Familiarity Means Comfort When Traveling

I like familiarity and dependable places when I travel....which I've done a lot of over the years for business and pleasure. I visit California and Michigan frequently; so I'm happy to know front desk staff whom I can call and just say "I'm coming" when I need to book a room. They have my information, reward numbers, credit card and preferences...and honor my loyalty with low rates and room choices.

There's more....the Ventura Airport Shuttle at LAX has delivered me safely for ten years and I'm delighted when I have the same drivers time after time. James refers to the women aboard as M'lady and usually prefers the Pacific Coast Highway route over the freeways. The Budget Rental Car facility at Detroit Metro Airport also has regular shuttle drivers who ask about a family member or if I want a red SUV again. Imagine....big city airports, thousand of people coming and going daily and shuttle drivers recalling your background!  If you're a people person....this is what you do; dedicated workers who enjoy their jobs.

I visit Ventura's Pierpont Beach area, staying 3-4 times a year at the Marriott Beach Resort Hotel.
Most of the staff have been in place for a decade; same housekeepers, restaurant servers and managers. My favorite thing about this hotel? We could ride our bikes right into the hotel and into our room! I can ride for miles along the promenade to connecting parks and beaches; or go in the opposite direction to eat and browse at the harbor shops. There's an outdoor pool where our granddaughters and I can order drinks and snacks, a larger-than-usual workout room and the full-service Pacifico Restaurant and Lounge. We've memorized menu favorites over the years, and often one of our server 'friends' knows just what we'd like. If it's the same chef at breakfast time; he sees me coming....'aha' the woman who likes a plain omelet, well done with no salt!

In Detroit, I rent a car and head across the state to my hometown..."Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo!" Here's where we went to college, married, found our first jobs and had both our kids...it's home. For as far back as I can remember, we've loved the Best Western Inn and Suites on the west side of town. Roomy space for bringing along a few grandkids; each room has a pull-out sofa in addition to two queens or a king. Some rooms  have a closed-door bedroom for privacy or early-to-bedders and a front room that holds the television, sofa and small kitchen area. This location is currently undergoing room renovations and upgrades; I peeked into a few and was impressed; the workmen have gone down to bare bones and are completely redoing each one.

I consider the staff here good friends. My usual housekeeper is Sue, always sweet and efficient. Numerous times she's tracked me down to return items I left behind; one time an armload of hanging clothes! Luckily I was still in the comfy lobby waiting for a ride. Another time it was my paperback book; and last month, she turned in my old worn pajama bottoms to lost-and-found. I retrieved them the next day a bit embarrassed; but I looooove these flowered, baggy sleepers.

The front desk folks are the best. Manager Steve and Assistant Manager Debra are warm and approachable...you can tell they enjoy this place too! Debra has heard my life story, met my husband and kids and enjoys reading my blog. Steve does what we principals call walkabouts...checking the TV volume, business center, stairwells, pool area and nooks and crannies throughout the building.  He stops and engages with everyone large, small and furry and readily offers solutions for any concerns. The friendly ladies who prepare breakfast in the mornings keep it well stocked and attractive. I bypass the hot meals for freshly cut fruit and yogurt....but indulge in half and half for my coffee and an occasional sweet roll sometimes! This is my home away from home; this feels like family.

These are just two of the favorites places I recommend to folks every chance I get. There's also the Fairfield Inn in Livonia, Michigan.....near Laurel Park Mall where I can meet girlfriends.  All the years I've stayed there...sometimes just once a year...I always love visiting with Sharon; the one in charge of breakfast! She's been there through numerous renovations and managements! How comforting to come down for coffee and see her familiar face.

There have been great stays at larger hotels around the country; The Row Hotel in NYC's theater district, the Loews Hotel (formerly the Graves 601) across from the ballpark in Minneapolis, the Hyatt Regency along the river in downtown Chicago.....even the Holiday Inn in the Rocks section of Sydney, Australia. These were one-time visits but memorable experiences that left good impressions.

If you're attending business workshops or conferences, you'll stay at a designated place that's usually pretty cool! But on your own, research the vast variety, read the small print and seek suggestions from friends. I also call and talk to the concierge or front desk manager before I decide. These folks have local knowledge about safety, walkability and current events that may interest you. My stay in New York last fall began with a hug from a new friend....the handsome concierge who recalled chatting with me!
 I have to say it feels really good when traveling to arrive at your destination where someone offers welcoming arms and are genuinely glad to see you again. Thank you dear friends.

Why I Got Rid of My Husband's Things

After I made the decision to sell the house; I began looking at everything as a keeper or a give-away.
Most of my things will be sold or donated and when I'm relocated, I'll get whatever I need for a new beginning. But three things that mostly belonged to my husband are now gone...and here's why.

Even though he's deceased, I still ask his opinion and sure enough, he always guides me in making good choices. His favorite things are all in loving new places making someone else happy! This morning it was....

Our Cat:

Burney now lives with my sister. I took him down the road to her large, rambling house in a wooded lot. He's been an indoor cat ...but she'll let him roam outside as soon as he's comfortable with her and his aging canine cousin.
 I've never been a pet person. I learned to care about cats from my husband.....almost 50 married years with them in our lives. After our last one passed away, he decided one more cat was needed. He and Burney became best buds, but this black-and-white ball of fur quickly became mine as we both grieved in this lonely house. I'm thankful he snuggled with me on cold winter nights and entertained the kids by swiping and swaping toys, but now he'll have a much livelier life playing with a Golden Retriever and getting constant attention from my cat loving sister. Best of all, the grandkids can see both their favorite pets in one visit.

After a successful garage sale last month, I looked around and thought, how can I make this space hold two cars again? Make it more appealing for potential buyers?

The Workbench:

My son-in-law's parents recently moved from their home a few states away to our neck of the woods here in the south. One thing his father still needed? A workbench! This 18 year old make-it/fix-it/store-it spot was my husband's go-to place for everything. Paint stained and nicked from wayward saws, it was often cluttered with groceries, balls and just-in-case junk until it was cleared and cleaned again. The cupboards held seasonal things and the pegboard made it handy to grab tools while reaching across my big SUV. We stored our Holiday decoration containers underneath; but in it's new home.....the homemade workbench now has spiffy new shelves to hold garage treasures. My kids are certain their Dad is smiling down on his old friend getting a new lease on life!

The Family Painting:

First to go was this original oil painting from the early 1900's. It hung on the wall of the lake house where he grew up; painted by an ancestor and already decades old when we married. We had several pieces of Oliver Chaffee and his wife, Ada Gilmore's work. The only one that mattered was this nautical scene of the coastal town in Collioure, France. It was perfect for our years living on inland lakes, then near the beach on the Atlantic.
 Hanging alongside our big screened TV, I found myself staring at it one night instead of the shows I watched to take my mind off money worries. Do the kids and I still want it? Was there a buyer or museum that would appreciate this valuable piece of art? Researching potential interest, I found it was either the famed Provincetown art colony or our hometown in Michigan...also Ada's hometown! I'm delighted it's now in good hands and I can visit it when I'm settled back home.

Do you sense the timing? The positive outcomes? How my husband's help from above made everything work out for the best? I'm becoming stronger and more confident I know, but still....it's good to know he has my back from afar.