Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Scouting out the Hyatt Regency Rochester

View of the Genesee River from my Hyatt Regency hotel room.
Last week I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Rochester in New York, and while exploring the city uncovered more amazing cultural and historical attractions than I expected to find. Rochester, I knew, was home of Eastman Kodak and that huge film and camera empire, and I was familiar with the George Eastman Museum, the world’s oldest photography museum. But I didn’t realize the abundance of other attractions, and that a river flows through the city (duh, the Erie Canal moved by in days before the Iron Horse!)

High Falls from Genesse Brew House
 The picturesque High Falls on the Genesee River is a dynamic part of the urban landscape. Revitalization of the city has concentrated on river walks and an abundance of pleasant green zones.

Early city fathers laid groundwork for Rochester’s grand park system and early city mothers were arrested for voting in neighborhoods near the greenways. Yes, Rochester is home of Susan B. Anthony who rallied America’s ladies to fight for the right to vote.

Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass in park near Anthony's home where she was arrested for voting.
You can visit the social activist’s home – and I did – as well as the home of George Eastman, the philanthropic industrialist who put affordable photographic equipment into the hands of nearly everyone. (Have you heard of the Brownie Camera?)

Another unexpected find was the Hyatt Regency Rochester which has just undergone an $18 million renovation. I hadn’t anticipated seeing such a large investment in a city that experienced large-scale deindustrialization in the past. Yet throughout my whole visit I saw a bright and vibrant city, which told me that Rochester has successfully ridden the tides of economic and social change.

Rooftop bar, high views of the captivating city scape, upscale dining and convenient central location make this hotel a Rochester must-stay. While there, I participated in a fun scavenger hunt sponsored by the Hyatt Regency team. The attentive staff, proud of the new digs, wanted us to experience all the upgraded features and so created an intriguing quest. I thought it would be fun to take you along on the scavenger hunt with me. Here are our clues:

What is the smallest of the Great Lakes?

The key to the greatest views? The keycard to Room 2509, the Lake Ontario Suite had been given to me along with the key to my guest room on the 20th floor. Hmmm…what could be out of the windows of the Lake Ontario Suite? I grabbed the keycard and took the elevator up investigate. I wasn’t sure what I would find.
Inside the Lake Ontario Suite: large enough for your family or Board of Directors
Outside on the deck of the Lake Ontario Suite

What is the name of the internationally renowned artists residing in Rochester? 

Take a picture of his sculpture on display in the Hyatt Regency’s lobby.
This is me admiring the piece by Gregory Johnson. One art expert says
“Suggestive of the pathways of life . . . the forces of nature . . . human emotion . . . those abstract concepts that are so familiar yet so intangible, like the warmth of sunlight or the crashing of a wave."
Gregory Johnson's contemporary metal pieces are collected by museums, corporations and public organizations from all over the country. I was blessed to see one of his pieces up close and personal.

What is the name of the tallest building in view from the Center City?

That was an easy one to solve. While sipping cocktails on the rooftop bar, I simply asked our Hyatt Regency Rochester host, “What’s the name of that building right there?” “The Cosmopolitan,” she answered and all my colleagues laughed and accused me of cheating. Hey, I’m a journalist – I ask the direct questions.

Make a splash in our renovated pool area! Take a pic of you lounging in our aquatic oasis.

I got up early to snag some Instagram shots by the Hyatt Regency Rochester pool, so there was not a soul around when I entered the renovated pool area. I was so impressed by the city views out the expansive picture window and the outdoor sun deck. Since I wasn’t about to take the overused Instagram shot of thong bikini-clad travel writer with head wrapped in towel (hey, you wouldn’t want to see that shot of me either,) I envisioned a shot of my feet up on a chaise, the Rochester cityscape reflecting in the pool in the background and my coffee in the foreground. The aquatic sanctuary was quiet as I snapped my first test shot. Not enough exposure.
I re-posed for a second attempt when the tranquility of the soothing waters was interrupted. The door across the natatorium slammed open and in popped a fellow photographer. He had been walking into my shots for the past three days and it looked like this morning would be no better. It was quite evident that I was shooting at my pointed toes, and sure enough if he didn’t find the exact spot on the other side of the pool to stop and stand. Really? There was plenty of room for a crew of paparazzi in this large pool area. I guess all is fair in love and scavenger hunts.

Can you find the mermaid? Take a picture of her, she considers herself a wall flower at our fave place to get caffeinated.

“Clever deduction, Sherlock,” I said to myself as I headed on down to the street level where the Starbucks was conveniently located for locals as well as hotel guests. The on-site Starbucks is part of the Hyatt Regency Rochester and a great place to pick up coffee, tea, smoothies, light breakfast items or snacks when you are in the go.

Can you find the water feature? Take a picture of it! Hint: It’s the best place to get a draft beer.

I followed the clues to the bar, but the mysterious water feature was not so easy to find. I did not see it, but when I stopped to listen, I could hear the tinkling of water. I finally traced the sound to the bar’s sign behind the beer taps. The unique sign is a wall fountain with water pouring over the face of it.

Why wait? Plan your getaway to Rochester now. Book your Hyatt Regency Rochester room here. Check out room rates at the Best Hotels Rochester at Booking.com.

Hyatt Regency Rochester
125 East Main Street, Rochester, New York, United States, 14604
Tel: +1 585 546 1234

Unstoppable Stacey Wittig is a an Arizona travel writer who writes from her home in Flagstaff, Arizona. Although she was hosted for her getaway to Rochester, NY, her opinions, as always are her own.

#DiscoverHyattRoc @hyattregencyrochester

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

How to Harvest and Prepare Prickly Pear Fruit

Ever since I saw Billy Crystal in the movie, City Slickers, I’ve wanted to experience a real-life dude ranch. The comedy flick also made me aspire to run with the bulls in Pamplona, but that will wait for another story.

Last weekend I lived out my dude ranch dream at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, where I rode well-trained horses, ate gourmet cowboy grub and harvested the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. Late summer is prickly pear harvest season and I thought I’d share some tips about foraging the colorful fruit that you can use in cocktails, desserts or even BBQ sauces.
At Tanque Verde Ranch, we used long, stainless steel utility tongs that you would find in the kitchen. They helped us reach across the prickly pear plant and avoid the menacing needles. I searched for the fruit – also called tuna – that had a deep, dark magenta color with no green remaining. The color indicates that the prickly pears are sweet and ready for harvest.

Prickly pear cactus grows throughout the Tanque Verde Ranch, but you’ll see more vibrant color on the prickly pear fruit on the grounds near the front lawn and surrounding buildings. That’s because those plants get more water.
The fruit grows on the highest paddles (or nopales) of the prickly pear and these were the size of small kiwi fruit. White spots on the prickly pear look like fungus, but it’s actually the residue of a small bug that burrows into the green cactus paddles. A natural dye is made from the tunneling insects and is used in textiles, pharmaceuticals and other products. The bug dye produces crimson and scarlet colors. We had to be careful not to touch the fruit in an effort to avoid the annoying cactus spikes, but also to dodge staining our fingers with deep reddish purple.

Although the micro spines that cover the fruit and paddles are extremely irritating, they will eventually work themselves out of your skin if you happen to get a few in your fingers, arms or legs while harvesting. Of course, long pants and sleeves would help protect you from the irritation. It is also wise to watch for snakes and bring water, a hat and sunscreen when going out to harvest prickly pear fruit.
We picked the ripe fruit by twisting the tuna slightly with the tongs to break it off the paddle. We picked one fruit at a time to fill our galvanized buckets that we carried with us as we meandered around the ranch situated in the Sonoran Desert.
In about one hour our buckets were full and heavy and we were ready to get out of the sun. Just before noon the other prickly pear foragers and I reconvened in one of the ranch’s commercial kitchens to help Executive Sous Chef Janet Hoogasian prepare the raw fruit pods.
Executive Sous Chef Janet Hoogasian 
“Here at the ranch, we’re well known for our Prickly Pear Margaritas, so we have to pick a lot of prickly pears,” said the chef. “It takes about 35 pods to get one-third of a cup,” she said. Only one to two ounces of prickly pear juice will give you the vibrant color a margaritas or other drink.
Chef Janet prepares the juice and sauces and freezes them for the rest of the year. Prickly pear's taste is slightly sweet and fruity, but sugars – agave, honey, or cane sugar – are typically added to sweeten the wild food that is high in vitamin B, iron, amino acids and magnesium.
First, we placed the prickly pear pods into a large colander and sprayed all the bugs off with water using the sprayer on the sink. Then we rinsed the fruit under the water faucet and repeatedly swirled the heavy batch to take off the micro spikes. The fruit knocking against each other in the colander helps to rub off those prickly micro fibers.
This process doesn’t remove all the spikes, so we donned leather gloves over the typical disposal food service gloves so we could handle the spiky fruit. On the cutting board, we sliced off the tips of the pods and then made a short incision into the tough skin to cut a slit from end to end. That allowed us to peel off the thick skin with the edge of the knife. Since the interior flesh is slippery, we had to take caution while extracting the juicy pulp.

Breaking down the fruit like this takes a lot of detailed knife work, but the end result is a ranch-made sauce or juice made without additives or preservatives. “You know exactly what went into it: time, effort and love,” smiled Chef Janet, who is part of the Gastronomic Union of Tucson.
The skinned fruit went into a large pot, where we added a little water and set it on low heat to simmer. Soon, the aroma of plums rose from the simmering concoction while Chef Janet skimmed off cactus spikes that floated to the surface and stuck to the sides of the pot with a strainer ladle.

Besides being used as an important ingredient for margaritas, prickly pear  juice is also used in the Tanque Verde Ranch’s BBQ sauce. “You can do all kinds of flavor profiles with prickly pear because of its mild flavor,” the chef explained. That day she added honey, a cinnamon stick and cloves to the cooking fruit to be used in the evening’s desert. “You can use it in shaved ice, a glaze for pork chops or an icing for a dessert that will have that awesome color. Prickly pear has a very light flavor, so you can add other things and take it up a notch.”

After simmering the fruit pulp, Chef Janet put it through a sieve and returned it to the pot to simmered some more. She repeated sieving several times to remove prickly pear needles and seeds. In the final stage, chef poured the reduction through cheese cloth. What she didn’t use for the evening’s desserts was frozen for later.
Tanque Verde Ranch's signature Prickly Pear Margarita
“We always think we have enough, but every year that I’ve been here, we run out by January,” laughed Denise, a banquet bartender who has worked at the ranch almost five years. Denise and another mixologist were demonstrating how to use prickly pear juice in cocktails in a session at the on-site Dog House Saloon after lunch. We sampled a Prickly Pear Mimosa, a Prickly Pear Whiskey Sour, a Cosmo that substituted the cranberry juice for what else, prickly pear, and of course the ranch’s signature Prickly Pear Margarita.

Take part in the second harvest happening August 23-26, 2018. Rates starting at $435/night includes:
Arizona accommodations with three hearty meals daily
specialty prickly pear menu items
harvest prickly pears
learn and partake in prickly pear processing
prickly pear cooking demos
prickly pear t-shirts for all guests
supervised children’s program (ages 4-11)
horseback trail riding and lessons
scheduled breakfast rides and cowboy cookouts
fishing, guided hikes, nature programs, mountain biking, bingo and many other family activities

For Tanque Verde Ranch's BBQ and margarita recipes go to www.tanqueverderanch.com/prickly-pear-recipes 

Have you used Prickly Pear in any of your recipes? Or have you tried Prickly Pear fruit, which is considered a super food? Has this article inspired you to go out and do some desert foraging? If so, leave you comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Tanque Verde Ranch 14301 East Speedway, Tucson, AZ; 800-234-3833

Why wait? Check out room rates on Booking.com and book now by clicking here.

"Unstoppable" Stacey Wittig is a an Arizona travel writer who writes from her home in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Quebec: Adventures in Nature

Parc national Fjord-du-Saguenay, Rivière-Éternité (c)
Charles David Robitaille

Last week I was a very “happy camper” in Saguenay Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec. The area is located in the woods north of Montreal and Quebec City known for the Saguenay Fjord, one of the ten longest fjords in the world. I have to admit that I didn’t actually camp in a tent. The adventure was more of a “glamping” experience where I engaged in camping-type adventures like hiking up the glacier-carved granite and gneiss hills, sailing down the salty waters of the fjord and zigzagging into gorges gouged into the rock by the huge ice flows of the Pleistocene Era. But instead of roughing it, this “glamper” had the luxury of dining at glamorous restaurants and sleeping in comfy chalets and hotels.

Adventures in Nature #1: Hiking

The challenging Statue Trail started near sea level on the shores of Saguenay Fjord. At dinner the night before, I’d learned that a fjord is a long, narrow glacial carved valley that is filled with salt water. After dinner, we attended the Saguenay Wine Festival, the largest international wine fest I’d ever experienced. I tasted Zonin Proseccos from Italy, French rosés and Spanish Riojas as well as Canadian wines, and rubbed elbows with Spanish wine maker, Roberto Alonso, who promised to show me around Bodegas Valdemar vineyards the next time I’m in Logrono, Spain.
Annual Saguenay Wine Festival in Chicoutimi, Quebec
Chicoutimi’s historic downtown is open to foot traffic only during for the annual street party. Vintners from across the globe, as well as spirit distillers, draw a cosmopolitan crowd made of locals and visitors from Montreal and Quebec City with over 40K people attending the three-day event.

Statue Trail at Saguenay Fjord National Park
 The next morning in the Saguenay Fjord National Park, I hiked up through the lush boreal forest past green spruce and white-barked birch up an enchanting pathway of rock stairways, redwood decks and glacier-polished bedrock. The many overlooks of the fjord disappearing below me tempted me to the edge of the fiords’ vertical cliffs. National Geographic named this trail network through Saguenay National Park as a “Top 10 Walks & Hiking Tours in 2010.” The trail is a three- to four-hour out-and-back trek up to a statue of the Madonna who overlooks the water.

The huge sculpture was financed by a Quebec City merchant, who went through the ice with his horse and load of merchandise on a sales trip to Chicoutimi in 1878. After praying to the Virgin, he pulled himself from the icy mire, vowing to give back to her. Years later after a series of further misfortunes, the statue was finally installed on the high Cape Trinité overlooking the Fiord.

Adventures in Nature #2: Boating

Because of the dangers associated with thirteen- to 20-foot fluctuating tides and the wind tunnel created by the high rock formations lining the fjord, canoes and river kayaks are not allowed on the big waters of Saguenay Fjord National Park. But a really convenient feature in the national park is the marine shuttle, Les Navettes maritimes du Fjord, which is a hop-on, hop-off water taxi that services trailheads to wilderness overnight backpacking trails, charming villages and marinas. I loved being on the water, that’s just who I am. I kept a lookout for beluga whales (even though I was told they did not come up this far in the fjord) as I enjoyed the storyteller who told tales of the north woods as we sailed to the remote village of L’Anse-St-Jean. Other experiences for water adventures include with Zodiac boat excursions, guided Fjord en Kayak sea kayak trips and sailboats.

That evening, we ate like foodies at Chez Montagner, a new restaurant by Quebec City restaurateur, Frédérick Montagner and slept like babies in the comfy Chalets du le Fjord motel.

Adventures in Nature #3: Via Ferrata

Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux, Saint-Fulgence (c) Charles-David Robitaille
Tourisme Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean
Via Ferrata is a course that aids people in climbing steep terrain with fixed cables, suspended walkways and inverted ladders embedded into cliffside walls. The term is Italian for “Iron Path,” and adventurers can take part in the adrenalin rush at Saguenay Fjord, but I opted for its kinder, gentler brother at Parc de la Caverne Trou de la Feé.
Parc de la Caverne Trou de la Feé
There I walked swinging suspension bridges over whitewater as it raged through a narrow canyon. I didn’t know whether to close my eyes or leave them open. I enjoyed the wooden walkways were bolted into the canyon walls but skipped the zipline.
Domaine Le Cageot winery 
In keeping with our glamping motif, we lunched at Domaine Le Cageot winery where we were led through a wine tasting during the outdoor le déjeuner. Later at Val Jalbert, a restored “company town” where we spent the night in upmarket, renovated townhouses, we experienced nature by riding a gondola along a powerful waterfall.

The river and falls, higher than the Niagara Falls generated hydraulic power that once ran the pulp mill. The pulp from this company town deep in the forest was shipped down the fjord to the St Lawrence Seaway to New York and London. Val Jalbert is now a living museum full of activities and fun for the whole family. Reenactors live out the days of old, autos are not allowed, but you can spend the night “in the museum.” Rooms are upscale and full of modern amenities. 

Make plans to for your own adventures in nature by going to www.saguenaylacsaintjean.ca/en

"Unstoppable Stacey" Wittig is a travel writer based in Flagstaff, Arizona. The Arizona travel writer was was hosted for her stay in Quebec, and although that does not affect her opinions, she believes in full disclosure. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Camino Guidebook by Stacey Wittig and Johnnie Walker recently released

A London publisher, the Confraternity of St James, recently released their latest Camino guidebook, Camino Primitivo Villaviciosa-Oviedo-Melide, by Stacey Wittig and Johnnie Walker.

This new, pocket-size edition of the Confraternity of St James (CSJ) guide to the Camino Primitivo brings together

  • up-to-date details for walkers and cyclists, 
  • elevation profiles by Sean Hampton, and is 
  • sprinkled with intriguing background information 
about this historically-significant route.

The Camino Primitivo is so historically relevant to early development of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage phenomena that this year the Confraternity of St James crafted a guide that devotes segments to the history and culture of the route in addition to the walking notes and accommodation.

Roman wall in Lugo on Camino Primitivo

Camino Primitivo sprinkled with historical and cultural info

EXCERPT: In the early 9th C, some say 814 AD, the tomb of St. James was discovered in north-western Spain by a hermit named Pelayo. Pelayo seems have been a popular name in medieval times, so don’t get this Pelayo confused with the Pelayo (Pelagius in Latin), who begat the tiny Kingdom of Asturias after leading Christians into battle against the Moors almost 100 years prior to the discovery of the saint’s remains. Legend has it that the hermit reported his findings to the bishop of Iria Flavia, Teodomiro, who in turn communicated the miraculous discovery to Alfonso II, the Asturian king ruling from Oviedo.
The king and his entourage journeyed to Iria Flavia (modern-day Padrón) to view the crypt. That being so, Alfonso II is often referred to as ‘the first pilgrim’ to make the trek to honor the relics of the saint. His route from Oviedo to Iria Flavia (18km from what is now known as Santiago de Compostela) was the first Camino route. Hence the name, Camino ‘Primitivo’ or ‘original’ road. 
The Camino Primitivo guide was originally written and mapped by CSJ stalwart Eric Walker. Edits were made by CSJ fellows until 2013 when editor Chris Lennie updated all the route and accommodation information. This year CSJ again walked the route, brought the information up-to-date, added maps elevation profiles by Sean Hampton and Stacey Wittig enhanced the guide book with the intriguing historical and cultural background of Camino Primitivo.

Stacey Wittig’s life was transformed by her first Camino in 2005. Since then the writer has walked more than 4300km on Camino routes in France, Italy and Spain. She is author of the “Spiritual and Walking Guides” series of Camino devotionals for Christians yearning for deeper spiritual journeys.

Johnnie Walker is a former Chief Executive who found new life and new meaning on the Camino to Santiago. The Camino author has walked thousands of kilometers on pilgrim routes in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan. Learn more about Johnnie Walker here.

Camino guide available in KINDLE and PAPERBACK

Buy the pocket-sized paper edition at the Confraternity of St James website at https://www.csj.org.uk/product/pilgrim-guides-camino-primitivo-2017-2018-villaviciosa-oviedo-melide-pocket-size-edition/

The Kindle version is available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2KK3d6b

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mazatlán Recognized by Forbes, American Express Travel and Live and Invest Overseas

Mazatlán was recently recognized by three heavy hitters -- Forbes, American Express Travel and Live and Invest Overseas -- as the place for North Americans to vacation, retire or invest.
Unstoppable Stacey in Mazatlan
I visited Mazatlán, Mexico, not long ago and ran into quite a few people from the US and Canada. Some were vacationing, while others were expats who had moved to the lovely beach-side city. It got me thinking, with the amount of money being poured into the infrastructure of the already comfortable, historic town, Mazatlán might just be the place for me to spend my retirement years. I surely enjoyed vacationing in the “Pearl of the Pacific” over the last two decades and I easily envisioned myself living there as I roamed the colorful historic district.
Mazatlan or New Orleans? Authentic architecture in the historic district.
After returning, I did a little research and found a Forbes article entitled, “The Surprising Top 10 List of Best Places to Retire Abroad,” that features high praise for Mazatlán from both ‘Live and Invest Overseas’ and ‘International Living’ authorities. The insider list was surprising to me as it named four places that I have visited: Lisbon; Portugal's Algarve Region; Valletta, Malta; and Mazatlán. Even more unexpected was that Mazatlán placed third on the Forbes top ten list, behind the Algarve Region and Valletta. 

1. Portugal's Algarve Region*
2. Valletta, Malta*
3. Mazatlán, Mexico*
4. Abruzzo, Italy
5. Saint-Chinian, France
6. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7. Lisbon, Portugal*
8. Budapest, Hungary
9. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
10. George Town, Malaysia

* Been there, would like to go back.

Home to more than twelve miles of golden shoreline, Mazatlán offers idyllic year-round tropical weather, first-class amenities and infrastructure, and an active lifestyle for older adults who embrace a "young at heart" mindset. 
Many expats embrace living like a local, enjoying the laid-back living and city life surrounding the Historic District's Plaza Machado, which offers magnificent sidewalk cafes, up-and-coming gastronomy, local arts and crafts, and a diverse theater culture.
Ángela Peralta Theater
Forbes reported, 
Known for its North American expat community, this Pacific coast beach resort has, according to Live and Invest Overseas, “a little bit of everything” — 20 miles of beaches, world-class fishing, historical attractions, delicious street food and an international airport. Climate? Tropical, with a wet season and a dry season.

Mazatlán, a city in transformation

Earlier I mentioned a large amount of money being poured into Mazatlán. I didn't reveal how much. The amount is approximately 2,085,000,000 Mexican Pesos, or 111.5 million US Dollars. I saw evidence of many new amenities and improvements and especially enjoyed: 
  • the renovated Malecón (they’re adding new bike paths to this longest boardwalk in the world,) 
    The Malecon (Boardwalk) where locals meet and visitors stand in awe
  • a restored Centro Histórico that preserves the French, Italian and German architectural roots of the fascinating and Instagrammable historic center, 
  • the refreshed Ángela Peralta Theater and Cultural Center, the gathering spot for the renown opera and theater culture,
  • the renewal of the tallest, working natural lighthouse in the world and 
  • the creation of new parks and city centers for both families and visitors to enjoy. 
“Mazatlán is enjoying a renaissance, and many are returning here to savor a burgeoning culture scene rich with the arts,” said Rafael Lizárraga Favela, Undersecretary of Tourism for the State of Sinaloa. “Whether you are an empty-nest couple looking to slow your pace of life, or a prior snowbird visitor looking to make a permanent change to our incredible year-round tropical climate, you can find value and a quality of life here in our colonial city on the beach that includes luxury living, endless activities, and a booming culinary scene,” he added.
Translation headphones provide by Fiesta Amigos
I was honored to hear the tourism official speak at a gathering of the 23rd annual Fiesta Amigos, a unified city effort to educate and celebrate Mazatlán’s tourism partners from the U.S. and Canada.
Mazatlan's International Convention Center
The Fiesta Amigos was held at the beautiful and modern International Convention Center, which showcased the state-of-the-art multi-use facilities that businesses, conferences and meeting organizations utilize year-round. 

My research also uncovered that American Express Travel ranked Mazatlán one of the hottest worldwide destinations last fall, and Live and Invest Overseas called Mazatlán’s historic city center ‘The Ideal Second Home.’ Maybe I’ll just have to start shopping Mazatlán real estate. 

For more information about Mazatlán, visit www.GoMazatlan.com.

About Mazatlán 

Mazatlán is a Mexican resort town along the Pacific Ocean. Founded in 1571, its Historic District, 19th-century landmarks include the performance hall Teatro Ángela Peralta and the towering Immaculate Conception Basilica. Sandy beaches line its four mile-long malecón (boardwalk), the newly developed Nuevo Mazatlán area where two marinas and two professional golf courses sit, and the modern district of Zona Dorada which is known for nightlife and hotels to suit any budget. Old villages with unique charm such as El Quelite, Concordia, Copala and El Rosario surround Mazatlán, and guided tours are available from all hotels. Direct air service is available to Mazatlán from most U.S. and Canada markets.

Arizona travel writer Stacey Wittig was hosted for her stay in Mazatlan, and although that does not affect her opinions, she believes in full disclosure. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Two New Dramatic Destinations Open in Bangkok

Bangkok’s contrasting sides of its hip social scene were reasons that I fell in love with this Thai city. I called it the “Two Faces” of Bangkok in an article that I wrote soon after my return. Since then, two new dramatic destinations have opened their doors, proving once again that the Thai metropolis is ever-changing and intriguing to returning visitors.

The first new destination is ABar on the 37th floor of Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, high above the bustling city streets. The trendy bar opened on New Years Eve, and I can’t wait to go back to the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park to experience the new destination bar, an attraction in its own right. One thing that I learned while I was in Bangkok was that the Victorian Era was alive and well in the city back in the late 1800s. This bar harkens back to that era with classic dark wooden décor, wingback chairs and leather-bound books.

Its library-like, book lined walls also have the feel of a “Speak Easy” that is making such a strong comeback in the US right now. A recent media release describes the cool, sophisticated cocktail bar as blending “the mystery and magic of Victorian London with the gritty edge of 1930s America.”

The comfortable venue that reminds me of a London gentleman’s club makes ABar the perfect spot in which to unwind and enjoy hand-crafted cocktails in a warm ambiance overlooking the spectacular Bangkok skyline.

Prohibition-Era Cocktails, Craft Spirits and Rustic Mixes

Capturing the spirit of the venue, ABar specializes in dark spirits including whiskies from around the globe, dark rum and cognac. An extensive selection of drinks is available, including vintage and prohibition-era cocktails, craft spirits and rustic mixes.

Sanctuary of High-End Relaxation

I can imagine unwinding with my new favorite beverage or one of the reimagined classics in this sanctuary of high-end relaxation with cool jazz playing in the background. ABar seats 76 guests indoors and 32 on the semi-al fresco terrace which overlooks Benjasiri Park.

ABar Rooftop

The second recently-opened destination bar is ABar Rooftop, also located at Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park. Perched on the 38th floor just one floor above ABar, its rooftop location delivers a real wow factor.

The stylish open-air bar features one of the largest selections of gins in the city, with more than 50 different varieties including many craft labels.
The exquisite gins are used to create an extensive range of signature G&Ts and innovative cocktails, which can be enjoyed in the ultimate intimate setting while gazing out over the sparkling Bangkok cityscape.

ABar Rooftop seats 60 people. No reservations are taken at either venue and seating is assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. Both ABar and ABar Rooftop will open daily from 5 pm to 1 am.
Access to the bars is via a dedicated elevator from Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park’s South Tower Lobby.

For information and reservations, call +66 (0) 2 059 5999 or email restaurant-reservations.bkkqp@marriotthotels.com or visit www.bangkokmarriottmarquisqueenspark.com.

About Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park
The largest and the first Marriott Marquis in Asia Pacific, Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park is the city’s new landmark completed with ample amenities and facilities, including 1,360 guestrooms and suites and over 5,000 square meters of function space across 37 venues. The hotel also offers two outdoor swimming pools, Quan Spa and several restaurants and bars on prime location on Sukhumvit Road, surrounded by business centers and entertainment. Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park is truly an ideal choice for travelers visiting this vibrant and colorful city.

Read more: Bangkok Posh: Three Hotels Worth the Splurge

Common to the travel industry, writer Stacey Wittig was hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. While that has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure. #ThailandInsider