A Taste of Mexico with La Villa Bonita Culinary Vacations www.casualtravelist.com

A Taste of Mexico with La Villa Bonita Culinary Vacations

It’s no secret that I travel to eat, I find that food is one of the best ways to experience a destination. For my first trip to Mexico I wanted to immerse myself in it’s cuisine, from vibrant salsas to smokey moles and everything in between, I wanted to experience Mexico’s diverse food culture on a deeper level. This is what led me to La Villa Bonita, a hands-on cooking school and boutique hacienda in Central Mexico’s highlands.

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Primland Resort- A Luxury Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

When it comes to travel I’m a woman of varied tastes. Sometimes I’m looking for a romantic getaway with Steve, complete with a beautiful room and spectacular views. Sometimes it’s all about outdoors adventure, whether it’s days spent hiking with stunning vistas as my reward or a leisurely morning exploring the woods on horseback. Sometimes I’m looking for a bit of pampering with an afternoon at the spa followed by a five star meal. Once in a great while I’m lucky to find all of this in one destination, with a stunning location deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia. This is Primland Resort.

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The Brewhouse Inn and Suites-Modern Luxury with a Nod to Milwaukee's Past

The Brewhouse Inn and Suites-Modern Luxury with a Nod to Milwaukee’s Past

It’s no secret that Milwaukee has always been a beer town, so on a recent visit I couldn’t pass up staying at a hotel that started out at as a brewery. But this wasn’t just any brewery, this was the Pabst brewery, at one time the biggest brewery in the world; and this wasn’t just any hotel, it was the Brewhouse Inn and Suites which turned out to be one of the most unique city hotels I’ve ever stayed at.

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Mashpi Lodge-Luxury in Ecuador's Cloud Forest www.casualtravelist.com

Mashpi Lodge-Luxury in Ecuador’s Cloud Forest

Winding bumpy roads snake their way through Ecuador’s chain of  Andean volcanoes. Three hours in the van watching city turn into farmland and eventually something more remote we arrived at our destination. Greeted by a large Jurassic Park style wooden gate, the doors opened and we began our descent into one of the most wild places I’ve been. Jungle in every shade of green imaginable stretched out for miles while the heavy mist sunk throughout crags of the surrounding valleys. This was the singular environment of Ecuador’s cloud forest and home to Mashpi Lodge.

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The Fairmont Washington DC offers a peaceful retreat in the nation's capital. www.casualtravelist.com

Capital Elegance at the Fairmont Washington DC

I travel to Washington DC often and I’m always on the lookout for the right hotel for the right trip. DC is a large city full of diverse and unique neighborhoods and I’ve spent some time exploring a number of them; Dupont Circle’s lively vibe,the politico airs of downtown, Capitol Hill’s classic meets funky charm and the quiet appeal of Woodley Park. One place I haven’t been was Georgetown and it was high time I explore one of Washington’s most alluring neighborhoods along with one of DC’s most alluring hotels, the Fairmont Washington DC.

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Visiting the Hotel de Glace, Ice Hotel in Quebec. www.casualtravelist.com

Cooler than Cool- Visiting the Hotel de Glace, Ice Hotel in Quebec

Quebec’s Hotel de Glace, or Ice Hotel, is located just 10 minutes from Quebec City and is the only hotel in North America to be made of ice and snow. Over the past 16 years, the Ice Hotel has welcomed over one million visitors with nearly 50,000 braving a frosty overnight stay. Each year the hotel is newly constructed with over 500 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of man-made snow. Once temperatures are cold enough (usually when the thermometer dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a week straight) it takes crews  about 6 weeks of working 24/7 to fully construct the hotel from the ground up. Most years the hotel is open from early January through the end of March, but exact dates vary year to year based on the weather.

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The Loews Annapolis, a luxury hotel in the charming historic district of Annapolis. www.casualtravelist.com

Chesapeake Bay luxury at the Loews Annapolis

Annapolis, Maryland has all the ingredients necessary for a great getaway; charming streets filled with history,a thriving restaurant scene and a prime location on the Chesapeake Bay all make for a perfect weekend break. Since I was in town for an event I was thrilled when my friend recommend I stay at the Loews Annapolis.Having recently stayed at the Loews Madison in Washington DC I knew I was in for a treat, the Loews brand focuses on easy luxury with a taste of the local destination.Located a few blocks from the bustle of Main Street, the Loews Annapolis is within walking distance of many of Annapolis’s best restaurants and popular sights but is quiet enough to be a true retreat to return to at the end of the day.

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The Oaks Victorian Inn- A historic B&B in Southwest Virginia

Mid-September is glorious time to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia; the leaves are hinting at change, the days are bright and sunny while the nights are crisp but without the chill of October. In short its a perfect time to visit before the crowds arrive for the maroon and orange of Virginia Tech football and the crimsons and golds of autumn. When it comes to lodging in the Christiansburg/Blackburg area you basically have three options; camping (I like a hot shower at the end of the day,thank you), generic chain hotels (ok but only if I absolutely have to), and B&Bs.

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Stay at the modern Fosshotel Reykjavik while exploring Iceland's capital. Explore the best Iceland has to offer with Icelandic Farm Holidays www.casualtravelist.com

Going Local with Icelandic Farm Holidays

Magnificent waterfalls, lunar lava fields and massive glaciers- Iceland is on many traveler’s bucket list for good reason. When planning my first trip to Iceland I found a few options to get a taste of the country in the four days I would be there. Plenty of people choose Reykjavik as a base and visit south Iceland’s popular sights on day trips with organized bus tours I knew I wanted to experience Iceland with the freedom that only four wheels and the open road can provide. While I am always up for a new adventure I did find the prospect of planning my Icelandic road trip a little daunting- this would be my first time driving in another country, let alone one with famously unpronounceable towns, a rugged lava-hewn landscape and the occasional volcanic eruption that will disrupt European air travel for weeks. On the recommendation of a good friend I decided to enlist the help of Icelandic Farm Holidays.

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The Iris Inn, a luxury Shenandoah bed and breakfast

The Iris Inn – A Welcoming Shenandoah Hideaway

Two of my favorite ways to unwind are spending a bit of time outside reconnecting with nature and enjoying a good glass of wine. Luckily for me Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a short 3 hour drive from my home in Virginia Beach, has both in spades making the area an obvious choice for a weekend getaway.

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