Friday Links: Lazy Sunday Edition

Since I let XFE take over the blog on Friday, I’m a bit late on links. But there were a few illuminating things on the Interwebs this week, including fancy planes and flight attendants, an apparatus for lazy eating, and a fear-mongering infographic.

(XFE fans – don’t worry: he’ll be back with another post on Tuesday. I’ve created a guest-blogging monster.)

Why you should avoid airplanes

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Hotel Crashing: Two Starwood/Libertador Hotels in Peru

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I sometimes have trouble sleeping. (I know I’ve told it in person to every person who’s crossed my path. And everyone on Facebook and Twitter. And in the comments section of a couple of other blogs).

Anyway, it’s actually a fairly frustrating form of insomnia – I am quite able to fall asleep on my couch at 9:08 in the evening but find myself awake at 3 or 4 am, unable to quiet my mind enough to fall back asleep until somewhere around 6 am, or 15 minutes before the alarm goes off.

i_cant_sleep_under_this_pressure-111971

The funniest part about all of this is that I used to be an amazing sleeper. Seriously, I could have done it as a job. If there had been a Sleep Olympics back in the day, I would have taken gold, silver and bronze. I’m practically a founding member of the National Sawing Logs Association of America (acronym: ZZZofA).

In my 20s and early 30s, I used to be able to sleep for 8, 9, 10 hours at a time. On weekends in my wasted 20s, I would sleep even more if left to my own devices. My mind was never racing at 4 in the morning, although considering the very sad state of my finances and job security prospects at the time, I should have been bugged-eyed and wide awake with worry.

Now, with a good job and a comfortable bank account, I am very, very wakeful.

(Although, knock on wood, for the last week or so, I’ve been in one of my good sleeping stretches. Probably due to getting up in the pre-dawn hours to go to the gym with XFE. Who knows how long it will last, but I’m definitely enjoying it.)

But, I slept like a champion in Peru.

I’m not sure if it was because there were exceptionally early morning flights (5:30 flight to Cusco) or because of the WuaynaKihlPhoe parasite, but most nights (parasite-symptom-wakefulness excluded), I was knocked right out and did not wake up until it was time for another delicious breakfast.

I’m working on a self-funded (OK, fine, an XFE-subsidized) study on the correlation between sleep satisfaction and expensive luxury resort hotels. The key to a sound sleep might be related to the weave in a set of Egyptian cotton linens + peace of mind from having a concierge/butler at one’s beck and call.

Room at Tambo del Inka in Peru

This was confirmed at Libertador hotels in Peru. I was not familiar with the Libertador hotel collections (funny fact: when you get to a certain price point, I’ve noticed that the language changes from “hotel chain” to “resort collection.”) but apparently, they’re a really nice line of hotels in Peru.

Thanks to their alliance with Starwood Properties, we stayed at two of Libertador’s seven hotels – Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru and Tambo del Inka, near Machu Picchu.

Hotel Paracas was a typical beach-type resort—white stucco buildings, lush green manicured grounds, a beach view with white sands, an outdoor beach lounge/bar area near the beach with those big round wicker chairs and an outdoor fire pit and tiki torches.

 Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru

 Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru

The pool, which looked huge on the website, was actually a narrow strip of pool that got crowded with vacationing families pretty fast. We also ran into some difficulty renting a cabana, which limited our pool time a bit.

Pool at Hotel Paracas in the southern coast of Peru

The other problem we had was with the onsite tour agency, T’ikariy. They were unresponsive to our (admittedly, numerous) emails ahead of our visit, and gave conflicting information when we went in person. We were trying to book a sunset sand buggy excursion with them and after a few starts and stops (“We can’t do same day bookings.” “We can’t book you for tomorrow because it’s less than 24 hours.” “We can’t book you at all because our jeep is broken.”), we gave up and went to our concierge who gave us the number to another excursion place (he couldn’t book it since he’s supposed to use the onsite agency. Who didn’t have a working jeep. So, that makes sense.)

At Hotel Paracas, we stayed in a balcony suite, which, oddly enough is on the first floor. It had a lovely porch overlooking the grounds, which we made good use of, buying our own beer and cokes from the nearby town. We’d sit out there in the evenings with XFE’s iPod, eating snacks we’d brought from Trader Joe’s and drinking beers. It was probably my favorite part of the day.

Our villa at Hotel Paracas Peru

The room was very spacious. It had clearly been two rooms converted into one with a living room (with sofa bed), wet bar, and full bathroom with shower on one side; and a bedroom with king size bed and large bath on the other side. It’s the perfect set up for a family.

Living room at Hotel Paracas Peru

Bedroom at Hotel Paracas Peru

The service from the hotel staff was overall impeccable – everyone on the property was very friendly and quick to help with anything. Not that we put them through their paces or anything…other than a few calls for ice, we stayed pretty low during our two night stay.

Tambo del Inka would be where I really put Libertador hotel staff to the test.

Tambo del Inka is Incan for “Rest Stop of the Incans” and it was the perfect rest stop for us on our way to Machu Picchu. It’s located in the Sacred Valley in a town called Urubamba, about 50 minutes from Cusco. It opened only about a year ago and it is obvious that no expense was spared.

Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

The resort is small—only 128 rooms—and the entire place blends beautifully into the countryside. It’s got a whole, ski-lodge kind of vibe, with giant wooden doors opening onto the lobby with its floor-to-ceiling double-sided stone fireplace and a soaring ceiling with exposed wooden beams. However, the colorful Peruvian folk art hanging from the walls and decorating the surfaces reminds you that you’re not in Colorado.

Lobby beams at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Lobby at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

We checked out the indoor/outdoor multilevel swimming pool, but unfortunately it was too cold to swim. It’s supposed to be heated, but I would have to say, no way. We also peeked into the spa area and water circuit, which looked amazing. Our biggest regret was that we didn’t book a spa treatment at Tambo.

Indoor pool at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Pool at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

But the most stunning place was the bar right off the lobby. It had this jaw-dropping wall of translucent, backlit golden marble. The bar also has a lovely outdoor deck that made it even more difficult to choose where to sit.

Bar at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Deck at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

The check in was slightly unusual, but in a very nice way. They lead you over to one of the comfortable couches in the lobby area, and bring over some mate de coca tea (it’s supposed to help with altitude sickness) or a choice of other beverage. Since I wasn’t feeling too well and we’d been up since 3 am, we tried to rush our check in a bit to get to our room. The staff was understanding.

We were immediately upgraded to a very spacious senior suite room overlooking the Urubamba River, which came with its own butler, Alan. The room was just as gorgeous as the lobby, with a large walk in closet and one of the best beds I’ve ever slept in. Which I promptly did, right after a long bath in the sunken tub.

Room at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Bath at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

Living Rooom at Tambo del Inka Sacred Valley Peru

I was full on sick by this point (thanks, coconut popsicle in Lima!) and XFE was left to his own devices. He went to the afore-mentioned bar for a late lunch and then wandered into Urubamba for a look around. While taking pictures of the square, he made this little friend, who kept popping up just as the camera clicked.

Urubamba
Urubamba photo bomber

I still wasn’t feeling well that evening, so I ordered chicken soup from room service. I think it was great soup, but honestly, I was just incredibly hungry by that time. It could have been dirty bathwater and I think I would have slurped it down. They also brought me a birthday cake, which, while it didn’t help my stomach, it did make me very happy.

Birthday cake at Tambo del Inka in Peru

We chose Tambo del Inka because it has a train station taking hotel residents to Machu Picchu, which is a huge perk. The train leaves at the crack of dawn (Of course. Why must everything on vacation occur when the sun is not even up yet?) and a staff person walks you over to the station. Not because it’s a long and confusing walk. More likely, because you’re so sleepy and bleary eyed, they’re afraid you’ll end up snuggled up next to an alpaca in some farmer’s field somewhere. That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

alpaca cuddles in Peru
But we’re so soft and cute, come sleep with us….

Most of the Tambo residents went up to Machu Picchu for just the day, but we stayed overnight at the Sanctuary. We packed a small overnight bag and the staff at Tambo held our bags for us, bringing them back to our room upon our return (we were put in the same room, which was nice.)

We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant our final morning (full buffet plus cooked-to-order eggs) and it was delicious. Well, as delicious as two scrambled-to-oblivion eggs could be, since I was still pretty sick and not feeling adventurous enough to try the quinoa pancakes (although I really wanted to).

Lobby at Tambo del Inka, Peru
Another lobby view.

We also looked at the dinner menu while we were checking out and really regret that we didn’t get a chance to eat there. It looked incredible and the prices were very reasonable.

Just like Hotel Paracas, the service was spot on, perhaps even a bit better. When walking through the lobby of Tambo del Inka, you literally ran a gauntlet of “buenos dias” and “hellos.” Our butler Alan was very helpful and concerned about my health, and offered to call a doctor to the hotel. I stoically, and stupidly, refused. Regret #3: if you’re sick, let them call a damn doctor in.

Tambo del Inka, Peru
More grounds at Tambo.

We loved our Tambo del Inka experience and just wished we’d booked a couple of extra days to enjoy the resort some more. Or, as was my case, roll around in that giant soft bed some more.

It’s a gorgeous place and definitely on my list of top 5 places we’ve ever stayed, intestinal parasite notwithstanding.

Girls Gone Wild in the OT

My parental guidance counselor, XFE is out of town for work this week, leaving Petunia and I to fend for ourselves once again. So, there’s been a lot of this:

foot warmer

And this:

RHoA

And this:

wine and cheese

Actually, that last one is a big, fat, wishful creamy lie. Because even though XFE was also out of town for work last week, he breezed in on Friday and made a fantastic dinner for a small dinner party we had on Saturday night. He made two beer can chickens on the Big Green Egg, while I made a chili-lime roasted butternut squash salad, and we collaborated on a lemon-dill ice cream.

We also got oysters. Did you know that you can have them shuck oysters for you at Whole Foods? And they put them on a tray with ice for you and everything. Pretty nifty. It’s a discovery that’s  about to revolutionize all our months with an “r” in them, I can tell you that much.

Since we drank multiple, hangover-inducing bottles of wine and champagne (my brain was trying very hard to escape my skull all day Sunday), there was plenty of chicken left over to eat throughout the week. (Petunia also had a hangover on Sunday. Too many catnip-tinis.)

Petunia Garbo

After XFE bailed on us, we spent MLK/inauguration day away from any form of fermented adult beverages and focused instead on staying warm in the plummeting temperatures and Arctic winds. I am chilled to the bone, despite the fact that I’ve raised the temperature in the house up to a non-XFE approved 72 degrees. But try as I might, I cannot get warm. Especially my feet.  I’ve been making hot tea like it’s Downton Abbey up in the shizz.

The cold weather is also causing my house to make very creepy, scary, strange noises. I woke up at least 8 times last night CONVINCED that someone had somehow broken into the house in order to try to get with my freezing cold feet. (I’ll take ‘Strange Noises’ for $50, Alex.)

insomnia jeopardy

And they may or may not be scaling the roof to get to these ice-cubes-that-need-a-pedicure. Or trying to get in through the bathroom ventilator vents. Or running their hands along my bedroom wall behind our headboard. And scratching on the downstairs windows. Or making the floorboards creep. Let’s just suffice it to say, it was not a restful first night.

(Also: I discovered this morning that my coffee creamer had gone bad and since I had already made coffee, I thought I’d try to use almond milk instead. Newsflash: Almond milk is not the same as creamer. Not. At. All. So if this would-be creepy-house-roamer is reading this, please put some creamer in my fridge. And I don’t mean that in some sexual way. Seriously. Creamer. Low fat, if you can swing it).

Crap like this right here below doesn’t help with my nerves. That’s my tension shower rod on the floor in my bathroom. We know how to party up in here.

shower

Petunia is embarrassed by my jumpiness. And lame partying skills.

aloof petunia

“Don’t worry: I will protect you with my scary glow eyes.”

creepy eyes

Packing for an 18-Day Vacation: Doomsday Preppers

Have y’all seen this new NatGeo show, Doomsday Preppers? It’s about these crazy people who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it by stockpiling food and other products, sharpening their survival skills and basically, polishing their guns.

Doomsday preppers

That’s basically how my travel-buddy-for-life XFE and I prepare for a trip.

We are not the kind of people that show up at a hotel and realize that we don’t have a corkscrew and a collapsible cooler. Yes, those are actual items on our packing list, a list that, by the way, is quite exhaustive and thorough. We’re very, very prepared. Outfits are tried on, arguments are had, tears flow and eventually, a suitcase (or three per person) is packed.

Continue reading Packing for an 18-Day Vacation: Doomsday Preppers

Commercials To Set Your DVR To, and Keep You Up at Night Fretting Over Gout

Finally the major work project we’ve all been busting our collective behinds on is over. Well, can any major project really ever be over? Let me assure you the answer is no. However, the largest and most immediate deadline has passed.

I can now get back to keeping on the lookout for new, bad reality programming.

It was while pursuing this hobby the other night that I saw the most amazing commercial, obviously intended to put me in full, hypochondria panic mode.

I was watching Discovery Channel, which, by the way, has some major intriguing reality shows coming up. I mean, what is one to make of this gem?

It’s like a cross between two of my favorite shows: “Gold Rush” and “Deadliest Catch.” Which I’m pretty sure is basically how the pitch for “Bering Sea Gold” went.

Anyway, if the commercial is accurate (and I mean, come on! It’s television! Of course it’s accurate) these Bering Sea gold miners are an exceedingly tough crew. One of them says he’s involved in such a dangerous occupation because he’s got to pay the bills. Fair enough. But then he says that he has the kind of bills that you go to jail if you don’t pay!

(I’m thinking child support, although my personal experiences in the child support system suggest that paying it is really only a suggestion and nothing bad will happen to you if you choose to ignore the obligation. You certainly don’t go to jail over it, in my own experience. Right, deadbeat dads out there? High five for being losers).

So, these undersea gold prospectors seem kinda tough. I think I even saw one eating nails or something. I don’t suspect they’ll be bumbling around hoping to stumble on some gold like the clueless crew over on Gold Rush. No, I think these guys have got this stuff figured out.

I can’t even wrap my head around the concept of looking for gold deep underwater in an ocean (alright, a “sea”) that’s incredibly, incredibly cold. There are just so many easier ways to pay bills that get you thrown in jail if you forget to pay them. Like, working at Starbucks, just as an example. Who even looked out on the Bering Sea and said, “Yep, I bet there’s a ton of gold out there. Let’s go get that.”

Yes, I will probably be watching this one.

What was I saying? Oh yes, the panic-inducing commercial. Well, I mean the other panic inducing commercial, not the dying-in-frigid-seas-because-I-have-to-avoid-jail commercial. I’ll get to that other commercial in a minute.

But first, before I forget, I have got to tell you about another show coming on the History Channel and this one is completely shrouded in mystery for me. It’s a commercial for a show called “Full Metal Jousting.”

Now, obviously, the incredibly success of NatGeo’s “Knights of Mayhem” has every cable channel scrambling to rip off that money-making formula (are you sensing the sarcasm here?) And this is History’s offering.

The commercial is very intriguing and manly – just a black screen with the logo and some swishing metal blades noises. However, after my last foray into the world of watching competitive jousting, I think I’ll skip it. But I thought it was interesting to note this new “trend” in cable TV formatting. And, if I know my reality TV clichés, the next iteration of this show will feature buxom women jousters of some sort. (For examples, see: “American Pickers” + girls = “Picker Sisters;” “American Hoggers” + girls = “Lady Hoggers;” “Deadliest Catch” + girls = “Hook, Line and Sisters”)

So while these two commercials are very, very interesting, this commercial is the one that made me sit straight up in my chair in fear.

This commercial starts innocently enough: A nice gentlemen in a white coat is speaking in soothing yet questioning tones. I imagine he’s talking about cholesterol or something but then I start paying attention and suddenly I realize he’s actually telling me that the gout is going to get me!

It can attack silently, and he says I may not feel it (a quick mental check confirms that I don’t feel anything,) but if I don’t treat it right away, I’ll experience constant pain and joint destruction!

All because of this horrible uric acid stuff! Which is continuously building up in my joints! Dangit! When and where have I been injesting uric acid? And just how tasty is it: ie: how difficult is it going to be for me to kick the uric habit (with my undoubtably already gouty foot and ankle)?

Man, I’m terrified. This gout situation is likely to keep me from getting any sleep. Luckily, the fine folks at Takeda Pharmaceuticals (the ones who put that gout commercial out there) also offer prescription sleep medication to deal with insomnia.