Beach Day!

When I was younger, I wanted to go on vacations to places that were historically, culturally, or naturally interesting — you know, places like Paris, Berlin, Yellowstone, etc. Now that I’m over forty and have a family, though, I just want to relax. And especially now that I live in New England, in the winter I just want to go someplace warm.

To that end, we just spend an idyllic week in Miami Beach at the Loews Hotel. I was last at the Loews in September 2000 for one of Ariba’s major user conferences, when we were still the hottest thing on the Internet. I think we had something like 3,500 people at that conference (not all in the Loews, of course). I don’t recall anything about South Beach from that trip, and I suspect I spent all of my time inside or walking to and from the convention center.

This time, though, we sat by the pool in the sun, or lay on the beach in the sun, and ordered overpriced but passable hotel food from the roving waiters. My daughter floated in the pool, or looked for shells, or built sand castles, or pretended to be a mouse in the back of the cabana, or listened to us reading Magic Tree House and Bean and Ivy stories, or did all the other things four-year-old girls do. I had a caipirinha on the beach, like I did in Rio de Janeiro on the last day of a business trip three years ago. I went the whole week without caffeine and four days without email. (I needed email to reschedule an exam when my flight back was canceled due to a huge snowstorm in Connecticut.) I give it three stars.

Living It Up

After taking hundreds of business trips, I have a pretty clear idea of what matters to me in a hotel. Most people would probably say cleanliness is the most important thing, but I disagree. Number one is a comfortable bed. Number two is the heating/cooling system: it has to be able to keep the room at the right temperature, without making noises that will wake me up. If I can have those two things, I can sleep well, which is pretty much all that matters. (Number three, if there is a number three, is a hot, reasonably high-pressure shower. I can live without just about anything else.)

This past week we went to New York to visit my father (and my sister’s family, who were also visiting), and we decided to stay in a hotel. We booked a room in the Hampton Inn (in Elmsford), which is generally my favorite chain (cheap, everything free, newly remodeled, predictable). But we had a terrible time sleeping, because the heater didn’t have a constant fan setting, meaning that it kicked on periodically, and it also blew out extremely hot, dry air when it was on. So we checked out after the first night and switched to . . . the Ritz-Carlton (in White Plains).

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