Engaged

I’ve neglected this blog the past few months as I managed my full-time job and planning my wedding. The wedding is now planned, and I can get back to posting about the things I love.

I’ll start by sharing my engagement story. My fiance and I met a little over three and a half years ago. At the three year mark our friends and family began to ask the awkward question, “so…when are you two going to get engaged?” Couples know that this is one of the most awkward questions to be faced with, especially if you’re both not on the same page. My fiance always answered that he “had something special planned,” so I wasted patiently, while I wondered what was going on in that brain of his.

The surprise of my life came in June when he surprised me with a diamond ring at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California. My family was there for the surprise, showering us with rose pedals once I said yes. The proposal was followed by a carriage ride around the city, a family dinner, and then champagne in our suite. It was a magical night, and a night I’ll never forget. See the pictures below!

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Hotel Review: Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

Grand, but Used to Be Grander

Grizzly PeakAs an avid Disney fan, I take vacations to the Disneyland resort often. For the past couple of years I began booking my stays exclusively at the Disneyland Hotel, because I love their newly renovated pool area. This year I decided to give my once favorite hotel another try. Growing up, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa was the place we visited when we were celebrating something really special. It’s the more expensive resort out of the three on the Disney property, the third being Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel.

The Grand Californian is a beautiful hotel, with a woodsy northern Californian feel. The lobby is a sight to be scene with high ceilings, a large stone fireplace, and cozy furniture. The pool area features three different large pools, a child’s play pool, and water slide. Restaurants on the property include the Napa Rose (award winning), Storyteller Cafe, and a casual fast service restaurant by the pool area. The Mandara Spa located on the hotel property is the only spa within the Disneyland resort. It is a full service spa offering massages, facials, nail treatments, and beauty services (hair and makeup).

For years we looked forward to our stays at the hotel. The concierge service offered free snacks, small dishes, alcoholic beverages, and sodas. It was a concierge service well worth the money. We also enjoyed the proximity to the parks. The Grand Californian is the only hotel located right next to the parks. You can enter CA Adventure Park and Downtown Disney from the hotel. Disneyland is also just a few feet away. The hotel offers rooms with premium views, those being of Downtown Disney, CA Adventure park, or the pool area. A non premium view is a view of the courtyards, featuring some very tall pine trees.

While the Grand Californian was once my favorite Disneyland Resort hotel, it’s lost some of the magic it once held. This past March I planned a trip to the hotel, booking my stay way in advance and requesting a premium view. In my notes to the Disney booking agent I requested a park view. For those who don’t know the hotel well, there is a part of the hotel which faces Grizzly Peak, a key feature of the CA Adventure Park. I had always wanted to stay in one of these rooms, and made my request to the booking agent. When it came time to check in, I reminded the front desk person that we had requested this room type, and paid for a premium room. We also paid the $250 a day upgrade charge for concierge service. Instead of the room I requested we were provided with a partial view of the pool, no Grizzly Peak or park view for that matter. I called down to the front desk, and we were shown another room, but this room was located farther from Grizzly Peak with a partial view of the attraction.

At this point I gave up trying, and accepted that for this trip my Disney dreams wouldn’t come true. I did however go down to the lobby, and spoke with a front desk staff member. I asked what I needed to do in order to secure a premium view, he told me the following:

1) Book in advance

2) Do not upgrade to concierge service

3) Specifically request the view you want

4) Accept that they can’t please everyone, and there are very few rooms with close up views of the park

It sounds strange that upgrading and paying an additional fee for concierge service would prevent you from securing a great view, but he assured me this was the case. They only have a few rooms that are designated for the concierge service, and these do not feature the amazing views you might want. Later, after experiencing what had happened to the concierge service, I regretted my decision to upgrade even more. What was once a great deal, free food and beverages, was now cut back to a tea service. You can still enjoy some snacks and tea sandwiches, but the Disneyland Hotel now offers the better Concierge service.

Besides the downgrading of the concierge service, the pool area also requires a remodel. With the newly renovated pool area of the Disneyland hotel, the Grand Californian’s pool area now looks far from “grand”. The water slide has lost it’s magic, requiring riders to use their hands and bodies to help guide them to the bottom. It may be the hotel’s way of conserving water, but the thrill of the ride has been lost. If you’re looking for a great pool experience stay at The Disneyland Hotel instead. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel also offers a great water slide, although the pool area is quite smaller.

During our stay we dined at the Napa Rose restaurant. Our waiter was very pleasant, and the service was great. The food was delicious, but do expect to pay more. The interesting moment of the night came when we were evacuated from the restaurant due to a fire alarm. We were escorted out of the resort into the CA Adventure park as we waited for the hotel to be checked out for flames. Once the issue was resolved we were allowed back into the restaurant. Our waiter served us two desserts of our choice for free to apologize for the escapade. It was an overall enjoyable experience, even with our own California adventure.

My stay wasn’t overall a bad experience. The hotel is still wonderfully imaginative. The pool area is still luxurious. You will enjoy the very comfortable lounge chairs where you can relax, and take a dip in the salt water pool. The rooms are very clean, and the amazing attention to detail transports you to Northern California. The proximity to the park is a definite bonus, with the ability to enter the park early on certain days.

Here are some pictures from our trip:

Have you stayed at Disney’s Grand Californian hotel? Tell us what you thought of the resort. Was this review helpful? Let us know int he comment section below.

Travel: Little Desert Getaways

Hotel Miramonte

As a California native, Palm Desert is a common vacation destination for my family and myself.  Taking little trips throughout the year is vital for many reasons.  Hitting the road and spending time away from the day to day grind can refresh your mind and prep you for a whole new week.

Miramonte Villas

I tend to stay at the same hotels when I vacation, but this last trip I decided to shop around.  I found a great offer on Expedia for the hotel Miramonte in Palm Desert, California.  I checked out the customer reviews and photos, and was impressed enough to give the hotel a try.  I had some vacation time saved up, and so did my best friend Marta.  Before we knew it the trip was here, and we were headed for a couple of days in the sun.

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While many travel sites may photoshop images to help sell you on an experience, the hotel Miramonte was actually much more impressive in person.  We exited the car excitedly and headed towards the large wooden gate doors.  As we walked through the big heavy doors we could see the gardens peaking through.  The grounds of the hotel are very lush, and vibrant.  Many of the plants and flowers are the same types found in Tuscany.

051The architecture of the hotel is unique.  The buildings were designed to replicate Tuscan Villas.  Each “villa” is named after a town in Italia.  The lobby of the hotel had high ceilings, chandeliers, and stone worked flooring.  The customer service at the front desk was excellent.  In addition to the beauty of the hotel, the space boasts convenience due in part to the boutique size of the resort.  We were able to walk to our room in under 3 minutes.  We requested a room on the bottom floor, so that we could walk straight out from our patio area to the pool area.

The hotel was vacant on a Wednesday afternoon, which was fine by us.  We had the pool area to ourselves, and a friendly waitress who checked in on us often.  I had yet to open up my birthday bottle of champagne, so we popped that open and started in on our mimosas. The pool is a good size, and the jacuzzi was large.  The pool temperature was great, because it was 106 degrees outside that day.  The lobby shop at pool mats, and the waitress offered to have them blown up for us.  We enjoyed a day of laying out pool side.

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If you are looking for pure relaxation you must make a reservation at the Well Spa, the hotel spa.  Often times, hotels will hike up the cost of spa services charging around $150 to $200 for a massage.  I was pleasantly surprised by the prices and services offered at the Well Spa.  There are three massages priced at under $150, and the purify facial is just $99.  To view the full list of spa services visit here.

Also located at the Hotel Miramonte is a fine dining restaurant and full service bar.  The Grove Artisan Kitchen serves “farm to table” fresh foods.  The website boasts, “The menu features organic produce, fresh herbs, local ranch raised meats and poultry, fresh Pacific seafood, house-made pastas, prime dry-aged meats and innovative vegetarian dishes.”  To view the menu or make reservations visit here.  Unfortunately my bff and I were too sun bathed and relaxed to get dressed up for dinner, but fortunately for us the hotel does provide in service dining.  Marta ordered the Greek salad, and I ordered a turkey club.  We shared vanilla bean ice cream and fresh berries for desert.

We had an amazing stay at the hotel Miramonte.  The views of the desert landscape and dark mountain ranges simply adds to the architectural and arboricultural beauty of this resort.  I would definitely recommend it.