Destinations, Hotels, Philadelphia

How I Spent 48 hours in Philadelphia

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Travel back in time when you visit Old City Philadelphia © Dec 2017, D. Bell

It is amazing how being away from a bad situation can provide you with much needed perspective. Last year during my winter break I planned a quick jaunt to Philadelphia. I had never been to Philadelphia and I didn’t really know anyone there, however I spent the first few days of my break mulling around my apartment not doing much. I was determined to end the year by going somewhere. I had to get out of  Washington, D.C. which was where I lived at the time. Someone had posted about the Kimpton Hotels brand and I dreamed (no, literally) about their Fiji soaking tubs. I know some people get really grossed out by hotel bathtubs, but I always bring my own cleaning products when I travel so I cleaned it well before I used it.

I can’t deny that the trip to Philly was rough. First I scheduled and missed a couple of buses. The bus that I finally made was late because the driver had to go all the way to Baltimore to get his license. I kid you not! To add insult to injury there was high drama on the bus, but I was determined to get to Philadelphia. Word to the wise, never take Greyhound if you have another option available. There are other bus companies that provide much better service.

When we finally pulled into the bus terminal in Philadelphia, it was too late to sightsee so I requested an Uber (I could have walked but it was freezing and I had no idea where I was.) Once I was checked into my hotel room I headed upstairs to have a cocktail at the hotel’s swaggy rooftop lounge. The lounge only offered small bites and I was voraciously hungry so I headed back down to the main floor to eat dinner at the Red Owl Tavern.

After a full day of stressful bus travel I was exhausted, so I headed back to my room  recorded a room tour, took a shower, and went to bed. The nighttime views from my 9th floor corner suite were stunning! On one side there’s a view of the Ben Franklin Bridge  and on the other side there’s Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. In the interest of full disclosure, the bell atop Independence Hall rings every hour on the hour. You can see the nighttime view from my room by watching my room tour video on Youtube.

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Kimpton Monaco Hallway © Dec 2017, D. Bell

When I woke up the next morning I looked out of the window and I thought I was Alice in Wonderland trapped inside of a giant snow globe! Snowflakes whizzed past my window and everything below was blanketed with a fresh white coat of snow.

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A snow covered Independence Hall as seen from my hotel room © Dec 2017, D. Bell

While it snowed outside I took a long luxurious soak in the Fiji soaking tub. It was everything I imagined it to be!  All of my cares and worries melted away and the stress that previously had my  muscles tight and knotted seemed to dissolve. When I emerged from the tub I felt like a new woman. I brought my own bath salts, but the products provided by the hotel, Atelier Bloem, are quite amazing and have a refreshing clean scent to them.

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Fiji Soaking Tub in King Corner Spa Suite © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I did a little sightseeing after lounging around the room all morning. I visited Independence Hall but because of the inclement weather there weren’t many tourist out. I crossed the street to visit the Liberty Bell where a line of visitors waited patiently in the cold to get inside of the building where the bell is housed. I was starving afterward so I grabbed a pizza from down the street to bring back to the room for dinner. I relaxed in my room for the rest of the evening.

The next day I needed to check out by noon, but not before I indulged in one more luscious bath in the amazing soaking tub. I planned to stay in Philly to watch the early fireworks show at Penn’s Landing but the temperatures were too frigid so I decided to change my bus reservation so I could leave about an hour and half after my scheduled check out time.

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Corner Newsstand in Philadelphia © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I still managed to have enough time to have coffee at the Cosi down the street from the hotel then wander the streets of Old City until I reached Penn’s Landing. I hopped on the SEPTA for $2.50 and rode the subway down to 30th Street station where I got on the Mega Bus and had an relaxing and uneventful ride back to Washington, D.C.

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They still used tokens. I think they were being phased out © Dec 2017, D. Bell

I definitely want to go back to Philly once the temperature begins to warm up.  It’s an often overlooked tough little city with a lot of moxie and great architecture. The vibe of the city is primarily working class and unpretentious. People for the most part are chilled. It felt like a mix of New York, Jersey, and Baltimore.

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Eagles fans on the SEPTA enjoying a cold brew on a cold day © Dec 2017, D. Bell

Philly has the history of D.C. but the personality of New York. I love it! I want to experience the other areas of the city and I want to see how it operates during a typical work week. This trip was the highlight of my year and I am so glad that I bit the bullet and decided to go. I had two other trips booked and planned earlier in the year but I canceled them. I think it was a bit easier to navigate this trip because it was still relatively close to home. Want to see more photos from my visit? Click here.

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~Ciao!

Destinations, Hotels, New Mexico, Spas and resorts

Day 2: Enchanted with New Mexico

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I woke up early Sunday morning feeling refreshed and excited. I decided to go for a short walk around the property to get my bearings and take photographs of the high desert landscape. Breakfast at Ojo Caliente isn’t served until 7:30 A.M., but my mind was on coffee first and foremost. I went out into the lobby area where a coffee station set up at the bar, but unfortunately there was only decaf available. The staff was in the process of brewing more regular Iconik Coffee.  I patiently waited for the carafe of coffee to be brought out then eagerly filled my cup with the brown steaming liquid. The coffee was bold and strong, just the way I like it. With my cup in hand I headed up toward the Posi Trail where I enjoyed my coffee while taking photos of nature’s amazing art work. Around 8:00 A.M. I started to get hungry and headed back down the trail for breakfast.

After breakfast, I came out of the hotel and saw a man setting up a table along the main path. I went over and met Vincent, a Santo Domingo Pueblo who was there selling handmade jewelry. His pieces were absolutely beautiful! He even brought the stones and shells that the jewelry was made out of to show customers. He informed us that his signature for each piece is having a small piece of opal at the bottom of his jewelry. Most of his statement pieces were around $75 or $80 so I purchased two pairs of turquoise earrings from him since I had given myself a budget of $40.00 to spend on jewelry.

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Vincent Aguilar makes handmade jewelry from natural stones

After purchasing my earrings I decided to head back to my room since the chilly morning air was starting to warm up. I wanted to enjoy the spa and all four of the mineral baths before it got too busy.  Since it was a weekend, lots of day trippers visit the spa. Most of the pools were pretty full, but I managed to spend a little bit of time in the main pools.

As it got closer to noon, the crowds grew and I decided to reserve a  private pool. I thought the private pools were only $12, but that was actually the cost for a private tub. The private pools are an additional $45 for around 50 minutes. It was worth the money to have the whole pool to myself. At night the staff will light the Kiva fireplace in your pool area for you upon request. When my time was up in the private pool, I decided to take a nap and unwind for the rest of the afternoon.

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Around 5 or 6 PM I got up for dinner and enjoyed enchiladas made with blue corn tortillas, southwest chiles, and a side of fresh veggies and beans at the Artesian Restaurant. I also indulged in a prickly pear mimosa which was my first drink that weekend. While I waited for the food to be served, the waitress brought over a basket of warm mini blue corn muffins. They were delicious and sweet! After dinner, I headed back to my room where I confirmed my flight reservations for my return the next day and went back to sleep.

…continue day 3

Airports, Destinations, Hotels, New Mexico, Spas and resorts, Washington, DC

Day 1: A missed flight and an armrest fight

 

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What do you do when you get a bonus 3 day weekend off of work? You book a trip of course! I had a couple of unused Luv vouchers from Southwest Airlines that were going to expire soon and I needed to get out of town to shake off the deep winter funk that I had fallen into. While scrolling through Facebook one night I saw pictures that a member of a Facebook travel group had posted and I instantly knew I had to go there. In all of my wildest dreams I would not have considered taking a vacation in New Mexico yet I was surprisingly drawn to the natural beauty of the rugged landscape and the tranquility of the natural mineral hot springs. I checked air fares and locked in a fare that was exactly the right price for the 2 Southwest Airline Luv vouchers that I had acquired. I then made a reservation for the hotel and resort and pretty much forgot about the trip until it was almost time to go. I told about 2 people at the most that I was going on this unusual adventure.

I normally get a bit jittery about travel (since the events of September 11) which I wrote about in another post, but I felt really good about this trip. No nerves, no jitters, just pure excitement about embarking on a new adventure. It had been about 4 years since I had been on a “real” vacation, so I was long overdue.

Saturday morning I woke up excited about my first trip to the Southwestern part of the United States. While I hadn’t fixated on it, I had been looking forward to getting out of town for weeks! I got up early, cleaned my apartment, then called an Uber to drive me to Dulles Airport. Well, like I said before it had been years since I last flew so I couldn’t remember which airport was the closest when I booked my ticket. I was a few minutes behind schedule but I was hopeful that it wouldn’t have a big impact on my quest to get out of town. Well it did make an impact but thank God I didn’t try to catch Metro because Metro does not go all the way out to Dulles  so that was travel faux pas number 1 on this trip.

The Uber driver dropped me off in front of the airline and everything seemed to be going well until I got to the security line. It slowly snaked along and at least 5 wheelchairs jumped to the front of the sluggish line. Had I been able to go through the security line without a hitch maybe this post would have a different ending. Alas, it was not be be and as you have probably guessed by now I missed my flight due to security stopping me to give me a full pat down. As you can imagine I was not only annoyed but I felt quite violated.

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I finally made it to my departing gate and it was empty. The plane was sitting on the tarmac, but the doors had been secured. I asked the lone gate agent what I could do and she was able to find another flight at the same price but leaving from DCA. I just had to make my way from Dulles to DCA in time. So, I had to catch a $5 shuttle to the Metro Silver line which would take me directly to DCA.

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When I finally got to DCA I was really short on time and to add insult to injury I entered the wrong security area, walked all the way to the end of it hoping it would lead to the gate that I needed. It didn’t so I had to walk all the way back out of that security area,  down a long corridor and enter security…again. If you are keeping count this was my 3rd security check of the day and I had been stopped at each one. After finally getting through this final security check I didn’t bother putting my shoes on and I half skated, half hobbled to the gate as they were announcing my name for the final boarding call. The gate agent checked me in while I attempting to catch my breath and put on my shoes.

The first leg of flight was pleasant. I had a short layover in Dallas where I ate a light dinner before boarding the second leg of my flight. The second leg from Dallas to ABQ was an hour and some change long but it was an absolute nightmare. Between my hostile seat mate and the turbulence I couldn’t wait to get off of the plane. I was going to share what happened in this post but I decided against it since I eventually reported it to the airline. After the airline investigated the situation they issued me a $150 Luv Voucher. You know what that means…another trip to plan!IMG_20180414_161718_061

Well, you would think that would be the end of my travel whoas, right? Wrong! I still had a 2 hour drive from ABQ to Santa Fe! I didn’t realize that the resort would be so far out. As I drove the sky became blanketed in darkness…on an unfamiliar road…in a state I had never visited before…by myself! I hoped that the car that rented from Dollar would have a GPS. It did not so I had to use Waze. I almost brought my car charger on the trip but then decided against it. I did have the USB cord, but for some reason the USB outlet in the rental would not charge the phone enough to keep Waze going. So I was out on a long, dark, lonely road with no GPS trying to figure out how to get to a resort that was tucked back into the hills of the New Mexico desert. Good times!  I will say that I was mesmerized by the clear black sky that was filled with stars. I hadn’t seen such a clear sky in years. God’s artwork!

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I finally pulled into the parking lot of Ojo Caliente at exactly 9:00 P.M. and checked into my room. Since there are no showers in the historic hotel, I took a shower in the shower room and I still had enough time before closing for a relaxing soak and steam in the bathhouse. I could feel the tension of the day’s travel snaffus melting away. I took another shower and knew that I would have an amazing night’s sleep.

…continue day 2