Archive for the Uncategorized Category

The Hotel St. Cecilia – Austin, TX

Posted in Hotels, Travel, Uncategorized with tags , , on March 22, 2009 by travelwizard


Poor St Cecilia. As if it wasn’t bad enough that she was the Patron Saint of Musicians( a group of people that I love dearly but would hate to be a patron anything to) when it came time for her to be executed, they not only tried to boil here alive (unsuccessfully I should note) but  she also endured three failed  beheadings before she actually succumbed.

While things for me are not as bad as poor St. Cecilia, in more ways than one, this has been without a doubt the most hectic, stressful and tiring week of the year. I believe I am on the road to recovery though. I returned yesterday from Austin, Texas, where I was attending the SXSW Music Festival ( and scoping for new hotels on the side), and since that time, I have been fairly horizontal. I went to bed at 10pm last night for the first time in many, many years. It felt amazing. I have woken feeling 90% better and I am hoping it is only going up from here.

As anyone who attends SXSW knows, there is really not much time to do anything else except hustle from club to club, chugging shiner bock’s and shoveling down tacos from the local taco truck but somehow, in between all this, I managed to learn about a new hotel that has just opened in Austin called The Hotel St. Cecilia. By “somehow” I mean I ran into my friend Anne, an Austin resident and local purveyor of cool tips and she gave me the heads up. The Hotel St. Cecilia is worth mentioning because it is one of the coolest new places I have come across in recent travels. Let me give you the rundown. 

Fourteen Rooms in total occupy a enormous Victorian Compound down a secluded street in Austin’s  South Congress District. As they say in their description, ” Privacy is God” and right a way this pleases me. This is an inn masquerading as a hotel – my favorite kind. All the privacy and luxury of a boutique hotel wrapped up with the quirkiness and funky touches generally reserved for an Inn. For instance, each room features its own turntable and record collection. As Austin is known for being a music town, this is hardly surprising as an amenity but it is the first place I have ever come across that actually had anything beyond an IPOD Dock. As St. Cecilia was the patron Saint of Musicians (poor gal) and I myself am a music lover.. I can really get behind that sort of distinguishing touch.

As I looked into the Hotel St. Cecilia, I discovered a couple of things. One, it is owned by the same people who brought us the Hotel San Jose, which I have spoken about in an earlier post. Two, if The Hotel San Jose is a hotel more in the thick of it all than the St Cecilia is the exact opposite- a stylish, private compound where one can escape the madness and retreat into the art full bliss that exists behind these walls.

The Hotel features Suites, Studios and Poolside Bungalows, all of which feature Flats Screens, DVD players, Hastens Hand Crafted Beds, Rivolta Carmingani linens, twice daily maid service and of course, those beloved Turntables. The Hotel itself has 24 Hour Concierge Service, breakfast made to order and a 50 foot lap pool on the grounds. Phew. Did I also mention it is pet friendly? 

I was thoroughly impressed with the Hotel St Cecilia. while I was unable to actually stay this time I will definitely be making plans to return as soon as possible. For now, I will leave you with some beautiful photos of the property I found on this great blog called Desire To Inspire. They were photographed by a woman named Jackie Caradonio and you can find her website here. 








The Cheap Life = The Sweet Life

Posted in Hotels, Travel, Uncategorized with tags on December 22, 2008 by travelwizard

Who says that the tanking economy needs to slow your travel roll? Want to take a trip to Europe but are afraid you can’t afford it? Consider this: All around Europe, hotels chains are popping up that promise high design at low prices. Like the aforementioned Mama Shelter, which opened it’s doors back in September, there are whole host of properties popping up around Europe that are  totally legit, highly stylized and incredibly affordable. Here are three hotel chains to consider  that won’t break the bank  next time you hop the Atlantic.

1. Room Mate Hotels – Spain/USA


Cheap, chic and well-located in cities all over Spain as well as NYC and Miami, Room Mate Hotels offer up great accommodations for a really nice price. In NYC, Room Mate Hotels recently took over the property formally owed by Andre Balazs called Hotel QT. They have remained faithful to the decor and price and the hotel is almost always on my list of places to check on when heading to NYC.  In 2009, Room Mate Hotels are on the move, setting up shop in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. 

2.QBIC Hotels – The Netherlands/Belgium


Their motto is “cheap, chic and no frills” and I think this motto must be tested. With locations in Antwerp, Amsterdam and Maastrich, QBIC hotels promises the budget traveller a fun, sassy hotel experience. They are basically pod hotels, which I have never tried but have always been curious about. With prices starting at 69 Euros, I may be so inclined to find out!

3. Casa Howard -Italy


Casa Howard are on the high end of what might be considered “budget” but these hotels are so unique and quant, I had to throw them in there. And at rates averaging around 200 per night, it could be considered budget to some people. At any rate, there are four Casa Howard properties, two in Rome and two in Florence. All of them offer up a great alternative to your normal, run of the mill hotel. In fact, Casa Howard do not even define their properties as hotels, but rather as a series of guest houses that promise “exceptional personal sevice”. If you are looking to do a budget trip, save Casa Howard for the part where you want to splurge just a little- you won’t be sorry.

Room Service Vacation Homes

Posted in Hotels, Uncategorized, Websites with tags , on November 9, 2008 by travelwizard


I have always been a fan of mid-century modern furniture. My house is filled with pieces I have purchased over the years. Sadly, getting a piece of good quality mid-century modern furniture can be quite pricey. In my quest to bring my costs down, I went on the hunt for a great store that specializes in mid-century inspired furnishings along with replications of pieces from that era. That place is a store in LA called Room Service.

Owners John and Taryn Bernard design most of the furniture themselves and most of the pieces can be customized. I have shopped there for years and have always been satisfied. I was delighted to find that in addition to being a furniture store, they also own and operate five vacation properties in the Los Angeles and Palm Spring area. Each properties is different, but their design is rooted in classic mid-century modern style. All of the furnishings are provided by Room Service. These homes are funky, retro, luxurious and just down-right cool. Their one LA property is located in the Hollywood Hills, and it is appropriately titled  “The Pad”.  It features views of the Hollywood sign, three king bedrooms, flat screen TVs, a Bose sound-system and Sub-Zero appliances. It is a perfect place to throw a private party or spend a week relaxing.

Casa Verona, The White House, The Pink Door, The Lodge and The Park complete their collection and these are all located in Palm Springs. In two weeks I will be heading to Casa Verona for the weekend (more on that when I return) and I am really excited about it. I have to say, for the how cool and well-appointed these places are, they are really well-priced. All the Palm Springs locations are three and four bedrooms and feature pools and spa’s, BBQ’s Fireplaces and more just generally awesome stuff. Prices vary by house but winter rates go for about 3,000 per week and summer rates drop down a but from there. Unfortunately, I am unable to grab pics off their website to show you just how great these homes really are but click here and you will be taken to their website with a full photo gallery of each property. Prepare to be transported to another place and time.

November 4th, 2008

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2008 by travelwizard

vote, vote, vote, vote, vote, vote, vote, vote,vote, vote, vote, vote, vote, vote, vote, vote

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Traveler’s Bookcase

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 24, 2008 by travelwizard

One of the things that I love most about Los Angeles is your ability to discover something new at any moment. The city’s sheer enormity allows for some like me, a twenty year resident, to come across a great shop unexpectedly while walking to another destination. This is what happened to me last week, when I strolled down 3rd Street and came across a great little travel bookstore called Traveler’s Bookcase. I happened across it on my way to happy hour (what else) and I decided to peek inside. What I found was a fantastic shop, filled floor to ceiling with books of all kinds relating to travel. There were guide books, language books, maps, travel -themed fiction and non-fiction, kids books and traveler accessories.

If travel ideas begin in  your head than Traveler’s Bookcase is where you go to make them a reality. The shop has been there for 17 years but it’s current owners, Natalie and Greg have been there for a little over two. They were incredibly nice and helpful. Make a point to head there if you are hitting up Joan’s for some tasty treats or sampling the AMAZING fried chicken at nearby Cynthias.

Traveler’s Bookcase- 8375 West Third Street Los Angeles, CA 90048

Viva Barcelona!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 11, 2008 by travelwizard

The dark cloud that had settled over my trip to Barcelona has lifted. I remember the good times now..prior to having a lot of my stuff stolen. Barcelona is a beautiful city and there are plenty of great things to keep you occupied for a few days. Here is a list of my top five recommendations for things to do in Catalonia’s capitol:

1. Catch Up On Your Modernist Architecture.

Poor Gaudi! He met his demise after being run over by a tram! Prior to his unfortunate death, Antoni Gaudi was responsible for designing some of the most artful and unique buildings in the world.  Take a few days to wander through the fantastical La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila or Casa Batllo and let yourself be bowled over by Gaudi’s strange and luminous designs.

2. Eat A Meal At Cal Pep.

I ate there twice in five days and both times, I left knowing I would not eat fish like this maybe ever again. The restaurant can be slightly intimidating as the seating is counter style and seats maybe twenty people so the lines are enormous and there is no menu but if you are willing to just roll with the waiters suggestions, you will not be disappointed.

3. Take In Some Fine Art.

Spain is home to two of the most famous painters of all time, Picasso and Miro. Spend the morning in the Picasso Museum in El Born and the afternoon high above Barcelona on Mount Juic at The Miro Museum. Besides having great art, each is well located in a aesthetically pleasing part of the city.

4. Get On The Bus!

While I am normally against doing something so outwardly touristy, Barcelona has a fantastic bus system in place called Barcelona Bus Turistic that takes people all around the city. It is a great way to get around and for twenty euros, a lot cheaper than taking cabs everywhere. There are three lines that zig zag all around the city and a one day bus pass grants you access to all of them. You can hop on and off anywhere you like so there is a lot of flexibility and freedom to do what you will with your day.

5. Stroll Around La Boqueria Food Market.

La Boqueria is one of the most impressive food markets I have ever seen. There are rows and rows of stalls which represents all the food groups. Each display the food in a perfectly elegant design. On aisle after aisle you will encounter lavish displays of fresh fish, meat, produce, nuts and other goods. My only regret about the market was that I had no kitchen, making it hard for me to take full advantage of all the market has to offer. Tapas bars line La Boqueria however, making it a great place to grab a fast lunch.

Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Posted in restaurants, Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 22, 2008 by travelwizard


I eat out a lot. My “day” job requires me to be a somewhat of a professional diner. When I am not dining out professionally (i.e on the company tab), I tend to head for some cheaper fare. LA is a city of great eats. Whether your pocketbooks are large or small, there is something here for everyone. Although my blog is primarily devoted to travel, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some food suggestions from time to time. Let’s start with my favorite joints for a  small budget.

1. Best Fish Taco in Ensenada

1650 N. Hillhurst LA, CA 90027

Despite it’s name, this tiny taco stand is actually on Hillhurst Ave. in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Their menu is impossibly simple. They offer two types of tacos, fried fish and fried shrimp. They come dry on a delicious grilled corn tortillas and there is a yummy salsa bar with several salsas you can add to your shrimp or fish. 


2. Pie and Burger

913 California Avenue Pasadena, CA 91106

Pie and Burger. Just saying the words makes my mouth water. Two amazing tastes under the same roof for the right price. The burgers are just the right size and the buns might be the most perfect combo of soft and crunchy.  It’s a tad out of the way but well worth the trip. 


3. Mario’s Italian Deli and Grocer

740 East Broadway Glendale, CA 91205

At Mario’s, you will find all the great ingredients to make an authentic Italian meal. What you will also find are amazing deli sandwiches. Made with freshly sliced cold-cuts and served on home-made rolls, these sandwiches cannot be missed. They come in a variety of hot and cold, all priced below 7 dollars. Call ahead to place your order, it will save you a ton of time waiting in line!

4. Pho Cafe

2841 W.Sunset Blvd LA, CA 90026

I have never been to Vietnam ( I have plans for next year) so I can’t say with any real certainty that the soup and bun bowls here are truly authentic, but from what I have gathered,  it is pretty close to the real deal. Here at Pho in Silverlake, you can feast on delicious soup, bun, crepes or egg rolls for all under about 20 bucks a person. They get a bonus for carrying Tiger Beer and soda in glass bottles. They also make a great Vietnamese coffee – you know- the kind with condensed milk? Oh, bring credit cards are accepted.


5. The Apple Pan

10801 W. Pico Blvd LA, CA 90064

The Apple Pan is my favorite burger in LA. Unfortunately for me, I live on the East Side and it is on The West Side so I have to make a serious time commitment to eat here. Standing in a tiny log-looking cabin on Pico Blvd, this eatery is counter-style only so it can be hard to come here with large parties. The wait staff can only be describe as cantankerous ( and that is being kind) so be ready to order fast when they come to you. The upside to all this is the burger itself; hot and juicy meat, crisp lettuce, expertly toasted bun. The menu is basic, consisting of burgers, fries, tuna sandwiches etc. and cheap. I would advise against going there however, if you are looking for a leisurely lunch. The place is always busy and hungry patrons tend to stare you down if you are spotted lingering after you finish.