Due to popular demand, and strong internal desire, welcome to the Hopey's Travel Blog and Reviews!
2023 Summer Bop-- Il & In
Hotel Indy, Marriott Tribute Portfolio Property -- Indianapolis, IN
The Hotel Indy is a well-appointed mid-century modern gem, centrally located in downtown Indianapolis. We love Indy for many reasons, one of which is it is a true walking city, and this stay was perfect for that.
The hotel greets guests with a scented and comfortable lobby. Cool tones, books, and snug couches welcome you to sit and relax during the simple check in process. Reception informs you of the restaurant and rooftop bar hours.
The room was near perfection — a red velvet chaise lounge, wide-curved headboard, and glass globe bed side lights created the 50’s-meets-modern swanky vibes. Luscious bedding was only beaten by the incredible robes in the wardrobe.
The bathrobe was heavy with a waffle exterior and thick terry inside, and matched the opulence of the bathroom. The harvest gold tiles and brushed bronze dual fixtures in the shower came quickly to temp with a hearty spray and was much appreciated after our traipse home in the cool rain.
The rooftop bar, Cannon Ball, was delightful with blue velvet seating and achieved more 50’s glam ambience. The cocktail menu looked appealing, but we sipped wine and enjoyed the view prior to walking to Mass Ave for dinner.
We parked in a public garage around the corner, saving a decent amount vs. the hotel lot.
Hotel Indy 5/5, $$$
Union 50 -- Indianapolis, IN
We were staying with my eldest daughter and her family this week in Fishers IN, and we decided to do a date night in the city. Brad booked us a glamorous hotel and I made a reservation at Union 50. I found the restaurant on the VisitIndy webpage and it was included in the top locally owned restaurants.
Union 50 is in an old Union Hall built in 1950. We were unsure at first because it looked deserted from the outside and guests have to walk down an eclectic alley to find the front door, which is always fun. The high ceilings, the 1950’s painted ceramic tiles, and steel and pipe fittings all pay homage to its origins and creates a playful ambiance.
We took the recommendation from the reviews and started with a Grand Charcuterie Board. A selection of three meats, three cheeses, breads, and two extras. The Wagyu Beef Salami and the Habanero Monterey Jack were my favorites, while Brad loved the Fra’ Mani Rosemary Ham.
Brad ordered the special: Duck Confit served on a bed of corn cheese bake and crostini with a healthy schmear of pate, and topped with a blackberry reduction sauce. He devoured it and raved about how it reminded him of Thanksgiving. I had the much simpler East Street Salad, and although lovely and light, it was more appropriate as a starter and not as a main, as they intended it to be a starter.
We skipped dessert planning to find an ice cream shop when we walked back to the hotel, but alas we missed them if there were any.
Union 50 5/5, $$$
Three Days in Southern Utah
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a rugged beauty like no other. Reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, only greener and guests are inside the canyon instead of atop. We got our hiking quotient in clocking 9.9 miles on the Emerald Lower and Middle Pools, Grotto, Kayenta, Weeping Rock, and Riverside Trails. All wildly different and worth the time and exploration.
The Narrows were closed and we will put it on our list for next time.
The Virgin river is magnificent and fierce — leaves you with a peace and fullness that only nature can provide.
The park was comfortably busy in mid-June, with a wide range of temperatures from chilly to roasting depending on the trail and time of day. Listening to languages from around the globe is enjoyable. The shuttle is easy to use and transports guests to each stop in the park.
Zion National Park 5/5
Coral Pink Sand Dune Utah State Park
The park was an hour from our weekend home base, halfway there all cell, gps, and wifi service dropped — we were officially off grid. We booked the early ATV tour and were the first family to arrive. We piled into the four person side-by-side (channeling the Lutz and Rasper families) to bounce and fishtail around in vast soft sand dunes and on tricky, twisty trails.
Explored a slot rock canyon. The Wave is popular and near impossible to get in, this is an incredible second and easy to gain entry, and gives you a sense of how magnificent The Wave must be.
Finished the tour with sand sledding and surfing. Tour guides- local, family owned, friendly, and fun.
Coral Pink Sand Dune State Park Utah 5/5, Park Entrance $, ATV Tour $$$
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Whoa! Over 10,000 ft elevation, multiple scenic points, and an hour drive from our weekend home base.
After our morning on the ATV’s and a quick lunch, we headed to this beautiful National Park. The temperature plummeted as we drove up the mountain from 90 to 45 degrees. The trails were closed because of snow, instead of hiking we consumed each scenic view point and enjoyed the ranger stations.
Unparalleled views, Brad and I agreed this was the highest elevation we had ever been at. The entire drive was magnificent and I forced myself to stop taking pictures through the car window and tried to soak in the beauty.
If you want to see some of the most incredible scenery in the world: Cedar Breaks National Monument 5/5
Two Days in Franklin , TN -- Work Trip
The Harpeth, Hilton Curio Portfolio
The Harpeth is a Curio Hilton Property nestled on a shaded side street downtown Franklin. I was there to coordinate a two-day workshop professional event, and the property was lovely enough to share with you.
Easy to find, the gas lanterns always lit welcome you with warm ambiance. The valet was gracious, as has been my experience in the south, and I was treated with extra care. They helped unload the heap of supplies and the valet was cheaper than the self-park option for the duration of my stay.
The mid-century modern library-like lobby and reception was gorgeous while still being comfortable. I was quickly checked in and there was no hesitation when I required a change to the reservation. I hustled to my room to spend the evening preparing for my facilitation responsibilities.
The room was fashionably classic with warm colors, contemporary bathroom amentinies, and scrumptious bedding. Room service of brussel sprouts and a salad with pickled strawberries, toasted garbanzo beans, avocado, and a tasty vinaigrette helped me stay focused on the task at hand. Delivered by a female, which I find commonly at hotels, who was efficient and kind. She reminded me to not work too hard, then left me to the pile of giant sticky paper and markers.
The workshop support was incredible and the food near perfection. Throughout the two days the attendees repeatedly raved about the food, the bedding, and how beautiful the rooms were. If you travel for work frequently you know that that the hotel conference food is usually only serviceable and we agreed it was the best conference hotel food we had enjoyed — ever.
During an afternoon breakout two of my teams used the sunny, but still cool, courtyard to work on their group assignments. And it was a great place for me to escape for a fifteen minute meal and mental refresh as I prepped for the closing activities.
After the first night, and dinner at The Red Pony, we retired to the lobby lounge and enjoyed a nightcap amongst the voguish books, fireplace, and couches.
I look forward to staying there again, unrelated to work, to fully relish and enjoy our stay.
The Harpeth 5/5, $$$
The Red Pony
The Red Pony is an expensive restaurant downtown Franklin TN. We went there as a family last summer and were not impressed for the price. However, I now have been there for two company dinners and have found the right meals.
The ambiance is excellent achieving a swanky feel even with the raw brick and rough hewn wood beams. Chaps, guitars and horses adorn the walls, in a nod to the name and the Nashville theme.
The company dinners included wine, appetizers, and we each chose our main dish. We had appetizers of Sticky Beef Skewers, Tuna Tacos, and Housemade Guacamole. The Sticky Beef Skewers is the appetizer to get. The next dinner we were there, we tried the Shrimp Ceviche— which is lovely, unexpected, and has an interesting slaw flavor.
The mains I love there are the Shrimp and Grits and the Eggplant Meatballs. The Shrimp and Grits appears as a small serving but it is more than enough. Firm shrimp juxtaposed against creamy, buttery grits, a touch of sweetness, the chef hits all the right notes and I could not finish the whole serving. The Eggplant Meatballs are hearty, full of flavor, and served atop perfectly blended polenta. My colleague ordered the pork chop— which is an enormous serving nearly 3-4” thick— he loved it. I tried a bite, it was exactly the right temperature and texture. It would be great to take home and make more meals with afterward. As a family we found the fish dishes lacking flavor and interest.
Although I have now tried a sampling of the desserts none of them blow your mind, all well composed, with the House Vanilla Ice Cream being the best— tastes like ice milk.
The Red Pony is an excellent experience with the right meal and not taking your hard-to-please children’s palates, and if you are ready to drop a decent amount of money.
The Red Pony 3.5/5, $$$$
Three Days in Napa Valley California
Boon Fly Cafe
First off — what a fantastic name! The waitress at Bounty Hunter recommended it as her favorite breakfast place. It is a short drive from the city and sits on the property of Carneros Resort and Spa, which we explored after we ate.
We immediately got seated. The coffee was strong and served in sturdy, cute red cups. We ordered one donut, a breakfast burrito, and Brad’s coveted and, their specialty, eggs Benedict.
The donut order came out with two large donut hole delights. They were sugared, soft in the middle and after having one each we debated ordering the dozen.
The burrito was enormous and packed full of hash browns, eggs, chorizo, cheese, onion, and I added avocado. The eggs Benedict was simple perfection, the thinly sliced ham was savory and the hollandaise was fresh made.
The restaurant property was almost as much fun as the food. The red barn exterior, porch swings, and rocking chairs welcomed visitors to stay awhile. Reasonably priced our bill was $65 before tip.
Boon Fly Breakfast 4.5/5, $$
We then walked the Carneros Resort and Spa property. The property held several restaurants, a market, gorgeous pool, beautiful grounds, and breathtaking views. The rooms were stand alone tiny houses and Brad peered over the fence to see hot tubs and lounge chairs in the back yards. Website reports the rooms range between $600-850/night.
Celadon on the RiverWalk
The ambiance is wild perfection. You walk down a lonely alley, sure you are in the wrong place, then enter into a lush greenery covered path. A swinging gate to enter, thankful we made reservations because even early a line formed.
We had mussels in a lovely white wine broth, that managed to be both light and creamy. We like appetizers so we also had the beef carpaccio which was topped with a mess of arugula and sweet dots of balsamic dressing. The beef was so thinly sliced it clung to the plate and ended up being more of a salad than a starter.
For our shared main we had the nights special, halibut with mash potatoes and bell pepper purée. The halibut was crispy and fine, but slightly over cooked.
We paired it, in an absolute no-no, with a medium bodied smooth old-vine Zinfandel, Baile Black Chicken. We know whites go with fish but we partially selected this wine because of the name. 5/5 would buy again.
The waiter was gracious enough to bring us a kettle of hot water so we could collect the label for our bar top project.
Celadon 4/5, $$$
Frank Family Vineyards
Another beautiful morning in Napa Valley welcomed our twenty-five minute Uber ride to the vineyard. The sunlight flitted about the lush well-developed grounds. More formal, their concierge greeted us and invited us to stand in front of the step-and-repeat for a photo.
We were early, we usually are, they served a splash of rose and invited us to wander, then wait on the front porch rocking chairs. We explored the main house and discovered the balloon molds.
We booked the brunch tasting in The Miller House, which is the newest edition to their long and storied history. Only commissioned two months prior it is a gorgeous glass clad, mid-century modern gem. Our pictures don’t do it justice- recommend exploring the website. Whoever decorated it—please come to my house and do the same.
The tastings started with an exquisite Blanc-de-Blanc, then moved to a round but fruity Chardonnay. We typically do not like Chardonnay, but both Brad and I enjoyed it. Cheese, meats, and nuts were the tasting pairings. The Pinot Noir, again something we don’t commonly like, was what the sommelier called a ‘Cab man’s Pinot Noir’. We both loved it. The tasting finished with a big reserve red that met the needs of the fatty meat and mustard to which it was paired.
The sommelier spoke of the Frank Family and the Patriarch (and they have a wine titled Patriarch) to exhaustion. We get it already, the guy was wildly successful and ridiculously rich. Everyone in the family, including two dogs, have wines or properties named after them.
We met lovely people. A daughter and her mother celebrating Mother’s Day and a wonderful couple. After the tasting we sat with the couple in pillowed repose and had a deep and stimulating discussion about a range of interesting subjects. We exchanged numbers and I hope we see them again.
We joined the club. Most winery’s sell certain wines from the club because they are not in distribution. Reservations required. The per bottle price ranged from $40-225. Even though the name rubbed me the wrong way, we ordered some Patriarch because Brad loved the rich wine with a staggering high rating and the label was amazing and will be fun to add to our label collection.
Ambiance: 5/5 Wine: 4/5 Friends: 10/10 Sommelier Talking Points: 2/5
The Prisoner Wine Tasting Room
A last minute add to our itinerary, we only booked one tasting a day, The Prisoner Wine Tasting Room was a fabulous finish to the weekend. We booked it because we are mad fans of their decently priced red blend, and although the sommeliers at the other wineries seemed to poo-poo Prisoner, other people we met said it was worth a visit.
Prisoner prides themselves on not being the typical Napa experience and the goth environs definitely set them apart. Quickly greeted, even though we were early, they sat us and were welcomed by best sommelier of the weekend.
Cedric walked us through the tasting, it was not paired with food, but even the complimentary kettle chips and onion dip were a change up from more traditional crispy breadsticks or waffers. The white Pinot Noir and the red Pinot Noir twins to start, were an interesting twist and they have the best names and labels. Followed by big reds, then closed with a red wine whisky crossover. The red wine whisky was a fat cab with a whisky finish.
We talked shop with Cedric who is in school, working as a sommelier by day and a computer programmer/developer by night. Brad and he exchanged IT jargon while I sipped the red whisky crossover. We got his email and will introduce him to folks, I may not know IT, but I know talent and Cedric has it.
We did not join the club, nothing we couldn’t live without (although a bottle of red wine whisky crossover might be nice to have). Reservations required. Bottles range from $25-120. If you are looking for an atypical Napa experience, then Prisoner is your spot.
The Prisoner Tasting Room 4/5
An absolute must. The only building designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser in the United States. Heavily influenced and reminiscent of Antoni Gaudi works — mosaic tiling, no straight lines, each window and door different because they each have their own experience leading you to a new place.
When searching the Napa website for wineries many looked similar, idyllic bistro or modern farmhouse styling. The website is in alphabetical order so I went to the end of the alphabet to find something distinct and discovered Quixote.
We were greeted warmly by Patty, who gave us a splash of rose, and then we were on our way. The tour included telling the story of the property, walking through the production areas, and finally exploring the barrel room. Their French oak barrel bands are now painted in the eclectic colors found on the property.
We did the food paired tasting and the chef prepared items were heavier than the typical cheese and nut plates you get with tastings. The plate included a mushroom mousse, duck confit with plum jam, Brie with onion and crispy pancetta, and a beef tartar on a homemade granola base. Each was fabulously paired. My favorite was the beef tartar on the granola base, while Brad enjoyed the duck confit with jam which reminded us both of Thanksgiving.
Quixote is not easy on the pocketbook with the average cost per bottle ~$150. Reservations required. We joined the club, if only because the quirkiness and beautiful label, atop the divine full bodied wines. We cannot wait to share one with you next time you visit our home.
Quixote Winery 5/5 — enjoy this unique experience next time you are in Napa