Archive for the ‘On the Fly!’ Category

Check out Northshire Bookstore Saratoga Springs’ Newsletter About Stephanie Abrams Appearance Scheduled for August 31, 2017

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

Have a look at this:

https://www.northshire.com/event/saratoga-stephanie-abrams

and join me for a Meet the Author & Book Signing at this wonderland for people who love to read

August 31st at 6pm. . .

See you there. . . or we’ll start RUMORS about you!

Here’s an overview of RUMORS:

Conspiracies, secrets, lies, loves, lust and scandals are woven into the intrigue of the business and personal lives of Frank, and his young wife, Maisy, as rumors swirl around their community. This fast-paced story oft-described by the phrases, “couldn’t put it down,” and “a real page-turner,’ rolls into motion as Frank ventures out in his search of a more comfortable life for himself and his bride. Warned by Maisy’s dad, a retired police officer, that disaster awaits if he accepts a job at a nefarious company soliciting him, Frank’s need to make a better life results in the lives of all around them being sucked into danger. Rumors abound, like a tornado sweeping through the community, threatening the lives, livelihoods, and love relationships of many in this otherwise quiet community! A glimpse into Frank’s welcoming ceremony inducting him into the company sets the stage for the intrigue that follows. Multicultural characters bring into focus timely issues in a kaleidoscope of personalities that readers recognize, laced with intrigue, plot twists and an ending readers will never see coming! Who could ask for anything more?

MEET ME IN SARATOGA SPRINGS AT NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE AT 6PM, AUGUST 31st!

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

SAVE THE DATE!

PLAN A TRIP  TO

MEET ME AT

NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE

424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

AUGUST 31, 2017

6pm

We’ll talk about RUMORS,

Do a book signing

and

Adjourn to the marvelous

Pavilion Grand Hotel

30 Lake Ave, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

to vege and hang out together

just 2 minutes away from Northshire Bookstore

a glorious place I always think of as an amusement park for people who love books!

PUT AUGUST 31st on YOUR CALENDAR NOW!

Go to travelers411.com

Ask Stephanie

or

facebook.com/stephanie.abrams.94

and let me know that you’ll be there

and who is coming with you!

So exciting!

Kilkenny Ireland’s Newpark Hotel’s Brochure & Website Only Show One Exterior Photo Making You Think This is Where You Will Stay!

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

What if I showed you a brochure for a 4-star hotel in Ireland and a corresponding website for that hotel where the only exterior photo shown was of a very impressive castle? Would you assume that that is the building where your hotel rooms are being booked? I wouldn’t fault YOU if you made that assumption.

What if you wanted to stay in a hotel that looked like the photo above but when you arrived, while the interior rooms were lovely, would you feel cheated if the hotel looked like a modern building?

One of my radio listeners brought her experience at the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny to my attention yesterday and I have to tell you that I’m quite upset by the brassiness of these folks to present a brochure and website that is so misleading to the traveler who has never been there to know better!

I’m really disgusted by the sleazy marketing approach that leaves the traveler with the impression that the beautiful interior rooms shown in their brochure and online do not lie inside the gorgeous castle they have  featured and promoted on the cover of the hotel’s 12 page full-color brochure. You’re going to be knocked out by this story!

Here are the facts followed by the punch line so don’t stop reaching until you get to the moral of this story!

It’s not unusual to see a brochure for a 4-star hotel in Ireland that looks like a castle, manor house or rook in a chess game.  Such is the look of the edifice that is featured on the cover of a 12 page brochure about Ireland’s Newpark Hotel, located in Kilkenny.  If you go to www.FlynnHotels.com and click on the link for Newpark Hotel, you’ll see that same historic, majestic castle building on the home page for the hotel. Note that the photo of the castle they features is not  the exterior of where you’ll be staying!

Inside the 12 page full-color brochure for the Newpark Hotel, there are no other photos of the hotel’s exterior itself, not on the cover nor inside the brochure!  On the cover, the top 60%  of the page is devoted to the castle and then there’s a gold line across the cover page.  The rest of the page names the hotel, its location, displays 4 gold stars and indicates that this little brochure is your “Guide to The Newpark” a place for your ‘escape Health Club and Spa.”

On the website for the Newpark Hotel, you will see big banner featured images scrolling across which focus on beautiful interior photos of the hotel but the only exterior photo is that of  Kilkenny Castle showing the view from the back which features the castle in an L-shape and is present among other local attractions and named in captions to indicate there are sights to see nearby. These photos are located in their online “gallery.” The front of Kilkenny Castle is not shown in the website’s gallery of photos at the hotel’s site. If the front of Kilkenny Castle were shown, you’d notice at once the incredible similarity between that castle and the hotel’s (erroneous) facade featured prominently on the home page of the website and their brochure.

So the other shoe is about to fall!

NOTE: the cover photo of the brochure, and the only photo of a building in the entire 12 page brochure, and the banner image feature that drift across the home page of the website for Newport Hotel in Kilkenny, Ireland is not the image of the  hotel at all but clearly gives those looking at the material the erroneous impression that that gorgeous castle is where they will be staying if they book the Newpark Hotel! The photo being displayed that one would logically conclude is the hotel is actually Kilkenny Castle, an historic attraction in Ireland! Repeat: that singular photo in their brochure on the title page is NOT the hotel; it’s a museum castle property you can visit while in Kilkenny!  The Newpark Hotel has a contemporary modern façade and, while the interior looks very attractive, the romantic, fairytale ambiance of Kilkenny Castle, if that’s what you are looking for during your stay in Ireland, is not what you are going to get when you arrive at the O’Flynn’s Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny!

I have to tell you that if I booked into the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny thinking I was getting to stay at that beautiful castle and found that it’s just another modern hotel, I’d throw a hissy-fit! I have met one of the owners of the hotel group that owns this hotel and a few other hotels  in Ireland and, frankly, this prank does not really surprise me given my experience with one of the Flynn brothers at the hotel he oversees but it does disgust me!

People, if you’re going to Ireland, talk with a bona fide travel agent who specializes in Ireland before you get fooled into booking into  what you’re not looking for! If you’re looking for a contemporary modern experience inside and out, maybe the Newpark Hotel will do it for you but if you think you are entering a fairytale at the Newpark Hotel, the jolt to your senses as you approach the actual hotel will be significant and, if you’re like me, you’ll feel like a complete fool that you fell for their deception  since you won’t be checking into Kilkenny Castle!

You’ll find me in my  study or my snug, a small spot conducive to creative thinking and a spot you can often find in real castles in Ireland,  for the next 2 weeks so I can finish my first travel guide, “1001 Reasons to Visit Ireland!” which is clearly sorely needed by travelers to Ireland in order to keep travels on a path that leads to nothing but perfect travel days and nights.  Life manages to get in the way of my time daily so I’m going to step off the merry-go-round and whip what needs to be done into final shape  to get my guide off to my publisher pronto! Clearly, travelers need a guide they can count on!

It’s so unusual to find, especially in Ireland, a clearly forged message designed to misguide the traveler. That is so “NOT IRISH!” I’m truly distressed by what my radio shows fan reported about her experience at the Newpark Hotel and there’s more to the downhill experience her family had there  but the cheesy approach to misrepresenting the property cannot be excused on any level.  But I’ve had my own less-than-pleasant experience with one of the brother’s in the family that owns the Newpark Hotel and this stunt is in keeping with my memories of that meeting.

You know I can’t leave this alone! I will be reaching out to them and others in Ireland and Irish tourism to get this misrepresentation of this hotel corrected. But you can do your own little experiment in the meantime.Have a look at the castle shown on the home page of the Newpark Hotel and then look at Kilkenny Castle! What do you think?

Post your thoughts at www.facebook.com/stephanie.abrams.94

It’s 3:45am. I’m Still Awake Suffering from the Trauma of that UA Passenger Dragged Off of the O’Hare to St. Louis Flight!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Good Grief!

The story about the doctor who was dragged from a United flight from Chicago to St. Louis on Sunday just won’t quit in my mind and now that I”ve seen the videos displaying his bloody face from being dragged from his seat and having his mouth hit the metal armrest and the indignity of being dragged by his arms down the aisle with his bare stomach exposed and his eyeglasses hanging on his face between his nose and upper lip with passengers screaming and hurling instructions to the security people to stop this maltreatment but helpless to do anything to help him lest they risk getting clopped in the chops as well. . . as a person who has invested much of her adult life to the sale and marketing of travel and tourism suppliers and destinations. . . I’m just sick to my stomach!

There are so many layers to this horrendous story but let me see if I can simplify it to try to give some understanding to those of you who never want to fly again for fear that that man’s experience could be your experience.

1. What we saw in that video is not normal! The flight crew could have handled this so much better in so many ways.  There was a time when United was the number one choice by so many US and International passengers and I was among them! Something happened in the culture at that airline many years ago and you could see the drizzling down of what was once a very caring airline proud of its Friendly Skies approach. I can tell you that the people at Continental, who were just an amazing bunch from check-in to lounges to flight crews and who were happy, upbeat, accommodating whether you were on short trips or long-haul flights halfway around the world.  If you had gone New Jersey’s Newark (Liberty) Airport shortly after the merger of United and Continental, you would have met the most demoralized, unhappy, depressed lot of ex-Continental/now-United Airlines employees who felt unimportant, unwanted, unloved and unappreciated.  Morale couldn’t have been lower and I’m not convinced it ever bounced back.  Sad because United was once a prototype of excellence on the ground and in the air.  And somebody’s not paying attention as is evidenced in this article about a United pilot’s meltdown reported on February 12, 2017! Have a look: http://liveandletsfly.boardingarea.com/2017/02/12/united-pilot-removed-odd-onboard-rant/

If that’s not enough for you, how about the fracas reported on February 19, 2013, when a passenger on  United Airlines was removed for taking a picture of his Business First seating area when he was seated in the Business First section of what once was a Continental plane which became part of United’s fleet after that merger:

http://liveandletsfly.boardingarea.com/2013/02/19/thrown-off-a-united-airlines-flight-for-taking-pictures/

What happened to the doctor on Sunday’s United flight was unconscionable but is the result of the shift from many airlines’ flight crews seeing themselves evolve from air hosts projecting the image of the airline’s brand as members of the travel and hospitality sectors of the industry to safety providers there to serve passengers in an emergency who just happen to be stuck with the tasks associated with food and drink service.

The techniques imposed by the airline and the security crew that was summoned, especially after seeing the film, “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” this past weekend, were reminiscent of the tactics used by Nazi forces pre- and during World War II. (That’s a MUST SEE film, people!). Good Lord! They were dealing with a man sitting quality on a plane in a confirmed seat whose sole purpose was to get safely home to St. Louis!  While many people may have had a less compelling reason to get home on Sunday night, this gentleman had patients expecting him to be on call on Monday morning!  Regardless, where in the mission statement of United Airlines is the line devoted to roughing up passengers.

2. The overriding and underlying problem here is that, in actuality, the seats in the airline belong to the airline. Passengers are only renting the seat for a period of time.  Passenger tickets, even confirmed space tickets with seat assignments, have varying degrees of priority status.  A full-fare ticket with confirmed seat is at the highest level. . . but that doesn’t mean you can’t be bumped from the flight. Generally, a person flying on frequent flyer miles will be among the first to go right after any travel industry professionals who are flying on reduced-rate or so-called ‘free’ tickets. While free tickets, free of ticket cost, free of taxes and free of fees, are rare, they do exist. In theory, a positive space “status OK” ticket can still be subject to being denied boarding. This situation was made worse by having boarded the passenger and then removing the passenger by force. Horrifying!

3. The airline could have upped the offer of the amount of the cash payment to get someone to volunteer to get off the plane. At some point within allowable limits, someone would have caved and gotten off to get the jackpot. Done right, you can negotiate with the airline to get the money AND a FIRST CLASS ticket to fly home on the first available flight the next day. Years ago, I got the refrigerator I wanted because my husband volunteered to fly home the next day. He had a first class ticket and my recollection was that they paid double the ticket cost plus another first class ticket to get to JFK from Shreveport, Louisiana! I was thrilled when he called and said he’d be home the next day with a present from Delta because he volunteered to be bumped! And, if you need to overnight because you are getting bumped, be sure you get a voucher for dinner, breakfast.. . if you’re not on a breakfast flight. . . and a hotel overnight at an airport hotel.  But there is no question that this is a teachable moment for United and any other airline that has concerns that that PR nightmare on United’s Chicago flight should not happen anywhere else!

The latest report is that the airline needed to clear 4 seats to replace passengers with flight crew heading for STL airport to work a flight from there.  The passengers were offered a  $1000  for each one who got off the flight. Flight crews are authorized to go up to $1300 per person. If that doctor HAD TO BE on call on Monday, he wouldn’t have taken the money even if it was $1300 as he had to be back for his patients.  But I can tell you for sure that there were others on that flight that would have gotten off for $700 or $1000 or certainly for $1300 as that’s just how it is! And it appears that passengers were only told that $100 compensation was being offered and didn’t mention a hotel to overnight in and dinner and breakfast and maybe even first class seats the next day!  With the airline so in the black. . . and probably never having removed the fuel surcharge from the cost of tickets (I’d check that one out!) that was imposed when fuel was $140 a barrel or something crazy like that and therefore their profits are soaring now that fuel is less than half of that amount, a bit of their profits could have diverted a billion dollars worth of horrid press! Can you only imagine how much the settlement to this doctor is going to be??  So many high up executives and staff down-line can work tirelessly, passionate, and with all their good intentions have one person make the wrong decision at the customer level and they can bring down the whole house in less than 5 minutes.  Some serious training is in order here.  Do you need as many flight attendants if you’re flying close to empty?  One passenger on that flight who has a return ticket on United was on CNN in the wee hours this morning commenting that he’s in the midst of exchanging that ticket for a flight on another airline.  Not good for business at United, people. Crew: Are you listening?

4. Because of all the rules put into effect after 9/11 that expand the authority of airport and on-board personnel, the last thing you want to do is mouth-off to an airline employee as they will have you arrested and then they’ll get mean!  The doctor on the flight kept his composure but did not comply with the requests and you see how that ended! I had a neighbor who was a teenager in Mussolini’s Italy who said to me every chance she could, “Stephanie, guard your liberties!” We have seen far too many intrusions on our liberties including free speech and if you express unhappiness about your seat or anything else on a plane you may risk the ire of some crew person so be happy, read a magazine, watch a movie and keep your opinions noted somewhere to share with the company after you are safely on the ground.

5. Ther”"e is no question that airlines, like people, have personalities and it all starts at the top.  See the film, “Only You,” with Robert Downey, Jr. and Marissa Tomei. At the start of the film, she is trying to get to Rome with TWA, carrying a huge wedding gown over her arm but the door to the plane is closed and TWA won’t let her board, although she is crying and begging with ticket in hand, and they call security guards to take her away from the gate area.  At the end of the film, again she needs to get on a flight from Rome to Baltimore and the door to the plane is closed and the plane is ready for take-0ff.  This time it’s an Alitalia flight and when the ground crew alerts the pilot that the person Marissa Tomei’s character loves is on the plane and she must board, everyone smiles, the gateway is opened, and she boards the plane while all of the Italians rejoice because who cannot be happy when the story is about ‘Amore!” And if you want to fly with warmhearted people with a sense of humor who go out of their way to keep passengers happy and treat everyone well. . .actually, it’s referred to as, “You’ll be well looked after” . . . fly with Aer Lingus!

6. For many years now, the only domestic airline I fly with is JetBlue. They do an excellent job of customer care and customer service with attention to ease and comfort and all those things you want when you travel served by ground staff and air crew that smile, are friendly and actually seem to care about passengers while enjoying their work! Imagine! And that’s why, the last time I went to Milwaukee for Irish Fest and Midwest Airlines fleet of 2-across planes where every passenger felt like they were in First Class even though the whole plane was coach had been absorbed into another airline that let that concept die, we flew with JetBlue to Chicago, rented a car and drove the 80 miles to Milwaukee because JetBlue didn’t fly to Milwaukee!  I was so happy we didn’t have to drive father but if JetBlue’s closest city was 500 miles away we would have taken the drive to avoid taking another domestic airline! Know why? I like to be treated well when I travel and I can count on them to deliver on that concept! I’ve flown all over the US contiguous states, Hawaii and  Caribbean with JetBlue because I like me and I haven’t done anything I need to punish myself for!

JetBlue has an agreement with Aer Lingus and if you don’t live in one of the very many cities where you can fly to Ireland and beyone with Aer Lingus, you can check your luggage in your local city for your JetBlue flight and you won’t have to worry about picking up your bags until you are on the other side of the Atlantic making a smooth connection from JetBlue to Aer Lingus and flying with Aer Lingus beyond Dublin to many European destinations! What I’m telling you is that you can find sharp fares that won’t break the bank and not give up being treated like a VIP even when you choose to fly in Economy Class!  But if you can afford to fly in Business Class or any upper class of service, treat yourself! It is so worth it!  Although, I must say, I love the premium seating available on Aer Lingus where the seats are a bit wider and the space between rows gives you more legroom and you have priority boarding to get on board and settled in before economy class passengers and the difference in price between these seats and the rest of the plane’s seats is minimal. . .and worth it!

As horrendous as this United story is, I’m so glad it’s not worse because some over-zealous security person might have tasered this man because he didn’t just get up and leave his seat. Worse yet, I’m guessing he has some martial arts skills like karate, or jujitsu or kong fu, and if his marital arts training had automatically kicked in and he gave one of the security guards a karate chop, I’d hate to think of what would have happened next. Clearly, the gentleman, who was quietly sitting in his seat awaiting his flight home was turned into a traumatized individual in need of therapeutic attention for a professional in the mental health industry. The poor man! Who knows what past trauma in his life was brought clearly to the forefront that sent him into the tailspin of traumatized behavior that he exhibited immediately after being dragged through the plane.

Lastly, I can only hope that the CEO of United makes a better effort to apologize for the unforeseen behavior of those in charge on that plane because, while he clearly doesn’t want to validate the passenger’s lack of compliance with requests to vacate his seat, a lack of an apology projects the idea that United isn’t concerned about the experience of that doctor AND the experience of passengers, including children, who were on that flight and who had to be thinking, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” If that treatment can be doled out to the fellow across the aisle who is breaking no laws and creating no disturbance, logic would dictate that you or I could be next.

Will this stop me from flying? Not at all.  But I will continue to exercise my sense of brand loyalty by choosing to fly with those airlines that have consistently remembered that without passengers there is no business and to keep customers coming back because of great service, the airline must continue to provide great service.  Changing brands, like changing sox, whether for airlines or hotels,  because of some perceived economic savings which may be minimal and, in actuality, may not be a savings at all given specific services that a “favorite brand” provides and if it did cost a bit more to fly with an airline you have confidence in to do the job well, wouldn’t that just be worth it? Find the brands you love, as I have, and stick with them!

This whole story has worn me out.

I’ll be talking about this story on the air so be sure to check podcasts at travelers411.com and archived audio of shows once they have broadcast coast to coast at sAbrams.com along with show notes and links to the websites of our guests.

Also, be sure to check our Directory features at travelers411.com where every guest we interview on radio is featured . . . well worth a look!

It’s now almost 6amET and I have a busy day and so wound up from this awful story that I’m hoping I can calm down enough to go to sleep to meet a busy day head-on! My big concern is that you focus on voting for companies that you like with your dollars and continue to travel and don’t vote for those you are concerned may not have your best interests to heart.  Know the rules. Follow the rules and live to talk about it! Stephanie Abrams Travel Fairy Godmother has your on her mind always! Do it right and Travel Richly!

Hugs,

Your Personal Travel Guru,

Stephanie Abrams

Northern Ireland Reliable Sources Credit Radio Show Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Significant Growth of Visitors on Antrim’s North Coast

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Giant’s Causeway, Antrim Coastline, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, a National Trust Northern Ireland/North Coast Site

April 9, 2017

BOSTON, April 09, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — National Trust Northern Ireland/North Coast (NTNI/NC), the agency responsible for safety, conservation and marketing for that region, last week implemented one-hour visitation time limits at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, the sixty-six foot long, eighteen inch wide attraction in County Antrim. This new policy, implemented on April 7th, reports the Belfast Telegraph, is deemed necessary due to “significant growth in visitor numbers” to the attraction.  Those words caught the attention of travel expert and nationally syndicated radio travel talk show host Stephanie Abrams, whose radio shows and award-winning websites have been featuring NTNI/NC tourism venues, including Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, on her two three-hour weekend travel radio shows, Travelers411 and Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams and her associated family of award-winning websites, sAbrams.com and travelers411.com. Features include interviews, photos, podcasts, archived audio, show notes, features, banner ads and online Directory postings that create a compendium of information about the destination.  “When I read, ‘significant growth in visitor numbers,’” Abrams rejoices, “I knew we hit the  BINGO moment. We rejoice in our contribution to the North Coast’s significant growth!” Abrams states.

Abrams radio and online features bring laser-focused awareness to destinations and hospitality venues that fit her mission to connect travelers with places she believes they will return from “enriched, enhanced, inspired and uplifted.  “Our exposure results is increased tourism to places I love,“ Abrams notes.  “I’ve been recognized by destinations that described our efforts as ‘significantly contributing to the growth and development of travel and tourism,’ including: The 2010 Goddess Artemis Award from Greek National Tourism Organization and Mayors of Athens and Mykonos; named, in 2006, Ambassador to North America for Saxony Germany Tourism; named 2007 Honorary Friend of Saint Patrick by the Saint Patrick Centre in County Down, NI; recognized 2015 by NTNI/NC with a necklace commissioned to represent Giant’s Causeway, the only UNESCO Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.”

Abrams telephoned authorities in Northern Ireland for credible information on the new procedures for visiting Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge which she will be sharing with her coast-to-coast audience on radio and those in over forty countries who listen to podcasts and archived audio of shows online at www.travelers411.com and www.sAbrams.com.  Reliable sources confirmed that Abrams’ radio shows and websites are being credited with playing a significant role in the increase of visitors to the whole Antrim coastal route region that is being experienced including Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, the quaint village of Cushendun, and Portstewart Beach where Harry’s Shack provides, “a fabulous panoramic view of the beach and a great place for a delicious meal. Try the mussels!” Abrams adds. “We’re happy to ‘take the rap’ for creating the crowds that need management at Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge! We rock like the rocks at Giant’s Causeway!” Abrams beams.

Emer Coridan, GM of Cahernane House in Killarney, Has Painting of Mr. Herbert, Esquire who looks like David Butler of Carrageen Castle!

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

This is the painting of Mr. Herbert, Esquire, I found at Cahernane House in Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland and it looks like David Butler whom I met at Sammy Leslie’s 40th birthday party at Castle Leslie in County Monaghan a bunch of years ago.  Look at these photos! You can’t miss the resemblance.
This composite photo shows me with David Butler at Sammy’s party on the grounds of Castle Leslie next to the photo above. Uncanny!
Note that this was the first White Tie gala I had ever gone to. So elegant! Ladies needed to wear tiaras. While Sammy Leslie’s tiara was a family heirloom given by King George IV to his “secret” wife, Mrs. Fitzherbert. I’ll tell that story another day!
My tiara was bought in target, a Disney product I paid $9.99 for and included earrings that I didn’t use!
BTW: I got MASSIVE compliments on my tiara! I didn’t tell anyone that day that it was plastic!
This is Sammy Leslie in Mrs. Fitzherbert’s tiara and I”m standing with her in the reception area of the Castle Leslie in County Monaghan. An ancestor of the Leslies, Lady Jane Leslie was “Lady in Waiting” to Mrs. Fitzherbert and, after her death and the tiara passing a couple of generations along to Mrs. Fitzherbert’s first adopted daughter and then granddaughter, the tiara came back to Castle Leslie and stayed in a curio cabinet for the longest time but was passed along not that long ago to a relative who chose to sell it! What a shame for the family to lose that special treasure! So there is Samantha Leslie in her ancestral tiara adorned with diamonds and pearls and me in my Disney plastic tiara! Hot stuff!

Sounds Like the Cow Jumped Over the Moon and Brad Pitt in Newry, Northern Ireland!

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

More and more films are made at destinations that I love! You know that the first year of “Game of Thrones” was filmed on location in Malta and has been filmed in Northern Ireland for the most part, for the last several seasons but I”m told by the folks who live on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland that some of Game of Thrones was also filmed there. And Star Wars 2015 and 2016 and already filmed parts of Star Wars 2017 were filmed in the Malin Head, on the Inishowen peninsula of Ireland’s County Donegal, while other parts were, Mizen Head in County Cork, and on Skellig Michael, one of the Skellig Islands which can be visited or seen by boat off the shoreline of the towns along Ireland’s southern coastline and easily reached for the town of Portmagee where you’ll find The Moorings Inn & Restaurant and Bridge Bar right on the waterfront. That’s where some of the crew and cast members of the Star Wars 2015 film stayed during the film shoot on Skellig Michael.  (Food is terrific and the pub bar is adorable. . . and they know how to pour a proper Guinness, unlike most US pubs and restaurants who don’t have a clue as to how to pout Guinness on tap!  In recent days, HBO has been airing “By the Sea,” the Angelina Jolie film with Brad Pitt shot on Malta’s island of Gozo and today, the Belfast Telegraph is reporting that Brad Pitt’s newest film, “Lost City of Z,” caused quite a stir among local farmers and their livestock when that film was in production in Newry, Northern Ireland, which is about 90 minutes drive, more or less, from Dublin. . . more if you stop to sightsee along the route!

Have a look at today’s news article in the Belfast Telegraph about the ruckus the filming of ‘Lost City of Z” caused among the locals and livestock. It sounds like “Hey diddle diddle. .  . the cow jumped over the moon!”

Locals cried fowl over Brad Pitt shoot, but film may have

put east Antrim on movie map

By Victoria Leonard

April 8 2017

A Co Antrim film location where animals were left “terrified” after a series of staged explosions and gunfire has been transformed into a battlefield of the Somme in a newly released Hollywood movie.

The Lost City Of Z, which stars Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller, was shot near Ballygally by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B.

In September 2015 locals told of their shock after explosions, gunfire and billowing smoke from fires caused chickens to flee their coops and cows to jump hedges.

At the time local man Jason McKillion told how his poultry and pet dog “went daft” and his neighbour was almost trampled by a herd of stampeding cattle amid the chaos.

The Lost City Of Z is based on the story of British explorer Percy Fawcett, who journeyed into the Amazon three times in search of a lost civilisation, which he named Z.

The footage shot outside Larne is the most dramatic of the movie, showing Fawcett fighting at the Somme during the First World War.

In the film the rolling hills around Sallagh Brae, which also feature in Game Of Thrones, have been transformed into a maze of trenches and bunkers as Fawcett and his men prepare to go over the top into No Man’s Land.

As the soldiers charge the screen is filled with deafening explosions and German machine gun fire as the Allies seek to dodge barbed wire.

Fawcett is overcome by chlorine gas, but eventually recovers enough to make his third and final trip to the Amazon.

On that occasion, he and his team vanished without trace and numerous rescue attempts failed to locate the explorers.

Ballygally businessman Grahame Todd, who served many members of the film crew at his Spar shop, said that the east Antrim area was fast becoming a popular location for the filming of movies.

“People around here certainly won’t forget the filming of The Lost City Of Z in a hurry,” he said.

“But in the end it was worth the hassle. It’s great for the area.”

Belfast Telegraph

Be careful who you ask for travel advice, or, There are doctors and DOCTORS, and travel experts and TRAVEL EXPERTS.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams with Tor Hagen, CEO and founder of Viking River ,on the Inaugural Cruise of Viking River Cruise’s Three River Gorge Cruise in China

I’m listening to a travel agent of many years answering travel questions on WAMC 90.3/New England Public Radio. I’m not entirely in sync with the answers to questions she’s being asked by callers and the more I listened the more frustrated I was that I couldn’t interject my voice into the conversation. I jotted down several of the caller’s questions and her answers and released my frustration by providing deeper insights below. I hope that some of the people who called that station in search of expert travel advice get to read the info herein!
Q1) The caller wanted advice on river cruising. He’d never been on a river cruise and wondered what the “travel expert” thought he should do.
Her answer:
A1) Go river cruising in Cambodia!
My answer: if you’ve never taken a river cruise, if you’ve never been to Asia, if you haven’t been outside of the US on long distance hauls, you probably don’t want to start with Cambodia! If you are dealing with a restricted budget, the airfare to Cambodia will break the bank and not leave much left for everything else you need to purchase related to this trip. This person .asking the question has never been on a river cruise, and while Cambodia may have some fabulous places to visit, if this is your FIRST river cruise, as this caller indicated, that’s not the place to start! If you’re on a European river cruise and you decide that river cruising is not for you, you could get off in the next port, step off the ship and be standing in the middle of a town or city with hotels, car rental places, public transportation to other cities and you wouldn’t be stranded in Cambodia! It would have been a good idea to find out how many countries and what countries outside of the US this caller had been too before recommending Cambodia as his first adventure. Knowing his budget would have been worth determining as well as the cost of airfare can be prohibitive especially because he was coming from the region around Albany, NY on the east coast!
Q2) Next week is Presidents Week? Any last minute deals?
A2) It’s too late for any deals!
My answer: Check out LastMinute.com or a really good travel agent. Resorts send agents deals directly and don’t advertise them as they don/’t want to mess up their marketing plan by advertising they have rooms left they’d give away cheaply. Also,l this is low-season Europe and there are great airfares that are the same or less than flying to an America’s warm weather destinations.
i) It is perpetual springtime in Madeira, flowers blooming year round and lovely weather to hang out by the pool or take a short boat trip or even shorter flight (25 minutes) to Porto Santo where the white sandy beaches will steal your heart!Madeira is a subtropical island and If you’re interested in culture and history, Madeira bubbles over with both. It was the wine from Madeira that was used by US founding fathers to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the people of Madeira have a strong bond with the US for that reason. There are ancient sites to visit and fun traditions you can participate in like being pushed down from the top of the mountainous area where the cathedral is in handmade wicker baskets by men in costumes of the period when that was a popular sport. Being the chicken that I am, I preferred to watch!There are food-inclusive and all-inclusive hotels (check out Pestano Hotels and Resorts in Madeira and Porto Santo) and there are casinos on in prime locations. If you want a bit of stuffy elegance, stay at Reid’s Palace which has a special history of its own and is perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. One of the Pestano Casino Hotels is also right on the waterfront. They have a gorgeous pool and rooms on one side of the hotel face the sea but they consider the rooms on the other side that face the mountain as better views because at night you can’t see the sea but the mountainside is lit up with the lights of homes and hotels. I opted for the sea view and they thought we were crazy! Madeira is owned by Portugal but is closer to Morocco than Europe strategically placed in the ocean. If you’re a foodie, the town of Funchal, where all the action is, has a Restaurant Row with every, that’s EVERY ethnic food you could possibly crave and the ‘row’ must be close to a mile long. . . you just keep walking between rows of restaurants forever! I loved this place!!
You might also want to consider Gran Tenerife or Gran Canaria islands in the Canary Islands, owned by Spain. At this time of year, going there is a steal and you’ll have beaches and hotels and great food, all at a bargain! If you’re a group or family craving space, there are homes for rent in the Canary Island for as little as $16 a night! Check them out carefully to be sure you’re not a million miles away from the beach or staying in a dive but there are all-inclusive air/land packages and you’ll have a seriously enjoyable trip to a place steeped in culture in a beach destination.
(Note: If you only like white sandy beaches, check where you are going before you book! Some places have black beaches that are the results of disintegrated lava. if that turns you off look for a white sandy place. . .Santo Porto fits that category but the Canary Islands and some parts of the Balearic islands (also owned by Spain) have black sand beaches while Lanzerote in the Balearic Islands has both black and white beaches!
Q3) Hotel on the beach on Miami Beach in March”
A3) You need to go all the way uptown on Collins Avenue to be on the beach.
My Answer: NO, you can stay at one of the boutique hotels on Ocean Drive. If your room faces the ocean you are staring at the beach and the sad is across a little 2 lane road (Ocean Drive) if you want sand and ocean if you don’t want to hang out at the pool. HOWEVER, there is the Loews South Beach Resort and Spa which .is located where South Beach ends and just before Lincoln Road crosses Collins Avenue. They are in South Beach and they are RIGHT ON THE BEACH!
Q. 4) I want to go to the Amalfi Coast.
A. 4) You must go to Pompeii on your way. Drive your car to the top of Vesuvius. Then drive to Sorrento and drive along the Amalfi coast.
My Answer: Firstly, you can’t drive to the top of Vesuvius. You can drive part of the way up and park your car there. When you look up, the walking trail to get to the top of the volcano doesn’t look like much of a walk and not much of a challenge. Someone at the parking area will off you a walking stick which you will need so you don’t slide around on the gravelly path. Once you start walking you’re going to find that paths you could see from the parking area are the tip of an iceberg (or volcano) as it’s a LONG straight uphill and somewhat challenging walk. You’ll see octogenarian Europeans trotting by and passing most Americans no matter how fit they are. I walked to the top, because you CAN’T drive to the top or we would have done that, and I’d never do it again! Tell someone you don’t like to walk to the top. . . and tell them to go on the tour of the salt mine in Hallein, Austria. That’s a good way to get even with people you’d like to slap!
If you are going to drive along the Amalfi coast, the best way to do that is to drive from Pompeii, not to Sorrento but, to Salerno which is at the other end of the Amalfi Coast Road. If you drive from Salerno, you’ll be on the side of the road that hugs the mountain, not the cliff side. If you drive from Sorrento to Amalfi and in the direction of Sorrento, if you companion or you are driving, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the road! If you want to see people driving in the “wrong” direction, from Sorrento to Salerno, see the film, “Only You,” with Marissa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. The production company/director had them drive from Sorrento to Positano, about halfway between Sorrento and Amalfi or Salerno, because they could get clear shots of them from a helicopter to as they hugged the outside wall along the cliff. Watch that and it will convince you not to take the advice of the “travel expert” and her sage advice on WMCA’s show!
Q5) I want to go to Scotland to go hiking and we’re interested in Scotch.
A5) Oh, Scotch is everywhere.
My Answer: There is a area in the eastern region of Scotland not far from St. Andrews called the Single Malt Whiskey Trail. You can stop at any number of distilleries for their tour. Be sure to visit The Aberlour Distillery, terrific tour and then drive down the road to the The Highlander Inn, Craigellachie, Speyside, Banffshire, where you’ll find just about every brand of Scotch Whisky (note the spelling as compared to “Irish Whiskey”). When I was there, they has a bottle of 1964 Bowmore Scotch at their bar. When we visited the Highlander Inn, one shot of Bowmore Black was $590.Imagine this:
You buy some business associates or friends a round of drinks. One of your associates say, “The next round’s on me!” So you order Bowmore Black. . . a double . . .valued at $1180! Can you imagine the look on the face of the guy picking up that tab!
Yes you can get Scotch anywhere in Scotland but you can get Scotch anywhere in NYC, too. If you want to go someplace with amazing history and quaint Scottish charm, head for the Highlander Inn!
Q6) Caribbean in March for beach and culture?
A6) Curacao, Aruba. . . .
My Answer: Why does this woman choose the farthest away places? Aruba was a desert island . . . and a deserted island. There was nothing there. And then a big US oil company, Standard Oil of NJ, started producing crude oil off the coast of Aruba so now there was a big company there. When business associates, friends and family of those living on this desert island wanted to come and visit for business and family reasons, it was clear that the island needed a hotel to accommodate them and that was the beginning of the tourism industry in Aruba,which, like Curacao, sits just minutes off the coast of South America. It’s a long flight even from NYC and longer from other parts of the US as travelers often have to make connections and, from some parts of the US, it will take 2 days of travel with an overnight break somewhere like Houston, to get to Aruba and/or Curacao. Aruba is owned by Holland so it’s the (friendly) Dutch influence you’ll interface with. It’s a great island for beaches and casinos and that’s why people go to Aruba. Read the info at this site about the “culture” of Aruba and you’ll find it’s not at the same level as places I’ve indicated below (http://www.aruba.com/the-island/culture).
Now if you’re looking for an island with a rich cultural history, try Jamaica, Barbados, Sint Maarten (Dutch) and the other side of the island, St. Martin (French), or try St. Lucia and better still, Martinique and make sure you take a tour or rent a car and travel independently and visit Martinique’s Volcano Museum. You will receive an object lesson on why it pays to get drunk!

“A United Kingdom,” Now in US Theaters, is a MUST SEE!

Friday, February 10th, 2017

TRAVEL EXPERT STEPHANIE ABRAMS (right), NYTIMES TRAVEL SHOW SPONSOR, INTERVIEWS

LESLIE HALL, US REPRESENTATIVE FOR BOTSWANA AT THE JACOB JAVITS CENTER IN NYC

I just found out that the film, “A United Kingdom,” is opening in cinemas in the US this weekend. We’re snowed in or I’d go see it again. Maybe I’ll see it once the town’s plow can get through to us and plow us out! But in the meantime, if you can get to a movie theater where “A United Kingdom” is being shown, run, don’t walk, to see it! The story is compelling and, given the discrimination, prejudice and bigotry that we continue to see today, the film has an overriding and important message related to tolerance and brotherhood.  The acting is superb and the scenes in London and in Africa will give you an armchair tour that may inspire your future travels. The story is set in the 1950’s and brings you into the early ’60s so the vintage clothing and cars of the period add to the sense of time and place. The story, the historic period it presents, the insights into how governments act in their own self-interests in harsh and cruel ways while doing their best to maintain an air of normalcy  . . .something I call the “stopping for tea syndrome:. . . and the acting make this a film you cannot miss.
The film is based on the true story of a tribal-chief-in-waiting in Botswana, Africa who ultimately becomes the first President of Botswana after every possible obstacle is lodged in his way by the British who occupy and run the country for their own advantage and to the great disadvantage of the countries native residents. David Oyelowo gives a stellar performance as Seretse Khama portraying his early years in London as a student who is preparing to lead his tribe upon his return to Botswana. Seretse meets Ruth Williams, portrayed by the marvelous Rosemund Pike, an Englishwoman, and they fall in love and marry, creating a kerfuffle in Africa among Seretse’s tribesmen, among the Brits in Botswana, and among Ruth’s friends and family. The world is not on the side of this unique and binding love affair as the story explores the challenges that love can survive when faced with British governmental obstacles to their union and locals in Botswana challenging her right to be queen of their tribe.  The story is a monument to overcoming challenges.
“A United Kingdom” was released in December in the UK and Ireland and we saw the film on Christmas Eve, 2016, just six weeks ago.  Oddly enough, we saw the film in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland in my favorite cinema there which is attached to a marvelous arcade and bowling alley complete with a couple of dining choices including one that is for adults only so you can escape the hordes of children who are having such a good time but are so noisey(!). Northern Ireland is part of the UK and it seemed to me that a shiver ran through the theater as British history in Botswana, a pattern similar to that of the Brits in South Africa, Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, India and Pakistan, the Middle East. . . name the destination including Northern Ireland. . . where they have a history dividing and conquering the locals, imposing hardships that are harsh and often cruel and setting the locals against one another as a ruling tactic.
Because I enjoy seeing a film in the country in which the film is set or produced, I made a point of seeing, “Made in Dagenham,” when we were in London when the film had just come out. Like ‘A United Kingdom,’ it took several weeks before that film hit US cinemas.  ‘Made in Dagenham,’ also featuring Rosamund Pike, is based on the true story of the women who worked in the Ford Motor Company manufacturing plant in Dagenham, England and whose salaries for equal work was about 30% less the men. One woman’s perseverance and energy propelled a group of women to see parity of pay and this merry little band is that reason that the auto industry globally today has brought pay for women into parity with men who are doing similar jobs. once again, seeing the film in England provided unique insights from the reaction of the Londoners who were in the movie theater watching with me.

A Little Fact Check: US Has High-Speed Trains: Amtrak’s Acela Express

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

POTUS, minutes ago at a meeting of airline CEOs, stated that other countries have high-speed trains but the US doesn’t even have one. I have understood that the 2 Amtrak Acela Express Train Routes are characterized in the high-speed train category. These trains run between Boston and NYC and between NYC and Washington, DC. Just to be sure that I was correct, nothing like fact checking(!), I called Bill Hollister, a longtime Amtrak executive and my go-to-man for corporate and government-related info about Amtrak, confirmed that, indeed, Amtrak’s Acela trains are classified as high speed trains. Note that European and Asian trains’ speed are noted in kilometers per hour so at a quick glance their trains look like they go a lot faster than ours since there are more kilometers per mile than when the number is quoted in miles (150mph=241.4kph). Bill also noted that Amtrak carries more passengers daily between NYC and DC than all of the airlines combined and more passengers daily between NYC and Boston than 6 major airlines combined. There’s nothing quite as luxurious as being in the observation car on an Amtrak train. Shown here are photos taken on Antrak’s Auto Train, a very civilized way to cut out 800 miles of driving between Lorton, VA and Sanford, Florida! The competent Amtrak crew put your car on the train in an enclosed train car and you get on the train and overnight. It’s a romantic adventure and when you arrive, all of your gear is packed in your car and you don’t need to rent a car! It;s also such fun! I’ve done 5 roundtrips on Amtrak’s Auto-Train and just writing about it makes me want to go again! Actually, I want to do a cross-country trip from Chicago to Salt Lake City or Seattle or San Francisco Bay area. . . or all of the above!!

Bill Hollister tells me that testing is in progress to increase the 150mph speed of Acela which is wonderful as well. Hopefully, Congress will support all of Amtrak’s budget needs to keep our Amtrak service great! It’s great not to have to go to the outskirts of a city to go to an airport when you can go from downtown Boston to downtown NYC to the heart of DC. And if you’re not on an Acela Express train, it’s great to use Amtrak from NYC to Philadelphia. It’s even more pleasant that taking that drive! It makes the trip so much more efficient and with early airport check-ins plus the flight times you can often arrive in your downtown destination in less time than the flying process! Plus you can walk around the train, stop in the snack car, or on longer hauls into the dining car, have a seat as roomy with leg room as big as a first class airline seat, and work at your seat with electric outlets available on most trains to charge your electronic equipment! And the snack car has tables like in a diner so it’s a great place, if you are traveling with friends or business colleagues, to prep for the meeting you’re going to or have burger and fries or a snack or go alone to catch up on work too! If you’re in NYC, hop an Amtrak train thru the Hudson Valley up to Albany or onward to Montreal! Remember to bring your passport if you’re going into Canada!! Train travel is a unique experience and makes every trip even more memorable! Go make tracks!