Category Archives: My Favorite Places to Stay

Making My Way Around Naples

Let me start out by saying that I visited Naples on my own a few years’ back.  It was just a quick
stroll from the station and around the city for about two hours before heading back to Rome.  It was interesting but I really didn’t get a sense of the city.  Now we have a client that I know that would like to go to Naples but the rap on the city is that it has a lot of petty crime.  So off I went with my man bag in hand for a virgin overnight in Naples.

First of all, it’s only a 63-minute journey on the high-speed Frecciarossa from Rome to Naples.  The train is super fast. The Italians love their high-speed train links.  They’re really good at this stuff!  After a particularly dreadful on-train coffee served by a particularly disinterested on-train steward (the Italians are really good at this stuff too), we had arrived in Naples.  My mate had organized a taxi (booked) from the station and so far, so good.  We safely got to our hotel on a nice stretch of the promenade that sits opposite the island of Capri.  In between, there were the usual underground excavations for a project that would never be finished, but no matter, we were here.  The trip had been entirely uneventful, no muggings, no hassles and now with the light of the early evening, we decided to go for a walking tour.

Here’s the thing about Naples – it’s handy to know your way around, there are lots of hills, it’s a chaotic, and there are lots of different areas with very different characteristics.  The first stop was the Palazzo Mannajuolo which holds an incredible staircase; probably the most breathtaking internal staircase in all the world, la scala ellittica.   We strolled around the hilly Chiaia and stopped at an old-world candy store in San Ferdinando.  We came across a beautiful piazza with the pantheon-like structure of the church of San Ferdinando.  The piazza here is open and full of light with Vesuvius in the background.  The opera house, Teatro di San Carlo, was showing La Traviata.  There is a spectacular galleria, the Galleria Umberto I, close by as well.  It houses thousands of panes of glass sitting in a cross formation with a whole series of panels of Jewish stars that form part of the glass decoration.  The history of Naples is more or less the entire history of the our ancient civilization.  One thing’s for sure, it makes Rome look like a young lad.

The light was dropping so we wandered back to the harbor to prepare for dinner near the Castle Nuovo (not very nuovo actually).  That is where I had the most incredible spaghetti alle vongole I had ever eaten.  So, this was Naples and we had only been there a few hours.  More to come.  Wow.

NYC or London: Which City Do You Prefer??

I like New York City a lot, and although it’s not my favorite city, I do appreciate its amazing museums and grand theaters.  I love the neighborhoods that stretch all the way from the Battery to the Bronx and the new Brooklyn, unrecognizable to my wife now who went to Bayridge High School and grew up a stone’s throw from the Verrazano Straights.  New York has a busyness to it with its big, broad avenues, and trying to catch the pedestrian
lights as you walk so you don’t need to stop and can just zig zag your way from 30th to the park. I love Soho and the Village and always wondered where I would live (probably Soho although the park is stunning).  So my question on New York is why is it so ratty in places?  London can be patchy and the outskirts of Paris are dreadful, but we are talking downtown New York City.  It’s very uneven to me.  Fun, but dirty, and even the late-night scene is sketchy.

My favorite restaurant in the city is Esca.  I love this place – great seafood, nice wine list, but honestly, it’s stuck in the seediest part of town on 43rd Street and 9th Ave, next to porn shops and dodgy quick bites.  It’s weird, New York.  The transportation hubs just seem to be seedier than they need to be.  Grand Central is a beautiful station but it’s confusing.  The shops and kiosks around it are grim.  Penn Station is even worse and is surrounded by dodgy hotels.  Yet here in the thick of it is Madison Square Garden.  Let’s not forget to mention LaGuardia Airport, antiquated and inefficient, with no great transportation link into town.  Welcome to New York

So, yeah, I do like New York for two days, grab an overpriced play and go out to a nice dinner, but in the end, no prejudice, London is just a cooler place.

Checking out the Cuevas de las Maravillas – Dominican Republic

Richard, our local hero in the Dominican Republic, was hosting me for a day and a half.  He wanted to show me the Cuevas de las Maravillas which is just west of La Romana and is designated a national park.  I have been to a few caves in my time.  I remember well the caves near Nerja in Spain and the Postos in Slovenia.  Limestone plays fantastic tricks with water underground!  This was going to be a bit of an adventure.

Our first and minor obstacle were that the caves were closed on the day we were going to be visiting.  Richard, in his charming
Dominican Spanish, disturbed a guy from a siesta and asked him if there was any way that he could let us into the park and caves.  The “transaction” was done quickly and before you know it the gates had been opened and we were walking along a path with a stone wall on either side.  After about ten minutes, the first surprise came.  On both sides of the wall, hanging around on trees and munching away on plants, were iguanas or baby dinosaurs, I’m not quite sure.  Lots of them though.  That prompted me to inquire if there were any venom issues – apparently not.  Eventually, we got to the opening of the caves, all quite civilized, and then began the descent.  Inside the cave, there are about 500 paintings and engravings on the walls all made by the Taínos, the ancient inhabitants of the island and in general, most of the Caribbean.  There were human faces, animals, and geometric figures.  All pretty basic stuff but all incredible given the time period.  It is a rare photograph of life just before Columbus arrived.  Of course, as is the case with all of the native Indians, they got royally (pardon the pun) screwed by either the Catholic monarchy or the diseases that the discoverer’s brought with them.  So now we get to walk through their caves. For me it was a fabulous travel moment – alone, no tourists, just the guy who opened the door for us, and the only noise was the dripping of water through the stalactites that are endlessly fascinating and at the same time you wonder if today is the day that they will fall to the ground.

 

My First All-Inclusive Resort – Dominican Republic

I was picked up by a driver at the Santo Domingo airport in the Dominican Republic.  The drive to my resort was an hour and a half away.  Driving is a little crazy here and we did a lot of weaving in and out of traffic but eventually, we made it.  I was heading to one of those up-market all-inclusive resorts surrounded by golf courses, a marina, and a white sand beach.  I was taking advantage of an outstanding credit on our books and it was a chance to see a little bit of the Dominican Republic.

The resort was huge and had the feel of a TV show about it.  Golf carts rolled around and everyone had one.  It was a little surreal and a bit like the TV show of the 1960’s, The Prisoner.  After a while, you get into it.  The golf carts were a must anyhow because the beach and the marina were around 7 kilometers away.  There were polo fields and skeet shooting places, and golf courses with guys dressed up to the nines with their own caddies and looking surprisingly and shockingly bad.  It even gave me cause to think I could return here to play golf even though I’m appalling.  Unfortunately, I got lost easily and was fooled by speed bumps.  The golf cart even lost its front piece somewhere on the road and I had to get out to fix it.  It all became part of my routine.  Take advantage of the pool in the morning, a nice breakfast, a drive in the golf cart for about an hour, and then a sunset at the beach.  I didn’t take advantage of any of the main facilities mainly because I wouldn’t know how to skeet shoot, I don’t like guns, and polo was something that was way beyond my class station!

But the place was really nice.  I was traveling on my own, got used to my own company, and the service was impeccable.  The restaurant by the reception was decent although there was this irritating rule that you had to wear a collared shirt to eat there.  Really?  There were a bunch of restaurants by the marina that was great for lunch, but for dinner, at least in my golf cart, it was simply too much of a perilous thought to have a beer or glass of wine and then jump back into my golf cart to drive on dark roads with rarely any signposts.  My driver told me that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez lived in a complex not far from here.  I could get used to it I suppose.  I was very grateful that this was my introductory immersion to the Dominican Republic.

 

Exploring the Treasures in Colmar

Colmar was such a surprise.  I had no idea what treasures were there.  We had decided to go
Colmar because the famed Unterlinden Museum had some extraordinary medieval polyptychs from the early 1300’s.  The masterpiece was the Isenheim altarpiece.  My mate loved this stuff so frankly, he dragged us all there and what a pleasant and wonderful surprise it was.  In addition to these spectacularly colorful paintings, there were a scattering of Picassos and the museum held one of the three tapestries of La Guernica.  As for the other two tapestries – one is in Japan and the other is owned by Nelson Rockefeller’s estate and is constantly out on loan.

I didn’t know that this delightful town was a spectacular assemblage of Hansel and Gretel half-timbered houses that wound around the narrow streets and along the canals that crisscrossed the city.  The colors of these quaint houses were amazing, almost surreal.  We took what essentially was a punt boat with an electric motor and silently weaved our way under low bridges and gardens that backed onto the canal.  It looked and reminded me of Little Venice in London.  How had I missed this place on my prior travels?  It’s old brick marketplace, it’s completely authentic feel, it felt, unlike any place I had ever been to.   It definitely did not feel like France but they sure spoke French!  It was one of those places that had been trading nationalities for well over a century.  It was Alsace.

 

Do You Have Irish Roots?

Referendums

It’s been a tough few months out there.  First, the disastrous vote on Brexit by the (get this) “Brexiteers” followed by the new reign of King Trump of Orange (no relation to William of Orange).  And here I am with two passports, one British and one American, feeling that I need a stopgap.  As it turns out, the UK parliament has decidedly voted to move Brexit into motion.  What that means for me is that I face, along with every other pro-European, the uncertainty of access into the 27 other member countries of the EU.  So, whoever thought up the idea of a referendum? Well, actually we have the Swiss to blame for that.

Around the 13th century, the Swiss started it all and it still thrives there to this day.  All you need to trigger one of these things is 100,000 votes.  Well, as we know, it’s not all wine and roses.  Hitler used the device to promote his populist rantings and managed to screw the entire western world over and kill a lot of innocent people in the process.  Referendums gave him the dictatorial powers that enabled him to dominate the evil arena for over 12 years.  In the USA, there’s no national mechanism for a referendum.  Pity, as we could probably do something about Donald of Orange right now given his current standing!  Still, 24 states hold referendums and Massachusetts became the most recent state to pass legalization of marijuana laws through this device.  So, referendums are really not all that bad.  It’s just that when you need them to fail, the failsafe doesn’t work.  Brexit voters just caused the biggest upset in British politics…and what will happen to Scotland?  After all, Romans thought it was wise to keep out the Scots by building a wall!  Heard that somewhere before.  Didn’t work then. Won’t work now!

My Only Hope – Ireland

My grandmother was from County Clare and according to Irish law that entitles me to apply for citizenship.  Therefore, it’s a route back into the European sunshine of 27 states.  I knew granny would be good for something even though none of us could understand a word that she said!  So, off I have been on the path of discovery to County Clare, the tiny town of Scarriff, and the even tinier hamlet of Aughram.  I am looking at church records, the births and deaths register in Dublin, you name it, I am on it.  And I am nearly there.

To be honest, it is exciting to retrace my heritage and the journey has been a journey of discovery and revelation.  As it turns out, my grandmother was telling porkypies (lies) about her age and it seems porkypies about her name.  But I got her!  Even though the shocking news about name and age was difficult to take for my mother, the consolation for us all was that we can all get Irish passports.  Unless, of course, the Brexit vote is reversed.  Unlikely though with the way the world is shaping up at the moment.  For Americans, think laterally.  You may have relatives in Mexico or Canada and let’s face it, a Mexican or Canadian passport may be the only way you get to spend your vacations in Cancun.  Of course, you may never be allowed back to the USA!

 

 

An Icelandic Winter

Iceland_Viking Peter 010917Iceland_Waterfalls 010917 Iceland_Plates 010917Iceland_Harbor 010917                It’s the middle of winter, the snow has just started, the temperature is jumping down into the teens most days in Boston, and the days are desperately short.  I know what, let’s go to Iceland for a winter break and get away from it all!!  I know it sounds crazy and for sure it cannot match with a one-week getaway in the Caribbean, but in my mind it’s actually better than that.  This, after all, is the land that the Vikings populated over 1,000 years ago and a chance for all of us to get a glimpse of where they lived and what Vikings really looked like.  Believe me, not much has changed.  Iceland has a population of just over 300,000 people.  Believe it or not, everybody that you bump into on the street looks like they could have been a Viking or a Viking’s wife, and they all love it here.

The last time I had visited Iceland was a couple of years ago.  When I went in July, it was not balmy but the sun literally never set.  However, this time I went in the beginning of January.  There is barely five hours of daylight, it’s dark when you wake up, and what little light there is disappears soon into the afternoon.  Truly, it’s a crazy place to go!  But you know what?  I loved it.

The arrival morning in Reykjavik was not great.  We rented a car but lashing rain and freezing conditions were not inviting.  The guy at Hertz thought it would be a bad idea to cancel the reservation even though visibility and my local knowledge were nonexistent.   Still I ended up cancelling the car.  Good Idea.  But we decided to take a cab.  Bad idea.  $200 later, the meter gave me the nasty news.  Recommendation: Never take cabs in Reykjavik.  There are bus services everywhere and they are cheap and reliable.  Actually, it’s the only thing that is cheap in Iceland!   

Reykjavik is a totally different city in the winter.  The weather is unpredictable – a blizzard, some rain, freezing conditions, clear skies, it’s got the lot.  The museums are great and informative, especially the Settlement Exhibition and Viking World.  The food scene in general is terrific with great restaurants and late bookings.  Two restaurants I liked were The Fish Market, next to the Centrum Hotel, and The Sjavargrillid Seafood Grill on Skolavoroustigur 14.  The bars are lively to say the least.  Weekend last calls will outlast all but the intrepid youth; 4 to 5 A.M. and they’re still lining up to get in.  There are also several great bars off of the same street that the seafood grill is on.  The food scene is dominated by fish, with lots of cod and arctic char, the occasional puffin or reindeer thrown into the mix for those who can deal with it, and a dash of mink whale if you can deal with that also.  Juice bars are everywhere and the food is pretty healthy.  The two main squares are loaded with things to do and places to see and the harbor is undergoing development with spectacular views across the bay of the snowcapped mountains.  There is a real youthful feel to the city.

We did all of the tourist stuff including the Golden Circle tour to see the Geysir, the Gullfoss Waterfalls, and the tectonic plates at Pingvellir.  In between, in the brief hours of daylight that we had, there were spectacular views of the faraway mountains and volcanoes.  We even saw the northern lights.  Yes, we actually went hunting for them with a northern light expert looking for holes in the clouds.  There were blizzard conditions and we almost gave up hope when suddenly the clouds moved apart and this dazzling magical light show started.  It was like nothing I had ever seen.  The Blue Lagoon was fun.  We had a reservation at night and it proved to be a clear night with a bright half-moon.  Such a spectacular way to hang out before a late night dinner.  So in winter there’s actually plenty of things that make Reykjavik a fabulous city to visit for a three-day stay. 

Iceland has plenty of unique features.  The great news about Iceland is that it’s expensive so there is absolutely nothing to buy.  In fact, sometimes the prices border on crazy (hence the crazy taxi fare), but in the restaurants and bars, you can navigate these prices.  As most of the excursions are included when you travel to Iceland, you escape the harsh reality of the nasty excursion bill.  The Icelandic language is authentic and unchanged from its original Viking days.  It is absolutely impossible to understand but everybody speaks English as the kids in school are taught English from the age of four.  There is a great sign as you enter the airport.  It says that all of Iceland’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources – earth, wind, and fire.  So, yeah, they keep the Christmas lights on a little bit longer and the Blue Lagoon is lit up way into the night.  But with practically no electricity bill, it’s not an issue.  The quality of life in Iceland is at such a high level that practically no one wants to leave over the long-term. 

The great thing about Iceland is that each season offers different opportunities.  My advice is to go there if you had never been, to return there if you had never been and sample a different season, and if you are a teacher, take your group for a short break or combine it with London.  If you are a STEM teacher, there is so much to do and so much to study, that it is probably the greatest outdoor classroom in the world.   

P.S. it is not quite as cold as everybody says.  In fact, today, in Boston, it is 7° Fahrenheit and it sure did not feel that cold in the Blue Lagoon a few nights ago!

California Dreaming on the Ski Slopes

I had planned a ski trip with my son to Colorado’s Telluride.

I even booked a room at a cool looking hotel, the Madeline Hotel, and paid a nonrefundable deposit. We were all set to go.  But frantically, my son kept telling me that Colorado had one thing missing and that was the snow.  It seemed to have more rain than snow and the conditions were looking London-like; not what you tend to think of when you imagine Colorado skiing.  Add to that a New England winter where we had barely a dusting and I was imagining that global warming was catching up with my winter activities!

What to do then?  At the last minute, my son, who had taken on the role of a meteorological expert, spotted a storm from the Pacific that was heading right for Tahoe in California.  I hadn’t been there for years but this sounded like a plan! California skiing!

The first thing I had to do was call the hotel in Telluride and see what kind of deal they would give me.  After a couple of phone calls, it turned out that a nice guy who understood the dilemma offered to give me a full refundable credit with a one year expiration date.  Very cool service I thought.  I will be getting to Telluride within the next 12 months to enjoy the beautiful town and what looked like a beautiful hotel. It was a smart move. I have told more people that this hotel is great…and I have not even stayed there!

In the meantime, I reconfigured my flights, flew into Reno, met my son, drove in a four-wheel vehicle up to Tahoe and within 20 minutes we encountered the blizzard that would stay with us for two and a half days.

It was enough snow for a season and we got the weekend of weekends!

Yes I did manage to ski through the blizzard-like conditions, hit the powder awkwardly at first, and waited for the sun that eventually came out on Monday.  What I did get was this extraordinary appreciation of Tahoe’s ski location.  We skied Alpine Meadows three times, Northstar once, and Squaw Valley once.  Some of the vistas from Alpine Meadows across the lake were unbelievable.  We stayed near Tahoe City which is a delightful city courtesy of a great Air B&B.  I had dinner at Sunnyside Restaurant where the fish tacos were brilliant and service was fantastic.  Everything and everybody was about the conditions. Alpine was the favorite with the pure connoisseurs. It’s just got that air of non-gourmet authenticity about it. Not sure how well it will hold on to that when they connect Squaw and Alpine together next year.

What I loved about California skiing was that whole California vibe.

Everybody seems so basically very cool.  You drop into the bowls and cruise the corduroy and such. On the lift at Squaw Valley I was with a whole bunch of people of mixed ages. My son had wandered off to some black trails and I was just hanging solo. Some guy asked if I had been here before.  I told him I came through here hitchhiking in 1972.  Everyone looked at me.  The older guy said, “Wow, far out man,” and the younger kids just said, “Cool man! What was that like? ” Honestly I felt like I was a relic reporting from the hippy trail.  It was like a scene from the movies and that was what hitching around in ‘72 was basically like. One VW van too many. Glad I made it through and happy to make it back to Tahoe again!
California Skiing Pietro Place Peter Jones California Skiing Pietro Place Peter Jones

Rome

I love Rome.

From the moment I jump in the cab, there is a sense of gradual transition as you journey into this incredibly beautiful city filled with dust, cracks, and occasional garbage bags. It’s all here.

For me it begins as we pass the Sheraton Hotel.  Out in the distance is Esposizione Universale Roma (EUR), a 1930’s modernist vision community of how Rome should be in the new world.  It didn’t really work out that well but it left us some interesting buildings and now a trendy neighborhood with parks and metro access to both the beach and the center of town.  That’s the other thing about Rome – it’s a beach city.  The Roman port of Ostia is connectible by metro from the beach resort through Acilia and trendy living areas of Rome to the Colosseum.

Then for me the real transition begins.  The first sight of any significance is the white marble Pyramid of Cestius outside Porta San Paolo gate. Then you make that turn up the Aventine Hill with the Palatine Hill facing you.  Residential palaces in pink Roman stone look down on the vast field of grass that is the Circus Maximus, one of the largest arenas in the world during roman times.

It becomes frenetic and exhausting at this point with ancient fragments popping up every second it seems.  The right turn at the bottom of the hill takes you by the Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth).  Opposite from that there is a Greek temple then a Roman temple and as the roads start to move around, you start to see what looks like the Colosseum but in fact is Marcello’s amphitheater, the Teatro di Marcello. Behind that is Octavia’s portal and the Jewish ghetto.  On the right side lies the most glorious juxtaposition of stairways anywhere.  There is the very subtle Capitoline Hill Stairs, the Cordonata, right next to the severe and steep medieval stairway that leads to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli.  On the right hand side beyond the stairways is the slightly incongruous, but ever faithful tourist site for lost travelers, the 19th century wedding cake built to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1870 named the Vittorio Emanuele monument.

We are now in the Renaissance period with the Piazza Venezia with Trajan’s Forum on the right and I have disappeared into Rome before even my first cappuccino.

Rome Pietro Place Peter Jones Rome Steps Pietro Place Peter Jones

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones

Zurich

I had never been to Zurich before and probably will never go back.

Last year I was in Lausanne and promised myself never to return! I added it to my list of boring places – Deauville, Trouville, Biarritz. Places that I was curious about but couldn’t muster up enough energy or desire to return. Cross them off the list and add them to Cyprus and a few other places that I have been inquisitive about and will not go back to. But Zurich…I am torn.

This year we descended upon Zurich because I had heard some great things about it. A good nightlife, diverse restaurants, and an overall beautiful city. We stayed in the Stork Hotel. A fabulous location in a great part of town. Café stools outside overlooking the river made it utterly charming and even with cold weather, they provided blankets! I loved this hotel. A pure Swiss scene with beautiful houses over the Limmat River, three towering clock towers, and an extraordinary museum, the Kunsthaus Zürich, packed chock-a-block with masterpieces through the ages. There was a lot of Giacometti, in fact the whole family of Giacometis, a fair amount of Chagall, and a splash of Picasso and other xtraordinary artists. It had the lot. It was slightly overwhelming!

There were the two principal churches in Zurich with their stained glass windows rendered more spectacular by the artists whose paintings I had just seen in the museum. The walks were pleasant, the streets and squares were made with lots of cobblestones, all extraordinarily clean. Everything spilled onto the lovely river, even the Bahnhof with its underbelly filled with shops and eateries was decidedly clean and accesible. And of course there were swans. Lots of them.

This is a city with enough to do if you plan two or three days max.

On the restaurant scene, there are expensive places that have an iconic history in Zurich folklore like the Kronenhalle. The food there is pure Swiss with rösti, lots of meat, and fabulous desserts. The ambiance is extraordinary. Original artwork is all around – a Chagall here, a Miro there. Not far away there is Brasserie Lipp, one of Paris’ most reputable brasserie’s transplanted into the heart of Zurich. There are less expensive options and of course a few pubs where you can grab a beer, a burger, and watch a soccer game. The nightlife was a bit thin and daytime was a little quiet. Everything was very orderly and very Swiss. The tram system was incredibly efficient and very clean. As I walked along the narrow alleyways by the river and crossed one of the smaller bridges to get to the Church of the Grossmünster, I thought of how civilized this place is. Probably a nice place to bring the kids up. It’s a bit like Vancouver. But I really do not think I could live here!

Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones Zurich Pietro Place Peter Jones

Vancouver

Vancouver – Hit or Miss?

Having spent several days on the West Coast – a little Seattle earthiness, a bit of the gorgeous climate of San Diego, and a touch of L.A. – I had this absolute desire to go to Vancouver.  I am not really a Canada freak but I do enjoy it.  I quite like Montreal partly because you get to try your French skills out.  Quebec is old world charm and the restaurants are not bad.  Frankly, it’s also not far from Boston.  But Vancouver, I had heard, was a fun, vibrant, and cool city with an incredible ski resort not far away, Whistler.  So off I went.

Canada has an incredibly efficient entry and exit customs clearance facility.  It is orderly, there are people who direct you with a smile, the machines all work and it is relatively quiet and highly civilized.  The journey in from the airport is pretty stunning.  We could make out beautiful waterfront glass skyscrapers that faced the mountains on the other side of the bay.  The mountains were huge and there was snow on the top.  It really was a breathtaking setting.  We came in through the charming Granville district and then headed through a bunch of boutique shop fronts before getting to our hotel, the Rosewood Georgia.  I was liking this place.  The Rosewood was right in the center of the city and I have stayed at Rosewood properties before and I like the chain.  The hotel was, as is always the case at Rosewood properties, excellent on service and detail and I felt sure that this was going to be a fun few days.

We had planned to do sightseeing the following day, visit the Granville Island famous for the marketplace, take a little ferry ride around, head over to the Vancouver Convention Center, and maybe even try a seaplane ride.  So why did I find myself going to a James Bond movie at 7 o’clock the following day?  There was something about Vancouver that was not quite making sense.  It was a bit dull and there were not that many people around.  There was a phenomenal exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery highlighting the Group of Seven and Canadian painters influenced by them.  But after that, it got a bit thin out there.  We did not go for the seaplane but we did discover a great seafood restaurant called Coast.  They had dover sole!

The next day we went to Whistler and it snowed.  The drive up was absolutely spectacular but Whistler was one of those fake villages that had been put up a few years ago and it did not look like there was much of a scene beyond the usual blah blah.  The snow did look great, although I was not skiing, but it was fun to be in the thick of skier talk in the gondola.  So, the scenery is stunning, the snow levels are higher than comparable ski resorts in Colorado but it still was not convincing.

I felt a bit sheepish about it.  Everyone had said that this place was beautiful but I seemed to have missed it.  Maybe it was the seaplane I should have taken or maybe it was just a weekend when everyone was away.  The city had no edge to it.  Maybe I will go back and look for it again next time.

Vancouver Pietro Place Vancouver Pietro Place Vancouver Pietro Place

Vancouver Pietro Place

Image credits: Vancouver Sun and HelloBC.com

Hotel Innovation

Hotel Innovation – Their Loss or Ours?

It is fascinating to think about missing the boat.  Blackberry missed the boat and they have been waiting at the port ever since.  Myspace missed the boat.  Digital cameras, except for the professionals, have all but disappeared.  Embedded GPS systems in cars are useless.  Not only do you save $1,800 for the GPS and add-ons that you might not want, but on your smart phone you have the best GPS system in the world.

So when I was staying at a hotel the other day, I was thinking of how hotels have also missed the boat in terms of ‘hotel innovation.’  Instead of adapting fast, they still hold on to all of those things we do not need.  The telephone in the room, the clumsy alarm clock that nobody can ever work, room service that sucks, and is not available when you want it, dry cleaning and washing facilities that are so horribly expensive that you start to wear your underpants inside out every other day, and who pays for movies on tv?  Nobody unless you are a loser.  What about the gym?  One treadmill, a tired looking universal weight system, and a mat that has not been replaced for four years does not compete with the state of the art gym I can grab using my phone to locate.  Incidentally, I do not have to ask somebody to call a cab, I already Ubered it and it’s waiting outside for me.  Fact is, armed with my iPhone and my Netflix account, I can get everything that I want.

Why don’t hotels get into our groove and stop trying to provide us with things that we do not want or need and rather sink into what we’re doing and access information? Incidentally, if I have to walk by another discarded plate of somebody’s breakfast, lunch or dinner in the corridor, I’m going to lose my mind.  What do hotels need to do?  Provide great beds, decent lighting, a great shower, charging facilities, a hotel app so that I can easily access things that are close by, and provide products that you can see and use.  The rest I will take care of myself.

Hotel Innovation

Image courtesy of boardingarea.com