5 Spas To Help You Rejuvenate This Spring

If the recent warm weather is not enough to alert your senses, then let me inform you. Winter is on its wane and spring is on its way, waiting in the lurches, ready to…well, spring. While you might not be motivated to zealously hit the gym or give up the hamburger-and-fries combo meal just yet, […]

If the recent warm weather is not enough to alert your senses, then let me inform you. Winter is on its wane and spring is on its way, waiting in the lurches, ready to…well, spring.


While you might not be motivated to zealously hit the gym or give up the hamburger-and-fries combo meal just yet, a great way to recharge your batteries is through a trip to the spa. A week-long stay is the best option as most spa programs combine healthy cuisine, fitness classes and therapeutic treatments to help guests garner optimum results. But even a day trip to your neighborhood spa can aid in detoxifying your system. Great spas exist throughout the country and almost everyone can afford an hour of relaxation. GLR has chosen five spas, from New York to California and in between, that offer a great way to dispel the late winter blues.

 

Peninsula Hotel, New York, NY

A Forbes Five Star-rated spa, the Peninsula Spa is an intimate, indulgent environment featuring a wide range of innovative spa treatments, magnificent facilities and great staff. Try one of their popular facials by the French luxury skincare line Biologique Recherche or opt for the ultimate in relaxation with the signature Deep Tissue Experience.

The Spa features a stunning collection of 10 treatment rooms including a spacious Private Spa Suite, Nail Care Suite, men’s and women’s private relaxation lounges, an Asian tea lounge, and changing rooms with luxurious heat experiences.

There are nearly a dozen different types of treatments at the Peninsula Spa, including the Tulasi Detox Signature Journey, a detox that starts with a mineral-rich, aromatic foot soak that creates a sensory-rich start to the ritual and the Deep Tissue Experience, one of their signature spa experiences—a powerful therapeutic treatment that utilizes a vigorous, free-flowing joint release technique, which replaces stressful tension.

Spa Solage, Calistoga, CA

Set in beautiful Napa Valley where spas are not exactly a rarity, Solage sticks out with its farmhouse-style buildings and geothermal pools, compliments of the strong thermal springs that Calistoga is famous for. Artfully designed and ecologically conscious, Spa Solage is the ultimate retreat to experience relaxing and invigorating services, including new twists on the renowned Calistoga mud and mineral water therapies.

Experience the healing geo-thermal waters at Spa Solage with a pre-treatment soak to improve circulation and restore health. Choose to soak in the co-ed geo-thermal pool warmed to body temperature, or in the privacy of our separate men’s and women’s clothing optional areas featuring 103° jetted mineral pools. The clothing optional areas also include a rejuvenating cool plunge and eucalyptus steam for whole-body purification. Arrive 30 minutes prior to your treatment to enjoy the famed hydrotherapy bathing ritual or linger after your treatment to deepen relaxation.

Finally there is the Mudslide, which Solage calls “a modern twist on the traditional Calistoga mud bath” which can be enjoyed solo or as part of a couple or group.

Wellhouse Spa, Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

While Blackberry Farm has been welcoming guests for several decades, its Wellhouse spa is still in its early childhood, having opened in June 2014. Nonetheless, the rustic stone-and-wood building feels established and the spa and wellness menus are comprehensive and enticing. Registered guests of Blackberry Farm have full access to the wellness and spa menu. Sample Spa Treatments include:

The Wellhouse Soothe: a custom Blackberry Farm massage utilizing a combination of classic Swedish techniques and gentle stretches to relieve muscle tension and stress,

Smoky Mountain Mist Skin Glow: a blend of pomegranate seed, orange peel powder and essential oils that exfoliates and conditions the skin while relaxing in a private steam bath, followed by a full-body massage with nutrient-rich body butter follows.

The Blackberry Man: an exclusive spa menu dedicated to every man’s-man featuring relaxing, therapeutic, feel-good services like the Muscle Melt, High-Adventure Foot Restoration and the Saving Face facial.

LakeHouse Spa, Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas

Holistic spas are popping up around the country and one of the best is the LakeHouse Spaat the 19-acre, bucolic Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas. The 25,000-square-foot renovated facility has 30 treatment areas (some situated in the picturesque garden), an outdoor pool, an indoor lap pool, a hot tub and cabanas. Choose from more than 100 spa and salon treatments, many of which are based on ancient therapies including Ayurveda, Moortherapy and Thalassotherapy. Many of the herbs used in treatments are grown onsite at the resort’s Healing Gardens. Opt for the Bamboo Bliss massage or the Texas Sage Herbal Infusion body treatment.

LakeHouse believes in using your body’s defenses to keep illness at bay. Instructor Paul K. Smith teaches specialty yoga classes that allegedly relieve allergies and asthma. Acupuncture is also offered and many spa programs can be tailored to meet the needs of guests who want to decrease stress, lose weight fast or jumpstart their fitness routines.

The resort has 40 luxury accommodations in Texas Hill Country. Rooms feature Egyptian cotton sheets and down comforters, artesian afghan throws, handmade quilts, Kohler soaking tubs and LCD TVs.

Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Arizona

Canyon Ranch is one of the oldest destination spas in the country and also one of the most luxurious. Founded in the Santa Catalina Mountains in 1979, Canyon Ranch, which also has locations in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Miami, boasts a dizzying array of treatment rooms, fitness facilities and places to relax for guests looking for a week or longer detox. Nestled on 150 acres, amid cactus, desert blooms and bubbling streams, the Tucson property has a 80,000-square-foot spa with six gyms, a pilates studio, fitness rooms, racquetball and squash courts, as well as a 11,000-square-foot aquatic center, a golf club and tennis courts. Guests can choose from 50 fitness classes daily, including yoga, tai chi and qi gong.

Spa treatments run the gamut, from facials to scrubs to massages, all with a therapeutic theme. Wellness and health are the focus. You won’t find trendy treatments with Swarovski crystals here. Instead, you’ll find centuries-old therapies such as Ayurvedic treatments. The wellness portion of the resort focuses on disease prevention, smoking cessation, weight loss and stress management. The Life Enhancement Program (LEP) is a week-long program stressing specific medical, wellness and lifestyle concerns of participating guests.

The 240 guest rooms have a Southwestern feel with featherbeds, red and brown printed throws, carved wooden furniture and original art.

ResortPass:  We’ll Stay for the Day — GLR Opinion

Have you ever stayed at an impressive resort that, while teeming with the promise of pristine pools and soothing hot tubs, seems to be a bit lacking in any actual partakers? The offerings, sure, are plentiful, but the sauna and steam room in their world-class spa? Empty. This may sound problematic for their business, but in the efficiency-driven, “as-a-Service” economy we live in today, it also presents a smart opportunity for mutually beneficial partnership. Enter ResortPass, a service poised to connect locals and day trippers seeking relaxation with access to a partnering property’s all too available amenities.

 

Some might say the company has taken a page out of the Airbnb book by leveraging the under-utilized assets at resorts and selling them as an experience, for a fee. Well, the model is certainly working out for both parties. Launched in 2016—with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and “The Point’s Guy,” Brian Kelly, as early investors—ResortPass is starting to hit their stride this year. Not only have they grown their network significantly, but they also closed a $26 million “B” round this past November. They now partner with over 900 hotels and resorts around the world, all allowing users to enjoy luxury experiences on a day pass basis.

 

The price, you might be musing, is surely where the catch lies. Not necessarily, as it is more so reflective of the level of service and amenities offered, as well as the brand. The Four Seasons, for example, will likely cost you more than a Hilton. The range might be from $25-100 per day for a standard pass—more for daybeds and cabanas. The cost for children is less, if not free, depending on age.

 

large pool overlooking valley
Carneros Resort—Napa Valley, CA

 

It’s early days yet and hard to forecast the level of overall demand there will be for ResortPass, but I do have one prediction. The “stickiness” of this service will ultimately reside more with travelers than locals. According to Michael Wolf, CEO of ResortPass, the early data disagrees. So far, the majority of ResortPass’s users are locals who want to experience the amenities of hotels in their own or nearby cities. A staycation, or even “day”cation, as they say.

 

“Our local users never had the opportunity to access the hospitality industry locally,” says Wolf. “They thought they had to get on a plane to enjoy those sorts of amenities.”

 

pool surrounded by canabas and chairs and palm trees
Miramar Resort—Santa Barabra, CA

 

infinity pool overlooking river valley
Miraval Resort—Austin, TX (Photo: James Baigrie)

 

To be fair, ResortPass does acknowledge all types of users, from locals to cruise ship passengers alike, and I’m sure they are targeting all sorts of people in various situations where the service would be compelling. Whether the local demographic remains their top revenue source is anyone’s guess, but I would wager that the true value of this service lies with a certain type of traveler staying at a certain type of place.

 

For example, guests staying at a boutique hotel—one that offers a terrific experience but without resort-level amenities—would seem to be likely customers. Vacationers staying with friends are another plausible group to appeal to, as they might still want a bit of pampering and that vacation vibe while they’re out of town. And then there is their ultimate customer, the ones where the value of ResortPass truly becomes apparent—and for me, it’s full circle back to Airbnb and its guests.

 

I love Airbnb. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate the service. They created a whole new segment of lodging at price-points that are generally more attractive than hotels, especially if you require multiple bedrooms. What Airbnb sorely lacks, however, is amenities. Sure, you can get a great pad with a pool, large kitchen and epic view of the ocean or mountains, but you cannot get the kind of facilities and social intangibles that luxury hotels and resorts offer. There is no way to spell a bustling hotel lobby, or expansive pools surrounded by chaises and cabanas, with dining and cocktail service at your fingertips.

 

hotel pool in city overlooking skyline
Williamsburg Hotel—Brooklyn, NY

 

hotel pool next to bay with palm trees and dining tables
Ritz Carlton Bal Harbor—Miami, FL

 

And therein lies the true value of ResortPass. The best products and services are the ones that fill a void. It’s fine to build a better mouse trap and plenty of companies have made a living doing this. Even the most innovative companies in the world owe a lot of their success to products and services that already existed which they simply improved upon. Apple didn’t invent the smart phone; they just made it better. A lot better. But filling a void is the ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs. See Uber, Venmo and yes, Airbnb.

 

I think Airbnb would be wise to partner with—or dare I say, even purchase—ResortPass. It may start out as just an incremental supplement to their service, as it’s only useful if there is a qualifying resort nearby. Nonetheless, it would be a natural fit that could yield larger, more impactful results in the future. The Batman and Robin of travel disruptors, if you will.

 

ResortPass gets the GLR stamp of approval as a rising star in the resort space. Mark my words, they’re going places—and not just for the day.

 

Miami Beach EDITION: Five Things I Loved, Two I Did Not

Miami Beach EDITION, a collaboration between Ian Schrager and Marriott International, is a vibrant and luxurious hotel situated in the heart of Miami Beach. With its distinctive Shrager-esque style and uncompromising five-star comforts, the hotel offers an array of amenities and experiences that cater to discerning travelers.

 

An Enchanting Location

Nestled in Mid-Beach on a private enclave stretching from Collins Ave to the ocean, Miami Beach EDITION boasts a sprawling three and a half-acre property. This prime location ensures guests have convenient access to both the vibrant city scene and the serene beachfront, creating an ideal setting for a memorable stay.

 

Unparalleled Facilities and Amenities

Since its opening in 2014, Miami Beach EDITION has become synonymous with luxury and entertainment. The hotel features two ocean-facing pools, a wellness spa with a well-equipped gym, a unique basement ice rink doubling as a nightclub, and a bowling alley. Additionally, the indoor and outdoor event spaces offer chic settings for various gatherings. The highlight of the hotel’s dining options is the Jean George-developed MATADOR BAR and ROOM, an visually stunning space offering an equally impressive culinary experience.

 

Matador Terrace

 

Effortless Navigation and Comprehensive Offerings

Miami Beach EDITION stands out with its straightforward and user-friendly layout. Virtually everything is within easy reach from the lobby, fostering a seamless flow of energy and camaraderie among guests. The hotel aims to provide a one-stop shopping experience, encompassing dining, nightlife, socializing, recreation, culture, work, and meeting spaces. With a wide array of amenities and services available on-site, guests may choose to indulge in everything the hotel has to offer without the need to venture outside.

 

Even the lobby of the hotel is a captivating space, featuring pristine white marble floors and polished white pearl Venetian plaster walls. The carefully curated indoor palms and subtle gold and deep green accents contribute to the hotel’s signature “barefoot chic” ambiance. Offering a rare ocean view, the lobby serves as the central hub, connecting guests to various facilities such as the MATADOR BAR, pools, beach, and the outdoor tiki bar called “Tropicale.”

 

Easy To Get Around…Has Everything You Need

 

The layout at The Edition is simple and intuitive. Virtually everything is a stone’s throw from the lobby which makes getting around easy and efficient and adds a whimsical flow of energy and comradery to the place. Everyone is coming and going to or from something enjoyable. The hotel is also outfitted with everything you need. One of Shrager’s top goals with the hotel was to make it a one- stop shopping experience, providing everything a guest could imagine—dining, nightlife, socializing, recreation, culture, work and meeting space—within the complex. Once you are there, there is no reason to leave if you don’t want to. Personally, I can’t imagine forgoing a dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab or walking across the street to the Broken Shaker and Twenty Seven restaurant at the Freehand Hotel, but if you’re the type that just likes to chill at your hotel, Miami Beach EDITION has you covered.

 

The Lobby

The lobby is visually stunning with pristine white marble floors and polished white pearl Venetian plaster walls, highlighted with subtle tones of gold and deep green form the indoor palms. One of the few hotel lobbies in Miami Beach to offer a view of the ocean, the spirit of the space, like the hotel itself, is “barefoot chic” or “new tropical” as Shrager likes to say.

“You might see people in golf attire, a bathing suit, a Pilates uniform, formal evening clothes or jeans,” Schrager notes. “All comfortable, all being themselves, all connected by a certain sensibility.”

 

Lobby

 

The lobby is also the central nervous system of the hotel with a fun pool table (great for the kids) and adjacent MATADOR BAR—with the pools, beach and outdoor tiki bar, “Tropicale,” just a short jaunt away.

 

Dining Delights

Within the hotel, guests can explore a range of dining options. The Jean George-developed “Marketplace” provides indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast or a quick snack. Overlooking the pool with stunning views of Miami Beach, “Tropicale” offers tropical drinks, light bites, and a relaxed island atmosphere.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the MATADOR BAR, a space that transports guests to an era of timeless glamour. It is the kind of place, Schrager says, “one might expect to see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers waltzing through.”

The bar’s expansive design, black walnut and stone centerpiece, and ocean vistas create an unforgettable setting. Adjacent to the bar, the MATADOR ROOM welcomes guests with its grandeur, offering a splendid dining experience inspired by Latin cuisine with modern twists..

.

MATDOR BAR—Lucien Clergue Paintings on Wall

 

Afternoon drinks at MATDOR BAR

 

Adjacent to the bar, the MATADOR ROOM welcomes guests with its grandeur, offering a splendid dining experience inspired by Chef Jeremy Ford’s modern interpretation of Latin cuisine with modern twists—with a variety of dishes that are ideal for sharing.

Equally impressive is the setting. The space’s original chandelier has been restored and is suspended over the sunken oval dining room, reminiscent of the glamorous supper clubs of the 1940s and 50s

 

Inner circle seating at MATADOR ROOM (there are also tables around the permiter of restaurant)

 

Beach Access and Atmosphere

The proximity of the beach to Miami Beach EDITION is a notable advantage. Guests can effortlessly transition between the main pool and the beach, making it convenient for those who enjoy multiple visits throughout the day. The hotel’s beach area has a unique ambiance, thanks to the rocks at both ends, creating a sense of privacy and exclusivity away from excessive foot traffic.

 

Main Pool, benches and cabanas, beach and ocean

 

Family Friendly

While the Ian Schrager brand might not immediately evoke a family-friendly image, Miami Beach EDITION surprises with its welcoming environment for children. The hotel offers various amenities catering to younger guests, including a pool table in the lobby, a ping pong table in a palm-tree sheltered area, and a basement bowling alley and skating rink.

 

Lobby pool table

 

Basement bowling alley

 

Room for Improvement

Though Miami Beach EDITION excels in many aspects, there are a few areas that could benefit from further attention. While the standard rooms showcase elegant design, some functional aspects, like the low-draining sinks, could be improved for a more seamless experience. The pools and benches, while satisfactory, do not stand out as exceptional, and the positioning of the benches could be better optimized for sunlight exposure and comfort.

 

Ocean View Room

 

 

Pool at night overlooked by Matador Terrace

 

My main gripe is more with the positioning and comfort of the benches than the pools themselves. Half the benches have morning sun and half have afternoon sun so you kind of have to choose when you want sun. While this may be a problem for many Miami hotels it seemed more pronounced at EDITION. Of course, many people today will actually appreciate this as we’re more careful about sun exposure, particularly in places where the sun is so strong. But the benches are also quite stiff and low to the ground. The minimalist design Shrager is famous for can sometimes look more comfortable than it actually is—think futon not featherbed—unlike their neighbor, 1 Hotel, which has a more impressive pool situation.

 

“Tropicale” Pool

 

Final Verdict

Miami Beach EDITION, with its modern minimalist design and reasonable price-point for a five-star hotel, offers a comprehensive and stylish retreat for sun-seeking travelers. The hotel’s beach access, ocean-facing pools, and vibrant dining options, particularly the enchanting MATADOR Bar, make it an enticing destination for those seeking class, glamour, and a touch of nostalgia. Whether indulging in a signature cocktail or reveling in the surroundings, guests are sure to find Miami Beach EDITION a delightful escape.

The most unexpected treat? MATADOR Bar. Shrager is right. It does indeed, “transport you back in time to an era where class and glamour reigned supreme.” Order The Pineapple, served in a custom-made copper pineapple or opt for a simple Martini while you enjoy the surroundings. Either way you won’t be disappointed.

Escape to Crested Butte’s Luxuriously Rustic Scarp Ridge Lodge

I toured Eleven Experience’s flagship property, Scarp Ridge Lodge—in the heart of downtown Crested Butte, CO—this past summer and loved it! I can only imagine how comforting it must be to stay here after a long day of skiing in the winter. Perhaps even “snowcat skiing” via their partnership with Irwin Guides (more on that).

A former Croatian saloon, with its Western façade still in tac, this European ski chalet-meets-Rocky Mountain lodge makes for an ideal place to stay for private groups and families.

Eleven Experiences

You may be wondering, what is Eleven Experience? Eleven Experience is an exclusive accommodation and experiential travel brand which seeks out unique and authentic places and properties around the globe. They tend to be off the beaten track, and are mostly all-inclusive, full buy-out type properties. Think 5-star accommodations, but in the comfort of a private home. In addition to seeking out these special properties, Eleven Experience also provides customized experiences with private guides.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest

 

The bar at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest

Eleven Experience has a few properties in Crested Butte, Scarp Ridge Lodge being its lead property. I visited the lodge this summer, when I was in Crested Butte, and had a wonderful tour. The property is fabulous.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge—The Flagship

Scarp Ridge Lodge, with its 5 King bedrooms and bunk room with 7 beds (including a nanny’s room), functions as a retreat for private groups during the winter, and as an upscale B&B during the summer. During winter, Crested Butte is known for its excellent skiing, as well as a plethora of other outdoor winter sports. Think Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, fat biking (extra fat tires to allow you to bike on the snow), and cat skiing.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge living roomPin this image on Pinterest

The lodge has its own, custom snowcat that comes each morning and takes guests to exclusive ski terrain in nearby Irwin. This is part of the “experience” Eleven Experience offers its guests here. Along with a private snowcat, private guides, amazing terrain, and two mountain cabins for eating and apres skiing, guests of the lodge can enjoy a completely unique and plush experience.

 

Rooftop hot tub at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest

 

Indoor pool at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest
Relax and Unwind

After a long day on the mountain, Scarp Ridge Lodge itself is the perfect place to relax and unwind. With a rooftop hot tub, indoor hot tub, indoor salt water pool, sauna and steam room, gym, and media room, there’s not much the lodge doesn’t have. It even has its own oxygen-enriched air system for those who are having a hard time to adjusting to the high altitude. There is a bar for post-skiing drinks, and an open kitchen with fully stocked fridge accessible 24/7. And no worries about cooking – a private chef will do that all for you. Though I must say – the restaurants in Crested Butte are pretty great! You can dine out too.

 

Bedroom at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest
Playing in the bunk room at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest
Bedrooms

Each of the 5 bedrooms has its own en-suite bathroom and is uniquely decorated, with rustic touches in a contemporary setting. We were able to see a bunch of them, all cozy and inviting. The lodge really does feel like a home. The bunkroom, with its 7 beds, is awesome – it had my kids grinning from ear to ear. Based on the board game Chutes & Ladders, it’s adventurous and fun, and just plain cool. There is a loft you can climb up to, and if the kids are young and need some watching after, no worries – there is a nanny’s room right next to it. My kids have been begging to go back. I keep telling them, we will.

 

Hanging out in the media room at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest
The kitchen at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte Colorado

 

As I mentioned, we toured Scarp Ridge Lodge during the summer, when it is a B&B. Not only a ski town, Crested Butte is amazing to visit during the summer. Known for its mountain biking, hiking, flower festival, a happening downtown, and gorgeous scenery, Crested Butte is a special place to visit any time of the year. The lodge is conveniently located in downtown, making it a very easy and accessible home away from home.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel Group and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

 

See also: Rocky Mountain Resort Towns

 

A Timeless Treasure in London

In the bustling heart of Mayfair, London, stands a true testament to refined elegance and unparalleled luxury—The Connaught Hotel. With its rich heritage, impeccable service, and unrivaled attention to detail, The Connaught has become synonymous with sophistication and has captured the hearts of discerning travelers from around the world. This iconic establishment offers a haven of tranquility and indulgence, making it a destination unlike any other in the vibrant city of London.

An Enduring Legacy

The Connaught Hotel has a storied history that dates back to 1815 when it was originally built as a private residence. Over the years, it has evolved into a symbol of timeless grandeur, attracting an elite clientele that includes royalty, celebrities, and influential figures. The hotel’s reputation for excellence has been carefully cultivated, and it continues to set the standard for luxury hospitality in London.

 

Timeless Elegance

Stepping into The Connaught is like entering a world of refined beauty and understated opulence. The hotel’s interior design seamlessly blends traditional British charm with contemporary sophistication. The public areas feature plush furnishings, exquisite artwork, and tasteful décor, creating an atmosphere of warmth and serenity. Every corner of the hotel reflects meticulous attention to detail, from the elegant corridors adorned with fresh flowers to the discreetly attentive staff who anticipate guests’ every need.

 

Exquisite Accommodations

The Connaught offers a range of luxurious accommodations, each meticulously designed to provide an oasis of comfort and tranquility. The rooms and suites exude an air of timeless elegance, with sumptuous fabrics, bespoke furnishings, and modern amenities seamlessly integrated into the classic design. Guests can expect the utmost privacy and personalized service, ensuring a truly unforgettable stay in the heart of London.

 

Culinary Excellence

One of the highlights of The Connaught is its extraordinary dining experiences. The hotel boasts several acclaimed restaurants, each offering a unique culinary journey. At Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, guests can savor exquisite French cuisine created by Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze. The elegant surroundings and impeccable service complement the extraordinary flavors and artistic presentation of the dishes. For those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere, The Connaught Bar is a world-renowned destination for cocktail enthusiasts, where expert mixologists create innovative concoctions that push the boundaries of taste and presentation.

 

The Aman Spa

The Connaught Hotel takes pampering to new heights with its exclusive Aman Spa. Nestled within the hotel, this serene sanctuary offers a holistic approach to well-being, drawing inspiration from both Eastern and Western traditions. Guests can indulge in a range of luxurious treatments, including massages, facials, and rejuvenating therapies. The spa’s tranquil ambiance, coupled with the expertise of highly skilled therapists, ensures a blissful experience that rejuvenates the mind, body, and soul.

 

Unparalleled Service

What truly sets The Connaught apart is its legendary service. From the moment guests step foot inside, they are enveloped in an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality. The staff is dedicated to anticipating guests’ needs and providing personalized attention to ensure a flawless experience. Whether it’s arranging a private tour of London’s hidden gems, securing reservations at exclusive establishments, or simply delivering impeccable room service, the staff at The Connaught goes above and beyond to exceed expectations.

 

Mayfair’s Cultural Haven

Situated in Mayfair, one of London’s most prestigious neighborhoods, The Connaught offers easy access to a wealth of cultural attractions. Guests can explore the nearby art galleries, high-end boutiques, and world-class theaters, immersing themselves in the vibrant pulse of the city. The hotel’s prime

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Dragon Lounge—A Miami Vice Without the Price

Miami has recently earned an interesting yet somewhat unwelcome accolade: it now holds the distinction of having the highest inflation rate in the entire country. While the likes of New York or Los Angeles might appear as more probable candidates for such a title, the rampant inflation in Miami shouldn’t come as a shock.

This surge in inflation can be attributed to a confluence of recent trends such as the pent-up demand for travel and the rise of the “work from anywhere” culture. When coupled with longer-term trends like the substantial migration towards southern regions, the outcome is hardly surprising—a larger population vying for a limited supply of goods.

However, amidst the wave of escalating costs, it’s heartening to note that not every aspect of Miami living will dent your wallet by an exorbitant 25-50%. The key lies in knowing where to direct your attention, as hidden gems of affordability still exist, often right in plain view.

Nestled within the upscale confines of the SLS Hotel, the renowned Japanese restaurant, Katsuya, boasts a reputation for serving some of the most exquisite sushi and Japanese cuisine in Miami Beach. While this popular establishment—with additional branches in Los Angeles and New York—may not immediately strike one as a budget-friendly option, there’s a clever secret waiting to be unearthed, quite literally.

 

dishes of food on table
Assortment of dishes at Katsuya

 

Ascending to the second level of Katsuya reveals the enchanting Dragon Lounge, home to a happy hour deal that’s truly hard to rival. Every Monday through Friday, from 6 to 8 pm, an opportunity presents itself to satisfy both appetite and thirst with an array of top-tier sushi, delectable small bites, and a spectrum of beverages.

 

The offerings include an array of classic and contemporary cocktails, an assortment of beers and wines, and of course, world-class sushi, all of which can be relished within a chic ambiance adorned with murals crafted by local Miami artists.

 

mural of japanese girl
Mural by local artist displayed in Draon Lounge

 

The undeniable highlight of this experience lies in the affordability factor. With sushi rolls priced at a mere $8 and an array of other delicious culinary delights available at decidedly reasonable rates, this concealed corner within Katsuya stands as an oasis of affordability in the midst of an inflationary desert. In your quest for value, the Dragon Lounge undoubtedly emerges as a destination well worth exploring.

 

Currently on the Dragon Lounge happy hour menu:

 

Salmon Lemon Roll Scallion—scallion, asparagus, salmon, masago ($8)

 

salmon sushi roll on plate
Salmon Lemon Roll Scallion

 

Spicy Tuna Roll—tuna, cucumber, scallion, masago ($8)

 

Katsuya Veggie Roll— avocado, asparagus, cucumber, tofu, ponzu sauce ($8)

 

Asparagus Fries— tofu, yuzu aioli, sesame, furikake, togarashi ($8)

 

Truffle Fatty Tuna and Spicy Salmon Crispy Rice— Nikiri soy, shaved truffle, furikake spicy mayo ($19)

 

Sushi on rice
Truffle Fatty Tuna and Spicey Salmom Crispy Rice

 

Short Rib Fried Rice— jidori egg, leeks, mixed veggies, cilantro ($18)

 

Crispy Brussel Sprouts—balsamic tsume, toasted almonds, scallions, sriracha, toasted coconut shaving ($8)

 

Short Rib Bao Bun—steamed bum, ponzu mayo, BBQ sauce, black sesame ($11)

 

 

 

The Right Way to Open Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Not all food and wine traditions—like grilling certain meats, decanting certain wines, or “popping” the cork off of a champagne bottle—results in a better product. Champagne is supposed to open with a bang, right? Not necessarily. In fact a huge celebratory “pop!” is actually a sign that it was opened by an amateur. Experts contend that a bottle of champagne opened with skill will make only a very small popping sound, or perhaps none at all.

Here is how to open a champagne bottle like a pro:

Chill thoroughly – Properly chilled champagne will fizz and/or froth over less
Towel dry the bottle – if there’s condensation to ensure a good grip and prevent slippage
Cut the foil – using a knife, only tearing with fingers after you’ve scored the foil.
Tilt and aim – Tilt the bottle to 45 degrees and aim it away from yourself, others, and anything breakable (like windows)
Hold the cork down – with one hand while twisting open the wire cage with the other
Twist the bottle – with one hand while continuing to hold the cork down with the other
Listen – for the sound of air escaping to signal that the bottle is open. There may also be a small cloud of gas.

The pop can be fun when among friends in a party atmosphere but if opened gently and quietly the champagne will have more bubbles and taste better. As the old saying goes “The ear’s gain is the palate’s loss.”

Once you’ve successfully opened the champagne the next step is pouring it. For the best results make sure the bubbly has been chilled to the proper temperature, 46º F – 57º F depending on age, and then further preserve the bubbles by using a ‘beer-like’ technique and pouring the liquid down the side of a tilted champagne flute.

 

How to Open Champagne

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

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In the book The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky writes “before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters.”  Though that sentiment along with New York’s oyster population has diminished over the past two centuries with the city’s drastic growth, oysters are currently making a strong comeback in Mahattan via the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Continue reading

Inside Grand Central Terminal With Curious Traveler

Touring Grand Central With the Ambassador.

“When Grand Central opened, people were aghast! Simply aghast!”

If you can deliver that line with the best, most genuine New Yawker accent, with genuine enthusiasm and genuine dramatic arm flailings, you’ll begin to have an idea of what it’s like to spend the afternoon with the New York institution that is Grand Central Terminal’s Ambassador, Dan Brucker.

Dan is as much a part of iconic Grand Central as its clock. Well, there’s actually two iconic clocks, and only one Dan, but that’s as it should be. Dan has been interviewed on his knowledge of Grand Central’s Grand history on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Today Show, and on my travel series, Curious Traveler, on PBS. He was just made for TV. So, let’s start our tour.

The world’s largest train station (or train terminal, as Dan will correct you), Grand Central, is known as the ‘Temple of Transportation’ for good reason. In 1869, the designers wrote that ‘People who come to New York should enter a palace at the end of their ride and not a shed’. And indeed, today, when you stand inside the cavernous and majestic main concourse, more than a 100 years later, you’ll look around and say, mission accomplished.

But it had to be an engineering marvel as well as a design marvel. Completed in 1913, with the purpose of creating an underground transportation hub that didn’t disturb that prime Manhattan real estate above. As Dan points out, with 700 trains and 750,000 visitors coming and going every day, you never see any trains! Everything is buried underground, so you have this almost spiritual moment as you enter the ‘temple’ above, and transition into your destination on foot. But why make a train station so Grand at all?

 

Related: The Campbell At Grand Central—Still A Treasure Sans The Apartment

 

Well, the Vanderbilts, who made their name and wealth from the railroad, wanted a magnificent symbol of America’s transportation might. As Dan put it, “To shout out to the world that America was the leader in transportation!” Grand Central was to be the central point, or the home hub of their railroad. So the Vanderbilts hired the best designers to create their Temple of Transportation.

Between 1903 and 1913, the old train station was torn down, and replaced by the architectural firms of Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore, in that breathtaking Beaux-Arts style. Just to emphasize how palatial and grand the influences were, did you know that Grand Central was inspired by the Paris Opera House?!? If you look at a side-by-side comparison, you’ll see how similar they are. Especially the staircases. Amazing.

But what’s even more interesting is this: this temple, this palace, as grand as it is, was built for the everyday, ordinary commuter. So unlike the Paris Opera House, meant to be enjoyed only by the elite, Grand Central’s design is a truly American concept: beauty for everyone to enjoy.

So let’s check out some of that beauty. First stop: a heavenly look 125 feet up at the main concourse ceiling. You will see the most gorgeous mural, covering a staggering 35,000 feet. It’s the night sky, by artist Paul Helieu, and shows all the zodiac signs and constellations, in all their splendor. The only problem is, he got it all backwards.

 

 

As Dan explains, “The truth is: the artist was looking down and then looking up when he painted, and he got a mirror image. And the Vanderbilts, when they heard about this, they came down and they saw that the ceiling was alit with stars, and instead of ripping it all out, they came up with a much better explanation: they said, oh yes we know. which they didn’t. they said they did it on purpose, which they didn’t. “

And so the story goes. The Vanderbilts and Helieu continued to claim that the view was meant to be from God’s vantage point, looking downwards. But hey, it looks beautiful either way, right? Dan agrees, “Exactly. How many people would still look beautiful if they were turned all around?”

And that famous ceiling has another, more recent secret. If you look carefully, you’ll see a small patch of dark brown on the carefully restored blue. That’s a reminder of all the layers of smoke and filth piling up before modern restoration. Hard to believe it ever got that bad.

Now look around the concourse, at the other historic details. Like the old ticket booth, the old ‘Campbell Apartment’ sign: Once New York’s largest ground floor apartment, now a restaurant. Just outside the apartment, look for another sign: Vanderbilt Avenue. Combine that with the Vanderbilt Hall back inside, toss in a few acorns, and you’ll start to see that the Vanderbilts really put their stamp on the place. Wait, acorns?

Yes, that’s a little Grand Central secret. You’ll see acorns atop of the four-faced clock in the main concourse, and in the relief carvings over many of the doorways. They’re hidden like little Easter Eggs all over the terminal. Why acorns? Well, the story goes that since the Vanderbilts were self-made, they had no family crest. So, they chose the acorn, saying that, ‘From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow’. How wonderfully American is that?

 

 

And dangling from the branches of that mighty oak tree that is Grand Central, you’ll see those iconic chandeliers. When they were first created in 1913, they were dipped in 24-carat gold. Typical over-the-top Vanderbilt style, right? But look closely and you’ll see plain old light bulbs there too. Why plain light bulbs? Well, this was also a symbol of America’s might. Remember at the time, most people didn’t have electricity in their homes, so these chandeliers were more Grand symbols of America’s technological advances.

Here, you’ll also see another powerful American symbol: Grand Central’s iconic American Flag, hung here in the Main Concourse since 9/11.

Now look down at that famous four-faced opal clock in the center. It’s also full of secrets. Urban legend has it that the faces are made of pure opal, with an estimated value between ten and twenty million. Actually, they’re made of opalescent glass. But they’re still pretty.

Now, to cap off our tour, Dan takes us up a hidden secret passageway high above the terminal. It’s between the walls, over a glass catwalk, with the most amazing view out a tiny hidden window. In the picture below, we were at the top of the arch of the middle window. See us? We’re waving! Hi!

Then, we climbed higher still, up some rickety, rusty old ladders (how long have they been here?) – to hang out with Roman gods. I mean, what’s a temple without some Roman gods?

If you’re outside, looking up at the 42nd Street façade, you’ll see Grand Central’s iconic clock. It’s the world’s largest Tiffany glass clock, 13 feet in diameter, and has marked time for New Yorkers for a century. And we just climbed inside it, to get a better view. How great is this?

Above the clock are the powerful symbols of the mighty American railroad: The gods of transportation. As Dan explains: “Mercury is in the center, for speed, for industry. On Mercury’s right, there’s Hercules, for strength. And on Mercury’s left, there’s Minerva, the goddess of intellectualism, of thought, of contemplation. It takes all of this to make a mighty railroad. And it sure did. ”

The artist was Jules Felix Coutan, and when it was unveiled in 1914, it was considered the largest sculptural group in the world. And today it still stands as a mighty symbol of the great railroad.

For our last little Grand Central secret, look at the number VI on the clock. It’s actually a little window. And if you’re lucky enough to get a private tour of the Temple of Transportation from the Ambassador of Grand Central, he might let you lean out that window, and hail a cab. What could be more New York than that?

But before we take a cab or a train out of this New York icon, Dan has some final thoughts to share, to remember when you’re in a rush to get from place to place, and cross through his palace: “There are many elements about Grand Central Terminal which make it the symbol of New York and the center of New York. It’s the world’s largest, it’s the world’s busiest, it’s a center of commerce, of people rushing to get someplace, but even more than that, it’s a symbol. New Yorkers get to come here everyday, and feel for themselves, a sense of rebirth, of Renaissance, knowing that you too can be as re-engineered and renewed and grand and Grand Central. It’s a great way to start the day, it’s a great way to end the day. Every single day.”

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

The Right Way to Open Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Not all food and wine traditions—like grilling certain meats, decanting certain wines, or “popping” the cork off of a champagne bottle—results in a better product. Champagne is supposed to open with a bang, right? Not necessarily. In fact a huge celebratory “pop!” is actually a sign that it was opened by an amateur. Experts contend that a bottle of champagne opened with skill will make only a very small popping sound, or perhaps none at all.

Here is how to open a champagne bottle like a pro:

Chill thoroughly – Properly chilled champagne will fizz and/or froth over less
Towel dry the bottle – if there’s condensation to ensure a good grip and prevent slippage
Cut the foil – using a knife, only tearing with fingers after you’ve scored the foil.
Tilt and aim – Tilt the bottle to 45 degrees and aim it away from yourself, others, and anything breakable (like windows)
Hold the cork down – with one hand while twisting open the wire cage with the other
Twist the bottle – with one hand while continuing to hold the cork down with the other
Listen – for the sound of air escaping to signal that the bottle is open. There may also be a small cloud of gas.

The pop can be fun when among friends in a party atmosphere but if opened gently and quietly the champagne will have more bubbles and taste better. As the old saying goes “The ear’s gain is the palate’s loss.”

Once you’ve successfully opened the champagne the next step is pouring it. For the best results make sure the bubbly has been chilled to the proper temperature, 46º F – 57º F depending on age, and then further preserve the bubbles by using a ‘beer-like’ technique and pouring the liquid down the side of a tilted champagne flute.

 

How to Open Champagne

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

Rocky Mountain Resort Towns

Typically viewed as a nuisance in the city, alpine villages view snow as the gift of all gifts from mother nature. For the big mountain resorts in the Colorado Rockies, significant snow storms represent cash falling from the skies.  If you count yourself among those wanting to hit the slopes and carve a few black diamonds before the warm weather arrives, there is no better time for a weekend getaway. Continue reading

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Best Library Bars

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7 Great Hotels In San Francisco

While San Francisco may have become too expensive to live in, it is still relatively affordable to visit. Unlike New York City’s hotel scene, which seems to grow and grow, with trendy newcomers stealing the show, many of San Francisco’s top places to stay are the same properties they have always been—albeit some minor name changes.

Continue reading

Fields of Plenty—A Foray into the Best Ballpark Food

Although the temperature is still in the 40’s in some cities, the 2019 baseball season is in full swing. It’s impossible to predict what will happen over the course of a 162-game season—that’s already evident, with the reigning World Series Champion Red Sox team having trouble finding a victory while the seemingly hapless (on paper) Baltimore Orioles have managed a winning record in the first week of play. They are forecast to win 58 games. Continue reading

America’s Most Coveted Shellfish is Back

Move over Maine lobsters. An even more revered, more sought after New England shellfish has stolen the culinary spotlight for a few fleeting months. Fresh-caught Nantucket Bay scallops – arguably the best and most coveted seafood in America – are now arriving at select restaurants and seafood shops throughout the country, and they won’t be here for long. Continue reading

OPINION & VARIETY

Why ResortPass is a Great Service and the Company They Should Partner with to Be Even Better

Have you ever stayed at an impressive resort that, while teeming with the promise of pristine pools and soothing hot tubs, seems to be a bit lacking in any actual partakers? The offerings, sure, are plentiful, but the sauna and steam room in their world-class spa? Empty. This may sound problematic for their business, but in the efficiency-driven, “as-a-Service” economy we live in today, it also presents a smart opportunity for mutually beneficial partnership. Enter ResortPass, a service poised to connect locals and day trippers seeking relaxation with access to a partnering property’s all too available amenities.

 

Some might say the company has taken a page out of the Airbnb book by leveraging the under-utilized assets at resorts and selling them as an experience, for a fee. Well, the model is certainly working out for both parties. Launched in 2016—with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and “The Point’s Guy,” Brian Kelly, as early investors—ResortPass is starting to hit their stride this year. Not only have they grown their network significantly, but they also closed a $26 million “B” round this past November. They now partner with over 900 hotels and resorts around the world, all allowing users to enjoy luxury experiences on a day pass basis.

 

The price, you might be musing, is surely where the catch lies. Not necessarily, as it is more so reflective of the level of service and amenities offered, as well as the brand. The Four Seasons, for example, will likely cost you more than a Marriot. The range might be from $25-100 per day for a standard pass—more for daybeds and cabanas. The cost for children is less, if not free, depending on age.

 

Carneros Resort—Napa Valley, CA

 

It’s early days yet and hard to forecast the level of overall demand there will be for ResortPass, but I do have one prediction. The “stickiness” of this service will ultimately reside more with travelers than locals. According to Michael Wolf, CEO of ResortPass, the early data disagrees. So far, the majority of ResortPass’s users are locals who want to experience the amenities of hotels in their own or nearby cities. A staycation, or even “day”cation, as they say.

 

“Our local users never had the opportunity to access the hospitality industry locally,” says Wolf. “They thought they had to get on a plane to enjoy those sorts of amenities.”

 

Miramar Resort—Santa Barabra, CA

 

 

To be fair, ResortPass does acknowledge all types of users, from locals to cruise ship passengers alike, and I’m sure they are targeting all sorts of people in various situations where the service would be compelling. Whether the local demographic remains their top revenue source is anyone’s guess, but I would wager that the true value of this service lies with a certain type of traveler staying at a certain type of place.

 

For example, guests staying at a boutique hotel—one that offers a terrific experience but without resort-level amenities—would seem to be likely customers. Vacationers staying with friends are another plausible group to appeal to, as they might still want a bit of pampering and that vacation vibe while they’re out of town. And then there is their ultimate customer, the ones where the value of ResortPass truly becomes apparent—and for me, it’s full circle back to Airbnb and its guests.

 

I love Airbnb. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate the service. They created a whole new segment of lodging at price-points that are generally more attractive than hotels, especially if you require multiple bedrooms. What Airbnb sorely lacks, however, is amenities. Sure, you can get a great pad with a pool, large kitchen and epic view of the ocean or mountains, but you cannot get the kind of facilities and social intangibles that luxury hotels and resorts offer. There is no way to spell a bustling hotel lobby, or expansive pools surrounded by chaises and cabanas, with dining and cocktail service at your fingertips.

 

Williamsburg Hotel—Brooklyn, NY

 

Ritz Carlton Bal Harbor—Miami, FL

 

And therein lies the true value of ResortPass. The best products and services are the ones that fill a void. It’s fine to build a better mouse trap and plenty of companies have made a living doing this. Even the most innovative companies in the world owe a lot of their success to products and services that already existed which they simply improved upon. Apple didn’t invent the smart phone; they just made it better. A lot better. But filling a void is the ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs. See Uber, Venmo and yes, Airbnb.

 

I think Airbnb would be wise to partner with—or dare I say, even purchase—ResortPass. It may start out as just an incremental supplement to their service, as it’s only useful if there is a qualifying resort nearby. Nonetheless, it would be a natural fit that could yield larger, more impactful results in the future. The Batman and Robin of travel disruptors, if you will.

 

ResortPass gets the GLR stamp of approval as a rising star in the resort space. Mark my words, they’re going places—and not just for the day.

 

Interview with Travel Flights Analyst Adam Kwan of TomFlies.com

TomFlies.com is an NYC-based, new-concept travel agency that aims to provide several essential aspects of travel that may have been overlooked throughout the years. Not selling exaggerated experiences, but rather leading their clients to genuine discovery is a key goal at the new age travel agency. We asked their Lead Flights Analyst, Adam Kwan some questions about the future of travel and how TomFlies.com plans to be a part of it. Here is what he had to say.

 

Q.It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

 

A.What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

 

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively.

 

Right now, travelling in a pandemic-stricken world, people are more nervous than ever. Their confidence has been shaken and many people are unsure what will await them when they exit their plane. Making sure that people are confident that their travel will go off without a hitch has always been one of our main goals, so we view travel consultants as more beneficial than ever. There is a deluge of information out there with each country having different regulations. The last thing someone wants to do is spend their hard-earned money on a trip, only to find out they cannot board the plane or leave quarantine during their stay. That’s where we step in, making sure that our clients are making completely informed decisions with confidence.

 

Shutterstock

 

Q. Loyalty and rewards programs play a much larger role for airlines and hotels than meets the eye. Can you discuss how and why these programs are so vital for the travel industry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

A. We see two main benefits to loyalty programs. The first is obvious—reducing customer churn and encouraging purchases with your company over your competitors; i.e. customer loyalty. The second benefit is liquidity through corporate partnerships.

 

Reducing customer churn (the rate at which customers stop buying your product over time) is important for every industry, but even more so in leisure travel where each individual customer may only purchase something once a year or less. It is tantamount that a travel company remains prominently in view of their clientele. Regular newsletters, deals, and targeted ads help with this, but a loyalty program will take this a step further. Loyalty programs create a sense of investment in your clients and strongly encourage them to return to you for their travel needs. There have been many detailed studies done on the psychological effects of loyalty programs, but the benefits are essentially the following:

 

  • Goal Anticipation – Creating something for your client to work for. By giving them a concrete goal and a way for them to track their progress towards that goal, people will be strongly motivated to complete that goal; i.e. purchase more. Not only that, but customers will invest more to complete the goal the closer they are to achieving it.
  • Positive Reinforcement – Encouraging customers to stick with you by giving them rewards is an obvious example of positive reinforcement. But just as important is the converse. Not only are you encouraging people to purchase through your company, but you also create a sense of “lost value” when they book with your competitors. Studies have shown that people generally tend toward being risk-averse when faced with a value-loss proposition.
  • Creating a sense of exclusivity – Simply put, people like being in exclusive groups and feeling unique and appreciated. Top-tiers of loyalty programs offer this prestige. If you make JetBlue Mosaic, you’re going to feel pretty good being the first one on the plane.

 

 

The second main benefit is more simply explained. Airlines and hotels will create liquidity by selling their points to corporate partners. When Chase or American Express offer their cardholders point exchanges or deals with specific travel partners, that likely means the bank has purchased points in bulk from the travel provider. This accounts for a surprisingly significant portion of the liquidity for several travel companies and is important in supporting daily operations and business development.

 

Both of these benefits are eminently important during the pandemic. When your clients are ready to travel again, you want to make sure they come back to you. And while traditional sales dry up, you want the extra liquidity from corporate points sales to keep things running.

 

Q. Should consumers be thinking any differently about their loyalty/rewards memberships during this period? Are there any tips or strategies you have for people who travel frequently and accrue a lot of points?  

 

A. There are a few tips and tricks we have for maximizing the value of your points, however more so in general rather than specifically during the pandemic.

 

First is to absolutely do your research. There’s no way of knowing if you’re getting a good value for your points unless you know the baseline value of them. For example, TrueBlue points are worth 1.1 cents each on average. I would only book flights with points where you meet or exceed that exchange rate. During COVID, we’d suggest to make sure that there is no expiration on your points and benefits, at least until you’re ready to travel again. If there is, ask the airline or hotel if they can extend the expiration for you.

 

Second is to shop around. Just because you have points with American Airlines doesn’t mean you can’t buy a British Airways ticket with them. Airlines have partners which often allow you to book the same exact flight through them. For example, Alaska Airlines offers many of the same flights operated by its partner American Airlines, however the flights usually cost fewer Alaska Airlines miles than AAdvantage Points. You can simply transfer your points from AA to Alaska and use them there for more value per point.

 

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

 

Q. What have been the most frequently asked questions by your clients during the pandemic and how are you advising them? 

 

A. Far and away the most asked question is whether a traveler will have to quarantine when they arrive at a destination or if they will have to take a COVID test before travelling. We’re keeping track of the ever-changing regulations for each of our most popular destinations so we can make sure all of our clients are fully informed.

 

Q. What destinations, US and international, do you expect to see the most interest in once virus fears subside and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels—or close? 

 

A. Hard to tell, but it’s between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in our opinion. We’re already seeing a large uptick of interest in the Caribbean, especially for all-inclusive resort destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana. The amount of interest can only go up from here. We think that the private and comprehensive experience offered by all-inclusive resorts does add a sense of security for their guests. Knowing that everything you need is in an environment you’ve seen being sanitized goes a long way towards making people feel safe during a pandemic. They can have it all without having to go out into unfamiliar surroundings that may not be clean.

 

Positano at sunset/Shutterstock

 

We also think people are just itching to head back to the Mediterranean, we know we are. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece et al have always been some of our most requested destinations, and people miss those places more than ever now that travel is restricted.

 

Q.What is the single biggest reason to use a travel advisor?

 

A.Simply that the cost to benefit ratio is great. With our agency’s negotiated rates and worldwide reach, we can offer prices competitive with OTAs while also offering the added benefit of travel planning expertise and dedicated e-concierge services and support before, during, and after travel. Essentially, people will be able to pay roughly the same amount of money for their travel as if they booked it themselves, without actually having to do anything themselves.

 

Q.In just a few words, what is your philosophy at TomFlies.com?

 

A.“Always wander!”

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

Nomadic Nutrition—Foraging Tips From an Expert Forager

In the Time of Covid, the wide blue yonder is both my escape hatch and my sanity maintenance pill. Specifically the swath of public lands east and west of my home in Seattle. Out there, in the ancient forests and lonesome mountains of the Cascades and Olympics, I can breathe in the fresh air and not worry about tainted particles of disease, those “air-born droplets” we’ve heard so much about.

 

Only, those same mountains aren’t so lonely these days.

 

It turns out there are plenty other Americans with cabin fever, and outdoor recreation is seeing a boom like never before. Retail stores are sold out of camping equipment, fishing gear, bikes, and cross-country skis. Trailheads overflow with cars. Popular spots for hiking and angling are busier than Grand Central Station.

I enjoy all those activities, too, but thankfully I’m also a forager, which encourages me to get off the beaten path to go on a more solitary outdoor treasure hunt for wild edible foods. Foraging is a perfect way, in fact, to forget about the downward spiraling news cycle and find literal sustenance in nature.

 

Chokecherries, common across much of North America, make tasty jam

 

And in case you’ve been squirreled away in deep quarantine, foraging is hip these days. It’s now cool to traipse through the woods, woven Guatemalan basket in hand, in search of chanterelle mushrooms for the table, or to brave the bite of stinging nettles for a pot of soup. Every Michelin-aspiring chef has wild foods on the menu, and the bearded hipsters in their logging shirts from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, are learning how to tell a Death Cap mushroom from a delicious clump of porcini.

 

Fiddlehead ferns, lovely and full of earthy flavor

 

But…about those Death Caps… If you’d like to learn how to find a few untamed foods to spice up dinner during lockdown, just remember the forager’s Golden Rule: Never, ever, eat anything from the wild without one-hundred percent certainty of its identification. While there aren’t many deadly poisonous plants and mushrooms, there are a few, meaning it’s a good idea to learn how to recognize, for instance, a common weed such as poison hemlock (looks a bit like parsley!), yes the same one that killed Socrates.

If you’re new to foraging, try to go beyond leafing through field guides or surfing YouTube videos. Take a class or workshop if possible, join a mycological or horticultural society (most club meetings are via Zoom these days, but it’s a start), and best of all, find a more experienced friend or willing teacher who can mentor you.

 

Pan-seared diver scallops with morels and potatoes in stinging nettle sauce

 

There’s ample foraging just about everywhere across this stricken nation, including within city limits. Every region boasts of a few specialties: prickly pear cactus in the Southwest desert; wild rice in the Great Lakes; onion-y ramps up and down Appalachia. In many places you can harvest something as ubiquitous as the humble-yet-nutritionally-off-the-charts dandelion year-round, or go for the more advanced art of clam digging or mushroom hunting in season.

Regardless of quarry, wild food foraging is a great way to get outside for a while and forget about what ails us.

Langdon Cook, award-winning author of Upstream and The Mushroom Hunters.

Venice Beach—With Kids?

Fifi+Hop’s Corey Cook takes us to energetic Venice Beach which, despite it’s edginess, can be a great place to take kids. You just need to know where to go.

Some may look at the title of this post – Venice Beach with Kids – with speculation, but Venice was actually my girls’ self-proclaimed favorite part of our L.A. family vacation. They loved it. This post is all about things to do in Venice with kids, and why it should be on every family’s L.A. must-see list.

Venice Beach with Kids

 

Venice, CA, bohemian in spirit, has always been the funkier side of town, filled with eclectic shops and people, restaurants, street entertainers, and, in general, an off-beat vibe all its own. It’s never really had a reputation as a family-oriented kind of hood. Yet it’s this colorfulness of Venice which is exactly why I wanted to take my kids – all the action and eye-candy, I knew, would entertain them for hours.

 

We decided to allot 1 day in Venice, out of our 5 days. How did we go about planning our 1 day in Venice itinerary? I knew just who I wanted to show us around – my blogging friend Hilary from the blog HilaryStyle. She is the eyes and ears of L.A. and would be the perfect person to show my kids everything that makes Venice, Venice.

 

Venice Beach with Kids, HilaryStyle and mePin this image on Pinterest

 

Hilary and Me!

Hilary was on board for our visit, and then some. We covered it all, and by the end of the day my girls were reeling from all the fun they had. Here’s all the fun things to do in Venice Beach with kids. (Tip: we went first thing in the morning around 9:30, which was a perfect time to start our day, as there were hardly any crowds and it was very manageable with the kids).

WALK ALONG THE VENICE BOARDWALK (AKA OCEAN FRONT WALK)
Venice Beach with kids, walk along the Venice Boardwalk

 

The famous Venice Boardwalk spans about 1 ½ miles, with beautiful, white sand and the Pacific Ocean on one side, and funky storefronts and eateries on the other. Whatever bric-a-brac shops you can think of, the Ocean Front Walk has: souvenirs, sunglasses, surf and skate shops, t-shirts, tattoos, etc. My girls got their L.A. souvenirs here, in the form of sweatshirts, and have been wearing them ever since. Both say Venice Beach in different patterns, and they think they are the coolest girls in town when they wear them!

We walked for a while along the path, and Hilary pointed out all the other interesting things to see that make Venice the happening place it is. We saw people biking, rollerblading, playing paddle tennis, which are some of the activities you can do while you’re there (though we did not). And then there is of course Muscle Beach, an iconic part of the boardwalk where all the body builders work out. This is where Gold’s Gym got its start, begun by 70’s and 80’s superstar body builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

 

Later in our walk the girls got henna tattoos, which was a big hit – there are tattoo shops, fortune tellers and other off-beat things like that scattered all over the boardwalk. As well as restaurants – we ate at Wee Chippy at the recommendation of Hilary as having the best fries anywhere, and I have to say, she was right! In general, the Venice Boardwalk has an energy that appeals to any age, and is just plain FUN.

 

WATCH THE SKATEBOARDERS AT VENICE SKATE PARK
Venice Beach with kids, Venice Skate Park

Venice Skate Park is truly an amazing skate park, and definitely worth a visit. If you’re like us then you will love watching all the skate boarders do their tricks. The boarders span all ages, and you can see older men as much as younger kids skate about. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and it can take up as much or little time as you want it to.

CHECK OUT ALL THE STREET ART AND WALL MURALS
Looking at the Venice Beach street art with kidsPin this image on Pinterest

 

Venice Beach wall mural

Venice is known for its abundance of street art, and seeing as Hilary is the street art expert, she showed us mural after mural, art piece after art piece, all throughout Venice. I’ll get to some of these places below, but we saw street art in many of the side streets off of the boardwalk, on our way over to the canals, and along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There are wall murals everywhere, some I would have probably walked right by had it not been for them being pointed out – so make sure to keep your eyes open and on the look-out. They are colorful and whimsical and great fun for the kids to pose in front of for vaca pics.

 

Venice Art Walls with kidsPin this image on Pinterest

One of the highlights of our day in Venice was making some street art/ graffiti of our own! Hilary brought cans of paint with her, which the kids sprayed out on the beach. There is a designated area called the Venice Art Walls where the public can spray paint themselves, and the kids went to town – a great, unique activity that they will always remember!

 

WATCH THE STREET PERFORMERS
Watching the street performers and dancers on Venice Beach

We’re from New York, and whenever there are street performers doing their thing (always) in the subway, on the streets, Union Square, Times Square, wherever, we like to check them out. The girls love watching their shows. Venice is no stranger to street performers so we of course had to see them too. They are a big part of the chemistry that makes up Venice, with a contagious energy that you can’t help but feel a part of. Until they want you to join the show! We watched one group do their break dance, gymnastic stunts, etc. until they started to head our way to get the kids to participate. We immediately high-tailed it, but up until then it was a lot of fun for the kids, with a huge crowd getting into it.

 

WALK ALONG THE VENICE CANALS
Walking along the Venice Canals in Venice Beach, CA

It is no coincidence that the “Venice of America” has the same name as its Italian counterpart. Venice was founded by millionaire developer Abbot Kinney and modeled after his favorite European city, Venice. In the early 1900’s the canals that we see today used to be wetlands, and the perfect spot to build canals. Today (especially after a major renovation project completed in the 90’s), they are one of L.A.’s most unique neighborhoods and so much fun to walk around. I really enjoy walking along the canals and over the bridges, and so did my kids.

 

Giant Unicorn float in the Venice Beach canals in Venice Beach, CAPin this image on Pinterest

 

With the renovation came many newly built, modern homes, and looking at the houses is just as much a part of the appeal. So many of the city’s beautiful homes are located in the Venice Canals. We particularly liked looking at all the different boats home owners had, from canoes to kayaks to unicorn rafts!

STROLL ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD

Checking out the wall murals in Abbot Kinney in VenicePin this image on Pinterest

 

Having fun at Avatar Nation in Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach           

 

Perhaps the chicest part of L.A., Abbot Kinney Blvd. is filled with Boho fashion stores, home design shops, fabulous restaurants and an overall trendy vibe. You can’t go to Venice without hitting Abbot Kinney. What’s in it for the kids? Good question – it’s mostly for adults. But for the adults who are visiting with their kids and don’t want to miss out, there are some gems to take the kids. We went to Salt n Straw ice cream, which has amazing, unique flavors and which the kids loved. We found plenty of street art to take pics of them with, and we found fun stores to take them in too – one of them being Avatar Nation. The kids played ping pong in the back, it’s full of bright colors, and they loved it. It was a welcome respite for us adults too to take a break and let the kids play.

Why MeCabo Should Be On Your 2023 Travel List

Well-known as a chic, party-themed hotel, ME Cabo reopened in the fall of 2021 after a complete transformation. The weekend of the Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s biggest holidays of the year was the rebirth of this popular destination. Drawing scores of bikini-clad, well-heeled travelers from the west coast, all over Mexico and a growing number from the rest of the United States, ME Cabo opened its doors again and is ready to impress after investing over $10 million in its total redesign. These are the five top reasons why the seaside ME Cabo resort should be on the bucket list for every Mexico-bound reveler.

The location

 

beach

 

Within walking distance of town, this resort doubles down on the nightlife and fun-in-the-sun vibe. Not only are you in perfect view of the famous El Arco from much of the resort, but you can be shopping, “cheersing” or boating just minutes after leaving the hotel. It may be hard to pull yourself away from the resort’s own beautiful stretch of beach, oceanfront pool and bevy of highly celebrated restaurants though.

 

The resort sits at the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and during the winter months, it is possible to see whales frolicking offshore. While the beaches are public, the resort does have a roped-off section with private chairs and umbrellas where guests can relax uninterrupted. The water is warm (this is Los Cabos’ only swimmable beach), and servers circle around to take orders from the nearby bar.

The party vibe

 

lounge

 

This is not the kind of place you come to for a quiet nap by the pool with cucumbers over your eyes. And the guest list here knows that. The upscale crowd here seeks out the party vibe making nightlife part of their daily routine, too. The rates here prohibit the Spring Break crowd from coming to the resort meaning it is ready and waiting for the often young, elite and chic crowds of Mexico City and Los Angeles.

 

 

saxophonist

 

As one of Meliá Hotels International’s brands, ME hotels are known globally for their sophisticated and fashionable party spirit. By the pool, dancers shimmy and shake from morning to night on pedestals as guests sip fruity cocktails or chilled Mexican beer. Clubby music emanates from speakers morning to night, and it is hard not to wake up in a good mood here. Even the hotel’s top suite has its own DJ booth for those that want to try their hand at mixing music. Poolside musicians perform throughout the day to entertain the crowd including jazz-style violinists and saxophonists.

 

A swim-up bar complements the roving pool servers, and visiting DJs often entertain at the beach club. The same thumping music continues in many of the bars and restaurants keeping the party mood alive throughout the day. It’s the kind of young and hip party place that is designed to impress.

This resort is not a mecca for conferences, but it does draw plenty of social events and weddings that take advantage of the beach club platform and pool area for parties.

Headline-worthy food and beverage

 

cocktail

 

Rosa Negra, famed for its numerous dining outlets in Mexico, is at the helm of the food and beverage experience here. It is responsible for the four dining and drinking outlets here, each with a focus to serve Latin American flavors using local ingredients.

Confessions Skybar & Tapas serves light bites of mostly Spanish fare with a mix of meat, seafood and veggie options. Arrive before sunset to catch the beautiful views, but once the sun goes down, the lights turn up for a DJ-fueled party atmosphere with coastal breezes. Dress to impress up here.

 

restaurant

 

Expect Thai, Chinese and Japanese fare at Funky Geisha while Mamazzita Mexican Soul serves three meals a day focused on traditional Mexican fare. Like the pool, musicians and entertainers perform throughout the space as guests dine on beautifully presented dishes. The Rosa Negra affiliation has brought tremendous buzz among foodies and from around the country to the resort. Don’t miss the fruit and grain bowls and chilaquiles at breakfast, which luckily serves until late.

 

lamb

 

At Taboo Beach Club, Mediterranean fare is the go-to option with everything from Greek-style rack of lamb to healthy platters of vegetables and chilled gazpacho. The outdoor setting is meant to feel like you’re at the beach on a Greek island or Turkish cafe.

 

The redesigned rooms

 

guest room

 

Perhaps the highlight of a stay here is the quiet spot you have to seek respite after a day partying by the pool or dancing on the beach. If you had stayed here before, you will hardly recognize the new look of the guest rooms. Polished tile floors and white-washed walls show off minimalist design with the occasional pops of color in the Mexican art and design pieces. Throughout the hotel, regional touches in Mexican art and design abound.

 

 

bed

 

The bedding features chic, yet unpretentious, bespoke bedding with power and USB outlets on either side of the bed. I particularly like how the bed is positioned to maximize the window views in many rooms. Open-plan bathrooms continue the edgy design with vanities stocked with towels and C.O. Bigelow toiletries. Separate marble rain shower and water closet sections make the entire bathroom and dressing area feel more spacious. Built-in luggage racks above drawers are another well-thought-out touch.

 

 

suite

 

Minibars (which the hotel calls “maxibars”) are stocked with regional Mexican products, but all rooms come with complimentary Evian bottled water. Suites add separate living room areas with day beds and Nespresso machines. There is a variety of suite types, some of which have outdoor whirlpools on the balcony and the most up-front-and-personal views of El Arco. Guests in the ME+ Suite enjoy a pre-reserved day bed at Taboo Beach Club each day of their stay.

 

The spa

lobby
The hotel’s redesigned lobby
 

With all of that partying, your body deserves a touch of pampering in between the ruckus. The spa is tucked away into a corner of the resort as if it were an afterthought, but once you pass through the changing rooms, you realize there is much more than meets the eye.

Grab a glass of chlorophyll water and head for the relaxation areas to feel the ocean breeze in the shade. Splashing waterfalls bring you into another world as you wait for your treatment. On the menu are facials, massages and medical treatments from a well-trained staff.

 

design details
The design details around the resort are beautiful.

In addition to sauna and steam room areas, there’s also a modern fitness center with the latest workout equipment, stacks of towels and a fridge stocked with chilled bottled water. It’s clear that many of those parading around the pool have spent at least some time in the gym or spa. For most of us though, the views and food are what clinches the deal when considering a top resort for a trip to famous Cabo.