You only have one life to live. Live the life you want!
I have always wanted to travel to Asheville, North Carolina as it is known for its beautiful landscape, rich history, art and of course the famed Biltmore Estate. The city is also known for its glass blowing industry, beer and cider breweries and delicious food. Recently, I was able to take a trip to Asheville, NC and it did not disappoint. I was able to take a tour of the city learning its rich history, hike a mountain, and eat at some of the city’s best restaurants.
The area that now inhabits Asheville, North Carolina was previously in the heart of the Cherokee Native American nation. In 1540,Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto came to the area known as Guaxule, bringing the first European visitors. Asheville officially became a town in 1784. The town consisted of a mix of Cherokee Native Americans and European Settlers.
Asheville is a city in western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The weather in Asheville is pretty amazing in the Summers. The July daily average temperature is 73.8 °F (23.2 °C) and there is an average of only 9.4 days with 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs annually. Winters are cool, with a January daily average of 37.1 °F (2.8 °C) and highs remaining at or below freezing for about 5 days.
There are so many attractions and things to do in Asheville, NC. Check out my top 5 things to do in this fun and historical city!
1.Grayline Trolley Tours of Asheville
One of my absolute favorite things to do is to take a trolley, bus or train tour of a new city. It is a great way to visit a city’s top attractions, learn the history of the city and also get good tips of the best places to dine and experience entertainment.
The Grayline Trolley Tours of Asheville did not disappoint! For only $31, you can get a Hop-On Hop-Off ticket that will take you to 10 historic sites in Asheville with a detailed history lesson by the guide. Guests can hop off any stop to explore and the trolley loops back around several times a day so guest can hop back on and get back to their starting destination. Love it! The guides are so nice and accommodating. It was a perfect way to see Asheville.
Bonus Luxetip: If you purchase a Hop-On Hop-Off ticket, you get a 2nd day free! Divas I am telling you this deal is priceless. There is not much available and free parking in Asheville, so taking this trolley ensures you can get around Asheville, visit sites and restaurants and not worry about parking. Yeah!
2. Capella on 9 at AC Hotel Asheville.
If you are looking for a swanky place to hang out and party with gorgeous people, then the rooftop restaurant/bar, Capella on 9 at AC Hotel Asheville is the absolute perfect location.
Capella on 9 boasts killer 360 views of the Smokey Mountains, a gorgeous decor, fab tapas and drinks and live music! We had drinks and tapas at Capella on 9 listening to an acoustic guitar performance with the Sun setting in the background. It could not have been more perfect. Swoon!
The food at Capella on 9 was delicious but I must admit the cocktails stole the show. Yum!
Bonus luxetip: There is always music at Capella on 9. However, on Friday and Saturday nights, the venue has a DJ spinning tunes and the place turns into a fab party! Love it!
3. Hiking Chimney Rock.
Chimney Rock State Park is located about 40 miles east of Asheville and contains a 315-foot rock overlooking Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure. Visiting Chimney Rock offers opportunities for hiking on trails and to the edge of Hickory Nut Falls.
Divas Chimney Rock is simply stunning. If you climb all 491 stairs to the top of Chimney Rock, called Exclamation Point, you will get amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains for miles and miles to see. In addition, you also see beautiful Lake Lure where the film Dirty Dancing was filmed!
The climb to Exclamation Point was strenuous but so worth it. You simply can’t beat memories like this!
Bonus luxetip: Chimney Rock is for everyone, not just hikers! If you are not up for the climb, there is an elevator located at the base of the rock that will take you all the way to the top. And if you make it to the top and get tired like I did, it will take you right back down in less than a minute! LOL!
4. Four Points Sheraton Asheville.
While in Asheville, we stayed at the luxe but budget friendly, Four Points Sheraton Hotel Asheville. This hotel is located in Historic Downtown Asheville and is walking distance to the city’s center and GREAT restaurants.
The hotel boasts super comfy beds, a gorgeous pool, fitness center and the popular Chop House restaurant and bar. The Four Points Sheraton has many cool perks that I just adore. There is free delicious coffee in the lobby in the mornings. I loved that coffee!
Also customer service is always key for me and the employees at the Four Points Sheraton Asheville made us feel right at home. The staff was attentive to our every needs and were super helpful when we were looking for fun nightlife recommendations or simply needed directions.
More importantly, the room rates are affordable. If you are planning a trip to Asheville soon, be sure to click here to view the property’s rates and special offers.
Bonus luxetip: On Wednesdays, simply show your room key and get a free bartender’s choice beer or cider and a free appetizer. So Luxe!
5. Chai Pani and White Duck Taco
Asheville is known for its incredible restaurants! The food in Asheville is insanely delish. The city boasts many award winning chefs!
We ate at two phenomenal restaurants that were so so good but also budget friendly.
First up is Chai Pani. Chai Pani is located in the heart of downtown Asheville. Chai Pani is the brainchild of 3x James Beard nominee, Meherwan Irani and his wife, Molly Irani. Chef Meherwan is from India and has cultivated a eclectic menu featuring street food from all parts of India. The result is food that is so flavorful, there is a literal explosion in your mouth when eating it. It was so good, I literally wanted to cry!
We had appetizers, dinner dishes and Indian spice inspired cocktails.
The curry served at Chai Pani was the best I ever had. It was so rich and creamy, I literally licked my spoon. Visiting Chai Pani for dinner or lunch is a must when visiting Asheville. I can’t wait to get back to have another memorable meal.
My other favorite restaurant in Asheville is White Duck Taco.
White Duck Taco had 3 locations and we visited the original location in the River Arts District. White Duck Taco has a super fun and casual atmosphere and is a lunch favorite with the locals. We quickly discovered why White Duck Taco is a favorite. This place serves the most delish gourmet tacos I have ever had in my life! Have you ever had gourmet tacos?? I never had and these tacos could have been served in a 5 star restaurant.
We had ceviche, ahi tuna, pork belly, fish, Bangkok Shrimp, duck, Korean beef, Thai Peanut Chicken and Korean Beef tacos. Each taco had very distinct flavors and were absolutely delicious. My favorite taco was the Ahi Tuna. This taco was dressed with the most insane pickled ginger….swoon!
White Duck also has two amazing desserts…Mexican Chocolate Pot du Creme w/ Pistachio Nut Crunch and the Coconut Macaroon Pie w/ Salted Caramel.
We tried both and I must say the Mexican Chocolate Pot du Creme was my fav. It was just delectable.
The prices at White Taco are definitely a selling point. Prices range from $4 to $10.
I hope you found this Luxetips Mini-Travel Guide helpful! If you have any city you are traveling to and you are looking for fab things to do and see for little or no cost, be sure to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you truly believe God is control, your worries cease and you really start to live!
Last month, I was able to attend the best high society, luxe event ever!!
Over 75 Jeffrey Fashion Cares
Host Committee members and Patrons descended upon Atlas
, the acclaimed restaurant located in the heart of Buckhead at the St. Regis Atlanta
, for the annual Jeffrey Fashion Cares Patron Party. Fashionable partygoers mixed and mingled on Atlas’ expansive patio while enjoying wine form the Tavistock Reserve Collection and signature cocktails made just for the evening. Guests also noshed on an array of sweet and savory bites from the popular Tavern menu created by Executive Chef Christopher Grossman and Pastry Chef Christian Castillo.
Hosted by Event Co-Chairs Lila Hertz, Jeffrey McQuithy and Louise Sams, the 26th annual Jeffrey Fashion Cares will be held at Phipps Plaza on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 7 p.m.
It includes a high-energy cocktail reception followed by a live auction and runway show featuring founder Jeffrey Kalinsky’s style selections from high-end designers such as Celine, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Calvin Klein, Dries Van Noten, Sacai, Saint Laurent Paris, Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik. One of the largest combined AIDS and breast cancer benefits in the country, this year’s event will benefit Susan G. Komen Greater Atlanta, the Atlanta AIDS Fund (AAF) and the Medical University of South Carolina.
To purchase tickets, be sure to visit www.jeffreyfashioncares.com.
Individual tickets start at $500 and includes a cocktail reception plus silent and live auction, reserved seating for the runway show and admission to the post-show soiree.
I hope to see you there!
Always stand up for yourself! You are worth it!
Last week I had the opportunity to take a full tour of the oh so fab City Winery located in the heart of Atlanta in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
I have to say this was my first time visiting City Winery. It has been open for about 2 years and it is well known for its shows and wine. There are shows featuring artists from all music genres and comedy. Once I took the tour, I could not believe I was sleeping on this amazing place!
City Winery, is a restaurant, urban winery, private event space and intimate music venue. Wine is made on site and is aged in City Winery’s own oak barrels. The winery located has tasting and visitors can take a wine tour of the wine making process. So Fab!
The food selection at City Winery is excellent. I was able to meet Executive Chef Nick Anderson and taste is globally influenced and locally sourced cuisine. We were treated to a family-style dinner that included a seasonal peach salad, pork belly sandwich, assorted flatbreads, hummus, salmon, Brussel sprouts, fried chicken and, of course, Chef’s mouthwatering brisket cooked on a Big Green Egg. Delish!
As I have stated above, City Winery is known for its entertainment options. As a result, we were able to check out a hilarious evening with Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall. I also want to point out the event space is very spacious and the acoustics are amazing. Guests can reserve a table and have dinner and drinks while catching a show. Love!
I was pleased to discover that City Winery had a little secret…, ABV, City Winery’s “Alcohol By Volume” speakeasy. A passcode is required and it is the perfect after hours spot. ABV is open until…. The drinks are creative and strong. It is my new favorite place to hang out in Atlanta.
As you can see, City Winery has a something for everyone. It is the perfect place to have good eats, great libations and a good time.
Be sure to visit their website for a full event line-up.
I have a bad habit of saving things for a special occasion. But I have learned that life can be fleeting and can change in an instant. If we keep waiting to enjoy that one luxe thing, we may never get the opportunity to do so. So I say, enjoy life and things now! Live!
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting UNO de 50, a luxe Spanish jewelry brand, at their Atlanta location in Lenox Square Mall. The Atlanta location opened a year ago and since opening, it has been a fav of the stylish set!
Uno de 50 was launched in the 1990s with the original and exclusive philosophy of creating 50 of each design, giving rise to the brand name. The brand was later acquired by design icon, José Azulay, Mr. Azulay, added his signature design to the brand with a newly cultivated process of creating characteristic jewelry with decidedly original designs.
Each piece is made with quality elements such as silver, gold, leather, crystals and pearls. In addition, the alloy used by the brand is one of its distinguishing features.
I simply fell in love with this brand! Uno de 50’s pieces are unique and gorgeous! They are distinct and creative. Plus there are many different statement pieces to choose from. Check out the designs!
Here I am sporting a necklace I simply fell in love with: Swoon!
Each UNO de 50 piece ranges in price from about $100-$1000. So the line is affordable for every budget! And if you are looking for a unique and luxe gift for the stylish Mom in your life, a gift from UNO de 50 is a must!
Remember Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 13th and UNO de 50 is promoting their Mother’s Day Collection with a cool gift! With any purchase over $200, you or Mom will receive this cool leather pouch!
To purchase UNO de 50’s beautiful jewelry, you can visit a UNO de 50 near you or simply make a purchase online.
I heard this quote from Oprah today: I refuse to meet negativity with negativity. I rise above negativity. Just a tiny bit of light will always overpower negativity. Truth.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to enjoy a much needed staycation at the new Sonesta Hotel Gwinnett Place in Duluth, GA right outside of Atlanta.
The Sonesta Hotel brand is synonymous with boutique, luxury and superb customer service. Sonesta Hotels and Resorts are located all over the world offering an urban and chic hotel experience.
You can feel the “Sonesta Experience” as soon as you enter the hotel.
The lobby area is ultra modern and swanky! There is cool art, creative furnishings and cool gathering spots for guests.
The fabulousness of the hotel did not end there. Once we reached our floor, we were greeted with more art and luxe finishes in the hallways.
Of course, the room exceeded all of our expectations. Take a look!
The bed was absolutely insanely comfy. It is plush with the most plush bedding. The bed is so comfy, we did not want to get out of it. Love.
The bath products were from my absolute fav body beauty brand, the french L’Occitane. Swoon! Talking about bathing in luxury.
All Sonesta rooms come equipped with complimentary wi-fi, hi-def flat screen TVs, 24 hour room service and wake-up call.
Plus the view we had from our 17th floor room was not bad either.
Of course the luxeness of the hotel did not end there. We had dinner at the hotel’s very popular Art Bar. This Bar features dinner and cocktails. It is a great place to grab a night cap or to watch the game. The bartender, Barbara, is the best! If you make it there, make sure to say hello!
The next morning, we slept in super late because of course we did not want to get out of the super comfy bed. But we did manage to have lunch and check out the hotel’s indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, outdoor lounge area and state of the art fitness center.
We had lunch at the Grapevine restaurant. The Grapevine serves a buffet style breakfast and lunch for guests. Our lunch was delicious! We had wings and blue crab dip with the most yummy bread. So good!
The Sonesta Hotel Gwinnett Place is the perfect hotel for a quick staycation if you live in the Atlanta area. It is far enough away where you feel like you have escaped the hustle and bustle of the city and it is in a unique setting.
The Sonesta Hotel Gwinnett Place has rooms and suites. The average hotel stay is $130 per night.
However, the hotel is always offering packages and promotions. We were able to experience the Romance Package which included champagne, truffles and breakfast for two for only $155 per night. Affordable and luxe.
If you want to celebrate a special night with someone special or just want to treat yourself, the Sonesta Gwinnett Place is the perfect hotel! Book your reservation here.
Disclaimer: Hotel stay, dinner and lunch was provided complimentary.
Love is beautiful!
As you Divas know from my previous article on St. Augustine, FL, it is one of best places I ever visited. The history is so rich! Of course it is not surprising the city also has a rich African-American history as well.
St.Augustine is the home to some of the first free blacks to live in America. Yes there were blacks that came to the new world who were not slaves! They owned businesses and developed their own community in St. Augustine, FL called Lincolnville.
Also St. Augustine, FL was on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. It is the place of one of the very first sit-ins. This sit-in has been memorialized at the new Museum of African-American history in Washington, DC.
Iconic civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young marched in St. Augustine and we’re jailed for their efforts.
So it is no surprise that St. Augustine, Fl celebrates Black History Month in a huge way! The are events happening almost everyday to celebrate the rich history of African-Americans.
if you are in or near St. Augustine in the next few days, here are some events that are a must!
February 22: Black History Month Special at the Corazon Cinema and Cafe
Lee Weaver, St. Augustine’s own actor/playwright, presents The Witness about the Civil Rights struggle in America, especially in St. Augustine. This events takes place at the Corazon Cinema and Cafe at 7 p.m. Admission is $20. 36 Granada St., St. Augustine 904-679-5736 www.corazoncinemaandcafe.com
February 25: An Evening with Mavis Staples at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall proudly welcomes Gospel and Soul legend Mavis Staples to the stage. Staples is living, breathing history. She is an alchemist of American music, having continuously crossed genre lines like no musician since Ray Charles. Weaving herself into the very fabric of gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock and hip hop. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the performance is at 8 p.m. Admission is $78.50 and $68.50. 1050 A1A North, Ponte Vedra Beach 904-209-0367 www.pvconcerthall.com
Here are more ways to celebrate the African-American History Heritage and Civil Rights every day on Florida’s Historic Coast every day
Sit quietly in the natural preserve that is Fort Mose State Park where people from different countries came together as equals in a shared cause – freedom in a land of their own. In 1738, slaves fleeing from the British were granted their freedom by the Spanish who occupied St. Augustine. In exchange for converting to Catholicism and pledging to join the Spanish in defending the territory from their enemies, these former slaves found a home of their own. That settlement was Fort Mose, where free men and their families formed a militia and the northern defense post for the nation’s oldest city.
Actually, freedom in St. Augustine goes back even further for African-Americans. Africans were among the explorers and soldiers who first discovered Florida, sailing with Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez – not as slaves, but as soldiers in the service of Spain.
Fort Mose is located at 15 Fort Mose Trail, less than 5 minutes from the historical attractions, restaurants and shopping of the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine.
The Civil Rights Movement and St. Augustine
St. Augustine played a pivotal role in the nation’s Civil Rights movement. On June 9, 1964, Civil Rights movement leader Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested in St. Augustine during a protest for human rights. Alongside King was Andrew Young. Young led a night march from Lincolnville to the Constitution Plaza where he was met with violent opposition. Young and his group of demonstrators were beaten by a white mob of 300 armed men who had waited for the marchers to arrive. The activists, being true to Dr. King’s non-violent strategy, walked away injured, many taken to area hospitals.
Walk in the footsteps of Dr. Andrew Young through the city’s plaza, a place where Dr. Young peacefully marched before being struck down in the street. True to Dr. King’s non-violent strategy, these brass footsteps embedded in the plaza sidewalk honor Young’s walk in protest. This video includes an interview with Dr. Young and explains the making of the Dr. Andrew Young Crossing memorial in St. Augustine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp83EJ2NXiQ
Also located in the plaza, the Foot Soldiers Monument is a 675 lb. monument featuring four life-size busts representative of the foot soldiers that engaged in peaceful protests in St. Augustine in the early 1960’s. http://www.brianowensart.com/stAugBronze.html
St. Augustine Civil Rights Library
In 2013, Flagler College launched the Civil Rights Library (www.CivilRightsLibrary.com), an extensive online archive that was the culmination of years of research and collaboration between faculty, students, historians and people who lived in and visited St. Augustine during the tumultuous times of the civil rights movement. The student-led project features never before seen items including FBI files detailing Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in St. Augustine, as well as the surveillance the city was under both before and after MLK arrived. Other items include details on the arrest of the St. Augustine Four, audio of Jackie Robinson’s visit, and civil rights archives from Andrew Young.
Accord Freedom Trail
The ACCORD Freedom Trail Project consists of 31 historic markers located at various sites significant to the St. Augustine Civil rights movement. A cell phone audio tour is available by calling 904-335-3002. Learn more at www.accordfreedomtrail.org.
African Americans in Sports
Explore the World Golf Hall of Fame “Honoring the Legacy” exhibit that celebrates African- Americans in golf. This exhibition contains rare photographs, audio, video and memorabilia to highlight the long, rich history of African-Americans in golf starting with pioneers from the late 1800s through today’s game. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a sculpture designed by the renowned artist Mario Chiodo which celebrates 13 African-American golf legends and represents an historic timeline of African-Americans in golf. For more about this special exhibit visit www.WorldGolfHallofFame.org
By Appointment: ACCORD Civil Rights Museum
Discover St. Augustine’s role in the struggle for Civil Rights and the city’s pivotal influence in the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Housed in the former offices of Dr. Robert Hayling, a local dentist who was instrumental in getting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to personally participate in the efforts to desegregate the Oldest City, the museum features numerous artifacts and documents relating to the local Civil Rights movement. Admission is by appointment only. Contact Liz Duncan at 904-347-1382. Admission is free (donations accepted). 79 Bridge St., St. Augustine. www.AccordFreedomTrail.org
Allow yourself to feel and grieve. Life can be hard and difficult, but allow yourself the time to heal.
Last week I had the amazing opportunity to test drive the all new Mazda 3 4-Door Touring Sedan. This car is luxurious, fast and chock full of technology. My family and I loved whipping it around Atlanta! Check it out!
The exterior design of the Mazda X3 is pretty slick. The signature Kodo design: “Soul of Motion” creates a sense of motion, even at a standstill. The car has pretty awesome aerodynamic curves. It is a great looking car. Check it out!
The interior of the Mazda 3 4-Door Grand Touring Sedan is super luxurious. It is decked out in premium hand stitched leather seats and steering wheel. The sports seats are molded to contour to the body so the driver and passenger feel like they are part of the vehicle. It is a truly a comfortable ride.
The interior also includes a full-color Active Driving Display. This display is only visible to the driver and provides speed, speed limit, traffic signs and road conditions. I loved this feature of the vehicle. It kept me within the speed limit. It is great for those who like speed but don’t like traffic tickets. LOL!
The 7 inch full -color touch screen display houses all the Mazda Connect 7 Infotainment System. This system can be navigated via touch screen or by easily accessible dial on the center console.
Other cool interior features are heated seats, dual temperature control and of course this gorgeous sun roof!
Mazda Connect 7 Infotainment System is the center of the Mazda 3’s technology. It controls and operates the following:
- Bose audio system with 6 speakers. The sound is insane!
- Full turn by turn Navigation
- Bluetooth hand-free phone and audio streaming
- Voice Command
- HD Radio
- SMS text message audio delivery and reply
- E911 automatic emergency notification
The Mazda 3 has some pretty cool safety features. My favorite safety feature is the Blind Spot Monitor System. This system alerts you when cars are too close on the sides, front and back of the car so you can avoid collisions. This system was super helpful when navigating Atlanta traffic. Priceless.
The Mazda 3 is a powerful vehicle. It is a luxury car packed in a sports car. My kind of car. It goes from 0-60 in 7.5 seconds. Wowza! It also has 184 horsepower and a 4 cylinder 2.5 L engine. The fuel economy is great too! It gets 36 miles per gallon. So it is light on the pockets! Love it!
The Mazda 3 Touring 4-Door Sedan is perfect for a family of four. It has enough space in the rear for small children and car seats. There is plenty of leg room for adults. The trunk space is quite amazing! As my husband and I were preparing for our Super Bowl party, we were able to fit all of our groceries, plus my son’s baseball gear and backpacks in the trunk with room to spare. I couldn’t believe how spacious the trunk space is in the new Mazda 3. Love.
If you are looking for a luxury sedan with a sports car vibe, the Mazda 3 Touring Sedan is the vehicle for you. I truly loved driving it around town. It is also affordable. It retails for only $24,000.
Always treat others with kindness. A kind word or gesture may help someone get through the day.
St. Augustine, FL is an amazing city filled with rich history and culture. I had previously visited St. Augustine, FL for a quick 3 day trip with my kids in 2014. We did a little sightseeing, but we did not really get a chance to take tours and learn about the city’s deep history and gems. Thankfully, I was recently invited to visit the city again by the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau. This time I really got to know this unique place. Divas my mind was blown! St. Augustine is a city that is beautiful, full of unique history and amazing architecture.
St. Augustine, FL is the oldest city in America. Who knew! In 1513, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida. He landed somewhere between Cape Canaveral and the mouth of the St. John’s River, (located in St. Augustine). Ponce de Leon found the original inhabitants of the area, the Timucuan Indians. It is believed, around this time, Ponce de Leon began searching for The Fountain of Youth. He was curious as to what the Timucuan Indians were drinking to make them so healthy and live long lives. Ponce de Leon named his discovery La Florida and claimed it for Spain.
Ponce de Leon was only in the St. Augustine area briefly as he explored other parts of La Florida and eventually ended up on the West Coast near Fort Myers. Later, in 1565 Spanish admiral Pedro Menedez de Aviles was given permission to sail to Florida to explore the new land and he founded St. Augustine. He became Florida’s first governor. The Spaniards and the Timucua Indians had a rocky relationship but eventually settled into a tolerable relationship living side by side. Menedez also brought free blacks to the area. Later the area became a hub for the slave trade. The mixture of the Spanish, African, and Timucua Indians began a rich cultural history in the area.
The weather in St. Augustine is pretty amazing. The average weather temperature in St. Augustine is around 80’s. The coldest month is February and the lowest average temperature is 58 degrees. The hottest month is August with the highest average temperature being 81 degrees. Love it! There is low percipitation and mostly clear blue skies. Love! There are so many attractions and things to do in St. Augustine. Check out my top 5 things to do in this fun and historical city!
1. Marker 8 Hotel & Marina.
The Marker 8 Hotel & Marina is located just over the famous Bridge of Lions adjacent to the most gorgeous marina and the Matanzas Bay. The Marker 8 Hotel & Marina just underwent a major renovation and boasts beautiful rooms with views of the bay, luxurious beds, hardwood floors and the most amazing rain showers.
However, the fabulousness of the property does not end there. With your stay, each guests gets complimentary breakfast and I am not talking about the traditional continental breakfast. Breakfast is made to order and offerings include eggs scrambles, omelets, Belgian waffles and more! Each breakfast comes with coffee or tea, orange juice and fruit. The breakfast was soooo good. Each day I stayed at the hotel, I kept wanting to pay and I was informed breakfast is included with your stay.
Plus you get to eat your breakfast with the most amazing view from the Captain’s Room.
The hotel also has other amenities like a full gym, free internet access, free hotel parking (yeah) and afternoon fresh baked brownies. Swoon! But I must say my absolute favorite aspect of the hotel is the customer service. The customer service is superb! Every hotel employee greated us by name. We were running late for breakfast and the kitchen called our room to make sure we were still coming and if so, they would wait on us. Like that has never happened before and I love it! The hotel staff was very knowledgeable of the area and gave us pointers on cool things to do and how to get around the city. The hotel only has 26 rooms and suites, so you really get the personalized customer service of a Bread and Breakfast at a hotel. My husband and I both agreed that when we come back to St. Augustine, FL, the Marker 8 Hotel & Marina will be our hotel of choice. Rooms range from $169-$199 per night.
Luxetip: Every evening at 5:30pm the hotel hosts social hour at the Charter Bar. Guest can gather at the Charter Bar and enjoy beer, wine and snacks. The room has a gorgeous view of the bay, the outdoor heated pool and fire pit. The fire pit is so cozy and is perfect for sipping wine and getting to know other guests. This amenity is included in your stay. Wowza!
2. Anastasia State Park.
Of course I had to visit the beach as my husband and I are beach fanatics. We chose Anastasia State Park because of it’s rich history. Anastasia State Park is actually Anastasia island and was acquired by the State of Florida in 1949. Before that, the island was a major source of coquina limestone, which was used in the 1600s to construct the famous fort in St. Augustine, the Castillo de San Marcos. (More about coquina below)
The beach is gorgeous and pristine. I love the fact it has not been developed with hotels, condos and restaurants. There are only a couple of food shacks and a visitor’s center on the beach. It is the perfect place to take a long walk, hunt for sea shells or simply sit and enjoy the view. Check it out!
Luxetip: The fee to enter Anastasia State Park is $8 per car. Each month there is a Guided Bird Tour for all levels of bird watchers. Participants will observe a diverse variety of shore birds, marsh birds, and hammock birds by walking the beach, boardwalks, nature trails, and other areas.
3. The St. Augustine Lighthouse.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse is a must when visiting St. Augustine. The St. Augustine Lighthouse is the oldest oldest, permanent aid to navigation in North America. First it was a Spanish Watchtower built in the 1500s. In 1872 Congress appropriated $100K for a new tower and the existing tower was built. The St. Augustine Lighthouse rises 165 feet above sea level and contains 219 steps.
Of course we climbed all 219 steps. It is so beautiful inside the tower and we got a chance to stop at every landing to read a little bit of history. Once we reached the top of the Lighthouse, the view was insane! Check it out!
Luxetip: After climbing all of those steps, we were quite famished. So we had a great dinner at Catch 27, a restaurant that boasts fresh seafood and of course the catch of the day.
Yum! Afterwards we treated ourselves to a luxe treat of ice cream sandwiches from Peace Pies. The hubby had a strawberry ice cream sandwich and I had chocolate brownie. Delish! Both establishments are located in downtown St. Augustine and in walking distance of each other.
4. Flagler College Tour.
One of the most amazing places I visited while in St. Augustine, was Flagler College. Flagler College by far is the most beautiful college I ever visited. It simply leaves you speechless. Flagler College was originally built by the ultra rich Henry Flagler as a luxury resort for the super wealthy. Henry Flagler became extremely wealthy in his time from constructing railroads. In 1888, his famous hotel Ponce de Leon was opened. Guests could only book 3 month stays at a value of $4000, which today translates into $100,000. Wowza!
The Ponce De Leon Hotel was and still is an architectural and engineering marvel way ahead of its time. Henry Flagler spared no expense in constructing the hotel. It is one of the first buildings to have full electricity and Flagler created a water purification system to rid the local water of sulfur so his guests did not have to smell sulfer while enjoying the property. Wow!
However, my favorite part of the college are the accessories. All gold finishes and touches are real 14 karat gold. It contains the largest collection of original Tiffany glass. It is so valuable it is priceless. And it contains real and rare Austrian Crystal chandeliers that have been valued between 2-8 million dollars each. Swoon! I was literally in an architectural and interior design heaven while visiting the college. Love, love love.
After operating for many years as a hotel, it closed its does in 1967. In 1968, it became Flagler College. Today Flagler College is a top rated liberal arts college and boasts one of the top arts programs in the country.
Luxetip: After taking a tour of Flagler College, you can walk across the street and check out the historic Lightner Museum. Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel, another Henry Flagler hotel built in 1888. Beautiful building. I saw the The Dressing Downtown Exhibit which featured the original costumes from the hit show, Downtown Abbey. The clothing was displayed in time appropriate settings with a brief description of each scene the clothing was worn. While the Dressing Downton exhibit is no longer at the Lightner, the museum’s furnishings and beautiful collection remains open. This Museum is full of gorgeous art and history! Be sure to check their calendar for the next fab exhibit!
5. Castillo de San Marcos.
Construction of this famous fort began in 1672 by Spain as a necessary defense due to the continued threats and attacks St. Augustine faced from pirates and Great Britain. The Spanish discovered a readily available building material on nearby Anastasia Island called coquina: rock composed of tiny seashells concreted together beneath the sea. The coquina rock proved to be invaluable as the fort was never destroyed by cannon balls or any other attacks. It has allowed this fort to remain standing after almost 400 years. Amazing.
The fort exchanged hands several times. The British gained possession of the fort as a result of winning the France/England War. As a thank you for helping the colonies win their independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War, Spain once again gained possession of the fort and St. Augustine. Later, America brought Florida from Spain for 5 million dollars and the fort became the property of the United States as it remains to this day.
Luxetip: View a historic weapons demonstration every weekly, every Sunday, Friday and Saturday. Re-enactors explain and demonstrate the weapons of the Colonial era which are still located in the fort. So cool.
Bonus luxetip: Another cool thing to do in St. Augustine, FL is to take a tour of the entire city on the Red Train. For only $23 you can get a 3 day pass that will give you a guided tour of all the historical sites in St. Augustine, on and off privileges and free shuttle service to and from your hotel. It is the best way to get around town and the tour guides are rock stars!
Bonus luxetip: We ate dinner at a super fab and historic restaurant, A1A Aleworks. It is located right across from Castillo de San Marcos and has amazing seafood, ale and craft beers. Delish! Little known fact: the building that houses the restaurant is the site of the first Catholic Church in St. Augustine.
I hope you found this Luxetips Mini-Travel Guide helpful! If you have any city you are traveling to and you are looking for fab things to do and see for little or no cost, be sure to send us an email at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: Hotel accommodations, tickets to attractions and dinner was provided complimentary of St. Augustine Tourism board.
Life is too short to not live the life you want. If you want to travel, figure out a way to travel..If you want to move to Oregon and weave baskets…do that. Live your life!
St. Lucia is an island I have always dreamed of visiting. It is so beautiful and from what I hear, a great R&R vacation destination. Check out this article on 9 things you must do when visiting St. Lucia. I can’t wait to get there!
St. Lucia is an island in the middle of the Lesser Antilles. A peculiar detail about St. Lucia is that it’s a volcanic island, but that does not stop it from being one of the most beautiful spots in the entire Caribbean. It hosts jungles and rainforests, tall mountain peaks, and rugged coastlines, and pristine nature that waits be to be explored. St. Lucia’s location is unique, it’s considered a premier destination for adventures and adrenalin-fused activities. It’s not that you can’t visit the island for some rest and relaxation, but that’s not its focus.
One of the most fascinating aspect of St. Lucia is its unique blend of culture and history. Because of different people arriving and living on the island, and in different times, the traditions and cuisines are varied and have since meshed in the modern culture of St. Lucia. There’s something to see in just about every part of the island, whether it’s hiking the mountains, exploring the castles, or visiting the volcano.
Organizing a stay in the island is pretty easy and straightforward. There are plenty of options for hotels and resorts, but if you prefer something more homely, renting a villa in St. Lucia can be an excellent option.
Experiencing the entirety of St. Lucia can be amazing, so here are a few examples of activities.
Stroll along Vigie Beach
This is an example of a pretty unusual beach by modern standards. Unlike most other beaches in the world, on this one you’ll be hard pressed to find a gift shop or a restaurant. That’s because there aren’t any. That’s why it’s considered one of the most serene places you can visit on St. Lucia.
Be romantic on Anse Chastanet
The acclaimed architect Nick Troubetzkoy is the designer behind the Anse Chastanet, a spot that’s widely considered the most romantic place in the entire Caribbean. Beside candlelit dinners, visitors enjoy sweeping views of natural scenery, as well the UNESCO protected Pitons.
Explore the Gros Piton
A volcanic site that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Gros Piton is a mountain that’s often climbed by both locals and visitors alike. Since it’s not especially tall, it can be climbed in less than a day, but the volcanic summit allows for some breathtaking views of the entire Soufirere Bay. Because of warm climate, it can be visited and enjoyed throughout the entire year, and it’s highly recommended by anyone that’s ever climbed it.
Examine the history in Morne Fortune
Above the city of Castries you can find Morne Fortune. It’s an old fort from colonial times, and it represents the bloody history of the island. This stronghold was originally built by the British, and was later taken by the French. Since then it has seen its share of conflict by the factions that vied for power and control in the region. Today it’s the home to old artillery and ruined gun houses, as well a chilling memorial to the 27th Inniskilling Regiment.
See the Sulphur Springs
The Sulphur Springs are a very unique location that you can visit in St. Lucia. They’re volcanic leftovers that spew smoke and ash, and visitors can see them from up close. Bathing is impossible in the springs, though, since the temperatures are about 200°C, but exploring the springs and the region is easy because they’re connect with roadways from the ridges and the jungle.
Bathe in the mud pools
A perfect place to simply relax. They’re pools of mud that are formed by trickling down from the volcanic opening, and have been used since the French colonial times. Nowadays, they’re modernized, and there are separate baths with changing rooms and showers. Because they’re considered a place for healing, many visitors often come to these famous mud baths to cure tension. The temperatures in the mud baths can reach 38°C but you can also relax in add-on pools that are right next to the mud baths.
Have a tour in the Botanical Gardens
When the French controlled the island in Colonial Times, the King of France Louis XIV sanctioned the construction of Soufriere Estate. A large part of the estate were tropical rainforest that was carefully organized into a lush expanse of unparalleled natural beauty. The original Soufriere Estate was around 2000 acres, but even though the modern site isn’t as large, it’s still comprised of that same beauty. Orchids, hibiscus, ferns, and all sorts of flowers and plants are maintained here today, in what’s considered one of the most beautiful places in that part of the world.
Hike in the rainforests
On every part of the island there’s a perfect hiking trail. Gros Piton may be its most famous, but there are many other that are in excellent condition. The paths on Frigate Island is a great example, or the Barre de L’isle rain forest. Because the nature is pretty much untouched by man, and the pristine beauty of the island has captivated many visitors, there are constant hiking trips being organized all the time.
Have a blast at the food festivals
St. Lucia yearly hosts a few festivals that can hardly be matched. They last from a few days up to a week, and they’ve been known as some of the finest and most fun activities you can have on the island. Some of the festivals are organized by two rival historical organizations, and they compete for who has the best food on the island. There are constant parties during the festivals, and due to the rich cultural tapestry the island has, the food is varied and amazing.
St. Lucia sounds amazing! It is on my list of places to visit this year. Have you ever been there? If so, leave a comment and let me know some of your tips.
Tell someone you love them today. It may be just what they need.
Valentine’s Day is exactly 14 days away and it is time to get those V-Day plans together.
If you are still looking for ideas and want a luxurious and decadent experience, then The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta has many fab and romantic options. Check them out!
Italian Vines Wine Tasting Event
If you are looking for a luxe pre-Valentine’s Day event and you love fine wine, then the Italian Vines Wine Tasting Event is for you.
During the month of love, journey to Italy with Mauro Maugliani, an Italian Wine Specialist from Rome. Guests will enjoy tasting five Italian wines paired with passed tapas and a cheese and charcuterie display while Mauro shares his knowledge of the wines being served. Tickets priced at USD 90 per person including valet parking.
WHERE: Taipan Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
WHEN: February 7, 2018 from 6:30pm to 9:30pm
This is so my kind of event! I’m putting this on my list!
Valentine’s Venetian Carnivale
Another pre-Valentine’s Day experience is The Valentine’s Venetian Carnivale. This event is for those of you who like to build up the romance before V-Day or those who want to avoid the Valentine’s Day crowd.
Enjoy a taste of Italy in Buckhead. Escape to Venice at The Café & Bar for a romantic dining experience featuring Northern Italian and Venetian bar bites, wine and specialty cocktails. The restaurant will be decorated in carnival-style and classic Italian music will be played.
WHERE: The Café & Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
WHEN: January 27 to February 13, 2018 from 5pm to 10pm
Valentine’s Day Dinner
For the big day, enjoy a three-course prix fixe menu at The Café & Bar. The dinner will begin with a caviar service, followed by guest’s choice of entrée and finished with a chocolate fondue. Krug Champagne will be available by the glass and bottle and caviar service can also be ordered a la carte. Ooh la la!
WHERE: The Café & Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
WHEN: February 14, 2018 from 5pm to 10pm
So luxe! If you are interested in any of the above Valentine’s Day events at The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta, be sure to contact the Mandarin Oriental via the below information to reserve your spot!
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