2.15.2020

Promontory Wine & Meadowood Napa Valley

wine barrels at Promentory (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Many oenophiles know about Promontory Wine. What most may not know is the relationship between Promontory and Meadowood Napa Valley. Part of the enduring vision of William Harlan, Meadowood's founder, both Promontory and the Napa Valley Reserve continue under the guidance of the second generation of the Harlan family.

vineyard road (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

The winery and its vineyards sit on a vast expanse of wild terrain in central Napa Valley. Promontory is NOT one of the many wineries you'll see driving along the Silverado Trail or taking the wine train. It's most definitely not a place you can just drop into for a wine tasting. Visits are limited and by appointment only. The best way to experience Promontory is to book a stay at Meadowood Napa Valley through your Virtuoso travel advisor. We'll arrange with the team at Meadowood to schedule your appointment at Promontory and arrange a day of wine experiences customized around your own tastes and interests.

Promontory 2008 (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Our group tasted from two bottles of Promontory wine, including this twelve year old 2008 Cabernet. It is something exceptionally special!

copyright (c) 2020 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.

2.13.2020

seeing the Mona Lisa after hours

by Werner Willmann - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1145981

What if you could get up close and personal with the Mona Lisa? What a different experience it would be to visit the Louvre after hours, avoiding the mob scene you see in the photo above...

What if you could visit Giverny before it opens to the public? Imagine how enjoyable it would be to explore his gardens, photograph the bridge over the lily pond, and walk through Claude Monet's house without the crowds of tourists...

What if you could enjoy these exclusive experiences without paying thousands of euros for the privilege?

Here's the secret: these experiences are included if you book a cabin on Tauck River Cruises' Impressions from the Seine: Paris to Normandy. Just ask your travel advisor to find a date that features the after-hours Louvre visit (as the Louvre is closed on Monday). All-inclusive fares for this eight-day river cruise start at $4,390 per person, and they include virtually everything.


And if that were not enough, Tauck is offering great round-trip air fares from select US and Canadian gateways to Europe through the end of February... for trips through the end of August, 2020. I've put the fine print below*, but this is a great value!
business class - $2990 pp
premium economy - $1690 pp
economy - $790 pp
I'll be taking my first Tauck River Cruise in April, traveling from Amsterdam to Basel, and we are really looking forward to the experience.

*The Fine Print: Take Off With Tauck is valid on trips departing March 1 through August 31, 2020 as indicated: valid on all Tauck Europe land trips, European river cruises, Tauck Bridges Europe trips, and Europe small ship cruises (Note: Venice & the Dalmatian Coast small ship cruises departing March 1 through September 30, 2020). Above trips must be booked January 9 through February 29, 2020. Tauck’s air package is available to all guests departing from select US and Canadian gateways to Europe; available for new bookings only (subject to availability). Air must be booked with Tauck, and a deposit is required at the time you make your booking. Air is refundable up to 60 days before departure. Premium Economy cabin is offered on trans-Atlantic flights and select carriers only. Not combinable with other offers.

copyright (c) 2020 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.

2.11.2020

a fun place for lunch in the Napa Valley

Clif Family Bruchetteria (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

Have you ever had a CLIF Bar? If so, you will recognize the name on this food truck. Gary Erickson, a resident of the East Bay, was an avid biker. During a 175 mile bicycle ride in 1990, he became disenchanted with the "energy bars" he typically brought along for sustenance. Knowing he could do better, he experimented with his mom over the course of several months and developed a recipe for a better tasting and healthier energy bar. He named it the CLIF bar in honor of his father, Clifford Erickson. Thus began an incredibly successful family business.

Moving to the St. Helena area in the Napa Valley, Gary pursued other passions, wine and organic farming. Resisting the temptation of cashing out and "going public," Gary kept CLIF Bar & Company private. Employees are able to buy into what is now an employee-owned business, and their enthusiasm for their jobs and place of work was palpable.



When Meadowood Napa Valley hosted our Brownell Travel group for a two-night stay (to be reviewed in a later blog post), they planned lunch for us at the CLIF Family Tasting Room. The daily menu of Bruschette uses fresh organic produce that is locally available. We enjoyed a veritable feast that included salads, sides, bruschette, and desserts. Verdict: totally yummy! Great tasting, healthy, casual food that you can order outside from the Food Truck or inside the tasting room.


It wouldn't be the Napa Valley if you couldn't enjoy the wine, and guests can enjoy a selection of curated wines including some from the CLIF Family Winery that are available for tasting and purchase.

copyright (c) 2020 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.

2.04.2020

"doing" travel?



It's almost a cliché...
We want to do Paris. We want to climb the Eiffel Tower, shop the Champs-Elysées, see the Arc du Triomphe, swing by the Mona Lisa, then take the kids to Euro Disney so they don't get bored.
I read comments like this all the time, and they could make me scream. Some tourists seem to approach travel by googling "top ten attractions" in a given city, then checking as many of those "top ten" off their list before they're off to their next destination. People talk about "doing" Paris, London, or Rome.

No client has ever said... The quotation at the top of this article is from Kristi Marcelle, a gifted Virtuoso colleague of mine. Her statement is so on target. I think of travel as the greatest human adventure, an opportunity to expand our horizons by immersing ourselves in different cultures, experiencing countless different ways of being in this world.

The most lasting memories of a trip are invariably those unscripted moments when we depart the beaten path, when we move deliberately away from where the crowds are gathered (e.g., the Eiffel Tower). Simply explore! Dare to wander off in whatever direction your curiosity leads you. Explore neighborhoods where non-tourists live, work, eat, and shop. Sure, you might get lost ... but what you discover while getting lost will provide the lasting memory from your trip. Then, when you've walked as far as you want, just book an Uber to take you back to your hotel.


40 square Montsouris (c) 2020 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

You might discover a hidden residential street and find charming houses like the one above at 40 Square Montsouris in Paris. Did you even know that streets like this exist in Paris?

copyright (c) 2020 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.

2.03.2020

green onion season in Catalonia

Travel creates the opportunity to experience different cultures through their local food. If you click the graphic above, you can hear the story, aired on NPR this morning, about Green Onion Season in Catalonia. Catalonia is the region of northeast Spain surrounding Barcelona.

Were you in Catalonia right now, you'd have the chance to experience Calçotada, an annual food festival celebrating the calçot harvest. Per Wikipedia, these small green onions or scallions
are grilled over a hot fire, wrapped up in newspaper, served on terra cotta tiles and eaten, after peeling with bare hands, by dipping them one by one in romesco sauce and are accompanied by red wine and bread.
Yum! While it may be too late to plan for 2020, think about a trip to Barcelona from November to April to experience something utterly local and authentic.

copyright (c) 2020 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.

1.22.2020

Hotel Castille | wonderful 4* Parisian property



by guest columnist Jessica G. Ourisman

When my boyfriend and I moved to Paris, we were initially stranded — stranded at The Ritz, mind you, but stranded nonetheless. Although we had leased an apartment in advance of our arrival, both our rental agent and property manager were MIA. This meant that the two of us, our two miniature schnauzers, and more checked luggage than you should ever travel with, were left with nowhere to go.

France has a reputation for being generally dog-friendly, but this is not entirely accurate. The boutique hotels in the 7th arrondissement were unwilling to accept our pets. Luckily, my dad and stepmom were staying in a suite at The Ritz and they graciously loaned us the use of their room for the afternoon. However, while The Ritz is a spectacular place — a vision that Ernest Hemingway equated with heaven — to stay there indefinitely was beyond our means (and that's putting it nicely).

It ended up being an entire day and night before we could gain access to our apartment. In the meantime, my dad booked us a room at the Hotel Castille on rue Cambon. Situated directly behind The Ritz, which you enter off the Place Vendome, Castille's location proved ideal for the transfer of our luggage. Moreover, its location in the central 1st arrondissement is ideal for sightseeing, shopping, and dining. Walking distance from Coco Chanel's O.G. atelier, amble just a bit further to find The Joelle Ciocco Spa where you can get a world-class facial from Paris' cult-favorite, celebrity esthetician.

Hotel Castille was perfect for us. A charming 4-star hotel with a boutique feel, it provides all the necessary amenities. While staying at The Ritz provides an immersive experience into France's lavish cultural legacy, the stylish-but-contemporary decor at Hotel Castille imparts a less extravagant — but more livable — Italian-inspired feel.

We were thrilled. Our top floor room offered a view of the Parisian rooftops, while in-room dining made it possible for us to snack while still sleeping off our jet-lag. Guest services brought up a dog bed and bowls for our furry "children," and we were able to truly relax for what seemed like the first time in months.

The next morning, our apartment was finally ready for move-in. We enjoyed a buffet-style breakfast, including what tasted like drip coffee (versus espresso, which you will find almost everywhere else in Paris). Checkout was a pleasant surprise at a price that — unlike that of the Ritz — was also much more "livable." 

Although we didn't sample many of Hotel Castille's amenities — including a fitness room and a restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef — the four of us (pups included) could not have been happier during our brief stay.

Note from David — We can offer Travel Leaders Select amenities at Hotel Castille.
  • Complimentary Full American Buffet breakfast for two daily
  • Early check-in and late check-out subject to availability 
  • Upgrade upon arrival subject to availability
  • $100 F&B voucher for the restaurant (not including minibar)
copyright (c) 2020 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.

1.21.2020

three reasons NOT to book this online rate...




Online bookings can be a big mistake, and this article will highlight one of the pitfalls of using expedia, hotels.com, or other online wholesalers. This information is based on a mock booking at the beautiful Park Hyatt Sydney — a one-night stay on 14FEB for the lead-in room. The screenshot above is from expedia.com, and the rate is displayed in US dollars.

It would be a mistake to book this rate online. Here are three reasons why...


Reason One — expedia's rate is non-refundable

Take a careful look at the small print at the top center of the screenshot, just above "Free WiFi," you'll see the words Non-Refundable. Click on the question mark icon, you'll find this explanation.




Reason Two — expedia's explanation is deceptive

"This specially discounted rate?" Expedia seems to justify the non-refundable rate with the claim that they're somehow saving you money ... but they're NOT.

The Hyatt website shows a rate $983 with tax included. Hotel rates in Australia always include tax, but Expedia is hiding the room tax. You won't know about it unless you click the "price details" link. Or until you book the room and learn that your card has been charged a non-refundable $983. (By the way, the rate on hyatt.com is refundable.)




Reason Three — you're missing out on an even better value

For the same $983 USD, you can book the same room through your Virtuoso travel advisor, make no prepayment, have the freedom to cancel up to 48 hours before arrival, and receive additional Virtuoso amenities that will definitely save you money.

  • Daily Full Breakfast for two per bedroom, served in The Dining Room
  • One way airport transfer in BMW 7 Series (includes tolls)
  • an upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Do you enjoy being your own travel agent and booking on the web? At least book through the Virtuoso website to score these amenities! This link will take you to the Park Hyatt Sydney page on Virtuoso.com. Fill in your dates, select a Virtuoso travel advisor, and take advantage of the best luxury value out there!

copyright (c) 2020 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.