Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bella Italia

Experiences of Travel Center of La Jolla
The things I've learned. 
Rental cars are very easy to get in Italy. The only thing is that you must make sure to bring a car charger with you and download the google maps app as iPhones ingenuity is not appreciated by Italian coordinates. As always when you travel you always wish you knew one more thing before Going. This was one of them. So google maps and a car charger.
The beginning 

V and I were happy and chatty after not having seen each other for a couple of months. Getting ready to embark On an adventure we follow the iPhone maps' horrible pronunciation of the romantic language. After almost 3 hours we realized that we didn't drive for 45 min and that Camaiore was NOT Sienna. Yes. When you see seagulls instead of wild boar- your going the wrong way.
 Ooopsie. Another reason why GPS is so important is because when you do get lost, Italians don't know how to give directions. Tutto Dritto for everything and "pass the circle". Really? I mean there are round abouts every 20 meters and they ask you if you're in the circle? What circle!!! Anywho, we made it by midnight and the welcoming night manager had a bit of dinner and wine prepared for us.

People who travel more then the average bear say, what makes you love a place is the people and the memories you make there. This hotel was a cute 4 star albergo that I will always recommend on behalf their staff alone. The hotel was cute and picture perfect but the kind staff that light the fire place and rescue you in dark parking lots --priceless.  
After a jetlagged night and realizing my suitcase was doused with the finest of tequilas we made it out to discover the countryside and culinary masterpieces of the area. Monteriggioni is an Etruscan medieval town formed in the year of our Lord xxxx, famous for its entact wall ( which you can climb for 5€) and mohair scarves made in this tiny village.

San Gimignano - She likes Authority
Breakfast of local Wine and pasta and we were off to the next and more known Town of billowing towers-  san Gimignano.

 Crazy Victoria had the phone/camera/GPS/weather predictor with her and snapped so many beautiful pictures of corners, knives boars wine ceramics nude aprons leather goods that we barely managed to photograph all the gelaterias that claimed to be the best in the world. So confusing.

Borgo San Luigi
Anywho, we got the one cold front of the year and were ready for another round of getting lost through the circles to our hotel. We made our own aperitivo of French/American? Rose on our terraza and laughed for the next 10 hours ( no joke) after we finished the rose we went to visit our Bolivian Italiano for negronis by the fire and intent of pool.
Massive steak fiorentina dinner and we needed mucho limoncello to aid our digestion. I won't get into details ( because we can't remember ANYTHING) but it was a memorable. I think

Part 2- day 1
Play time was over for me and we had to get to Fiesole for my meeting. Luckily it only took us 45 minutes this time and we arrived to the beautiful Il Salviatino. Then it took us another 10 minutes to drive through the beautiful gardens and admire this once abandoned estate. More wine and pasta and it was time for my crazy V to part and I to work. So happy that she flew out to meet me and will never forget the laughs. 

I'm happily posting all my garden and room shots of the hotel when I decide to take a nap for our 7:30 meeting and aperitivo. Mary ( Sales Rep of Amandatour) graciously calls to let me know that we will meet uh er 45 minutes ago. Ooopsie again! Run down and meet the crew of wonderful people. All of us are jet lagged/sick/ hungover ( pick your perk) and started the small talk while on our way to The Savoy for our first inspection and dinner. Love love and what's not to love of any Forte hotels right smack Down in the middle of it all with large rooms, showers and beautiful people around you. The bar was packed, people watching great and our host Paola so gracious and kind.
Il Salviatino _ LOVE

Day 2
Next morning was a full day of hotels - 7 to be exact. I had not been to Florence since my yester years and have no idea why. Beautiful, walkable city full of art and statues of naked men. Wonderful. 
Brunelleschi- recently refurbished and great mix of modern touches in a historic building. Rooms, public areas, and location were solid. 
Lungarno collection ( aka Ferregamo)
Lungarno - Continentale
-Continentale was very fashion oriented. Not surprised that my friend Alice was here the night before having Spritz Aperols on the roof top. Small, hip hotel with clean lines and very comfortable. Across the street was the Hotel Gallery Art with the very popular restaurant/bar with the locals as well. Across from that will be the new suites which were still not finito. Lastly the Lungarno Classic hotel across the river. Much more traditional and elegant yet still boutique and literally in the river. The type of hotel where you could stay for a week with out being hoteled out. Must be a thing of the collection as I highly enjoyed all 3. 
Villa Cora
After this set we drove out to meet the dashing Marcio at Villa Cora. The old 'palace' of an eccentric man with loads of gold and frescoes. Beautiful mirrored ballrooms, underground hallways leading to pool (uncommon for Florence) spa and cigar lounge. Each of the 3 levels of the hotel inspired by his quirkiness. Masculine Marroco, ultra feminine roses and  frescoed royal rooms. All with 180 deg views of the historic city. After lunch a la terraz we go back into the center and meet with the man himself Mr Maurizio at his newly acquired apartment building, Cavalieri Luxury Suites, right on the main square a block away from savoy.
Count Fabbio
Beautifuly decorated with full kitchens, comfortable living areas and accommodations for any size. Family. 3 nt minimum and no late night room service but being In the center of it all- go out and explore! 
2 minutes to change and then we went to see the Four Seasons masterpiece. Took 8 years, a palace a convent and the largest garden of Florence to complete this. Not typically the Four Seasons junky but a great luxury option, only 10 minutes walking through a residential ├írea with all the Beauty and pomp you would expect of any  FS hotel. 
Only the 2nd night but our group became the epitome of laughs and prosseco after sharing the very large bathroom of the very large presidential suite of Count Fabbio. An alter ego was born. 
AmandaTour Team @ Four Seasons Firenze
Dinner was served and 4 hours later we were singing Abba and hesitating whether to dance on the piano or not. Thank you Sofia and Nicolas?? for a great evening, never to be forgotten. 
Day 3-
Off to the Kingdom of Barolo. A beautiful sight to see and being that I had just been there 2 nights prior I realized this is a destination you can stay for weeks. Tuscany is huge and the roads great to weave in and out of to see all the cute medieval villages. 

Castiglion is it's own village transformed into uber luxury villas and apartments where nothing was spared. The rooms, furniture fabrics views pool gym waking trails wine vaults 18 hole gf course by xxx coking school. The villas with kitchens for for a cook like me ( although they come with chefs) salt water infinity pools, more terraces and eh a pizza oven. Sold! Not cheap but worth every euro. Especially once you try the restaurant. Hands Down One of the best meals I had in this county. And I've had tons! :/

After the Barolo tasting we were off to The eternal city of Rome. 
Best Spa in Roma @ Parco di Principe
We checked In Parco Di Principe hotel outside of the city(10 min by free shuttle) and it felt quite corportaish. Large comfy beds and decent bathrooms but the selling point here was the peacefulness of the area and winner of best spa/gym in Rome. Great for longer stays, those who appreciate Pools and the villa Borghese park at your doorstep to enjoy a stroll and burn off the carbonara. 

Dinner was at the Jumeirah Via Veneto which I can honesty say wasn't my thing. Location and services all there but would only stay of the deal was so great you could deal with the decor. Tonight we are introduced to The big smiling and hugging Clauddio. Kid at heart but with kids of his own, this hard working gent is Italiano through and through always making a joke, lighting a cigarette and asking what else you need to make you happy.

Hellloooo! They said tour by night of the city but I did t expect these beauties. Marijam, Traci and I had too much fun waving to the people like a Countess.  We stopped at the beautiful piazza Navona , St. Peter's and castel st Angelo where our guide brought to light it's history and purpose. Rome is called the eternal city because of its layers of history and walking the cities with out a guide to bring these to light is like going to a restaurant and only eating bread. Helloooo!!!
We laughed. We froze. Very cool 

Day 4- 
There are 1400 hotels( and 900 churches FYI) in the city and after last years site inspections and these I've come to the conclusion that Rome has no wow hotels unless your paying the hefty price. Many options (1400) but because this city is packed all the time it almost seems that they do t have to keep up since they are always full anyway. Of the half dozen hotels we saw the only ones that stood out were the Eden for its beautiful rooms and awesome roof top and the Regina Baglioni for its Asian old decor that I wouldn't wish for anybody. 5 star, really? But the Eden was beautiful and so was our host and lunch.  Ah- the new Melia- large new clean great for families. Next.
Melia Roma - Resort in the City
Lunch @ Eden Roma
We had our first free time in 4 days and Via del Corso was packed with big names and small ones. Did my damage and bought adorable shoes and a much needed girth to suck in the massive carb meals. Dinner and site at the D'Inghilhterra. Great location and sexy 007 lounge but that's what you're paying for. Wish I had better things to say but as they say "kid- you gotta a lot of potential ( Pretty Woman)

Day 5-
Andiamo a Napoli!!!

It's not Italy down here, this is an eclectic country that reminds you of other exotic destinations where spices and sweet coffee are sold at corner shops. Another city with a lot of layers. Discovered by the Greeks as Nea- polis ( new city) and conquered by all. Walking this old polis you see the French, Arab and Spanish touches in the architecture and language. And the pizza! The famous Neapolitan pizza lived up to its fantastic reputation. Too add to fantastic,  We also visited the caves that I renamed Indiana Jones. Interesting and freaky and I guess that's a Neapolitan jaja.

  Sansevero Chappel, or the Piatatella, that I had never even heard about. The artist  Giuseppe Sanmartino carved the veiled Christ with such precision and detail that it looked like you could feel the warm blood pulsing through its veins. His protege Francesco Queirolo was also so well trained That his sculpture made also in one block of Marble making a flowing net. Speechless really.
File:Cristo velato.jpg
Stolen Pic as cameras were not allowed

Naples is famous for their Nativity Scenes
This one is all in Good Neapolitan humor

Tonight we dine At my favorite hotel of all that we saw. Villa Treville in Positano. Every closet, light fixture, cook, the  kitchen....I really liked it. Felt like coming home to a fancier version of Pleamar in Acapulco. Another speechless dinner  Mucho food and mucho grappa and  we rolled back to Sorrento.

The manager xxx was a mix like all of them but in this case perfect for hospitality. Italian and Swiss. Every room I loved. Every mirror shower

Day 6-
Here we stayed again at Parco di Principe and again reminded  me so much of Acapulco. Built on the cliff with understated elegance. Very 60s chic yet well maintained. Not uber luxury like the Bellevue Syrene next door but very much to my liking. The Bellevue was the oldest in town but what was great were the design touches. Very creative mix of modern pieces in century old building. All 5 stars here.
Bellevue Syrene

It had been 2 hours since our last meal but now it was time for us to cook for ourselves. (Sort of) the restaurant of  Don Alfonso also has a cooking school and may I add the largest collection of exceptionally handsome chefs. Not normal by any means and I was in Heaven. Cooking ! Food! Wine! Friends! Wine cellars and now gorgeous Niccola to teach you!??  Si si ! Si si! Grazie Mille!!
Note: Sent clients for dinner and RAVED about it!

Santa Catarina <3

After we landed back to reality we headed back to Positano with out new guide in tow- Maurizio. Very interesting person as he leads hiking trails through the area such as Gods Path. After so much eating, and being that most people finish their trip here, I find it a great option to breath the fresh air and get some blood flowing before indulging another day of yumminess. We also saw Le Agavi which is another great positano on a cliff and best beach in town. Then to Ravello to see the sexiest pool in Italy- the Caruso. Beautiful grounds and shmancy rooms but now warmth. Don't get me wrong, tutto Aposto with everything and I'd stay there una heart beat but after later seeing Santa Catarina in Amalfi- the other didn't stand a chance. Santa Catarina has been owned by same owners. Waiters and busses there since before my birth and of course exceptional views. Rooms bathrooms decor and warmth to stay there a lifetime. Bravo!
Caruso - Sexiest Hotel of Italy
In between hotels we went to see the lemon guy. At first I thought this was a tourist trap type business but my cool compass turned the other way around. They have been interviewed by all the top as their lemons one can say are the best in the world. Medicinal cures for so many things it's only proper to drink their limoncello to stay healthy. After meeting the 80yr old father we sat down to eat yet again the most amazing lemon cake I've tried. Lucky I got the recipe. Unfortunately. With out the best lemons in the world it won't be the best lemon cake in The world... But I'll try. 

Day 7- laultimaNotte a Napoli
These schedules have been jam packed and a 10am departure felt like a full day at rest- almost 
Grand Vesuvio Terrace
We drive back to Naples to see the grand Vesuvio which I like very much I front of the paseo maritimo then to the Parker's for yet another beauty. Great views in both just a matter of which location you prefer. Vesuvio did have a great new dining room with a view that I wished to keep on resting up at.  We had lunch on the famous terrace of Parker's with 200 deg views of volcanos and islands. The manager xxx was very warm like a true Napolonite. Lastly was the Romeo, our host hotel and part of Design collection. After so many ??? Properties bit was a breath of fresh air to see such a funky hotel in the up and coming port district. Open for a couple of  years already it had the vibe of a NY/istanbulish hotspot. Mi piacci but not for a first timer to Naples or more a sophisticated clientele, this one is not for you. 

Our last supper as always was the best. We dined at La Schaluppa to boundless seafood and local wine. Serenaded to with songs of the past like Santa Lucia and tu no falla Americano. So much fun so much food and so sad to see the night come to an end. We took tons of pictures with our massive horn to prevent bad luck we were 12+1, but the best pictures will be the memories. Bennisimo!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

LAX Airport

It's been a while since I've flown out of LAX. Mainly because I hated the commute and the crowds. BUT since LAX got a facelift, this airport is actually fun. I travel alone all the time so I have no other entertaining influences besides what is In front of me. Many times when I do not have the pleasure of flying Businness / First like today I usually go straight to the lounges and pay the fee anyway. I always enjoy the comforts. Here at LAX ( like heathrow, Amsterdam etc) it's better with the crowd then with the in crowd. You've got serious shopping ( fred, Apple, kors,Porsche ) Serious eats like Vino Volo where I am now and sushi and caviar and Mexican and breads and candies and and and. 

Then You have this beautiful board to update flights and digital interpretations of fish tanks or apartment buildings as now on the left. 

Don't forget the massive multiple duty frees and the art of people watching. 
LAX - I like you now