Monday, October 31, 2011

The Perfect Local for Art Lovers in Shanghai

If art is your passion, then the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai, China is just the place for you. This historical hotel offers guests the architecture of the early 1900’s, mixed with the most cutting edge and stylish designs of today. Visitors to The Swatch Art Peace Hotel may attend a variety of exhibitions on the premises. The top floor of the building hosts the Shook! restaurant and a multimedia space that can be used for concerts, press conferences, movies and various other public and private events. From the roof terrace, guests can admire a panoramic view of The Bund and the spectacular sights of Pudong across the Huangpu River.

In addition to guest rooms, this hotel offers gifted artists from around the world, including China, a chance to live and work in studios in the Hotel for a four month period. Artists are chosen by the Selection Committee, includes Nicolas G. Hayek and Georges N. Hayek, Chairman and CEO of the Swatch Group; Esther Grether, Board Member of the Swatch Group; George Clooney, actor; François-Henri Pinault, CEO of PPR; Mikhail Kusnirovich, Chairman of the Strategic Development Committee of GUM; and Sir Francis Yeoh, Chairman, YTL Group.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Amazing Experiences in China: Dinner at the Summer Palace

This evening we had a truly amazing experience, dinner in Summer Palace in the Garden of Harmonious Pleasures. Our evening was hosted by Aman Resorts and their hotel is adjacent to the Summer Palace and truly spectacular in and of itself. This was an evening that will be with me for the rest of my life and one that I will look forward to planning for my own clients and groups.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Discovering the New China

Today we had the opening session of the Virtuoso’s Chairman’s Event in Beijing, China and it was a completely eye opening experience to me.  Our speakers included a government official from the Department of Tourism, Lijia Zhang, author of a book entitled Socialism is Great and David Ben Kay, who was a liaison for Microsoft located in China, who now has a company in the 798 Art District helping people outside China start businesses within China. They also had two college students speak about their lives growing up in China and how different they were from their parent’s lives.  Each person’s perspective was unique and it was truly enlightening for me both as a travel specialist and as an American.

To be completely honest, and I’m almost embarrassed to say this, prior to this meeting and prior to my trip to China, my perception of China had been somewhat warped by television and a lifetime of education on communism. Even though China was a destination full of culture and history, it was a country with a government with an agenda.   A country of people who ate anything that walked, crawled or flew and a destination with people who had little to say about their lives and their future.  A country with an agenda to take over the world, by continually loaning money, like a loan shark, who will eventually use that power to control everyone else’s destiny.  Although some of that may have been true in the past, I am quickly discovering that is not the case in China today nor with the citizens of China.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Sights of Xian, China

Most visitors arrive in Xian looking forward to seeing the Army of the Terracotta Warriors but soon discover that Xian has so much more to offer. As the former capital of China, the history is some of the finest and most interesting. From biking on the wall that surrounds Old Town, which is a about seven miles, to visiting The Great Mosque and market, Xian offers plenty to do and see. The key, I have found, is to work with a specialist who has connections, like Eastern Journeys. From moving past lines, to meeting the archeologists who are excavating the emporors tumb, every moment was truly special because of their expertise and connections.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Largay Travel's Journey To China via Air Canada

Today we journeyed from New York to Xian, China and although we traveled well over 20 hours, we feel relatively well thanks to Air Canada’s business class service. At a discounted rate of around $3,800, you can’t beat this bargain, especially when normal fares generally run $6,000 to $10,000. Our flight to Toronto was only one hour and our connection in the Toronto airport was efficient and comfortable. Air Canada’s Meet & Greet service gives guests a concierge escort thru the terminal and the Maple Leaf Lounge gives travelers with a longer connection a great place to rest. While on our flight to Beijing, we enjoyed gourmet food and comfortable lie flat beds. With a menu of movies, music and tv shows at our disposal, the flight passed quickly. We then arrived into Beijing, which is one of the world’s most spectacular airports. It’s stunning design, open air feel and convenient signage, make this a seamless part of out journey. Upon arrival in Xian there is a completely different feel, almost as if you have truly stepped into old world China. The city is much larger than I had anticipated and English is not as widely spoken. Our home away from home, the Shangri La Hotel is spectacular. With a traditional and elegant lobby and many dining choices, this hotel is a wonderful option for visitors to Xian. The gardens are definitely a highlight and surprise at this city hotel. Today we are off to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and the city of Xian. More to follow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Best Kept Secret in Shanghai

As a travel specialist, I am always in search of the most fun and unique experiences I can find. In Shanghai, China, I was able to find just that and it is called, Shanghai Sideways. With this tour, guests enjoy a two hour, four hour or full day tour of the city in a WWII motorcycle with sidecar. Of course the bike is driven by an experienced guide, however, each bike can take two passengers, one on the back and one in the sidecar. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Link Your United and Continental Mileage Accounts Today and Save Time Tomorrow

As a travel specialist, I just love to save people time and keep them informed on things in the industry.  Therefore, I am sending this quick note to remind you that you need to link your Continental OnePass number to you United Mileage Plus number, since these airlines have combined.  The new mileage program for the combined airlines will be called United MileagePlus, therefore the former Contintnal OnePass program will go away as of December 31st, 2011.  It will help to avoid issues, if you link the two accounts together now, while they are both valid.

Below you will find the instructions to link the two mileage accounts together into one account, which will be the New United MileagePlus program.  If you need assistance, you Largay Travel Specialist would be glad to assist and once again, save you time and create a seamless travel experience.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Tranquil California Escape on the Newport Coast

The Resort at Pelican hill in Newport Coast is about a 45 minute drive from Los Angeles International airport where I was earlier this month prior to my cruise on board the Crystal Symphony to the Mexican Riviera.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The New Gansevoort Hotel in Turks and Caicos Does Not Dissapoint

With so many beautiful islands in the Caribbean, it could be difficult to decide which one is my favorite, but in that search it’s easy to determine that Turks & Caicos Islands ranks at the top of my list. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a guest at the new Gansevoort Hotel on Grace Bay Beach in Provo, Turks & Caicos Islands and found the hotel and the island to have the perfect blend of activity, relaxation, and fun! With beautiful Grace Bay Beach stretching for miles, amazingly clear turquoise waters, and first-class resorts, there’s nothing more one can ask for in an island destination.

I had the pleasure of staying at the fabulous new Gansevoort Hotel, which is nothing short of spectacular! From the ‘street-side’ it’s an unimposing structure that might not strike someone as a luxury resort, but once inside you quickly get that ‘vibe’ and find out just how special it is. The hotel has a small reception area that leads out to a perfectly-positioned infinity edge pool with plenty of ‘cozy’ loungers. The 91 suites are in 3 buildings that surround the pool, and the design throughout the resort and the units is “ultra-chic” and modern. What I thought was one of the nicest features of my one bedroom suite (and there were MANY!) were the full glass-panel walls of the full-size balcony, which allows for a fully unobstructed oceanview from both the bedroom and living room areas of the unit. Of course the suite was filled with great gadgets (Bose Soundock, electronic controls for window blinds, modern appliances and fixtures, 2 flat-screen TV’s), wonderful amenities, and a soaking tub in the bathroom that fills from a faucet/hole in the ceiling!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cruise to the Unknown with Exciting Expeditions on Silversea Cruises

Paul Largay sat down with Silversea Cruises VP of Sales, Steve Tucker, to talk about Silversea Expeditions voyages on the Silver Explorer.  This ship offers cruises to Antarctica and the Arctic Region, as well as many other wonderful destinations.  Cruises are exciting and adventurous, while maintaining the luxury and comfort that Silversea Cruises is known for.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All Things Considered, How I Choose the Best Active Vacation

Each time I consider taking an active vacation there are some immediate questions and concerns that surface prior to taking the trip itself such as; have I chosen the right company, have I chosen the correct trip for me with regards to activity levels, geographic venues, style and levels of hotels, what will my group of fellow travelers/ adventures be like and, most important of all, HOW GOOD WILL THE TOUR DIRECTORS/GUIDES BE!!!

Prior to ultimately selecting the Backroads Canadian Rockies biking trip, I spent considerable time seeking answers to all my aforementioned questions.

I knew I wanted a physically challenging program that had multiple options for both longer & shorter days on the bike. I wanted (4-5) star hotel properties. I wanted nightly fine wine & dining opportunities. I wanted less travelled country roads. I wanted magnificent scenery and authentic wildlife encounters. I wanted moderate temperatures conducive to long days on the saddle. I guess you could say, like most folks, I essentially wanted it all!

And, Backroads and the National Parks of Canada didn’t disappoint and delivered it in style.

                                                Reenie & Paul Enjoying Calgary

For six days we were treated to a buffet and endless stream of brilliant blue skies, iridescent, jewel-like lakes, majestic, craggy faced and relentless mountain peaks. Abundant wildlife like big horn sheep, elk, black bear, and yes even a mother grizzly bear! (YIKES!) They seemed to magically and strategically await us around each bend in the road.

The challenges of the daily distance and considerable elevation gains were a test of our collective wills, but whose attainment always offered the reward of a magnificent, scenic, visual dessert.

The guides were all incredibly energetic (they had no choice with all these ‘type A’ personalities) knowledgeable, personable, and unilaterally available. They somehow innately understood & catered to the uniqueness of each participant and, in certain select instances, when somebody climbing a mountain pass ‘ran outta gas‘ , provided a seamless ‘lift‘ to the top where they eventually toasted & celebrated our arrival.

The hotels were all ‘best in show’ in there respective locals. The service, accommodations, & cuisine at the Post Hotel was in a category second to none and would rival ANY US/European ‘best of the best’ property.

Because of our desire to be situated in a very remote wilderness environment, everyone understood that on certain nights the level of accommodations would be adequate but NOT exceptional.On those particular nights the level of service, food , charm ,and dinner conversation offered by the inn keeper and his staff more than compensated us for the utilitarian accommodations.

What a privilege it was to bike & physically experience this hidden gem, pristine and well preserved wilderness area. This experience, like the endless rewarding scenery & wildlife of Calgary, will provide lifelong memories for all fortunate enough to have participated!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's Not What You Know...It's Who You Know

In the world of travel the difference between a travel agent and a travel specialist is that with a travel specialist, it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know……so visiting destinations and participating in training with experts from around the globe is a must.  This past week Brittany from Rebecca Recommends, a collection of luxury hotels and services in the United Kingdom, visited the office to enlighten the advisers on the many amazing possibilities available for our clients.  Experiences that you simple can not just google, experiences you can only get if you know the right people.

One of the amazing experiences is the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London.  This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime and one that the Largay Specialists have arranged for our clients.

Enjoy this short clip about this and other amazing experiences with Brittany from Rebecca Recommends and Largay Travel President, Paul Largay, also known as Dr. Travel.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Becoming Royalty in the Berkshires

Last weekend I had the privilege of taking a quick trip north to the quaint town of Lenox, Massachusetts where I discovered on of the true gems of New England, Blantyre. Just 120 miles West of Boston and 138 miles from New York, this magnificent 110 acre Tudor-style mansion is sure to amaze even the most discerning travelers. The overall experience could best be described as ‘ Royal family-esque’.. after all, where else are you greeted upon arrival by a smiling ‘attendant/ escort’ dressed in a stylish tux and wearing a perpetual smile the size of a full moon.

The pre-dinner presentation and reception in the main hall was a wonderful introduction and precursor into what was to come. Both with respect to the service standards and cuisine, the ever present, yet non-invasive service, thoughtfully and artfully presented our dining/consumption choices and subsequently delivered them with the artistry of a ballroom waltz and the accuracy of a Swiss made time piece. Our private dining venue, (3) course gourmet dinner, and the vintage, precisely and thoughtfully paired wines made for a remarkable, memorable dining experience. Our room in the main house was both spacious and ‘historically and cosmetically appropriate’ for a facility constructed in 1904. An exquisite breakfast was served in what could best be described as a quintessential conservatory replete with fine table linens, china, and glassware (if any of the water glasses are missing, look no farther ..we took em!) that made me want to delay our departure indefinitely . The head waiter was efficient, sophisticated (as the French always seem to be!) and an engaging conversationalist.

I think the grounds and floral gardens are a reflection and extension of the attention to detail so evident within the facilities themselves. The spa was intimate and inviting and the gym properly and appropriately outfitted.

Unfortunately for me, but fortunate (and understandable) for Blantyre, the property was sold out so we were not able to see the interiors of the other accommodations but I feel confident that each was just as wonderful as ours. The one exception being the duplex suites in the spa building..candidly I would not book any of those accommodations for my clients as they are just a bit too abstract in their design and configuration..the staircase leading up to the somewhat claustrophobic sleeping area would NOT ring my clients bell..sorry but I fee I must report what I see..

So, in conclusion from the precious jewels in the Blantyre crown that I was able to see and experience my opinion is it is a wonderful (2) day country getaway venue for discriminating clients interested in a historic venue, complemented by a world class culinary and wine experience. The surrounding towns, villages, and recreational and cultural menu of activities only add to the ‘floral lure of Blantyre !!

Unfortunately after a few days back I have begrudgingly surrendered my virtual crown.. and am now back at the professional salt mine of life.. Calgon take me away again..pretty please !?:)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Secrets of Viking River Cruises

The travel specialists of Largay Travel are always in search of the most unique and wonderful experiences and when it comes to river cruising, Viking River Cruises is the world leader.  So when an invitation came to enjoy a river cruise along the Connecticut River on the Lady Katherine while learning about Viking River Cruises, they just couldn’t say no.

Largay Travel Specialists attend a Viking River Cruise Seminar

Monday, January 24, 2011

Journey to the Galapagos ~ It’s closer than you think

For years I have dreamed of visiting the Galapagos Islands but time had always kept me away. I felt that it was just too far to go for a weeks vacation. I have now discovered just how wrong I was.