Maui!

Where does one start after 8 days in Maui? With a story I guess. A few years ago (20) I met some amazing girls in high school. 20 years later we are still friends and decided on a girls trip to Maui. A few years ago (3) I met this girl in Rome. We became friends and I decided to visit her in Maui before my girls trip. That is how I ended up in Maui for 8 days!

This will mostly be a picture diary of some amazing experiences because what better way to show off a beautiful place?? Landing in Maui I was scooped up from the airport and whisked off to a kegs and eggs house party. From there, Kimmy (my friend from Rome) took me on adventure after adventure after adventure! There is nothing like hanging with a local to really get to know a place.

The favorite local hangout is Down The Hatch where Monday is trivia night and every other night is just a night for some company and good drinks. If you win trivia night, you win lots of coupons towards food or drinks. Don’t try to beat Kimmy, she always wins. Aside from that, we ate breakfast at Longhi’s almost every morning, had happy hour at Spanky’s and had ocean front dining at Koa’s. The best part of being with a local is the 10% discount on basically everything!

It’s not all about the nightlife so off on a road trip we went. The idea was to end with snorkeling but the water was super choppy and murky which meant danger! Instead I was able to see the blow hole, walk through a rainforest, see some flamingos and penguins and have a drink in a cave. Not a bad way to spend the day when you can’t get in the water.

Still having not set foot in the ocean we were off on another adventure the next day on the Road to Hana. Well, the weather decided against that for us and we turned around and stopped at ho’okipa where I finally got to swim! The ocean was relentless and took me down and I have a bruise to show it! Regardless, I was happy to frolic around for a bit.

The next day my other friends were flying in and it was time to switch gears. We stayed at the Fairmont so I went from Lahaina to Wailea and from being a local to a tourist. One has to switch it up sometimes! The next few days were spent lounging by the pool chatting and giggling and going out to dinner. We had J Rosé and yummy blended drinks to keep us going! We went down the water slide and made new friends in the pool. We strolled the path past all the other hotels and enjoyed just hanging out. I even finally got in some snorkeling!

Sadly it was time to go home. The ladies went one way while I started off on another adventure.

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I Finally Saw The Taj Mahal!

We were finally in Agra…the city where the Taj Mahal is located and the ultimate reason for my trip to India! The morning started off incredibly foggy so our tour guide decided we would go to the Agra Fort first and hope that the fog would clear in the afternoon.

There are monkeys all over the fort and they are not shy. I swear this monkey family sat and posed for all of the tourists hoping for a little treat. They got nothing from me except a smile and a clap and a thank you for allowing me to take their family portrait. You’re welcome monkeys!

Okay, so I will admit that I fed this guy in order to get him to pose for the picture. The first two were not very cooperative and climbed all over my body instead of eating nicely out of my hand. They are just so cute that I cannot handle it and I had to hold one!

I promise the pictures of the fort are coming but I love capturing the animals and the people I meet. The tours have quite a few people on them and as human nature would have it, there are only a few I got to know. One was Scott (pictured above) and his uncles. They turned out to be fantastic people and I spent quite a bit of time with them!

Inside the fort was full of beautiful marble. As in more marble than I think I have ever seen outside of the statue section of the Louvre! You can see the amazing marble archway that connects one room to another (and also my travel companions).
Kalindra and I had fun taking pictures in archways all over the place and this was like a changing of the guards or maharanis as I was joking. We each got our turn in the archway and graciously passed the torch to one another.

The Agra Fort is a vast fort which was the home of the Mughal Emperors and their many courtiers during Agra’s era as capital. Enjoying an important position on a bend of the Yamuna River, Emperor Akbar the Great initiated construction, building a vast sandstone fort. However, it was his grandson Shah Jahan, the creator of the Taj Mahal, who added to it and embellished it using the finest marble, intricate carvings and inlaid precious stones. This architectural largesse was not entirely appreciated by his son, Aurangzabad, who thought Shah Jahan was wasting the Empire’s fortune, thus deposing his father and keeping him under house arrest in a tower within the fort – his one consolation, a view of the Taj Mahal, home to his beloved late wife.

It was time for the ultimate of ulitmates…the Taj Mahal. This has been on my list of must see places for a while for reasons I was unclear about but felt the need to see it. This is considered one of the new seven wonders of the world and is now number 5 of 7 for me that I have seen! I still need Mexico and Jordan to complete the list to see Petra and Chichen Itza.

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves!

22,000 men and more than 1,000 elephants spent 22 years constructing this monument. It is the only monument that has two people buried in it because Mughal ruler Shah Jahan wanted to be buried with his wife after he died. This is an eternal symbol of love and inspiration with intricate mosaics, precious designs and perfect architectural symmetry as if they were poetry created by hand from prized marble. No pictures are allowed inside the mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal seems to float above the banks of the Yamuna River, and blends Persian, Indian and Islamic elements in perfect symmetry.

This was such a magical day and I was incredibly happy. We had quite a bit of free time to walk around and explore and at one point I just sat and stared at the magical building!

10 days in Ireland

My trip to Ireland was basically three different trips in one. I started the trip with my mom and then moved to a castle for a wedding with friends and then went back into Dublin for a weekend with my friends.  Yes I said castle. You did not read that wrong.

To start, my mom and I checked into The Morrison Hotel which made us feel like we were in a doll house because we had purple mood lighting and accent pillows in the room. However, if you want a hotel with a great location to Temple Bar without being in Temple Bar, this is the place to stay.

Guninness. Enough said.

Guninness. Enough said.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

Shopping street

Shopping street

River Liffey

River Liffey

Neither of us really enjoys drinking whiskey, but when in Dublin you have to go to the Jameson Distillery and see what it is all about. The process of making whiskey is pretty much the same as making beer until the distilling starts. This is where beer starts to transform into whiskey. Jameson is triple distilled in order to make it a smoother drink. Apparently the main difference between whiskey and scotch is that scotch tends to have a much smokier flavor because of the way the barley is dried. I honestly could not tell you if I were to taste it. We received a free drink at the end and I drank about half of it and still decided that whiskey is just not for me.

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We ventured over to the oldest pub in Dublin for lunch for some traditional Irish food and more Guinness.

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Once mom left and my friends arrived, it was time to move into the castle for a few nights of fun and wedding activities. We rode bikes, went to the Guinness Factory, played capture the flag, watched the World Series and had an overall AMAZING time!

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After the wedding we went back to Dublin and did a day trip to Northern Ireland to see the rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway and Belfast.

Oreo cow

Oreo cow

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

Rope Bridge

Rope Bridge

Rope bridge view

Rope bridge view

Belfast

Belfast

I went from staying in hostels to hotels to a castle and back to a hotel and now I am back to my hostels. Every bit of this trip was quite an adventure!

Because we are living in a material world

Money. Mulah. Cash. Dough. Paper. Coin. Riches. Whatever! It doesn’t matter what you call it but money talks. Hotels are part of the service industry and in the service industry, people like to be appreciated for what they have done. A tip is a great way to show said appreciation. In the United States, many of these positions are paid minimum wage and the tips are the saving grace of being able to afford to eat!

Money

I work in hotels and I have seen tips range from $1-$2000! So, when do you tip? How much do you tip?

Valet parking – You don’t have to tip when you arrive to the hotel (unless you want to), but tip when someone retrieves your car for you. $2+ is usually fair. If you are driving a nice car, don’t be shocked when you hand someone $2 bucks and they give you a look of disgust. If you can afford $100,000 car then you can afford a bigger tip. Just throwing it out there.

Housekeeping – This department work their butts off! They are scrubbing globs and glue off the floors and ceilings and cleaning up after the mess you made! Just because you are in a hotel room doesn’t mean you should abuse it. If you throw a party in your hotel room, leave a little extra money. But for daily servicing leave $1-$5. If you are in a suite, leave a little more because it takes them a bit longer to clean. Leave a tip each day so that whoever cleaned your room on that day receives the tip. But if you forget, leave a lump sum on your last day. Make sure to leave a little note letting them know that the money is for them.

Bellmen – Throw the poor guys a few bucks. They are lugging around luggage all day and hardly acknowledged. $1-$2 per bag is customary. If they go above and beyond, throw ’em some more!

Concierge – Just because it is the job of the concierge to be helpful doesn’t mean a little gratitude isn’t appreciated. If you are at their desk taking up a long period of time booking tours and tickets and getting you into that sold out restaurant that takes at least a month notice, then give them a tip. Use your discretion on this one but $10+ is much appreciated.

Front Desk – If all they did was check you in and hand you your keys, no tip is necessary. But did they go above and beyond and give you a few pointers about the area or notice that you have a child with you and offer to have some children’s amenities sent to the room? Throw down a few bucks with a smile and a thank you.

Room service – Every hotel is different. Usually there is a delivery fee and gratuity already included on your bill. Double check when you receive your check to make sure a tip is being left.

Restaurants and bars – Tip your server and tip your bartenders. Servers should receive 15% for average service but 20% is becoming the new standard. For a bartender, think $1 per drink. If you ask them to make you a mojito, you better be leaving them more than a $1!

All and all, tip at your discretion. If things were terrible then don’t tip. Don’t feel obligated to tip. Some hotels do not accept tips! But step back for a second and think about everything that these people are doing for you, and leave that money in their pockets!

 

 

A few thoughts about my recent hotel stays

I love staying at various hotels since that is the industry I work in. On this trip I stayed at quite a few different hotels that all had a little something special to offer.

Planet Hollywood Las Vegas is one of a million hotels on the Las Vegas strip. This hotel is in a prime location and offers affordable rooms. There are constantly deals out there that will make it so you won’t have to break the bank.

Four Points Sheraton LAX is just another airport hotel except for a few things which I was very surprised by. The reservation agent who made my reservation was beyond helpful and made me excited to stay at the hotel. I had a free night with 7 nights of parking but was going to be parked for 10 nights. She extended a special $10/night rate for my extra days of parking which is absolutely amazing. The room was a pretty good size and the internet is free. So if you need a quick overnight at LAX I suggest this as a place to stay.

Conrad Chicago is located in a beautiful part of downtown Chicago. The lobby bar here is absolutely fantastic and a must see if you are in the area.

The James Chicago blew my mind away. First and foremost check-in/check-out time is 2:00pm. Think back on all those times you have requested an early check-in or a late check-out and not received it. This solves that problem and makes catching a late flight easy as can be. Turn down service comes with delicious cookies and a large bottle of water and closing of the drapes and light music playing on the radio. If you are in town for business or personal this is the place to stay.