Friday, May 17, 2013

3 Year Anniversary Getaway: Chanric Inn

We have been to Napa many times, but have actually never stayed in the Calistoga area. Calistoga, which is known for its hot springs, has many resorts around that offer mud baths as well as hot springs access. For this particular trip, we were specifically looking for a B&B and were so happy to have found the perfect place for us: The Chanric Inn.

Chanric Inn - Calistoga

The Chanric Inn is a 3 story house located on the main road that runs through Calistoga. However, the house is located up the hill so we didn't really hear the street noise that much. We arrived at the Inn around 2PM and the check in area was at the main kitchen. I immediately loved the ambiance of the Inn and the gorgeous marble kitchen counter tops. Joel, the innkeeper/owner, introduced himself and gave us a quick tour.

There was a small fridge with complimentary drinks which included cold bottled water, sparking water, sodas, etc. He also offered us champagne to welcome us. He showed us the Nespresso machine which we could use at any time.

There was a small seating area to relax in, which then took us to the beautiful patio area.

Afterwards he showed us the pool area. Too bad we didn't bring our swimsuits, but it would have been nice to lounge around the pool.

We booked the Superior King with Shower C room and was assigned room #4, which was located up the stairs from the main floor. The room was a bit small but it was really nicely decorated. There was a king size bed and a small chair, closet, and a beautiful marble bathroom.

I told Dan when we buy our next house, I want our shower to be exactly like this one!

There were 4 rooms upstairs and a couple rooms downstairs from the main floor. I didn't mind the upstairs room although from what I could tell, all the upstairs rooms had slanted ceilings. So if you're very very tall, you might want to ask for one of the first floor rooms since I don't think those would have the slanted ceilings.

Overall we loved the look/feel/style of our room and knew we were in for a great time. We went to the patio area on the main floor and read books for a little bit.

At around 5:30 PM, there was complimentary wines and cheese hors d'oeuvres offered on the main floor. During our stay, the bites included bread with different "toppings" such as squash, broccoli, duck pate, etc. There was also cheese and walnuts, as well as red & white wine. It was definitely a nice snack to hold us over until dinner.

Afterwards we decided to head out and check out downtown Calistoga, since neither of us have been. The downtown area was pretty small, and looked a bit older compared to Napa/Sonoma downtowns. A lot of the stores were already closed by the time we got there, so we ended up just browsing through before we headed out for dinner at Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.

Breakfast at the Inn was served from 8:30 AM-10:30 AM. We were not forced to eat in a big table with other guests, so we had a choice to only eat with our spouse/significant other. We were given a choice to sit inside or outside, and since the weather was really nice, we sat outside.

Joel served us and started with fresh honeydew & orange juice, a glass of water, and a choice of coffee/tea. Then we were served warm croissant rolls. Yum!

The first course was an apricot gelle, which tasted like dessert to us. It was pretty good although very very sweet.

The second course was a toast with gruyere cheese, fresh tomatoes, and pesto. It tasted like a breakfast pizza to me. Pretty good but a bit on the salty side.

The last course was berries crumble, which again felt like a dessert dish.

All the food was presented beautifully and it was a nice & relaxing breakfast.

I think a really big draw of staying in a B&B is how relaxing it is compared to staying in a hotel. Dan & I felt a lot more relaxed than when we stay at a regular hotel. The only "downside" was that there's no TV in the room, so if that's important for you, that's something to consider. The breakfast is also a very big draw, as it does make a big part of staying in a B&B. We only stayed for one night but we both felt very refreshed and relaxed, and would highly recommend this Inn.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

3 Year Anniversary Getaway: Introduction

We wanted to do a quick one night getaway to celebrate our anniversary, and I had been researching some possible options in the Napa/Sonoma area. I originally wanted to try out the Solage Calistoga resort after hearing about it from a friend of mine. However, I couldn't justify the hefty price tag since they currently didn't have any specials. Dan suggested staying at a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) instead, so I started looking around.

We had stayed at a B&B before during our trip to Mendocino, as well as South Africa, and loved the experience. I wanted to stay at a nicer one though this time around, and preferred not to stay at an older Victorian style house which are what most B&B's look like.

I went to my usual research tool, Trip Advisor, started looking around, and came across a B&B called the Chanric Inn. The reviews looked great, and what sold me was that the place was just recently renovated and had just reopened in April 2013. I looked at some of the renovation pictures and the Inn fit exactly what I was looking for. It was a bit pricier than a typical B&B, but I guess you do get what you pay for. We ended up booking directly with the Inn.

Beautiful Castello di Amorosa

We didn't plan any activities per se since the purpose of the trip was to "relax", but I told Dan that I really wanted to visit the castle in Calistoga: "Castello di Amorosa" since I've heard about it so much. So that was our only "activity" during our getaway.

For food, we didn't want to do the typical fine dining and wanted something more casual and somewhere we both had never been before. I had a Bloomspot coupon for Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen which worked out perfectly, and for lunch the next day, we went to SolBar, which was at the Solage resort.

Here's the breakdown of our trip:
Chanric Inn
Castello di Amorosa
Food Adventure: Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, SolBar, Model Bakery, Bouchon Bakery

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Cancun Day 5: Last Day

Last day :(  Our vacation was coming to an end. Both Dan and I felt that it went way too quickly and an extra day or two would have been nice. We had breakfast at the market cafe and lunch there as well. In between we went to swim at the pool. The weather was much better; it was warm, sunny with just a slight wind. They resumed all beach activities and we even saw people para sailing. Maybe yesterday's weather was an anomaly?

Summary: This was our first ever trip to Mexico and at an all inclusive resort. We both really enjoyed the resort and would really recommend it for anyone looking for a quick getaway from the US that is economical.

A couple of thoughts from our trip:

  • It was really nice not having to worry about paying for meals and drinks. We didn't do any upgrades for premium drinks like certain wine so when we checked out, we had no additional fees to pay which was nice!!
  • I did like our resort for its modern decor and its newness. Food was not bad (not super awesome but considering it's an all inclusive, I think they did a pretty good job).
  • Service at the resort was great. Everyone we encountered was very polite!
  • Even though not required, we tried to tip a bit since the workers and servers work hard and it's nice to show we appreciate their service. We actually didn't bring that many 1 dollar bills so ended up exchanging some at the resort. 
  • We really enjoyed our trip--very relaxing with a good mix of relaxation and activities and the price you just can't beat. We compared the price to our recent trip to Kauai. In most of Hawaii, hotels range around $300-$400 USD per night, with an additional resort fee of around $25. Breakfast is typically not included. Tips are usually more expected rather than an extra for services. Wi-fi is also usually an additional fee. It really does add up, while for this trip, our out of pocket cost was pretty minimal. It's basically the return airport transfer, activities and tips. No extra money spent on food and drinks which usually takes up a big part of our budget. Since we haven't seen much more of Mexico and we have been to 3 of the 4 major Hawaiian islands, we both agreed that we would probably prefer another Mexican all inclusive vacation instead of another Hawaiian vacation.
  • We didn't see too much of the "real" Mexico though. We wished we could have visited the smaller towns like Isla Mujeres or Puerto Morales. Cancun for the most part was very developed and touristy, and felt like the US, at least the parts we saw. If you don't leave your resort you would think that you are in the US.
  • Bring extra $1 bills to tip at the resort. If not, you can always exchange it at the reception area.
  • We recommend doing an activity every other day. There's tons to see around Cancun so you can easily fill out your week with activities, but it's nice to also get in some relaxation / pool time.
  • We highly recommend the cooking class that we took. It wasn't just about cooking but also learning about Mexican cuisine, culture and history. I also especially enjoyed seeing the hosts at their house which offers a glimpse of how they live.
  • We stayed for 4 nights and thought it was a bit too short. 5 or 6 nights would have been ideal.
  • We actually didn't exchange any money and just tipped in USD. We also paid for excursions in US dollars. If you do exchange to the local currency, you usually get a better rate, but you don't have to--almost everywhere accepted USD.  
That's it for now :) Sorry for the delay in finishing this report. We've been pretty preoccupied as you can tell.

Until next time!

Dan & Marcela

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cancun Day 4: Pool Time & the Superbowl

We purposely didn't book any activities for our last full day. The weather seemed nice, but the wind was blowing like crazy. All beach activities were canceled and even I felt like the wind was going to blow me over. :p We walked along the beach for a little bit and we were really amazed by the beautiful turquoise water. I would say after Bora Bora, this was one of the prettiest beach color that we've seen. However because of the strong winds, the resort didn't set up beach service, so we went back to the pool area.

Beautiful Turquoise Water

We braced the wind and found a place to sit and enjoy the pool. Thankfully the pool was heated so it was actually really nice to swim in. There were several pools, and we chose the one closest to the beach and found a shaded area to lounge in.

As we were staying at an all-inclusive, drinks were included so I got a Virgin piƱa colada and Dan got a beer. We could grab drinks at one of the side bars, or there were also servers going around taking drink orders.  We made sure to tip them! :)

We went to the poolside cafe for lunch and got a fajita and burger to share. They were decent and best of all, they were "free". Well not really free, but it feels free since it's already included. :)

We stayed for a little while and then went back to our room to change and get ready for the Super Bowl party. The resort actually did a pretty big setup for the Super Bowl. They setup a big giant screen in the pool area, along with dj, raffle, food and drinks. We were going to watch from the pool but the speakers were way too loud, so we decided to watch from the inside at the Half Time sports bar.

We got the appetizer combo plate while watching the first half of the game. The bar was pretty lively and they had the game on. During half time break we went to dinner at blue water grill, which specialized in steak and seafood. Probably due to everyone watching the Super Bowl, we actually got seated immediately.

Since the Blue water grill was one of the restaurants that always seemed to be full, we were glad to finally try it. The setting felt like an upscale steakhouse. We shared an appetizer salad, and Dan got the ribeye steak, while I got the salmon steak. We also ordered the baked potato side and creamed spinach. Food wise it was probably our least favorite; we wondered why it seemed to be the most popular. Maybe we had a higher expectation since there always seems to be a line, but we were not impressed with the food.

After dinner we went back to our room and watched the Super Bowl from our balcony. It was actually much better than watching it from the pool area. It wasn't as loud and we got to sit in the comfort of our own balcony. Too bad the Niners lost. :( Oh well, hopefully next year! This was such a relaxing day. We wished the weather was better (no strong winds) but we made the best of it!

Next Post: Cancun Day 5: Last Day & Summary