Travel

Travel Tip

Don’t toss out old or already read books. Donate. Finish a book on the plane? Offer it to one of your seat mates. Moving? Donate your boxes of books to your local library.

August 1st, 2010 by Ali

Edit for Travel

Vacation is just a few days away and you don’t need every lip gloss or eye shadow on your trip nor do you need five necklaces. Time to edit your selections down to tinted moisturizer, a pinky gloss and a black masacara plus a chunky necklace, two simple necklaces with charms to layer, a bold cuff and dangly earrings. Put yourself in a happy-go-lucky mood and pack them in Trina’s Morrocco collection.  The jewelry roll has multiple pockets so the jewelry doesn’t get tangled. Find them at Nordstrom.

June 12th, 2010 by Ali

Comfort and Style on Board

Q. I am 30 y/o and will be going on vacation to Europe in 2 weeks. I have to dress to impress the people who will meet me while I want to be comfortable and stylish on the plane. I am thinking about wearing leggings with a tunic, flats and trench coat. But I would like to add a cardigan since it might be cold on the plane. Do you have any suggestions?
– Cold Case

Alison: A tunic, leggings and flats are the ideal travel wardrobe for a trip to Europe. You’ll be comfortable and will avoid any constricting clothing that may dig into your skin like jeans. Plus leggings are a good choice as a stylish compression garment to help with the blood flow in your legs. Bring along a light wrap like one from Love Quotes, to wear when the trench is not needed. Look for cardigan styles from J. Crew and White + Warren for longer versions to give full coverage and match the length of you tunic.

June 12th, 2010 by Ali

Shop Tip

Save time shopping by “bracketing”-take an item a size smaller and higher into the dressing room with you.

May 27th, 2010 by Ali

Double O’s for Second City-Chicago


The hometown of Obama and Oprah get an A for food, shopping and museums. If only it weren’t so damn cold in the winter. So skip the brrrr of January and visit when the breezes off the lake are mellow.

Just like any other major city it’s categorized by different neighborhoods. Here are a few worth the walk.

River North
Cool urbanites live and lounge here. A true artist enclave, the neighborhood leases space to more galleries than any other city in America except Manhattan. To peruse and rub shoulders with the other sophisticates visit the galleries on the first Thursday of the month when they offer evening hours.

If looking up is more your style, then book an architectural boat tour at www.architecture.org and get on board at the Chicago Bridge and Wacker Drive.

For a taste of the neighborhood, there’s the notorious deep-dish pizza at Lou Malanati’s and the best margaritas in town can be found at Rick Bayless’ Frontier Grill. Wanting more sustenance? Choose delicious sushi at Japonais located on the river and with such good food, a gorgeous interior and a well-heeled crowd this will surely stay on a foodies regular route long after the hip move onto their next moment. Another must on a foodie’s list is Graham Elliot where the namesake chef serves up a mix of hi-lo world-class food. He is considered the youngest 4 star chef and a three-time James Beard Award nominee. Diners will never tire of Graham’s finesse in the kitchen when he serves up such delicious dishes as maple glazed scallops perfectly seared and served over, believe it or not, oatmeal, with dollops of butternut squash, Swiss chard and a bourbon emulsion. Graham describes his philosophy as a restaurateur with this quote, “Cooking is life made visible.”

After such a bistronomic success (four star cuisine mixed with humor and accessibility), lie your head in a hotel with an equally fitting commitment to the environment, the LEED-certified Hotel Felix.

Gold Coast
Home to the glitzy and glamorous-both the residents who live there and the boutiques that sell the wares they wear. This, of course means that there are also plenty of velour track suited tourists ogling both the high priced goods and the Manolo Blahnik wearing ladies who lunch. To stand above it all the John Hancock Building (www.hancock-observatory.com) offers breathtaking views for the observatory deck or look with a libation in hand from the Signature Lounge.

For shopping and a healthy depletion of your bank account stop at Jake’s or the new six-story Barney’s New York store. End your day or slow your shopping frenzy with a protein enhancement of a filet at Gibson’s Steakhouse or go to Spiaggi for a chance Oprah or Obama sighting and dine on luxurious Italian cuisine, just know your guy is required to wear a jacket. Men look so handsome in a jacket anyway so find a reason to make a reservation. And while Le Colonial with its French-Vietnamese food can be found in several major cities like New York and San Francisco, I’ve found the meal never disappoints.

The Meatpacking District
Get a reservation at Publican. I can’t wait to get back there. No need to get a table when you can have more fun sitting at the bar with a view of the kitchen. Our server Paul was top notch, he had us taste various wines and guided us through the menu with his top picks. I recommend the Bouchet mussels, aged ham, scallops and fries.

The Loop

Named for the elevated train system that loops around the financial and cultural center of Chicago. This part of town is home to one of my favorite museums in the US, the Art Institute filled with some of the best Edward Hoppers and an impressionist collection that comes close to Paris’ Musee D’Orsay. Once you idle among the Monet’s and Manet’s it’s time to wander outdoors into Millennium Park and walk by the grand Buckingham Fountain (one of the world’s largest), see your image in “the bean” the fondly nicknamed Cloud Gate sculpture by Anish Kappor that stands with a 12 foot high arch and is a 110 ton elliptical curve of highly polished steel situated near the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker band shell where free concerts are frequently held.

In the winter you can rent ice skates and glide around the Millennium Park’s rink. For belly busting fare, bite into what is considered the city’s best burger at The Park Grill on N. Michigan and when you feel your digestion is complete get an adrenaline rush by stepping onto the glass boxes that hover 1,353 feet above the city at The Ledge at the Skydeck (www.theskydeck.com) on S. Wacker Drive. On a clear day you can see four states-Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.

For sleep and a drink two hotels fit the bill, the Burnham Hotel on State and Washington is a lovely boutique hotel with free wine tastings from 5-6pm every night and superb service and the newly opened The Wit Hotel also on State St is an ideal place to get some rest with an added bonus of a 7,000 square foot indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge, ROOF which is THE place of the moment. Get there fast before the moment disappears.

May 26th, 2010 by Ali

Business Travel Tips

Q. I’ve just taken a new position with a company that will require quite a bit of business travel. Any tips for a girl that will soon be lugging a laptop to multiple cities?
-Hotel Hopping

Alison: I, too, am a girl on the go and have learned several ways to try to make life a little more comfortable while visiting multiple cities. Get yourself a good bag that has multiple pockets for just about everything. With pockets you’ll be able to find essentials faster. And consider skipping a leather bag since it will get scuffed up faster with all the shoving underneath the seat in front of you on the plane. I used to buy a new big bag each season at TJ Maxx or Marshalls since they have so many designer labels, but I’d be bummed when they got dirty. I have been using a travel bag from Baggallini for the last six months and it’s saved me plenty of shoulder pain. The bag fits my laptop inside the bag so I don’t have to carry another bag just for my computer plus holds magazines, a book, and all my other essentials like snacks and toiletries that I carry on board. I bought the bag on ebags.com and it comes in multiple colors choices plus has a pull up handles and wheels. I was very picky on finding a stylish bag that fit under the seat, saved me carrying anything extra and didn’t look stodgy.

When booking hotels using online sites, request a quiet room on a high floor away from elevator . Nothing makes for a bad night sleep with an early wake up than listening to the elevator opening all night, the ice machine chugging and noise from the freeway outside your window. Also, a room on a higher floor can mean quiet and safety for a woman.

Don’t give up your workout, just find new routines to do on the road . Most hotels have fitness centers, bring along your swimsuit for a pool workout, ask the hotel for a nearby park with running trails or bring a stretch band and workout in your room and do walking lunges down the hotel hallways (I’ve gotten over the embarrassment factor).

When your meetings are over or after you’ve checked in, get out of the hotel and explore the city . This is easy when you’re doing business in a big city like San Francisco, Chicago or New York. Skip the car and walk around. Portland has the waterfront to explore, you can walk around West Hollywood in LA, get a cupcake at Toast, shop the boutiques on Third Ave and hike in Runyon Canyon or head to the fisherman’s wharf in Seattle and try several food options from various vendors and stop by the aquarium. The point is, don’t get stuck in your hotel room every time. It’s inevitable in some cities when you’ll have to do with room service and the TV, but if you can get to a local restaurant, then indulge that time with a good book. If you’ll be choosing from the room service menu, then check to see if the hotel has any restaurants on the property and you can usually choose from their menu, but have it delivered as room service. I’ve indulged that way several times at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa Bay from Armani’s and Oyster Catchers restaurants.

As for traveling on the plane, comfort is crucial. I usually wear the same “uniform” which consists of a stylish t-shirt or button down, pants or dark jeans, a sweater or cardigan (usually thin cashmere), a wrap that works double duty as a blanket and flats or cute kicky sneakers. And I have a blow-up neck roll since it takes up no space in my bag rather than lugging a stuffed one. Always have a good book, paperback is lighter, and a rotating menu of magazines. I’m always tearing out pages of decorating ideas, restaurants to try and a new pair of shoes or jacket to track down. While I have the new iPhone which has helped my business needs tremendously and means I can listen to music without bringing my iPod, I also bring my Archos video recorder. It’s a slightly larger screen than my iPhone and I can download multiple movies and TV shows to watch when my book bores me and the flight seems endless.

May 10th, 2010 by Ali

Traveling Without Looking Like a Tourist

Q. I love your website- and especially love reading your advice. So here’s my question for you: I will be traveling to Iceland in May. During this trip I will also be traveling to England, Scotland and Ireland. Can you recommend what to pack for such diverse climates, an easily totable bag since I will be frequently on the move, and a stylish jacket that will keep the wind out and keep me warm without looking like the marshmallow man? I’m in my early 30s-and certainly do not want to look like a tourist! 
-Don’t want to pack a million bags

Alison: I’ve been to all of these countries and I can attest to a need for a coat in all four, though you will need more protection in Iceland. I visited Iceland several years ago during the month of July when they had finally cut a path through the snow up to the ice covered lands and glaciers. If you stay in Reykjavik, you can get away with a warm wool or cashmere blend coat and warm layers. Stick to a 3/4 length coat that hits just above or below your knees so your butt is covered for more warmth. Cashmere or wool blend knee socks, thin layers that insulate like silk long underwear, tights and cashmere turtleneck sweaters are a must to pack.

For the European countries, you’ll get a chance to enjoy Spring. Bring a small umbrella (there’s a reason it’s so green, it rains for short periods often.) The coat design should be simple so it matches more of your wardrobe and can be worn open in warmer temps. Keep it out of your bag so you have more room for clothes and toiletries. Pack only essential toiletries. Wear your boots or sneakers on the plane so you again save room in your bag. A blazer style jacket or short thin trench can work double duty as an indoor jacket when worn with a t-shirt or button down and as outerwear when layered with a sweater underneath.

April 1st, 2010 by Ali

Down Under

Sydney is a short trip from Fiji and after nine days of relaxation we were ready to continue our honeymoon with some exploration of this famed city. And I figured I was far from the danger of the 14 most deadliest creatures found in Australia for at least the first few days of our trip.

Sydney, like many cities can be navigated on foot, bus, train or taxi. We treated it like New York City and walked as much as we could to get a sense of the architecture and expanse of the city. I was a little disappointed by the look of the city as I had envisioned a slightly modern version of England or France, which it certainly was not. If it had not been for the Harbor Bridge and the famed Opera House I may have written it off for just being a lovely city next to water. I dare say it lacked a bit of charisma. So it was time to take advantage of all it had to offer and find a little love for this metropolis. Turned out our first journey took us two hours outside the city to the Blue Hill Mountains known for the sometimes slight tint in the air from the large variety of eucalyptus growing everywhere. We trekked with a small group along trails to waterfalls, mountains carvings and down in the valley through the rain forest. The mist and clouds enveloped much of the mountain valley so our views were kept to a short distance, but the highlight of the day was coming upon two male kangaroos fighting over a female kangaroo. It was apparent neither kangaroo was hurt, more of a shoving match that ended with the males, female and younger kangaroo eating grass.


Daysun and I succumb to all things animals and got the chance to pet Wallabees, kangaroos, an owl and even a koala with its nasty screech at an animal sanctuary outside the city.


Back in Sydney and we took part in all the tourist ventures like the 3 ½ hour climb up the Harbor Bridge dressed in grey jumpsuits and a harness. We were captivated by the multiple mile long views of the city stretching out to the ocean. It was like being on a shorter version of the Empire State building.

To keep busy in the city we discovered some of the best bets:

Hotel:
Park Hyatt Hotel (The Rocks) THE place to stay in the city. We missed Hugh Grant’s stay by just an afternoon. It’s the favorite for exceptional service, chic rooms and jaw dropper views of the Opera House. The ideal spot to sit on your balcony after dinner with a bottle of wine and watch the world pass by.

For shopping:
Oxford Street is your go to place, but be ready it can seem like a big ‘ol schlep from one end to the other so skip heels and wear comfortable shoes. Most start at the top near Centennial Parklands checking out places like Mimco for handbags and accessories and Fleur Wood for silky intimates then have forays on to Elizabeth and William Street with a visit to Aussie favorite Sass & Bide and end with a hunt for vintage goods at My Boudoir.

For your hunger pangs our favorites:
Quay (Circular Quay) Named top restaurant in Sydney for both 2009 and 2010(of course, I don’t get the 2010 when it’s only the beginning of the year) with a perfect view of the Opera House. The meal is superb with an eclectic menu that just about names every ingredient that shows up on your plate. For dessert, you’d be a fool if you didn’t order the white peach snow egg. It’s visually enchanting as if you were looking at a dessert meant for a fairytale and more delicious than you’d expect something so beautiful and delicate to be.

Universal (Palmer Street in Darlinghurst) A meal that is meant to be shared. Order several small dishes with a mix of distinctive flavors.

Sake (Argyle Street in The Rocks) Fresh, delicious sushi. Try the South Australian Butterfish and Hiramasa Kingfish.

Lunch:
Australian Heritage Hotel (Cumberland Street in The Rocks) Go for the pizza. They offer kangaroo, emu and crocodile, but I savored the chicken tikka masala pizza.

Breakfast:
Baker’s Oven (on George Street in The Rocks) Ideal for a sit down in the back courtyard or take out of coffee and banana bread or croissant.

La Renaissance Patisserie (Argyle Street in The Rocks) French style pastries baked daily to take away or eat in the tree covered courtyard outside this tiny shop.

Don’t miss a day at Bondi Beach. Take the blue explorer bus for a chance to see the surrounding neighborhoods of Sydney as they look from hillsides and marinas back to the city. Once you arrive at the beaches get off at the small Bronte beach with its small intimate cove and white sand to start the coastal walk back to Bondi. You’ll walk along the cliff sides above and wind down to ocean level from Bronte through Tamarama beach and end at world famous Bondi. While in Bondi enjoy a cocktail at Icebergs or a burger on the terrace at Bondi Icebergs Club over looking the swimmers and surfers.

While there’s plenty to do in Australia we flew north for a three-day boat ride through the Great Barrier Reef for the exceptional under sea life. Whether scuba diving or snorkeling this is where even just floating in the water offers a view of the daily life of hundreds of fish and creatures and their interaction with the reefs and coral.

Off the boat in Cairns we headed north to Palm Cove, one among many small tony beachfront communities filled with resorts and restaurants. We enjoyed the Sebel Reef House Resort for a few days while we took day trips to the nearby Kuranda Skyrail, Rainforestation nature park with plenty more wallabees, kangaroos and koalas, butterfly sanctuary, and scenic railway wrapping it’s way down the mountain.

It’s amazing how many restaurants occupy just about 10 blocks in Palm Cove, many of which operate in large open spaces with just a curtain, row of plants or distinctive decoration to separate them. For top notch food we enjoyed Reef House located in the front our hotel and we highly recommend the char grilled king prawn, chorizo, pea & tomato risotto, the grilled yellow fin tuna and wasabi creamed potato plus the lemon delicious for dessert. For an awesome brunch get a seat towards the front of Nu Nu so you can watch the waves roll onto shore while you indulge in coconut hotcakes with sweet bananas, coconut sugar caramel and coconut sorbet and an energizer juice of watermelon, strawberry and pineapple. And for Italian walk to Bella Baci or Vivo.

We flew back to Sydney for two more days and then home to Los Angeles to receive lots of love from our adorable dogs.

February 25th, 2010 by Ali

Lush Fiji

I got engaged, planned the honeymoon, and then we set a date for the wedding…. Priorities a little skewed you say? No way, I knew both would take a lot of work to coordinate, but the honeymoon would be three weeks as opposed to the momentous day.

We planned our honeymoon for December so we could splurge on three full weeks in Fiji and Australia. Since we both work in television it would take Hollywood’s holiday shutdown to give us the time off. (The wedding day occurred just over a week prior to the honeymoon.)

Now, if you know me, you know that I travel quite frequently, so I’ve racked up quite a few airline miles over the years and I knew it would be a beast to coordinate airlines and code shares to secure those coveted business class seats that mileage programs rarely give out. Three-and-a-half weeks later – with only one short crying jag – the trip was completely booked… with a shout out to Lynette Wilson of Destination World for her advice and bookings. She’s rated one of the top 25 travel agents in the world by Conde Nast Traveler. For our Fiji leg of the trip, Lynette had asked us if we wanted to experience James Bond or Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall. Super modern or casual, eclectic comfort? We chose Humphrey.

We settled in on Air Pacific for a nearly 11-hour flight, got comfortable in our seats and enjoyed a few glasses of champagne, a movie, a little light reading followed by an Ambien-aided sleep.

We land in Fiji and learn that my luggage is lost. My cute honeymoon clothes would not surface for four days! Then, to add to my disappointment, when we land at the Labasa airport (after a long layover due to a broken plane), I use the loo and find it dirtier than a truck stop. I immediately questioned work ethic and personal hygiene – and we hadn’t even had a chance to start enjoying our honeymoon. I was leery of what else would arise.

The journey to our island resort was long – the big plane (11 hours), two small planes (about 3 hours due to malfunctions), an SUV (about an hour) and a boat ride (7 minutes) – but we finally stepped onto the sand amid a group of vibrantly dressed women and men with beaming smiles, joyously singing a welcome to us.

Aaaahh, Nukubati. The owner, Jenny, graciously ushered us into the large, wide open roof-covered pavilion that would become the general meeting place for drinks, meals, borrowing books and games and just hanging out. We sipped cold drinks while she told us about what would be our new home for the next eight nights. The resort was recently rated the third best all-inclusive resort on tripadvisor.com with mentions of “heaven on earth” and “the food topped itself each day.”

We had reserved one of the only seven bures (cottages) available to guests on the island. Our bure had two porches with plenty of outdoor seating – just steps from the beach and ocean. And the water was just the way I like it – “just walk right in” temperature.

Nukubati is an island entirely its own… translation: it’s time to relax. It’s not a big island, as we walked around the whole island several times during our visit, passing mangroves, climbing rocks, and traversing logs crossing over water. Each outing always lead to a few surprises, like the huge bee hive hanging from a curved rock face, funny-looking crabs and piles of broken coral. Several mornings before breakfast we hiked up to the lookout hut – a moderate hike at best – but once there it offered amazing 360-degree views of Fiji and far off smaller, uninhabited islands.

So what does one do on a secluded island at a highly-rated resort? You eat yourself silly. The food was fresh and perfectly prepared. The grounds behind the pavilion boast multiple gardens and a variety of fruit trees, many of which were completely new to us, like breadfruit and sour sop. Going to the farmer’s market is one thing, but to walk among mango and papaya trees and see pineapples growing up from the ground is enchanting. Everything they prepare comes from the ocean, gardens, chickens or the small market in Labasa. No importing or freezing food here. Dessert was offered twice a day, at lunch and dinner, and we never skipped a chance to enjoy fried bananas in a sesame and coconut crust or lemon soufflé. And the menu only repeated once during our entire stay: delicious lobster, curried beef, delicate fish, paw paw soup, spinach croquettes and chicken coconut ginger soup. YUM! We shared so many dishes, afraid we’d miss out on some new amazing flavor. And unlike many resorts, this place catered to our time frame. Any meal at any time at any place on the resort you want it. In bed, on your porch, on the beach or in the pavilion, you decide.

(New Year’s Eve celebration: outdoor feast, the staff performing dances from around the world, and kava drinking.)

Besides reading several books and swapping others in the resort’s library, we played endless rounds of rummikube, backgammon and scrabble, swam at high tide or would lay on a raft just swaying on the water, played a little tennis on the court behind the gardens, and kayaked around the island. Kayaking against the current certainly increased our exercise regimen – which was barely negligible – and seemed to increase the size of the island tenfold.

Several yards beyond the common swimming area lay an ocean floor teaming with deep blue starfish, black cucumbers and plenty of coral and small fish. But for the best snorkeling we spent two-and-a-half hours exploring the Great Sea Reef (the third largest after the Great Barrier Reef and Belize – both of which we’ve also snorkeled) about 25 minutes north of Nukubati; just Daysun, me and our guide, Villy. The water was clear, calm and filled with a mind-boggling array of fish and coral, plus we saw several shark. No worries, they didn’t linger.


Two days later we opted for a picnic on a deserted sand bar. Another 25-minute boat ride and we were perfectly pleased to be marooned alone together on a deserted sand bar in the middle of the ocean, with just a table, chairs, umbrella and a walkie-talkie. The sand was soft and pristine and had I considered the sand bar earlier, we would have gone several times. There is something so serene and magical about being in the middle of the ocean on a small patch of sand. The only bummer came several hours later when the boat returned to take our picnic gear (and us) back to the island, as high tide returned and the sand bar retreated back under the water.

Nukubati is one of those resorts where life slows down for a little while, the people are incredibly sweet and kind and their only request is that you enjoy a drink in your hand at sunset.

After eight nights on Nukubati, we spent an additional day and night in Fiji on the main island near Nadi at the Fiji Orchid, a small, but more contemporary style resort also owned by the same family as Nukubati. And this time we had a pool to enjoy.


Next up will be our exploration of Australia!

February 5th, 2010 by Ali

Hot Palm Springs,CA

Palm Springs is hot, not in the Paris Hilton, “That’s hot,” way, but at times 115 degrees in September. And even in a dry heat you still sweat. For a long weekend it reigns supreme for relaxation, just be sure to score seats inside at restaurants or you may melt halfway through your appetizer. While there are hotels galore I always choose boutique hotels. I like small, low key with good service. My two top picks:

1-Movie Colony Hotel

A 16 room boutique hotel with plush beds, a large pool with bonus floating noodles and rafts ideal for a lazy way to stay cool in the water, complimentary breakfast, wine hour and beach cruiser bikes plus a masseuse on call. There are DVD players in each room so bring along you NetFlix vids you’ve been wanting to see unless you want to re-watch some of your favorites from the hotel’s collection. A good place and good price.

2-The Colony House Hotel

A fun hotel with good beds, delicious restaurant and plenty of lounging around the pool. And since the restaurant looks out onto the pool, there is always a bartender on hand to mix you up a cold cocktail. Plus, they accept dogs.

For food check out Chez Philippe’s offerings of a delicious seafood paea and seafood linguine with a yummy sauce. For Mexican head to La Consuelas Terazza and order the fiesta guacamole, fajitas and a margarita. And if your mood is for comfort fare choose the Kaiser Grill and order the tuna melt or cheese steak.

For breakfast, you must go to Norma’s at The Parker hotel.

Order the lemon pancakes or the rice krispy coated french toast for a huge, but yummy carb overload.

Best time to go is fall or spring when temps are bearable, but definitely meant lounging around and if golf is your game the winter months are your ideal time.

November 27th, 2009 by Ali