feeling festive



fit for a president

With panoramic views of San Diego’s surrounding cityscape and bay, the spacious Penthouse Presidential Suite at The US Grant is a rooftop aerie worthy of a President’s Day seal of approval. Built by Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. in honor of his father, the Civil War hero and 18th President of the United States, the hotel is one of the most historically significant locations in southern California. Added onto the hotel in 1939, the penthouse was originally built as a radio station, making its historical mark as the site from which President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast the first ‘fireside chat’ outside of the nation’s capital. Boasting a dining room, a separate salon, and an executive desk tailor-made for issuing edicts with a flourish, its presidential bona fides gets a further boost from having hosted 13 of this country’s Commanders-in-Chief.


just published: spa couture

You love designer duds, covet a closet full of fashionable shoes and handbags – why would you even think of staying anywhere other than a designer hotel?  That’s exactly the thinking among a handful of the world’s top fashion houses, including Armani, Versace, Bulgari, Missoni, and Moschino, who are boldly taking the idea of lifestyle chic where no hotel and spa has gone before. Haute holidays have arrived. Here’s our peek at the new chic: vacationcouture.

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summer of pride

Kimpton Hotels is honoring the LGBT community’s continued support with a “Summer of Pride” celebration from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Long an insider favorite for its collection of stylish boutique hotels and chef-driven restaurants, Kimpton has cemented its distinctive reputation by making travelers feel welcomed and comfortable while indulging in a bit of playful cheekiness. All summer long travelers gay and straight can plan a weekend retreat and take advantage of this value-driven promotion with perks like 15 percent off the best available overnight rate, a nightly $25 dining credit for the on-site Kimpton Restaurant, and a Pride-themed welcome gift at check-in. Of particular note is one of my favorites: Philadelphia’s LEED-certified Hotel Palomar adjacent to Rittenhouse Square. It features Guillermo Tellez’ standout restaurant, Square 1682, where eco-conscious design meets organic ingredients in a New American menu bolstered by world flavors. Plus, it’s only a stone’s throw to great shopping and all the historical sights. Rates from $194.65 per night. Reservations can be made at online by entering PRIDE in the rate code box.

Even more impressive: Kimpton recently garnered the 2010 Human Rights Campaign Workplace Equality Award and 2011 Equality Forum International Business Leadership Award for its pioneering LGBT employee benefits programs. Kimpton was the first hospitality company to score a 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2004, and has maintained that perfect score every year since.


d-day v-day

It should come as no surprise to hear that scoring a Valentine table at one the city’s top restaurants is one of the toughest tricks in town. What most people aren’t aware of is that many of those same eateries cater to a dirty little secret:  take out. So if tonight’s lovey-dovey dinner is only entering your brain as you read this, fear not: you can indulge in some of the same amazing food at a slightly closer table while pretending it was the original plan all along.

Allmenus.com houses the largest selection of menus in New York, making the online ordering process easy and the delivery efficient. Here are just a few suggestions for all you late-to-the-table romantics.

One If By Land Two If By Sea is renowned for seasonal American cuisine as well as for hosting some of the city’s most romantic meals, but what’s more romantic than the privacy of your own home? Choose from a three course prix-fixe or chef’s tasting menu – just don’t forget the towering chocolate soufflé.

Don’t want to go out in the cold to buy a bottle of champagne? Let the bubbly come to you. Flute’s take out menu has a list of more than 100 types of champagne, including the grande dames: Krug, Cristal, Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, and Dom. There’s also an enticing array of apps to complement the champers: smoked salmon, caviar and chocolate crepes.

If hearty Italian is more of what you crave, let Mario Batali treat you to Babbo’s signature over-the-top Roman-style trattoria menu (deconstructed Osso Buco For Two anyone?) — complete with wine pairing suggestions.

Now all you’ll need to do is light some candles and take all the credit. That’s amore!


solde on paris

If you’re like me you’ll agree the best way to shake those post-holiday blues is to take a trip or go on a little shopping spree.  My idea of the perfect solution combines both – if you’re brave enough to venture within 50 feet of an airport these days.  Book a flight to Paris for the annual winter sales that run January 12 through February 15 when store prices are slashed up to 70%.

For the past five years the City of Light has thrown a four-day shopping “fête” called Soldes by Paris to kick off the great winter sales. From January 12 to 15, over 300 participating hotels, restaurants, boutiques and tour operators will offer visitors extra discounts, gifts and bonuses. For example, the hotels are discounting room rates up to 50% during the period – and often longer.

The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with participating establishments, is distributing a complimentary Shopping Book for visitors, which features all the special offers and discounts, plus seven themed shopping itineraries throughout the city with names like Bobo-Chic or Ethic-Ethnic. New this year, too, is a free iPhone app that features the seven itineraries, a Paris map with GPS positioning, and over 500 boutiques, restaurants and city sites.

Like anyone needs another excuse to visit Paris.


merry christmas

https://www.michaelnassar.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/p_480_385_9196915E-80AE-47AD-A3A0-A75AE653AD62.jpegI obviously misjudged my dates reviewing  the year in travel.  It should have ended on Christmas Eve and here we are on Christmas Day with two more months to go.  Oh well, I will pick it up tomorrow.

This holiday I wanted to share the post I wrote last Christmas, which is deserving of an annual outing:  Martha Graham’s letter to Agnes DeMille.  A long ago gift from a good friend, it has never failed to inspire me.

“There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep it open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you…..No artist is pleased…..There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”


vive le quatorze juillet

I’ve never needed an excuse to extol anything French, but Bastille Day is just too good a fête to forgo.  Celebrating the righteous victory of a Republic (the people) over an Empire (the King), the storming of the Bastille is by far the country’s most important day in history – not to mention one heck of a success in the annals of proletariat revolution. It calls for cake. Or even better: croissants.  With a good salty French butter, too, please.

Heck, what it really calls for is room service!  So here are a few of my favorite hotels du charm in advance of tomorrow’s fireworks – they’ll treat you like royalty without sending your wallet to the guillotine.

HOTEL RAPHAEL, Paris – Just steps away from the Arc de Triomphe, you’ll easily grab a front row seat at the annual Bastille Day Military Parade as it processes down the Champs-Elysées at this classic Parisian hotel. The hotel’s famous rooftop is ideally positioned to watch the Eiffel Tower’s extravagant fireworks display, too.   www.raphael-hotel.com.

VILLA & HOTEL MAJESTIC, Paris – This newest addition to the Parisian hotel landscape is within immediate proximity of the Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower’s fireworks show. Chic interiors combine classic French style and period antiques with contemporary abstract artwork and modern furnishings in comfortably oversized living spaces.  www.majestic-hotel.com.

HOTEL REGINA, Paris – A Belle Époque gem in the heart of Paris, directly across the Tuileries Garden and the Louvre.  (The Louvre offers free admission on Bastille Day, by the way). The 90 individually designed guest rooms and suites at Hotel Regina are adorned with Toile de Jouy fabrics, rich Regency colors and period furnishings. www.regina-hotel.com.

HOTEL DU PALAIS, Biarritz – Built in 1855 by Napoleon III as a summer mansion for Empress Eugenia, this grandiose oceanfront hotel has interiors with restored 19th century antiques, a Guerlain spa, and a bunker and putting green for you to practice your swing before hitting the links along the magnificent Basque Coast. www.hotel-du-palais.com.

PAN DEI PALAIS, Saint-Tropez – Luxury historic mansion turned boutique hotel located in the heart of Saint-Tropez.  Sun bathers can view the magnificent sights of the French Riviera while lounging in this harmonious haven of Asian-inspired architecture and modern amenities. www.pandei.com.

PALAIS STÉPHANIE, Cannes – This new hotspot’s modern redesign pays tribute to its glam film heritage – the hotel sits on the original site of the Palais des Congrès, where the first Cannes Film Festivals were held. Located in the center of the famous La Croisette and steps from the beach, Palais Stéphanie maximizes the decadent European luxury experience. www.palaisstephanie.com.


in fireworks lie secret codes

Whether you cringe at the thought of anything overtly patriotic or your cell phone rings that you’re “Proud to Be an American (‘cause at least I know I’m free)”, there is one thing that everyone can agree on come July 4th and that’s fireworks. Big, bright and blazing across the sky. Here are a handful of ways to indulge your inner child and take in the rocket’s red glare across the US of A this Independence Day.

For the Patriot

From Tea Parties to Massacres, Boston’s tumultuous history played a major role in the birth of our nation. Stay at The Liberty Hotel – the historic building was previously the Charles Street Jail – and you’re just steps from the Esplanade and a VIP view of the city’s famous Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular celebration.

For the Modern Cowboy

It doesn’t get much more American than the Wild West.  And Jackson Hole, Wyoming has one of the most down-home Independence Day celebrations in the country:  after a morning at the “Music in the Hole” festival head out to Spring Creek Ranch for a traditional BBQ and outstanding views of fireworks against the backdrop of the Teton Mountains

For the Jersey Girl

With the Manhattan skyline as a backdrop, the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel is the ideal spot for watching the Macy’s fireworks while staying close to home.  In the heart of Weehawken’s business district – and overlooking the Hudson River – there are prime river views to be had at the hotel’s Harbor Bar Restaurant.  Plus it’s located directly across from one of the fireworks barges.

For the Indecisive

For revelers whose American spirit is matched only by their fear of commitment, the Allegria Hotel & Spa in Long Beach, NY has a number of viewing options. Spend the night and you’ll have front-row seats to several Fourth of July fireworks shows – including the most talked about show at Jones Beach. From the boardwalk, the roof, an oceanfront room, or the beach, you can see the breathtaking show from any and every corner of the hotel.

For the Gambling Man

Prefer red and black to red, white, and blue?  Find the perfect mix at Atlantic City’s The Borgata Hotel Casino.  The hotel will light up the skies July 4th weekend with a special fireworks show in the nearby marina. Igniting at 9:20PM on land near the hotel, patrons of The Borgata and neighboring Water Club will have a front row seat to AC’s only patriotic pyrotechnic extravaganza.


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