The USA July 4th of 2017
Hello my friends! As you can tell from my social media, I have been living on the road for much of the last two months, with no end in sight! I settle in at home today, on the 4th of July, which is fitting. Being in Las Vegas allows me to settle, mentally. I am able to look back on my travels and process everything in a way that I can't while living out of a suitcase. As always, I want to share some of my experiences with you, and how these things will impact our work together.
My hotel booking partner at AEE Travel has expanded and we now represent over 25 cities and more than few countries; including Mexico, Whales, Italy, and England! What a great opportunity for me to travel and see a bit more of the world! As someone who consider's herself nearly a native of Las Vegas, I have to admit that my home base is not so much born of it's own culture. Instead, much like the country at large, we are a melting pot of many places brought forth from the people who have come to make their homes here.
In the last 2 months I have traveled coast to coast. In the beginning, I visited the shores of Southern California, spending time at the La Valencia in La Jolla, and moving up the coast to Yountville, California, and beyond.
Most recently, my travels have taken me to New York...my home town! Las Vegas has countless little businesses across the valley that reference the city...New York Pizza! New York Chinese! New York New York!!! The Smith Center brings a bit of Broadway to our little city, but there is nothing like seeing The Phantom of the Opera in it's original home, or grabbing a muddy water hot dog from a street vendor! Visiting gave me a chance to do both, and I was absolutely delighted! Not to mention my kids, who at 8 and 4 are remarkable travelers that take the world in through truly innocent and unjaded eyes!
Of all the things we set out to do, one of my top priorities was to visit Eataly. For those not familiar, Eataly is a food and beverage mecca set up in a large space, composed of many different restaurants, retailers, wine purveyors, and artisans. Looking for hand cut pasta (yes, please)....It's there. A true espresso...That's there, too. Napoli style pizza, cheese, charcuterie, gelato...Yes, yes, yes, and yes. The word on the street is that Las Vegas will be the home of a new Eataly as the Monte Carlo undergoes a rebranding. How will it compare? Let me make a prediction....
My bet is that our Eataly will greatly expand on the Eataly of New York. It will be larger and more commercial, as everything in Las Vegas is. I hope that the food maintains it's artisanal integrity, and I will bet that our service standards will be higher. No one does service like Las Vegas. Our lives are built upon it, and what we may lack in authentic culture we more than make up for in our willingness and ability to deliver quality service.
In continuing my foodies quest, can we talk about the food halls that are springing up around the little island of Manhattan?!?!? If you have yet to experience a food hall, they are amazing! With tables in the middle of the space, the perimeter is lined with various types of foods from a team of different chefs. Think of it as the most over the top, luxe, high school cafeteria you have ever been to! In one sitting we got pizza, burgers, fried chicken, organic salad, sushi, coffee, and vegan cookies! Literally something for everyone! In so many ways it reminded me of a wedding reception with stations...How cool would it be to host a rehearsal dinner or a Sunday brunch set up like a food court!
Having lived and worked in hotels for the entirety of my adult career, I am still surprised when I go to major cities and find that their largest hotels are under 1,000 rooms. In Las Vegas, that's boutique! In the rest of the world, that's massive! In New York, we stayed at a new product hotel called EVEN Hotels. These hotels are small and built around the idea that travel need not disrupt wellness. There are full work out routines on the TV, weights, mats and exercise accessories lining the walls, and healthy, organic fare in the quick serve restaurant below. Only 3 agents served us as the receptionists and concierge staff, but they never missed a beat! Las Vegas does hotels on steroids, and so this particular property would not serve well on The Strip, but how I would love to see it one or two blocks off. I think it would be a phenomenal addition to the Harmon / Koval / Paradise area.
After days in New York we headed out to Washington DC. What a great food scene! I was lucky enough to kidnap my former groom, Marek Bute, for dinner while his husband was away on business. Our meal at Lincoln was perfection. Small plates, innovative presentations, and attentive service made our 3 hour excursion feel like 5 minutes! These tasting menus are great in restaurants...and in weddings! We recently planned a 6 course tasting menu of small plates for Candice and Ben. It was delicious, interactive, and such a great guest experience for everyone involved!
For our stay, we selected the Kimpton Donovan. Having just stayed at a Kimpton in Grand Cayman, and having visited the Sir Francis Drake in San Francisco. I was very interested to see how the East Coast would interpret the brand.
The room had recently been redesigned and was mod; if a bit too modern. We sadly had hit a few speed bumps with room service, but their team more than made up for it in terms of attention and service. Evan at the Front Desk truly embodied hospitality and I would kill for one of him in Las Vegas.
When we were originally booking we wanted to stay at another Kimpton hotel, The Monaco. Sadly, there were no rooms available. But we did venture out to eat at Dirty Habit, their in house restaurant. Just as with LIncoln, we found a much more modern version of American Tapas style dining. Small plates with fresh food, timely service, and beautiful presentations. Not to mention a great wine and spirits list!
But what really resonated with me were the monuments, the architecture, and the government. I stay out of politics online, but regardless of your political affiliation I do believe that every American should see The White House, the capital building, and the monuments that celebrate our collective experience.
My son loved the Lincoln monument, while my daughter was drawn to the water around the Washington Monument. I loved the Capital Building, and found the White House awe-inspiring.
Combined with my trip to New York, I look at these buildings, and reflect on the changes in life that I have personally witnessed in my 40 years. I stood at the top of Freedom Tower and looked down to where the Twin Towers once stood. I don't know anyone who was not affected by the day the towers came down. We as a people created something beautiful where there was so much horror, but I still felt a sense of deep sadness for the people and places we lost. In Washington, I looked at all of the people that have come before us. The challenges they have had, the things that we have endured, and the changes we have made over the years. I look at the progress that has come in so many ways, and I am hopeful about the future we have.
It is hard not to marvel at the fact that in so many ways America is an experiment. The people who came here, and continue to come, do so with the idea that we can create something better.
And that drive to do be better and to do better will always be what America means to me.
Stay Happy and Safe this 4th and always...