Laura Freeman

Laura Freeman

Continuing on my hotel tour of Quebec (and you can catch up on last week's episode here) are the sister hotels Hotel 71 and Hotel Saint-Pierre.

These hotels are joined at the lobby and are located very close to the Chateau Frontenac near the lower part of the funicular. The hotels are part of a new trend of minimalistic hotels in Quebec City.

Hotel 71 Rooms 

The Hotel 71 is a trendy, sleek hotel that caters to mostly couples. There are only 50 rooms in the hotel. In the low season, the superior room goes for about $189/nt, reaching the low $300s during the high season. The lobby has an espresso bar and hosts a happy hour during the evening. Walking through the hallways feels warm and intimate.

Hotel71bathroom Hotel71kitchen

The hotel used to be a bank and many of the details of the old buildings are incorporated into the design; in the penthouse the kitchen is nestled into an old vault. I really loved this hotel and thought the value was unbelievable for the price. The rooms are a reasonable size and all modernly decorated.


The penthouse is a gorgeous, large open room with a sectioned off bedroom. There's a long table for hosting private events and, upstairs, a large private terrace with an unbelievable view of the Chateau Frontenac and river.

Hotel71Restaurant Hotel71Restaurant2

There is a restaurant, which is open to the public for lunch and dinner, but serves free buffet breakfast in the morning.

The hotel has a fitness room and spa, which is available to Hotel Saint-Pierre guests as well.

The lobby of the Hotel 71 connects to the Hotel Saint-Pierre. The Hotel Saint-Pierre is a more traditional version of the Hotel 71 and caters towards families as well as couples. There are 31 rooms, which are a bit larger than at Hotel 71 and have more doubles or hideabeds. Many of the rooms also have partial kitchens, which are great for families.

Stpierreroom Roomstpierre

During the low season, a superior room starts at $159/night. The vibe is a cozy and shabby- chic with beautiful details like tasteful exposed pipes and wooden floors. The 1830's windows are still intact and can even open for some fresh air. I would recommend not opening them in the winter.

StPierrerestaurant Stpierrelibrary

The Hotel Saint-Pierre also has a great restaurant, which serves complimentary a la carte breakfast included in the price of the room. That detail alone is amazing! If you're interested in a more intimate hotel at a ridiculously reasonable price, either one of theses are a gem!

Friday, 20 March 2015 00:00

Hotel Review: Chateau Frontenac

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Quebec. I know what you're thinking; why would you ever go to Quebec in the winter? Well, the Ice Hotel has always been a bucket list item of mine, so we had to. Luckily, it wasn't that cold and I finally learned to dress appropriately. It only took 28 years! But more about the Ice Hotel later...

Chateau Frontenac

As a dutiful travel agent, I took many hotel site tours, and I was so pleased with what I saw. Today's hotel review is the famous Chateau Frontenac. The Chateau Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world for a reason. Because the hotel is such an icon, it caters to couples and families alike. 

Chateau Frontenac Quebec

During low season, rooms start at $349/nt. During the high season, you can expect to pay $679. While the hotel has over 600 rooms, unlike other large hotels, each room is different. After a 2008 renovation, most of the rooms have been updated, but they left some of the rooms in the old traditional style, as the Asian tourists prefer them. Because many of the rooms are oddly shaped, it feels like you are staying at a B&B.

Chateau Frontenac Double Room

Several additions were built to accommodate the need of all of the visitors coming to Quebec. There are photos of the progress posted around the hotel and are fun to look at. Because of this, not all of the rooms on a particular floor are connected and the hallways feel like your walking through a labyrinth. It's a refreshing change to the straight line of rooms seen at other large hotels.

Chateau Frontenac Modern Room Chateau Frontenac Traditional Room

For business travelers, there is an Executive Floor with a lounge that serves continental breakfast and appetizers during happy hour.

Spa Chateau Frontenac Chateau Frontenac Pool

If you're looking for a hotel that has a lot of amenities, this is it. There is a lovely spa, swimming pool and a large gym. There is even a Starbucks!

Red Function Room Chateau Frontenac Chateau Frontenac Ball Room

 The hotel has a large ballroom and several smaller rooms for functions. I loved this red room! Outside the ballroom is a wall with photos of all of the famous people that stayed there.

Bar Chateau Frontenac

There are 3 restaurants and a fromagerie. Here's a photo of the King's table, where the chef will build you a special menu for you and your party. If you prefer a private room, there is a library that you can rent.

Kings Table Chateau Frontenac

Staying at the Chateau Frontenac is like staying at the castle on top of the hill, literally. Everything in the old town feels like it revolves around the Chateau. If you're looking for an iconic experience at a large hotel, this is the place to stay.

To see more Quebec photos, check our Flickr

As you may have figured out by now, I love an interesting experience. Anything out of the ordinary, I want to see it. So when I saw a post on the FIT- my alma mater- Linkedin board to take a tour of a real live flower factory right here in Manhattan, I could not resist the invitation.

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom

M&S Schmalberg Flower Factory on 36th street in NYC's Garment District is small, but effective.  The door opens into the showroom, which is a girly girl's dream; flowers of every color, fabric, shape and size adorn the walls, tables and fixtures. The owner, Warren, was working with a designer when I arrived and some other custom tailors and milliners were waiting to look through the stock.

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom

Since 1916, M&S Schmalberg, a 4th generation family-owned company, has been creating custom flowers in New York City. They still use the same techniques as when they opened, and some of their many molds are from the turn of the 20th century!

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom

First, fabric is prepped, pressed and stiffened.

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  Fabric Prepping

Once dry, a machine cuts the desired pattern. 

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom

Once cut, a machine using heat and pressure molds the fabric to the desired print. Some fabrics are able to print several layers at a time, but thicker fabrics, like velvet, can only go through one at a time.

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom

Once pressed, sewers work diligently putting the finishing touches on the flowers. All wires and embellishments are sewn manually.

M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom  M&S Schmalberg Flower Showroom

In the factory, I felt like I was transported back in time; before all garment making was taken overseas. Real people- real New York people (!) were working in the back room. I am so happy to see companies like this still exist today. 

M&S Schmalberg (212) 244-2090 • 242 W 36th Street, 7th Floor • New York, NY 10018

Monday, 09 February 2015 00:00

Packing for My First Cruise: Follow-up

This post is a follow-up to a previous post.


Previously, I wrote about packing for my first cruise and how I would do it differently. For the most part, I think that I packed pretty well. The weather was unseasonably cold both in Orlando and Nassau due to the snowstorms up north. In Orlando, I found myself in pants and a sweatshirt the entire time. So what would I have done differently?

      1. A lanyard for my Seapass. When on board, your Seapass is everything from your ID to your credit card and it needs to be on your person at all times. A lanyard is a great worry-free solution.

     2. An extra sweater; even though the temperatures were unseasonably cold, it gets chilly outside on the boat at night

     3. An extra pair of pants. See above.

     4. A casual cross body bag. Something to carry my things in that I’m not worried about getting a bit dirty.

This being my first cruise, I felt like it really took me two full days to get the lay of the land. As I mentioned in my cruise write up, Royal Caribbean had us participate in a scavenger hunt around the ship. This was really helpful in getting to know the ship. I definitely recommend taking a ship tour or creating your own scavenger hunt, particularly for the 3-night cruises. I would also really get to know the daily cruise itinerary. There are so many things to do and it’s great to know your options. What are your cruise tips?

Thursday, 05 February 2015 23:11

Cruising is For Everyone

I just returned from my first cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas departing from Port Canaveral, Florida headed to the Bahamas. The weather in New York has been cold and snowy, so I was really looking forward to getting out. I never considered going on a cruise. I’m not going to lie, I had many misconceptions about cruises; like that it was a bunch people spending 24-hours gorging on fried food. But I was oh so wrong.

Freedom of the seas

Royal Caribbean revamped some of the features on the ship, from the staterooms to the fine dining restaurants, and invited travel agents from across the country on board to experience them. Everything from the beginning ran smoothly; from the airport transfers to the boarding process. We got to our stateroom, a balcony on the 8th  floor, and everything was clean and tidy. Our balcony was lovely with two chairs and a table. I really enjoyed having a balcony; it felt more like a vacation

Stair case Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas promenade Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

There were more bars that you can count. My favorites were Olive and Twist and Vintages. Olive and Twist is the bar on the 14th floor of the ship with sweeping 360 views of the ship and the ocean; perfect for catching the sunset.  Vintages is a wine bar located on the Promenade. It’s a comfortable, stately bar with a hunting lodge meets academic study feel. There is a good variety of wine to suite every taste, including a red and white caymus. The coolest part of the bar is the tasting vending machine. Lined up on the wall are machines with spouts that allow you to try samples of the wine before purchase- a classy vending machine.

Vintages Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

There were so many things to do on the ship! There are classes, contests and even karaoke. On the pool level alone there were hot tubs and pools galore with a special pool area for kids. 

boogie board Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

The ship was huge! Did you know that the boat can fit all of the players and coaches form the NFL, MLB and NBA combined? Despite that, it doesn't feel packed. The pool level also has a basketball court, rock-climbing wall and surfing/boogie boarding simulator. 

hottub Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

We spend most of the first afternoon on a scavenger hunt where we visited different staterooms collecting raffle tickets. The Presidential Suite is perfect for groups of 8 with several bedrooms, a generous living room area and a huge balcony with a large dining table, hot tub and it’s own bar. I, however, preferred the Royal Suite, which is a bit more intimate with a grand piano in the corner.

hottub balcony Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas balcony table Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

I think that I was most surprised at how good the food was. I was expecting masses of fried food, but there were plenty of options, including a whole buffet of gluten free options. The specialty dining options were beautifully decorated with a trendy vibe and delectable bites.   

Specialty Dining Sabor Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

Cruises are a great, easy vacation! I encourage everyone to at least try it. I can guarantee that your misconceptions will be cleared as well! 

To see all of the photos from this trip, take a look at our Flickr

view from olive and twist Royal Caribbean Freedom of Seas

Wednesday, 28 January 2015 21:39

Packing for My First Cruise

I leave tomorrow for Orlando to take my first CRUISE! I could not be more excited. I never considered myself a "cruise person," but my excitement seems to differ, especially given the snow that we have here in NYC. I am cruising on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the seas, 2-night to Bahamas and I have an extra night in Orlando. I wanted to share how I am packing- and then see how it compares to how I would have packed after knowing more about cruising.

All clothes

I am brining: 2 dresses for dining and evening, 1 pair of black heels, a black cardigan, a night time handbag, a pair of thin black pants (I'm not really a shorts person), a t-shirt, tank top and a top, sweatshirt, sneakers and gym wear (hey- you never know), 2 day time dresses, flip flops, a pair of pajamas, undergarments, 2 swim suits and 1 cover-up, a travel hair straightener, socks and deodorant, headphones, medications, sunglasses, travel journal, hair brush and all necessary documents.

Close up of clothes Cruise top

I am also bringing my awesome sequin tacky cruise top- because it's awesome. I've had this for years, it's perfect for Vegas and other flashy events and looks super cute with black cigarette pants.

Shoes carryon

Because I have room in my suitcase and don't need to pack so tightly, I am putting my shoes in plastic bags to go in my suitcase. My liquids, medications, sunglaseses, travel journal, documents and electronics/chargers (not pictured) will go in my handbag. 

plane outfit

I will wear my black pants, ballet flats, t-shirt and sweatshirt on the airplane. 


So do you think that I packed right? We shall see! Follow-up to come!

So speaking of snow (there is a blizzard right now in NYC), The Trip Trotter caught up with Sidney Oolong, one of the creators of the Ice Ball, a guerrilla-type event, which occurs yearly at the Bryant Park skating rink. The event encourages skaters of all levels to join, as long as they embrace the formal theme:

Ice Ball 3

Photo credit: Sydney Oolong

TTT: How long has the ice ball been happening and how has it grown?

SO: First: 2010: about 20, 2011: approx 30, 2012: approx 70, 2013: approx 70, 2014: approx 80

TTT: What was the inspiration for the ice ball?

SO: I had bought a full formal evening dress outfit for my "performance" in the Quadrille Ball that year, and began to invent reasons to wear it to get my money's worth. Dooner (another organizer) was holding somewhat regular ice-skating socials, which echoed of the social aspect of the Quadrille rehearsals. To add motivation to attend the ice socials we came up with the idea of a Ball at the end of the season (mimicking the Quadrille) for which the socials would be recast as rehearsals.

Editor's note: The Quadrille Ball is a society ball benefitting the Germanistic Society. The yearly ball features the Quadrille dance, preformed by debutant men and women.

TTT: What was the most outrageous thing that has happened at the ice ball?

SO: Not outrageous, but culturally significant: probably Bill Cunningham
showing up and publishing in NYT's Evening Hours

TTT: What was the most notable outfit?

SO: Basically anyone and everyone who went full formal, or wore something in pursuit of the impression of formality *over* the conduciveness to ice skating.)

TTT: Have you ever had any problems with Bryant park/the police?

SO: Occasionally some guests have snits with the skate guards telling them not to take photos on the ice, and to move along from where they have congregated for group photos.

Iceball 2 Ice Ball 1

Photo credit: Sydney Oolong

Unfortunately, the 2015 ball just passed, but the event does happen yearly, so be on the lookout! 

Thursday, 22 January 2015 19:26

The Amazing Windowswear Walking Tour

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking a NYC boutique and department store windows walking tour with Windowswear.

This tour is great not just for fashion enthusiasts, but for anyone interested in the history of New York City or economic development. Even after going to fashion school and living in the city for almost a decade, I still learned a surprising amount!


The tour isn't fashion-centric, meaning the focus is not what the current colors and trends are, but talks about the composition of each windows, the window's creator, the history of the brand (and their windows), and the history of fashion in New York. Did you know that Macy's was the first store to use their windows as a form of art? Or that Lord and Taylor's flagship is the only store that has their windows on hydraulic elevators for easy changing?

Lordandtaylorwindows saksbridal

We started off at Herald Square, visiting the giant Macy's flagship and finished at the esteemed Bergdorf Goodman. Stops included Saks 5th avenue, Dolce and Gabbana and Versace.


I also loved learning about the marketing techniques used in the windows; Tiffany has 20' windows, but only has display in 2'. Their product is small, so they didn't want to have a large, distracting display.

Tiffanyswindow gucci

It's these details that make this 1.5 hour tour perfect for tourists and New Yorkers alike. Guides are knowledgable and are able to answer any questions that come their way. The tour doesn't have a ton of walking, but keeps a good pace. Since the windows are constantly changing, the tour is also changing. Want to book this fantastic experience? Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Tuesday, 13 January 2015 00:42

Manhattan's best food courts

You're out exploring the city. You're hungry. But you don't want to spend the time at traditional sit-down. Lucky for you, we're reviewing our favorite Manhattan food courts so you can enjoy a quick fix!

1. Hudson Eats
Brookfield Place, 200 Vesey Street, Manhattan
Hours: 7:00am- 9:00pm

Overlooking the Hudson river on the very bottom West side of Manhattan sits Brookfield place, a large building complex  resembles a midtown office building. Hudson Eats takes over the whole second floor with diners enjoying sweeping views of the river. Hudson Eats is a new food court with upscale dining options including Umami Burger and Blue Ribbon Sushi. Hudson Eats has a sleek, modern feel, with food covering most every genre.


2. Plaza Food Court
1 West 59th St
Hours: 8:30am- 9:30pm

This is a personal favorite of ours, one that is under the radar for most New Yorkers. This area is notoriously difficult for finding something fast; it is void of even McDonalds. The Plaza Food Court is a 32,000 sq ft complex right underneath the grand Plaza Hotel featuring everything from lobster rolls to pizza. We LOVE the fro-yo bar!


3. Gotham West Market
600 11th Avenue
Hours: 7:00am- 11:00pm
This ultra-hip market on the west edge of Manhattan is smaller than the others but is full of gourmet gems, including Ivan Ramen. Gotham West is trendy, showcasing creative culinary concoctions, like "sandwich art" shop Court Street Grocers Sandwich Shop.


4. Eataly
200 5th Avenue
Hours: 10:00am- 9:00 pm
Mario Batali really outdid himself with this Eataly. Is it a market? A beer garden? Or a cooking school? Looking to buy olive oil? You're in luck- there are aisles of options! There are several restaurants; both sit down and stand up, as well as to-go options. Try the heirloom tomato and mozzarella sandwich with sea salt and don't forget the gelato for dessert! YUM!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014 16:01

NY Botanical Garden Train Show

After many years livng in New York, it's easy to fall into a pattern; going to the same bars, same restaurants and doing the same things. But then all of a sudden, you realize that you're not taking advantage of the city that you spend so much money to be in. I decided that I was going to make an effort again! To see and experinence new things. While I was still in the "gung-ho" phase, I decided that I would venture all the way to the Bronx to see the Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden.

NY Botanical Garden Train Show NY Botanical Garden Train Show

Two trains and one bus later, we arrived! Upon arrival, despite the massive amounts of people and children, you felt transported to another world, stilt walkers dressed as train workers and fabulously festive conductors (complete with train shoulder pads!) Excitement was building, and finally, we were allowed in the greenhouse. The exhibit was packed, children and adults admiring the intricate NY houses and monuments. First thing that you noticed were the replicas of the iconic New York bridges overhead.

NY Botanical Garden Train Show JFK NY Botanical Garden Train Show Guggenheim

I loved seeing how they portrayed some of New York's iconic buildings; the Guggenheim and JFK were particularly unusual and spectacular. Many of the buildings, including the old Vanderbilt mansion, had been torn demolished. It was so sad to think of all the beautiful buildings being replaced by ugly skyscrapers.

NY Botanical Garden Train Show NY Botanical Garden Train Show

Overall, the train show was very impressive. I would recommend not going on a Saturday afternoon, if you can avoid it. There is also a great holiday food court with sandwiches and soups from Chelsea Kitchen. The NY Botanical Garden complex is HUGE! There is even a tram to take you around it all. Given that it was winter, we skipped the tram, but we DID enjoy the Flora Illustrata, an exhibit featuring beautiful illustrations of flowers dating hundreds of years. The gift shop at the Botanical Garden is also great and has a vast collection of books about everything plant and garden. Because we went around Christmas, there were carolers, ice sculptures and beautifully light up Christmas trees. Definitely well worth the trip! 

Want to see more photos of the train show? See the full album on our Flickr page!


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