Archive for February, 2012

The Shore Club Miami Beach: Social Media Savvy

I have long been vocal about how social media today is a great equalizer for smaller brands who understand how important it is to have a strong voice and engaged audience. Sometimes the best cheerleader for a brand isn’t even the hotel itself, but a guest who has had a great experience there.


During my recent girls trip to Miami with my friend Katie,  when it was clear that I needed to find a different hotel, preferably one located on Collins Avenue, I tweeted this:

Screen shot 2012-02-27

Twitter is a great resource for real-time information, you just need to know how to use it. Some tips: don’t tweet what you can google and learn how to correctly use hashtags (these are the words with the #sign before them. They are used to sort information).

Because I know how to use social media effectively and have an engaged following on twitter, I suspected that one of my followers someone might get back to me with some suggestions. Boy, did they! This use of social media to crowdsource potential options worked great for me.  A Miami based follower and friend of the blog, Ernesto Marrugo reached out to me with a few great suggestions.  Now I had a short list of suitable hotel properties. Another one of my follows, who is a major league lacrosse player who travels to Miami frequently suggested The Shore Club, which is his hotel of choice when he comes to South Beach.  We exchanged email addresses through direct messages on twitter, and then did our follow up communication through email. I had stayed at The Shore Club years earlier and liked it. My follower  was familiar with Miami, and because of my blog and social media presence and knew my taste and what I was looking for. He put me in touch with his contact at the property.

Screen shot 2012-02-27

A few hours later, I was happy to be settled into room 2001 (we scored an upgrade to a loft) which had a lovely sitting area and more than enough space for the both of us. Yes, it was a more expensive than our digs at the Standard, but because it was last minute, we were able to get a good rate. Spending more than we originally planned was fine—after all I wasn’t going to renting a paddle board on this trip so it made sense to get swankier accommodations, and the additional space allowed us hang out much more comfortably. We had a balcony!  With a beautiful view! I snapped a bunch of pictures with my iphone when we got a tour of the property and even got to peek at the swanky penthouse.

Cloudy Morning in South BeachMobile photography image of Miami beach on a cloudy morningPanorama picture of South Beach from Room at the Shore Club, Mobile photography, autostitch

Mobile photography Panorama picture of South Beach from Room at the Shore Club

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What To Do When It Rains in the Sunshine State: Girls Weekend at the Standard Miami

My girlfriend (and old college roommate) Katie and I make it point to try and spend a weekend together someplace away about once a year. Katie lives in Austin and I am based in LA and like everyone else, we’re busy. We recently figured out a girls weekend in Miami would be a good fit because she needed to visit her grandmother who lives close by, in West Palm Beach.

I booked us a room at The Standard Miami Beach for our stay because  and they have a notoriously cool pool and friendly friend price point. Everyone (including Miami resident Brian Kelly aka The Points Guy) raves about their mojitos by the pitcher. Katie and I were both really excited about a little bonding time poolside in the Sunshine State.

Unfortunately, mother nature wasn’t on our side. When I arrived in Miami, it was clear that it was going to rain pretty much non-stop for the duration of our girls getaway. So much for the Sunshine State having sunshine.  This was going to put a bit of damper on the hipster pool scene we were expecting, and required a bit of a change in plans.

Unique lounge chairs at The Standard, MiamiRaindrops on the dock at the Standard MiamiDock panorama at the Standard MiamiBird at the StandardClouds rolling in as I have lunch at the Lido restaurant.

Pictures of Miami Beach with the clouds rolling in as I have lunch at the Lido restaurant

As much as I loved the Hipster Pool Camp vibe of The Standard, and it’s friendly price point, it is lifestyle hotel that is very much built around the communal spaces like the pool, the fire pit and the dockside Lido Restaurant. None of these spaces was going to be as enjoyable in the rain. So much for my goal of learning to paddle board on this trip! There is nothing you can do about the weather except figure how to make the best of it.

Char-grilled Octopus for lunch at the Standard Miami

The Lido Restaurant at The Standard Miami

Char-grilled Octopus for lunch at the Lido Restaurant, The Standard Miami Beach

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San Francisco And The Man With The Golden Yo-Yo (Doc Pop)

I shot this candid of Doc Pop outside the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco on my Fuji X100

I shot this candid of Doc Pop outside the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco on my Fuji X100

I just got back from a fantastic few days in San Francisco. The weather was glorious. I saw friends new (Doc Pop) and old (my friend, Cindy who works at The Gardener in Berkeley, went to high school with me).

Bay Bridge Panorama view from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Bay Bridge Panorama view from the Hyatt Regency San Francisco

It was really fun to talk about the endless possibilities of mobile technology and travel as the inaugural guest in Christian Peacock’s It’s All Related interview series. I was absolutely blown away to meet John Moss, a Brit who recently found My Life’s A Trip who came directly from the airport- after flying in from London, to meet me. I hope our paths cross again soon. Christian and I recorded a podcast too. I will post a link to that as soon I have it. Fellow travel addict and blogger Jonathan Khoo wrote up a lovely post about the event (and our social media turned real life friendship).  Our relationship really is a great example of the dynamics of social media and travel and why the two fit together so nicely.

I was honored to be the first guest on Doc Pop’s Postagram Tips series, where I talked about my love for the apps PhotoCopier, Pixlr-o-matic, and MoreBeaute2.

And who knew Doc Pop was the Man with the Golden YoYo? Seriously. He ranked #3 in the world.

Did you know Doc Pop has World Class Yo-Yo gamePortrait of Doc Pop of Sincerely, Inc. and Postagram

Portrait of Doc Pop of Sincerely, Inc. and Postagram

And we had a little photo shoot, where Doc Pop took these rad portraits of me outside the Apple Store in Downtown San Francisco:

Jen Pollack Bianco, photos by Doc PopJen Pollack Bianco, photos by Doc PopJen Pollack Bianco, photos by Doc Pop

Behold some of his mad yoyo skills:

Here are some of my favorite images from the past few days.

Mobile photography EmbarcaderoImage of the complimentary yellowtail amuse bouche at The Slanted Door, mobile photography

Image of the complimentary yellowtail amuse bouche at The Slanted Door

Picture of The Bay Bridge taken from the Regency Club of The Hyatt Regency San Francisco, mobilephotography

Picture of The Bay Bridge taken from the Regency Club of The Hyatt Regency San Francisco

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Down the Rabbit Hole in Tokyo: Bunnies for Hire in Harajuku

I often get asked what is your favorite place to visit and why. While I try hard not pick favorites, I always answer this question the same way, “Tokyo.” This bunny had only one ear, but was my favorite

This bunny had only one ear, but was my favorite

Tokyo never ceases to amaze me with its never ending array of wacky things to do. Pop culture in Japan is fascinating and I try to check out something new each chance I get to the city.  Vélib’ rental bikes have become commonplace in Paris, but Tokyo has fuzzier options available by the hour.  Pet rent cafes have been around for a few years, with cat cafes dominating the market. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to felines. I had heard rumors of Rent a Rabbit Cafes where you could pay for some quality one on one time with a bunny. Like anyone who has ever looked at the Instagram popular page, I’m not immune to adorable pictures of bunnies.  I emailed my friend Shuhei and asked him to do a little pet cafe research since I can’t read Japanese.

Bunny for Hire at R.A.G.F. Cafe HarajukuFeeding my rental bunny

Staff members include these rabbits for rent at RA.A.G.F. Cafe Harajuku

Here’s what Shuhei wrote back: Rent-a-bunny cafe is Rabbit and Grow Fat (RA.A.G.F) in Harajuku.

Sign for Rabbit and Grow Fat in Harajuku #mobilephotography

Sign for Rabbit and Grow Fat in Harajuku. Yes, those are rabbit turds on the sign.

I spoke to the woman working there and she said first-time visitor can have fun in 30-60 minutes.

¥1,000 yen per hour for one adult. That’s not bad at all.

Yes, you can rent a rabbit!

Do you know what we can do there?

Play with rabbits. Pet rabbits, Feed them, Buy them.

It is not an obscene night hostess bar that bunny girls work at.

I am sure this is why Tokyo is different from other places!! It is not a zoo! Bunny cafe!

I heard most of the customers are adults who need to take break of busy days. I like rabbits !

Who doesn’t like bunnies? I was so in. The reason pet rental is popular in Japan is that most people who live in Tokyo don’t have the space for a pet of their own. Rabbits make suitable pets in a town where apartments are small and large yards and dog parks aren’t the norm.

Mai's pet rabbit photoMai’s pet rabbit photo

Yes! The chance to go to a pet cafe is exactly the sort of thing that inspires my inner 17 year old Japanese girl. I’m not the only one who turns to mush because of an adorable bunny. I got a follow up email from Shuhei after I asked him to make a reservation and book us a date with the bunnies. He said:

Rabbit member of the staff

Rabbit staff member hoping to get picked

Hi Jen,

What would you say if my girlfriend, Mai, wants to come to bunny cafe with us?

She has a rabbit at her home and loves them a lot !

FYI, She speaks English better than I do.


Bunnies + smartphones = photo shootA customer checks out the bunnies at the cafe before selecting one to rent

Bunnies + smartphones = adorable mobile photography shoot

The more the merrier! Mai is Japanese but has lived in America so she has a unique perspective, and is an experienced pet rabbit owner. Thus began my adventure down the Rabbit Hole in Harajuku. Our day also included dining at an Alice in Wonderland inspired them restaurant called Alice of Magic World Restaurant. We also shopped for pricey Gothic Lolita cosplay outfits at the mall that is the epicenter of wacky Harajuku fashion, Laforet Harajuku. I was shocked that the sale Little Bo Peep ensembles I checked out cost more than $300, despite being 50% off. I’m generally shopping mall phobic but the people watching here is superb, Harajuku fashion has inspired Gwen Stefani to sing praises about their wicked style, so it’s really worth checking out for yourself. Until you can, you’ll have to settle for watching the video.

Harajuku girls outside Laforet Harajuku mall

Interesting fashion choice by a girl at Laforet Harajuku

Harajuku girls in Laforet Harajuku mall

Drink at Alice's Magic World restaurantPhotostickers from Harajuku

Alice in Wonderland Photo stickers (purikura)

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Interview for “It’s All Related” in San Francisco next week

San Francisco

Salt-pepper photo of San Francisco

I’m so excited (and honored) to be the first guest in Christian Peacock’s new interview series, It’s All Related. We’ll be chatting about Travel and Mobile Technology at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, February 22nd at the Downtown San Francisco Apple Store, One Stockton Street. More information can be found here. Please join us with your questions. I’d love to see you there.

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