About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

Private Gym, Soaking Baths & Steam Room Galore at Tokyo’s New Otani Spa

September 27, 2014 by  

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I recently had an opportunity to experience the Spa at the New Otani Hotel in Tokyo Japan. The Japanese treat spas a little differently than in the western world. The “Spa” for all that the word represents is something that is an integral part of Japanese life, particularly for women. Not treated so much as a luxury item even though it can be expensive to experience one depending on where you are, life in the sauna or hot tub is an important part of health, relaxation and down time.

Spas are also more formal than they are in the states and even Europe, where I find the service to also be a notch above the U.S. The New Otani Hotel is a luxurious stay (see our write-up on the property which we loved and would definitely recommend, including having a meal at any of their on-site restaurants – YUM!!). The spa at the New Otani is an extensive of that luxury — from the offerings, the service and the amenities.

Use of the spa includes rental fee for gym wear, swimsuits, towel, and bathrobe which of course they expect you to have in the west. To give you an idea of how formal they take the spa experience, they state on their website that “Guests with tattoos are not admitted in the Golden Spa.”

You also must be 18 years of age or older to use the spa and it is required that you wear swimsuits with adequate coverage.” I found that amusing of course but in case yours is too skimpy, you can rent them on-site upon request. These “rules” are an extension of Japanese culture, which I absolutely respect. It isn’t really any different than the knee socks you’re expected to wear on a Scottish golf course (or a South African one), at least in my experiences which was now quite a few years ago. It’s what defines a culture and makes you cherish one. Enuf said! 

The interior set of two side by side mini jacuzzi pools was my favorite part of the spa. Inside the same room, there’s a steam room and sauna which you can rotate between all afternoon if you’d like.

The changing room area for women is adjacent to what I’ll refer to as the preparation area, essentially a section with mirrors and mini stools for grooming of sorts before or after using the spa.

There is also a sitting area as well as an extensive exercise facility and fitness center where you can work out. There’s a private one you can use if you’re staying on one of the Executive Floors or a main one which has more flexible hours in which you can work out in the main building. I tried both btw – the main difference is that the private one has exclusive but limited hours and is obviously much less crowded.

Other facilities and services include facials, massage and esthetic treatments. They also have tennis courts and a golf driving range which is great for the adventurers and sports enthusiasts among us.

Personally I found the experience unusually interesting and felt that my time there was not just respected but I had to respect “it” which made me look at the spa experience a little differently…..in an absolutely good way :-)

A We Blog the World 2 Thumbs Up!!

Details:

THE GOLDEN SPA NEW OTANI

4-1 Kioi-Cho, Chiyoda-Ku

Tokyo 102-0094, Japan

Tel. 03-3265-9611

Note: I was hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


Nantucket’s White Elephant for Ocean Views & Delicious Fare

September 27, 2014 by  

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The White Elephant Hotel and its scenic restaurant Brant Point Grill is a bit of an institution on Nantucket. It doesn’t get much more New England than the White Elephant, which is perched alongside a harbor where you can watch sailboats float past at sunset. Its menu is anchored by fresh seafood, flavorful steaks, and artfully prepared dishes. They tout having the best Sunday Brunch on Nantucket Island and it is said that there bar serves some of the best appetizers and cocktails.

As always, I had oysters to start, in this case, they were Grey Lady oysters. For the more adventurous, they have oyster-gazpacho shooters, which in hindsight, I wished we had tried.

Now to make your mouth water, here’s a nod to some of the dishes that are out of this world, starting with the 5 year old Balsamic with Basil Tomato Gazpacho – it is by far the best Gazpacho I’ve ever tasted. It was so good that I asked to meet the chef who was behind the masterpiece. Out came English-born Thomas William Pearson who prides himself on his relationships with local producers and farmers and cooking food at a very high standard. He’s worked with several big kitchens, including Michelin-starred, Star Inn in England.  Yum! The soup (and oysters) are worth the trip alone and of course, you have the stunning view to take in while you dine for lunch or dinner.

They also have a delicious “made from scratch” New England clam chowder, fresh whole belly clams, fried calamari with pickled peppers, radishes, scallions, cilantro and Chili limo mayo, crab cakes and a Blue Fish pate.  More traditional American options include burgers, cheeseburgers, sandwiches, lobster rolls, roasted turkey clubs and chicken wraps to name a few, not to mention their delicious grilled flatbreads — order the Duck Confit and oyster mushroom flatbread made with Gruyère cheese and Truffle cream. It may be on the rich side, but it’s also heavenly.

For fresh fish, try the Fried Atlantic Cod with cole slaw, the littleneck clams &  pappardelle, which is served with heirloom tomatoes, fried basil, garlic and champagne butter over a pappardelle pasta. For the healthier among us, there offer a variety of very freshly made salads, including a lobster salad with tomatoes, lemon vinaigrette and avocados, which I tried. It couldn’t have been more perfect with a cool glass of Chardonnay on a lazy summer afternoon. The chicken caesar was also delicious.

The ambiance is incredibly relaxed, particularly for brunch or a leisurely lunch. The outside courtyard which I’d recommend sitting in warmer months, is surrounded by flowers and a big wide open lawn where children can play — it’s a fabulous romantic spot but it’s also a great choice for families as well.

And, of course the harbor is just beyond the lawn and gardens. The view of the harbor is sure to put you in a relaxing mood. It was a joyous sunny day when we were there this past August, the first time I had been to the White Elephant in probably ten years. Its charm hadn’t changed and we had fun watching children race around the lawn and play in the sun, with views of the boats and boaters in the near distance. We’d love to return sometime to experience the hotel, and I can only imagine that its an incredibly calming and tranquil get away spot on or off season.

Very charming and loaded with New England character – hard to beat!!

Details:

White Elephant Hotel & Brant Point Grill Restaurant

50 Easton Street

Nantucket, Massachusetts 02554

The Curse of a Long Bus Journey on the New York State Thruway

September 27, 2014 by  

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Most if not all the travelers who read this site will not have traveled via a Greyhound, Adirondack Trailways or Peter Pan bus in New England, or if they have, it was a very long time ago. While we mainly focus on luxury and adventure travel and budget travel isn’t a core focus of ours, I took an Adirondack Trailways bus from just outside New York City to Albany New York over the summer.

I opted for this choice because of a scheduling complication and the fact that the route took me to where a friend could easily pick me up on the other end. What I didn’t factor in was how unreliable the time estimates are never mind how unsanitary the buses would be.

What’s ironic is that while doing that route via bus was certainly cheaper than Amtrak who wanted an wopping $110 for a short one way 3 hour train ride (I guess they don’t know about the Southwest specials that can get you via PLANE from SFO to Vegas or LA for that price return), I still wouldn’t call $45 a bargain for my Adirondack Trailways experience.

Here’s the thing – I’m close to it…the experience I mean. I grew up in the Adirondacks, so I know the route they take from NYC to upstate New York like the back of my hand. I know the trees, the roads, the cities, the people. When I was a student and in my early twenties, I took them all — Greyhound, Peter Pan and Trailways between NYC and Albany, Boston and Schenectady, and every variation in between. Syracuse – Buffalo – Rochester and Oneonta were also part of my repertoire as well even though for most of that time, I had a car.

Sometimes when it was so cold and snowy that the routes were more treacherous than some of the hairy roads and buses I took along unsafe cliffs in SE Asia and Africa. But, because I was a sturdy upstate New Yorker, doing such things in your life merely built character and wasn’t something you moaned about.

The bus stations at all of these destinations were something that every parent and grandparent feared however. I’d always get the warnings: never come in late at night or early in the morning and watch your bags and wallet like a hawk.

The stations seemed to be in the toughest of neighborhoods, where homeless Americans hung their hats and people who looked like they had smoked or drank more than they ate or slept, camped out. It was always like that. We knew the rules and what to expect and yet, what they never told us, was that this was a big part of what America was becoming in a post 1960’s life. The rich were becoming richer and the poor were becoming poorer and it was the beginning of an era where the upper working class and middle class were embarking on a road to near distinction. OR, at least that’s what it felt like.

My Adirondack Trailways bus experience went something like this.

I popped into the market on the main drag to purchase my one way ticket and the young woman behind the counter with a dialect that was neither southern, northern or anything in between. For someone who travels a lot, I still had a hard time making out her words, less so because of the accent but moreso because of the length of time it took for her to spill the words out: “oh yeah, Traaaaillweeys… I caaaeein neevvr figur’ oute how to saayyy thaat…”

“Hmmm,” I replied, “don’t you work here and sell tickets every day?” No response. I repeated myself and her response after a pause was,“teeeekit?” I caaan’t do that. I dooon’t knoowww howe, only thaat man in dthee baack caaan do thdat.” Rather than offer to go get thaat man in dthee back however, I had to go fetch him myself.

The bus was due to depart in six minutes yet it hadn’t arrived yet, so he sorta took his sweet time. Okay, so he told me to take a seat while he went on with his business unloading soda and water bottles into the cooler as if the bus was arriving in an hour, not six minutes.

Five to ten minutes later, he meandered over to the counter to take care of my ticket which took about five minutes or so, yet the bus hadn’t pulled up yet. 25 minutes late, it showed up and loaded its passengers after Ron, our bus driver tossed the heavier luggage below. The shop keeper’s lazy attitude had obviously become a pattern after getting used to so many delayed buses, so clearly there was no need to rush.

I grabbed a seat towards the front since at the rate we were going and his unwillingness to commit to long it would take, I figured I could be on this bus for six hours or more rather than the 3.5-4 hours I signed up for.

I quickly learned that the seats didn’t recline despite the obvious recline buttons and after checking 90% of the seats, I only discovered 3 seats that actually kept a recline without popping back instantly. Upon inquiring about this, I merely got a shoulder shrug.

The bathroom was…..well, it’s best just to skip that graphic visual for the sake of our readers, shall we?

The good news is that there were outlets on the bottom side of the seats (at least most of them) and the two I checked actually worked. It appeared that there was free wifi as well until it connected me only to disconnect me a few minutes later, never to reconnect again for the duration of the journey. When I inquired about this, I got another shoulder shrug.

The other good news is that while most of the bus terminals looked like desolate abandoned rooms from another time, Ron seemed to have a positive disposition and a commitment to getting his customers to their destinations safely. He joked and chatted and while he didn’t seem to have any answers to the questions that needed answers, he was at the very least pleasant about it.

I couldn’t give my friends an estimated time of arrival since he simply didn’t know. In New Paltz, a 30 something year old man with a psychedelic t-shirt on tried to hop on the bus saying he would pay for the ticket in Kingston.

When Ron turned him away and told him to buy a ticket at the station before boarding, the man returned with a shrug of shoulders saying the woman was taking so long that it wasn’t worth us waiting any longer since we had already pulled back into the station, delaying our departure even longer, while he went to purchase a ticket. The sad thing was that there was no one in line in front of him. In fact, there was no one at the station at all trying to get a ticket except for this one psychedelic t-shirt clothed man in his mid-thirties, who couldn’t seem to make progress on this simple transaction that was clearly frustrating him beyond explanation.

No grave surprise since the attitudes at the New Paltz station were more like F-You customer rather than How can I help you? The bathrooms were dirty, the café that was adjoined to it was closed despite the fact that it was only shortly after lunch time and the vending machines spat out chips with expired dates on the package. I drank my Diet Coke quietly avoiding the expiration date on the bottom since at this point in the journey, I didn’t want to know.

The bathroom already lost me at hello and the number of people on the bus who were coughing, sneezing and wheezing without covering their mouths was enough to put any traveler’s nerves on edge. It was less stressful on the third class train I took from Cairo to Luxor in Egypt.

This post may sound harsh and unfair, but know that I have taken a lot of buses and trains over the years in countless countries and as many frequent travelers know, third world countries now provide cleaner buses, more organized and courteous attendants behind ticket counters, better service and cheaper fares than anything I’ve found on America’s East Coast. Many third world countries now offer air conditioned buses with movies on board and seem to be able to do so for less money to travel further distances than the great ole U.S. of A.

Despite Ron’s great disposition (he was the saving grace), someone at Adirondack Trailways in Quality Control (if such a department exists) or customer relations (if such a department exists) might want to revamp a few things, or at the very least make a few upgrades to their buses and service.

While $110 on Amtrak is an outrageous price for a 3 hour journey via train even for the luxury traveler (remember, this is a ticket to get from A to B, not an “experience” or a “tour” you’re signing up for), I can now see why they’ve jacked their prices through the roof.

For anyone who has taken a bus, they’re less likely to return unless economically forced to and so, for any savvy traveler, they’ll fork over the additional $60-70 or simply rent a car to avoid the bus experience. Sadly, they shouldn’t have to spend that much for a train journey – it’s as if they’re jacked up the prices to tap into the business traveler market going from NYC to DC, Boston and other nearby cities.

It should be easier, more comfortable and more economical to travel by train and by bus in the states regardless of the fact that most people have cars. Perhaps if the experience was more enjoyable, we’d have less cars, therefore less pollution and traffic on our Northeast and East Coast roads.

Photo credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

Functional & Fun Miggo Camera Straps For Your DSLR & CSC Cameras

September 25, 2014 by  

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I discovered the very fun and functional Miggo camera straps for DSLR and Mirrorless (SCS) cameras at a CE Week event in New York in the early summer. It’s a great way to comfortably carry your camera around your neck while keeping it protected at the same time. I had never seen a solution like this and loved their creativity.

When done shooting, you simply wrap miggo around your camera to protect it from scratches and damage inside your personal bag. In other words, it serves as a camera strap which then morphs into a compact and padded camera carrier.

The Miggo comes in 7 different colors or patterns.  The below images give you an idea of its flexibility and diversity.

Its modular adaptor method makes it suitable for most camera and its multipurpose steel screw serves as a secure connector, and also allows you to connect to a tripod while miggo is attached. There’s also a hidden inner pocket for your lens cap, which is incredibly handy and it’s compatible with almost all of today’s Mirrorless (CSC) and DSLR cameras on the market, and a wide range of lenses. I’m told that they’re working on a Miggio for regular DSL cameras which I can’t wait to get my paws on. Bring it on!! Travel photographers will love this new innovation!

Check out their site for more info.

Coleman Dome & Modified Dome Tents, A Great Choice For Summer & Fall Camping

September 24, 2014 by  

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Travelers likely know the name Coleman. After all, they’ve been around for a long time, so they’ve likely used a product or two over the course of their travels.  For most of the camping trips I’ve taken over the years, I’ve slept in a two man tent or a classic dome tent which comfortably sleeps two but could sleep three in a pinch.

Because of an extended trip through New England this summer, I decided it was worth trying a larger tent that could be used to sleep families (4-6 people) with enough space for a table to prepare breakfast or have coffee in the evening if the weather is cool or it’s raining out. Meet one of Coleman’s larger tents, the Coleman Evanston Screened 8, which we tested out this summer.

The tent is designed for simple setup and easy carrying and is perfect for car camping and long camping trips. The tent even has a screened porch where you can sleep on warm, dry nights, another reason I was interested in trying it out. If it rains, the tent is designed to hold up to the weather which is essential for New England camping. Their insta-clip pole attachments stand up to high wind and the tent’s welded floors and inverted protected seams help ensure you stay dry on wetter than normal nights.

We didn’t any downpours during our trip but did have one drizzly night and its protective layers worked like a charm. Sure it had some misty layers of water on the exterior but it didn’t affect us in the tent.

Below the “Evanston Screened 8″ lies out flat on a lawn, the first time we set it up before we went to Massachusett’s North Shore.

A great feature is the snag-free, continuous pole sleeves, which means you only have to feed the poles once. This reduces the setup time to just 15 minutes, although in our experience, expect around 30 minutes for the first time or two until you figure out the short cuts and tricks.

The tent is fairly tall (6 feet / 1.83 m), allowing adults to stand up completely and move about. It is also very spacious, with a 15 feet x 12 feet (4.57 m x 3.66 m) floor, which is large enough for two queen size airbeds with a little room to spare for gear, etc.

We tried it out with one queen and a single and had room left over for a small fold up table, camping chairs and our gear. Another cool feature is the fly, which we think is an essential for any traveler camping on the road, particularly if they expect to deal with dodgy weather. This last thing you want to deal with, whether you’re car camping or not, is wet equipment or clothes. The fly helps you keep protected from the rain, or on dry nights, you can use it to gaze at the stars through the mesh roof.  Bear in mind that the mesh roof also helps keep the bugs out. We LOVE this feature!! 

We give it two thumbs up! For more information on Coleman and their tent options, check out this link to their various products. The one we tried out can be found under modified dome tents and they’re generally priced at under $250.

We also tested out one of their single quickbeds, which is a great option for either camping or as a second guest bed in your home. Unlike so many other air mattresses, it doesn’t lose air and inflates quickly and easily – we even delegated set up to an 8 year old and he was able to set it up! Check out our review on it.

 

Commonwealth Boston, For Old World Luxury In the Heart of Kenmore Square

September 24, 2014 by  

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For baseball fans — particularly Red Sox ones — the Commonwealth Hotel in the heart of Kenmore Square is a perfectly convenient hotel to stay at if you’re in Boston for a game, particularly if you want to combine sports with a l’il luxury, old world luxury that is…with just a touch of modern conveniences to make it a great choice for those who love traditional and modern properties.

it is just steps away from world class medical institutions, the Back Bay, Red Sox games at Fenway Park, Boston University and Boston’s many cultural and historical attractions, it’s a blend of urban adventure meets fun. It is also a great property for business meetings since it is so centrally located and has top notch dining as well nearby, including the award winning Eastern Standard restaurant (we had breakfast here) or the Island Creek Oyster Bar immediately next door.

The property features 149 luxurious newly renovated, oversized guestrooms, meeting, banquet space and workout facilities (we tested out the gym more than once — there’s enough variety to keep you fit and the over zealous among us, satisfied. 

Whether you opt for a standard room or one of the larger mini suites, you can get rooms with views of Kenmore Square below. The larger rooms have mini living room areas and desks but in all of the rooms, you’ll feel the luxury throughout with their Serta Perfect Sleeper pillow top king or queen beds, imported Italian linens, down comforters and pillows, plush terrycloth bathrobes and towels, luxury bath amenities by Malin + Goetz, Peacock Alley blankets, the IDAPT I3 charging stations, over 80 digital cable channels including HBO, a music system in each guest room  and fridges.

Although they did know we were coming and live and breathe the world of travel, a very classy touch was coming back to our room one night to find a couple of Boston Red Sox chairs sitting in our living room area.

So, how could I not resist a fun pose?

I loved the lobby, where elegant chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The reception area was separated enough from check in so you could relax and be away from the hustle and bustle of other guests needs while taking in the old world style of its decor. Velvet red chairs, marble, detailed wall trimmings, and decadent chairs line the edge.

We’d recommend this property for those coming to Boston who want a centrally located convenient hotel with great service and easy access to restaurants, Fenway Park for taking in a game or other activities in the heart of Boston. We also think it’s a great business hotel since the Boston T (metro system) is also nearby.

Details:

Commonwealth Hotel Boston

500 Commonwealth Avenue

Boston, MA  02115

617.933.5000

Note: we were hosted by the hotel however all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

The Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis, A Stone’s Throw From Nantucket Ferries

September 22, 2014 by  

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We discovered the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis Cape Cod by accident.  Originally we were going to stay with friends on the road to Cape Cod for several days, overlooking a small lake and doing very else but lazy canoe rides, reading classic novels and writing. When that plan fell through, we were introduced to the Cape Codder in Hyannis, which couldn’t have been a more perfect option for us as we were coming from the North Shore and were planning to catch a ferry to Nantucket the next morning.

The Cape Codder is conveniently located five minutes from the port where the ferries take you across to the island, yet is “just” far enough away from the crazy traffic and chaos of the other hotels which are across the street and on the same block.

On-site, there’s 91 Deluxe guest rooms and 111 Cape Codder rooms (individually designed). The rooms couldn’t be more charming — charming but spacious. The larger Deluxe Rooms have one king or two double beds and there are 14 Cape Codder Rooms with one hand-carved king or two queen beds, some with fuel cell fireplaces. There’s also 6 Loft Suites and the Chatham Light Suite which features decorative, working fireplaces and oversized Jacuzzi tubs, which came in our loft suite. (see photo below)

All guest rooms amenities include a unique, discounted telecommunications package rate, interactive television system providing digitally formatted movies and on-demand movies, music selections, a graphical user interface with multilingual capability, individual climate control, wifi, Gilchrist & Soames bath amenities, same day dry cleaning service and more.

The lofts are on two floors, with the main living room area (with a separate bathroom) and fireplace are on the first floor with the bedroom, bathroom and jacuzzi hot tub being on the second floor, which is accessible from a beautifully finished wooden staircase.

There are various sitting areas, including a larger area right outside the indoor pools, which has a space where kids can play in the sand. Impressive!

And, then there’s the very pretty outside pool which is laced with flowers in their gardens along the edges and in the back. Their Rainbow Falls heated outdoor pool uses salt water and salt generation cleaning to create a cleaner, healthier pool without the chemicals found in traditional outdoor pools. Ahhh, what a place to kick back — let’s just say summer bliss!!

When the sun goes down, the outdoor pool transforms into a beautiful night time light show as LED lights make the pool perfect for an evening dip or a romantic light show in the pool. (adult only swim in the evenings).

For their recent lobby renovation, the Catania Hospitality group enlisted the talent of Cris Reverdy of Studio-Brush who designed and built a decorative wall piece behind the reception desk that almost makes you feel like you’re in a glass bottom boat except it’s horizontal – it’s a great touch and makes checking in a very serene experience.

Additionally, Sandwich artist David McDermott of McDermott Glass Studio designed an ocean-themed chandelier near reception. The result is remarkable and the main thing you see when you first enter the lobby area. Its stunning beauty draws you in and begs you to want to explore more of the hotel — his design is a 6’ by 6.5’ cluster of 400 hand-blown pieces of glass, including twelve fish, three scallop shells and one large Whelk shell suspended from the center.

The 400 pieces were attached individually to a metal cage, custom-crafted by Turn Wright Machine Works in West Dennis. McDermott has created commissioned pieces for six U.S. presidents and Pope John Paul II among others, and his work is in the collections of several prestigious museums including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Still, this was the first chandelier he and his studio ever created. Breathtaking!

The entire property is spacious, not just the rooms, the restaurants or sitting areas and for a larger property catered to savvy travelers and families, they nailed it on the details and service.

What we also didn’t realize since this trip wasn’t focused on family travel or experiencing a property from a family point of view, is that the Cape Codder offers an incredible array of amenities and facilities for families. In addition to their spacious rooms, they have two or three bedroom Cape Codder Residences which feature full kitchens, luxury adorned rooms, and working fireplaces — sleeping up to 10 guests.

The decor is tastefully done and is reminiscent of life by the sea. From the exquisite hand-detailed mural paintings, Claire Murray hand-hooked rugs and stunning decor to the gas fireplace, expansive floor plans and custom master bathrooms with whirlpool tubs and steam showers, you will feel more like you are at home rather than in a rented property. While we didn’t actually stay in one of the apartments and would love to return to experience the resort solely from a family perspective, we did get a chance to view a 3 bedroom residence.

Amenities include sleep sofa, soft chair, 50” HD LCD television, DVD/music system, personal computer with free wireless internet, outdoor balcony with seating and gas fireplace. There’s also a fully-equipped kitchen with oven and range, microwave, full-size refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher and washer/dryer), beautiful dish and glass wares.

The Master Suite features a king bed with memory foam mattress; 42” HD LCD television; private balcony; master bath with heated tile floor, steam shower with 16 body wash jets, True Whirlpool bath with hydrotherapy, chromatherapy, aromatherapy, air therapy and ultra violet sanitation, hand-painted Cape Cod murals and dual sinks.

They also have programs for kids which get them involved in physical, cultural and educational activities. There’s a great pool outside with a waterfall and two inside pools so you can have some fun in the fall and cooler months.

The indoor wave pool is massive — 8,200 square feet and includes 2-foot waves, 80-foot and 50-foot water slides, waterfalls, soothing 24-person whirlpool, water fountains, cascading water umbrella and two saunas. Wow right? Yeah, we were surprised too and all the children looked like they were having a blast.

An interesting side note and quirky but interesting fact – they have incorporated the High Intensity Ultra-Violet Light System. This revolutionary system (which is not required by state or local laws) uses ultra-violet light to destroy living organisms present in the liquid being treated. It has been well established that exposure to high intensity light destroys harmful bacteria, thus making the swimming water safer, a great factoid if you have children.

Also for children, there’s a playground for tennis and volleyball, a kids room for various kids’ activities and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

The Grand Cru Restaurant on the premises, a Mediterranean-style wine bar features a carefully selected list of fine wines from around the world. Using a state-of-the-art wine preservation system, they offer over 20 different wines by the glass, bottle or taste as well as classic cocktails, martinis, ports, cognacs, single malt scotches, ice-cold micro brews and live entertainment on the weekends. They even had a couple of fairly old Kistler Chardonnays which we sampled, thanks to Kelly Jestice, the bartender and wine guru on site who steered us in the right direction with recommendations and pairings while giving stellar service!

And, let’s just the food equally matched his stellar service — from delicious ravioli and salads to chicken, seafood (the salmon was delicious) and pasta (try the shrimp tossed over linguini). There’s also a great lobster casserole and the desserts are worth trying as well. Top notch!



Two thumbs up and we’d definitely recommend it if you’re heading to the Cape, particularly if you have a family in tow.  Also be sure to check out our post on their Beach Plum Spa on the premises as well.  Another two thumbs up!

Details:

Cape Codder Resort

1225 Iyannough Road

Hyannis, MA 02601

(508) 534-5501

Note: we were hosted by the resort for our stay but opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Boston’s Brasserie JO For Authentic French Food & Wine

September 21, 2014 by  

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Boston isn’t necessarily on the global map for French food or on your average American’s radar for French food, however a great discovery if you love French food for your next trip to Boston is Brasserie JO, located in the Colonnade Hotel on Huntington Avenue. The food is authentically French and the wine menu is a grade above most restaurants in the same category I’ve experienced over the years in other major American cities.

They offer oysters on the half shell, clams, mussels, shrimp, and a crab remoulade for appetizers for those purely interested in seafood. They also have smoked salmon and New England’s infamous creamy clam chowder. I, of course, had to start with a half dozen oysters.

We paired this thanks to their wine expert’s great recommendation, with the Muscadet Vouvray Jouly. The oysters were alongside their very French Chateau La Touche, sweet bread which frankly was so delicious I’m still thinking of it weeks later. They served it with parsley and tomatoes – go there for the sweet bread alone and you won’t be disappointed.

For those who want an authentic French experience and aren’t weary of calories or fat, go for the foie gras mousse, the charcuterie plate (yum!), the ever so classic roasted bone marrow with a mustard crust, country pate, the onion tarte, the steak tartare, or the crispy cauliflower with a delicious dill yogurt sauce. Also on the menu is the escargot with garlic butter and the more unique white bean and sausage soup from Toulouse for those who want to experience a little of the country.

On the lighter side, they have a variety of salads — my favorite was the roasted beet salad with hazelnuts and goat cheese. (Note that they use white beets – t’was a special treat!)

I loved the menu!! They had so many fun and creative dishes that I’ve not even seen on menus in Paris at traditional brasseries — from a classic Parisian steak with fries to a pan seared filet served with pommes boulangere and asparagus. On Wednesdays, their special “plat du jour” is Liver & Onions served with potato puree and on Sunday, also worth noting, you can get a double thick bone-in pork loin with a potato puree, apples and a Calvados reduction. (be sure to read about our tour of Calvados in Normandy on our early September trip to France).

You won’t get bored with their specialty selection, which includes Grilled Lemon Chicken, Coq Au Vin, Duck Confit with Braised Lentils, Duck a L’Orange with braised red cabbage, and a burger with duck and foie sausage and duck egg.  All of it was delicious — we were particularly impressed with their attention to detail in each and every case, from the wine pairing to the recommendations of appetizer, salad and main course dishes.

With our meat dishes, we had the T-Vine Zinfandel from Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, a bottle we’d clearly get off the shelf for pairing with dishes we cook at home. The balance was rich, bold but smooth and lovely all at the same time. We also tasted their Chateau La Patache Bordeaux and their Chateanuef du Pape (Chateau Beauchene), both of which are available by the glass and the bottle.

Clearly they didn’t want us to leave hungry, which is an understatement. All of the desserts are oh so very French, from profiteroles with chocolate sauce, petite Belgian waffles with chocolate hazelnut ice cream and salted caramel, or traditional sweet crepes with banana and caramel, strawberry cream or the classic Suzette.

There’s also chocolate mousse and alsache brioche bread pudding and our favorite, the lemon tarte with berry compote (shown below), mainly because at that juncture in the meal after our heavier dishes earlier in the evening, the tarte was a lighter option and its flavors were perfectly blended throughout. We loved the combo!

The chefs behind these scrumptious delights are Chef J. Joho and Nicholas Calias. For a little accolade love, it’s worth noting that Joho was named the James Beard Foundation’s “Best American Chef: Midwest,” and nominated for Best Outstanding Restaurant,” and was Bon Appetit’s “Best Chef of the Year.” His French influence came from as far back as age 13 when he worked as an apprentice for Paul Haeberlin of the acclaimed L’Auberge de L’Ill in Alsace, France, and continued in kitchens in France, Italy and Switzerland.  A great quote to sum up Nick’s passion for cooking: “Chef Nick is passionate about everything he does. He is as meticulous with an elaborate cheese display as he is with the ingredients he selects to accompany a succulent filet mignon.” G. Greene

Two thumbs up! On your next trip to Boston, put Brasserie Jo’s on your restaurant list! It’s not necessarily on the well known path, so be sure to check it out.

Details:

Brasserie Jo’s Restaurant

Collinade Hotel

120 Huntington Avenue

Boston, MA 02116
(617) 425-3240

Note: we were hosted by the restaurant by all opinions are freeform and clearly our own.

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