1.17.2017

San Francisco de Young Museum | Frank Stella

Frank Stella, Lac Lorange III, 1969. Acrylic on canvas. 108 x 162 in. (274.3 × 411.5 cm).
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York © 2015 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Frank Stella: a Retrospective is the current exhibit at San Francisco's de Young Museum, so if you're in San Francisco this winter, this is something for your to-do list (if you're a fan of contemporary painting). The Stella exhibit lasts until February 26, 2017.

I still have a term paper that I wrote about Frank Stella in college (dated May 8, 1972, if you're interested), so his art is of particular interest to me. If you're ever in Las Vegas, there's a huge Stella canvas behind the reception desk at Vdara Hotel & Spa that you can see for free!

Which gets me to this chance to see the exhibition for free... If you're a member of KQED (the public radio/television station in San Francisco), just present a valid KQED MemberCard and photo ID on January 20 and 21 to gain free admission to the de Young. If you're not, I urge you to support KQED or your local NPR station. Public radio is such a treasure.

Where to stay in San Francisco? My top three choices are the Four Seasons, St. Regis, and Ritz-Carlton. As Virtuoso and FS Preferred Partner travel advisors, we can provide added-value amenities at each hotel that include free breakfasts, hotel credits, and possible upgrades. Just email us for the full details.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.16.2017

the art of the (hotel) deal

One&Only Reethi Rah, cover resort for The Best of the Best 2017

Are you looking for the best deal?

You have now discovered the best-kept secret for getting better values at nearly 1,200 of the world's most luxurious hotels and resorts. Generally speaking, you'll pay the same best available flexible rate you can find online, but by booking through a Virtuoso travel advisor, you'll also receive the following valuable amenities:

Breakfast for two daily. Does the thought of paying $35 (or more) plus tax, plus gratuity, for a croissant, glass of juice, and cup of coffee send you out the front door of the hotel looking for a Starbucks? Virtuoso guests can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the hotel's restaurant or through in-room dining. Many Virtuoso resorts offer a complimentary Full American breakfast, through room service if you wish, including buffets. I know the best free breakfast in whatever city you'd like to visit...

Room upgrades. Most hotels will upgrade you if available at the time of check-in, but perhaps 10% will do even better: upgrade you when you book. I know a hotel family that gives my clients guaranteed upgrades at the time of booking. Upgrades mean ... more space, higher floors, or better views!

Extra amenities (like a $100 credit towards food and beverage or the hotel spa) give you added values at every hotel I book. My favorite Virtuoso extra amenity? A VIP welcome at the jetway of your plane by an hostess who will fast-track you through the immigration queue, help you collect your luggage, and escort you to your complimentary limousine to the hotel. And your return trip is complimentary too! And you're guaranteed an upgrade at this particular hotel.

It doesn't cost a dollar, euro, or pound more, and you don't need an expensive credit card with a $450 annual fee to qualify.

The art of the (hotel) deal, indeed. Contact Ourisman Travel ... or any Virtuoso travel advisor ... to enjoy the best value at a luxury hotel.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.15.2017

need Dublin hotel space for the U2 concert?

see how Jameson Irish Whiskey is made when touring Dublin

U2 - The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 in Dublin... A client emailed this morning, having just scored two tickets to see the U2 concert in Dublin, Ireland on July 22nd. She immediately checked her (and my) favorite hotel in Dublin, The Merrion, and saw no availability.

Where to stay? I discovered that most hotels have "special event" pricing for the concert — prepaid reservations that cannot be cancelled, but I found good availability and flexible rates at one of our Virtuoso collection hotels in Dublin, The Westbury. Located on Grafton Street in the heart of Dublin, The Westbury is ideally situated between Trinity College (and its Book of Kells) and St. Stephen's Green

Virtuoso guests receive value added amenities by booking through a Virtuoso travel advisor
  • Upgrade at time of arrival, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Continental Breakfast for two daily for duration of the stay, served in restaurant
  • A complimentary lunch or dinner for up to two people per room, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities once during stay (must be 3 course minimum with a minimum value of $100 USD equivalent)
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
Ireland is one of our favorite destinations, with the warmest, friendliest people you'll ever find and beautiful scenery with "forty shades of green." Ireland is also the birthplace of Guinness and Jameson's. See my google map of Ourisman Travel's preferred luxury hotels in Ireland, and call us to plan a vacation to Ireland.

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.10.2017

Global Entry | you should definitely get this




Seven months ago, I went online to renew my Global Entry for another 5 years and sign up for a re-enrollment interview. The earliest interview I could get was January 10th, 7 months in the future (unless I wanted to go somewhere other than the Bay Area). So I took BART from North Berkeley to SFO this morning — a one-hour trip and quite the bargain if you have a Senior Clipper Pass.

If you travel internationally, you should get Global Entry. It will make your US immigration much quicker. You get to bypass the long lines snaking up to the desks and go straight to the kiosks. Scan your passport, give them your fingerprints, and the kiosk spits out a receipt that you show at the door when you leave. There's even a separate exit through Customs for Global Entry customers. Here's the link to apply... and some credit cards will reimburse the $100 it costs. A great value, even if it weren't free.

And you get TSA Pre-Check as part of the bargain! No need to take off your shoes, remove your bag of liquids, or take your computer out of your carryon.

Good for five years of expedited travel, be sure to watch the expiration date of your Global Entry membership. Be sure to renew before it expires!

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.05.2017

don't "do" Europe | "experience" Europe

just sitting ...  (c) 2017 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

I confess to being a regular "lurker" on the fodors.com Europe forum. I find it interesting to read the questions posted by travelers thinking about a European vacation and find that there are some quite knowledgeable fellow lurkers who provide great insights. But I'm — is "amused" the right word? — interested by some of the questions that people ask.

One traveler asks if his itinerary is "too much." My rule of thumb is, if you think there's too much crammed into your itinerary, pay attention to that feeling. You're probably right. One traveler posted the following itinerary for feedback. (They plan to get from place to place by RailPass.)


Athens - 2 days

Capri - 1 day
Naples - 1 day
Rome - 2 days
Milan - 1 day
Cinque Terre - 1 day
Vienna - 2 days
Prague - 1 day
Budapest - 2 days
Krakow - 2 days
Berlin - 2 days
Copenhagen - 1 day
Amsterdam - 2 days
Barcelona - 2 days
Madrid - 2 days
Lisbon - 2 days
Porto - 2 days

"I'm concerned that we have too many stops," he writes. Um, yes!!! ... This is an insane itinerary. Here's what I wrote:

This is crazy busy... You're seeing places, "doing" places in the parlance of some, but not really experiencing much of anything except seeing the countryside through the window of a train. You will be tired, frustrated, and disappointed at the end of this vacation.
I totally agree with what another poster wrote: 
You're high as a kite if you think you can do 17 cities in 27 days, especially ones as geographically distant as these.... Cut the number of destinations in half. Then halve that. 4 or 5 locations in 4 weeks would be awesome.
Don't "do" Europe ... experience Europe. The photograph at the top of this article shows what a European vacation should be like. This couple in Paris is sitting at a table in a café, watching the world pass by. Slow down. Less is more!

copyright (c) 2017 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

1.01.2017

Where are you headed in 2017?

directional sign at Six Senses Laamu (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

So many places to visit, but just one lifetime. What direction are you headed in 2017?

This signpost was photographed last March at Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives. If you're looking for a beach destination, you couldn't ask for a more beautiful setting than the Maldives. The water is warm and clear — a simply delightful place to escape winter and relax in the warm tropical sun.

2016 took me to four continents — Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America — and so many fabulous destinations — The Maldives, Australia, London, Paris, and the south of France. I've blogged extensively about each of these trips and taken notes about where to stay and what to do.

Where are you headed in 2017? If your plans are already set, get in touch and ask us how we can provide you with better value at luxury hotels than you can get online. How, you ask? Through our affiliation with Virtuoso and our preferred partner relationships with the top luxury hotel families in the world. If you need help prioritizing your bucket list, still get in touch ... and we can discuss a world full of possibilities.

Enjoy the holidays with your family and loved ones ... and best wishes for the New Year!

copyright (c) 2016 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

12.27.2016

travel dreams of faraway places

Corso Trattoria, Berkeley, CA (c) 2016 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

An antique photograph ... where (and when) was it taken?

Not in Tuscany at all, Corso Trattoria is an Italian restaurant in Berkeley's "gourmet ghetto." This photo was shot a few years ago right on Shattuck Avenue, less than 10 minutes from home (assuming you can find nearby parking). This is a reminder that fabulous meals can be found right around the corner ... and that we can be reminded of places distant and exotic just by looking at the world with imagination.

So if you're at home this Festive Season, treat yourself to a night out to a local restaurant with a lot of character and authentic regional cuisine. While you're enjoying a glass of wine, absorb the experience and dream about where you'd like to go in 2017.

P.S. — this was an iPhone photo, and in the post-processing I applied a sepia tone and a very coarse grain.

copyright  (c) 2016 by Ourisman Travel LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.