Category Archives: Holiday

For Business or Pleasure in Las Vegas?

By Beth Friedman
@BethLovesTravel
http://www.Facebook.com/YourJourneyByBeth

You’re probably wondering why I chose to post a picture of a rabbit as my opening to a blog about Las Vegas, so here’s the deal. At Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Gardens they are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit in true Vegas style with the 12 foot bunny in the photo, a 35 ft. authentic Junk (chinese boat) floating in an amazing koi pond, plus many more amazing features and details. I loved the rabbit so much that it’s been my iPhone wallpaper for the last two weeks. Here’s why this even remotely relevant: I took this picture on my first trip to Vegas just for the fun of it. You see, over the past decade I’ve been there too many times to count for business, so long ago I stopped taking the time to ‘smell the roses’ (so to speak).

In my “previous life” as an advertising sales exec for a luxury travel magazine called Elite Traveler (among others), I managed the Las Vegas territory. My responsibilities included working with hotels and resorts which was a lot of fun. On the one hand, I was very lucky because I dined at fantastic restaurants and stayed at the beautiful hotels, but because my focus was always on work, I never had the desire to go just to go. That is until last month when my boyfriend’s parents invited us to join them for a quick over-nighter.

I arranged their stay at Bellagio, where I am friendly with a few of the executives, and where I was able to have them upgraded into the fantastic Cypress Suite – all 1524 square feet of it, with two full-on his and hers bathrooms and grand views from every room of the lake, the world-famous Fountains of Bellagio and Paris’ Eiffel Tower.

Joe and I were in a Lake View Deluxe Room, which isn’t quite as grand as the Cypress Suite, but super cozy with the same view. It was from here on the 25th floor that the Fountains of Bellagio Show swept me up into the spirit of being in Vegas. I didn’t know this, but you can listen to the ‘performance’ from the comfort of your room by tuning into channel 22 on your TV. I was mesmerized, and over the course of our 24 hour stay we saw and heard One, Singular Sensation (A Chorus Line), Luck be a Lady (Sinatra – of course!), My Heart Will Go on (Celine Dion from Titanic) and All That Jazz (overture from Chicago Soundtrack). The photo below was taken at sunset and it was spectacular!

Something I always looked forward to while visiting Vegas even for business was the anticipation of a few great meals. You don’t need me to tell you that these days it is as much a culinary destination and adventure as it is anything else, so our food-fest began at Olives, the Todd English Mediterranean spot at Bellagio for lunch. To be honest, it’s very expensive for what it is, but the food was tasty, plus beer and mimosas were flowing so we had a great time. Dinner that evening was at American Fish, the Michael Mina restaurant located at Aria. The food was excellent, the service was top-notch and as expected, it was very expensive too. I had the mixed grill of seafood with red kuri squash, celery root and roasted mushrooms, with a side of truffled mac n cheese. Very yummy.

The next day, Joe and his Dad played the horses at the sports book and Betty (Joe’s Step-Mom) and I went off on our own. I was curious about the Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino since I hadn’t seen it yet, so we took the short walk over. It is glitzy and glamorous and definitely targeting the hip, happening crowd. This unique hotel is hard to describe in just a few words so check out the Chandelier Bar (part of it) below. It gives you a good sense of the overall vibe.

For lunch, the food-fest continued and if all things epicurean are your thing, you can die happy at the Cosmopolitan with superstar chef restaurants like Jose AndresJaleo, David Myer’s Comme Ça and Scott Conant’s Scarpetta (+ more!) We wanted to have lunch at Scarpetta, but they are only open for dinner, so we landed next door at D.O.C.G., another Scott Conant spot which turned out to be the perfect place for us to eat, drink and catch up with each other. We sat at the bar and ordered a carafe of Lagaria Pinot Grigio straight away. The menu is filled with italian delicacies, but what caught our eye was a combination plate offering two meats, two cheeses and three assaggini (small tastes) for $25.00. A rare culinary deal in Vegas.

This is one of my very favorite ways of eating ( a little of this, a little of that!) so every time I see the picture above it makes me hungry!

To walk off some of the food and wine, Betty and I wandered up to the Cosmopolitan’s Pool District (yes, district with three separate pool areas) and if the weather were warmer, we would have been very happy spending some serious time there. The indoor/outdoor “game-room” called the “Day Club Pool” was very cool and at night becomes an extension of a nightclub. The photo below is of their Boulevard Pool. Since it was pretty chilly out, we moved on to shop until it was time to meet up with the men and head to dinner. We had one more meal to go before leaving for the airport, and that was a 6:00 reservation at Sensi, the asian/indian/italian fusion restaurant at Bellagio.

Sensi was amazing. You’d think that its overkill trying to combine asian/indian and italian cuisines, but we truly loved this meal, the service and the zen feeling you get while you’re there. For dinner I had the tandoori surf & turf with tandoori chicken, but you can also have it with steak or lamb. It also came with grilled shrimp, white fish and traditional indian condiments – so delicious! I finished my plate even after our big lunch at D.O.C.G. Betty had the pad Thai, Joe had the short ribs – a gorgeous plate – and Joe’s Dad had a shrimp dish, which I know he enjoyed because he cleaned the plate. Another pricey meal, but well worth it. Big thanks again to the Smith’s for everything on this trip!

After dinner, we jumped into a cab and headed to the airport. It was the first time that I can remember wanting to stay in Vegas to see and do more. And it was also too bad that our visit with Joe’s parents had to be so short. Both Joe and I live far from our families, so any time we get to spend together is a treat.

I’ll be heading to Vegas again for business in May and perhaps this time I’ll stay an extra day to relax and enjoy.

For more information about traveling to Las Vegas (or anywhere else for that matter!), connect with me anytime! I would love to hear from you!

Beth Friedman
Luxury Travel Consultant
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
or journeybybeth@yahoo.com
310-804-6767

PS: Special thanks again to my friends at Bellagio, which is the original 5 diamond, class act on the Las Vegas strip. If only we had more time to dine at all of their other award-winning restaurants and enjoy the expertise of their FOUR (count them) FOUR Master Sommeliers on property. If you are interested in food & wine then it’s only here where you can join their Epicurean Epicenter for exclusive and unique events.

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Filed under Bellagio, food, Fun, Getaway, Holiday, Las Vegas, luxury, travel, Vegas

A Valentine to Vienna

By Beth Friedman

I had a brief but passionate winter fling with the city of Vienna. It was a whirlwind romance lasting less than 36 hours, but like most relationships that burn quickly, it left a lasting impression on me. Since it’s Valentine’s day, I’ll describe my time in this romantic city like a speed-date that included a long walk, a little something sweet (spiked of course), intelligent conversation about books and art, window shopping and of course some extremely romantic and moving music.

Our ambitious day began at the gothic and grand St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is a good place to start in Vienna because of it’s central location in the city. Next, we headed to Mozart’s House to see where and how this iconic music legend lived. Followed by a quick visit to MUMOK – Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (with incredible exhibitions that included pieces from artists like Rothko to Jackson Pollack to Monet to a variety of collections in a variety of mediums). We would’ve like to have seen more at MUMOK, but we chose to move on. So much to do, so little time!!

As you can imagine, we were merely scratching the surface with regard to getting to know Vienna, but there was something about the vibe, the people, the culture, the architecture and it’s overall sophistication that really excited me.

In a desperate attempt to hold on to this romance a little longer, and learn as much as possible in one afternoon, we also toured the National Library of Austria. I’m so glad that we included it in our day, because it is truly one of the most remarkable buildings I’ve ever seen. The photo below is of the interior. I only wish it began to capture the scope, the color and the overall grandeur of this room.

We continued with a stroll around Kärtner Strasse – the main pedestrian shopping area, which is fantastic. The photo of Joe is on Kohlmarkt, a short but exclusive street that leads to Michaelerplatz and Hofburg Palace.

At this point it was time for a much needed rest, so we stopped into a random coffee shop and had a gorgeous and decadent treat of coffee with Grand Marnier topped with hand-whipped cream. Yum.

Vienna is the “Music Capitol of the World'” and when ‘they’ say music, ‘they’ mean classical music, which didn’t really turn me on at first. I’m more of “classic” rock n roll girl, yet that evening, we were going to the Wiener Hofburg Orchestra. I went into the experience with an open heart and mind, and low and behold…..classical music truly moved me! I quickly found out that it can make the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up and bring a girl to tears. Literally. A true testament to the theory about how when you travel somewhere new, you always return just a little bit different.

We were visiting Vienna as part of a Christmas-time Danube River cruise itinerary on AMA Waterways, so after the concert we went back to the ship to get into bed after such a busy day. Fortunately we had some more time to spend in Vienna the following morning, so we couldn’t miss seeing Schönbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and it’s Christmas Market, which was filled with local artists and artisans displaying and selling hand-made trinkets like x-mas tree ornaments and nut-crackers, glass blowers, of course Christmas tree ornaments sausages, pretzels, roasted chestnuts and of course Mulled wine, games and obviously pastries!

I know it’s hard to believe that such a brief and exhausting courtship would result in true love, so maybe it was just an infatuation. But there was something special and unexpected about Vienna that stuck with me. Maybe it’s because you always want more of what you can’t have; who knows? But it was sad to leave, and I can only hope that someday we’ll meet again.

Wishing you all a sweet Valentine’s Day! Instead of giving chocolates in a box, try Viennese Pastry 🙂

If you have any questions about travel to Vienna, AMA Waterways (I’m friends with the owners!!) and holiday river-cruising (or travel anywhere else for that matter) connect with me, your friendly neighborhood travel consultant at:
@FoodTravelrBeth
facebook.com/beth.friedman1
journeybybeth@gmail.com
310-804-6767

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Filed under Culture, Europe, Holiday, Romantic, travel, Valentine's Day

Muffalettas and Sazeracs-A Look Back at Bringing in 2010

@BethLovesTravel
facebook.com/beth.friedman1

For the holidays last year, my boyfriend Joe and I went to New Orleans to eat, drink and be merry! I had been to The Big Easy several times before for work, and was so happy to finally have the freedom to enjoy the city on my own terms and to be there during the most festive time of year (well, besides Mardi Gras)!

For the hotel, we decided on the Monteleone, which spoke to our mood at the time we booked it. We wanted something old with a little bit of infamy in the French Quarter. This family run hotel has been in business since 1886, is haunted (though we never saw a ghost), has a famous lounge called the Carousel Bar and was perfectly located for us. It is kind of kitchy, the rooms were cozy and it oozed New Orleans in it’s atmosphere.

Joe and I are all about oysters, so when we arrived, the first thing we wanted to do was find some! Fortunately for us, Acme Oyster House was right around the corner! This place is famous for its huge gulf oysters (grilled and raw), po’ boys, crawfish, and an enormous selection of regional seafood. The fact that both locals and tourists both line up outside to eat here is a testament to its great food. We ordered the grilled oysters first and loved them so much that we had to have a second plate. I took a photo to capture the moment but unfortunately it doesn’t do them justice. I hope you’ll trust that these little beauties that were bubbling with butter and romano cheese were absolutely sumptuous.

After the second helping, we had a dozen raw and then decided that it was time to move on to check out some music. We walked over to Bourbon Street and had a blast wandering in and out of club after club, listening to everything from Jazz, to Blues to Rock n Roll. This went on for 5 fabulous days and extended out into the other districts of the city where there are countless places to find live music.

New Orleans was of course still in recovery mode from Katrina and as you probably know, the French Quarter survived much better than much of the city. But tourism had not yet fully bounced back. It was incredibly clear to us how much our presence, along with the influx of visitors for the Sugar Bowl and the holidays was most appreciated. Everyone from the street performers, to the shop owners, pub owners and restaurant owners were quick to ask us to tell our friends that New Orleans is OPEN FOR BUSINESS! I’ve been doing that ever since.

For hotels, New Orleans caters to all tastes. Some of the best include the venerable Windsor Court, The Ritz Carlton and the W French Quarter. There are a ton of bed and breakfasts, Inns and smaller properties scattered throughout each distinct district including the Garden District/Uptown, Magazine and of course, the French Quarter. When you decide to plan your trip, let me know and we’ll find the perfect place for you!

My favorite meals on this trip ran the gamut. At Irene’s in the French quarter, the ambiance is warm, romantic, eclectic and crowded. Definitely make a reservation, but if you end up waiting, they’ll serve you wine and entertain you with a fun in-house pianist. The food is Cajun/Italian and we had a lasagna that was killer and their famous rosemary chicken, which I’ve desperately tried to recreate at home, but can’t.

The muffalettas and sazaracs at Napoleon House were DE-licous and personified New Orleans. Hurricanes at Pat O’Briens are a tradition in New Orleans too, but I prefer the Sazerac or a Pimms Cup!

The BBQ shrimp po’boys at Luizza’s by the racetrack were crazy (if you’ve ever gone to Jazz Fest, then you may have been there!) and the Frogs Legs at K-Pauls were yummy! I can’t forget to mention another oyster extravaganza at Casamentos, which has been around since 1919. This is not to be missed, and frankly not someplace overcrowded with tourists. It’s located on Magazine Street, which has too many great shops, bars, art galleries and restaurants to count. For fantastic down home, real deal cajun cuisine and soul food, Dooky Chase is the way to go! It’s in an iffy part of the city, but don’t let that stop you!

We were in a pretty touristy mood, so decided to take a horse (actually a donkey) and buggy ride around the French Quarter and this turned out to be such a blast! Our tour guide, Susan, was hilarious and seemed to know everything about the city. It was fun and informative, and best of all, we made a new friend. During the ride, we approached the famous Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, and Susan asked if we wanted to stop for a drink. Heaven forbid we pass up the opportunity for a cocktail, so we said sure! Susan stopped the buggy and we gathered our stuff to get out, but instead, at the top of her lungs, Susan yelled “TAKE OUT”!!!!! into the bar. Seconds later, the bartender came out and took our order. It was such a laugh and having a beer to enjoy for the rest of our tour made it that much more fun.

As we get ready to bring in 2011, I couldn’t help but reminisce about welcoming 2010, and writing this blog has brought back some great memories! I love New Orleans and can’t wait to go back because 5 days barely scratched the surface of what there is to do, see and of course eat!

I wish everybody out there a HEALTHY, happy and prosperous 2011! May it be filled with many great adventures!

For more information about the hotels and restaurants I’ve included here (and some that I didn’t squeeze into these 971 words), you can find me at:

journeybybeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
310-804-6767

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Filed under food, Holiday, travel, USA

Santa’s Journey

As we all know, Santa is a world traveler the likes of which none of us can really imagine. But to try, here’s the link to the NORAD Santa Tracker. Currently (at 9:36 PST), Santa’s location is Kulub, Tajikistan and his next stop is Mount Everest, Nepal. I wonder which elf plans his itinerary. I’d love to bend his or her ear. As a fellow travel professional, I’m fascinated!

http://www.noradsanta.org/

Maybe this year Santa will start blogging about his travels! I hope so!

Wishing everybody a very Merry Christmas and a HEALTHY, happy 2011.

Beth Friedman
Your Journey By Beth
yourjourneybybeth@yahoo.com
beth@elitetravelinternational.com
310-804- 6767

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Filed under Holiday, Santa