Friday, February 12, 2016

Friday Five: favorite places Matt & I have stayed

By my best count, Matt and I have stayed 30 different places on our 15 vacations, 9 of those were just in Europe.  All have been at least ok, a few really good, and a few that really stand out as our favorites.  I didn't take into consideration the vacation destination, just the lodging here.  And when Matt and I compared, he came up with pretty much all the same ones as me all on his own.  If you ever find yourself traveling to these places, we'd highly recommend the following:

1) The Blue Banyan - Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
I've said it many many time to Matt: if we ever win millions of dollars in the lottery we don't play, I'd want to buy this place.  It's the first vacation place I booked on my own, on our first trip post-honeymoon, and 8+ years later it's still my favorite.  Hawaii had long been a dream for me so I might have been happy in a shack on the beach, getting to stay in a really nice place walking distance to the beach, ABC stores, and a frozen coke was just a plus.

Staying right on the beach in Hawaii is obviously a little pricey and wasn't in our budget.  Instead we were about 2 blocks away, in a condo complex with a pool (that I never used...we were right by the beach!).  We had a balcony (lanai), full kitchen, a nice bedroom and bathroom, and a nice sitting area.  It was perfect.  It also had bamboo floors which is what lead to me getting some in my office at home.  I can still remember the feeling of that condo, the air conditioning, the smell, the view.  The bedroom had a window facing the window and we'd wake up the blue of the ocean out the window.  It was perfect.  Someday I want to go back.  Really bad.  

2) Kiteboarders Paradise - The Outer Banks, North Carolina
This remains one of my favorite vacations because of how darn relaxing it was.  I had been to the Outer Banks with my family 11 years earlier and loved it.  I loved going back.  Staying here was a little was just Matt and I but we had 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms.  It's bigger than our house.  BUT it was worth it.  It was a really nicely done condo right on the sound which meant sunsets over the water from our balcony every single night.  We had a private hot tub and grill on the balcony.  There was a washer, dryer, and full kitchen with a dishwasher.  There was a pool on the property and it was an easy walk to the ocean beach.  We kayaked practically right outside our door.  I would easily stay here again (if the prices haven't jumped, it was pretty new when we stayed).  Maybe when we could fill more than one bedroom. 

3) Villa Paradiso - Miami Beach
Miami Beach was never high on my list of places to stay but then Matt was getting sent to a conference in Miami one October and so, of course, I tagged along.  His work paid for the hotel for the conference portion but it was $200/night and not near the beach.  I wasn't going to pay to stay there.  We went a few days early and stayed here. It was about $100/night and only a block from Miami Beach.  I was seriously considering a hotel right on the beach but it was much more expensive and this place came with a full kitchen.  Of which we only used the fridge (for milk for our morning cereal and for our "free" HUGE second take home drink from a bar).  But this place was really spacious, nicely done, and felt a lot more private and personal than a hotel.  Our early morning flight also got us here hours before check-in but they still let us in our room which was awesome because we had flown out of Indiana in September and were wearing jeans and had jackets.  It was 80°+ in Miami.  It was a really pleasant surprise, lodging and location.  Our last real vacation vacation pre-Luke.

4) Alpine Guesthouse - Dingle, Ireland

Our trip to Europe took me months to plan.  I told Matt many times that I probably spent as much time planning the trip as we did actually on the trip.  And of all 9 places we stayed, this one was our favorite.  It might be slightly influenced by being in Dingle, which was our favorite part of Ireland, but also because it had a parking lot.  An actual, off-street, parking lot.  Of all the places we had a car for (6 of the 9) this was the only time we didn't have to stress about parking and that was huge.  Also, fantastic breakfast, they let us leave our luggage hours before check-in, and it was the best view from our room we had in two weeks.  It wasn't right in town but a few, easy minute walk outside which I'll take for the parking.  And had a clothes washing place next door (know what's weird...handing some stranger your dirty underwear to wash (along with the rest of our clothes)).  Of all the places we went in Europe, London, Paris, and Dingle are the ones we want to visit again the most.  If we are every back we will stay here. 

5) Burnham Beach Cottage - Redondo Beach, California

We've done a lot of VRBO for our vacations and this one of our lucky finds.  It was a little strange literally staying in a stranger's backyard (seriously, it was their backyard) but the cottage was so cute and charming.  It was super tiny but had a living room, kitchen (again, for breakfast storage), bedroom, and bathroom.  It was just so quaint and made me want my own tiny vacation place to decorate!  We stayed in Redondo Beach mainly because of the OC connection (read my California travel post) but it ended up being a fantastic place, one of our favorite parts of this trip.  We were an easy walk to the pier where we stopped every day, even having pancakes at the same diner as on The OC.  They had bikes we could have borrowed and a swimming beach nearby but we were so busy doing other stuff (Catalina Island, Universal Studios) that we never took advantage of either.  Redondo Beach was away from the LA craziness (experiencing Hollywood for a few hours, one day, was enough) but close enough to the things we wanted to do.  And still a beach town.  I don't know that we'll ever be back in Southern California but this would be where we stay if we were!

I wish we could include

Where we stayed on our first trip to New York, it was super super tiny but had a kitchen (uhhhh...for milk for breakfasts...) and was a PERFECT location - right in between Times Square and Central Park, across the street from a subway stop, and easy walking distance to most of what we wanted to see.  BUT...then we got screwed when we tried to stay in the same place for our second trip and so it got crossed off the list.  But it would have been one of our favorites if not for that!

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