Category Archives: TRAVEL


Maroma Resort and the Riviera Maya

Earlier this year, I enjoyed a memorable visit to Waldorf Astoria’s excellent Riviera Maya property, Maroma, a resort and a region where natural beauty, history and spirituality combine to create a very unique escape. Click on the link below to read my story for Dallas/Ft. Worth’s 360 West magazine, and view the gallery for more of my candid shots.

360 West Maroma Resort E.C. Gladstone

Click above to download full article PDF


Exploring Champagne–the Place and the Product

Which would you choose as your dream vacation: luxury escape, historical tour or nature retreat? It’s such a common conundrum that you find it on personality tests.

But what if you could combine all three? Even as a seasoned traveler, I wouldn’t have thought it possible — not in equal proportion, surely — until I spent time in a storied destination worthy of rediscovery: France’s Champagne-Ardenne.

The home of the world’s best bubbly also happens to be a place of pivotal European history (from the ancient Romans to World War II) and — who knew? — even surrounds a forest offering camping, bike trails and geological wonders. All of this is accessible within a two-hour drive radius.

Champagne has, in effect, two capitals, and which city you chose as your embarkation point (less than an hour from Paris via the high-speed TGV rail) can have some influence on the balance of your experience. Reims and Epernay are both quintessential regional French towns with proud local traditions. Reims is larger and has more history and diversity; Epernay, a bit quieter and simple, is considered the true heart of Champagne country — not to mention home of the mother-ship Moet & Chandon plant and majestic Maison Perrier-Jouët. Depending on your outlook, you might prefer Reims’ five-star Château Les Crayères, nestled within its own park; the simpler but modern Le Clos Margot, a bed-and-breakfast connected to Champagne Doyard in tiny Vertus; or, if you’re inclined to roughing it à la française, one of nine camping and caravan sites in the area. Bring your own beer or wine if you decide to camp….

READ THE ENTIRE STORY BY CLICKING BELOW FOR THE PDF FROM MARIN MAGAZINE… and scroll down for additional photos from my trip!



Scottsdale for Guys

This piece for Marin magazine was definitely a lot of fun–getting to check out the top golfing resorts in Scottsdale (and dining, and spas, and activities) including The Boulders, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Four Seasons Scottsdale, Montelucia, and the legendary Arizona Biltmore. Here’s the piece as it ran (click to download the PDF)…and a few more outtake shots (most of the photography is also mine).



Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton: Making Elegance Hip

Toronto remains a singular city, combining European sophistication with American approachability almost seamlessly. My recent visit there was certainly influenced, though, by staying at the new Ritz-Carlton, with one of the most impressive Concierge levels I’ve experienced, and a truly destination-worthy restaurant, Toca by Tom Brody.


Singular Staycations: Gourmet Bachelor style

For my friend Chad Carns’ blog TheGourmetBachelor, I contributed a series of my favorite West Coast staycation destinations, including Calistoga (Napa)’s Solage, Santa Monica’s Casa Del Mar, and San Diego’s La Costa resort. Enjoy them… I did!

La Costa

La Costa


Sexy, Savory, Sophisticated Santa Barbara

Somehow I managed to stay away from Santa Barbara–a quick 90 minutes north of Los Angeles–long enough for it to grow some very interesting contours. They all talk about the ‘Sideways’ effect, but I think it’s more than that. Great wines, great vistas, great people. Here’s my story for 360 West, and a few personal pics:

Click above to download full article PDF

Click above to download full article PDF

The “New” Ritz-Carlton: Downtown at LA Live

It’s hard to find a better definition for modern urban luxury without ostentation than the Ritz-Carlton LA Live. I recently reviewed the hotel and it’s adjoined twin JW Marriott for 360 West magazine (see below) but thought I would also post some more details on the property…

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


The Executive Suite is a perfect expression, serious but sumptuous. Modern wood and earth tone appointments, with textural constrasts, glass and chrome, sliding heavy doors to bathroom & powder room, large dressing area with full length mirror, makeup mirror, dvd players with large 60” flatscreens in bedroom and living/dining area (the second, BluRay).


Leather desk chair, wet bar with full minibar and Nespresso coffee maker. Bedroom has thick pillowtop bedding, padded tall headboard, gooseneck reading lamps, Ipod docking radio. His and her closets with valuables safe and complimentary shoe shine service.


Bathroom has large Japanese style soaking tub and rainfall/wand shower, Bulgari products and extensive amenities (loofah), makeup mirror, ceramic hair dryer, digital scale, TV in mirror, two sinks, thick towels and soft robes. A single callalilly on the marble countertop is a nice touch.

Inside the stylish spa

Inside the stylish spa

There is also a hotel car for guests (per availability) complimentary within a 3-mile radius.

Happy hour.

Happy hour.

The Napa of Mexico: Monte Xanic and El Valle de Guadalupe

One of the best kept secrets of the wine world is the fact that there is a steadily growing high-quality wine industry right across the US border in Baja, Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe, just outside Ensenada. Owing to Mexican government export tariffs favoring tequilas, and a general disbelief in Mexican dedication to quality, most of these wines never make it out of their country. But things are changing, aided by growing attention to the Valle de Guadalupe’s annual Fiestas de la Vendimia every August. I got the opportunity to visit one of the top producers, Monte Xanic, and taste many of its competitors during a crush season visit a few months ago for a story in The Tasting Panel. Here are some  candid photos (many taken by Kelly Duckhorn) from the visit. Xanic owner Hans Backhoff Sr, Jr, Viticulturalist Kelly Maher and consulting winemaker Scott McLeod are depicted most prominently :

Click above to read

Click above to read

Palm Springs’ Hipster Haciendas

After staying away for a few years, it was remarkable to return to the Coachella valley and note the cultural changes in Palm Springs, a once-sleepy, retirement-centered town which has now re-embraced its Hollywood connections and surviving midcentury modern architecture. Several boutique hotels have been restored to create some of the hippest resorts anywhere. Take a look at my feature article for Dallas/FtWorth’s 360 West magazine, or just enjoy some of my candid pics…


Las Alamandas: The Hidden Treasure of Jalisco

One of the most unforgettable travel experiences of my career was visiting Mexico’s incredibly exclusive Las Alamandas resort, south of Puerto Vallarta. Dreaming of simple luxury, prompt service and unspoiled nature in one spot? This is it. Take a look at my story for Fort Worth/Dallas’ 360 West magazine, or just enjoy some of my personal pics…

Click above to download a PDF of the full article

Click above to download a PDF of the full article

Inside A Legendary Las Vegas Penthouse Suite (pics)

The private elevator to the Sky Villas

The private elevator to the Sky Villas

I’ve been inside some of the most impressive high-roller suites in Las Vegas–almost too many to name (Oh alright, I’ll name them: The Paiza level at Palazzo, Villas at Mirage, MGM Sky Villas, several at Caesars Palace–though not the Presidential–Bellagio, Vdara, Aria, Mandarin Oriental, Tropicana–new and old–Imperial Palace, Harrah’s, and Metro at Flamingo, all the kooky ones at Palms and Hard Rock and a few at Wynn/Encore, though not the Wynn Villas).


But very few compare to the 15,000 square foot Verona Sky Villa at the Las Vegas Hilton. I got a chance to check out the Sky Villa last week as part of an overall property review, and wanted to share these pics that reassert how Vegas–past, present, and surely future–can do some things in ways no one else can. Fifteen thousand square feet. Think about that. A typical hotel room is 500.


One of three huge penthouses atop the Hilton, it was originally created in the late ’80s, when the top floor was redivided from what was originally a nightclub and Elvis’ legendary suite (you know, the place where he shot Robert Goulet on the TV). It is “continually updated”  according to LV Hilton Sales Manager Joy Burns (my tour guide). The copious marble is really Italian, and the gold fixtures are really gold (well, at least gold plated–solid gold would be too soft).


It would exhaust me to list all amenities, but highlights of the three bedroom suites and common areas include several multi-person spa tubs, an outdoor pool and lawn, automatic curtain and lighting controls, grand piano, full bar and hidden butler pantry (what, you’re going to cook? yeahright.) The Venetian-style Rennaissance decoration is lavish and excessive but somehow manages to avoid being garish, mostly just by well done.

While there are likely accommodations in the MGM Mansions or Wynn Villas that equal or top this (even if they lack the citywide views), this is almost certainly the most lavish suite in the city, if not these entire United States, that anyone can book. That’s right, $15,000 rack rate a night (“very negotiable” Joy Burns allows) and this place is yours. If you can’t seal the deal here, give up.

Staycation In Style: Haute Living blogs on LA Hotels + Spas

Aromatherapy Massage at SpaRelaken Photo By Jimmy Cohrssen

Aromatherapy Massage at SpaRelaken Photo By Jimmy Cohrssen

One of the hardest parts of blogging LA is covering it’s recent explosion of boutique hotel experiences and spas. Gosh, staying in different fancy suites and getting pampered every night can really wear you out. ;-)

Hautels: The Haute 5 Hotels in Los Angeles

The Room IS The View: A Staycation at SLS

Haute horses: Del Mar Debuts

Ready To Bare It: The Haute 5 Spa Treatments

Haute Seclusion: The Beverly Wilshire Spa is a Hidden Treat

Found Horizons: The Sexy Scene at Shangri-La

Haute Hybrid: Miyako Hotel and spaRelaken

At the Top: The Top 5 Penthouses in Los Angeles

Pamper. Rinse. Repeat. Spa Week hits Los Angeles!

Petit Ermitage: West Hollywood’s Most Exclusive Club

Fountain Fantasists WET Design in Vegas and Macau

I’ve had the pleasure of writing about the astounding WET company (the forces behind the Bellagio fountain and so much more) three times now. I hope to do it again.

lumia, crystals

lumia, crystals

Click above for my Las Vegas Weekly on WET and the creation of the City Center features.


Click above to download my story about the new Mirage volcano

Click above to download my story about the WET feature at Wynn Macau

Sin City Survival Kit

With Lizzie and Tracey (from Fantasy), two of the hottest Vegas Showgirls I know!

With Tracey and Lizzie (from Fantasy), two of the hottest Vegas Showgirls I know!

Here are my answers to your burning questions about Las Vegas:

My Best of Vegas 2010 for

And more from the Orbitz Vegas files…

Secret Stays and Sorting out City Center

• New Nightclubs,  Top Ten Casino Lounges and Hot new Club Lounges

Top ten Free ActivitiesTop Outdoor Activities and  top tips for Families on the Strip

Rating the Best Showgirl Revues

Romantic Vegas

• Best Places to Get Married

Jennifer Harman’s Top Ten Poker Rooms

A revealing interview behind the scenes of Gaming with Navegante’s Larry J. Woolf

• Best Sportsbooks

• Arts And Culture in the Desert

• All about the Cirque du Soleil shows…  Terry Fator and other headliners Cher, Bette, and other Desert DivasJersey Boys & Human NatureTop Comedians

• Vegas for Car Lovers

Orbitz: Get a Room, already!

FLV_MiniSuite_lvng rm_dariusKuzmickas

Flamingo's GO Junior Suite: Possibly my favorite room in all of Vegas.

In Vegas it’s always hard to separate the hope and the hype. Here are links to my Orbitz Vegas blogs discussing many of the hotels I’ve stayed in on (and off) the Strip:  Top Ten Standard Stays … my favorite Hot Habitats and Sumptuous SuitesWhere The Celebs Stay… Top Ten Off-Strip Stays…surprising Family-friendly casino-resorts… The new Hard Rock Hotel towers … Concierge Level at the Palazzo… impressive Casino-Free Destination Resortsthe wonder-filled Wynn EncoreMonte Carlo Mk IIHow Flamingo Created The Coolest Rooms in Vegas… and a preview of the long awaited City Center!

A Music Lover’s Guide To Memphis

With a couple rare blues 78s discovery!

Celebrating the discovery of some rare blues 78s!

There’s something about the spirit of Memphis that supercedes its obvious Mississippi river town charms. Here’s a fun guide-yourself tour to Memphis, Tennessee I did for the Rhino Records website. And, for another perspective, an audio podcast interview I did there with dearly departed record producer and legendary session keyboard player Jim Dickinson.


Visiting Wayne’s Manor

WAYNE NEWTON-NOV-VEGWayne Newton, the one and only Mr. Las Vegas, just announced his return to a regular gig on the Strip, which reminded me of this feature I did visiting his illustrious home Casa De Shenandoah. I have seen many estates, but this was certainly one of the most reflective of its owner’s personality. Where else could you see a Rembrandt, a letter from Sinatra and Bill Harrah’s Rolls Royce? Great pics by Francis George as well…