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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine's Day Experiences Around the World


TURKEY
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 office.ciraganpalace@kempinksi.com. http://www.kempinski.com/en/istanbul/ciragan-palace/welcome/

DUBAI

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 http://www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_dubai/

FRENCH POLYNESIA
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.  http://islandsinthesun.com.  888-828-6877 http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/french-polynesia/hilton-bora-bora-nui-resort-and-spa-PPTBNHI/accommodations/index.html  http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/french-polynesia/hilton-moorea-lagoon-resort-and-spa-PPTMLHI/accommodations/index.html

GERMANY
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 lwannemacher@roccoforteholes.com 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: kcool@roccofortehotels.com. https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-charles-hotel/

PORTUGAL
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   http://www.the-yeatman-hotel.com/en/

AUSTRIA, NETHERLANDS AND CZECH REPUBLIC

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. http://www.ihg.com/hotels/us/en/reservation

ITALY
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 verdure@roccofortehotels.com. https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/verdura-golf-and-spa-resort/

HONG KONG
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  http://www.ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/hong-kong/hkghc/hoteldetail

THAILAND
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 http://www.paresaresorts.com/default-en.html

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. www.underwaterwedding.com
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. www.surinpao.org

MALDIVES 


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. https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/maldives/jumeirah-dhevanafushi/

ST. LUCIA
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 www.jademountain.com.

MEXICO
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 http://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/las-ventanas-los-cabos
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   www.capellahotels.com/cabosanlucas

Head to California and Hawaii for Some of the US's Most Creative Valentine's Day Packages


CALIFORNIA
San Diego (La Jolla)
La Valencia

One of my favorite hotels, the iconic pink La Valencia (affectionately known as “La V”), has been recently redone top to bottom.  This year’s Valentine’s Day celebration turns the hotel a different shade of pink, actually, red, in support of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red” campaign.  The tower will be lit red all February promoting love of the heart and heart healthfulness.  Book the appropriately named “Saving My Heart for You at La V” two-night package and you’ll prove your devotion by taking care of your heart.  You get a “MY Life check assessment” from the AHA, a bottle of red wine (red wine promotes heart health), a pedometer, a book of love quotations, tickets to the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art to nurture your soul, and a kayak adventure in La Jolla’s 6000 acre nature preserve to further your cardiac exercise and your Zen with nature. Packages start at $1300 per couple. 858-454-0771, www.lavalencia.com


San Francisco
Having a picnic is always pure romance.  Unless the weather and ants conspire against you. Kimpton’s Prescott Hotel wants you to have the perfect picnic, so they will bring it to your room, complete with a picnic basket, two bottles of wine, a spread of charcuterie and cheese, and some baguettes.  You can also watch a movie “under the stars”, the lights of your room, complimentary. I love the Kimpton Hotel Group’s creativity, don’t you?  866-271-3632 www.prescotthotel.com 


Want to pretend it’s your honeymoon all over again? The InterContinental Mark Hopkins is offering the “Never-Ending Honeymoon Package,” which takes full advantage of the hotel’s dramatic Nob Hill location. At the Top of the Mark, the 19th-floor sky lounge with some of the most gorgeous panoramas of San Francisco, you’ll enjoy a table with a view, sparkling wine, chocolate rum fondue, a framed photo of you and your sweetie, and, an announcement by the evening’s’ band welcoming you and affirming your continued devotion.  888-424-6835 www.intercontinentalmarkhopins.com
Super-exclusive and perfect for adventurous lovers, the “Extraordinary Day” package from InterContinental San Francisco starts your day in a Classic Rolls Royce to drive to the Golden Gate Bridge.  After that, you pick your fantasy:  a romantic hot air balloon ride or a daring flight in a WW2 classic double-decker airplane over Napa Valley.  You’ll also enjoy the hotel’s proximity to wine country with a winery tour and three-course wine luncheon as well as a five-course Michelin star dinner with champagne. 888-811-4273 www.intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com


Palo Alto
Maybe it’s something about working near all those computer startups or staring at your computer too long without having a human relationship (think Her, for example), but you have to love the Crowne Plaza Palo Alto’s “Anti-Valentine’s Day Party.”  Take your little ‘ole self to this February 14 gig, drown our your sorry on “Anti-Valentine’s” cocktails and “bitter” bites, and dance to classic break-up music.  I love this: play party games, too, like hit the “Conversation Heart Piñata” or “Shred Your Ex” (where you shred a photo of your ex), and enter the “Best/Worst ‘I got Dumped’” Story Contest.  877-270-1393 


HAWAII
Sheraton Maui
In my mind, Hawaii is synonymous with romance (I almost eloped there). Maui‘s Kaanapali Beach is beauty and drama combined, where Black Rock meets the ocean.  The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa has created an über-romantic getaway experience for Valentine’s Day for one special couple. “The Barefoot Bliss Romantic Dinner” puts you and your sweetie facing the gorgeous beach, with a private table in the swimming pool and a private butler.  Dessert and champagne are served in your oceanfront room with scattered rose petals scenting the room.  This exclusive event is priced at $3,000 per couple inclusive of tax and gratuity. 808-662-8059. www.sheraton-maui.com
So simple but so romantic, the special lovers’ package from The Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui promises to teach you how to “make whoopie.”  With your gift of a gourmet Whoopie pie-making kit, you and your partner will concoct a cake of your own with your choice of sinful fillings. The room and sweets package starts at $159. 808-875-4100. www.fairmont.com/kea-lani-maui

Westin Maui
Renew your vows with a group of new friends at the Westin Maui Resorts & Spa’s Hawaiian Vow Renewal ceremony on Valentine’s Day. Take advantage of the gorgeous Ka’anapali Beach setting as your officiant decks you out with celebratory leis, a champagne toast, and a vow renewal certificate.  The price is $214 per couple. Call 808-662-2771 to book this very popular celebration. www.westinmaui.com


Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Marshmallows" for Valentine's Day: MitchMallows



MitchMallows sparkly mallow hearts


I’m completely taken by this concept – chocolate is just sooo yesterday. MitchMallows are marshmallows that come in crazy flavors like banana split, pretzels and beer, churros, ginger wasabi and creamsicles.  Use your imagination – there’s probably a flavor just for you.  Search the “Classic,” “Whack’d” or “Seasonal” selections for your favorite hand-crafted pick.  And, for Valentine’s Day, they have sparkly mallow hearts in cherry, coated in pink and red sugar, and packaged in a polka dot heart-shaped box ($16). 212-645-1121. www.mitchmallows.com

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