Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Favorite Boston Boutique Hotel



Louisburg Square, Beacon Hill, Boston



Famous Acorn Street on Beacon Hill, Boston

Having lived in Boston for over a decade myself, I have an unusual fondness for this City!  I was fortunate enough to live on Beacon Hill, commonly known as "The Hill", and walk to work every day in the financial district.


DeLuca's Market on Charles Street, Beacon  Hill, Boston

Boston, as everyone knows, is steeped in history and tradition.  It is a city full of historic buildings as well as many significant monuments and historic sites.  My daily route to work would take me past Boston Common, the State House that crowns Beacon Hill and down Beacon Street.  It is here, at the very beginning of Beacon Street (15 Beacon Street to be exact) that I would like to introduce you to one of the most welcoming and well located hotels Boston has to offer.  Over the past decade, many clients have enjoyed this property and have returned many times since.  Last week, a client celebrated his birthday there with his wife and thoroughly enjoyed their stay.  The hotel is called Fifteen Beacon Hotel.  http://www.xvbeacon.com/


Fifteen Beacon Hotel Entrance

This hotel is truly a gem and nothing about it is ordinary.  The building itself is a 1903 landmark.  In the years I would walk by it, the building was occupied by the Boston School Committee.  In 1999, this unique structure became the Fifteen Beacon Hotel.  Fortunately, upon renovation, many of the original architectural details were saved and this historic building breathed new life as a luxury boutique hotel in one of the best locations in Boston.


King's Chapel near Fifteen Beacon Hotel

Fifteen Beacon offers 62 guest rooms with yummy Frette linens, working gas fireplaces, 24-hour in-room dining and a 24-hour workout room.  Each guest room is equipped with surround-sound stereo, a cordless phone, an iHome alarm clock radio, a 42-inch flat screen television as well as complimentary wireless internet access.  An added plus is their restaurant, Mooo, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner along with offering an all-day bar menu.  Fifteen Beacon also offers a private dining room called "The Wine Cellar" which provides a perfect location for a business meeting or private party and can accommodate up to 75 guests.


Rooftop Deck at Fifteen Beacon Hotel

This one-of-a-kind hotel enjoys six different room types with only seven rooms per floor.  Their Classic Rooms have a queen four-poster bed and are 315 sq. ft.  The Traditional Rooms offer a queen canopy bed and are 395 sq. ft.  The Studio Rooms offer either a queen or a king bed and are 485 sq. ft.  Alternatively, the Corner Studio Rooms offer a king bed as well as a queen pullout sofabed and are 475 sq. ft.  The largest rooms are the One- and Two-Bedroom Suites which have a separate parlor with a dining table and range in size from 900 to 1400 sq. ft.


Studio Room

One Bedroom Suite

I am always happy to point out that a hotel is pet friendly!!!!!  Fifteen Beacon welcomes your furry canine friends where they will enjoy dog biscuits, a comfy bed of their own and "turn down water".  The hotel also points out that dog sitting and dog walking can be arranged prior to arrival.  Should you choose to make a $25.00 pet donation, 100% of it will go to the MSPCA Angell Memorial Hospital.  I can personally tell you that this is a worthy cause since my own dog sadly was a guest at Angell Memorial.


Woof

As I mentioned previously, the location of Fifteen Beacon could NOT be better.  Being situated where it is, you are able to comfortably walk to many different attractions and areas of Boston.  It is a short walk to the famous Faneuil Hall area where you will find many boutiques and eateries and street side entertainers.  You are also very close to Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden.  In summer months, you may choose to ride one of the very popular swan boats in the Public Garden.  Charles Street, on Beacon Hill has many unique shops and some very good restaurants within walking distance. 

Faneuil Hall

Old Boston State House

Another favorite thing to do is to wander down Newbury Street.  If you walk through the Public Garden, then you will reach Arlington Street and Newbury is just off Arlington Street.  This is a very popular shopping area with some of my favorite shops!


"Make Way for Ducklings" in the Boston Public Garden
 
I could go on an on about Boston and everything it has to offer.  There will definitely be more future posts on this fabulous City I miss so much.


State House on Beacon Street

All Fifteen Beacon Hotel photos are courtesy of Fifteen Beacon.  All other photos are my own.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Touring the Countryside of Southern Ireland

I have been involved with planning a family's summer vacation to Ireland two years in a row.  One family was traveling with their 11-year old son and the other with their 14-year old daughter.  Both trips were made during the month of July.  One spanned over eight days and the other over two weeks.  As with any type of trip like this, whether it be domestic or international, the time frame is determined by exactly what you would like to include for sightseeing and activities and, don't forget, relaxation.  After all of my own personal travels abroad, my absolute bottom-line best piece of advice is to try to NOT do it all in one trip.  Yes, I know.  Sadly, we only live once, BUT, I promise you that doing too much in a compressed period of time is NOT the way to go.  My second piece of advice is to "stop and smell the roses".  As trite as it sounds,  you really want to "allow" yourself and your traveling companion(s) to seize the moment and enjoy each second.

We, as Americans, are programmed to be as efficient as possible, waste as little time as possible and, most of all, to be as productive as we can be in the time allotted.  That is NOT how a family vacation should be treated.  My point being, both of these trips, although similar, were thoroughly enjoyed by all family members, but each family had differing goals.  I would simply like to provide  you with recommendations for car rentals, hotel and bed and breakfast recommendations as well as some helpful hints.

Obviously, depending on a few different factors, i.e. cost of air fare, availability of that air fare, proximity from airport to desired destination, etc., you could either fly into Dublin or Shannon, Ireland.  Dublin is on the east coast of Ireland and is where one of my families began their trip.  Shannon is in the southwestern part of Ireland and is the airport of arrival for the second family.  Both of these itineraries included the southern tip of Ireland, Counties Cork and Kerry, and home of the famous Ring of Kerry and Dingle Bay.  http://www.dingle-peninsula.ie/ and http://www.ringofkerrytourism.com/


Dingle Bay

This particular itinerary will basically form a huge circle trip which will begin in Dublin and head south to the countryside of County Kilkenny and then on to the coastal seaside town of Kinsale.  Then my clients headed west to make their way to Dingle and then north to County Galway and finally directly east to return to Dublin.

It makes sense to me to begin with car rental reservations.  Over the years, we have used Auto Europe to book the majority of our European rental cars.  They are a very trustworthy and reliable company to work with and highly knowledgeable regarding vehicle rentals in Europe.  http://www.autoeurope.com/  Auto Europe not only provides their assistance and expertise with traditional car rentals, but they can also assist with cell phone rentals, specialty cars, RV rentals, GPS system rentals, etc.  They also can arrange airport transfers and chauffeur services as well.  Their rates are always competitive and all vehicle rentals are fully refundable even after they have been prepaid assuming cancellation has been made prior to departure.

In the particular case of my clients whom arrived in Dublin, they found it easier to take a cab from the airport to their hotel and then I made arrangements for them to pick up the car near their hotel.  Since they stayed in Dublin for three nights, it saved them alot of money by picking up their vehicle only when they were ready to depart from Dublin.


Butlers Townhouse Entrance

First stop upon arrival was Butlers Townhouse Hotel in Dublin for the first three nights.  http://www.butlers-hotel.com/   Butlers Townhouse is located in the Victorian Quarter in the heart of Dublin. The Hotel opened in March of 1997 with 20 air conditioned bedrooms.


Butler's Townhouse Guest Room

Butler's Townhouse Guest Room with Four Poster Bed

Butlers is situated beside Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road in Ballsbridge.  It is literally a 2-minute walk to the RDS and DART Station.  This boutique hotel offers free WiFi throughout, complimentary car parking, 24 hour room service, gourmet Irish breakfast as well as afternoon tea in their Drawing Room.


The Conservatory where Breakfast is Served

The added bonus is that the car rental company is a 10-minute walk from the Hotel.  Butlers Townhouse made a point of telling me that "driving in Dublin city centre is not an easy task even for local people".  I tend to pay attention to strong hints like that.
 

All Photos Courtesy of Butlers Townhouse

The next night would be spent at the Ballaghtobin Country House, Callan, County Kilkenny.  Ballaghtobin is a luxury country house and ancestral family home on an extensive working farm.  It consists of a total of 370 acres, 300 of which are wheat, fifty acres contain blackcurrants and twenty acres are Christmas trees.  They also offer a hard tennis court and a croquet lawn.  http://www.ballaghtobin.com/

Ballaghtobin Country House, Callan, County Kilkenny

As you can see for yourself, this is a very special property with an understated elegance yet very comfortable and welcoming surroundings. 

Ballaghtobin Entrance Hall

Ballaghtobin Drawing Room

Ballaghtobin Dining Room
 All bedrooms at Ballaghtobin have been refurbished and are comfortably decorated with lovely antiques.
"Spare Room" Sleeps 2

"Nursery Room" Sleeps 3
 
"Barrack Room" Sleeps 4
All Ballaghtobin Country House Photographs
by Richard Jackson

Each room has a television, coffeemaker and ensuite bathroom.  This would be a perfect place to stay to enjoy the true peace and quiet of the Irish countryside in style.

Continuing southward, my clients made their way to Kinsale.  A dear Irish friend of mine had told me that Kinsale is not to be missed.  http://www.kinsale.ie/.  Kinsale is located in County Cork at the mouth of the River Bandon and is known for its famous "Gourmet Festival" held annually.  A small historical tidbit-when the RMS Lusitania was sunk in 1915, some of the survivors and bodies were brought to Kinsale where the inquest on the bodies recovered took place.  There is a statue in the harbor which commemorates this effort.

Market Street in Kinsale
Photo Courtesy of hiddencreekphoto.com

On the Quayside at Kinsale
Photo Courtesy of hiddencreekphoto.com
Kinsale is also a good location to spend a few days and tour the neighboring towns.  There is lots to do in this area.  You may want to schedule a guided horse trek through Ballinadee Stables.  They have a number of horses and ponies.  Minimum age requirement is 8.  http://www.ballinadeestables.com/  Another fun outing in Kinsale is to visit Desmond Castle.  http://www.heritageireland.ie/  The Castle is locally known as the French Prison since it served as a prison in the 18th century.  Today it hosts the International Museum of Wine Exhibition.  Weather permitting, I cannot imagine anything more enjoyable than being on the water and taking a harbor cruise with Kinsale Harbour Cruises, http://www.kinsaleharbourcruises.com/  What would a trip to southern Ireland be without "kissing the Blarney Stone"?  Blarney is approximately 8 km northwest of Cork City which is just north of Kinsale.  This is obviously a favorite destination for many.  http://www.blarneycastle.ie/


The Old Presbytery Entrance
 My clients spent two nights in Kinsale and stayed at The Old Presbytery.  http://www.oldpres.com/  The Old Presbytery was built in the early 1800's and is situated very close to Desmond Castle mentioned earlier.  About ten years ago, a new wing was added and in keeping with the original design, it is also decorated with Victorian brass and iron beds.

Old Presbytery Guest Room

Old Presbytery Family Guest Room

Antique Touches at The Old Presbytery

Each room has a private bathroom and all have showers and some offer either claw foot tubs or jacuzzi tubs.  The Old Presbytery boasts a Penthouse Suite which can sleep up to five people.  It is an open plan two roomed suite and offers two bathrooms with views of the town and harbour.


A Very Inviting Courtyard at The Old Presbytery
All Old Presbytery Photos by Neilus Buckley

The Old Presbytery has been recognized and praised by many including Karen Brown, Rick Steves and Frommers.  I promise you that Philip and Noreen McEvoy will make your stay as enjoyable and comfortable as possible, not to mention Cookie and Scampi!!!
 
Cookie, the Feline Greeter
Photo by Pam Townsend

Scampi, the Keeper of the Fort
Photo by Pam Townsend

After two glorious nights in Kinsale, my clients set off for Dingle in County Kerry. Their next two nights would be spent at Greenmount House.  http://www.greenmounthouse.ie/ 


Greenmount House
 This is a very special 4-star luxury bed and breakfast which opened in 1977.  Because of its elevated location, Greenmount House offers incredible views of Dingle Bay.  Greenmount House offers 14 bedrooms, many of which offer their own balcony or terrace to enjoy the view.  All rooms offer a private bathroom, television, CD player, hairdryer, iron and telephone.
 

Greenmount House Guest Room


Greenmount House has a lovely breakfast room which offers panoramic views of Dingle Bay.  The breakfast menu is quite diverse depending on your appetite.  You may choose anything from a plate of fresh fruit to a full Irish breakfast.  Either way, you will not be disappointed.  They also provide packed lunches upon request.
 

View from Greenmount House
All Photos Courtesy of Greenmount House

Like most areas of Ireland, the Dingle Peninsula offers a wealth of history.  You may choose to visit the Dunbeg Fort Archeological Site, http://dunbegfort.com/ or the Famine Cottage, http://famine-cottage.com/.  Of great interest to many visitors is the Dingle Ocean World Aquarium, http://dingle-oceanworld.ie/.  Again, should you want to visit the neighboring islands, the Blasket Islands, you can take a ferry to them.  http://blasketislands.ie/.  

Dingle Peninsula

My clients chose to spend their last two nights before returning to Dublin at the Ballynahinch Castle Hotel in Connemara, County Galway.  http://www.ballynahinch-castle.com/.

Ballynahinch Castle
 Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is a 4-star luxury castle hotel situated on a private 450-acre estate in the heart of Connemara in County Galway.  It overlooks their famous salmon fishery as well as the 12 Bens Mountain range.

Ballynahinch Lounge
The Hotel offers a total of 40 guest rooms with half of them in the older section of the Castle and they also have two riverside wings which contain their Superior Rooms and Luxury Rooms and Suites.

Luxury Double Room

Riverside Suite Sitting Room

Riverside Suite Bedroom
The rooms in the older section are their Classic Rooms.  The Classic Rooms have views of either the mountains or the river and two of them overlook the courtyard.  The rooms situated in the riverside wings offer views across the river.
Classic Twin Room
Classic Double Room with River View

In addition to this spectacular setting, the Ballynahinch Castle is home to the Owenmore Restaurant.  As you can imagine, the head chef and his team take advantage of the local fresh fish and game to produce some of the most popular dishes in all of Ireland.

Ballynahinch Dining Room
All Above Photos Courtesy of Ballynahinch Castle Hotel
What would a trip to Ireland be without at least a couple nights in a castle? 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Set Your Compass for the Maritime Hotel

It has taken me a few years, yes years, to finally feel comfortable navigating the streets of New York City!!  Daunting as it may be, I have made it a project every time I am there to walk everywhere until it is no longer humanly possible.  I am always armed with bandaids for the blisters, an umbrella for the rain and my well-worn and torn city map.  Not sure what I would do if I lost it.  To this day, I still have not been courageous enough to tackle the subway system.  That is a goal for 2011 for sure.  Trying to understand and interpret a map of Manhattan on paper is just as challenging as trying to decipher it from the ground.  One of my many New York obsessions is collecting every possible map of the city I can find and there are many.  Given my profession and, as of a year ago, my new responsibilities covering the New York hotel scene, I was forced to become a quick study and get over my fear of getting to know New York.  Thus the story begins.

In my previous stockbroker life, I would fly into LaGuardia and take a cab to the Paine Webber offices.  Done, easy, simple.  I really didn't have to identify with the various neighborhoods of the City or be concerned with what restaurants were where and I way did not have to worry about which direction the traffic was flowing in order to hail a cab.  NOW, in my travel agent life, I am concerned with all of those things.  On the top of my priority list, however, is becoming familiar with various hotels in the City that can serve the needs of our clients.  Since we have a very diverse clientele, that encompasses many, many hotels.  It includes luxury hotels, boutique hotels, corporate hotels and everything in between.  I am thrilled to introduce you to a hotel that I personally enjoy and our clients enjoy as well.  I am hoping that this will be the very first New York hotel in a long list of hotels that I may introduce to you.  I have vowed to only tell you about those properties in which I have either personally been a guest or have, at the very least, toured the hotel completely.

                   INTRODUCING THE MARITIME HOTEL

I have a personal affection for the Maritime Hotel, http://www.themaritimehotel.com/ since I love all things nautical and all things navy blue, not to mention my penchant for fabulous fabrics and textures.  The Maritime is located in Chelsea, just two blocks north of the Meatpacking District at 16th Street and 9th Avenue.  It was originally built in 1966 as the headquarters for the Maritime Union and was fully renovated in 2003.  As you can see below, the distinguishing feature of the Maritime's monolithic structure is its 5-foot porthole windows.  This was the first luxury hotel to be built in this area of the City and has twelve floors with 120 guest rooms and four suites.

The Maritime Hotel

The Maritime Hotel Lobby
I can personally attest to the comfort of the Maritimes's Standard Rooms.  They are tastefully decorated with deep blue drapes and custom bed linens and 550 thread count cotton sheets.  The richness of the decor is only heightened by the custom woodwork and teak wood paneling.  Each room offers complimentary wireless internet, 24-hour room service, a flat screen LCD television and DVD player, CD player, in room safe and minibar only to be topped off with Bigelow bath amenities which is one of my favorites.
Standard Room
Jr. Suite
Terrace Suite
Another great attribute of this hotel is that it offers its guests a choice in dining options.  They are home to Matsuri, a Japanese restaurant open daily from 6pm as well as La Bottega, their Italian restaurant which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Both are outstanding!  Matsuri, naturally, offers an exceptional sushi selection as well as Japanese tapas cuisine.  They are most proud to have the City's largest sake menu and only sake sommelier!
Matsuri at the Maritime Hotel
You may choose to start your day dining at La Bottega ordering Truffled Eggs or enjoying a wide selection of Panini for lunch.  Their dinner menu is quite diverse as well offering anything and everything from Linguine alle Vongole to grilled Scottish Salmon to Pizza.  A very attractive feature for the Maritime's guests is having the choice of ordering your meal and having it served in your room 24 hours a day.  My kind of place.
La Bottega at the Maritime Hotel
The Maritime Hotel is also well equipped to handle special events of various sizes.  They have the North Cabana and the South Cabana which are located on the rooftop of La Bottega with a sun roof that encloses the fully heated outdoor space during the winter and also offers a fireplace.  If the two Cabanas are combined during the warmer months of the year, they can then accommodate up to 550 guests for a standing reception.  Additionally, the Maritime is home to the Hiro Ballroom enjoying 3600 square feet with an audio and lighting system and DJ booth, perfect for many different types of events.

As you can see, the Maritime Hotel offers all of the "creature comforts" that anyone could want, i.e. great location, superior restaurants, very attractive and appealing rooms with top-of-the-line amenities and most important of all, they have a staff whose goal is to please their guests in any way possible.  What more could you ask for?
Garden Umbrellas at the Maritime Hotel
All Photos Courtesy of the Maritime Hotel