Posted on December 17, 2019
December Travel: Last week, we stayed at Amara Resort & Spa in the beautiful Sedona, Arizona. Sedona’s majestic red rock backdrop everywhere you turn just leaves me in awe of its beauty. I had visited the area once before years ago, and it’s even more breathtaking than I remembered. It’s absolutely one of my favorite places in the US.Travel Tips: Getting to Sedona isn’t difficult. I usually find quite a few options for inexpensive flight options to the PHX airport (Phoenix, AZ) and then we rented a car to drive north (under two hours) to Sedona, AZ. The whole mountainous drive is gorgeous and it feels more like 25 minutes! For reference, we stayed for two nights, three days in Sedona. We then drove back to Phoenix after check-out to enjoy an afternoon and evening there before the next morning’s flight home!
Stay: We were so grateful to be hosted by the urban chic, Amara Resort & Spa, situated along the banks of Oak Canyon Creek and surrounded with red rock beauty. I was so excited to be visiting before Christmas time; I just knew it would feel extra cozy with the holiday decor and Edison lights. We were in the heart of Sedona and a 5-10 min drive from everywhere we wanted to go! Uptown Sedona, made up of little cafes, restaurants and shops, felt like a Hallmark Christmas movie with all the holiday cheer and festive feels!
Property Amenities + Special Touches: Upon arrival, we truly felt so warmly welcomed by both valet and concierge. The valet had our vehicle out in seconds each time we walked out front. Check-in was so smooth, and the kindest woman working at the front-desk made sure we knew all that we needed to on the events taking place on the property, how to get to our hikes, and what we may be interested in during our stay.A few of my favorite resort details:
Heated Infinity Pool & Hot Tub With a View (Acceptable to walk to in robes 🙂 )
Complimentary Yoga in the Studio: Daily 7:45a & 8:30a
Illy Coffee Bar in Lobby: 5:30a-9a
Daily Wine Hour in Living Room: 5p-6p (white & red and SO perfect)
Spa Services Available Upon Request, Gym Access, Comfy Robes & Yoga Mat in Room
Adorable Post Card-Writing Corner: Amara takes care of postage
Top-Rated Saltrock Kitchen Southwestern Restaurant off Lobby: Also had seating on the gorgeous and heated patio overlooking the red rocks, with water falls + lawn seating)
Comfortable, Spacious Suites with Balcony Seating: Clean, up-dated, mini-bar, turn-down service, the shower products smelled amazing!! Need to find out the brand they use!
Saltrock Southwestern Kitchen: Tasty and Fresh Southwest Inspired Flavors, quickest, and superb service. Our dinner server was awesome and so friendly!Itinerary Suggestions:
SaltRock Kitchen: at resort brunch/lunch/dinner/drinks
Sedonuts: the name- it’s a must! coffee, donuts
Creekside Coffee & Bakery: breakfast sandwiches/avo toast
Creekside American Bistro: Breakfast
THE HUDSON: Lunch/cocktail/burgers/pasta
MARIPOSA: Epic View, sunset drinks, dinner
Devil’s Bridge Hikes 1.8 miles-3 miles
Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping: great art, shopping, and jewelry
Airport Mesa: Solid scenic lookout in our opinion
Bell Rock Hike: Easy hike
Helicopter Ride: Various time options, we used Sedona Air Tours
Pink Jeep Tour: They also have Grand Canyon
ATV Tour: $299 four hours around the ruins
Golf: Hilton Sedona Bell Rock Course
Javelina Leap: Vineyard and Bistro
DA RANCH: Newer winery, beautiful, good wine
Page Springs: Winery (could be crowded in peak season)
Exhausted after an early six-hour flight from JFK followed by 2-hour drive from PHX, we checked in and kind of planned out what we’d be doing the next day with the front desk’s map help! We then explored the property and enjoyed the lawn’s views along with the heated pool! It was time for wine hour conveniently so we just got to relax and get settled in Amara’s cozier than cozy couch area of the lobby!
I did my research ahead of time when it came to restaurants and sights! Between consulting with some of my AZ friends and TripAdvisor, I decided we’d just stay at Amara and enjoy a dinner at the SaltRock our first night. We had an amazing dinner! From their hand-crafted cocktails ( I had a seasonally-spiced margarita) to the chips and queso and steak mini taco appetizers! We loved every bite. I think we shared a chilean sea bass entree that was also noteworthy! It was early to bed after a long travel day!
Due to the convenience of the location and the delicious-sounding menu, we decided to grab breakfast back at SaltRock. We surprisingly caught the sunrise behind the rocks, enjoy a delicious farm -to-table style big breakfast, and grab a coffee in the lobby before we were off to our first hike: Airport Mesa! I was told this was the best view of Sedona and it was all of a 5-minute drive from the resort. Parking can be tight there, but there are lots of options to park on your drive up the hill. Once you’re there, you can venture around the 3-mile trail or just take in the sights from Airport Mesa! Absolutely gorg.
Initially, we had planned to hike Devil’s Bridge, but since it had snowed the week prior, we also had some concerns with slipping and decided to just forego the risky trail and revise ze plan over some very large pieces of toasted zucchini bread and iced oat milk lattes uptown in Pink Cafe.
We somehow managed to sign up for a helicopter ride whilst strolling around the Christmas town haha, so ventured over to Bell Rock to hike until our ride time.
If you only have about an hour and want a beautiful and easy trail- Bell Rock Hike is your best bet! Friendly to hikers of all ages, we truly enjoyed this one. Every few minutes I would find myself just turning around looking out, saying “WOW!” I do that a lot in Sedona. Every painted sky (and mountain) is a canvas of God’s Grace! (One of my very favorite songs: “So Will I” by Hillsong United)
It was time to check-in near the runway which was at the top of Airport Road (not ironic lol) for our helicopter ride! It was both Tony and I’s first helicopter experience and it was fantastic. We were reminded that Walt Disney had a house in Sedona for a very long time, and he even created Thunder Mountain at Magic Kingdom modeled after this very place. We flew through canyons and valleys; the pilot pointed out Cathedral Rock, Snoopy Rock, and more. The rate was decent too, and it was under 20 minutes so it didn’t take up too much our time that we wanted to explore. I believe the company we used was Sedona Air Tours. This company also does Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon as well. If we were in town longer I definitely would’ve loved to adventure to either of those spots by car but we just didn’t want to spend the entire trip en route!
Thanks to my AZ friend, Carissa, we made reservations about a week in advance at the fan-favorite: Mariposa, which is a latin-inspired grille. Folks enjoy the epic views from Mariposa for afternoon cocktails, as well as probably their most popular time: sunset. The surrounding rocks LIGHT UP before the sun begins to set AND there was a full moon brightly lighting up the sky as we sat outside in wonder. The entire property was stunning and there were a few other groups beside us who had the same idea. We then were taken to our table which was right next to their floor-to-ceiling glass windows, still gazing out at the incredible scene. At Mariposa, you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. In addition to Mariposa, Chef Lisa Dahl also owns Butterfly Burger and Dahl & Diluca, offering the freshest cuisine whether it be Latin, Italian, or American! Even if it’s just for cocktails, go around sunset to Mariposa–no regrets!
Everyone said Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village was a must, and they weren’t wrong. Authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque, meaning the “best of … Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is that very special place. Most stores closed at 6, however, we were able to catch a few jewelry stores (with pieces crafted from Africa and Spain, OMG I found the cutest bracelets!) to wander around, and the Christmas decor and lights were just so merry! This village was so magical, I loved it.
Since we had to make the trek back to Scottsdale, we packed up and headed back over to Tlaquepaque to see it during the day, grab a coffee from the famous Cake Couture Coffee & Desserts, and a bite to eat at the warmest, Pump House Station (Urban Eatery and Market). Their portobella benedicts- UH-mazing. The Christmas decorations were ON POINT, and I appreciated every detail. Before hitting the road, we strolled around seeing the Christmas trees with chai lattes and some treats from the bakery!
Needless to say, we had the best time. We look forward to returning again soon, Sedona. Thank you for your partnership, Amara Resort & Spa. Hosted by Amara Resort & Spa.
Category: feature, travel Tagged: airport mesa, amara resort and spa, arizona travels, bell rock golf, bell rock hike, bell rock hikes, blogger, christmas travel, december travel, devils bridge, dress, enchantment, mariposa, phoenix, photos, pink jeep tours, sedona, sedona hikes, sedona hiking, sedona scenic, sedonahikes, style, tips, travel, travel blogger, travelblog, travelblogger, uptown sedona, verde wine trail, views, visitarizona, visitsedona, where to stay, wine, wine tasting, winery
Posted on May 14, 2019
Looking into a Bahamas getaway? Have you visited Bimini yet? If you’re traveling from Florida it’s quite the easy-breezy route, a 15 minute sea plane journey to be approximate! What better place for a Bahamian getaway than just around the corner? The Bimini Islands are a quick 50 miles from Miami. Located right in the middle of the Gulf Stream, Bimini attracts hundreds of marine animals and pleasant temperatures year-round- so going in February like us, was a perfect idea, the chillier ocean temps were the only drawback + we realized after the fact that February is the only month that the island offers a dive with great hammerhead shark- WOW! Though relatively overlooked in the Caribbean, the Bimini Islands have always been popular with deep-sea fishermen. It’s a quiet island; gorgeous beaches, no cruise ships and one of the best places for a tropical vacation. Did I mention GORGEOUS beaches!? Absolutely stunning views.
Here’s a few tips to keep in mind when planning:
To Know Before You Go: Arrive in a timely fashion from the air–the best way to enjoy exhilarating views of the emerald waters! Board the Cape Air seaplane, which offers 4 daily flights from Miami in an intimate 8-seater. Or opt for the comfortable Silver Airways plane, (which we did, since the ferry was out of season) direct from Fort Lauderdale to South Bimini. Once landing, you can hop onto a ferry to North Bimini! Some hotels offer direct flights from Miami via seaplane– Resort World offers daily flights direct to the resort in North Bimini, so that is another terrific option!
Here’s a glimpse of what the view is like walking down the pool steps to the ocean.
A breathtaking sunrise taken right from the rooftop of the Hilton Bimini.
A FEW THINGS TO EXPECT WHEN PLANNING A TRIP TO BIMINI:
Bimini is the westernmost chain of islands in the Bahamas, located about 50 miles east of Miami. Bimini is made up of three islands: North Bimini, South Bimini, and East Bimini. The largest islands are North Bimini and South Bimini, so you’ll most likely stay on one of the two!
North Bimini is about seven miles long, and home to Alice Town, a collection of shops, restaurants, and bars on a road known as “The King’s Highway”. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular activities, because there are many shipwrecks in the area that make for fun diving experiences!
South Bimini is home to the airstrip, South Bimini Airport, and offers a quiet alternative to the lively nature of North Bimini. There is a small community of homes on South Bimini known as Port Royale, and an epic nature trail.
Language: The official language is Bahamian English, so it is quite easy to converse and talk with locals!
Currency: Bahamian dollar– same value as the USD!
Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit card as payment, but it’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you. Some larger resorts may except credit cards. But keep in mind when visiting this small island destination, cash is king!
Climate: Bimini has a warm and tropical climate– averaging 70 degrees in the winter and 80 degrees in the summer months. The rainy season in the Bahamas runs from May to October, and October and June are the wettest two months.
The greatest way to get around the gorgeous 7-mile North Bimini is with a golf cart or bike! Shuttles are usually a little slower, making them a secondary, not best option for cruising down King’s Highway for some snacks or souvenir-shopping.
Taxi: Bimini is so small that cars are limited. Taxi service is available by telephone, radio (VHF Channel 68), or you can flag one down on the street. We never actually found any use for one so didn’t experience it.
Boat: There is a daily ferry between North and South Bimini. We only used this to and from the airport (which is quite small, but you might want to bring a book for the way home, as we sat inside a very tiny terminal for a few hours before boarding our flight
Golf Cart: The main form of rental transportation available on North Bimini is a golf cart. You can also rent a bicycle to get around. Pedestrians should remember to first look right and then left before crossing streets. For maximum mobility, pick up a golf cart ($75-90 per day) first thing in the morning before they sell out!!
Bicycle: You can find several bike rental spots on the islands.
Check with your hotel to see if they supply any bikes/ golf carts before renting from a vendor. You never know, they could offer them right in front! We actually rented a golf cart this day and took it down to the other side of the island where we stumbled upon a ship wreck!
Location: Alice Town, North Bimini
These are cute, pastel villas available. Seaside, and several pools on the property and gorgeous oceanic views.
Location: North Bimini, new as of 2017! This is taken on the rooftop pool deck 🙂
We stayed here and oh, it was absolutely perfect. Breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. Since we went in the off peak month, I think we were one of just a few other couples in the entire hotel! The casino connected had amazing food too.
We absolutely loved the infinite pools that overlooked the clear blue ocean! Who knew?!
I have a feeling this little location right here would make an awesome wedding or events’ venue! Talk about an incredible view. (It’s elevated on a cliff-like level)
On this night, we drove our little golf cart to dinner at Big Game Resort where we were told they would be feeding the bull sharks! It was a lot of fun and casual atmosphere.
The Conch Salad is Bimini’s main claim to fame–a tasty mixture of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, raw conch, orange and lime juice spiced with Scotch Bonnet peppers. Never have I ever had a conch salad so FRESH! Nobody does it better than Stuart’s, a beachside wooden hut and favorite with the locals. We actually saw it on the following week’s episode of The Bachelor! We enjoyed some Bahamian beer too! I miss that pink!
More Restaurant Recs:
SHERRY’S PARADISE BEACH BAR
Dive down to the floating Prohibition-era liquor cargoship, which ran aground in a 1926 hurricane. The tip of the boat is visible above water, making it perfect for snorkeling. You’ll find every form of coral, sponges and lobsters here!
The best time to visit Bimini is in February, the month when huge hammerheads collect off the coast of Bimini. This is the only time of the year you can swim with these shy animals–so don’t miss your chance to get up close and personal! Join a qualified diver for this fun and unique dive of a lifetime. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch the shark feed at Triangle Rocks Reef.
If you don’t have your own sailboat, you can rent one from the marina and take it out for the afternoon.
SNORKEL WITH SHARKS:
The Bimini underwater is a rich playground for snorkelers and divers. The crystal-clear water makes for unforgettable swims with fish and coral….and SHARKS.
On the Bimini Nature Hiking Trail you’ll learn a lot: ecology, wildlife, history. Guided tours are led by professionals. You’ll find birds, iguanas and the endemic Bimini Boa that call the islands home!
I mean, what would the Caribbean be without the beach! The islands’ top three are Radio Beach, Blister Beach and Spook Hill Beach, plus a couple of really cool cays more south.
Category: feature, travel Tagged: atlantis, bahamas, bahamas vacations, bimini, biminibahamas, birthday, blogger, carribean, carribean getaways, crystal clear water, deals, diving, dolphin encounter, exuma, exumas, fashion, fishermen, fitness, florida, hilton bimini, hilton bimini worlds resort, hilton honors, hilton hotels, lifestyle, love, nassau, north bimini, ocean, photos, seaplane, sharks, silverairways, snorkeling, south bimini, tips, travel, tropical vacation, vacations, views
Posted on August 16, 2018
February is a wise month to fly to Europe! Tickets are lower since it is the off-season to travel there. You won’t find the crowds that you may during summer. But it can get pretty chilly, so pack accordingly! HA. (Well- to be honest, just for people like me who have poor circulation to begin with, so gloves, boots, scarves and coats are totally necessary!)
This was my second time in Italy, and I love it more each time! We spent our week right in ROME! Flights were nearly $470 RT which was a good deal- we flew directly via AirFrance from JFK to FCO, and just like that woke up in Rome.
Rome is so charming because the local bakeries and coffee shops and neighborhood restaurants are so sweet. If you’re anything like me, you NEED an American breakfast to start your day— which consists of some kind of substantial protein like eggs or yogurt to go with my amazingly flakey, Italian croissants and cute little cappuccinos!
I love that Italians take time to have their little pastries and espresso while standing or sitting in these cafes throughout the day. They sit inside and enjoy them. They’re not like us Americans who get it to go- always on the run- never time to enjoy life! They sit and appreciate the taste, the smell, and the people alongside them who they may just have met that day!
Navigating through Rome, I only have one thing to say, and that is thank goodness we had an international wifi package on our phones, because I’m not sure how we could’ve managed to adventure through the little, winding streets without it! We used Google Maps for everything! Rome is huge. We walked approx. 8 miles daily!! I had my apple watch on and it calculated every single step haha! That means you’ll need to stop plenty for Nutella treats and cappuccinos to not only fuel your journey, but to warm you up when temps were low!
Our Airbnb was situated in a quaint, and seemingly affluent neighborhood north of most of the walking we did. We mostly wandered the cool, Roman streets, smelling of pastas and breads. Our first night we actually stumbled upon the top of the Spanish Steps. Where we made our way down and through the shop-lined streets towards the Trevi Fountain! Lizzie McGuire moment! I loved it at night! The fountain all lit up was amazing, and we even stopped for some gelato right next door, and walked into a few open churches to take in the breathtaking sculptures and painted ceilings.
Because this was our first night in Rome, we realized our appetites were a little off so decided to go to a friend’s recommendation on a cozy little spot that had the GREATEST meat and cheese platters!!! We were so thrilled with our selection, and even went back a second time. The meat and cheese platters are amazing in Italy and I highly recommend ordering a few! My favorite two were: La Prosciutteria Roma + Antica Salumeria
Just to give you an idea- below is a photo that will leave you feeling hungrier than before.
While we are on the subject of food.. I would have to say that the wine was also exceptional.. our go-to seemed to be the Chianti – which is a red wine (served at about 60 degrees) from the Tuscan region. And, boy was it a good choice. We even found bottles to stock up our Airbnb at the local grocery store for only $2.99!!! That is $2.99/ bottle. For high quality. That’s Italy for you! We brought some bottles home for each of our families.
Pictured below is our favorite that we found our our local market for no more than $3.
I truly loved the architecture. I just found so much beauty walking down the Roman streets. I would constantly stop and say “OH I MUST TAKE A PICTURE OF THIS!” Haha, but really, the buildings are colorful and interestingly textured. It’s amazing how they’ve held up all these years. I especially appreciated how beautiful the churches were and the doors! I loved the floral arrangements as well. So picture-perfect.
Below you can see a little bit of what I mean.
I lived for finding rooftops!! Because it was a colder month for Rome, unfortunately, many of the famous rooftop bars and lounges were closed for that season. We still found some great vantage points. The first photo below is taken from Campo Marzio. The second was a secret rooftop cafe on top of the Capitoline Museum. This location was sure tough to track down! If you do make it to Capitoline Museums make sure you follow the correct signage leading you to the Cafe/Restaurant Rooftop Level! There you will find such a magnificent view of the city.
FACT: There are more than 900 churches in Rome!! Not kidding. Just about one adorning every corner, all with their own story, holding some of the most beautiful frescoes, paintings, and sculptures that this world’s ever seen! Love this history and that is preserved in this ancient city! I could spot quite a few from this museums’s balcony!
As far as tours go, we only really booked a few. One was at the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. I highly recommend doing so, and my art history course knowledge from college was brought to life! These tours were inside the Vatican so I would suggest maybe ubering over to it because the entrance is on the complete other side of the Basilica entrance (where you can walk in from the street) Upon exiting your tours, you leave via St. Peter’s Square, and from there you can pass the Castel Sant’Angelo, and cross the bridge back into the usual areas of Rome!
The artwork around the Vatican Gardens and inside was exquisite! Spectacular tour guide we had from Italy, she had such a good sense of humor but so much knowledge and well spoken. She took us to the most significant pieces and told their stories. We would’ve been otherwise lost in there by ourselves. I wouldn’t have wanted to experience it any other way. The tour was worth booking. We booked ours the same day.
Mission to see the Pope: Wednesday morning (7am) we cabbed over to the Vatican in hopes to attend the Papal Audience! We requested tickets after our Vatican tour from the Swedish Guards who stand guard outside of St. Peter’s Basilica a few days prior. Having a ticket though, doesn’t ensure you have entry to the audience, for there may be great numbers who want to attend and in this case, it was raining so an even smaller amount of people could attend inside.
YES, we did make it in!! It was the most amazing experience witnessing the love that all people had for our Pope as he processed down the aisle of the room holding thousands. He was blessing people, stopping to pray with them, to comfort, to kiss the head’s of children. It was absolutely incredible. It was would I would imagine it was like seeing the people flock to Jesus, a feeling of pure love. It was my absolute favorite part of my trip. The Pope finally made his way to the alter where he prayed for all the countries in attendance. There were also representative bishops who translated the homily in several languages for everyone to understand.
We exited through St. Peter’s Square. I made a [horse] friend. 🙂 Oh yeah, wear comfortable walking shoes throughout your trip. Comfort is key!
We also booked a tour at the Colosseum!! So much Roman Empire history over there, I guess you can’t leave Rome without at least exploring the Forums and Colosseum!
I don’t even think we planned to match this day! I just had to prepare for the colder weather, so layering up was key!! I thought these tours were interesting and enjoyed our tour guide from London. It was cool- we were the only Americans within our group!
We spent my bf’s birthday dinner at a Michelin-Star restaurant called AROMA, which sat on the rooftop level of a boutique hotel. The service, the food, the ambiance, the views: UH-MAZING. We could not have said enough wonderful things about the incredibly kind staff (who sung and brought out an entire sampler platter) for his birthday, but also were extremely attentive, and served us a wonderful 5 course meal! ALL with a lovely and casual view of a very beautiful and lit Colosseum at night.
Category: feature, travel Tagged: a week in rome, art, cheese, chianti, churches, colosseum, gelato, italian roads, italy, lizzie mcguire movie, papal audience, pope, rome, rome in february, rome trip, rome views, romeviews, rooftopbar, St. Peter's Basilica, swedish guards, travel, travel for less, travel tips, trevi fountain, tuscan region, vatican, views, wine