HELLO
Mom to Iris. Wife to Todd. Our little family lives at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We love it here and I love sharing little bits of our life.

© 2014 sarahfortune.

+

Category : Travel

March Adventures

I’m fresh off the heels of one of the busiest weeks of my job – our annual meeting. After lots of preparation, we jetted off to the beaches Hilton Head, South Carolina. While it sounds lovely (and it was), we were too swamped making sure the meeting was going as planned to truly enjoy our setting. I did manage to survive giving two presentations, one of which was an hour long of just me and a PowerPoint up at a podium. I made it back that Friday evening, just in time to keep my bags packed and hit the road bright and early Saturday to Hot Springs, Arkansas. It was my mom’s 65th birthday and she suggested an afternoon betting on the ponies at Oaklawn. Who was I to turn that down?! As exhausted as I was, it was well worth the quick trip. I even won on every race I bet on, except for one – but during that race I found 20 bucks on the ground.

After another week in the office, we were off again on another adventure the very next weekend. Our neighbors rented the sweetest, coziest little cabin in Jasper, Arkansas for the weekend and invited us along. Less than two hours from our house, it was an easy trip that forced me into a bit of needed relaxation. We even got our first (and hopefully last) snow of the season.

Now that we’re back from that little getaway, our schedule is settling down and I don’t think I’m traveling again until next month. We of course already have our annual Rosemary Beach trip booked, so I’ve already begun counting down the days. In case you’re wondering, it’s 67 days away – but not soon enough.

TRAVEL LOVE: Eureka Springs

Last week I had a long weekend from work, so we decided to do a little something different. After looking at the (amazing) weather forecast, we drove the short hour to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and spend some time wandering the winding streets. With Iris in tow, we packed a small over night bag, booked a room at the Basin Park Hotel and were on our way.

After we checked into our room, I did a quick Google search because I had heard rumors that our hotel was haunted. Before I could even finish typing “Basin Park Hotel haunted,” OUR ROOM NUMBER popped up as a search option. That’s right, we were about to spend the night in one of the most haunted rooms at the property. I don’t get spooked out by things like that, but I do like to have fun with it, so I kept an eye out all night for spirits or orbs or whatever it may be, but sadly – we had no visitors during our stay.

The location of the Basin Park is perfect for a couple of reasons. One, it’s smack dab in the middle of downtown, so once you arrive, everything is within walking distance. Also, it’s next to (obviously) Basin Park. This park just so happens to be where Todd and I got engaged oh-so-many years ago. One cold January night, we walked up to the stage that overlooks the park and he got down on one knee. Beforehand, we even had dinner at the Basin Park Hotel, but until last weekend we never had stayed the night.

As for exploring Eureka, we walked around, popping into cute little stores and candy shops. Iris LOVED finding these little Eureka Springs Rocks around town. Apparently folks paint rocks and leave them out and about for people to find, then keep or re-hide. It was a fun little game for Iris to play throughout the day and it kept her entertained. Eating brunch at Local Flavor, drinks at Brews, and dinner at Grotto, we were full and happy by the end of the day. Ready to sleep tight with the ghosts. The entire little downtown is so adorable, I found myself snapping photos at every turn, so here are some photos from our mini-getaway!

Our stay at the Basin Park Hotel

TRAVEL BLOG: 2016 In Review


2016 was my most adventurous year yet! I think January and March were the only months I wasn’t on the go. I’ve had so much fun capturing our travels and hope the adventures continue throughout 2017 and beyond. Here’s a quick roundup of every place I ventured to in 2016!

February – A work trip to Newport Beach, CA for our organization’s annual meeting.
April – Visited Heber Springs, AR for a relaxing couple of days by the river.
May – Jetted off to Minneapolis, MN for a business meeting and then to Rosemary Beach, FL for our annual family beach trip. We also squeezed in a pit stop to Birmingham, AL along the way.
June – A weekend getaway to Kansas City, MO to visit our pals.
July – Explored Tulsa, OK for a couple nights and also had a lovely weekend at The Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis, MO
August – Attended the ASAE meeting in Salt Lake City. Flew to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with my Girl Squad. Even took the train from Kansas City to Herman, MO to trolly around wine country for my good friend‘s birthday.
September – We flew to Houston, TX to explore the city. From there, we drove down to Galveston and boarded our first Carnival Cruise ship. We sailed to Progresso and Cozumel in Mexico.
October – Flew to Las Vegas, NV for another business meeting. As soon as I returned home, we took a family trip to enjoy the Little Red River again in Heber Springs
November – Attended a conference at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. We did another family road trip St. Louis and enjoyed Thanksgiving Day Brunch at the Four Seasons St. Louis. We drove a little farther north and explored Chicago for a few days.
December – And last but not least, we had fun at the Peabody Hotel in my hometown of Memphis, TN.

And what will 2017 bring? We have our classics that we’re already planning – of course our annual Rosemary Beach trip, another girls’ trip in late summer, and quite a few work trips sprinkled throughout the year. But there are some places on my wish list that I can only hope we end up this year, or at least in the near future:

Hawaii – While it’s doubtful we’ll end up there in 2017, a girl can dream. The islands will always be at the top of my list. I went once for work (all by myself) and it’s my ultimate goal to go back with Iris and Todd one day. I visited the island of Maui and it was hands-down one of the best destinations I’ve ever experienced.

Rosemary Beach, Florida – As mentioned, we go every summer and I don’t want to miss it this year. The beaches are some of the best in the continental U.S. and you better believe I’m already scoping out rental houses.

Burlington, Vermont – We’ve been throwing around the idea of staying at Hotel Vermont for our 10th wedding anniversary in August. Some of the best breweries in the world are nearby and apparently this hotels has a beer concierge that takes you around.

Los Angeles – We’ve been earning Disney points for a full year and they are about to burn a hole in my wallet. Now that Iris is older, I want her to experience Disney! I know everyone usually insists that Disney World is the way to go, but I’d love to take her to Disneyland while also exploring Southern California.

Asheville, North Carolina – Because I’ve always heard such great things (and Todd knows about their great beer scene). I think it would be fun to eat and drink our way around this new-to-us city!

New York City – One of my favorite places ever. I want to bring Iris for a Big Apple playdate in Central Park.

Mexico – This is where we’ll most likely end up for our annual Girl Squad trip. We were in Cabo last year, but we haven’t pulled the trigger on a destination this year!

All the road trips – I want to visit so many cities around us, where we can venture easily to on the weekends. Ones that maybe aren’t as obvious as vacation destinations, but that I know we can make fun. Omaha, Tulsa, Dallas, Kansas City, Hot Springs, New Orleans, Nashville – I’m looking at you.

Special thanks to all of the wonderful cities and properties that have hosted us over the year. This is been my biggest and best year of blogging yet, especially in regards to travel blogging. Have some ideas of where our family should explore next? Email me at sarahfortunegill (a) gmail so we can chat!

TRAVEL LOVE: Memphis, TN

I might be a bit biased, but Memphis, Tennessee is one of my favorite places in the world. Born and raised in Midtown, I lived there for over 20 years. Going back is always fun, as it’s interesting to see how much has changed, yet also how much is exactly the same. Though no matter how much time has passed, the city always has a special kind of history and soul that you can feel.

Just before Christmas, Todd, Iris and I drove across the Mississippi River to play tourist in my old hometown. Going home with Iris now that she’s older is such a treat. I can show her where so many of my childhood memories were made, while making new ones with her. But this trip was unlike any other visit back to Memphis. We were treated to a weekend stay at the world-famous Peabody Hotel in downtown. Growing up, I visited the Peabody many times, watching the ducks and admiring the lobby. And before the internet, I even remember having to go there once to purchase a plane ticket (an airline company had a ticket office inside the hotel). But never once did I actually make it past the lobby area to explore the rest of the property.

I am a sucker for historic charm, probably because Memphis has so much of it, and The Peabody did not disappoint. It’s a four-diamond property, so it’s very nice, yet it still embraces its history. We got in town just in time for Iris and I to enjoy “high tea” at the ultra fancy Chez Philippe restaurant inside the hotel. This was a dream come true for a 5-year-old who loves to play “tea party.” Complete with three courses of finger sandwiches, pastries, children’s tea for Iris, and champagne for me – it was kind of a dream for me too. While it is a very upscale setting, we saw several tables of little girls wearing big fancy hats, having parties of their own. If I still lived in Memphis, I know where we would be having Iris’ next birthday party.

Immediately following our tea, we got Iris geared up to be the Honorary Duckmaster that evening (I shared the full video here). This was an experience that I’m willing to bet she’ll remember forever. Standing up there in front of hundreds of people, riding with the ducks in the elevator, and ushering them to their home on the roof of the Peabody, overlooking downtown – it was beyond special. She even got to keep her Duckmaster cane, just like Oprah!


That night we had reservations at a restaurant just a block or so away, McEwen’s. But first, we stopped by Automatic Slim’s for a quick drink before supper time. Joined by my dad, sister, and a few old Memphis pals, it felt good to be back home. One of many perks to staying at the Peabody is the location – this bar was just across the street, and dinner was just another block over. Handy, dandy!

Dinner at McEwen’s was phenomenal. Not only was the food incredibly delicious, but it happens to be where Todd and I had one of our very first dates. There’s a funny story about it actually. It’s a pretty nice restaurant, so I dressed up for the occasion, attempting to wear heels for the first time in quite a while. Big mistake. I slipped and fell down on my way to the bathroom, and caught myself by lunging onto a table… a table full of folks eating their nice dinner. I was beyond embarrassed, even though Todd didn’t even see (or so he says). Coming back over a decade later, married with our five-year-old, was kind of cool. Especially since I managed to stay upright the entire time.

All of that to say, if you ever get a chance to eat at McEwen’s, do it. The menu, a mix of seafood and steak, paired with the upscale, yet relaxed vibe is a perfect combination.

Even though Friday was jam-packed with fun, Saturday was our only full day in Memphis. Wanting to grab a quick breakfast before we started our day, we visited the one and only Otherlands Coffee Bar. I worked there for years, and eventually Todd did for a little while too. In fact, this was where we first started running into each other before we started dating. Although now looking back, maybe Todd was stopping in to see me at work? I’ll have to ask him about that… Needless to say, this coffeeshop is pretty special to me.

With our bellies once again full and our hands shaking from caffeine, we met up with my old and dear friend Erin of Amelia Presents and her son Tom for a trip to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. We heard about a new interactive children’s exhibit and wanted to check it out. Situated in the heart of Overton Park (the park where I spent most of my childhood), it’s a beautiful building filled with even more beautiful pieces of work. Admission was only seven bucks for each adult, and the kiddos were free since they were under the age of seven.

After a while at the museum, we of course wanted to eat again (Memphis is pretty well known for its food after all). Hitting up another old favorite spot of mine, we ventured to the University of Memphis neighborhood to eat a little BBQ… BBQ tofu that is. I was vegetarian much of my time in Memphis (from 6th grade to about 24 years old) and I still dream about R.P. Tracks‘ mountain of BBQ Tofu Nachos. I was thankful that we got to meet up with even more old friends (and their kiddos) for lunch. We snapped some silly photos to capture the moment.

If you’ve followed our travel adventures at all, you’ve probably noticed that we make it a point to visit a new brewery in every place we visit. Memphis was no exception. This time we checked out Wiseacre Brewing in a neighborhood that has been completely revitalized since I lived there.

So what do you think we did after a couple beers? Eat again, of course! We decided to keep it easy and low-key, eating once again within walking distance of our hotel. Huey’s is another Memphis staple that is known for guests shooting toothpicks into the ceiling through their straws, and for having messages scribbled all over every inch of their walls. When I told Iris she could write her name on the wall in the bathroom, her eyes lit up like Christmas morning.

After dinner, we explored the Peabody one last time and discovered the pool located in the basement. Iris took a dip before bedtime and then we made our way back up for one last night in our room.

So we didn’t visit Beale Street or Graceland, but we did Memphis our way and had a blast. I think we’ll have to come back to do all of the more traditional tourist things, especially as Iris gets older and can appreciate them. There’s the Memphis Zoo, Botanical Gardens, The Children’s Museum, Memphis Grizzlies games, and oh so many more places to explore as a family. Thankfully, Memphis (and all of its glorious food) is just one fun road-trip away.

Thank you to the Memphis CVB and The Peabody Hotel Memphis for hosting our stay!

Thanksgiving at the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis

This year we bypassed tradition and, for the first time, spent the Thanksgiving holiday at a hotel. Nestled downtown next to the Mississippi River and the famous Arch, the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis was such a treat. I didn’t quite know what to expect or how I would feel spending such a big holiday away from home and our extended family. It was just the three of us, but we made it our own… and honestly (sorry family), I loved it.

Let me just say that I am officially sold on spending Thanksgiving at not just a restaurant, but at a restaurant in a nice hotel. There’s no turkey to baste, no dishes to clean, and no jello salad to pretend to enjoy. Just straight up, over-the-top-deliciousness and a beautiful setting to boot. It probably helped tremendously that the particular restaurant where we ate was fabulous, as was our hotel experience. An elevator ride away from our room, the Cielo Restaurant is located in the five-diamond property and did not disappoint. There were different stations – from salad (sorry, no jello) to Asian (sushi on Thanksgiving? Yes, please!), and then an entire room devoted to the traditional goods. There were people carving all sorts of meat, sweet potatoes to hoard, and stuffing to stuff. Oh, and plenty of mimosas to down. We finished it all off with a trip (or five) to the dessert table, where each little dish was unique and delish.

All in all, if you are ever considering taking a break from tradition and spending a holiday in a new place, do it. One of my most memorable Christmases was back in 2003 when I went with my mom to New York City from Washington D.C. on the Chinatown bus. Over a decade later and I still think of it every year. I have a feeling it will be the same for this past Thanksgiving. If you ever find yourself in St. Louis (or perhaps with a holiday that you want to do something a little different), check out the events that the Four Seasons offer. We took a stroll on their roof-top deck after our meal and took in the view, which already made me start thinking… I bet that’s the perfect location for the 4th of July (sorry family).

Special thanks to the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis for hosting our stay and meal! While our experience was sponsored, all opinions are my own (and I can’t wait to go back).