Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ljustero Sweden

Ljustero is an island that is part of the Swedish Archipelago.  We wanted to stay there to get a sense of a typical Swedish summer stuga.  The island was a perfect place to relax and take in the Swedish scenery.  There is one small grocery store, a couple restaurants, some great places to swim, a small golf course, marina, and kayak rentals.  We actually had a lot of fun together kayaking one day.

We booked a property through Airbnb.  It was a good experience and a nice little home.  I would book the home again.

Travel: The island is a little over a 1 hour drive from Stockholm.  After turning east off E18 onto 276, you continue driving for about 25 minutes to the short ferry crossing to Ljustero.

TPC San Antonio Canyons Course

The TPC San Antonio Canyons Course hosts the Champions Tour event San Antonio Championship every year.  The course adjoins the awesome JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.  The JW Marriott San Antonio is huge, but very inviting.  Like any PGA course, the conditions are pristine, the practice area is top notch and the overall golf experience is incredible.

The Canyons Course is one of two courses at TPC San Antonio and is generally considered the easier of the two courses.  It's a Pete Dye design that isn't as rigorous as other Dye courses.  The course follows the natural contours of the Hill Country.  The fairways aren't particularly narrow, but they are crowned and will often kick your ball into the rough if your ball lands much left or right of center fairway.  If you're not in the fairway, you often have a decent lie in the natural grass, but there are a ton of trees to get in your way.

The course can play REALLY long if you play from the tips (over 7,400 yards), but there are several options for tees and you can find a fit for your skill level.  Greens are awesome and have a good amount of slope.  Lots of greenside bunkers, but most are too deep.

The pro shop and practice areas are very well attended and add to an excellent experience.  I look forward to playing this course again.

Hotel Review: Motel L Stockholm, Sweden

Our family was in Stockholm the summer of 2015.  We decided to try a different hotel this time (in the past we had stayed at the Marriott Courtyard).  In our search on, we stumbled across Motel L.  Our goal was to stay close to Sodermalm because it's known for it's shopping and outdoor cafes.  

Motel L is just south of Sodermalm in an area called Sjostad.  Sjostad is an up and coming area with a lot of new construction.  The hotel itself is quite contemporary and many evenings offers live entertainment.  It's probably not the place you want to stay if you want to be in the heart of Stockholm.  But, if you're like us and prefer a "neighborhood feel" that is very accessible to the city center, Motel L is perfect.

Things we liked:
-The family rooms were great for a family of 4.  It offered a large bed with pull down bunk beds.
-An awesome grocery store was on the same block.
-Plenty of reasonably priced hotel parking, but lots of street parking available as well.
-The hotel is on the waterfront for nice evening walks.
-The price was really good.
-Evening entertainment with a pretty cool vibe.
-Access to public transportation.

Things we didn't like:
-Breakfast wasn't included with the discounted price.
-There weren't fans in the rooms.  
-Some rooms have windows you can pop open and others don't
-The tram stops right outside, but you need to take it a couple stops to get to a main subway line.

We would absolutely stay here again.  In fact, we did.  We originated our trip in Stockholm and ended our trip there as well.  We had planned to stay at a different hotel when we returned to Stockholm, but ended up rebooking Motel L.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Desert Willow Golf Resort Firecliff Course

I have a new favorite course in Palm Desert.

Desert Willow Golf Resort's Firecliff Course has to be considered one of the Coachella Valley's most demanding venues.  This course is a special course that offers a challenge, a great lay-out, amazing vegetation, a beautifully manicured setting with a world class clubhouse.  It's not as playable as the Mountain View Course and forces carries from almost every tee box. 

From start to finish, this course keeps you on your toes.  Firecliff plays over 7,000 yards from the tips with many bunkers and water surrounding the greens.  In fact, there are over 100 bunker complexes on this course.  The carries mentioned earlier don't often come into play, usually only around 200 yards, but they do create a visually stunning view of the desert landscape juxtaposed against the bright green manicured greens and fairways.

Standing on the tee box of #18 is now one of my favorite views of any golf course I've played.  Standing over your ball, the tee box is lined with flowering cacti, palms and oleander bushes with only a view of the mountains and a stream that cuts across the fairway about 280 yards ahead.  Not until you leave the tee box and make your way toward your ball for an approach do you see the imposing clubhouse sitting behind a green, a green that is approached by hitting your ball 140 yards over water.

Par 3 at Desert Willow Firecliff Course

Hole #18 Tee Box at Desert Willow Firecliff Course

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hotel Review: JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort

Katie and I visited San Antonio in October and stayed at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort.  It was a beautiful property that was buried deep in the green rolling hills about 25 minutes from San Antonio.  It was difficult to see the property until we turned up the driveway, and it's a very large resort.  The property was laid out very similarly to the JW in Phoenix.

We spent much of our afternoons poolside.  It's a huge pool with swim up bar that had tons of lounge seating.  The pool was surrounded by a lazy river and also had a water slide.  There was also an adult pool that overlooked the first fairway of one of the TPC courses.  I would rank this pool area in one of the top 3 pool areas of any of the resorts we've stayed in along with the JW Phuket and Ayana Bali Resort.

The staff is about what you'd expect in Texas, very friendly and easy to talk to.  They offered up a few great suggestions of place to eat off property.  They were even smart enough to recommend that we try Rudy's, a place we know and love.  Down at the pool, all the staff was very courteous and made sure we were well attended to.

The rooms were pretty typical of a JW Marriott.  I did think that the solid wood doors were beautiful.  There was also a Juliette balcony that from our room had an excellent view of the pool.

The hotel restaurants were delicious.  They had a couple high end restaurants and a sports bar.  The breakfast buffet at Cibolo Moon was standard Marriott breakfast, but did have some southwestern cuisine twists with many dishes featuring jalapeno.  I really enjoyed the homemade jalapeno jelly with my bagel and lax.  There was an option to sit on the patio and enjoy the morning.

I really enjoyed this resort because of the access guests have to play the TPC golf course.  I always take every opportunity I can to play a course that is played on the PGA tour.  The Valero Open is played annually at this course.  The course is about what you'd expect from a TPC course as it relates to conditions.  Beyond the conditions, I just really enjoyed the course.  It required accurate tee shots with crowned fairways, lots of bunkers and extremely fast greens.

Katie and I had a great time at this resort and would certainly go back.

View of the JW Marriott San Antonio pool from our room

JW Marriott San Antonio pool with TPC San Antonio in the background

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