Category - Stay

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Hotel Alessandra – Old World Meets Sophistication in Downtown Houston
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Staycation at Mountain Shadows
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24 Hours at Hotel Ylem in Houston, TX

Hotel Alessandra – Old World Meets Sophistication in Downtown Houston

Deep in the heart of downtown Houston, and next to the ever-growing GreenStreet outdoor shopping center, lies the sleek Hotel Alessandra. The twenty-story, 223-room hotel just recently celebrated its’ grand opening on October 1st, and has since been an ideal hotspot for local and international travelers looking to revel in all that Houston has to offer.

I had the pleasure of staying there recently. It really is quite convenient to most of what downtown has to offer. The modern and sophisticated building stands tall and proud among the elite skyline. The front entrance to the hotel boasts an intimate valet, where the bellmen also graciously offered to help with bags and ushered me into the quaint lobby with a two-story soaring ceiling and sepia-marbled grand staircase with gold and glass handrails. I rode the elevator to the second floor, where the check-in desk awaited me. The space to me, felt like a minimalistic opulence, with marbled, gold, and mirrored accents, and cozy seating. The large Beaux Arts style photograph that rests on the back wall behind the check-in was done by Reinhard Gorner.

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

After a quick and painless check-in, I rode the elevator to the ninth floor. The room hallway was bright and inviting. The Beaux Arts theme continues on the gallery-white walls, which had graphite-hued panel designs throughout.

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

The photos of the guest rooms online honestly don’t do the rooms justice. You just have to experience it in person. I had a corner room. When I stepped inside, there was a small hallway, with floor-to-ceiling windows and sweeping views of the city. Also in that hallway was the bathroom, and in-room mini bar area. The hallway gave way to the sleeping area, where the floor-to-ceiling windows continued, allowing wonderful natural light to pour in. The bed was anchored with two Art Deco-style nightstands, both of which had outlets for charging phones, laptops, etc. Also anchoring the custom bed is a white glossy wall system that offers storage for luggage, and such. A small, yet cozy sitting area with a jade green couch, chair, and a table is nestled in one corner of the room. The classic black and white bathroom was bathed in marble and textured subway tiles. Dividing doors separated the commode, a vanity area, and a large shower with rain showerhead.

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

The husband and I dined at Lucienne that evening. Lucienne serves contemporary Continental cuisines that have a Mediterranean twist. Chef Jose Hernandez spearheads the operation with over 20 years of experience in some of the top eateries around the world. The open, yet somewhat narrow room with ribcage ceiling was largely inspired by a NASA space shuttle and a Viennese vaulted cafe. The curtains have a vintage feel, but upon closer inspection, the characters actually are doing modern day tasks, like taking a selfie, or holding a coffee cup, etc. Our waiter- Alvaro, was exceptionally helpful in recommending dishes. We started off with an Apple Blue Cheese Salad and a small house-baked baguette. The Mr had the Scallops with Mushroom Risotto, while I opted for the Gruyere Cheese Crepe for our main entrees. Both dishes were delicious, and just the right portions. We shared the Thin Apple Tart for dessert. After dinner, since it was ridiculously close, we ventured over to Green Street for a short after-dinner walk.

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston, Lucienne, restaurant

  • Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston, Lucienne, restaurant
  • Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston
  • Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston
  • Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston
  • Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

After a restful night’s sleep, we took advantage of the 24/7 in-room dining, and ordered breakfast. Instead of calling in the order, I used the tablet that was available. We shared a bowl of oatmeal with berries, brown sugar, and milk; as well as house-baked toast. I took advantage of the Nespresso machine, and made some coffee to compliment the breakfast.

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

I also wanted to mention that before I headed to the room, I was invited to join in on a small tour of the hotel with other local influencers, also on behalf of Pop Shop. We met up with Karena Zolner- the hotel’s spa director, who showed us the 21st-floor terrace, a conference room, Lucienne, the bar- Bardot, the spa, the glass-enclosed fitness center, and the outdoor pool. Karena also treated us to a cocktail hour at Bardot after the tour. According to the press release, the bar was modeled after the American style cocktail bars that had become popular in London during the turn of the century. It’s definitely a great spot to enjoy coffee, a light breakfast, cocktails, and more. I’m a huge fan of the floor-to-ceiling windows that gave unobstructed views of Dallas and Fannin Streets, and all that glorious natural light!

It was such a wonderful stay! I want to go back, though with more time to check out the pool, fitness center, get a complimentary ride anywhere in downtown in the Maserati, and get some spa pampering in. Also, if you happen to find yourself there, be sure to chat with Lawrence, one of the friendliest bellmen I’ve ever met!

NOTE: I received a complimentary stay in exchange for my honest opinion. 

More details…

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

Hotel Alessandra, Houston, Texas, downtown Houston

 

 

 

Staycation at Mountain Shadows

Doorway at Mountain Shadows resort in Arizona

Nestled against the reigning silhouettes of Camelback and Mummy Mountain, in the heart of Paradise Valley, lies Mountain Shadows. The resort first opened its’ doors in 1959, and gained instant success through the likes of international clientele, Hollywood stars, and traveling families alike. Over the years, the resort changed developers, including Del Webb and Marriott. In 2004, the resort officially closed. In 2014, it was bought out by its’ present day developers- Westroc Hospitality and Woodbine Development Corp., who decided to rebuild it from the ground up. The resort was reintroduced earlier this year.

I took advantage of the low summer rates, and booked my staycation. Upon my arrival, I handed over my car to the valet and made my way through the incredible wooden doors with sleek mountain designs on them. Check-in was a breeze, and before I knew it, I was comfortably taking in the atmosphere in the Immerse room. It was such a bright, contemporary room with hints of mid-century modern features throughout. The walk-in shower was roomy, and featured full-size bath amenities by Red Flower. The king-size bed was cozy, with plenty of outlets within reach. The reason why the room is named Immerse is that there is a luxurious soaking bathtub that overlooks Camelback Mountain. The balcony, which overlooks a good-size portion of the surrounding mountains and desert landscape, was oh-so-lovely in the evening and morning. Take a tour of the room by checking out the slideshow below.

I had dinner and breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant- Hearth ’61. The restaurant was named after the year of the Paradise Valley’s incorporation- 1961, as well as the hearth of the stone oven in the kitchen. Most of the ingredients for their dishes are sourced locally, and the waitstaff is exceptionally courteous and knowledgeable of the menus.

Hearth '61, Mountain Shadows, Arizona, restaurant, food

Beluga Lentil Soup + Noble Bread

Hearth '61, Mountain Shadows, Arizona, restaurant, food

Banana Ricotta Pancakes + Vanilla Latte

Scroll down further to see more photos from my stay.

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, lobby

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, pool area

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, lounge, retro-inspired

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, lounge, retro-inspired

Mountain Shadows, Arizona, hotel, hospitality

Have you guys stayed there? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

Mountain Shadows is located at:

5445 E. Lincoln Dr.

Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

WEBSITE

** I received a complimentary room upgrade and waived resort fees in exchange for an honest review. **

24 Hours at Hotel Ylem in Houston, TX

Hotel Ylem, Houston, Houston Hotel, boutique hotel

I had first read about Hotel Ylem (pronounced eye-lum) through various social media sources, and it was unfortunate that they opened AFTER I had moved to Phoenix (LOL). However, I was in Houston last month, and was able to enjoy a night at the hotel, and got a feel for what the locals were buzzing about.

The 79-room, three story hotel was once a Holiday Inn Express, but this past February, the Dalwadi family decided to reinvent it into something more cozy, artsy, and with an effort of giving back. They renamed it- Hotel Ylem. Ylem– which means, “The substance that was the first of the universe…The beginning of everything…” According to the article written by the Houston Chronicle on the hotel, one of the siblings- Manisha, went on to explain, “For us, that’s water and mother. Our mother is our glue; she keeps our family strong … and mothers are the source of life, right? And water, … nothing can go on without water. We felt that was the perfect name for the hotel.”

Let me back up some… the Dalwadi family originated from India. Jay (the patriarch of the family) was one of ten children that were raised by Maniben, a widow (his father passed away when he was nine). Maniben worked at a brick factory. While most of his siblings quit school and went to work to help support the family, it was then when they decided that Jay (who was the youngest) would go to school and make something of himself. He eventually went on to graduate from Texas A&M with a degree in chemical engineering. Fast forward to the present, Jay has since built a career in hospitality. The family owns a construction firm that has built their hotels, as well as a brick factory in India.

Hotel Ylem, Houston boutique hotel, Houston, hotel

 

Giving back…

The goal of the Dalwadi family is to change the way they do hospitality. They have been really helpful in ways of giving back, in ALL aspects of the hotel. Along with several other charities, they have specifically chosen to highlight Charity:Water. Are you guys starting to notice the water theme? Nine percent of sales from Bar Esperanto goes to Charity:Water. They will eventually install minibars, which 100% of the sales will go to Charity:Water. The hotel also showcases various pieces of artwork that can be seen around the public spaces that are from local artists. Eighteen percent of those sales go to Charity:Water, while the rest goes to the artist. They’ve chosen numerous vendors that are also like-minded in their business models, as far as giving back to various charities, or being eco-friendly. One of the vendors is Lather, whose products are in all guest bathrooms. Each bed is completed with a sweet, multicolor throw pillow from CB2– a furniture and home decor company that gives back to three different non-profits. Lastly, the hotel rents out the business lounge and bar space to local non-profits at no cost.

Hotel Ylem, Houston boutique hotel, Houston, hotel

The significance of water and bricks…

The water droplet (and water in general) is a little fixture that is featured subtly throughout the hotel. The wave detail on the back of the shower is similar to the waves of the ocean. The bathroom floor tile is reminiscent of the ocean floor. The lights in the hallways are in the shape of water droplets, as well as the steel fixtures in the back of the bar (which also look like Hershey’s Kisses). The carpeting in the hallways has wave-like features.

You can also see various subtle hints of bricks throughout the hotel, such as the brick wallpaper in the guest rooms, and in the hallway on the third floor.

Hotel Ylem, Houston boutique hotel, Houston, hotel

The guest rooms are fun and quirky. There is a mailbox right outside each door. Along with the usual necessities, each room (either a single king or double queen) has open concept closets, charging stations on both sides of the headboards (can never have too many outlets these days), Mid-Century inspired furniture, retro style mini fridges, and extra storage (including the microwave and ironing board) located in an upright large steamer trunk. The quote artwork that hangs over the bed(s), and the way the globe lamp wiring is arranged, are different in every room. Be sure to also request a complimentary leg massager. The folks at the front desk will bring it to the room. It’s basically like the leg massagers you see at Brookstone, with the different levels of massage and such. But it was really nice to use after a stressful day of wedding planning!

Some takeaways:

~In the morning, guests are treated to a lovely spread of assorted breakfast items, and ample seating in the bar area, or nearby business lounge.

~If I had more time, I would’ve spent more time hanging out in the main lobby, whose large (and original to the old hotel) chandelier and bright orange grand staircase are one of the main focal points (and highly photographed) of the property.

~The fitness center is small, but you can still get a good workout in….Just ask the Mr!

~Be sure to go up to the third floor. It has high ceilings and crown molding. It’s been a favorite spot for blogger and general photo shoots.

~Holly Thompson- the Director of Sales, recommends the ‘Feni Fix’ and the ‘Five Mile Hike’ as cocktails to try at Bar Esperanto, whose beverage program is spearheaded by Hal Brock.

~Free shuttle service within three miles of the hotel. You can get to the Medical Center or NRG Stadium in a matter of minutes!

~ There are two ottoman chairs in the main lobby that have been upholstered with wording that is all about what Hotel Ylem stands for.

~The mural on the side of the hotel was created by Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee. The woman in the mural represents the elements of ‘water’ and ‘mother.’

~This hotel sure beats a corporate chain any day! Friendly staff, clean rooms, and a unique story behind the brand really make this place special!

 

 

NOTE: I was given a complimentary night’s stay at the hotel, however, all opinions are my own. I want to also thank Holly for giving me a tour of the property, as well as tell me a little about the history behind the Dalwadi family and the hotel. 

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