August 20, 2014

Journey to Africa...


As an avid reader, I have read all of Ernest Hemingway's novels, short stories and memoirs that take place in Africa, as well as Isak Dineson's Out of Africa, but for some reason, visiting Africa has never been something that was very high on my bucket list. Well, after the morning at Travel Week I spent "in Africa", it has suddenly moved right up to the top of my list!

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There is so much to learn about travel to Africa...where to begin?? The travel professionals from Africa who attended Travel Week are the top experts in their field and know all the ins and outs of planning a trip to Africa.

One of the things that stunned me is the amount of open space in Africa...there are millions of acres of land in conservancy and the amount of people allowed to go on safari at any one time is limited, which offers the opportunity for an intimate "oneness" with nature. In a world that seems all too crowded, the chance to be alone on the vast plains of Africa is awe-inspiring. 

Another delight was the luxuriousness of the camps - even the tented camps are over the top luxe. This is hardly roughing it...and the word "tent" and "camp" have a whole new meaning to me now!

Here are a few of my "best of the best" in Africa...

 Lion Sands, South Africa

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Where else can you stay in your own tree house above the bush?? Talk about being one with nature! On the banks of the Sabie River, Lion Sands is in an area that has one of the highest densities of wildlife per square acre in the world. 


Only guests accommodated at one of the Mala Mala camps enjoy the 33,000 acres of privately-owned game land - with only two safaris per day in vehicles holding no more than six people. The main camp is perfect for families - they even offer a "Junior Ranger" experience; while the adults only Rattray's on Mala Mala offers an elegant and timeless “Out of Africa” setting and promises the ultimate exclusive safari in style, privacy and sublime comfort.

The Blue Train
 
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I have always been enamored with the idea of classic train travel. The Blue Train runs between Capetown and Pretoria - a 27 hour, 994 mile journey. Add five star luxury and a route through some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent and I am ready to hit the rails!

The Royal Livingstone, Zambia

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Imagine arriving via water taxi on the Zambezi river and having private access to one of the seven wonders of the world - Victoria Falls - only a 15 minute walk from your hotel...The Royal Livingstone Hotel is a classic British colonial hotel on the banks of the Zambezi and the closest hotel to the falls.

Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

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Yes, Virginia, we are in Africa...actually the Seychelles (an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just off the eastern coast of Africa). With 160 staff for just 16 villas, the level of service at Fregate Island is clearly above and beyond. The island has seven beaches to make your own...and is home to over 2,000 Aldabra giant tortoises which roam the island.
 Made up of 53 two story riads (or villas), Royal Mansour is more like a small luxury village than a hotel.  Over 1500 Moroccan artisans were employed to create the delicate tile work, marquetry and other craftsmanship seen throughout the property. With a staff of over 500, guests will feel like royalty.

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I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of Africa is quite limited...but I love that I have a team of amazing experts, which I can call upon to share their resources, at my fingertips...and, I hope that at some point, I can learn more about Africa first hand! Have you been to Africa? Is it on your "bucket list"? I would love to hear more!!

August 18, 2014

A Bit About Vegas Before We Start Traveling The World...


Before I begin taking you around the world sharing some of my favorite "discoveries" from Virtuoso Travel Week, I wanted to tell you a bit more about my actual trip to Las Vegas for the conference...

I should have known it was going to be a good trip when our flight to Vegas was entirely full, with the exception of just one seat - the one between me and my husband! 

Everyone has their own opinion about Vegas...most fall firmly into either the "love it" or "hate it" camp. It is truly like Disney World for adults. I especially enjoy going to Vegas if I am fortunate enough to stay at the Bellagio. Lucky for me, the entire conference took place at the Bellagio...and for the most part, I never left the grounds of property the whole time I was there! 

Even better...this was the view from our room:

(Taken with my iPhone)
Most of my days began as the sun was rising...and by the time the day's events were over, I didn't want to do much other than lay in bed and watch those glorious fountains "dance" every 15 minutes.

(taken with my iPhone)
 The staff at Bellagio went above and beyond...it is mind boggling to me that they served breakfast and lunch every day to over 4,000 people and nailed it every time.  Additionally, there were hundreds of smaller events at every venue throughout the Bellagio all week long - each one more luxurious than the last. AND, they hosted three gala dinners and an over the top kick off reception - all while maintaining five star service. Well done, Bellagio!!

Several highlights of my week:

  Dinner at Giada's new restaurant at The Cromwell...It is hard to go wrong when you start with a cocktail called "The Destroyer" and lobster arancini.  We had a perfect table by the window, the service was fantastic and so was the food! (If you happened to see the negative review in the NY Times last week, it makes no sense to me...it sounded like they were talking about a completely different restaurant.)

Hearing the esteemed travel writer Pico Iyer speak on "Why We Travel", and world renowned oceanographer, Jean Michel Cousteau, share his love of the oceans (look for posts on both of these remarkable men in the future.)
 
Learning the latest trends in luxury travel...it doesn't surprise me in the least that Italy is the #1 most popular destination!

 Being a guest of Trump Hotel Chicago and Trump Soho for the "Best of the Best" Dinner...Congratulations to this year's winners, including Rosewood London for winning "Hotel of the Year"!
 
Getting to know several of my colleagues at Singer Travel better - thank you to Barbara, Lynn and Helene for helping me navigate my first Travel Week!

And most of all, immersing myself daily in the finest hotel properties and tour providers in the world  - I was like a child opening gifts on Christmas morning, falling in love with each one more than the last - I must have said "I want to go there!" fifty times a day!

Fasten your seat belts...Over the next week or so, I am going to take you on a virtual trip around the world showcasing a few places that really had that extra "wow" factor...The first stop on our world tour will be Africa!! 
   

August 15, 2014

Just Back From...Virtuoso Travel Week!


Happy Friday everyone!!! I got home last night at 2:00 am after an amazing six days in Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week. You will be hearing much more next week about all that I discovered during this amazing experience. 


Let's just say, I may have spent six days in Vegas, but I traveled the world this week! Between over 300 one on one meetings with hoteliers and travel providers, lots of schmoozing over breakfast, lunch, dinner (and, of course, cocktails), I have had the opportunity to meet people from all corners of the globe...and I feel SO blessed to have had this experience.

I will be back on Monday sharing some of the more intriguing properties I learned about this week...some you know well and quite a few that you probably are not familiar with. For today, I am going to leave you with the video shared at the kickoff meeting on Sunday...I hope it inspires you as much as it did me.

(go here if you cannot view the video)

Have a beautiful weekend, my friends...wherever you may be wandering. You can find me lounging by my pool resting my very tired and aching feet...and processing the huge amount of information I absorbed this week! 

xoxo


August 8, 2014

Friday Favorites ~ The Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire

  
Happy Friday! Let's run off to California today to soak up some old Hollywood glamour...what better place to do that than the iconic Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire...another of my all time favorite hotels.


The Beverly Wilshire combines California sophistication and old world charm, with the legendary Four Seasons service...a winning mix.


You can't find a better location in LA - it is right at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard


There are two guest room wings at the Beverly Wilshire - the original Wilshire wing and the newer Beverly wing - I love the high ceilings and thick mouldings in the rooms in the Wilshire wing, while others may prefer the more modern look of the Beverly wing.


Which do you prefer - classic and traditional or sophisticated and modern? 
Do you have a favorite hotel? I would love to hear about it!

I am heading to Vegas today - I hope to bring back a wealth of travel knowledge to share with all of you. In the meantime, please bear with me as I will have precious little time to keep up with the blogging world while I am away. I had hoped to prepare some posts ahead of time, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen, so I will be back in a week with a ton of information about the latest travel trends direct from the source!!  

What happens in Vegas... 
...will be passed along to you when I return! 

Here's to a weekend filled with everything you love...wherever you may be wandering...

xoxo

(all photos via Virtuoso and Four Seasons)