Archive for August, 2013

The Andaz 5th Avenue: My Favorite Midtown Hotel In NYC

A view of 5th Avenue from room 705 at the Andaz 5th

While I usually prefer staying downtown when I visit New York City, The Andaz 5th Avenue has become my favorite midtown NYC hotel. I quite like the tech friendliness and modern business amenities Andaz offers (free wifi everywhere in the hotel! Yeah!). I’m also fond of the understated modern elegance and style of the Andaz brand. We’ve stayed at the hotel before and even the standard rooms are large by NYC standards.

The living room of room 705 at the Andaz 5th

My husband is a Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond member, which is highest tier of Hyatt’s loyalty program (Andaz is a Hyatt brand). Gold Passport is a great loyalty program and the perks for Diamond members include a few suite upgrades a year. We decided to use one during our recent stay at the Andaz 5th Avenue and wound up in room 705, a Splash Suite, which was difficult to leave.

Left: Turkey chili from room service Right: a welcome amenity at the Andaz 5th

One of the great things about Andaz is that all non-alcoholic drinks and snacks in the mini-bar are free and it doesn’t feel like they nickel and dime you (but if you want to pay, the minibar has a great edit, including Tito’s Vodka).

The bedroom of 705 at the Andaz 5th Avenue had views of the library and Empire State Building

Gold Passport Diamond Members get a credit for breakfast that can be used for room service or in The Shop, the hotel’s in-house restaurant, which is a popular spot for breakfast and lunch meetings. The Shop serves Cafe Grumpy coffee, which is incredibly strong. In the mornings, coffee and tea is available free of charge to all guests in the lobby.

Left: A view of the Empire State Building from the bedroom Right: King sized bed in the bedroom

The gym is well equipped and large and open 24 hours, which was much appreciated since I had jet lag but still needed to work out so I could indulge in the epic roast chicken sandwich at the NoMAD for brunch.

Free standing cocoon tub in the Splash Suite at the Andaz 5th

The bathroom was amazing. The cocoon tub was fantastic, and a huge walk in shower as well as side by side sinks and C.O. Bigelow bath amenities. The splash suite had 3 closets as well as a coat rack, and a great layout.

Views of the spacious bathroom in the Andaz Splash Suite

While the Andaz’s address is on 5th Avenue, first time guests should be aware that the hotel’s entrance is around the corner on 41st street, which only causes confusion the first time you arrive.

Panorama of the bedroom of room 705 at the Andaz 5th

Andaz 5th Avenue

485 5th Avenue at 41st Street

New York, New York, USA, 10017

Tel: +1 212 601 1234

Email: info.5thavenue@andaz.com

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Navigating London Transportation is Way Easier with the Citymapper App

Night Traffic in London

Night Traffic in London

On my recent trip to London, I found getting around the city much easier once my ex-pat friend turned me on to the highly useful Citymapper App, which helps break down the myriad of transportation options in London and New York City.

Not only is the Citymapper app free (and available in iTunes and Google Play), but it really does help make navigating London by tube, bus, bike or rail much simpler. There is even a cheeky jetpack option– should that be how you roll.

Screencaps from the Citymapper London app

Citymapper is highly useful not just because it gives you the best transportation options to get you to home or work or anywhere you might want to go, but it also gives you estimates for time and tells you what the fare is for your journey. It also gives you weather data and disruption alerts in one place.

The London version of the Citymapper app uses a combination of data compiled from Foursquare with their own database, OpenStreetMaps and Apple maps and combines it into one nifty, user-friend design. Citymapper helps conserve batterylife because it only turns on the GPS when it’s on your screen (with the exception of if you’re traveling by bus, where it uses geofencing).

Shoes on a wire in Camden Town

Shoes on a wire in Camden Town

I loved exploring Camden Town and got back to my hotel using the Citymapper App

You can follow Citymapper London on twitter as @CitymapperLON

The Citymapper app also breaks down New York City’s transportation options, although I have yet to try it. If you’ve used Citymapper, let me know what you think of it in the comments section.

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The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program Rocks: Why You Should Get It

Big Ben Drive By

The Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program Rocks. You should apply for it (assuming you don’t have a criminal record).

I’ve been a big fan the Global Entry Trusted Traveler program (known as GOES) since I first joined a few years ago, and am convinced that the application fee is the best $100 I’ve ever spent on travel (and it’s good for 5 years).

While the original appeal of the Global Entry was that it allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States, now the benefits of TSA Precheck are good enough on their own to justify applying for it. Global Entry Trusted Travelers get to use the TSA Precheck lane and seriously cuts down on the time spent going through airport security.

TSA Precheck is one US program that just keeps getting better and better. Sure– it’s not a guarantee that you’ll precheck every time you fly, but as a frequent traveler, I’ve seen this program improve by leaps and bounds.

On my last two international flights leaving from LAX, I’ve gotten to use TSA Precheck… and it is AWESOME. I didn’t have to take my computer out of my bag, or remove my shoes and jacket. I got through security in less than one minute. When I arrived at Newark from Heathrow, I got off the plane and headed to the bank of Global Entry kiosks and got through customs in less than 2 minutes. Again… AWESOME.

The Global Entry program now allows children to be members, so there are fewer reasons not to apply. I think it’s worth joining even if you don’t travel abroad two or more times a year. If ever travel by plane and value your time, take the time to apply. It seriously cuts down on the hassle involved with airplane travel. You have to schedule an interview to determine if you’re qualified but it’s so worth it.

The bottom line is if cutting down on the hassles associated with airport security is worth $20 a year to you, you should apply.

Learn more about Global Entry (and if you can qualify for it) by checking out the Global Entry website.

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Exploring London’s Camden Town at Night: a Photo Essay

The boats on Camden Lock were very atmospheric

I just spent a few days in London, where I visited with some ex-pat friends. It was great because it got me to explore different parts of the city, including the funky and atmospheric Camden Town.

Neon + scummy water = cool images (shot with my Fuji X20)

Known for it’s alternative culture, edgy and happening Camden Town is a fun place to visit (and photograph). While I went there to see KLANG at the Roundhouse Theatre, the highlight of my evening was wandering around the Camden Markets and Camden Lock.

Night scene in front of Camden Market

For me KLANG was a bust– but Camden Town at night… it’s seedy in the best possible way. I loved the green scum on the water of Camden Lock… and the dudes just kicking back for a smoke and a beer.

Thursday Night Lights on Camden Lock

Famous Camden residents have included Charles Dickens and Amy Winehouse. MTV Europe Networks offices are in the neighborhood as well. There are several funky shops and pubs.

Scenes from the Camden night market

My friend, photographer and Mobile Photo Network co-founder  Oliver Lang, who has recently moved to London, says the food stalls in Camden Market are not to be missed. I’ll make a point to eat there next time. It certainly smelled wonderful.

Camden Town Tube Station GIF

Learn more about London’s Camden Markets here.

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My Non-Bucket List of 10 Places to See (and Photograph) Before You Die

Over water bungalows at the St. Regis Bora Bora, French Polynesia

I’ve never done a bucket list post, but when my friends over at EyeEm headquarters in Berlin asked me write a piece for the EyeEm blog about 10 Places to See (and Photograph) Before You Die, I agreed.

Hipstamatic French Polynesia (now I’d shoot this using Hipstamatic’s Oggl app)

It isn’t a bucket list exactly, I looked at as a list of 10 really amazing places that I’ve traveled to that were totally worth the effort. It was also really hard to limit the list to 10 (Japan and Rajasthan came very close). For my blog readers, I wanted to share some additional photos of the places that made the list, some of which were shot before EyeEm existed.

Left: Positano is perfection at night Right: Daytime view from Le Sirenuse

I visited Italy’s Amalfi Coast for the first time this past May with my friend (and hair colorist), Justin Anderson. It’s all incredibly beautiful, and Positano is perfection.

The red sand dunes of Namibia’s Sossusvlei desert are unforgettable

In 2010, my husband I went to Nambia with & Beyond Safaris. We were absolutely blown away by the red sand dunes of the Sossusvlei desert. I want to go back and see more of this incredible country.

Sydney, Australia on New Year’s Eve is fantastic

As far as pretty cities on the water, my top three are Cape Town, South Africa, San Francisco, and Sydney. Having spent New Year’s Eve in Sydney, where December 31st is in the middle of the Australian summer, I had to give Sydney the win.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

You know how when you see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre for the first time and think, “wow, it’s a lot smaller than I imagined”? Your first glimpse of  The Great Pyramid of Giza is the total opposite of that.

It’s hard for me to read the headlines during this post-Morsi coup/revolution, and even harder seeing the images of bloodshed. Egypt is so special, and has so many ancient treasures, I hope that the current political unrest resolves as peacefully and quickly as possible. When Egypt is no longer on the US State Department list of travel warnings, I hope to return and see more of this amazing country.

Havana Cuba is a photographer’s dream

My friend, photographer, Ralph Velasco leads photo tours to Cuba and across the globe. He’s a great teacher and fun traveling companion.

Gorgeous scenery at The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

I love Montana. So much so I’m headed back to there at the end of this month. There is a lot of Montana goodness on this blog.

New York City. I love that town

Argentina’s Iguazu Falls

I shot these images of Angkor Wat in Cambodia with a plastic Diana camera

Do you know of someplace I need to see (and photograph) before I die? Please let me know in the comments section.

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