11.08.2018

postcards from England | Lucknam Park

entrance to Lucknam Park (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

We've stayed at many beautiful hotels in the course of our travels, but this is the most impressive entrance in my experience. Guests at Lucknam Park arrive on a mile long avenue of Beech and Lime trees, finally approaching this 18th century country house with 42 bedrooms including 13 suites.

Lucknam Park is six miles outside Bath at the southwestern tip of the Cotswolds, and it's stunningly beautiful. Two hours from London, Lucknam Park offers an equestrian center, Cookery School, ESPA spa with indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and exercise facilities. Collectors of Michelin stars will enjoy dining at Restaurant Hywel Jones, while an informal Brasserie is available for more casual dining.

Room choice does matter here, and I definitely recommend splurging on the Camelia Suite (or, at the very least, staying in the Main House). In the Grand Suite category, the Camellia Suite is located directly above the lobby with a commanding view down the middle of the row of trees (view pictured below). Grand Master Suites are located at the front corners of the house and can be arranged with a connecting room, perfect for families.

Virtuoso amenities include daily full English Breakfasts for two guests and one Champagne Afternoon Tea for two, an incredible value add for this most luxurious of resorts. Click here to book Lucknam Park on Virtuoso.com.

view from the Camellia Suite (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

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.

11.07.2018

an email heard round the world

the 20,296 mile route traveled by this email chain

The internet is an amazing resource when working with clients and vendors to make hotel arrangements.

True story that happened last night and this morning— One of our clients (he lives in Berlin, Germany) was planning a three-day trip to Singapore with his wife. He wanted to stay in a suite at the Andaz, but high occupancy levels the first night of his stay complicated matters. We had to book a Deluxe guestroom the first night, and he would move into the suite on his second and third nights.

I made the reservations, then immediately emailed my World of Hyatt rep in Singapore. It was, of course, the middle of the night — Singapore time — when I sent that email. But when morning came and she read my email, things were resolved very quickly!
11:55 a.m., Singapore time — My sales rep at Andaz Singapore responded. Though a full Suite was not available for all three nights, there was one Studio Suite available that she could assign to my clients. It wasn't the room he asked for, but would that be OK? Only thing: she needed a quick reply, as there was only one remaining Studio Suite.
8:57 p.m., California time (two minutes later) — While watching the election returns, I immediately forwarded the email to my client in Germany, asking him to "reply to all." 
6:48 a.m., central European time (51 minutes later) — After waking up and looking at his email, my client replied to all, confirming the revision. 
12:52 p.m., Singapore time (4 minutes later) — My sales rep confirmed the Studio Suite for three nights.
The magic of Virtuoso, married to the instantaneous communication of the internet, makes it so easy to provide great service. It does not matter where in the world any of us might be. A hotelier in Singapore, a travel advisor in California, and a client in Germany can communicate with the click of a mouse. Time zones even cooperated here! A hotel in Asia was able to offer a solution just before I went to sleep. A client in Europe was able to reply just after he woke up. And everything could be resolved, while I was asleep!

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.

10.29.2018

postcards from England | Oxford

dining room at Christ Church College (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Fans of the Harry Potter movies will recognize the dining room at Hogwarts, but in real life, this is the Great Hall at Christ Church College, Oxford. We visited during matriculation, and here we saw students taking placement exams at the beginning of the new semester. The stairway to the Great Hall was actually closed to visitors due to exams taking place, but touring Oxford with a faculty member (thank you, Sam!) scored us exclusive access to a sight I'll always remember.

Bodleian Library is not to be missed if Oxford is in your plans. Its collection of rare books includes the hand-written Book of Psalms being held by the librarian. One thousand years old, this treasure predates the invention of the printing press. Other literary treats: an illuminated manuscript, the personal Bible of Queen Elizabeth I, and first editions of Newton's Principles and Darwin's The Origin of Species.

A final postcard from Oxford... As we were walking through Christ Church College Cathedral, I happened to see the floor tile pictured below. John and Charles Wesley were students at Christ Church College and were ordained in its cathedral, truly an historical landmark of the Methodist movement.


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.

10.25.2018

hotel ratings | on whom do you rely?




Conde Nast, a respected travel journal to which I subscribe, publishes an annual list of "the best" hotels, resorts, cruise lines, airlines, and destinations in the world. Their methodology relies on a survey of hundreds of thousands of respondents. Their list of "the best," always interesting at best but laughable at worst, raises a significant question. On whom do you rely when choosing a hotel for your stay in a destination?

The limitation of their methodology is, of course, the subjective judgement of Conde Nast's respondents. I make the following assumptions:
1. Readers can only validly rate hotels at which they have actually stayed.
2. Travelers tend to validate their own decisions, giving good grades to hotels at which they've chosen to stay.
3. Hotel guests virtually never conduct site inspections at other hotels in the destination, so they have a limited body of impressions on which to make comparative judgments.
Here are some of the stranger results of the 2018 Readers Choice Awards.

New York City. The Chatwal is rated the #1 hotel in New York City. While The Chatwal may be a good choice if you want to stay right on Times Square, I wouldn't call it the best. Viceroy Central Park, rated the #6 hotel in New York City, might be a good choice if you're looking for "affordable 4-star comfort," but its room are quite compact. Inexplicably, these hotels are rated above some of the very best luxury choices in the world (much less NYC): the two Four Seasons hotels, Ritz-Carlton Central Park, Mandarin Oriental, and the Park Hyatt.

Los Angeles. I have no argument with the Readers Choice here, the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, a gorgeous new hotel that has won a lot of praise. What's inexplicable is the lowly rating of the two Dorchester Collection properties in LA — Hotel Bel-Air at #20 and Beverly Hills Hotel at #28. So many lesser properties are ranked higher than these absolute jewels.

Northern California. Some good choices at the top of the charts (Auberge du Soleil at #3), but how is it possible that there are twenty-three (23) hotels ranked superior to Post Ranch Inn, a romantic, picturesque resort high above the Pacific Ocean.

Southern California. Kimpton hotels (not known as a luxury brand) get #1, #2, and #3 on the list. At the same time, Santa Barbara's absolutely idyllic Belmond El Encanto, slips to #30.

London. While the top hotels on CN's list do have their fans, it's inexplicable that the JW Marriott Grosvenor House (at #8) can outrank top hotels like The Goring (#36) and The Dorchester (#39), two of my favorite hotels in the world.

Rome. Hotel Eden is arguably the best property in Rome, but it doesn't even make it into the list of top hotels in Rome.

Florence. The WOW hotel in Florence, the Four Seasons Firenze, is ranked #9 in the city.

Budapest. There are seven (7) hotels listed in Budapest (among the Central Europe Top 15). The majestic Four Seasons Gresham Palace, whose Danube View rooms are coveted for their views of the Chain Bridge, is ranked 6th of those 7. Nonsense!

Hawaii - resorts. FS Maui (#2) and FS Hualalai (#4) make sense (although I'd personally flip those rankings). But how can FS Lana'i at Manele Bay, on a gorgeous beach with perhaps the most luxurious Four Seasons rooms in the world, be ranked #24? And even more puzzling ... how can Four Seasons at Koele be ranked at #13. While I love the Lodge, it has been undergoing renovations and isn't even open. Sheer craziness!


The value of a luxury travel advisor is clarified by all of this. Like many of my professional colleagues, I have done site inspections at hundreds of hotels and have made side-by-side comparisons of the best luxury hotels in the world, those that have been vetted by Virtuoso and accepted for membership. There is no one "best" hotel for each traveler, but the job of your travel advisor is to help you determine your best choice, given your preferences and your budget.

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.

10.24.2018

postcards from England | Dartmoor ponies

wild horse in Dartmoor National Park (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Looking for undiscovered places? When I was planning our trip to England, I turned to my friends at #CelebratedExperiences to help plan my time in the English countryside. I wanted to experience rural England, enjoy natural beauty, see historical artifacts, and avoid crowds of tourists. We developed an itinerary that included Devon county and Dartmoor National Park. Celebrated connected us with an expert guide, Alex, who knew Dartmoor like the back of his hand and showed us so much of this little known corner of the world.

Wild ponies, anyone? Herds of wild ponies have grazed Dartmoor for at least 3,500 years, and we frequently came across sights like the one pictured above, a pony right by the side of the road.

Alex took us to the tor pictured here. Tors are massive granite outcroppings that can be seen throughout the county. Unlike Stonehenge, you'll never see a tour bus, and you'll never be separated from the tors by ropes.

If you're seeking a less traveled corner of the world, unmarred by overtourism, ask me about Devon County and Dartmoor National Park.

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.

10.22.2018

postcards from England | Castle Combe

the village of Castle Combe (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Another postcard from England, Castle Combe is a storybook village. On checking out of Lucknam Park, we stopped in this incredibly cute village at the southern edge of the Cotswolds. It has been named "the prettiest village in England," and if you're in the area, it's worth stopping by to enjoy the beauty.

Right in the center of Castle Combe is the old 13th-century St. Andrews Church. We dropped in to take a look ... very pretty! In front of the church, at the intersection where three small roads converge, is the 14th-century market cross. The film Doctor Doolittle was filmed in Castle Combe in 1966, and the village has been the filming location for other films as well as some episodes of Downton Abbey. If you're a guest at Lucknam Park, definitely drive through Castle Combe, but otherwise I wouldn't go far out of my way to visit. Very cute, but not much else...


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.

10.18.2018

postcards from England | Windsor Castle

Etihad 17 arrives in London on October 9 (c) 2018 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

The first of a series of postcards from my recent trip to England that I'll be posting over the next several weeks. On what was supposed to be our final day in England, October 10th, one of my clients met us at Cliveden and took us on a delightful driving tour through some of the nearby picturesque villages. Of special note was the village of Cookham and its old Anglican church.

After enjoying tea with our host at her club, Stoke Park, she drove us to Windsor. One of the royal palacesm Windsor was the setting for the recent royal marriage of Andrew and Meaghan. A somewhat touristy town, but it was fun walking through its streets and seeing the palace.

Windsor is quite close to Heathrow airport. I spotted this Etihad Airbus 380 plane on its final approach. The jet wasn't as close as it seems in the photograph, but you can sense the size of this 380 double-deck aircraft. We finished our day with an enjoyable pub dinner at The Crown at Bray.

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.