A Complete 2 Week Japan Itinerary for Travellers Seeking Affordable Luxury (Including With Kids)

A Complete 2 Week Japan Itinerary for Travellers Seeking Affordable Luxury (Including With Kids)

As far as I am concerned, 2 weeks in Japan is not nearly enough because this small country packs so much into its borders. Needs must though –  adults need to work and children need to go to school. I prepared a 2 week Japan itinerary for my family encapsulating the best of what they needed to see as first-time visitors to Japan.  Technically, my children had been to Japan before but we spent a week in Tokyo and only went as far as Hakone on a day trip. This trip though was my husband’s first time in Japan and I wanted to make sure he got as full a picture as he could in 14 days in Japan.

The garden of a samurai house in Kanazawa Japan

The garden of a samurai house in Kanazawa, Japan

Japan is not a cheap country to travel (as my husband pointed out it can give Iceland healthy competition on expenses). The challenge was to balance our love of luxury travel with affordability over the course of a 2 week trip to Japan.

Did I mention that we also only pack light on short-haul flights? We travel with a suitcase each and , there’s usually an extra stuffed toy, jacket, book etc that gets smuggled in after my final checks. Two weeks in Japan in April as far as my kids are concerned needs both summer and winter clothes because layering is a foreign concept.

A torii gate to a Shinto shrine in Nikko Tokyo

A torii gate to a Shinto shrine in Nikko Tokyo

Transportation for Our 2 Week Trip To Japan

Our Japan itinerary started in Osaka because we flew into Osaka International Airport,. We spent the first week of our 2 weeks in Japan in the Kansai region.  We then went north to Kanazawa and Tokyo for the rest of our Japan itinerary. We flew out of Tokyo Haneda Airport at the end of our 2 week trip to Japan.

Technically, our Japan trip was a 15 day itinerary because we got into Osaka late the first night. I have only counted the Japan itinerary for 14 days though because that first day was a bit wasted getting over jet lag (and what we found out later was my son getting an ear infection).

 

Rail Passes

We used our Japan Rail passes to travel on day trips during our 2 week trip to Japan. We opted to use the Green Car which is a higher class of railway carriage than the standard.

We had both a 7 day Japan Rail Pass and a  7 day Kansai Wide Rail Pass. This latter Kansai Pass was what I was going to use for day trips from Osaka. I will explain in a later article why that was not such a good idea because of both our circumstances and what the Kansai rail pass covered.

flatly of Japan Rail Pass and Green car reserved seat tickets

Our Japan rail passes and a collection of reserved seat tickets for the Green Cars.

We minimised the hauling around of suitcases on trains by staying in just 4 hotels. Well, that plan worked well except for Kyoto which was so busy we could  not find just one hotel that could accommodate us for our 4 nights in that city.

I was right to be concerned about our luggage. Our suitcases were way bigger than the little suitcases the Japanese use. Thank goodness for the Green Car carriages. They were less busy than the standard carriages and we tended to use up the luggage compartment in our Green Car carriage with our four suitcases alone. The Green Cars are also reserved seats which made our life easier. We knew where to stand on the train platform and that we had definite seats together.

Taxis

Taxis within cities are plentiful in Japan. Drivers who speak English are less plentiful. Kyoto has a Foreign-Friendly taxi service where the driver knows more English and has a bigger car to accommodate travellers. We found one such Foreign-Friendly taxi service stand at Shin-Kyoto station.

A taxi marks that it is foreign friendly in Kyoto

A foreign friendly taxi marked as such in Kyoto.

Taxi drivers are, however, incredibly polite and will work with you to get you where we are going. In big cities, even with an exact address, they may have difficulties finding your location.  In China, we had problems with taxi drivers who wouldn’t stop for us because they didn’t want to deal with non-Chinese speakers.

Tip –  Have a screenshot of where you are going on your photos so the taxi driver knows both the address and a better idea of the destination location.

Note also that the taxis are not that big. About half the time we had to split into two taxis because our luggage wouldn’t fit into one taxi.

Cars

To drive in Japan, we found out that it’s not a simple matter of rocking up to a car rental agency and renting a car. You need either a Japanese driving license or an International Driving License. I had completely forgotten that when I lived in Japan I had an International Driving License. I considered it a fairly pointless document but the Japanese did not!

Tip – If you want to drive in Japan, you must have either a Japanese driving license or an International Driving License.

International Driving Licenses/Permits are easy to get. It’s simply a matter of applying for them and getting them before you arrive in Japan. You can get the IDL in the US for a year for $25 or through the UK post office for £5.50.

What’s Considered Affordable Luxury in Japan?

As I mentioned, Japan is an expensive country and what does affordable luxury mean anyway?  One person’s affordable luxury could be another person’s barely affordable.

Here are approximate costs for our 14 days in Japan.

We decided that lodging and transport were fixed costs.

  • Our hotels averaged $300-400/night.
  • The 5 day JR Kansai Wide Pass was about £240 for 4 people (kids 12+ are considered adults)
  • The 7 day JR Pass was about £1040 for 4 people (kids 12+ are considered adults)
Tip – If you have a JR Pass, do consider staying in Osaka and commuting into Kyoto on the Shinkansen (bullet train) in 15 minutes. Our 5 star hotel in Osaka cost LESS than our 3 star hotel in Kyoto thanks to the simple rules of supply and demand.

We had lots of discretionary costs which added to our experience in Japan and our final bill. Some examples:

      • We spent approximately  $2500 on local tours for 4 people – 3 Context Tours, 2 Arigato Japan Food Tours and 1Kanazawa Walking Tours.
      • For meals, we did a mixture of Japanese convenience stores (which are fabulous), little neighbourhood restaurants and some fancy dining. For example, our dinner at a Kobe teppanyaki restaurant came out to about $300. We spent over a $150 at the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku for food which was nothing special.
      • My daughter went crazy for the animal cafes. There is usually an entry fee (which includes a drink) and the final bill depends on how long you stay. Trust me, it adds up especially 8 animal cafes later.

Japan Travel Itinerary – 14 Days

Knowing my family well, I decided we would use 4 major centres as bases for our 2 weeks in Japan- Osaka, Kyoto, Kanazawa and Tokyo. From these cities, we would be well-positioned to do day trips to other places of interest.

We would find moving around every day or two just too stressful. We were packing in a lot of cultural and historic sightseeing and I knew my family would need some rest time in between activities. Rest time for my kids meant endless animal cafes – we went to 8 animal cafes during our two weeks in Japan!

couch with family at the Living Room Pug Cafe in Kyoto

We were pug-in-love at the Living Room Pug Cafe in Kyoto.

On the plus side, the kids’ luggage would have gotten a lot lighter if we had been constantly on the move as they would invariably lose stuff every time they packed and unpacked. As it is, we had several close calls with my daughter’s iPhone getting lost in the shuffle.

Four Cities in 14 days in Japan

For our 14 days in Japan, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo are obvious choices. I chose to add Kanazawa (known as “little Kyoto”) into the mix because its historic district has the charm of Kyoto with a whole lot less tourists. Moreover, Kanazawa’s samurai and geisha districts retain their original period charm  because the city was not bombed during World War II.

Osaka

Osaka is Japan’s second biggest city and known for being a fun-loving, food-loving city. Like a lot of other travellers, we used it as a base for exploring the region around Osaka.

What to Do in (and From) Osaka

Osaka itself is a large sprawling metropolis of brash neon and good times. Just give up on Osaka Castle, nearby Himeji is so much better. Enjoy Osaka for what it is – great food, shopping and nightlife.

Check out some available tours of Osaka: food tour of Japanese snacks | hop on-and-hop off sightseeing bus | a food tour of Osaka’s markets |a food tour of Osaka’s markets

We were in Osaka for cherry blossom time and so we took the train out to Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture on a day trip. Mount Yoshino is covered with 30,000 cherry trees and has been a cherry blossom viewing site for the last 1300 years.

Cherry trees in blossom at Mount Yoshino

Mount Yoshino is planted with thousands of cherry trees planted 1300 years ago.

If you are not in Japan during cherry blossom season, consider a day trip to Mount Koya instead. Mount Koya is one of Japan’s holiest places and the birthplace of the Shingon sect of Buddhism.

On the bullet train, you can also make a nice day trip out of Himeji and Kobe. Himeji is known for its gorgeous white castle rising above the city, a proud survivor from Japan’s feudal era.

Himeji Castle with cherry blossoms

Himeji Castle surrounded by cherry blossoms in spring

Kobe is a fun port city world famous for its export of Kobe beef. Being foodies, we had to take a pilgrimage to its old entertainment district, Sannomiya, to have a kobe beef dinner prepared on a traditional teppanyaki  in front of us.

Kobe beef in a restaurant in Kobe Japan

You really do need to try the famous kobe beef in the city of Kobe, Japan.

Another good day trip on the train from Osaka is Hiroshima and Miyajima Island. Visiting Hiroshima is a must if only to remember the tragedies of war. Miyajima is a charming island in the harbor of Hiroshima and is a cleansing break from the sombre and somewhat depressing Hiroshima Peace Park.

Take a guided tour:  either Hiroshima and Miyajima as a full day tour or a customised tour of Hiroshima.

We wanted to go Kinosaki Onsen but were derailed by the illness of a child.  Kinosaki Onsen has been a hot springs town since the 8th century. There are hot springs hotels all around town for which you can get day passes. These hot springs are the traditional Japanese kind where men and women are segregated and no swimsuits are allowed in the thermal springs.

Where to Stay in Osaka

We stayed for 4 nights in the Osaka Marriott Miyako which is Japan’s tallest building complex. It’s also conveniently located right over Tennoji station.

There is a direct train from Osaka International Airport directly to Tennoji station that takes 20  minutes. The train is SO much cheaper than a taxi.  Tennoji is also a useful hub for both the JR line and has direct connections for visiting places outside of Osaka (like Mount Yoshino).

We were very happy with our stay at the Osaka Marriott Miyako. The hotel occupies the 38th to the 57th floor in the tower of the building complex. My kids LOVED the view from our room on the 51st floor. The lights of Osaka sparkled into the horizon at night. People come to the tower’s observation deck (for which you get a free pass as hotel guest). We agreed though that the view from our room was pretty much the same, if not slightly better.

The hotel manager at the Osaka Marriott Miyako was a life-saver when our son came down with an ear infection and he was able to get us into an English-speaking clinic in the middle of the night. With antibiotics, my son was fine (eventually) but he we were really grateful for the prompt and efficient intervention on our behalf.

Kyoto

Kyoto was the capitol of Japan from 794 until 1868 so you can imagine how important this city is to the cultural life of Japan.

What to Do in Kyoto and its Environs

Kyoto has more than 1000 temples and shrines. With a quite a few of these temples being both important and beautiful, it’s pretty easy to be templed-out by the end of your stay.

Take a tour if you can’t decide on what to see or are short of time:  a full day tour of Kyoto’s UNESCO and historical  sites | combine Kyoto and Nara in a full day tour | Kyoto half day tour 

There is so much to do in Kyoto that it is hard to compress into a short visit. We visited several major temples and shrines, Nijo-Jo Castle and the famous Nishiki Food Market. There is Gion Corner which does nightly shows giving an overview of Japanese cultural traditions and Ninja/Samurai shows. Our all-time favourite experience though would have to be Ninja classes at a Kyoto dojo.

Ninja class in Kyoto with a blowgun

My daughter as a ninja-in-training getting blowgun practice in Kyoto.

The city of Nara is close to Kyoto and was the first capitol of Japan, There are temples, shrines and gardens galore in Nara , including the must-see Great Buddha at Todai-ji temple.

Where to Stay in Kyoto

We found getting accommodation in Kyoto for our Japan itinerary incredibly difficult. In fact, we met people on of our tours who decided to stay in Osaka because they couldn’t find anywhere in Kyoto.

Tip – If you are having difficulty finding suitable accommodation in Kyoto, consider staying in Osaka. If you have JR Pass, the bullet train connects Osaka and Kyoto in only 15 minutes. And, you can stay in a higher class of hotel for less (see the expenses section above).

In retrospect, we should have stayed longer in Osaka – changing hotels in Kyoto every two days and the accompanying chaos that entailed was simply not enjoyable. We also discovered that Kyoto hotels are relatively small which means they fill up on guests very quickly. We were sightseeing all day and exhausted by evening. So hanging out late into the night and then facing a train ride home would not have been an issue for us.

Our first stay was at the four-star Mitsui Garden Hotel Sanjo, one of three boutique hotels this  Japanese hotel chain, owns in Kyoto. The location was very convenient and our room  charming (if small). My daughter loved this hotel for its pretty Japanese charm.

Then we stayed at the 3 star Gion Hanna Stay hotel. The service was friendly and the room which was set up as a little apartment was adequate. Our favourite part of this  hotel was that it came with a washing machine. Yes, despite my kids packing half their wardrobe, they still ran out of clothes.

Our last hotel, another 3-star Hotel Kiyomizu Gion was my favourite. It was spacious, pretty and had a great location. Wandering the side streets of Gion (the old Geisha district) showed us both the old and the new Kyoto – trainee geishas going to/from work passing vegan cafes.

Check out the excellent reviews for the Hotel Giyomizu Gion in Kyoto on TripAdvisor!

Kanazawa and its Environs

Kanazawa is an absolutely charming city on the Sea of Japan side (the opposite side fo the island to Osaka/Kyoto). We loved Kyoto but we may have fallen harder for Kanazawa.

Kanazawa was controlled during feudal times by the powerful Maeda family, the wealthiest of the clans under the shogunate. The Maedas channeled their money into making Kanazawa a center for Japanese arts and crafts such as gold-leaf work and lacquer work. It was a tactical move to deflect the suspicions of the wary shogun who would have been afraid they were amassing funds for war.

What To Do in Kanazawa

Kanazawa has several well-preserved districts, the Higasi Chaya district (the old entertainment district), the Kazue-Machi district (the old geisha district) and Nag-Machi district (the samurai district where the retainers of the Maeda family lived).

Take a guided tour of Kanazawa: an evening tour with a meal |  a half day private tour | a full day private tour

Kanazawa is also famous for being the location of one of the 3 best gardens in Japan, the beautiful Kenrokuen Garden which used to be the gardens for the now-ruined Kanazawa Castle, domain of the Maeda family.

Cherry blossoms in bloom at Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

Cherry blossoms in bloom at Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa

With its fair share of museums, Kanazawa has a Museum of Contemporary Art and the sublime D.T. Suzuki Museum (a museum dedicated to the Kanazawa native who introduced Zen Buddhism to the West).

We were supposed to visit the UNESCO heritage sites of the gassho houses in the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. We were thwarted in our plans to hire a rental car and all the bus tours were full! These villages are not easily accessible by train. Missing out on visiting these villages was probably our biggest disappointment in our 2 weeks Japan itinerary.

Take a bus tour of the UNESCO world heritage sites of Shirakawa-go, Gokayama and Takayama.

Where to Stay in Kanazawa

We stayed 2 nights at the 3 star Kaname Inn Tatemachi which is bright, modern and spacious . We had a one bedroom apartment at the hotel with views over the city. Downstairs in the lobby, there was a restaurant and bar that we could hang out in the evenings.

Check out the excellent reviews for the Kaname Inn Tatemachi in Kanazawa on TripAdvisor!

Tokyo

I used to hate Tokyo – the city was just too much of everything that makes a Japanese city. Now, I love it for its complex train system, thousands of restaurants, and endless shopping choices.

After Kyoto and Kanazawa, my husband was surprised at the paucity of culture choices in Tokyo. I had to remind him that culture is more than castles, temples and shrines! Thanks to my children , we did our fair share of looking for kawaii (cute) culture including visiting the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku. It’s a totally different world out there!

What to Do In and Near Tokyo

In Tokyo, my kids insisted that we revisit their favourite places of Harajuku (the epicentre of youth culture in the city) and Ometesando (a high-end shopping district which also has the toy store, Kiddyland). We also revisited Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple which is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world.

The 5 tier pagoda seen from the gardens of Sensoji in Tokyo

The rear of Senso-ji temple with its beautiful gardens is less crowded than its front section.

Tokyo has so much to do that our 2 days in the city did not do it justice. For  example you have a plethora of cultural sightseeing and neighbourhoods to visit:

      • The Meiji Shrine dedicated to the Emperor responsible for wrestling power away from the shoguns back to the emperors.
      • Ueno Park – a public park with temples and street performers which comes to life on the weekends
      • Tsukiji market – the biggest fish and seafood market in the world
      • Tokyo Tower – Japan’s answer to the Eifffel Tower
      • Tokyo Skytree – the world’s tallest tower (note the world’s tallest structure is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai).

Here are some of the tours you can take in Tokyo: a skip the line admission ticket to Tokyo Skytree | Tsukiji Market Tour | Tsukiji Market Tour

To give my husband his obligatory temple and culture fix in one shot, we took the bullet train to Nikko, deep in the mountains north of Tokyo. It’s a UNESCO site famous for the OTT Shinto shrine to the first Shogun.

You can take a tour of Nikko that departs from Tokyo.

Imitating the famous three monkeys in Nikko (see, hear and say no evil)

Imitating the famous three monkeys in Nikko (see, hear and say no evil)

Having mixed my onsen (hot springs) fix at the town of Kinosaki Onsen, we took the bullet train to Hakone, in the mountains west of Tokyo. It was too cloud a day for us to Mt. Fuji from Hakone.

There are guided tours that depart for Hakone from Tokyo on the bullet train.

We did, however, have a fabulous time in the hot springs of Yunessun. My kids were thrilled that Yunessun had a swimsuit area at the hot springs  which gave us the option of not being in the buff.  The more traditional Japanese non-swimsuit area is beautiful by the way. Set in a traditional Japanese garden with views of the mountains, there is not a slide in site. In fact, we were having so much fun that we skipped out on the nearby Hakone Open Air Art Museum.

Where To Stay in Tokyo

We stayed at the Akihabara Luxury Cityhouse in Tokyo for 4 nights. It wasn’t in Akihabara technically and not particularly luxurious either.

The location on the JR stop of Kanda (the stop between Tokyo and Akihabara) though was terrific. Kanda had very little of the otaku-culture craziness that I experienced in Akihabara.  We had plenty of space in our 1 bedroom apartment ( presumably space is what the luxury in the name refers to).

Variations on the Japan Two Week Itinerary

You could fly into and out of Tokyo with this 2 week Japan itinerary. In that case I would make sure you had an extra day to get to/from Tokyo so technically it would be a Japan 15 day itinerary. Alternatively, you could cut out Kanazawa which would be a shame but would allow more travel time.

You could also make this a 12 day Japan itinerary by cutting out two days. I would choose to keep Kanazawa and spend less time in Osaka. Places near Osaka that you could choose to cut down are Mount Yoshino/Mount Koya, Kobe and Kinosaki Onsen. I would definitely still visit Himeji and Hirsohsiima/Miyajima.

Alternatively you could spend less time in Kyoto to create a 12 day Japan itinerary. Two days in Kyoto would give you enough time to see the main temples, shrines and neighbourhoods of the city.

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Under The Languedoc Sun, Another Side to the South of France

Under The Languedoc Sun, Another Side to the South of France

“Are you sure this is it?” I remarked to my husband. “It doesn’t look very fancy.”

“We have a weekend without the kids. That’s luxury in itself.” He responded.

We had found Maison Laurent on the main road in the town, a four-story cloud grey townhouse with sage green shutters and an unobtrusive sign announcing its name. We were in the Carcassone area sans children to take advantage of a long weekend stay my husband had won at Maison Laurent as part of a charity auction. Maison Laurent is a boutique B&B in the Languedoc countryside in the southwest of France.

Maison Laurent facade.

Maison Laurent, A Luxury Boutique B&B

The smooth grey of the flagstone floor and whitewashed interior was a welcome relief from the heat outside. A wrought iron and grey stone staircase beckoned us up to the main living floor. We were greeted by the cheery English owners, Anthony and Rachel, and their exuberant English Spaniel, Bella.

Maison Laurent bella

Bella, the undisputed star of the show

They ushered us out of the large French doors leading to a landscaped rear garden. Under the intense French sun, the greens and pinks of the lush planting in full bloom were a kaleidoscope of colour. The gravel-covered paths crunched under Bella’s paws as she trotted off at regular intervals to inspect her domain.

Maison Laurent garden

Sheltered under a canopy, we relaxed in the dappled sunshine with glasses of the local white wine. The plain-fronted buildings in Pieusse had held their secrets close – beautiful interiors and large private back gardens!  There’s a pool in the back of the garden perfect for relaxing in the sunshine.

Maison Laurent from the rear garden

Maison Laurent garden and pool

Our room, located on the top floor, was a perfect mix of traditional decor with modern conveniences. The open windows let in a gentle warm breeze which ruffled the pale linen curtains. We could see over the orange-tiled roofs of the town and, in the distance, the vineyards and the church steeple. You always knew what time it was because the church bells chimed the time on the hour 24/7.

We sank onto the restored Louis XV bed and, hurrah, our WiFi reception was great! I knew any concerns I had about the quality of our boutique B&B were unfounded.

Maison Laurent refurbished bed

maison laurent bedroom

maison laurent bathroom

Maison Laurent is a traditional Maison d’Maitre in Languedoc close to Carcassone, the Pyrenees and the Spanish border.  Anthony and Rachel bought the house from the previous owner, Laurent Sanchez, whose family had held it since it was built in the 1870’s. They painstakingly restored and modernised the house five years ago. The house was christened Maison Laurent because Maison Sanchez didn’t sound very French!

maison laurent refurbishment book

Breakfast in the morning was an elegant affair. The smell of toast hung in the air of the open plan kitchen dining room. Although I was tempted by the freshly baked croissants and baguettes on offer, I opted for a small bowl of grapefruit and orange slices with creamy local yogurt. I knew breakfast would most likely be my lightest meal of the day! Anthony made me a happy woman when he brewed me a pot of English breakfast tea with teabags imported from Yorkshire.

Apparently, one of the reasons Anthony wanted to run a B&B is his love of cooking.  His hobby is to your benefit because Anthony and Rachel offer dinner at the hotel several days a week if you are so inclined.

The Carcassone Region of the Languedoc

The hamlet of Pieusse has one main road with pastel-coloured houses bleached by the sun standing like soldiers to attention. The buildings were stark in their wood and stone simplicity adorned only with colour-coordinated wooden shutters.  At the end of the main road, there is a triangular roundabout spruced up with flowers, a bench and a monument of Jesus hanging on the cross.

pieusse languedoc france

The roundabout lead to the road out of town in one direction and fields of wine-growing grapes the other way. I wondered how many teenagers had sat under the Jesus statue with a bottle of local wine and prayed to get out of this one cheval town.  Unlike those teenagers in my imagination we thought Pieusse was the perfect escape from our hectic lives.

Between Maison Laurent and the roundabout, the main (probably only?) restaurant in town, La Taverne a Bacchus, serves up rustic French food cooked on an open spit.  I think the delicious food, quirky restaurant and opportunities for people watching deserves a post in itself.

Armed with helpful tips from Rachel, we set off every day after breakfast in our rental car to explore the nearby vineyards, canals, rolling hills and stone villages. Maison Laurent was perfectly located to take advantage of all that this gorgeous pastoral region of France has to offer.

If you are after sophistication and cultural things to do in the south of France, there are plenty of things to do in Nice and its environs. If you are after a quieter, more relaxed charm, go a bit further Southwest and bask under the Languedoc sun.

Good To Know:

Maison Laurent, in the village of Pieusse, is located bout 15 minutes from Caracassone and 90 minutes from the international airport in Toulouse. The accommodation comprises of 4 double bedrooms which range in price currently from Euro 105 to 145 a night. There is a pool and loungers available for use during the summer season. Children over the age of 12 may be accommodated upon request.

This post is linked up with #AllAboutFrance.

Cattle Baron Posh at The Warren-Nagle Mansion in Cheyenne

Cattle Baron Posh at The Warren-Nagle Mansion in Cheyenne

One of the beautiful historical buildings we stayed at in the American West was the Warren-Nagle Mansion in Cheyenne in Wyoming.  This historic building is now run as an upscale bed and breakfast.  The house is one of the few mansions from the 19th century still standing in Cheyenne when the city was one of the richest cities in the world for its size.

Warren Nagle Mansion

The Warren-Nagle Mansion has a great location within a 10 minute walk of downtown Cheyenne and Depot Plaza.  Interestingly, the U.S. Marshall’s office was moved from the mansion’s location to make way for the house.  With Cheyenne’s Hell on Wheels reputation, I’ll bet that Marshall’s office saw a lot of action.

The mansion was built in 1888 at a cost of $50,000 (twice the projected cost) for an Erasmus Nagle.  Mr. Nagle had his hand in many pots and owned interests in everything from grocery stores to gold mines.  The plans for the house were drawn up by the same architect who did the Cheyenne capitol building and a lot of the marble facade were offcuts from the Cheyenne capitol building too.  Nagle clearly intended for the house to be an impressive addition to the mansions of Cattle Baron Row.  Unfortunately, he died a couple of years later and left the mansion to his widow.

brass fireplace

Nagle’s widow sold it in 1910 to F.E. Warren, the first governor of Wyoming who later served as its Senator to the U.S. Congress for many years.  The Warrens hosted many dignitaries at the house, including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft.  After Senator Warren’s death in 1929, the building did a short stint as a YMCA and then eventually found its way into private hands.  The current owner, Jim Osterfoss, bought the mansion in 1997 and turned into a B&B post-renovation.  Jim is very much on site and a cheerful, welcoming presence in the house.

warren angle living room

living room

The mansion is clearly a landmark in the Cheyenne scene and entered the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 .  It was a bit strange having our B&B explained to us when we did the Cheyenne Trolley Tour!  They also did an ice-cream social on the Saturday for the neighbourhood where people would come by and have ice cream on the porch while listening to an accordion player.  My children thought it was great!

ice cream social

ice cream social on the porch

The interior of the mansion has many original features and is very fancy.  As befitting a cattle baron mansion, the ceilings are carved leather and the windows have stained glass and crystal panes.  Other details include cherry wall panelling, brass fireplaces, ornate doorknobs and parquet flooring.

The mansion is furnished in keeping with its Victorian origins.  Each room is individually furnished and named.  We had a charming writing desk in a nook in our room.

Although a bit like staying in a museum, nothing felt precious and our children were made to feel comfortable.  This B&B was our first stay in our Wild West road trip and it really got us into the spirit of the trip.  The garden was small but really pretty.  It was a nice place to hang out in the shade away from the Cheyenne sun.

garden

garden

The mansion was busy on the weekend we were in residence.  There were lots of couples off for a romantic getaway and we were the only ones who had brought our children. We were supposed to have interconnecting rooms but the key for the connecting room was lost.  I’m somewhat paranoid about having the children out of sight on their own.  So Mr. N and I wound up sleeping with a child each in the 2 rooms.  Hardly a romantic weekend but my daughter and I enjoyed our impromptu slumber party!

Breakfast was served in the dining room.  Everyone shared a big table which would not have been my first choice.  Supervising appropriate breakfast behaviour in the children is way too much effort on vacation.  The people we met at breakfast were friendly and were visiting from all over the United States.  The breakfast itself was quite fancy (poached egg on a potato concoction).  Needless, to say the children had cereal but we enjoyed our fancy breakfast.

warren angle dining room

dining room

The Warren-Nagler Mansion has 12 guest rooms each with their own bathroom.  If you are in Cheyenne, staying at this beautiful piece of history is definitely recommended.

Home Sweet Hotel Christiana

Home Sweet Hotel Christiana

As a general rule, we don’t stay in the same hotel more than once because we like to try new places and experiences.  The only time we have broken this rule is sking in Val D’Isere and the Hotel Christiana.  So you figure the Hotel Christiana has to be something special for us to keep going back there!

front of hotel

front of hotel

We returned for our third year in a row to the Hotel Christiana a couple of weeks ago for a week of skiing during half-term.  In fact we stayed in the same room as previous rooms as well.  It’s a family suite with a separate bedroom/bath for the children.  Our friends’ rooms are on the same floor and it’s easy for the children to run across the hall to each other’s rooms.

The hotel staff greeted us warmly and remembered our preferences.  Pretty amazing considering we are only back for 1 week every year!  The bartender makes this grog for me every year because invariably I have a sore throat at some point.  The grog is a mix of rum, honey, cinnamon, lemon and hot water with an Earl Gray infusion. Yum!

grog

grog

I also like that the hotel seems to have a regular clientele which return every year.  We meet the same families and our children play together.  The hotel guests are a mix of European and English with no clear majority of any nationality.

The food is superb.  There is an extensive breakfast buffet.  We’ve never been around for lunch because we like to try out the restaurants in Val d’Isere.  We always take half-board at the hotel because dinner is also excellent.  In fact, we sometimes go out for drinks but return to the hotel restaurant for dinner.

The hotel run a play/crafts room near the dining room during school holidays.  Our children like to hang out with their friends there while we eat dinner.

The location, likewise, is excellent.  It’s a short few minutes to the main ski lifts and to the main street in town.  There is a garage under the building should you chose to drive.  Across the street is the very popular night spot, Dick’s Tea Bar.  We, however, have heard no noise from Dick’s because the hotel closes its metal shutters at night.

Although traditionally decorated with its dark wood, velvet curtains and sofas, I noticed touches towards modern decor such as the Tom Dixon tea lights scattered around.  This hotel, however, is comfortable in itself and isn’t trying to reinvent itself as anything.  One night we were there, the King and Queen of Norway was having dinner in the restaurant as well.  With a fairly staid clientele, changes to the hotel are never going to be radical.

This hotel, however, is not stuffy.  My children regularly pad about downstairs in their socks.  I’ve noticed some children coming down to the children’s dinner in pyjamas.  When I hurt my knee skiing, I limped down to dinner in my complimentary spa slippers.

The spa, by the way, is very good.  I’ve eased away the ski aches and pains with an excellent massage.  There is also a pool which our children use most evenings and they have made friends with some of the other guests’ children playing in the pool.

Why do we return?  The convenient location, nice family rooms, impeccable service and great food are all important.  Most important, however, our children think of the Christiana as a ski home away from home.  You can’t place a price on warm, fuzzy feelings!

Valentino Red and the St Regis Rome

Valentino Red and the St Regis Rome

When you are looking for an escapist weekend away in Rome, you can’t do much better than the St. Regis Rome, the Eternal City’s first luxury hotel. My friend and occasional contributor to this blog, Dianna, is a big fan of the St. Regis brand.  The St. Regis Rome was a natural choice for us when we decided to meet for a weekend in Rome.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy has been popular with celebrities since its opening in the 19th century.

The St. Regis Rome

The St Regis Rome is an elegant combination of luxury, impeccable service and exalted history.

History

The St. Regis started of as the Grand Hotel and was established by Swiss luxury hotelier, Cesar Ritz. Yes, that Cesar Ritz who also established the Hotel Ritz in Paris, among other fancy establishments and, in doing so, contributed to the creation the the word ‘ritzy’ in the English language.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

The very opulent restaurant – definitely ritzy.

At the opening part of the St. Regis Rome, you had the King of Italy, the King of Germany and the Pope attending. Cesar Ritz had quite the little black book of party guests on his roster.

In later years, the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, took up residence from 1934-1941. Poor Alfonso XIII had left Spain when the Spanish had declared itself a republic.  Of course, the St. Regis Rome wasn’t a bad place for the exiled king to mope over the unfairness of life.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

I loved the detail on this grand staircase.

Although I prefer staying in contemporary hotels, I appreciate the beauty of historic hotels. In the end of the day, I’m an equal opportunity luxury partaker.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

Marble, marble everywhere. And, chandeliers.

Christmas at the St. Regis Rome

We were at the St. Regis Rome over Christmas and so the newly renovated lobby was sparkling with decorations.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

The St. Regis Rome tastefully decorated for Christmas.

The Bloody Mary Tradition

The signature drink of the St. Regis hotels is the Bloody Mary. A bartender at the St. Regis New York invented this cocktail in 1934. He called it the Red Snapper but I prefer the new name. No one really knows where the new name came from. Although the Bloody Mary is popular as a hangover drink, Dianna and I prefer the cocktails as pre-and-post hangover drink.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

We washed down our Bloody Mary’s with Italian cold cuts.

Each St. Regis hotel has a variation on the Bloody Mary which reflects local tastes.  The Bloody Mary’s were at the St. Regis Rome were indeed glorious but I should not have ordered the extra-hot because it was way too hot for me.

Luxury Hotel St Regis Rome in Italy

Check out the chillies hanging out at the bottom of my Bloody Mary cocktail.

The Couture Suite

Noted interiors firm, HBA London, injected both elements of fashion and red into the Couture Suite they created for the St. Regis Rome.  If you look at the renovated Alfonso XIII Hotel in Seville done by the same designers, HBA do have a fondness for using red in their interiors.

writing table

The Couture Suite references Roman designer Valentino, as the inspiration.  Valentino opened his first couture house on the fashionable Via Condotti in Rome in 1959.  His signature shade of intense red, became known as Valentino Red in the fashion industry.

The Couture Suite is 3 bedrooms and a living room.  All three bedrooms feature variations of a photograph of red smoke.   The flowing red smoke alludes to both Valentino red and the sheer, sinuous quality of voile which is often used in dress making.

red smoke

The walls, lined in neutral linen, provide a backdrop for the luxurious materials used in the rest of the rooms, such as Italian leather, intricate embroidery and nail-head trim panelling.

couture suite bedroom

The television rests on an easel which subtly blends it into the rest of the room’s decor.  At first glance, I didn’t even realise the easel held a television!

television easel

The suite is decorated with historical photographs of famous people who have stayed at the St. Regis Rome, including red-hot lovers, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

suite living room

Like the Valentino brand, the Couture Suite at the St. Regis Rome is glamorous and classically elegant.

All the St. Regis Couture Suite photos are by Eric Laignel.

The St. Regis Rome Renovations

The St. Regis Rome is undergoing major renovations which were expected to last through the end of 2017. When we were there in December 2017, they still hadn’t been finished. On the other hand, the location can’t be beat and you can get great deals while the renovation is underway.

My friend and I spent a lot of time catching up because we have both been to Rome many times before. Fellow blogger, Suzanne provides a comprehensive guide to visiting  Rome and tips for visiting Rome on her website.

The St Regis Rome is a member of the Starwood Hotels Group. We all know I love the Starwood hotels and their points system. Including the over the top suites, the hotel has 161 guest rooms and all the service and amenities you would expect from a hotel of this calibre.

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