Predjama Castle and Postojna Cave are two historic sites that cannot be missed in Slovenia. Rated one of the best hotels in Slovenia, Hotel Jama is the best option for travelers visiting this region. First opened in 1971, renovations were completed in spring 2016 with brand spanking new guestrooms and facilities.
Feel like VIPs as you walk on a red carpet to the hotel’s entrance. A spacious and inviting lobby sits behind the main doors with two large seating areas. Surrounded by nature, every window boasts stunning views of the forest or the park.
Hotel Jama is a mere 100 meters from Postojna Cave, and only 10 minutes away from another world-famous attraction: Predjama Castle. Day trips to Ljubljana and Bled are also totally doable; both are less than an hour’s drive. If you want to hop over the border to Italy, Trieste is only 30 minutes away.
All 80 guestrooms are equipped with LCD TVs with cable and satellite channels, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a minibar and an in-room safe. We loved how sophisticated and modern the rooms have been redesigned.
Tip: The superior rooms have balconies facing the front of the hotel. These rooms have the best views!
Hotel Jama takes the cake for the best service we received in Slovenia, hands down! The lovely front desk agents were all smiles and knew us by name.
Andrej, one of the waiters at the onsite restaurant, blew us away with his charm and humour. His presence made up for the mediocre dining experience we had the previous night in Ljubljana.
Enjoy a hearty buffet-style breakfast at Magical Garden, the onsite restaurant. Choose from a variety of fresh pastries, cured meats, cheeses, and hot foods. Who says you can’t have the famous Bled cream cake first thing in the morning?!
For dinner, let the master chefs pamper your taste buds with the finest cuisine. We celebrated AS’s birthday with a perfectly cooked steak and flavourful squid ink ravioli. To top it all off, Andrej surprised us with cakes at the end of the meal.
Other tips & Info
Rates start at 130€+ for double rooms, 140€+ for superior double rooms with a view, and 170€+ for superior family rooms.
All hotel guests get free access to the Postojna Cave Park, regardless of room type!
Disclaimer: Many thanks to the Slovenia Tourist Board and Postojnska Jama for hosting us. All opinions and experiences are honest and our own- we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!
Food is such an integral part of our travel experience. We’ve noticed that taste is usually sub par when it comes to restaurants with a view, but this is not the case at Bled Castle Restaurant. Whether it’s the food, service, or the ambiance, it is without the doubt the best restaurant in Slovenia.
Imagine indulging in delicious food and drinks in a real castle overlooking a gorgeous lake as the sun sets. I’m being dead serious when I say ourculinary experience at Bled Castle Restaurant was far superior than some of the Michelin starred restaurants we’ve dined at. There’s really nothing to fault!
The Best Restaurant in Slovenia – Bled Castle Restaurant
Space & Ambiance
Located in Bled Castle, the restaurant has an indoor space seating 96 guests, with an additional outdoor terrace that can accommodate up to 100 guests. The window and terrace seats offer an unbeatable view of the turquoise Bled Lake.
Note: If you book your lunch or dinner in advance, you receive a free entrance to Bled Castle.
Tip: Book faaaar in advance if you want the best table in the house- the corner table right on the edge of the castle wall.
Led by a team of culinary professionals from Jezeršek catering, Bled Castle Restaurant offers traditional Slovene dishes with an innovative and sophisticated twist. The menu changes every season using only fresh and ingredients. Flavours are bold and you can taste each ingredient for what they really are.
Staff & Service
One word: top-notch; the entire team is extremely kind and professional. We were greeted with a warm welcome the moment we set foot in the restaurant. An added bonus? Every single staff is eye candy (even AS thinks so).
Our lovely waiter for the night was Matic who took great care of us, making our evening truly unforgettable. He was very knowledgeable not only in wines, but also the ingredients used in each dish. Timing is everything when it comes to fine-dining. Our guy knew exactly when to take away an empty plate and when to introduce the next course.
After a glass of sparkling wine and amuse bouche, we were whisked away to an evening of culinary delights: the tasting menu with wine pairings. We found the portions to be very generous; neither quality nor quantity was compromised. Each dish was beautifully presented with flavour profiles that complement one another.
– Amuse Bouche and Soup –
Deep fried meatball: Bite-sized meaty goodness with just the right amount of seasoning.
Carrot soup with scallop: Scallop is firm on the exterior and soft on the inside, with an explosion of flavour as you bite into it. Soup is creamy and light. The parsley oil drizzle is genius!
– Cold Starters –
Marinated red trout fillet in yogurt mousse with horseradish, green apple and radish: Fresh, tangy, and slightly spicy with a nice kick.
Smoked beef tongue with crispy courgettes, sour red onion and mustard dressing: Who can say no to melt-in-your-mouth beef? The courgette complemented the smokiness of the meat and added a nice crunch.
– Main Course –
Angler’s tail on mashed vegetables, saffron sauce and green bean salad: Perfectly cooked fish that has a lobster-like texture. If you like monkfish you’ll love this.
Slow cooked beef cheeks with spring vegetables and parmesan croquettes: So, so tender. Our teeth sunk into it as if it were butter.
– Dessert –
Strawberry trifle with panna cotta and tarragon macaron: We usually aren’t big fan of panna cotta or macarons but we wanted more of this! Who knew tarragon could work so well in a dessert?
Chocolate mousse with forest fruit ice cream: Rich in cocoa yet light in texture. Chocolately sweet with a balanced nicely with tartness from the berries.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Jezeršek Catering for hosting our meal at Bled Castle Restaurant, hands down the best restaurant in Slovenia we’ve dined at during our time there. As always, our opinions and experiences are honest and our own- we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!
Opened in 1905, Grand Hotel Union was the first modern hotel in Slovenia’s capital. In supporting Ljubljana’s political and social ties with the the world, the hotel has hosted many important figures over the last century including Dalai Lama, Bill Clinton, and Queen Elizabeth. After an expansion and renovations, the Grand Hotel Union Business was born. Its amenities, culinary offerings, and central location are why we think it’s the best place to stay in Ljubljana.
Best place to stay in Ljubljana – Location and Space
Located only 5 minutes on foot from Plečnik’s picturesque Triple Bridge, guests have front-of-the-line access to the old city. Ljubljana’s major attractions, restaurants, shops, and nightlife are all at your fingertips once you walk over this architectural gem from Prešeren Square.
As a modern business hotel, the space is clean, large, and inviting. The hotel can also host up to 800 guests in its 20 halls and rooms intended for cultural and social events, weddings, and business meetings.
Best place to stay in Ljubljana – Guestrooms
Each of the 127 rooms and 6 suites are equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi, large working spaces, coffee makers, and LED satellite TVs. Housekeeping takes cleanliness to the next level with disinfected remote controls.
Our Studio Double Plus had a large balcony with a view of the Ljubljana Castle. The best part? The Keyton massage chair right next to our bed- perfect after a long day of exploring.
Dining at Grand Hotel Union Business
We can’t do without yummy breakfast spreads while on the road, and Grand Hotel Union Business didn’t disappoint with its luxury self-service breakfast! With what seemed like an endless choice of both hot and cold foods to choose from, we wish we had bigger stomachs!
Treat yourself to meals prepared by an award-winning team of chefs at three fine dining restaurants: Restaurant Union, Restaurant and Bar Atelje, and the Union Cellar. Guests can also indulge in fine coffees, aperitifs, and snacks at the Union Cafe or Aperitif Bar.
Best place to stay in Ljubljana – Wellness and Fitness
Guests can enjoy a little R&R from Sense Wellness. The 8th floor swimming pool offers an amazing view of the Ljubljana Castle. Sun tan on the open terrace, revitalize in the Finnish sauna, or unwind with a massage ritual.
Tip: Those looking for more intimacy can book the VIP suite, which includes an infrared sauna, whirlpool bath, and couple massage treatments.
The newly opened fitness center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Multi-functional training sessions, consisting of a dynamic high-intensity workout, are offered daily at 5PM, 6PM and 7PM.
Other Tips & Info
Rates start at 135€+ for double rooms and 155€+ for studios.
Breakfast buffet is included in the nightly rate.
Small pets are welcomed for a cleaning fee of 30€/night.
Parking at the secured underground lot is 20€/night with in-and-out privileges.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to the Slovenian Tourist Board and Ljubljana Tourism for hosting us in the Ljubljana region of Slovenia. All opinions and experiences are honest and our own- we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!
In search of the best luxury hotel in Florence we were on the hunt for a place that’s different- a place that’s extraordinary. With a real medieval tower and original frescos from the 13th century, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa Hotel is considered the oldest hotel not only in Florence, but also Italy. We felt like VIPs while staying here, right in the center of this iconic Renaissance city.
The best luxury hotel in Florence – NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze
Location and Space
Located only minutes from Piazza del Duomo and Uffizi Gallery, NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa is right in the center of it all. It takes no more than a 10-minute walk to access all major attractions. We’re talking 6 minutes to the Duomo, 5 minutes to Ponte Vecchio, and 2 minutes to Piazza della Repubblica.
A stunning stained-glass ceiling graces the lobby of this historic establishment. The main hall and the lounge are tastefully decorated with antique furniture and neo-Renaissance architectural fittings. The vaulted ceiling makes this space even grander than it already is.
Staff and Service
From the front desk reps to the breakfast team, the entire staff is friendly and helpful without losing professionalism. We were surprised by tea and treats upon checking in, and were spoiled with hazelnut chocolates every evening.
72 guestrooms are spread across 5 floors. Each room is different and unique in their own way; some contain original frescos like the famous Room 121. Using natural wood and warm tones, rooms are laid out in an elegant yet minimal style.
Tip: Guests staying in the Torre Monalda Suite are spoiled with a 360-degree view of the city from the medieval tower.
Our humongous suite came with a comfortable queen-sized bed with lots of natural lighting. The entire space is squeaky clean without a speck of dust! There’s a separate powder room attached to the large washroom, where we enjoyed relaxing baths and rain showers after long days of walking around Florence.
Each room is equipped with a kettle, coffee machine, slippers and plush bath robes. Luxury NH Collection bathroom amenities are restocked every day.
Note: Instead of those weak, wall mount hair dryers, I was most impressed with them providing a real hair dryer! I’m sure all you ladies (and gentlemen) with long hair would appreciate this.
Indulge in an extravagant breakfast spread very morning at the buffet, with a wide variety of fresh pastries, fruits and juices, savoury bites, meats and cheeses, and made-to-order hot dishes. Have you ever had Prosecco and truffles for breakfast? Well you can, at the best luxury hotel in Florence!
If you want to take luxury dining to the next level, try the exclusive truffle-based menu for lunch or dinner. NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze, in partnership with Savini Tartufi’s Truffles Experience, is the first hotel in Italy to offer this one of a kind gastronomic experience.
Other Tips and Info
Rates start at 230€+ for Superior Rooms, 250€+ for Premium Rooms, and 315€+ for Junior Suites.
Breakfast is included in the nightly rates but you can opt out when booking your stay.
Late checkout until 3PM is available upon availability.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to NH Collection Porta Rossa Firenze Hotel for hosting our stay. All opinions and experiences are honest and our own- we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!
Imagine living in an Austrian house that dates back to the 14th century, long before Mozart was even born. Looking for a place to call home in Salzburg, we came across this charming family-run hotel. Not only is Alstadt Hotel Stadtkrug one of the most characteristic hotels we’ve stayed at, but also the most convenient Salzburg hotel.
1353 marks the year this historic building was first documented on paper. It was originally a brewery in 1492, which later became a bakery before turning into a restaurant towards the beginning of the 20th century. The Lucian family took ownership of the building in 1987 and transformed it into what we know today as Altstadt Hotel Stadtkrug.
The most convenient Salzburg hotel – Hotel Stadtkrug
Location and Space
Situated on the picturesque corridor of Linzer Gasse, Hotel Stadtkrug is steps away from the Salzach River and a stone’s throw from Mount Kapuzinerberg. Everything is within a 20-minute walk, making it the most convenient Salzburg hotel. You can reach HBF (main bus and train terminal) in 18 minutes, Mirabelle Gardens in 6 minutes, Mozart’s Birthplace in 5, Monchsberg elevator in 16, University Square in 7, and the furnicular to the fortress in 12.
Feel immersed in the Middle Ages with warm palettes, stone floors, arches and alcoves. There’s even a rooftop patio on the fourth floor! The first and second floors carry the most charm and are kept in their original state. There is no central air conditioning because the building is protected by the City. Installing new windows or making breaking down any walls is prohibited by law!
The family also owns a ranch north of the Flachgau county. Proudly on display in the lobby is the mounted head of the owners’ first highland cattle. You can even see their grass-fed cattle roam freely on the Juhu Ranch through a webcam.
There are 7 bedroom styles: single rooms, 4 types of double rooms, and 2 types of suites. Each comes with a flat-screen TV, sitting area, and a modern bathroom. The famous Mozartkugel (chocolate pistachio balls) awaits you every day!
Note: 4- and 6-bed fully equipped rooms are also available for large groups.
Our comfort double room was extremely clean with lots of natural sunlight. Similar to many European hotels, the mattresses are separate- which means no fighting for blankets or bed space!
Staff & Service
You know you’re in good hands at family-run hotels, and Stadtkrug was no exception! Three generations of the Lucian family live in the same building. Jessica and Dominik, daughter-in-law and son of the owners, welcomed us with open arms. That homey feeling is hard to come by when you’re on the road and we were glad to have found it here.
Other staff were friendly and helpful, especially Mohammad who always has a warm smile on his face. We learned much about the history of Hotel Stadtkrug from Günter, the General Manager and family friend of the Lucians. We felt a little sad to say goodbye to these guys!
Enjoy a variety of cheeses, cured meats, fresh pastries, and our favourite- smoked salmon, at the breakfast buffet! Hot dishes are made to order and are included in your nightly rate.
The roof garden is the perfect place to chill over a glass (or two!) of wine along with some snacks. Don’t forget to make a dinner reservation at the restaurant, where only premium local ingredients are used. Try the beef! They use only certified organic cattle from their own ranch.
Other Tips & Info about the most convenient Salzburg hotel- Stadtkrug:
Rates start at $150CAD+ for single rooms, $230CAD+ for double rooms, and $280CAD+ for suites.
Breakfast is served between 7-11am.
Non-guests can also enjoy the breakfast buffet for 16€.
WiFi is available free of charge.
Shuttle service from the train station or airport can be arranged for a fee.
This was our third time with an overnight layover in London; making it our third sleep at YOTELAIR. We usually avoid lengthy layovers like a plague but we don’t mind them in London thanks to this innovative airport hotel! With two locations, one inside Terminal 4 at Heathrow and another inside the South terminal at Gatwick, YOTELAIR has become our new best friend in London.
Just imagine rolling out of bed, pressing the UP button on the elevator, and scanning your boarding pass for security clearance for an early morning flight within minutes. Or getting off the plane after an exhausting flight, and being able to hop into a comfy bed right away.
Similar to the capsule hotels in Japan, YOTELAIR is where innovation meets comfort. The space is smartly designed so that you’ll find everything you need in a cabin that’s no larger than 110sqft. Every inch of space is used for something, like luggage storage underneath beds.
Our Premium Cabin came with complimentary WiFi, a foldout desk, flat screen TV, and en-suite bathroom with monsoon shower. With a touch of a button, the convertible SmartBed glides to any position to work, lounge, or sleep.
Note: Standard cabins are also available for solo travelers.
YOTELAIR is not only convenient for those with an overnight layover in London, but also travelers with connection times of awkward lengths. Booking is available by the hour, with a minimum stay of 4 hours.
Having stayed at both locations, we prefer Gatwick just a tad more simply because of the gentlemen at the Mission Control (YOTEL talk for reception desk). This is where you can order complimentary hot drinks and bottled water 24/7. What’s impressive is that we found their service to be on par with hotels that are 4-star or higher- perhaps even better than some!
Other Tips and Info
Rates start at £49.00+ for a minimum stay of 4 hours, and £95.00+ for stays longer than 12 hours.
Bottled water, espresso coffee, tea and hot chocolate are free all day!
Food can be ordered at Mission Control- staff will bring your meal to your cabin when it’s ready.
Ever since we visited Croatia we’ve been itching for more Balkan countries. Jaw-dropping national parks, canyons, and lakes were waiting to be checked off our Montenegro list. We were wondering where to stay in Montenegro on our road trip- where to make our home base to explore the northern region of perhaps the most picturesque country we’ve ever been. The answer was simple- Hotel SOA in Zabljak! We’re big fans of boutique hotels and family-run properties for their intimacy, and this one was no exception.
Where to stay in Montenegro – Hotel SOA in Zabljak
Location, Space, and Staff
In the heart of Durmitor National Park lies Zabljak, a small town that turns into a ski resort in the winter. Hotel SOA is conveniently situated in the center of Zabljak, only steps away from the famous Black Lake, restaurants, and local markets. It’s minutes to the entrance to Durmitor National Park, 30 minutes away from the Tara Bridge, 1.5hr from the Piva Canyon, and 1.5hr from Biogradska Gora National Park.
Note: If you’re ending (or starting) your Montenegro journey in Kotor like we did, it’s just under 3 hours on a very scenic drive.
The property was originally planned as a family home but the owners turned it into an 18-unit hotel, inviting guests from all over the world to explore their beautiful country. Some are double suites, others are apartments large enough to accommodate groups of up to 5 guests. A contemporary approach is used in the hotel design along with elements of Mount Durmitor’s traditional architecture.
Because it is a small boutique hotel, you’ll come to know everyone who works there. Matija, the owner, works day shifts at the reception and always has a huge smile on his face. We did have an unpleasant encounter with the other front desk staff but that was quickly resolved by Matija. Count on the dining room manager, Novica, to ensure your culinary experience is nothing short of the best. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the family’s big friendly dog!
We were pleased with our clean and spacious Junior Suite, which came with a separate sitting area along with a modern bathroom. If you did a quick search for hotels in Montenegro you’ll find that these traits aren’t easy to come by!
Amenities, Facilities, and Dining
Guests can enjoy the wellness center (all to themselves!) for up to 1hr every day. The wellness center includes a Turkish bath and sauna, available for private use by reservation.
Tip: Reserve your time slot as soon as you check in! The hotel was so busy that we didn’t get a chance to use the wellness center.
All units have a mini bar, satellite TV, and complimentary WiFi. There’s a restaurant (undoubtedly the best you’ll find in the area) on the first floor, where guests can enjoy meals with a view of the majestic Durmitor massif.
Our favourite part of the stay is the complimentary breakfast buffet! The breakfast spread at Hotel SOA is no joke- its vast selection left us stuffed every morning. All the ingredients are fresh, featuring local dairy products and cured meats.
Tip: Don’t miss the homemade yogurt and pear pie!
Other tips and info
Rates range from 75CAD+ for single rooms, to 140CAD+ for junior suites, to 220CAD+ for luxury apartments.
Tap water is safe to drink.
Parking is plentiful and free.
The hotel restaurant is the only non-smoking restaurant in the area.
Named ‘The Best Ski Resort in the World’ for many years, Whistler is only a 2-hour drive from home. Although there are slopes closer to Vancouver for us, AS and I make an effort to drive up to Whistler every ski and snowboard season. And this year is no different! We usually do it in a day trip but we decided to stay overnight this time at Crystal Lodge Whistler, or Crystal Lodge & Suites.
Situated on the corner where the two main paths meet in the Whistler village, Crystal Lodge and Suites is really at the center of it all. We were literally a stone’s throw away from everything: tons of shops and restaurants, the liquor store, a market, and most importantly- the gondolas and lifts.
We’ve stayed at other locations in the past but it was always a hassle getting to the gondolas. We either had to walk a few blocks in our ski and snowboard boots (which is super uncomfortable even just for 10 minutes!) if we rented a cabin, or wait for complimentary shuttles if we stayed at a hotel. It was amazing being able to hop on the gondola as soon as we stepped outside Crystal Lodge Whistler!
Rooms at Crystal Lodge Whistler
With 158 guestrooms and 16 room types, it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo, as a couple, family, or a large group of friends. The largest are the Three Bedroom Suites; you can also link the traditional Crystal Rooms together if you’re traveling as a group. Since it’s just the two of us, we stayed in one of the 85 newly renovated Crystal Rooms in the South Wing.
These rooms have been redesigned with contemporary decor using blue and grey hues. Each features bright lighting, plush bedding, flat-screen TVs, and huge soaker bathtubs. Ours also had a large balcony that would be perfect for sunbathing in the summer.
Amenities at Crystal Lodge Whistler
Traveling with your fur baby? The lodge is pet-friendly and your four-legged family member can stay at no extra charge!
There’s complimentary ski/snowboard valet in the winter and bike valet in the summer. If you don’t participate in alpine sports, you can spend your day relaxing at the outdoor heated pool and hot tub, working out at the 24-hr fitness center, or browsing and eating your way through 20 on-site retail shops and restaurants. There’s even a sauna and a games room!
If you need to be online at all times while traveling (bloggers and IGers, I’m looking at you!) you’d understand the struggle in staying connected. Well, you don’t have to worry about that here. The folks at Crystal Lodge aren’t lying about their complimentary high speed Wi-Fi!
Guests also receive the Crystal Advantage Card, which offers discounts on many dining, retail, and salon establishments in the Whistler village. This includes complimentary yoga on Sunday mornings at Lululemon, which is just downstairs.
Service at Crystal Lodge Whistler
What really makes Crystal Lodge & Suites stand out is its commitment to guests. The staff go out of their way to make guest experiences warm and welcoming, with huge smiles on their faces. We had very pleasant encounters with all their staff, especially the front desk and ski valet.
If you take a quick look on Tripadvisor you’ll see that the General Manager takes time to respond to each review. The redesign of the South Wing was completely based on guests’ reviews and feedback that they’ve received over the years. Now that’s dedication!
Dining at Crystal Lodge Whistler
There are six on-site restaurants and bars, including a Starbucks for those that need daily caffeine fixes! Guests can receive discounts on their meals with the Crystal Advantage Card.
WILD WOOD BISTRO & BAR
Using Pacific Northwest ingredients, Wild Wood offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus in a cozy bistro setting. We ordered the ‘Eggs Rockefeller’ and ‘Wild Breakfast Bowl’ for breakfast- the portions are huge! It was enough fuel for an entire day on the slopes. Check out their website for the full menu.
BASALT WINE & SALUMERIA
This is a new restaurant within the Crystal Lodge building, which can also be accessed from Village Stroll. The patio is the perfect place to chill with some vino and fondue, both in the summer and winter (it comes with a fire pit!), and the interior is super trendy. Featuring European-style cured meats and cheeses and international cuisine and wines, you can enjoy a 3-course meal for just $25 CAD!
We had a characuterie board to share, followed by 3 courses which were all delicious and beautifully presented. Our favourite of the night was the ‘Thyme Basted Cornish Game Hen Breast’. Chicken breast is usually dry but this was so tender and juicy!
Other Tips and Info
Check-in is at 4pm; check-out is at 11am. The front desk will call you if your room is ready early.
Rooms with an odd number have a view of the Village Stroll.
Self park is $22CAD + tax in a heated underground lot; valet parking is $26CAD + tax. Hybrid vehicles receive free parking.
Dining at Whistler can get pricey; the $25CAD 3-course menu at Basalt is an absolute steal.
Whistler is expensive in general, so make use of your Crystal Advantage Card.
The lodge donates $5 per day to the AWARE program when housekeeping is not required- stay green, folks!
Mount Misen was cloaked in white as our ferry approached the pier at Miyajima Island. We could see the bright red torii (a traditional Japanese gate at the entrance of a Shinto shrine), ever so faintly amidst the fog. After docking, we asked the nice gentleman at the visitor booth to make a call. Within 10 minutes, Watanabe-san appeared to greet us (with the most sincere bow ever!) and loaded our bags into his van. AS, my mum, and I were all giddy on the short ride through the ancient alleys of Miyajima. Not only was this her first time traveling with us, it was also our first time staying at a traditional Japanese inn- a ryokan.
We received a warm welcome from Watanabe-san‘s wife and snacked on momiji manju while we waited. These are maple leaf shaped cakes loaded with azuki paste; they’re also Hiroshima’s most popular souvenir!
After being shown to our rooms, we washed up and changed into yukata.
Watanabe-Inn is a short drive from the pier. Watanabe-san picked us up and dropped us off in his van (the signature white van in many Japanese anime series I grew up watching- so nostalgic) so we didn’t have to haul our luggage. The famous torii and Itsukushima Shrine are about 10 minutes away on foot, and the stairs to Daishō-in‘s main entrance is right outside the inn!
There are only 4 rooms at Watanabe-Inn (for maximum service!) and each comes with a Japanese cypress tub. These are Japanese style rooms with tatami mats, meaning you sleep on a super comfortable futon that’s laid out for you on the floor.
AS and I stayed in Momiji which was awesome, while my mom stayed in the peasant room (kidding, hers was dope too because it came with a loft!). We liked ours just a tad more because it came with an attached sitting area for tea that overlooks a beautiful garden and pond.
Remember that cypress tub I was talking about? Not only does it smell refreshing, it fills by itself and stops once it reaches a certain level. And it keeps the water at the temperature you set!
Food. The best part. This is the main reason why we wanted to stay at a ryokan– to experience Kaiseki-ryori, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal originally served at tea ceremonies.
These guys use only fresh seafood caught from the Seto Inland Sea and present every dish beautifully. Seriously, just leave it to the Japanese when it comes to immaculate culinary details with a homey touch. Needless to say, our taste buds were very happy and thanked us (and the chef) for the delicious meal.
The traditional Japanese breakfast was exactly what we expected. Rice, miso soup, some proteins, and pickled vegetables as side dishes. It was so yummy- I don’t normally eat rice (even though I’m Asian- weird, I know) but I finished the whole thing!
I think it goes without saying that the Japanese are one of, if not the most polite and well-mannered people in the world. Watanabe-san and his wife are perfect examples of what hospitality should be. They lent us umbrellas and rainboots, and did everything they could to ensure our stay was on point.
Have you ever stayed at a ryokan? Tell me about your experience below!
If you’re looking for an authentic ryokan experience, pick somewhere that’s not in the big cities (i.e. Kyoto or Osaka). We were so glad we did this on Miyajima Island- the remoteness and serenity made our stay extra special. Our friend stayed at a ryokan in Arashiyama and he loved it.
A night’s stay isn’t cheap, but it’s totally worth it! Rates range from $230-280CAD per night per person.
Pick the Momiji room if you do end up choosing Watanabe-Inn.
Ah, Shangri-La Mactan. This gorgeous resort in Cebu served as my sanctuary on our last night in the Philippines. We knew we were in good hands from the moment our airport shuttle pulled up to the security check. Our time in the Philippines was going to end on a good note after all.
A nasty flu slapped me in the face towards the end of our Philippines journey. When I finally saw my GP after week 3 of nonstop coughing, he said I would’ve gotten pneumonia if I didn’t recover from laryngitis by week 4 (yikes!). Anyway, after suffering from high fevers for 3 days straight in El Nido, I was relieved when we landed in Cebu. We were to stay here for one night before flying back to Taiwan.
Similar to other Shangri-La properties, this one is grand; it was like walking into a palace. We were welcomed by staff in gorgeous uniforms (that’s right, even their outfits are spot on!) and sipped on yummy welcome drinks while checking in. A bell boy, full of smiles, then walked us to our room. We don’t know his name, but he picked us out from the crowd the next morning to say bye to us!
Perched on the 9th floor, our massive room offered a beautiful view of the coastline. The king-sized bed is the most comfortable bed we slept on this entire Asia trip.
The staff even surprised us with fresh fruits, wine, chocolates, and a cake to celebrate both our birthdays! We had reservations at Cowrie Cove, one of Shangri-La’s onsite restaurants, but had to cancel because I was just too weak. When we ordered room service later in the evening, they surprised us with 2 more cakes! That was such a sweet gesture. The service and attention to detail here is just impeccable!
To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Filipino food. I don’t like rice nor do I eat meat, so I didn’t have many options in the Philippines. The food at Shangri-La Mactan, however, is a different story. The vegetarian bibimbap I had for lunch was and the breakfast buffet was the best thing I ate that whole week. The cuisines they offered included Filipino, Western, Japanese, and Korean. There was a fruit bar, salad bar, dessert bar, and even a gluten-free zone! There were also plenty of vegetarian options too- I was in heaven.
With its own private beach and onsite spa facility, Shangri-La Mactan has something for everyone. Fitness training, snorkeling, beach volleyball, jet ski, tennis, yoga… the list goes on and you’ll never run out of things to do. It’s the perfect place not only for couples on a romantic getaway, but also families with small children. They even offer nail art and hair braiding for kids!
It’s a shame that we weren’t able to indulge in everything the resort has to offer. We would’ve loved to have a romantic candlelit dinner or try some water sports, but I just wasn’t physically able to do anything. Thanks to Shangri-La Mactan’s luxurious comfort and service, though, I was finally able to rest up and recharge my body.
We’ll be coming back- and next time, we’ll be treating ourselves to a spa treatment after cruising on jet skis!
Disclaimer: We received a discounted rate for our experience at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa. However, these are our own honest opinions and we wouldn’t recommend something if we didn’t love it ourselves!