Paul B.

KLM staff checks into Courtyard Marriott

KLM staff checks into Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Downtown

Call it a meditation on the current state of the travel industry — or a nod to the new normal: We weren’t expecting to see an airline crew checking in to the comparatively casual Courtyard by Marriott this past Saturday. The corporate-friendly hotel, on 2nd Street just south of Market in San Francisco, is a perfectly nice value play – but it’s a far cry from the mod lodgings we always associated with flight attendants and pilots. (That we saw more families than crew at the hotel bar is, now that we think about, probably a good thing.)

But no sooner had we gotten over our surprise than we checked out of the Courtyard and into the not-as-luxurious-as-it-claims Parc 55 hotel, also just off Market on 5th Street. Among the uniforms we recognized there were those of Lufthansa, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific.

Could Downtown San Francisco be the new home of globe-trotting jet setters? Nah, we’re chalking it up to the sub-$200-a-night room rates during the post-Thanksgiving-and-pre-Christmas lull. Even cash-strapped airlines can afford those rates; it only takes 10 checked bags to come up with 200 bucks these days!

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Per Se New York

Thomas Keller's Per Se

[Flickr/ulterior epicure]

New York City has thousands of restaurants, but for one of the highest concentrations of high-end dining, Columbus Circle is hard to beat. Home to the massive Time Warner Center, the Midtown West destination houses Thomas Keller’s Per Se, the ostentatious sushi den Masa, the second location of the refined Italian restaurant A Voce, and the oft-forgotten Porter House New York, whose “rich, buttery” steak so impressed the former New York Times dining critic Frank Bruni. These hotels are close enough to all the restaurants that you could leave at 7:45 a.m. and still make your 8 p.m. reservation. Read More »

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The Plaza Upper East Side

The Plaza

[Oyster]

New York’s obsession with everything Gossip Girl has helped turn the sometimes stodgy Upper East Side into a destination for more than just polo aficionados and old-money matriarchs. But after shopping Madison Avenue’s boutiques, hobnobbing at the Neue Gallery, and dining at Daniel, where should you stay? These three hotels are your best bets. Read More »

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Bouley TriBeCa

Bouley TriBeCa

[Flickr/ulterior epicure]

New York’s Greenwich Hotel garnered lavish critical praise in May 2009 for chef Andrew Carmellini’s new restaurant Locanda Verde, which replaced the lackluster and universally, uh, panned restaurant Ago. But the hotel’s neighborhood, TriBeCa, has four other dining options well worth a visit for a special night out.

Bouley: The flagship of chef David Bouley, who’s been cooking in TriBeCa since 1985, this French-inspired restaurant is best known for its $95 six-course degustation menu that New York Magazine critics declare “ethereal.”

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St. Paul’s Chapel

[Flickr/p_a_h]

New York certainly has its share of restaurants and boutiques du jour that come in and out of fashion faster than skinny ties. But it’s also a fascinating place for history fans, since it’s one of the oldest cities in the United States. These four spots in Lower Manhattan are must-sees for anyone interested in the past.

Federal Hall: A National Park Service administered memorial, this Greek revival – or more accurately Federal style – building at 26 Wall Street was, in 1789, home to the first United States Congress and is also where George Washington was sworn in as president, when New York was, for a short time, the capital of the young United States. Open Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Stay at Gild Hall, five blocks away. Read More »

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Reporter Kit

Paul B.'s mobile workspace

Recently the productivity superheroes at Lifehacker polled readers on mobile workspaces, the set of gear that web wonks and digital nomads pack when working from the road. The kits, featuring laptops, cameras, gizmos, and cables rang more than a couple bells among the Oyster reporting staff, who pack all that and more when hitting the road.

We’ve already talked up our Nikon camera gear, but what else travels to Aruba, Hawaii, and all the other places Oyster visits? After the jump, a detailed look at all the gear reporter Paul B. recently took to his last destination.

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We were leafing through some old travel magazines Wednesday—what happens at your office?—when we stumbled on a cool article in the November 2008 issue of Travel+Leisure. They’d rounded up a bunch of their favorite locally sourced minibar products—and we were inspired to do the same.

Mandarin Oriental New York

Chips from a farm just down the road

What: North Fork Potato Chips, made on an environmentally minded farm in Long Island
Where:
Mandarin Oriental New York

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The Franklin NYC

The Franklin NYC

The Carlyle

The Carlyle

The Trip: Hitting New York for this month’s wave of spectacular art exhibits, including Monet at MoMA, Vermeer at The Met, Georgia O’Keeffe at the Whitney and Kandinsky at the Guggenheim.

The Demands: An Upper East Side hotel for easy museum access and, of course, good value.

The Options: Famed Upper East institution The Carlyle and its under-the-radar neighbor The Franklin NYC.

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A crash-worthy couch?

A crash-worthy couch?

Not according to our reporter

Not according to our reporter

Fact vs. Fluff compares the hyperbole of hotel websites and the cold, hard truth of what guests really experience. Today’s target: the Townhouse Hotel in Miami.

According to the Townhouse’s website, you’d better start planning that after-party:

L-shaped couches and the oversized poufs could double as crash pads for overnight guests, who aren’t charged for their stay.

Sounds great—except our reporter discovered not one but two problems with hosting an extra friend:

The couch in the corner is definitely not large enough for adults to sleep on, despite the hotel’s assertions to the contrary. Plus, the drab gray cover has some questionable white stains on it (perhaps from manic whitewashing?).

Looks like you’ll be sharing a bed.

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MGM Grand's Academy Pool

MGM Grand's Academy Pool...

And how it really looks.

And how it really looks.

We can’t blame Vegas hotels for going out of their way to make their pools look incredible. High-priced drinks, cover charges pushing $50 and day bed rentals have turned an afternoon dip into a major money mill for casinos, and at least one property is better known for its pool party than anything else.

Browsing hotel websites, you might get the sense that you’ll have that swanky pool all to yourself, particularly if you drop $250 on a “private” cabana. But with literally thousands of guests clamoring for a lounge chair, you’re more apt to see snow in the desert than an empty pool. Our reporters visited three Vegas properties where the marketing photos didn’t quite match reality. Read More »

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