City and Virginia Beach, but found those locations to be very touristy. The trip was a huge disappointment in every way, from start to finish.

3. Oahu, Hawaii. I enjoyed some parts of this island very much, but it got off to a rocky start. The condo we rented that was supposed to be ocean front was located on a golf course and there were lizards running wild inside. We pulled up stakes and paid way too much for a condo at the Turtle Bay Resort next door, which ended up being simply gorgeous and wonderful (even if we had to eat dirt for a couple of months to pay for it). The Iolani Palace, one of the top things we wanted to see, was closed when it was taken over by rebelling Hawaiian nationalists for just the few days we were there.  We also found the traffic around Honolulu nearly intolerable, but loved the North Shore. My daughter got a UTI and wouldn’t go in the water. Not a complete disaster, but definitely not a dream vacation. It’s not an island I would return to.

4. Hong Kong and Japan. It was hellishly hot when we were in Hong Kong, making it very challenging to do much walking. My husband became suddenly very ill when we were there. We arranged for a doctor through our hotel who diagnosed him with food poisoning. We missed our last day in the city due to the illness and then somehow got him on a plane to Tokyo. He slept the entire way and barely made it to the hotel. I have no idea how he got through customs and immigration with a fever. He recovered slowly (my daughter and I went out and about without him for a few days) and then became ill again on the plane ride home (a serious resistant infection that is believed to have begun with the misdiagnosed food poisoning). I spent most of the trip in a panic about what to do to help him or terrified of eating anything for fear of getting sick myself. The anxiety levels were intense. I also didn’t like most of the food I could eat (being gluten intolerant made it very challenging) since raw fish and cow stomachs are not my cup of tea. Japan was beautiful and there were many things I enjoyed but it’s just not my list for a return visit after everything we went through.

Given how much we have traveled, we are lucky to have had so few true disasters. There have been minor glitches and problems on other trips:

– A broken boat motor in the Finger Lakes

– A houseboat with a propellor that fell off in the middle of a lake in Ontario’s Kawarthas. We waited nervously for a tow as our boat drifted closer and closer to rocks. We spent our first night in a marina instead of anchored by an island as planned. I also managed to have a swimmer’s ear infection during this water vacation and was told not to get it wet.

– Various illnesses, including UTIs, colds, flus, sprained ankles (inside the Tower of Pisa), and mono across the world.

– Carsickness adventures with both children and a husband prone to seasickness.

– An engine that blew in our van on the way home from the Finger Lakes. We had to turn the heat on in August to pull the heat off the engine to get it home.

– Having our car parked in on all sides at the Versailles parking lot and being trapped for an hour or so until someone left so we could get out. Couple this with a wait of about three hours to get into the palace and local police who merely laughed at our parked in predicament and it was a very unpleasant day.

– A hotel in Puerto Rico that was so far away from anything that we spent the entire time in the car

– A pent up emotional reaction to a family tragedy that finally hit me when we were away celebrating our anniversary and ruined a special night

What are your vacation disasters? Are there places you would never return?

Do you have nightmare vacation stories? Places you’ve been where you would never return? Trips that went so bad you just wanted to get home as fast as possible? I have a few disasters in my past. 1. Aruba. This trip might have been our biggest disaster. We had a 5 day trip planned, which … Read more

Plastic food store

Plastic food store

While there are magnificent and amazing things about Japan, I find that after our recent trip there, the things I keep thinking about are the small, little things that somehow add up to a huge cultural difference.

1. Plastic food. People in Japan are obsessed with plastic food. Many, many restaurants display plastic models of their dishes in the front window. Here in the States, you know never to eat anywhere that does this or even has a menu with photos, but it’s not true in Japan. There are also plastic food stores. Because you never know when you might need some.

2. Payment rituals. When you buy something in a store you are supposed to place your credit card, using two hands, onto a small tray by the register. The clerk then picks it up and bows and you’re supposed to bow back. It’s then placed back in the tray (with two hands) for you to pick up. If you pay with cash, the same ritual ensues.

Shopping in a department store in Tokyo

Shopping in a department store in Tokyo

3. Shopping requires assistance. Many stores have one item of each type on display. If you would like to buy it, a sales clerk must get you another one. It’s not a problem though since there are sales people everywhere, swarming in to offer assistance. You do have to be sure to examine the item that you are given so that you can make sure it is not defective or different from the item you indicated you wanted.

4. Washcloths everywhere.  Every time you dine in Japan, you are first presented with a white, warm, wet washcloth. In many instances you do not have a napkin and keep this for the entire meal. Even when you ride the bullet train you are given a packaged wet wipe even if you do not purchase food.

5. Fear of shoes. Don’t even think about coming into a restaurant, temple, shrine, or inn with your shoes on. And when you take your shoes off to enter, you must do so very carefully. Your shoes must never, ever touch the wooden floor (or god forbid, tatami mat) that signals the beginning of the premises and your shoeless feet must never, ever touch the tile, stone, or flooring you entered on. All of this leads to a very complex balancing act where you must remove a shoe and get that foot onto the wooden floor or mat  and then remove the other shoe and then get that foot up too, without losing your balance and touching the actual contaminated floor. If you make a mistake or forget and attempt to enter with your shoes on, the usually reticent Japanese will shout at you. We even had some hotel employees remove their shoes before coming into our room to deliver laundry or ice.

japanese toilet

Toilet with all the bells and whistles: heat, music, spray, dryer, automatic flush

6. Bathroom insanity. High tech Japanese toilets with music, sound effects, heated seats, water sprays and automatic flushes can be found everywhere, even in

Toilet slippers

Toilet slippers

train stations. Most of these toilets automatically begin making noise as soon as you sit on them, to disguise any sounds you might make. When you go to a restaurant or ryokan (traditional inn), there are toilet slippers you are expected to use in the bathrooms (since you have removed your shoes upon entry to the premises).  These are plastic leatherette slippers – the kind your great grandma used to wear. And yet public bathrooms have no soap, no towels, and no hand dryers.  Japanese women carry small washcloth sized towels (usually in crazy patterns) in their purses to dry their hands, but no one is using soap or hand sanitizer. Ever. Yet they are super concerned about your feet. There are many, many shops that just sell these small, brightly colored bathroom towels.

7. Get used to standing. Because we are fat, lazy, loud Americans, we are used to being able to plant our butts on a bench or chair often. In Japan there are almost no benches. We visited many parks and gardens where there was not a bench in sight. We had lunch one day at a busy department store food hall. They have no tables or benches. We were lucky to discover a few chairs in a corner so we could sit and eat. There are notes on the umbrella stands (see #8) warning people not to sit on them – because they are the ONLY possible place you might consider sitting.

8. Umbrella fear. When it rains in Japan, everyone carries a full-size umbrella. When the rain stops, they walk with it like a fun cane. No one – not a single person –

Umbrella stand in Nikko

Umbrella stand in Nikko

carries a fold up umbrella. Stores, restaurants, temples, and shrines have umbrella stands (some sporting signs warning people not to sit on them, because, as we saw, they collapse when a foolish tourist thinks they are a place to sit). They do not want your scary umbrella inside their restaurant or shop, even if it is folded up.

9. Overt politeness. While we certainly encountered a few people who were not friendly or were stone-faced and impenetrable, for the most part, the people we encountered were friendly and unfailingly courteous. I have never been anywhere before where everyone was so very formal and so very careful with their manners. It made me feel like a boorish American. We had a driver pick us up on time and nearly scrape the floor bowing as he apologized over and over for keeping us waiting. People who work in restaurants and shops are friendly and helpful and thank you profusely over and over while bowing many times. Even the gentlemen (and they were gentlemen) who worked in the ticket booths in the subways were professional, courteous, helpful and polite (I couldn’t help but compare them to subway workers in NYC – but there is no comparison). The train conductors who came through the cars to take your tickets would get to the end of the car, turn, and bow to the car before exiting.

10. Wrapping is an art. When you buy something in a shop in the States, it’s usually chucked into a plastic bag and handed to you. When you buy something in Japan, plan to stand there for hours and wait while it is packaged. Price tags are removed. Items are wrapped in tissue paper, foam paper, bubble wrap and usually boxed and then wrapped in wrapping paper. I even had one item wrapped in tissue, foam, bubble wrap, then boxed the then wrapped in bubble wrap again. Your item is then placed in a bag and the bag is sealed shut with a sticker or colorful tape. If it is raining, the bag is then covered with a special rain cover. Some stores provide seating so you can sit and wait while you purchase is packaged, because it is a lengthy and complex process.


Harajuku girls in Japan

11. Buttoned up, until they’re not. When you walk through a train station during rush hour, everyone around you is wearing black, blue, and white. There is no other color on anybody in sight. The women are very buttoned up in high necked blouses and prim suits and dresses. You could hear a pin drop in the station even as the entire place is crawling with people. It’s like being in the middle of worker ants. Each is steadfastedly and silently intent on its own journey. No one speaks. No one laughs. No one makes any noise. The only sound is the rhythmic movement of feet. It’s eerie. But on the weekend these same people don crazy costumes and bright gaudy, weird clothes to go out and about. It’s almost like they have to rebel on the weekends against the very serious and straight-laced working culture .


While there are magnificent and amazing things about Japan, I find that after our recent trip there, the things I keep thinking about are the small, little things that somehow add up to a huge cultural difference. 1. Plastic food. People in Japan are obsessed with plastic food. Many, many restaurants display plastic models of … Read more

We’ve always stayed at big resorts when visiting the Caribbean. When planning our trip to St. Lucia, I wasn’t satisfied with the options. The nicer resorts are to the south, near the Pitons, but far away from a lot of the restaurants and attractions up north. Many

parking lot

of the resorts on this island do not have rooms close to the beach at all (at Sugar Bay you have to ride a cart to get down there. Hotel Chocolat isn’t even a waterfront property, nor is Jade Mountain: both take you to the beach by shuttle). We ended up choosing to stay at Villa Beach Cottages, on Choc Bay. It looked too good to be true from the photos on their web site, but I was pleased in general.


Location is everything and this mini-resort lived up to its photos. It’s located on the main road between Rodney Bay and Castries. I was a little nervous when I realized our hotel was on this busy four-lane highway. The driveway was hard to find: we missed it once and had to circle back. Once you find it, you pull in and suddenly you are in a quiet retreat. You don’t know the road is there at all (and I still can’t believe this, but it was true). The parking lot is small and right next to the two story villas. The villas are simply charming, done in a Victorian gingerbread style. They’re pastel colored and landscaped with lush vegetation and flowers. The grounds are small, but incredibly well-kept.

The villas all look out over the wooden deck and pool area to the beach below and it is a stunning view. The ocean is just outside your window and if your window is open, you can hear the waves (which is a dream come true for me). Choc Bay is a lovely long beach. To the right is simply open beach with undeveloped land. A small restaurant is directly next door but

The beach

The beach

beyond that is just vacant land. Locals use some of it as a park, with a volleyball net set up. To the left is another empty lot where there was some weed smoking and partying happening at night. Beyond that is the Sandals resort. The beach is incredibly soft sand with warm, calm water. We took lots of long, relaxing walks on the beach.

Castries is about a 5 minute drive to the south and Rodney Bay is about a 10 minute drive north. There is a grocery store almost across the street, with a much nicer one in Rodney Bay. There were lots of great restaurants in the area. We did take a day trip down to the Pitons and it really is an entire day to get there, do some things, and get back. There is no direct and easy way to get there, with narrow, steep, winding roads through the hills. You do need to select one area of the island and just stay there because you can’t simply pop

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

down south for dinner one night.


Our Room

We were traveling with our adult daughter and were pleased to rent a unit with two bedrooms, two baths, and a kitchen

Master bedroom balcony

Master bedroom balcony

and living area. We generally stay in full service hotels in the Caribbean and have never had a self-catering situation but we found it quite handy. We made our own breakfasts and lunches which made hanging around and enjoying the beach easy. We stayed on the second floor. All the units face the water and all have a balcony that looks out to the beach. The second floor was definitely the best choice here because you could see the beach. First floor units open up to the pool area and you

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

have people walking past you as you sit on your porch.

The bedrooms were comfortable. The master bedroom opens to the balcony and the beach and we left our window open at night to hear those waves. I do wish the French doors to the balcony had drapes or blinds you could open. They didn’t move and they only way to see the view was to open the doors, and then the air conditioning was overpowered. The bathrooms were large with no counter space. The towels were a bit

Master bath

threadbare. The other bedroom felt a bit dark because it faced the parking lot and was in the shade of a giant banyan tree.

The kitchen and dining area was fine. We could have used a few more eating utensils – 4 of each kind was a bit skimpy. But the kitchen had sufficient plates and pans to cook. The dining table was large and beautiful. The sitting area left something to be desired. An old couch and chair that had been recovered were uncomfortable and musty. The living area was dark and had no air conditioning (each bedroom had its own wall unit). We spent almost no time in here though. We ate all our meals on the balcony and used this room only for cooking.

IMG_1421Before we arrived, I inquired about having some basic food supplies placed in the unit before our arrival, since the web site said this was an option. I merely asked what was offered, and the cost. I never said I wanted it. When we arrived, the food was in our refrigerator. We ended up using it and it was fine, but I would have been displeased to be charged for this if I had not asked for and did not use it.

The balcony had a table and four chairs, as well as two loungers. There were some birds making a nest in a nearby light fixture so we enjoyed watching them, but had to shoo them away from our food.

Our building was a quad – there were four units (2 up and 2 down), so there was another family right next to us, and we could hear them when on the balcony. The balcony has a screen though so there is some privacy. On our other side was a walkway that separated us from another building.

We had wifi but it was spotty and the connection was pretty slow. We never actually turned the TV on so I’m not sure what channels were available.

The Facilities

The resort has two small pools. One is small and one is just about the size of a bathtub. The outside common area is quite small, but

Second bedroom

Second bedroom

there was a hammock, lounge chairs, and two gazebos. We visited in April, which is a shoulder season, so the resort was practically empty. There were at most 3-4 other families there. This resort has 20 units. If all the units were full, it would be quite crowded in this area and I don’t think there would be enough

Kitchen and dining space

Kitchen and dining space

lounge chairs (they may have had extras in storage though).

This is a perfect place for families with small children, because the area is small and enclosed – there are even gates on the stairs to the beach. You could let your kids run, and if you had a first floor villa, you could sit on your porch and just watch them. The smaller pool is perfect for small kids. And staying in a unit with a kitchen is an absolute must when you have small children, so this would be perfect.

We swam in the larger pool which was fine with just us, but once anyone else got in, it was crowded. If kids were splashing, it was unusable. There was a hot tub, but there seemed to be some confusion about it. There were no visible controls to turn it on. Twice we tried to use it and asked for help. The controls

The stocked fridge

The stocked fridge

are under the deck below it. The first time it was turned on for us. The second time we were told it would go on in 15 minutes, but it never did.

Sitting area

Sitting area

Lounge chairs can be taken down the steps to the beach and we spent a lot of time enjoying the empty beach. We were approached only once by someone trying to sell us something, but there was also a guy who regularly walked up and down the beach carrying a glass jar of pot, clearly available for purchase.

Massages are available by reservation in the gazebos, but I wouldn’t recommend it since we had a complete view of them from our balcony and there is little privacy.

The resort has no restaurant or bar, but they can arrange for a private chef to cook for you. I cannot go to the Caribbean without having a virgin strawberry daiquiri on the beach, but fortunately there was a blender in our kitchen and I was able to make my own.

The Staff

The staff was minimally friendly upon our arrival. Our room was still being cleaned when we got there. We were shown to our room, then told that the manager wanted to personally welcome us the next day and that we needed to schedule a time to do this. I was not about to schedule a meeting on my first day of vacation, so we just ignored this. We were then hunted down the next day and asked to come meet him. He was busy then though and we were told they would call us

The larger pool

The larger pool

to come over when he was available. Again, this is not exactly my idea of a relaxing vacation. It almost seemed like there

The beach

The beach

was going to be a sales pitch. Finally my husband went and met him and he just wanted to give us a map and talk about where to go and what to see and where to eat. This would have been great information to get when we arrived, but not really something we wanted to take half an hour for in our first day on the island. It would be so much more useful to write all of this down and give guests a brochure rather than spouting it all out and hoping they remember it.

Our room was cleaned the first day of our stay but never again and no one asked us if we wanted housekeeping services. Towels were never replaced. There is a small convenience store on the property, but a sign says you must ask the front desk to open it, so we never bothered. I can’t imagine anyone does. The property has two security guards on duty all night. One stays in the parking lot and one mostly hangs out in a gazebo, but regularly walks the property. It felt very secure.

Overall we were very pleased with this resort, but I think it would be a very different experience in high season if every unit was occupied. The beach and pool areas



would be very, very crowded and I don’t think they would have enough parking. I loved its location directly on the beach and we enjoyed having a large two bedroom unit with a kitchen. I highly recommend it but caution about what it could be like in high season.

We’ve always stayed at big resorts when visiting the Caribbean. When planning our trip to St. Lucia, I wasn’t satisfied with the options. The nicer resorts are to the south, near the Pitons, but far away from a lot of the restaurants and attractions up north. Many of the resorts on this island do not … Read more