FEELING CRABBY? ESCAPE TO HYATT REGENCY CHESAPEAKE BAY FOR THE 9TH ANNUAL CRAB WEEK, AUGUST 10-18, 2018

FEELING CRABBY? ESCAPE TO HYATT REGENCY CHESAPEAKE BAY FOR THE 9TH ANNUAL CRAB WEEK, AUGUST 10-18, 2018

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina will host its 9th Annual Crab Week, August 10-18, 2018. The ultimate event for crab lovers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Crab Week guests will enjoy crab-inspired dishes, events, activities, and live music during the week-long shellabration.

Crab-inspired delicacies and activities will be found throughout Maryland’s Four Diamond resort, including at Blue Point Provision Company, which was recently named “Best of the Bay – Food and Drink” and “Best Bay-to-Table Restaurant” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine.

Ready to get moving and cracking? There will be a crab picking demonstration on August and feasts fit for even the biggest crab enthusiasts on August 11, 15 and 18. Stop by River Marsh Golf Club on August 11 to take part in the Crabby Cup, a 9-hole golf tournament, and join us for local beer tasting happy hour from 4-5pm, August 13-17th. Lastly, don’t miss the famous Seaplane Splash-In on August 11 or the Crabby Corn Hole tournament, August 15, as well as complimentary fitness classes and family golf clinics held all week to help burn off the well-earned extra calories.

An exciting addition this year, author Gail Priest will be on property August 11 from 12 PM to 3 PM signing copies of her beloved book, “Eastern Shore Shorts,” which takes readers through our favorite towns of Berlin, Cambridge, Chestertown, Chincoteague, Easton, Rock Hall, Salisbury, St. Michaels, and Tilghman Island.

During your stay, you can step off property to explore all Cambridge has to offer including museums, dining, shopping or the 20-plus breweries and wineries in the area.

Crab Week rates start at $249 per night.  To book, please call 800.633.7313 or visit www.chesapeakebay.regency.hyatt.com.

Girlfriend Getaway: Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Girlfriend Getaway: Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

We arrived at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in the late afternoon, after a quick 90-minute drive from our homes in busy Northern Virginia to the decidedly unhurried Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Our girlfriend getaway has evolved from a one-time desperate escape from kids and spouses (we love you, kids and spouses!) to a semi-annual retreat with dear friends, all brought together by a single cooperative preschool nearly 16 years ago.

We checked in just in time for our facial and massage appointments at the Sago Spa at the resort. We all enjoyed the indulgence, a great kickoff to our retreat, followed by several rounds of steam room, shower, and sauna. The spa offered much more than we expected, and two of our group booked further services while we were there.

Evenings at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, are kind of magical: fires on the beach with beverages, or s’mores over the massive outdoor fireplace, or family movie night at the indoor pool.

For us, the indoor/outdoor hot tub was calling our names, but we were so sleepy from our spa treatments we just couldn’t rally. We were all asleep by 9:30pm, an absolute anomaly for us.

After a sunrise walk along the waterfront and around the golf course on Saturday morning, we made for the huge breakfast buffet.

Two of us went back to the spa for mani/pedis while the others went to check out the newly renovated rooms in one wing of the resort. Though the old rooms were fine, the new rooms have an updated blue and white color palette and more natural wood, reflecting the waterfront location of the resort.

Warm weather offers tons and tons of activities for all ages, particularly water activities. There are canoes, kayaks and paddleboards available, jet skis, fishing, and several pools. We were there in cold weather, so we stuck to the indoor activities, and nearby parks we could explore by car.

We packed up and headed a few miles south to drive through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, home to thousands of migrating birds. The manicurist had told us that “The swans are in!” We marveled at large flocks of white birds we later learned were snow geese, not swans, and saw some unfamiliar birds in the marshy waters. At last we saw a pair of swans, majestically oblivious to our presence.

We stopped for lunch on the way home at T at the General Store, a lovely bright teahouse in a former general store in Easton, Maryland. The aroma of the teas filled the space, and the farm to table menu offered lots of great options. For the coffee drinkers, a stop for coffee at the wonderful Rise Up roasters in town is a must. I may have to plan another trip to pick up more of the delicious dark roasted coffee I bought there.

It’s a quick trip from DC or Baltimore, but a world away from the hustle and burnout of both cities.

Insider Tip

Ask for a Bay view!

Higher floors offer a quieter experience, especially in summer when pools are busy.

Pet-friendly (with deposit).

Details

Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina

The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina is a four-diamond resort of the Chesapeake Bay. The property is nestled on 342 magnificent acres along the Choptank River, and features 400 rooms and suites. There a six dining options; an award-winning, 18-hole championship golf course; the 150-slip River Marsh Marina; the Sago Salon & Spa; multi-level indoor and outdoor swimming pools; a fitness facility, and a children’s recreation center.

For more information on the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, please call (800) 633-7313 or visit www.chesapeakebay.regency.hyatt.com.

Eurail with kids: part two of our family Eurail adventure

Eurail with kids: part two of our family Eurail adventure

Two weeks into our family Eurail adventure, we had a big decision to make: should we stick with our original plan to take the train and Couchsurf through Romania and Bulgaria to get to our December destination in Istanbul? Or should we make a lightning fast trip to see Christmas markets in Austria and Germany and up to Scandinavia and then fly to Istanbul?  It was tempting to make the most of our first class pass to use the sleek trains in Western Europe and see the postcard-worthy scenery in the Alps. We weren’t sure what they might be like to the east. If you Eurail with kids you want to know what you’re getting into. But in the end, we decided we wanted to see some of the cultures of Eastern Europe that we had never experienced before, and even though we knew it was going to be a little less comfortable – physically and otherwise – in the end we were glad we did.

Pondering the maps for our Eurail with kids adventures

The beautiful and infuriating Budapest Keleti Station

Our trip from Zagreb to Romania started well enough. We were up on time, our cab came on time, our train left on time, and we had the entire first class car to ourselves. We got into Budapest Deli station just a little late, and we rushed down to the Metro. We needed tickets. The ticket seller didn’t accept credit cards, and we had no forints. She motioned to another window and said “ten minutes.” Agh. I went around the corner and changed some Euros for forints and went back to buy the tickets. OK. Metro to Keleti station. Why oh why are there no escalators in the train stations? Or ramps, at least? And why isn’t the Metro station connected to the train station it is named for? When we finally get into the train station, we don’t see our train on the board. At all. We go to the information desk to see if we can get reservations for the sleeper. No – you need to do that at least 6 hours in advance. You must ask the conductor. OK. Where’s the train? She can’t help me – her computer is down. We think we spot a promising one on Track 11 – all the way on the other side of the station. We get there and they say, “Try Track 6. Or 1.” Both are ALL the way on the other side of this massive station that is beautiful but so poorly designed. We have to walk several hundred yards from one side to the other, our suitcases dragging behind us.

Finally, finally, after our third visit to the information desk, the woman there takes pity on us and calls someone to find out the track number for our train. We get on, and I go in search of the sleeper car. But the very polite porter straight from central casting tells us there is no room. And no room in the couchettes (although I strongly suspect that this less polite porter is just not willing to make up more beds, because it does not look anywhere near full. So we head back to the First Class car (thank you Eurail). We find an empty compartment with plenty of room for us to stretch out, and Magnolia figures out a way we can arrange ourselves for sleeping. BUT. The conductor comes in to tell us that this car will only be going as far as the border. Ugh. We figure we might as well set ourselves up in a Second Class car and try to make the best of it. We find several seats together in a quiet car and settle in. But just as the train pulls out of the station, a boisterous group gets on and argues loudly with the conductor. I can’t tell what the issue is, but these people do not seem pleasant at all. Sure enough, they talk loudly, without stopping. Once in a while one will leave, and the others will do something annoying, like the young couple making out across the seats just behind our girls. Yuck.  After it becomes clear they are not going to shut up, we decide to move. We move to a car closer to the café car, which is the only place on the train where people can smoke, and it’s starting to get a little rowdy.

At around 1:30 am, as I looked at my miserable family around me – Calla coughing, Magno curled up like a pretzel on her seat, John sweating and twitching with bad dreams – I wondered what on earth I had been thinking. Well, I had thought we’d be in a sleeper car, but that was not to be. But why did I think we should go ahead and take this horrible overnight train without the sleeper berths? To add insult to injury, I happened to read an article while on this train about someone’s heavenly overnight train in Switzerland, with champagne and nice sheets and blah blah BLAH! I switched off the data connection on my iPhone and slumped back in my seat to try to sleep sitting up.

One girl looking out the train window at the Romanian landscape, another trying to get a few last moments of sleep on our Eurail with kids adventure

But then, we wake from a not-very-restful sleep at dawn to a totally new landscape in Romania. The rolling hills are just barely green on this misty November morning. The grays and browns of winter are taking over. We approach a red-roofed town that – aside from the electrical poles – looks like it could have been unchanged for centuries. Smoke pours from every chimney in the town of Agustin as the sun comes up. It’s all very charming and picturesque, until we come upon a splatter of plastic garbage tossed from a back garden towards a stream, as if the house vomited up the indigestible bits its owner had overconsumed.

Just say “no.” I mean “yes.”

We arrived in Brasov,  and as we disembarked I saw someone trying to help Magnolia with her bag. We had been coaching the girls on how to say “No” firmly when someone tries to help them with their luggage, because it could turn out to be a scammer who will demand a tip for their often paltry and unhelpful efforts. In this case, though, the perpetrator was our Couchsurfing host, Zsolt, who was actually trying to help. He had a good sense of humor about it. We would come to find out that he had a great sense of humor about everything!

With our Couchsurfing hosts in Romania on our Eurail with kids adventure

Zsolt drove us from Brasov to their home in Sfintu Gheorghe, where we met his wife Ildiko and their daughters Hongo (which means Heather – another flower girl) and Anna-Villo. We talked for a while, and then they offered us breakfast. And Zsolt offered us shots of Palinka – a plum brandy – to start it off. We were surprised, but we rolled with it. Zsolt offered me a less-strong version he had made with blueberries. We had sausages and bread and an amazing dish made of grilled eggplant and homemade mayonnaise that I can’t wait to try to make at home.

The family is of Seckeler Hungarian descent, and the area is a majority-Hungarian-speaking area within the larger Transylvania region of Romania. They taught us quite a bit about their heritage, and we went to several museums about this culture during our stay.

Zsolt, a biology teacher, showed us around his school in the town. They had very nice facilities, especially his biology lab. The place was astounding! Filled with more stuffed animals than most museums, and several human skeleton models. Great old diagrams and charts. Who wouldn’t want to be a biologist with this classroom, and this teacher? We then went to meet Zsolt’s class. The students crowded around the girls, and they did a great job of answering and asking questions.

Visiting Zsolt's biology lab

We really enjoyed our first Couchsurfing experience as a family, and just couldn’t get over the hospitality of our hosts. If you’d like to learn more about Romania, why not join a small group tour of Transylvania with Unquote Travel? Full disclosure: I’m a founder of Unquote Travel, which was started with the intent to bring more people to experience the wonders of off the beaten path destinations. .

Surprising Sofia

The next leg of the trip was to Sofia, Bulgaria, a place we knew nothing about before arriving. We had made reservations for a four-person sleeper car on the train from Bucharest to Sofia. Our train from Brasov to Bucharest was fine, but we dreaded the three hour stopover in Bucharest. We had heard nothing good about this train station. We read about pickpockets, drug addicts, stray dogs and the like, with no waiting area to speak of. We found it to be not so bad in reality, but we did resort to sitting at the McDonalds to wait instead of the grim fluorescent-lit waiting room.

When we boarded the train, we discovered that it was coming from Moscow, where it had left 36 hours prior. The reservation we made 30 hours prior, then,  didn’t really carry much weight. The two Russian ladies in charge of the sleeper cars took a look at our tickets and then pocketed them and pointed us to two separate compartments with other passengers. Sigh.

Our compartment-mates were nice enough, though neither they nor the porters mentioned that the bedding we were offered did not include sheets. We made the best of it and actually managed to get a pretty good night’s sleep. Maybe we were getting the hang of it.

2012-11-28 17.00.57

The next morning, we arrived in Sofia to a very very grim station. It was a massive communist building that should have inspired but now sat crumbling and dark.  We booked our tickets for the next night’s train and bus to Istanbul and parked our baggage at the station with a friendly handler, who was the first indication that Sofia might be nicer than this station made it out to be. We found the brand new (3 months old) Metro nearby, which whisked us to the center. We were late for the Free Sofia Tour, which our Couchsurfing host had recommended, but managed to find it 30 minutes into the tour. It was a great tour – very informative, with an enthusiastic and friendly guide. (We enjoyed it so much, we went back the next day to catch the beginning of the tour.) We were surprised to find out that most large cities in Europe now offer these free tours, that it’s something of a movement. I wish we had known about them earlier in our European travels, but we’ll pass along the information in case you can use it.

The city is very very old, but none of the buildings are. There are Roman ruins everywhere – the discovery of which delayed the building of the Metro, in some parts. There are mineral springs, with public fountains where people bring their water jugs to fill regularly, but no baths. Seems like a missed opportunity to me!

There were little hidden gems and surprises everywhere in Sofia, like Lavanda, an incredibly charming restaurant where we had one of the best lunches of our trip. I still don’t know how John sniffed that out. He had remarked on it the day before when we walked by, But when we tried to go back for lunch we found only a bar. The girl there pointed up and around toward the back of the building.  We went around the building but didn’t see an entrance. We saw someone else go in a door that looked like it led to apartments, so we followed. (Always follow the locals!) We still weren’t sure, but we went up the stairs and found Lavanda, a place that wouldn’t be out of place in Paris or New York. Fantastic meal.

A table in the kitchen at Lavanda, Sofia, Bulgaria

Another surprise was the huge number of super-flashy new gun shops in the city. There seemed to be one on every block. Not sure what that was about. But we wandered around the city and found interesting little scenes all around that piqued our interest and made us think that we might want to come back and spend some more time one day.

A closed amusement park in Sofia, Bulgaria

Finally, the four of us

For our final train in Europe, we booked a four-person sleeper car on the train to Istanbul. This time, for the first time, we actually got what we were after: just the four of us in a compartment. Of course, this train was only going to the border of Turkey, which we would reach at 2 am. Next year, the train line (and the Eurail pass) is due to be extended all the way to Istanbul, but for now, you must switch to a bus after going through the passport check at the border. The trip was comfortable, and because we knew the routine, we went right to sleep as soon as we boarded the train. The border crossing was painless, and the bus to Istanbul was comfortable. And I will never forget pulling into Istanbul, under the aqueduct, at the break of dawn.

Eurail with kids

And so our Eurail adventure draws to a close. We had some incredibly wonderful times on the trains, and in our travels across Europe. We had frustrations and some uncomfortable moments, too, but above all we had a great adventure on Eurail with kids, and we have some memories that will last us a lifetime. And our kids have learned how to navigate not just the train stations but the metros and buses across Europe like the backpackers they may emulate one day. It’s been a great journey, Eurail, and we thank you for it.

 

 

Hotel Review: Gates Hotel South Beach

Hotel Review: Gates Hotel South Beach

Overview: Recent upgrades make The Gates Hotel South Beach a great value for modern style at a reasonable price. And the food is good, too.

The Gates South Beach
2360 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 860-9444
800-445-8667
miamh_rm@hilton.com

The Gates Hotel South Beach

I’d never been to Miami before checking out the newly relaunched Gates Hotel in South Beach this December, and the four-star Hilton hotel offered the perfect entrance into the eternal summer of South Beach.

Located right on the busy Collins Avenue, the Gates Hotel South Beach a short walk to the beach, the surrounding city, and several peaceful residential streets. Within the span of an hour, I strolled down the boardwalk at sunset, gazeed over the pond from a bridge, and got a drink in the upscale pool-flanking bar at The Setai. The hotel is also a short walk from The Bass, a museum full of quirky modern art.

poolside bar at Gates Hotel South Beach

When I got to my room, the first thing I noticed was the giant bed. “King size” would be an understatement — I could sleep diagonally on it. I’m a terrible sleeper, but the soft mattress and soft, luxurious pillows let me rest better than I had in a while.

bedroom at Gates Hotel South Beach

The top-floor room was spacious, with a desk, a board to put my stuff on, a separate segment for the toilet and shower, and a view of the pool outside the lobby. The WiFi was not super speedy but fast enough and easy to access with my name and room number, and there were outlets all over so I could plug in my computer from the desk or bed. There was no mini-bar, but there was a fridge and a coffee and tea maker. The only downside was that there was another room perpendicular to mine, so the people in it could see me if I left my blinds up.

Cabana by the pool at the Gates Hotel South Beach

One of the hotel’s biggest standouts was its food. When I checked in, the staffer at the front desk greeted me with a hot chocolate chip cookie. From room service, I got a surprisingly delicious cookies and cream milkshake, zucchini chips, and shrimp Caesar salad. Later on in the trip, I ate at the hotel’s restaurant Agaveros Cantina, which features unique Mexican dishes like Tamale Bites and Elote Fritters. The same restaurant also served breakfast for an extra charge, including a continental buffet and a menu with omelettes and other hot dishes.

“Welcome to Miami” played through my head as I walked through the halls. Between the Gates’ convenient location, luxurious accommodations, and friendly staff, I felt welcome, and I’d trust them to welcome me again.

Rooms:

King rooms and double queen rooms are available with or without pool view and with or without terraces.

King suites with separate living room also available.

Tech:

Free wifi throughout hotel

Family-friendly amenities:

This hotel is not explicitly family-friendly, but you can bring children. Cribs are available, but no extra beds.

Swimming pool on the terrace.

Food options:

The onsite Mexican-inspired Agaveros Cantina offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Pool bar and lobby bar offer lunch and dinner until 10pm.

Deals and Activities Nearby:
Parking:

Valet parking available.

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Hotel Review: Yotel Times Square

Hotel Review: Yotel Times Square

Overview: Everything you need and nothing you don’t. Tiny rooms but modern and efficient use of space. Best for solo travelers, ok for couples, groups might be cramped, even in a larger room. And the bathroom does not offer a lot of privacy.

YOTEL New York
570 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
By phone: +1 646 449 7700

The Yotel in Times Square claims on its website that it “creates time, giving you everything you need and nothing you don’t.” Confused by the vague description? So was I. Let me fill you in on what actually makes the Yotel unique.

The lobby (if you could call it that) was as confusing as the website. Instead of a front desk with human beings, there were machines to check guests in and out, though there were people there to help. The process was surprisingly efficient: I just entered in my name and the dates of my reservation, and since I was early, the machine told me the room wasn’t ready yet.

luggage robot Yotel New York

So, I headed up to the fourth floor (the closest thing the hotel has to a real lobby, including a desk where staff take questions) to sit at the cafe, which boasts an impressive North African-inspired menu. I worked at a small table while eating fried cauliflower and pita bread with hummus, yogurt, and eggplant — dishes I enjoyed so much, I ordered the exact same ones again later that night. In addition to the cafe, which also sold coffee and pastries, there’s a larger restaurant on the fourth floor.

YOTEL rooftop Terrace New York

The “everything you need and nothing you don’t” tagline began to make sense when I entered my 27th-floor room, overlooking a gorgeous view of midtown Manhattan. The bed was tilted to partially lean against the wall and create space, and it went down for sleeping at the press of a button. The shower had shampoo and soap combined in one bottle, as well as a large bottle of conditioner, something I often find hotels lacking. The menu was on the TV. (They don’t deliver, but you can order food from your room, get a call when it’s ready, and pick it up downstairs.) Every inch of space was put to use.

Yotel room size

There was only a glass wall and curtain separating the bed and bathroom and there wasn’t too much extra space, so the room would not be ideal for multiple people traveling together. It looks like most of the Yotel’s rooms work this way. As a solo traveler, though, I didn’t feel cramped. The bed was not luxurious but comfortable. The WiFi in the hotel was quick, and there was an outlet to charge my computer next to the bed. The Yotel is impressively high-tech, in fact, with a luggage-storing robot and a mobile concierge app.

The hotel’s in a great location on 10th avenue between 41st and 42nd streets, a quick walk to the ACE trains and Times Square but far enough west that it’s still quiet. There are tons of cafes and restaurants right around the corner.

The building was a bit annoying to navigate, though, since you have to transfer elevators every time you hit the fourth floor. The Yotel definitely has its quirks, but they’re all part of its charm.

Rooms:

Rooms are known as “cabins” at the Yotel, and they definitely echo the size of a ship cabin.

Queen rooms are the most plentiful, but there are rooms that add one or two bunk beds that can work for a family of up to four.

Some king rooms are available, and some with terraces and outdoor tubs (not hot tubs) that look pretty special. One VIP terrace room has a king bed and a sofabed so it can accommodate up to four adults.

Tech:

Good wifi and outlets next to the bed for charging.

Luggage storage robots!

Family-friendly amenities:

Bunk beds in some rooms.

Bikes available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Yotel branded coloring books and colored pencils are available for a fee. Or download the images from the website.

Food options:

The Green Fig offers Mediterranean food on the fourth floor lobby level.

The rooftop terrace is the largest of any hotel in NYC, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Many restaurants in the neighborhood.

Deals and Activities Nearby:

Ummm… it’s New York City.

Parking:

Parking garage below the hotel. The standard rate is $45.00 for 24 hours, $62.00 for valet parking with SUVs costing an additional $6.00.

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Hosted

The writer of this review was a guest of the hotel. All writers on All Over the Map provide unbiased opinions, whether hosted or not, but we thought you should know that they didn't pay to stay there.