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 Morongo Casino Resort was a good overnight stop for both rest and food after a grueling drive to the rural high desert. After unloading a 16′ truck, my only desire was for a shower 🙂

Looking over what the hotel had to offer in the way of libations and food, I saw a happy hour offer at the steakhouse on the 27th floor Cielo and convinced my friends to go for a drink if not for food after our day of labor. We actually ordered our food before our drinks because we didn’t realize how hungry we were! Their Happy Hour menu was so enticing we basically ordered one of everything! We started with the calamari for $12 which came with a marvelous san marzano tomato sauce, but was so good that we didn’t need it! This would have been my meal if I had been there alone!

The cannellini bean hummus for $8 was the only mediocre dish of the evening, although the olives and cornichons helped perk it up a bit, the actual hummus was bland and boring.

We loved the shisito peppers so much we got two orders, and for only $6 each it was a great deal!

The hit of the evening was the prosciutto tapas for $15 with marvelous crostini, arugula and olives. Several of us had wine or beer for $6 that were very good quality for the price point, and the one who ordered the cosmo for $8 was very happy with the fresh lime juice and Absolut Citron used in the drink.

We also went to the Mozen bar for a nightcap and the beautiful craft cocktails, like the crouching tiger, by the skillful bartender Jonathan, who matched the visuals on the bar screen of Asia. I especially loved the tiny sriracha single packs he shared with me which I now keep in my purse 😉

Since I spent the night, I met a friend for breakfast before the drive back at the Good Times Cafe. I chose my own ingredients for my omelette; spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms for $13.95 with hash browns and a toast side. The vegetables were fresh, and the hash browns were tasty, but I found the omelet a bit overcooked.

My friend opted for the corned beef hash breakfast for $14.95, and offered me a taste, but one taste was enough for me to know that I had chosen wisely 😉

The coffee was decent, and the service with a smile was very professional and warm, but my favorite part of breakfast was the tiny jars of jam 🙂

I went on a truck moving road trip to bring friends who live in the rural high desert a load of outdoor furniture and survival supplies, like firewood and a generator. After two days of packing and unpacking a 16′ truck, there was no way I was going to drive back to Los Angeles the same day.

I lived in Palm Springs for 5 years but had never stopped by, much less stayed at the Morongo Casino Resort. It’s recently undergone a remodel, and they are constructing an addition, so it was a good time to get a taste of the upgrades.

Rates are very reasonable starting in the $150 range for a week-day night, which includes wifi and cell reception that was much better than what my friends have in their remote location (nonexistent).

For nonsmokers, it was gratifying to find a great filtration system that took away the second hand smoke smell unless you were literally next to a smoker. There was also a very heavy armed uniformed security patrol throughout the casino that was a bit unsettling to me; I wondered why the heavy obvious presence was necessary…

The room was very pleasant, with nice subtle decor and practical touches, even if the electronics were a bit dated; the clock radio dock was for a 5th gen iPod, and no USB charger at the desk.

The large spacious workspace was nice, although I doubt many people come here to work 😉

The closet was nicely appointed, and there was a mini fridge, Keurig (which didn’t work) and several small bottles of water (gratis) in the room.

The large bathroom and two person shower had a privacy screen on the bed side that lit up into flowers when the door was closed, and although there were no robes, the towels were fluffy and good sized.


The view from the 20th floor showed a nice contrast between all the offerings in the casino resort vs. what nature offered outside.

One of my friends was given a stay at the Kimpton Hotel Wilshire, so I went to hang out with her and have lunch on the roof by the pool. The reception / lobby waiting area has a minimalist modern design that was softened with flowers and cushy pillows on the couch.

When my friend arrived, they were having their happy hour in the lounge area on the second floor, so we grabbed some fruit and wine gratis.

The room had nice touches throughout, and in keeping with conserving energy and water, there was a note saying that they only change linens every 3 days unless requested to do it more often.

The bathroom was quite spacious and included a long deep tub that could comfortably accommodate a 6′ tall person. Also in keeping with environmentally sound practice, their soap and shampoo dispensers were not one use disposable containers, but larger refillable ones.

As with most modern hotels, there were spare USB and electrical charging ports under the TV.

Since this is Los Angeles, there was a yoga mat in the closet, leopard robes, and healthy snacks in the minibar.

It was an overcast day, but we checked and the pool was warm enough to go into if we had been wearing bathing suits instead of dresses:)

Yes, we are stereotypical Southern California ladies who lunch by the pool, so what else would we order besides the house salad?  One with shrimp, and one with rare ahi tuna, both under $20, served with candied pecans, fresh fruit, avocado, and bits of chevre; beef was an option, as was chicken, if those are your preferred proteins.

Since we were eating salads, we *needed* something hot with our meal, so we also shared a side of fries 🙂

By the afternoon, the skies had cleared and we got a blue sky view as dessert.

Meeting someone in Los Angeles can be a daunting task, especially when you must drive across town to do it. Even choosing to meet halfway in the middle of the day can still lead to chaos. People say there are no accidents or coincidences, so when I was supposed to meet a friend at noon at the Hotel Angeleno, traffic and rain conspired to have me enjoy the views and food alone.

It was my first time in this circular building, although I’ve driven past it numerous times on the 405 going in and out of the San Fernando Valley. I will definitely stop by the next time traffic is crawling and I want to be above the mess rather than in it. If you stop by during Happy Hour, they have nice bites and drinks with the view and a $7 parking fee.

Since I was there in the afternoon, after the normal lunch hour, there weren’t many people and I had a choice of seats with a view. I chose the ones with cushions a bit further away from the windows, but there were hotel guests who chose otherwise. I had a glass of Pinot Grigio as I waited for my friend, but as I got updates that the trek from the airport was going to take at least 90 minutes, I decided to order lunch.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the classic salad Crab Louie, and I was happy to see the large portion of crab and vegetables arrive. For a hotel, this was a very correct dish, with real crab (canned), and local vegetables, including heirloom cherry tomatoes. The dressing was a green goddess instead of the traditional Louie, but it was tasty enough for me to use it all with some additional salt and pepper to perk it up. Lunch was fairly priced for a hotel with a view; with my wine and tax, my total was $38; this is a non tipping hotel, so everyone is paid a living wage by the hotel from the maids to the waiters and bartenders.

By the time my friend finally arrived, it was time for Happy Hour and since I had only eaten a salad, I got the ceviche. It was a bargain for the ingredients and the unusual green chips made me think it was St Patrick’s Day, but it could have used some tapatio or zesty spice.

I got to see my friend’s room that had a view overlooking the condos on the other side of the freeway.

The bed looked comfy with modern touches like a lit headboard and USB plug in ports.

The desk area carried on the same modern theme and included numerous ports built into the wall. There was a safe and mini fridge hidden behind the placards, water and snacks at reasonable for hotel prices. There was even a little coffee/tea maker with Wolfgang Puck coffee and Numi organic green tea.


The bathroom had several nice amenities, including a robe, toiletries, and three sets of towels for one person!



I think the coolest part of the hotel is the emphasis on them doing things a bit differently, from the non tipping policy to the unusual shape of the building; they definitely are not square 🙂

Since today is my birthday, I thought it only appropriate to write about my favorite experience in Champagne 🙂

Champagne is my prefered drink for nearly every occasion, so when our AirBnB host suggested we go for a glass of champagne on the grounds of the five star hotel Les Crayères, we did not hesitate 🙂 Les Crayères is behind the Pommery estate, but a world away from its mass commercial enterprise atmosphere.

If you want to stay on the property, rooms start at around $400 USD, and meals at the main restaurant by a MOF chef, start at about $200 per person, not including beverages. If you want to enjoy the space without taking out a loan, there is a garden cafe with a set menu beginning at around $40, or you can enjoy the veranda views with glasses of remarkable champagne beginning at about $30 per glass.

The view of the veranda in the back is as stately as the entrance.

Some of the views from the veranda.

The foot paths throughout the property invite strolling.

You can see the hotel from the far end of the domaine.

They grow their own herbs and vegetables on the property.

I chose a Laurent Perrier Rosé and my friend the vintage Tattinger for about $70 USD total.

Parmesan crisps and fine jambon were complimentary accompaniments.

Vineyards surround the property, a reminder that there is no substitute for terroir 🙂

London is famous for its fog, and it would be a charming setting if you are not trying to travel into or out of it on a plane. The fog decided to blanket both London and Paris the night before I left for NYC and it wrecked havoc with all flights scheduled to go in or out of airports for days. After hours of delays, misinformation, and redirection by the British Airways staff, I finally got on the last Virgin Atlantic flight of the night to JFK thanks to the splendid LHR agent Louise G. This was my “virgin” flight with Virgin Atlantic and they are now my favorite airline. My seat had goodies waiting for me as I boarded, including an eye mask, toothbrush with toothpaste, pen, earplugs, and slippers in a “feel good kit”, headphones, and a clever blanket which had a cutout so you could slip it over your shoulders without excess material at your neck! This was standard issue in ALL seats, with extras like pj’s in upper class (yes, you get to take the comfy pj’s with you)!

The plane also had an ingenious remote/phone combo which accessed the broad range of inflight entertainment which took six pages to describe in the in flight magazine.

The staff was as cheery and professional as I’ve ever encountered, including one steward who literally climbed up on an armrest to help me get my coat from the overhead compartment because she was as tall (or short) as I am!

I even enjoyed (and watched) the entire safety demonstration because it was so much fun; this scene is about how to properly fasten your seat beat 😉

For an 8 hour flight, there were two meals and two snacks and yes, the flavors were as good as they sounded. The only time I’ve eaten this well on a flight was on Air France’s Business Class, of course Air France had better wine, but then that is a given, non?

Not only was the food fresh and healthy, it actually had flavor!

Arriving at JFK airport, the Airtrain got me from the airport to Jamaica station (where you buy your $5 ticket before exiting), and then I connected to the subway (on the same Metro card, just add a dollar amount of $3 for each ride) which not only runs 24 hours a day, but has technology which updates where you are on the route, as well as the connections and stops along the way! After Rome, this was like being in an altered futuristic universe!

American hotels like the Hilton Midtown may seem small compared to other cities in the US, but by European standards it is huge and full of deluxe features for the price,

like a big TV,

huge shower, and plentiful FLUFFY towels!

The view from the 22nd floor wasn’t bad either!

Coming back in the US after more than 2 years in France, and being back in NYC after more than 20 years, I had certain cravings. Katz’s Deli was made famous in the movie “When Harry Met Sally“, but they are famous to me for their pastrami. There is of course a sign showing you exactly where Sally had what everyone else wanted 😉

Pickles come with every order,

and I urge you to get a knish, which in NYC, is basically a fried bit of delicious mashed potato, either filled with something or plain. This knish was bigger than both my hands:)

Classic fries always go well with a sandwich.

A sandwich is about $20 and sides all cost about $5; this is HALF of a pastrami sandwich, and if you can finish a whole sandwich in one sitting, I bow to your appetite!

The best part of any trip is seeing friends 🙂

The Normandy countryside is as charming as the seaside; I stayed at the Bed and Breakfast, Le Pré aux Daims, which is only 15 minutes from Deauville, but a world away in style. It may be nice to use GPS, but some places in the countryside are not mapped out, so asking locals along the way if you are on the correct road is a very good idea. Thankfully a young man sitting at a bus stop knew the roads well enough to give directions that GPS did not know.

The one lane road to the Pré aux Daims has views like this,

 and the driveway looks like this,

 before you arrive:)

The inn is every bit as welcoming and well maintained as it looks, with chairs and tables for the included breakfast, or if you want to picnic. Since there are no restaurants are nearby, you might want to stop for a meal before you arrive or bring some provisions with you.  The innkeepers, Martine and Gilbert, speak excellent English and German, as well as their native tongue, so ask them for recommendations.

There are very happy deer on one side of the property,

 and a goat or two on the other side,

separated by fences adorned with flowers.

It was far too chilly for me to lounge in the sun, but for those who think 70F is warm, there were chairs available.

 The view from my room outside,

 and the view of the room inside, which was as spotless and comfortable as it looks.

Breakfast can be eaten inside or out. It was sunny enough to breakfast with the deer, and though some people wore only short sleeves, I needed my sweater:) A German family with a small child and a couple of French regulars were the only other guests in the 5 rooms and 1 apartment available. The rooms start at 65 Euros ($70 US), or you can rent the 60m2 apartment for 450 Euros ($500 US) for the week, all rentals come with a continental breakfast. Make sure you have enough cash to pay when you arrive because they do not accept credit cards.

Coffee or tea, or hot chocolate,  with refills (unusual in France), orange juice,

 and the selection of bread and pastries was fresh and copious.

 I opted for the bread so I could try some of their jams, which included flavors like kiwi and rhubarb:)

The deer ate plenty of freshly mowed lawn for breakfast, and like wonderful hosts, they got up to say goodbye 🙂

I am a frequent Air Tahiti Nui customer, banking my miles so I can fly in an upgraded class or get a free flight in return for my loyalty. It’s nice when a wine bar offers a similar program for loyal patrons who buy wine flights.

The Next Door by Josie has started Tuesday Night Wine Flights. For $15 you get four pours of any of the wines they offer by the glass and when you get four stamps on your “Wine Flight Boarding Pass”, your next wine flight is on Josie!

And for those of you who want to come to Los Angeles to experience this deal, Air Tahiti Nui has now teamed with Expedia and they are offering a 10% discount on all new hotel reservations worldwide when you book and pay by March 31, 2013, just use code ATN10U. If you prefer to go to Tahiti or any of her islands, the discounts are even better, at 25-50% off.

Looks like it’s time to formulate my flight plans 🙂

If you want a quick getaway this December, you can go to Las Vegas and stay at the Vdara* in a suite for less than $95 a night, or a 1 Bedroom Penthouse Suite for less than $277 a night. A $28 resort fee and 12 % tax are not included, but a $50 daily spa credit is included, so no matter how you do the math, this works out to a good deal for a stay at a AAA Four Diamond Resort.

Ahhh I hear you all checking airfares and your mileage as you try to figure out how to get to Las Vegas….how about trying the new Megabus? They have an inaugural fare of $1 each way, yes, you read that correctly ONE DOLLAR between December 12-19 on trips from Los Angeles to Las Vegas or San Francisco! These are the huge climate controlled, WiFi behemoths which have bathrooms, reclining seats, and outlets. The only “hidden fee” is a $.50 (yes, FIFTY CENT) per transaction booking fee.

As in all great deals, these won’t last long, so book them now if you want them!

*Please note that this resort is nonsmoking and there is no gaming, so if you are looking for a casino/hotel, I would suggest another hotel like the Bellagio next door or the Wynn further down the strip.

I’m not one of those people who camp out for a special on Black Friday, but I do appreciate a great one day deal. The Surf & Sand in Laguna Beach is one of my favorite hotels, with wonderful food, spectacular views, and within walking distance to Forest Avenue (the main thoroughfare).

The rooms normally go for about $400 a night during low season and as much as double that in the Summer, so if you add on the resort fee and parking, you are looking at a premium price for a premium resort. I appreciate quality, but when you can get quality at a discount, that is literally the best of both worlds.

If you set your alarm clock to call 866.860.6154 or book online on November 23, 2012 between 7am and 7pm, you can book a one night stay for as little as $219 Sunday-Thursday or $299 Friday and Saturday. You must go by January 31, 2013, but you also get complimentary resort fee and parking for this rate!

The best part is that if you can’t get through, they are offering the same deal on Cyber Monday but only online!

Get set, ready, dial (or type)!




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