Veuve Polo Classic: New York

Vueve Clicquot Champagne and Polo are already a certified classic with scenes from Pretty Woman dancing through my head at the mere mention. With the combo already being a tempting combination for me a text from one of my fav road trip divas about the Veuve Polo Classic and before I knew it I was booked to New Jersey with ticket to this uber posh event.

With gorgeous city views, great vibes and flowing Veuve Chicquot champagne this event made sure to get a special marks on my calendar as it not only met but exceeded my already high expectations. Nothing beats the opportunity to step outside the regularly scheduled program of your life, get all dolled up and do something both different and absolutely fabulous.  As soon as I hopped off the shuttle and headed towards the location I felt the vibrations of fun and fancy from walking in the door.  Set in Liberty State Park you have a jaw dropping view of the impressive Manhattan skyline.  My immediate first move…head straight for the champs!! Even that very easy decision though was difficult just because of the sheer beauty of the venue and the people that inhabited it.  With special Veuve photo opts sprinkled throughout the park it is hard to stay focused in heading in one direction.  Despite the struggle I made it and quickly decided on getting a bottle of Veuve, which came with a classic Veuve carrying case, to get the show on the road.  With the champagne moving your feet and probably your mouth too, the feeling of getting all dressed up with your friends as you feeling on top of the world and ready to slay only to realize you weren’t the only one who caught the vibes.  Chic dresses and distinguished gentlemen abounded offer a sea of eye candy with the champs easily opening the doors of conversation.

So of course on top of all the eye spy fun there is the Polo Match. Admittedly I was a little late for some of the fun and when we finally made it over to the field we found a sea of blankets and picnic baskets checking out the action of the game.  While on my first go round I opted for general tickets if floor seating is not up your alley you can also upgrade to VIP for more formal seating (and of course easier access to the champagne).  To top off a full day of day drinking the fun climaxed as Alicia Keys performed to cap off what was a great day enjoying some beautiful weather with even more fabulous friends.

Next up is the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic Los Angeles on October 14th!  Mix in the Classic Fun with the easy flow and beautiful scenery of Southern California and you are sure to have a fabulous combination on your hands.

Tapping into your regal side at the Palace Hotel San Francisco

Sometimes names can be misleading, but when it comes to the Palace hotel the name is right on the money. In most recent stay at the Palace Hotel San Francisco not only did the hotel feel like a Palace I was treating like a queen.  I pride myself on choosing nice hotels, but not every hotel makes you feel regal.  Making you feel special is at the top of the priority list from the moment you pull up at Palace with welcoming doormen making sure to accommodate from the moment you arrive.  As you walk up the stairs and into the front door you realize that the welcome is just one part of an awesome experience.  The hotel itself is one of the most beautiful that I have seen.  From it soaring ceilings, to marble corridors to the awe-inspiring chandeliers in the bar area the elegance oozes out of every nook and cranny of this hotel.

Of course all that would mean little if you got to your room and were left disappointed. Luckily the rooms are just another extension of the luxury.  After traveling the world part of how I judge the best hotels is by their bathroom, especially their toilets.  It just shows an extra investment that makes the guest feel amazing and this one left me using it as a kid getaway more than for its intended purpose.  With comfy beds, lavish robes, and superb room service I could have spent the whole day cozied up in their window seat relaxing and watching the busy city vibrate with energy.

Located in a bustling block of San Francisco you have everything you may need from shops to food at your fingertips. If you set out walking within minutes you are in the shopping district where you can find staples such as Macy’s but also smaller local stores giving you a taste of bay area style.  If checking out some sightseeing is more on your map not only is the location golden so is there helpful concierge team.  After getting a quick skinny on the city and a great drink at the bar I was locked and loaded for a great time exploring San Francisco, and feeling very majestic the whole way through.

Family getaway to San Francisco

One of the first rules of travel club is sometimes you choose the destinations and other times the destinations choose you. In my most recent trip to San Francisco it clearly called my name.  With fare sales down to $200 for a ticket to San Francisco it was a great way for me to get a family getaway together to start off my daughter’s birthday month.  The city is great fun for both children and adults and with the mild weather and bountiful selection of things to do it is a great destination.

With so much to do in San Francisco its hard to know where to get started.  While I am a fan of doing a tourist tour of a city my approach is usually has a bit more of an intimate focus, steering me away from buses and large tours and closer to walking and of course public transportation.  When traveling with a family that can be a difficult choice, however, especially with little ones and San Francisco offers some great city passes that could take up hours to days of fun and new adventures.  I choose a mix this trip sticking with some classic San Francisco favorite’s pared with things I had never heard of or done before.

First up was Pier 39.  The bay is one of the most beautiful parts of San Francisco and this area of town offers shopping, attractions, restaurants and of course fantastic views of the city.  My first stop was to catch up with friends for a family friendly day at the Pier.  The restaurants span from local favorites to national mainstays but many offer fresh takes on old favorites.  The best part, of course, is the views from many of the restaurants having panoramic views of the pier.  It also gives a great chance for the adults to enjoy while the kids can spend some energy taking a look at some of the attractions.  From magic shows to shops and stores we quickly hopped from lunch to crepes to ice cream and walks to the water and even sightseeing sealions in the meantime. 

While the city tour was very tempting to me a quick visit means you really have to narrow down what you do to your top pics.  This led me to try to knock down lots of fun all in one place at the Golden Gate Park.  With beautiful parks and museums in one place it is a place where you can really get lost for the day.   First up was the California Academy of Science.  I know the geek in me is showing with this choice but when traveling with kids of different ages the California Academy of Science not only combines a museum of natural science, aquarium and pyramid it give some hands on activities for the kids that make the interactive experience a real win.  On top of that the grounds to the museum are amazing.  From sprawling parks to an authentic Japanese tea garden you could spend a whole day just walking around enjoying.  The tea garden was a particular favorite of ours with a chance to enjoy the winding trails and do something you can miss in the everyday hustle and bustle, spending time reconnecting as a family.  With just two days in a city you can feel like you are missing out on some fun but if you play your cards right in San Francisco you will definitely feel like you have had more than enough.

The Delano South Beach a sleek and modern luxury hotel

If laid back luxury in Miami is what you seek then you should look no further than the Delano South Beach for your stay in Miami.  From its sleek reception area, to its airy restaurant to its chic poolside the hotel unites the it crowd, luxury aficionados and professional powerhouses all under one blanket of Miami indulgence.  I fell in love with the Delano many years ago where the one of a kind old fashions and sought after address made me feel at home with grabbing a drink and people watching on a solo night out on the town.  Within seconds the sights from the sushi serving to the lively pool games to the gorgeous décor you definitely feel like you have arrived in Miami.

The location for the hotel is one of my favorites.  Located on 1600 block of Collins Avenue you are within a hop skip and a jump from most of the great offerings you can find on South Beach.  If you want to stay out of the party mix try heading up Lincoln Road with its great mix of shops and restaurants to get a real authentic Miami perspective.  With great opportunities to hop in on a salsa dance, grab a hookah or cigar and just relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the night the options are plentiful.  For more of the party goers you are again right in the magic spot, where you can walk or take a quick tax to the main Ocean party destinations like Wet Willies and Mangos.

For those wanting nothing more than just to relax the day away the Delano is as beautiful as it is welcoming.  Just step to the back patio where you can lounge at the open air restaurant or in the hammocks and even step in to one of the most eye catching pools that South Beach has to offer.  This gorgeous pools and its gorgeous servers is warmed and ready for you to relax, chat with friends and even make new friends as you unwind.  The expectation modern indulgence is carried from the lobby and restaurants to the rooms.   With comfortable beds and pillows you simply sink into the accommodations offer a refuge from the party hard or sun drained lifestyle you can take on in Miami.  My experience at the Delano was definitely one for the record books and should definitely be on your destination list if luxury is on the top of your list for your trip to Mimi.

Miami Weekend Takeover

Short trips are a perfect way to step out and recharge and there are few places that give you more variety in relaxation and fun that a weekend getaway to Miami. Miami has long been one of favorite places as it is almost like taking an international trip on a domestic budget.  The warm weather and international vibe make the city a huge melting pot with a little something for everyone.

Your hotel choice on a pop in flight to Miami sets the tone for what kind of weekend you should expect.  You can stay in the middle of the madness in prime time South Beach with a low Ocean or Collins address.  Just make sure to read up on the hotel instead of just looking at pictures as the lobby in some of these hotels can far outpace the reality of the rooms.  You can also go for some of the hotels on 17th and higher that tend to deliver a bit better on the rooms while a little more walking is required for fun.  If you are on the beach side of the street, however, you normally get direct beach access which is always a plus.  If R & R is your top priority going up to mid-beach area or Downtown Miami are great bets for a more relaxed and luxurious atmosphere.

I like the best of both worlds so I usually stay on Collins. I spun off from my usual SLS and hopped across the street to the Delano. The hotel is a great boutique concept with a good mix of business travelers, partiers and families.  While it is a little slower than my typical SLS expectations, the pool is to die for.  Heated to a baby hot tub temperature it is a great way to relax from a day at the beach or meet new friends who are kind enough to send over a bottle of champagne (if you are lucky).

One of my favorite things about a weekend in Miami is that you never know what you can expect. If you are open to let the opportunities find you, then you really never know where you can end up.  This trip in taking a quick beach day detour for sunblock we came to the Ritz Carton restaurant’s showcase of a new grill and White House Chefs tour.  Soon as I caught a whiff of what they were serving up I was sold and what started as a short walk to Walgreens became a great taste of new creations both on the grill and behind the bar.

While weekend trips can be short, they abbreviated length puts you on notice to make the best of it. If you can to rest dive in, if you came for fun plaster a smile on a friendly ear and get out there.  With a good attitude you can easily get everything you want out of a quick trip and when in Miami you can make sure the city owes you nothing when you pop in and pop out.

Tampa Girls Weekend Fun

Birthdays are a perfect excuse to visit long distance friends so I recently hopped to Tampa for the weekend to get a taste of this South Florida destination and celebrate with friends. A weekend trip for a purpose is great as you get to wash away some of the excuses that normally plague a short trip.  Instead of worrying about ticket prices or how to work time off in your hectic schedule it becomes a lot easier to just bite the bullet and commit.  When you are visiting a new city the choice is even more tempting as you can get some of the highlights of a city in a very fun weekend with friends.

For this trip as I have amazingly chic friends I got some of the best food and drinks that the city of Tampa had to over. Fresh off the plane, thanks to a prime airport location, I quickly started my Tampa tour and the super sophisticated Ocean Prime.  This was my first time trying this is a national restaurant chain and I was definitely not disappointed.  The lounge and bar area have a cool kids vibe flowing from the staff to the guests.  The smoking Berries and Bubbles cocktail caught my eye as soon as I walked in and with first sip I was in love.  The food and service combined with this intoxicating cocktail started my night off on a high note.  To keep the party going in Tampa is easy as pie as they have several bar areas which making something you like a breeze.  As bar hopping is a serious past time of mine it was easy to go from grunge, to bar, to hookah, and even to live music so finding something up your alley is almost guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a long night of fun and a nice day of taking advantage of some of the great shopping Tampa had to offer it was time for a birthday dinner. Where else should you celebrate one of your most fabulous friends than the world renowned Bern’s Steak House.  To say the restaurant is a culinary experience is an understatement.  From the ornate decorations to the completely separate dessert restaurant the experience at Bern’s is top of the line.  While I am not a big steak person, I could not resist as you look at the giant menu of options.  Even more exciting is that you come in with the expectations you are about to give away your first born for your meal and I was pleasantly surprised with the cost of the food considering we got course after course of exquisite dishes.  For some extra bonus points you have the opportunity after your meal to tour the kitchen, including in house butcher, and wine cellar.  A great way to appreciate your gastronomic adventure at Bern’s even more.

 

Now of course everything I did in Tampa did not consist of food and drink but those were definitely some highlights. All in all Tampa was a cool city that had a mix of small town closeness with stylish city flare.  With their closeness to the water and constant festival city one thing is for certain, Tampa and its residents know how to have fun!

Closing out Tokyo by honoring history

Japan is a very eclectic mix of old and new, but on my last day I had to dive into some of the history that makes Japan unforgettable with a visit to their Imperial Gardens and Samurai Museum. A last day on any trip can feel a little overwhelming as you sort through things missed and those you can’t miss.  My last day I decided to split between something important to me and something important to my daughter.  Frist stop was the Imperial Gardens as they were within walking distance from my hotel.

One of my main priorities in choosing Tokyo as a destination was just to relax and find a space to clear my head after dealing with a personal loss. While Japan overflows with beautiful gardens, something about the regal nature of the Imperial Gardens called to me and we off set to explore the grounds.  With several entrances to the Gardens make sure to get a clear idea on where you want your access point to me.  The Gardens are divided into a ground level portion and a different section on a steep incline.  If you go to the wrong entrance you have a steep hick ahead of you.

The Gardens offered me just what I was looking for, a serene place where you can sit back and enjoy nature.  Part of why this is such a tourist destination is how the Japanese make serenity an art, carefully plotting out waterfalls, coy ponds, bridges and monuments to give you an opportunity to carefully observe and appreciate the thoughtfulness of design.  Serving a delicate balance of nature and how human artistry can work to enhance, not take away from the beauty of nature.  With my mind feeling calm it was time to hop to my daughter’s top pick, the Samurai Museum.

Just as it sounds the Samurai Museum is an ode to the discipline, culture, and exquisiteness of the Samurai culture. The museum offers English tours of everything from the dress to a history of their battle skills and rise and fall of the samurai culture.  There is something quite special about an interactive museum as it gets you a chance to not only learn more about a culture you admire but to take a small step in their footsteps to see just how amazing their life and devotion to their craft were.  Perhaps it was all the karate movies my daughter watched her whole life but this tour gave her life.  Add in the opportunity to try on a Samurai outfit and hold a sword and this was one of the highlights of her trip.  Make sure to plan extra time for the tour as they have daily Samurai fighting exhibition that we had to miss to make a break for the airport.  All of the fun new culture Japan offers have a distinct line to their proud and innovative past that demands some reverence to their beautiful history.

 

Tips for staying above the travel transportation learning curve

On my most recent trip to Japan I was reminded of the importance of staying on your p’s and q’s to move around a new city as you learn the landscape.  It’s easy to have expectations that things should just work out our way while putting little time and attention into how this will actually happen.  Traveling in Japan, for instance, with all of the English accommodations, you can easily forget the importance of knowing some words or phrases in Japanese in order to ensure you can smoothly move around.  As I tackled hailing a cab from the Tokyo Tower and hopped in a cab where the driver spoke no English that lead to Battle Royale when it was time to pay I was reminded of some simple tips that would have made the night a lot smoother

Take notes on landmarks and directions – It is no fun being lost in a strange city.  Don’t’ assume everyone will have an idea of your destination.  If you are leaving your hotel take note of important physical markers that can assist others helping you find your way back home.

Your phone can be a resource even without service or data – International service can be very expensive with iffy coverage at best.  This doesn’t mean you can’t use your phone.  The voice recorder is a great way to provide information in a different language to others.  Also, have your hotel concierge record the name and directions to your hotel in the language of the country you are in or take a picture of a map directing others to its locations are great tools for finding your way back.

Ask questions before committing to a service – Transportation in other countries is notoriously a mix bag depending on the city and the particular driver you get.  I learned in Italy pretty quickly that cab prices can be high and can be low but asking before you take off prevents you from getting locked into a war of words where neith3er party knows what the other is saying.  Asking ahead gives you leverage to negotiate or find some alternatives if you can’t agree.  If you want to use a comfort from home, check ahead if options such as Uber are available where you are internationally. 

Use your other experiences to increase your travel savvy – I was never so happy to have a New Yorker for a college roommate than when I had a cab driver attempt to overcharge me in Japan.  As soon we took off I saw he neither knew where he was going, nor what I was saying and was too stubborn to do anything about either problem.  So when he tried to triple the charge for my return trip than I paid for my arrival it was on.  Learning not to let people take advantage of you prevents you from becoming a walking doormat internationally.  I quickly pulled out my New York negotiation skills and the haggling began.  AT the end of it I had to hop out a cab but maybe a lesson will be learned about playing black women in cabs by this cab driver.

Be diverse in your back up plans – From addresses written in foreign languages to maps to asking your hotel for an international contact you have to plan for all the things that can go wrong while still being light on your feet.  I always grab a map at my hotel and ask for details on the area that I am staying in.  Your concierge is there for a reason so take a moment to discover what a local would know about your location as the small things may be important later when you are out about exploring away from the welcoming staff at your hotel.

Day 2 in Tokyo Enjoying the mix of fun, fashion and serenity of Meiji Shrine

One of the big draws for me to visit Tokyo was getting some peace from the beautiful scenes and parks the city is renowned for so the Shibuya district was at the top of my list.  On my second day in Tokyo my quest lead me to Shibuya and the Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine to take a walk in the park if you will.  Often my travels are about seeing all I can see but crossing a city off your travel list does not have to be what wanderlust is all about.  Coming off the death of my grandmother, my motivation for traveling to Tokyo was just to take a break and appreciate my blessings and nature is one of the best spaces in which life is put into perspective for me.

Meiji Shrine is a huge area encompassing the temple area, covered walk ways and bridges, museums and historical buildings.  Unfortunately for us the access to the Treasure Museum is limited to the weekends, however the grounds in themselves are a looking glass into the world of ancient Japan.  During your stroll to the Temple you get to enjoy the tree lined walk ways and trails.  From the old wine barrel displays to the bonsai garden you have a sense of reverence for the history that is contained within the park area.

As we approached Meiji Shrine you are reminded that despite it begin a tourist attraction it is a place of worship for many as well. From the ritual cleansing of the face and hands instructions at the entrance to the shrine and prayer area there is a real sense of peace in watching others celebrate their beliefs.  I was lucky enough to even see a wedding processional solemnly parade through the courtyard.  This temple also did a great job of giving some explanations to the ceremonies and celebrations that were ongoing in the space.  During my visit I saw the harvest festival which used elaborate fruit offerings as a celebration of blessings.

Outside of the Temple the park is an explorer’s paradise. The grounds allow you to visit several historical buildings or just relax in the grass and enjoy the peace and beauty of it all.  Outside of the temple, however, the city is still bustling all around.  We decide to just wander our way to our next destination, even passing some comforts of home such as Garrets Popcorn.  We grabbed lunch just blocks away at the Omotesando Hills.  This is a go to destination for premium luxury brands, but as usual there was just food on the brain.  After a tour of the ten restaurants and their menus we settled on a small restaurant doing what Japan does best when it comes to food, showcasing simple ingredients in an exceptional way.  Even with my simple order of chicken the barrage of colors and sauces and flavors on my dish made it one of the most memorable meals I had in Japan.

While luxury brands were not my cup of tea this trip I am always interested in exploring local shops so we headed deeper into Shibuya to see what we could find. This is a huge area for shops and stores, most that are original to Japan.  After a long day of walking and exploring we headed back towards our train stop but the relaxing tour of the Meiji Shrine stayed with us as a sense of appreciation for the beauty found all around us that is celebrated in Japan.

Balanced traveling: Putting rest and relaxation into making big moves

International travel often demands you spend your time on the move, but sometimes you just have to know how to sit back and relax too to get the most out of a vacation. As I hit the hotel room in Tokyo after a couple of days’ worth of traveling I knew that my normal hitting the road was not going to work. I needed rest and relaxation and with the Peninsula giving me some amazing five star luxury I was in the right place to make that happen.

Usually there are two separate but equal trains of thought on travelling: those who hit the destination all in, soaking all the fun they can out of it and those who have R & R on the brain and plan to lay back and take a mellow break from their everyday life. Admittantly the first one is usually my go to, but I learned an important lesson on balance in my Tokyo trip.  Spending time recharging at your hotel is not only a great way to not come back from your trip needing a vacation from your vacation but it is a good way to get your money’s worth when booking luxury travel.  I now consider it mandatory getting my money’s worth time.  Enjoy the plush robe and slippers, soak your stress away in the tub, and ponder life outside the phenomenal view of your window.  All these things help define the vacation separate from the ripping and running that probably occupy your normal life.

So as much as I like this balance sitting still too long will never be up my alley. But exploring will always be a passion of mine so why not start the exploration at the hotel.  Great hotels are typically prepared for wandering spirits and have great amenities.  The pool and spa facilities at the Peninsula were exceptional.  As with most things very orderly (there was instructions on pool routine, swim, and then sauna then swim).  With the incredible views of Ginza and invigorating hot tub it did a great job of unwinding both my body and mind.  Lesson learned for me though that exploring a new city can start first with your hotel as you balance your quest for adventure with a desire to re-invigorate yourself.

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