Archive of ‘USA’ category

Alcatraz Night Tour in San Francisco

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The eerie Alcatraz Island looms from the mists on the shore from our perch in the boat. “The weather may be mild right now”, warns our tour guide, “But on the rock it’s a whole different story. It’s colder there.”

We were incredibly lucky to be able to nab a seat on the infamous Alcatraz Night Tour ($37). It actually sells out weeks in advance. When we were lining up, I noticed a sign saying that tours were sold out until July 25th. (It was only July 2!)

This night tour includes a live narrated boat tour around the island; guided tours from the dock to the main prison building; and special programs and presentations that are offered only at night.

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Alcatraz is eerie, that’s for sure. The tiny island has been home to a military fortification, a military and federal prison as well as a light house.

The abandoned prison has become a tourist attraction, even though the last inmates were here over 50 years ago. This is due to its infamous inmates (The Birdman of Alcatraz and   Al Capone, to name a few) and being the set of many popular movies.

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The island is maintained today by the National Park Service. It has become a bird habitat. When we were there, lots of adorable baby Western Gulls were there. Look how fluffy they are!

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We walked up a hill while the sun was setting and heard stories about the history of the island. When we got inside, everyone was given a self guided Alcatraz Cellhouse audio tour. This award-winning audio tour is voiced by correctional officers and inmates who lived on the island.

The tour led us all around the facility. It was creepy, fascinating and a little heartbreaking all at once. Listening to all of the stories while standing in the places that they actually happened- shivers!

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After the audio tour, the special programming began. That night, the hospital/infirmary was open to visit. It was super creepy but very interesting to see! After wandering around there, I joined the talk about past inmates that have successfully escaped from Alcatraz.

Of course, this really depends on what you define, “escape” as. Did they get out of the prison? Yes. Did they make it to freedom? That’s debatable. I like to think that they did.

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The Alcatraz Night Tour is a very unique, can’t miss experience. If you’ll be in the San Francisco area, go and book your tour! The earlier the better. Not into seeing it at night? They have day tours as well! Thank you to  San Francisco Travel.

Powell’s City of Books in Portland

 

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Powell’s City of Books can give New York’s the Strand a run for its money! This huge book store occupies an entire city block.

The shelves are crammed with new and used books on every topic imaginable. Aside from books, they also sell notebooks, bags, travel supplies, stationary and bookmarks, of course. (I bought this cute Bridges of Portland shirt!) There is a cozy cafe where you can sip on one of Portland’s famous coffee brews while reading your new book.

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This is me being pretty much in heaven.  Powell’s has other locations in the city, but this is the best (and biggest) location. Between their online sales and brick and motor stores, Powell’s has over four million new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. Wow!

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Powell’s City of Books is at 1005 W Burnside St.

Brunch at Tasty n’ Alder in Portland

 

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I love Portland! I loved every delicious moment of it. This was our first brunch in the city. So good! Tasty n’ Alder seemed to have a, well, tasty reputation, and they were a quick walk from our hotel.

We went on a Wednesday morning, and waited about 10 minutes to be seated. The brunch menu is always changing. Here’s what we ate!

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I had the Chorizo Verde Omelette with roasted poblanos, onions & cotija ($11) Yup, it had spicy green sausage! The omlette was full of flavour and the crumbly Mexican cotija was excellent. If I had one wish it would be for more cheese!

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A homemade biscuit was on the menu, and if you are aware of my love for biscuits, then you know I ordered this. The biscuit was perfect, flaky and oh-so buttery, served with honey butter.

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This loveliness is the Tasso Hash​​ with onion sour cream & fried egg ($12) I nabbed a piece of potato and it was crisped to perfection.

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The Steakhouse Sandwich has Cascade Natural​​ smoked coppa steak, fried onions & horseradish ($11)  Everyone enjoyed their meals immensely, the menu is unique and the prices are affordable! If you go to Portland, be sure to visit them.

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Tasty n’ Alder  is at 580 SW 12th Ave, Portland, OR 97205.

Hotel Monaco in Portland

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From the moment I entered the Hotel Monaco, in Portland, I knew that this was my kind of place. Was it the funky wallpaper and the bird lamp at the front desk? Maybe the plush lounge serving up free wine? Possibly all of these things. One thing was for certain I wasn’t wrong. The Hotel Monaco is amazing, and it’s my favourite hotel from my West Coast trip.

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I’ve never seen so much awesome packed into one place. From the floral pattern in the sink, to the Portland illustration on the tiles in the bathroom shower, to the beautiful branch inspired chair and mirror….everything is amazing! If you love design and tiny details, do yourself a favour and stay here. Trust me.

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My room was a fabulous Monaco King Suite. The large 550 sq room was divided by a pair of french doors. The living room had a Queen sofa sleeper and it’s own flat screen television. The bedroom had a comfy King pillow top sleeper and a flat screen TV. It’s the perfect room to share with friends or another couple, because it allows you to have your own space.

Also…the bathroom is huge! Aside from being spacious, it also had gorgeous line drawings of Portland buildings and bridges as wallpaper.

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The wallpaper really needs a special shout out. Wallpaper all too often gets a bad rap of being tacky and dated. I think that the Monaco did an amazing job at decorating the room with fresh, modern wallpaper prints.

When you are ready to venture from your room, this hotel is in a great area. You can walk to Powell’s City of Books, and to the SW 9th and Alder food truck pod, with over 60+ food carts. You are also very close to the Pearl District, which is filled with shops and restaurants.

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Lets not forget that this hotel is a Kimpton, and comes with the typical fantastic Kimpton Perks!

– Free bicycle rentals for guests (and the bikes have been specially designed for Kimpton)

Hosted Wine Hour- Yes, you heard correctly. At almost all Kimpton Hotels, you can enjoy free wine hand-picked by their master sommelier.

Free WiFi and snacks if you join their free rewards program Kimpton InTouch

-Free beverages in the lobby! Free flavoured water and lemonade/iced tea in the lobby in the afternoon, and free coffee and Mighty Leaf Tea (yes!)  in the morning.

Raid the Mini Bar: Kimpton InTouch members get to sneak  treats for up to $10! It’s such a great idea, and something that I haven’t seen any other hotel do before. The mini bar is particularly awesome– filled with local, gourmet and handy items (like a razor or a mini first aid kit)

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To sum it up, I fell in love with the Hotel Monaco. Of course, don’t just take my word for it. Read the bulletin board with messages of happy Hotel Monaco customers that they keep for you to read as you exit the hotel garage.

I agree with everything said there. I also want to live at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco forever. Please?

HOTEL MONACO PORTLAND is at 506 S.W. Washington Street Portland, OR 97204

Hotel Vintage Park Seattle

The Hotel Vintage Park in downtown Seattle is on the list of Best 500 Hotels Around the World, and I can see why. This boutique hotel is a good location for a romantic getaway, or for a serious wine lover. As usual, this Kimpton owned property had charming, knowledgeable staff,  ready to give you recommendations and help with your bags.

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Each hotel room is named after a Washington winery. (Mine was named after the McCrea Cellars!)

 

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When we checked in, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a flight of red wine. Yum! Perfect for unwinding after packing.

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The room was very warm and plush, done up in dark reds and oranges. I liked the wall hanging at the head of the bed! Of course, the bed was incredibly comfortable and the room was spotless.

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The bathroom featured Gilchrist & Soames toiletries in handy pumps in the shower. I love how they had a small glass jar filled with things that I usually forget. (Q-tips & cotton balls)

Amazing Kimpton Perks!

– Free bicycle rentals for guests (and the bikes have been specially designed for Kimpton)

Free coffee and tea in the lobby in the morning. Free iced tea and water in the evening!

Free WiFi and snacks if you join their free rewards program Kimpton InTouch

Raid the Mini Bar: Kimpton InTouch members get to sneak  treats for up to $10! It’s such a great idea, and something that I haven’t seen any other hotel do before. The mini bar is particularly awesome– filled with local, gourmet and handy items (like a razor or a mini first aid kit)

And my favourite perk at this hotel….

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Hosted Wine Hour! Almost all Kimpton Hotels have hosted wine hour between 5pm – 6pm. We enjoyed refreshing Mimosas and white wine at the in the beautiful wood paneled Vintage Park lobby. The drinks were served with smoked salmon appetizers, yum!

The hotel is near many shops, restaurants and you can walk to Pike Place Market. If you are looking for an upscale, romantic hotel to stay at during your visit to Seattle (especially if you are a wine lover), then be sure to stay at the Vintage Park Hotel!

The Vintage Park is located on 1100 Fifth Avenue Seattle, WA 98101 .

Ivar’s Fish Bar at Pier 54 (and giant Seagulls)

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Walking along the beautiful Seattle waterfront, you might see some curious signs.

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After taking in the sign, you’ll look around, and see some of the biggest seagulls that you’ve ever seen. Seriously. These guys are huge. And incredibly healthy.

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After taking a stroll and checking out all of the restaurant, we decided to eat at Ivar’s Fish Bar (the home of this sign). It had a huge line, and the food looked good. Although Ivar’s had a sit down restaurant, we decided to grab our food and eat it outside on the patio. This way we got to watch the seagull show! More on that later.

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Ivar’s is pretty famous for their clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl ($7.49). The portion sizes were huge! I didn’t eat this, but my friends did. Because we also ordered fish and chips, they both couldn’t finish their bowls! They both said that it was the best clam chowder they’ve had.

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Salmon and Chips

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Jumbo Prawns and Chips

I devoured Jumbo Prawns ($9.49)  and breaded Salmon ($8.59) Everything was delicious and super fresh. A particular favourite was the Cajun halibut. Yum! Check out the menu to see what else they offer.

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As a bonus, while we were eating, we saw many people feeding the (terrifying) seagulls and having a pretty good time with it. One man put french fries in his mouth and the seagull ate it from his mouth. Ahh! A small two year old girl fed the seagulls, but it was scary to watch because it was half her body size.

All in all, it was a pretty enjoyable way to take in the waterfront and have some fresh seafood!

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Ivar’s Fish Bar is at Pier 54 Fish Bar on Seattle’s Waterfront. Seattle, WA 98104-1028

The Elan Hotel in L.A.

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The Élan Hotel is a fantastic boutique hotel in West Hollywood. (Nicknamed, WeHo, much to my delight.) Not only are the rooms incredibly comfortable, and with ample plugs for your electronics, but it also comes with free continental breakfast and is in a great location for shopping and dining.

elan3 Android Photos 20131 The room was very clean and a good size. The bathroom had a nice selection of toiletries and the soap was really interesting. Because the middle of the soap is the most wasted part, the Elan removes the middle.

The hotel participates in a great program called Clean the World. The program takes partially used lotions, shampoos, etc that are left in hotel rooms and reuses them. The reused products get donated to shelters and people in need. Pretty cool.

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In the morning, head down to the bright lobby to enjoy your complimentary continental breakfast. The meal includes pastries, coffee, various teas, yogurt, cereal and more.

After breakfast, go shopping!

In West Hollywood, you are close to some cool shops. Notably, Flight 001, What Katie Did and Tokidoki. If shopping malls are more your thing, then you’ll be pleased to discover that shopping center The Grove is down the street, (shopping, movie theatre and restaurants. Sprinkles, anyone?) and mega mall Beverly Center is a mere 5 minute walk away.

The Elan Hotel is actually quite tiny (only 2 floors) so it’s amazing to see the attentiveness and comfort of a larger hotel. No wonder they are #5 on TripAdvisor with a 91% rating!

Take a look! Élan Hotel 8435 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, California 90048

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