Apple Farm Inn – San Luis Obispo

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn



A little over a month ago, I was invited up to San Luis Obispo to stay the night at Apple Farm Inn and attend a Backyard Winemaker’s Dinner (post coming next week). As serendipity would have it, the event was scheduled the same weekend as my sister’s milestone birthday, and she was able to be my plus one. We left the San Gabriel Valley around noon and cruised up the 101 on a luxuriously sunny Friday, the ocean to our left, the rolling hills to our right. A precise three-and-a-half hours later, we reached the central coast and Apple Farm Inn.

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Not quite a resort, but more than just a cutesy hotel, Apple Farm Inn is a sprawling accommodation that mixes the amenities of a resort, with the aesthetics of a Bed & Breakfast: Potted flowers and vintage kitsch. Massage Center. Country chic decor. Pool and hot tub. Old-Fashioned restaurant and bakery. Afternoon wine tastings. Waterwheel and Garden Store. You get the idea.


Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Though we arrived a half-hour before the four o’clock check-in time, our room was ready and we were able to go upstairs, unpack and deflate a bit. It wasn’t nap time, though, as I wanted to get in some shots of the grounds while the sun was still up and partake in the afternoon wine reception that every guest at Apple Farm Inn is invited to.


Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Our room was directly upstairs from the reception area, overlooking the pool and Water Wheel, with a gas fireplace and two beds piled high with no less than eight pillows. Settling on the window seat, I set up my laptop and easily logged in to the complimentary wi-fi to e-mail our mother, notifying her of our safe arrival (no matter how old you get, mom’s worry!). There were complimentary chocolates and Martinelli’s apple juice waiting for us, but there was no time to waste as we wanted to get to that wine reception!


Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

We made it to the wine reception with twenty minutes to spare for some wine and little appetizers. Annette went for the Chardonnay while I went with the Cabernet, both from the Apple Farm private label. We knew it was a little silly, imbibing before the big all-out wine-centric dinner, but hey, we’re on birthday celebration time! I ended up enjoy the Cabernet, pleased with its low tannin level and rich, caramel-like body. I wound up purchasing a bottle to bring back home to share. Sipping on our wine until the sun went down to a tolerable level for photos, I then toured the grounds to snap some more photos, listening to Annette ‘Oooh’ and ‘Aaah’ by my side.


Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant
Trellis Court Motel

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Moving onward, we went to explore the literal bread and butter of Apple Farm, the Restaurant and gift shop.



Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant
Ceramic Garden Mushrooms

Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant
Gold Pumpkin Ornament

I thought it was fun that the gift shop had a color game going on for sales: Take a percentage off any non-food item that was the color of the month. For October, the color was GOLD and I nearly purchased this sparkly gold pumpkin.

The blog for the Backyard Winemakers Dinner will go live next week, so I’ll save all of the juicy details of that and skip ahead. After the dinner, Annette and I were lamenting how we did not think to bring our bathing suits but that we would like to at least soak our feet in the hot tub. Though it was after hours, Annette and I quietly slipped to the pool area and managed to get in a nice 30 minute soak until a staff member kindly said it was time to close up the pool/hot tub. I thought it was very nice of them to have let us, along with a couple of other guests, stick around and unwind.



Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant

My sleep was unfortunately not an easy one, as I foolishly used the pillows that were on the very bottom of the pile, plain and tucked where I assumed, “OK, these are not frilly and they’re right at the head of the bed, so these must be meant for resting my head on.” Except they were hard as rocks and I did not have my sharpest mental facilities working for me due to the copious amounts of delicious wine I drank over dinner. Thankfully, at some point in the middle of the night, I figured out why there were a dozen pillows and riffled through them to find one soft enough one to find sleep with at last. Ego was a bit bruised, of course, as I ought to have figured out that answer hours earlier.

I think my singular, almost minute quibble for Apple Farm Inn would be the complimentary toiletries they offer as they contain a pungent fragrance, which wards off any guests (myself included) with sensitive allergies. That’s advice for every hotel, though. Watch the perfume-y products.


Our View at Apple Farm Inn and Restaurant
Our room with a view

Fragrant freebies aside, the staff at Apple Farm Inn could not have been nicer and more informative. An overburdened server spilled her entire tray of wine directly behind me at the dinner, but it wasn’t until the morning and I discovered my sweater took part of the spill. Offering to take care of my dry cleaning bill, the front desk staff gave me the contact information of the manager, who made good on the reimbursement immediately after I sent her a copy of my receipt. Thanks so much, Kim!

After breakfast, which we enjoyed a $5.00 discount on as every guest receives coupons and vouchers for the restaurant/bakery, Annette and I inquired about any “must see’s” along our way back to Los Angeles. Intending to take our time and have a leisure drive with many stops, Annette and I were rewarded with the suggestion of Flatbread Pizza in Los Alamos, which I will blog about very soon.

Annette fell head over heels with Apple Farm Inn, formulating future plans in her mind to bring back her daughter. I was very smitten as well, having a new appreciation for the central coastline in a way I did not previously. Thanks for the hospitality, Apple Farm. I hope to see you again the future.

Apple Farm Inn & Restaurant
2015 Monterey Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
http://www.applefarm.com
1-800-255-2040

RATES:
$109 – $279 off-season weekdays
$119 – $339 on weekends, in summer and during holidays periods.
$279 to $409 for Signature King Rooms, depending on day of the week and season

Call now to learn about Apple Farm Inn’s THANKSGIVING SPECIAL.


FTC Disclaimer: We were put up for the night, but we paid for our vehicle gas, breakfast, and all souvenirs at the gift shop. All wording and opinions are 100% mine.

Review: Gate Lodge Guest House

This review is long overdue and there really is no excuse for its tardiness. Let’s get right into it, then!

Believe it or not, Dublin was not a high priority on my places to visit in Ireland. It was the Place Everyone Visited and therefore I wanted to go in a different direction. However, the one stipulation of Steffie’s agreement in tromping around Ireland with me was that we go to Dublin for tours at the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery. So I had to figure out our route and the best place to stick a visit to Dublin was in the days after our arrival but before our trip up to Clones. Now, we could have just landed in Dublin, but since I wanted home base to be in Cork that is where we flew into and spent one night at the Bru Bar Hostel. So I had to figure out how to purchase train tickets from Cork to Dublin and find a place centrally located to crash for two nights during our Dublin stay. Since we were going to be in a hostel our first night, a tent during Clones, and an apartment during Cork I figured to have a truly well-rounded experience we may as well stay in a Bed & Breakfast/Guest House.
After scouring the internet for various B&B’s, I finally came across the simple but straightforward website for Gate Lodge. Not only was “the world famous Guinness brewery and the Irish whiskey corner are within strolling distance” but Gate Lodge was located just around the bend from Heuston Station, the train depot we would be arriving into from Cork.

We arrived Wednesday, June 2nd (2010) just after noon and made our way to Gate Lodge. It is a tall, late Georgian style brick house dating from 1838 now owned and operated by the Sheehan family.


Dublin Lodgings
Gate Lodge Guest House

I couldn’t tell you how many levels this house possesses, but I’m figuring five including the ground level. These sort of homes have a kind split-level thing going on with half a flight to the next level, then a full flight. There are seven rooms available to board, plus the rooms the family uses so you can imagine the level of awesomeness this house has.


Gate Lodge Guest House - entrance
Entrance Hall – Gate Lodge


We were given Room 1, which is the first room, directly on the right-hand side of the above photo. At first we were nervous that it would be too noisy or bright since this room faced the street. I took the bed closer to the window, which may have been larger but definitely would take more noise as the wall Steffie’s bed was pushed up against was only shared with our en suite bathroom. The room came with an overhead TV and an electric kettle with tea, coffee, sugar and cream. As nothing was caffeine free, I knew I’d be making a stop at a convenience store to grab me some decaf Lyons tea bags.


My Bed - Gate Lodge Guest House
My Bed – Gate Lodge Guest House

Steffie at Gate Lodge - Dublin
Steffie on her bed – Gate Lodge


I really did not have much to worry about, though, because as soon as I pulled the shutters and drapes across the windows our room descended into peace, quiet and darkness. We rarely heard a peep from the outside world. They surely do not make these kind of quality houses here in the States anymore! It should be noted that everything was clean and comfortable. I slept very soundly in that bed.


In the morning we were treated to a full Irish breakfast. Though I knew what to expect, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little more than intimated. Fried egg, beans, tomato, mushroom, sausage, white pudding and rasher to start the day off with. It was tasty, and served in a realistic portion. We had to go for it, of course, just at least once. OK, maybe twice since we were there for two mornings.


Traditional Irish Breakfast
Irish Breakfast


The dining room was down a flight or so of stairs, adjacent to the kitchen and a small office where I was able to access the internet and email my mom to alert her that I was not dead. I really adored the dining room. It was large, with folksy furniture, a Grandfather clock in one corner and a massive fireplace on one end.


Breakfast
Breakfast Buffet

Tea?
Tea?

Bed & Breakfast: Breakfast
Folk Country Furniture

It was in the dining room where Steffie and I chatted with Edmond Sheehan the most. He’s a warm, welcoming fellow who made us feel like we were more like visiting relatives than patrons at a business. He told us about the Luas, the Dublin light rail. AMAZING transportation system. Most of his other guests at that time were Irish businessmen living there for conferences or their work week, although there was a group of teenagers he gently scolded for not telling him they would be late to breakfast.

Best of all, Gate Lodge Guest House has a mascot:


Ivan the B&B Cat
Ivan the Cat



In Summary:
Gate Lodge Guest House Pros:
– Located near major Dublin attractions, shopping centers, parks and museums.
– Short walking distance to the Luas light rail and the Hueston train station.
– Friendly, inviting atmosphere
– Clean, private and quiet facilities.
– Breakfast included with cold/hot and vegetarian options.
– Internet access available, but don’t go bananas because it is the home computer.
– Spacious rooms with comfortable bedding.
– Hot shower with toiletries if you forgot yours.
– Secure front door (you have to be buzzed in or have a key) and your own room key.
– Great neighborhood filled with delicious pubs and restaurants for any price range. Including Juno’s Cafe
– Mid-week special rates and discounts for kids up to age 16.

Gate Lodge Guest House Cons:
– If I were being really picky, I’d say that not having access to a mini refrigerator was the only downside because Steffie and I like to buy food on the cheap from markets rather than eating out all of the time. Since we were only there for a couple of days, however, this was not really a problem. Plus, I bet if one asked nicely, The Sheehan’s wouldn’t mind storing one or two small items for ye.

Would I stay at Gate Lodge Guest House again? Absolutely! I wouldn’t even look anywhere else unless I needed a refrigerator. I really believe that it is the personal touches made by the Sheehan family that make places like Gate Lodge a home away from home.

Would I recommend Gate Lodge Guest House? I’d insist!

Gate Lodge Guest House
3 Conyngham Road,
Phoenix Park,
Dublin,
Ireland.
+353 (01) 6771685/ 6771735
+353 (01) 6771736

Review: Aer Lingus Airlines

Slán go fóill, Cork

There was no way around it; I wanted Steffie and I to fly into Cork. Our home base was situated in Cork and there was no reason to fly anywhere else. For a brief, less-than-24 hour period I gave in to what I initially thought was a manageable deal and booked tickets to Dublin International. Luckily, I came to my senses, found a better deal and canceled that potential nightmare.
Not that there is anything wrong with flying into a huge international airport, but with the bulk of our time is going to be spent in Cork I’d just rather shill out the dough to experience a hostel and the Irish Rail for an initial night in Cork, go about our country tour and come back to Cork for rest and relaxation, knowing we have the convenience of being a mere twenty minute shuttle ride from the Cork Airport.
This is the reason we chose a connector flight; the reason we chose Aer Lingus.

Our initial flight was with Virgin Atlantic (review coming soon) which flew nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to Heathrow. I won’t get into the nightmare that was Heathrow and hauling ass from one end of the airport to the very bitter end. OK, I will get into it.
I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that Steffie and I had to hike a half of a mile at the very least to get to the Aer Lingus terminal. I do not hold this against the airline, but the airport. That is one scary-ass airport, by the way.

To give you a precise idea of how long it took to get from one end to the other:
We landed with an hour and forty minutes to spare.
We made it to the Aer Lingus terminal ten minutes before boarding.
Only one checkpoint had a line that kept us more than five minutes.

We finally hit the Ireland destination terminal after going through several checkpoints all asking the same thing: WHY ARE YOU HERE AND WHEN ARE YOU LEAVING?
Seriously, who wants an American fucking up their country anyway? We might have flags. Or squirrels.

It was all gold from there! Boarding was smooth and efficient, with Steffie at the window and myself the center. For whatever reason, we were unable to secure our seat assignments online. Aer Lingus offers this service on their site directly but Expedia.com, the website I used to book the flights, did not. Bunk. For health reasons, I usually insist on the aisle seat, but this flight was just over an hour so I did not mind. The seats were comfy leather and I had ample leg room.

We were permitted one carry-on each at no cost to us, and our checked luggage (one checked for the each of us) was already on from Virgin Atlantic – free of cost as they were under 50 lbs each. Our bags arrived crazy fast from the aircraft to the baggage claim.
However, take note:

Please be aware that Aer Lingus will no longer check bags all the way through if a passenger has a separate ticket with another airline even if they provide the separate tickets at check-in. The only time this will be done is if they are connecting Aer Lingus to Aer Lingus. – Aer Lingus website

Their in flight magazine, Cara, was actually very informative and helpful for our trip. We took our copies with us to keep as there were articles highlighting various neighborhoods of Cork and some of the best establishments we ended up patronizing, including Tom Barry’s and The Hi-B.

Our return flight was just as lovely, and the good people at Aer Lingus did not bat an eye at the extra carriage I hauled after visiting the quickie shops at the Cork Airport.

Aer Lingus is Ireland’s best low-cost airline that offers 80 routes to the UK and Continental Europe as well as six destinations in the USA Sadly, none of those six destinations are Los Angeles directly, but I hope this changes very soon!

Book your flight with Aer Lingus!


Window Seat
Cork Yonder

VAIN Salon – Seattle, Washington

I would like to give a big shout out to VAIN, the hair and makeup salon in Seattle, Washington that worked on the wedding party I was in last month. They are a local favorite and won Best Salon in Seattle from the Seattle Weekly Reader’s Choice list.




Hair: Sam Mayer
Style: Blowout curls with liberty rolls



Makeup: Belinda Leybold
Brands: Nouba, Armour (lips)

VAIN
hair.shop.art
2018 1st Avenue
Seattle, Washington

VAIN
VAIN Blog
Bridal Services

Review: Bru Bar Hostel – Cork, Ireland

I wanted our home base to be in Cork, even though we would be leaving for the east and a bit north the day after our arrival. For that first night in Cork we stayed at the Bru Bar Hostel.

Ironically, my boyfriend had stayed there years ago, and just happened to walk in on their first anniversary party (Pimps and Hos theme, apparently). He said it was a nice place, and my handy dandy Cork guide book by Linda Fallon also mentioned it, too.
Bru won out over the other well-known Cork hostel, Sheila’s, for two reasons:
1) Unlike Sheila’s, Bru Bar is not situated on a steep hill
2) Sky Link airport shuttle dropped us off about fifty feet away from the Bru Bar door.

With my heart condition and how tired we were going to be after all of that traveling there was no way in hell I’m going to be lugging my crap up some steep ass hill.

There are two ground floor entrances – one for checked-in guests with a pass card and the door leading through the bar that Bru Bar runs. A nice woman was waiting behind a Dutch door and checked us in right away. She gave us a voucher for a free Bud Lite at the bar. Neither of us drink Bud, but it was a nice gesture. Make it a Bulmer’s or Heineken and then we’ll talk.

There is no lift/elevator at Bru Bar. I repeat: there is no lift/elevator. So, if you’ve booked one of the smaller, all-female private dorms, prepare to hike your ass up about five flights of stairs. JEEBUS IT HURT. I would have been OK if I had not been carrying about 40lbs of extra weight, but I was, so it did. Hurt, I mean. I’m not blaming this on Bru Bar, by the way. The building itself is just darling and I admire anyone who keeps structural integrity. However, I reserve my right to bitch and moan.


At least the view is lovely.


So we get up to our floor and there are only two rooms – with two bathrooms directly across from each room, divided by a narrow hardwood floor hall. I’ll address my one of few complaints regarding the bathroom in a minute, but first, the dorm. It’s a narrow room, unsurprising given we were up in the topmost floor. Two bunk beds with rolling storage cages underneath were pressed up against one wall and that was about all that could fit. Two people definitely cannot walk around that room at the same time. My bed linen wasn’t the most spotless, but it was clean as the smell of fabric softener still lingered and the hardwood floor had little to no trace of dust bunnies.

Now, when I booked the 4 person all-female dorm room, I knew it was supposed to be en suite. All rooms are described having “private bathrooms, most en suite”. I assumed that the bathroom would be accessible via the dorm itself and we wouldn’t have to bother with a hall. It wasn’t much of a bother until we used our bathroom and realized the people in our neighboring dorm were already in full use of both theirs and our bathroom. Their towels, soaps and hair care products were in both. Uh, OK? I don’t think we would have minded too much except that we quickly realized (as we were trying to nap) that our neighbors were mostly boys.
Fabulous.

Well, we just shrugged – telling ourselves again this place was just for one night. We’ll play along, too, and use their bathroom if need be.


Warm yellow walls & modern bunk beds


After our nap, we went downstairs to explore and use the advertised free “high-speed” internet. We found the common room, a cozy room with a bar ledge seating and in-lay conjoined couch, coffee tables, a TV in the ceiling corner (like a hospital TV) and two computers on the bar ledge. A young girl was situated at one computer, the other free. I went to fiddle at the free computer but was informed by the young girl next to it that it was down and had been so for a couple days.

The Canadian FANGIRL! had been on the computer for quite some time reading scantalations – manga (Japanese comics) scanned in, their Kanji digitally erased and replaced with translated English text. Between that and some piece of fanfiction on Livejournal, (“Just let me finish up this chapter! I have to finish it!”) this chick had been hogging the computer for hours. Unfathomable; why travel half way around the world to glue yourself in front of a computer screen?

I was having none of it as the computer was shut off at midnight and it was already 10:30-11:00pm by the time we came downstairs.
I decided to speak her language and talk to her about anime conventions, cosplay and other anime nerd topics. She was very happy that I spoke Otaku and after five minutes of fangirl talk, she scampered off the computer to find her travel buddies.

The kitchen is adjacent to the common room; it’s large with nice facilities. Cooker, fridge, cupboards, large sink, shelves, drying rack, cutlery and cookware all there. Even a kitchen radio to keep your feet moving.

The beds are comfortable and for the five hours I did sleep, I slept soundly. It was neither too warm nor too cold, and the blankets just right.

The staff was kind enough to put out all of the breakfast goodies in the kitchen a wee bit early and after a hearty breakfast of toast, tea, cereal & porridge (I think?) we checked out and headed off to Kent station to go to Dublin.

Bru Bar Hostel Pros:
Secure – having your card key on you at all times is a must! Even from the bathroom to your bedroom.
Well-equipped Kitchen – perfect for saving a buck and fixing your own meal with groceries.
Decently clean – Not as clean as they profess on the website, but you’re not about to step or sleep on anything squishy and questionable.
Location – MacCurtain Street is insanely central; it was only an eight minute walk (with our luggage, so 5 minutes regular) to Kent train station and five-seven to the bus terminal.
Friendly staff – Happy to help you out, from food recommendations to directions.

Bru Bar Hostel Cons:
Noise – The bedroom and hallway doors are heavy and LOUD. Just be courteous to your neighbors and hold onto the door handles to gently close the doors.
Wonky Computers – Seriously, there is nothing “high-speed” about their internet. They need to get rid of all of the crap other people have stuck on there, clean the hard drive and upgrade.
Bathrooms – This is my one serious complaint. Firstly, for an all-female dorm to be placed next to a dorm with males is kind of counter-intuitive, especially when bathrooms are not pass key locked. I think the top floor at least needs to be re-worked, because the reason why I booked an all-female dorm en suite with “private bathroom” was to avoid bumping into some dude in his boxers at 5:30am, praying to the high heavens he didn’t miss the bowl of our alleged private bathroom.

Would I stay at Bru Bar Hostel again? For one or two nights maximum.

Would I recommend Bru Bar Hostel? Yes, but I’d give a heads up about the bathrooms.

Bru Bar Hostel
57 MacCurtain Street
021 455-9667

Bru Bar Hostel website