Cyber Monday - Schmyber Monday

The Regent Palms - Turks and Caicos
You don't have to frantically search for travel deals on Cyber Monday, you can find them every week if you know where to look.  I've posted before about one of my new favorite sites for some golden travel deal nuggets: It's a members only site - which means nothing more than you sign up and receive weekly updates - it doesn't cost anything.  They're affiliated with so rest assured these are top-rated, well-reviewed hotels.  This week, they're listing some really gorgeous hotels at great prices.  The Regent Palms (pictured above) is regularly priced at $475 and is on sale for a few more days at $259 for a garden view room - hey, I'd book the janitor's closet at this place.  Beautiful.

If the flight to Turks is too long for you, take a look at La Amada Hotel in Playa Mujeres, Mexico.  Pronounced "Moo-har-ess".  It's just north of Cancun and it's only for adults.  Sale starts December 2nd. 

La Amada - Playa Mujeres
Also intriguing is Cap Maison in St. Lucia. Sale starts December 6th.
Remember that these properties are only on sale for a week, so be ready to pounce!

Cap Maison - St. Lucia 

Goin' to my mind.

Casamagna Lobby
I heard a Ricky Martin song today quite by accident.  Alright, so I listened to it on purpose. I needed a little escape and sometimes certain songs will take me right back to the beach and the memory is so vivid it makes me giddy. Anyway, It reminded me of last February - being on the beach in Cancun with good friends - pure bliss.

There are so many hotels to choose from in Cancun - it's easy to get overwhelmed.  My favorite so far is the Marriott Casamagna Resort. It's the kind of place that is "just right".  Not too over the top yet still beautiful and the price is right. Good location. Great service.  Fantastic food.  You can bring a group of friends or your family or just go as a couple. It just hits all the right marks.  In other words, it's my sure thing.
It's located along the hotel zone, just a 10 minute bus ride to many restaurants, shopping malls and crazy dance clubs in Cancun.  It's not an all-inclusive, but does have a couple of restaurants attached to it. One, in particular, is our favorite and one of the best places we've ever eaten in Cancun.  It's called Mikado. They serve Japanese, Thai, and incredible sushi.  You can dine quietly or sit at a lively Tepanyaki table and watch the chef work his magic.  We loved it so much, we went back twice.  There's also a steakhouse and a sports bar.

Casamagna Guestroom
The guestrooms are spacious and tidy. If your room is on the ocean side of the hotel (which is worth it at any price) each one has a balcony with an ocean view- don't even bother with "lagoon-view" - that doesn't even sound good, does it?  The pool scene is relaxing and quiet - not exactly rockin' - which is a definitely appreciated after a night on the town. Great service at the swim-up bar and yummy pool food, plus waiter service on the beach.

Pool.  Swim-up bar is on the right.
I strayed once and stayed somewhere else - I was wooed by funky, chic decor.  Big mistake.  We ended up hanging out at the Casamagna Marriott anyway- enjoying an delicious martini in the lobby lounge while listening to the fantastic house band, buying ridiculously large hats in their gift shop and talking the bellman into getting us discounted passes into some of the clubs downtown.  They took great care of us even though we weren't guests of the hotel.  We were sad we weren't staying there - I won't stray again.

Now, back to my mental vacation....Tu Recuerdo is the name of song which in English means "your memory".  Isn't that ironic?
Here's the video: Ricky Martin - Tu Recuerdo Video

Casamagna Beach
Look for deals on Travelocity or Expedia and check the hotel's web sight for a "4th night free" offer.

"I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins."

Yet another reason to go to New York:  one of my all time favorite Christmas movies is now a Broadway musical - Elf.  There's no Will Ferrell, but George Wendt from Cheers plays Santa and the reviews are great!

 "You smell like beef & cheese.  You don't smell like Santa."

Sebastian Arcelus as "Buddy the Elf"

I know there's a beach with my name on it....somewhere...

Radisson Our Lucaya Resort, Grand Bahama

I've posted before about, my favorite hotel review site. sends in it's own travel professionals to review hotels plus they take un-doctored photos like the one above so you can see what the hotel really looks like.  I also love how they rank their reviewed hotels in different categories; best value, best family hotel, most romantic, best hidden gem etc.  

Book a hotel through them right now and use the promo code "DEAL30" and get $30 off your stay anywhere at anytime.  They feature hotels in select major cities and some great winter getaway destinations.  Since the reviews are so specific and performed by their staff - their destinations are a bit limited, but I'm sure you can find plenty to like.  Hey, sand plus sun....what's not to like?

Underwear for the Shy Guy...and Gal.

You knew it was only a matter of time.  A guy in Colorado has developed an underwear invention that will keep TSA screeners from seeing what my Grandma Mary used to call "your business".

"Jeff Buske says his invention uses a powdered metal that protects people's privacy when undergoing medical or security screenings."  
You can buy yours at

"Buske said the underwear's inserts are thin and conform to your contours, making it difficult to hide anything beneath them. The mix of tungsten and other metals won't set off metal detectors, he said."

Pictured here is the men's fig leaf design.  The women's has an image of clasped hands.  Not clear, however, whether this might "set off" a TSA official enough to send you to the "groper" - I mean pat down.

Merry Christmas, from France.

Crillon le Brave entrance
The other day, I suggested to my husband that it might be fun to do something entirely out of the ordinary for Christmas; maybe spend the holiday on a beach somewhere with the kids.  You'd think I'd just shot Santa. "Out of the question," he said.  He's traditional and he's sentimental and although I love these things about him, he just might have to loosen up a bit. Right?

Then just today, I happened upon a Travel & Leisure article entitled "Best Places for Holiday Travel" - (see link below)  ahhh, here's my chance!  Maybe I can sway him with an entirely different idea.  Well, there were several great suggestions, but Provence, France was my favorite.  The name of the city rang a bell because I remembered that some actress was quoted in In Style magazine saying that she longed to go back there.  That's a sign. I needed to check this place out.
Crillon le Brave
The Crillon le Brave in Provence was originally a large Parisian country house that was converted into a small 11 room hotel.  Now, the hotel occupies a cluster of 7, centuries-old buildings looking over a quaint French village.  It's 32 rooms are surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. (Ok. I'm already hooked). The buildings are linked by narrow cobbled alleyways, secret gardens and gorgeous terraces. 

One of many alleyways

Oh, and there are lavender fields nearby.  Sigh. Plus, breathtaking mountain views. Could it be more perfect?  The countryside around Crillon le Brave is rich with the best of Provence: lively village markets, medieval towns, antique shops and scenic bike and walking trails.  Remember those vineyards I mentioned?  DAILY wine and cheese tasting. Stop it! you're killing me.

Fields of Lavender
As you can guess, romance and relaxation are key here:  check out the room and the pool.

"Rustic modern" guestroom
Pool - can you stand that view?
That's what I would call a Merry Christmas.  Although, now I'm thinking....wouldn't it be so much better in April?  Look how pretty....

Hey, here I am...
We could make our own Cialis commercial (eeewww)
More, please.
The rate for a standard room starts at $350.  The rate for (my) master suite? $950.

Standard guestroom
Well, after glancing at the hotel's availabilty calendar, I see that Christmas is all booked up this year.  In fact, they're sold out until March.  There are only 32 rooms, so I guess that is to be expected.  Well, it gives me lots of time to work on my plan....(insert sinister laugh here).
After gazing at these photos over and over again, Crillon le Brave is fast becoming my "holy grail" of all hotels.  I think I'm in love....

Hey, Jude. I need a "Holiday".

Cameron & Jude
"The Holiday" was on again tonight and even though I have to suppress the urge to hit fast forward every time Cameron Diaz starts talking (she's no Meryl Streep) Jude Law is yummy which makes it worth it. Those eyes, that accent....sigh.  In the movie, Cameron's character needs an escape from her high stress job and cheater boyfriend in LA.  She decides to swap houses with a woman in England played by Kate Winslet who also needs a getaway. Kate's cottage is in the middle of a field just outside a picturesque, Christmas card-like village near London. After I recovered from getting all swept up in Jude's dreaminess, I wondered if that cottage really did exist. I did some digging and unfortunately it doesn't.  

Rosehill Cottage from "The Holiday"
Turns out the interiors were shot on a Hollywood sound stage and the house itself was just a shell built only for exterior shots.  But, there is a real house just like it - I knew there had to be! I've found it and you can rent it.  It's about 90 miles away from the location of the fictitious cottage.  It's called Slatters Cottage In the CotswoldsEven the interiors are similar to the movie!
Slatters Cottage

Slatters Cottage Bedroom
Slatters Cottage Kitchen
Movie Kitchen
From the web site:  "Slatters Cottage is a luxury, 17th century, self catering Cotswolds cottage. It is located on a quiet country lane with views over the award winning Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Hill." see?  You even get the Christmas card-like village!  There's plenty to do in the Cotswolds; 17th century castles to visit, museums, horse races, walks in the country side and plenty of local pubs.

Horse & Groom Pub.  Make resies - it gets busy.
Slatters Cottage looks delightful and romantic and....busy.  Their calendar is quite booked - at least through the Christmas holiday.  That must mean it's very popular or else Jude comes with the house.  I wish.  

For more info:           

Members Only

le' reve Hotel & Spa, Mexico
I'm becoming addicted to these members only shopping sites.  The deals are so incredible and the latest one that I've discovered contains my two favorite things:  vacations and things to wear on vacations. Brilliant!  It's called Ideeli (  It costs nothing to join.  Just sign up and check out the deals on shoes, luggage, clothes for the whole family (at up to 80% off) and fantastic rates on hotels.  Even jewelry and wine!  C'mon!  The sales on merchandise last for 40 hours or until they sell out.  Hotel sales last up to a week. The hotels and resorts they feature are 4 & 5 star and lovely. These are properties that your average Joe (me) wouldn't normally be able to afford, but now I can!  The le' reve Hotel & Spa near Playa del Carmen is a good example.  It's a boutique property, secluded and adults only - as opposed to the mega resorts that dominate most of the Playa del Carmen area.  The regular rate is $449.  The ideeli rate is $269 plus you receive a $50 spa credit.  Blackout dates do apply so check your calendar and get packing.  Oh, Ideeli can help you with that as well.

Check out this jeweled halter gown normally $380 - ideeli's price? $99.  The return policy is a bit strict, however, returns must be made within 14 days and for ideeli credit only.  There are also weekly give-aways and sneak peaks at upcoming sales. 

Get shopping and good luck! 

Maybe I should just show up naked.

I don't think I want a complete stranger seeing me this way.  I've been told Mr. TSA agent is off in a room somewhere and doesn't see the full color version of me, but still - this is humiliating. Oh and don't think for a moment that only same sex agents are viewing these scans. In addition, there are reports surfacing that machines like these - that are not supposed to be storing images - actually are.

Not that the alternative is any better.  The pat down certainly lasts longer and is just as invasive.  TSA agents must thoroughly explain every move they're going to make before they make it. I appreciate that, but let's just get on with it - I have a plane to catch.  And don't get me started on the reported aggressive pat downs of children.  You would never let anyone touch your kid this way, why does the government get to?

I suppose you've heard the quote in the headlines recently from the guy on his way to South Dakota for a hunting trip who refused the body scan and opted for the pat down instead.  He had his camera phone recording the whole event.  After the TSA agent explained how he was going to "inspect" his groin region, the reluctant traveler said, "you touch my junk and I'll have you arrested".  This set off a chain of events that led to the gentleman canceling his trip and exiting the airport in a huff.  I can't say that I blame him.  

The latest polls show that Americans seem to be okay with scanners....for now.  Of course, they're still new and we haven't yet arrived at the biggest travel weekend of the year. But, still at what point do we take back our personal rights and say there's just got to be another way?  Everyone wants to be safe, but must we give the federal government such leeway into our personal space to achieve it?  They're rushing these scanners into service when they're not fully proven to be 100% reliable and there hasn't been enough time to test the effects of the radiation emitted from them.  How safe would you feel if you're a flight attendant or a pilot and are required to be subjected to a scan possibly several times in one day?

This Thanksgiving weekend should be interesting in airports across the country.  I'm glad I'm staying home.

Flyers liken pat downs to sexual assault:

See below for article on machines saving images:

Giving Vegas another shot

My new Travel & Leisure magazine arrived today - Yay!  I saved it for an after dinner treat. I'm trying to ween myself off Halloween candy and I thought it would certainly be less fattening and WAY more satisfying.  And it was.  I gleaned many nuggets of travel-wisdom from it that I want to share with you, but I'll start with just one. Vegas.

I hate Vegas.  Really, I do.  I went once and it was crowded, expensive and...well....sad.  Waking up to the sight of people still drunk and staggering around the hotel casino while I'm in the cafe enjoying my Krispy Kreme and delicious black coffee was just icky.  Yes, I know, it had everything to do with the fact that my 20's are behind me and, at the time, my kids were preschoolers.  Back then a full night's sleep sounded way more self-indulgent and decadent than anything else.  We stayed at the Luxor which was fine.  Sufficient.  Blah.  It wasn't a horrible weekend - we had fantastic food and excellent spa time - but it certainly wasn't anything I'd rush to do again.

Back to my magazine.  Normally, I'd blow right by an article on Vegas but something caught my eye.  This article was about another new hotel (seems like they pop up all over Vegas constantly - like warts) but this one sounded....well, different.  First of all, I liked the name: Cosmopolitan.  I enjoy the cocktail, so maybe it's a sign that I should give a hotel by the same name a fair shot. Would it be pink and girly?  Then I read a quote from CEO, John Unwin, who said he's "trying to draw people who have never been to Vegas, or who've visited and decided it wasn't for them." were saying?

The Cosmopolitan sits right between Oz and The Bellagio. From the outside, it looks alot like every other glittery building around it, but on the inside - well, that's where it gets more interesting.  Sure, it's big - with a 32 room spa, 14 restaurants, 3 pools, plus retail and of course, a night club.  But it's design is chic, urban and ecclectic.

Cosmopolitan guestroom balcony
Sweet Suite
Guestroom - beautiful....and girly
Big time chefs were brought in from some of the most successful New York and Los Angeles restaurants.  A night club god from the Tao Group responsible for some of the hottest NYC and Vegas spots is in charge of your entertainment. 

Nightclub - they have a Dayclub too.  That sounds like trouble.
But, my favorite thing about this place? The "secret" pizza parlor hidden somewhere in the hotel.  They won't even advertise it.  Instead, "it will be lying in wait - a discovery for those in the know".  Ok.  I know me.  And I know that I'd spend my whole weekend looking for it and I have no problem with that. 

I have to admit, it's got me thinking that maybe it's worth giving Vegas another chance.  I'm not too old to stay up all night.  Well....maybe if there's coffee and a doughnut at the end of it.

Opens December 15, 2010
Rooms start at around $200.  A one bedroom terrace with a premium view is $270.

It's so exclusive, I don't even know if I'm staying there.

Victoria Beckham
"No, dahhling.... I couldn't possibly...I have this thing and that thing and then I simply must to my publicist."  Oh, admit it.  It would be fun to live like a self-indulgent celebrity for a day...or maybe two... I don't know if I could pull off this giant fur thing Posh is sporting, but I might be able to handle the spicy red bag and I'd love to stay in the same hotel. The Carlyle in New York's Upper East Side is a celebrity favorite and has been THE preferred place to hang for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Princess Diana and Mick Jagger for years.

The Carlyle is a gorgeous 1930's art deco building on Madison Avenue overlooking Central Park. A large section of the building is the hotel and a smaller, 17-story section contains luxury apartments for more permanent residents.  The pricetag for a two bedroom? Between $1.5 and $4 million.  Sooooo.... maybe one night in the hotel might be enough "Hollywood" for you.  $600 will get you a guestroom that is anything but average.

The Cruises

The Carlyle's guest registry reads like a who's who of celebrity royalty. Hollywood heavyweights Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes threw a pre-wedding get-together for their families at the hotel.  John F. Kennedy hosted parties that required a secret entrance reportedly for Marilyn Monroe to slip in unnoticed.  In fact, The Carlyle is so starry that film director Woody Allen still plays clarinet every Monday in the Cafe Carlyle. Oh, there's a $110 charge for listening to the music and you're to required buy dinner too. 

Mr. Clooney at The Carlye

As you can imagine, staffers at the Carlyle pride themselves on personal service.  White gloved "lift" operators will escort you to your floor.  The higher up you are, the more noteworthy your neighbors. See handsome guy on the left.  For an additional $50  per night you can bring your pooch.  He'll get his own bed, bowl, Fiji water...and a dog walker. You'll have to supply the chic bag for him to ride around in though.  

Silver Cross Pram
Not so for your baby.  The hotel has it's own monogrammed  Silver Cross Balmoral Pram (what we common folk call "a stroller") available for your use as well as an on-staff babysitter. 

The Carlyle is the 2010 recipient of Travel + Leisure's World's Best Hotel in New York.  Only the best will do for our friends Posh and George.  If they can live that way, why shouldn't you?  Even if it's only for a day...or two.


About Me

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I didn’t dip my toe in an ocean until I turned 25 and my friend Sandy and I traveled to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico. After that week, I was hooked. I loved being somewhere new; smelling the smells, tasting new food, seeing how other people lived. It energized me. As luck would have it, I landed a job that allowed me to travel all over the US and often to Canada. Being a sports event television producer, I was on the road all the time. That's when my love affair with travel began. Now, its 20 years later and still no one gets more “geeked up” about planning a vacation than I do. All I need is a destination and some travel companions and my fire is lit! I start delving into my favorite hotel sites, sifting through photos and reviews, comparing, contrasting -it’s like an addiction. The travel shows with tips and trends? I study them like a playbook. I LOVE doing the things most people hate doing before they go on vacation. Whether it be searching for a food tasting tour with a local or discovering a romantic B&B in the middle of New York - I’ve found it and I’ll share it with you. So....where should we go?