Archive for April, 2010

Views from the Loo – Lovely Bathroom Views

Friday, April 30th, 2010
InterContinental Paris Le Grand Tub

InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel's Grand bathtub with a grand view.

 Bathrooms with a View

We’ve all been there. Stepped into a five star resort bathroom to soak in a tub, only to look out and soak in a magnificent view from the loo. I had that experience in Lugano, Switzerland at the Villa Sassa Hotel and Spa overlooking Lake Lugano.  I would have happily exchanged my home in San Francisco, California for a lifetime stay in the Villa Sassa Royal Suite.

Villa Sassa Hotel and Spa, Lugano, Switzerland, overlooking Lake Lugano, bathroom with a view, Nancy D. Brown

Villa Sassa Hotel and Spa's Royal Suite bathroom has a loo with a view in Lugano, Switzerland

Villa Sassa Hotel and Spa +41 91 911 41 11

Via Tesserete 10, Ch 6900 Lugano, Switzerland

Perhaps you'll spy an elephant walking by while showering at Savute Elephant Camp, Botswana, Africa

Perhaps you'll spy an elephant walking by while showering at Savute Elephant Camp, Botswana, Africa


Savute Elephant Camp

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Situated on the Savute Channel banks, the Savute Elephant Camp by Orient-Express in Botswana offers view of elephantsin their natural habitat.  The Savute is also home to lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyenas. Located in the heart of Chobe National Park, the camp features twelve junior suite-like tents, all housed on raised wooden platforms, and shaded by a traditional African thatch roof.  Perhaps you’ll spot an elephant while enjoying the private outdoor shower?

Banyon Tree Cabo Marques, located in Acapulco, Mexico offers private villas with pool, and sunset bathroom views.

Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, located in Acapulco, Mexico offers private villas with pool, and sunset bathroom views.

Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués

Acapulco, Mexico

The cliff-top Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués, a five-star private all-pool villa resort (47 pool villas), is located in Acapulco Diamante. Cabo Marqués is a 20-minute drive from Acapulco International Airport and located 7.5 miles from its city center.  Villas (and bathrooms) offer views of the  sea-side landscape overlooking Acapulco Bay.

Hotel Caruso, former 11th century palace offering views of the Amalfi coast in Ravello, Italy.

Hotel Caruso, a former 11th century palace, offers bathroom views of the Amalfi coast in Ravello, Italy

Hotel Caruso

Ravello, Italy

 Set atop a 1,200 foot cliff, Hotel Carusois located at the highest point of Ravello, overlooking the  Amalfi Coast. A former 11th century palace, Hotel Caruso is a Mediterranean jewel. The hotel offers 48 guest rooms and suites. The deluxe double rooms offer sea views and a terrace or balcony. They have extra large, exquisite marble bathrooms with separate shower, and are beautifully decorated throughout.

Italy's Hotel Cipriani offers views of the Grand Canal to St. Marks Square. Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown

Italy's Hotel Cipriani offers views of the Grand Canal to St. Marks Square.

Hotel Cipriani

Venice, Italy 

With views of the Grand Canal to St. Marks Square, the Hotel Ciprianioffers Venetian hospitality. Each of the hotel’s 95 rooms and suites offer views of either the lagoon to the South, the Palladian San Giorgio Maggiore to the East, or the walled gardens and vineyards of Casanova to the West. The Palladio Suite has its own private boat launch.  The bathroom features a walk-in shower, separate toilet, double basins, Carrara marble and Byzantine-Venetian style mosaics, and a view, of course.

Where is your favorite bathroom with a view? Leave a comment, below.

Top photo:

InterContinental Paris Le Grand

Paris, France

Article written by and Villa Sassa photo courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip. Other photos courtesy of the Brandman Agency.


Rules Of Engorgement: Tacos De Cabeza

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Name: La Salsita Restaurant

Location: Phoenix, Arizona

3827 N. 43rd Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85031, Tel. (602) 455-4638

Cost: $1 per taco

Tacos De Cabeza Salsitas Phoenix

Tacos De Cabeza Phoenix Salsitas

At 2 am the line coming out of the small tri-colored shack in Phoenix is filled with Cholo gangstaz, banderas, scantily dressed females, families, rebellious youth, and wedding parties.  Some are inebriated and unbalanced while others are swaying from thumping bass blasting from a parked SUV.  Everyone is waiting for the famous Salsitas tacos.  For me, the tacos de cabeza or tacos made with the fatty meat from the head of the cow takes, the creme de la creme of all taco choices, hands down.  Corn tortillas are filled with sloppy and ultra tender dripping meat and then doused with sweet grilled onions, generous amounts of cilantro, liquefied avocado, tangy salsa, and a fresh squeeze of lime.  It’s without doubt that Mexican’s have developed a food that elevates itself to an ultra scrumptious late night treat.

-Migration Mark

Rural Bed and Breakfast Near St. Jame’s Way

Friday, April 30th, 2010
Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

Many travelers find themselves in Santiago de Compostela at the end of the Camino de Santiago or St. Jame’s Way, in English. ‘Pilgrims’ hike the trail (which takes about a month, depending on where you begin), and their final destination is Santiago. I did a portion of the trail (not the whole month), and was very happy to put my feet up and chill out in Santiago for a few days come the end of the journey.

Santiago de Compostela is a beautiful and overlooked city in Spain very well worth a visit whether you are doing El Camino de Santiago or not. In fact, the whole region, Galicia, is gorgeous with three R’s: Rural, Rustic, Rugged.

If visiting the area staying in a Rural House turned B&B may be the best way to go. Os Vilares is a sweet 5-bedroom B&B just outside of Santiago de Compostela, meaning if you stayed there you would have the best of both worlds, the city nearby and the soft sounds of the countryside to wake up to.

Along the Camino de Santiago, St James Way

Each room at Os Vilares has its own bathroom and there is also 1 suite with a jacuzzi ( I could have used that after hiking the Camino de Santiago !). The prices are reasonable, ranging from 57 Euros to 160 Euros, depending on the season.


See more on this charming rural house plus booking info online: Os Vilares

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop

MonteLago Village Resort in Las Vegas Under New Management

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Many people traveling to Las Vegas are totally unaware that there is a resort development about 30 minutes southeast of the Vegas Strip called Lake Las Vegas. Originally it was conceived as a community of luxury resorts and condo-style residences that was close enough to the excitement of main casino area of Las Vegas Blvd, but far enough away that it would appeal to those that wanted a more relaxing vacation.

MonteLago Village at Lake Las Vegas

Unfortunately, it proved a little too remote to most visitors to Vegas, and one of the resorts, the Ritz-Carlton, will be closing in May 2010.

The MonteLago Village Resort at Lake Las Vegas was in danger of the same fate, but it has just been taken over by Aston Hotels & Resorts. The company hopes to turn around the resort into a profitable member of its portfolio, which also includes properties in Hawaii, Lake Tahoe and Sun Valley, Idaho.

Aston is already taking a step in the right direction by adding a free shuttle for guests to travel to and from the Strip. Strangely enough, this is the first such shuttle connecting Lake Las Vegas to the Vegas Strip.

Guests will be picked up at the front door of the hotel’s Viera building and dropped off at a location on the Strip at Planet Hollywood. Shuttles will depart three times daily, leaving the resort at 10am, 1pm, and 5pm. Pick-up times from the Strip are 1:45pm, 5:45pm, and 10:45pm.

Aston says for now it doesn’t have any further changes to the Mediterranean-themed resort planned.

Accommodations at MonteLago Village Resort include well-appointed studio through three-bedroom full-service condominiums. Each offers a private patio and a kitchen stocked with a full array of cooking utensils and appliances.

Nightly rates vary, but weekly rates start at only $500 a week or $1000 a month for a studio, so this is a great option for those who want to do an extended visit to Las Vegas.  To book or for more information, visit the MonteLago Village Resort website.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Aston MonteLago Village Resort at Lake Las Vegas
30 Strada di Villaggio
Henderson, NV 89011
Phone: 877-997-6667
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[photo courtesy of Aston Hotels & Resorts]

How to avoid rip-offs in tourist restaurants

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

We know that if we choose to eat in St Mark’s Square in Venice, close to Leicester Square in London or Times Square in New York, or along the Champs Elysees in Paris, we will be paying over the odds for the pleasure. For some the experience of sharing a meal in these famous locations is worthy of the premium.

How to avoid rip-offs in tourist restaurants

If you do choose to indulge in this way there are some simple things to remember to protect yourself from paying too much. Here are a few tips to keep aware when eating in a tourist hotspot, and I’m sure there are plenty of tricks that others can add.

Tourist menu rip-offs

Beware the tourist menu, posted on the board outside and usually with an attractive headline price. Often the dishes look the same as on the a la carte menu, and the tourist menu price can seem a big saving on the individual dishes. When you order the meal from the tourist menu, the portions are typically smaller; the cuts of meat are often cheaper; and you get less accompanying fries or vegetables.

As a rule, if it’s cheaper there’s usually a good reason.

If a restaurant has a buffet and you fancy a la carte instead, check with the staff that you’re not automatically paying for the buffet. We had an unpleasant end to a meal in Key West where we declined the $45 buffet having eaten earlier and opted for a lighter meal.

When we pointed out the extra $90 on our bill the waiter refused to remove it, saying that the buffet was compulsory for all diners. Only the intervention of the manager solved the problem in our favour, and the waiter lost his tip for providing us with such a memorable ending to our meal.

Purchasing drinks advice

If you want tap water and it’s safe to drink, ask for it. In almost every country there is an obligation to provide it, however much the waiter might push you towards a bottle of the same stuff. If there is a sealed bottle of water placed on the table, expect to be charged for it, sometimes even if you don’t touch it.

This has happened to us and was only removed from the bill on protest. If ordering soft drinks, ask them to go easy on the ice. A common trick is to fill the glass with ice cubes leaving room for a tiny amount of soft drink, for which you’ll pay a hefty price. Less ice = more drink for your money.

Check the bill for extras

It’s often only when you ask for the bill that you see the extras that are added on. I was given a bill for €10 for two €1 soft drinks recently, because the waiter put a plate of nuts and a bottle of water on the table that we didn’t touch and added service and cover charges. If something gets put on your table that you don’t want (bread, olives, and nuts), tell the waiter and ask him to remove it; otherwise expect to pay for it.

Always check the bill carefully; don’t be shy about questioning any items that you’re not sure about. The mysterious cover charge, water, bread, various taxes, service charges (sometimes separately added for waiters and chefs), and even a space to add more at your discretion: I’ve seen all of these included on a bill in various combinations.

That $30 meal is suddenly closer to $50. If you’re vigilant and ask the questions, ‘mistakes’ are often quickly corrected. In a Bucharest restaurant I reduced a bill by 50% by sending it back three times to remove mysterious items that shouldn’t have been there.

Be on your guard in restaurants

By the very nature of a tourist restaurant the expectation is that you will only visit once. So it’s perhaps understandable that the management will focus on getting every extra cent from their customers, rather than trying to attract repeat business through quality service and food. If you choose to eat in such a place, it pays to be on your guard.

Andy Jarosz owns and edits the popular travel blog 501 Places, featuring stories from travels around the world and comments on travel related issues. He also writes regularly for BP in several of their corporate publications and is a freelance copywriter. You can follow Andy on Twitter and read his blog.

This post was syndicated from the Travel Rants Consumer Blog.

How to avoid rip-offs in tourist restaurants

Romance in Half Moon Bay

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

A romantic inn with a high level of personal service, extravagant setting and a gourmet breakfast—if this sounds like your list of expectations for lodging on the Pacific Coast, I know where you can find it. Step inside the garden gate of Mill Rose Inn, a European-themed bed and breakfast in Half Moon Bay, California and let the romance begin.

On a recent coastal California sports car road trip, my husband and I experienced the charms of Mill Rose Inn when Select Registry, Distinguished Inns of America invited us to try the property. The moment I spotted the gazebo in the front garden, overflowing with gigantic pink hydrangeas, I was hooked.

Our romantic accommodations in the Renaissance Room offered a sitting room with bay window. The separate bedroom included a king-size bed placed near a gas-burning fireplace. On the nightstand, a note next to the chocolate-filled candy dish wished us sweet dreams. Across the room, a personal welcome note was propped against glass decanters of sherry and brandy on a breakfast table by the window.

Gilbert and Soames toiletries provided a luxurious touch in the bathroom, where the claw foot tub looked inviting. A mini-refrigerator was hidden away underneath the vanity, filled with complementary beverages, including a carafe of white wine, beer, soft drinks and bottled water.

On a tour of the other 5 bedrooms at Mill Rose Inn, I noticed that each one included an extravagance of wallpaper, antique furniture and floral decorations. The exuberant decor spilled outside to lush displays of flowering plants in both the front and back garden where seating areas provided a comfortable setting to enjoy the colorful view.

A jacuzzi in the back garden offered guests the ultimate in a romantic, private retreat. We placed our names in the sign-up book guaranteeing an hour all to ourselves. Wearing the plush robes and slippers provided in our room, we walked out to the jacuzzi building. Decorated with miniature lights on the outside, special night lighting on the inside set the mood for a hot soak. From the tub, a garden highlighted by a soothing fountain provided visual interest.

Ideally located in Half Moon Bay, Mill Rose Inn is close enough to explore the town’s shops, restaurants and galleries on foot. And, the beach is just a 10-minute walk down the road. Hosts Terry and Eve Baldwin, long-time Half Moon Bay residents, also offer touring suggestions to their guests. When it’s time for a break, choose a DVD from the extensive movie collection, cataloged with short reviews, for watching in your room.

Before walking to your dinner reservation, which the Baldwins are happy to arrange, enjoy wine and cheese in the dining room, parlor or garden. Be sure to stop back after dinner to sample the homemade cake and cookies from the complementary dessert bar.

During our stay, we woke to a rainy spring morning. My husband flicked the switch to light the fireplace when he got up to make our morning coffee. Soon, I was sitting in bed sipping my warm brew while watching the dancing flames from the firelight. A practice that I highly recommend.

Later, we joined other guests in the dining room for the hot, gourmet breakfast. The meal began with fresh-squeezed juice, fruit plate, muffin and champagne. An elegant hot dish, served on china plates, completed the breakfast. Of course we also had the option to dine in our room for a more private experience.

A night at Mill Rose Inn is like staying in another place and time with hosts who’ve thought of everything. Romantic indeed.

If you go:
Mill Rose Inn
615 Mill Street, Half Moon Bay, CA

Photos courtesy Alan and Donna Hull

Review by Donna L. Hull, My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel

Budget and Beautiful in Begur

Thursday, April 29th, 2010
La Costa Brava, Catalonia - near Begur

La Costa Brava, Catalonia - near Begur

I’ve lived in Catalonia for over 4 years now, and have travelled a lot, thanks to my work (and my passion!) around northern Catalonia, especially the Costa Brava zone. I can’t get enough of the Costa Brava, or ‘Angry Coast’, I adore its small coves, treasure its stone villages, and admire its gleaming white fisherman houses, with their shutters painted cobalt blue or pine green.

There are many magical villages on the Costa Brava and depending on what you’re after (art, R&R, history, food, shopping) one is a better fit than another. However, there is one village in particular that seems to cover many bases and offer something for families, couples, singles, shoppers, sun worshipers and foodies: Begur.

Stay in Begur at Hotel Rosa and explore the Costa Brava's beaches and coves

Stay in Begur at Hotel Rosa and explore the Costa Brava's beaches and coves

Set up on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean, this village is probably one of the best maintained and tidiest I have been to in Catalonia, dare I say in Spain. Spic and span, nothing was out of place last year when I visited Begur. It is clear that the residents of Begur take great pride in their village, and indeed they should, it is a beautiful place. I was impresses by the fine shops, attention to detail, flowers pots in all the windows and chic cafes and restaurants. Plus the beach is nice.

Begur is a bit on the ritzy side and while there are many hotels and boutique hotels to be had in town, expect to pay a high rate in the summer months. If you want to relish in this perfect village for a few nights but don’t want to break the bank then consider a 3-star hotel over the boutique 5-star. Hotel Rosa, in the center of the village, is a charming 3-star option with 21 rooms for about  70 Euros in the low season and 160 Euros in the high season.

See more on Hotel Rosa and booking info online here:

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop

Stay in an eco-barn at Fernhill Farm in Somerset, England

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

It’s hard to define the lodging that’s on offer at Fernhill farm, encompassing converted stone farm buildings and outdoor camping space. The description camping barn doesn’t do justice to the eco-chic interiors using natural and local materials and it’s somewhat more than a cottage with space for several families staying together.

Fernhill Farm Barn near Bristol

Fernhill Farm Barn near Bristol

The couple who own the Fernhill Farm have converted their old cattle sheds into a semi-circle of stone buildings, renovated them beautifully with recycled wood and sheepskins from the farm and colourful art works from local artists, using environmentally friendly methods with wool insulation, central wood burning heating boiler and a natural water purification system.

Dining Area at Fernhill Farm

Dining Area at Fernhill Farm

The resulting accommodation is divided into two units that can be rented together or separately. There’s a smaller bunk room with communal sleeping for 6 or so people and a much larger part with a catering kitchen, adjoining large dining and sitting area, smaller bar area with a chunky wooden four-poster bunk bed and large open party room with mattresses accommodating up to 30 people in a communal sleeping arrangement. The barn would be ideal of a large group who want to explore the area for a few days, shared accommodation for several families to take a relaxing break together, and the flexible dining and party area makes it ideal for a celebration event where some stay-over accommodation is required. It is also possible for additional people as part of the group to camp in the adjoining field.

Party Barn at Fernhill Farm

Party Barn at Fernhill Farm

The working farm of 160 acres is used for traditional breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs and the sheepskins are used to decorate the interiors and furnishings, while meat is also available to buy from the farm. If you ask, Andrew the farmer might proudly show you his state of the art wood fired boiler that heats all the properties on the farm and there are always local events and educational visits being hosted at the farm too.

I stayed at Fernhill farm when we rented it for a weekend stay-over and birthday party for my teenage daughter and a large group of friends and it was a perfect space for them to spend the day exploring the farm, preparing a meal in the large kitchen and then dressing up for a party in the large open barn with mattresses to pull out and sleep on once the dancing was over. There is a gravelled courtyard in front of the barn that would be perfect on summer evenings for a barbecue beside the large pond.

Wild Flowers at Fernhill Farm

Wild Flowers at Fernhill Farm

Fernhill Farm is situated on the lower slopes of the beautiful Mendip Hills and close to some reservoirs at Chew Magna and Blagdon for fantastic walking and other outdoor activities. It is also within easy distance of attractions such as the Georgian City of Bath and the Cheddar Gorge with its famous caves, as well as the Somerset levels and the interesting historic towns of Wells and Glastonbury.

The barn at Fernhill Farm is ideal for a large group of friends or several families who want to get together for a day or two to relax in lovely surroundings, or perhaps use it as a base for a longer period to see something of the beautiful Somerset countryside and other interesting attractions nearby.

Fernhill farm, Cheddar Road, Compton Martin,  BS40 6LD

Photo Credits: All photos by Heather on her travels on Flickr

Mansfield, Ohio courts visitors with a $50 gas card

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The historic Carrousel District

Mansfield, Ohio is offering visitors the chance to win a $50 gas card if they snap a Mansfield related photo, write about their Mansfield trip and upload their handiwork on the Mansfield and Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau website.

Each Monday, beginning on  May 17, a winner will be randomly drawn from the entries and awarded a gas card. The contest, run by the Mansfield and Richland County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, ends September 6. Sixteen cards in all will be given away. I’d say the odds are favorable that you might snag one.  With or without the chance to win a gas card, Mansfield is certainly worth the drive.

When I first visited Mansfield, breaking my pattern of zipping past the I-71 exit on my way to Cleveland or back to Columbus, I found it to be a destination that says, “Don’t take the towns close to home for granted.”  With a number of lodging options and much to do, stay overnight.

I stayed at the Best Western Richland Inn just off I-71. The recently renovated room was tastefully comfortable and the continental breakfast did not disappoint. Although I didn’t use the pool, I made a mental note that my son would find it splendid.

Located right off the Mansfield exit, the Best Western is an ideal location for taking in all that Mansfield and its surrounding areas offer. Here are five suggestions for what to do if you take Mansfield up on its gas card offer:

1. Visit Carousel Magic, one of the only places where wooden carousels are still made in the United States.

Richland Carrousel Park

2. Ride the carrousel at Richland Carrousel Park. Also located in the historic downtown district, this beauty is one of the Mansfield’s calling cards. In addition to its 30 horses, an animal menagerie circles round and round.

3. Walk around the grounds of the Ohio State Reformatory. This elegantly creepy stone building was once a boy’s reformatory and the centerpiece for the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.” Other Shawshank Redemption movie locations are throughout the area. The Shawshank Trail, a do-it-yourself driving tour brings you past them.

4. Stop by Oak Hill Cottage. This house was made famous by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Louis Bromfield’s novel, The Green Bay Tree. I have yet to go inside the house, but it’s a gem of a building and considered the best Gothic house in the United States. A person I was traveling had visited the house and was smitten.

Oak Hill Cottage

5. Tour Malabar Farm. Malabar Farm State Park is not in Mansfield but closeby. This is where Louis Bromfield developed his eco-friendly farm and where Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were married. The farm is still a working farm with various farm and nature related activities throughout the year.

After my Mansfield visit, I returned to Malabar Farm with my family for the Maple Syrup Festival, one of Ohio’s finest maple syrup events. In May, Spring Plowing Days and a Night Haunt are on the farm’s calendar of events.

If you do go to Mansfield in the next few months, remember to take plenty of pictures. You might snap a winner.

For more information about Mansfield, check out the Convention and Visitors Bureau website. I only touched a bit on the bounty. Here’s the link to the page about the free $50 gas card contest.

Mansfield Convention and Visitors  Bureau  contact info: 124 North Main Street;  ph. 800-642-8282.

Photos courtesy of the Mansfield Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau

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The stay at the Best Western Richland Inn was courtesy of the visitors bureau while I was in Mansfield on a writing assignment for another publication.

Hostal Vehi in Cadaques, Budget Bliss

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Cadaques Restaurants

Probably one of the prettiest villages along the Costa Brava, Cadaques is hot destination in the summer months, and quiet in off-season. Near the tip of northeastern Spain, Cadaques is popular with the French and the Catalanas, especially during August.

Due to its beauty and special Mediterranean light, this village intrigued artists in the past such as Dali, Picasso, Chagall and Klien. Visitors to this intimate beach town can hang on the beach, splash in the Med, sip wine on breezy terraces or take to the hills for walks through the surrounding countryside (hot, hot, hot in the summer).

Cadaques is also a fairly pricey village. High rent and a remote location have kept this town pristine and not overrun with tourists. It is hard to get a hotel for less than 100 Euros a night here, but there are a few hostals and pensiones in the area that cater to the sophisticated budget traveller.

Have a drink on a sunny terrace, Cadaques - Cap de Creus

Hostal Vehi is one such establishment. This is a simple, no-frills, family-run spot, with no sea views, but a central location. Hostal Vehi does not have a website, so if you want to make reservations, and you may want to from June to August, then you need to give them a call (see below).

Also, getting to Cadaques is tricky. You must rent a car or take the bus; there are no trains to this rugged area of the Costa Brava.

More: Carrer de l’Esglesia 6, Cadaques, 972-25-84-70

Photo Credit: The Spain Scoop