Prepping for a trip to the Middle East

Given that I will probably be traveling to Dubai on business in the coming months, I thought I would pick up a copy of Customs & Etiquette of Arabia and Gulf States from my local Barnes & Noble. Fascinating little book. I really found it interesting to read about the protocols and etiquette when visiting someone's home, insight on hospitality, Bedouin culture, etc. Since Saudi Arabia may be on the itinerary, as well, I want to make sure I've brushed up on the proper way to behave and interact with my business colleagues. Oh, and speaking of Dubai, rumor has it that a new hotel, Palazzo Versace, will soon open... the hotel, owned by that Versace, will likely have, get this, an air conditioned beach. Is this any surprise in the resort town that brought us the world's first seven star hotel or the world's largest indoor ski resort?


Holy Crap!?

Ah, well... speaking of mountains...

wingsuit base jumping from doubleA on Vimeo.


Travel + Leisure's New List... and BsAs in sight?

The January issue of Travel + Leisure started arriving in subscribers' mailboxes and includes a list of their top 500 hotels in the world. I can't link to the list, yet, but rest assured it will show up online in a matter of days. As you can imagine, with 500 hotels to choose from, you'll see most of the names you would expect. I ran through a quick search of the list and spotted three that I've frequented... the Hotel Amigo in Brussels, the Grand Hotel in Rome and the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills. All three were no-brainers to make the list. Other "wish list" hotels made the list... places like the Llao Llao in Bariloche, Argentina.

The Famed Llao Llao Hotel near Bariloche
Speaking of Argentina, it looks like a business trip to BsAs is in the works. Our client has preferred rates with the Intercontinental Hotel - a nice place in an unfortunate microcentro location. Given my choice, I'm going to look elsewhere. So long as I can keep our nightly rate at or below the Intercontinental, I'm sure I can swing a place in Palermo Viejo or Recoleta. While I may lean on a well-known boutique hotel like the bobo or Five Cool Rooms, I might try out one of the new boutique hotels that's landed on the BsAs scene... maybe Mine Hotel Boutique? I've read great things about Tailor Made Hotel and 248 Finisterra but the Las Cañitas locations are a bit inconvenient for this particular trip.

We'll see...


UT Opens up a First-Class Hotel

It looks like The University of Texas has decided to open up an on-campus executive conference center and hotel... and what a hotel it is. For the little economic recession unfriendly sum of $279.00, you can book a standard king room at the hotel. Is the hotel worth it? Absolutely...

Why? If you happen to be going to a Longhorn game, staying on-campus (and not in a dorm, of course) is simply invaluable. Roll out of the room... walk to the game... watch the Longhorns win... and then head back. So easy. It was a breeze for the 7:00 PM kickoff on Thanksgiving night. Given our late arrival time on campus, we didn't have time to go check into a hotel further afield.

And the hotel is actually really very nice. The common areas are first class, there are multiple on-site restaurants (the breakfast buffet is relatively good - cost is reasonable for a hotel like this) and you simply can't beat the location. From what we could tell, the hotel not only had Longhorn fans but other guests who were simply enjoying the new digs.

A few thoughts... spend some time in the relaxing courtyard - a minimalist but very well laid out space with plenty of comfortable seating on the edges. Behind the check-in area, there's a very nice seating area where you can drink coffee (purchased at the nearby coffee bar) and watch some TV. Valet parking is $12.00/day and, ironically, self-parking is higher with in-and-out priveleges.

What else? That's all I can think of... it's a really nice hotel and would gladly stay there again when my economic circumstances warrant. Keep in mind, though, that UT has started something called the Santa Rita Society. While I can't see that they'll sell too many memberships during lean economic times, this may eventually make rooms harder to come by.

And not just occasionally, but at every regular season UT home football game for at least 15 years, you will be guaranteed the right to share the home game experience. You will enjoy the rewards of impeccable service, a concierge at your beck and call, complimentary amenities, a destination restaurant (The Carillon), a sports café (Gabriel’s), exceptional room service, rooms available for private parties – in addition to being near world-class museums, shopping and all that The University and Downtown Austin have to offer. It is a unique opportunity to network in an unparalleled setting, to form lasting relationships with like-minded social, business, educational and government leaders who – like you – are members of this by-invitation-only, inner circle known as the Santa Rita Society.

Room licenses and Santa Rita Society memberships are limited to 250, so you must act quickly. Single rooms (for two people) and a limited number of suites are still available.


Venice: Cold and Foggy in November... but Worth It!

Our November 2005 trip to Venice was a bit chilly - yes, it even snowed - but it confirmed to me that the best time to visit Venice is during some of the colder months. Problem is, the water isn't always cooperative. The acqua alta can put a damper on anyone who wants to wander across San Marco.

Still, there's more to Venice than the San Marco district and, well, let's face it... it's a bit of a gamble. If you can handle the possible risk, then I still say that Venice during a month like November or January is a magical place... cold, foggy and relatively quiet. Tourists crowds are scarce and great deals can be found throughout the city - whether you're after a luxe option or a wonderful little hotel like the Ca' Del Brocchi in Dorsoduro. Finding a gondoliere is an easy task and you can even negotiate a fair rate - something you certainly can't do during the "swampy" summer months when hordes of tourists are qeueing up for a ride.

Plenty of Elbow Room in November