Condado Vanderbilt Hotel (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

After 5 days spent in the east of the island in Fajardo, we travelled back to San Juan to experience the much talked about Fiestas de la Calle de San Sebastián,- a weekend of celebrations, food and drinks in the heart of the old town. The experience would not have been complete had we not stayed at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in the chic District of Condado in San Juan. The hotel is everything you expect form a 5-star hotel and more. It was originally build by Frederick William Vanderbilt in 1919 and was the “it” destination for many. It recently went through major $200 million renovations re-opening it’s doors in 2014. As soon as you step through the lobby doors it takes you back in time to the glorious 1920’s with its style, sophistication and service that the Vanderbilt was and is known for.

The hotel is split into two towers: The Commodore and the Biltmore  The one and two bedroom suites range from 750 – 1,500 square feet. Our upgraded suite consisted of granite counter tops, African mahogany wood detailing and custom-designed lighting elements. White Carrera marble floors, dove grey walls, and neutral-toned furniture accented with locally-sourced artwork, touches of turquoise and yellow, and the striking backdrop of the translucent Atlantic. The bathroom was configured with a rain shower and C.O. Bigelow bath amenities.

The hotel has two pools located on either side of the towers, one is family-friendly and the other is adults only. We got to experience both. The West Tower pool area features a 200-square foot mirrored pool with a waterfall, surrounded by chaise lounges and private cabanas – a perfect setting for sunning and socializing while taking in the warm breeze. The West Tower’s , infinity-edge pool is perched on the edge of the ocean, and lies adjacent to an intimate, wooden sun deck, located directly above the crashing waves with only two beach chairs. If you want these seats you have to get up extra early or have it reserved. Either way there is plenty of places to bask in the sun. The other pool located at the east tower was smaller but featured a large hot tub. From here there is also access to a small beach with loungers and service provided by the beach butlers.

There are several restaurants and bars located in the restaurant and although we didn’t get to try all of them I can attest to the 5-star quality and service of the buffet-style breakfast served pool-side at the Ola Oceanfront restaurant. After staying here for 3 short days we were pampered, rested and ready to head back to reality. However, the hotel quickly made its way to my top 5 hotels that I have ever stayed at. While its not a cheap place to stay, it is worth every penny.

* Condado Vanderbilt is part of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts Group.

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Vanessa’s Dumpling House- Chinatown (NYC)

Finding the best dumpling in a big city like New York is not an easy task. So I took to the internet to see which spots made the cut. Not surprisingly, the majority were located in and around Chinatown. Being deprived of all things Asian in the South I was determined to eat as many dumplings and Chinese food as time and appetite would allow for. And so I set out walking from the NoMad Hotel all the way down to Chinatown in order to get my dumpling fix. It was a long walk but the reward was worth it. Tucked all the way in the depths of Chinatown I found Vanessa’s Dumpling House, a non-conspicuous fast-food joint with a house full of fans. I ordered more food on the menu than I could physically consume but with the cheap eats and aromas in the air I could not resist. Within minutes my order was prepared and I was in a state of dumpling ecstasy. One of the best authentic dumplings I have yet to taste. Vanessa’s Dumpling House definitely made it to my NY places to eat go-to list.

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Vanessa's Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The NoMad Hotel (New York City)

Of all the hotels in New York City of which there are many, I have always wanted to stay at the NoMad Hotel- a turn of the century Beaux-Arts building that has been masterfully restored to its original grandeur with interiors by French designer Jacques Garcia. The hotel is located in what I came to discover is the NoMad district (North of Madison Square Park) at 28th and Broadway. Amidst mosques, halal food shops, hair and garment stores lies this jewel of the hotel. Just a few blocks away is Madison Square Park and my favorite foodie destination, Eataly. Another great hotel just one block north of the NoMad is the hipster-cool Ace Hotel which I frequented every morning for coffee from Stuptown Coffee located inside the hotel. 

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The NoMad’s public spaces including a center atrium, library, cocktail bar and dining room include food & beverage by award-winning chef Daniel Humm and restauranteur Will Guidara of New York’s acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. Sydell Group own and operate the hotel, and also developed the nearby Ace New York & Palm Springs. Other collaborations include the hotel’s retail space by Paris-based Maison Kitsune (my favorite), which is its first ever dedicated shop in the US. The Library bar exclusive to guests of the hotel is a beautiful bar located in the center of the hotel. Books line the walls and a spiral staircase allows you to access the second floor books. Rumor has it that some of the books contain surprises. If you manage to find one you may keep it! 

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The entrance is dark and grandiose with bellboys ready to assist. The walls are covered in velvet and dark furniture surround the entrance and front desk. The staff were friendly and accommodating and check-in was a breeze. I was upgraded to a higher floor room featuring a clawfoot tub and views onto the adjacent street (as opposed to the inner atrium). It was surprisingly quiet given the traffic and noise outside. The decor is an ode to old Paris and just lovely. The bed was large and extremely comfortable and lent to a good nights rest. Overall, it was definitely the best hotel I have stayed at during my frequent trips to New York. However, the comfort and charm do not come cheap. At almost $500 per night I certainly would have hoped to have more amenities (including access to the rooftop which is now closed off to guests). 

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One great feature of the hotel is their free bike service which you can take out for the entire day. Make sure to inquire when you check-in! 

More information visit their website:  www.thenomadhotel.com

AMENITIES & SERVICES

– Interiors designed by Jacques Garcia
– 168 guest rooms and suites
– Multiple distinct dining spaces with menus by Chef Daniel Humm
– King-sized beds
– European-style bathrooms walk-in shower and water closet in most rooms
– Many rooms with freestanding clawfoot bathtubs
– Exclusive Argan bath amenities by Côté Bastide
– Custom linens, bedding and bathrobes by Sferra and Frette
– Down comforters and pillows (hypoallergenic upon request)
– Custom plush top mattresses and embossed leather headboards
– Mahogany writing desks and television stands
– Bedside tables and velvet and damask patterned paravents
– Reclaimed maple hardwood floors
– Handmade vintage Heriz rugs unique to each room
– Curated art program including Portraits de Villes photographs
– Fully stocked Minibar
– Large flat screen LCD HD television with on-demand movies
– iHome docking station, charger, radio and alarm clock
– Direct dial telephones with speaker and personalized voicemail capability
– In room safe, iron/ironing board, hair dryer, luggage rack
– Steps from Madison Square Park

SERVICES
– 24-Hour Room Service
– Complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access throughout the hotel
– Nightly turndown service
– Daily newspaper delivery
– 24-Hour state-of-the-art Fitness Room
– Laptops and iPads available upon request
– Concierge services provided at the Front Desk
– Multi-lingual Staff
– Bell staff Services
– Valet Parking
– Laundry Service
– LEED certified/Conservation Program

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I Heart New York

It is no secret that I love New York hard. Each trip back to the city reinforces the feelings and brings back nostalgia and distant memories of idealistic dreams of moving to the big apple. You see I fell in love with the city when I was a teenager and as every teenager does, I fell in deeply in love. I love everything about the City. The orderly chaos of the crowds, the traffic, and constant noise that beat through it’s veins. Fast forward 18 years and I found myself back in the city for a week of discovering new hotels, good food and old friends. I arrived on a Wednesday in the afternoon and checked into my beautiful hotel, The Nomad Hotel, located in the Flatiron district. Famished as I always tend to be, I made my way down to Eataly– just a few blocks away from the hotel (see my post on the whole Eataly experience). After sitting down to a nice lunch and a glass of rose, I started to wonder the streets looking through rose colored glasses. There is nothing I love more than walking around New York, getting lost in its streets, discovering new treasures. I walked down, all the way down to Wall Street. Later on I found myself having sake and sushi in Tribeca with old friends, treasuring the mid-summer heat and reminiscing about life and adventures in New York.

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The next day I decided to do what I have have always wanted to do: walk each and every street of the West Village and memorize the architecture, the restaurants and beauty of the brownstone homes. Sometimes I think if I dream hard enough and wish hard enough that maybe it will come true. Maybe, my family and I will be transplanted from our current home in Louisiana to New York where I would no doubt live happily ever after. In New York I feel at home a feeling I have yet to feel  living in the south. Seeing mothers and their children stroll through the streets of West Village and in parks surrounded with other kids, I thought about what a difference it would make to have Baby Nomad grow up in the City where surely he would be exposed to so much more, so many different cultures, languages, faces and experiences. For now, I will continue wishing and hoping and dreaming…

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I visited the High Line, a first for me and fell in love with the concept. So much beauty made of what was surely not the prettiest site to look at. Instead, it has been transformed into a peaceful, serene, green paradise above ground. I started from the top at 32nd street and 1st Avenue and made my way down to the finish line at the Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. Next, I visited one of my favorite foodie destinations which seems to get better with time, the Chelsea Market. With so many places to choose from I opted for a classic Lobster Roll at the Seafood Guys.

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I walked through every different neighborhood below 14th street and made sure to visually memorize everything that I could. From the West Village to Soho and Nolita I took each and every inch in. In my short few days I managed to pack in a lot of food and many miles on my fitbit. With new restaurant discoveries and old favorites there was definitely no shortage when it came to dining options. In the next few weeks I will share all my discoveries with my readers. I hope you enjoy.

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Authentic Greek Salad Recipe (Horiatiki)

Many lives ago, in my twenties, I spent many summer days and nights on the beautiful white washed Greek isles of the mediterranean (see posts). It is here that I fell in love with the simple yet extremely satisfying greek salad. It’s light, fresh and extremely healthy. The salad is best made during the summer months when tomatoes are ripe and aromatic and cucumbers crunchy and fresh. In America any salad that contains feta cheese or olives is often referred to as a Greek Salad. However, the true greek salad recipe is far from that. The authentic Horiatiki Greek Salad is a very specific salad, with specific ingredients. The feta cheese is never crumbled but delicately laid over top the salad allowing you to crumble into smaller pieces at first bite.  You must choose real feta, meaning feta made from sheep or sheep and goat milk. “Feta” made with cow’s milk is not real feta. And to have the true Horiatiki experience you need to taste real feta. Since this is a very simple salad, the quality of the ingredients has a huge impact in the flavor of the final result. If using high quality olive oil, you will not need to add any other sauce to make it flavorful. FullSizeRender

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Ingredients:

– 3 medium-sized tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes but whole tomatoes, cut in wedges)

– 1 English or 4 Persian Cucumbers (peeled and sliced)

– 1 small Red Onions (thinly sliced)

–  6-8 Kalamata olives (whole, not pitted)

– Traditional Greek Feta (in a big slice or chunk, never crumbled)

– Extra virgin olive oil (for dressing)

– 1/2 tablespoon of dry oregano

– 1 slice of feta

– 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

– Caper seeds- Optional (added mostly in Horiatiki salads served in the Greek islands)

– Red wine vinegar- Optional (some people also like to add an extra acidity in their salad)

Instructions:

1- Mix all the vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, lay feta cheese on top and sprinkle with oregano. Serve with fresh baked bread and enjoy!

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Addicted to Fried Chicken since 2010- Rusted Rooster (Lafayette, LA)

There is something about fried chicken and biscuits that has me completely hooked. Growing up in Canada I never had fried chicken (unless you count KFC) but moving to the south opened up a whole new culinary door for me. From fried chicken,gravy and biscuits to the more traditional cajun dishes such as gumbo and red beans and rice, let’s just say I’m hooked. I recently discovered the Rusted Rooster, a small non-pretentious diner style joint on Saint Landry street in downtown Lafayette. Seems like the secret is already out and I’m the last to know as there is quite a wait for lunch and breakfast. Their fried chicken is out-of-this-world delicious as is their selection of burgers, sandwiches and breakfast staples. Their morning hash brown has me craving on a weekly basis. For those seeking a healthier alternative to fried goodness, fear not, as you can order everything grilled.

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Rusted Rooster
105 St. Landry St.
Lafayette, LA 70506
(337) 534-4135
Facebook.com/RustedRoosterLafayette

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Motherhood and the Blog

It has been so long since my last post and I would like to apologize for those that actually take the time to read and follow my blog for the sudden disappearance. But the long hiatus was due to none other than my little sidekick, the Baby Nomad, who recently turned one. Can you believe it? He is already one. Days turned into sleepless nights, nights turned into sleepless days and here I am one year later realizing that besides spending every wake moment with my son I haven’t done much else. Recently I started to feel a void in my days, I missed taking and editing photos and although we travel as often as one can with a one year old, I rarely have found the time to write about it. I felt as though I was beginning to lose myself. The first year as a mother completely consumed me emotionally, physically and mentally. Motherhood is fulfilling in every sense possible but it is as everyone says a 24 hours a day job which you can’t call in sick for…ever. All that being said, I wouldn’t give up one single moment of it. I truly wouldnt. One smile from my son and all the sleepless nights   are washed away from my memory.  I find myself missing him when he sleeps and wishing I could freeze time to cherish the moments more than time allows for. In one sentence motherhood has changed me. I am sure it changes every girl into a women, a mother, a caretaker.

All that being said I am finally coming back up for air and have made a decision to try to get life back on track. This is my life now and I must make room for everything in it. Life has taken on a completely different perspective. Hotels now need to be child-friendly, restaurants need to be accommodating, foods need to be stamp approved by Baby Nomad travel no longer means a carry-on suitcase.  As such the blog will also start to take a different shape. I hope you continue to follow along on my journey through this beautiful gift called life.

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With love and gratitude,

 

The Hungry Nomad

 


 

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Tico meal at El Arado in Manuel Antonio (Costa, Rica)

El Arado is one of those places that should not be missed if you are seeking a quality meal in Manuel Antonio.  While the directions seemed easy enough we passed the street and went all the way down to Quepos only to drive back and finally find the road. The gravel road is dark and truly off the beaten path of all the fancy hotels and tourist spots. The restaurant is just a few minutes drive down the road.

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We arrived to an empty restaurant. One old and friendly tikka came to greet us and showed us to our table. The owner and the cook were watching a Spanish soap opera. The owner came over to greet us but his limited english and our limited Spanish led to a stale conversation. We knew we were getting the baked whole seabass and so we quickly ordered and preparations were under way. About half an hour in a French couple came in to join our lonely meal. The restaurant doesn’t offer much of an ambiance, however, the meal was truly spectacular. The fish were wrapped in foil and baked to perfection on a barbecue pit, served with a side of rice, plantains and black beans. Let’s just say our meal was so good that we wanted to return night after night. If you are visiting Manuel Antonio and want real, quality, tico cuisine do make the trek off the beaten path to this gem.

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Hungry Nomad’s Guide to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Finally this past week my husband, baby and I travelled to Costa Rica to spend a week on the pacific coast in a magical place called Manuel Antonio. I researched a lot before I went and somehow did not manage to find enough information to help me fully prepare for the trip. Below is my tried and tested guide to Manuel Antonio for those in need of a little bit more than what the travel guides provide you with.

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DSC_0539Flight: It was a short 4 hour flight from Atlanta to San Jose on Delta. Once we arrived in San Jose we were transported to the car rental area where we picked up our vehicle. I highly recommend booking your car in advance or you will spend at least an hour or more before all the paperwork is done and you are in your car and ready to go. GPS is a must unless you have an innate ability to travel on foreign roads and not get lost. The drive itself was picturesque and worth the 2.5 hours it took to arrive to Manuel Antonio. We passed through the countryside and jungle, saw small villages and actually got to experience Costa Rica. The other option is to take a 30 minute local flight from San Jose to Quepos. From Quepos there are buses which run along the road to Manuel Antonio National Park.

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Hotels: Manuel Antonio is actually a long stretch of road leading from Quepos to Manuel National National Park. The road is windy and positioned on the side of a mountain with hotels located on both sides. One side closer to the ocean with dramatic views, the other in the middle of the jungle and more distant views of the ocean. We had the opportunity to spend time in two different hotels on both ends: Gaia Hotel and Reserve and Parador Resort and Spa.

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Restaurants: While both hotels we stayed at had fine dining options we like to get out and see what the locals eat. For lunch on most days we ended up at hole in the walls ordering the typical tico dish, ‘Casado’ which consisted of choice of meat, black beans, rice, salad and fried plantains. The food at our hotel, Gaia, La Luna was not good especially given the price point, the only advantage was the beautiful sunset views from the restaurant and the friendly service. On our trip to our second hotel, Parador, we found Emilio’s Cafe which quickly became a favorite of mine and was frequented on more than one occasion for the food and mind-blowing views of the pacific. Other discovered favorites included the authentically Israeli Falafel Bar and off the beaten path, El Arado (see linked posts for review).  Prices in Manuel Antonio are comparable to Miami or any other international destination.

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See: The main reason anyone heads to Manuel Antonio is the National Park. Although it is one of the smallest national parks in the country it is the most visited. I can see why given its beautiful pristine beaches, abundance of wildlife and easy accessibility. Before arriving I pictured us trekking through the jungle just me, husband and baby. I prepared for the worst buying all the necessary hiking equipment and preparing mentally for hiking through the jungle with a 6 month old. When we arrived at the gates I quickly realized just how far off I was. There were many tourists lined up at the gates waiting to get in. The park only allows 800 people in so its best to arrive early. Although if you arrive early you will be arriving at the same time as the tour buses and will walk in with a large crowd of loud ‘humans’ thus scaring the wildlife. We arrived around 11 am and found it to be quieter. I highly recommend hiring a guide as you will not see anything without one unless you just happen to be an expert yourself. With our guide we saw a large family of capuchin monkeys, two-toed and three-toed sloths, tree frogs, bats, snakes, butterflies, lizards and much more. A 45 minute walk through a wide paved path led us down to the main beach where the crowds were gathered. Again, I imagined skipping through the water just me and my husband and was let down to see so many people. I guess the secret is out. Still there are many isolated spots on the beach where you can feel as though you are one with nature.

Overall, Manuel Antonio was not as developed as I thought it would be…which is a good thing. It is still authentic and lacks that ‘cater exclusively to tourism’ feel that you may get in other destinations (such as Mexico). Of course, the area is sprinkled with many hotels and restaurants but yet its still rough around the edges and wild. It was an absolute  amazing destination for those wanting a little adventure.

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Gel Cor Kebap Salon (Istanbul, Turkey)

I have been reminiscing about my trip to Istanbul a lot lately and as I picked through my thousands of photos, I ran across a few I took at a restaurant we visited tucked behind the Grand Bazaar. The only reason we found out about it was because we made friends with a local shop-owner who gave us the name and after running around the maze which is the Grand Bazaar we finally found our way to it. It’s called Gel Cor Kebap Salon and you will not find it unless you ask the locals. It’s one of those ‘hole in the wall’ type places but by all means it is not a ‘hole in the wall’. It’s just one of those amazing place that only the locals eat at. And while it has been a while since I ate there, I will let the photos do the talking for me. 11-P1060532 12-P1060537 13-P1060539 14-P1060540 15-P1060541 16-P1060544

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