As we bring you this week’s “Hotel News We Noted” column, we must first take a moment to share our thoughts with the people in and affected by this week’s events in Boston and in West, Texas.
If you’re joining us for the first time, “Hotel News We Noted” is a weekly column bringing readers the best, oddest and most interesting news of note from the hotel world each week. We welcome reader tips via comments and email, so feel free to send us a note!
Hotel Security: Hotels In Boston Tighten Security
Earlier this week, we shared some basic safety tips for travelers both home and abroad, but we also have word that hotels in the Boston area have tightened security in response to the bombing earlier this week at the Boston Marathon. Hotel Management has reported that the Mandarin Oriental underwent a forced evacuation and, due to an “abundance of precaution,” Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Starwood, Loews, InterContinental and Westin have upped security measures. Nearly all hotels have waived last-minute booking fees as well. Hotels in New York and Washington, D.C., have also upped security to some degree.
Unique Hotel: World’s First “Chocolate Hotel” Opens
A 13-room hotel in Bournemouth, near Dorset, has opened, featuring cocoa-themed rooms, cooking classes and a chocolate bar serving boozy cocoa-inspired cocktails, the Daily Mail has reported. The family run hotel is dubbed perfect for “hen nights and girlie get-togethers.” Guests paint their portraits with chocolate and enjoy sugar-high inducing amenities like chocolate fountains installed at the foot of each bed. The hotel is relatively affordable as well – £170 gets guests the “best suite” and single rooms start at just £65.Fit for a Princess: The Goring Wins “Top Afternoon Tea” Award The Goring hotel, perhaps best known to Americans as the hotel where Kate Middleton stayed on the night before her wedding, now has a new honor. The hotel was awarded one of the highest accolades from the UK Tea Guild, The 2013 Top London Afternoon Tea Award. Now in its 28th year, The UK Tea Council’s Tea Guild Awards are considered to be The Oscars of the tea world. The Goring was judged by anonymous tea inspectors on 16 categories including décor, efficiency of service, tea appearance and flavor. Want to try for yourself? It’s relatively affordable, starting at $49 per person USD.
Hotel Opening: The Graham Georgetown
Washington, D.C., has had a busy few weeks with hotel openings, and now the Georgetown area boasts a new boutique hotel, The Graham. The revamped and renamed hotel offers just 57 rooms (all suites) plus a rooftop lounge called The Observatory, which will be the only public rooftop lounge in Georgetown. Expect a popular cocktail lounge, A.G.B., Bvlgari spa products, a 24-hour gym and a prime location off to M Street.
John F. Kennedy was one of the greatest orators in American history. But as a single congressman and then senator, his Sunday morning routine in Washington involved food and newspapers and no chit-chat. Each week, the magnetic politician would occupy a tiny, one-person booth called a “rumble seat” (see photo right and video below) at Martin’s Tavern, his favorite restaurant and watering hole in Georgetown, the neighborhood he lived in for nearly 15 years.
JFK liked to have his breakfast alone, poring over the Sunday papers in the rumble seat. He liked Martin’s so much that he asked Jacqueline Bouvier to marry him in the same place; today that booth bears a plaque and the moniker “the proposal booth.” Nearly sixty years after he popped the question in booth three, men from around the D.C. area who want to propose in this historic spot call ahead to reserve the same booth.
Georgetown is D.C.’s most celebrated neighborhood. It was founded in 1751, nearly 40 years before the city of Washington was established, and it remained a thriving, independent town, distinct from D.C., until it was annexed by the city in 1871. The neighborhood has long been a magnet for tourists but sadly many of them just walk up and down M Street, Georgetown’s commercial strip, which is filled with overpriced cupcake shops, chain stores and traffic, both human and vehicular.
But venture up the hill, north of M Street and you’ll find Georgetown’s real treasure: a grid of quiet streets filled with historic homes built mostly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. JFK once very accurately called D.C. “a city of “Southern efficiency and Northern hospitality,” but he loved Georgetown. The Kennedys lived, worshipped and played in the neighborhood between 1946, when JFK was elected to the Congress at 29, until 1964, when Jackie moved out, nearly a year after her husband was assassinated.
For a wealthy family, the Kennedys moved often while in D.C., but didn’t stray beyond Georgetown. They lived in nine different homes, ranging from a humble row house to a 7,394 square foot mansion. Today, these homes are worth between $1.2 and $3.8 million dollars. (See gallery for details) The Georgetown Business Improvement District has established a self-guided walking tour that allows visitors to see these homes (now all in private hands and not open to the public). I’ve made some slight modifications to their route and included a stop at Martin’s Tavern.
Even if you have no interest in JFK, the walk, which takes about 90 minutes depending on your pace, provides a great introduction to D.C.’s most iconic and historic neighborhood. Nearly all of the homes on the tour look the same now as they did when the Kennedys lived in them. If you look at this photo of the Kennedys, for example, you can see that their home at 3307 N Street, looked the same then as it did now.
And this video of Jackie and the kids moving into a home at 3038 N Street after JFK was assassinated will give you an idea of what this stately home looked like in 1963. Even today, the house has a bit of a somber look to it.
According to The Washingtonian, JFK was a foodie before his time who favored French cuisine. But other than Martin’s, his other dining haunts are all long gone. That said, he is still remembered as the man who revolutionized drinking in D.C. In 1962, Kennedy signed a bill that repealed the city’s archaic drinking regulations, which mandated that bar patrons drinking beer or wine be seated on a stool and those drinking liquor be seated at a table.
JFK was back in the news earlier this month when Mimi Alford, a 69 year-old woman who interned at the White House, published a book claiming that she had an 18-month affair with JFK that began when she was 17. The revelation that Kennedy was a playboy isn’t front page news, but he was also a devout Catholic, and you can visit Holy Trinity Church, founded in 1792 as the city’s first Catholic church, where he and his family worshipped. It’s a small, square room with no confession booths.
The 11 stop JFK in Georgetown self-guided walking tour: (see slideshow for details on each stop)
The Chinese New Year celebrations are still in full swing here in Asia. As it’s the continent’s version of spring break crossed with Christmas, folks are on holiday and many shops and restaurants are closed for the week. It’s easy for travelers to feel like outsiders when traveling to China or Chinese communities during this holiday (imagine how a tourist might feel if they came to the States on Christmas day), but this photo reflects the intimacy and energy of Chinese temples everywhere during the holiday. Fickr user LadyExpat shot this in Georgetown on Penang, Malaysia, which has a large Chinese community.
Shoppers of all kinds will fall in love with the places that made this list of the top 20 cities for shopping. Whether you live nearby or are planning a trip, this list offers places ideal for anyone in need of some retail therapy.
New Orleans, Louisiana The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are only the starting point in the unique shopping destinations you’ll find in New Orleans. Stroll the French Market and pick up vibrant art from street vendors, or dash down a side street and discover one of the many galleries and specialty shops that sell one-of-a-kind items. This is also where you’ll find all manner of New Orleans themed clothing, voodoo dolls, postcards, and other tourist finds.
After exploring The Quarter, head to Magazine Street, where many of the city’s college students and young professionals flock. If treasures for the home are what you are looking for, then trek to Aux Belles Choses, a “shabby-chic” shop where the owners hand-pick each addition to their store. For the hottest fashions, try Buffalo Exchange and Funky Monkey, where hip fashionistas trade in their old clothes for new outfits and accessories. Be on the lookout for the latest trends and vintage frocks and accessories.Toronto, Canada
I love the the Distillery District, a pedestrian mall and historical district where a number of Toronto’s emerging artists and designers have shops. Tour the works of art at one of Thomas Landry Gallery’s two locations or browse rack after rack of denim masterpieces at Lileo. Peruse the collections of artists like Wendy Walgate, who create pieces with deep meaning out of familiar materials.
Established in 1975, Courage My Love is a Bohemian shopping mecca and is where Hollywood stylists and starlets flock to accessorize. It’s like looking through a friend’s closet, if the closet just happened to take up an entire store. If luxury is more your style, then make tracks to Zenobia, where a personal shopper will compile a perfect wardrobe for you. Your Zenobia representative will help you craft your style months in advance then have your pieces tailored in season.
The pomp and ceremony at Mitsukoshi is incredible. Founded in the 17th Century, this Japanese department store chain has the most outstanding customer service I have ever seen. Here you can find everything from traditional Japanese garb to gardening tools. Visit the main store in the Nihombashi District or one of the other buildings placed conveniently throughout the city. Another historical and traditional store is Kyukyodo, which sells stationary and writing supplies. Here, even sheets of paper can be works of art.
Boston is a city of American prestige and history. While you are here, take in the sights and enjoy the city’s luxuries. At Firestone and Parson, you can find fine exquisite antique estate jewelry and silver as as well as new baubles. Louis Boston is one of the world’s premier sellers of fine clothing. The staff is second to none, and they go the extra mile to get to know their customers. They will work with you to ensure your new wardrobe matches the current fashion climate and your own personal style. While you are in town, design a custom handbag at Lill Studio or, if you don’t have the time, browse their ready-made collection. This innovative store makes shopping an affair to remember.
For Western travelers, Morocco is an exotic and exciting shopping destination. This is why the winding streets around Marrakesh’s Djamaa El Fna Square, with its labyrinth of treasures, plus its hustlers and haggling shopkeepers, is a must see. For a dizzying array of local and international herbs and spices, visit Herboriste du Paradis.
Beijing is a flourishing shopping city set in the shadow of the iconic Great Wall. You can visit the traditional night market and pick up the usual tourist trinkets, but it’s the quiet cultural revolution taking place here that really gets me excited. China’s art scene is exploding, and I’ve found that it’s easier than ever to find works by contemporary Chinese artists. Formerly a state owned factory district, the 798 Art District is an amazing collection of designer boutiques and galleries, where you can find everything from pop art to chic designer clothing. It is breathtaking to see how the artists-in-residence have transformed and divided their space.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is a land of luxury and excess for travelers. Enjoy the modern feel and energetic nightlife, but I would suggest visiting shops with a more local feel. Al Motahajiba sells traditional head scarves and Muslim dress, but you can also find glamorous party dresses and formal wear. Some of these dresses will leave you breathless (but so might the price tags). And, if you truly want to experience Middle Eastern luxury at its best, shop at The Paris Gallery, where you will find traditional perfumes and exclusive luxury products.
Mumbai is a bustling, busy, and sometimes dirty city. My favorite shopping destination was Mangadalas Market, where there are plenty of bargains on everything from textiles to clothing, both modern and traditional. This is a great place to find accent pieces (and fabrics to make your own) for your home. Women should definitely check out Naina’s, where you can order customized saris. And, Cottage Industries Emporium has an unbelievable selection of crafts made by skilled Indian artisans.
Tahiti, French Polynesia
For me, Tahiti is THE place to buy pearls. You can find the natural marvels in every shape, color, and size. At Te Tevake Creations, carved mother of pearl and natural pearls are used in exquisite jewelry combinations. Robert Wan offers pearl jewelry in distinctive designs. If you’re looking for more traditional arts and crafts to prove you were here, try the market Le Marche.
Istanbul is full of fascinating bazaars and traditional retailers. I loved navigating the stalls at The Grand Bazaar, even though I only got to experience a handful of the loud, bustling marketplace. It has more than 4,000 shops and was established in the 15th Century. The Spice Bazaar is much smaller, but the selection of edible treasures in the form of spices, teas, and more is dizzying. And, at Melda Silverware, the traditional silver is simply stunning.
Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii
I stumbled upon the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, while searching for a place to buy sandals and I ended up spending hours there. Besides having almost 300 popular stores, the indoor/outdoor setup of the Ala Moana Center provides the ideal environment for both enjoying the Hawaiian heat and cooling off.
Chinatown in Seattle, Washington
Having visited the Chinatown districts of many cities, it’s safe to say that Seattle’s International District beats them all. Besides the shopping, it offers numerous art galleries, restaurants and bars. The Venus Karaoke bar is a must for experiencing karaoke the traditional Asian way, in a private room without strangers watching as you belt out a tune.
Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, Arizona
As I strolled around the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was walking in a stunning desert park. It’s a place where you can easily spend an entire day. After visiting the shops, I enjoyed an outdoor dinner as I watched the sun set. After the meal I relaxed and painted pottery at the As You Wish Pottery Painting Place, and played video games at Dave & Buster’s while waiting for it to be finished.
Georgetown Flea Market in Washington, DC The Georgetown Flea Market is perfect for bargain hunters searching for vintage items. Perusing the market is half the fun, rummaging through the antique pieces wondering what you will find. I was lucky enough to come across 3 vintage 1950’s dresses, all for a discounted price significantly lower than anyplace else I have purchased them in the past.
Greenwich Village, New York City
The Greenwich Village shopping experience is unlike any other and is what landed it on this list of the 20 best cities for shopping. Every trip made to Strand Bookstore results in a rare find, and I still love the bright pink fishnets purchased at Ricky’s. The best find of all time? An authentic vintage Chinese wedding gown for the low price of $100, found amongst other unique items at Stella Dallas.
Lancaster, Pennsylvania offers diverse shopping. I scored an Amish rocking chair then enjoyed a family-style Pennsylvania-Dutch home cooked meal. The city’s multiple outlet centers prompt return trips every year, and is especially beneficial for school shopping. Extensive sales often bring the prices down to less than $10 an item, and on my last trip to the Lancaster outlets, I left with 12 items for less than $100.
The shopping in Siena, Italy provides a noteworthy alternative to the shops found in Rome or Milan. In addition to the many boutiques, Siena offers a variety of weekend markets. I purchased handmade bowls at a tremendous discount as well as several homemade bottles of olive oil that incidentally were selling for $10 more in Rome.
Piccadilly Circus in London, England
A major intersection in London, at first glance Piccadilly Circus doesn’t seem to have much to offer for shopping. However once the weekend comes, Piccadilly springs to life. The weekend market is the perfect place to purchase small trinkets and inexpensive souvenirs. I was able to score postcards, small purse and handmade paper, all on a student budget.
South Congress Street in Austin, Texas
South Congress Street in Austin, Texas, better known as “SoCo,” epitomizes the Austin experience. With a motto of “Keep Austin Weird”, the city boasts several unique and odd places to shop. Staying at the famous Austin Motel on SoCo allowed me to feel like a local, drinking coffee at the trendy Austin Java while taking in the shopping on a daily basis. I came home with loads of fun accessories, one-of-a-kind clothing items and handmade soaps all made by local Austin folks.
The Grove in Los Angeles, California
If you enjoy shopping at a traditional mall, you will love the last of the 20 best cities for shopping, The Grove in L.A. Instead of housing the shops in one building, The Grove spreads the stores across an outdoor pavilion riddled with water fountains. The atmosphere is ideal for taking in the beautiful Los Angeles weather, and I was able to meet several local people who recommended night spots.
Way back in December we told you about Katie Spotz, the 22-year old American woman who was planning to row solo from Dakar, Senegal in western Africa to the east coast of South America. This past Sunday, Katie arrived in Georgetown, Guiana, completing her journey, while becoming the youngest person to ever row solo across an ocean in the process.
The expedition covered more than 2817 miles of open ocean, requiring 70 days, 5 hours, and 22 minutes to complete. Reportedly, Katie could have shaved an additional eight days off of her time had she allowed a boat to tow her into shore as she neared her destination. While on approach to Guiana, strong winds and ocean currents conspired against her to make the final leg of the journey that much more challenging, but rather than take the tow, she elected to row an additional 400 miles northwest to Georgetown, where milder conditions allowed her to finish the trip under her own power.
While Katie did hope to set the new record for the youngest to row an ocean, and become the first American to row solo from one continent to the next, she actually had even loftier goals in mind when she set out. The entire expedition was used to raise funds for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, an organization dedicated to funding clean drinking water projects around the globe. For her efforts, Spotz raised over $70,000 for the foundation, money that will now go to improving the lives of others around the globe.
The 19-foot long, specially designed, rowboat that was used in the Atlantic crossing weathered 20-foot waves and occasional storms, but for the most part performed admirably. Fitted with solar cells to charge her gear and a desalination system to provide clean drinking water, the boat was Katie’s floating home for the past 2+ months. Aside from a breakdown in the original steering system, and a GPS device catching on fire, there were few technical setbacks to the journey.
Congratulations to Katie on a job well done. The rest of us would have, you know, taken a plane, but your way of crossing the Atlantic works too.