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ImageYes! Back to deals in warm destinations! (Sorry skiers…but not really.)

Bermuda Tourism is offering travelers the chance to save 50 percent off listed room rates with the “Bermuda Pink Sale.” This offer is good on minimum four-night stays booked by February 3 for travel January 23 to April 30.

Participating hotels include:

Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Tennis Club- $97.50 per night

Coco Reef Bermuda- $99 per night

Coral Beach & Tennis Club- $125 per night

The Fairmont Hamilton Princess- $129.50 per night

The Fairmont Southampton- $129.50 per night

Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort & Spa- $234 per night

Visit www.gotobermuda.com.

Hey there my darling trippers. While I wait for my travel bug to wriggle out of hiding so that I can provide you with scintillating tales, let me take this opportunity to ask for your help (or at least ask those who live in NYC for their help).

A few months ago an adorable Italian restaurant, Portalia, opened up in Astoria. I absolutely love the subtle romantic decor and its potential for a hopping bar scene. Antonio, the owner, is quick to come into the dining room to refill a glass of wine or make polite (and surprisingly not annoying) chitchat. And the food…oh my. My torn ribbon pasta with veal ragu was nothing short of fantastic on a very cold and rainy evening.

But alas, dear friends, every time I pass Portalia it is empty. I am convinced that this has to do with its location and lack of publicity, seeing as every review on Yelp is outstanding. It can be found on Broadway between 35th and 36th streets, not a heavily trafficked area.

I would hate to see this place close down, so I’m asking you all a favor: If you are at a loss for a good date night spot, please opt for Portalia. Let’s keep this puppy in the neighborhood.

Thanks!

If sliced bread is the best thing, then adding melty, gourmet cheeses atop it would only be an improvement. Welcome to Queens Kickshaw, a grilled cheese eatery in my lovely Astoria. It’s further proof that hipsters are, in fact, taking over and one day the hood will look similar to Greenpoint, and eventually Williamsburg. But I digress…

…Amid the long, wooden tables and antiquey factory-esque ceiling, groups or solo diners gather to drink large mugs of gourmet coffee with names you can’t even pronounce, read a book and sample some ridiculously good grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh! There’s craft beer, too! Grilled cheese, coffee and beer. Come on, how does this not sound like Brooklyn?

I opted for the Gruyere sandwich, which comes with carmelized onions on rye bread with a side of Napa cabbage and caraway slaw. Lauren Food E. went for the Great Hill Blue – a cranberry walnut bread base with prune jam and fresh pear.

If you are a hardcore Manhattanite or Brooklyn baby, perhaps wary of making the transition to Astoria, this is a perfect starter spot, before us hardened vets take you to the more hardcore Queens spots.

Note: The Queens Kickshaw sits on Broadway between Steinway and 41st Street. it is currently cash only.

Photo courtesy of City Grit

Reason #347345345 why I love New York: City Grit.

Never heard of it? Well, I feel sorry for you. But fear not, because here’s all you need to know:

City Grit, founded by Food & Wine‘s Sarah Simmons and business partner Jeremie Kittredge, is a combination of a supper club and pop-up restaurant in one, affectionately named a Culinary Salon. The two host lavish dining experiences held in a 70-seat dining room in an abandoned Catholic school house in Nolita. Seriously – how New York is that?

The duo often host out-of-town restaurant ambassadors to showcase their skills to a New York City audience.

I was fortunate enough to check out City Grit last Thursday when they hosted Jim N’ Nick’s BBQ, a popular Southern BBQ chain that serves up pork, pork and…well, more pork. Executive Chef Drew Robinson tickled our palettes with hickory roasted pork belly with tomato chutney aioli, barbecued shoulders and roast loin of pork with stone-ground grits and braised greens, homemade Berkshire ham and sausage with pimento cheese and pickled okra, and then an uber-rich Bourbon pecan pie.

Tickets typically cost in the $50-$70 range, and a selection of beer and wine is available for an additional cost. Think that’s too steep? Trust me, it is worth it. Five courses will leave you blissfully bloated, and you may even make a few friends in the process.

Tip: I attended the event with a few friends. Check out Lauren Food E.’s take on the event on her blog, here.

Hey friends. Happy Friday! I’m not sure how many of you are skiers. I, as you know, am definitely not. But for those of you out there, here’s a deal for you.

Bear Creek Mountain Resort and Blue Mountain Ski Area are ramping up their snowmaking efforts to counter the recent dry spell, and as a further incentive the two Lehigh Valley, PA-area ski resorts are offering Stay and Ski packages that combine vouchers for skiing, boarding or tubing with lodging at one of 13 participating area hotels. These packages are valid through March 31.

Rates at Bear Creek start at $95 per person at the resort’s slopeside hotel, which features indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs. Call 1-866-754-2822 or visit www.discoverlehighvalley.com/stay/hotels-motels/bear-creek-mountain-resort-2

Blue Mountain Ski Area boasts the highest vertical in Pennsylvania (1,082 ft), and the region’s only Natural Luge Run open to the public. This season it has added two new trails: Razorback for experienced skiers and Little Gap for beginners. Visit www.discoverlehighvalley.com/play/attractions/blue-mountain-ski-area

To learn more about Stay and Ski packages visit www.lehighvalleyski.com.

To learn more about the Lehigh Valley area visit www.discoverlehighvalley.com.

In 2006 I went to Ireland for six weeks and nearly brought down the plane with the weight of my luggage. Yep, talk about high maintenance girl. And truth be told, I used about half of what I brought. Now that I’m on the road at least once a month, I find that people tend to think less of you if you bring your entire wardrobe along. I’ve picked up some essential packing tips that I’m here to share so that you can shed those extra bags and still seem effortlessly fresh at every occasion. You know…like me.

1. Embrace Sophie’s Choice
It seems obvious enough, but you would be surprised. I’m sorry, guys. You cannot – I repeat CANNOT – bring everything. You can’t bring the boots, the heels, the sandals, the sneakers and the flats all on one trip. Men, this applies to you, too. You don’t need to bring every shoe or button-down shirt you own. If I’m going to a warm destination I opt for a dressy sandal (with a heel), flip flops for the pool and either sneakers or flats, depending on if I’m going to be active or not. If it’s a cold destination, dressy boots and a comfortable closed-toe shoe will do just fine.

2. Mix and Match
Try and pack items that are versatile. Those shorts you wore to the poolside cafe can be dressed up with a blazer, t-shirt, necklace and heels for a night on the town. Accessories are light and portable and can dress up any daytime outfit, making for light packing. Dudes, one to two pairs of jeans and a pair of dress pants are fine. A blazer goes a long way in dressing up a t-shirt, as well. The things you can never overpack on are socks and underwear. I try to bring double the amount of underwear I think I am going to need, and same with socks. Socks get wet, you may change your clothes multiple times a day, and before you know it, you’re going sockless and commando to the final dinner of your trip. Also, remember that many hotels offer laundry services, so you don’t have to pack a different outfit for every day.

3. Trust Your Hotel
When it comes to toiletries, you can leave a lot of it at home. This way you can carry your suitcase on the plane and not worry about having to wait for it at baggage claim. Items like shampoo, lotion and toothpaste your hotel will most likely have. If you’re really worried, invest in some 3 oz. travel bottles and keep them on hand to take your favorite bath products away with you. Most drug stores sell these in their toiletry section. Hotels usually come equipped with their own ironing boards and hair dryers, as well. Note: Most European hotels do NOT have conditioner, as I learned the hard way. Some of the newer American brands now carry it in their hotel bathrooms, but this is a rarity.

4. Bag It
While many hotels offer plastic laundry bags, it is always a good idea to bring one of your own. Some of the fancier hotels have just cloth laundry bags, which you cannot take with you. Others have none at all. It’s always a good idea to have one on hand to keep your dirty clothes in. When it is time to unpack at home, all of your dirty clothes are all ready to go into the wash and you don’t have to waste time smelling your clean clothes to see if they have been contaminated. Also, if you’re like me, you went to the pool one last time before packing and you don’t want that wet bathing suit mingling with your clean, dry clothes.

5. Guidebooks and Gadgets
Guys, the point of travel is to…travel. Yes, you should be as comfortable and informed as possible, but for the most part, you can leave your guidebooks and gadgets at home. I’m not saying the books and research aren’t important, but in the day of modern technology and wi-fi, you can look all that sh*t up once you get to your destination. Try and do as much research beforehand as possible and write down the things that look most appealing to you. Remember to ask the locals what they recommend, as well. A hotel employee is a local, don’t forget. As for gadgets, you can leave your portable DVD player and water purifier at home. You want to feel at home when you travel, but be realistic in seeing what you can live without. A laptop should more than suffice.

Believe it or not, there is a limit to how much all-inclusive fun one can have. I know, I said it. Yesterday was spent in true fat-ass gluttony. I parked myself by the pool for what I think was about four hours and drank Sol beers (somewhat similar to a Natty Light) and potent margaritas.

After crisping myself to the point where every inch of skin felt like Snooki’s face, it was time to pull myself away from this alternate universe and check into reality for some lunch. Come on, you can do it, too. Get off the beach chair, put on your shoes and go get some culture. Don’t be scared…You’ll be okay. The beach will be there when you get back.

In the name of local cuisine and an ethnic adventure, JP and I headed off site to La Destileria, a local Mexican restaurant near downtown Cancun with a long, LONG list of fine tequilas.

If you are in town and looking for something away from the endless strip of hotels, this place ranks very, very high on my list. JP and I sat on the deck overlooking the water while sipping a fine tequila.  The brand name escapes me at the moment (too much tequila? What is too much?), but the waiters are incredibly knowledgeable and will recommend amazing, amazing tequilas for you to sip, savor or shoot, whatever your pleasure. (The waiters will give you a tomato juice chaser, but you look way more badass if you drink the tequila straight.)

We ordered shrimp quesadillas and marinated beef tacos, which came with a massive dollop of fresh guacamole and diced red onions. We were stuffed, we were sh*t-faced, we were happy. Welcome to Mexico.

**JP was determined to get back to La Destileria for another meal, so we made a point of it to visit again the following day. If we were impressed with our meal the first day, the second blew it out of the water. Try the tacos de la plaza, which are made with chorizo and chicharron. The molca de arrachera is a must as well – a steaming stone bowl filled with steak, beans, chorizo, avocado, fresh cheese and some sort of cactus. A.mazing.

For those of you worried about the well-being of the 90s, I am here to report that they are alive and well…at least, at Oasis Cancun in Mexico. How do I know? I’m living it, baby. I’m talking meat heads and bimbos both tanned beyond belief and showing as much skin as possible, playing water volleyball and beach soccer and grooving to Rihanna or the Black Eyed Peas. Okay, the music may have changed a little, but the scene is still the same.

This is Cancun on Spring Break, just like you remember from MTV, although slightly smaller in scale. There’s no Carmen Electra or Carson Daly, but there are 20-somethings impersonating horny barnyard animals in exchange for alcohol. Oh yeah, it’s happening.

The boyfriend (JP) is on a press trip to check out Oasis Hotels & Resorts‘ newly renovated properties and I get to tag along to soak up some sun and alcohol. Pretty delightful.

Last night we checked out Sens Del Mar, one of Oasis’ most recently renovated properties. THIS is my kind of hotel. It’s “adults oriented,” which weeds out a lot of the families with their…charming…children. Many of the rooms have private plunge pools on their balconies, there are infinity pools, fine dining restaurants and a sunset bar. This is the perfect type of hotel for those “I’m going to ignore the fact that you don’t want kids because this is paradise and maybe you’ll change your mind someday” moments with a significant other.

I’m not staying at that hotel.

Don’t get me wrong – just because Oasis Cancun isn’t my scene (with it’s all-inclusiveness and body shot mentality), there is a market for it. In fact, there are tons of families, couples and friends here who are all having what looks to be a fantastic time. Hell, I saw a Michael Jackson impersonator last night and JP and I danced and sang to “Billie Jean,” among other MJ hits. I don’t expect this trip to be our From Here to Eternity moment, but we are having fun.

Stay tuned for updates from this evening as we get treated to a special performance by Kool and the Gang (yes, of ‘Celebration’ and ‘Jungle Boogie’ fame).

Hey there, fellow trippers. Tomorrow I am off to sunny, Caribbean-esque Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. I haven’t been out of the country since September and needless to say, I am a little restless.

I’m off to Oasis Cancun, an all-inclusive resort that has just gone through a major renovation. I expect my days will be filled with sun, sand, surf-and-turf and probably a bottomless margarita glass (along with a couple of other surprises that I cannot wait to tell you all about). Until then, let me delight you with a tale from my last visit to Cancun.

It was August 2009 and I was in town visiting the Ritz-Carlton property there. (I was the plus-one for my gentleman friend, who is also a travel writer. Ahh, the true power couple.) After four days of wine tasting, cooking classes and spa treatments it was time for us to fly home, separately, unfortunately. I made my way through the terminal at the Cancun International Airport, looking for a spot to grab that necessary pre-flight beverage.

Look, don’t judge me for my airport behavior, okay? There is absolutely NO local flavor at an international airport, especially in Cancun. So don’t hate on me for stumbling into a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for a snack and an alcoholic treat. Anyway, I ordered some sort of meal, I really can’t remember, but I’m going to guess it had shrimp. And, of course, I ordered a margarita on the rocks with salt….

…BIG mistake. And I am telling you this story, partially because it is humiliating and also partially to warn you. Apparently it is customary at this particular Bubba Gump Shrimp, at the Cancun International Airport, for all patrons that order a margarita to get up and dance in front of the entire restaurant while all the waiters come out and shake the drink for you. Can you see where I’m going with this? I was alone, I was sunburned, and I was forced to shake and shimmy by myself in front of ladies and gentlemen on guys’ getaways, girls’ getaways and lovers’ getaways. F*ck. My. Life.

I mean, really? Really?! As if dining at an American chain restaurant in an airport isn’t depressing enough, you are stuck in a terminal waiting to go home from what I assume would be a fantastic vacation, most likely bummed out, and all you want is a drink to help ease the sadness you feel at returning to your nine-to-five desk job. And now you have to bounce around like an idiot in front of strangers while six Mexicans sing Mariachi music.

The silver lining is now I go into this a little bit wiser, a little bit calmer and a little bit devilish, because you know I am not going to tell my travel companions about this little secret in hopes that I can pass the shake-and-shimmy torch.

Let’s face it – the best deals are to the Caribbean. Why? Because it is so easy to get to. Hey, I’m not complaining – especially when this week started at 14 degrees.

CheapCaribbean.com is offering a slew of hotel packages with air credits. Some of the offers include three nights for $199 at Grand Lucayan Radisson Resort in the Bahamas, air included, as well as four nights for $289 at Comfort Suites Paradise Island in the Bahamas, air included. The sale ends TODAY! Come on people…be impulsive!