Duarte Park – a Necessary Network for LGBT Groups


Parque Duarte, a small  park in Santo Domingo, is host to many groups- modern bohemians, musicians, artists, LGBT groups, and other types hanging out in the Colonial Zone. It’s a beautiful plaza-style park named after Juan Pablo Duarte, a Founding Father of the Dominican Republic. He is most noted for supervising and financing the Dominican War of Independence, a war that gave the Dominican Republic autonomy from Haiti on February 27, 1844. A statue of Juan Pablo Duarte resides in this beautiful park as a symbol or as a reminder that they are free. In Santo Domingo today, Independence and “free” may mean many different things to many different people and this park was representative of that.

Duarte Park is best-known as a meeting place before stepping out to the late-evening nightlife Santo Domingo has to offer. Tourists congregate and hang out there too as well as many locals.  My new Dominican Friends took me there as part of a media group one Friday night and that’s when I realized that Duarte Park was much more than a meeting place.

The first thing I noticed was that it appeared that LGBT groups made-up one of the smallest groups hanging out in the park.  It was packed with people.  I’m told Friday and Saturday night starting around 9p or so is when people start to arrive – it was 11p when we arrived and the Duarte Park was in full swing. There are a couple of spots to get a beer and even some cocktails and you can drink right there in the park.  On second thought, I really don’t know if it’s legal or not, but almost everyone was drinking something or another.  If you bought something, you were expected to share.  If you didn’t, someone would share with you.  It really was a public social gathering with a party-like atmosphere.  I was asked where the media group and I were going to that night and was advised about the best clubs to go to the following night.  I heard light hearted gossip about how this one got piss-drunk, what scandalous outfit that one wore, and who hooked up with who the prior night at the clubs.  My new friends were so right- this was a place people gathered at before going out.  Then I heard other conversations floating through the night…

So, Parque Duarte was really more than just a meet-up place before hitting the hot club spots.  It’s a network where lots of information is transferred.  A hotwire, if you will, of people concerned for the safety, the well-being, and the whereabouts of family, friends, and otherwise strangers like me.  I liked hearing that they were all looking out for one another through this grapevine.  If someone was not seen, heard of, or just missed, questions were quickly asked.  If there was a problem or crime committed, that news spread quickly too. If someone fell ill, the alarm was rung and others did what they could to comfort the sick.  I sensed that they self-imposed a responsibility for one another.  Like they say, there’s safety in numbers.  That network was necessary and vital to all those in the community and I was so very proud of them.

If you’re a tourist and need to know of safe places to venture to in Santo Domingo, be sure to hit Duarte Park to get in the know!

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Marriott’s Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel

The Soft Opening was Definitely Great but the Grand Opening…

well, let me just say in my most humble of opinions, I found it to be GRAND!! I mean it is sensational! I check in and to my delight, every staff member that I’ve met this past June are still there- more on them later. I head to my suite and was knocked over by the sheer magnificence of it all.  I decided to do a video right there and then:
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I was famished from my flight and decided to drop off my bags and head to the NEW Club Lounge!
Now I’m no stranger to Club Lounges. It usually is the best financial option for breakfast, substantial midday snacks, a cocktail hour or two, and coffees & teas all day. I knew that from my travels so I thought, “Now, Marriot’s Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel has a Club Lounge- okay, let me see the lovely room, get a cappuccino and maybe a piece of pastry while I watch some tennis.”

First of all, it’s NOT just a “lovely room,” it’s a very large space that is about 2 to 3 times the size of most swanky café lounges in New York City. It is beautiful, modern, and very chic! They have intimate seating for couples as well as wonderful seating to accommodate large families. The colors and style of the furniture pieces just make you feel like you’re sitting inside a page of a style magazine. My favorite piece was this large sharing table outfitted with fruits, muffins, and even candies just begging for me to sample them. What a great place to gather with family or friends before heading out to an excursion or before heading out on the town. After being pleased that there were large flat screen TVs everywhere (I did want to catch tennis) I decided to check out the afternoon snacks. Now I wouldn’t call these “snacks” at all, they were more like Midday Offerings! We’re talking fresh fruit & cheese platters and seafood canapes. Cute mini sandwich wraps and small bowls of Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil) were there for the taking. They also had salmon skewers and other hors d’ oeuvres- I had chicken dumplings but I also saw pork belly and beef apps. I had the opportunity to try the myriad of desserts- berry cheesecakes, chocolate cake, flan, and even fruit tarts. These “snacks” could very well have been “lunch.” I never did get to watch tennis that first day. I was too mesmerized taking in the panoramic views of Santo Domingo that the Club Lounge offers. You may even go outside onto the Club Lounge deck and take in the tropical breeze. Club Lounge Mini Clip

Besides being an amazing place to relax, the Club Lounge is a great place to work. As a travel journalist, you spend a lot of time in your room writing as I did in my previous trip at the Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel. The Club Rooms offer a large beautiful space I grew accustomed to (I want to take home that chair-and-a-half by the window) but the Club Lounge is perfect for business too. There are plenty of spaces to hook up your laptops and mobile devices and there free WI-FI is exceptional. I took a couple of conference calls there and all that my colleagues wanted me to do is “pan the room” so that they could see the amazing lounge. I even showed my Partner the views that include the property’s large pool, tennis courts, and fitness center. The Club Lounge also has a business center within it where you have access to PCs and Printers – a great place to print out boarding passes. I even gave a mini-workshop at the Club Lounge to a small team and it was not only productive, but wonderful. The lounge closes its services at 10pm but Club Members have access 24 hours. Most nights, I just plug in my laptop, use the free WI-FI, and try to catch the tennis game “late-night replays” while sitting comfortably by the cushy window seats. In fact, this is exactly where I am writing this article from now.

Now for me, as always, what makes a hotel “Grande” are its Staff Members. I believe that you can be in an old motel, but if their staff is stellar, than it can make for a great “stay.” Now if you’re in the Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel by Marriot, you’re in for top-notch service!

As you check in, you may encounter a wonderful front-desk staff member named Edilly. She’s not only professional and charming in demeanor, but she’s so easy to talk to. She makes you feel comfortable and you also feel like you can ask her just about anything. We became fast friends although she’s young enough to be my daughter and is younger than my own son. jajajaja!
Up in the Club Lounge, my NEW favorite space, you’ll get to know three special staff members – Katherine, Yoel, Tovucelly, and Rachell. Their warm smiles may greet you early during breakfast service or later in the evening where they’ll excitedly ask you, “How was your day?” The restaurant staff are also so hospitable – be sure to check out the bar too for an evening nightcap. A couple of days a week, the sommelier will make specialty cocktails and spirits right in the lobby. Get your camera phones ready to take pictures and videos!
The GM Mike Knights was on his own holiday so I met with his assistant – Fatima! Now this young lady is NOT your average staff member. Don’t get me wrong, they are ALL welcoming, hospitable, professional, friendly and they all make you feel that your wish is their command (like you’d experience at ANY Renaissance Hotel) but you’d want to hang out with Fatima. She’s so cool and on the cusp of art and culture in Santo Domingo, that you just want to experience the Dominican Republic through her eyes. She loves questions and can steer you in the best directions to soak up a little local color. Tell her H. Luiz says hello when and if you see her!

The Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel by Marriott- nowhere else I’d rather be!

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Enter the #LoveWins “Share Your Story” Wedding Sweepstakes

Three Beautiful French Quarter hotels, the Bourbon Orleans, Dauphine Orleans and Hotel Mazarin, part of the New Orleans Hotel Collection, want to commemorate the landmark Supreme Court ruling of Marriage Equality. They have proudly announced their new “#LoveWins” wedding package offerings and a sweepstakes offer for a same gender wedding to be given away.

Hotel Contest

The iconic Bourbon Orleans Hotel, located directly adjacent to Jackson Square, the new Mazarin Hotel and the delightful Dauphine Orleans Hotel of the New Orleans Hotel Collection, provide several options for LGBT weddings from as few as 15 guests in a tropical courtyard at the Dauphine Orleans Hotel or up to 250 in the historic Orleans Ballroom (1817). The classic Hotel Mazarin offers wedding ceremonies in its Renaissance inspired fountain courtyard, followed by delectable receptions in La Louisiane dining room.

The “LoveWins” Wedding Sweepstakes is open to ALL couples, brides and brides, and grooms and grooms. In the spirit of equality reflected in the Supreme Court’s recent decision, brides and grooms will not be discriminated against, and are also welcome to enter! The grand prize is a wedding at the couple’s choice of any New Orleans Collection hotel to the value of $5000.00. Full details of the sweepstakes offer, rules and restrictions, and how to ENTER can be found at French Quarter Weddings and also at NOLA Collection on Facebook. The Sweepstakes started July 14th and will close with the selection of the winning couple on Sept 1, 2015- so you still have time to enter! Entries must be made online. The lucky couple will be given a full year in which to book their wedding trip to New Orleans at one of the venues of the New Orleans Hotel Collection.

New Orlean Hotel Collection

Here’s a little history as to why the Bourbon Orleans Hotel means so much to me…

Sister Henriette Delille
Remember when I went down to New Orleans with my Partner Henry to do research on my family tree? We stayed at the beautiful Bourbon Orleans Hotel. We chose that hotel because it was the very same property where my great, great aunt was a nun in an underground convent- the First Order of Negro Catholic Nuns in 1881. The Society of the Holy Family was established by free women of color (les gens de colour libre) in 1842 in Louisiana, New Orleans.  These women served as godmothers to many: slaves, free, children, and adults. They also witnessed many marriages. With a three pronged program and a set of carefully drawn up rules, they expressed their apostolic intentions through caring for the sick, helping the poor, and instructing the ignorant of their people, free and enslaved, children and adults. They took into their home elderly women who needed more than visitation, and thereby opened America’s first Catholic home for the elderly of its kind, as recorded in the National Register. Noteworthy are the heroic efforts of the early Sisters who cared for the sick and the dying during the yellow fever epidemics that struck New Orleans in 1853 and 1897.  The order is now the oldest female-led African American order in America today.

The Sisters of the Holy Family were never recognized by the Roman Catholic Church since it was not acceptable to do so in those days. However, it’s founder Sister Henriette Delille (not my great, great aunt) was titled “Venerable of God” (the 2nd of 4 phases of the canonization process to saint) decreed by Pope Benedict XVI March 27, 2010. “Blessed” (the 3rd of 4 phases of the canonization process to saint) is in process now.

You can find out more about our vacation here the Bourbon Orleans Hotel

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New How-to Videos

I’ve created a video called A Beautiful Dinner…
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but then I thought that I should show how to Create Your OWN Outdoor Space for Less for that dinner…
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I also show how I Grill the Perfect Steak…
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Then of course, I demonstrate how to Make an Easy Rum Punch…
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To round out A Beautiful Dinner, I finish with something delicious.  This is how you can Transform Watermelon into a Real Dessert…
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Please let me know what you think of these How-To videos and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel here: Subscribe to H. Luiz Presents… on YouTube!

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New YouTube Videos – H. Luiz Presents…

This New YouTube Video is for a delicious, healthy, and beautiful meal – grilled tofu with a quinoa salad: YouTube Preview Image

We had a cocktail party and though we usually have a signature cocktail, we always have non-spirited options like fresh lemonade and cucumber water for our guests. Here’s a New YouTube Video on how to make my fresh lemonade: YouTube Preview Image

Ever have that moment when you smell fresh cinnamon rolls and you see a mound of heavenly goodness with that drippy white sugar glaze oozing off the top? Sometimes our will power is not enough to resist it and we know that we have no business eating a cinnamon roll the size of a child’s baseball glove. Now you can make your own “mini” cinnamon roll that packs a tasty punch of flavor that really satisfies. Here’s how I make them, the easy way in this New YouTube Video:  YouTube Preview Image

This New YouTube Video is just fun. We did a Meet n’ Greet in Atlantic City and to our surprise lots of sexy women showed up. I seized the opportunity and asked if they would do a 5 second promo vid and they said YES! Notice the other folks in the background – it was a lovely day! Thanks to MargaritaVille’s Land Shark Bar on the beach for hosting the location: YouTube Preview Image

These YouTube videos demonstrates the different styles of camerawork I use for H. Luiz Presents… videos on YouTube. Please share and give me a thumbs up on YouTube and maybe a comment- but only if you really like it! You may SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube Channel with 1 click here: H. Luiz Presents on YouTube


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Guess Who’s Painting Again?

…as if I really have the time! jajaja

Seriously though, our new home with its expansive walls had me looking at paintings and making statements like, “I can make that…I can create this…yes, I can do that too…how much does that cost??”

It’s the same “artistry” that allows me to cook/bake, its just an artistic muscle I haven’t used in a while. Well, decades to be exact but who keeps track?

What do you think?

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Just Good News!

Thank you for watching and keep on inspiring!

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The Stanton Social for Brunch – Yes PLEASE!

Stanton Social
I can’t pinpoint EXACTLY what it is-  maybe it’s the Irish-Portuguese swarthy looks, the killer tats, the Bad-boy persona, or maybe it’s the Rock-N-Roll attitude. Whatever it is, Chef Chris Santos is hot-hot-hot!! So, no doubt his restaurants are sexy too!

We were invited to Brunch with my Partner’s colleagues and friends. We’ve planned on going earlier in the year but we’ve been so busy (and admittedly, Henry rather eat my home-cooked food than venture out to eat.) So, I tweeted Chef Chris Santos to expect us and get ready for some holiday pictures at his restaurant – the Stanton Social! However, he responded that he would not be there – he was attending a wedding. But not to worry, we would catch-up some other time soon and he would leave us is the VERY capable and talented hands of Chef Jonathan Kavourakis.
Chef Jonathan

My favorite part of the Stanton Social is the SERVICE! As they brilliantly put it- the Stanton Social serves dishes that are designed for sharing among friends and are brought to the table steadily and continuously throughout the meal. It’s very reminiscent of cocktail parties held at the SkyBox, our very own home. Our server was gentle but very knowledgeable. We appreciated that- none of that aloof nonsense nor the hovering bs. I forgot his name (shame on me) but he was delightful and superb.

We’ve had the Ricotta Fritters with raspberry jelly and Caramelized Banana Pancakes w/ candied pecans, vanilla brown butter, and real maple syrup. We also enjoyed Potato & Goat Cheese Pierogi. They were little bundles of heaven served on platters to share as promised. Brunch cocktails were all around- I, of course, had the Pomegranate-Peach Bellini, but there were also other delectable brunch spirits on the table, such as the Blood Orange-Jalapeño Margarita. That one is made with jalapeño-infused Milagro Reposado, blood orange juice, fresh lime, and Cointreau. Doesn’t that sound grand?
ricotta frittaspierogipancakes

Then, after a few laughs and a bit of gossip, on came more sharing platters. This round was Red Snapper Tacos w/ creamy avocado and spicy mango; Potato Latkes w/ sour cream, and apple sauce; Breakfast Bruschetta of soft scrambled eggs, ovendried tomatoes, and asiago cheese; and Croque Monsieur ‘Satays’ rounded out this round.
tacoslatkesbruschettacroque satays

The last round was of Double Smoked Applewood Bacon (we got 2 orders of those); a DELICIOUS Kale Salad; and a favorites agreed by all – Warm Doughnuts w/ Fudge sauce. We has such a great time, and did I mention they had LIVE music? YES – we were treated to the great sounds of singer Kate and an amazing band!
Kale SaladSSdoughnuts

Later on, Chef Jonathan Kavourakis came over with a bottle of Rattler BBQ Sauce. Chef Chris Santos collaborated with Steve Seabury of High River Sauces to launch Rattler Barbeque Sauce– the barbeque sauce with a bite! It gets its “bite” from Cascabel Chile Peppers but behind the bite is a flavor they like to call a sweet heat – very delicious!!

“I hope you’ve enjoyed your brunch. This here is compliments of Chef Chris Santos- our new The Rattler BBQ sauce. Just a token for visiting us today and we hope you’ll return real soon – thanks!” – Chef Jonathan Kavourakis
BBQ Sauce

You better believe I’ll be back, not only to see these chefs again but to head on over to Chef Chris Santos’ other restaurant – Beauty and Essex.

Tell them H. Luiz sent you!! Stanton Social and Beauty and Essex

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The San Juan Water and Beach Club Hotel in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico

If you want to beat the crowded resorts and large-brand hotels, then the Beautiful Boutique “San Juan Water & Beach Club” in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico is where you WANT to be!
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We haven’t been to the Boutique Hotel – the Water and Beach Club in 10 years! I am so glad that Carlos Coriano, founder of Connecticut-based NovaVision Marketing, LLC convinced me to give it another try. It has been receiving GREAT reviews from social and print media for the last few years. The Water and Beach Club is literally under 10 minutes from the International Luis Munoz Marin Airport.  This jewel of a property has a very romantic and sensuous “feel” to it.  The spacious and beautiful rooms have a modern elegance with ultra-chic furnishings.  It is literally steps to the sun-drenched beach.  They also provide clean beach towels, large beach umbrellas and comfy lounge chairs for your convenience.  The SJWBC also boasts a beach cocktail/beverage service with a lunch menu too. 10 years ago, they did NOT have Beach Service and the Staff was NOT this accommodating and professional.
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There is a clean pool in the beautiful rooftop open-air lounge in the heart of the restaurant/bar named Mist.  It’s so beautiful that I’ve taken meetings and conferences up there.  For me, all I needed was a comfortable area, complimentary WIFI, a perfect view, an ocean breeze, and a great cocktail (does not hurt) to “work” while on vacation.  However, they do have a wonderful business center and conference rooms to fit your needs as well.
H. Luiz

TEN years ago, we had a great time but the service was just acceptable, EXCEPT for Front Desk Manger Virna (she was great) and guess what? Virna is still there!! Now, 2-3 management changes later, the service has been exceptional.  They’ve received Awards of Excellence among other awards over the last 2-3 years.  YES- the quality of service from the front desk, housekeeping, maintenance, beach staff, servers, bartenders, and chefs is truly reason enough to stay at the Water Beach Club.


The BEST reason to visit the San Juan Water and Beach Club has to be for the food. We cannot give Chef Raul Correa enough accolades for his “genius” in elevating centuries old Puerto Rican ingredients to modern day Haute Cuisine.  The food is just out of this world.  There’s been a lot of press about the Chef and now you may enjoy his culinary creations on TWO exciting floors.  Chef will tantalize all your senses with his creative cuisine:
Water Beach Club Chef Raul FoodPork Cheeks

As mentioned before, Mist is a rooftop lounge/restaurant serving the best (and most-delicious) cocktails, wines, beers, and other beverages. Their small plates are a play, again with local ingredients, of sensual and savory tastes. I would recommend EVERYTHING (including the Black Pearl cocktail) but you have to try the Pork Belly, Braised Short Ribs, and the Flat Bread Pizza of Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Fig.  Towards the end of the week, they have music, DJs spinning, and hot parties with the freshest of ocean breezes cascading through the open-air rooftop. It is sensual, cool, and offers anything you could possibly want on chic, back-lit menus.
Water Beach Club

Then there’s Zest, an intimate restaurant that sets the stage for an amazing experience that plays on all the senses.  You have to try my favorites- Popcorn Truffle Soup (trust me, you’ll cry), Pulpo and Morcilla (sausage), and the Pork Cheeks- you’ll return the next night for just that one.) We had the opportunity to try practically EVERY dish Chef Raul Correa creates, and we were truly over the Caribbean moon.  His staff is also talented.  If you’re lucky, Pastry Chef Luis will tantalize your palette with desserts you just won’t find anywhere else.
Chef Raul Pulpo Morcilla

The Director of Sales and Marketing, Betsy, became a Sister in minutes! Be sure to contact the Beautiful Boutique Hotel and ask about group rates, special events, weddings, and other packages. The Guest Services Manager, Virna, WILL welcome you with open arms and a warm smile. The Food and Beverage Manager, Nelson, will make sure that all your Culinary needs are met and Chef Raul Correa will just create dishes that you just have to eat to believe!

Let them know that H. Luiz sent you!

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ThanksGiving Prep 2014

Easy Tips + Some Answers to YOUR Questions in ThanksGiving Prep 2014…

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What About Ebola in the Caribbean?

This is the number ONE question you all have been asking since we heard about the first travel-associated case of Ebola to be diagnosed in America on Sept. 30th, 2014. Now, fear of the disease is running rampart through the Caribbean. Full disclosure- I had fears myself especially since we travel to the Caribbean about 10 times a year. ban
To be clear, there’s NO BAN in the Caribbean from U.S. travelers. The fear most Americans have is visiting an Island Country without a ban, then sharing a hotel, pool, or a buffet with someone possibly exposed to Ebola coming from West Africa. One reason for the level of fear in the Caribbean for placing these bans is the rapid spread of chikungunya – a painful viral disease also of African origin which first reached the Caribbean last December 2013. Some islands have recorded cases in the tens of thousands. Others have stopped counting all together. The difference is, chikungunya is mosquito borne. Once insects are infected, it is hard to stop it. However, Ebola will not spread that way in the Caribbean Islands.

Trinidad, Tobago, St Kitts-Nevis, St Vincent, St Lucia, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana and Belize banned all travel from African countries with an Ebola outbreak.

The Dominican Republic is also currently restricting travelers from West African nations dealing with Ebola outbreaks. Dominican Health Minister Altagracia Guzman says the ban applies to travelers who have been in those countries in the past 30 days. She announced Tuesday that authorities will remain vigilant at airports, seaports and the border it shares with Haiti.

The Turks and Caicos government has not issued ANY official restrictions, but it announced that immigration and health officials will put in quarantine any person coming from West Africa.

Currently, Barbados has no travel ban. However, their government wants to open an isolation center. Catholic School Parents are concerned about the location of the center and they’re campaigning furiously against it, especially if it’s near their students’ schools.

Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, was founded by former slaves from British colonies in the Americas. Many of its people speak Krio, which is closely related to English-based Caribbean creoles. In the English-speaking Caribbean, many people like to talk warmly of their African roots. But in the current crisis, practical help has come instead from Spanish-speaking Cuba, which has sent 165 health workers to Sierra Leone, with more on the way to Guinea and Liberia. Cuba is a Leader in Medicine, Treatment, Prevention, and Disease Control – it’s about time for the WORLD to recognize that. El Caribe Caribbean Cruise Travel has been affected too! A Dallas hospital lab supervisor was on a Caribbean cruise, and there was a fear that the lab supervisor might possibly have handled fluid samples from Thomas Duncan. Thomas Duncan (Liberian-American) died from Ebola on October 12th. The American health authorities wanted her home for closer monitoring. When the ship made its call in Belize, she and her travelling companion stayed on board, in voluntary quarantine. Needless to say, other tourists were very nervous. The cruise ship skipped its next call, which was Mexico (actually Mexico said, “Aqui no!”) and set course for Galveston, Texas. A helicopter picked up a blood sample, it tested negative (NO EBOLA) and everyone was able to breathe again – for now!

“How do you become infected with Ebola?” is another question you guys have been asking. Here it is, straight from the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention: Ebola is not spread through the air, by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (e.g., humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids.

As long as you stay abreast the latest news (real news, not fear-based propaganda) and follow safety travel procedures we should be okay. For more info, please click here Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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The Bourbon Orleans Hotel was SCARY…

but that was just the occasional (friendly) ghost seen here and there on the property!

In fact, the Bourbon Orleans Hotel was such a wonderful place to stay and we can’t wait to return in a few months. Let me break it down like I do:

Property – the property was once my great, great, aunt’s home as one of the original 12 nuns of the first Black Creole order of “Sister of the Holy Family” Convent in 1881 (today the Bourbon Orleans Ball Room), but that’s what makes it so special to me. For you, you’ll love the solar cell salt-water pool in the beautiful Court Yard. The property also boasts a restaurant and a bar for you to enjoy (more on that later.) There’s also a St. Ann Cottage that’s often used for celebrations and events. The Cottage is also home to the Administrative Offices (more on them later too.) The Rooms, Pool Rooms, and Loft Suites are sensational at great price points. We stayed in the Roux Loft Suite and it was so elegant with Creole French Style furnishings, but with a modern twist. We’ve enjoyed the wetbar and the 2 flat-screen TVs. Also on the first floor is the living room, complete with a large desk (WIFI is included at NO additional cost.) The patio balcony was great for late-night people watching and/or sipping great wines under the crisp moon. On the 2nd floor LOFT area is a Queen sized bed. You would think that you’d prefer a King, but the Queen is just right for those HOT French Quarter nights. The bathroom with the walk-in shower is ultra modern with a masculine edge that we so appreciated.

French Quarter
Location – the Bourbon Orleans Hotel is located smack dead in the middle of all that the French Quarter has to offer. To your right is Bourbon Street with all the fun craziness that you can possibly imagine, and to your left is Royal Street facing the historic King Louis Cathedral (the oldest cathedral still in use in the United States.) It is literally steps to famed Café du Monde (Beignets and Café Au Lait) AND steps to the all-important Mississippi River.

Staff Members – what an amazing set of dedicated staff-members (more like family members!) I have to give a GREAT shoutout to Kiana (Front Desk Manager), Miss Sweet Ivy (and ALL the housekeeping staff members), the Bartenders Steven, Justin, and Becka, and all the Food and Beverage staff (especially the wait staff) and of course, Laurie Guidry, Mark Wilson, & Marc Becker are all delightful.

The Roux Restaurant – the popular chef, Joey Wells, was not available (was looking forward to his Shrimp & Grits specialty) but the Chef who took care of us was OUTSTANDING!! We had the crab-stuff chicken breast and the filet mignon – heaven!! We were on a Gastro Tour all over the French Quarter, but the Roux Restaurant at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel will be on my TOP 8 FRENCH QUARTER RESTAURANTS to VISIT!!

The Bourbon O Bar – the best thing at the bar is not even a drink or beverage…
it’s Mixologist of the Year – Steven Lemley!! He is sensational. I was quoted as saying “Some bartenders make drinks, this Mixologist Steven Lemley creates an Experience!!” Not only will Steven create the most-beautiful drinks you’ve ever tasted (with FRESH fruit juices), he will give you a brief history about specific drinks as well. You’ll oooh and ahhh over his “flourishes” while he makes the cocktails, and if you don’t know what you want, he’ll gently recommend a cocktail based upon the flavors you do like. When visiting Steven Lemley, please tell him that “H. Luiz Martinez” sent you!

Now – when staying at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, remember to bring earplugs to ensure that you get some rest. The Hotel itself is pretty quiet as far as hotels go, but don’t forget that you’re in the French Quarter and on/near Bourbon Street – legendary for late night excitement, partying, and club-going. But there’s the other side to explore too – food, tours, steam-boat trips, food music, casinos, food, historical content, and did I mention food? jajajaja!

Enjoy New Orleans, enjoy the French Quarter, enjoy the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, and enjoy yourself!
H. Luiz

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Priority List: 8 At-Home Spa Treatments You Can Do on Vacation

Priority List

Pampering yourself at home with spa treatments is easy, rejuvenating and quite cost-effective. You have the luxury to control the ingredients that go onto your skin and into your body, too. You have control over the music you listen to as well as the environment’s “feel” as a whole. Why not incorporate those same basic principles and take those ideas with you when you travel? No, I’m not talking about lugging spa equipment, carrying mani-pedi tools, or packing a boat-load of tubes, jars, and containers on vacation. I’m saying that you can take those simple “at home spa treatments” and tailor them for your hotel room while on your vacation.

These treatments I’m about to illustrate came about when I needed to get creative and use what was available to me in a hotel. Jet lag, bad weather, irritability, and not feeling your best can all conspire to make a vacation turn sour, really quickly. In most cases, I had to improvise, but “discovery” was part of the fun. Of course, some of these ideas are just modifications of what I do at home, but a couple of ideas came from professional spa technicians in some of the very hotels I stayed in. After an enjoyable spa treatment or two, I always ask them, “How can I do this for myself at home?” You’d be surprised just how easy it is! Here are eight personal spa treatments you can create when you need to refresh, distress, or unwind while away on vacation.

1. Create a Refreshing Station

I do not drink as much water as I should when I’m at home, but when I travel I drink lots of it. I know it’s important to stay hydrated, especially in the tropics where I tend to vacation. The first thing I do is pick up the phone and order room service. I ask for sliced cucumber, sliced limes, and mint leaves (they may not always have mint). Then I ask for a large glass pitcher or carafe of filtered water. And while I have them on the phone, I usually ask them to send up a fresh fruit basket too. As soon as the fruit and water arrive, I put the sliced cucumber, limes, and mint leaves in the carafe with the water to create a cool, nutrient-rich, vitamin water. I’ve done this so many times that when we now return to some resorts, we’ll find a complimentary “refreshing station” and fresh fruit basket already set up in our room. That’s always a nice touch!

2. Steep That Tea

I remember once, when we finally arrived at our hotel room after a long flight, looking in the bathroom mirror and seeing this tired-looking man staring at me from the other side. Cabin pressure, lack of sleep, and caffeine really do a number on the skin, especially the face. I used to bring along spray mists but my large ones are now against air-travel regulations. So, I decided to give myself a mini-steam facial to invigorate my skin, open up my pores, and improve my circulation. You can do it, too. Fill your clean hotel sink with hot water. Throw in a couple of those complimentary herbal tea bags (maybe they’ll even have chamomile) and grab a nice fluffy towel. Drape it over your head and shoulders to create a tent over the sink. Steam your face for about three minutes. Want more time? Just add more hot water. Don’t forget to breathe in deeply and relax. Afterward, gently pat your face dry with the towel. This will put the glow back in your face for sure!

3. Make a Natural Facial Mask

After you’ve spent time giving yourself a steam facial, you can apply a natural facial mask. It’s very easy: mix some milk and honey together and that’s all you really need. The mixture should be creamy yet sticky. These two ingredients work well for all skin types. However, I encourage you to experiment with other natural ingredients such as hand-mashed avocados and moistened oatmeal. Simply apply the mixture as you would with any store-bought facial mask. Lie down on your bed, throw some of those cucumber slices over your eyes, and just relax for about 15 minutes. When you’re finished, rinse with slightly cool water. Dab your face dry and apply your moisturizer. A natural mask has many beneficial properties. It hydrates your face and draws out impurities from congested skin. It also helps to calm and smooth tired skin and reduce puffiness. When someone comments on your beautiful skin, just say, “It’s natural, baby!”

Read the rest of Priority List: 8 At-Home Spa Treaments You Can Do On Vacation here
H. Luiz Spa

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The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort in St. Maarten

Sonesta Great Bay Beach
“I wrote this from my in-flight airplane seat, because I wanted to give you ALL the details that I could remember about our 7-Day stay in the beautiful Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort in St. Maarten.”
– H. Luiz Martinez


The property, though charming with a Dutch Island feel, was in need of a few modern upgrades, but guess what? They were set to close the property after Labor Day, Sep 1st for a month-long renovation project – after our stay. However, the infinity pool, and the 2 other pools were beautiful and we enjoyed swimming in them every day. You couldn’t beat the beach and the view from the resort and it was literally breath-taking! We had an “apartment” in the resort, which is like a Jr. Suite, that had the cleanest full kitchen I have ever seen! You were able to reach your personal patio (complete with an outdoor dining table and chairs, plus lounge chairs) through the bedroom and/or living room glass patio doors – there’s an indoor dining table and chairs as well. The flat screen TVs have great reception and the WiFi is strong! Again, the views are post-card perfect! The pool, the bars, the daily entertainment, and live music were reasons enough to stay.

The staff members at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach are more like long-lost relatives, always attentive yet non intrusive to your privacy. Phrases like, “Enjoying your Happiness today?” “Have you found your Calm yet?” and “Be sure to soak up the Tranquility” were said to us every day with genuine smiles. They have a great General Manager named Karl Bourne, who seems to anticipate guests needs before they even arise. Mr. Radcliffe, Operations, was helpful with any questions, scheduling, and service needs as well. A big Thank You to Cleopatra, Food and Beverage, for welcoming us with a bottle of wine, fruit and cheese platter, and a warm “welcome” note!

Welcome Hospitality

The Executive Chef, Marc Innocenti, is truly a superstar! We’ve been treated royally before in other Caribbean Islands, but Chef Marc was also someone we could just hang out with and talk about food, great restaurants, and tennis (the US Open was running during our stay.) He prepared us private dinners that were simply extra-ordinary, becoming of an experience executive chef and beyond! We’re still talking about our surf and turf of Lobster Tail & Filet Mignon – which was just 1 of a 5 course gastro-tour. That dish alone is enough to make us return next year!! The stuffed mussels and seafood filled balls (rellenos) were delectable and the blue-cheese frisee salad was delicious. As an extra treat (and perhaps our favorite) was the Shrimp Mac n’ Cheese! That was enough to put tears in our eyes and smiles on our faces.
mussels GreatBayFood2 GreatBayFood3

Chef Marc Innocenti was also our point person on this vacation in regards to our dining experiences. He coordinated our day-trip to sister resort Maho Beach and setup all our transportation services and back. Chef Marc scheduled another gastro-tour there, but we had a BBQ Buffet instead. The BBQ was great, but we were disappointed that the chef there did not “deliver.” The sister-property at Maho Beach is geared more towards families with children, but we had a great time at the pools, casino, and watching planes fly startlingly close over the beach.
St. Maarten

Back at Great Bay Beach, Chef Marc introduced us to Executive Sous Chef, Fabio.  He created Sicilian inspired dishes but with a Caribbean tasty twist! Chef Fabio is one of those chefs that if you give him 30 days, he can prepare 30 distinct dishes without much effort. That’s what you call passion!  Again, with the coordination of our Superstar Executive Chef Marc Innocenti, we’ve enjoyed a Romantic Dinner on the very sands of the St. Maarten Beach of the resort. There, Chef Fabio and Chef Win spoiled us again! The spiny-shell lobster was prepared to perfection and we would guess to be about 4 to 5 lbs…each! We thought we died and went to seafood heaven. Also, the seafood bisque with fresh Johnny cakes and sweet-potato crab cakes were enough to have us smiling all night, not to mention the other course in between. Be sure to check out Pescatore whenever you’re in St. Maarten (or anywhere you’ll find these CHEFS!)

We can’t wait to return next year!!

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