Archive for "Travel"
This just goes to show you how long it took to get our food at Larios. After we placed our food order, we actually had time to walk across the street to walk on the beach.
This was super high on Darcy and Kelsey lists of things to do while in Florida so they actually went and dipped their toes in the water.
Thanks to Rahima, we managed to experience the beach even for just a few minutes. Darcy and Kelsey were super thrilled to cross this one off the list.
I completed one of my must-do items earlier that day so I was content to take pictures.
And watch the sun set.
These next pictures were taken on our way back to the restaurant.
Ocean Drive is just so vibrant.
Lots of interesting restaurants and boutique hotels line the street.
Of course, you already saw pictures from dinner on yesterday’s blog post. These are just some extra pictures I had of South Beach that I wanted to share.
Our hotel was about an hour away so they hired a party bus to chauffeur us to and from dinner. It was a brilliant idea. I’m not sure most of the people in our group would have had the patience for an hour long drive to dinner if they didn’t have drinks to enjoy on the way. As for me, I couldn’t drink any alcoholic beverages because I was still on antibiotics after recovering from pneumonia. Thankfully, they had soda on the bus. I just drank my Coke and enjoyed the view, which wasn’t as interesting on the drive back because then it was dark. I enjoyed seeing all the high-rise condos and the boats on the way to dinner, though.
At least, dinner was delicious and we got to see the beach and we had good company. That made the long drive to dinner worth it.
If you thought that Zumba Home Office was cool, wait until you see this next office I had the opportunity to set foot in while in Florida a couple of weeks ago. It was originally BGT Partners’ award-winning headquarters. It was pretty cool back in 2012 but it’s even way cooler today. Since PwC acquired BGT Partners in 2013, the office is now the PwC Experience Center.
I’ve only visited one other PwC office and the look and feel of the Hallandale office is completely different. I’m thinking it’s the BGT influence. Even though it’s been a couple of years since the acquisition, the essence of BGT is still everywhere which makes sense. Very formal, boring offices don’t exactly foster creativity and innovation.
Anyway, I was completely in awe of their awesome office. I had to take a bunch of pictures, naturally. Enjoy.
I was in Florida on a work trip a couple of weeks ago when I happened by the Zumba headquarters completely by chance. We were walking around Gulf Stream Park when I saw this sign on the wall: Zumba Fitness, CORPORATE OFFICE, 2ND FLOOR.
As soon as I saw it, I heard the sound below.
Without even trying, I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail. I couldn’t believe my luck!
Ginger and Darcy went on back to the hotel. I told them to go on without me. I think it was quarter ’til five but I decided to pop in anyway. I mean, how often do you randomly run into the Zumba Home Office on a work trip? Plus, I didn’t know when I’d ever be in the area again. I had to go up and see if I could get a tour.
I don’t think Monica was super thrilled to see me that late in the day but she was nice enough to humor me. I explained to her that I’m a ZIN (Zumba Instructor Network member) in good standing and I’m only in the area for a couple of days and I didn’t know when I’d be back and I would like to get a tour of Home Office if at all possible. Monica explained that public tours are only available from 2 pm to 4 pm and, any other time, tours are done by appointment only. “This is the only time I have,” I pleaded. “Can you please check to see if there’s anyone available for a quick five minute tour?”
“Let me check,” she said as she started typing away on the computer. I waited patiently in their stylishly decorated lobby with all of my fingers and toes crossed. After what seemed like an eternity, she told me the last thing I wanted to hear. There was no one available. I should have known. Everybody wants to go home. No one will want to stick around and give a random, crazy person a tour that late in the day.
“Are you able to come back tomorrow afternoon?” she asked.
“No,” I told her. “I have a meeting starting at eleven o’clock and will be tied up well into the evening. Can I come back for a tour first thing tomorrow morning?”
Again, Monica informed me that I would need to schedule an appointment. She did me a solid though, and she gave the name and email address of there person in charge, Community Relations Specialist Gina Graziani.
“May I please have her phone number so I can give her a call as well?”
Monica looked in the system and couldn’t find her phone number but, being the resourceful person that I am, I saw some business cards on the desk.
“May I have one of these?” I asked, pointing at the business cards.
“Oh, yes. If you call that number, they should be able to connect you with Gina.”
I called the number as I walked back to the hotel. I’m not sure what the phone number was for but it wasn’t the right number. The man who answered explained that Gina belonged to a different department and I had to hang up and dial a completely different number. Some people would be annoyed but I was overjoyed that he was giving me the correct phone number to call. I eagerly called the second number and was able to get to Gina’s voicemail. I left a very desperate sounding message and told her that I would follow up with an email. As soon as I got to my hotel room, I fired up my laptop, immediately typed up an equally desperate email, and hit send.
And then I waited. And waited.
Obviously, I didn’t hear back because it was the end of the day but I was hopeful. Darcy wanted to go to the beach before our meeting the next day. I told her I would be happy to go with her but it depended on whether or not I could get a tour of the Zumba Home Office. I was now on a mission and I was determined to accomplish it.
Darcy and I met at 8 am the next morning for breakfast. Still no phone call or email response from Gina at this point. After eating breakfast and visiting for an hour, I checked my email again. Still nothing. At this point, we only had a couple of hours before our 11 am meeting so I didn’t think we had time to go to the beach. However, I had a couple of hours to try to squeeze a tour in.
“What are you going to do?” Darcy asked, knowing I didn’t have an appointment.
“I’m going to ask for a tour and I’m not going to take no for an answer,” I said determined. “I’m going to wait in their lobby and I’m not leaving until someone gives me a tour. Someone is bound to take a break at some point. Maybe I could tag along with them while they take their break?” Wishful thinking on my part, I admit. I failed to take into account that, unlike crazy workaholics like myself, people don’t actually want to work on their designated breaks.
When I got back to the office, Monica wasn’t at her desk so I had to wait outside until she came back. When she came back, I waived at her enthusiastically from the glass doors with a look of “Hi, it’s me again! Remember me? Crazy ZIN from yesterday?” on my face. I’m sure she was thinking, “OMG. Not you again!” but she didn’t show it. To my surprise, she actually buzzed me in.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“I called and I emailed but I didn’t hear back,” I told her, “but I called and emailed really late in the day so she might not have gotten to my call and email yet. I only have free time until eleven, though. Could you please try and see if it’s possible for me to get a tour? I fly home tomorrow and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
We went over the whole tours are by appointment only unless between the hours of two and four in the afternoon again.
“I know but I don’t have any other time. If there’s another tour that’s scheduled and they don’t mind, I’d be happy to tag along on that tour or, if someone could spare five minutes, I will be quick. I promise,” I told her. Monica explained that tours usually take about a half an hour. Even a quick one would take at least 20 minutes.
“Let me see if Gina is available.”
So I waited once again with my fingers and toes crossed. At this point, I was a little bit nervous. On the one hand, I really, really, really wanted a tour. But, on the other hand, I cannot be late for my meeting which is the whole reason that I was in Florida to begin with. The PwC Experience Center was only two minutes away so I was calculating in my head how much longer I could wait before I had to give up and call it quits. It was then when Monica finally called me back up to the desk.
“Gina is on her way.”
Gina wasn’t by herself. She brought security with her so they could escort me off the premises. Just kidding. Gina actually brought one of her team members, Marsha, with her. Gina explained that she was running late for a meeting so she couldn’t give me a tour. Marsha would be giving me the tour instead.
Here’s a picture of the three of us behind the reception desk. Gina is on the left and Marsha is on the right. Both ladies were super nice and welcoming. They said that they really love it whenever they have ZIN visitors. Although, I’m pretty sure they prefer it if you make an appointment ahead of time. LOL.
Despite the randomness of my visit, they still made me feel special and welcome. And for that, I’m truly grateful.
Our tour started at the “Zumba Love” conference room. It’s the main conference room used for the weekly meetings with the department heads. Here’s a picture of me at the head of the table.
“Is this where Beto sits?” I asked Marsha.
I learned that Beto doesn’t actually have a permanent seat. However, he usually sits at the other end by the door so he can make a quick exit when needed. Makes sense.
This is the “Salsa” conference room where Forum Live! happens. Marsha asked if I’d ever participated in one but I haven’t. It usually happens during the day while I’m working. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to hop on but I haven’t had the pleasure as of yet.
This is a picture of their break room where Zumba President and COO Alberto Aghion, the third Alberto in the Holy Trinity of Zumba, has lunch everyday. Marsha said that he usually sits at a different table each time and uses the opportunity to chat with employees. He does this everyday.
Aghion is known to employees but, to the general public, he is the lesser known of the three Albertos. He works behind the scenes so not a lot of people know about him. The only reason I know of him is because I’ve been to a few ZINCONs. He’s not as visible as Zumba CEO Alberto Perlman and definitely not as visible as Beto.
I posted a short video clip that I found on YouTube to help you out.
Perlman and Aghion’s offices are next to one another. The doors were closed so I didn’t get to peek in. I wish I could have, though. I’m curious what their offices look like.
Here’s a picture of Beto’s door.
I’m not sure if the door was locked because I didn’t try it. t wish I would have asked Marsha for permission to look into his office. He wasn’t there. I know this because Marsha told me that any time Beto is in his office he always has his music on full blast you can hear it all the way down the hall. This would explain why his office is away from the other two Albertos. LOL.
Anyway, Marsha encouraged me to take pictures of everything except for Finance, HR (also known as People & Culture), Legal, IT, and Zumba wear. Yes, I got to see the new Zumba wear line and pictures of all of the designs yet to come through 2018. I just couldn’t take any pictures.
This is a picture of the studio where they have free Zumba classes for employees at least three times a week. Armando and Heidy and other zelebs (also known as celebrity Zumba instructors) teach on a regular basis. Now that’s what I call a job perk!
In this room they have the ZINfolio – every single boxed set and ZIN DVD.
I believe beyond that door is the sound studio.
More pictures of the same room.
I love this room!
And then I was Gina Grant for two seconds.
I want one of these life-sized cutouts for my next Zumba party!
This is the customer service area. Part of it anyway. They outsource the first level of customer service. If I remember correctly the only customer service work they handle at Zumba Home Office is their online/email support.
Here’s a picture of me with Monica. Note her outfit. They actually encourage people to wear Zumba wear to work everyday.
Besides all of the fun pictures, I also got a some parting gifts: some rubber Zumba wristbands (Marsha gave me a couple), socks (a 2-pack with a pair each in Zumba green and pink) and a pink “Get Funked Up” t-shirt. That’s pretty much my tour of Zumba Home Office. Huge thanks to Marsha Segree, my wonderful tour guide; Monica Lazarus, friendly receptionist who was ever so patient with me; and Gina Graziani, Community Relations Specialist extraordinaire.
Thank you for making this trip to Florida truly memorable!
Posted on April 16, 2016 by Ching under Food and Drink, Reviews, Travel.
I can finally say I’ve been to St. Louis, Mo even though it was just for a few hours. Ginger and I traveled there a couple of weeks ago to meet some folks at Laclede Gas Company (now Spire) and learn from them.
Been spending a lot of time at airport with Ginger of late. She is the best person to travel with. I’ve never had TSA Pre Check privileges until I these last few trips with her. I love not having to take off my shoes, take out my laptop and toiletries, and going through the short (or non-existent line) at airports. Now that I’ve had a taste of it, I’m almost tempted to pay for it even though I don’t even travel that much usually. I’d say it’s definitely a must for frequent travelers. If I traveled all the time, I would pay the extra for TSA Pre Check every time.
Ginger and I were supposed to have dinner with the rest of our team and the Laclede team at Brew House the night before our meeting but, as luck would have it (or my bad travel truck), our plane was delayed in Dallas. First they just had to change the tire. Then they discovered some kind of mechanical issue that needed to be fixed.
We actually boarded the plane and then were all told we had to get off so the repairs could be completed but were asked not to go too far away from the gate in case we were ready to board again. We were originally scheduled to arrive in St. Louis at 3:00 PM but didn’t land until 5:30 PM. We missed dinner with group obviously, which is the same thing that happened on our last trip together. Ginger and I joked that the rest of team is probably thinking that we’re trying to avoid the dinners on purpose.
We still had to eat dinner so we just opted to eat at the steakhouse next to the hotel instead. We didn’t want to wander too far away in case it started raining, which was in the forecast.
Neither of us wanted anything too heavy so we decided to just split an appetizer and an entree and then Ginger had a wedge salad. I probably should have ordered steak but I was quite happy with what I had. The food was pretty good. I really enjoyed the crab meat starter with hunks of jumbo lump crab over a horseradish cream cheese mouse and sweet chili sauce. The picture below doesn’t do the dish justice.
Here’s a picture of Ginger’s yummy-looking salad.
Then for dinner we split the jumbo shrimp scampi, which was also delicious. You can never go wrong with shrimp stuffed with crab meat. LOL.
The best part about dinner is the restaurant is connected to our hotel so you didn’t even have to walk outside. My room was pretty basic but I think it might have been an accessible room because I had tons of space.
It was an interior room so I didn’t have an outside view.
I didn’t really mind not having a city view but, being an interior room, made my room tricky to find at first. I didn’t realize that my room (625) was next to the elevator so, when I walked to the end of the hall where the signs were and followed the hallway around and then got down the hall, I was super confused when it jumped from 623 to 627. I almost called the front desk to ask someone to help me find my room but I couldn’t get signal and I eventually found it.
The Drury at the Arch was okay as hotels go. The location was great because of its proximity to the Laclede office. They also provide daily breakfast and happy hour which was nice. Ginger and I got to enjoy a couple of drinks on the day of our arrival.
The conference room we spent our day in is located in the corner of the Laclede building facing Busch Stadium. The walls were completely made of of class and the view was fantastic. It was good that it was kind of gloomy outside the day, otherwise it would have been way harder to concentrate.
We pretty much arrived the night before and then flew home immediately after the meeting. Ginger and I landed in Wichita about 10:30 PM that day. No issues on the trip home, thank heavens!
It was a super short trip. I wish we could have had more time to spend in St. Louis. I would have loved to have had pictures of the Arch and stuff. It seems like a beautiful city. I may just have to return and bring Brian. Perhaps we can plan a nice holiday weekend road trip with the girls.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside but this hotel has probably been the best hotel I’ve stayed at this year in terms of cleanliness, customer service, and value. For perspective, the hotel I’ve stayed at this year include Hampton Inn (Fort Lauderdale, before our cruise), Hyatt Place (my second home in Topeka), Holiday Inn Express (it’s down the street from our training facility in Topeka), and Drury Plaza at the Arch (St. Louis). I may be missing some but these are the hotels I can remember off the top of my head that I’ve stayed at this year.
Here’s a look at the inside where breakfast and social hour happens. This Staybridge provided breakfast daily and then also social hour, with real food and unlimited drinks, Monday through Wednesday.
Here’s a picture of what I had for breakfast one day. They would have either pancakes or French toast. They also have a waffle maker so you can make your own waffles in the morning. There’s also, toast, bagels, breakfast pastries, muffins, fruit and cereal — lots of different options basically.
Here’s a picture of the social calendar for the month that was posted on my fridge. They had a chicken fajita taco bar the night we were there and then soups and sandwiches the day we were leaving. It also appears that they partner with local restaurants to cater food in for the socials on some nights. The chicken fajita tacos looked pretty good. So on those bad weather days or other days that you just don’t feel like going anywhere, you can eat free hotel food and just stay in.
We were supposed to arrive around one o’clock on Monday afternoon but, because our flights were canceled, we didn’t arrive until midnight. The rep at the front desk, Nate, was super nice. Anyway, I think since we arrived so late all of the regular rooms were taken. Ginger and I both got upgraded to two-room suites (more on that in a minute).
Nate recognized me from talking to him to setup an airport shuttle pickup earlier that morning. “Weren’t you supposed to arrive this afternoon? I sent a shuttle to pick you up. What happened?”
I explained that our flights got canceled so we were rebooked on other flights later in the day. “I called back and canceled the shuttle. You were probably off by then. I talked to a woman and she told me there wouldn’t be shuttle service that late but that there would be lots of cabs at the airport. We just took a cab over. No worries.”
“She didn’t offer to pay for your cab?” he asked.
“No she didn’t mention it. That would have been nice though, because there weren’t any cabs waiting when we got outside. On the way here our cab driver was on the radio with home base asking to send cabs at the airport because there was a lobby full of people and no cabs to be found.” The was actually one cab when we got outside but it was already taken. I think the cab driver was going a different direction because she asked us where we were going and then told us that she couldn’t take us and that there would be other cabs coming. A guy who came out after us must have been going the same general direction she was because he was able to get in her cab. It didn’t take long for the other cab to show up. I suppose there are lots of cabs during regular hours or high traffic times but they don’t wait around at the airport until midnight. The airport in Madison is a small regional airport so that makes sense.
“She really should have offered. Next time just ask.”
Nate was very thorough. He made sure that Ginger and I both had our rewards number so we could get our hotel points. He told us about the upgraded rooms and gave us some options: whether we wanted our rooms to be on top of one another or be on the same floor on opposite sides of the building. We opted for same floor.
I got room 330. I think Ginger either got 310 or 307 on the other side because she also got a two-bedroom and two-bath suite. I was amazed at all the space I had when I first entered my room. I usually hate getting a room with two beds in it because I feel like it’s a waste. Well, guess what. This time I had three beds! And an extra bathroom that I didn’t need. Talk about waste!
I wish I would have known about this option ahead of time. We could have gotten away with reserving three rooms instead of five separate ones. LOL.
Side note, it was clearly opposite day because everything that was happening was opposite of my normal preference. For instance, I ended up getting an exit row seat on our flight to Madison. Most people like exit row seats because they have more leg room. Not me. I don’t like the pressure of having to perform in case of an emergency, which I know isn’t likely but enough to stress me out. I mean, I’m not very strong. What if the door won’t open? Those are the kinds of thoughts that go through my mind.
Anyway, we were told it was a full flight so then I was like, “At least I have an aisle seat. There’s going to be two other people who will take care of the emergency door. I shouldn’t have to worry about it.”
Guess what. The flight wasn’t full after all. The two seats next to me empty!
I could have crawled into a fetal position and taken a nap since I had so much space but I got engrossed in watching The Great Gatsby (relevant because we’re going to a 20s murder mystery party at the end of the month and I wanted some outfit ideas but also because the movie is quite entertaining). I didn’t really get to take full advantage the situation. Oh, well.
And then I get to the hotel and I have three beds, two more than I really need. It was a freaky Monday indeed. Everything that was happening seemed to opposite what I like.
My suite consisted of a common living-dining-kitchen combo and two bedrooms with each their own bathrooms. The living room area was actually quite spacious.
The kitchen was equipped with a full-sized fridge, stove, microwave, sink, coffeemaker, toaster, and dishwasher.
In the cupboards you had pots, dishes, glasses, utensils, and everything else you could possibly need for a comfortable extended stay.
Here’s a picture of one of the bedrooms with its own adjoining bathroom.
I obviously didn’t stay in this one. Here’s the bedroom I slept in. This bedroom had its own adjoining bathroom as well which was exactly like the other one.
I also took a picture of the breakfast buffet and social hour info.
Here’s a picture of the taco bar.
And the drink bar.
There’s also a really nice apartment complex next to the hotel with a great walking path. It looks like the path goes all the way around the apartment complex. I didn’t follow it all the way around because I didn’t want to creep out the residents.
I really enjoyed staying Staybridge Suites Madison-East. The location was nice and quiet. They had shuttle service to take you wherever you need to go within a two-mile radius. It was very clean. The hotel staff was nice. The free breakfasts daily and free food and drinks during social hour made for an excellent value. I liked it so much I actually looked online to see if they had a location in Topeka. I would rather stay somewhere like this than at Hyatt Place, specially if I’m going to be there all week.
There’s a Staybridge in Wichita but not one in Topeka. I guess Hyatt Place is going to be stuck with me for a while.