Posts Tagged ‘Smartflyer’

Glamping in Australia’s Red Centre: A Stay at Longitude 131


One of the luxury tented accommodations at Longitude 131

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been on my list of places to visit for years. Last month I finally got my chance to visit Australia’s Red Centre, with a few nights at Longitude 131. With a reputation for being the finest accommodations in Outback glamping, Longitude 131 doesn’t come cheap. My husband and I tried to maximize our bang for the buck by staying one less than the recommended three nights/four full days, and attempting to see as much as we could during our time.

First glimpse of Uluru HyperLapse (shot on iPhone 6)

The cranked up pace was a bit too crammed for me. While I totally enjoyed my time, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so hurried. I also had a difficult time with jet lag on this trip, which did not help the situation.


Some of the stunning scenery seen on excursions from Longitude 131

My hotel review posts usually feature lots of images of hotel room interiors and bathroom amenities, but photographing the room did not happen during my brief stay at Longitude 131.

Fortunately Longitude 131’s own website photos are very realistic. The tents are glamorous and comfortable, but we did not spend much time there other than to sleep or change clothes. The bulk of your day at Longitude 131 is spent exploring nearby Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which was the point of the whole trip anyway!


My first glimpse of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock

We had about 35 minutes from the time we arrived at the Longitude 131 until we headed out for our first excursion, the Mala Walk around the base of Uluru,  followed by a sundowner and light bites in the Kantu Gorge.

The guides at Longitude 131 are friendly and great and I felt that I learned a ton on this excursion. The couple I met from Sydney who were staying the recommended three days seemed more relaxed than I was (and less jet lagged).

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Left: sunrise at a viewing area in Kata Tjuta National Park Right: My room at Longitude 131

Both my husband and I were tired when we returned from this excursion, so we skipped the formal dinner service and headed straight to our tent.

I fell asleep immediately and woke up in time for a quick bite before heading out for our next excursion, headed to a sunrise view point in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The Kata Tjuta range (also known as the Olgas) domes are visually interesting, and the sky and scrubby landscape looked gorgeous in the soft morning light.


Gorgeous desert landscape and clouds at Kata Tjuta

After admiring the sunrise at Kata Tjutas we headed out on the lovely Valley of Winds hike , which can range 6-10 km around a sacred Anangu men’s site in the domes of Kata Tjuta. We finished our hike just before the day got too hot. The only thing missing was a cold beer before we headed  to the Cultural Centre in the park for a visit. Then we got back to Longitude 131 in time for lunch.


A view of the Kata Tjutas at sunrise

Our day finished with the Uluru sunset excursion (again complete with cocktails and nibbles). It was a delightful day. Dinner that evening was served at outdoors under the star filled skies at Table 131 set up outside. Once again, jet lag made me decide to skip the main course and get as much sleep as I could.

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A vibrant sunset view of Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Your days are paced similarly to those on safari at Longitude 131– most activities happen around sunrise and sunset leaving the hottest hours in the middle of the day free for you to enjoy the resorts lovely pool, the nearby Cultural Centre in the park or even arrange a camel ride or motorcycle ride. Unlike being on safari, you come to Longitude 131 for the landscape and outdoor activities, not for the wildlife. You might see some wild camels or feral cats, but this is not the place for those who want a game viewing experience.


Yummy steak for lunch at Longitude 131

All the food and beverages at Longitude 131 were excellent.


Left: Pasta with shrimp for lunch Right: a colorful salad with edible flower at Longitude 131

While I did not eat every dinner I was totally satisfied by the appetizers served during the sundown excursions and did not feel I needed much more.

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 Glacial toothfish and broccolini for lunch at Longitude 131


A stunning sunset view of  Longitude 131 Resort

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Rainbows in the bathroom at Longitude 131

My Longitude 131 experience was very good. I made the decision to do a shorter, more concentrated trip and I’m not sure I’d recommend that unless you are 100% over jet lag or the sort of person who loves having every minute scheduled.

I was impressed with my experience enough that I am now curious about other Baillie Lodges and am considering a visit to Kangaroo Island on my next trip down under.

Longitude 131

Yulara Drive,
Yulara Northern Territory 0872,  Australia
Tel: +61 08 8957 7131
Fax: +61 08 8957 7130

Luxury tent rate is $1,200 AUD per person, per night including all dining, open bar with premium wines and spirits, in-suite bar, signature experiences, and return Ayers Rock Airport transfers.
My trip was booked through Suzy Xiu at SmartFlyer.

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Singapore Sunrise & Time Lapse Video

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The Marina Bay Sands at Sunrise

I recently had a long layover in Singapore. I stayed at the Fullerton Bay Hotel, which I booked through SmartFlyer, my travel agency of choice.

My room, 515, faced east, towards the Marina Bay Sands and the ArtScience Museum. This also meant I had an excellent view of the sunrise, so I decided to make a time lapse video on my iPhone 6. I hope you enjoy the video.

Sunrise in Singapore Time Lapse Video

 I shot this video from the balcony of room 515 at the Fullerton Bay Hotel. The morning skies were pastel and moody. I wish I could have let the time lapse run longer, but I had a flight to catch… profession hazard when you are a travel blogger!

The Fullerton Bay Hotel

80 Collyer Quay
Singapore 049326
Tel: +65 6333 8388
Fax: +65 6386 8388

Tel: +65 6222 8088

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Restaurant Review: El Jefe at the Saguaro in Palm Springs

El Jefe has excellent tacos & tequila

On our girls weekend in the desert, we decided to head to The Saguaro in Palm Springs on Saturday night. I’m a fan of the margaritas at El Jefe and we thought that tacos and tequila sounded like a good time.

The drinks were great, and the small plates were delicious and inexpensive. None of us were adventurous enough to try out the cabrito (goat) or lengua (tongue) tacos, we all enjoyed the others versions. The pescado (fish) tacos were crispy and delicious, the carnitas tacos came with smoky black beans and pineapple-habenero salsa.

Elisa singing, Claire dancing, and Erina prepping to play some mean ping-pong

Our group ordered a few ceviches which were well received. The skirt steak nachos were slow to arrive but tasty ($11). The queso fundido- made with duck confit barbicoa and poblano chile was a real standout, with the cheese not overly oily ($12). Tacos (3 small tacos per order) cost between $7-$9.

Smartflyer lovlies Erina, Lauren and Claire

The margaritas were a big hit with the ladies of Smartflyer as well. The pineapple and watermelon margaritas were popular with our group. Cantina margaritas (the house standard) ran $10, with the fruit-infused versions cost $12.

Smartflyer girls Erina Pindar and Lauren Saiger Machowsky get their ping-pong on

The food and drinks at El Jefe aren’t the only reason to head to The Saguaro Palm Springs. The hotel is adored by millennials for it’s happening pool scene and outdoor movie screenings– Uncle Buck was showing the night we were there.

Erina and Lauren played table tennis in the Saguaro’s technicolor lobby

El Jefe also has good live music… and all of us are music fans. Chad Gregory was performing the night we were there and he was great. His original stuff was enjoyable and he also does a great cover of Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Chad is also a nice guy. When he found out Elisa Chacon could sing, he invited her to perform a song with him.

Chad & Elisa prepping at the mic. Not only is Elisa sweet and beautiful, but she has some seriously killer pipes

Elisa is smart and lovely and and has asurprisingly soulful and powerful voice. During her performance, some diners at El Jefe asked us, “is she famous?”

The Live music at El Jefe was very enjoyable, and Elisa was a huge crowd pleaser

We had such a good time at El Jefe, I’m pretty sure I have to stay at The Saguaro next time I’m in Palm Springs. I’m very curious to try Tinto, the Saguaro’s other restaurant with cuisine by Iron Chef Jose Garces. Tinto also was mentioned by Chef Chris Mitchum at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells when I asked him what restaurants in the area he liked.

Good margaritas & tasty tacos at El Jefe

The patio at Tinto and the outdoor movie screen at The Saguaro

The Saguaro uses  bold color choices

Saturday night pool scene at the Saguaro Palm Springs

You can check out a calendar of upcoming events at The Saguaro Palm Springs on their Tumblr blog or see more on their Instagram account @thesaguarops

The Saguaro Palm Springs

1800 East Palm Canyon Drive

Palm Springs, CA 92264

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A Girls Trip to the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, California

The view from the Penthouse at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

The view from the Penthouse at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

I just spent a few days in the California desert with a group of girlfriends. It was hot (there is a reason that Coachella is held in April and not in August) but we had a  lot of fun.

The Auga Serena Spa has workout facilities open 24 hours a day

The Auga Serena Spa has workout facilities open 24 hours a day

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa. The resort has an award-winning spa and the workout facilities are open 24 hours a day, which is a feature I really like in a hotel (and took advantage of). The gym is great.

Gorgeous desert flowers

The Usual Palm Tree Suspects

Desert beauties Elisa Chacon of Hyatt with the lovely ladies of Smartyflyer.

Desert beauties: Elisa Chacon of Hyatt with the lovely ladies of Smartyflyer.

From left to right: Elisa Chacon, NYU student and Smartflyer Taylor Methfessel, honeymoon expert Katie Frederick, the fabulous Erina Pindar, Africa specialist Clare Eastwood, and the ever energetic and multi-lingual Lauren Saiger Machowsky.

My friend, Erina Pindar, is the managing director of Smartflyer New York.  I met her on twitter and we’ve become real life friends. She’s one of the smart and fabulous women behind the Smartflyer blog, which is a great resource for luxury travelers. I know some of her colleagues through social media relationships, so it was a lot of fun getting to spend some face time with them in real life.

If you’re looking for a luxury travel agency to work with, then check out Smartflyer.

Looking at Erina through my wine glass at the chef's table

Looking at Erina through my wine glass at the chef’s table

The highlight of the stay was having dinner at the Chef’s table with the hotel’s executive chef, Chris Mitchum . The resort focuses on locally sourced produce, and Chef Mitchum likes his dishes to be “recognizable” yet elevated.

Left: our salad course Right: the yellow tomato soup & grilled cheese course was my favorite

It was really fun to get to see all the inner workings of the kitchen (including the bakery) while enjoying dinner (and wine).

For our main course: Moroccan chicken and shrimp served on couscous

Much thanks to Hyatt for treating us to this great dinner!

Desert life selfie in one of the villas at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

Desert life selfie in one of the villas at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

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Viceroy Palm Springs Featured on The SmartFlyer Blog!

I’m thrilled that my friends at the Smartflyer blog have featured my review of The Viceroy Palm Springs on their blog today. You can check out the post of this chic, budget-friendly luxury desert retreat here.

One of the three pools on the property at The Viceroy Palm Springs.

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