A Great Denver Hotel: The JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek

Pardon this long-overdue post, my post-trip report on the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek. What a great place to spend some time in the fun, hip city of Denver! We ate at three incredible restaurants, two of which were around the corner from the Marriott (you can see one of them, “North,” in the photo below on the corner), shopped until we dropped, then for good measure ate and shopped some more!

blog-15-1Let’s begin with the service. We needed a few things, and within a few minutes of our calling down to the front desk they were delivered to our door. We asked for suggestions and advice, and the front desk and concierge gave us plenty of options, all of which panned out beautifully. And if you need to go anywhere within a five mile radius of the hotel — which includes the main downtown area where Union Station and the 16th Street shopping corridor is located — the hotel provides free shuttle service in an SUV or shuttle between the hours of 7-11 am and 4-7 pm! By the way, if you find yourself in this area, check out the famous Tattered Cover bookstore, just around the corner from Union Station, one of the coolest bookstores in America with an impressive selection of books and magazines!

Our room, which faced the mountains, was spacious and the bedding was extremely comfortable. The marble and granite bathroom was beautiful, with a great walk-in shower and a roomy tub. The fixtures were all top-notch. I haven’t felt this relaxed for a long time — which probably explains why I spent more time than normal stretching out or sleeping more hours than I should have in our lovely room!

blog-15-2And while you’re here have a meal, a drink, or dessert (or all three!) at Second Home, the hotel’s tasty restaurant and bar. The food is top-notch, the service very friendly, and it’s a very enjoyable and comfy place to refuel. The hand-cut fries are yummy!

blog-15-3The location in Cherry Creek worked out perfectly for us. There is a huge high-end shopping mall, featuring all the top stores you could want, just a short block away. As I said above, the restaurant scene in Cherry Creek is terrific, again just a few minutes away from the hotel. On this note let me recommend two restaurants that are located right here: Sol Cochina, an out-of-this-world Mexican restaurant with flavors usually only found south of the border, and North Italia, an italian restaurant like few others I’ve tried (the sauces, the flavorings, the pasta are all extremely light). Both of these eateries are well worth your time. And if you haven’t been to Denver before, do yourself a favor and visit Red Rocks, an open-air amphitheater and park about ten miles west of the city where concerts are held and a good time had by all (see photo below).

So that’s my post-trip review for this incredible Marriott in Cherry Creek. I know when I next head to Denver this is my go-to place to stay. I really can’t recommend it highly enough!

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Focus on The JW Marriott Denver

We are about to head to Colorado in a few days, and are very much looking forward to staying at the acclaimed JW Marriott in Denver. This beautiful luxury hotel is located in the tony Cherry Creek section of Denver, with great shopping, restaurants, sights and nightlife all within walking distance.

blog-8-16-1While luxe, the hotel is also family-friendly (can’t wait for their weekend Waffle Station with syrup, fresh strawberries and whipped cream toppings!) and offers a fitness center, lots of business resources, and a variety of meeting and event packages. Perfect for conducting business if that’s what you’re here for. For the rest of us, just here to enjoy one of the most beautiful states in the country and one of our most fun cities, the JW Marriott has top-notch rooms and suites, featuring marble baths, gorgeous furnishings, great views of the Rockies, and much more!

blog-8-16-2In the one-bedroom suite shown above, there are French doors that take you into your master bedroom and bathroom. In the bathroom there is a glass-enclosed shower and deep soaking tub. I like the sound of that! After a summer of non-stop work, a deep soak in a tub is just the ticket. See for yourself below!

blog-8-16-3So we’re pretty excited about our upcoming visit. We could just hang at the hotel and do nothing for a few days, given how nice it’ll be, but of course we have to get out and experience Denver too. Just within the Cherry Creek neighborhood, there is the Cherry Creek Shopping District, a high-end indoor/outdoor retail, dining, and entertainment area anchored by the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. Hundreds of shops, galleries, restaurants, and coffee shops adorn this part of town.

While we will arrive too late for it, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival is held each July. But we won’t be too late for the Cherry Creek Fresh Market, a farmer’s market that runs from late Spring into the Fall, nor will we miss Cherry Creek Food & Wine, with its great selection of wine, beer, and food! And if you’re here for Christmas and late December, there’s plenty of festive decorations and events to celebrate and ring in the new year. I’ll report back on as much of these special events as I can when we return from Denver.

That’s it for this first entry – again, I’ll be writing a longer post-trip report as soon as I get back. For now, enjoy this pic of the hotel’s Second Home Kitchen & Bar, where I imagine we’ll be dining soon enough!

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New French Riviera/Provence Guide Out

We have just released the 4th edition of author Andy Herbach’s Open Road’s Best of The French Riviera & Provence guide, $12.95, available at Barnes & Noble, other retailers, and of course online at amazon here or bn.com here.

9781593602185This time around though, given the growing popularity of Nice, Monaco and the rest of the beautiful French Riviera, we renamed the book and led with this region. Provence is fully covered just as it has always been in this book. The photo on the front cover above comes from the lovely beach town of Villefranches-sur-Mer.

Now that the holiday season is over, there are lots of bargains and discounts to be had across the region. If you come across a good deal, let us know! And enjoy your trip to southern France!

A word on Paris

The State Department has issued a worldwide travel advisory for the next three months:

     Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da’esh), al-Qa’ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.  These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests. This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016.    

     Authorities believe the likelihood of terror attacks will continue as members of ISIL/Da’esh return from Syria and Iraq.  Additionally, there is a continuing threat from unaffiliated persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis.  Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, and aviation services.

I have been thinking a lot about the Paris attacks and not just because we have a number of guides to Paris.  Our main Paris and France author, Andy Herbach, has written his own blog post which I commend to you here. There are two basic questions we each need to answer: what should we do as travelers — stay or go — and what should we as a nation (or we in the West) do collectively to turn the tide of war in our favor?

The first question can only be answered by each of us on our own. No amount of research can help us arrive at the correct decision. Terrorist attacks have increased quite a bit in the West in the past two years, but most of it still occurs in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Odds are quite small that I’ll find myself in the middle of an attack on my next trip to Paris or London or Berlin, but it remains a possibility. We each deal with risk in our own fashion.

On the larger question of what we should do in the face of radical Islamic terrorism, here are my thoughts:

Is Paris Burning? by Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre, is one of my favorite books. It’s the story of the liberation of Paris in August 1944. The title comes from the question Hitler posed to his Paris commander, General von Choltitz, who was given orders to utterly destroy the city before German troops fled the Allied advance. I’ve been thinking about this book a lot in the past 10 days. Of course there are differences between these two events — although the last time a curfew in Paris was imposed before November 13 was in 1944 — and differences between the ‘isms’ the West collectively faced then (Nazism/Fascism) and those we face today (Islamism). But I wonder if in the ISIS command structure down to the level of ‘field commanders’ there is a General von Choltitz, someone who knows which way the wind is blowing and who can rethink his or her training, ideology, faith — that is, someone who is willing to defy their highest authorities and will refuse to carry out planned attacks against the West.

Sadly, I doubt there is for two reasons.

First, as fanatical as many Nazi Party members were, none believed they would be meeting their maker with a gift of 72 virgins and a hearty slap on the back for a job well done. The mix of Nazi pagan and racial beliefs did not include eternal paradise. The true believers and their many enablers knew they would be rewarded in this world — as long as the Nazi empire existed and thrived — not in the next. Once it was clear that the empire was crumbling, however, the opportunity for a von Choltitz to emerge and defy Hitler’s order became thinkable and, of course, did indeed happen.

Second, and related, in WWII it was clear after Stalingrad, the Italian landings, and Normandy that Germany would lose the war. The Allied offensive was furious and the aim — yes, there was an aim — was unconditional surrender. There was no mistaking the resolve of Churchill, FDR, and Stalin. No half-measures would be acceptable. German senior officers believed that they would be made to pay for their crimes.

But today, ISIS and other terror groups do not see any such resolve. Yes, the French and Russians have stepped up their attacks in Syria now, but for how long? American forces are participating in a hopelessly forlorn, desultory, and, for the most part, unserious way. Compare our sortie rate (air strike missions) from Operation Desert Storm in 1991 (1100 sorties a day) to the war to oust Saddam (800 sorties a day) to today’s war against ISIS: an average of 11-12 sorties a day where any ordnance actually gets dropped.

Or consider this:  just the other day we bombed 116 oil tanker trucks, from which ISIS derives a lot of money. They have about a thousand trucks in their fleet, so why did we hit just 10% of their trucks? Because we ran out of bombs to drop; the mission was limited and that was that. And if we’ve known for more than a year now that oil sales are a big part of their revenue, why did we wait so long to start bombing them? The Pentagon spokesman “explained that American officials were deeply worried about harming the truck drivers, who were working for the Islamic State but might not be ISIS themselves. U.S. officials settled on a plan to drop leaflets on the trucks about 45 minutes before the raid, warning the drivers that an attack was coming, while U.S. pilots flew low passes over the area.” This is anything but serious.

Without the kind of furious offensive reminiscent of WWII alluded to above — one that must be led by the United States, for there is no other power with the military, political, and economic firepower to pull this off — then the coalition against ISIS can only ever be fragmentary and half-hearted. And we know that will not happen at least until January 2017, if then.

As long as ISIS perceives itself as winning, no field commanders will defect, let alone refuse to carry out orders. It is highly unlikely that operatives carrying out terrorist attacks will ever be deterred, I grant you, but when ISIS leaders perceive they are facing no serious and sustained long-term resistance, then we are not setting the stage for young kids with suicide vests to rethink their commitment in the first place. ISIS sees presidential candidates declaring that Islamic State terrorism undertaken in Allah’s name has nothing to do with Islam, and, if they are given to laughter, they must be rolling on the floor with amazement and disdain. They have taken advantage of the tide of migrants that naturally provides them an opportunity for infiltration — and all it takes is a handful of infiltrators — and their contempt for our desire not to offend only grows.

It is clear that we are not even past the early stage of our war with ISIS. In 1942 Churchill felt that it was, “perhaps, the end of the beginning” after three years of major combat operations. Rather, we are now in the phony war stage, where very little of consequence is being achieved, and this is where we have been for years.  Let’s go even further back, to the period of time when Churchill first took over from Chamberlain; three days into his prime ministership, on May 13, 1940, at a time when the Nazi menace was clearly ascendant and no one could foresee how, when, or if it could be stopped, the great man had this to say to Pariliament:

     You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory; victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

However unpleasant the reality, we are in a war with radical Islamists and have been for many years. Churchill had it right. I vote for achieving victory, which can only be achieved by waging war.

 

 

Wining & Dining in Italy

We’ve just released the second in our ‘wining and dining’ series of books, Wining & Dining in Italy, which is now available in bookstores and online (amazon features it for just $9.97, a nice discount from the list price of $12.95; click on the title above to take you there). The first book in the series, Wining & Dining in Paris, is now in its second edition in just a year, so we’re quite happy with that!

9781593602123-smallAuthors Andy Herbach and Karl Raaum have long experience eating and drinking their way through Italy, having written and revised their best-selling Eating & Drinking in Italy, now in its 7th edition. In Wining & Dining in Italy, they bring you 200 restaurants, wine bars, wine shops, food markets, coffee shops and much more up and down the entire country, including southern Italy and Sicily. The book has 37 maps, lots of fun illustrations, essential Italian phrases and a pronunciation guide, tips on budget dining, mealtimes, and a region-by-region breakdown of Italian wine and culinary specialties. It’s a short and very sweet masterclass in Italian wine and food. Buon appetito!

World’s Best Restaurants

Recently, the (UK) Guardian newspaper came out with their list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. They also list awards for another 50, so it’s really a top 100 list, but far be it from me to argue with the editors of the Guardian. Six of the top restaurants are in Paris, and three of those are featured in the just-released 2nd edition of Andy Herbach’s Wining & Dining in Paris.

9781593602130Here are the three restaurants and brief descriptions from author Andy Herbach’s reviews in our book:

L’Arpege (#12 on the list): 7th/Métro Varenne, 84 rue de Varenne, Tel. 01/47.05.09.06, www.alain-passard.com. The emphasis is on vegetables at Alain Passard’s award-winning restaurant.

Alain Ducasse/Restaurant Plaza Athénée (#47 on the list): 8th/Métro Alma-Marceau, 25 avenue Montaigne, Tel. 01/53.67.65.00, www.alain-ducasse.com. Expensive and highly praised, with an award-winning wine list. Reservations well in advance are a must, as are jacket and tie.

 L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (#63 on the list):
7th/Métro Rue du Bac, 5 rue de Montalembert, Tel. 01/42.22.56.56, www.joel-rubuchon.net. Joël Robuchon presents fine dining in a relaxed setting. You’ll dine with others at seats surrounding U-shaped bars. Reservations only for first sitting.

Pick up a copy of our book or order it from amazon from the link above, if your travels take you to Paris in the near future. Our book offers another 147 restaurants in all price categories to choose from, in addition to the three pricey — but truly excellent — places in this post!

Two New Paris Guides

We’ve just released two new Paris guides in the last month: Valerie Gwinner’s Open Road’s Paris with Kids, 4th Edition, and Wining & Dining in Paris, 2nd Edition, by Andy Herbach & Karl Rauum.

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In Valerie’s book, you’ll learn everything you could possibly want to know about taking the kids with you to the City of Lights. Yes, we know, Paris is the quintessential romantic city, but it is also an incredible place for the kiddies to explore everything from the labyrinth of the catacombs to tracking down Nicholas Flamel, from racing miniature sailboats in Luxembourg Gardens to hunting for gargoyles at Notre Dame! Color photos, text, and maps.

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As for Andy and Karl’s guide, not only will you learn all about the wines of each region of France, but you’ll get the lowdown on Paris’s top 150 restaurants, wine bars, wine stores, cooking classes, food shops and more – plus a very handy French culinary glossary and pronunciation key. Wine recommendations and favorite dishes are recommended throughout, as are historic restaurants and budget dining tips. Features great illustrations and 43 maps!

Casablanca Hotel in Times Square

There is another wonderful property owned by the Library Hotel Collection where I’ve recently stayed, and it is just steps from Times Square; the first-rate and comfy Casablanca Hotel. If you want to see a Broadway show or just shop and hang out where it’s all happening, consider the Casablanca.

blog12Located on West 43rd Street just steps from Broadway, and right next to a fun Italian restaurant called Tony’s, the Casablanca like its sister hotels in NYC offers great amenities:

  • Free High Speed Wireless Internet
  • Complimentary continental breakfast
  • Complimentary refreshments in their clubroom (named Rick’s Cafe, of course!)
  • Wine & cheese receptions evenings from 5pm-8pm
  • Free bottled water, turn down service
  • Free health club passes

blog11Our room

The breakfasts and wine-and-cheese spreads are incredibly good, and the selection of coffees and teas left us feeling full and quite satisfied. Comfortable chairs and couches abound, and you can lounge by the fireplace (see photo below) while reading the paper or surfing the web and imbibing a cool or hot drink. We found our room very stylish, done up as all the rooms are in Moroccan fashion, and snug. Yes, it was very cold here in New York in early January, but our room and Rick’s Cafe were cheery, warm, and very pleasant.

As we’ve found now at each Library Hotel location, the service could not be better, faster, or more friendly. The concierge and front desk people are quite helpful, and can help you find a great place to eat, arrange for tickets to a show, or just help you achieve whatever it is you’ve come to do in the Big Apple.

Right now there are several specials going on at the Casablanca: there’s the Wonderful Winter in NYC, where the price is 20% off and you get 2 complimentary Leonidas Choco Lattes and 2 Casablanca mugs; the Valentine’s Package which comes with a bottle of Lunetta Prosecco and the hotel’s own “From New York with Love” Love Box; the Top of The Rock Package, also at 20% off plus 2 tickets to the Top of the Rock observation deck for breathtaking and unforgettable views of the city; and a few other great deals as well!  Check out their specials at the link above.

Again, we loved our stay at the Casablanca, and I think you will too.

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Hotel Elysée, Manhattan Beauty

My family has just returned from a great stay at the Hotel Elysée in New York City, and I recommend it heartily to one and all! From the lovely large rooms and suites to the dynamite service and great location, consider staying here the next time you’re in Manhattan.

blog6Located on 54th Street between Park and Madison, you are just a few minutes from primo shopping on 5th Avenue or Madison. Several subway stops are very close as well. And if you want some exercise or fresh air, Central Park is nearby — or you can get a free pass and work out at the New York Sports Club a few blocks over at Park and 59th. You are also right next door to the world-famous Monkey Bar, for either dinner or a late night cocktail.

We loved the complimentary breakfasts in the 2nd floor club room, with lots of fresh pastries, bagels, croissants, great coffee and tea, scones, hard-boiled eggs — as well as the afternoon wine-and-cheese offerings from 5-8pm. Cookies, fruit, and coffee or tea are available all day long as well! Free newspapers are available too.blog7Also in the club room is a computer and printer, and there is free wifi throughout the hotel. There is same-day laundry service, and evening turndown service with chocolates on your pillow. Checkout is 1 pm, so you are not being rushed out on your day of departure. If your schedule allows you to sleep in on your final day, you can do so at the Elysée!

The level of service is top-notch. All the employees we met were friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about both the hotel and the area. The rooms are spacious, the bathrooms elegant, and the bedding soft and inviting. If there wasn’t so much to do in New York I think we would have just lounged around our room and the club room all day. So do yourself a favor and stay at the Elysée on your next trip to the Big Apple!

A final word on a giveaway going on now at all Library Hotel properties: go here to enter to win a three-night stay (for two people) at one of the hotels in their collection, plus a $100 dining gift certificate and free passes to the wonderful Morgan Library museum. Hey, you never know, right?

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New Hotel Gem in Budapest!

I have never been to Hungary, but I have wanted to go there for a long time. My father’s lineage descends from what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in and around Budapest (at least on my grandfather’s side). But today I have a good reason to travel there, in addition to the rich culture, great sights and the chance to sample chicken paprikash made the Old World way — now there is Budapest’s newest gem, the Aria Hotel, opening March 15, 2015.

blog1The Aria is part of the Library Hotel Collection, with four terrific hotels in New York City. Just as the Library Hotel draws its inspiration from literature and famous authors, so the Aria draws its inspiration from music and famous composers. The seven-story building dates from the 1870s, and it has been lovingly restored by local Budapest architects and interior designers. The Music Garden Courtyard is enclosed entirely by glass! There are 49 rooms plus four parlors, each with its own musical theme: contemporary, opera, jazz, and classical. Free wi-fi, flat-screen TVs, a music library accessible through iPads, and turndown service with chocolates included! The location is in the city center, next to the famous St. Stephen’s Basilica.

Here’s a small preview of some of the gorgeous rooms available at the Aria:

blog2Classical Music Wing

blog3Contemporary Music Wing

blog4Franz Liszt Studio Suite

Many rooms have either a private terrace or balcony.There are a number of restaurants, including the elegant Stradivari, but you can choose to eat at Aria’s bars, lounges, on the rooftop garden, on the terrace — or even in the Teatro Aria, where a variety of musical performances and videos will be shown. A wonderful breakfast is complimentary with your stay, as is an afternoon wine and cheese selection. Visit the pool, Turkish bath, fitness center or spa; it’s all here!

There are several specials going on right now, including the “Getting to Know You” package at 195 Euros per night (about $240 at today’s exchange rate) if you book prior to the hotel’s March grand opening. That is a very attractive price for what I am confident will be incredible service, beautiful surroundings, and terrific value. I will close this post with a great night shot of Budapest. Note: all photos come from the Aria Hotel’s website.

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