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Monthly Archives: June 2009

Hotelier Ian Schrager into Chicago Ambassador East Hotel?

Ian Schrager

According to Chicago Business Ian Schrager is negotiating with the present owners to buy the 285-room Ambassador East with its “Pump Room” restaurant at 1301 N. State Pkwy in Chicago. Not really a “boutique” size property I would say. But comments are that he could be the man to re energize this 1926 built landmark hotel.

East Ambassador Chicago Pump Room Bar

Reportedly Peter Dumon and David Bossy, the present owners, have settled on a $25-million offer from Ian. Together with a former local partner they paid $44.5 million for the hotel in December 2005. What a sumptuous loss for a sumptuous hotel!

Am curious whether this acquisition will breath some new life in the Marriott – Schrager partnership named Edition Hotels that was announced with a lot of pomp in January, 2009 and not much in the news lately.

Lost under the Hood

Lost under the Hood - Tim Street / French Maid TV

Why I got lost under the hood of computers, software and camera’s the last couple of weeks which prevented me from churning out many new blog posts that I have in my sleeve:

  • I upgraded to WordPress 2.8, but had to upgrade to Thesis 1.5.1. first. I just had installed Thesis 1.5 last month on the recommendation of fellow travel bloggers Todd Lucier and Darren Cronian.
    In upgrading to Thesis 1.5,1 I lost a lot of my Thesis 1.5 settings. It seemed to be a bug somewhere, but I couldn’t pinpoint where and lost a lot of time getting the blog in order once more.
  • For future reference I’m listing some bloggers that use the Thesis Theme and give good advice on the ins and outs:
  • And Some Travel Bloggers who use Thesis:
  • I’m trying to really understand SEO for bloggers … a bit cumbersome. Time consuming reading. However i did install a robots.txt file for both my blogs and the Sitemap generator Plugin is now working correctly…
  • During a thunderstorm I closed my office server down. It had been running year after year under Novell Netware 5.
    I was prepared for this happening: A brand new server which was already loaded with Netware 6.5 stood ready for the occasion. One tiny problem: It appeared that I needed to redo the login scripting…having some special needs as I still rely on some DOS programs – not solved yet….
    Meanwhile I succeeded to lose all my Windows XP settings for e-mail, site logons and so on. Although I have reasonable backups…the backups of my settings just didn’t work. Lesson learned: Do operate as a separate user under Windows XP without administrator permissions: Once you change an XP administrator’s password (I was only hitting a password sync button in the Netware login screen that did not give the usual XP warning) all his settings are lost. Darn! A lot of time to reconnect e-mail accounts….login passwords….sites…etcetera.
  • Some hard disks are getting full. Dire need for some time consuming reshuffling
  • Next week I’ll act as a wedding photographer. While trying some lenses and new flashcards it turned out that inadvertently I had obtained not working white label flashcards for my camera’s. Yesterday was Veterans’Day in The Hague. I lost approx 180 photos I took.
  • In preparation for that same wedding shoot I’m also struggling uphill to understand PhotoShop better than I did.
  • Have had some discussions with Tripadvisor as to why some guest reviews did not appear on their site. Wanted to report about that, but didn’t have time (yet?). Why would I actually want to have any reviews there?
  • I was invited by e-mail to attend the opening of The Hermitage Openening in Amsterdam. I Filed the form they required to get a ticked, but never got the ticket…alas.
  • Then there is that discussion again about the Dying Blogs: in the Guardian by Charles Arthur by Shiny Shiny and by Copy Blogger

Deep Sigh…continuing struggling…and maybe updating this…

Last edited by Happy Hotelier on July 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm9

Top 25 Travel Blogs of 102 ranked according to Alexa by Frothy

Top 25 Travel Blogs of 102  ranked by a another List lover Frothy blogs [ah had to delete the link as this is another member of my category "Dead Travel Bloggers Society" which I changed into Internet Graveyard later] according to Alexa with some need to of editing by me:

Blog/Company                                                        Alexa Rank
1  on my way to where                                                           8
2  ANTARCTICA RESEARCH ADVENTURE                   8
3  Unforgettable Sydney                                                       8
4  Travel Blog                                                                   4,804
5  iWalk, u2?                                                                   73,398
6  Newyork Traveler                                                   92,771
7 Travel, Work, Life                                                     95,688
8 The BenSpark                                                           114,277
10 Emm in London                                                    129,292
11 Life of Justin                                                           147,325
12 Travel Blissful                                                        150,557
13 Extreme John Blog                                              160,683
14 Thailand Land of Smiles                                     171,848
15 Happy Hotelier                                                      181,641
16 Mimpikami                                                              195,432
17 Traveling Mamas                                                  201,648
18 Go green travel green                                          295,621
19 The Lost Boy                                                           334,111
20 My Trips                                                                  422,798
21 Irish Taxi                                                                 452,202
22 El Rinc?n de Edy                                                   488,528
23 Justwandering                                                       497,141
24 My Itchy Travel Feet                                         504,403
25 RengBA’s Terella                                                  505,561

It immediately demonstrates the relative weakness of this measuring method,  because the first 3 mentioned here are on Blogspot which is a site with millions of blogs….There are many more Travel Blogs on Blogspot. So when you go further with this without something else to measure you will end up with hundreds of Travel blogs ranking #8…..
Update
I’ve added the category Internet Graveyard to this post as frothy passed away.
Last edited by GJE on March 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm

2009 The Hague Sculpture – Read My Lips

2009 The Hague Sculpture _MG_0007

On Tuesday June 9, 2009 I was present at the official opening of the 2009 The Hague Sculpture exposition by the Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Jan Peter Balkenende.
First there was a opening session in one of the oldest churches of The Hague, The “Kloosterkerk” (or church of the convent). The CEO of The Hague Sculpture , The Mexican Ambassador in The Hague, a trustee of The Hague Sculpture and some other persons held speeches. The Prime Minister got the first brochure of the exposition. Thereafter the company moved outside where the sculptures of Javier Marin were installed, for the official opening ceremony.

There the company stopped at the sculpture from which I took the above photo on beforehand. In a sequence of my photo’s there was an exchange between the CEO and Xavier Marin. I have made a small “video” of this exchange, because there are too many photo’s to present them all here on the blog. Look for yourself:

Picasa Video
I’m not so much a video person. It takes far too much time for me. But this little video (without sound) I could produce reasonably quick with Picasa 3, the free Google photo (management) program. Picasa is also very good for organizing many photo’s…I have approximately 20,000 and counting on my computer, deep sigh.

The Ceremony
Then there was the opening ceremony itself: The freeing of a bundle of balloons that, of course, partially got hung in the branches of the trees over the sculptures. How dumb!

20090609 The Hague Sculpture Official Opening _MG_0153

Storytlr
I have experimented in telling this little story via Twitter by uploading some of the pictures to Twitpic and then putting them together in Storytlr: [ Update: Originally there was a working link here, but unfortunately the Storytlr service has discontinued since March, 2010]

Storytlr-The-Hague-Sculpture-Opening---Read-My-Lips

Unfortunately the thumbnails of Storytlr are a bit too unsharpened to make it a nice looking story. I don’t have a mobile telephone with a camera ( I prefer better quality photo’s of ordinary cameras, but it won’t be long and then the mobiles can compete with ordinary cameras), but it is clear to me that Storytlr is a nice app to spread a life stream story.

More photos of the exhibition on Flickr
If you are interested in more photos of The Hague Sculpture, I refer you to my Flickr Sets 2009 The Hague Sculpture and 2009 The Hague Sculpture – Official Opening on June 9, 2009

PS In the meantime I succeeded to upgrade the Worpress Version of this Blog to WP 2.8, which was a hell of a job, as I tried to cut corners.

Last edited by GJE on March 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm

10 Questions For (30): Wouter Blok of Easy To Book

Happy to present a Twitter Friend @Wouter Blok to you:

Wouter-Blok-and-Son-Bram-in-Zermatt-Switzerkland

1) Who Am I according to…
My passport? Wouter Blok, born on the 4th of September 1979 in Heemstede, The Netherlands. Travels abroad on regular basis. Uses retina-scan Privium for fast custom passage and use of their excellent lounge on Schiphol. Trip details will follow in Q’s 5-9.
The Dutch Government? Wouter Blok, CMO of EasyToBook.com, in relationship with Anneloes Visser, flight attendant KLM, one son Bram(1), one child on the way (ETA mid July). Living in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Wouter could slow down a bit in traffic, considering his speeding tickets.
My colleagues? Marketing director, who leads the team that spends quite a bit, but every euro with good ROI. Loves to present, an ambitious young dog that is very eager to bring EasyToBook.com to the highest level possible.
My ex-colleagues? Sales guy that sells ice to Inuit, energetic Sales Trainer, manager and participant in startup ClearSense which was sold to World Directories in 2007.
My friends? Although he wasn’t cut out of the right wood to finish KLM Flight Academy, he surely has found his true calling. Has swapped the wild lifestyle for family life, lot’s of travelling and the occasional crazy night in town with friends.
My wife? Ask her!
My son? His biggest hero and driver of ‘auto papa, hard’ which means ‘daddy’s car, fast’

2) What do you like about what you do?
Wherever I work, I want to be able to work like an entrepreneur. I have that feeling very strongly with EasyToBook.com. Why? It’s a young (average age around 30), international (13 nationalities amongst 45 employees) and fast growing company (aiming for the top 20 Deloitte Fast500 this year). My responsibility is, together with the VP operations, to roll out our ambitious growth strategy. In one sentence: get people to find us, like us and book with us again and again. This is done through SEO, SEA, metasearch, display, our unique affiliate program, smart DB marketing and clever use of Analytics. In the process I get to work with big companies like Google, Kayak and Tripadvisor, and smaller renewing ones like Trivago and HotelVideoReviews. All online possibilities that might add value are explored, like Twitter (@easytobook for hotel queries and @wouterblok if you would like to connect with me). To stay ahead of the game I go to the trade fairs like Adtech, Eyefortravel and ITB to meet interesting people and get inspired even more. The results of our endeavours are visible each minute, so we can steer where we have to. It’s a fast game and I love it!

3) What don’t you like about what you do?
It’s not my own company. ;-)

4) Please tell us all about your site and your aims with it.
EasyToBook.com offers over 35,000 hotels in more than 6,000 destinations worldwide. A site for all who need to make a hotel reservation with the best rates and availability (with lowest rate guarantee). We strive to show the most relevant and complete content, in combination with a killer usability. We find it very important for travellers to be flexible. Therefore most bookings are changeable up to 24 hours before arrival and payment is done at the hotel, upon departure. The site is in constant development to achieve an even better (information) offering, user interface, usability and connectivity. And frankly, we are not easily satisfied!

wouter-blok-scuba-diving-seychelles

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
1) Island hopping in the Seychelles. By far the most romantic trip I’ve made with my girl. Walking on the beaches of Anse sous l’Argent is a very unreal experience. It was very quiet and felt like we were in the movie ‘the blue lagoon’. Scuba diving was even more special, with an up and close encounter with a Whale Shark and tons of other magnificent creatures.
2) Cape Town, South Africa. I almost moved there. What a vibrant city, beautiful people, good partying, amazing countryside, wines to die for, cagedives with Great Whites…. If you like to go off the beaten track, hire a convertible and go to Worcester Glider club and take a flight with one of the instructors. http://www.cgc.org.za/
3) Zermatt, Switzerland. My favorite skiing resort. Although expensive, the area is worth it. Where else in the world can you ski from 3880m and descent to 1500m in one go? The views on the Matterhorn are priceless.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?
1) Equatorial Bangi Hotel near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Where the monkeys steal your golf balls, the sushi is pure art and the service is unsurpassed. The building is very nicely built in a colonial style.
2) The Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays. Where you can moon the city from the rooftop sauna.
3) The Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. Exquisite service, perfect pool and an incredibly dedicated staff that will not let a terrorist attack keep them from going to work. They are rebuilding the damaged floors in record time, an unknowing guest will not notice anything happened there last November. I especially appreciated this hotel, because the night before I stayed in hotel Kushbu, see question 8.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?
1
) Restaurant Buerehiesel, Strasbourg. This used to be a 3 star restaurant. When the parents retired and the son took over, he decided to keep the great cooking, but drop the stars. That way he could lower the threshold for mere mortals to enjoy the splendid kitchen www.buerehiesel.fr.
2) Muratie Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. One of the oldest estates in the Cape area and my goodness, the thought of the Ansela van de Caab Red wine still makes my mouth www.muratie.co.za/
3) Restaurant Aqua, Hong Kong. Located in Kowloon on the 20th floor overlooking HK island. I had my first ‘fatty tuna’ sashimi there, while the city lit up in the light show and fireworks lighted the sky www.aqua.com.hk/.

Wouter at Bharat's Wedding Party in India

Wouter at Bharat's Wedding Party in India

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?
1) Haggis in Glasgow. Perhaps I should have had it before I got sober and hung over?
2) The B&B Villa de Roses in Beau Vallon, Seychelles. Breakfast was the same for the whole 2 weeks. only 1 egg, you couldn’t get 2. Service included a very grumpy lady that moves in slow motion. The location made up for this of course.
3) Hotel Kushbu, Keshod, Gujarat, India. Last May my Indian colleague Bharat got married and didn’t want to mis it for world and flew over there for 1 weekend. (if only I had more holidays). His place of birth was 2 flights and a 3 hour ride away, we were the first foreigners to come there. The nearest hotel was in Keshod, had no shower, no toiletpaper, no towels and beds so dirty, we wrapped our dirty laundry around our pillows. All worth it, considering the ceremonies we attended were beautiful and derived from ancient traditions (they spoke in Sanskrit), and the presence of foreigners (Omri, founder ETB and me) meant a lot for the family.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accomodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?
1) Steak restaurant Castell in Amsterdam. If you like nice, wood-grilled steak, www.castellamsterdam.nl/.
2) Restaurant Willendorff in Haarlem. My old colleague Michel Boesmans runs the kitchen and does an excellent job! www.willendorf.nl/.
3) Visit Amsterdam on Queensday, wear something orange and act as if you are just as completely bonkers as the rest of us.

Capetown

Capetown

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?
“If you didn’t have to work anymore, what would you do?”

He who’s in love with his job, shall not work another day in his life.

My take:
Well done Wouter! Just before the arrival of son nr 2. Thanks! Good luck with the delivery!
A question: What makes Easy to Book different or better than the likes of Booking, Venere and Expedia? Why no Blog?
Awesome scuba shot and good skiing taste, although you really need nice weather for Zermatt, otherwise the lifts close down early in comparison to other resorts in the neighbourhood (been there several times:-).

Update: After years…better l8 than never… Wouter has started his own Blog, Wouter Blog…I just wonder if this is a prelude to him setting up his own company:-)

Last edited by GJE on August 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm