Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 12-13 Street Art and Baseball Bike Tours in NYC - More Fancation Experiences

I’m addicted to street art and baseball. I'm on a mission to visit as many key street art sites as I can before they disappear (note what happened to 5Pointz last year) and to visit all MLB stadiums (which I depict in my Fancations series). The two tours happening this weekend in New York City have my name all over them, and I hope they’ll interest you, too.

Collage artist and founder of Gotham SideWalks tours, Rich Garr, spent this winter creating itineraries that blend specific cultural history with the fabric of rapidly evolving neighborhoods. These mash-ups of art, history and architecture utilize local characters and props that are both new and old. The tours are similar to his art process: a visual representation of surroundings. But while his studio art is two-dimensional, the tours offer something for all senses. Sights, sounds, and smells of New York City mix with music (yes, there’s music on these tours) and voices from past and present. www.GothamSideWalks.com. For more details or to book, call 718-938-1400.

BIKE BROOKLYN BASEBALL: a history of baseball and Brooklyn 
Saturday 7/12, 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, $40
Biking in Prospect Park
100 years of baseball in 10 miles and three hours of biking. Whether you're from Brooklyn or not, you've probably heard about the great local ball clubs of the 1950s. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants battled in New York to rule the major leagues. In fact, 14 of the 20 pennants from the 50's belonged to a NYC team. But there's so much more. Brooklyn alone holds an unprecedented place in baseball history. Far beyond Jackie Robinson and the color barrier, the quirks of Ebbets Field, or the meteoric rise of Brooklyn's own Sandy Koufax lie the roots of our nation's pastime. The tour trips back in time into the mid-1800s and gentleman club "base ball" and explores into the modern era and the exodus of the Dodgers in 1957... all the while traversing one of the finest circuits of urban bike paths in the country. Neighborhoods visited include Park Slope, Flatbush, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights. The rolling greenery of Prospect Park is also in the mix.

STREET / ART, Lower East Side
Sunday 7/13, 1-3 pm, $30
King Bee Mural
Discover how the chaos of the Lower East Side has shaped—and continues to shape—the destiny of the art world. There’s an amazing amount of street art in New York City whether Banksy (English) or Invader (French) have “residencies” there or not. See and learn who and what inspired today’s fascinating mix of paste-ups, stencils, memorials, tags and throws. Get the context behind Banksy’s October street art blitz in the streets where hip hop and graffiti began. Besides the latest street art, the tour will also explore earlier art in and about the streets by talking about early photography and painting. The tour stops at a half dozen art galleries along the way, comparing and contrasting street art and graffiti techniques with art on the gallery walls. In the areas visited, historic tenements mix with bold architectural innovation in this eclectic and ever-evolving neighborhood. The morning ends at the edge of the East Village between two of NYC's most famous street art sites. No tour is ever the same. In addition to the aforementioned street artists and samplings from contemporary art stars, the tour typically finds Shepard Fairey, Stikman, LEE, Kenny Scharf, Nick Walker, Hanksy, and COPE pieces along the route.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Arthritis and Food While Traveling: How to Manage

Many of you know that my years of dance and hiking, combined with a family history of arthritis have led to my ongoing quest to ignore the effects that arthritis can have on your life. In particular, arthritis and travel (or food) don't have to be mutually exclusive, but you need to make some simple modifications to "acknowledge" it, particularly if you don't want to give up your lifestyle as an explorer of the world.

I've summoned the guidance of an expert, Brenda Schnable, to provide some insights about not letting arthritis get in your way. Brenda is a senior yoga therapist, certified in Qigong, and author of Qi Infused Yoga and Access Your Inner Power: Awakening Your Health and Vitality, 2014 International Book Award Best Cover Design Non-Fiction category and 2014 International Book Award Finalist in the Health: Alternative Medicine category. You can find out more at www.myinnerpoweryoga.com.

Ayurveda can keep you moving.

We foodies know that dining out is fun while on vacation. What you may not know, however, is that food may be contributing to your arthritic pain. There are many factors responsible for arthritis. Injury and overuse of the joints are two factors, but according to the Eastern wisdom of Ayurveda, food and a sluggish digestion can add to and possibly be a root cause of your arthritis.

Ayurveda is a sister discipline to yoga. It may surprise you to know that according to Ayurveda, one of the main causes for and worsening of arthritis is food. The old adage, “You are what you eat” is a founding principle of Ayurveda. Importantly, your digestion is thought to be  the origin of most common ailments, including arthritis. When digestion is sluggish, toxic build-up occurs, and when undigested food is not eliminated, toxins settle in the joints contributing to arthritis.

What should you do to boost digestion and get yourself ready for travel (where you may be eating very differently from your home menu)?  Before you leave for vacation, consider a detoxification program. A three-day detox is a quick fix that may do the trick for a long weekend away. Longer is more beneficial as the body can really flush itself out. Talk to your doctor and pick one that fits with your lifestyle and needs. Plan accordingly so that you have completed the program by the start of your trip.

To manage your arthritis while you're off exploring India, Central America or other destinations with foreign and enticing foods, Ayurveda suggests these dining tips so you can enjoy the local cuisine but minimize toxic build-up:
* Trade in salads and other cold and rough foods for warm dishes.
* Switch out raw veggies for lightly steamed or sautéed ones.
* Avoid foods known to cause gas such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower
* Enjoy warm oatmeal instead of granola and dried cereal.
* Spice up your meals with foods seasoned with herbs and spices such as basil and oregano for Italian fare; cardamom, cumin, and ginger for Asian cuisine; and cilantro in Mexican dishes. Other spices that help calm the system are cinnamon, salt, cloves, mustard seed, fennel, sage, tarragon, thyme and black pepper.
* Avoid iced beverages as much as possible, as cold drinks stimulate and can result in arthritic flare-ups. Drink warm tea instead. Ginger tea, in particular, is conducive to pacifying aching joints.
* Enhance the efficiency of anti-rheumatic medication by taking vitamin C and drinking orange or sweet lime juice.



Friday, May 30, 2014

Taste of the Upper West Side --Food, Drink and Music under the Tent, May 30-31

Be sure not to eat lunch this weekend, because you'll want to save room for this weekend's Upper West Side Comfort Classic food event.  Sponsored by Celebrity Cruises and others, this is a don't-miss if you love to graze and sample. Travel Channel's Adam Richman returns for the fourth consecutive year, along with Food Network star and Iron Chef, Alex Guarnaschelli of NYC's Butter Restaurant. The duo will oversee 40 restaurants from the Upper West Side showcasing their most innovative comfort dishes, and competing to win this year's "Best Comfort Food Dish". There will be new restaurants as well as neighborhood favorites. The high-energy excitement of the evening will be amplified with renowned wines, creative cocktails, and the returning beats of NYC's DJ PHRESH.

Some of my favorites that'll be there are Luke's Lobster, Parm, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola and Serafina Upper West Side.   To buy tickets, visit here. Under the tent at Columbus Avenue, between West 76th and 77th streets, New York City.

Baseball Biking and Street Art Tours Come to Brooklyn and Manhattan This Summer

Those of you who have been following my writings over the years know that four of my travel-related loves are: street art, biking, baseball ("fancations"), and touring. At the recent NY TravFest, I met up with the creator of two tours, one in Brooklyn and one in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, who seems to have developed these tours just for me.  I hope to meet you on one of them -- I'm planning to do them ALL.

Collage artist and founder of Gotham SideWalks tours, Rich Garr, spent this winter refining two tours that blend specific cultural history with the fabric of rapidly evolving neighborhoods. These mash-ups of art, history and architecture utilize local characters and props that are both new and old. The tours are similar to his art process: a visual representation of surroundings. But while his studio art is two-dimensional, the tours offer something for all senses. Sights, sounds, and smells of New York City mix with music (yes, there’s music on these tours) and voices from past and present. The results are extraordinary, and on display this through July. www.GothamSideWalks.com. For more details or to book, call 718-938-1400.

BIKE BROOKLYN BASEBALL: a History of Baseball and Brooklyn

Sunday June 8 and Saturday July 12
11:30am-2:30pm, $40

Brooklyn Baseball
This tour covers 100 years of baseball in 10 miles and 3 hours of biking. Whether you're from Brooklyn or not, you've probably heard about the great local ball clubs of the 1950s. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants battled in New York to rule the major leagues. In fact, 14 of the 20 pennants from the 50's belonged to a NYC team. But there's so much more! Brooklyn alone holds an unprecedented place in baseball history. Far beyond Jackie Robinson and the color barrier, the quirks of Ebbets Field, or the meteoric rise of Brooklyn's own Sandy Koufax lie the roots of our nation's pastime. The tour trips back in time into the mid-1800s and gentleman club "base ball" and moves into the modern era and the exodus of the Dodgers in 1957... all while traversing one of the finest circuits of urban bike paths in the country. Neighborhoods visited include Park Slope, Flatbush, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens, Gowanus, Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights. The rolling greenery of Prospect Park is also in the mix.

STREET / ART: Lower East Side

Saturday May 31, Saturday June 21, Friday June 27, Sunday June 29, Sunday July 13
1-3 pm, $30

Discover how the chaos of the Lower East Side has shape and continues to shape the destiny of the art world. There’s an amazing amount of street art in New York City whether Banksy (English) or Invader (French) have “residencies” here or not. See and learn who and what inspired today’s fascinating mix of paste-ups, stencils, memorials, tags and throws. Get the context behind Banksy’s October street art blitz right here in the streets where hip hop and graffiti began. In addition to the latest street art, the tour will also explore earlier art in and about the streets by talking early photography and painting. The tour stops into a half dozen art galleries along the way, comparing and contrasting street art and graffiti techniques with art on the gallery walls. In the areas visited, historic tenements mix with bold architectural innovation in this eclectic and ever-evolving neighborhood. This amazing morning ends at the edge of the East Village between two of NYC's most famous street art sites. No tour is ever the same. In addition to the aforementioned street artists and samplings from contemporary art stars, Shepard Fairey, Stikman, LEE, Kenny Scharf, Nick Walker, Hanksy, and COPE pieces are also found along the route.

Street Art on Lower East Side

Friday, May 16, 2014

Calling All Theater Lovers: Free Broadway Concert in NYC on May 21

Here’s another great reason to visit New York City: a free Broadway concert on May 21 with stars performing songs from approximately 25 shows, including many of this year’s Tony nominees. Plus appearances from another half dozen non-musicals. What could be better? Watching the Tonys on June 8 on your TV, or getting up close and personal with the shows themselves, free in Times Square. Rain or shine.

STARS IN THE ALLEY, presented by United Airlines and produced by The Broadway League , will take place on Wednesday, May 21 from 11am-12:30pm in Shubert Alley, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, Manhattan. Entrance to the concert is on 44th Street.

2014 Tony-nominated actors/actresses scheduled to appear include Adriane Lenox (After Midnight),Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder), Kelli O’Hara (The Bridges of Madison County),Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Andy Karl (Rocky), Joshua Henry (Violet), and Tyne Daly(Mothers and Sons) as well as performances from all 2014 Tony Award-nominated musicals now in performance on Broadway including After Midnight, Aladdin, Beautiful - The Carole King Musical, The Bridges of Madison County,  Bullets Over Broadway, Cabaret, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, If/Then, Les Misérables, Rocky and Violet.

The show will be hosted by star of stage and screen Norm Lewis, who has just taken over the legendary title role in Broadway’s record-breaking The Phantom of the Opera.

PARTICIPATING MUSICALS INCLUDE:
After Midnight
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder
Aladdin
Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
The Bridges of Madison County
Bullets Over Broadway
Cabaret
Chicago
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
If / Then
Kinky Boots
Les Misérables
The Lion King
Mamma Mia!
Motown The Musical
Newsies
Once
The Phantom of the Opera
Pippin
Rock of Ages
Rocky
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Violet
Wicked

ADDITIONAL APPEARANCES FROM:
Act One
All the Way
Casa Valentina
Holler if Ya Hear Me
Mothers and Sons
Of Mice and Men
On the Town

And if you're hungry, do what hordes of Broadway-goers have been doing for years, duck into Sardi's, Gallaghers, Victor's or Carmine's for a traditional post-show lunch.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Faberge Big Egg Hunt, Broadway, Gauguin, and International Auto Show -- all in NYC Now

There's a slew of wonderful things happening in New York City this time of year. As the flowers bloom and the snow finally disappears, it's time to get outside and enjoy.








If you love cars, this is the time to get into gear. The New York City International Auto Show runs through Sunday April 27. This year’s show has a number of showstoppers with a wide range of electric cars, the 50th anniversary Mustang cars, and the 25th anniversary Miatas. The second generation Rolls Royce Ghost is a stunner as are the new Mercedes-Benz C Class and BMW four-door 4 Series, both due to arrive in the US later this year. You can also take a test drive over an off-road course with Jeep (Camp Jeep Outdoor Off Roading Ride Along), shoot a selfie with Nissan for a chance to win a free car, and enjoy other pop-up contests. The show is an annual favorite and takes place at the Jacob Javits Center, 11th Avenue between 34th and 40th streets, in Manhattan. Show hours are 10am-10pm through Saturday and 10am-7pm on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at www.autoshowny.com.

If you missed the Big Faberge Easter Egg hunt that took place over the past couple of weeks throughout New York City, you still have a chance to see all the eggs in one giant nest this week. Visit Rockefeller Center, with your camera, and you’ll see the 282 eggs that made for a great scavenger hunt high and low in all five boroughs. If you’d like one for your very own, you can bid on the Great Egg auction at www.paddle8.com, with all proceeds going to charity. Download The Big Egg Hunt app or go online to www.thebigegghunt.org for more details. Books of all the eggs are sold at Saks Fifth Avenue’s pop-up egg shop.

Easter Egg Hunt
Easter Egg Hunt
Easter Egg Hunt

MOMA’s Gauguin: Metamorphoses exhibit is in full swing, now through June 8. The artist’s paintings from 1889 through his death in 1903 displays rare prints and transfer drawings related to his better-known paintings. Exhibit is located on the sixth floor of the museum. Ticket lines can be long, but the exhibit is worth it. 11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan, 212.708.9400. www.moma.org.

And, for those of you who want to be “in the know” about the theater scene before the Tony’s (June 8 this year), there’s a crop of interesting shows worth seeing. Some of my favorite plays are “Of Mice and Men” starring the prolific actor James Franco with his apt sidekick Lennie, played by Chris O’Dowd of Bridesmaids fame. At the Longacre Theater, 220 West 48th Street. Tickets via Telecharge, 212.239.6200. Also, intriguing is "The Realistic Jones," an odd but thought-provoking show with Marisa Tomei, Toni Collette, and Tracy Letts. At the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th Street. Tickets via Telecharge, 212.239.6200. If you prefer musicals, “Cabaret” will give you a hearty Willkomen at the Kit Kat Club at Studio 54. The revival of the revival features one of its previous headliners, Alan Cumming, as Emcee. Studio 42, 254 West 54th Street. Tickets through Roundabout, 212.719.1300. Also designed to envelop you in a musical haze is Audra McDonald’s one-woman depiction of Billie Holiday as Lady Day in her final days at the Emerson’s Bar and Grill. Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 West 50th Street. Tickets through Telecharge, 212.239.6200. For all listings, visit www.playbill.com.

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. www.stregisnewyork.com. 

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; www.newyorkpalace.com/

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. www.bills54.com.

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. www.elyseehotel.com.

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.  www.theroosevelthotel.com.

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. www.pjclarkes.com

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; www.21club.com 

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; www.algonquinhotel.comwww.algonquinhotel.com 

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; www.sardis.com/ 



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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/travel/being-smart-about-phone-fees-overseas.html?emc=edit_tl_20140321&nl=travel&nlid=47276143


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. Www.Mta.info 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 www.NYCGo.com.

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:

SATURDAY, MARCH 1 
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
 
SUNDAY, MARCH 2
 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

BOTH DAYS
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 https://51281.blackbaudhosting.com/51281/Missed-Connections.

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. www.guerlainspas.com. www.towersofthewaldorf.com.

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: Natalie@thestantonsocial.com, 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 www.wolcott.com

Z NYC
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 www.zhotelny.com

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 www.plaza-athenee.com.

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, info@ink48.com. 653 11th Avenue, Manhattan, 212-757-0088 www.ink48.com.


East Coast Valentine's Day Ideas: Florida to Maine

FLORIDA

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 http://www.pierhouse.com 

Miami

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 www.wsouthbeach.com/work-it-out

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. www.surfcomber.com.

GEORGIA

Atlanta

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.  www.stregisatlanta.com.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Charleston

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 http://www.charlestonplace.com

WASHINGTON, DC

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 www.embassyrowhotel.com

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. www.parkhyattwashington.com, 800-778-7477, www.blueducktavern, 202-419-6755
.
MASSACHUSETTS

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. www.harbor-view.com.

Cambridge

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 www.charleshotel.com http://www.rialto-restaurant.com/

RHODE ISLAND

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 www.oceanhouseri.com.

MAINE

Kennebunkport





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 http://www.whitebarninn.com/



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

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

ILLINOIS 

Chicago

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. www.chillcation.com

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. www.trumpchicagohotel.com.

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 www.jameshotels.com/Chicago/special-offers .
 
LOUISIANA

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: www.grillroomneworleans.com, 888-596-0955. For rooms, call 800-928-7898 http://www.windsorcourthotel.com/ .

TENNESSEE

Memphis





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 http://www.peabodymemphis.com/

ARIZONA

Phoenix

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 www.royalpalmshotel.com

Tucson



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, www.westinlapalomaresort.com.

TEXAS

Austin

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. www.hotelella.com.

Dallas



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. www.hotelpalomar-dallas.com

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