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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!

Virgin America is having a 3 day sale on fares that start at only $49 (to SF), for $129 you can fly to New York or Washington D.C., and for $159 you can go to Cancun between September 20 and October 5, 2011. The fares are one way based on round trip flights and don’t include taxes and fees, so if you need to get out of town do it with a Virgin deal!

For what you would normally pay for one or the other, you get both a room and an omakase dinner with this Bloomspot deal. For $500, you get a night in a deluxe room at the Peninsula Hotel and dinner for two at Nobu, featuring a six course tasting menu (with wine or sake pairings) on select dates through November.

If you want to stay in town but feel like you’re away, get this $12 deal from TravelZoo (good for the next 21 hours) for an all day pass (yes that means 24 hours) at the WiSpa in Koreatown. They have separate floors for men, women, and a co-ed floor in their 48,000 square foot spa which houses hot and cold baths, five saunas, free wifi and a rooftop terrace.

When I lived in Palm Springs, the Esmeralda in Indian Wells was always one of my favorite places to go out for drinks and music (Melvyns was my other favorite nightspot). Since the Esmeralda is now owned by the Marriott hotel chain, there are spectacular deals in the summer which include a daily $50 resort credit and a free breakfast for 2 night stays. I HATE resort fees, but their $25 daily resort fee actually pays for daily fitness classes, two bottles of water in the room, free in-room coffee and tea, and wifi (ask them how to access it) so our entire stay for two nights only cost us about $120 each! They offer Valet parking for $12 a day, but you can self park for free (in a covered lot).

They are in the middle of a renovation, but the lobby is already remodeled and very comfortable.

The only element in the lobby and terrace that remains from the former resort is the magnificent staircase connecting the two levels.

As I walked to the front desk to check in I saw these complimentary containers of cool water infused with pineapple, cucumber, and strawberry. A wonderful thoughtful touch anywhere, but especially here in the desert where outside temperatures were hovering around 118F.

The spacious rooms were clean and modern with great beds and linens.

The bathroom was spacious and had a separate toilet area. Spa robes, soft fluffy towels, and Aveda products gave the resort an upscale feel. Thoughtful touches meant a lot, like a clothesline attached to the wall of the bathtub so you could dry your swimsuits over the tub, and the bathroom had a door to the closet so you could get dressed in the bathroom.

Rates for the summer are so low that the hotel was full of families enjoying the three pool areas; although the kids were well behaved, I still longed for an adult pool area. The poolside servers impressed me more than any other pool I have ever been to, including all the five star pools in Las Vegas; no matter what area I was seated in, someone always came by (more than once) to ask if I wanted either food or drinks! The menu is simple and the selections were reasonably priced, but it was too hot to stay outside for long or I would have ordered and enjoyed lunch by the pool. As with the in room touches, the pool area also had thoughtful touches like water containers and cups at several locations so you could serve yourself water.

The sandy “beach” area was full of small kids and fairly quiet.

The waterfall area was the loudest with screaming kids jumping in and out .

The view from the balcony of our room was tranquil and beautiful.

This view was also from out balcony but looking down instead of out. The small “river” with waterspouts alongside our building snaked around the side of the resort and is the view from the Stir Lounge as well.

Next post will be on the food, which was not as spectacular as the hotel, but the service was impeccable:)

Two Bunch Palms is truly an oasis hidden in the dessert. As a former hideout for Al Capone, this retreat for the famous and the infamous offers naturally heated odorless mineral water in two pools. It is one of the few resorts in Southern California to offer body treatments that range from traditional massage to water therapy.

Even though the summer temperature in the desert may reach 115, it is a dry heat, and most of us who have lived in 80 degree heat with 80% humidity would choose the higher temperature and lower humidity any day.

They are renovating the resort from August 14-25th and offering a special summer rate of only $99 (plus $15 resort fee & taxes) for select dates throughout the summer when rooms and studios usually go for upwards of $200 a night. The $99 special also extends to select 60 and 90 minute body treatments as well, so you can have a spa mini-cation only two hours from LA for the regular price of just a room.

Nights in the desert are wonderfully balmy and starry, and with a rate like this they can be magically restorative.

There are THREE pools at the Comopolitan, the biggest and most popular one is the Boulevard Pool which literally faces Las Vegas Boulevard. This pool features house music with a moderate amount of families, so you can choose if this “middle of the road pool” is your style. There are plenty of chairs both in and out of the pool; one very nice feature at this pool and the Bamboo Pool is there are chairs IN THE POOL that allow you to lie or sit in 10″ of water along the perimeter of the pool, and of course you also have the option of renting a cabana. There is also a shaded area with two pool tables, a lounge area, and a cafe adjacent to this pool. If you can stand the 100+ degree heat of the summer, you can also play tennis on the tennis court.

The Bamboo Pool was my favorite place to hang outside. It was quiet, with Brazilian, French & instrumental music, had only one child in the pool, and also offered two refreshing “showers” where you could press a button for a “spritz” inside the pool. There was a small cafe/bar area at this pool, and the outdoor massage areas are adjacent to this pool.

The first day I was outside, the winds were so strong I had trouble holding my magazine open, even though there are high clear glass wind breaker walls. The gusts were so strong they blew my coverup away! I told security and went to my room wrapped in a towel. As I was calling the “Beck & Call” button on my room phone to ask if anyone had found it, the woman said, security had just found my coverup and they were on their way to deliver it to my room! I wish my life had a “Beck & Call” button!

I went upstairs to the Day Club/Nightclub Marquee Pool but literally turned around and came back to the Bamboo Pool as my tolerance for loud thumping techo beats was far below my desire to lounge in the very cool club area.

The lobby columns are all four sided screens which feature changing art, one of the most beautiful was this one of flowers and sea creatures. I saw virtual “bookcases”, black & white scrolls, shadowy figures moving behind screens, and colorful mosaics at different times and on different days.

The showcase of the hotel is the Chandelier Bar. In the center of the hotel, it is three floors high, and you can have a drink INSIDE any of the three levels! There is either a stair or glass elevator to the second level of the chandelier which is floor level 1.5, so do NOT take the escalators or you will go right past it.

I loved the lounge areas inside the second and third floors.

This is one part of the second level.

Another thing I loved about the hotel was the unusual and unique touches everywhere, from a common area outside the restaurants that features a pool table, to automatic dispensers.

There were two small “art” dispensers, but on the third Chandelier level there was also this U-Tique.

Some of the items for sale included, flats, an eye mask, eye lashes, and various adult game kits. You definitely can’t say this hotel is not fun!

There are several bars on the main casino floor, one of which is Bond. You can barely see them in this photo, but there are live dancers in the glass “cages” that face the Boulevard. Although I’m sure they will serve you your martini however you would like it, the name of this bar may be based more on the chains that hang in the sitting area…..

Being a casino, of course they have all the table games and slot machines, but being the Cosmopolitan, their slot machines were a bit different than ones in other casinos. You could literally win “Big” on this machine!

There is artwork from fabulous artists all over the hotel; some of which is hidden in the hallways between conference areas or on different levels as you walk from the elevator to the shops or restaurants. One hallway featured chocolate dipped eye glasses and stilettos.

Along the same hallway were two shoe sculptures that nearly touched the ceiling.

I found some nice puppies to hang out with, but they were too big for me to take home!

My latest Las Vegas food finds in the next four posts!

Opening a new hotel in Las Vegas in the middle of a financially uncertain climate is no easy task. Succeeding may seem like a miracle, but miracles happen everyday, especially when you do the hard work it takes to persevere. After a troubled start, with a budget that went $2 billion dollars over the plan, was 2 years late, and was foreclosed, the Cosmopolitan has succeeded in not only drawing the young and hip, but in generating the kind of business and buzz that any hotel would be envious of in any economy. This is now a Marriott property and it looks and feels as if the problem child has blossomed into a potential star.

They are in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, with half the hotel rooms overlooking the Bellagio Fountains and the other half overlooking the new Aria and Crystals Mall.

Originally this project was to be part condominium and part hotel, but now it is a hotel with suites that feature sub-zero refrigerators and jacuzzi tubs, or hotel rooms with views and the option of outdoor terraces. Even the least expensive City Room is spacious and very comfortable, and if you sign up as a Marriott Rewards member, you can get points for your stay in addition to getting deals on your accommodations.

I got a room with two Queen beds, but they have all sizes up to a multi-level suite that features a terrace with an outdoor jacuzzi!

The bathroom has all the standard five star amenities and has the toilet on one side and the huge rainfall shower on the other. The towels and robes are fabulously plush and cozy.

For those who are here to work or are addicted to their WiFi or computers, this hotel offers FREE WiFi or ethernet, NO resort fees, and a proper workstation. The technology is impressive, from controls which allow you to customize your light settings or your room temperature from your television, to security features that prevent unauthorized access to guest rooms by requiring a room card for any levels above the common ones in the hotel.

The thoughtful and unusual minibar gives you an immediate sense of the style of this Signature property.

There is an in room pod coffee maker (you pay for the coffee).

An emergency “pleasure kit” for $10 which serves up protection from having to run out to a pharmacy in the middle of the night.

A pair of Bushnell binoculars for $45 which will allow you to zoom in on the pool ares or the Strip, or whatever else you want to get a closeup view of without having to venture out of your room.

This was a very cool feature; between the beds and the shower there is a window with a blind, which is adjustable.

Depending on whether you are here on a romantic trip or not, you can raise, lower, or louver the screen that separates the bed and shower area. A very voyeuristic touch!

I got a view of the Aria from my window and think next time I will upgrade to the Bellagio fountain side.

The light switch at the entry has only two buttons, “Hello” and “Goodbye”; you set which lights and brightness you want to greet you from your television.

Tomorrow’s post will have more on the hotel and grounds, and I ate at three of the restaurants in the hotel, so next week is Vegas week!

>Today is Mardi Gras, and what better way to splurge than to spend the night in Beverly Hills? Even better, how would you like an extra free night in your plush Beverly Hills hotel room?

Click here for the list of participating hotels in Beverly Hills which are giving away a free night if you book 1-3 nights*, and they are including a free breakfast in the deal! You have until June 30, 2011 to book your stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel (in a bungalow), L’Ermitage, The Penninsula (in a suite), The Montage, or the Beverly Hilton.

Laissez les bons temps rouler today or as they might say in Beverly Hills, “Let the marvelous times begin”.

*There are varying minimum stays required for different hotels, so check before you book.

Psst! Do you want to literally bathe your love in chocolate? Do you have $570 and 90 minutes? The the Auberge du Soleil in Northern California can make your fantasy come true with a special chocolate indulgence package the entire month of February. Their spa facility is over 7,000 square feet and has breath taking views of a 33 acre olive grove in Napa reminiscent of Provence, but with all the modern amenities of California like internet access and flat screen televisions.

It is a multi-chocolate experience that starts with a cacao and grape seed exfoliation, then a milk chocolate bath for two in a private outdoor garden while indulging in dessert and specially paired wine. And as a sensual “dessert”, you both get a full body massage using a decadent massage oil of chocolate and spice.

Of course is chocolate isn’t your thing, they have other special packages that include rooms with a view and culinary delights like a four course dinner or wine country limo tour. For the ultimate luxury, indulge in one of the Melissa Suite packages which begin at $2000 and includes three hours in the Melissa Suite with two 120 minute treatments, private use of the hot pool area, a special chef’s plate, and complimentary robes.

Sorry for the missing post yesterday, it was due to technical difficulties; Time Warner decided to black out both my cable and internet service for more than 14 hours!

But I’m back and I have two great “gifts” for you courtesy of Joie de Vivre Hotels and Grom Gelateria.

Joie de Vivre (literally the Joy of Life) Hotels is helping you celebrate your birthday no matter when it is this year by giving you a $100 credit for any stay of two nights or more that you book by January 31, 2011 for a stay through January 2012 within 7 days (before or after) your birthday at any of their hotels. You can use the credit for a celebratory dinner or spa treatment and revel in one of their luxurious rooms in San Francisco, like the Petit Auberge (rates start at $109), The Ventana Inn at Big Sur, or the more local Shorebreak Hotel (rates start at $269) in Huntington Beach.

If you are looking for truly authentic gelato, Grom has 33 locations in Italy and only four locations outside of Italy (including this one), so make sure you stop by Sunday in Malibu for their Grand Opening because they will be giving away free gelato all day to introduce their newest location with special January flavors like the Torta Caprese, made with Venezuelan Ocumare chocolate, Sicilian almond chips and biscuits, and Tiramisu, made with espresso coffee, biscuits, and Teyuna chocolate chips.

Want a last minute getaway before the end of the year? Palm Springs is only a 2 hour drive, but it feels like you’ve gone to another era in the deco inspired Movie Colony Hotel. Prices from now until Dec 31, 2010 are only $99 for ANY available room you book by calling them at 760-320-6340 and mentioning that you saw this email promo. Normal rates here go to $229 a night on week-ends, and they are easy walking distance to the heart of downtown Palm Springs.

They have accommodations with a pool, terrace, and fireside views, as well as a two level townhouse, so call them now if you want to end the year that could save you more than half off on a room that may save your sanity during this holiday season.

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