Showing posts tagged Travel
(Photos top to bottom: Saxon + Parole, ABC Kitchen
Travel expert Gary Leff contributes his first post in a series of 6 for MTM.
He’s truly the best in the biz so I’m honored to have him contribute!
FIND AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATIONS BASED ON THE EXPERIENCE YOU WANT WHEN YOU TRAVEL
AirBnB, the site that allows you to rent private rooms, apartments, and homes when you travel, has added a new feature called “Neighborhoods” to help you decide where you want to stay based on what kind of experience you’re looking for.
I’ve used AirBnB once on a trip to Austin and was so pleasantly surprised. The casita was cute, clean, and stocked with fruit, juice, and coffee. Our hostess was a delight to chat with. Thankfully I knew the area I wanted to be in, but if I hadn’t, this feature would have been my key to the city.
Right now, AirBnB offers “Neighborhoods” in these seven cities: New York, San Francisco, London, Rio de Janero, Berlin, Washington DC, and Paris. More to come!
3 good reasons to shop Duty Free at the airport (think exclusive, think saving $$, think holidays!)
One of the most beautiful cities to visit in Europe, in my opinion. More here.
Due to my stomach bug while in LA, I didn’t get out to eat very often. However, the new places we did hit up, which were all cafes, were well-rounded and exceptional in terms of food, decor, and service. I don’t know if they will become staples, but I loved the experience at each.
Brentwood Country Mart (West LA)
Tucked behind the food court, Farm Stand is a market, deli, bakery, and farm-to-table cafe serving up sophisticated comfort food. The guilt-free indulgence seems to good to be true until the bill comes and you realize you’ve just dropped $25 per person on brunch! Absolutely worth it though :)
800 DEGREES PIZZERIA
8I wanted to try out 800 Degrees, the new pizza joint in Westwood where you can customize your own pizza that cooks up in 60 seconds, but as you can see the entire neighborhood came out to do the same that night. Chef Anthony Carron takes great pride in his concept and pie that he claims is based on the original Neopolitan recipe. Watch the video, it looks delicious!
West LA (below), West Hollywood, North Hollywood, Culver City, Downtown,
Due to the line at 800 Degrees, we ended up at Pitfire Pizza down the street. Honestly, I’m happy we did. They have a super fresh menu full of things other than pizza like the quinoa tar tar above. I was a little disappointed the crust was traditional instead of thin, but overall their pies were delicious. The craft beers on draft were a nice addition. All around great concept for a casual night out!
From the masterminds behind Hatfield’s (arguably one of the best restaurants in LA) comes a little sister cafe on La Brea, The Sycamore Kitchen. Think Urth Cafe…but San Fran chic instead of LA rag-a-muffin. Delicious pasteries, savory quiches, and a ricotta crepe dish that looks like heaven are just a couple things to make you salivate when you walk in the door. I didn’t get a chance to try lunch, but as you can see from the menu above it looks as divine as breakfast. They use Stumptown roasted beans, but unfortunately have not figured out how to serve them properly yet (why is it so hard for people to make a proper cappucino). The service is a bit cold, but I think the hipsters and their mommy manager will warm up over time.
Everyone is also buzzing about John Rankin’s Lauren Hardware in Weho. A la the Beauty & Essex entrance, this eatery looks like a hardware store. But all the cool kids are flocking there for food and fun, so maybe we should follow their along.
Trust me, I know I’ve missed tons of great new places, so if you want to offer up recommendations, please do so in the comments. I hope to make it back out there soon!
My vacation in Koh Samui Thailand. See how I celebrated my 30th :)
I’m not sure if AirfareWatchdog is new to the market, but I’m happy to know about it now! Their service allows you to get alerts on any route you might want to travel without having to specify dates, airlines, or specific flights, like Yapta. They will also let you set how often they email you: daily, 2-3 times a week, or weekly.
I love the “Anywhere That’s Cheap” feature for last-minute getaways. These days I’ve just been feeling like I want to get out of town and I don’t care where I’m going.
As you can see I’m attempting to make my way to NYC as soon as possible. I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve been back!
I SAY PASS ON PALM SPRINGS FOR YOUR CITY ESCAPE.
My friend Emily, who just came back from a girls’ trip to Palm Springs, said before she left she checked my blog to see if I had a guide to the town. I felt terrible because I hadn’t written my thoughts after my 5 day trip there for New Year’s Eve.
To put it bluntly, I’m not a fan. The town is old, the hotels are needlessly expensive, and there isn’t much to actually do there…I love to lounge, but I also like to be active and do things I can’t in the city. As a retreat from LA where you would have your own house, I could see how Palm Springs delivers, but as a visitor, I wouldn’t go back again.
We stayed at The Parker, a Starwood Resort property that is regarded as one of the best hotels in town. It’s like the Chateau Marmont or Soho House - a great place to eat, party, and be seen amongst the celebs, but not a cozy place to hole up and sleep because it’s simply old. Even though the interiors were renovated 2 years ago by Jonathan Adler, the mod rooms still felt musty and lacked 4-star accommodations. The showers were smaller than mine at home; there was no mini bar to grab a late night snack; the old school tv’s produced a picture that looked like a game of tetris. I don’t usually watch tv on vacation, but when you’re there for 5 days, it’s nice to take a night off and watch a movie, ya know. The vintage books and posters were charming, but not enough for me to suspend my discomfort.
Thankfully, the rest of the property was delightful. The famous Norma’s (from NYC) was creating their standard masterpiece plates for for breakfast and Mr. Parker’s was dark and equally decadent for dinner. The grounds were what you would expect from Palm Springs: lawns lined in palm trees, small sitting and swinging areas to lay out and read, and a big fire pit to keep guests warm at night.
The tiny pool surrounded by greenery took me back to what I believe would be the 70’s. This retro aspect I really enjoyed…as long as I made it there by 8:30 to reserve chairs before my workout. At night, the lounge centered by a fireplace and the tiny 8-seat bar were good places to hang out while we waited for our table, but not sufficient enough to enjoy a meal there.
Other notable hotels would be The Ace Motel, just like the one that hails from NYC, where the hipsters stay and play. There is a Viceroy that appears luxurious and the contemporary Hotel Zozo that didn’t get much lip service but looks interesting. We chose the Parker for its history and charm, big mistake for the price.
Nearby in Palm Desert is the La Quinta Golf Resort which houses tons of private condos, cute casitas and villas populated with visiting couples and families, and common areas where everyone gathers to either chat, relax, or play games. It’s like a little town inside their compound! We played golf, finished the afternoon by the pool with ritas and pulled pork tacos, got a massage at the spa, and then dined at Morgans, a glorified average steakhouse where the older crowd congregates and the young people come to celebrate. Southerners of all ages seemed to be the majority of the visitors at La Quinta so I fit right in.
As for the town, it’s so far past it’s prime. From what I hear and saw with my own eyes, the gay male community is still loving it. I have no idea where the shopping is people rave about. I found a Crazy Shirt store and the ice cream shop where they made the first date shake. That was about it. Woot.
Golf is a big deal in the area. I opted for La Quinta’s PGA West golf course, which was challenging, but not as pretty as others I’ve played. The critical factor for me was the heat. It was almost unbearable!
If you’re looking for fine dining hit up the hotels. As I said, Mr. Parker’s was exactly what I was looking for: dark atmosphere, trendy people, and delicious food. The Ace has a surprisingly healthy diner for breakfast and a fun bar scene where you can shoot tequila and sip on boutique beer with the cool crowd.
I guess these reasons explain why people spend so much time at the spa in Palm Springs. There just isn’t much to do. Or that I saw anyway. I don’t have a list for you, but they all seem pretty nice to me.
Here’s my bottom line for Palm Springs: We had a nice time. For me it wasn’t about the places as much as the company. That being said, I always take my critical eye with me so I can relate my experience to you. Obviously from this breakdown, I wouldn’t send you there. I can recommend at least 5 places to visit over Palm Springs for a relaxing getaway. In fact I did for the Huffington Post, see the slideshow here. To name a few: Santa Ynez Valley, Northern California, The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, Austin, Charleston, Greenwich, Sedona or even Phoenix!
Now, if I’m crazy and I missed the charm, feel free to write that in the comments. I couldn’t see everything in one trip, especially when I was trying to relax by the pool :) Your thoughts and suggestions are not only welcome, but also encouraged here!
Traveling so often, I’ve devised a little system to help make the numerous tickets more affordable. These tips assume you have already checked Kayak or Yapta for airlines for lowest prices. Here’s what I do:
- Fly during non-peak hours. If you can fly during the middle of the day, the plane will be unfortunately be smaller and older, but the ticket is cheaper, and you’ll have a better chance for an upgrade.
- Buy your tickets on Wednesday at least 2 weeks before departure. A pilot told me once that Wednesday was the day the fares drop and thus far, that’s been true!
- Make the actual purchase on the airline’s website. This way if you mess up on the date or time, you have 24 hours to change it without a fee.
- Pay with Bill Me Later. This line of credit through your PayPal usually offers you 6 months no interest on individual purchases over $99. That way you can take the time to pay for each ticket because they have their own deadlines.
- Stick with the same airline. Don’t settle for a cheaper ticket and use a random airline. Stick with the same ones and rack up miles. If you’re not a frequent traveler this doesn’t apply.
- Save miles for international travel. Whether you rack them up through travel or credit cards, don’t use miles domestically. Gary Leff, the airline saving expert, taught me that. Read his blog and follow him on twitter @GaryLeff for the best deals before you travel.
Salivating over Eddie V’s crab cake as I write up Austin city guide for MoreThanMary.com - check it out later today! #travel (Taken with instagram)
The Huffington Post just published my slide show, “Awesome Spring Break Recommendations You Don’t Need A Passport For.”
These 4 Southern destinations feature luxurious resorts that are moderately priced and offer TONS of activities. Golf, beach, biking, hiking, tennis, cooking, yoga, and plenty of R&R.
CLICK HERE to see the slideshow and my review of each. In each, you’ll find links to my videos and photos from my experience.
Here’s the best part: you don’t need some crazy expensive airline ticket to get there! Each of them is 2 hours or less outside of a major city (LA, Houston, Atlanta). You might not even need to get on a plane at all.
If you have any questions about any of the properties, please don’t hesitate to email me. I’d love to help get you there, even if it’s just for a weekend getaway!
(Full disclosure: Media rates provided by hotels.)