Saturday, September 30, 2023

A Special Spa and More Wine & Food in the Wisconsin Dells


Laurie and I woke up at The Vue in Wisconsin Dells excited for our spa day. First, we went to a local favorite, Stuff’s Restaurant, for a breakfast of eggs, corned beef hash, pancakes, and French Toast. It was obvious why there were so many people in there.

 


I had heard many good things about the award winning Sundara Inn & Spa, but it exceeded my expectations. This was the ultimate grown up escape in Wisconsin Dells. I have been to a lot of spas, but nothing like this.

What I love most about Sundara is the ability to have a full day (or even days) with plenty of relaxation and wellness to do – without getting charged for every little thing.  

 

There is, of course, a large menu of treatments who can purchase, but it’s all the other amenities that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. They can be added on for one extra fee.Included in the fee are unlimited wellness classes, indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, tranquil spaces, and the Purifying Bath Ritual. With the one charge, you get to spend an entire day enjoying it all.

We arranged our day at the cave-like indoor pool and whirlpools, where we had a healthy lunch from their Nava Restaurant and mocktails at the swim-up bar. We then spent some time refreshing our breath in the Salt Room, and then did a meditation session.

 

Laurie and I also did the bath ritual:  

Exfoliation with their provided scrub in the rainfall shower;

A squirt of their special mist before heading into the steam room;

And a rinse before hitting the hot tub filled with essential oils.

We decided to skip the cold plunge pool.

Before we left, I had a chance to tour some of the accommodations. I loved the large suites in the main building, where you can take the elevator in your comfy robe right down to the spa. For those who want even more space there are villas and Woodland retreats. 


After spending most of the day at the spa, we headed to Fawn Creek Winery. This place has unusually mixed fruit wines, such as Just Peachy, peach and chardonnay, and Black Ber-y, blackberry and Merlot. There were more combinations and they change seasonally. I thought they were all pretty tasty. It was like having a variety of sangrias in bottles.

 


Dinner was at Lake City Social. I had a veggie burger and Mule, while Laurie had a Rueben and beer. We really liked the food and drink there.

 


We were exhausted from a long day, even though it had been filled with relaxation. We went back to The Vue hotel for one more night.

 


In the morning, we went to Paul Bunyan, a well-known restaurant I had been to on my previous trips to Wisconsin Dells. The warm donuts were as good as ever and their breakfast was filling. It is unlimited, but we couldn’t eat any more than they brought us the first time.

 


Before we left the Wisconsin Dells, we took a ride through the downtown. It was a fun trip and interesting to get to experience some of the adult things the region has outside of the.

 

 Note: Sundara Spa does not allow photography. Photos are courtesy of the spa. 



Friday, September 15, 2023

A Different Look of The Wisconsin Dells


I have been to the Wisconsin Dells three times. The first two were family trips to resorts, Chula Vista and Kalahari. The third trip, the most recent, was totally different.


This was a girls’ getaway with my friend Laurie. We were enticed by Wisconsin Dells tourism to check out the adult side of the area. This included a spa that was receiving national attention and the emergence of The Dells as a wine region.

It started at Wollersheim, the most impressive winery I’ve seen in the Midwest. This is not a place where you walk in, try a few wines, and go home. Wollersheim is 70 manicured acres to enjoy - before, after, or during the wine.

Their wine selection is huge, and we tasted quite a few, settling on the Prairie Pink, Eagle White Dry Riesling, and Domaine du Sac, a red wine, as favorites. We also had a tasty lunch, the highlight of which was the Gobbler Sandwich.


Bistro offerings come prepared boxed to take outside and enjoy the grounds with a picnic. They also have the wine ready to bring. If you don’t want a full bottle, you can purchase canned wine or small bottles for portability.

Wollersheim also has a distillery. They produce whiskey, bourbon, and brandies. You can try the spirits straight or taste them in a selection of handcrafted cocktails.


We then drove to the other side of The Dells to Balanced Rock Winery in Baraboo. This spot was very different from the previous, with an open, modern building and a large piece of land. There’s a big patio and plenty of space for outdoor concerts and a driving range.


We tried a lot of wines and liked the Seyval, with a touch of apple sweetness, and the Frontenac Fris, an orange wine that is a little sweeter, were the ones we liked best.

We were a little hungry and thought we’d order a snack to have with our wine. The hummus plate was the best I ever had. It was too much to finish and we hated to leave it. It also matched well with the Rock Rose.

While at Balanced Rock, we found out we were just a mile from Wisconsin’s most popular state park. Devil’s Lake has beautiful scenery that reminds me a bit of the Upper Penisula in Michigan with the large bluffs. It’s filled with year-round activity, including rock climbing, boating, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing.


After the park, we drove to our hotel for the trip. The Vue is far from the huge resorts I was used to in the Wisconsin Dells. It is a boutique hotel in downtown. That makes it a lot more appropriate for two grown women not interested in water parks or roller coasters. The Vue is also on the waterfront and loaded with views of the Wisconsin River.


The Boathouse restaurant at The Vue offers indoor and outdoor dining. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offer plenty of comfort food and an interesting cocktail menu. I had the fettucine alfredo and Laurie did the fried chicken. We followed with a S’more Hot Chocolate Cake. We loved watching the sunset during dinner.

We were done for the night and happy to just be able to walk back to our room. We were excited to be spending most of the next day at Sundara Spa.


I was hosted on this trip, but opinions are my own.                                                                                        


Sunday, August 13, 2023

Lots to Update!

It’s been a crazy year trying to organize my work life and my health. I got tired (as I’m sure my readers have) of apologizing for not getting things done. It was time to streamline and not attempt to do more than I physically can, only to apologize when I don’t get it done!

I’ve been doing this blog for 14 years. I haven’t continued the way I’d like to and it’s not because I don’t consider it a priority. I’m only able to work part time now and I need to make sure I earn money during those hours.

I no longer want this blog to suffer so I’ve given up my time in the others, the most notable of which is Spiritstraveler. That column was all about products I discovered. The problem was that it took a lot of time and earned very little money.

I will still be doing some product reports, but it will only be on things I’m really interested in and you’ll see them floated here, on my Pinterest, and in my social media (@Spiritstraveler on everything). I will not be updating the Spiritstraveler blog.

I want to be able to spend more time on this blog in addition to paid stories on publications. (You can see those on the side of this page, under “Other Stories by Marcia,” or at my Linktree.) I’m also building up my YouTube channel.

The other thing I’ve been working on to try to monetize this blog are partnerships. These are only products I believe in and have a tie-in to travel. If they are things you could use, I’d appreciate your support:


World Is Wide Keepsakes


Kristie creates beautiful handmade travel products at very reasonable prices. Here’s the website. If you use my code at checkout (BAMF10), we both get 10%.

Amazon Influencers Page (I’ll be updating this page regularly)
These are all things I love, from travel gear to beauty products to pet products.


Viator
This tour company has inexpensive tours everywhere. Click on the link and search before your next trip.


Accessible Go
For accessible travel (something I know a lot about these days), Accessible Go can hook you up with everything from hotels to wheelchair vans. Click on this link.


Buy Me A Coffee
Or, if you want to see more blogs here and you don’t want to order products, you can always click and Buy Me A Coffee.


I have lots of fun stories coming up from the Midwest to Seattle and my bucket list 50th state: Alaska! I’ll be heading on the Royal Princess in less than two weeks.

It will be a bit before I have the blogs up while I get publication stories done, and prepare for two surgeries, but you can follow my journey in real time @Spiritstraveler on Twitter, Threads, Instagram & YouTube.

Best,
Marcia



Thursday, July 13, 2023

My Thoughts as I Disembark the American Queen Steamboat Cruise

It had been a wonderful trip heading north on the Mississippi River. The American Queen Steamboat experience was like no other cruise either Lynn or I had previously experienced.

We were all packed to go and it was much easier than usual because we had my van waiting at St. Louis Airport. After a leisurely breakfast, we were able to just hang shopping bags on my scooter and head out without worrying about going through security and getting on a plane.


The other thing that was nice was not having to go through a huge cruise terminal or deal with customs. We had a leisurely breakfast, walked off the boat, and got on the bus to the airport.

A big thank you to America Queen Voyages for hosting us on this adventure. Lynn and I had a great time on this cruise. Here’s a break down of more detailed opinions:

 

 

The Boat

Elegant is probably my best description for the American Queen. The boat definitely makes you feel like you are back in the 19th century and expect to see Mark Twain walking down the hallway. There are more public spaces than you’d expect on a cruise for up to 400 people so you can always find a spot where you don’t feel crowded.

The Cabins

We were in an accessible Junior Suite. I had some issues getting my scooter in and out with the lip in the doorway, but they came and put a ramp in so it made things much easier. The room itself was nothing like any other cruise I’ve been on. The furniture was antique and the room looked a bit old, but the bathroom was huge and modern. It also had a tub, which is always a big plus for me.

The Food

There are only two restaurants on the American Queen. The front porch has snacks (ice cream, cookies) all day and a small buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The main dining room is where we ate almost all our meals. I’ve lost count of how many cruises I’ve been on and I’ve never had such consistently outstanding food.

We had so many over-the-top delicious dishes I couldn’t even list them. The desserts were equally fantastic. Even though Lynn and I are allergic and couldn’t take advantage, the lobster available at every dinner was a huge draw to many people.

The Entertainment

I often skip shows on cruises because they are long and don’t grab my attention. The American Queen shows were less than an hour and we really enjoyed them. There was just one we didn’t love, but that’s certainly not something to complain about. The Broadway show was the best.

The Itinerary

The low level of the Mississippi River kept us from two ports (one was changed for something else). It was still a good itinerary, giving us the opportunity to explore five states in the Midwest. How often can you do that in a week?

Embarkation

This is the one thing I have to say American Queen Voyages could do better on. Honestly, the embarkation to the ship was fine. The problem was that they had us check-in at the hotel in the morning. That was a mess. There were no ship personnel there and information was either lacking or wrong. It took hours.

We were all able to walk onto the ship with no problem, BUT once there nearly everyone had issues with reservations, rooms, excursions, etc. because no one at the hotel could help with them. A lot of things (like dinner times) could have been done on computer or the phone before we arrived, and a table of actual AQV personnel at the boat would not have slowed down embarkation very much.

Final Thoughts

Would I do this cruise again? Absolutely, though I’d rather first check out another itinerary, such as the Lower Mississippi. I especially loved the size of this boat. Having only 300 people on board made everything we did much simpler. It also makes a trip so much better when you have everything included. All drinks, food, and hop on, hop off tours were included in the cruise fare.

I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own.


Sunday, June 25, 2023

Back to Hannibal with the American Queen

The next stop for my friend Lynn and I on the American Queen Steamboat was a town I had visited before – Hannibal, Missouri. 

The last time I was in Hannibal, it was very educational and a lot of fun. I was anxious to show the town to Lynn. Hannibal was once a lumbering town and starting point of the Pony Express, but its claim to fame is as the former home of author Mark Twain.

The city displays its legacy everywhere and Tom Sawyer and Becky Thacher are celebrated throughout. It all starts at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum Complex. It was where we got off on the Hop on, Hop off bus American Queen Voyages provided at every port. 

We went through the Mark Twain Boyhood Home. I had been here before, but there is so much to learn and take in about the author and his books I felt like I learned a few things I missed the first time. There is also a lot to learn about the time period. There was a class structure as well as the ending of slavery. 


Included in this area is the Interpretive Center, Becky Thacher House, Huckleberry Finn House, J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office, Grant’s Drugstore, and the Tom and Huck Statue. It would take hours to go through it all and take in all the details, but we only had four hours in total in Hanibal. 

We next went down to the Hannibal History Museum and Mark Twain Museum Gallery, which I most remembered for all the historical Norman Rockwell covers of The Saturday Evening Post. There were other pieces of art depicting Twain and his work. 

Back on the bus, we passed the Trinity Episcopal Church before heading to Cave Hollow West Winery and Mark Twain Cave. I was happy to return to the winery as I had enjoyed their wine last time I was here. They have a nice outside picnic area, but it was a bit  chilly to go outside this time. 

Before we knew it, we had to head back to the boat. We were hungry and went straight to lunch, where we had a little of everything from the buffet, followed by a delicious Nutella Mousse dessert. 


Most afternoons passengers were resting, but they usually had events such as Bingo. In keeping with the theme of the day, there was a matinee show of A Conversation with Mark Twain, with Lewis Hankins.

We got dressed up for dinner. It was preceded by the Captain’s Farewell Reception. They were serving champagne and I took a glass with me to dinner. 

They were serving Prime Rib and Lynn really enjoyed it. I was equally thrilled with my Stuffed Poblano. Dessert was bread pudding and cheesecake. 

It was my last evening to enjoy the scenery and I took advantage, going around the boat and soaking in the Mississippi River before I joined Lynn for the show. 


We enjoyed our final show on the American Queen. It was “Singing in The 70s” and featured many of the TV themes of the years. We then had our last nightcap in the Engine Room Bar to the music of Jay and Will. 

In the morning, we would be heading off the boat for the last time. 


I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own. 



Sunday, June 4, 2023

Quick Stop in Burlington & Highlights of the American Queen

My friend, Lynn, and I continued down the Mississippi River on the American Queen to our last stop in Iowa. We only had half a day in Burlington so we were up early to have a quick breakfast and get started on exploring.


President Thomas Jefferson sent Lt. Zebulon Pike to explore the Mississippi River in 1803. When saw the bluffs of Burlington, he placed an American flag above them, and recommended construction of a fort. It was easy to see why this town needed to be a stop on the river.

At one point this city was considered part of Wisconsin, but it earned its place in Iowa and downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic places. Before we got on the hop-on, hop-off bus, we had a preview of more of what the city had to offer.

 The Port of Burlington Welcome Center was by far the most advanced port we had been to on this trip. It was filled with items made in the city as well as the state of Iowa. There was even a tasting of Lindon Wines and plenty of brochures and maps of places to visit.

The bus stopped at the Des Moines Heritage Center and Mosquito Park, which gives you a good look at the bluffs Lt. Pike was intrigued by. Next was the Garrett-Phelps House Museum, a home on the hill built by an early merchant who has a ballroom on the third floor that later became the first Protestant Hospital.

 
There was a stop that I got off to only take a look. I wasn’t taking a chance on my scooter going down Snake Alley, the most crooked street in the United States!

We did spend time at the next stop to see some of the other downtown sites in Burlington, which included the grand Capitol Theater and the Art Center of Burlington, which highlighted a lot of local artisans.

Before heading back to the ship, we also made a quick visit to the Burlington Gem shop. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction downtown and it was difficult to navigate with my scooter.


We arrived at lunch a little late and weren’t happy with the dessert choices left so we went to the Front Porch CafĂ© for lattes and ice cream. As with all other food and drinks on the boat, these were always complimentary.

It was then time to go back to our cabin to rest, shower, and get dressed for dinner. We had the routine down and it worked well for us. We were in the John Wesley Powell Junior Suite. Powell was a soldier and a geologist. He was also a professor at nearby Illinois Wesleyan University.

 

It was not your usual cruise suite. It was smaller than suites I’ve had and decorated differently. The American Queen reflects the steamboat period, with antique furnishings. Only the bathroom was modern (and very big).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the food on the American Queen is the best I’ve ever had on a cruise ship, and I’ve been on dozens. Nearly every single dish was done carefully to perfection and presented beautifully.

 After dinner, I did what had become another habit, I went out to the deck to watch the sunset over the Mississippi. It was different every night. I always find sunsets to be very relaxing.

I met Lynn outside the balcony entrance to the show. It was pianist Gary Peterson performing a variety of music. We then finished the night at the Engine Room Bar with a nightcap before heading back to the cabin.

 We would be heading to a place I’d been to and loved, Hannibal, Missouri, the next day.

 

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I was hosted by American Queen on this voyage, but opinions are my own.