Ritz-Carlton | Denver, CO

There is something exhilarating about being in Denver, Colorado…maybe it’s that crisp Rocky Mountain air, maybe it’s the 300+ days of sunshine a year, or maybe it’s the laid-back urban vibe that the city evokes. Whatever it is, the Mile-High City {nicknamed so because its elevation is exactly one mile above sea level} offers a nice juxtaposition between the urban Financial District with its high-rise buildings and the remanence of its old-west history with its historic neighborhoods and iconic landmarks.

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As most of my regular readers know, it is always my intention to stay at the most luxurious accommodations in any given area I visit as well as my preference to stay in a unique, boutique-style hotel; however, when I’m in an urban area, I admit that I enjoy staying in a high-rise that allows me to have a birds-eye view of the city and the bustling activity below. In looking for a luxury hotel in the Denver area, I knew that the Ritz-Carlton Denver would be a great choice. I appreciate the reliability of a luxury brand such as the Ritz-Carlton Hotels that I know I can count on to offer consistent and dependable quality in luxury accommodations.

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The Quaint Charm of San Juan Bautista

Located just an hour south of bustling Silicon Valley, CA is the quaint city of San Juan Bautista. This charming little town has managed to maintain its humble origins and has respectfully preserved its history and authenticity.

You won’t find trendy stores and Michelin Star restaurants but you will find a town steeped in history, filled with heart and reflective of the people who live here. Small antique stores, art galleries, gift shops along with a few restaurants line the half~mile long main strip of town.

One of the main reasons why this town holds a special place in my heart is because of the historic Mission San Juan Bautista.

@2016 Susan Edel

I adore the California Missions and this is one of my favorite missions because much of the original structure remains and it is the largest California mission church and the only one with three aisles.

@2016 Susan Edel

Musical arts were taught here and the mission owned many instruments. As you tour the mission, heavenly monk style music is piped throughout the corridor creating a serene ambiance. {Click on first image to see slideshow}

A little fun fact: In the fall of 1957, scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1957 production of the movie Vertigo starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes was filmed around the mission.

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Story board rendering for Vertigo.

When in town, be sure to have lunch or dinner at Jardines de San Juan Mexican restaurant. If you’re a fan of beef burritos, their “People’s Choice” burrito is a must!

@2016 Susan Edel

I come to this town sometimes when I want to feel grounded, grateful, and connected. This is the type of place that feeds your soul, not your ego…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

The Nines | Portland, Oregon

Every once in a while serendipity happens ~ a fortunate happenstance where everything aligns perfectly and you find yourself right in the midst of it. It’s such an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

I feel like this happened to me on my visit to The Nines hotel in Portland, Oregon. In all honesty, I just needed a place to stay for a night before catching a flight home, but of course, I always take the opportunity to inspect hotels in the area.

In doing my research, The Nines definitely caught my attention so I booked my stay there with no real expectations, but from the website I knew I would be in for something a little different.

The only way I can describe this hotel is to say that it is an eclectic infusion of Renaissance Glamour…

meets Contemporary

meets Urban Chic…

meets Breakfast at Tiffany’s…

meets funky flair!

And the answer is yes, all of the above is the same hotel!

DSC_1094The reason I call this a serendipitous experience is because everything on this very short visit fell into place perfectly.

It had probably been about 15 years since I had last visited Portland, and I ‘m not sure if I stayed in another part of town but I certainly don’t remember Portland being as active and vibrant as it was on this last visit. It was very reminiscent to me of San Francisco.

The Nines hotel is located in the heart of downtown Portland next Pioneer Square and within walking distance to the large department stores as well as boutique shops, trendy restaurants, and cultural attractions.

From the moment I arrived at the hotel, it was apparent there was an enthusiastic buzz in the air. The lobby was active and everyone seemed to be in a jovial mood. I quickly learned that the iconic pop star, Madonna, was in town for a concert that evening. I never heard if Madonna was staying at The Nines, but it certainly seemed as though some of her entourage was, as there were several people with make-up cases and large luggage lingering about. The chatter throughout the hotel was all about the concert and it created a fun atmosphere.

Another pleasant surprise was being upgraded to the one-bedroom swanky, Tiffany-inspired suite.

I’m usually more of a minimalist when it comes to design, but I have to say it felt quite indulgent opening my suite door to the living room with a velvet settee in brilliant robin egg blue and matching damask patterned chairs adorned by a dripping crystal light fixture. The decadence continued into the large separate bedroom with another sitting area and large bathroom. The suite, located on the 12th floor, offers amazing downtown city views and is a gorgeous sight at night. It felt like sheer elegance from a bygone era.

The room also came with exclusive access to the Club Lounge, featuring a daily breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres and a dessert buffet. This is always a fun perk and I made it a point to hit the lounge to enjoy the delightful appetizers {that could easily serve as a meal} and came back for the grand array of delicious desserts later in the evening. My favorite part was meeting a WWII vet who shared some of his fascinating stories throughout the evening.

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Evening view from the suite.

I headed out for a walk around town and to do a little window shopping while enjoying the perfect fall weather. When the dinner hour rolled around, I debated about going to some of the trendy establishments nearby but in the end decided to head back to The Nines to enjoy the rooftop bar and restaurant, Departure…where another serendipitous moment awaited me.

Departure’s rooftop bar and restaurant is a hot spot in the city with prime views of downtown Portland and beyond. The bar’s outdoor deck seems to be an attraction for guests and locals to gather for a drink while enjoying good conversation and the views.

The restaurant serves Asian cuisine in a sleek, cosmopolitan setting with both indoor and outdoor seating and features the largest saké list in Portland. I sat at the corner edge of the outdoor deck for dinner which offered incredible views, but my biggest surprise was looking up at one point and seeing a full double rainbow {the picture doesn’t begin to do it justice}. Everyone on the deck walked over to the edge snapping their smartphone cameras and I have no doubt social media in the Portland area must have spiked through the roof.

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View of the sky from the other direction.

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The hotel also has another restaurant located on the lobby level call the Urban Farmer open for breakfast, lunch and dinner that looked very enticing as well.

All I can say is that in less than a 24-hour period, I feel like I experienced a plethora of unique moments that have now created lifelong memories for me.

Maybe it was the hotel’s multiple personality or downtown Portland’s vibrant city, or simply the serendipitous intervention of all of the above, but my short time here was quite impactful and I look forward to returning for more!

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Welcome Fall!

What could be more appropriate than celebrating the beauty of Fall from our Nation’s Capitol in Washington DC? If you haven’t experienced Fall on the East coast, then you are truly missing out on an incredible sight ~ this is nature at its best. These images are from my trip almost exactly one year ago, but the beauty of Fall on the East coast is timeless. (click on any image to enlarge)

@2013 Susan Edel

Arlington National Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Trees exploding with color.

Monuments framed by brilliant colors.

A stunning sight at dusk.

The White House

A room with a view at the Mandarin Oriental Washington DC.

The charm of Georgetown…and don’t miss out on getting a cupcake (or two) at Georgetown Cupcake!

So gather your pumpkins, brew your butternut squash soup and start cuddling up for the crisp Fall weather ~ I welcome it with open arms. Happy Fall!!

Four Seasons Seattle

I’m not quite sure what took me so long to visit the Seattle area considering California is so close but I’m so glad I finally made it there. Seattle is a vibrant city with a feel very similar to San Francisco. What finally lured me to the area was my curiosity to experience the Four Seasons hotel which has been getting a slew of accolades including being named by the Forbes Five Star Travel Guide as the only five-star hotel, not only in the Seattle area but in the state of Washington. Impressive.

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The Property

Built from the ground up in 2008, this contemporary high-rise building is located in downtown Seattle at the waterfront and only a block away from the famous Pike Place Market. This is quite a departure and change in style from their previous location at the historic Olympic Hotel a few blocks away.

I’m always impressed to see when a property incorporates the local flavor of an area into the design of the hotel. The Four Seasons has done this by utilizing local sustainable materials such as reclaimed wood and volcanic stone throughout the hotel. The hotel also showcases local artists work and serves fresh food purchased from the Pike Place Market.

The location of this property is ideally situated walking distance to restaurants, shopping and most of the major attractions in the area including the ferry terminals. The hotel reflects a sophisticated, urban chic feel, and yet as with all Four Seasons properties, has a relaxed and never stuffy atmosphere.

The Check-in Process

I have to say that I found the staff at this hotel extremely accommodating on every level. Even prior to my arrival, I had a pleasant experience in dealing with the sales staff and the concierge who arranged transportation from the airport.

Upon my arrival, the front desk staff made every effort possible to put me in the best room available, even offering to move me into another room category during my stay when an upgrade became available…and they lived up to their word.

DSC_9757-001As a fun, interactive gesture, the staff keeps a stuffed fish behind the counter and will playfully reenact the fish toss made famous by the Pike Place Fish Market for its young (and young at heart) guests.

From the cheerful greeting at the entrance, through the check-in process and to the bellman who thoroughly described all the amenities in the room and places to go, I found the check-in process extremely easy and enjoyable.

The Guest Rooms

Floors 1 through 10 house 147 hotel guest rooms and from the 10th floor up they are privately owned residential units…lucky them! The guest rooms are designed with a clean, simplistic elegance. Floor to ceiling glass windows offer extraordinary Elliott Bay or City views and give the room a really open feel. The room was extremely clean and the hotel in general still has that “new hotel” feel.

I stayed in the Deluxe Bay-View room with direct views of Elliott Bay with the snow-capped Olympic mountains as the backdrop. It was fun watching the ferries come in out of the bay. The waterfront is a little more industrial than I expected but it was still pretty view. I think the city view would probably be a nice option as well.

The room was spacious with a large bathroom including a deep soaking tub and a separate shower with a heavenly rain-shower head, not to mention some state-of-the-art design features such as a built-in TV installed behind the counter mirror. The bed was probably one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in with its feather mattress top and fluffy comforter.

DSC_0108-001The rooms offer a simple minibar but you gotta love a hotel that extends a “happy hour” minibar discount. And since it might, you know, rain in Seattle, there is a complimentary umbrella located in the room for your use during your stay and they are also offered at the front entrance.

My one disappointment was that there was not a coffee maker in the room. They do offer complimentary coffee at the spa level in the mornings, but when I’m on vacation I love to wake up and leisurely have a cup of coffee while lounging in the room without having to worry about immediately getting dressed to go get a cup of coffee. But my bad…because I should have realized staying at a Four Seasons, all I had to do was mention it in casual conversation and a coffee maker magically appeared in my room…this is the Four Seasons difference.

As promised, when an upgrade became available, I was lucky enough to experience the Corner Elliott Bay Suite which had a separate living room and the bedroom had floor to ceiling corner glass walls offering an incredible panoramic view of the Bay. The bathroom also offered a sweeping corner view which can be enjoyed while soaking in the tub. I saw several different room categories and I have to say that I think this was my favorite room because of the size and the corner windows which optimize the views.

The Spa

The hotel offers a 6,000 square foot full-service spa and is the only 4 Diamond rated spa in the state of Washington. The spa has a very serene and soothing decor with muted colors and glass tiles. The spa’s steam room and sauna are available complimentary to the hotel guests along with a 24 hour fitness room. There are 8 treatment rooms including a private room with a view, large tub and two massage tables for a couples retreat…rose pedals added on request. Day passes are sold to local residents and non-hotel guests.

The Four Seasons is the only hotel in Seattle with an outdoor infinity pool. In appropriate weather, Bar “84” ~ named for the year round temperature of the pool ~ offers libations and nibbles poolside.

Dining

ART is the property’s only on-site restaurant serving Urban Northwest cuisine influenced by the fresh market items procured at the Pike Place Market. The name ART was inspired by both the hotel’s collection and the Seattle Art Museum located across the street from the hotel. 24 hour room service is also available with a limited express 15 minute delivery menu for quick service…nice option. There is no lack of food here though, as just steps outside the hotel are numerous restaurants and all the offerings from the Market.

Unique to the Property

  • The hotel displays a vast collection of artwork throughout the property and offers a self-guided art tour ~ pick up the self-guided art brochure at the Front Desk.
  • Order a Lusty Lady cocktail at the Lounge.
  • Forgot your workout clothes? No problem, the hotel has workout clothes for your use.
  • Enjoy a Wine and Cheese Happy Hour; Market TV Trays…still hungry try the Midnight Happy Hour (some offerings are seasonal).
  • Steal a kiss ~ it is said that just outside the Four Seasons entrance, overlooking the water and ferris wheel is one of the most romantic places to kiss in the city.

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