Greetings! I knew I shouldn’t have jinxed my Asiatrip by announcing it to the world in last week’s newsletter. It ruined my guessing game on Twitter and Facebook, which is one of the reasons I don’t like to tell people where I’m going. But even worse, within an hour of sending the newsletter I received a phone call from Singapore Airlines PR department alerting me that they were delaying the launch of their new A380 service from LAX to Singapore via Tokyo on March 27th. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised they canceled the trip, and I surely can’t blame them. Like everyone else I’ve been holding my breath each time I turn on the news to make sure Japan and the rest of the world is still intact. After last week’s horrendous events I’m beginning to worry that the crazy Mayans were on to something with their 2012 end-of-the-world prediction. You, too?
Since I spent the last week in the Los Angeles area speaking at a couple of different conferences, I thought I would share some of my fun. The highlight, of course, was participating in the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, where I was fortunate to hang out with travel rock stars like Rick Steves, Samantha Brown, Arthur Frommer, and Andrew McCarthy–yes, that Andrew McCarthy.
RESORT AT PELICAN HILL
Last week I spoke at the annual conference of the US Travel Insurance Association (UStiA). This year it was held at the Resort at Pelican Hill (949-467-6800) in Newport Beach. Part of the deal I brokered was to be able to spend the night in one of the resort’s swanky rooms (they call them bungalows), which usually start at $495. I wasn’t planning on even mentioning it because I was there for less than 24 hours and I have so many other stories to tell you. But it was so incredible, I would be doing them a disservice if I didn’t share my experience. The resort’s service and facilities are seriously top-notch. I felt like I was in Asia at times: I never had to open the door of the lobby, and whenever I asked for something my request was met in miraculous time. I hope to go back to do a full review and try out their restaurant(s), pool, and spa. Fortunately, I did get to play golf on one of their two world-class courses when I partook in UStiA’s annual golf tournament. Would you believe my group came in second?
By the way, I wasn’t the only one highly impressed with Pelican Hill–my fellow panelists Peter Greenberg, Jane Engle, and Chris McGinnis were, too. FYI: Our media roundtable during the UStiA conference went well. We discussed our perceptions of the travel insurance and assistance industry; our moderator was MedjetAssist CEO Roy Berger.
TBEX LOS ANGELES
On Friday night I co-hosted TBEX’s L.A. Chapter Launch Party with Jen Miner of the Vacation Gals. TBEX, as you probably know, stands for the Travel Bloggers Exchange. It was created a few years ago by Kim Mance, and I’ve spoken at their New York and Copenhagen conferences and I will speak again this June in Vancouver. The L.A. party was hosted at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. If you’ve never been there, just walking into the lobby will wow you. Everyone just kept saying they had no idea a place like this even existed in L.A. The hotel has been around since 1923 and hosted eight Academy Award ceremonies. I was only sorry I didn’t spend the night in one of its 683 hotel guest rooms–the place is truly a gem.
Just like last year during the travel show, I spent Saturday night at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (404 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA; Tel.: 213-624-1000). The L.A. Times Travel Show organizers put their speakers up there; it is in the heart of Los Angeles’s downtown financial district and about a mile from the convention center. A better choice would’ve been the new JW Marriott or the Ritz-Carlton, since it’s across the street, but I’m sure it was triple the price. The massive Bonaventure hotel has over 1,500 rooms and 42 restaurants and shops. A ton of movies were filmed here, including True Lies, and they have the movie posters down by the valet. The scene I remember most is when Arnold Schwarzenegger rode his horse into the elevator. Actually, the glass elevators, whisking guests up and down 35 stories, are the coolest part of the hotel. The worst part is the hotel’s valet. They still haven’t completely gotten their act together–it took me 5-10 minutes just to enter their garage (last year it took 20). But the rooms were recently renovated and they have floor-to-ceiling windows, and since last year they have added flat-screen TVs. One bummer is that I did have a dirty pillow, but everything else was clean. FYI: High-speed internet costs $12.95 a day, but I used my Sprint Wireless Card that I rent short term from RovAir.
The Los Angeles Times Travel & Adventure Show is the largest consumer travel show in the country. Even before they started asking me to speak, I used to attend as a fan. They have so many great speakers and entertainers who are amazing to see. Plus, there are hundreds of tourism boards from all over the world promoting valuable tips and deals. This was my sixth time speaking here in the last seven years, which makes me one of their most repeated guests! This year my panel was titled “Cents & Sensibility: Practical Tips to Save Money with Online Travel.” My fellow panelists were George Hobica (@Airfarewatchdog) and Kelly Merritt (author of The Everything Family Guide to Budget Travel), and our moderator was Mary Forgione the first day and Jane Engle the second–they are both L.A. Times staff members. We spoke for an hour both on Saturday and Sunday in the Travel & Adventure Theater and had standing room only.
I always look forward to attending the L.A. Times Travel & Adventure Show Speakers’ Dinner. It’s where I get to surround myself with some of the most seasoned and enlightened travelers in the world. This year’s guests included Samantha Brown, Rick Steves, and Andrew McCarthy, and we dined at DRAGO Centro (525 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, CA; Tel.: 213-228-8998), which was just a short walk from the Bonaventure. We had a set menu. For a starter, I had the Burrata salad (Burrata, endive, basil pesto, crostini = $13) and for my main I chose the truffle-crusted jidori chicken breast ($27). Both were fabulous, but my dessert, the chocolate tart with hazelnut butter and banana gelato ($9), was insane. It’s worth going there just to get this.
FOUR SEASONS 50TH ANNIVERSARY
On Monday night the Canadian-based Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts celebrated their 50th anniversary. Many of their 84 hotels around the world (in 34 countries) hosted parties. I attended the one at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, where about 30 travel writers showed up (I knew many of them). We dined on executive chef Ashley James’s treats in their Windows Lounge. He made french fries with Petrossian caviar and Meyer lemon crème fraîche, truffled grilled cheese sandwiches, jicama-wrapped chicken, Korean pork BBQ tacos, mini cheeseburgers…. Umm, were they good, except the caviar–I’m not into that delicacy. I did get to meet the hotel’s owner, Mr. Cohen, who I have to say is one of the nicest hotel owners I have ever met. What a class act–just like the hotel.