Archive for the Category »Cool Hotels «

  Hotel of the Week: Nothing Fancy About It – Especially Not The Price
Basecamp Hotel

Basecamp Hotel

The thing I love about the 50-room Basecamp Hotel is that it fills a void: No, not a boutique hotel that’s fashionable- “Fashionable”  and “Boutique Hotel” are synonymous. The void it fills it that it is a hotel high on style, yet  low on attitude and prices.


Basecamp is in South Lake Tahoe, CA. The concept is simple: a rugged place to stay that is en vogue, close to biking, hiking, and ski trails- sort of like, well, a basecamp for fun.  The owner wanted to build a hotel reflecting the ideals of a  place where people can come together to share stories and exchange tips before heading out on their adventure.

loftThe other void it fills, is that there are rooms with bunk beds so families with more than 3 kids can all stay in the same room. Finally! Here is a room with 2 Queen beds and bunks…

8 bunks

and  there is one room that sleeps 8 with bunks. It resembles a summer camp, but nicer.


Actually, my favorite room IS pretty much an indoor camp site  called the Great Indoors. Young kids would love it, it has an indoor tent!


But it is only a king bed room, so no place for the kiddos.. My suggestion would be to bring the right companion who brings out your inner child :)

Beyond the rooms, the public amenities are thoughtful – 2 fire pits to make s’mores… an intimate bar serving hot chocolate and local brews… a roof-top hot tub with mountain views..breakfast top start your day (handy if you like to get to the slopes first thing)… and it is pet-friendly.

With ski season here, it is a good hotel about which to know – closest mountain is Heavenly Resort. A four minute walk, the hotel claims….And we all know how gorgeous Lake Tahoe is – summer and winter.

Rooms have motel-like rates:  Starting at $125 a night.    Happy Friday!


  Hotel of the Week:Epicurean Encounters

Hotel restaurants aren’t just to accommodate the business traveler’s quick power lunch, or the weary-eyed traveler who lands at an odd hour and can’t find anything else open. Nope. Some of my most exciting meals have been in hotel restaurants… they attract top chefs, hot designers, and the environment  can be dynamic because  guests are coming in and out at all hours.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, the biggest feast day of the year for many, I think it’s appropriate to talk about where you can have some of the best culinary experiences in America’s hotels. If you don’t have the energy to roast a bird or whip up some stuffing, ya might want to see if these special restaurants are serving on Thanksgiving:) Of course, this luxurious good food does come with a price. Hotel restaurants aren’t a bargain.




Only about a year old, this restaurant has great food and a comfortable vibe. The Library in the back is great for a casual meal or drinks. The place gets glowing reviews, especially for its chicken for two -


A whole-roasted chicken with foie gras, black truffle, and brioche.


It’s not cheap though  – $$$$ on Yelp.


white-barn-inn-restaurant-7From urban, to pretty much barn dining. The White Barn Inn wowed me years ago with a unique setting of an elegant farmhouse : think crisp white linens amid wood beams.

wbi_dining_roomThe dining room is literally a restored barn from the 1820s. But the ambiance is romantic chic, and the food is mouth watering. This special restaurant has received Forbes Five Star rating, as well as a AAA Five Diamond rating.


photoLet’s throw some ethnic diversity in the mix here with a superstar Japanese restaurant that never disappoints. The food at every Nobu restaurant I have visited is always fresh and creative… but the decor has been different, depending on location, The Vegas restaurant is stunning – with chandeliers that look like floating amoeba…

photo_2and an entire wall of interesting stone at the sushi bar.



This 5-star resort has a dining room, The Georgian,  that resoundingly reflects Southern hospitality and local flavor. Not to be Fancy Nancy again, but this is the only Forbes 5-star rated restaurant in the entire state of Georgia, according to the website.

Sea-Island-Restaurants-GeorgianRoomHighResolutionThe ambiance is slightly more formal – think Southern refinement – with a gorgeous fireplace to warm it up. It too is on the higher end of dining  – the bill can really add up. For a less expensive alternative, try the Georgian Room Lounge.


maialinoA Roman trattoria in the Gramercy Park hotel, brought to you by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Group. Lots of noteworthy touches – a view of Gramercy Park’s greenery,  a bread station in the middle of the room, & a menu filled with lots of casual finger foods.

20100304-maialino-salumani-station-023111Breakfast rivals the other meals – fresh baked pastries and heartier fare also.


mankas_sceneWhen I lived in San Francisco, this place was legendary to those  “in the know”… it can easily sneak under the radar, which is just another thing I love about Manka’s. It is one hour north of San Francisco in the hills of Inverness. It is rustic elegance in a hunting lodge type establishment.

mankas-dining-nook-300Think big fireplaces, large reading chairs, and plaid. The food served has a lot of local flavor, as much of it is fresh and farmed in the immediate area. The menu is a five course meal for about $50 on their website. Snuggle up here and explore the wonderful world of Tomales Bay and the rest of Marin County.

Enjoy your weekend!

  Hotel of the Week: London Calling! Oh-so Stylish & Relatively Affordable!

ampersand blue and redI get excited by hotel design, but that doesn’t keep me coming back if the establishment is not a good value,  in a bad location, dirty, or has unfriendly staff.

Based on that criteria, the Ampersand in London is fit for a queen.

ext ampersandThe boutique hotel has 111 rooms and suites, and is located in a residential area in Kensington.

I really like staying in hotels in residential areas…. there tends to be good transportation nearby, and is more low-key than the high-traffic zones. Plus, you really get to mingle with the locals more if you choose.

The only thing is -  it is on a sort of loud street with buses, so I don’t want to mislead you into thinking it is down-right Zen. This IS London.

the-ampersand-boutique-hotel-london-2-600x374My favorite part about this hotel may be it’s cheerful personality. The whimsical design is not your mum’s London hotel.

1-The-Ampersand-HotelNot the least bit stodgy or formal, it makes you happy just looking at it.

ampersand musicAnd how creative: The design of the rooms is inspired by the neighborhood,  referencing five central concepts: botany, music, geometry, ornithology and astronomy, reflecting the area’s attractions: the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and Royal Albert Hall. (It’s also near Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.)

apersand roomThe price: You know London can be pricey, especially with the exchange rate not working in our favor… it is hard to find a hotel for less than 300 pounds. The Ampersand starts at around $190 pounds – or $300 a night.

There are rooms with pull out couch beds for families with children…. and I read a few reviews that say the mini-bar is free!

But if you are hungry for a meal, there are some good restaurants in the hotel as well.

Have a great weekend.



  Hotel of the Week: $200 A Night In New York City!

Despite the uber-expensive hotel rooms that proliferate New York City, there are some very affordable, AND clean hotels that are easy on the wallet. You just need to know where to look. Some of these hotels aren’t on the travel planning websites, but some are. I found one I would revisit on Expedia.

When I was in New York last week, hotel rooms were booked solid due to the United Nations meetings.

The Franklin Hotel

The Franklin Hotel

And I am glad, because I discovered the lovely Franklin Hotel on ….THE UPPER EAST SIDE. I know you’re thinking – say what? An affordable hotel in that zip code?

The Franklin Hotel, NY

The Franklin Hotel, NY

Yes my friends – The Franklin is around $240 a night for a single room with king or queen bed. ( The price may vary a little bit depending on supply and demand.) For that amount, you could dip into the rest of your hotel budget and eat at Balthazar every night. It is located on 87th and Lexington – near subways and cute shops.

photoLet me tell you about the Franklin – I do admit I was  a little let down at first. The photos on it’s website make it look super splashy. Real life? Not so sexy, but European charming. So when I walked in the small lobby, I was worried to see the room. European charming can sometimes turn dowdy.

First, though, I was told, I should grab some wine and cheese in the complimentary happy hour in the sitting room. Huh. I grew more pleasantly surprised by the minute.

photoThe room didn’t disappoint – I was relieved. Nothing fancy, but modern, simple, and like I said, clean and quiet.

photoLet me just say though – calling it small is kind. The room left no excess space – only one person could definitely brush his or her teeth at the sink at a time, as it wasn’t part of the bathroom, and practically butted up against the bed.

The room is perfect for one person, could be crowded but doable for two… but if you are spending a lot of time in your room while in New York City, something is seriously wrong. This room is for people who need a clean, quiet place to sleep in an awesome, tree-lined, top-notch neighborhood.

photoThe hotel has charm, and was immaculate- even down to the shower grout (Oh yeah, I notice.) and had nice shampoos. The beds are comfortable, and there’s – FREE WiFi. Uh-huh. You know how I feel about that.

photoThe staff was incredibly helpful and nice… and the next morning? Complimentary European style, self-serve breakfast with a New York Times. Classy.

photoIt really did remind me of some of the quaint smaller hotels in which I have stayed in on budget trips to Europe. It has more personality than a generic chain.

photoLook at the doorknobs on the old elevator – inlaid with what looked like mother of pearl.

My one complaint, besides the room sizes, with which I can TOTALLY live, is that the hotel charges a “resort fee.” This is clearly no resort, no pool, or gym access – items to which the typical resort fee go.

So – basically, those free happy hours and breakfasts aren’t free, but cloaked in a “resort fee.” Just be honest, and charge me for the breakfast and don’t charge me a resort fee. (Resort fee is $12 a night)

To make things worse – and this isn’t the hotel’s fault – Expedia doesn’t tell you there will be a resort fee. Not cool.

But do check out the Franklin.  If you aren’t spending much time in your room, want a safe location, and want to put more of your trip budget into things to do in New York, rather than where you spend your sleeping hours, the Franklin is where dreams are made of….




  Hotel of the Week: Boutique Hotel With Great Design in #NY? Roger That.


New York in the spotlight with the US Open tournament beginning next week…. and the hotel where I’d like to stay in the Apple  next time I visit comes to mind: The Roger.


It’s a boutique hotel; Some boutique hotels are done well, where as some seem as if they are trying to hard to be cool, but are cheaply done.

The Roger, NY

The Roger, NY

The Roger in New York’s Flatiron District LOOKS well-done… and in 2012 a whole lot of money was spent to transform the 194 rooms and public areas, so hopefully it is as great as it appears.


I am terribly attracted to its design, and thought the photos would intrigue some of you.


Beyond the design, the other thing I love is there are a number of rooms called The Terraces that have an extra 50-300 square feet of space – outdoors. That’s right – your own private terrace on which to drink your morning coffee and read the NY Times while gazing at the beautiful skyline, hearing the hum of the city that never sleeps.


This isn’t a hotel to which I’d bring my kids… but a friends’ weekend or a trip with your partner, Roger that.

There is a chic Parlor Bistro.. and a swanky Parlor Lounge.


In case this hotel sounds vaguely familiar, it used to be called the Roger Williams Hotel… now, just the Roger New York. Nearby attractions include the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden, and Macy’s.

I checked on rooms available August 29- Sept 5, and the price for two adults start at $263 a night, plus taxes. Start… spreading… the …news….


  Whet Your Appetite For Indian Summer With These Cool Hotel Pools

Darn you LAUSD. My kids start school tomorrow.

So I will drown my sweet summer cessation sorrows in photos of some of the coolest hotel pools I have ever seen. At least the weather should be nice enough to still take a swim :)

St Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Miami Beach, FL…

St Regis Bal Harbour Resort, Miami Beach FL

Alila Villas, Uluwatu, Bali…. each villas has its own plunge pool …and there’s this main pool.

Alila Villas, Uluwatu, Bali

El Santuario Hotel and Spa, Valle de Bravo, Mexico (sorry to put myself in the view, but it is the best shot I had.)

El Santuario Hotel and Spa, Valle de Bravo, Mexico

Floating pool at the Villa d’Este, Lake Como, Italy…

Villa d’Este, Lake Como, Italy

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore…

Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore

Palais Namaskar, Morocco..

Palais Namaskar, Morocco… from

Those of you with real summer left…. enjoy :)

  Hotel of the Week: New Caribbean Cachet Infused with Casual Style #Sugarbeach

After a $100 million renovation, it better be sweet!

The new Sugar Beach Resort in St Lucia doesn’t disappoint – in appearance and style anyway.

Situated on a gorgeous beach on this eastern Caribbean island, the resort has been transformed into “plantation-chic” style. Did I just make that up? I always gravitate to hotels that are not generic, and exhibit class and originality…. You can put Sugar Beach in that category.

Just look at these rooms – dark floors and white hot decor.

It shows restraint – is not gaudy Beverly Hills on the beach, and instead is as fresh as the ocean breeze.

If you can leave your welcoming rooms, the offers a pretty pool by which to relax…. and a sumptuous beach on which to drink a rum cocktail.

Sugar Beach is family-friendly also… with various activities from which to choose – kayaking… hiking… etc. It is near a rain forest too. In case this is important to you, it has been in the news lately because actor Matt Damon and his wife reportedly just renewed their vows here.

The one downfall is that the place is pricey – it is a Viceroy hotel, and that is a luxury brand, so be prepared to be quoted standard room rates of arppoximately $800. Remember, in the Caribbean, some hotels loqwer their prices during hurricane season, in case you are willing to make that gamble. This tastefully designed resort may convince a few travelers to do just that…..


  Hotel of the Week: Upscale Family Friendly Farm with Oodles of Authentic Charm #Blackberry Farm

Hi, my name is Tracy, and I am a Voiceaholic. (Like much of America!) So happy the NBC show “The Voice” is back! Great music! My kids and I have a standing date to watch every week… and if you’ve seen the season premiere and following week, judges Cee Lo and Christina Aguilera who are on temporary break might be worried about keeping their jobs. Usher and Shakira are very likeable replacements.

One of the cutest moments yet was when Usher called Nashville a state. That lead to a barrage of grief from his fellow musical judges for his geography lapse, which was quite funny.

Why am I going on about this? Because it reminded me of a hotel I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit in Tennessee (the state LOL).

Blackberry Farm, Tenn

It is called Blackberry Farm, and it is in Chattanooga (the city,) right in the Great Smoky Mountain foothills (national park.)


One of the words that comes to mind when I try to describe it is “soothing.” Imagine that feeling of going to your grandmother’s house in the country…

It is a very homey place, located on 4200 acres of gorgeous American countryside. It is family run, with a good ol red barn on the property and a working farm that feeds everyone, which gives it a cozy feel….


But this is not your grandma’s barn. Not for a sheep shearing second.


You won’t find frumpy quilts or painted red farm furniture here – the accommodations here are tres chic, without being too fancy.


Blackberry Farm offers plenty to do – and is great for families. You can engage in hand to mouth dining – kids can work in the farm and gather eggs from the chicken coop  -  then cook what they’ve harvested. Or play in the nearby creek chasing salamanders and crawdads.

There are fun family activities like horseback riding, paddling,  and fishing… as well as trekking in the Great Smoky Mountains… I’d say this is a top notch way to see one of our country’s premier national parks.



All of these wildly wonderful outdoor activities, plus gourmet food – much of it produced on the premises. Blackberry Farm has it’s own butcher, cheese maker, and sommelier.

Spring is a gorgeous time to visit… Blackberry Farm is only a 25 minute drive from the airport in Knoxville (another city.) I realize that it is not the most affordable choice for families, but it is worth writing about because it is such a special place.

Have a wonderful weekend….



  Hotel of the Week: This One Got a Perfect Score….#qualia

Can’t ya just feel it? Spring is in the air….

Does that give you the itch to travel… to unwind… experience something new… and share it with someone?

Qualia Resort, Australia from

If so, here is a place to fantasize about: Qualia Resort on Hamilton Island, Australia…right near the Great Barrier Reef.  Why? Well – it always catches my attention when a hotel in the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List gets a perfect 100 points from the magazine’s readers. Qualia did in the most recent poll. That is the highest score a hotel can get, and the only one this year to do so.

I will start off by saying I have been to Hamilton Island, and it is a very casual, family friendly place. Qualia steps it up a bit – it is a high end luxury resort in the Whitsundays near the world’s largest reef system – great for diving, snorkeling, and all sorts of water activities. There is an airport on Hamilton, so it is about a 2-3 hour flight from Eastern Australia.

Qualia Resort, Australia from

The hotelier who opened it is a winemaker and sailing enthusiast, who wanted to showcase his country’s natural beauty…so the architecture is in harmony with the surroundings – love that.

The design, always catching my attention, is rich and happy at the same time, with hues of beautiful blue to pull from the incredibly blue waters on which this vacation paradise sits.

The resort has 60 private villas – and yes they are pricey – no kids under 16 allowed. Each private room looks out to the Coral Sea and surrounding islands.

There is plenty to do here – or not. Relax in your private plunge pool..

or take a Great Barrier Reef day excursion… or go golfing… or sailing. A unique outing offered is a night dive in the Great Barrier Reef… apparently the reef’s true colors come to life, but it sounds scary to me!

Guests also have access to golf carts to go around Hamilton Island.

According to one guest who gave his opinion in the Conde Nast poll… ” Once you stay at Qualia, it is difficult to stay anywhere else…”

Sounds like a good problem to have.

  Hotel of the Week: Zen Meets Sin City – One to Watch in 2013! #Nobu Vegas

It should be no surprise that an unabashedly glamorous hotel opens in Las Vegas. However, what is special about Nobu Hotel Las Vegas is that while it maintains it’s panache, it also retains its Japanese calm, understated aesthetic…and based on it’s location, it is a welcome bit of zen in a frenetic Vegas world.

Famous restaurateur, Nobu Matsuhisa, just opened the splashy hotel within Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas…. so all the gambling, bars, and fantastic restaurants are swirling around this oasis of calm. And yes, … one of his restaurants dwells in the hotel so late night sushi after a show is ON..

There are about 180 rooms at Nobu, so it is significantly smaller than the other towers within Caesars which combined has more than 4,000. Although the hotel is open for business, the official grand opening takes place in April because some of the top suites are not complete yet.

There will be 2 and 3 bedroom suites which is a nice option for any families who want to stay in an upscale environment. (I know – Vegas is not marketed as a kids destination, but you’d be surprised at how many families go as a stopping point on the way to somewhere else.)

The rooms are Asian in design, as well as many of the special touches…. I would love to shower in this luxurious shower… Plus – sake in the mini bar, and tea service delivered to one’s room after check in. I have only had that service in Hong Kong.

The rooms, since they are new, reportedly have PLENTY of electrical outlets since we travel with so many chargeable gadgets these days – a thoughtful touch. BUT  - the hotel still charges $15 a day for WiFI – my pet peeve. C’mon peeps! WiFI i s free in so many places! When are the high end hotels gonna get on board?

The Nobu restaurant that is part of the hotel is the largest of the 20 some Nobu restaurants – and serves breakfast, which is sorta essential in a city that never sleeps – I know I know, that’s New York, but the same can be said about Lost Wages.

Anyone in the mood for a little fun? Nobu Vegas is worth a gamble…Great shows too – Rod Stewart this summer, and Absinthe for the ones who dare to be bold. Weekend room rates start at $299.