Saturday, July 30, 2016

Food and Laughs in Grand Rapids

My friend Lisa and I woke up in the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton to another clear and comfortable day.

We had heard a lot of wonderful things from people in Grand Rapids about San Chez Bistro, but it turned out to be even better than we ever expected for breakfast.

It took a while to sort through their extensive and unique menu. With some help from our waiter, we filled the table with excellent choices.

We started with the Cinnamon Pecan Roll with cream cheese icing and it was amazing. It arrived freshly baked and was huge! It was hard to stop eating, even though we knew there was a lot more food to come.

My vegetable cheese eggs were loaded and topped with guacamole. Lisa went for the Breakfast Empanadas, filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, chorizo, goat and manchengo cheeses. Yes, it was as good as it sounds.

I would definitely like to return to San Chez someday and also try their drinks. They do infusions of vodka, gin, and tequila.

After breakfast, we drove by the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. We didn’t have time to stop, but judging by the line outside the door, it is quite popular.

We also past the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, in honor of the 38th President, who lived in Find Grand Rapids and represented the state in the House.

Our next stop was at one of the most unique and interesting museums I’ve been to, the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.

It’s hard to even describe the variety of exhibits and activities here.

There is something for everyone, making it an interesting stop for the whole family.

I love Merry Go Rounds so I couldn’t leave the Grand Rapids Public Museum without a ride on their historic carousel, even though we had spent more time there than originally scheduled.

You could easily spend an entire day exploring history, science, and technology, as well as some Michigan specific artifacts.

We were running late and pretty worn out with a late night in front of us, so we didn’t make it to the Grand Rapids Brewing Company. Instead we headed back to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to shower and dress for the evening.

The LaughFest Signature Event with Seth Meyers was held at DeVos Place, the convention center right next to our hotel.

As members of the press, we arrived early and sat in a special area. We sipped some wine the waiters brought out and waited for the presentations to begin.

I didn’t really know a lot about Gilda’s Club before attending this event, other than the fact that it was started by Saturday Night Live comedian and Grand Rapids native Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer, and her husband, Gene Wilder.

The stage was filled with people who had been taken in and given help by this compassionate organization. (Please take a moment to read more about Gilda’s Club, which has locations throughout the U.S., and make a donation, if possible.)

The Seth Meyers monologue was as funny as you’d expect from the late night star.

One thing we didn’t get to enjoy at the Laughfest banquet was the food. The first thing we did when we headed to the Waldron Public House was order some food.

I couldn’t resist one of their cocktails, the Smoked Pineapple Daquiri, with coconut infused white rum, pineapple, lime juice, and fresh mint.  We also had the Tandoori Chicken Pops, which were quite good and served with a cucumber-mint sauce.

We went to the back of the building to a packed room for the Laugh Riot Dolls. The free show (some of the LaughFest events are complimentary) was a wonderful mixture of local women comedians and a lot of fun.

Right after we headed back to the Amway Grand Plaza by Hilton and had a spiked hot chocolate in their rooftop bar and restaurant, CYGNUS27.

We had planned on staying for a while, but were exhausted from another full day in Grand Rapids and headed back to our room instead.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Introduction to Grand Rapids and LaughFest

I had been to Grand Rapids only once, for a short trip. I was happy to return with my friend Lisa to explore the city and attend my first LaughFest.

The annual event is in honor of Gilda Radner, a former comedian best known for her role on Saturday Night Live. Radner, who was married to fellow actor Gene Wilder, died in 1989 of ovarian cancer.

The Michigan native is the namesake of Gilda’s Club, which helps those affected by cancer. LaughFest raises money each year for this worthy cause.

Lisa and I checked into the largest hotel in the city, the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton.

The hotel is quite opulent and the service was great from the start. Our room had a great view of the river.

We quickly got settled in and headed downtown to the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

As we walked the few blocks to the museum we could see that the entire city was ready for LaughFest.

Signs and logo products were everywhere, especially the art museum where the official headquarters was.

We spent some time going through the museum, which had quite a lot of art from Michigan artists as well as additional exhibits from around the world.

Lisa and I returned to the hotel for dinner at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck. We found both the cocktail and food menu of small plates to be quite eclectic.

We ordered a Passionfruit Cosmopolitan and a Wolfgang Puck Margarita, and sat back trying to narrow down the menu. 

We ended up with a well-rounded group of small plates: Gnocchi, Kale, Roasted Mushroom Truffle Pizza (our favorite).

For dessert, we shared a Crème Brulee and a Chocolate Molten Cake.

After dinner, we left the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and headed to our first LaughFest event, comedian Anjelah Johnson at the Fountain Street Church.

This church is best described by the headline of their website, “Fountain Street Church is about deeds more than creeds.

About liberation more than salvation. About justice more than righteousness. If these principles strike a chord with you, please visit us.”

It is spectacular – especially the art and stained glass -- but it was a bit strange for some people having it used for adult comedy!

Lisa and I just enjoyed Anjelah’s show, which was quite good.

It was only about 9:00 when it finished and we decided to head over to The BOB for the Chris Farley Tribute Night.

The LaughFest event was over by the time we arrived, but we checked out this large restaurant, with multiple bars and stages for live music.

We wondered over to one of those bars at The BOB and were enamored with a drink on the menu: Not Your Father’s Float.

Although I’m not a beer drinker, I do love hard root beer and Not Your Father’s is my favorite.

Fortunately, we only ordered one because the huge concoction not only included the root beer, but also had Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce!

It took us a while to get through it. We decided we needed to burn the calories so we walked back to the Amway Grand Plaza by Hilton. It was a busy today, but the next was going to have even more for us to do in Grand Rapids.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Farewell to Generations and Riviera Maya

It was time to say goodbye to Generations Resort.Roberta and I were glad our flights weren’t until the afternoon because we were in no hurry to leave Riviera Maya.

We started the day with our last room service breakfast. I loved the idea that Generations Resort lets you get pretty much anything you want for breakfast in your suite. 

We loaded up our omelets (me with veggies and Roberta with seafood) and enjoyed the fresh baked goods.

I decided to enjoy the swim-up suite one last time and relaxed in the lounge chair in the water on our patio for a leisurely breakfast with a view.

Roberta headed out for more exploring and shopping at El Dorado Royale , the adults-only sister resort next door.

When she came back we ventured to the Riviera Maya beach one last time and had the waiters deliver some nachos to us for lunch.

With my ankle injury limiting my standing, 

I took advantage of the butler Generations Riviera Maya provides guests to help me pack. 

Before we took off in our van for Cancun Airport, we took some final pictures of Generations Resort and said goodbye to the staff, who went above and beyond (with wheelchairs on demand J) to make our visit special.

At the airport, Roberta and I said our goodbyes as she boarded a plane to Nashville and I went to Dallas.

I know I probably should have gone for something more local before I left Mexico, but I couldn’t resist a Johnny Rocket’s burger, malt, and fries to take with me on the plane. 

It was a favorite treat when I lived in NY and I hadn’t been in years.

Here are some more photos from a great trip to Riviera Maya.

Thanks again for the hospitality, Karisma Hotels.