Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Writing, Writing, Writing

Sorry I have not written any posts lately. I have taken a new job as a marketing specialist which allows me to write on a very regular basis. I write marketing materials (from print ads to radio ads and more), and I manage, curate and write for social media accounts.

It's hard to believe that my love of language has led me to an exciting job in marketing for an independently-owned office supply business. If you happen to live nearby in Gaylord, Michigan, stop on in. If you don't, check out the website and online ordering options. We do ship anywhere in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: A Guide to Miami’s Little Havana

If you’re planning a trip to Miami, you’re probably already planning to visit the Art Deco District along Ocean Drive to check out the numerous elaborate and colorful 1920s buildings, andLincoln Road Mall (known as the Fifth Avenue of the South) might be on your list for some high-end shopping. Of course you‘ll want to hit South Beach for a dose of quintessential Miami: the ocean, waves, surfers, models, hipsters, and celebrities. But there is an area you may not have thought of – Little Havana. It should be on your itinerary so you can delight in classic Miami.

Photo by Anja Recker via

What to See

See the stars on Miami’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame - the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame. It honors famous Hispanics including Roberto Duran, Tito Puente, Martha Flores, and Maria Conchita Alonso. You’ll also see several monuments commemorating the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion in the nearby Cuban Memorial Plaza. The eternal flame monument and the 16-foot-long relief map of Cuba monument are especially impressive. Walk west down Calle Ocho and you’ll happen upon a brightly colored wall mural which pays tribute to Cuban, Latin, and American heroes like Selena, Ruben Dario, and Abraham Lincoln.

What to Do

Go to Máximo Gómez Park and watch the finely dressed Cuban old-timers play dominoes. It is more entertaining and fascinating than you would believe. Next, visit the Agustín Gaínza arts gallery. Gaínza is a famous Cuban-American artist who you can meet and chat with when you visit his gallery. You might even get to watch his technique as he paints. Now it is time to shop. Buy a Cuban cigar from one of the many cigar shops on Calle Ocho or a guayabera from a boutique. You should be starting to get a feel for classic Miami by now.

What to Eat

Try as many delicious Cuban foods as you can. The flavors and combinations of ingredients are sure to please. Calle Ocho is lined with cafes, food markets, bakeries, and coffee counters. You’ll find dishes like bacalao (codfish), chilindrón de cordero (lamb stew), Cuban chorizio burgers served with plantain chips, and steamed Cuban-style tamales with fresh salsa. The bakeries have breakfast empanadas and delicious guava pastries. A popular dessert is mantecado (vanilla ice cream with nutmeg and cinnamon). If you’re a coffee person, you’ll love the café cubano and café con leche, as well as the Cuban espressos.

Where to Stay

Spend your nights in one of the nearby Miami hotels that is close to the ocean to make the most of your stay. Conrad Miami is a 4-star hotel with a spa and a great location just a couple of blocks from the ocean. The hotel also has an on-site restaurant with creative cuisine and spectacular views. Courtyard by Marriott Miami Downtown, also not far from the ocean, has handsome rooms and a beautiful pool. You’ll love the sophisticated bistro and lounge too. JW Marriott Hotel Miami and JW Marriott Marquis Miami are two more well-reviewed hotels for your consideration.

Photo by Kev Hagopian via

Miami is an amazing city no matter where you stay and what you do. Be prepared to have a blast!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Hiking, Biking, Eating, and Sleeping in Seoul

Seoul is a city known for its historic temples and palaces as well as its modern, high-tech skyscrapers. However, not everyone knows that a river runs through it, and it is surrounded by mountains. If you are planning a trip to Seoul, you should plan to add some hiking and biking to your itinerary so you can see it all. You’ll also want to study up on Korean cuisine to help you plan your dining destinations. And don’t forget about lodging. Choosing the right place to stay from the many Seoul hotels, will ensure your trip is extra pleasurable.  

Photo by Ally Moon via

Hiking in the Mountains

Seoul’s mountains provide many scenic views of nature and the city. Of the 37 mountains, Mt. Bukhansan is the highest at 2746 feet. There are mountains for hikers of all skill levels too. Mt. Achasan is 941 feet and has views of downtown Seoul and the Hangang River. A hike to the top of Mt. Bugaksan, at 1112 feet, gives you an outstanding view of the capital, and takes you along the city’s ancient fortress wall and through reconstructed 15th century gates.  Or you could leave the city for a guided excursion on Mt. Seorak, South Korea’s third highest mountain.

Biking along the River

The Hangang River and its 25 bridges and 12 parks are a fascinating part of the city that you’ll surely enjoy seeing. An ideal way to do so is to bike along the riverbank trails. There’re several bike rental facilities in the parks and outside subway stations. Some of them offer free rentals when you leave an ID and a deposit. You can exercise, see the sights, and save money. Make sure to pick up a trail map to locate the bridges with cafes when you’re hungry; they are fun places to eat with great views.

Eating the Local Cuisine

Gogi-gui is what Koreans call barbecue, and you will find plenty of these barbecue restaurants around Seoul. Go to one of the restaurants closest to Majang meat market for the freshest meat and best prices. The meats, grains, and vegetables are cooked on a grill in the middle of the table for an experience you won’t forget. Another popular local dish is japchae which is stir-fried cellophane noodles with sliced beef and vegetables. To get a full cuisine experience, take a 2 1/2 hour food tour to learn about the customs and sample several foods.

Sleeping in Comfort

If your budget allows, pamper yourself at the five-star Lotte Hotel Seoul. The luxury hotel has rooms with amazing views of the city. It also has resort amenities and numerous restaurants and bars on-site for your pleasure. A little easier on the wallet but clean and ideally-located is the Hotel PJ. This hotel has three restaurants and friendly staff too. Another option with reasonable rates on the south side of the river is Hotel Prima. There are on-site shops, dining, and spacious rooms at Hotel Prima.

Photo by binssii via

If you have any time left after all of your other adventures, Seoul is also known for its department store shopping. Use the money you would normally tip a server to buy yourself something special. Tipping at a restaurant is not standard in Seoul. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: What to Do During Your Days and Nights in Honolulu

When you’re on a tropical island surrounded by clear, azure blue water, taking pleasure in that water should be a priority. Honolulu’s watersport options are plentiful; they range from relaxing kayak rides to adrenaline-pumping kiteboarding adventures. You’re sure to find a way to enjoy the Hawaiian waters on a trip to Honolulu. And you won’t find a better way to end a day of playing than topping it off with a tasty meal and a comfy sleep.

Photo by KHYLAsophy via

Watersports Galore

Surfing is the quintessential Hawaiian sport, and you’re in luck if you want to take lessons. Surf HNL offers one-hour lessons taught by professionals. And they don’t just teach the basics, they also teach you about the ocean, and surfing safety and etiquette. Surf HNL has stand up paddleboard (SUP) lessons, and SUP paddleboard and surfboard rentals too.
If you crave a wilder ride, kiteboarding (sometimes called kitesurfing) will be right up your alley. Massimo Sport Hawaii provides three-hour lessons at fairly reasonable rates, so you’ll be up and enjoying the ride before you know it.

Scuba diving is a spectacular way to view the amazing and colorful aquatic life. Rainbow Scuba Hawaii will guide you to two dive sites during an introductory lesson. They also offer advanced classes and Professional Association of Diving Instructors certification classes.
For those who prefer more relaxing watersports, there are several Honolulu establishments that rent kayaks, boogie boards, snorkeling equipment and more. There won’t be a shortage of relaxing pleasures for you.

Meal Time

Your taste buds will savor the Hawaiian dishes that are favorites of both locals and visitors, including lomi salmon (cubed sushi-grade salmon with chopped Maui onions, tomatoes and chili pepper), lau lau (steamed fish and pork or chicken wrapped and tied together in a taro leaf). If your mouth isn’t watering yet, how about some kalula pig (pulled pork with marinated and steamed cabbage) or loco moco (hamburger patties topped with two eggs and gravy)?

There is plenty of Asian food in Honolulu as well because immigrant workers from China, Japan, and Korea worked on plantations in the early 1900’s and introduced their foods to the islands. Many of these foods influenced the Hawaiian cuisine of today, but you can also find restaurants that serve traditional Asian cuisine like Chinese stir fry, Japanese bento, and Korean kimchi.

Photo by Vemsheree Holganza-Martin via

Sleep Tight

You won’t have to walk far to get back to your room and its cushy bedding with a stay at Embassy Suites Hotel - Waikiki Beach Walk. The hotel is only 50 yards from the beach, and its rooms are decorated in soothing natural colors that will set the atmosphere for a good night’s sleep.

You can save money and still sleep in comfort when you stay at Courtyard by Marriott Waikiki Beach. The rates are more reasonable because the hotel is a few blocks from the beach; it is still walking distance though, and the hotel consistently receives favorable reviews.

Photo by Bill Dillard via

Be prepared to have the time of your life on your trip to Honolulu. There are many more hotels in Honolulu as well as many more activities to entertain you, so it shouldn't be too hard to plan the perfect trip.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Best of Hong Kong’s Hotels with a View

Whether you are traveling to Hong Kong for business or pleasure, or a combination thereof, why not stay in a hotel that accommodates your needs and gives you something extra – stunning views of the city and the harbor. There are several Hong Kong hotels that provide these panoramas, and a stay in one of them is sure to enhance your visit.

Photo by Stuart Jamieson "stuali_travels" via

EAST Hong Kong

EAST Hong Kong has won several awards for its architectural style and interior design. The rooms are decorated in crisp blacks, whites, and grays with clean lines and a comfortable modern feel, but the best part of the rooms are their views. The oversized windows, which are almost floor to ceiling, are perfect for taking in scenes of the city skyline or of the resplendent Victoria Harbor. You won’t want to miss out on a visit to the hotel’s rooftop lounge that overlooks the harbor either. Sugar offers signature cocktails and international tapas created by an award-wining chef.

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Not only does the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong have rooms with superb views of the skyline and the harbor, it also has rooms with views of its natural looking, lagoon-like 50-meter outdoor heated swimming pool, and its landscaped fountains and waterfall. The rooms at this 5-star hotel are decorated in soothing earth tones to relax you after a day on the town. And when you are hungry, there are ten different restaurants from which to choose, many of which have splendiferous views of the harbor, the lush gardens and the skyline.

Regal Hongkong Hotel

There aren’t too many better ways to luxuriate in the incredible views of Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay than by taking them in from the Regal Hongkong Hotel’s rooftop heated swimming pool. The 5-star hotel will spoil you, not only with the views, but also with their European Baroque style rooms that make you feel like royalty, and their restaurant options. Choose your favorite, Cantonese, Western, Italian, and more, or try them all.  

Holiday Inn Express Hong Kong Soho

If you want the views but also prefer a more budget-friendly hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Hong Kong Soho is an excellent option. There are rooms available with skyline and harbor views, and if you are in town for business, there are meeting rooms with harbor views. The rooms have a cozy masculine feel, and they come with a free breakfast buffet to help you save money. There is also a Thai restaurant that serves lunch and dinner and is recommended by the MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong.

Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong

Another budget-friendly option is the Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong. An awesome feature of this hotel is the fitness facilities that overlooks the harbor. Working out is always more pleasant when there is magnificent scenery to enjoy. The guest rooms, which also have spectacular views of the harbor and skyline, are comfortably decorated in brown, maroon, and cream colors. Try to get a corner room if you can; you will feel like the harbor is wrapped around you. There is a restaurant that serves Asian-inspired international cuisine to keep you comfortably fed too.

Photo by Margarita Yuki via

Monday, April 27, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Best of London’s Hotels with On-Site Dining

No trip to London would be complete without sampling some traditional British cuisine. Welsh rarebit, steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and beef Wellington are just a few of the mouth-watering dishes the United Kingdom is known for. If you stay at one of the hotels in London with on-site dining, you won’t have to go far for some tasty nibbles and noshes.

Photo by Caroline in the City via

Sofitel London St James

The Sofitel London St James has many options for dining. The Balcon serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Start with a savory full English breakfast in the morning and come back later for delicious lunch and dinner offerings including homemade foie gras terrine, aged Scottish sirloin steak with Béarnaise sauce, and roasted Oxfordshire lamb saddle. There is also a bar that serves small plates. Best of all, there is a house charcutier who makes outstanding platters of French and Welsh charcuterie. Your taste buds will be in heaven.

The Grand at Trafalgar Square

Boyds Brasserie Bar & Lounge at The Grand at Trafalgar Square has been called “unashamedly British” by Food & Drink Guide. This is the place to go for amazing beef Wellington. You’ll delight in their other dishes too, like chicken liver parfait with tomato jelly, and smoked haddock Scotched egg, and chargrilled British beef burger with onion marmalade and Cornish brie. And your meal wouldn’t be complete without a pudding; the chocolate brownie with fudge sauce and Cornish clotted cream is spectacular, as are the bread and butter pudding, and the trio of British cheeses served with grapes and biscuits.

Saint Georges Hotel

Before you even take a bite of the excellent food at the Heights in Saint Georges Hotel, you will fall in love with the restaurant. It is on the 15th floor of the hotel and has phenomenal views of the city. The food is a mix of modern European and international cuisines with scrumptious main courses like sirloin steak with grilled tomato and mushrooms and grilled chicken served on saffron potatoes with broad beans mushrooms and bacon emulsion. The restaurant also has a bar menu with light meals and sandwiches. This is where you’ll find a perfect rendition of fish and chips.

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London has four different restaurants. Brasserie Joël is a French restaurant that serves steaks, seafood, and more. The French Barbary filet of duck is a popular dish you’ll surely adore. Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar creates delectable, made to order sushi and sashimi. Primo bar is a relaxing place for a sandwich or a burger and a custom cocktail. And last but not least, 1WB Lounge & Patisserie has an all-day tapas menu and delightful pastries. With all of these choices, you’ll never want to leave the hotel for a meal.

Afternoon Tea

Another truly British tradition is that of afternoon tea, and each of the hotels mentioned serves a traditional afternoon tea that will warm your body and please your palate. The number of tea choices will absolutely amaze you. And the finger sandwiches and scones with Devonshire clotted cream are tantalizing.

Photo by Diane Wong via

Once you have tasted the British cuisine in London, you’ll want to keep returning for more.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Planning a Trip to Anaheim – Theme Park Alternatives

Anaheim is best known for its theme parks, and if you are planning a trip to Anaheim with children, a visit to one or more of the parks is inevitable.  However, there are many other worthwhile adventures and activities available for people of all age and interest groups. Anaheim and its surrounding area in Orange County are great for sporting, shopping, and bar hopping.

Photo by Megan Ball via

Sports for Watching and Playing

Anaheim is home to both Honda Center and Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Depending on when you’re visiting the city, you might be able to catch an Anaheim Ducks hockey game or an L.A. Kiss football game. The arena also hosts many other sporting events and top-name concerts. No matter which event you attend and where you sit, you will have an excellent, and comfortable, view. Honda Center has cushy seats and excellent sight lines and proximity to action. It has been ranked one of the World’s Top 10 Arenas of the Decade by Venues Today Magazine.

When it comes to playing sports, there is no shortage of options in Anaheim. Golfers will delight in the number of courses in the area and can even save money by purchasing an OC Golf Trail Card that provides a 50% discount at five of the most popular courses in Orange County (with a half off a sixth bonus round too). There are also several tennis courts throughout the city for tennis lovers. And don’t forget the ocean that is just a short distance from Anaheim. You’ll relish the surfing and many other water sports.

Shopping for New and Old

The Anaheim area is ideal for shoppers of all kinds. At the local malls, you’ll find everything from high-end, luxury stores, including Hermès, Tiffany & Co., Giorgio Armani, and Kitson, to trendy stores like GUESS, Roxy, and Lucky Brand Jeans, to sporting goods stores where you can pick up casual surf wear.  

If you like shopping for antiques and vintage items, head to Old Towne Orange and Downtown Fullerton. Old Towne Orange has over 60 antique dealers, and it is easy to walk from one to another so you won’t miss out on that perfect find. Downtown Fullerton is a hip area where you can walk amongst historic buildings and shop at a variety of vintage retail stores and antique shops.

Bar Hopping for Beer, Wine, and Cocktails

There are all different types of bars in Anaheim, so you won’t have a problem finding one where you will feel at home. If you like dive bars where you can belly up to the bar and rub elbows with locals, Rio Vista Inn is the place for you. Prefer an upscale bar? Try the lounge at Morton’s The Steakhouse. How about a wine bar? Versai Wine Bar has happy hour from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Do you like the convenience of having a bar in your hotel? Mi Casita Bar and Grill at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel & Suites has several specialty cocktails.

Photo by Melanie King via

There are several other hotels in Anaheim that also have on-site bars and restaurants. Wherever you end up staying, and whatever you end up doing, Anaheim is definitely a place where everyone is guaranteed to have fun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: A Guide to Florence’s Nightlife

Florence is known as the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, and you can witness the results of the Renaissance all throughout the city in its architecture and abundance of artistic masterpieces. You can also rock the cradle by partaking in Florence’s lively nightlife. A night filled with music, dining, and dancing is the perfect way to cap off a day of unforgettable sightseeing on your trip to Florence.

Photo by Kitty Hemingway via

Live Music

Known for its famous banjo band, variety of nightly live music, dance floor, and karaoke, Red Garter will keep you entertained all night. It’s Italy’s first bar opened by an American, so there’s always a good mix of locals and American students studying abroad. The bar’s steakhouse serves traditional American food along with tasty Italian dishes. And you might even be able to catch one of your favorite sports teams playing on the large screens; they often show international sports events.

If you prefer more traditional live stage music, you’ll want to check the schedule at Teatro della Pergola to see if you can catch a performance at the oldest theater in Italy when you are in town. Chamber music, classical concerts, and opera are some of the regularly featured performances at Teatro della Pergola. The theater is often chosen by vocalists for their performances because of its outstanding acoustics.

DJ Music

Famous DJs from around the world come to showcase their talent at Tenax. The dance club attracts a younger, diverse crowd in general, but anyone will get carried away with the beat, the lighting, and the visual effects at this memorable club. You will get a feel for the true Italian nightlife at this club because it is a favorite of locals.

How about some Latin American music in Italy? The Girasol Ristorante Pizzeria has a nightly after dinner DJ who spins Brazilian and Cuban music. You can sip on distinctive cocktails that are selected to complement the music, or you can kick it out on the dance floor. The restaurant is also known for its pastas, Neapolitan-style pizza, and homemade desserts.

Apertif Buffets

There are many bars and clubs that offer free buffets with the purchase of a cocktail. This is a great way to dine inexpensively because the aperitif buffets have meats, pastas, vegetables, and more – enough to turn into a full dinner while you are enjoying some creative, mouthwatering cocktails.

At Moyo, the aperitif buffet menu changes throughout the week, featuring Italian, Mexican, and American cuisines, and more. The drinks are reasonably priced and you are allowed unlimited visits to the buffet. When you are ready to burn off some of the calories from your delicious meal, Moyo has DJ dance music and a dance floor.

Negroni is another club that has a no limits aperitif buffet every day of the week. Their buffet features meat, fish, ethnic, and vegetarian food on different nights during the week. Negorni also has DJ music and dancing.

Photo by Alessandro Ricciardi via

Some of the bars and clubs in Florence are open until 3:00 a.m., so to get the most out of your time in the city, select one of the hotels in Florence that is centrally located to the daytime and nighttime attractions you plan to visit. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Planning a Trip to Rome – Don't Ignore the Cityscape

Rome has one of Italy’s most visually and historically fascinating cityscapes, and no trip to the city would be complete without taking in the amazing art and architecture of the city streets, both above and below ground. When you plan your trip to Rome, make sure to schedule a walking, biking, or Segway tour to experience the city’s street level wonders and schedule acatacomb tour to see the city’s underground treasures.

Photo by Allan Tan via

Famous Fountains

The fountains in Rome are not only beautiful pieces of artwork, they are also part of Rome’s history. The largest, most famous fountain is the Baroque style Trevi Fountain that was featured in the 1960 Fellini movie La Dolce Vita. It was completed in 1762 after years of delays. You will be awed when you see it in person. Another famous fountain is Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain). It was designed and sculpted in 1643 by Bernini (notable as his first public commission). Rome actually has more than 2,000 fountains that each have their own history and artful splendor.

Photo by Travel Loafers via

Obelisks - Egyptian and Roman

Rome has more obelisks than any other city, and many are Egyptian. You might be wondering why. It is because they were transported to Rome after the Romans conquered Egypt. Rome’s oldest and tallest obelisk is Egyptian and was brought to Rome in 357. It was originally built for Egyptian pharaohs in the 15th century B.C. and is now located in Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. The tallest obelisk made in Rome actually sits atop of one of Rome’s famous fountains, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, in the Piazza Navona.

Photo by Charles Arcudi via

Talking Statues of Rome

When the pope governed Rome’s citizens in the 1500’s, they took to using statues as an outlet for posting anonymous criticisms. People would glue pieces of paper to the statues, so it was as if the statues were talking. Pasquino, a male torso, was the original talking statue. He was joined by Marforio, Madama Lucrezia, and Babuino to name a few. The fascinating statues are all around the city. Some are full bodies, and some are torsos. They are each a sight worth seeing.

Treasure-Filled Catacombs

Art history buffs will love the catacombs that contain several genres of early Christian art. Catacombe di San Callisto is the largest of the catacombs and was Rome’s official Christian cemetery. Nine third-century popes were buried there. You’ll see their crypts, as well as many paintings, frescoes, and sculptures. Catacombe di San Sebastiano is smaller, but contains impressive early Christian mosaics and graffiti. The oldest catacombs are Catacombe di San Domitilla. You enter these catacombs through a fourth century church and get to see a second century fresco of the Last Supper.

Photo by Brink of the World via

There are fountains and statues and amazements around every corner in this historic city. Plan to stay in one of the centrally located hotels in Rome, and you will be surrounded by the aesthetics of Rome’s cityscape day and night.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project.
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