The Waters Hotel in Hot Springs Arkansas

The Waters Hotel is in the middle of Hot Springs National Park on Central Avenue. A multimillion-dollar historic renovation of this revered building on Bathhouse Row has yielded a boutique hotel with vintage details and up-to-date comforts and amenities. Each of the 62 rooms are unique and true to the building’s history.

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Chris, the sales manager, answered the email I sent within hours and told me he would meet with me when I arrived if I needed to get into any special areas for photos. He offered to make my reservations at the Quapaw Bathhouse and had the confirmation waiting for me at the front desk when I checked in. The Waters Hotel is partnered with the Quapaw Bathhouse and all guests get 20% off any spa services there. He even called the room later to make sure we were settled in just fine.

Parking staff was fantastic. Ashley, the valet manager made sure our truck and airstream had space to pull in, arranged further cars to ensure we’d have space to pull out, and even allowed my husband to park his own rig (because it’s his baby and he didn’t want anyone else driving it). We could even see the Airstream from our room.

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It wasn’t just the managers that were professional and welcoming. The whole staff from the valet drivers, front desk clerks, Avenue bar, to the cleaning staff were a delight. The Avenue Restaurant, attached to the hotel, was PHENOMENAL. There is even a boutique attached to the hotel called Blushed Beauty that had the cutest beauty products and a fantastic, attentive, owner on hand to answer all your questions and help you sample the items.

 

The Room

We stayed in a City View corner room that had a great panoramic view of Bathhouse Row. All the rooms are filled with art and products from local artists and companies to further immerse guests in the flavor and charm of Hot Springs.

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We were there when the leaves were changing so that added a great layer of color to the typically green spaces around the historic bathhouses.

 

Before I even realized how great the views were I was impressed by the clean lines and detailed touches in the room itself. We had a king size bed flanked by plenty of outlets and USB ports on both nightstands for our phones and tablets, which is always a struggle.

 

There was a Keurig coffee maker with a selection of pods, a mini-fridge, flat screen tv, plush chair, and full-length mirror (all things I love to have in my hotel rooms). On top of that the bathroom has a spacious shower with a fantastic rain-like shower head, a separate lighted makeup mirror, locally handmade soap, and plant-based lotion made without parabens.

One more time, I have to say that the staff, views, and room were great! I wholeheartedly recommend The Waters Hotel for your stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Avenue Restaurant

Being a foodie with a house in New Orleans for the past 10 years has been fabulous. When we decided to visit Hot Springs we were focused on the thermal waters and didn’t expect to find such a fantastic restaurant in our hotel on Bathhouse Row.

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The Avenue is a full-service restaurant and a lounge which offers southern artisan- style cuisine using locally-sourced food.

 

It was so good we ate there two nights in a row. The first night we had the pork belly wontons with sambal sauce, cold smoked filet, shrimp & grits, and a couple wines for their fantastic selection. They do have vegetarian and vegan selections and their chef is committed to excellence so I wouldn’t hesitate to try anything on the menus.

 

The next night we returned, determined to order and devour the “shareable” 32oz Wagyu Tomahawk steak. We still ordered a couple of small plates to start because we had to have the pork belly wontons again and wanted to try their smoked white bean soup. We gave the steak our best shot but had to take leftovers up to the room. We did share some of it with our Cane Corso, Titan 🙂

 

The Boutique

Blushed Beauty Boutique is onsite to enhance your experience for the ultimate in convenience. They have a makeup artist, high-quality beauty products, cute gifts and handy items like hair accessories and lashes.

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The Bathhouses

So, when you stay at The Waters Hotel you are just steps away from the major attractions of Hot Springs National Park; the thermal water bathhouses! The National Park Visitor’s Center in Fordyce Bathhouse is just across the street to the right. Next to that are the Quawpaw Bathhouse and Buckstaff Bathhouse. You can be in any of these places within 20 seconds of walking out of the hotel front door.

 

The Quapaw Bathhouse & Spa is partnered with The Waters Hotel and you received 20% off of the services there. It’s undergone a recent renovation but has retained the feel of a historical thermal bath. There are four pools that you can rotate in and out of range from 94-104 degrees Fahrenheit. There is a cafe in the pool area so you can have a bite to eat while taking a break from the water. We also booked a private Microsilk bubble bath with Kneipp essential oils. Next time we will visit the steam cave and also book massages. Be sure to book well in advance because most services fill up 2 weeks ahead of time.

The Buckstaff Bathhouse is more traditional with a series of services that mirror what was done at the turn of the century. There are no cell phones or cameras allowed. It’s an experience that I am glad to have had, although Quapaw is more my style.

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3 Days in Zion National Park

This has been my FAVORITE National Park so far. There is a lot to see and a lot to do. Here are our suggestions for an amazing 3 days in Zion NP.

FYI Utah Drinking and Eating Fact: In order to drink alcohol at a restaurant, you’ll need to order food. It’s a real law. You’re unfortunately not able to walk into a place and buy a beer or order a glass of wine without ordering some form of food.

Lodging

We stayed in Zion NP at the Watchman Campground. It’s right next to the Visitor Center and is electric hookups for RVs. It was the perfect location for us and our R-Pod 180 HRE named Bandit. Others option include the South Campground which has no hookups but great location near the Virgin River. There is also the town of Springdale right outside the gates where several RV parks and hotels have lodging. There is a Springdale shuttle that goes from various stops in town to Zion NP.

Day 1

Stop at Zion NP Visitor Center and get your naps, advice on trails, shuttle schedules, and hop on the shuttle for a nice ride to get an overview of the park. The Zion Canyon shuttle will take you from the Visitor Center 6.6 miles down Zion Canyon Scenic Drive to the Temple of Sinawava stop and back in about 1.5 hours. On the way you’ll also see the major geographic formations along the Canyon walls: Court of the Patriarchs, the Watchman, Angel’s Landing, and the Great White Throne.

View from the canyon floor

Be sure to stop at the Human History Museum and watch the park orientation video. It’s only 22 minutes and gives you basic information on the park’s natural and human history. While you’re out, get off the shuttle at stop 5 to make reservations for your day 3 trailride on horseback and day 3 dinner at the Zion Lodge.

At the end of your first day you can take a drive down the Zion-Mt Carmel Hwy (Hwy 9) through the tunnel and to the park’s eastern boundary. On this route you can see the Checkerboard Mesa and Canyon Overlook.

A short drive up from Canyon Junction (Shuttle Stop 2) lies Zion Mount Carmel Highway. Proceed up the highway East along the winding roads. Eventually, you’ll hit your first tunnel carved directly through the sandstone. Drivers are required to turn their headlights on as there is no lighting inside the tunnel. It takes about 2 minutes to go through. When you come out, you’ll soon go through one last dark, but much shorter tunnel. At the end you’ll pass a ranger post that doesn’t require a stop.

Now, get ready to experience a true feeling of freedom. This is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever take. The roads will continue to wind in switchback style through the pink canyons and rock structures. There are plenty of small alcoves where you can park your car on the side of the road to get out and explore by foot (highly recommended!). One highlight includes Checkboard Mesa near the park exit. You’ll understand the name once you see it.

Day 2

Zion Canyon is starting point for Zion’s most popular hikes, including the easy Riverside Walk and Weeping Rock trails, and the more demanding Watchman, Angel’s Landing, and The Narrows Trail. The box below gives a few tips on the Angel’s Landing hike.

Angel’s Landing is rated one of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the world. That’s because after a strenuous 2 mile uphill climb (though mostly paved), you now have less than a half a mile to the “summit”. It’s not until this point that the hike begins to get difficult. If you made it this far, you’re sitting on a sandy plateau catching your breath and drinking some water.

But you’re not done. Now, you get to traverse sandstone rock structures that will make your hair stand on end. And they should. For the next half mile, your conditioning, foot placement and hand placement may determine whether or not your survive the next hour of your life. You’re going to have to leave behind the well manicured, paved trail and trade it for sheer cliff.

Luckily, much of the remaining trail now has well-positioned chains that allow for an easier climb through the difficult and dangerous junctures. A signifiant number of people were dying on a yearly basis until these were put in place. Now that the chains are there, it’s been over 5 years since there’s been a death. Note, however, that you are NOT tethered, so your safety really relies on how much you “grab, grab, grab.” Try not to look down, and take it one step at a time.

After conquering Angel’s Landing (the peak in the background)

I would suggest alternating a strenuous or moderate hike in the morning (6-8am) with a few easy hikes after lunch. You can ride your bike to the trailhead at at daybreak and be done before the heat of the day sets in. There is a quick grill and a sit-down restaurant that are both open for lunch at the Zion Lodge which is shuttle stop 5. On especially hot days be sure to include a hike that takes you along the Virgin River for a quick dip. It’s recommended that in the semi-arid climate you drink a gallon of water daily.

The Virgin River

At the end of this day I suggest you take a trip into Springdale for dinner at one of their several restaurant choices. My favorites are Switchback Grill and the Thai Palace.

Day 3

For this final day I would fill in with the hikes you didn’t accomplish on day 2. Plan any strenuous ones for the early morning. Stop with a packed lunch along the Virgin River in a shady spot. Finish out your day getting the last photos of the amazing scenery and take a trail ride on horseback from the Zion Lodge (shuttle stop 5). Reserve a dinner table at the Zion Lodge and watch the sunset as you enjoy the views of ancient cottonwood trees and striated Canyon walls.

View from Zion Lodge’s restuarant

What To Pack For Hiking

Spring:

  • Insulated, light jacket or fleece for the mornings and evenings
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • T shirts
  • • Pair of shorts
  • • Pairs of pants
  • • Long sleeve shirts (to layer if needed)
  • • Bathing suit
  • • Hiking Boots
  • • Sneakers
  • •Water shoes / sandals
  • • Neoprene socks
  • • Dry pants
  • • Walking stick
  • • Dry bag
  • •Camelbak or Water Bottle

Summer:

  • Windbreaker
  • T shirts
  • Shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking sandals
  • Pair of light pants
  • Walking stick
  • Dry bag
  • Camelbak or Water Bottle

Fall:

  • Fleece or insulated wind breaker
  • T shirts
  • Shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking sandals
  • Pairs of pants
  • Walking stick
  • Dry bag
  • Camelbak or Water Bottle

I’ll definitely be back to Zion NP soon!

SOURCES

Zion National Park Brochures and website

WineTraveler Blog at https://www.winetraveler.com/travel-resources/4-day-zion-national-park-itinerary-utah/

New Orleans to Washington State 2018

Our 2018 TransAmerican road trip in our R-pod 180 HRE will take us from New Orleans to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) again. We loved it up there last year and have decided to become reverse snowbirds this year from May to October 🙂

On the way to the PNW we will stop along this route:

  • Dallas
  • Albuquerque
  • Zion National Park
  • Salt Lake City
  • Yakima
  • Olympia
  • Anacortes (San Juan Islands)

Follow us @countryboy_citygirl on Instagram for photos of our travels and tips on free camping spots.

Italy: What to know before you go

Italy has Western Europe’s richest, craziest culture. This is perhaps why I feel so at home there. It is also very diverse, stretching from their German- flavored Alps through hill towns to sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. It was the cradle of the Roman Empire, bringing “civilization” to Europe by way of Africa, India, and Greece.

Here are CityGirl’s tips for having an amazing Italian vacation:

  • Go with an eye open to both the Italies of the past and Italy of the present. I say “Italies” because until the 19th century the peninsula was made up of independent city-states. So each region has its own distinct character and history.
  • Engage with locals. Italians are very social and want to connect with others. Show warmth even when you don’t understand everything and you’ll get a lot further. Embrace the melodramatic, go with it, use your hands when you talk. I live in New Orleans so this is a natural thing for me to fall into.
  • Exhibit la bella figura, a positive public persona/ appearance. Dress elegantly, miss the bus instead of getting sweaty running for it, always order the bottled water, never take a doggy bag, skip packing shorts or graphic tees unless you’re going to the beach.
  • Take part in the ritual evening stroll, the passaggiata. Put on a sophisticated outfit, dazzling accessories, gorgeous shoes, and go out… not for the destination, but for the journey.
  • Nowhere in Italy is more than a day’s journey away. There are 12,000+ miles of train lines and 4,000+ miles of autostrada, their expressway. Go explore.
  • Typical daily diet here includes two servings of pasta, a half pound of bread, and two glasses of wine. Just so you know the norm. You’ll be walking a lot, thank goodness.
  • Food here is not fast food, it’s slow food. Bought daily, prepared with love, enjoyed with friends and family. In season foods are the centerpiece and a three-hour meal is common. First comes the aperitivo (prosecco is a perfect choice), then the antipasto plate of cold sliced meats and veggies, then pasta (primo), then the meat entree dish (secondo), then salad, then dessert with coffee or a digestif. Pace yourself!
  • Italy is the number one wine producer of the world. Find out which wines are from the specific region you’re visiting, drink them. I love Lambrusco in Emilia-Romagna, Soave in the Veneto, Chianti in Tuscany, and Frascati in Lazio. Don’t order French wine!
  • Italians take a siesta called reposo or riposo. It’s a three-hour break from about 1pm. Shops will be closed, especially in small towns. Yes, even the post office. Use this time to do as they do; have lunch, socialize with friends and family, enjoy window shopping or walking the area.
  • Embrace il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing).
  • Savor your cappuccino, walk aimlessly, imagine the past, ramble through the countryside in a rented Alfa-Romeo, dangle your feet over the ancient waters of the Venetian canals or interior rivers of Florence, Rome, or Milan.
  • Accept Italy as Italy. Savor the fine points. Don’t dwell on the problems. Enjoy!

 

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City Girl Travels to Italy

I’ll be traveling to the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna for 40 days this fall! I will be blogging and vlogging about it, so if you want insider tips on European travel, click the follow button on the right. Also, follow my Instagram @countryboy_citygirl

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I thought I might use this post to share my travel experience with you, so you know I didn’t fall off a cabbage truck yesterday. I have a lot of experiences and tips to share. Really, what good is all this knowledge if it’s not shared?

Traveling for me began early as it was a vital part of my schooling and job. In both undergrad and graduate school I interned for the USDA and traveled to conferences all over the US and Territories for recruitment and research presentations. Once I started working (in the middle of nowhere) full time after grad school, I traveled monthly for training, meetings, or shopping. I’ve been to almost every state in the Union and to several of our Territories. I have visited both Canada and Mexico for extended periods of time. I’ve also traveled extensively in the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe. I’m a complete Italophile, so since about 2006 I try to get to Italy every other year.

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Traveling monthly for work (for the past 17 years, especially the years I traveled for two weeks of every month) I got really good at carry-on packing and perfected my travel routine. I recommend that anyone looking to travel develop their routine. Mine, for example, consisted of my using preferred airline/ hotel/ car rental agencies rewards programs for ease and perks. Using TSA pre-check was an integral part of my routine because it got me through security super fast. Have your travel outfit planned for both comfort and style in case there is a delay.

Travel Routine

  • Travel Apps: I use the TripCase app to save all reservations and itineraries. You just forward the reservation emails to them and they do all the work. Use your airline app as they notify you immediately if there is a change. Same with car rental and hotel. I also use the Uber app.
  • Earn $$: Pay for your travel and related items with a credit card offering cashback or miles. I’ve used (Capital One) Quicksilver and Venture, and I prefer Quicksilver.
  • First class treatment: Enroll in TSA pre-check to get ahead of the line. If you travel often in the US it’s worth it. Make sure to enroll with your airline as well or you might get snubbed.
  • Choose wisely: Choose a hotel chain and car rental agency with locations EVERYWHERE (I use Hertz and prefer Marriott over Hilton but have rewards cards with both). Another thing to remember when choosing is how important a free breakfast will be. It can really help your budget to choose a hotel like Hilton’s Hampton Inn. They have eggs and bacon 🙂
  • Skip the lines: Booking ahead and using your hotel and car chain apps make it a breeze to check in remotely. With Hertz, I have my car with keys in it waiting for me when I arrive, as they text me the stall number. I just get in and go. With Marriott I check in from my phone and use a Mobile Key to go straight to my room, skipping the check in line entirely. I use UBER as much as possible (some airports don’t allow it) so I don’t have to wait for a taxi in the line at their airport.
  • Dress for success: Proper outfit + crossbody bag + tote bag + carry-on luggage = success. I usually wear flats & sock liners, leggings, and a tunic. I take a huge scarf that doubles as a jacket and blanket. I wear a crossbody bag that fits in my tote so I only have two items when I walk past the ticket counter. I carry-on to avoid delays waiting for my bag. In my tote I carry rosewater spray, sleep mask, empty water bottle, tablet, charger, and snacks (yes you can bring food through security). No matter what happens, I’m ready.

See you in Italy. xo

I’ll be using #CBCGblog and #CityGirlTravels to tag my posts on traveling well in the future. Search for them on Google, Instagram, or Facebook.

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Airport Travel Tips

 

 

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Early morning airport travel tips:

  • Only take what you can easily carry yourself.
  • Never sit near a trash can in the airport.
  • Always wear shoes with socks.
  • Have one place where you keep your phone, wallet, and boarding passes and always put them there. Ideally, strap your wallet to your purse so it’s never left behind.
  • Count the outerwear pieces you are wearing/carrying at every checkpoint and in getting on/off the plane and always reach the same number (for instance: 1) Jacket, 2) scarf, 3) bag, 4) purse.
  • Carry your own water bottle rather than buy bottled water.
  • Be nicer than necessary or expected.
  • Look for ways to help fellow travelers; for instance, if the woman walking out of the restroom in front of you has inadvertently tucked the back of her dress into her pantyhose, let her know. Hypothetically, of course.
  • Sit near an electrical outlet in the gate area with a small multiple outlet surge protector and offer slots to fellow travelers if you see them hunting for a place to plug in.
  • Say thank you to airport employees who started work at 3am to provide you with coffee and chewing gum.

Thus ends this edition. I’m paying it forward for Patti Digh.

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R-Pod 180 HRE Named “Bandit”

I want to introduce you to Bandit, our R-Pod. We bought her in Arizona right after our trip to the Grand Canyon. She is a 180 Hood River Edition (HRE) model, 180 meaning she has a kitchen slide and a dry bath up front with lots of storage for a ultra-light micro travel trailer. HRE means she was made in Oregon, has more ground clearance (via axle risers) for off-road travel, 15″ all-terrain tires/wheels, two steps, and diamond plating on the front.

In this post I’ll list out our decor changes, mods, and RV accessories that we have found to be of great use on this road trip (6,000 miles and counting!).

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Smokey (our 1999 Ford Expedition) and Bandit (our R-Pod)

 

She has a grey/blue exterior with seaglass (read: brown, grey, and slate blue) interior.

 

I (CityGirl or CG for short) decided to decorate the inside with a coral and aqua palette with some shades of grey and blue.

Coral and Aqua

 

We also decided to add some more storage using our favorite stores; Amazon and IKEA. First we added the GRUNDTAL series kitchen rails, s-hooks, and a magnetic rack. Next, we installed a BEVKÄM wooden spice rack using 1/2″ screws (r-pod walls are 1 5/16″ thick and the door is 1 1/2″ thick) that we bought from Lowe’s. We also hung a key rack (Command Quartz Key Rail) that you can get at Target, but we found it at Camping World. We ordered hanging baskets for inside the bathroom door and inside the kitchen cabinet door from Amazon. We put suction cup accessories from the STUGVIK series on our bathroom mirror. We also installed the famous “over the bed” shelf using just a simple board from Lowe’s that we will paint when we return home (we are on a 3-month road trip as we are modding the pod). Lastly, we ordered a hanging storage system in grey to go over the outside of the bathroom door.

The result: we increased our storage and made it more efficient for our needs.

 

Some things I don’t know about yet are: tablecloths that actually fit the table and stay on, a comforter or quilt that doesn’t remain too bulky for the size of the bed, and more coral accents like this tea towel set from Cynthia Rowley.

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Additionally, my sweet Country Boy (CB for short) used the time we spent at a friend’s home in Olympia, Washington to install:

  • dual propane tanks,
  • a dual battery system with boxes,
  • a tongue mounted dual bike rack,
  • an under-trailer tire rack for Bandit,
  • and a Zamp 200-watt solar panel system.

While in Oregon we stopped in Lincoln City and purchased a Honda generator and companion so we could start the a/c if necessary while not on shore power and also jump off our tow vehicle if we got stuck out in the mountains with a dead battery. Couple that with lots of sun out west and we can boondock for 4 days at a time (or more if we conserve food and water).

 

When we set up, we use a few extras for protection of our r-pod travel trailer and for our peace of mind at campgrounds:

Whew! I think that is all for this post. We will cover reviews of these components in a later post.