Category Archives: Lux Hotels

Luxury Cabo

In October I asked my wife to give me her “Travel Bucket List” as I was looking for Christmas gift ideas for her. At the top of her list was Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. While most people think Mexico is dangerous based on what they see on the news. That could not be further from the truth! Cabo is safe, clean, and lots of fun!

I called the fantastically knowledgable team at Earth, Sea, and Sky Vacations to get started. They are THE CABO EXPERTS! They offer luxury hotels , villas (compete with chefs and other services), activities (golf, fishing, and tours), and transfers (shared & private). They are the FIRST company to offer private villa rentals in Cabo and have been focusing solely on this exciting travel destination for over 20 years! I spoke to Ryan and explained why my wife needed a this long weekend and what my desired goals for the trip. Within minutes he had recommended a hotel and several activities. We ended up splitting our four nights between two different resorts and it was a good way to experience two different type of properties!

Marquis Los Cabos – This hotel delivers luxury like no other! The staff knows you by name and the General Manager is known to greet you upon arrival! All of the rooms (suites) face the ocean, so you have a “Home on the Sea“! Heather and I enjoyed the superb luxury of one of the 28 Private Pool Casitas. These charming little Villas face the beach and offer over 1600 square feet of decadence. They feature one bedroom with a king sized bed, luxury linens, wet bar, microwave, lounge, Bulgari toiletries, you own private pool, and best of all, your own BUTLER! We were fortunate enough to have Ricardo as our butler and have never been more well taken care of in our lives. Service is special here and Ricardo is the epitome of excellent service. We miss him dearly and can’t wait to return! The dining options at the hotel mean, there is no reason to leave for a meal. The food is sublime!

Our welcome note at Marquis Los Cabos

 

Zoetry Casa Del Mar – Heather and I moved over to this 32 room hacienda-style boutique resort for our last two nights in Cabo. Boy were we in for the treat of a lifetime! Zoetry’s Endless Privileges is the way to go! Luxurious ocean view suites with teak furnished terraces overlooking the ocean, Bulgari amenities, daily gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner options made from organic ingredients and complimentary massive beverage selections, afternoon tea, no check in or check out times, 24 hour in-suite dining, champagne and fresh fruit daily, and 20 minute spa treatment per stay to name a few of the perks of this package. We were greeted by the General Manager and Food & Beverage Director upon arrival. As the Food & Beverage Director escorted us to lunch, he inquired about of meal likes and dislikes. We arrived to our lunch destination to find a private table on the sand set just for us! Each meal over the next few days always came with a “chef’s recommendation” for Heather based on her conversation with the Food & Beverage Director. This made our stay here very special. The spa was FANTASTIC! We ended up getting a massage each day we were there!

Welcome amenity at Zoetry Casa Del Mar

Activities – We booked our activities through one of my sister companies. However, each of the hotels have fantastic concierge staff that can book many different activities for you. We took a glass bottom boat cruise and ATV/Horseback ridding combo tour! Fun, fun, fun!

Horseback ridding on the beach

Getting There – From the west coast Alaska Air has many daily non-stops to Cabo from LA, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. If coming from the east coast or mid-west, Alaska Air has many flights that will connect you two any of the above listed cities. As I’ve said here many times, Alaska Air is my airline of choice because the service is spectacular!

Bottom Line – Mexico is SAFE! Go Explore!

Atlanta’s Gem – Ritz-Carlton Atlanta

It was to be a busy eight hours on the ground. So I needed to make sure I was going to be well taken care of. You see, I wanted to make the best use of my trip to Rome and Barcelona and flying Delta from Seattle required a layover in Atlanta. So I decided to take the red-eye into Atlanta and see some clients and potential clients before heading on to the rest of my trip.

I booked a suite at the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta as it was the best location for my meetings. I was not thrilled about staying in a “downtown” hotel, even a luxury hotel had me a bit concerned. Yes, I was wrong!

I landed at 6:30am and got my rental car by 7am. When I pulled into the hotel valet, the doorman opened my car door with a warm “Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta Mr. Matthews”. The stress began to fade. The front desk agent was just as warm. More stress fading. Within minutes I was checked in and an escort greeted me to take me to my suite. I was now stress free!

The suite was like walking into a fine southern home. The kind I grew up around. I had a spacious living room to meet my clients and a bedroom that was behind french doors. This hotel is perfect for business and leisure travel as well.

Four reasons why I love this hotel:

Service: It is hard to beat! From “hello” to “good-bye” this was some of the most attentive service I’ve received. They have a team of service focused staff that will attend to your every need. Tip: The club lounge staff and food is the best!

Location: CNN, Coca-Cola, and the Atlanta Aquarium are all very close! The hotel is in the center of downtown and you can get anywhere quickly. The freeway is just three blocks away. So no need to stay outside of downtown!

Atlanta Grill: Award-winning showcasing grilled steaks, chops, and seafood along with Southern-inspired cuisine. Warmly inviting, club-like setting with large murals and vintage photographs, such as the Gone With the Wind premiere and historic Georgia Tech games. Two private dining rooms and a more intimate “cheater’s booth” also available. Seasonal outdoor dining on New Orleans–style veranda overlooking famous Peachtree Street. Breakfast, lunch, dinner daily. Sunday brunch.

 

 

Atlanta Grill

 

 Lumen Lobby Bar: Lobby bar with a modern vibe offering a new twist on traditional cocktails with sophisticated gelatin and plates for sharing. Live jazz, Latin, and Flamenco Tuesday through Saturday.

 

 

Lumen Lobby Bar

 

For what its worth, the trip was a success. Two of the potential clients are now clients. I owe a lot of that success to the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta!

Secrets of Ritz Carlton Pentagon City

Guest Room

I was recently planning a trip to DC for sales calls and ran into a big problem. The date my client set for the meeting was the same week congress returned for their “lame duck” session and the freshmen arrived for their orientation. Thus, every hotel in the DC city limits wanted outrageous amounts of money for basic hotel room.

So I looked at my options just outside the city and discovered a gem, the Ritz Carlton, Pentagon City! I know you think this is far out. In reality it is literally just “next door”.

Hotel details:

  1. An Arlington oasis, located just minutes from downtown DC, Georgetown, Rosslyn and Old Town Alexandria.
  2. Metro located directly outside of the hotel. Two (2) metro stops away from Reagan National Airport and two (2) metro stops into the HEART of DC.
  3. Newly renovated state of the art fitness center and family friendly indoor heated pool.
  4. Where you can experience a true Ritz-Carlton luxury stay without the DC prices!

Why you want to stay in this area:

  1. To visit George Washington’s historic Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens.
  2. Great place for a fun & educational family vacation.
  3. The Ritz-Carlton Club Level – Top two (2) floors of the hotel. Offers four (4) continuous food & beverage presentations, complimentary internet, and private concierge. This tranquil retreat combines comfort and exclusivity with personalized service and views of DC’s capital skyline!

Club Level - Lounge

This is now my preferred hotel in the DC area. Give it a try next time you are in the area, it won’t disappoint!

Eat, Pray, Love – In London (And the countryside)

I was recently in London hosting some of our top travel agent clients. I had a bit of free time one day so I set out to see two hotels I knew I MUST see and dinner at the new “it” restaurant in London.

Eat: Shaka Zulu – So a dear friend recommended I take our clients to London’s new “it” restaurant Shaka Zulu. When I went to their web site, I immediately thought it was not a good idea. You see, because I’m African-American, I did not think it was a good idea that I take my top clients, who all happened to be Anglo-Americans to a restaurant whose theme was an African tribal leader! One conversation with the sales manager and I quickly changed my mind. However, I still had to check it out prior to taking my top clients there. So I went it a day prior with my colleague that was in town with me. Shaka Zulu is in the Camden section of London actually in the center of the Camden Market. Once we were greeted by the hostess, we were taken to a section of the bar where the sales manager awaited us. The drinks are so fresh, you hardly know that you are consuming alcohol. These bartenders are atrists! There is a two story statue of Shaka Zulu in the bar. Because it was a Saturday night, there was a DJ mixing the right music to set the mood. You see, Shaka Zulu is restaurant, bar, and part night club. The staff primary goal is to create a beautiful experience. They are so good, you don’t realize that there is a team of people taking excellent care of you. The food was PERFECT! Hands down one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. Secret: The beef is from the Queen’s own working farm, Sandringham. Shaka Zulu is the FIRST & ONLY place that has authorization from the Queen to say they have beef from her farm. So the next time you are in London, have drinks and dinner here. You won’t regret it!

Pray: Four Seasons Hampshire – I have always dreamed of having an English country estate. Now that I’ve been to the Four Seasons Hampshire, I don’t have to spend all that money on one. You see, the Four Seasons Hampshire is a perfect English country estate. Spend the day riding a horse, walking the trails or shooting skeet! Once you have finished your outdoor activities, duck into the spa that used to be a horse stable and get rejuvinated. I call it a rejuvination stable! The rooms are just what you need after an active day: Serenity!

Love: The Savoy Hotel London – Originally opened in 1889 The Savoy quickly gained a reputation as THE luxury hotel in London. Closed in December 2007 for what was to be a £100 and 1 year renovation, quickly became a £220 and 2 year renovation. This was due in large part to structural work that had to be done. It was worth the wait and the money spent! The Savoy is still The Savoy, only better. The rooms are beautiful & elegant and YOU are the celebrity, not the rooms. The lobby is grand. The American Bar is classically “American”. I had the best martini of my life. The General Manager, Kiaran MacDonald, greeted me just as he had just greeted Jude Law & Guy Ritchie, who happened to be there having a drink. The Savoy is a Tina Turner sang, “Simply The Best“!

The Villa by Barton G!

In 1994 I took a leave from my job to return home (Winter Haven, FL) to work on a congressional campaign. We ventured to Miami for a weekend of fundraisers. On the Saturday afternoon I walked down from my hotel on South Beach to The News Cafe. Famous for its newspapers from around the world and a great chicken sandwich. I found a table on the sidewalk, grabbed a New York Times, and ordered a chicken sandwich. A few minutes later I noticed the guy at the table next to me was Gianni Versace! The fashion mogul had walked down from his estate a few blocks away for his afternoon newspaper reading and lunch. While I was not one who wore his clothes, I did own a bottle of his cologne. We exchanged greetings and went about our reading and eating. From that moment onward I was a fan!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was in Miami on sales calls. On my last full day in Miami, I had a few hours between my last appointment and a client dinner. My friend Melanie recommended I check out The Villa by Barton G, the former Versace mansion that had been recently transformed into a 10 guest room hotel. My site inspection appointment was at noon and I arrived precisely at noon. As I approached the gate, it swung open and I was greeted with a bottle of Voss water and a welcoming smile. I was nervous because I was about to enter the former home of a fashion icon. Simply put, Barton G has restored the mansion to what is very close to Versace’s original work of art. In every detail he honored Versace’s vision. From the mosaics, dinnerware, curtains, sheets, and staff, this hotel exudes romance. As I saw the guest rooms and public space, I only thought of returning for weekend with my wife. You see this is the kind of place women love to be and the men that bring them here are happy they brought them here!

When I walked into the guest room that was formerly Versace’s bedroom, I knew right away whose room it used to be. With its double king sized bed, oversized closet, and luxury amenities, I felt an energy that I have rarely experienced. I MUST stay in that room with my wife! And so should you!

Pictures really don’t do it this hotel justice! You have to go stay there to understand the how beautifully sexy this hotel is.

Where is my Versace cologne?

Book your room NOW!

Europe: The Kier Way!

Our vacation to Europe started off as a visit to Paris for my sister in law’s college graduation. It quickly turned into a two-week, two country vacation. Here is how we did it!

Where we went: Paris, Rome, Cortona (Pergo), and Venice.

I admit to being nervous about a multi generational international trip. Yes, I was also nervous about traveling with my in-laws for two full weeks. I heeded the advice of my coworker David and took some “alone moments” with Heather, Giovanni, and Isabella. I organized this trip for all 13 of us. Not something I recommend. My advice: Use a professional Travel Advisor. I know a few if you need a recommendation.

Europe Express (***Disclaimer I now work for Europe Express) – We booked air, transfers, hotels, and some sightseeing through the groups department. Bottom line, THEY GET IT! They deploy at TEAM (sales & operations) to plan and execute your group. Because they have offices in Europe, I was provided with around the clock service and assistance when needed. Air: We flew Air France nonstop from Seattle to Paris. The experience was simply divine. As you would expect from Air France. At 5 years old, Isabella even liked it.

ParisLes Jardins du Marais was our home in the city of lights. Located in the heart of Paris’ trendy Marais district, brimming with art galleries, chic restaurants and designer boutiques, the luxurious Jardins du Marais Lifestyle boutique hotel is close to many historic landmarks, including the Place des Vosges, the Musée Picasso, the Carnavalet Museum and the Bastille. A haven in the centre of the city, the Jardins du Marais has 265 fully renovated rooms and suites overlooking lush private gardens, which add charm and character to this “little village” and create an ideal setting for leisurely strolls. Decorated in contemporary, the lounge, bar, and restaurant are perfect for business meetings or stylish events, with a contemporary and harmonious blend of elegance and comfort.

We got multi day passes for museums, the metro, hop on and hop off tour (this came in handy w/ a 5-year-old), and river cruise tickets through Europe Express. We also booked reserved time slots for the Eiffel Tower. Highly recommend you do this in advance. While Heather & I had been to Paris years ago, this was a great way to see the city with our kids.

Rome: Our accommodations in Rome was the trendy Palazzeto Degli Artisti. The Palazzetto degli Artisti was born from a new idea of hospitality which combines all modern comforts together with an innovative spirit in an atmosphere of ancient beauty. The building was built at the beginning of the nineteenth century, in the heart of ancient Rome, in the very characteristic historical quarter of Rione Monti. From the rooftop terrace you can enjoy a breathtaking view and your gaze gets lost amid the ruins of the  Foro Romano, Piazza Venezia and Colosseum. Location, location, location!

We rented three Vespas so that we could explore Rome from a different perspective. Not for the faint at heart, but VERY FUN! This was the best $45 we spent. We booked our Vatican & Colosseum VIP entrances through the AMAZING Select Italy! On our second day in Rome I whisked Heather, Giovanni, and Isabella off for a private cooking lesson. Cucina Romana, booked through Select Italy was a high point of this trip. When in Rome… Cook as the Romans do! Many of Italy’s classic dishes were created and perfected here in the capital city. Learn how to cook alla Romana, spend some time with the master chefs at La Cucina di Casa di Valeria Cooking School, where we participated in the preparation of a traditional Roman meal using fresh and seasonal ingredients. This school is known for teaching young Italians who have moved away from their families how to cook authenticly. You are not a client here! You are a guest in a dear friend’s home who happens to be teaching you how to cook. Perfection. Our favorite Rome restaurants: Trattoria Otello alla Concordia (recommended by a dear friend who is a famed travel writer) & La Bottega del caffe: These were the best meals we had in ITALY. Hands down!

Pergo (Cortona): After a few days in the eternal city, we boarded a train we booked with Rail Europe (1st Class) through Europe Express to our Villa in Pergo. A town at the base of Cortona. We were guests of some dear Seattle friends who rented La Ripa (this villa) for a year. The only word that comes to mind to describe this villa is HEAVEN! While you can’t rent it, A Season Away is who I recommend you call in order to rent a villa. My friend Kevin Abell owns A Season Away and his team knows how to ensure you have the right villa and a great Villa Host!

We booked the Gelato & Vino experience through Select Italy and it was so much fun! It may sound like a strange combination but gelato and wine are two of Florence’s best creations. Why not explore them together? Our evening began with a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the world famous gelateria, GROM, where owner Mario introduced us to “Italian ice cream.” Next, we visited the historic wine bar Enoteca Alessi, where our tasting began. In the company of our own private guide, we embarked on a tasting menu that included four wines, various appetizers and three different types of gelato. This 45-minute private tour and tasting experience was a great way to learn about the food and wine of Florence, and ideal for any level of foodies!

After that it only got better with our final selection from Select Italy! My wife’s two sisters and future brother in law joined us for the full day Brunello di Montalcino Wine Tour and it was simply beautiful. Noble and seductive, Brunello di Montalcino is a grand red wine that is born in the heart of the hills around Siena. It is the work of one man, Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, whose patient efforts first brought this wine to light in 1888. We celebrated his invention on this full day wine excursion to Brunello country. Departing and returning to our villa (they can pick you up from your Florence or Siena hotel or villa) first stop is the spectacutlar Talenti Vineyards. A visit to the cellars and a guided wine tasting of their fine Brunellos was included. Riccardo Talenti’s love for his winery forces you to fall in love with life all over again. This was followed by a walking tour of the village of Montalcino. Here we were captivated by picturesque, narrow streets surmounted by the medieval fortress, La Rocca. Lunch at the Taverna Grappolo Blu in Montalcino introduced us to authentic local dishes like the thick, hand rolled spaghetti called pinci. After a delicious lunch we headed to the organic winery, SanPolino. In a serene setting of rolling hills blanketed in olive groves and vineyards, the British owners maintain the modern art of organic farming. We purchased lots of wine and perfect olive oil.

Venice: Heather and I could not take our girls to Italy without a quick overnight visit to Venice. Upon our arrival, we zipped off to lunch al fresco at the Westin Regina & Europa. It is our favorite Venice spot for lunch. The chef knew we were coming and prepared a special three course menu just for us. Yes, we felt we had ARRIVED! Afterwards, we checked into our favorite hotel in Venice, Hotel Danieli. This hotel is how I want every hotel to be. The service is a great combination of attentive and relaxed. Just what you need when you are on vacation. Our last bit of perfection was a private mask decorating lesson with the Mask Atelier at Tragi comica. We organized this through Charming Venice. This Destination Management Company can arrange conventions and private excursions that you can’t get through other Destination Management Companies. Exclusivity and high touch service is what they do best!

We returned to La Ripa for a final two nights to celebrate my in laws’ 30th wedding anniversary. Icing on the cake!

What I know for sure, travel connects through shared expierences and my family is more connected having had this vacation!