Travel with The Met . . . and Arrangements Abroad!

GrandCanal

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!

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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 trips@arrangementsabroad.com or 800-221-1944. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Top 12 Tips for Magical Morocco: World Heritage sites, souks & snake charmers

Tilework in Fes by Gloria DeLucaKnown for stunning landscapes, bustling souks, fabulous food and amazing architecture, this North African nation is a feast for all five senses.  Academic Arrangements Abroad will discover the palaces, kasbahs and imperial cities of exotic Morocco during our “Treasures of Morocco” program from February 19 to 28, 2014.  Here are a few tips for the capital city of Rabat (literally “Fortified Place”); the historic capital of Fes; and Marrakesh, the “Jewel of the South.”

RABAT

Good museum for an over view of Morocco’s history: Visit the Archaeological Museum, opened in 1932, which boasts an extensive collection of artifacts dating back to prehistoric times. Treasures housed in the museum include bronzes from Volubilis. Most of the exhibits are labeled in French and Arabic, so it is helpful to know one of these languages or visit with a guide.

Jardin de Roses in Rabat by Gloria DeLucaA wonderful place to stay: The Sofitel Jardin des Roses is located in the heart of the city, near the Royal Palace. This luxurious hotel is surrounded by Andalusian gardens with 3,000 roses, and the architects combined French design and Moroccan art.

An amazing music festival: Love world music?  Time your visit for the Mawazine festival, which happens in May. Last year’s event featured well-known pop and R&B icons such as Rhianna, Enrique Iglesias and CeeLo Green as well as some of the great figures of Moroccan and Arab music. Street shows around Rabat are a highlight of the festival.

Volubilis capital by Gloria DeLucaBest stops between Rabat and Fes: Travel through forests of cork, oak and eucalyptus en route to Volubilis, one of the best-preserved Roman towns in North Africa. At this UNESCO World Heritage site, houses are adorned with mosaics from the 2nd and 3rd centuries.  You might also want to stop in Meknes to see the beautiful Bab Mansour gate.

FES

Great place to see Moroccan art: Visit the Ensemble Nejjarine, a 14th-century caravanserai (inn) that is now a museum of wooden arts and crafts.  On the top of the building, there’s a terrace where you can enjoy a drink and great view of Fes.

An elegant hotel: The 5-star Palais Jamaï Hotel, located in an 1879 palace, has Moroccan decor and luxurious gardens. Some rooms offer views of the medina (old city), a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fes tannery by Gloria DeLucaTop shopping (and photo) opportunity: Tour director Valerie Harte loves the “originality of the market in Fes, with its wonderful colors, crafts, foods, antiques, people and the everyday of a working souk.” See how world-famous Moroccan leather is treated and dyed at the oldest tannery in the world. A visit here is a fascinating journey back in time as you observe these age-old techniques, and you can enjoy some excellent shopping for leather goods.

A sumptuous spot to eat traditional Moroccan food:  The restaurant at Le Maison Bleue, serves incredible Moroccan salads, tasty tagines and local wines. Most evenings there is live Berber music. It is located in a riad (traditional Moroccan house) that was the home of the late Si Mohammed El Abbadi, a prominent astrologer, famous judge and professor.

MARRAKESH

Not to be missed: Be sure to see the famous Djemaa el F’na Square, an ancient meeting place where dancers, storytellers and snake charmers still practice their trades.   There are different performers during the day, when many stalls sell fresh orange juice and the atmosphere is more sedate, and night, when the square comes to life with food stalls and shopping. In 2001, UNESCO declared Djemaa el F’na Square a “Masterpiece of World Heritage.”

Beautiful places to explore:  Visit the Ben Yousef Madrasa, a beautifully restored 16th-century Koranic school, known for its amazing architecture. There are lots of fantastic photo opportunities here!  You might also want to admire the gardens and beautifully painted rooms at the Bahia Palace, former home of a 19th-century Grand Vizier. 

Great spot for a cocktail: Enjoy drinks at La Mamounia’s legendary Churchill Bar. Located in the lavish La Mamounia hotel, the bar has hosted distinguished guests including (you guessed it!) Winston Churchill. The bar’s atmosphere is redolent of the 1930s and features leather furnishings and fine wood paneling. Most nights there is live piano music.

Majorelle by Gloria DeLucaAn enchanting garden oasis in the middle of the city: Stroll through the lush and colorful Majorelle Garden, created in the 1920s by the French painter Jacques Majorelle.  The Berber Museum, within the gardens, houses a stunning collection of Berber jewels, textiles and tools.

We hope you’ll join us in February to explore superb Roman ruins, stroll in ancient souks, sip mint tea in tiled courtyards and experience superb accommodations.  For additional details about Academic Arrangements Abroad’s “Treasures of Morocco” program, please visit our website or call us at 800-221-1944.

Five Hotels with Spectacular Gardens

Chelsea Flower ShowAfter a long winter, spring has finally arrived and flowers are blossoming in the park near our New York offices.  We’re excited to see the change of season, but as travel specialists we’re also aware that hitting the road lets you enjoy fabulous flora all year round.

Throughout the year, many of our travel programs, such as “Dutch & Flemish Landscapes” and “History & Gardens of the Caribbean,” visit the world’s top gardens.

Some of Academic Arrangements Abroad’s programs have featured events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, and during journeys our travelers often stay at hotels with amazing gardens, such as La Mamounia in Morocco, the Oberoi Udaivilas in India and the Merrion Hotel in Ireland.

Here are a few of the world’s best hotels for garden lovers:

Gardens at Cliveden HouseCliveden, Buckinghamshire, England

Built by James Barry for the Duke of Sutherland, this great Thames-side mansion is known for its stunning gardens.  Owned, managed and maintained by the National Trust, the grounds include 376 acres of formal gardens and woodlands. You can also get lost in a maze, which opened in 2011. Our upcoming “Noble Dukes & Victorian Masterpieces” program features an optional Clivenden Postlude.

La Mamounia, Marrakech, Morocco

This luxurious hotel has a park, which it describes as “more than a green oasis in the heart of the city.” It includes seasonal flowers, fruit trees and hundred-year-old olive trees. There’s also an organic vegetable garden where the hotel’s chefs harvest herbs, tomatoes, turnips, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb and “lesser-known plants.”

Merrion gardensMerrion Hotel, Dublin, Ireland

This five-star hotel has two landscaped period gardens, which were designed by Irish landscape artist Jim Reynolds. The smaller one, “Lady Mornington’s Garden,” links The Main House to the Garden Wing, where many guest rooms have garden views. Both of the gardens “re-create the feel of an 18th-century garden with box hedges, water features, pathways, statuary and obelisks.” During our 2013 “Houses of the Irish Aristocracy” program, travelers will stay at this historic hotel.

Oberoi Udaivilas Hotel, Udaipur, India 

Located on the shores of Lake Pichola, the Oberoi Udaivilas is surrounded by contemporary terraced gardens. In the April 2010 issue of Garden Design , Emily Young wrote, “Landscape architect Bill Bensley of Bensley Design Studios in Thailand researched traditional Mewari gardens to give visitors the royal treatment from the moment they arrive and are greeted by two stone elephants and pink-blooming Bauhinia trees.” You can escape the winter chill and stay at the Oberoi Udaivilas during our 2014 Rajasthan program.

Villa D'Este by Joe ShlabotnikVilla d’Este, Lake Como, Italy 

Hailed by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure as one of the best hotels in the world, the opulent Villa d’Este overlooks Lake Como. The resort is also known for its gardens, which attract admirers from around the globe. Landmarks in the garden include a 500-year-old plane tree. A recent addition is a Chef’s Garden, where fresh vegetables, berries and herbs are grown.

What are some of your favorite gardens at hotels around the world?

The Storytellers of Marrakesh

“Marrakesh.” The word sounds as exotic as the city itself, conjuring images of date palms, bustling souks, red sandstone fortifications, colorful rugs, fragrant spices and donkeys laden with wares. Add snake charmers, acrobats, storytellers, fire eaters and food stalls and you must be in Djemaa el Fna, the equally exotically named main square of the city.

For centuries, this enormous square adjacent to the medina has been a meeting place. Locals may come for entertainment or to get teeth pulled; while visitors weave in and out among men with monkeys anxious to hop on your shoulder for a photo and women offering to decorate hands with henna. UNESCO named the medina of Marrakesh a World Heritage Site and the square one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” because of the uniquely oral tradition of storytelling enacted daily.

Even if you don’t know Arabic or Berber, join the folks gathering around an animated storyteller as he gesticulates, changes his voice and makes exaggerated facial expressions to relay an ancient tale or a religious text. You will lose yourself in the experience—as people have for more than a thousand years.