5 Things You Need to Know About Washington, DC

Washington DC-Capital

There is nothing like spending a weekend in Washington, DC. Arrival on Thursday afternoon of a holiday weekend means that you are greeted with millions of families and school children on trips, and traffic that you can’t imagine. But who cares about that. You’re in DC.

If you’ve ever wondered if the country has returned to its former glory, visit Washington, DC to see all the new building that is going on. New communities are being developed everywhere you look. Condos loom above city streets, and green spaces are being factored in so that it doesn’t all look like a jig-saw puzzle.

1. Restaurants are “King”

The best thing about DC is  the proliferation of restaurants that have recently opened. More than one can count, and each one trying to be better than then next. It is hard to find a “bad” restaurant in the district. However, mediocre is making a come-back.

For my weekend travels, I decided to try some old favorites and some new. For old favorites I went to Busboys and Poets, a great place to have any meal, although get ready for an energetic crowd. Next, I tried, The Hamilton, a beautifully decorated large restaurant across from the Willard Hotel. The menu at The Hamilton is eclectic and the service is slow. However, it is worth going there just to see the place.  They have a nice bar. I ventured to Columbia Heights to have  brunch at The Heights, a delightful neighborhood restaurant, with great outdoor dining, and food to match.

2. Luxury Properties and Hotels Abound

Every where you look in the District, you see evidence of new construction, and all of it is expensive. New condos, and row houses are re- forming what used to be drab old communities into chic new ones with people out walking their dogs and enjoying coffee at a nearby cafe. One neighborhood that I dropped by was the Navy Yard. It was only a few years ago that this was nothing to look at, but now, it has beautiful condos, green space, restaurants, bars, and shopping areas. Everything that a person could want within a small community.

If you are looking for luxury hotel space, the city continues to build hotels on practically every corner. Trump is remodeling, what used to be the old Post Office Building, to put up a mammoth property, Trump International Hotel,   which sits at the end of 11th St as it intersects with Pennsylvania Av.  Opulent is all one can say about how the structure looks. The hotel will include high-end shopping and office facilities.  The Conrad is building a hotel in DC, and I look forward to the elegance that it will bring to this busy city.

3. Shopping Matches 5th Ave.

Washington used to be known for its big box and outlet stores. No more. Now,  there are a myriad of designer showrooms that capture your attention and your wallet. The designers that now have showrooms here match those of 5th Ave in NYC.  Store after store provides you with the latest in both women’s and men’s fashion. I would say that this is easily a place where people would fly to for shopping rather than to New York.

4. This is an “Uber” City

While there are still plenty of cars and bicycles in the city, the use of “Uber” is considerably high. People utilize Uber much like a taxi service here, for short and long trips, and schedule black car service when then really wish to make an impression; which is all the time.

5.  Get Ready to Pay

Your nation’s capital is quickly becoming the city for the “well heeled.” It is not unusual to find  hotel room rates to be north of $500 per night, and certainly the cost for two to dine out is in excess of $200. However, everyone is there to enjoy themselves, and what a great time you will  have.

I hope that the museums remain open so that the rest of us will have something to do when our money runs out.

If You Only Have One Night, Make It Count!


Courtesy of the Conrad,Indianapolis
Courtesy of the Conrad,Indianapolis

Recently, my husband and I decided to take a quick trip to celebrate his birthday. We decided to go to Indianapolis and stay at the Conrad. Under normal circumstances, one might say, why would you select Indianapolis, and this particular hotel?

We selected Indianapolis because it is a nearby city and we thought that it would be a fun place to go for an overnight stay. There is shopping, jazz clubs, and great dining.  Since we were celebrating his birthday, I selected the Conrad, because I thought it would be a different experience from the other box hotels. I had no idea what we were in for.

There are only four (4) Conrad hotels in the US, Ft. Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Chicago, and New York. All the others are in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. When you stay at the Conrad, you quickly realize why the hotel brand has such an “exclusive” aura. The properties are beautiful, even sumptuous, and they take service and execution to its highest level.

When making our reservation, I had included an email note that said that we were celebrating my husband’s birthday and requested that they have a little “snack” in the room. Upon arrival, when we drove up and exited our vehicle, the valet asked for our name, and when I gave it, he said “Happy Birthday, sir.” The same thing happened at the Front Desk. My husband couldn’t believe it. The staff was certainly on point.

Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianaspolis

The hotel lobby is open and modern, yet inviting and relaxing. When you are at the Conrad, you feel transformed. I couldn’t believe that we were in a mid-western city. Somehow, it has a  European feel,  and even though it has over 200 rooms, it still intimate, like a boutique hotel at its best. You can tell that a lot of thinking went into the design of this hotel.  The hotel has beautiful art collections in the lobby and on the second floor, that more than catch your eye, they  cause you to want to browse and discover more.  This is not your busy business  hotel. This is a hotel that is committed to the “guest experience.” In fact, my husband and I didn’t want to leave it. There’s something interesting for you around each corner, something that will make you want more, whether it is the spa, fitness center, or the adjoining restaurant and bistro.

The hotel  capitalizes on the fact that today’s traveler likes to keep it simple, and so they have made it so. Adjoined to the hotel is the Capital Grille, known for its exquisite upscale dining, and a Wine and Bistro, called Tastings, which has one of the largest wine collections by the glass, or bottle, in the world.  The Capital Grille has a gorgeous bar that offers all types of  drinks and cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Surrounded by dark wood, you will find locals at the Capital Grille Bar, nattily attired and sipping on their favorite drink, while discussing politics or sports. The more energetic Wine and Bistro,  Tastings, offers small plates to go along with all that wine that you drink. Music plays, while you hear people laughing and talking as they drink flights of wine. Tastings is clearly  “meeting” place.  Depending upon what you prefer, both places  provide a wonderful opportunity to have a great experience without ever having to leave the hotel premises.

Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianapolis
Courtesy of the Conrad, Indianapolis

But now it is time to relax in your room. Rooms are large with spectacularly comfortable furnishings. If you are interested in in-room dining, you will love the staff that appear at your door dawning white coats as they carry in your tray. It is all quite spectacular! The staff are warm and friendly and make you feel “at home” at your residence at the Conrad. Yes, you can dream of living the high life, as you go down to the lobby and watch beautiful cars pull up in front of the hotel. Everyone is given “red carpet” treatment.

So, what happened with the snack in the room you ask? When we arrived, there it was on a tray. Nuts, candies, chocolate covered strawberries, and the best part, a card signed by the staff to my husband. He said that he “felt like a rock star.” What a lovely way to execute the request, and how wonderful it made him feel.

Many hotels can provide a nice stay, and even be friendly to you upon arrival. Ask the right questions, but few know how to treat guests with a level of importance that lets them know that it is a guest centered hotel. From the design, to the training of its staff, this is a hotel that thinks and cares about every aspect of what the guest will experience, and they want to make sure that they get it right.

So, if you only have one night to stay, my recommendation is to select wisely. Select a place that you know has phenomenal service, a great location, can provide every amenity, and make you feel special. I would say, select the Conrad.

Dining Alone: The Joy of Solitude


After being on the road for many years, the concept of dining alone is not something I ever quite got accustomed to. I always felt a bit self-conscious and nervous. Why? I asked myself. I am a perfectly confident person, but there is something about entering a restaurant alone that makes me feel uneasy.

One day, while having lunch with some friends, I noticed people who entered alone. As each guest  arrived at the hostess station, the hostess blurted out  ” Table for one!”  You could hear that screech across the room. I am positive that the hostess didn’t mean to do anything improper, but, I could tell each time, that the person felt embarrassed. So, it made me think. Why do diners need to feel embarrassed about dining alone? First of all, a decent percentage of the population is single, and so dining alone should not carry the stigma that it once  did.  We have to be able to change with the times, and make dining alone something that is part of our ever changing culture.  Here are 5 tips for making it work for you.

1.  Insist upon a good table, preferably one next to a window. Use the window location to do some serious people watching. Watching others as they pass by the restaurant gives your eyes something to focus on, and usually, you will be entertained by what you see.

2. Don’t allow anyone to seat you next to the kitchen or bathrooms. Even if the restaurant is crowded, stand your ground on this one. If you sit at a poor table, it will make you feel as though you are being punished for coming alone. This will ruin an otherwise pleasant dining experience.

3. Engage the hostess in conversation as you are being seated. This is a small trick that tends to work well. Say something nice and pleasant. Even give a compliment. You will be surprised at how it improves where you are seated.

4. Order all the food and drinks at once. Sometimes servers feel that 1-top tables are going to be a waste of their time. They have to stop at the table multiple times to get the order, and to bring the food and the check. Therefore, to ensure great service, tell the wait person you need a few minutes. When they return, order everything that you may want, including drinks and dessert at once. The server will love you for that, and you will get great service.

5. Have your smart phone ready.  It is now considered totally acceptable for people to go to restaurants and not speak to one another as they are texting, searching the web or even talking on the phone. Therefore, you can simply “join the crowd” and pull out your smart phone and read the paper, look at emails, or whatever you choose to do. Try to avoid talking on the phone though. I still find that to be gently annoying.

If you follow these tips, you might realize that eating alone isn’t as bad as one might think. With practice, you may start to enjoy the solitude.

Tipping Apps Now Available

Determining the tip is often an awkward moment. We find ourselves trying to talk with friends, while attempting to determine in our head what the correct percentage is, while at the same time, evaluating the level of service. That may be a lot to do when engaged in conversation.   More often than not often, I’ve noticed that people just appear to “give up” and put down a number that seems appropriate. In fact, they may even remark about it saying… ” I hope this is right.”  This leads to over-tipping or under-tipping. Neither of which is good.

Now, there are apps available for download, which can provide you with exactly what you need in terms of determining the best tip.  These apps are easy to use, and take the pain out of the process. Anything that is easy to use, means that it will be used frequently. Some apps  even calculate tips for tabs that are being “split”. Now, that’s a crowd pleaser!

You just may want to add one of these to your smart phone. Certainly, I don’t want to catch you in a restaurant with your calculator.


5 Hotels/Resorts to Set Your Sights On for a Re-defined Staycation


Several years ago when the economy tanked, the notion of the “Staycation” became popular. People stayed at home, and found activities that they could do in their home town. That sounds like Sunday to me, with distractions.  The purpose of a vacation, no matter how small, is to allow you to relax, reguvenate your mind and spirit, and to allow you to return to your family, friends and work group a refreshed being, ready to tackle the multiplicities of today’s challenges.

So, I started thinking. Why do we have to have the Staycation as currently defined? Why can’t we have an “Expanded Staycation”, one where we are able to move beyond the perimeter of our own dwelling, and instead, take retreat in a local hotel or resort, or drive to one that is within 3-4 hours? The drive itself will be part of the winding down process.   The idea had endless possibilities. Instead of only one vacation a year that requires tireless planning, a person could have multiple Expanded Staycations throughout the year, that are purposed for family, girl friends, or special getaways for you and your spouse or special someone.

I selected fie (5) properties that are within an easy reach of metropolitan areas. Take a look at each location, and determine what strikes your fancy, and start planning your Expanded Staycation.

Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotel
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

After a hard week, it’s time to call your spouse or significant other and say… “ Meet me in the city.” And the place to meet and stay is Ink48, a Kimpton Hotel. This chic boutique hotel, in the heart of Manhattan,  has everything that one might want or need to totally relax while enjoying the world’s cosmopolitan hub.  You will not be far from some of the favorite activities, the theatre district, shopping, that make it such a draw.  The hotel recognizes that the city is full of excitement and energy, and it aims to calm your spirit while giving credence to that foundation. Let’s start with its modern and open designed lobby area, which is referred to  as “the living room.” Gee, I wish my living room looked like this. The living room, is not just a lobby, it is actually a gathering place for the hotel guests. Throughout the day, guests  lay claim to comfortable chairs and couches to sit and read,  or to meet with others in nicely grouped seating areas. So, it really is a living room.  The guest rooms, with views of  the Hudson River, add to the sense of tranquility, with a soft color pallet of naturals with hints of yellow and red accents, and yoga  mats  provided  to help you start or end your day in the most peaceful manner. (This is a touch). For those who prefer pampering, the InkSpa is the perfect place to go. It is a full service spa, including hair salon. If you decide that you just want to have a great meal, look no further than the highly touted PRINT restaurant, serving farm-to-table menu selections. This is the place to come and experience a culinary delight. While on your Expanded Staycation, why not call some friends to meet you for drinks, and head to the 16th floor to the Press Lounge. This glass-enclosed space provides unsurpassed views of the city, while giving you the chance to relax, chat and get caught up. What a way to take in the city.

Lobby. Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels
Lobby. Photo courtesy of:
21c Museum Hotels
Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels
Photo courtesy of: 21c Museum Hotels

If you love art, and you wish to enhance your sense of culture and design then a stay at the  21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati. Voted in 2014, #1 hotel in the mid-west by Conde Nast Traveller, it offers the perfect place for your Expanded Staycation. This boutique hotel is unique in that it  has a rotating art collection and situated next to the Contemporary Arts Center, and across the street from the Arnoff Center, in downtown.   Art relaxes the mind, body and spirit, and this hotel aims to please.  Everything about it speaks to well thought out design, from the muted color scheme and minimalist design to the extraordinary lighting, which in itself is like an extension of the art that is displayed.  As you go through the facility, you will find yourself stopping to stare and wonder for just a moment exactly where you are. The hotel has a very European feel to it. While at the 21c Museum Hotel, you need to make an appointment at The Spa at 21c.  There, the staff provides rejuvenating treatments that revive you and make you want to return. After attending a cultural event at the Aronoff, or going through the Contemporary Arts Center, you may feel like getting something to eat. What better place than the Metropole, where you will find fresh ingredients served from the open hearth kitchen. It’s a great place to dine and has a fun atmosphere.  The food is inventive, without being presumptuous. Weather permitting, perched atop the hotel is the Cocktail Terrace, where you can enjoy the view of the city and have specialty drinks. Now, it is time to return to your room, and enjoy the beauty and the simplicity of its design, and wish that some of the art was yours.

Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resorts
Photo courtesy of: French Lick Resort

Not far from Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Lexington is French Lick ResortThis resort is spectacular. If you are looking for a place for the entire family, this is the resort to select.  There is something here for everyone. No one is left wanting. The resort has two fabulous hotels, The West Baden Hotel and the French Lick Hotel. The hotels are different in that the West Baden is opulent, and the French Lick Hotel is more of a standard hotel that appeals to families and groups. The rooms in each of the hotels are quite nice by any standard, approximately 450 square feet. If you elect to stay at the West Baden Hotel, ask for a room overlooking its 200′ atrium lobby.  Both hotels have their own restaurants,  swimming pools, retail shopping, and spas. The spas deserve special mention. The spas at French Lick Resort are well known because of their mineral springs. It is said that they have “healing power”.    There is a trolley so that guests may use to travel between the two hotels, although you can easily walk the grounds between the two.  You can select activities to choose from such as horseback riding, bowling, wine tasting, cooking lessons, movie night, biking, hiking.There are a total of three golf courses. A new Pete Dye golf course, which will host the SPGA in May,2015.  There is an 18 hole course, and a 9 hole links course. The latter is especially fun for families to play. There are walking trails, and a  multitude of fine dining to casual restaurants on the property. There is a casino, which offers entertainment,and concerts featuring top national talent. At the end of your stay, you’ll discover that you still didn’t get it all in. That just means you have to return to French Lick Resort.


Photo courtesy of: Lowes Hotels
Photo courtesy of: Loews Hotels

If you live in  the Southwest, there are many hotels and resorts from which to select,  but the one that stands out for me for an Expanded Staycation is the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. Rated by Travel and Leisure as one of the World’s Best Family Hotels, this resort has a lot to offer. Let’s start with the scenery, and the building architecture. As you can tell from the photo, the structure of the building blends in with its natural setting. Upon arrival, every aspect of what you see  makes you say, “Wow”. The resort is meant to keep you engulfed in the beauty of the Sonora dessert while experiencing casual  yet luxurious  styled accommodations. The rooms are spacious by most standards (450 square feet), and are decorated in a neutrals, punctuated with white.  If possible, try to score  a room with a mountain view. Remember, you are there to relax. Walking paths abound,and along the way you’ll discover the 80′ waterfall and the butterfly garden. For those who wish more strenuous activity (not me), try the  hiking and biking trails. The scenery is breath-taking.  There are tennis courts, 2 glorious pools, and an adult only serenity pool. For those who remember to bring their clubs, there are  2 Tom Fazio designed golf courses. You will remember playing these courses in years to come.  Take a “selfie” at hole 18 and send it to your friends with bragging rights.  End your day at the Lakeside Spa. You’ll need it to work out the kinks from all that exercising. Try dinner at the Flying V Bar & Grille, and don’t forget the table- side guacamole, (the best I’ve ever had)  and margaritas on the patio at sun set. Put your feet up, and think  about how life is fine.

Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts
Photo courtesy of: Mandalay Bay Resorts

If you live in or around the LA basin, and you’re looking to get away to re-charge your batteries, why not go to Vegas.  The Delano, Las Vegas   is a sanctuary in a town filled with energy, entertainment and vices. It is considered a boutique hotel, although it is 43 stories high.  What you receive at this large golden tower is unparrelled design and service. You certainly know that you have “arrived” when you step into the Delano. You can hear yourself saying… “Well Aw right, Aw right!” It’s an all suite hotel. The suites are very spacious (725 square feet) and beautifully decorated in muted natural tones, with their iconic floor to ceiling  white flowing drapes. The ambiance is just what you need to feel relaxed and renewed. There’s an on-site spa to keep you in the mood.  You will not find a casino in this hotel. If you wish to gamble, you will need to go  elsewhere. If you are a foodie, then the Delano is your spot. Alain Ducasse has created a new venue  called Mix at the Delano, an inventive restaurant, with chef Bruno Riou,  which offers  exquisite food and a significant wine selection (5,000 bottles). One might think this is the place for special occasions, but I would say that if you are there, then that is the occasion.  The hotel also offers an elegantly decorated  lounge for drinks, the Franklin Lounge, a great place for meeting friends or simply having a specialty cocktail.  If you go to the Delano, don’t forget to pack your most fashionable outfit. Someone may want to take your picture.

Leaving a Good Tip Is Not What It Used To Be

Do you consider yourself a “good tipper?” When you’ve been served a nice meal, and your server was polite and attentive, what percentage did you leave?

To ensure that the wait staff are given their reasonable due for services rendered, many restaurants have started to post suggested tip percentages at the bottom of the bill. This keeps people who are not math geniuses from getting out their phones to do the calculations. The percentages are generally shown as 10-15 and 20% respectively. However, some establishments are deciding to use a new digital payment option, which displays tipping percentages of 25-50 and 75%. This is a “game changer.”

The New York Times did an article on just this subject, and I was stunned at this growing trend. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/business/dollar3-tip-on-a-dollar4-cup-of-coffee-gratuities-grow-automatically.html?  I have eaten at incredible restaurants. I appreciate great meals, and the service that is a part of that experience,  but I do not recall having ever  left a tip of that magnitude, and wonder what it would take for me to do so?

As we move into this new era of generous tipping, each diner will need to consider how much the service is truly worth. Are you tipping for the quality of the service, or are you helping to fund the wage gap that exist in the service industry? It will be interesting to see the customer’s response to this issue.Will customers feel okay at plopping down 25%, but resist tipping at the upper ranges? Is this an indication of a creep that we should expect? If so, in the next five years, how much is that final bill actually going to cost ?

I think that we have to separate the issue of paying for the wage gap, and paying for quality service. As customers, if we are doing the latter, then it is incumbent upon the establishment to provide: 1) the environment and atmosphere 2) a creative menu 3) excellently prepared food4) highly trained staff, and last 5) personalized service to incite the customer to want to pay more. It is in this area that I believe is the “sweet spot” for most restaurants. Do something different. Make the experience extraordinary, and memorable. Find a way to do that each time a person comes, and people will be willing to tip more.

Over the next few years, this will continue to be an interesting story to watch and on which to report. I will bring you updates on how this trend evolves and its impact on the traveler.  Stayed tuned.

This is the first in a series, Tuesday Travel Trends. Look for the next trend posting each Tuesday.

That Special Place

It is the beginning of the year, and everyone is releasing their list of the top properties and restaurants. This includes travel magazines, travel sections of news papers, and anyone who routinely writes about the travel industry. Here are my top places to stay.

Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee.  If you are looking for an exquisite resort, look no further than this Relais  & Chateau located  in the Smoky Mountains approximately twenty-five minutes from the  Knoxville airport. This resort has everything that one could possibly want; award winning dining and wine service, one of the top spas in the country,  golf, tennis, fly fishing, biking, walking trails, and a conference center.  This is the place that you go to for a weekend to  relax and get away from it all. The accommodations are superb. The cottages  are decorated in a shabby chic style with working fireplaces, in case you elect to come in cooler weather. Each cottage has a front porch that is quite suitable for reading, talking, or people watching.  Everything is top-notch at this resort, and you are treated like royalty. This resort has won almost every award in every major category.  It makes other resorts seem as though they need to “catch-up.” However, royalty has its price. So get ready to pay to play.

The Grand Beach Hotel, Surfside, Florida  This is an all-suite hotel. The design of which is breath-taking. The lines are clean and simple, using a color pallet throughout the facility of blue, white, and tan,  with all the furnishings as white. The layout of the hotel is quite open, so upon arrival, you enter the lobby and are able to look straight through to a large open bar/ lounge area, pool and the beach. You see glass and trees everywhere, and at a glance, you are not sure if you are outside or inside. It is visually both relaxing and appealing. There are two pools on the first floor and one on the top floor for adults only. This one is particularly interesting with its view of the  Miami skyline.  The suites are spacious and furnished in light wood. Request an ocean front room. The amount of glass in the room provides a perfect backdrop to the light colored furniture. The service is impeccable. They make you feel as though you are staying at a residence rather than a hotel. Its close proximity to high-end shopping at the Bal Harbour Shops, makes this hotel a “must stay” in the Miami area.

The Hutton, Nashville, Tennessee  It is an absolutely gorgeous hotel that makes you feel as though you have stepped into someone’s well decorated home with an outstanding art gallery.  The rooms, while small, are so well appointed that you want to take decorating tips from the designer. The bathroom with its waterfall shower is enchanting and romantic. This is the perfect hotel for the romantic weekend. A lively bar and good restaurant can be found on the first floor, and represent an excellent place to stop prior to returning to your room.

The Bohemian Hotel,  Savannah, Georgia is simply magnificent. You check in at a small desk in the lobby that is manned by friendly staff who serve as front desk and your concierge,  They are very knowledgeable of restaurants, events and all things, Savannah. One of the best features of this small beautiful hotel on the river is that the staff remembers your name  and calls you by name as you come and go. It is a very personal touch. The rooms are nicely appointed with a bit of a masculine feel. Request a room on the front of the building so that you can watch people stroll by, and it is quieter than the more popular river side. The Bohemian has a roof-top bar, which is popular for daytime drinks or evening fun with friends.

Hotel Monaco, Washington, DC. This is a Kimpton Hotel, and it was formerly  a bank building. The architecture in this hotel is stunning.   The lobby is large, yet welcoming, and the rooms are stylish and comfortable. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable.  This is definitely a place to meet your friends or business associates.  The  Poste Moderne Brasserie, which was recently re-launched for the winter, is a a trendy spot that serves great meals and equally fine cocktails.  You will not be disappointed. If you long to leave the hotel to discover other places in the area, you will not have any problems. The hotel is situated close to attractions and restaurants so that you will not spend all of your time calling Uber or hailing cabs. This is just what you want for a Washington, DC experience.

The Future is Now

Are you willing to pay for your restaurant reservation? The LA Times reported about a new trend in the restaurant business of apps that charge fees for reservations at restaurants. http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-future-food-dining-out-20150117-story.html

I can understand why this has started. Too often people contact restaurants and make a reservation, only to not show up. This “fee-based” app approach will make people be more thoughtful about their dining selections and planning.

The question is do we really need another app for this, or could this transaction actually be handled through a reservation mobile system like  Open Table? It would seem that would be more efficient. Also, the question is how much, and would there be a fee for all restaurants or only the better restaurants?

I would like to hear from you on this one.

Would you be willing to pay a fee for a reservation? ___ Yes  ___ No

How much would you be willing to pay?   __< $5 __$ 10_$15_$20 _>$20

Leave your response and comments below.

Fine Dining

Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to dine in some restaurants that are considered “fine dining.” But, what exactly makes a restaurant “fine dining”? Here are the things that I look for:

* The menu is simple, yet creative. You shouldn’t find items on the menu that you feel that you could prepare yourself.
* The ingredients that are used are exceptional to rare. This means that the chef takes care in what comes out of the kitchen, and doesn’t just go to the local market and select what  I would select.
* The service is delicately appropriate. This means that you don’t have to stand up at the end of the meal and “hail a server.”
* The noise level in the restaurant is moderate to quiet. You can actually have a conversation with friends without shouting.
* The décor is well thought out and planned. It is pleasant to look at; not overwhelming, but serves as a backdrop both in color and style to the food. The food is the main attraction.

Recently, while visiting Washington, DC I discovered two (2) restaurants that fit this category: Corduroy,which is across from the Convention Center, and The Grill Room at the Capella Hotel in Georgetown. Both provide an excellent fine dining experience, wanting to repeat.

How to Select a Great Hotel

You are planning a trip and you look at  travel sites, and the photos of the hotels look absolutely amazing. However, how can you determine which hotel is the right one for you to select for your vacation? Here are a few simple questions that you may want to ask yourself when making the decision.
(1) Where is the hotel  located? Is it near  things that you will want to do? Often, really wonderful hotels are located “off the beaten path, ” and therefore are inconvienient for those who wish to explore the city or night life.
(2) How many restaurants are located on the property and/or near by? This is essential for those days that you wish to remain close to the hotel and read a book.
(3) Does the hotel décor match what you like and enjoy? Don’t opt for a place that is traditional if you like modern and trendy. Select something that matches your personal taste.
(4) Does it have the services that you may want to use? Is there a spa on the property, golf course,etc. This is so much better than looking about town for these services.
(5) Does the hotel have a dedicated concierge service? It is favorable to have a dedicated person who can direct you to the activities that you wish to engage in, obtain theatre tickets, and secure tables at restaurants.
(6) What do other travelers say about it? Make sure that you check a variety of sites to see what travelers are saying about the property. Don’t just look at the favorable reviews, look closely at the ones that were not so complimentary and determine if the traveler mentioned anything that would be a “show stopper” for you.
(7) Is the hotel within your price range, or are you willing to splurge to have the experience? Sometimes, especially if you are going to be in a city for several days, it is worth it to “try out” a hotel just to see what it is like.

I utilized this approach on my most recent trip to Miami. I often stay at new properties. This time, I stayed at the Grand Beach Hotel, Surfside. I was a bit nervous since this brand is new to the U.S., but I was not disappointed. The hotel is absolutely amazing, and it fulfilled all expectations, including outstanding service, about which I am a stickler. So, having a systemized approach can assist you in meeting your travel taste and needs.

Let me know how it works for you.