To Vegas With Love

Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful times in Las Vegas. Like everyone else, I was heartbroken about last Sunday’s tragic events. And a little unnerved because, during my recent visit a few weeks ago, I stayed right next door to Mandalay Bay. It was a sobering reminder of how fragile life is–and how important it is to live every day fully, as tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Vegas has always been a place about making the most of every moment, by experiencing the joys of good hospitality, great entertainment and fantastic food. I was fortunate to enjoy all three during my recent weekend getaway.

I had already been to Sin City with family, friends and significant others. This was the first big trip with my beloved dog Benji. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our JetBlue flight was easy breezy, as both Benj and I slept for the duration. Upon arriving at the swanky Delano Hotel, our host for one night, I knew immediately this would be a much more relaxing stay than I’ve had at other Vegas properties.

Benji relaxing in our suite with his Delano welcome amenity: biscuits, a poop bag and leather toy

A non-gaming, non-smoking hotel, the Delano has an inviting boutique vibe that makes you forget you’re right on the Strip. Spacious accommodations, first class staff and pet-friendly amenities—including dog walking services and a pet relief area right in front—made for a perfect night (full hotel review coming soon in 25A Magazine!).

One of the major highlights—Rivea, the Delano’s Alain Ducasse rooftop restaurant on the 64th floor.

Rivea: the terrace view from 64 stories above

Joining me for a decadent multi-course dinner on the terrace was college friend Tiffany. Though we hadn’t seen each other in about twenty years, that time melted away as we talked about life, work, singlehood and getting through tough times. We talked for hours and didn’t want the night to end.

Tiff and me and my first-ever bubble tea

Friday, Benji and I moved to the Residence Inn across from the Convention Center. Part of a complex of three Marriott properties, the all-suite hotel is an ideal choice if you want to be off the Strip but still in a central, convenient location.

As soon as we arrived, I was treated to the warmth and home away from home atmosphere for which Marriott is known. I checked in with an upset stomach and having just caught my finger painfully in a door. The kind front desk agent offered Band Aids, first aid ointment and a handful of herbal tea packets.

Our spacious digs at the Residence Inn

We were upgraded to a penthouse suite—a spacious loft with a living room, eat-in, fully-equipped kitchen, loft bedroom and two full bathrooms. Plenty of room for Benji and me to roam around and kick back. The pool was modest but well maintained, and blissfully quiet compared to the loud, crowded scene at most Sin City resort pools.

The Residence Inn’s pool: a low-key haven of relaxation

Much like trips to Vegas with my parents back in the 80’s, this one afforded the opportunity to see some amazing entertainers.

Despite lip synching for most of her 90-minute set, Jennifer Lopez dazzled with flawless dancing and eye-popping costumes, performing most of her hits and an unexpectedly beautiful cover of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” My beloved Ricky Martin–the reason for my trip–blew the roof off of the Park Theater with incredible singing and dancing, playing an energetic mix of his signature pop tunes and soulful ballads.

All In: Ricky’s Vegas show was one of his best productions ever

For the last show of the weekend, I went old school with Tiffany (and Benji too!), visiting the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory to see Rich Little. At 78, the legendary comedian is just as hilarious as I remembered him to be when I saw him decades ago. And I had the pleasure of telling him so at a meet and greet afterward.

Rich Little and me

Definitely a memorable, exhilaratingly fun weekend from start to finish.

Sending so much love to everyone in this amazing city–and praying for healing.

 

Weekend In Long Island

For as much as I adore my hometown, sometimes I need a break from the relentless hustle and bustle of NYC.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite places to unwind from city life is Long Island. I’m very fortunate to have several loved ones who are LI residents and last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with two of them.

Saturday, I headed out east to visit my cousin Carla. Our first stop–Verace, an airy Italian bistro located on Babylon’s charming main street. The friendly staff was in the Halloween spirit, dressed as nerds while serving delicious fare (eggplant caponata pasta and flounder oreganata for me, burrata ravioli for C).

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The gypsy and the owl: Me and Carla at Molto Vino

After dinner and changing into our own costumes, we headed over to wine bar Molto Vino. Bustling with spirited locals and a jovial waitstaff, it was the perfect spot for people watching (Marty McFly and a mobster were among the costumed characters) and enjoying a festive Halloween night.

Settling ourselves at the bar, Carla and I savored a few glasses of red sangria as we talked about milestone birthdays and winter travel plans. It was the perfect Halloween night–low key fun with one of my favorite family members.

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon with galpal Julie. Our destination–Bar Frites in Greenvale, which with its buzzy vibe and French charm, reminded me of NYC’s currently-closed Pastis.

We both treated ourselves to the decadence of a croque madame sandwich while having the kind of soul soothing conversation that reminds you what a blessing it is to have good friends.

One of the subjects that came up–the mental shift that accompanies entering your forties. With three decades of life and learning behind you, this is the era of being truly comfortable in your own skin, of fully embracing your choices without apology or explanation. I’m also discovering that it is a time for letting go of the past and focusing squarely on what’s right in front of you.

Like the saying goes, the present truly is a gift. Especially when you’re fortunate to have wonderful people to share it with.

A Trio of Weekend Getaways

Anyone who knows me knows travel is one of my greatest passions. And over the last month, I set a personal travel record–three back to back weekend getaways. Each one afforded the opportunity to reconnect with beloved friends and family for milestone occasions.

First, I headed to Mount Holyoke for my 20-year college reunion. A happy wave of nostalgia and pride in my alma mater infused my return to campus. There is something magical about being part of this sisterhood of uncommon women. That feeling was deeply present as we participated in the laurel parade, a longstanding MHC tradition in which reunion classes are followed by the graduating seniors. The seniors then weave a laurel chain around MHC founder Mary Lyon’s grave before singing the moving anthem “Bread and Roses.”

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Snapshots from my 20 year reunion: MHC women rock.

At reunion, I had the pleasure of catching up with dear friends Traci and Dana, reuniting with dorm neighbor Cristina and seeing first year floormate Aimee. Two decades fell away as Aimee and I talked about how our lives have unfolded since graduation. Amazing.

Getaway #2 took me to Toronto, for a girls weekend with dear friends Jackie and Belgium-based Cindy.

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Girls weekend fun: (from left) Cindy, me and Jackie

Taking advantage of picture perfect weather, we explored some top attractions in my former hometown: the CN Tower, Toronto Island and historic public buildings offering complimentary admission as part of Doors Open. Along the way, of course, we enjoyed wonderful conversations about life, love and the importance of good friends in navigating the trials and triumphs of life.

Last weekend, my beloved cousin Alexandra and I headed to Jersey City to celebrate her college graduation. Our home for the weekend – the fantastic Westin hotel. I  won the stay here during a regional Starwood employee event and it was just as rejuvenating as I anticipated. We were welcomed with a suite upgrade and wine and cake pops.

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All smiles: Alexandra and me

After spending hours chatting the night away, Alexandra and I headed across the street to Battello, a lively, sprawling bistro along the water with spectacular skyline views. Alexa is more like a sister than a cousin to me and I treasure the bond we share.

All of weekend getaways nourished my spirit and gave me much-needed quality time with some of my nearest and dearest. Traveling so much in a short span of time also reinforced that old and ever so true adage – there’s no place like home.

A Fun-Filled Florida Getaway

For as much as I love NYC, sometimes you just need a break from it, especially during a winter as frigid as this one. So I was especially excited to spend President’s Day weekend down South in Jacksonville, visiting my Titi Eneida and cousins Monica and Steven. Joining in the festivities — NY-based cousins Dana and Carla.

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Family Reunion: (from left) Titi Eneida, Dana, Monica and hubby Michael, Carla and me in St. Augustine

Our Florida getaway was perfect from start to finish. Saturday, we drove down to St. Augustine. This charming, historic town (the oldest in the US) never fails to delight with its cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops and Spanish style architecture.

After strolling around and browsing in a few stores, we went to A1A Ale Works for a delightful lunch on the balcony (lobster and shrimp tacos, mmmm). But the weekend’s most memorable, delicious meal happened later at Titi Eneida’s house.

Titi prepared a Valentine’s feast, with a festively decorated table, homemade spinach salad, pizza with sausage and peppers, chocolate cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries.

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Best Valentine’s Day meal ever!

Sunday, we drove to St. John’s Town Center, a beautiful outdoor mall with 150 stores, where I finally found two major items for my home makeover (details to come!) and savored the sunshine in a cozy seating area outside Nordstrom’s.

Later, after a brief visit to Jax Beach, we went back to Monica and hubby Michael’s place for a laughter filled night watching Saturday Night Live ‘ s epic 40th anniversary special.

I am so happy this family reunion coincided with Valentine’s Day. It reminded how blessed I am to have so much love in my life, and be related to so many wonderful people. And really, that’s what February 14th is truly about: cherishing every kind of love — regardless of your relationship status.

An A-mazing Weekend In L.A.

This weekend marked my second visit to L.A. this summer. The occasion–celebrating a very special milestone for my dear friend A Martinez: the premiere screening of his new movie, Before Your Eyes.

The short film is A’s first foray into screenwriting and directing. And its debut made for two memorable evenings I feel so fortunate and happy to have been a part of.

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Malibu Cafe

Friday night, Malibu Cafe provided the ideal setting for an intimate outdoor dinner with A and his beautiful family. Nestled in the heart of Malibu Canyon, it offers a picturesque outdoor setting with whimsical touches like chandeliers strung from the trees and paddleboats. Joining me for the festive meal were my good friends Marilyn and Candy, and Candy’s Italy-based friend Elisa, all of whom (like me) became acquainted with A decades ago during his iconic Emmy-winning role as Cruz Castillo on the NBC soap Santa Barbara.

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(from left): Marilyn, me, A, Candy and Elisa

Over dinner, we reminisced about the magic that was SB and all of the good that has come from it — most especially our enduring friendships. With Candy in France, Marilyn in Ohio and me in NYC, we were thrilled to be together for such a happy occasion. Last night, we headed to Olandar, home and artistic sanctuary of actor Leigh McCloskey and wife Carla, for the screening. The evening began with a stirring performance by A’s son Dakota Martinez and wife Sandra Pehrsson a.k.a SandraKota.

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SandraKota performs at Olandar

Their soulful voices harmonize just perfectly together and you can feel the love between them. Sandra later told me the sweet story of how she approached Cody when they were both in the same class. Upon discovering that he shared her affinity for dates, she invited him to go to a date farm. They clicked immediately and married a year later. Seeing them together is enough to make this jaded single believe in true love again. Finally, it was time for the main attraction and Before Your Eyes didn’t disappoint. The film takes place on a climactic night for one family after their tormented father leaves. They come together to make a video in a bid to avoid losing their home. It is a powerful tale of the ties that bind and pull us apart, vividly brought to life by the talented ensemble cast. A seamlessly blends Before Your Eyes‘ dramatic story with humor and wit, grounding the film in rich characterizations and engaging dialogue. The transcendent song around which all of the action takes place, co-written by A and Cody, stays with you after the credits roll. I couldn’t be happier for or prouder of A in what he has accomplished with Before Your Eyes. As I told him afterward, he is as much a hero to me now as he was when we first met more than 25 years ago. Congratulations, my friend.

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