When Travel Agent reached out to the rising stars who would eventually comprise our 2017 class of 30Under30 advisors (profiled in TA’s August 21 issue), we asked them for recommendations about two vacation essentials: quality accommodations and good food. In the case of the former, we wanted to know about positive experiences during their recent hotel and resort stays. For the latter, we solicited suggestions for off-the-beaten-path restaurants, especially ones popular with local residents, that would appeal to their own generation as well as experiential travelers in general. Following is a generous sampling of their responses.
Hotels Across the Atlantic
For your clients seeking a European getaway, Jennifer Taylor of Brownell Travel would suggest Hotel 41 in London. It’s perched atop 41 Buckingham Palace Road, overlooking Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace. The hotel has a comfortable atmosphere, particularly the lounge, which serves as the center of the hotel. Guests have access to food in the fridge at all times. The best part, however, according to Taylor, is the service. “As you chat with the greeter, you don’t realize they are learning everything they can about you” — from why you’re in town to whether you’re tired or hungry, etc. so they can better cater to you.
The Conservatory Suite is a highlight of London’s Hotel 41, a favorite of Brownell Travel’s Jennifer Taylor.
For a hidden hotel gem in Switzerland, Kim Harper of The Auto Club Group (AAA), in Lincoln, NE, believes Millennials will love the Renaissance Lucerne Hotel, just a few blocks from the train station in the newer part of Lucerne. “It was an easy walk to Chapel Bridge and to the old market where a coworker and I spent a lot of our time when we weren’t out seeing the countryside,” explains Harper. “Each morning we ordered a ‘to-go’ breakfast from room service, which was reasonably priced, and shared it. It was an added benefit to make our mornings easier since we were busy and also getting over jet lag.”
Morocco is one of the hottest emerging destinations amongst Millennials in 2017 and heading into 2018. For an outstanding luxury resort there, Elise Angelopulos of Tzell Travel Group says go no further than the Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay, east of Tangier. Each private villa has a plunge pool and spacious bathroom with a soaking tub. Banyan Tree is within 30 minutes drive to many largely undiscovered spots — from a small fishing village where guests can snorkel to a UNESCO World Heritage city, says Angelopulos.
The Accomplished Traveler’s Blaine Horton prefers the Royal Mansour Marrakech. “One of only two luxury hotels located within the Medina, this opulent property has spared no attention to detail. Every hand-painted tile is perfectly laid to create a work of art,” he notes.
Horton also enjoyed his stay at Six Senses Con Dao, on a remote island south of Saigon. “The design embodies the stunning, yet rustic surroundings. The view of Elephant Mountain looks beautiful from your private pool,” he says.
Olivia Patterson of Lake Shore Travel had a more over-the-top experience in India. “I could spend hours walking through the Sujan Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur,” she recalls. “The vivid colors and attention to detail is beyond anything I have ever seen, making this a stunning and contemporary masterpiece in hotel design. The dining room is 51 shades of pink!”
Caribbean and Mexico Getaways
For some of the best, high-end, Caribbean all-inclusive resorts with all the bells and whistles Millennial clients have come to expect, Kristen DeAngelo of Dream Excapes says clients have an array of high-end options to choose from in Antigua. And although she admits it was a challenge to pick her three favorites, DeAngelo says Blue Waters Resort and Spa is a must for its food and great service, Hermitage Bay’s top-selling point is that it provides the most gorgeous views she’s ever seen from the hotel’s Hillside Suites, and Carlisle Bay is a great option for clients who appreciate a stunning beach.
For spa-lovers, Selena Bohinski of First Class Travel suggests the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica, as well as the Park Hyatt New York.
Kelly Smith of SmartFlyer “fell in love with [the] sophisticated charm” and second-to-none service of Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle De France on St. Barths.
As for Kelly Smith of SmartFlyer, she “fell in love with [the] sophisticated charm” of Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle De France on St. Barts. “The vibe is relaxed-yet-elegant, and the service second-to-none,” Smith says. The concierge will make planning a trip here easy, as they are on hand to customize every minute of their guests’ vacation, including picnic lunches or sunset cruises.
A Signature Travel Network Learning Immersion Cruise that Alyssa Elmore of Legacy Travel took included a site inspection of One&Only Ocean Club in Nassau, which “changed my entire perspective of the Bahamas.” She was especially impressed with the resort’s multi-bedroom beachfront villas and “the most beautiful gardens,” adding that, “I couldn’t help but daydream about the possibility of hosting my own wedding here. This resort is known for doing opulent private weddings, even once hosting an Indiana Jones-themed wedding where the couple flew in on a private helicopter.”
For Millennials planning a honeymoon, Kristen Elfritz of Humble Travel Service recommends Belmond La Samanna on the French-Caribbean island of St. Martin. This IGLTA-certified hotel is arguably the best hotel in general on the island. The Belmond company as a whole is very LGBT-welcoming and is actively marketing toward this clientele.
“The main building and guest accommodations overlook the ocean from a cliff, which brings a Mediterranean feel to the property without the long flight,” says Elfritz. “The Belmond La Samanna would be ideal for honeymooners who want beachfront luxury.”
Also for romance travelers, Travel Leaders’ Anna Tallman and her husband visited El Dorado Maroma in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which is well suited for honeymooners / anniversary clients. “The beach is unbelievable,” she tells Travel Agent. The couple even went parasailing and deep-sea fishing — their catch was brought back to the hotel and prepared for them.
Down the coast a bit is Grand Velas Riviera Maya, which Young Kim of Frosch Private Client Services says made her see all-inclusive resorts in a new light. She had always felt that “all-inclusives tend to cater to the masses, discourage guests from enjoying the local culture, and generally trade in quality for more bang for your buck.” But at Grand Velas she found that the rooms reflected the resort’s Mexican heritage. “It didn’t look like a Tuscan villa or an apartment block in Miami,” she says. “Most importantly, the staff was not only friendly and helpful, but meticulously hospitable. And the food was amazing.”
Selena Bohinski of First Class Travel recommends Park Hyatt New York (pictured) and Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Jamaica for spa-goers.
North America Digs
Have clients who are seeking outdoor adventure? Nimmo Bay, a wilderness lodge in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada, is “absolutely spectacular in every regard,” according to Renshaw Travel’s Jessica Renshaw. “It is remote and located in the middle of pristine wilderness,” she says. The staff at Nimmo Bay, which has been owned and operated by the same family since it was built in the 1980s, is “very passionate about what they do,” Renshaw adds. While there, her group went out kayaking, hiking, paddleboarding, and even spotted whales, bears and sea lions.
Clients looking for a stateside vacation with a dash of history might be interested in The Alexandrian, Autograph Collection. “It was by far one of the more stunning and charming hotels I’ve experienced,” Nicole Thurman from World Travel Holdings says. Located in Old Town Alexandria, VA, the hotel is just outside of Washington, D.C., with easy access to the metro and trolley services in the area. Dating back to the Civil War, both the guestrooms and public spaces are “exquisitely decorated.”
For those desiring a West Coast retreat, Lake Shore’s Patterson tells us that she recently “fell head over heels for Rancho Valencia,” north of San Diego. “This stylish retreat is truly a destination in itself. I took a power yoga class in the yoga pavilion, and to my delight walked out to a tray of chocolate protein shakes — they know the way to my heart.”
To the north, Millennial travelers in particular may enjoy a stay at Hotel Via in San Francisco, according to Jessica Schiesl of Sunset Travel & Cruise. The “Beyond Boutique” hotel, as the property labels itself, is eco- and tech-centric. For instance, guestrooms have a sensor to determine when guests leave the room, lowering the thermostat and turning off the lights. Hotel Via also has its own app, which guests can use to unlock their door.“This hotel really thought of everything and how they could make the experience simple and user-friendly,” Schisel notes.
Much farther north, Emily Klos of Shooting Star Travels recommends The Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood, near Anchorage, as “an awesome option for those looking for a little luxury in the wilderness of Alaska. Their spa is fantastic and there is plenty of hiking or biking in the area. It’s also home to Seven Glaciers Restaurant with panoramic views of mountains, glaciers and the Turnagain Arm.
While in Girdwood, visitors should also check out The Bake Shop, “one of my absolute favorites,” says Klos.“Their homemade soup and sandwiches are excellent. The best was their sourdough pancakes for breakfast, though. We loved it so much we went twice.”
This brings us to the culinary portion of our story.
Park View Suite at San Francisco’s Hotel Via, a favorite place to stay for Jessica Schiesl of Sunset Travel & Cruise
Great Eats in the U.S.A.
Due south of Alaska (by a few thousand miles) is the Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas, where Frosch’s Young Kim says she has found “the best Thai food in the U.S. — and it isn’t just my opinion. Despite being in a strip mall, away from the bustle of the Vegas Strip, it is frequented by every James Beard award-winning chef from around the world looking for a plate of unpretentious, homegrown Thai. The decor is drab…the wait staff is pleasant, yet at times impatient, but the food is so good that nothing else matters.”
Julie Michaels of Century Travel, a Worldview Travel Company, says that Atchafalaya is a must every time she visits New Orleans. “In a city known for food, music and libations, this place hits all three,” she points out. She is especially fond of their brunch, “with live jazz music, a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar (with a garden of pickled veggies to choose from), and delicious brunch entrees using local seafood.” Atchafalaya is uptown, she adds, “so you need to get outside of the tourist zone to go there.”
For an out-of-the-way dining spot in one of the most popular domestic destinations of 2017, Kristen Elfritz of Humble Travel Service recommends the Turnip Truck in the Gulch area of Nashville, TN. Elfritz says Turnip Truck, part grocery store and part restaurant, focuses on local, organic produce and can cater to vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets.
Agents based in or sending clients to New York City should note that two local agents there each have a favorite Brooklyn restaurant that they frequent. Blaine Horton enjoys dining at Ringolevio in the less touristy part of East Williamsburg. “This quaint Italian restaurant is known to only the most hip in the area, who have impeccable taste, for its ever-changing wine list.”
Those willing to travel a bit farther beyond Manhattan, and be rewarded for the effort, should check out New Corner, a cozy little spot in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood, that Tzell’s Elise Angelopulos describes as “so old school it’s almost cool again.”
“From 1970s wood paneling to larger-than-life leather menus, New Corner is the ultimate throwback,” she tells us. “Italian-American classics like baked clams and chicken parmesan are so comforting. I always bring visitors here — it reminds me of family and feels like home.”
“In a city known for food, music and libations,” says Julie Michaels of Century Travel, Atchafalaya in uptown New Orleans “hits all three.”
Across the Atlantic, we find a pair of London dining establishments that pleased the palates of two of our 30Under30 winners.
“I was craving Indian food one night while strolling the streets of London and came across this small restaurant with an unassuming façade called La Porte Des Indes," says Young Kim of Frosch Private Client Services. "You walk through a little entrance into a small waiting area that then opens up into a two-story colonial Indian palace(!) complete with giant palm trees, a waterfall and regal archways. The wait staff is dressed in traditional garb, and the food is presented in the same grandeur you would expect the maharaja would have served to the first Europeans. It was a pleasant surprise that will forever be magical to me.”
Mina Shafiee of Lock Travel Management tells us, “Duck & Waffle is the place to go if you’re looking for a great brunch spot in London.” The best part? “It’s located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, offering views of the city and the River Thames,” she says.
Across the English Channel, another of Shafiee’s favorites is Le Georges in Paris. Perched at the top of the National Museum of Modern Art (also known as the Center Georges Pompidou), it too affords panoramic city views.
Cathleen Richards of Gulliver’s Travels Inc. prefers Bistro Paradis in Paris’s 9th arrondissement. It’s a small, modern bistro “with a chef that passionately cares about the seasonal menu,” she notes.
Cafe Moderne, just outside Le Marais in the 11th arrondissement, is Blaine Horton’s Paris pick. “This is the cutest place for a great night with a younger crowd,” he remarks. “Their specialty is meatballs, but they have other amazing French standards and amazing cocktails.”
He also likes Café Panache in Amsterdam. “This is a trendy, meat-heavy restaurant with a great vibe in the more residential area of Amsterdam. With so few tourists and beautiful locals, you feel like you are a part of the ‘it’ crowd.”
De Belhamel, on one of the Netherlands capital’s famed canals, has an elegant, art nouveau-accented dining room with a European / French menu. Brownell Travel’s Jennifer Taylor recommends asking for a table with a view of the kitchen — guests can get a sneak peek at the dishes this way. Bonus: It’s within walking distance of the Anne Frank House “and the walk along the canal is gorgeous,” she says.
For stunning views while dining in Spain, Courtney Bailey of Travel Time recommends heading to La Marcelina in Valencia. She says the view of the water, the service and the cuisine all make this a worthy option for Europe-bound foodies. If you do send clients here, Bailey strongly suggests recommending the Horchata drink, which is made from jicaro seeds ground with rice and spices such as ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, various nuts and vanilla.
Julie Michaels is fan of another Spanish eatery: Can Paixano La Xampanyeria in Barcelona’s Barceloneta neighborhood. “It’s a no nonsense old bar and sandwich shop that first opened its doors nearly a century ago,” she notes. “[You] push through the crowds to the counter to get a glass of cava and a straightforward — and delicious — sandwich or tapas.”
Here’s one way to tell if a restaurant was worth the visit: three months later, your mouth still waters about the meal you ate. SmartFlyer’s Kelly Smith claims that’s true with Fjorubordid’s langoustine soup and garlic butter langoustine tails. Located in the village of Stokkseyri (45 minutes from Reykjavik), this lobster shack is a must-visit for anyone vacationing in southern Iceland.
Savoring Southeast Asia
In recent years, Cambodia and Vietnam have grown in popularity with experiential travelers, and two of our 30Under30 agents weigh in on their favorite dining experiences there. “Unlike the hectic tourist bars that line the popular ‘Pub Street’ in Siem Reap, Miss Wong is an intimate cocktail lounge,” says Horton. “It’s located down a small lane and serves delicious cocktails and small bites.”
Accent on Travel’s Sofia Hedman sings the praises of Faifo Xua (Ancient Faifo) in Hoi An, Vietnam. “We had to find a place for 16 travelers that wanted ‘authentic atmosphere and food’ and this was such a hit. Vietnamese modern cuisine served in casual luxurious comfort after coming off the dusty Hoi An’s shopping streets. My clients raved about our choice for lunch and I would send anyone there that loves food — there is something for everyone,” she tells us.
The Accomplished Traveler’s Blaine Horton likes Amsterdam’s Café Panache in part because of the ”beautiful locals”and lack of tourists.
Looking for some off-the-beaten-path dining options in the Caribbean? Kristen DeAngelo of Dream Excapes suggests Kon Tiki on Orient Beach in St. Martin, Pinchos in Aruba and Papa Zouk in Antigua. Kon Tiki sits just above the beach with gorgeous views of Orient Beach and the mountains in the background.
Pinchos Grill & Bar sits on a dock over the water and is a popular gathering spot for both tourists and locals. If you do dine here, she says, “The grouper fillet and coconut rice melted in my mouth — one of the best local dinners I’ve ever had.”
Papa Zouk is the spot for the freshest fish found in Antigua, DeAngelo adds. She also notes that the owner loves to rub elbows with guests and often sits at a guest’s table to explain that night’s menu and will even take a guest’s order.
Looking for a slice of New England — or a sports fix — while visiting Aruba? Alyssa Elmore of Legacy Travel says Boston natives, particularly Red Sox fans, will feel right at home at Smokey Joe’s in Aruba.
“Boston sports are huge in Aruba,” says Elmore. “One of their own, Xander Bogaerts, is the shortstop for the Red Sox, and the entire island is his biggest cheerleader. Lining the walls of the restaurant are Massachusetts license plates, Red Sox memorabilia, and all sorts of international currency people have stapled on the walls.”
Clients traveling to Jamaica should check out The Pork Pit in downtown Montego Bay, according to Travis Wallace of Prosperity Travel Service. His recommendation comes from a cab driver, who told him this is the only place from which he gets jerk chicken and pork. Food here is slow-cooked in big, wood and charcoal fire pits. “This restaurant makes you feel like you are attending a barbecue in the backyard of a local Jamaican and gives you the true experience of the Jamaican culinary skills,” he notes.
On the South Coast of Jamaica, Floyd’s Pelican Bar is another great off-the-beaten-path option, says Victoria Reisenger of The Travel Agency Inc. “Even though it is now popular with tourists, it still has a very ‘eat like a local’ feel.”
Another spot to keep on your radar is Blue Sail in Nassau, the Bahamas. The blue and white decor, according to Nicole Thurman, blends in with the open-air scenery, while the sound of the waves only makes it better. “Experiencing the local culture and trying unique dishes, like the fresh conch — which I had for the first time — are one of the greatest parts of traveling. You will need to take a cab to get to this secluded eatery, but the bonus is that the walk on the beach afterwards has fewer people on it.”
Frosch Travel’s Shayna McClendon discovered Pusser’s Road Town Pub during a cruise call in Tortola, BVI. “You could walk to it once off the ship, it is just a couple blocks off the main drag. It has a clothing store, as well as the restaurant and bar. It was decorated in old nautical pub memorabilia, which was a nice touch. The food and drinks were very good; I had the jerk chicken.” And just how off-the-beaten-path was Pusser’s? “There were roosters running around outside the front of it,” McClendon adds.
Mmmmm! in Mexico
In downtown Puerto Vallarta, La Langosta Feliz (“The Happy Lobster”) is one of Anna Tallman’s top spots. “When clients want to get off property and explore, I tell them this is the place to eat,” she says.
And Victoria Reisinger passes along this tidbit about El Merkadito (Seafood and Club), a restaurant in Puerto Morelos: “I know it is loved by locals for the relaxed feel and amazing food. One of the staff members of a nearby resort recommended it and visits herself, so I knew not to question it.”