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PART 3: Charles de L’Arbre in Paris

Paris Day 1—Disembarkation in Monte Carlo

Today our lovely sojourn on The Explorer comes to an end. Our bags were packed and left out the night before. Barbara and I went down to La Veranda for breakfast as the ship slowly warped into the magnificent harbor of Monte Carlo. Looking around, we could see to our left, the Pink Palace, the residence of the Grimaldi family, with the rest of the city in an arc around us.

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

Disembarkation was quick and efficient. We identified our luggage and went to our coach for the transfer to Nice Airport 35 minutes away. I had scheduled an early afternoon flight to Paris. However, we arrived early enough we were make a flight up to Paris which arrived before noon.  Arrival in Paris was easy—a quick walk to baggage claim, out into the arrival lobby and in to a taxi for the ride in to Paris.  An interesting note:  taxi fare into Paris from Charles de Gaulle Airport is now fixed at 50 Euros—a nice change since our last visit to Paris.  It was good for us, but not for our driver as a bad accident left us in his car for about 2 hours.

Our arrival at Le Bristol was almost ceremonial. Once we were at the Front Desk, we were greeted in short order by the Reservations Manager, the Sales Manager and other members of the hotel team with whom I have worked for years and who I regard as old friends. We were offered a light lunch in the hotel’s wonderful bar before being shown up to our room—actually a spacious junior suite overlooking one of Le Bristol’s courtyards.

The Garden at Le Bristol is perfect for breakfast

The Garden at Le Bristol is perfect for breakfast

Barbara went out to reconnoiter the nearby shops on the Faubourg St.Honore while I did a little work before going down to dinner at Le Bristol’s brasserie, 114 Faubourg. This is the hotel’s more casual restaurant—which still has been awarded a Michelin Star (the other is the three-starred Epicurean Restaurant). We were given a wonderful table which overlooked the open kitchen on the level below us where we could watch the chefs prepare and plate every entrée. The dinner was sumptuous and the service a wonderful combination of professional, personable and warm.

Paris Day 2—On the Paris Boulevards

After a wonderful breakfast looking out at the garden in Le Bristol’s Epicurean restaurant, we toured the hotel, admiring the beautiful spa and the hotel’s unique swimming pool, Mrs. Oettker, the hotel’s owner, visits from Germany twice a month and clearly makes the decisions on everything including flower arrangements. Le Bristol is clearly a labor of love that is shared by all the staff.

fountain_place_des_vosges

Place de Vosges in the Marais District in Paris. Photo Credit: www.placesinparis.com/place-des-vosges/

We left the hotel and walked the short distance to the Tuileries and the courtyards of the Louvre. After the heat in the South of France, the light intermittent rain was pleasant as we walked through Paris to one of my favor locales, the Place des Vosges in the Marais District. Built in the early 17th century by  King Henri IV and originally known as the Place Royale, it is an enclosed square with no automobile traffic and houses another favorite Paris hotel of ours, The Pavillon de la Reine.

Charles and Barbara in the Pavillion de la Reine

Charles and Barbara in the Pavillon de la Reine

 

The building housing the hotel was the pavilion or residence of Anne of Austria prior to marrying the French king. This is a perfect spot for anyone wanting a quiet, intimate hotel experience in one of Paris’s most interesting an historic areas.

From the Place de Vosges, we walked for a few minutes to the Musee Picasso—a must visit for anyone interested in the artists. Converted from a magnificent 17th century residence, the Museum has over 5000 works in its collection and tens of thousands of archive pieces.

Charles de L'Arbre posing at the Picasso Museum in Paris in front of the L'Arbre

Charles de L’Arbre posing at the Picasso Museum in Paris in front of the L’Arbre

After our Picasso visit, we had a quick lunch at a sidewalk café—a carafe of red wine, bread and cheese…….perfect……before returning to Le Bristol to get ready for our last evening in Paris—dinner at the newly re-opened Hotel Ritz.

Lobby

The four year renovation cost an estimated €400m (~$500m US), well over the initial estimate of €140m.

The legendary hotel was founded by Swiss entrepreneur César Ritz in 1898, and is the basis of the meaning “ritzy.” The hotel is famed as the stomping ground of figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway. You’ll find a dedicated Coco Chanel Suite, and Hemingway Bar in their honor.

The hotel now features the world’s first Chanel branded spa; an underground swimming pool with 800,000 mosaic tiles, and a revamp of the interior detailing that is iconic to the Ritz: delicate silks, draped curtains and gilded mirrors. Highly recommended stay, and worth the long wait. The Ritz Paris is running a few fantastic specials through the end of 2016 that you can view on our specials page.

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

If you would love to hear more recommendations for your time in Paris, please be sure to reach out to me by phone (805.969.7746) or email charlesd@sbtravel.com

 

Santa Barbara Travel’s Pre-Inaugural Voyage Aboard Seven Seas Explorer

Through the excellent partnership between Santa Barbara Travel Bureau and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre and his wife, Barbara, were invited aboard the pre-inaugural voyage of Seven Seas Explorer, dubbed “The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built.” Below, Charles shares his experience and passes along travel tips to make your trip perfect.

Day 1 ~ Board Seven Seas Explorer in Barcelona

Today we boarded the Seven Seas Explorer! A 10-minute taxi-ride took us from the Hotel Arts to the Barcelona Passenger Cruise Terminal.  Forty-five minutes later, we, and our fellow passengers were among the first guests to board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer. Glass of champagne in hand, we wandered around the ship—truly impressed with the artwork, the detail and, of course, the layout. Not dissimilar from other Regent ships we have sailed on, there is truly a wonderful aura about Explorer—the public rooms have a lovely scale and the staff absolutely top-notch.

Step into the Lobby of the Seven Seas Explorer

Step into the Lobby of the Seven Seas Explorer

We made our way to Le Veranda—one of three restaurants on the ship serving lunch—sat at a table for 2 and contemplated each other and our good fortune to be there. La Veranda offers a combination of an extensive buffet and cooked to order meats—steaks, chops, sausage—all delicious.

HINT—If you want something cooked to order, it is helpful to have your table number to give to one of the servers. I had forgotten mine, which resulted in a delay.

Charles de L'Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, poses with the Chef aboard Seven Seas Explorer

Charles de L’Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, poses with the Chef aboard Seven Seas Explorer

Concierge Suite Deck 14

Following our lunch, we went up to our suite on Deck 14—the top cabin deck on the ship.  The layout was very efficient. Upon entering is the bathroom—marble floor with inlay, double sinks, bathtub, and shower. My wife was happy about the excellent lighting and plenty of counter space.

concierge suite

Beyond the bathroom a large walk-in closet with a safe, and beyond that the sleeping and sitting area, and finally a large veranda. For television and movie addicts, there is a large flat panel television, which swings out for easy viewing from the bed. Channels included CNN and FOX from the USA as well as BBC News, Sky News and Sky Sports and a move channel to round out the English-speaking offerings.  There are also information channels on the ship with information on the extensive Canyon Ranch Spa treatments, shipboard activities and videos of guest lecturers. Finally, there is an on-demand film selection, which allows one to interrupt the film they are watching and then resume the film at that point later in the day!

Dinner at Chartreuse

Chartreuse 3Our first day on board the Explorer continued into evening with a delightful dinner at “Chartreuse,” a French-themed restaurant with a modern twist which was superb—from the fois gras starter through desert and a cheese course to the after dinner cordials. I had requested that a menu be sent to my cabin—alas that did not happen. The one shortcoming to an otherwise perfect meal.

Onboard Dining Options

There is no shortage of dining options on board. In addition to the French cuisine of Chartreuese there are three other specialty restaurants available for dinner:

Chartreuse evokes memories of a chic Parisian fine dining restaurant discovered during an evening stroll. Wherever you are seated in this regal restaurant, you will be treated to a succulent dinner while enjoying incredible ocean views.

Chartreuse evokes memories of a chic Parisian fine dining restaurant discovered during an evening stroll. Wherever you are seated in this regal restaurant, you will be treated to a succulent dinner while enjoying incredible ocean views.

Prime 7 Restaurant is a true classic in every sense, Prime 7 sets a new standard in steakhouse fare with its contemporary interpretation of an American favorite.

Prime 7 Steakhouse

pacious and comfortably casual, La Veranda offers regional specialties that often reflect the cuisines of the countries called on.

La Veranda for Dinner

Celebrating the culinary traditions of Asia and our new Pan-Asian specialty restaurant, Pacific Rim delights guests with the perfect balance of delicious flavors and Zen-like ambiance.

Pacific Rim Pan Asian Cuisine

Besides those, there is the main restaurant on the ship, The Compass Rose—open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more casual dining, you will love La Veranda, which serves both breakfast and lunch and includes outdoor seating. You can also enjoy lunch at The Pool Grill for those seeking something very casual.  There is also The Café, which offers various coffees, pastries, and gourmet sandwiches during the day. No one traveling on the Explorer will go hungry!

Day 2 ~ Day at Sea

This was our only day at sea—and perhaps the nicest!  There is a lovely rhythm to being on the water on a great ship—particularly traveling with someone you love.  Think of it as an extended date during which you are called up to make such difficult choices as where to dine, when to workout (or take a nap) and what treatment to have at the Canyon Ranch Spa.

Luckily, my wife took the guesswork out of all of those items. In mid-afternoon, I had a blissful massage at the Spa—I confess I slept through part of it, followed by a wonderful dinner at Setti Mari where we shared a table outside with some friends as the evening sun was setting. Magical!

This may seem like an afterthought, but the Explorer offers an excellent fitness center with Lifecycles, Stairmasters, Striders, treadmills, a Nautilus machine, free weights etc. as well as Pilates, yoga and various exercise classes—whew. There is also a jogging track (but you can also walk it at a dignified saunter), bocce court, shuffleboard, or you can lie out by the pool and practice arm curls with a glass of adult refreshment.

Day 3 ~ Visit Toulon

Tour of Seven Seas Navigator

We arrived at Toulon, one of the great historical French ports and the Mediterranean home of the French Navy. After breakfast, I was invited to visit the Navigator, Regent Seven Seas Cruises smallest ship. Carrying 500 passengers, she just completed a $50 million overhaul and I was eager to see the results.  She is a cozy, intimate ship.  While the dining options are fewer than on Explorer, she has the same high culinary and service standards, and very spacious cabins. It was clear to see that the crew members I came into contact with are very proud of the Navigator and love serving aboard her.

Shore Excursion: Aix-en-Provence

Aix en Provence Shore Excursion. Photo Credit: The 10 Best Aix en Provence  Tours via www.Viator.com

Aix en Provence Shore Excursion. Photo Credit: The 10 Best Aix en Provence Tours via www.Viator.com

aixe en Provence

In the afternoon, we took a shore excursion to Aix-en-Provence, a visit I had made decades earlier. We were driven from Toulon through the Provencal countryside to Aix… Our guide, a lovely Frenchwoman from Marseilles with a gift for narrative, pointed out points of interest including the iconic Mont Saint Victoire. 90 minutes after leaving Toulon, we arrived in Aix-en-Provence where we began a two-hour walking tour. Unfortunately, we were in 100+ degree heat so the main highlight of the tour was ending it at the Café des Deux Freres, operating since 1792, whereupon my wife went shopping and I had a nice cold beer.  We returned to the air-conditioned comfort of the ship and happily called it a day.

Day 4 ~ Visit Sardinia 

Today we visit Sardinia, the second largest of the Italian islands after Sicily. It is located off of the Northwest Italian coast and the ports of Olbia and Cagliari are serviced by enormous car and passenger ferries from the Italian mainland. At 6am, I was standing out on my veranda, cup of coffee in hand(that in-room coffee maker an intense blessing at that particular moment), as I watched our ship being navigated between the rocky islands of the Madalena Archipelago. Sparsely populated the islands were starkly beautiful in the early sun—particularly one lovely old castle we sailed past.

Porto Cervo

Olbia is a bustling port. We berthed across from one of the ferries that unloaded its passenSan pantaleogers, cars and cargo with tremendous precision.  Also precise was our disembarkation for a tour to the Bay of Sardinia and the resort town of Porto Cervo. From Oblia, we were driven to the small village of San Pantaleo—renowned for its location surrounded by dramatic rocky and outcroppings and as an artist colony. There are some interesting art galleries, a pretty little church, a few restaurants—and not much else. From there we continued to Baia Sardinia which is a lovely, low key, beach resort with beautiful emerald waters off of a long beach.  As I was another very warm day, the hospitality of the Barracuda Café beckoned—along with a beer—while my wife went to check on the health of the retail industry.

Our next stop was Porto Cervo. This was developed by the Aga Khan and other investors in the 1960’s and became famous as one of the original jet-set destinations. Porto Cervo has a yacht harbor filled with some magnificent yachts, a lot of private houses with high walls and formidable gates, and a lot of high end shops—all of which were closed on the Sunday we were there—my good luck, but poor planning on their part.

The tour ultimately brought us back to Olbia via another route.

I should probably add a note about shore excursions—particularly with Regent who include free and unlimited shore excursions as a feature of all their sailings.  While we were on the first sailing and found something to like about every excursion we took, we also found ourselves wondering if it might not have been more pleasant to stay on that beautiful ship and enjoy the wonderful service, the wonderful food, and the wonderful air conditioning rather than the tour we were on….but hey, “if you don’t go, you will never know”. Once again, we were happy to be back on board.

Dinner that evening was at the Compass Rose—absolutely fabulous. While the menu had almost anything one could possibly ask for, they were also ready, willing and able to make any request that was not on the menu.

Day 5 ~ Visit St. Tropez

St tropez boat

Seven Seas Explorer anchored off St. Tropez

Today we anchored off of St. Tropez for our last full day on the ship. We chose to take a 2-hour walking tour around this little village, made famous in the 1950’s by its association with Brigitte Bardot who still lives there and is often seen by the locals in this little community of 5000 people.  The town is built around the yacht harbor, filled with vessels that, in same cases, dwarf the buildings.  We had a lovely tour that ended at the art museum.  One of my goals had been to see the Hotel de Ponche—a small, often overlooked 5 star hotel in St. Tropez. It looks out a small beach and is one I have used a number of times for clients who want some an intimate experience with reasonable prices. I had never seen it before and was not disappointed.

We decided to go to one of the beach clubs outside the village for lunch and Rose at club 55took a 12 minute cab ride to Club 55—arguably the best-known of all of the beach clubs in St. Tropez. It had not occurred to me that on a Monday we would have any difficulty in getting a table but we were informed that a table would be impossible. I am not sure if it was Barbara’s presence or my very deferential French, but we ultimately were shown to a table in front of which every guest coming to lunch had to pass!  Paparazzi – eat your hearts out!! Barbara could name every handbag paraded past us. I, however, concentrated on the excellent Rose de Provence we were drinking while reflecting on the irony of the term “cover-up.” Two hours later, we were on our way back to the port having pronounced the day a complete success.

Hint—Should you go to St. Tropez, make a lunch reservation at Club 55. The beach is available to you, and the table is yours all day long!

Club 55 in St. Tropez is an elegant lunch destination. Make a reservation beforehand for a table for the day and private beach access.

Club 55 in St. Tropez is an elegant lunch destination. Make a reservation beforehand for a table for the day and private beach access.

We came back to the ship and started our packing for a sailing that, for us, was over way too quickly. The voyage ended in Monte Carlo, where I took the beautiful photo below from the ship. We then spent a few days in Paris to end the trip.

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

View of Monte Carlo from Seven Seas Explorer

Among features of the Explorer that we were unable to take advantage of due to the tight schedule was their exhibition kitchen were cooking demonstrations and cooking classes are offered. The kitchen is state of the art and a huge “must” for anyone with a strong interest in cooking.

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

 

The Seven Seas Explorer is certainly living up to its name. The first voyages are all completely sold out and for good reason. The ship is worth the hype. To discuss your itinerary on the Seven Seas Explorer, send me and email at charlesd@sbtravel.com or call 805.969.7746.

PART 1: Barcelona as Recommended by Santa Barbara Travel CEO, Charles de L’Arbre

Charles de L’Arbre, CEO of Santa Barbara Travel, shares his itinerary, reviews, and travel trips from his most recent trip to Europe with his wife, Barbara. In this first installment, find airport and travel tips, and take a tour of Barcelona.

Day 1

We departed LAX on Air France on their Airbus 380—marvelous service and food in business class. Lie flat beds and great entertainment system on board. We were at the Korean Airlines lounge which had very little to offer in terms of food apart from the ability to make ramen noodles and generous helpings of kim chee…..

The transfer at Charles de Gaulle involved 2 long walks and a short train ride to change terminals plus going through security and passport control. With an hour and a half between flights in was manageable and the signage to get from one place to another was very clear.

In Barcelona, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel Arts which was built for the Olympics down by the waterfront. The area had formerly been all warehouses and docks and was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry to include hotels, beaches, and areas with a lot of restaurants and bars. Now a very hip and tourist friendly area.

Hotel Arts Barcelona was built for the Olympics. Mostly warehouses, the area was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry.

Hotel Arts Barcelona was built for the Olympics. Mostly warehouses, the area was re-designed by the architect Frank Gehry.

We stayed up on the Club Level where check-in was handled and were shown to a beautiful room looking north along the beaches. Once unpacked, we went to The Club and toasted our arrival with a glass of cava, jamon de Serrano, Spanish cheeses and other delicacies and made our plans for the next two days.

Hotel Arts Barcelona Deluxe Guestroom

Hotel Arts Barcelona Deluxe Guestroom

The Club at Hotel Arts Barelona

The Club at Hotel Arts Barcelona

Dinner  that night was at a wonder tapas bar, La Pepita where we were looked after by the owner who suggested choices off of their long menu and plentiful wine list.  We left sated and amazed by a bill that was less than 65 Euros.

Photo credit: http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/restaurants/la-pepita

La Pepita in Barcelona: A hip, affordable Tapas bar open for breakfast, lunch and dinner

La Pepita food

Photo credit: Timout.com

Day 2

Breakfast at The Club followed by a cab ride up to the Passeig de Gracia—often described as Barcelona’s Fifth Avenue.  We started on the upper part of the street which is much more of a residential neighborhood and meandered our way down. As I often do, we looked in at various hotels we use in Barcelona.

Hotel Casa Fuster designed by Spanish architect Lluis Domanech

Hotel Casa Fuster designed by Spanish architect Lluis Domanech

The most unusual may be the Casa Fuster which was originally designed as a private home by the great Spanish architect Lluis Domanech I Montaner, considered a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi, done in the Modernist Style. Now a wonderful hotel with a terrific bar, it is very close to the iconic Gaudi structures.

Charles de L'Arbre standing in front of the Gaudí house

Charles de L’Arbre standing in front of the Gaudí house

We stopped in at Casa Batlló, a renowned building in the center of Barcelona remodeled  by architect Antoni Gaudí. It was a 15 minute wait for entrance tickets but well-worth the wait for a self-guided tour with audio-assist of one of the most extraordinary structures in Barcelona. Also on Passeig de Gracia is another Gaudí house: Casa Milà popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry). For anyone interested in Gaudí, this is not to be missed! Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry), and the Casa Battlo. Both are on Passeig de Gracia and open to visitors.

Old Facade of Majestic Hotel in Barcelona

Old Facade of Majestic Hotel in Barcelona

We continued on down Passeig de Gracia, stopping in at the Hotel Majestic—another deluxe and very Spanish hotel with reputation for superb service and an unmatched location—as well as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel which opened 2 years ago. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is very serene and Asian in feeling and is separated from the street by a long entrance hall with most of the public rooms on the second floor. Like its sister hotel in Paris (which we saw a week later), the entire hotel is almost like being in a spa.

New Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona Main Lobby and Entrance Cat Walk show the modern-design

New Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona Main Lobby and Entrance Cat Walk show the modern design

Lunch was at the rooftop restaurant of Hotel 1898 down on Las Ramblas. Lovely service, a bit of a breeze, good food washed down with an excellent Rioja—all a perfect end to the morning hike.  The hotel is a wonderful marriage between traditional and very hip and a good choice for anyone who wants to be down closer to the Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. From  our table we could look out on the spires of the cathedral a couple of blocks away.  Other hotel choices in that area would include the Hotel Colon, which is directly across from the Cathedral, it’s budget-friendly, sister hotel, the Regencia Colon, as well the the lovely Hotel Neri—a modern hotel inside a 15th century palacio.

La Isabella Terraza

La Isabella Terraza, the roof top restaurant of Hotel 1989 on Las Ramblas

Day 3

After breakfast in The Club, we decided to take a quick run up to La Sagrada Familia—something we do every time we are in Barcelona since my first visit in 1977. La Sagrada Familia is the yet-unfinished masterwork of Antoni Gaudi. Construction began in 1882. Gaudi was killed by a streetcar 40 years later and construction progressed slowly until about 20 years ago. Completion is estimated to be about 16 years from now.

Travel Tip: Because it is Barcelona’s most-visited attraction, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to reserve your tickets for scheduled tours in advance! No first-time visit to Barcelona is complete without a visit to this amazing cathedral.

Tour complete, we went back to the hotel, finalized our packing and took a 10-minute taxi-ride to the Barcelona Passenger Cruise Terminal. Forty-five minutes later, we and our fellow passengers were among the first guests to board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer.

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

Glass of champagne in hand, we wandered around the ship—truly impressed with the artwork, the detail and, of course, the layout. Not dissimilar from other Regent ships we have sailed on, there is truly a wonderful aura about Explorer—the public rooms have a lovely scale and the staff absolutely top-notch.

Details of the voyage on the Seven Seas Explorer coming soon

Warm Regards,
Charles de L’Arbre

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip to Europe visiting Spain and traveling aboard Regent’s new Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing charlesd@sbtravel.com

Luxury by Numbers: The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built

Seven Seas Explorer® is officially on duty. Guests may now relish the opulence and extravagance aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises newest ship. From unwinding on the $150,000 Savoir No. 1 bed in the Regent Suite to dining on specially designed Versace plates, here’s why Seven Seas Explorer is the world’s most luxurious ship ever built. Next week, Santa Barbara Travel CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, shares his personal experience and travel tips from his voyage aboard the Seven Seas Explorer.

staff to guest ratio


balcony space

 


 

more quality


versace place settings


chandliers


Regent Seven Seas Explorer Main Lobby

1 Acre of Marble and 1 Acre of Granite Used to Build Ship

Charles de L'Arbre in Barcelona

Charles de L’Arbre in Barcelona

Talk to our CEO, Charles de L’Arbre, about his recent trip to Europe visiting Spain and traveling aboard Regent’s new Seven Seas Explorer. Contact him by emailing charlesd@sbtravel.com

 

 

Advisor Trip: Royal Palms, Phoenix, AZ

Looking for a quick getaway in Phoenix or a luxurious stopover on your way to Canyon Ranch Tucson? The Royal Palms Resort and Spa is a MUST STAY.

Royal Palms Entrance

This beautiful property was originally built in 1929 by Mr. Delos Willard Cooke (New York Industrialist) as a Spanish colonial inspired mansion for his ailing wife.  After being owned by several prominent owners, the estate eventually turned into the Royal Palms Resort and Spa, now a 5 Star boutique Virtuoso resort with full spa services.

Royal Palms Camel Back Villa

Royal Palms Camel Back Villa

Upon arrival, I felt I entered a time warp as I walked into this historic Arizona landmark featuring a fragrant orange grove, hidden alcoves, and colorful manicured gardens dotted by water fountains with the flavor of Andalusia. My room’s Juliet-style balcony window overlooked the hotel’s grand entrance. For those that want to relax or enjoy a romantic getaway, you will not go wrong with their spacious bathrooms (mine was just as big as the sleeping/living area) featuring a deep soaking tub and separate shower.

Royal Palms Montavista Terrace Room

Royal Palms Montavista Terrace Room

Definitely try the award-winning restaurant, T. Cook’s, one of the best restaurants I have ever experienced.  I ordered the recommended duck foie gras and glad I indulged.

Royal Palms Spa Treatment

Royal Palms Spa Treatment

Visit in May, as I did, and enjoy hundreds of hummingbirds darting around the garden when dining al fresco for lunch or breakfast.  Did I mention breakfast is included with your stay when booking with Santa Barbara Travel?  Book with me and I will reward you with a $50 dinner credit at T. Cook’s and upgrade your room based on availability!

 

Contact me, Kathy Reimer, at 805-650-6999,kreimer@sbtravel.com or my travel partner in the Santa Barbara office, Tina Slimp at 805-869-1112 ortnordholm@sbtravel.com

Why You Need a Travel Advisor Now More Than Ever

Having a good relationship with your personal travel advisor is much like having one with your family doctor. Except with us, your “checkup” results in a weekend getaway, your questions are about travel destinations and dream-fulfilling itineraries, and in case of emergency, we provide 24/7 advisor access to assist you with your travel needs. All joking aside, using a travel advisor is more beneficial than ever. 


Save Valuable Time

We know your time is precious, so why waste it sorting through the clutter of information offered online? Whether it’s an extensive international trip, a cruise, or weekend getaway, we can take care of all the details so that you can relax and enjoy the moment.

Personalized Itinerary

Your itinerary is more than just making the connections, it is connecting with the neighborhoods you stay in, restaurants that make you fall in love, and special off-the-beaten-pathexperiences that are waiting for you. Whether you love to do-it-yourself or are looking for someone to take the reins, when you collaborate with your travel advisor, your trips will be tailored to your needs, interests, and budget.

Value Added Travel – Get More Than You Pay For

When you book online, you get what you get. When you book with a travel advisor affiliated with the leading luxury network, Virtuoso, you receive more. Connections like ours create opportunities that make a trip truly extraordinary, and often result in value-added perks—like bonus cruise amenities, spa credit, room upgrades, and private tours. We have been arranging the “above an beyond” part of experiences for a long time.

Why Take the Chance?

No one likes (bad) surprises when they arrive, and there is no guarantee when you make a reservation online. Contact Santa Barbara Travel and you tap into a wealth of travel knowledge. When you contact one of our advisors, they have probably been to the destination you want to travel to and have a relationship with the hotel or travel company you want to book. They also know what questions to ask. Like your beds soft? We will make sure you sleep well at night.

We Are In Your Corner 

Santa Barbara Travel is committed to excellent customer service. When something unexpected happens in travel, such as a canceled or delayed flight, we have a vested interest.  Have you ever tried calling your online travel company for a refund or alternate route?  With Santa Barbara Travel Bureau you’ll never end up 10th in line on the phone or waiting on hours end at the airlines’ customer service counter. We have you covered, and are available to assist you to get you to where you need to be… no matter where in the world!

A Modern Solution

While travel advisors are by no means new to the industry, the last 15 years threatened their existence. Santa Barbara Travel Bureau not only adapted to and evolved with the unprecedented challenges in the industry, but also thrived with the opportunity. Whether it’s a vacation or a business trip, a sports team, or a multi-generational family reunion, we offer a personalized, professional solution to your unique travel equation. The landscape may be ‘ever changing in the travel industry, but our dedication and commitment to our clients is not.

 

Do you have a favorite experience made possible by your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor? Please share your comments, testimonials, and travel photos by emailing info@sbtravel.com

Charlie’s Bucket List Destination: The Wickaninnish Inn

Wick-a-nin-nish Inn

Usually we don’t consider the hotel the “destination” but in the case of the Wickaninnish Inn, it’s worth the trip. Known to friends (which all guests become) as the “Wick Inn,” this family-owned and operated lodge will speak to the part of you looking for a nice, quiet place to take your time and relax. Enjoy a nice stroll through the old-growth forest behind you, or walk the Pacific coastline in front of you. Have no commitment except to the warmth of the fireplace.

Wick Inn canopy suite view

Ocean View from the Canopy Suite

Located on the West Coast of Vancouver, this rustic last-frontier-style lodge is the perfect place to be on the edge of wilderness while still experiencing top luxury. Each season varies quite greatly, so you will want to know what kind of experience you are craving. No matter when you travel, enjoy the hand-carved artwork and furniture made by Henry Nolla over his 25 years at the Wick Inn, including the beautiful fireplace mantles in each room.

Henry Nolla in the Wood Carving Shed

Henry Nolla in the Wood Carving Shed

This lodge first came on our radar through Charles de L’Arbre, owner and CEO of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau, when we asked him what his dream destinations were. A trip to the Wick Inn was top on his travel list. It turns out that Charles has a soft spot for extreme weather, and watching trans-pacific waves crash outside while sitting by the warmth of a private fireplace is right up his alley. The best season for this kind of experience is the Winter Season (November to February). Living in the dry hills of Santa Barbara doesn’t quite offer the same… weather.

wick inn storm watch 2

Winter Storm Watching Season (November to February)

The peak season, however, is in the Summer. The Wick Inn is a beautiful beach resort, hosting weddings, proposals, vow renewals, birthdays, family reunions and more. You can easily explore the surrounding area, or enjoy the rustic luxury of the Inn. If you are looking for romance– this is your spot. Save with the “All You Need is Love” package or take a healthy, spa- and yoga-based approach with the “Ancient Cedars Active Health” package, which includes massages, yoga classes, and gourmet meals for two.

Beautiful ceremonies available at the Wickaninnish Inn to celebrate the occasion

Beautiful ceremonies available at the Wickaninnish Inn to celebrate the occasion

If you love adventuring, we suggest the “Wilderness to Wickaninnish Package.” The Wick Inn and the new Clayoquot Wilderness Resort have partnered to offer the most incredible experience to those who want to explore Vancouver Island. Stay in a luxurious tent (no, we are not kidding), and during the day explore by hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing amidst the spectacular wilderness, followed with massages and gourmet meals for two. After a few days in the wilderness, relax at the Wick Inn.

Walk amongst the Old Grown Rainforest

Walk amongst the Old Grown Rainforest

With only 75 rooms, each with an ocean-view balcony, fireplace, and giant soaking hot tub, you will feel the excitement of a new frontier amidst a rustic backdrop and modern luxury.

Call Charles de L’Arbre at 805.969.7746, or email him at charlesd@sbtravel.com to talk about this beautiful property.
Thank you to the Wickaninnish Inn for providing these beautiful photos.

Travel Advisor Trip Review– 7 Nights Aboard the AmaBella with AmaWaterways

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau Advisor, Nancy Herrmann, recently visited the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Hungary through a 7-Night voyage aboard the AmaBella. Beginning with three days in Prague, ending with three days in Budapest, with 7 days of stops along the Danube River on a river cruise by AmaWaterways. Below, Nancy shares her highlights of the trip, favorite cities, and tips to get the most out of cruise trips.

Three Days in Prague, the “City of Spires”

Prague

The AmaWaterways cruise started on the Danube River in Germany, but we chose to fly into Prague, Czech Republic to spend a few days in “The City of 100 Spires.” Any time you travel for a cruise, I highly recommend choosing a few destinations to explore at the beginning and/or end. If you are making the trip, make it a journey!

The historic center of Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back well over 1000 years. In the 14th century it was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and since has seen many upswings and falls of power throughout history. The most recent notable rise was in 1989 with the end of forty-one years of communist rule, yet the beauty and charm of the Old Town remains.

Nancy room

Accommodation: We stayed at the Pachtuv Palace for our three nights in Prague. Although our room showed definite signs of wear and tear, this hotel offers impeccable service, very large rooms and is walking distance to the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square.

 

Regensburg, Germany

From Prague, we boarded a bus for the transfer to our awaiting longship. After about two hours on the road, we stopped in Regensburg, Germany for a quick tour of the city and a lunch break. Beautiful, quiet town with an incredible waterway.

regensberg collage

 

The Cruise with AmaWaterways

Did You Know?  The word ‘Ama’ stems from the Latin “Amare,” meaning “to love.” In other words, AmaWaterways means “to love waterways” (not A.M.A. which could be confused..). That is what this river cruise line is all about: ensuring their customers love to travel on water as much as they do.

Cruise Theme: This particular cruise was a Wine Themed sailing with Aver Vineyards from Gilroy, CA on board and it required attendance at a special one hour Seminar on the River.

Service: The level of hospitality and attention to detail was remarkable. The crew was professional, attentive and charming, with a perpetual sense of good humor! Each day began with a genuine smile and cheery “good morning” from the housekeeper. Each stateroom was neat and clean, all day, every day. The bartenders and wait staff did everything they could to make us feel comfortable and well fed. We even struck up a rapport with a waiter on the first day who, much to his dismay I’m sure, ended up with us at his dinner table the entire cruise! Our table guests changed, but clearly, Aleksander enjoyed us as much as we did him.

Accommodations: For the next seven nights, we were housed in a Twin Balcony Stateroom that features both a French Balcony and a separate outside balcony, allowing incredible views right from our room throughout the journey. Talk about being on the water!

On Board Travel Tips: All inclusive pricing really helps you relax on vacation, and quite a few of your usual necessities are provided. All staterooms are equipped with a hairdryer, bathrobes, slippers and a safe. Your bathroom offers a magnifying mirror and spa-quality toiletries including soaps, body wash, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion that are replenished as needed. On European ships, a computer is provided in each stateroom that has high-speed Internet access and complimentary WiFi is available throughout the ship, albeit somewhat slow most of the time due to the fact that everyone uses it at the same time.

Meal Time: Meals are served in the main dining room three times a day, and as in usual cruising fashion, there are snacks available in the lounge throughout the day and late into the evenings. All drinks, including premium wines, beer and spirits are included with your meals. Coffees and hot chocolate from a dispenser, teas and water are available all day. Additional drinks can be bought in the lounge at very affordable prices; about $6 for a glass of wine and from $4-$15 for premium drinks.

Map of the 7-Night Cruise along the Danube River

Map of the 7-Night Cruise along the Danube River

First Highlight: Passau, Germany A typically quaint city on the Danube with some dubious history that includes tales about Hitler and Napoleon. The city floods often, most recently in 2013, where the water was so high, the town had to shut down!

Second Highlight: Salzburg, Austria Music fans ourselves, we chose to visit Salzburg, home of Mozart, ‘The Sound of Music’ and visited our first Christmas Market. The city has changed a bit since my last visit almost 30 years ago, but it is still charming.  If you aren’t as enthralled with Mozart as we were, we recommend the day trip to the picturesque Cesky Kymlov in the Czech Republic.

abby

Third Stop: Melk, Hungary Melk was one of our favorite stops, with its historic Abbey and fairytale town and began our favorite day.

wachau valley

Sailing the Wachau Valley: After a morning in Melk, the afternoon was spent sailing through the beautiful Wachau Valley, with incredible views past rolling hills, beautiful baroque churches, vineyards and ancient castles. Ruins of the 12th Century Durnstein Castle, atop the highest hill, was a great photo-op before floating into the striking town of Durnstein. History has it that King Richard the Lion-Hearted was imprisoned in the castle by Leopold V, the Duke of Austria, in 1192. That same evening, we did a special wine tasting at Castle Gobelsburg, then we set sail overnight to Vienna.

castle bodelsburg

The Journey Continued in Budapest

The last day and night of the cruise was spent in Budapest. This beautiful city was indeed at the top of our list! Thankfully, we planned to spend an extra few nights here after the cruise, so we didn’t have to extend the trip– We loved it so much we would have!

Highlights of Budapest

  1. Cruising the river at night
  2. Hungarian goulash soup making at the Sofitel (we have the aprons and hats to prove it!)
  3. Strolling through the Christmas markets
  4. Best dinner of our entire vacation (during our own 2 night extension)!
  5. Lights, sights, bridges and so much more!

budapest

All in all, this was a fantastic trip! In my opinion, AmaWaterways is great for travelers who want to take it easy, have some good food and sit back and relax, with the average age for a European river cruise at 55+. Although there are some things for the younger set to do while off the ship, because these longships have limited public space, there is not much to do while on board. If that is not a concern, it’s a great way to discover some great places in Europe!

If you have any questions about the trip, please call Nancy Herrmann at 805.966.3116 or email her at nherrmann@sbtravel.com or see her trip details on her Facebook page

Stollen Memories

Are holidays for you – as they are for us – all about the food?  As the years go by, it seems the strongest memories of holidays past revolve around what we ate and drank, as well as the people we spent them with.

Last week, we posted a Santa Barbara Travel trip report from our advisor, Cathy Kroll.  She wrote all about her gluwein-filled riverboat cruise, as she visited the Christmas markets along the Danube River.  Cathy sailed with AMAWaterways, and this week we bring you a blog post written by the owner of that company.  It was originally published on AMAWaterways‘ website, but we’ve asked to reprint it here: her description of a favorite childhood treat is so vivid, we can almost taste it!

Stollen Memories

by Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and co-owner of AMA Waterways, originally posted on 12/27/13

The holidays may be over, but as friends and guests return from their Christmas Market cruises, their suitcases stuffed with handmade ornaments and delicious seasonal treats, I am reminded of my childhood in Germany. Thought I would share some of these memories with you!

My hometown of Dresden is famous for its stollen, a moist cake made with dried fruit, nuts and spices and topped with powdered sugar.  The Dresden Stollen is an old, old tradition that dates back to 1474. The cake can be quite dense and heavy – nearly 4 ½ pounds! – and it still is my favorite dessert during the Christmas season. But it has to be the “official” cake, which is only available at select bakeries in Germany. My mom always sends one of these stollen cakes every year to my home in California, so that our family can enjoy this special treat when we are at home during the holidays.

pic_travelogue_stollen_2

Dresden holds a Stollenfest every year, which in itself has a fascinating history. During the reign of Augustus II the Strong (1670-1733), he ordered the Bakers’ Guild of Dresden to create a gigantic stollen for everyone in the city to enjoy. They had to build a special oven and design a huge knife to accommodate this massive cake, which was large enough to feed 24,000 people! Today, Dresden bakers continue this tradition by baking a stollen that weighs an astonishing 6000 pounds! It’s paraded by horse and carriage to the Christmas  Market, where it is ceremoniously cut into pieces and handed out to the crowd.

Where else but Europe would you experience such wonderful things? This is one of the many reasons why our Christmas Markets cruises are so popular. Many of our guests have taken these cruises multiple times, eager to experience the magic of Christmas in Europe again and again. We love that our cruises have become an annual tradition for our guests!

Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

 

dresden2

Christmas Markets along the Danube

“It’s a really special time to experience Europe,” said travel advisor Cathy Kroll after taking AMA Waterways Christmas Time Cruise, “and visiting the ‘Christkindl’ markets along the ancient cities of the Danube is a unique way to experience the Christmas season.”

xmas

“The hand blown ornaments, the little ‘smokers’ or hand incense burners; the men and women cooking sausages and sauerkraut over enormous pans; market-goers in their hats and mittens standing around barrels drinking their gluwein – these are all images from my Christmas market cruise that I’ll never forget.”

vienna

Who should go on these cruises?  “You know,” says Cathy, ‘although anyone would enjoy these, I think they’d be particularly fun for groups: your book club, your church group, all your girlfriends, or a family reunion.. it’s just so much fun to experience this with a lot of people!’

xmas2

And what about the weather? “There’s no way I would let the winter weather stop me.  Just be prepared for the cold… like your mom always tells you, ‘dress in layers!’.  My own tip?  Wear shoes that are waterproof.  Besides, you can always drink gluwein to keep warm!  And you know, when you get chilly at the markets, it’s so wonderful to come back to the ship that is all decorated to the nines for the holidays, and be welcomed with mulled wine and hot cider.”

AMAWaterways Christmas market departures are specially decorated for the holidays

AMAWaterways Christmas market departures are specially decorated for the holidays

“I travel because I’m so interested to see how others live, and the history of countries that are so much older than our own.  I love seeing life through others’ eyes.  I also love taking what I’ve experienced and, frankly, the travel mistakes that I’ve made myself, and helping my clients have their own, perfect vacation.”

If you have any questions about the AMA Waterways Christmas-Time Cruise, or you’d like some help crafting your own perfect vacation, contact Cathy at ckroll@sbtravel.com.