Sunday, September 28, 2008

NO, DAVID! and the National Book Festival in DC

My daughter loves books... and I'm not just saying that because I think it makes (1) her look smart or (2) me look like the parent of the year. She just loves them. She wakes up at 7am every morning and says, "Can I read some books?" Granted, she is 2 and a half and is not reading them yet, but she memorizes stories and then just repeats them as she looks at the pictures. Its kind of amazing. One of her favorite books is called NO DAVID by David Shannon. She equally loves another of his books about a dog named Fergus. They are super easy for her to memorize and the illustrations are adorable and crazy. Just what she loves to look and giggle at as she makes up why David got into trouble again.

So, this weekend was the National Book Festival on the National Mall here in Washington, DC. This summer was all about taking advantage of our home cities and this was one event that was perfect for our family. Just a 30 minute drive for us into DC and it was FREE! Perfect. AND... all in the shadows of the Capitol building where Congress was diligently working on how to save our economy. We waved for good measure.

The highlight of the event was that THE David Shannon was going to read his new book and then do a signing. Another author that Eva reads, David Carter, was going to be there too. He is the guy that writes those cool bug books. Eva loves them... so, we definitely wanted to get him to sign her copy of his Big Bug Book.

We hit the mall around noon and the place was swarmed with people. The children's tent was packed with parents and kids all eagerly listening to David Shannon read through his book. He even pulled out an easel and started to draw David for us. Eva was super excited to meet him and have her personal David and Fergus books signed.

We walked down the mall towards the Capitol building where folks were lined up eagerly waiting for their favorite authors to start signing their books. You should have seen the line waiting for David Shannon! It was a good thing we brought lunch! It was like waiting in line (old school) at Disney for the Haunted Mansion! There were no speed passes at the Book Festival!

So, we waited. Eva had her lunch and we chatted with other fans. We then realized that David Carter was also signing books and was about to close up his line. So, Peter stayed on the Shannon line and Eva and I walked over to meet the bug guy. We waited for a few minutes and he happily greeted Eva and signed her book. He even took a picture with her and she was just thrilled to think that he was the man that made the bug book.

Eva and I were excited after meeting David Carter to now meet her favorite... David Shannon. As we headed back to the line, we realized that it was MOVING!! Which meant that he was there and he started to sign the books! The event staff handed everyone a post-it note so that we could write exactly what we wanted in the book. We wanted "To Eva" on the David book and we wanted "To The Ansaldi's" on the Fergus book (we are dog people). So, we waited... and waited and finally it was just before our turn and the girl managing the line apologized and said that he was no longer personalizing the books.... meaning, he did not want to take the extra 5seconds to write "TO Eva" on the book. IS HE KIDDING ME? I just spent two hours on line and HE does not want to take the time? Hey, I did not really want to wait for all that time... and I really did not HAVE to purchase his books for $16.99 each! I was infuriated, but Eva loved him and wanted to see him. So, we walked up to the table and said that she was his biggest fan and he smiled when she said, "NO DAVID". She even asked how Fergus was and we found out that Fergus is his real dog! He is a star in our house!

So, I dedicate this blog to David Shannon.... who is a CHILDRENS author. I say, if you ask CHILDREN (your fans) to come out to meet you for PUBLICITY... I say, take the 5 seconds and sign her name. I know it would have really been special for her. AND (smiling to myself)... you kind of shot yourself in the foot because now that I have a brand new copy of your book with your signature (not personalized)... I can sell your book on Ebay and make 100% profit. My daughter can use the extra 16 bucks for her college fund. So, no harm done. Right?

I'm heading to NY tomorrow to meet up with Sam and the Passport crew. I am then off to the White Mountains of New Hampshire on Thursday to check out the fall foliage at the Christmas Inn in Jackson, NH.

Travel On.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

I believe that I have seen the Twilight Zone. I've been on several flights where I question if something happened and we flew right into another dimension. I have actually been through production meetings and had the same feeling. Well, I can now tell you that I have officially entered the Twighlight Zone and instead of taking a Jet Blue flight to LA for a meeting, I may be flying aboard the starship Enterprise.

A friend of mine is a huge Trekky... you know the kind... the people that dress like aliens and characters from the popular series Star Trek? It's a slice of American life that I covered in the past for a series on conventions that I did for Travel Channel. We covered Star Trek conventions, the Big Beautiful Convention and several others that were just as "out of this world." Anyway, so my friend is involved in the production of an online production of some "lost episodes" of Star Trek. Somehow they got their hands on some old scripts that were never made into episodes and shoot them up in a studio in upstate New York. They then master the show and upload it to their website where millions of their Trekky friends can download them.

Anyway, they were searching for girl to play a character named Isel for their next episode shooting in October. This character is a bald "Deltan" and is a Lietenant aboard the Enterprise. So, my friend asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the part... being that I meet all of the requirements for the part (girl - check, Lietenant - I know how to be a fierce bitch, bald - check) At first, I thought it was a joke... and when I realized it wasn't... I told my family and they said that I should try just for fun. So, I agreed to the audition.

Yesterday, I made my way over to his house to shoot a screen test for the Executive Producer. We are shooting an episode called "The Child" and I play Isel who was impregnanted by a parasite of some sort. After a 3 day gestation period, I give birth to a health human baby girl. The short story is that I am a mother trying to protect her child and everyone else aboard the ship thinks that she is an alien trying to kill everyone... and wants to kill her (the baby... not me).

So, now... I am officially on tape auditioning for the role of Isel for this series. I am admitting to it now in case one of you wants to use it against me in the future. I can see Howard adding my Apprentice audition to the reel.

I'll let you know what happens...

I'm home this week and then off to NYC to meet with Sam and the crew for season 2 of Passport to Great Weekends. I am then heading up to New Hampshire for a fall foilage weekend where I will be checking out the beautiful Christmas Inn in Jackson.

Travel On...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hotel Review: Partying at the Mondrian Scottsdale

Do you know that I had never been to Arizona before I went to Scottsdale a few weeks ago for a bachelorette party!?! With all of my years as a travel writer, I just never had the opportunity to explore it for myself. I remember a layover in Pheonix for a few hours before a flight to Telluride... but all I was able to see was a few margaritas before I boarded that tiny toy airplane up to Colorado.

So, this was my chance to experience Scottsdale. One of my dearest friends was getting married and she picked Scottsdale for our girls weekened because she spent 4 years living in the area when she was a student at ASU. Now, being a graduate of SUNY Buffalo, I just could not understand why anyone would want to go back to their college town for a girls weekend. Well, now I know why.

The air was a balmy 97 degrees when I stepped off the flight from Baltimore. Did I mention it was 9pm? She told me that it was going to be hot... but, this was a real hot.

She picked me up from Sky Harbor Airport and we made our way to our home for the next few days... the Mondrian Scottsdale. Yes, the Mondrian... my home away from home in Los Angeles has another location in Scottsdale and from what I hear... it is supposed to be just as fun.

I shared a room with my friend and another girl this trip and they arrived earlier in the day and was already checked in. I walked into the room and was waiting for the crisp whites of the Mondrian in LA. I was actually shocked at what I walked into. The room was a typical room size for a motel (notice I used an "m" and not an "H"). It had two full sized beds that were nicely dressed with fluffy pillows and cotton duvets. The furniture was very modern and all black with a subtle sense of funkiness that you could mistake for bad taste. The desk and table that lined one of the walls was trimmed in black tassles... like the little thingies that drop off of a 20's style flappers dress? That was not the best part... it also had a box shelf that was lit from the inside with a single red apple sitting in the box. Ummm, note to self... don't eat that.

Our couple of days in Scottsdale were made up of lazy days by what we called their disco pool. The pool was quite the scene and we enjoyed the people watching as we sipped champagne toasting our friend's last few days of singlehood. Hey, I'm not saying that we did not have fun...

My rating of this hotel overall was piss-poor for service and cleanliness. I think we would have had a better room and service at the local Homewood Suites. However, there were a few people on the staff that made up for their overall lack of good guest judegment. The rates were decent... but, you really do get what you pay for. I say stay away. When I go back to Scottsdale, I'm going to try the Phoenician or the new W Scottsdale.

Travel On...

Friday, September 12, 2008

California Dreaming... Living the LA LA Life

What is it about a destination that seduces you and makes you never want to leave? Is it the people? The atmosphere? The food? Its all of the above for me and I have to say that I found a new love in Santa Monica this week. You all know that LA is like a second home to me and I usually stay in the West Hollywood area. Its just always easier for me to get to all of my producers. But, for this trip, my meetings were all in Santa Monica so I decided to stay at the beach.

My trip started on Wednesday afternoon on a JetBlue flight from Dulles to Long Beach. Again, if you are thinking of traveling to the LA area, you need to see if you can use the Long Beach airport. It's simply the easiest and most efficient airport in the area. I landed at 8:20 and I had my bags at 8:45 and I was in my rental car on the 405 by 9pm. If I flew into LAX, I could almost guarentee that it would have taken me over an hour just to get my bags.

However, the flight to Long Beach might have been the wierdest flight I have ever experienced. There was a guy in the seat in front of me that seemed to be asleep... and then all of a sudden, he started talking to himself... but in a weird way. It was almost like he was talking in his sleep, but he was looking at the people around him and seemed to be spewing about politics and cursing the President. Just weird... and everyone around my seat was just staring and kind of freaked (note that we were flying across country on September 10th... not the time of year to be freaked on an airplane!) The girl in the seat next to me can vouch for the weirdness... Lori, if you are reading, please chime in.

Anyway, back to Santa Monica. I chose to stay at the Viceroy on Ocean Ave for this trip. The Viceroy is definitely a scene and is very hip... but, it sure has substance with all that style. The service is impeccable and the rooms are beautifully designed with oversized marble showers, great beds and a some rooms have stunning views of the Pacfic Ocean. I was also impressed with their room service menu. They had a beautiful assortment of organic dishes to choose from including fresh fruits and veggies from local markets. I ordered the fresh fruit for breakfast with their homemade granola and they created a brulee with my fresh vanilla yogurt! Delish and very worth the extra 20% charge for the delivery!

Jet lag had me awake at 5:45am the next day and I just used that time to catch up on some work. I met a friend in the lobby of the hotel for coffee at 9am and I was refreshed from my fab shower. Even the products were yummy!

My friend and I took a walk across the street from the Viceroy to a little cafe called Cora' Coffee Cup. Its a small place with indoor counter service. However, their outdoor seating is below a huge garden trellis that is almost like a cave. Again, its about as big as a coffee cup... so, get there early for one of the outdoor tables.

After my meeting, I met up with Kirsten Gum for an ass kicking. Kirsten is the adventure queen and she is in great shape. So, for our meeting, she asked if I wanted to take a bike ride on the beach. It sounded like fun, so we met up and I borrowed one of her cruiser bikes for a 20 mile ride along a path that hugs the beach. We rode from Santa Monica all the way up to Manhattan Beach. It was really beautiful and just the perfect way to see the beach towns that line the coast. We cruised through Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey. I highly reccomend it for anyone who wants to experience real beach living in Southern California.

After our ride, we stopped for lunch at a tiny place on Venice Beach called the Fig Tree. All of the tiny bistros up north of the chaos (muscle beach and the freak shows) of Venice are good and I found Fig Tree to be a good choice. We shared a couple of fish tacos and a spinach and brown rice burger. Very yummy.. Very California.

After lunch, Kirsten headed out to an appointment and I went back to my room to finish some work before shops closed on the East Coast. We decided that my "ass kicking" was not done for the day and decided to met back up at 6pm for a yoga class and a "soak" at a place called "Exhale". We met outside of my hotel at 6pm and again took the bikes up to a Exhale for our hatha yoga class. It was a really nice class after our 20 mile ride this morning. After class, we got back on our bikes and went to the Exhale location a few blocks away where they have a full spa area for members. The coolest part of their setup is that they have a water circuit. The circuit has you going from a sauna for 4-5 mins to a cold water plunge for about 2 minutes. After the cold water you come out and relax for a few minutes for your body to get back to a normal temperature. Once you are ready, you go into a steam room for another 4-5 minute and then another cold plunge for 2 minutes. Then another acclimation period before you go into a whirling hot tub. I cursed several times during those ice cold plunges... but, I have to say that after the circuit, my body never felt better. After a long day of biking and yoga... this was almost like a deep tissue massage.

By the time we were done with all of that, we were starved. So, we headed over to a Santa Monica favorite called Chinois on Main. This is one of Wolfgang Puck's first restaurants in the area and after almost 20 years it is still a local hotspot for dinner. We ordered some sushi and a salad for an appetizer and the steamed sea bass with a soy glaze for dinner. It was delicious and very light... a perfect way to end our quintessetial day in Santa Monica.

When I finally got back to my room that night, I had to take some Tylenol and elevate my legs. Workout pain sucks... but, its a good pain because you know that all the hard work is paying off. I do not even remember falling asleep.

The next day was a work day for me so I was up early again on emails and screening some shows that I needed to get out. My big meeting was being held right downstairs in a cabana next to the pool at the Viceroy. Kirsten and I kept saying that this is exactly why we work in this business... so that we can have important meetings in a cabana next to a pool in Santa Monica. You have to love working in TV.

That night I met up with a couple of friends at the Casa del Mar for a glass of wine before I made my way back to the Long Beach airport for a red eye back to DC. As I sat there waiting for them to arrive, I looked out over the beach and took a deep breath. I really wanted to go home to see Peter and Eva, but I just could not help feeling like I never wanted to leave. LA has always held a special place in my soul... since the time I was 14 and my parents took me here on vacation.. I never wanted to leave. What is it that makes me want to stay? The food? The people? The bike ride? The beach? The glamour... all of the above.

Stay tuned... I forgot to tell you about a bachelorette party that I just went to in Scottsdale, Arizona. That Mondrian has a SkyBar and a Disco Pool. Pix to come too.

Keep Traveling