NYC Hotel World Welcomes Back Mark & Pierre

Two great hotels in Manhattan reopened this summer, and both splashed out millions to remake themselves. Say hello—again—to Mark and Pierre. Well, The Mark and The Pierre.

The first time I checked into The Mark years ago, I thought it was the coolest hotel in the world. Before the phrase “boutique hotels” was on everyone’s lips, The Mark was a discreet hideaway on Madison and 77th with a tiny bar barely big enough to hold 15 people tucked off its lobby. A sophisticated restaurant was opposite the 77th Street entrance, and soon that will re-open with celeb chef Jean-George Vongerichten running things.

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Portland Hotels

It’s a welcome bonus when a hotel reflects the city it’s in, and during a long weekend in Portland—crunchy, funky Portland, Oregon—I was the guest at two hotels that fit the bill. The Hotel deLuxe and the Hotel Lucia are managed by the same company, and they’re both great old Portland buildings that have found a new life as boutique hotels.

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Gentleman Hosts

OK, so maybe you don’t want to become a butler, as I suggested you might in last week’s blog posting. How about a Gentleman Host®? What’s that, you ask? They’re the suave guys who oil their way across the dance floor aboard cruise ships with women who don’t have partners or whose partners don’t care to dance.

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School for Butlers

Searching for a career? Ever consider becoming a . . . butler?

Charles MacPherson will teach you how at his Toronto school for butlers. You’ll take Laundry 101 and, if you pass that, Laundry 201. You’ll learn the correct way to shake a hand, how to set an elegant table, the general rules of protocol and how to run a household.

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LA Restaurants: Hits and a Near Miss

I promised last week a Los Angeles restaurant that thrilled me as well as one that I’m not too sure of yet. Let’s start with the good news.

Right across the street in Beverly Hills from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago is the new, very luxe hotel Montage. I can’t speak for the hotel experience, but my guess is that like most other high-end hotels in the country, Montage may be having a tough time keeping rooms full and room rates high. But it hasn’t let culinary standards suffer.

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LA's Caché

I’m back from tying on the feedbag in Los Angeles and can report that Mason jars are all the rage on the best tabletops. Mason jars usually filled with duck pâté or duck confit. Big Mason jars, little Mason jars. I have no idea how or when this trend developed, but there it is.

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Short Takes

Don’t you love it when you fly coach and the person in the seat in front of you reclines to the maximum degree for the entire flight? It’s just one of those little irritating things about travel, and it’s not just flying where fellow travelers can give you a case of heartburn. There’s the driver who stays in the passing lane unnecessarily when others want to pass him. The train passenger who sprawls over two seats in order to block you from sitting down. Or the annoying cruise ship passenger who’s decided you’re his new best friend and won’t leave you alone. . . .

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Heirloom Tomato Festival

While my fellow blogger Jason Oliver Nixon jets between London and New York City, I’ve just returned from Stockholm. Wisconsin. You know, from the heirloom tomato festival?

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Travel Agents

Are travel agents obsolete? When airlines stopped paying agencies fees to issue tickets in 2002, and with the rise of travel planning on the Internet, you might think so.

Yet although there’s been a decline in the number of storefront travel agencies throughout the past 17 years, the actual number of travel agents hasn’t changed much, according to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). Given the extraordinary number of hotel, airline, and car rental reservations made online today, how can that be?

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Family Resort Find: Smugglers’ Notch

I think I found the ultimate family resort this week—a summer camp on steroids, a Neverland without the weirdness. It’s not a secret place—Smugglers’ Notch Vermont, approximately a 35-minute drive from Burlington, has been around since 1956. But throughout the years, it has morphed into a sprawling resort with upscale condos, waterparks, tennis courts and—in the winter—ski slopes. Plus, there are enough kids’ activities to fill a year of Saturdays.

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About Rudy Maxa

Rudy Maxa

Rudy Maxa is host and executive producer of the public television travel series, Rudy Maxa's World. The 78 episodes he has hosted have won numerous awards, including a 2008 regional Emmy for his episode "Rajasthan." He's a contributing editor with National Geographic Traveler magazine and has written for a host of national travel magazines and newspapers. For nearly 15 years he offered consumer travel commentary on public radio's business show Marketplace as "The Savvy Traveler," which was also the name of a one-hour, coast-to-coast weekend show on public radio that he co-created and hosted for four years. Prior to his career as a travel writer and broadcaster, Maxa was an award-winning Washington Post investigative reporter, magazine writer, and columnist for 13 years, during which time his reporting was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He was a senior writer at The Washingtonian magazine and Washington, D.C., bureau chief of Spy magazine. The author of two non-fiction books, Maxa lives in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota.