Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mad Men's Back! I'll Drink to That

Today marks the beginning of the final season of Mad Men. So sad, but so exciting. It’s 1969, a tumultuous year in American history. So what’s an advertising guy or gal to do? Drink, of course! Here are my suggestions for where to go if you’re planning to "party like it's 1969" in some of Don’s, Roger’s or Peggy’s favorite haunts.

Paley Center Mad Men evening
The cast of "Mad Men" at the Paley Center for Media, New York City

King Cole Bar:  Once a bastion of cigar-smoking account types like Ken Cosgrove and Pete Campbell, the King Cole Bar in the elegant St. Regis Hotel is the birthplace of the Bloody Mary, known here as the Red Snapper. This classic bar also is known for its famous mural, “Old King Cole” by Maxfield Parrish. St. Regis Hotel, 2 E. 55th St., 212-753-4500. 

Trouble’s Trust at the New York Palace: The appropriately named bar in the New York Palace Hotel is the modern version of the King Cole Bar. Hidden under the lobby’s grand staircase, the bar entices with “vintage specialty” cocktails that Betty and Henry would have enjoyed on a trip into the city.  My guess is that Betty would have chosen The “Queen of Mean” cocktail if she could have fast-forwarded a few decades, a potent mix of whiskey and gin to be sipped with a mix of hauteur and vulnerability. Henry, being the politician that he is, would have no doubt opted for a turn-of-the-century “Bronx Cocktail.” 455 Madison Ave., 212-888-7000;

Bill’s Food & Drink:  It’s not exactly the original Bill’s Gay Nineties, but it’s pretty close.  Set in a 19th-century townhouse, Bill’s was once the site of a Prohibition Era speakeasy.  Listen to the pianist in the downstairs bar while you knock back a Scotch, just steps away from many of the original Madison Avenue ad agencies.  You can finish the evening upstairs with an oversized ribeye and an aptly named Hanky Panky gin cocktail, a clubby setting for consummating a business deal (or other kind of tryst).  57 East 54th Street, 212-538-2727.

Monkey Bar:  Across the street from Bill’s, the landmark Hotel Elysée (once known as the “easy lay”) has welcomed guests like Joe DiMaggio and Marlon Brandon.  Step inside the bar just off the lobby with its iconic monkey mural.  You can just picture Roger downing a Manhattan or two before heading for a room upstairs.  Hotel Elysée, 50 East 54th Street, 212-753-1066.

Madison Club Lounge:  The historic lounge in the Roosevelt Hotel is classic Mad Men with its mahogany walls, stained glass windows, and leather bar seats.  It’s likely Don began and ended his day here during the time he lived at the hotel, pouring vodka into his orange juice.  45 East 45th Street, 212-66-19600.

Bemelman’s Bar: Some things never go out of style.  Live piano music, enchanting murals of animals by Ludwig Bemelmans of Eloise fame, plus formally dressed waiters make this an Upper East Side landmark.  The perfectly chilled and poured martini comes in a shaker with enough liquor for a potent drink and a half, and the banquettes are perfect for cuddling.  The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street, 212-744-1500. www.rosewoodhotels/com/en/the-carlyle-new-york

P.J. Clarke’s:  Nearly 130 years old, P.J. Clarke’s still appeals to the after-work drinking and dining set.  The neighborhoody bar serves up cold beers, oysters on the half, and burgers to a crowd of ad execs and locals.  It’s the perfect spot for mingling, meeting a blind date, or celebrating a copywriting success as Peggy did. 9015 Third Ave., 212-317-1616.

21 Club:  Infamous for its Prohibition-era speakeasy status, this restaurant has attracted every president since FDR (except George W. Bush) to dine or imbibe. Come for a martini just like James Bond in 007 or try a Southside, the rum and mint cocktail invented here. It’s quiet enough, too, that Ted and Peggy could have shared a drink at the 21 without having had to escape to an afternoon Roman Polanski movie.  21 W. 52nd St., 212-582-7200; 

Campbell Apartment: This luxurious lounge in Grand Central Terminal will bring you back to another era. The space, once used as an office for New York financier John Campbell, still exudes the same sleek, refinement with its low lighting, rich woodwork and beamed ceiling.  Take a seat on the balcony for extra privacy.  We’d recommend the Prohibition Punch for aptly named Pete Campbell.  15 Vanderbilt Ave., 212-953-0409

The Blue Bar at the Algonquin: Once the hot spot for the literati, The Blue Bar is filled with Al Hirschfield’s artwork depicting a variety of Broadway shows. The cozy bar with its blue upholstery is known for the Algonquin Cocktail, a mix of whisky, dry vermouth, and pineapple juice.  It’s reputed that the literary ghosts of the likes of Dorothy Parker will even sit with you to provide inspiration and absorb the black-tie service. The Algonquin Hotel, 59 W. 44th St., 212-840-6800; 

Sardi’s: Since 1921, this legendary restaurant with celebrity caricatures adorning its walls has served as the spot for before or after theater. It’s also a favorite rendezvous spot for Don Draper and his lady friends.  To behave like a true “mad man,” book a table on Thursdays and Fridays for jazz and cabaret and skip the cocktail: a bottle of Dom Perignon is more in keeping with the mood. 234 W. 44th St., 212-221-8440; 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tahiti: First Stop on Playbill's "Broadway on the High Seas" Cruise

Ia orana!  I wasn't expecting much at Papeete on Tahiti from what I'd read, but the InterContinental Hotel surprised me with its beautiful lagoonarium (you can see the fish just by looking down from the bridge -- no need to actually get IN the water), its authentic dance story about the life of Paul Gauguin (mostly in French -- je l'aimais beaucoup!), grandiose buffets (especially love the poisson cru -- raw tuna cooked with coconut milk), and overwater bungalows.

Opening night festivities for the cruise were on the resort's private motu where we were treated to "adaptive" versions of tunes by Brian Stokes Mitchell and Liz Callaway.  Other stars I've met so far: Tommy Tune, Lewis Black, Alice Ripley, Christine Pedi, Howard McGillin, Roger Bart.

The daytime marche (with its rows of vanilla, fruit, ukeles, and pearls) was a local scene.  Incredibly humid and hot, but so inviting.
Marche de Papeete

InterContinental Tahiti

Ukele display at the Market in Papeete

We sail at midnight on the Paul Gauguin to Huahine.  Nana!

On-the-road tips for using your phone

I just read this article by Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times about being smart about your smartphone use when traveling overseas.  It makes a lot of sense.  I've learned the hard way during recent trips to Peru and Thailand.  Now, in French Polynesia, I'm trying to be smart, although avoiding free WiFi hot spots may be unavoidable unless you have lots of money to burn.  Read on.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lessons Learned: Traveling in New York City

I shared my post New Year’s tips with you about lessons I've learned while traveling abroad. New York City is a very particular place, with its own set of rules and suggestions. As a resident, I’d like to share some of my observations with you so you can enjoy a carefree and wonderful NYC experience. While some of these may seem obvious, they truly bear repeating.

* Don’t accept rides in taxis that aren't yellow Taxi and Limousine Commission vehicles. Anyone approaching you with a sign and offering a deal for $20 could head you right for trouble, rather than your destination. If you can’t find a taxi, look for the nearest subway or a bus stop. New York City has wonderful public transportation options. If you do choose a taxi, be kind and tip. Taxis are like restaurants – we suggest offering 15-20% of your fare for a properly completed trip. is a great resource. If you’re really stuck, a good car service to call is Carmel, 1-212-666-6666.

* Always keep at least $20 and a Metrocard with you. This will tide you over should you find yourself in a place where the taxi meter isn't working or you can only pay in cash (not credit card) or you can’t get to an ATM.

* Be careful when using your smartphone. Phones are ubiquitous, but so are pickpockets. Keep it on hand, in your front pocket if you’re a male and in your purse if you’re a female. Too much valuable information is on your phone. If you have an iPhone, be sure to enable the Find My iPhone feature. Use Foursquare so you have a record of where you've been if you happen to misplace it. Importantly, try to use WiFi wherever possible to access your mail. Some of the subway stops have added it, and many buildings have it. This will help keep your expenses down and your roaming charges from going crazy, particularly when the cellular signal can be blocked by so many tall buildings.

* Ask a local.  New York City has a reputation for being unfriendly. We’re actually VERY friendly, we’re just busy. Since we all love our city, most people are more than happy to help you find something, even if you are a local who can’t figure out the non-grid streets of the West Village. Seek out concierge advice, but only after you've done your homework, especially regarding restaurants and sites. There tends to be an element of bias from concierge recommendations.

* Travel light. Wear comfortable shoes and carry a small tote. Make it easy for yourself to “run” around the city, chase after taxis, or just walk and walk and walk. That’s what New York City is really about anyhow. It’s the best way to soak up the energy in the city.

A good website for finding out what's happening in real time is

Monday, February 24, 2014

Travel the World at the New York Times Travel Show, March 1 and 2

Javits Center

If you're as curious as I am about what's happening in the world of travel (and, of course, interested in what to eat when you travel), you should mark your calendars for this weekend's New York Times Travel Show at the Javits Center, 655 West 34th Street, Manhattan.

One of the largest travel showcases around, The New York Times Travel Show will be held Saturday (10am-6pm) and Sunday (11am-5pm) at the Javits Center in Manhattan. Exhibitors from around the world will entice you, wine and dine you, and educate you at their booths, with many demonstrations and giveaways as well.

The show is colorful, entertaining, and a wonderful opportunity to do a bit of armchair travelling in an upright position as you stroll the rows of booths.
Some of the highlights of this year’s show include:

Cooking Demo about drink and foods that will help combat the challenges of travel (jet lag, overindulgence, etc.) by Celebrity Chef Candice Kumai, 11-11:30am, Taste of the World 

Presentation about Medical Tourism – PROMED Costa Rica. 11:45-12 Noon, Location TBD

Demonstration by world-renowned Chef Michael Laiskonis with cuisine from Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia.  12 Noon, Global Stage.

Chinese Lion Dancers Performance – Macau Government Office – 12 Noon – 12:30pm, Asia Stage

Traditional Hungarian Folk Dance -- Hungarian National Tourist Office – 2pm, Location TBD
Cooking Demo by Celebrity Chef Anne Burrell (“Food Network” star and world traveler, author of “Own Your Kitchen”) – 2-2:30pm, Taste of the World

Presentation on Educational Adventures (learning adventures in 150+ countries) – Road Scholar – 2:30pm, Location TBD

Traditional Mongolian Costumes and Mongolian Music with horse-headed fiddle – Selena Travel Mongolia – 3-3:30pm, Location TBD

Wine Tasting – South African Tourism – 4:15-4:45, Global Stage
 Lithuanian Folk Dance Performance by dance group “Viesulas” – Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia – 11-11:15am, Asia Stage

Presentation about Medical Tourism – PROMED Costa Rica – 11:45-12 Noon, Location TBD

Lithuanian Children’s Folk Band Performance by “Spindulelis” – Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia – 1-1:15pm, Asia Stage

Traditional Hungarian Folk Dance -- Hungarian National Tourist Office – 2pm, Location TBD

Presentation on Educational Adventures (learning adventures in 150+ countries) – Road Scholar – 2:30pm, Location TBD

Lithuanian Children’s Chorus “Varpelis” – Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia – 4-4:15pm, Europe Stage

Silent Auction – Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Education Foundation – Booth 121

Leprechaun Spokesperson -- Journey through Ireland -- Booth 368

Caribbean Steel Pan Players & Rum Tasting – St. Kitts and Nevis - Booth 321   

Expert Talks on World Travel– Yampu Tours – Booth 545   

Garret McNamara (world record holder for surfing the largest wave in Nazare, Portugal) Discusses Surfing in Portugal– Portugal on Tour -- Both 676     

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day in the Big Apple: Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn

And last, but certainly not least, in this series of Valentine’s Day celebrations around the world, check out this astonishing variety of fun ideas that are happening in New York City. When it comes to fêting your loved one, the Big Apple goes all out. I’ll be out there, too, but I’m not going to tell you where. Many of these events – especially the ones at the hotels -- extend throughout the month.

Brooklyn Transit Museum

Brooklyn’s New York Transit Museum’s annual “Missed Connections” party (thank you, Craigslist) celebrates the possibilities public transit encounters.  Sexy, fun, and subterranean, the party kicks off at 6:30pm on Valentine’s Day, with refreshments provided by Brooklyn’s own Brooklyn Brewery, Brittle Barn, Brooklyn Winery, The Chocolate Room, A Cook’s Companion, and Grand Central Oyster Bar Brooklyn.  Raffle prizes, too. Boerum Place, Brooklyn.  Tickets

Guerlain SpaJust want the spa experience? At the Guerlain Spa in the Towers of the Waldorf Astoria, couples can enjoy the “Love the One You’re With” couples’ massage, spa treatment suite shower with dual rain showerheads and private steam room, champagne and truffles.  Single ladies aren’t left out either: the “Just for the Girls” package gives you a choice of manicure and pedicure, massage, or facial, along with two Kir Royale cocktails.  Each package concludes with the spa’s signature “Final Touch” treatment, a choice of shoe shine, garment steaming or make-up refresh.

Stanton Social
While many restaurants offer special Valentine’s Day dinners, usually with a rose and a glass of champagne as a token gift, Stanton Social is having a dance party.  Starting at 6pm, the restaurant’s DJ will spin sexy slow jams to get you in the mood. A second DJ will heat up the scene with party tunes. A special menu of restaurant classics along with aphrodisiacal treats is paired with an open bar of premium top-shelf selections for your two-hour celebration.  $125 per person. Email:, 99 Stanton Street, Manhattan, 212-995-009

Andaz Wall StreetFrom 8pm – midnight on Valentine’s Day, you can search out a love target or murmur sweet nothings to Miley Cyrus’s tune while you sip Bar Se7en5ive’s signature red-tinged “Wrecking Ball” vodka-and-champagne cocktail at the Andaz Wall Street’s fun, love evening.  Spot a perfect valentine, summon the Cocktail Cupid to deliver a “Wrecking Ball” along with a vintage valentine provided in the Connection Caddy, and take your chances.  Anyone who participates will be entered into a drawing to win a night at the hotel with breakfast in bed, drinks on the house, or a cooking lesson for two. 75 Wall Street, Manhattan, 212-590-1234 www.andazwallstreet.

Hotel Wolcott
Not single but not necessarily happy?  The Wolcott Hotel wants couples “On the Mend” to enjoy a getaway to resolve marital tensions. Snuggle and rekindle in a two-room suite – so you each can have your own space if you need it – and read up on counseling literature provided for you, or take advantage of discounted activities like yoga or an aphrodisiacal wine-and-chocolate dinner to get you back on track. 4 West 31st St., Manhattan, 212-268-2900

To quote Beyoncé, “all the single ladies” have an option, too: the “Insider Shopping Package” at the Z NYC Hotel, with deluxe accommodations overlooking the Manhattan skyline from the Queens side.  Shop ‘til you drop with a customized three-hour shopping tour with a fashion industry pro, followed by cocktails and “show-and-tell” in the Z Lounge. 11-01- 43rd Ave., Long Island City (Queens), 212-319-7000

Plaza Athenee
Plaza Athenee ManhattanOver-the-top is something you can certainly find in Manhattan. And, if money is no object, this one’s for you. The Hotel Plaza Athénée on the Upper East Side has a Valentine’s Day package for $7400 per night that will put you in one of the hotel’s deluxe suites with a private dining room, granite kitchen and townhouse furnishings. Flowers will surround you throughout as you sip your special bottle of 1999 Cuvée Louise Pommery champagne in your own gold engraved champagne glasses. For even more decadence, you’ll also receive a gift of an original Picasso lithograph. And, there’s more. You’ll enjoy a “Suite Heart” couples’ treatment at Spa Valmont in a private treatment suite, starting with a full-body exfoliation and romantic candle-lit steam shower, and ending with a 90-minute massage with rose aromatherapy oil or a Valmont facial. Your breakfast will be served in your suite’s dining room, with Valentine’s Day red velvet waffles highlighting the opulent menu. Call for availability. 37 East 64th Street, Manhattan, 212-772-0958

Kimpton Ink84
The Kimpton Group is at it again with ultra-sexy two-night packages for a New York City Valentine’s Day getaway (or hideaway).  At the Ink48 
hotel, you’ll pick your desired level of “heat” -- low, medium or high -- and pick the amenities that are best suited for you. “Low Heat” encourages you to be a “devil with a halo” and visit the Museum of Sex, followed by a retreat to your room to enjoy an aphrodisiac-filled basket of almonds, seeds, bananas, strawberries, red wine and absinthe.  Or turn up the flame to “Medium Heat” and be a “devil with a conscious,” reading your gift of “Go Green between the Sheets and Make Your Love Sustainable,” or using an array of eco-friendly massage oils after your private in-room wine tasting which includes two bottles of sustainable wines. For the full effect, the “High Heat” package transforms you into a “devil in the centerfold.”  Are you a closet exhibitionist? With this package, you’ll get a one-hour photo shoot with make-up and styling with a magazine-style book of boudoir photos. In your room, you’ll find an iPod pre-loaded with sexy tunes to get you in the mood, along with red wine, chocolates, and two disposable cameras.  Prices for the packages range from $399-$899 per night. To book, 653 11th Avenue, Manhattan, 212-757-0088

East Coast Valentine's Day Ideas: Florida to Maine


Key West

At the bottom of the East Coast, Ernest Hemingway’s dreamy paradise awaits lovers.  Ensconce yourself in the island charm of the keys at Pier House Resort & Spa in an oceanview suite for three nights with the “Sunset Sweets” Package.  You and your beau will indulge with chocolates and champagne, a sunset cruise (some of the most striking I’ve ever seen), a tropical glow sugar scrub at The Spa, all for $606 per night.  This is definitely worth traveling to the end of the world for. 800-723-2791 


Couples who are fonder of working out than spending time dining will love the W Hotel South Beach’s made-for-couples celebrity workout package.  Pick a three- or five-day program, designed by celebrity trainer Simone Cavalleti. You’ll receive a health evaluation, personal training, daily yoga and cardio-aerobic sessions, and pre-planned wellness menus. 305-938-3000

For somewhere more intimate with the art deco feel that Miami Beach is known for, Kimpton’s Surfcomber Miami on South Beach is a fabulous choice. The boutique hotel’s “Sinful or Sweet” package is the epitome of sexiness to keep your romance on fire. You’ll get a sex-on-the beach cocktail, an intimacy kit, and tantalizing romance toys to motivate. If you can leave your room, you’ll love the pool deck with its private cabanas, and beach and poolside activities, or The Social Club, the hotel’s lobby lounge. Rates start at only $429. 800-994-6103.



Atlanta’s St. Regis channels Romeo and Juliet with the “A Legendary Love” travel package for star-crossed lovers that includes accommodations in a suite with a Juliet balcony, plus VIP tickets to the Atlanta Ballet’s production of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Romeo et Juliette.  The St. Regis Butler Service and Concierge staff will take your stay to even higher levels, arranging in-room flower arrangements, chocolates, champagne, macarons or even a customized bath and massage.  Call 866-716-8116 to book.



Charleston Place
Charleston is a city of romance, candlelit at night with gorgeous architecture, sensuous parks, and a location on two rivers. At the luxurious Charleston Place Hotel in the center of downtown, you’ll experience heightened romance with a range of choices to help you set the mood. Perhaps you’d like a musician to serenade you in your room? Or maybe special dining treats are your thing – a dark chocolate fondue, or oysters on the half shell served with champagne, or other culinary aphrodisiacs: It’s all there for you to choose this Valentine’s Day. 888-635-2350


Embassy Row Hotel is offering a customizable “Pop Your Cork” package for Valentine’s Day, with two nights’ accommodations, breakfast, valet parking (a huge plus!), and a choice of six goodies from their fabulous Savory Six amenities.  Would you prefer chocolate or fruit? Wine or champagne? Ice skating or a museum stroll?  A night at the movies or a night-in watching a movie: A warm bubble bath or massage oil? Or $200 to shop at Pentagon City or to see a performance at the Kennedy Center?  Your stay in DC and at the hotel is yours to create – no additional gifts required with this one.  Packages start at $630 and must be used by February 28.  855-893-1011

The Park Hyatt Washington’s “Suiteheart at the Park’ package will put you in a suite and give you a taste of the hotel’s famous Blue DuckTavern with breakfast.  Should you desire dinner at the restaurant, the special lovers’ wine pairing dinner is priced at $145 per person., 800-778-7477, www.blueducktavern, 202-419-6755

Martha’s Vineyard

Prefer to head north? Valentine’s Day dinner at Water Street at the classic Harbor View Hotel is a special event.  No summer tourists.  Gorgeous water views of the harbor and the lighthouse.  And you can feast on entrees including local lobster (only Maine and Massachusetts have good ones, you know), all for $48 per person prix fixe.  Throw in a sweet ending like the “tasting for two” with chocolate macaroons, mousse and truffles; book a room upstairs at the hotel for only $179 per night (which, by the way, includes dinner for two); and you have a perfect New England island Valentine’s Day.  800-225-6005.


Stay at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge and you’ll only have to go downstairs to experience Chef Jody Adams’ special Valentine’s Day dinner at Rialto.  Ask about cooking classes combined with a special Venetian menu for Valentine’s Day. $125 per person for dinner.  617-864-1200


Watch Hill

Maybe you’ll run into Taylor Swift who’ll croon you a tune about one of her lost loves.  Watch Hill in Rhode Island is not only the site of her new home but it’s also the location of the fabulous grand Ocean House resort. Book a “Romance by the Sea” package that includes two nights in a deluxe room, Champagne, breakfast, brunch, and tickets to a special Salt Marsh Opera dinner. Rates start at $745 per night, per couple.  888-552-2588



The ultra-romantic White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport invites you to enjoy their off-season Relais & Châteaux experience by the ocean. At a special price of $565 per night, you’ll enjoy two nights’ accommodations, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a four-course dinner in the acclaimed White Barn Inn restaurant.  A wonderful place to be snowed in. 207-967-2321

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Tour of the United State's Varied Valentine's Day Packages: Midwest and South



Yes, we know it’s cold outside.  All the more reason, to take a Chillcation and snuggle up inside.  The Windy City’s three Hilton hotels are offering warm-me-up packages to help you rekindle the romance.  The Conrad Chicago (521 N. Rush Street), Hilton Chicago (720 S. Michigan Ave.) and Palmer House Hilton (17 E. Monroe St.) are offering “hot” nightly prices starting at just $103 per night for a spacious room, breakfast for two, a selection of DVDs for in-room movie nights, a gift of mugs for hot beverages to keep you toasty, and more.  Each hotel offers its own romantic upgrade to sweeten the deal.  Try the Conrad Hilton’s “Allure Package,” for example, which adds a bottle of Prosecco with custom chocolate truffles from my chocolate fave, Vosges Haute Chocolate, aromatherapy scented turn-down pillow services, and an even sweeter wake-up with crème brûlée French toast and French press coffee en suite.

If you’d rather a spa escape along with your Midwest escape, Trump International Hotel &Tower Chicago will tack on the Sweetheart Retreat, a 60-minute facial and manicure experience for $220, or the My Perfect Valentine package which adds a 60-minute aroma-infused massage to complete your spa holiday for $160 additional.  With so many hotel and spa packages for the Valentine’s Day offered here it’s best to call 312-588-8000 to speak to a personal counselor to craft your own perfect romantic adventure.

The James Chicago’s “Table for Two” package is a great gift for foodies. Chef David Burke understands the complexities of both romance and love and has created an exclusive culinary experience at his eponymous David Burke’s Primehouse steakhouse.   For $225 per night, you’ll get a $50 cocktail and cuisine credit for dining, plus champagne and accommodations with a special turndown from Chef Burke. 312-3316-1000 .

New Orleans

Now’s a great time to avoid the Mardi Gras or Jazzfest crowds and enjoy the best of this wonderful city.   The chefs at the lovely Windsor Court Hotel have put together a dinner for Valentine’s Day that’s sure to get you dancing to some of those fabulous jazzy bands. Food and music are the best aphrodisiac and the menu is designed to stimulate all your senses: the chili-braised gulf shrimp appetizer uses that fiery capsaicin to spice up your evening, with a sweetly dressed duck with date puree and lavender-sugarcane jus to follow. End with the ultimate food aphrodisiac, chocolate, in the salty but sweet caramelia torchon creation. A must to accompany? A glass of love-inducing port or Madeira.  The sommelier can suggest the perfect choice: the hotel restaurant was named one of Wine Enthusiast’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants in America in 2013. Dinner at the Grill Room is $90 per person on Valentine’s Day, reservations:, 888-596-0955. For rooms, call 800-928-7898 .



After you’ve filled your day hearing Elvis sing about heartbreak hotel, stuffing your face with barbeque or fried chicken, or filling your mind with the adorable duck parade in the lobby at The Peabody Memphis, you can satisfy your sweets craving at the new dessert buffet served from 7:30-10:30pm at the Peabody Corner Bar. Make sure you save room for the double chocolate mousse shooters, campfire s’mores, pistachio passion whoopie pies, vanilla bean crème brûlée, red velvet macarons, French pastries, and chocolate sundaes. You probably won’t want to eat for a few days after this! A sweet and love-inducing bargain at only $19.95 per person. 901-529-4000



You can pretend you’ve gone to Thailand at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix. With their “Sealed with a Wish” package, you’ll send off paper lanterns with your wishes, watching them dance into the desert sky. This tradition is said to symbolize good luck and fortune.  You’ll also get several spa treatments at the onsite Alvadora Spa, dinner for two, and luxury accommodations with a rose petal turndown service. The package is priced at $1199. 855-282-9048


Art lovers will be intrigued by the Westin La Paloma Resorts & Spa’s Valentine’s Day happenings.  Couples will capitalize on the area’s gorgeous light by learning how to do Sweetheart Painting at AzuL Lounge on February 15, guided by professional artists and motivated by wine and cheese.  Also in the creative vein, you can learn to make your own cocktails at AZuL Lounge on the 14th where you will take three different infusions and combine them with Tito’s Handmade Vodka to create your own perfect flavor. Hors d’oeuvres included.  Reserve these special events as well as rooms at 520-742-6000,



One of the country’s reigning food and music cities, Austin and the boutique Hotel Ella invite you to experience Texas-style romance. Dinner, breakfast, champagne and flowers are yours in this two-night stay in the former Goodall Wooten mansion, one of Austin’s original landmark estates.  Beautifully located, Hotel Ella will introduce you to pure Southern hospitality with its wraparound veranda overlooking the front lawn and a cabana-lined lap pool. 512-495-1800.


Head back to the big city to Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Dallas for a package that’s good the entire month.  Kimpton always has something fun up its sleeve.  Here, your check-in could get you an upgrade or other prizes, with their festive dart game. The rest of your stay is all chocolate and Champagne, including a bottle of champagne and Ghirardelli chocolates at turndown. The “Get Your Veuve On” package is just $189 per night. 214-520-7969.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day Experiences Around the World

Ciragan Palace KempinksiAhhh, the romance of Istanbul.  I’d love to be swept away to the luxurious Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul.  The five-star hotel was a former Ottoman Palace, a perfect base for exploring the city’s Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia.  Shop ‘til you drop in the chic boutiques and indulge in the city’s popular neighborhood cafes.  With the hotel’s exclusive Valentine’s Day Package for two you’ll explore beyond the city environs with an included sightseeing tour by phaeton to Princes Island, filled with old wooden houses and pine trees. At the hotel, you’ll enjoy four nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast, dinner for two at Tugra Restaurant & Lounge (including a custom menu and wine). Even more luxurious are the typically Turkish and extravagant amenities that are part of this package: personalized handmade soap from a selection of 12 scents – this Turkish ritual is presented by a private butler who creates your selected scent and cuts the soap for you to use at the hotel and take home for your return; personalized chocolate from a selection of 21 flavors (try the Chia tea truffle; chocolate baklava made with exclusive Turkish ingredients; and a private traditional Turkish coffee cup reading.  Still not enough? Melt away your cares in a Turkish hammam along with a body scrub for two. Airport transfers included.  Priced starting at $3980.  Must be used by February 20. 00 90 212-326-4500 or email reservation


Dubai Oberoi 

Drama is all yours in skyscraper-filled Dubai. With the Suite Surprise” package from The Oberoi you’ll have to have your camera ready to capture the incredible views from your room. Gourmet breakfast is included. A perfect setting for any romantic proposal or vow renewal.  Rates start at $708 per person. 800-562-3764

Hilton MooreaBora Bora and Moorea are on my mind.  French Polynesia speaks romance with its white sandy beaches, strikingly blue waters, and thatched bungalow hotels on stilts perched over the water.  At the two Hilton resorts, room service is delivered by outrigger canoe, and your bungalow comes with a glass window in the floor so you can experience the underwater sea world without ever donning a snorkel. Take the stress out of booking air and hotel and let Islands in the Sun handle all arrangements inclusive of round-trip air from Los Angeles and five nights at either the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa (from $3999) or the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa ($2999) in an overwater villa, breakfast included.  All transfers are included, including inter-island ferry between Tahiti and Moorea. Valentine’s Day gifts for your special someone are already part of these packages: a romantic Motu Tapu Escape with a picnic lunch in Bora Bora, and a black pearl pendant in Moorea. Upgrades and spa services are available.  888-828-6877

No jewels for Valentine’s Day? No worry, you can be the jewels in Berlin with Rocco Forte Hotels Hotel de Rome’s private dining and spa experience. The two of you will be “all alone” by candlelight in the hotel’s preserved bank vault. Imagine the piles of money that could have surrounded you as you indulge in a three-course meal with champagne.  To get prepped, you’ll have a foot spa and aromatherapy massage accompanied by champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries from the hotel’s patisserie.  Contact or call +49-30-460609-1420 to book. 

At another Rocco Forte hotel, The Charles Hotel in Munich, you can pretend you’re true royalty by booking an executive suite with a 180-degree view of Munich from a king bed. Your meals are at your command with breakfast and a candle-lit dinner at Davvero. You’ll also get an aromatherapy couples’ massage.  Do as royalty would, by finishing your evening with a private indoor pool session decorated with roses and candles, where you’ll also enjoy a Bento box with Asian snacks and a fabulous bottle of Dom Perignon Vintage 2004. This kingly package is offered on February 14 for $3100, with add-on evenings available. Contact:

The YeatmanI’d jet to the city of Porto in a minute for this luxury package.  The Yeatman, a Relais & Châteaux wine hotel and spa, has enticed me with its romance package. Starting at approximately $857, the package pampers you with a five-course wine pairing dinner in The Orangeries and a Caudalie spa massage for two.  Your room comes with a private terrace with views of the Douro River and Porto, discounts off spa treatments, breakfast daily, and access to the indoor infinity pool (with its spectacular view of the river and city), gymnasium, and well-being area. +351 220 133 185/00


Intercontinental Vienna
The InterContinental Vienna and Amsterdam hotels will sweep you off your feet with their super romance packages. Start with a three-course candlelight dinner which includes wine and aperitif inside a luxury cabin of a giant Ferris wheel. You’ll be transported there in a horse-drawn carriage (naturally!), and after dinner a private limousine returns you to your gorgeous room at the hotel.  If you’d prefer to visit the Czech Republic, the InterContinental Prague serves a four-course dinner with drinks at the hotel for Valentine’s Day, along with breakfast and a cosmetic treatment for the ladies.

Choose Sicily for a retreat away from the cares and crowds of mainland Europe. At the seaside Rocco Forte Verdura Golf & SpaResort, you’ll enjoy a special sweetheart package that includes dinner at the Zagara restaurant with pink champagne, and a signature couples’ spa ritual of a Sicilian head massage and double bath with oils. All priced starting at $993. Book at

InterContinental Hong Kong

The always-alive city is pure electric romance even without Valentine’s Day. At the superlative InterContinental Hong Kong, you can try a “Cooking with the Culinary Stars” class or Baking Club class for couples where you’ll learn to make elegant Valentine’s Day desserts like vanilla/olive oil macaroons or a mango/chestnut Napoleon.  If dessert’s not your thing, you can learn how to make some fantastic Japanese dishes at the hotel’s NOBU restaurant including Matsuhisa Nobu’s signature black cod miso. Nobu doesn’t forget sweets lovers (no worries):  they’ll also teach you how to make Japanese-Peruvian desserts too. 877-834-3613

An easy flight from Hong Kong, consider extending your romantic holiday at Paresa Resort on Phuket Island.  Spa?  Culinary? Cooking school? It’s all there for you to enjoy, or disappear to the nearby ZAZADA Beach Club where you can grab a private yacht for a leave-me-alone island excursion.  Put it all together in the “Unforgettable Valentine’s Day” package with accommodations, flowers and bathroom amenities, breakfast, bedtime sweets, and an infinity pool dinner.  Sweet.  Your four days will be unforgettable.  +66 76 302 000

Would you like to get married on Valentine’s Day, or perhaps renew your vows in a very different way? Trang, a province in Thailand, invites you to try it underwater, complete with a Buddhist ritual. The highlight of the Trang Season of Love, the entire renewal ceremony happens underwater.
Underwater wedding Thailand
I’m not a diver but I do love animals. And Thailand’s elephants are world renowned. The Wedding Registration on Elephants ceremony is held at the Elephant Study Center in Tah Toom District, Surin Province. You’ll be married on the back of an elephant, with the raison d’être the belief that a wedding ceremony on elephants will bring good fortune and prosperity. After you climb down, you’ll celebrate further with Thai dancing and a drum performance to keep the energy moving.


Jumeirah Maldives
Indulge your diving or snorkeling urge at the gorgeous Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, an exclusive island resort in the Maldives. Your personal butler will ensure an amazing experience, whether you stay in your beautiful suite, or venture to the garden or private beach for guided reef snorkeling. Dinner, a foot massage, sparkling wine, and spa treatments are included. In your room, you’ll be entranced by the romantic design left on your bed, the bubble bath turndown, and various arrival and departure gifts.

Jade Mountain St. Lucia
An island escape from the Polar Vortex may be just what the doctor ordered for your Valentine’s Day.  At the Jade Mountain resort in St. Lucia, the views are as divine as are the spa treatments.  Specially created for Valentine’s Day, The Alchemy of Two is a ritual designed for couples, a bath infused with male and female oils, sweetened with poetry and treats, and finished with a side-by-side massage using warming oils and a handcrafted chocolate dessert.  Take home a bit of what you’ve experienced after enrolling in a Mini-Massage Course to learn how to give each other the gift of massage. 800-223-1108

Cabo’s Corridor area offers romance at the end of the world, and Las Ventanas wants you to enjoy your holiday here with their “Passion in Paradise” package.  During Valentine’s Week, your elaborate package gets you cocktails upon arrival, a Hearts and Hands couple massage (outdoors), dinner, a romantic turndown with rose petals and candles, a romantic bath for two with a honey sugar scrub, breakfast in bed (with your own private butler), and Moet rosé champagne and strawberries.  +52 624 144 2800
Capella Pedregal
Just a little further south and even closer to Land’s End, Capella Pedregal, celebrates the season of love with a variety of evenings such as film night around an outdoor bonfire, a romantically themed five-course dinner evening, or a day to learn how to make chocolate fondue, a spa holiday keyed around the cycles of the moon, and more. +52 624 163 4300