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The free hotel status continues, as Marriott is offering free Silver status. Gary scoops this one from FatWallet who explains how Marriott signs up people at the Silver status level from a variety of companies that they have corporate agreements with.
- Gary gives the simple link format as: http://www.joinmarriottrewards.com/account/silver/default.aspx?source=COMPANYNAME
- So the link for IBM ishttp://www.joinmarriottrewards.com/account/silver/default.aspx?source=IBM
- And the link for the University of California ishttp://joinmarriottrewards.com/account/silver/default.aspx?source=UniversityofCalifornia
I already have Marriott status, but my husband doesn’t – so I signed him up using one of the employer links. Of course, I checked first to see if his employers had corporate agreements using the simple link format, but no such luck. Using another link – Voila!
The benefits of Silver status are not amazing (but obviously better than no status) and include 20% bonus on Marriott Rewards points, free internet access, and priority late check out. In large conference hotels, I have been upgraded to a suite on Silver on two occasions even though it is not part of their stated rewards.
The way they verify that you are eligible for the offer is by asking you to input the first six digits of your Visa Infinite credit card. This list of issuer identification numbers from Wikipedia contains 7 different Visa Infinite starting card number options.
After clicking the Langham Hotels offer and pulling a code off of wiki – Voila!
The status lasts for 12 months, and normally requires 5 stays in a year to earn but will be renewed after just 2 stays during a year under this offer.
Benefits include 6pm (!) late checkout, a one-category room upgrade each stay, a suite upgrade certificate once per year, complimentary internet, welcome amenities, and a luggage tag.
Langham hotel has a hotel in London property (pictured below) and also in destinations such as Auckland, Boston, Melbourne, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong. I hope to get to use this status for a luxurious stay at the London location.
I had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a long stay at their Pasadena property for an extended conference last summer. The cocktail lounge had amazing drinks and the outdoor seating made the most of the long, pink sunsets.
In fact, the banner image of MakingAMovableFeast includes a shot taken at that property. Can you guess which picture?
Finally, the market! After our the hike, we were hungry and on the search for some delicious local delights. The streets were filled with people enjoying their Sunday afternoon, but many of the local shops and restaurants were closed. Because we had spent the morning hiking, we almost missed out on the best of the Aix market. Many of the produce stands were sold out of goods and had begun packing up for the day.
As I mentioned in my last post, my friend was adamant about his desire for cheese – so we asked our cab driver and several other locals for the names of the best sit-in cheese shops. We had a list of three.
The first place we were sent to by all the locals looked delicious – huge wheels of cheese behind glass, on shelves that stretched to the ceiling of the little shop. Alas, closed. So we continued to walk… passing beautiful shops like this yellow chocolatier shinning in the yellow sun.
The other two cheese shops on our list were also closed for the day. Hungry and determined, we decided to pick up some bread and cheese from one of the stands of the markets that were closing down soon to munch on as we strolled the streets for a place to sit and eat.
Each selection at the market was more lovely than the next. The bread — oh, the bread! — it was so amazing. Crusty on the outside, soft and fresh on the inside.
We paired it with a small sized roll of goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto and local herbs. It felt wonderful to be hungry, strolling the little streets with sun on our backs eating such amazing delights as we watch others enjoy their Sunday. Our last purchase was a pressed roll of pungent cheese that came wrapped in dried leaves.
The allies and little off-shoot streets were lined with small cafes packed to the brim with diners.
We sat down at a table mixed among many outside. A bottle of pinot noir promptly followed along with some additional eats to share. Conversation easily took us into a second bottle and we compromised by sharing the apple terrine and crème brûlée.
But that’s not all…
The most exciting part of the afternoon happened on the way back to the hotel. All three of us were leaving on flights out at the same time, so we had called the cab to meet us in front of the hotel at 15:00. Our quest for cheese and consequent binge on all that is good about France put us on a tight schedule to make it back on time. As we briskly made our way through the streets of Aix, we happened upon a parade of people dressed in costumes of what the towns people would have worn in say, the 1700s.
I immediately recognized what was happening!
In researching Aix before the trip, I learned of the Calissons d’Aix – the specialty sweet of the area. As Wikipedia informed me, calissons are small diamond-shaped treats made from almonds and crystallised melon. Each year in early September, there is a mass in the medieval church of St Jean de Malte to bless the local sweets. Apparently the ceremony dates back to the 17th century and marks the deliverance of Aix from the plague.
I had picked up a small package of them a day or so earlier to take back with me as a souvenir. But here in front of me was the parade!
I snapped a shot of four pastry chefs carrying a statue of a Saint situated on a box that is decorated with the calissons. The whole thing was a site to be seen and I couldn’t believe we caught a glimpse. A man was selling the specially made, and blessed, calissons on the street – and as we hustled to the hotel to catch our cab, I purchased a few from the vendor.
The last day of the trip began with a delicious breakfast and a morning hike. We got the idea of doing this from seeing the mountains from the restaurant the night before. Three of us made the committment to get up early and head up into the hills.
The morning started out cloudy and a bit overcast but as we made it further up the hills the sky began to clear and the sun came out. The first thing we encountered as we took off down the trail was a small vineyard planted in someone’s backyard. We then selected a moderate trail that went up the hill. It was lightly rocky and pleasant to climb.
As we went up the hillside, you could see home scattered across the horizon, tucked away into the land. Midway through the hike, tiny drops of rain came down amid sunlight — really the lightest rain I could imagine.
It was so nice to get out, smell the air, and feel the ground beneath my feet. The hike ended by a small cafe and parking lot where we called for a cab. As we drove back to the city center, all my companions could talk about was how appropriately the hike had prepared us for cheese and wine for lunch.
On Saturday night, our conference host took us to a small, family owned restaurant La Table De Beaurecueil. The place was about a ten or fifteen minute drive from the town center and set against a landscape of mountains and countryside.
The restaurant was obviously operated by the owner and his wife, who together, ran the entire service for our group — while serving the rest of the restaurant on the regular menu. Impressive! We were very well taken care of, as were the other patrons I observed.
One chef operated the entire kitchen, with an open view format to guests’ tables. Here you can see him setting up the first course for our group.
As we sat down the lady of the house brought around a local rosé wine made with peaches. It was unbelievable crisp, light, and flavorful. Each table was topped with a small cutting board of locally made sausage and cured ham, fresh breads, and a small bowl of olives. Then came the first course.
This was one of the most wonderful things I think I have ever eaten. It was so visually appealing that I immediately couldn’t wait to taste everything in front of me. The layout of the dish suggested that it should be eaten in turn, and so I started with the curious little pot with the inviting spoon. The green was a mixture of mint and basil pureed into an aromatic spread over cod fish at the bottom. Amazing.
The light green salad made for a wonderful transition to the larger pot of a red and white mixture. The dish was a lobster crème with vine ripened tomato coulis. The flavors: spectacular. The tomato stood out like I have never tasted before and the lobster was confined to the crème. When you stirred the two, the flavors complemented each other, but still retained their composure. Honestly, this was an incredibly executed dish. Truly delightful to eat.
Above is the “trou normand” or “Normandy hole” course. This is traditionally a light sorbet in alcohol served in the middle of the meal. The idea is to cleanse your palette and allow your stomach to transition to the next course of food. As my dining companion informed me, the French also believe they serve an important digestive function. The one we had was made of local thyme and rosemary herbs. Somehow the chef was able to blend these strong flavors into a very light and refreshing sorbet.
The main course was a portion of Cornish hen, roasted on a spit and served over green peas with a light sauce. The meat was tender and juicy with a wonderfully roasted flavor. This was served with small pot of potato and artichoke hearts smothered in French cheeses. Needless to say, this was indulgently delicious.
The dessert some kind of a cream with strawberry jelly on the inside, served with an edible sugar spoon. I am not a big dessert person and honestly didn’t care for the cream – but the strawberry filling burst with the flavor of the fruit and was a nice finish to the meal.
Overall the meal was amazing – certainly something to celebrate and be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy!
Stepping out of the hotel, the weather was amazing. The sky was bright blue and the sun beamed down, washing everything in sunlight. It was gorgeous! I met up with a friend and strolled right up the street towards the center of the city.
Aix is known as the city of 100 fountains. As we walked toward Cours Mirabeau, we came across “des quatre dauphins” — the first of many fountains we saw peppered throughout the streets.
We continued walking though the streets, passing by Les Deux Garcons – the cafe of visitors like Pablo Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre since 1792. Along the same street, I found this terribly interesting entrance:
The sun drenched everything in the town center. You could literally see the beams of sunlight illuminating the buildings.
Les maisons étaient extraordinaires! Toute la ville était pleine de charme!
The Grand Hotel Roi René is a MGallery property, so I was thrilled when I found out that was where I would be staying. I was excited to use my Accor Hotels Platinum status for the first time. I took advantage of an offer back in January, but this is the first occasion I will have to use it.
Platinum status is Accor Hotel’s top-level and comes after 60 nights or 25,000 points. The status awards double points on each stay. In Sofitel, Pullman and MGallery hotels comes with room upgrades (on request and subject to availability), late check out at 16:00, and a complimentary drink and welcome gift. At Sofitel Thalassa Sea and Spa hotels you can even get a free Thalassa Sea and Spa Institute beauty product and treatment.
Because this is my first stay at an Accor property, I do not yet have a Le Club card. So I emailed the hotel in advance with my card number and had them add it to the reservation. No problem.
When I arrived, I was checked-in by the conference organizer. Being grateful to attend such a wonderful event, the last thing I wanted to do was offend my host by asking for an upgrade at check-in (and Accor requires that you request your premium upgrade). I was prepared to do so, having practiced a few phrases like “Suis-je admissible à niveau ma chambre pour une suite aujourd’hui?” in advance. Taking some good advice, I was ready to embrace the idea that self-consciousness kills communication.
Anyway, I checked-in as usual and went up to my room to put down my things and freshen up before strolling the city. The room was very nice, although the light switches were awkward to use. Perhaps the most lovely part was that the bathroom was stocked with Roger & Gallet bath products. Yes!
When I came downstairs, I double checked my Club number was associated with my reservation. The staff at the desk were incredibly accommodating – not only humoring me with patience when I was attempting to speak French but seamlessly transitioning between French and English. The receptionist checked my reservation and gave me vouchers for free cocktails. I only wish I would have remembered to snap a shot of the beautiful, local rose champagne I drank!
Wednesday we got the keys to our London flat. All of the preparation, expense, planning and detail culminate in actually stepping foot in our new place! Settle in, you say? Begin to decorate, nest, unpack, and do all of the bits and pieces of moving in? Well, yes….but not quite yet.
We took care of the bare necessities on Wednesday (a la IKEA) and enjoyed a delicious dinner at home. The next morning, I left for a weekend in Aix-en-Provence. I was interested in taking the train from St. Pancras to Aix via Lille, as suggested by Seat61, but practical constraints led me to opt for the flight.
I had to be at the airport so early that the train was not yet running from my stop, so David walked me down to the direct bus line. We had heard about recent sightings of foxes in London, and being fans of the curious creatures we have been really hoping to see one at some point while we live here. We never thought it would happen so soon! Sure enough, in the early morning hours at the bus stop I spotted one sneaking around out of a small garden. David jumped up from the bus stop to snap a few shots, but this one was the best we could muster.
It was crazy to see the little guy trotting about the streets as if he was entirely at home in the city. When the bus arrived, I was on my way. Heathrow was smooth sailing and after a tight connection in Brussels, I arrived without a hitch.
I made my arrangements such that I could get in to Aix a bit early before I had obligations on Thursday evening and leave in the afternoon on Sunday. Plenty of time to see the city in between all the “work” I was there to do. As soon as I checked into the hotel (more on this soon) – I was out strolling the streets of Aix.
The city is beautiful and I look forward to sharing more about my trip in posts to follow. I have been slow to post because I do not yet have my home internet connection set up (and Aix was too much fun to spend any significant amount of time in the hotel capitalizing on the free in-room internet). I will get more up as soon as possible — provided Starbucks doesn’t kick me out for abusing the free wi-fi.