Travel: Ritz Carlton Sarasota Review

You know what’s great? Having a vacation-in-a-vacation. I discovered this last year, when I booked a stay at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota during my Floridian vacation. My friend and I absolutely loved our experience last year then that we opted to take another vacation-in-a-vacation this year. And the Ritz Carlton Sarasota did not disappoint.

Ritz Carlton Sarasota – The Entrance

Day 1

We learned from our trip last year and planned for an even better time this year. We left Madeira Beach around 7:30am so that we’d make it to the Ritz Sarasota on time for our 9am massages (stay tuned for an review post about our spa experiences).

a lovely welcome – we do love chocolate

By 11am or so, we were done our spa treatments, we were checked into our room (the Ritz was able to accommodate my early check-in request, and I was very thankful), and we were on the shuttle bus to the Beach Club. The Ritz Sarasota has two properties. The first is the hotel in downtown Sarasota. It’s on the water, but it’s not on a beach. The second property is the Beach Club at Lido Beach, which is about a 10 minute drive from the hotel. The Ritz shuttle bus leaves on the hour from the hotel to go to the beach club.

just pretending (side note: I wore this Ralph Lauren t-shirt dress a lot while in Florida)

The beach club is amazing. The pool is large, the lounge chairs are comfortable, the towel service is perfect, and the poolside food options are excellent. Since the beach club is on the beach, seating and service is also available on the beach. We opted to park ourselves poolside so that we could enjoy the music and stay sand-free, but we did go for a walk on the beach, too. Lido Beach is lovely, but it’s not as beautiful as nearby Siesta Key or Madeira Beach (yes, I may be biased).

We stayed at the Beach Club for the full day – in the sun and in the shade. It. Was. Perfect. My poolside lunch consisted of a cheese quesadilla (good) and an ice cream sandwich (amazing). The ladies at the seats next to me all stared (in envy, I’m sure!) when I pulled out the ice cream treat from the container. Since calories don’t count on vacation, I thoroughly enjoyed this classic summertime treat. I strongly encourage you to order one if you go, and I won’t judge if you eat it all by yourself (like I did – yum!).

we spent hours at the Beach Club

happy Jordana

Our room was the same set-up as our room last year. The bathroom, the bed, the balcony, and the view are my favourite parts of the room. Way to narrow things down, right? The bathroom is so spacious and well-appointed. Towels are fluffy and the Asprey products are lovely. The beds are so comfortable; I had an exceptional sleep! I must say that it’s wise for waterfront hotels to have balconies so that guests can enjoy the outdoors while in their own rooms. Our view was over the restaurant’s patio, pool, and water. The decor reflects the sea, sun, and sand with its blue-beige colour palette, the curves on the headboards and chairs, and the artwork and pillow details.

The Ritz bed is extremely comfortable!

All the Asprey and marble! 

a sweet seating area

One of the other (of the many) things that I really like about about the Ritz Sarasota is the shuttle bus service. As I mentioned, the shuttle bus takes guests to the Beach Club. It also takes guests to St. Armand’s Circle – a hot destination for restaurants and shopping. We made a reservation at Shore after doing some research poolside earlier in the day. My friend and I were both pleased with our meals, and we’d definitely return. Because of the Ritz shuttle service, we didn’t have to worry about driving, directions, parking, etc. So darn easy! 

I had to! (at St. Armand’s Circle)

dinner at Shore at St. Armand’s Circle

And we ended the evening with an evening swim. So lovely!

the Ritz Carlton Sarasota – at night

Day 2

On day 2, we opted to stay in Sarasota rather than shuttling over to the beach club. This gave us the opportunity to wonder around town, stumble upon the weekly market, eat a French breakfast at C’est La Vie on Main St., and pop in and out of shops.

white architecture of the library

Main St. Sarasota

a stop in at Sur La Table

mmm…a French breakfast in Florida…oui, oui!

After our morning stroll, we spent the day at the hotel pool. It was fantastic. Absolutely perfect. It was quieter than the beach club, and it offered a slightly different poolside menu. Since we wanted to stay at the Ritz for as long as they’d let us, we asked about using the pool beyond check-out. Here’s another great thing about the Ritz Sarasota – even after check-out, guests are still able to use the hotel’s amenities, including the pool. This made us thrilled!

the hotel pool

the well-manicured grounds of the Ritz Sarasota

For lunch, I snacked on the pita, veggie, and hummus dip. It was a light mid-day meal. When it’s so hot out, I really don’t feel like eating, and I was glad to see a variety of options on the hotel’s poolside menu. I mostly just feel like going from my lounge chair to the hammock to the pool.

that was fun!

We stayed until late afternoon and left right before the rain came. When our lounge chair neighbours predicted that a storm was about 7 miles away, we took it as a cue to pack up and leave.

Once again, I had a great time at the Ritz Sarasota and if all goes as planned, I’ll make another appearance there next year!

Enjoy the rest of your labour day long weekend, everyone!

Many thanks to S.A. and the Ritz Carlton Sarasota team for ensuring our stay was just perfect.

All photos are my own. See a few more photos at #WhiteCabanaGoesToTheRitz.








Travel: Review of Hotel Henry, Buffalo

When I first learned about Buffalo’s newly opened Hotel Henry, I was intrigued. And I was curious. And I was dubious, too. A must-see hotel? Sure. In Buffalo? Not so sure. You see, the Buffalo I have known up until this summer is all outlet mall and Target. Honestly. I have not seen much more than that on any of my trips to Buffalo. Well, let me tell you, Buffalo surprised me. Really! So much so that I’d definitely make a return trip! Isn’t that what you’d like the result of every vacation to be? I was pleasantly surprised!

You’ve seen a couple of photos of my trip on Instagram (#WhiteCabanaGoestoBuffalo), but here’s a proper tour of the hotel.

Hotel Henry, a national historic site, was built in the 1872 as a psychiatric hospital (aka known as the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane). I didn’t know much of this history before I arrived which I think is a good thing. I was too googly-eyed over the design and architecture to get too engrossed in all the historical – and spooky!? – stories. As we pulled up to the property, I was floored. Amazed at the large scale and the absolutely beautiful architecture. I was definitely excited as I stepped inside.

The hotel has been part of a 3-year, $102 million renovation project. The hotel is located on a 42-acre site and occupies three of the eleven buildings of the former asylum. The project was led by Deborah Berke Partners and Flynn Battaglia Architects. Just to give you an idea of the scale and work involved, the restoration of 600 windows cost $7 million.


Check in was smooth and quick. My room was spacious with ridiculously high ceilings that definitely caught my attention! Beds were comfortable, and the bath products were lovely. Towels were fluffy, and the coffee/tea station was a nice addition. There was plenty of space to spread out, rest, and work (the desk in front of the window was well-planned).

I think it would be lovely if Hotel Henry added robes to the room and a mini fridge, too. These items aren’t essential, but they’re nice pluses for a luxurious stay.


Beyond the room, the hotel is absolutely stunning. The foyer and lounges are well-appointed with beautifully designed furniture and accessories. Interesting and unique art is everywhere in the public spaces and guest rooms. The lighting is dramatic and eye-catching.

During my stay, I had the chance to enjoy the bar one evening and breakfast by 100 Acres – the hotel restaurant that is becoming one of Buffalo’s hot spots! I enjoyed both, and loved parking myself in different areas around the hotel to enjoy my drink and meal. Each area offers lovely seating options and great views of the architecture and art.

The next time I go to Hotel Henry, I’m definitely going to sign up for a tour of the abandoned/non-renovated part of the Richardson Olmsted property. If I had known about these public tours before I arrived, I would have signed up, but it completely escaped my research and planning path. In addition to the tour, I’d like to explore other architectural, artistic, and neighbourhood gems.

Prices per night vary depending on day and month, but they average about $150 USD per night. Check the availability calendar for the most accurate price.

Thanks to Hotel Henry for sponsoring this post. All photos and opinions are my own.












Travel: Review of the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, Florida

At the end of July, my friend and I headed on down to Florida for our annual girls’ trip. We’ve been at it for 5 years or so already, and each year, we’ve managed to schedule a vacation-in-a-vacation while we’re away. One year, we went to Chicago; another year, we went to Miami. You get the idea.

This year, we didn’t want to go very far from where we stayed in Madeira Beach, but we were interested in exploring another part of the state. We had heard good things about Sarasota from several people (I’m looking at you Nick and Lana), and since it was only an hour or so away, we thought it might be a good option. And were we ever right!

Here’s the timeline of our vacation-in-a-vacation (scroll down for photos and more info):

Day 1:

8 am: Depart Madeira Beach
10 am: Arrive at the Ellenton Outlet Mall (vacations in Florida always involve shopping)
4 pm: Arrive Ritz-Carlton Sarasota
5 pm: Arrive at the Spa, meet Andrea and Tammy, have a wonderful time sipping champagne while getting manicures
6 pm (or so): Enjoy the spa’s healing waters (jacuzzi, sauna, steam room)
8 pm: Walk over to Selva Grill for a delicious fish meal
11 pm: Snooze on luxurious pillows and beds in our Ritz Sarasota suite

Day 2:

8 am: Order room service and eat breakfast on our balcony
10 am: Hop on the Ritz’s shuttle bus to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota Beach Club at Lido Beach (about a 5-10 minute ride)
10 am – 1 pm: Lounge by the pool, walk on the beach, reapply sunscreen a bajillion times
1 pm: Enjoy a poolside lunch
5 pm: Depart the Beach Club
6 pm: Say goodbye to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota
6:30 pm: Drive to Siesta Key for a short walk on the beach
8 pm: Depart Sarasota
9 pm: Arrive Madeira Beach

The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota welcomed us warmly upon arrival, and we had absolutely nothing to worry about during our stay. From valet parking to check-in to restaurant reservations to info about the area – the staff knew how to look after us and answer all of our questions. It was so nice to not have to think about anything! (See some photos on Instagram at #WhiteCabanaGoesToTheRitz)


a substantial building in the city of SarasotaWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-10

the lobby areaWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-4

the pool and marina view

Our suite was beautiful. Our room overlooked the pool, outdoor dining area, and the marina. The evening sunset was stunning (as most Florida beach sunsets are!). Our room had two comfortable queen beds, robes and slippers (loved ’em), a dining table, a balcony with another dining table, Asprey toiletries, and a pretty marble-clad bathroom.

White-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-1 White-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-2

comfortable beds with soft linensWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-3

a small in-room dining areaWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-7

Asprey toiletries in the bathWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-6

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a muted colour palette in the large bathroom

From the concierge, I learned that every detail of the decor was well thought-out. The artwork, rug, and accessories were chosen and designed with Sarasota’s history and surroundings in mind. The beach flavour played a large role, naturally, but so did the Ringling Brothers. The hotel, in fact, was bought and developed by a Ringling – of the Ringling Brother Circus.

In our short time in Sarasota, we only managed to have one meal at the hotel – breakfast ordered from room service. Our meal was delicious and very filling!


french toast with caramelized bananas + a stack of pancakesWhite-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-9

breakfast with a view – and the hotel robe makes an appearance


“white cabanas” at the hotel pool

The shuttle service to the beach club was easy and convenient. There’s a shuttle stop in St. Armands Circle for those passengers who would like to explore some unique stores. And a few kilometres down the road is the Beach Club at Lido Beach. I could have spent days and days lounging at the club. The white towels were freshly laid out on our chaises by hotel staff, and throughout the day, they restocked our ice bucket and water supply (we drank so much water!), took our lunch order, and raised our umbrella when we needed more shade. I felt so spoiled!


plush towels at the Beach Club

I mentioned in the itinerary portion of this post that we took advantage of some of the spa services during our time at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. Specifically, my friend and I enjoyed manicures with two friendly technicians. After being pampered with scrubs, creams, and bright polish, we grabbed our complimentary champagne and headed into the spa’s healing waters. We soaked in the hot tub, and sweated in the sauna and steam room. Oh, it was heavenly!


pre-spa treatment (and another robe appearance)White-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-16

#iwokeuplikethis those nails! and the endless supply of branded water bottles! (oh, and a third appearance of the Ritz-Carlton robe!)White-Cabana-Ritz-Carlton-Sarasota-17

manicure, palm trees, and sunshine = bliss

There you have it, dear readers, a peek into our vacation-in-a-vacation at the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota. Would you believe me if I said that I’m eager to return? Yeah, I thought so!

Note: Just before I went to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, I heard from my sister who had just returned from a family trip to the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds in Georgia. She let me know that their stay at the Ritz was top-of-the-top, and that the hotel staff treated them and their four kids (under the age of 7) so extremely well. They had a wonderful family vacation! Around the same time, I learned of the Bucket List Family’s YouTube channel, and they have said so many great things about the Ritz-Carlton hotels in which they’ve stayed (I’m looking at you, Ritz-Carlton Kyoto and Ritz-Carlton Tokyo). The Ritz-Carlton seems to treat every guest – including the youngens – with such kindness and respect. Even though I don’t have kids, I do  appreciate that this high end hotel chain offers kid-friendly food, amenities, and activities.

Many thanks to the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota for sponsoring this post. Thanks, Stacey, for making our arrangements. All opinions are my own.






Travel: Marriott’s Tampa Renaissance

I have to share a recent positive experience I had with the Marriott. I was not in any way compensated for this review, but since I received such incredible service, I feel like sharing. There are good people out there who really seem to love their job, and when I meet people like this (who also treat me so well), I do what I can to recognize them and spread the word. So, here we go.

First, a bit of a lead up…

On my way back from Florida a couple of weeks ago, after sitting around the Tampa airport for 6 hours, my flight (via WestJet) was cancelled (due to weather). The passengers were definitely ticked off (I felt bad for those traveling with kids and those who were needing to make connecting flights). I, too, was disappointed. The fact that the flight was cancelled was definitely annoying, but the way WestJet handled the communication and service really irked me.

So when we learned that our flight was cancelled, we were also informed that we needed to go to baggage claim immediately to retrieve our luggage and that all hotel and incidental expenses were the passengers’ responsibility. (Not to get into the whole WestJet debacle…but we were all going to be booked onto another flight the next day.)


By the time I got around to calling the “hotel accommodations when flights are cancelled” number provided by WestJet, all the “discounted” hotels that were reserved for cancelled flights were full. My annoyance level grew instantly (service like this drives me absolutely nuts).

Trying to make the best out of a crummy situation, I got online and looked up hotels close to the airport. The first call I made was to the Marriott Tampa Renaissance reservation department. The Renaissance is definitely a luxury hotel, but I crossed my fingers that there would be a room available on such short notice (with a decent rate, of course! pushing my luck, right?).

Well, Ms. Emily over in the reservation department was on the other end of the phone, and she was incredibly friendly and understanding of my situation. When I asked for the “my flight is cancelled and I really would love to stay in a fabulous hotel with a great bed for an evening in Tampa,” she laughed and assured me that she would find the best possible rate for me. She called me by name (I always like this), persisted, and was extremely polite. She booked me into a room at the Renaissance within minutes and gave me a competitive rate. I was pumped! She honestly brightened by afternoon!

And now, here’s what I thought about the Marriott’s Tampa Renaissance.

The lobby is grand with welcoming and modern seating arrangements.

Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-6 Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-5 Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-4

There is a bit of Italian signage on the room floors, which makes me happy. Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-3

The artwork around the hotel is lovely, but it is this simple drawing that was hung in my room that I really liked. Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-2

My Tuscan-inspired room was very well-appointed. My king size bed was ridiculously comfortable (how do hotels do it!?), and the terry robe is one that I think I just have to purchase. It was perfect. Aveda products fill the large bathroom. My room faced the pretty courtyard, and the pool and gym are added conveniences (too bad it rained).Tampa-Marriott-Renaissance-1Finally, the hotel is attached to one of Tampa’s great malls – the International Plaza – awesome!

My day ended up being much (much!) better than how it started, and I definitely owe Ms. Emily a thank you for helping to turn things around for me!