Wednesday, May 30, 2012

48 Hour Sale on Luxury All-Inclusive Resorts

Book by midnight May 31st

Chicago O’Hare : Seven nights at Dreams Puerto Vallarta from $1,147.39 per person
Boston : Seven nights at Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Ixtapa from $1,427 per person
Fort Lauderdale : Seven nights at Secrets Montego Bay Jamaica from $1,667 per person
Indianapolis: Seven nights at Secrets Marquis Los Cabos from $1,829 per person
New York: Seven nights at NOW Larimar Punta Cana from $1,636 per person
St. Louis: Three nights at NOW Jade Riviera Cancun starting at $879.64 per person
And many, many more…..
All rates are based on double occupancy and  includes taxes and airfare.
These deals will go fast.
Contact me to book your luxurious summer escape.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Incredible All Inclusive Summer Deals – Book by May 24th at midnight

Incredible All Inclusive Summer Deals – Book by May 24that midnight

From Chicago

3 nights at Dreams Tulum in Cancun starting at $889.64 per person

3 nights at Iberostar Rose Hall Beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica starting at $708.89 per person

From Cleveland

3 nights at Dreams Tulum in Cancun starting at $799 person

From Indianapolis

7 nights at Secrets Capri Riviera Cancun starting at $1,459 per person

7 nights at Secrets Montego Bay starting at $1,831 per person

From Minneapolis

7 nights at  Camino Real Zaashila Huatulco at $1,475 per person

From St Louis

3 nights at NOW Sapphire or NOW Jade starting at $879.94

7 nights at Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa starting at $1098.82

A lot more cities and a lot more deals available, contact me to book your vacation.

Spotlight on Survivor: The Early Years

I am a huge Survivor fan.
Some seasons I have been bored with the contestants.  Don't these people want to WIN?
But, I am never bored by the locations. They always leaving me dreaming of endless days on a gorgeous beach, helicopter rides over waterfalls, and buffets of local delicacies.

Which has been your favorite location out of the last 24 seasons? 
Leave your vote in the comments section.
I will do a special post on the location that gets the highest votes.
For a walk down memory lane, I’ve highlighted the first five Survivor locations.

Pulau Tiga, Sabah, Malaysia
Pulau Tiga Resort and Borneo Survivor Resort offer accommodations on this small island near Borneo. Pulau Tiga is the nicer of the two.

Herbert River at Goshen Station, Queensland, Australia

This area is near Blencoe Falls and about 130 km south of Cairns through rugged terrain. You’d definitely need a 4WD, but you can get close.

Shaba National Reserve, Kenya

The Sarova Shaba Game Lodge will be happy to host your own Survivor Safari.

Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia 

Try out Nuku Hiva Keikahanui Pearl Lodge

Ko Tarutao, Satun Province, Thailand

Filming took place at Ko Tarutao National Marine Park.
The Park offers government run accommodations including cabins and camping sites.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Weekends: NYC Part 2

In September, I had a work trip to New York City so we decided to make another weekend of it. This time, we flew together so no worries about Glenn missing half the fun. Friday, we both worked from our respective city offices and then headed out to Brooklyn for an amazing dinner with one of Glenn’s co-workers. We ate until we had to be rolled out of there!

Saturday morning, we headed to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. I was able to secure free tickets through Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. I had never before toured an aircraft carrier. It was incredible.

One of the highlights was meeting one of the men who served on the aircraft carrier during World War II. He was a mechanic and told us stories about how they moved the aircraft around the plane. My favorite moment was when Glenn asked, “Does it look like it did when you lived on it?”. He was trying to figure out what types of renovations occur on these types of aircraft carriers. The veteran answered, “Well no, it’s a museum now.”

Just outside the museum, Yankee Fan Fest was going on. Glenn is a die-hard Red Sox fan, but I was happy to get some free ice cream, hummus, chips and pens. I even got to snag a self-heating thermal shirt Uniqlo before the store even opened. Yippee! From the pier, we headed over to Blue Smoke. An episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network featured their potato chips so we had to check them out. We ordered several appetizers. I had my first ever deviled egg. It was pretty darn good. My favorite was the shrimp corn dogs.

We still had a few hours until the Yankee Game so we headed to Brooklyn Brewery. I loved the vibe at Brooklyn Brewery. It felt like a neighborhood hang out.

Softball teams were enjoying pitchers and pizza. We sampled the Oktoberfest, Weisse, Companion and Blast. This weekend was the last weekend of the NYC Craft Beer Week so we stopped at Mugs on the way back to the Subway to sample the BluePoint White IPA and Harbor Brewing Black Duck Stout. The White IPA was really good. Then it was time to head to Yankee Stadium.

We got there early and walked around. We had great seats. Unfortunately, the Red Sox were not able to pull out a win, but we really enjoyed the afternoon at the ballpark.

Post game, we headed back to Chelsea to find a local bar for dinner and drinks. After a disastrous stop at Flying Puck (cranky bartender and mediocre beer), we consulted the Craft Beer app and ended up at Guilty Goose. The restaurant was only six months. We had a fantastic time sampling beers, chatting with the owner and eating their fantastic food.

We liked it so much we went back the next day for brunch.

Poached duck eggs over ham on a biscuit with jalapeno hollandaise
Goose confit goat cheese omelet

After brunch, we hit the submway to head to Governors’ Island Art Fair. 

Marachi on the Subway

It was a contemporary art show so we had our usual reactions of confusion and occasionally liking an installation.

We had a few hours before our flight so we headed to Mustang Sally’s to watch the Patriots game. I love that we have been to NYC enough times that we now just act like we live there – hitting local bars for football rather than feeling pressured to see more.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Carry On for every occasion: A Packing List

This January we went on a combined trip to China and Napa Valley. I took a 28 inch roller bag AND a 21 inch carry-on.

It was a nightmare. Repacking in each city and worrying about weight limits pushed me over the edge. I vowed I would change my overpacking ways.
This month, we are going on a 14 day trip to Australia. This time I am only taking the 21 inch carry on.
Here’s my packing list:

2 pairs of quick dry cargo pants
1 pair of leggings
3 dresses 
1 pair of shorts
1 pair of tights
3 quick dry shirts
2 pair of quick dry underwear
2 pairs of quick dry socks
2 quick dry bras
1 swimsuit
1 pair of Teva sandals
1 pair of flip flops
1 pair of dress sandals
1 pair of pajamas
2 lightweight sweaters
1 pullover fleece
1 umbrella
Shawl to double as a scarf or blanket

For the Plane
Camera and charger
iPad loaded with a season of a tv show
2 regular books
4 magazines
Playing cards
Inflatable pillow
Hand sanitizer

Toiletries (Everything less than 3 oz)
2 shampoo and conditioner
1 face wash
1 moisturizer
2 lip gloss/lipstick
1 lotion
Small bar of soap
Nail file
2 toothpaste
Alka seltzer cold and sinus & regular
Imodium A/D
Advil and Tylenol
Band aids

Trip Research
Printed itinerary with potential things to do
Copy of passports
Magazine articles that I clipped
Travel books
I'll check back in here and let you know how it went! I am very excited.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Weekends: NYC Part 1

Last year, my husband Glenn and I spent two different weekends in New York City. Here's the first weekend's review and next weekend I will post the second weekend. Hope you enjoy!

To capitalize on a work trip that took me to New York in June,  Glenn arranged to fly up and meet me Friday night. The goal was to eat our way through the Chopped judges’ establishments and check out a Mets game. Since Glenn’s flight wasn’t due to arrive until late, I headed over to TKTS in Times Square after to work in investigate what Broadway shows were on sale. After consulting many pamphlets, I decided on Memphis. It had won numerous Tony awards and centered on the early introduction of Blues in the South. I was sold. After getting the 40% off ticket, I headed across the street to the sushi bar at the W hotel. I have been to Times Square a few times and always wanted to stop in for a cocktail so I did.  I grabbed a table at the window and ordered a smokey bourbon cocktail. The people watching was fantastic – the cocktail was not. I decided to wander over to the theater to find a place to eat nearby. I ended up at Sardini’s – an old school pre-theater restaurant with an old school menu. I grabbed my leather booth under the cartoon portrait of celebrities from another era.

I ordered the pre fixe menu entirely on the recommendation of the waitress. She was tickled that I just ordered everything she said and I had a good meal.  After dinner, I had about an hour and a half to dinner, I didn’t feel like going to another bar so I ended up just hanging out outside the theater monitoring Glenn’s flight situation. Yep, his flight was delayed, delayed and then ultimately cancelled.  A HUGE BUMMER! He booked himself on a flight Saturday morning and headed home.  I headed into Memphis.

Memphis was spectacular! The music and story line were terrific. I really really enjoyed myself. I decided to walk back to our hotel – the Hotel indigo in Chelsea and enjoyed the nice New York night. The hotel was very nice – a great location equidistant between several subway lines. The front desk was very helpful in getting me toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, etc.  since Glenn had all our luggage.
The next morning, I headed out to Prune – Gabrielle Hamilton was recently named the Best Chef in New York City by the James Beard Foundation  and I wanted to try out her brunch. I left pretty early and walked. I ended up in a street market. I bought a great scone and slice of Irish Soda Bread to keep the food emergency at bay. I hit Prune at the perfect time – early enough to secure a spot when they first opened, but late enough that I wasn’t waiting very long. I sat at the bar and ordered the spicy chick peas and eggs.
 The egg was amazing – it was a perfectly poached egg that had somehow been breaded. The chickpeas were spicy, but the dish could have used a little more crunch – after the crostini was gone, the texture was a little monotonous.
After breakfast, I decided to hop on the subway up to the Met to check out the Alexander McQueen exhibit. I have to admit the only reason I knew about it was because Neil Patrick Harris had tweeted about it the week before.

I am so glad I went. The exhibit was unbelievable. It perfectly captured McQueen as a designer and honored the art in his clothes. I spent another hour wandering the Impressionist artists and wondering about the modern art. Really? An entire canvas in black is art? I was more than a little lost. I decided to grab a snack in the museum’s café.

 A glass of Prosecco and some spring vegetable bruschetta  - both were very good. After the Met, I headed outside to walk up to the Guggenheim. I just had to stop at the ice cream food truck that was squarely in my path.

 I had the best salted caramel shake. The Guggenheim was in the process of opening a new exhibition so most of the galleries were closed. I was overwhelmed in the Dollar room – a giant room wall papered in dollar bills.

After the Guggenheim, I headed back to the hotel to meet Glenn. I decided to take the bus. My first bus ride in New York. It was great. I loved watching all the people as we inched our way down fifth avenue. Glenn finally arrived and we got ready to head out to our 5:30 pm reservation at Butter – Alex Guidecelli’s restaurant.  We were a little early for the reservation so we headed around the corner to a local pub. It has a great beer selection. We had a couple beers and then went to Butter. Because we were sure we were not going to get the tasting menu with wine – we ordered a couple cocktails and perused the menu. The décor at Butter is very cool It simulates a wood cabin with a huge wall of birch trees at one end backlit.

The waiter came and …. We ordered the tasting menu with wine. The next 2 hours was an orgy of food and wine. All of it was very well prepared and tasted very good, but it didn’t knock our socks off. In fact, when I asked Glenn later if he would recommend Butter , he said no even though we both struggled to find a fault in our meal. After Butter, we hit the Subway and headed up to CitiField.

 Nothing like showing up in the 6th inning in the family section after drinking our way through the East Village. I may have sat down, groaned, and immediately put on my sunglasses lamenting that the lights at Citifield were “too bright”. We stumbled back to our hotel and called it a night.
Sunday we headed out to our 1030 reservation at The National – a Jeffrey Zakarian joint. I had the dish of the day with the pork belly benedict.

 It was fantastic. One of the best brunch dishes I have ever had. After brunch, we wandered around the street market until we found the perfect onesie for our niece. We headed up to Central Park to enjoy the beautiful weather. We sat on the rocks and then headed to the softball fields. We had a great time watching men who we could only assume had been playing ball together for 40 years talk trash and occasionally hit a softball. Next Stop was Rosie O’Grady’s for some snacks and a couple beers. Then we set out to find Heartland Brewery which earned a prize – the worst beer we have ever tasted. Not a single one was good.

After Heartland, we walked down to Chelsea - the site of our 530 pm dinner reservation at Scarpetta – a Scott Conant restaurant. We grabbed a table, listened to some folks play the communal piano and monitored the line at the massive Apple store. Then it was time for our reservation. The inside was very nice – the back area was bright and comfortable.

Glenn ordered the spaghetti and the sea bass. I ordered the short ribs and a special carbonara with truffle foam and spring vegetables. I won the ordering contest for sure. Both my dishes were fantastic.

 The pasta was incredible – the mix of flavors was so good. Glenn was underwhelmed by the spaghetti and found the fish to be good, but again missing the wow factor. We paid our check and headed to the airport in time to catch our Jetblue flight home.  Overall a great weekend in New York City – stay posted for Part 2 next Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How to research fun things to do at your destination

Whenever I know I am travelling to a new city, I create a list of potential things to do.
Here’s the list of online searches I do to discover some off the beaten path or must do tourist activities. I put in the city’s name and then:
Time Out - Time Out is a great resource used by locals to find out what is happening in their city. Not all cities have a Time Out magazine, but it’s always worth a check.
Festivals and the month you are going  This will should provide you a list of upcoming festivals that month.  
Your specific interest– I always search for cooking classes, breweries, best restaurants. You may want to enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, wine tasting, concerts, breweries, etc.
Must do - I have found some great top ten things to do lists this way. I like to mix tourist must do activities with things locals enjoy.  
Tours – Searching for tours in the city can bring up some fun options like food tours or ghost tours.
Sporting events / Concerts/ Plays – Ticketmaster or Stubhub is a great resource. You can look at the dates you will in town and see if your favorite band happens to be in town.
I also check out travel guides from the library to see if I like the format and the information and then order the most current edition. If a guidebook is more than 2 years old, I will rely almost entirely on online information – especially for Maps.
How do you research fun things to do when you travel?

Friday, May 4, 2012

WOW! All-inclusive deals

Riu Palace Las Americas in Cancun, Mexico is offering some amazing deals
this summer and fall:
7 nights in a junior suite, All-Inclusive,  including flights from Chicago O’Hare starting at $1,365.00 per person
3 nights in a junior suite, All-Inclusive, including flights from Dallas-Fort Worth starting at $774.00 per person
3 nights in a junior suite, All-inclusive, Hotel Only $384 per person
7 nights in a junior suite, All-Inclusive, including flights from Kansas City starting at $1,515.00 per person
7 nights in a junior suite, All-Inclusive, including flights from Minneapolis starting at $1,314.00 per person
3 nights in a junior suite, All-Inclusive, including flights from St. Louis starting at $984.00 plus spa credits per person
These deals will go fast. Contact me for booking information.
All prices are subject to change and require double occupancy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Apple Vacations 48 hour Promotions

Apple Vacations is having special 48 hour promotions every Wednesday in May. Here's this week's deals:

Chicago: 3 - 7 nights at Secrets St James Adults-Only resort in Montego Bay starting at $899 per person

Dallas: 3 -7 nights at Iberostar Cozumel starting at $689 per person

Denver: 7 nights at Los Cabos Riu Sante Fe starting at $899 per adult and $499 per child

Los Angeles:  7 nights at Sunscape Dorado Pacifico Itxapa starting at $993 per adult and $399 per child

St  Louis: 7 nights at Secrets Adults Only resort in Huatulco starting at $1,399 per person

Carnival: Military Promotion

Carnvial cruise lines is having a terrific promotion right now for military families.
Book a cruise by May 31st and travel by April 2014! and receive 2 additional cabins at the military rate.
These means you can book a 7 day cruise for less than $450 per person.
Many cruises also have unadvertised discount rates for teachers, nurses, etc so contact me to book your next vacation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

5.1.12 All Inclusive Deals of the Week

Chicago O’Hare
IBEROSTAR Bavaro All Suite Resort
7 nights in June : $1,570.49 per person
Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa
7 nights this summer: $1,240 per person
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
3 nights in June: $799 per person
New York

Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa 
7 nights in May: $1,298.50 per person
South Bend
Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta
7 nights this summer: $1,448.00 per person
St Louis

Camino Real Zaashila Huatulco0 
7 nights this summer: $1,118.82 per person