Category Archives: Reviews

Country bliss – Lajitas, the best of Texas Resorts

Banner for Lajitas Resort

Dawn in Lajitas one of the best Texas resorts

Dawn reveals things magically. We’d pulled into the Lajitas Golf and Spa Resort while the morning sky was still black. In minutes the world came to light, filling the dining rooms’ towering glass windows. That and the strong coffee cleared my head. I’d just started to discover why Lajitas is considered one of the best Texas resorts.

Lajitas golf and spa resort breakfast

It was too early to check in but we dropped off our luggage and went off for a day of horseback riding and paddling the Rio Grande (more of that story here.) Dinner was accompanied by wedding festivities on the terrace. The bridal party was perfectly Texan – the groom’s men wore rhinestone studded jeans and the bride pivoted on embroidered cowboy boots!

Lajitas ranch one of the best Texas resorts

What makes Lajitas one of the best Texas Resorts

The ranch sits center stage. As we wandered the acres, the history of the place opened up. Close to the Terlingua community with its eccentricities, Lajitas offers a quiet and graceful contrast.

Lajitas golf resort and spa arcade

There are shops and a spa of course, but I didn’t take the time to investigate. I wanted to be outside. The Lajitas resort is famous as a magnificent golf course rolling over hills and between mesas. There’s no wonder it’s award winning – voted the #1 most beautiful golf course in Texas by Golf Magazine, Best of Texas resorts for golf by Texas Outside and the Dallas Morning News considers it the # one public course you can play in Texas.

lajitas golf course always beautiful

Once handicaps were mightily challenged – one hole lay across the Rio Grande in Mexico! Those days are gone now but the course still runs along the border and that meandering river. If it weren’t for a light rain, you’d be seeing pictures of me in a golf cart careening along the course trails. Along with trails galore, the resort sits close to a marked nature walk flush with local flora and fauna.

lajitas trail sign

There’s a historic chapel filled with local artists’ work.

lajitas chapel

Nearby, a zip line sat ready, its lines looped up into the highlands. There are nine lines with three different courses for various levels and ages. We met the guides who were getting ready for fall guests. Their shop also manages shooting activities: Five stand sporting cays, a cowboy action shoot full of Wild West arms, a combat course, and packages combining them.

One glimpse of the Lajitas zip line


Inside the outfitters shop in one of Texas resorts

My favorite spot, the key to this being one of the best Texas resorts, is Black Jack’s crossing. Don’t let them tell you it’s just a golf shop – there’s much more inside. The owners manage one of the largest collections of Longhorn displays in the West. Rooms are full of the noble horns. Historic pictures, branding irons, log books, and a wide mural surround the golf shop amenities. I don’t play golf but would go out of my way to see this collection.

inside blackjacks crossing

Another historic space that makes this one of the best Texas resorts is the Ocotillo event space. Once a fine dining restaurant featured in Gourmet magazine, now the two-story building hosts private events. It’s worth a stop to climb the tower and admire the views. There’s even a Texas state shaped pond!

ocotillo event space in Lajitas resort

Last but not least are the stables offering equestrian adventures including sunset and sunrise trail rides.

horses in Lajitas stables

As we completed our visit, dining as the stars emerged, I felt closer to the heart of this land in Lajitas, definitely one of the finest Texas resorts.

lajitas resort grounds

If you explore Lajitas golf resort and spa, one of the best Texas resorts:
  • Make reservations for lodging, golf, spa and activities at the resort (
  • Getting there: There’s a small airport nearby but most visitors arrive by car.
  • Spend some time on the River with Big Bend River Tours (
  • The Barton Warnock Visitors Center has lots of information about Big Bend National Park (

Twelve tasty food adventures from a year of wanderlust

cuatros cuatros sunset
cuatros cuatros sunset

Wine tasting at Cuatros Cuatros on the coast in Baja, Mexico

A sip of a ginger-infused cocktail, a mouthful of deeply spiced Machaca whose flavors swell with each bite, a glance spurred by the scent of clove cigarettes – all smells, sounds, and tastes. Often that’s all we need to flashback to a place and time. Tasty food adventures are like that.

My life is gratefully marked with delicious and audacious bites and sips, but this year has been especially full. Most often eating well is more memorable because of the ambiance and the company – it’s an alchemy of sorts. Taste also becomes the marker of a location on an emotional level. A flood of sensations and memories may flash to mind from months ago. The following foods do that for me. I hope you enjoy the feast too.

Tasty food adventures in Switzerland

I took off for Switzerland in early spring after scoring a ridiculously low airfare through a Cyber Monday airline sale. The flight went from LAX to London and then onto Geneva. Over ten days I wandered alone, mostly via Swiss Rail Pass, and always looking to eat the local specialties.

My Alpen Hut tasty food adventure at Cafe des Alpes

My Alpen Hut dinner at Cafe des Alpes

One of the first stops was in Interlaken. I arrived as a light snow was falling and sloshed to my hotel. As the day darkened, the weather lifted and I ventured into the village ending up in a bright Swatch store full of colorful displays and a friendly staff. The manager recommended the Cafe Des Alpes for dinner as it was on my walk back to the hotel and reasonably priced. What made the meal spectacular was a rich combination of luxuries. My ‘Alpen Hut’ plate was a small but overflowing skillet with ‘jugged’ deer, spaetzle, the most delicious spiced cabbage, mushrooms and hazelnuts all topped with a petite, stewed pear. As I finished and the empty plate was whisked away, the waiter set a bottle of Pear Schnapps on my table with a shot glass and left. It didn’t take me long to indulge in an aperitif or two. Luckily the hotel was a short walk away!

Reindeer visitor on the Glacier Express

A visitor to our car on the Glacier Express!

I wouldn’t have thought that a memorable food adventure could be had by train but that’s what I encountered on the famous Glacier Express. I sat at a table in the first class car when dinner was served. The meal was delicious but not outstanding. What was astounding though was the waitress stopping by with Schnapps (again!) and filling a tray of glasses in the middle of the train with a flourish, without spilling a drop! Looking up a few moments later into the face of a reindeer had me thinking I was drunk but it was just the gift cart dressed to impress.

The Philippines – Kalui Garden and Haim Chicken

After diving for several days in the Sula Sea, my guy, Dave, and I explored Puerto Princesa with two nights in a modest inn off the main road to the airport. One day we stepped off the dusty street into an artistically decorated restaurant, the Kalui Garden.

A tasty food adventure inside Kalui, Puerto Princesa

Inside Kalui, Puerto Princesa

Once instructed to leave our sandals by the door, we were led to seats next to the garden. Our first meal there was family style and plates of chili crabs, prawns and fish soon filled the little bamboo table. The fruit salads served in half coconut shells became our favorite lunch over the next few days.

Wood Worms, Tamilok, one of the traditional Filipino foods found in Puerto Princesa

The Wood Worm dish

One day we rode out of town for a short canoe ride into the Mangroves. Our guide pointed out tropical birds and lizards, then held up a bumpy stick and explained that monkeys like to eat the mangrove roots, especially when they find wood worms inside. The worms are also a local specialty for humans. You guessed it, I had to find them before leaving town. We checked several places before finding Haim Chicken where they dispatched a waiter to stand by to help us eat the long mollusks. Here’s a short video about the meal:

They were served raw and tasted something like oysters but when chewed the dark wood taste flavor escaped. It was a tasty food adventure I’d regret missing but they must be an acquired taste!

Appetizer in Drew Deckman's, El Mojor

Appetizer in Drew Deckman’s, El Mojor

Tasty food adventures in Mexico

Living in San Diego makes venturing into Baja a relatively easy day trip. I’ve been going back and forth for years and always enjoy discovering new places to eat. There are so many in Tijuana – Mission 19, the bullfighter’s hangout near the Grand Hotel, Talle with their menu of ‘pizzas.’ A bit further south and east is the Valle de Guadalupe, a rich vineyard region with high and low dining options. I confess to visiting more wineries than restaurants, so my favorites don’t come out of exhaustive research. However, I will never forget lunch at Drew Deckman’s outdoor cafe, El Mojor.

El Mojor, Chef Drew Deckman’s Valle de Guadalupe destination

Originally from Georgia, Drew spent years in Europe and was awarded a Michelin star in Germany for his culinary prowess. Lucky for us that he’s settled in the Valle. El Mojor is lovely and unassuming with tables set along shaded patios. Drew cooks at a traditional outdoor grill. A few lucky diners grab one of the few seats at the grill to watch the maestro more closely. I will return to savor more of Deckman’s magic.

La Cocina de Dona Esthela

Down a dirt road at the base of a hill in the Valle there’s a famous ranch house. A pair of stone columns mark the entrance to La Cocina de Dona Esthela. I had the honor to join a small group venturing from San Diego to present her award from Foodie Hub for the Best Breakfast in the World! Inside the house is a large patio and a living room set with small tables. A few years ago Telenovella stars, filming at the nearby Lomita winery, brought their friends and spread the word online about Dona Esthela’s cooking. The rest of us venture in for her delicious Sonoran Machaca, grilled meats, fresh cheese, and beans. Meats are cooked long in her famous spices and served in large portions. Scooping up the mixes in warm, fresh tortillas with a dollop of saucy beans and a spoonful of salsa remains high in my foodie memory.

Duckfoot Brewery Bar

Duckfoot Brewery Bar

San Diego: Duckfoot Brewery

San Diego has an ever-rotating palette of tasty food adventures for diners and drinkers. I could rhapsodize about the beers (Current favorite: Duckfoot Choco Nut Lust, their Chocolate Hazelnut Porter which, as with all their beers, happens to be gluten free.)

Pop up entrees: Opah meatballs, granola greens , white and red sangria.

Waste Not Pop Up Dinner: Opah meatballs, granola greens, white and red sangria.

The Red Door

The Waste-Not Pop-Up dinner at The Red Door restaurant was one of my year’s most notable and tasty events. Read my full review of it here. Joining a group of passionate, sustainably-minded diners was special in itself. Having Chef Miguel Valdez present a menu full of stem-to-root, nose-to-tail ingredients was a treat. I’m a fan of whatever he cooks and that night, eating to support the Food System Alliance was doubly delicious.

A bit of the Campfire experience in Carlsbad.

A bit of the Campfire experience in Carlsbad.

Campfire in Carlsbad

I’m not one for making a big deal out of my birthday. This year I picked a well-known restaurant in San Diego for a dinner with family and a few friends. It will remain nameless for the over-priced, hasty presentations and tiny portions. However, the evening before I experienced the new venue, Campfire in Carlsbad with a girlfriend and that is an experience I won’t forget. Launched recently by John Resnick, who’s behind many of downtown San Diego’s trendiest eateries, the large space has indoor and patio dining alongside a small campfire, of course for smores, and a full-sized teepee for the little ones. The dishes, each presented with care, overflow with smoky goodness from the oak flame grill overseen by chef Andrew Bachelier, of Addison and Cucina Enoteca fame. The cocktails nod to tradition, while anything but ordinary. My favorite dish was the grilled Kabocha Squash with its spiced yogurt sauce and mustard seed relish. Splendid. This is one tasty food adventure I look forward to repeating.

Nostalgia at Cliftons Cafeteria Los Angeles

The renewed storefront on the 600 block of Broadway, Los Angeles

Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles

Clifton’s Cafeteria reopened last year in Los Angeles Downtown district and it’s one of the most delightful, tasty food adventures I’ve had. It will be hard to top, especially now that the new speakeasy-style, Tiki-inspired, Paradise Lounge has opened. Get there early as they lift the rope to the upstairs entry to score a seat at the bamboo tables and just soak up that ambiance! There are historical and creative touches throughout, including an Italian Vaporetta speedboat jutting out from the bar. The cafeteria menu features new and retro dishes. All are simply prepared and very tasty.

Friends with Rick Bayless at Lena Brava

Friends with Rick Bayless at Lena Brava

Laminados dish at Lena Brava

Laminados dish at Lena Brava

Lena Brava – Chicago

It was a lark to make our way to the opening of Rick Bayless’ newest restaurant, Lena Brava, in Chicago. The restaurant pays homage to the culinary arts and sustainable seafood of Mexico. Experiencing Rick’s family and team’s take on fresh ingredients, wood grilling, and mescal cocktails is an experience worth visiting Chicago for. Bayless is committed to quality on every level and is admirably training young chefs to manage and run his venues. That’s evidence of wise expertise and grand heart. Go.

A tasty food adventure during a Lajitas stable ride

Lunch during our Texas trail ride

Tasty food from a saddlebag

Texas. Never thought I’d visit but all my preconceptions evaporated over the week I spent driving through the small towns and the vast spaces of the western region. The people were so generous and kind, and the natural beauty knocked me out, mainly because we drove through after the late summer rains when wildflowers pop and fresh green blankets expanses. The trip was heavy on experience and my favorite was a saddle-ride through the mesas and canyons of the Lajitas Resort lands. My sister and I rode for hours with our guide, Kelly, mosying through the range north of the Rio Grande. Lunch was a surprise as we stopped in a box canyon to rest the horses. A welcome spread of roasted chicken and corn salad, rolls and cookies appeared from Kelly’s saddle bags.

Tagging wild abalone.

Tagging wild abalone.

An Abalone Feast and Walnut Roll Indulgence

I just can’t omit two other tasty food adventures, although these came out of my home kitchen. We dug two, fat, wild Abalone out of the freezer for Christmas dinner. Dave caught them free-diving in the frigid waters north of Mendocino. Preparing them is a big job – digging the flesh out of the shell, slicing off the foot muscle, cutting the meat into oval steaks and pounding them into tender slices. Cooking is the easy part and if done carefully, in two minutes you have lightly encrusted buttery Abalone steaks.

Helen Serving Potica

Mother Helen, proud with her creation.

We finished with Potica for dessert, my mother’s traditional walnut roll, that I’ve finally mastered. After years of killing yeast in every loaf or pastry, I managed this year’s well enough. The dough rose, the filling of walnuts, dates, cinnamon, orange zest and honey was spread. My son helped me roll it up carefully and lift the bulky roll into the pan. The sweet treat has been enjoyed by many, sent across the country, and a few slices are preserved in the freezer for the next family gathering. It’s a much-loved and tasty food adventure from the Slovenian Women’s Union Cookbook that my mother brought west with her from Minnesota in the 1940’s. The pages are loose but I treasure it as a connection to that generation and the old country, my relative’s home in Croatia.

Quite a year!

All these tasty food adventures have definitely impacted my waistline but that’s a temporary setback I don’t regret. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tasty food adventures.

Where to find these tasty food adventures

Happy to share with these linkups full of fine travel tales!

Travel Notes & Beyond  

Visiting Temecula wineries – Old world style and new world tastings

Mount Palomar Winery fountain one of the Temecula wineries worth visiting
Anabel Brut is a sparkling vintage at Europa Village amongst the Temecula wineries

Annabel Brut is named after the Europa Village owner’s effervescent mother, Annabel Stephenson

Those in the know go! It shouldn’t be a secret but in the rolling hills of Southern California, well east of the coast, Temecula wineries are making a scene. Private wine clubs, live music, restaurants, villas, spas and abundant tastings are uncorked throughout the growing region. I’ve visited several times over the past few years and always return home impressed and a bit buzzed by the beauty (and yes, the tippling.)

There are two Temecula wineries that stunned me recently – Mount Palomar and Europa Village. Over one slowly paced day, I joined a small group of foodies to sip and eat, walk and marvel at all that’s been created and is on the drawing boards.

Admiring the view inside the Anata Bistro and Bar

Admiring the view inside the Anata Bistro and Bar

Mount Palomar Winery

Since 1969 the Mount Palomar winery has been garnering awards. The public vineyards are full of trails. We sauntered through the gates, past stone fountains and flower beds to a large building open to views of the countryside. Inside Anata Bistro and Bar, an open and appealing space, the chef offers a rotating, seasonal menu. In late fall, two cocktails with ingredients from the garden as well as the vine made it to our tables. The Pomegranate Martini was slightly sweet above a flourish of the signature red seeds. The Ginger Crush was muddled with a basil garnish and vanilla bean simple syrup.

pomegranate and blood orange cocktails

An appetizer plate in Anata Bistro

An appetizer plate in Anata Bistro

Lunch was inspired by Meditteranean cuisine as we were feted with appetizer plates full of hummus, marinated olives, and crostini. Steak and fries, lamb and beef kebabs, salads and various flatbreads soon covered the table. No one was going hungry and I can’t wait to return with family.

Wine maker, James Rutherford, in Mount Palomar cask room at Mount Palomar one of many award winning Temecula Wineries.

Wine maker, James Rutherford, in Mount Palomar cask room

Prepping our tummies with food was a good strategy as we next stepped into the barrel room to meet the vintner, James Rutherford. He tapped tall, stainless casks with flair and then swept us out to the Solara where Sherry casks were aging in the open sun! The cream sherry process at Mount Palomar is based on Moroccan, then Spanish traditions before it was brought to California in the days of the Conquistadors. Stepped rows of wooden casks cook for five years in the sun before being bottled! It was a surprising set up for this wine fan!

Special Offer: Enjoy a Temecula winetasting at Mount Palomar winery

Download a coupon for 2 for 1 wine tasting coupon!

Europa Village

Inside the gates of the Europa Village Winery is a gracious world. Taking cues from Old World wineries, there are inviting gardens with shaded sitting areas, a comfortable patio, tasting room and gift store adjacent to a long Pergola, sheltering tables reserved for wine club members and events. Beyond all that grapevines flick their broad leaves in the sun.

The planned Europa Village Spainish, Italian and French-inspired wineries

The planned Europa Village Spanish, Italian and French-inspired wineries

Europa Village is becoming even more idyllic as the John Goldsmith, the General Manager, described the vineyard’s future. A grand villa is already open for guests but, over the coming years, a true village has been laid out. Soon luxury accommodations and three wineries featuring grapes and wine-making styles from France, Spain and Italy will be complete. Europa Village is a destination already but the future developments will have wine tasting fans flocking to the Temecula wineries to stay for days.

It takes a community

Over the last century, the region has had its challenges. Wineries have changed hands with the fluxuating economy. They’ve closed and then opened in new configurations. Infestations once decimatdecades-old vines. Today growers work together to alert each other of any signs of blight. Developers have attempted re-zoning the relatively affordable acerage. A passionate association of residents, winery owners, vineyard owners and affiliated businesses has grown to form the Protect Temecula Wine Country Association. They are actively working to preserve the wine making and rural atmosphere of the area for the future.

My day visiting Temecula wineries ended too swiftly but knowing how close to Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego the region is. It won’t be long before I’ll return with friends. How lovely it is to taste and meander amongst the relaxing and beautiful Temecula wineries.

If you go wine tasting at the Temecula wineries:
  • 2 for 1 Wine Tasting Coupon! Mount Palomar winery exclusive.
  • Taste the Palomar Mountain wines, have lunch, enjoy live music or dinner theater in the Mount Palomar, Anata Bistro and Bar.
  • Stroll through the gardens, attend performances, shop, and sip in Europa Village
  • Arrange tours, transportation and explore all there is to do in the Temecula wine country with help from the Visitor’s Center.

My wine tour and lunch were arranged and hosted through my membership the IFWTWA.

Travel Notes & Beyond

Visit Rosarito – Beach, hotel and fine dining in Baja Norte

Visit Rosarita Beach at sunset
Visit Rosarita Senorita Archway
Long before it was full of Spring Break beach clubs and taco stands, Rosarito was a glamorous hub. Hollywood stars and U.S. servicemen partied at the few great hotels along the strand. I remember it differently as a kid. We often camped near the beach. I loved playing in the warm water with my siblings, a few feet from my parent’s teardrop trailer. One afternoon my mother had a big pot boiling on the back kitchenette and pulled a steaming red alien from the waters. It was my first lobster, caught by my dad who tagged along with locals. Over the years, each time we would visit Rosarito, the city had new amenities and returning now still excites me.
The beach and tower Rosarita Hotel

The Hotel Rosarito tower from the beach.

Camping has moved much further out of town now but finally I had a chance to visit the historical, Rosarito Beach Hotel. My young parents couldn’t afford the luxury then, but today travelers have the benefit of a generous exchange rate. Whether one of the traditional beach rooms, a villa, a suite in the tower or a visit to the spa, the hotel has managed to retain its historical, Spanish Colonial style while upgrading with all the amenities a visitor could want.
Here’s a glimpse of a rest stop on the coast route to visit Rosarito:
Today, Rosarito is an easy getaway, less than two hours by car from my hometown of San Diego. It’s fairly simple to drive from the border but I prefer being a passenger and watching the changing landscape. The coastal route along the toll road is my favorite ride south. There’s also an interior road from Tijuana which, while more crowded, is actually shorter. Those not wanting to drive have the benefit of bus and van services too. I left the driving to others on the most recent trip while joining a few friends and enjoyed a pleasant, air conditioned Tiketon shuttle van from the border. Before I knew it, we were walking into the historical lobby of the Rosarito Beach Hotel.
Rosarita hotel lobby
We checked in quickly and walked from the historical side of the property to the newer tower. This is the part of the hotel that I’d often seen from the freeway on trips to Ensenada or La Bufadora. The tower lobby ceiling loomed over us and opened to a tempting, spacious pool and bar. I had to pass on a swim as we were meeting soon for Margaritas and a short tour of the spa.

Rosarita Hotel Margarita

Tower Bedroom Rosarita Hotel

Tower bedroom suite

The hotel is partly condos and members have their own pool – on the rooftop with the best views in the region. On one side is the ocean, on the other the hill country of Baja spreads to the horizon. Beaches stretch as far north and south as one can see. It’s a beautiful spot for a swim too!
The Rosarito Beach Hotel, members only, rooftop pool

The Rosarito Beach Hotel, members only, rooftop pool

Tower lower pool Rosarita Hotel

The view to the Tower pool from my room veranda

The original owner’s home has been converted into the Casa Playa Spa and a private dining space. Above the tiled entrance lobby, guest rooms are now service spaces for massages, facials, body wraps and other services. We learned that booking must be done in the spa itself and not to rely on the hotel desk.

Visit Rosarita Hotel Spa

The original home that now houses the spa and event space.

North of the hotel the beach area is spotted with big dance clubs that still roar to life on weekends but now there are more Mexicans partying than boozy, American college students. Weekends find families on the beach where tables can be rented by the hour, with or without umbrellas. Mariachis and food vendors come to you!
Susannas Restaurant
Dinner at Susanna’s
In the evening we went south from the hotel and stepped through a stone archway for dinner at Susanna’s. Susanne Stehr is a California girl who fell in love with the graceful beach style of Rosarito years ago. A natural interior designer, her restaurant is glowing with color and textures. Chairs are deeply upolstered, charger plates gleam as if in a home dining room and fresh creative dishes are served ‘California Style.’ Favorites include the Citrus Fruit and Sonoma Chicken Salad, Strawberry Salmon and Sonora Ribeye Steak entrees. Appetizers updated from local traditions like Jalapeno Cream Cheese Empanadas and Susanna’s Gourmet Tamales are moist and mild. The wine list overflows with vintages drawn from the famous Valle de Guadalupe wine region not 25 miles away.
You’d think we would never eat again but the next morning found us in the hotel main dining room for breakfast. So hard to choose from so much! Soon after being seated the table filled with platters of (shredded, roasted beef) machaca and eggs, fluffy omelets, home made sauces and delicious breads accompanied by fresh squeezed orange juice and mugs of aromatic coffee.
Rosarita Hotel Dining Room

Rosarita Hotel Dining Room

Luckily there was time for a walk before returning to the border and we sauntered along the main road, passing cafes and restaurants, night clubs and shops. Across the beach road, neighborhoods stretched up to the main highway. Kids in uniforms walked past quickly on their way to school. There were several churches and more cafes full of locals. Here the village life style still works side-by-side with tourism. It’s a big part of why I love Baja and to visit Rosarito.
A food truck on the main street of Rosarito

A food truck on the main street of Rosarito

When you visit Rosarito enjoy the boulevard full of cafes and shops
Watch the video and subscribe to my YouTube Channel!

If you plan to visit Rosarito:
  • Crossing the International border takes a bit of preparation but recent improvements are making it easier and wait times shorter. Here’s a post about what to expect. I update it often.
  • Transportation around the region from the U.S. – Contact Tiketon for van pick up and prices: 619-428-0011 / To and from the Tijuana airport: 683-8113
  • Rosarito Hotel:  Reservations and questions.
  • Visit the spa: Packages and services by reservation only.  Email:, Tel: 61-4-44-10, ext. 11364
  • Reservations at Susanna’s: 661-613-11-87 / Facebook: Suzsanne Stehr / Email: /

Thank you to our Binational Liason, Juan Arturo Saldaña Angulo with Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau and tour organizer, Alexa Williams Meisler. The trip sponsors were the Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau and Rosarito Beach Hotel with transportation provided by Ticketon and Turismo Express.

Visit Rosarito Beach Hotel

Travel Notes & Beyond  weekend wanderlust April 2016

Baseball players, the writer and the road – Dan Schlossberg Interview

A life about the game and the baseball players
Baseball players, like Derek Jeder, are no stranger to Dan SchlossbergIt was 1957 and a young 9 year old was watching the world series with his father on their black and white TV. His dad turned the sound down and began explaining how the game was played and what was going on. The boy, Dan Schlossberg, soaked up every word and he’s been a fan ever since. The great American past time, baseball players and teams have shaped his life and led to publishing 36 books on the subject. Today he’s known as much for his travel writing, but baseball remains his passion. I caught up with Dan while he was in San Diego for the All Star Game and promoting his most recent book, When the Braves Ruled the Diamond: Fourteen Flags over Atlanta
The road to the diamond
Dan worked for newspapers in high school and later in college. His original goal was to cover the White House with his newspaper and political science liberal arts degrees. Discouraged with Richard Nixon in 1968, Dan decided that baseball was the better way to go. On his last day of college, he was offered the position of AP Sports Editor for New Jersey. Once his bureau chief found out how fast he could write and type, writing radio scripts on the hour was added to this tasks. Soon Dan was writing for broadcasts to 72 stations while covering sports at the same time.
Dan Schlossberg and his latest book.

Dan Schlossberg at the game with his latest book.

The grueling pace took its toll and when newly married, he started looking for new work. He was hired by Motor Club of America, similar to the AAA, as editor of their tabloid newspaper with three regional divisions. As the paper had a travel agency, Dan was asked to start promoting the trips and destinations they offered. He began freelancing and traveling extensively after attending Press Clubs and conferences where he met travel editors.
Dan’s first and most recent books are about the Atlanta Braves. The first is called the Hammerin’ Hank, about Hank Aaron just before he broke Babe Ruth’s record in 1974. The new book,When the Braves Ruled the Diamond: Fourteen Flags over Atlanta, is about the fourteen division titles they won consecutively.
How a travel writer pumps out 36 books about baseball players
Dan likes to write early in the morning or late at night. During the day there’s too many interruptions – the dog has to be walked, the phone rings, etc. Often he’ll wake in the morning with a script or chapter written out in his head. Typing 150 words a minute helps too.
The structure is important and he has to keep it up even when he’s traveling. Every week he has a travel and a baseball podcast. He’s the travel editor of the Maggie Linton show on Sirius XM; travel editor of New Jersey Lifestyle Magazine plus travel editor of Latino Sports. Oh, of course there’s another baseball book in the works too
The road keeps him following baseball players and teams. He was in San Diego for the All Star Game Festivities, including Fan Fest (mostly for kids,) for the All Star Futures Game, played by minor league stars; a celebrity game, this year included Jennie Finch, Olympic softball star and Jamie Foxx. Dan’s got lots of company. “There’s about a thousand journalists here and I know about 900 of them at least.”
From the Clubhouse to the Reserves
Of all Dan’s stories about baseball players, his surprising favorites involve other encounters. In 1972, he was covering the last game of the National League Championship Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. the Atlanta Braves. His UPI editor said, “Go cover the Braves clubhouse, win or lose.” Dan continues,”I thought that I was going to be covering a morgue because if they didn’t score in the Ninth Inning, they were going home for the winter. They did win with three runs in the bottom of the ninth. I was standing right outside the clubhouse when it happened and went in. There was only one person in the room, Jane Fonda! (Two time Academy Award winning actress.) I said, ‘OK, Jane, what are you doing here?’ She replied, ‘Well, Ted (Ted Turner, her husband at the time and the team owner) is out on the field congratulating his players. I didn’t want to end up on the bottom of the pile!’
Following the Funnyman
Another of Dan’s favorite tales happened while he was stationed with the Army Reserves near the grand, Broadmoor Hotel at Fort Carson, Colorado. Comedian Jack Benny was performing at there. Being a huge fan, Dan suggested to his Commanding Officer, “Let me go spend the day with Benny and a microphone.” After writing three spots for the company station, Dan grabbed his tape recorder and trailed the star. The scripts were recorded but the call letters, KRSN, were mixed up on the last spot. Benny blurted, “I did that lousy didn’t I?” It was so funny that the station aired the spot, blooper and all.
Dan Schlossberg on the job covering baseball teams

Dan Schlossberg on the job

Onto the Baseball Hall of Fame
After San Diego, Dan brings his books to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s been invited to their Author’s Series to sign his latest over a week-long visit. Of course, Dan’s been there often. The company, Sports Travel and Tours, official tour company of the Baseball Hall of Fame, has hired him to host guests riding the bus to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Dan’s looking forward to having an hour and a half to “badger the riders!”
For more about Dan’s life, baseball players and his travel writing, go to Visit here:When the Braves Ruled the Diamond: Fourteen Flags over Atlanta.
Like Podcasts? Listen to my interview with Dan Schlossberg on the NPR podcast, Journeys of Discovery! LISTEN HERE
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links that don’t affect prices, offer me a small commission helping to underwrite this blog, and support the author, Dan Schlossberg. 
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 Baseball players, the road and the writer - an interview with Dan Schlossberg Baseball Players, the writer and the road - an interview with sports writer, Dan Schlossberg

Perk up your travel style – Maggies Review

Maggies magnets a travel secret to extend your wardrobe
Perking up my travel style with Maggies Magnets

See the little silver ball? Maggies travel style at work

Scarves, shawls and wraps are some of the best friends that a traveling gal can have. They’re lightweight, keep you warm on cold flights, can perk up an outfit, eliminating the need to pack and protect jewelry. They make you feel feminine when you just want to put the backpack down and dress up your travel style.

Maggies Magnets variations for your travel style

I have trouble with knotting long scarves. They wrap to keep me warm but can get tangled, lopsided, twisted and generally keep me fidgeting to set them right. Scarves can be pinned into place but then there are holes in fabrics and pins bend, break or stab. When I heard about Maggies fashion magnets, I thought it was worth trying out. Now I’m adding more scarves and sarongs to my summer suitcase and Maggies will help extend winter travel wardrobes.

Maggie's magnets ball and ring design to perk up your travel style

Maggies Magnets ball and ring in action

Enhance your travel style simply

The design is ingeniously simple. There’s a ring and a powerful ball magnet that fits inside.The ring sits in the front of the fabric and several layers can be secured together by setting the ball of the back with the layers between. What most surprised me is how strong that little magnet is. It’s not going anywhere unless you want it to.

Maggies magnets a travel secret to extend your wardrobe

I brought a couple of different sized Maggies on a trip to the tropics. One night I added a very light scarf to the top of a sleeveless shell. The magnet was hidden in folds of fabric, so the scarf floated around my neckline. Accessorized with a nice set of earrings, I didn’t need a necklace and felt perfectly elegant.

Maggies worked well on a cold evening out with a heavier shawl too. I used the larger button style. There are at least two sets in each box, and in this instance the silver button added a dash of extra bling. I was able to drape my scarf in a new way once and didn’t need to touch it until I took it off at home.

There’s only one thing I noticed about Maggies. When you pull them apart it takes a bit of a tug and the little ball can fly. That only happened on my first foray and now I know. Also Maggies should not be used by children. In case of ingestion, seek immediate medical attention. They are not advised for pacemaker wearers.

I’m really looking forward to experimenting more with Maggies, gathering, pleating and tucking different outfits together to enhance my travel style whether I’m traveling or on the town near home.

Find out more and see videos of how to use Maggies. 

Disclosure: I was sent a complementary set of Maggies magnets but not compensated. All opinions are mine, as always. 

Your neck will thank you – Znzi Travel Pillow

znzi travel pillow on the go
znzi travel pillow at the airport
The Znzi travel pillow
It’s a sad fact that most of us spend hours each day peering down. In the kitchen we look down at the chopping board or into the sink. We look down to read magazines and books. Most of us stare into little screens, crane our necks with keyboard tasks and tap, comment, email, work or play on computers and cell phones. After hours torqued forward tech neck takes its toll. If you’ve unfortunately been in a car accident chances are your neck suffered. Mine did when I was a teen and the impact remains with me decades later. Luckily I’ve found a travel pillow that makes my neck happier.
znzi travel pillow is plush and easy to manipulate
Over time compromised vertebrae can start complaining. In my case neck pain is a steady, chronic hum. Managing that physical condition involves a grab bag of techniques and treatments. Yoga helps – regular, consistent, necessary. My chiropractor knows me well. Acupuncture is a godsend. Travel adds another layer of concern. I’ve written before about travel pillows but there’s one that I use it at home and I don’t travel without it – the Znzi travel pillow.

At first I thought the Znzi travel pillow was a bit big but discovered that the memory foam compresses and contorts. It rolls, folds and twists easily. There are 6 embedded magnets to help it keep whatever shape I choose. Usually I roll it up. The padding is slimmer in the middle, the better to cradle my head while lying on my back. The roll fits under the crook of my neck and passively stretches it, lightly countering the tech neck problem. Lying on my side, the roll supports my neck while relieving head weight pressure. At home I find it soothing, on a flight it’s essential.

A pair of suction cups are embedded in the plush fabric. I haven’t explored every way to use them but once, on a flight in a window seat, I was able to attach the pillow to the window and lean in. Otherwise it has a tendency to slip out of place. That’s my one negative. The pillow works well except when I need consistent support for my head while sleeping on a flight. The Znzi slides a bit but rather than carry two bulky travel pillows, I’ve learned how to work with it. One day I’ll add a cord on either end to tie and keep it in place. I hope the makers consider that.

They’ve considered so much already. I’ve lost numerous travel pillows or they’ve been too bulky to fit inside luggage. The Znzi comes in a lightweight, nylon bag. Stuff the pillow inside, cinch the cord, tie it lightly and then the simple, attached clip attaches the travel pillow to my rolling suitcase or the handle of my travel bag. I’ve carried it across Switzerland, climbing in and out of trains, buses and boats. It should have its own frequent flier mileage accounts! I’ve lost several travel pillows. Loyalty is a virtue and who could’ve guessed a travel pillow had that!

Our heads are heavy; ten or so pounds for most adults. It’s a lot to carry. With decades ahead of us, a strong, healthy neck is a necessity. The support of a well designed, flexible travel pillow, should make that easier to accomplish.
Tech neck techniques and other products
  • A Naturopathic doctor recommended this daily technique: For five minutes lie on your back with your head dangling backwards over the edge of the bed. Support with a flat pillow if necessary.
  • While dangling your head slowly turn your chin, your head to the right. Slowly turn to the left. Repeat about 25 times.
  • Another chiropractic addition is the Denneroll. It’s a fairly stiff foam that is shaped to fit into the crook of your neck adding pressure to the vertebrae. I use it at least once a day for 3 – 5 minutes max. It works best while lying on the floor which offers better resistance than lying on a bed.
  • One stretch I repeat and repeat is profound yet simple. Standing firmly with feet slightly apart lift your shoulders and roll them back. Clasp your hands behind you and pull down, opening up the clavicle region, your chest. Look up, stretching your neck.
  • Take the standing stretch a little further and tilt your chin towards your chest. Hold for 10 – 20 seconds. Repeat looking up and then down. SLOWLY

Find a good travel pillow, that works for your body and conditions and don’t travel without it!


The Znzi travel pillow was shipped to me for review but no other compensation was received. I’ve used it for a few months now and the review is based solely on my experience.

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Save your neck with the Znzi travel pillow


  weekend wanderlust April 2016

Hotel de la Cigogne – A romantic getaway in Geneva

Hotel de la Cigogne from the street
The gilded stork guards your getaway
The getaway begins
Once storks migrated through the lake country where the renowned city of Geneva now stands. That past is given a nod in the golden stork that reigns over the entry of the Hotel de la Cigogne. The luxurious hotel is a gem set between buildings and narrow streets. It stands on the plain that sweeps up from the waterfront and into the historic district. While an international business and political hub, the Geneva district is the renowned also for shopping, culinary traditions, historic sites and makes a perfect setting for a romantic getaway.
Lake Geneva getaway

Lake Leman with a glimpse of the historic city in the upper left.

After flying in from London, I arrived at the main train station within a half hour. The sky had darkened and a misty rain was falling, softening lights and window displays. As I walked a patchwork of dark and bright cobblestones in Place du Molard caught my eye. At night the wide street is illuminated. Many of the glass ‘stones’ were lit from from beneath and imprinted with a greeting in several languages from around the world. It made this travel weary tourist feel welcome and was less than a block from my hotel rendezvous.
Place du Molar with its illuminated stones
From the moment the hotel doors opened, luxurious textures, light and color from stone, deep rugs, stained glass, glittering chandeliers and hand troweled plaster acted as antidotes to the outside world of rush and hard modernity. It is partly illusion, carefully created, from the renovation of the 1901 building after it’s purchase by local architect, Mr. Rene Favre. He preserved the facade only, raising the interior and added a metal superstructure. Clever technical touches are embedded. The elevator runs whisper quiet and swift, lighting is placed to illuminate but never intrude. A discreet warmth flows from fireplaces, staged for comforting efficiency. Seasoned flagstones are set strategically.
Hotel de la Cigogne rooms are perfect for business or leisure getaways
This American felt out of her league but that faded fast. The staff were so friendly and made me feel most welcome. The Manager helped me to my room, a junior suite that was perfectly set for a romantic rendezvous. A curling stair led into the suite sitting area and I imagined descending to my sweetheart who would be waiting with a glass of champagne. However this was a solo trip  and the waiting tray of fruit, nutmeats and chocolates were mine alone.
Live like royalty in a suite at Hotel de la Cigogne

Live like royalty in a suite at Hotel de la Cigogne

I freshened up and began a short tour of the other suites. Each was more beautiful than the next. Designer/owner, Mr. Favre was an antiquities connoisseur, who collected furniture from secondhand trades for years. Restored bureaus, sconces and much more were placed in suites and along hallways as if he were decorating a private estate.
His piece de resistance was in selecting fabrics for the hotel. Daring deep, jewel tones flowed from walls into complementary tapestries and brocades upolstering settees and lounges. Polished desks beckoned. The bathrooms were completely renovated and, while not large, featured smooth stone work, designer fixtures, glass shower doors, deep tubs (not in every room) and many had bidets.
Hotel de la Cigogne lobby

Details in the Hotel de la Cigogne lobby

I longed to sit in the lobby drawing room, to sink into an armchair observing the European clientèle, with a book on my lap and a glass of wine beside me. However it had been a long journey from Los Angeles to Geneva and I had a deep bathtub to soak in before resting up for my city tour the next morning. Had I known about this luxury beforehand I’d have extended my visit.
The Hotel de la Cigogne bathrooms are inviting.
A secret about Geneva
Hotel de la Cigogne is often full of business visitors but weekends in the historic district are usually quiet and spared the crowds overflowing other parts of Switzerland. Rooms are more affordable on those days. If planning a tour of the graces of Geneva, I hope you consider a romantic getaway in the hotel guarded by a golden stork.
Set up your romantic getaway
  • More about Hotel de la Cigogne, member of Relais and Chateaux properties and winner of the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence.
  • This trip was made possible by Swiss Travel System. Itineraries, train/boat/bus schedules are available. Over 300 Museums are included in the pass as well.
Disclosure: I was a guest of the hotel but as always impressions and opinions are my own.
Romantic Getaway pin for sharing


A romantic get away at the Cape Rey Resort in Carlsbad

cape rey beach sunset is perfect for a get away
Cape Rey resort has fire pits to enjoy on your get away

Cape Rey Resort fire pits make a get away warm and cozy.

It was a guilty pleasure to spend a night away from home in the middle of the week. So close and yet so far away! I drove north from downtown San Diego for meetings and pulled into the Carlsbad Cape Rey resort before returning. What made it doubly sweet was that my beloved joined me for dinner and a romantic evening. Mixing up the schedule can be such fun and this mid-week get away had us smiling.
Cape Rey get away is across from the Carlsbad State Beach
The Cape Rey is set across from the beach on Pacific Highway 101 in Carlsbad but south of the busy downtown business district. From our room, I watched the sun set over the ocean and woke the next morning to admire a peachy sky as dawn broke. The resort is laid out to take advantage of the views and most rooms face the waves.
Beach view on a Carlsbad Cape Rey get away

A room with a view.

If I’d arrived earlier the kitchen would have gladly packed a picnic lunch and pointed out the best beach spot to enjoy it. What a beach it is too! When conditions are favorable surfers skim the waves. A State campground butts up to the strand and before leaving I watched dolphins surfing but they were camera shy.
Lobby alcoves for your Cape Rey get away
For those of us needing more luxury than camping offers, the Cape Rey has lots to offer. The wide entry is set with soft lighting and comfortable alcoves. Several bikes wait for riders near the front door. The large pool is poised for perfect afternoon sun-bathing. There are terraces to lounge on and several fire pits perfect for cozy conversations.
Morning set up inside Chandlers for your get away dining
Ferdinand inside Chandlers helped me get away

Ferdinando inside Chandlers

I especially enjoyed Chandler’s restaurant and bar. The decor is warm but not in the over-crowded style of many bar/restaurants. At dinner, we sat side-by-side in a cozy corner booth where we could people watch. There were locals and business clients in conversational clutches at tables and counters. The staff was cordial and genuinely seemed to like their jobs. I was able watch them interacting. How well everyone gets along speaks volumes about the management.

Starry night cocktail is perfect for a get away

The shimmering Starry Night Cocktail

I ordered a cocktail that actually shimmered. The ‘Starry Night’ is a blend of Absolut Mandarin Vodka, Viniq Liquer, Lemonade and Proseco. It was a mellow Martini, filled with a dancing Viniq mist that swirled in the Proseco bubbles.
Delicious bites for a get away

Breakfast, welcome gift and dinner bites at the Cape Rey Resort & Chandler’s Restaurant

Next we shared a plate of fresh Burrata Mozzarella with vine ripened Heirloom Tomatoes. It was artfully plated with arugula, grilled vegetables and asparagus spears.  A side of herb bread and cheese crusted cracker triangles made it almost a meal in itself. But we managed to finish that along with a Spinach Quinoa salad before our Wild Mushroom Pizza arrived. I have a weakness for wild mushrooms (see my previous post about hunting them locally) and this was a slice (well, three) of bliss. Just enough garlic Alfredo sauce was dotted with smoked Gouda, Beechwood and Oyster Mushrooms. I’ll exercise it off tomorrow, I told myself!
Morning came too soon and while I elected to work out in the gym and tour the Spa, my beloved soon headed out to his office. For breakfast we found that Teri, the Cape Rey chef, had filled the slim menu with traditional options alongside creative, light and healthy choices. We sipped a Healer Smoothie full of peaches, ginger, turmeric and pea protein (one of eight to choose from!) and shared the Farmer’s Sunrise Biscuit plate.
 Daylight shadows for my Cape Rey get awayThe sun was overhead before I pried myself away from the Cape Rey. On the ride home it was easy to smile. Romance, beauty, great food and drink – What’s not to love in a get away?
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Cape Rey Hilton Resort for my room and breakfast but as always opinions are my own.

Get away links:

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More than a feast, it’s a cause – Collaboration Kitchen

Collaboration Kitchen in full swing at Catalina OP

Collaboration Kitchen in full swing with Carnitas Snack Shack chef and founder, Hanis Cavin

It’s a meal transported to another realm. In fact you sit inside a fish processing plant on folding chairs and eat from paper plates – but you’ll be giddy about it. Perhaps it’s the hilarious barbs traded between the fishmongers, Tommy Gomes and Dan Nattrass. More likely it’s the chance to be part of a cooking show, to see how some of the region’s best chefs work their magic, while eating insanely well. Some nights local vintners bring samples and if you’re lucky Andrea’s Truffles or Robin of Cupcakes Squared will be offering their best as well. No one goes home hungry.

Tommy Gomes, Dave Rudie and Rebecca Gardon smiling at Collaboration Kitchen

Part of the team: Collaboration Kitchen founder, Tommy Gomes, Catalina OP Owner Dave Rudie and Marketing Wizard, Rebecca Gardon

Held about ten times annually, there’s always a cause behind each chew. Collaboration Kitchen began seven years ago as an idea that Tommy Gomes, a fishmonger working at Catalina Offshore Products, took to his boss, Dave Rudie. It was a way to give back and offer great food while raising money for deserving causes. Monarch School, Just Volunteers and most recently Tim Johnson, local sushi chef suddenly in need of a kidney transplant, have been recipients. Tim discovered he needs a new kidney just days before Christmas. Here’s the link to his Go Fund Me campaign set up to help with medical expenses.

collaboration kitchen prep

With Tommy as emcee, laughter’s on the menu. You’ll meet fellow fans of great local food and be introduced to new menu ideas. Most importantly though is the chance to be part of something truly good. There are many foodie events throughout San Diego but Collaboration Kitchen is one unique sensation. Get on the Facebook notice list and reply quickly if you want to attend.

Dan Natrass talking about the Hiramasa starring at Collaboration Kitchen

Dan Nattrass talking about sustainable, farm-raised, Baja Seas’ Hiramasa 

Chef Anthony Pasquale of Saiko Sushi created this beauty for Collaboration Kitchen

Chef Anthony Pascale of Saiko Sushi created this beauty.

Su Mei grinds coconut at Collaboration Kitchen

Su-Mei Yu, of Saffron and PBS’ Savor San Diego, shows how the Thai grind coconut

Tommy and TV star, Sam the Cooking Guy

Tommy Gomes and one of the guest chefs, TV star, Sam the Cooking Guy

If you miss the tickets or don’t have the dough, but do have hard-working kitchen skills, there’s occasionally room on the volunteer team. Working all day behind the scenes, volunteers step into the limelight to be applauded along with the chefs at the end of each event.

Chef Logan at the grill inside the Catalina OP Fish Market

Chef Logan at the grill inside the Catalina OP Fish Market

About Collaboration Kitchen

Disclosure: I’ve been comped to Collaboration Kitchen for years as the Catalina OP owner is my guy, but all opinions, as always are my own.

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Dan Nattrass holds a crab at Collaboration Kitchen

Keiko preps at Collaboration Kitchen


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Fort Lauderdale beach hotel – Lux at the Atlantic

Deck pool at the Atlantic Hotl Fort Lauderdale

Deck pool Fort Lauderdale across from the beachBeach, sand, balmy breezes – all present and expected when visiting a Fort Lauderdale beach hotel. What I hadn’t counted on was the luxury and sensory pleasures I’d discover at the Atlantic Hotel & Spa.

lobby at the Atlantic Hotel, Fort LauderdaleThe joy of any visit to Florida rests on where you lay your head. Mine was luxuriously treated to featherweight comfort at the Atlantic Hotel, just steps from the waves on the waterfront. Notorious Fort Lauderdale spring break crowds have long since moved on and the city has stepped quietly in to establish a fine food culture, support an arts district, a science and arts center to linger in and encouraged construction of gorgeous hotels that take advantage of the long, sandy beaches. The canals host luxury yachts. There are restaurants and bars to please all manner of visitors and budgets. I was fortunate to check in at the Atlantic Hotel as part of the TBEX Food FAM Trip and couldn’t have been happier.

Audrey Hepburn multi-media artwork in the lobby at the Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

Audrey Hepburn stars in multi-media artwork in the lobby at the Atlantic Hotel

While waiting for my room, there was abundant WiFi and cooling fruit water to be enjoyed in the lobby. Color surrounded me from the rotating gallery of paintings by local artists to textures from wood grain to gilded mirrors.

Double room at the Atlantic, Fort Lauderdale

Double room at the Atlantic, Fort Lauderdale


Atlantic Hotel amenities, Fort Lauderdale

Atlantic Hotel amenities, Fort Lauderdale

Room view, Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

Room view, Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

Bathroom Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

Bathroom Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

The room was opened onto a small veranda where I was treated to a light show every morning as the sun rose over the waves and as it happened, to the full moon rise on my last night. The bathroom was spacious with two sinks, a full bathtub and separate shower plus water closet.

Sunrise from the Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

Sunrise from the Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

But the real surprise was the hotel restaurant, Beauty and the Feast. On the Sunday I checked in a buffet overflowed with brunch treats and a crowd filled tables inside and out. That evening as the bar sprang to life, I met my group of foodies. We sat in a private area as a series of small plates and one large platter rotated around the table.

A few plates from our dinner at Beauty and the Feast, Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

A few plates from our dinner at Beauty and the Feast, Atlantic Hotel, Fort Lauderdale

TBEX foodies taking pictures at the Atlantic Hotel

No one eats till each dish is documented! With apologies to my TBEX foodie friends.

From sunrise to sunset, a winning location and attention to detail, the Atlantic is one Fort Lauderdale beach hotel I’d happily return to.

Street view Atlantic Hotel, Fort LauderdaleMy stay in Fort Lauderdale was partially underwritten by the Fort Lauderdale Visitors Center and part of the TBEX Food FAM trip. Regardless, the opinions shared are all my own.

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A Fort Lauderdale, Atlantic Hotel view

Waking up in New Orleans – Whitney Hotel Review

Whitney hotel dining room
Hotel room at the Whitney

Our spacious, two-bed Hotel room at the Whitney

The first light slipped through a crack in the thick, panel curtains. Before going to sleep I’d considered closing them completely but jet lag would’ve had me missing half the next morning and I didn’t want to squander a minute of the trip.

There were a few new sounds from the street below. Listening closely I could make out the faint warning of a cross-walk audio but it was nested in a murmuring bustle that was new to this suburban, California gal. It was my first time waking up in New Orleans.

That excitement alone would’ve had me bounding out of bed and getting ready for the day but our room at the Whitney was so comfortable. My sister and I had requested two beds and were given two rooms separated by a double door. It was just a part of the discrete and luxurious service we experienced during our two nights at the hotel.

The Whitney is a Beaux Arts beauty listed on the National Historic Registry. The building was originally the Metropolitan Bank and designed by one of the most prestigious architectural firms of the post-Civil War era. Today if you peer into the dining room past the marble columns and its huge mural, there’s a mystery.

whitney hotel dining room

The Whitney Hotel dining room with the bank beyond.

A room beyond is brightly illuminated and separated by a vault door but the two spaces share marble columns and a tall, embellished ceiling. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of what’s beyond. It’s actually a branch of the Whitney Bank and still in full service.

Valet entrance, the Whitney Hotel

Valet entrance, the Whitney Hotel

When we arrived by cab from the airport (about a 20 minutes ride,) he dropped us off at a formal, side entrance and a valet brought our luggage inside. We signed in at an old tellers desk and on the way to the elevator passed the bank vault, now a banquet room.

The Whitney Hotel vault banquet room.

The Whitney Hotel vault banquet room.

As part of the New Orleans Collection of historic hotels, the Whitney is well situated for exploring the French Quarter but just far away enough to be quietly accessible. Around the corner, there’s a St. Charles Line Trolley stop. That couldn’t be more convenient. It goes out through the Garden district and to the Audubon Park and loops back to Canal Street before returning. It was perfect for our walking vacation.

One night we ventured to Frenchman Street, on the far side of the French Quarter, for music and dinner. Returning to the Whitney was simple. Ready for a stroll, we slowly walked to the hotel. Taxis were everywhere but even at the late hour there were so many people out on the street we felt relaxed about taking our time and walking, two gals enjoying a late, fall evening.

Whitney Hotel Reception

Whitney Hotel Reception

The Whitney exudes its historic background but isn’t stuffy – the amenities are up to date and always being upgraded. We enjoyed coffee in our room, the bathroom was generous enough for two gals to spread out and we each had our own TV. I loved having fast, complementary WiFi. The only thing missing was a place to sit and discuss our plans for the day – One of us sat in an armchair, the other on a bed bench. It was a minor rub.

Federal Treasury Museum

Inside the Trade Finance Museum

Being on the edge of New Orleans’ Financial District explained the neighborhood hush the weekend we were there. Offices were closed and workers were home. A park is around the corner next to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta which houses the Museum of Trade Finance on the first floor. Getting in required a security clearance as stringent as any airport but little museum was charming and interesting. Little bags of shredded bills came home as souvenirs.

In the Museum of Trade Finance a label reads: “The shreds in this bag are of unfit currency.” Now we know where old dollars go to die.

New Orleans is overflowing with charm and discoveries. I look forward to returning to find more and resting my head on those perfect pillows at the Whitney Hotel.

Our stay was partially underwritten by the New Orleans Collection of hotels, but the opinions are my own.

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Seeing America through other’s eyes

Flag Cow Skull Yellowstone

Flag Cow Skull Yellowstone

Travel books find their way to my desk regularly. If only there were time to savor them all. Attractive Unattractive Americans: How the world sees America, by Norwegian Rene Zografos has been with me for only a few months but I’ll be seeing America differently for years.

Rene spent seven years traveling the world asking what there is to like and to dislike about America. He visited every continent, documenting very negative and very positive opinions then wrapped the statements into a slim book. The results are telling. Is there any one surprising conclusion? No, there are many.

Anecdotes are bundled together, both Rene’s and others. I can only imagine how much work went into transcribing and editing this into a volume. That said it is not without flaws. It is a self-published work and while Rene is an accomplished journalist in Norway, I wish he’d worked with an editor who could have helped shape the read better. The material is too good to be lost in meandering structure. Like a great indie film, once you’re in the theater, enjoy the zingers but stay for the ending.

Chapters are finished with statements from different countries and relative facts like: “Did you know the number of American passport holders is increasing intensely? In 2000 about 48 million Americans had passports, but in 2013 the number was more than 110 million.”1.

How members of each country perceive Americans is often more telling about their cultural situation than the U.S. In the chapter, Moods from the Sahara, for example there’s a discussion about the three types of Americans, 1. The quiet one, 2. the outgoing one, 3. the crazy one and why. The tour operator generally sees Americans as becoming more confident after a few days on a trip and then treat their guides as friends while starting to spend a lot of money. Without knowing how other nationalities measure up in comparison it’s hard to think this is anything more than human nature than particularly American (and I may be too American to know better!)

There’s a lot of humor in these pages as well. The chapter, The Jailhouse Blues, talks about some of the weird laws on the books in America. I have no doubt they exist but its a reflection of America’s political system where election fundraising depends on ambition. It’s more sexy to get things done, sponsor and push through legislation – rather than enforcing, and raising funds to enforce, laws already on the books, let alone get rid of irrelevant ones. Kudos to Rene for illuminating how much antiquated rhetoric pads the system. It’s entertaining (or could be terrifying) if a policeman or woman arrested you because:

  • You are a woman in Tuscon illegally wearing pants
  • In Illinois you go fishing in pajamas
  • You are apprehended for falling asleep in a cheese factory in South Dakota

The book dives in deeper after that. Rene was in New York shortly after 9/11 to pay his respects. It was a dividing line and in the chapter, The America I Knew, he mourns for a country that has shifted.

“The America I knew was a place for outsiders in the world who dared to be different, where the Jew, the Muslim and the Christian sat together to have a cup of coffee and a talk. The America I knew would accept each every (sic) person exactly as they were. The America I knew has changed.”

What he sees since is a “continuous increase of blind religious hate…and an aggression toward everything that seems to be different to what they are used to…”3.

His perspective is supported in a chapter by an Australian traveler, Christine, and also by entrepreneur and American expat, Mark Manson, who feels that the country is like a drunken brother he loves and doesn’t.

Rene finishes Attractive Unattractive Americans with Carpe Diem. His passion for America shines through. But he also sees a huge challenge in the national obsession with gadgets and with fear that is leading to an abiding, emotional numbness. It has blanketed America with disaffection, ambivalence, and disconnection. “There has been a change modern America, a change that is keeping many people away from daily social life and employment…and it’s absolutely necessary for keeping a mentally-healthy America.”4. He calls for honesty, for more than lip service and risk taking to choose the direction your inner voice tells you to and follow the road of the life you want to live.”

Rene’s perspective is echoed in the work of London-based designer, Yanko Tsvetkov in his book, The Atlas of Prejudice. Across the world, “We need more idealism. Not the naive, distracted kind; we have plenty of it on Facebook, Twitter, or any other place where slacktivism reigns supreme. We need the kind of idealism that is informed and able to reach beyond the day after tomorrow.

But most of all, we need to learn how to laugh at ourselves, and to give up the habit of frowning all the time.”

I’ll, seriously (wink) keep working on that while seeing America through others’ eyes.

The book, The Atlas of Prejudice, the complete stereotype map collection is available in many languages as well as English. References from Attractive Unattractive Americans: 1. p.42, 2. p. 139, 3.146, 4.223

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Seeing America

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Tribal connections – The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers

Elaine Japan Tree Pose

Elaine Japan Tree Pose

Don’t you love it when you find your tribe? When I started admitting, publicly, that I was a travel-writer and met others who confessed the same, I’d found my peeps. So it is a tickle and honor to have been nominated to the Sisterhood of World Bloggers by three different women writers, first Doreen Pendracs of Chocolatour,  Suzanne Fluhr of Boomeresque, and We Travel Together. Thank you, each so much.

The aphorism goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” May we sail on to further shores and adventures together.

sisterhood of the world bloggers

More boats!

The rules for the award are to mention the blogger who nominated you, answer 10 questions of the bloggers choice, nominate 10 more bloggers, and make up new questions for your nominees to answer.

balloon teotihuacan mexico

My answers:

1. Is there a single moment in your travels that you feel has been your most transformative for you?

A pilgrimage turned my world inside out. I had spent four days in ritual and play among the powerful ruins and pyramids of Teotihuacan, Mexico.  The Toltec/Nagual teacher, Victoria Allen, who spent years studying with Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the Four Agreements, was my guide. Those simple tenets continue to transform my days.

2. Has there been a singular action that you have taken that has taken your blog to the next level?

After blogging for years with an “if you build it they will come” approach I was drowning in neglect! What turned things around was getting involved daily with social media. Over the last year my reach has jumped exponentially and I’ve found that online communities are powerful.

3. What has been the most effective tool that you have used to grow the readership of your blog?

I’d have to say it’s using Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest and StumbleUpon, then Instagram and Linked In. Joining and participating in groups and chats has been very helpful, interesting. I love discovering great travel writing and pictures.

4. What is your primary travel goal for the next year?

I’ve been working to increase my reach so I can offer the off-the-radar destinations, lodging, and experiences more visibility. As a firm believer in travel for good, I’m hoping to visit Sri Lanka and India before long.

5. Do you have a favorite place that you just can’t seem to get enough of?

I love Asia and the teeming waters there. As a diver, I can’t get enough of watching and interacting with the underwater world and its endearingly alien creatures. Give me warm water, a healthy reef and a full tank. To pick one in particular would be Indonesia – so many islands, so little time.

6. What is your favorite thing to do when you visit a new place?

Open my senses once I step out of the airport, off the train or out of the car. I remember the smell of dirt and the calls of parrots when I first visited Fiji. It was a long, long flight and I was stretching my legs as the group organized luggage.

7. Do you have a favorite travel blog?

Legal Nomads and Jodi Ettenberg is my go-to for inspiration. She’s the real deal – a dedicated traveler, astounding writer and successful speaker. I’d follow in her footsteps – expat living in Asia – if I could!

8. If you could go absolutely anywhere in the world in the next 6 months, where would it be?

It’s not exotic to most but I haven’t spent enough time in Europe. I have a few relatives in Croatia to visit and long to wander through that region.

9. Who is the most memorable person you have encountered in your travels?

We’d rented bikes to tour a jungle temple complex in Sri Lanka. It was steamy but flat, and great for riding. Our only witnesses as we stopped at Stupas and studied carvings were monkeys and birds. Suddenly I spied a long man on a small bike speed down the lane towards us. He stopped quickly and with a proper English accent, gushed apologies. His employee had over-charged us for the bikes and he wanted to make it up to us. We, backpacking Americans, were clueless but accepted his company. The rest of the afternoon we spent touring his village. He insisted on buying us pastries and taking our picture in a photo studio. That generosity of spirit on the other side of the world still warms me whenever I feel like an outsider. There are good people everywhere.

10. What is one place you wish you’d never have gone, and why?

As a teen driving through Mexico with my family we camped on a beach near Acapulco. Rebelliously, I insisted on sleeping outside of the tent and woke up with my face swollen. Sand fleas had feasted and I woke up a lumpy, itchy mess. I spent the next few days livid, embarrassed as only a young teen girl can be, and generally a pill to the rest of my family. I wouldn’t repeat that for anything but still harbor a continuing love for Mexico.

what's your story, tribal connections

Tribal Connections: Nominations

1. Carla King – Carla

2. Alexa Meisler –

3. Kristin Henning – Travel Past 50

4. Elizabeth Hansen – Authentic Luxury Travelers

5. Billie Frank – Santa Fe Travelers

6. Veronica Stewart James – Gypsy Nesters

7. Karen McCann – Enjoy Living Abroad

8. Lenore Greiner – Lenore

9. Mary Gilbert – The Roads Traveled

10. Katherine Belarmino – Travel the World


Questions for the Sisterhood:

1. What drew you to become a travel writer and why?

2. How do you define success as a travel writer?

3. What is the most challenging aspect of travel blogging for you?

4. If money and time were no object what would your dream trip be?

5. If you could travel in time, where would you most like to visit?

6. What has been your most challenging travel experience?

7. What’s one thing you would say to encourage someone to travel?

8. Who is your favorite travel writer?

9. When preparing to visit a new country what is one thing you always do?

10. Do you speak more than one language and how has it impacted your travels?

Thank you dear sisters, I hope our paths cross often.



Visiting Paris in Petaluma – Metro Hotel and more

Metro Hotel in Petaluma
Metro Hotel in Petaluma

Metro Hotel in Petaluma

Not many realize it but most everyone’s seen Petaluma in movies like American Graffiti and dozens of TV shows. Once the “Egg Capital of the World,” today the city’s well out of it’s carton. The small downtown’s saved the best of its 1800’s architecture. Storefronts house culinary exploits befitting a burg on the edge of the wildly popular Napa-Sonoma wine region and proximity to San Francisco. There are shops full of handmade clothing, retro to modern arts and crafts, and bakeries are full of locals in the mornings. Personality burbles onto the sidewalks. A river runs through it too.

Storefront in Petaluma

Cuddly critters spied in a Petaluma storefront.

I thought I had a handle on the place after visiting dozens of times over the years. So it was a revelation to pull up to the Metro Hotel and be transported into an eccentric version of Parisian culture.

Metro Hotel garden in Petaluma

Metro Hotel garden

There’s no question why accolades have been heaped on the inn. It’s in the top twenty most unique hotels in the country with awards from Sunset and Vacation Ideas magazines. Trip Advisor fans can’t speak highly enough.

Cafe in Metro Hotel in Petaluma

Cafe in Metro Hotel

Why the French accent? The couple behind the place took over the 1870’s building in 2004. The wife makes regular trips back home to France and can’t stop returning with retro remnants of her home country. Her husband runs the place and is doing well competing with the bigger hotel chains closer to the freeway.

My family stayed upstairs in a two bedroom suite with one bath. We had a claw foot tub with a shower and deeply comfortable beds. The staff was more than happy to give me a tour and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

Bedroom in Metro Hotel in Petaluma

Bedroom in Metro Hotel

There’s a cottage to rent too and most amazingly, several shiny Airstream guest rentals on the property. I’ve heard they’re fun but can be chilly in the winter but would love to test the theory. A bocce ball court beckons just outside the back door.

Airstream at Metro Hotel in Petaluma

One of the Airstreams at Metro Hotel

In the morning we helped ourselves to pastries and pour over coffee. The WiFi was great. There were comfortable places to sit and relax, to work or read indoors or out, but the creative distractions kept me savoring the space with every sip.

Banquet room at Metro Hotel in Petaluma

Banquet room at Metro Hotel.

There’s plenty of free parking, tandem bikes to enjoy on the flat terrain and it’s a short walk to restaurants (within a few minutes drive from downtown.)

Foundry Wharf in Petaluma

Foundry Wharf

Sadly we were there for just one night. For dinner we walked two blocks towards the riverfront and listened to a theater company doing a reading of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar while we supped on salads and pizza.

Bakery cafe in Petaluma

Bakery cafe in Petaluma

It was a perfectly unique sojourn and I look forward to returning to Petaluma again. Especially when the renovations at the historic and much larger, downtown Petaluma Hotel are complete.

Historical Petaluma Hotel

Historical Petaluma Hotel

What else might you find in Petaluma?
Graffiti rest stop in Petaluma

Elaine takes a breather at a graffiti yard in Petaluma

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Paris in Petaluma Pinterest

This was a completely independent trip, and all opinions are too.

Motion sickness and ginger concoctions

Heliconias ginger flowers, motion sickness and ginger
Heliconias ginger flowers, motion sickness and ginger

A garden full of Heliconias Ginger flowers.

On road trips my Mom encouraged me to sip Ginger Ale whenever I felt motion sickness coming on. Ginger tea, ginger candies, and ginger bread were part of her wellness arsenal. Today there’s many simple ways to enjoy the delicious and healing properties, especially regarding motion sickness and ginger.

Ginger Cookies

The renowned Golden Door spa has introduced these Ginger Cookies with three types of ginger in the recipe.

Mom’s TLC helped but ginger has long been used around the world for its healthful effects.

  • In the African Congo crushed ginger is mixed with the sap of mango trees to make Tangawisi juice.  The potion is considered a cure-all.
  • In India, ginger paste is rubbed into the temples to help relieve headaches. A mixture of ginger, lemon and black salt is also eaten for nausea.
  • During the American Revolutionary War, gingerbread, which would harden and keep for a year or more, was a staple for both British and American soldiers.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recognized ginger to be safe as a preventative for motion and morning sickness.
How does motion sickness and ginger work together?

There are chemicals in ginger that tend to reduce nausea and inflammation. Researchers believe the chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, but they may also work in the brain and nervous system.*

“The easiest way to prevent motion sickness is to carry candied ginger in your pocket and suck on it throughout your trip,” notes Judy Griffin, author of Mother Nature’s Herbal. Depending on your weight and size, more candy may be nibbled every 45 minutes. Diane McClaren, author of the Healthy You Naturally newsletter***, suggests that motion sickness can be avoided when you:

  1. Start taking capsules a few days before the trip, taking 6-8 caps/day and 2/hour the day of the trip OR
  2. Take at 6x/d (2/meal) for a few weeks prior to trip and only add extra if needed during the trip.
Gin Gins Candy

Deliciously strong and chewy Gin Gins candy.

Ginger has also been found to be more effective than Dramamine in reducing motion sickness according to a study reported in the British medical journal, The Lancet in 1982.** (Dimenhydrinate is the active ingredient found in ginger.)

Road trip bliss

On a long road trip recently I kept motion sickness at bay with bites of chocolate covered ginger candy.

Ginger with dark chocolate

The benefits of dark chocolate teamed with ginger.

Unexpected ginger concoctions

As the road trip took us through Oregon and Washington, I felt it was part of my job to see what edibles were stocked in a recreational marijuana dispensary. I DON’T INDULGE but it was fun talking with the sales people (very kind and enthusiastic) and interesting to see who stepped into the store (not who you’d expect.)

Lemon ginger canibis drink

A lemon ginger cannabis-infused drink seen in a Washington State dispensary.

However you choose to enjoy ginger keep the natural remedy in mind. For me motion sickness and ginger work well together.

* Reference 

**Reference Active Ginger Ingredient

***Diane Mclaren Healthy You Naturally

This post was prompted by the arrival and quick consumption of a sample package of Irresistible Ginger Cookies from the Artisan Food collection by the renowned Golden Door Resort. (They’re only 50 calories per cookie!) I noticed the warming buzz from the three forms of ginger in the recipe and felt another warm glow knowing that 100% of the profits from the Artisan Food collection are donated to charity. The Irresistible Ginger Cookie can be purchased online.




Indulge royal dreams in Vienna historical hotels

Schonburnn Palace, Vienna
Schonburnn Palace, Vienna

Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna. Photo: Jeff Bechtel via Trover

Westerners may think of Vienna as the city of tiny sausages, a famous boys’ choir and a Billy Joel song. It’s also the ‘City of Music’ with grand waltzes and symphonies but also considered the ‘City of Dreams’ as the world’s first psycho-analyst, Sigmund Freud practiced there.

Dreams may well rule in the historic city center where Baroque castles and gardens still flourish. The grand buildings, monuments and parks of the late 19th century Ringstrasse host some of the grandest hotels in Europe. If you’re looking for royal treatment, consider one of Vienna’s historical hotels.

Theresien Platz in the city of horses. Vienna historical hotels

Theresien Platz in the city of horses. Photo: Maria Theresien via Trover

Stay in the Imperial Riding School Renaissance Vienna

Housed in a former military riding school dating back to 1850, the hotel near Belvedere Palace has been renovated with the latest luxuries. A study in contrasts, there’s an indoor pool with a sunbathing area and a garden offering BBQ facilities as well. When you book an Imperial Club room you’ll be offered wine or champagne in the elegant Lounge each evening. All guests are treated to a sumptuous daily breakfast buffet.

Hotel Regina

The palatial Hotel Regina was built for the Hapsburg family and the royal vibe still reigns inside and out. There are exquisite meeting and event rooms, a lobby that wears the hotel’s 4-stars well and a restaurant featuring Austrian and Viennese dishes. The complimentary breakfast offers Kaiser cake and a wide selection of pastries, breads and cheeses. The rooms are draped in grand swaths; many have coved ceilings with large windows looking across to the park and the stunning Votive Church.

Hotel Imperial

Feel like a Queen (or King) for a day enjoying the pampered elegance at Hotel Imperial. Marble and gilded furniture holds court alongside world-class contemporary amenities in what Travel and Leisure calls one of the world’s best hotels. Treat yourself to an afternoon tea in the 1893 Bar on the weekends while listening to the grand piano or sip one of the elegant cocktails in the evenings. Service and an old world pace make this a perfect place to unwind after busy days in Vienna.

Statue of Johann Strauss in Vienna.

Statue of Johann Strauss in Vienna. Photo: Algirdas Sidiskis via Trover

Radisson Blu Style Palais

With fewer than 100 rooms, the Radisson Blu Style is a sensuous retreat of color, light and contemporary design inside a historic twentieth century building. The five-star treatment begins as you enter to register, then enjoy a pillow top bed and access to a spacious gym and spa. While centrally located across from a park and next door to the famous Café Central, don’t miss the award-winning hotel restaurant, Sapori, and the H12 bar.

Palais Hansen Kempinski

Five star elegance and tradition have morphed into modern luxury at the Palais Hansen. Located on the famous Ring Boulevard, the hotel was originally built during the World Exhibition in 1873. Enter past towering columns and archways into the main hall. The staff prides itself on service and maintaining a quiet atmosphere. The Michelin Star restaurant, Edvard, focuses on the freshest of regional ingredients with modern interpretations.

Visiting one of these Vienna historic hotels will turn your fantasies of living like royaltyl into reality.

Written as part of the Hipmunk City Love Project.

Live Like a Local in a Toronto Short Term Rental

Downtown Toronto fountain.
Downtown Toronto fountain.

Fountain in downtown Toronto. Photo: Elaine J. Masters

If I’d looked into short term rentals, my visit to Toronto would’ve been so much more fun. While in Toronto for a conference, I chose a private hostel room for my stay (it was a short walk from the Convention Center.)  However if I’d shared a two-bedroom space with a travel buddy the cost would have been the same or lower. It’s hard to argue with having your own kitchen, more comfort, and plenty of privacy when you stay in a Toronto short term rental.

Here are a few Airbnb options for share rentals in Toronto:

Stay in a High-Rise, Queen Street West Apartment

Enjoy one of the coolest neighborhoods (according to Vogue magazine.) The space is sleek and minimalist with a bedroom separated from the living area. Sip a glass of wine from the balcony while you savor the view of the city skyline. Transportation is easy, with the 24-hour street car and taxis just a few feet from the front door. There’s a four-day minimum with rates starting at $99 a night.

A King Street West Loft on the Edge of the Fashion District

Urban and compact, the loft décor is hip with great views of the city. It comes with high ceilings throughout and a full gym with an outdoor pool on the property. Union Station and the airport shuttle are a short walk away. Public transportation and taxis are close, but enjoy walking when you can to really discover all the neighborhood offers. Rates start from $116 a night.

Toronto street scene.

Street scene. Photo: Elaine J. Masters

Venture into Little Italy From a Spacious Loft Apartment

Furnished with antique flair, the apartment exudes plush, old-world charm with all the amenities you’d expect. There’s one bedroom with a bathroom and powder room, plus two cots. The building houses just a handful of apartments on a quiet street. It’s just a block from the bustling College Street district. Parking is included so you can walk everywhere. Rates go from $99 a night.

Savor Lake Views From this Downtown Sky Rise

Walk to this downtown sky-rise in five minutes after taking the train to Union Station from the airport. Grocery stores, the CN Tower and great nightlife are all within walking distance. If you need more exercise, dip into the indoor pool or work out in the gym. Rates go from $112 a night.

OCAD University arts building

OCAD University arts building. Photo: Elaine J. Masters

City Hall, Queen Station and the Eaton Center Are All in the Neighborhood

When you stay in this stylish condo, you’ll stretch out in this large, bright and open apartment. Revel in luxury, decorator furniture, and a renovated bathroom. Parking lots with daily rates are nearby. Rates start at $141 a night.

While hotel rooms can run from $200 and up, a Toronto short term rental may help stretch your budget without compromising on comfort. Another plus is owners who will enthusiastically share their recommendations on their favorite eateries, bars, and sites.

Published as part of the Hipmunk City Love Project.

Splash and Sip – San Diego’s Hotel Pools


Marriott Marquis hotel pool. Best San Diego luxury pools. Trip Wellness

Marriott Marquis hotel pool. Photo: Jason Zite via Trover

There’s nothing like jumping in the deep end, then letting the sun dry you while sipping a tall, cool cocktail. San Diego hotel pools are some of the most luxurious – especially if you’re a big kid at heart. These are waters for the 21+ crowd.

Paradise Point Resort and Spa

One of the most beautiful hotels for views and island charm is at Paradise Point in the Mission Bay area. The true beach is a few feet away, but once you slip onto a poolside chaise, you’ll be in tropical bliss. Island-style bungalows are scattered across the Vacation Village. Built in the 1960s by film producer Jack Skirball, careful upgrades have left touches from its founder’s movie days. There are five pools set among ponds and gardens. The adult Lagoon Pool is secluded from the rest with lush greens and cascading waterfalls nearby.

Hotel Andaz Rooftop Pool. San Diego luxury pools. Trip Wellness

Hotel Andaz Rooftop Pool. Photo: Dave Parsons via Trover

The Andaz San Diego

Staying downtown and looking to soak up some sun? Take the Andaz elevator to the top and one of the most luxurious of San Diego hotel pools. The contemporary vibe extends to a lovely view across town. It’s the perfect deck for relaxing. Nightlife comes to you as the club beat heats up late in the afternoon and fire pits blaze into the night. If you feel like exploring, stroll to hundreds of restaurants, the waterfront, and theaters.

Lafayette Swim Club and Bungalows. San Diego luxury pools, trip wellness

Lafayette Swim Club and Bungalows. Photo: Elaine J. Masters

The Lafayette Swim Club and Bungalows

Not far from Balboa Park and the zoo stands a grand dame of a hotel. Step past the towering columns into the cool world of the Lafayette Swim Club and Bungalows.  The silver screen glamour comes naturally as Bob Hope and various starlets once partied there. The original Hollywood Tarzan and Olympian, Johnny Weismuller, helped design the central pool. A curtained bungalow and party area stands at one end. The hotel lobby opens to the graceful waters from the other side. Recent upgrades have the latest tech in the rooms and new embellishments to the two bars and restaurants.

A bit further from the city center are two of San Diego’s best hotel pools for splashing in style:

La Valencia Hotel

Venture into La Jolla Village and the Spanish Colonial charm at the historic La Valencia Hotel. Suspended above the postcard-perfect La Jolla Cove, the pool is large enough for laps or a cooling dip. Order drinks and appetizers while lounging beneath white umbrellas, or enjoy a quiet retreat next to tiled fountains. Take a break from the sun to shop in galleries and designer shops throughout the neighborhood. The lobby happy hour includes music drawn from the grand piano accompanied by a baritone on the weekends.

L’Auberge Del Mar

Tucked into the Old Del Mar Village, L’Auberge is just across the street from pounding waves. Spare yourself the sandy feet by lounging by the Olympic-sized pool. Servers wait to fill your glass while you enjoy the light. The Village eschews retail chains, so dozens of restaurants, shops and bars hold curated style and menus overflowing with California cuisine to ethnic varieties. The Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds are less than five miles away, but are a world removed from the quiet elegance in Del Mar Village.

Featured photo of San Diego Convention Center Pool by Carla Quimson via Trover.

Created as part of the Hipmunk City Love Project.

Philadelphia’s best affordable, boutique hotels

Philadelphia skyline. Photo Megan Smith via Trover

The Philadelphia skyline at sunset. Photo: Megan Smith via Trover

The city’s history impacts you quickly when you visit Philadelphia. In the center of town you’re close to sites from the American Revolution, museums, dining, and public transportation. Here are several of Philadelphia’s best independent, boutique hotels that draw on the city’s historic roots.

Alexander Inn

Beyond the brick façade and inside the red entry door, you enter a world touched with historical elegance,  sumptuous upholstery, and hardwood wainscoting. The rooms are furnished in soothing tones with pops of contemporary color from recent renovation that retained the charm of the past, supplemented with the comforts of today. Only seven stories high, the Alexander Inn has 48 non-smoking rooms and offers elevator access. High-speed Wi-Fi in the rooms and you can walk to Independence Hall and the Museum of Art, as well as the Reading train terminal. Parking is available offsite two blocks away. Rates from $116 a night.

Philadelphia Nayif Kalla

View from the Museum of Art. Photo: Nayif Kalla via Trover

Club Quarters in Philadelphia

Enter a world of understated chic with a club ambience. The marble floored foyer opens to a high, paneled skylight. In the compact rooms the tall ceilings and sleek furnishings will make you feel pampered. The comfortable desk makes using the high-speed Wi-Fi pleasant. The restaurant, Davios, exceeds traditional hotel dining and offers a notable breakfast. Club Quarters in Philadelphia is less than a half-mile from Center City and the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts, Chinatown, and several historic streets. Rates start at $89 a night.

Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia

Artsy décor, designer touches and contemporary textures define the newly renovated Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia. Rooms feature the latest in bathroom amenities, beds and décor. The in-house Art Bar is open from early morning for breakfast through late night dining with cocktails aspiring to liquid art status. The fitness room overlooks the seasonal pool and room keys access the Philadelphia Sports Club across the street. While close to the Convention Center for business travelers and near the Philadelphia Zoo for family groups, you can also satisfy your historical tastes at the Franklin Institute and the Constitution Center. In nearby Rittenhouse Square you can choose from upscale, downscale, and everything-in-between restaurants. Rates from $153 a night.

The Latham Hotel

Built in 1907, the Latham Hotel is highlighted with Gilded Age touches and modern elegance.  The compact lobby has swirls of gray and blue in its paisley print carpet and luxuriously upholstered seating overseen by movie star portraits. The historical façade reaches up from the street with stone and bronze features. The staff will arrange complimentary car service within 2 miles, an Uber driver or cab. Watch the world pass by from window tables in the acclaimed Urban Enoteca restaurant and bar. Rooms feature complimentary bottled water and have hardwood, chrome and mirrored touches throughout. The Latham is conveniently located next to Rittenhouse Square, which is full of shopping and dining choices. Rates start at $250 a night.

The Independent Hotel

The lobby inside The Independent Hotel reaches several stories high, with windows showcasing colorful artwork and revealing wooden beams. It’s a boutique hotel with historical charm echoed in updated Colonial furnishings. Known for caring service, the staff oversees this 24-room hotel with pride. The large rooms feature plush bedding, refrigerators, Keurig coffee makers and microwave ovens. In this central location, navigating the city is simple, with Walnut Locust Station a few minutes way and airport access by car or train. Rates from $113 nightly.

This is a Hipmunk City Love post featuring a few of Philadelphia’s best affordable, boutique hotels.

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