Thursday, June 3, 2010

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Yay, Jamiaca is finally here. I don't know about you but I have been the most exciting about blogging about this trip then any of my others (I've loved them all though...)

Back in March, P surprised me with a trip to Jamaica for our one year anniversary (I seriously married the most AMAZING guy!) I had been to Jamaica long ago and don't even remember where it was that we went, (I think it was Ocho Rios) but all I could remember was how amazing and beautiful the beaches were and how crystal clear the water was. My memories served me correct and as soon as we landed we were ready to hit the beach! A fluke March snow storm, bringing almost 6 inches of snow to Dallas the day we left was the prefect excuse for us to get the hell out of dodge and head to warm beautiful Jamaica!
We flew directly from DFW to Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was such an easy flight, only about 2.5 hours and we used some miles to upgrade to Business Class (FYI, try using your miles to upgrade to business/first class. Its a great way to use some of your miles and you don't have to clean out your miles bank account!). The Montego Bay airport is very large and they have a lot of direct flights from DFW and other large airports.

On the way to the resort, seeing the country side

Rose Hall-Ritz Carlton, Montego Bay

We stayed at the Rose Hall- Ritz Carlton, Montego Bay. It is so perfect, its only about a 10 min drive to the resort from the airport and as anyone that has ever traveled to Jamaica knows, when traveling to a lot of the Sandles properties it is typically a few hours drive to get to your resort! There is nothing wrong with traveling to get to the perfect place but I would recomended Jamiaca (espeically Montego Bay) as a great extended-weekend vacation and when you are short on time, its nice to have a direct flight and a short taxi to your final destination!

The front entry of the resort

The Rose Hall is a great resort to stay in while traveling to Jamaica! The exterior memicks the grand english plantations that used to sweep the country side of Montego Bay (and there are still some remaining).
When you arrive at the Ritz, you are instantly greeted with champagne and VERY helpful attendants. Your luggage is sweeped away so you do not have to deal with it and it magically appears in your room later (I HATE dealing with luggage so I am instantly impressed when this happens!)

The lobby is very colorful and inviting. Still mimicking the english plantations, the lobby reminds me of a formal living room in an old plantation. There are large window that look out onto an expansive lawn with the pool area in the background.
The view of the resort from the pool area

Here is the view from the pool area and the lawn I talked about earlier. Everyday around 3pm there was a kids soccer game on the lawn (P was very upset he could not go and join in the fun!)
Pool area

Of course we checked into our room and instantly threw on our suites and headed for the pool/beach! It was a little late in the day so we decided to grab a drink and just relax by the pool. It was so crazy coming from a blizzard (by Texas' standards) and a few hours later we were in warm tropical weather and on a beach.

I will say, the Pina's are not as good as they are in Cayman (a little disappointing) but none the less, I threw caution to the wind and indulged in Pina's all week :) The guys out by the pool are so nice and helpful. P and I were desperate from REAL jerk food so we kept asking the pool guys where their fav was... more on that later ;)

The next day we headed for the beach. I will be honest, the beach is not THAT great. It is very rocky and the water was very cold (the water temp could have to do with the fact we were there pretty early in the season.) The ocean water is crystal clear and the sand is as white as you can imagine. It was much prettier to look at than to enjoy though.

The resort provides a lot of water entertainment. You can rent kayaks, hobi cats, sailing and wind surfing lessons and snorkeling equipment. Rose Hall provides beautiful cabanas for rental as well. It is the prefect way to enjoy the beach without worrying about getting too much sun!

BEAUTIFUL! Can't wait to go back!

They have full wait staff and bar service on the beach... for all the Pina's you will be ordering! Plus, its not a true beach experience without buying some local goods...

We bought cups, glasses, and randomly he threw in an ash tray for free

Next up... FOOD

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


If my long breaks from blogging is just not working for you (I know I keep promising that I will be better and I PROMISE I'm working on it) then follow me on Twitter at @shanniehalbert for all things 24/7!

Jamiaca is coming in a few days :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Las Vegas-Part 3

I was going to finish off Vegas by telling you guys things to do... but let's be serious... everyone knows what to do in Vegas! Therefore, I'm just going to do a quick run down of some out of the ordinary and ordinary activities Vegas has to offer.

First off, Casinos! Duh, right but what some might not know is that most of the casinos have a free activity, show or demonstration. Sounds weird but actually cool, I highly recommend just walking the strip and deciding to play a little bit at each casino and seeing what each one has to offer, they are all very different. For example, MGM has a very cool Lion habitat and the trainers come out and demonstrate and tell you a little bit about their lions (remember the Lion in the beginning of every MGM movie?). Mandalay Bay has a really cool aquarium and shark exhibit (but I think you need to purchase tickets for this...), Bellagio has the water fountain show and inside the casino is their gorgeous garden area that they change up very frequently to match the seasons or any upcoming holiday and of course they go over the top with whatever they do!

We were in LV right after christmas, this polar bear is all flowers

The Paris (right across the street) has an awesome replica of the Eiffel Tower and you can even go up in it. The line can be very long (a lot like the real one) but the views of the Las Vegas Blvd is just breath taking.

Caesars Palace is just cool enough without any shows but you might be able to catch a Roman soldier walking around and take a pic with him.

Mirage has their famous erupting volcano but sad to say I have never be able to catch that show. Treasure Island has a very elaborate water show that you can just stand on the Blvd and watch. It gets VERY crowded so plan ahead (whether just walking by or if you want to get a good watching place.) Last summer, we were staying at Treasure Island and decided to try the Oxygen Bar the last day. After many long days and nights we thought it sounded pretty relaxing and it actually kinda was (especially when we were getting our shoulders messaged at the same time :)

Lauren and I enjoying our Oxygen

So there are the free shows and exhibits but the TRUE entertainment in the world class shows located just feet from each other. I LOVE going to the theather and in LV the shows are spectacular. I have my favorites that I am going to recomend but know that LV is always creating new shows so there could be some new ones that I havent even gotten a chance to see yet (which hopefully I will be when I go back in June :)

I have had the privilege of seeing many Cirque du So lei shows and some of my favorites are in LV. My most recent show was Beatles LOVE, it was soooo wonderful that I became teary eyed (I am a HUGE Beatles lover). If you love their music, love Cirque shows or even just want to see an amazing show this is my first and favorite pick (also, a great show for kids or younger adults. My next favorite is Cirque's O located at Bellagio. It is a water show/stage show and it is truly a work of art. I tell people that have never been to LV, that this must be their first show they go see. It is so spectacular but it is a little long so if you pick the 9pm show and you are not used to the time change, make sure you have some caffeine prior because you will get tired. I have seen Blue Man group and I know they have been around the world but it is a great show and if you havent seen it yet then LV is a great place to catch the show. There are many many many more shows to catch but I just wanted to talk about my favs. Also, there is a discounted ticket stand so if you decide on a whim to go see a show make sure you check out the discounted tickets but go early because the shows sell out fast!

Be sure to save your birthday, christmas or new winnings money for all the shopping in LV! It is a shoppers paradise, for real! I have one suggestion though... do not drink and shop. I have found that out the hard way after these...

LV sells alcohol everywhere! You can walk up and down the strip with drink in hand. It is a weird feeling at first and kinda fun. But it leads to many purchases that you might regret later or wonder why you thought it looked cute on you.

And last but certainly not least... Clubs. There are soooooo many fun awesome clubs to go to while in LV. If you are a woman with your girlfriends you will have NO problem at all getting in and even for free at many spots but once you add some males into the mix things become a little difficult. Be prepared to have to pay and maybe even stand in lines (the worst!), but be mindful when walking on the strip there are so many promotors handing out access passes and can put your name on their list. Just be on the lookout if your planning a night out at the clubs.

While your in LV, dont forget to check out the Hoover Damn. It is about an hour drive away and there are many tour groups that go out there or you could just rent a car and make a relaxing day out of it. I'm not gonna lie, I was a little bored on the actual tour of the damn but the view is gorgeous and seeing it in person makes you wonder how men could make something so huge.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dallas-Lemon Bar

While I'm working on the last post for Vegas, I decided to do a short post for a local brunch spot P and I tried out a few weekends ago... Lemon Bar. Up to now, I feel the post have been pretty informative and positive and that can only be entertaining for so long...right... everyone loves a little controversy :) therefore our experience at Lemon Bar was terrible!!!

I am not a big complainer (P would prob argue that :) so the fact that I will NEVER go back to this place is saying a lot! We were surprisingly up early on a Sunday and wanted to grab some food before an appointment we had so we decided to Brunch it up. In Dallas, if you want to go to a popular brunch spot plan on waiting at least an hour. Well on this day we had an appointment at 12:30 and we needed somewhere that we could get in and get out but still have a yummy brunch.

While driving past our fav spots and seeing how packed they were we headed over to the West Village area and saw Lemon Bar (LB) and there were some open tables (I now know why...). We walk up and after hearing the blaring pop music coming from inside the restaurant we decided to sit outside on the porch even though it was kinda chilly for me. The hostess walked us over to a 2 person table right next (if I would have strechted out my arm I would have touched the guy) to a large group of people and a guy smoking a full cigar at 11:30 in the morning. I was gagging and we turned right around and asked for a table as far away as possible from the cigar man. I looked around and realized there were more people smoking and it wasn't just cigars (i actually like cigar smoke smell just not early in the morning) so LB's smoking section is their patio which is a BIG shame bc patios are the best! (which I thought was not allowed in Dallas anymore but I guess i was wrong)

Pigs in a Blanket, aka Heart Attack on a plate it is sausage with scrabbled eggs inside with bacon wrapped around it and the whole thing is fried served with syrup.

We sit down and take a look at their brunch menu, it was literally the smallest brunch menu ever... only 8 items and all 8 were not your typical brunch fair. After all that had already turned me off from this place, the fact they didn't have quiche on their brunch menu just about put me over the edge. P ordered Pigs in a Blanket and I stuck with warm coffee to keep me warm. I was trying to like this place and I was hoping the food would be good... and it wasnt. P had two bites and didn't even want to finish his Pigs. The potatos were good though and surprisingly the service was not bad either! If your looking for a spot to meet up with your friends that are still partying or are wanting to keep partying from the night before this is a place for you! Hopefully other people have a better experience then I did and I might think about going back for drinks but NEVER brunch ever again!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food! Las Vegas-Part 2

sorry everyone, I have been extremely busy lately and I know it probably doesn't show but each post takes a REALLY long time and I just haven't had a lot of that lately.

Las Vegas has just about everything one could think of, but it is really starting to shape up in the food department. Long ago are the days of $1.99 all you can eat Steak buffets (although I think you can still find a few downtown) and now Las Vegas Blvd is littered with famous TV personality chefs, Michelin star and 5 star restaurants. Each visit to Vegas is like a smorgasbord of restaurants to choose from, or for me "a kid in a candy store"... YUMMY! It doesn't matter what your itinerary is for coming to Vegas there is a taste for everyone and it might even be flattering for your wallet as well.

My most previous trip to LV, landed me at the Wynn (which is a little piece of heaven in the middle of Sin City!). We were there over Valentine's weekend so naturally we did a lot of eating!

The first night we arrived around 10pm and decided to just hang at our amazing resort. We ate at Stratta, which is located right in the Casino area. It was so amazingly decorated! They do request casual business attire, so anyone would feel comfortable showing up before or after a show (Garth Brooks :). It was a very lovely atmosphere and almost relaxing in the middle of a casino... wierd right! That just shows what an awesome job the Wynn did on developing this restaurant, casual yet stylish decor . P and I order calamari to start with and we split a margarita pizza. Everything we order was delicious and the pizza was baked in a stone oven (thats the best kind of crust, light, crisp and airy. They have a very extensive wine list and we order a great bottle of wine (wish I remembered the name... sorry). Our bill ended up being kind of expensive due to the nice bottle of wine but you can easily go and order a pizza and app and get out of there under $50.

On Valentines Days, we awoke, went for a couples mesage at Encore (more on that later) and then we decided to go for a nice brunch at Tableau located in Wynn's Tower suites. This restaurant is the prettiest restaurant I have ever seen. I just imagine a beautiful english or parisian garden right outside the magnificent windows (which is almost the view, the tower suites pool is right outside). If you are in Vegas over a weekend and are looking for a elegant relaxing brunch Tableau is the prefect spot! With its modern American cuisine, white table cloths, and poolside view this restaurant might just be my favorite hidden gem in LV. I order a garden salad (sad to say I really didn't have an appetite when we went) and P order a Kobe burger and fries. They had the best pom frites, perfectly seasoned with homemade ketchup! Deliciousness!!!!!!!

The entry way to SW Steakhouse, cool huh. The umbrellas rotate too!

When I was in Vegas back in July, we ate at SW Steakhouse. SW is like going to a wonderful brasserie and a show all at the same time. If you sit outside after sunset, watch out. Every half hour the innocent looking lake turns into the Lake of Dreams, an electrifying light and sound show. It is very entertaining, not over powering and is very pleasant to enjoy while dining.

This is the Lake of Dreams! Gorgeous right?!
We dined at SW for my cousin's 21st birthday. They were very accommodating for a large group but be warned, this is a nice restaurant. We all order small meals (salads), $10-$15, since we were going out afterwards (it is never a good idea to eat a large meal and then go dancing... FYI... you just feel sick.) but there entrees are about $20 and above. I had a delicious buffalo mozzarella and basil salad and not to mention yummy desserts!

The group and my cuz's bday dessert, luckily she shared!

Buffet at the Wynn
Everyone one knows about LV's famous buffets and truth be told, I have only eaten at a buffet once while in LV and luckily it was at the Wynn! The buffet is what a food-a-holic's heaven would be. Every kind/type of food you could think of under one roof and as much as you want of it! It is an incredible site. Come hungry because the buffet is expensive so eat up! Plus this is not a Golden Coral type of buffet this is a 5 star food all you can eat galore!!!!! You will def walk away 5 pounds heavier just in food, its amazing!

Located right next door to the Wynn is The Venitian. The V is stocked with amazing restaurants and shopping. Located right outside the Canal is Tao. I'm sure you have heard of celebs ringing in the new year and their bdays here and it is action packed with celeb sightings not to mention awesome food and atmosphere!!!! After leaving Tao you will be ready to dance the night away next door at Tao club or any of the 54937594 clubs in Vegas. The ambiance is sexy, candle lit, asian inspired (massive Buddha right in the middle of the restaurant). When you walk in, be sure to notice the women relaxing in rose petal filled bath tubs lining the hallway (told ya sexy). If you enjoy asian fusion cuisine mixed with great club beats you will love Tao!
See the tubs sticking out, minus the women

The prices are very fair and the menu is very extensive, great options. I order Chicken Satay, it was the prefect amount and exactly what I wanted, not to mention it was pared with a wonderful peanut sauce! P order Kung Pao which he really enjoyed and it was not too spicy. They do not pride themselves on service (its just not that kind of restaurant) but there were no complaints regarding service or food. The only annoying thing is, you can not go into the club from inside the restaurant. If you do not have a table reservation (for the club) you have to leave the restaurant and get in line for the club. As someone that has no patience for standing in lines, I was not ok with this situation and did not even go to the club (which we had intended too).

If your looking for a great lunch spot to beat the summer desert heat, Canaletto located in the Canal Shops in the Venetian is the perfect spot. I have had some of the most amazing Prosciutto ever at this place. Not only is the setting reminiscent of St. Marks square in Venice, but there is nothing more pleasant than enjoying a wonderful goat cheese,prosciutto, arugula pizza while hearing the glorious noise of opera singing gondoliers. I would highly recommend sitting out in the courtyard area and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the gondolas, street performers, and shoppers. The menu is very broad and you can get anything from large entrees to anti pasta platers. I have eaten here a few times on my LV journeys and every time I get the same thing, the pizza. It's an oldie but a goodie and it is amazing every time. Just sit back, relax, close your eyes and imagine you are truly in Venice!
St. Mark's square where Canaletto is located.

Serendipity 3
For the cherry on top (literally) of your delicious lunch at Canaletto, walk off some of those calories and head on over to Seredipity 3 at Ceasers. Serendipity 3 is a famous New York staple and it has somehow made its way cross country to the west coast, and thank God is has! I was recently in NYC and no one wanted to go with me to Serendipity! Luckily the following weekend I knew I was heading west and I could talk P into standing in the long line with me (which I did :) and it was the best decision (and you know I don't wait in lines!) but it was SOOOOOO worth it. Trust me, this famous spot defiantly lives up to the hipe!!!!! Remember the movie Serendipity, (men its ok I understand its not really up your alley) but the famous ice cream shop was featured in it.
After about a 15-20 min wait we were finally up at the window (there is a window for to-go items and a restaurant side. We chose to-go because it looked faster and it was a nice day to sit outside with our yummy treats) and I ordered the famous iced hot chocolate but I got the Chocolate and Peanut Butter one. It was the most perfect combination but I think next time I would just get the original because the peanut butter flavor got a little old after awhile. I would suggest if you are not a big fan of whipped cream (i personally don't like the stuff) to make sure to ask for no whipped because they are VERY generous with the stuff (they like to make a lovely 8 inch white whipped topper) luckily my eye caught sight of someone else's and I was saved from the disaster that might have occurred. P ordered their homemade ice cream and OMG it was the best stuff on this planet... I DIE!!!! It was SOOOOOO thick that it took a few licks of the spoon to get all the stuff off, almost like peanut butter. We ended up switching treats half way thru to test each others out, and I almost did want to give his ice cream back. They have SOOOOOO much goodies to offer, even their actual food look oh so yummy but you just can't pass up the sweets. Be sure to check out the adorable gift shop inside the restaurant side, great gifts to take back to your loved ones that arent too LV cheesy.

Mon Ami Gabi
When I travel to LV, I have a few favorite places that are a MUST for me to hit up while I'm there. Mon Ami Gabi located at the Paris is one of them! I have been in a love relationship with Paris, France ever since I got engaged there and traveled there while in college and this bistro is an authentic parisian bistro! From the French speaking wait staff, the classic french inspired cuisine to the beautiful gothic Parisian architecture that embodies everything Paris! I have eaten here so many times I can't even count anymore... breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner but my favorite meal here is their brunch. Their food is amazing no matter what time of day you visit but the atmosphere (which I'm learning is what I look for in a great restaurant, food comes closely in second...) is just so exciting and enjoyable. The Paris is located right across the street from the Beligio and Mon Ami Gabi has a large and beautiful patio right on the street that gives you a front row seat to the gorgeous Beligio water show. If you have never been to LV, you MUST see a least one of the water shows (there are different ones every 30 mins.) they are almost hypnotizingly-beautiful to watch (they will always remind me of the scene in Oceans 11 when they are all standing watching the fountains after robing the casino...)
I took this the last time I was in LV, look at how close we are while drinking Mimosas

The food is french inspired but not too french, there are still regular items on the menu. Like I said, you can not go wrong with dinning here at anytime of day. If you go at night, you MUST order the Onion soup (to die for!). The prices vary but maybe more on the high side. There is always a very long wait so try to call in advance for reservations on the outside patio but if you decide to make an impulse decision you are looking at about an hour to hour half wait. If you do not mind eating inside then you can defiantly get in (in my experience) under 30 mins. I can not express to you how enjoyable this restaurant is and it is a MUST when traveling to LV (crap now its going to take me even longer to get a reservation now that I'm telling all my secrets... hope your happy :)
Inside, Mon Ami Gabi

Promise I am almost finished, sorry this is SUCH a long post. I'm trying to do better more condensed post, obviously not working out too well right now.
Bellagio is home to so many beautiful shops, art (did you know they have an art gallery? I've seen an Ansel Adams exhibit there and it was awesome but I'm an art geek...), food and shows. The restaurants range from classy 5 star to the worlds largest chocolate fountain! Walking by this amazing, beautiful fountain I was instantly sucked into the world of Jean-Philippe. The fountain will catch your eye first but soon the delightful smells of freshly made to order crepes will seduce you and force you inside the real life Willy Wonka chocolate heaven. Save some room for dessert because you can not miss this!

Yes, this is a REAL crepe!

Before you head for the crepes, don't forget to eat your veggies at Circo! Circo is a wonderful fine dining restaurant! If you are in LV celebrating or are looking for a nice romantic dinner before seeing O (show at Bellagio) I HIGHLY recommend Circo. The Tuscan inspired cuisine is a wonderful match to the decor and your view over looking the Bellagio fountains (and you get to watch more beautiful water shows). If your traveling to LV on a budget, plan for this to be your one nice restaurant choice for the trip and live it up! Just because your on a budget there is no reason you can not enjoy delicious food, just be wise in your ordering (try splitting a large entree which will be the most costly item on your check and cutting out the drinks at dinner that are marked up 3xs!) You only live once :)

And now I have been saving the best for last, Olives located in the Bellagio. This is the only restaurant that you can eat outside over the fountains (obviously I am obsessed w the fountains if you can't tell already) not to mention the food is oh so YUMMY! Before your dinner even arrives they bring out a delicious array of freshly baked breads and 3 different olives spreads. I typically do not care for olives but I eat every bit of the yummy olive spreads! If you are wanting to sit outside on the patio plan to wait (they do not take reservations for the patio) or slip the hostess a $20 (thats what Lauren and I did when we went on our date there :) and we got in within 30 mins. If you have to wait, be sure to try their house infused fruit vodkas, Pineapple is my favorite! They have a little bit of everything on their menu, pretty typical but the way they execute and flavor their dishes are just so tasty. The prices are not too bad, it just depends on what you order and how much but isn't that always the case. P and I actually had our Valentines dinner there this year and for dessert we ordered 'Love Envelopes'.
Our 'Love Envelopes'

The patio at Olives.

Please stay tuned for the final post for Vegas, its gonna be the best one... promise!