Category Archives: Reviews

Best Western Suites Near Opryland

Best Western Suites near Opryland
201 Music City Circle
Nashville , Tennessee
37214-1220, United States
Phone: 615/902-9940

I needed to make hotel reservations for a trip to Nashville, TN for the end of October 2016. I remember that Best Western had been good to me previously, so I checked them out.

The web site is easy to use and understand and after looking at hotel sites directly (because I am a member of all the rewards programs), they were the better price in a good area of town. I made the reservation for the day I was confident I would need it, with the chance I may need to add a day. I did end up needing an extra day but I had issue with the web site not allowing me to make a second reservation. It was important I make the reservation online due to  a cash back service I use, so I ended up making a second reservation via a third party site.

I arrived at almost 4pm (check in is at 3pm). The place seemed deserted upon arrival. We checked in with no issue even after I explained I had two separate reservations. The staff was incredibly friendly and advised that when I came down for the complimentary breakfast, I check out and back in. At check in, we were also given the WIFI password and general information like times for the breakfast, ice machines, etc.

My room was right across from the elevator doors on the third floor. I had reserved the King Business Room. It had a king size bed with a separate sitting area with fold out couch and table with connections for electronics. Of course the room had a decent size tv , phone and alarm clock. The room was also equipped with a microwave and mini fridge plus a Keurig. The room was clean but a bit warm. In case you do not know, west and middle TN stays warm until January. I believe the high was in the 80’s that particular day.

The bathroom was clean and stocked with the usual. The sink did have a large crack in it and the toilet paper holder was a bit awkward in relation to the toilet. But it was clean and decently sized. I found out later that the water pressure was more than excellent, especially compared to many hotels.

The bed was perfect firmness and was stocked with many fluffy pillows. The end tables on both sides were furnished with lamps that had USB connectors built-in for charging your electronics. There was also USB connectors in the wall for charging as well. I think that was a great touch.

The sitting area had a fold out couch, coffee table and a desk/chair with lamp. The couch was firm and didn’t feel like a worn out piece of furniture. There was a small, half wall that separated the bed area from the sitting area. The window was also in this area which had the darkening blinds..thank you for that!

The layout of the room was a bit odd, but it was functional as is. I think the two areas should have been swapped making the bed area farther from the door but I understand why the bed was place farther from the window. The TV was in front of the bed and not the couch which I think is personal preference on whether that is good or not.

The next morning, I awoke and went down for the free breakfast. It was a hot and cold breakfast that included eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy, bagels, breads, cereal, oatmeal, muffins, juice, waffles and coffee. The food was really good, and the cost made it even better.

I went to the front desk as instructed the previous day. The hotel staff was again friendly but did have some difficulty with the reservation. She ultimately had to call someone because the system was wanting to charge me a couple of more bucks for unknown reasons. She got it taken care of and apologized for the delay.

On the final day, I waited until the very latest before the official check out time to leave. I went downstairs and I had to wait for the staff member to come up front for a few moments. I am unsure where she was or what took so long. She checked me out without much eye contact or conversation which was okay. She just wasn’t as pleasant as the others.

I wasn’t ready to leave yet, so I sat in a nook in the lobby where a TV was. It was on a news show like CNN or FoxNews. I pulled out my book and began to read and would watch the TV off and on. For the most part, I was left alone. I was surprised at one point an employee came over and stood in front of me and the TV and was doing something that I have no clue to. After about ten minutes he left. Not long after that, another employee came over and just turned the station without even asking if it was okay. He then just stood there in front of it and left. I thought both these guys were a bit rude, but most people are.

My two night stay was mostly positive. The staff (for the most part) was friendly, helpful and prompt. The hotel and rooms were clean and stocked well. The breakfast was delicious and the water pressure was awesome. The price was good considering it was near the hub of visitors (near Opryland) and had the appliances.

There were a couple of bad aspects of the hotel. My particular AC was not working properly. I can only sleep in a chilled room and this did cause a problem with sleeping soundly. My TV remote did not work either. Now, I know you are asking why I didn’t complain and the answer is simple. I didn’t want the hassle of changing rooms or having to wait on staff to “diagnose or fix” things. Plus, I try to just go with the flow. The view was of a construction site where another hotel is being built and then the interstate. Just in case you are curious, I couldn’t hear any traffic noise at all. If I had been on any of the other sides of the building, my view would have been of other hotels. There was a cluster of hotels in the lot area. I know though, better views mean higher costs. The negative of the awesome water pressure is that I could hear my neighbors showering. The parking lot was small considering the size of the hotel, but given I wasn’t there on the weekend, it wasn’t too much of an issue.

Overall, my experience was positive and I would recommend the hotel to anyone needing a place in Nashville, TN. By the way, I paid $109 for Sunday night and $118 for Monday. I think the higher prices were due to the CMA awards that was to be held the day after I left on Wednesday.

 

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Sharp Objects- A Book Review

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

After reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I was eager to read another one of her books.  I decided to start with Sharp Objects.

Here is Amazon’s snippet:

“Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.”

Again, I was not impressed with the snippet, but dove in eager to see what Flynn had in store.

Sharp Objects is no Gone Girl. It was predictable, although well written. I knew who the killer was well before she started hinting at possible suspects. Again, Flynn writes so well that the reader is immersed in the scene with vivid imagery. There are a couple of parts in the book that drag and I admit that I skimmed to get to the more juicy bits. Just when you thought you understood the background of a character or the thought processes, you find out more revelations that were intriguing. Unfortunately, in some instances, the intrigue is short lived. As a reader, you want to find out what will happen next for many of the characters. Not so much for others.  Some characters were stereotyped or I guess a better way to state it is that some of the lines read like something from a gossip magazine or tired out sitcom. I hope that makes sense.

All in all, it was a decent read. I do not regret spending the time to read it. I enjoyed the complicated characters in the book.

This book did not rank on the bestseller list as far as I could find.

This book of Flynn’s is also available at most bookstores. The ISBN is 978-0307341556. It has 254 pages.


Gone Girl- A Book Review

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

You probably wouldn’t guess that I actually love to read books based on the number of movie reviews I’ve posted.

I had been trying to widen my horizons by looking at Pinerest, a site I had only heard about. While scrolling through the endless number of pins, I stumbled on a “must read” list that had Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl as the number one book to read. Reading the excerpt, I was not necessarily hooked. I kept reading rave reviews about the book and saw that the movie would be premiering the following year. I decided to take the chance.

Here’s the snippet:

“On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

Wow. That’s the word that came to mind when I finished the book.

It took me the weekend to read the book. I was completely enthralled by it. I didn’t want to put it down. For those words to come to my mind with a book, it has to be good.

I don’t, can’t tell you what it is about without giving away the twist. Boy, what a twist. The book is devious. I think I enjoyed it so much because as a person who loves thrillers and mysteries, I imagine this is something I could write- dark and twisted. Flynn develops the characters perfectly. She is descriptive enough to allow the reader to picture the scene without being too wordy or boring. There are not any moments that I thought to myself that the story “needed to pickup”.

If you like a good suspense, a true mystery, a true puzzle- you’ve got to read this book.

I will definitely be reviewing more of Flynn’s books, but the bar has been set high. This was a #1 bestseller, by the way.

Of course, the book is available for purchase from Amazon, B&N, and any other bookstore you frequent. I got mine from the library. The ISBN is 978-0307588371. It has 422 pages.


Beachside Resort- Panama City Beach- Review

Beachside Resort Hotel

Update given below…..

As I mentioned, I recentlywent to PCB, FL.

As with most things in my life, I procrastinated on making the decision to go until a couple of days beforehand. Unlike usual, I wanted to go ahead and reserve a room because I knew that I would not be arriving until around 2am. Typically, I am more of a “wing it” kind of gal, waiting until arrival to visually determine which places look pleasing.

I used Google Maps to look at hotels along the beach and then searched those names to look at the website.

I came across Beachside Resort after looking at the standard franchise hotels. Even though the time frame was after the usual summer season rush, prices were still high all around. Beachside seemed to be on the low end.

Upon looking at the website and reading reviews, it seemed like a safe choice.

http://beachsideresortpanamacitybeach.com/

The General Good:

  • The resort is a smoke free hotel. All rooms are non-smoking, so as a non-smoker with an allergy, that was a big plus for me.
  • The resort is located on the beach, so no crossing the street or finding parking for public beach access.
  • Most of the rooms have private balconies.
  • There were plenty of luggage carts at the elevators which were located next to loading zones.
  • Nice big parking lot with an overflow lot across the street.
  • It isn’t too far from the madness of PC, nor is it far from local stores.

My Room:  I reserved the two queen, two room, balcony, wetbar room. Yes, that is what they classify it as.

  • I had a private balcony located on the top floor (7 total) which was also a special request,
  • Upon walking in the door, you are in the bedroom. That was odd to me. The room had the bed, a side table with lamp, a long ottoman, the ac wall unit (like most hotels/motels) and a small area for hanging clothes. There was also a door to the bathroom.  There was also a long, narrow window near the ceiling that extended the length of the wall. It was a decent size room but again, a strange place for the room. There was no t.v but there was an alarm clock/radio and plenty of outlets.
  • Continue going straight, and you are in the kitchen. Yes, the room was not classified as a kitchen because it lacked a stove. There was a full size refrigerator complete with separate freezer. There was a medium size microwave, a sink and cabinetry. The small coffee maker and cups were also there but being a non coffee drinker, that was no biggie.
    It was a narrow area but nice.
  • Continuing on through, you come into the main area. The bed, large writing table and wing chair, a chair and ottoman, bed, two side tables, dresser and tv were located here. There were lamps and another alarm clock.  There was another wall ac unit. The bed felt new and plenty of pillows were provided. The window in the main room was the entire length of the far wall and could even open. There is also a door leading to the single bathroom.
  • The bathroom had a very small shower, toilet, and sink. It was spacious enough and had enough light and a fan.
  • And finally, you come to the private balcony equipped with two chairs and a table. There was no way the neighbors could see you on your balcony which was nice. The railing was sturdy and the area clean. What a fabulous view from inside the room or the balcony.

My complaints: If I had to complain about anything, it would be the layout of the room and that the beds were more like full size rather than queen size and that the elevator (equipped with security camera) was extremely hot but it was fairly quick.  The resort advertises smoke free and no pets but I saw plenty of dogs and people smoking in common areas outside. Also, some of the walkways to the beach were overgrown and smelly.  The water pressure in the bathroom left lots of room for improvement as did the size of the shower. For a beach hotel, there should be handheld shower heads to help get to all the places the sand seems to find, especially since the pressure is more like a trickle. There could be more ice machines as well or ice trays in the freezers.

I also had emailed the general manager, John Lee, previous to my booking my room with questions and never received a response. I called and spoke to Greg Castleberry, assistant general manager, and was spoken to like a novice traveler. He tried to tell me that rates couldn’t be adjusted because what was in the system couldn’t be over-ridden and the nature of the business. Really?  Funny, how all other hotel, motel and resorts I have stayed in have been able to adjust rates given different circumstances (and I’ve been on a cross country trip staying at lots of different lodging facilities). I would have rather him be honest and just say that he wouldn’t adjust the rates then tell an unrealistic lie coupled with a lecture of business (did I mention I have a degree in business)?

Recap: In general, I enjoyed my stay. The beachfront views and access to the beach made all the other things insignificant. I really liked how this hotel was away from the madness of Panama City as it was the last hotel on the strip before the condos and rental homes.

*Just a last note, many reviewers mention poor housekeeping, but we had no problems with that. And although resort is in the name, it is a regular hotel. My stay was after the big influx of summer breakers in early September.

******UPDATE******

I posted some of this review on Tripadvisor.com at the same time I posted the blog and received a response from the hotel. To be fair, I am posting their response here as well:

John L, General Manager at The Beachside Resort, responded to this review

September  2013
I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feedback and the blog. First, let me apologize for the email snafu. Regrettably, there are times when I don’t get ever email. In the future, feel free to contact me at jlee@innisfree.com and I’ll be sure to answer you as quickly as possible. You mentioned the layout of the rooms, unfortunately, having an older building has its pluses (we’re closer to the beach than anyone else, and are views are pretty good) but also its challenges (like the layout of the rooms). The concrete construction of the building almost forces you to take the building the way it is – the only other option would’ve been a total demo of the property, but we felt that too many properties have been lost along our beach. Our vision was to restore this property so that another generation could enjoy the beach the it was meant to be enjoyed.

You also mentioned the size of the bedding. The bedding is an upgraded Sealy bed that is also featured in many mid-level national properties (like Hampton Inns). I understand it may have felt “fullish” , but let me assure you it was indeed a Queen.

Also, I want to apologize for the interaction you mentioned with my assistant. I have spoken with him and he asked that I pass along his personal apology as well. Again, thank you for the feedback and we hope you’re able to come back and in enjoy our views sooner rather than later.


Mike’s Cafe and Oyster Bar Review

Mike’s Cafe and Oyster Bar

On my recent trip to Panama City Beach, FL, I was really looking forward to some fresh gulf seafood.

Asking around, Mike’s Cafe and Oyster Bar received some really good reviews from the locals.

All I can say is that I spent over 40 bucks for some barely decent food for three and left very disappointed and my hunger was not satisfied.

Pulling up, the building looked like most in the area, weathered and cheesy. Mike’s has been opened since 1986 and sits across the street from the beach, although, you can’t see the beach or water from the restaurant. Even though it looked its age, I know that you can’t judge a restaurant by the outside.

Going in, you are greeted by a big sign that reads, “wait to be seated” in neon colors on top of a black board. Almost immediately, I hear a lady from the bar (directly ahead and to the right) yell out to sit anywhere we’d like. Grabbing a half booth near the window, we sat. Our waitress came by soon and took down our drink order. She was one of those friendly waitresses that ramble on too long telling us everything good on the menu just to end her 5 minute monologue with “everything is good” line.

She came back and had given lemons on the water after specifically asking if we wanted them to which we replied no. Oh well, that happens a lot no matter where you go. She also left no straws, which I think should be mandatory at every dining establishment.

We informed her that we needed a little more time as everything sounded good and we were very hungry.

We decided we were going to get two of the Captain’s basket which is a custom order of three fried items, hush puppies, fries and cole slaw for 19 bucks each. We were going to share everything. We wanted two shrimp orders, one oyster, one flounder, and two catfish orders for our baskets. When the waitress came back, she said we couldn’t double order any of the selections for one basket and did not give us a reason on why. I found this particularly odd, especially since their website states that they will special make anything you want if you don’t see it on the menu. So we get all that we mentioned above except the double catfish because we didn’t want to confuse the woman with a redo of our order. At this time, she also informs us that the shrimp is coming from Louisiana. WHAT?! Why on earth would a restaurant high on local cuisine and across the street from the fucking ocean, have their shrimp imported from a different gulf state? Does that make any sense to you?

She leaves the straws and goes back to place our order. She comes right back and delivers three small plates and our silverware and one cole slaw.

Within a few more minutes, she brings our baskets of food. My jaw nearly dropped open. No, not in the OMG, how amazing way. In the basket, there were 9 small to medium butterflied shrimp, 3 pieces of catfish the size of a half dollar, maybe 6 medium sized oysters, 3 small pieces of flounder, 4 overcooked hush-puppies and 4 large handfuls of fries. The hush-puppies were the worst I’ve ever had. The batter on all the fried items were okay, a little on the bland side. The catfish nuggets were limp and the coleslaw was dry. I couldn’t believe they were charging 20 bucks for what we received, not to mention, that they jipped us on some coleslaw. Not that it would have been eaten, but the principle of the matter. We did not see our waitress again until it was time for the ticket to be served. There were only 6 other people, not tables, but people, in the restaurant at the time. There was no excuse. And when she did come back to the table with the ticket, she brought us a menu to take with us, so we’d come back from breakfast or lunch the next day. Yeah, right.

Let me also mention that they had music playing on the overhead that was from the 50’s. I’m a fan of a wide variety of music, but it wasn’t even the popular music from that decade, it was really annoying.

After the experience, I felt really bad for choosing this place instead of giving in to the others to hit Red Lobster for all you can eat shrimp for less money and better atmosphere and food we know would be good and satisfying.

Here is a link to Mike’s place, if you care to see……

http://mikescafeandoysterbar.com/

Let me also note that the webpage you will open on, states, “Located on Panama City Beach”, and it’s not. It’s across the street with no view, as I mention at the beginning.


Scout GPS, Maps, Voice Navigation & Traffic App- by Telenav, Inc

Scout GPS, Maps, Voice Navigation & Traffic – by Telenav, Inc

Scout

Cost: Free unless you upgrade to Plus on a monthly or yearly basis

Platform: Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (4th generation) and iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.

I downloaded this app a few months ago when I was also searching for the best GPS system for my car.

My recent trip to Panama City Beach, FL put it to the test.

The app has a homepage or as they call it, a dashboard page.

On this dashboard, there is a button that says “home” or “work” that you can preset those addresses to. With a push of either of those, you will be routed to the location.

The dashboard also has buttons to select close restaurants, gas stations, coffee, lodging, movies, airports, grocery, atm’s and much more. If you select one of these, it will bring up a list of nearby establishments based on the button you pushed and will route you to that location should you select it,

The dashboard also has a button for a list of your most recent routes. Also there is a favorites button (designated with a heart) that you can save addresses to.

The dashboard is very convenient and large enough to read  when you can’t take your eyes off the road too long.

You of course, can enter a destination and select the “drive” button. If you have your location services on, it will find you and provide directions to the location. If available, it will give you different route options with times and miles to choose from. So if you want the back roads and not the interstate, it will do that for you. If you want to avoid the toll roads, it will route that for you too.

The screen has the map in which you can zoom in or out. It also has in the upper left hand corner, the directions that are coming up. So, it may have an arrow pointing to the right and beside it have how many miles until that right turn. It also provides an estimated time of arrival based on traffic and the total mileage to destination.

You can have the gps provide voice navigation should you choose. “She” speaks up in enough time so that you don’t miss your turn and if you do, she will reroute you quickly.

You can select the microphone button to have voice control, so you don’t have to manually select any button.

I love that if your vehicle is capable, you can Bluetooth the navigation through your radio. The app will lower your music while directions are being given so you aren’t having to try and decipher through the music. Your music will return to normal once she finishes.

You can share destinations, get more info on destinations, and so much more with this cool little app. It also has updates, so you don’t have to worry about out of date information and it’s free too!

After using it, I will not be getting a regular gps system for the car. Why would I spend hundreds of dollars for something I got for free. It works well, it works fast, and has lots of handy extras.

What do you have to lose in trying it out??

Here is a link to the ITunes preview complete with screenshots:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scout-gps-maps-voice-navigation/id467816643?mt=8