Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hotel Review: Quality Hotel Waterfront (Ahlesund, Norway)

Our plan in Norway was to road trip up the coast.  Prior to leaving, I went to Google maps to find the cities north of Bergen, looked them all up on Google images and charted our course based on the cities that looked the prettiest.  I had never heard of Alesund a couple months prior to our trip, but after looking it up, I was committed to making it one of our stops.

I looked up the distance between the two cities and found that it was about 260 miles but that it would take over 7 1/2 hours.  I questioned the accuracy of how long it would take to drive such a short distance.  I didn't fully appreciate how much longer a drive with 3 ferry crossings, winding two lane roads and draw dropping scenery would take.

When we finally arrived in Alesund, it was a Sunday afternoon and the town was practically closed.  We walked all around town and finally found a pizza place to eat dinner.  Gwen thought the town felt creepy because we passed maybe only 10 people in the hour that we walked around town.  I had lived in Sweden and understood how smaller Nordic towns shut down on Sundays, but this was a new experience for her.

Things changed the next day when the city came to life and a cruise ship pulled into harbor.  We also hiked up a hill with a beautiful view over the city and saw the city as captured by so many pictures I saw on Google Images.  The city was gorgeous.
We stayed at the Quality Hotel Waterfront while in Alesund.  It was the 4th highest rated hotel on  It wasn't quite as centrally located as some of the other hotels, but everything is still within walking distance.  The room was clean and smartly decorated.  We had convenient underground parking.  It wasn't a hotel that I feel like I'd love to stay in again, but really, I don't have any complaints.

What We Liked:
  • Clean rooms
  • Very good continental breakfast
What We Didn't Like:
  • The location was average
  • It was pretty pricey 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hotel Review: Scandic Byparken (Bergen, Norway)

We absolutely loved Bergen.  Our family spent 3 days in this gorgeous Norwegian city before renting a car and driving up the coast of Norway.  We were looking for a hotel that we could sleep all four of us in a room and that was ideally close to the city center.  We booked the Scandic Byparken right in the middle of Bergen.  It was a short walk to famous Bergen sites such as Torgallmenningen and the Old Wharf Bryggen.

The family standing on Mount Floyen overlooking Bergen
We booked a family room that offered 3 beds and it was nice finding a room that could accommodate all of us.  The room and hallway were a bit tired, the bathroom was very typical sterile white tiled Scandinavian, the lobby was dated.  All that said, the location was awesome, breakfast was great and we couldn't beat the size of the rooms.  I don't know that I would book this place again if it were just Katie and I and we didn't need the extra space.  However, for a family of 4, it was fine.

Gwen standing by the waterfall above Rosendal
What We didn't Like:
  • Property needed an update
What We Liked:
Things We did in Bergen:
  • Took a day trip out to Rosendal
  • Went to Mount Floyen on the Funicular
  • Went to Bryggen Wharf
  • Ate at the Fish Market

Day Trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

The Friday morning after Thanksgiving, our family drove from St George to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was a scenic drive along the Arizona Strip and took about 2 1/2 hours to reach the North Rim Visitor's Center.  We enjoyed the lookouts, getting just the right picture for Gwen's Instagram post and eating Thanksgiving left overs with a view.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hotel Review: Zermatt Resort Midway Utah

Our family thought we'd do a weekend getaway and stay at the Zermatt Resort in Midway, Utah.  I would have been better to stay home.  The rooms were tired and looked like someone's grandma decorated.  The beds were uncomfortable.  The room we were in didn't smell very nice.  To top it all off, we had a family that checked in about 10:00 and their kids decided to jump on the beds above room for hours.  The finally quieted down when Katie went up around midnight, beat on their door and asked them to stop (I wasn't aware that had taken place since I can sleep through anything).

What We Liked:
  • The town of Midway
What We didn't Like:
  • Pretty much everything about the hotel, although the staff were nice

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hotel Review: Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort/Convention Center

Katie's company took all their employees and families to Disneyland to celebrate the company's 75 year anniversary.  We stayed at the new Residence Inn at Anaheim Resort and were very impressed with our stay.  Residence Inn's are great for family travel, but we've rarely stayed in them because they never come up on "friends and family rate."  The hotel worked out very nicely for our family four.

The hotel is sparkling new built in 2016.  The lobby is decorated in a contemporary style and the breakfast area is open and clean.  The rooms were suite style with a nice seating area, full kitchen and large bathroom. 

The location of this hotel is excellent.  It's about a 10 minute walk to the Disney gates.  It's also close to many restaurants.  There is also a large CVS Pharmacy next door for various items.

I would recommend this hotel for any family visiting Disney!

What I Liked:
  • Walking distance to Disney
  • Free breakfast
  • Contemporary decor
What I didn't Like:
  • All the kids (kidding, but not really)
Things We Did:
  • Disneyland
  • Perfect Day at Newport Beach
  • Shake Shack

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hotel Review: City Living Scholler Hotel and Apartments (Trondheim, Norway)

The City Living Scholler Hotel is a perfect place to book if you're like us and only had one night in Trondheim and wanted to explore the city by foot since it sits right in the center of Trondheim.  The hotel sits in the middle of the city and is walking distance to Nidaros Cathedral, the Nidelva River and countless restaurants and shops.

The Hotel has a bit of a hostel feel to it.  There isn't much a lobby, and what lobby they do have leads you to believe the property isn't going to be very nice.  We were pleasantly surprised when we got upstairs to our room to find that it was spacious, had a nice kitchenette and plenty of space for our family of four.  It is more of an apartment style hotel, so there isn't breakfast or daily housecleaning, but because of that, the rate was very good.

The night we were there was in late June and never got above 50 degrees.  We drove all day from Alesund traveling the north route which included a drive over the famous Atlantic Road.  We also drove through some tunnels that were several miles long and went over a mile under ground below fjords.  We really viewed Trondheim as a stop over before we drove inland toward Sundsvall.  But we really enjoyed this 3rd largest city of Norway and could tell there was young vibrant feel to the college town.  All of Norway was beautiful, but the first 40 miles of our drive inland from Trondheim toward the Swedish border may have been my favorite section.

What we Liked:
  • Location
  • Price
  • Size of the Rooms
What we Didn't Like:
  • No Black Out Drapes

Hotel Review: Ranchos Las Palmas Resort

Gwen with a pretty nice swing

On Christmas morning after the excitement of Mason finally getting a dog (Sam), we jumped in our car and headed down to Palm Springs.  Sam ended up snuggling with Gwen the entire drive, Mason got a stomach flu, but our stay at the Ranchos Las Palmas Resort, by Omni was very nice.

The property sits across the street from The River, a great outdoor shopping center with a movie theater and lots of restaurant options. The lobby has an old Spanish feel to it with a Spanish tiled roof and hardwood floors.  The rooms are in separate buildings throughout the property.  The property has several nice pools and backs up to a greenbelt very suitable for an evening stroll.

The resort is very well suited for families.  There are several pools and even a couple water slides.  Since we there during the wintertime, there were fire pits burning in the evenings where we could roast smores.

On our trip, I was able to play golf, the kids were able to spend a lot of time at the pool, we ate breakfast at one our favorite little spots in Palm Springs, French Corner Cafe, drove one afternoon to the Santa Monica Pier and got to know Sam.  It was a fun trip.

What We Liked:
  • The Pools
  • The Rooms were Large
  • The Property was Maintained Nicely
What We Didn't Like:
  • No Complaints

Gwen and Mason at Santa Monica Pier
Gwen, Mason and Sam

Surprise Trip to San Francisco

For Gwen's birthday, she had a choice of going to San Francisco with me or get an iPad.  I was disappointed when she chose the iPad, but decided to take her with me anyway.  Katie and I pretended that we were going and would be leaving Gwen home.  We really rubbed it in until the morning of the trip when I woke her up and surprised her.

It was a fun game and the Utes won.
Fun Surprise Trip to SF with Gwen

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pipiwai Trail and Waimoko Falls Hike (Maui)

It was recommended by my friend, who lives on Maui, that we hike The Pipiwai Trail to Waimoko Falls.  He said that he recommends it to everyone that visits Maui and none of them have been disappointed.  This hike really captures the spirit of the island and was one of the top things we've done on any of the Hawaiian Islands.
Gwen and Mason in the bamboo forest
Gwen standing beneath Waimoko Falls

Gwen in the bamboo forest

Mason standing beneath Waimoko Falls

The trip to Pipiwai Trail from Wailea was about a 2 hour and 15 minute drive.  We took the back road to Hana.  The turn off for the hike is about 20 minutes before you get to Hana and is part of the National Park System.  The hike to the waterfall is just under 2 miles.  Going to the falls is an uphill hike, but much of it is shaded in an awesome bamboo forest.  The sound of the breeze blowing through the bamboo and making them click clack as they bump against each other is a cool sound.  The waterfall itself is about 200 feet.  You're not allowed to go right up to the waterfall because rocks can tumble off the cliff. 

Snorkeling Off Maui

Scott and Mason

Scott and Gwen

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