DC Wrap-Up

Posted in Travel with tags , , on January 27, 2009 by travelwizard

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It’s been a wild week here in the District of Columbia. The Inauguration, balls, museums, protests and celebrity political figure sightings all packed in to five short days- there never seems to be a dull moment here(at least not this week).I will cap off my visit tomorrow with a visit to Mt. Vernon and then it’s off to the airport for a long journey home.

I am slowly descending from the utter euphoria of Tuesday. What was surely a day that on any other might have sent me through the roof with frustration was welcomed with open arms. So what if I woke up at 6AM? Who cares that it was 15 degrees and my toes were on the brink of freezing off. And really, that security line that lasted over two hours? What a great way to catch up with the diverse people of America. The mood could not have been better. I have little doubt that I will never be amongst so many people who all shared the same thread of happiness. 

But really, I was one of the smart ones. Well, okay, my sister was one of the smart ones-she ordered train tickets in advance.  We came by train and not Metro, which surely saved us times and astronomical effort. After a comfortable 45 minute ride into DC, we descended on the Mall, which at 7:45 AM was already swollen with people.  I could not believe it. Huge crowds of people were gathered together, some laughing, many singing- all gathered there for one common goal – to watch the first Black President be sworn in. It was a phenomenal sight.

After hanging on the mall for an hour or so, people watching and walking around, it was time to get down to the  business of making our way to where we were camping out all day – The Willard Hotel. This part of the day was challenging and rather sucky and miserable so I will just skip past it. Suffice to say, it did not dampen my spirit. Upon entering The Willard ( the closest hotel to The White House and right along the parade route), we were greeted by swarms of party -goers ready to watch history unfold right before their eyes.

We made our way to the 10th floor suite, where my sis and I were set to attend an all day celebration with 400 or so Washington Insiders. It was here, perched above Pennsylvania Avenue- that I watched from the window as Barack Obama’s convoy made their way from The White House  (two blocks over)  to The Capitol. Everyone cheered. Even the jaded DC types who think they have seen it all. The next several hours unfolded with joy and glee, we all watched on as Barack took the oath, gave his speech and sped away to eat his lunch before he and Michelle made their way down the parade route. I even saw with my own eyes, President Bush exit the White House by helicopter. It was very surreal seeing the events unfold on the telly only to look out the window and see them for myself. I could not believe how fortunate  I was to be out of the cold, watching the inauguration events surrounded by an open bar. A real dream com true.

The rest of the day was a blur, but some of the highlights included seeing Barack’s convoy go right by my window, free white wine and some of the best Tom Yum Soup I have ever had (That came later in the day). I arrived home around 9, exhausted and elated at the same time. 

The Inauguration was clearly the highlight but I have to say that every day here has shown me yet another great thing about DC. For instance, when you come, you simply must go to the Newseum. This is one of the coolest museums I have ever been to. If you care at all about historical events and how they unfold via news, you must pop in. Besides housing a piece of the Berlin Wall and the antenna from the top of the World Trade Center, each day, the front page of every newspaper in the word is out on display. It’s a fantastic attraction and worth the twenty dollar entrance fee.

On my second to last day, I toured the Capitol, saw the House of Representatives and spied House Leader Nancy Pelosi scurrying by.I figure that’s like seeing Reese Witherspoon in LA – a real Washington celebrity. All in all, it was incredible. I am home, happy and sleepy. Until next time…check out some DC snaps:

The Convoy of Barack

Protesters march in Washington

The Berlin Wall

Our Nations Capitol

It’s Official…

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

I didn’t think much could make me happier than witnessing with my own eyes the inauguration of Barack Obama…BUT..coincidentally, on that same day, my first official travel article was published. You can check it out here if you are so inclined. More on the inauguration post – me returning from high up in the clouds.

Ms. Knoepfle Goes To Washington

Posted in General Musings, Travel with tags , on January 19, 2009 by travelwizard

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That’s right kids, I am heading to DC. I am joining the ranks of the 2 million plus other people expected to descend on our nations capitol January 20th. Oh.. what a glorious day! What a fantastic time to be an American. While I am slightly dreading the travel, commute and crowds that will surely accompany my journey, I am rife with excitement at being part of such a historical moment. While clearly this is a departure from the normal, much more important topics I tend to discuss on  my site (hardy har), I plan on writing a detailed description of the events in DC. I would love to throw in some info on a luxury DC hotel or two but frankly, the prices were so high, I was forced to bunk with my dear sis in nearby Burke, VA. C’est la vie, c’est la vie, that’s just the way it goes. Happy inauguration.

California Dreaming..

Posted in Hotels on January 12, 2009 by travelwizard

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I don’t mean to brag, but it is 80 degrees in Los Angeles today. Upon my latest check, it was 24 and snowing in Chicago and in New York City, it was a balmy 34. Need a break from dismal weather? Head out to LA, where you can reserve your villa or bungalow with the adorable and stylish Los Feliz Lodge. Los Feliz Lodge isn’t a lodge exactly, it’s a collection of houses spread around the Los Feliz/Silverlake area of Los Angeles. They are available for short-term and long-term stays and their prices are fantastic.

For between 150 and 180 a night, you can rent your own detached bungalow, which include many of the amenities you can find in a hotel – except – you’re not in a hotel. Moreover, you’re not in an area that has a lot of hotels. What that means is that you can enjoy one of the best part of Los Angeles like a real Angelino, far away from the cheesy tourist traps that most of our hotels reside in.

Los Feliz is home to beautiful parks, great boutiques, fantastic neighborhood restaurants and great music venues. Los Feliz is a stone’s throw from downtown and a short drive to central Hollywood.  Translation- you can be in the heart of it all in a matter of minutes if that is what you like.

High Speed Internet, Flat Screen Televisions, Ipod docks, DVD players, robes, slippers and king and queen size beds  all grace the residences of the Lodge. Check out some snaps and you’ll get the idea: 

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Oh! The Places You’ll Go..

Posted in General Musings on January 6, 2009 by travelwizard

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2008 has come and gone. For the most part, it was a year most of us just as soon forget. Crippling economic woes,  financial scandals, everyday people confronting greater hardship, two wars, a deadbeat president – the list goes on and on. Despite all this, I am grateful for the year that has just passed. I was fortunate enough to travel to places of unspeakable beauty, that contain vibrant culture, tasty culinary delights and all around friendly people. For these things, I feel incredibly lucky.

It was a year of personal accomplishment. I traveled to 20 cities in three countries. I started Better Living Through Travel, got promoted at work, moved in to a new apartment and got a puppy. I can only hope that 2009 brings a simlar degree of personal prosperity ( oh please, please!) To begin the year and put 2008 to bed, I have compiled a “best of” list of my personal travels over the last year. See below for the result along with links to the posts over the last year. Here’s to wishing everyone a better direction in 2009!

Best Overall Hotel:

Castell D’Emporda – Costa Brava, Spain

Best Fine Dining Experience:

Cal Pep – Barcelona, Spain

Best Burger Experience:

Pie and Burger – Pasadena, CA

Best Culinary City:

New Orleans, LA

Best Flying Experience:

Virgin America: LA to DC

Best Hotel For Romance:

Milliken Creek, Napa, CA

Best Room With a View:

Thompson LES NY, NY

Biggest Bum Out Travel Experience: 

Getting robbed in Barcelona.

Best Hidden Gem:

Glen Oaks Motel Big Sur, CA

Hotel That Seemed Like A Good Idea But Turned Out To Be Sad Times:

Ojai Retreat, Ojai, CA

 Best Travel Tip:

Bring Ambien

Travel Ambitions for 2009:

Japan!

 

Where do you aspire to go in 2009?

Coming Soon! Lorien Hotel, Alexandria, VA

Posted in Hotels, Travel with tags , , on December 27, 2008 by travelwizard

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A new hotel is coming to one of the quaintest corners of America. It’s called The Lorien, and it will open in March of 2009 in Old Town Alexandria, VA. For those of you unfamiliar, Alexandria is a great town that sits across the Potomac River from our nations Capitol. It’s history is rich, and everyone from George Washington to Gerald Ford to Mick Fleetwood (!!!) called Alexandria their home at one point or another. Situated six miles from downtown DC, the town is ideally located for those who wish for convenient access to the city without being right in the heart of the hustle and bustle. With the opening of The Lorien, the DC traveller will now have an incredibly charming alternative to staying within city limits. 

While certainly not cheap ( rates begin at 349 per night), the hotel is intriguing because of it’s incredible location, it’s eco-friendly foundation and it’s promise of elegant design (think cool blues and crisp whites courtesy of Vicente Wolf.) The property will house 107 rooms, three restaurants and a full service spa. It’s eco- friendly attributes will include paperless check out, recycling bins in all the rooms, discount parking for hybrid cars and energy efficient toilets, faucets and lighting. Even the spa will use organic products. I have always been a fan of Kimpton Hotels ( I have written about The Hotel Palomar in the past) so I am definitely waiting with baited breath for The Lorien’s opening. Alexandria is such a great town, I am hoping for a hotel which will match it’s splendor!

Here are a few snaps:

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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

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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

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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

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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.