Meet Elizabeth Viliani

Elizabeth V in Asolo

Elizabeth Viliani at Villa Cipriani in Asolo, Italy

Elizabeth Viliani, Manager, Operations, one of the newest staff members at Arrangements Abroad, says her love of travel was forever fused when she landed a sales job with CIGA Hotels, the Italian luxury hotel company. When CIGA was acquired by Starwood Hotels, Elizabeth added even more amazing properties—including a tented desert resort outside Dubai and a Frank Gehry masterpiece in Rioja, Spain—to her portfolio. When she’s not traveling, you can find Elizabeth walking her dog in Central Park, reading mystery novels, watching classic films, or searching flea markets for vintage jewelry.

Where are you from originally?

Elizabeth eating lasagna in Florence

Elizabeth eating lasagna in Florence, Italy

I grew up in South Jersey near Philly and had a double major in psychology and sociology at Drew University. After college, I moved to New York City, feel in love with the urban lifestyle and have been here ever since. My first job right out of college was at a company placing advertising in the Yellow Pages. This was definitely not for me so when I I had the opportunity to work for a small company representing Italian hotels, I jumped at the chance. I fell in love with travel AND Italy. My next job landed me a sales job at the iconic Italian luxury hotel company CIGA (where I met my Italian husband while on a sales call). Over the next years, a series of acquisitions led to my job at Starwood Hotels where I managed a sales territory selling their luxury brands.

So far, what do you enjoy most about working at Arrangements Abroad?

The small scope of the office. It’s not a huge corporate setting. It isn’t bureaucratic. I enjoy working on the itineraries and learning about new places, and I like the vendor visits. Coming from a corporate environment, it is a nice change. Also, people are interested in cultural travel and not just luxury.

Which city do you most often recommend that your friends visit?

Elizabeth Viliani at Savoy Hotel in London

Elizabeth having tea at the Savoy Hotel in London

There are so many wonderful ones! I guess my two favorite ones to visit are London and Rome. In London, there is a ton to do and great visits outside of the city. Rome has so much history and so many facets. There are hidden components to it even after many visits. I’ve been to Rome at least 15 times.

Which destination would you drop everything to see?

Maybe Peru. I want to see Machu Picchu and Cusco and experience that culture. It sounds fascinating to me.

Do you have any special skills?

I have a good eye for vintage jewelry and know a lot about the history of it. I find jewelry at flea markets and antique shops. I wear something different almost every day.

Which websites do you visit the most?

LinkedIn for connecting to people professionally, eBay for vintage jewelry, and Google for research. I also listen to NPR.

What is something about you that surprises people?

Both sides of my parents’ families were here before the Revolutionary War. Also, both sets of my grandparents are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

What are three things you can’t travel without?

A warm shawl, sunglasses, and my iPhone.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Elizabeth V Central Park

Elizabeth in Central Park

I have a lovely dog, Pluto. One of my favorite things to do is walk him in Central Park. You meet some very interesting people in the park when you have a dog!

News from Abroad: February 2015

那智の滝(Nachi Falls)

ModelYSL in Paris

Yves Saint Laurent, who died in 2008, was one of fashion’s greatest icons, dressing Catherine Deneuve, pioneering the pantsuit, and introducing ready–to–wear. Watch the legendary designer at work in this excerpt from a recent documentary—and step inside his studio (normally closed to the public) on our upcoming trip to Paris and London.

Courtiers & Couturiers
A History of European Fashion
in London & Paris
March 13 to 21, 2015

Kate with TulipsKate Blooms in Bruges

Kate Klorer, one of our most popular tour directors, says she’s “absolutely thrilled” to be taking a group to Holland and Belgium during tulip season: “These countries are as filled with art treasures as the Keukenhof is with flowers!” Travelers will visit the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh, Frans Hals, and Kröller-Müller museums; the last is a special favorite, Kate adds: “I was blown away by its incredible collection and magnificent grounds.” Another must-see is the Ghent Altarpiece. Besides Holland and Belgium, in 2015 Kate will accompany our groups to Cuba, the Arabian Peninsula, and France.

Amsterdam & Beyond
Holland & Belgium
May 2 to 11, 2015

KoyasanCelebrate 1,200 Years with Kukai

Experience a temple stay at Koyasan, Japan—the sacred mountain and UNESCO pilgrimage site—founded 1,200 years ago this spring by the revered monk and scholar Kobo Daishi Kukai. The Buddhist monasteries of Koyasan and the sacred Nachi waterfall and shrine (pictured at top) are just two highlights on “Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan,” designed and led by John Carpenter, Curator of Japanese Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Way of St. James in Spain, a better-known UNESCO pilgrimage route, is also on our schedule this year!

Ancient Sacred Sites of Japan
May 5 to 15, 2015

Sea CloudPlato in the Google Age

Author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s latest book, Plato at the Googleplex, catapults the ancient Athenian into the 21st century. Dr. Goldstein will be lecturing on Plato during our summer Sea Cloud cruise,“Sailing the Mediterranean in the Age of Odysseus.” Read The New York Times review of her book here, watch Dr. Goldstein discusses the book at Google’s Silicon Valley campus, and join us in June to hear her speak live. Also on board will be her husband, Harvard professor Steven Pinker, and Joan Aruz, Curator in Charge of Ancient and Near Eastern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sailing the Mediterranean
in the Age of Odysseus
Istanbul to Athens Aboard Sea Cloud
June 27 to July 5, 2015

Simon Bordwin CubaAn American in Cuba

Kudos to our own Simon Bordwin, whose Cuba slide show was recently featured on the Condé Nast Traveler website! The Brooklyn-based photographer and Arrangements Abroad sales associate took these images during his stint as tour director on the “Art and Architecture of Cuba” program with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has another Cuba trip coming up in March. Have a look at the captivating slideshow and consider joining us on a future trip.

Jose Fuster Jaimanitas photo by Simon Bordwin

CC_1_15_web_-1(1)Click here to read our Cultural Calendar of 2015 and 2016 travel programs.

Academic Arrangements Abroad to Offer Exclusive Jet Journey Around the Globe

Chichen ItzaWandering the grounds of mysterious Chichen Itza. Swimming in the turquoise waters of French Polynesia. Walking among Easter Island’s giant Moai statues. Gazing at the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. Spotting a lion on an African safari. Witnessing thundering Iguazu Falls. Watching the sun rise over stunning Angkor Wat.

Easter IslandThrough luxury tour operator Academic Arrangements Abroad, travelers can experience all of these wonders in just three weeks on a new “Around the World by Private Jet” program. This extraordinary journey will take place from March 5 to 26, 2015. The New York-based travel firm is organizing the “Around the World” program in conjunction with Australian company Captain’s Choice.

“Captain’s Choice has been offering high-end travel opportunities for many years, and we are thrilled to be able to join their program and also offer the services of an Academic Arrangements Abroad Tour Director to accompany travelers throughout,” says Jim Friedlander, President & CEO of Academic Arrangements Abroad.

Starting in either London, England, or Mérida, Mexico, travelers will board a private wide body Boeing 767 chartered exclusively by Captain’s Choice and begin a three-week adventure to twelve of the globe’s most fascinating sites, from impressive Iguazu Falls to the plains of the Serengeti. The jet has been fitted with only 90 VIP guest seats – offering extraordinary space and comfort en route to each destination. This once-in-a-lifetime program includes top hotels, from the world-famous Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro to the gracious Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap.

“We also have a few signature events, which will be presented in select cities on the journey,” says Friedlander.

For additional details about “Around the World by Private Jet” (from $57,250 per person, double occupancy), travelers can contact Academic Arrangements Abroad at 212-514-8921.

Taj Mahal Daylight

Meet Olivia Balsinger

Olivia in the NetherlandsOlivia Balsinger started working at Academic Arrangements Abroad in the Tour Coordination department in the early summer of 2014, the same week she graduated from the University of Connecticut. Olivia has degrees in Journalism, Economics, and International Studies. Previously, she studied abroad in London, Guatemala, and Cameroon and was a tour guide at her university.

What is your hometown?

The distant and far-off lands of Connecticut. Fairfield, to be precise. Although I recently moved to lower Manhattan, Fairfield will always keep a piece of my heart—from the inviting jazz concerts on the lawn in summer to nights spent aimlessly wandering the beaches and gazing at mysterious Long Island in the distance. Fairfield has a small-town community feeling, with the energy of a New York City suburb. (If you ever visit Fairfield and like Tex-Mex food, La Salsa has one of the best nacho platters I’ve ever tried.)

Who would play you in a movie?

Assuming I ever accomplish anything in life worthy to make a film about, I’ve been compared to Hilary Duff many a time (even by strangers on the subway.)

City you most recommend to friends

Though I appreciate the energy cities offer, when traveling I tend to prefer the tranquility of nature and the charm of the undiscovered. I recently returned from an AdventureWeek program where a group of about 20 journalists and adventure seekers explored Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo.

Olivia in MacedoniaI would recommend that any traveler seeking a different experience get lost in “Europe’s last remaining forest.” The city of Ohrid, Macedonia is known as “the Jerusalem of the Balkans” and truly lives up to this title. There were once 365 churches in the city, one for every day of the year.

For fellow travelers who like naps on the beach and historical immersion, I recommend the island of Rhodes in Greece. You are truly transported back in time to 300 B.C. when meandering through the narrow streets of the Old City.

City you would drop everything to see:

If you’d asked me this about two months ago, I would have answered “Istanbul” without a second thought. Who wouldn’t be allured by a city that represents a global mosaic of culture and religion, of bazaars where you can buy everything, and of the aroma of spices?

Well, I did drop everything and visited Istanbul about a month ago. Now that I’ve experienced more of the mystery and splendor of Asia (I made it a point to cross the Bosphorus to officially step onto the Asian continent while in Turkey!), I have a burning desire to see more of this continent. Next on the list would likely be a trip to Thailand. I love Thai food. Also, Buddhism fascinates me, and I would like to spend time learning in a Buddhist monastery or working on an elephant reserve.

What do you enjoy working on the most at AAA?

Olivia in LondonI love being surrounded each day by like-minded individuals who prioritize travel and the adventure in the unknown. There’s always a story to be told, an exotic food to be sampled, a country to further learn about. Perhaps my favorite part about working at AAA is familiarizing myself with our travel destinations in order to be an informed resource for passengers. I also very much enjoy working with the Communications department in promoting our trips and company through social media outlets.

Special skills

My parents taught me to enjoy and appreciate every second of my life. I believe one of my special skills is seeing the beauty in the mundane and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Your most visited websites

I’m still in my honeymoon stage with New York, so Timeout.com has been helpful in giving me information about happenings around the city. CNN.com has always been a favorite website of mine. Buzzfeed.com gives me life advice I never realized I needed, and Groupon.com has getaways that temporarily fulfill my constant wanderlust. My social media go-to’s are Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Something about you that surprises people

I spent a summer working at an all-male Boy Scout sleep away camp as a lifeguard. As with many opportunities in my life, I found this job quite unexpectedly. However, I learned how to (adequately) tie a sailor’s knot, and I discovered that a diet of cookies and camp pasta for an entire summer is not as appealing as one may think. I also earned my first (and only) merit badge in Physics!

What are three things you can’t travel without?

1) Baby powder: Sprinkle some into hair and the world will never know that you missed a shower (or two.)

2) My stuffed tiger cub, Sylas, which I received before my trip to Cameroon as a token of good luck. To be truthful, I could not spend a night even in my apartment without this adorable ball of fur next to me. But Sylas is a great travel buddy—he never complains about airport delays and even lets me take the window seat on planes!

3) A camera. [Note: this may be substituted with the 2014 version: the iPhone]. There is nothing wrong with reminiscing about your past travels, and sometimes that photo will bring you back to a pinpointed moment in time.

Number of trips traveled on:

I’m very fortunate to have lost count on the number of trips I’ve been on, especially for the ripe young age of 22. So far, I’ve been to about 20 countries including Canada, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Monaco. My goal is to visit every country in the world in my lifetime.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My favorite quote of all time is “Not all who wander are lost” by J. R. R. Tolkien.  I intend to wander for my entire life, and I encourage you to do so with me!

 

Olivia in CameroonAbout Us:

Academic Arrangements Abroad, a leader in cultural travel since 1977, designs and operates travel programs for sponsoring institutions that include the nation’s top museums and alumni associations.

For more information, please contact us, (212) 514-8921.

9 Reasons to Sign Up for Arrangements Abroad’s English Gardens Trip this May

HighclereSpring is a little late this year, but what better way to shake off the winter blues than by planning an exclusive tour of iconic English gardens when they’re in full bloom? From May 17 to 25, Arrangements Abroad will take a small group of lucky travelers to London and the Cotswolds for privileged visits to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show and the gardens of western England. Here are nine reasons you should join:

1) English roses.
Roses have been a symbol of England for centuries (ever hear of the War of the Roses?), and no English garden is complete without them. A special highlight of this trip is the chance to attend the Chelsea Flower Show in London on Members’ Day, when hundreds of roses will be in fragrant bloom.

Flowers at Chelsea Flower Show2) Your own personal gardener-guide.
Bill LeFevre, the study leader for this program, is the director of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a 55-acre oasis on the campus of Duke University in North Carolina. Who better to lead you “down the primrose path” through the flowering British countryside?

Front of Highgrove House3) Tea and champagne at Prince Charles’ country home.
Visit several Cotswold mansions with exquisite gardens—most notably Highgrove House, the home of HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. One of the Prince’s royal gardeners will lead you on an exclusive tour of Highgrove’s organic gardens, after which you’ll be served afternoon tea and a glass of Highgrove champagne.

Tale of Peter Rabbit4) Peter Rabbit.
At the Chelsea Flower Show, you can see a display evoking the Beatrix Potter story, complete with radish patch, watering can and Mr. McGregor’s greenhouse.

5) The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien, Oxford professor and author of the fantasy classic, lived next door to the Mercure Oxford Eastgate, where he ate every day—and where you’ll stay during a two-day stay in the famed university town. Maybe it was a hotel meal that inspired him to write the story’s iconic first line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

Blenheim6) The (mostly) true story of Winston Churchill’s birth.
You’ll spend a morning visiting Blenheim Palace, where Churchill was born in 1874, allegedly unexpectedly after his mother went into labor two months early. Unless, as some sources whisper, that story was concocted to conceal the fact that Churchill’s mother was pregnant when she married his father—if that really was his father.

Hotel limos7) Downton Abbey: In London, stay at St. James’ Court, a Taj Hotel, where you can rent the famous white Rolls Royce that appears on Downton Abbey.

Garden Gnome8) Say “No!” to gnomes.
Last year, the Chelsea Flower Show got a lot of flak for dropping the ban on garden gnomes, which have a long history in English gardens. But have no fear, kitsch-haters—this year, the ban is back!

9) Witchcraft. In London, explore the 17th-century Chelsea Physic Garden, with its important collection of medicinal plants. Many of these—henbane, mandrake, jimsonweed, opium poppy—are hallucinogenic, and were said to be used by witches to make “flying ointments” that supposedly enabled travel via broomstick. Click here to watch a video of the garden of medicinal plants taking shape.

About Us:

Academic Arrangements Abroad, a leader in cultural travel since 1977, designs and operates travel programs for sponsoring institutions that include the nation’s top museums and alumni associations.

For more information on the English gardens trip, please contact Sara Kosyk, (212) 514-8921 or sara@arrangementsabroad.com

 

Don’t Forget to Enter the Adventures Abroad Photo Contest

Camel and Pyramid, Giza, EgyptWe’ve already received a number of submissions for our Adventures Abroad photo contest. Images entered so far include everything from riding camels in Egypt to practicing yoga on a sunny beach in Puerto Rico. There are also stunning shots of Peru, Antarctica, London, Italy, India, Jordan, and other destinations.

If you have a great travel photograph, there’s still time to enter it in the contest. The first-place winner, as selected by our panel of expert judges, will receive $1,000 off any 2014 or 2015 Academic Arrangements Abroad cruise. Second prize is $500 off a 2014 or 2015 Arrangements Abroad cruise, and third prize is a micro luggage scale (handy for avoiding overweight baggage fees).

India dyesYou can also vote on the submitted images, which are featured in a gallery that can be accessed through the photo contest tab. The most popular image will receive a People’s Choice Award and a special prize.

To enter or vote, please go to our Facebook page and click on the Adventures Abroad Photo Contest icon below our name. It will take you to a new page where you can enter the contest or vote on selected entries (or both!).

Be sure to submit your entry before May 1, 2014.

Meet Tour Director Kate Klorer

Kate Klorer with tour busKate Klorer started working for Academic Arrangements Abroad as a Tour Coordinator in December 2005. Soon afterwards, she became one of the firm’s Tour Directors. When Kate is home in New York between trips, she also works as a guide at The Frick Collection.

She will be leading more trips in 2014, so look for her on several programs to Europe, Cuba, and the Middle East.

What is your hometown? Redlands, California. It is especially beautiful in March and April, when the orange groves bloom and the scent of orange blossoms fills the air.

Kate in SienaCity you most recommend to friends? Most of my recommendations have to do with places I’ve had memorable experiences with art or food! I recently visited Siena, Italy, for the first time, mainly to see in person the great altarpiece by Duccio, and I was completely enchanted by this medieval town. Rome and Florence are absolute must-sees, but Siena offers a different, quieter experience… perfect for wandering with gelato on a sunny afternoon, admiring the beautiful Tuscan hills!

There are so many other great cities. Stockholm, Vilnius, Vienna, Havana, and of course the three I have called home: New York, London, and Los Angeles.

Sight you would drop everything to see I would love to see the Northern Lights at some point in my life!

Last tour you were on for Arrangements Abroad “The Performing & Visual Arts of Cuba: An Insider’s View”

Kate in UAESpecial skills  Not quite a special skill, but when I’m in a new place, I enjoy stepping into the local grocery store or farmer’s market. It is one of the best ways to get a feel for local life.  I also really enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds and life experiences. And I know a lot about art history, particularly 14th– to 19th-century European painting.

Your most visited websites  Google , Facebook, The New York Times, Kayak and United.com

photo-4Something about you that surprises people  As a graduate student in London, I worked at the Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill on weekends!  (Yes, the bookshop from the Hugh Grant movie…)

Three things you can’t travel without  A light suitcase, a pashmina to keep warm on the plane, and a camera.

Number of trips traveled on  I have visited 48 countries.  Some of my best travel experiences have been on Arrangements Abroad programs. Inquisitive and enthusiastic groups, opportunities to learn from experts, getting to know our local guides in different countries…all make for such enriching experiences when learning about a new place!

Taxi !!! Our top tips on hailing cabs around the globe

Taxi cabHailing a taxi abroad can be tricky. Luckily, there’s lots of advice out there about how to flag down a cab in various locales. In some cases, it is best to have the hotel call an official taxi for you. Here are a few of our favorite destinations, with taxi tips for each one.

Black Cab in London. Courtesy Visit BritainLondon:  Like the red double-decker bus, the black cab is a symbol of London. If you see one with the word “TAXI” illuminated on top, then it is available for hire. To hail a cab, stand at a sensible spot (avoid pedestrian crossings and bus stops) and stick out your arm when the car is approaching. (Note: it is technically against the law to yell “Taxi!” at a moving black cab.) Although taking a black cab in London is a great experience, it can be very expensive. (Check out this handy fare estimator.) Mini cabs, which need to be booked in advance, are a cheaper option.  It is polite to tip 10 to 15 percent on either a black cab or mini cab, but many people round up the fare to the nearest £1 and tell the driver to “keep the change”.

For other tips on hailing cabs in London, visit http://bloomsburyinternational.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/british-culture-how-to-hail-a-black-cab-taxi-in-london/  and http://www.britainexpress.com/London/taxis.htm

Great Wall by Meggan ReimBeijing:  Taking a taxi is a convenient way to get around China’s capital, but it can be hard to find a cab during peak hours. Reserve at taxi ahead of time to make sure you have a ride.  If you do hail a cab, make sure you take an official taxi (there should a sign on the roof, and inside the driver’s registration card should be evident). Your driver might not speak much English, so be sure to have the name and address of your hotel written down in Chinese. Some guidebooks have popular destinations in Chinese, or you can ask a hotel concierge to jot down where you’re going.  When you get out of a taxi, ask for a receipt, which includes details about the car. (This is helpful if you accidentally leave something in the car or have a problem with a driver.) A taxi fare can be paid with a Beijing Transportation Smart Card, which can also be used on the subway or bus. Tipping is not expected.

For additional suggestions on taxis in Beijing, visit:

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/beijing/transportation/taxi.htm

http://www.thechinaguide.com/beijing_taxis/beijing_taxis.html

http://www.cntraveler.com/daily-traveler/2013/03/beijing-taxi-problem-explained

The top of a taxi is seen in downtown Paris. By Jean Piere Gallot.Paris: In the City of Lights, typically you have to go to a “taxi rank” and stand in line, but you can also hail a cab on the street if there isn’t a rank nearby. Make sure you are getting into a licensed cab. Although taxis in Paris come in various colors, they should have a Taxi Parisien sign on the roof, a working meter, a special license plate, and a display on the back of the cab monitoring daily usage.  If you book a taxi in advance, the driver is permitted to turn on the meter when he or she leaves to meet the passenger, so don’t be surprised if there are a few extra Euros on the meter when the car arrives.  Tips are not expected, but they are appreciated, especially if you had a courteous or helpful driver.

Further tips on Paris taxis at:

http://www.wikihow.com/Hail-a-Cab-in-Paris and http://paris-wise.com/journal/how-to-get-a-taxi-in-paris.html

New Delhi: In India, it can be difficult to hail a cab, but you can phone for one or go to a taxi stand. During busy times of day—such as rush hour and in the late evening—there can be a wait if you call, so it is best to book in advance. There’s often a taxi stand located near shopping malls, major tourist attractions, etc. Tools such as this fare estimator will give you an idea of how much a trip in New Delhi should cost. Tipping isn’t required for short rides, and for day trips about 100 rupees (less than $2) is the norm.

For additional advice on New Delhi taxis, check out this article:

http://thevivant.com/hail-cab-india/

Mexico City:   In Mexico’s capital, there’s been a rise in taxi-related crimes during recent years.  As a result, taking a radio-dispatched sitio (pronounced “C-T-O”) taxi or a turismo taxi (luxury car assigned to a particular hotel) are your safest bets. You can arrange for a driver to wait for you or return to pick you up later.  Many residents of Mexico City also choose to use cabs from taxi stands. If you take a taxi in Mexico, be sure to carry small bills (drivers might not have change for larger ones), always ask if there’s a meter, and pay attention to where the driver is going. Other ways to get around this sprawling metropolis include the Metro system (which has special cars for women and children), double-decker tourist buses, and rental cars.

Read these pieces for more on Mexico City taxis:

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/mexico-city/713344

http://www.themijachronicles.com/2011/08/how-to-take-taxis-in-mexico-city-without-getting-ripped-off/

http://www.mexperience.com/guide/essentials/transport/mexico-taxi-travel.php

Have you taken a cab recently while traveling abroad? Do you have a taxi tip you’d like to share?

TuktukCoco taxis in central Havana

Our Favorite Fall Festivals

Munich from Munich tourist boardMunich’s Oktoberfest is in full swing. The famous festival has more than 14 tents serving everything from cold beer to warm potato salad, rides such as the Pirate Adventure and more. However, there are lots of other fall festivals that are worth visiting. Here’s a roundup of a few of our favorites.

October

Head Down Under for Australia’s largest food festival. At Good Food Month (October 1 to 31, 2013), top chefs will show off their skills in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.

Watch 750 hot air balloons fill the sky at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (October 5-15, 2013).  If you want to get a different perspective, there’s also the option of taking a hot air balloon ride during the festival.

View and buy art by over 1,000 artists at London’s Frieze Art Fair (October 17 to 20, 2013). Designed by architects Carmody Groarke, the fair is housed in a bespoke structure in Regent’s Park.

Eat some of the best barbecue in the South while enjoying music by blues legends such as James Cotton at the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (October 18 to 20, 2013). Presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the event is free and open to the public.

Dia de los Muertos by Salvador AlcCelebrate the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico (October 31 to November 2, 2013). Participants honor the deceased family members through building special altars. Although festivities occur throughout Mexico and in Mexican communities throughout the United States, Oaxaca is an especially good place to witness the holiday.

November

Diwali in CoventryWitness Diwali, the Festival of Lights (Nov. 3 to 8, 2013), which is celebrated in India and other locations with large Hindu populations (such as the UK and Trinidad and Tobago).  The five-day festival includes fireworks, the lighting of clay lamps (called diyas), exchanging gifts and eating festive meals.

Pushkar Camels by Gloria DeLucaExperience Pushkar’s Camel Fair (Nov. 6 to 17, 2013), a five-day livestock fair held each year in Rajasthan. A favorite of multiple staff members here at Academic Arrangements Abroad, this extraordinary event attracts approximately 300,000 people and as many as 20,000 camels, cattle and horses.

Discover the Thai festival of lights, Loi Krathong, on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month during the Thai lunar calendar. This year, the festival falls on November 17. Loi Krathong is celebrated all over Thailand, but some of the most beautiful celebrations are in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.

For other suggestions, read our fun fall festivals post from last year!

Memorable Museum Restaurants

Museum restaurants used to conjure up thoughts of lukewarm cafeteria food. Recently, however, eateries at museums have won positive reviews from the press. For example, a May 2013 Departures Magazine blog post says, “With more establishments utilizing fresh local ingredients and offering housemade and innovative menu items, it should come as no surprise that foodies are flocking to savor something other than art or history.”

And a 2012 New York Magazine story describes a museum-restaurant boom in New York City. “Unlike many other culinary trends, this one shows no signs of abating,” The article’s author explains. “Cash-strapped cultural institutions need the income, and restaurateurs love the exposure.”

Staff members and tour directors at Academic Arrangements Abroad agree that a growing number of museum restaurants in New York City and beyond are worth a visit. Here’s a roundup of some of their favorites around the globe.

Europe:

Salad at Bistro Guggenheim Bilbao“I’d have to say that the lunch that I had on tour at the Bistro Guggenheim Bilbao 13 years ago is one of the ten best meals of my life,” says Richard Barcham, Vice President of Development and Sales. “I described the dessert as being “like eating clouds.” Visitors to the Guggenheim Museum can still enjoy amazing meals at the bistro. The regular menu includes a starter (such as seafood soup), main course (such as roasted lamb or grilled tuna), homemade bread, desert (pineapple ravioli, anyone?) and drink for about 26 euros plus tax.Desert at Bistro Guggenheim Bilbao

In Spain, tour director Clive Porter says he had “good coffee and pastries in the Picasso Museum in Málaga.” He mentions that there was a pleasant little garden. Café MPM also serves breakfast, fresh juices, milkshakes, sandwiches, salads and hot entrees.

Clive also recommends a museum restaurant in London. “There is a good view over the roof tops from the National Portrait Gallery in London – where the food is served and quite good.” The Portrait Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and pre-theater dinner. There’s also a “champagne afternoon tea” available during the afternoon (for £10 more than regular tea).

Elizabeth Maricic loved eating at L’Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institut) in Paris. “The museum has a rooftop café and restaurant overlooking the city,” she says. “My friends and I grabbed falafels and mint tea at a cafeteria-style cafe, but restaurant Le Zyriab offers an elegant sit-down dining experience at modern white-clothed tables that match the museum’s minimalist design. The menu for both restaurants is Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Everything looked so delicious, it was hard not to try everything on the menu!”

Middle East:

Food at IDAMPresident Jim Friedlander recommends Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant on the top of the I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.  The restaurant, IDAM, is Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East and serves delicacies such as foie gras with truffles, tender octopus, potatoes infused with saffron, marinated bonito and roasted blue lobster.

United States:

Grilled Vegetable Panini at Nasher in Dallas“Having a glass of wine on the terrace at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas was exceptionally pleasant,” says Richard. Overlooking the garden, the Nasher Café by Wolfgang Puck also offers seasonal soups, salads and sandwiches.

“On the second floor balcony overlooking the Great Hall of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is also a beautiful spot to meet for a glass of wine before or after seeing a new exhibition,” says Vice President of Communications Gloria De Luca. “The bar is open on Thursday and Friday evenings and features live classical music.”

Editor Sara Welch recently dined at the café at the Morgan Library. “It’s a beautiful modern space in the new building designed by Renzo Piano: high ceilings, drenched in sunlight, etc. The food was decent and not horribly overpriced, either!”

Ingrid Ahlgren, a writer for the firm, recommends Mitsitam Café at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.  “The restaurant serves indigenous foods found throughout the Western Hemisphere,” she explains. “There are five stations: Mesoamerica, Northern Woodlands, South America, Northwest Coast and Great Plains.” Selections include traditional Native American dishes such as fry bread as well as more contemporary items like buffalo burgers.

Do you have a favorite museum restaurant?