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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.

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)!

If you are looking for a luxurious beautiful secluded spot, Bacara is the place to stay. Even finding it (with both GPS and a friend who had been here before) is a challenge. But the views once you get here are worth it. We stopped for a drink on the patio by the lobby and we were treated to this as we sat in an alcove.

Considering this is a five star resort, the drinks and snacks are very reasonable ($15-$30). We had plans for dinner, but we could have easily spent the entire afternoon here. They recently opened up a sushi bar adjacent to the lobby with a menu which allows you to specify what flavors, kind of fish and type of presentation on your order, so instead of ordering the sushi bar standards, the chef will create sushi, sashimi or rolls based on your preferences.

The pool was full of kids, so if you are looking for a peaceful place to relax, do not go during school summer vacation, or opt for one of the private poolside cabanas. The pools are saline instead of chlorine, so it’s like swimming in the ocean!

If you are planning a romantic trip, consider going in May or September, if you are going with your kids, you will have plenty of company in the Summer months!

I haven’t been back to Napa in over 10 years, so when my friends invited me to their family reunion, I looked forward to seeing both my friends from college and wine country. Upon my arrival at the Silverado Resort after an 8+ hour drive, the front desk helped me find my friends by searching last names, first names and relatives names; they never lost their patience or smile. Likewise Dominique, the concierge, managed to reserve a sold out restaurant for a party of four, that became a party of eight an hour before the reservation. Service here was impeccable. Even housekeeping was efficient and smiling with a fully booked hotel, they came and delivered extra towels within 30 minutes of our request.

The 1 BR fireplace condo ($340 per night) looked out over the golf course, a beautiful view to wake up to every morning.

We got a fireplace condo which was spacious enough to easily accommodate four adults (unless the four are football players).

The kitchen was well equipped with a coffeemaker, tea kettle, microwave and dishwasher. There was a welcome plate of fresh fruit and cheese upon our arrival, which we promptly devoured after a flight which offered NO food (not even for sale)!

The beds were comfortable and spacious, with mattresses that were neither too firm nor soft.

Great touches like a screened bathroom window which opened to a private patio, a full sized ironing board, and a loofah mitt, made this one of the most well appointed places I have ever stayed!

The only negatives during my entire stay was that the resort lacked ENOUGH personnel to handle all the guests and the room decor could use a more updated look. The line at the front desk was three guests deep per person at the counter. The lone concierge, Dominique, had 5 guests waiting for her as her phone rang. When I called in to the hotel from my cell phone, I was put on hold and cut off four times as I waited. If they would just update the condos to a more modern look and invest in more personnel, this would be a spectacular resort, but it is a very good place to stay as it is now, so if you are going to wine country, consider Silverado as one of the most tasteful choices you can make.

TripAdvisor

I have a friend who moved to Auckland and as I was checking airfares for his son to go visit him, I found that Air Tahiti Nui is offering a $1118 roundtrip airfare from LAX to Auckland with a three day layover in Tahiti and they are giving away three free nights in a Tahitian hotel with the deal!

The hotel choices include two waterfront hotels, the Radisson Plaza Resort or the Sofitel Tahiti Maeva Beach. For $275 more (the upgrade fee covers all three nights), you can stay in an over water bungalow at either the Meridien or Intercontinental. They even offer an hotel on Moorea for an extra $200 (for all three nights) at the Intercontinental. To get to Moorea, you will need to ferry to the island, which takes an hour and costs $30 roundtrip, and since I love Moorea I would say it’s definitely worth it, but if you’ve never been to Tahiti, you may want to just stay on the main island.

You must book and buy your ticket by November 6, 2011, but you can travel anytime between January 30 and May 31, 2012. You can travel as early as October 23, 2011 but rates from October 2011 until January 29, 2012 incur an extra $102 per person surcharge. Keep in mind that it is the rainy season in Tahiti from November through February and New Zealand’s Autumn begins in March, so I would recommend going between March and May for the best climate in both places.

Getting the best weather in two countries with a great airfare and free hotel nights may be one of the best holiday gifts to give or receive this year!

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