Flying First Class

Posted by Krista on March 1, 2014

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I’m on a plane! To Singapore. Well, Hong Kong really. And then onwards to Singapore. I cashed in a gazillion miles and I’m flying FIRST CLASS. If you’re going to fly 22.5 hours…well, I could do it so I did it. Trust me, most of the time, I’m at the back of the plane. So this is a big deal for me. I’m taking a break…a three-week break, unusual in the American working world. So I wanted to start things in style.

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Before my flight, I ate some smoked salmon in the Global First lounge (okay, maybe three servings of smoked salmon) and I drank all the champers. The United Global First lounge in Chicago has been recently renovated, and now it is a sea of beige. The huge bronze sculpture that used to be the focal point of the lounge is gone and the staff don’t know where to. My workplace has the same chairs as the lounge, which is alarming me for some reason. I also drank a lot of water in the lounge because hydration is key and I’ve got a lot of hours in front of me. So now I am getting on a silver tube that will fly through the sky for 14.5 hours. Crazy.

The Getaway, London Edition

Posted by Krista on January 2, 2014

Everyone’s been telling me “You should watch that new show, The Getaway. Anthony Bourdain has something to do with it. They just did a London episode. Quincy Jones’ daughter is in it. You’ll love it. She goes to some cool places.” And I did love The Getaway, London. Rashida Jones has excellent taste. (Although you know how I feel about The Dean Street Townhouse now.) Here’s a clip of her at one of my old locals, 69 Colebrooke Row. Bryan and Stacey, if you’re reading this, I miss you. xoxo.

Oh and by the way, I did get away to London recently. I have some stuff to report. Eventually.

Now, Voyager

Posted by Krista on January 1, 2014

I watched this Bette Davis movie over the holidays and it was so very charming. Bette Davis is luminous in it. Lovely. Her eyes really do shimmer — and this is from 1942, before all those special effects and filters and crazy lenses and gazillion cameras. Now, Voyager is the way movies were meant to be, although I really could do without the soundtrack after a while.

And although I read something snippy the other day about my homeslice Walt Whitman (Long Island, New York, my people), I’d still like to quote him here:

The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted, Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.

Happy 2014, my friends. Sail forth, to seek and to find.

 

Hotel Booking Sites I’m Obsessed With

Posted by Krista on September 21, 2013

Some people like to sit on their couch and watch sports in their spare time. Me, I like to thumb through travel booking sites. All of the travel booking sites. Imagining my next trip. I like to see what the same hotel will cost me on different sites, and if there’s an advantage to booking on one site over another. (Even when I’m not going anywhere.) This was made particularly clear during our trip to Bogota, where Ms. Roam & Home scored us a great discount at the B.O.G. Hotel on Splendia, a new site for me.

If you’re a travel aficionado, I’m probably not going to be telling you anything new. But maybe you don’t know about all these sites. If so, I consider it my duty to tell you. Also, you should really join these sites just for the welcome booking bonuses and referral credits alone.

LuxuryLink.com: $50 credit on your first purchase! Now that’s awesome. I like the global selection of hotels and villas and also the tidy arrangement of what’s on sale (newest, best selling, closing soon, highest percent off retail). Also, they have a selection of vacation packages that are available by auction or “Buy it Now” prices. For example, there’s a great deal at the Miraflores Park Hotel in Lima for two nights for $717 USD. Breakfast for two and massages for two are included in the rate. Visit LuxuryLink.com and search for Miraflores Park Hotel for more info. LuxuryLink.com also includes forums blogs, and live chats too. 17 hotels in London, to give you an indication. Register for LuxuryLink.com now.

Splendia.com: For every friend you invite, you receive a 20 euro credit. Splendia says they offer 3000 luxury hotels worldwide and I just checked out the London selection and it is pretty impressive. (48 hotels as of this writing.) I like the “Splendia Club” aspect which gives you 2% of the total amount paid for a booking as a credit on future bookings. (If you become a Gold member, you’ll get 4%.) My Bogota trip earned me $16.02 for use on a future booking, but you need at least 20 euros to get started using your credits. The site offers a small number of private sales each day. Register for Splendia.com now.

TabletHotels.com. Earn 25 Tablet Credits per reservation and earn 25 credits when your friends book. A Tablet Credit seems to be equivalent to $1 USD but that’s not entirely clear to me just yet. They have 55 London  hotels on their list. I like how if a hotel’s ratings fall below 16 points, they take the hotel off their list. They have a small selection of private sales (there are two active right now), along with a general section of deals. They have travel guides written  by hotel concierges, a magazine, and a cool membership program called “Tablet Plus.” With Tablet Plus, you pay $195 a year and that gives you access to upgrades, special perks, and bonus amenities. Register for TabletHotels.com now.

JetSetter.com: You’ll earn a $25 credit for every friend you refer who makes a booking. They offer 34 London hotels. There are daily deals, which I think is one of the main attractions of JetSetter.com. I love to live vicariously through the daily deals. Also, there are editors’ picks and a magazine. You can also pay $250 for a travel consultant who will help you plan your next trip, which is a neat feature. When checking out the different hotels on offer, it looks like JetSetter sometimes arranges a few perks with different rooms. For example, at The Royalton in New York, the Jetsetter rate for deluxe rooms also includes a 2 p.m. late checkout, and for Loft Suite Kings and Alcove suites, the Jetsetter rate also includes two free signature cocktails per stay. Register for JetSetter.com now.

I did a little price comparison of deals from the four sites over here on a Google doc. I was looking at the Miraflores Lima Hotel because all four sites offered it. One of the main differences I found between the sites is whether they offered rooms with cancellation penalties or not. You can see that in the pricing. (I took the best available price from each site, regardless of cancellation penalty.) Hard to say who comes out on top after you factor in things like Splendia’s membership credits and things like TabletPlus from TabletHotels.com. Also, LuxuryLink had a GREAT package deal if you were up for the Junior Suite option. Lots to think about…

Instagram Fun in Bogota

Posted by Krista on September 19, 2013

We (@roamandhome and @cbobfoto and me) set ourselves an Instagram challenge in Bogota. Maybe you already know this. If not, hop on over to Instagram and check out our #bogotaisariot hash tag. (Because Bogota was a-rioting while we were there.) Too lazy? Here are some of my snaps…

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Dillmans, Chicago

Posted by Krista on September 18, 2013

IMG_6415I went to Dillman’s for lunch the other day. It is all dark and cozy with chandeliers. My server said “for sure, for sure” a lot. It was distracting. Also distracting? The rose was listed under “Whites” on the wine list. Less distracting? The chicken liver and lovely toasty warm brioche. A very generous, tasty and satisfying portion at $9.95.

Best part? COWSHED PRODUCTS in the bathroom. SOHO HOUSE CHICAGO, I am coming for you.

The Verdict: Go for the chandeliers! And wash your hands with all the Cowshed! Have the chicken liver with ALL the toast. For sure.

Dillman's on Urbanspoon

B.O.G. Hotel, Bogota

Posted by Krista on September 17, 2013

IMG_6655Ah, the calla lily. I had no idea I loved the flower so much until I entered a hotel that was full of them. I have to wonder if this is a year-long thing for the B.O.G. hotel in Bogota or seasonal. Regardless, I loved the B.O.G.’s calla lilies. And I really liked the B.O.G. hotel as well.

IMG_6456The hotel was all about light and texture. Check out the panel behind the bed. Burlap-y. (We saw the same texture later in the craft market. We’re not sure if this is a typical Colombian textile or not.) The handles on the closet doors were leather and metal. The curtains on the windows, gold and gauzy, and the sheets on the bed very crisp and very cool and smooth. A comfortable sleep, except for the smoke detector that chirped at me at a piercing volume in the middle of the night. (The hotel investigated and couldn’t find anything. But I swear to you…loud smoke detector chirps two nights in a row! You know the type…the ones that make you bolt straight out of bed in the middle night wondering “What’s happening? What’s happening?)

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The lovely bar on the ground floor — always curiously empty during our stay and wont to close by 10 pm  — served a mean lulo fruit mojito. I sort of needed to lie down after this baby.

We saw very few guests during our stay at the B.O.G. This is either because we were visiting in the off season, or Bogota is not yet on your travel map. If it’s not there, it should be. We felt safe and secure during our entire visit to Bogota, the food was great, and the people were friendly and helpful. If you do visit Bogota — and you should — I’d recommend the B.O.G. hotel. My one note would be about the hotel’s location. Bogota is a big city, and the B.O.G. might not be super-convenient to everything you want to do and see. That being said, taxis are cheap and plentiful, so if you’re willing to sacrifice location for style, you should do it. Do it!

La Sirena Clandestina, Chicago

Posted by Krista on September 16, 2013

IMG_6389Look at this restaurant. Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you want to stay here all day? It’s so pretty and serene and the light is coming through the windows JUST SO.

But someone is having a bad day, and it’s not me. I’m having a great day. It’s Friday! It’s lunchtime! Everything is great and everybody is happy!

It’s my server who is having a bad day. He’s not mean or anything…he’s just…absent. And I don’t mean that he’s not physically present, because he is physically present. He’s just mentally absent. He just doesn’t seem to want to be there. At all. And he doesn’t want me to be there either. He doesn’t seem to want me to eat or drink and he has no recommendations on anything. Everything is good here, he says. All the wines are nice, he says.

IMG_6388But everything is not good here. The eggplant empanada is bland and tasteless and doesn’t deliver on the promise of its appearance.

IMG_6387The salmon ceviche, on the other hand, is quite zingy and tart.

IMG_6390The feijoada is good but I am really jonsing for some farofa to sprinkle around everything.

The Verdict: I like the look of La Sirena Clandestina. I also like the sink in the bathroom. The food was good but I think I’m going to have to give this place another go to say for sure.

La Sirena Clandestina on Urbanspoon

Tanta, Chicago

Posted by Krista on September 15, 2013

IMG_6385I like meeting people from the Internet. People like Francis who says to me one day, “I’m going to Lima by myself. You should come!” And I say things like “Francis, you can’t say things like this to me because I will actually come with you.” And before you know it, Wendy and Maureen are coming too and Francis turns out to be the TRAVEL MASTER ORGANIZER and has an agenda for us and everything and we eat all the fruit and drink all the pisco sours and leave Lima very very happy.

Francis proved to be the master organizer yet again when he marched us little ducklings off to Tanta, the new Peruvian place in Chicago by Peruvian chef Gaston Arcurio, whom some may be familiar with from World’s 50 Best Astrid & Gaston. (Almost wrote Gastrid and Ashton there. Whoops.)

I’m worried about Tanta’s location. Although it’s in River North, it’s in a bit of a desolate stretch of Grand close to Lasalle. Signage is also a little discreet for River North, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. I can imagine the tourists walking by…”Should we go here? I don’t know…Tanta? What does that mean? Do they have steak here? Do you think I can put ketchup on it? I hope they open at 5.”

But once inside, I love the space. I love the bar and would happily come back here to dine solo. I love that it’s not too uber-stuffed with tables and chairs. There’s an appreciation of personal space here that is just really nice.

That being said, personal space is on overdrive at the back of the restaurant at our table, which is too wide and too long for our party of five. I am the fifth wheel. And the restaurant is LOUD and my hearing is not as bionic as it used to be. I am alone at the end of the table, but the lovely and gracious Mr. Stashwick is a wonderful table-mate.

Enough babble. Let’s talk CHICKEN. I cannot profess my love of a full roast chicken enough. Roast chicken is one of my absolute favorite things to eat and to make. (Yes, you read that correctly…to make!) While I hate restaurant chicken breast entrees (too frozen Restaurant Depot for me), I love a pick-at-it-all-day-and-all-night-long roast chicken. And Tanta’s is probably one of the best I’ve ever had. The presentation is awesome…so many sides and lovely crisp potatoes that are even crisp the next morning when I polish them off as leftovers for breakfast. Seriously, this is very good stuff, very excellent, supremely competent stuff.

The Verdict: I will be back here soon. You should go too. Maybe we should go together and drink all the Pisco Sours together.

P.S. It’s perhaps worthy to note that we received special treatment the night we came in because Francis was super-excited about the restaurant’s opening and had been in touch with Gaston Arcurio and staff. The chef came out a few times to talk with us, along with some of the other senior staff. Also, we were comped a few dishes; my apologies but because I was not in charge of the bill, I’m not sure what exactly we were comped but it was a small amount in relation to the overall bill. We tipped as if we had not been comped, of course.

Tanta on Urbanspoon

 

The Ritz Carlton, Cancun

Posted by Krista on September 14, 2013

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I booked myself a package holiday to Cancun the other week. Part of me wants to laugh at myself about this. But first let me tell you the situation: I spend enough time in South Florida as it is (family ties), so I’m kinda over Miami and Fort Lauderdale. And for a beachy weekend getaway from Chicago, there are really only two tropical places you can easily get to on United Airlines, my airline of choice because of my miles. (Haters, don’t be hating.) The two places you can get to easily via a direct flight from Chicago most days of the week are Cancun, Mexico and San Juan, Puerto Rico. I do really like San Juan — especially the old Colonial part — but I like shrimp tacos better. (Although shrimp tacos are technically more a west coast of Mexico thing.) So Cancun it was. (I also toyed with Panama but it’s a longer flight. Some other time, perhaps.)

Anyhow, because it’s August in Mexico, you can get some pretty good deals. (British friends, take note. Because all the currencies are still in your favor.) So I ended up flying business class to Cancun and staying on the Club floor at The Ritz with food and booze all included — as long as I wasn’t expecting filet mignon or anything — for what I personally considered to be a decent deal. (Not a steal. A deal.) Other things for me to consider: I was by myself and I didn’t want to feel like I was interloping on anyone’s honeymoon — always a risk in a lot of Cancun hotels. So my options were fairly limited: the Westin, the JW Marriott, or The Ritz.

The Ritz it was it. And let me tell you…this place is OLD SKOOL. Pink marble everywhere, oil paintings, woodwork, brass. WOW. It all felt pretty weird and out of place in this very beachy, touristy town.

IMG_6432But…the beach out back was pretty fantastic. Really an awesome beach. I spent a lot of time in the water. I miss salt water.

And the SERVICE. The service was fantastic. Any time I turned around with the slightest thought of “Maybe I should…” someone was there to get me a drink or offer me a menu or bring me a cool towel.  When I left, one of the staff members HUGGED ME and in a nice way and not a creepy way.

IMG_6428The shrimp tacos poolside were awesome, if expensive.

IMG_6439And the Argentinian sparkling Chardonnay Malbec in the lounge was interesting and different and, well, it helped to pass the time as I read book after book after book and tried to figure life out. (Still working on that.)

IMG_6425Ohh…and there were BABY TURTLES waiting to be hatched! Everywhere! July – September is turtle season in Cancun.

The Ritz Carlton Cancun is about to undergo some major renovations, so I would stay away from here in the near-term. But come November or December, if you’re looking for a nice place to relax with classy service, this is a good choice. You could do worse. (Note that it’s not technically all-inclusive. But if you go for the Club Floor, you can definitely make three meals a day out of things.)

Burger & Lobster, London

Posted by Krista on September 5, 2013

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A three-trick pony. Do you want a burger? Or do you WANT SOME LOBSTAH? Lobstah for me, please. Ah look, it’s a decision tree! Lobster-lobster or lobster ROLL???

I choose roll. And it’s a mighty fine lobster roll, given that it’s on the wrong side of the Atlantic and all. Even the fries are good. I want more sauce. More sauce! You can do all the tricks in the world, pony, if you do them all THIS GOOD. And Burger & Lobster isn’t even new! It’s new to me, but it’s old for London. The bloom should be off the rose, but it’s not. It’s really not!

I have a moment….Why did I ever leave this place? Why???

I am prepared to throw it all away for a mini-chain lobster roll.

The weird part though is that there are 20 million Japanese tourists there when I’m there and they are all taking photos of their food. (Errrr…yes so was I. Awkward.)

The Verdict: You know you want to.

Burger & Lobster on Urbanspoon

My Favorite Luggage Locks

Posted by Krista on September 4, 2013

Master LockThis might be the most boring post you will ever read on this here blog. It depends on your point of view. If you, like me, lose luggage locks like you lose money on the lottery (!!!), go out and buy yourself a half-dozen of these suckers. I love them. Mainly because of the little cord they use, as opposed to the solid metal shackle that you find on most luggage locks. The cord has a bit more give to it, a bit more flexibility. Much easier to maneuver. The only problem, of course, is that the cable can probably be cut through fairly easily, but the same can be said for most metal shackles and nothing is really going to deter a real thief now, right?. These are also cheap enough (around $7 USD) that I don’t mind buying them in bulk in case the U.S. TSA does cut them off or I leave them in a hotel somewhere. Look for the Master Lock Cable Lock online.

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If you are super paranoid about your luggage (like, um, me), I would also recommend my Uncle George’s trick. Plastic zip ties. Wait until you are at the airport and about to check your luggage in for your flight. Quickly insert zip ties into luggage zippers, over/under/between luggage lock. Zip ties will require scissors to cut through, and while obviously not impossible to cut, thieves might hone in on easier targets. The problem with using zip ties is that you yourself will need a scissor to open them, and you can’t carry scissors on aircraft in the U.S. and U.K. so you have to hope you can easily find a pair of scissors when you get to where you are going. This is also why I recommend waiting to put the zip ties on until you get to the airport; one of the most annoying things in the world is to put the zip ties on and then realize you’ve forgotten something in your luggage and have to cut them open again.  I find zip ties helpful for my return flights because I know I will have scissors once I get home.

OK, there you go. My useless travel tips for the day. Get back to what you were doing now.

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