My favorite things: Miami weekend pop up edition

There is something so special about a quick weekend trip because you are willing to put your foot on the gas to make sure you get all the fun in on one weekend. When your turn around trip has a destination of Miami you already know it is going to be one helluva weekend.  So while my trip to Miami was filled with pre-planned fun like the Museum of Ice Cream and the Veuve Carnival, I also wanted to make sure to get in some of my old and new favs to check off my list

To start the hotel. The location of your hotel can be tricky because you have to balance the cost of South Beach hotels with the convenience of being close to the action.  For me being centrally located in a city where you are on the move helps you keep the party going when the wear and tear of a busy weekend may start to kick in.  For this trip I pulled a sister hotel from one my Miami favs and stayed at the Redbury Miami.  This hotel is new to the SLS properties and while just across the street from sister hotels like the SLS South Beach and the Delano it definitely offers its own unique twist on luxury Miami hotels.  As the hotel has had recent upgrades it has a very retro renaissance vibe that is completely different.  The rooms are definitely a pleasant surprise from some of the South Beach tiny quarters.  With bigger spaces in both bed area and the bathroom you get more of a chance to really stretch out.  What may be missing in the lux factor is definitely made up in two other important areas, price and access.  Yep this hotel hits a much lower price point than say the SLS and offers breakfast as part of the room packages.  To add to that attraction you also get all the access to the sister hotels such as the restaurant at the Raleigh, the pool, club and beach at the SLS and even the infamous Delano pool.  If your goal is to be on the move than access alone makes the value of this hotel triple what the charges are.

Next comes the fun. Miami is a great to do a little of everything so yes to strolling clubs on South Beach and also yes to planning a more purposeful evening at a club like Liv.  With the first night being filled with Museum of Ice Cream fun we decided to check out one of the tried and true bars Wet Willies.  Located in the middle of ocean of course you head there for the strong frozen drinks but the crowd of all walks of life that frequents the bar is equally amazing in a people watching train crash kind of way.  Sunday was of course reserved for Sunday Funday starting with the infamous brunch at Nikki Beach.  While it is not for the club like atmosphere the brunch is also delicioso.  With live music and dancers, food at every turn, and drinks pouring all while enjoying the ocean breeze it is a must for anyone who likes a side of fun with their food.  And as if that was not enough Sunday Fun we headed to the pool at the Mandarian Oriental giving phenomenal views of the city and a posh place to relax or turn up as you choose.  Later on in the night we took on the challenge of Liv which of course comes with long waits at the doors and high entrance fees.   All that said wondering up on a performance of Gucci Mane and Little Wayne at the club is just a normal thing that could happen during your visit.

Finally is food. Yep there is ton of titillating treats to eat in Miami so do not dare miss out on some of the deliciousness.  This time I tried something a little new with Prime Italian.  With patio seating that keeps you in the middle of the action and food that is simply amazing it is a great way to add some real laughs into what could be a quiet evening.  When all this is done while you stuff your face with impeccable scallop stuffed lobster there is no shortage of must haves for the night.  So when in Miami for the weekend do not be afraid to take on the challenge and she just how much moving and shaking you can get done in a weekend!

Honoring the legends in our midst at the BE Women in Power Legacy Gala

In its annual celebration of the influence of women, the Black Enterprise Women in Power Summit represents all things powerful and beautiful about sisterhood and women and the unique challenges and perspectives that we experience and embrace.  The three day conference offered opportunities to learn, party, cry and challenge yourself in a way that sets a fire to your passions like few conferences have done for me.  To start off the festivities the summit pulls a surprise order, placing their signature event on Day 1: the Women in Power Legacy Awards Gala.  The gala allows women to acknowledge and uplift the greatness, challenges, and ferocity we see in heroines around us and also provides them an opportunity to share their perspective of their success.

As I pulled up in my car on the first day running in fashionably late to the gala it dawned on me I really was not sure what to expect. Going to a conference alone strips you of the option to rely on those you know to provide a good time.  Without the crutch of comfort you are forced to open your mind and heart to the people and experiences that may lie in store.  As I walked in a wee bit anxious as I maneuvered to find a seat at the gala something different happened, the energy of the women in the room began to energize me.  From friendly smiles to compliments to my dress to welcome invitations to join tables I began to understand the potential you can tap into when you have a room full of successful, driven and positive women all in one place.  Just like that this energy quickly removed the newness and new acquaintances quickly began to feel like old friends as we ate, laughed and listened to the phenomenal and inspirational stories of the recipients.

As a high point to the strong and powerful women that filled the room the Gala honored recipients who not only shined in their career but inspired others with their ability not just to succeed but to see the bigger picture of their roles as a connection for others to reach their greatness. From trailblazers in the financial world such as Edith Cooper, who climbed to elite levels in the man’s world of the New York Stock Exchange, to Jayne Kennedy Overton whose beauty only paled in comparison to her agility to spot and seize opportunities as she moved from dancer to actor to one of the first black women sportscasters.  By far, however, my favorites were Carmen Lavallade and Donna Brazille.  Ms. Lavallade has become renowned as a dancer, but in hearing this sprite 87 year old speak you realize that dancing was only the means she used to realize the beautiful spirit bursting from inside her.  As she shared her wisdom of where things had been to where things are you could not help but take a step back and think wow.  From the speakers to your fellow attendees there were so many beautiful stories left untold, to be told, and retold that compiled the history of us.  This history was best closed by Donna Brazile, the feisty political powerhouse who got the house shaking when she share the wisdom of Ms. Lavallade, to pull yourself up by your vagina.  While the comment took some by surprise the message sure should not have.  Instead of hiding behind the depiction of women, especially black women, we have to trust ourselves enough to dig deep, recognize the power blazing inside of us and prepare to unleash it on the world until others can neither dim nor deny that light.  With a fiery speak taking us through history and to the time that we now can claim as our own, the Gala laid an impressive foundation to a conference full of trailblazing.

 

(Photos courtesy of Black Enterprise)

Three days in the Bay Area

The more opportunities to explore, the merrier when it comes to weekend travel so the three for one opportunity to explore in the bay area are second to none. There are only a few places that you can get a completely different experience with each day of vacation, but the bay area is definitely one of those places where you can experience the completely different worlds of Oakland, San Francisco and Napa Valley on a relatively short trip.  So as I hopped into San Francisco over the weekend I knew I was up for the challenge of getting something new and different out of all three areas.

First up, San Francisco. This city serves an amazing mix of modern and old time charm so you can absolutely get several different vibes in this city alone.  As I have been to San Francisco before I decided to be more focused in my approach of the city, trying out things and places that were both new and old to me.  I love the shopping in the heart of the city and as the parking situation is a bit overwhelming my hotel was in the mix of shops galore.  Even in their shopping fusion the city shows is change with the time as you find time honored shops mixed in with top notch luxury stores from around the globe.  While the shopping scene in the afternoon was familiar the look for dinner was completely new.  El Mansour is a great Moroccan restaurant showcasing the international playground San Francisco has come to be.  If atmosphere and fun ambiance are on your menu you have found the perfect place.  With a feel of steeping into a Marrakesh diner and a belly dancer entertaining and encouraging diners participation you are sure to get in on the fun.  Make sure to end your night with the drawn mint tea which is a presentation with the best reward of all, a delicious product.

While San Francisco serves up tons of bars and clubs I was in the mood for a bit more intimate feel and for a nightcap I popped over the bridge to Oakland. Oakland has a great collection of bars open late, vibing with music to move your feet and all within close walking distance.  For the libation lover you can stop and hang at a bar focused on delivering hand crafted cocktails and for your party animal there are clusters of small clubs providing opportunity for those who are mover and shakers and those who like to set back and watch.

Up in the morning and now on to my next destination, Napa Valley. While traffic can make this a considerable drive out the city, you quickly get the point upon arriving to Napa that the distance was completely worth it.  The beautiful sights and sounds give a rustic country energy to your trip and I don’t think I have to mention the food and wine can have you quickly calling this nirvana.  The slower energy, drastically different from the busy streets of San Francisco, beg you to slow it down so that’s just what I did.  If chasing down the best winery is not your speed check out the beautiful city of Yountville where restaurants, bars, wineries and B & B’s are all clustered together to compact your fun and range.

To round out the fun I let my greedy girl inside run free in Oakland. From giant crab platters one night to fun and festive Cuban fare for breakfast Oakland provides the perfect medium.  With its own unique style Oakland is great place to spend your days relaxing and your nights partying.  Perfect example was a quaint brunch destination, Cana.  With great mojito pitchers you start your day off with a great brunch, but as the afternoon rolls around the focus rolls from food to moving your feet as they bring in live music to help you burn off some of your buzz and calories.  All in all the bay area gives you everything from busy city living to countryside peace and all in time to have you back at work on Monday.

Travel Tip of the Week: Fare Sale with United

Yearning to travel this spring or summer???? Well good news the fare sale competition is on and especially if international destinations are on your way now is the time to grab your tickets and get on your way.  From Barcelona to Venice and even parts of Africa the deals from New York are as low as $400.  To add icing on the cake it is a United fare sale so you don’t have to worry if you are flying the Greyhound of the air and focus your attention to planning the rest of what is sure to be a fantastic vacay!!

Here are just some of the deals you can find on Secret Flying and other websites:

Los Angeles to the Turks & Caicos for only $380 roundtrip

Many US cities to Hawaii (& vice versa) from only $395 roundtrip

Austin, Texas to Amsterdam, Netherlands for only $395 roundtrip

Detroit to Rome, Italy for only $430 roundtrip

 

Using Google Flights to find the perfect flight for your budget

Google Flights price tracking system is a great way to jump on great deals for your dream vacations.  Matching your budget for a flight the old fashion way could take hours of searches and daily follow ups just to make sure a great deal does not escape you.  In order to avoid the disappointment and near misses you can set up a flight alert on Google Flights to make sure if a deal pops up you will be the first to know.  While there are various sites offering the fare alert option, the ease and convenience of the Google option makes it one of my favorites.

First getting your fare stalking started is a breeze with google. One you have done a search for Google.com/flights you can flip a switch and turn on the ability to track prices. As it reflects your search criteria this is especially helpful if you have some restrictions in the time frame in which you can go.  It also gives great additional information like ways to save by altering your itinerary a day or two earlier or later.  These are great ways to get better bang for your buck while sticking close to the time frame you had in mind.

Secondly I like being able to restrict my options. I have fare alerts set up on other sites but mainly I only get flight deals for super budget airlines.  If you have an airline preference, Google Flights lets you specify that as well as stops preference.  Without that all that glitters definitely is not gold and while cheap you can end up with a really, really long flight on a really, really bad airline.  It may leaving you wishing you had just paid more and gotten what you wanted.

Lastly once the price tracker is turned on you not only get alerts you can easy rerun your search and have a quick graph of where the prices have gone. Knowing this gives you a good idea of when to pull the trigger and buy.  Especially if you are planning far in advance it allows you to get an idea of the trends of different airlines and for different times so you grab the best price possible, not just the best price at the time of your search.  You already use Google tons, why not let it work for you in putting together the flights for your dream vacay?

A Vegas New Year’s that gave me everything I needed

With all the razzle and dazzle that Vegas represents, wouldn’t it seem like the perfect location to bring in your New Year’s? Well for me this year the answer was yes and no.  The trip was everything I did not expect Vegas but in the perfect way.  When I first thought of the idea of going to Vegas for New Year’s Eve of course you think of all the parties and fun there is to be had on a regular weekend in Vegas.  Surely on a holiday weekend the fun is amplified.  Unfortunately while that might be true so is the traffic and cost.  I learned the hard way after arriving in around 8:30 pm that Vegas shuts down the strip after 5:30 pm for New Year’s Eve.   This means a 15 minute ride to get from the airport becomes a harrowing tale of getting around blockades taking closer to two hours.  But once you hop out the Uber you are again feeling on top of the world.  We ran over to check only to find out that hotels are limiting guest to those staying on premises for New Year’s Eve.  Okay now that is a real delay but it goes to show that good times are not always planned.

The key to a successful New Year’s celebration for me then became about hotel choice and exploring some of the other fun things about Vegas. Room choice cannot be easily corrected, so lucky for me I made a wise choice with the Aria.  As one of the more recent hotels on the strip the rooms are new and still luxurious.  As with all Vegas hotels they have their share of clubs and restaurants, even if they are not home to some of the main events.  But with an hour left to New Year’s I got my first fill of New Year’s Eve jollies with the phenomenal fire work display blasting from the roof of the Aria.  It was a great way to just stop the rush and hurry to get to the next thing and just enjoy!  From there instead of big clubs, lounges and restaurants caught my eye as a great way to have some things that feel your belly and things that fill your soul, enjoying quality time with the important people in your life.  The champagne I brought in the airport did not hurt at all as soothing my disappointment that my New Year’s did not go as planned, but instead went exactly as it should have gone.  I ended my night with late night winning on the roulette table that put some padding in my pocket and the fun mix of people circulating the table made sure to put a smile on my face.

The rest of my short trip to Vegas was dedicated to something that is equally renowned when it comes to sin city…the food. I popped into the Wynn to get a taste of a jazz brunch that had eluded me in other trips.  The Country Club in the Wynn is a popular steakhouse with a brunch that is nothing short of phenomenal.  The buffet items were barre none and I have been to a lot of brunches!  From cauliflower salad, to crab legs, to too many meat variations to name and personalized waffles this buffet had it all.  With a bottomless mimosa/Bellini, Bloody Mary selections and views of the golf course that made you completely forget where you were the Country Club had it all.  Mix in a great live band and yes even more food as you have an entrée selection at your table there was nothing more I could want from a 36 hour trip to Vegas…to my surprise.

Cabo Azul: A shining star in luxury family vacations in Cabo

Cabo Azul redefines luxury family vacay on the beautiful coast of Cabo.  At some family hotels you have to sacrifice some luxury in order to get the amenities that make it work for your family, especially small children. In an unexpected turn of events I ended up doing a quick booking at Cabo Azul with no idea what to expect.  I was literally blown away as this is a luxury hotel where you can do both, family fun and max out the luxury.  My go to last minute hotel app, Hotel Tonight, specializes in providing immediate hotels available at discounted pricing so it’s a great way to find a great hotel in a hurry, such as a cab ride from the airport.  They break the hotel down in categories of luxe, modern, basic, etc. so I hopped in a taxi, booked a hotel and hoped for the best.

With low priced booking you are almost left waiting for the other shoe to drop, how can a great hotel be super cheap???? With hotel prices in Cabo ranging from the hundreds and work its way up pretty quickly it can be a mixed bag of what you get in reality.  With my expectations low price I found I figured at the very least I would have a safe place to lay my head for the night.  But upon walking in I got waaay more than I expected.  Across the street was a great strip center with food and hand crafted vendors to give you every bit of the luxury but an escape from what can be high hotel prices.  Inside the hotel, everything from the doors, to rooms to pools was big and lux! With various buildings it can take your while to make it around the whole complex as bigger is better is definitely the theme for the hotel.

Of course the first pit stop is your bag drop off to your room. The entire decoration provides an exotic Moroccan theme with separate living and dining rooms, perfect for family living.  With a bed so comfy it was hard to want to move around but with an adult’s pool jumping from my balcony I knew I had to make my rounds.  The grandness of the hotel reaches its pinnacle in its chapel area.  With handcrafted details surrounding the chapel it is the perfect place to commit to something sacred.  The gorgeous ocean views on top of it do no hurt one bit.  As nice as the first two pools are, the real masterpiece is the main pool.  As I approached at night the pool was lit by large fire pits inside the pool.  Complimented best from the luxury lounge areas that surround the pool so you can watch the kids and have a good time of your own throughout the area in their warm waters of the pool.

With great restaurants mixed in within the pool area is a great showpiece that you could really spend the entirety of your vacation on.  But oh wait you can’t because the beach area is equally breathtaking.  With meticulously combed sand and sprawling beds and beach chairs, every seat is the best seat in the house to enjoy the sunrise or set and get a bit of the local flavor.  As opposed to some busier beaches I spent an entire morning out on the beach almost by myself, making it a great place to give kids freedom to play without worrying about who is around.  I capped off my stay at the Cabo Azul having breakfast by the pool, waited on by some friendly and attentive waiters who went above and beyond to make sure I got the most out of Cabo Azul.  Although my stay was short the Cabo Azul has my full attention on a perfect place for a family getaway in stunning Cabo.

 

The Cape Hotel: Unparalleled luxury escape in Cabo

Finding the right luxury hotel is all about the right fit, some can be fancy but a little too stuffy while others can have all the amenities and none of the soul, but The Cape Cabo provides the perfect blend of sophistication and passion for an amazing stay in Cabo San Lucas.  When searching hotels it is easy to be swayed by elegant pictures and long lists of features from pools to spas.  The challenge can be that from a distance it is very hard to tell what the heart of the hotel is.  For me the heart of The Cape Cabo is the ocean, as the modern architecture of the hotel is masterfully sculpted out of a beach.  This pulse of the hotel makes everything fluid from walking into the entrance to the smooth flow from reception to relaxation and even to the attitude of hotel staff.  Everything breathes in and breathes out like the rhythmic pattern of the beach or the soft pull of the wind coming onto shore. 

 

With the ocean as its core everything else in the Cape seems to revolve around this foundation.  Walking in it is your first breathtaking view and from your rooms, especially the suites it is a prized centerpiece.   The suites offer an open concept again readily pulling your eyes to the ocean with nothing to interrupt your view.  While the large bed, open shower, and claw foot tub were all exceptional, the balcony bests puts you at the foot of the heart of the hotel, the beach.  From the swing bed you can eat, drink and even sleep to the sounds and sites of the ocean, which is particularly amazing at night as the stars call to you from universes beyond our sight. 

Once out of your room the easy yet elegant flow of the hotel is a showcase.  My favorite is of course the pool.  With infinity edges overlooking the ocean and seats both in and out of the water that celebrate your views you cannot help but feel like you are a part of a very small, very exclusive club.  The staff do all they can to support that notion, cheerfully teaming up to provide every comfort they can.  When our bartender stepped away to see about us extending our stay it was completely confirmed to me that the soul of the hotel emanates through all the eye can see when at the Cape.  On Sundays especially there is a brunch and live band that stole my heart in a serenade sealing The Cape Cabo as one of my top hotels in Cabo and beyond. So as we dined on their exquisite cuisine or pulled out the speakers and had our own private dance party I could not help but let this passion creep into me, gently washing away the demands of a busy mother and business woman. 

ME Cabo: Beach, party and tequila in the heart of Cabo

With gorgeous sea views and situated just moments away from the pulse of the city the ME Cabo Hotel is a party lover’s dream in the heart of Cabo.  Initially I noticed ME Cabo when I stayed at a neighboring property and could hear the pulse of the hotel from my much more quite family hotel.  Moments like this always make you think the grass may be greener on the other side and in the case of the ME Cabo you may just be right.  Located a quick walk from Downtown Cabo whether you want to stay onsite or venture out into Cabo fun is just minutes away.

Although rooms and amenities are normally pretty important to me (make no mistake their rooms are in line with a Four Diamond hotel) when you step in the Me Cabo and look out at the gorgeous pool and seascape you know what the main attraction is. Yes Blue Marlin Ibiza Beach Club and the Night Rose Bar call to you as you walk in the door and if you aren’t careful may never let go once you get the party started.  We arrived to welcome drinks and tours of the hotel begging for us to change clothes and get out in the fun.  With pool parties vibing on the weekends and festive guests ready for shots and convo you can quickly lose yourself in the fun.

A little too much of the above and I did not make it out to Downtown Cabo for late night fun but all the clubs and bars to your hearts content are just a straight walk away. What I was able to enjoy however, was lots of pool and beach fun.  Depending on where you visit in Cabo you may be hit with the unexpected when it comes to making a stop for a beach vacay… beaches that you cannot walk on due to the rocks.  Yes often in Los Cabos the rocks on the beach can make it a pretty unusable area.   For the Me Cabo, however, they are directly located on Playa El Medana with a beautiful view of Land’s End, the Arch and Lover’s Beach so access to the beach is just a stone’s throw away.  Once you hit the sand you understand that the party is not just a night close to Me Cabo but a lifestyle as vendors and popular restaurants surround the beachfront property.  I started my morning at The Office and with their generous pours of Don Julio 1942 the party quickly got started.  So if fun in the sun is your main objective you really don’t have to look much further, Me Cabo has a perfect blend of luxury and party in the heart of Cabo.

Dream vacation of relaxation in Cabo

Cabo is full of everything perfect for a dream vacation. There is something for everyone, beautiful beaches for the sun soaker, adventure galore for the thrill seeker, more clubs than you can count for the partier.  For all of these reasons plus the quick flight time from the US makes Cabo a mainstay in weekend getaways.  So for my most recent trip to Cabo what fun did I get myself into??? Well absolutely nothing and it was just what the doctor ordered!

I am all for a vacation that helps me break my normal cycle of business and gives me some of the spice of life I am normally missing. Especially when this destination involves a beach my sites are almost automatically set on getting in some fun in the sun with jet skis or scuba diving to zest up my life.  For this vacation, however, I was all about the R & R and man it looked good on me.

I will admit part of my freefall into my relaxation sabbatical was my hotel. The Cape Hotel is a beautiful luxury hotel nestled into the scenic Cabo Oceanside.  After a long flight and long car ride the Cape offered a beautiful escape.  With clouds and rain in the forecast it all merged together for the perfect storm of why not just chill.  So chill I did.  Yes I chilled at the pool where poolside service can even mean in the pool service.

I chilled in the cabanas when the rain began to pour instead of standard scatter to the room to get out of the rain. 

I chilled on my fantastic balcony with swing included and allowed the sound of the ocean to draw me to sleep.

I even chilled in their soaking tub in the middle of the room as I let the bubble bath take me away.

Pretty much despite my pre-trip plans I took relaxation to a whole new level on the trip.

For me this very, very relaxing trip to Cabo was a great reminder of just how good change is. As I spend most of my days constantly in motion I have convinced myself that this is just a part of who I am.  While this is true it is important to devote time in your life to things that do not come as easy…like being still and relaxing.  By nurturing a less prominent side of yourself you all your body and mind time to recharge and actually take on your life bigger and better than ever.  As I sat starring at the crashing waves of Cabo San Lucas I was reminded that life is indeed filled with wonderful things and most of them are just a reach away if we allow ourselves the opportunity.

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