Posts Tagged ‘LUXURY TRAVEL’

ESCAPESEEKER Team Discovers the Vast Seemingly Endless Richness of Australia

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

18953535_10154742822112711_1961532902770320287_o (1)Indian Pacific panorama captured by passenger, Ian Quatermass

BY TRAIN, BY PLANE, BY BOATS, OR ANYTHING THAT FLOATS; ON FOOT, ON WHEELS, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, MY ESCAPESEEKER ADVANCE RESEARCH TEAM ENTHUSIASTICALLY SAID ‘YES’ TO EVERY EPIC ADVENTURE!

My indefatigable “Astonishing Australia” Advance Research Team is comprised of yours truly, ESCAPESEEKER series scriptwriter/photojournalist/Executive Producer; Roy A. Henderson, Executive Producer/Pilot/Aerial Photographer; Jim Jones, Stills Photographer and Program Advisory Team Member; Peg Whisler Jones, iPhone photog specialist/emphasis-social media [Team, Thank you for making every assignment a joyful experience.]
Qantas, Australia's flagship airline--you'll feel that signature Aussie hospitality the minute you board.

Qantas, Australia’s flagship airline–you’ll feel that undeniable Aussie hospitality the minute you board.

We embarked on our Sailaway Sunset Sail at Port Douglas, Queensland, and the goosebumps begin the minute you realize, I'm headed to the Great Barrier Reef!

We embarked on our Sailaway Sunset Sail at Port Douglas, Queensland, and the goosebumps begin the minute you realize, I’m headed to the iconic Great Barrier Reef (on the World Heritage List).

We said goodbye to the big city life and stepped back in time when riverboat trade only happened along the Murray River when this beautiful 'Princess' moved between small town ports.

We said goodbye to the big city life and stepped back in time when riverboat trade only happened along the Murray River when this beautiful ‘Princess’ moved between small town ports.

Watching the sun rise slowly peek through the mountain tops as we sailed high above the fertile Mareeba Valley with Hot Air Balloon Cairns made the 3:55 a.m. pick up time absolutely worth it!

Watching the sun rise slowly peek through the mountain tops as we sailed high above the fertile Mareeba Valley with Hot Air Balloon Cairns made the rather painful 3:55 a.m. pick up time absolutely worth it!

They should rename the "Raging Thunder Adventures" "Raging Laughter Adventures" because that's exactly what our footage from our white water rafting trip on the Barron River sounded like! I would do it again in a heartbeat

They should rename the “Raging Thunder Adventures” “Raging Laughter Adventures” because that’s exactly what our footage from our white water rafting trip on the Barron River sounded like! I would do it again in a heartbeat

Keeping Rottness Island Green requires you explore with a darling electric car, or on foot, or our favorite form--a bicycle!

Keeping Rottness Island Green requires we explore with a darling electric car, or on foot, or our favorite form–a bicycle!

How can we not accept the challenge to climb the iconic landmark, Sydney Harbor Bridge? If you're looking for a true HIGH--this is an absolute must do! #bestviewofyourlife

How can we not accept the challenge to climb the iconic landmark, Sydney Harbor Bridge? If you’re looking for a true HIGH–this is an absolute must do! #bestviewofyourlife

When your hear "Australia" you immediately think, "Kangaroo" right? So, of course we decide to begin our epic Advance Research assignment on Australia's southern KANGAROO ISLAND with Nikki Redman, the island's legendary native guide!  The minute we met her, we knew we were in for a brilliant experience!

When your hear “Australia” you immediately think, “Kangaroo” right? So, of course we decide to begin our epic Advance Research assignment on Australia’s southern KANGAROO ISLAND with Nikki Redman, the island’s legendary native guide! The minute we met her, we knew we were in for a brilliant experience!

Los Angeles, California ~ Ok, I have a confession.  After being in Australia for nearly a month, I’m definitely showing signs of Aussie withdrawal symptoms.  No more morning greeting with “How you goin’?”

No daily infusion of non-stop wit from our many, many, coast to coast, Australian guides who make you beg to ask, “How in the world did you all get to be so much fun?” Their general reply, “We’ve just learned not to take ourselves too seriously!” But seriously, what I’m about to recap for you in the next five minutes of some interesting travel reading (I hope)–is one of the most enjoyable, enriching, and exciting ESCAPESEEKER assignments we have ever undertaken.  So let me not waste any more of your precious seconds, and begin to articulate WHY AUSTRALIA IS ABSOLUTELY WORTH GOING THE DISTANCE (especially for North Americans).

First stop:  Hello Kangaroo Island

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After being transported by the SeaLink coach from Adelaide to Cape Jervis through the Fleurieu Peninsula, about 1.30 hours scenic drive, we arrived at the Ferry Terminal, proceeded to check-in, and shortly thereafter boarded the SeaLink Ferry for the 45-minute crossing to Kangaroo Island.  Upon arrival we were met by Kangaroo Island native, and seasoned guide, Nikki Redman, holding up our beautiful frequent sight–the ESCAPESEEKER welcome sign!

After the usual intros, we set off on our first day of Kangaroo Island Odysseys‘ exploration on board a super roomie, luxurious Mercedes 4-wheel drive vehicle, which we would soon discover Nikki handled with total ease as she multi-tasked:  talking in her melodic Aussie accent as she briefed us on everything we ever wanted to know about Kangaroo Island–including all those interesting facts only local insiders know; driving confidently no matter the road conditions as some of the roads are unsealed, and extra care must be taken; and Nikki has this amazing ability to spot wildlife, no matter where they’re hiding–and sometimes, this is while she’s navigating enthusiastically behind the wheel!

Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third-largest island, is 155 km (96 miles long and 55 km (34 miles wide. Located 16 km (10 miles) off the Fleurie Peninsula, the island was the site of South Australia’s first official colonial settlement, established at Reeves Point in 1836. However, the settlement was short-lived, and within just four years had been virtually abandoned. The island was then settled during the remainder of the 19th century as communications improved with the new mainland settlements.

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 Travel Alert: There is no public transport on Kangaroo Island

Visitors must travel on a tour or by car. If you really prefer to focus on having the best wildlife sightings, I highly recommend going the tour route, and if you can, do as my team and I did, and booking a private tour guide.  One outstanding perk with your private tour guide–Nikki prepared some amazing meals for us during our time with her, so delicious we would almost forget that we are actually on a specific work assignment to find the interesting facts, experiences that will fill a future 27-minute episode for our special transcontinental coverage of ESCAPESEEKER: Astonishing Australia.

We've never met a guide who can multi-task like Nikki--talk about #wonderwoman!

I can tell you this in advance–Kangaroo Island doesn’t lack program content.  I can’t share everything we learned, or else you would not have any further reasons to watch the Kangaroo Island episode starring our brilliant, exceptionally fun, and witty guide, Nikki Redman.  But here’s a little teaser you might not already know:  Are you aware that Kangaroo Island is home to well over a million Tammar wallabies? Or that female wallabies actually put their pregnancies on hold if conditions aren’t suitable for the baby joey to be born?

Our first wildlife sighting shortly after arriving at Kangaroo Island: #wondrouswallaby (I couldn't resist the hashtag and alliteration) The name "wallaby" comes from Dharug 'walabi' or 'waliba'.  Young wallabies are known as "joeys", like many other marsupials. Adult male wallabies are referred to as bucks, boomers, or jacks. An adult female wallaby is known as a doe, flyer, or jill.  A group of wallabies is called a court, mob, or troupe. [Moment captured by ESCAPESEEKER photog, Jim Jones]

Our first wildlife sighting shortly after arriving at Kangaroo Island: #wondrouswallaby (I just couldn’t resist the hashtag and alliteration) The name “wallaby” comes from Dharug ‘walabi’ or ‘waliba’. Young wallabies are known as “joeys”, like many other marsupials. Adult male wallabies are referred to as bucks, boomers, or jacks. An adult female wallaby is known as a doe, flyer, or jill. A group of wallabies is called a court, mob, or troupe. [Photocred: Jim Jones]

Did you also know that the sea lions on Kangaroo Island make the 120 kilometre return journey to the continental shelf looking for food every six days, themselves risking becoming food for hungry Great White Sharks and Orcas?

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Our guide knew so much about Kangaroo Island’s flora and fauna that when Nikki described them in great detail, it was already  like watching a Nature segment on PBS!  The more we discovered about Kangaroo Island’s unique wildlife, and indigenous plants, as well as its stunning geography, also carved out by the forces of Nature–wind, rain, and sea–the more inspired we are to capture the endless beauty of this incredibly pristine, revered island.  It is Australia’s own version of the Galapagos in all its wondrous glory. From Koalas napping peacefully on their native tree branch,  to silhouettes of kangaroos grazing across the meadow at sunset, to pristine beaches that caress a vast panorama of the deep blue Southern Ocean, our multi-Emmy-award winning cinematographer, Evan Zissimopulos is surely going to think he died and went to heaven!

Kangaroo Island has always fascinated me ever since my eldest daughter, Joanna Gee who at 15 was awarded “Science Student of the Year” at her High School and subsequently selected to be part of the People to People International Student Travel Program. Joanna chose to travel to Kangaroo Island to study Marine Biology.  Joanna even made sure she was scuba-certified by her departure date, even if it meant passing her open dives in the frigid winter waters of Flaming Gorge in Utah! Well, fast forward, today Joanna is a Financial Analyst for a major tech company, but to this day, she has never forgotten her amazing time at Kangaroo Island. “Mom, t’s a haven for wildlife.  The air is fresher, the skies are bluer, and the Aussies are just the nicest people on earth.”  On that note, how can I not include Kangaroo Island on our epic #astonishingaustralia special series? Consider it done, Joanna! Thank you for inspiring me all those years ago.  What took me so long?

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 Second Stop:  Alluring Adelaide:  Artistry by Design

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Once our Kangaroo Island Odysseys adventure was completed, we returned to the mainland via SeaLink Ferry, and once again picked up by SeaLink coach and guest by guest returned to our respective Adelaide hotel.

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Our choice–the redesigned, and meticulously preserved,  luxurious 5-star Mayfair Hotel. 

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Wait until you sink your tired body  into their luxuriously famous king size bed after a long day of exploration.  We’ve never felt anything like it, and we understand the beds are manufactured right in Adelaide. Honestly, I slept like a baby!

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Adelaide’s abuzz about The Hennessy, Mayfair Hotel’s hottest Rooftop Bar.

Why visit Adelaide?

Adelaide, the state capital of the Southeast region is rich with pine forests; world-class wineries in its surrounding hills that are dotted with fertile vineyards from the Barossa Valley to McLaren Vale; to the east, the great Murray River meanders from the Victoria border down to the Southern Ocean (more on that later), and the topping on the cake for beach lovers like me–Adelaide boasts a spectacular coastline including the popular white sandy beaches of Gulf St. Vincent.

Did you know no convicts were transported here?

Home to Aborigines for more than 10,000 years, the region was settled by Europeans in 1836 when Governor John Hindmarsh proclaimed the area a British colony. William Light, the Surveyor General, chose the site of the city of Adelaide.  The settlement was based on a theory of free colonization funded solely by land sales, and no convicts were transported here.  Adelaide was carefully planned by Colonel Light with its ordered grid pattern, anchored by pretty squares and gardens, the city is surrounded by luscious green parkland.

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Beyond the well-designed public parklands, one of the vivid character traits Adelaide possesses which visitors quickly note upon arrival is the abundance of architectural wonders.  The city is like a blank canvas for modern architects, and what they’ve designed and engineered is pretty amazing!  Here are just a few total stand-outs: [L to R]  UoA Adelaide Medical & Nursing School;  South Australian Health and Medical Institute, (SAHMI, also nicknamed “The Grater”)  [Bottom L] Rundle Mall

The State Capital, Adelaide is a brilliant,  living Architectural Museum!

The State Capital, Adelaide is a brilliant, living Architectural Museum!

The city reflects the residents forward thinking attitude, as well as their youthful approach to maintaining a high quality of life–and that means living well, eating healthy, staying fit, and taking the time to smell the roses. And, there’s no better place to get a whiff of the floral varieties than at the spectacular glasshouse at Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

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Nothing fuels our appetites than a full day of exploration. We love knowing our Mayfair Hotel boasts one of Adelaide’s most highly-regarded culinary artist–Chef Bethany Finn at The Mayflower Restaurant and Bar.

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A fun insider info–Chef Bethany nurtures her very own Beehives on the Rooftop of the Mayfair Hotel, which produces the most exquisite honey I’ve ever tasted. Perhaps it’s because these bees reside in luxury?  Chef Bethany finds numerous tasty ways to  brilliantly weave her freshly harvested, purest honey into both the Bar’s signature drinks,  and the mouth-watering recipes she prepares at the Mayflower Restaurant! Livin’ is definitely sweeter at the Mayfair.  And, less you forget, when the day is over we also get to sink ourselves into one of the Mayfair‘s  heavenly beds! #tia: #ThisIsAustralia. Hospitality Extraordinaire!

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Goodnight.  Please stay tuned for more amazing adventure updates as we report on:

> Southern Australia’s food and wine connoisseur’s mecca–the fertile hillsides, vineyard-dotted,  Barossa Valley–an easy hour’s drive from Adelaide;

> the many things we learned from our pleasantly soothing River Cruise on board the p/s  Murray Princess.

> our unforgettable, adventure-filled week in Queensland at Thala Beach Nature Reserve and the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia’s greatest treasure;

> our epic Great Southern Rail transcontinental journey on the Indian Pacific “Platinum Service” across the Great Outback, from Sydney to Perth;

> our wildly pristine surprise at Rottnest Island;

> and, Perth Perfect is exactly that–Perfect!  Take a sunset cruise on board Captain Cook Cruises, and you’ll understand what I mean.

> And, less I forget, our beautiful stay in the most envied postcard-perfect Harbour capital in the world–Splendid Sydney!

If you’re starting to think Australia just might have it all, may I simply say you could well be on the right track indeed. This may also explain the very reason visitors have been known to arrive in Australia and never leave!

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In the interim, here’s to Blissful, Endless Escapes…and, remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know.

With love,

Mel, THE ESCAPESEEKER

 

BREAKING NEWS: ESCAPESEEKER “ECUADOR UNEQUALED” EPIC SEASON PROMO UNVEILED

Monday, May 1st, 2017

ESCAPESEEKER POST PRODUCTION  ~ They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Accordingly,  moving pictures must then be worth a thousand stories right? My amazing ESCAPESEEKER film team and I are thrilled  to share the following first look at our Ecuador Unequaled promo, which I am confident will help illustrate how we capture each destination’s unique stories. As the ESCAPESEEKER series’ writer and host, I’m a firm believer that the stories are best told by the actual inhabitants–joyful, kind-hearted, generous, engaging–we seek out those  who know best, and who proudly cherish their native land.

The Amazon grabs at your heart and never lets go. Our authentic Amazon experience during our stay at  La Selva Amazon Eco-Lodge & Spa is something we will always cherish.

The Amazon grabs at your heart and never lets go. Our authentic Amazon experience during our stay at La Selva Amazon Eco-Lodge & Spa is something we will always cherish.

#intheirownwords…

I continually strive to utilize my interviewing skills a seasoned global journalist to present the right questions and allow our featured native “stars” to speak straight from their heart. Combined with my passion-driven,  Emmy award-winning team’s photographic talents and artistry, I hope you’ll agree after viewing the promo that we achieved our lofty objective! We’ll keep you updated as to the exact broadcast dates and times of our brand new ESCAPESEEKER 2017 PBS Fall Season launch as soon as it becomes available.  In the meantime, dream…and we hope you too, will be inspired to explore and discover this enticing, unequaled country we call ECUADOR!  There’s no other place in the world that can compare.

We wish to express our gratitude to all of our many Ecuadorian newfound friends who opened your doors to us, welcomed us warmly, and granted us an honest and rare insider’s glimpse into your extraordinary, inspiring lives.

#musicistheuniversallanguage: We had the privilege of witnessing the most fabulous evening immersed in beautiful Ecuadorian folk music at MISQUILLA with its Founder, Juan Fernando Velasco, Latin Grammy Nominated artist, who also featured his gifted Ecuadorian talents. #ittakesavillagetoproduceESCAPESEEKER

#musicistheuniversallanguage: We had the privilege of witnessing the most fabulous evening immersed in beautiful Ecuadorian folk music at MISQUILLA with its Founder, Juan Fernando Velasco, Latin Grammy Nominated Artist, who also featured his gifted, fellow-Ecuadorian talents. #ittakesavillagetoproduceESCAPESEEKER

#envision. #explore. #embrace.

For a country its size, Ecuador offers an incredible list of #unequaledexperiences.  With its Andean peaks, Amazon rainforest, indigenous markets, colonial towns–not to mention one of the most famous chains of volcanic islands in the world, inhabited by fascinating wildlife, some of which are found only in the Galapagos!

The Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center, a long-term program run jointly by the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Charles Darwin Foundation, began in 1965 to save the giant tortoise population on Pinzón. It was quickly expanded to include other populations, in particular that of Española where only 14 individuals remained. As of 2008, more than 4,000 young tortoises from eight different populations have been repatriated to their island of origin, with nearly 1,500 going back to Española.

The Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center, a long-term program run jointly by the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Charles Darwin Foundation, began in 1965 to save the giant tortoise population on Pinzón. It was quickly expanded to include other populations, in particular that of Española where only 14 individuals remained. As of 2008, more than 4,000 young tortoises from eight different populations have been repatriated to their island of origin, with nearly 1,500 going back to Española.

 

 

Charles Darwin described them as "hideous-looking" and "most disgusting, clumsy lizards." It's true, they're not pretty, with their wide-set eyes, smashed-in faces, spiky dorsal scales, and knotty, salt-encrusted heads. But what these unusual creatures lack in looks they make up for with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations. Wait until you see the fascinating footage we captured! I personally think 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'--do you agree?

Charles Darwin described them as “hideous-looking” and “most disgusting, clumsy lizards.”
It’s true, some may say decide they’re not pretty, with their wide-set eyes, smashed-in faces, spiky dorsal scales, and knotty, salt-encrusted heads. But what these unusual creatures lack in looks they make up for with their amazing and unique ecological adaptations. Wait until you see the fascinating footage we captured! I personally think ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’–do you agree?

We feel it an absolute privilege to share Ecuador’s unique character, soulful heart, and unequaled beauty with the rest of the world. We could not have done it without your invaluable and generous support. On behalf of my entire ESCAPESEEKER team, Muchas Gracias!

Our destinations featured:

Quito:  Casa Gangotena, [casagangotena.com] with music segment at Misquilla, [www.misquilla.com]

The High Andes’ Rainforest: Mashpi Lodge [www.mashpi.com]

The Ecuadorian Amazon: La Selva Amazon Eco-Lodge & Spa [www.laselvajunglelodge.com]

The Galapagos Islands: Haugan Cruises’ catamaran, “Petrel” [www.haugancruises.com]

Our heartfelt Thank you also to our brilliant, indefatigable ESCAPESEEKER Ecuador Unequaled “Guest Talents” who fuel our innate wanderlust and beautifully manifest their insatiable passion for travel:

#thewindbeneathmywings:  Evan Zissimopulos, Jacob Voelzke, Roy Henderson, John Hempellman, Mary McGill, Dawn Adams, J. Dann Adams, Marjorie MacArthur, Tom Whittier, Christine Hedges, [Not pictured: Mimmie Byrne, Byrne, Melody Clyde]

#thewindbeneathmywings: Evan Zissimopulos, Jacob Voelzke, Roy Henderson, John Hempellman, Mary McGill, Dawn Adams, J. Dann Adams, Marjorie MacArthur, Tom Whittier, Christine Hedges, [Not pictured: Mimmie Byrne, Byrne, Melody Clyde]

Interested in joining our amazing team? FYI…Our #1 Rule we require all to adhere–You must take off your [American] lenses and see, feel, taste, embrace the country respectfully through the eyes of the natives.

Would you like more details or have questions regarding our #ecuadorunequaled adventure?

 

Feel free to write me at:  escapeseeker@gmail.com or let’s chat via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ESCAPESEEKER-367501815104/

I would love to hear from you!

Here’s to Blissful, Endless ESCAPES…

And, remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know,

Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER

Saying Goodbye to Ecuador with a heart full of #gratitude #unequaled...

Saying Adios to Ecuador with a heart full of #gratitude #unequaled…

 

 

#tremendoustuesdaytip: ROBERT Restaurant NYC ~ Delicious and Inspiring!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

robertColumbus Circle, NYC ~ I have a new favorite restaurant, thanks to my dear friend, Marlon Corvera, Jeffrey Rüdes’ world-renowned “Style Advisor to the Stars” who clearly has the talents and palate for discovering NYC’s finest Chefs too! Marlon and I serve on the Steering Committee for the 2016 United Nations Ambassadors’ Ball and he has taken on the task of making sure we are able to multi-task during his rare vacant time slots on his incredibly packed schedule. The result–we dine at establishments that are also engaged in our highly-anticipated charity event–while we meet with some of NYC’s finest talents too.  Yes, Marlon leads the way in the “art of time management” and that leads me to today’s “delicious and inspiring” story.  The gathering place — Robert restaurant on Columbus Circle.  The cast–Marlon Corvera, Luz Thoron MacArthur [Chair, 2016 United Nations Ambassadors’ Ball]; Inga Ramos, Lanvin Paris Store Director; Ana Harris, Robert NYC; and its star Executive Chef Luísa Fernandes! Oh, less I forget, yes, the ESCAPESEEKER is present too, this time I’m serving as Chair of the Steering Committee as noted above, and Vice-Chairman of the 2016 United Nations Ambassadors’ Ball.  I also serve on the Advisory Council of the  Hospitality Committee for United Nations Delegations [HCUND] under whose umbrella the entire orchestration of the Ball is conducted.  Yes, it’s a lot of hats for one person.  But then again, why not wear three hats when you’re in NYC where there are so many, many talented individuals from which to draw outstanding ideas and continuous inspiration.  And, #inspiration is exactly what I derived from speaking to Executive Chef Luísa Fernandes.

In Pursuit of her Passion:  An Extraordinary Journey

You may recognize Portuguese Chef Luísa Fernandes on the Food Network’s Chopped episode back in November, 2009, where viewers  were instantly enamored by the passion and love the joyful Chef Luísa puts into the three dishes each contestant was required to prepare. Chef Luísa’s innovative cooking skills and calm, confident demeanor earned her the day’s top prize of $10,000.

Chef Luisa Fernandes

”I think that the victory is not mine, but all of ours [Portugal’s], because I’m Portuguese and proud when people recognize our cuisine. That’s why I will never enter another contest unless I can cook the cuisine from our country” said Luisa, during the post interview. One year later, on September 14, 2010 she returned as one of the four contestants of Chopped Champions.

Today, I had the privilege of learning more from Chef Luisa; there is definitely more to this talented Portuguese Chef than just winning Chopped. She is an inspiration to women everywhere, including this ESCAPESEEKER!

Be Willing to Re-Write Your Life’s Script

Chef Luísa was born in Monte Real, Leiria, Portugal. For the first 30 years of her career, she was an orthopedic surgery assistant nurse in which two of those years, she served as a parachute nurse. Luisa traveled throughout Europe, Malta, Morocco, Canada, Mexico, Sudan and Rwanda where she learned many cooking techniques from these cultures. With her passion for cooking she followed her dream and opened her own restaurant called Tachos de São Bento in Lisbon, Portugal. The restaurant proved a big hit with the locals, which included influential politicians. Restaurant consulting opportunities quickly followed, as well as television appearances. Luísa and her restaurant were featured in French Elle magazine.

Portuguese-Dinner1Although Luísa was enjoying her success in Portugal, in 2003 she decided to pursue her dream of moving to New York City. When she arrived at Kennedy Airport, not knowing any English, and without any job prospects she thought to herself, “If I find a job working in a restaurant I’ll stay in New York. If not, then I’ll spend three weeks vacationing in NY, then return home.”

Six days later, she landed a job at the Portuguese restaurant Alfama. Two years later she moved on to Galitos Restuarant in Mount Vernon NY. In August 2005 Westchester Magazine named her as one of the “The Top 10 Best Chefs” of Westchester, NY.

Luísa’s ambition is evident in her extensive resume which includes working as pastry chef at the United Nations, many New York restaurants such as Park Blue, Tintol, Georgia’s Cafe, Bairrada Restaurant, Nomad, and at Best Chocolate Cake In the World. She has hosted several events at Jame Bear, Cordon Bleu Institute (Boston), William Sonoma, New York Volunteer of America and Portugal Day in Central park. She was a private chef for pearl and jewelry mogul, Salvador Assael. She has also catered private parties for celebrities i.e., Johnny Dep, and for Portuguese government entities. Chef Luísa has been featured in numerous publications including the the New York Times, Diners Journal, Plate Magazine, Specialty Food Magazine, Luso Americano, Jornal Expresso, Mundo Português, Jornal de Economia, and Ionline.

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the-fantastic-vewChef Luísa continues her successful journey in the highly competitive, world-class culinary universe as Executive Chef of NYC’s popular gathering place, Robert restaurant atop The Museum of Arts and Design [MAD] on Columbus Circle.

The restaurant offers diners spectacular views of Central Park, Broadway, Central Park West and Columbus Circle while savoring the delectable, mouth-watering creations of Chef Luísa. I like to call it, “Inspired Dining!” Bon appetit or as the Portuguese would say, “Bom apetite! Vamos comer!”

If you’re looking for an inspiring gathering place with a spectacular view of one of the most iconic “cityscapes” in the world, I highly recommend you book a table, or the entire restaurant for your next unforgettable celebration.  Even regular business meetings and event planning like ours become a celebration with Chef Luísa at Robert restaurant! www.robertnyc.com

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 There’s Nothing Ordinary About Dining at Robert

[pictured: ESCAPESEEKER, Marlon Corvera, Inga Ramos, Chef Luísa, and Luz Thoron MacArthur]

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A special Thank you Marlon Corvera [center] for orchestrating yet another unforgettable and productive luncheon gathering.  Thank you Anna Harris [left] for the exquisite VIP welcome. And, Thank you Inga Ramos [right] for your most generous surprise! I’m finding time and time again that New York City residents sure know how to treat their guests! How am I ever going to leave this magnificent city? Maybe I should just follow Chef Luísa’s example and become a New Yorker?

Here’s to inspiring women living extraordinary lives!

Yours truly,

Mel Gee Henderson aka The ESCAPESEEKER

Background Story Resource Cred:  Tia Maria, Portugal

 

A LUXURIOUS FLOATING HOTEL + BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPES + ENGAGING NEW FRIENDS = AMAWATERWAYS’ AMAPRIMA RIVER CRUISE

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Spring has sprung.  And, nowhere is this more evident than in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Amsterdam, here we come!

With select images by Jim Jones…

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Peg Whisler Jones, and yours truly, the ESCAPESEEKER

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 Introducing my ESCAPESEEKER Team to the Art of River Cruising

Amsterdam, here we come!Amsterdam, Netherlands ~ Ok, I have a confession:  I’ve always been hesitant to go on a river cruise because I’ve had the conception that I would be stuck on a boat for seven days or more with senior cruisers, so senior that they would not be up for doing  much of anything.  And, the last thing I need right now is to be reminded of how old, I too,  am becoming!  Well, WOW!  Was my conception a total MISconception! What I discovered and experienced has changed my view of River Cruising forever.

A bit of background: My ESCAPESEEKER Advisory Team

Three of my ESCAPESEEKER travel companions are members of my TV Program Advisory Team.  They’re seasoned global travelers.  And, they’re fearless, ready and eager to experience the very best in travel.  Based on the activities we continually engage in–climbing mountains, white-water rafting, canoeing in the Amazon, scuba-diving in French Polynesia–you may never guess from our adventurous behavior that two of us are in our early 60’s, while the other two are in the prime of their seventh decade!  And, the main trait we all share–we’re passionate about travel and the people who reside with us on this majestic planet! Oh yes, one more common trait–we have all managed to raise one huge family (each).

 

Our Big Family965582_10202540215885388_1749892738_o So when we’re not engaged in our extensive grand-parenting duties, we are conducting our ESCAPESEEKER advance research, and yes, the destination and experiences need to be simply amazing to make our time away from our families worth every second.

 In figuring out which of the plethora of river cruising options we wanted to try, one in particular stood out from all the rest:  AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima Tulip Cruise! After all it’s Spring time and we were advised everything is blooming in the Kingdom of the Netherlands!

AMAPrima Entrance

Why AmaWaterways?  It’s more than just about the destination–AmaWaterways is all about the complete journey.

We landed at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol around 8:30 a.m. and I have to say Schiphol is about the easiest airport to navigate. We were in the city being treated to a wonderful “Welcome ESCAPESEEKER breakfast” at the Hoofstad Brasserie overlooking the Amstel River, and located in the historic De L’Europe Amsterdam [http://www.deleurope.com/the “Grand Dame” of luxury hotels in Amsterdam by 10 a.m.  I highly recommend their delectable Spinach Eggs Benedict!

Hotel De L'Europe

Dutch Masters Wing - Junior Suite 2We had reserved two Junior Suites for the day, complete with a 6 pm late check-out in case we should need the extra time exploring the city before joining the AmaPrima later that same afternoon.  It proved to be exactly what we needed to fuel up, freshen up, and get rid of any signs of jet lag.  The city beckoned us, and we quickly acquiesced!

There’s nothing like walking and getting up close and personal to quickly orient yourself to the rhythm of the city.

 

AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima…River vessels are not created equal

AMAPrima Jim

Inspired by classic ocean yachts, the AmaPrima strives to provide the most distinctive river cruise experience. As you board, the magnificent glass elevator will catch your eye, hinting of the unique design elements you’ll continue to discover onboard. Being the lover of a well sunlit rooms, I was delighted to see our cabin had their exclusive “Twin Balconies” to allow for more private, friendly-viewing of the Netherland’s gorgeous landscapes. By the way, I soon discovered that certain ports required us to be tied to another commercial river boat.  What an outstanding way to get a sneak peak of the competition, and I noted, we on the AmaPrima were the only ones who can relax in a heated Sun Deck swimming pool with a “swim-up” bar after our energizing bike rides–yes, AmaWaterways provides a fleet of bicycles for guests to enjoy–free of charge!  Our ship also featured a Fitness Center, Massage, Hair and Beauty salon–and I was too busy having fun to take in any of it.  You’ll have to test it out for me when it’s your turn to go river cruising on the AmaPrima ok?  

Our Sweet Suite

Suite-on-the-AmaPrima.

It’s a given, most people who sign up for a River Cruise do not expect to find an extra large stateroom.  After all, these river boats have their size limits so they are able to navigate the many locks throughout the voyage.  What AmaWaterways did to make the cabins look and feel more expansive–they added the “twin balcony” concept for the majority of staterooms.  It lets so much more light in, and combined with white on white plush bedding, it simply evokes what you would expect to find in a luxury 5-star hotel. Yes, it’s all there–the flat-screen TV, with local and satellite channels, spacious bathrooms with multi-jet showerheads, even the luxurious terry bathrobes! All combined, definitely keeps with my lux-seeking ESCAPESEEKER mantra!

Feasting our way through the Kingdom of the Netherlands…tough assignment right?

Feasting our Way through the Netherlands

AmaWaterways offers an array of dining options for your culinary enjoyment. Enjoy Chaîne des Rôtisseurs culinary creations in the main dining room, or in the Chef’s Table restaurant with its own private chef.

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AmaWaterways is proud to be the only river cruise line invited to join one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organizations founded in 1950 in Paris. Every AmaWaterways vessel cruising in Europe is an official member of La Chaine des Rotisseurs. Membership is considered an achievement of world-class culinary acumen.It was tough to distinguish the offerings on our floating restaurant from the land-based award-winning variety! After trying to control my intake and appetites I finally decided to just surrender, and just sign up for more excursions and activities that would help me physically burn the calories so I could “earn” the next amazing spread!

IMG_2518Burning calories with mind-expanding excursions

Are you a “gentle” take everything in kind of walker?  Or are you an “active” fast walker that can’t wait to get to your target destination? Perhaps, you’re the kind of “late starter” tourist that’s in no hurry to get anywhere, even preferring to get your beauty sleep while on vacation? Well, no worries to all of the above because AmaPrima allowed us to set our own pace on shore excursions by signing up for the ones that describe our particular category–in my case–I definitely want to earn the evening’s dessert–I signed up for “active.”  All AmaWaterways voyages ensure that you’re treated with personalized attention, on land, as well as on the river. The complimentary Shore Excursions provide an an immersive introduction land tour to every destination. The local guides did inspire me to dig deeper, immerse myself more into the history of the places we visited once we returned to our boat.  If I could have my wish, I would wish we could stay longer at each location.  Just when I was savoring the moment, it seemed, it was time to untie the boat and cruise onward. 

Day 2      AMSTERDAM – VOLENDAM – EDAM

 IMG_2269We cruised the Ijsselmeer towards Volendam, enjoying a late afternoon tour of Volendam Harbor.

Then, we continued by motor coach to Edam, a total postcard-perfect, picturesque town.  I do not know how the Dutch maintain such immaculate homes and gardens.  Our guide hinted “we’re all born with a green finger.” Is that the same as a green thumb? After tasting the local Edam cheese, we know they have a gift for cheese-making too. We walked by the Old Quarter’s beautiful houses, canals, bridges and churches with towering steeples, including one of the largest in Holland, the Grote Kerk (Great Church).

We finished off our tour with a brief visit to the shoreline at Volendam.  If there’s one thing you absolutely must try, it’s the tiny, dollar size Dutch pancakes. It is served with fresh whipped cream…to die for…I kid you not!

It’s astounding to note that flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands, as about two thirds of its area is vulnerable to flooding, while the country is among the most densely populated on Earth. Natural sand dunes and constructed dikes, dams, and floodgates provide defense storm surges from the sea.  River dikes prevent flooding from water flowing into the country by the major rivers Rhine and Meuse, while complicated system of drainage ditches, canals, and pumping stations (historically windmills) keep the low-lying parts dry for habitation and agriculture.  Water control boards are the independent local government bodies responsible for maintaining this system. In modern times, flood disasters coupled with technological developments have led to large construction works to reduce the influence of the sea and prevent floods.  In the interim, the Dutch became astute, expert sailors from residing by the sea, a trait that is evident everywhere we looked.

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Day 3       ARNHEM – NIJMEGEN
Hallowed Ground

We arrived early, in beautiful Arnhem. The perfect weather we were blessed with only magnified how charming this small town is.  Since my ESCAPESEEKER traveling companions are avid supporters of WWII veterans, we chose  to see the monument commemorating the Battle of Arnhem Bridge made famous by the classic film “A Bridge Too Far.” Such a humbling sight to walk amidst the rows and rows of tombstones bearing the name of soldiers who sacrificed their lives to liberate Arnhem.  We also visited the Airborne Museum to learn more about the Battle of Arnhem, one of the major campaigns of World War II.  This was well worth the time.  The town’s respect and reverence for those who died is clearly evident in this museum.  After our tour, we returned to the ship for lunch and a stunning cruise to Nijmegen. Mother Nature was definitely on our  side. The weather could not be any more fabulous as we cruised through the Netherlands en route to Belgium.IMG_2315

Day 4

     ANTWERP, BELGIUMIMG_2358 (1)We awoke to yet another glorious day, as we are welcomed to Antwerp.  A walking tour of Antwerp helped us get oriented to the layout of the main square, displaying the city’s superb architecture. In the afternoon we bravely explored Antwerp on bicycles with our two local guides, following each through the charming streets of Antwerp, passing impressive historical sites such as Cogels Osylei, Waterloo House, St. Jacob’s Church and the Museum Ridder Smidt van Gelder. It was especially enjoyable to see the different neighborhoods, some established by early Jewish settlers that continue to this day.  We returned to the ship with hearty appetites and our Chef definitely did not disappoint with yet, another amazing delectable spread.13164237_10154801999673032_6800186081863567539_n 2

Day 5

     GHENT AND BRUGESIMG_2393The evening’s cruised brought us to Ghent. A town I’ve only read about, I was eager to join the walked tour through the city,  which included the Belfry Hall, the Koornlei, the Graslei and the Castle of the Counts. My camera was going on overdrive as I captured one gorgeous image after another.  My only complain about Ghent?  The city council had instituted these public, open air urinals, and honestly, the scent destroys you even before you get close enough to realize what you were about to encounter.  Ghent, whatever where you thinking?  Please, there must be another option besides ruining the beautiful ambiance of your camera-ready city? We couldn’t board our buses fast enough as we headed to Bruges for the afternoon–one of Europe’s most perfectly preserved medieval cities, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It did not take long for my team to realize that it was a Belgian holiday and everyone had the same idea–to take in beautiful Bruges.  I had been to Bruges many times before, and I had never encountered such a crowd.  So, my recommendation to you if you wish to visit Bruges–make sure it is not a Belgian holiday.  After all, it is clear they love their impressive historic town as much as we do.IMG_2418By early evening, we were back on the beautiful AmaPrima cruising through the Dutch region of Zeeland, home to one of the world’s most complex engineering projects, the Delta Works, which took more than 30 years to complete!Engineering Feat in the Netherlands

Day 6

WILLEMSTAD, THE NETHERLANDS – KINDERDIJK – SCHOONHOVENIMG_2431Once again, we were so excited knowing the morning light would find us biking through the charming 400-year old town of Willemstad. As we’ve discovered from previous tours, the Dutch are simply immaculate. No matter where we cycled, there was always a pleasant garden to greet our sight. I also conducted my own little test to see how friendly the Willemstad natives really are.  Whenever I encountered one on our bike path, I would call out an enthusiastic “Hello from America!” They would always have such a surprise look on their face, and immediately respond with, “Hello!”  Some would even add, “Thank you for visiting!” Or, “Please stay a while.”  Yes, I found myself falling in-love with this beautifully manicured country.  The hard-working people also inspire me.  Who would have ever thought from their humble beginnings and challenging environments (“the Netherlands” means “the low lands” and the land only rises, on average, 1 meter above the sea level, with one third of the land is below sea level) would rise a country that once ruled an empire. In the 17th century,  the Netherlands was the richest and one of the most powerful countries in the world. Thus,  the Dutch call the 17th century the Golden Age.  Their Dutch Empire had possessions around the world. The most important possession were the East Indies, a country that is now called Indonesia. And in case you are not aware, the Dutch also founded New Netherland, which is now known as New York.  Yes, I guess we can say, the Big Apple was once a Dutch Apple! Here’s a little interesting Dutch trivia for you: In 2004 the  United Nations declared that the Netherlands was the 5th best country to live in, in the world! I can totally understand why. Just think, if you’re English-speaking, and you moved to the Netherlands,  you wouldn’t even need to learn Dutch any time soon because every native I’ve encountered thus far speaks fluent English. I can tell, I have a lot to learn from the unique lifestyles of the Dutch. In the meantime, I better keep biking. The AmaPrima awaits.

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IMG_2513In the afternoon, after another delicious lunch on the AmaPrima, we were transported in equally impeccable tour buses to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinderdijk, a lovely village renowned for having the country’s greatest concentration of windmills, all dating from the 18th century. The windmills at Kinderdijk are a group of 19 monumental windmills in the Alblasserwaard polder, in the province of South Holland, Netherlands.  Built in 1738 and 1740, to keep water out of the polder, it is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands and one of the best-known Dutch tourist sites. The mills are listed as national monuments and the entire area is a protected village view since 1993. They have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.

One of the first things you’ll notice when entering one of the Kinderdijk windmills, is the low door opening. In the early days the diets of the inhabitants of the windmills were not as well balanced as we are used to now. This caused the people to stay small, which resulted in low door openings.  Working and living in a windmill is not easy. For instance, the windmills can only be reached by foot or bicycle. But even in the past, life was very difficult. The millers used to have large families, 10 to 12 children was no exception. There a several reasons for these large families: The influence of the church, no birth control, children often died in their first years, and the more sons, the more labor could be done in the mill and the land surrounding the windmill. However, because of their bad circumstances, the millers became self supporting, and they would grow their own vegetables, and raise their own livestock.

Fast forward, present day, I’m reviewing our windmill photos, and I think they convey one clear, simple message:  “Hello from Holland!”

IMG_2455After our informative afternoon at Kinderdijk, we returned to our ship and as we dined at the Chef’s table, our ship cruised to Schoonhoven, where we moored until midnight. I can’t believe how quickly our time on the beautiful AmaPrima cruise is passing.  All I want to do is freeze-frame to allow my memory more time to soak it all in. How in the world will I give up the “AmaZing” royal treatment we’re getting from the AmaPrima staff and crew? Please stop the clock!

Day 7 Park-Keukenhof     AMSTERDAM- KEUKENHOF – AMSTERDAM

We arrived in Amsterdam the next morning, just in time to admire the spectacular display of millions of flowering tulips during our morning excursion to the famous 79-acre Keukenhof Gardens. Talk about color-overload! You cannot begin to comprehend its plethora of rainbow blooms unless you see it for yourselves.

Also known as the Garden of Europe, it is one of the world’s largest flower gardens. It is situated in Lisse, southwest of Amsterdam. It is accessible by bus from the train stations of Haarlem, Leiden and Schiphol.   According to the official website of the Keukenhof Park, approximately seven million flower bulbs are planted annually in the park, which covers an area of 32 hectares (79 acres).

Keukenhof is open annually from mid-March to mid-May. The best time to view the tulips is around mid-April, depending on the weather.

Keukenhof is situated on 15th-century hunting grounds. It was also a source of herbs for Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut’s castle, which is the source of the name Keukenhof (it served to provide herbs for the castle’s kitchen). Rich merchants took over the grounds after the Countess’s death. Dutch East India Company Captain and Governor, Adriaen Maertensz Block lived there in his retirement years in the 17th century in the country house (now known as Castle Keukenhof) which he had let built in 1641.

In the 19th century, the Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt assigned the landscape architect Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, who had also worked on the Vondelpark, to design the grounds around the castle.

The garden was established in 1949 by the then mayor of Lisse. The idea was to present a flower exhibit where growers from all over the Netherlands and Europe could show off their hybrids – and help the Dutch export industry. The Netherlands is the world’s largest exporter of flowers. Their plan clearly succeeded!

Keukenhof-Gardens-of-HollandAll previous photos I had seen just cannot compare to seeing it in person, up close and personal!

In the afternoon, all of our fellow passengers  joined in a scenic sunset cruise through the historic harbor and canals of Amsterdam. Once again, my camera could not click fast enough. Amsterdam’s unique beauty grabs at my imagination. It’s a total movie-set, and yes, it makes me want to stay, rent a tiny alcove apartment where I can write my best-selling suspense novel. But then again, these historic houses do not come cheap.  The better plan would be to write the best seller, make a ton of money, and then I can purchase that sweet alcove with a gorgeous view of the canal!amsterdam-bicyclesniederlande_amsterdam_kanal_gracht_grossIMG_2239There’s so much to see and do in Amsterdam, especially if you’re an artist, or just enjoy seeing the works of the Masters–Rembrandt, Van Gogh for starters.  The Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, and the Stedelijk Museum are the  most popular choices, but there are many interesting small museums. There are seventy five Amsterdam museums, which attract almost seven million visitors every year. Alongside the wealth of majestic Golden Age paintings, you’ll find exciting modern art, press, film, theater, photography museums and some unique Dutch treats like the Heineken, Ajax Arena Tours, and the Houseboat museum.

And, Amsterdam wouldn’t be Amsterdam without the tourist appeal for the other eclectic side: Yes, you’ll also find the Sex, Erotic, Hash, or Torture museums.

My entire team realized that one week in Amsterdam alone is necessary, no matter your taste in art, to dedicate and explore the incredible museum offerings.

13103312_10154811523658032_1667017073633928299_nAlas, the evening would find us being treated to a final evening’s walk through Amsterdam, this time led by our dearest Amsterdammer friends, Robin Post van der Burg and Hanneke van Weel. Truly, such a special way to end our voyage, breaking bread with friends who treat us like family, while recalling our priceless Netherland experiences, all of which only fueled our desire to become new subjects in the Kingdom of the Netherlands! Yes, you can definitely count on us returning, sooner rather than later.  Thank you AmaWaterways’ AmaPrima for an unforgettable voyage.  To Captain Gerd, Cruise Manager, Rolfe, Hotel Manager, Gemma, Chef Jossef, Maitre d’ Romeo, and to our personal waiter Gabor, who took impeccable care of us at every meal, we extend our utmost heartfelt gratitude for granting us a  River Cruise to remember!

A Few Parting Words From Our Entire Team…

“Cruising is such a tremendous way to make new friends, and connect with dear ones too.  The AmaPrima’s size made making new friends so easy.”~ Mel Gee Henderson

13124730_10154802287648032_2056998124209403176_n“I never expected that we would be dipping into AmaPrima’s pool in the early days of Spring in the Netherlands! It was wonderful after our bike rides!”

~ Peg Whisler Jones

ESCAPESEEKER photogs“Absolutely fantastic boat, fantastic trip with fantastic friends for a fantastic experience. THANK YOU. again.” ~ Jim Jones

Volendam stroll “The AmaPrima exceeded my expectations…I’m definitely a River Cruise convert! By the way, if you’re an avid biker, here’s a terrific biking map for Amsterdam that will come in handy! You’ll feel like a native Amsterdammer by the time you’re finished!” ~ Roy A. Henderson

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Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, received the 2016 Travvy Awards in New York City where AmaWaterways was honored to receive 6 Gold trophies including the coveted Best River Cruise Line Overall and Most Innovative Executive.

Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, received the 2016 Travvy Awards in New York City where AmaWaterways was honored to receive 6 Gold trophies including the coveted Best River Cruise Line Overall and Most Innovative Executive.

AmaWaterways was founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy. All Three brought tremendous experience, knowledge and dedication to the venture. Rudi was one of river cruising’s pioneers, having introduced the modern-day river cruise concept to the world of travel. Kristin brought with her vast sales and customer service experience.   And, the third member,  Jimmy Murphy is the founder and former owner of Brendan Vacations. Their combined expertise and passion for the river cruise business has resulted in a river cruise vacation experience that strives to exceed customer expectations. The toughest part of our team’s decision–with more than 20 different itineraries to choose from, which one would you pick? www.amawaterways.com

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#throwbackthursday USA: No Passport? No Problem! Welcome to Laguna Beach, California

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Laguna Beach, California ~ With Spring Break just around the corner for many students and families across the USA, many are asking me for recommendations for a fun escape they can do that doesn’t require going abroad.  Well, here’s one of my #throwbackthursday or #forwardfriday California favorites that I love visiting again and again–LAGUNA BEACH!

Laguna Beach Iconic ViewWith beautiful weather, postcard-perfect beaches and numerous hotel offerings, this is the ideal destination for students on spring break, a romantic couples’ getaway, girls get together, a family staycation, or a warm retreat for snowbirds craving to escape winter’s chill.

Here are some of my tried and true Laguna Beach activities that even Southern California locals enjoy doing on a regular basis:

LET YOUR ARTISTIC SIDE SHINE

Be an Artist for a day! Workshops welcome visitors and locals (from novice to advanced) to create a unique art piece to wear or share. Two-hour sessions led by a professional artist take place Fridays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Spring Workshop Schedule: Coloring with Fire, an Introduction to Enameling on Metal (Friday, March 11 and Friday, April 29, 2016). Cost: $95; Watercolor Keep-scapes: (Saturday, April 23, 2016). Cost: $95; and Glass Mosaic: (Saturday/Sunday, March 19 and 20, 2016. Cost: $130. All materials and supplies are provided. Takes place on the Sawdust Art Festival grounds. www.sawduststudioartclasses.com

First Thursdays Art Walk. April 7, 2016 – Takes place from 6-9 p.m., with more than 40 galleries participating around town. Enjoy artist receptions, demonstrations, refreshments and live music. Free trolley service runs throughout the evening, and the Laguna Art Museum is open free of charge from 5-9 p.m. www.firsthursdaysartwalk.org

Take a Self-Guided Public Art Tour – Laguna Beach has more than 80 pieces of public art throughout town that were designed and created specifically for the community. Discover the many murals, statues, sculptures and benches with a Public Art Map that can be picked up at the Official Visitors Center, located at 381 Forest Ave. Or, view a digital map on your phone by visiting www.visitlagunabeach.com/things-to-do/art-culture/public-art/.

Laguna Art Museum’s Kids’ Art Studio, March 20, 2016 from 2-4 p.m. Create artwork based on an exhibition on view at the museum. Free for children with accompanying adults with museum admission; walk-in basis. http://lagunaartmuseum.org/education/kids-art-studio/

FOR THE BUDDING MARINE BIOLOGIST

Explore Tide Pools – View amazing marine life hidden just below the waves. Laguna Beach boasts impressive tide pooling opportunities, giving you an up-close look at various sea creatures from sea stars and hermit crabs to anemones and coralline algae. Pick up an illustrated brochure at the Official Visitors Center, 381 Forest Ave., to help you identify the sea life you might spot. Download the Visit Laguna Beach app to view the current tide schedule. www.visitlagunabeach.com/things-to-do/outdoors/tide-pools/

Whale Watching and Dolphin Cruises – The whale watching off Laguna Beach is exceptional with year-round opportunities. View gray whales in the spring. Finback whales, minke whales, humpbacks and several species of dolphin might also be spotted. Fun Fact: The dolphin population off Laguna’s coastline exceeds more than that of Florida, Hawaii and the Caribbean combined! For whale-watching/dolphin excursions: www.newportlanding.com; www.dolphinsafari.com; www.danawharf.com

Tour the Pacific Marine Mammal Center – the only facility of its kind in Orange County for pinnipeds stranded along 42 miles of Southern California coast. It is dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation and release back into the wild of marine mammals. Admission is free, but donations are welcomed. www.pacificmmc.org

STAY FIT WHILE ENJOYING THE CALIFORNIA SUNSHINE

Rent bicycles then tour the charming village or the backroads. Riding maps and tours available for all skill levels. www.lagunabeachcyclery.com. Take a 7.5 mile guided bike tour (for groups up to eight) exploring the downtown, quaint neighborhoods and canyons, with views of the Laguna coastline. www.lavidalaguna.com

Embark on a guided two-hour kayak eco-tour to explore hidden coves, beaches and kelp beds, and view sea life up close. Single and tandem kayak tours available through La Vida Laguna. Great for families! www.lavidalaguna.com

FOR THE CRUISERS IN THE FAMILY

Hop aboard and ride the free weekend trolley to get around Laguna Beach. Service hours: Friday, 4-11 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Trolley Information: (949) 497-0766; www.visitlagunabeach.com/trolley
Download the official Visit Laguna Beach app and use the “Trolley Tracker” function to access real-time trolley information.

WHERE TO STAY

OUR TOP PICK, since our ESCAPESEEKER mantra is #luxury,   MONTAGE LAGUNA BEACH (Advance Warning, the impeccable staff makes going home really tough!)

Montage Laguna Beach

Here are a few current MONTAGE PACKAGES:

“Experience California” Luxury Coastal Picnic Experience

This experience allows guests to indulge in a picnic that showcases the best coastal views and cuisine in Southern California. The day starts with a private helicopter tour of the Southern California coastline, followed by an afternoon picnic atop a cliff catered by renowned Montage Laguna Beach chefs. Guests will end the day with more culinary artistry at Montage Laguna Beach’s oceanfront, signature restaurant, Studio, with a private dining experience and a visit from Studio’s Executive Chef Craig Strong. The following morning, guests will end their adventure with a Coastal Shores Stone Massage at Spa Montage. Pricing begins at $2,845; available April 1-June 15, 2016.

Award-winning STUDIO restaurant where Executive Chef Craig Strong and his exquisite California culinary artistry reigns supreme.

Award-winning STUDIO restaurant where Executive Chef Craig Strong and his exquisite California culinary artistry reigns supreme.

 

Spring Getaway – Montage Memories Package

Enjoy one night’s accommodations in an oceanfront guest room with access to all resort amenities, plus one $60 breakfast credit at The Loft or In-Room Dining and complimentary valet parking. A complimentary 45-minute photo session captures your stay, with a $50 print credit included and no sitting fee required. For more information and to reserve your stay, click here. Just for Kids! During your stay, children are invited to Paintbox (ages 5-12) & Paintbox Petite (ages 2-5). Activities include cookie decorating, tie dye, egg hunt, petting zoo and more. To view the Paintbox activities calendar click here. For more information and to make a reservation for your child, please call (949) 715-6005.

Family Fun Package

paintbox.tif_finalBring the entire family for the ultimate getaway. They’ll take care of breakfast and entertainment for the kids while you relax and enjoy the sweeping panoramas of the Pacific. Includes: One night’s accommodations in an oceanfront guest room; one $60 dining credit for breakfast at The Loft or In-Room dining; complimentary half-day Paintbox admission for one youngster ($70 value); and access to all resort amenities. Rate based on availability. Additional restrictions may apply. Valid through Dec. 31, 2016. www.montagehotels.com

For additional hotel packages, visit www.VisitLagunaBeach.com.

 

ABOUT LAGUNA BEACH

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Laguna Beach is Southern California’s premier coastal destination located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, and along the southern coast of Orange County.  Known as home to hundreds of local artists, and set amid 20,000 acres of wilderness, Laguna Beach is primarily served by John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA) located just a short 20 minutes drive away.

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Here’s to #blissful, #endless #escapes…and remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know.

Making Memories is what it’s all about.

With love,

Mel aka The ESCAPESEEKER

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THE ART OF CRUISING: Navigating with Grace

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Stockholm, Sweden ~ I shall begin my cruise report from where it ended.  Yes, by the time the Wind Surf arrived in Stockholm on the 10th day of our voyage,  I knew I was going to have a difficult time disembarking this impressive vessel, and saying goodbye to so many new-found friends from around the world! After all, with only 300 passengers on board, it was easy to get to know one another, sharing delicious meals, and comparing notes on the many explorations we were offered at every stop.  Yes, by the time we said our goodbyes, we had grown into one very large, happy, cruising family–each member leaving with priceless memories and adventure stories that will only become more vivid as they will surely be repeated time and time again. If you’ve ever had a desire to make new friends who share your passion for travel, then may I suggest you take up “The Art of Cruising!”  For our voyage, we had seasoned British Captain J. Peter Harris at the helm!

The Windstar Cruises' sleek schooner, The Wind Surf wove a Scandinavian itinerary for our splendid Summer Sail...guaranteeing one breathtaking sunset after another!

The Windstar Cruises’ sleek schooner, The Wind Surf wove a Scandinavian itinerary for our splendid Summer Sail…guaranteeing one breathtaking sunset after another!

Tthe happiest seafarer I've ever met -- The Wind Surf's Captain J. Peter Harris! He took the time to meet every passenger on board, and as far as I could tell--he actually knew everyone by name! Now that is no easy feat--but then again, neither is navigating our stunning "schooner" as the Captain refers to our gorgeous Wind Surf across these Baltic waters. Captain Harris does it all with such calm and grace, inspiring me to entitle our future ESCAPESEEKER episode script,  "The Art Of Cruising: Navigating with Grace!"

The  happiest seafarer I’ve ever met — The Wind Surf’s Captain J. Peter Harris! He took the time to meet every passenger on board, and as far as I could tell–he actually knew everyone by name! Now that is no easy feat–but then again, neither is navigating our stunning “schooner” as the Captain refers to our gorgeous Wind Surf across these Baltic waters. Captain Harris does it all with such calm and grace, inspiring me to entitle our future ESCAPESEEKER episode script, “The Art Of Cruising: Navigating with Grace!”

Our final stop, Stockholm. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful capitals in the world, Stockholm offers visitors and locals alike, a plethora of exciting activities and dining offerings to please even the most discerning palate!

Our final stop, Stockholm. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful capitals in the world, Stockholm offers visitors and locals alike, a plethora of exciting activities and dining offerings to please even the most discerning palate!

On any given day, the 310-guest Windstar Cruises' flagship, Wind Surf, attracts admiring glances wherever she goes...as she glides gracefully into port with her tall sails dancing with the wind. As a passenger, I rarely missed an opportunity to go bridge side just to partake of her "awesomeness" as the young guests often described her in action!

On any given day, the 310-guest Windstar Cruises’ flagship, Wind Surf, attracts admiring glances wherever she goes…as she glides gracefully into port with her tall sails dancing with the wind. As a passenger, I rarely missed an opportunity to go bridge side just to partake of her “awesomeness” as the young guests often described her in action!

 

YACHT FACTS

CAPACITY: 310 Guests

STATEROOMS: 122 deluxe ocean view staterooms

SUITES: 31 deluxe ocean view suites

BRIDGE DECK SUITES: 2 deluxe ocean view bridge suites

DECKS: 6 decks

CREW: 191 international staff

SHIP’S REGISTRY: Bahamas

LENGTH: 535 feet (162 meters) at waterline; 617 feet (187meters) including bowsprit

DRAFT: 16.5 feet (5 meters)

TONNAGE: 14,745 gross registered tons (grt)

BEAM: 66 feet (20 meters)

SAILS: 7 triangular, self-furling, computer-operated sails with 26,881 square feet (or 2,600 square meters) of Dacron surface area

MASTS: 5 at 164 feet (50 meters)

ENGINES: 4 diesel electric generating sets, 2 electrical propulsion motor

SPEED: 10 to 12 knots with engines only; up to 15 knots wind and engine assisted

It is undeniable...there's something about the salty fresh air, the endless horizon, and the knowledge that by the time you greet the morning sun, you'll be met with another stunning postcard-perfect, mind-expanding exploration opportunity--what's not to love about "The Art of Cruising"?

It is undeniable…there’s something about the salty fresh air, the endless horizon, and the knowledge that by the time you greet the morning sun, you’ll be met with another stunning postcard-perfect, mind-expanding exploration opportunity–what’s not to love about “The Art of Cruising”?

Each time I savor my time on deck, I am reminded by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” 

This could not ring more true than when you’re sailing on the Wind Surf, where each day, from sunrise to sunset, you are granted one stunning vista after another. There is something absolutely rejuvenating about being out at sea, and I’m not just referring to the nice free face lift the wind affords, complements of Mother Nature.  There’s nothing more soothing than looking out into the horizon and feeling the vastness of our beautiful universe. And, at nightfall, oh the infinite stars that shine ever so brightly in the firmament!  It’s impossible not to recognize the impact it is having on your beating heart!
Cruising is an outstanding way to make new life-long friends!

Cruising is an outstanding way to make new life-long friends!

I’m confident my fellow passengers, Joey Greenwood, and Mark Bielawny would tell you the same!  Follow our sailing footsteps, and bask beneath her stunning sails. I highly recommend you experience it for yourself.  It is truly an Art…one of which mastering would be an absolute JOY!  Stay tuned for more updates from ESCAPESEEKER as our entire  film team captures “The Art of Cruising” at its best!
Our Scandinavian itinerary offered something for everyone...for the young and the young at heart!

Our Scandinavian itinerary offered something for everyone…for the young and the young at heart!

Copenhagen was vibrant with activity.  If you wish to interact with the locals...this is the place!

Copenhagen is vibrant and beaming with activity. If you wish to interact with the locals…this is the place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were blessed with the bluest skies throughout our voyage.  Perhaps Mother Nature knew it was my birthday month and thought I deserved celebrating during the most beautiful, endless days of Summer?

We were blessed with the bluest skies throughout our voyage. Perhaps Mother Nature knew it was my birthday month and thought I deserved celebrating during the most beautiful, endless days of Summer?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPESEEKER!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPESEEKER!

In case you’re wondering about the Wind Surf’s meñu…well, here’s a sneak peak…everyday felt like a birthday celebration…as it should be right?  Life is short…Eat dessert first! I’ll end this report on a sweet note.  It’s time you find out for yourselves.  So what are you waiting for…with a click of the hand, you too, can be on your way…your first course on mastering “The Art of Cruising!” www.windstarcruises.com

Here’s to Blissful Endless Escapes…and Remember, no matter where you go, be the kindest person you know!

With love,

Mel

It takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline not to order lobster every night from the Wind Surf's diverse meñu offering.  There's something to satisfy even the most discerning food aficionado!

Lobster feast anyone?

 

It's always nice to get a visit during dinner from Chef Monty...

It’s always nice to get a visit during dinner from Chef Monty…

I predict you won't be able to refuse the nightly sweet endings...

I predict you won’t be able to refuse the nightly sweet endings…

If seafood isn't your favorite fare...no worries!

If seafood isn’t your favorite fare…no worries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots…Smiles we shall remember for a lifetime…

If you wish to learn more about what kind of training it takes to be part of Captain Harris' team--just ask...they're more than happy to share.   If you wish to learn more about what kind of training it takes to be part of Captain Harris’ brilliant team–just ask…they’re more than happy to share their     knowledge and passion for the sea!

Being "Berliners" in Berlin with my new cruising friends from Northern California, Barbara and Heidy!

Being “Berliners” in Berlin with my new cruising friends from Northern California, Barbara and Heidy!

The Art of Cruising...what a beautiful way to explore the world...

The Art of Cruising…what a beautiful way to explore the world…

Our Hotel Director, just making sure we're all doing great!  I think the smiles on our faces speak volumes!

Our Hotel Director, just making sure we’re all doing great! I think the smiles on our faces speak volumes!

Happy Cruisers Indeed!

Happy Cruisers Indeed!

Postcard-Perfect Lillesand, Norway...The Wind Surf gives us an "Up close and Personal" experience!

Postcard-Perfect Lillesand, Norway…The Wind Surf  afforded us an “Up close and Personal” experience!

Edinburgh, Scotland…seems apropos that our voyage would begin where MAGIC is used to describe every day occurrence…for MAGICAL is exactly how our voyage felt right from the start! Thank you Windstar Cruises for living up to your slogan… “Always 180 degrees from ordinary!”

Edinburgh, Scotland…seems apropos that our voyage would begin where MAGIC is used to describe every day occurrence…for MAGICAL is exactly how our voyage felt right from the start! Thank you Windstar Cruises for living up to your slogan…
“Always 180 degrees from ordinary!”

[Select Images by Photojournalist, Mel Gee Henderson aka “The ESCAPESEEKER”]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPLENDID SANTORINI: AN ARTISTS’ ENCLAVE…Is it in the Genes?

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Santorini-20070808-058248-panorama-smallSantorini, Greece ~ About 120 miles southeast of Greece’s mainland, in the southern Aegean Sea there is an island that endured one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history. Left is a remnant of a volcanic caldera that draws over one million visitors to its shores each year, eager to witness her breathtaking sunset as it lights up its iconic whitewashed, cubed, cliffside houses overlooking the sapphire blue waters of the Aegean.  How many natives reside on this island which forms the southernmost member of the Cyclades group of islands, with an area of approximately 73 km2  or 28 sq miles?  At last count, the native population is only at 15,500!

SantoriniPartialPanoHere is our Question of the Day:  Why does this tiny Greek island seem to have such a disproportionate number of gifted artists?  My personal theory–well, let’s call it “Hand me down genes” — yes, I believe it has to do with GENETICS!

The dictionary defines genetics “as the study of heredity and how the characteristics of living things are transmitted from one generation to the next.”  Every living thing contains the genetic material that makes up DNA molecules. This material is passed on when organisms reproduce.  The basic unit of heredity  is the gene, thus my invented phrase, “Hand me down genes!”

To prove my theory, please permit me to introduce you to the ASIMIS FAMILY.

It's evident, "It's all in the Family." ~ ESCAPESEEKER

“It’s evident… It’s all in the Family.” ~ ESCAPESEEKER

About the Father…The highly regarded and beloved Patriarch of the Asimis Family, CHRISTOFOROS ASIMIS

 

Christoforos Asimis has been acclaimed internationally as the painter of Santorinian landscape.

Christoforos Asimis has been acclaimed internationally as the painter of Santorinian landscape.

 

Christoforos Asimis has the power to inspire. Not just writers like me, but many other Santorini visitors from all disciplines.  Some of his fellow artists have called him, “A modern-day equivalent of Michalengo” as Mr. Asimis spent seven years meticulously creating religious paintings at Santorini Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. 12061557196_34fea2fa5d_z

Viewing his work may even induce the same feelings on par with the Sistine Chapel…yes, that feeling that this Santorini artist is truly endowed.    Christoforos also specializes in the light and landscape of Santorini.  To own one of his orginal landscape masterpieces would be the ultimate, highly coveted souvenir of my memories of Santorini indeed.  I know a few others on my ESCAPESEEKER team who would totally agree.

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One begs to ask another question, is it NATURE OR NURTURE that explains how so much talent can be possessed by one family? Scientists have proven that Genetic processes work in combination with an organism’s environment and experiences to influence development and behavior, often referred to as “Nature versus Nurture.” Is it the “Santorini Effect” that contributes to the immense creative, artistic nature in its residents? Well, I recommend you tune in to our ESCAPESEEKER program to learn the answer.  We’ll be interviewing the Asimis Family along with a host of other Santorinian artists in residence, as we get up close and personal  in our feature episode entitled, SPLENDID SANTORINI: An Artists’ Enclave.
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About the Mother, The talented Sculptor, and distinctive Jewelry Designer,  ELENI KOLAITOU

“I speak to the world through my art.” ~ Eleni Kolaitou

1209020_503736089717210_1042170617_nWith the sculpture of Eleni Kolaitou we see the expression of the plasticity and symbolism of the human figure in a unique way. Sculptures of a grand scale can be seen also in the exterior space of ΑΚ Asimis Kolaitou Art Foundation. In the same exhibition her worldwide known jewellery collection in 22K gold and silver is presented. Every piece of this collection is considered a piece of art exclusively designed and hand made by the artist. Gentlemen, if you’re looking for that perfect one-of-a-kind expression of love, it might be worth your time to connect with Eleni, as I know she’ll be happy to design one exclusively for you, a genuine labor of love, to convey your everlasting love.  Ok, I’m getting a little too sentimental here, but Santorini artists have that effect on everyone! 577b3fcaa04010c7f392cc2f79df76c8

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About the Son, KATONAS ASIMIS…Continuing the Family’s Artistic Legacy…

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Perhaps when both of your parents are artists, it is a given that you’ll likely choose that same path.  Katonas Asimis did not rely on just his genetic gift to gain his entry into the very competitive arena of world class artists.  Katonas Asimis studied Fine Arts in London and Architecture in Bath, England.  He has participated in various international art exhibition including the prestigious Biennale di Venezia and Thessaloniki. “In his paintings, he incorporates the human figure as well as “the rhythmology of the Santorinian landscape.” Today, there’s one grand piece of art that illustrates the combined artistic and architectural talents of Katonas Asimis–it is the very edifice that houses the family’s prolific expressions of life through their varied art mediums.

Don’t take my word for it.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, well, then moving pictures are worth a thousand stories.  Please permit me to allow this film clip of the A.K. Asimis Kolaitou Art Galleries Santorini-Athens to tell the Asimis Family story…that is at least for now.  Here’s a sneak peak of their Grand Opening that took place in 2013: http://youtu.be/Sro1cw0ZGH8

Our entire ESCAPESEEKER film team will be returning to Santorini this October, 2014 to bring to life my own script wherein I took great care to capture the true essence of this amazing family whom I believe epitomizes all that we love about the Greek culture. Their passion for life…for their art…for their stunning island, and equally visible, their signature welcoming Greek hospitality which they kindly share with every guests who walk through their doors. Make sure you stop by when you’re in Santorini, You’ll be greeted by a brilliant and beautiful young lady by the name of Marianna Asimis, the manager of A. K. Asimis Kolaitou Art Galleries Santorini-Athens. Yes, Marianna is the youngest member of the Asimis family! As the adage goes, “the apple does not fall far from the tree.”  It’s definitely true with Marianna. Please tell the entire family ESCAPESEEKER says “Hello!”

I feel extremely  blessed to be given the opportunity to see, feel, and embrace the remarkable island of Santorini through their artistic eyes.  I can’t wait to share my findings with the rest of the world.  This is but a start…Oh, how I savor the ESCAPESEEKER life!

The architectural jewel of the island especially designed to accommodate unique works of art and various indoor and outdoor cultural events, just one kilometer from the center of Fire on the road to Pyrgos.

The architectural jewel of the island especially designed to accommodate unique works of art and various indoor and outdoor cultural events, just one kilometer from the center of Fire on the road to Pyrgos.

600601_10152061051318032_1805094616_nHere’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS ESCAPES.

And, remember, no matter where you travel, be the kindest person you know.

See you in Glorious Greece,

Mel Gee Henderson aka The ESCAPESEEKER

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IRRESISTIBLE ISTANBUL…A KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLORS AND CULTURES

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Iredescent Istanbul

IRRESISTIBLE ISTANBUL…

HISTORICALLY RICH…UNDENIABLY BEAUTIFUL…INCOMPARABLY MESMERIZING… and SIMPLY IN A LEAGUE OF HER OWN…

Istanbul — The minute you set foot on this historic city you’ll notice it possesses an indescribable iridescence.  And, the more you peel away her layers you’ll begin to understand that there’s so much more to Istanbul than just her incomparable beauty.

After logging more than a million miles exploring the world’s most iconic destinations, Istanbul had always eluded me.  Well, I decided its time had come as it rose to the top of my 2013 ESCAPESEEKER GLOBAL ODYSSEY, and I arrived on September 17th, via the m/v Tere Moana, the final stop of my enriching 7-night voyage which began in Athens.  For those of you who might not know geographically where Istanbul is, please permit me to give you a quick briefing because its strategic location played such a major role in how and why it became the iconic metropolis that it is today, which also helped foster an eclectic populace.

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world’s busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.  Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives in Asia.

Location...Location!

Founded on the Sarayburnu promontory  around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople  in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire  (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin Empire (1204–1261), and the Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the last caliphate.  Although the Republic of Turkey established its capital in Ankara,  palaces and imperial mosques still line Istanbul’s hills as visible reminders of the city’s historic central role.

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I chose the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul to be ESCAPESEEKER’s home base while exploring this majestic city.  Conveniently located on the Bosphorus – the Istanbul straight – in Istanbul City Centre, this luxury hotel offers a prime location and impressive amenities that will not disappoint even the most discerning globetrotter.  Indulge at The Ritz-Carlton Spa–it will instantly cure any jet lag or sea legs you may be experiencing–where the ancient water therapies of the Turkish Hamam inspire renewal. It was a first for this ESCAPESEEKER, and what a totally delightful, refreshing experience! No matter whether you’re traveling solo like yours truly, or bringing your entire bus of friends and family, you can count on the Ritz-Carlton to provide impeccable service no matter where your travels lead you!

The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul affords guests the most spectacular views of Istanbul, day or night.

The most difficult part of staying at the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul is saying “Goodbye.”   I’m missing everything about you. THANK YOU for taking such great care of this ESCAPESEEKER.    My “2013 ESCAPESEEKER GLOBAL ODYSSEY” continues.  Next stop, “The City of Lights” ~ PARIS!  I love the ESCAPESEEKER LIFE…but even more so, I CHERISH ALL THE NEW FRIENDSHIPS I ESTABLISH THROUGHOUT OUR MAGNIFICENT PLANET!  The world is full of friends just waiting to be met…so take it from me and Henry David Thoreau,  “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams…Live the life you have imagined.”

DSC_0140We can’t wait to capture Executive Chef Andre Piednoir on film as he demonstrates his international repertoire of delectable dishes derived from his own global travels. By the way, his favorite mode of travel–the motorcycle!  Perhaps, he’ll give us another perspective on this amazing city as explored on two fast wheels?

Special Note to Oscar Abello, Vice President of Paul Gauguin Cruises:  How in the world will I ever thank you for pacifying my recent fears about all the media alerts I was receiving cautioning me about traveling to Istanbul in light of recent, highly televised demonstrations?  I would have missed out on one EXTRAORDINARY ESCAPESEEKER EXPERIENCE had I not listened to you! Not once, did I ever feel in any danger whatsoever. To the contrary–I felt more welcome than ever.  Friends, Please don’t hesitate to follow in my footsteps.  The Paul Gauguin Cruises and its m/v TERE MOANA believes in the absolute well-being and safety of all its passengers, and each destinations has been carefully “pre-approved” by seasoned travel experts.  I am living proof!

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Everywhere you look,  you’ll find the vibrant hues of the rainbow calling out to you.

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All that glitters is gold, I’m told.

                        The abundance of exotic scents, and its varied rare offerings in Istanbul’s markets will astound you.

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Here are more samplings of varied images that will help you see why I’m totally enamored with INCOMPARABLE, INCREDIBLY IRRESISTIBLE ISTANBUL.  It has an inner beauty that knows no bounds.  Don’t take my word for it.  Come see for yourselves…for like me, you might just discover that you don’t know, what you don’t know! My entire film crew cannot wait to join me when we return in 2014 to capture this stunning city in all her glory!

Connecting Europe to Asia, Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents!

I have so much to learn and glean from this remarkable culture. How about you? Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you.  The world awaits with open arms.

These beautiful ladies ensure that all guests  of the Ritz Carlton, Istanbul’s Club Lounge enjoy their stay and feel right at home.

DSC_0147Ms. Deniz Guley leads a hard working team at the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul’s  Club Lounge!

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Here are more of the friendly “Ladies and Gentlemen” of the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul who also strive to do their best “to serve Ladies and Gentlemen.”

73216_10152204628273032_489333498_nClub Lounge Concierge, Gokhan Turkoglu believes in going the extra mile(s) for the guests of the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul! When I told him I wanted to experience Istanbul like a true native, he gladly agreed to guide me through the city on foot!  Seven kilometeres later, I definitely had some exceptional first hand experiences to share, and more compelling content to fill a future ESCAPESEEKER ISTANBUL episode script. Nothing beats an up close look at this incredible city as seen through the eyes of a true native! Thank you Gokhan for an unforgettable day.

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DSC_0207Where you stay can make a tremendous difference in your travel experience. There are those names like the Ritz-Carlton that have become synonymous with service and luxurious comfort, in great part due to the dedicated professionals who treat every guest with utmost care.

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                  The sights, sounds, scents, and taste of Istanbul.  Prepare for the ultimate in “Sensory Overload”…

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By the way, you haven’t tasted, or been presented ice cream quite like Istanbul’s! They’ve turned it into a unique form of delicious entertainment! The sheer anticipation will do you in.

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2eef93730225cb07658bcae21867ad1d   Istanbul…there’s just no other place in the world quite like it!

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                                                             If you smile, they’ll smile right back at you without hesitation!

aa432b07ac6a0a2e3d07c2ae83a9492bHere’s to BLISSFUL, ENDLESS ESCAPES, as ESCAPESEEKER continues to prove that there’s no destination on earth too far, too difficult or too irresistible to reach!

I hope you’ll follow in my ESCAPESEEKER footsteps and visit ISTANBUL…the JEWEL of TURKEY.  I promise you will MARVEL at what you’ll discover every step of the way.

And,  no matter where your travels lead you… Remember, Be the kindest person you know!

Mel aka ESCAPESEEKER

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