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140 Character Overview:

Tower of sexiness straddling the High Line in NYC’s Meatpacking District. Peek-a-boo exhibitionist rooms, all mirrors & windows. Party spot.

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I loved this corner standard queen room with views north to the Empire State Building and DVF’s flagship.

 

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Prime views of the city and the Hudson in this corner room.

The Vibe:

The epitome of a trendy New York City hotel, The Standard High Line¬†(848 Washington St., New York; 212-645-4646) is a hot spot destination in the Meatpacking District. More than just a place to lay your head at night, New Yorkers flock to The Standard for weekend day drinking and ping pong at the Biergarten, rooftop cocktails in the summertime and late night dancing¬†year round¬†at Le Bain, dinner or brunch at the Grill and celeb spotting at¬†The Top of The Standard (aka the Boom Boom Room)–if¬†they gain access.

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Hello Hudson, I love you.

 

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That’s a welcome I can get used to.

 

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On my second stay, I was upgraded to a Superior King facing south. It was a bigger room, but we thought the placement of this TV was a super awkward, view-obstructing buzzkill.

 

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South-facing view. What up Freedom Tower?

The Location:

Located in the heart of trendy Meatpacking District, the neighborhood has gone through a renaissance over the last decade becoming first¬†the¬†go-to neighborhood for nightlife circa 2003, and then a mecca for smart fashion boutiques and flagships. Finally, the refurbishment of the High Line, which opened in 2009 as an elevated urban park running along the length of the Hudson River, reinvigorated and solidified the Meatpacking’s place as a perennially hot Manhattan neighborhood. The Standard is in the heart of it all putting you in walking distance of incredible shopping, dining and nightlife and a short jaunt to other awesome neighborhoods like the West Village, West Chelsea, Union Square and Flatiron.

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Sexy mirrors and glass make for fun bathroom selfies. Also for really fun baths and showering experiences. The views and design are a double-edged sword. Not much for privacy, but so much to look at!

 

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In the superior king, the soaking tub is right next to the shower for side by side bathing.

 

F & B:

The Standard’s dining and drinking options are various and plenty, giving it the feel of an adult funhouse. In the spring and summertime, stumble upon the open air Biergarten under the High Line, and it will be packed to the gills with revelers swilling German beer and soaking up the good life (in the winter, it’s glass-enclosed and also fun).

The Standard Grill doesn’t disappoint with American bistro fare at breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as Sunday brunch. From a mouthwatering cheeseburger to oysters to homemade donuts, you can’t go wrong with their well-executed classic, indulgent fare.

And then there’s The Top of the Standard and Le Bain, both infamous nightlife destinations. The former is known for its tough door, sweeping skyline views and as the place where Solange Knowles went cray-cray on Jay-Z in the elevator. The latter is a club known for its eclectic DJ lineup, outdoor rooftop with killer views and a plunge pool where you can buy a swimsuit from a vending machine while you party.

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So many good times at the Standard Biergarten.

 

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Sophisticated cocktailing at The Top of The Standard at sunset–and those views!

 

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One way to do coffee and bagels in New York. At a cafe table outside at The Standard Grill.

The Specs:

338 rooms
18 stories
5 dining and drinking destinations
Gym
Ice skating rink in the winter
Rooftop creperie in the summer
Shop
Free WiFi
Meeting & events space
Rates from about $395 per night

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Memories! Photo boothing with Krista and Ted.

The Verdict:

I’m obsessed with this place. I love everything about it. The rooms and their bathrooms and views are sexy and beautiful, if a little small. No matter what mood strikes, there’s always something fun to do right in the hotel, and the location is perfection, putting me a short walk to many of my favorite Manhattan things. If anything, hospitality can be a little touch and go (during my second stay, we never got turn down service), but it’s not enough to dissuade me from totally loving this place.

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Shayne’s Checklist:

Bathrobe: Yes. A plush, luxurious black robe with a hood.

Conditioner: Yes. Kiss My Face products are to die for. I always steal the honey humectant hand lotion.

Bed Comfort Level: 3 Stars (out of 5).

This destination gets Shayne‚Äôs¬†‚ÄúI‚Äôd like to live here for at least one month‚Ä̬†seal of approval. Duh! Love NYC. Love Meatpacking. Old home.

Looking for a resource for all your Florida travel needs? I’ve joined the team of bloggers at the Florida Buzz¬†powered by Marriott to give you the scoop throughout the year on what’s happening in the Sunshine State.

Rooting for our home teams at Spring Training in Florida with my friend Becky.

Rooting for our home teams at Spring Training in Florida with my friend Becky.

 

We’re midway through March and that means Spring Training in Florida! Check out my complete guide to navigating baseball’s intimate and exciting pre-season¬†here. (Go¬†Yankees!)

Miami's historic Tower Theater on Calle Ocho.

Miami’s historic Tower Theater on Calle Ocho.

 

In March and April, three major film festivals hit Miami, Palm Beach and Maitland. For film buffs, the festivals are not to be missed, but these cities also have awesome indie theaters to check out year round. You can read all about them here.

Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: Jenn Quillen, Zippy Sandler, Tara Settembre and me!

 

I’m joined by three other Florida insiders, so be sure to keep tabs on the Florida Buzz while you’re looking for fun things to do in Florida.

ExhaleSpa.CoreFusionJanuary 14, 2015-9311

Core Fusion Extreme launched at Exhale Spa at the EPIC Hotel on March 12 and you can enjoy free classes through March 18. Sign up here. To learn more about this incredible bootcamp-inspired class, which includes five heart-pumping circuits including plyobox, core balls, gliders, TRX suspension training, and heavy hand weights, check out my preview of the class at New York’s Flatiron.

So how can you win a 10-pack of classes to Exhale Miami and get into the shape of your life with Core Fusion Extreme? Here’s how:

1. Follow @exhalespa on Instagram

2. Follow @shaynebenowitz on Instagram

3. Post a pic of you in a power pose and use #CFXMiami

4. Tag a friend in the pic

Deadline: March 18 and I’ll announce the winner then!

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140 Character Overview:

Sexy, sleek digs in LA’s Koreatown with an industrial-chic vibe by trendsetting Sydell Group. Views of Hollywood Hills. F & B by Roy Choi.

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The Vibe:

Ultra modern with exposed concrete walls, California cool design flourishes and contemporary art pieces. A trendy spot with plenty of dining diversions, the rooms are nurturing abodes with high tech amenities (like electronic curtains for the floor to ceiling windows) perfect for luxuriating.

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The Sydell Group is also responsible for Miami’s The Freehand and New York’s Nomad Hotel.

The Location:

Los Angeles’ Koreatown is an up-and-coming destination for exotic dining with an energetic nightlife scene. I only stayed one night and didn’t have the chance to experience the neighborhood, but I’d love to check it out next time. This NY Times 36 Hours in Koreatown video and article paints a pretty great picture, though.

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I loved waking up to this view.

 

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Be sure to book a room facing the Hollywood Hills.

 

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Funky, Navajo-style prints and furniture added warmth to the industrial design.

 

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I loved the juxtaposition of the exposed concrete with the feminine, floral, plush carpeting in the hallways.

F & B:

Chef Roy Choi, the man who¬†singlehandedly ushered in LA’s food truck craze with his¬†Korean taco truck¬†Kogi BBQ, heads up the F & B at The Line Hotel¬†(3515 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; 213-381-7411) with four distinctive dining destinations. Pot and Commissary serve as its two marquee eateries.

During my stay, I enjoyed room service for dinner (which they’ve branded as “Delivery”) and breakfast at Commissary inside a light-filled greenhouse by the pool. Oddly enough, they were¬†out of the first thing I tried to order at each venue, but I’ve forgotten what those selections were because everything I ate was so damn delicious.

For dinner delivery, I had pot stickers and a corned beef sandwich that was more like a tangy roast beef melt with buttery toasted bread, juicy, tender beef and ooey-gooey cheese melted inside.

Breakfast at Commissary was such a delight. My chorizo and eggs had the most perfectly crisped hash browns I think I’ve ever eaten, tying the whole dish together with great crunch and flavor.

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The greenhouse dining room of Commissary.

 

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I love the silver and gold flatware and the eclectic, multi-colored glasses at Commissary.

 

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The amazingly delicious chorizo and eggs. The hash browns are hiding beneath. So yum!

The Specs:

388 rooms
12 stories
4 restaurants & a lobby bar
Outdoor pool
Gym
Poketo lifestyle boutique
Free WiFi
Meeting & events space
Rates from about $199 per night

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Poketo was a super cool shop where you could easily find a little something something worth splurging on.

The Verdict:

I loved my stay here. The room was sexy, luxurious and comfortable and the food was delicious. Overall beautiful environment to be in while visiting LA. Service and hospitality was great.

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I love a pretty bathroom and this golden picture frame did the trick. The shower was sleek and minimal with gold fixtures and a small wooden bench for products.

Shayne’s Checklist:

Bathrobe: Yes. A karate-style cotton robe with a white belt (as opposed to, you know, a black belt).

Conditioner: Yes. Made for The Line by Baxter of California, the packaging was fancier than the actual product, though.

Bed Comfort Level: 4 Stars (out of 5).

This destination gets Shayne’s¬†“I’d like to live here for at least one month”¬†seal of approval. Obviously, I’m from Southern California originally, so this was a sort of homecoming.

The main event.

The main event.

 

Let the endurance eating begin! South Beach Wine & Food Festival kicked off last night and goes all weekend long. Al Roker is in town, Martha’s here, Giada’s here,¬†all those judges from Chopped¬†are everywhere.

It’s a fun time of year in South Beach because you get to stuff your face at party after party where the main point of being there is EATING! Like, you never have to apologize for going back for seconds or grazing by the buffet, you’re supposed to be power eating. I discovered last year that food comas are real. All that food and ¬†booze over the course of a few short days can really incapacitate you. It’s the only time of year when I’m actually not hungry for a couple days afterwards.

Chopped selfies at Tacos After Dark last night. Marc Murphy, Ted Allen & Aarón Sánchez.

Chopped selfies at Tacos After Dark Thursday night. Marc Murphy, Ted Allen & Aarón Sánchez.

 

I’m trying to pace myself this year. Last night, I attended Tacos After Dark¬†(click the link for my recap) hosted by Aar√≥n S√°nchez and Casamigos tequila. Tonight, I’m off to Burger Bash (where I hope to be confused for Rachael Ray and win a burger eating contest) and finally Saturday, I’ll attend a dignified League of Their Own lady chef brunch at the Thompson Hotel.

And that’s it. I think. I mean, I might swing by a few other parties.

Rachael! Let's be best friends. I'll split that shack burger with you. Oh, you want your own? Me too!

Rachael! Let’s be best friends. I’ll split that shack burger with you. Oh, you want your own? Me too!

 

It’s funny, it only took me three years covering this event to realize that all these famous faces are household names because of Food Network shows. I mean, I’ve always known and loved Rachael Ray (Yum-o!) because the promise of 30-minute meals is the only way to get me in the kitchen, and I know Bobby Flay because his name is kind of funny and he likes to run my route along the beach walk when he’s in town (high five!), and I know Guy Fieri because he has crazy hair and Bobby Moynihan impersonates him on SNL, but I never actually started watching the Food Network until last year. Now, whenever I see that there’s going to be 100 episodes of¬†Chopped¬†in a row, I fall into a serene, peaceful trance in front of the TV. So I’m excited to hit the town this weekend for some celebrity chef spotting now that I feel as intimately acquainted with them as the rest of America.

Anyway, the Miami Herald is your source for great up to the minute coverage, so be sure to check out the Uncorked blog throughout the weekend. Happy #SOBEWFF!

“Have you ever eaten pizza for all three meals in a day?” I asked Ted as we walked up Broadway. We’d already decided we were having pizza for brunch and dinner that day.

“I don’t think so,” he laughed. “Have you?”

“Yep,” I answered. It was back in college. I tried to recount where each pizza came from, but could only guess that one was a frozen pizza, one might’ve been delivery and I was pretty sure one was from Schlotzky’s Deli.

Hop aboard the pizza train! We're you're conductors Ted & Shayne. Final stop: Bushwick.

Hop aboard the pizza train! We’re you’re conductors Ted & Shayne. Final stop: Bushwick.

 

After a night at Flaming Saddles (basically the coolest gay cowboy bar that anyone could dream up) capped off by three too many Painkillers (man, they’re just so tasty!) at Reunion Surf Bar, Ted and I awoke intact and ravenous. I was in town for his going away party. After more than a decade in New York City (we moved there together back in the day), he was off to LA, and I had to have one last hurrah with him before it was all over.

All aboard the pizza train!

First Stop: Marta

When Ted suggested we hit up Danny Meyer’s new pizza joint Marta in the Flatiron for brunch, I said, hell yeah! We arrived to this sleek, sexy, yet still warm and cozy restaurant in the lobby of the Martha Washington Hotel and snagged two seats at the bar where we proceeded to execute the perfect order starting with two Bloody Marys, our bartender was even taken with us!

First Course:¬†The kale salad we manifested on our walk over, craving some restorative greens, was on the menu! We ordered the small Cavolo Nero Salad with kale, meyer lemon and parmigiano. It was bright, acidic and savory, and perhaps the most perfectly textured kale that I’ve ever had. It was so soft, yet crisp, you could almost describe it as fluffy.

We also ordered the Suppli Alla Terrazza, green risotto croquettes with mozzarella and mixed herbs. It was basically the ultimate mozzarella stick, crispy on the outside with fresh mozzarella oozing from within the rich risotto.

Main: We opted for a pizze bianche, the Cavolini with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, pickled chili and parmigiano with a fried egg on top. Talk about the ultimate brunch pizza!

The masterpiece that is Marta's Olive Oil Affogato

The masterpiece that is Marta’s Olive Oil Affogato

 

Dessert:¬†Two cappuccinos and then one of the most emotionally evocative desserts to date, the Olive Oil Affogato. Allow me to paint the picture: a dense ball of vanilla gelato is topped with a crumble of honeycomb candy and encircled by delicate slices of kumquat and slivers of blood orange. The waitress pours a beautifully verdant olive oil on top and sets the plate in front of us. Our bartender boyfriend coos, “It’s a very special dessert.” And advises us to strive for the perfect bite with all elements on one spoonful. It’s an exquisite symphony in your mouth.

Second Stop: The MoMA

"Memory of Oceania," summer 1952- early 1953, Photograph: Succession H Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

“Memory of Oceania,” summer 1952- early 1953. Photograph: Succession H Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. This was one of my favorite pieces. It’s meant to represent a boat and Matisse described the orange paper in the right corner as the Tahitian sky at sunset.

 

Okay, admittedly there was no pizza involved in the second stop on the pizza train, but catching Matisse’s Cut Outs exhibit before it closes February 10, was a high priority stop on this trip. While the MoMA was positively swarming with people, the entire exhibit was such a delight. Matisse has been one of my favorite painters for years and it was fascinating to learn more about the process involved in creating these elaborate cutouts towards the end of his life when he was wheelchair-bound in Nice, Paris and Vence.

We learned that he worked with assistants who painted the pieces of paper with gouache to achieve the rich saturated colors (clearly a precursor to construction paper and collage!) that we associate so much with his paintings. He’d cut out the shapes, often organic and amorphous, and then have his assistants pin them to the walls upon his direction, creating entire worlds surrounding him. And they weren’t fixed creations. He’d constantly direct his assistants to change the configurations in a sort of slow capture animation, and when you view the works, you can see all the different pin pricks in the pieces of paper.

By the end of the exhibit, you’re enchanted by his worlds of swimming pools, his signature nudes, goldfish, pomegranates, seascapes and depictions of his own studio. The exhibit is expertly curated taking you on a journey from the small scale and commercial work on magazine covers to all-encompassing, abstract large format pieces. As Matisse put it, it was in a quest of resolving “the eternal conflict of drawing and color.”

Third Stop: Roberta’s

As we journeyed on the L train deep into the heart of Bushwick, I said to Ted, “I want to eat so much pizza that I’m completely stuffed, not just enough that I’m merely full, okay?” He laughed and agreed. He’d long waxed romantic about this place Roberta’s, so I demanded that he take me there, not just for the pizza, but also for the Bushwick experience.

It was dusk as we got off the train and took in the graffiti art on our short walk to Roberta’s where we met my brother Brett and my friend Rebekah. With exposed concrete cinder block walls, long wooden picnic bench seating, wood-planked ceilings and a cozy back bar all strewn with knick knacks and funky art, the place has a sort of hipster ski lodge vibe to it. We put our names down for an hour wait and then proceeded to the patio bar that was “fully winterized” where we were able to snag a first come, first served seat and ordered right away.

Here’s what we had:

First Course: Brussels Sprouts with apple, bianco sardo, sunflower and egg to sate our restorative greens craving. And the Kyoto Carrots with grilled mussels and lime. Pretty delic!

Pizzas: These are the pizzas we had in order of favorite. At the end of the meal, we each weighed in on this order, and the list below represents my opinion only. Please note: They were all the bomb!

Behold, the Good Girl, Speckenwolf and Lamb of God. Bee Sting was already eaten at the time this picture was taken.

Behold, from left to right: the Lamb of God, Good Girl, and Speckenwolf . Bee Sting was already eaten at the time this photo was taken.

 

1. Bee Sting- This item was not on the menu, but Ted knew to order it anyway. It had spicy soppressata topped with honey over melted mozzarella and tomato sauce on a crisp, slightly charred, yet chewy crust. It was melt-in-your mouth divine. Like an elevated pepperoni pizza.

2. Good Girl- This one was my contribution to the order. Made with taleggio, pork sausage (I love a good sausage pizza!), garlic and chili, it was topped with copious amounts of crispy kale (restorative greens). Yum!

3. Speckenwolf- A classic-a pizza pie-a! Speckenwolf had mozzarella, speck, mushrooms, onion and-a oregano-a!

4. Lamb of God- This one was sort of like a salad pizza: tomato, ricotta, parmigiano, lamb sausage, escarole, onion and chili.

In the end, I achieved my goal of being totally stuffed and Roberta’s is an experience I’d recommend to anyone.

Sorry there’s not more pictures! Remember, I lost my iPhone!¬†All photos in this post by Ted Donath¬†(except for Matisse). Follow him on Istagram, duh!

Will you please tell me about your favorite pizza in New York City or otherwise? Please be as passionate as possible in the comments below!

We got to Cake Shop right before 11 p.m. just in time to see my brother Brett take the stage as headliner with a solo singer/songwriter act.

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The whole Benowitz family was there, along with my friend Rebekah and a bunch of Brett’s friends. Every time I see him perform, I’m reminded of just how talented he is. He played an hourlong set of all original music along with the occasional guest artist, which he calls “Friends with Benowitz.” It’s hard to describe his sound. It’s acoustic, melodic, indie, folksy, bluesy and his lyrics are thoughtful and weave fascinating tales of places near and far.¬†He’s altogether unique, but to really get it, you just have to listen, which you can do by clicking¬†here.

Brett performing "Thank You Sam" with his Friends With Benowitz guest artists.

Brett performing “Thank You Sam” with his Friends With Benowitz guest artists.

 

Some of my favorites songs are “Thank You Sam,” “Long Ride Home,” and “Isabella.” He also performed a new song that evening called “Valerie,” in memoriam of my mother’s sister that left us all in tears. But we wiped them away, and when his set was over, we headed out on Ludlow to celebrate an awesome show.

Pianos- First stop was Pianos, a cool (and apparently classic) spot down the street with an upstairs and downstairs for different music acts. That night, there were DJs playing house music downstairs without a cover, so our group headed in to dance it up. We stayed until their set was over and it started to clear out and then checked upstairs, which was pretty dead too, so onto the next stop.

Nitecap- After a little trial and error, we made our way to Nitecap, apropos for a group of people trying to get a drink when many bars were closing for the night. It was pretty empty, but they welcomed us in where we proceeded to order shots. Then, the friendly bartender suggested we hit up their sister lounge across the street on Rivington at 151, promising it would be more lively.

One Fifty One-¬†And it was. We joined forces with another group upon entering and had a blast, creating a mini dance party in this tiny, laid-back bar. My sister Kristy and I were rolling with a crew of 20-something-year-old dudes, so when they ordered a round of beers, I requested a vodka drink. That’s when the bartender got all mixologist on me, asking about the flavor profiles I liked, and he whipped up a tasty gingery concoction with muddled lime and soda, similar to a Moscow Mule (maybe it was a Moscow Mule?), with a candied ginger garnish. He wanted to know how the cocktail was, and I said: “Great!”

That’s when he explained, “We just opened. We’re by the same guys who made Death & Co. Have you heard of it?”

“Yes!” I said. “So cool!” I’ve heard of Death & Co, but admittedly I’ve never been there. They opened in 2006, the year I bounced from the city. I just know they’re on the vanguard of the modern mixology movement and everyone thinks they’re cool. “I think I just read about you guys in¬†The New Yorker,” I told him.¬†”Were you written up in there?”

“I don’t know,” he yelled over the music. “Probably.”

Okay, cool. I’ll drink to that!

Turns out they were, and you can read all about it here. I love the way the writer characterizes One Fifty One and Nitecap’s patrons as rowdy late 20-somethings who can’t appreciate the expertly mixed drinks whereas Death & Co is a more refined drinking establishment for dignified patrons in their mid-30s. Either way, I can hang. It was a super fun night with my bro and sis¬†at these super fun cool new bars on the LES. Peace!

And look dude, sorry there’s not more photos in this post. Remember, I lost my iPhone.

As if Core Fusion and its various iterations aren’t “extreme” enough (Core Fusion Boot Camp, Core Fusion Cardio, anyone?), the good folks at Exhale Spa have created an even more challenging class with Core Fusion Extreme (CFX). It’s more bootcamp than the traditional “mind body” core and yoga experience you’ve grown accustomed to at Exhale, and it’s the only class where sneakers are required.¬†But the emphasis is still on form, results and keeping your muscles guessing.

I had a chance to take a class at Exhale’s Flatiron location in Manhattan this week.¬†It’s perfect for the yogi who wants to amp up the intensity from time to time or the bootcamp devotee who wants a gym where you can compliment your routine with the occasional yoga or core class.

In addition to New York, it’s already rolled out in LA, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and other cities with more set to debut in the coming months. And it arrives in Miami at the downtown location at the EPIC Hotel on March 12, so get ready!

So what’s a CFX class like? Well, it’s no joke intense–or should I say extreme! The studio is set up into five stations–plyo box, core ball, gliders, heavy hand weights and TRX suspension training–and you rotate throughout the class repeating two different exercises twice for about 40 seconds each.

Here’s what we did in my class:

That's me demoing the wonders of the core ball.

That’s me demoing the wonders of the core ball. Photo by Matt Roy.

 

1. Core ball-¬†I started at the core ball station doing a twisting lunge while swinging the core ball into the air above my head. The second exercise was a sort of teaser crunch with the ball. Then, we repeated both of those moves. Not bad, I’m hanging in there.

Get your glide on!

Get your glide on!

 

2. Gliders-¬†Next was the gliders. I’d never seen these contraptions before except on episodes of Broad City (which I just started watching) at the fancy gym Soulstice that Abbi works at as a janitor (lol)! Anyway, they’re little discs you put your feet on to glide around on the floor. We pushed back to plank and then forward into a squat. The next exercise involved some side leg action like a speed skater. Repeat.

Check out the ten pounders!

Check out the ten pounders!

 

3. Heavy hand weights- Okay, still hanging int there. Now, onto the heavy hand weights. With eight pound weights we did this extravagant burpee-like routine, curling the weights up to stand, pushing them above the head, back down, jumping back to plank and then rowing each one. Next, we did these crazy plank runs pulling a leg forward and out in a hip opener. These nearly killed me and required major cardio exertion. Repeat.

Warning: This is not easy.

Warning: This is not easy.

 

4. TRX suspension training-¬†Okay, what’s next? These straps hanging from the wall that I’m supposed to put my feet into? Okay, fine, got it. We did a sort of suspended leg kick looking up at the ceiling and then flipped over for the second exercise, a suspended plank, pulling our knees up to our elbows in a twist. At this point, I can barely move.

Jump around! On the plyo box!

Jump around! On the plyo box!

 

5. Plyo box- Next up? The plyo box! We did a little jumping routine up and down and side to side on and off the box. Then, we got into plank with our feet up on the box to do push ups. What?

At this point, I’ve made it through the circuit, and even though my body is maxed out, I’m thinking, that was awfully quick, the class can’t be over quite yet, what can possibly be next? The whole circuit one more time! The only difference was that in between each station, the whole class comes together for “active recovery,” that means a few more exercises thrown into the mix. At the end of class, we do a little more core work on the mats and then some restorative stretches. Also, the exercises at each station change every month, so you never get bored or know what to expect. You leave feeling totally spent, but also strong and with a nice endorphin rush.

The next day, my legs were sore, especially my calves, but also my quads and glutes, which rarely happens when I work out. My core felt tight and strong and my shoulders were also sore. It’s definitely an awesome total body workout and I’m psyched for it to debut at the EPIC in March. See you in class!

A picture from the weekend taken in Central Park by my dad with my Sony a5000 camera. The lake was frozen.

A picture from the weekend taken in Central Park by my dad with my Sony a5000 camera. No smart phones were involved in the making of this picture.

 

I picked the most inopportune time to drop my iPhone in the toilet. I’d made it past security at MIA with my phone and ID in the back pocket of my new J. Brand jeans–you know, because we use our iPhones for EVERYTHING now and at the moment mine was acting as my boarding pass. When I went to use the restroom, it leapt from my back pocket and into the toilet bowl, proceeding to conk out immediately thereafter.

Great! I thought. I’m off to New York without a phone. How am I supposed to coordinate with my mom when I get to LGA and communicate with my friends over the weekend? After the requisite freak out, I accessed my Zen and said, oh well, whatever, I’ll just have to get a new one.

Look, I’ve had more iPhones stolen at Miami nightclubs than I care to admit, and I know the song and dance that comes with replacing these $600+ contraptions that we can’t seem to live without. The fact is, of all the things you can lose, an iPhone is the easiest to replace. Just throw down a cool $199 deductible from your insurance policy and voila! your phone is restored to its former glory in about 48 hours with all your contacts, apps and pictures still intact. Meanwhile, Apple is raking in the cash. Did you know that their iPhone profits alone are more than all of Microsoft and Google combined (heard it on NPR this week, okay)?

Of course, there’s stress involved in being without your device, and I was definitely aided by other advances in technology to make connections over the weekend (not to mention other people’s iPhones), but there was something kind of liberating in going analog in NYC for a long weekend. Sure, it meant I wasn’t going to be Instagramming or live tweeting my experiences while in the city–something that might send bloggers and travel writers into a cold sweat–but, I mean, whatever. I do not abide by the sentiment, “I tweet therefore I am” (even if I do tweet).

Being without a phone makes you a little less available, but it also makes your plans a little more crystalized. You kind of have to meet up at the specified time and place. Also, give your number to a guy at a bar? Just explain you’ve lost your phone and then it’s no biggie if you can’t text him back. Not able to coordinate plans with every single friend you have in the city? Sorry guys, I lost my phone! It also makes you a little more present in what’s going on around you. I wasn’t obsessed with who was liking my Instagram or composing seemingly witty tweets in my head. I was just hanging out.

Coincidentally, I was reading The¬†Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer, an essay published as a slim book by TED, on the flight to New York. The book questions the benefits of being so “connected” by technology today and advocates taking time out of our lives for stillness to achieve true happiness and appreciate the mysteries of the world. Is it really so great that anyone can contact us at anytime no matter where we are? But we’ll meditate more on that in a later blog post…

Fortunately for me in New York, my new MacBook Air has iMessage (something I was initially annoyed by because like Greta Garbo, sometimes I want to be left alone), so I was still able to message people from the hotel and jot down phone numbers into my little notebook for when I was on the go. In fact, I came to call my little purple notebook my iPhone because that’s where I stored phone numbers and addresses I needed for getting around, just like I used to do back in the day when I lived in New York, navigating the city streets without a virtual pocket map (remember asking for directions?). I also packed my new Sony a5000 camera, so I still managed to snap a few pics.

I tried to pitch the idea of the anti-smartphone to my friends. I mean, obviously, I guess they already exist, but what about a cool, smartly designed, sort of hipster, steampunk version that can only be used for talking and texting? It could be a companion to your smartphone for when you want to disconnect and be less distracted. Overwhelmingly, though, everyone’s response was an emphatic, “No! Why would anyone want to do that?” Okay, fair enough.

Oh, and what about the blizzard? My flight home was Monday evening and the snow started falling at dawn. Fortunately for me, I changed my flight to mid-afternoon and got out just fine–all without an iPhone. But I did get a taste of New York’s biting cold (18 degrees, anyone?), snow flurries, winter storm hysteria and my first time in a plane getting de-iced during a blizzard before take off. When I touched down in Miami, it was at sunset with clear skies and palm trees.

Stay tuned for more on how I spent my weekend in New York without an iPhone in the next couple of days, including “A Night Out on the LES” and “All Aboard the Pizza Train: Manhattan to¬†Bushwick.”

And look man, sorry there’s not more pictures in this post. I didn’t have my iPhone.

So, I’m curious, do you ever feel overburdened and distracted by the demands of modern technology and constant connectedness? Would you (could you) trade it in for an anti-smartphone?

I made my annual pilgrimage to Key West last weekend for the 33rd Annual Key West Literary Seminar “How The Light Gets In: Literature of the Spirit.” Amongst the many highlights of the long weekend was a discussion held on the final morning of the seminar by authors Pico Iyer and Barry Lopez on the topic of “Wonder: Entering and Exiting the Great Mystery.”

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Barry Lopez and Pico Iyer. Photo by Nick Doll.

 

Both men have made careers out of travel and write about what they’ve discovered in humanity and culture as outsiders.¬†When the subject of wonder was addressed, Iyer explained that wonder cuts through knowledge, noting the tremendous difference between these statements: ‚ÄúI know‚Ķ‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúI think‚Ķ‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúI wonder‚Ķ‚ÄĚ He joked, ‚ÄúAll you need to travel is wonder and a Swiss army knife.‚ÄĚ On the same note, Lopez agreed that he’d rather approach a place with awe over analysis.

And perhaps that’s what I’ve always loved about Key West (and any destination that I truly fall in love with), an ineffable sense of wonder and awe that the island seems to cast on me whenever I’m there.

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Not Your Average Hotel, Key West. All you need in Key West is wonder, a conch cottage and a beach cruiser.

 

Their conversation was a delight filled with so many sentiments that get at the heart of the traveler. I was also delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Iyer briefly as he signed a copy of his latest book for me The Art of Stillness. We talked journalism, travel and making a living as a writer, and he was incredibly engaging and kind.

For my full recap on Iyer and Lopez’s discussion on wonder, please head to Littoral, the online journal of the Key West Literary Seminar.