1.23.2019

postcard from London | something old and new

building reflected in building (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Prince Charles might disapprove, but some modern architecture does complement traditional architecture quite well. I submit this example of a contemporary glass-and-steel office building whose windows reflect a traditional waterfront building against a clear blue sky.

We were on our way to a tour of the HMS Belfast, now a permanent museum docked in the Thames. We enjoyed a 45 minute tour of the ship which participated in World War II's D-Day invasion. Our tour guide was informative but succinct, and Noteworthy Events planned a hands-on discovery for us — from hoisting signal flags that spelled "BROWNELL" to a chance to fire the ship's cannons.

The Belfast is docked in a prime location with a head-on view of Tower Bridge. I especially recommend this tour for families with children.

copyright (c) 2019 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.

1.22.2019

postcard from London | Hidden London

train from above (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

The simplest things often offer life's most exclusive experiences. I never knew there was a "secret" tube station in London, but one in fact exists. Charing Cross is one of London's busiest subway stops, multiple lines converging at this one point near Trafalgar Square.

Not available to the general public, connected travel advisors can arrange private tours for their clients through the London Transport Museum. Our guide unlocked doors and gates visible in plain sight, affording us entry to the hidden platforms, escalators, and tunnels of Charing Cross.

You've likely seen Hidden London many times, as it has been a setting in a number of major movies. In one of the most interesting moments in the tour, we viewed a short film showing scenes in which the secret station served as a set. Most famously, Roger Craig — playing James Bond in the film Skyfall — slid down a station escalator while in hot pursuit of an antagonist. Take a look at this film clip from Skyfall for glimpses of other sights from our tour of Hidden London.


The photograph atop this article was short through a ventilation grill. We were in a hidden ventilation shaft above an active subway platform, peering down at the station. As this train came through the station, I photographed it from above ... capturing as well the "Mind the Gap" warning by its doors.

copyright (c) 2019 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.

1.20.2019

postcard from Windsor Castle | the Long Walk

The Long Walk (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Today's travels took us from Paris to London. After an early morning ride on the Eurostar, a coach transported us to Windsor Castle, the Queen's favourite weekend residence. We first had coffee and tea with the Governor of the Military Knights of Windsor. A very entertaining man, he explained the role of these retired members of the British military. One of the twelve Knights then took us on a quite interesting private tour of St. George's Chapel (where the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took place). Our tour ended with a viewing of the stunning Albert Memorial Chapel. Photography is forbidden inside either chapel, frustrating because the afternoon sun streaming through Albert Chapel's stained glass windows was absolutely glorious. How I wish I could have captured that light in a photograph!

So instead, I am posting my photograph of The Long Walk. Considered an iconic image of Windsor Castle, this path runs from the gateway of Windsor Castle to an immense statue of King George III atop a copper horse 2.65 miles to the south. (This is the same King George named in the American Declaration of Independence.) The January day was cold and sunny, but hundreds of visitors were enjoying the walk.

Well worth a day trip from London, a visit to Windsor Castle can be combined with a tour of Hampton Court Palace.

copyright (c) 2019 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.

1.19.2019

postcard from Paris | Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Imagine a Gothic chapel in the middle of Paris, its walls filled with the light of stained glass windows soaring to its high vaulted ceiling.

Imagine the inspiring glow of those windows on a day when the sun is shining bright. (We weren't quite that lucky yesterday morning — the sun was low in the winter sky on a quite cold and damp winter morning).

Imagine enjoying exclusive access to that chapel, granted the privilege of entering before the general public, offered the opportunity to climb spiral stairs in the altar area to an area to which the public never has access.

Imagine seeing the initials, written with fingers in the dust, of recent exclusive guests who visited that space:
JL + CM
It is Fashion Week, after all, and Paris is filled with celebrities.

Imagine Sainte Chapelle, one of the many highlights of Paris, and imagine the worlds that a luxury travel advisor partnering with Noteworthy Events can open for you.

apparently Jennifer Lawrence loves Cooke Maroney
copyright (c) 2019 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.

1.18.2019

postcard from Paris | Napoleonic throne

Napoleon's throne (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world — as well as one of the most visited. Visitors typically follow the crowds, flocking to see the Louvre's two most celebrated objects, the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. I remember, back in the 70's, actually being able to view the Mona Lisa — but a typical visitor's experience is now seeing the crowds gathered around a small painting in the middle of a large gallery.

My inclination is always to avoid the crowds, to take the path less travelled, to go places that most don't even know about ... and in the Louvre, that would be the Napoleonic Apartments. Located in the Richelieu Wing, you'll discover memorable examples of Second Empire decorative art ... including this throne. One of the Louvre's best kept secrets, you'll enjoy opulent rooms that rival Versailles ... without the crowds.

copyright (c) 2019 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.

1.17.2019

postcard from Paris | seagulls in a row

pigeons on Ile de la Cité (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

I arrived yesterday morning in Paris. After a 30+ minute wait at passport control, I took a taxi to Hotel Lutetia, a newly renovated Virtuoso hotel on Boulevard Raspail on the Left Bank of Paris. Leaving my bags at the front desk, I went out to walk while the light was still good, just wandering through random neighborhoods until I reached the Seine.

Walking over the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris), I came onto the Ile de la Cité. I was greeted by this row of seagulls sightseeing over the Seine. I snapped a few pictures and, as luck would have it, managed to capture a seagull coming in for a landing...

copyright (c) 2019 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.

1.11.2019

shutdowns, winter weather, and air travel



There I am minding my own business in the PreCheck line at JFK Terminal 4 on Christmas night when I'm randomly pulled for secondary screening. 
"Over there," a TSA agent said with a shrug. "Someone will come to pat you down." But the first someone is a female agent. We stare at each other from opposite sides of the full-body scanner. 
"I'm okay if you're okay," I say gamely. 
"Nope," comes the instant reply. "I'm already not getting paid for working tonight ..." 
          Copyright (c) 2019 JoeSentMe.com Reprinted with permission ... subscribe here 

The anecdote above was told by Joe Brancatelli, my favorite travel journalist, and it introduces the worries I have about my next trip. By the way, I've subscribed to Joe's weekly column for years and find it a good read and chock full of essential information. I quote this story as it introduces, quite nicely, my concerns about my flight next Wednesday to CDG.  Other than packing and other fun stuff, of course.


(1) Standing in line... The US government is partially shut down, as everyone knows, and the shutdown is affecting air travel. Big time.

TSA security screening. While we complain about the lines — having to take off our shoes, remove liquids, and deal with other inconveniences — security screenings are an essential service provided by the federal government. TSA employees are required to work during the shutdown, but they're not getting their paychecks (due today). Screeners have been calling in sick, and I can't blame them, but the result is long[er] lines at security.

Air Traffic control — absolutely essential for air travel to happen safely — is a highly skilled but stressful job. Air traffic controllers manage everything from takeoffs to inflight routings, approaches to landings. Rigorous training is required for this job, and without this service provided by experienced federal employees behind the scenes, the world economy would crash. ATC employees are dealing with the same stresses as the TSA screeners — working without being paid.


(2) Winter weather... As if that weren't enough, winter weather happens, even at SFO. Though San Francisco doesn't get cold or snowy, it does get winter storms. When visibility is impaired, the airport is forced to close down one of the two landing runways. This can delay arrivals by an hour or even more... and a delayed arrival translates into an equally delayed departure. This means hours waiting at the airport and arriving at my destination hours late.


(3) Immigration and customs... Immigration control agents are often the first persons to welcome us back home again, but sick-outs mean fewer agents, longer lines, and wasted time for thousands of travelers. Would you rather be standing in queue at the airport? or home again with your family?


So here's my word of appreciation for federal employees and the job they do ... and my word of annoyance (keeping politics out of it) at legislative leaders who won't bring funding bills to the floor for a vote. Let's get essential services funded.

copyright (c) 2019 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.