8.21.2014

Hotel Photo of the Week: Omni Homestead

When I was going through my Instagram feed this week, I swooned when I saw this photo of the Homestead from the Omni Hotels Instagram account. 
Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia
Omni Hotels IG account

It was about two years this week that I visited the Homestead in Hot Springs,Virginia for the first time. A lot of this pool was still under construction back then. The Homestead is such a historic and grand property.

After our family visit, Omni Hotels took over the property. This hotel will always have a special place in my heart. I cannot wait to return one day. I have some great family memories there, and you can read all about in my "Pack Your Bags" on the property. 

Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, VA

 I cannot believe how much my children have changed in two years.  She now wants to ride Zip.

Omni Homestead is a great family travel destination.
Omni Homestead is a great family travel vacation. 

The Homestead is also a great winter resort, and a wonderful place for beginner skiers. That suits my family to a tee.

Be sure to check out all the articles I wrote on the Homestead for Skimbaco Lifestyle.

“Taking to the Waters” at The Homestead Resort Puts A New Spin on Taking Care of You.


Have a great weekend. Be sure to check #IGTRAVELThursday for lots of great Instagram photos from all over the world. 

8.17.2014

Southern Chat: Savannah, Georgia Captured my Heart

I took my very first trip to Savannah, Georgia this summer. I really wished I had more time there to see the sights. We were there for less than 48 hours, but I already have it on my list to go back.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


Savannah was a road trip stop-over point for us on our way to the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and Jekyll Island. The drive from Raleigh to Jekyll Island is 408 miles, which is very long when you are middle-aged parents with young children. Really long!

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


I decided that since Savannah was on the way, and none of us had ever been that it would be crazy for us not to stop there. I added two nights onto our trip, which is the great thing about family road trips and having flexibility, if your budget and time allows.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


I did a lot of hotel research before arriving in Savannah, and scoped out a few hotel properties that peaked my interest. I'm going to go ahead and admit to you that I ruled out any hotel that was advertised as haunted. I just didn't go there. I also put us on a budget of $200 per night when searching for properties, and narrowed my choices down to two properties, both with very similar locations.

One property was full-service with a restaurant, luxury amenities, and slightly over-budget. The other property was a limited-service property with complimentary breakfast,and came in under budget, but came across as very upscale.I then described both  properties and rates to the HinesSight Blog Facebook readers. In a blind poll without revealing the hotel's identity, I asked them where they would choose to stay for family travel, if passing through town.I didn't even name the town I was going to be visiting. The limited-service property, under budget, got the most votes and it was the hotel that Facebook readers wanted to know more about for a road trip.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia -Holiday Inn Express Historic District

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Savannah Historic District.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia -Holiday Inn Express Historic District


This Savannah Lodging property is a great example of how limited service properties can be upscale, but can provide a lower-cost because it's not full-service.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia -Holiday Inn Express Historic District


The public areas of this hotel were appealing, and very boutique chic. The rooms were spacious, the bedding was nice, and the bathrooms were modern. Breakfast was complimentary, which certainly helps on a travel budget, and it is a great family travel perk. Is it a culinary experience like in a luxury property? Absolutely not, but it also not $50 for family of four to eat breakfast either. I ate a hot sausage biscuit one morning and I thought it was really good.

A lot of pageant queens who were in town for a pageant were guests of the hotel, too and you know who loved that.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia -Holiday Inn Express Historic District


Our location in Savannah was fabulous. I cannot emphasize that enough. We never moved our car. The Holiday Inn Express Historic District is located in the riverfront district and one mile from Forsyth Park.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


It was very hot and humid in Savannah when we visited, and my youngest child complained a lot while we walked around town. In fact, the hotel gave her a pool noodle upon our arrival so she begged to go to the pool all day. Unless we were eating, she made it known that she wasn't very happy. My children are used to accompanying me on hotel visits where we spend a lot of time at the property. This was extremely obvious as she pleaded to go back to the hotel every hour to "relax and swim."

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia

We did not do an organized tour, and in our "hinessight", we should have taken the trolley tour because we learned later that you could hop off at any point, walk around, and then get back on at another stop. That would have been nice. I should have done my homework a little better on that one, but I just did it for you so you'll know on your trip.

We did cover a lot of ground ourselves on foot. We spotted  the birthplace of  Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, and we strolled the gardens of the Andrew Low House, where Juliette lived once she was married.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


The kids had ice cream at Leopold's Ice Cream on East Broughton Street in Savannah to cool off. Leopold's celebrated its 95th birthday just this past week, and is a Savannah staple. Leopold's makes all of its ice cream in-house using a family recipe from 1919, and is probably a must when you visit this historic city.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia -Leopold's Ice Cream


The ingredients, using real cream, are all-natural and contain no-artificial dyes. We walked right in to Leopold's at 11 a.m, but later in the afternoon when we circled back near the shop on the way back to our hotel, we saw a line curled around outside the door. I think that is pretty common.

I've already written about our lunch at the Public Kitchen and Bar on the blog.  That was probably my favorite meal in Savannah. We also dined at the Moon River Brewing Company, which was just a few blocks down from our hotel.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


The beers were great. My favorite beer was the Captain's Porter, an American sweet stout. The pub is dark, historic, and haunted so I didn't even try to take photos, but it's definitely worth a visit when you are in town.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia-Moon River Brewing Company

Savannah's riverfront is bustling with excitement. We had a lot of early evening showers while we were in town so it made exploring a little more challenge.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia

We managed take the kids to the rooftop hotel pool on our last night in the city.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia -Holiday Inn Express Historic District

I'm going to go ahead and admit that having a beer by the pool made me lazy on our last night there. I probably would have ordered room service or ate at the restaurant in the hotel had our hotel been full-service.

With limited-service properties, you have no choice, but to get out and and about because you need to eat dinner.

Hines-Sight Blog: Savannah, Georgia


That evening, we chose Churchill's Pub, located a block from the hotel. Will said it was the best Shepherd's pie he has ever had, and Jack loved the fish and chips. We ended our evening with a stop in Savannah's Candy Kitchen.



We definitely didn't have enough time in Savannah. Can't wait to get back one day.

Savannah Places of Interest for The Hines
Holiday Inn Express Historic District Savannah by Savannah Lodging
Savannah Trolly Tours
Moon River Brewing Company
Leopold's Ice Cream
Public Kitchen and Bar
Churchill's Pub
Savannah's Candy Kitchen
Visit Savannah 

Places of interest for kids visiting Savannah that we didn't have time to visit
Old Fort Jackson
Savannah's Children Museum (closed on Sunday)
Savannah Riverboat Tours
Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace


Disclosure: My opinions about hotels on this blog are always my own. My thanks to Savannah Lodging for working me and tailoring an agenda filled with great restaurant recommendations and things to do after I decided to visit this great city.  Too bad that I didn't have time to try them all. All dining expenses were my own. Savannah Lodging provided me with a special welcome gift basket that included those great, local beers I featured in the photo above and other local goods. 


8.10.2014

Southern Chat: Learning to make ramen noodles at Torii Noodle Bar

HinesSight Blog: Shop Local Raleigh Event


When I was invited to attend a ramen noodle making class at Torii Noodle Bar by Kanki in Raleigh for an event sponsored by Shop Local Raleigh, I will be the first to admit that I was a little nervous. I have never attempted to make any type of homemade noodle in my life.

HinesSight Blog: Shop Local Raleigh Event


Making homemade noodles has always sounded complicated. And for someone like me, it really was complicated, but quite a rewarding experience after I finished the class. I really felt as if I accomplished something, with a lot of help from the chef, of course.

HinesSight Blog: Making Ramen Noodles at Torii Noodle Bar


Torii Noodle Bar, located in Crabtree Valley Mall, puts the spotlight on ramen noodles. There are hundreds of varieties of ramen across Japan. Torii is Japan's iconic noodle soup shop and we were told during that class that ramen, with its rich, deeply flavored broth, handmade noodles, and array of condiments is treated with the same reverence Southerners reserve for BBQ.

Ramen Noodle making class: Shop Local Raleigh Event


Ramen noodles have four basic ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water and kansui.  What's kansui?  Well, I still don't really know for sure, but it's the magic ingredient. Without it, you will not have ramen noodles.

Originally, kansui was named after the water from Inner Mongolia's Lake Kan, which contained large amounts of minerals. Kansui gives the yellowish color as well as the firm texture for the noodles.

During out class, we learned about three broth-based styles:

Ramen Noodles at Torii Noodle Bar by Kanki in Raleigh


Shoyu: Soy sauced-based and the most common style.

Shio: The lightest ramen style, and made from a variety of dried seafood and seaweed.

Tonkotsu: A broth made from long-cooked pork bones.

We tasted saki, flattened our dough and cut our dough. This dough eventually got into the form of ramen noodles with a lot of labor. And let me emphasize a lot of labor.



The best part of the night is that the chef cooked our noodles and then we were ready to eat.

If you go to Torii Noodle Bar, you can just order your ramen noodles and you'll have it within minutes. The restaurant also specializes in other rice bowls, stir-fried noodles, bento boxes, and teppanyaki, but for our night we concentrated on ramen.

The best part of the night was decorating my entree then eating it.

Ramen noodle making class at Torii Noodle Bar


The next ramen noodle making class for the general public will be in October. Space is limited. The cost is $35 per person.

I may not make ramen noodles again, but I will definitely visit Torii Noodle Bar in the future. I thought it was great. They also have a good kid's menu.

Want To Go:
Torii Noodle Bar by Kanki
4325 Glenwood Avenue
Raleigh, N.C.


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