Quiet Retreat in Wine Country

Going for long stretches of time without a vacation can be challenging, so we try to go on short getaways to break up the work grind. Why is it sometimes more relaxing to take a couple of days off in a hotel rather than in the comfort of your own home? I’m sure it has a little bit to do with having someone make your bed, clean your room, and cook your meals!

Last spring, we took a chance on a Living Social voucher to stay at the Stone Manor B&B in Loudoun County, Virginia, and we were pleasantly surprised! A very short drive from DC or Baltimore lands you in a completely different world… a quiet, peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The owner/operators of this bed and breakfast were kind, charming, and keen to provide their guests with every amenity possible to ensure a pleasant stay. The area itself is surrounded by lush hillsides, small wineries, plentiful hiking and biking trails, and all-around great hospitality. It’s not overly commercialized (which we liked), so don’t expect much glitz and glamour… but if you want a nice place to relax, this might be a great option for you!

  1. Stone Manor B&B
  2. Magnolia’s at the Mill – Restaurant
  3. Loudoun County’s Tourism Site – Plan your trip!
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From Sin City to Zen City

Ok, I’ll be honest: Vegas is NOT one of my favorite places to visit. From the hordes of tourists gawking upwards at the flashy lights to the hordes of salesmen hawking every variety of show you can think of, Vegas just doesn’t scream “vacation” to me. So, why did I go? (See, I can read minds too). Well, we had to go for a work convention. Four. Years. In. A. Row. That’s called irony.

The first year we stayed at the Luxor, which happened to be one of the worst hotels I’ve ever stayed in. On a separate trip, I stayed at the Aria, which was phenomenal. The next three years, we stayed at the Paris, which was underwhelming, at best. I’m not sure why it’s the only one I ever reviewed on TripAdvisor, but if you care to read more about it, click here to read “Shabby… and not in the chic way.”

The trade-off last year was that I convinced my husband to drive down to Arizona for a few days of relaxation before heading home. It took us roughly 5 hours (allowing for lots of breaks) to drive from Vegas to Sedona, which is an epicenter of zen and natural beauty in the United States. Part of the trip features some pretty barren landscapes, but if you don’t mind driving, I can promise that Sedona and the Grand Canyon are well worth it!

We stayed at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, which proved to be comfortable, well-located, and well-priced. I have a few recommendations for this area, so please check out my reviews for more information and access to newer user reviews:

  1. Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
  2. Reds – A wonderful restaurant for any meal at the Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa
  3. Coffee Pot Restaurant – 101 omelettes and more, plus a great shop to buy souvenirs.
  4. Wildflower Bread Company – a fantastic place to eat a healthy lunch!

If you have any questions about my trip, please feel free to post a comment!


 


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2013 Travels in Review

2013 was a CRAZY year (as evidenced, perhaps, by my incredible lack of contributions to my blog!). Keeping up with a blog is often like keeping up with photo albums–once you’re about 2 vacations or major milestones behind, you think, “can I ever catch up? Is there any point in trying?!” But after much soul-searching (ok, just a little), and a lack of good excuses (because really, I can zip through my DVR tomorrow), I find myself back here. Wanting to share my adventures and reviews with anyone who may be interested!

Without further ado, I will give you a list of destinations we visited last year so that you can click on the ones you’d like read:

  1. January 2013: Las Vegas to Sedona and the Grand Canyon
  2. April 2013: Weekend Getaway to Loudoun County, Virginia
  3. June 2013: Grand Cayman Island
  4. July 2013: Green Lake, Wisconsin
  5. July 2013: Niagara Falls
  6. September 2013: Day trip to Frederick, Maryland
  7. September 2013: Day trip to Annapolis, Maryland
  8. October 2013: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (coming soon!)
  9. November 2013: Thanksgiving in Vermont (coming soon!)
  10. December 2013: Weekend Jaunt to New York City (coming soon!)
  11. December 2013: New Year’s Eve at the National Harbor (coming soon!)
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Pitango Gelato: Sustainable and Spectacular

I never actually set out to find a healthy, sustainable source to feed my sweet tooth, so finding Pitango Gelato was a very happy coincidence. Located in the heart of Fells Point in Baltimore, this little shop makes high-quality gelato that tastes too good to feel “healthy.” Their frozen treats have no artificial anything (a big plus in my book), and they make every effort to obtain natural products to include in their recipes. You’ll savor organic milk from Pennsylvania,  chocolate from Venezuela, hazelnuts from Italy, and vanilla beans from Papua New Guinea, just to name a few. Their treats are vegan, non-dairy, and gluten-free. While I’m not in those categories, I do appreciate foods and products that are good for my body, and it’s nice to have a place to take out-of-town visitors who want something special for dessert. Their website also shows locations in Washington DC and Northern Virginia, so check it out if you don’t live close to Baltimore.

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this restaurant

Link to my TripAdvisor Profile

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Bond Street Social: American Tapas

Even if you’re not an only child with hang-ups about sharing, you may find it challenging to share such delectable food at this tapas-style restaurant. Bond Street Social provides a party for your taste buds in the heart of Fells Point in Baltimore by creating interesting twists on typical American favorites. I’m not sure how often the menu changes, but some of my favorites include the tuna tartare, roasted pumpkin ravioli, and the grilled pineapple mojito. They also used to (and hopefully still do) make a caprese salad that is to die for… it’s served in a glass and made with unusual tomatoes and cheeses, along with a basil gelato that may sound icky, but is absolutely delicious in this combination. It’s made by Pitango Gelato, which is just a few blocks away and well worth a visit for dessert.

Like most places, Bond Street isn’t without a few drawbacks. It’s quite pricey (some might say overpriced), and it’s not exactly a quiet place to eat. If you can get over those obstacles, you should find this a very enjoyable place for dinner with friends.

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this restaurant

Link to my TripAdvisor Profile

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Puccini Restaurant

We stayed for one night in Cumberland over the summer, and Puccini Restaurant was recommended to us by the innkeeper at The Bruce House Inn. It proved to have a delicious menu served by friendly staff, and aside from the screaming kid in our section, we had no complaints. It had a pretty ample amount of space and it’s in a fairly remote area, so I don’t think reservations are necessary, but it can’t hurt to call ahead to check on the wait times. If you have an extra few minutes, check out The Arts Place, located a few doors down from the restaurant. The shop features handmade wares from local artists, and we found several beautiful, unique ceramic pieces for our home there.

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this restaurant

Link to my TripAdvisor profile

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Cumberland: Modern Haven Meets Quaint Town

I’m sure many of you are reading the title and thinking, “Cumber-where?”… It’s definitely a small town more or less in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a great respite when you’ve been living with family for too long while you’re waiting to move in to your new house. Not that I would know anything about that. Nope. Not me!

On this particular weekend adventure, I wanted to visit a town in the mountains without being relegated to a tent (which my husband despises), a roadside motel (which I despise), or a creepy house that shouldn’t rightfully be called a B&B (which we both despise). I found the perfect solution at The Bruce House Inn, located in the town of Cumberland, MD.

This newly-renovated historical property is the brainchild of Pam Reynolds, who combined her cosmopolitan sensibilities with her flair for subdued vintage decor into this beautiful bed and breakfast. The rooms are large, comfortably appointed, and elegantly decorated. The bed in the Robert Bruce Suite was like a supportive cloud dressed in soft linens.

From this location you can visit the small art galleries and antique shops in town, take a ride on the scenic railway, or get in touch with nature… the opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, white water rafting, and the like appear endless. We didn’t have a chance to fit in any of those activities, but our limited time there was still very enjoyable with pleasant dinner (at Puccini Restaurant) and sightseeing in town. We also appreciated Pam’s wine and cheese hour, along with her delicious breakfast the following morning.

Overall, the value offered at the Bruce House is unbeatable, and we won’t hesitate to come back again for the hospitality and peaceful surroundings!

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this hotel

Link to my TripAdvisor Profile

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Great Eats on the East Coast

As part of my series on Great Getaways on the East Coast, I plan to add some brief reviews of notable restaurants I’ve found along the way. Since one of the challenges of traveling is finding good places to eat (and you generally have very little time to get it “right”), I hope my suggestions will give readers clues to finding some culinary delights in these areas.

To access them directly, you can also click on the Restaurants category. As always, please feel free to add your recommendations to the comment sections at the bottom of each post!

Dobbin House Tavern, Gettysburg, PA

Puccini Restaurant, Cumberland, MD

Bond Street Social, Baltimore, MD

Pitango Gelato, Baltimore, MD

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Dobbin House Tavern

If you want an old-timey dining experience without too much kitsch, this Gettysburg restaurant may be a good choice for you. The Dobbin House Tavern featured delicious gourmet food, excellent service, and a great candlelit atmosphere. It was bustling with activity on this fall weekend night, but our food still came out hot and our server never seemed frazzled. This is a popular place, so I highly recommend advance reservations. We would have been waiting forever to get in if we had not planned ahead.

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this restaurant

Link to my TripAdvisor Profile

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Gettysburg: Not Just for Field Trips

If it hadn’t been for a dinner with friends (and admittedly a couple of margaritas), I probably never would have considered visiting Gettysburg, PA. I initially thought that was a town best left to war buffs and school field trips, but I was proven wrong this fall when we stayed at The Inn at White Oak. Nestled in acres of beautiful trees and landscaping, this charming bed and breakfast represents the best of both worlds–flawless hospitality and modern amenities–presented by its young host-owners.

As you’ll see on their website, the decor is a blend of cozy contemporary mixed with vintage pieces, and the service they offer is unparalleled. Their photos are very true-to-life, so I didn’t bother to post my own. In all of our stays at B&Bs in the US and abroad, we’ve never felt so comfortable, relaxed, and pampered. I’m not even sure how these hosts manage to balance such attention to detail without making you feel like they’re hovering over you, but they do. It’s also a very spacious inn, so you’re never cramped in with other guests or struggling to make small talk with the hosts. They’re friendly if you want to be sociable, but totally unobtrusive if you just want some alone-time.

I also have to make a small mention about the standard amenities, because they’re important in making travel decisions. The location is about 10 minutes from the heart of Gettysburg and all of its great restaurants and shops, which was fine by us. No traffic, no parking issues, and plenty of peace and quiet. The beds are plush and unbelievable comfortable. The game and movie rooms are also large and well-appointed. Finally, the breakfasts are ample, beautifully prepared, and and lovingly served. We couldn’t have asked for a better retreat, and we’re looking forward to visiting again!

For a great dinner in town, check out the Dobbin House Tavern!

Link to my TripAdvisor Review and others for this restaurant

Link to my TripAdvisor Profile

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