N&K review of 3 Trails in Palm Springs

N&K went to Palm Springs🔗 last month for the annual birthday jaunt.

We had good food and wine (stay tuned for reviews). Good pool time. Good sleeps. #renindianwells. Good shopping. And of course a good bit o’ exercise.

Click here🔗 to read related N&K’s Palm Springs posts.

Read our other Travel posts here🔗.

Hike v. Walk*

We had a discussion about hikes versus walks🔗. We both think the term hike means a walk-with-attitude. So immediately you know it won’t be as easy as walking to the corner store. Thus, for folks with mobility or health issues, hikes will generally be harder.

If you have concerns… We recommend you research a hike site well, before you go. Reviews are a good source of secret info. You will need to consider access to: Help/Rescue, rangers/guides, cell service, water availability, transport, seaaonal access, etc.

What we love in a hike

…good exercise, solace, lovely things to see and peaceful to hear. So, doing the Grouse Grind🔗 (in Vancouver, Canada) with crowds, unvaried scenery and a sense of urgency doesn’t appeal to either K or I.

The Cross

The Cross🔗 is a walk-up, upside big hills† with windy, narrow★ dirt paths. Some parts have rocks, shrubs. Others have a baby-bluff for respite and to take in the scenery. You end up at the summit with a… You guessed it: a big cross.

I’m not in phenomenal shape. But I do cardio 6-7x/week. And, I was quite surprised that I was dying on the Mount Everest-esque hills leading up to the Cross’d summit.

Later, we realized it was 39C, dry blazing sun. I should have drunk more water before heading out.

So our plan for the next day’s hike was to get out earlier to avoid blazing sun. And I’d have more water beforehand.

(And yes, this helped immensely!)

7 Sisters (Water)Falls

There are several beautiful hikes available through the Indian Canyons 🔗.

Kells chose the 7 Sisters Falls hike. The hike took us across a varied landscape. We went from desert dryness to an Oasis to shaded green majestic tree’d areas to big climbable rocks and the soothing waterfalls.

TBH considering it was called The 7 Sisters Falls, I was kind of something explosive. It was definitely enchanting but don’t expect Niagara Falls.

(Kells did this hike with one of her besties last year, and with her infink nephew in a bjorn… And though lovely, it was unfortunately too dry to see the Falls.)

This hike was challenging for me not because it was hard per se. It was more about challenging my own anxieties. I had to cross waters by balance-walking on logs. I had to climb across smooth rocks (smooth=no friction=trouble for Nals). Lots of fallen vegetation around, which creates fab hiding spots for biting, stinging creatures. So yeah… There was that.

I left a piece of myself in 7 Sisters that fateful morning.  And, I will always have a piece of 7 in me.                                        

As I was surveying the sheer rockface that I was to climb (that K just basically hopped on like a baby goat), I noticed a nemesis lodged in the rocky outcrop. I said to this stick “we will be like ships in the night, you and I…” Unfortunately, it had other ideas. As I climbed that rockface, I promptly stuck the stick promptly stuck itself into my knee. This gd stick. Just a half-inch diameter. A fallen child trapped in a rock world. Shriveled. Dry. Pathetically beige. And fierce enough to almost penetrate my knee cap. Touché my friend. Touché¹.

The road Runner Trail

The Road Runner Trail is an oddball hike. It’s on the outskirts of the city, near some ritzy hotel and regular streets. Seems like it’d be an easy stroll with nicely planted flowers and shrubs.

Except it’s not… There is a collection of rancid hills that you ascend (then descend). You aimlessly traverse these rando hills for eons. (Remeniscent of that movie The Cube🔗.) And suddenly, you’ve got an amazing bird’s eye view of the area. It’s surreal!

You must become one with the narrow★ trails.

There were times where the precariously-gravelled trail was flanked by (guaranteed) steep falls into one rock abyss or another. In a Black Swan ballet move, some of the gravel seemed fall away at the trail edges, at the same moment I was approaching it. Like a warning. Or a taunt. I paused. Time stood still. Eerie crackle-sounds of the falling gravel. Puffs of dust billowed as each piece bounced off the land, and twirled up again. My stomach lodged in my throat. That gravel bit could be me in a heartbeat. I was quite concerned that it may be idiot-proofed, but not Nals-proofed. It all turned out okay. But it got dicey².

Recommendation


Kells & I loved all of these “easy” hikes.

Side effect: We’ve known each other now for over a decade. We need know each other well. But during the quiet peace of the hikes, we shared some new and interesting thoughts with one another. So yeah, hikes are definitely worth the effort!

More info on Palm Springs hikes here 🔗.

Footnotes
*For some perspective: The Vancouver walks that Nals has been on were at Burnaby Lake, Deer Lake, etc. There’s the Coquitlam Crunch. I would consider this a hard walk (or easier hike). The actual hikes I’ve previously done were at Deep Cove, or upside a volcano in Costa Rica. Those I’d consider easy but towards the harder side of easy.
† I don’t know the difference between a hill and a mountain but this was a big ass mofo hill. So let’s just call it a mountain. With no trees, minimal shrubs and hot dry dirt.
★so narrow that if another person was coming in the opposite direction, one of you needed to hug the wall. And there wasn’t always a “wall” to hug. If you’re afraid of heights then you may want to avoid this one.
¹I survived to tell my tale. How did it happen, Nals? What a weirdo, freaky thing, Nals. This is the life that Nals has come to call her own… Where physics meets magic meets the exact opposite of what Nals was thinking. ²Dicey in my head. Sure, one should be cautious. But, I wasn’t going to let my anxiety rule me.

N&K review of Esmeralda Bonvoy Marriott (Indian Wells, Palm Springs)

Nals and Kells went on their annual October birthday girls getaway. This time, they flew to Palm Springs, and stayed at Marriott Bonvoy Indian Wells🔗.

Kells has been there a few times already. But this was Nals’s first time.

Kells’s review is here🔗
N&K Do: Birthday Girls Getaway to Palm Springs.  They stayed at Marriot Bonvoy: Esmeralda in Indian Wells.

Fantastic Staff

Vanity* got us a lovely newly reno’d mountain view room (on a side that wasn’t going to get construction done on the following day – how thoughtful!). Staff are kind and respectful from front desk, valet, bell hop, pool staff & wait staff.

Construction warning
After 30 years, this joint is getting a rehaul! So, there is noise & water-stoppage 7am-4pm in certain areas. We had a room on corner so hardly heard construction. There was some noise when in commons. The in-room water disruption was: some coolish shower water on day 2 (despite using the hotel’s techniques), odd noises when flushing the toilet & turning on shower water for first time. When we were at the pool, we were unable to use the bathroom** in the fitness/pool area. Otherwise, minimal disruption.

Overall Impression

Hotel is huge with lots of nooks and crannies to explore: bar, restaurant, ballrooms, fitness centre, stores, spa, parking area, hallways, outdoor seating area with evening firepits, outdoor fountain, lawns, lagoon, …and the errant roadrunner.

Fitness Room

Note that the fitness room is available with the resort fee.

Pools

They have 3 pools. 1 for kidlets with a faux beach (& beach toys). Bar (with loungechair service) available. 2 small hot tubs. Plenty of lounge chairs. Towels available at pool.

Poolside service

Service by Joel was friendly and non intrusive. Nachos, Corona and the BLT (with avo & turkey) with fries were delicious!

Our Room

Our room had a balcony, loveseat, small glass dining table & chairs, TV, double sinks, fabulous pillows, comfy AF mattress, hair dryer, Aveda toiletries, mini fridge and Keurig. They supplied coffee & tea pods, condiments, paper cups and water glasses.

We missed . . .

There is no cutlery, mugs or microwave. We would’ve liked a bit more counterspace and dimmable lighting.

Surroundings

If you want to venture out, there are:

(Click 🔗 to see links.)

Recommendation

Rooms are huge. Renos are lovely. Hotel is large but warm. Staff are fabulous.

We would absolutely stay here again.

Footnotes:
*Vanity surprised us with a lovely handwritten birthday card, a chilled bottle of champers and a plate of unbelievably delicious chocolate-covered strawberries.
**Canadian term. American term is “restroom”. You will be made fun of if you call the crapper a “bathroom” in the USA.

Stay at UBC: Okanagan review

The Mr and I went away to Kelowna for our anniversary.  

The Okanagan, which is in BC’s interior, has a mild and humid continental climate. 

More info here
Nals Okanagan 2019

There is something to do for everyone from outdoorsy stuff like hiking and water sports, R&R’ing, winetasting (also beer and ciders), eating locally-grown stonefruits, festivals and simply enjoying the scenery.

So as per usual, the spontaneous Mr doesn’t book ahead, which leads me to do it last minute’.  So the well-priced rooms, funky finds, one-of-a-kinds are probably gone!  However, I ended up finding accommodations at UBC.

Nals Okanagan UBC 2019_1

Whaaaat?!! Accommodations at a university? Yes indeed folks.

It’s the cold hard truth.

G e n e r a l I m p r e s s i o n

We were in the Queen Studio room** in the Monashee Residence*. It is a straight-up clean room with no bells and whistles. No fancy soaps, luggage racks, room safes or artwork. There was a double bed, a desk, table & chairs and full kitchen. The bathroom had a narrow shower stall, with sink outside. They provide towels, kitchenware and very basic toiletries. It felt dorm-y but also home-y. There are tons of pictures available on their website and from other reviewers.

T h e P r o s

  • The building and room require fob entry so it feels secure.
  • Each room has its own inclusive wifi.
  • The room was large and airy with one small screened-window.
  • The setting is gorgeous – very peaceful.
  • Laundry is available. Purchase cards at Guest Accommodations.
  • The awesome staff is available 24/7 at 1290 International Mews.

T h e N o n – P r o s

There is no in-room TV or telephone so bring your own electronics. There isn’t a lot of counterspace.

Sink & toilet were slow to drain (perhaps just in this particular room). Showerhead is not adjustable (problem for short or tall poppies).

The bed was a bit small. (We are used to Queen.) It was also not supportive so whenever the Mr flopped, I felt it. The pillows were flat.

There weren’t extra pillows or blankets. This was major for me because sometimes I’m a bit colder or want more pillows.

P a r k i n g and Transport

Parking is 50% discounted for guests. Parking options are close by. During summer it’s slow. But during the school year – likely a different story.

If you want to sight-see or pick up larger grocery items/clothing, you will need transport: a vehicle or take transit (stops on-campus).

S u r r o u n d i n g s

Surroundings are beautiful and serene. UBC Okanagan sits on top of a hill so you get a great view of the city. There’s a bit of green space for hikes (be mindful of the bear warnings).

On the other side of highway, there’s permanent housing, a little convenience store, liquor store, pub and Chinese restaurant.

R e c o m m e n d a t i o n


The whole point is to sleep well in a hotel room. And we didn’t sleep well on the first night”. But, if we stay overnight in Kelowna again, I will ask them if there are firm-bed options. I love the idea of staying away from the downtown core in a beautiful setting, so I wouldn’t discount this option in the future. Also, UBC is the Mr.’s and my alma mater.

N&K T i p s

  • Double check that linens, kitchenware is included in your room.
  • You don’t need to download HONK app for parking, if you have a credit/debit card. Just make surr yiu choose the 24- or multiple-hour accommodation parking option.
  • Make sure you get the guest coupon code for parking.
  • Take the time to walk around the campus. It really was serenely beautiful.
  • in our room, coffee was provided. I brought my stovetop espresso machine with my own coffee. Bring tea PRN.
  • I’d recommend picking up basic snack, tea and breakfast groceries before checking in. That way, you can get to exploring as soon as you’ve settled in!
  • Research the wineries, cideries and breweries. These are abundant, and in convenient-to-explore clusters.
  • Explore the lake options and watersports. Plus other outdoorsy stuff.
  • Explore funky fruit stands and orchards.

Footnotes:

* This building was assigned to us. There were several other options. Not sure how they make the allotments. Maybe based on room types? Length of stay?
** If we had booked ahead, our options would be greater . I see there are king beds available. Not sure if mattress quality is the same?
‘ He doesn’t like to be tied down because a better deal could be around the corner. Or, maybe something off-the-beaten path. Read about our last-straw Portland adventure here … which we didn’t book ahead but turned out pretty good.
” For the following night, we slept well because we were so zonked.

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!