Glenmere Mansion and Spa, Chester, NY

Five-star. Gold star. Four diamonds. A+. Glenmere Mansion and Spa, created in the style of an Italian Tuscan Villa, has earned any and every top-notch accolade given out via the hospitality industry. The mansion sits in the southwest corner of the Hudson Valley in New York. About a 90-minute drive from the Big Apple, this home was originally built by real estate mogul Robert Goelet as a family country retreat in 1911.

Glenmere Mansion and Spa, Chester, NY

Glenmere Mansion and Spa, Chester, NY

In 2006, present owners Alan Stenberg and Daniel DeSimone were out for a drive, took a fortuitous wrong turn and came upon the Glenmere mansion, at the time in great disrepair. After millions of dollars, a multitude of hours spent designing and remodeling the mansion, the partners (both business and life) opened the mansion in 2010. Glenmere became the first introduction in Relais & Chateaux‘s 60-year history to make their list of luxury properties in the hotel’s opening year.

Entrance to Glenmere Mansion, showcasing a Relais & Chateaux flag

Entrance to Glenmere Mansion, showcasing a Relais & Chateaux flag

Every year my daughter and I embark on a mother/daughter trip to visit a new and exciting destination. We usually go on Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend so we have an extra day to travel further, but this was her birthday weekend so we were looking for something extra special and close. Glenmere Mansion fit the bill.

The new owners were obviously set on creating an experience where interaction by the staff was part of that experience. Dan and Alan either spent a multitude of hours and/or a multitude of dollars training their staff – or they just have a knack to pick the perfect personality to compliment the level of hospitality they strived for. The professional service attitude each staff member exudes is with such genuineness I felt I was in a fairytale. It was an experience I’ve only dreamed of, and rarely experienced – and I’ve tried.

This service experience begins with a complimentary belini served to you on a silver platter in your room. A silver platter saw many appearances throughout our stay. We ordered a DVD, served on a silver platter. We ordered room service dessert, served on a silver platter. We ordered a shaving razor and tooth-brush, served on a silver platter.

Belini and other beverages served on a silver platter on arrival in our room

Belini and other beverages served on a silver platter on arrival in our room

The staff has an eerie ability to know who you are, who belongs to who, and what room you are in without you saying a word. Even though it was a bit off-season in terms of taking advantage of a lot of the hotels amenities, the hotel was fairly full. The eating areas are warm and intimate. A hostess meets you at the base of the grand stairway to show you to your table, making it a very personal dining experience from the word go.

The grand staircase, where the hostess meets you to take you to your dinner table

The grand staircase, where the hostess meets you to take you to your dinner table

The dining experience is on par with the hotel and the staff. The Supper Room serves up an exquisite prix fixe dinner, or so we hear. My daughter was recovering from food poisoning and the staff was gracious enough to accommodate our last-minute change in needs of eating off the more sedate menu at their other restaurant, the Frog’s End, then indulge in the delectable richness in the Supper Room.

Frog's End Tavern - a bar and restaurant at Glenmere Mansion

Frog’s End Tavern – a bar and restaurant at Glenmere Mansion

We splurged and stayed in one of the larger rooms, aptly named the Vanderbilt Suite – maybe a Vanderbilt actually stayed in the room as the original owners of the mansion were great hosts to an austere list of guests from the wealthy, to the celebrity entertainer or sports figure, to royalty. A fireplace in both the bedroom and the bathroom, brought a warmth to our room on this chilly weekend, snow piled up on the grounds from a recent snowstorm.

The Vanderbilt Suite at the Glenmere Mansion

The Vanderbilt Suite at the Glenmere Mansion

The next day brought us to the main reason for our trip to Glenmere Mansion – the Spa! But first we indulged with a complimentary gourmet breakfast chosen off of a full menu in the Supper Room. I had pumpkin pancakes topped with an apple cranberry walnut compote. Then we took a brisk walk around the grounds before embarking on our spa experience.

Walking the snowy grounds at Glenmere Mansion

Walking the snowy grounds at Glenmere Mansion

Met with the calming refreshing fragrance from an Indian citrus candle as we entered the spa, we were led to the ‘quiet room’ – an expansive room with a fireplace, a juice/tea bar and several chaise lounges and other sitting areas. Reading materials surround you – from every magazine you could imagine, to coffee table picture books, to reading books galore.

Relaxing in the 'quiet room' at the Spa at Glenmere

Relaxing in the ‘quiet room’ at the Spa at Glenmere

We arrived at the spa in our robes provided in our room, as was suggested, so no need to deal with a locker room and extra keys. Each spa room has their own bathroom – what a novel idea! And even a soaking tub or shower were provided in each room to create a very personal intimate experience. My daughter and I indulged in their ‘Couture’ 90-minute massage treatment, where an individually chosen fragrance of shea butter was used to moisturize our bodies. The remainder of the 4.5 oz jar of our chosen scent was sent home with us.

A spa room at Glenmere Mansion

A spa room at Glenmere Mansion

After being given an extension to our check-out time, we returned to our room to change and to bid a sad farewell to our luxurious room. We were in no hurry to leave the mansion, so we enjoyed lunch back in the Frog’s End and then retired to the sitting room to read, and sip on a complimentary cup of tea and plate of dried cherry biscottis, until our car service arrived at 4 pm to take us back to the hub-bub of the city.

The sitting room at Glenmere Mansion

The sitting room at Glenmere Mansion

It is rare that I use my whole blog post to write about one specific destination, but in my estimation Glenmere Mansion so far surpassed my expectations it earned the honor of holding court to a full post.

Taking that one more step – check out a full set of Glenmere Mansion pics in the “Global Gallery” blog link.

Fall is for feasting – Part 1, September: CA, NY & SC

Throughout the last 16 months since I started this blog, I have shared many travel experiences and many of those have been with my daughter. The one constant theme we revisit over and over again, no matter where our actual travels take us, is our love of food. We are self-professed foodies to the point that many of my posts were becoming as much about food as it was about the destination.

I probably have enough memories from our eating experiences to start a whole new blog on food. But for starters, or appetizers as the case may be, I have decided to dedicate one post a month on places we have eaten in the last month. Whether that be on our travels, or just great local fare where we live – NYC, Kansas City and the Phoenix Valley.

By doing this, it will also allow me to expound more on the travel destination highlights and my personal reviews in experiencing my travels, and leave the food portion of the trip for these monthly posts.

So grab a cold one, throw a sheet of chicken wings in the oven, and while they are crisping up, enjoy a journey through the eyes and stomachs of two food lovers:

NEW YORK CITY:

Nowhere to sit, but plenty to eat by Allison Malecha

Almost anywhere you go in New York, the food will be more than passable. The portion may be smaller than you wanted. The price higher. And sometimes that C Grade on the door might give you pause. But I can’t think of a time that I’ve pushed my plate away in this city out of distaste.

Usually, for me, atmosphere counts for a lot. If I know I’m going to have a pretty good meal, I like to enjoy where I’m eating it. But in the last week, I’ve tried out two places with chow so enticing, and prices so reasonable, that I didn’t bother to care about much else: Silver Rice ($$), in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, and Brooklyn Taco ($$), on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

At Silver Rice, Kombu Kelp and Beet Pate are wrapped up into innovative sushi bites that are scarcely more expensive than a California roll in Manhattan, but the real draw are the eponymously named “Silver Rice Cups.” I had the spicy tuna one–a mouth-watering stack of flaxseed-threaded white rice, diced raw tuna, fresh scallion, and punchy mayo served inside a plain white paper cup for $6.50. Alternate with sips of the $1.95 organic miso soup, and you won’t give a damn that the only place to sit is at a slip of light-wood high-top next to the door.

Silver Rice Cup from Silver Rice Cup in Brooklyn

Founded by a Brooklyn native with South American roots and a Danny Meyer alum, Brooklyn Taco can take a while just to locate within the maze-like Essex Street Market. Last Saturday, I sat perched on another tiny bar stool in full view of a fish stand with a coconut shrimp taco that took two hands to hold and about two seconds to eat. The friend I was with told me her chipotle chicken one was the best tacos she’d ever eaten–she didn’t spare a bite to see if I agreed. And while their regular prices aren’t a total steal, the lunch deal is: $10 for two tacos and an agua fresca to wash them down.

Fish Taco at Brooklyn Taco, Lower Manhattan

More NYC… by Lisa Malecha

One of our favorite mother-daughter outings is to check one of the many boutique NYC neighborhood hot spots, and Jeffrey’s Grocery ($$$) fits the bill. Set in the West Village, the seating might be tight, but their seafood is big on flavor. Like the Blackened Flounder served on a Jalapeño-Cheddar Polenta Cake and smothered in an Andouille Gravy.

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey's Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Blackened Flounder served up at Jeffrey’s Grocery in the West Village of NYC

Jump on the subway and head to 78th St. and Woodside Avenue and head to Ayada Thai ($$) restaurant in Queens for some really tasty food. The ambiance is pretty plain Jane, but the food infuses so many great flavors together it’s hard to stop eating when you know you don’t have any more room for another bite. A great starter is the Papaya Salad served with Salty Crab. Follow that with a Crispy Duck in a Red Curry Coconut Sauce and a wide noodle Pad Thai – all washed down with a Lychee Sangria.

Papaya Salad with crispy Salted Crab – yes you eat the whole crab, shells and all – at Ayada Thai Restaurant, Queens

If you’re in upper Manhattan, in the Upper East Side, taking in all the amazing museums and galleries, stop in at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie and enjoy some authentic Austrian cuisine like the very flavorful Pikantes Ei mit Gurkerl und Paprika – a/k/a Spicy Eggs with Cornichons and Paprika. After a filling lunch be sure to take in the two levels of German and Austrian exhibits in this architecturally classically ornate museum.

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe' Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

Spicy Eggs on Cornichons with Paprika served at Cafe’ Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie in the Upper East Side of NYC

CHARLESTON:

Early September found my daughter and I sweating our way through Charleston. Thank goodness Charlestonians like to eat and drink as much as we do. We had no problem staying properly nourished to have the energy to walk the historic streets of this beautiful town, meander through their immense plantations and stroll along the water fronts.

We stayed at the Wentworth Mansion, an old estate home turned hotel, and also home to Circa 1886 restaurant, housed in the old carriage house. Our room included a complimentary breakfast – and “…honey this weren’t no slim pickings,..”-  a plate of fruit and a basket of pastries for starters, and then a menu to compete with any restaurant in the area. I chose a heaping helping of Shrimp n’ Grits so flavorful I could have had that for every meal and been content. My daughter chose Crab Cake Eggs Hollandaise. We also enjoyed a fine dining experience with dishes of Beef Tenderloin with a Chantilly Mustard Demi-Glace or Atlantic Lobster Tail with Vanilla Mascarpone Grits.

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

Wentworth Mansion in Charleston has a complimentary breakfast serving local favorites such as Shrimp & Grits

For lunch we checked out two local favorites. Charleston native, Stephen Colbert, recommends Hominy Grill. The line was long when we arrived, but an exterior bar window was serving chilled spiked beverages to keep us cool while we waited in the sweltering heat. Inside this old Colonial style home, we were given a starter of boiled peanuts in the shell and then ordered Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam. Husk, another local favorite restaurant, also housed in a renovated old mansion, had a line-up of hungry patrons. The menu here was a little more avant garde’ when it comes to southern cooking. We had starters of Shishito Peppers and Crispy Pigs Ear Lettuce Wraps. For lunch we split a Fried Chicken Po’boy sandwich and washed this all down with a couple of southern sweet teas.

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder served with Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens and Tomato Jam, at Hominy Grits in Charleston

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po'Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

At Husk we enjoyed a Fried Chicken Po’Boy sandwich topped with peanuts, red peppers and slaw.

Our favorite dining experience in Charleston was a placed called Edmund’s Oast. An upper end Brew Pub, we were seated at a bar that fronted the open kitchen where we watched mouth-watering after mouth-watering dish by us. Good thing we had 49 cold brews to choose from to calm our taste buds. We selected a tender Grilled New York Strip that was teamed with Smoked Potatoes and Okra, with a side of Collard Greens.

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund's Oast in Charleston

Some of the delectable dishes being served up at Edmund’s Oast in Charleston

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund's Oast - brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

Enjoying a fun dining experience at Edmund’s Oast – brew pub with a front seat to the kitchen.

The next weekend found my husband and I spending time on the west coast in both Napa and San Francisco. In Napa, we had some great meals at the Lakehouse Restaurant, at Calistoga Ranch where we were staying. But one night we took a ride down the road to its big sister Auberge resort, Auberge du Soleil which showcases a Michelin Star restaurant, appropriately called, “The Restaurant“. When you eat at a place like this, you should make great effort to try something you wouldn’t find on many other menus – like Squab (a young pigeon) served with Figs, Foie Gras, Caramalized Onions in a Port Wine sauce. For lunch in Napa check out Solbar Restaurant at Solage Resort for a menu full of unique delectable dishes like Sweet Scarlet Peaches with Prosciutto or Lucky Pig Roasted Pork.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Squab served up Michelin style with Figs, Foie Gras, Carmelized Onions and Port.

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

Lucky Pig, roasted pork, served with lettuce or black sesame seed crepes, at Solbar at Solage Resort

In San Francisco we took checked out Eno Wine Bar right around the corner from the The Westin St. Francis Union Square where were staying. A flight of wine is their specialty teamed with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates. Need I say more!

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out the numerous wine flights to pick from and pair with a plate of cheeses, sausages and chocolates at Eno Wine Bar in Union Square, San Francisco

Check out more food pics in the Food Gallery under the Global Gallery!

New York et al – where sleeping is overrated!

‘Old blue eyes’ (and many others) sing, New York, New York is a city “that never sleeps.” To sleep in NYC is to miss out on seeing a city that offers its visitors a never-ending line-up of must see places and must do events. If you waste extra time sleeping you will miss out on the sun rising over the East River and setting over the Hudson River and all points in between, day and night.

Sunrise over the East River, NYC

Sunrise over the East River, NYC

Late afternoon over the Hudson River, NYC

Late afternoon over the Hudson River, NYC

New York is a place better visited in shorter blocks of time because you feel compelled to partake in the ongoing life that is NYC – which can be exhausting no matter how good of shape you’re in or how old you are. There is no better array of breakfast, lunch and dinner venues. From Harlem in upper Manhattan to Battery Park in lower Manhattan, from the five New York Burroughs to New Jersey, from the well-known hot spots to the unknown boutique neighborhoods – NYC has a life unlike any other in the world.

I made my first trek to NYC, at age 19, during the Christmas holiday season – undoubtedly the most magical time of the year in NYC. Starting with The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; then the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center; add in the holiday themed windows lining the shops on 5th Avenue; the Nutcracker performed by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall; hotels like the Plaza and the New York Palace decorated for the holidays; chestnuts roasting on the city corners; and finish off with the dropping of the ball on New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall at the Christmas Spectacular, NYC

Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall at the Christmas Spectacular, NYC

Decorated for the holidays, New York Palace, NYC

Decorated for the holidays, New York Palace, NYC

But any time of the year is a good time of the year to visit NYC. The first couple of visits to NYC are all about seeing the main tourist sites: the Statue of Liberty which survived Hurricane Sandy: the Empire State Building with its top lit up in special colors to commemorate special events; Central Park where taking a bike ride and a ride in the horse-drawn carriages are a must; Times Square with the bright lights and shops that don’t close until the wee hours of the morning; a Broadway Show leaving you sitting on the edge of your seat in an air of pure entertainment; World Trade Center Memorial to pay homage to the fallen.

Empire State Building lit up in blue to commemorate Columbia University graduates, NYC

Empire State Building lit up in blue to commemorate Columbia University graduates, NYC

World Trade Center Memorial, NYC

World Trade Center Memorial, NYC

Living my whole life west of the Mississippi, NYC was rarely on my radar as a place I would visit often. But that all changed the day my daughter chose to go to university in NYC. This gave me a great reason to visit this great city – often! As the years have moved on my ‘never let the grass grow under your feet’ minded daughter has taken to checking out every nook and cranny of this marvelous city, and I have been lucky enough to reap the benefits of her curious personality.

I now have a personal tour guide who has not only shown me the next level of hotspots: Bryant Park – movies in the summer, skating in the winter; Mario Batali‘s restaurants and Eataly Deli; the Highline – a converted overhead railroad track now used for strolling; Katz Diner for melt in your mouth pastrami sandwiches – Shake Shack for melt in your mouth burgers  – Peter Luger for melt in your mouth steaks; museums – The Met, MoMA, Guggenheim, The Frick.

But she has also taken me beyond the borders of Manhattan to: Governor’s Island to ride bikes and drink a new St. Germaine infused cocktail while watching era dressed flappers dance to jazz; north of Harlem to the medieval architecture of The Cloisters museum and gardens; the elaborate Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; Flushing Meadows to watch the fast paced U.S. Open tennis tourney; Carlo’s Bakery in Jersey for “ta die for” cupcakes.

U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, NYC

U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, NYC

Carlo's Bake Shop, New Jersey

Carlo’s Bake Shop, New Jersey

This may be my first NYC blog posting, but it certainly won’t be the last about this great city!

Where to stay: The Plaza for opulence or The Surrey for Upper East Boutique (5-star); The New York Palace for reasonable midtown luxury or the London New York for modern roominess in midtown (4+star); the Hotel Belleclaire boutique style on the Upper Westside or the Sofitel for larger rooms and great midtown location (3+star).

Where to eat: I can safely say almost anywhere. The competition is so fierce, the restauranteurs know they have to bring it or they won’t be around long. In the dozen times I’ve been to NYC I can’t recall having even a mediocre meal.

Check out more pictures in the Global Gallery: NYC.

Thanksgiving: not about the where, all about the who!

In a travel writing course I took, the main ideal was a travel story did not have to revolve around the actual act of traveling. The story can be about an event or a gathering or an experience.

This week’s blog is dedicated to Thanksgiving – one of the biggest travel weekends of the year. But this post is not about the journey to get to where the turkey is being served. It is about the opportunity to spend this special day with loved ones – related or not. A tradition that started in our family 21 years ago, when my son was born the day before Thanksgiving. I was in no condition to cook a large dinner, so my husband did most of the cooking (which has now turned into a tradition of it’s own), and invited his college roommates to join us under the condition they each brought one side dish.

In recent years, we have taken this tradition of spending Thanksgiving with whoever is front and center in our lives that year and celebrate those relationships. These gatherings have culminated in many gatherings inclusive of non-family members either because of circumstance and location. We have celebrated from Regina, Saskatchewan (Yay Roughriders – 2013 Grey Cup Champions!) to New York, New York to Calgary, Alberta to Phoenix, Arizona.

Friends sharing turkey carving duties, Regina, SK

Friends sharing turkey carving duties, Regina, Saskatchewan

Thanksgiving spread, Regina, SK

Thanksgiving spread, Regina, Saskatchewan

Family and friends sharing a Thanksgiving meal in Arizona.

Family and friends sharing a Thanksgiving meal in Arizona.

Yes. U.S. Thanksgiving in Canada. No, it is not also Canadian Thanksgiving – Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October, and not nearly the massive celebration it is in the U.S. So why you ask would we leave our beloved U.S. to travel to a place where we can’t even buy a turkey without special ordering it a week in advance?

Family! As my 22-year-old daughter, who lives in New York, said, “I don’t care where we celebrate Thanksgiving, as long as we are together and celebrate Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day!” Touche’! For years this has been an ongoing challenge for a family that is spread far and wide across many states and two countries. Whether it was because of our son studying at a Canadian university or my husband working in Canada, we have learned to work around these differing schedules.

Stuffing the bird, Calgary, Alberta

Stuffing the bird, Calgary, Alberta

Thanksgiving spread, Calgary, Alberta

Thanksgiving spread, Calgary, Alberta

Often we found ourselves in locations that our immediate family was our only family. As it is a near impossibility to make a Thanksgiving meal for only four people, the quick and easy solution was to open our doors to expand our ‘circle of love’ to friends when we celebrate in these ‘out of the norm’ locations.

When in Canada we have had Canadian friends join us to experience a real, full-out Thanksgiving dinner (request for return engagements have been made.) Or, we have had Thanksgiving dinner for many of our displaced American friends living along side us in Canada.

Our Thanksgiving in New York was the first time we did not fix the actual Thanksgiving dinner. We found other ways to make this experience equally special. Taking in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; eating a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner at a riverside restaurant in Brooklyn looking across the East River at the New York skyline; flying in my son’s girlfriend to surprise him for his pre-Thanksgiving birthday; having my daughter’s boyfriend join us because he could not get home to his family in California.

Catching the end of the Macy's Day Parade, NY, NY

Catching the end of the Macy’s Day Parade, NY, NY

Snoopy floating down Central Park West, NY, NY

Snoopy floating down Central Park West in the Macy’s Day Parade, NY, NY

Family and friends enjoying a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner in Brooklyn, NY

Family and friends enjoying a prix fixe Thanksgiving dinner in Brooklyn, NY

Thanksgiving is about making memories, sharing time with loved ones – related or not, and overloading on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and all the other fixins’!

From one of our many extended family and friends gatherings to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

From one of our many extended family and friends gatherings to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! No matter where your Thanksgiving Day plans take you or who is sitting at your table!

Learning to love poetry

I was one of the students who struggled through the poetry section of high school English classes. Finding the hidden meaning in a line-up of words that seemed to have no more connection to each other than oil and water, just wasn’t clicking for me. Not until I came across the poetry of a young writer, Allison Malecha.

Yes, Allison is my daughter, and yes by the laws of unconditional parenthood I am obligated to read her writings AND to LOVE them – all! The amazing part is I do, love them all – but not because she is my daughter, but because the writings resonate with me. Now I get how one is supposed to feel after reading poetry – moved by the element of combining simple every day words into a compilation of moods, emotions, adventures, scenery.

Allison is first on my list of ‘Favorite Writers’ to showcase another genre’ of writing and that is different from my style of writing. But yet shows another way of transporting a reader through words. Allison takes you on journey after journey to travel through time, through fairy tale lands and through some of the most beautiful scenic settings.

A recent graduate of Columbia University with a BA in Comparative Literature, Allison now works at a publishing house in NYC. She has had multiple poems published in her young career, with her first poem published at the age of 9. I have attached several of her poems and links to other poems. I hope you will enjoy them as I have.