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.

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

Best Bastille Day Celebrations

Bonjour, readers!

This week, New York City is getting some French flavor for Bastille Day. Throughout the week, dozens of French restaurants throughout the Big Apple will be participating in French Restaurant Week. These eating establishments will be offering special meals for $17.89, a price that reflects the year the French Revolution began. On Friday, the big event will be the Bastille Day Ball. Additional New York Bastille Week happenings can be found online.

ParisNew York isn’t the only city to celebrate French cuisine and culture this week. Of course there are festivities in Paris and throughout France, but also in other locales, both expected and unexpected. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorites.

In New Orleans, Bastille Day events include French Quarter walking tours, cooking demonstrations, and more.

South Africa‘s Franschhoek Bastille Festival has been around for 20 years. Festival activities include boules, The Waiters’ Race, the minstrel parade, and a popular barrel-rolling contest, not to mention lots of vin from Franschhoek’s award-winning wine estates.

Boston‘s Bastille Day events include a popular party on Marlborough Street.

CountiesIn London, the 2013 Bastille Festival in Bankside features educational workshops, cultural presentations, bilingual storytelling, an artisan craft market, French food, and the Bal Populaire, a traditional open air party.

The Heiva festival in Tahiti was traditionally the French Polynesian observance of France’s Bastille Day. Events include the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Tahitian fête.

Washington, D.C.‘s Bastille Day French Festival “celebrates France both past and present, with festivities for visitors of all ages, including dance performances by The New York Baroque Dance Company, live music, French games, and hands-on art projects.”

Wat Pho BangkokIn Bangkok, the Alliance Francaise is hosting a free party on Saturday to celebrate French National Day.

Milwaukee‘s Bastille Days attracts more than 250,000 visitors. The festival includes live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, French and Cajun cuisine, and a 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica offering hourly light shows.

Are there other Bastille Day celebrations that you love? Let us know!

Art Underground

By Ingrid Ahlgren

While commuting on the New York City subway the other day, I admired a poster by artist Sophie Blackall. The poster, part of the MTA’s Arts for Transit program, is just one of the creations straphangers can enjoy in New York. The city’s subway system is home to oodles of art, ranging from the gorgeous mosaics in many stations to talented musicians who perform on trains and platforms to poetry inside the cars.

New York isn’t the only city where travelers can enjoy art on their way from one place to another. Boston’s Green Street Gallery, a non-profit, artist-run space, is located in a subway station.  In Chicago, a program called Art on Track transforms a train into a moving gallery once a year.

Stockholm subway art Paris MetroOutside of the United States, there’s also great art to discover while using public transit. Many of Montreal’s subway stations boast sculptures and other works of art. Stockholm’s tunnelbana, which has artwork in 90 of its 100 stations, has been called the “world’s longest art exhibit.” In Lisbon, contemporary art is featured in all metro stations.

Sometimes, the subway stations themselves are works of art. Paris’ Metro is known for its elegant art-nouveau entryways. In Bilbao, Spain, many new stations have been designed by Sir Norman Foster. The unique curved glass structures at street level are known as “Fosteritos.” Some of Moscow’s legendary undergrounds have chandeliers and marble-clad walls. And in Dubai, metro stations have modern designs but incorporate some of the region’s traditional architectural elements such as alleyways and arches.

Which of the world’s subway systems do you think are worth a detour?

Hotels for Art Lovers

By Ingrid Ahlgren

Lotte Hotel GalleryThis coming spring, travelers on our Korea and Japan program will spend a night at Seoul’s Lotte Hotel, which has its own art gallery. Located on the site of Bando Gallery, the country’s first commercial art gallery, which opened in 1956, The Lotte Hotel Gallery aims to promote Korean culture and history with exhibits of sculpture, photography and other art by upcoming and famous artists.

The Lotte Hotel is just one of a growing number of hotels that have notable collections of art. For example, Dublin’s historic Merrion Hotel houses “a spectacular collection of 19th– and 20th-century art which is widely considered to be one of the most important private collections in Ireland.” Artists whose works hang on the hotel’s walls include Martin Mooney, Jack B. Yeats and Pauline Bewick.  The Merrion can even arrange for guests to tour the hotel’s art collection with a guide from the National Gallery, which is located nearby.

In Paris, the Hôtel Atmospheres claims to be “the first art-gallery hotel in Paris” and describes itself as “mid-way between a boutique design hotel and a contemporary photography gallery.”  Located in St. Germain, an area known for art galleries and antique shops, the hotel is decorated with prints by photographer Thierry des Ouches.

In the United States, travelers can also enjoy fine art at hotels large and small. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas is currently showcasing paintings by Impressionist Claude Monet. New York City’s Gramercy Park Hotel has a collection of art, including works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In Los Angeles’ Sunset Marquis, an upscale boutique hotel, guests can visit the Maximillian Gallery, which connects collectors to creations by emerging street artists.

Hotel GaudiSome hotels, designed by famous architects, are works of art in and of themselves. These include the Hotel Marqués de Riscal by Frank Gehry in Elciego, Spain; the Le Meridien Lingotto by Renzo Piano in Turin, Italy; the Hotel Gaudí by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, Spain; and the Four Seasons by I.M. Pei in New York City.

Do you have a favorite hotel that has great art or amazing architecture? Please share your experiences and suggestions.

The Oldest Café in Paris

What stories the walls of Le Procope Café could tell! Founded in 1686, it has been witness to gatherings of luminaries from politics, literature, philosophy and history including Robespierre, Voltaire, Rousseau, George Sand, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

In fact, Franklin was such a revered Le Procope patron and exalted figure in Paris that the National Assembly adjourned on word of his passing and a memorial service was held at the café on June 15, 1790.

Located at 13, Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie in Paris, the charming Le Procope is now a historic monument, while still operating as a café and restaurant.  The three-story townhouse can also be classified as a museum of sorts, displaying items including Napoleon’s hat, Voltaire’s desk and an original 18th-century copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Epicurean Pleasures

Who doesn’t remember with delighted longing a meal (or two or twenty) from our travels? When we look back on a trip, images of an elegant meal presentation or scenic setting, a succulent roast or to-die-for dessert can eclipse those of the cathedral or museum we saw that day.

A great pleasure of discovering a destination is sampling its regional specialties. Although joy might be found in a juicy bratwurst or a perfect platter of fish and chips, one has special appreciation for the culinary skills, artistic vision and long hours of preparation orchestrated by the world’s special destination restaurants.

Enter Michelin, the standard bearer of refined taste. We thought we’d share with you highlights of a menu from Le Millénaire, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Reims where travelers on our recent “Pleasures of Paris” trip lunched between a Champagne dégustation and cooking demonstration at Le Cordon Bleu, poor chaps. Remember, calories don’t count when you’re on vacation!

Which foods stand out from your travels?

Le Millénaire Menu

LES ENTREES (Appetizers)

Le homard en salade et en tartare; une rémoulade de tourteau, pomme verte et wasabi

Lobster salad and lobster tartar; remoulade of crab, green apple and wasabi

 

L’escalope de foie gras de canard “des Landes” poêlée aux saveurs de la région

Escalope of foie gras from des Landes duck, pan fried with regional herbs and spices

 

Les langoustines en trois versions: nems, tartare et cappucino

A trio of crawfish: spring roll, tartar and cappuccino

 

POISSONS ET CRUSTACES (Fish and Shellfish)

Le bar breton cuit en vapeur douce, petits pois en bouillon à la Française, caviar d’aquitaine

Steamed Breton sea bass, peas in French bouillon, Aquitaine caviar

 

Les noix de coquilles St. Jacques grillées, des rattes écrasées au beurre fumé, une salade d’herbes et bouillon vert pré

Grilled scallops, mashed potatoes with smoked butter, herb salad and green herb sauce

 

Le homard rôti, risotto au safran et petits légumes, sauce légére au corail de homard

Roasted lobster, risotto with saffron and vegetables, light lobster roe sauce

 

VIANDES ET VOLAILLES (Meat and Poultry)

La pomme de ris de veau de lait  braisée au four, des côtes de feuilles de blettes au jus de truffe

Oven-braised veal sweetbreads, Swiss chard leaves with truffle juice

 

Le carré de cochon “Ibérique” en cuisson lente, une fricassée de rattes, champignons et lard fumé

Slow-cooked Iberian rack of pork, fricassee of charlotte potatoes, mushrooms and smoked lard

 

Les suprêmes de pigeonneau fermier rôtis au sautoir, legumes façon tajine et citron confit

Farm-raised pan-roasted pigeon squab, vegetable tajine and lemon confit

 

LES DESSERTS (Desserts)

La crème brulée à l’orchidée des îles

Crème brulee with island orchids

 

Le 360° de sorbets et fruits frais de saison

360° of sorbets and fresh seasonal fruit

 

La fine boule au chocolat et crémeux manjari

Balls of chocolate and creamy manjari