5.10.2019

bouillabaisse for lunch in Cassis

outdoor café in Cassis, France (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

One of the coolest things about a cruise is that you can go to sleep in Italy and wake up in France. Our first stop, after leaving Rome aboard the Seabourn Ovation, was in the port of Bastia (on the north coast of Corsica). The next morning, we awoke in Toulon, a small town in Provence on the Cote d'Azur.

Did you know that we can arrange private shore excursions? You're not limited to the group tours that cruise lines offer. Our visit was designed by Virtuoso onsite We Travel France. It included a wine tasting experience at the E. Bodin winery in Cassis, followed by a visit to the Port de Cassis. My highlight of the day was the utterly fabulous lunch I enjoyed at Chez César. Right on the water, their bouillabaisse was utterly authentic (and unlike what passes for bouillabaisse in the US).

Cassis is a cute town with at least a dozen open-air restaurants overlooking its small harbor. I captured the image above in our free time following lunch. I recommend a visit!

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.

5.02.2019

Bastia in Corsica | crumbling charm

crumbling façade in Bastia (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Aboard the Seabourn Ovation, we left Rome yesterday and woke up this morning approaching the seaside town of Bastia on the north coast of Corsica. I signed up for a shore excursion, a guided three hour walk through the streets of this interesting town. "Crumbling charm," is how I described it to a colleague. Attractive buildings with crumbling mortar, Bastia does not enjoy the wealth of Paris or many other towns and small cities of France ... but it exudes charm and authenticity.

We visited several architecturally interesting churches from across the centuries (styes including Baroque, Neo Classical, and Rococo), We passed large public squares,  walked down a shopping street with opportunities to purchase souvenirs, and saw the beautiful marbler fountain pictured below.


fountain in Bastia (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

A fun morning that ended with a "taste of Corsica" (i.e., a plate of meats and a wonderful wedge of goat cheese), cruises offer the opportunity to visit see the sights of multiple destinations without ever having to unpack.

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.

4.30.2019

the Spanish Steps at dawn

Spanish Steps at dawn (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

I arrived at the bottom of the Spanish Steps this morning around 5:30 a.m. A half dozen photographers were already there, cameras on tripods set to capture the iconic view — the Trinità dei Monti church centered with the baroque Fontana della Barcaccia in the foreground. Although I grabbed a few images from that vantage, I am more drawn to this view from the side...

On yesterday afternoon's walking tour, we saw the same scene. How much difference a few hours can make. The steps were packed with tourists ... and the nearby Trevi Fountain was a mob scene. One reason to wake up at 5 a.m., to see the famous sights of Rome 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 my website.

4.29.2019

Siena | view from Grand Hotel Continental

view of Siena (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

I am constantly reminded how much a knowledgable and gifted tour guide can add to one's travels. We had just a couple of hours during our whirlwind tour of Tuscany to walk through Siena, and our IC Bellagio guide made the absolute most of our brief visit. We met her outside St. Catherine of Siena Church and walked inside to view its imposing interior. We learned about Catherine who grew up in Siena and became a theologian. Adopting a vegan diet at age 16, she unfortunately did not thrive on this diet and died very young, at age 33. An influential scholar and doctor of the church, Catherine traveled to Avignon and convinced the Pope to move the papacy back to Rome. Her head and finger are on display in the church.

We continued our walk, all the time learning about the seventeen contrade of Siena, each named after an animal. We rode a long series of escalators up to the level of the cathedral where we saw some of the major sights, learned about the Palio Horse Race, and walked into the square where this annual event is held. We concluded our visit with lunch and a site inspection at Grand Hotel Continental. The hotel is so close to everything, the photograph shows the view from the terrace of one of the hotel's Deluxe View rooms... definitely the hotel if choice if you want to stay in the center of a very interesting city.

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.

4.27.2019

stunning architecture, but...

Terminal 2F at CDG (c) 2019 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Terminal 2F at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is stunning, architecturally. The photograph above showed the scene yesterday as I entered the terminal to connect onto my flight to Florence.

Widest at the point where passengers enter, the terminal narrows dramatically as one walks to the far end. The effect is visually stunning, but ... totally impractical as a place for passengers to wait and queue for flights. Waiting passengers were literally jammed into every square meter of space.

Not the easiest airport to navigate, I had reserved a VIP transfer from the gate of my incoming flight. The hostess knew exactly where to take me, wasting not a step. We went to the inter-terminal train, got off one stop early for a little-known immigration and security facility that had only two passengers in line, then the rest of the way to 2F. She left me at the AirFrance lounge on the floor below. I had saved so much time that, despite my short connection, I was able to enjoy a hot shower, a most welcome luxury after my red-eye flight from San Francisco!

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.

4.24.2019

the magic of Tuscany



I leave for Italy in two days. Along with some colleagues from Brownell Travel, our first three nights will be spent exploring in Tuscany. We're spending Saturday night at Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco (see the video above) and Monday and Tuesday nights at Monteverde Tuscany Resort. From Tuscany, we head to Rome where we'll join the rest of our colleagues on the trip.

Hotel Eden will be our home on Wednesday night, and I'm especially looking forward to see this new newly renovated Dorchester Collection hotel. Thursday afternoon will be quite special day with a tour of Rome by Vespa (with an experienced driver/guide actually driving the thing). Not sure how it will work lugging a Canon R camera while hanging on for dear life, but I'm anticipating this brand new way of seeing Rome. Click here if you'd like to experience Rome by Vespa.

I'll tell you about the four days after Rome in a future blog ... but — hint — it will be a moving experience worthy of an ovation.

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.

4.22.2019

USB chargers & wiggly connections

when connections are wiggly, your devices won't charge

Charging USB devices while traveling in Europe is frequently problematic. Travelers typically plug their USB charger into a foreign adapter, then plug the adapter into a wall or floor outlet. The problem? Wiggly connections. I have used scotch tape to attach a charger and adapter to each other, but it was a kludgy solution that took up a lot of space space in my small electronics bag.




Making a quick trip into an electronics store on a recent trip, I purchased the device pictured just above. I replaced my charger + adapter with one small (3" long, 1.5" wide, and .63" thick) foolproof device that fits European plugs. Not available in the US, I recommend looking for something similar the next time you're in Europe. It was less than 10€ ... and so worth it!

If your travels are taking you to England, you can find a similar charger there, albeit with the kludgy power plugs common to the UK. Well worth it, especially for business travelers.

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.