Tag: hotel

Travel Swellness: The James Hotel in Chicago

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Chicago is one of my favourite cities. It probably holds a special place in my heart because one of the first (if not the very first!)  press trips I went on when I was at Flare was to Chicago, but of course, there’s more to it. I find the people friendly, there’s so many fantastic restaurants, they host a helluva good marathon, which I’ve run twice (last weekend in the Chicago Marathon 2017, and my marathon PB in 2014), and, of course, the beautiful architecture. And now that list of what I love in Chicago is growing, as I’ve just discovered the James Hotel.

(And if you’re booking a trip to Chicago or elsewhere, don’t forget about the $40 you can save if you use this little link of mine, right HERE).

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Through Booking.com, I stayed at the James just a little over a week ago for my marathon weekend, and it had a lot going for it as a place to stay for the race, however it’s a great boutique hotel to stay no matter what brings you to Chicago.

Major selling points: it’s pretty much a few minutes walk away from both Eataly and Shake Shack, plus Trader Joe’s is right across the street. I adore Shake Shack and even though it’s not from Chicago, I will make time to have a Shack Burger whenever I have access to one. Same goes for Eataly; it also hails from New York but the pizza, pasta, burrata and more is just too hard to resist that I’ll stop in for a bite whenever I can. And Trader Joe’s is great for snacks, and especially helpful when you’re fueling for a marathon and need access to the ingredients you’d normally have before a race. If you’re on a budget, you can also save loads of money if you opt to pick up something there for your breakfast, or even if you grab a bottle of wine to enjoy in your room rather than one out at dinner (both ways I cut back on spending when I”m watching my pennies when traveling).

James Hotel Chicago lobby level

The James Chicago is located in River North just steps from the Magnificent Mile. So shopaholics, this convenient location means you can drop off your shopping bags, or even pop in for a quick power nap before you shop some more. Although I don’t know if a quick nap is possible; the beds at the James were so comfortable and luxurious, I found myself spending more time lounging around in my suite than I typically do when I travel.

Cloud Gate

Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago are about a 25-minute walk from the hotel; 360 Chicago is about 15 minutes away (call me a tourist, but I love seeing cities from up high!). So you’re very close to some of the top attractions. The closest subway is the Grand station on the red line, and I easily navigated my way on the transit system to neighbourhoods I wanted to explore such as Logan Square and Bucktown.

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(By the way, if you are visiting Chicago and planning to go to many of the top attractions, it’s worth considering getting the Citypass Chicago. I’ve used it on two trips to Chitown and besides being able to save some money on your entry fees if you were to pay at each sight separately, you also score quick entry; I’ve seen long lines snake out of Shedd Aquarium, for example, and I can tell you I was very grateful to not waste precious time in Chicago waiting in line.)

I didn’t have a chance to try out the restaurant in the hotel, but I did spend time in the hotel lobby, which is a beautiful space where there’s lots of seating if you’re waiting to meet someone or are waiting for your car (this is something I appreciate as I once waited during a snowstorm for about two hours in an NYC hotel lobby that had not a single chair). The lobby at the James is a sleek and modern space but not in a cold, modern way (there are warm touches and textures that make it comfortable). They host a wine hour here (which I refrained from since I was preparing for my race, le sigh).

James Hotel Chicago lobby level

The room I had was spacious and filled with light. The only downside to the room is the pocket door to the washroom, which is very heavy, making it a chore to slide open and closed. I’m a pretty fit person and I found it cumbersome but I can see it being a problem for some people. Word to the wise: I’m not sensitive to noise and city noises don’t bother me, but if you’re especially easy to wake up from slumber, you may want to request a room on a higher floor. In my room on the 7th floor, I was aware of the sirens and traffic noises from the street, however, it didn’t bother me as I’m used to din of the city.

James Chicago bathroom

Want to book the James Chicago? Well, if you use my exclusive Booking.com link to book your stay, you’ll get a refund of $40 once you complete your stay. That’s $40 you can use at Eataly, or at a Grant Achatz restaurant, or use towards your architectural cruise ticket. Man, I’m already missing this hotel and fantastic city…

Happy travels!

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Leave a Comment October 18, 2017

Travel Swellness: The Hip Guide to Las Vegas

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I’ve been to Vegas five times now. Which is possibly the most I’ve ever visited one destination other than my hometown of Montreal and New York City. And I’d had enough of walking the Las Vegas Strip after my first visit. So what a surprising treat to stay in Downtown Las Vegas (aka old Las Vegas) my last visit there in November to run the Rock n Roll Half-Marathon for the second time.

My story, which I think of as the Hipster’s Guide to Vegas (well, as hipster as Sin City can be) is live now on AmongMen and Huffington Post Canada. Here are some photos I snapped and you can get full deets over in the article. If you’re a first-time visitor to Vegas, then I’d say stay on the main Strip. But if you’re looking for something different than your usual visit here, I highly recommend Downtown Las Vegas (even if it means the occasional trek to the Strip if you’re seeing Britney or to eat at Giada’s).

We stayed at the Downtown Grand where, as you can see, the rooms are modern and there’s a very nice bar in the lobby.

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My favourite spot at this hotel, though, was the quiet rooftop pool. It was unexpectedly warm enough for the pool to be open (the last time I ran the half in Vegas, pools were closed for the season).

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One of my favourite meals was at Park on Fremont. Not so much for the food (too many fried dishes on our table quickly felt overwhelmingly greasy in my belly) but for the cocktails (yes, I drank before running a half, oops) and quaint back patio. Inside the restaurant, the vibe was more edgy and urban.

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Another beautiful patio is on the Strip at the Bellagio, at Lago, which is worth the visit for the #fromwhereistand photo opp alone.

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If you’re considering going to Vegas for the Rock n Roll Marathon, I hear the marathon route is dark and lonely (which is a big reason I chose to run the half). And the two years I’ve run it this race, it gets cold and terribly windy at night so plan your race outfit accordingly. It’s not always hot in Vegas.

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This trip, I finally got a chance to check out the Downtown Container Park, which is just really pleasant and charming (but hard to get a great photo of that captures its relaxed vibe). But I”m also a big fan of shopping at The LINQ, for people watching and and cute souvenirs at fun shops rather than clothes shopping. Next time, I”d love to go bowling at the Brooklyn Bowl that’s at The LINQ.

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One of my favourite parts of this trip by far was walking around downtown Vegas one morning by myself and checking out some of the fantastic murals, and finally going with to check out the stunning Red Rock Canyon.

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And while there are plenty of over the top buffets, which are top notch, one day I walked over to Grass Roots Juice Bar and grabbed a really big acai bowl. Delicious and very filling. And exactly what I was craving for breakfast. Endless mimosas and dozens of breakfast options at a buffet are best reserved for a Vegas visit that doesn’t include running 21.1k after all.

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I rounded out the trip with my foodie favourites of doughnuts (well, a homemade poptart, this time) and an affordable bowl of ramen, too, before catching my flight home to Toronto. Find out where to go for those nibbles in my Hip Guide to Las Vegas.

 

 

Leave a Comment January 8, 2016

Travel Swellness: “Running is Shangri-La”

Shangri-La run with Ben Kaplan of iRun

When my favourite luxury hotel launches a new wellness package, you don’t have to ask me twice if I’m interested. The Shangri-La Toronto launched the “Running is Shangri-La” package this month and I was fortunate enough to enjoy a staycation at the hotel to try it out.

In the Shangri-La Garden Suite

Along for the fun were my friends (and fellow #werunSF half-marathon racers last fall) Sasha Exeter of SoSasha and Justine Iaboni of Jetset Justine.

Adidas Adiboost from Black Toe Running

The four new run routes launched with this package have been designed to allow travelers to see different areas of Toronto and were amended and approved by Ben Kaplan, editor of iRun magazine and author of Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now. They include:

  • a 3k route, which takes you by the historic St. Lawrence Market and through the financial district (and you get great views of the CN Tower)
  • a 4k route, which takes you north up University Avenue so you get to sightsee Queen’s Park and University of Toronto
  • a 5k route, which takes you west to the cool Queen St. W. shops and to Trinity Bellwoods Park
  • a 20k run (or less — you simply can turn around earlier for a shorter run) that takes you along the waterfront path by Lake Ontario

Ben told me the routes were designed to include interesting sights for visitors to the city, but to also minimize stops at traffic lights. He also said that he had to encourage the hotel to include one longer route than 5k, something which I personally appreciate being a marathon runner.

Run by St. Lawrence Market

I, along with Sasha, Justine and a few Shangri-La team members, and Mike from Black Toe Running (a running shop in Toronto)  joined Ben for the 3k run on the sunny morning.

Shangri-La group run

The run brought us by Roy Thompson Hall and St. James Cathedral in addition to the other sights mentioned. My only concern about this route? Will people using this route make the stop into St. Lawrence Market? Too many delicious goods inside to just simply run by it! That’d be a shame.

St. James Cathedral (on the 3k run)

Besides running, the Shangri-La in partnership with Lululemon now also offers some fantastic in-room yoga instruction  featuring Lululemon yoga ambassador Amber Joliat.

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The suites each include a yoga mat and you access the 25-minute yoga video on your suite’s television, so you can stretch out and improve your breath work in the privacy of your room. I took advantage of it after our quick morning run and it was a nice way to ease into the rest of my day (and I’m normally not into stretching, I’m usually just keen on getting on with my day in a hurry, but Amber’s calming instruction really resonates with me).

yoga practice in-room at Shangri-La

And, of course, there is also the top-notch Health Club you can take advantage of, including state of the art equipment and classes such as kettlebell, Spin and yoga (given my short staycation, I didn’t have time to check this out myself this time!).

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Anyone who follows a healthy lifestyle, though, knows that fitness is only part of the equation. What you eat is such an important component, and this hasn’t been overlooked here. There are wellness options on the menu at Bosk restaurant and for in-room dining (they’re highlighted in the Healthy Lifestyle section). The focus is on locally sourced produce, free-range chicken and beef and sustainable seafood. (Full disclosure: I couldn’t resist the sea bass so I didn’t order off of the Healthy Lifestyle section)

Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie

And last but certainly not least, the  package includes a visit to the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie. I’ve told you before that this is my favourite spa in the city; I swear that I could be having the most stressful day or week but a visit here allows me to just let go of the tension and decompress (even if only for a couple of hours). The package includes the superb Hammam and Gommage treatment, which will have you detoxifying in the steamy hammam followed by a full-body exfoliation (this is the gommage) using a eucalyptus-infused black Moroccan soap. As I was pressed for time during my staycation, I returned a few days later to the spa and opted for a the Grand Caudalie Facial instead (my complexion was in desperate need of some TLC). The facial is customized to your needs, and I left with glowing, smoother skin, not to mention more relaxed than I’ve felt in months.

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(Psst, when you go to the spa, you have access to wellness floor before or after your treatment — I made sure to arrive early so I could take advantage of the great jacuzzi and pool).

Shangri-La beyond cozy bed

Wellness staycation complete, I felt a renewed love for the 6 and very reluctantly checked out of the Shangri-La and said so long to its luxurious bathroom and bed (but I didn’t leave without popping into Momofuku Milk Bar to pick up some cookies — not part of the wellness package, but who can resist that Compost cookie, not me!). Thank you to the Lululemon and Black Toe Running (they provided the gear and shoes for our run) and, of course, to the Shangri-La for the stay. The “Running is Shangri-La” package begins at $535 per night and you can get more information on it here.

 

Leave a Comment May 11, 2015

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