Thursday, May 28, 2009

What is your Perfect Day in New York City?

I just finished a few pages on New York City for our website Excellent Vacation Ideas. We love New York City and try to get there often.

Our first trip to New York City was actually our first trip away together as a couple. Warren and I stayed at the Plaza and were hooked on New York from then on. We took a carriage ride in Central Park, shopped, did the NBC studio tour and got to see the Rosie O'Donnell Studio (yes that was how long ago it was!). As an added bonus, the Gay Pride Parade was going down 5th when we walked out of our hotel one day. It was AWESOME!

We took Montana there for the first time in March of 2008 and she was hooked! So we took her back for our 10th Wedding anniversary and her 14th birthday this past weekend - see our blog post here.

From Central Park to street fairs to shopping on Canal Street to dining in some of the best restaurants in the world to wandering through neighborhoods, we love to spend a weekend there. Especially if we can get a good deal!

That led me to think...what is the perfect day in New York? So I ask you...what is your perfect day in New York City. Share it here What would you add to our New York Travel Guide?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Big Apple for Fleet Week - New York City - Our 10th Wedding Anniversary

This past weekend we enjoyed a quick family vacation to New York City. We had a blast! It was Fleet Week and Memorial Day weekend so the city was horribly busy. I honestly had to question if we really were in a recession in North America?

We arrived on Friday afternoon went for an amazing deli lunch at Carnegies Deli and went straight to work looking for a dress for Montana's Grade 8 graduation. I was surprised as Bloomingdales had limited selection and Macy's had nothing! She ended up with a beautiful dress from Bloomingdales in SOHO.

We wandered through SOHO, and then back to the hotel - Sheraton Hotel and Towers at 53rd and 7th, a perfect location as it is right next to the subway and a short walk to Times Square.

We wandered through Times Square that night and I was happy to see the tkts booth and the bleachers and table and chairs they put out for people to sit and enjoy the area. On the Sunday they closed the traffic to the main area of Times Square to traffic. I think this is an AWESOME idea. I love Times Square and think they have done an amazing job of making it a "town square" type concept.

On Saturday morning (our 10th wedding anniversary we made our way to Canal Street. This is a shoppers paradise for knock offs and bargains. We were amazed at the bargains we found for costume jewellery and sunglasses. There were hundreds of people selling off knock off bags, offering to take us through their hidden stores looking for the "perfect" knock off.

I have to say the quality is suffering. I used to buy these bags etc a few years ago, but they don't look as good as they used to.

We ended up in Little Italy and had a nice lunch outside. I would recommend Angelo's, the place we ate this time wasn't so great, but we have always had a nice meal at Angelo's on Mulberry Street.

We made our way back to the hotel, had a rest and off to Times Square to do a bit of shopping and get a Starbucks - How original, drinking Starbucks in New York City!

That night we had booked to go to Swing 46, a jazz supper club in Hells Kitchen. A twitter friend @SarahC1978 had recommended. It was a great night out, and kind of fit in with "Fleet Week". The food was incredible, and they did a swing dance lesson right before the band started playing. It is was fun, but we will need alot more practice if we want to keep the dancing up! The music was great and it was fun to watch the guests dancing away. You could tell that they had lessons!

Sunday we were tired, we had walked for what seemed like forever this weekend! We went back to Carnegie's Deli for Salami and Eggs for breakfast. When we walked out of our hotel the "Times Square Fair" (7th ave between 47th and 57th street) had set up. So we got another hour of bargain shopping. I got to buy several more pashminas. I love pashminas for travelling, they work as a fashion accessory, a scarf when it is cold, and a light blanket while flying!

We got our stuff packed up and checked it into the bell desk and walked up to Central Park. It got warmer and warmer as we walked. By the time we made it to the park it must have been 85 F and muggy. People were enjoying the park and the horses and carriages were out in full force.

We wandered through the park and over to the Apple Store to cool down. We were hungry by this time and didn't know where to eat. "Wait we are in the Apple store, and we have our Iphone's" so we did what the commercials on TV said, downloaded "Urbanspoon" and let the program decide where we would eat. We were in the mood for a hamburger, and the program came back with "Popburger".

It was right around the corner, and very cute. Food was good too! Next was shopping on 5th Ave, well more browsing on 5th anyway. Worked our way to Rockefeller Center and the NBC store.

On our way back to the hotel, on the Avenue of Americas, we ran into a new "Magnolia Bakery". This is the bakery that is featured in "Sex and the City". Usually there is a line down the block and people have been known to wait an hour for the cupcakes. I got excited and insisted that we get one each!. We didn't wait long, and we took them back to the hotel. We sat in the lobby, catching up with our email eating the most incredible cupcakes! The hype was right - they were awesome!

Next we were off to the airport for our trip home :-(.

Thank you so much to Montana and Warren for an awesome 10th wedding anniversary weekend!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Skylofts - Staying in Wonderland....

And another world it was. The elevator lobby has a tranquil water flowing feel to it. The plaques on the wall as you walk into the floor lobby are displayed proudly. The AAA 5 Diamond and Mobil 5 stars don't seem to cut it. Maybe we can lobby for a special 6th Diamond and Star?

The ambience was set perfectly, relaxing and chic, low lighting and two lovely concierges’s sitting behind an elegantly appointed desk, without a stitch of paper cluttering it.

We were escorted down what seemed like a hallway that would go on forever and ever and could see 2 people with warm smiles waiting beside a doorway. Oh wait they are waiting for us at our Skyloft #73 our home for the next couple of days.

After introductions to our butlers – yes butlersssss – we were taken in to “check in” on the dining room table. The Concierge – Mary- took care of the paperwork quickly, while our butler, Christine, offered us some of the Sky Loft signature juice.

Once the “check in” was complete, Mary excused herself and Christine did the grand tour of the Loft. Starting with the 900 channels and free pay per view, it took her 10 minutes to show us how to use the Bang and Olufson system. The entire loft was hooked up to the console, from the TV to the drapes, to the lights (can set them to any lighting, including mood lighting).

Through the 2 story floor to ceiling windows, we had an incredible view of New York, New York and the Mansion and of course the Monte Carlo and the City Center. The MGM Grand sign stood proud, right outside our window 30 floors up.

At this point I started to furiously text Andy and Michelle so they would come and check it out. We so wanted them to come and enjoy the experience too!

Next the delightful Christine took us upstairs to the bedroom with the upper part of the view and into the most incredible bathroom I have ever seen in all my years of travelling.

It has a spa ambience, with 2 TVs, one in the mirror with the controls on the wall, and one over the Infinity Tub. If you don’t know what an infinity tub is, that’s ok; I haven’t seen one like this before either. Oh and I can’t forget the steam room shower.

The bathroom was such a luxury; Christine had to show us how to use almost everything in it. The infinity tub is really a tub within a tub, the inside tub overflows into the outside tub. Then when it is full in continually runs over, then you can hit a button and the lights change colour, providing light therapy. Ahhhhh….. (I made sure I enjoyed it one night while watching a movie!)

The shower, well it really is more than a shower, it is a steam room as well. There are 2 “rain” shower heads, and faucets on the wall that shoot water out. There is a bench and it is large enough to fit at least 6 people comfortably.

And then of course the toiletries, which are Bulgari, and the scent is beautiful! So much so we asked for extras to take home!

Here is the video I did showing you the Skylofts:

After the grand tour and educational session, Christine mentioned that the Butler service came with an unpacking and packing service. It felt strange, but I decided to take her up on it. My goodness am I ever glad I did.

After quite a while it seemed, I went up to see how she was doing, our clothes had never looked so organized! I asked if she would come home with me but she said I would have to take her 2 kids too… It was almost worth it!

We asked the concierge to book us a cabana at the pool. The Wet Republic had just opened, so we had to choose between the regular pool and the Wet Republic (their “party” pool). I asked if the people were young and she said she was at the opening the day before and there were a lot of girls dressed in postage stamps and dental floss. Thank goodness she mentioned that – as it made our minds up – regular pool it is then.

Stay tuned for my last but not least post about our Vegas trip :-)

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Skylofts - Stepping into Wonderland...

After Saturday night we didn’t think the weekend could get any better. We were wrong. Hard to believe it but we were.

Andy and Michelle had a sleep in, while Warren and I had to get ourselves packed up as we were on our way to the Skylofts. We went for breakfast in the Augustus Café, and then finished checking out of the beautiful Caesars Palace.

The Skylofts Concierge had confirmed with us that our “ride” would be picking us up at 12:00 pm. Warren had said something to me about “The Maybach”. Apparently it was this super luxurious car that would be picking us up to take us to the Skylofts.

The front entrance and driveway of Caesars Palace were packed with people leaving as it was Sunday morning after a really busy weekend in Vegas.

I could see a silver car inching up the driveway with all of the other cars, taxis and limos. I asked the bellhop for our bags as our ride was here – it was the beautiful silver car. The bellhop was completely overwhelmed and said that it would be a few minutes.

Note to self: when you have a ride waiting for you – luxurious or not, take your own bags, or start the process earlier. It took at least 30 minutes to retrieve our bags.

The limo driver was of course gracious and asked us if we would like to wait in the car. He dealt with waiting for the bags. How can I describe what happened next?

We got in the car and my first impression was “boy it smells good in here” I could smell the leather, it was awesome. As I sat in the seat behind the driver, I couldn’t reach the dividing wall where the TVs were.

The seat surrounded my body like it was made for me. Warren started playing with buttons and the next thing we knew he was lying out flat in a recliner better than any I have ever seen. It was first Class plus. It was incredible and to honest a little overwhelming.

But I let that go and sat back and enjoyed the wait. The sun roof was incredible. In the touch of a button it would change from opaque to clear instantly. The driver finally found our bags, and we were on our way. We had a nice chat with the driver, he showed us the features of this $200,000 car – yes I said $200,000!!!! It was bullet proof (which is something I am always looking for in a ride) and was incredible to drive or drive in for that matter.

We drove past the In and Out Burger and thought that we should take it out for burgers one night! According to the driver this is a regular occurrence.

He called ahead to the concierge to tell them we were on our way, then called again as we approached the Skylofts entry and Lobby. We were greeted with a bell man and the Concierge. The Concierge opened the door and said “Welcome to the Sky Lofts Mr. and Mrs. Fine” She asked if she could escort us to the Skylofts and said that we would do in suite check in. Ah yes please!

We walked through the lobby to the VIP lounge, through what felt like a secret door to the private Skylofts elevator into what felt like another world……

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Tweet - What are your Travel Phobias ?

I posted a tweet this morning that went like this:

"What are your travel phobias? Here are the top 5 #travel"

It was related to an article that I came across on MSN Travel.

It says that the top 5 travel phobias are these:
  1. Fear of flying.
  2. Fear of Being away from home, family and work.
  3. Fear of illness.
  4. Fear of a bad flight (they actually call it an annoyance instead of a fear).
  5. Fear of losing your luggage.
It made me think what my travel phobias are...hmmm... These seemed a little tame.
The one I am most worried about is someone putting something in my bag and I get arrested in a foreign country (like the movie Brokedown Palace). Apparently I am not the only one.
These are some of the great responses I got:
From @LiteratiLisa
"Bed bugs, getting mugged, getting stranded in a foreign country, having drugs thrown in my suitcase (brokedown palace)" - just like me!
From @travel_x_4
"mine is waking up with a bad back!"
From @Jeff_Johnson
"My top travel phobia is getting hit on the "oversized bags" charge for my golf clubs - airline baggage charges have to go!"
From @newenglandgirl
"My travel phobia is forgetting to pack underwear after having to buy granny panties in a remote Vermont drug store once. :-)"
What are your travel phobias? Comment below - I would love to hear them. Remember the first step is to admit you have the fear!
Overall whatever your travel fears are, I hope they aren't stopping you from traveling!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Elton John's Last Saturday Night Show at Caesars!

After our afternoon in the Spa we were ready for a great Saturday night out in Las Vegas.

Warren and I have seen the incredible Elton John Show before, however Andy and Michelle wanted to see it. We loved it the first time so it was an easy decision to make. As we play at Caesars a lot we asked our host for tickets. The issue with getting tickets from the casino is that you don't always know what tickets you will get until you pick them up on the day of.

When we had seen the show before, we knew that the first few rows were special, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

We started with dinner at Rao's. They were incredibly accommodating as we didn't have a lot of time. Rao's is a New York style Italian restaurant and it was really good. I look forward to going back when we have some time to really sit and enjoy it.

We shared some appetizers and I had the most amazing (and huge) tiger shrimp. Others had the traditional Spaghetti and Meatballs or the Chicken Parmesan and they all enjoyed them!

After dinner we walked over to the Colosseum. There is a lot of secuirty and you have to check your cameras in. It really is an incredible theatre. Now home to Bette Midler and Cher (Elton John finished his final engagement in April).

We were escorted to our seats, we walked down to right in front of the stage, and stopped in the center. We had front row center seats! It was awesome! Michelle had no idea and was stunned! So much so she even shed a tear!

The show is incredible. We laughed and cried and danced. And during the song "Saturday Night" the first few rows were invited to DANCE on the stage! It was so cool! Michelle, Andy and Michael got right up to the Red Piano and watched Elton John play! Warren and I stayed back a bit and danced on stage to the song "Saturday Night" on Saturday night, on the last Saturday night Elton John played at the Colloseum.

Andy tried to get a picture with his iPhone- but it was hard while trying to dance!

Elton John was really funny and you could tell that he was really enjoying himself. It was an amazing show! I am sad to see it end - but in the words of Elton that night "All things come to an end."

I tried to get one of Andy and Michelle enjoying their time at the piano!

The guys then went off and gambled and drank for awhile, and Michelle and I went for a walk to the Bellagio and on the strip and had some girl time.

Another amazing night in Las Vegas!

And if you can believe it - It got even better on Sunday! Checking into the Skylofts....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 2 in Vegas - Brunch and the Qua Baths & Spa

After a late night, we slept in a little and met Michelle and Andy for brunch at Cafe Lago. Michelle had booked a massage at the relatively new Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace.

I decided to go and check it out with her as I had heard great things about it. And what better way to spend an afternoon then pampering yourself in the spa especially after all that walking the day before?

The guys decided to play a little, and Warren had to meet our client who was flying in from LA to join us for the Elton John Show tonight.

I have to say that the Qua Baths and Spa have got to be one of the best spas I have been to in Las Vegas. The staff were attentive and helpful, and the baths were beautiful and luxurious.

You could start with a good workout in the full fitness center with weight training and aerobic equipment, (not that I worked out as I was too tired - I know silly huh?) and end with a soak in the Roman Baths.

From the time you walk in, you feel relaxed and taken care of. Luxury everywhere. From the smooth stone floor, to the dark woods and the water flowing. The Tea Sommelier that offers tea to match your needs. Their signature iced tea is fantastic!

We were escorted from the check in desk and taken on a tour through the baths to the change room. They have various temperatures and sizes of baths and saunas and recommended that you alternate between hot and cold seven times. The Arctic room (complete with snow falling from the ceiling - soap actually but it looked cool - pun intended) felt really good after the awesome herbal steam room.

The spa is set up to provide a social experience. You can experience the baths and sauna's with your girlfriends and then enjoy a chat and a cup of tea in the tea room - the only place with a clock and where you meet your "Artisan" (aka-therapist) for any treatments you have booked.

Michelle had never experienced a spa like this and was in heaven. I didn't think she would leave that day if we didn't have early dinner reservations!

Michelle couldn't get over how it was only $45 to go into the spa for the day. Note: if you are a Diamond Member you can use the baths for $20 less - so that is about $25.

I spent a couple of hours there, after I felt like a bowl of Jello, I left Michelle to her massage and her soaks and went to get ready for dinner at Rao's with our friends and client, then off to Elton John.....More on that in the next post!

Friday, May 1, 2009

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas?

Not this time. Warren and I have been to Vegas so many times. We have dined in some of the best restaurants and seen most of the shows. But yesterday something magical happened. We actually had one of the best days ever in Las Vegas. Little did we know, it was going to get even better!

It's funny how when you don't plan to have a great day while traveling, sometimes it turns out quite amazing. Now we didn't do anything overly special. But we did spend part of the day with our friends Andy and Michelle, which always makes it more fun.

We started out early our first morning walking the strip. Being from Toronto, it doesn't matter how late we get in to Vegas we still are awake by 6 am on the first morning. We spent the first 3 nights at Caesars Palace and power walked up to New York New York, back down to Treasure Island and back to Caesars Palace.

After getting ready we had breakfast with our friends at the Augustus Cafe. The food was excellent but the service was horrible. The manager made up for it by comping the bill. I always recommend the Augustus Cafe to people - I will warn them about the service from now on though.

After breakfast I got to play tour guide by showing Michelle and Andy around (Andy has been to Vegas numerous times, Michelle has not). We made it to the Shops at Forum, and just into the Mirage for long enough to use the facilities and then we returned to Caesars for Hyakumi Sushi - Our favorite!

Later that night Warren and I had a quick dinner at Mesa Grill - Bobby Flay's restaurant in Caesars - It was yummy!!!! We then went out the the Texas Station Casino to see the 70's and 80's band Foreigner - They were my FAVORITE band when I was a teenager so I was thrilled when Warren got us Front row tickets - We danced all night and then got to "rush" the stage and I really felt 16 again! - It was so much fun and I was shocked at how amazing they were.

Note to self - if going out to a Station Casino off strip - make sure you arrange for a taxi - it took us an hour to find a cab!

We then met up with Andy and Michelle (they went to see the Price is Right at Bally's and had a great time!) and Andy and Michelle played Baccarat with Warren while I went and played a hour or so of poker.
It really was a GREAT first day. Little did I know it was going to get even better!

Day 2 includes..... and afternoon in the Spa and Front Row Tickets to Elton John!

New York Posts

The Big Apple for Fleet Week!
What is your Perfect New York Day?