Stay & eat here: Moraine Lake Lodge, Alberta, Canada

Moraine Lake Lodge
1 Moraine Lake Rd, Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
https://morainelake.com

5 hour layover in Seattle? Perfect time for a blog post! We’ve been on the road for a week so far,  and I’ve slipped back into travel life likea duck into a pond 🙂 We spent week 1 in Alberta, Canada, and I think I can pretty confidently say it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I’ll have a longer post coming on how to DIY road trip the Icefield Parkway so you won’t have to join the hoards of buses doing the rounds, but for now, a quick look at our one night of fancy accommodation for the trip, at Moraine Lake Lodge!

I, like many others, had the dream of spending a night at the Fairmont Lake Louise, and was prepared to shell out a bit of money for the honour. Until I saw that the $800 or so for a lead in room type was one of the crappy out-the-back no view rooms, and we’d have to pay more for car parking and breakfast. Ummmm no. I started hunting for an alternative and found Moraine Lake, with the Moraine Lake Lodge coming in at the top of my searches for lake view cabins in the area. And as far as alternatives go, this was perfect.

 

Location?
Right on the lake. As in, any closer and you’d be in the water. Moraine Lake is completely breath taking, the most perfect shade of blue you could possibly imagine, and surrounded by mountains and trees. As you can see from the shot below, taken from our balcony…

 

Rooms?
We stayed in a Lodge Queen room, which was located on the second floor. No TVs in the rooms to encourage you to really switch off and relax, but there is free wifi available to guests if you get desperate. We also had a gorgeous antique gas fireplace, a nice big balcony, complimentary tea and coffee, and a nice big bathroom.

 

 

Amenities?
– Free parking in a private guest carpark, away from the day visitor lot
– Complimentary buffet breakfast
– Free wifi throughout
– Complimentary tea and coffee service in the Library each afternoon
– Guided hikes and canoe hire

 

Cost?
It varies depending on time of year and room type, but we paid around AUD $475 for one night. We thought it was money well spent; the location was beyond anything I could have imagined, waking up and being able to walk straight up the top of the path to look out over thr lake with hardly anyone else around was priceless, and the service was so friendly and professional all at the same time – we even had a bottle of bubbles on ice and a happy anniversary card waiting in our room upon arrival 🙂

 

Dining?
The Walter Wilcox Dining Room is the restaurant where breakfast is served to guests only, and dinner is open to anyone – but your best bet is to make a reservation, as it’s a fairly small and intimate place. The menu is elegant, and takes full advantage of the local produce and specialties. Not a cheap feed, but a really memorable special occasion meal. Special mention to not only the chefs, but the servers – friendly, helpful and attentive service made a good meal a great one!

Stay here: Hoi An Holiday Villa, Hoi An

Hoi An Holiday Villa
414/9 Cua Dai street, Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam
http://hoianholidayvilla.com/

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this place, or how wonderful our stay was here. Right from the very first contact via email when we booked, up until our final footsteps out of the lobby, the team at the Hoi An Holiday Villa couldn’t have been more kind, accommodating, friendly and welcoming 🙂

We found it quite by chance while looking for somewhere to stay in a particular area of Hoi An near Cua Dai Street, and this little place with only a handful of rooms available at very decent prices, looked perfect for us. We booked it in, and I had a lot of communication with Cherry who looks after the bookings in the lead up to our trip. She was an angel, helping us to organise everything from car transfers to collect us from the airport upon arrival and bring us back at the end of our trip, to tailor recommendations for the husband who was in the market for a new suit. She also kept an eye out for us of an evening, to make sure we got back to our room safely for the night 🙂

On arrival at Da Nang airport, we were promptly met by a driver who whisked us away to our new home for the next 6 nights; we were met again with a smiling face and two glasses of ice-cold passionfruit and orange juice and a seat at the lobby. Despite the fact that we arrived several hours before official check in time, we were assured our room was already prepared for us. Before we were taken over, we were given a map with a whole lot of information on where to find food, coffee shops, markets, etc.

Our room was gorgeous – clean and bright, with amazing air conditioning and heaps of room, it was the perfect headquarters for our Hoi An leg of the trip 🙂

In terms of the specifics, we had:
– king size bed
– free wifi
– mini bar fridge
– desk
– sitting area with complimentary tea & coffee
– toiletries (toothbrushes, shampoo, shower gel, etc)
– cable TV channels
– breakfast included

There was also a small but beautifully kept pool area, where you could order little bites to eat and drinks from the shade of your umbrella and lounge chair. After our early starts around 7am and several hours of walking around in the Hoi An heat, arriving back to lounge in and around the pool for an hour or two after lunch each day made alllll the difference!

Because it’s such a small place, breakfast wasn’t the usual buffet, but an order-from-the-menu scenario. But as I mentioned above, your accommodation rates include breakfast, so you can order until your heart’s content and your belly’s full! On our last day, we were due to fly out quite early in the morning which meant we’d miss breaky, but as our 6.30am car service was pulling up to take us to the airport, we were given special packed little breakfast boxes for our drive. Warm baguettes with butter and jam, fruit and yoghurt – not at all necessary, but another example of the wonderful service 🙂 And another – as we were climbing into the car with our breakfasts, another one of the lovely staff members came running out to us with a parting gift – a beautiful, traditional Hoi An lantern each!

It may not have been  a fancy la-di-da 5 star resort, but the team at Hoi An Holiday Villas made us feel like absolute royalty. We couldn’t have been more grateful for their kindness and hospitality, and wouldn’t dream of staying anywhere else the next time we visit 🙂

Stay here: a backyard mini-break at Bunjil Farm, Victoria

Bunjil Farm
Kyneton-Springhill Road, Lauriston, VIC
http://bunjilfarm.com.au/

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It’s hard to narrow down the list of favourite bloggers, but Lisa Eats World is certainly up there. I love the way she writes, and as a fellow Melbourne girl, I love reading about her new discoveries in and around the city. It was one of those discoveries she wrote about a few months ago that gave me massive adventure-envy; her visit to Bunjil Farm out in Kyneton, Victoria. After reading her post twice and following the link through to the farm’s website, I emailed the lovely Lyn straight away to make a booking, too.

When I read about the gorgeous 1850’s settler’s hut that Lisa stayed in, the idea of curling up by the fire on a cold winter’s night with a good book and mug of hot tea was utterly irresistible to me. I often venture out on little country Victoria trips solo, but the husband joined me this time – the promise of a fire place-warmed hut away from it all had him hooked, too.

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A drive up through Macedon, Woodend and Kyneton brought us to Bunjil Farm, run by the lovely Lyn Stephenson, and her two furry sidekicks, Eddie and Zoe. Lyn’s property is open, lush and absolutely stunning, performing double duty as both accommodation for escape artists like us, and a hemp farm. Hemp, for the record, is not the same as marijuana; Lyn’s crops are grown under license, subject to strict testing, and are used to produce, oil, textiles and building materials. You learn something new every day…

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But, back to the accommodation side. Paying homage to the original owners of this nation, the farm was named after Bunjil, the creator of the earth (you can read more about Bunjil’s story here), and you can see that there are so many details of the farm that have been carefully thought out with respect for the earth in mind. There are a few options for accommodation at Bunjil Farm, but I knew it had to be the settler’s hut for us. Unlike Lisa, who visited in summer, we were there on a particularly cold winter’s night, so the fireplace was a huge selling point for us.

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This beautiful little hut has been carefully restored and kept as close to the original 1850’s version as possible, without compromising too much on modern comforts. There’s no TV or stereo or central heating, but there are very comfy couches, the aforementioned magnificent fireplace, and space to read, write and draw. The stone floors, while beautiful, are also pretty cold if you visit in winter, so pack your wooly socks!

The kitchen is divided over the room, with a big wooden cabinet holding your breakfast provisions, tea, coffee, flatware and what not. The water in the hut is bore water, so a large glass vessel full of fresh drinking water is provided, too. A sink over in the opposite corner, however, holds modern luxuries like a toaster, mini fridge, electric kettle and dishwashing detergent.

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The bathroom was stunning, with the original plumbing still on display in the shower, but with modern plumbing actually in use, which means there’s not long to wait for a nice, hot shower. Thank goodness. And nice, fluffy towels are provided for you, as are some good, old fashioned hot water bottles to keep you warm and toasty at night – I hadn’t used a hot water bottle in YEARS, but was incredibly grateful that Lyn had the foresight to mention them as the temperature dropped later in the evening!

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The bedroom was simple and the bed was very comfortable – lots of big pillows to rest our heads on and a double doona situation kept us nice and warm overnight. There was also a very efficient plug in heater that warmed the bedroom up perfectly.

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Head out the back and say hi to your neighbours, too – we met some absolutely beautiful horses that Lyn keeps on her property for one of the city’s horse-and-cart owners. One was a bit feisty, but the others were incredibly placid and sweet-natured, and very photogenic – you’ll see their photos on a post I wrote on Monday. This gorgeous red-head followed us along the fence line, gently nudging our hands with his nose, to get a bit of a pat. We’re both huge animal lovers, so we were in heaven 🙂

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You can also expect breakfast to be a pretty impressive affair, with Lyn providing everything you’ll need; yoghurt, fresh milk, eggs, a very fresh loaf of bread, jams, butter, muesli, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, even Vegemite! In my mind, eating that beautiful spread by the fireplace was picture perfect; in reality, it was more like two well-rested, pyjama-clad, large kids wolfing down toast like they hadn’t eaten in days. And this kid finished off the marshmallows that Lyn kindly left on the table, along with some nice, long metal swords, so that I could toast them over the fire. Oh. My. Goodness. I can’t even… The smell of a freshly lit fireplace is one of my favourite smells in the world, and if you could taste that smell, it’s be toasted marshmallows.

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Lyn was kind enough to come and see us off in the morning, along with Eddie and Zoe, her adorable little fur babies. We both desperately needed a break from life, and being able to literally switch off from life with no TV, put our phones away, not have to rush around to see or do anything, and just BE was amazing. Lyn’s created the most wonderful atmosphere at Bunjil Farm, making you simultaneously feel like you were totally at home and also a well looked after guest. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I’ll be returning again; this is the ultimate stop and recharge mini break 🙂

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Stay here: IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku, Japan

Last stop in this week’s whirlwind trip around the world; I found out at the Japanese Film Festival that Australian tourism to Japan has risen by around 20% over the last year or so, and when I thought about it, I realised I’m hearing about a lot more people travelling there now, so I thought this might be a good post to end the week on!

 

IBIS Tokyo Shinjuku
7-10-5 Nishi Shinjuku, Tokyo
http://www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-8620-ibis-tokyo-shinjuku/index.shtml

When it comes to accommodation, Tokyo isn’t the cheapest city to visit. Similarly to Europe, rooms have the reputation for being on the small side, and, like Melbourne, they come with a decent price tag.

After a bit of research, I found the Ibis in Shinjuku, which was pretty reasonably priced compared to similar alternatives at just under $1000 for 9 nights.

I arrived to a pretty modern foyer staffed by an incredibly friendly and helpful team. They had me checked in within a few minutes, and apologised for the renovations that were taking place. Half of Shinjuku seemed to be under construction during our visit, and I was assured that work would only be taking place strictly between 9am and 5pm so as to minimise any disruptions to guests.

As you can see above, my single room was pretty small – a king single took up most of the space, with my suitcase just fitting lengthways in the space between the end of the bed and the bar fridge. About three end-to-end footsteps were all that fit between the bed and wall. The bathroom was similarly small:

But space aside, I couldn’t have been happier with my temporary home, and it did instantly feel like home! Big positives about this property:
– free WiFi (duh)
– 24 hour front desk with staff who speak English
– restaurant on site for breakfast, lunch and dinner, should you need a quick and easy option
– super comfy bed
– hair dryer
– robe and slippers (wore these EVERY DAY!! Loved them!! haha)
– small bar fridge in room
– kettle
– TV with option to purchase extra channels
– complimentary Shiseido shampoo, conditioner and body wash
– air conditioning
– on site parking
– option between smoking and non-smoking rooms
– across the street is a Family Mart (mini convenience store)
– on the same street are a McDonalds and a Cafe Veloce, both of which open for breakfast/early morning tea and coffee (these are few and far between!)
– only a few minutes walk to Shinjuku station

While the room was small, it was surprisingly comfortable! The smiles and greetings each time I left and returned made it feel instantly homely, the room itself was very clean, and little things like having a kettle and fridge made an enormous difference to my stay. The location was incomparable as well; a few minutes from one of the biggest stations on the city, a heap of shopping malls, and beautiful parks in most directions, not to mention super safe – not once walking home from the station in the dark at night did I feel scared for my safety or well being.

The team at the front desk were also super helpful in terms of helping me with directions, and even getting me to an authorised seller for my Disneyland ticket! They had maps and public transport directions printed out and ready to go, and were genuinely more than happy to help with anything I needed. You just cannot underestimate how important and comforting that is, particularly when you’re travelling solo in a country where English isn’t widely spoken.

If you’ve read along here for a while and seen some of my other posts relating to accommodation (like the pub at Warburton that I prefer over the B&Bs), you’ll know I’m no princess when I travel. I don’t need a magazine-perfect resort, a king size bed, luxurious surrounds. I’m not travelling to enjoy time in my room. I need helpful staff, a comfy bed and a clean and functioning bathroom. A fridge for fruit and water, and a kettle with which to make my tea is a bonus. I got all that and more at the Ibis, and if you’re another traveller who’d rather spend your cash on the experiences instead of the sleep space, I’d highly recommend it for your trip to Tokyo!

Stay here: Beresford Arms Hotel, San Francisco

The Beresford Arms Hotel
701 Post St, San Francisco
http://www.beresford.com/arms/

Doing a day early TBT post tonight, because it seems that everyone I know is heading overseas for Christmas except us this year! And as you saw on Tuesday’s Chicago post, I really loved our winter Christmas on the other side of the world last year and am already planning another upcoming winter Christmas 😉 in the mean time though, let me take you guys back to the gorgeous hotel we were lucky enough to spend our pre-Christmas days in during our time in San Francisco…

So, we’re out at family dinner one night last year. Sibling’s boyfriend just got back from his USA trip with his family, and husband and I were a few months away from our visit. We were comparing hotels (they visited a few of the same cities that we were going to), and when we got to San Francisco, we thought he was just making fun of us when he said they stayed at the Beresford Arms. Nope, turns out they really did! And they loved it, which made us all the more excited to stay there.

Perfectly located just out of the main CBD area (AKA quieter at night), it’s a very short walk away from Union Square and Macy’s, as well as Chinatown (which is amazing in San Francisco, particularly on the food front!), with cabs constantly passing past the front of the hotel, making it VERY easy to get around.

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Why else should you stay here?
– Most importantly, the staff and service they provide are fantastic – they make for a very easy, fuss-free holiday, which is probably the most important thing!
– Large rooms and bathrooms
– Free WiFi (duh)
– The best features of all: complimentary breakfast in the morning (beautiful pastries, fruit, tea, coffee) AND an afternoon cheese and wine hour, that goes for a lot longer than an hour, and is FREE OF CHARGE for guests! Seriously, you can relax in this stunning lobby that you can see below, drink your fill of wine, nibble on cheese and crackers, and mingle with the other guests, and you’re not charged a cent! There is a tip jar, which was generously filled (which says a lot about the wonderful, attentive and friendly service provided by the staff wondering around, re-filling wine glasses, chattering to us all, topping up food), and surprisingly, people were in fact talking to each other and making new friends!

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I’ve heard of hotels that have offered this before, even stayed at a few, but they’re all seemed so forced and lame, to be honest. The Beresford was different. Combine the gorgeous, quaint old hotel, in a perfect location, with really lovely staff providing professional but friendly service, and you’ve got an amazing place to spend your time in San Francisco! Now, take me back…