4.19.2018

a new French revolution?

Grand Roue de Paris (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Will this be a permanent landmark in Paris? Apparently not, which is a good thing indeed! The Grand Roue (big wheel) was installed at a Christmas Market last winter at the Place de la Concorde at the foot of the Champs-Élysées. Open since November 17, 2017, it will occupy this spot until May 18, 2018.

Sixty-five meters tall (213 feet), you can take your turn for 12€ (10€ for seniors, 6€ for children under ten). Open from 11 a.m. until midnight, a ticket buys you two complete revolutions of the wheel and an unique view of the center of Paris. The ferris wheel is a Paris institution, going back to the turn of the twentieth century when a grand roue 100 meters tall was constructed for that year's Exposition Universelle.

Visually interesting as it may be, the grand roue is definitely out of place. The Place de la Concorde is an historic square in the center of Paris. Among other things, the large square was the site of the guillotine used for the execution of Marie Antoinette and other members of the French aristocracy. In the picture above, it serves as a backdrop for the Obelisk of Luxor.

copyright  (c)  2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit our website.

4.10.2018

the Tenderloin Museum

Tenderloin Museum (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Not on many bucket lists, consider a walk through the Tenderloin when you're in San Francisco. A gritty part of the city, you'll see people living on the streets. There has been no gentrification here, the residents having organized decades ago to prevent the development of luxury hotels and sleek modern office buildings.

We visited the Tenderloin Museum during our stay in the city last weekend. Located in the very heart of the neighborhood, on the corner of Eddy and Leavenworth, this small, well organized museum sets forth the history of neighborhood and its cultural impact on the city. A few insights I took away from my visit:


  • Countless musical greats have played and recorded here. 
  • The Tenderloin has been a center of LGBTQ activism.
  • A dying congregation with just 35 members — Glide Memorial Church — began its ministry of service to the Tenderloin under the leadership of Rev. Cecil Williams, growing into the powerhouse church it is today with a membership of 10,000.

San Francisco visitors will always shop on Union Square, take the ferry out to Alcatraz, ride the cable cars, and visit Golden Gate Park. Definitely do those things when you visit, but consider also the path less traveled. 

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

4.08.2018

the best view in San Francisco?

Tower Suite view (c) 2018 by David Ourisman

It was a rainy April day in San Francisco, quite unusual weather for this time of the year. Claire and I were staying at the Ritz Carlton two blocks down California Street from the Fairmont San Francisco. What's a weekend hotel stay to celebrate our wedding anniversary without a hotel site inspection at another property? So we arranged a visit to the Fairmont to begin our anniversary celebration.

High atop Nob Hill, the Fairmont would seem to promise some of the best views of San Francisco Bay, and that's indeed the case if you choose the right room. The hotel has two wings. The historic Main Building opened its doors as a hotel in 1907 and is protected as a National Historic Landmark. This wing preserves its original belle epoque glamor — a lobby graced by marble floors, high marble columns, and a pair of priceless 15th century gilded mirrors, among other architectural features. Its wide hallways are designed to accommodate ladies in hoop skirts, and its rooms are comfortably sized, some with exceptionally large closets, but bathrooms are small with a single vanity and shower-in-tub. (Historical status prevented the hotel from altering walls to create larger, more up-to-date bathrooms).

The rooms with a view are found in the newer Tower Wing. While its exterior lacks the belle epoque features of the main building, its rooms offer marble bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and step-in showers ... and views. Pictured above is the view from a Tower Suite. Ask for a high floor on a wall facing Telegraph Hill, and you'll be able to enjoy a view of Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower, and San Francisco Bay ... on a clear day.

For something super special, book the Penthouse. Your private six thousand square foot apartment, the Penthouse has everything you could possibly imagine and more: three bedrooms, an immense living room with grand piano, a room just for a pool table, a circular two-story library with the historic desk on which the United Nations Charter was drafted, a large tiled patio directly facing the Transamerica pyramid ... and history. US Presidents have stayed in the Penthouse — including JFK and RFK who reportedly brought romantic interests into the suite through a secret doorway in the library ... and Bill Clinton who went through that door onto the roof to play his saxophone. He was missing for several hours, greatly alarming his Secret Service detail.

Originally owned by James Fair, who made his fortune in California's silver rush, his daughters built this Belle Epoque palace, naming it after their father. The Fairmont San Francisco is the first hotel in the Fairmont chain.

copyright  (c)  2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit our website.

4.07.2018

I brought my heart to San Francisco ...

Happy Anniversary (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

... to celebrate our anniversary, and this is the welcome amenity that the ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz Carlton San Francisco prepared for us. Four macaroons and two celebratory cupcakes, all on a bed of yellow, pink, and orange chocolate shavings.

Let us stay with you — more than just a trademark — it's the Ritz-Carlton way of helping guests celebrate their special moments. Walking down the hall towards the Club lounge, I saw a Happy 50th Birthday helium balloon outside another door. Luxury hotels like Ritz Carlton offer more than just a comfortable room. Most important is the warm hospitality of a staff who go the extra mile to make your stay special. So when you book a room at Ritz Carlton, or any luxury brand, be sure to communicate anything you might be celebrating to your luxury travel advisor so that we can pass the information along.

Thank you to the ladies and gentlemen of Ritz Carlton San Francisco for such a special welcome ... and for a room with a view of Coit Tower. (The picture above was taken from the window of our corner Deluxe Club room # 828).

copyright  (c)  2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or

3.31.2018

New Zealand | don't know where to begin?

Sally Forth comic strip, March 31, 2018

Sally Forth is one of a handful of comic strips that I read regularly. In today's episode, Sally asks her family, "What is the one thing you'd like us to do together as a family?" After a moment's pause, Hillary answers, "New Zealand." Ted is immediately turned on by the idea of visiting the beautiful place where the three Hobbit movies (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies) were filmed. Sally responds with two practical concerns, the cost of air and where to begin.

"I don't know where to begin" is not infrequently the first hurdle encountered when contemplating our bucket list. Start with Google? 46 million websites come up when searching New Zealand, 3.6 million responses for New Zealand travel, 2.68 million options for New Zealand tours, and 1.79 million answers for New Zealand tourism.

How can anyone evaluate so many options? My answer to the Forth family ... find a travel advisor with experience planning travel to New Zealand, who has relationships with multiple destination management companies there. Instead of starting with millions of choices, I'll begin planning your trip with a half dozen vendors curated in terms of their expertise and reliability. Once I know your budget and the kinds of experiences you want to have, I'll know exactly where to begin.

A knowledgable travel advisor will save you time and money. New Zealand has some of the most gorgeous lodges in the world, and you can benefit from Virtuoso amenities that will provide added value during your stay. Even if your budget is more modest, our on-the-ground partners will know the best moderately priced options for your stay — as well as providing assistance if needed with looking for "bulk" air.


black sand beach (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

New Zealand is one of the two most gorgeous places I've ever been, Norway being the other. To whet your appetite, here are some articles I wrote about my April/May 2009 trip with Swain Destinations.

Kauri Cliffs | New Zealand golf and beach luxury
what to do in Queenstown, New Zealand
Napier, New Zealand | the Art Deco city
morning mist at Huka Lodge
black sand beach near Auckland
New Zealand | incredible scenic beauty
Virginia Fischer | New Zealand luxury lodges
more New Zealand Luxury Lodges

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

3.29.2018

guaranteed room on arrival in London

facade of The Dorchester (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

You know what it's like to get off your all-night flight over the pond — tired, perhaps a bit groggy if you've enjoyed too much wine during your flight, and in desperate need of a hot shower. You hop in a cab, drive into London during rush hour traffic, and arrive at your hotel. Walking up to the front desk, you announce yourself, anxious to get into your room ... only to hear the following. "I'm sorry, sir (or madam), but check-in is not available until 3 in the afternoon. You're welcome to leave your bags with our bell captain."

Here's how to get a guaranteed room for your morning arrival, an exclusive offer at two of my favorite hotels in London — The Dorchester and 45 Park Lane. Both are in London's Mayfair neighborhood, across the street from Hyde Park. Here's the deal:
  • Guaranteed room-upon-arrival is available for North American guests booking through an exclusive group of Dorchester's luxury travel partners.
  • You must provide your arriving flight information ahead of time. Just give us this information when you make your booking, and we'll take care of the rest.
  • You'll receive the same rates you see on the hotels' websites, plus... 
  • Enjoy a complimentary Full Breakfast for two every day of your stay.
  • Receive a confirmed upgrade at booking at The Dorchester (up to the Junior Suite category) and a 100£ hotel credit (that you can take right off your room rate).
  • Receive a daily 100£ hotel credit at 45 Park Lane (that can come off your room rate) and an upgrade if available at check-in.
  • Get complimentary premium high speed internet access for unlimited devices.

We are Dorchester Diamond Club travel advisors, and we offer exclusive amenities at every Dorchester hotel in the world ... and also at more than a thousand Virtuoso luxury hotels and resorts around the world. Request a stay here.

copyright (c) 2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® Member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

3.28.2018

the magic of Belmond

the view from El Encanto (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Every time I stay at a Belmond hotel or resort, I feel blessed to be at such a special place. My Belmond stays include Charleston PlaceBora Bora Lagoon (before its sad destruction in a cyclone), Maroma Resort on the Mexican Riviera Maya, Jimbaran Puri in Bali, the Cipriani in Venice, La Residencia in Mallorca, the Governor's Residence in Yangon, and now El Encanto in Santa Barbara. I've also seen La Residence d'Angkor in Siem Reap and Hotel Caruso in Ravello.

Belmond has an unique philosophy — it does not build hotels. Belmond purchases historical properties that reflect a very strong sense of place ... and restores those hotels to a state of five-star luxury wonderfulness. I recently enjoyed one day at the Belmond Governor's Residence in Yangon, and you can read and see about that visit in my Facebook post.

I've just finished a three-night stay at El Encanto. Unlike the other luxury options in Santa Barbara, this is definitely a boutique resort. The views are phenomenal. The weather has been perfect. I felt the water in the swimming pool — heated to 85º year round — and although I didn't have time to get in, this is the perfect temperature for someone, like myself, who doesn't like the shock of cold water. I had a great spa treatment yesterday afternoon. I enjoyed a trolly tour of Santa Barbara, and our group enjoyed dining both at the resort and in two excellent Santa Barbara restaurants.

Santa Barbara is close to Central California's Wine Country. Yesterday morning, we visited the incredibly cute little town of Los Olivos, enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Wine Merchant Cafe, and spent an hour wine tasting and shopping.

There are three great resort options in Santa Barbara. If you want a full-featured luxury resort by the beach, you have the wonderful options of Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton. If you prefer a very personable, small boutique resort in the hills, I would not hesitate to recommend El Encanto ... and I just loved the Deluxe Premier bungalow in which I stayed (#1701), a freestanding adobe style bungalow with a large bedroom with fireplace and a perfect bathroom.

copyright  (c)  2018 by Ourisman Travel LLC.  All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell, a Virtuoso® member. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit our website.