The Gift of Travel Haiku

A longtime friend and colleague, Leo Jakobson, recently returned from a trip to Thailand. Rather than procure a bottle of duty-free scotch (as he’s gratefully delivered in the past), he wrote a haiku for me and my website. Here it is, in its entirety:

Next seat is empty
Prepare for cross-check in two
Excitement growing

Thanks, Leo! I’ll be thinking of this as I take off for Taiwan in a few weeks.

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Sensual Spa Retreat at the Mayflower Inn in CT

I’m glad I have friends who have friends who are well connected.

Last week that bit of luck (coupled with my being in the travel industry) landed me at the luxurious and historic Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, CT, for an overnight stay that included meals, access to the spa facilities, a spa treatment and unlimited group classes in the fitness center.

Mayflower Cottage and Stone Path

Room 435

I had wanted to visit this New England resort ever since it added the award-winning spa to its property, which is nestled amid a 58-acre estate in Connecticut’s “wilderness” and has just 30 rooms and suites in the main building or in nearby cottages. Each room is individually decorated and features fluffy beds so high some require a footstool to mount.

It was worth the wait.

The meals are amazing, the rooms completely comfortable, there are snow shoes available for hike-minded guests, the service is impeccable, and the classes offered in the gym aren’t your typical light-weight fare—they nearly knocked me out … in a good way.

The main highlight, however, is the spa.

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New Gig: Editor of UpTake Travel Industry Blog

As if I don’t have enough to keep me busy, I’ve taken on another contract assignment—as the editor of the Travel Industry Blog at UpTake.com.

For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with the site, UpTake is one of the largest travel and hotel meta-search engines, with more than 1 million monthly visitors. It culls content, professional reviews and user-generated content from 5,000 travel sites, as well as creates original content on eight different blogs, covering destinations, hotels, restaurants, attractions, nightlife and more.

Here’s a look at a few of my recent posts from the Travel Industry news blog:

“Directory of Sustainable Travel Companies Green.Travel Launches Today”

“TripIt’s Sale: Time to Reward Travel Planning Sites or Narrow the Field?”

“Hot Topic: American Airlines Battles OTAs”

Fellow contributors include Britt Reints, who edits UpTake’s Hotels blog and writes at Miss Britt; Malaysian-based P. Ling, who blogs at TripHow; and Spencer Spellman, better known in online travel circles as The Traveling Philosopher.

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Woody Allen Made Me a New Yorker

Happy Birthday, Woody! The famous/infamous film director Woody Allen turns 75 today.

Photo by Colin Swan, per WikiMedia Commons, CA-BY-SA-2.0.

I’ve been a fan of his work since I was a teenager and can watch Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Interiors (yes, Interiors) over and over again, which I’ve done on many a rainy Sunday. He captured and romanticized life in New York City in the 1970s and 80s in ways that no one else could, from uptown upper-middle-class angst to the downtown art scene to historic Brooklyn.

I had always been attracted to New York, but after seeing Woody Allen’s films, I fell in love with it. In fact, if it weren’t for Woody, I might not have ever moved to this glorious city. (If you keep reading, you’ll find a list of some of my favorite Woody Allen NYC film locations.) Continue reading

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Personal Update, New Published Links, Andalucia

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since I’ve updated this blog, but much of that time was spent wedding planning and putting the final touches together for the big day. I’m happy to say that the event went off with nary a hitch (other than our own) two weeks ago tomorrow.

Just prior to my life-status change, I became the new editor-in-chief of TravelWorld International Magazine, published by the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA); my first issue, on adventure and offbeat travel, will be out at the end of October.  I also accepted a number of freelance writing assignments, which kept me busy throughout the month of August and into early September, but I think they resulted in some decent clips, including:

Tips for Traveling in a Country After Civil Unrest, for Intelligent Travel, the blog for National Geographic Traveler

You Asked For It—Scotch Bars, for Time Out New York

The Jewish Singles Scene, for Time Out New York

My feature for Incentive on India’s new luxury train service, the Maharaja’s Express, is finally out too.

For most of the past two weeks, my husband and I have been traveling through Andalucia, Spain, and are now making our way through Morocco. Look for updates on both in the coming days. In the meantime, here are a few photos for a taste of our current adventure.

Salmorejo: Cordoban gazpacho. Chilled, thick tomato soup, with jamon, crumbled egg, and bread.

A special performance for the Flamenco Festival, which takes place every other September in Sevilla, at the Fundacion Cristina Heeren de Arte Flamenco.

The coast north of Tarifa, Europe's kite-surfing capital.

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Thailand Travels: Back to Normal

I’ve been in Thailand this week as part of a group of travel bloggers brought over by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to experience various parts of the country. We initially were to visit in April, but the trip was postponed due to political protests that turned violent in April and May. (Most readers should know about the events already, but if not, check out this series of posts on GlobalVoicesOnline.org.)

Our rescheduled trip is still to experience Thai culture and activities, but it now also is to help spread the word that Bangkok is back to normal, and it’s safe to visit the country once again.

I can say without hesitation—and without outside influence—that the city does indeed seem back to normal and feels as safe as ever. I speak from experience: Bangkok was my base during my extended travels in Southeast Asia a decade ago, and I’ve returned to Thailand many times since. (Technically this is my ninth visit.)

Me in front of the gold chedit at the Grand Palace.

Seeing the unrest unfold this spring was shocking. My experiences with the Thai people have always been consistent—they are incredibly hospitable, generous and hard working. They are polite, almost to a fault, and rarely will say no to a request, even when they should (such as not knowing directions to a place but attempting to get you there nonetheless). They also do not like conflict—not surprising, given that a majority of the country is Buddhist. In fact, showing anger is strongly frowned upon and considered “losing face.” Continue reading

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Miami Spa Month; Restaurant, Hotel and Attraction Discounts

For the third year in a row, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) has deemed July to be Miami Spa Month in the “Magic City.” This year, however, the bureau has outdone itself—it not only has signed on eight new spas to participate, but also has extended the discounts for a second month, through August 31.

The Viceroy Spa

The Viceroy Spa

Starting today, 36 of Miami’s top spas (a record number) are offering signature treatments normally valued at $199 or above for just $99. Participants include some of my favorite Miami spas and hotels: Exhale Spa at the EPIC Hotel, Elemis Spa at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, The Spa at David Barton Gym at the Gansevoort Miami Beach (the most extensive gym I’ve had access to as a hotel guest), and The Viceroy Spa at—where else?—The Viceroy.

Summer also is Miami’s slow season, so there are good deals on hotels and attractions in the city, such as the current Miami 4-4-3 promotion where guests get four nights or tickets for the price of three, valid through September 30. Plus in August and September visitors can participate in the Miami Spice Restaurant Month for dining deals as well.

Discount hotels, restaurants and spas—sounds like the ideal trifecta of savings to me!

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New Look, New Clips

Giving this blog a face-lift has been on my To Do list for several months—and it’s something I’m still working on, but at least I’ve begun the process. The impetus was TBEX’10—the excellent travel blogger exchange that took place in New York City last weekend. If you’re a travel blogger and you aren’t sure what TBEX is, check out the site and consider attending next year, in the fabulous city of Vancouver.

The conference reinforced what I already knew—that I need to dedicate more time to this blog, especially since after a year of looking for a full-time editorial position I’m still freelancing, so I had better take this endeavor more seriously.

Deserted island beach near Phuket, Thailand

Deserted beach on a small island off Phuket, Thailand.

The new header photo is that of a fishing village on the island of Phuket in Thailand, taken during my last visit five years ago. The shot above was taken during that same trip, and it reminds me of what I love about the southern region of Thailand—the ability to still find a little piece of solitary paradise without leaving civilization too far behind.

I have been thinking a lot about “my second home” lately, especially because of the protests in April, which means I’m overdue for a return visit. Lucky for me I was invited on a blogger trip to Thailand the other day and will be back in Southeast Asia—one of my favorite parts of the world—next week. Look for new posts here on Bangkok and other destinations in Thailand soon.

I’ve also added a list of selected clips, to show that one of the reasons I haven’t been posting here too regularly is that I’ve been keeping busy with paying assignments—an ideal reason if you ask me.

So I hope you enjoy the new look, which I’ll continue to tweak, and most importantly the new content that I’ll be uploading on a more regular basis.

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Gerber Photo Contest: Monthly Prizes, $25K Scholarship, Print Ad Appearance

After we made family travel our initial target topic when launching TravelMuse three years ago, I suddenly found myself entrenched in all that was related to hitting the road with youngsters in tow, from learning about the variety of travel-related products geared toward the family market, to all the mommy bloggers out there, to special travel and photo promotions targeted to parents.

Though the site moved beyond covering just family travel two years ago, and I’ve been gone from TravelMuse for a year now, I still find myself coming across kid-related deals and contests on a regular basis that I think would be cool for not just for parents heading out on vacation, but in general.

While attending a new product event for a business magazine assignment, I learned about this Gerber Generation photo contest, which also incorporates a bit of social networking (and, perhaps, begging). The company soft launched the contest a couple weeks ago and is just now getting the word out about it to parents.

Gerber Generation judges are looking for photos of children from birth to preschool that “demonstrate expression, charm and uniqueness.” There are six monthly competitions from July through December, with a winner each month. At the end of the contest, the child whose photo best meets these criteria will receive the grand prize of starring in a Gerber print advertisement plus a $25,000 scholarship.

Here’s how it works:

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Thailand: Calling All Tourists

Not surprisingly, tourism numbers to Thailand are down and tourism-related losses are estimated at 60 to 70 billion Thai baht ($1.9 billion to $2.2 billion USD) following the recent Red Shirt protests that took place for two months this past spring in the capital Bangkok, and culminated with a violent ending on May 19.

I was incredibly saddened by those events, as Thailand and its people will always have a special place in my heart: Bangkok was my home base when I spent the better part of a year in Southeast Asia a decade ago, and I encountered nothing but kindness and warm hospitality then and on my return trips to the country since.

So I was excited to attend a luncheon yesterday with members from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to hear about how they plan to get people to return to the “Land of Smiles.”

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