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Travel Report from Near and Far

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I worked two hours on Monday morning in Manchester, New Hampshire....in the afternoon, I took in the Seacoast at Portsmouth and Kittery, ME. I worked two hours in New Hampshire on Tuesday and then headed down to Hyannis on Cape Cod. A Nor'easter was brewing and predicted to wallop the Mid-Atlantic to New England regions. Getting to Cape Cod on Tuesday, prior to the storm was important. My original plan was to use my day off on Wednesday to visit Nantucket via ferry. Unless that storm turned out to be a total dud, it wasn't going to happen. Airlines started canceling all flights throughout the northeast for Wednesday and Thursday...the Ferry suspended service to the island for Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday. Thursday was all but written off.

 

The weather was supposed to hit Hyannis around 1PM on Wednesday and snow hard and heavy for 12 plus hours. I felt it was best to make my way over to New Bedford, MA on Wednesday morning and get an early check in at the Fairfield Inn & Suites New Bedford.  When I arrived, the wind was already gusting over 40MPH. The snow wasn't there, but a spitting, biting, sideways rain/sleet mixture was just making it's debut. Wednesday night was a quick bite out and then early to bed.

 

I woke up Thursday morning to hear about the storm that peter'd out (as far as snowfall is concerned). Almost no snow, but plenty of slushy stuff and super high winds. I was scheduled for a two hour workday in Fall River that would finish up around noon. After my grueling workday, I headed back to the FFI and was looking for something to do with the rest of Thursday......then it hit me!! I wonder if the ferries are running out of Hyannis to Nantucket???? If so, what did the schedule look like? Could I get to Hyannis, then Nantucket and back sometime Thursday night? You bet I could!!

 

The slow speed, vehicle and people, ferry would leave Hyannis at 2:45PM and arrive at Nantucket at 5:00PM. The high speed people only ferry would leave at 3:00PM and arrive at 4:00PM. I picked the slow speed since the ship is much larger and I figured it could handle the rough seas better. The return trip had one option. High speed at 8:20PM. I never even thought that the 8:20PM wouldn't sail (that could turn out to be a major miscalculation).

 

I left New Bedford around 1PM and was purchasing my ticket for the Steamship ferry at 2:15PM. The big bellied ship was getting ready to accept trucks and cars that were lined up for the trip. I know many on here are aviation geeks and get really pumped up on plane travel days. I enjoy that feeling also....BUT, it doesn't even compare to the exhilaration that is firing waiting to board one of these ferries. Thirty miles out to sea to visit a historic island had my heart pumping.

 

Yes, it was off season....yes, it was still winter cold...yes, it was a three hour visit....but I was stoked!!!

 

I hinted about the miscalculation for the certainty of the return trip. That possibility hit home when listening to some of my fellow passengers. They were talking about waiting two days to get home to Nantucket. We were chatting about that inconvenience when one nice lady asked me where I was staying when I arrived. I told her I was heading back that evening. Then she said.. "I hope the weather holds up or you'll be looking for a room"... WHAT?????? I can't NOT get back, I needed to be at work in the morning. I started crossing every pair of fingers I had.

 

The trip out was rough. The Captain asked all folks to get and stay seated once we were out of the channel. I don't often get motion sickness, but I have my limits. I remembered a tip given by a US Air pilot many years ago...he told me to always look at the horizon and that will defeat the motion or sea sickness.  I stared at that horizon for two hours on the ride to Nantucket!! There were a couple of passengers that didn't fare too well, but I had no problems!!!

 

As we entered the harbor area, excitement was building. I snapped a few pictures as we were approaching the dock. Just beautiful. I hopped off the ship and walked around town for a while. I stopped in at the Charlie Noble Restaurant for a bite to eat. It was all locals in a somewhat fancy looking pub setting. I can (and have) sit with locals anywhere on Earth. The lady sitting next to me at the bar was enjoying a mouth watering codfish sandwich. I quickly ordered one for myself and washed it down with the recommended IPA. I didn't want to leave the friendly conversation, but I had more exploring to do. By that time, what local shops that were open in the off season had mostly closed up for the day...so I strolled down cobblestone streets with gorgeous buildings.

 

Oh by the way, I grabbed a picture of the high speed ferry leaving Nantucket, so I felt confident it would come back to get me.

 

Back to the ferry terminal on Straight Wharf...and I was heading back to the mainland.

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New Hampshire, Maine, Cape Cod...now New Bedford. I'm getting closer to my work assignment in Fall River (home of Emeril Lagasse). Why New Bedford, you ask? Well, a couple of years ago, I was looking to get out to Martha's Vineyard.( Martha's Vineyard..Day Trip, July, 2013 )  There is a Ferry Terminal in New Bedford that provides the transportation that I seek. When the ferry pushed away from the dock, I noticed a newer Fairfield Inn & Suites rising from the old industrial town. I made a note to try that property out the next time in the area. It took me a couple of years, but I'm back, baby!! Since the winter storm is in full tilt status today, no ferry ride for me, but I am trying out the hotel and a couple of local hot spots.

 

The hotel is actually 7 yrs old and is finishing up a remodel. It feels newer than 7 yrs, for sure. I used the app to message the hotel to let them know of my quest for 500 and that they were #106 FFI and #434 overall Marriott property. They were great and upgraded me to a harbor view suite! Woohoo!

 

The FFI is literally a two minute walk to the ferry terminal.....and less than a quarter mile to many dining spots. I chose Moby Dick Brewing Co. from the front desk recommendation. After walking the 1/4 mile in biting wind and sleet..it was closed!!!! No worries, I had Rose Alley Ale House as my back up and they were ready and willing to accept my money. I know that the New Bedford/Fall River area has a long Portuguese history. What I didn’t know is that Mozambique Sauce comes from Portuguese cooking. The Rose Allay has their own version called “Rose”ambiquie. The bar man recommended the sauce on the wings....so I split 10 wings with their special sauce and traditional buffalo sauce. That Mozambique Sauce was FANTASTIC!

 

The storm is supposed to change from sleet to snow and reek some havoc, so I decided to wait til tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, make the ride back to Hyannis to grab that ferry to Nantucket.  I hope the Sun shows up.

 

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I left the New Hampshire and Maine area to head to Cape Cod. I was going to take the ferry to Nantucket, but another of the never ending Nor’easters is coming later today. My hosts at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Cape Cod Hyannis have a beautiful hotel here. This is one of two Marriott properties on the Cape. The FFI&S is just under two years old. The Courtyard has been here much longer and is separated from the FFI&S by a big box shopping center.

 

The town of Hyannis is definitely worthy. Lots of local shops and eateries. I love their street/directional signs. Since the ferry trip wasn't going to happen, I drove around and did some recon for a future visit. The harbor area, including the ferry terminal, was exciting to see...even if I wasn't hopping aboard. Ferry travel is my favorite way to go. Who doesn't like heading to an offshore island on a big boat??? If you take the ferry, parking is plentiful if you decide to leave your car. Time to hit the road...where’s that evacuation route?  Now for New Bedford and another Ferry Terminal!

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I had the rare work assignment that included four, two hour days, sandwiched around a travel Wednesday. It's still cold, wintery cold, up in New England, with snow on the ground, but the sky was brilliantly blue...so let's hit the Seacoast!!!!

 

I've read the recommendations for Wentworth by the Sea, A Marriott Hotel and Spa. It's that old classic type of property that is slowly being Arned (the act of taking nice things and making them disappear for the all mighty dollar). The vets on here can recall the Seaview and shed a tear for what once was.......Anyway, I've never had the pleasure to stay where the legends like jerrycoin, ahflyr, mustanggt, jerryl, lakersfan, and razorbackfan rub elbows with the beautiful people.

 

My day started in Manchester, NH. After a fine breakfast at the Red Arrow Diner (a Top 10 Diner) I headed towards Portsmouth, NH. It's about an hour drive using NH Route 101. First stop was the Wentworth. Many signs pointed the way. Wow!!! What a great looking hotel!!! The setting is picturesque in any season. I took a self guided tour of the interior and it's everything a history loving stayer would expect. I'll be back, for sure, as a paying guest.

 

PS.  There's a private Golf Club by the same name, Wentworth by the Sea, adjacent to the property. I'm not sure if the hotel extends privileges for staying guests.

 

I drove around Portsmouth's downtown and waterfront areas. Really nice!!! Plenty of shops and restaurants to make a three day weekend type stay worthwhile.

 

Over the bridge from Portsmouth is Kittery, ME.....Lobsters Baby!!!!!!!!  Kittery has it's own town center, not as plush as Portsmouth's, but worth exploring.

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I had an assignment between Reading and Allentown, PA. A few weeks ago, I reserved a room at a new SpringHill Suites in Center Valley, PA. I have never stayed at this SHS, so I was looking forward to the stay. I went back last week to check on my rate and found an even newer property just opened their doors. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Allentown West is actually closer to my assignment..so I switched.

 

The hotel is officially located in the town of Breinigsville, but that's a tiny town, so Marriott, as they often do, used the larger neighboring city, Allentown in the name.

 

The FFI&S opened last Wednesday, Jan 17th. As you would expect, it has a very nice, modern exterior. There is even a fire pit brick patio area in the back that, once the thaw hits, will no doubt see a lot of action. I was upgraded from a king room to a king suite. The newer FFIs feature the bedroom then the sitting area upon entering the door. The rooms are barely separated by two, three-foot wall sections on the sides. This is the first FFI that I've been in that has a leather sofa. I may be the first person to stay in this room...the sheets were brand new crisp and the towels feel as if they are right out of the box.

 

Being opened less than a week, I anticipated a few growing pains. Spotty Wifi, a pool not ready for swimmers, one elevator needing constant attention, etc. The staff is pumped up and very friendly. If you're in the area, I'd give them another month and then feel they'll be up to snuff.

 

The pictures below include what looks like a kid waterslide in the pool area. I've never seen that before.

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Earlier this year, I started a blog post dedicated to the journey to Marriott 500....Lifetime stays at 500 different Marriott branded properties. That original post (The Long Road To 500...75 To Go! ) included a couple of updates for 2017. Until I gathered the original data for a separate project, I never gave this 500 thing a thought. I had no idea how many different Marriott hotels had my head print on their pillows.

 

2016 ended with 624 stays at 342 different properties. Those totals represented 22 yrs worth of history in the Marriott Rewards program. Over this same 22 years, I would sprinkle in quite a few IHG stays....enough to gain Platinum status...and a couple of Hilton or one off chain stays, as well.

 

I did some quick math and figured it might take another 20 years to reach 500 properties. I thought it would be hard to find new (to me) properties in my normal travel pattern. I also decided to forego the IHG stays and concentrate whenever possible on Marriott alone. 

 

Now that the last three weeks are scheduled and ready for check-ins, I'll recap my progress for the year and Lifetime to date. My 20 year guess was way off. In 2017, I made a total of 80 stays for 193 nights, at Marriott properties. These stays were made at 80 different properties...70 of these properties were new to me. Finding new properties in my normal stomping grounds was easier than I originally thought. My past behavior to treat Courtyards like the plague meant there were plenty of those hotels right around the corner from some of my favorite properties. Yes, I know, giving Courtyards my business even though they don't treat Marriott Rewards members very well was tough...BUT, there are so many Courtyards out there!!!! I'm trying to get to 500!! I caved, I'm sorry fellow Insiders!!!

 

Don't worry, all 70 of the new hotels weren't Courtyards. I fact, the overall 80 stays were made at 15 different Marriott brands. Only EDITI0N, Marriott Apartments, and Protea failed to get my money.  Below, I have a chart with program to date followed by the 70 new properties added this year.

 

I know a few of you crazy Insiders have decided to track your stays....how's that coming along?

I happen to live in a State that offers quite a bit. We have mountains, big cities, open lands, quick rides to the beach, one hour from NYC, two hrs from Washington D.C. We also have a place called Longwood Gardens. Pierre du Pont, back in the early 1900's purchased what had been a farm and surrounding land. He created this botanical garden. It has indoor and outdoor wonders. There are over 1000 acres to stroll, hike, breathe in, contemplate, and enjoy. There also is an indoor conservatory that is amazing. The orchids are my favorite. A real photographer could spend weeks at this place. I added a few pics below.

I stayed at the new Residence Inn Philadelphia Glen Mills/Concordville. The hotel was almost as colorful as some of the nature exhibits!

 

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The Residence Inn...just about brand new.

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As has been my custom....I start a couple of blog posts and then get sidetracked and forget to post Part 2 or 3.

    When pluto77  started to report on her recent trip, I went looking for some pictures. I'm not looking to steal her thunder, so I'll post a few at a time and finish this up over the next few weeks.

 

 

 

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A few years back I stumbled on the Insiders site to complain about Black Out dates. I hovered around, lurked for a bit, read lots of good info...and met lots of great people. Along with being enriched by the wonderful lessons taught here everyday, I've now picked up enough points for a Cat 4 free night!!! Through the years our communitymanagers have run contests,  tossed out some badges,  and pointed us toward social media connections. These have added up to a few points. There was a survey group, PULSE, a while back...more points. Here's how they've added up for me. I know of a few on here who have raked in BIG points..much more than this. So hang in there, post, lurk, and grab some points along with your new knowledge.

 

 

 

All Time Running Total
Pulse500
Badges425
InsiderBonus19150
Total20075

 

Note...Insiders Bonus contains all other misc. including Twitter points.

The second night near DC was spent in Old Town Alexandria, VA at a new Autograph Collection property. Old Town is a top ten favorite place. If you haven't spent time there, add it to your list.

 

The hotel isn't new, but the flag as a Marriott brand is.....The Alexandrian. It is about six months since the rebranding. It was the Hotel Monaco, and the old signs are still here but painted black. "The Alexandrian" appears on a temporary banner above the front door. I've walked past this property a hundred times and always felt it would make a wonderful Marriott location....well, now it is!

 

I took Amtrak from Philly for the weekend, loaded $15 on a DC Metro Smartcard, took the yellow line to King Street Station, then an easy 15minute bus ride to National Harbor. For the return and the night at The Alexandrian, I used the Water Taxi ($8) back to Old Town. The boat drops you but a 5 minute walk to the hotel.

 

The hotel is a boutique style.... lavish mid-sized lobby. Comfy seating everywhere. Jackson 20 is the attached restaurant. Like many in town, it doesn't open until 8AM for breakfast, so I missed out. I was there on a bargain rate, but was still upgraded to a large terrace view room complete with balcony...felt a bit like New Orleans.

 

Old Town is the perfect walking town with more fantastic restaurants than you can count.

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Checked into the Gaylord at National Harbor.....massive!  Second stay here. Both on bargain rates and both upgraded to a huge suite.

 

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I'm finishing up a five night stay on Seneca Lake in Geneva, NY. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Geneva Finger Lakes is just about one year old. It's a bright, well staffed, clean, welcoming hotel. The location is tucked in behind a bank and next to a strip mall that includes a Tops grocery store. It sits just under a mile from the lake with no scenic views to speak of..

 

The breakfast was standard but is kept up throughout the morning. I'm not sure if this is a new trend, but instead of the tiny flavored creamers, the hotel has the tall silver pitchers with half and half for coffee. I like the French Vanilla creamers, but they are not available here.

 

This part of Upstate New York is beautiful country.

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As a kid I remember singing a song about the Erie Canal during music class in elementary school...

 

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I had the opportunity to revisit one of the magical places in the U.S...Fallingwater.  We did a mini family reunion with a long weekend in Pittsburgh. About 90 minutes southeast in Mill Run, PA, Frank Lloyd Wright built this beauty for the Kaufman family.

 

 

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We used the Residence Inn Pittsburgh Airport Coraopolis as a home base. The two, 2 bedroom suites that we reserved were perfect for our trip. The big Suites with kitchens and seating areas allowed the group to gather like we were at home.

Down for the holiday weekend. Beautiful hotel. Have that famous obelisk out my window.

 

I was looking for a low priced weekend for fun AND to qualify for a birthday bonus promo offer. Washington D.C. Is always featuring great pricing if you keep your eyes open. Originally reserved a $112 rate at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View, but the Washington Marriott Wardman Park tossed out an $80, $130, $82 three day rate. Knocking $50 off the total gets me a metro weekly pass for free, plus a few cups of coffee! The Wardman Park also has the Woodley Park Metro stop right outside the door. That's always a plus if you leave your car at home by Amtraking in from Philly.

 

I am getting to be a big fan of the chat feature on the app. Aretha at the hotel was very helpful and apparently hooked me up with an Executive Suite upgrade. What a room! The lounge is on the 10th floor but the 9th is also labeled as concierge. 9022 looks out toward the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge going over the Potomac River.

 

The lounge is open for breakfast on the weekend. It was packed, but all were in a good mood. The staff kept everything stocked and fresh. They did a great job.

 

I took a walk up and then down Connecticut...from the zoo to The Mayflower. Well kept neighborhoods and plenty of great places to eat.

 

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While reviewing the early days of erc and Bill Marriott, I asked the great one about the Chincoteague FFI & Suites. As per his way, he paused, glanced skyward, and turned to Mrs. Erc... "Have I ever been there?" No dear, not yet..she replied.

 

So, I then knew my mission in life was to beat the legendary erc to Chincoteague Island!!

 

Here I sit. Enjoying breakfast from the outdoor deck at the Fairfield Inn & Suites on Chincoteague Island, VA.

 

I have a quick one day trip to Pittsburgh. Airfares were outrageous from PHL so I started searching. Aha! SBY, Salisbury/Ocean City had one of those silly cheap fares if you didn't mind the connection. I decided to grab a Sunday in OC, MD to make the flight sensible. There are two new properties in OC. A Res Inn and FFI, but neither met their opening dates! Later this year maybe. That left the Courtyard...but pricing was prohibitive. Widening the search, up popped Chincoteague and Easton, MD. Both would be new properties for me (500 or bust). Chincoteague this time, Easton the next!

 

Chincoteague sits just over the Virginia line on the DelMarVa peninsula. Assateague National Seashore and the wild ponies are right here. The Eastern Shore is a treasure trove of small towns, great beaches and chicken farms.  Don't forget the TACOS!!

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Back to to the hotel for sunset..  iahflyr, bejacob, nationwide, pluto77, seatexan, jsucool76, brightlybob... those tacos were the bomb!