Travel with The Met . . . and Arrangements Abroad!


Venice, Grand Canal

This week, we had a big request from our flagship client, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Web copy and images for 9 upcoming Travel with the Met programs to Venice (pictured above), Berlin, Iran, Cuba (2 programs by land, 1 by sea), Portugal & Spain, Burma & Indonesia, and Morocco.

Thanks to a coordinated effort between our Operations, Sales, and Communications teams, we managed to meet The Met’s tight deadline. Now that it’s done and we can relax a bit, we thought a photo-driven blog post might be nice for a Friday afternoon. Here are some places we’ll be taking travelers in 2017 on the aforementioned trips:

Bagan temples

Bagan pagodas

Bagan, Burma (Myanmar) is known as “the city of a thousand pagodas.” But those are just the ones that are left–there used to be thousands more!


Fishermen in Cienfuegos. Photo by Alistair Kitchen.

We’ve been taking groups to Cuba by land since 1999, and now we’re offering a unique cruise of the country’s less-developed southern coast, from Cienfuegos to Santiago. Think rugged mountains, pristine beaches, picture-perfect colonial architecture … and all the pleasures of an intimate luxury yacht. For more on this exciting program, click here.

Merida_Spain_by_Juan Antonio F. Segal

Merida, Spain. Photo by Juan Antonio F. Segal.

Maybe you’ve been to Portugal or Spain, but have you ever been to Alentejo (pronounced “A-len-TAY-zho”)? Or Extremadura (“Es-tray-ma-DOO-ra”)? These off-the-beaten-path regions of Portugal and Spain, which border each other, offer cultural influences from Celtic to Roman to Moorish to French. Mérida, former capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, is just one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited on this program.

Vakil mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Vakil mosque, Shiraz, Iran

Like Cuba, Iran is a favorite destination for Met travelers, but next year we’re doing something new: “Undiscovered Iran,” led by The Met’s head curator for the Department of Islamic Art. The program begins in northeastern Iran at Mashad, the country’s holiest city, and goes to Nishan (to see the tomb of Omar “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou” Khayyam), Kashan, Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Pasargadae, and Persepolis.

For more information about any of these trips, contact us at or 800-221-1944. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!


Meet Elizabeth Kester

Elizabeth Kester with pink car in Cuba

Elizabeth in Havana, Cuba

Elizabeth Kester joined AAA in 2012.  Beginning as our Office Manager, she soon climbed the ranks and now manages our team of Tour Coordinators, who advise our travelers and spread the word about our trips.

What is your hometown?

New York, NY.

What city do you most recommend to friends?

I studied abroad in Madrid, have wonderful memories of my time there, and generally love Spanish culture. Madrid, Granada, Santiago de Compostela, Seville— the list goes on! I also love Havana, which is endlessly fascinating and enjoyable. I traveled with two friends from Chilean Patagonia up to the Atacama Desert and was particularly charmed by Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city and a former penal colony, as well as Valparaiso.

Which city would you drop everything to see?

This seems to be a popular answer, but Istanbul, both for its historical significance as the gateway between East and West and because of my preteen obsession with Agatha Christie novels. Also, my maternal grandparents and everyone of their generation on that side of my family were from Berlin.  A family trip has been in the preliminary planning stages for a while now.  Perhaps this blog post will nudge it forward!

Elizabeth Kester and Ute in Spain

With colleague Ute in Cape Finisterre, Spain

What do you enjoy working on the most at Academic Arrangements Abroad?

I’ve especially enjoyed working with travelers on our new Camino de Santiago programs as the idea, development, coordination, and execution of those trips has spanned my time at the company.  My friend and colleague Ute Keyes put together a unique and exciting itinerary. We led the inaugural trip together, which was a truly special experience!

Who would play you in a movie?

I’ll go with Julie Delpy.

What are some of your favorite travel books?

One of my favorite authors is Somerset Maugham, and Pico Iyer put together a collection of his best travel writing called The Skeptical Romancer.  Although I wouldn’t place them in the category of “travel” per say, I’ve come down with Ferrante fever and am a devoted fan of the Neapolitan Novels. I also like Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald for its descriptions of the French Riviera.

Do you have any special skills?

I’m a great fly caster.  My dad taught me well.

What are your most visited websites?

 New York Magazine, The New Yorker, Slate, Quartz and Puck Daddy.

What is something about you that surprises people?

I love anything on ice or snow. There is nothing better than the Winter Olympics.

What are three things you can’t travel without?

A book, my iPhone (loaded with music and podcasts), and a big scarf for the plane.

How many Arrangements Abroad trips have you traveled on?

Come January, I’ll have been on six trips with Arrangements Abroad as a Tour Director: three to Cuba, two to Costa Rica and Panama, and one to Spain.  Many of them have been conveniently timed for when it gets cold in New York!

Elizabeth Kester with glacier

Elizabeth at the Viedma Glacier in El Chalten, Argentina


Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Forgotten Trip to Divided Berlin

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In September 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Cold War Berlin. He’d been invited by Willy Brandt, then the Mayor of West Berlin, to speak at the 14th annual cultural festival of the city. The famous clergyman’s whirlwind visit included a stop at the Berlin Wall, where an East German had escaped to the West the previous day, sparking a gun battle between East German border guards and U.S. soldiers.

Additionally, Dr. King crossed the border at Checkpoint Charlie into East Berlin. There, he preached to an excited crowd in the overflowing St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche) at Alexander Square about African Americans’ struggle for civil rights in the United States. Although information about his appearance had only been made known by word of mouth, at least 1,000 people packed into the church. Later that night, Dr. King performed a second church service at Sophia Church (Sophienkirche) in East Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie“May I say that it is indeed an honor to be in this city, which stands as a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth, “said Dr. King in the sermon.  “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children, and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”

Dr. King’s visit to Germany has been largely forgotten during recent years. However, his journey there and his message of non-violent social revolution inspired Germans on both sides of the Wall.  (Click here for a full transcript of the sermon.)

Berlin WallDuring our 2014 Berlin Wall trips, Academic Arrangements Abroad will visit St. Mary’s Church and see the current exhibition about Dr. King’s historic sermon there. Travelers on this exciting new program will also explore the iconic sights of post-reunification Berlin, including the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the original Wall covered with international paintings, and the Brandenburg Gate, meticulously restored since the reunification.

For additional details about the 2014 Berlin trips operated by Academic Arrangements Abroad, visit our website or call 800-221-1944.

Seven Amazing Food Museums

RamenFoodies take note! A variety of museums around the globe are devoted to everything from chocolate to ramen noodles. Here are a few of our favorites.

Chocolate Museum, Vienna, Austria

Learn about the history of chocolate and how it is made at a museum devoted to the confection.  During a guided tour (offered in English and German), sample a tasty treat and see how typical Viennese specialties are made. The Chocolate Museum also has events and workshops such as “Drawing with Chocolate for Adults” and a holiday kids’ program.

Image from Gelato MuseumGelato Museum, Bologna, Italy

Opened in 2012, Bologna’s Gelato Museum describes itself as “a center of cultural excellence dedicated to the understanding and study of the history, culture, and technology of gelato and the expertise of the innovators who drove its evolution over the centuries.” Visiting the museum, located in the Carpigiani ice cream company’s headquarters, is free of charge, but you do need a reservation.

Banana Museum, Auburn, WA, USA

 This little museum houses “close to 4,000 items, a mélange of artifacts, folk art and other cultural oddities devoted to the world’s perfect fruit.” Hours are variable, so banana fanatics should call before they visit.

Currywurst museum BerlinCurrywurst Museum, Berlin, Germany

Find out about the secrets of Currywurst at this Berlin museum dedicated to the spiced sausage.  The museum also offers guided group tours, which must be booked in advance, a shop that sells “everything Currywurst your heart may desire” and a snack lounge that offers (surprise!) a wide variety of currywurst.

SPAM Museum, Austin, MN, USA

Dig in to the history of Hormel’s canned meat product at the 16,500-square-foot SPAM Museum. According to the website, “Visit and you’ll be tickled pink by the SPAM® trivia and vintage SPAM® brand advertising. Plus numerous SPAM® displays including the World War II exhibit, SPAM® Game Show quiz, Monty Python tribute and more.” Admission is free.

Frietmuseum in BelgiumFrietmuseum, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, a medieval gem laced with canals and gardens, is also home to the Frietmuseum. This educational museum devoted to the Belgian fry is housed in the Saaihalle, one of the city’s most beautiful buildings.  According to the Frietmuseum’s website, the museum “explains the history of the potato and fries and the different condiments with which they are habitually served.”

Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, Yokohama, Japan

Founded in 1994, this institution describes itself as “the world’s first food-themed amusement park.”  Visitors to the museum can sample different regional varieties of Japan’s famous ramen noodle soup. “Our nine ramen shops are showcased in a street-scape replication from the year 1958, Japan,” explains the museum. “It was in this year that the world’s first instant ramen was invented.”

Meet Ute Keyes

Ute KeyesUte Keyes started working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in April of 2012. As Manager, Tour Operations & Development, Ute helps to operate and develop exciting new travel programs for the firm. She has an M.A. in art history and previously worked as an administrator at a small but prominent New York museum.

Hometown: Duisburg, Germany

City I would recommend to friends: New York (!), Quebec, Barcelona, Paris, Berlin and Heidelberg (have a sweet spot for the latter…my alma mater)

Quito_cathedralCity I would drop everything to see: Quito, Ecuador

Who would play you in a movie?: No idea! I guess I wish it would be Meryl Streep…

Special skills: Arts and crafts. I’m also a specialist in turning the smallest places into pretty and usable spaces

Most visited websites: The New York Times, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Suedwestrundfunk.

Ute at RodeoWhich Academic Arrangements Abroad programs have you enjoyed working on the most?: Currently, I’m enjoying working on “In the Footsteps of St. James: El Camino de Santiago.” It’s a totally new program I have developed and which was suggested by my dear colleague Elizabeth Kester; it brings back a lot of good memories of my medieval art history studies. Also, “Berlin; Tear Down this Wall.” I was in Berlin during the actual fall of the Wall (1989), so it is a program dear and near to my heart!

Something that surprises people: I love to ride my red bike in New York City (and I am not scared).

Marisa Ute on camel in front of treasury_email-2Three things I can’t travel without: Black dress/skirt, my multi-color pearl necklace, good old-fashioned Moleskine notebook

Number of trips: I guess around 50 (if my extensive travel within the United States counts). Around 35 within Europe, Africa and Asia.

Beyond ‘Brats

By Anastasia Mills Healy

When thinking of a meal in Germany, if you conjure a picture of a bratwurst in a beer hall, we have a few surprises for you on an upcoming trip to Dresden and Berlin.

Kempinski Hotel DresdenAt the five-star Kempinski Hotel Taschenbergpalais in Dresden, dine on roasted duck with vanilla carrots and hazelnut potatoes at Restaurant Intermezzo, whose elegant courtyard turns into an ice skating rink in winter. Enjoy a crêpe filled with salmon, chive crème fraîche, broccoli and arugula on the terrace of the hotel’s Palais Bistro, which has spectacular views of the historic Frauenkirche.

The Kempinski also operates the highly acclaimed restaurant Lesage, housed in the glass-walled Volkswagen factory. In this distinctive setting, watch workers in white lab coats assemble Phaetons while working your way through a meal that might include a salad of chanterelles and truffles, followed by saddle of veal on turnip cabbage with spinach gnocchi and cassis butter.

Berlin Reichstag domeIn Berlin, lunch at Kaefer’s, on the roof adjoining the stunning Reichstag dome, will be memorable both for its panoramic views and decidedly non-diet fare such as foie gras-stuffed fillet of beef wrapped in bacon.

Fischers Fritz at the Regent BerlinYou won’t want to say “Auf Wiedersehen” at the farewell dinner in our Berlin home, the deluxe Regent Berlin. For five years running, the hotel’s Fischers Fritz restaurant has earned two Michelin stars for cuisine such as skate with lemon, caper butter, and caramelized parsley root, presented with impeccable service in an elegant oak-paneled dining room.  “Probst!” to new German cuisine.