I just returned last night from a week in Europe (more about that in subsequent posts) and found my euros going much further than on my previous trips there.
And I don’t mean going further out of my pocket, but into my pocket. Spain, which I left yesterday morning, was dirt cheap. My wallet was still stuffed with euro notes when I flew out.
A year ago, one U.S. dollar would get you about .73 euros to spend when traveling in Europe. Looked at another way, Americans would have to ante up 1.364 U.S. dollars to get one euro in exchange.
So for every admission or food item or souvenir costing 3 euros, Americans would have to pay the equivalent of $4.
Now, as of this writing, one U.S. dollar… Continue reading
I received a note from a reader yesterday about a travel company that has a lavish website and sells a luxury product that is geared to customizing trips for individual travelers.
The problem, according to this reader — who wants to be identified only by his initials, G.M. — is that when he asked for service, they didn’t want to take his money — and a fair amount of it, at that.
It seems they wanted more.
Here’s the backstory: G.M., a longtime, now retired operating room nurse, is planning his first big vacation in decades, a two-week trip to Paris. Due to the generosity of a wealthy patient, he’ll be staying in a suite at one of Paris’ most luxurious hotels, and, with the help of donated frequent flyer miles, winging his… Continue reading
You may have read or heard the story: on Sunday February 15, during a freezing upstate New York weekend, the director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau put up a message on the bureau’s website (VisitIthaca.com) reading, “That’s it. We surrender. Winter, you win. Key West, anyone?”
That’s right — director Bruce Stoff was suggesting (and jesting) that, while temperatures were hitting ten below and the incessant snows were whipping around in minus 30-degree wind chill, people should forget about visiting Ithaca and head straight to the warmth of the Florida Keys. “Please come back when things thaw out. Really, it’s for the birds here now…P.S. Send us a postcard.”
Stoff even linked to the Florida Keys Tourism Council site.
As someone living in upstate New York suffering through similar weather conditions, and also a frequent visitor to Ithaca (where my mother… Continue reading
Today (as I write this) is Chinese New Year’s Eve, celebrated by Chinese all over the world. February 19 marks the beginning of the lunar New Year, which then continues for 15 days of festivities.
This is the Year of the Goat – or Ram, or Sheep, depending on the source, and perhaps where you live. One theory has it that if you live in a country with more goats, you’re more likely to call it the Year of the Goat. If sheep are more common, then you’re more likely to call it the Year of the Sheep or Ram.
For instance, in the U.S. it’s more commonly called The Year of the Sheep or Ram, while in goat-loving France it’s the Year of the Goat.
In any event,… Continue reading
A few years ago I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, during Mardi Gras, and while the carnival festival there is more low-key than in New Orleans, it’s said to be the second largest in the state.
Along with a few other visiting travel writers, I was invited to ride on the local Convention and Visitors Bureau’s float, which led the midday parade. Best of all, we were also invited to throw out beads and candies to the folks lining the parade route.
People had camped out all morning to get a prime spot, bringing their folding chairs and coolers stocked with cold drinks, many wearing Mardi Gras colors: purple, green and gold. They also wore beads, funny hats, sequined outfits, and various Krewe T-shirts, indicating allegiance to the various social clubs that build and run the parade floats.… Continue reading
I want to thank the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) for naming me for the second straight year as the Gold Award winner for Best Magazine Travel Series in their annual travel writing competition.
For both 2013 and 2014, three of my theme cruise columns written for Porthole Cruise Magazine took home the Gold.
This year’s series consisted of “Blue Sea, Red Sea,” about political cruises; “Bird is The Word,” about birding cruises; and “Now You Sea It,” about ghost-hunting cruises.
While the Porthole column came to an end earlier this year (with a piece on cat cruises), I had six years of fun writing about 37 different theme cruises covering all kinds of topics — some serious, some wacky, all entertaining.
At some point I’ll be putting out a collection of the columns in eBook form, and will let you know when it’s out.
According to the NATJA press… Continue reading
I’ve often wondered about the derivation of the ship godmother tradition. A female celebrity of some sort says a few nice words about a new vessel and, in theory, breaks a bottle of Champagne across the bow to christen it.
According to one account I read, the tradition goes back thousands of years to when pagan priests would douse a new ship with blood as a kind of bon voyage send-off.
Somehow this morphed into celebrity godmothers and bottles of bubbly. Even royalty have gotten into the act. Queen Elizabeth II has served as godmother for a couple of Cunard’s “Queen” ocean liners, and Kate Middleton has appropriately doused a Princess Cruises vessel.
Actresses Make Great Godmothers
Actresses are commonly tapped. In retrospect, I would have gladly splurged on a balcony suite to see Audrey Hepburn swing the Champagne bottle back… Continue reading
I love Croatia: walking the walls of medieval Dubrovnik, viewing the ruins of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s 3rd-century AD Palace in Split (the city is literally built into the ruins), wandering through the winding streets of the historic town of Trogir, being astonished to come upon a beautifully preserved Roman amphitheater in Pula, exploring larger cities like the double-Z combo of 3,000-year-old (!) Zadar and culturally rich Zagreb (the capital), and cruising among Croatia’s 1,000 islands, which sit like sparkling jewels in the Adriatic.
They’ve made Croatia one of the hottest destinations in all of Europe, and a favorite of baby boomers. (Both Super Bowl head coaches, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, are of Croatian descent.)
But despite two trips there, there’s still much of Croatia I’ve yet to see, including the intriguing-sounding… Continue reading
Some of the most interesting things you pick up at a huge travel-trade gathering like this past weekend’s New York Times Travel Show are what I would call tidbits — not big enough for an entire blog post, but nonetheless fun stuff.
Here are a few of my favorites from the show:
* You have to love a company — in this case Lion World Travel — whose eastern USA director of sales’ business card is, quote, “made by hand using the sanitized fibre from the dung of elephants, rhino and other wild herbivores of Africa.”
I didn’t get to meet the director of sales — Kathi Scott of Toronto — but her “100 % natural, 100% African, 110% recycled” paper business card intrigued me enough that I googled Lion World Travel and found it… Continue reading
Each winter, the New York Times Travel Show draws hundreds of exhibitors — national tourism bureaus, tour operators, and various travel-related organizations, among others — to meet the public and try to lure them to their destination or onto their tours and the like. It’s the largest such trade and consumer show in North America.
There are also dozens of travel-related talks and seminars you can attend led by veteran travel writers, publishers and broadcasters, some beautifully costumed women dancing on stages representing various nationalities, some free food giveaways, a number of special travel discounts good only at the show, and various other enticements.
With winter slush outside, it’s the perfect time to get people thinking about warm-weather destinations or at least traveling somewhere when the weather gets warm.