48 Hours in Budapest

Budapest is without a doubt one of my favorite European cities. And honestly it is hard to articulate why. It just feels different, it feels like something is waiting to be discovered. And while it is a rather large city which you could spend months exploring (someday I plan to do just that) you can easily get a good feel of the place in a short amount of time. So here is what you need to know in order to spend 48 hours in Budapest. Getting There – 48 Hours in Budapest Last week I wrote about everything you need to know about taking a train to Budapest. But obviously there are other ways to get there. The airport commonly known as Ferihegy (officially Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport) is a 24 min drive to the city center. The airport website suggesting taking a taxi, you could also rent a car for a quick trip. Public transit looks possible, thought not without at least one exchange. If you aren’t in for flying or taking the train into the city. You can also drive, hotels appeared to have parking available, though there was not a lot of public parking in the city. Or you could take FlixBus which was suggested to me by a couple European acquaintances. Staying – 48 Hours in Budapest We stayed at the Danubius Hotel Astoria, I had stayed here before and knew it was a clean safe hotel in a central location. I wrote about the hotel and my first experience in Budapest here. The second stay at the hotel was just as fun. The hotel has an excellent breakfast service and the rooms are well furnished and clean. With the exception of the toilet door handle, which fell off in my hand while my husband was out of the room. It took me nearly half an hour to catch the outside portion of the handle and free myself from the tiny room. I had to laugh since in high school we were all convinced the hotel was haunted and then this happened. Don’t worry the hotel is not haunted and is in no way creepy. There appeared to be quite a few youth hostels in the area, many in what I would consider safe parts of town. If you are of the age and looking for cheaper accommodations this could be a great option. Or if you are planning a longer stay the selection of vacation rentals look really fantastic. Things To Do – 48 Hours in Budapest The main tourist attraction to the city seems to be the Buda side waterfront which is home to Gellert Hill, Buda Castle and The Fisherman’s Bastion. You can easily see all of this if you don’t enter any of the museums on this side of the river. They are quite large (and amazing) but take up a lot of time. If you have more than 48 hours do them all, we wished we could have gone into the Citadel and the Military Museum but as we were there on boxing day everything was closed. I would suggest starting with a walk across the Liberty Bridge (Szabadság Híd in Hungarian), hike up the trails on Gellert Hill, and enjoy the views from the top, the fort at the top was shelled during the war and you can see quite a bit of damage in the walls still. From there walk back down the park toward Elizabeth Bridge (Erzsébet híd) named after Empress of Austria Elizabeth, Franz Joseph’s wife. She was instrumental in encouraging Hungarian home rule in 1867, she spent a lot of time in Hungry staying away from court life as much as possible. There is also rumor she was having an affair with a Hungarian Statesman. Once you get to the bottom walk under the bridge along the water to Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and Matthais Church. Then cross back over the river at the Széchenyi Chain Bridge built in 1849 the bridge was considered an engineering marvel, honestly it is phenomenal still. On the Pest side of the river you can find the Parliament Building, the Opera House and the Market Hall. If you are just in it for the walk and seeing the outdoors, once you cross the bridge take a left and walk along the water, you can’t miss the parliament building, from here walk away from the river to see the opera house, or catch the street car which runs along the river back toward the Liberty Bridge, ticking kiosk is across the street from the stop outside parliament. The Market Hall is probably the only thing in town best visited in the afternoon. Since this is the main source of shopping for a lot of restaurants and locals, it calms down later in the day. One of the main things I wish we had time to do was visit a bath house, they seem especially fantastic in the winter months. Because of the Roman and Turkish influence on the history and architecture of the city there are more than a couple throughout the city. The most well known is probably Széchenyi Thermal Bath and is one where woman are allowed in (not the case at every one). I had thoughts of taking everyone early on but due to timing had to trim it out. My research suggested that you bring your own towel(s) which posed a bit of a barrier for us, taking a train 3 hours with a bag of wet towels didn’t sound fun. But the bath house shares a rather large park with Vajdahunyad Castle and the Museum of fine arts so this would be a really great way to spend a day if your preferences lean this way. Eating – 48 Hours in Budapest Since we were there at Christmas we ate our main meal at the Christmas Market on Vörösmarty tér. It was exactly the eating experience I wanted and loved every second of selecting from a giant booth the Hungarian favorites I wanted to eat and then sitting outside with locals all doing the same. Goulash in a bread bowl was the favorite amongst our group but I really loved the cabbage roll with sauerkraut, sausage and a large piece of fried dough (they called it a pancake I am still searching for exactly what it was). We also ate at the Market hall for lunch which has quite a few options on the upper floor. It was suggested to me to eat at the restaurant at the Fisherman’s Bastion, but honestly it was just too crowded for us. Though if it is less crowded or if you don’t mind crowds the views are incredible. I also really wanted to try the New York Palace Cafe which is fairly close to the train station but since we were only there for one dinner we had to skip it. The main shopping areas near the river are also filled with restaurants of all flavors I doubt you will have any problem finding something delicious. Tips – 48 Hours in Budapest My biggest tip to visiting Budapest is pick the things that mean the most to you and go early. 20 years has changed the level of tourism quite a bit and it can get crowded, but getting up early allows you the chance to experience things with out the crowds of selfie takers. If you are planning on visiting Parliament, or the Opera House get tickets online and reserve a time. We didn’t know this as the website says just go to the entrance and buy a ticket, thus we didn’t get to tour, by the time we got there every tour in every language was sold out for the entire day. I would also suggest avoiding the night life. My husband ran across some articles that would suggest while locals don’t mind the flocks of tourists in their city, they do mind the partying, late nights, hubbub on the streets and general nonsense that is escalated by out of towners in their bars and clubs. We also hear a fair amount of fighting on the streets overnight which even if you aren’t involved is always best to avoid. I always like to ensure I am not a pest when I travel and this includes staying out of the way of locals and not causing trouble. Additionally avoiding public transit during commuting hours, coffee shops and lunch stops during times that would be rushed with locals as well as making sure to learn a few pleasantries in the local language. This is especially important in a country where English is not as prevalent. You really can’t go wrong this any amount of time in Budapest and what I have learned from both my visits is you will always find more to do, and always be tempted to come back for longer next time. That being said due to how the city is laid out you can see quite a bit in a short amount of time and have a really great 48 hours in Budapest.  
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Jacksonville Oregon

Jacksonville Oregon is a small historic town just a little under 48 miles north of the California border. Situated near enough to Ashland and Grants pass that you could make a nice weekend visiting some charming old southern Oregon towns, or make it a longer trip and drive up to Crater Lake which is only a two hour drive. History of Jacksonville Oregon Jacksonville Oregon was officially founded by 1852, a small settlement that quickly boomed when gold was discovered in the area. It was also home the Oregon’s first Chinatown, populated with former residents of San Francisco who had moved up to the area following the prospects of gold. Sadly like most of Oregon’s historic towns, the mines ran out, and the gorgeous town centers that were built are left behind when the trains stop running. In the case of Jacksonville in 1884 the train bypassed the town entirely. Supplies were too difficult to bring in, and without the mining income most residents left. Jacksonville Oregon Today Luckily for us fans of historic buildings the town was never entirely abandoned. In 1963 a Portland Orchestra  Conductor was visiting the area in the hopes of locating a place to play music in the summer. A site was selected, on the land of former resident Peter Britt, for it acoustic qualities and beautiful surroundings. Ever since then the British Arts and Music festival or Britt Fest is held in the small town, brining some world class music to the small southern Oregon community. Visiting Jacksonville Oregon When I visited it was only for an afternoon and not during Britt Fest. I was there for lunch and to check out some of the superb shopping that the town has managed to maintain thanks to its appeal to the tourist types that like charming old buildings and quaint little shops. There isn’t a lot of parking in the small downtown, but plenty in the residential parts of town. There is also a historic trolley that will pick you up from the public parking lot and take you all over town. We strolled the town, went into every shop and had a nice lunch before taking off right around the time it got really busy. Just perfect for me. Since Jacksonville Oregon is such a small town it isn’t necessarily a destination on its own, especially if making the 6 hour drive from the Portland area, but is a must see if already in the area and will nicely round out a wine or hiking trip what ever flavor suits you best.
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Hot Lake Hotel

The last stop on our summer road trip through Eastern Oregon was Hot Lake Hotel. We didn’t stay there, though I know people who have. I just wanted to tour it now,  in the off chance the rumors of changing owners came true. I am so glad I did as the owner was lovely and accommodating, for a small fee which came with unlimited coffee we got a grand tour of the once hospital turned resort.  It gives off serious Miss Havisham vibes in the best possible way (if you don’t know who that is you best go read Charles Dickens novels now).

History of Hot Lake Hotel
Well before any modern day structure existed on this spot of land just outside La Grande, Oregon the native people of the area were well acquainted with the  spot which is known for its mineral hot springs. The area was well documented by Washington Irving in his recordings of the Astor expedition in 1812.  And for many years leading up to the building of the hotel it was used as a trading post between natives and recent settlers and those passing through in search of gold. The trading post still exists on the grounds today and is included in the tour. 

The first incarnation of the Hot Lake Hotel was built in 1864 in the Colonial Revival style. At the time of the original construction the hotel operated as a multi business complex complete with post office, blacksmith, barber shop, spa, bathhouse as well as other small businesses.

In 1904 the original structure was demolished and John V Bennes (whose name is also attributed to the Geiser Grand Hotel) started construction of the Georgian style structure you mostly see today. With 105 guest rooms, 60 surgical bed and a 1,500 person ballroom.

When Hot Lake Hotel opened it opened as a luxury resort and sanitarium, advertising the healing properties of the sulfur rich water to cure what ever ails you. Unfortunately in 1934 half the hotel burned. The glorious beginnings of this luxury spa were not seen again as it was used as a retirement home, asylum and a nurses training station during WWII. The building was abandoned in 1991, even though it had been added to the National Registered of Historic Places in 1979.

In 2003 the building was purchased by David Manuel a rather well known bronze statue artist in the Pacific North West. He and his family worked for two years in order to open it back up to the public, and continue to work on it now. Today it operates as a bed and breakfast, spa and restaurant as well as a museum of native and munitions artifacts which is the private collection of Mr. Manuel.
Experiencing Hot Lake Hotel
It is important to remember when visiting Hot Lake Hotel where it started when it was last bought, and that the restoration work was done with private funds. This is not a billion dollar restoration project done by a team of professionals. This was a restoration project done with money raised privately and done as a family because they loved the building so much. As such you will see it is an eclectic mix of furnishings and styles.

As a part of a the tour or as a paying guest of the hotel you will be offered the chance to view a video put together by the owners detailing some history of the building but more importantly the history of the family and the work they put into the restoration. I would highly suggest taking them up on the viewing.

There are several floors of rooms, and each floor as seating areas both inside and outside. There are also several museum type rooms in the guest room section of the building that provide information regarding the surgical suites and exercise facilities that used to be on site. And of course there is the onsite spa, both indoor and outdoor pools offer up a cooler version of the mineral waters that exist in the area for your soaking pleasure. The cooler part is important to note as the small lake in front of the hotel that is fed directly from the underground hot sprints is so hot it will disintegrate bone, best not go swimming in it directly.

There have been rumors of hauntings, though I did not experience anything odd while there. The owners are reluctant to say much about it, but that isn’t surprising when you meet them. They just aren’t the type to suffer that type of rumor or gossip.  I did not stay at the hotel myself, it was just a stop off on the way home. But if I was out in the area for a night I most certainly would spend the night at Hot Lake Hotel. I do not mind the slightly rambling and mismatched décor. I am quite frankly never looking for a 5 start resort. Just a clean place to stay with nice folks running the place. The interesting history is of course a huge bonus.

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Geiser Grand Hotel

The Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City is a place I have been dreaming of visit for probably over a decade. A chance scanning of an Oregon travel magazine in a waiting room left me gawking at the interior shots and gorgeous stained glass ceiling of this hotel. I may have stolen the magazine from the waiting room (this was before I owned a cell phone that took decent pictures). So when I planned the road trip this last summer I knew this hotel was on the list, truth be told I planned the entire trip around three hotels I wanted to visit (Frenchglen, Idaho Hotel and Geiser Grand).

History of Geiser Grand Hotel
The Geiser Grand Hotel opened in 1889, designed by John Bennes in the Italianate Victorian Style. Bennes is responsible for a number of buildings in Oregon including 35 on the University of Oregon campus, as well as the Hollywood Theater in Portland and the Liberty Theater in Astoria (both incredibly gorgeous and still working theaters).
The hotel was build during the Oregon Gold Rush and as such saw its fair share of incredibly wealthy and incredibly shady characters throughout its history. In 1968 the hotel closed and in 1993 it was reopened after an enormous restoration effort which brought the hotel back to life with historic fixtures, paint colors and furnishings. Including an enormous research process to design and remake the stained glass ceiling which had long since been destroyed in a hail storm.

Hauntings of the Geiser Grand Hotel
For those of you interested in the paranormal the Geiser Grand Hotel has had numerous spectral sightings. Which include a young girl, a saloon dancer, a cowboy, a headless chef, and a lady in blue. A quick internet search will bring you all kinds of confessions of sightings and even information about a ghost hunters type crew that camped out set on finding definitive evidence of the hauntings.

For those of you not interested in the paranormal I can tell you without a doubt that I experienced nothing but a stellar stay and an excellent nights sleep.

Out Stay at the Geiser Grand Hotel
I was so thrilled to finally be experiencing this incredible historic hotel, I was on cloud nine the entire stay. It probably helped that I hadn’t had a decent shower in a couple days or a very great bed in the last couple days. I was beat.

I wandered around the hotel for a good while snapping pictures and seeing that all the hotel had to offer. A reading/game room, a gym, a dining room and a store were all on premises. And the store even had movies for rent that could be played in the room.
Once I had sufficiently went everywhere I could without risking  ejections from the hotel, we got ready for dinner. We chose not to eat at the hotel because I had found a steak house in Haines that looked like a hoot. But we returned with full bellies, dessert to go and settled in for a couple movies. This was the first time we had decent wi-fi all week so we picked a few Netflix movies and streamed them from bed.

The rooms are absolutely stunning, well decorated, large windows and gloriously tall ceilings make the rooms seem palatial. The beds and pillows were superb, I don’t think I have had a better nights sleep since. We had breakfast in the dining room and then set off toward Portland. All in all I give the Geiser Grand Hotel 5 stars, beautiful, historic, comfortable, interesting history, and no actual ghost encounters.

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Silver City and The Idaho Hotel

The absolute best thing I did this year was spend the night in a ghost town. Silver City and the Idaho Hotel are truly a treasure of American history and the old west. I cannot wait until next summer so I can make the grueling 500 mile drive back to spend more than just a night in Owyhee Mountains, it is well worth the drive.
History of Silver City and The Idaho Hotel
Silver city was a mining town, mostly silver but some gold as well. It was a very bustling town in the 1800s with a population of 2,500 it boasted 75 businesses and was the county seat until 1934. In the late 1880s one of the largest stage coach lines in the west operated through the area and in the 1890s electricity was brought to the area. It was even once considered one of the four major settlements in the Idaho Territory.

However about the time that Idaho officially become a state the mines were depleted and people slowly moved out of the area. The electricity was removed and rerouted to a nearby airbase and due to its remote location the city was left largely abandoned.

It was never entirely abandoned though, descendants of original settlers and intrepid mountain folk have keep the spirit of the place alive through handwork and a love of the unique site. Several families maintain houses in the area, returning each summer once the mountain roads are open again to spend their summers in the solitude of the quite community. During the open season there are several events to help raise funds to pay for a winter  watchman who spends the winters in the cold mountains accessible only by snowmobile until the weather turns each year.

The Idaho Hotel was originally build just down the road in Ruby city, but in 1866 Rudy City lost the county seat and so the Idaho Hotel and many other buildings in town were dismantled, loaded on sleds and moved up the river to Silver City. In 1868 the popular hotel got running water, making the stay for those in town on business with the county much more comfortable. By 1889 a gambling hall, barroom, kitchen, bathrooms, and billiards parlor were all completed with hand milled woodwork from local craftsman. And by 1898 a five story addition was completed which included two stories of rooms, a dining room and a basement with storage tunnel beneath the hotel connecting to the mining shaft.
In 1942 due to the city losing the county seat, its power lines and the mines being shut down the hotel was closed and soon fell to disrepair. But In the 1972 Edward Jagels bought the Idaho Hotel which had been previously abandoned 30 years prior and began the slow process of restoring the old hotel. The current owners bought the hotel from Ed in 2001 and continue to operate the hotel and restore it.
Getting to Silver City and the Idaho Hotel
I won’t lie to you and say getting to Silver City is easy. Even if you don’t live several hundred miles away it is still quite the adventure. Today the city sits on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, so the roads are somewhat maintained. I say somewhat because yes there are roads, but you need a four wheel drive vehicle with plenty of clearance to get there safety. I was told the fire department is dispatched several times a summer to rescue folks who have gotten themselves stuck. Before you embark on your trip be sure to have written directions, a map and a compass. You will not have cell service or GPS satellite.

If coming from the Oregon side, when you leave Jordan Valley, it is a left at the first fork where you leave the pavement behind in favor of a gravel road. You will encounter three more forks in the main road, but with no road sign to follow. The first fork is a right (there is a sign for Silver City here), the second a left (a sign for a mining company) and the third is a right ( at the public restroom). The Oregon approach is by far the harder of the two, the roads are in much worse condition. From the Idaho side, take the main road up from the main highway continue left at the public restroom and you will be there in no time. We came from the Oregon side having driven over from the Frenchglen Hotel.

Visiting Silver City and the Idaho Hotel
There are several events throughout the season in the area, mostly to help raise funds to pay for building repairs and the winter watchman. The area usually opens in late May around Memorial Day Weekend and stays open until the first snow. The main event is the open house which takes place two weekends after Labor Day every year, where local families open their houses for the public to walk around and learn about the town. There are also holiday celebrations for the 4th of July and Labor Day.

We went for the sheer joy of staying in and exploring a ghost town and spent our time either hiking around or chatting it up with the hotel owners. It may have been summer, but it was the beginning of summer and it was cold. At six thousand feet above sea level, the snow had barely cleared from the  mountain passes and it had been snowing the day before we arrived. We didn’t see any ourselves, but it was raining a bit when we got there. After checking in and being shown to our room, one of four with a working heater, we put on as much of the clothing as we had packed as possible and set out to walk around.

Every building in town is privately owned so exploring was done with utmost respect. We wandered around the roads, which are more four-wheel tracks than anything. And found ourselves at the top of the ridge overlooking the hotel where the school and church buildings are. Both of which were closed. Had we visited during the open house week however, we would have been able to go inside.

There are several building for sale at present, one of which is the masonic building that spans the small creek that runs through town. However no bank will ever loan money to buy buildings in town (as confirmed by the hotel owner) so individuals looking to own a heavenly slice of this secluded town must bring cash offers, plus plenty of money to help restore the old buildings.

After walking every road in town, talking to everyone we came across, and making our way up to the cemetery for a little look around. We wandered back to the hotel, where I couldn’t resist a little look around, largely with my cell phone operating as a flash light since the small solar power grid only provides very weak LED lighting and not every room is wired.  I respectfully did not wander up to the third floor even though I was dying to see it, and also a little spooked thus a tad relieved to see the sign not to go up the stairs. After our look around we went back to our room cranked the heat, broke out the cheese and crackers and watched a downloaded episode of the Ted Bundy story on Netflix.

Since the power lines were diverted to the airbase many years ago, and given the lack of cell service we knew going in that if we wanted to watch anything we would need to download it ahead of time. We also knew we would need to have fully charged devices and backup batteries. Upon checking in the owners will remind you of the sensitivity of their solar power grid, long story short don’t even think about plugging in a phone or a hair dryer. You would kill the power to the entire hotel. And since the hotel is the only place in town to eat, you would be effectively ruining any chance of getting fed during your stay.  You would probably also be asked not to return.

At the appointed time we made our way down to the main dining room which leans ever so slightly outward so while eating dinner you feel a bit like standing on a cliff. The dining room is likely no different than it was in its heyday, a little rough and tumble flanked by a gorgeous hand plained bar on one side and antique shelves covered in artifacts from the town.  A veritable museum of the towns history which was thankfully heated by a gigantic cast iron wood stove in the center. It was the warmest part of the hotel and we wound up staying quite a while during both dinner and breakfast chatting with the owners and their daughter.  A couple hours after we had finished our dinner a group of locals made their way to the dining room and we made a graceful exit back to our room. The diner was delicious and huge, we were tired and stuffed so we went back to watching our downloaded Netflix and settled in for the night.

We had zero encounters with things that go bump in the night. The daughter of the hotel owners ensured me that never once had she experienced anything weird in the hotel. I felt 100 percent safe and comfortable the entire time. But that doesn’t mean I was thrilled to have to use the restroom in the middle of the night which was outside our room and down a very long, dark, freezing cold hallway. When morning came, despite the constant running of our heater (we got one of the few rooms with heaters) the windows were frosted over, and our truck had to be de-iced. We once again made a mad dash in all our clothes down to the dining room to fill up on hot coffee and stand around the stove.

We chatted with the owners more after breakfast, getting a tour of found objects in the area, like these opium bottles with intact labels. We learned all about the history of the town and the hotel. We got to hear funny stories about locals and what it was like growing up there. We listened with rapt attention to stories about renovations, brining ovens and fridges up to the hotel in the dead of winter on sleds. And thankfully unfounded evacuation plans during fire season. We were both reluctant to leave, feeling kindred spirits with this lovely family whose seasonal life and cautionary tales reminded us both so much of the fishing season. The migration every year, the off the grid lifestyle, the characters you meet and the friends that become your family. It felt like home and it was difficult to pull our selves away. But our long drive ahead and the trepidation of meeting tourists coming up the hill on the narrow roads finally motivated us to head down the mountain.

The drive down was blissfully easier on the Idaho side, though marked by the occasional traveler the road was much wider and entirely covered in crickets. Big super jumpy fat Morman Crickets which were clearly in their swarm phase. A couple times we wanted to get out and take pictures of the views but the fact that they were jumping close to two feet in the air kept us locked in the cab the entire way down the mountain.

We ended our ghost town adventure with smooth sailing north through Idaho to cross over to Baker City Oregon for the night. While our stay there was much more luxurious I will always prefer the adventure and sense of belonging from places like Silver City and the Idaho Hotel. I hope to make my way back next year, hopefully later in the sumer for a couple nights so I can make use of the ample hiking in the area.

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Frenchglen Hotel

I can’t recall how I heard about the Frenchglen Hotel but it was years ago and I was entirely enamored with the idea of a historic hotel, so significant it was protected and run directly by state employees. I also loved the idea that guests ate family style with the rest of the guests at a specific time. It seemed so quaint and easy. And it was.

Frenchglen today is an unincorporated community in Harney County sitting at the foothills of the Steens Mountain. It sits next to some of Peter French’s original landholdings. After Peter French was killed the secretary  of his  company took over P Ranch and sold off some of the land the pay off debts. In 1906 P Ranch and Diamond Ranch were sold, and then partnership of a portion of this was sold 1916 to the owner of the  Swift Meatpacking Company.

The hotel was built in 1924 to house guest who were in the area to do business with the Swift Meatpacking Company.  As it was quite an organization and in 1924 it took more than a few hours to reach this remote part of Oregon.
For a few years in the 1930s Frenchglen also operated a school, which taught children of local ranchers though it has since closed. In 1934 The Department of Fish and Wildlife owned and restored the hotel, while also expanding it a bit. In 1959 the hotel got electric power, and in 1973 Oregon Parks and Recreation Department took over the property. In 1984 it was official added to the National Register of Historic Places, and ever since then the eight room hotel (plus a newly built overflow hotel) has been operated by the state department.

Staying At Frenchglen
To book reservations you need to call the hotel directly, they are a small staff and don’t always answer the phone. But they are rather good about calling back so if you miss them leave a message.
If you are looking for a nicer more modern accommodation I would suggest asking for a room at Drovers Inn (the overflow building) but in truth if you are all the way out here you probably aren’t that picky. The rooms in the hotel are modestly decorated with historic pictures, and antiques.

They do have running hot water, clean shared bathrooms (private single use but shared with all guests) and offer family style dinners as well as made to order breakfast during a couple set hours in the morning. They do have electricity and Internet but no television.

Things to Do at Frenchglen
There is an enormous about of things to do directly in the area. For one the hotel sits literally across the street from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. We started out to explore it before we took off in the morning and got eaten alive by mosquitoes in about 2 min. Bring lots of bug spray.

It is also a short drive to the Diamond Craters and Round Barn to the north and the Alvord Desert to the south. Heading south is also the road to go up into the Steens for a hearty amount of hiking, though sadly the roads were still closed from the late snowfall. The Steens is also home to several historic ranches which have since been abandoned and can be explored by foot if you can find them.

Exploring Frenchglen
Frenchglen itself is little more than the hotel and a few houses for people who work in the area. We spent a few minuets walking around taking pictures while we waited for the gas station to open.

The gas station is actually worth seeing the women who runs it has been in the process of fixing it up to provide tourists in the area a few amenities. She has included some basic groceries for camping or hiking. Some local antiques for sale and a sweet little coffee shop that I wished we had time to hang around in. But we had a long drive ahead of us and needed to get our gas and hit the road.
We had an absolute blast at the Frenchglen Hotel. And I am most certainly returning to stay here and explore the area in more detail. My favorite thing about the entire experience was that for one short night all the guests felt like a little family. We sat down at enormous wooded benches in the small front room, passed the dishes around, learned about each other, caught one another up on what we saw and did and everyone walked away with more idea and an urge to return.

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Burns Oregon

I get the feeling that most people who haven’t spent a lot of time in Oregon thing that the entire state looks like the coast and the central Valley around Portland. But the truth is, the majority of the state sits in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range. Meaning everything east of Mt.Hood, south down to California all the way to Idaho is pretty much just high desert. Burns Oregon sits two and half hours east of the Cascades in the beautiful wide open plains of Harney County.

When driving in from the west you will hit Hines first to a new comer like me there didn’t seem to be much of a distinction from one to the other but I did straight away notice this incredible abandoned art deco building. I couldn’t find anyone who new what this used to be, but I would love nothing more than to turn it into something. It was so startling compared to the modest homes and small local park that surrounded it.

Burns OregonBurns and Hines together make up 60 percent of the population of Harney county, which isn’t to say how big the two towns are, rather it illustrates how sparsely population the area is. At just a little over four thousand people in both towns you can literally drive for hours and not see another car. Cattle Ranching, high quality horses and agriculture are the main industries in the area. And like most small towns in Oregon it has a lively local scene.
Things to DoMost of the things to do in the area consists of outdoor exploration, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sweetest little shop Robin’s Closet. We stumbled onto it while need to take a driving break to stretch our legs.

Robin herself was working the day we went in and she was just living breathing kindness. She told us all about the area and her shop which has this incredible historical mural along one wall. I could have stared at it for hours.

The shop provided basically everything a girl could want or need plus cute little home items, candles, and some snack products. We spent more time in the shop than we probably should have but we were so impressed with the selection. I grew up in small town and I recall how difficult it was to find cute clothes to wear without having to drive to a city. I kept thinking how lucky all the local ladies were to have such a darling place to pop into any time they wanted.
StayWhile we were not leaving Robin’s Closet, Robin told us all about the renovations occurring in the small town. Recently the Central Hotel was renovated and provides both boutique rooms and a small music venue. The hotel website provides pictures of all the stunning rooms and a very nice run down of various places to eat and things to do in the area.

We were unfortunately only in town to break up our drive but I would really like to make my way back there one day and really experience Burns Oregon. It was a really sweet little place with lots of up and coming potential. After visiting with Robin and checking out a couple antique shops we hit the road. We were on a bit of a time schedule and had a lot of ground to cover before our next stop at the Round Barn.

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Why I chose to detox my life

Oregon Garden Resort

When I think of travel I often feel like I have to go somewhere hard to get to in order to feel like I have seen something. But that isn’t the case, and that is in part why I started this blog. There is always something to see in your own back yard, or at least within a couple hours drive of your backyard. And so over the last couple years I have tried to make it a point to see as much of the state of Oregon as possible. It really is a remarkable state. So in keeping with this theme, this past spring we visited the Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton Oregon.  Oregon Gardens Hotel The Oregon Garden Resort calls this state its home, as does the town of Silverton which is a charming little place that shouldn’t be over looked. The hotel sits on 80 acres of immaculately manicured gardens. It includes a rather large lodge, outbuilding rooms for privacy, event space, a green house, The Gordon House and the gardens.The resort is built in the craftsman style but decorated in a bit of a 90s take on the style. It’s not bad by any means, just a tad dated but comfortable and relaxing. Oregon Gardens When we visited in was still quite cold but spring was starting to make its presence so we made a point to walk around the expansive Oregon Gardens which the hotel sits on. It incredibly well manicured hosting several water features, various types of small forests which you can hike around and a couple green houses.  The green houses were my favorite, partially because of all the beautiful orchids that were blooming but also because it was so cold the morning we chose to walk around it was the only place where I could thaw my hands on the far side of the property. The entire place would be absolutely stunning closer to summer and offers quite a few actives to children and families during the warmer months.  Amenities Aside from the gardens and the Gordon House the hotel offers up a few other treats as well. Yoga classes hosted in the main lodge on the weekends which are free to guests, I thoroughly enjoyed the class. Free breakfast which is a very impressive spread of both hot and cold options hosted in the main dining room which has a view of the gardens, and dear while I was there. There are two restaurants, the main dining and the pub both of which have great food as well as event spaces.  I very much enjoyed our stay at the Oregon Gardens Resort, it was a nice mix of amenities and things to do without feeling overwhelmed or guilty for missing out on things in favor of exploring the area which is a really charming town full of delicious restaurants and great antique stores.
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Ojai Valley Inn

I don’t get a lot of chances to stay in truly luxurious places. Based on my interests and the type of travel I like to do (more discovery oriented) I don’t prefer to spend all my money on a nice place to stay. Not that they aren’t wonderful, but when I travel I would rather go and do than sit and relax. But if you are a sit and relaxer, if luxury and never leaving the resort you are staying at is the type of travel you yearn for then the Ojai Valley Inn is the place for you. Location The Ojai Valley Inn sits in the western side of the Ojai Valley in Ventura County California. A short drive south from Santa Barbara and a slightly longer drive north from Los Angeles. The valley was originally populated by the Chumash Indians but in 1837 the land was granted to a cattle rancher through a Mexican land grant. Later in 1874 the land was developed into a town called Nordhoff by a wealthy business man of the same name. The town became a popular destination for individuals seeking mild weather for a variety of medical conditions and eventually became a popular place for wealthy mid-westerns to  winter over.  One such mid-westerner was Edward Drummond Libbey a wealthy glass merchant who bought up much of the rustic town and developed it as well as the country club that would later become the Ojai Valley Inn. In 1917 the renovations were complete and the town was renamed Ojai. Today it is a quiet town filled with artistic types and a common tourist destination for the rich and famous, boasting music and artists markets nearly every weekend as well as excellent hiking.  History The hotel was built in 1923 at the expense of Libbey. It like most of the town is built in the Spanish Colonial style. The architecture remains the same today but over the years it transformed from country club, to filming site (Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon) as well as a military training center for first the US Army and then the US Navy. In 1947 it turned back to private hands and was restored to a hotel and golf course. However it was fully renovated in 2004 to the beauty it is today.    Experience There is a lot to see and do in Ojai, but I will cover that in other posts as we visit the area quite often. But the resort itself has quite a bit to keep one occupied if you had no interest in exploring the little town of Ojai itself.  The resort is huge, you are delivered to your room via chaffered golf cart and the resort provides bikes to anyone who wishes to use them as it can take quite a while to walk from one end to the other, especially if you choose to walk the loop around the golf course.  The rooms them selves are huge and very luxurious, bathrobes, espresso machines, ipads, bathtubs big enough to swim in and balconies overlooking the mountains. I didn’t really want to leave the room, but we were in the area for a reason and had more important things to do than lay around (this is why I don’t stay in really nice hotels I get lazy).  The rooms are all situated in a variety of building spread across the expansive campus which also hosts five restaurants, ten event spaces, tennis, golf, the nicest workout building I have ever seen and a pool. As well as extensive actives for people off all ages from the artists cottage that hosts classes, to beekeeping demonstrations, horseback riding, culinary classes, wellness and nutrition classes, an outdoor camp for kids, the list goes on.  If you were to visit the Ojai Valley Inn you would really never have need to leave it given the extensive list of ongoing and ever changing events. The weather in the area is nearly perfect year round, the setting is beautiful and the people that work there are constantly striving to make everyone’s stay as wonderful as possible. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and I am so happy we had a chance to experience it. 
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Lodging Taxes

If you have ever had to itemize a hotel bill for an expense report you will know that the United States has lodging taxes attached to hotels. Fun fact, it is not legally required in every state. I must have been “lucky” to have traveled to all the states that require it as I swear I spent more time trying to work my expense report than I did at the conference I was sent to.

But we Americans are not the only ones with this tax. The hotel tax, or value added tax (VAT for short), is fairly common in Europe. London for example has a 20% tax on lodging, Germany I believe is 7% in some spots and 19% in others.

Since I often don’t stay in hotels and instead opt for short term apartment rentals the VAT’s aren’t quite as high.  I think when we last stayed in Austria we only paid an extra dollar a night. But we did have to fill out a temporary residency card which was turned in to the police by the management team along with our taxes. This isn’t anything weird I promise! I had to do it while I was there for school as well.

However when I am doing a more hop and go type trip I have since decided to not worry about the taxes. It is just a given travel expense for the most part. If you would like to learn more about them and perhaps like to try to save some money by applying for refunds below are a few resources I have found around on the internet.

The point here really is to know your expenses. Lodging taxes can add up quickly and become a significant portion of your travel budget if you aren’t careful. Additionally many locations can appear cheap only to charge you taxes you weren’t aware of when you arrive at your stay. Even if you aren’t worried about a few extra dollars here and there it is good to understand why you are being charged and where that money is going.

Have you ever tried to get refunds for VATs? Or do you also just let them slide and write them off as a normal travel expense?

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