Just like moving to any country or new location there have been a lot of adjustments to make and a lot of surprises, but I think the biggest surprises I have seen have been the Roman ruins that are all over the place throughout Jordan. I know logically thinking about it now, it makes sense. The presence of the Romans was always in the background in the Bible, and historically, they control this part of the world for a long time in history, so of course, their mark should be all over the place. But it is one of those things that did not hit me as being a part of my life now until I actually lived among those ruins for a couple of months.
I know that I have not hit the most important of these ruin in Petra, and I have plans on visiting that in April, but that does not mean that I haven’t seen some more of the impressive sights. There are some that jump right out from the first moments that you arrive in Amman, and smaller ruins that you have to travel to by the Sea of Galilee, and a truly impressive collection that creates its own city in Jerash. Each of them have their own flavor, but each is also a great way to spend a day in you make it out to Jordan.
The easiest of these ruins to access is in the heart of Amman. You can easily get to them with a thirty minute cab ride from the airport, or even better, with a ten to fifteen minute ride from most hotels in central Amman. They are really hard to miss. From many vantage points from this hilly city, they can be seen if you just look down. Look for the amphitheater in the heart of the city, and sitting right above that is a collection of ruins that overlooks this iconic location. Both sights are worth visiting, but they have separate entrance fees, so beware. There is a pass that can be bought when first arriving in Jordan that will reduce the cost a bit, but it will only allow you into a limited amount of sights in the country. Make sure to save one of those for Petra because that will be one that you really will want to see, but the two in Amman are also nice additions.
The other sight that I would suggest that you visit is only a short hour drive north of Amman. It is in the heart of the city of Jerash. This city got its start many centuries ago from these ruins and there are some impressive sights to see within the grounds. There are two smaller amphitheaters than the one that can be seen in Amman, but they are nestled on an old Roman road that gives them a more authentic feel. There is a long field that once was used for charioteer races with the stands still intact on one side of the field. There are old temples dedicated to ancient Roman gods even though they still used the Greek names. And there is a huge circular courtyard that was once was used as the gathering place for all who lived there, and those who had travelled many miles to get there.
There are many other places where the sights of Roman ruins can be found in Jordan. I have just shared my few favorite ones that I have witnessed so far after living here for a few months. It makes Jordan one of those places that should be on everybody itinerary for world travel, and it surprises me how few people want to make the trip to this little corner of the world.
But if you do make it out here, you will not be disappointed by what you will find. Jordan is a place rich in history and culture. The people are warm and friendly, and not enough people know about its spectacular views making it the prefect vacation destination for those in the know.
It has been awhile since I have taken a night away from home. Usually, when I have a four day weekend, I take the opportunity to get out and experience the world, but last four day weekend I was stuck at home because I had just adopted a new dog, and it was not fair of me to leave her behind while I went out and had fun. This did not mean that I did not itch to get out, and my friends had been telling me about this wonderful restaurant at the top of the St. Regis Hotel on the fifth circle in Amman. I was excited to try it out, so on a weekend when I could find a dog sitter that Zoey would be comfortable with, I booked a room in the hotel and got a reservation at Zenith, the rooftop restaurant that was the talk of the break room.
It is a beautiful hotel nestled on the edge of downtown Amman. When we first arrived at our room, the attendant that was showing us around, opened up the blinds to our room, and said, “Welcome to the Concrete Jungle.” It is hard to argue with him when you look out over the city and see the brown building all over the place, but at the same, that is part of the charm of this city. It is also nice to have this bird’s eye view of Amman. Most of the buildings do not go over the five story limit, so when I get to see the city from the sixteenth floor, it really highlights the continuity of its design.
Besides the view, the room was already comfortable. I have spending a lot of nights on Asian style beds, and they like to sleep on firm beds. I have grown accustomed to this, and in fact, enjoy it, but the beds at the St. Regis were fluffy and soft. I sunk right into the bed and instantly fell asleep. I don’t think that my back could handle sleeping on something so soft all of the time, but for a night or two, it was heavenly.
But the real reason that we decided to stay at the St. Regis hotel for a night was the restaurant on the roof, Zenith. This is a fancy spot with the same incredible views that we were able to see from our hotel room. It serves American inspired cuisine with many dishes that come from other parts of the world, but have that twist from the States. We started off with some poke, and then moved on to ceviche and a hearty steak with Roquefort sauce on top of it. I wish I had taken some pictures of it, but I had starved myself during the day in anticipation of this meal, and when it finally arrived, it couldn’t help by digging in. When I remembered to take a picture of the food, it was more than half way gone. The point being, it was that good, and though pricey, it was definitely worth what we had paid for it.
What I did take pictures of was the drinks. These were just as fancy as the food, and Zenith boasts a cocktail menu with a variety of drinks, none of which disappointed. They also come in fun mugs or glasses which makes the experience even more memorable. Despite the drinks being good here, I would say that the bar on the ground level made the best cocktail of the evening with a cognac old fashion. It would be a good place to start before going upstairs for the bigger event at Zenith.
The best part of the evening was being able to leisurely make our way back to our room after a hearty dinner. There waiting for us was a big bathtub and a comfy bed. It was a nice way to spend a weekend night. I don’t know if I will head back to stay another night at the hotel, but considering the St. Regis is so close to my home in Amman, I will be back for a dinner at Zenith. It has easily made the mark as my favorite restaurant in Amman so far.
2021 was another rollercoaster of a year, and though Covid continued to make life difficult, things loosened up enough to allow me the opportunity to travel a little more this year than the previous one. It is always fun for me to look back at the posts from the previous, and it shows me how great the last year has been. I hope you feel the same way as you take a trip back through the year of 2021.
This is the perfect post to start off this list for the year 2021 considering how difficult a year 2020 was. Based on how little we learning this year and how it feels like we are in the same place this year where we were last year, it might be an important poem to start the 2022 year. This post is also one of three poems that appear on this list which is the most that has ever appeared on any of the end of the year lists I have ever created.
I moved to Jordan at the beginning of August, but did not have the chance to explore it much until October. There are many places that I want to visit, but I got a gift card for a night’s stay at the Kempinski Hotel at the Dead Sea, so this was the first place I voyaged off to. It was a great experience, and floating in the salt water really surprised me by how easy it is to do. I am hoping to post many more travelogues from places I visit in Jordan and other close-by countries in the coming year.
I do enjoy sharing the poetry I write while traveling with you, but only a select few people really get into it. This is why I love it when one of my poems pops up on the top ten list for the year. This one was written during a rainy afternoon in March when I was visiting Khao Sok, a reservoir in southern Thailand. I had taken off work to take this trip, and I enjoyed the way the rain forced me to take things easy on a day that I should have been working.
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is not about spending more or giving gifts. It is all about sharing time with family and friends. Since I have moved overseas, this holiday has meant something a little different for me, but this year I was able to have an experience that will make it one of my favorite memories of this day of celebration. I was able to head down to Wadi Rum with new members of my school and spend some time with the Bedouins that live there. The meal was not a traditional Thanksgiving feast, but it was the best one I have ever had for a meal that was cooked underground. You seemed to be intrigued by this process as well to make it one of the bigger posts of the year even though I posted it so late.
I did get to travel to a lot of different places in Thailand during the pandemic, and I feel lucky to have had that experience. Out of all of them that I went to see, Koh Lipe will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it a beautiful place to relax during my Spring Break right before the country went back to lockdown. It was also my last hurrah while living in Thailand. Though there were many parts of this island paradise that I wrote about, it was this feature that resinated the most with my followers. I hope the information I gave will give those that eventually travel there the hints to enjoy this place as much as I did.
One of the many stops I was supposed to go on my road trip through Thailand last Winter Break was to the reservoir at Khao Sok, but we had to cut that portion of the trip out when the country started to close down. Luckily, the people at the resort let us rebook for a time in March. It create a moment in my life that I will never forget, wild elephants eating breakfast while I was kayaking nearby. This was even more remarkable considering that these elephants rarely come out to be viewed. I was told that because of the recent decline of tourism, they are more willing to come to the shore, and I was happy to be able to share this moment with those who cold not travel there and see it for themselves.
Late in 2020, I received an offer for a new job opportunity in Amman, Jordan, and I spent a lot of my time early this year preparing for the move. Part of that preparation meant signing on to a new email account at my new school as I started to transfer things over. The head of the school sent out an email describing the difference between problems and possibilities to inspire his staff who had been struggling with the pain of online teaching. It was the inspiration for this poem which seemed to connect with other people. It also makes me happy when one of my poems connects with people in this way.
I have written a lot about Black Butte Ranch in central Oregon because I am lucky enough to get to spend a couple of weeks there every summer. It is also a place close to my heart because it is where I got married. The place is a beautiful collection of cabin-like houses underneath the shadow of Black Butte that is off the beaten path of the busy tourist towns and cities of central Oregon. Because of this quiet atmosphere, the wildlife likes to hand out in the forests. Most of the time this is squirrels, deer and coyotes, but I had never seen a herd of elk, so when they came wandering around the house I was staying at, it was reason to pull out the camera and take some pictures. Apparently, other people enjoy seeing these pictures as well because they kept of visiting this post long after its first publication.
One of the nice things about Covid was it forced me to explore Thailand than I would have normally explored it. I spent the whole of the last Winter Break traveling through the southern portion of the country, and the city of Railay was one of my favorite spots. It was a small isolated town that can only be reached by boat where people go rock climbing, kayaking, and lounging on the beach. One of the most prominent features is a cave off of the Princess Beach that people hike up to all the time. My wife and I made this trek one day, and the story of how to get there has now helped a bunch of other people make the same hike.
Board games have become quite the hobby for me during the pandemic. They have been a great way to get together with friends, and continue to be social. The first one I bought to bring me back to this hobby was Everdell, but I had spent a lot of time researching whether this one of Wingspan was the one for me. I ultimately chose to build a woodland village, but I did have a chance to play Wingspan over the summer and compare the two. I have given my thoughts on both games in this post, and which one I thought was the better buy. The post did so well that I have considered doing more board game reviews in the future.
Though there were many posts from the last year that were worthy to see, here is the lists of posts that continue to do well even though the were written in previous years.
Many people think of this time of the year as an ending, and time to renew our lives to push for something new and better. Though this is a great way of thinking about the year, I rather like to look back at where I was and the voyage I have taken during the year.
The year looks like it is going to end much the same way it began, with Covid being the major concern of nations. When the year began, I was living in Thailand and the government was threatening to shut down the country at any time. We were constantly keeping one eye on the news as we rode the vacation wave that we were on touring the country.
We still had to cut that trip short. There were many places we had visited on that trip but there were a couple that we were unable to go to because we had come back early. The big one was Khoa Sok in the southern part of the country by Phuket. It was the one place that did allow us to change our date though and didn’t just take our deposits as the natural consequences of making these choices during this unstable time in the world. We were able to go back in March and enjoy the beauty of that part of the country.
In April, things around the world were starting to loosen up, but Thailand was still dragging its feet on collecting vaccines for its population and hoping that tourism could save their economy. We took advantage of this sliver of time before thing really locked down to go to the very southern tip of Thailand to the small island of Koh Lipe. It was my last hurrah in the country because I had signed for a new job in Jordan the next year, and this would be my last opportunity to enjoy the beauty that this tropical East Asian country had to offer. It ended up being one of the best trips I had taken in that country, and I felt lucky to have gotten it in.
By the time May had rolled around, the country was in complete lockdown and we were back online. It made my last few days in the country seem very anti-climatic. My last moments were a mad rush to an airport as we took one of the few planes flying out of the country to make it back to the United States. It made me feel like I had left a couple of loose ends that needed to be taken care of, but for the most part, this wasn’t the case. Thailand disappeared quickly in my memory as I made the needed adjustments for my next adventure in the International teaching scene.
But first, I got to have some time in the United States visiting with family and friends who I had not seen for a couple of years due to the pandemic. More importantly, we stopped at a couple of pharmacies so we could get vaccinated. We did spend a lot of our time away from the general population until we got this done, but it was nice to be back in America and making steps to get back to what we would hope would be normalcy again.
And for a time in July, it felt like this was the case. I spent most of that month back in Colorado with my family, getting ready to take a hop over a different ocean this time, instead of my usual voyage west over the Pacific. It was nice being back in the cooler, drier air of Colorado, and I was glad that I got to spend a lot of time outside, going back to a lot of the places I had not been to for a long time.
But like all trips, it eventually had to come to an end, and I had to pack up my worldly possessions in August to move to Jordan. As far as Covid was concerned, things were looking better in this part of the world than Thailand which had shut down completely as it had just started to get its population vaccinated. It was a new challenge moving to my new school, but one that I was happy to accept, and the best part was that the school year would be in person and no longer on-line.
The school year definitely kept me busy, but it was a fun kind of busy. I enjoyed working with my new colleagues, and we had made some good friends along the way. This wasn’t all without heartache. We had a short time where we brought a new puppy into our lives, but she had come down with distemper, and we had to say goodbye quickly. It still made me realize how much I loved having a puppy around, and it made me realize that we would need to add an addition like this to our lives very soon.
In October, we were able to have our first break since we arrived, and it was fun to get out and travel again. Leaving the country we were in was still not an easy endeavor, but it was a new adventure as we got to explore what Jordan had to offer. We instantly went back to the water and took a short trip down to the Dead Sea first.
And by November, we continued to explore Jordan by leaving all water behind, and going to the set of Dune down at Wadi Rum. It amazed me to think that I had started the year in the Tropical environs of Thailand, and ended it up in this start landscape where I had to bundle up at night to stay warm.
By the time December rolled around, the rumbling of a new variant was working its way through the news, and there were threats of going back online. Countries around the world are once again shutting their doors to travelers, and it indicates that the struggle I was witnessing at the beginning of the year is still a threat. Even though, I have made an exciting journey during the course of this year, it is funny to see that the world is still in the same place. It still does not mean that I am not excited for what the next year has to offer, and I hope to see those changes that I long for so I can get back to telling you stories about the amazing places that this world has to offer.
Jordan is the hidden gem in the Middle East. Before I came out here to live, I did not know about many of the amazing features that were held in its small borders. I have visited a couple of them, and there are many more that I will visit while I am living here, but they will have to be pretty impressive to beat out the experience I had at Wadi Rum.
It is not a hard place to find. Wadi Rum is located three and a half hours south from Amman, and if you get up early in the morning you can squeeze in a whole day of excitement. But this is not something that I would do. The experience is so much better if you book a stay with the Bedouins who live on this UNESCO World Heritage sight because you can make the most out of a couple of days, and get to experience what it is like to live the lifestyle of a Bedouin, if only for a little while.
I had booked my stay with Nomad Tour Group, and they kept my group pretty busy while I was down there. Despite this fact, they also supplied me with everything I needed, transportation around the desert, a warm tent to stay in on the cold nights down there, and some of the best food I have ever eaten on a tour group. It made for a memorable trip to a unique location.
This sights I saw did not only consist of seeing incredible formations made out of sandstone, but also a bunch of examples of the other inhabitants of the desert. There were, of course, many lizards that I had come across, and a few birds, but it was a lot of fun when I came across random camels wandering around the desert. I was told by my tour guide that they were owned by another Bedouin which it made it easy to get out and feed them, but it was still fun to get close to one of these beasts for the first time in my life.
It is also amazing to see what survives out in this harsh environment. I went down in late November, and I would highly recommend trying to make it down in the fall or if not then, the spring. Both of them will give you temperate weather, but the fall is right before the rainy season, so you won’t be in danger of getting washed out. Despite the dry climate, I still was able to come across a couple of amazing trees, and saw some desert flowers poking out of the sand in a couple of spots where I never thought life would have existed in the first place.
There is also some amazing rock formations that you will be taken to. If you get the right guide, they will get you to these places before the tours really start to pile in, so it will make you feel like you have the place to yourself.
And if the rock formations are not enough for you, there are also places where you can make your own in a crazy version of Jenga. At one time, we were taken to a field filled with a bunch of cairns that had been made over the years, and it was fun to find the right rocks to try and make your own creations. This is one that I spent a little time one, but I liked the way that I got everything to balance precariously on top of each other.
Overall, it is a must stop place if anyone ever travels out to Jordan. The sights are too many to count, and everywhere you look, you want to take another picture. I spent three days, and two nights down there, and I felt like I got a good feel for what it has to offer. If you make it here, you need to definitely mark this as one of the spots that you will want to stop at on your visit.
Wadi Rum has been one of those places that people told me that I had to visit at least once in my lifetime, but I will be honest, I did not see how visiting a desert could be that exciting. To me, it looked like a beach without the water, so why would I want to go to some place where I would have to endure the heat, and bring nothing back from the experience but a bunch of sand. But there had to be a reason for me constantly hearing about how great this place is, and why so many movie came out here to film, so I needed to come out and see for myself. Plus, it was only a three-and-a-half hour drive from my house in Amman, so when I was presented with a three day weekend, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. And I am glad that I went because I learned something there that I had forgotten.
Wadi Rum is an adventure. I had not gone on an adventure for a long time. I had spent a lot of time over the last couple of years stuck in my home, making sure I did not get exposed to the deadly atmosphere that existed beyond my door. When I did leave my home, it was to find a beach to unwind on, and I would return back home feeling refreshed, but not as if I had experienced anything. I would still be connected to the outside world while I was relaxing on the beach, and I wasn’t able to let go of all of the responsibilities I piled up on my lap. I thought that I would be able to stay connected when I went out to Wadi Rum, but I ran into a group of people that saw life in a different way, the Bedouins.
The Bedouins roam around this huge desert landscape just like they have for centuries. They might have a couple of modern conveniences like trucks, and lights, but they like to get away from these distractions and find themselves among the rocks and sands of Wadi Rum. Because of this, they are completely off the grid, and anybody that comes out to visit them is forced to get off of the grid as well.
This means that the only distractions I had on this trip were the small wonders that could be found out in the desert. I couldn’t plug into social media to see what I was missing someplace else in the world. I couldn’t tackle the stacks of work that I had to accomplish to make sure my students were getting the education I think they need. And I had to let go of past frustrations that seemed to haunt me. I could only live in the moment and make the most of it.
It is amazing what comes out of the desert when you take on this kind of lifestyle of the Bedouins. At first, they are pretty obvious such as a camel looking for a piece of pita.
But then you start to notice the smaller things that you might have passed by because your mind was in a completely different place. It might seem obvious at first that you should have seen them because green like this just doesn’t happen in the desert. But when you stop to look at them, it makes you start to wonder why there is this kind of green out in the middle of the desert, and how does it end up on top of a mountain where the harsh conditions are made even harsher with the winds that blow over the sands.
And then you start to see the strange patterns that nature makes in the rock. It seems almost too perfect to have been created by nature, but then again there is too much of a randomness to it to be created by man. It makes you wonder if mankind is only a amateur artist compared to the crazy creations that nature can put together.
It takes you on journey that you know you should have been on a long time ago, and wonder why you didn’t push to get yourself on it sooner. It gave me an appreciation for the world around me that I had not experienced for a long time, and I have to thank the Bedouins for forcing me to disconnect so I could appreciate it the way that it was meant to be appreciated.
It gave those small moments that we pass over in life the importance that they deserve. It might not have been the relaxing break that I was looking for, but it was something better. It was the vacation I needed. I needed that adventure that only a Bedouin could give me, so I could regain that appreciation for life I had lost during the last couple of years. It makes me excited for the next adventure I get to have, and I won’t soon forget the one I just experienced.
To my American friends, I am sorry I am late, but I would like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope that you were able to spend it with good people, sharing good food with them, and making good memories. To all my friends who come from other places in the world, I hope that your adventures allow you to experience the same kind of joy that makes Thanksgiving one of my favorite American holidays.
Living away from the United States makes this holiday a little harder to celebrate. Many of the places I have worked for as I moved overseas has not seen this day as an important holiday, even though they celebrate holidays that are very similar to Thanksgiving. Luckily, I have found myself in a community that appreciates this day, and made sure that my coworkers and I were able to celebrate it in the best way we could find. I took advantage of this fact, and got up early on Thanksgiving morning to take a three and a half hour drive south to Wadi Rum, a Unesco World Herritage Sight, and the movie set for such famous films as Dune, The Martian, Prometheus,Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Lawrence of Arabia.
This desolate landscape might not be the first choice for many people when they think of gathering together for a big feast, but there is much more to this location than the stark beauty. There is a whole community of people that live nomadic lifestyles among the sand, and rocky mountains, and they welcome people with open arms to take a couple of days and feel what it is like to live this way.
It might not have been what I was expecting for a Thanksgiving dinner, but the food and the way it was prepared made for a great Thanksgiving experience. The Bedouins having been preparing huge feasts for centuries out in this desert. It basically starts when they dig a hole in the ground and fill that hole up with burning coals. They then add vegetables, and chicken, cover that hole with a blankets and some sand, and let it cook for two hours.
After two hours, they dig away the sand, pull back the blanket, and pull the feast out of the hole.
And it is quite the feast that they pull out of this hole. Just like a great Thanksgiving meal, there is not a lot of spice added to the meal. For the most part, it is about the preparation of it. Simple ingredients cooked well and combined in the right way to make the perfect meal, and though it was not turkey and mashed potatoes, it was still the perfect meal for this day.
But it was the friends I got to share this meal, and all of the other meals this weekend, that made it a Thanksgiving. Though we may talk about the food, it is the company and the experiences we remember. I feel lucky this year to have spent it with a great group of people. It may not have been my family, and I do miss sharing this day with them, but if I can’t be with them, I am glad that I was still able to have an experience that I will soon not forget.
I hope your Thanksgiving was just as good, and that continues on through the whole holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!!!
It is time to go and play in the mud, Lathering it all over your body. It will help you pump out all the bad blood, And take your living, that has been shoddy, To allow for it to feel young again. Getting sloppy is not only for kids, So do not allow pretention to win, And do as the wallowing custom bids. If it’s too much, look to the salty sea, And let the warm waters wash away clean The grime of the day, leaving you pretty, Ready to return to the adult scene. You don’t know when you’ll get another chance To lose yourself in another mud dance.
If I were living in the Dark Ages, Where my feet tread would be worth a fortune. The spice that’s collected here in stages Would have been mined from the base of this dune. What could be carried away in a sack Would be stored away in someone’s attic, And when a little flavor they did lack, A tiny pinch from their stash, they would pick. But it did not work well for currency Because it would diminish when they ate, Then they would have to go back to the sea, So they could buy more morsels for their plate. You cannot give them grief for this small fault, For life is better with a little salt.
Very rarely do I talk about the hotels that I stay in while traveling, but that is mainly because, I do not go traveling for the hotel. My main goal while out in the world is to see and experience many different places. I do not believe that this can happen at a hotel because the real adventure is beyond the borders of these places. Of course, this philosophy has been tested during the Covid years. Places that would be out of my price range lowered their prices by quite a bit, and I had a hard time ignoring their attempts for me to stay with them. This was something that happened all the time during my years in Thailand, and I thought I would have to break myself of this habit when I moved to Jordan. I had built up my resolve and was getting ready to face the return to more modest accommodations when the school I have started working for had a raffle and I was the lucky winner of a night’s stay at the Kampinski Hotel at the Dead Sea. I could have run down for a quick night’s stay, but I decided to wait until my first big break, and add a couple of nights to really enjoy the place and what it had to offer. I do have to say that it was worth the extension, and it was nice to get to stay one more night at a resort before I switched over.
The resort is a sprawling complex located on the edge of the Dead Sea with its own little beach at the edge of the water where you can go down to float. There are six different restaurants, five different pools, a gym, a kid’s center, and a spa. The place, like so many other resorts, is designed to cater to your ever need so you will not want to ever leave.
And I will admit that it was hard to defy them in this attempt. The pools are comfortable and there is enough variety among them that you can find the one that is perfect for you, whether you like to hang at the lazy river designed for family fun, a long lap style pool, an infinity pool supplied with its own DJ and party vibe, or one at the bottom of the resort that gives you the best view of the Dead Sea and the land that stretches out on the other side of it.
The food options are also outstanding, but I will admit that, like most resorts, they were a little overpriced. Still the best one was the Lebanese restaurant, Code, that offered authentic Lebanese food. If you do decide to eat here, I do recommend that you make a reservation because it is impossible to get seated otherwise. If you are looking for something a little more affordable, you can find it at the mall a ten minute drive away where they have an English style pub, and an American style sports bar where the drinks and food are not as expensive.
There are also some nice day trips close by as well. There is Wadi Mujib, a biosphere reserve that offers a nice hike, the salt flats with the intricate salt formations, the panorama that offers outstanding views of the whole area, and the baptism sight for Jesus that can add a historic perspective if that is something you might be interested in. If you do decide to leave the resort to go on one of the adventures, I have found the Kampinski Resort is the perfect place to come back to so you can unwind with friendly staff and comfortable accommodations.