Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Enjoying a Winter Wonderland at Boyne Highlands

I had arrived at Boyne Highlands Resort in Michigan the previous evening with my brother, Mark, and my nephew and niece, Jacob and Moriah. Everyone was excited about a weekend full of activities. Well, almost everyone.

I had broken my arm just two weeks before and wouldn’t be doing anything adventurous. 

I have to admit I was a bit bummed before I arrived, but once I settled into Boyne Highlands Resort, the views and other things I could do had eliminated my gloomy outlook.

We were up early for breakfast in the Dining Room of the Main Lodge. I was impressed by the huge buffet. There was an omelet station, as well as hot and cold dishes, fruits, muffins, pancakes, and more.

We were all full when we left to head outside, where the temperature was hovering around zero degrees. It was, after all, Michigan in the winter, I reminded my Californian family.

I followed everyone along to the Snow Sports Academy Desk in the Day Lodge, where they were checked in and fitted for their equipment.

Moriah and Jacob, who had skied quite a few times at Lake Tahoe, California,, had a two-hour group lesson before they were off to some ski time of their own.

Mark had decided that he wanted to try snowboarding and he too had a lesson. Boyne Highlands Resort is very well equipped for every winter sport in every level.

I enjoyed relaxing and watching them. I hadn’t seen the kids in about a year and the mountain was just beautiful.

Everyone finished up a bit before our lunch and we decided to try tubing. It was a lot of fun, and something I could experience with the cast on.

We then headed to lunch with the entire press group in the Zoo Bar of the Day Lodge. We had pre-ordered lunch so we had a chance to chat and ask any questions we had to Boyne’s Director of Marketing, Erin Ernst.

I had ordered the Slider Trio of Avocado Turkey, Thai Beef, and Black Bean, and it was delicious. Everyone was happy with the other options, including an Ahi Tuna Wrap, too.

Erin had arranged for my spa appointment to be while Mark and the kids went zip lining so we went our separate ways for a while.

I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing Milk & Honey Pedicure and they had a fun time zip lining.

We rested a while before heading to dinner at Petoskey Brewing Company, which was just a few minutes away.

I requested a tour of Petoskey’s facilities, which were bigger than we expected, before we sat down for some beer tasting and warm pretzels, followed by burgers and sandwiches.

Moriah had stayed back at the lodge to study. When we returned, we all went into the hot tub for a while. There’s nothing quite like watching the snow mountains in freezing temperatures while you stay warm in the hot tub.

Despite the fact that I was the only one who didn’t have an adventurous day, I think I was the first one asleep after all the relaxing.

I would get to join in on more of the fun Saturday at Boyne Highlands as we were starting with dog sledding.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Back to Michigan: Traverse City to Harbor Springs for Boyne Highlands

I was really excited about my first trip to Boyne Highlands Resort in Michigan. I was especially thrilled that my brother, Mark, was coming with my niece and nephew (although I wished my oldest niece could come too).

The plan was to all fly into Traverse City Airport, have lunch, and then make a visit to Bowers Harbor Vineyards before leaving town.

This was my third trip to Traverse City and while I didn’t have a lot of time, I wanted to at least get one more of their fabulous wineries covered. My friend Mike Norton, Media Relations Manager at Traverse City Tourism, thought Bowers was not only a great winery, but as family friendly as a winery can be.

You know what they say about the best laid plans. I arrived in Traverse City to find out the family had missed their connection.

I knew immediately I where I was when I was looking for a cup of coffee. After all, where else would the coffee machine offer “Cherry Pie Cappuccino” other than in Cherry Capital Airport!

I collected my things and headed downtown. Mike was away on vacation and I arranged to meet with Jennifer Case for the trip to Bowers, but I was running early so I first stopped downtown for lunch at Greenhouse Café.

My Rueben sandwich and potato soup was a perfectly satisfying pair for the cold day. I finished up and walked over to the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau to meet Jennifer.

It was a short walk and she was ready when I got there to take the drive to Bowers Harbor Vineyards on the Old Mission Peninsula.

I had never been to Traverse City before in the snow and it made for quite a beautiful scene, especially and this winery.  

The tasting room at Bowers Harbor is very comfortable and I was surprised at the huge selection of wines.

I wasn’t driving so I tried quite a few. I was especially fond of their Block II Riesling, Unwooded Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer. Even though I’m not a big red drinker,

 I did enjoy sipping their 2012 Wind Whistle Claret. They also had a tasty Blanc de Blanc Sparkling wine.

On the way back to the airport we made a quick stop at one of my favorite Traverse City wineries, Brys Estate.

I had a wonderful visit there with the owners a few years ago and wanted to stop in and visit. They weren’t there, but I did get to enjoy a glass of their Riesling.  

My brother, Jacob, and Moriah had just arrived, but their luggage had not.

We picked up the rental car, but couldn’t leave Traverse City right away to drive to Boyne Highlands Resort because the family’s luggage was arriving on the next plane.

I suggested we head to the Grand Traverse Pie Company.

My niece, Moriah, happens to be a big fan of pie and the rest of us were more than happy to go along for a little something to tide us over.

We decided on an apple crumb pie, and chocolate cream pie, and the February special – cherry pie with a chocolate ganache topping. They were all great, but I don’t think I have to say how amazing that one was.

Jacob also insisted he was hungry enough for a chicken pot pie and we all tasted a bit of that before we hit the road.

It was about an hour and a half to Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and the ride was just beautiful through the snow covered rounds and lakes.

We arrived just in time for the welcome reception. We quickly dropped our things in our room and headed to meet Marketing Director Erin Ernst and the other journalists and their families at the Slopeside Lounge.

Erin had set up a nice spread for us that included cheese, pizza, hors d'oeuvres, and desserts. I also sampled a Gingerbread Coffee cocktail, while Mark tried some Michigan beers.

It had been a long day for all of us so we were back in the rooms fairly early, but excited for an upcoming day of skiing, snowboarding, and more fun at Boyne Highlands Resort

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Zagreb Stopover Before Heading Home from Croatia

Lynn and I left Split for Zagreb in the late afternoon. The drive was a fairly easy one as highways of Croatia are new and very well kept up.

Zagreb was unlike any city we saw in Istria, Rijeka, or Split. It was filled with tall buildings and contemporary designs.

We arrived at the Doubletree by Hilton Zagreb. It was a beautiful hotel and had a comfortable lobby. It was evening and we had an early flight in the morning so the only thing we had planned was dinner and then an early bedtime.

We checked out the restaurant, but didn’t really want a meal. We were both craving pizza and were curious to see if it was as good as it had been in Istria.

The staff at the front desk unanimously told us to go into the building next door to Al Metro. The building was modern and filled with restaurants, but we followed the smell to the pizzeria.

We picked up a pie and took it back to the room. It had been a once in a lifetime experience in Croatia, especially the first week with the Share Istria group.

There had been so many great meals and fantastic experiences. We were ready for a quiet pizza dinner and some girl talk before we headed to our homes in two different states.

In the morning, Lynn and I left Doubletree by Hilton Zagreb for the airport, where we said our goodbyes. She was going straight from Zagreb to New York and I was flying to Chicago, and then to home.

It was nice to see a familiar Starbucks to start my journey home. 

I was able to get an upgrade on Air France. It was only economy plus, but it was quite nice in the upper level of the plane in a bulkhead. The service and food was wonderful. I got some sleep and did some work. It was time to get back to life.

Although I had been to Croatia before, the experience I had with Istria Tourism and my Share Istria group could not compare to anything else. I am grateful to all.

In the end, I did win as the social influencer in my group that week, but I did not win the Grand Prize (10,000 Euros).

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I still wouldn’t trade that trip for anything in the world.

It was even more special to share it with my friend Lynn, who I have known for 25 years.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Beach Time and Relaxation in Split, Croatia

Travel days where I have nothing to do are few and far between, but this one was especially wonderful since I had a beautiful beach and a spa to enjoy for the day.

Lynn and I had been traveling through Croatia for nine days. Although I wouldn’t have done anything different, we were still exhausted.

The Hotel Split was on a breathtaking beach and, since it was during the week, pretty quiet.

We had every intention of taking advantage of that time in Split.

We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel with an amazing view. It was a pretty typical European breakfast for me of yogurt, fruit, cheese, and a croissant. 

It’s odd how I like variety so much at home, but always seem to stick to this in Europe.

After breakfast, we spent the morning walking and lounging on the beach. The Adriatic Sea was especially beautiful from Split and just gazing at it from different angles was a treat.
When we arrived at Hotel Split, I saw the spa specials and noticed that the Hot Oil Aromatherapy Massage was very cheap (about $30 U.S. for an hour).

My muscles had been taxed during the week and it sounded like heaven.

Lynn agreed, but unfortunately they only had room for one appointment. She graciously let me take it.

I left the spa and was back looking at the turquoise sea when we both decided to take a walk and find something to eat.

We found a Croatian bakery nearby and got some pastries filled with cheese that were more than satisfying.

As much as I like relaxing, I’m not one to just lay on a lounge chair for hours. After a while I got up to explore the rest of the Hotel Split.

I went up to the rooftop and was so glad I did.

The Hotel Split  rooftop has a pool and lounging areas. It also has a view that was even more spectacular than the ones I had seen in the morning.

We had just a little longer before we had to get dressed, pack up, and head to Zagreb. Our Croatia adventure was coming near its end.