Santa Maria – Day 1

by Jenn

Jeff and I decided to take the day off today (and me the weekend) so that we could have another mini-moon.  I told Jeff that I would plan everything to surprise him this time and while it was a LOT of fun planning, I realized in the process that I totally need my partner in crime to keep me in check so that I don’t forget things… like aloe lotion.  (Easy 99 cent fix, but still – it’s good to know I need him =P)

Anyway, today was full of surprises starting with a 5:30am wake-up call.  I kept telling him we were flying to Peru and as we headed to the airport at 6am, he was getting more and more confused.  It was great!  Alas, we were only there to rent a car – a very bad-ass Volkswagen EOS convertible.  I love that it is the EOS, just like our Canon gear,  WOO!  Anyway, with surprise #1 revealed, we had to head back home to load up.  Our next stop was the Santa Barbara Courthouse – but that was all business – I have a wedding next week and wanted to scope it out.  Jeff suggested we get a bit to eat on the Pier at Moby Dick’s Cafe and since we had no other plans, I agreed and it was wonderful.

An hour or so later we got to our hotel in Santa Maria but just checked in, jumped back into the car, and drove to Pismo Beach for a lunch picnic in the sand.  Sadly no picture because it was sooooo windy and sandy and someone (*cough* me *cough*) forgot the waterproof camera in the hotel – since my side kick had no clue where we were going he didn’t do the usual supply checklist for me.

We still had fun, did some reading, then some shopping, and headed to the visitor’s center to find out what we could do before our appointment at Avila Mineral Springs Resort.  We checked out two wineries (1 winery, 1 restaurant/tasting room actually), and enjoyed the Peacocks at Kelsey See Canyon while sipping some AMAZING port wine.

Back in town we found some other great dessert wines that we just had to have.

We ended the night with a picnic dinner in our private hot tub gazebo at the Resort and oh how relaxing it was.  With a beautiful view of the sunset through the trees I would recommend this to anyone who is ever near Pismo, San Luis, etc.

Here are the photos of today:

Napa Day 1

by Jenn

I messed up – didn’t bring the CF card reader to Napa from San Jose.  So no pictures till Sunday.

I’ll just give a brief snipet of what we did today.

Ate breakfast with Mom, Dad, Sarah and George.  Yummy pancakes that I made.  Then we drove to Fairfield where we are staying and where the Budweiser Factory is.  So… we had to go there for the free tour and tasting.  Two glasses of free beer each – rock on!  Of course it got us to spend $13 on a 12-pack but it was still worth it.

Then we went an hour north to Berringer Winery in St. Helena.  We took their 60-minute tour, complete with cave tour, 4 wine tastings (one out of the barrel!) and pairings with cheese and chocolate.

After the tour we shared a brief snack.  The afternoon was cool and breezy.  It was nice being the only ones around, relaxing and taking photos.

We met up with family (all here for cousin Rob’s wedding) and ate dinner at Azurra Pizza in Napa.  Very good – but reminder to self – skip the arugula.

Now we are back in Fairfield at the Marriott (of course!) watching some TV.

Will post pix asap!

Asia Day 10 – Living the Day Twice

by Jenn

So today (Thursday June 30th), at exactly the time it is now (4:45pm), but 16 hours ago – we were in Tokyo boarding a plane for the US.  How odd it is to live the same day twice.  Does that mean we did some time travel?  I think so!

Day started out getting last souveniers for friends and family.  Then back to Marriott where we finished watching Tangled and hung out till about 11:40am.  We then spent the next 40 minutes at the check out counter trying to use our honeymoon gift card to pay our 72,000 YEN bill ($940 USD).  After several tries, managers checking that the balance was indeed high enough, and length phone calls – he told us again that it would not work.  So who knows what’s going to happen with that but I ain’t forkin over the cash, that’s for sure.  Just another reason to loath Tokyo in my opinion.

It wasn’t all bad – surely we did have a good time there but it just hadn’t been as easy and friendly as Hong Kong and this was just one more thing.  Pair that with the fact that Air Canada bumped us a few months back off our flight (no biggie… except… it was to another AIRPORT!) – and then when we get to the airport we were bumped yet again.  However, they put us on a direct flight which was nice, though none of the AC perks I SO LOVED on the way to HK.

But alas, we got on the plane, and got into LAX as scheduled for the new flight (yet 7.5 hrs. ahead of our original plan and with not means to get home).  Following that was a 3 hour wait for passport check immigration and customs – then sitting on a curb, deciding to spend $50 on a shuttle, and being the last (furthest) to be dropped of over an hour later.  We still saved ourselves tons of time and exhaustion and discomfort.  Jeff ordered pizza, we got our mail, we layed down and now I am blogging all before my plane even took off from Tokyo (ok kinda) – but seriously before we were supposed to even arrive.  So, all is well and I am looking forward to TV catch up and rest.  Great trip, though exhausting.

No pix today – Boo on us – but I hope to post nice edited ones tomorrow now that I am home with Lightroom.

Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel

by Jeff McNeil
Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel

Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel

Our second stay on our Asia Honeymoon mini-moon trip will be at the Courtyard Tokyo Ginza Hotel.  It is a no frills business hotel with style and the most important thing, location, location, location. In the heart of downtown Tokyo this Marriott is only steps from one of the many subway lines in Tokyo.  It will be a quick 20 minute ride to get to the front gates of Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.  The hotel doesn’t offer a pool but it surely makes up for that with the number of restaurants it has for the tourist or business traveler.  I look forward to some sushi and other asian cuisine when we get there.  I hear noodles are all the rage these days 😛  I have done a little homework on the hotel and it did not suffer any ill effects from the earthquake in March.  Keep in mind that the most earthquake and tsunami damage was done several hundred miles away. 

I am excited about our stay here in Tokyo as I learn more about the culture and the sights to see.  Unlike Hong Kong, Tokyo has 2 Disney parks, Disneyland and DisneySea.  Jenn and I will be going to be of them on our trip.  The Disneyland park is what you would expect to see in Anaheim from the original Disneyland.  However the DisneySea park is based on different ports of call like New York in the 1920s, Venice, Moracco and other exotic places around the world.  It looked so interesting that Jenn and I will be paying a visit.

We  will have 1 afternoon, 1 day and 1 night to explore the city, asisde from our trips to the Disney parks.  We again are going to not be the museum tourists and instead trek to the Imperial Palace, the Tokyo Tower and as many local hot spots as we can find.  I have seen many photos of the Tokyo streets at night lit with all the neon signs that give Las Vegas a run for their money. I will post a little bit about those later.  For the most part I think this going to to be a photo trip for the two of us.  Jenn will bring her new camera and I will bring my old trusty Canon XT.  Who knows, maybe there will be a great sale on Canon camera when we are there in some huge electronic store.  I could get a top of the line camera for pennies on the dollar.  Eveyone has told me that the deals in both Hong Kong and Tokyo are really good.  We shall see.

Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel

by Jeff McNeil
Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Pool

Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Pool

The pool at the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott is amazing!  You can always judge a hotels attention to style by how it’s pool is designed.  When Jenn and I go for a relaxing weekend the pool is our main factor.  Does it have a bar?  Is it indoors in cold weather areas?  Do they have some sort of fun gimick?  Well this pool just looks classy as hell.  I hope that there is a bit of time where Jenn and I can relax in the pool before retiring to bed one night.  The remainder of the hotel looks to be all business class.  It will be nice to stay in such a refined location for our first few nights.  We normally go between the more locally based Courtyard or Springhill Suites for our stays since it is more economical.  However for this this stay we used our Marriott rewards points and got this excellent hotel for free!  I would like to thank all our friends and family who stayed at a Marriott down here during our wedding, you helped to contribute to our rewards points with each night stay.

The upside to the hotel, free…. the downside, it is far from the heart of Hong Kong, especially the Kowloon district.  That means that we will have to find some sort of transportation to and from the hotel each day.  It can get costly but I feel that we will find something that won’t break the bank.  The hotel will be so close to the airport we could walk to the terminals, which is good for our flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo. 

This just in, while looking for more photos of the hotel on the arriott website I have found out there is free shuttle service to the nearest MTR (metro/subway) station & Disneyland!  How awesome is that?!?  I just saved us some $60 USD on fare to and from the hotel and our outlying areas!  I need to write more blogs it seems. 🙂

If you have been to Hong Kong before, please write a comment and suggest your favorite place to visit.  I will read them and comment myself on our thoughts and prospective sights we will see.

Coronado Mini-moon!

by Jenn

So fun today was!  We met up with Jessie, Rick, Zach and Michah for lunch before heading into Coronado to stay where else? Marriott!  After spending some time lounging at the pool, I shot a wedding and then came back to have what I think was the most amazing bath ever!  Yay for hot tub in the room!  Just lounging around watching TV now.  Tomorrow is more relaxing by the pool.

Here are some pix of our gorgeous room:

Arizona: JW Marriott, Spa, and WICKED!

by Jenn

Okay, so I’m a loser who didn’t post while we were there due to my not having the equipment to transfer photos, and I’m an even bigger loser that now when I could have the photos on the computer, I don’t, so I am using Marriott’s pictures.  I will add our own later, I promise!

At any rate, our 3-day weekend in Arizona was a blast.  Only a 6 hour drive to another paradise.  Lazy river!  Need I say more?  But of course…

close up of the lazy river

Our drive was nice and easy, and we got a phone call from someone who offered us her WICKED tickets, score!  First thing we did when we got to JW Marriott’s Desert Ridge Resort and Spa was slip into our bathing suits and hit that lazy river.  After that, our room was ready, and we had our things sent up before going back downstairs to the Vista Lounge for some half priced sushi rolls and drinks.  Yum.  I then got to spend a good hour at the spa in the steam room and taking a nice hot shower.  For dinner, we took a walk to BJ’s pizza, but nearly got ran over by a dummy.  That being said, thenight was nice and relaxing and hey, BJ’s had happy hour specials too!

The pool was heated and fabulous

Sunday we woke up at a reasonable hour of 10am and headed to the pool for some more fun.  We had an early lunch, followed by more pooling and hot tubbing, and again, I got to go to the fabulous spa.  No treatments, but hey, my gold member status got me in for free! Yay! It was then time to check out and make our way to Tuscon where Wicked is playing at Arizona University.  It was so exciting to get to see my favorite musical again.  Jeff is so cool for thinking to look what was going on in the area!  We had some Olive Garden for dinner care of wedding gifts, and went to bed early.

Monday we decided to go ahead and start driving home after breakfast, but we stopped a couple times for photo ops and even got to wade in the Colorado River right at the border of AZ and CA.  One thing I hope we can go back that way to do some time is ride 4-wheelers all through the sand dunes!  Very cool.

So that was our weekend and now it’s back to work.  Can’t wait till next month’s “Mini-Moon”  Where will we go?  Maybe SD Wild Animal Park.

relaxation is great

Honeymoon Trip #2: Hollywood Renaissance

by Jeff McNeil
Renaissance Hollywood

Renaissance Hollywood

Our second weekend trip will be to the city that makes stars, Hollywood.  Jenn and I will be staying at the Renaissance Hollywood directly behind the Hollywood and Highland complex.  In the past few years we have been together Jenn and I have rarely been to Hollywood.  Sure for a restaurant here or a wedding there, but not for a weekend trip just the two of us.  The hotel looks to be one of the more modern Renaissances in the local area and I am excited to go to the pool and see if there are any stars there getting some sun.

I have a few things planned for us to do like take a walk down the Walk-of-fame and maybe catch a movie in Grauman’s Chinese Theater or take the subway to go to Olvera Street one morning for some amazing taquitos at Cielito Lindo.  We plan on relaxing and being a bit of a tourist with the stores and activities there.  If you have any ideas of things to do, please let us know by posting a comment on the blog.

Bonus to all of this, we got a night free due to Jenn’s Gold member Marriott Status.  Woohoo!!

Relaxing by the pool

by Jeff McNeil


This is the view from our first honeymoon trip to Marriott. We are hanging out by the pool having coconut frozen rum drinks and lunch. My wife has had a massage and facial spa treatment this morning and is radiant. I have watched movies and people watched by the pool. Could this afternoon get any better? I don’t think so.

Thank you to those who contributed to the Marriott honeymoon fund. We are enjoying our relaxing time so much!