Your Hip Family Travel Guide to All The Hotspots Worldwide

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KORCULA, CROATIA: Lesic Demetri Palace

 Korcula is a magical island right off the coast of Southern Croatia, bathing in the clear, emerald green, Adriatic Sea.  This is the place where Marco Polo, the famed explorer, traveler, and writer was born.  A place that oozes romance and hidden coves nestled in front of grape vines, olive trees, and pine forests.  A true gem of a place.  Then to make the picture perfect, right in the old, medieval town, there is an 18th century Bishop’s palace with five cottages turned into the most luxurious, stunning, special boutique hotel, Lesic Demetri Palace.  No expense or style has been spared creating this place.  Each of the five residences tend to every imaginable detail and pleasure that any traveler could dream.  The stone floors, the marble bathrooms, the fully stocked kitchens, the giant, Jacuzzi bathtubs, and the special outdoor private terraces just begin to paint the magnificence of this place.  Of all the places that we stayed at or experienced in our five weeks travel throughout Croatia this was by far my favorite.  Every once in awhile, one stumbles across a place that will capture not only your heart, but your breathe too, Lesic Demetri Palace does this…

 

 ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

Of course this place is going to deliver whatever your heart desires.

2. roomy:

Roomy doesn’t even describe it… since they were originally cottages, each residence is like a small, gorgeous house.

3. extra fluff:

We are talking fluffy, puffy, lush, extremely comfortable beds, towels, and even lounge areas.  I felt like a queen.

4. plushities:

Honestly there are too many to list them all so I will name some of my favorites: the deep, huge jacuzzi bathtubs in each of the bedrooms, illy coffee with machine & fine tea selection with local honey, sexy lighting, hardcover picture books

5.snaggables:

They have gorgeous, regionally made body products in full size bottles ranging from rosemary shampoo , conditioner, and body wash, to lavender body lotion, to sandalwood, sweet orange bath sea salts.

6. super secret sexy time:

There is so much space, with a variety of rooms, there is no need for secret…

7. dockya’s:

Nothing extra or hidden.  They even include the amazing Italian illy coffee & tea selection in the room, plus the delicious breakfast, as part of the room rate.

to visit their website click:http://www.lesic-dimitri.com/

LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA: Antiq Palace Hotel & Spa

Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

What a wonderful, hip, charming, beautiful, little town Ljubljana is.  Did I mention that there is a castle up on the hill overlooking the center of town?  Or that there is a romantic cafe and restaurant lined little river running through it?  What about the city’s mascot that is a medieval dragon? This was a quick one night stop over on our trek back from our month long vacation throughout Croatia.  What a complete surprise it was to discover this adorable city.  We wished that we had carved out more time to wander the streets and to absorb the atmosphere.  To absolutely put the delicious cherry on top, we stayed at the fantastic 16th century Historic hotel, Antiq Palace Hotel & Spa.  What a gorgeous, elegant, classy, top-notch spot.  There are 13 suites and residences filled with Persian rugs, classic period replica antiques, Venetian chandeliers, luxurious bedding, and 500 years of original, distressed frescos on the ceilings.  Gazing up at the ceilings alone could inspire my husband to move in.

 

celieng

room check

1. midnight munchies:

There are no late night snacking around here unless you want to cook it yourself in the well stocked in-suite kitchen.

2. roomy:

They put us in a gigantic, fantastic, and oh so roomy two bedroom residnece that I felt like were we living in a small house.

3. extra fluff:

The pillows and down comforter were dreamy.

4. plushities:

the bidet, little bottles of still & sparkling waters with dried fruit plate, large, deep, comfy couch in living room, Venetian chandeliers, and big, jacuzzi bathtub

5. snaggables:

There were so many bottles of lotions and potions by pure herbs. (I’ve never heard of the brand either)

6. super secret sexy time:

There was no need for secret with all the space and rooms in this place.

7. dockya’s

Nothing extra.

 

rent an apartment in Old Town Dubrovnik

 First of all, if you haven’t already, put Dubrovnik, Croatia on your goto list.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site (and you know how I feel about those) is a gorgeous, red- tiled roofed town, sitting along the stunning emerald Adriatic Sea, and is a breathtaking charmer.  Having a chance to walk on top of the Old Towns’ wall is something spectacular and right out of a fairytale.  Do yourself the biggest favor and rent an apartment right in the center of the Old Town.  There are a few very luxurious and very expensive hotels these days right outside of the center, but it’s having your own little place that makes it all come together.  Dubrovnik is a very BIG destination for cruise ships and wanderers alike, so it is often packed with people.  But staying in an apartment, right there, gives you the opportunity to enjoy the quiet moments when they have all left.  It’s pretty special.  Not to mention how incredibly affordable it is to find a rather large apartment to fit you and your tribe very spaciously. To find a great place visit http://www.vrbo.com/ or http://www.homeaway.com/ and book it there.  It’s super easy to navigate and I’ve had great luck with both sites.  By the way, if you do go to Dubrovnik, please have a drink for me…(click)Caffe Bar Bard

ROVINJ, CROATIA: Hotel Monte Mulini

 

Rovinj is a must if you are heading to Croatia’s Istria peninsula.  This medival, romantic, seaside town is a true delight.  Think little, stone streets filled with beautiful, stone houses painted in dark pastels, with little cafe’s, restaurants, and small boutiques.  Then add the glory of the emerald green Adriatic Sea, and you have a destination location.

I can’t recommend enough choosing your base at the absolutely wonderful Hotel Monte Mulini.  This luxury hotel is situated on it’s own stunning bay within a gorgeous eyeshot of the old town of Rovinj.  Not to mention, it is a 10 minute stroll along the Sea into town, or take one of the hotel’s many bikes and arrive in 2 minutes.  Everything about this hotel is perfect, ranging from the pools, to the the many coves to swim in, the unbelievable breakfast, the rooms, the warm service, and all of the many inspired activities that they have. This is one of those places where the days can melt together quickly with no desire to ever leave.

 ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

The service here is so wonderful, you can be sure that any midnight craving will be satisfied.  Not to mention, they have a wide variety of desserts to choose from.

2. roomy:

Even though there are 4 of us, we opted for the premiere room (not a suite), and even with an extra bed added, the room had tons of space.  As well, the bathrooms are so big and fabulous, they are almost another room all together.

3. extra fluff:

The bed was fantastic with a perfect, yummy comforter. They also provide huge, plush towels, and a super fabulous robe with slippers.

4. plushities:

warm design, little terrace over- looking the beautiful bay, great lighting, big bottle of water and cookies in room gratis, and a giant, sunken bathtub

5. snaggables:

nothing to write home about

6. super secret sexy time:

You’ve got the big, sexy bathroom

7. dockya’s:

Nothing extra.  The room rate also includes an absolutely delicious, fresh breakfast buffet.  Infact, the best one of our month long travels.

to visit the website click: http://www.montemulinihotel.com/


Water taxi in Venice

Do yourself a big favor and if you are going to Venice, Italy, pay the extra money to take the private water taxi directly to your hotel.  It is worth every penny for a variety of reasons including the most important of total ease and zero stress to get you and your tribe and all belongings easily to your hotel.  As well, it will surely be a gorgeous journey through the canals.  If you end up arriving to Venice by car, park in one of the two, big parking structures and then pay even a little more for the porter service too.  Again it’s all about easy…

 

KOTOR (LJUTA), MONTENEGRO: Restoran Stari Mlini

 This old mill from the 1600′s, turned restaurant, is absolutely adorable and crazy romantic.  This is a must do as far as having a memorable and delicious meal while visiting the Bay of Kotor.  The restaurant is located just a few minutes up the road (North) from the town of Kotor, set right on the edge of the Bay.  The service is perfect, and the menu has all the expected options that one thinks of in this part of the world, i.e. fish, meat, and more fish.  The pleasant surprise was the absolutely scrumptious vegan sides that filled our table and stole our hearts.  I can only imagine, if they put that much love into their veggies (in a country where “vegetarians” are very neglected), the rest of the food must be magnificent.

SPLIT, CROATIA: Hotel Vestibul Palace

 

Location, location, location…

Hotel Vestibul Palace is right in the heart of the 3rd century Dickletian’s Palace.  One is virtually bathing in ancient, Roman history while lounging around the room.  This little luxury, boutique hotel has a total of seven very contemporary designed rooms, while using the palace’s exposed rock walls, creating a very sleek, historic vibe.  It seems perfect to stay in the heart of the palace, in the old part of town, while being surrounded by such a massive town.  I can’t imagine a better place to stay.

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

This swanky joint has room service 24 hrs. a day.

2. roomy:

The rooms are not giant, but like I mentioned before, location, location, location…

3. extra fluff:

very comfortable mattress and bedding

4. plushities:

When there is a bidet, it seems to overshadow anything else that the room has to offer! There were plush robes and nice lighting.

5. snaggables:

tolietries by Yves Rocher? Yeah, I’ve never heard of it and left them where they stood.

6. super secret sexy time:

not alot of room…so…

7. dockya’s:

70 euros for an extra bed. They do include a very nice breakfast with the room rate.  As well, they went and retrieved our car from outside of the old town, then parked it in their own protected garage for free.

to go to the website: http://www.vestibulpalace.com/

Dubrovnik Old Town: BEST SPOT FOR A DRINK/ Caffe Bar Bard

Honestly, nothing in Dubrovnik can rival the location of this perfect watering hole.  This cliffside, slightly harrowing cafe/bar is a spectacular location to sit, gaze, chat, watch the sunset, and have a drink.  To find this little gem, head south from the Stradum towards the farthest Eastern streets and walk until you hit the outer wall.  Hug the wall until you come to the little arched doorway cut out of the wall.  Walk through and feel like you stumbled upon a secret spot.  Cheers!

ZAGREB, CROATIA: Esplanade Zagreb Hotel

This elegant, classic, old world style hotel is a perfect place to rest your sleepy, and if you traveled far like we did, jet-lagged head.  Built in the 1920′s, it was a famous stop along the Orient Express.  The decor of the hotel is gorgeous, deco style with beautiful black and white marble, majestic chandeliers, and all of the class that goes along with it.  As well, the service is genuine and as top notch as it can get, all with a very reasonable price tag.  A wonderful breakfast is included in the price.  This is definitely the place to stay if you are spending anytime in Zagreb.

 

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

24 hour room service.  After flying across the world we arrived at the hotel around midnight hungry.  Room service was delicious.

2. roomy:

We stayed in a deluxe suite, so there was plenty of room.  As well, the marble bathroom with a sunken tub and separate shower were big and a nice touch. If possible ask for rooms 125 or 135.

3. extra fluff:

I’m not a giant pillow fan, but I have to say, the over-sized, down filled pillows have won my heart.  Nice, clean, crisp, white, cotton sheets, cozy comforter, and big, plush towels.  The bed was ok.

4: plushities:

big, oversized, Turkish robes, slippers, wonderful lighting, little cookies, dried oranges, and apples, instant lavazza espresso machine, double pained windows that you can actually open wide (nice & quiet when closed), and fresh orchids everywhere

5. snaggables:

L’occtaine products in the biggest bottles that I have ever seen in a hotel.

6. super secret sexy time:

No need for sneaking with the separate bedroom, not to mention big bathroom.

7: dock-ya’s:

no hidden costs.

10 must do’s in Istanbul

shopping the Grand Bizare in Istanbul

 

1. watch a Whirling Dervish show

2. shop the Grand Bizarre

3. stay in the Sultanahmet (old part of town)

4. go into the Blue Mosque

5. drink some fresh pomegranate juice from a street vendor

6. buy a carpet

7. go get a scrub from one of the many old hammams

8. take a ride along the Bosphorus

9. let yourself day dream during the call of prayer

10. go to the Beyoglu and get your fortune told (it’s called Fal: you drink a Turkish coffee and the grounds left over are read)

 

waiting for my coffee to be read

MONTEZUMA, COSTA RICA: Ylang Ylang Beach Resort

I can’t emphasize enough what a great place Costa Rica is to bring your kids.  Not only is it completely safe in all aspects (including health wise), but it’s a great country to explore.  You’ve got sun, sea, some of the best surfing in the world, great food, wonderful people, jungle, volcanos, and monkeys in the trees.  That’s right, monkeys in the trees.  The first time we went was when our son was 2 years old.  We took a 5 week vacation and made a point to really explore different areas.  One of our absolute favorite spots happens to be in the quaint, groovy town of Montezuma at the bottom tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.  Infact, we have been there quite a few times.  There is some travel that is involved with getting to this little slice of paradise (usually a car rental and semi adventurous roads), but I assure you, it is well worth your energy.  Montezuma is a tiny little town full of delicious, fresh food and has a very laid back, hippy dippy vibe.  It definitely attracts alot of yogis and surfers alike. The place to stay is called Ylang Ylang Beach Resort.  This little gem is a short beach walk into the town center.  The resort was built in harmony with the jungle, creating a garden of eden vibe including a beautiful, lagoon swimming pool, while the white sand beach is absolutely gorgeous.  And in the mornings we often woke up to the little monkeys hanging out in the trees above our cottage.  There are a few different accommodation options, but I can’t recommend enough for one of the free standing beach bungalows surrounded by the coconut trees and lush flowers, sitting right next to the sea with your own little patio and hammocks.  The decor is tropical Costa Rican with simple yet clean amenities (includes a ceiling fan and air conditioner).  The price includes the most fantastic (if you ask me the BEST food of anywhere else we have eaten in Costa Rica) breakfast and dinner.  They also offer yoga classes and spa treatments.  As far as I’m concerned, if this were the only beach location that you visited in Costa Rica, you would need not venture further for a better spot.

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

They don’t have a 24 hour room service, but I assure you that the food that is included with your room is so fantastic you won’t miss it.

2. roomy:

These places are not giant by any means, but why hang in the room when you have hammocks to lye in while you can feel the gentle sea breeze and gaze at the deep, blue sea.

3. plushities:

the fan, the air conditioner, free wifi, Costarican coffee with maker in room

4. extra fluff:

The beds and bedding are simple but very clean and comfortable.

5. snaggables:

The only real snaggables  from this place are the spectacular shells that you can find on the beach.

6. super secret sexy time:

I’m gonna have to leave this one up to you, the rooms are not very big…

7. dock ya’s:

nada…nothing extra for the kids

to visit their website click: http://www.ylangylangbeachresort.com/

Travel Times

Before kids, when I booked my travel itinerary I didn’t care what time the flight was, I just found the absolute cheapest ticket.  Those days are long gone.  I can’t stress enough at what a difference it makes when you try to purchase your air travel within your child’s schedule.  Especially for the young ones.  Avoid at all costs an overnight flight.  You may say to yourself, ah overnight flight they will sleep.  Sure they probably will, but will you?  Imagine showing up to your different time zone location with a rested child and all you want to do is take a little nap.  Not to mention the big possibility of arriving and them still wanting to sleep while you gather all your gear and have to go through long lines at customs. No fun my friends, I’ve done it.  I try my best to avoid the super early morning flights as well since it means having to wake up at 3am to get ready and to make it to the airport on time.  It can be very handy to be flying during nap time if you can get your little ones to comply.  They stay rested and you get a little break.  I realize that those ideal travel times really make a difference on your wallet, but there is a middle ground.  Do your research and you will find it, I assure you. You can usually find them when you go directly to the specific airline site. I usually do an overall search first through a site like kayak or bestfares to find who flies and general prices, then I go to the airline. It will most likely be a little bit more expensive than the cheapest flight, but what you gain in your over all experience is well worth it.

PARIS, FRANCE: Cecile Apartments

There are some really great reasons that Paris is often peoples favorite city worldwide when you can combine old, gorgeous architecture, a romantic Seine river running through it which to stroll or picnic upon, museums galore, daily, fresh baked croissants (I won’t even mention the real food), wonderful parks, unique boutiques, and, of course, the Eiffel tower.  Needless to say, there are some really fantastic hotels to stay at while visiting the oh-so romantic and beautiful Paris.  That is if you are traveling alone or with a lover.  The issue comes in when you decide to go to the City of Lights with your family.  Sure there are hotels that can accommodate you for a small fortune, but why try to squeeze into a smallish hotel room and spend a lot of cash when you can stay in a beautiful, comfortable, and clean apartment where you and your tribe can really spread out and stay in a very desirable neighborhood.  The website www.cecile-apartments.com is the place to goto.  Cecile, who owns and manages the seven apartments that are perfectly located, will help you to book one with ease and pure professionalism.  When you arrive at your chosen destination you will find the apartment to look exactly like the photos from the website with all the modern luxuries like great bedding and mattresses (king size in the master bedroom), nice towels, fully stocked kitchen, free wifi and free international phone calls, and even a washer and dryer (always a much favored amenity when I travel).  As far as the kitchen, there is certainly no pressure to have to cook on your vacation to this magnificent city filled with delicious food options, but it sure is nice to have access to one if you are anything like me and my family when we travel across the globe.  Our jet lag is so bad the first few days, after roaming the streets to the wee hours of the morning, it’s nice to cook a little munchie when everything else has long closed down.

To goto the website click:  http://www.cecile-apartments.com/

TURKEY: Aphrodisias & Ephesus

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy exploring ancient ruins from decades ago civilizations.  Infact, my entire tribe does.  It’s fun to imagine what life was like all those years ago while walking through the broken buildings and streets.   As I’ve mentioned in past entries, I also have a mission to seek out the UNESCO world heritage sites throughout the world.  There usually is very good reason that they have been placed in the protective glove and given some much needed tlc.

APHRODISIAS

If you are traveling in Turkey and need some ideas, I can’t recommend enough taking the time to visit one of the most sacred, ancient sites in Turkey originally dedicated to the Mother Goddess dating back to 5,800 BC.  Later in the 1st and 2nd century BC, when it fell into the hands of the Greeks, it became Aphrodisias, dedicated to the love goddess, Aphrodite. Even after the Romans took over the region in 74 BC and discovered this special site, the emperors Sulla and Julius Caesar were devotees and favored her little city. It wasn’t until the middle ages when it was taken over and turned into a Christian basilica. Not only are the remains simply beautiful to see, but walking through them you can still feel the sacred energy floating in the air.  This little gem has just recently been put on the radar.  Infact, as we speak there are archeologists working to uncover and piece this little city back together.

EPHESUS

A few hours away from Aphrodisias is the spectacular, magnificent ancient remains of Ephesus.  This old city has roots dating as far back as 6,000 BC.  Over the many hundreds of years after the Greeks and Romans turned this into a massive city, what now remains is one of the largest Roman cities in the Mediterranean.  At one point it housed 250,000 people.  There is so much history and religious background, that this city has been named one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  What is so astounding is that there is so much to see and yet they have only unearthed 10 % of it.  I assure you that concept is hard to swallow when you see the shear magnitude of the colosseum alone.  This is a must see destination.  But do yourself a favor and try to beat the massive crowds and arrive early, people from all over the world travel to see this spot.

 

ROME, ITALY: www.romeloft.com

When you are trying to decide on a destination to go to with the family, I can’t recommend Rome enough.  Think the center of Roman power, gorging on many gastronomical delights, strolling past incredible ancient ruins (if you listen closely you can still hear the cheers in the colleseum), and fantastic art (we are only brushing the surface by me mentioning the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling of  Michelangelo’s famous “the creation of Adam”). What an absolutely gorgeous, romantic, fun, and historically enriching experience Rome can be.  Don’t even waist your time on trying to find a hotel when you can rent a fantastic, fully furnished and equipped apartment or loft.  Not only will you have more room than you would have ever had in a hotel, you can literally spread out, but you will only pay a fraction of the price.  Then you will also have the opportunity to feel the local lifestyle and even buy some snackies to stock in the kitchen.  Not to mention for those motivated to cook, the kitchens have all that you need to flex your culinary inspirations.  The website http://www.romeloft.com/ is so easy to navigate, with all of the choices really nice ones and in great locations (I don’t think you can go wrong).  As well, there are options to fit all budgets.  They also offer (for a fee) a pick up from the airport and a breakfast basket full of basic items to be waiting at the apartment upon arrival.  I assure you that after traveling halfway across the globe with my tribe, both were a very welcome treat.  You can rely on the photos from the website.  They really represent the apartments well.  But be aware, when it mentions a king size bed, make sure you enquire if it is infact an American equivalent or a European version of one.  Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.  Infact, I would recommend checking with whatever apartment you are interested in that they do in fact include all of the amenities listed (i.e. wifi, air conditioner) just to feel secure with what you will show up to.  And whatever you do, have an amazing time and eat a gelato for me…

BODRUM, TURKEY: Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay

If you feel like a little R & R from all of your cave spelunking in Cappadocia,  browsing the Grand Bizarre and gorgeous mosques in Istanbul, or from walking countless hours through the many, ancient ruins throughout Turkey, head West to Bodrum peninsula where the Aegean Sea meets up with the Mediterranean.  Then do yourself a BIG favor and splurge.  Splurge big and stay at the absolute BEST spot on the peninsula, the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay.  The rooms are plush, the food is scrumptious, and honestly words can’t describe how awesome the pool is.  Then you have the most dreamy, private, crystal clear cove to frolic in.  I have never in my life had such a hard time deciding where to spend the afternoon…the pool or the cove.  Up until this trip, the sea has ALWAYS won. To top it off, where ever you stand on the property, there are sweeping views of the gorgeous Aegean Sea with delightful breezes.  Once you have checked in, there really is no need to ever venture out of their gates again.  And let’s not forget the most unbelievable, included in the price, breakfast buffet filled with so many delicious options, I get full just thinking about it.  Arrive hungry.

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

After a full day of sun and fun, we couldn’t seem to stay up after 10pm, but I assure you, if you still have room in your belly and a midnight munchie is what you seek, you shall find.  The Kempinski will deliver.

2. roomy:

What the rooms may lack in size (if you’re not going for one of the suites), everything else more than makes up for it.

3. extra fluff:

The bedding is plush and lush, the matress a bit firm.  Then my husband found the bed and pillow menu in the drawer!  After a quick call and the housekeeping adding a 4 inch memory foam topping, we were lounging on the perfect, scrumptious bed with my favorite, organic, down-filled pillows (there are 5 options).  Was by far the BEST sleeping comforts on our entire 5 weeks long trip throughout Turkey.  It might even beat our own bed at home…

4. plushities:

perfect lighting, candle & matches, free water in the room, super, fluffy, terrycloth robes & giant towels

5. snaggables:

Their own brand of all sorts of tolietries (even for the sensitive babies) & plush, black slippers

6. super secret sexy time:

If staying in one of the smaller rooms, you’ve got the roomy, marble bathroom.

7. dockya’s:

NONE.  There are no extra fees for the kids.  Even at the delish dinner buffet at the Olives Restaurant, the kids eat for free.

to check out their website click: 

http://www.kempinski.com/en/bodrum/hotel-barbaros-bay/welcome/

TURKEY: Hieropolis & Pamukkale

While spending time in Turkey, do yourself a big favor and find your way to the gorgeous, natural mineral baths & white travertines of Pamukkale and the ancient, Roman ruins of Hieropolis, which was built on top of them.  We are talking UNESCO World Heritage Site. These minerals were/are so therapeutic that the Romans built an entire city upon them and made it into one huge spa.  People have been bathing in them for thousands of years.  It is an amazing treat to walk down the ancient road of Hieropolis and imagine that even Caesar strolled through this city.  In the center of town there is the main pool, that is still there, full of the warm healing waters, and scattered through out, broken, marble columns.  To take a break from your exploits, go take a swim in this ancient pool.  Bring a mask to get a perfect view of the ancient pool treasures.  When you’ve had your fill with this pool, head over to the travertines for some more soaking.  I really recommend visiting in the later afternoon so you can experience the magic of the golden sun reflecting off the blue water and white travertines.  Then while you head out, you can enjoy the glow off of the ruins and the many rows of marble tombs.  

You will need a place to stay for the night before moving on, and really the BEST option is the Richmond  Pamukkale Thermal Hotel (http://www.richmondint.com.tr/en/).  We stayed in a giant suite that was clean and extremely comfortable.  They even left us a big, beautiful fruit bowl, water, and wine.  Breakfast and dinner were included in the very reasonable price.  For a town with very little accommodations, this is the spot to stay at.

one of the travertines…

CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY: Sacred House

the town of Urgup

The region of Cappadocia is basically spread between the three little towns of Urgup, Goreme, and Urchilar.  Each town has something different to offer as a home base, yet all are within 10-15 minutes by car from each other.  Urchilar is located up on the hill with  fancy, boutique hotels (my favorite: http://www.cozynomad.com/cappadocia-turkey-museum-hotel/), fantastic views of the valley, and the least amount of tourism. Goreme has plenty of places to stay and eat and is surrounded by spectacular rock formations and the tremendous Open Air Museum.  While Urgup also has lovely places to stay and restaurants to dine in, it is a bit more mellow than Goreme with a lovely town square. It can be tricky to decide where to base yourself.  If you  decide to stay in the town of Urgup, there is a special, gorgeous 250 year old restored Greek mansion turned boutique hotel called Sacred House.  Each room offers it’s own individual, old world charm and theme, like the Fairies’ Nest or Old Chapel.  The owner has filled the place with beautiful antiques and rich tapestries.  The rooms vary in size depending upon your needs and budget, but all of the bathrooms are huge and magnificent with giant bathtubs and separate sitting areas.  I assure you that whatever you pick, you will feel like you have stepped back into time every time you walk into your room.  When you have had your fill of lounging around your room, you can venture outside to one of the many cozy, beautiful outdoor spaces.  Not to forget the wonderful, large terrace that you can visit for any occasion.  Of course, my favorite occasion was always for the delicious, special, Turkish breakfast feast that is included in the nightly rate.  The thing that really stands out with Sacred House is the impeccable and sweet service.  The small team lead by Deniz and Bekit really work hard to fulfill all of your desires.  They go the extra mile making you feel very well taken care of and special.  For us, somehow they accomplished the almost impossible task of locating the very rare (in Turkey) soy milk for my little girl’s morning breakfast.  

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

It’s not very common to get 24hr. room service in these smaller boutique hotels in Turkey, but the service is so incredible at Sacred House, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bekit whipped together a little snackie or two if you really wanted one.  He made us a plate of yummy, customized, fancy grilled cheese sandwiches with a tomato/cucumber salad, well after the restaurant had closed.

2. roomy:

They definitely have a variety of room sizes.  The suites are enough to make your jaw drop (especially the newest one).  But even with the smaller room (we stayed in one of the deluxe rooms), somehow with the lush design, the separate entrance from outside, the balcony terrace, and the giant bathroom, the four of us were very comfortable.

3. extra fluff:

The linens and bedding are super soft and plush, but on the other hand, the mattress needed an upgrade.

4. plushities:

daily yummy snack bowl (i.e. fresh fruit, dried fruits, Turkish delights), all the lights have dimmers, Turkish hammam fixings (olive oil soap & fancy, scrub mitt), free wifi, fireplace

5. snaggables:

L’Occtaine toiletries

6. super secret sexy time:

All I can say is, even with one of the smaller rooms, all of the bathrooms are so giant and lush, they each offer plenty of opportunity and privacy.

7. the dockya’s:

You may have to negotiate the whopping 70 euros for an extra bed, but the breakfast if gratis for all.

to visit their website click: http://www.sacred-house.com/

Turkey: BEST FRENCH FRY/ Orient Restaurant

Let’s face it, life would feel a little less scrumptious without a good french fry.  After living in Amsterdam, Holland for many years and indulging in the Dutch’s favorite snack on a continuous basis, I feel like I’m a pretty good judge of a great fry.  I even make the effort to search out who makes the best.  To be honest one of the many perks of being married to my husband is his mad skills of making the perfect homemade french fry.  You combine them with my homemade sate sauce (which is a mixture of peanut butter, coconut milk, and spicy Thai sauce…maybe a touch of garlic) and as far as I am concerned there really is no competition.  But it’s a big world and somebody needs to seek these things out.  Well on our recent trip to Turkey, I think we have a contender ladies and gentleman.  This little restaurant is located in Cappadocia, Turkey in the town of Goreme.  After traveling for weeks throughout the country and oddly finding the exact same mediocre fry over and over again (I swear it seems like everyone gets the same frozen variety from the same place), we were shocked and excited to have the perfect HOMEMADE french fry arrive at our table after hours of spelunking.  Not only were they homemade, but the potatoes were grown in their very own organic garden.  Then they cooked them to what I consider perfection…crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.  They were a sweet delight.  In fact, we came back for round two before continuing our journey.  Simply delish…

 

 my husband’s variety…

CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY: Museum Hotel

First let me point out that the over 3,500 year old valley of Cappadocia has been named a UNESCO world heritage site.   Personally, I have a quest to seek these places out in the world.  Once you venture out to explore this natural wonder, it will become quite clear as to why this enchanting gem has been granted the protective glove.  Combine a valley full of thousands of ancient cave houses, hundreds of cave churches, around 200 hundred underground cities, over 250 year old Greek mansions, and the original Hermit caves (the name comes from the Hermite people who carved out the solitary rock formations to live alone to practice their religion for up to 35 years), and you have the magical and completely unique place called Cappadocia.  Not only will you be awed and impressed by this amazing place, but so will your little adventurers.  I mean who doesn’t enjoy climbing through once inhabited caves and underground cities?  What about taking a sunrise balloon ride over the spectacular scenery?  And when you have exhausted yourselves completely everyday, you get to rest your feet in a luxurious, boutique hotel built upon these cave houses and Greek mansions.   It is absolutely a one of a kind experience, and one that you will never forget.

I highly recommend that you carve out at least 4-5 full days in this little wonderland to truly enjoy a good taste.  Then surely after that, you will be left wanting more.  Start off with a private tour to begin your adventure, then branch out on your own and rent a car for some foot loose and fancy free exploring.  It’s exciting what you will stumble upon.  Then of course, for those with older kids, wake up early (we are talking 4:15am) and take an unforgettable hot air balloon ride…

With all of the fancy cave, boutique hotels popping up all over the region, it’s hard to pick a base camp.  Do yourself a favor and stay at the simply perfect Museum Hotel.  I can’t express my complete love and adoration.  This is definitely the BEST place to stay in the region.  This gem is perched high up on the hill of Urchilar next to the castle, with sweeping views of the valley including the far away and now dormant volcano Mt. Erciyes, and all within a quick car ride to all of the adventure and wonders.  This luxurious boutique hotel has all the delicious amenities that one could desire, built upon these ancient ruins and decked out with the riches of a sultan.  The place oozes it’s own collection of precious artifacts and antiques.  It even has a little turtle garden and  special houses for the much coveted peace pigeons.  Let’s not forget the awesome Roman style pool and oh so romantic and scrumptious restaurant that also over looks the spectacular valley.  After dreaming of ancient civilizations in your plush bed, you will wake up to an outstanding breakfast spread grown from their very own extensive, organic garden.  All included in the price…

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:

The service is so exemplary here that you can definitely fulfill your midnight munchies with their 24 hour room service and staff. We were too exhausted after our day of spelunking to even consider trying it out.

2. roomy:

Saying the rooms are roomy is an understatement, even for the standard ones.  But trust me on this, splurge for at least one of the superior suites and you will feel like royalty.

3. extra fluff:

They’ve got the fluff and plenty of it! After traveling for two weeks in Turkey at great hotels with not so great beds, we finally get a great night sleep in the giant plush king size bed.

4. plushities:

the big, beautiful fruit bowl (all from their own organic garden), free water in room, a nespresso coffee machine with coffee, Turkish coffee, and tea, fantastic lighting, plush robes and slippers, Turkish delights, an air conditioner (trust me a welcome and rarity in this town…and very welcome in the summer months), fireplace, jacuzzi bath tub

5. snaggables:

There are so many wonderful snaggables it’s hard to list.  We’re talking plenty of L’Occtaine toiletries, their own brand of toiletries, dental kits for the whole family, sewing kit, amazing loofa mitt, handmade Turkish soaps, slippers, and let’s not forget the wooden matches left for the candle. 

6. super secret sexy time:

In these magnificent rooms there simply is no need for anything super secret with so many areas and separate rooms.  And let’s not forget the enormous bathroom with a jacuzzi bath tub with giant windows overlooking the valley.  As if that’s not enough, they even included a candle and matches to set the mood.

7. dock ya’s:

They charge 30 euros for an extra bed (but not for the portable crib). Nothing extra for the kid’s breakfast and the taxes are included in the price quoted.

room with a view…

 to visit their website click: http://www.museum-hotel.com/

 

ISTANBUL, TURKEY: Hotel Ibrahim Pasha

I can’t begin to express my complete and total adoration for the enchanting city of Istanbul.  Not only does it offer gorgeous eye candy, delicious food (especially for fellow vegetarian travelers), incredible monuments, a wonderful Grand Bizarre and even an Egyptian Spice Market, the Whirling Dervishes, mesmerizing calls of prayer singing throughout the day and night, and lavish hammams, but the Turkish people take it a step further with their warmth and generosity, especially with the children.  So many sweet encounters around every corner. I am sure that my kids’ experiences in Turkey will effect them forever on some level when it comes to human contact.  And for the adults, even with the kids in-tow, this place oozes romance of far away places.

Since Istanbul was only our first stop in Turkey for our month long summer vacation, this time around I wanted to find an incredible hotel, but one that wouldn’t break the bank right out of the gate.  Our previous trip to Istanbul, we stayed at the amazing Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet (to read my review about it click onto:  http://www.cozynomad.com/istanbul-four-seasons-hotel-istanbul-at-sultanahmet/).  It is a tough hotel to follow, but I was determined to find somewhere special that was also located in the old part of town called the Sultanahmet.  And special I found.  This beautiful Victorian Ottoman boutique hotel will capture your heart the moment you walk in. As well, the staff here are so warm and helpful, you will feel very well taken care of.  It’s is a perfect mix of fabulous, cool antiques (like the French club chairs) and local Turkish textiles and paintings.  In the picturesque and cozy lobby where one can chat with fellow travelors, one can browse the extensive and impressive photography book collection, sit by the fire, and all the while sip on a coffee or tea that is available gratis 24 hrs a day.  As for the rooms, they may not be giant, but each has it’s own charming character and style with the luxurious modern comforts of a fancy boutique hotel.  Most rooms on the top floor (4th) offer some sort of beautiful little view.  As well, don’t forget to visit the spectacular roof terrace often which offers stunning views of the Blue Mosque, city rooftops, and the Bosphorus Sea.  They also have a little bar up there to offer a drink while you gaze and daydream.

Did I mention that along with all of this, you will wake up to a scrumptious and fresh Turkish breakfast?  All part of the price…

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies:  

Unfortunately they really don’t offer any except for the cutely wrapped Turkish delights that they leave in your room at night, but I have to say that the breakfast that is included really makes up for it.  Besides, while in Istanbul, and if you are a true midnight muncher, plan ahead and hit one of the many local patisseries during the day.  My personal favorite is called Cigadem pastanesi located on Alemdar Mh. Divan Yolu Cd. No:62/a. It’s a two minute walk from the hotel across from the Hippodrome.

2. roomy:

Not alot of extra space with the kids, but the stylish cozy decor makes you forget about that after you have settled in.

3. extra fluff:

All rooms have queen size beds, simple white cotton sheets, traditional Turkish blankets (probably more in chillier weather), cotton foam pillows, and sort of a foam mattress.  Basic but doable.

4. plushities:

daily fruit bowl, free water bottles in the room, Turkish, super soft, short robes with hood and slippers, free wifi, great lighting, Turkish delights, and my favorite… they serve complimentary coffee and tea to your room, in the lobby, and on the roof terrace anytime you want

5. snaggables:

L’Occtaine toiletries

6. super secret sexy time: 

Your on your own here.  What can I say, the rooms are small.  How creative and frisky can you be?

7. the dockya’s:

None. No extra fees for the kids (even for the breakfast or the bed). I love that.  Even the tax is included in the price quoted.  They also offer a 10% discount for cash payments.

for hotel website goto: http://www.ibrahimpasha.com/

New York City: BEST PIZZA/ Pulino’s Restaurant

This year we spent the Thanksgiving Holiday in New York City.  For the actual day, we were over joyed and thankful to share such wonderful company and delicious vegetarian food (quite rare for such a Holiday) with friends.  We spent the latter part of the afternoon at the festivities and by early evening decided to retire our tired tribe back to the hotel.  By the time the later evening arrived, my son was hungry.  Realizing it was our last night in the city, the concept of leaving this town without ever having eaten at least a slice of that amazing New York style pizza seemed like a crime.  The question was who would be open and would it be close?  We made a call to the concierge.  They threw out the name Pulino’s, said it would be open for one more hour, and was only a few blocks away.  Great, I called them up, ordered a 12 inch margarita pizza with kalamata olives and another margarita pizza with garlic and fresh arugala.  My son and I then headed out the door to go pick them up. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much.  But the moment I walked into the door, I was already regretting that we were not going to be staying to dine there.  It was like walking into an adorable, authentic, Italian bistro packed with people.  They handed me the pizza boxes as I notice a framed article stating that Pulino’s was voted by the village voice 2011, “The BEST pizza in New York City”.  Just then I got a whiff of our pizzas.  We were excited!

What makes a pizza good?  For anyone who loves pizza, it seems obvious.  The three main ingredients right? The crust, the sauce, and the cheese.  Any one of these not delivering can completely downgrade the pizza. First of all, the pizzas from Pulino’s are the wood burning oven variety.  Just looking at these little masterpieces is enough to know that a treat has arrived.  The crust was crisp, yet soft and chewy, and even being nice and thin was not the least bit soggy.  The sauce was so sweet and savory, not too much, not too little, and could have easily stood alone.  Last was the cheese, which was the good stuff, the real fresh sliced, not shredded, mozzarella, which they used sparely around the pie.  I felt like each bite was a taste sensation.  Add the fancy kalamata olives and the fresh garlic with arugula, and we were in heaven.  We all agreed with the Village Voice. After looking at the entire menu, next time we head to NYC, we will definitely make a journey to eat at Pulino’s.  There are so many delicious looking dishes that I would love to try. Perhaps next time we will start with the pizza as an appetizer…

ISTANBUL, TURKEY: Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul/ Sultanahmet

If you are looking for a place that is enchanting, exotic, gorgeous, mysterious, and romantic, Istanbul is it. This past winter we traveled to this amazing city. All of us left feeling inspired and so grateful for the experience. Have you ever seen a Whirling Dervish spin before your eyes? Do you dream of browsing the ultimate Grand Bizarre searching for your hearts treasures? Have you ever smelled an Egyptian spice market? Do you enjoy getting Turkish scrubs at a real Hamman?  Think ancient architecture that transports you to an Ottoman dream, fresh pomegranate juice from street vendors, and the most beautiful, heart breaking song of prayer floating on the wind from 17 century minarets. And to tell you the truth, the food alone was enough to bring us back. The Turkish culture is incredibly warm and friendly, and they truly love children and families. It is really a wonderful place to bring your kids. I can honestly say that Istanbul has made my number one favorite city in the world spot.

Istanbul is divided into three sections on two continents (Europe and Asia) with the Bosporus pumping the Black Sea to connect them all together. On the European side you have the old historic part, Sultanahamet, and the more modern section, Beyoglu.  Last year in 2010 Istanbul was named The Cultural Center of the world and celebrated this by sponsoring artists to represent their work from all over the world. When you visit, there is an electricity, a pulsing under current of creativity and expression that you can practically taste. Istanbul is literally old world meets the new. It’s exciting and intoxicating.

If you are looking for that special, one of a kind experience, do yourself and your family a big favor and set up camp in the Sultanahamet (the old part of town). Just walking out the door will be a feast for your eyes and ears. We chose the Four Seasons Hotel Sultanahmet, and absolutely loved every aspect of the hotel, ranging from the fact that at one time it was a prison for political figures, the service is the best I have ever experienced, the location couldn’t be more spectacular situated between the dazzling Blue Mosque and the stunning Hagia Sophia, and the rooms are simply luxurious.  They took amazing care of me and my family.  I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough. I mean come on…it is the Four Seasons after all.

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies √

Of course they can deliver, and that they did the first night we arrived after traveling across the globe. But to be real honest, after a few nights in town, we realized the irresistible midnight munchies were to be found from the local bakeries/dessert shops. We would pick a wide variety in order to do our own evening taste tests, then order the room service decaf coffee to wash it all down.

2.  roomy √

The management was so kind when they saw me and my tribe, they immediately upgraded our room at no extra cost to a giant, fantastic room. Even had a walk in closet.

3. extra fluff √

Oh yeah, this king bed reminded me again of how impossible it seems to find a mattress this perfect in a store. Not sure how they do it, but it was an evening blissful cloud.

4. the plushities √

The daily fruit plate, all the extra fun things to draw and play with for the kids, and how they turned down the room at night leaving a low volume level of Turkish music playing, sure made it nice.

5. snaggables

They have a fantastic selection of L’Occitane toiletries and slippers for the whole family.

6. super secret sexy time √

Even though the room was giant, I’d have to say the huge bathroom with the marble everything, gorgeous Turkish rugs, and sunken bath tub wins the award hands down.

7. the dock ya’s 

They don’t charge anything extra for kids. Yeah!!

 

to check out the hotel :http://www.fourseasons.com/istanbul/

 

JAMAICA: Goldeneye Hotel & Resort

Trying to find somewhere for us to take a week long vacation, that we haven’t been to, that would be a slice of paradise, somewhere to stay put and chill, AND somewhat easy to get to from Los Angeles, posed itself as a challenge for someone like me who already has a hard time making decisions.  Since it was only for a week, I really wanted it to be the place from out of a dream. Any of the Hawaiian Islands are a sure thing, and so easy to get to from Los Angeles, but we really wanted to go somewhere new.  All I can say is the Goldeneye Hotel & Resort in juicy Jamaica is that spot I was dreaming about.  This place is so delicious, so gorgeous, so luxurious in the most unpretentious way, and so off the beaten path, that I am already wondering how & when we can return.

Goldeneye was once the modest 3 bedroom house where in the 1950′s Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels.  Along came legendary music producer, Chris Blackwell, (whom among other great musicians, introduced the world to one of my personal favorites, Bob Marley) and turned this little gem into the wonderful place it is today.  In November 2010, they reopened with brand new beach cottages to go along with the lagoon digs. We opted for the gorgeous, huge, one bedroom beach cottage that sits right on the white sand and is only steps to the crystal clear Caribbean. Sure they also have two nice, small pools as another option, but if you are looking for an incredible little fish sanctuary to swim in, go for their beautiful fresh water lagoon.

The management did a stellar job at hiring each and every member of their team.  They really take such good care of you and your kids.    When it comes to doing some snorkeling or any water activity, ask for Daney Dunkin (aka Double D).  This sweet man is incredible with kids and will help inspire all sorts of adventure.  Be it paddle boarding in the lovely lagoon, an incredible off-the-coast snorkeling venture, or if you’re lucky enough to find some small waves in the cove, a little surfing.  As far as the food, I have to make a special note about their master chef, Conroy Arnold.  They found this treasure in New York City at the famed Nobu restaurant.  Traveling as a vegetarian, practically vegan, can often be a challenge and end in a complete carb overload.  Of all the places that I have traveled to, I have never been so indulged and treated like royalty as was at the Goldeneye thanks to this incredible chef.  For sure anything this master creates is enough to have you chanting his name in your sleep, but for those of you who don’t eat animals, it’s like having your own personal chef everyday.  Do yourself a big, big favor, let this man run with his creativity.  Everyday will be another heavenly treat after another.

At Goldeneye, they are rumored to not be able to say no to any guest.  I have to say, from our experience this is true.  But don’t take my word for it…



ROOM CHECK

 

1. midnight munchies √

If you can actually stay awake late after an entire day at the beach, with kids, (best of luck to you), you can always go for the pint of vanilla Haagen Dazs ice cream and the 2 chocolate bars that are stocked in the frig. Other than that, it’s slim pickins.

2.  roomy √

ALL of the cottages have ample room for the entire tribe.  We stayed in the one bedroom cottage and had tons of space to spread out…even build forts. 

 3. extra fluff √

These king size beds hold their own.  They are super comfortable with great sheets and pillows.  They even come with a mosquito net to help deliver a very peaceful sleep.

4. the plushities √

I love their hand batik, soft, thin cotton robes and the huge, gooey, hand batik towels that they provide. (These items are also for sale) I love that for no extra charge they keep your room fully stocked with many fresh bottles of water and your own French press coffee maker with plenty of coffee and the fixings.  Also in the kitchens, they provide everything necessary to cook and create meals if one was so inspired.  I also really love that all the light switches are on dimmers and labeled.

5. super secret sexy time √

The cottages at this place give ample amount of space for a little late night lovin.  But for those of you who still have a bit of zest and adventure left, those who want to smell the sea air and gaze at the starry sky… put the kids to bed and steel a little time away on the man-made island right in the middle of the cove.  It’s only a quick waist water walk to reach it.  (note: of course, this recommendation goes only for those who opt for the beach cottages.)

6. snaggables 

none worth mentioning.

7.  the dock ya’s 

They don’t charge anything extra for kids.  But do note, that they do add a 20% service charge on absolutely everything.

 

to visit their website: www.goldeneye.com

 

PALM SPRINGS: The Parker

Living in Los Angeles, going to Palm Springs for a few days to lounge around the pool is a no brainer. There are even quite a few cool places to stay. But few draw the jet-set crowd where an actual plane flight is needed to get there. One of those places is The Parker.  The minute you walk into the lobby, you understand why. This place is cool, it’s sexy, it’s a perfect modern decor mixes with Morocco, it’s kick those babies up by one of the fabulous pools (there are two)t, it’s order yourself a fresh lemonade (of course there are a lot more options for those seeking the perfect poolside cocktail), it’s let me eat some of that tasty food (such great options you don’t need to leave the hotel), it’s hello great service, it’s feeling romantic even with the kids, it’s cozy beds, fantastic toiletries, plenty of space, it’s beautiful grounds where one can steal a kiss, play some croquette, or sit by the outdoor fire pit. The Parker delivers to all parties involved. You will without a doubt strike up an interesting conversation with some nice, often groovy folks, and your kids will most likely meet another young traveler to swim with, play chess with on the giant outdoor game board, or even a little pingpong. And let’s not forget that warm, dessert sun… we’re talking groovy baby… for the whole family.

ROOM CHECK

1. midnight munchies

 

If you are feeling like a late night treat, order the homemade cookies. It’s not on the menu, but it just so happens that the owner keeps a secret stash that they are willing to share for those in the know. They’ve got chocolate chip, peanut butter, white chocolate/ macadamia nut, and I do believe chocolate chocolate chip. They keep the dough in the freezer so they can pop those chewy delectables into the oven at a moments notice. Sure, you might feel a little guilty about devouring these yummies without the kiddos, but hey, live a little. While your at it order some cold soy milk (or cow if that’s your speed) for dipping, and maybe a little decaf.

2. super secret sexy time

 

I’m gonna have to give The Parker a BIG CHECK. Since the rooms are so spacious (we’ll get to that in a minute), there are options. Creativity is the key. Besides the obvious bed, if a little one is sharing the sack, you’ve got these nice, plush, lamb skin rugs that they put out at night next to the sides of the bed. As well, there is always the fancy, marble bathrooms that are pretty spacious and sexy.

3. snaggables

 

Do they have the snaggables or what?  So much so, that the cleaning crew keeps them under lock and key on the cleaning cart. These snaggables are even geared for both men and women. The key items would be the big bar of L’Occitane soap, the Peter Thomas Roth sunblock, and the Bvlgari (for men) body lotion.

4. extra fluff

 

Having a queen sized bed at home is perfect for us, but staying in that luxurious king size bed at The Parker is a real treat. I love walking into the room and seeing this crisp, white, clean bed. The modern, canopy frame is also just right. Everything about that bed is perfect. A few words that pop into my head: comfy, firm yet soft, plush, lush, silky, puffy, cozy, divine. These beds are so good that in the morning I am willing to splurge the $20 for a cup of room service coffee in bed, just to linger a bit longer.

5. the plushities

 

They’ve got the super soft, white, fluffy robes and big towels. As well, I love the lighting options in the room with the soft lights and almost everything on a dimmer. After a day of lounging by the pool, cracking open the complimentary large bottle of pelligrino and browsing through the books in the room is a real treat.

6.  roomy

 

When traveling with my tribe, they really deliver on accommodating us on a huge room (at no extra charge). There is plenty of room for all of us to spread out and enjoy.

7.  the dock ya’s

There is no extra fee to have the kids in the room, but unfortunately they do charge $50 for a roll away bed. I figure the free large room upgrade makes up for it. However, take note, they do charge $30 a day extra as a resort fee.

 

to visit their website: www.theparkerpalmsprings.com