The Fittest Hotel in Florida

Beach Boot Camp WSFL-TV Harbor Beach MarriottUnless you travel with a personal trainer, it can be incredibly hard and inconvenient to stick with your fitness routine while you’re on vacation. But that’s not the case if you vacation at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa in sunny Fort Lauderdale. Not only will you find it exceedingly easy to stick to your routine, but there’s also an astronomically high chance that you’ll expand your exercise horizons. Here are ten ways to break a sweat at this beachfront resort that has a gift shop stocked with athletic apparel and a breakfast attendant who you may run into at boot camp.

Col Bob.jpg.jpg1. Make a Date with the “Health Colonel”
Although he could win a congeniality award, Colonel Bob doesn’t mess around. He’s spent 30 years in the Army, but these days he can be found —still sporting fatigues— on the resort’s beach where he leads boot camp classes for guests and Fort Lauderdale locals. The 16-acre resort is home to South Florida’s largest private beach, and Colonel Bob makes a point of covering as much ground as possible. He provides the props, the sand provides the resistance, and knowing that there’s plenty of delicious food nearby to indulge in is plenty of motivation to drop and give Bob forty.

2. Get Out Your Ace Game
Practice your serve or play a full set— but whatever you do, don’t forget about the resort’s Tennis Happy Hour on Fridays. Every Friday, a tennis pro is on site to provide pointers, and guests are invited to meet other players and arrange matches. In addition to match play, guests can also sign up for clinics and programs that are offered on the resort’s two hard courts and two clay courts. Table tennis is also available.

3. Try Not to Travel
Not many Marriott properties can brag about on-site basketball courts, but this property isn’t included in that group. Guests can go from laying by the pool to shooting hoops in less than two minutes. Play for bragging rights, or play for higher stakes— the loser can always buy dinner for the winner at Sea Level, which is also less than two minutes away and serves fresh cuisine in a casual, outdoor setting with ocean views.

4. Paddle Past the Break
Conveniently located on the hotel’s beach, the Aloha Watersports hut is managed by a fun ensemble that can put even the most wary beginners at ease. The warm water and challenging, but manageable waves make for an ideal place to transition from still-water SUP to SUP surfing. Although Aloha offers 30-minute rentals, the experience is so intoxicating that you’ll probably end up wanting to SUP all summer long.

5. Salute the Sun
Pack your own mat or borrow a purple one from the resort, but unless you want them to be jealous, don’t tell your friends that you’ll be doing down dog with views of the beach. The resort offers yoga classes inside their fitness studio and outside on a terrace, so guests can easily squeeze in their favorite poses without having to practice in their room or leave the property to locate a studio.

6. Don’t Cut Class
Forget about the channel guide and fast food menu because the fitness class schedule is probably the most important handout at this resort. The classes, most of which are held on the first floor in the resort’s fitness studio, include spinning, P90X, power walking, water aerobics and Zumba. After a strenuous workout, guests can walk down the hallway and melt their sore muscles in the spa’s steam room.

7. Work Out, Whenever
Hitting the weights or logging some cardio is less of a chore in the resort’s fitness center which is open 24/7 and features floor-to-ceiling windows and state-of-the-art equipment. The resort can also arrange for guests to meet with personal trainers for one-on-one workouts and personalized fitness assessments. For guests looking for a little guidance, there’s a large community board that is frequently updated with recommended reps and routines.

8. Suit Up
The hardest part about swimming at the resort is picking a pool. Guests can choose between the large outdoor lagoon and the private indoor pool located in the adjacent spa. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, the resort offers dive-in movies at dusk where you can tread water while watching a family-friendly flick. For those who prefer to practice their strokes in saltwater, the inviting ocean is just yards away.

9. Dig in the Sand
The resistance of sand makes a resistance band seem like child’s play, and for those looking to maximize their calorie burn, beach volleyball is the perfect sport. Every day, the resort sets up a net on their private beach where guests can sweat it out in a friendly (or fiercely competitive) pickup game.

10. Battle for Bragging Rights
Although the resort has three gift shops, the best souvenir comes from the resort’s recreation department. This talented team designs unique teambuilding challenges and fun competitions akin to what one might see on an episode of Survivor. Whether it’s won in Beach Olympics or the Build-a-Boat Race, the “I Won Bragging Rights at Harbor Beach.” t-shirt is sure to turn heads for years to come.

 

10 Reasons to Ride and Crash at George Hincapie’s Hotel

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South of France or South Carolina?

Cyclists rejoice. There is a hotel on a hill that was designed with you in mind. Offering mind-blowing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hotel Domestique could easily appeal to any traveler. But, it’s the two-wheelers who have the most to gain from a stay at this French chateau found twenty miles north of Greenville, South Carolina.

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Not my photo, and not George and his real life brother, Richard.

 

The 13-room inn opened last August and is the brainchild of the brothers Hincapie. Yes, as in the legend “Big George,” who along with his brother Rich, had the brilliant idea to turn a countryside hotel into a hub for hardcore cyclists, beginners, and all bikers in between.

Here are ten reasons why you’ll want to ride and crash at Hotel Domestique.

Bike-in, Bike-out: The first sign that this property is bike-in and bike-out is the bench and storage bin in the hotel’s front entryway. This thoughtful threshold allows cyclists to put on or remove their cycling shoes without having to lean against anything or click and clack across the lobby. Hundreds of miles of world class cycling meet the front door, so there’s no need to start the car or waste daylight getting from point A to point B in order to begin your ride. Depending on the weather and time of day, there are also mobile bike racks set up outside the front door or just inside where guests can store their bikes.

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A $10,000 bike that sets the bar as high as George’s seat.

Bike Valet: Prior to arriving at Hotel Domestique, guests who book a room through the hotel’s website have the option of requesting a bike rental. Because there are a limited number of high-end carbon BMC road and mountain bikes in the hotel’s fleet, it’s best to reserve a bike in advance. Once at the hotel, the bikes and gear are waiting for the guests who can request them each morning by using the in-room iPad.

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Don’t move – there’s a scorpion on your shoulder.

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Wondering if I’ll ever wear the arm warmers…

Competent Concierge: A friendly concierge who has an emergency stash of ibuprofen (in bulk) mans the front desk and is on hand to help with everything from printing out cue sheets to arranging for a helmet fitting. The concierge can also provide directions to the closest bike shop, which is in the nearby town of Traveler’s Rest, or the best place to get biking apparel, which would be at the Hincapie Sportswearheadquarters in Greenville.

Bike Mechanic & More: The only thing more useful than a bellhop is a bike mechanic, and Hotel Domestique has a very competent one named Jeremiah. Jeremiah manages the hotel’s bike shop, and he seems to always be on hand to help lower a seat or fix a flat tire. In addition to the bike shop, there is also bike storage that allows riders to rest assured.

Le Tour: For diehard Tour de France fans, Hotel Domestique is like heaven. Each of the 13 rooms are named for stages in the tour, and as a throwback, the room keys are actual keys—not cards. The name of the hotel itself comes from the position that George had on the U.S. team. As a domestique, George was responsible for riding ahead and blocking the wind so the team’s leader—Lance Armstrong—could be positioned to pull ahead in the final stretch.

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Head shot? Yes please!

Big George: The elephant in the room is built more like a gazelle, and he goes by George. The record-holding 17-time Tour de France competitor retired from pro-cycling in 2012, but he has yet to hang up his helmet. In fact, he rides with hotel guests. For those that aren’t lucky enough to join George on his weekly group rides, there’s always the option of using the in-room iPads to check out “George’s Routes”—George’s personal recommendations on where to ride. Pleasant and approachable, George is just like the rest of the staff at Hotel Domestique, except none of them have their portraits hanging in the hotel.

Restaurant 17: The hotel’s on-site restaurant is a destination in itself. Aptly named for the number of times George competed in the Tour de France, Restaurant 17 features the finest foods prepared by a talented team led by Executive Chef Adam Cooke. Cooke rides between shifts but still manages to serve outstanding food that is locally sourced. The menu is carefully crafted, and changes with what is in season. True to the cycling-theme, the bar has a signature cocktail called the wheel sucker—the term used for a cyclist who trails the leader very closely before taking off at the home stretch.

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Bonus points if you can identify everything on the plate.

The Little Things: Between meals, guests can refuel at the hotel’s snack stations which include a mini fridge stocked with drinks, alcohol, an espresso machine, and plenty of healthy snacks including fresh fruit, trail mix, biscotti, and Skratch Lab energy samples. Guests will also want to take advantage of the hotel’s yoga room where they can stretch or receive a massage. The yoga room even has a shower so day-trippers can freshen up before dining at Restaurant 17.

The Bigger Things: For guests that aren’t into cycling (yet), there’s always the option of getting a complimentary day pass to the country club just down the road. Hotel Domestique has a great relationship with The Cliffs—a private residential community—where guests can utilize a fitness center, spa, and tennis courts. The hotel also has a 25-meter pool and an inviting library where guests can relax while their companions ride.

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Dan and I rode with L to R, George’s friend who was training for an Ironman, Chef Adam Cooke, and George.

Location, Location, Vacation: It was no random act of relocation that the Hincapies, New York natives, settled in upstate South Carolina. It was here, in the mild climate and foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, that George could train year round for the Tour de France. Rural roads stretch high and low across the scenic terrain, and the hotel’s strategic location provides guests with the same unparalleled routes favored by this former pro-cyclist.

First published by The Active Times

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Times to Save Money and Time

Last week my parents flew out to New York City from Montana. They were supposed to visit me in June, but that trip got canceled because at the last minute my grandma passed away. I ended up flying back to Montana instead, which brings me to my first tip:

Helen Jackson saying hello

Be aware of Bereavement Fares. Hopefully you’ll never have to utilize them, but should you ever have an immediate relative who is dying or has recently passed away, and you need to fly to be by their side or attend their funeral these fares will be cheapest. Basically, the airline will honor the price of a ticket purchased in advance and not charge you the amount that it costs to fly last minute. In my case, all I had to do was call Delta and provide them with my grandma’s name, her doctor, and the hospital where she had been when she passed away. True, I was on hold with Delta for far too long before I finally got a live person on the line to explain my situation (you have to call in to be eligible,) but it was worth the wait as the Delta representative was able to give me a $600 fare that was $200 cheaper than their current price. Several different airlines offer bereavement, or “compassion fares” as they are also called, but since I had a positive experience with Delta I’ll link to their info here.

Since my parents had to cancel their original trip to New York because of my grandma’s death, they decided to rebook for October so they could see the New England fall foliage. I was pumped because autumn is my favorite season. However, as my folks were flying from Montana to New York, our family dog of eight years, Zoe, was struck by a vehicle on the highway. She died, and like all good guard dogs, went to dog heaven.  It’s pure coincidence that both times my parents tried to take a trip in the past few months a family member has died. 

Zoe (as a pup) enjoying the Montana fall foliage

This second tip pertains to booking accommodations when you’re on the road. While the idea of being flexible and not locking into a room in advance is appealing, my parents and I found out the hard way that it pays to plan ahead. Our initial approach was to not have any of our nights booked in advance so that we were able to stay as long as we’d like in a particular area or leave early if we determined the leaves weren’t at peak. In theory it sounded like a great idea, but in practice, it was a terrible mistake. We would wake up in the morning and worry all day about where we would be that night and if we’d be able to find any rooms available. While we should have been taking in the sights and enjoying ourselves, we would spend a large chunk of daytime trying to track down free wifi or adequate cell service so we could all look up accommodations. More often than not, most places we were interested in were already booked so we usually ended up in a chain motel. We spent 2-3 hours most days trying to find a room.

It was while staying in the Quality Inn in Brattleboro, VT, or as we renamed it, the Low Quality Inn (email me if you want an explanation) that I decided to look and book more than 12 hours ahead of the time we wanted to check in. Because Zoe was still on my mind, I googled her breed, “Great Pyrenees” along with the words “bed & breakfast.” I’ll be darned if it wasn’t divine intervention that the first search result was for a B&B in the Berkshires (Massachusetts) where we had planned on traveling to the next day. This B&B, the Staveleigh House, is owned and operated by a woman named Ali who owns rescued Great Pyrenees and fosters other dogs that are in need of “forever homes.” We made a reservation that night and were able to enjoy the next day because we had the luxury of knowing where we would be spending the night. As you can see from the photo below, I got very friendly with Ali’s furry friends/guests, but our entire experience at the Staveleigh House was incredible and for me, was what traveling should be all about. Making the most of your time while meeting the locals and their mutts.

And here I thought the Walmart greeters were welcoming!

And food. Ali made us omelets, homemade cornbread, fried potatoes, and a lovely fruit salad for breakfast. Yes, food must be a priority. But with food you can be more spontaneous and leave that up to fate. When it comes to where you sleep, I recommend securing something sooner than later. If you decide to wing it and try to book something at the last minute, I recommend packing this guy as a plan B. Especially in monkey country.

The parentals & I in front of the Staveleigh House. Built two-hundred years ago, this house is now a 7 bedroom B&B in the Berkshires