Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pontiac, Michigan/ Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac

January 2019, Weekend, 1-night, King guestroom 1118

Sunset from guestroom 1118

Platinum perks and check-in

We decided to make this reservation last minute, and were unable to check-in on the app before we arrived shortly after 2PM. Apparently, this does not work when trying to check-in so close to the actual check-in/arrival time. I also tried to chat on the app to see if we could check in early; however, no one replied. The parking lot was pretty empty, so we did not expect any trouble getting our room early.

Inside, the agent found us a room right away, and recognized my status. I did not receive an upgraded room, although we did receive M Club Lounge Access. When she asked what kind of room I wanted, I said a club floor room. She said this hotel does not have a club floor, and that as a platinum guest I would have access to the club lounge. I guess I should have said I wanted the presidential suite! 😆 There are definitely some larger guestrooms in this hotel than the one we received.

Guestroom diagram at Auburn Hills Marriott

King guestroom 1118

This guestroom is on the top floor with a fabulous sunset view. It was chic looking and comfortable. The sleep quality was excellent, and the guestroom was clean. It slightly reminded me of Hotel Indigo, except the floor outside of the bathroom was carpeted.

Bathroom in Marriott guestroom 1118

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Muskegon, Michigan / Shoreline Inn, Rad Dad's, 18th Amendment...

December 2018, Weekend-Sunday

Sunset from Shoreline Inn penthouse suite 1011

If you follow my blog, you have probably read plenty of info the last few years about the many wonderful places to visit in Muskegon, Michigan! This is a brief post to share a bit of new information, including a few new pictures from a new room [for us] at Shoreline Inn. Be sure and click the labels at the end of this post to find additional information about areas of interest.

View from bedroom Shoreline Inn penthouse suite 1011

Ascend hotel collection member ~ Shoreline Inn, penthouse suite 1011

We redeemed points for this stay on Sunday evening between Christmas and New Years. A friend of mine told me he has difficulty finding this room type available for a Saturday night. That may because I think there are only two penthouse suites like this: 1011 and 1003. We have also stayed in suite 1009, which is on the corner like 1003 and 1011, and that suite does not have a whirlpool tub. We have not stayed in suite 1005, so I am not certain if that suite is the same as 1009. The best guestroom diagram can be found at the bottom of my blog post for suite 1009 in December 2017.

Kitchen area in Shoreline Inn penthouse suite 1011

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Chicago, Illinois / Attractions, Dining, Happy Hours...

December 2018, weekday-weekend, 2-days

Chicago, Illinois 

We spent two days walking around Chicago during our one-night stay just before Christmas. Many people think Chicago is an expensive place to visit; however, we found many low or no-cost things to do! Be sure and click the labels at the bottom of this post to find even more information from previous posts.


We took the Pere Marquette Amtrak roundtrip to/from Chicago Union Station and Grand Rapids, Michigan. The scheduled time for this trip changed a few years ago, which gives more time in Chicago. We actually prefer the previous times, although the new times work, too. It is a 4-hour train ride: 6AM - 9:08 AM from GRR to CHI, and 6:30PM - 11:34 PM from CHI to GRR. Chicago is in the central time zone, and Michigan is in the eastern time zone. We have used public transportation during previous visits to Chicago; this time, we only walked after arriving.
Pere Marquette Amtrak train
To redeem points for this Amtrak route, the cost is 1,208 points for a one-way ticket. The fare from GRR is usually usually more than the fare from CHI, so I always use points for that leg of the trip (we usually visit before we have enough points for 2 roundtrip tickets). The one-way cost from Chicago to Grand Rapids was $28 per person. Unfortunately, the AAA discount I used to get is not currently active with Amtrak. Our trip was uneventful both ways. 

Screenshot of pedway map downloaded from Internet

Free Chicago walking tours ~ underground pedway winter tour

I learned about the underground pedway system while researching activities for this trip.  I was surprised I had not heard of this before. I recognized the pedway system symbols from previous trips to Chicago, and I did not know what they meant before this trip. The tour guides are volunteers, and the tours are free (other than tips). There are more tours available in addition to the winter tour that we chose. Just do an Internet search for "free Chicago walking tours" to find them. 

Pedway sign and symbol underground

Monday, January 7, 2019

Chicago, Illinois / Westin River North

December 2018, weekend, 1-night, king executive suite #2015

River view from living room window in Westin suite #2015

Gold perks and check-in

We took the Amtrak to Union Station in Chicago from Grand Rapids, Michigan early in the morning. I was amazed when I received a notification en route telling me our room was ready at 7:30 AM! Our scheduled arrival time was 9:08 AM, and we had a tour booked for 11AM. We had anticipated having to leave our luggage with a bellman, if we could not access the guestroom before the tour.

We walked directly to the hotel after we arrived, which is about a 20-minute walk (just over a mile). The agent recognized my status and thanked me for being a loyal member. He provided club lounge hours, and he said we had been approved for 4PM late checkout.

Living room in suite 2015

King executive suite #2015

This guestroom is located on the top floor just down the hall from the executive club lounge. Looking at the guestroom diagram, 2023 looks like the only suite with a better view on this floor. Suite 2020 looks like a larger room across the hall with a similar view.

Westin River North suite 2015
This suite is spacious and comfortable. I could not find specific photos for this suite on the hotel website. When I made the reservation, the room description said: Deluxe King Suite. Details listed the room as 900 sq. ft. with club lounge access. 

Entrance foyer with closet and wet bar

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Louisville, Kentucky / Courtyard Louisville Airport

November 2018, 1-night, 2-queen guestroom 501, weekend

Gold perks and check-in

I checked in via the app with a 7:30 PM estimated arrival time, and we arrived shortly after 7:30 PM. Our room had not been assigned prior to arrival, which did not make sense to me. I mean, what is the purpose of checking in beforehand, if it does not expedite anything later? We were initially assigned a guestroom, which did not match my preferences or requests--guestroom 314, which is near the elevator, and not on the top floor. The agent had not recapped anything, so when she handed me the key packet, I asked if the room has two beds. After I looked at the room number, I inquired about a room on the top floor. I told her we had been driving all day and really wanted to get a good night's sleep. I said I would prefer a room at the end of the hall in a quiet area with no connecting door. She reassigned us guestroom 501. 
App shows complimentary upgrade, if available.
I did not choose 3:15 arrival time; that is what was shown before I changed it.
I did not receive an upgrade, and I did not ask about this. Since there were three of us, an upgrade to a larger room with two beds and a sofa certainly would have been more comfortable. Guestrooms 502 - 510 look like larger rooms that are smaller than the suites near the elevator.

Guestroom 501

Guestroom 501

This guestroom is on the top floor at the end of the hall. It has a connecting room door, and fortunately, we did not hear any noise from the room next door. 

Guestroom 501

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Orange Beach, Alabama / recreation (bike trails, parks, arts), dining, Happy Hours

November 2018, 7 nights

This post contains information about some of the places we visited by bicycle or on foot from Grand Pointe Condominiums. You can also click on the labels at the end of this post, or on the Orange Beach recreation links for 2018 and 2017  for further information about area bike rentals, trails inside Gulf State Park, Happy Hours, dining, parks, boating, and more.

Orange Beach Waterfront Park

Bicycle trails, Orange Beach Waterfront Park, Coastal Arts Center

In addition to biking and walking in Gulf State Park, we rode our bikes from Grand Pointe Condos to the bay on the north side of AL-180. There is a bicycle lane alongside Perdido Beach Blvd., and then most of the remaining route is a designated trail. We turned off Perdido Beach Blvd. onto the road to Cotton Bayou Boat Launch just east of AL-161. There is a trail from the boat launch that connects to the bicycle trail, which runs parallel to AL-161. Next, we turned toward the police station just before Al-180, and then crossed AL-180 at the crosswalk at the end of Callaway Drive. The screen shots below can be enlarged by clicking on them to view this detail.  

The turn from Perdido Beach Blvd.

The turns just south of AL-180

Orange Beach Waterfront park, located on Wolf Bay, has restroom facilities, picnic pavilions, BBQ grills, bicycle racks, a playground, and a fishing pier. There are also benches and swing seats in the grass overlooking the bay, and an area to launch canoes and kayaks. When I first looked at the canoe map in the park, I got excited because I mistakenly thought it was a bicycle trail map showing a different route we could take back. Silly me - the map clearly says "canoe" trail! I labeled our "GP" condo on the canoe map below to show where we started.

Orange Beach Canoe Trail

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Orange Beach, Alabama / Grand Pointe Condominium #605 through Liquid Life

November 2018, 7-nights, Unit 605

View of gulf and pass from unit 605
This unit has the same 3-bedroom floor plan as unit 601 where we stayed in 2017, and it is located on the same floor with a view of Perdido Pass. I had contacted the manager for the unit we stayed in the prior year, and did not hear back from him before we decided to try a different unit. The cost for unit 601 in 2018 was higher than it had been in 2017, and the cost for this unit was similar.

One of the amazing sunsets from the beach at Grand Pointe

Reservation process with Liquid Life

I liked that we were able to do everything online for this rental, including the deposit payment and making the final payment. Additionally, we did not need to send in a security deposit. The contract we signed said that if there was any damage, our credit card would be charged, and evidence/photos provided. The only uncertainty with this process, is that we did not know when they had completed checking the unit after our stay. We did not damage anything; however, there were a few minor damages and some wear when we arrived (wall gouges/damage, carpet stains, cracked fridge shelves, etc.). Since we have not had much experience with property rentals, I am still unsure what to expect. When we rented unit 601 through Alabama Getaway in 2017, we had to mail in a security deposit check, which was returned after our stay. We also had to mail in the payment, and we preferred paying online by credit card.