Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August, 2014 - Seattle, WA


NOT SO SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE -- THANKS TO THE MOTIF HOTEL!

This beautiful, modern hotel just switched ownership a couple of months ago -- it was a Red Lion (which we enjoyed on our last Seattle trip) -- but lots of positive changes have been made since Destination Hotels took over.  It's now The Motif, managed by very capable Shannon Sheron.  The d├ęcor is beautiful with lots of artwork, the service is very welcoming, housekeeping is terrific (always remember to tip -- they deserve  it!) and our room on the 20th floor was out-of-this-world!  It was large and modern with the most comfy bedding we've ever slept in.  And a good night's sleep was just what we needed after a 2 night stay in this amazing city.  We had a marvelous view of the Bay, the retail area and the ferris wheel -- beautiful at night!  The Motif is our "Go To" hotel whenever we visit Seattle.



Mary K in our gorgeous and "roomy" room

Peggy showing off the view from the Motif's 20th floor!


We loved the treats the Motif offers to guests in the evening.  A staff member knocks on your door and offers delicious cookies and sometimes Fran's chocolates as a little pre-bedtime surprise -- a wonderful, surprising touch and much appreciated!



Cookies served on little trays, hand delivered to our room!

 
We arrived in Seattle by ferry from Bainbridge Island on Friday afternoon and quickly decided to jump on the Emerald City Trolley -- a great idea since one of their stops is close to the ferries.  A 2 day pass was perfect for us -- we could hop-on, hop-off at several important stops in Seattle.  The drivers and guides were friendly and helpful -- we'd definitely do it again.  Thanks to the trolley, we were just in time to check into The Motif Hotel and head to Pike Place Market for the Savor Seattle Tour we ordered on the internet.
 
We met our tour guide, John, at the Pike Place Theater with the chewing gum wall.
 
The famous chewing gum wall

 
John equipped each person in our group with listening devices so we could hear him giving us details and great, funny stories about the Market.  We then followed him through the Market, always mindful of his pink umbrella.
 
 
 
And our first stop was my personal favorite -- Daily Dozen Doughnuts.  We sampled the cinnamon sugar HOT mini doughnuts -- they melt in your mouth.  We went back later in the day to buy a dozen of the frosted maple and bacon doughnuts but they were sold out -- TRAVEL TIP:  Be sure to buy them early in the day!  We gorged ourselves on a dozen powdered sugar and cinnamon ones instead....you've been wondering why I look so heavy in the pictures??
 
We leisurely walked through the Market (Thank God, this was on Friday -- a lot less crowded than on the week-ends) and sampled Market Place Tea (delish), samples of salmon and fruit (love the doughnut peaches -- we can't find them in Florida), cheese, chowder, salmon bisque, beef and lamb kabobs, and fabulous crab cakes from Etta's, owned by world famous chef, Tom Douglas.  We also liked Pears Deli and had a delicious, reasonably priced lunch at Pears the next day.
 
Pike Place Fish Market
 
 
We bid a fond goodbye to John (again, remember to tip -- these guides earn it!) and headed back to the Market to make our purchases.
 
 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

NEW YORK, NEW YORK ... AMAZING!!!

NEW YORK, NEW YORK ... AMAZING !!! 

Just returned from our fabulous New York City vacation!!

The first thing we did, pre-trip, was PACK WELL and PACK LIGHT!  Here's how we did it --- No suitcase to check; take only a carry-on swivel wheel (very important) suitcase and a large lightweight bag (quilted works great), with enough room for small/medium purse and lots of other items.  Just make sure all of your toiletries, etc. are travel size...easily found at your local pharmacy.

TIP...You'll love the ease of a swivel wheel carry-on suitcase! No pulling that weight...just scoot it at your side, with your quilted bag on top (handles secured to pull-up suitcase handle).  If you haven't tried this, you'll be amazed at the difference!

That's all we needed for a week in New York!  Not having to check a suitcase and wait, at your destination, to retrieve it at baggage is such a great time-saver! And not having to lug all of that luggage through the airport, in and out of cabs, etc. starts and ends our vacation with comfort and ease! 

Yes, we did buy souvenirs, etc. in New York....and here's one of our best tips....We found that boxing them and shipping them a day or two before you leave is easy and economical!  We'll talk about how this works later in our NYC vacation (check it out!)

Now on to our amazing week in NEW YORK!!

On our last trip to New York, we took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel.  I can assure you, we made a wise decision when we chose to take a taxi this trip! For a little more money, a cab is quicker and much more convenient.  Last NYC trip, we waited and waited for the shuttle and then sat on the shuttle while it made several long stops before finally getting to our upper mid west hotel.  This trip, we stayed on upper mid east and the taxi took us right to our hotel door, saving much time to enjoy the beginning of our vacation.  Well worth the few extra dollars! 

The Renaissance 57 Hotel, on 57th and Lexington, was our very comfortable home for our week in New York.  Love the location and we were pleased to receive an upgrade to a lovely and large room.




The marvelous king bed, with lots of pillows and luxurious comforter and cushy, comfy sofabed, were awaiting us each day after our adventures!  We appreciated our room attendants, who went out of their way to accommodate (always remember to leave a tip, each day ... we left $5.00 a day...it's worth it!) .

Jason, our concierge, was knowledgeable, helpful and friendly.  All of the doormen were conscientious and always greeted us with a smile and a "good morning", "welcome back", etc.   However, the front desk employees (with the exception of hardworking, friendly Raymond) left much to be desired! Maybe, it's because they're tired of standing at...not a true front desk...but two small "pods" in  a dark area of the "hallway" size ground floor "reception". Not a very inviting  "welcome to our hotel" arrival.

Again, loved our room.  However, with the above said, the hotel is generally very dark in all common areas. Throughout the hotel there are beautiful glass works of art by Jordan Mozer, but they get lost in the darkness.  A shame!   The rooftop terrace is small, but relaxing, with a view. 



New York...Here we go!!

Our first evening, we checked out our hotel's location and found it to be fabulous!  We were within walking distance of many NYC sights and conveniences (shops, groceries, restaurants, pharmacies, etc.).  A bus across the street from our hotel or a subway 2 blocks away took us everywhere!











Our first morning, Peggy's daughter, Nicki and her family..husband, Mike and son, Lincoln met us at our hotel.  They traveled from Florida to rent an apartment in Brooklyn.  Lots of hugs and plans for our first day's activities together!  





Our first adventure....subway to the High Line!  This is a "must experience"!    The High Line is a one mile of former New York Central Railroad track beautifully and painstakingly converted to a gorgeous park!  From Gansevoort St., through Chelsea, to 30th Street, glorious gardens, city views, sculptures, and food oasis.  Marvelous!  And lots of benches and rest areas along the way.








After all that walking, we were ready for lunch in Times Square.  We picked the closest restaurant, Brooklyn Diner, which, it turns out, wasn't as interesting (food, wait staff, decor or prices) as we'd hoped it would be.  One highlight...we saw our first celebrity..Carole King!  

x Times sq. photo subway



Next, we took the subway back to upper midtown to visit F.A.O. Swartz (on Lincoln's list of "to do's).  It is amazing, as expected!  Always enjoy their displays!  Lincoln especially liked the lego displays....Wow!  

xLincoln lego


We said our goodbyes for the day...Nicki and family continued to their next adventure and Peggy and I went back to our hotel to get ready for Broadway's Jersey Boys!  Lots of rain that night, so we opted to take a cab.  Not easy in the rain!  Finally after getting drenched (another tip...pack a small umbrella), a taxi stopped and, to our surprise, actress Tyne Daly got out!  (Second celebrity sighting.)  She was most gracious, sweet and a lovely woman.  Okay, so we have our cab...on to The Jersey Boys!  Happy with our orchestra seats and thrilled with the musical!  We liked the movie, but the musical was a real treat!  




 Thursday - After all of our walking yesterday, we were really looking forward to our Day At The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa (a Christmas gift from Peggy's husband, Dick)!  It was marvelous!!  Peggy, Nicki and I spent 4 glorious hours in the heaven of massage, facials and make-up!  Thank you, Dick!!


Before.....


During....


After.....

We met Lincoln and Mike back at our hotel (again, great location) and headed to Dylan's Candy Bar (owned by Ralph Lauren's daughter).  After filling our candy bags, we headed down the street (E. 60th) to Serendipity for their indulgent and delicious Frozen Hot Chocolate!  Wow!  








We left Nicki and family to continue sightseeing.  Peggy and I ... back to our hotel (via bus, this time) to get ready for our evening with my son, Tommy, who arrived by train from New Jersey.   We met him at the theatre, excited to see the musical, Mama Mia!  What a thrill!!  We had center orchestra seats...the best!  We loved the music, the performers...all great fun!  








After the theater, we went over to  54 Below on, what else, 54th Street. 54 Below Supper Club, in the basement of the building that used to house famous Club 54 is an interesting collaboration of Tony-Award winning producers and designers.  The club was packed so we were grateful we had reservations and sat at a good table for 3.  We ordered dinner and drinks and sat back to enjoy the entertainment. Performers from various Broadway productions gathered for a sort of "jam session".  Mixed reviews here...the MC was a bit overbearing and seemed to be playing to "the usual crowd". That said...the performers were really good!  Enjoyed their music, but wish they would have let us know what plays or musicals productions they were appearing in.  We were intrigued by the location and atmosphere.  It was a fun night!

x54 below







Friday - Fourth of July!!   Woke up early and went to our favorite for coffee - Palace Restaurant, conveniently only 2 doors away from our hotel.  Yes, there was a coffeemaker in our room, but the coffee was, (how can I put this) awful! So, we made Palace Restaurant our "to go" place...close, good food, good prices, great coffee and friendly employees!

Tommy joined us for our Fourth of July adventure!  First up...back on the subway to Chelsea Market.  (Our kids like the subway....we prefer the bus!)

What a place!  Lots to see...marvelous restaurants, shops, cafes galore!  Had delicious panini sandwiches and Ghost beer (highly recommend!).  










A walk through lovely Greenwich to beautiful Washington Square Park, with a delicious stop at Magnolia's Bakery on Bleeker St. for Wow! Banana Pudding and Cupcakes!  Stops at a few local stores and back to our hotel.  Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks (the best in the country) next!  







Arc de Triompe




It's been a long, but exciting day!  Peggy decided to stay in with a front row seat to view the fireworks.  Tommy and I opted to see them, in person.  Back on the subway, to the East River and and one of the fireworks central's ...City Hall Park. After some maneuvering in the crowd, Tommy found a good spot!  Lots of ooohhs and aaahhs!  A short walk to Little Italy for dinner and wine at Da Gennaro!  A relaxing and delicious way to end our Fourth of July in New York City!











Saturday...Back on the subway to Brooklyn.  Nicki and family will drive back to Florida this afternoon so we all met at their rental apartment.  Then, brunch at Walter's Restaurant...a bit of a wait, but well worth it!  After a walk around the area and Fort Greene Park (with a surprise parade on our route to the subway), back to Manhattan.







A rest at our hotel ... with a luscious surprise Paris Baguette strawberry shortcake courtesy of Tommy... then off again.  



This time ... The Plaza Hotel.  Magnificent inside and out!  Dreaming that our next NYC stay will be at the Plaza! After a tour of the Plaza, we walk across the street to Central Park.   Strolling through Central Park is such an amazing experience!  We see new parts of the Park on each of our NY trips.  











Central Park!!  






Out of the east side of Central Park, we head to Tommy's pick...Carlyle Hotel's Bemelman's Bar on E. 76th St.  (Special for me since the bar is full of art done by Ludwig Bemelman, creator of my favorite childhood books, Madeline!) 



  
   

After relaxing with drinks and music by Chris Gillespie, we're ready for dinner.  A walk to Shake Shack (admiring the mammoth American Museum of Natural History along the way) for some of the best burgers I've ever had!  Loved it! 




Sunday - Ahhh...one place we've been waiting to experience...Le Train Bleu in Bloomingdale's on 59th Street for brunch!  Tucked away on the sixth floor, is a staircase leading to an actual train car .. thus, Le Train Bleu!  Amazing...atmosphere, history, food...another "must experience"!!






















Walking off our delicious brunch, we head to Roosevelt Island aerial tramway!   A hidden gem!!  Four minutes on a tram that gives you awesome views...spanning the East River.    Tram station is located at 59th St. and 2nd Ave.   Roosevelt Island is approximately 2 miles long.  It's an oddity...(and so different an aura from Manhattan)...given it's history of 1800's lunatic asylum, prison and small pox hospital.  Okay...it's well worth the $4.00 round-trip tram ride and 25 cents bus ride around the Island!!











Another favorite Peggy and I discovered on our last NYC trip is Green Flea Market on Columbus Ave. between W. 76th and 77th Sts.  We left Tommy at a local Irish Bar and we headed to the Market!  It was even better than we remembered and, we made some super purchases (mostly jewelry, of course!).  





Ready for lunch, we met up with Tommy for food and a beer at Kurant. A good place to people watch (if you sit at the front bar),  but very slow service considering we were three of only six people in the bar! 




Next up.... Alice's Tea Cup on W. 73rd St... Cute, but crowded.  Just took a look around. 


Whew!  We have had some very full days!!  Time to relax back at our hotel!  Tommy had to train back to New Jersey for work on Monday...so hugs and goodbyes to Tommy.  Peggy and I ventured out, on our own, to sightsee and window shop the area around our hotel, ending with a stop at Paris Baguette (this time, berry shortcake) and dinner at our now frequent favorite, Palace Restaurant. Here's one of our best tips! After all of our walking, climbing, lugging purses, etc., our legs, backs and shoulders really hurt! This is actually Peggy's amazing idea...and I love it! Simply 2 plastic bags (from souvenir purchases) one inside the other, and fill with ice! Absolutely heaven! On your back, legs, shoulders...wherever it hurts! I felt rejuvenated in no time! 

xroom view

Monday - Our last full day in New York City! Chinatown..by bus! Believe me, buses are better! Those subways are a hike! Spent the day browsing, shopping and trying the local food. 

xchinatown

Busing back to the hotel to relax...(Another plus for buses versus subway...you see so much and it's enjoyable). Here's where our packing plan takes shape! Acquire a cardboard box and federal express form (our concierge, Jason, handled this for us). Pack your souvenirs with a few of your clothes for padding. Seal the box (our room attendant found us tape), label it, fill out the fed ex form and call Federal Express for pick up. They'll pick up your package right at your hotel. For us, cheaper than the airlines charges for checked luggage, and no lugging that suitcase around! It works! 

 That's it! Our wonderful New York City trip...made even better when our children joined us!! 

Stay tuned....LAS VEGAS and SEATTLE in August!!