5.22.2017

textures of the Alhambra

Golden Arches at the Alhambra (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Travel photos bring back treasured memories. I was just perusing my photographs from a 2009 trip to Spain, and they brought to mind one of that country's true treasures, the Alhambra. We enjoyed the services of a superb private guide, and I most remember how much his stories added to the experience.

One of the highlights of the Alhambra is the Tower of Comares, containing the Throne Room. Just like ambassadors seeking an audience once did, we entered the Tower after passing along this pool. This picture shows the dazzling reflection of the tower in the brilliant sun, but what it really can't convey is how intensely bright the light really is.

reflections at the Alhambra (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Because our eyes adjust to the intense sunlight, anyone who enters the throne room is overwhelmed by its relative darkness — but not so the King, already on his throne, his eyes acclimated to the darkness. This clever architectural design put the King at a distinct advantage over his visitors who are effectively blinded in his presence.

Granada belongs on everyone's bucket list. Team Ourisman, in conjunction with our travel partners in Spain, can help you Discover More™!

5.19.2017

skipping the queue | what's it worth?

from commons.wikipedia.com, photo owned by the Saeima Chancellery and used by permission

Here's a long line winding around the corner in Saeima, Latvia. Why so many people in queue? They've come for the Night of Museums, an annual event held across Europe. The following equation describes the phenomenon we're seeing here...

free admission = lots o' people = long queues

... which brings up a question I just responded to on fodors.com: "Just wondering if it is worth buying skip the queue tickets for Versailles." My short answer: Yes!!! Read on for my long answer...

Life is short... Thus begins the provocative headline on a recent advertisement I saw, but I disagree with the ad's conclusion: "Life is short: you should be playing the world's finest golf equipment!" NOT!!! Life is a gift, I would say, so make the most of the time with which you've been blessed!

This is especially true of travel. Say France is on your bucket list, and visiting Paris and touring Versailles are something you've been looking forward to for years. So you plan your trip, spending thousands of dollars on flights and hotels. What that nets you is time in Franceyou've essentially bought 3 or 5 or 7 days to explore Paris and to experience all it has to offer.

So how do you want to invest your precious time? You could spend hours of your vacation waiting in queue: an hour in line at the Louvre, an hour at the Musée d'Orsay, another hour at Versailles. That time adds up, and you will have squandered that most precious of resources, your leisure time. If 5€ could buy you an extra hour to sit outside a café, sip your cafe au lait, and watch as Paris walks by your table — wouldn't that be worth it?

So, yes, skip every queue you possibly can. Buy your tickets in advance. Get the Paris Museum Pass that gets you right in. Ask your travel advisor about engaging expert guides who can help you experience so much more while making much more efficient use of your time. (And while we're on the subject of queues, get Global Entry and TSA pre-check to avoid those lines as well — the best $100 you can ever spend).

copyright (c) 2017 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.

5.18.2017

Belmond | double hotel credits



Planning a stay in a Belmond hotel? For new, 3+ day bookings made from now until July 15, 2017 (with travel completed before August 31st), enjoy a double hotel credit. This means, you'll get the added value of...
$180 hotel credit (food, beverage, spa) for room bookings (normally $90)
$400 hotel credit (food, beverage, or spa) for Suite bookings (normally $200)
There's nothing for you to join. As Bellini Club luxury travel advisors, our clients will receive the double credit along with full set of Bellini Club amenities with every booking:
  • Buffet or full breakfast for 2 daily
  • VIP welcome treats with a local taste   
  • Complimentary upgrade based on availability at time of check-in 
  • Complimentary WI-FI access 

There's something quite special about Belmond hotels and resorts. The company does not build new hotels; they acquire iconic hotels with character — the Cipriani in Venice, La Residencia in Mallorca, Villa San Michele in Florence, and Charleston Place in Charleston, SC (among others).  Every Belmond hotel with the exception of Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg is participating in the double hotel credit program.

What about Belmond trains and cruises? Enjoy a complimentary one-way airport transfer when booking through a Bellini Club travel advisor.

Terms and Conditions
Valid for new bookings only, made between 10 May - 15 July 2017
Valid for travel completed before 31 August 2017
Valid for bookings at selected hotels, trains and cruises — direct hotel bookings made at the BC rate (= the BAR rate) and train/cruise bookings made at the official published rates.
For hotels, offer is only applicable for bookings with a minimum length of stay of 3 nights
Premium Bellini Club amenities apply (rather than consortia amenities)
Advance reservations required, offers subject to availability, blackout dates may apply
Terms and conditions are subject to change


copyright (c) 2017 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.

5.12.2017

Japan | bespoke travel opportunities

The Fierce Colors of Autumn, a tour offered by Windows to Japan

Is Japan on your radar? Windows to Japan is our favorite destination management company for this part of the world. A Virtuoso on-site, we so enjoy working with Windows to Japan. They understand the idiosyncrasies of Western travelers, largely because their founder and owner is himself from the West. I appreciate Windows' quick response times and flexibility in dealing with issues that come up.

Take a look at these five ideas and imagine the kind of bespoke tour we can create together, working with Windows to Japan:

  1. The Fierce Colors of Autumn - a journey that includes Japan's classic sights, renowned gardens in their brilliant glory, and excursions off the beaten path.
  2. Historic Traditions and Contemporary Innovations - from the old capital of Kyoto, to the modern capital of Tokyo, an overnight stay at a Buddhist temple and a ride on a bullet train.
  3. Family Fun - a tour of Japan filled with activities to keep children active: dressing up as a samurai or geisha, trying your hands at woodblock prints, or making soba buckwheat noodles.
  4. Seven Days - If you've only got a week, you can still experience a lot including a private tea ceremony, a stay in a ryokan, relaxing in hot springs, and riding a bullet train.
  5. Japan Less Travelled - Get off the beaten track and explore islands, small town temples, and adventures free of crowds of tourists.

And yet a different idea for touring Japan... a 2018 Wonders of Japan Cruise from Sapporo to Kyoto next spring. During the fourteen days onboard, you'll visit unique ports only accessible by small ship (just 199 guests) and off-the-beaten-path wilderness areas. All meals, bar drinks, shore excursions, and gratuities are included in this cruise from May 16-29, 2018. Book by August 31st and save up to $6,000 per cabin on categories 1, 2, and 3. Fares start at $15,495 per person (was $18,495).

Contact us to begin planning your journey to the Orient.

copyright (c) 2017 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. Wonders of Japan Cruise is offered through A&K.

5.10.2017

Villa Dei Sogni | overlooking Lake Como


Due to a last minute cancellation, the private villa featured in the video is available at a 25% discount. This hilltop villa features panoramic views of Lake Como and sleeps up to 8 (2 King-bedded rooms, 2 Twin-bedded rooms). Overlooking the village of Bellagio, Villa Dei Sogni is ideally situated for a stay in the Lake Como region.

Available from today until June 17, 2017, the villa available for any length of stay at 1,000€ per night, 250€ per bedroom through an exclusive offer made to us. (The normal rate is 9,330€ per week, and normally a Saturday-Saturday booking is required).

If your travels are taking you to Lake Como in the next five weeks, what a great place for a family or group of friends to share for a vacation in Italy. Email us to take advantage of this offer.

copyright (c) 2017 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.

5.06.2017

art walk in Deià, Mallorca

painting of Deià by Leila Ward

I have two top tips for visiting Deià, a cute stone village on the northern coast of Mallorca.

1. Stay at Belmond La Residentia, truly one of the best resorts I've ever visited. Typical of all Belmond properties, it is an historic property with local flavor and understated luxury. The simple but elegant rooms have simple white plaster walls, splashes of color being provided by original works of local artists. My suite (number 42) is just wonderful, filled with the light of the afternoon sun streaming through its abundant windows — and there's a painting by Leila Ward right over my desk (the same artist who created the picture of Deià at the top of this article).

2. Enjoy the Artist's Walk, a complimentary activity offered to guests every Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. This means you should plan to spend Monday evening at La Residentia to take advantage of this opportunity. Otherwise, make plans with the hotel in advance to book a private tour for you. You'd never be able to duplicate this walk on your own. Just finding the studios on your own would be a challenge, and the artists may not be in studio — or prepared to welcome you — unless the visits are scheduled in advance.


Van Gogh and his Apple computer by Arturo Rhodes

I enjoyed meeting some of the most creative souls I've ever encountered, including David Templeton, Leila Ward, and Arturo Rhodes whose picture of Van Gogh (shown above) demonstrates his delightful eccentricity. Van Gogh is working on an MacBook computer, his ear taking the place of the Apple logo and a live "mouse" to move the cursor.

This short summary can only hint at what awaits you. The Artist's Walk more than exceeded my expectations as we strolled the winding streets of Deià and engaged with some of the village's resident artists.

copyright  (c)  2017 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.

5.05.2017

Belmond La Residencia | total WOW resort

welcome drink at Belmond La Residencia, (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Everything about Belmond La Residencia is a wow. First, its location in the artists village of Deià overlooking the north shore of Mallorca. An hour from Palma, the village's seclusion markedly lessens the influx of tourists. You can walk through the small town, visit studios of its artists (which we'll be doing tomorrow morning), and browse in the small shops.

The welcome was warm and featured the fresh lemonade pictured above — quite tart and a perfect way to welcome guests on a sunny and hot afternoon. But beyond the graciousness of our hosts. La Residencia is simply a beautiful place. Formerly the Mallorcan estate of Richard Branson, it was purchased by Belmond and has been developed into a world-class resort.

blooming flowers adorn a walkway (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Buildings are constructed of hand-cut white stone, typical of Mallorcan architecture. My suite is extremely spacious and splashed with light. The living room has no less than five large windows, with one set of French doors leading to a private balcony and the other with a Juliet balcony overlooking the hills. Beautifully furnished in the Spanish style, walls are whitewashed plaster, the ceiling has exposed wooden beams, floors are cool terra cotta tile, and the bathroom has a soaking tub, step-in shower, single vanity, and WC.

One of the finest resorts I've ever stayed in, our guests enjoy Virtuoso and Bellini Club amenities.

copyright  (c)  2017 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.