Archive for "Travel"
Posted on April 23, 2017 by Ching under Funny Musings, Travel.
The Kansas City Marriott Downtown where I’ve been consistently staying since September has failed me so many times and on so many levels that this last one didn’t even surprise me. The customer service breakdowns have ranged from minor things like not getting my housekeeping opt out points, not getting my 20% off certificate for Metropolitan KC, being scolded for asking for the free little bottles of water (which apparently only Gold and Platinum members are entitled to and I was only a Silver member at the time; everyone else, myself included, had to pay for the $4 Aquafina if we wanted water in our room), a closet door that was off track and was stuck (and I had to call three times to get someone to come up and fix it), waiting over 30 minutes for the valet to pull my car around (I think this was during one of the KC Chiefs games and they were overwhelmed) to more major issues like a grouchy valet who always acted snooty to me, a toilet that wouldn’t stop running and was so loud that Brian could hear it on the phone when we talked, a toilet that wouldn’t flush, housekeeping coming to clean my room even though I have told them numerous times to opt me out and it’s in the computer system and I’ve hung the opt out hangtag on the door, a french fry in my refrigerator and crumbs all over the furniture and carpet (this was the Monday after the Big 12 Tournament weekend so they were probably overwhelmed, but still) and a sticky desk with visible cup rings and an Iowa State sticker still on the bathroom counter (I’m baffled that the cleaner didn’t peel this off and throw it away; they must have been an Iowa State fan also – LOL)… So they are either overzealous about wanting to clean rooms or give you rooms that haven’t been cleaned at all. Anyway, I’m sure I’ve missed a few things because the list goes on an on. I’m not even joking. There’s a story that goes with each of these but we would be here forever if I told you all of them. Right now I want to tell you about the cupcake story.
On April 11, I saw this card on my floor when I returned to my room after work. I had just recently gotten upgraded to Gold status (I didn’t even know until they told me I was now a Gold member when I checked in for my stay that week – it was THAT recent) that I didn’t think anything of it. I just assumed this must be how they welcome new Gold members to higher tier benefits or something.
So I called the number as instructed and I’m pretty sure they know it’s me because they always say my last name. Anyway, the rep on the other line asked if I wanted my gift delivered now. I was like, “Sure.” Why not? Right?
Moments later a guy come up and gives me a box along with an envelope. I’m still not thinking anything is amiss. I don’t even bother checking the outside of the envelope. I just tear it open. Gifts are exciting. There is no time to waste.
I opened the card and paused as soon as I read the salutation. This “special” gift wasn’t meant for me. I went back to check the envelope. Sure enough, it had “Ms. Gutierrez” written on the outside (which I probably should have read first before opening – LOL).
So I called the number again. The same rep answered. I told her what happened. She’s like, “I will look into this and call you back.”
It didn’t take long for her to call back and inform me that they are sending someone back up to retrieve said gift and, within moments, the same guy came up and I gave him the cupcake and the card.
I was actually surprised that they sent someone up to get it. I mean, it’s a cupcake. Surely they have dozens of other cupcakes just like it. I didn’t really want someone else’s cupcake but I half expected them to just go, “Don’t worry about it. You keep this one and we will give her another.” It must haven’t been a very rare limited edition cupcake meant only for very special guests.
I was also really impressed at how quickly they responded. Usually when I have issues with my room I’ll go to dinner and come back and it’s still not resolved. It takes multiple phone calls sometimes.
Anyway, in my mind I’m still thinking there’s a cupcake out there meant for me. I wondered if Ms. Gutierrez got my cupcake by mistake and she ate it and when I got her cupcake I called and they took it from me. May I shouldn’t have called and I should have just eaten the stupid cupcake?
The universe was really looking out for me that day. The universe was like, “You need to lose weight. You don’t need to eat a cupcake. I’m going to botch this so that you get a cupcake that is not meant for you and you won’t eat it.”
I actually thought about calling the same number back and going, “That was really funny but, seriously, where’s my cupcake?” LOL. I didn’t.
What a huge Customer Experience (CX) blunder by the Marriott, though. I mean, I haven’t been satisfied with the service I’ve been receiving at this property and now, knowing that I’m not getting the “cupcake level service” that others are getting, I’m even less so. My stays have been so disappointing that I’d actually considered staying a different property in the future, despite the convenience of this particular hotel’s location (it’s only a 4-minute walk to work and most of it indoors).
On the flip side of it, we received news last week that has put my work in Kansas City on hold so I may not be back there for a while. I know for sure I’ll be in Wichita all week this coming week. In the meantime, if you want to hear other stories about my KC Marriott Downtown CX fails, put a comment down below and tell me which ones you want to hear about. Until next time!
Posted on December 10, 2016 by Ching under Things to Do, Travel.
Brian wanted to see what my Kansas City routine was like so we spent a few days in Kansas City over Thanksgiving break. At first he was bummed that I didn’t have us staying at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, which is the hotel I normally stay at, but after I explained that I reserved our room at the much nicer Courtyard Kansas City Downtown/Convention Center just a couple of blocks away he finally settled down. Of course, I had to agree to walk him over to my office building, the other hotel, my favorite coffee shop, etc. etc.
Here’s the lobby of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown. It definitely looks better with some Christmas decorations. It has looked the same for several years.
But, I have to admit, I kind of like this piece of furniture. It’s perfect for just hanging out with a bunch of friends.
We also walked over to my office building where we have the ping pong table in the “Recharge” area at the lower level.
Brian actually indulged me with a brief ping pong match.
After getting coffee across the street at Kaldi’s, a coffee shop that I’ve grown fond of because of the delicious coffee and its close proximity to the office, we went around the corner to One Light Luxury Apartments.
This is Brian checking out the balcony of one of the units we toured.
I’m not sure what Brian is pondering here but I just love the floor-to-ceiling windows. I think that crane you see on the left is where they’re building Two Light.
Here’s the rooftop pool. They keep the fool filled year round, though you can’t actually swim in it, because it’s prettier to look at than a pool cover.
We walked over to the Two Light Leasing Office around the corner after touring One Light. They have a 3D model of the all-glass, high-rise apartment complex there. We were told they created the model so people could more easily visualize the concept, which is the first of its kind in downtown Kansas City.
Of course, there’s now such a great demand for places to live downtown that they’re already planning to develop Three Light after Two Light is completed.
Here’s a video of the renderings. It looks pretty amazing.
Here are some pictures of the demo one-bedroom unit at the leasing office.
I took a ton of pictures because they did a fabulous job of staging the demo.
Do you see Brian in this pic?
This is the bed room.
Don’t mind the street outside. I was really taking a picture of the bedroom door, which is a pocket door. A regular door just takes up too much space.
Space is a premium and their smart design choices give you space where it counts. Like in the bathroom (pictured below).
The bathroom doesn’t feel tiny and cramped.
Here’s how the kitchen looks from the hallway.
This picture is viewing the same hallway from the opposite end.
I’m not a huge fan of the upper cabinets, which feel a bit too contemporary/modern for me but overall the kitchen feels spacious and well-designed. Not that I spend a lot of time cooking in the kitchen but, for what it’s worth, the kitchen functioned well. I really liked the island in the middle.
If we were to move to Kansas City, our ideal situation would be to get a two bedroom but, if we couldn’t stretch our budget enough to make it work, then we could make a one-bedroom work.
We would just have to get rid of a bunch of stuff first. LOL.
Because we’re nerds, we walked over to where we could see the Two Light construction. Even though it was drizzly that day, I really wanted to see how much farther of a walk it is from the office building. One Light is literally across the street (if you go through the parking garage underneath instead of coming out of the lobby) so it’s super convenient.
Here’s a picture of Brian in the fancy, One Light lobby.
If I sound kind of obsessed with downtown living and, more specifically, these apartments, it’s probably because I kind of am. I am enamored with the idea of being able to get up in the morning and walk to work.
Here’s a video of what it’s like to live at One Light. They really do a great job of selling the lifestyle and making it look glamorous and cool.
I’ve been to One Light a few times now (wine night at Allison’s, their open house event) and I’ve even brought Brian over to check things out and get his feedback, these folks have me completely convinced that this is where I want to live if/when I move to Kansas City.
The floor plans at Two Light are a smidge bigger but Brian and I cannot get over the convenience that One Light offers. One Light is attached to an amazing gym and a grocery store. If you go through the parking garage underneath, you don’t even have to go outside to get to both.
Brian and I were like, “Can you imagine times when you’re in the middle of cooking something and you realize that you’re out of something and you can just put the heat on low and run to the grocery store real quick and come right back and finish cooking?” Not that this happens often. Heck, we don’t even cook that much. I love the idea, though. Maybe it will even get us cooking and eating at home more?
The biggest selling point for me is how close it is to work. Here’s a view of the apartment and pool from work. It’s that close!
I’m not sure if you can tell, but there’s also green space on the roof for dog owners to take their dogs. There will be plenty of room for Saki and Molly to run and play.
The corner grocery store is amazing. They have everything you could possibly need. They even carry wine. Brian and I already did price comparisons of how much we normally pay for certain wines at Grove’s. The prices are comparable on some brands and about $1-2 more on others. I suppose that’s the price of convenience.
But they also have a wide selection of craft beers and they even do this thing where you can mix and match to create your own six-pack.
Although, my most favorite part of Cosentino’s is their delicious cakes and pastries.
We’re doing a potluck Christmas party at work next week where everyone is encouraged to bring either a dessert or side dish of some sort and my plan is to just buy a cake from Cosentino’s and bring it. LOL.
They usually have a different assortment each time. All fabulous. The time we were there they had these java cups. Of course we had to try it.
Brian gave it two thumbs up!
I also took Brian to the Flying Saucer, catercorner from the apartment building, where they have fun trivia on Tuesdays. We only stayed long enough to enjoy a pizza and some drinks. We didn’t stick around for the trivia.
You can create your own pizza for about $10. Above is the one like to get. It consists of prosciutto, bacon, and artichoke hearts. I really like the Flying Saucer because the food is pretty good and it’s cheap. And the best part is, if you live at One Light then the walk home is only a minute or two.
Bottom line, downtown Kansas City is amazing. I love not having to drive anywhere. And, even though I’ve only explored a small portion, I can really see us living here and I can’t wait to explore more of the area.
If work makes me move, it will not be the end of the world but the beginning of new adventures. I can’t wait to explore Kansas City with Brian.
Posted on December 3, 2016 by Ching under Food and Drink, Travel.
When we were in Kansas City last week and trying to decide where we wanted to have our first meal of the trip, I wanted to try somewhere I’d not been before and suggested Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop. It’s just around the corner from Boulevard Brewing and it had great reviews. I also had an ulterior motive in that, since I’d have to drive to get to Lulu’s (and I hate driving), I wouldn’t have any other opportunity to check it out except at that very moment.
Brian, who is not adventurous and can be a party pooper, didn’t want to go there. The place didn’t look like much on the outside and the area didn’t look like the best part of town (forgetting that sometimes that’s where the best restaurants are). Anyway, he wanted to go back to Power & Light where things are familiar and asked to eat at one of the restaurants I’ve tried and enjoyed.
He’s not much of a risk-taker so, rather than roll the dice, he wanted to eat somewhere that’s already been vetted.
I get it.
Because of our shared love of truffle fries, I decided to take him to BRGR Kitchen + Bar which was just a short walk from our hotel by the Kauffman Center. He had seen pictures of the food I’d eaten there and had been wanting to try it for a while. This place serves all sorts of fries and tater tots (regular, truffle, sweet potato) and also serves onion straws and onion rings and they have various delicious sauces for dipping. I highly recommend getting “the combo” (which is a fantastic deal for $9) and trying three different ones and then going back twice and doing the same thing until you’ve tried them all. I have to warn you though, the sweet potato tater tots are like crack. They are so sweet and delicious that they almost taste like dessert. At least, they’re just as enjoyable to eat.
Quick side story: For some odd reason I kept thinking that this restaurant was related to Rok:BRGR in Hallandale. I told Kelsey that we’d eaten at BRGR before when we were in Florida. I was wrong. I guess I saw “BRGR” in the name and assumed they were related but they are two completely separate restaurants. And, BRGR Kitchen + Bar is tons better than that restaurant in Florida. Then again, I’d only eaten there once so I could have ordered the wrong thing. I could also be very biased because I’ve eaten at this other one a few times now and all of the experiences have been great. For the sake of this post, and so we can move on, I’m going to say this BRGR is the better one.
Are you ready to see some pics?
This is what the place looks like inside. So, as you can see, it’s got a really neat ambiance. They also have these glass doors along Main that can open when the weather is favorable so it feels like you’re outside while you’re dining inside.
There’s several sets as you can see from this photo I stole from the BRGR web site. I had to steal this photo because I didn’t get a good photo of the doors when we were there. You can kind of see the doors behind Brian in the picture below.
These doors are all along the side of the restaurant so they can pretty much open the entire place up. Of course the weather was fantastic up until last week. Just our luck! We didn’t let the cold winter weather spoil our fun, though.
We started our BRGR dining experience with some fried deviled eggs. Not the best when you’re trying to diet but these are amazing.
They’re “When Harry Met Sally” o-face AMAZING!
Here’s a better picture of them up close. I love deviled eggs anyway (not the Dillons kind, but definitely the ones that my mother in law makes) but when you fry something it just kicks it up a notch. I mean, I hate eating veggies but, when you bread it and fry it and make it crunchy, I’ll eat them all day long. LOL.
These delicious deviled eggs are not just fried, though. They wrap them in prosciutto (something Brian and I both LOVE) and some kind of crispy sausage first and then fry them. The end result is this great crunchy texture and amazing flavors. It definitely set the bar high for all of our meals on this KC trip.
Because we blew all of our calories (and then some) on the fried deviled eggs, Brian and I decided to just split a burger rather than each getting one. We agreed on the Big Hoss. The burger patty is made of a half pound of ground chuck and short rib blend and served in a salt and pepper bun with a fried egg, bacon, Wisconsin cheddar, steak sauce and onion straws.
Their burgers are enormous but you don’t get the full effect in these two photos above. I think next time we should just ask for the burger and split it ourselves because the whole burger will make for a better picture.
We had truffle tots as our side. The truffle tots tasted amazing but the presentation wasn’t as cool as that time I ate there and shared “the combo” with Michelle and Selena. We had (from left) truffle fries, truffle tots, and sweet potato tater tots.
I just realized I didn’t get a picture of the cool metal containers that they came in so I had to steal this picture from another site.
When Michelle, Selena, and I dined there, Michelle had the chicken not-so-burger. She let me try a piece of it. It was delicious!
I also enjoyed the Roadhouse burger that I split with Selena. It’s similar to the Big Hoss except they use barbecue sauce instead of steak sauce, there’s no fried egg, and it’s served in a corn bun.
That’s another thing that I love about BRGR. Other places serve their burgers in the same boring bun. At BRGR they have all sorts of buns to choose from so you can really make your own perfect burger combination.
I like BRGR so much that I’m already thinking about what I will order on my next visit. So, yes. Even though I didn’t get to try a new restaurant as I’d wanted, I was completely satisfied with our meal at BRGR. You can never go wrong there!
Posted on November 30, 2016 by Ching under Things to Do, Travel.
Here are some pictures from our Boulevard Brewery tour last week.
The gift shop.
Beers available for purchase at the gift shop.
Brian’s favorite Boulevard beer.
The Smokestack Room.
My handsome husband.
The Beer Hall.
Beer Hall selfie.
Beer Hall menu.
Here’s what the pretzel dogs looked like.
Cute little photo both trailer at the Beer Hall.
Our awesome tour guide.
The original brewhouse.
The stuff that beer is made of.
Not much going on. They shut down production early for the holidays.
The iconic Boulevard smokestack.
The have a pretty great outdoor terrace.
Our final stop.
Cheers for free beer.
Tank 7 induced beer happiness.
This pretty much sums it up.
Posted on November 26, 2016 by Ching under Things to Do, Travel.
Since Brian loves coffee, I went ahead and scheduled a tour of the Roasterie factory in Kansas City. A tour of Boulevard was already on the agenda and the Roasterie is conveniently located just down the street from the brewery.
If you’ve never had coffee from the Roasterie, you’re totally missing out. Brian tried it for the first time and he’s convinced that it’s the best coffee ever. I’m not a coffee connoisseur so I honestly can’t tell you the difference. However, I do know that I don’t like drinking coffee (unless it’s like a super sweet latte or mocha or cappuccino of some sort) and I don’t mind drinking Roasterie coffee without any sweetener, creamer or other additives.
The tour went off to a bit of a rocky start. Unlike the brewery tour where you just show up, the Roasterie requires you to reserve your spot for the tour on their web site. I checked the schedule and everything and we made reservations for the 12:30 PM tour. I got an email reminder and everything.
Being the punctual people that we are, Brian and I hit the road early so we could arrive in plenty of time for the tour. We arrived at the factory around noon and we saw that the prior tour was still finishing up. We milled around for a bit, checked out the goodies, and took some selfies and such.
At the end of the other tour, we approached the girl who was doing the coffee brewing demo and asked her where we needed to be for the 12:30 PM tour.
She was like, “There isn’t a 12:30 PM tour. We switched to our holiday hours so the next one is at 1:00 PM.”
This obviously made me more than a little cranky because I received an email that clearly said 12:30 PM. She offered to get the manager but I was like “Don’t bother.” I’m just going to tweet you jerks and blog about your ineptitude. I’m kind of passive-aggressive like that. LOL.
Kidding aside, it’s a free factory tour. So we thought we could do this first and eat lunch after. It’s not their fault that we were getting “hangry” and so I was like, whatever. I asked Brian if he was all right waiting a little bit longer and he was fine so we continued to mill about the store.
Anyway, a few other people showed up after us and I think they received the same wrong information that I received. I thinking that the tour people probably realized that something was amiss because we ended up starting our tour around 12:45 PM instead of 1:00 PM as the girl had previously stated. I’m not sure what happened but I was glad they came to their senses and our wait was cut short by 15 minutes.
The tour starts with a short video (less than ten minutes) about the company’s origins and operation. I couldn’t find the whole video on YouTube but I did find bits and pieces of it. Here’s the bit about how it all began:
Here’s the bit that talks about coffee:
Here’s the bit about air-roasting:
Now for some pictures…
This is a picture of the cafe at the factory. The most important thing to remember is to wait until after the tour to go to the cafe because if you mention that you took the tour then you get a discount on your purchase.
They have this little alcove with a neat backdrop and so naturally we took a selfie.
This is a picture of the previous tour that was finishing up when we got there.
They have this whole airplane theme because of “air-roasting” and so in the retail store, they have an area with an airplane chair and wood backdrop. They also have different hats and props but Brian has this thing about putting hats that other people have worn on his head (he thinks it will give him lice or something) so you don’t really get the full effect here.
The idea is you put on a pilot’s hat or use some other prop (there’s a coat tree with various objects you can use) to make your photo more interesting. Alas, this is Brian we’re talking about so the above photo is all I got.
This is us trying to entertain ourselves while we wait for our tour to commence. You can see the coat tree behind us with the various hats and props to play with for the special photo station. At least that’s what I concluded they are for; there weren’t exactly any instructions.
All of the people from the previous tour are gone now. Brian and I are just milling about while waiting for the 12:30/1:00 tour to begin. I’m taking pictures because that’s what I do to pass the time.
Here’s a view of the factory from the retail store.
If you don’t have time for the whole tour, you can always observe the operation from the retail store area.
I took photos of the various artifacts they had on display.
Can you tell I was bored? LOL. That’s what happens when you arrive for your 12:30 tour and you’re told there isn’t one until 1:00 PM.
We managed to occupy ourselves, though. There were plenty of interesting things to see like old coffee-related items in the cupboard.
And just various objects on display around the open space next to the store.
Finally, it was time to tour. They gave each of us hairnets. They also had beard nets for the bearded fellas.
This was one of our tour guides.
He was wearing an interesting outfit, which led me to the conclusion that being a hipster was one of the qualifications for being a Roasterie tour guide.
I wish I had a more to say about these photos but I really wasn’t paying that much attention to what he was saying.
I was too distracted by his outfit. Just kidding!
It’s actually really noisy in there so it’s hard to have conversations or hear anything.
I do know that the hole in the coffee bag is not actually a hole. It’s a one-way valve that allows carbon dioxide to escape the bag because freshly roasted coffee needs to de-gas. It’s so the coffee bag doesn’t explode.
Here’s some helpful information for brewing the perfect cup of coffee at home.
At the conclusion of the tour, we got to watch (and also taste) the same coffee, Ethiopian Natural (pictured above), brewed using two different brewing methods: French press and pour over.
It was all very interesting and we learned a lot. One of my key takeaways is that I actually don’t mind drinking coffee as long as it’s good coffee. LOL.
Also, Brian likes the pour over method for this coffee blend. The thing to remember is different methods lend themselves well to different blends you’re probably going to prefer different methods for the each.
Once you’ve found the blend of coffee you like, from whichever region, then you’ll want to brew it using different methods to see which method you like best. We tried the same coffee and it really did taste different.
Just between us, both methods seemed like a lot of work to me for a single cup of coffee. She said that after doing it a few times, you actually get used it. It becomes so easy you can even do it half asleep; which is good because if you’re like Brian then you’re not really fully awake until after you drink your first cup.
Anyway, here are pictures of some of the goodies and gift sets available at the store.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to drive to the Kansas City factory store to purchase these gifts. Many of them available on their web site. Although, visiting the factory store does have the added perk of a free factory tour.
And, for those who have everything, they also offer “coffee experiences,” which can be arranged for a fee by calling the office.
Before I go, I’m going to leave you with this short film about the Roasterie that I found on YouTube. I think this might have been the old video they used to show before they switched to the new version. Anyway, it’s super informative. Enjoy!