FALL IN THE CATSKILLS

I’ve shared this many times before but fall is absolutely my favorite season, and autumn foliage doesn’t get much better than in the Northeast of the US. The Catskills, just two hours from NYC, are a perfect getaway to enjoy this time of year. Think crackling fires, warm apple cider, hikes through the woods and cozy sweaters…

GETTING THERE

From out of state, fly into Newark (to avoid the city), and pick up a rental car to take you North. If you live in NYC, your best bet is still to rent a car and drive up – you’ll want the flexibility to drive around the area, and as its quite remote here, Uber isn’t really an option.

WHERE TO STAY

The Catskills are a broad area and there are many different towns you can visit. On my recent stay we peeked in at the newly opened (Summer 2019!) Farmhouse Catskills, part of the Design Hotels collection. One of the larger hotel options in the area, the property has a pool, fire pits and several different rooming options (including glamp sites for the summertime), along with an onsite restaurant and cafe.

For a more rustic option, check out the properties owned by Foster Supply Hospitality. Their collection includes The North Branch Inn, The DeBruce, Nine River Road and The Arnold House. Each property is small and similar in design, yet they all offer their own unique features: The North Branch Inn has a historic two-lane bowling alley just off the restaurant, while The Arnold House is well known for its spa and tavern; The DeBruce is renowned for its multi-course gourmet dinners on Saturday evenings, while Nine River Road has bikes available for guests to borrow free of charge. Perhaps most importantly, all of these properties offer fresh baked chocolate chip cookies daily!

WHAT TO DO

Take a hike in the woods, bike on country lanes, or simply go for a drive, stopping in quaint towns for local goods, fresh cider, and antiques. If you have kids in tow, visit a local farm or pick-up some treats at the farmer’s market. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take a fly fishing lesson – a popular past time in the area. On a rainy day, opt for a self-guided brewery tour, sampling some of the local craft beers, or simply curl up with a book by the fire. The Catskills are a perfect place to relax and reconnect with nature.

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE IN AUSTRIA: PART 2

Part II: Salzburg

From Vienna, we took a lovely three hour train journey west to Salzburg, a much smaller city of just 150,000 people. The train was easy and scenic but driving from Vienna to Salzburg is also a great option as there are many places to see and stop along the way.

Outside of Austria, Salzburg is famous as the setting of The Sound of Music and there are many sites in and around the city that are featured in the film. In Austria, the city is well known as the birthplace of Mozart, and for the Salzburg Festival, a music and arts festival attracting visitors from around the world every July and August to enjoy fabulous opera, concerts and theatre. 

WHERE TO STAY

  • Goldener Hirsch – I had the opportunity to stay at the Goldener Hirsch on my visit and absolutely loved it. The hotel dates to the 1400s and is located right in the center of Salzburg’s Old Town. The entire property just recently underwent a thorough renovation and the result is a historic hotel that retains much of its charm and authentic design as a Salzburg country inn, while also incorporating many modern luxuries (think USB ports by the bed and motion-detection lighting). 
  • Hotel Sacher Salzburg – The sister property of the Sacher Vienna, the Salzburg property is currently undergoing a facelift in its main areas (full renovations will be done by Spring 2020). The design here differs quite a bit from the Sacher Vienna, featuring a lighter, brighter palette with cool grays and whites. The location is perfect – set on the riverbank, directly across from Old Town. Definitely spring for a room with a river view – some even have small balconies.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Salzburg Festival – This famed arts and music festival will be celebrating its Centennial in 2020. Running for 6 weeks in July and August, the event draws performers and arts enthusiasts from around the world. 
  • Hohensalzburg Fortress – Perched high above the city, the fortress was built in 1077 by one of the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg and took nearly 600 years to complete. Take the funicular up to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city or wander through the museum. For a special evening, you can enjoy a Mozart concert in the fortress. 
  • Helbrunn Palace – Just outside the city limits, this former residence is famous for its trick fountains! 
  • Mozart Birth Place & Mozart Residence – Classical music fans can visit the home where Mozart was born, located in Old Town Salzburg. Just across the river, you’ll find another Mozart Residence where he moved with his family at the age of 17. This building now houses a museum with various artifacts from Mozart’s life. 
  • Old Town – Salzburg is an extremely old city, and you’ll still find this historic appeal in Old Town. Visit the Salzburg Cathedral and pass through the Mozart square to shop the winding pedestrian streets. 
  • Sound of Music Tours – Sound of Music tours are extremely popular in Salzburg as the movie was based here. Tours visit a variety of filming sites, including: Mirabell Gardens, Leopoldskron Palace, Nonnberg Abbey, the Wedding Church, and Mondsee Cathedral.

WHERE TO EAT

  • M32 on Moenschsberg Mountain – Take an elevator up through the mountain to the modern art museum where you’ll find this restaurant with spectacular city views.
  • Restaurant s’Herzl – Located in the Goldener Hirsch hotel, this cozy, casual restaurant has been operating since 1569 and features Austrian home cooking favorites.
  • Café Tomaselli – Austria’s cafe culture extends far beyond Vienna and Cafe Tomaselli is the most famous cafe in Salzburg. Located in Old Town, the cafe has been run by the Tomaselli family for over 150 years. 
  • Zirbelzimmer – In the Sacher hotel this wood-paneled restaurant overlooks the Salzach river and serves gourmet Austrian cuisine in a rustic setting. Be sure to order the famous Salzburger Nockerl for dessert! 
  • St. Peter Restaurant – Touted as one of Europe’s oldest restaurants (dating to 803!), this is the best spot in town for fine dining. 

BONUS: SALZBURGERLAND

If you can tack on an extra few days to your trip, I highly recommend spending them in the lake district just outside of Salzburg. With bright blue water, soaring mountains and Austrian chalets dotting the landscape, this is a side of Austria you don’t want to miss.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Schloss Fuschl – Built in 1450 as a hunting lodge for the Archbishop of Salzburg, Schloss Fuschl became a hotel in 1945 and was renovated in 2006. The setting on the lake is perfect and many rooms enjoy a beautiful view. The castle suites, which are located in the original lodge building, are my favorite for their lake views and the feeling of stepping back in time. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Visit the Salt Mines – Salzburg is aptly named after the “white gold” which is naturally found in the region. Salt was highly prized in olden times as a way to preserve food, as well as add flavor to cuisine. There are several salt mines in the surroundings of Salzburg that can still be visited today, the most famous being Hallein.
  • St. Gilgen – This town was home to Mozart’s mother and later to his sister. Make sure you stop in at Cafe Dallmann, a famous family-run coffee shop that has been in operation for 70 years. 
  • St. Wolfgang – From St. Gilgen, you can take a scenic boat ride across Lake Wolfgangsee to St. Wolfgang, a quaint pilgrimage town. 
  • Hiking around Lake Fuschl and Salkammergut Region – There are many, many hikes in the region. Whether you’re staying at Schloss Fuschl and want to set out for a hike around Lake Fuschl or want to venture farther afield, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy the nature. 
  • Zwolferhorn Mountain Cable Car – From Saint Gilgen, you can take a cable car up Zwolferhorn Mountain for beautiful views of Lake Wolfgangsee and the Salkammergut Region.
  • Hallstatt – A little further afield, you’ll find Hallstatt, the picturesque lakeside village that has become Instagram famous over the past few years. While it is now a bit overrun by tourists, its still worth a visit – just be sure to arrive quite early in the day.

WHERE TO EAT

  • The Fishery – At Schloss Fuschl you’ll find two restaurants. The Fishery is a more casual option and perfect for a light lunch. Located lake-side, many of the fish smoked and served here are caught from the lake. 
  • Schloss Restaurant – The more gourmet dining option at Schloss Fuschl serves up modern Austrian cuisine with beautiful views of the lake. 
  • Forsthaus Wartenfels – About 15 minutes’ drive from Schloss Fuschl, you’ll find this most traditional Austrian chalet. Note: If you’re looking to order the fondue, you’ll need to call in and order ahead. 
  • The Dorfalm on Lake Wolfgangsee – If you happen to take the boat from St. Gilgen to St. Wolfgang, this is another excellent restaurant to enjoy traditional, casual Austrian fare over lunch or dinner.

All in all, Austria was a magical place – I was so impressed by the architecture, the food, the history and the kindness of the people. I would absolutely love to share this country with you and help you plan your next trip to Austria. Please contact me to get started!

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE IN AUSTRIA: PART 1

Austria is the 20th largest country in Europe by area. Its small size and convenient location make it a great year-round destination for travelers who wish to enjoy the continent’s renowned culture, while also experiencing some of its breathtaking countryside.

PART I: VIENNA

My trip began in Vienna, the capital of Austria, and city of about 2 million people set along the Danube River. The imperial city is known for its historic architecture, café culture, appreciation of the arts, and former famous residents (including Mozart and Beethoven). The metropolis was recently named the “Most Liveable City in the World” for the 2nd year in a row by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

WHERE TO STAY

Given that I was here for a work study trip, I had the opportunity to visit 7 different properties, all in the heart of Vienna:

  • Hotel Imperial – This is where I stayed personally and I loved it! The building dates to 1863 and was originally built as a palais by a Duke as a present for his wife. In 1873, it was converted to a hotel for the World’s Fair and is now part of the Luxury Collection. The decor feels very royal with chandeliers everywhere, rich fabrics and grand staircases.
  • Hotel Sacher Wien – Dating to 1876, this hotel is still family-owned and has an excellent location right in the city center. The atmosphere is very boutique and intimate – you feel as though you’ve been invited to stay in a grand family home. The name may sound familiar to you, as the hotel is also the producer of the famous Sacher Torte – a delicious chocolate cake that tourists line up around the block to taste (Bonus: as a guest, you can try the cake any time you like, even for breakfast!)
  • Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna – On the opposite side of the Ringstrasse, you’ll find the Kempinski Vienna, which has a more modern feel, having just opened as a hotel in 2013, though the building is still historic as are most of the structures in Vienna’s first district. My favorite part of this hotel is the lobby which is lovingly referred to as “the largest living room in Vienna.”
  • Park Hyatt Vienna – Another newer property, the Park Hyatt opened in an old bank and gives a subtle nod to its roots with the original ceilings in the lobby and event spaces, vault-style minibars in the rooms and a spa pool built in the old bank vault in the basement! This location is also perfect for Christmastime as it’s right in front of a square that hosts one of the main Christmas markets in Vienna. 
  • Hotel Bristol Vienna – Another Luxury Collection property, the Bristol’s design is also very traditional, with the exception of 10 more modern rooms that were recently added and designed in a 1920s style. Opera enthusiasts will flock to this property which is adjacent to the famed opera house. In the summertime, a screen outside the opera building offers Bristol guests the ability to enjoy the performances from their open windows, perhaps with a bottle of champagne and some room service. 
  • Palais Coburg Residenz – This is such a unique and special property. If you dream of staying in a palace, then you better hop on a plane to Vienna. This 117 year old palais was built atop the old city walls of Vienna and the traditional imperial design now incorporates both this extremely historic city wall and modern touches of glass. The wine cellars here are to die for, as are the state rooms, which practically feel like Versailles. And with only 32 suites, you’ll definitely feel as if you’re a royal guest. 
  • Ritz Carlton Vienna – Last but not least, the Ritz Carlton Vienna is a great option. I love the Ritz’s club lounge which provides a nice gathering area (especially for families), but the hotel is most famous for its rooftop bar (in the summer) and rooftop Christmas market (in the winter). 

WHAT TO DO & SEE

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral – This gorgeous cathedral has a beautiful mosaic rooftop. Visitors can also climb the towers for a birds’ eye view of Vienna. 
  • Viennese Cooking Class – We learned how to make strudel from Chef Bianca of Cook in Vienna. Austrian cuisine is so unique, I highly recommend a cooking class! 
  • Bosendorfer – The official Austrian piano maker has a salon in Vienna where you can view the famous pianos and learn more about their history. 
  • Schönbrunn Palace – Just outside the city, you’ll find the 1,441 room summer palace of the Hapsburgs. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance. 
  • Belvedere Museum – Set in another former palace, this museum now houses the largest collection of Klimt paintings in Vienna, including his most famous one, The Kiss
  • Hofburg Imperial Palace – This was the main residence of the Hapsburg rulers and the center of the city. It is now home to the Spanish Riding School and the crown jewels. 
  • Museum Quarter – Have no fear of a rainy day in Vienna; there are plenty of museums to visit in the Museum Quarter!
  • Vienna Boys Choir – Known as one of the best boys choirs in the world, the Vienna Boys Choir performs regular concerts and is a joy to listen to. 
  • Vineyards – Just 20 minutes or so from the city center, yet still within the city limits, you’ll find Vienna’s vineyards and the Heurige, taverns that produce and sell their own wine. 
  • Beethoven Museum – in Grinzing, you can visit Beethoven’s summer home, which is now a museum, and learn more about his life. 
  • Christmas Markets – From mid-November to Christmas eve, you’ll find Christmas markets all over vienna, complete with punch and gluhwein. 
  • Café Culture – Vienna is also famous for its coffee houses, many of which are 100s of years old and were frequented by famous people in history. 
  • Vienna Woods – Just a hop skip from the city, you can visit the large green area known as the Vienna Woods, a Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO. Enjoy one of the hiking paths or visit Heiligenkruez, an old monastery.
  • Vienna State Opera – Enjoy a performance at the Vienna Opera House – or two or three, they put on a different one every evening.

WHERE TO EAT

  • Plachutta – Famous for its Tafelspitz (boiled beef). Don’t be fooled by the name – it’s very flavorful and delicious!
  • Demel – A lovely patisserie right near St. Stephen’s. Austrians love their sweets and you will find plenty here.
  • At Eight – A relais & chateaux restaurant on the Ringstrasse. It’s a bit out of the main hub but totally delicious. 
  • Heurigen Mayer am Pfarrplatz – A lovely wine tavern in Grinzing with down-home Austrian fare, local wines and a beautiful outdoor seating area. 

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 on Salzburg!

HOTEL REVIEW: WALDORF ASTORIA LOS CABOS PEDREGAL

This 5-star Virtuoso property is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year (2019), yet the hotel just debuted a new name with a recent acquisition by Waldorf Astoria. Formerly known as The Resort at Pedregal, the property officially became Waldorf Astoria’s first hotel in Mexico when the name change went into effect last week. However, the new management assures that guests will see few other changes to this beloved resort. With impeccable service, incredible amenities and a breathtaking setting, we can see why.

LOCATION

Cabo, on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, is centered around the tourist town of Cabo San Lucas, yet the resort area of Cabo extends far beyond this hub. The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is the only 5-star resort located directly in the center of Cabo San Lucas, however, once you drive through the hotel’s man-made tunnel to the other side of the mountain, you’ll feel a world away.

GETTING THERE

Regular flights operate from Los Cabos International Airport (SJD). From there, its about a 45 minute drive down to Pedregal. The hotel can arrange transfers or you can rent a car and make the easy drive on your own.

THE ROOMS

The entry-level room at this hotel has an ocean view, a terrace with a private plunge pool, a gas fireplace, a large soaking tub and separate shower, just to name a few of the amenities… You really cannot go wrong at this resort, which caters to couples and families alike, with the flexibility to reserve 2-3 bedroom suites or casitas. I also loved the design of the rooms which felt very authentically Mexican with warm toned decor, dark wood furniture, and brightly colored pillows.

AMENITIES

Oh my goodness are there amenities here! From the small – a welcome margarita upon arrival and daily guacamole and coronitas (!) – to the large – remember that private plunge pool we mentioned? how about a personal concierge and a complimentary bottle of tequila in every room? (!)

Beyond these small touches and surprises which guests will find at every turn, the resort also boasts 4 separate pools, a swim-up bar, two tennis courts, several dining venues and an award-winning spa centered around the phases of the moon.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE

As with many resorts in Cabo, the beach at this hotel is not “swimmable.” However, I really didn’t miss it. In fact, I loved floating in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean waves crashing on the sand below – it was awe-inspiring and beautiful to see the power of the Pacific up close.

For those looking to dip in the ocean, there are several swimmable beaches just a few minutes away. Pedregal has a partnership with SUR Beach House so you can ask your personal concierge to book you some beachfront lounge chairs for a couple of hours (complimentary with purchase of food & drinks).

DINING

Breakfast lovers will delight in the large buffet offered at main dining restaurant, Don Manuel’s. From a make-your own smoothie bar, to an omelet & egg station (also serving daily specials of Mexican favorites like Chilaquiles and Huevos Rancheros), to a wall of bread, bowls upon bowls of fresh tropical fruit, and an entire honeycomb dripping honey into the dish below, you certainly will start your morning off right. Plus I love that the buffet area is housed in what feels like a traditional Mexican tiled kitchen.

At lunchtime, you can return to Don Manuel’s, or opt for sushi & ceviche at Crudo by the adult pool or tacos & salads at The Beach Club by the family pool. Of course you can enjoy items from the latter two establishments from the comfort of your lounge chair as well.

At 4 pm, you’ll be surprised by a knock on your door to find a Mexican staple – guacamole and salsa, fresh corn tortilla chips and a bucket of Coronitas (quite possibly my favorite hotel amenity ever!). For dinner, you have two options on site. El Farallon, touted as the best restaurant in Cabo is a must for one night and certainly for special occasions. Set completely outdoors, nestled among the rocky cliffs with the ocean waves crashing just below, guests stop first at the champagne terrace where they enjoy a glass of fabulous bubbly. From the terrace, you’ll be asked to select your main dish from a selection of catches of the day, as well as two sides, before being seated overlooking the ocean. The chef then offers up a 4-course prix-fixe menu based on your selection. I really loved the uniqueness of this dining experience!

For a more casual option, return to Don Manuel’s and you won’t be disappointed – the restaurant takes on an entire new personality in the evening – you’ll hardly feel you are in the same place and the food is phenomenal. Both restaurants also offer nightly live music which further adds to the atmosphere.

BOOK YOUR STAY

Now is the perfect time to book your next trip to Cabo with a stay at this incredible resort. ATLAS + VALISE clients receive the following exclusive amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast buffet daily in Don Manuel’s, two per bedroom
  • $150 USD equivalent Hotel/Resort credit to be utilized during stay
  • Complimentary VIP airport Lounge Tickets with all Beach Front Suite Bookings
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Contact us to start planning today!

KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD.

Portland, Oregon’s largest city, is well known for its coffee culture, microbreweries and quite possibly as the birthplace for this latest donut craze. A group of friends and I recently spent a long weekend exploring this rainy city on the Willamette River.

WHERE TO EAT:

Portland is known for its food so if you’re coming here, you better be prepared to eat! There are so many good spots in this city so I’m certainly not covering them all here but I’m including everywhere we went and loved:

  • Tasty n Alder – Share plates – big and small – perfect for a group that likes to try different things.
  • Le Pigeon – One of the hottest spots in town, we happened to snag a table for 8 at the last minute which is unheard of. The Beef Cheek Bourguignon is a staple on their menu.
  • VooDoo Doughnut – Large and over the top, these donuts are delicious and fun. There are several locations around Portland and they are open late – perfect for a post-dinner dessert stop!
  • Blue Star Donuts – A more refined donut experience than the wild and crazy Voodoo, Blue Star donuts are equally delicious and a local favorite.
  • 1927 S’mores Company – Portland is such an outdoorsy town, this s’mores outpost is a perfect complement. Tons of flavors, gourmet marshmallows and homemade graham crackers make this a very tasty treat.
  • Salt & Straw – Portland’s favorite scoop shop. Several locations but be prepared for a potential line!
  • Wiz Bang Bar – Located in the Pine Street Market food hall, this latest venture from Salt & Straw is all about old-time childhood favorites (soft-serve with hard shells, sundaes and concretes) with a modern twist on the flavors.
  • Marukin Ramen – Rainy days in Portland are perfect for ramen and Marukin Ramen (in the Pine Street Market) has two locations – Portland and Tokyo – so you know it’s legit.
  • Irving Street Kitchen – In the Pearl district, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants and bars in old warehouse buildings. Irving Street Kitchen is great for a group as you can share. Go for the fried chicken and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Fried Egg I’m in Love – Gourmet egg sandwiches are the perfect way to start your day in Portland. They have a restaurant location as well as a food truck located downtown.

WHAT TO DO:

There is also a lot to do in Portland and we only had a few days so we didn’t quite fit it all in, but here is everything we enjoyed. Needless to say, we will be coming back!

  • Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley – When I was planning this trip, everyone told me to head out to the Willamette Valley for wine tasting. Located about an hour from the city, the area is renowned for its pinot noirs and beautiful scenery.
    • Dundee Bistro – A perfect lunch spot between tastings. We loved sharing all different pizzas.
    • Durant Family Vineyards – Gorgeous views from the lawn. Guests can lounge in Adirondack chairs during their tasting and take in the scenery.
  • Brewery Hopping – Aside from the wine, Portland is known for its breweries, so be sure you sample a few of the local favorites.
    • Culmination Brewing – This was a brewery we tried over on the East Side of the city. They had so many different types of beer on tap and it was all delish!
  • Portland Saturday Market – Every Saturday & Sunday there is a large outdoor market where local artisans sell crafts and food.
  • Powell’s Books – You can relive the good old days at this massive independently owned bookstore.
  • Portland Japanese Garden – Located in Washington Park in the city center, this is the perfect place to go forest bathing and get your inner zen on. There are many great hikes and outdoorsy locations outside the city, but most require a car to get to so this is a great and convenient option for those staying a shorter time.
  • Serra Dispensary – When in Portland… But seriously this is the fanciest dispensary I’ve seen so if you’re going to check out that scene, then definitely stop in here. At least to see what it’s all about!
  • MadeHere – An eclectic shop with locally made items – perfect for gifts and souvenirs that are high quality and authentically Portland.

WHERE TO STAY:

  • The Nines – The only Virtuoso property in Portland, this Marriott luxury collection hotel is located in a historic building, a former department store adjacent to the main square.
  • The Hoxton Portland – Abutting the Chinatown district, you’ll find the Hoxton hotel, another great boutique option with fabulous design.
  • Heathman Hotel – Also part of the Provenance Hotel collection (same as Woodlark), I am dying to come back and try their Russian afternoon tea.
  • Ace Hotel – Perfect for a more cost effective option or for a younger crowd.
  • The Allison Inn & Spa – If you’re looking to stay a bit longer and get outside the city for a few days, this is the perfect property to enjoy the Willamette Valley and all it has to offer.

Looking for an easy fall getaway? Though Portland can typically be rainy, September and October are the *best* months to visit this city for optimal weather. Contact me today to book your trip!

HOTEL REVIEW: WOODLARK HOTEL

Portland, Oregon’s newest downtown address, Woodlark Hotel, opened in 2018 as the latest venture from the Provenance Hotel Group. Embodying two historic properties – the Cornelius Hotel, which dates to 1908 and was known to locals as “The House of Welcome,” and the Woodlark Building, which dates to 1912 and was home to Woodard, Clarke & Co., the city’s pioneer drug store and wholesale pharmacy. The hotel gives a nod to its roots with its neighborly slogan “Come as You Are” and its neon “House of Welcome” sign out front, while simultaneously bringing a fresh, modern design to the interiors.

THE ROOMS

With five different room types, there’s something for everyone – from a standard King room to a loft style suite complete with spiral staircase. While the entry level rooms are cozy, they are well laid out and make efficient use of the space. The design is sleek and clean with rich velvet fabrics and emerald tones set against crisp white linens imported from Italy. Beyond the standard amenities you’ll find some unique touches, including: accessible USB charging ports, Bluetooth speakers, a locally-inspired honor bar (including pints of ice cream from famed Portland scoop shop, Salt & Straw), and MiN bath products.

AMENITIES

Most hotels charge a daily resort (or city) fee these days but they often don’t explain what this is for or what it brings you. At Woodlark, they are clear about the benefits of the $24 daily fee: from a complimentary drip coffee from Good Coffee’s Woodlark location to a host of wellness-oriented amenities, including MIRROR fitness classes and Peloton bikes in the 24 hour fitness center, a Well + Fit kit that can be delivered to you room and bike and gear rentals. An extensive “pillow menu” also has several options to ensure you receive the optimal night’s rest.

And for those who love to travel with their furry friends, the hotel will provide a dog bed, bowl and tasty treat at check-in.

DINING

There’s no doubt that Portland is a foodie city and you won’t have to travel far from your room to find some great options that cover all the bases right at Woodlark. In the lobby, guests are greeted with fantastic coffee and homemade kolaches at Good Coffee. Bullard, where “Texas meets Oregon,” serves up “Hometown Downtown” fare such as BBQ meats and shrimp & grits. Those craving a craft cocktail before hitting the town will delight in the eclectic Abigail Hall.

WHY WE LOVE IT

I always feel that a hotel should have a sense of place and be reflective of its locale. Portland is a unique and weird city – full of good coffee, good food and unique design. Woodlark embodies this spirit while simultaneously making you feel at home. It’s the perfect boutique address for a stay in the City of Roses.

MOUNTAIN RETREAT IN ASPEN, COLORADO

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend three full days in beautiful Aspen, Colorado. Breathing the fresh air, hiking the green mountain trails and stargazing on the cool nights was the perfect reset I needed after a busy summer.

GETTING THERE

One of the great things about Aspen is that it has its very own tiny airport with direct flights daily to O’Hare, LAX and Denver, among others. The airport is small and nestled in the mountains, so it can be frequently impacted by weather, especially in the winter time. You can also drive from Denver in about 4 hours.

WHEN TO GO

Aspen isn’t just a winter playground. While, in the colder months it does offer world-class skiing at 4 different mountains: Aspen Mountain, Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass (plus other activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling), in the summer, you’ll be able to hike, bike, fish and whitewater raft. Note that the hotels and restaurants do close for a few weeks between the summer and winter seasons, but otherwise this is a year-round destination!

WHERE TO STAY

  • Hotel Jerome – Part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, this 99 room boutique hotel is located right in the center of town, just a short walk or shuttle ride to the ski lift. The newly renovated residences are perfect for families. Don’t miss J Bar – a 19th century relic once frequented by cowboys and miners alike.
  • Aspen Meadows Resort – Nestled on the grounds of the Aspen Institute about a mile outside of town, the Aspen Meadows Resort is great for larger groups and those that want to be out in the heart of the nature.
  • The Little Nell – An Aspen icon for thirty years, this Relais & Chateaux hotel is the only five-star, five-diamond property in town and the only hotel with ski-in/ski-out access. Plus every single room has a fireplace – perfect for cozy evenings!
  • W Aspen – A newcomer in Aspen, this hotel opened just last month! Located just steps from the slopes with an incredible rooftop bar and pool, this property brings all the flare and fun you expect from the W brand. I love this option for bachelorettes and friends ski weekends.

WHERE TO EAT

There are so many good spots in Aspen! As I was there for an event, we mostly had catered meals, but I always recommend checking out the Eater guide wherever you are headed. You can find the top 15 recommended restaurants for Aspen here.

Let us help you plan your next getaway to this magical mountain retreat. Whether it be a last minute fall trip, a snowy ski adventure, or an outdoorsy vacation for summer 2020, Aspen is the perfect location. Contact us here to start planning!

TRAVEL WEEK RECAP: MY FAVORITE UNIQUE & SURPRISING HOTEL AMENITIES

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I recently spent 5 days in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. Those 5 days included over 220 meetings with partners from around the world. With so much information being thrown at you, things inevitably start to blur together. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “we have XX many rooms and they start at XX square feet”. So what really made the event worthwhile and special was learning about a lot of the surprising and unique amenities that many of my partners are offering guests. Keep reading for a round-up of some of my favorites!

  • Ritz Carlton Vienna – Rooftop Christmas Market. Christmas markets are all over Europe, but this is the only one on the roof of a hotel!
Image result for ritz carlton vienna rooftop christmas market
Source: Ritz Carlton
  • Armani Hotel Milano – 10% Discount at the Armani store. Perfect for fashionistas looking to do some shopping on their trip.
AHM Welcome Area
Source: Virtuoso
  • Thompson Nashville – $5 Oyster & Chambong Happy Hour Special. How Instagram worthy is this happy hour special? And what a deal too!
Source: Thompson Nashville
  • Belmond Cadogan Hotel – Morning Milk Delivery. Remember the good old days when the milk man came to your house every morning? Well it’s still reality at this posh new London address.
Main Entrance
Source: Virtuoso
  • Sunset Key Cottages – Breakfast in a Picnic Basket. Every cottage at this Key West resort has a wrap-around porch and in the morning, guests will step outside to find a “Rise and Dine” breakfast basket of freshly baked breads and fruit waiting for them.
Source: Sunset Key Cottages
  • Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay – Bagpipes at Sunset. Despite its location in Northern California, this resort has a real Scottish feel with its golf heritage and sunset bagpiper.
  • Heckfield Place – In-House Cinema & Popcorn Machine. I love a private cinema but the screening room at Heckfield place is next level! With a regular schedule of films and documentaries, guests can self-serve from the popcorn machine outside and catch a flick almost any time they want.
Source: Heckfield Place
  • Baglioni Hotel Regina – Vintage Fiat City Tours. Car buff? Book a stay at the Baglioni Hotel Regina in Rome and you can tour the city in a vintage Fiat 500.
Fiat 500 tour in Rome
Source: Baglioni Hotel Regina
  • Loews Seattle – Virtual Golf. Seattle can be pretty rainy most months of the year, but you can still practice your swing at the Loews hotel with their indoor virtual golf simulator.
Source: Loews Hotels
  • The Shelbourne – Genealogy Butler. As I noted in my last post, genealogy tourism is on the rise, especially in England, Scotland and Ireland. The Shelbourne hotel in Dublin has hired its very own genealogy butler to meet the demand.
The Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin Amenities
Source: The Shelbourne Hotel
  • Equinox Hotel – Sleep Science. The brand new Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards in New York is the latest venture from the Equinox team, but they are the first to declare this is not a “gym hotel.” Instead they’re distinguishing themselves with a strong focus on sleep science. Rooms are “Dark. Quiet. Cool.” with “total soundproofing, next-generation blackout blinds, and integrated technology for effortless personalization.” They even have a sleep coach available to consult with guests.
Image result for equinox hotel room
Source: Equinox Hotels
  • Badrutt’s Palace – Snow Polo. You thought polo was only for warm weather? Think again! Badrutt’s Palace in Switzerland showcases snow polo on the frozen lake in front of the hotel every winter.
Source: Badrutt’s Palace
  • Ashford Castle – Lego Butler. This magical castle hotel is on everyone’s bucket list and kids will love it too with plenty of family-friendly touches including their very own lego butler.
lego butler at ashford castle
Source: Ashford Castle
  • Kokomo Private Island – Manta Ray Adoption Program. This past summer, Kokomo Private Island in Fiji launched their manta ray conservation program with a unique adoption angle. Guests can purchase a tag and track their adopted ray throughout the course of its life.
A large manta ray being viewed by divers at Kokomo Private Island Fiji
Source: Kokomo Private Island Fiji

VIRTUOSO TRAVEL WEEK RECAP: TOP TRENDS IN LUXURY TRAVEL

I just returned from five very full days in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. For those not familiar, Virtuoso is an invitation-only network of luxury travel advisors and vetted travel partners (hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and tour operators) that helps facilitate personal relationships among the top players of the travel world. While Virtuoso hosts networking events and conferences throughout the year, Virtuoso Travel Week is the big shebang with over 6,500 global professionals in attendance. During the week, I had approximately 220 meetings and attended 17 events! With such a large volume of information to digest in such a short timespan, it was easy to glean some key trends that I’m seeing for the next level of luxury travel. Here are my top takeaways:

  • The Check-in Process is being Revamped. Luxury hotels are realizing that no one wants to start their vacation doing paperwork and talking about money. Guests want to relax and hotels want them to feel as if they’re coming home. So the boring part of the check-in process is increasingly being handled in advance of arrival with the necessary details and paperwork finalized in the weeks leading up to the trip. The new check-in process involves a glass of champagne, a casual chat in a lounge or even in your room, and a short tour of the hotel.
  • Expedition Cruising isn’t just for Antarctica. When you think of cruising, you may picture hopping around the Caribbean isles in a floating city or leisurely drifting down a European river. But these days, it’s all about expedition cruising. Avid cruisers and non-cruisers alike are looking for ways to reach the most remote areas of the earth without sacrificing for luxury. It seems every major cruise line is now expanding their fleet with expedition liners and adding more adventurous itineraries to their calendars. And it’s not only about Antarctica – you can take expedition ships to cruise the Chilean fjords, to see polar bears in the Arctic and even to temple hop around Japan.
Source: National Geographic
  • Genealogy Tourism is on the Rise. For the past 5 or 6 years, we’ve all been spitting into a tube to learn more about our ancestry. If you’re like me, and can trace the majority of your DNA to the British Isles, you may want to participate in the boom of genealogy tourism in that region. Throughout Ireland, England and Scotland, genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular focus for travelers. Whether it be a full trip or just a half day excursion – hotels and tour operators offer a variety of packages to help you trace your family line and visit sites significant to your heritage.
  • Spas and Wellness Amenities are Now the Norm. I laughed when one hotelier told me she’d been challenged by another advisor not to say the word “spa” in her 4 minute pitch. As a wellness specialist myself, I’m thrilled to see that spas and wellness features are now becoming a standard at hotels around the world. I don’t believe that wellness needs to be the sole focus for a trip, but rather it can easily be incorporated in a small way into any vacation. While many properties may just be capitalizing on this latest trend, they’re still filling an essential need. We go on vacation to relax and unwind from the stress of every day life, and what better way to do that than at a spa?
  • The 3Ps: Private Plunge Pools. If you’re a new island or beach-focused hotel, you better be sure you have private plunge pools in all of your rooms. This amenity is now becoming a signature for many beach resorts. While guests may want to spend a few hours lounging at the beach or a larger resort pool, who doesn’t want to take a quick morning or evening dip from the comfort of their own room?
  • Treehouses Aren’t Just for Kids. Remember how cool it was to have a treehouse in your backyard? These days, adults are reliving their childhood fantasies with treehouse accommodations at resorts around the world. Check out this list from Travel & Leisure for the top treehouses you can stay in.
Source: Virtuoso.com; Photo by Primland Resort
  • Hotels are Standing Out with Unique Amenities. Stay tuned next week for a full list of some of my favorite unique and personalized touches that I learned about at Virtuoso Travel Week. I’m so excited that hotels (and even cruise lines and tour operators) are starting to take it up a notch with surprising amenities and offerings. When it comes to luxury, there are plenty of hotels that can offer a stand-out room, 5-star service and gourmet food, but to me, its the little touches that truly make a stay memorable.

HOTEL REVIEW: SHINOLA HOTEL

One of the hottest hotel openings of 2019 was the Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit – yes, you read that correctly – Detroit. So when I realized I’d be in the Motor City for a wedding this summer, I knew I had to swing by and see what the buzz was all about.

You may recognize the name Shinola from the iconic (yet now defunct) Detroit-based shoe polish company. In 2011, a newcomer on the Detroit scene took over the brand name and launched their luxury design company. Today, they make high quality products from timepieces to leather goods to bicycles. Their most recent foray into the hospitality industry was made in partnership with Bedrock, a Detroit-based real estate firm.

HISTORY

Detroit was a booming industrial city at the turn of the century. With the dawn of the automotive industry, it was the heart of America. As time went on, the city succumbed to bankruptcy and violent crime and went into disrepair. Yet, in recent years, there’s been a revival of sorts, with local developers refurbishing the historic architecture and new businesses boosting the economy, signaling the second coming of Detroit. The downtown area still features many historic buildings and The Shinola Hotel, which comprises 5 buildings in total, occupies two of them, including the former Singer Building and the T.B. Rayl Co. store (Rayl’s). The hotel’s design pays homage to the history, incorporating old signage, logos and photos of the two classic buildings.

THE ROOMS

With 10 different room types, the property doesn’t lack for options. All rooms are spacious and feature mid-century modern furniture and large windows letting in plenty of natural light. Of course, you’ll find Shinola products throughout the room – from the alpaca throw on the sofa to the large bluetooth speakers on the minibar. I loved the thoughtful design touches: the USB plugs by the bed, the cute and surprising notes inside the drawers. I spent a night in the Cass King room and aside from a divine bed, I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of closet space and the size of the shower – it felt like we had our own little apartment in downtown Detroit.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

With several different dining concepts in the hotel, you hardly need to leave the premises. I tried to eat at all of them in 24 hours so here’s a quick recap:

  • San Morello – the Chef at this Italian restaurant takes inspiration from the coastal towns of Southern Italy and Sicily. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant maintains the design aesthetic of the hotel with both indoor and outdoor seating. Reservations are recommended for dinner, but I loved their take on brunch as well. The breakfast spaghetti was a hit and the Bomboloni (read: cream-filled donuts) are divine.
  • Evening Bar – This cocktail lounge has a speakeasy feel, with one entrance hidden away in the hotel and the other in an alleyway. Go here for an after dinner drink to enjoy the intimate setting and craft cocktails.
  • The Brakeman – An American beer hall with rotating craft brews. Guests purchase beer tokens when they enter and pay for drafts at the bar with their chips. I love the kitsch in this, but for those non-beer fans, they also have a full-service bar serving liquor and wine.
  • Penny Red’s – A to-go spot adjacent to The Brakeman, Penny Red’s serves up buckets of fried chicken and honey-dunked biscuits – perfectly paired with a cold brew!

Beyond the rooms and plentiful dining options, guests will find everything they need at this beautiful new, boutique hotel – from a fitness center (with Peloton bikes), to small green spaces tucked throughout, and a beautiful main area aptly named “The Living Room.” You won’t want to leave!