WHERE TO GO: Grand Cayman Island, Cayman Islands
Room rate = $299-$350/night (for May through mid-December only). Rates get pretty exorbitant (over $600/night) during peak season.
If I could live at the Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman for the rest of my life, I’d be a pretty happy person. This trip was my first experience with the Ritz-Carlton brand and it definitely exceeded all my lofty expectations. The premises were pretty spectacular. The rooms were nice, the restaurants were delicious, the beach was extremely close and easy to get to and the service was exactly what you’d expect at a Ritz-Carlton. I really enjoyed the pool and beach areas. There were plenty of chairs, towels and umbrellas available. There was a bar and servers close by if you wanted a sandwich or a drink. On top of all that, the weather was absolutely perfect.
The service was a bit overkill only in one instance. We had a very kind porter show us to our room but he spent about 30 minutes with us explaining how the AC/fridge/internet/lights/safe worked and given that we are grown adults with a brain we probably could have figured that all out ourselves. We could not find a polite way to ask him to leave and therefore humored him by pretending to listen while making faces at each other whenever he glanced away.
I have a friend who is a Virtuoso Certified travel consultant. What this means is that since he booked this trip for us, he was able to get us some sort of elite status at the Ritz-Carlton. What we got from this was free breakfast (for all 5 days), a room upgrade, a $100 resort credit, a free bottle of wine in the room and access to the club lounge which served food, snacks and drinks all day long, all for the same price that we would have paid for a room there on our own. I highly recommend finding a way to get this upgrade even if you have to pay a travel agent fee as it will save you a lot of money. We estimated that we saved over $1,000 over the course of our 5-day stay. My friend who booked this trip for us is Konstantinos Bastas and his company is Bastas Travel Consultants. You can find information about Konstantinos and his company here: http://www.travelsociety.com/professionals/bastastravel/
HOW TO GET THERE
There are reasonably-priced direct flights on Cayman Air (but only on certain days of the week, Thursday and Sunday departures from NY and Wednesday and Sunday returns). If those days don’t work for you, there are 1-stop itineraries available on American Airlines and US Airways. Direct flights are only 3.5 hours and the Ritz-Carlton is only 10 or 15 minutes away from the airport. Super easy!
WHERE TO EAT
We actually ate at all the restaurants at the resort over the course of our 5-day stay. The absolute best parts of the trip were our daily breakfasts at 7, the restaurant by the pool area that offers an extensive breakfast buffet. I’m talking huge, made-to-order omelettes, fresh squeezed exotic juices, frittatas, pancakes, bread, jams, yogurts, fresh fruit and French toast. We became BFF with the omelette chef who would create masterpieces of eggs, sausage, chicken, vegetables and spices every morning. These delicious meals overlooking the ocean were really memorable for me.
For dinner, I most enjoyed 7 Prime Cuts and Sunsets, which is actually the same restaurant as the breakfast buffet. We started with the lobster mac & cheese and a salad. I had the filet mignon, which was tender and delicious and my boyfriend really enjoyed his Rib Eye (which was enormous). There was also an interesting selection of atypical steak sauces, including a pineapple and papaya salsa, which I would recommend. Our sides (gratin potatoes and brussel sprouts) were also great.
We also ate at Blue, the highly celebrated 5-star restaurant at the resort by celebrity chef, Eric Ripert. We opted for the 5-course tasting menu for ~$120 per person. While it a pretty spectacular dining experience, it ended up being a $400+ dinner which left us feeling pretty disappointed in the end. I would also add that we did not even order a bottle of wine, just 2 glasses. I just don’t think my palate is refined enough for $400 meals but I’m sure there are many people who would appreciate the experience a lot more than I did.
Periwinkle and Bar Jack are the more casual restaurants and I would recommend them for lunch meals or a light dinner. You can find a list of all the restaurants in the resort here: http://bit.ly/oPpuxl.
WHAT TO DO
Silver Rain, La Prairie Spa
There is an extremely high-end luxury spa in the hotel run by La Prairie. I work in the prestige beauty industry and trust me, La Prairie products are the crème de la crème of skin care. If you’re not scared off by high-end spa prices, I would recommend a facial or a massage at Silver Rain during your stay.
You can find a spa menu here: http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/GrandCayman/Spa/Menu.htm
There are plenty of other activity options at the resort including snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, golf and tennis. There is also a full fitness center for those who don’t want to miss a workout.
Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com with any questions. Safe travels!
WHERE TO GO: The Catskills
So I was expecting a weekend away in the Catskills to be just like in Dirty Dancing, you know, practicing lifts under the waterfalls. It wasn’t quite so full of romance and scandal but it was really, really enjoyable and relaxing. What you can expect is to feel like a real person again – driving in a car, walking through grass and not answering your blackberry. There are breath-taking landscapes everywhere you turn and an environment that is not “scene-y” at all. No waits for tables, no over-priced fares.
WHERE TO STAY: The Emerson Inn & Spa
WHAT TO PUT IN THE GPS:
Emerson Resort & Spa
5340 Route 28
Mount Tremper, NY 12457
(Our GPS actually did not accept this address, we had to make up a street number close to 5340 for it to accept it but we still got there just fine). We discovered (the hard way) that the best route was via the Lincoln Tunnel. Don’t let the Nav lady take you out of the city via the FDR.
Royal Suite = $199/night
The Royal Suite was actually pretty spectacular. There was a beautiful, comfortable king sized bed, a small balcony with chairs, a Jacuzzi tub with jets, full shower with those showerheads that shower you from all angles and a few plush couches and lounge chairs. It was really spacious and well decorated in a modern aesthetic that also still felt traditional and reminded you that you are in the mountains. (We actually also spent one night in the Imperial Suite which was a lavish, 2-bathroom duplex with 14-foot ceilings but I would not recommend it as it was more than double the price at $439/night).
MORE ABOUT THE HOTEL
There is a full service spa at the Emerson that is definitely worth checking out, especially if your primary goal is relaxation. The spa menu is here: http://www.emersonresort.com/the-spa/.
There is a fairly nice pool at the hotel, nothing too fancy, but great if you want to cool off or just get a couple hours of sun. The hotel provides towels.
WARNING: There was no cell phone service at all in the hotel. We had service while in town but zero connection. There was free WiFi though, so we felt sufficiently connected via iPads/laptops.
WHAT TO DO
When I take trips like this outside the city, I love hiking. And the reason I really love hiking because hiking is really just walking at a slight incline. And you get to breathe in fresh air that we don’t really have in NYC. And you’re getting a little bit of exercise, so it’s a win-win. The Emerson had a list of hiking trails, ranging from Easy to Difficult. We opted for one of the easy ones – the Ashokan Reservoir (which was actually completely horizontal, no incline). I definitely recommend it. Check out a quick shot of it below. The reservoir was pristine and beautiful. This is apparently one of the reservoirs that supplies drinking water to NYC. I definitely want to try one of more difficult hikes next time I head up to the Emerson.
WHERE TO EAT
Brunch – Sweet Sue’s in Phoenicia
Phoenicia is only about 5 minutes up the road from the Emerson. Pancakes are their specialty. We also loved their fresh fruit with yogurt and homemade granola. We actually went twice in one weekend because we loved it so much. High marks on this one.
What to put in the GPS:
49 Main Street
Phoenicia, NY 12464
Dinner – Although I’m sure there are plenty of good options, we actually did not love either dinner spot we tried so you’re kind of on your own here. We did eat at the Phoenix restaurant in the Emerson, which was pretty good but nothing spectacular. We had the pan-seared tuna salad (not great) truffle parmesan fries (amazing of course), the crab cake sandwich (pretty good) and a burger (only so-so).
Stuff that we saw or read about but didn’t do:
I hope that helps you leave NYC! You will come back loving your city just a little bit more.
I am a true New Yorker and I love our city but sometimes I just need to leave it to come back loving it a little bit more.
I started writing Leave NYC after my boyfriend and I set out to take a few relaxing weekend trips out of the city in the summertime. We both work long hours at our jobs and sometimes just feel like we need to get out of the city. After spending countless hours searching for places to stay at destinations like Newport, the Hamptons, the Poconos, Lake George, Lake Placid, Point Pleasant and Cape Cod, I became extremely frustrated. I realized that while there were plenty of websites out there to search through hundreds of hotels and B&Bs in each location we considered, there were just too many options and too much information. I wanted to hear about a real trip with real recommendations from someone with good taste who was willing to spend a little bit of money. I really just wanted someone to tell me where to go + where to stay.
Leave NYC is my attempt at helping others find great, easy travel options. It’s for those who don’t want to spend too much time planning but just want to Leave NYC and want to stay somewhere nice!