Napa Valley’s Bardessono Proudly Flies The Green & Gold

Almost by definition, every world-class hotel or resort must have its own unique footprint.  To some small yet meaningful extent, it should be unlike any other place on earth.  Bardessono can claim the rare attribute of having an almost invisible footprint . . . carbon that is.  As I will shortly explain (after a brief disclaimer), this hotel has somehow managed both to raise the bar for green sensitivity and to set the gold standard for seamless service.

Bardessono Inn ExteriorFirst the disclaimer.  Having never lived in California, I am not exactly up to cruising altitude on this whole green thing.  The green with which I am most familiar is the envious green pallor  which washes across my countenance whenever I think about those fortunate folks who are frequent guests at this exquisite inn.  Although, in my own defense, I do drive a Prius and in Texas that alone is sufficient to get you branded a card-carrying tree-hugger.

GREEN

Environmental Responsibility

Bardessono has earned a platinum certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), their highest designation.  In point of fact, they are one of only three hotels in the United States having achieved this rating.  Gratefully, since I have already paraded my woeful ignorance of such matters (see above), I am relieved of the obligation of pretending I understand all that implies.

Bardessono Solar Panels

The hotel has provided an  impressive list of proactive environmental steps on this page on their website which you can peruse at your leisure.   You will find mention of heating and cooling, lighting, low water use, reuse of materials, organic gardens and much more.  As the hotel likes to point out, the various environmental elements are hidden but ubiquitous.  If even that doesn’t quench your thirst, drop me a note and I will send you their sustainability brochure.

Having given that subject its due, let’s move on to a topic with which I am much more familiar, i.e., my shameless embrace of self-indulgence.

GOLD

As you can clearly see from the image on the right, underneath the name Bardessono areBardessono Logo written three descriptive terms:  hotel, restaurant, spa.  In the case of Bardessono, by all rights these elements should be listed individually since each component could easily stand alone on its own merits and, it so happens, each can be enjoyed individually.   Appropriating the outline they have conveniently provided us, let’s take a glance (would that time and space permitted a more robust perusal) at each aspect.

Hotel

Let’s begin with the fact that Bardessono is located in the center of downtown Yountville in the heart of Napa Valley with 62 luxurious guest rooms.  Each and every room was designed for private, in-room spa services.  Have you ever wished following your spa treatment you could just drift away into a prolonged, contemplative trance?  I tried that once after a particularly relaxing massage but the staff eventually . . . and I thought rather rudely . . . insisted I give them their room back.  At Bardessono, it is your room!  More about the spa therapy center in a moment.Bardessono Inn Spa Suite

 If you are the type that likes to know exactly what you are getting, just mosey (a uniquely Texas gait) over to their website and you will find not only a detailed description of Spa Suites, Steam Spa Suites and Tufa Suites, along with their ADA counterparts, but also detailed floor-plans and included amenities.  Every room has either a furnished courtyard or balcony.

Restaurant 

 In most restaurants, everything starts in the kitchen.  In Lucy Restaurant everything starts in their garden.  They like to call it “Garden cuisine that is always in season”.  Click here for a very cool one-minute video interview with the chef, Victor Scargle who is almost as gifted at explaining things as I am.

Lucy's Garden Table

If you want an unforgettable experience, book Lucy’s Garden Table which includes a tour of the garden, a seasonal speciality cocktail and a multi-course meal.  Click on the picture above for a full description.

One of the coolest pages on the entire website, in my never quite humble estimation, is the page that talks about their culinary suppliers and providers.  Who wouldn’t want a “Liberty Duck”, a “Wooly Weeder” open range, milk-fed lamb or a “Broken Arrow Ranch” antelope?  OK, a vegan I suppose.  You got me there!

SPA

The spa menu at Bardessono reminds me of the wine list at the famous Paris restaurant Bardessono SpaLa Tour d’Argent.  For just a moment, I was sure they thought I had asked to see the Greater Paris phone book.

I invite you to download their lovely 12-page online spa brochure (even their brochures are green) and sample for yourself.  You will find numberless ways to be hydrated (in case you are dehydrated) and an equal number of ways to become detoxified (in case you are toxic).   You can even be “waxed” and “polished” if you have somehow lost your sheen, I suppose!  As mentioned above, your spa butler will gladly transform your room (assuming you are a hotel guest, of course) into the perfect spa environment.

I would endeavor to summarize the Bardessono experience had not Jim Treadway, both the General Manager of Bardessono and the Vice-chairman of aptly named Benchmark Hospitality, not already done it so well in this brief video.

Well, I think my task is drawing to a close.  I have presented a compelling case for planning your next trip to Napa Valley, I have elucidated numerous reasons Bardessono should be your next home away from home and finally, after 100 plus blog posts, I hope to high heavens you know by now who you are supposed to call.

So my final bit of advice is go for the gold and make your friends green with envy!

Peter Island BVI: A Perfect Slice Of Paradise

Have you ever yearned desperately  to get away for a few days from the hectoring demands of daily life?  No, I mean really get away . . . to somewhere exotic, somewhere enchanting, somewhere shamelessly exclusive.

Peter Island SunsetOn the one hand, you only have a few precious days at your disposal because we both know that the world could easily run aground upon uncharted shoals without your steady hand at the helm!  We simply can’t risk Western civilization as we know it by having you fly halfway around the world to get somewhere.  On the other hand, you’re not the type who is willing to accept the pedestrian or prosaic in exchange for mere proximity.  What you need is a place relatively close yet somehow worlds away.  How does one find such a place?

You are so in luck, dear reader!  Dr. Denton, who just happens to have an advanced Peter Island Spa degree in travelology (a term not to be confounded with that online travel company . . . you know, the one with the demonic looking gnome), is about to write you the perfect prescription for your “Get me the bleep out of here” blues.  As they like to say about themselves in forgivable immodesty, Peter Island Resort & Spa is That PlaceThat place you dream about . . . that place you picture as you close your eyes and blow out the birthday candles . . .that place . . .  I think you get the idea.

Here are three irrefutable reasons Peter Island Resort & Spa is the perfect slice of paradise for you and just what the “Doctor of Divine Destinations” ordered.

THE NATURAL SPLENDOR

Deadman's Beach on Peter IslandLet’s begin with the fact that Peter Island is located in the British Virgin Islands.  Say no more!  (Just kidding, I always say more.)  Consider that this private island is 1,800 acres but only 300 acres have been developed, the rest devoted to walking trails.  The island has a fascinating history a brief synopsis of which can be read here.  The important fact for our purposes is that since 1978 the island and its only resort have been owned by a single family from the midwest who have painstakingly built a lasting legacy by wedding a pristine setting to a world-class resort.

The resort boasts five breathtaking beaches:  White Bay, Honeymoon, Big Reef Bay, Deadman’s and Little Deadman’s (I am thinking of incorporating the last name on this list on my tombstone sans the possessive.  Pithy yet descriptive).  I recommend you plan to stay at least five days so you aren’t faced with hurting one of their feelings.  For beaches, they are surprisingly sensitive and quite jealous of one another.

THE UNRIVALED ACCOMMODATIONS

Beachfront Junior Suites bedroomYour accommodation options in paradise are fairly easy to explain if not quite so easy to select.  Let’s start with the Ocean View rooms which are very close to the lobby, pool, marina, bar and Tradewinds Restaurant.  Each of the eight buildings contains two rooms upstairs with private balconies and two rooms downstairs with private patios.

The most popular room category is the Beach Front Junior Suite pictured above.  Each of these suites has two-person Jacuzzi tubs, two-person showers and king size beds.  Hmm, you might want to be very discriminating when selecting your traveling companion.  I suspect you might be seeing a lot of each other . . . if you catch my drift.

For those who prefer to spread out a little, there are three amazing villas to choose from:  Crow’s NestHawk’s Nest And Falcon’s Nest.  Click on any of the three images below to read more about each one.  I will let you in on a little secret.  There is a fourth villa which is not available as it is for the exclusive use of the owner . . . including any guests he might want to invite, of course.  Just for the record, my next available date is tomorrow and pretty much any date thereafter.

Peter Island Resort & Spa  Peter Island Resort & Spa  Peter Island Resort & Spa

THE SUMPTUOUS CUISINE

At Peter Island, the chef likes to say there are two key ingredients in every dish he prepares:  only the finest and only the freshest!  I don’t know about you but that certainly works for me.  The signature restaurant is called Tradewinds and I lifted this sentence from their website, ‘Warm breezes whisper as the delicate chimes of German china, French silverware and Italian crystal fill the air.”  Good grief!  I am going to have to spend a month’s salary on Rosetta Stone programs just to eat there.

I have already decided my first morning I am having “Jean Kelly’s Famous Coconut-Crusted French Toast With Bananas and Pancake Syrup.”  For dinner I am vacillating between “Grilled Scottish Salmon” and “Plantain Wrapped Locally Caught Snapper”.  I suspect I have plenty of time to decide while waiting for the owner’s engraved invitation to arrive.

Warning:  Clicking on any of the images below could lead to a sudden rush of digestive juices for which I refuse to bear any medical responsibility.

Dining at Peter Island  Dining at Peter Island  Dining at Peter Island  Dining 3

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, one of my personal standards for measuring a property is if it is represented by Island Destinations, one of our favorite tour companies whose tag line is “The Authority In Luxury Travel”.  Peter Island Resort & Spa is in their portfolio, by the way.  Otherwise, you can rest assured I never would have brought the matter up.

In any event, Cindy Parsons, one of their destination specialists, has this little personal endorsement, “For ultimate privacy, book the Falcon’s Nest Villa; it’s practically your own little hotel within a hotel and is completely secluded. Step out to 360 degree views of the U.S and British Virgin Islands. The butler is on hand to drive you down for nightly entertainment.”  I so love to have my butler drive me down to my nightly entertainment.  Don’t you?  Next time you find yourself hungering for a brief respite, contact us and we will order you a perfect slice of paradise as only the incomparable Peter Island Resort & Spa can serve it.

Finally, I am curious about something.  How many of you had never heard of Peter Island before reading this blog post?  Comment and let me know.

Viva La Ziva: Turning Silver Into Gold

Two or three years ago I visited a particular resort in Los Cabos, Mexico that I liked a great deal.  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to return to that same property for another stay.  I was excited by the prospect for two reasons:

1)  I fully enjoyed the location, facilities and experience on my first visit.

2)  I discovered that this property had changed ownership and was now owned and managed by the Playa group and operated as the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos.  After all the buzz, I was very keen to experience the new Hyatt all-inclusive concept for myself.

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos

Not a bad way to be greeted upon arrival. They all seem so pleased to see me!

In my previous post, I presented lots of background information about the exciting new Hyatt Zilara and Ziva brands.  I encourage you to take a moment and read that post.  (Just be sure to tether yourself to this post.  I don’t fancy floating through cyberspace in an unflattering, bulbous space suit searching for you.)  If you are wondering about the title of this blog post, the explanation is simple.  The property was pure silver before but through a miracle of alchemy that only the Hyatt folks in white lab coats could pull off, it is now solid gold!  As proof, consider the fact that the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos was awarded Triple AAA’s 2014 Four-Diamond designation this past March.

In that prior post, I talked about the “evolution of all-inclusive” and listed a few specific amenities such as the butler service, unlimited pillow menu, Tequila sommelier and romance concierge.  Let’s spend the remainder of our time together considering a few more marks of distinction.

Service From The Heart

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos saluteI will grant you I am not necessarily the brightest porch light on the street but I admit I was a bit confused when I first noticed that the staff were constantly smiling at me while placing a hand over their hearts.  I quickly ruled out a strange contagion  of cardiac ailments . . . unless these were the most affable and chipper heart attack victims I have ever met.  As it turns out, this is their unique and very endearing salute to their guests.  It is meant to convey that their service comes not from duty but from the heart.   And you know what, it so clearly does!  I’ll let the dour cynics roll their eyes and call it hokey if they care to provided they leave me alone to bask in the radiant warmth of the staff’s genuine hospitality.

Beyond Gourmet

Let’s be honest.  Buffet and gourmet are not normally used in the same sentence by true Hyatt Ziva Dining Optionsgourmands.  Leave it to Hyatt to shatter even that common misconception.  The Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos can claim not one but two gourmet buffet restaurants:  one features international cuisine and the other Mexican.   However, if your patrician upbringing produces involuntary quivers at the term “buffet”, not to worry.  There are five specialty  à la carte Restaurants, including Bon Vivant (French classical), Lotus (Teppanyaki-style cooking with a Sushi bar) and Coral (outdoor grilled seafood).  I wouldn’t worry about a precipitous weight loss during your vacation.

Spontaneous Moments

When I was a guest at the Hyatt Ziva, I was privileged to meet . . . and even spend a little quality golf course time with . . . Francisco Silva, the General Manager.   As will be true of every generalHyatt Ziva Los Cabos manager as each new property opens, he had just been challenged to create a unique “spontaneous moment” for his guests.  This is intended to be some unexpected amenity rendered to the guest at no charge.  Francisco had a couple of ideas he was mulling over but he said if he told me he would have to kill me.   OK, not really but these general managers are very competitive.  They take tremendous pride in their profession and especially in assembling a staff from top to bottom that reflects their values.  After spending some quality time with Francisco, it is easy to see why the service at his resort is so exemplary.

Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos exteriorAs I sit here and stare at the picture above (you must click on it for the full effect), I picture myself at just this time of day, sitting on one of the floating conversation / fire pits in the foreground, sipping an Argentinian Malbec all the while letting a gentle ocean breeze waft over me.  Since I am exhausted from penning yet another literary masterpiece anyway, I have decided to go reheat my coffee and come back and gaze at the full screen version of this picture for the next several minutes until a zen like serenity envelopes me.

I know!  Let’s both make this picture our new desktop!

Hyatt All-Inclusive Resorts: Evolution or Revolution?

Playa Hotels and ResortsAre you familiar with Playa Hotels And Resorts?  Probably not so much. Have you ever heard of Hyatt Hotels?  With the possible exception of a few frost-bitten souls living on Deception Island, Antarctica, most would say, “Yes, indeed.”    “And what does one have to do with the other?”, I hear you asking.  I hope you were asking because if you were just clearing your throat, this is going to be a very short blog post!

*Playa Hotels And Resorts harbors the lofty goal of becoming “the leading international resort and leisure company in the all-inclusive resort segment .”  If that were my personal goal (instead of trying to avoid homelessness and/or deportation), I would be looking around for some strong coattails to ride.   You might say Playa hit the lotto!  Just a little less than one year ago, a subsidiary of Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced a considerable investment (considerable as in $325 million dollars) with the goal of acquiring and developing new all-inclusive resorts under the iconic Hyatt brand.  You can read all about it here.

I was recently privileged to hear Kevin Froemming, Playa’s Executive Vice President and CMO, artfully present the concept that undergirds all their efforts.  It is summed up in their tag line, “The Evolution of All-Inclusive”.   After I unveil some of the pillars resting on this solid foundation, I will leave it to you to decide whether this is gradual evolution or more akin to radical revolution.

ROMANCE CONCIERGE

Couple Massage at Hyatt Zilara CancunI will begin with my personal favorite.  I don’t think any of you guys out there will have any trouble identifying with this.  You are on vacation celebrating some special occasion:  honeymoon, anniversary, joint release from state prison . . . something.  You want this trip to be burned into her memory like a cattle brand on a yearling calf’s backside.  (My personal lack of romance expertise shows up even in my crass analogies!)

The problem is, you don’t have the foggiest clue where to start.  Here’s what you do.  You tell her you are going down to the gym for a workout.  Strike that.  She will never buy that.  Tell her you are going to a tequila swilling contest in the cigar lounge.  That should do the trick.  Now here’s the sneaky part.  You are really going to the appointment you have set with the “romance concierge”.  An hour later (two hours if you stop by the bar just to become convincingly tipsy) you will be swaggering back to your room, romance agenda tucked safely in the back pocket, hair flowing like Fabio on the cover of some trashy novel.

Tequila Sommeliers

Speaking of Tequila, have you noticed that there are more varieties of tequila in Mexico Tequila Sommeliersthan visible stars in Andromeda.   Unless you want to share my humiliating experience of standing frozen in indecision before a wall of tequila for an embarrassing length of time, I suggest you avail yourself of this service.  And should you find yourself in Jamaica (more about that momentarily), you will be offered the services of a rum sommelier.  I once considered becoming a box wine sommelier but couldn’t find a hoity-toity French school for that.

Beach Butlers

    Beach ButlerLuggage Butler

I don’t know how many personal butlers you have at your beck and call but speaking for myself, it is a very low and and very round number.  And, even if I did, it would probably not be a beach butler seeing as I don’t own any beach property either.  (Life can be so very cruel, don’t you agree?)   All the more reason to be excited by the prospect of having your whims catered to by, not just a Beach Butler, but a Pool Butler, a Luggage Butler, a Family Butler and a Suite Butler.   I know what you are thinking.  You figure I am delusional after being generously over-served by my Tequila Sommelier.  Nope, I am stone cold sober and for once (circle your calendar) dead right about something!  Hyatt all-inclusives have more butlers than Mickey Rooney had wives!

Unlimited Pillow Menu

OK, I’m running out of time and there is more I want to share so I will let this little item pass Unlimited Pillow Menuwith the observation that I am obviously a Neanderthal slug devoid of any trace of refinement.  I wouldn’t have a clue how to order a pillow.  When you get beyond white, soft and rectangular, I am pretty much clueless.  I will leave this item to the more cultivated and genteel among you.

Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva

The Hyatt all-inclusives, for now at least, will fall into one of these two categories.  The first Zilara, the Hyatt Zilara Cancun is to be found, not exactly shockingly, in Cancun and is the former THE ROYAL, Cancun.  It made my top five list in my post Crème de Cancun: The Top Five Resorts.  The first Ziva is the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos.  I will let you decipher where it is located.  Here is the distinction between the two:  The Hyatt Zilara resorts will be adults only and Hyatt Ziva resorts will be family properties.

ALERT:  My next post will share details of my recent stay at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos!

Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall JamaicaI will conclude this post with an exciting announcement!  The former Ritz-Carlton Golf And Spa Resort in Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica was sold to Playa Hotels And Resorts in September, 2013.  It will open after a multi-million dollar renovation in November, 2014 as the first combined Hyatt Zilara / Hyatt Ziva, Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica.  This development deserves a blog post all its own which, should I linger a little longer, it will have.  Be watching for that post soon! (Also Hyatt Ziva Cancun and Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta are opening in late 2014.)

*  Not to wander too far off into the weeds but Playa Hotels And Resorts, in addition to the Hyatt branded and Playa managed hotels we have been talking about, also has its own Playa branded and managed hotels and other branded and managed hotels as well.  That will have to keep for another time but if you simply can’t wait,  you can read about their entire portfolio here.

JW Marriott Marquis: Miami Nice (2)

In my previous post, I expressed the belief that every great trip includes both a memorable habitation and a remarkable destination.  Having paid Miami its due, or more precisely having submitted a modest down payment, my attention now turns to my Miami lodgings.

The hallmark of a great brand is consistency.  Having stayed at several JW Marriotts in the past, for this trip I packed, along with my country club casual clothes (the stated dress code for my subsequent cruise which will be the subject of my next post), some pretty high expectations.  The JW’s in Orlando, Ko Olina and Cancun all know how to set the bar very high.  Not so high I couldn’t reach my Captain Morgan and Coke, thank goodness, but high nonetheless.

Somehow I knew this was going to be a great couple of days when I stumbled into the hotel at almost midnight bleary eyed and punch drunk after a long-delayed connecting flight.  I asked at check in if there happened to be a Wells Fargo ATM nearby where I might obtain company for the lonesome George Washington crumpled up in the corner of my wallet.  The desk clerk pointed me down the hall and after walking fifty feet or so, this is what I saw next to the ATM.

Concord Coach 746/8

You know you are off to a great start when you desperately need an ATM and your hotel shares a building with your bank!

The next clue that I was obviously being rewarded for living such an exceptionally clean life (watch out for that bolt of lightning!) was this view when I entered my room.  When youJW Marriott Marquis Miami feel like you have been rode hard and put away wet as we are wont to say in Texas, trust me, this is precisely what you are hoping to see!  I am not ashamed to say I may have kissed the pillows and caressed the covers just a tad before crashing and burning like some seven year old’s first model airplane.

The next morning . . . at least I think it was still technically morning . . . I tore open the shutters and threw up the sash (must have been the airplane food from the night before) and what to my wondering eyes should appear but this gorgeous view from one of JW Marriott Marquismy two corner windows.  I’m telling you, this clean living thing pays huge dividends.  You really should try it. The grey skies did nothing to lessen the euphoria that I was now feeling.  Life is good at the JW Marriott!

In my previous post, I alluded to a couple of grueling workouts in the Met2 Fitness Center, grueling being a relative term of course.  Watching the pleasure craft and cigar boats meander down the canal does help to take your mind off your burning thighs and quivering buttocks (not the most attractive visual I readily admit).

Without a doubt the highlight of my stay was dinner at db Bistro Moderne.  I know some of you read these posts to benefit from my mistakes, though they be rare as hen’s teeth, so here is a bit of sage advice.  Some of my companions in the picture below ordered the steak and braised short ribs.  Being from Texas and a little persnickety about my beef, I ordered the Scottish salmon which was quite succulent.  Yet, I had to sit there the entire meal and listen to every last person who ordered the beef moaning and sighing like some 19 year old coed in a college production of “When Harry Met Sally” about the short ribs being the best they had ever experienced.  I swear, I thought they were all going to lean back and light up cigarettes afterwards.  Now I have to worry, until my next trip at least, that I missed out on the “better than sex” ribs of a lifetime.

DSC01753In summary, here is a Terry Tidbit you can take right to the adjacent Wells Fargo bank.  If you have a trip planned for Miami, let us book you into the JW Marriott Marquis, try the breakfast croissant at The Newsstand, have a light lunch at The Cheese Course and, for goodness sake, save lots of room for the braised ribs at db Bistro Moderne.  If you do those four things, you will be the one at the corner table audibly moaning and sighing!

JW Marriott Marquis: Miami Nice (1)

As someone who has been privileged to experience way more than my fair share of nice trips, I think I can say without any fear of contraception (as the British comedian Benny Hill used to say), every great trip at a bare minimum contains these two components: a memorable habitation and a remarkable destination.

My most recent Travel Leaders advisory board trip to Miami did not disappoint in either regard.  As you will soon discover, I have chosen to reverse the order below.  I do this for no more defensible reason than the fact that my fragile psyche needs reassurance periodically that, though I may not control the course of world history or even my own piddling destiny for that matter, I at least rule my humble blog like a deranged South American dictator.

MIAMI

Bayside Marketplace MiamiMiami is one of the most fascinating cities in the US. For one thing it is a cosmopolitan melting pot where, frankly, a snippet of overheard street conversation in English is the exception rather than the rule. It may not rival the arrival halls of Dubai International or London Heathrow for diversity but it runs a close second.

Another of my favorite things about Miami is that you can take a short walk from your hotel, as I did one morning, and you will encounter all manner of fascinating small eateries. (Disclosure: I am a foodie only in the broad sense that I consume excessive quantities of anything remotely edible.) I walked out of the JW Marriott Marquis heading in the general direction of Bayside Marketplace and in a matter of just a few minutes, I found the following three fascinating eateries: The Newsstand CafeCLOS Bistro & Café and The Cheese Course.

The Newsstand Cafe is small but offers a nice selection.  I was there on a quest for a tasty breakfast that would not require another mortgage on the old home place.  While I was The Newsstand in Miamistudying the menu, a nice young lady suggested an egg, cheese and ham croissant.  I even had my choice of several varieties of cheese.  I went with the one I figured had to be good . . . the gouda.   (If you are going to follow this blog you better be able to withstand a few groans.)

The next spot I encountered was CLOS Bistro & Café.  It was only a two-minute walk from The Newsstand.  I know, I know.  What the heck was I doing walking into a French bistro two minutes after breakfast.  I can only refer you to my foodie disclosureClos Bistro Miami above.  After all, what is breakfast without a little dessert, right?  Anyway, I waddled in and immediately confronted the display of delectable dainties you see in the picture to the right.

I exercised what I consider remarkable restraint and ordered only one small (OK, smallish) pastry and no wine whatsoever.  Of course, it was still 9:30 in the morning but I nevertheless feel I deserve a little credit.

I have saved the best of my little sidewalk cafe trifecta until last.  I walked all over the Bayside area snapping pictures and drinking in the atmosphere.  See, it’s not all about eating.  I then returned to the JW Marriott Marquis and worked out for a solid hour on three different aerobic machines.  Surely that sufficed to offset at least the pastry.  However, the problem was that all that exercise only served to reignite my appetite.  (I eat to work out, I work out to eat and so flows the cycle of my life.)

For lunch I chose The Cheese Course, of course!  Not only am I an expert in all things travel related but I also am clairvoyant.  I know exactly what you are wondering right now.  What kind of cheeses are those?

The Cheese Course MiamiThe soft cheese on the left is Epoisses created by monks and named for their village in Burgundy.  Apparently, it takes a village to make good cheese.  It is described as “having a barnyard aroma (really), a blond interior and brimming with meaty, creamy richness.”  The firmer cheese on the right is Midnight Moon from Holland, made with goat’s cheese and in their own words possesses “prominent caramel notes”.    As an aside, do you know the only cheese that is made backwards?  Edam!

You get to select from more than two dozen accompaniments so I selected, quite brilliantly if accidentally, the fig spread.  Delicious!  As you might guess, I spent a most pleasant hour on the terrace with a light breeze wafting over me and savoring every last bite.

JW MARRIOTT MARQUIS

Goodness, once again time has flown by under the seductive charm of my effortless prose.  Not to worry.  I will simply go to my title, insert a discrete little (1) and make this post a two-parter.  Click this link for JW Marriott Marquis: Miami Nice (2) where I sing (not literally, thank God) the high praises of one of Miami’s finest hotels.  I feel comfortable promising that the next post will rise to the same exacting standard I have set here!

 

Crème de Riviera Maya: The Top Five (or so) Resorts

No less a literary lion than Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds . . .”  My detractors (may a pox be upon all your houses) would probably say I am a rare double qualifier under both the “foolish” and “little mind” categories.

In each of the first two posts of my now “wildly popular” (my term)  Crème de Mexico series, there were five resorts listed.  See Los Cabos and Cancun.  So, in the interest of being consistent if not imaginative (See Oscar Wilde quote . . .  what is it with these people and consistency anyway?), I have tried every way possible to shoehorn only five resorts into the Riviera Maya edition of this series.  Is it my fault that luxuriant crème seemingly flows through the Mayan Riviera like butter off a stack of blueberry pancakes?

So, without further ado, here is my personal list of the top five (roughly, give or take, more or less) resorts in the Riviera Maya.

El Dorado Casitas Royale

El Dorado Casitas Royale Exterior 2Those familiar with Condé Nast Traveler know that they have some very exacting standards.  El Dorado Casitas Royale by Karisma was voted one of their top 100 hotels in the world.  Those who know me, and even those who only catch a fleeting glance of my profile, know that I place a high premium on eating with a shared emphasis given to quantity and El Dorado Casitas Royale Saladquality.  This property had me for life when I discovered they offered a Gourmet Inclusive Experience.

You need to book at least a one week stay in order to sample all seven, count ‘em, seven all-inclusive, à la carte restaurants ranging from International, to contemporary Italian, to Pacific Rim to . . .  you get the idea.

Casita is the diminutive form of house in Spanish, thus little house, which is exactly what you get with this property.  You need to spend a little time on this page to discover all that this term means.  For example, I discovered I have some hitherto unknown and apparently long suppressed exhibitionist tendencies because I loved the roofless outdoor showers.  Having said that, the paparazzi trying to scale the walls for a photo were annoying.  I was especially insulted that they all felt compelled to bring telescopic lenses!

El Dorado Casitas Royale Swim Up SuitesTrust me when I tell you, you need to book early (with yours truly, of course) and secure a swim up casita.  From your water-mirror balcony you can step directly into your pool which is connected to a lazy river leading directly to the swim-up bar.   I know, it sounds just awful, doesn’t it, especially to you folks in the northern parts of the US who have endured such a brutal winter.  I have two pieces of sage advice for you:  book your stay at El Dorado Casitas Royale and move to Texas right after you return!  Check out this video.

Secrets Maroma Beach

Secrets - Swim Up RoomRegular drinkers of my unique blend of kool-aid will know that I am a monster fan of Secrets Resorts.  In fact, I have written so many posts about the chain that they have earned their own category on my blog, quite astutely called Secrets Resorts.  One of the things I like best about Secrets is that while the service, cuisine and surroundings unfailingly adhere to the same high standard, they couldn’t be more unique in personality.

This particular property is blessed by being on the most pristine and famous beach in Mexico, Maroma Beach.  While all the spas in the Secrets chain are by Pevonia, I think this property has one of the most amazing facilities I have every seen.  You simply must take a moment and view the gorgeous pictures on the spa section of their site here.

Pevonia Spa at Secrets MaromaThis resort is the epitome  of romance.  Are you looking for the perfect place for your wedding, honeymoon or anniversary?  Consider you quest over.   Whether your story is just beginning or you are writing anotherSecrets Maroma - Weddings 3 chapter, it would be difficult to find a better setting for your personal romance novel.  As an added bonus, If your story line requires a jilted former lover,  a goofy yet loveable best friend, an annoying hanger-on or even a deranged stalker, I can fulfill any of those roles with equal aplomb for the most modest of fees.  Just have your people contact my people.

 Grand Velas Rivera Maya

Grand Velas Riviera Maya exterior flowersAs a marketer, I  am a sucker for a great tag line but only if the product or service rises to the level of the implicit promise.  Beyond All Inclusive, Beyond All Compare.  Now that has a nice lilt to it.  Do you like a nice ocean view room?  This property has 300 ocean view suites.  Do you prefer to languor in a well-appointed spa?   Grand Velas Riviera Maya has the most highly awarded spa in Mexico.  Does the term all-inclusive seem incongruous with the finest cuisine.  This resort can claim Cocina de Autor, the first restaurant of any all-inclusive resort to receive the AAA Five Diamond Award for restaurants.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya suiteAre you beginning the get the picture?  This resort really does have features that are beyond compare.  This property brings the term regal to mind.   Maybe it is the Butler Concierge that is provided for every guest.  Also, Chef Xavi Perez’s Cocina de Autor, mentioned above is only one of five gourmet restaurants, among them Chef Karl Gulotta’s Piaf Restaurant and Chef Ricardo De La Vega’s Frida Restaurant.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.  I was once named one of the Leading Sycophants of the World but at the time I was trying to finagle a free stay a deluxe resort so that hardly counts.

Royal Hideaway Playacar

Royal Hideaway Restaurant EveningThis resort is another Leading Hotel of the World property.  It is relatively small with only 200 rooms and is situated on 13 lush acres with one of the most stunning beaches in the Mayan Riviera.  If you appreciate classic Mexican colonial style, you will love every minute you spend here.

If you are up to the challenge of taking dining to another level (speaking personally, I was born ready), check out the Chef’s Table Experience, a gourmet tasting of more than 12 courses suitably paired with the best wines, naturally.

Royal Hideaway PlayacarIf your last limbo contest and beach volleyball game are but a distant and faint memory, I suspect you are going to fit right in.  This resort is all-inclusive but also all adults.  You won’t find any adorable (to their parents at least) little rug rats running to and fro disturbing  your carefully cultivated state of absolute zen.  You will be left alone to ponder life’s deep existential mysteries.  If a mutually acceptable solution to the Israeli / Palestine dispute is ever found, my bet is it will be by somebody sitting poolside at the Royal Hideaway sipping mindlessly on a Piña Colada.

Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso

Iberostar Grand hallwayIf ever there was a resort that was aptly named, it is the Iberostar Grand.  I have been privileged to stay there on several occasions and I have never ceased to marvel at the grand scheme of this palatial resort.  All you have to do is gaze at this hallway.  It looks like the entrance to a palace of the Sultan of Brunei, for goodness sakes.

If you are looking for romantic accommodations, check out the picture below.  All the rooms are spectacular with bathrooms larger than most starter homes.  Just beware of “hydration hesitation” where you find yourself mentally frozen in the middle of the bathroom wearing nothing but a perplexed look trying to decide between a soothing jacuzzi bath and a bracing rain shower.  It can happen.

Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso honeymoon gardenBeing an avid golfer, I love the fact that you can be whisked away from the front entrance by a chariot . . . OK, it may have been a golf cart . . . and 60 seconds later you are checking in at the pro shop at the Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club.  Ask us about packages that include golf!

My goodness how time flies when you are daydreaming about your next perfect vacation.  Rather than risk having your eyes glaze over or worse, having you slip into an irretrievable catatonic state, in the case of my last two resorts I am simply going to refer you to previously written literary gems found on this inimitable blog.

Blue Diamond

Blue Diamond ResortA Blue Diamond In A Silver Setting

Rosewood Mayakoba

One of the canals of Rosewood MayakobaSide Trip To The Sensational: A Remarkable Resort

The more punctilious among you may feel compelled to point out that there are seven resorts mentioned in this top five list.  You clearly were not paying attention to the clues strewn around this post like popcorn kernels after a Superbowl party.  I did try to give you a heads up.

Look on the positive side.  You are just going to have to live a little longer than you previously planned in order to experience every one of these gems.  Once you have, let me know which one is your favorite . . . if I am still around!

Namale Fiji . . . Where The Livin’ Is Easy

In Fiji, so they say, there are many paradises but only one utopia.  “They” in this particular case are the authors of the online brochure for Namale Resort & Spa.  You have to love the audacious confidence of that tag line.  If I execute my assignment properly, by the time you finish reading this post that claim will sound less like hyperbolic exaggeration and more like honest evaluation.

Sunset at Namale FijiOne of the chief frustrations of writing about some of the world’s most breathtaking hotels and resorts is that there is never time to give them their full due.  That is particularly true here.  Elizabeth Barret Browning’s most famous sonnet is #43, admittedly better known as “How Do I Love Thee?”.  You recall that those opening words are followed by “Let Me Count The Ways.”

With that bit of literary inspiration, I offer my humble (or as close to humility as I ever get) version of “Namale, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.”  Let’s begin with a spectacular setting because absent that any resort is Deck at Namale Resort & Spaimmediately disqualified from a serious traveler’s short list.  Setting encompasses beauty and atmosphere of course but, if you are like me (heaven help you), you would likely add serenity as well.  This picture to the right suggests about as much separation from the maddening crowds as one can imagine.  If you are desperately seeking seclusion, this warm handshake between the emerald rainforest and the azure sea is the perfect rendezvous.

In addition to the setting, this resort is world-famous for its discriminating service.  I say discriminating because the true art of gracious service is unfailingly finding that thin line between a trifle neglectful and a tad too intrusive.  Try these numbers on for size:  the property hosts only 44 guests at any one time so that their needs may be anticipated and their wishes fulfilled by their staff of 140.  I suppose you could argue that the service pictured below is slightly over that line but I beg to differ.  After being a little over served, you have to get back to your villa somehow, right?

Scene from Namale FijiIn general, I have next to no use for the muddled opinions of the celebrity set with one exception:  I do value their seemingly natural instinct for sating their self-indulgence.  They say when driving through the mid-west, always choose a diner with lots of cars in the parking lot.  A corollary would be, when seeking a great resort, find out where the stars congregate.

So for what it’s worth, I am given to understand that the likes of NBA coach Pat Riley, actors Russell Crowe, Edward Norton (wasn’t he one of the characters with Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners?), Meg Ryan and Mike Myers, and musician and producer Quincy Jones have found their way here, as well as many more “A listers”.  Donna Karen, who I am told has some fleeting familiarity with fashion, has said, “Namale is an ultimate escape . . experience its bliss!”

Namale, how else do I love thee?  Ah, there is always your sumptuous dining.  As the aforementioned brochure explains, “Private three-course lunches and five-course Dinner at Namale Fijidinners can be enjoyed anywhere you like — be it the twinkling main bure, your private bure or villa, in a romantic, seaside cave, or on the beach at sunset.”

Decisions, decisions! I think tonight I want to have my five course gourmet dinner in this exact spot to the left!  Should the gentle ocean breeze grow a bit nippy, I have no doubt that another glass of vintage Cabernet will suffice to warm me from the inside out.  In case you are wondering, I am sadly not at Namale as I pen these words.  That was a momentary flight of literary, not to mention holiday, fantasy.  Dreammakers are allowed to dream too!

Namale, I love thy refined accommodations.  Since we are running short of time, I will refer you to the online brochure for an explanation of the room distinctions between Bures, Garden Tropical, Ocean Tropical, Villas, Bula House, etc.  I shall also let the picture below do the job of a thousand words which, yikes, according to my word calculator, we are rapidly approaching.  I must scurry on!

Honeymoon room at Natale FijiLast, but certainly not least is the exposure one gains to authentic Fijian culture.  Below is a picture of a troupe of tribal dancers telling a traditional story through age old movements.  I Namale danceknow. to the uninitiated, i.e., folks like me, it  looks a little like the Hokey Pokey but rest assured it is not.  (Speaking of which, as a quick nod to the philosophically inclined, what if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about? Hmmm.)

OK, I have managed to count down five ways I love the Namale Resort & Spa.  I have yet to mention the bowling alley and indoor golf (seriously), the incredible snorkeling, and the magnificent spa.  See why this is frustrating?

Namale bowling  Snorkling in Namale

I think we can all agree that it would be more than a little cruel to tantalize you with this exquisite haven of happiness without presenting a way to experience it for yourself.  As I check my back pocket, it just so happens . . . imagine that . . . I have a great offer from our partners at Travel2 for an all-inclusive 9 night stay.  Let’s leave the more mundane matters like price to a future conversation.  But if this post has whetted your appetite to know more about Namale Resort & Spa and how you too can experience its wonders, reach out to us through our website.  And if you are still not convinced, take a look at this video!

Crème de Cancun: The Top Five Resorts

A while back I wrote a blog post called Crème de Los Cabos:  The Top Five Resorts  which has proven to be one of my most popular posts ever.   Having been decidedly unpopular among the snootier cliques during my high school days (I’m not bitter, honest I’m not),  I now warmly embrace popularity wherever I stumble into it.

Seeing a golden opportunity to make those uppity, out-of-ballast cheerleaders eat their black little hearts out, I have decided to ride this “crème”  train all the way to the station, so to speak.  Thus, you can expect  in the days ahead, even more gangly siblings in this growing family of “crème” posts.

Some may wonder how I have arrived at my personal list of Cancun’s top five resorts.  Let’s just say that the polling was even less democratic than the recent election in Crimea where the populace voted with Russian boots firmly planted on their necks.  As was famously said by Putin’s diabolical predecessor, “In elections it doesn’t matter so much who votes as who counts the votes.”  In my case, I readily admit, I did both.

Excellence Playa Mujeres

Excellence ResortsYou have to admire the chutzpah of any hotel chain daring to call itself “Excellence”.  It is a lot less risky when you actually are excellent, or so I’m told. One of the things I like best about this property is its location.  As they describe it on their website “an all-inclusive Playa Mujeres Golf Courseoasis situated on an untouched peninsula between the Caribbean and a wetlands preserve”.  Even though it is a little out from Cancun proper, I have included it this grouping because it is the opposite direction from the Rivera Maya. Instead of south it is north and a little west.

Another great feature of this resort is both the quality and variety of dining options.  Suppose your busy schedule only permits a three night stay.  (The first order of business is to re-priortize your schedule!  Do you want to die young?)  In any case, imagine being able to savor the tangy herbs and spices of India’s North-West frontier your first night at Basmati,  sauntering (by the second night you have slowed your pace signficantly) over to Barcelona Mediterranean Restaurant for a variety of tapas followed by paella, veal or perhaps seafood.  By the third night the romantic juices are in full flow (remember those?) and nowhere else will do but Chez Isabelle, their signature French restaurant.  The resort claims you will forget for a moment that you are in Cancun and begin to imagine you have been transported to the Left Bank.  My guess is that by this time you will have been transported to an amorous place where geography is the last thing on your mind.

Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach

Fiesta Americana Grand Coral BeachIf “Excellence” was apropos of the previous resort, “Grand” certainly fits this hotel every bit as much. It begins with the location on what is arguably the nicest stretch of beach in Cancun.  If you are familiar with Cancun’s resemblance to the number seven, this property sits at the top of the seven just before it bends southward.  If you like to be in the heart of things, you can’t find a better location.

The entire hotel exudes an old-world charm that from the moment you enter delivers careful attention to detail.  If you are the sort who Le Basilicappreciates refined taste and gentile surroundings, you will immediately fall in love with this hotel.  You will not want to miss the incomparable dining experience afforded at the five diamond Le Basilic.

One of the lingering memories I carried away from my stay was how incredibly fresh and delicious were the breakfast pastries.  Every hotel, including Motel 6, offers pastries and in spite of the fact I have a sweet tooth that would shame a sabre tooth tiger, most of them are frankly not all that tasty.  It is a testament to the class of this resort that it maintains exacting standards even in a relatively small matter.

Hyatt Zilara (formally Royal Cancun)

Room at Hyatt Zilara CancunIn case you didn’t know (keep reading this blog and eventually you will know almost as much as the master), Hyatt Resorts has entered the all-inclusive market.  When a player the size of Hyatt makes a move, they don’t do anything by half-measures!  When they entered the Los Cabos market, they just went out and bought the Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe with one of the most stunning settings in that destination (see Hyatt Ziva).  In Cancun, they merely ponied up a few mil from their rainy day account and acquired the storied Royal Cancun and rebranded it the Hyatt Zilara.  (The Hyatt Zebra and Hyatt Zephyr can’t be far behind, can they?)

I want you to picture yourself coming home from work one evening, flashing the picture above to your life partner and saying this is the room where we will be staying next weekend.  If that Hyatt Zilara Cancundoesn’t get you around third and all the way home you have bigger problems than I have a clue how to solve.   I suppose if your beloved has an aversion to the color blue as in sky, ocean and pool, that could present a problem.

This stunning resort property is all adults, all -suite, all-inclusive and all your greedy little heart could covet.  There are seven specialty restaurants including Pelicanos which offers international cuisine in an oceanfront setting.  Catering to your refined palate will hardly be a problem here.  Check out this impressive new video!

Nizuc Resort And Spa

Nizuc Resort and SpaBy way of full disclosure, I have never been to Nizuc Resort and Spa.  This picture above is of the reflecting pond.  I find it has put me in a very reflective mood.  Right now I am reflecting on the question of why I have never stayed there.  Two reasons come to mind.  One, it only opened in March of 2013.  The second, and more important reason, I have never been invited.  Note to whom it may concern in Nizuc’s upper management.  My passport is up to date, my bags are perennially packed and my dance card is wide open!  (I know, not exactly subtle.)

By virtue of research, reputation and recommendation, I have definitely determined that it is a place I want to visit.   If you visit their website, take a little time to drool all over your Nizuc Resort and Spa. Cancunkeyboard in the “Gallery” section.

Once you get to Nizuc, you don’t even have to leave your room to enjoy spectacular views.  Not a bad place to enjoy your morning coffee, I would say.  The resort is located in the secluded enclave of Punta Nizuc.  I suspect you have to flash your American Express platinum card just to get past the gate which could potentially constitute a problem for me since my most exclusive credit card is made of balsa wood.  Since I am sure you don’t share that problem, should my pathetic hint above falls on deaf ears, promise me you will send me pictures!

All four of the properties I have mentioned so far deserve a much richer treatment than space permits here.  Should the Lord tarry and my body parts not collectively implode, I promise to write about each one of these gems separately.  That, however, is not a problem for my final selection below as you will shortly see.

Secrets the Vine

Secrets The Vine The Wine GlassOf these five properties, this is the only one I have already treated in detail.  Knock yourself out and read all three.  It’s not like you have anything else going on in your life, right?

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (1)

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (2)

At Secrets The Vine, The Wine’s Divine (3)

I know that many of you will have your own thoughts about which resorts should and should not be on this short list.  I invite you to use the comment section to weigh in.  I would love to hear your list.  All I ask is please don’t tell any of the other worthy candidates I didn’t select!

If you would like to visit one of these incredible resorts, reach out to us here.

Why Secrets Resorts Aren’t Such A Big Secret Anymore

If you need to get the word out quickly regarding some important matter throughout a club, organization or business, I know one foolproof method.  Just take two or three people aside individually and relay the information to them in whispered tones.  Then tell them to be sure and keep it under wraps because you are not ready to make the announcement public just yet.  At least one, and more likely all three of those people, will tell a handful of others and long before the sun sets it will be common knowledge.  Let’s face it, most of us suffer from the verbal version of a common urinary tract problem I like to call “lack of blather control”. Secrets Puerto Los CabosI suspect most folks returning from a stay at one of the Secrets Resorts have every intention of smugly keeping their little discovery all to themselves.  Notwithstanding their best efforts, they find themselves effusing all over the people sitting on either side of them . . . it is not quite as disgusting as it sounds . . . before their flight home even leaves the runway. I myself have written posts about several of the Secrets Resorts. Should you cast your eyes to the right rail, you will see I even have a category by that name where you can see all my Secrets postings.  I just recently returned from one of the brand’s newest offerings so, fair warning, grab a towel.  I am about to effuse all over you!

SECRETS PUERTO LOS CABOS

Puerto Los Cabos is an exciting new development in the eastern area of Los Cabos, Mexico.  You can get all those juicy details by clicking on this link to a post I wrote a few weeks back, Puerto Los Cabos And The Quest For the Best.  Situated in the heart of that new development on a very choice bit of real estate is Secrets Puerto Los Cabos.

Secrets Puerto Los CabosYou can have a beautiful setting and attractive facilities (which this property has in spades) but from vast experience I can tell you that unless they are blessed with outstanding personnel, it is all in vain.  The entire staff, from reception to restaurant, exude the kind of warmth and helpfulness that is the envy of many of their competitors.  A special shout out to Salvador Gutierrez who, as the resident manager, deserves a great deal of credit for selecting and training such a marvelous staff and Karla Ponce, the front desk manager, who oversees those employees who represent the all-important first impression to the guests.  Karla’s infectious smile seems to have spread to the entire reception staff.  It must be a case of staff infection!

When stopping by Rendezvous for a little pre-dinner libation, it is never a bad thing to Martini Cart at Secrets Puerto Los Cabosencounter a well-stocked martini cart as you walk in. Before you can say “¡Si Señor, por favor!” you might well find one of these sitting before you.  Rendezvous Secrets Resorts

 

Dining in general, I have always believed, is one part cuisine, one part ambiance and one part great companions.   Picture yourself with a small circle of friends dining out under the stars at El Patio Restaurant savoring your favorite ceviche, sipping a fine glass of Cabernet and conversing late into the night.

El Patio Secrets Puerto Los Cabos

At some point in the evening, no matter how convivial the company or smooth the after-dinner port, you are going to want to stumble back to your home away from home for a sound night’s sleep.  When that happens, if you are staying at Secrets Puerto Los Cabos, this welcoming sight is waiting to greet you when you enter the room.

Room at Secrets Puerto Los CabosThere is never enough time in one of these posts to tell you one-tenth of the wonderful features of such a stunning resort.  I haven’t even mentioned all the gourmet restaurants, the 24-hour room service, the 12,000 sq. ft. world-class Secrets spa by Pevonia,  the 18-hole golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, access to three miles of pristine beach and so much more.

Not to worry!  That is what great travel agents are for.  Our folks would be more than glad to drill down to the most minute detail to guarantee that your stay will exceed your expectations.

This concludes five posts under the category “Puerto Los Cabos”.  Let me know if you enjoyed this little glimpse into Los Cabos’ exciting new development.