A February 2004 trip
to Watertown by tamtbell
Quote: A three-week journey driving through the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Colorado Rockies, and the Sierras in California and Nevada.
This Residence Inn is an older one that still has a lot of charm and has a great view of Pike’s Peak, especially on a clear morning. The lobby is in a separate building than the hotel units and includes a work out room upstairs, a comfortable lounge where continental breakfast is served in the morning and dinner is served in the weekday evenings, and of course the guest laundry. There is a pool and hot tub located outside but because of the time of year the pool was closed however the hot tub was not.
The rooms here are very spacious as there is a full kitchen complete with a dishwasher, microwave, pots and pans, silverware and dishes and a living room area with a fireplace that included one complimentary log. The bathroom was split up with the bathtub and toilet in one room and the vanity was off the bedroom. The bathroom here was a disappointment as it was old and the water pressure in the shower was not all that great. The bed here was satisfactory, not the most uncomfortable but not the most comfortable either. My husband and I also noticed that we could hear quite a bit of noise as there was a woman and her son staying above us and we constantly heard little feet running everywhere.
The rooms here may not be the nicest since they are pretty old and the hotel is a bit difficult to locate however the staff made this stay very comfortable. Whenever we entered the lobby to grab a bite to eat the assistant manager Kristen was always there asking how we were and if they could do anything to make our stay more comfortable. She also gave some great advice for things to do during the wintertime in Colorado Springs as well as some of the better restaurants nearby which was a big help. Overall this hotel was an acceptable place to stay for a few days to unwind and relax after a long day of driving, touring the area or shopping.
For more information regarding this hotel, go to this website.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 14, 2004
Residence Inn Colorado Springs Central
3880 North Academy Boulevard
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80917
After a long day of driving from Colorado Springs we were more than ready to again get our feet on solid ground, have a nice meal and then get some sleep. After grabbing the some essential luggage out of our Jeep we paced from here to there in the parking garage and finally located the elevators that would take us to the lobby of the hotel. We found the staff here at the front desk are very professional but are also curt and indifferent as when we inquired about restaurants the front desk clerk pulled out a map, quickly gave us directions and then turned away leaving us standing there with puzzled looks on our faces at his rapid directions.
We were given a room on the 10th floor which at first annoyed me a little until I realized shortly afterward that we couldn’t even hear the elevator much less guests through the thick hotel doors. Our room was extremely comfortable with a very large soft bed with a down comforter and pillows. The room was tastefully decorated in earthy tones and was furnished with large overstuffed chairs and ottomans that were very beautiful and comfortable. The bathroom was one of the biggest and nicest bathrooms I have seen as it had a very nice massaging shower head, which is great when you’ve had a long journey whether that journey was by car or air, a extremely deep and wide tub, and even a big fluffy spa rug in front of the vanity instead of one of those thicker towels that are put down on the floor to absorb water.
Soon after checking out our room and deciding we were hungry we went back downstairs but suddenly decided to make a detour to the gym and the indoor swimming pool. The gym was definitely one of the largest and most open ones I have ever seen at a hotel and the indoor swimming pool wasn’t bad either. After a quick walk through the entire area, we continued our search for a restaurant, which brought us back down to the lobby to Piastra on Gallivan Restaurant, which is a very good Italian restaurant.
All things considered this was a nice hotel that had very comfortable rooms, a wonderful gym and spa area, a quick and professional albeit indifferent staff, and a pretty good location.
For more information regarding this property, go to this website.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 16, 2004
Salt Lake City Marriott City Center
220 South State Street
Salt Lake City 84111
The front desk staff here are not only very friendly, but also very helpful, as we were upgraded upon checking in to a nicer room at no cost and then given advice on some of the better eating establishments of the area without even asking. We were also advised of the continental breakfast the next morning where items such as sausage patties, eggs, cereal, toast and juice and milk would be served. After bidding the clerk a good evening and thanking her for the advice, we were on our way to our room, where we passed by the small indoor pool and whirlpool that was just the perfect size for little children to play in.
Our room was the average Residence Inn room, which includes a full kitchen that is stocked with cooking utensils as well as dishes, silverware and glasses, a living room area, a bedroom area with a queen-size bed, and of course the bathroom. The bathroom was split in two, with the shower and toilet in a separate room from the vanity with the sink, which of course is convenient because the shower doesn’t steam up the mirror above the vanity. The room was very comfortable; however, I realized that evening that because we were right near some stairs, we heard each person coming in and out. This included a large family at approximately 11:30pm who were carrying what sounded like large suitcases filled with rocks. So of course a word of advice - stay away from the rooms near the stairs and the elevators.
The next morning prior to checking out we tried the continental breakfast, which wasn’t bad, but the quality of the food vaguely reminded me of dining at one of the various military dining halls that I visited with my husband. If I were to stay here again, I think I would just grab an apple and eat later. Of course, the price that we paid of $49.00 for the night was worth it, as we did get a comfortable (though somewhat noisy) room and a free breakfast. Most of all, I think this hotel would be a great stop for families with smaller children who may be driving by, as the entire hotel seemed to be extremely friendly to families.
For more information regarding this property, click on the following link: webpage
Residence Inn Kansas City Independence
3700 South Arrowhead Avenue
Independence, Missouri 64057
Hotel | "The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort and Spa"
Later that evening, we headed back to the hotel, quickly picked up our key, and headed to our room, which was right above a few miscellaneous stores. The first thing I noticed upon entering the hallways where some of the hotel rooms were located was that the smell of spoiled olive oil permeated the air. It wasn’t exactly the most disgusting smell I have ever encountered, but certainly not the best either. The good news was that the smell in the hallway did not also inhabit our room. Our room here was very nice with a gas fireplace, king-size bed, sitting area, and the best feature by far was the bathroom, which had a open window looking over the bed that was covered by wooden blinds that could be utilized when privacy was needed while bathing. The toilet was in a small separate room, there was a glass shower stall and an extremely large soaking tub that even came with complimentary bath salts. Also supplied were some of the nicest-smelling lotions, shampoos and conditioners, which filled the room with essence of lavender and vanilla when we showered.
In the evenings, we were treated to beautiful sunsets that could be viewed through the French doors that led to our balcony, which was large enough for a wrought-iron table and two chairs. It was a perfect place to sit and watch the sun go down under the rolling green hills of Sonoma Valley. The only negative aspect to this was that the hotel is situated right off a main road, so of course there are some traffic sounds; however, we heard neither traffic nor the sounds of other guests during our two-day stay here in Sonoma.
The price was just great here for us, because again, I used my travel agent status to acquire a rate of $69.00 when I believe the normal rate here was at least a minimum of $140.00 and up. Overall this was a great place to stay for a few days, soak up some Californian sun, tour some vineyards, and of course try some food at some of the great restaurants nearby. For more information regarding this property, click on the following link: website
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 16, 2004
The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Hotel and Spa
Hotel | "Lake Tahoe Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa"
This resort from the front is very rustic as the entrances are made of river rock and what looked like cedar shingles and resembles an old-fashioned ski lodge. As we entered immediately to our left I took notice of the well-staffed concierge desk, the check in desk straight ahead and then to our right a small gift shop and also the entrance to the casino. Of course since we were mainly interested in getting checked in we walked over to one of the many resort desk clerks that were available.
The great thing about checking in early and on a Thursday was not only how empty the lobby was therefore reducing wait time but also there were many rooms available on the Regency Club Floors which not only have controlled access and better rooms, but also includes hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the evening and a really good continental breakfast in the morning. So after being told it would only add an additional twenty dollars onto our room cost we agreed and were on our way up to our room on the 12th floor. One of the first things I noticed as we walked through the hallway to our room was how quiet it was. We barely heard the other guests from inside our room throughout our entire stay.
We entered our room and were amazed at the luxurious comfort our room offered. The closet looked as if it was made out of cedar and included two comfy, spa quality terry cloth robes. The humongous kind size bed was covered with a down filled comforter. The bathroom was pretty much an average size however it did boast some of the nicest shampoos, conditioners, and lotions that I have ever seen. There was also a nice sitting area right next to our window where a view of the snow capped mountains and steaming hot tub and heated swimming pool waited for us each morning. I have to admit this was one of the most comfortable rooms that I have ever been in. All in all this was one of the most wonderful, magical resorts I have ever been to.
For more information regarding this resort, go to the website.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 14, 2004
Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino
111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village, Nevada 89451
At around 5:30 pm the next day we walked from the hotel to the restaurant, which took us approximately 10 minutes and were surprised that even though we were a little bit earlier than our reserved time we were greeted and seated almost immediately. Since we were early we were lucky enough to get a wonderful and somewhat secluded table that was tucked between a large stone fireplace and the windows that looked out onto the lake and beach.
Upon sitting down and even before we could even enjoy the view one of the staff approached and promptly filled our water glasses and then vanished. After that came our friendly waitress who advised us what the specials of the day were as well as dropping off the menus for our perusal and then just as quickly vanished. We were already amazed at the extreme efficiency of the staff by the time the sommelier came up, which was roughly a minute after our waitress had left. She was both gracious and knowledgeable about the wines offered and gave us some very good suggestions. After we had placed an order for a bottle of Merlot, we sat back and finally got to relax and enjoy the view and the beauty of the restaurant with our drinks that had magically appeared while talking with the sommelier. All I can say is the staff here is the most prompt, courteous, friendly and efficient I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
This restaurant is stunning as it’s entirely made up of stone and cedar, with large towering windows overlooking the lake and great stone fireplaces that provide some welcome warmth during the winter and early spring months. There is a bar off to the side of the restaurant where you may sit, relax, have a drink or two with a companion or alone while you wait for a table during busy times.
The prices here are definitely high and I would not suggest bringing children unless you don’t mind spending a lot. I noticed that the average price for many of the entrees was around $35, so with drinks and possibly a dessert the total tab for even two people can easily run up to $100. Even though the prices here are high, the food is excellent and the servings are large as my husband and I couldn’t even finish all of our entrees.
For more information click on the following link: The Lone Eagle Grill
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 20, 2004
Lone Eagle Grille
111 Country Club Drive
Incline Village 89451
We then walked through a large overhead forest of twisted and knobby trees, past several peacocks in a cage and a house where most of the winery offices were located and finally ended up at the tasting room and gift shop where the knowledgeable staff waited to greet us. After trying a few wines, we found out that a tour of the vineyard was about to begin, so we quickly paid our $10.00 per person and ran back up the hill to a tractor that pulls a large tram behind it. As our tour progressed, our guide told us about the family who owns the winery and their dedication to making completely organic wines by using beneficial insects and compost as well as the history of the vineyards and the process of making wine. After touring the vineyards, the wine presses, the crushers, and finally the manmade caves where the barrels are stored, we headed back to the gift shop. Included in the price of the tour is a tasting of a few of the wines and a very nice wine glass with the name of the winery etched in it.
This time since we weren’t as rushed we took our time and sampled a few more of the wines, explored the gift shop which sells everything from organic honey to wine coolers and talked to more of the very friendly staff. My husband and I both found that at this winery the staff was exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable which made this visit extremely enjoyable. The wines produced by Benziger are consistently excellent which also made a great impression upon us. Overall this was a great place to spend a sunny afternoon and I will certainly return again if I am in the area.
For more information please click on the following link: website
Benziger Family Winery
1883 London Ranch Rd.
Glen Ellen, California 95442
This winery is very casual and relaxed and the staff is very friendly and informative as well. The wine tasting here is free as long as you buy a bottle, which we found was different from many of the other wineries along highway 12. As we relaxed and tasted each wine, we spoke with a member of the staff about the history of Landmark Vineyards as well as about the wine. The vineyard is currently owned by Michael and Mary Colhoun and has been passed down several generations. It was originally started in 1974 just north of Santa Rosa and then around 1989 was moved to the base of the Sugarloaf Ridge, which are the rolling hills and mountains that help make up the Sonoma Valley. Soon after moving from the white wines to the red wines several customers arrived, at which point we were poured somewhat larger glasses of a Syrah called Steel Plow and invited to take a look down the hall as there were pictures of the owners, their family and their ancestors as well as numerous pictures of famous visitors such as Martha Stewart and Hilary Clinton. As we walked amongst the many pictures, some old and some new, we were surprised to learn that the Colhouns were descendents of John Deere, the maker of farm equipment and lawn mowers.
This walking unescorted among a winery’s hallways was a totally new experience for the both of us and it truly made us feel as if we had been made part of the family. After we had finished our wine, we headed back to the tasting bar where we paid for our purchases and then walked outside to the stunning patio. Maybe it was just the wine or maybe it was just someone very gifted in landscaping had done a great job but this patio was lovely. The trees had all been placed in such a way as to produce shade out while daffodils and other plants were in large terra cotta containers that bordered the path to the water fountain.
For more information click on the following link: Landmark Vineyards
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 20, 2004
101 Adobe Canyon Road
St. Francis winery was completed in 1979 and named after Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of humanitarian efforts. The visitor center however was just built recently and is very beautifully done. The area around the visitor center includes manicured lawns and herb gardens which when brushed up against release a lovely aroma of lavender and rosemary. Behind the large and airy tasting room through stained oak French doors lies a stone patio with tables and chairs that are surrounded by even more meticulously tended gardens.
Before approaching the wine tasting bar, my husband and I looked at all the other items for sale that included everything from wine glass charms to delicious Essence of Lavender honey, which by the way, tastes just like candy and is wonderful in an evening cup of tea!
Upon approaching the tasting bar, we were greeted by the friendly and professional staff whom advised us that the tasting fee is $5.00 however if we purchased a bottle of wine that would be credited to the purchase. Of course, many wineries do charge somehow or another for the tasting so we shrugged, paid our $10.00, and were given lists of the wines offered so that we may pick which ones we would like to try. Since my husband and I have toured many wineries, we have learned that if you are visiting a winery with someone that you don’t mind sharing a glass with, it’s best for each person to check every other wine and then just share as each glass is poured. Not only do you get to try more of what the winery has to offer but it also cuts down on how much you drink, therefore allowing you to stay a little more sober.
After tasting the sweeter then the drier whites, we moved onto the reds, which we both agreed were absolutely delicious. While tasting a Zinfandel we exclaimed how good all the red wines were at which point we were advised that St. Francis is actually known very well for their red wines. This has earned them the nickname "House of Big Reds" and boy do they deserve it.
For more information click on the following link: St Francis Winery
St Francis Winery
100 Pythian Road
Santa Rosa 95409
Attraction | "Manitou Cliff Dwellings"
We arrived around 10am on a crisp weekday morning and after paying our entrance fee of $8 per adult we drove up and found the park almost empty except for a few employees here and there. Since it was still early spring, we assumed that the tourist season had not yet begun and walked over from the parking lot to the gift shop and museum. Upon entering the Pueblo style building we found that we first had to go through the gift shop in order to get to the museum, which I thought was very tacky and in bad taste. We began walking through rather quickly, looking here and there at the merchandise which was mostly cheaply made, however I did get myself a beautiful white fleece sweater with snowflakes embroidered on it for a pretty good price. Since I was moving to Alaska, I thought that would be handy for the winter; however, it came in even handier as we prepared to head out to the cliff dwellings later.
The museum itself featured information about the Ansazi, which are also referred to as the Ancestral Puebloans, and their pottery, tools and weapons. It was all interesting, though I was rather disappointed by the small size of the museum as I have seen much more information and displays at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC for free. Once we had walked through the museum, which took us about 30 minutes, we headed up to the cliff dwellings which were much more interesting.
The cliff dwellings themselves are really an impressive experience to walk through as each room has a plaque stating what that room would have historically been used for. This gave me a much deeper insight into the Ansazi and their way of life than the museum did.
If you visit during early spring, make sure to wear a little extra clothing as the Manitou cliff dwellings are right off a cliff where a cool breeze blows into making it quite chilly. One other word of caution, as you walk through the cliff dwellings be careful of where you walk, it’s somewhat darker inside and it’s very easy to trip and fall.
For more information click on the following link: Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on June 20, 2004
Manitou Cliff Dwellings Museum
P.O. Box 272
Manitou Springs 80829