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San Luis Obispo With The Family

 

 

By Yashy Selavadurai Murphy, Travel Writer @yashyanthi and online at: babyandlife.com

IMG_5223Ever looked for a quaint family friendly spot that caters to everyone – from toddler to Nani? Then say hello to San Luis Obispo.  Even Oprah sent her team to check out what makes San Luis Obispo the happiest place on earth!

Half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Luis Obispo (SLO) caters to every whim you may have. Whether you’re looking for warm sandy beaches,  wineries to explore, or hills to conquer, SLO has it all. From the avid adventure seeker to the leisure enthusiast, SLO is bound to put a smile on everyone’s face.

 

MM Dreams

 

Travel & Events Reporter

Travel & Events Reporter

There’s one spot that fulfills the needs of couples looking for luxury, families with young tots looking for comfort, AND multigenerational travel groups looking for ease – the Madonna Inn. In the heart of SLO’s wine country, this resort has 110 unique rooms that will appeal to the inner artiste. Carousel, Jungle Rock, Caveman, Buffalo and Pony are just a few of the whimsical themes. Rooms are spacious and many have interconnecting capabilities. Every little amenity has been thought of, from cribs for tots to rock waterfall showers for the thrill seekers. IMG_5264

You don’t even need to leave the Madonna Inn if you don’t want to. You can easily lounge around by the stunning pool, relax at the spa, be one with nature while horseback riding, or work a sweat at the fitness centre. There’s beauty and charm here at the Madonna Inn that is perfect for travellers of all sorts.

MM Bites

Marisol at the Cliffs: There’s no better place to watch a gorgeous sunset while sipping fine wines and soaking in the fresh California waves, than at this spot where sun, sand and sea mix beautifully.

IMG_5251Madonna Inn Bakery: Whatever you do, pop by the bakery and enjoy a piece of their famous Pink Champagne Cake. The incredible cream layered cakes with chocolate swirls taste ten times as good as they look.

Novo Restaurant: An ideal spot for dinner as you enjoy a fusion of global cuisines, all while enjoying the view of a serene creek. A curry, award-winning wine, and a trickling brook as you sit surrounded by family or your lover, is sheer bliss. 

Firestone Grill: If you’re looking for a casual meal, then their Trip Sandwich should be on your list. Ask for extra BBQ sauce if you like things saucy.

 

MM Explores

SLO Wine Region: Sip, swirl and savour acclaimed wines and tap into your inner wine geek. There are over 30 wineries and many have lounges and patios for those looking to spend some time basking in the sun with wine in hand.

IMG_5203Firestone Brewery: If beer is more your palate pleaser then either tour the brewery (make reservations a day ahead) or take yourself on a self-guided tour of their Barrelworks where you can learn about the art of ageing beer. Don’t forget to sample some of their rarest offerings.

Bubblegum Alley: No visit to SLO is complete without making your mark in this hidden alley that spans 20 metres. Even if you’re too shy to plaster your own bubble gum artwork, you can still appreciate some of the many unique impressions (some as old at 40 years!) left by visitors.

Beach: To stroll hand-in-hand with the love of your life or to tickle your little one’s toes, there’s a beach for you in SLO. Cayucos and Pismo Beach win our votes for some quality time at the shore. If lying idle is not your thing, you can also find spots where you’re able to cruise, kayak or surf.

Children’s Museum: Spend some educational time discovering and exploring the many hands-on exhibits and programs without someone telling you “please look but don’t touch”. It may be focused on the younger ones, but don’t be surprised if you leave having learned a thing or two yourself!

 

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Family Adventures in Ann Arbor, Michigan

By Yashy Selavadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: babyandlife.com

Ann Arbor

Chevrolet Traverse

We loaded up our Chevy Traverse and packed the kids for a quick Michigan getaway this past February. Ann Arbor may scream “college town” but it is also a friendly and sophisticated city filled with plenty of activities for families to enjoy.

Michigan University definitely runs deep in Ann Arbor’s veins but there’s plenty to explore in the biggest little city in the middle. Whether you’re heading that way to drop off your college kid, or you’re looking for a quick getaway with young kids, we’ve got the Masalamommas scoop on how to enjoy this cultural hub where locals pride themselves on “living life different.”

On our most recent travels, the craft beer scene and the many museums truly impressed us.

MM Dreams

If you’ve got kids joining you on your travels, they’ll want in on the action happening at the Hilton Garden Inn Ann Arbor. “A garden’s path can take you anywhere….” is a saying that transports you throughout the property.

From the moment you walk in through their doors, you’re guaranteed not only a blissful sleep, but a fun and cozy stay as well.  Perks travelling families are sure to enjoy are complimentary Wi-Fi, self-serve morning coffee/tea/hot chocolate station, in-room microwave (popcorn anyone?) and a cool pool like no other! 2014-02-15-09.59.23

While the parents lounge by the pool, the toddlers and teens can safely amuse themselves with the various activities in the pool. The hotel is a quick drive from the centre of the town and is right across from a mall. Masalamommas, click your shopping heels!

MM Bites

Cupcake Station: It’s hard to say no to this little spot where they even have plenty of mini options for the little ones. There’s no need to avoid the sugar rush!

Jolly Pumpkin: Craft beer lovers will have a hard time leaving this rustic brew pub. Knowledgeable staff and fine cuisine can easily keep you here all day if you’re not careful!

Aventura: If you’ve got a large group and fancy some tapas, this spot will bring everyone around the table and take your taste buds on a culinary journey through Spain. They also have a great bar to enjoy some craft cocktails and people watch if dinner isn’t really your thing.

2014-02-16-15.29.05Cardamom: If you’re craving some Indian food, this is where you want to be. Traditional and modern fusion dishes splatter the menu, including some popular Nepali dishes that will have you swinging by for more.

Frita Batidos: Looking for something out of the ordinary? How about some Cuban street food in a casual setting? Everyone’s a friend here as you gather around wooden communal tables to enjoy their boozy shakes and fresh Cuban dishes. Be sure to try their garlic fries!

 

 

 

MM Explores 

Hands-on Museum: Housed in an old fire station, this children’s museum can not only entertain kids but also ignite the power of imagination. Interactive displays span four floors where you need not worry about grubby hands and delicate structures. Fit for kids of all ages 2 to 52!  2014-02-15-15.54.17

University of Michigan Museums: From the Museum of Art to the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, there’s plenty to explore on campus as a visitor. Roam the university as you peruse through the state’s largest collection of dinosaur skeletons and pop by the largest stadium in North America to soak in the culture spread throughout the campus.

Bluffs Nature Area: If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the rugged trails here are perfect for mountain biking and hiking. Located close to the downtown core, it’s an easy way to stay healthy on your holiday.

Farmers’ Market: With summer on its way, get ready to nosh your way through Ann Arbor. Fresh produce, baked goods and ready-to-eat meals can be found here in Kerrytown. Most likely, you’ll be serenaded by a band or two during your visit.

Downtown Ann Arbor: A very walkable downtown means you can explore many culinary pursuits all within a few blocks. Swing by the Schakolad Chocolate Factory or Cherry Republic to stock up on gifts for those back home or pop by Zingerman’s for a boutique food experience like no other.

Ann Arbor has something for everyone. Whether you’re a craft beer lover, cherry aficionado, theatre goer or sports fanatic, you’ll feel at home.

 

The Shangri-La Toronto: Luxury in a Staycation

 

The Shangri-La Toronto | For the Masalamomma with an insatiable palate for the finer things

By Yashy Selavadurai Murphy, Travel Writer @yashyanthi and online at: babyandlife.com

 

ShangrilaThe Shangri-La is Toronto’s first Asian luxury hotel and Masalamommas with a discerning palate and a love for Asian inspiration will be pleased by everything on offer in this urban oasis. On arrival guests are immediately welcomed with a full sensory experience: the unique scent of Shangri-La, the soothing acoustics of the Fazoli piano (which has been autographed by famed Canadian Joni Mitchell), and sights of gorgeous chandeliers, Chinese calligraphy paintings and the quintessential touch of Asian décor elements.

 

It would be remiss of me not to mention one of Toronto’s most talked about sculptures that greets passerbys; The Rising, a steel sculpture of peace-pigeons and tree branches forming the shape of a dragon. It depicts renowned Chinese artist Zhang Huan’s wish for a “beautiful city, with life to be shared by mankind and nature”.  As Masalamommas travel writer my husband and I indulged on our final babymoon with a night of culinary exploration and warm hospitality.

 

The finer details (such as handwritten notes to welcome you) are nurtured throughout the property so be sure to explore the areas. Don’t be surprised if you succumb to your yearning of cozying up by the fireplace to enjoy some afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge, even before you’ve checked in! Over 68 teas are on offer, all individually handpicked by the resident tea sommelier and stellar combinations of warm and cold tea concoctions are listed.

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Our suite with a separate living room, bedroom and two washrooms was exactly what we needed to unwind after a busy day. Would you believe it, there was even a walk-in closet! There are over 202 guestrooms and suites to choose from and some even include a private terrace. If you’re looking to stay connected there’s Wi-Fi throughout the property and concierge services are available at the swipe of an iPad.

In the luxurious heated floor bathrooms, a large soaker tub overlooking the city gives one the perfect perspective of city living and the Asian influence is portrayed through the blue Astrale marble from Madagascar that has flecks of jade green, black white and gold. Luxurious amenities such as L’Occitane products are available for use in the suite so all you have to bring is your make-up, leave everything else at home! The comfiest of beds and fluffiest of pillows will welcome you to a blissful night’s sleep.

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There’s no excuse not to dine at the signature BOSK restaurant which is guaranteed to exceed expectations of even the most discerning culinary palate. Hard to find vintage wines complement an innovative menu curated by Executive Chef Damon Campbell. Leave your inhibitions at home and let the experts take you on a culinary journey you and your partner won’t soon forget. An infusion of surprising elements has been incorporated into every dish on offer and exemplary service from one of Toronto’s most knowledgeable servers awaits you. Tempt your taste buds and let them lose!

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A quick soak in the pool or snuggle in a private cabana by the hot tub may be the perfect night cap! If you’re in need of a good stretch be sure to check out the yoga and Pilates classes on offer throughout the week.

For those Masalmommas looking to indulge in fine cuisine and modern Asian hospitality in the heart of the city, the Shangri-La is a must visit!

Where to next? You’ll have to wait and see…

Travel: Dublin With Family

MM Travels : Dublin with the family

By Yashy Selvadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: babyandlife.com

IMG_2643 (1)The fair city of Dublin, the Capital of the Emerald Isle, is quite family friendly.  Similar to South Asians, the Irish are known for their large families and warm hospitality. Don’t be surprised if you find the kids greeted with a generous smile and an occasional treat. While many associate Ireland, and Dublin in particular, with debauchery and merriment there’s plenty of art, history and culture to be explored.

The city is pedestrian and stroller friendly and the local transit system, the LUAS, will get you to neighbourhoods that may be a bit further from your immediate locale.

 

 

MM Dreams

An apartment stay is recommended if you’re travelling with the family and will be exploring Dublin for a couple days. The Luxury Penthouse Duplex  not only has a lovely hostess but is also smack dab in the middle of it all. You can walk to most places and there is a LUAS subway stop around the corner. You are in the middle of a hustling and bustling city so expect lively merriment from the Saturday clubbing crowd and easy access to dining and tourist explorations. The two bedroom apartment has all the fixings including a welcome gift basket to get you started right along with toys, a crib, guards for the doors and plenty of little details to ensure you have a luxurious stay. There’s also a playground right by the building!

MM Bites

Church Bar and Restaurant : If having a drink or dining in a Church is on your bucketlist, be sure to swing by here and do just that! Yes it’s an old Church, complete with a restored Renatus Harris-built organ as its centrepiece and stained glass windows. In fact back in the day Arthur Guinness got married here at the St. Mary’s Church.

Travel & Events Reporter

Travel & Events Reporter

Leo Burdock: This is a tiny take out joint where you get a mammoth piece of the freshest fish  with copious amounts of chips (fries). Take it to the park next door and enjoy your eats.

Red Torch Ginger : If the good ole Irish fare is getting to you, this Thai spot will provide a spicy fix!

Buttlers Chocolate : Pop in for one of the best milkshakes and a sampling of European chocolate! Great spot to pick up some gifts for those back home.

Brewers Dining Hall : If you’re at the Guinness Storehouse be sure to have lunch or a snack here. The canteen style set up is perfect for lunch and has some of best pies and stews.

Temple Bar: No visit to Dublin is complete without a stop in here for a quick pint and some Irish Craic (music). Swing by on a weekend afternoon and enjoy some live tunes, Jameson Whiskey and a pint! It can be busy but you’ll be sure to find a spot to park an umbrella stroller at and a seat to rest your bones on.

MM Explores IMG_2795 (1)

Jameson Distillery : A fantastic tour that really takes you through the Whiskey making process. Tours run often include a sampling and takes about an hour in total.

Guinness storehouse : Here you can explore the world of one of the most famous beers- Guinness. Learn all about the history of the brand, the story behind the legend, sample a few pints at the Gravity Bar overlooking the city of Dublin and become a master of the pour.

Sandeman’s Tour : A free (tips accepted) guided walking tour of the downtown core that gives one a good feel for the history of Ireland and an overview of which tourist spots should be on your list to explore.

Trinity College Library : Home to the famous Book of Kells, this is a spot you’d want to visit if you’re a bit of a movie or literature buff. You could spend quite a few hours perusing the various exhibits or make a quick visit to the “Long Room” which is the showstopper.

The Gladstone Hotel: For the Artsy Masalamomma

MM Travels : Couples Staycations – Gladstone Hotel  

bigstock-Vintage-Top-User-Choice-Label-42049507As much as we Masalamommas love our kids sometimes there’s quite nothing like sneaking away without them. Whether it is a couple’s getaway or babymoon there’s plenty of local oases for Toronto Masalamommas to escape to with their loving partners. Over the next few months Masalamommas will be exploring some of Toronto’s best hotels and boutique accommodations for a getaway without the kids. No matter what type of haven you’re looking for, there’s a spot for the Masalamomma in you!

 

The Gladstone | For the Artsy Masalamomma

By Yashy Selvadurai Murphy @yashyanthi & online at: babyandlife.com

1377365_676692660467_1450377771_nThe Gladstone is known as Toronto’s Boutique Art Hotel and Masalamommas looking for unique hotels immersed in culture are sure to love this trendy Queen West hot spot. Toronto’s oldest continuously operated hotel still pays homage to its 1889 origin throughout the four-story space.

Each of the 37 rooms is uniquely designed by local artists and hence no two stays are ever the same. As Masalamomma’s travel writer my husband and I recently stayed at the Combo Moderna room as we escaped for a one night babymoon in the city before the arrival of baby no.2.

Friendly staff offers a warm welcome and we were escorted to the fourth floor in Toronto’s oldest hand-operated elevator. The elevator is named after Hank Young the Gladstone’s legendary Cowboy who from 1961 to 2009 was often seen at the Gladstone in various roles; performer, elevator operator and all-round go to guy.  Yes Hank even adorns the walls of the Gladstone alongside exhibits and art-deco curated by local artists. I was informed that the art rotates every couple of months so you’re sure to see new exhibits quite frequently.

Our room was a cozy retreat designed by two artists, Kelly Palmer and Melanie Zanker. Kelly’s hand painted wallpaper and Melanie’s handcrafted furniture explores various historical decades and is sure to tickle those Masalamommas who are into art and history. A queen bed adorned with luxurious cotton linen, free Wi-Fi, a basket of locally sourced organic goodies and a Samsung Tablet are all part of the comforts of the room. In keeping with the historical boutique style, most washrooms are on the smaller side but still decorated artistically. Complementary chai and coffee every morning in the lounge was also a lovely touch and we especially enjoyed watching the sun set over the hustle and bustle of the city. Be sure to check out the other rooms to see which one may be perfect for you.

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Back in the day the Gladstone was one of the first hotels in Ontario where patrons were able to drink and play shuffleboard in a licensed alcoholic area so it’s no surprise that many a good cocktail can be found in the hotel’s Café and Melody bar. The Pear’D Vanilla was a lovely well-balanced vodka and pear nectar martini while the Big Texan Bourbon magically combined grapefruit with agave and basil.

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They also have a rotating tap of craft beers and wines for those looking for something a little less bold. A seasonal menu is always available if you’re looking to have a few nibbles with the drinks. Catching a few good tunes with no kiddy distractions and reveling in each other’s company is just what the doctor ordered!

For those Masalamommas looking to explore the Queen West bounties, catch one of the over 70 art exhibitions hosted at the Gladstone hotel or sneak in a quick getaway that speaks to the artiste in you, the Gladstone is definitely worth exploring.

Stay tuned to see where we explore next!