Friday, March 9, 2012

Hotel Review: Renaissance Esmeralda Indian Wells Resort & Spa

Gwen lists this as one of her Top 10 Resorts, and my guess is because she spent about 6 hours a day at the pool.

Our family stayed at the Renaissance Esmeralda Indian Wells Resort & Spa over New Years.  We were quite satisfied with our stay.  It was a last minute decision for us to leave the cold of Salt Lake and seek the sun of Palm Springs.  I generally do a “mancation” to play golf in Palm Springs every year and really wanted to take our family to go check it out.  I typically stay at Shadow Ridge.  However, on this trip we booked the Renaissance because the price was quite reasonable and I was curious to stay in that part of town as Indian Wells is known for being very nice and very upscale.

The good:  The front lobby staff was extremely attentive and very helpful.  They were anxious to help with luggage and open the door with a smile.  The pool was great.  It was very large with plenty of room for our kids.  After not being in a pool for a couple months, Mason and Gwen couldn’t get enough.  Plucking fresh, ripe tangerines by the pool was a lot of fun and they were delicious.  The Indian Wells golf course has to be one of the top 5 most well manicured courses I’ve ever seen (and quite pricy).  The property had a beautifully decorated Christmas tree out in the lobby area that had to have been 40 feet tall.  The property itself was gorgeous.

As to the rooms, they were large.  Also the window coverings did a great job of keeping out light, which is always appreciated by parents traveling with kids.

The not so good:  The rooms were quite large, but just a little tired.  I understand that our needs are a little unique in that we have a couple kids with us and spend a lot of time at the pool, but it seemed a challenge to keep us stocked on towels.  There was only one bank of elevators, and if your room is toward the back of the resort, although you will have a nice view of the pool and have a balcony, you will have an long walk from the elevators and most likely have to wait quite some time before an elevator is available.

I have read that the resort will have a remodel later this year.  If the rooms of this resort can match the lobby and grounds of the resort, it will be a top notch. 

What made this vacation fun was that it was thrown together last minute and our family decided to just get out and do something rather than sticking around the house.  I was able to get my golf fix and play the JW Marriott Desert Springs Course, which is a typical resort style course that is always extremely well maintained with a great staff.  The kids obviously lived down at the pool and hot tubs, and thankfully I have an amazing wife that allowed me to break away and get in some golf.  Gwen and I snuck off to the movies during one of Mason’s naps.  We also ate at The Yardhouse, one of Gwen’s favorites and a restaurant we don’t have in Utah.  We’ll tack up this mini vacation as one of those times where we just decided to get out and create some memories and were glad we did.  I can't believe we forgot our camera!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Top 10 Favorite Cities

I realize that this list might be extremely premature as there are still many places left in the world to see.  I don’t have some sophisticated spreadsheet formula to score cities on certain criteria to determine which cities are my favorites.  I’m just putting together a list of cities we’ve been to as a family that we all really enjoyed and that I’d love to go back and see.  I’m just shooting from the gut.  Here goes:

#1 Stockholm, Sweden

I thought I was completely biased here since I lived in Stockholm at one point, but my 10 year-old daughter insists it’s her favorite as well.  There is nothing better than a Swedish summer.  The Swedes are extremely helpful, and the public transportation and walking trails are awesome.  Stockholm has this way of making me feel like slowing down and enjoying life.

#2 Paris, France

Paris ranks as Katie’s #1.  It was so easy for us to feel like we were slipping into a Parisian life, stopping to get our daily baguette.  The buildings and city itself are very beautiful.  There is a certain feeling in Paris that is quite special and unique.

#3 Seoul, Korea

Maybe we loved Seoul because of the “rock star” treatment our family received.  Because of the kid’s blonde hair, they were gawked at, had their pictures taken, and even received candy from total strangers (but not in a creepy way).  The JW Marriott was amazing and the rush of the city was exhilarating.  The subway stations felt like little cities themselves.  

#4 Hong Kong, China

Some cities in Asia feel “too modern” (Singapore) and others feel “too crazy” (Bangkok), but Hong Kong feels just right.  There are distinct differences between the Island and Kowloon, but with everything so accessible, it all feel like one big, perfect blend.  I love big cities because of the energy they have, and Hong Kong has plenty.  Also, Hong Kong has the top skyline in the world.

#5 Honolulu, Hawaii

OK, so we lived here so again, not completely unbiased.  To vacation in Hawaii, one might be disappointed with the large city that is Honolulu.  But to live there, it has so much convenience with a mix of Island Aloha, Asian influence, great golf and beautiful beaches. 

#6 Munich, Germany

Munich, and the surrounding areas, just felt like how a foreigner imagines Germany.  We’ve been to Hamburg, Berlin, and Dresden in Northern Germany, but Munich and Southern Germany have the Alps, excellent biergartens, and beautiful scenery.  To me, of all the foreign cities we’ve been to, Munich felt like the easiest city to up and move to.

#7 Austin, Texas

This is the 3rd place we’ve lived in, so again, unbiased.  Austin is an amazing mix of high tech, great food, beautiful outdoors, friendly people and just that Texas feeling.  We still have a home there and not a week goes by that Katie doesn’t bring up moving back to Austin.

#8 Prague, Czech Republic

Most of our time in Prague was spent in the old city and tourist areas, so it’s difficult to rank it too high since our opinion is quite limited.  However, the Old Prague is amazing.  We literally felt like we had traveled back in time walking through the narrow streets in this medieval city.

#9 Seattle, Washington

Seattle has a great mix of tall buildings (I mentioned earlier I like buildings), gorgeous scenery, friendly people and great food.  It’s a US city that has a feel all its own (not too common in the US).

#10 Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok probably not the easiest city to visit if you’re not accustomed to travel because it is a huge departure from the typical American’s comfort zone.  However, everyone that has done a fair amount of travel lists it as one of their top cities for that very reason, it’s so unlike anything they’re accustomed to.  It’s busy, dirty, a little smelly and totally amazing.  I mentioned earlier that Bangkok is crazy, but it's a good kind of crazy.  Is there anything like the Chatuchak Market in the world?

Honorable Mention: Vienna, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Merida and Zurich.
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