Can Anyone Tell Me Where There is a Good French Restaurant?

French Restaurant design

When looking for a new restaurant, there is nothing like finding a French restaurant. Every time I go to a new city, finding a French restaurant is always on my “To Do” list. There’s something charming about finding these little gems. Often, I am going both for the food and the décor of the restaurant. I have found that French restaurants frequently have detailed design that speak to the level of artistry that you find in their cooking. It is as though, the French look at dining as a “complete” experience; one for your pallet as well as  your senses. The French don’t leave anything for you to guess about, but instead to imagine, wonder, savor, and desire.

To make your travel planning more simplified, below is a listing of the top 14 French restaurants in the United States. Most are in New York City or somewhere in California. However, there are some in New Orleans, Vegas, Minneapolis. Of shoot, non in my home town.

I hope that you find one that appeals to  your taste. Bon appetite! http://flip.it/pWM1n

5 Things You Need to Know About Washington, DC

Washington DC-Capital

There is nothing like spending a weekend in Washington, DC. Arrival on Thursday afternoon of a holiday weekend means that you are greeted with millions of families and school children on trips, and traffic that you can’t imagine. But who cares about that. You’re in DC.

If you’ve ever wondered if the country has returned to its former glory, visit Washington, DC to see all the new building that is going on. New communities are being developed everywhere you look. Condos loom above city streets, and green spaces are being factored in so that it doesn’t all look like a jig-saw puzzle.

1. Restaurants are “King”

The best thing about DC is  the proliferation of restaurants that have recently opened. More than one can count, and each one trying to be better than then next. It is hard to find a “bad” restaurant in the district. However, mediocre is making a come-back.

For my weekend travels, I decided to try some old favorites and some new. For old favorites I went to Busboys and Poets, a great place to have any meal, although get ready for an energetic crowd. Next, I tried, The Hamilton, a beautifully decorated large restaurant across from the Willard Hotel. The menu at The Hamilton is eclectic and the service is slow. However, it is worth going there just to see the place.  They have a nice bar. I ventured to Columbia Heights to have  brunch at The Heights, a delightful neighborhood restaurant, with great outdoor dining, and food to match.

2. Luxury Properties and Hotels Abound

Every where you look in the District, you see evidence of new construction, and all of it is expensive. New condos, and row houses are re- forming what used to be drab old communities into chic new ones with people out walking their dogs and enjoying coffee at a nearby cafe. One neighborhood that I dropped by was the Navy Yard. It was only a few years ago that this was nothing to look at, but now, it has beautiful condos, green space, restaurants, bars, and shopping areas. Everything that a person could want within a small community.

If you are looking for luxury hotel space, the city continues to build hotels on practically every corner. Trump is remodeling, what used to be the old Post Office Building, to put up a mammoth property, Trump International Hotel,   which sits at the end of 11th St as it intersects with Pennsylvania Av.  Opulent is all one can say about how the structure looks. The hotel will include high-end shopping and office facilities.  The Conrad is building a hotel in DC, and I look forward to the elegance that it will bring to this busy city.

3. Shopping Matches 5th Ave.

Washington used to be known for its big box and outlet stores. No more. Now,  there are a myriad of designer showrooms that capture your attention and your wallet. The designers that now have showrooms here match those of 5th Ave in NYC.  Store after store provides you with the latest in both women’s and men’s fashion. I would say that this is easily a place where people would fly to for shopping rather than to New York.

4. This is an “Uber” City

While there are still plenty of cars and bicycles in the city, the use of “Uber” is considerably high. People utilize Uber much like a taxi service here, for short and long trips, and schedule black car service when then really wish to make an impression; which is all the time.

5.  Get Ready to Pay

Your nation’s capital is quickly becoming the city for the “well heeled.” It is not unusual to find  hotel room rates to be north of $500 per night, and certainly the cost for two to dine out is in excess of $200. However, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, and what a great time you will  have.

I hope that the museums remain open so that the rest of us will have something to do when our money runs out.

Hotel Regina, Paris: Renovated to Luxury Level

If you are planning a trip to Paris, finding a hotel is one of the most critical parts of planning your trip. You’re probably trying to find one that is interesting, comfortable, beautifully decorated, and in the right location. Look no further than the newly renovated Hotel Regina, Paris,  a 100 room hotel, including twenty-two (22) suites, is a stand-out, and is  aptly situated  across from the Louvre.

The hotel, which was originally built in 1900, has for the past year, undergone a complete renovation of its exterior and interior spaces. This includes all 100 rooms, which have been individually designed. Both the layout of the rooms, and the collection of furnishings are beautifully designed, yet speak to the historical French furniture styling. Each room has been carefully and tastefully decorated with comfort, and usage clearly in mind. Furniture placement is not obtrusive. The lines are clean and subtle. Bathrooms are large and nicely appointed with sumptuous robes for you to slip into. This is a place that makes you feel “at home.”

The hotel is located in the fashion, shopping and museum district, with exceptional views of the Eiffel Tower. You can’t get any better than that! It boasts a first-class restaurant for fine dining, and serves tea in the afternoon. Concierge service is available to assist you in making your tour and evening plans.

So, place yourself in the “heart of the action” while being part of a boutique hotel experience. For photos, and a brief article on this property, see the following link.  http://pulse.me/s/41pp6m

See Europe By Train

train station_unsplash

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I thought that I would write about something that is a bit different. As mothers, we appreciate the cards, gifts and the flowers that we receive from our loved ones, but it is nice to dream about doing something different. A European Train trip.

I have always wanted to  take a trip on a train. I think that it would be both relaxing. There are several trips that are available now that you can take. Of course, I am looking for one that offers a spa onboard. I don’t think they have that yet.  It is worth considering if you wish to see the scenery and don’t want to argue with your spouse over directions and the GPS as you drive thousands of miles.

The Venice Simplon Orient Express is the most well known of the luxury trains. It takes journeys from London to Venice. Paris to Budapest, Bucharest and Istanbul. There are many departure cities from which to select. The most important thing is that the train is absolutely luxurious. It has a champagne bar, exquisite dining facilities, and sleeping cars that are outstanding.

This is the train that you want to be on as you view the sites of Europe. I like the idea of being able to view the scenery, read, eat, drink, and get up and walk around. For long trips this keeps me interested in what is going on. Also, I think that the people that one might meet on a long trip might be interesting.

All of this luxury does not come at a cheap price. Plan upon spending approximately $5,000 per person depending upon the length of stay. You may want to just have the experience with a shorter trip (one nights stay) for about $2,700. However, when you are considering that you are traveling like royalty, who cares about spending a few dollars or euros.

 

If You Only Have One Night, Make It Count!

 

Courtesy of the Conrad,Indianapolis
Courtesy of the Conrad,Indianapolis

Recently, my husband and I decided to take a quick trip to celebrate his birthday. We decided to go to Indianapolis and stay at the Conrad. Under normal circumstances, one might say, why would you select Indianapolis, and this particular hotel?

We selected Indianapolis because it is a nearby city and we thought that it would be a fun place to go for an overnight stay. There is shopping, jazz clubs, and great dining.  Since we were celebrating his birthday, I selected the Conrad, because I thought it would be a different experience from the other box hotels. I had no idea what we were in for.

There are only four (4) Conrad hotels in the US, Ft. Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Chicago, and New York. All the others are in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. When you stay at the Conrad, you quickly realize why the hotel brand has such an “exclusive” aura. The properties are beautiful, even sumptuous, and they take service and execution to its highest level.

When making our reservation, I had included an email note that said that we were celebrating my husband’s birthday and requested that they have a little “snack” in the room. Upon arrival, when we drove up and exited our vehicle, the valet asked for our name, and when I gave it, he said “Happy Birthday, sir.” The same thing happened at the Front Desk. My husband couldn’t believe it. The staff was certainly on point.

Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianaspolis

The hotel lobby is open and modern, yet inviting and relaxing. When you are at the Conrad, you feel transformed. I couldn’t believe that we were in a mid-western city. Somehow, it has a  European feel,  and even though it has over 200 rooms, it still intimate, like a boutique hotel at its best. You can tell that a lot of thinking went into the design of this hotel.  The hotel has beautiful art collections in the lobby and on the second floor, that more than catch your eye, they  cause you to want to browse and discover more.  This is not your busy business  hotel. This is a hotel that is committed to the “guest experience.” In fact, my husband and I didn’t want to leave it. There’s something interesting for you around each corner, something that will make you want more, whether it is the spa, fitness center, or the adjoining restaurant and bistro.

The hotel  capitalizes on the fact that today’s traveler likes to keep it simple, and so they have made it so. Adjoined to the hotel is the Capital Grille, known for its exquisite upscale dining, and a Wine and Bistro, called Tastings, which has one of the largest wine collections by the glass, or bottle, in the world.  The Capital Grille has a gorgeous bar that offers all types of  drinks and cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Surrounded by dark wood, you will find locals at the Capital Grille Bar, nattily attired and sipping on their favorite drink, while discussing politics or sports. The more energetic Wine and Bistro,  Tastings, offers small plates to go along with all that wine that you drink. Music plays, while you hear people laughing and talking as they drink flights of wine. Tastings is clearly  “meeting” place.  Depending upon what you prefer, both places  provide a wonderful opportunity to have a great experience without ever having to leave the hotel premises.

Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianapolis
Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianapolis

But now it is time to relax in your room. Rooms are large with spectacularly comfortable furnishings. If you are interested in in-room dining, you will love the staff that appear at your door dawning white coats as they carry in your tray. It is all quite spectacular! The staff are warm and friendly and make you feel “at home” at your residence at the Conrad. Yes, you can dream of living the high life, as you go down to the lobby and watch beautiful cars pull up in front of the hotel. Everyone is given “red carpet” treatment.

So, what happened with the snack in the room you ask? When we arrived, there it was on a tray. Nuts, candies, chocolate covered strawberries, and the best part, a card signed by the staff to my husband. He said that he “felt like a rock star.” What a lovely way to execute the request, and how wonderful it made him feel.

Many hotels can provide a nice stay, and even be friendly to you upon arrival. Ask the right questions, but few know how to treat guests with a level of importance that lets them know that it is a guest centered hotel. From the design, to the training of its staff, this is a hotel that thinks and cares about every aspect of what the guest will experience, and they want to make sure that they get it right.

So, if you only have one night to stay, my recommendation is to select wisely. Select a place that you know has phenomenal service, a great location, can provide every amenity, and make you feel special. I would say, select the Conrad.

Hotel and Resorts Newest Trend- All-inclusive Pricing

 

Courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

When we think of all-inclusives, we tend to think of beach resorts in Florida or the Caribbean. However, the newest trend is that hotels are using this “all in one” pricing strategy to attract travelers who are interested in knowing both how much their vacation is going to cost, and the ease of bundling all of the items that they wish to include into one price. Blackberry Farm, has been using this concept for quite some time with favorable results.

When I first went to an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, I recall thinking, why would I want to just stay at this resort; eat all my meals here; drink here? I want to explore and find out what the culture is, and what the island has to offer. Now, since I am forty years older, I just need a lounge chair and a good book, and yes that drink. So the idea of an all-inclusive is right up my alley.

Hotels and resorts have been slow to move in this area. There has been some “package pricing” that hotels and resorts have used to put together the room along with spa treatments or golf. However, today’s vacation traveler is interested in knowing that they can essentially have the same experience as those who travel by sea. They can arrive at their destination and know that all of the expenses are already paid for, and any other monies are just for non-essentials, and entertainment. This approach provides the traveler with a certain degree of freedom and knowledge of knowing that all is “taken care of.” However, some planning is required. Here are 5 tips that you will want to use.

  1. Know What Is Important For You. Be clear on the types of things that you will want to have included in your pricing. Think of a cruise and what is normally included in their pricing, and what is not. Be willing to think “out-side” the box.
  2. Look at Beach, Resort Areas as Location Possibilities. It might be easier to find a hotel that is doing all -inclusive pricing in such an area, than one that is in an urban center. However, if you are committed to going to a larger city, check the hotels that are your favorites, and see what they are already doing in this arena.
  3. Be Willing To Present and Negotiate. The hotel of your choice may not have moved into this one-price market. However, when speaking with the manager, be prepared to have your top items ready to present to them, and ask if they could be “bundled” into a one price for the designated time (i.e. room for x nights, meals at any of their restaurants,   spa treatment, 1 round of golf, theatre tickets). Have a long list, and be prepared to negotiate.
  4. Know Your Budget. It goes without saying that you need to be aware of how much you are willing to pay for these services for the time period that represents your trip. Once again, think of it as “land cruising.” Are you willing to pay $2,500 pp, or more for a couple of days? As you consider your budget, just as in planning a trip on a cruise line, you will want to consider how many activities become part of your all-inclusive experience. You may want to start with simply room and meals and see how that works for you.
  5. Assess How You Like It, and Provide Feedback. This is new territory for you and the hotelier. As you go on this journey, be willing to note how you have enjoyed it, what you would do differently next time, and send those thoughts to the general manager. You will be helping future travelers.

Be bold, find the hotel of your choice and contact them and ask… ” Do you offer all-inclusive rates?” And the process begins. There is nothing better than the ask.

River Cruising: For Those Who Wish to See The Sights At A More Leisurely Pace

I’ve never been one to take a cruise; however each time I receive a brochure from   Viking River Cruises, the leader of the pack in this industry, I have to admit that it seems enchanting. There is something about the slow pace of it that is remarkable. You can see the sights, and appreciate the beauty of the land, while still staying in generous and luxurious quarters, and having the time to disembark and take tours that provide you with an opportunity to experience the culture, not just see it.

Normal cruising always sounds like so much fun from all of my friends who use it as their preferred vacation mode. They talk about the food, the dancing, the activities. However, much of the time, they admit that they stay aboard because it is a “hassle” to  disembark. Tours are expensive and crowded. With river tours, it is more like being at a luxury hotel with all the services, coupled with immersion cultural experiences that are tied to the locations that you visit, all for an all-inclusive pricing, including the cost of tours.

Travelers who use river cruising come from all over the world. Consider what dinner conversations might be like with your other travelers on the river cruise? Oh, you can still have bar service 24/7, and dancing. Loads of activities, or just sit back, read, enjoy the sites and get ready for another immersion class. Oh, I think I’ll do that cooking class, or go to the wine tasting. Okay, the wine tasting wins.

There are several river cruise companies from which to choose. All of them offer approximately the same services, with travel throughout the rivers of Europe. The following article published in the Huffington Post, provides the details of the companies and their approaches.

So, for those of you who just love cruising… add river cruising to your travel portfolio. I think you might see me on the Danube.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/us-news-travel/why-river-cruising-is-all_b_6949024.html

If You See Tulips, It Must Be Spring

After such a long winter, I think all of us are longing for the first blush a Spring. I looked into my yard and saw daffodils peaking their heads up through the frozen ground. In the article that follows, Laura Pearson, Orbitz Travel Blog  has provided 8 places where you can go to find beautiful reminders that Spring is finally here. The locations are all over the world. They are enchantingly gorgeous this time of year.

If you can’t make it to any of these spots, then try going to your local park to take in the spectacular view of how the landscape changes our view of the world. Or take a trip to Asheville, NC to visit the Biltmore Estate. The gardens there are definitely worth seeing. But if you prefer to start your day with a casual view of what the season may have to offer, then start with these photos and descriptions offered in the article.  It will bring a  smile to your face, and let you know that we have entered a new season. One where the warm glow of the sun shines on your face, filling the air with a sense of newness and possibilities. Oh, how I love Spring.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/orbitzcom/eight-destinations-that-totally-own-spring_b_6897544.html

21c Museum Hotel Opens in Durham

The 21c Museum Hotel Group has done it again. This time opening a contemporary design hotel in downtown Durham, NC. This makes it fourth (4th) hotel with this fast growing boutique hotel group, that knows how to cater to its ever-growing audience. Using the same format that has been used with its other hotels,  they adapted a famous city structure, the Hill Building, located at 111 N. Corcoran Street in downtown Durham (919.956.6700) The Hill Building, originally built in 1937, brings together contemporary design with historic Art Deco.

There are two things that you can count on with this hotel: a beautiful hotel experience (the combination of contemporary art with the restored building), and a great dining experience at the Counting House restaurant.  So, if you are in the Research Triangle area, this is definitely the place that you will want to stay, at least for a while. Read more details in this release.


March 16, 2015 – 21c Museum Hotels announces the opening of its fourth property in downtown Durham (111 N. Corcoran Street; 919.956.6700). 21c Durham is an adaptive reuse of the Hill Building, one of the city’s most iconic structures originally built in 1937. Bringing new life to the building, the property mixes contemporary design with historic Art Deco details and offers 10,500 square feet of contemporary art exhibition space open free of charge to the public, a 125-room boutique hotel and Counting House restaurant. “Downtown Durham is energized with art, culture, education and a dining scene that has been recognized as one of the best in the South,” said Steve Wilson, CEO and Founder of 21c Museum Hotels. “21c Museum Hotels is about contemporary art, warm hospitality, local food, and community. We strive to build not just great places to eat, drink and spend the night, but cultural centers that help reinvigorate urban areas. The revitalization efforts underway in Durham have produced amazing results and we aim to enhance those efforts as we open today and to offer an additional resource for art, social engagement and civic conversations.”

Art at 21c Contemporary art is at the heart of the 21c experience. The company was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who believe in the power of innovative and thought-provoking art to transform communities. 21c Durham presents rotating solo and group exhibitions, site-specific installations and a full roster of cultural programming curated by Museum Director Alice Gray Stites. The property features seven permanent site-specific installations integrated into a variety of spaces around and within the building. Collectively titled Reflecting Transformation, these works reference nature, technology, economics, politics and entertainment to illuminate the evolution of the past into a future-focused present. Works include Duke Riley’s It Will Warm You Twice, a large-scale mosaic made of cigarettes and mini cigars that references the ubiquitous role that tobacco has played in the development and history of Durham, as well as the decline of its influence. Other artists featured are Andrew Erdos, Astrid Krogh, Ned Kahn, Claire Shegog, FUTURERETRIEVAL (Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis) and Leslie Lyons and JB Wilson. The property’s inaugural exhibition Pop Stars! (on view through August) is a multi-media exploration of popular culture a decade and a half into the 21st Century featuring more than 100 works by an international group of artists. Appropriating images and practices from celebrity, commerce, science, politics, religion, sports, and technology, these artists illuminate recent shifts in how culture is being created and consumed. Featured artists include Sanford Biggers, Wang Du, Nick Cave, Ebony Patterson, Mickalene Thomas, Deitrich Wegner, Robert Wilson, Adriana Duque and José Maria Cano. Docent tours of current exhibitions and site-specific installations are offered free of charge to the public on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:00 pm.

Meetings & Events The property’s museum space doubles as meeting and event space, and can accommodate a wide variety of events from board retreats and intimate cocktail parties to a reception-style wedding for 350. The Main Gallery, located in the old banking hall, offers a dramatic background with original wood paneling, terrazzo flooring, velvet drapery and LED globe chandeliers. The Vault, located in the historic bank vault on the lower level, offers a unique and immersive experience featuring lounge seating, a site specific art commission, and historic vault door and safety deposit boxes.

Guestrooms 21c Durham offers a variety of guestroom types featuring original terrazzo flooring and abundant natural light. Art Deco windows and steel accents are married with a simple materials palette in grey tones and copper details. The 21c Suite, a one bedroom suite occupying the entire 15th floor, features custom designed furniture, an expansive private terrace with a soaking tub, en suite bathroom with standing shower and double vanity sinks, powder room and wet bar. Rates for a standard double start at $199. Hotel Packages To celebrate the opening of its newest property, 21c is offering a selection of packages designed to help guests experience Durham like a local. Introductory packages include: · The Brewery Package allows guests a chance to experience Durham’s thriving beer culture. The package includes: o 21c Faves local brewery guide o Bar snack + local beer tasting for two at Counting House restaurant o Beer book from the 21c Museum Shop · The Durham Double Feature encourages guests to explore Durham’s arts and culture scene with a visit to the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The package includes: o Two tickets to the Nasher o A $100 credit towards dinner at Counting House o Two ‘Do Not Feed The Art’ t-shirts from the 21c Museum Shop.

Restaurant The property is also home to Counting House, a modern restaurant and lounge helmed by Executive Chef Josh Munchel. A showcase for high-quality seasonal ingredients, Counting House presents a global perspective on regional dishes and celebrates North Carolina’s rich heritage of fresh seafood with menus that feature rotisserie and roasting techniques. The bar and lounge is a welcoming place to taste innovative house-made cocktails, sip aperitifs, sample local craft brews, and explore bourbon and wine lists. Counting House occupies a space that was originally the Ellis Stone department store. Designed by Deborah Berke Partners, the space aims to fully engage diners by bringing the constant buzz of activity in its open kitchen into full view, with a chef’s table nearby offering a front-row seat for curious and culinary-minded guests. The interior also features a graduated ceiling starting with soaring heights of 23 feet and gradually lowering toward the heart of the restaurant, enhancing the space’s intimate character. The restaurant also features site-specific contemporary art installations and rotating exhibitions.

Write a Winning 200 Word Essay, and Win a Bed & Breakfast in Maine

Yes, you read it correctly. There is a B&B that is on the market, not for money, but for anyone who wishes to write a 200 word essay, and include a $125 fee.  It is a 200 year old inn that sits on 12 acres, and is worth nearly $1million dollars.

To win this contest, you have to be willing to write a powerful essay that will standout from all the other entries. If you love to write, this could be an outstanding opportunity for you to flex your writing muscles, and demonstrate your passion for why you wish to be the owner of this  B&B.

Even if you don’t wish to participate in the contest, it is still fun to think about it. B&B’s are romantic, and they take us back in time to when we didn’t need to be  connected to equipment, but instead enjoy the company of others, while appreciating the beauty of our surroundings.

Read the details in the article posted yesterday in the Money section of Today. Get your thoughts and tablet fired up. Who knows… you could be the lucky winner. Just remember to invite me, since I passed this information along to you.

http://www.today.com/money/maine-event-b-b-owner-sell-her-inn-just-200-2D80540754