Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes
"Travelers411" Radio Show - October 23, 2010 - Show Archive

Let The Purple Passport Guide You Around London, Los Angeles, Beijing, Paris, and New York City; From London to Dublin On BritRail and Irish Ferries; Wow, Whimsy, and Fun From MTM Luxury Lodging Properties in Seattle, Washington Wine Country, Boston, and Napa Valley.

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Hour 1

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Emily Chang, Co-Founder, The Purple Passport.
www.thepurplepassport.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the “Travelers411” Radio Show visit London and Los Angeles with Emily Chang, Co-Founder of The Purple Passport. The Purple Passports are electronic city guides with recommendations for hotels, restaurants, lounges, shopping, and spas, plus helpful hints on getting around the city. Stephanie thinks guides like these are big time-savers for travelers. “You spend a lot of time trying to figure out the best places to shop, eat, and stay,” she says. “You can search online, but you’ll be inundated with information, and you never really know the quality of the results.”

Bejing China performance.
Bejing China performance.

The Purple Passport focuses on young professionals in the 28-40 age group. “We actually did a focus group of people within that demographic,” Emily explains. “But of course we have people outside that demographic who contributed recommendations, too.” Within each category (hotels, restaurants, etc.), the guides have different suggestions for different moods. “One night, you may want to do something trendy with your girlfriend, so we have a ‘current’ category,” continues Emily. “If you’re looking for a big splurge, we have a ‘formal’ category. We also have ‘local gems,’ which are ordinary neighborhood restaurants that are popular.”

Times Square in New York City, New York.
Times Square in New York City, New York.

As of October 2010, there are two Purple Passport guides: London and Los Angeles. Stephanie points out that while it’s easy to get around London on the Tube, travelers may have trouble in Los Angeles without a car. To help visitors make a plan of attack, each review in the guides has a section with nearby attractions. “Each review will show you hotels, bars, or lounges within a certain distance,” Emily says. “For example, if you’re shopping at one place, we might suggest that you grab lunch across the street. The guides have it all mapped out so you can see where everything is and plan accordingly.”

Millenium Wheel in London, England, UK.
Millenium Wheel in London, England, UK.

Guides for Beijing, Paris, and New York City are in the works. From the current London guide, Emily’s picks are Saint John’s Bread and Wine, Sardo, and The Rookery. “Saint John’s Bread and Wine is a restaurant that goes into all the offal,” she says. “You can eat pig snout, tongue, and every other part of the animal. It might not be the place to go if you’re vegetarian. Sardo, in the West End, is a Sardinian restaurant with the best olives I’ve ever tasted. The spaghetti with mullet roe, supposedly a signature Sardinian dish, was fantastic. And The Rookery is a cute hotel on the east side. It has 20 rooms, max, and each one used to be its own little apartment. It’s all been redone so everything works, but it has a lot of charm and character, like little steps down to the bathrooms.

Related Photo Galleries:
The Purple Passport Travelers411 Photo Album

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2244

For more information visit www.thepurplepassport.com


Travel Tips:

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams recently traveled from the UK to Ireland on Irish Ferries. If travelers are renting a car, the ferry is a good way to get from the UK to Ireland without paying baggage fees. Irish Ferries charges one fare for the car and driver, plus additional (smaller) fares for passengers. Stephanie reminds travelers to let rental companies know they'll be taking the car to Ireland so they can complete the proper paperwork.

Tiffany decor taxi cab in London, England, UK.
Tiffany decor taxi cab in London, England, UK.

On her trip, Stephanie took the BritRail train from London's Euston Station to Holyhead, Wales, the departure point for Irish Ferries. The trains are scheduled so that they match with the ferry departure four times each day. There are two ferries that depart from Holyhead: the Jonathan Swift, which crosses to Dublin in under 2 hours, and the Ulysses, which holds 1,000 cars and crosses to Rosslare, just south of Dublin, in 3.5 hours.

Image Placeholder
Irish Ferries ULYSSES & SWIFT cross the Irish Sea between Dublin, Ireland and Holyhead, Great Britain daily.

On board Irish Ferries, there are two levels of service. The first gives you access to snack bars and a movie theater with semicircular stadium seating. The second is a VIP club service and costs around 18 euros ($25) per person, per trip. VIP service gives you access to a higher deck with individual seats arranged around tables and complimentary food. "There are soft drinks, coffee, tea, and sandwiches set up, so you just help yourself," Stephanie says. "They even have things like smoked salmon, so you can munch your way across the Irish Sea."

Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, near Cork.
Blarney Castle in Blarney, Ireland, near Cork.

Travelers going from London's Euston Station to Holyhead must change trains in Chester, England. Stephanie describes Chester as a "very interesting city" and suggests stopping overnight to explore it further. "Chester is the city in all the tour books that has a lot of white stucco buildings with dark brown timbers," she explains. "Happily, they have not been torn down; there are UK laws to protect them. So when they wanted to build a mall, they kept the exterior of the whole street and built the mall inside. It's kind of a shock to step through the doorways and see the chrome and glass of a modern mall on the inside!"

Donegal Ireland, the Agnry Sea.
Donegal Ireland, the Agnry Sea.

Chester also has a famous clock tower and plenty of history related to Oliver Cromwell. "This was the city in which the concept of divine rule came to an end because they executed Charles I there," Stephanie explains. "Before that, people thought the king ruled by divine right, so you couldn't possibly assassinate him. When the sun came up the next day, it kind of broke that legend." Visitors interested in the lives of the royals can also stop at Conway Castle in Wales. "It's the most remarkable castle you'll see in all of the UK," Stephanie continues. "It's absolutely amazing, right out of a storybook."

Downtown Dublin Ireland on Grafton Street. Group of KISS fans.
Downtown Dublin Ireland on Grafton Street. Group of KISS fans.

Stephanie even enjoyed the train ride to Chester and Holyhead. She rode first class on a BritRail Virgin train and describes it as having "very comfortable velvety seats" in groups of two, facing a table. Depending on the time of day, passengers are served a full meal. "It's very charming and you're well cared for," she says. "You get to see a lot of the countryside, have a meal, and snap some fabulous pictures. One fun thing along the way is that when you get to Wales, the station names are hysterical. You can hardly pronounce them, or even read them, unless you're Welsh."


Fun Facts:

In the U.S., the spot for storing luggage in a car is called the trunk. In the UK, it's called the boot. In the U.S., we lift the hood to get to the engine; in the UK, you'd lift the bonnet.


Guests Include:

Emily Chang, Co-Founder, ThePurplePassport.com.
www.thepurplepassport.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

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James Simkins, CEO, MTM Luxury Lodging, Kirkland, Washington, USA.  www.mtmluxurylodging.com

Click here to listen to James Simkins, CEO of MTM Luxury Lodging interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.
Listen to this segment, commercial-free featuring: James Simkins from MTM Luxury Lodging.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show learn where to stay in comfort with James Simkins, CEO of MTM Luxury Lodging in Kirkland, Washington. MTM has seven properties in Washington, Massachusetts, and California. James is originally from South Africa and lived in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Sydney before coming to Seattle. Before coming to MTM, he worked at Westin Hotels with Jim Treadway, who founded MTM in 1996. James has been at MTM since 2000.

Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA.
Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA.

Stephanie thinks that the collective experience of James and Jim bodes well for MTM. "When you have people who have spent their lives either traveling in significant ways or in the travel industry, you know from the outset that they know what the sophisticated traveler is looking for," she says. James admits that although there have been challenging times, running MTM has been "a lot of fun."

The Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
The Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

The MTM properties in the Pacific Northwest are the Woodmark Hotel Yacht Club and Spa, Willows Lodge, Sorrento Hotel, Cave B Inn at SageCliffe, Hotel 1000, and Bellevue Park Hotel, which is due to open in 2012. Other hotels include the Liberty Hotel in Boston, which was once the Charles St. Jail, and Bardessono in California's Napa Valley. Bardessono is the first luxury LEED platinum hotel in the U.S. The properties are typically independently-owned, either by small, privately-held LLCs or wealthy individuals.

BOKA Kitchen and Bar at Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA.
BOKA Kitchen and Bar at Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA.

Although Jim Treadway spent part of his career at Westin, a large, well-structured organization, consulting on a small hotel in Seattle inspired him to create MTM. "Jim looked at that hotel and realized there was a huge need in the marketplace for putting structure into smaller hotels," James explains. "This was in the early days of the boutique hotel industry, so this got him thinking about how that niche could be filled. His vision was to create a memorable experience and environment that would not be found in larger hotels or chains."

Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club and Spa on Lake Washington, Kirkland, Washington, USA.
Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club and Spa on Lake Washington, Kirkland, Washington, USA.

MTM started with the Sorrento, then added the Woodmark. Meanwhile, James was working to open the Westin Sydney in time for the 2000 Summer Olympics. "Once I had done that, I left Westin and joined Jim in Seattle," James continues. "Today, a lot of our systems and management techniques are 'behind the curtain.' We have a sophisticated central reservation system and integrated property management environments. This allows each hotel to represent itself more accurately. We're a group of unique hotels that don't pretend to be anything like each other, even though they're part of a larger group."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2262

Travelers411 Community Forums - Related threads:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2187
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2153
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2221
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2176

For more information visit www.mtmluxurylodging.com


Link to this segment

Marc Pujalet, President, MTM Luxury Lodging, Kirkland, Washington, USA. www.mtmluxurylodging.com

Click here to listen to Marc Pujalet, President of MTM Luxury Lodging interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.
Listen to this segment, commercial-free featuring: Marc Pujalet from MTM Luxury Lodging.

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show learn more about unique boutique hotels with Marc Pujalet, President of MTM Luxury Lodging in Kirkland, Washington. Like Jim Treadway, founder of MTM, and James Simkins, current MTM CEO, Marc spent part of his hotel career at Westin. Marc joined MTM six years ago and describes it as a fun place to be. "The attraction of MTM is that it's a collection of boutique hotels," he explains. "They're all similar in purpose but unique in representation. It's a lot more fun than working in hotels that are more of a commodity."

The Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
The Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

MTM currently has seven hotels, with one more in the works for 2012. "One thing we've learned is that sophisticated travelers want to gather experiences," Marc says. "A boring hotel doesn't add to their lifestyle; they can't talk about it with friends when they get home. So we've crafted each hotel to be the best on the market. We want each guest to experience what we call WWF: wow, whimsy, and fun. For example, we do research on our guests before they arrive so we can customize your stay to suit the reason for your visit."

Cave B Winery tasting room. Located in the Columbia River Valley in Quincy, Washington, USA.
Cave B Winery tasting room. Located in the Columbia River Valley in Quincy, Washington, USA.

Although MTM started in the Northwest, the company also counts Boston's Liberty Hotel among its members. "The Liberty is a $150 million renovation of the infamous Charles Street Jail," says Marc. "It's a landmark that's going to pay off for many, many years. We kept much of the 'jailness' of the building, so the exercise court is the lobby, there are catwalks, and the former drunk tank is now the CLINK. restaurant. Some of the rooms still have the original barred windows. Staying there is a fantastic experience; there's nothing like it in the world."

Willows Lodge wine tasting.
Willows Lodge wine tasting.

MTM also has the Bardessono in Yountville, Napa Valley, California. It has 62 rooms, opened in February 2009, and is named for one of the families who founded the vineyard on which the hotel now stands. Bardessono is the only luxury LEED platinum hotel in the U.S., according to Marc. "The property has 73 300-foot geothermal wells, almost 1,000 solar panels on the roof, and supplies 80% of its own energy," Marc says, adding that "it was built from 90% recycled materials and cost only $60 million."

Woody, the labradoodle at the Woodmark Hotel.
Woody, the labradoodle at the Woodmark Hotel.

There are five MTM hotels in Washington state: Hotel 1000, the Woodmark, Willows Lodge, Cave B Inn at SageCliffe, and the Sorrento Hotel. "Hotel 1000 is the most successful hotel in Seattle and was ranked by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the world's best hotels and #1 in Washington," Marc says. "It was built with an eye towards WWF. For example, we capture guest preferences for lighting, temperature, movies, and reset their rooms on return visits. We also have bathtubs that fill from the ceiling; we take the air out of the water so it's a dramatic column of water. It's a small touch, but something that guests remember."

Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA.
Hotel 1000 in downtown Seattle, Washington, USA.

"The Woodmark in Kirkland is a 100-room property on Lake Washington," Marc continues. "It's like living in a multi-million-dollar lakeside mansion. You can even cruise the lake in a 28-foot mahogany Chris-Craft yacht, which was built in 1957 and restored in 2008, or take out one of our kayaks. Twenty minutes beyond The Woodmark is Willows Lodge, on the Sammamish River in the heart of wine country. It was named the number 12 resort by Travel & Leisure and made number 45 on the Conde Nast List of top mainland U.S. resorts."

Grounds and view at Sagecliffe, home of Cave B Winery.
Grounds and view at Sagecliffe, home of Cave B Winery.

"Cave B Inn is in Quincy, about two hours from Seattle," Marc adds. "It has 55 rooms and is perched on a 90-foot cliff overlooking the Columbia River. It's part of the SageCliffe resort, which has an award-winning winery, a destination spa, and a great restaurant. Finally, we have the Sorrento Hotel, which was built in 1909 and has 76 rooms. It's in First Hill, overlooks downtown Seattle, and was the city's first luxury boutique hotel."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2262

Travelers411 Community Forums - Related threads:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2187
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2153
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2221
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2176

For more information visit www.mtmluxurylodging.com


Fun Facts:

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and ranks buildings for progressive design and operation.


Guests Include:

James Simkins, CEO, MTM Luxury Lodging, Kirkland, Washington, USA.  www.mtmluxurylodging.com

Marc Pujalet, President, MTM Luxury Lodging, Kirkland, Washington, USA. www.mtmluxurylodging.com

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