ISO Reader Survey -- 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017


With my impending move to Florence coming on July 1, I've got some big-ish plans for ISO, but before implementing them I'd love to get some input from you! If you have the time, I'd really appreciate it if you take this short survey of just seven questions.

Thank you so much!


Looking For A Hotel In Parnu? Choose Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On our trip to Parnu, Estonia,  J and I really needed a bit of quality R&R, so we opted for a hotel and spa option. We booked into the really lovely Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa*, and it easily ranks up there with one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in.

Check In

Checking into Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa* was a smooth process, with the friendly staff quickly providing our key and asking if we needed a travel crib (we brought our own awesome Baby Bjorn). The women who checked us in also gave Baby ISO a cute little resort-themed coloring book and colored pencils.

 The Rooms

When we entered the room, I was surprised to see just how large and nicely detailed our room was. All rooms at Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa* were renovated in 2015 to include detailed Estonian influences, and the decor created a calming atmosphere. Our room was decked out in calming greys and had a large arm chair, comfortable desk with chair, and dim lighting. On the wall was a set of photographs of Parnu, which I really prefer compared to the stock photos or mass-produced art that is found on many hotel walls.

The bathrooms were also lovely and had heated floors and a large walk in shower. Free toiletries, a soft bathrobe, and disposable slippers were also provided.

Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa also offers free Wi-Fi, and it was very fast and had a strong signal in our room (on the 3rd floor). I was working during this trip, so it free, fast Wi-Fi is really important to me.

One minor complaint I had about the room was that there was a bit of dog food on the floor in one corner of the room. Probably we wouldn't have noticed if we didn't spend so much time on the floor playing with Baby ISO, but some more attention should be paid when cleaning a room after a pet visits.

The Spa

The spa at the Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa* was stand-out! J and I both treated ourselves to spa treatments and they were lovely. Although I didn't take any photos, the spa treatment area was calming and decorated with delicate white birds hanging from the ceiling. The spa treatments focused on traditional Estonia spa practices and utilized medicinal herbs in the Estonian pharmaecopia like meadowsweet, birch leaves, cornflower, and nettle.

J opted for the 60 minute full body massage, which he said was perfect for sore shoulders. I had the 30 minute shoulder massage and a peat and meadowsweet facial, which I loved.

In addition to the numerous spa treatments available, the rooms come with free access to the pool, sauna, and hot tub facilities. The pool was lovely and well-maintained and was dotted with about five hot tubs (some were outside). My favorite though, were the numerous saunas (maybe about 10 to 15) at varying temperatures. The aromatherapy sauna had large windows facing a small street, which made it perfect for people-watching while sweating out all toxins.

Noot Restaurant

Our first evening in Parnu we opted to relax and eat in the hotel. Noot was a surprisingly good restaurant that had a great toy basket for kids and a nice menu. The head chef of Noot -- Rudolf Visnapuu -- creates a new menu a few times per year and even has the youngest travelers in mind.

J enjoyed his (winner winner) chicken dinner, and I had the duck with barley, which was good but not great. Baby ISO had a really tasty meal of creamy pasta with chicken and vegetables.

If you visit Noot or stay at Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa, make sure to treat yourself and order dessert. The chocolate fondant cake with berries and coffee ice cream really stood out! But maybe skip a cup of coffee to go with it, because my cappuccino really was not good.

The free buffet breakfast was also served at Noot. The breakfast had a massive spread of meats, cheeses, pastries, yogurt, vegetables and fruit, porridge, hot dishes, and more. There were many delicious options, but make sure you look around because the buffet tables were a bit spread out (I missed the pastry table the first breakfast).

*Please note that links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. I make a small commission on hotels booked through these links at no cost to you. This helps me to keep In Search Of up and running. However, we covered our expenses for this trip and would re-visit Parnu in a heartbeat.

48 Hours in Parnu: Estonia's Gorgeous Resort Town

Monday, May 15, 2017

After spending a nice few days in Riga, we hopped back into our rental car and made our way 2.5 hours north to Parnu, Estonia. Parnu is Estonia's premier summertime spa and beach resort, and rightly so because it is simply stunning. In Parnu, you'll find a long stretch of beach flanked by a gorgeous green park, several surprisingly excellent restaurants, and a small but quaint historic center.

What really caught my eye in Parnu though was the kid-friendliness of the city. The large park, several playgrounds, baskets of toys at restaurants, and pedestrian-only streets made wrangling a very active toddler a lot easier.

I've now visited all of the most famous resort towns in the Baltics -- Druskininkai, LT; Jurmala, LV; and Parnu, EE -- and Parnu tops my list as favorite. If you are looking for a lovely, relaxing city break, I have to recommend visiting Parnu.

Day 1: Late Morning/Afternoon

After checking into your lovely resort hotel*, I'd recommend popping over to the beach and park -- I always need a bit of a walk after being stuck in the car for a while, don't you? The large park along Parnu's shoreline features a really nice playground, benches designed in a very cool way, and plenty of space to run. There is also an additional playground on the beach and a large ropes course/jungle gym for older kids and adults further down the shore.

Although it was only April and certainly not the best time to visit, the beach was lovely, with a long stretch of soft white sand. I expect it gets pretty crowded in the summer, but I actually think that'd be really nice!

Day 1: Evening

We were a bit tired from our drive and J had a massage scheduled, so we opted to eat at the hotel's (Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa*) restaurant, Noot. Normally, hotel food is shockingly expensive, but the prices at Noot were reasonable, the food was lovely, and there was a basket full of toys for kids. I had the duck with barley and vegetables, and it was good, but not the best I've eaten. J opted for the chicken and enjoyed it. Baby ISO loved his creamy pasta with chicken and vegetables, which makes my job a whole lot easier.

J had to make an early exit for his massage, but he really missed out because my dessert was the star of the meal. For dessert, I ordered a chocolate fondant cake that came with fruit and a scoop of heavenly coffee ice cream.

Day 2: Morning

After a leisurely breakfast in our hotel (the selection was awesome), it was my turn for spa treatments -- I'm never one to pass down a spa when available! If spa treatments aren't your thing, the morning is a great time to hit the resort's pool area because it is less crowded.

Day 2: Late Morning/Afternoon

After a relaxing morning getting spa treatments or sweating it out in the sauna, a visit to Parnu's historic city center is a must. It is easy to reach the historic center and the pedestrian street, Ruutli St., on foot from Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa*. Though small, the colorful architecture of the buildings that line Ruutli St. is eye-catching. Architectural and historical highlights included St. Elizabeth's Church, St. Catherine's Church, and the tower remaining from the old city defenses. Another thing to keep your eyes open for when visiting Parnu are the colorful and intricately designed doors. They are really beautiful!

If you are into checking out the local stores, Ruutli St. had a few nice options for women that focused on local Estonian design. I'd suggest visiting Pleme Avatud (28 Ruutli St.), which had some really pretty dresses, cute accessories, and a small section of men's wear.

Shopping lovers can find the Port Artur shopping malls just a bit off of Ruutli St. Also off Ruutli St. is the Parnu City Museum that we ended up not visiting because Baby ISO was a bit unruly. If you aren't traveling with a toddler, you might opt to visit because the exhibits sound really amazing.

Day 2: Evening

All of that walking and fresh air had us hungry for a sort of early dinner, so we stopped by Kohvik Supelsaksad, which is a very highly rated cafe and restaurant. If you are visiting Parnu, you too should opt to have one of your meals at Supelsksad because it is really tasty.

The interior of Kohvik Supelsksad is very colorful and fun, which is also reflected in the tasty food and the friendly staff. I ordered a quinoa and vegetable dish and J ordered the prosciutto salad; both were so fresh, bright, and delicious! Baby ISO was spoiled yet again with a heaping pile of mashed potatoes, meatballs, and vegetables (his meal was really good).

To finish off the meal, I had a lovely cup of rooibos tea and a very rich chocolate tart. J opted for the raspberry cake, which had the perfect mix of sweet and sour.

Other than the great food and bright, refreshing atmosphere, Kohvik Supelsksad brought it home with a basket of toys, coloring pages, and an ample amount of high chairs (what's the deal with restaurants only having one high chair?). If you visit Parnu, I really hope you get the chance to eat at Kohvik Supelsksad!

If you are looking for an additional meal option (I realize that I omitted lunches from this list) the try Mahedik, which gets amazing ratings. We walked by and I really regret not stopping in for a coffee and a cake.

Getting to Parnu:

Parnu is about a 5.5 hour drive from Vilnius, Lithuania, a 2.5 hour drive from Riga, Latvia, and about a 2 hour drive from Tallinn, Estonia. Do keep in mind the A1 and A2 (the roads you'll take from Vilnius or Riga) basically sucks, so it could take longer. Though considered a highway, the A1 and A2 are congested with trucks and the one lane roads don't often permit passing. Nonetheless, you absolutely should visit Parnu.

Have you visited Parnu before? Parnu is my absolute favorite resort town in the Baltic States. If you are looking for a relaxing spa experience, great food, lovely beaches, and a quaint town, Parnu has you covered.

*Please note that links marked with an asterisk are affiliate links. I make a small commission on hotels booked through these links at no cost to you. This helps me to keep In Search Of up and running. However, we covered our expenses for this trip and would re-visit Parnu in a heartbeat. 

I'm linking up with the 1 year anniversary of Wanderful Wednesday