USA Adventure: Miami – Los Angeles (LA) – New York (NY)

It’s #TravelTuesday!! I get to reminisce about a trip we took to the US early in the year. Brace yourself for some reading, so much to share, I will try and not make this blog post a Thesis:-)

The trip sure had its own share of drama – misplaced passports with our US VISA’s, lost luggage when we landed in NY on our way to Miami. Finally arriving in Miami after 18hrs30min of flying to discover that another bag had gone missing. At this stage we had lost our sense of humour.
We decided that we would NOT let these unfortunate turn of events ruin our holiday so we made our way to the hotel.
Acqualina Resort and Spa is a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the South Beach scene, its located in Sunny Isle Beach, Florida.

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We were booked in a 2 bedroom apartments which has king size beds in the bedrooms with plasma TV’s, two full bathrooms, a separate living room, fully equipped kitchen, a private terrace and spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean.

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PhotoGrid_1441741218834_resized Hotel Amenities, Activities & Services:

  • Beach front access, 4 pools – from family friendly to ADULTS only pool, In-Room Dining, Wi-Fi, Business Centre and Meeting Rooms
  • State of the art fitness centre
    • This hotel has a proper ‘state of the art fitness centre it’s spacious and has proper equipment, it made training extremely enjoyable.
  • Spa
    • Described as the ‘a sanctuary of relaxation’ – The Acqualina Spa by ESPA is fully equipped with sauna, steam room, his and her relaxation lounges, his and hers lockers, an outdoor spa veranda with outdoor spa pools.
    • Signature treatments and wellness programmes are available on offer.
  • Kids Clubs
    • I love hotels that cater to families with kids, it just makes planning for family holidays less stressful for parents.

Nearby Activities:

  • Access to golf and tennis at nearby private clubs, site-seeing tours & visits to points of interest, shopping at Aventura Mall, the Design District and Bal Harbour Shops and Access to Williams Island Marina.
Taking it all In - Tea, Tablet, View!
Morning Tea with a View – Taking it all in!!

Our overall dining experience was pleasant, for me breakfast was by far the best meal of the day. Their waffles and pancakes were amazing, I also loved their Watermelon Smoothie. (Don’t normally like posting food, but I just had to share this pic.)

Waffles Pancakes & Watermelon Smoothie
Waffles, Pancakes & Watermelon Smoothie

The hotel has three restaurants on the property,

  1. The Costa Grill – This is the beachfront restaurant that serves lunch, light snacks or afternoon cocktails.
  2. Il Mulino New York – Is their award winning Italian restaurant, renowned for its market fresh daily specials, extensive selection of fine Italian wines and exceptional staff and service. Overall great food and great dining experience.
  3. AQ by Acqualina – This restaurant is a perfect combination of chic and relaxed vibe and serves modern American cuisine and sushi.
    • Located adjacent to AQ by Acqualina you will find the Piazzetta Marketplace – this place has a variety of gelato, desserts, pastries, teas and specialty coffees.

Even though we spent most of our time lounging at the hotel beach, Miami is one of those holiday destinations that has something to offer for everyone. We did venture out and explored a bit of Miami. South beach definitely has a vibe to it and I see why people love going there. It reminds me of Camps Bay (Cape Town) during the December season.

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Next stop Los Angeles (LA) – ‘The City of Angels’

I have such mixed feelings about this place, television has done an amazing job at marketing LA as a place full of life. To me, there’s a bit of coldness and in some areas, there’s too many people trying to fit into LA lifestyle, saw a lot of poser especially in Beverly Hills.
We had a jam packed itinerary with some awesome activities planned, LA was a true adventure for us.

What we did

1.A visit to LEGOLAND
It took us an 1hr45m to get to LEGOLAND from LA but the drive was so worth it.
LEGOLAND is a theme park in San Diego, with over 60 rides, shows and attractions, a Water Park and the LEGO® World of Chima.
There’s a hotel on the property which has more than two million LEGO bricks which make up over 2,000 LEGO models throughout the Hotel. If your patience for kids is minimal, I would suggest you stay clear from this hotel.

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LEGOLAND was AMAZING, when you see what they have done using LEGO pieces, you cannot help but just be in complete disbelief.

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There’s a lot to do and so many exciting games. Our highlight was the Robotic Arm Ride, this ride is insane, it has 5 intensity levels – level 5 is definitely not for the faint hearted. We loved this ride, a great way to end the day.

Robotic Arm Ride
Robotic Arm Ride

The weather was not great, it rained but we scored theses really cute rain Ponchos, unfortunately we missed out on the Water Park.

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2.  A visit to DISNEYLAND Park & DISNEYLAND Adventure Park 

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“I think most of all what I want DISNEYLAND to be is a HAPPY PLACE…where parents and children can have fun TOGETHER” – Walt Disney
The above, pretty much sums up Disneyland!!

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So much to do and so many amazing rides, some offer a pure adrenaline rush and others just laid back. Our favourite rides were:-

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, California Screaming, Radiator Springs Racer and Tower of Terror.

The lines can get a bit LONG. My advise, if you can, get a FAST PASS. It comes in handy.

3. A visit to Universal Studios Hollywood

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Universal Studios Hollywood – “The Entertainment Capital of L.A.” This place has a movie-based theme park, Studio Tour and Universal CityWalk® – an entertainment, shopping and dining complex, which includes the AMC Universal CityWalk Cinemas and the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue.

The studio tour is INCREDIBLE, we went on the set of State of Affairs and toured some of the sets where some of the BIG movie scenes were shot.

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From Top Left: Jaws, Psycho, Desperate House and War of the Worlds Set
From Top Left: Jaws, Psycho, Desperate House and War of the Worlds Set

The theme park has the coolest rides and attractions. We went on the Transformers, Jurassic Park®, Revenge of the Mummy and the Simpsons Ride. Unfortunately for us, the Fast and Furious Game was still being built so we missed out on that one.

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4. Touring Tinseltown aka LA
Our driver was amazing, and he knew the INS and OUT of LA-LA-Land. We did all the typical sights: the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, we took a drive around Beverly Hills, visited other studios – Paramount Pictures,CBS, Sunset Bronson Studios…etc.

Snapshot of LA
Snapshot of LA

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Where we ate
LA has plenty of places to eat, from your healthy foods to fast foods and not forgetting the fine dining restaurants, one is really spoilt for choice.

  1. California Pizza Kitchen (CPK)
    • Fantastic vibe coupled with a great menu selection and service.
    • Loved their Pizza.
  2. Kreation Organic Juice
    • My kind of place, a healthy organic juice bar. Came at a good time, so glad we stumbled upon this one.
    • I love the fact that they have an ATM where you can buy their freshly squeezed juice should the store be closed. Very clever ideas.
  3. Burger Lounge
    • A burger joint with a health conscious. We stumbled upon this after a long day of exploring, all we wanted was a quick meal. Our quick meal became one of the BEST burgers we had eaten, their organic quinoa veggie burger is a must.
  4. Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop
    • I popped in here for a salad, they have a build your own salad bar, which I really like. Great service and food.
  5. In-N-Out
    • Their philosophy ‘Quality is everything’ sums up their food preparation. Their menu selection is limited, no veggie burgers so I settled for french fries, which i believe are prepared in 100% vegetable oil and hand-cut.

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When we arrived in LA and discovered Sprinkles Cupcakes,Ice Cream and Cookies, this place became my dessert heaven. I tend to get a bit obsessive when I find food that I like. They also have the ATM which came in handy on the evenings where I felt like a late night dessert snack. 

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Finding My SOUL!!
Anyone who’s ever traveled with me knows that I never leave home without my running shoes and gym clothes. I love running in new places, it’s my way of discovering the place I’m visiting.
While running in Beverly Hills, I stumbled across a place called Soul Cycle.

Soul Cycle is a SPINNING class on steroids!! Same concept as SPINNING but they have added upper body training which involves using light weights. Soul Cycle takes you on a journey – you jog, climb, sprint and dance. I was hooked and managed to fit in 3 classes. I must say, the workout came in handy after indulging on Sprinkle Cup Cakes almost every night.

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Where we stayed
We stayed at the Four Seasons – Beverly Wilshire, the hotel is in the heart of Beverley Hill a mere walking distance to the famous Rodeo Drive.

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Spacious, elegant rooms come with free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and iPod docks, as well as 24-hour room service.in-room amenities (iPod dock, flatscreen TV, in-room safe, minibar, coffee / tea making facilities, complimentary newspaper daily)
Hotel Amenities, Activities & Services

  • A spa, a fitness centre and an outdoor pool with a poolside bar, plus a business centre.
    Dining
  • From an eating perspective, you will find the CUT a steakhouse by chef Wolfgang Puck’s ,THE Blvd restaurant for all-day dining and the Pool side café and bar.
    • We unfortunately did not eat at the CUT but had a great dining experience at THE Blvd and Pool side café.

If you are a fan of Pretty Women, you can pop in at the hotel, they have created a display to celebrate the 25th year anniversary of the movie. The hotel has also arranged a few Pretty Women Experiences, they are a bit on the DUUR (expensive) side. 

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LA was a true adventure, so glad that I can tick it off my bucket list.

FINAL STOP – New York (NY) – The BIG Apple!

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I have such a LOVE and HATE relationship with NY, it truly is the city that never sleeps.
NY was our stopover before we headed back home on a 16hr flight. Having done the touristy stuff on our previous visit, we used this opportunity for relaxation.
I did manage to squeeze in a run at Central Park, still one of my favourite running spots.

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We also managed to stop by the Converse store in SOHO. I felt like a child in a candy store, so much to choose from. Love the clever use of the shoes to create the wall mural.

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Another Splendid Experience, Another EPIC trip…!

TS!!

One & Only Le Saint Géran Hotel (Mauritius) – A splendid way to end the Year

Coconut palm trees, Spectacular views of the Indian Ocean, Immaculate gardens, Coral-sand beach, One & Only Le Saint Géran Hotel is truly an Island Paradise.

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The hotel is nestled on its own secluded peninsula at the Northern tip of Mauritius, one hour from the airport and 40 minutes from the capital Port Louis.

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Accommodation

The hotel has 166 suites and one Villa, all rooms feature a private terrace or balcony facing either the ocean or cove.

We were booked in the Family 2-Room Ocean Suite, the bedrooms are en-suite with a spacious stunning bathroom – twin sinks, bath and walk in shower and the adjoining walk in wardrobe.

The suite has a separate lounge including a dining area and three secluded terraces facing the Indian Ocean.

Accommodation features

  • Air-conditioning and in-room multimedia entertainment systems, satellite flat screen television, DVD/CD player, Internet/ADSL, hair dryer, mini bar,Nespresso machine, safe and in-room business services (multi-adaptor, fax/computer hook-up, modem phone-jack and three-phone, two-line communication system), iPod docking station and Wi-Fi access.
    • All rooms at the hotel come with a personalised 24-hour butler service.

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Dining

Great overall dining experience, we mostly ate the main restaurant called La Terrasse, their breakfast and dinner buffet had some superb food and lots to choose from. I found it extremely difficult to stay away from their Focaccia bread.

The hotel also has two other restaurant – Prime Steakhouse or the Indian Pavilion.

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Facilities and Activities

Golf

Situated within the resort grounds, you will find the 9-hole Gary Player golf course which has its own clubhouse and Golf Academy.

One & Only Spa

A place for the relaxation of mind and body… a perfect escape…a serene sanctuary with its own private lap pool.  The Spa at Le Saint Géran offers a range of treatments and a perfect escape for couples and parents travelling with kids.

Fitness Centre

I’m one of those travelers that always researchers my destination and I learn about the hotel’s gym access or other opportunities to exercise.

It’s always a bonus when I arrive at my hotel and find a gym with the latest equipment and well looked after. The gym at Le Saint Géran ticks that box, it is equipped with Technogym®, Kinesis™ system, personal training and offer daily fitness classes.

Water Sports

The hotel offers Complimentary (kayaks, pedal boats, stand up paddle, water-skiing, water bikes, snorkeling, windsurfing…) and Non-complimentary(  Scuba diving course, kite surfing, fishing, parasailing adventures, banana boat, tube and speedboat rides) ideal for adults and children.

Other Activities & Facilities

The resort has five synthetic grass tennis courts, white sandy beach, a main pool with a children’s pool.

Conference and meeting facilities are provided complimentary to hotel guests, the conference room accommodates 80 people theatre-style and the boardroom accommodates up to 12 people.

KidsOnly

KidsOnly is free for all children from 3 to 11 years, the complimentary clubs offers daily activities and programmes and is open from 10am-10pm daily.

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Excursions and Local Attractions

One & Only Le Saint Géran has several suggested day trips all designed to meet the individual needs of the guest.

Verdict

Truly exceptional hotel, outstanding service and were well looked after by the staff at the hotel. A real paradise island and a splendid way to end my 2014 travel adventures.

TS!!

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About Mauritius

“Mauritius is a fascinating, world-in-one-island slice of paradise. Its very name of conjures up images of tropical luxury and stupendous extravagance. While in many destinations famed for cobalt-blue seas, white sandy beaches and luxury hotels, you may eventually find yourself wishing for something to do besides sunbathing and swimming, it’s often hard to know what to do next in Mauritius. The island is loaded with historic sights, cultural diversity, geographic variation and almost limitless activities to distract you from the daily grind of beach and pool. But perhaps its single biggest asset is the relaxed charm of its warm and welcoming people.

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mauritius#ixzz3NUUF69Ct

The day it rained
The day it rained