Friday, June 25, 2010

36 Hours in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS is more than just a Gateway to the West. The famous arch, of course, is still there, along with plenty of 19th-century architecture and an eye-opening amount of green space. But St. Louis is a lively destination in its own right, full of inviting neighborhoods, some coming out of a long decline and revitalized by public art, varied night life and restaurants that draw on the bounty of surrounding farmland and rivers. Add to that a mix of Midwestern sensibility and Southern charm, and you’ve got a city looking to the future.

Friday

4 p.m.
1) STREET LIFE

See the city’s evolution in action on Cherokee Street. Once known for their concentration of antiques shops (cherokeeantiquerow.net), the street’s brick town houses are now also home to funky cafes and stores. Highlights include Apop Records (No. 2831; 314-664-6575; apoprecords.com), which carries an impressively eclectic selection of psych pop, punk, country and jazz records. The Mud House (No. 2101; 314-776-6599; themudhousestl.com) draws a young crowd with its excellent coffee. And PhD Gallery (No. 2300; 314-664-6644; phdstl.com) features nearly 2,000 square feet of space, with works from local and regional artists, including a just-opened photo exhibition, “Beyond XY,” that explores male identity.

7 p.m.
2) SOULARD SOUL

The historic neighborhood of Soulard (pronounced SOO-lard) is one of those neighborhoods experiencing a renaissance, thanks in part to several quality restaurants. Franco (1535 South Eighth Street; 314-436-2500; eatatfranco.com), an industrial-chic bistro that opened in 2007 next to the famous Soulard farmers’ market, serves soulful takes on French bistro fare, like country-fried frogs’ legs in a red wine gravy ($9) and grilled Missouri rainbow trout in a crayfish and Cognac cream sauce ($22).

10 p.m.
3) ANALOG UNDERGROUND

Frederick’s Music Lounge, a beloved dive bar, may be gone, but its legendary owner, Fred Boettcher Jr., a k a Fred Friction, reemerged last year with a new club beneath the restaurant Iron Barley. Follow signs for “FSFU” — Fred’s Six Feet Under (5510 Virginia Avenue; 314-351-4500; www.ironbarley.com). Music venues don’t get much more intimate; the band might take up a third of the total space. Drinks are cheap, and the tunes, courtesy of local bands like the Sins of the Pioneers, and their brand of New Orleans R&B, are as unpretentious as the crowd.

Saturday

9 a.m.
4) CUPCAKES AND CANVASES

In the leafy neighborhood of Shaw, stately architecture mixes with hip spots like SweetArt (2203 South 39th Street; 314-771-4278; sweetartstl.com), a mom-and-pop bakery and art studio. Reine Bayoc (mom) makes the food, which features vegan ingredients like soy-based “facon” and “un-chicken.” Cbabi Bayoc (pop), whose colorful and playful artworks line the walls, paints in the studio in the back. Don’t leave without sampling Ms. Bayoc’s light-as-air cupcakes, which come in flavors like strawberry lemonade ($1.95 each).

10:30 a.m.
5) PERSONAL LANDSCAPE

The neighborhood is named after Henry Shaw, a botanist and philanthropist whose crowning achievement is the Missouri Botanical Garden (4344 Shaw Boulevard; 314-577-5100; garden in the nation. It covers an impressive 79 acres and includes a large Japanese garden and Mr. Shaw’s original 1850 estate home, as well as his (slightly creepy) mausoleum.

1 p.m.
6) TASTE OF MEMPHIS

St. Louis-style ribs are found on menus across the country, but it’s a Memphis-style joint (think slow-smoked meats, easy on the sauce) that seems to be the consensus favorite for barbecue in town. Just survey the best-of awards that decorate the walls at Pappy’s Smokehouse (3106 Olive Street; 314-535-4340; pappyssmokehouse.com). Crowds line up for heaping plates of meat and sides, served in an unassuming space (while you wait, take a peek at the smoker parked out back on a side street). The ribs ($12.99 for a half slab) and pulled pork ($8.99 for a regular platter) are pretty good, but the winners might be the sides — bright and tangy slaw and deep-fried corn on the cob ($1.75 each).

2:30 p.m.
7) OUTSIDE ART

The new jewel of downtown St. Louis is Citygarden (citygardenstl.org), a sculpture park the city opened last summer, framed by the old courthouse on one side and the arch on the other. The oversize public art, by boldface names like Mark di Suvero and Keith Haring, are terrific, but the real genius of the garden’s layout is that it reflects the landscape of the St. Louis area: an arcing wall of local limestone, for instance, echoes the bends of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

4 p.m.
8) GREEN DAY

St. Louis boasts 105 city-run parks, but none rivals Forest Park (stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/forestpark), which covers more than 1,200 acres smack in the heart of the city. It opened in 1876, but it was the 1904 World’s Fair that made it a world-class public space, spawning comely buildings like the Palace of Fine Art, which now houses the Saint Louis Art Museum. In 2002, a $3.5 million renovation of the Jewel Box, a towering, contemporary-looking greenhouse dating back to 1936, gave it an extra sheen. Rent a bike from the visitor’s center (314-367-7275; weekends only, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; $30 per person per day) and just meander.

8 p.m.
9) MIDWEST BOUNTY

Locavore fever has hit St. Louis. Leading the pack may be Local Harvest Cafe and Catering (3137 Morgan Ford Road; 314-772-8815; localharvestcafe.com), a mellow spot in the Tower Grove neighborhood that’s a spinoff of an organic grocery store across the street. A chalkboard menu lists all the local products featured that day, including items like honey and peanut butter. On Saturday nights, Clara Moore, the chef, creates a four-course menu ($48) based on what’s fresh at the farms and markets that morning. The menu recently included a light vegetarian cassoulet, with beer pairings from local producers like Tin Mill Brewery.

10 p.m.
10) ROYALE TREATMENT

Tower Grove is also home to a handful of fine watering holes, including the Royale (3132 South Kingshighway; 314-772-3600; theroyale.com), where an Art Deco-style bar of blond wood and glass is accompanied by old photos of political leaders (John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., the late Missouri governor Mel Carnahan). But it’s the extensive cocktail list, with drinks named after city neighborhoods like the Carondelet Sazerac ($8), and a backyard patio that keep the aficionados coming.

Sunday

10 a.m.
11) THE HOME TEAM

Take a number for one of the small, worn wooden tables at Winslow’s Home (7211 Delmar Boulevard; 314-725-7559; winslowshome.com). It’s more than just a pleasant place for brunch; it doubles as a general store that carries groceries, dry goods and kitchen items like stainless steel olive oil dispensers ($16). When it’s time to order, try the brioche French toast with caramelized bananas ($4). It’s worth the wait.

Noon
12) ART CLASS

Washington University gets high marks for its academics. But the campus, with its rolling green hills and grand halls, is also home to terrific contemporary art. The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (1 Brookings Drive; 314-935-4523; kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu; free admission), designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, is charmingly cramped and vaguely organized by theme — so you’ll find a Jackson Pollock cheek by jowl with a 19th-century portrait of Daniel Boone. You’ll also find ambitious contemporary art exhibitions curated by Wash U faculty. Like much of St. Louis, the Kemper may not be flashy, but it’s full of gems.

IF YOU GO

American Airlines flies nonstop from La Guardia to Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. A recent online search found round-trip fares in July starting at about $300. The city has a fairly extensive public transportation system (metrostlouis.org), though a car is recommended for more out-of-the-way destinations.

The Four Seasons in downtown St. Louis (999 North 2nd Street; opened in 2008, part of a striking riverside complex that also includes the Lumière Place casino and hotel. Standard rooms start at $280; expect to pay more for views of the arch.

Article was copied from the NY Times & written by DAN SALTZSTEIN. The link to the Four Season Hotel was provided by WhataHotel.com.

Luxury Resort for Pets Opens at Disney World

A new luxury resort opening at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida boasts air-conditioned suites with televisions and a water park, but this resort is a bit different -- it's for dogs and cats.

The new Best Friends Pet Care Resort has more than 50,000 square feet (4,600 square metres) of indoor and outdoor space with runs, play areas, and room to accommmodate up to 270 dogs and 30 cats overnight as as well as "pocket pets" like hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits and ferrets.

But for animals who enjoy their creature comforts it also offers four VIP suites with TVs, raised bedding and private outdoor yards, a 1,300 square-foot (121 square metres) "canines only" water park, a grooming salon, orthopedic bedding, and treats such as ice cream and tuna on a cracker.

"Our goal is to ensure that pets staying with us have a fun, action-packed vacation -- just like their families vacationing at Walt Disney World," Dennis Dolan, President and CEO of Best Friends Pet Care, said in a statement.

Best Friends Pet Care Inc, founded in 1991, runs more than 40 pet care centers in 18 U.S. states as well as five boarding kennels at Walt Disney World Resort, which will be phased out with the opening of the new pet resort.

(Article above was copied from Reuters & written by Belinda Goldsmith. Editing by Dean Goodman for Reuters)

So once you drop off the pets at Best Friends Pet Care resort, take the rest of the family to the most luxurious hotel near Disney World - The Waldorf Astoria Orlando .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It may not be as important the President vs General battle but Seinfeld vs Gaga could be of interest to fight fans.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rewards for Flying Coach http://ping.fm/6ThpH

Rewards for Flying Coach

Long before the economy foundered, Energizer Battery Company was looking for ways to cut its travel costs. After all, two-thirds of the company’s 5,000 to 6,000 employees travel for work, many of them overseas.

Its solution was an incentive program: it pays employees to fly coach, instead of business class, when traveling overseas.

“What we do for all locations except for Asia is we share the difference in the ticket price for up to $2,000,” said Doris Lee Middleton, the human resources and travel services manager at Energizer. “For Asia, it’s $3,000.”

Now, with the weak economy forcing them to make tough budget decisions, other travel managers are trying variations of the incentive program.

“Companies are always looking for creative ways to get more value out of their travel programs,” said Michael Steiner, executive vice president of Ovation Corporate Travel, one of the nation’s largest travel management companies.

Mr. Steiner said such programs were not foolproof. They can expose employers to higher taxes, and can sometimes create divisions between traveling employees and those who journey only from the photocopier to their desks. Nevertheless, in cases like Energizer’s, Ms. Middleton said, the benefits to a company’s bottom line “are substantial.” The company would not reveal the size of its travel budget nor how much it saves by using the travel incentives.

Incentives to travel cheaply can come in many forms, not just savings-sharing programs like Energizer’s. “We’ve had clients that have put in nonmonetary, internal incentives,” said Will Tate, senior vice president at Management Alternatives Inc., a travel procurement consulting firm based in Plano, Tex.

Because getting employees to comply with travel policy ultimately saves money, many companies offer employees points if they follow policy. “If you book according to the air travel policy, you get 10 points,” Mr. Tate said. “If you book a hotel within the policy, you get 10 points. A rental car — you get 10 points. If you do all three, you get a bonus of 20 points.” The points are then redeemable from a rewards catalog that may offer everything from coffee makers to luxury vacations.

There are other variations on incentives, too, that feel less rewarding to employees but nevertheless reduce companies’ travel costs. One is allowing employees to fly business class if they book a flight on a less expensive route, but requiring them to fly coach on a more expensive itinerary.

“A clever corporate travel manager,” Mr. Tate said, “will go to an airline and say, ‘What’s the best deal you can give me if we go through a different hub?’ ” Often, airlines offer companies a reduced rate for traveling through less popular locations. Then, Mr. Tate said, “a presentation is made to employees: ‘If you are willing to connect through Cleveland or Denver, you can fly business class. If not, you can fly coach.’ ”

A few companies do another variation on travel incentives — reimbursing employees who use their own points to take a trip. “As an employee, it allows you to monetize your frequent-flier miles,” Mr. Steiner of Ovation Corporate Travel said.

While many of the incentive programs can result in substantial financial rewards for the companies that use them, these incentives can incur costs of their own, both for employees and employers. “If the employee receives cash or the equivalent of cash, that’s taxable income,” said Anthony Burke, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue Service. Likewise, employers are required to pay payroll taxes of 7.65 percent on the additional money they give out in cash rewards. Tax ramifications for noncash prizes “depend on the facts and circumstances of each case,” Mr. Burke said.

Tax consequences are one reason that Stream Global Services of Wellesley, Mass., adopted its own form of a rewards program last summer. Stream, which runs call centers around the world, rewards high-level employees for flying coach by donating “half of the difference” in air fare “to a charity of their choice, on their behalf,” said Roger Lavallee, senior manager of global procurement. “The traveler gets the tax credit for the donation,” but incurs no income tax. Stream also does not face taxes on the incentive payments.

Incentive programs can create some administrative hassles. The company has to review every itinerary and decide whether it’s applicable, Ms. Middleton said. “Then an auditor looks at it, and then it finally goes to the payroll department.” In fact, Ms. Middleton said she believed that “more companies aren’t taking advantage of this because they don’t have the process in place to easily administer it.”

Energizer has received no complaints about its program from its nontraveling employees, she said. But Mr. Tate said that “some H.R. departments have put a stop to this because they’re creating an unequal incentive opportunity for employees who travel.”

People who don’t travel, he added, do not have those opportunities. “It’s an H.R. challenge.”

Similarly, incentive programs can sometimes defeat themselves by inadvertently encouraging unnecessary travel. “If the take-home is $1,000 or $1,500 in cash, you better believe that as an employee I’m going to find a way to go to Europe three or four times,” Mr. Tate said.

Asked whether some employees might exploit the company’s largess, Ms. Middleton responded, “Energizer trusts its colleagues to do the right thing.” She added, though, “That said, we do have audit controls in place to make sure there’s no abuse of the system.”

She said she frequently encouraged other travel managers to try incentives. It is a method of cutting travel costs that builds loyalty rather than dissension among staff, Ms. Middleton said. “Energizer has found that this is a very successful program.”

This article, written by LIZ GALST was published June 21, 2010 in The New York Times.

At Lorraine Travel, we have deals on some Business & First Class tickets for certain airlines that would present significant savings to coporations without the hassle of the incentive programs suggested in the article above.

One other idea I'd propose to companies that are considering incentives to reward economy class air travel would be to permit travelers to say in luxury hotels. After all, the incremental cost of a luxury hotel stay over an economy class hotel would be must less than the difference between coach & business class on most business trips. What's more,this would be an incentive to the traveler without any tax implications or tracking issues to the corporation. To whet one's appetite for this cost savings measure we invite you to visit our tempting collection of the best luxury hotels here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bieber Fever Hits Atlantis

While we were staying at The Cove, we coincided with Justin Bieber who was spending the week there leading up to his live performance as part of the Atlantis Live series. Catch some exclusive footage of his stay & concert right here.



You can catch many top performers live at Atlantis & enjoy a wonderful vacation at the same time. But, with so many accommodations to choose from at Atlantis, we highly recommend The Cove or The Reef.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber were seen holding hands http://ping.fm/pwHh1

The Cove Atlantis

I just stay at The Cove Atlantis and it was spectacular!

As massive as the Atlantis Resort complex is, I felt it was important to first describe most of the areas of the complex which all guests have access too, then list the accommodations one can select from as there is something for every price point and then close by focusing on The Cove.

Atlantis is the most talked-about resort in the Bahamas, and one of the most spectacular in the Caribbean in scope and scale. Atlantis sits on 34-Acre (yes Acres). Some of the the features:

An 11-million-gallon marine habitat,
A casino with 1000 slot machines,
A 63-slip marina,
44 restaurants and lounges,
A world-class Mandara Spa with 24 treatment suites
Ruins Lagoon, the world's largest aquarium with 20,000 marine creatures
The Dig, an imaginative archaeology site of the lost city of Atlantis.
A long lazy river that has parts of it that are not lazy at all
Exhibit lagoons where one can see Sharks, Rays, Barracuda and an enormous Grouper
Water slides like "Leap of Faith", which drops into a pool underneath shark tanks.
The Discovery Channel Camp which keeps children entertained
Space for live concerts; Justin Beiber performed for 3000 fans while we we're there
Club Aura- a 9,000-sq-ft night club which draws celebrities
A Marina Village with a Starbucks & other restaurants, shops and entertainment
16 swimming pools
And miles of sandy beach too

It is surreal.

Now accommodations are in four blocks arranged around the lagoons. Royal Towers offers oversized luxurious rooms with top-notch furnishings and linens, and terrace, harbor or water views. The Coral Tower rooms are scaled-down versions of Royal Tower rooms. The Beach Tower maintains the theme for the budget-conscious. The Harborside Resort, a clutch of five-story, peak roofed buildings, offers one- to three-bedroom apartments. The Reef Atlantis features luxurious studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom suites with all the conveniences and comforts of home with a full kitchen or kitchen area complete with linens, cookware, table settings, dishwasher and refrigerator.

Perhaps the most impressive in the entire fleet of towers at the Atlantis resort, the 600-suite Cove Atlantis opened in March 2007. Guests are ushered into the resort by large, open-air walkways. The lobby mixes the outdoor tranquility of fresh water pools teeming with marine life with open seating areas highlighted by exquisite furnishings where guests can relax before leaving or checking in. The property has an adults-only pool with 22 private cabanas and a separate family pool that my kids loved.

Only suites are available in the Cove. Guests choose between the ocean suite, the deluxe ocean, azure, sapphire, presidential and penthouse suites. Granite vanities, marble floors, plush bedding all set The Cove apart from other suites on island.

When You're in an Empire State of Mind

Here is the Chorus of this pop hit by Jay Z:

"In New York, Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, There's nothing you can’t do, Now you’re in New York, These streets will make you feel brand new, The lights will inspire you, Lets here it for New York, New York, New York."

Watch the video and see if it inspires you to visit and stay at one of the best hotels in New York.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Well Targeted Scam to Sell The Ritz London http://ping.fm/ByiG9

Well-Targeted Scam to Sell The Ritz London

A plot to sell the Ritz Hotel in London was a "simple but well-targeted and ambitious scam", a court has heard.

Conn Farrell, 57, Patrick Dolan, 68, and Anthony Lee, 49, are accused of trying to sell the landmark hotel in Piccadilly for £250m.

The men "sucked in" their carefully chosen victims by offering them false promises of a deal described as "complete fantasy", Southwark Crown Court was told.

All three deny conspiracy to defraud.

Prosecuting, Anuja Dhir QC told the court the trio "chose their marks well", targeting people who were interested in the high-stakes world of dealing in trophy properties.

In the dock of court number nine, former solicitor Conn Farrell sat in front of his co-defendants, Anthony Lee and Patrick Dolan.

A busy press bench looked on as the lead prosecutor, Anuja Dhir QC, opened her case by describing the Ritz sale "scam" as "simple, but well-targeted and ambitious".

A long list of witnesses are expected to give evidence over the coming weeks. Most fascinating, perhaps, will be the Barclay brothers - the famously reclusive and camera-shy owners of the Ritz.

She said: "The prosecution case is that these three defendants were each involved in a simple but well-targeted and ambitious scam. "They promised their targets something that seemed to be too good to be true - the opportunity to buy the Ritz Hotel and Casino in Piccadilly for the bargain price of £250m.

"As the negotiations progressed, they sucked their victims in with more false promises and frustrated them with unnecessary requests until they managed to extract from them a payment of £1m."

Mr Lee and Mr Dolan pretended they had the ability to arrange the sale of The Ritz, while Mr Farrell acted as their solicitor, giving their claims a "veneer of legitimacy" by telling Mr Collins he had the contracts for the sale when he did not, Ms Dhir said.

The trio told their victims they knew the billionaire Barclay brothers, the owners of The Ritz, and could buy the hotel and casino for just £200m. They claimed they would then sell it on to Mr Collins' firm, London Allied, for £250m.

Ms Dhir said the deal was "a very attractive proposition" as the offer was more than half of the actual value of the hotel which was between £450m and £600m.

The plot began in 2006 when Mr Dolan asked chartered surveyor Christian Sweeting if he knew of any hotels in London that might be for sale, at which Mr Sweeting said The Ritz could be a potential candidate, the court heard.

It is alleged the men were trying to sell the Ritz Hotel for £250m In 2007, Mr Dolan and Mr Lee met Mr Sweeting and asked if he would provide them with a letter suggesting the hotel was looking for buyers, but they were told that this would be possible if there was a formal offer.

Mr Lee then met Karen Maguire, a director of a firm which finds properties for private clients, and said he had access to a contract to buy The Ritz for £200m, and planned to make a £50m profit by selling it on. He also promised to give her a cut of the profit if she found a buyer.

The Ritz sale plot was code-named "Project Notting Hill".

In October 2006 Mr Farrell told Mr Collins that his clients, the two other defendants, had accepted a higher offer for the Ritz which Ms Dhir said was intended to inject "a sense of urgency and perhaps to ensure that Mr Collins remained keen".

The trial continues.

An Aticle From The BBC

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

For our MIAMI crowd, a great option for a very hip StayCation . http://ping.fm/IYaPg . Turn up the volume on the Video.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal-another reason to stay here: http://ping.fm/Eipit
Never thought a downtown Miami hotel would be as enjoyable as a beach resort over a holiday. But it had to be a great hotel & I was delighted. http://ping.fm/1x5se