Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mexico City's 5-Star Hotel Alternative

Visitors to Mexico City not wanting to check into an impersonal "Big Box" hotel when visiting this ancient Aztec capital, need look no further for the perfect "home away from home," thanks to the recent addition of the chic "Flat and Breakfast" to the roster of 5-Star accommodations.

The Flat is conveniently located in the Col. Cuauhtémoc, one block from Mexico City's iconic Angel de la Independencia ("The Angel") and two blocks from well known Paseo de la Reforma, location of many of the city's finest museums, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and myriad tourist attractions - including the legendary Chapultepec Park and Castle.

Also nearby, is trendy Polanco - home to designer boutiques, chic eateries, 5-star hotels and ultra modern shopping centers. A short taxi-ride away is the Historic Center and the Zócalo - legendary "Halls of Moctezuma" and hub of the ancient Aztec Empire - as well as Bellas Artes Palace and the storied Alameda Park.

The Flat is completely furnished, lending a truly "at home feeling," with two bedrooms, two-and-half baths (designer amenities included) and a living and dining room. The "flat" is close to the US Embassy and tucked into a small secure building whose ground floor is home to the renowned Curryer Chocolates, which has been crafting the finest confections in Mexico City since 1919. Guests of The Flat receive a 50 percent discount at Curryer's on a variety of gourmet coffees.

The apartment suite offers a king-size Master bedroom with large desk, walk- in closet and private bathroom with shower and deep Jacuzzi. A second bedroom has two oversized twin beds, full bath with shower stall, walk-in closet and in-room safe. 

The tastefully appointed living area offers plush leather sofa and love-seat, large LCD flat screen TV, DVD and large dining area. A fully equipped kitchen includes granite counters, microwave, dishwasher and wet bar.

Also included are a washer and dryer, high speed Wi-Fi, free long distance telephone to the US and Mexico and SKY HD satellite international TV service.

Indoor parking is available for one vehicle and a doorman is onsite from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m. Housekeeping service includes replacement of towels and sheets as needed and Continental breakfast.

Also available for a nominal fee: laundry and ironing services, grocery shopping, dry cleaning and arrangement of transportation services.

Drawing on the Mexican adage: "Mi casa es su casa," (My home is your home), The Flat is perfect for families and up to four guests for short - or extended stays. For visitors traveling to Mexico for medical purposes, the apartment is less than 30 minutes from some of the country's best, US-affiliated hospitals. 

If You Go

  • Daily rates start at $175 USD per night, based on double occupancy. Additional guests pay an additional $25 each per night.  This is a "smoke-free" apartment and can accommodate up to four guests. For more information: email:, or call: (860) 632-1911. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Valentine's Lore and Love at Sea

It seems that when the calendar flips over to February, we automatically start to think about love because - as we all know - February has been designated the month for lovers, highlighted Valentine's Day on February 14.

While no one seems sure of how - or why - Valentine's Day became such a "hot" tradition, it can be traced to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia. Others connect the event with one or more saints of the early Christian church.

The ancient Romans held the festival of Lupercalia on February 15 to ensure protection from wolves. During this celebration, young men struck people with strips of animal hide and women took the blows mainly because they thought the whipping made them more fertile. After the Romans conquered Britain in A.D. 43, the British borrowed many Roman festivals, possibly forming the link between that festival and Valentine's Day, because of the similar date and the connection with fertility.

The early Christian church had at least two saints named Valentine. According to one story, Roman Emperor Claudius II in the A.D. 200s forbade young men to marry because he thought that single men made better soldiers. Allegedly, a priest named Valentine disobeyed the emperor's order and secretly married young couples.

Another story tells that Valentine was an early Christian who made friends with many children but the Romans imprisoned him because he refused to worship their gods. The children missed him and tossed loving notes between the bars of his cell window. This tale may explain the modern-day tradition of exchanging messages on Valentine's Day.

Another legend states that Valentine restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter. Many stories relate that he was executed on February 14, around 269 A.D.

Pope Gelasius I - who finally suppressed Lupercalia by establishing the festival of purification, "dies februatus" - designated Feb. 14, 496 A.D. St. Valentine's Day.

Whatever the reason, the tradition continues and fortunately for us, there are activities throughout the world to honor the special day.

Often, lovers plan romantic escapes and what could be more romantic setting off to sea with the soothing ocean gently transporting you through time zones and different cultures? There's still time to book a last minute cruise so that you can be happily onboard for Valentine's Day. Here's a quick look at what's still available:
  • Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky offers a very affordable 4-night roundtrip Valentine's Day cruise out of Miami departing on Feb. 10, 2014, with stops in Freeport, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay, the line's private island. NCL also has a quick weekend cruise out of New York City if you don't have more time.
  • Celebrity Cruise Line's Silhouette is offering a seven-night Valentine's Day cruise leaving from Ft. Lauderdale on Feb. 9, 2014 with stops in: Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Cayman Islands; Falmouth, Jamaica and Labadee, Haiti (where they have a private resort), before heading back to Ft. Lauderdale. 
  • Spend Valentine's Day in Nassau, Bahamas with Celebrity Cruise Line’s five-day round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, departing Feb. 13, 2014. 
  • Valentine's Day coincides with President's Day weekend this year so if your kids are on vacation, you could opt for the 4-night Disney Cruise Line's Magic cruise departing from Port Canaveral, Florida on Feb. 10, 2014, with stops in Nassau and their private Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. Disney offers non-stop activities for the kids, assuring you and your significant other plenty of "alone time" in which to enjoy their adult-only areas - both on board and on Castaway Cay.
  • If  time is not of the essence, Holland America's M/S Prisendam departs on Feb. 10, 2014 on a 32-night cruise from Buenos Aires, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, landing you in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Valentine's Day. 
And, in case you were wondering...nothing spells romance like Rio!