Archive | February, 2013

Toledo, Ohio

9 Feb

According to foursquare, I have been to the Detroit Metro airport (DTW) six times. This is scary. When this fun fact recently popped up, I forced myself to recall every single time I had been there for work, including the pre-foursquare occasions, and realized it was indeed more than 6 times. eek! The first four times was going to and from Ann Arbor, which was was a tease because Ann Arbor is actually a really cute town. (I refuse to acknowledge it as a city since it seems so small.) The only disturbing incidents I remember about this was trip, was that 1) my coworker insisted on checking his luggage for a five day work trip simply because his cologne bottle was over the 3 fl. oz. limit, and 2) the friendly staff at the Melting Pot insisted on seating me and my coworker in a romantic booth after we insisted multiple times that we were in fact not together and not celebrating any special occasion. The other two check-in’s were to a training in downtown Detroit in February. Gross. One night the trainers had taken us to the Hard Rock cafe. I decided it would be really cool to buy a couple Hard Rock Detroit shirts. After all, it is Detroit Rock City. After dinner, back at the hotel, we decided to keep the libations going at the Marriott concierge lounge. I shoved my purchases under a chair and put my giant puffy white coat over the chair. When we were eventually kicked out of the lounge because it was closing I, of course, forgot my shirts. I realized this once back in my room, but decided to go to the lounge when it opened. Somehow, no one had found my shirts, and they were apparently thrown out and believed to be forgotten leftovers. Fortunately, I am a Marriott Platinum member almost 4 years running, and thankfully, the good Samaritan in the concierge lounge was kind enough to re-purchase the t-shirts and send them to me! WOW. I really lucked out.

DetroitView from Detroit MarriottRenaissance Center (GM)

However, this trip, I was merely flying into Detroit because the only way to get to Toledo, OH is to drive an hour south east from Detroit, or fly through O’Hare to the Toledo airport. Given this awesome winter option, my coworkers and I decided it would be much better to fly directly into Detroit and drive. Especially since the Toledo airport is still about 30 min outside Toledo. hmmm. Unfortunately, we flew in late on a Sunday in the middle of a minor snow storm. Avis is finally starting to catch up to technology, and now emails your space number ahead of time. Unfortunately, there didn’t happen to be a car in the space I was assigned, (sigh). After waiting in line, because no one else had cars in their assigned spaces, we ran to our new car assignment just in time to catch a down pour. Fabulous. Thankfully, Avis had the car running with the heat blasting and we were able to get on our way with a warm car. After some dicey roads, we finally made it to the hotel around 1am, only to see that the receptionist was “running errands” and would be back in 5 minutes. Woof. Who really runs errands at 1am? And to top it all off… I go to put my pajamas on, only to discover they are soaking wet from the earlier rain incident. Therefore, I would like to extend my deepest apologies to the unfortunate people in the surrounding rooms who might have heard a hair dryer going on at full blast at 2am. Luckily, we were staying at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons which has a variety of stores and some nice decent places to eat like Bar Louie and Nagoya Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi. Also, Toledo is the home of Tony Packos Hungarian hot dogs and chili, which is famous from M*A*S*H*. However, I suggest staying away from the BP on Front st. around 4pm since they have a sign on the door that says “Closed for 5-10 Min. Shift Change” and almost none of their pumps take credit card. Thanks to the wonderful people at Delta, my coworker and I were able to catch and earlier flight. He dubbed it one of the worst places in the world, but I’m not so sure yet.

Arriving into DetroitTony PackosTots at Bar Louie"Birmingham Ethnic Neighborhood"

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St. John Favorites

9 Feb

Recently, I have been spending more time in the USVI. Mostly because, a) my parents have been spending more time there, b) its the most relaxing vacation I’ve ever taken, and c) it’s freaking freezing in NY this time of year. If you don’t have a house to stay in, there are only a couple major hotels on St. John, the largest being the Westin. There is also a very posh retreat hotel called Caneel Bay, however, if you go there to use the public beach you will have to pay for parking. For those of you who really enjoy roughing it in the tropics, I would suggest you stay at the Maho Bay Camp grounds. Lastly, for a truly local feel, I would suggest The Inn at Tamarind Court. Thanks to Laurence Rockefeller in 1956, 75% of the island is Virgin Islands National Park. Now on to my favorites:

Beaches:

  • Jumbie Beach – or little Trunk, used to be the most remote beach that tourists never went to. Now, there is a paved parking area and you no longer have to repel by rope down the side of the mountain to get to it. It also over looks Trunk Bay, which is one of the most photographed beaches in the world. You may have seen it used as ad for the Bahamas or Aruba. However, in recent years they got smart and started charging an entrance fee.
  • Hawksnest – Closest to downtown, I love how quick and easy it is to get here. They have changing rooms, toilet facilities, and grilling / picnic areas.
  • Francis Bay – This might be considered more remote than Jumbie now since the roads to get there is so rutted and treacherous.
  • Maho Bay – Calm waters, picnic areas, and of course who can forget the camping families!
  • Honeymoon Bay – Even closer than Hawksnest, but its a hike. Or, you can take the easy route but pay for parking.
  • Cinnamon Bay – Also has a camp site and therefore more modern facilities including a cafeteria, and less available parking.
  • Salt Pond – In Coral Bay.
  • Lameshur Bay – Also out in Coral Bay.

For Dinner:

  • The Lime Inn – This is my favorite! They have all-you-can-eat peal your own shrimp every Wednesdays. They have a fantastic Bermuda salad and Coquille St. John.
  • Cafe Roma – Italian restaurant with a great baked penne.
  • Morgan’s Mango – Juicy chicken and great appetizers.
  • The Inn at Tamarind Court – This is more of a local hang out, and their menu changes nightly with guest chefs. My dad is thoroughly obsessed with the prime rib night.
  • Uncle Joe’s BBQ – Again, a nice local place with great ribs and very reasonably priced.
  • Candi’s BBQ – Uncle Joe’s top competitor, is a really great place as well. Both have take out options. You’ll know where it is when you drive by.
  • Happy Fish – Yes! There is a sushi restaurant. They also have non-sushi Asian cuisine and great specials.
  • La Tapa – Has a great wine selection.
  • Skinny Legs – along with Miss. Lucy’s, and Shipwreck Landing which are out by Coral Bay, but definitely worth the drive.
  • Banana Deck – Great for a nice casual meal.
  • Chateau Bordeaux – Fancy and spendy.
  • ZoZo’s – Italian at Gallow’s Point. I have not been here since they moved, but I heard the quality is still top notch.
  • Woody’s Seafood Saloon – While I’ve never eaten there, they have an over active bar crowd and
  • Hercules Pate Delight – Great place to grab a pate to take to the beach for lunch. Get there early though because they’re so popular they run out!

Apparently, The Fish Trap is no longer any good. I honestly haven’t been there in a couple years myself. It’s a shame because it used to be one of my favorites. The same goes for High Tide. In 2011 this place was good, but supposedly they got a new chef and the food is not as good. I also left Asolare off the list because it’s a pretty snobby, and very expensive restaurant. While the food is good, the portions are extremely small considering the price you’re paying.  Sadly, there are often restaurants I love that change hands, or close down, but as of the holiday season, all of these restaurants were still in existence.

These are, of course, not nearly all the beaches and restaurants, however, they are almost all of my go-to’s whenever me or my family are on the island.

HawksnestHawksnest2Music at Banana Deck

Savannah, Georgia

9 Feb

Over the last couple years I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Savannah. So much time, in fact, that every year I file a Georgia tax return. Fortunately, Savannah is a wonderful place to visit. There are many fabulous restaurants, historical sites, nearby beaches and of course, ghost tours. The Savannah / Hilton Head airport (SAV) is one of the easiest airports to get in and out of. While there the airport lounge is sparse, and not worth going to, there is a Dewar’s Bar and Grill which will get the job done. There is also a sunglass store and flip-flop stop, in case you forgot to bring some. Given the fact that I am there for work, I have only had a limited amount of time site seeing. One particular Monday night, my coworkers and I decided it would be a really good idea to take the haunted pub crawl. The pub crawl starts at the Moon River Brewery, which has a decent bar menu, good brews, and is surprisingly very much haunted. the rest of the tour was a bit foggy, as there are no open container laws in historic Savannah. 😉

A couple of other fun activities I’ve actually had a chance to partake in, (in no particular order): The Savannah College of Art and Design Store, a trolley ride, a day trip to Tybee Island, the Juliette Gordon Low house, staying in Hilton Head Island. However, what I did most often while I was in Savannah is eat! I like to think of myself as an amateur foodie. I saw amateur because many times the word foodie is synonymous with snob. While I have been known to splurge once and a while for a good meal, I love food of all price ranges. Rather than go into detail about why I love each restaurant on my list, I thought I’d give a brief synopsis. (Please note that Lady and Son’s is not on here, for good reasons.)

  • Toucan Cafe – While, not in the center of town, this is truly a hidden gem. I have never had a bad meal here and the price is very reasonable. Monday nights even have a some discounts on a couple wines.
  • Elizabeth’s on 37th – Probably the most expensive restaurant in Savannah, but totally worth every penny. The mint Julep’s are authentic, spicy mussel that’s served as a palate cleanser should be an appetizer. The menu changes seasonally, reservations are highly recommended, and valet park if possible, because the surrounding area is a little scarey late at night.
  • 700 Drayton – Located in the Mansion on Forsyth Park, which is also my preferred hotel in Savannah, along with it’s sister hotel the Bohemian, but we’ll get there later. Again, while pricy, the menu and exceptional staff, deliver an enjoyable meal and overall dining experience.
  • Noble Fare – Another expensive restaurant with a great soup, scallops and duck.
  • Jazz’d Tapas – Reasonably priced with an extensive menu and wine specials on Monday’s, although their cocktail list is exciting as well.
  • Rooftop of the Bohemian Hotel – Limited, but good menu. Great view of the city, great cocktails, music some evenings, and an energetic atmosphere.
  • Garibaldi’s – Pricy Italian, but very delicious menu
  • Sapphire Grill – Pricy Seafood, but very delicious menu
  • Ciao Bella – Italian with outdoor seating. Bring an extra sweater if sitting inside.
  • Vic’s on the River – I love their biscuits, cocktails, and scallop entree.
  • The Distillery – A popular SCAD hang out, they have great pub food. I’ve ordered take out many times from here because they’re quick and they don’t mess up my order. They also have a great tap selection while I wait for my food! The lump crab balls and pretzel treasures are personal favs.
  • Maxwell’s – A fairly new wine bar / tapas place that I really hope does well. They have a bottomless mimosa brunch.
  • Leopold’s Ice Cream – Truly a Savannah institution. Their ice cream flavor change every season, and they also serve panini’s
  • The Pink House – Another local institution. Reservations are highly recommended days in advance.
  • Alligator Soul – Very southern menu. Skip the tourist trap that is Lady and Son’s, and go here instead.
  • B. Matthews – Great brunch, worth the wait. Also serves a nice dinner.
  • J. Christophers – Also a great brunch worth the wait.
  • Jen and Friends – While not a restaurant, this place has every type of martini you could ever possibly want.

With a list like this, this is no reason to eat at any sort of fast food chain. I also want to point out that I’ve stayed in all of the downtown Marriott’s, however, nothing beats the Autograph collection hotels, The Mansion on Forsyth Park and the Bohemian hotel. Both have charm and a luxurious atmosphere, and occasionally, deals during the off-season. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to visit Savannah during its infamous St. Patrick’s Day celebration. However, it is considered number two in the country, or something extraordinarily close to that, and is therefore worth checking out. Cocktails at Jazz'dOutside Elizabeth's on 37th