July 26, 2012

The Traveler's Bookshelf...

What are some good books to read before you travel to a particular place? Do you have a favorite book that is set in a faraway place where you are anxious to visit? I started out writing a post about the best travel literature but I quickly realized that is a category so broad it would take me pages to cover it. Since before Homer wrote The Odyssey,  epic journeys have been a favorite topic for many writers.

The travel site World Hum came up with a list of the 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books of all Time
by compiling lists found online from travel writers, bloggers and publications. I checked out the list and while I had read many of the books on the list (since reading is another of my passions), I discovered many more that I had not yet read.

Here is a short list, in no particular order,  of a few of my favorite books that are about traveling, both fiction and non-fiction. Some describe personal journeys, while others are beautiful written descriptions of their setting, but they all instill wanderlust. Read any of these and you will be ready to hop the next plane out of town!  (I apologize for the heavy emphasis on Hemingway, but in my opinion he was the greatest travel writer of all time).

  • A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
  • The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
  • A Farewell to Arms- Ernest Hemingway
  • Green Hills of Africa - Ernest Hemingway 
  • Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Out of Africa - Isak Dineson
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • A Passage to India - EM Forster
  • Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
  • The Alchemist - Paul Coelho
  • On the Road - Jack Kerouac
  • Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  • Under the Tuscan Sun - Frances Mayes
  • My Life in France - Julia Child
  • Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
  • Investment Biker - Jim Rogers
  • The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
  • Angels and Demons - Dan Brown
  • The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

Happy Reading and Happy Travels!

PS...The above picture is by the  incredibly talented Jane Mount and a print of it can be ordered from the Ideal Bookshelf Shop.

July 25, 2012

World Wonders Project

Can't get away this summer?  Be an armchair (or desktop) traveler and see the world with the World Wonders Project.

Google Cultural Institute has partnered with UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and several other organizations to bring world heritage sites of the modern and ancient world online.  By using their Street View, 3D modeling and other Google technologies, they have made these amazing sites accessible to everyone around the world. 

While experimenting with the site I was able to virtually stroll along the Seine in Paris, drive through Yellowstone National Park, and walk inside the Ring of Megaliths at Stonehenge, something you are not allowed to do at the actual site. In addition to Street View (which Google created using cameras mounted on tricycles that could go inside many of the sites where a car could not fit), each of the 132 sites included in the project also has 3-D views, still photos, short videos and an in-depth information page.

This is also a great tool to use before you travel - why not use a virtual tour to check out where you are going before you actually go?? It's almost as good as being there!

(photo of Versailles from Getty Images from the World Wonders site)

Wednesday Wanderlust

Ahhhh...Santorini...When can we leave??

July 24, 2012

Ritz Carlton and Their Legendary Service...

"We are Ladies and Gentlemen Serving Ladies and Gentlemen"

My husband carries a Ritz Carlton credo card in his card case. No, he doesn't work for the company and he never has. Moe, a particularly helpful staff member at the Ritz Carlton Georgetown gave it to him recently after we had a conversation with her about how much we love the Ritz Carlton company and how their credo should be applicable to all customer oriented businesses. In a world where customer service is often lacking, the Ritz Carlton continues to set the gold standard. Their motto, as stated above, is "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen" - when you stay at one of their properties this is readily apparent.

Whenever we travel to a city where there is a Ritz Carlton, it is without a doubt our first choice. While the Ritz Carlton properties may tend to be a bit more costly than an average hotel room, they are usually priced very competitively with other five star hotels. On many occasions while traveling with our children we have found that booking a large suite at a Ritz Carlton is actually more cost effective than booking two rooms at a lower end hotel chain. They also often have great package deals. With the Ritz Carlton Rewards program, free nights can be earned quickly as well.

Once upon a time, my husband and I set out to stay at every Ritz Carlton in the world. However, the company began growing like crazy so our ambitions were quickly outpaced by all their new hotels. We are still working on that goal, although with 79 hotels in 26 countries, it may take us quite a while. At last count, we have managed to stay at 24 of their properties, including three of the Ritz Carlton Destination Clubs (fractional ownership properties.) We honeymooned at Kapalua, have been to Cancun eight times, St. Thomas three times and hope to become regulars at Georgetown now that our daughter has moved to DC. Unfortunately, they initiated the Ritz Carlton Rewards program only a couple of years ago so many of our visits didn't count towards rewards, but we are working hard to build our points now.

Why exactly are we such fans of the Ritz Carlton? Simple - it all comes back to the service.  Today's society is increasingly becoming more and more aggressive and self-centered and it is a pleasure to travel somewhere and be treated with genuine kindness and sincerity. At the Ritz Carlton, the service never seems affected - the employees clearly love their jobs and love working with their guests. "My Pleasure" is always the response to even the most mundane request and one senses the staff truly means it. I recently read a wonderful article that pretty much says it all about  Ritz Carlton's legendary service - a young boy left his beloved stuffed giraffe, Joshie, at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. It is good service to put the toy aside and mark arrangements to return it; it's Ritz Carlton service to take photos of the toy "on vacation" all over the resort and return him with a photo album filled with pictures of "Joshie at the Ritz"!

Thank you, Ritz Carlton, for your always reliable and impeccable service!

July 20, 2012

Are you a Jetsetter??

Have you checked out Jetsetter yet?  Here's how Jetsetter describes itself -

"Jetsetter is a private online community dedicated to providing members with insider access to the places they want to go at prices unavailable to the general public. Our philosophy is that travel should be fun and easy - including the planning part. We aim to simplify things. Great hotels at great prices. No guesswork, no games. That's Jetsetter."
As a Jetsetter member, I have been able to book a two bedroom condo at the Ritz Carlton Club in San Francisco for only $330/night (normally upwards of $750 nightly and not always available since it's a private club), luxury rooms at the Sofitel in Los Angeles for less than $200/night, and a room at the five star Park Hyatt in Chicago (my preferred hotel when I visit Chicago) at also under $200/night. These were all incredible bargains offered for only a limited time as flash sales through Jetsetter. Jetsetter verifies all their hotels so you know they all have their stamp of approval. Since Jetsetter is by invitation only, leave me a comment for me with your e-mail and I will make sure you get an invitation right away.

(Photo courtesy of Jetsetter)

Daily Wanderlust....

Wouldn't you like to be spending your weekend on the Amalfi Coast?

July 19, 2012

Travel Tip of the Day...

Hotel Room Upgrades and Benefits

Do you belong to a hotel loyalty club?  Many only require you to sign up to receive benefits on your first stay. 

Small Luxury Hotels, a consortium of high end boutique hotels, offers a free upgrade on your first stay, after you join their complimentary Club.  Once you have stayed at one of their hotels you are eligible for a complimentary room upgrade on every stay*, daily complimentary continental breakfast for two on every stay, late check-out* on every stay and access to exclusive Club rates. (* subject to availability)

Fairmont Hotels offers complimentary membership in their President's Club which will give you free internet access, special rates and other benefits just for signing up.

When you check in, always ask at the front desk if it's possible to get a room upgrade. If the hotel isn't fully booked, you may just get lucky. My husband and I twice were upgraded to huge luxurious suites at the Bellagio, Las Vegas just because we spoke up and asked.

Or, take the advice of Joe Essenfeld, Founder and CEO of Jibe, who suggests asking the front desk "Do you have a nice room for us?" - he says that gains him an upgrade 50% of the time. Smiling and being friendly to the person checking you in certainly can't hurt either.


Welcome to You May Be Wandering!                                 

I am thrilled you wandered over to my blog. Follow me and you will find information on everything from how to book award flights to how to rent an apartment in another country to how much to tip. Whether I provide you with a customized travel plan or just share a mutual wanderlust, I hope my passion for travel will help inspire your best trip ever!