It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Restaurant Review : John's Pizza, New York City, USA

I think we all know that there aren't any shortage of food choice in NYC.  There are more than 4,200 restaurants for you to choose from, and around the tourist areas you get lots of choice and varying levels of value.  

We were based in Times Square and there was a restaurant on every corner looking for our money.  The guide on our second day of the hop-on hop-off bus tour recommended John's Pizza as a place that had great pizza and didn't rip you off - gotta love getting advice from a local!

We headed into John's after catching a show on Broadway (half price tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square, yes you do have to line up for a while, but it's well worth it), about 9.30pm.  The restaurant on 44th Street was huge and looked like it might have been an old theatre at one time. 

The dining room - how fab!

We were seated immediately in this big, buzzy place and our drinks came out within minutes.  Our shared starter (yes, America, we've learnt about the size of your food!) of Mozzarella Wedges (John's homemade breaded mozzarella wedges fried golden brown and served with marinara sauce, $8.50) was with us in about 10 minutes, and it was lovely, certainly enough for two.

We ordered one large pizza (8 slices) to share between us, as we'd seen the pizzas come out to other tables and there's no way you could eat one yourself (though there were certainly lots of people managing it!).  We had the basic Margherita (mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, tomato sauce) and then added Italian Pork Sausage, Mushrooms and fresh Garlic - and it was scrumptious!  It was just the right size for two people and we finished it, but couldn't have eaten more without feeling like piggies.

Not my photo, but that's how they manage to
get two large pizzas on one small table.

Including a few beers and sodas, tips and taxes, our dinner for two in the middle of Times Square came to under $US60 - which is amazing value for the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world.

John's Pizzeria
Times Square
260 W 44th Street
New York

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fire Preparedness for Horses

I know, I know, this isn't my normal kind of post, but you know that horses play a big part in my life, and with horrific bush fires currently devastating New South Wales, Australia (my home country), I thought it might be an opportune time to pop up this post for my horsey readers on fire evacuation safety for horses.

This information comes from the Colorado State University but the bulk of it applies in any country.  I must admit, it wasn't something that I had really considered before, but it certainly pays to take five minutes to read and see what you should have in place if you've got a horse property.  And let's face it, normal barns filled with bales of straw and hay are pretty easy to catch fire, you don't have to be in a bush fire situation to suddenly be faced with this kind of disaster.

For example, it's great having lead lines and halters ready for an evacuation, but did you think that your horses nylon halter can melt onto their head if they get too close to the fire?  Choose leather or rope halters for your evacuation and you might just save yourself and your horses some serious trauma and injuries.

Here's a few basics that you should know - there's much more detailed info below if you scroll down.

  1. Teach your horse to load and tie.  Horses must be able to load fairly well immediately, no prancing about and being a clown.  Minutes might be all you have.
  2. Take at least one bale of hay and a bucket, you never know where your horse is going to end up.
  3. No matter what, if you take your horse or not, make sure you take your proof of ownership/brand inspections.  This will help you prove the horses are yours later on.  Photos work in non brand inspection areas.
  4. If you cannot take your horses, turn them loose.  They have great survival instincts.  It's better than dying in a locked barn.
  5. If you turn then loose, write your phone number on them in some way.  Spray paint or shoe polish or whatever you can find.
  6. If you turn them loose, take their halters off.  Imagine all the debris your horse is going to encounter, you don't want them snagged up.
  7. If you turn them loose, lock them out of their barn/pen/stall/yard - they WILL go back.
  8. If you take your horse to an evacuation centre it is still a good idea to have your horse marked in some way.  Sometimes evacuation centres have to evacuate.
  9. If your horse is in a large pasture area, cut the fence in corners and leave the gates open.  When horses can't find their way in smoke/debris they will follow fence lines.

The info below is a direct copy and paste from the link to Colorado State above:-

Quick Facts...

  • The safety of you and your family should be the first priority.
  • The greatest factor in limiting your losses during a wildfire is having and using a preparedness plan.
  • An equine first aid kit is essential for all horse owners to have in the barn or trailer in case of emergencies.
  • Prioritize a list of tack to take during an evacuation.
  • If you get word that your area is being evacuated start the process immediately.
Along many high country Colorado roads you may see signs indicating the “Fire Danger Rating” level. The likelihood of a wildfire increases dramatically when the fire danger is moderate to high combined with a large number of dead trees in forested areas. Wildfires may be one of the most common types of hazards in Colorado. If you have horses and you live in a high-risk area for a wildfire, are you prepared to protect your horses? They need your help and planning.
First, you have to access your risk. Consider your location and your local situation. Knowing your risk will help you prepare your plan.
Having a plan and implementing that plan is the greatest factor in limiting your losses. With horses, we are not only speaking of a monetary loss but also the emotional loss of losing your horse which is impossible to calculate in dollars and cents. Your plan needs to be communicated to everyone who is living with you or to anyone who will be taking care of your place in your absence.

Key Elements of a Preparedness Plan

Evacuation Routes

When considering the potential hazard of wildfires, an evacuation plan of yourself and your horse(s) is a major part of being prepared. You cannot wait until you see smoke or fire to make the decision to evacuate and determine your evacuation route(s). And you cannot simply turn your horses loose and rely on their natural instinct to figure out for themselves where they can flee to safety. They need your help to survive a wildfire. However, in some situations where you cannot evacuate your horses according to plan and there is imminent danger to you and your horses, it is better to turn your horses loose instead of leaving them confined to a barn or pasture.
To plan your evacuation route, contact your local emergency management officials, your county law enforcement officials, or your local animal control officers to find out what they recommend and what procedures they have in place for disasters. Make plans for more than one evacuation route in case the wildfire cuts off one of your exits. Prioritize the routes if you have the choice. Drive all the evacuation routes with your horse trailer. The exit routes must pass the questions of: Can I get out with my size of trailer?; Is it passable in all weather conditions?; and, What if there was flooding and a wildfire at the same time – how would the routes be affected? In some areas, you can have wildfires raging at the same time that flooding is occurring.
Be aware of dangerous fire conditions in your area and know how to find information on potential conditions or situations.
Have your trailer in good condition and available to hitch up and load at any time. Keep a full tank of gas in the vehicle that you will use for towing the horse trailer. If you do not trailer your horse often or if you do not own a trailer, work with your horses to get them trained to load easily. Make it a goal to be able to load them by only one handler so that in the case of an emergency they could be loaded quickly and easily. If you do not own a trailer, contact a neighbor who does and find out if he would be willing to help you evacuate your horse. It’s good practice to load your horse in the trailer you will be using to evacuate.

Team-up with a Neighbor

Develop a team plan with a neighbor. This may help in the joint use of resources such as a trailer and supplies. It also helps to outline a joint plan. Inform each other in the case of an evacuation. Working as a team, you will be better able to efficiently evacuate in a shorter amount of time.

Horse Identification Packet

Being able to identify your horse is important in large-scale emergencies where horses could be housed at the fairgrounds or large boarding facilities. It is also essential in situations when you are not at home to evacuate and your horses are hauled to a collecting facility or maybe were simply turned loose. Identification papers enable you to claim your horse more quickly. It also prevents someone else from falsely claiming your horse. In most cases of a major disaster, documentation of ownership will be required to claim a lost horse.
In situations where your horse has been lost, the legal entity in most communities to work with is the animal control agency, and it is usually under the law enforcement division of that county. In Colorado, most livestock identification and ownership issues are under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Division of Brands, part of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
It is important to note that in Colorado brand inspection is required for horses any time an animal is sold, transported over 75 miles, or leaves the state. Even if your horse does not have a brand, a brand inspection is required. A permanent travel card may be obtained from your local inspector that eliminates the need for future brand inspections for movement of your horse. In addition, “any time livestock is to be transported on a public road, proof of ownership of the stock being transported must be available for inspection by the Colorado State Patrol, local law enforcement, or a livestock inspector. If the animal carries your Colorado brand, this can be your proof of ownership. Failure to show proof of title is a misdemeanor.” (C.R.S.35-53-117, Colorado Dept. of Agriculture, Brand Inspection Board web site) You can see that having a permanent travel card or brand papers will aid in claiming your horse and in meeting brand laws concerning movement of horses.
Horse identification is accomplished by microchip, brands, pictures, unique markings, registration papers, brand papers, or by a combination of the above. Make a packet on each of your horses and have it readily available to grab and load with your horse in case of emergency. Also in that packet you can file your health certificates, brand paperwork, vaccination records, and other health information. If you put all of your paperwork in one small portable file container it can be quickly located and loaded in case of an emergency.

Equine First Aid Kit

An equine first aid kit is essential for all horse owners to have in the barn or trailer. A well-stocked first aid kit kept in the barn will always be available when the trailer is loaded with tack and supplies. A general first aid kit that is routinely updated can be used for emergencies like wounds, colic, foot injuries, or other trauma and then be available for an evacuation in case of some type of disaster.

Horse Medication

If possible, clearly label all horse medication and keep it in an appropriate container that can be quickly located and loaded in emergencies.


Prioritize a list of tack to take during an evacuation. With a list, you are more efficient and do not have to take time to plan or decide what to take. The most important tack to remember are ropes and halters (leather or rope halters are preferred because nylon halters can get too hot if the horse gets too close to a fire). Include a water bucket on your tack list. Prepare neck bands for your horses that have your contact information written on them. These neck bands would only be used in an emergency evacuation in which you only have time to turn your horses loose. Another option is to create an identity halter that has a metal or brass plate riveted to a leather halter. You can have metal dog tags made for this purpose. Briefcase identification tags also work well when filled out and kept in the tack room for quickly attaching to halters. Of course, these items should be prepared ahead of time.

Boarding Arrangements

It cannot be overstated about making arrangements for the boarding of your horses at an outside facility. In the case of a major disaster, the county fairgrounds may be the appointed shelter for livestock, horses, pets, and maybe even displaced people. You can also make plans with friends who have equine facilities that are located out of harms way. Or you could use a large commercial boarding facility. The important point is to have a place lined up to take your evacuated horse. Write down your arrangements and the list of your contact people, stick it on a clipboard and hang it in the barn.

Contact List

It is best to have an outside contact of someone who lives in a different area of the country to be the clearinghouse for calls from your family and friends. You can make contact with the clearinghouse by whatever means possible and then they can relay information to others. By appointing a contact who lives outside of your area, they are less likely to be affected by your area’s possible failures of infrastructure and communications. Other family members from around the country can check in with them to get an update on your condition. Your contact can relay messages from you to them or vice versa.
In a disaster situation, you will be very busy with evacuation and may not be able to be reached due to failures of communication lines or cell towers. Place these contact numbers on another clipboard in the barn. You can also use this contact list clipboard for other important phone numbers such as your veterinarian or sheriff. Another place to post your contacts is in your cell phone address list, but it is best to have a written form available in the barn too. If first responders come to your place and you are not home the contact clipboard will provide valuable information to them.

Priority List

Once you have made your plan you need to prioritize it. This helps you during an actual emergency or helps others in the event that you are not home at the time. Even though it is hard to think about, priority is given to people over horses. So on your priority list keep human safety as your guiding principle. Maybe you only have a two-horse trailer and you have 5 horses, a priority list must be made. Or maybe you have limited time because of a rapidly advancing fire, so priorities must be made on what you will have time to do. You can also keep this list on your contact list clipboard in the barn.

In the Event of an Actual Emergency


First and foremost, the safety of you and your family should be priority number one! That cannot be emphasized enough. If you get word that your area is being evacuated start the process immediately. Wildfires are very unpredictable and can spread rapidly. As soon as you get word of a forced evacuation, begin to implement your evacuation plan as sometimes the loading of horses and other necessary items will take longer than you expect. This is especially important if you have many horses to evacuate. Make contact with your neighbor if you are working as a team and get in touch with your outside contact to give them your updated status.
If the fire is close and you are unable to get your horses out, do not leave them confined. After getting them out of the barn or pasture, close the doors or gates, as horses in danger will often seek the comfort of the known—their pastures and stalls. Also keep in mind that your horse in the face of danger may not react to you the same as they usually do. Use caution as their instincts may take over and they may be in the flight or fight mode. If possible, have someone help you handle the horses.
If you have not had your horses permanently identified in some way such as microchips, brands, tattoos, or photographs then paint your cell phone number or the last four digits of your social security number on the horse. Place your identity halter on your horse (if you’ve prepared it ahead of time). If you only have nylon halters, remove them because if your horses get too close to an actual fire nylon halters get hot and could cause further skin damage. If you have time, try to lead your horses away from the buildings before releasing them to encourage them to move away from the buildings and the impending fire.

Emergency Evacuation Checklist

    √paperwork (health certificates, vaccination records, brand paperwork)
    √first aid kit
    √horse medication(s), if applicable
    √leather halter(s)
    √water bucket
    √identity halter/tag
    √boarding arrangement list
    √contact list
    √priority list


Preparing a plan is the most important element in the preparation for the wildfire season.
Remember to:
    1. Plan.
    2. Practice the plan.
    3. Place people’s safety first – that includes your own!

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back to normal programming next time - I promise!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Try Something New!

If you're lucky enough to be visiting Italy, you'll get the chance to try some seriously amazing food if you eat where the locals eat.  One of the problems you might face is that the menu you're given will be in Italian and that might be just a teensy bit confusing unless you're fluent (or effluent, if you're Kath & Kim).

There's a fab new FREE app for iPhone available called "Menu Translate" which gives you a search on over 5,000 Italian foods, so you can order something new and tasty instead of possibly falling back to the good old Pasta Carbonara (one of my all time faves), or even Spaghetti Bolognese.

There are a lot of fab apps for iPhones, but with so many of them you have to be online to use them.  When you're travelling out of your home country, the only way you can be online is if you pay for (or steal, I'm not judging) WIFI, or, heaven forfend, put on your International Roaming (EXPENSIVE!).  The super double bonus about this app is that it works when you're offline - no faffing about trying to snag some WIFI.

So, get thee to and get downloading!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New York : Gray Line Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour

Yeah, that's not us.

You know that I love a good hop-on hop-off bus tour to get the layout of a city.  I've written about them a few times on the blog:-

The weather was fab in NYC and we thought we'd try and cover more ground than we did in the Big Onion Walking Tours, so a hop-on hop-off bus was just the thing we needed.

As with most cities, you can buy the tickets at the bus stops, and NYC was no different.  The price of a 48 hour ticket is $US59/person, so it's not terribly cheap (there were cheaper bus tours with other companies).  I'm not going to lie to you, the first day was really disappointing.

The bus was absolutely JAMMED with people and we couldn't get up to the open top deck for ages.  The guide was working to the best of his abilities I guess, but he wasn't good.  English wasn't his first language, and it probably wasn't his second either, and you really do need good English to be a guide in an English speaking country.  In the end we plugged in our headphones and listened to the recorded guide instead.

Gray Line also "wrap" their buses in advertising, including the windows (can you flipping believe it!?!?), so all the windows are covered with advertising on the outside, and whilst the advertising is perforated, you don't see much through all the tiny holes.  It's an absolutely ridiculous idea, and if you have to sit downstairs due to rain or overcrowding, you're pretty much wasting your money.

The second day we had a much better guide as we headed into Harlem on the top deck in the sun.  He was young, cheery, knowledgeable and lots of fun.  We were on the bus with him for a few hours and his demeanour didn't slip, he was a professional.  He was very passionate about architecture, churches, and NYC in general - top notch.

There are other hop-on hop-off buses in NYC, and if you don't want to use Gray Line like we did, check to see if the other companies put advertising all over their windows before you buy a ticket.

Click HERE for the link to take you
to Gray Line's bus tour info.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Don't Get It ...

I love Pinterest, you all know I do, and I'm guessing a whole lot of you do too.  Let's be honest, it's like looking at endless free home decorating magazines, with a side of squee-worthy pictures of puppies and foals (or maybe that's just me?).

There's several things I just "don't get" about Pinterest though; one is how much time people spend painting their nails and applying fingernail art, another is Halloween in its entirety, and yet another is the current obsession of writing your shopping list on a blackboard in your kitchen.  There are so many cute photos of these amazing blackboards with lists of lovely things on them currently circulating on Pinterest, but I don't get it.

As far as I can see, you've written your delightfully posh shopping list on your stylish blackboards with your artisanal chalk, but you can't take that list to the grocery store - can you?  "Hang on, honey, I've got to detach the kitchen door and bring it with us"?  Don't you then just have to re-write your blackboard list onto a pad of paper that you've probably stolen from a hotel (again, just me?) and take that? 

In the immortal words of Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for dat!".

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Recipe : French Almond Cake

Our pantry is a little bit strangely designed and jammed with stuff, so I often find myself buying a new ingredient and then finding another one wodged in a box in the pantry.  This is how I found myself with two half bags and one full bag of almond meal.

The beauty of Google is that you can just type in "recipes with almond meal", and you get a bunch of recipes.  I had a look at a few and the decided on this one, mainly because I had everything I needed in the house already and it looked incredibly simple.  My favourite recipes involve throwing everything into one bowl, giving it a mix, and then whacking it into a greased tin - this is the recipe for that!

Double bonus?  It makes your house smell amazing!

I pinched the recipe from Happy Home Baking, and they pinched it from Easy Cake by Linda Collister.  Happy Home Baking tweaked the original recipe a bit, and I tweaked it again so I could get rid of the remnants of a bag of cinnamon/vanilla sugar.  I guess that's how recipes evolve ...

Let's cook!  As usual, my comments in italics.

French Almond Cake

  • 110g unsalted butter left to soften (I always use salted butter because I prefer it)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten (I forgot to beat mine)
  • 90 ground almonds (almond powder/almond meal)
  • 40g self raising flour (or 40g plain flour + half a teaspoon of baking powder + pinch of salt)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon flaked almonds for sprinkling (I didn't measure mine, I just sprinkled until I liked the look of it)
  • Icing sugar for dusting (I sprinkled on a mix of cinnamon/vanilla sugar that I found in the pantry BEFORE I put it into the oven)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180c.
  2. Grease and flour the sides of 20cm pan, line base with parchment paper (I only greased with that melty butter stuff you use for frying, and I didn't flour or line with parchment paper.  I also used a loaf pan instead of a 20cm pan.)
  3. Place butter, sugar, eggs, almond powder, flour, milk, vanilla extract in a bowl and beat with mixer or whisk.
  4. When light and fluffy, spoon into prepared pan and spread batter evenly.
  5. Sprinkle flaked almonds over the top (this is where I sprinkled the mix of sugars as well)
  6. Bake at 180c for 30-35 minutes, or until the sponge springs back when pressed (I inserted a knife to see if it came out clean).  NOTE - cover top with foil about 15 minutes into the baking to prevent the top from over-browning.
  7. Run a thin bladed knife around the sides of the pan to loosen the cake, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.  I'd already sprinkled with the sugar mix before baking, so I didn't dust with anymore sugar.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New York : Big Onion Walking Tours

Recently we were lucky enough to spend 5 days in New York, and thought that we'd take the opportunity to do some proper exploring, as well as some proper eating and drinking (more on that in future blog posts).

We did a bit of research beforehand and found out about Big Onion Walking Tours, who are really well reviewed by everyone who's taken them.  Big Onion have been around since 1991 and lead walking tours through NYC's historic districts and ethnic neighbourhoods.  Their tours combine the history, architecture, people and events that make NYC one of the greatest cities in the world.

You don't have to book in advance for their tours (except the Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour - YUM!), you just turn up at the right time in the right place, pay your ticket price of $US20/each (concessions available for students and seniors) directly to your guide (cash, correct change appreciated), and you're good to go.  The tours are roughly two hours long and the guides hold advanced degrees in American history from leading universities, including Columbia, CUNY and New York University.

We did two fab tours with Big Onion - the Historic Times Square, and the "Official" Gangs of New York.  We had two good female guides, but the Times Square guide was better than the Gangs of New York one, despite the fact that she was VERY pregnant and walked and chatted with a bunch of strangers for two hours on quite a hot day (I was jiggered by the end and I wasn't pregnant!).

Historic Times Square Tour blurb:-

Before it was known as "The Crossroads of the World", Times Square was "Longacre Square", an area best known for the harness shops and horse stables.  Come see how much has changed as we visit a potter's field turned reservoir then elegant city park; the one time centre of the city's vice district, as well as a host of legendary theatres, grand hotels, and movie houses.  We will see how redevelopment has changed the neighbourhood and we'll look for traces of "old" Times Square hidden in plain sight.  Stops may include The New York Public Library, Astor Hotel and sites associated with the Shubert Family, Flo Ziegfeld, George Gershwin, Elvis Presley, and Damon Runyon.

Official Gangs Of New York Tour blurb:-

A tour that goes beyond Martin Scorsese's landmark film "Gangs of New York" or the current BBC America series "Coppers".  Come explore the legends and lore of Five Points and Herbert Asbury's 1927 classic "The Gangs of New York" - the inspiration for the film - and learn about the REAL history of the area.  Stops could include Paradise Square, "Murderers Alley", the African Burial Ground, the lost intersection of Five Points, and the sites associated with Bill "The Butcher" Poole, William M. Tweed, Master Juba, and the 1857 Police and 1863 Draft Riots.

So if you find yourself in NYC with a bit of time on your hands and you want to find out something more about this amazing place, as well as getting just a teensy bit of exercise to walk off those Cronuts and Shake Shack frozen yoghurts (you know you want to!), get yourself on one of Big Onion's tours.  They really are quite fascinating and we'd definitely do some more if we're lucky enough to visit again.  At the time of our visit, they were offering 27 different tours - you WILL find something to rock your boat.

Big Onion Walking Tours
Phone:- 212 439 1090, or 888 606 WALK (9255)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Um, Is This What Popular Means?

My little blog seems to have been garnering a teensy bit more attention of late, and a lot more people are dropping by to have a read (here's a big HELLO to you new folks, it's great to have you here!).  But I seem to have become popular in a new and interesting way, I'm getting a lot of comments that are being caught in my spam filter, by people advertising odd things in links attached to their comments.

I thought I'd grab a few spam comments and put them down here for you to see the stuff I'm getting asked to read ...

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Yes, because my blog is about living in Germany and travel, so having a US cell phone with amazing 3G capabilities is right up my street.  As are the fat melting tablets "Anonymous" is also pushing.  I so wish that fat melting tablets were actually a thing that worked ...

If you have room in a basement or spare room,

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Um, not actually sure which thing they're pushing most here - is it a Bowflex, USA medical insurance or Flaxseed Oil?  All of which I apparently need.  Or not.

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This strangely worded congratulatory message to me and my team (I don't have a team, maybe they mean the dog?) leads me to a link for stick on fat melting patches.  Fat melting?  I'm getting a whole lot of body image snark in my spam comments.  What is the universe trying to tell me?!?!?!  Giggle.

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Riiiiiiiight.  Because I'm obviously a techie.  Not.  Oh, and your link leads to last minute hotel bookings?  Oh, and my blog platform is fairly obvious from the URL at the top of the page.

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Um, what?  And I'm not looking for cheap hotels in Washington.  Or at least I think that's what you're pushing me to.

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Possibly the best I've seen.  Fat boy indian porn blog?  Charlie brown comic spanish word for?  I think I'll just NOT click on that link.  Ever.

I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of this Spam either ...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Royal Park Hotel, Rochester, MI, USA

Yes, it's a coaster.  A cocktail was about to be placed on it.

Back in July we stayed at the Royal Park Hotel in downtown Rochester MI for a conference.  The Royal Park is only about five minutes away from where we used to live, so it was a fab location for me to catch up with our old friends from the area - yay!

Rochester is a pretty little town with a good main street, a bunch of restaurants and cafes, and my fave store, Arizona Saddlery of Rochester - where they are happy to let me drool over their huge cowboy boot selection for as long as I like.

I'd never stayed at the Royal Park before, though I'd eaten there several times when we were living in the area and the food has always been really good.  The service is also prompt and friendly.  The hotel is a bit of a legend around the area and the public areas are well populated by locals and visitors.  Here's a link to their dinner menu, the Hydro Bibb Salad is brilliant.

Our room was what I imagine their standard rooms are like, a king sized comfy bed, air con, closet, mini bar (empty but working), big bathroom, nice L'Occitane smellies, and complimentary bottles of water and apples at turn down.  The windows opened, but only a little way, and they didn't stay up.  Let me just say, if one of those windows dropped on your hand, you'd lose it - they are HEAVY.  We were there in the middle of summer and I wanted to keep the windows open, so I improvised by wedging the spare rolls of toilet paper under the window, classy!

L'Occitane in the bathroom - posh!

There's a good, small gym with a stack of towels and a water dispenser.  I was obsessing just a little bit about the Royal baby (aka Prince George) who was due to be born during our stay, so it was great to be on the walking machine with a telly right in front of my nose, watching CNN thrash itself to death all flipping day when it had no more information than anyone else.

I had breakfast in the hotel dining room one day and it was absolutely nothing to brag about.  I had coffee and eggs benedict.  The coffee was bog standard filtered stuff that I later found you could get in a little room off the lobby for free (yes kids, free Starbucks until 10am) that they charged me around $3 for.  The eggs benedict was utterly tasteless (how is that even possible?) and was over $10.  I think my total bill, with taxes and tip, was around $18.

Necessity, it's the mother of invention.

Talking about it later with my lovely local friends Rebecca and Beth, I was pointed firmly to Paul's Family Restaurant around the corner, where I had breakfast the next day and it was BRILLIANT!  Go there.  It was half the price of the hotel dining room and the food was great and in big portions, the coffee was hot and bottomless, and the staff were friendly.  It looks like nothing at all from the outside, but it's really friendly and good inside.

Hotel parking is free and there's lots of it.  Wifi is free, and so are the coffee, apples and newspapers (if you can class USA Today as a newspaper) in the library off the lobby of a morning.  It's within walking distance to the main street and the only bug bear I had was that there's no swimming pool.  I know that seems a bit trifling, but it's a very posh hotel and it's not cheap, you would expect a swimming pool.

Royal Park Hotel
600 E University Drive
Phone:- 248 652 2600