LE Miami Travel Show Redefines Contemporary Travel Market

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The Limited Edition Miami travel show, put on by Beyond Luxury Media, just concluded its second consecutive year and did so with a splash. For those in the travel industry know, this is not just another trade show. LE Miami … Continue reading

ACE HOTEL DTLA: A Modern Interpretation


The ACE Hotel downtown Los Angeles is the latest in the ongoing revitalization of the south side of the flourishing and exciting developments in DTLA.

Less than one year old the hotel is virtually brand new and is currently undergoing  hotspot status in the perpetually evolving historic core.

Most notable is the fact that the hotel was originally built as the United Artists Building in 1927. It was the flagship theater of a chain that would become the largest in America. The modern design team has beautifully restored much of the original architectural features and added modern design that naturally blends in with the old.

The rooms are adequate, modern yet cozy. The suites are spacious, some equipped with turntables, records and guitars, the perfect elements for an impromptu soiree.

The rooftop bar and pool make for a spectacular place from which to admire the beautifully detailed design of the original tower up close, especially when lit up at night. With a rotating roster of DJ’s the ambiance is perfect for cocktails al fresco.

The ACE Hotel DTLA is an exciting addition to a revitalizing neighborhood. With a rooftop bar and pool, restaurant and adjacent United Artists theater, this property is sure to be a DTLA destination for some time.  At least until the next hotspot arrives.

 

ACE DTLA LobbyACE DTLA King



ACE DTLA

ACE DTLA Turntable

photo 2 (2) - Copy

 

ACE DTLA Master Tub

 

ACE Tower

 

Frida Kahlo:: The Museum of Latin American Art

March 15, 2014 was the opening ceremony for the new exhibit, Frida Kahlo, Her Photos, at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA. The exhibit is based on a book of the same title published in 2010 and edited by Mexican photographer, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, also curator of the exhibit.

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The photographs are part of Frida’s personal collection housed in her family home, La Casa Azul, near Mexico City. After her death in 1954 Diego Rivera donated the home to the people of Mexico as a museum. Personal belongings and artifacts in the home including paintings, clothing and photographs were put on display in the museum, while everything else was stored away for over 50 years.

In 2007, Pablo was asked to unseal and go through the photos. In a 2012 interview with Noreen Naseer of Art Beat on PBS, he said, “I started looking, and the idea was to do a show with all the stuff that was there in La Casa Azul, which was not a very big museum.  So when I was asked to curate that show, I did, but as I started looking at the work, I was so fascinated that started working on a book, Frida Kahlo:  Her Photos.”

Pablo went through over 6, 000 photographs. Of those only 200 are on display at MOLAA, reflecting six different elements: origins, family, loves, broken body and photography.

In the exhibition we see her father the photographer as a young man, handsome with passionate eyes; and also as an elder in his twilight years. He was a well-known photographer of his time and also took many self-portraits, an influence we see in Frida’s own works.

Guillermo Kahlo

Guillermo Kahlo

Photographer Guillermo Kahlo

Photographer Guillermo Kahlo


Frida is well known for her vibrant and dramatic paintings, many of them self-portraits, but did you know she was also a photographer? The exhibit includes photos taken by friends, her family and photos taken by Frida herself.  In her photos we see models of life recreated in her paintings:  indigenous life, landscapes and the Ford Motor plant that would become an iconic image in Diego Rivera’s work.  Some of the most striking photos are those of Frida after the major accident that forever changed her life in actuality, in thought, in art. You see a vulnerable but transparent Frida.

 

“I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint”-Frida Kahlo

Frida-at-the-River

The event at MOLAA was a bit chaotic.  There were many, many people which created long lines through every step of the evening.  The space is not big and most of the photos are small, which made the careful viewing of the photos a tedious experience. I will definitely go back again on a less crowded day to better take in the experience.  Also, there was no book about the exhibit available; not the one the show was based on or any local publication.  It was unclear as to why but I suspect many would have wanted the souvenir for purchase, as I did. Aside from the exhibit halls there was live entertainment in the sculpture garden, food and mini artisan market in the back outdoor space and fun photo prop spots, bar and DJ in the interior studio. Overall there was a vibrant energy and excitement, all components for an excellent night at the museum! Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to get an intimate view of Frida and the life she lived in this very personal collection of photos on display at MOLAA.

The Millennium Biltmore Hotel, The Host of the Coast

Remembering the Millennium Biltmore Hotel of Los Angeles on this eve of the Academy Awards show of Hollywood, more commonly known as the Oscars.  In 1920 film making had become the largest local industry in the City of Angels. The hotel was one of the early homes of the awards ceremony, hosting it for a major part of the 1930’s and early 194o’s.

10 Easy Money Saving Tips To Maximize Your Vacation Budget

It’s no surprise traveling can be very expensive but it’s also true that traveling is one of the most rewarding, life enhancing activities one can spend money on. It’s a great way to be inspired, recharge and grow.  Anyone can travel and everyone deserves to!

Regardless of whether our budget is large or small, we all want to a good value! Here are 10 easy ways to save money while you travel.

1. Plan in advance.  While it’s not necessary to plan ahead to get a good deal, it certainly helps to start looking at airfares early. This allows for time to watch market trends and spot a good deal instantly when they become available.  Subscribe to travel news outlets to get alerts on sales.  Or if you have a good travel agent have them keep an eye out for you.  Usually 3 to 6 months in advance is a good time to start pricing.

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2. Skip baggage fees—don’t check in luggage.  Say what? Yes, I said it! Baggage fees generally start at a minimum of $25 per bag and up for each consecutive bag in each direction. For some people the concept of packing one bag may seem impossible but with the right packing strategy and selection of items it is definitely possible to travel light, even if traveling for longer than a week.  Not only will you save money—you will save time!!

3. Eat local.  Sure, resorts and hotels have great restaurants but they can be very pricey (and not always good). When possible, get familiar with the surrounding neighborhood and check out local restaurants, bars and cafés. One can often find great local restaurants around with authentic local specialties and local prices just steps away!

Misto Salat

4. Find the local grocery store.  With many hotels charging $5 and up for a bottle of water staying hydrated can get pretty expensive.  Make a quick trip to the local grocery or corner shop for bottled water, snacks and munchies to keep in your room and while on the go.

5. Take local transportation.  Local trams, trolleys, buses and metros are not only less expensive than taxis but also an exciting way to explore a city and meet new people!

Local Transportation

 

6. If your hotel offers continental breakfast, take advantage.  Some shy away from these offerings but even just a coffee and small bite in the morning is enough to get you going and certainly better than starting a day of sight-seeing with an empty stomach.

Fresh, simple, delicious.

7. Research local museums for special hours and rates.  Many offer students, seniors and children discounts and most offer free entry on certain days of the week.

8. Check out local happy hours.  Have an aperitif on the cheap at a local bar or pub and while you’re at it have a chat with the bartender for tips on local favorite spots. Local recommendations are invaluable!

9. Take a walk and try street vendor food.  If you really want to get to know a place you must try the local food.  Street vendors offer cultural and culinary reflections of their local community, adventures for the senses. Of course, ask around or survey which ones are more popular and use common sense.

Mercado

10. Make friends.  Meeting new people on the road, especially locals, makes for a most rewarding experience. If you’re open to it, you will find people are very friendly and generous, perhaps offering advice or a visit to a local sight, or if you’re lucky, inviting you into their home.

 

La Paz, Mexico – The Fun Baja

La Paz is the capital and largest city of the southern half of the Baja peninsula yet evokes the nostalgic memory of a sleepy fishing town. Established in 1535 it has much history to discover but for many visiting La Paz it’s all about the water! 

Very well-know by Mexican nationals and international tourists for its protected waters in the Sea of Cortez, it is also highly rated as a place for excellent sport fishing, scuba diving, whale-watching, snorkeling and many land and water activities.  I had an opportunity to visit La Paz last August for the first time and had an adventure of a lifetime during a day at sea with the local Fun Baja crew. We headed an hour north by boat to the Isla Espírito Santo, named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Bio-Reserve, where we stopped at a sea-lion colony for snorkeling and swimming with sea lions. The fish were a kaleidoscope of shimmering neon yellow, purple and blue, the water crystal clear; the sea lions were playful, curious and fun. Swimming alongside of them, face to face, was a surreal and enlightening experience I will never forget. Truly out of this world!

 

After an hour of play time with these sea creatures we headed to the Fun Baja camp at Ensenada Grande Beach, a gorgeous blue, isolated beach camp stocked with everything you need for a great lunch al fresco. Fresh grilled fish, beer, lounge chaises and, for those left with energy, kayaks and paddle boards.  It was a great day at sea, unforgettable! Fun Baja is true to its name! The staff is fun, super friendly and very knowledgeable, it’s evident they enjoy what they do and my group had a blast along with them!

Fun Baja also offers scuba diving certification programs and overland trips to neighboring Todos Santos and Los Cabos and will be offering their Grey Whale Watching Package to Magdalena Bay through March 30, 2014. Large numbers of  Grey Whales congregate in this bay to mate and birth, making it a very special place. If you’re lucky you will be close enough to rub noses with one! If you go to La Paz, go Fun Baja! You will not be disappointed!

For the après day-at-sea, there are many restaurants and fun pubs in the town of La Paz. The casual El Bismarksito is a local favorite along the Malecon, serving fresh ceviche and fish anyway-you-want-it.  For a fine dining experience, Las Tres Virgenes offers creative and delicious courses of traditional and modern flavors…course after beautiful course, a delicious translation. The Costa Baja Resort is the nicest in the area, there are many options but, unlike Cabo, this is not a resort town so do your research and plan ahead. La Paz is very much a community, you will see locals jogging, swimming and cycling along the beach. The people are very friendly, lots of fun and many speak English. I have only touched on a fraction of what you can do and enjoy in La Paz. You must see for yourself.

My Top 6 “Must-Have” Hotel Amenities

In my daily work life I help clients with their business travel; I get first hand reports on their likes, dislikes, the quirks and the nuances of their travel and what is important to them. In my personal/business playground (hooray for R & D) I aim to experience on behalf of my clients. It’s one thing to have an on-demand butler but I’m talking about some of the basic, must-haves we have come to expect as standard when staying at a hotel. For some it’s in-room coffee, for others the daily paper. Whether you are traveling for business or leisure, the hotel you sleep at can truly enhance your travel experience. Whoever said hotels don’t matter, “you’re hardly in the room” was wrong!

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 Here are my top 6 must-have hotel amenities.

6. Continental Breakfast:

This one receives an honorable mention because while it is a highly valued amenity, the reality is that many premium hotels do not offer a complimentary breakfast.

These days, we are lucky to pay for a good breakfast; on average $20 to $25 for a generous and delicious breakfast at a luxury hotel is fair.  But, unfortunately, many places fall short in this department. For this reason it is a notable plus when a property does offer a complimentary continental breakfast.  Even if a light meal of coffee, fruits and pastries, it certainly helps to get prepared for the day ahead.

5. In-room Digital Concierge:

You know, those multi-outlet devices equipped with USB plug-ins, usually formatted into a desk or nightstand, where you can plug in multiple devices at once? It’s a small detail but one that elevates the technological know-how and ability of a hotel. How many times have you checked into your room only to spend the first 10 minutes looking behind drapes, nightstands and headboards for the nearest place to charge your mobile phone, laptop or tablet? In an age of convenience, having your device charging within arm’s reach is one that is valued (especially if, like I do, you use the alarm clock on your mobile device!).

4. Bathrobe & Slippers:

This may not seem essential but think again. When you are pacing around your room getting ready to go out or stepping out of the shower, walking around on the cold bathroom tile, it’s nice to have slippers to keep your feet warm and clean. Likewise, the robe is a nice detail to keep you cozy in the usually cool, air-conditioned temps of a hotel room.  In a luxury hotel, lounging in the robe is an experience in itself!

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3. Gym on-site:

This is hugely important for many of my business travelers. Being frequently on-the-go makes staying fit and healthy a major challenge. Whether staying at a hotel for business or leisure, many guests appreciate the opportunity to squeeze in a workout when possible, even if an abbreviated session. Add fresh towels and water in the gym and you’ve got a major plus!

 

 

2. Complimentary Bottled Water:

Yes, it sounds simple. I believe this is an underrated amenity, one taken for granted. But for most travelers, it is hours from the time they actually get up, go to the airport, board a plane, factor in flying time and transport from the airport to the hotel; by the time we check into our rooms we are tired, spent and thirsty. When most hotels charge $5 to $10 for a bottle of water, it is remarkable and refreshing to find complimentary bottled water in a hotel room. In my book of travel, this a huge plus that never goes unnoticed.

1. Free WiFi:

My number one must-have! Some hotels do generously extend complimentary WiFi to their guests but it seems on average hotels charge $12 to $15 per day. Also trending is a tiered-service-plan in which guests can access basic service for free (good for checking social networks and email) while others requiring a greater bandwidth are charged a fee. This seems a little more reasonable for us social media geeks but when anyone can access free WiFi at the local coffee shop or public library, it is surprising this is not a standard guest amenity at most hotels. It should be, don’t you agree?

There you have it, my round-up of top, essential must-haves when lodging at a hotel, our “home away from home.”  What are your standards for hotel travel?

A Dazzling Jewel In The Heart of San Francisco: The Palace Hotel

This my personal review of the Palace Hotel in the financial district of San Francisco.

The Palace Hotel makes an astounding impression upon first sight. A grand lobby, high ceilings, and ornate decorative details tell of times long ago and instantly captivated me. Though the original 1875 Palace Hotel was damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the “new” Palace Hotel was reborn only a few years later in 1909.

My room itself was an entry-level category and showed signs of wearing in the carpeting and bathroom; also, the internet was a bit unreliable, hugely important for travelers.  Nevertheless, overall I found it to be very spacious and comfortable. The bed was plush and dreamy, there was a soft robe in the bathroom and most impressive was the complimentary bottled waters.  When many hotels charge $5 to $10 per bottle, this is a huge plus in my book!

As I was traveling alone I decided to have a nightcap at the Pied Piper Bar, located right in the hotel.  This bar wonderfully compliments the rest of the hotel. There is a lounge of tables near the bar for those looking for an intimate drink, adjacent to the bar is another room for more lounging, dining and dancing. Lucky for me the Klipptones do a Swing Jazz night every Friday and were there on that night. I had a few relaxing glasses of wine while listening to the music and watching swingers dance, a perfect treat.  It was an adventure of an evening without even leaving the hotel! A win-win for a girl on the town on her own.

The Pied Pier Bar

The Pied Pier Bar

The Klipptones performing modern Swing Jazz

The Klipptones performing modern Swing Jazz

What are some of your must-have amenities when you check into a hotel?

Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills, le chic c’est delicieux!

A step into the Avalon Hotel is a step back in time. The hotel’s unique design is true to its 1950’s beginnings, outfitted with luxe marble, mirrors, pale blues and grays. Recently renovated it offers all of the modern amenities travelers expect but with the retro chic inspired design of a classic era. 

Dining poolside

Dining poolside

Nestled along the borders of a quiet residential neighborhood in Beverly Hills, it is close enough in proximity to local shopping, restaurants and (for those looking for a night out on the town) the bustling nightlife of West Hollywood.

However, if you prefer a night in, the Oliverio Restaurant provides a unique dining experience right in the hotel. Whether in a cabana or at a poolside table, the dim lights and quiet setting make for an intimate dining experience. And the food is great. Homemade pastas (pappardelle con Ossobuco), hand tossed pizzas, fresh and local ingredients. If you’re a truffle lover do order the risotto al tartufo (you guessed it, truffle!), you will not be disappointed. Or the pizza salsiccia e tartufo.

Cauliflower souffle

Cauliflower souffle garnished with tartufo

My favorite? The luxurious cauliflower souffle. Velvety, smooth. Absolutely perfect, sinless decadence. The Oliverio Restaurant is worth a visit to the hotel alone. Book your night of nostalgic glamour today!

Big Sur, Califoria Majestic

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Big Sur. When I think of heaven, this is it. To breathe, to see, to feel.  A majestic, monumental beauty sprawled along an unspoiled California coastline, Big Sur is a must see at least once in your lifetime. Regardless of … Continue reading