There’s a place where lemon trees grow by the pool, people greet you with warm smiles wherever you go, you wake up and view the beautiful Palm Tree streets of Beverly Hills, a scent of fresh flowers follows you around and if that’s not enough…you may bump into a Hollywood legend in the elevator. Yes, this place exists and I was lucky to stay here….The Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Wow! For our anniversary we splurged on this special weekend LA getaway and I didn’t want to leave.
Upon arrival we started our celebration with their famous Sunday Brunch. Amazing!!! They have several rooms set up with different themes – everything from: seafood, sushi, salads, risotto served out of a Parmesan bowl, fresh cut meats, Chocolate fountain with strawberries, fresh pressed juices… The décor was beautiful and everything we tried was delicious. We sat outside, heard the birds chirping and enjoyed our sushi roll with ginger shot one after another. We also had our first “celebrity” sighting (so glad I’m keeping up with the gossip magazines … but actually Ulli recognized her first): TV/actress/comedian Sherrie Shephard was having brunch with a group of people next to us.
At check-in to our room the guest services agent came out and welcomed us personally with a handshake. This reminded me of our stay in Tokyo and their customer service level where they always come around the counter to welcome you. We then heard some tumult in the lobby and there he was Clint Eastwood standing next to us with a group of other guys. At the same time when we went up to our room he also went up the elevator. Wow – a true legend and so charismatic. We found out he held a press conference promoting his new movie The 15:17 to Paris. It was amazing standing so close to this Hollywood legend. If I was actually reading “real” news I would have recognized the true life hero’s standing next to him (that played themselves in the movie). Lesson learnt.
Our -wow- experience continued when we got to our room….I mean SUITE. Holy moly! Beautiful fresh décor, a huge bathroom, bedroom separate from living area with a balcony overlooking Beverly Hills and Hollywood Hills. Speechless. Can I move in here? I felt right at home (who wouldn’t) and we were able to see a beautiful sunset.
You know by now that the most important area of the hotel for me is the gym….Hotels are easy to neglect the gym and put it in the basement…because who goes there on vacation? Me! This is truly my standard for rating hotel stars. J Needless to say the Four Seasons didn’t disappoint in this area either. The gym is connected to the pool deck and it’s an open-air gym surrounded by beautiful plants – which makes you feel you’re in Hawaii. New and innovative equipment and several choices of different flavored water and Gatorade. Ok now I really don’t want to leave.
Besides all the exciting amenities and perfect location of the hotel, the customer service is really what stands out here. Ever staff member is so attentive in trying to read each small wish before you say it out loud. It’s amazing. Unfortunately, there was a check-out day….so I actually had to leave this oasis in Beverly Hills, but I will make sure to come back soon. Promise to myself. What’s your TOP 5 hotels you have ever stayed at?
If you ever want to have a true New Years Eve party there’s only one place: Las Vegas. Amazing hotels, world class entertainment, biggest music artists, fanciest restaurants and of courses several spectacular fireworks – all in one place in one night. Yes, you have to use superlatives to describe this city.
We came back from our Christmas trip in Germany, unpacked our bags from winter clothes and filled them with (party) outfits and headed to the airport the next day. What a breeze it is to fly 45min from Orange County to Las Vegas! The drive is usually 4-5 hours but over weekends and holidays can take up to 8hours!!!
We chose the Mandarin Oriental as our hotel for this stay…which is one of my favorites on the strip (see my previous post). First of all, it’s right in the middle of everything on the Strip and also right at the bustling City Center. The hotel is Asian inspired and is one of the few that doesn’t have a casino. The lobby is on the 23rd floor and guarantees some awesome views. Plus the customer service is truly superb! However, more important for this holiday it also gives you some privacy especially on a crazy NYE night.
What I loved most about this New Years Eve trip to Vegas: Continue Reading…
If you don’t know by now – I have the best husband in the world :-). He has built up a reputation over the years with our family/friends to come up with crazy surprises for me. Sorry babe for the high expectations – but it’s your own fault. So for our 10 year wedding anniversary he surprised me with a weekend getaway to Cabo San Lucas Mexico. To be honest I wasn’t expecting anything as we’ve both been extremely busy with work and we didn’t even talk about our anniversary. I should have known better. He asked me if I was in the mood for kayaking tomorrow….in Mexico. What? I packed my bag and off we went. After a short 2 hour flight we arrived at Los Cabos airport and were greeted with warm sunny weather on the runway. After picking up our rental car (tip: so much easier/cheaper than taking taxis – just avoid Sixt), we drove to the hotel. Our first stop on our way there was at a food stand for some coco frio and ceviche. What a great start to our trip to find such delicious food just on the side of the road. The ride was very nice along the alluring coastline. I didn’t know the hotel we were staying at so when we got to the Sheraton Grand Los Cabos Hacienda Del Mar I was super excited. The hotel is a beautiful mix of Mexican culture and modern amenities – set on a private beach cove along a golf course. Ulli had arranged a special room for us on the top floor with a huge terrace and amazing ocean views. It couldn’t be better! We were only there for a weekend, but it felt much longer. My highlight of the trip was definitely getting up close with the gray whales. Its whale season in the winter months until March so try to come out during this time. For me it was truly a dream come true seeing them so close. Everything on this trip was perfect: weather, hotel, activities & food – I can’t wait to be back.
Food: I was particularly impressed by the delicious food in Cabos. To be honest, I was anticipating mostly rice/beans/cheese/meat which is not part of our diet. However, in this region they’re known for their seafood – not deep fried but mostly grilled. So so so YUMMY! I also tried grilled octopus on the first night and I stick with it for the rest of the trip. I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be crazy about octopus but I am now!
Activities in Cabos: My favorite activity was spending time in the warm water and exploring all marine life. We were lucky to be there during whale season and I couldn’t believe we could even see them breach from our terrace at the hotel. The most unforgettable experience was being out on my SUP and a whale coming up right next up to me. I was not afraid but just amazed and couldn’t stop giggling. If you’re not there during whale season – there is still amazing snorkeling/scuba diving, surfing and just enjoying the beaches. Can’t wait to come back for more!
Hotel: 5 Reasons why I loved the Sheraton Grand Los Cabos Hacienda Del Mar:
- Awesome location on a private beach, but away from the touristy city center in Los Cabos
- Beautiful Mediterranean architecture (I’m not a fan of the big hotel blocks)
- Gym: We’re not the type of couple who sleeps by the pool or at the beach all day (even though they have several infinity pools to choose from and a private beach), but we LOVED their gym! New equipment and variety. We love hotels who know that travel and fitness go together.
- Restaurants: great options of restaurants from fine dining (De Cortez) to the daily market buffet in the courtyard – everything we tasted was excellent
- Most important: Staff – extremely helpful and nice! The concierge at the hotel made all the difference in our stay at this hotel. She gave us recommendations for local restaurants and arranging a special room for our anniversary. THANK YOU!
While everyone else was in the Halloween spirit this weekend, we attended two unique culinary experiences. First we went to the Vegan Festival in Costa Mesa on Saturday. I’m not vegan, but I don’t eat any dairy / cheese or meat (read my blog post about my diet change). However, I’m always eager to learn about nutrition and the latest vegan products on the market. There were many trucks and booth set up with everything from food, vegan clothing, juices, nutritional supplements and even information about local animal shelters / farms. They also had a stage with inspirational speakers, which we listened to a few of them. One of the speakers spoke about the fact that you can be vegan and still eat unhealthy – like coca cola & french fries! So being vegan doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy. Nevertheless, most vegans eat consciously. Another interesting point of view he mentioned was how in other countries our farm animals are considered as “holy” but our pets (like dogs) are eaten like in China. In Germany they eat horse and people in Peru eat guinea pigs. Basically it mainly depends on where you grow up that influences your opinion on which animals to eat is “normal”. When you visit a sanctuary with farm animals like pigs you can experience that they behave like dogs – rolling on their back when you give them belly rubs and wagging their tail when they’re happy. And cows are cute! Just because you grow up thinking its “normal” to eat pigs and cows it doesn’t make it right. I also watched a cooking demonstration by Jackie Sobon for a (healthy & vegan) corn chowder. She had such an energetic and positive personality – it was fun to watch. I learned some new tricks, e.g. about cooking with liquid smoke (Am I the only one that never heard of this before?). If you want to check out her vegan blog or cookbook – here’s the link. In my opinion, there are so many delicious and healthy meatless options from all around the world available in the grocery store – there’s really no excuse not to give up meat.
On Sunday we attended a much different culinary experience in Torrey Pines (close to San Diego). The annual event “Celebrate the Craft” was held at the beautiful Terrace at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. It’s a food and wine festival with the best chefs from the region. They are representing innovative dishes and highlighting ingredients from local farms or ranches. They also have local breweries and vintners to pair with the plates – but I don’t drink alcohol, so can’t tell much about it. It was a delightful experience as you could experience how creative and with much love for food each chef prepared their dish. My favorite was a cauliflower Brussels sprout salad by True Food Kitchen – which I have to visit in Newport Beach soon.
I have to admit I was not a big fan of Oahu and Waikiki Beach, but before you stop reading: I changed my mind :-). Yes, it’s the most famous beach in Hawaii, but I prefer to experience the less touristy side of the islands. We still had planned 2 nights in Oahu, as I was invited to stay at the historic and beautiful Royal Hawaiian Hotel. We stayed at the Oceanfront tower which gives you a special access to a concierge level for breakfast, snacks & drinks throughout the day. The views from our room were spectacular on the white sandy beach and turquoise water of Waikiki. There are plenty of upscale and authentic restaurants and shops in walking distance from the hotel. For people who want to go to the beach and still have nightlife it’s ideal.
I was looking forward to exploring “a more remote” side of the island. After much research I found a hike in the rainforest that would lead to several different waterfalls. Just what I was looking for 🙂 The trail head was a bit tricky to find as it starts in a residential area and you have to be a bit creative with finding parking. You need to look for the yellow “Ka’au Crater” sign behind the mailboxes. Once you get on the trail it’s magical – you hike along a stream, birds chirping and thick lush green wherever you look. There’s no marked trail, so you just have to stay close to the stream. There’s also some rope climbing on a few steep sides of the trail which was fun.
It got very humid during the hike and when we arrived at the first waterfall it started pouring (reminded me of Florida storms). It only rained for 10-15 minutes, and then the sun came back out. We didn’t mind the rain as we were wet in the waterfall anyways. It got only tricky as we hiked back up as it was all muddy from the rain. True adventure! J It was an experience I didn’t think I would have on the island of Oahu – as you wouldn’t think that you’re on the same island as Waikiki Beach. This definitely changed my mind about the island of Oahu – you can have restaurants & nightlife – but there are still beautiful remote parts of the island.
I’ve been to most of all Hawaiian Islands, except for Hawaii Island also known as the Big Island. As you can guess it’s the biggest of all Hawaiian islands (you can combine the other islands to fit in this one). I was intrigued to it is home to four of the five major climate zones on one island AND an active volcano! So for my birthday this year we decided to go and explore this island. We stayed at the beautiful Fairmont Orchid hotel on the Kohala Coast – which we found out is the “sunny & dry” side of the island. The hotel is just magical. When we arrived at the hotel, we were warmly greeted with lei’s and a live guitar/ukulele player provided the background music to a red, orange, yellow sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Ahhhh! The resort is also located on a sugar white sandy lagoon with turquoise water and is home to the native Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles that sleep at night on their beach. Just what I had dreamed off 🙂
Day 1 – Coffee Farm & Snorkeling
We explored the island and went to visit a family owned coffee farm. When we got there we experienced the first difference in climate zone as it was more humid and started to rain. They said it rains every day in the afternoon which is why the fruits and vegetables grow so well here. We took a tour of the farm and learned about the long process takes from a green coffee bean to the roasted ones we know in the store. We also saw the first coffee bean trees that the great-grand mother planted. On this farm they also grew other fruits like apple bananas and my favorite: avocado. They had about 5 different kinds of avocado, and most of them I had never seen in the store. One of them was deliciously creamy and smooth (forgot what kind). Funny story – the dog on the farm got bigger and bigger and the family found out that he was eating avocados every day (and more than one). Ha! He must have had very shiny fur too. My favorite encounter was when we saw a Jackson’s chameleon in one of the plants. I wouldn’t have seen him as he was well disguised in the same colors of the plant. After the farm visit we drove to Two Steps for some snorkeling. We drove past many farms with lots of (happy) cows. I imagined all the cows that live in a building all their life and get to stand on concrete and never see grass or sunshine. I can only imagine that the meat of the Hawaiian cows must taste so much better (I’m pescetarian so I wouldn’t know). When we arrived at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park there were many locals bbq and hanging out. We grabbed our snorkeling gear and jumped in the water. Now we know why it’s called Two Steps: as these are the natural rock steps to get in the water. The snorkeling was amazing – tropical fish, sea turtles and moray eels. It was an adventurous first day on the island!