February 2011

Marketing image provided by Mondrian Soho

Marketing image provided by Mondrian Soho

We can’t help it: We love when a new hotel opens. So you can imagine our delight when the Mondrian SoHo opened last Tuesday in New York, after being the talk of the town for months. With so much fanfare around its opening, we had high expectations — especially on the heels of so many big openings in 2010 (Trump SoHo, Gansevoort Park Avenue, The Setai Fifth Avenue). But as you might expect based on it’s popular predecessors (Mondrian Los Angeles and Mondrian South Beach), this hotel did not disappoint. 

Some parts of the hotel are yet to be finished, but we loved its romantic-yet-contemporary design and unique features. The hotel wouldn’t let us take our own photos, as it prohibits any outside photography, so we’re using a few marketing photos in this post. We’ll compare them to our very own Oyster photos as soon as we can!

Upon entering, the world turns white, blue and silver– all of it inspired by the Jean Cocteau 1946 film “La Belle et la Bete.” Lights are low, flowers cover the walls and carpets, and sofas, ottomans and cushions resemble the original tone of Belle’s dress (we were told designer Benjamin Noriega Ortiz even went through the director’s notes to get the details right). 

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Michael Mina Restaurant, San Francisco
Michael Mina Restaurant, San Francisco

When San Francisco top toque, Michael Mina, opened his flagship, eponymous restaurant in 2004 in the Westin St. Francis on Union Square, it was in a hushed, luxe space all done up in elegant white and pale blue, with crisp tablecloths, elaborate china and one-of-a-kind serving pieces.

Then, when Michael Mina Restaurant moved late last year to the California Street location once home to Aqua restaurant, where Mina first made a name for himself, along with it came a new incarnation of the restaurant. Out went the tablecloths; in went unadorned dark walnut tables. The gleaming china was replaced by rough-hewn, handmade Japanese plateware. And the tempo of the restaurant went up decidedly with the now-lively bar with pop music audible throughout the dining room.

Just don’t call the ambiance “casual,” jokes Ryan Cole, general manager of the restaurant. Chef Mina, he notes, prefers the term, “relaxed,” to reflect the less fussy attitude that today’s diners want in a fine-dining restaurant.

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Union Oyster House, Boston

Union Oyster House, Boston

With such a mammoth concentration of global brainpower, Boston is the one place where it’s socially acceptable to work or study 17 hours a day. Oddly enough it’s also the one city where it’s not taboo to take a duck tour, date students 12 years your junior, and to elongate your “a’s” in a harsh, deafening tone while dropping your “r’s” (just like the saying “Pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd”). Fortunately, it’s also a city that savors its historic roots and constantly celebrates its iconoclastic spirit.

In keep with such tradition, Boston is home to the country’s oldest restaurant. To hell with the all the ‘New Kids on the Block’, the great, great, great grand daddy of American restaurants, Union Oyster House, is still king of America’s food empire. The country’s first restaurant circa 1826, Union Oyster House is novelty, nostalgia, and superb seafood all wrapped up into one. The ever-expanding National Historic Landmark became an integral part of the Freedom Trail nearly two centuries ago, and hasn’t looked back since.
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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In case you missed it, Oyster.com was featured on NBC’s Today Show on Thursday as part of a segment on hotel marketing. You can watch the segement here, or click on the above.

Last week we were on location in Costa Rica with Jeff Rossen and the Today Show, where we discovered the Photo Fakeout that we posted earlier today. But don’t get us wrong — Costa Rica is amazing and we loved seeing the stunning views, beautiful beaches, rainforests and active volcanoes.

Stay tuned to discover the new destinations we’ll be covering in the coming months! Our Costa Rica review will be up soon, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

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Marketing Photo

Marketing Photo

Oyster's Photo

Oyster's Photo

If you’re a morning person, you may have caught Oyster.com featured in a segment on NBC’s Today Show this morning. Last week we were on location with the Today Show in beautiful Costa Rica, where an Oyster investigator found the above Photo Fakeout.

La Mariposa Hotel only shows one photo of a Full Ocean View Room on its website (seen above, left). When we checked into that same room type, we sadly only found one of the three windows shown in the hotel’s photo.

The room shown on the hotel’s website does exist — it’s the Full Ocean View Room that’s located at the corner of the hotel. We, however, received a Full Ocean View Room in the middle of the hallway, and therefore only had one window.

To be fair, the view from our balcony was beautiful, and the hotel is known for its amazing panoramic views from its restaurant and pool — just be cautious when choosing which room type to book.

If you haven’t yet seen the Today Show’s segment about Oyster.com and hotel marketing, please do check it out!

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Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino

Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino

Spice up your vacation with a little adventure. These hotels have unique activities that will get your heart and give you the adrenaline fix you crave. From wild rides to death-defying dives, these attractions aren’t for the faint-at-heart.

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C&O Canal, Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

C&O Canal is a great place to enjoy the outdoors in D.C.

When I’m in Washington, D.C. and the lines are building around the all too familiar sights, including the monuments around the National Mall, I head to two of my two favorite museums, which see fewer crowds: the International Spy Museum — probably because, as a kid, I always wanted to be a spook — and the National Museum of the American Indian — because I studied Native American religions in college. At this latter museum, the landscaping is a vital part of the museum, which completely reflects Native American culture and beliefs.

But you may be aware that I prefer to spend most of my time outdoors, exploring the serene side of cities. So below are the highlights of green spaces in and around Washington, D.C. that I recommend to visitors.

1. Just minutes from the Metro, Theodore Roosevelt Island provides the opportunity to walk trails deep into a forest lush with hickory, oak and sycamore. Many hikers comment how this island feels like a vast wilderness, though it’s just stretches barely 90 acres.

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President’s Day weekend is here at last, and to celebrate, we’ve compiled some of our favorite presidential-themed art on display at hotels across the country. Enjoy.

The Hotel George, Washington D.C.

The Hotel George, Washington D.C.

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The Frog Pond in Boston Common becomes the city's most popular ice skating rink in the winter.

The Frog Pond in Boston Common becomes the city's most popular ice skating rink in the winter.

While the winter weather in Boston does limit the amount of outdoor activities you can partake in, there’s one outdoor activity that’s best enjoyed in winter: ice skating. Boston offers a variety of ice skating rinks — all with their own charm and characteristics. Below, take a look at my three favorites.

  • The Frog Pond in Boston Common is the most famous and popular of the Boston ice skating rinks, for good reason.  It’s in the center of the city, and offers ice skating lessons, skate rentals, public skate/freestyle sessions, and a snack bar.  Consider staying in the center of the city, right at the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common or the Nine Zero Hotel Boston.  Get to the rink early, as lines on sunny days can be long. Read More »

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Shops on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles

Shops on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles

Melrose Avenue is one of Los Angeles’ most famous shopping streets, and was at its height in the punk-driven 80s. But Melrose has undergone a resurgence, and this time, it’s an upscale shopping experience.

The original thrift stores and trendy boutiques are still there, alongside tattoo and piercing shops, in the area between Fairfax and La Brea. But closer to La Cienega, and on  Melrose Place (yes, this is a real street), are some of the city’s most interesting designer boutiques. It’s also the chicest few blocks in all of Los Angeles.

When Marc Jacobs opened his flagship store on Melrose Place, then a Marc store and then a men’s store, it changed the dynamic of this once quiet stretch of Melrose Avenue.  Soon to follow were Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenburg, Paul Smith (with it’s shocking pink exterior) and Oscar de la Renta.  Homes and furniture showrooms have been transformed into charming boutiques.  Balenciaga has a beautiful shop seemingly brought here from the future, with its silver tile and silver leaf work, not to mention the LED lighting.  The newly opened Vivianne Westwood store comes with big fanfare, and Decades is not to be missed for designer resale and vintage designer accessories and clothing.

If you’re an Entourage fan, then you’ll recognize the Urth Cafe’s outdoor patio, a great place to stop for lunch. You’ll also recognize Fred Segal’s cafe, which is a little farther east on Melrose.  A new addition to the area is Rick Bayless’ Red O mexican restaurant, right across the street from Fred Segal. Other restaurants not to miss on Melrose are Lucques, Home of James Beard award winning chef Suzanne Goin, and also Comme Ca, a great french brasserie in the middle of busy Los Angeles.

If you’re into shopping, then this area is a must.

- Lesley Bracker

[Photo Credit: Flickr/Ann Althouse]

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