An Immersive Guest Experience at the Kimpton Everly in Hollywood

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An Immersive Guest Experience at the Kimpton Everly in Hollywood

As a frequent traveler, a hotel is so much more than just a place to rest your head at night. For many of us, it is the entry point into our destination; it sets the stage for what we’re about to experience, discover, and remember. I love when hotels that go above and beyond into making sure every aspect of the experience reflects the location and vibe, whether through hand-selected magazines, featuring local artists, or architecture that highlights a special view or landmark. And when a hotel pushes the boundaries of what a guest experience can/should be…that just adds to the excitement.

Last week, I had the opportunity to experience The Kimpton’s latest experiential concept, Room 301 at the Kimpton Everly. Only available until the end of November 2018, guests who choose to experience Room 301 (with perfectly framed views of the Hollywood Hills and photo-friendly pops of pink) will engage in interactive experiences that are designed to explore what makes us uniquely human.

Through immersive experiences like creating a shared playlist, answering thought-provoking questions in a “guestbook 2.0”, or partaking in a confessional wall, guests are encouraged to interact with each other metaphorically as they flow through the space at different times, taking some of the anonymity out of typical hotel stays. A super fun element is the Mystery Vice, where you can bring the provided card downstairs, with your biggest “vice” revealed, and Ever Bar’s bartender will create a custom cocktail accordingly.

To top it all off, a portion of proceeds from each stay will go to the guest’s choice of The Trevor Project or No Kid Hungry. As another part of the experiment, guests will receive a certificate for 10,000 IHG® Rewards Club points which can either be kept or paid forward to anyone they choose, further exploring how we make an impact on others and why we make the decisions we do.

Available dates can be checked by emailing StayHuman@KimptonGroup.com.

Kimpton Everly | 1800 Argyle Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028 | (213) 279-3532

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Did you book an experience in Room 301? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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Adventure Meets Culture in French Polynesia

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Adventure Meets Culture in French Polynesia

La vie heureuse” is a phrase often used in Tahiti, which translates roughly to “A happy life”. As it happens, there is not much in the way of that when you’re in French Polynesia. From the unbelievably clear turquoise waters to the enchanting waterfalls, mystical valleys, rich cultural history, and fauna bursting with color and life, it is a land that seems almost unreal until experiencing it in person.

I have to admit that for all its beauty, Tahiti hadn’t been a destination high on my list because I had always considered it a “honeymoon destination”. However, I was proven completely wrong about that misconception recently during an opportunity to attend a trip in collaboration French Bee and Tahiti Tourism. A new addition to the ever-expanding options of low cost airlines, French Bee had just launched a new route from Paris to San Francisco to Tahiti and I was lucky enough to participate in their inaugural flight from San Francisco, (full breakdown available here.)

During my week spent exploring the islands of Tahiti and Moorea, I discovered that French Polynesia is brimming with so much more than just picture-perfect beaches and luxury resorts; that discovery and immersion of all of the artistic and cultural aspects of a different country that make travel so intoxicating for me is all here, in a destination I so easily overlooked previously.

 Traditional Polynesian welcome with harmonies from a conch shell at Fa'a'ā International Airport upon French Bee's inaugural flight from Paris > SF > Tahiti.

Traditional Polynesian welcome with harmonies from a conch shell at Fa'a'ā International Airport upon French Bee's inaugural flight from Paris > SF > Tahiti.

Upon landing at Fa'a'ā International Airport just before sunrise, we were immediately greeted with a fragrant jasmine lei, the sweet smell instantly bringing attention to the fact that yes, we had just arrived in paradise. Rhythms of Polynesian drums and mellow guitar melodies bounced off the walls as dancers swayed to the music, smiling at us as we began a week of unforgettable adventures.

In this write-up, I’ve gathered my highlights of where to stay, play, discover, and eat on these two magical islands, honeymoon or husband not necessary. In fact, all of these locations would make for a fabulous girls trip or solo getaway, depending on your travel preference. Happy trip planning!

TAHITI


STAY: LE MERIDIEN TAHITI

While Tahiti certainly has no shortage of accommodations, from 5 star resorts to guesthouses and humble yet cozy family-run pensiones, I felt completely relaxed and at ease upon checking into Le Meridien Tahiti. Refreshing myself with the Malin + Goetz amenities, I immediately took a walk around the grounds to gaze out at the idyllic overwater bungalows, waves gently lapping on the shore, and waded through the lagoon.

 Poolside at Le Meridien Tahiti

Poolside at Le Meridien Tahiti

 An overwater bungalow at Le Meridien

An overwater bungalow at Le Meridien

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SHOP: MARCHE VISIT FOR FLOWER CROWNS

In the age of social media, what’s a visit to Polynesia without at least one ‘gram with a gorgeous flower crown feeling like a Tahitian princess? Although a few hotels may be able to procure one upon request, a more fun way is to make a stop at the Marche in Papeete. While Sunday at sunrise is a the most popular day among locals who are there to buy the freshest catch possible, the Marche is also open most days if you're more keen on shopping for jewelry, locally made products (soaps, oils, shampoos), and of course, leis & flower crowns. Just a short 15-20 minute taxi ride from most of the hotels surrounding the island, its a great way to take a peek into daily life and bustle on Papeete and see beyond what most tourists experience on the edges of Tahiti. Once you arrive, its hard to miss the rows of local artisans weaving leis and flower crowns on the outer perimeter of the market. A fun little tidbit from Tahitian culture for the ladies: If you wear a flower tucked behind your right ear, it signals that you are “taken”, and if you wear it behind your left year, you’re “single”…

Papeete Marche: 23 Rue du Père Collette, Papeete, French Polynesia

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DISCOVER: MARAE + WATERFALLS

Tahiti’s mountainous interior is rich with stunning landscapes of full of streams, waterfalls, trees of tiare, aka the Tahitian gardenia, the most ubiquitous flower on the island. A “circle tour” around the perimeter of the island with stops at significant maraes is a great way to get a sense of the culture and history that binds the Polynesians together. Maraes were sacred gathering places for religious and social rituals, many times for prayer and sacrifice to the Tahitian gods for good fortune and abundance. A rectangular structure of carefully selected basalt rocks, many of the maraes standing today have been lovingly reconstructed by Tahitians eager to preserve their culture and share it with visitors and the next generation.

While there are a few tour operators that do the “circle tour”, its also possible to rent a car or a driver and do this at your leisure, skipping stops that don’t interest you or lingering at the ones that do. A couple of my favorite stops, pictured below, included Marae Arahurahu and Mara’a Grottoes.

 Marae Arahurahu

Marae Arahurahu

 Freshly fallen tiare at Marae Arahurahu

Freshly fallen tiare at Marae Arahurahu

 Waterfall at Mara’a Grottoes

Waterfall at Mara’a Grottoes

 Marae Arahurahu

Marae Arahurahu

EAT: LA PLAGE DE MAUI

Being an island, Tahiti is a seafood lovers dream. Fresh, quality seafood can be found at almost any restaurant, many times inexpensively if you’re having the local favorite- poisson cru. One of the most memorable meals for us was on our way back from Teahupoo, at a deceptively humble restaurant on the side of the road called La Plage de Maui, decorated with charming mix of Tahitian kitsch and maritime tchotchkes. 

A mix of French and local Polynesian flavors, every dish here from the appetizers to the dessert was authentic and delectable, made with so much love and warmth. It was a tough decision but I ordered Paraha Peue from Vairao’s Lagoon - fresh whole fished steamed with ginger olive oil and local root vegetables and it was gone in minutes.

La Plage de Maui: PK 7,7 - Cote mer | Toahotu, 98719, French Polynesia

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 Paraha Peue from Vairao’s Lagoon

Paraha Peue from Vairao’s Lagoon

 Tables facing the Tapuaemaui Bay, named for Maui, a Tahitian legend who lived near this bay.

Tables facing the Tapuaemaui Bay, named for Maui, a Tahitian legend who lived near this bay.

Tahitians don’t chase happiness. Happiness comes naturally to them. You only need to see them in the water, with a beer in their hand, splashing each other or waving to every stranger they see on the road, to know this. Happiness is in the air: in every hibiscus flower that opens early in the morning, in the sweet aroma of the pineapple plantations, in the smile of the people lolling around idly, resting slothfully in the warm breeze that ruffles the surface of the lagoon.
— Carol Vorvain

MOOREA


If you have limited time to spend in French Polynesia, 2 days is sufficient to get a feel for Tahiti, the cultural center of the islands, and then hop on the Terevau ferry onto Moorea, which is one of my favorites of the Society Islands. A captivating blend of adventure, nature, relaxation, and culture, Moorea is only a 30 minute ferry ride away yet feels like a world apart. Tickets for the Terevau can be purchased online or in person, and there is a comfortable cafe on the upper level with drinks and snacks as you watch the ferry come in carrying a mix of locals and visitors.

On arrival in Moorea, we were whisked to a private beach by friendly Pierre and his company, Enjoy Moorea. As we marveled at the rugged natural beauty of our new surroundings, wandered around, he prepared a delicious platter of fresh local fruit to start the day - pineapple, grapefruit, passion fruit, and bananas, all beautifully served on a banana leaf. Was everything sweeter and tastier because we were ingesting it in such lovely surroundings? We may never know the true answer to that...

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 We ate our fruit while gazing out here and fell in love with Moorea right away.

We ate our fruit while gazing out here and fell in love with Moorea right away.

After breakfast on the beach, we headed inland and up the mountain to drive through Moorea’s pineapple plantations. It was incredible watching the landscape and climate change as we ascended the mountain in a 4x4 Jeep. From the warm sunny breeze on the coast, the air gradually became cooler and mistier, adding to the mystique of Tahiti’s extraordinary landscape and of course, making for some gorgeous landscape shots.

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EAT + DISCOVER: TIKI VILLAGE

Tahitians come from an incredibly rich history of rituals and traditions, so a hands-on experience is no doubt the best way to immerse yourself in Polynesian culture, at least for a few hours while at Tiki Village. For me, a cooking class is always an enjoyable way to experience local ingredients and learn cooking techniques practiced in the region. Although it didn’t involve any technical “cooking”, I loved seeing how simple it was to make the popular Tahitian dish - poisson cru - fresh raw tuna marinated in coconut milk, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Like my mantra for California cuisine, less is more in this case, and the fresher and simpler the ingredients, the easier it is to prepare a delectable dish thats both healthy and appetizing.

Tiki Village: Moorea Bungalow, Moorea 98729, French Polynesia

 Tiki Village

Tiki Village

 Simple ingredients for poisson cru: fresh coconut, lime, salt, pepper, fresh tuna, carrots, cucumber, onion, tomato

Simple ingredients for poisson cru: fresh coconut, lime, salt, pepper, fresh tuna, carrots, cucumber, onion, tomato

 Poisson Cru

Poisson Cru

STAY: INTERCONTINENTAL MOOREA

As in Tahiti, there are many options for accommodations in Moorea, and I was grateful for a warm and welcoming stay at the Intercontinental. Its sprawling grounds with lagoons and pools are easy to navigate, and there is so much to experience on site. Rent kayaks or stand up paddle boards, take an exercise spin class in one of the lagoons, indulge in the spa (below) or gain awareness about the sea turtle conservation efforts at the Te Mana o Te Moana Association, an independent non-profit with a mission to conserve and rehabilitate sea turtles and educate children about marine life. (The group is independent but their offices are on the Intercontinental grounds).

Intercontinental Moorea: Tiahura, Moorea, 98729, French Polynesia

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REJUVENATE: HELENE SPA AT INTERCONTINENTAL MOOREA

With its distinction as the first spa in Tahiti, Helene Spa has a lot to live up to, and from my immensely relaxing experience there, it exceeded my expectations. I loved how much all aspects of the spa showcased the natural qualities of the islands, both through the indigenous ingredients and various treatments that stem from ancient Polynesian healers.

If you do indulge, arriving early to settle in and relax is highly recommended. Prior to your treatment, you have the option of soaking in the river bath or the rain shower - while I opted for the rain shower, it seems like either choice is equally calming. During the massage, I chose from the monoi oil, tiare oil, or coconut oil, all naturally harvested, and sank into a deeply relaxed state. Every bit of the experience felt so personal and soothing. I emerged feeling renewed, not wanting to leave this cocoon of comfort.

Helene Spa: Pk 24.5 Haapiti MOOREAHaapiti 98729, French Polynesia

 Guests have the option of soaking in a traditional river bath at Helene Spa before treatments.

Guests have the option of soaking in a traditional river bath at Helene Spa before treatments.

 Stunningly gorgeous flower bath that looks up to views of the mountains.

Stunningly gorgeous flower bath that looks up to views of the mountains.

 A few of the natural ingredients used in massage and beauty treatments - monoi oil, tamanu, tiare, Tahitian vanilla.

A few of the natural ingredients used in massage and beauty treatments - monoi oil, tamanu, tiare, Tahitian vanilla.

EAT + STAY: SUNSET RESTAURANT AT HIBISCUS HOTEL

On our 2nd day in Moorea, we spent a few hours at the Hibiscus Hotel, a lovely mid-range accommodation option that falls between a guest house and a luxury resort. With its scenic Bali-esque huts situated around the lush green property, it was definitely a place I could imagine spending a few days at. Several of the bungalows are equipped with kitchens and being walking distance from a few convenience stores and makes it a comfortable yet budget-friendly option for a group of friends or a family. Our favorite part of the hotel was the water-facing restaurant, Restaurant Le Sunset, where we had a hearty breakfast of traditional American items like eggs and pastries, but not without a side of poisson cru. We marveled at the serene views and soft island breeze as we lingered over a casual meal that felt as if we were on a friend’s patio.

Hibiscus Hotel: PK 27, Seaside, Haapiti BP 1009Papetoai 98728, French Polynesia

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 Huts at the charming Hibiscus Hotel

Huts at the charming Hibiscus Hotel

 Perfect views during breakfast at Hibiscus Hotel

Perfect views during breakfast at Hibiscus Hotel

DISCOVER: SHARK + RAY LAGOON EXCURSION WITH TEMOANA TOURS

And now for the grand finale of my must-do list- a lagoon excursion with the warmest hosts - Teva and Joanna of TeMoana Tours. Conveniently, we were picked up by boat just outside of Sunset Restaurant after our breakfast (above) and again greeted with fragrant jasmine leis. We sailed around Cooks and Opunohus Bay, witnessing the mountainous peaks rise up from the island as we imagined the explorers who came upon Tahiti centuries ago did.

We stopped at a stunningly clear lagoon to snorkel with sharks and sting rays, easily the most memorable experience on the trip. The water was deliciously warm, and the sharks and sting rays simply swam around and beneath us.

After another lagoon stop where we saw a variety of fishes, we docked for a delightful lunch of grilled tuna, poisson cru, and island beverages at a table half immersed in water. It was the ultimate island experience and I can’t recommend it enough if you are on Moorea.

 Boarding our boat for the day

Boarding our boat for the day

 Sailing around Moorea provides a different perspective of the stunning landscape

Sailing around Moorea provides a different perspective of the stunning landscape

 Picture perfect experience

Picture perfect experience

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 Incredibly friendly stingrays in the lagoons

Incredibly friendly stingrays in the lagoons

 Snorkeling with sharks - an unforgettable experience

Snorkeling with sharks - an unforgettable experience

 Waterfront seating for lunch

Waterfront seating for lunch

 Pineapple for dessert

Pineapple for dessert

 Grilled tuna for lunch

Grilled tuna for lunch

 Snorkeling in the clearest water

Snorkeling in the clearest water

DEPARTURE: FRENCH BEE

As it happens, all good things must come to an end, and after a momentous week of new friendships, experiences, and a deeper connection and understanding of this incredible destination, we boarded our flight on French Bee back to San Francisco. With its flexible fares and endless a la carte options for customization, its another awesome option for planning a trip to Tahiti…Bon voyage!

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If you checked out any of my recommendations above, would love to hear about your experience below!

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An Imperial Stay at The Majestic Malacca

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An Imperial Stay at The Majestic Malacca

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.
— Freya Stark
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Slightly contrary to the quote above, Malacca wasn’t exactly a strange town to me. It was a destination that held mystique and history, a place we used to road-trip to from Penang when I was a small child but have no real recollection of. So I scheduled a brief stop in this diverse port city before heading to Singapore for my flight home to LA.

I wanted to make the most of my time in Malacca and its rich cultural history, including experiencing the unique style of architecture that the Peranakans fused together from Malay, Chinese, and European influences. I gravitate towards the the juxtaposition of old and new and The Majestic Malacca easily stood out among the choices i was contemplating. Its proximity to the famed Jonker Street area yet with a bit of distance from of the bustle appealed to my love of tranquil settings.

Upon arriving, i immediately felt the warmth of the staff, welcoming and friendly without being overwhelming. The lobby area of The Majestic has preserved its historical architecture and colonial style, with pops of mint green throughout and styled with Peranakan wares and timber wood furniture.

 Welcome tea

Welcome tea

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I didn’t mind basking in the sun by the pool as I waited for my room. A short while later, a young staff member showed me to my room, carrying an ornate basket of welcome tea served in a traditional Peranakan pot. After explaining all of the rooms features, she poured a taste for me, and I sipped it slowly, savoring the subtle sweetness of the lychee-infused black tea and the world I had just been transported into in the bright, airy room with all of its colonial-style comforts. I breathed deeply and gazed out at the Malacca River, which winds its way down to Jonker Street, and contemplated where’d I’d explore first.

 Loved this claw foot tub

Loved this claw foot tub

 Making plans for my short stay

Making plans for my short stay

My favorite part of the hotel was the lobby bar, where guests can interact and mingle, or just lounge while planning their next outing. A unique highlight was their Gin O’Clock, where at 5pm on Fridays, the bar cart is stocked with garnishes, liqueurs, and recipes beautifully printed cards for traditional cocktails with a Malaccan twist, unique to the culture and area. Although i’m not normally a gin person, i tried the Gin and Tonic, with their house-made pandan-infused gin (Pandan is the ‘vanilla of the east’) and i wish i could’ve taken a bottle home! Another popular one was the Malacca Collins, which includes a splash of Gula Melaka syrup, a sweetener unique to Malacca and Malaysia. Made of sugar from local palm trees, Gula Melaka evokes hints of chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, or coffee, depending on how its processed and distilled.

Although I couldn’t quite fit a spa appointment into this quick trip, Spa Village at the hotel is known for its therapies based on the healing traditions practiced in Peranakan culture. By combining age-old traditional remedies sourced from indigenous ingredients, the treatments offered are believed to cleanse, replenish and reinvigorate, both physically and mentally.

I spent most of my two days exploring the vibrant food and cafe scene in Malacca, and the Majestic was the perfect respite to return to after a day of being out and about in the heat and bustle.

Where else do you like to stay in Malacca? I’d love to hear more about your adventures below in one my favorite cities in Malaysia.

The Majestic Malacca | 188, Jalan Bunga Raya, Melaka, 75100 Melaka, Malaysia

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Hotel Review: 24 Hours at The Robey Chicago

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Hotel Review: 24 Hours at The Robey Chicago

After two days staying and exploring the downtown Loop area of Chicago, we were ready to switch gears to a more neighborhood vibe. We came across The Robey on a whim, just during a quick search online, and were immediately drawn into its modern, minimal design with a touch of art deco details. We loved its location in the Wicker Park neighborhood and the fact that it was a part of the Design Hotels group of properties cinched the deal - we knew it would be the perfect way to spent our last 24 hours in the Windy City. 

Set in a gorgeous Art Deco building from 1929 and converted into a cozy boutique hotel that doesn't feel like it has 89 rooms, every detail from the moment you step through the doors contributed to the feeling that every detail was thoughtfully executed. 

 I always love the feeling of an actual key on a keychain vs. a key card.

I always love the feeling of an actual key on a keychain vs. a key card.

 The hotel is named after Robey Street – now  Damen Avenue.

The hotel is named after Robey Street – now  Damen Avenue.

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Due to budget, we ended up in one of the smaller room layouts, a little corner nook on the 3rd floor. And yet, we were impressed with the use of space, the carefully selected amenities, and the amount of window light flooding in. Everything in place was exactly what was needed - not too much, not too little...from the carefully constructed nightstand, to the frosted glass separating the bedroom and the bathroom.

We were traveling with our 1 year old son and they even had a crib they wheeled into the space - not an ugly yet functional crib that would have served its purpose just fine- but a beautiful white mini-crib that looked like it had its rightful place in the minimally designed room. I knew then that we'd definitely come back the next time we found ourselves in Chicago - that mix of child-friendly yet visually appealing details is so rare in most accommodations! 

We enjoyed taking our time settling in the room, reading the carefully curated publications displayed on the marble coffee table, and simply luxuriating in the afternoon light pouring through the window after a drive across town earlier that morning.  

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In search of a midday drink and nibble, we moseyed downstairs to check out the bar/cafe on the 2nd floor, which also happens to double as a popular workspace for locals in the know during the day. 

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The next morning before checkout, we headed downstairs and had breakfast at Cafe Robey, conveniently located in the lobby. Its always a nice bonus having a good breakfast option in the hotel that doesn't make you feel like you're missing out on a favorite neighborhood spot. By the time we settled into our food, the place was a nice, slightly buzzy mix of locals and visitors, giving it a feeling of it being a warm neighborhood favorite instead of just a place that locals avoid.

For how design-centric the hotel is, we loved that it was also family-friendly, basically satisfying our travel criteria all in one. It felt casual yet intentional, stylish yet not uptight. If you happen to be there without children, the rooftop bar and pool is highly recommended. The pool was still under construction during our visit (which happened during a wet spring anyway), but I can imagine many glorious summer days spent on the rooftop surrounded by panoramic views of the city along with the bar's handmade cocktails. 

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if you have the time for more Chicago adventures, read on for more design-centric sights in this iconic city.

The Robey Chicago | 2018 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 | (872) 315-3050

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