La Saline beach in Jacmel Haiti

La saline is one of Jacmel’s hidden gems. You won’t find it on any tourist brochure but it’s a favorite among locals for several reasons. Most people will tell you to visit Ti Mouillage or Raymond or Kabik. But La Saline shouldn’t be left out. It’s perfect do to its proximity to the city center. It can take between five to seven minutes on a motor bike to get there. If you feel like going on an adventure and you can walk; it will probably anywhere between thirty to forty-five minutes.

I first heard about La Saline from one of the locals that I befriended over the last month or so. I wanted to relax somewhere nice but I didn’t want to go far. To be honest when he said La saline I wasn’t sure what it was. My friend didn’t really explain it well or at all. He just said to go there and bring a friend. So that’s what I did. I took a friend with me, grabbed the nearest moto taxi and went on an adventure. Off the beaten path I would call it because we went from paved roads to dirt paths! On the way there the taxi driver asked if I wanted to go to the front or the back. Not knowing the difference he explained that the front is where people relax and the back is where people swim. Not knowing which was the front or the back, I chose where people relaxed.

La saline Beach

When we got to the entrance of La saline, the view was beautiful. On the shoulders of the rocks there were beautiful homes, one had a beautiful deck; the colors on the homes were beautiful. There were kids playing, swimming, eating, listening to great music and enjoying their time. I immediately felt lucky that my friend told me about this place and I was able to share that moment with my friend that came along the ride. We got to an area where most of the moto taxis and some cars were stationed and got off.

La Saline Beach in Jacmel

We walked over to this cliff area where we could see out into the ocean and the area that the locals were swimming. The only thing I wish I had were some swimming drunks and something to drink. We decided to sit down and watch everyone else run out into the ocean. Little crabs were crawling near the cliff and the ocean was crashing into the rocks. The sound of the water crashing was beautiful. For a moment, I fell asleep because it was so relaxing.

Jacmel Haiti La Saline Beach

Being at La Saline was one of the best moments of living in Jacmel. It’s a hidden gem that needs to be publicized more. Whenever I return to Jacmel, I will be sure to bring some swimming trunks a few drinks and head out to La Saline.

 

The truth about negotiating with the locals

I first wrote the story about tips to negotiating when I was traveling in Asia. I still believe in that article but since visiting Haiti my view has evolved. Yes, it’s important to bargain and no matter how hard you bargain, you will always pay more than the locals. I understand all that. There’s an art form and a skill that is necessary to effectively negotiate. Its how life operates and how businesses become successful. I get all of that. For some people it’s a rush, a feeling of success; it’s gratifying, and it’s __________. YOU CAN put any word in their to fill in the gap.

I never stopped to think about the other side of the story, until I met this wonderful person by the name of Maria. For over a month I was working at Hotel Florita in Jacmel, Haiti when Maria came in with an organization called New Waves -AYITI.  Somehow we got into the conversation about the art in Jacmel, the galleries, and the local vendors. She told me about a particular piece of art that she bought at FOSAJ (located behind the hotel). She explained to me how beautiful this piece of art was and how it really connected with her. “I asked what the price of this particular piece of art and she replied, “$100 usd.” She bought it without bargaining.  It wasn’t because she had the money to spend or anything like that. She states, “It’s because in Trinidad, Haitian art is highly respected.” Maria understood the value of the work. It wasn’t a duplicate; it was an original piece of artwork.

Questions to ask yourself next time you decide to use your TOP Negotiating Skills?

What does it mean to you when you negotiate?

Are you physically and financially beating down someone to get a lower price?

Are you discouraging/ devaluing their work, with your prices?

Are you uplifting or discouraging their spirit, hard work, and craft?

Could you pay an artist to paint you original artwork at that price where you are from?

Have you really accomplished something?

Can you go home and brag about how you got the price down?

Have you considered the other person, the artists, the vendor, the store owner who has to pay for their materials for your “souvenir” you bought?

What about their livelihood, their family, and the work that they put in?

Earlier that week, I helped two members of her team negotiate four pieces of art, which led me to think about Maria’s logic on negotiating prices for art, and the value of respecting artist work, and pricing.  It made me think twice negotiating. The conversation plays over and over in my head.  “What does it mean to you to negotiate someone down from the price, to beat them down, just to say you saved $15-$20? Could you have bought that back at home for that price? The price of the paint and other materials alone cost a lot of money. What do you get from discouraging someone and taking the meaning from something that they’ve worked so hard to put together? Could you ask artists back at your home to paint you an original piece? How much would you get charged back home?

I am not saying this to discourage people from negotiating, but for people to have that conversation with themselves and with friends and family and to realize how their actions affect the locals, local economy and the way that the locals view tourists. I know it has made me reflect on all my negations.

Disconnecting from a life of luxury

I’ve traveled to few countries. Some of which are first world and third world. Living in the United States you have access to 24hrs of internet, television, media, electricity, customer service, and social media to complain or express yourself, hot showers, doctors, clean streets, and great schooling. You might not realize how spoiled and privileged you are until you visit a third world country that doesn’t have all these things. Luxury living is not should not be determined by the access you have to 24hrs to exterior gadgets, the items you can afford, or by your education, or clothing that you wear.

This brings me to where I am now. I have become accustomed to the United States lifestyle where I get everything I want instantly for the most part. I was always online, trying to catch up on the latest shows, flipping through social media pages, watching the latest YouTube videos, or watching the news or lack of it. I started to realize that I was changing and so were the people around me. I didn’t like it. I slowly started cutting back on the amount of television I was watching and checking sports channels less frequently. U.S. is a consumer driven society and I was headfirst into it. Even when you try calling your friends, family, etc. they look at you like you’re from another planet because you didn’t send them a text message. Who wants to take the time to talk on the phone anymore right? Well I do.

This summer (2014), I had the opportunity to live in Jacmel, Haiti. What an experience! I stayed in the heart of the cultural side of Jacmel. I had access to art galleries, street vendors, motor bikes, the beach, fresh air. I didn’t have all the luxuries that I was accustomed to in the United States like 24 hours of electricity and other items I listed above. It took a week or so to get adjusted to my new environment. But once I did, it felt great. It made me question my ideas of what it meant to live in luxury and what luxury really meant. The hotel didn’t have televisions in the rooms. Most of it was old school living by U.S. standards. I felt alive. I was connecting to people differently. I had to engage with the locals, had to communicate with girls that I found attractive face to face. It was a different world. Of course a lot of people had the basic cell phones and listened to music and everything like that but the conversations were different. I didn’t have to hear about Justin Bieber or the Kardashians or what happened next on Love and Hip Hop. Those meaningless conversations didn’t exist. Even when I did go on the Internet, I didn’t stay on long. I was to busy learning about my new environment and trying to make friends.

I found it easier to connect with people because they weren’t walking around with smart phones in their hands. You had to use your five senses to listen and focus your energy on the person you are talking to.

My lifestyle was different, when guests came into the hotel; the first thing they wanted to know was “what is the Wi-Fi password?” In those moments I kept thinking “why you don’t check into the hotel first?” But that’s how important the internet has become; enjoying your external environment has become secondary to the virtual environment. The internet can be seen as a connecting agent that brings the world closer together by allowing people to contact others from different parts of the world at any given time. It can also be viewed as a separator, since it brings us further apart from verbal to verbal communication, reading body language, writing skills, and out of touch with nature. I am not blaming or looking down on any of the guests for their behavior, few people stop and think about how disconnected they are to their external environment or even care. I got to the point where I didn’t care if I didn’t have power, internet, hot water, social media, and mindless conversations about reality TV. I became aware of my growth and how I became closer to my environment. I loved being disconnected or connected depending how you looked at it. The western world luxuries that I thought were important became less important and it felt great.

As my summer was coming to an end, I started thinking how do I continue this disconnect/connection when I get back to New York? Is it even possible? I will be the outsider in that environment. Of course some things like clean water, clean streets, and healthcare I will welcome back with open arms, but how do I get my friends to disconnect from social media and connect with me on a personal face to face connection? These are the things I struggle with. I will continue to decrease the amount of time I spend on the net and watching TV. Not having electricity in Haiti is not as a big deal to the locals because they are accustomed to it, but in the states, it’s a big problem if the power goes out for a few hours, days, the end result, people get fired. After this experience, I won’t be bothered as much. I have been reminded and temporarily life in the Haitian culture where electricity is not always working, and the internet is always goes in and out. The beauty of my experience resided within the human to human connection, and the luxury was embedded in the person to person conversations, and external environment.

 

 

 

Tips to Negotiating with Taxi Drivers in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Taxi

When I was in Kuala Lumpur, I quickly realized to move about the city I had to negotiate with the taxi drivers. For those of you who are seasoned travelers you already know that dealing with cab drivers can be a headache. When cab drivers don’t use the meter or don’t have a print out of their prices, it makes it a hassle to get from point A to Point B. Take the time to observe the cab drivers approach to locals and tourists, you can get a feel for how much you should pay to the taxi drivers and how to negotiate. Below are a few ways that I negotiated with the taxi drivers. These tactics will work in most situations.

  • The best way to negotiate is to have a firm price and stick to it
  • Be willing to walk away if negotiations are not going right
  • Negotiate between two cab drivers. Make them driver their price down
  • What ever amount they tell you, claim you do not have enough cash in your wallet
  • Claim to know the area and it doesn’t cost that much to get there
  • Say the last cab driver charged you a few dollars less
  • Ask if they want to make money today? If so, tell them to give you a better price
  • Walk a few blocks and look for a different taxi
  • If you find a taxi driver that you are comfortable with, take their phone number and only use them to show you around
  • Jump in with a group of people going to the same place

It’s been my experience that when it comes to spending money everyone knows your language. When you ask for directions from the cab drivers, they don’t speak your language, but when you are getting ready to negotiate a fare or pay for a ride; suddenly the driver speaks your language perfectly. This isn’t specific to just Kuala Lumpur. Most of the places I visited in Southeast Asia involved negotiating with the cab driver on price. This probably happens to men only but, the drivers try to make side deals by trying to sell you illegal women and other illegal activities if you know what I mean. If you are into that sort of stuff, be careful. If you’re like me, just be polite and say no thank you.

 

A Weekend in Kuala Lumpur

While working in Singapore, I met a lot of people from Malaysia, including my co-workers. One thing you have to know about living in Southeast Asia is that on weekends a lot of people travel to nearby countries. They either take a ferry, taxi, plane, or drive themselves to the destination. There are all sorts of great deals and promotions on websites and through budget airlines.

Kuala Lumpur Bus Station

We spent about two-days and two-nights in Kuala Lumpur. The weekend that we decided to go was the same weekend as the Formula one race in Malaysia. There were tourists, drivers, and showcases all weekend.

Day 1 Friday

We left Singapore Friday evening and arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 11pm. Our hotel was located on the main strip and in walking distance from our bus station. One thing we noticed right away was the traffic. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic from 11pm all the way up to about 2am. We couldn’t figure out why this was happening. After checking into our hotel, we decided to walk around the area for hawker centers. For those of you that don’t know, a Hawker center is a food court. We were able to find a great area with lots of curbside restaurants.

Day 2 Saturday

We wanted to maximize our time in Kuala Lumpur by getting up early enough to explore what the city had to offer. Our first stop was the mall. This place was massive and had some unique stores. Because it was Formula One weekend, they had some of the official cars in the mall for people to take photos with and get inside the vehicle. In the center of the mall was a fashion show with different designers showing off the latest trend. The whole experience was welcoming because as tourists you have the opportunity to interact with some of the hosts and events taking place in the mall.

Kuala Lumpur Grand Prix

After enjoying the festivities at the mall we decided to take a cab to Chinatown for some bargain shopping. In Chinatown, you can find anything you need. These items include sunglasses, scarves, speakers, movies, and anything else you can think of. Unless you are a local, you will need to negotiate with the vendors to get the best deal. For more information on negotiating, please read my article key to negotiating.

Kuala Lumpur Chinatown

 

Visiting the Twin Towers

Some of the main attractions in the area besides the race were the twin towers and the aquarium. In order to go inside the Twin Towers, you need to buy your tickets ahead of time. If not, it will be difficult for you to enter during the weekend. Your best option is to buy the tickets during the week from the ticket booth inside the towers. If you don’t mind just staring at the towers, you can find really good views by walking around or from the mall located next to the tower. At night, the tower is lit up and looks beautiful.

DSC_4648

The Aquarium

Kuala Lumpur has a great aquarium in the heart of the city. If you bring your college or university Identification card, you will receive a student discount. Each country has its own unique animals or imported ones displayed in the aquarium. The wildlife inside the aquarium for the most part was different then some of the one’s that I’ve seen in other aquariums. The place is family friendly and you can take a lot of really great pictures. The best part about the aquarium was the underwater walkway. You can see the fish in a glass floating above you.

Kuala Lumpur Aquarium

Night Life

Around 7pm the scenery changes, the traffic is terrible, bumper-to-bumper traffic throughout most of the night. The night workers are out and about asking anyone and everyone if they would like a dirty massage if you know what I mean. You just have to ignore them and continue on your way. The restaurants and bars will be packed with people looking to relax. Since this was the weekend of the F1 Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur, most of the places were packed. Futbol or soccer to Americans is on every channel. The nightlife in Kuala Lumpur is great. You can find nightclubs or discos, bars with dance floor, lounges to talk, hookah, and anything else you can think of. The night is yours so have fun.

Day 3 Sunday

Sunday we woke up, packed our stuff, got ready, and went to lunch. Most of the places are closed unless it’s one of the major shopping centers. You can find great local restaurants to eat some authentic Malay food. After a few hours of enjoying the city and walking around, we went to our bus station for our journey back to Singapore. Overall, we had a great time in Kuala Lumpur. It offers many of the great attributes of any city. If you plan on passing through Malaysia, I suggest you stay for a few days in Kuala Lumpur.

 

Hostels in Chicago

Wrigley Hostel

I stayed at two unique hostels in Chicago. The first was Wrigley Hostel, which is located on the same block as Wrigley Field. The area was filled with bars and clubs. The Wrigley Hostel is at a perfect location do to its proximity to the red line, bus station, baseball field, and great nightlife. The hostel was clean and filled with lots of international guests. They served breakfast every day. They had a pool table, an outdoor deck, several bathrooms, and 24hr lobby service. I met a lot of great people from all over the world. One in particular was from Australia. He walked from San Francisco to Chicago and plans on making it New York City by New Years Eve. Another person was from Italy and was there to run the Chicago Marathon. It was interesting to hear his viewpoint on the Italian food in Chicago compared to that of his home country.

Wrigley Hostel Wrigley Hostel Wrigley Hostel

Chicago Gateway Hostel

This Hostel won awards for being an extra-large hostel. Out of all the hostels I’ve ever stayed at, this place was the most technologically advanced. They had key card entrances, massive kitchen, a study area, TV room, piano room, bikes to rent, outdoor deck, computers with free printing, and free breakfast. Everything was clean and update. The bathrooms were updated with several showers and toilets. Unlike the other hostel, the location wasn’t ideal. It was about a mile or so from the nearest train station, and the area wasn’t as lively as the first hostel next to Wrigley. They did have lots of restaurants and places to walk. I met another person from Australia who’s been backpacking throughout Europe and plans to move to Canada.

Chicago Gateway Hostel Chicago Gateway Hostel 2013-10-13 17.34.18

 Overall Experience

I stayed at both hostels for one day each and I had a great time at both hostels. The people who I met at the hostels made it a great experience. Both hostels created an environment that made it easy to interact with other guests. I met people who were traveling in groups and individually. We decided to hang out to gather and share our knowledge of the places we’ve visited and hope to travel in our lifetime. I think hostels are a great place for meeting like-minded people and it is a great place to learn about others. When I visit Chicago, I plan on staying at these hostels.

 

My first time in Chicago

My first time in Chicago was a great experience. I went there to run the Chicago Marathon. I didn’t know what to expect of the city. The more I discovered the longer I wanted to stay. Although Chicago is nicknamed the “Windy City” I didn’t feel it. I found the city to be one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever visited. The Chicago is clean, easy to navigate, and filled with great architecture.

Coming out of the airport, what I first noticed was the tourist information centers. They provided maps of the city, places to visit, and tips to enjoying the culture of the city.

guides

Transportation

For those of you flying, taking the train, or bus to Chicago, you will find the city easy to navigate. I flew to Chicago. At the airport they have tourist information centers. These centers contain maps, brochures, and computerized maps of city with places to visit and eat. The subway maps were easy to follow. You can take the blue line from the airport to downtown Chicago and other parts of the city. Depending on how long you are staying in the city, you can purchase a three-day Ventra card. It serves as a debit card that you can refill online once you register and upon return to Chicago you can refill the card. I paid a little over $25 for a few days of service. The card is used for the train or bus system and its unlimited for the days that bought the Ventra card. To use the card, just go to one of the entrances and tap the card on the electronic system to pass through.

link Ventra Tap Map

Food

The food was amazing. Since I was there to run the marathon I mostly ate pasta. Carb loads are great for running a big event. As a tourist, I ate at the places that were well-known by locals and tourists alike. Pizza from Giordano’s was amazing. Earlier that day, I met a few people from the Wrigley Hostel and we decided to tour the city together. At Giordano’s we ordered half sausage and half pepperoni pie. The toppings were stuffed underneath the cheese. The pizza was well worth the wait and lived up to the hype.

Giodano Giodano's Pizza

Other places we ate at were Al’s beef and Volare Ristorante (201 E. Grand Avenue) . We  ran into Volare Ristorante by accident. We were walking from Navy Pier and got hungry. When we arrived at Volare we noticed how great the staff was for a  couple reasons, the staff came by and spoke to us, followed by the manager, food came out right away, and it tasted great. The weather was nice so we sat outside. Vitore has a great choice of Italian food. I suggest you go there either for lunch or dinner. The inside of the restaurant is beautiful.

   Al's Beef  Valore Ristorante

Tourist activities

While staying at the Wrigley Hostel, I met a few people from all over the world. We decided to hangout and explore Chicago together. Since we were a less than a five minutes walk from Wrigley Field, we decided to walk around the stadium to take a few pictures.

Wrigley Field

Millennium Park

Surrounding the park are beautiful architectural buildings. The park is located in the middle of downtown Chicago. You can take the red line or a bus to Millennium park. The place is filled with tourists and locals alike. One of the major attractions is the big bean. It’s fun to play with and is coated in a mirror like substance. You will notice a lot of people taking pictures of themselves or others. Its’ a great place for photography. Another point of interest are ceramic sculptures by Jun Kaneko. Each ceramic figure is uniquely decorated.  The park has a theater, venues for private functions, a mini waterfall, and an open Greek looking monument. The place is ideal for taking pictures, enjoying a nice walk, and to view all the beautiful architectural buildings surround the area.

Millennium Park Millennium ParkBean Millennium Park

SkyDeck

One of the tallest building in the world, the SkyDeck is a major tourist attraction in Chicago. If you plan on going to the SkyDeck, you should arrive early. The line is very long. While waiting online, there are a lot of games and quizzes to keep the you engaged. If you want to avoid the line, they have a five tourist attraction speed pass. Depending on your age, the price ranges, but for they offer student discounts and its about $18 if you are not a child or senior citizen. As you navigate through the building, there are several employees there to guide you. When you get in the elevator and make your way up, the elevator lets you know your elevation and other  tall buildings in the world that you pass in elevation like the Eiffel Tower. When you get to the top of the SkDeck, you get a 360 degree view of the city. They have lots of souvenirs and designated areas to take photographs. Enjoy and be creative with your pictures.

Mill Park QNS_8997sky deck Sky Deck

 Navy Pier

Navy Pier is a great place to walk around and have a good time with family and friends. Fortunately, we were able to see some of the people who served in the Navy walking in their uniforms. Lot’s of people were asking to take pictures with them. I guess it made sense, since we were at the Navy Pier. The Pier is filled with restaurants, park, view of the water, and plenty of activities. We decided to do a self bike tour of nearby area using the Bike and Roll bikes. They fit give people comfortably. One person steers and 4 people pedal. We paid around $40 for an hour. I wasn’t the one peddling, but according to my peddler’s, it was a real workout. If you are not in shape, I suggest you do the half hour ride.

 

Navy Pier Bike and Roll NavyPier Distance Navy Pier

China Town

To get to Chinatown you have to take the red line and then the China town bus. The place was filled with lots of small shops and fruit stands. I decided to buy mangosteen which is a fruit from southeast Asia. If you ever get the chance to try mangosteen, I suggest you do so. It is very delicious. This Chinatown was one of the cleanest and least hectic out of all the Chinatown’s I’ve ever been to. I think it was also one of the smallest. What I did like about the place was the bakeries. Lots of delicious cookies and native Chinese baked goods. Take a chance and try something new.

Chinatown Chicago Chinatown Chicago Chinatown Chicago Chinatown Chicago

Overall experience

I had a great time in Chicago. One of the cleanest cities that I’ve been to. I didn’t explore all of Chicago, but the parts that I did explore, I liked a lot. The people who I met at the hostels were diverse and I learned a lot from them. I was jealous of all the places they traveled to and that makes me want to travel more. My friend Breyon let me stay with her and her roommates and they took me out around the bars in Wrigley Field. Next time I drive I to Chicago, I want to drive and hopefully bring some friends with me.

My Experience With Running The Chicago Marathon

I want to start off by saying, “I did it!”

Chicago Marathon

The event takes place every year in Chicago on the second weekend of October. About 45,000 people compete in the event and an estimated 1.9 million spectators are there to cheer on the participants. The event is planned months in advance and requires a lot of the cities resources to keep the event safe and functional.

What I liked most about the Chicago marathon was the overall planning and communication by the event organizers. Despite the trouble of initially registering to pay for the event, everything else after that was great. The official website provided competitors of the Chicago marathon with a countdown to the event, contact information, map of the course, race information for competitors.

A few weeks before the event, coordinators of the Chicago marathon sent the race packet with pickup information. The coordinators also sent weekly reminders with updates to the event and provided safety measures for when of an emergency situation.

When I arrived at the expo center to pick up my race number, the expo was filled with vendors. The Chicago marathon coordinators had information booths to help out contestants with race information and where in the expo to pick up their race t-shirts and numbers. The expo had shuttle buses to take participants of the to metro stations. The expo was filled with lots of activities such as a running shoes showcases, cars, food, and expert advice on running.Chicago Marathon

The day of the event was smooth and well-coordinated. There were several security checkpoints, photographers, places to warm up and stretch, and areas to check in your clothes. The race was broken down into two waves. The first wave went off at 7:30am and the second wave went off at 8:00am. I was part of the second wave. One thing I didn’t like was the clock throughout each mileage. They displayed the times from the first wave and it was difficult to tell your pace as a second wave runner.

Chicago Marathon

The event was filled with spectators cheering you at each mile; parts of the race were sectioned off so spectators couldn’t cross the street while you were racing. About thirty minutes within the race the first and second wave runners cross paths and that made it difficult to navigate through the runners. Every time I felt I needed a surge of energy the crowd was always there to lift me up. The energy from the spectators of the Chicago marathon was amazing. The music throughout each zone was uplifting and was very much appreciated. Some posters were definitely unique and some of the most creative pieces of work that I’ve ever seen.

Although I didn’t reach my goal of breaking three hours, I felt accomplished. My first experience with the Chicago marathon was a success. The people of Chicago were great. The metal and the post race events added to the experience. I plan on running it again in the near future.

Chicago Marathon

My Three favorite places in New York City

New York City continues to be the most visited city in the United States. Last year alone, they had Fifty Million visitors and they city has a goal to get that number to Fifty Million visitors. With that being said, it’s hard for tourists to know where to visit. I’ve always found that Pennsylvania station (Penn Station), Union Square, and Times Square would be a great place to start. Each place is unique and adds value to the Manhattan.

Pennsylvania Station (Penn Station)

I find Penn Station to be one of the most fascination places in all of Manhattan. It’s a major transportation site with Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and most of the major subway lines. The place is a representation of the city. Penn station is filled with restaurants, bars, deli’s, newsstands, coffee shops, flower shops, police station, and my personal favorite, the entertainers. If you walk towards, the A,B,C subway line heading towards downtown, the corner is usually filled with an entertainer. Someone is either singing, playing an instrument, or typing poetry for a small fee. My other favorite activity is people watching. If you take your time to watch it all unfold, someone is always in a rush to get to the train or on a subway. I am surprised more people don’t get hurt. Even senior citizens and kids join what I call the “Mad dash.” If you are not in a rush, please get out-of-the-way of the mad dashers.

Long Island Railroad

Union Square

I love people watching at Union Square. When you arrive at Union Square, make sure you walk the entire square. Closer to University Place is the Gandhi Statue. The statue is in the same place of the farmers market. You will notice people selling fresh fruits, vegetables, books, hot dogs, and tarot card readings. Unique Square is unique and vibrant. Overlooking the square are banks, restaurants, cafe’s, and shopping centers. What I love to watch is what I deem the Hippie people, they play beautiful music and they are always in a great mood. You can join them in the fun of dancing and singing. People of all ages like to play chess in the square. It’s a great game of strategy and these people play the game well. You will notice people doing tricks with hula-hoops; they sometimes have structured programs for kids, unique posters, and all sorts of activities.

Times Square

Out of the places I’ve been to in New York City, Times Square is my favorite. I try to visit Times Square every time I come to the city. I love the bright lights, the European style seating, the people wearing super hero and Disney character costumes that will pose with you for money. I love watching the people walk through the area for the first time and am just amazed by what they see. In a few seconds you could hear more than ten languages. The place is beautiful. You have street vendors trying to sell merchandise, the artists who paint, or draw, the break dancers, the people with posters asking for money, all add to the character and uniqueness of Times Square. I’ve traveled to many places and no other destination has been able to capture the essence of Times Square.

times square

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my three favorite places in New York City. Find the beauty wherever you go. Let me know of your favorite places in

Building a successful Hotel

I was fortunate enough to attend the New York University’s 20th annual Stephen W. Brener Distinguished Lecture Series in Hospitality Management. The topics to be discussed by our panelists were “Building of a Boutique/Lifestyle Hotel Chain and the challenges and opportunities.” Our panelists were Alex Calderwood who is the founder of Ace Hotel Group, Sean MacPherson who is a New York based hotelier and restaurateur, Ed Scheetz who is the Chief Executive Officer of King & Grove.

2013-10-30 13.49.23

 

Boutique hotels were defined as any hotel that’s not a chained hotel. There’s no real definition and the name no longer has any real meaning.

Topics discussed: Brand vs. Non Brand Hotels

Challenges of opening a business domestic and abroad

When a company is a brand its easier for investors and developers to conceptualize your vision of a new hotel

When it’s a non-brand its difficult to get people to understand and conceptualize your vision

When opening a hotel domestically or abroad it’s important to capture the culture of the location of your hotel.

Quote of the night by Sean Macpherson “Wherever I go, I want to believe I’m in that place.” That quote to me embodies the difference between brands and non-brands. A brand is the same, follows the same model, the Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton, are the same wherever you go. When people stay at one of those brands, they know what to expect because the experience is the same everywhere. For non-brands, they have to integrate themselves with the culture of the destination. When you stay at a non-brand, you have to believe you are part of the culture of your destination. For example, if you are staying in a non-brand hotel in New York City, the unique style of the non-brand has to make you feel that you are part of the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Hiring the right people

Alex Calderwood attributed his success of his hotels to the people that he hires. They embody his vision and the organization works well within themselves. He gave the example of opening a hotel in London where he hired a manager with less experience but shared the passion and vision he was looking for. This manager is doing a great job of making the hotel successful. Even though the operations are oversees, Alex is comfortable with the way its being managed. He went out to say that the people he hires might have a difference on objectives to execute but the objectives are all great ideas that fall within his vision. He gave another example of going to a place that is well built to the gold standard but the people who work there make it unpleasant, but then you go to a place that is not gold standard but the people are amazing and the employees working there make it a great experience. This example drives home his point of hiring the right people.

What I learned

What I learned or took away from our three panelists is that each of them are driven and are highly successful. Each panelist had their own unique style that they try to input into their hotels. I learned on a high level of thinking the difference between a brand and non-brand from people who are pioneers in the industry of hospitality. The panelists showed that they had a real passion for what they do which contributes to their success. They know the current and future trends of the industry hospitality industry and they use that to continue to create businesses based on those trends.

 

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