Altamonte Springs Restaurant Review: Maison & Jardin Restaurant and Lounge

 Let’s forget for a moment that we are in Florida. Maison & Jardin will take you to an enchanted place of neoclassical architecture and European cuisine. The ambience is only surpassed by their food. They have been in business since 1958 and offer appetizers, soups, desserts and entrees.

Maison & Jardin offers a selection of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. They have a full wine list. They also specialize in desserts to include cheesecake and ice cream. As for their entrees, they have beef, prime rib, seafood, chicken and pork loin. My favorite is their seafood dish. Obviously they have something for almost every taste.

Maison & Jardin is perfect for corporate functions or holiday parties. There is plenty of room to seat groups of many sizes. Even wedding receptions have been held there. They offer online reservations which makes coordinating these functions a breeze.

The staff is friendly and fast. We never had a problem with our drinks running low or our needs not being met. They were very courteous and treated us with care. It is obvious that the staff is well trained in what they do.

One drawback is the price. It is a bit pricey. However, the food and service doesn’t disappoint and it is realistically what you would expect to pay for such quality. I also believe that for as long as they have been in business they are definitely doing something right and it shows.

If you are in the mood to dress to impress then this is the place you want to take your date. Beautiful decor, great food and an attentive staff. A first date or an anniversary dinner, Maison & Jardin will not disappoint.

Maison & Jardin Restaurant and Lounge

430 Wymore Rd

Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

(407) 862-4410

La Amada Hotel in Cancun Mexico

The first impression upon arrival at the La Amada Hotel in Cancun, Mexico is that the choice of base camp for a vacation was definitely the right choice. The beautiful all white luxury resort is as beautiful as it is luxurious. La Amada Hotel in Cancun features Zen inspired décor with just enough minimalism and elegance making it a traveler’s delight.

Located just 15 to 20 minutes from the Cancun International Airport, La Amada Hotel offers guests the ultimate in a vacation experience with luxury accommodations and a choice of an all-inclusive experience. The property is in a semi-secluded area and sits along a stretch of beautiful beach which is equally private.

Guests to the La Amada Hotel have access to a variety of activities including golf, underwater explorations, spa services, a full service gym, several restaurants, bars, shopping excursions and more. The guests’ rooms feature in-room Jacuzzis, elegant décor, private terraces and more. All of the rooms feature a white theme including white marble bathrooms, white gauze curtains and white luxury bedding, The property features 3 swimming pools including a fabulous pool area with a swim-up bar making afternoons lazy and enjoyable. For guests who choose to venture out the resort community of Playa Mujeres is nearby and offers a beautiful strip of beach. The area offers a variety of popular activities including diving, snorkeling, kayaking and deep-sea fishing.

La Amada Hotel is a unique luxury property not only in design and décor but also in guest’s services. One of the most memorable and popular perks is the hotel will set up sofa beds on the sand for guests to enjoy up until early evening. La Amada Hotel is also popular for return guests because of the versatility to serve couples, singles and families alike catering to all needs to make the vacation experience personal.

Guests to the La Amada Hotel in Cancun, Mexico can reach the property by flying directly into the Cancun International Airport and taking car service to the resort. The usual means of car service in Cancun is a suburban which costs approximately $140 per car round trip. Taxi service is also available to and from the resort.

www.laamadahotel.com

Fun Things to Do in St. Louis

When one thinks of St. Louis, MO. you automatically think of the Gateway Arch. It is quite a neat piece of architecture. For a fee you can take a ride all the way to the top. If you get claustrophobic you may want to re think going up. It is a pretty tight space so I have been told. I didn’t go up when I was there pretty much for that reason. If heights and tight spaces don’t bother you then you will probably love it! It is definitely a Kodak moment though when you see it.

It is always fun to catch a Cardinals game when you are in St. Louis. Even if the Cardinals aren’t your favorite team it is still a fun experience for the whole family. Their field is pretty new and very nice.

Another fun option for the baseball fan in your family is the Sluggers Museum. That is a cool place! You get to see how bats are made and they have life size statues of players and announcers and even a small scale field. They even have batting cages. They have nice gift shop and you can purchase personalized bats while you are there.

Other fun activities for the kids (and adults too) is their laser tag and miniature golf center. St. Louis has a Six Flags and a water park. They have a beautiful botanical garden a fun science center too. St. Louis has a wonderful zoo as well. We went there on vacation a few years ago and we were not disappointed. The best part is the zoo is absolutely FREE!

The World Aquarium is definitely a must see when you are in St. Louis. You can see sharks, stingrays and all sorts of reptiles and fish from all around the world. The World Aquarium is a little bit pricey but worth it if you love sea creatures and marine life.

While you are in St. Louis you can visit the theater, lots of choices of different museums and even a symphony orchestra. There will never be a dull moment when you vacation in St. Louis! For a FREE visitor’s guide click HERE

St. Louis is a great vacation spot to take the kids. There is so much to see and so many things your kids will want to do. The best part is there is many things you can do for absolutely free! Who can beat that! As I mentioned earlier the zoo is free, but so is the Science Center, The St. Louis Art Museum, The Missouri History Museum, The new Citygarden, a place of pretty fountains and wading pools. The kids will love this place! The Municipal Opera also is free as is the World Bird Sanctuary. You better plan about a week long vacation to get it all covered!

A place you will not want to miss is Grant Farms. This is another FREE attraction, BUT parking will set you back around $11.00. You will see tons of great animals from all over the world. You will find the beautiful Clydesdale horses here.

So what are you waiting for? Get to planning your fun St. Louis vacation today!

Where to Stay in Hana, Hawaii

Travaasa Hana is one of the most popular places to stay after having taking on the challenge of driving on the famous road to Hana. Located at 5031 Hana Highway, the Travaasa Hana is an ideal base camp for the traveler or adventurer looking for unique accommodations off the beaten path.

Travaasa Hana located on the island of Maui is situated just 2 miles from beautiful Hamoa Beach and offers guests an island view of Hawaiian life, hospitality and cuisine. Guests feasts on regional fresh fish, produce, fruits, vegetables and exquisitely prepared beef. Several island specialties such as breadfruit and coconut milk are also incorporated in the daily meals at Travaasa Hana, prepared by the on-site chef who was raised in Hana.

Technically Travaasa Hana is your home away from home while visiting Hana. The property features laundry facilities, hot tubs, spa services provided by local skilled therapists, and access to an assortment of local activities such as horseback riding, bike riding and water sports. Many of the suites are situated more like private homes providing a real insiders experience of island life in Hana.

Located off the beaten path the Travaasa Hana is approximately 3 hours from the airport and is an ideal choice for the person looking for beach life in an extended stay location. Where this is not a beachfront property, Travaasa Hana overlooks the ocean and is set perched on beautiful Hawaiian cliffs.

Travaasa Hana is an ideal place for the person truly looking to get away from it all including the rat race, and is an ideal place for a health and wellness retreat. You won’t find the scene normally seen at beach front chain hotels, in fact there are no malls, clocks, telephones, televisions or anything of the like, though the Hasegawa General Store is nearby to provide all of the rations you might need while living off the grid.

Travelers to Hana, Hawaii and the Travaasa Hana can reach the property by flying directly into the Maui Kahului Airport and either rent a car or take car service to the hotel.

www.travaasa.com

St. Augustine Motel Review: The Vilano Beach Motel

The Vilano Beach Motel brings value to a vacation in St. Augustine. Located on Vilano Beach, the Vilano Beach Motel offers a clean, comfortable place to stay for a reasonable price.

If you are looking for a place to basically sleep and shower the Vilano Beach Motel will suit your needs nicely. It is not the newest lodging place in St. Augustine, but they do keep it well maintained. The rooms are equipped with kitchens which are fully loaded except of course for food. There were plenty of towels, shampoo and soap. Anything we needed was a simple phone call away to the front desk.

Sometimes it isn’t the luxurious amenities of a place, it’s the people who make it special. Such is the case at the Vilano Beach Motel. The staff was very friendly. In fact, striking up a conversation with them came as natural as talking to an old friend.

The location is perfect as it is located very close to the beach. If sand and salt water isn’t your thing then they have a pool that is well maintained and open all the time. My daughter was so excited to be able to swim in the pool in the evening after a day at the beach.

The Vilano Beach Motel is ideal for any type of visitor. Families will enjoy staying here, as well as couples and singles. Pets are even welcome.

Depending on your needs, there may be a few things that may or may not matter. For example, it is an old building and there is no breakfast in the lobby. However, the price you pay is lower based probably in part because of the age of the building.

There are a few restaurants nearby and a convenience store which is great for anything you may need.

I would recommend staying at the Vilano Beach Motel if you are looking for inexpensive lodging with adequate facilities and more of a small business feel. However, if you require the free continental breakfast, newer building and amenities then you would probably feel better staying at a higher priced hotel.

Vilano Beach Motel

50 Vilano Road

Saint Augustine, FL 32095

Weekend Getaway Guide for Downtown San Diego

Whether you’re in San Diego for a conference during the day or vacationing, spending a week or just a weekend in San Diego offers individuals and families a huge selection of entertainment, culture, and delicious foods. When I travel to San Diego, I enjoy staying downtown. Beyond the typical amusement parks, beaches, museums, and historical sites of the city, here are a few hidden gems nestled in the downtown area that you don’t want to miss on your next trip.

Where to Stay

The US Grant
326 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
619-232-3121

This Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel is unique inside and out in the heart of downtown San Diego. The standard rooms are small but quaint with old world charm. Just walking up to the hotel in the evening makes one feel that they are in for a special treat without the snobbery. The exterior gives one a sense of royalty as the architecture is highlighted with a golden hue. The staff was knowledgeable as well as detail-oriented and approachable.

The US Grant is conveniently located within walking distance to the Westfield Horton Plaza. This hotel has the basic amenities, but you’ll want to venture out to enjoy the wonderful cultural delicacies nearby the Plaza and the NBC Building at 225 Broadway, located in the Horton Plaza district.

Where to Shop, Dine and Work Out

Westfield Horton Plaza
324 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
619-239-8180

This is an interesting mall; some might call it an eclectic use of architecture and design. If you only have a few days in San Diego or a week for a convention, you’ll never need to go further than the Westfield Horton Plaza to meet all of your needs. Don’t go if you’re in a hurry, as the maze of escalators and levels may leave you dumbfounded. I saw this as part of its charm.

The Westfield has many options for your pleasure. Fast food or fine dining, over a hundred stores to shop on multi levels, exercise at 24 Hour Fitness Sport, movies at the Cinema Times, space to hold special events, and my favorite find, the San Diego Repertory Theater.

Unique Local Entertainment in Downtown San Diego

San Diego Repertory Theatre
79 Horton Plaza, San Diego, CA 92101
619-544-1000

One of my greatest finds during my travels was this little theater at the main entrance to the Westfield Horton Plaza. The Rep is known for its small town theater with Broadway-quality productions. I was interesting in attending a Broadway production a few miles from my hotel. However, after looking at the cost of tickets and cab fair, I thought I would see the local production, and I was not disappointed.

I found that the Rep box office sold discount tickets for the same day production at a huge bargain. Tickets usually range from $29 to $53 with discounts for active military and seniors – call or ask at the box office. Students are only $18. I believe for the same day and the particular show I saw I was able to get the student rate. I won’t entice you to see the show that I saw because it doesn’t seem to be in production anymore. However, with the caliber of talent that was exhibited that night, I will return to see whatever is being performed on my next trip.

A Trip to Florida’s Space Coast

Along the Florida coast, the Atlantic’s rolling waves caress the mind. On a clear night, launches from the Kennedy Space Center illuminate the heavens.

A Saturn V rocket, among the biggest launch vehicles in history, is housed in a walk-through warehouse exhibit at the Space Center. Visitors find the sheer mass and complexity of the rocket daunting. The tangled mess of fuel hoses and pipes is the end result of decades of guidance research. Years of trial and error led to the design, including rockets that either crashed unsuccessfully or blew up on the launch pad. The American research began with the Army in the later 1940’s and early 1950’s in the American Southwest. An early milestone was the 71-mile altitude mark.

The Rocket Garden is a collection of smaller rockets. Visitors can walk though the garden, inspect the rockets, take a look at an actual rocket capsule, and sit in a space capsule facsimile.

Try to avoid spies and have fun. Don’t get to know any Eastern European-types who speak with accents and wear drab clothing and a Cold War-grimace.

Don’t miss the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which includes a well-done Imax Theater. Kids and amateurs will learn much from the exhibits. Many of the early astronauts are chronicled in the museum. One video is an interview with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut who believed he saw an Unidentified Flying Object while in space. Such reports don’t usually emanate from such credible sources.

Another exhibit shows the Apollo 13 Mission. Millions of television viewers prayed for the safe return of the astronauts after a disaster left the vessel incapable of a lunar landing. The three astronauts returned miraculously in a truly memorable mission.

The Space Center is located at Exit 215 on I-95. Take SR 50 East to SR 405 East to the Center. Hours are 9am to 6pm. Astronaut Hall of Fame hours are 12pm to 6pm. Admission for the Center and the Hall of Fame is $43. Admission for the Hall of Fame only is $20.

Summer Weekend Travel Suggestion – Cedar Point in Ohio

A family-fun destination for more than 110 years, Cedar Point located in Sandusky, Ohio is preparing to open for yet another fun-filled summer season. The self-described Roller Coaster Capital of the World has big plans for its 2011 season, including plans to open yet another thrill ride. Here are some highlights of the coming season and guides to plan your visit.

The historic amusement park is packed into a natural peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie. The general flow takes a visitor into themed areas, each highlighted by roller coasters and thrill rides. Cedar Point boasts the world’s largest collection of roller coasters, including coasters for all ages and risk tolerances. In 2011, there are 75 rides for family fun.

Cedar Point opens for the season on May 14, 2011. During May, the park operates with abbreviated hours during the week, opening at 10 am and closing at 8 pm. On Fridays and weekends, the park is open 10-10 and after June 2, the park moves to the 10-10 schedule daily. July through mid-August, the park has an 11 pm closing time on Saturday nights and special hours on July 3 for the holiday. As the school year approaches, the park’s hours again shorten and after Labor Day, the park is open on Fridays and weekends only through October. Go here for a complete schedule and see below for information about extended admission times for guests of the hotel properties.

Cedar Point can be manageable within a day if you plan properly. First, early arrival is necessary (see below for early admission options for those staying in the hotel properties). Second, plan for all weather conditions. The park is located almost within the lake. Weather can be cool and breezy at times and can change rapidly. It is not unusual for the lake area to be up to 10 degrees cooler than inland cities like Columbus. Early in May and June, the lake is also quite cool keeping the air moving across the lake cooled. Third, plan to stay as late as possible at the park. Many visitors are day-visitors meaning they drive in and out on the same day. They tend to arrive later and leave earlier than those staying at nearby hotels or in the hotel properties. If you come as a family including young children who will want to ride the kiddie rides, it will take away time from the thrill rides, so do not be disappointed that in your case, the park is probably too much for a single day. Finally, if you are a die-hard thrill ride enthusiast, be prepared to wait in lines. Drink a lot of water, avoid the alcohol, and be prepared to be in the sun and heat for extended periods. Sunscreen is also a must and reapply frequently. Many underestimate the nearby lake’s influence on the sun you will receive while moving about the park.

Cedar Point dates to 1870 when local businessman Louis Zistel answered the community’s need for amusement activities along the peninsula’s shoreline. He opened a beer garden, bathhouse, and dance floor, setting the stage for 140 years of fun at Lake Erie. In 1892, Switchback Railway was opened. The 25 foot high, 10 mph train was the park’s first roller coaster. This set the stage for what would become a destination for thrill seekers for the next 110+ years! Today, Cedar Point is owned by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company headquartered in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Fair Entertainment Company owns 11 amusement parks and 6 water parks throughout the US and Canada.

In 2010, Cedar Point unveiled Shoot the Rapids, its third water ride. It is located on Frontier Trail. In 2011, the amusement park is scheduled to open WindSeeker, a 30-story tall swing ride. The 2-person swings provide riders a spectacular view of the park area, the lake and its shoreline and the beach area.

There are also high-energy music shows, encounters with characters from the classic Peanuts comic strip, and the Hot Summer Nights family nighttime show. Many of the shows will help shield you from the daytime sun and will provide shade or air conditioning. Visit here for more information and be sure to get a daily schedule of events as you enter the park.

The park also provides a number of food choices from its well-known restaurants to themed sports spots to a one-price buffet. There are also picnic options. Visit here for more information.

Cedar Point has sister-parks located adjacent to the amusement park. Soak City is an 18-acre water park requiring separate admission. There are 14 body, raft, and tube rides and a wave pool with a half million gallons of water. Perfect for a hot afternoon. Challenge Park provides four additional activities. There is mini golf, Skyscraper, Skycoaster, and Challenge Racing. Challenge Park also has separate fees depending on the activity you select.

Cedar Point is accessed via daily admission tickets that can be purchased at the gate or online in advance. Travel agencies and agents like AAA are also ticket sellers and may offer discounts. Daily admission is $46.99 for individuals 48″ or taller. Junior and Senior rates are $21.00 applicable to admissions of persons under 48″ tall or 62 years of age or older. There are military discounts. The onsite purchase price is $36.99 with proper ID. A number of nearby companies use a day at Cedar Point as a fun activity for its employees and their families. There are group ticket rates. In addition, there are online promotions offered periodically and special pre-season and post-season deals and events. Season passes are also available. For more admission information, go here.

Staying at one of the affiliated hotel properties will get you admission discounts and additional admission privileges, such as early entry – an opportunity to get ahead of the long lines for the most popular roller coasters. The hotels include the historic Hotel Breakers opened in 1905, Sandcastle Suites, Lighthouse Point, Camper Village, Breakers Express, and Castaway Bay. The variety of hotel options gives families a number of price points in order to make your visit to Cedar Point a weekend getaway opportunity. And a visit to Cedar Point can be easily combined with a second day at Soak City and/or Challenge Park as well as a visit to the nearby Lake Erie shoreline and the nearby islands. Each hotel is located within minutes of Cedar Point. Visit here for more information about the Cedar Point hotel properties.

Cedar Point is located on the shores of Lake Erie. The park is located on a peninsula and is about 60 miles west of Cleveland, 62 miles east of Toledo and about 115 miles from Detroit and 120 miles from Columbus. Access can be gained via the Ohio Turnpike, flights into Cleveland Hopkins Airport, Greyhound bus or by train. Visit here for more travel information and directions.

The historic Cedar Point remains a family fun destination on the shores of Lake Erie. The amusement park opens soon for the summer season. Make your plans to visit the Roller Coaster Capital of the World.

Review: Hotel Gillow in Mexico City

If you are thinking of traveling to Mexico City, there are many reasonably priced options where you can stay during your trip. The Hotel Gillow costs less than $50 per night and provides much more for your money than any similarly priced hotel at home would. The hotel is one of the oldest in the city, opening in 1875, and has much charm and character because of it. Our room even had a marble bathroom!

The hotel is in a great location on the street Isabel la Catolica. Hotel Gillow is right in the center of the Historic Center part of Mexico City. It is a short walk from Mexico City Zocalo, City Cathedral, and Bellas Artes.

The rooms are simply decorated but kept very clean. The common areas of the hotel are elegant with statutes and stone floors. There is a seating area on each floor where you can mingle with other guests if you wish. Our room had a balcony which allowed us to overlook the historic district. Even though the street below was quite busy, we found our room to be quiet at night.

The hotel has everything you would expect from a modern hotel. There is a restaurant, room service, computer area, free wireless internet access, and television. You can exchange money at the front desk which comes in handy if you are there for a long stay and are from out of the country.

The restaurant in the hotel, La Capilla, is a great place to eat if you are looking for traditional Mexican food – and you should be while you are in Mexico City. Our waiter was very efficient and provided us with quick service so we could get out and explore the city faster.

The Allandre metro station is located a few blocks away from the hotel if you are looking to explore beyond the immediate area. Taxi service from the airport is quick and cheap.

Ice and drinkable water were provided one each floor. This was nice because we did not have to go out to purchase bottled water to drink during our stay.

After talking with another couple who was staying at a more modern hotel nearby, we were pleased with our decision to stay at Hotel Gillow because it was a better value. For a lesser price, we enjoyed our stay more than people staying at a newer hotel on the same block.

Review of Villa Cofresi Hotel in Puerto Rico

Villa Cofresi Hotel in Puerto Rico is a good play to stay if you are not expecting anything extra special from your hotel. The hotel is located in Rincon which is on the west coast of the island of Puerto Rico. Rooms cost about $130 per night. There are also rooms with kitchens and two bedrooms which can sleep six people.

If you plan to spend a lot of time on Rincon beach, this is a good place to stay because all you need to do to get there is walk out of your door. It is a very nice, long sandy beach that was not very busy any of the days we were there. There were waves in the ocean and you will probably notice some surfers during your stay.

The swimming pool is clean and overlooks the ocean. It is rather small and not anything special. I definitely preferred to spend my time in the ocean instead.

The lobby is open-air so you feel as if your vacation has begun as soon as you arrive at the hotel. The guest rooms were average size. They had tile instead of carpet on the floor which I love in hotel rooms because it feels cleaner to me. The rooms were decorated with bright, tropical patterns that were fitting of the area but were not especially attractive.

We were told that at the right time of year you can see whales in the ocean from the hotel but we did not see any during our stay.

There is a restaurant on site which serves hamburgers, pinchos, and local Puerto Rican food. The food is good and moderately priced, but you will probably not want to eat all of your meals here as there are many other places to try out in town.

The bar is famous for their “Pirate rum” drinks which they make in a coconut. They are tasty and fun to watch the bartenders cut open the coconuts. On Saturday night there is a loud band in the bar which can be heard all over the hotel.

One of my favorite things about the hotel is that it is on the west side of the island so you get great views of the sunset right from your room.

Overall, keep in mind that this is not a luxury hotel and that you get what you pay for with the cheaper price. This hotel seems to be more popular with locals than with tourists.