May 23, 2009
Fine days in Paris
Crooners laud the glories of Paris in the springtime, but that's never been my luck. Usually I'm here at the cusp of winter or worse, in the dog days of July. But this time I've hit it just right, and Paris on a fine spring day is everything you'd dream: Bright, leafy, slightly crisp.
Yesterday was one of those days. The place is nearly empty of Parisians; pretty much everyone has left town from a long holiday weekend. But don't let anyone tell you that the economy is discouraging travel: The city is packed with Germans, Brits, Russians and of course, Americans. We're in cafes, in Notre Dame, at the Warhol megaexhibit, on the Seine, in the Latin Quarter, and definitely in that mecca of gourmet goods, Fouchon.
Today's weather isn't quite so glorious, but it underscores one of Europe's great truths: Even in lousy weather, a day in Paris is forever fine.
May 22, 2009
Lunch in ParisWhere doesa a travel editor go on vacation? This year its france. Now that the jetlag has settled I'm off to lunch at L'Ami Louis, which has one of the most fabulous foie gras on the planet. Alas, the price has gone through the roof: a stratospheric 57 euros for three chunks of pate de foie gras. -'d best enjoy it; at these prices I won't be back.
May 13, 2009
Are you still taking vacation?
Recent surveys say Americans are still hot to trot out of town -- just a little cooler than in years past.
This from a recent Miami Herald story:
A new Associated Press-Gfk survey found 42 percent of Americans plan a leisure trip this summer. That's down from 49 precent in an Associated Press poll conducted in 2005, a booming year for the economy.
If the gap seems small, other findings in the survey also show a weak economy isn't smothering vacation plans. Of those planning to take a trip, nearly 70 percent said it would be outside their home state. Only 23 percent planned to stay close to home to save money -- while 19 percent expected to leave the country on a trip.
Me, I'm on the get-out-of-Dodge list. Even when I was unemployed and dirt broke one year, I found a way to get out of town. Sure, I had to go with my personalized version of Couchsurfing, but I did it. And my head was better for it...even if my diet was limited to peanut butter for a month to offset the cost.
Still, The Husband and I debated whether we should go on vacation this year, given the world's general uncertainty. Then we thought about our lives. A friend of his just dropped dead suddenly of a heart attack; another is in the hospital with a brain tumor. Last year, The Husband himself was felled by an appendectomy and six months later, by a faulty heart valve.
He's fine now, thank goodness. But this all reminds us that life is a fine balancing act. If I live forever, I may wish I'd hung on to my cash. If I die tomorrow, I hope I will have created memories enough to last through the lifetimes of those I love.
Trips bind. The London visit with my mother, the Mexican spa foray with my friend Phyllis, Jordan with my friend Kate, Easter Island with Sue and Mary Ann, Florence with our ailing friend. For me, at least, the memories are worth more than any single overpriced dinner or even that black leather designer dress.
Guess I'll return that red jacket and go to Europe instead.
Share you thoughts.....
May 11, 2009
Another chance at luxury deals
When it comes to luxury adventure travel, Abercromkie & Kent is one of the most respected companies worldwide. But like nearly all other luxury travel suppliers, A&K has faced a challenging year. For consumers, that brings great news: Deals!
This Thursday, May 14, A&K will host an unusual Once in a Lifetime auction on five itineraries. Beginning at 9 a.m. Central Time (that's 10 a.m. our time), five trips will go on sale, with various dates available for each. The price will drop by 5 percent each 30 minutes until all trips are gone -- or the price reaches a max of 60 percent off. (That would happen at 3 p.m. Central time, 4 p.m. our time.)
A similar sale last February sold out, so it's worth watching the prices plunge and jumping before the final moment. Prices noted are per person, double occupancy. For full details and conditions, see the link above.
Trips available during this sale are:
- India, including Dehli, Udaipur, the Taj Mahal and game drives; 15 days with October-December dates. Original price $10,855;starting bid $10,312 with maximum reduced price of $4,342.
- China, including Shanghai, the Three Gorges and Beijing; 10 days with summer dates.Original price: $5,975; starting bid $5,676 with maximum reduced price of $2,390.
- East Africa, including the major reserves of Tanzania and Kenya; 11 days with June to November dates. Original price: $7,040; starting bid $6,688 with maximum reduced price of $2,816.
- Galapagos, with a seven night cruise on a 48-passenger ship; 10 days total with summer dates. Original price: $6,965; starting bid $6,617 with maximum reduced price of $2,786.
- Antarctica, 20 days cruising Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands with naturalists aboard. February 2010. Original price, $15,345; starting bid $14,578 with maximum reduced price of $6,138.
- European villa vacations: Seven nights in luxury villas in various locations, including Croatia, Italy, France and Spain. Daily housekeeping and pre-arrival grocery shopping included. Dates, size of villas and prices vary.
May 04, 2009
You can sleep for free
Just in on the press-release pile:
Intercontintental Hotels is offering a buy-two, get-one-night free deal that allows much greater flexibility than similar hotel deals. What's cool: Your stay doesn't have to involve consecutive nights.
The story: Stay any two nights at an Intercontinental between May 4 and July 3, 2009, and get one night free whenever you want, so long as it falls between July 4 and Dec. 26, 2009. Any one traveler can earn up to four nights free. The group has more than 4,000 hotels worldwide.
To register for the promotion,go here.
May 03, 2009
And my 100th country was....
Last week, at long last, I visited my 100th country.
Actually, I visited one gloriously beautiful city in my 100th country. A few hints:
- It's reached by direct flight from both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Flying time: About 2.5 hours.
- The main attraction is its stupendously beautiful and vibrant historic district, a 400-year-old Spanish colonial city surrounded by 11 km of stone walls. Today it is known for chic boutique hotels and terrific restaurants.
- It is a sister city to Coral Gables.
And the answer is.....Cartagena, Colombia. I'll be writing about it soon in Sunday Travel.
April 30, 2009
New Coaster at UniversalI'm in Orlando today and tomorrow checking out the new stff this season. At Universal Studios, that means the rock and roll coaster comin early summer. Many cool elements that I'll post about later, but for now: a 167 foot vertical incline. It comes about "six heartbeats" after the ride begins, says creative directoer Mike West. Next stop: zipling at Florida Eco Safaris.
April 28, 2009
Update on cruise itineraries
Royal Caribbean announced this afternoon that its Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships will temporarily suspend port calls in Mexico in light of the swine flu outbreak. Most will substitute other ports or spend time at sea; Mariner of the Seas will offer a fully-revised itinerary.
Carnival suspended port calls slated for today and is looking at plans for the near future.
What makes for good travel writing?
Don George, an accomplished travel writer and editor of the online travel magazine Recce, asked me about my own career and my opinions on what makes for good -- and lousy -- travel writing. You can catch the written interview here.
Tracking swine flu
Miami Herald reporter Nirvi Shah alerted us to the new Google map that tracks the swine flu outbreak.