Amara Resort: Sedona

img_2831img_2815-1.jpgSedona Before Christmas

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.img_6753-1img_6795-1img_6808-1.jpgeeec9719-4c09-4e3d-ad0e-f760da23f6f3img_6786-e1576629857168.jpgimg_7851img_6839-1.jpgimg_6798img_2759-1img_6805Travel 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.img_2763-1.jpg0b21e772-dabd-4424-89ab-39e45c2dc31aimg_2968A 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!img_8376Itinerary 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
Tennis: Enchantment
Javelina Leap: Vineyard and Bistro
DA RANCH: Newer winery, beautiful, good wine
Page Springs: Winery (could be crowded in peak season)

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Day 1:

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!

Day 2:

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 villageTlaquepaque, 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.

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Day 3:

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!

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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.

 

 

About

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I’m Hanna! I’m a business owner and professionally published model. As a former division I athlete, I continued a career into sports as I worked in Media Relations, Video Production and Game Operations for two NBA Teams: Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers, and then as a Social Media and Account Manager for a sports branding company involved with artwork and branding for NCAA, NFL, and NBA, and now own my own design business. I met my cuban bf while on a shoot down in Miami at a gym he owned (so funny!) We both have a heart for travel, service, fitness, food, people, faith, new cultures, laughter, wine (more me than him), The Office, and so forth! My other love is my rescue, Simba, a pitbull mix who just happens to be the most loving pup! Most of the time I’m most likely exploring new cities, somewhere outdoors #doingthings, cooking up fun, healthy recipes, and creating media and fitness videos to help inspire others to get up, get out, and simply move! A few of our favorite recent trips consisted of spontaneous birthday weekend trip to Paris, a week roaming around Rome, the crystal blue, dreamy waters of Bimini and recently, Exuma, and a few salsa dances in Havana! I also wrote a fun guide for my time in Nashville.

I’m just here in attempt to spread light from the content I create. Through my blog, my vision was to offer my help with cities I’ve traveled to, lifestyle items and ideas that I have worked with so that I can share my input and personal understanding of them. The platform I’ve created has given me the chance to hopefully only speak life.

I partner with brands that I feel share a similar outlook on life as I do, value integrity, and are overall just clean and healthy.

My worldview came into focus when my focus shifted to Him, Jesus. God changes our point of view when we understand just how blurry our vision really is without Him. “My hope is that my vision would move further away from my own thoughts, opinions and interpretations- and closer to the way God sees things.” I love these words from Elisabeth Hasselback in a book I recently read because it’s always a prayer of surrender that by the power of the Holy Spirit, “I line up my point of view behind the lens of the gospel in order to see myself, others, and all that is happening as God wants me to see it.”

Romans 12:2 | Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will. 

When in Rome

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Spanish Steps – Rome, Italy

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!IMG_1749

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. IMG_2070

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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