Category Archives: Lux Travel

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!

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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!

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!

I Heart Napa!

The car

In September we attended an auction in support of the Matt Talbot Center with Trevor & Tracie (and a few other friends) as our guests. At the start of the live auction they announced the winner “Golden Ticket” winner. As fate would have it, Trevor & Tracie had the “Golden Ticket” and were allowed (as per the rules) to select any live auction item from the list. They selected the Napa trip and Heather & I said we’d join them in Napa to celebrate Trevor’s birthday!

Fast forward to the end of April, I had not reserved a hotel for us. The one hotel I wanted to stay was sold out.

I sent an email to everyone I know who may have a connection in Napa. Lots of advice insued from where to camp to $1k per night accommodations. My friend David Keuhner, Founder & President of Destination Cellars sent me an email that said relax and he would make a call. How many times have we all heard that. Boy was I wrong! I now owe David a life of gratitude for him not only saving my trip but, making it the trip of a life time!

About Destination Cellars: Is for those who savor a great wine experience, insist on the best service, and celebrate life at it’s most fulfulling. Their team works with discrimination individuals & organizations, creating unique escapes, singular wine purchases, once in a lifetime experiences and unforgettable events.

Below are my recommendations on how you too can have the trip of a lifetime!

Getting there: We flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle on one of their many non-stops from Seattle to Oakland. Yes, Oakland is better if you are going only to Napa. I used to live just south of Napa and often flew in and out of Oakland. Insider tip: Its a shorter drive to Napa from Oakland vs. SFO!

Where to stay: Because of my friend David’s amazing connections, Heather & I were the guests of Freemark Abbey winery in their guest cottage. This is not open to the public, so it can’t be booked. However it was one of the best parts of our trip. The only other hotel I would recommend is Bardessono! This 62 room gem in Yountville is “green, luxurious, and peaceful.” All the things you want in a hotel in wine country. From the in-room spa services, farm-fresh restaurant ingredients to the rooftop pool, Bardessono is the hotel I recommend!

How to do it: Book one of the chauffered driven car services, like we did to ensure you don’t get arrested for DUI! There are PLENTY of police looking for those who enjoyed too much wine behind the wheel. We recommend Napa Valley Tours & Transportation! Our driver Michael Basayne was not like a driver at all. He was more like a long time friend who was showing us around his home town. His hospitality was a special treat. Thank you Michael!

Where to eat: Napa is known for its famously expensive restaurants and we didn’t go to any of them! St. Helena has great restaurants that are more like eating in someone’s home. Our FAVORITE meal was at Cook. My braised shortribs melted in my mouth and I was in HEAVEN! Cook is reasonably priced ($140 for 4 people with wine) and a local favorite for its Fridays Only BLT. We had the best time over a fantastic meal that I can’t stop talking about. We had other meals while we were there. But none of them compare to Cook! Our honorable mention: Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa. Also

Wineries we love: Freemark Abbey is where it started and ended! The story of Freemark Abbey is deeply intertwined with Napa Valley’s rise to prominence. Those who forged Freemark Abbey were citizens of Napa in the greatest sense—people who passionately believed in the land, in their craft, in community and in the value of a handshake—a long-honored and increasingly rare ethos of winegrowing that continues at the winery today. As one of the first sixteen wineries in the Napa Valley, Freemark Abbey possesses a long history that is deeply entwined with the region’s ascendency to fame and was the only winery invited to present both red and white wines in the 1976 Paris Tasting, the event which put Napa on the map. We like the 2005 Cabernet Bosche for its dark cherry, black currant, cinnamon, aromatic cedar and green olive with hints of dark chocolate and cigar box. Good depth of flavor with black fruits, chocolate and integrated oak spice. Lively, with elegant tannins and a very long, clean fruitful finish! We purchased and drank two bottles the first night!

Caymus is a must stop on your list as well. With its rich winemaking family history and private, seated tasting room and passionate staff you will feel like you are part of the family! Each of us couples walked away with a box! We recommend the 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: aromas are layered with pipe tobacco, log cabin fires, and brown spice that leads to the impression of richness and complexity.

Sequoia Grove was our final stop and we felt right at home. Also a bit buzzed! Simple environment and friendly staff, with great wines to boot! Again, we left with another box of wine! We recommend the Rebellious Red because we all have a bit of rebel in us!

We can’t wait to return next year for Trevor’s birthday when we will start at Cardinale!