Radisson Blu debuts in Chicago

Radisson Blu debuts in Chicago

Radisson has been a familiar name in hospitality in the United States for more than 100 years. But last month marked the first time that a Radisson Blu-branded property opened on U.S. soil. The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel opened in Chicago on November 1, 2011, promising to be a major player on the Windy City’s design hotel scene.

“The reception has been amazing,” says Fred Khoury, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Radisson Blu Aqua. “The hotel has over $3 million in business booked already. The feedback has been great regarding the hotel and people are very impressed with the design and amenities.”

Radisson Blu Aqua has quite a roster of amenities, owing to the fact that the hotel is located on the lower 18 floors of the the Aqua Tower, an 81-story “Skyscraper of the Year” that doubles as a luxury residential building. There is an 8,000-square-foot fitness center with a basketball half-court and a lap pool, a private art gallery, a roof deck landscaped with gardens and gazebos, an in-hotel movie screening room, and a game room. For dining and socializing, Radisson Blu Aqua has Filini, a contemporary Italian restaurant with a sleek, minimalist look, and a martini bar. Gadling readers will be happy to know that the Blu Aqua also includes complimentary wifi access among the many in-room amenities.

%Gallery-140960%The introduction of Radisson Blu in the United States represents a new direction for Radisson in this country. Blu is Radisson’s “upper upscale” brand, an industry term for the tier that falls right below “luxury” and is one of the best-performing segments in the hotel industry. By comparison, hotels branded simply under the Radisson name, the most common type of Radisson brand in the U.S., are in the “upscale” tier; Radisson Blu’s competition includes brands such as Marriott Hotels, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Hyatt, and Westin. Until this year, Blu was Radisson’s main imprint in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, with 222 properties worldwide. Now Radisson is taking its overseas brand and launching it in the U.S. It’s as if Radisson’s offspring is returning from boarding school abroad, cultured and more glamorous.

Radisson plans to slowly introduce more Blu hotels to the U.S. market. Only one other brand-new Radisson Blu is under construction, to be connected to the Mall of America. That may seem like an odd choice for a new build, especially for a design hotel. However, Carlson, the parent company of Radisson and Radisson Blu, is headquartered in Minnesota, site of the very first Radisson hotel. In addition to the new Blu hotels, Radisson plans to convert two other U.S. hotels into Blu properties. The Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis and the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia will be converted into Blu hotels, but dates have yet to be determined.

In the meantime, Radisson is celebrating the opening of Chicago’s Radisson Blu Aqua with a massive promotion. The Radisson Big Night Giveaway offers 50,000 gold points in Club Carlson, Radisson’s Global Hotel Rewards Program, for anyone who registers for the promotion AND stays one night in any Radisson or Radisson Blu hotel in the U.S., Canada, or the Caribbean by December 30, 2011.

Video: skiing and snowboarding from the summit of Denali

What does it take to ski Denali, North America‘s’ tallest mountain? In addition to a large, metaphorical pair of cojones, which all of the men and women of this film possess, it takes sheer endurance and will to want to climb 20,320 feet just to ski right back down.

The Denali Experiment is a 15-minute film that follows a band of some of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders on their quest to ride the powder from the top of Alaska. But this is hardly a film full of hot dog moves. Director Renan Ozturk gives viewers a good sense of how difficult the trek to Denali’s summit can be, as well as shows us how fulfilling it can be to complete an adventure one once thought was impossible.

Classic Italian car race comes to California

Fans of classic cars and rally enthusiasts take note: “the most beautiful road race in the world” is coming to California. The Mille Miglia, the Italian car race that elevated driving to an art, will makes its American debut in California from October 25-29 in advance of the Santa Barbara Concours d’Elegance. In the spirit of the legendary Italian race, which followed scenic routes that circled from Brescia to Ferrara and Rome to Florence, Mille Miglia North America will begin and end in Santa Barbara, in between making a 1,000-mile loop along California’s coastline. Cities and sites along the route include San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, San Francisco, and Napa.

All cars racing in the Mille Miglia North America will date from 1927 to 1957, the time period during which the original race was run. Cars expected to participate include vintage models of Aston Martins, Alfa Romeos, Fiats, a 1952 Jaguar XK120, a 1957 Thunderbird, and more. The public can get a glimpse of the classic cars at car shows in Santa Barbara before and after the race. And, of course, there will be spectator spots along the route when the race is underway. Stay tuned to the Mille Miglia website [www.millemiglianorthamerica.com] for more information on spectator locations as they become available.

[Image credit: Flickr user Roberto Ferrari]

Traveler Q & A: Pavia Rosati

pavia rosatiPavia Rosati is the founder of Fathom, a recently debuted travel website. Fathom is smart and beautifully designed. It’s full of exciting short briefs about various destinations across the globe.

Rosati, as you’ll see from her answers below, is an experienced editor and an avid traveler. Her enthusiasm for Fathom’s subject matter is palpable and infectious. We love Fathom and can’t wait to see how it’s going to develop.

Q: Good day, Pavia Rosati, and welcome. How would you describe your occupation?

A: I am the founder and CEO of Fathom, a new travel website. It’s my job to help connect you to places and experiences you didn’t know you were going to love.

Q: Tell us about Fathom.

A: Fathom cuts through the clutter of the online travel space with stories and destination guides that are as practical as they are inspiring. People typically go to a travel website for one of two reasons: They know they’re going to London, and they need to know where to stay and what to do. Or they think, “I have two weeks off…I like nature…Where should I go?” Fathom addresses both needs through two main sections: Guides and Postcards. Guides have quick information about the basics: hotels, sites, restaurants, and itineraries. Postcards are inspiring travel stories organized around the passion points of travel with a “I Travel for the …” theme: I Travel for the Food, I Travel for the Thrill, I Travel for the Kids. We aren’t motivated by what’s expensive or what’s trendy. We’re interested in what’s special and what’s awesome. Sometimes that’s a three-Michelin star lunch at Le Meurice; sometimes it’s a five-euro falafel at L’As du Fallafel.

Q: What are you trying to do with Fathom that hasn’t been done by other travel sites?

A: I wanted to create the one-stop travel website that I could never find. You know how the best travel guide is the email you get from a friend who lives there, detailing what you need to do and know? That’s the spirit that motivates us. I used to spend 80 hours researching dozens of sites to boil my findings down to an essential nugget of information. Fathom aims to deliver that nugget. I don’t want to wade through a list of 200 shops in Buenos Aires; I want 20 that are amazing. I want to know what locals know. I want pre-edited links to the best articles, websites, and online resources. Perhaps most importantly, Fathom recommendations are not driven by a mega travel agency’s vast and impersonal database; our recommendations are personal and special.

Q: How do you anticipate Fathom developing? For example, will the city guides grow in number?

A: Absolutely. It’s a big world, and we want to get everywhere. Postcards are updated continually, and we will launch several new guides every month. Reader feedback will be critical: We’ve had a lot of requests for Amsterdam since launching, so look for that soon. We want more Postcards from Fathom readers, a community we call the travel-proud. This fall, we’ll launch Boutique, with our favorite travel products; Traveler Profiles, based on the popular Fathom Questionnaires; and My Itineraries, so readers can save the places they want to go.

Q: How did your decade at Daily Candy prepare you for this endeavor?

A: First and foremost, it’s where I met my partner, Jeralyn Gerba, Fathom’s editorial director. We had one priority at DailyCandy: We had to delight our readers every day. To achieve this, we had to be trustworthy, we had to recommend quality places, and we had to deliver information readers wanted in a way they wanted it. And it helped if we had a great time doing it. These are excellent editorial priorities. By the way, before DailyCandy, I spent four years running the Entertainment Channel at AOL. That taught me a thing or two about building and serving a big audience.Q: Enough shop talk. When you’re not traveling, you split your time between New York and London. Care to share a secret hometown place or activity in either metropolis?

A: My life tends to revolve around what’s in front of me at the dinner table. In New York City, the bar at Tocqueville feels like a hidden escape, and breakfast at Balthazar feels like homeroom. At the end of the day, I always want to eat everything on the menu at L’Artusi. In London, I love Del Parc in Tufnell Park (of all places!), where two men cook and serve delicious Spanish/North African small plates from a closet-sized kitchen in the middle of the tiny dining room. And I love Moro, but who doesn’t?

Q: What are your favorite places to travel?

A: Sometimes I travel to feel familiar in a foreign setting. I could spend every weekend at Lo Scoglio on the Amalfi Coast and never tire of it. Similarly, I lived in Paris in college, and going back is like visiting an old friend. Other times, I travel for the difference and the discovery. Recent revelations include desolate and dramatic Salta, in northwest Argentina, and Sri Lanka, where I spent an incredible day on Taprobane Island. I loved Syria, and I hope it can recover from its political tumult and be the great country it should be.

Q: Where are you planning to travel next? And where are you dying to go?

A: Oh, the never-ending list. The wish list for the next few months includes Lake Austin Spa, Bighorn Revelstoke, Cartagena, and Portugal’s Douro Valley. I was married last year and am hoping for an eventual honeymoon in Chile. It’s my great embarrassment that I’ve never been to Southeast Asia — Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia. Zambia. Shanghai and Hong Kong. I’m obsessed with the Canadian Maritime Provinces. And in case my husband reads this, yes, honey, I’m dying to go to Tokyo, too.

Q: Where do you have no interest in ever visiting?

A: Cuba. I think I missed it. Though if an opportunity presented itself, of course I’d go. I’m curious about everything.

Q: Give us a travel tip or secret. Or five.

A: 1. Never eat airplane food. 2. You won’t use 50 percent of the stuff you’re packing, so leave it at home. 3. Find a local market to get a real flavor for a place. 4. It’s easier to go away than you think it is. And it’s always worth it. 5. I watch the sunrise on the last morning of every trip I take. I’m not suggesting that you do this; I am suggesting that you invent a travel ritual that you can share with yourself everywhere you go.

Q: What’s next for Pavia Rosati?

A: More sunrises in new places, and sharing them on Fathom.

Did you enjoy this Q&A? Check out previous Gadling Q&As with travelers like Jodi Ettenberg, Zora O’Neill, and Philippe Sibelly.

[Image: Jimmy Gilroy]

Photo of the day – Statue of Liberty

statue of liberty

The Statue of Liberty is beyond iconic. It’s the sort of place that most visitors to New York seek to visit, even if they’re not sure why, the sort of place with a symbolic and cultural reach that goes well beyond your average top tourist attraction. Today’s beautifully realist Photo of the Day, by Flickr user jwannie, depicts the Statue of Liberty as many visitors might encounter it, framed by a boat window.

Have an image that you’d like to see as a future Photo of the Day? Submit it to the Gadling Group pool on Flickr. If we like it we might just select it to be a future Photo of the Day.