AirBnB: How tos

Lately I have been here there and everywhere (unfortunately without my side kick, Nals). We both love love love to travel and quite honestly, I’m pretty darn sick of staying in hotels.

So a few years ago I started using AirBnB/VRBO.

Here’s what I love:
  • You can find a home away from home. It’s not a stuffy hotel room, with no kitchen. And yes I realize that you can find hotels with kitchenettes, but they just aren’t the same.
  • The experience of being one of the locals. You are in a home, a neighbourhood, part of the scene, instead of just visiting it.
So how does one successfully navigate finding the perfect location? Great question! Here are some of my tips!
  1. Know your price range. Use the filters tool to screen out all the places that you can’t afford. No point on wasting your time on the luxury properties that are out of reach.
  2. If you are like me, I want my own place and I don’t want to share a space with others. Not that I don’t like people, I just like having quiet moments to myself. I also like walking around in my unders and I don’t like people watching me do that. So I change the filter to only show me spaces that are my own and private.
  3. Because there are sooooo many places on AirBnB it’s a good idea to add the filters that you need. I prefer to have a kitchen and wifi,I automatically start with these filters. However, if there are certain things I want, for example, my hubs and I will be going away in a few weeks for our anniversary, and it’s hot, so I wanted a pool! (and boom, we are spending time at private home with a pool, kitchen and wifi!).
  4. Don’t get carried away with filters. Pick only a few that are important to you. Yes, there are lots of options to choose from, but having more than 3 or 4 filters will limit you. For example, I just searched for properties in Kelowna, BC. I put in random dates of Feb 12th to 16th 2019. The search came back with 300+ homes on 18 pages. When I added the filter “entire place”, and dropped my price range t0 the max of $250/night. I still had over 300 homes on 17 pages. BUT dropping the price to a max of $200/night, it brings it just under 300 homes. That’s still way to many to search through. Adding kitchen; 255 homes, and wifi; 244. Now if I add pool; 30! OR suitable for pets; 22! (we like to travel with our pups, but this limits us big time!)
  5. Location, location, location! Shuffling through 300+ homes is impossible! So don’t even try! (Please don’t!) Use the map option and zoom into the locations that you want. Close to the city, out by the lake, or up in the mountain. Use this tool, it is probably the most helpful and will bring down your search to the area best suited for you (and any travelers you are bringing with you.
  6. If you see a place you like, ♥ it, and add it to a list. You can have lots of lists and get to name them yourself. Don’t over add to your list. You will use this list to narrow down your search. I have 3 things I use to add to my list.
  • Pictures, if I like what I see
  • Cleanliness rating (I look for 5*)
  • I read 2 or 3 reviews and if they are good, I heart it.

7. Finally, once you have a few keepers in your list, start comparing them. Read the descriptions well. I often find things hidden, like if there is no TV, or if there is a cat that lives on the property. Things that you may or may not want. You may also discover that the place is a carriage home just off the main area of the owners house, and that they will be sharing space with you.  This is also when I read through the reviews. Try to read some that don’t give the property all 5*. Other guests are good at pointing out things that you may have missed. If there is something that you don’t like about the property, delete it off your list. I try to narrow it down to 2 properties. Then I will message the hosts about any questions I have, like what’s the parking  like? or are there any condiments in the fridge?

So far, all the hosts that I have had, have been amazing. They answer all my questions, communicate well and have been super helpful with anything that I have needed. I’m sure most people have used AirBnB at this point. But if you haven’t, it’s important to remember that the hosts will also rate you. Their comments are seen by other property owners. Things happen, sometimes glasses break and accidents happen. It’s good to let the host know these things. Don’t forget, to follow the instructions for when you leave. Every host has a different set of rules. These help the cleaning staff, as well as others following you to enjoy the property after you leave. My rule, is to treat the property as it is my own and if I were the host.

Finally, if you are staying at a property for a week or more, try asking the host for a deal. They are often willing to discount if you need to stay a while!

Have you AirBnB’d? What are your tips to finding the perfect place? Please share your tips with us, we would love to hear them!

Review of: Mozart’s Steakhouse (Leavenworth)

Kells, Cutie T & I went on a fun little girls weekend to Leavenworth in February.

Our first night in, we ate at Mozart’s Steakhouse.

Click to read our other Leavenworth reviews on: Doghaus Brewery and Leavenworth Village Inn.

Make reservations

It was hella busy in February due to skiing. So we had to wait for over an hour for a table. Either make reservations or be prepared to be placed on the wait list. Mozart will text you when your table is ready.

The ambience and service

Despite the fact that it is quite a large space, it felt quiet, rustic and cozy*. Service was good**. Note that you have to walk up steep-ish stairs. If there are folks with mobility issues, inquire ahead about alternative entry routes.

The menu

Varied meats and European fare. Some veggie options. Drinks menu contains typical beers, wines and mixers as well as other surprises.

Our food and drinks

Cutie T & I ordered flights (of beer), which were mostly delicious. For dinners, Kells ordered her usual spaetzle and schnitzel. Cutie T & I couldn’t decide. So, we ordered the Platter for Two. The meals were fantastically delicious with large American portions. The 3 of us were starving. We also have large appetites. And, we couldn’t finish our meals.

N&K Recommendation

Yes you must definitely go! K has been here a few times and each time it has been wonderful.

If you need to kill time before your table is ready, take a boo at the varied boutique shops along Front Street.

Footnotes
* “Cozy” is partially due to dim lighting. So, our photos aren’t crisp and fabulous.

**American and Canadian restaurant service is different. Canadians are a bit more doting. (Not annoyingly so.) However this was also the end of a busy day, near-ish to closing. Everyone must’ve been tired. We waited a bit long for our drinks and asked our server a couple times about it. Our meals also seemed to take a while. But definitely worth the wait!

Review of: Leavenworth Village Inn

As we approach this extra long Easter weekend, we wanted to suggest visiting Leavenworth, Washington for a quick trip away. This place is great for everyone: friends, couples, families and all ages.

General Impression

Leavenworth Village Inn is nestled in Leavenworth town, with the same quaint Bavarian as all other buildings. Suite was clean, spacious and luxurious. Note that there is no elevator.

The story goes… Kells & I jetted off with Cutie T for a Girls Weekend in February. We decided to say at Leavenworth Village Inn.

We’ve now stayed in the King Spa Suite twice. We went about 3 years ago with our buds DJ Cocoa*.

Doghaus Brewery, Leavenworth

In-Room Amenities

Sofa bed wasn’t comfy for lil Cutie T. So, we all 3 spent a lot of time watching TV on the king bed. King bed was super roomy & comfy AF! Kells is tall & I’m a big gal but we had lots of room… enough for Cutie T & then some!

Bathroom was huge with a wardrobe, and no tub. That’s cuz the bedroom had a huge jacuzzi.

Kitchenette had microwave, cupboards, sink, mini fridge, dishware°.

Main area also contained a little dining table with chairs, Cutie T’s sofa bed**, TV & mmm toasty fireplace.

There was lots of lighting and windows. There’s free wifi.

Drawbacks

TV doesn’t connect to bluetooth so you won’t be able to listen to your music or watch your Netflix. Counterspace & tabletop space is sparse.

Bookings & Cancellation

LVI is easy to book online. They have a reasonable cancellation policy. We would recommend looking into bookings early… in case there is an event going on.

Recommendation

N&K would most certainly recommend Leavenworth Village Inn. It’s centrally located with lots of parking.

Footnotes
*We can’t forget this trip! DJ was glued to CNN during the Trump v. Clinton thing.
° You’ll need to contact the front desk for cutlery.
**DJ Cocoa took the sofa bed last time. And this time, Cutie took the sofa bed. Unfortunately it had a part that dug into her tiny back. Though they advertised that the sofa bed was use-able, they seemed surprised when we told them it was being used. So, we would suggest you ask them to check the sofa bed BEFORE you arrive. As it was a busy time of year, we had no option to change rooms or hotels.

Pup & Circumstance: Review of Doghaus Brewery (Leavenworth)

Kells, Cutie T & I went on a fun little girls weekend to Leavenworth in February.

We decided to visit Doghaus Brewery. Kells had tried Icicle Brewery previously & it wasn’t her cup of brew. so she thought let’s give puphouse a whirl. Plus the $15 Group-on was a fab deal with a flight, pint & souvenir growler.

Doghaus is easy to get to because it’s in the middle of the town. Parking can be iffy so just walk from your hotel. The location has an interesting history, as it used to be a morgue (until the hospital moved its hindquarters).

N&K doing an impromptu photoshoot just outside of Doghaus Brewery.

Eden was our bar wench that day. She is a great hostess, warm, open & friendly… and she was accompanied by sweet and cute-as-a-pup-button Koda. Tasting room is a very small – it fits 8 folks snugly. You really get to know your fellow tasters.

Doghaus has 8 beers on tap that rotate seasonally. The flight allows up to 4 beers to taste which are served in an adorable doggie-treat-bone-shaped thingamabob. Between the 3 of us, we tried the wine beer, winter, fir, fluffy, amber, porter & lager. Our faves were porter, winter & lager.

The small tasting room is a catch 22. You can just walk-in (no reservations or appointments) during business hours. So, you never know who you’re going to get to chat with. But just as you’re getting comfy… to be courteous to the newcomers, we cut our visit short. Getting a bigger room or taking reservations may interfere with the current chemistry.

We really enjoyed our experience! We would not only recommend Doghaus but we’d come back in a pup-beat.

N&K Announcement

Attention: To All N&Kers

Why hello there you exquisite creatures! Kells & I are keeping the post short for this week as we are heading into our Girl’s Weekend Getaway.

Tonight, we’ll be heading to the Justin Timberlake concert. He was supposed to croon for us a few months ago. But the poor dear had vocal cord issues. We told him “Hey J – Just go home, take it easy. Take care of yo fine self. And come back in February.” And here we are…

After that, K&I are heading to Leavenworth with our friend, Cutie T. We plan on engaging in R&R and stuffing ourselves with chocolate, bratwurst & schnizel! And of course, we’ll be taking a whole truckload of pictures. K&I have lots of new photoshoot ideas, & we’ll have Cutie T as our photographer.

So, stay tuned for Leavenworth posts… and check our IG for BID posts.

Be mine: hot choco

So here in the great YVR a few hot spots got together for the Hot Chocolate Festival.We think end of Jan and into Feb is a great time to warm us up.
Today marks the final day of the Hot Chocolate Festival (boo). But we did get out there and try a few (even though our intentions were to try as many as we could).
We loved some and didn’t love others.
We have a tie for our favourite! They were both so different but both so good. So in first and 1st place is a) the Vegan hot chocolate from Cadeaux Bakery and b) the Bees knees squeeze from Chez Christophe
Let’s talk about a) first. We both love some coconut so to have that hint of coconut with the rich chocolate was a win in our books. Then b) this was delightful sweet treat with honey and lemon notes.
Second place has to go to strawberry fields forever, a dark chocolate and strawberry delight also from Chez Christophe.
Third place is the hot chocolate in a cone from Mink. The cone was a yummy addition. Just wish the drink was warmer (however we get having a super hot drink in a cone doesn’t bode well).
The middle 2 are from Baggio. They weren’t cheap and was underwhelming. They were barely warm and did not have much flavour despite the amazing descriptions. We tried the Almond Joy and Tiramisu for 2.
And sorry to sayEast Van Roasters, you make a mean salted cookie, but your fragrant hot chocolate was just not our thing. We are sure others loved it. But we didn’t get the flavour fusion of the Umami Experience.
We have to say, the Hot Chocolate fest was a great way to get us out and about. And we love that they support women and children. Yummy in a cup plus a good cause. Now that we can get behind!

Sky’s the Limit at SkyCity Hotel in Auckland, NZ!

Nals visited New Zealand this Christmas. She mainly stayed with family. But lucky for SkyCity Hotel… she was able to sneak away one night.

General feel

SkyCity Hotel has a lofty, brightly lit, sparkly feel with huge chandeliers and a marbly lobby. Our floor was carpeted for reduced noise, but felt expansive. There were a few places to sit, in hallway outside of elevators.

Our room

was Kingsize. It too was lofty, with warm colours. Windows are huge almost floor-to-ceiling. We were on 4th floor & got dizzying views. (Views of construction, but still dizzying.) They had blackout drapes and it was quiet due to the double-glaze. There was plenty of lighting options.

The bed

Soooo big and firm. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel Mr. Nals rolling around in middle of the night. (He’s littler than me, but is like a heavy log when fast asleep.) This bed looked perfect for jumpy pillow fights. There was also a glorious multitude of pillows.

The rest of the room

There was a nice little seating area with a loveseat that could fit 2-3 folks.

The desk was a good size with stationary and hotel info.

In-room entertainment

There is a large TV with variety of channels, wifi, lots of places to plug chargers. There might’ve even been a docking station.

Comforts

The hair dryer was proper. It wasn’t that useless hunk of plastic secured to the wall. There was an iron with the board. They had a Keurig-type machine with coffee/tea/hot choco. Mugs, wine glasses and tumblers were provided. There was also a bar fridge and microwave. And inside the closet was a delightful little safe.

Bathroom was spacious with toiletries. We didn’t have a tub but shower was spacious. And there was a fabulous rainshower head!

Hotel Entertainment

Skycity Hotel has tons to do like the Skytower, a casino, conference rooms, a cafe and a couple of restaurants. They also have a fitness room.

Parking

There is self or valet parking for ~50NZD/day. But as it is downtown, it’s easy enough to catch the train (or bus) or use your legs for transport. We also saw motorized scooters zipping about town.

Tips

– Don’t put e-keycard near your phone so you can avoid de-magnetizing the keycode.
– lots of construction going on in Auckland so ask for a room with a nice view.
– within walking distance of restaurants, cafes, liquor stores. I will be posting on local cafes & restaurants soon.

Does Nals recommend Skycity Hotel?

It’s in Auckland’s Central Business District (aka CBD but not to be confused with this other thing) so it’s a central location. Reasonable rates, easy to book and check out. Quiet and luxuriously comfortable.

So hells yeah!
we’d stay here again
in a heartbeat.

Review of: Skagit Valley Casino Resort

A few years ago, our friend DJ Cocoa Smoov decided to celebrate his 50th in Vegas.

 

K invited me and… history was made as we realized that we travelled well together².

So, the following year, K&I decided to start a tradition of celebrating our October birthdays away from home. We Started with Leavenworth (Oktoberfest).

Last year, we went to Vegas where The Weeknd performed for Kells on her birthday.

 


Our Vegas reviews of:  Yellowtail    Olives     Ballys


T h i s   y e a r …

due to our work schedules and my limited vacation hours¹, we decided on a mini Run for the Border birthday getaway. Our sole goal was shopping. (So much shopping that we needed to spend a night.) We decided to grace Skagit Valley Casino Resort with our presence.

Kells has stayed here several times before, including a Suite. This time, we were in the Ridge Double Queen.

The hotel was large, spacious, clean, airy.

 

Rooms were decorated in muted tones.  Beds were super comfy: firm but soft (ie: not lumpy). Pillows were snuggly soft. There was a lot of tabletop room.  And a little sitting area. Bathroom was large and well-lit. Hot water took a bit to come in but when it did, it stayed. Rooms were quiet.

In-room amenities: Lots of toiletries including facial-cleanser wipes, TV, hair dryer, coffee & machine, little fridge and microwave. In fact, we would call this a kitchenette area because there was also a cute little sink.

 

Hotel amenities: pool & fitness room. The lobby has a lovely fireplace for the cold days. Staff are lovely. And they have a continental breakfast room. Plenty of free guest parking. Of course there’s a casino. And as per their website, dining rooms and actual shows like the upcoming Clairvoyant Christmas². The surroundings are green & woody. So a lot of rooms lookout on this. We took pictures out there, and ended up seeing deer!

We would defo stay here again!

 

Footnights
1 Oh dear limited vaca days? Poor Nals! Well don’t feel sorry for me. I’m going to NZ next month!

2 Important things to consider when travelling with others: are you a neat freak, does the other person snore, is someone a blanket hog, who’s crabby in the morning til they get their coffee, what do you like watching on the old boob toob?

Food Truck Review: Manger á Portland

This is a special ed of Food Truck Reviews.

We started off with Things to Do in Portland. We will continue today with a summary of our food tour.

Farm Boy Drive In

A sleepy eatery in an odd duck corner of Olympia. Here the corn dogs are crispy fresh, the official certificate of The Daughters of American Revolution has made an impression (literally & figuratively) on the wall and where a visible minority is rarely seen. Staff were nice. Corn dog was corny tasty. And, we had that feeling that a climactic horror movie scene was about to unfold.  We made sure not to overstay¹.

Lompoc Tavern

Is right around the corner from Pecularium. Large airy tavern with a terrace, and lots of nooks and crannies to squirrel away into. We had beef burger sliders (delicious) and Southwest Chicken salad (lovely spicy dry rub on grilled chicken that crisped up real good under the hot loving grill. And, this fit in quite nicely with the greens and other healthy crap. With numma nums dressing².)

Lima Peruvian Restaurant

We’ve never had Peruvian food so this was a delight. We ordered Ají de Gallina . This is a Creole4 dish consisting of shredded strips of chicken cooked in a creamy sauce. Sauce contains ají5 and milk. It is accompanied by potatoes, white rice, hard-boiled egg and olives3. To Mr. Nals and I, this dish sounded very different from anything we’ve tried. It had a rich mouthfeel, but wasn’t overwhelmed with a fatty taste. It was smooth creamy perfection with different bites of chicken, potato or egg inside. Also had some wine to give it complexity. Fair warning: this dish was not made to feast your eyes.

Our next dish Bisteck a la Chorillana is described as “Fried steak smothered with sauteed onions & tomatoes served with rice and fried potatoes.” This dish had more pungeant flavour so it was a great contrast to the chicken dish. Smoky grilled flavour, acidic, delicious.

San Francisco Mexicana Tienda
Facebook and Menu

We didn’t take pictures but in the deli section, we ordered Taquitos and Tostado. Amazing fresh ingredients, crispy, flavourful. It is so worth it to come here just to eat, nevermind their glorious market area where you can buy groceries, snacks, hot sauces and drinks.

Food Pods

…are a convenient gathering of food trucks in parts of downtown Portland. The Mr and I visited 2 of them.

Phat Blue Buddha

We got the Korean Beef & Rice. The meat was tender, flavourful. The whole dish was perfection. The chef-owner is super friendly and apparently spent some time in B.C.

Don Jalapeno Mexican Food

Mmm delicious Tacos. Tender tasty meat, crispy fresh veg and tortilla were magnificent! And reasonably priced so you can try a few different ones without breaking the bank.

 

These are just a few places that we tried in Portland, Oregon in August.

Have you tried any of these places?

Footnotes
1 A bit of artistic license. But don’t they say art imitates life?
2 In Amur’ca, the portions and salads are very different from Vancouver’s. Ask for dressing on the side unless you like globs of gloop.
3 You may have noticed that Lima’s menu does not list this dish. I remembered the name of the dish and so I went off-roading on The Google. I found a description on Adventure Life.
4 Creoles in Peru? Yessuh!
5 WTF is a Scoville unit?

Pret a porter in Portland

Mr. Nals and I took a jaunt to Oregon in August.

I’m a planner. He’s more of a spontaneous duckling. Who says planning is all the rage¹?  So we didn’t book a hotel. We winged it.

We ended up taking the turn-off into Beaverton and found a place called Shiloh Inn. Looked chalet-ish, with a pool. But wouldn’t you know it – it was ALL booked up!¹

The front desk chicka suggested Peppertree Motel. This was casual, motel-style, low key. There was a little water feature in front & lots of guest parking.

Peppertree Hotel, Beaverton, Oregon

Peppertree Hotel, Beaverton, Oregon

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