Posted by Krista on November 1, 2011
I spent some time in Doha earlier this month. I’ll be honest. I didn’t see much. But then again, I wasn’t there to SEE things. I was there to work. But I did go to the gorgeous I.M. Pei Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. (I mean, it’s not really I.M. Pei’s museum. He “just” designed it.)
Inside the Museum of Islamic Arts.
One of the most comfortable hotel beds I’ve ever slept in, at the Grand Hyatt Doha. Beware the blackout curtains though. Big time. I went to bed at 2:30 am local time my first night in and woke up at 2:30 pm. Whoops. This was a really lovely hotel and I’d stay here again if I am ever back in the area. Great gym and pool.
Garden outside my hotel room at the Grand Hyatt Doha. At first, I was mad at them for giving me a ground floor room. As a single woman traveling alone, I try to avoid setups like that. But really, once I opened the doors onto my patio, I was charmed.
These were amazingly well-done. Made the lounge look magical. Like diamonds falling from the sky and all that poetic stuff.
Room service at the Grand Hyatt also magical. Hummus, babaganoush, and stuffed grape leaves. Good times. No diamonds though.
I do love a man in dishdasha. There’s something so regal about it. But the dry cleaning bills! I can only imagine.
Where we ate…
Spice Market, W Hotel: A surprisingly tasty Thai meal at Spice Market in the W Hotel. Not cheap though! Beware. Good people watching as clientele is very international. Pricey. Alcohol served.
Liza at The Pearl: We tried to have dinner here but their electricity was on the fritz so we could only have cold starters. Liza is a Lebanese restaurant and as I’m learning more and more in my travels, you can really never go wrong with Lebanese. Somewhat pricey, but not as pricey as Spice Market. Alcohol served.
Mamig, Katara Cultural Village: This meal started off really strong, but gradually disintegrated due to poor service. The restaurant bills itself as Armenian/Lebanese. We loved the chopped salad that we started with. The mixed grill was also quite good, but we had more or less lost interest by the time it arrived. (i.e., very late.) I wish I could find the menu online, because we ordered this one dish that was a big hot meat and cheese pie and it was pretty damn delicious. Our server recommended it. That was about the only thing he did right. No alcohol served.
I didn’t get to see much of Doha. I was there for work, after all. But what I saw, I liked. It’s the richest country in the world right now. Yup. They own Harrods. They’re financing Hollywood movies like crazy. And they’re hosting the 2022 World Cup. So I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot from Qatar in the future. A lot.
Posted in Doha, Hotels, Qatar | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on September 13, 2011
Hello Northern Line. I’ve missed you. Yes. You. Even though you totally suck at rush hour. But when you’re empty and you make the sounds that you do, I do love you. You’re efficient. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’re clean. (Except during rush hour, with all the newspapers flapping about.) You’re — strangely — comfortable, you with your blue velour cushioned seats. London Bridge to Angel, in no time then.
Yes. I was back. A flight to London in the $800 range? This is a good thing. Lots of points on my credit card, letting me stay three nights at the The Park Lane Hotel? Even better.
Too bad The Park Lane was such a dump, relatively speaking. The carpets had seen better days. Way way better better days. But at least the bed was comfortable. Oh, and they had one of those outlet panels that let’s you plug in an American plug. Even though you’re in the UK. Nice.
The lounge at the hotel was GORGEOUS. Utterly old-school gorgeous. Makes you want to drink champagne gorgeous. Too bad this didn’t translate to the dumpity-dump-dump dumps of rooms.
To make myself feel better, I took myself out to dinner. At Dinner. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. You know, this guy. I would like to thank — profusely and obviously so — the maitre’d at Dinner for squeezing in our table of six on a Friday night at 8 pm. And into a very prime table no less. I’m sad we never got a chance to meet. Or hug. Because truly, this was one of the loveliest of evenings…definitely hug-worthy. Even if @leeturnerconn – aka Feathers –was ready to pass out at the table. (Pregnant. Twins. We forgive her.) But that Meat Fruit (pictured)? Like silk. Edible edible silk. (Foie gras. Mandarin. You get it.) The maitre’d also popped for a round of biscuity champagne, a wonderful surprise that made an already festive evening even more so festive.
I had the pork chop to end all pork chops at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Soft like a blanket inside. In the best possible way.
The Tipsy Cake — a wonderful pineapple creation — nearly brought me to tears. Happy sad tears for everything I had left behind and everything yet to come. (Even though this was the end.) Slow-roasted pineapple. On a spit. Carmelized and only-God-knows-what-else-brioche with custard — custard which I am normally not a fan of, but which worked marvelously well here. I didn’t want to leave Dinner, and nothing could spoil anything, not even the couple at the table next to us, who stopped to (rudely and obviously) count the number of (perceived) Americans at our table. Sigh. We’ve been in the country a while now. We talk with our inside voices. Really. (And you two didn’t talk to each other one bit your ENTIRE meal. Sad!)
The Verdict: You should go to Dinner. If you don’t live in the UK, you should get on a plane and fly there. Just don’t cry. Like I did, in the terribly short taxi ride “home,” against the darkness of Green Park, wide awake with jetlag, wondering how I could make this all never end.
Chin up though! After a spin through Borough Market Saturday morning, where I had one of these…
and wept with happiness (that’s the chorizo & rocket sandwich from Brindisa), @tehbus suggested I come on over to Ferdies Food Lab that evening, which Simon himself had invited me to a week or two earlier. I took this all as a huge sign and headed over to Aldgate East to meet the gang for what would turn out to be a memorably bizarre evening. (You know…where there’s a man wearing a beret who talks about his black cape, and there’s someone else who manages to tell an entirely different story to everyone there about how they came to be there, and then there’s an in-depth discussion of the pros-and-cons of “adult” dating Web sites and before you know it, someone has drank all your wine so you’re drinking someone else’s and hope they don’t notice before it’s time to leave. And then you try to take a taxi home but the black cab driver kinda goes a lot crazy on you — only the second time that’s happened over hundreds of cab rides over more than seven years — to the point where you just pay him and get out in the middle of traffic at Oxford Street tube, even though you’re going to Green Park. )
Ferdies Food Lab is what I’d call a supper club. A large one. And a loud one. Either I’m deaf, or no one but @tehbus speaks loudly enough for me to understand.
The main of slow roast lamb was — and I hate both of these words — moist and succulent. Hard to turn away from this dish. I sorta wanted to take away the leftovers. But I had nowhere to put them. (Sob.)
The next morning, I went to Automat in Mayfair for the most disappointing of American breakfasts before heading down to Brockley for the most amazing of barbecues and the most beautiful of skies. And then the Big Green Egg came down from the skies and gifted us all with food and we were very happy.
…or is it?
Posted in Hotels, London, SW3, United Kingdom, Very British | 6 Comments
Posted by Krista on August 11, 2011
I decided kinda last minute to go to Cancun for the weekend last weekend. I was miserably pale and — although I’m not a beach person — I really just wanted to be by the water. Being a Starwood member, I could have gone to the Westin for free with all my points, but I was sucked in by this idea of an all-inclusive resort and the #1 place on TripAdvisor. So I booked Le Blanc in CANCUN of all places. (Cancun being terribly touristy.) Sadly, there are only two places in the Caribbean you can get to via a direct commercial flight from Chicago in August — Cancun and Puerto Rico. (There are plenty of charter flights from Chicago, but I’ve heard too many horror stories.)
My initial 24 hours at Le Blanc were like a comedy of errors. Firstly, everyone on TripAdvisor talks about the Le Blanc Cadillac Escalade that picks you up at the airport. I just assumed this is what I had, but ended up in one of those terrible airport vans that drops people off at umpteen different hotels before you get to yours. For the record…I don’t do airport vans.
Upon arrival at the hotel, a member of staff greeted me with a cool glass of coconut milk…a very nice touch. Only problem? He had two. And wanted to know where my husband was. Then, upon check-in, the woman at the desk couldn’t tell if I had paid or not. At one point, she handed me a receipt that said twice the amount that I owed. Umm…I think there’s been a mistake. So she had to undo everything and we basically agreed I would pay any balance when I left because she wasn’t sure if they had already charged my card or not. This shouldn’t happen at what’s supposed to be a five star resort.
Then, they take me to my room. There’s a letter waiting for me. Only problem? I’m not Mr. Amato or whoever the letter was for. My butler was perplexed. “You are not Mrs. Amato?” No, really I’m not.
I sit on the oddly short King Size bed and exhale. Trying to relax.
I order room service. Gazpacho and ceviche. A gentleman arrives with my tray. He wants to know where my husband is. My fiance? No friends with me? No one? Really?
Yes, I took myself on vacation. For 2.5 days.
The view from my room was of the lagoon and front pool. And the parking lot and major thoroughfare. At night, I drifted off to sleep to the sound of tourist buses traversing Cancun. When I wasn’t listening to the people on both sides of me knocking boots, that is. (And the wall. It’s the headboard knocking against the wall that drives me insane.)
And sadly for this here Web site, around 6 pm each evening, the complimentary wifi would drag to a complete stop as people returned to their iPads to download movies for the evening. (The resort has in-room DVD players, but didn’t seem to have the ability to rent movies directly from the television.) My dreams of catching up on writing umpteen blog posts? Foiled.
Did I mention this all cost me $575 a night? Sigh.
Things started looking up on Day 2. The pool on the Caribbean was truly lovely. And the service was much better than the pool out front, where I was ignored for an entire hour before finally giving up and going inside. (Note that Le Blanc was pretty empty…August in the Caribbean. So being ignored was pretty painful, considering they had only two other people to wait on out front besides for me.)
The spa helped the resort redeem itself. This is where Le Blanc truly shines. The sauna, steam room, and baths are very well-done. And the 80 minute massage I had was awesome. (And $150 of the $180 cost was included in the price of my stay. Le Blanc gives you resort credits to spend, depending on the length of your booking.)
The gym was also pretty fantastic. Although I think I was one of only three people who used it while I was there. I’m the only person I know who goes on vacation to have time for exercise, apparently.
The breakfast buffet was also good. No one could complain about the selection or availability of any of their favorite foods. That being said, the room service menu had an odd lack of Mexican items on it. To the point where on my second evening, I had to call down and ask them to bring me something — anything — Mexican because I couldn’t find anything on the menu. The chicken tacos they sent up were awesome. Perhaps one of the best things I’ve eaten all year.
I’m writing this as my stay at Le Blanc comes to a close. They haven’t replaced my towels during my stay, despite the fact I left them balled up in a wet knot on the floor on both Saturday and Sunday. And this morning, my butler told me he’d come find me at breakfast to confirm my ride back to the airport. He’s a nice man, but it was an hour and forty-five minutes later when he found me at the pool because I gave up waiting at breakfast after about 40 minutes. He wanted me to get out of the pool to sign my receipt. Call me truculent, but I told him he could find me later. I was too busy relaxing. Sigh.
Vacations shouldn’t be this hard.
The Verdict: Meh. I had a better time and was more well-cared for at the Four Seasons…in DAMASCUS. Yes, Syria.
Posted in Cancun, Hotels, Mexico | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on July 8, 2011
I went to Vancouver for the Travel Bloggers’ Exchange Conference last month. It was okay. I stayed at L’Hermitage, which is the #1 hotel in Vancouver on TripAdvisor. I’m beginning to get the gist of TripAdvisor hotel reviews after a few ho-hum experiences…it’s all about location. I could not fault L’Hermitage for its location. But for its mattress quality? Yikes. And this is a new hotel.
The rooms at L’Hermitage are like studio apartments…all with a small kitchenette. I don’t like to eat breakfast out when I’m traveling — hello $35 at the breakfast buffet — so I really liked this aspect of L’Hermitage. Plus, the hotel was super close to a grocery store and a liquor store. I stocked up and treated myself not only to breakfast but to a little cocktail hour every afternoon. Good times.
Where I ate…
Japadog. Vancouver likes hot dogs. Especially Japanese hot dogs. Being a sucker for all things katsu, in a very small storefront on Robson Street, I went with the Tonkatsu. The Tonkatsu isn’t a real hot dog but rather fried pork with katsu sauce. For me, it was a bit on the sickly sweet side. And you know how I feel about untoasted buns. Lots of people like it here so I’d give it another shot, but my initial experience had me thinking…meh.
Given my disappointing “dinner” on Day 1, I was ready to make up for it Day 2. After consulting with the VERY helpful and VERY awesome concierge at L’Hermitage, we decided on Coast. (Also helped by the wonderful WhyGoCanada on Twitter.) It was a very perfect place for a late lunch, as they have a lovely bar that overlooks all the shellfish. You might recall my shrimp cocktail video from Coast and my delight with the dry ice treatment.
I couldn’t stop eating oysters while I was in Vancouver. I was very happy with the chef’s assortment at Coast. VERY happy.
I would go back to Coast if I were in Vancouver again. I liked the modern vibe, I liked the flirty service, and I liked the seafood…A LOT. (My goal in Vancouver was to stuff myself with as much seafood in a short amount of time as possible.)
At some point — I forget exactly when — I went to Herons Restaurant at The Fairmont and had lunch. It was only okay. The first problem was that the waitress took my order but only told me 5 to 7 minutes later than on weekend afternoons, they don’t offer the special of the day. I found this hard to understand. I changed my order and ended up with what I can only call diet food. Porcini-crusted salmon with organic vegetables. Meh. Nice. Healthy. But meh. I ordered a side of fries, which I really shouldn’t have done.
Herons is a nice place because it has a great view of the cruise ships (note the beautiful natural light), but it definitely had that hotel restaurant vibe. And I wasn’t too keen on my food. (Although I did like their very Canadian wine list.) Maybe I just ordered wrong.
That evening, I headed over to Blue Water Kitchen in Yaletown, another combined recommendation from my concierge at L’Hermitage and WhyGoCanada. I popped in super early and took a seat at the sushi bar in the back. I helped myself to more — surprise — oysters, along with the seafood ceviche. I unfortunately missed one very important word in the grapefruit, cucumber, lime, red onion, cilantro list of ingredients: GRAPEFRUIT.
I hate grapefruit. There are many foods that I don’t like, but I’ll still eat them — like mushrooms. But I really can’t eat grapefruit. At all. The grapefruit just about ruined a perfectly nice ceviche for me. Grapefruit bitterness is very pervasive. Very.
I also had the oddest lemon tart I’ve ever had at Blue Water…does this look like lemon tart to you??
I had to reread the menu. Ingredients? Frozen wild flower honey meringue, burnt orange sauce, caramelized almonds, pistachio and hazelnuts. Again, not paying attention. (Really though…how they can call this a lemon tart, I don’t know.)
Even with all this, I kinda liked Blue Water and would go back. But I would pay attention next time when ordering. Hah!
My last stop in Vacouver — I think — was the very sweet Zero One sushi. Super small, and not at all fancy. It’s exactly what I was in the mood for. HOLE IN THE WALL.
You place your order at the counter and the sushi chef is your waiter. I got one of the day’s specials — just a couple of small rolls — and used the miso soup to relieve myself of my TBEX hangover from the night before. Sushi Zero is not fancy nor is it gourmet. It’s inexpensive and honest, and sometimes that’s all I need.
So definitely some hits and misses in Vancouver, and I obviously had a seafood bias. If that’s not an excuse to go back and eat more, I don’t know what is!
Posted in Canada, Hotels, Japanese, Seafood, Vancouver | 5 Comments
Posted by Krista on June 29, 2011
When I bought my condo in Chicago last August, I tried explaining to my developer how much I HATE BEIGE. So many hotel rooms…seas of beige. I banned all beige from the construction site that was my soon-to-be home. I learned the hard way that stores don’t seem to stock white tile anymore…unless you want to pay a gazillion dollars for Egyptian or Italian marble. The contractors thought me and my beige ban were nutso, especially when I had 3200 lbs (yes) of white marble tile that I found on the Internet delivered by freight. Seriously.
The Sofitel Stephansdom is not beige. Anything but. It’s oddly disconcerting. Particularly on a sunny day. And particularly if you’ve had a little too much red wine. Red wine + Sofitel Stephansdom white room = accident waiting to happen. (I believe they also have gray rooms and black rooms. Request those if you plan on drinking red wine.)
I wanted to, but I didn’t. No time, no time. What with my spa treatment and everything. (The bad part? When she told me that my dehydrated skin was beyond repair and would only get worse. !!! If I’m paying you 100 euros, you tell me you’re a miracle worker. That’s all I care about.)
I didn’t want to touch anything. Really.
The only burst of color–a set of Hermes bath products. They look lovely, but they left me smelling oddly muskily masculine for the next 24 hours until I reached the other side. Not recommended.
The Verdict: Lovely. Free wifi. Free non-alcoholic minibar. A bed and fluffy duvet you don’t want to leave. But beware the Hermes if you’re female.
Posted in Austria, Hotels, Vienna | 2 Comments
Posted by Krista on June 5, 2011
The Dean Street Townhouse
Date of Last Visit: Late April, 2011
Americans who go abroad often have a problem with European hotel rooms. They are too small, they say, Read TripAdvisor or anything similar and you will find gazillions of my countrymen (sorry — countrypeople) lambasting the size of European hotel rooms.
So let’s just get it out of the way now. My room at The Dean Street Townhouse was small. Pretty small.
But it was also absolutely gorgeous. GORGEOUS.
I want to hire the person who makes the bed to come to my house and iron all my sheets and make my bed every day, so tight and snugly was it done up and so soundly did I sleep here.
When I lived in London, everyone that was up on London and restaurants and drinking establishments knew about The Dean Street Townhouse. Part of Soho House (and Shoreditch House), it was quite hard to ignore. But what people knew about was the restaurant. Not the hotel. Sascha over at LibertyLondonGirl posted a video review of the hotel quite some time ago, and I remember being charmed by all this small boutique property had to offer. So when it came time to book my birthday stay in London over Royal Wedding Weekend, it was the first place I looked…after I figured out that every other hotel I’d want to stay in was going for more than $600 USD per night. (The Dean Street Townhouse was still not cheap in American terms…£250 or $410 a night. Ouch. Hurts me to think about it in dollars. But in pounds, £250 sounds so much better.)
For a small hotel, Dean Street was jam-packed with amenities. I’ve yet to stay in any other hotel that offers Sky+ to their guests. (That’s Tivo, to my American readers.) There was free-wifi throughout the hotel — even next door in the neighboring restaurant — and even better, there was this…
See all those bottles there? Those are Cowshed products. Four different types of body wash to choose from, along with a lovely shampoo and conditioner. FULL SIZE. The conditioner was so good that I bought a bottle before I left. Really…amazing. (I have ridiculously thick hair with a wave that only responds to professionals. — I’m on the 4th week of a very intense Keratin treatment at the moment. — Cowshed’s conditioner tamed it more than any other conditioner I’ve ever tried. Truly.)
Ah and see this…these are all the goodies that maybe you forgot to bring along with you. Like I had forgotten facial cleanser. So I used Cowshed’s. I don’t normally use toner, but as long as I was using the cleanser, I also used the toner and let me tell you…I am now a believer. My skin has never — honestly — felt younger. I don’t understand why the best of hotels don’t provide this sort of amenity basket. The upside from someone like me buying the £18 bottle of conditioner certainly pays for all the products in here. Including the prophylactics. Yes. There were even prophylactics in the basket.
The rest of the room — what admittedly there was of it — was similarly delightfully and thoughtfully put together. Every day, they filled up my tea and biscuit tins. And in the drawers of that cupboard there was not only a Babyliss hair dryer, but also a HAIR STRAIGHTENER. I have never stayed in a hotel before that offers hair straighteners. That’s awesome.
The only downside to my three-night stay here? The floor covering was something rattan-like. I accidentally left a sweater on the floor one night and was picking hay off myself for the next 48 hours.
The Verdict: STAY. NOW. OBEY.
The Damage: Significant. But it was my birthday. So there is that.
Posted in Hotels, London, United Kingdom, W1 | 7 Comments
Posted by Krista on May 20, 2011
The Mercure Grand, Warsaw. I liked it here. Free wifi. Nice bar. Friendly staff.
Hotel Le Palais in Prague. I loved this place. Old school. Free mini bar! Awesome lobby bar. Lovely bar staff. And very inexpensive hotel car–a quiet as a mouse BMW–that swept us away to the airport when it was time to leave.
K&K Opera Budapest. I did not like this hotel. Particularly after we overheard a guest at the front desk saying someone had just kicked in the door of his room and stolen all his belongings. Free seemless wifi though throughout the hotel. (As if that helped the poor dude.) Also, safe was way too small for anything of value. Like you know…a laptop, an iPad, etc.
The brand-spanking new Hilton Vienna Danube. Loved it, although my bathroom smelled like mildew (the shower curtain). Hated that they charged for wifi. Loved it that you could sit out on the Danube and watch the traffic go by. Loved the inexpensive food and beverage prices. (Except for the 7 euros for a bottle of sparkling. That’s crazy talk.)
The gorgeous but blindingly white and slightly discombobulating Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom (too many mirrors). Free wifi everywhere! Free mini bar too! Lovely bed linens. Nice spa! Great bar on the 18th floor with fantastic views! Sad to leave.
Five hotels in five days. Sigh.
Posted in Hotels | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on May 16, 2011
JW Marriott, Kuwait City
Al Shuhada Street
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Date of Last Visit: Late March, 2011
See Dad, they have hotels in Kuwait. They even have — gasp — MARRIOTTS.
I thought Kuwait City was pretty awesome. I though the JW Marriott was even more so. Mainly because of the lovely staff. The rooms were a bit dated and the Internet in the rooms was only Ethernet (although there was wifi in the common areas), but the people who work for this hotel are really some of the nicest hotel staff I’ve ever encountered. By the end of my stay, they all knew my name. That’s impressive. Most impressive of all though was that everyone seems to have worked for the hotel since it opened more than 20 years ago. That’s BEFORE the war, for those of you up on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
There’s a Japanese restaurant in the hotel called Kei. I had lunch there late one afternoon after a long day of meetings, when I couldn’t get up the energy to head out into the 90+ degree weather and find something else. For a Japanese restaurant in the middle of Kuwait City, you really couldn’t ask for better. This was unexpectedly excellent. The salmon was like it had just been caught and cut up moments before. What a surprise. A pricey surprise (hotel food! sigh.) but a nice surprise nonetheless.
The only downside to the Marriott was that it was pretty expensive. (And of course, just my luck, it was the only business-class hotel with rooms available while we were there.) I got talking to one of the sales guys later in my stay and he explained that hotel prices in Kuwait are more or less fixed. So if you’re a certain class of hotel, you have to charge a certain price. This means they can’t really be as competitive as they’d like to be.
If I do go back to Kuwait, I would stay here again mainly for the staff. And maybe because I plan to buy a Louis Vuitton bag. (The hotel is attached to the most upscale mall in Kuwait.) That being said, I hope I make my millions before returning so that I don’t blink when it’s time to pay the bill at checkout.
Posted in Hotels, Kuwait City, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on May 10, 2011
Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Sheikh Zayed Rd
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Date of Last Visit: Late March, 2011
As I like to say to my FOX News-loving father, “They have hotels in Dubai too, you know.” When I go to Dubai, I think he’s imagining me out under the stars with the Bedouin. Not that that would be a bad thing. I’m 100% positive that would be totally awesome. Sand in the laptop though…that would be bad. (Having spent a fair chunk of time in Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Syria within the last 18 months, I am confident that even out under the stars, we would have wifi.)
Speaking of sand in my laptop…this was from my hotel room on the 32nd floor around 3 pm in the afternoon one day. Hello sandstorm.
The desk area in my hotel room was PERFECT. Great chair. And they included a US=>Europe plug adapter. (Newer properties in Dubai use European plugs, although you’ll find a lot of the older three-pronged outlets that I couldn’t quite figure out.) There was also an awesome one-cup Nespresso machine. Heaven.
I think they knew I was coming. Love love love Molton Brown and wish it were cheaper in the US.
I also loved the fruit plate. They had pitted the dates and replaced the pits with peanuts. Genius. Delicious.
The one sweat band thing was kinda weird though.
Other things I loved about the Jumeirah Emirates Towers: seemless free wireless Internet access everywhere, free pick-up and drop-off from the DIFC, being attached to a mall (even if the mall was a little empty), finding a nail salon in the mall, the bar snacks at the bar on the top floor (mmmm wasabi peanuts), and the lovely wine list at the wine bar on the ground floor. Also, how when my purse broke, they brought me like 20 safety pins to try to fix it.
Is the Jumeirah Emirates Towers BIG? YES. Is it soulless? YES. Are the rooms a bit dated? YES. But is it convenient if you’re in Dubai for work and have to go back and forth to the DIFC? YES.
I’d stay here again.
Posted in Dubai, Hotels, United Arab Emirates | 4 Comments
Posted by Krista on February 27, 2011
108 E Superior St (entrance on Rush)
After being part of the awesome blog scene in London for so long, it’s a little bit disconcerting to be a nobody again. But really, I am starting completely over from scratch in terms of my blog and traffic and the people I know here and no one knows that better than me. Trust me.
So I was pretty chuffed–as we say in the UK–when @ThePeninsulaChi invited me out to dinner AND ice skating at the top of the John Hancock Tower. (Yes, seriously. More to come on the 2nd half of the evening in a later post.) How they found me, I don’t know. But I’m glad they did. What follows is a write-up of an invite to review.
I already knew that The Peninsula does one thing I love above all others–and I am not normally a sweets person–macarons. And they do them very very well. So on that basis alone, I had to say yes.
I had been having a pretty tough week…all co-workers all the time. (Note to co-workers: I love you. Really. But I needed an escape.) Monday, dinner at Rockit on Hubbard. Tuesday, dinner at Moe’s Cantina. Wednesday, dinner at 33 Club on Wells. (As two out of the three were corporate buffet-types-of-events, I won’t be writing anything up.) So it was nice to escape into the calm chalet-like surrounds of The Peninsula’s Pierrot Gourmet with a bunch of people I’d never met before.
First up, a lovely green salad, which was just what I needed after three nights in a row of few to no vegetables. Seriously, I was having one of those “My kingdom for a salad” moments. Great dressing.
Next up a plate of pickled veg–which dare I say it–cried out for some vodka. Although I don’t love pickles themselves (although I do love those tiny gherkins), I do love any sort of pickled veg. Vinegar…yum.
Next up, a plate of juniper berry-smoked speck. Regular readers might recall that I was an exchange student in Innsbruck, Austria for a year back when I was in university in the 90s. This plate brought back happy memories, as Speck (pronounced Schpeck in Tirol) is very much a part of the regular diet. This version leaned more towards berry than smoke.
Next up was a pot of amazing three-cheese fondue, made with Gruyere, Appenzeller, and Fontina cheeses. I will admitting to losing my bread more than a few times in the cheese, but it was a fun and social way of dining. I would highly recommend this for a girls’ night out.
Next up, my favorite shot of the night. Macarons–again, only one of my most favorite things in the world–and social media. Combined. See the iPhone? See the dSLR? Awesome. As were the macarons.
The Verdict: An absolutely lovely way to spend an evening, and an evening I highly recommend. Chalet Nights at Pierrot Gourmet at The Peninsula run every Thursday evening through March 31st, 2011. Get a group of your friends together and go. Pierrot Gourmet is offering a special menu for $19 per person, for a minimum of two people; dinner includes the fondue with mountain bread, the speck, the pickled vegetables, the green salad, and a glass of eau-de-vie (pear brandy). This is, in this blogger’s opinion, an EXCELLENT value. Thank you to Chef de Cuisine and the PR team behind The Peninsula Chicago for such an amazingly lovely evening.
This was an “invite to review.” I roughly estimate the value of this evening to be $50, including the little bag of macarons I got to take home at the end of the evening.
Posted in Blogging, German, Hotels, Michigan Avenue, Wine | 3 Comments
Posted by Krista on February 22, 2011
Dubai Radisson Blue, Media City
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Background: No one ever listens to me. When my colleagues and I were booking our trip to Dubai, I was in charge of airline tickets and someone else was in charge of hotel arrangements. I said, “Don’t book us in a hotel by Dubai Marina. We want to be south of the Burj Khalifa or otherwise, we’ll spend all our time in taxis.”
You can guess where this is going.
Where did he book us? Media City, which is about a five minute taxi ride from Dubai Marina and a 20 to 30 minute ride to the Dubai International Finance Centre, where most of our meetings took place. So we spent all our time in taxis. (That being said, we got a really good rate at the Dubai Radisson Media City…something like $225 a night. Much cheaper than most of the other business class hotels I had looked at.)
Anyhow, in the end, it didn’t really matter because this was quite a nice hotel. My flight got in around 6:30 a.m. and I was to my hotel at 8:30 a.m. I was in bed by 8:40 a.m. with this idea that I would wake up at noon and go shopping or spa-ing. (Spa-ing. Have I just created a new gerund?)
Again. You can guess where this is going. I woke up at 2:30 pm. Talk about a waste of a day!
I liked the desk at the hotel. It was a nice place to work, and I appreciated the coffee/tea service and the two bottles of complimentary water they left for me every night. (They also left chocolate on my pillow each night too!)
I also liked the slippers. So enamored am I with hotel slippers that I’ve started buying my own on Amazon. I hate it when hotels don’t provide slippers. Manky carpet and all that.
I would have liked a bathtub, but I was generally okay otherwise with the bathroom. Nice bath products. (No name brands, but still nice.)
Best though was the spa at the Radisson, where my 1 hr 15 minute facial–by my first male therapist no less–turned into a two hour facial and my skin emerged more youthful than it’s been in years. I was very very pleased.
I never got a chance to try the fitness center, unfortunately. But I did visit the bar on the ground floor and the rooftop bar (not that either have anything to do with fitness). They were both nice in that they didn’t feel like hotel bars; they felt more like destinations. Also, I had a good meal in the hotel restaurant–Certo–where our service was amazingly lovely, although our mains fell short of the mark.
The Verdict: If you need to be in this part of town, you could do far worse than the Dubai Radisson Media City. It’s got all the amenities a business traveler could need, and the service is quite good. In short, this hotel is a very good option.
Posted in Dubai, Hotels, United Arab Emirates | Comments Off
Posted by Krista on February 6, 2011
Napcab Munich Airport
Terminal 2, Gate H32
The Victim: Me
The Damage: 33.50 euros
The Background: I think I will start a new blog. The Travel Sagas blog. Where people like me can contribute their awful travel sagas in writing. This way, rather than boring your friends with the entire story in person, you can just say, “Here’s the link. It’s easier if you read it.”
The last five days have been hell. Truly. I am not going to bore you with the details. (You really don’t want me to tell the entire story. Let’s just say it involves a 16-year-old German exchange student, a blizzard, and a missing passport.) Somewhere during this saga, I unexpectedly found myself in Munich’s airport, with nine-and-a-half hours to kill between flights. I was exhausted. So I Google’d “where to sleep in Munich airport” and somehow found out about Napcab.
So you see that box up there? The box in the middle of the airport? I slept in that box for two hours the other day. Two very peaceful hours. And although it was a little bit of an odd experience, it was still worth it.
Napcabs are like those Yo! Hotels you’ve read about. It’s a tiny little space with a bed and a desk, meant for the exhausted traveler. There’s a T1 line for you to get online. (Munich Airport does not offer ANY free wireless. Not even in the Lufthansa lounge.) It comes with mood lighting and mood music, and it’s supposed to come with movies and TV, but I couldn’t get those to work. The odd part about the Napcab in the screen you pull down once you’re inside. It’s not a 100% perfect fit, so light bleeds in around the edges. And when people approach the Napcab from the outside–which the curious are wont to do–you can see their shadows flicker against the wall. It’s odd knowing that someone it outside your Napcab, trying to look in.
Here is the view from the other side of the bed. You can see the control center, which handles your music, lighting, and a wake-up alarm if you should so desire.
I entered my Napcab around 12:40 pm. I departed around 2:45 pm. So two hours of blissful sleep, in the middle of a long journey. There’s something to be said for that, even if it was in the middle of the airport. And even if I later learned that even if you only use the Napcab for two hours, you have to pay for three. (Apparently it’s a three-hour minimum.)
When you check out, the unit locks behind you and no one can rent it again until it’s been cleaned.
The Verdict: If you’re in Munich Airport–and exhausted–do it. Note that there are only two Napcabs at Gate H32 so you’ll need to be lucky like I was!
Posted in Hotels, Munich | 11 Comments