Monday, September 22, 2014

On the Go // The Great Wall of China, Part II

It is probably one of the biggest archaic structures nobody knows about: The Southern Great Wall.


The Great Wall of China we see today latest incarnation of the fortification, built by the Ming Empire back in the 1400s. The wall was one part fortification against nomadic raiders coming in from Mongolia and Siberia and one part delineation of acknowledged “this is mine, that is yours” territory. It was considered such a good idea that Chinese built another one from scratch along its southern border with lands controlled by the Miao people, who were as testy about Chinese encroachment as the Mongols.

Though not as tall as the canonical Great Wall, the Southern Wall, also called the Miaojiang Great Wall, was clearly a hotbed of action: 118 miles long, consisting of over 1,300 blockhouses, watchtowers, sentry posts, emplacements and gates for stationing troops and defenses — this was clearly not a Ming vanity project. At the height of hostilities between the Ming and Miao, 4,000 – 7,000 soldiers were stationed along the span. The Miao proved to be resilient foes; when the Ming fell, the ascendant Qing Dynasty had to man the wall just as their predecessor did.

Today, wars are long over and the wall runs through the provinces of Hunan and Guizhou, now deep inside Chinese territory. But even as China cashes in mightily on its heritage, the Southern Wall has managed to fly under the radar when it comes to the tourist must-dos. The upside of this is that the Southern Wall retains a lot of its original character, not that cynical hyper-commercialization you find at its northern counterpart (however grand it may be). You also get to miss the hoards upon hoards of tourists.

Curiously, the wall is also more “ornate” than its northern twin, with guardhouses that look more like temples in miniature. The landscape is also far more dramatic; the whole region is in the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau, and the wall troops up mountainside and nearly drops off cliffs. As militaristic as the wall is, it was also the site of a booming trade between the Ming and Qing and Southeast Asia, and several of the towns on both sides have the temples and palaces from the glory days

And speaking of towns, I recommend Huangsiqiao, the barracks that manned much of the wall. In modern times, Huangsiqiao is known more for its Venice-like canals, but in its day, the city was the military nexus for much of the southern Ming territories. As the threat of the Miao faded, the barracks began a legitimate town, but the old defenses including the city wall and citadel, remain to this day.

SteeleLuxury Travel can assist you with a complete luxury vacation to China!  Contact us at 646-688-2274 to plan your travel experience!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Amazing Deal: $10 Black Car Rides in Manhattan Anytime! CODE: GTDANEG

Amazing Deal Alert!

The war for taxis and private car service in Manhattan has gotten even more competitive.  Gett has offered $10 rides ANYWHERE in Manhattan until the end of 2014!  Use code GTDANEG. To earn $20 (two free rides)!  Download the App and let's see how Uber deals with this one!

Steele Luxury Travel

Thursday, September 18, 2014

United Plans Major Expansion of Newark Hub

United Airlines on Monday announced plans for major expansion and transformation of its hub terminal at Newark Liberty International Airport, saying the plans for dining and retail establishments will combine “leading-edge technology, award-winning dining and renowned design.”

The $120 million capital investment for the project will be provided by OTG Management, which was chosen by United after a request for proposal process, to oversee the transformation in Terminal C at Newark Liberty. That will include new chef-driven restaurants, expansive food halls, gourmet markets and world-class retail and duty-free shops. 

"Travelers today want the same high-quality dining and shopping choices in the airport that they have at home," Kate Gebo, United's vice president of corporate real estate, said in a statement. "In collaboration with OTG, United is creating a customer experience at Newark Liberty that will provide exceptional food, beverage and retail options with the comfort and high-tech amenities that our customers have come to expect."

How about this for starters? Upon completion of the planned project, air travelers waiting for a flight will be able to use almost 6,000 iPad tablets free of charge to track their flight, order from chef-created menus, and purchase travel amenities for delivery directly to their seat in the terminal while browsing the internet. And customers will not have to search for an outlet, with over 10,000 outlets and USB interfaces accompanying the redesigned terminal seating.

More than 55 new dining venues are anticipated.

"Our goal in partnering with United at Newark Liberty is to put the customer first by creating an environment that is inviting and engaging," Rick Blatstein, CEO of OTG, said in a statement. "Ultimately, the time spent inside of an airport is very much a part of the journey, and our team envisioned an experience that would appeal to all customers and complement the United brand from terminal to aircraft."

Steele Luxury Travel

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Club Med Columbus Isle Unveils First L'Occitane Wellness Center and Spa in the Bahamas

Sprawled across the pristine emerald waters of the Caribbean Sea and surrounded by secluded beaches, Club Med Columbus Isle will unveil the highly anticipated completion of a multifaceted renovation on the scenic island of San Salvador, Bahamas this November.

With an $8 million investment and sparing no expense for reimagined amenities, guests will enjoy enticing enrichments including the first and only L’Occitane-branded spa in the Bahamas, redesigned main pool deck, brand new kitesurfing school, new culinary experience at the modernized Christopher’s restaurant and newly refreshed guest rooms.

The new 13,000 square foot Club Med Spa by L’Occitane will feature six serene treatment rooms, including two suites specifically designed for couples, pampering manicure and pedicure area, hair salon, relaxing Zen lounge and tempting L’Occitane boutique featuring a vast array of heavenly products. A range of relaxing, rejuvenating and restorative body treatments and facials will be on offer, including exclusive signature treatments utilizing local coconut to brighten, hydrate and soften skin. Finishing beauty touches for hair and nails will also be available, as will a sweet mini menu for juniors and teens from 11 to 17 years old so that they may feel pampered too.

For those who wish to focus on wellness while unwinding on this idyllic island, L’Occitane has created a line of two-, three- and four-day spa escapes such as the Wellbeing Journey, Energizing Escape and Detoxifying Cure, to satisfy different goals and needs. Guests may incorporate this with the resort’s all-inclusive fitness school, tennis classes and water activities to create a more active wellness getaway if they wish.

Tucked along the shores of Bonefish-Bay, the first landfall site of Christopher Columbus in his initial 1492 voyage, Club Med Columbus Isle offers guests a gentle pace of life and is host to various land and water activities. Known for its wealth of attractions to divers of all abilities, Columbus Isle boasts a unique and personalized experience to enjoy the beautiful coral reef.

With a visibility of 80 to 150 feet, divers continue to return to the warm water and stunning cave walls of San Salvador year after year. Club Med Columbus Isle features 36 deluxe rooms, 180 club rooms, Club Med Spa by L’Occitane, swimming pool, 10 Har-Tru tennis courts, fitness, scuba diving and kitesurfing schools, three bars and two dining venues.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit, call 1-800-ClubMed (1-800-258-2633) or contact a preferred travel professional. For an inside look at Club Med, follow Club Med on, Twitter @ClubMedOfficial or, subscribe to and download Club Med’s free innovative travel app for iPhone and iPad at

Steele Luxury Travel

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

SPIRIT AIRLINES Reveals their New YeLLooww (very yellow) Livery - Yikes.

Is it a bus?  Is it a flying billboard? Is it a taxi? It is the new "fierce" look of Spirit Airlines.  Thankfully, the new "sporty colors" now match Spirit's service offerings: obnoxious, chaotic and simply ugly. I am thinking Spirit is trying to reposition themselves in this manner to align itself with or attempt to imitate their competitors.  The offensive yellow color now harmonizes perfectly with Spirit's pricing schemes, exceptional customer service, and surcharges.  Yellow represents caution and warning in my eyes. Thanks for the heads up, Spirit!  PS-- Have a look at their website; it's even more shocking.

"Catch The Spirit, on Spirit Airlines".... Exactly.

Steele Luxury Travel

Monday, September 15, 2014

On the Go: The Floating City- Bergamo

Medieval walls, ancient gardens, Romanesque basilicas—why, it’s Florence.

Actually, no. It’s Bergamo. Nice try, though.

Bergamo, about 25 miles outside of Milano, is one of those unsung treasures everybody misses simply because some place else is bigger. Here is the “big” secret: Venice, Rome, and Florence are been-there-done-that. So much so that the price gouging is taken to a high art. Bergamo, perched at the foothills of the Alps (literally, they are right behind the city), give you the exact kind of punch a tourist draw would without all the tourists, faux “Italianism,” and bleed on your wallet.

Like a lot of old cities, the higher up you go, the older things get. Bergamo started out as a very well defended Roman city on a butte, made all the more a stronghold after the Venetians built the city wall 1561. Those walls stand intact today, and are a great place to get a feel of the old city, the Cita Alta. The Plaza Vecchia, overlooked by the Civic Tower (best views of Bergamo) or grand Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore are also good starting lines, or stopping ones, for that matter.

“Modern” is a relative term in Europe, but the newer section of Bergamo began to appear on the plain below the Cita Alta in the 14th century, and dozens of stairways wind their way down the hillside from upper Bergamo to lower, and they are a real treat. Too steep to build anything substantial, the city inhabitants turned the slopes into tier after tier of gardens, making a springtime trip to the city a must—the Cita Alta seems to be floating on a cloud of flowers.

Be prepared to do a lot of walking (and no just up and down a few stairways) once you set up shop. Bergamo rose in a time of carts and donkeys, so the streets are about as wide as an alley, so the older the city section is, the less likely you are going to get a cab. This is the definition of a “walking city,” which is more fun than you would think. Walking gives you the opportunity to take the city slowly, which is the best way to do Bergamo. And you find some great little cafes when on foot.

But if you feel like you need to put your feet up, the gay scene is alive and well: Pit Stop and Mamo’s are the best bets club-wise, but if you want to ratchet the diplomacy up a notch, The City Sauna may be more your thing.

A final tip: Bergamo, being an outlying city, isn’t a hub. Major airlines don’t fly to it, but a lot of local ones do. Air Dolomiti is your best bet, and one of the best regional flyers in Europe.  Steele Luxury Travel is here to help you book your flights and trip to Italy!  Contact us at for more details!

Friday, September 12, 2014

SLS Las Vegas: A Look at sbe’s Newest Property in Sin City

By: Ryan Rudnansky 

When SLS Las Vegas, a property courtesy of Los Angeles-based entertainment company sbe, debuted on Aug. 23, expectations were extremely high.

Not only did sbe and SLS Hotels have a strong reputation, but this was Vegas, a city with myriad options for guests. In Vegas, if you don’t like a hotel, you can basically walk a block and find something to your liking.

But SLS Las Vegas has reached the peaks of those sky-high expectations and continued climbing. Bolstered by a vibrant day and night life, some delectable dining, a large casino and elegant rooms, sbe certainly took the creation of SLS Las Vegas seriously.

Here’s a look at the new property, via a tour TravelPulse took through the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).

SLS Las Vegas has nine—yes, nine—restaurants.

My media group was treated to the Griddle Café.

First and foremost, the Griddle Café has gigantic pancakes, ranging from banana (or “Banananana”) to peanut butter to a butterscotch, caramel and walnut original called “Yellow Brick Road.”

Second of all, it’s one of the few places I know of where you can have giant gourmet pancakes, chips and guacamole, and a burger on your table at one time (I had a burger called “The Broken Heart” with artichoke hearts, scallions, Parmesan cheese and spicy aioli that was mouth-watering).

The Griddle Café is also open 24/7. It’s kind of like the Denny’s you go to when you actually value your life and your dignity.

A little advice: This is not for the faint of stomach. You are going to eat a lot of pancakes; it’s a given (your stomach will tell you “no!” but your taste buds will tell you “keep going!”). Let’s just say that I’m glad we had a guided tour of SLS Las Vegas after the meal because a) I needed to walk it off and b) I had a respectable food coma and I’m pretty sure I was just following our guide in a trance, not really knowing where my feet were taking me.

Insider tip: There is a scratch and sniff wall right next to the entrance of the Griddle Café. Try it out.

There are three towers inside SLS Las Vegas: Lux, World and Story (the original tower of the property).

We checked out a Lux King room first (rooms range from 425-465 square feet). The King rooms come complete with a 55-inch HD TV. They either have open showers or “peek-a-boo” showers (peek-a-boo showers have a curtain that drapes in front of the shower). Standard and rain-shower heads are included. The room is mainly white with soft tones and strives for elegance.

e also checked out a Story King room. Story King rooms encompass 325 square feet. There are several elements that stand out, including a mirror on the ceiling above the bed, a signature “Saints and Sinners” snack tray (which will you be?!) and an unpainted concrete ceiling that gives the room a little character. Oh yeah, and the bathroom is completely hidden by sliding doors. When they were opened during our tour, I was honestly hoping for a secret tunnel, but the luxurious and stylish contemporary bathroom before me did just fine.

SLS Las Vegas features a 60,000-square-foot casino.
Within this casino lies 800 slot and video poker machines, 70 table games, a race and sports book and the intimate and private High Limit Salon. The sports book features 50 TVs, the popular restaurant Umami Burger and an outdoor beer garden.

You can also sign up for online gaming, or “iGaming.” Register for an exclusive SLS membership called THE CODE and link to your iGaming account and compete to earn and redeem prizes in Vegas.

Day & Nightlife
If you haven’t heard, day and night clubs are all the rage these days.

And Foxtail and LiFE at SLS Las Vegas are standouts among day and night clubs.

During the day, treat yourself to Foxtail’s day club, Foxtail Pool Club. The pool area is similar in style to Los Angeles and Miami pools (somewhat of a mesh), complete with 26 cabanas and 31 daybeds. There’s a bar in the center of the pool where you can order custom cocktails and food ranging from American classics to seafood.

At night, Foxtail really comes alive. Designed by Philippe Starck, the 8,000-square-foot indoor space includes elaborate chandeliers (in fact, the chandeliers throughout SLS Las Vegas are eye-catching), the latest in LED technology, 28 VIP tables, blackjack tables and dancer cages.

But what really caught my eye was the intricate and fascinating street art painted on the walls by young calligrapher Tarek Benaoum. It’s pretty amazing that Benaoum was responsible for all of the wall art. He had to hang upside down like Michelangelo to get the ceilings.

On top of this, the side of the parking garage and one of the hotel towers adjacent to the pool area are lit up with 3D visuals at night. Any visuals can be displayed, from stylish designs to video.

There’s also LiFE, another day club/night club. During the day, check out the venue’s 10,000-square-foot rooftop pool, complete with cabanas and daybeds. At night, experience a 20,000-square-foot indoor venue with a large LED wall, high-tech lighting, three full-service bars, a Funktion-One sound system and 70 VIP tables. Oh yeah, and acrobatic aerialists sweep above you on rigging, zip lines and catwalks throughout the night. There’s that, too.

LiFE nightclub
SLS Las Vegas also boasts the Sayers Club, an intimate venue featuring a stage for live music, lounge seating and an outdoor patio overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. There is a bar both inside and outside. For those who enjoy intimate music venues, this is a spot you need to check out.

There are two bars: Center Bar and Monkey Bar. Monkey Bar has a bunch of pictures of monkeys in suits adorning the walls. In fact, the monkey is SLS’s official mascot, if you will. It’s a tribute to the primate’s curious nature, playfulness and intelligence.

Steele Luxury Travel