Layaway Plans for Air Travel?

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When most people think about layaway plans, they usually think of toys and clothing for the holiday season. In comes Airfordable, a Chicago based tech startup that allows users to pay for airline tickets in installments. It’s easy. Travelers must submit a screenshot of an itinerary along with the trip details; and then Airfordable presents a payment plan. After making an initial deposit, regular payments can be made on the overall balance through the date of departure.  Read More

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Inside Haiti: Getting Around in Haiti

Haiti is a land where the celebration of cultures of African countries still live but poverty and corruption plague the land.    In Port au Prince many of the roads are rocky and unpaved.  As you ride in the popular mode of transportation called the tap tap, you find your body jolting to point of fearing whiplash in thoughts of this foreigner. Tap Taps are gaily painted buses that serve as share taxis in Haiti.  A tap tap is often packed with people.  Instead of ringing a bell to get off you to tap tap on the window to signal that you need to get off.

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The other major form of transportation is motorcycles.   Much like New York, you have to acquire special talent to drive in Haiti.  Don’t be surprised if you see people drive on the sidewalk.   There are not many traffic lights either.

Busy commerce street

 

 

Spotlight: Hilton Mandalay Beach Embassy Suites Oxnard, CA

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The Hilton Mandalay Beach Embassy Suites in Oxnard, CA is perfect destination for the Angelino and a person coming from anywhere in the world.  What is really has to offer the person in live in Los Angeles is a real sense of escape without jumping on a plane or train.

We booked 2 rooms for 2 days and most agree we would wish it would have been three. You don’t have to leave the hotel. If the whether is right you can close eyes and dream you at an island destination. Open your eyes and not be disappointed.

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With heated pools, a jacuzzi, tennis courts, a gym and the beach right out your gated weekend community stay. You couldn’t ask for more but you get it. We had a nice size refrigerator in our room and a microwave. We stayed in building 2 with views of beach shores and ocean.

Now let’s talk about grub on the premise and nearby.  Breakfast may be called continental but it a buffet with a choice of sausage, bacon, pancakes, waffles, fruits, hash browns, scrambled eggs and custom made omlette station.  Walk down a little a little further and you will find healthy section with yogurt bar, cereals, various toasts and maybe not so healthy option of morning pastries.    At lunch time, chef are grilling hot dogs and hamburgers poolside.  It’s a little pricey but if convenience is what you want then you have it.     There is also inclusive reception/happy hour every evening.

Healthy section with yogurt bar, cereal, and juices

Healthy section with yogurt bar, cereal, and juices

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Celebrity Cruises 123Go! Promotion

Greetings! I have some exciting news to share with you. There are lots of great reasons to book a cruise with Celebrity Cruises for travelers of any age, from the most experienced culture-seekers to thrill-seeking millennials among these reasons being:

-Globally Inspired Cuisine – with menus created by a Michelin–starred chef

-In-Depth Destination Experiences & New Ports – nearly 300 sought after worldwide destinations including the best of Europe, plus overnight stays in 53 must-see cities.

-Entertainment – 18 news shows in 18 months that provide travelers a variety of exciting, entertaining and fun onboard experiences.

-Suite Class Private, Spacious Verandas – More private spacious veranda staterooms that any other premium cruise line, allowing guests to enjoy breakfast or a private picnic on their own balcony.

-Sexy, Stylish, Spaces – Onboard interiors by creative architects and designers that infuse Celebrity’s ships with a modern style that rivals any boutique hotel.

And now for a limited time, there’s one more great reason – the return of Celebrity Cruises’ hugely popular 123Go! promotion! Travelers will once again have an opportunity to take advantage of this special offer for bookings made now through July 5, 2015 for 3-night or longer cruises that depart August 2015 – April 2016.  123Go! guests can chose from any one the of three great offers below:

1)    A Free Classic Beverage Package-for-Two (including sprits – valued at $110 per day, with beverage gratuities included)

2)    Free Gratuities (including free pre-paid gratuities-for-two throughout the trip – valued at up to $32.90 per day)

3)    Free OnBoard Credit (valued at up to $300 per stateroom for 10-night or more sailings, $200 for 6-9 nights, $100 for 3-5 nights)

Additionally, guests who book an ocean view or higher stateroom for a European vacation can choose any two of the above offers!

Bookings must be made through Celebrity Cruises via:

Phone: 1-888-283-6879

Online: www.celebritycruises.com/socal

Or with your Local Travel Agent

Aerial Celebrity Reflection off Florida coastline on December 2nd Inaugural CruiseCelebrity Reflection - Celebrity Cruises

Aerial Celebrity Reflection off Florida coastline on December 2nd Inaugural CruiseCelebrity Reflection – Celebrity Cruises

Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore

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November 2011 was the beginning of a new era in Baltimore, Maryland — the era of the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore  being a functioning part of the leisure and commercial landscape of the harbor-famed city. With Four Seasons’ arrival, there was definitely a lot of expectations of grandeur, glamour, and posh resorting. It’s nothing the Four Seasons isn’t used to because it has created and branded itself to be “the standard” in the hospitality industry. Four Seasons has 86 locations in 35 cities around the world, and undoubtedly growing. So naturally, with the opening of its Baltimore location, the Multi Cultural Cooking Network wanted to know what makes the Baltimore location so different. We talked with the General Manager, Julien Carralero of the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore to find out more.

Carralero, looking every bit the part of a handsome, charming General Manager, came to greet MCCN in the exquisite fine-art adorned, marble floored-lobby. He quickly took us upstairs to one of the meeting rooms. On the way addressing employees with a warm-hearted smile and salutations, and occasionally doling out instruction. The meeting room where we set up has a view that makes you feel like the harbor is just steps away. That’s part of the Four Seasons’ strategy. Location! Location! Location!  Even on a dreary day the view is beautiful, as nothing separates the hotel from its harbor location.  As we set up video equipment, Caralero is moving chairs around, asking about our lighting, and making sure MCCN has everything we need. Hmmmh! Could this be part of Four Seasons’ culture of hospitality? Carralero explains that Four Seasons calls it “The Golden Rule,” which every employee is expected to utilize, treating each customers with respect. We like it! We really like it.

The first question we posed to the GM was why Baltimore was chosen as a location for Four Seasons; after all, to the south there is the Four Seasons Hotel Washington D.C., and to the north there is a Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia. Caralerro explains, “Baltimore was a destination that was chosen by Four Seasons because it was the right time for us to come to a city that keeps growing and developing. It’s a city that is strategically very well located between Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York. The Northern Corridor has quite a bit of traffic….we believe that Baltimore is a city that has growth ahead that is positive.” Adding,”Granted the actual state of the economy is still very difficult.”The Four Seasons began building in 2007 but because of the state of the economy the process was delayed, but you won’t find any evidence of cutting corners in the Harbor East location, according to Carralero. “When it comes down to Four Seasons, we didn’t compromise anything. When it comes down to the actual features that go into rooms, that go into the restaurants, the designs, nothing was really compromised from the standpoint that you have technology in the rooms; you have decorum; the quality of the furnishings—nothing was replaced or reduced.” The owners, Harbor East and H&S Bakery, wouldn’t have it any other way. Carralero explains, “I think they believe that to create a product and to launch it, you should have the same continuity when it comes down to the actual specifications.”

….relax in the deep-soaking bath in the hotel’s marble bathrooms.

So back to that technology. Some of it is absolutely mind-blowing. On MCCN’s guided tour of the property we went into several suites which include the latest in Bose home-theatre system technology. You don’t have to miss a thing when you relax in the deep-soaking bath in the hotel’s marble bathrooms; just turn on the LCD television in the bathroom mirror. Yes, in the bathroom mirror.

On top of technology, is pure luxury, especially for the suite-life. Features and amenities include: carpeting that is 70-percent marina_room1wool, a stone-clad built- in fireplace, balconies overlooking the harbor or with a spectacular city view, custom chandeliers, full-size refrigerators, dishwashers, dining areas, which seat eight, 55 inch and 40 inch-LCD televisions for the bedroom and living areas. The list goes on and on when you choose any one of their suites from the Executive to the top of the line Presidential and Royal suites. However you don’t have to have a suite to enjoy a taste of the good life. Standard rooms are not so standard, with LCD screen or plasma televisions, wall-to-wall windows allowing natural light throughout the guest room. There are also impeccable water-side and city-views of  Fells Point, Little Italy and Harbor East (Pictured to the right is standard guest room with King bed. This room has a view of the marina).

The luxury continues outside where you’ll really feel like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle and landed in a secluded palatial resort. Grab a chaise and find a place to relax  right near the harbor. Take a swim in the hotel’s outdoor shimmering pool, which appears to disappear right into the bay. Lounge and linger on the wet deck. Even in the winter, you can take spa1advantage of the hot tub, or warm yourself by the outside fireplace. Will people really use these amenities in the winter? Our sources say, “yes, they will.”

From the wet deck, you can make your way to get a European-style luxury spa. Make no mistake, the 10, 200 square feet spa is a destination its own right. With 11 spa rooms and an extensive menu of spa therapies, relaxation is imminent.

“So far the partnership with Michael Mina is going very well…”

Now, we couldn’t leave you without telling you about the dining options at Four Seasons. Already, getting loads of attention is the celebrity chef-powered  restaurant, Wit & Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina. This is the second collaboration between Four Seasons and Michael Mina, the first being Bourbon Steak, located at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC. General Manager, Julien Carralera describes Mina saying, “He is a person that is very creative and he cares tremendously about innovation and the concept of doing something that is light, fast-paced and giving good food at a competitve price. So far the partnership with Michael Mina is going very well and I hope will continue to go well not just here in Baltimore.” Headed by Executive chef Benjamin Lambert, Wit & Wisdom’s menu  offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving modern tavern food with Eastern Seabord sensibilities and some distinctly Baltimore fare.

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The hotel has a strong committment to work with local providers and local farmers, working within the state and the region to supply necessary resources from meat, to butter to preserves and more.  Carralera emphasizes, “We want our employees to be able to discuss the menu, recommend the menu and promote that specific menu.” He adds, “I think sometimes there are hotels and restaurants that open and they offer some generic menus, when I think the regional profile is very important.”

Also on the premises is LAMILL COFFEE, is an European-styled cafe which offers specialty beverages, pastries, sandwiches,lamill_coffee1 paninis and array of sweet treats. LAMILL has one location on the west coast, but this is the shop’s first venture on the east coast. What a way to lay down roots! And just when you thought you had nothing left to experience when it came to coffee shops, Carralera assures that LAMILL is a different experience, saying, “The culture of coffee is present throughout many cities, but I think the culture of quality coffee that is brewed right there, from the grinding process to the brewing process that is done à la minute, is something that hopefully people in the city and around Baltimore will value.”

Still more dining options are available, including a Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant called Pabu (opening in February of 2012). Pabu will be designed with bamboo ceilings and crafted solid wood tabletops. The restaurant overlooks the harbor with a sushi bar seating 60, serving a variety of sakes and Asian beers as well as small plates. If you just want to enjoy the wet deck and stay close to the hotel’s shimmering pool, you can also grab a bite to eat at the Pool Bar and Grill.

“We don’t take business for granted. We fight hard to get it and we fight hard to keep it…”

Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore is in the process of creating a list for potential buyers for their upcoming residences and they have been booking weddings long before the hotel doors actually opened. Then there are the banquets, the meetings and the stack of donation requests that have local businesses and nonprofits on pins and needles. With so much going for them, they still don’t rest on their name alone. Carralera admits the weight of the Four Seasons’ name in the local community where people know people who have used Four Seasons’ products in other locations does help. “That’s where the mystique of the name is very strong and the powerful delivery of the force’s name is very strong, but we’re only as strong as today as far as our performance. We don’t take business for granted. We fight hard to get it and we fight hard to keep it, and at the same time we want to have people come back to us.”

article by Monica Johnson

Click here to view the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore’s website

Travels Through Alberta, Canada: Where & What to Eat

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White Peach and Sasktoon Berry Pie -Photo Credit: Thisengineercanbake.com

I stumbled upon a great article which I thought would be useful to those traveling and living Alberta, Canada.  Enjoy!- Crystal J. MCCN Editor

 

Article from the Globe and Mail

The small towns of southern Alberta may not always be the most stylish spots when it comes to cuisine, but oh my, there’s pie.

Along the Cowboy Trail, a pretty route that skirts the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains, there’s a lot of cowboy cuisine on the menu. But what’s particularly plentiful on this Prairie road trip is pie – saskatoon berry pie, famous apple custard pies, tart prairie berry pies and sweet potato pies, served up at farm-gate cafés, historic houses and small town bakeries. I’m hankering to taste them all.  READ MORE.

 

Recipe for White Peach and Saskatoon Berry Pie

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Huntington Beach, CA: Fire Pit fun

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One of the most fun and distinguishing things about Huntington Beach are the fire pits.  Even if you don’t get there in time to lay claim to a pit.  It is still quite a spectacle to behold for onlookers at night.  fire-pits-remove

 

Huntington State Beach is very popular with families. More than 600 fire rings are available on the city and state beaches for nightly bonfires, a favorite activity among Huntington Beach locals.

Visit the City of Huntington Beach Website

http://www.huntingtonbeachca.gov/about/parks_recreation/

Free Trip to Catalina Island on Birthday – Limited Time Offer

Indulge on your birthday! Catalina Island creates Birthday Island to welcome you on your Special Day by offering great Island deals on Activities, Shopping, Dining and Lodging on your birthday.  Catalina Express is offering a FREE ride on your birthday.    Click here to find out about the other birthday special offerings on Catalina Island.

 

 

 

Bakersfield, CA: Murray Family Farms

One of two locations-The Old Tomato Weigh-Station.

One of two locations-The Old Tomato Weigh-Station.

 

While driving north on the 5 interstate in California, I made a pit stop at Murray Family Farms.  It caught my attention.   What also caught my attention once  inside were these perfectly sized cobblers including cherry and a I believe I saw blackberry.  I tried the cherry. It was tasty but  a bit too sweet for my taste as a dessert by itself but once I heated and added a scoop of vanilla ice cream the flavors together balanced the sugar.

This is a farm where you can pick some of the fruit yourself.  There is also a petting zoo on the property but we went on a Thursday and the animals were not there.

1002695_10152239048506865_2151052052103824320_nSeasonal favorites include cherries (18 varieties), blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, apples, citrus, artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, pumpkins, and many more.

Farm Direct Markets for ripe, home grown fruits and veggies, charming jams, jellies, specialty canned goods, tender chewy beef jerky, dried fruits and nuts, homemade pies, cookies & turnovers, creamy fudge, cut fruit salads, and all sorts of snacks.  Their website claims there are more free samples than you would find at a Costco store but when I asked about trying the the dried ocra, I was met  this reply, “sorry just packaged all they items.”  Now, I know if I was Trader’s Joe’s they would not hesitate to open anything.  

Website: http://www.murrayfamilyfarms.com/about-the-farm/store/

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