Great Hotels

Arena Copacabana Hotel


We took a mini vacation to Punta Cana and stayed at the Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort.

Our room was classified as a Premium Beach Side villa. within a short walk to the beach and a quick stroll to the breakfast and lunch buffet at Rumba a very nice open-air restaurant.

on throughout the day an

Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort


We took a mini vacation to Punta Cana and stayed at the Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort.

Our room was classified as a Premium Beach Side villa. within a short walk to the beach and a quick stroll to the breakfast and lunch buffet at Rumba a very nice open-air restaurant.

on throughout the day an

Great Hotels

The Venetian Hotel Las Vegas


My recent stay in Las Vegas brought me to yet another hotel, one different from the last one I stayed before while visiting Vegas. This time I stayed in the Venetian Resort Hotel. This has to be my best experience thus far when it comes to the hotels I have slept in, on my many visits to this city of neon lights.

Room Mate Hotel New York


When I first heard the name of the hotel Room Mate Grace, it was not appealing at all. I didn't know if I was going to be in a hostel or just shacking up with a total stranger. Neither was the case and I was relieved. When I got into my room, I was very impressed. 

InterContinental Hotel Miami


The InterContinental Hotel is a five star property located in the heart of downtown Miami with waterfront views. It is a 34 story complex with a great bar and a top notch restaurant with superior service. 

Ozo Hotel Amsterdam


Ozo Hotel is a beautiful very modern hotel situated in the heart of dynamic Amsterdam Zuid-Oost district. This four star hotel with four star amenities and a four star staff to go along with the appearance of the building.

Amsterdam Manor Aruba


Aruba continues to be one of my favorite places on earth. The beaches are beautiful and the weather is as close to perfect as you could get. What puts the icing on the cake is the accommodations at the Amsterdam Manor.

Hotel Pavilion Opera Paris


Today we call it Hotel Pavilion Opera but tomorrow we will call it The L'Echiquier Paris Opera Hotel. The great staff and beautiful architecture will remain the same with some added features and a facelift that will only add to the beauty that already exist. 

Arena Copacabana Hotel



I have stayed in many different hotels, in several different countries but I was really impressed with the Arena Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. I was in Rio during the end of their winter which was great weather. It was not too hot and very comfortable throughout the day and great night time temperatures. But my trip would not have been epic without my accommodations.

The Arena Copacabana Hotel is located right on the strip in the famous Copacabana beach area. The area is very vibrant and lively. Great restaurants and beach bars line the street and flaked the beach. But the hotel was the star attraction! 

The hotel was beautiful and decorated with a modern flair. It was a very efficiently operated property. The first thing you noticed was the need for your room key to operate the elevator. Why is that so significant because that minimizes unnecessary elevator movement. Once you enter your room you'll have insert your room key into a slot located right inside the door before you will have any electrical power. Once you remove that entry card from that slot your power, AC and all of the outlets will die! I believe the refrigerator continued to cool but I didn't check that.

The rooms have floor to ceiling windows with an amazing view of the beach and coast line. I stayed in a suite on the eleventh floor. It was a nice size room with a separate sitting area just like a living room. There was a sofa with a chase and a 40" flat screen television and a very convenient refrigerator. They added a desk and chair and that was a great touch for a blogger like myself. My living room also had a tea maker with a pretty good selection of teas. This was a great way to unwind at the end of the day after exploring Rio..


  The Arena Copacabana had hot breakfast each morning that changed the selection every morning. Some of the staples did remind the same for an example the fruit but for the most part you could expect something different each morning.

After breakfast the area turns into a full service white table cloth restaurant. There is a full bar with a wide selections of wine. And if you did not want to come down to the restaurant rest assure, they also have 24 hour room service. I was amazed that the burger I ordered came fresh, tasty and in a matter of 20 minutes.

On roof was a small pool with loungers and tables with umbrellas and chairs. A full service bar was only a few steps away but you don't have get up because the drinks will be served to you right next to the pool. On a separate level a sunbathing area laid right above the pool. The sunbathing area was also a great private event venue.



If you need to get a cardio workout, it is possible with the equipment they have on the same level as the pool. My favorite retreat was to go to the steam room. I enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere, just me and thoughts.

The staff was courteous, attentive and very helpful. They made all guest feel important and that they belonged. Everyone from the front desk staff to the room service attendant to the staff in the restaurant, they all carried out their role with a smile.

I highly recommend this hotel for anyone that is visiting Rio de Janeiro. Of course there are many other accommodations in Rio and the city is why you are going to visit Brazil but make sure that every aspect of your trip be close to perfect. Adding the Arena Copacabana Hotel to you travel plans will be the Cherry on Top!

Norman L Payne/September 21, 2019/Up up up and Away!

Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort


We took a mini vacation to Punta Cana and stayed at the Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort.

Our room was classified as a Premium Beach Side villa. It was a very nice within a short walk to the beach and a quick stroll to the breakfast and lunch buffet at Rumba a very nice open-air restaurant.

The Melia seems to cater to the upscale traveler with very affordable rates. It is an All Inclusive, Adult Only Property with grown up activities that go on throughout the day and into the night.

This beautiful resort is situated on tranquil turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean Sea ona large private beach with multiple loungers, thatch umbrellas and little tables to sit those drinks on from the nearby pool bar.


This is a huge property with a cart service to get you from the front of the complex to the rear. But if you want to walk to get your daily steps in, then this is the property for you. Due to the many food selections you may want to include some walking to your vacation.

The food at the Melia is plentiful and flows all day long. There two breakfast buffets and two buffet lunch restaurants and you also have an International Buffett for dinner with three themed restaurants serving dinner. The themed eateries are just like five star restaurants. They serve you each course along with wine and they employ a very professional staff. The great thing is you can try all of the dinner restaurants and all of the dishes on the menu because you don’t need a reservation. So dress up and step out to one of these fine restaurants. To add to all of the places to eat, they also have a sports bar. You can kick back and catch a game if that’s your thing.

Throughout the property you will find several bars serving up anything you could think of. My favorite was the Frozen Mojitos. Of course I sampled many other drinks but I went back to the Mojitos time after time again.


The main pool is massive and is situated right before the beach and after the villas. It is an odd design with places in the middle of the pool to sit and lay. On the villa side of the pool there is a bar, half in the water with the other side out. During the day you get the sounds of Spanish influenced music and reggae tunes. It is a happening place and what a great vacation is made of!

The Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort is only about 25 minutes from the airport. What that means, is in about an hour you will be at the resort with a frosty tropical drink and getting your vacation started. They also have a shuttle to make it convenient to get to the resort without any issues.

The resort is well manicured and clean. At night it is well lit and is surrounded by a wall for your safety. But you don’t even notice the wall because it blends in with the properties decor.

Overall the Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort is a winner in my book and I suggest if you want to visit the Dominican Republic, select the Melia Punta Cana Beach Resort for your accommodations.

Norman L Payne/July 28, 2019/Up up up and Away!


Occidental Costa Cancun

I needed a getaway and the beach just seems to draw me in every time. So me and my wife boarded an early morning flight and headed towards Cancun. The flight from Atlanta is a mere two hours. In a short time you will be on a beach sipping on a cool tropical drink.

I know selecting a hotel or resort is the most important part of a great vacation because that is where you are going to spend the most of your time. In Cancun there are a lot of great resorts but I recently stayed in one that was very nice and inexpensive,  the Occidental Costa Cancun.  The Occidental is a four star, all-inclusive property, with a unique shaped pool and a on a private beach.

We were looking for some rest and relaxation, you know, just to unwind. The Occidental all-inclusive resort is the best place to recharge your battery, clear your mind and rejuvenate yourself. And rejuvenate is what we did.

This getaway happen in the middle of November. Most people don't think about vacationing during November. The benefit is that the cost to stay is lower, the crowds are smaller and you have all of the service staff to your self.

The resort has a buffet that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It seems that the buffet never closed. Anytime I walked by or wanted to eat, it was open and serving something. To top that, the Occidental has a snack bar that is self serve 24 hours a day. The snack bar has another hidden gem, it has a small self-serve bar! If you want to freshen your drink or just pour your own, you can.

There were three white table cloth restaurants but you need to make a reservation. The catch is you need to do this early because the seats fill up fast. I was up at seven o'clock to snag a spot. One thing to remember there is a dress code so visit their site to get the requirements.Each of three restaurants specialize in something different.

  • Claraboya is a seafood spot with a menu of  items you are not going to find at your local seafood joint back home.
  • Mexico Lindo of course has a menu full of Mexican favorites but don't expect fajitas because you will be disappointed.
  • La trattoria is an Italian infused type of restaurant with so many different pastas and sauces.

If you can the try all three, it will be worth waking up early to reserve you spotThere is a large bar that connects the lobby and the pool area with several bartenders.This place is jumping from early afternoon until late.The beach at the Occidental Costa Cancun covered with loungers, set up for relaxing. If sun bathing is in your plans then you will get your fill of it on this beach. There is also a beach bar for continuos tropical drinks. 

The bartenders will whip you out anything you can imagine.If you don't want the sand and salt water, there is a large pool that sits right in the middle of this well situated property, also with many loungers spread out all around. I enjoyed the pool with its fountain right in the middle and the water chairs with tables. This means you can lay in the water and sip that drink.We took advantage of the spa that is included in the cost. The 

Occidental has a sauna, steam room, hot tub and cold tub. For a discounted fee you can get a massage. We chose a two for one offer and got a couples massage, it was so relaxing.Overall this getaway gave us everything we wanted, good food, a comfortable stay and relaxation. If this is something you crave, I suggest the Occidental Costa Cancun.

Norman L Payne/November 10, 2018/Up up up and Away!


The Venetian Las Vegas

The Venetian is known for having an Italian theme and a total Italian experience. Through out the hotel you will notice extreme detailed Italian artifacts. The ceilings are painted to mimic the ceilings of  a building in an old Italy city.  Paintings adored the walls, with hand craves frames. 

Waterfalls are scattered around the property along with Statues placed in just about every corner of this beautiful complex. Marble floors leads you through the building to several pools, shopping areas and to the excitement of the casinos.

The Venetian is connected to the Palazzo Hotel and together there are a total of 11 swimming pools. There are Lots of restaurants and cafes to chose from, for every taste and comfort level, from casual to upscale. 

There are many of bars in the casino area, so if you want go to have a drink, there is one to fit your style. As far as shopping goes, you can purchase diamonds or even a outfit for the evening all inside the hotel.

There is a nice size casino, with all of the games for you to try your luck, placed in the middle of this glamorous building. If you are not feeling lucky in the Venetian then stroll over to the Plaazzo you may have better luck there!

My accommodations were an executive suite with first class amenities. The bathroom was spacious with a separate shower and tub for soaking after a long day of sightseeing on the Vegas strip. The bedroom was elevated with a comfortable king bed and a  flat screen TV. Two steps down into living room there was another flat screen and a pull out sofa-bed for an extra guest.

The hotel staff were very pleasant. Each time I picked up the phone in my room the person on the other end greeted me as if I was the only person staying in the Venetian. I must say this was top notch hospitality with great service and they will make you feel special.

The Venetian Resort Hotel, no doubt will go on my top ten accommodations that I have ever slept in and I will select this hotel for my next visit to Las Vegas.

Norman L Payne/Up up up and Away!/June 28, 2015


Room Mate Grace New York City

When I first heard the name of the hotel Room Mate Grace, it was not appealing at all. I didn't know if I was going to be in a hostel or just shacking up with a total stranger. Neither was the case and I was relieved.

When I got into my room, I was very impressed. The room was very nice and fit with the theme of the lobby, very Art Deco. Of course it is still New York City, so the rooms were very small. The funky style and eclectic vibe made you forget about the size of the room.

I heard that the hotel was under renovation, but it was not noticeable. But when I got to my room I could not turn on the lights. I first thought that since the hotel was being renovated that maybe the power was accidentally turned off, understandable. I was surprised to find out that my room key turns on the power in the room, no one told me that and I had never seen anything like that before. This practice will no doubt saves electricity, this was definitely the goal. All of thesoaps, lotion and shampoos were all organic. So if you are working towards being more "green", staying at a Room Mate Hotel will help, during your visit.

The room also had the regular amenities like a coffee maker and a mini refrigerator, the usual standard items. The next morning, I went to enjoy the complimentary breakfast. I really don't expect much when a hotel combines, "complimentary and continental". In my experience that means "very little" Room Mates continental breakfast was superb! It was full of fruit and yogurt. You could create your own hot panini and or an even a fresh waffle. There were five types of cereals on the bar. Pastries and muffins, jams and jellies, it was well stocked with variety. Everything about this breakfast was top notch, and the "real dishes" said it all. What really topped this Buffett off was that they served until 12 pm. So for you late sleepers there is food for you once you get up.

The staff at Room Mate were really nice, everyone greeted you in passing. I typically talk to any and every one I come in contact with, it's just who I am, but I can say I had conversations with a maintenance worker, a maid, the door man and of course the front desk staff. Each one of these people reached out to me to just say "good morning".

Having your hotel just steps from Time Square is magically in its self. Any time through the night if you just want to get out, you could just stroll down the street and see all of the crazy sights that go on overnight in Time Square.

I suggest this hotel to anyone wanting to be this close to the action and pulse of Manhattan.

Norman L. Payne/Up up up and Away!/June 23, 2015


InterContinental Miami

This beautiful hotel does not show any signs of aging after 30 years in existence. The InterContinental celebrated its  30 anniversary in October of 2015 and due to a 30 million dollar renovation completed back in 2012 it looks as beautiful as ever. Because The InterContinental likes to surpass your expectations they are constantly improving their look and keeping the brand competing with other five star properties.

The original plan for this building was a casino but it never opened as one. Instead it has been operating as one of the best hotels in Miami and adding a much talked about piece to the skyline. It is no doubt a landmark in downtown Miami, everyone in my travels around the city was able to relate to the location of the hotel no matter who you talked too.

One thing that is really unique and stood out is the people dancing on the side of the building. Every evening the InterContinental Hotel has a video show plastered on the sides of the building. The video show is two people dancing the evening away. It catches your eye and will have you mesmerized as you watch every energetic moment. Inside the hotel there are video screens as well throughout the entire hotel along with interactive tables in the lobby where you look up entertainment options or order a drink or something from one of the restaurants with a tap of the table.

The team at the interContinental Hotel impressed me each time that I interacted with them, it was way beyond my expectations. Each day of my stay had me asking myself, "could it get any better than this?" The answer to that question was "yes" time and time again.

It has been one of the best experiences I have had at a hotel in quite sometime. If you want to be "wowed" while in Miami, book the InterContinental Hotel and tell them I sent you!

Norman L Payne/Up up up and Away!/August 25, 2015


Ozo Hotel Amsterdam

Along with your  luxury room from a top notch hotel The Ozo Hotel  is very accessible to public transportation. With a short 5 minutes walk you could be at the rail station. From there you can zip to downtown Amsterdam or Centraal Amsterdam, where all of the transportation meet in the city. Amsterdam Centraal is where you can pick up a taxi or water taxi or hop on a tram.

It is not uncommon for some amenities to be a little different from a hotel in the United States. For instance, the iron and ironing board are down at the end of the hallway. So if pressing your clothes are part of your prep to go out, then you must plan accordingly. There is no ironing your shirt in your underwear, unless you don't mind doing this in the hallway!

They have a cool restaurant in the hotel. Getting a great meal in the evening after a long day of exploring Amsterdam is no problem. There are three levels of room categories,  Superior rooms, Executive rooms and Deluxe Double rooms. Each room has WiFi and a Flat Screen TV.

My room had a sexy smoked glass shower to top it all. There is free breakfast buffet that is a great and healthy start to your day. The buffet features cereal, yogurt, fruit, juice and fresh rolls amongst other items. You can order a more extensive breakfast consisting of croissants, pain au chocolate, danish pastries or fried eggs, bacon and sausages.

Afternoon tea time is a big deal at the Ozo Hotel. You will have to make a reservation but it is worth the call. Afternoon Tea consists of sandwiches, a selection of savory pastries and a wide range of different teas.

Or you can enjoy some down time at the hotels bar and partake in their house cocktail: "Ozo". The bar is fully stocked if you want to get your favorite beverage.

Regardless of how you spend your time in the Ozo Hotel I guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience!

Norman L Payne/Up up up and Away!/September 9, 2015


Amsterdam Manor Aruba

Aruba continues to be one of my favorite places on earth. The beaches are beautiful and the weather is as close to perfect as you could get. What puts the icing on the cake is the accommodations at the Amsterdam Manor. 

I stayed in a one bedroom suite with all of the amenities of an apartment. My villa had a full kitchen with all of the appliances that you are accustomed to. I know some  people don't want to cook while on vacation, I understand. But for the people who want to experiment with some of the local foods and prepare them yourself, then this is for you. The grocery store was a short walk from the hotel and they had everything you could image. And once you cooked that meal you could invite over some guest to enjoy your meal with you because the place had a six seat dining room table. This villa is perfect for a family on vacation together. There are two flat screen TV's, one located in the bedroom and one in the living room area. 

This suite is so spacious that it has two doors. One door leads to a patio complete with loungers, some chairs and a table. This setting is great for breakfast, as I utilized each morning and for evening drinks after watching the sunset.

In the center of the property is a outdoors pool with a swim up bar, so convenient. 

Looking over the pool is a bar where they host meet and greets and a managers happy hour. The Amsterdam Manor know how to show their appreciation to their guest.

The amenities does not stop at the Amsterdam Manor but extend to the beautiful beach across the street. White sandy beaches that stretches for miles. A white table cloth restaurant with seating right on the beach. This is the best place on the entire island to have a sunset dinner.

No matter what type of room you book at the Amsterdam Manor Hotel you will get great service and gain great memories.

Norman L Payne/Up up up and Away!/May 12, 2013


Hotel Pavilion Opera Paris

Today we call it Hotel Pavilion Opera but tomorrow we will call it The L'Echiquier Paris Opera Hotel. The great staff and beautiful architecture will remain the same with some added features and a facelift that will only add to the beauty that already exist in this Paris hotel.  The newly renovated 4-star hotel  has an atmosphere of a Parisian studio apartment. And with no doubt you will feel right at home.

The hotel has 92 rooms at the present time with a combination of studios and jr suites. After the completed  renovations it will have 88 rooms. You are probably asking why would they reduce the amount of functioning rooms? Well I asked that myself but it is to make room for two executive suites on the top floor of this six story building. 

The Junior Suite that I occupied while I visited Paris was great. It had a bedroom and living room/sitting area with a flat screen in both rooms. There were two full size bathrooms also, one with a shower only and one with a shower/tub combo. The bathrooms were very roomy and comfortable.

There was a desk and chair that was perfect for me to do some writing and keep in touch with my social media. The office area and free WiFi was just what I needed and it worked out well. I could write and not bother my wife while she slept.

The full restaurant served a buffet breakfast each morning but you must remember that you are in France and breakfast is some what different. In the United States, we have breakfast and it consist of eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. But in Paris, it is coffee and a pastry. So be warned that a Paris buffet breakfast will be a little lite.

This beautiful hotel is located in central Paris. It was a short walk to the Metro station with several eateries and some boutiques for shopping along the way. I liked the fact that I could get to any of the attractions in Paris pretty easy.

If you are looking for the total Paris experience, The L'Echiquier Paris Opera Hotel is the perfect hotel for that!

Norman L Payne/Up up up and Away!/September 7, 2015