Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Just Back From: Cabo San Lucas

Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Jan
31
2020

December 2019

If you follow hotel news like me, then it’s no surprise that my recent trip to Los Cabos was absolutely essential for my work as a Travel Professional: writer and advisor alike. The amount of new luxury hotels opening over the past three years is astounding and it appears that every luxury brand now has a holding on the Baja Peninsula, from the new Four Seasons at Costa Palmas to Nobu to Montage and Waldorf Astoria. All the big guys are there, and as they should be.

As an East Coaster the charms of Cabo were somewhat off my radar, but now as a second-time visitor, I can firmly say: I’m hooked. The weather is supreme, the food truly sensational and the service is second-to-none. I absolutely adore Cabo for a quick getaway and envy those West Coasters for the feasibility. However, it is becoming easier for us East Coasters too with direct flights from United and more promised from Jet Blue and America. And I will say, even though I did have to connect through Atlanta, I would do it again. The guacamole, margaritas and practically guaranteed sunshine quickly alleviates any travel burden. Touring the multitude of new properties has given me a sense of the tremendous variety afforded to the Cabo visitor – from families to couples to solo travelers, there’s an ideal spot for everyone – it simply depends on your priorities.

As a guest at the newly refurbished Waldorf Astoria Pedregal this past trip, in all honesty, exceeded my expectations. Having visited the property during my first Cabo tour to enjoy its scenic waterside restaurant, El Farallon (a must when in town – pictured above) I was familiar with the hotel’s distinct location accessed through a mountain tunnel and its long expansive beachfront. However, what I wasn’t aware of was the remarkable hospitality and incredible food and beverage product at the property – not to mention the front seat views I had of spouting whales from my room’s plunge pool.

Look, it’s hard not to fall in love with a hotel who delivers fresh guacamole, chips and coronitas to your room daily at 4pm. Yet, that was just the tip of the iceberg. I was elated to find that I was pleased at every meal – from breakfast fruit served in a coconut and chilaquiles made to order to lunch filled with various fresh ceviches and elegant dinners including duck and mole. And I haven’t even begun on the tequila list, the variety of fresh margaritas (go Cucumber during the day and extra spicy at night) and curious Mexican wines. Maybe I’m partial because Mexican food is one of my all time favorites, but I was surprised to see the hotel deliver on all its levels of presentation. Fortunately the gym was also commendable, clean and spacious while the long beach made for the best sunrise walk passing by fishermen surf- casting and other early morning spectators. The Spa is yet another element of the resort that must not be missed. Dedicated to the moon phases and utilizing as much local natural products and ancient customs, it’s not your average spa. The spirituality component is strongly emphasized thus enhancing that sought-after transporting feeling. I walked away from my ancient ritual massage feeling restored body and mind. Success! I won’t lie, I also enjoyed the hotel boutique which is filled with lovely local artisan work as well as the requisite resort beachwear. The sale prices helped, too. I do so enjoy when a hotel exceeds my expectations. After so many years in the business, it’s extra special to see a property you have known adapt and improve to its full potential. Kudos Waldorf for bringing this special property to an impressive standard.

Other properties I visited and have stayed in Cabo are:

One & Only Palmilla

Ventanas al Paraiso

Cabo Surf Hotel

Esperanza

As always, it’s helpful to know the differences between them so you choose accordingly. Give me a ring and I can help

Posted in: Beach, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Friday, January 31, 2020 No Comments

Just Back From: Florence

Europe, Food + Wine, Friend Of A Friend Consulting, Italy

May
28
2019

Florence, Italy
April 2019

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Check instagram for a look into just how popular this Italian city and its distinct glamour are with the world. Of course, a visit will quickly show you its popularity with American college-age students, eager to gobble up first-person experiences of studying abroad and all that entails. However, despite all its popularity, the city and its Medici-enthused antiquities and art objects remain a sight to behold, somehow eschewing total Disney-esque status and allowing the city to continue its far-reaching appeal to almost any traveler. Of course, when something is as beautiful as Florence truly is, not even mass tourism can make her ugly. That said, here are a few tips from my most recent visit to ensure the beauty is the majority of what you see:

 

1. Do make the trek up the hills into Fiesole, just 20 minutes outside the city. The views are spectacular and offer a rare look into what it might have looked centuries ago (albeit with less structures, but still red roofs and cypress trees) I recommend indulging at the Belmond Villa San Michele (pictured below) whether it be for meal or a stay, as it does set quite an exclamation point behind the look and feel of a regal villa in the hills.

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2. Do consider hiring a touring company to get you a bit more behind the scenes. As mentioned above, the crowds are no joke and thus paying a bit more to go behind the vaulted palace doors and up to a private terrace (pictured below) can take your visit from wonderful to magical.

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3. Walk, walk and walk some more – until your feet beg for  a cafe chair and a spritz. The city is extremely walkable and some of its best-kept gems are just beyond the center. Not to mention bolthole views like the one below, which are only spied by crossing the Arno and heading upward.

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4. Stop and marvel as often as possible. You’ll be surprised to find that some of the most precious and historic elements of the city’s history are not behind museum walls. Of course below is a replica of the famous statue, but the Palazzo behind it allows visitors and inside are treasure to behold and open to all.

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Posted in: Europe, Food + Wine, Friend Of A Friend Consulting, Italy

Published by Meg, Tuesday, May 28, 2019 No Comments

Just Back From: St. Barths

Caribbean, Friend Of A Friend Consulting, Saint Barth's

Jan
24
2018

January 2018

I am so thrilled to be able to tell you that despite the devastating winds of Hurricane Irma, the beloved isle of St. Barths is alive and well – thriving even, in shockingly green glory. It was such a joy to land and see how much the island has recovered from those hideous pictures post storm. Praise the fertile temperatures of the Caribbean. It was also a sincere pleasure to be down there and appreciate the beauty of the island in a way I had never before. My weekend was filled with early morning hikes through the woods and even hunting using the best used compound bows for sale, also yoga followed by afternoons lazing by the beach with personalized picnics to boot.  It was truly heaven.

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The views from Petite Saline

 

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Hiking at Le Toiny with the lovely Aminata

 

Of course, it’s not all roses. The damage is still evident, particularly near Pelican Beach, Grand Cul-de-Sac and behind Le Toiny, and the majority of the five-star hotel properties are shuttered until the end of the year with the exception of Hotel Christopher and Villa Marie opening in late February and early March. Some of my favorite restaurants (Maya’s, Bonito) remain closed though I finally went to Blue Ginger this year and wow. Yum. In good news, the villa product remains stronger than ever, the people are as upbeat and charming as always and the operating businesses are showcasing their innovative and service-oriented characters to the n’th degree – particularly Eden Rock Villas, whose pop up beach club (photo below) is a marvel, executed flawlessly, and WIMCO, whose catered beach picnic set up at the beach of your choosing (also pictured below) was a true highlight of my weekend.

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Eden Rock’s Popup Beach Club on Lorient Beach

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WIMCO Beach Picnic at Gouveneur Beach

Given the predominance of villas for this next year, I was able to tour a few spectacular ones with the affable and knowledgable, Guillaume of WIMCO. He took me to three top villas distinguished by their views, design and setting. Below is the view from the appropriately named, VILLA VUE. To say that setting on that deck is nothing short of vacation perfection is merely stating the obvious.  For more details on specific villas, don’t hesitate to contact me. I am so happy to be able to confidently promote the island and help aid in its recovery with the support of tourism.

The view at Villa VUE

The view at Villa VUE

 

 

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Hard not to have a big grin when you’re in St. Barths, and at Eden Rock Pop Up Beach Club to boot!

 

 



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Posted in: Caribbean, Friend Of A Friend Consulting, Saint Barth's

Published by Meg, Wednesday, January 24, 2018 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.