Archive for May, 2011

Have your Caicos and Eat it Too

Posted in Turks & Caicos with tags , , , on May 28, 2011 by cheriforzani

I celebrated my anniversary and fell in love all over again….with Turks & Caicos.  There is so much to love about these islands from their impossibly turquoise, clear waters to their quaint yet sophisticated charm, but what stood out the most to me on my first, but certainly not last, visit was the endless opportunities for rest, relaxation, idyllic seclusion or adventure and family fun – T& C has something for everyone and with daily non-stops from the east coast, getting there is just a quick flight away.  I will caution you though, that such idyll comes at a price.  Turks & Caicos is not an inexpensive destination.

I did a quick 4 night visit with my husband which turned out to be much too short (but gives me a good reason to return), and were able to experience three lovely resorts , each one offering a different experience.

The Veranda

Some people perceive “all-inclusive” as a four letter word – I assure you that The Veranda will change even the biggest skeptic’s perception.  The Veranda is a luxury, fully inclusive resort set along the pristine white sands of Grace Bay, which was recently voted by Tripadvisor as the World’s Best beach.  After experiencing it first hand, I understand whyThe style at The Veranda is Key West meets upscale yet casual beach house, with accommodations consisting of suites, studios and cottages.  All of the furnishings are very high end decorated in a Colonial island style and are fully stocked, especially the gourmet kitchens which have everything you could possibly need or want (including an espresso maker), to feel at home, if your home was a luxurious beachfront cottage .  Oh and did I mention the beds?  Without a doubt, the most comfortable I have ever experienced.  The Ocean view one bedroom studio we stayed in was larger than my first condominium.  The accommodations and amenities lend themselves to families and couples alike with a kids pool, adults only pool, kids club, tennis, bicycles and plenty of watersports, which are all complimentary.

The Dining options include 2 a la carte restaurants and a buffet, my favorite being the Marin rooftop beachfront restaurants with amazing views and excellent cuisine.  In fact, all the restaurants and bars are beachfront offering spectacular views of the setting sun with cozy seating areas around the firepits and lounges.  The photos (of which there aren’t nearly enough of on their website), simply do not do The Veranda justice.

My favorite part of the stay at this resort has to be the wonderful staff.  They go out of their way to cater to their guests, and many, like Eldridge, Tristan, Alberto and Ray-Ray, made a point to remember our names and to treat us like old friends.  A special thanks to Stephanie, Anthony, Michael and Ramone for showing us around and making sure all my many questions were answered.  I can’t recommend the Veranda highly enough for someone looking for a truly relaxed vacation.

Pathway to beach between "cottages"

Love the picket fences!

Some tips – Ask for the 4th floor if possible and if you don’t mind stairs, the 2 level one bedroom suite is fantastic.

Definitely get some snorkel gear from the watersports deck on the beach and walk down to the reef in front of Coral Gardens – amazing snorkeling just a quick walk away.

Beach in front of The Veranda

For more information or to book, contact me at;

cheri@bookavacation.net

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Excellence Playa Mujeres

Posted in Mexico with tags , on May 20, 2011 by cheriforzani

I planned a trip for 4 couples last January and we were beyond satisfied with Excellence Playa Mujeres north of Cancun. We made an excellent choice. This resort is an adults only, all-inclusive resort on a 20-mile peninsula that feels wonderfully remote but is surprisingly accessible. This oasis of virgin beaches and lavishly appointed architecture exudes contemporary luxury.

This is the view from the lobby

First of all, none of the photos I’ve seen do the property justice. It’s much more beautiful and lush than I expected, especially the beach. There was a small amount of beach grass, but it was very minor and the maintenance staff kept the beach free of it. There were several days when we couldn’t even see any.

While the water was not that aqua blue, it was still a gorgeous greenish turquoise color and very clear. It was pretty spectacular, and being away from any other properties (save for La Amada), made up for it. We loved the fact that Excellence Playa Mujeres is in a secluded location, away from the congestion of the hotel zone. You can walk for miles along the beach in a very natural, unspoiled setting. I only hope it remains that way and that the developers enforce strict zoning requirements to keep the area as beautiful and natural as it is now.

I don’t want to be repetitive, but the rooms are spectacular and the employees are outstanding. They work so hard, are very friendly and will bend over backward to please. All of the waiters, hostesses, concierge’s, etc were phenomenal.

Our room had a private rooftop terrace complete with large whirlpool

The grounds are meticulously kept and lush.



Excellence Playa Mujeres is an absolutely gorgeous resort. If you want to relax and be catered to in a stunning setting, Excellence Playa Mujeres is the way to go.

We had an outstanding experience at this resort, so much so that I would go back in a heartbeat and I’m VERY excited to try their new resort that will be opening in Jamaica.

For more information or to book, email me at

cheri@bookavacation.net


Family Find in Florence

Posted in Italy on May 20, 2011 by cheriforzani

Booking hotels in Italy (or anywhere really), for a family can be a challenge, but I managed to scour out some read finds on our trip to Italy last year.  We have older kids who need their own beds and ideally their own rooms and bathrooms, so it can get expensive to book 2 rooms every night, and even though my kids are older, I love connecting rooms that allow family members to go into each others rooms (in our case, to wake up our sons umpteen times to get them moving in the morning), without going outside into a common hallway.

The Hotel Albani Florence fit the bill nicely. Our family of 4 booked a family suite (this is really more of an apartment, 2 separate rooms and 2 full bathrooms with a private common hallway). We got a great rate for the two rooms (booked as a family suite) as many hotels in Florence discount on Sunday & Monday nights.  BTW, there is a reason for this, and that is because many major museums are closed on Mondays – just be aware of this and plan accordingly, investigating what is open on Monday that’s on your bucket list and doing the major museums (the Uffizzi, the Accademia) on Sunday or Tuesday.  For a list of museums open on Monday check here http://www.turismo.intoscana.it/allthingstuscany/tuscanyarts/museums-open-on-monday-in-florence/

A great option for a Monday in Florence is a visit to the Mercato Centrale, specifically the stalls inside the San Lorenzo central market, in Via dell’Ariento you’ll find the best food market of the city. Walk in and discover. It opens every morning from 7.00 to 14.00, except for Sunday and public holidays.  This is fascinating and a whole lot more interesting than an endless string of museums for kids of all ages, including 2 middle-aged parents or college students whose eyes are beginning to gloss over with each subsequent viewing of a Botticelli.

And don’t forget the Duomo, the cathedral and crypt are open on Mondays (Baptistry is not – Duomo: Opening hours: Cathedral: daily 6:50am-7pm Roof: daily 7am-7pm Crypt: daily 9am-noon and 2:30-6pm Baptistery: Tue-Sun 10am-12 and 3-5pm), so you can easily fill the day with must-see sites and take advantage of lower hotel rates.

Now, back to the Hotel Albani, I don’t know why this hotel isn’t more popular, maybe that’s a good thing? We stayed during the heatwave last summer, the AC worked great, the rooms were beautifully furnished and decorated, mattresses very comfortable with down pillows, plush linens, the marble bathrooms large and luxurious and a nice breakfast in a lovely dining room. We loved the common areas and garden as well.


The Hotel Albani Florence is a Summit Hotel located one block from Santa Maria Novella train station.  All in all a great find and the perfect choice for families visiting Florence.

For more information or to book email me at;

cheri@bookavacation.net

In Rome With a Real Housewife

Posted in Italy on May 20, 2011 by cheriforzani

This review is long overdue but I wanted to review this great hotel near Trastevere, The Pantheon and Piazza Navona. We stayed last July after having to reschedule our postponed trip from the previous year, and the Ponte Sisto was gracious enough to allow us to use our prepaid deposit after a last minute cancellation. Some other hotels were not so accommodating.

We booked a two room suite (actually two separate rooms that shared a private common hallway). This was perfect for our family of 4 since we had a lot of privacy yet could open the interior doors to the rooms, I think the room numbers were 508 and 509. Our room had a very small balcony (oddly entered from the bathroom) and a nice view, while our sons’ room just had a window. Both rooms were very comfortable, the A/C worked great (we were there during a heat wave) and we made good use of the very big “mini” fridge to keep drinks cool. I loved the all marble bathrooms, ours was a reddish gold and our sons green…I can’t decide which was more beautiful.

We loved the location and walked to Trastevere for dinner…what a great spot. In fact, we walked everywhere in Rome from the Ponte Sisto, even the Vatican.

The staff was very accommodating, my husband had a craving for Granita di Caffe one afternoon and couldn’t find it, so when we returned to the hotel we asked the bartender if they made it. They didn’t, but he went out of his way to make it from scratch and it was much appreciated.

The breakfasts were the best we had on our trip, so many choices and great scrambled eggs and bacon. I like my scrambled eggs cooked really well and one morning they were barely cooked. I guess one of the waitresses noticed my disappointment when I looked at the eggs and asked if I needed anything. I told her I liked my eggs very well done and 3 minutes later she brought out a large dish cooked just the way I like them. Speaking of breakfast, the courtyard it’s served in is gorgeous.

The Ponte Sisto is a great little hotel in a great location with great service – you’re probably wondering about the real housewife, (well, besides me, only I’m not famous).  Every morning there was an attractive dimpled blonde at breakfast with her family, and every morning I kept looking at them trying to place where I knew them from – were they from town?  Had I worked with her?  Met at a party? Our last morning I complimented her dress and she told me she bought it at a shop near the Spanish Steps but we had no time, a car was coming to take us to the airport and they had a car taking them to go shopping.  We introduced ourselves by first names, and they said they were from California.  It wasn’t until we were in the car that I realized who they were… and not a camera in sight.

The only thing missing from the Ponte Sisto was a swimming pool, which is not easy to find in Rome but oh so desirable during the sometimes sweltering summers.

For that I would recommend the Aldrovandi Villa Borghese, an oasis located within Rome’s most upscale residential area, between the green expanse of the Borghese gardens and the historical reminiscences of Valle Giulia and the Borghese Gallery, within walking distance from extraordinary venues as the Spanish Steps and Via Veneto. The Aldrovandi is a member of Leading Hotels of
the World.

Entrance to the Aldrovandi Villa Borghese
Swimming Pool at the Aldrovandi

For more information or to book, contact me at;

cheri@bookavacation.net

Hello everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2011 by cheriforzani

Welcome to my blog, where I’ll write about some of my favorite destinations, places to stay and offer great ideas and commentary on all things travel.

If you want to read about some of my favorite places that I’ve visited, just click on the links to the right.  I’ve just started but will be making additions frequently.

I welcome comments from fellow travelers, so feel free to share your thoughts.

Best,

Cheri Forzani