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Every once in awhile, I'll pull into the parking lot at a Marriott property and get that Déjà vu feeling....

Have I been here before? Was it a stay? Was it a meeting?

 

 

So I decided to recreate my Marriott history since 1994. With a little help from communitymanagers, I was able to fill in a couple of my early years that happened BT (before tracking). I'm still missing about 100 nights (don't ask me why). I've STAYED in Marriott properties in 13 different countries. I've stayed in 31 States and the District of Columbia. So from stays that I can document with more than just memory, here it goes:

 

Total of all hotels is 320 different hotels for 586 separate stays.....over 1200 nights and counting

 

Full Services: 86 hotels for 150 stays ranging from 1 night to 22 nights.

 

Ritz  1 hotel for 1 stay

Gaylord 1 hotel for 1 stay

Autograph  3 hotels for 4 stays

JW Marr.   2 hotels for 3 stays

Renaissance  18 hotels for 22 stays

Marriott & CCs  61 hotels for 119 stays

 

I thought about our old friend lakersfan who last reported 154 different Marriott's & CCs...that's incredible.

 

 

Select Service: 172 hotels for 313 stays ranging from 1 night to 7 nights 

 

AC 2 hotels for 2 stays

CY 62 hotels for 88 stays

SHS 36 hotels for 66 stays

FFI  72 hotels for 157 stays

 

 

Long Term Stay: 61 hotels for 120 stays ranging from 1 night to 7 nights

 

ResInn 43 hotels for 74 stays

TPS   18 hotels for 46 stays

 

 

Vacation Clubs: 1 hotel for 3 stays.

 

 

I'll add more specifics to remind me and my MRI friends of some very nice properties. I have some very special favorite hotels......I just booked a 10 night stay for the Courtyard in Bridgetown, Barbados!!

 

 

Now, let's hear some of the numbers out there. How many of my MRI friends have cracked 100 different hotels? Which were your favorites?

We'll cover the visit to the Petronas Twin Towers and the Putrajaya Marriott in this posting.

 

Let's start with the Towers. The three Marriott properties, The Ritz, JW, and the Renaissance are all within walking distance. Staying at the JW, I simply had to walk across the street and enter a covered pathway. This walkway takes you through shopping areas and the convention center. It's hard to describe other than it's a whistle clean air conditioned 20 minute stroll about 20 feet above the ground. Once at the Towers, you head down an escalator toward the ticket gate. The first tour starts at 9AM. The queue was twelve deep for my 8AM arrival. By 8:30AM, over 50 people were in line. The ticketing process goes quick once the gate opens (around 8:35). You can choose your tour time for any slot that day. I chose 9AM   .

 

The sharp looking tour guides break attendees up into groups of 12 or so with the use of color badges. No food, drink, or chewing gum is allowed on the tour. All bags, including my backpack, were stored in a coat check like booth.  After a short safety and behavior announcement, up you go! First stop is the Skybridge on the 41st level. You're now about 560 feet above the ground. This Skybridge is not hard fastened to the towers at this level. They did this to allow for a small amount of swing for earthquakes and such. It's a terrific view of the city from the midpoint of this 170 ft bridge. Can you spot the Renaissance in a picture below?

 

After a 20 minute or so stay, it's time to move up to the 86th level observation deck. You're now almost 1200 ft in the air. Very cool!! The first few pictures below are from the ticket area up to the observation deck. I've included a couple of shots looking up at the towers from outside in the mall for perspective .

 

Part two of this part two posting is about the Putrajaya Marriott. This is the fourth Marriott property in the area, but not in KL. Putrajaya is about 15 miles south of KL. The Marriott has a shuttle to the local train station or directly to the city, but it only goes once or twice per day. A short cab ride will also get you to the train station, but beware..if the hotel sets up the taxi, you'll pay the hotel directly and the jacked up service charge nearly doubles the fee. Without the hotel's help, the taxi fare is about $7. The train ticket was $3 each way.

 

The Marriott is part of a complex known as iOi Resort. There is a brand new upscale shopping mall, a golf course, condo village, and two tall buildings that are under construction. I believe the buildings will be mainly offices with some residential. This resort area sits somewhat alone. You'll need to rent a vehicle or take a cab to get about anywhere worth visiting. The hotel itself is impressive. Huge marble staircases off the lobby take you down to the restaurant area. I was upgraded to a junior suite on the 9th floor upon arrival. The executive lounge is on the 12th floor. I'll go into a bit more detail of the lounge in the next posting. The staff is 100% professional and loaded with guest pleasing smilers. I'll post some pics of the Marriott soon.

 

Not sure why some of the pics are on their side. They look good when I add them but turn after posting. Any help communitymanagers

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Let's just say that I'm way, way behind with my blogging and leave it at that....... I'll get to a few of the other trips some day soon, but I have a little time here in KL to tap the keys.

 

I've been in country for eight days. The first two were spent fighting the jet lag of 12 time zones. The last six have been work all day...lay low all night. I started this trip in Putrajaya. The Marriott is my home for 19 days. The goal is to use some weekend time to experience Kuala Lumpur.

 

The Marriott in Putrajaya has a shuttle once per day to KL and twice per day to the train station. I was dead center on missing these shuttles so I rode a $12 taxi to the train station, 10 minutes. From the train station it's a straight 20 minute shoot to KL Sentral station. Impressive and modern is the best way to describe both the rail line and the station. The monorail from KL Sentral is five stops from Bukit Bintang....a two minute walk from the JW Marriott.

 

There are three properties in the city...one each, Rennaissance, JW, and Ritz. I popped a $135 rate for the JW and was just escorted to my upgraded jr. suite on the 27th floor..woohoo! Since I'm here, I'll add pics from the JW on this first blog posting.

 

The check in experience was quite different for me. I was asked at the front desk if I would like to go to the lounge, I said sure, why not....lol. The front desk associate had to clarify this was to allow me to check in IN THE LOUNGE.  I've read about other folks on here using the lounge as a check in base, but this was a first for me..and I've been a PP for the last four years. I was ushered in during high tea. Ooo la la. The two young men on duty upgraded me quickly and here I sit.

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Sunday was my first day to explore the city. I decided to use a couple of self lead walking tours that I found on Frommer's. Starting out from the Marriott, which is about 6 km from the center of town, I headed to the closest metro station. The metro has four lines..blue, red, yellow, and green. The blue line stop at Jardim Zoologica (the zoological garden) is a short 8 minute walk from the hotel. Five quick metro stops, Baixo-Chiado, leaves you close to Praca do Comercio, a large square on the water and the start of the center of town.

 

First, let me tell you that if you like San Francisco and hills, you'll love Lisbon. You will climb and climb and climb. It's not an easy walking town, but it's well worth getting in walking shape to view the sites. Lisbon installed elevators to assist with getting from one level to the next...what a great idea. The 1st walking tour started in the Alfama section of town. Walking about 5 minutes found me at Largo da Madalena. Here you'll find  Igreja de Madalena, a church dating back to 1783. Next on to Igreja de Santo Antonio built in 1812. The Cathedral of Lisbon was the next stop. Not all that impressive for a major city cathedral. Okay, time to climb and get a bird's eye view of the city. Up, up, up to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Wow, from here you look down on the houses as they spill into the Tagus River. Breathtaking. Just a little higher from there you reach Largo das Portas do Sol. Once again, quite a view. There are many small cafes and bars with outside seating in the square. It's a great time to take a break from the climbing and get in some people watching.  After a short relaxing sit, it's time to make the final climb....Up some steep stairs and I was at Castelo de Sao Jorge (St George's Castle). Parts of the castle date back to the 6th century. The history includes visits from the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors.

 

After the castle, I headed back down to the waterfront for the chance to hang out and enjoy the folks relaxing on a beautiful spring day.

 

Along the way, I snapped a few pictures of things that I enjoy..always like seeing street musicians!!

 

 

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Disclaimer .....Blog rustiness and trying to use an Ipad has me editing this thing!!!

 

Flight from PHL to MAD on USAir was smooth. 6 Hrs 30 Min. Short layover, 2 Hrs, then on to LIS.  The second leg was a codeshare on Iberia. Talk about a packed plane! They jam more rows of seats on that plane than any I've ever seen. ZERO leg room. Taxi or bus available from the Airport to the Marriott. I chose the bus (#2 Aerobus).  The Marriott isn't a regular stop, so a short conversation with the driver worked wonders. He dropped me on the corner two doors down. Easy 15 minute ride on the bus, a shuttle really, and I was there.

 

Currently, Lisbon is still on regular time. They turn the clocks up for DST on  March 29th. We are 4 hrs ahead of the U.S. east coast until then.

 

The Marriott Lisbon Hotel is a bit worn on the outside. The lobby is warm and welcoming. I had requested an upgrade to a Junior Suite, but the 22 night stay may have scared them off. Mrs. Pained is joining for the last 7 nights, so I'll shmooze the management staff and snag that suite for her arrival.

 

The Concierge Lounge on the 17th floor is open 7 days a week. It's smallish, but has a patio of sorts. Softdrinks, beer, and wine were all complimentary. I didn't notice hard liquor, but will check again. The view from the patio was nice. The picture of the logo below was taken from the patio at sunset.

 

Okay, the rust is lifting...I'll add various reports throughout my, oops, our stay.

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The BA flights from PHL to LHR (7hrs) and then to DUB (1hr) were smooth and roomy! I enjoyed row 29 all to myself. My original seat in row 17 had a window person. I always ask the gate agent if there are any rows clear, by moving back, I get lucky quite a bit.

 

It rained, lightly, the first afternoon upon arrival. The November temps are light jacket comfortable. The city is one big smiling Irishman! Everyone is outgoing and friendly...that is so nice.  I did a quick walking tour from my hotel...The Herbert Park. The hotel is located in the Ballsbridge section. This is an upscale area that contains many Embassies.  Two local pubs , The Bridge and Mary Mac's, took care of my mid evening people watching and raucous conversation itch. The art of drawing a Guinness is quite the spectacle and very exact. FYI, for those that prefer less than a pint, many beers can be ordered by the glass. I'll add pictures soon.

 

Day two has brought a wee bit more rain. The light jacket and Cubs cap or umbrella take care of the rain. I'll add the Hop on Hop off bus tour findings later tonight.......

 

The bus tour was right on. There is a company, with 8 new buses circling the city, that treated me to almost a private tour. I hopped on near St. Stephen's Green, just across the street from The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel.  I had the tour guide to myself for close to 30 minutes! The bus winds through the southside and crosses the River Liffey to the northside. Since I had the guide's personal attention, I took one loop without ever hopping off.

 

I started my three kilometer walk back to Ballsbridge on the northside. Over the River Liffey and through the Merchants Arch landed me in the Temple Bar area. This is a touristy, bar, club, shops, etc. area that is worth a visit. I continued on through the Grafton Street shopping district. This was full of upscale stores and some local merchants, as well. Even in the rain on a Tuesday night, many folks were out and about. Back to my hotel, I walked across to Paddy Cullen's for a soothing bowl of Irish Stew. Sorry about the picture, it's half gone, I couldn't wait

 

Part 2 will be along shortly. The beauty of Ireland is a must see!

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Flying....flying can be great fun. Flying too much in one day can be back aching, claustrophobic, exhausting, and more.  Many times, my flights from PHL to parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are routed through Europe with layovers. Now, everyone likes a short layover, but too short and then worries about you and your luggage making the connection become real issues. I don't know everyone's definition of the perfect layover time, but mine has become six hours or greater. If I'm going to be on airplanes for 14 hours or more with a connection..... I want to break up the flights and see some of the connecting city life. I started this strategy a couple of years ago. I've been able to get out of the airport and visit Frankfort and Brussells. I'm now hooked on these quick hitting, four or five hour type explorations.

 

My flight to and from Abu Dhabi featured layovers at London's Heathrow Airport. My plan was to return to PHL through LHR with an arrival time of 6:40AM and the next flight to PHL scheduled for 5:00PM. That would give me about seven hours to rub elbows (or bend elbows) with our UK friends. My 5:00PM flight on British Airways was canceled ten days prior to takeoff. I took advantage and the next scheduled flight of 12:40PM the next day. NOW, we're talking. I knew the good folks on Insiders would help me maximize my experience so I reached out for their advice. 10HR 15M Layover LHR Suggestions, Please.   The community came through in "flying" colors.

 

I focused in on sg1974 's walking tour with the assist of the legendary map making from pluto77. These two should start a business. (If they do, I'm available for cheap wages with a liberal travel budget). The route they laid out is below. I took the Heathrow/Paddington Express train from the airport. It was easy to find and a short 20 minute ride. The round trip ticket was purchased at the currency exchange in Terminal 5. Price..£34 or $59. I set up my overnight stay at the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane. The hotel is about a .9 mile walk from Paddington Station. I made the journey with both  large and small roller type suitcases. The sidewalks were a little rough, so I took a cab back to the station when I left town. If you don't have large luggage, the walk to and from the hotel is great.

 

The Marriott Hotel Park Lane is perfectly situated for a day trip (or more) to historic London. Within 20 minutes of booking my reservation on marriott.com, I received two emails from the property. The first from Kimberly, the Guest Relations Executive. Kimberly's note was warm and welcoming with pertinent info about the hotel and the area. I responded with a couple of logistics question which Kimberly forwarded to Tommy, the Concierge. Tommy sent the exact info I needed to get from the airport to the hotel. I'll tell ya, this type of service is just great. I wished our local American Marriott Hotels took this type of focus on guest satisfaction.

 

The SG/Pluto Route:

 

     Park Lane Hotel

     Piccadilly Circus

     Leicester Square

     Trafalgar Square

     Covent Gardens

     Somerset House

     London Eye

      Big Ben (and Parliament)

     Westminster Abbey (only thing Pluto added)

     Along St. James Park to Buckingham Palace

     Green Park (and the Bomber Command Memorial)

     Marlborough House Gardens

     St. James Square

     Park Lane Hotel

 

Each of these locations were wonderful. I hit Covent Square just as the lunch hour was starting and, man oh man, was that full of life and FUN. I'll pop up the pictures through Covent Gradens then add another blog post to show the rest. I started out from the hotel and walked down Regents St. where I had to move like Jaeger towards Piccadilly Circus..then onto the rest of the route.

 

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I had the opportunity, through work, to spend a couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi.  I have experienced the Arabian Gulf area in the past. Five weeks in Doha, Qatar a few years back, gave me some insight as to what I might find in Abu Dhabi. This time of year is the beginning of the big "heat". It was over 100° almost everyday I was in Abu Dhabi.

 

My assignment featured two, six day work weeks, so I wasn't able to get out and explore as much as I would have preferred. I did get a chance to drive around the area and see plenty of out-of-this-world buildings. It's hard to describe the opulence. My associate was pointing out the many, many palaces that belong to the Al Nahyan royal family. There are residences that are used once or twice per year. Full staffs are on property, just in case someone decides to stop in and stay the night. Really??!!! 

 

The only Marriott property currently in Abu Dhabi is a Ritz. I noticed a Marriott and Courtyard that were under construction. My client didn't list the Ritz as an option for my stay, so, I settled for the Holiday Inn (my back up chain). It was a very nice property. The staff was professional and well trained in customer satisfaction. They even found out my birthday and had a cake prepared..nice touch!  I had my birthday dinner at Jimmy's....it was killer!

 

I did get a chance to visit the Grand Mosque. The pictures below do not do this place justice. First, it is HUGE! It's all marble and gold. There are decorative tiles throughout the marble pillars. I was wearing my customary shorts, so I was only allowed on the grounds and outside the mosque..no entry for me.

 

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After visiting the Bar Harbor area, I headed south toward Freeport. The drive was fantastic. I used Rte's 3 & 1.  The picture of the sailboat type bridge is the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. When you drive over this bridge going south, look out the passenger side windows and you see the epitome of small town America. Bucksport, ME sits down on the banks of the Penobscot River. You'll immediately tell yourself that you want to live there....it's simply breathtaking. I would have stopped and snapped a photo, but the bridge is too narrow. So, you'll just have to come see for yourself. There is town after town on this drive south towards Brunswick. Each of these seaside beauties looked warm and inviting.

 

My last work day in Maine ended around noon. That left me with a couple of hours to head to Freeport, home of L.L. Bean. Freeport is a great walking town with many shops and restaurants. You can easily spend a day browsing and enjoying the clean Maine air. Heading back north to the Augusta state airport, I passed a favorite warning sign on the highway. The locals told me that folks are killed every year from collisions with Moose, so be careful and keep your eyes moving!

 

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I was able to squeeze in some exploring in the Great State of Maine this week. A short work assignment provided the setting and a rental from Enterprise provided the locomotion!

 

I visited Maine back in 1998 but spent most of my time in the Portland area (known as the Southern Coast). It was a wonderful area and is loaded with things to see and do. This visit found me flying into the capital city of Augusta while working in Richmond. My base hotel was the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Brunswick. It was time to invade the home territory of our good friend,  the legendary. ProfChiara

 

I arrived on a Sunday evening. My flight plan included USAir from PHL to BOS. The next leg was from BOS to AUG on Cape Air. The flight to Augusta was on a Cessna 402.. 10-seater plane. That was a gas!!

 

I headed out on Monday afternoon from Richmond to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. The GPS suggested the shortest time route was to go north on I-95 to I-395 through Bangor. So, that's what I did. For the most part, this was just Interstate highway driving, not much to see.Once you get past Bangor (about 90 min.), you hop on 1A and the State starts to take on a personality.  It was a beautiful drive from Ellsworth to Bar Harbor. I had to stop a half dozen times to snap pictures. The temperature was about 50° and the air was crisp and beyond clean. It's almost impossible to describe breathing in that air...it's just phenomenal.  I was told that Maine is third on the list for number of lakes, behind AK and MN. It sure looked like it! Every twist and turn on the road brought another beautiful lake. As you get closer to Bar Harbor, you start to see some coastal islands, all full of what look like balsam fir and red spruce trees. It's really spectacular.

 

I pulled into Acadia National Park for a quick hike..just to say I did! There is so much more to this park than I could see in 30 minutes, so a return visit is needed. Back on the road for a few minutes and I was in Bar Harbor. The surrounding area is full of all types of housing from mansion like structures to small trailer type homes. They all fit in well. Once in the downtown area, it's Inns, historic homes, restaurants, stores, stores and stores. Very touristy, but in good taste, I'd say.

 

The headliner of Bar Harbor is the view. It's stunning. The town looks down and out to Frenchman Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Island after island.... boats of all sizes... shoreline in each direction. It's almost spiritual standing along the water and looking out at this beauty. Did I mention restaurants? Lobster is a featured item at every turn. The "Lobsta" is a food that I can't get enough of !!!. I enjoyed a Lobster Roll and washed it down with a Seafood Pie (think pot pie).... I actually had two bites of the pie and took the rest to go. The glitzy Route 66 restaurant was featuring a blueberry sangria. Oooh, was that good!

 

I headed back to Brunswick with about 2 hrs of sunlight left in the day. I decided to skip the Interstates and use Rtes. 3 and 1. This was a great choice. These roads took me through coastal town after coastal town. Each as charming as the next. If you decide to drive in the area, take these roads.

 

I'll add Part 2 about Freeport in the next blog entry.

 

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I just had to stop and snap the pictures of these beautiful creatures. You'll find this group in Centerville, DE. Check them out then head across the street to Buckley's for a nice meal.  Welcome | Buckley’s Tavern

 

 

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We're on the halfway hump for our trip. The weather is unbeatable. Of all the things that this island paradise has to offer, I'd rank this weather right at the top. It's amazing how the proper climate can suck the stress right out of you. Typically, it takes a couple of days to wind down from the real world while on vacation..here it took about two hours.

 

We took some advice from our Insider friends, iahflyr and jakeal, to sample the local cuisine. Coconut Joe's had excellent Jerk wings. They were sweeter than the normal jerk seasoned items I've had in the past, but very good. I had a salad to include grilled chicken. Unfortunately, the chicken was under cooked. The salad had potential, but under cooked chicken is a nono. Mrs. Pained had the Fish tacos...ooooh, they were excellent!! We also had breakfast at Cimboco. Nice, light atmosphere. The Eggs Benedict was very good. They have an extensive offering of hot teas. I liked that. Mrs. Pained enjoyed the coffee.

 

We've toured the center of George Town by foot. Easy walking, lots of shops and historic buildings. Any time you go out strolling, you will see the local rooster (and family). These guys are colorful and full of vigor. Another common native is the iguana. These fellas have the local rep of our squirrels. Many businesses put up a metallic tree wrap to keep these guys from climbing.

 

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As we all know, the anticipation of going somewhere we've never been is exhilarating.  A smooth (Free,1st Class!) plane ride to a Caribbean island helps keep that mojo working. Our first 24 hours on Grand Cayman has been great.

 

Our Sunday afternoon arrival to the airport was aided by the friendly greeters. Less than 10 minutes through customs, 2 minutes wait for a cab, 7 minute cab ride ($20) to the Marriott, and complimentary fruit punch couldn't have gone smoother. Check-in time is 4 PM, but our room was ready to go for our 1 PM arrival. The excellent front desk staff asked all the right questions and had us in our upgraded 5th floor room in no time. Our room, 501, has been recently renovated and is well appointed. We have a courtyard view with a peak at the ocean from the balcony.

 

As we read on Insiders prior to arrival, the beach is narrow. It's really nice, but beach chairs cover 90% of the sand. We walked down to the beach at 2:30 PM. Chair covers and towels are provided as part of the dreaded resort fee. There is a sign posted stating that unattended chairs will be up for grabs after 1 hour. Unfortunately, many folks seem to get there early, stake out multiple chairs and feel entitled to their use until sun down. The issue is that people get there at 8AM hang for an hour, leave a beach bag to look as if they are still in the area...then take off. The hotel staff does there best to police this activity, but it's just a shame that people act this way. Picture this... 150 chairs, 80% empty, but "covered" for invisible beachgoers. We found a couple of chairs, but it was more challenging than need be. The walk to the beach passes by the pond in the courtyard where the hometown turtles like to sun themselves.

 

The weather...aaaahhhh, the weather. It is simply beautiful. High of 82 low of 74. Sunday is a day where many shops are closed. We walked 5 minutes to Camana Bay and enjoyed a drink and appetizer at KARoo. After our lite bite, we returned to a bonfire on the beach hosted by the Marriott staff. Very enjoyable!

 

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The next (last?) big snow storm is grinding across the country toward Philadelphia. Mrs. Pained is sitting right next to me as we fly over the Outer Banks heading toward Grand Cayman. Seven days of 80° temps versus shoveling another foot of snow off the driveway. Let's hope my son remembers how to use the shovel while we're gone!

 

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Did you know that Syracuse, NY owns the title as the city with the largest annual snowfall in the U.S.? I did not know that, but I do now!! In fact, Syracuse is higher on the list than Anchorage, Alaska...amazing.

 

I've had the pleasure of spending two very snowy weeks in Syracuse. This town really loves their college basketball team. The Carrier Dome is part of the view out my hotel window. There have been three home games since I've been here. The roads are pact before and after each game. The Orange beat Duke on my first night in town. That crowd was in excess of 35,000. I've toured the campus during earlier (read warmer) visits. It's a very invigorating environment. They have a street that is full of cheap eats that cater to the college crowd. Cheap but very good!

 

This winter time visit had me investigating other dining options. I'm a sucker for good BBQ and Syracuse is home to Dinosaur BBQ. It's been in business for over 25 yrs and it is excellent. Unfortunately, I wasn't overly hungry so I couldn't quite handle everything on the menu, but I picked out the Tres Niños featuring brisket, ribs and pulled pork. For my two sides, I picked collard greens and coleslaw.

 

Let's start with the meats... The ribs were as good as any I've ever tried. Fantastic. The pulled pork was also excellent. The brisket was so so. The coleslaw had potential but had a flavor I couldn't identify. Now, the collard greens...they were something else!! Were they ever good!! The platter also comes with a nice portion of cornbread. It was an excellent accompaniment.

 

If you get to Syracuse, any season of the year, stop in at the Dinosaur BBQ.

 

By the way, the city is easy to navigate, close to the airport, and full of friendly New York State residents. I stayed in what was once a Renaissance but is now a Crowne Plaza...nice hotel.

 

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