Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Points Guy: Westin Paris Hotel Review

I've had the Starwood Amex for years now, and have been working for The Points Guy for a year as well, so I figured it was high time to put my points to use both for practical and professional purposes on the one night in Paris where I didn't yet have accommodations planned. So I booked a room at the Westin Paris using Cash & Points. Quite a lot of both, actually, considering it's a Westin. I might have preferred checking out the newish W Opera, but since it's a Category 7 property, there was no Cash & Points option available, and it would have required 30,000 points outright for a redemption. Sacre bleu!

I settled on the Westin instead, and since this is one of SPG's flagship Westins (it used to be the Intercontinental right by the Tuileries), and I was pleasantly surprised both by the experience and the lovely ambiance in my room. Have a look yourself, and find out how I was able to squeeze nearly 4 cents of value out of each point by reading my review at the link below.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Points Guy: My Month in France Part 1

The Points Guy asked me to do a write-up of all the fun things I was doing, seeing and eating so far in Paris last week, so I put together this little post on the fabulous restaurants I've tried so far, some special museum exhibits going on right now, as well as a couple great places to shop, awesome places just to hang out and have a glass of wine, and unique experiences like concerts at Sainte Chapelle.

If this doesn't make you want to go to Paris...and eat everything in sight, you have no heart and no stomach. Bon appetit!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

HotelChatter: Behind the Counter at Mandarin Oriental Paris's Cake Shop

While in France I'm reporting on the Paris hotel scene for HotelChatter--though not in a traditional-review kind of way. Rather, true to HotelChatter's MO (get the double entendre?) I take a look at unique amenities or qualities of the various properties I'm staying in. This time around it's the darling little Cake Shop patisserie at the Mandarin Oriental Paris.

Though it is the dessert kitchen for the hotel's Camelia restaurant, you can also just walk in off the rue St. Honore and buy your pastry of choice including lots of little cakes, fresh baked goods and, of course, macarons--the dessert of the moment.

I took the opportunity to speak to the hotel's charming pastry chef about where he finds his inspiration, what summer sweets guests can expect, and what sets the Cake Shop apart from other Paris patisseries. Enjoy!


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Points Guy Destination of the Week: Santa Fe

For the Destination of the Week on The Points Guy this Friday, we decided to head to the old Southwest and check out a town I've been meaning to visit for a while: Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I learned a ton of fascinating things about the city including the fact that it's actually the oldest state capital in the US at over 400 years old, and that the restaurant scene is really starting to heat up, not to mention the fact that there's an awesome assortment of museums dedicated to everything from native artifacts and colonial life to the city's most famous artist, Georgia O'Keeffe.

Personally, I've been dying to get there during the summer for the season at the outdoor theater of the Santa Fe Opera, and to try some of the sparkling wines made nearby.

Have a look at the post on The Points Guy, and start planning your summer trip there too!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

HotelChatter: Shangri-La Paris Views

I look at a lot of hotel photos. I also take a lot of hotel photos. And one of the things I always notice is that my photos don't look like the ones on hotel web sites. Granted, I'm not a professional photographer, but sometimes I think if I see one more wide-angled lens shot that magically converts a broom-closet-size space into a palatial suite, I'll scream.

So it's with a great sense of delight that I got to write a quick, fun post for HotelChatter about my incredible suite at the Shangri-La Hotel Paris earlier this month. Not only was it a gorgeous two-story space, but the Eiffel Tower views were literally picture perfect. Yes, the picture at the top of this post is one I took from my little balcony. The only thing that was better was seeing the hourly light show on the tower that night.

Finally, a hotel that doesn't misrepresent the experience through photos. Have a look yourself and let me know what you think.


Monday, May 21, 2012

LA Confidential: Best Downtown Dining Spots

 Another great little roundup I got to write for LA Confidential Magazine--this time for the summer issue. It's a list of some of the best places in LA's fast revitalizing downtown to grab everything from a fancy multi-course feast to some gourmet-to-go grub and includes favorites of mine such as: Bottega Louie, Drago Centro, The Gorbals and a newly renovated Water Grill, as well as some new hotspots like Artisan House, Baco Mercat (from the Lazy Ox Canteen chef) and Blue Cow (the "culinary laboratory" from the Mendocino Farms team).

The only unfortunate part was the space limitation because there are now so many great restaurants in maybe I'll just have to come up with an additional list just to fit in more of the ones I love!


Friday, May 18, 2012

The Points Guy Destination of the Week: Cannes, France

I'm in France this week, and the talk on everyone's lips (apart from the recent government changeover) has been all the celebrities flocking to the south of the country for the annual Cannes Film Festival--one of the most glamorous events of the year both in terms of the arts and the high-wattage celebrities strolling the red carpet.

So for this week's The Points Guy Destination of the week, we thought we'd take a look at how you can use points and miles to fly to this ancient Mediterranean port city and stay in style (though if you want a room at the Hotel du Cap, you're on your own!).

As you'll see, even if you're not invited to the Film Festival, Cannes is still a great little city to visit at other times of year, and there are plenty of hotels to choose from, as well as activities to enjoy while you're there.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

HotelChatter: Ritz-Carlton Istanbul's Club Lounge

I spent the first three nights of my stay in Istanbul at the Ritz- Carlton there, and had a great time at this lovely property that was pretty central both to the old city section of Sultanahmet, as well as to upscale waterfront districts like Ortakoy and Bebek where I had dinner along the water during the evenings.

One of the best features of this hotel is its Club Lounge, located on the 12th floor, and where guests with Club rooms are checked in privately, can take advantage of personalized concierge service, as well as enjoying several meals a day if they so choose (plus, it got me free WiFi both in the lounge and my room, so I was happy).

I did a quick write-up of the lounge itself and all the attendant privileges that come along with access for HotelChatter's hotel club lounge series, so check it out at the link below.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HotelChatter: Inside the Edition Istanbul

As you might know, I took a quick trip to Turkey at the beginning of May to check out the bustling, jetsetter magnet of Istanbul including its historical sights and everything new and shiny...including one of the world's most talked-about hotels, the Edition Istanbul.

Edition is a co-venture between Marriott and hotelier extraordinaire Ian Schrager, and though there were some kerfuffles surrounding the opening of the original in Waikiki, everything seems to have gone according to plan for this sleek property outside central Istanbul that sits between a leafy residential neighborhood and a fast-paced business district of high-rises.

I'll spare you the details here since you can take a look at my gallery of room photos and a quick rundown of the features of my accommodations in the HotelChatter story at the link below:


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Points Guy, Destination of the Week: Portland, Maine

Summer fast approaches, so over at The Points Guy, we got to thinking of some great summer destinations in the good ol' US of A for our next Destination of the Week piece, and came up with a great list of things to do, restaurants to enjoy, and places to stay. Since it's a small city, it's easy to see much of it quickly and to explore it on foot, though that also means there aren't a huge amount of points-earning or redeeming hotel options. However, there are some, with more to come, so have a look, and consider this awesome little city for your next summer getaway. It's definitely one of my favorites!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

JustLuxe: Mother's Day Brunches

Though I am spending the month of May in France, and hence missing Mother's Day (which also happens to be my mom's birthday this year!), I did want to do a little roundup of great places to take your mother in Los Angeles on the special day, and it turns out there are a lot of delicious dishes being served all over town.

You'll find a mixed list of likely suspects like Jar, Petrossian and Wilshire, as well as some surprises like Lazy Ox Canteen and Street for a mix of traditional brunch menu items and more exotic cuisine.

Check out my list on JustLuxe at the link below, and make your reservation soon!


Monday, May 7, 2012

JustLuxe: Mile High Wines on Air France

Time for another wine-tasting article on JustLuxe, this one inspired by my recent experience aboard Air France. Well, actually, I started tasting the airline's wines before my flight to Paris in the lounge at Boston airport, and then continued up in the air in business class. Naturally, all the wines they were pouring were French--some hits, some misses--mostly enjoyable and food-friendly, though, so I don't have too many complaints. And yes, I did try them all--but remember, I don't drink a whole glass, I just sample!

You know how interested I am in airline wine programs, so this was a fun one. Plus, this picture was my actual flight attendant and she was very nice, so I thought I'd include a picture of her to add a little color.

Find out what I drank and what I thought here:

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Points Guy, Destination of the Week: Istanbul

For the first time, I'm actually writing The Points Guy Destination of the Week from the destination itself: Istanbul, Turkey!

That's right, I've been spending my week wandering the city's ancient lanes, cruising the Bosphorus, and stuffing my face with all kinds of delicious mezze...with a break for an invigorating hamam experience where all my joints were cracked and a layer of my skin must have been scrubbed off. Still, it gave me a glow that new friends noticed over dinner along the waterfront, so it must have been good for me.

I personally stayed at two of the hotels mentioned, the Ritz-Carlton and the Edition (which everyone has been talking about since it opened last summer), but there are plenty of other options for hotels, and tons of airlines offering direct flights from the US, so start looking for your award tickets and hotel rooms, because this is one city not to miss.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Los Angeles Confidential Magazine: Tequila Bars

Just in time for raucous Cinco de Mayo fiesta (or several), LA Confidential's May issue contains my list of LA's top bars and restaurants to get tequila and tequila cocktails (it's not just for margaritas anymore!).

There are some old standbys like Border Grill, El Carmen, El Compadre and Malo, some upscale establishments including Rivera, Red O, plus the latest location of Pink Taco up on Sunset Boulevard, which looks to be a spectacular space. And the best part is, you can get flaming margaritas at more than one of these. I won't tell you which ones here, but you can find out by reading the article online at the link below.