Monday, December 8, 2014

Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles

Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles Entrance
When we were in LA we got a chance to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles at LA Live. What a great downtown hotel, surrounded by restaurants, museums and a state of the art movie theater.

The front receptionist Samantha was awesome! She was so polite, helpful, and respectful. She Immediately gave us a complimentary upgrade to an Exec Suite on the Club Floor. Super nice.

Executive Suite Living Room
The Exec Suite was huge, with a living room area, a dining room, dressing room and 1 1/2 baths. The large  bath had a tv in the mirror. There was also a complementary Nespresso machine along with Ritz bottled water. We were very happy.

Ritz Club Lounge
We loved the Club Lounge. The staff were very welcoming and helpful. The food is healthy and really good! We have used the club lounge in many hotels and this one at the Ritz LA is one of the best.

It’s located on the 23rd floor, and is open Mon-Sun from 7am-10pm and again, it’s fantastic. 

All you do is swipe your keycard for access and open the door to wonderful food and drink.  First off: a foyer with a wall of candy and a table of sweets (macaroons, cookies) right there.  The reception/concierge desk is at the end of this table.

To the left is a self-serve wine and liquor station and the food area is right there too.  Small tables and comfy chairs. There’s also Flatscreen tv’s and Free wi-fi placed nicely around the room. 

Downtown Los Angeles
View Toward Hollywood Hills
The views were similar to those from our 23rd floor executive suite (since we’re right around the corner from the lounge) living room. We looked towards Hollywood and the Hollywood sign across the lively I-110 freeway below.

26th Floor Pool and Jacuzzi
The roof top pool was beautiful and we were able to sit out there and have a couple of drinks in the beautiful 85ºF (29ºC )weather. Classic Los Angeles autumn weather.

Wolfgang Puck's WP 24
We later had dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 Asian restaurant which was fantastic. It has a nice modern take, great views and reminds us of eating in Hong Kong.

Bath and Shower in Suite
When in LA it is difficult for us to stay anywhere else but the Ritz at LA Live.The Ritz staff was amazing, very gracious, very helpful and always thankful when receiving tips, etc.  We shall return.

Highly recommended!  

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Coppola Movie Memorabilia

Coppola Winery
Had a great time at Rustic, Francis’s Favorites restaurant and after a nice dining experience we got chance to visit the mini-museum of Mr. Coppola's awards, costumes, movie props and screenplays. He is an extremely talented director, so it was great to take some time to recognize and appreciate his work in the cinema.

1948 Tucker Sedan
There’s a beautiful Tucker 48 sedan on display. Coppola made the movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream in 1988. It’s the story of Preston Tucker, the maverick car designer and his ill-fated challenge to the auto industry with his revolutionary car concept that really was too far ahead of its time.

The Tucker 48 (named after its model year) was an advanced automobile  conceived by Preston Tucker and briefly produced in Chicago in 1948. Only 51 cars were made before the company folded on March 3, 1949. Mr. Coppola has 2 Tuckers and George Lucas has one too.  

       Vlad's Armor                      Death Robe                Mira's Wedding Gown
Bram Stoker's Dracula’s costumes were also very interesting. The movie was a 1992 American horror fantasy directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. 

Shown in the exhibit is the armor worn by Vlad the Impaler, before he became Dracula. Also displayed is Dracula’s death robe after he returned to his younger self and was no longer Dracula. There’s also Mina’s wedding gown that she wore when she married Dracula. It's a complicated story. 

Godfather's Desk
The Godfather's desk where undertaker Amerigo Bonasera asked Don Corleone for a favor.

Francis Ford Coppola's Oscars
Francis Ford Coppola was born in1939 and is an American film director, producer & screenwriter who was part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking. There are five Oscars he won on display, which are: 

Patton (1971), Best Screenplay
The Godfather (1973), Best Screenplay
The Godfather Part II (1975) Best Picture
The Godfather Part II (1975) Best Director
The Godfather Part II (1975) Best Screenplay

Had a special time at the Coppola Winery, eating, drinking and seeing wonderful movie memorabilia. Can’t wait to return next year and  rent a Premium Cabine at the pool when it’s hot. Sonoma gets very hot in the summer!

Highly recommended!  

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Coppola Rustic Restaurant

Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Had a great time at Francis Ford Coppola’s Restaurant and Winery. The restaurant there is named Rustic, Francis’s Favorites and has a fantastic italian menu with a true Italian ambiance that really feels just like you’re in Italy. 

View of Coppola Winery from Our Table
The vineyard is beautiful with rolling green hills that give way to a valley of grapes. It's a perfect view for dining outside. We give this place 5 stars based on the quality of the food and service as well as the atmosphere and view. They also have a gorgeous pool for hot Sonoma days where you can rent Italian style cabines and larger Cabanas and then swim all day. 

Outdoor Table at Rustic
When we were seated, the outdoor table was perfect. Behind us was a beautiful trellis with vines growing up and over the canopy above us and lovely view of the vineyard stretching out in the distance. There was also romantic italian twinkling lights which added to the Italian ambiance. We ordered some Sophia’s Sparkling wine which was delicious start to the evening. 

Rack of Lamb
Mrs. Scorsese's Lemon Chicken
The meal was excellent. Tami had the rack of lamb which was perfectly cooked with a charred exterior and a nice medium rare chops. I had Mrs. Scorsese’s A+ Lemon Chicken and it was out of this world, very lemony. We also shared a L’Ami Louis Gateau de Pommes (layered potatos) that was fantastic with raw garlic on top. Perfect side dish. The preparation and presentation of everything was first class and the lamb was especially good; we often order this dish in many restaurants and this was among the best. The Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel was perfect with the food.

L'Ami Louis Gateau de Pommes
To sum things up,the Coppola property is exceptional with a large pool and cafe and tremendous views. It’s a lovely Italian winery. There is also an interesting museum containing artifacts and props from Coppola's movies (another of my blogs). The Rustic restaurant is lovely especially the outdoor area which has amazing views of the Valley, vineyards and hills beyond - a breath taking vista. And, on top of that, we had excellent service from Rene, who was both professional and friendly.

Can’t wait to rent a Premium Cabine next year when it’s hot! Sonoma gets very hot in the summer! 

Highly recommended!  

If you’d like to check out more pages of the blog . . . Click here

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Fremont Street Experience

Fremont Street in 1952 with Vegas Vic
Not going to Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, is like visiting Rome and not going to The Colosseum. It is old, nostalgic, but still, it’s where all The Fun began in the old days. It's still fun!

Fremont Street Experience with Vegas Vic Today
Fremont Street was named in honor of explorer John C. Fremont and located in the heart of the old downtown casino corridor. Fremont Street is (or was) the address for many famous casinos such as The Golden Nugget, Binion’s Horseshoe, the Eldorado Club, Fremont Hotel & Casino, The Golden Gate and many more.

Slot Machines in the Golden Nugget
Prior to the construction of the Fremont Street Experience, the western end of Fremont Street was the picture of Las Vegas that was included in virtually every TV show and movie that displayed the neon lights of Las Vegas. The abundance of neon signs, like cowboy Vegas Vic, earned the street the nickname of Glitter Gulch.

Local Character Defies Gravity on Fremont Street
Fremont Street dates back to 1905, when Las Vegas  itself was founded. Fremont Street was the first paved street in Las Vegas in 1925 and received the city's first traffic light in 1931.

While gambling was well established prior to being legalized, the Northern Club in 1931 received one of the first 6 gambling licenses issued in Nevada and the first one for Fremont Street.

Glitter Gulch was closed to vehicle traffic in September, 1994 to begin construction on the Fremont Street Experience and it’s still a fun place to see.

Highly recommended!  

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The Vegas Mob Museum

The Vegas Mob Museum
Got a chance to visit the Las Vegas downtown and we made sure we visited the the Mob Museum, officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement. The museum is located on Stewart Avenue, close to old time downtown Vegas.

Easy Money
The Mob Museum is dedicated to featuring the artifacts, stories, and history of organized crime in the United States. It also displays the actions and initiatives by law enforcement to prevent the mob crimes. The Museum is housed in the decommissioned Federal Post Office and Courthouse. It’s the real thing and was built in 1933 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mob Murder?
We bought our armbands on the ground floor and then took the elevator to the third floor, where we watched a short film about the history of Organized Crime from time of the of Prohibition. The main part of the exhibition consists of Mob-related photos with captions explaining the images and also what individuals and events they were connected too.

Actual St. Valentine's Massacre Wall
On the third floor is also where the actual blood-stained wall of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre is on display. The museum proudly displays the brick wall that was riddled with bullet holes during the 1929 shooting. Other exhibits focus on Mob violence, casino money skimming operations, and wiretapping by law enforcement.

Sing Sing Electric Chair. Last used in 1963
Murder Weapons
A highlight of the Mob Museum is the real second floor courtroom, which was the actual location of one of fourteen national Kefauver Committee hearings to expose organized crime were held in 1950 and ’51. The Kefauver hearings helped chase mob activity out of other cities in the nation and into Las Vegas. The small town already had gambling and sin, but it soon became an open city, where mobsters gathered without the bloody turf wars of earlier times.

The collections offer a wide array of sections addressing the Mob’s involvement in illegal activities such as gambling, drugs, prostitution or bootlegging and the efforts of the law enforcement to counteract and eliminate those criminal operations.

Tony Soprano's Shirt
We were able learn about Las Vegas' first casinos, Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, the origins of the FBI, Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and much more. We got to sit in a replica electric chair from Sing Sing Prison, listened to actual wire taps and even saw a shirt that James Gandolfini wore as Tony Soprano on the HBO show The Sopranos. Very interesting.

If you want to know about crime in the United States, this is the place to go. It’s fantastic.

Highly recommended!  

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Strip View Suite Las Vegas

Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
The new Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas  Strip View Suite was so cool, When we got to Vegas, we were feeling good. After a great First class flight from SFO on Alaska in a Virgin America Plane, our long weekend of relaxation began. 

VirginAmerica Seats 2A, 2C
We got in a little early and when we got there, the room was ready and good to go. We got Room 1401 which was on the 23rd floor. It’s the top WA floor and we  had with a wonderful north view towards the Paris Eiffel tower. Registration and the Waldorf Bar is on the 24th floor. Perfect location.

Suite Living room
The weekend was set, had a Mandarin pool cabaña for a full 2 days. For dinner we went to Jaleo, with delicious tapas by José Andrés @The Cosmopolitan. Later that night we saw  Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay which was fantastic.

Strip View North
The WA is the Perfect place to get pampered. No casino on premises, no smoking. We’ve stayed at Waldorf a couple of other times. This is a truly 5* hotel with excellent location and service. This hotel has excellent service in every way.

The location is perfect, in the middle of everything, next to the Crystal Mall (2min walk), Aria (5min), Cosmopolitan (5min walk), Bellagio (15min). Paris is just across the street.

Strip View South
The strip view suite that was perfect in every way. There is a resort feed of $25+tax but it included a newspaper delivered daily, use of the gym, WIFI. – which was fast and always had excellent connection without any interruption. There’s a centralized control in your room (next to the bed) for lighting, TV, room temperature and always worked perfectly. Housekeeping was excellent, twice a day. Towels/toiletries are always replenished. The room is always perfectly cleaned and never saw housekeeping once.

Suite Bathroom
The Bathroom was wonderful with a double sink, soaking tub with excellent bathroom amenities by shanghai tang in a stand alone shower. Bathrobes are Frette and very high quality. There’s a built in TV in mirror. Very nice.

Pool Cabaña
The pool was great. At had the cabaña  we always had top notch service. Also had access to all the WA restaurants from the servers, had great food and bottles of wine. WIFI worked well by the pool and we were able to watch the Giants vs Dodgers game on the MacBook Air.

The stay at the new Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas was fantastic.

Highly recommended!  

If you’d like to check out more pages of the blog . . . Click here

Friday, October 3, 2014

Temple Town of Neelkanth

Gate to Sariska National Park 
We had an exciting trip to the temple town of Neelkanth after our wonderful experience at the ruined fort of Kankwari in Rajasthan. Neelkanth means the blue-throated reincarnation of Lord Shiva,  and is located inside Sariska National Park, which is 21.7 Miles (35km) from the town of Alwar. The view is spectacular as one climbs up the last stretch of road to the plateau where it is situated.

Road to Neelkanth
Lost in a high valley, encircled on all sides by mountains, this ancient temple town is home to the ruins of more than 80 beautifully carved temples dating back to 500 CE. The most famous temple, with Shiva's ancient Holy Sanctuary, is Neelkantheshwar. It predates the others by perhaps a thousand years.

The ruins of the Neelkantheshwar Temple and The Holy Sanctuary
Erotic Sculpture
There are many interesting sculptures around the ruins including many erotic sculptures that date from the ancient times. It has been a battle for Indian authorities to keep thieves from stealing the sculptures for the black market. Luckily, there are a some left on the site.

Tami and our Guide at the Jain Temple of Naugaza
Neelkanth is also the site of the remains of the 7th century Jain temple of Naugaza, where there is the massive 25ft (7.6M) tall pink sandstone statue of Shri Parshavanath-ji – the 23rd Jain Tirthankara.

Temple Ruins
The temple town of Neelkanth was deserted for many hundreds of years and the temples were covered by thick forests.It was only rediscovered by local villagers in the 1950s. It is said that even while the temple town itself was lost, pilgrims to Neelkantheshwar temple kept the sacred candles burning for over 2,000 years in the ancient Holy Sanctuary.

More Erotic Sculpture
The temple town of Neelkanth is an unbelievable site to see. To stand in Shiva's Holy Sanctuary is an experience that is truly awesome. It is the ancient world.

Highly recommended!  

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Thunderbird Lodge at Tahoe

Thunderbird Lodge Front Door
We had a very interesting time visiting the Thunderbird lodge that’s close to Incline Village in north Lake Tahoe. It only took about a half an hour to get there from the Ritz/Northstar area. Fantastic place to see and hear about from very knowledgable docents who have quite interesting stories about George Whittell Jr, who began to build the estate in the 1936.

Lodge Lagoon
The Thunderbird Lodge is also known as the Whittell Estate and is a 6.51-acre waterfront estate located on the Northeast shore of Lake Tahoe. It was built as the summer home of George Whittell Jr, an heir to one of San Francisco's wealthiest families. 

Lakeside of Lodge
George’s family left him a huge fortune of $29 million dollars in cash, which today would be worth at least $50 billion. His father had been one of the founder’s of PG&E, a huge Northern California power company among many other businesses. Luckily, his father had been informed enough to sell all his stock holdings one week before the 1929 stock market crash. Following the economic collapse George was one of the wealthiest men in California.

Gazebo Picnic Area above Lagoon
When George Jr received his inheritance, he bought almost 40,000 acres of the and 20 miles of Nevada shoreline at Lake Tahoe and planned to develop it. Due to environmentalist pressures and other issues, eventually the state of Nevada pushed forward with eminent domain claims to take much of the land for a state park. 
Thunderbird Yacht Hosted Sinatra, Dean Martin, Howard Hughes
and many more Celebrities. 
In addition to the main house, the estate contained an "Elephant House"—home to “Mingo”, Whittell's two ton Indian Elephant. He also kept a full grown lion named “Bill” there for many years. The house itself was constructed of granite blocks that came from a 600 foot (180 m) underground passage complete with a dungeon in the house. There’s also a boathouse containing the 55-foot (17 m) wooden speedboat, the venerable Thunderbird yacht.
600 ft Granite Tunnel with Rail Tracks

Whittell Jr died in 1969 and much of the property went to the state or the US Forest Service. The Lodge is currently owned by the non-profit Thunderbird Preservation Society, and is now a popular tourist attraction. The tours are very interesting and are by reservation only. The stories about George Jr are totally fascinating.

Card Room for George and His Friends
The Thunderbird Lodge is one of the last and best examples of a great residential estate on Lake Tahoe from the period in which prominent San Francisco society built homes on the lake. The Thunderbird Lodge is an example of an approach to architectural design that is intended to be in harmony with it’s setting

Highly recommended!