Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2, Gurugram, India

As a first time visitor to India, I have to admit I was apprehensive about booking my own hotel in Delhi. But after a little research and time crunching as to what I'd really be able to fit into my schedule, I decided to stay at the Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2 in Gurugram.

Why? First, because this stylish, contemporary hotel is close to Kingdom of Dreams (about a 5-minute walk, once you know where you're going, haha), and secondly because they have an airport shuttle. But mostly because their staff was more than accommodating even before I arrived, especially Mr. Safdar Imam, Executive Assistant Manager of Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2, whom I met upon arrival at the hotel.

One of my main concerns with traveling to India was dealing with my Celiac Disease (which basically means gluten in the form of wheat/rye/barley/oats is literally toxic to my body). Mr. Imam reassured me the chefs would be able to accommodate my needs, as I chose a hotel package with free Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner as part of the offer. Talk about convenient.

My room, #215, was more than spacious. It had a modern vibe with everything I could ask for including a flat-screen TV and a living area, plus I had a great view onto a lush greenspace filled with tropical foliage.

After nearly 24 hours of traveling, I was exhausted but still hungry for breakfast. As soon as I arrived at the Citrus Cafe, I was met by Sous Chef, Sanjay Singh Negi. I was so impressed that he had an actual print out of my dietary requirements as per my email (gluten can be hidden in all kinds of things, arghhh), and even more so when he said he could cook my anything I wanted! Wow. As a frequent celiac challenged traveler, these are words I've never heard before.

Chef Negi proceeded to make me my own personal smorgasbord of delectables, for which I felt really bad as I couldn't possibly eat everything he was bringing me. But it was delicious: a crepe-like Indian pancake, freshly squeezed juice, fresh fruit, eggs and hash browns. The pampering continued on into the next day, plus I had a wonderfully prepared roasted chicken dinner in my room the first night. All with no gluten in sight!

So what impressed me the most about Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2? Their fantastic staff! Mr. Imam took the time to explain that, while they're primarily a business hotel during the week (and wow, were they busy!) they tend to welcome most leisure guests on the weekend. And it's no wonder as the hotel is not too far from Delhi, and they've got a fitness room and a rooftop pool for guests to relax by. He went on to explain that Lemon Tree Hotels is proud to be an equal opportunity employer who realizes the value of workers who face their own challenges, including those with down syndrome, who are happily employed at many of their hotels. I love it!

Lemon Tree has an excellent reputation amongst travellers and locals alike, and as an added bonus you can join their frequent travel reward program, Lemon Tree Smiles. 

Overall, I would highly, highly recommend Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2 for your business or leisure travel. It's great value for your hard earned dollars plus you'll be taken care of to no end, and isn't that what traveling is all about, just being in the moment without a care in the world? Impressive. Very impressive.

I also stayed at the Red Fox Delhi Airport, which is also part of the Lemon Tree Hotel family, after my most excellent adventure with TourRadar and Anjali Singh of Intrepid Travel. Watch for my upcoming review!

For more information or to make your reservation, please visit: Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2


TourRadar & Intrepid Travel: 15-Day Classic Rajasthan Tour

Wow. Just WOW. I've just returned from a 15-day Classic Rajasthan tour of northern India that I booked with TourRadar, and I have to admit, I'm very impressed with the variety of the trip and the amazing overall value for my money!

Seriously, I crossed off so many things from my essential travel bucket list for India including: 

Visiting the absolutely magical Taj Mahal, Agra, India 
Seeing a Tiger!! Kumbha #34 in Ranthambore National Park, India 
Taking a Hot Air Balloon Ride, Jaipur, India 

Riding a Local Train in India 

Getting Henna Tattoos at Castle Bijaipur, India 

Staying in Fort Madhogarh Castle!! 
My Sleeping Beauty Room with Stained Glass Windows 
On a Camel Safari in Pushkar, India 

The Colorful Bundi Palace @ConnieMotz.com
WOW. I know, right??! What I loved most about the Classic Rajasthan tour was really getting a glimpse into everyday life of people in India. Amongst the crazy drivers and constantly honking horns, we were taken on orientation walks to get a feel for the different areas, a Bollywood movie night and a cultural dance show, along with visiting major sightseeing attractions such as the Red Fort in Agra, the beautiful Bundi Palace, and the City Palace in Udaipur. Our small group of only 8 traveled in air-conditioned vans, local tuk tuks and jeeps, which kept us comfortable during the long, hot and humid days.

Visiting City Palace in Udaipur, India
And, as with any Celiac Challenged Traveler, thoughts of a trip to the local mall bring up many fears around food, while traveling to a foreign country is almost unthinkable. But, all is well! I was careful about what I ate, followed the advice of our enthusiastic tour guide, Miss Anjali Singh of Intrepid Travel, and I was generally good to go. 

Are you interested in checking out this tour? Or perhaps Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe or Latin America is more your thing? If you follow this link to TourRadar, you'll automatically receive a 5% discount on your booking!! If you have any questions about this Classic Rajasthan tour, feel free to email me as I'd love to share my experience ;)


An Authentic Experience in Vancouver, BC: Skwachàys Lodge

If you're looking for an authentic Pacific Northwest experience when visiting gorgeous Vancouver, BC, I highly recommend staying at Skwachàys (pronounced Skwatch-Eyes) Lodge in the Downtown Eastside.

Showcasing vibrant aboriginal artwork throughout, this urban boutique hotel features 18 individually decorated suites by local First Nations artists. Sporting a unique totem pole crown, Skwachàys Lodge is traditionally named for its Vancouver area location on the edge of bustling Chinatown and historic Gastown. 

As Vancouver's first Aboriginal Art Hotel, this socially responsible accommodation gives back 100% of its profits to the local First Nations community, as well as to its non-profit society which provides adjacent apartments for at-risk Aboriginal individuals and artists in residence.

Our beautiful Canadiana Suite, # 601, decorated by Tlingit artist Clifton Fred, features a striking wall showcasing a symbolic collection of drums designed to represent the inherent relationship between humans, animals and nature. Our Canadiana Suite amenities included 2 flat-screen TVs, a king-size bed and a separate living area, along with a minifridge, a microwave and free Wi-Fi. Access to an off-site fitness facility (fee) is also offered. Note: Canadiana Suite 601 has 2 flights of entryway stairs.

We were privileged to see Skwachàys Lodge 'artists in residence' program in action right from the window of our suite as we watched artists ride a manlift to continue painting a brightly coloured starburst totem pole design on an adjacent building. We were also treated to an amazing view of the North Shore mountains!

As an added bonus, complimentary breakfast is served in the welcoming Kayachtn (pronounced Kay-ach-tin) room, which presents a beautifully hand-crafted totem table by local artist, Eric Parnell, along with a cozy fireplace lounge and furnishings created from the salvaged planks of the original 1906 building. 
Skwachàys Lodge is also home to a traditional smudge room and a rooftop sweat lodge, as well as a commercial kitchen that's available for rent. The Kayachtn room also offers light bites, Canadian craft beers and a selection of regional wines so you can unwind after a fun day of Vancouver sightseeing. To commemorate your stay at Skwachàys Lodge, be sure to visit their resident art gallery where you'll find jewelry and artwork available in a variety of mediums and price points. What a meaningful way to remember your visit to beautiful Vancouver!

And while admittedly the downtown Eastside has a somewhat undesirable reputation, Skwachàys Lodge provides secure underground parking that's accessible 24/7. Plus its great downtown location means you'll only be 2 km from shopping and restaurants along Robson Street, 3 km from famous Stanley Park (including the Seawall and the Vancouver Aquarium), and 5 km from Granville Island Public Market. The Chinatown Gate is right next door, while historic Gastown is only 4 blocks away. Talk about a perfect location from which to easily explore the entirety of downtown Vancouver!

Skwachàys Lodge is warm, inviting and its friendly staff reflect the pride they have in showcasing their First Nations heritage. I feel honoured to have stayed at this innovative, artistic hotel.

For more information or to make your reservation to authentically experience the Pacific Northwest, please visit Skwachàys Lodge. And here's a YouTube video I made which incorporates all of my photos!


Airport Layovers: Free City Tours

When you're traveling, there's nothing like having an 8-hour layover where you feel stuck at the airport as you're not sure what to do or if you'll have time to do it! But, there are several destinations where if you've got a layover, you can take advantage of free tours offered by the airports. Seriously! Let's take a look at Airport Layovers: Free City Tours!

1. Taipei, Taiwan.
If you've got an 8-hour layover, that's perfect for taking 2 free city tours offered by the airport. One will take you to the ornate Zushih Temple and an artisan stop, while the other packs in Taipei 101 and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. How to book it? Visit the Tourist Service Centre in main arrivals corridor. The tours are offered in the morning and early afternoon. 

2. Singapore.
Once you've landed at Changi airport, and have finally forced yourself to leave the butterfly garden, the video game room or the complimentary massage chairs, head on over to the Transfer Lounge F in Terminal 2 or Transfer Lounge A in Terminal 3. Here you can sign up for one of the 6 excursions offered per day, where sightseeing opportunities include Gardens By the Bay, Merlion, Little India and Kampong Glam. 

3. Salt Lake City, Utah.
If you've got more than 2 hours to spare, you're able to take a free tour of the Temple Square area in downtown courtesy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You'll also have time to check out the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and/or City Creek Park. Check with one of the information desks for shuttle times.

4. Istanbul, Turkey.
If you've got more than 6 hours to spare in one of the world's busiest airports, you can take a free TourIstanbul excursion where sights include Hippodrome Square, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. How to book it? Check with the Hotel Desk in the international arrival hall, near the Starbucks. There are 5 departures per day.

5. Tokyo, Japan.
Wow. A layover at Narita airport gives you the chance to choose from 2 free tours: shopping or sightseeing. You can visit the Museum of Aeronautical Sciences, go on a forest walk, or explore the towns of Tako or Shibayama. Shopping is done on your own at 2 malls accessible via train from the airport. How to book it? Go to the Narita Transit Program Counter in Terminal 1F.

6. Seoul, Korea.
Wow, again! If you've even got as little as a 1-hour layover, you can still take advantage of Incheon Airport's free tours, including options for temple or city focused visits, with English speaking guides. For FREE. You can book a tour by heading to the Hana Tour desk near gates 25 and 29, or by gate 8.

7. Amsterdam. Kingdom of the Netherlands
There are 2 catches here for free tours at the Amsterdam airport: first, you need to fly with KLM, and second you need at least 6 hours to spend. This unique (and completely FREE) program matches you up with an English-speaking local with similar interests (you fill out a quick questionnaire upon arrival). They'll then give you free return bus tickets and will even pay for the first round of drinks at a bar in Amsterdam. How to book it? It should come as an automatic email option once you've booked your qualifying flights with KLM.

8. Doha, Qatar
With a 6-hour minimum layover on Qatar Airways, you'll qualify for a free tour of Doha, where you can hit sights like the Zaha Hadid-designed Museum of Islamic Art, the Souk Watif and the Katara Cultural Village. And as an added bonus, these tours include a FREE visa so you won't have any immigration issues upon return to the airport. Book it by visiting the Doha City Tour desk in Concourse B.

And before you leave, be sure to check: 

6 Practical Travel Tips and 5 Ways to Prepare Your Phone for Travel.