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Africa/Middle East

Say Yes to the Seychelles Islands

Posted by on Jan 12, 2010 | 2 comments

Say Yes to the Seychelles Islands

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After a great week in Jordan and an overnight in Paris, I was on my way to paradise.

The flight to the Seychelles Islands from Paris takes about 10 hours. Not a bad trade – the cold and rain of a Parisian winter for the sandy beaches of a tropical paradise.

We landed at 8:30am and when the boarding door cracked open, I was greeted by a wall of heat and humidity (did I mention it was only 8:30 in the morning?).

Situated just 4 degrees south of the Equator, the humid climate of the Seychelles is not for the faint of heart. The heat can be, quite literally, stifling. But, since I have been complaining about the cold weather at home for weeks, I decide to wrangle my rapidly expanding hair into a ponytail and go with the flow.

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The Ancient Charms of Petra Jordan

Posted by on Jan 10, 2010 | 0 comments

The Ancient Charms of Petra Jordan

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After 2 last minute flight changes, I was lucky to escape Atlanta before the snow started to fall. My Delta Business Elite flight from JFK to Amman could not have been better. Empty seat next to me = double the fluffy pillows and duvets = lots of sleep!

We landed in Amman 12 hours later around 4pm on Friday and my first hurdle was getting a visa on arrival. This turned out to be the simplest process ever – it took less than 5 minutes and cost about $15 US. Definitely no reason to get a visa in advance if you’re traveling to Jordan.

Next up, finding a taxi and getting to the hotel. Finding a taxi was easy, getting to the hotel proved more difficult.

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Would you believe, this is Tel Aviv?

Posted by on Feb 8, 2008 | 0 comments

Would you believe, this is Tel Aviv?

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I arrived back in Tel Aviv from the Dead Sea around 4pm on Thursday and was thrilled to discover a beautiful beach just outside the door of my hotel, the Sheraton Tel Aviv.

The hotel upgraded me to a suite with a great view of the Mediterranean. Luckily, I had the benefit of seeing a few pictures and getting a little advice about Tel Aviv before I arrived thanks to my friend Bill who recently visited here. 

The city was not at all like my pre-conceived notions. I never pictured it as a beautiful beach city like Rio or even Honolulu but, like those cities, the beach definitely dominates city life here.

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Doing the Dead Sea Float in Israel

Posted by on Feb 7, 2008 | 0 comments

Doing the Dead Sea Float in Israel

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Now that I’ve reached the half-way point of the trip, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you for the many e-mails and glowing comments about the website. I am really glad you are all enjoying it as much as I am.

Thanks also for the travel advice from some of you who have already been to a few of the places I’m going. And, as always, feel free to make requests. For example, alert young reader, Chase Swims (son of my good friend Autumn), sent an e-mail requesting more pictures of unusual animals. Sounds like a tall order, Chase, but I promise I’ll work on it.

So, next stop…Israel. First, a few words about the current political situation. The independent State of Israel was established in 1948 and has been the subject of political unrest with the neighboring Palestinians ever since.

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Exploring Casablanca Morocco

Posted by on Jan 28, 2008 | 0 comments

Exploring Casablanca Morocco

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Well, I have to say that those expecting romance or adventure here in Casablanca Morocco will be sorely disappointed. Humphrey Bogart never came here, and the film Casablanca was filmed entirely in Hollywood. “Casa“, as the Moroccans call it, is actually Africa’s second-largest city after Cairo with a population between 3 and 4 million. It’s a very modern city compared to Marrakech and also home to Africa’s largest port.

When I arrived at the train station last night just after dusk, I was greeted by a throng of people and about 100 taxis all hustling for a fare. Much more crazed than my arrival in Marrakech. Once I secured a taxi, the first thing he did was try to talk me out of my hotel choice because it was “very expensive” and of course he knew of a hotel that would be much better for me. 

Thanks, buddy, but I think I can decide where I want to stay (not to mention, I ran a marathon this morning and I am in pain from head to toe so argue with me at your own risk). He gave in and took me to the Le Royal Mansour Meridien, my hotel for the one night I will be in Casablanca (and I’m starting to think that will be plenty).

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Morocco – The Marrakech Marathon

Posted by on Jan 27, 2008 | 0 comments

Morocco – The Marrakech Marathon

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Traveling from the Bahamas to Marrakech, Morocco required stops in both Newark and Paris on Continental and then a change of airports in Paris to transfer to an Air France flight to Morocco. All in all, roughly 24 hours of travel time.

I was, however, looking forward to trying out Continental’s Business First service “across the pond” to see how it compares with Delta’s Business Elite. I had heard great things about Continental’s international service and I had high expectations since this one flight (and one Northwest flight from Tokyo to Honolulu) had cost me an extra 60,000 miles on this ticket – the difference between a business class and a first-class around the world award. 

Turns out, Continental and Northwest consider their international Business First cabins as first-class (not business) when it comes to award travel – so, of course, I was dying to see why.

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Back to Africa – Cape Town Part Deux

Posted by on Jan 14, 2007 | 0 comments

Back to Africa – Cape Town Part Deux

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After a lengthy journey from Dubrovnik including 2 connections, I finally made it into Cape Town around 3pm on a glorious summer day. I grabbed a cab and headed straight for my hotel, the Westin Cape Town. This is the same hotel I stayed at last year and really loved, so I was looking forward to returning. Rates this time of year start at about $400 per night but thanks to my Starwood points (hooray for business travel!) I will be spending all 4 nights here free of charge.

I haven’t really planned out what I want to do with my four days back in Cape Town. On my last visit to Cape Town on RTW #1, as you may remember, I climbed Table Mountain, spent some time at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, took the Robben Island tour and checked out a few beaches in the 3 days that I was here.

It was just such a beautiful city that I knew I had to come back again this year and, in fact, this is the only repeat stop from last years’ trip. So, my plan was to spend some quality time with the hotel concierge and get some advice on what else to see.

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Decadence in Dubai: The Burj Al Arab Hotel

Posted by on Jan 18, 2006 | 0 comments

Decadence in Dubai: The Burj Al Arab Hotel

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After a long flight from Cape Town, I had a nice evening layover in Paris and squeezed in a visit with old friends in the city. That night, I headed back to the airport for my last flight of the trip on Air France. It was another great flight with only two people in my cabin (no supermodels this time). 

I landed in Dubai around 8:30am this morning. The airport cab routine was getting a little old so I was thrilled that The Burj Al Arab, my hotel here in Dubai, was sending a driver to meet me at the airport. I expected to see the driver once I cleared customs but was pleasantly surprised to find him waiting for me just after I stepped off the plane (still not sure how he managed that).

He escorted me through passport control and customs in 5 minutes flat and next thing I knew I was cocooned in the plush leather seats of the Burj Al Arab’s Rolls Royce and on my way to the hotel. The driver offered me a cold towel, a bottle of water and even a music list so I could make a selection for the ride to the hotel – very smooth.

And this was just the beginning of the exceptional service the Burj would provide during my brief stay.

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Sharm el Sheikh – Sinai Peninsula

Posted by on Jan 16, 2006 | 2 comments

Sharm el Sheikh – Sinai Peninsula

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When you arrive at the airport in Cairo, you are immediately descended upon by airport “entrepreneurs” determined to carry your bags to the counter in exchange for a tip whether you want them to or not. Since I have only one small rolling bag, this is completely unnecessary and a bit absurd. 

No less than 4 men quizzed me as I walked through the door, “Madame, which flight is yours? What time does your flight leave?” All reaching for my bag and trying to show me the way to the check-in counter. Unfortunately for them, I don’t want to be separated from my bag (even by a few feet) and I can, of course, read signs.

The signs clearly pointed me to the Egypt Air check-in for the Sharm el Sheikh flight, no assistance required but thanks very much. One especially persistent man actually continued to walk right alongside me (as if he was showing me the way) even after I politely told him I did not need his help. When I got to the counter he had the nerve to hold his hand out for a tip. He didn’t get one.

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Cairo on Camel Back

Posted by on Jan 13, 2006 | 1 comment

Cairo on Camel Back

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Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris – In transit, again:  My overnight flight from South Africa was the best one yet, first class was almost empty. In fact, it was just me, a French businessman and – oh, right – supermodel Karolina Kurkova (who boarded shortly before takeoff – sorry guys, I didn’t take a picture of her). 

Finally, fewer people at the Air France pajama party. It was a great flight, I again got a decent night’s sleep and when we landed in Paris I went to the Air France arrivals lounge and even took a hot shower and had some breakfast. I had about 4 hours to kill before my flight to Cairo.

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Cape Town, Fabulous Cape Town

Posted by on Jan 11, 2006 | 0 comments

Cape Town, Fabulous Cape Town

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I should probably begin by admitting that I have had a permanent smile on my face since I got my first view of Table Mountain on approach to landing in Cape Town. So, since I have clearly lost all sense of objectivity, I can only say that Cape Town is simply fabulous. Simply, utterly fabulous.

I landed a little after 3pm today after connecting through Johannesburg on South African Airways. When we landed in Cape Town, I could see that the top of Table Mountain was crystal clear – not a cloud in the sky. Not only was this a welcome relief after the jarring cold of Berlin, but it was especially notable because from everything I had read, this is unusual. 

Normally, there is a persistent blanket of clouds that touches just the top of the mountain, known locally as the “tablecloth.” When the tablecloth is present, the top of the mountain is closed and you can’t hike or take the cable car up.

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