Archives for October 2016

The Fairmont Washington DC Hotel Review

outside-the-fairmontAs a city that frequently host dignitaries the world over, Washington DC has its fair share of phenomenal hotels. With my last visit my cousin who resides in DC one of her favorites and with my most recent trip I decided to give it a go.  The Fairmont Washington DC is a hotel rich in history and a regal since of luxury that makes it a beautiful choice when you visit the city or just want to get away on a staycation within the city.

fairmont-dc-entranceAs it was recently remodeled one of the most interesting parts of the Fairmont is the influx of old and new. From the first step in the entrance you can tell it is an old hotel, but not old in the since of some tired antiquated building.  It’s polished and eloquent and with the new remodel an uplifted and elevated version of something classic.  The bar and courtyard area provide a beautiful space where you can just relax and enjoy a cocktail or even tea.

fairmont-dc-roomThe rooms are roomy and elegant but my goal in most cities is to be on the move almost the entire time I am there. What I look for is a place ideally situated to help me make that happen.  With its pristine placement in Georgetown, the Fairmont is a great starting point to exploring the food, fun and wonders of DC.  With a leisurely stroll you can be at the wharf or browsing the shops and restaurants in Georgetown.  Feeling like being even more on the move then a lot of city tours, bikes, Segway’s and even on foot, take off close to the Fairmont’s location.  The routes are beautiful so within a couple mile stroll passing parks and shops you can access a couple of great parts of the city.

fairmont-dc-lobbyWith a great location and elegant setting the Fairmont already ranked high on my list but the icing on the cake was definitely the customer service. We had a great bartender who insisted on making sure my best friend made the most of her birthday celebration and when you sign up for their rewards program other great perks like car service come hand in hand.  When in DC staying at the Fairmont is a great way to balance luxury with the ability to still have some fun on a holiday weekend.

Taking the tourist route in Washington DC

captiol-tour-washington-dc-2016-1When I get news of a life changing event in a loved one’s life I am ready and willing to hop on a plane to celebrate. When that celebration is in Washington DC the decision to join in on the fun is that much easier as I love the capital city.  The influx of people who are there for a the short haul with an eclectic city base of all ethnicities and walks of life ensures that no matter your style there is something right up your alley in DC.  This summer as I hopped into town for my cousin’s baby shower I was able to combine celebrating my best friend with a fun city tour with my kids making this a weekend to remember.

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Of course DC is synonymous with history so when you are in the city tackling some of our national treasures should definitely be on the list. This year I sought to upgrade my experience with a tour of the White House.  The reality of this, however, is that this is a pretty hard feat to achieve and essentially impossible without a request to your senator with the required 2 weeks lead time (believe me I tried to find my way around it).  I still scored tickets to a capital tour with a capitol staffer.  It’s amazing how history is held in the walls of the capital and a tour gives you a peak into that history as well as a re3minder of the beautiful complexity and journey our government has evolved from.  On top of that the area around the capital is gorgeous and begs for a long stroll in the park.  Steps away is also the US Botanic Garden Conservatory where you can see some beautiful trees and plants and in the middle of the summer get a much needed break from the heat.

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adult-milkshake-washington-dc-2016-2 teds-bulletin-washington-dc-2016DC is definitely a walking city, but when you plan to be on the move, the choice of where to stay can have a big impact on your mobility. I love the Georgetown area.  If you are up for a couple of miles walk then you are within striking distance to great shopping, sites, and of course great food.  Although I am addicted to some of my favorites like Ted’s Bulletin (yes please to alcoholic milkshake) and Busboys and Poets, DC is a great place to just explore.  This time I made some great discoveries in the waterfront.  With the amazing views of the city and a plectra of choices catching in the views and the vibes.  Lines are a clear give away that something delicious may be brewing close at hand and the line outside of washington-dc-2016-8Oohs and Aahs did not steer me wrong.  The soul food was some of the best I ever had with creamy homemade mac and cheese and greens that were to die for.

washington-dc-2016-9With a boat load of calories that I needed to walk off, it was once again time for my favorite DC activity…Exploring. With a quick transportation system, food places galore, a ton of unique shops, and of course history around every corner I think by foot is by far the best way to spark and adventure.  As I was filling my trip to DC with firsts I set off to visit the Smithsonian museums and parks.  smithsonian-tour-washington-dc-2016This huge complex of museums can give you everything you are looking for, from art to science to history.  I went for an old reliable when it comes to traveling with kids, the National Museum of Natural History. washington-dc-2016-10This interwoven museum sleekly guides guest in an out of a flow of exhibits which is great for keeping the kids busy and occupied.  As an Smithsonian adventure includes easy access to the Smithsonian Gardens, National Mall and great views of our national treasures it was a great day where both mommy and kiddos ended tired but utterly happy.

Getting the best of both worlds with a New York and New Jersey visit

enjoying-the-view-at-liberty-house-in-newarkAfter more than a decade of visiting New York to see my best friend, news that she was heading to Jersey was a bit of a shock. Not just because I thought she would be a lifetime New Yorker but also because of the image I always had of New Jersey that included less fun that the hustle and bustle of the city.  Over the years, however, I have become pleasant surprised of the mix I get of fast and a slower pace when staying in Jersey and hopping into the city.

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Easy access to New York City is probably at the top of the list as to why Jersey can be an option when planning a visit to the city. Admittantly I am a little slow when it comes to the public transportation options (hey I have lived in a really, really hot city most of my life) but I was pretty easily able to leave Times Square and take the New Jersey transit to Newark.  This gives you the flexibility to stay close, but not too close where you don’t also get a chance to relax on your trip.  Even when driving we were able to hop into the city for family functions, Shake Shack and of course to do a little partying.

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Yes New York has a lot of fun and shopping and a vibrant city life, but this trip I was actually able to get a more effervescent picture of some of the perks of Jersey as well.   As this was a family trip for me Jersey offered some great options to relax with friends, let the kids play, and of course have some amazing food.  My highlight for the trip was our Sunday Funday.  enjoying-the-views-at-liberty-house-in-newark img_3491 strawberry-shortcake-at-liberty-house-in-newarkWe started at Liberty House.  This restaurant offers upscale indoor dining merged with relaxed outdoor cabanas and tables.  Besides the amazing views of the New York cityscape there was a wide field just begging for the kids to play and for us to get some mommie alone time.  Well until the fun became irresistible and I had to hop in on a little of their playtime.  Relaxing outside views, crafty cocktails and yummy deserts are always a win for me.  Afterwards, off to Cuban Pete’s in Montclair.  This restaurant oozed authentic Cuban vibes from the happy birthday congo songs to the delicious food selections.  Take note that BYOB is your only drinking options and you are sure to have a great time!  So when you are looking for a trip to New York that is family friendly and affordable consider Jersey as an option to get a fix for a little of everything you looking for.

Hotel Excelsior Gallia review: A well deserved five stars!

excelsior-hotel-gallia-maserati-car-serviceI often find the hotel rating system is a little too generous in giving out stars, but in the case of the Excelsior Hotel Gallia in Milan 5 stars simply is not enough.  From the ambiance, to the rooms, to the car service, to the bar, my experience at this hotel was bar none my favorite.  Located directly across from the central train station in Milan the hotel was a welcome change from the days of movement from my cruise.  From its original construction in 1932 the hotel brings sophistication and luxury and once you step in the doors the recent renovation brings a sleek futuristic appeal to the hotel.

gallia-front-entrance rooftop-bar1  I frequent nice hotels often so despite the beautiful aesthetics of the exterior the hotel did not truly have me hooked until I stepped in the door. The beautiful scent of linen struck me as I walked in to be greeted by welcoming faces and from there I was in love.  The hallways and staircase carry the balance of old and new luxury all throughout the hotel.  With luxurious beds and posh bathrooms if you just stayed tucked away in your room chances are you would be a happy camper.

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hotel-excelsior-gallia-bartenders hotel-excelsior-gallia-bar-snacks-2 hotel-excelsior-gallia-bar-bites excelsior-hotel-gallia-whiskey-tastingIf being on the move is more your speed the hotel again has just what you need both inside the hotel and around Milan. As always, on the move is my first choice so we ran down to a very helpful concierge who also clued me into one of the best hotel perks I’ve ever had… local car service in a Maserati.  This alone made my daughters trip as well cruised down the Milan streets heading to Duomo.  Even better you can also get them to pick you up before 8 pm so our rides were set.  As we ended our day on the streets of Milan we found the surprises for the hotel did not stop there.  With a beautiful pool and gym to greet us through the spa the kids had a chance to relax and enjoy as well.  My night continued on at their bar.  Located on the top of the hotel I met people from Milan, London and even the US who came to enjoy the libations, incredible view, great music and hot bartenders!  As I speak bartender fluently my night ended with a steady stream of complimentary snacks, a small whiskey challenge and joining in on a bachelorette party’s request to hear “It’s Raining Men”.  All and all and extraordinary stay at an extraordinary hotel.

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Making the most of Milan

duomo-1After a week at sea, there is nothing like coming back to land again, and if that land is Milan you are especially lucky. After a wonderful seven day cruise, a train ride back from Genova, and dizzying direction to our hotel we wind up in Milan and quickly recover to hit the streets.  After all the work to research my cruise destinations I was on the short end side of knowledge when it came to what to do in Milan.  Luckily my hotel was extraordinary and I was able to quickly learn that Duomo was the place to visit when in Milan.  With that the hotel car whisked us away to the Duomo area, where I quickly could see I would be in trouble if I did not keep myself busy with all of the shopping options that surrounded me at every corner.

galleria-vittorio-emanuele-7galleria-vittorio-emanuele-1The Duomo pavilion is a huge concourse of shopping, churches, restaurants and museums that attract thousands of international tourist each year. The first stop for us was the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.  While the beautiful open air pavilion was full of stores I had to swear off due to a week of too much fun on vacation, the plaza easily lured us to some great eats as the smell of genuine Italian cuisine whiffed passed our noses.  We grabbed a seat in the covered patio that allowed me to do two of my favorite things, eat and people watch.  With pizza, pasta, fresh bread and wine on deck I was in heaven as I watched the hustle and bustle of the stylish visitors on deck.

 

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da-vinci-museum da-vinci-museum-2As I was still trying to get my footing on the city map after lunch I wandered in the opposite direction of Duomo and right into a surprise highlight for my trip… the Leonardo Da Vinci museum. While he may be renowned as an artist, Da Vinci was a true renaissance man, conquering everything from flying machines to the Last Supper.  The museum is a great fit for the family as many of his drawings have been mocked up so you can see what the machine designs would be.  From submarines to war machines this museum had it all.  On top of that given the painting the Last Supper is a hard ticket to get your hands on, you can check out a 3D replica of the painting at the museum and hear the interesting backstory behind the masterpiece.  This museum was so amazing I actually spent a little too long and had to hurry out to catch the real purpose of my outing…Duomo Cathedral.

duomo-front duomo-side duomo-square duomo-catacombs duomo-cathedralThe majestic exterior of the church wets your palette to the treasures that lie within, under and even on top of the church.  I wanted a taste of it all so I brought a full tour ticket with elevator access for the Duomo rooftop.  After a quick tour of the church that still has mass throughout the day and different access for church goers, we headed down to the catacombs.  This excavated part of the church guides you through the burial area for many thousands of years ago.  With a mix of eerily creepy and unarguably interesting information it is a great place for your horror and history buff alike.

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Next up was the Duomo rooftops. Upon approach with our lift tickets we were informed that the stroller was not allowed.  After some convincing I got a pass but please note if walking is an issue the rooftops are a hard place to navigate.  The walkway takes you around the Duomo rooftop and even allows you to walk on the granite of the rooftop in some places.  The scene is awe inspiring.  It is truly a 360 degree view of the city and I great opportunity to appreciate craftsmanship and architecture from hundreds of years before.  That being said climbing up and down all of that area with a heavy baby and a car seat is beyond a challenge.  In an attempt to ease the pain in my arms we bolted for the stairs before making it back to the elevator. Unfortunately that only ended my day with both my arms and legs in agony, but my heart and mind were all in on this amazing peak into Milan.