Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

WHAT’S HOT AND WHAT’S NOT FOR SUMMER ROAD TRIPS ACROSS THE U.S.

WalletHub, a company that surveys and analyses how people live, travel and spend, knows that across the U.S, summer is a time for road trips. But, all road trips are not equal. According to WalletHub’s latest survey, California has the highest number of scenic byways, 66, which is 22 times higher than in Delaware, the state with the lowest at three. Wyoming has the lowest daily price for camping, $32, which is 2.1 times lower than in Connecticut, the state with the highest at $68. Arizona has the lowest price for a three-star hotel room, $64, which is 3.4 times lower than in Hawaii, the state with the highest at Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

St. Mark’s Square and colorful buildings line Venice’s Grand Canal

GONDOLIERS DON’T SING BUT VENICE STILL EVOKES ROMANCE

In Part 5 – The Classical Beauty Of Tuscany, The Elegance Of Florence And San Gimignano’s Tall Towers

VENICE

Where we stayed:

The Carnival Palace Hotel, opened in 2012, overlooks the Cannaregio Canal in the heart of historic downtown Venice. The modern 67 room hotel is not in the midst of tourist traffic, so if you want to venture to St Marks, museums and art galleries, you either have a very long walk or you can easily take a water bus from a station just a short distance away. The hotel buffet was diverse, with a vegan brioche I mistakenly took for a wheat croissant until I bit down into its soft, buttery texture. These were so amazing I ate them every morning for four days. Russ and I and several Read the rest of this entry »

View from Villa San Fillippo

THE CLASSICAL BEAUTY OF TUSCANY, THE ELEGANCE OF FLORENCE AND SAN GIMIGNANO’S TALL TOWERS

Part 4 was Medieval City Faced Chemical Warfare And Peace Makers Wage War Against Poverty In Orvieto And Assisi

SIENA, FLORENCE and SAN GIMIGNANO

Where we stayed:

Villa San Filippo is an 18th century 35-room resort in the Chianti hills, in Barberino Val D’Elsa. Russ and I stayed in a magnificent suite that opened up to a dining and kitchen area, tiled floors, and a step down to the bathroom and luxuriously appointed bedroom. A comfy chair positioned in front of a large window and balcony in the living room afforded spectacular views of the lush Tuscan landscape Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the medieval town of Orvieto

MEDIEVAL CITY FACED CHEMICAL WARFARE AND PEACE MAKERS WAGE WAR AGAINST POVERTY IN ORVIETO AND ASSISI

Part 3 was The Power Of Prayer And Governments Ruled Montecassino And Rome

ORVIETO, ASSISI and DERUTA

Where we stayed:

You couldn’t ask for a better central location to unpack your bags than the Grand Hotel Italia when staying in Orvieto, a medieval city built atop a volcanic butte that lies between Florence and Rome. There were inconsistencies in the water pressure, the WIFI drifted in and out, but the staff of the 46-room property did their best to make us comfortable, even to turning on the hotel-wide AC earlier than they’re used to in the season. The morning buffet was just ok, but one of the first lessons to be learned Read the rest of this entry »

Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s Basiilica

THE POWER OF PRAYER AND GOVERNMENTS RULED ROME

Part 2 was the Sex, Lives And Jewelry Of Pompeii And Sorrento

ROME

Where we stayed:

I never tire of staying in former palaces converted to hotels. One such converted palace to hotel is the 110-room Empire Palace Hotel in Rome, originally built in 1879. Room sizes vary a lot. The floor and walls in our room and bathroom were marble. The shower wonderfully easy to operate, an appreciation you won’t understand unless you have used showers that require a pilot’s license for all the buttons and controls. The pillows were flat and hard. Downstairs, the onsite Blue Bar is a cozy venue with live music in the evening. Warning: when hotel signs indicate breakfast ends at 10:30, they do not mean a minute longer. The hotel is Read the rest of this entry »

Seated man frozen in ash at Pompeii

SEX, LIVES AND JEWELRY OF POMPEII AND SORRENTO

Part 1 was The Magnificent Sights And Sounds Of Amalfi And Ravello

POMPEII, SORRENTO and MONTECASSINO

Watching one of many fictionalized movies about the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted does not adequately impart the swift horror that befall the populace. Vesuvius has since erupted nearly 30 more times, the last being March 17, 1944. Considered one of the most dangerously active volcanos in the world, it’s scary to know it sits only about 20 miles from the city of Naples. Estimates are that as many as 30,000 residents may have been “frozen in place” under ash in 79 AD. An eruption today might cause as many as Read the rest of this entry »

St Mark’s Square & the Doge’s Palace on Venice’s Grand Canal

Part 1 – THE MAGNIFICANT SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF AMALFI AND RAVELLO

Pizza, pasta and gelato. Wines that never reach America. Mythological gods and goddesses. Warring religious and political leaders. Artists, sculptors and architects whose works still breathe life into a people, country and tourism-driven economy.

Stunning landscapes of contrasting colors, from the foam-tipped whites of the sea crushing against jagged rocks of the Amalfi Coast to the neon yellow of the lemon tree-studded mountains of Ravello; from

Boar’s head sits in oaken bucket. Otherwise, a typical wine and food shop within stone walls of medieval town

 

Read the rest of this entry »

 

Vineyard Tower is a $120 million expansion to Gaylord Texas Resort & Convention Center

FEED CENTRAL FLORIDA YOUTHS THIS SUMMER

Orlando, FL area restaurants and the Central Florida chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) are partnering to make the Summer of Dreams come true for homeless Central Florida youths. The annual “Round Up For Kids” fundraiser for the Orlando After-School All-Stars initiative will provide meals, academic enrichment, tutoring, mentoring, and a backpack filled with school supplies for the upcoming school term. Last year, the Summer of Dreams program served 1,151 Central Florida homeless students. Diners can help just by letting participating restaurants know you want to support the cause by Read the rest of this entry »

Zebras are just one of the many 55 species of animals you might see on Safari Wilderness’ Sunset Safari’s this summer.

It’s the season for summertime travel if you’re based in North America, and if you are one of 72 million Americans expected to travel abroad, WalletHub has some interesting statistics about foreign transaction fees you may want to consider. According to surveys done by WalletHub, 51% of Americans worry more about foreign transaction fees on credit cards than tariffs on Chinese imports. Two-thirds of those surveyed think credit cards should charge lower foreign transaction fees in countries allied with the U.S. Are you aware that 96% of credit cards offer rental car insurance, while 86% offer travel accident Read the rest of this entry »

Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach’s guitar-shaped pool. photo by Architectural Photography Inc

CSR TOUCHES YOUNG LIVES IN PROFOUND MEASURE

April is World Autism Month. In honor of the month, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, which already offers entertainment for children with a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as food allergies and other dietary restrictions, has their carousel alight in blue. The theme park’s Guide for Guests with Disabilitie, available in printable PDF form, lists ride-by-ride safety requirements, including LEGOLAND Water Park, Read the rest of this entry »

Cliff House Maine in Neddick, ME is offering promotional discounts

HOT DEALS!
Breathe in Spring by taking a long weekend to relax and rejuvenate at Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL Enjoy 20% off plus $25 daily hotel credit for your weekend stay for travel through May 31. Just minutes from Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, the resort’s $25 credit per night can be used at on-site restaurants, in-room dining or at Relâche Spa. Use promotional code P91 in the Corporate/Promotional code box when making Read the rest of this entry »

Paradisus Punta Cana has promotional discounts and gorgeous settings

HOT DEALS!

Pamper yourself or your group with new promotions by Paradisus, renowned for its top all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and Punta Cana. Receive up to $1,500 USD in resort credit, free golf rounds, and complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. Resorts include Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla, Paradisus Punta Cana, Paradisus Cancún, Paradisus Los Cabos, and Paradisus Palma Real.
www.melia.com

See the world from the deck of a Seabourn cruise liner during their Signature Savings Event and receive incentives such as a complimentary upgrade when Read the rest of this entry »

Swim with the Manatees? It’s a popular package at Plantation on Crystal River, located on Florida’s Nature Coast.

BEGINNINGS AND FRESH LOOKS

Parents and business visitors to Gainesville, FL will have a new reason to yell “Go Gators” when the AC Hotel Gainesville (by Marriott) opens its doors early this year. This college town has always been known for rousing spirit and Read the rest of this entry »

Jump into the foam ball pit at Planet Obstacle

What’s a nice safety-obsessive girl who doesn’t like heights and is a natural klutz doing in a place like Planet Obstacle, Lake Mary, Florida’s ode to extreme indoor sports?

Mostly just trying not to let my jaw keep dropping open as I gape at hundreds of kids flying through the air like ninja warriors, or playing dodgeball in a brightly-lit padded court, or bouncing about in a foam ball-filled pit. Above me, a ropes course had human monkeys disguised Read the rest of this entry »

Looking for fun ways to incentivize your attendees?

Clue. Candyland. Sorry. Battleship. Monopoly. Trivia Pursuit. The games people play while sitting around a board with one’s friends and family. Games can be competitive or just the catalyst for casual conversation, but they have always been a source for fun social interactions… at least before electronics fit in our pockets and playing an opponent didn’t Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Jennings (L) and I feeding grapes to ring-tailed lemurs.

Ring-tailed lemurs hop from branch to branch before perching on a wooden railing, greedily grabbing the grapes from our hands with their soft paws and plopping the juicy morsels into their eager mouths. The water buffalo who rubbed up against the sides of our open-air canopied safari bus were nearly as gentle, even as their long, wet tongues curled around the offered tootsie roll-shaped treats.

Lemurs and water buffalo are just some of the 450 animals representing 55 species of mostly African and Asian hoof stock that roams the 260 acres of Safari Wilderness Ranch, Read the rest of this entry »

Caesars Forum will have a 550,000 sf conference center in Las Vegas, NV

It’s that time of year when everyone’s personal life clashes hard with business activities, no matter how much one strives for balance. With that in mind, I will respect your time and not regale you with tales of the cookies I’ve baked or the fun parties I’ve worked as Natasha, The Psychic Lady. Your time is precious, so here are some of the deals and promotions you may want to keep in mind going forward.

HELP REJEUVENATE PUERTO RICO’S MEETING AND TOURISM MARKET

Meet Puerto Rico (MPR), the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) responsible for attracting meetings, conventions, trade shows, sporting events and incentive groups to Puerto Rico, is launching the “Check Off your Bucket List” promotion Read the rest of this entry »

Top Chef Santa. See the cleaver in his hand?

Edible centerpieces are 3-D works of artistic skill that can showcase an event’s theme, decorate a simply clad table, or in the case of the Orange County (FL) public high school and vocational tech students, it can be the recognition that their creativity, knife cuts, and timed artworks merited their focused concentration.

I’ve lost track of how many years I have had the privilege to judge Orange County (FL) Public School’s Annual Hospitality and Culinary Competition, hosted each December at the Orlando World Center Marriott, but I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for what each Read the rest of this entry »

Safari Wilderness in Lakeland, FL offers customized tours and facilities for private events.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY—MEETING PLANNERS & TRAVEL SPECIALISTS

How many of London’s spectacular palaces have you visited or hosted an event in? One of the most unexpectedly incredible venues I’ve ever been to is the Banqueting Hall. I kept imagining myself in a Renaissance dress and hair garland of flowers dining at the long table under massive wooden chandeliers and low-lit wall sconces while the musicians played lilting melodies. This place is truly fit for a luxurious dining event. The Banqueting Hall and other sites such as Kensington Palace and the Hillsborough Castles are all included in the special edition of Historic Royal Palaces, a guidebook of venues and special offers only available to Meeting Planners and Travel Specialists. The book is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

groupsandtraveltrade@hrp.org.uk.

ONE OF FODOR’S “TOP 10 SAFARIS IN THE U.S.” LIES IN THE HEART OF CENTRAL FLORIDA????

When I first learned about the 260-acre Safari Wilderness located halfway between Tampa and Orlando, my reaction was Read the rest of this entry »

Gaylord Palms snow tubing

WINTER’S COMING BUT THESE DEALS AREN’T COOLING OFF!

Save up to 20% when you book a holiday package at the Gaylord Palms (Kissimmee, FL), for stays between November 21 – January 7, 2018. Here are some of the perks included with this offer. ICE! featuring Christmas Around the World; breakfast with Charlie Brown™ & Friends; Build-A-Bear Workshop® Scavenger Hunt; snow Read the rest of this entry »

HOSPITALITY GROUPS STEP UP THEIR CHARITABLE GIVING AFTER NUMEROUS NATURAL DISASTERS

Journey Mexico is “dying” to take your group on a Day of the Dead cultural tour.

Here’s a unique way of aiding victims of the devastating earthquakes in Mexico while also enriching your personal knowledge of the country’s rich cultural history. Book the last two places available on Journey Mexico’s Escorted Group Day of the Dead Tour in Oaxaca and the travel company will donate 50% of the $4,377 trip fee (per person) to relief efforts in the Isthmus. The 14-member tour group trip is set for October 28 to November 4.

www.journeymexico.com

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is donating 18,000 theme park tickets to the UNICEF Kid Power Schools program and 2,000 tickets to Citrus Center Boys & Girls Clubs in Winter Haven, Haines City and Lake Wales.  “As a resort built for kids, Read the rest of this entry »

Villa Casa Del Mar, a new private property for rent by Journey Mexico

HOT DEALS!

Seabourn celebrates its 30th anniversary and you get the gift of special luxury-cruising offers. Book select voyages by November 14th, and are some of the incentives that may be included: Three Veranda Suite Category Upgrade; Veranda for Ocean View Category Upgrade; 300-Minute Internet Package per Person; $300USD per Person Air Credit; $300USD per Suite Shipboard Credit; 50% Reduced Deposit; and up to 30% Savings on Select Combination Cruises. There are also special offers for Penthouse and Premium Suites bookings.

www.seabourn.com; (800) 929-9391

Book and stay at the contemporary new INNSIDE New York NoMad, the first of its brand in the United States, by December 31, 2017 and get 15% off. The Melia property is located in Chelsea and convenient to the Garment District, Greenwich Village and Union Square. The hotel has two meeting rooms with capacity for up to 70, a fitness center, and outdoor terrace. Within walking distance to the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park, and Times Square. Read the rest of this entry »

My husband Russ and a 15-year-old male relative (whose name I will not use to save him unmitigated embarrassment) have something in common: they both sweat easily and profusely, especially on their feet. The result is that no one wants to be near them when their socks are first removed.

Enter them being my guinea pig subjects for new socks on the market that claim to be the world’s best odorless socks. Full Read the rest of this entry »

PART 5: OSLO, A CULTURAL METROPOLIS FOR MUSEUMS, ARTS, FABULOUS FOOD, THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE, AND SO MUCH MORE!

Polar ship Fram

In PART 4: THE TROLL’S DAUGHTER DANCES, WATERFALLS PLUNGE, AND THERE’S SALMON… LOTS AND LOTS OF SALMON! We have left behind the jutting mountains, roaring waterfalls, and orchards planted on sloping hills like grapevines for the country’s largest city.

OSLO translates to Field of the Gods. It is a city undergoing vast urban revitalization.

Where we stayed:

Travellers of all shapes find their way to Thon Hotel Opera

Thon Hotel Opera is a convenient location that will become even more advantageous when the Oslo Opera House opens half a block away in 2019. Right now, the 480-room hotel is ideal for its location to shopping, restaurants and attractions, but what is particularly ideal is its Read the rest of this entry »

 

PART 4: THE TROLL’S DAUGHTER DANCES, WATERFALLS PLUNGE, AND THERE’S SALMON… LOTS AND LOTS OF SALMON!

In PART 3: STEPPING INTO THE FAIRY TALE WORLD THAT IS NORWAY–GOAT FARMS, SKI RESORTS, FJORDS AND WHITE-KNUCKLE MOUNTAIN ROADS, we visited one of Norway’s most dramatic fjords, dined at a goat farm, and mellowed to the music of Composer Edvard Grieg.

The pastoral elegance of Lofthus

We leave Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, for the serene pastoral elegance of Lofthus, a city in Norway’s Fjord District. Small farms and villages tuck onto mountainsides. Slopes embrace sparkling fjords. Wild flowers grow haphazardly, creating a landscape of emotionally-charged blues, whites, greens, yellows and pinks. This is the Norway of picture postcards, of a place where time has paused to let one breathe crisp clean air and soak in the relentless natural beauty.

Lofthus

Where we stayed:

Over the bridge and to the water-surrounded decking at Hotel Ullensvang

Hotel Ullensvang may be one of the most beautiful resorts at which my husband Russ and I have ever stayed. From the moment we enter the Read the rest of this entry »

PART 3: STEPPING INTO THE FAIRY TALE WORLD THAT IS NORWAY–GOAT FARMS, SKI RESORTS, FJORDS AND WHITE-KNUCKLE MOUNTAIN ROADS

a private wedding and event center, in Oslofjord

In PART 2: DANISH ROYALTY– FROM THE QUEEN’S RESIDENCE TO HAMLET’S CASTLE TO KAREN BLIXEN’S SANCTUARY, reminders of Denmark’s history thrive today in castles, heroic citizens and the Arts.

We stepped onto the Pearl Seaways, an 1800-passenger cruise liner that masquerades as a ferry, in Copenhagen, Denmark and stepped off in Oslo, Norway. If our Odysseys Unlimited tour group of 24 had been awake during the overnight journey, we’d have seen some of the islands and landmarks along Norway’s 1,100-mile coastline.

Over the next 10 days Tour Director Karin Hansen led us by bus on hairpin mountain roads to gaze Read the rest of this entry »

PART 2: DANISH ROYALTY– FROM THE QUEEN’S RESIDENCE TO HAMLET’S CASTLE TO KAREN BLIXEN’S SANCTUARY.

a classic building in Copenhagen

In PART 1: VIKINGS DID NOT HAVE HORNS ON THEIR HELMETS, we began our three week trip by spending a week in Denmark, with a brief foray into Germany, with friends.

Copenhagen is a worldly metropolis without pretensions, much like the royal family who are called by their first names, or the 50% of the population who daily commute by bicycle and think nothing of leaning them unlocked against a building wall.

Fashion styles are typically in muted colors and casually sophisticated. Furniture has smooth, clean lines. People are friendly, direct, no-nonsense and unfailingly obey traffic lights. Healthcare for citizens is free, but the taxes are among the highest in the world. Open-faced sandwiches, herring, and Vienna Read the rest of this entry »

The Viking Museum in Roskilde

PART 1: VIKINGS DID NOT HAVE HORNS ON THEIR HELMETS

Plunging waterfalls descending from steep rocky mountain walls and glacial gray splashing water into deep shimmery fjords of Norway are not photo-shopped by travel magazines.

Danish pastries are actually called Vienna bread in Denmark, and contrary to belief, they are not one of the country’s better known exports. Bacon is.

Pretty much everyone in Denmark and Norway speaks better English than many Americans.

Scandinavian countries take great care to preserve their heritage, architecture, and cultural norms.

Those are just some of the truisms my husband and I learned during our week’s stay in Denmark Read the rest of this entry »

HOT DEALS!

River Terrace Inn living room in Napa City, CA

I’ve written about the Napa Valley Wine Train throughout many years. I’ve had the pleasure to ride this turn-of-the-century train, munch on gourmet appetizers and sip on wines from local vineyards. I’ve also been fortunate enough to dine during a media tour at The River Terrace Inn in Napa City, an eclectically designed boutique hotel with gorgeous garden and a prime spot on the Napa River. These two very special places have combined their unique assets to offer stay-and-ride promotions. From stopping points along the train route at name vineyards such as Charles Krug, to dining riverside at The Read the rest of this entry »

My vote for worst aiport goes unhesitatingly to KEFLAVÍK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, the largest airport in Iceland, and for worst airline, ICELANDAIR, for its overall poor management and unsocial (or is it untrained, or just incompetent?) gate crew.

I’ll give you my reasons. Please share yours.

Two years ago, my husband Russ and I flew roundtrip to Copenhagen, Denmark on Icelandair, departing and returning to Orlando International Airport in Florida. After the mind-boggling chaos of Keflavík International Airport and the startlingly disorganized manner Read the rest of this entry »

MADRID, BARCELONA AND TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS

In Part 3, Churches were once Mosques and Synagogues, Novelists pay homage to Spain’s bullfighters and castles, Tapas tantalizes and Flamenco fiery passions ignite.

Spain rolls out the welcome mat

Madrid was the last stop of our guided Odyssey Tour. For five of the 10 couples, our next stop was Barcelona, a three-day tour extension. Odyssey arranged our transportation to the airport from Madrid to Barcelona and had a local guide waiting to escort us to our final hotel. Transportation was also arranged to take us to the airport for our journey home.

Downtown Spain, where many buildings have sculptures decorating the skylines.

Where we stayed: Wellington Hotel, an old-world property near some of Spain’s luxury shopping. Many of the stores were brands popular in the United States, such as Tiffany or Benetton.

What we saw: Plaza Mayor, located in the heart of the city, and Palacio Real, a 2,800 room residence that was home to Bourbon kings from Charles III to Alfonso XIII. The palace today Read the rest of this entry »

OLIVE OIL, HEMINGWAY, FLAMENCO DANCE, AND TAPAS

In Part 2, Roman ruins, mountain-top castles, gypsy offerings, history rich from battles and architectural ingenuity

Parador de Ronda in the background while restaurants, hotels and homes sit precariously on the edge of the El Tajo Gorge

There are more than 300 million olive trees planted across Spain. Don’t tell Italy, but we were informed that much of Italy’s olive oils derive from Spanish olives. That was just a glimpse into the world’s largest producers of olive oil. On the road from Carmona to Ronda, our Odyssey Tour group stopped for a few hours at Basilippo Calidad Gourmet Olive Oil company in El Viso del Alcor, Seville, Spain for a hands-on experience of picking olives from the trees. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the only time we had Read the rest of this entry »

SPAIN FURTHER AWAKENS OUR SENSE OF HISTORY, FROM CASTLES TO ICONIC CHURCHES

In Part 1, our tour of Portugal took us on a trip through Lisbon, Monsarez and Évora. The journey continues into Spain.

Roman Amphitheatre in Mérida

Mérida was a much too-short visit to one of the most fascinating attractions of our tour thus far. At least for my husband Russ and me. We’ve never been to Rome, so have never been to the remnants of the Roman Colosseum; therefore, the exploration of the Roman Amphitheatre and the Roman Theatre in Mérida was like being on the set of “Gladiator,” without having to watch the blood, gore and thumbs-down kill signs hoisted by a rabid audience.

While at the UNESCO World Heritage archeological site with our Odyssey Tour group, schools of Read the rest of this entry »

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal,

PART 1: PORTUGAL

We travelled back to 13th century Portugal and Spain without having to step foot in a time machine or imbibing in mind-altering drugs. The trip began simply enough with an overnight stay at the Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, the first stop in our two-week trip with Odysseys Unlimited’s tour of historic lodging and architecture.

The tour is billed as Paradores & Pousadas, which means luxury accommodations resurrected from ancient monasteries, castles or city halls by governments eager to restore iconic structures reflective of Read the rest of this entry »

Hotel Unique in São Paulo, Brazil is offering a promotional rate for groups

HOT DEALS!

There’s strong evidence that Hotel Unique in São Paulo, Brazil is appropriately named. Where else have you a hotel that resembles a half watermelon sitting on a food stand? The 94-room property has green-weathered copper stretching across the façade works to contain the unusual shape of the building. Curved walls and expansive spaces allow for internationally-amassed statement pieces and contemporary art. The rooftop terrace includes a crimson infinity pool and bar. The location is in the upscale residential area of Jardins. There are 10 meeting rooms, one extra room with a lobby view, and it can accommodate up to 1,000 people for reception. Book an event for up to 50 people and get a secial rate which includes room hire, in-room service, A/V equipment, lunch and two coffee breaks.

res@designhotels.com

Last minute summer getaway plans for yourself or your group? Gaylord Hotels has an enticing offer, even if you can only book three to seven days in advance, as longs as the stays are by August 31. The deal varies by the hotel. Save up to 15% when you book Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN at least a week in advance. Book either the Gaylord Palms Resort (Kissimmee, FL) or the Gaylord Texan Resort (Dallas/Ft Worth, TX) at least 14 days in advance and receive 15% off. You can earn 20% in savings by booking Gaylord National Resort in Washington DC just three days out. Make sure you provide the promotional code: ADP.

www.marriott.com

Book at least 15 rooms per night at Shula’s Hotel & Golf Club in Miami Lakes, FL by September 30 and receive a $109 room rate with a $60 per person complete meeting package including breakfast, lunch, AM & PM breaks. You’ll also receive a $100 Spa credit or Tee Times for four at Shula’s 18-hole Read the rest of this entry »

Glovax Gloves, a new glove on the global market designed to be lightweight, flexible for multipurpose usages.

I rarely review products, but this was sent to me for an unbiased review, and because it is an item I envision myself using, I agreed to check out Glovax Gloves, a brand new product just entered into the global marketplace.

First: what the gloves are purported to do. They are designed for usage indoors and out, from weeding the garden to playing sports where a tight grip would come in handy. They are promoted as being revolutionary because of the multiple ways in which they are useful.

They are to be flexible enough to grasp machinery or even kitchen tools. I cook and bake as well as work in my garden, so having gloves that are light weight and are also supposed to be water proof (the outside coating) would be valuable to me.

What could be better: I don’t know if the company offers a variety of sizes or even other colors, but my neon orange gloves, with a pebbled palm surface to maximize the grip, were a bit large for my hands. I easily had an extra inch of finger space, but the gloves do pull on easily. Although the gloves surfaces are coated and meant to be water proof, after I put the gloves through my gardening test, I rinsed them off with soap and water. The insides were damp, but the dirt slid off easily.

Wish they were longer on my arm, but working in the garden was easy with their lightweight flexibility to deadhead flowers or replant.

I also would love it if the gloves came in different lengths. I am allergic to more items than I could list. Working in the garden is always challenging. If certain plants touch my lower arms, I break out in a rash. In this test, right above my wrists, where the gloves ended, I indeed broke out. I purposely touched a thorny plant stem to see how easily the thorns might penetrate. They did, but not with the full force the thorns might have otherwise done.

What I really like: obviously the fact that the gloves are flexible and wash off easily. I was able to use a trowel, deadhead flowers, and snap off some dead leaves on my herbs, tasks I’ve had difficulty doing with some other gardening or utility gloves. These are light weight, so if it wasn’t for the pebbly rubbery texture, you might not otherwise feel them.

I did a quick test with using a cleaver and had no problem grasping the hilt.

The campaign to market the gloves just launched. Check them out for yourself.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/glovax-a-revolutionary-adventure-glove/x/16458430#/

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2016 – 2017 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the second consecutive year. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

Journey Mexico is “dying” to take your group on a Day of the Dead cultural tour.

ADVENTURES FOR VIP CLIENTS GOES SOUTH!

This is one incentive trip that your VIP clients may be dying to do! Journey Mexico offers a group tour for up to 14 guests to discover the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) in Oaxaca, Mexico, October 28 – November 4.  The tour combines education, historical knowledge, and an exploration of the UNESCP World Heritage city of Oaxaca as the community prepares to welcome their loved one’s spirits back to earth. Highlights include visits to exhibition, festivals and cemeteries to understand the significance of Day of the Dead elements, such as the cempasuchil flower and the objects that adorn the alter, or to visit the tombs populating the ceremonial sites. Guests will experience the art of Mezcal production and taste the “Pan de Muertos” a special bread only made during the season of Día de los Muertos.

info@journeymexico.com

Chopping cilantro and garlic with Chef Enrique Silva at Huerta Los Tamarindos. I was there with a press group.

Several years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of not just visiting Los Tamarindos, an Organic Farm & Restaurant located just one mile away from the Sea of Cortez and San Jose Del Cabos’ estuary, but I was one of the journalists cooking alongside the chef for an intimate cooking class. We toured the 17-acre farm with its organic fields and the recently renovated historic Farm House built originally in 1888 as part of our coverage of Los Cabos. The Farm, the first to grow and export organic produce, offers orchard tours, cooking classes and a vine-topped outdoor venue for events and meetings for up to 400 guests. An excellent teambuilding event, Read the rest of this entry »

The Whitby, a stylish new hotel in midtown Manhattan, NY

HOT DEALS!

Time is running out to book a stay at Gran Meliá Nacional Rio de Janeiro and receive both a 20% discount with MeliáRewards, plus $200 in resort credit. Stay by August 31 at this beautiful São Conrado beach location.

www.melia.com ; 1-(844) 425-9969.

Whimsically-colorful, cozy and being within walking distance to Central Park and Broadway, are just a few factors that make The Whitby, a new hotel and one of the latest additions to Design Hotels’ Collection, a charming treasure for small groups. It’s one of the few midtown Manhattan hotels with numerous balconies, several private event rooms, and its own and a 130-seat state-of-the-art cinema. The Whitby has 86 rooms and suites spanning 16 floors. The rooms range from 330 to 1,845-sf. Contemporary interior design is by Kit Kemp. The Whitby is the second New York property owned by Firmdale Hotels. Book now Read the rest of this entry »

HOT DEALS!

Governor of the Picuris Pueblo blesses meal at Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda & Spa

Governor of the Picuris Pueblo blesses meal at Hotel Santa Fe The Hacienda & Spa

Planners: The longer you stay, the more rewards your group merits at the historic Hotel Santa Fe-Hacienda and Spa in downtown Santa Fe, NM. I have visited this Hotel. Its beauty is more than furniture and décor: there’s a spiritual energy that blesses the compound. And now if you book your event by April 15 your rewards increase with the number of room nights. Options include activities such as a Mexican Fiesta, Native Blessing and Flute Player or a seminar on the Southwest. You also receive 15% discount on all AV equipment and a meeting room rental waiver.

http://hotelsantafe.com/group-rewards; sales@hotelsantafe.com; (855) 825.9876

Planners: earn Hilton Honors Gold Status when you book a meeting at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, the largest full-service beachfront resort hotel on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, by May 31. This “Golden Days” promotion is available for stays between October 1, 2017 and March 9, 2018 (new business only). Perks with the Hilton Honors Gold Status include getting a fifth night free on standard room reward stays of five nights or more. Other perks may include a discounted, changeable and refundable rate, digital check-in, complimentary internet access, quick reservations and check-ins, late and Read the rest of this entry »

Crew Café in Canada offers dedicated co-working space for rent

Crew Café in Canada offers dedicated co-working space for rent

Whether you reside in the United States or anywhere else in the world where there are newspapers, magazines, radio, television and access to social media, you are likely aware of the turmoil that has beset America since the 2016 presidential election. As an active participant in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings and events, and yes, even in the world of journalism, the discussions have been pervasive as to the ramifications on travel, meetings, and tourism.

I know how recent upsets affect me personally. I find myself more assertively political, whereas before I sat back on the sidelines and strove to be merely objective as I covered events. As an entertainer, I am concerned events will be smaller, less frequent, or hosted last minute while planners survey how visas will be honored or rejected for international attendees or whether the unstable nature of business will create havoc on budgets and extraneous expenditures. I live in the Orlando area, so tourism and conferences are huge to the area’s bottom line. I’m near the bottom of that trickledown effect, but nonetheless, personally impacted.

I want to know about you. Are you impacted? How? How do you see our future industries evolving to cope with current and future Read the rest of this entry »

Hotel Zoo Berlin has been redesigned and is offering 15% off for bookings.

Hotel Zoo Berlin has been redesigned and is offering 15% off for bookings.

I don’t make resolutions at the start of each year. I know for many people that’s a ritual, a way of motivating themselves to work out more, be more accessible, lose weight, shop less, be more loving. I don’t have to motivate myself to do those things because they are a daily inspiration. Note I didn’t say goal. Goal would imply I am trying to reach a point. I simply do. What I do realize though, is that no matter how great the intentions, some days one simply cannot be all things to all people or accomplish all that one expects. Some days one simply has To Be. My wish in this New Year is for you to decide who you want to be, even if that Read the rest of this entry »

Northern Lights are visible during the Southern Iceland Tour, led by Big Chill Adventures

Northern Lights are visible during the Southern Iceland Tour, led by Big Chill Adventures

Some of the most interesting gigs I’ve had as my alter-ego personality, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, have come without forewarning. Don’t laugh. I know the irony of not predicting the phone calls. I may not have used my tea leaf reading or tarot card abilities to see into those future bookings, but I actually asked the Universe/higher power… whatever name is used when one puts out call for an exciting opportunity, for both of the situations that popped up within a few days of my “Hello, it’s me and I’d like…” call outs.

Natasha, The Psychic Lady when I was the dancer for the Eastern Gypsy Band, Tzighantzi, at EPCOT

Natasha, The Psychic Lady when I was the dancer for the Eastern Gypsy Band, Tzighantzi, at EPCOT

The first memorable time was me asking to be a featured performer in a Disney World spectacle. I particularly wanted to dance. Mind you, at that moment I was already working as a psychic for the Disney theme parks and corporate events and had been belly dancing for Morocco promotional events even before the Morocco pavilion was erected at EPCOT, but no dance or big show opportunities loomed in the horizon. Within a few days of my thoughts transmitted to the universe, I received a call asking if I’d like to be the dancer for a new Eastern gypsy band forming at EPCOT. Would I? For the months that followed, I was the dancer for Tzighantzi. Looking like and dancing like the embodiment of Esmerelda (at least all the girls holding their Esmerelda dolls and watching me thought so). I also was backup musician/singer/and co-emcee. Six shows a day, rain or hot summer sun. Loved it!

Most recently, I pondered that several of my entertainment friends had been getting TV and press coverage and it had been a while since that happened to me. I wasn’t jealous of their largesse. It just pointed out that my life had transitioned from a higher profile to one less noteworthy of media attention. Less than 24 hours later, I got a call asking if I was available to be on a TV program, analyzing handwriting of the news team’s anchors. Did I mention it would be early the next morning or that this would be live? I also needed to be available to work during the Pen & Inc Fair that the Channel 35 Good Day Orlando’s show was promoting for Sam Flax’ art store that Read the rest of this entry »

Capture the holiday with a Belvedere Pomegranate Royale at Conrad Miami's Jack Frost Happy Hour

Capture the holiday with a Belvedere Pomegranate Royale at Conrad Miami’s Jack Frost Happy Hour

IT’S ALL ABOUT A NEW EXPERIENCE

With the holidays approaching as rapidly as I could pop the cork on a bottle of champagne (and if you know how badly I open any bottle of alcohol you’d be laughing at this vision), may I be the first to toast you the happiest of days ahead? If I was enjoying a corporate reception at the Conrad Miami (FL) during its Jack Frost Happy Hour, I’d likely be raising one of their special drink options—the Belvedere Pomegranate Royale to my lips. For an extra treat, the resident mixologist offers an exclusive group mixology class. After happy hour, smaller groups can reserve the intimate Wine Room at Atrio restaurant next door for one of Executive Chef Virgile Brandel’s Mediterranean-inspired gourmet meals. Throughout December, the Conrad Miami’s sky high Bar at LvL 25 also opens its Jack Frost Happy Hour December 1-30 to hotel guests and locals. Experience “snowfalls” over the bar every 30 minutes. Sample the menu, Read the rest of this entry »

Halloween approaches and the call came for Natasha, The Psychic Lady to get her spook on!

Halloween approaches and the call came for Natasha, The Psychic Lady to get her spook on!

You know how Christmas trees, wrapping, and twinkling lights crash land in stores these days by August, bypassing all the other approaching holiday celebrations? That’s how I’ve looked at Halloween parties that have already been in full swing in September. For you readers who live in countries that don’t celebrate Halloween, you won’t understand the frenzy of costume parties that has increasingly attracted adults to attire themselves as characters from favorite books, TV or movies, or to parody trending political figures. Halloween used to be about youths dressing up as pirates, princesses, and super heroes one night a year to amass all the candy they could carry from neighbors doling out sweet treats. Halloween has morphed into one of the biggest expensed holidays in the world.
I mention Halloween because many of you who don’t know me personally have asked about the part of my bio that says I am also Natasha, The Psychic Lady. Yes, this is not a joke or just an act. Come October, I am put to the sleep-deprived test of having more work entertaining at corporate and social parties than I can possibly do. I constantly have wished some of this work would spread out to other months, and this year, it appears that wish has been granted. By the end of September, I have already worked several Halloween-flavored parties. At this rate, it won’t be long before I’ll be dressing for an assortment of themed Halloween events in August. Here’s just one of my looks for the “darker, witchier” themes that seem to be trending.
Now, on to the reason you regularly read this column: what exotic destinations are offering discounted deals, events to amuse or educate, and where you can travel either leisurely or with a group.
HOT DEALS FOR INTERNATIONAL DESTINATIONS
Design Hotels offers exceptional international destinations with unique venues and great promotional discounts. Here are just a few of current offerings. Save up to 20% for a stay til December 31 at the 101-room Avalon Hotel (Gothenburg, Sweden). The deal includes Read the rest of this entry »

Anchor Bar, original creators of Buffalo wings, is crammed with memorabilia.

Anchor Bar, original creators of Buffalo wings, is crammed with memorabilia.

In Part 1, Architectural Icons Were Examined

Before I met my husband Russ, I would have looked at ornately-designed buildings or décor and thought, “How pretty” and likely that would have been the end of it. Married to someone who has taken me travelling internationally and domestically just to admire fine, sleek lines or fanciful carved motifs or intricately-patterned ceilings and has made a career from his knowledge and creative building skills, has turned my passing admiration into deeper appreciation for the art, skills and craftsmanship necessary to erect these structures. That so many cities have managed to preserve, restore and renovate buildings that could never again be (cost-effective) to be built in our lifetime is worthy of recognition. Buffalo is one such city.

Of course, having walked and gawked all day, one must eat to refuel energy. Just as architects and patrons of the arts have left their imprint on Buffalo, so have culinary artists who have created legendary dishes, such as Buffalo wings, that are (likely) known across the globe.

RESTAURANTS WE RECOMMEND

Panorama on Seven in the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter was one of three places A Chamber of Commerce woman suggested we’d find the best Beef on Weck sandwiches in the area. What separates these three, including Schwabl’s and Bar-Bill Tavern, from others is that the seasoned meat is slow-cooked for hours, contrary to places that import frozen beef and then reheat at the last minute. For those of you not from Buffalo, Beef on Weck is a signature sandwich. Mounds of thin-sliced roast beef are piled onto a Kümmelweck bun, which is salted and caraway-seeded. The Panorama’s were served on sliders. Russ enjoyed the sliders and was eager to try the sandwich at Schwabl’s.

Schwabl’s began serving German-styled cuisine and Beef on Weck sandwiches 1837. Their current West Seneca restaurant is a step back in time. The waitresses might call you honey, the tables are close together, and you watch the chef slicing the meat on a counter, after Read the rest of this entry »

Buffalo City Hall, one of the finest examples of art deco in the world

Buffalo City Hall, one of the finest examples of art deco in the world

“You came to Buffalo for vacation?” was said with undisguised bewilderment each time my husband Russ and I were asked where we were from and why we were visiting Buffalo, NY.

Obviously, even the locals were oblivious to Buffalo being touted by travel publications as booming with resurgent pride. The primary attraction for us was the vast numbers of renovated and recycled historically-preserved architectural masterpieces. Second was the tour guide-worthy acclaim of what to see and especially what to eat, by well-travelled former Buffalo residents (Bob and Dianna Duffy and Mark and Laura Cosgrove) whose opinions we respect. Third, and quite important to Russ, was to tour the Darwin Martin House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and to this day is being slowly and carefully restored to its original design.

Getting around downtown Buffalo is easy. A trolley that runs about every 15 minutes is free from Canalside on the harbor to Fountain Plaza in the center of downtown. Go past that stop and the fee is $2 unless you opt for a city pass. We took the clean, comfy trolley several times, but mostly walked.

Our hotel’s location next to the harbor and across the street from parks and attractions made getting around easy, especially because we had splendid weather all the while.

You enter the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter on the seventh floor of the building, where registration, lobby and their restaurant/bar Panorama on Seven is located. The restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows overlook Lake Erie and harbor, parks, and decommissioned Navy vessels, now used as museums. For the seven nights of our stay, the bar area was always buzzing with activity.

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bufbd-buffalo-downtown-marriott/

Before telling you about all the famous original Buffalo dishes we tried (in Part 2), here’s an overview of why we travelled to Buffalo and to report our expectations were not just met, they were exceeded.

Frank Llloyd Wright's Darwin Martin House, his most iconic prairie -styled home.

Frank Llloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House, his most iconic prairie -styled home.

LACK OF MONEY PREVENTED ARCHITECTURAL JEWELS FROM BEING DESTROYED AND MONEY RESTORED THEM TO LIFE!

Many tour possibilities exist to view the six-structure complex of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House.  We reserved the hour tour, which ended up being an intriguing two-hour guided examination of what is considered to be one of Wright’s most iconic Prairie-style homes, finished in 1905. A nine-minute film preceded the tour, illuminating the historic significance of Martin hiring Wright for such a prestigious commission after the architect’s success at designing the Larkin (Soap) Building, where Martin worked. Like the Martin house, The Larkin Building (designed 1903, completed in 1906 and demolished in 1950) contained innovations. The five-story office building had air conditioning, stained glass windows, built-in desk furniture, and suspended toilet bowls. The Martin House is a masterpiece of quality materials. The philosophy for the house was to bring the outside in through design elements. Signature stained glass windows have five distinct patterns, some distinctly flower-like. A porch is glass lined. Exterior staircase entrances are hidden behind decorative walls. Bookshelves Read the rest of this entry »

2016 Holiday Memories at Disney's Coronado Spring Resort-Decor

2016 Holiday Memories at Disney’s Coronado Spring Resort-Decor

Travelling to new destinations, and tasting many new wines along the way, has occupied much of my summer. For those of you who have asked where my August edition of Hotel Happenings and Program Promotions is, well…. This is it. So, stop whining. Will do my best to inform you of the latest deals and entertain you with mountains of information.

WHAT COULD BE BETTER THAN FREE MEETING PLANNING SERVICES IN A FLORIDA RESORT DESTINATION?

You read that correctly. The Bradenton Area CVB is offering free meeting planning services, whether you need help with site selection, itineraries for entertainment, or help with over-flow hotel availability or citywide event planning. The CVB offers complimentary welcome bags (one per room night plus 10 per group), can they can arrange visits to local attractions. They even have a first-time incentive program, but you’ll need to contact them directly about that (and tell them you heard about it in my blog, please!)

http://www.Bradenton Gulf Islands email@ebradentongulfislands.com

RENOVATE, REJEUVENTATE AND CONSTRUCTION OF NEW VENUES

Work continues on the $30 million facelift for the Sheraton Bay Point Resort in the Read the rest of this entry »

It's always a happy holiday with a Christmas tree of Dunham Cellars wine bottles

It’s always a happy holiday with a Christmas tree of Dunham Cellars wine bottles

In Part 1, Yakima Valley Wineries were discussed

All photos by Russell Wagner

Two of the biggest decisions we faced when deciding to visit both Yakima Valley and Walla Walla wineries were where to stay for the easiest travel after a day of exploration and sipping, and which of the many wineries to visit of those we knew or had been recommended to us. There were far more wineries on our list than we could reasonably expect to actually drop into. Where to stay turned out to be Kennewick, because it sits roughly an hour’s drive between the two wine regions along accessible highways.

Next time we go (and after this visit it’s not an if, but definite), we may stay at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel, a luxury lodging in downtown Walla Walla, built originally in 1927. All of us—Russ, his brother Randy and our sister-in-law Cher, relish historically preserved and revered architecture. This 133-room hotel, restored and reopened in 2001 represents the essence of elegance, sophistication and beauty from an earlier era. We did dine at The Marc Restaurant, named “Restaurant of the Year” by the Washington State Wine Commission, which I will happily rave about at the end of this blog.

With the question of where to stay on our current journey resolved, the next was where to do our tastings. Russ and I have been drinking wines from Walla Walla more frequently, discovering them at various tastings at home in Central Florida. Walla Walla has been recognized as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) since 1984. Two-thirds of the AVA is in Read the rest of this entry »

Map of Yakima Valley, WA. photo by Russ Wagner

Map of Yakima Valley, WA. photo by Russ Wagner

This latest visit to Washington wineries confirms what my husband Russ and I had already determined: we prefer bold and brash merlots, cabernet sauvignons, zinfandels, malbecs and syrahs.

Of course, there are other varietals and blends we are happy to wrap our tongues around (so to speak), which includes some crisp and clean whites and rosés, but give me a jammy red that fills my mouth with flavor and I am in my happy place. Which is why Yakima Valley and Walla Walla wineries jumped to the head of our “wine labels to explore” list.

Yakima Valley appellations – which include Yakima, Zillah, Prosser and the Red Mountain & Vicinity AVAs– is an 80-mile stretch of rural countryside. We focused our time in Red Read the rest of this entry »

Laser light shows light up the St. Louis Union Station Hotel every evening. photo by Russ Wagner

Laser light shows light up the St. Louis Union Station Hotel every evening. photo by Russ Wagner

Vintage train travel evokes an atmosphere of retro sophistication, the clacking of wheels rolling over tracks, elegant club cars with linen-covered tables and plush chairs, and where the ultimate goal is less about the destination than the journey. That ode to yesteryear has emerged as one of the most comforting trends in alternative event venues.

One of the most recent to capitalize on that nostalgic environment is the St. Louis Union Station’s nine retrofitted train cars, housed under an open—air steel beam canopy soon to be transformed into an attractions park featuring food outlets, a 200” high observation wheel, light and fire shows, a fountain and an outdoor plaza. Already onsite is a Landry’s seafood restaurant and Hard Rock St. Louis.

On a recent trip to St. Louis with my train-fascinated husband, Russ, we were given a private tour of the four trains Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: