Although like many travelers I love to indulge in the trappings of luxurious surroundings, I have been known to declaim smugly on several occasions that “all I really need is a clean comfortable bed, lots of hot water from the shower, a hair dryer, a toilet where I don’t need to squat, and a fast wireless internet”. During this week long stay at the Plaza Hotel I’ve realized that is not really true. My standards are higher than the basics and there are other minor niceties needed to make me a “happy camper.”
Over many years of attending professional conferences, with sessions starting as early as 7 or 8 AM, I have learned to make a point of staying at the conference hotel. So when planning my trip to Las Vegas to attend a food-writing conference, I reserved a room at the conference hotel, the Plaza Hotel and Casino. The hotel offered a very low rate for the days of the conference.
I have never ever stayed in a hotel that charged less than $40 a night (plus the “resort fee” of about 14.00) but hey! I thought, this is Las Vegas where high rollers stay for free in luxury suites bigger than my condo. I booked partly on-line but ended up having to talk to a reservation clerk who expounded on weekend rates, week rates and conference rates. I should have listened more carefully.
Oscar's Steakhouse at the Plaza Hotel and Casino
1 S Main Street, Las Vegas
Ph: (702) 386 7227 or reserve online
The aroma of warm sour dough bread with embedded slivers of caramelized onion, rising from the white napkin-covered basket compelled me to erase all thoughts of a bread-free dinner. Lightly buttered, the fresh airy slice tasted as good as its aroma promised, and kept me content while I decided on my dinner choices.
La Mer at the Halekulani Hotel
2199 Kalia Road
Ph: (808) 923-2301 or reserve online
This elegant restaurant is the signature restaurant for the Halekulani Hotel. It is a Five diamond (AAA) and five star (Forbes Dining Award) restaurant featuring French cuisine with local tropical ingredients.
It was a short walk from the hotel where we were staying. On arrival we were seated at a window table next to an open window, looking out over the outdoor entertainment area to the blue water beyond. A warm breeze wafted in from time to time, and I had a great view of the singers and the Hawaiian dancer on the stage below.
A light Vancouver rainfall dripped from my umbrella as I crossed the street to enter the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. I was wishing I could be enjoying the blue skies, turquoise seas and white sand beaches of the islands of the Bahamas but no matter how many times I clicked the heels of my chic black boots together the grey sky of Vancouver was still shedding rain drops. Maybe if I'd worn red shoes instead of the boots... but then on the other hand maybe I would have landed in Kansas, instead of the Bahamas.
Luckily, from mid-December, Vancouverites will not need magic slippers to transport themselves directly to the island of Grand Bahama, because Sunwing Airlines will be offering new direct flights between Vancouver International Airport and Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island.
Starting from November 1st for seven Saturday Vancouver departures, Sunwing will fly via Calgary to Freeport. From December 19th through to April 10th, 2015 flights will depart Vancouver on Fridays for a non-stop flight to Freeport. The Memories Bahama Beach Resort on Lucayan Beach, Grand Bahamas, opened earlier this year.
Benares - Mid-town West
240 West 56th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue)
Ph: (212) 397 0707 or reserve online
On this brief pre-cruise stopover in New York I had only two opportunities for restaurant dinners. Having picked French cuisine (Ca Va Brasserie) for the first dinner, my second choice was Indian cuisine, a favorite cuisine of my fellow diner.
The Mid-town West location of Benares was my first choice.
Stella 34 Trattoria
at Macy's Herald Square 6th Floor
151 West 34th Street, New York
What a surprise it was to me to find an excellent restaurant located in a major department store and this discovery came about in quite an unexpected way. My westbound trans-Atlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2 ended in Brooklyn early on a Wednesday morning, and my direct flight from JFK to Vancouver YVR was scheduled to leave at 7 that evening. So unusually for me, I decided to sign up for a ship's transfer to the airport, with a half day tour of Manhattan included. So after disembarking, our bags were placed on the bus, and a tour guide came on board to give a commentary on the various neighborhoods we passed through. At lunch time the bus dropped us off near Macy's for an hour of free time, during which we could get lunch for ourselves.
Three hundred and fifty kilometres within the Arctic Circle, lies the city of Tromso, our furthest north destination of this Norwegian Fjords cruise to the Arctic Circle..
At about 7 AM yesterday morning the Queen Mary 2 crossed into the Arctic Circle. I was watching the seas from my verandah. The sky was clouded and gray-blue waters stretched out to the horizon.
There was not a ship in sight, and sadly, King Neptune did not appear from the depths in person to issue his call (as written in the Daily Programme) for “all icebergs, sea lions, narwhals, polar bears, whales, mermaids and other creatures of the frigid north to show due deference and respect to all those bluenoses crossing over into the northern reaches” of his realm. So just like crossing the equator, I had to take the crossing of “the line” on faith. Hard for an empiricist to do.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Doug McGrath
Music and Lyrics by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Director Marc Bruni
Choreographer Josh Prince
Stephen Sondheim Theater
New York, NY. Like the more than 25 million other fans of Carole King who bought her album Tapestry, the songs of this album are embedded in my musical memory and I have been looking forward to seeing Beautiful: The Carole King Musical for months. But it wasn’t until I was actually in the theatre, relishing one superbly performed musical number after another, that I realized just how many of the songs that I had danced to in high school and known only by the artists or groups that performed them, were written by King and/or Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. And the show covered only a fraction of their works.
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.
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.