Although I travel frequently to Orange County, this was my first visit to this part of California. A favorite winter destination for Canadian snowbirds - including many of my Vancouver friends- the average winter high temperature is around a pleasant 22 ° C. On the other hand with an average July temperature high around 40 ° C, one would think it would take a special reason like a convention or a festival to motivate people to visit. Surprisingly though the hotel pool was crowded with kids as well as adults, splashing away under the blazing noon day sun.
I knew that this area was part of the Sonoran Desert, that the San Andreas Fault ran through it and that was why there were hot springs, but that was the limit of my knowledge. Flying over miles of brown arid desert and then seeing this long swath of green valley, I realized that I needed a quick geography lesson. The introductory information in this post is for those of you who, like me, also know little or nothing about the area of Palm Springs and Indian Wells.
With two main dining possibilities other than room service as Sirocco was closed, on my first evening at the hotel I opted to try Cava for supper. Cava is the hotel restaurant adjacent to the pool area, serving fresh California cuisine.
After some debate with myself about the carbohydrate/caloric load of a burger I ended up ordering the Greg Norman Kobe burger and fries. It came with aged cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, and a sundried tomato horseradish sauce. I only took a couple of bites of the bun but enjoyed the Kobe beef patty with the onions, lettuce and cheese. The burger was very satisfying after the foodless plane trip and I also treated myself to a glass of Wairau River New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
I took the Westjet direct flight from Vancouver that leaves at 1 PM and arrives in Palm Springs shortly before 4 PM. The taxi ride from the airport to the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort Indian Wells is about half an hour. Check in was quick and key in hand, I was soon on my way to my room. I have a rule that "if I can't carry it myself it can't come with me" so instead of enlisting help I lugged my own luggage down seemingly endless corridors to the room. But it was worth the effort for the room location.
My room, the basic resort view room with a king bed, was large and spacious. The view over a golf course was of lush greenery and trees, with the muted grey-blue of the mountains in the distance.
And having the resort view room rather than a room with a pool view meant it was also blissfully quiet, no music, voices or splashing from the pool area.
This time en route to board the Crystal Symphony for a short cruise from New York to Halifax, I planned a two night stop-over in New York for dining and theatre. Despite the limited time I managed to enjoy several excellent restaurant meals and three shows.
I had dinner one evening at Hakkasan in London. I loved the food there, only bemoaning the fact that as I was dining on my own, I could not taste more than a couple of dishes, but they served a soft shell crab preparation that I thought was the best I had ever tasted.
Element New York Times Square West
311 W 39th Street, New York, 10018
Ph: (212) 643-0770
On visits to New York over the past few years I have been fortunate to have family living in Manhattan so its been a while since I tried out any mid-town hotels. This time I decided to check out one of the Starwood Hotel Group's boutique hotels, prior to embarking on a cruise out of New York. For my 3 nights (actually more like 2.5 nights as I caught a red-eye into Newark) I chose the Element New York Times Square West. Interestingly, this was first suggested to me 2 years ago by one of my readers, in a comment on my New York in Winter 2012 story.
Vienna may be variously termed the City of Music, the City of Dreams or the City of Waltz, but it most definitely merits the title of City of Fabulous Food and coffees. In a short visit one can only touch the surface of the restaurant, cafe and coffeehouse scene but I certainly got a taste, so to speak, of the overall food scene, and I did not have a single bad dining experience.
The IAEA Ball at the Hofburg Palace was a larger and seemingly more formal affair than the Johann Strauss Ball of the previous Saturday. Because of the International nature of the sponsoring committee there was an amazing array of different national dress to be seen, as well as exquisite gowns worn by so many of the guests.The men all looked so elegant and handsome in their dark suits and tuxedoes. This time there were no ticket mishaps or funny stories so this post will mainly feature pictures from the ball.
Vienna is known as the city of grand balls, with more than 450 balls taking place annually, providing more than 2000 hours of dancing. The Carnival season in Vienna is filled with more than 150 large formal balls and hundreds of smaller dances that are held from before New Year till Lent. The 2013/14 ball season opened with the Vienna Red Cross Ball held at the City Hall in November. On New Year’s Eve, Le Grand Bal at the Hofburg Palace brought in the New Year.
During the week that I was in Vienna, I could have gone to four balls including the Coffee-House Owners Ball and the Russian Ball. I opted for two on the first and last Saturday nights of my stay - the Johann Strauss Ball at the Vienna Kursalon and the IAEA Ball at the Hofburg Palace.