Saturday, August 4, 2012

The 2012 "Around the World in 90 Days" Travel Awards

"While we are postponing, life speeds by." - Seneca 

       AND THE WINNERS    

1) Best Luxury Hotel: Burj al Arab (Dubai)

2) Best Luxury Hotel Chain: Shangri-La (Singapore, Tokyo, 

    Hong Kong)

3) Best Airline First Class Cabin: All Nippon Airways (ANA)- 
4) Best Airline First Class Service: All Nippon Airways (ANA),  
5)  Best Airline Business Class Sevice: Singapore Airlines
6)  Best Hotel Concierge Service: Burj al Arab (Dubai),    
     Shangri-La (Hong Kong and Tokyo)
7)  Best Individual Concierge (Steve Warmerdam (Burj al 
     Arab, Dubai), Melania Milbert (Fairmount Monte Carlo)
8)  Place I would most want to live if I could afford it: Monte 
     Carlo, Monaco
9)  Country with the most courteous people: Japan       
10)Country with the best food: Italy
11)Best experience: Camel Trek in the Al Liwa Desert (Abu 
12)Best Luxury Travel Consultant: Linda Barber
13)Country with the most friendly people: Brazil
14)Best Hotel "get things done" Person: Guillerrmo Tapia - 
    (Sheraton Rio- Brazil)
15)Most interesting Pool:  57th Floor Infinity Pool at Marina 
     Bay Sands (Singapore)
16)Nicest Pool Area: Grand Lapa (Macau)
17)Nicest Hotel Perk for Children: Wild Wadi Water Park 
     (Burj al Arab- Dubai)
18)Nicest Hotel Suite: Burj al Arab (Dubai)
19)Nicest Beach: Barra da Tijuca (Brazil)
20)Best Hotel Breakfast  Buffet: Shangri-La (Hong Kong), 
     Fairmount (Monte Carlo), Shangri-La Singapore
21)Best Hotel Dinner Buffet: Junsui Restaurant at the Burj al 
     Arab (Dubai)
22)Most Elegant Hotel Concierge Lounge: Shangri-La (Hong 
23)Best Hotel Concierge Lounge Service: Sheraton Rio 
24)Best Hotel Concierge Perk:  washing and pressing all 
     your clothes (Valley Wing at the Shangri-La Singapore
25)Most spectacular natural sight: Rochers-de-Naye 
     Mountain (Swiss Alps, Switzerland)
26)Most spectacular manmade sight: Great Mosque (Abu 
27)Best View: Rio de Janeiro from Corcovado and Pao de 
     A├žucar Mountains
28)Best Kid's Experience: DisneySea (Tokyo)
29)Most Beautiful City: Venice
30)Nicest Spa Service: Burj al Arab (Dubai)
31)Best Massage: Sheraton Rio (Brazil)
32)Best Spa Treatment: Oxygen Facial (Fairmount Monte 
33)Best Water View: Lake Geneva from Montreux, Lake 
     Como from Bellaggio
34)Most interesting Experience: Glass-Blowing on the Island 
     of Murano (Venice)
35)Most Beautiful Hotel Setting: San Clemente Palace (San 
     Clemente Island, Venice)
36)Most  Serene Hotel Setting: Royal Palace (Montreux, 
37)Most Beautiful View from Hotel Room: Mediterranean Sea 
     from the Fairmount Monte Carlo
38)Best Airport Lounge; Lufthansa First Class Lounge 
     (Frankfurt, Germany)
39)Best Airport Lounge Food: Noodle Bar at All Nippon 
     Airways (ANA) Business Lounge (Hong Kong) 
40)Most Beautiful Church: San Maurizio (Milan, Italy)
41)Most Beautiful House of Worship Setting: Buddhist 
     Temples (Kamakura, Japan)
42)Best Airline Business Class Cabin: Singapore Airlines
43)Most Fun Kid's Attraction: Luge Ride at Sentosa Island  
44)Best Ice Cream: Gelateria Grom (Italy)
45)Best Chocolate: Lac Patisserie (Nice, France)
46)Best Steak: La Maison du Steak (Geneva, Switzerland)
47)Best Mode of Transport to Airport: Helicopter from Monte 
     Carlo to French Riviera Airport (Nice, France)
48)Best Luxury Hotel Experience: Burj Al Arab (Dubai)
49)Best Luxury Hotel Management Team: Heinrich Morio, 
     Ahmed Ereiba and Stephanie Zawada of the Burj al Arab,
50)Most Incredible Feeling: Coming Home and Wanting to Do 
     It All Over Again!!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Trip Ends..........The Journey Continues!!!!

“Not all those who wander are lost.” 

  We are back in the United States after our incredible 90 day around the world trip. It was a once in a lifetime life-changing experience. We have flown around the world from east to west. We have traveled through 3 continents (Asia, Europe and South America) as well as the Middle East. We visited 9 countries, 2 Emirates, 2 special administrative regions and countless other cities, towns and villages. We have spoken Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Urdu, Hindi and English We have tasted the world's meats, poultry, curries, pastas, noodles, fruits and vegetables. We have seen its people at work and play. We have stood before some of the world's most beautiful wonders as well as witnessed some of its most abject poverty. We have watched Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Taoists at worship. We have crossed its borders by plane, boat, car, train, helicopter and by foot. We walked on its snow-capped mountains as well as its scorched, hot deserts. We have viewed the most spectacular sunsets as well as the most torrential rainfalls. We have thought about what we can learn from the world as well as what we can teach it. And yet in all of the diversity we have experienced, it is very easy to see how similar we all are in terms of our basic needs, desires, joys and sufferings. We thank you for following us in our travels and sincerely hope that it will inspire you to pursue the journeys of which you have always dreamed. Whether simple or extravagant, just do it, because life is truly too short! And remember even though our trip has ended, our journey has just begun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Farewell Brazil.........HELLO USA!

“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow - Lin Yutang

We left Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and are finally returning to the United States. We flew on Tam  Airlines, which is the largest airline in Brazil and which just a couple of weeks ago merged with Lan Airlines, the largest airline in South America, to create LATAM Airlines, which will be one of the largest airlines in the world. The first class cabin was  comfortable, the service and food and beverage selection was good but could not compare to that of ANA (Japan), Singapore Airlines, Swiss Air or Lufthansa. The flight was a bit turbulent as the east coast of the United States had been experiencing very strong storms after the extreme heat wave. We arrived at JFK in New York at about 9:00 am after the 11 hour flight. Not much jet lag since Rio is only a one hour time difference from New York but did not sleep much on the plane (even though the seat opened into a full length bed) so need to rest a bit!

 Ashley in the smallest international first class cabin I have seen-only 4 seats

                                              The comfortable seat
The nice large screen and good in-flight entertainment selection of  movies, television shows, games and music

The seat has a small companion seat in front  (good for eating with your companions)which later serves as part of the bed

The menu

The first course- shrimp with mango chutney

Next- lemon sorbet to refresh the taste buds

The main course of roasted lamb with rice, peas and grilled vegetables

An after dinner cheese fruit and crackers selection

The dessert tray- ice cream, double chocolate mousse and fresh fruit

And the winner is - I had to fill that sweet, salty craving

The bed is made (complete with duvet) but don't know how much sleep I will get

Friday, July 13, 2012

Breakfast of Champions (Brazil)

“One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 
Henry Miller

    If you want to live like the locals, you have to eat like the locals. This means starting off your day with a Brazilian breakfast of campeoes (champions). Interestingly enough, the word for breakfast in Brazilian Portuguese is "cafe da manha" (morning coffee). It usually consists of a cafezinho (a strong black coffee similar to espresso), fresh fruits and juices and bread with butter or jam (or the famous "pao de queijo" (bread made with cheese) to dunk in your coffee). The brazilian cafezinho is very strong, so I prefer "meia", half coffee and half hot milk. Also, the Brazilians like a lot of sugar in their coffee. In fact, there is a joke which asks "how much coffee do you want with your sugar?" The best part of the Brazilian breakfast, however, are the fruit and juices. I have never tasted such delicious, sweet, fresh fruit in my life (some of which I had never even heard of). If you like the fruit, you can have it squeezed fresh into a juice (suco) or a smoothie (vitaminas). I prefer the passionfruit (maracuja) smoothie made with the fruit, milk and a touch of sugar-absolutely delicious! As a matter of fact, the Brazilians are very health conscious and active people and there are these "Sucos" (juice) shops practically on every corner in Rio where the people  stop for their fresh juices and smoothies throughout the day. And I always finish off my breakfast with a freshly cut mango (manga). This gives me plenty of energy to walk to my Brazilian lunch!

How many of these fruits do you know?

I always have a passionfruit (maracuja) smoothie (vitaminas) at breakfast

This fruit, called "caqui",  looks exactly like a tomato only it is a little more orange than red and is super sweet  and tasty.

Papaya (mama0) and Orange (laranja) Juice mixed

Pineapple (abacaxi) juice

Watermelon (melancia) juice = fabulous!

Figs (figo)

Guayaba (guava)

Papaya (mamao)

Passionfruit (maracuja)

Pineapple (abacaxi)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A perfect day at the beach - Praia Vidigal (Rio)

“He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left.” 
―Chinese Proverb

Today we took advantage of it being sunny and also a weekday so we hung out at Vidigal Beach (the Rio beaches get very crowded on the weekends). The waves were plentiful (there were some surfers) and so was the sun (there were people working on their tans) and there was the always present merchant selling his bikinis, wraps and dresses. We waded in the water and crashed the waves for a while and then we went to the pool for a nice game of water volleyball. Lunch at 2pm was picanha (brazilian tender grilled meat) rice and feijao (brazilian black beans) and some delicious flan and lemon cake. A nice cafe con leite topped it all off - I could really get used to this!

A beautiful view of the the palm trees, ocean and Ipanema Beach

The pool deck steps from the beach

Vidigal Beach is practically empty on weekdays

This man is always on the beach selling his goods

A game of water volleyball

Ashley and her cousin Brianna ready to crash some waves

The beautiful pink sky at sunset!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

June Festival (Festival Junina) - Brazil

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” 

Today I stumbled onto a Brazilian party. Not just any party but one celebrating the June Festival (Festival Junina). This festival was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese where the people celebrated European Midsummer. In Brazil, the June Festival originated in the Northeast (Recife, Fortaleza, Bahia) but is now celebrated nationwide. It is sometimes called the Feast of Saint John and is celebrated on the eve of his birth. It also coincides with the end of the rainy season and the beginning of winter in Brazil so the people used to give thanks to Saint John for the rain, since the Northeast of Brazil is very hot and dry. The festival lasts throughout the month of June and is usually characterized by its "forro'' music (accordion prevalent) and "quadrilha" (square dancing). I recorded some of the music and dancing for you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Celebrating July 4th in Brazil looking at Beach Art

"Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings." -- Hodding Carter

Today on the 4th of July, we walked along the beach from Leblon to Ipamena and admired the Beach Art. It is amazing to see what beautiful works of art can be made with sand! One sand sculpture in particular impressed me with its sheer complexity and political and social messages. We actually found a good place to have a great hamburger in Rio (the closest we could come to a July 4th barbecue). We then walked back to the hotel in Vidigal (a pretty long but enjoyable walk) and stopped along the way at a park because Ashley wanted to play on the swings. We started talking to a family from the city of Manaus (on the Amazon). They had a little daughter who was the same age as Ashley and the most interesting coincidence was that Ashley's birthday is October 2nd and their daughter's is October 1st, the father's birthday is February 8th and my mother's is February 7th and the mother's birthday is June 5th and Aracelis' is June 6th. This was a bit incredible and perhaps some of you more up on astrological matters can inform me as to what, if any, significance this has. That being said, the girls had a good time playing in the park, where we stayed until sundown. HAPPY JULY 4TH AND GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!!

A very beautiful and complex sand sculpture

Ashley admiring her favorite work of sand art

My July 4th burger in Brazil (probably as good as yours)!

When the Brazilians start making club sandwiches like this, it gets harder and harder  to want to go home

Ashley and Jordana in the park

The girls played until sundown