There is still time for a trip to see the Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C., although the official festival is from March 27 – April 11. We were there last week and it was beautiful. If you want intimate and convenient lodging, stay at the Fairmont Hotel. You can find photos and all the information you need at the Fairmont Hotel website. http://www.fairmont.com/washington
Be aware that there is a charge of $40 for 24 hour parking but you can take your car in and out whenever you want.
If you are planning ahead to next year, the Cherry Blossom Festival is from March 26 – April 10 with the Festival Parade on April 9. The hotel concierge can fill you in on all the activities or you can go online to the official website at http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/cms/index.php?id=390
The rooms are fine and you can get a comfortable king size bed if you request it.
The outdoor dining area is beautifully spacious with fountain and cherry blossom trees.
It is lit up at night, providing a warm and magical atmosphere.
If you are thinking of planning a wedding in the future, think about planning one during the Cherry Blossom time at the Dalhgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart in Georgetown University – 37 and O Streets Northwest.
During Cherry Blossom time, the courtyard of the chapel is surrounded with cherry blossom trees and you can have one of the Georgetown University a cappella singing groups perform in the courtyard after your ceremony. Contact Gary D Travel for more information about planning a wedding. See the website at http://campusministry.georgetown.edu/programs/Weddings/
As an alternative, you can also plan your wedding right at the hotel Fairmont or for a large reception, at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel, which is within walking distance.
On your way, you can stroll through Rose Park.
Make sure to ask each hotel for their reception rates.
If you’ve already delighted in the traditional must-see menu tour of Italy – e.g. the Coliseum, Forum and Sistine Chapel in Rome; the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery and Ponte Vecchio in Florence and St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal and the Doges Palace in Venice, you may want to experience a more hedonistic-style “tasting tour” of this magnificent country, where you will be vacationing more like a native than a tourist. This was our desire as we planned the celebration of our wedding anniversary and renewal of our vows. We had already been to Italy on our honeymoon, and spent a month circumnavigating the country by car, attempting to see as many of the important sights as possible. We returned to conceive our son and then again with our son to show him the country of his heritage.
We wanted our celebration tour to be private, romantic, sensual and relaxing and it was all of that and more -- like a gourmet tasting menu with a touch of the best culinary sensations. From high altitudes to low altitudes; from mountains to lakes to seas; from high tech accommodations to centuries-old castles; from luxury dining to a picnic lunch, all accompanied by delicious food and wines of each region. So may we offer as an
Verbier, Switzerland – the Nevaï Hotel (Room 221) – 159 km./99 mi. ~1 hr. 44 mins. from Geneva International Airport; 279 km./173 mi. ~2 hr. 52 mins. from Zürich International Airport www.nevai.ch Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Attention: Anne-Françoise Rosset
Now, why would you start an Italian tour in Switzerland? There are a few reasons, the first being Swiss International Airlines. Swiss International is ranked as one of the best airlines. Typically Swiss, they have a passion for perfection so their on-time record and maintenance of their aircraft is excellent. As a people, they are warm and friendly, making service and the entire flight experience on board a pleasure. To add to your jetting enjoyment, there is a full array of entertainment, from movies to games on your personal seat monitor.
Second, if you are renting a car, as we were, it’s better for your rental to initiate in Switzerland, since it is one of the countries where you can waive the loss and damage insurance if you use the American Express card. (For some inexplicable reason, you can’t do this in Italy.)
Third and most importantly, Switzerland is a great place to decompress from the stress of preparing for your journey, the airport ritual, the eight-hour flight (as pleasant as it may be) and the six-hour change in time.
Verbier is a beautiful little Swiss town up in the mountains, where the air is fresh and the scenery is magnificent. The drive from Geneva Airport along the lake to Verbier is breathtaking.
We found the Nevaï Hotel to be the perfect place to catch our breath, settle in and relax and get very cozy. The Nevaï is not the typical mountain chalet format, but a sleek contemporary design that has not lost its warmth. Our corner terraced room, the eider down comforters, the sensual mountain breezes and super-comfortable bed make ideal conditions for romping and resting. All in all, a perfect atmosphere is created for clearing one’s head. Email Anne-Françoise Rosset and request a room facing south for a panoramic view of the Alps. If you want total peace and quiet, make sure that you book reservations before or after the Verbier Music Festival (mid-July through the first week in August). If you love classical music, then you may want to partake of this musical feast. Two golf courses are available, one very easy and one very challenging (complete with grazing sheep.) One thing you should not miss is the traditional Swiss raclette, a meal of melted cheese, scraped in front of a fire, then onto your plate. It is accompanied by small firm potatoes, pickled onions, and dried meat, such as prosciutto. If you dine at La Marmotte, high on the mountain, the sound of distant cow bells adds to the Swiss charm. http://www.lamarmotte-verbier.com/
Moving on to our appetizer, the surprise special of the day is:
Sulzano, Italy – Hotel RivaLago (Room 208) – 335 km./208 mi. ~3 hrs. 55 mins.
www.rivalago.it. Email: email@example.com Skype: rivalago Attention: Antonela Pastore
RivaLago is “Paradise Found” – if you have the desire to find it!
Just fourteen short and beautiful kilometers off the Palazzolo exit of the autostrada heading toward Venice, is a hidden jewel if there ever was one. This is such a best kept secret, that even the Michelin Guide missed this gem. The RivaLago hotel is just 20 miles from Brescia and 35 miles from Bergamo. The entrance to RivaLago itself is mysterious and somewhat adventurous as you take a sharp left off of the tiny main road into an even tinier driveway to an unassuming entrance. But what lies beyond the entrance is magnificent – a beautiful hotel overlooking Lake D’Iseo, a lake so large that it is visually endless, with overlapping mountains sprouting up as its backdrop. As you walk into the lobby of RivaLago, you are immediately welcomed with the scent of fresh flowers and the warmest greeting by the staff and the managers, Antonella and Gianluca. The hotel is wonderfully decorated – a tasteful mix of stylish contemporary and luxury lakeside. As you cross the lobby, you can’t help notice the large, immaculately clean and inviting pool, which adjoins the lake, almost as one. The rooms are equally tasteful with relaxing colors and furnishing with balconies and terraces overlooking the lake and mountains. We had a double lake view with balcony. Every modern convenience is available in the room including internet access. Everything says “you are in full vacation mode, here.” The rooms are reasonably priced for the luxury provided and motor boats, bicycle, and motor scooter rentals are available for an additional fee.
Breakfast includes an array of organic honey (miele) from five different regions of Italy, organic (da Agricoltura Biologica) jams, preserves, breads, seed, rice cakes, juices and cereals. Hard boiled eggs are cooked to exactly 8 minutes and you have your choice of prosciutto or the most delicate sliced ham. For the even more specifically health conscious, Gluten free Magdalenas, soy milk, and special salt-free seasonings are also included in the breakfast buffet. If you would like breakfast served in your room, you may advise the front desk the night before.
If you have a special request, Gianluca gladly goes to the market and tries to provide whatever is asked. Yet, with all this carefully planned delicate abundance, if you require pancakes, omelets, potatoes and bacon, you are better off staying at a Marriot.
The restaurant is indoor or outdoor, but outdoor dining overlooking the lake can’t be beat for romance. The food presentation is excellent with unique choices either in a tasting menu at a fixed price or a la carte. As night falls, candles are lit all around to create an even more magical setting. For an extra-intimate dining experience, a table as close to the water as you can get, should be reserved ahead of time.
If you are anywhere near this area of Italy, certainly on your way to Venice, and want to really rest, relax and romance in a quiet and secluded Mediterranean style getaway, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge at RivaLago. Antonella’s goal is to make all her guests feel as comfortable as if they were in their own home. And achieve this, she most certainly does. In all of our travels, we count this as among our best unexpected finds.
Asolo – Villa Cipriani (Room 201) – 205 km./127 mi. ~ 2 hrs. 29 mins.
http://villaciprianiasolo.com Email: villacipriani@HO10.net Attention: Sigfrido Magagna
As you’re traveling to Venice, you need a stopover and a perfect choice is Asolo, an enchanting town that seduced famous royalty, poets, and lovers to choose it as their home. The Villa Cipriani prepares your travel palate for the sophistication of the Venice experience. It has a British-Italian flavor with rooms in old-world décor and an intimate, romantically lit garden in which you can stroll and dine. The food maintains the high standard of the rest of the hotel. (Try the Branzino, Italy’s Sea Bass). We had a spacious deluxe room, garden view with sitting area, separate bathroom and closet quarters, surrounded by wood-paneling, ultra-high beamed ceilings and antique furnishings. As repeat guests, champagne, fruit, and a personal note from the manager were waiting for us in the room. Caterina, a woman in a man-dominated profession, was as efficient a concierge as she was gracious.
Venice – San Clemente Palace Hotel (Room 334) – 69 km./43 mi. ~ 1 hr. 25 mins.
http://sanclemente.hotelinvenice.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Attention: Signore Michele Zanconato
Mmm, Venice! Venice is Venice, right? Not when you’re staying at the San Clemente Palace Hotel. Only seven-years old, the newest addition to the five-star luxury hotels, is a magnificent two-hundred room oasis, occupying its own island, the entire four-acres of Isola San Clemente. Though the hotel is new, the grounds themselves are centuries old and restoration of all the buildings and open courtyards have been meticulous. It lives up to its palatial name with an imposing entrance, but the moment you step off the boat onto the private dock, the staff makes you feel as if you are the only guest. You are referred to by name, even by personnel you’ve never met before. The staff is young, vital and intelligent, and we must mention the consummate professionalism of head concierge, Alessandro Heinrich and Sales and PR Manager Linda Bertoni. Alessandro has a wealth of knowledge of all things Venetian and Linda expertly arranged our accommodations.
Upon entering the lobby you are again struck by the immensity of its structure and the luxury and elegance of its decor. It is an impressive walk to your room through the grandeur of its hallways, adorned with Murano chandeliers suspended above granite floors, and carved stone staircases. We were fortunate to have a Lagoon-view double deluxe room with long windows that opened up to a distant view of the domes of St. Marks and the Campanille -- far enough to be alluring and close enough to be accessible. The San Clemente provides 24 hour complimentary boat service to and from St. Marks, which is only a ten to fifteen minute ride, but with a romantic itinerary. On the way from San Marco, it passes by San Giorgio, Giudecca and San Servolo before coming around the older side of the Island, with a view of the Church of San Clemente which dates back to 1131.
The property is large enough to house a sizable pool, 2 tennis courts and even a 3-hole executive golf course complete with a fountain. It’s surrounded by a park and accompanied by brown and white bunny rabbits running through it. The Laguna Restaurant, overlooking the pool and park offers a plentiful buffet, grill, surf and turf menu and drinks of all varieties. You may also choose to relax at the Beauty and Wellness Center, set along the waters of the Lagoon, where you can be pampered with any number of aromatherapy treatments, thalassotherapy applications and massages. Or you can just unwind in the co-ed steam room, sauna and exercise room.
We had planned on renewing our vows in the Church of San Clemente, but since it is still being restored, the inviting exterior is betrayed by the gloomy interior. So we scouted the grounds for our special place. In a large courtyard, a long walkway provided the perfect isle for the bride to process, (in her original wedding dress we might add), until met by the groom who escorted her up the steep curved path to a gazebo on a hill overlooking the Lagoon. Perfect. We recited our vows privately in the sight of God, cradled in the arms of the beauty surrounding us. Following the “ceremony,” we had a luscious gourmet dinner, overlooking the Lagoon and the Venetian backdrop at the San Clemente’s own Le Maschere Restaurant. As the sun set before us in the elegance and privacy of this location, we rejoiced in the abundance – a feast for the eyes as well as the palate and we lost ourselves in the splendor of our love, attaining the living dreamlike state only lovers know.
We were “awakened” by the surprise fruit plate that came out with the words, “Happy Anniversary” decorating the rim of the dish in swirls of chocolate. The misspelling somehow made the presentation that much more endearing. Is there anything that could have made this evening more perfect? Only a private midnight gondola ride that we decided to take impetuously. Still dressed in our wedding garb, we hopped the San Clemente boat to San Marco and found one gondolier willing to take us for a quiet, romantic ride through the back canals of Venice.
We spent the following day on the crowded main land of Venice, a stark contrast to the serenity of the previous evening. Still, Venice is ever magnificent, regardless of the time, weather or amount of people.
For a second night of romantic dining, Gary D Travel would recommend the Fortuny Restaurant, the outdoor restaurant at the Hotel Cipriani, another five-star luxury resort on the Island of Giudecca. Gary D Travel will make your reservation ahead of time and reserve a table by the Lagoon. Hopefully, you will catch the wonderful piano music provided by Massimo Nason, which wafts gently in the distance as you dine. After dinner, join Massimo at the cozy café for an after-dinner drink and enjoy this brilliant musician’s vocal talents as well. He sings in a least four languages and can play music in any style.
Parting is such sweet sorrow as, inevitably, we must leave Venice. But we will find equally delicious “delicacies” to be tasted and memories to be made as we continue on our travel tasting journey.
Florence – Marignolle Relais & Charme (Room 3) – 263km./154 mi. ~ 2 hrs. 47 mins.
http://www.marignolle.com Email: email@example.com Attention: Lorenzo Bulleri
We clear our palate with Marignolle Relais & Charme, and a charmer it is. The Marignolle, located among the Tuscan hills only 3.5 kilometers from the autostrada is as intimate as the San Clemente is grand. After traveling up a long and narrow gravel road, you come to a large electronic gate, which opens once you have announced yourselves through the intercom system. Traveling a little further up and even more narrow road, you come to the main entrance. With only nine rooms, arriving at the Marignolle is like coming back to your summer estate in Tuscany. You are greeted, usually by a member of the Bulleri family and after a quick check-in, you are briefly shown around the facility, which includes a doll-house looking sitting room-library with fireplace. Adjacent, is the semi-enclosed glass gazebo breakfast room.
Gardens exuding scents of roses, lavender and rosemary surround the property and down a staircase off the gardens is a nice sized pool with a view of the countryside. In the distance, you can see a small “Bibe” sign, which is the recommended restaurant for lunch or dinner. After settling in to our cozy soundproof double deluxe room, (equipped with all the amenities one would expect, including local wines), accomplishing some necessary internet communications using the free Wi-Fi and relaxing at the pool, we took the short drive down the hill and indeed had dinner at Bibe. The Bibe is a romantic outdoor trattoria, seemingly carved out in the middle of a lush green forest, serving rustic Tuscan cuisine and wines. We recommend tasting the rare wild ovoli mushrooms, which are even more revered than porcini. The following day’s activities may include a cooking class with Paola Bulleri or a golf outing with her husband, Claudio at the nearby Ugolino golf course or Florentine tours recommended by their son, Lorenzo.
Anguillara Sabazia – Country Relais I Due Laghi (Room 5 “Etruscan Suite”) –
243 km./161 mi. ~ 2 hrs. 43 mins.
http://www.iduelaghi.it Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Attention: Fabio Fanciullis
Is this “wild” or “farm-raised?” . . . Both . . . and organic!
In a little more than two and a half hours, you will be transformed from the hills of Tuscany to the lakes of Roma. I Due Laghi (The Two Lakes) is between the lakes of Bracciano and Martignano and is immersed in the Regional National Park. The entrance to I Due Laghi feels more like visiting a farm-ranch than an organically certified 4-star hotel. Its pathway is lined with grazing horses of which there are 200 on the property. The other 400-plus inhabitants comprise hunting dogs, cows, goats and sheep. Before you even get to your room, the mood is set for rough and ready rustic romance. There are 25 rooms and 7 theme-suites. We chose the Etruscan Suite – a good choice for our taste, but you can check the web site for a picture of the
room that appeals most to you.
There are lots of activities for more dynamic duos, e.g. hiking, biking, golfing, tennis and lake-sailing. Horseback riding is available but you must provide your own equipment. For more of a laid-back experience, a large outdoor pool and wellness center (with 36 beauty treatments of various modalities) is on the premises. The award-winning La Posta de’ Cavalieri restaurant serves fresh food, organic meats and cheeses directly from their farm. We heartily enjoyed its offerings.
Fish dish “to die for”:
Positano, – Buca di Bacco (Room 48) – 302 km./188 mi. ~ 3 hrs. 44 mins.
http://www.bucadibacco.it Email: email@example.com Attention: Salvatore Rispoli
“From the mountains to the prairies to the ocean” right from Rome
We promised contrasting landscapes on this journey and none is considered more spectacular than Positano, hence the expression, “see Positano and die.” Getting to Positano by car is synonymous with traveling the Amalfi Drive. So if all your friends and your mother have you scared about it, don’t be – you’ve already negotiated the Alps on this trip. Relatively, this is a piece of cake. There are safety stone guard rails along the road and the breathtaking vistas make this excursion a must. So be cautious but don’t be scared.
We feel particularly confident walking into a restaurant which has an open kitchen that clientele can view. But the renowned Buca di Bacco restaurant goes a step further by putting its kitchen on full display through a big picture window which looks onto the street for all to see. Expertly preparing their recipes, the chefs smile and wave to the passersby, but the biggest smiles are on the customers who have the good fortune to partake of the delicacies. We recommend the zuppa di pesce, a harvest of the day’s catch. It’s to “die for!”
Tivoli (Roma) – Torre Sant’Angelo (Room 214) – 261 km./162 mi. ~ 3 hrs. 3 mins.
http://www.hoteltorresangelo.it Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Attention: Barbara Costa
We clear our palate once more as our travel tasting menu heads North again toward our final offerings. Just 25 kilometers from Rome, old world elegance awaits you at Torre Sant’Angelo, a 2000 year-old medieval castle, restored to a 4-star luxury hotel, complete with a distinctive Roman-style swimming pool and waterfall.
On a previous visit, we had stayed at the renowned and grand Villa d’Este Hotel, which is nearby and well worth a visit. But this time, we wanted a more intimate experience and the Torre Sant’Angelo offers what we considered an irresistible package for two. It included accommodations in a suite, romantic candlelight dinner with sparkling wine, beautiful flowers served in our room, breakfast again in our room, and a late check out. It’s called Una Notte di Follia, which translated could mean “night of folly,” “madness,” “craziness,” “recklessness,” “abandonment.” Alla follia means “to be head over heels;” farei follie means “I’d do anything” – take your pick – it’s all good! Our delectable meals were discreetly served to us in camera and our suite was totally conducive to the follia part, with its king-sized bed, and Jacuzzi master bathroom (in the turret of the castle.) The real surprise was the door that led onto our private rooftop terrace, which was the length of the hotel – all to ourselves! Right after dinner, we took advantage of our terrace as we grabbed a rose from our table, our iPod and two little battery-operated speakers and under the stars, Tangoed the night away – well not the whole night. Oh, did we mention the splendid views from the rooftop? Whatever.
How do you continue the magic of the Torre Sant’Angelo? Simple –- book another castle:
Cenerente (Perugia), – Castello del’Oscano (Room 208 “Tower Suite”) –
189 km./117 mi. ~ 2 hrs. 19 mins.
http://www.oscano.com Email: email@example.com Attention: Valentina Fratti
Bread and Olive Oil:
“May we have some more bread and olive oil, please?”
While many travelers are all agog with Tuscany, and justifiably so, a secret is that the lesser publicized Umbria is just as beautiful. Seven minutes from the antiquity and culture of Perugia, amidst the forests that surround Monte Tezio, rises the majestic Castello del’Oscano. The drive to the castle is mysterious and enchanting as you take the long winding one-way road up through the woods. Castello del’Oscano sits on an immense property surrounded by flower gardens, olive groves and organically certified farm lands.
We were greeted most hospitably by Signora Fratti who took us on a tour of the castle and then, up the grand staircase to the sitting room and bathroom of La Torre, our tower suite. To our surprise, it was another 26 spiral stone steps up to the round four-poster bedroom chamber with turret windows which opened onto the Umbrian hillsides. We were among the treetops looking down at the birds. For those of us who don’t want an aerobic workout with each trip to the room, there is an elevator approach. The furnishings were in keeping with medieval taste yet integrated with contemporary comforts. Like Sant’Angelo, our rooftop terrace was the entire length of the castle, but from here we were able to see both sunset and sunrise.
A new addition to the property is the three-year old infinity pool. It is a bit of a walk through the olive groves, but it is isolated on a promontory and perfectly private. Swimming was a joy and we worked up a large appetite for dinner. Memories from our last visit raised expectations for an exceptional meal and we were not disappointed.
The aroma of dinner cooking, fresh baked bread and coffee wafted up to our terrace. It was good to finally get our hands and palates onto the very things that were drawing us to the restaurant. The bread tasted as good as it smelled especially when dipped into the castle’s own homemade olive oil, La Macina – the lightest and best we had ever tasted. The pasta was spectacular and most of the menu and wine selections came directly from the property’s farm. Did we mention the bread and olive oil? And guess what we drove away with the next day, after a wonderful night’s sleep and a divine buffet breakfast? Gifts from the hotel of a bottle of olive oil and hot bread for our journey.
Prosciutto and Parmigiano a la Parma:
Samboseto di Busseto (Parma) – Palazzo Calvi (Room 2) – 357 km./222 mi. ~ 3 hrs. 36 mins. http://www.palazzocalvi.it Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Attention: Michaele
Even though Palazzo Calvi, an 18th century patrician villa, has lodging accommodations, it is best known as a shrine for Parmesan cuisine and an enoteca which houses thousands of bottles of wine. We had stayed at Palazzo Calvi before, and were anticipating another epicurean adventure. So we were terribly disappointed to find the restaurant closed for renovations. However, the proprietor had arranged for us to dine in town at Due Foscari in Verdi square. How serendipitous, for we found the town enchanting at twilight -- music playing from the different cafes, and all dedicated to the town’s pride, the great composer, Giuseppe Verdi. We selected only regional cuisine and the dinner, from the Prosecco to the pasta, to the pastries, was perfection. Back at the Palazzo the next morning, we had a unique breakfast, as Michaele proudly carved and served the Palazzo’s own prosciutto (aged 14th months) along with fresh eggs, cheeses, fruit juice, croissant and memorable-tasting coffee. He continued to replenish our plates to our heart’s content and concluded our stay with a personal tour of the Palace, wine cellar and catering facilities. It made us dream of having a wedding reception there.
Mövenpick Zürich Airport - Glattbrugg (Zürich), Switzerland (Room 728) – 461 km./286 mi. ~ 4 hrs. 39 mins. http://www.Moevenpick-hotels.com
The sweet end to our “tasting” tour was the completely renovated Mövenpick Zürich Airport Hotel. We booked this hotel through American Express and paid with points. Although a five-star hotel, pricing was very reasonable. The Mövenpick is only 2.4 kilometers from the airport which makes it easy to return your rental car and prepare for departure the next day. You may think that close proximity to the airport translates to congestion and noise. Not so. The environment surrounding the Mövenpick is rural, with cows grazing just around the corner. The rooms are totally soundproof, shielding any jet noise. The Mövenpick’s motto is “Passionately Swiss,” which means convenience, comfort and courtesy all the way. Once in the oval driveway of the hotel entrance, free portable baggage carts are positioned to easily transfer your luggage. A secure parking lot is adjacent to the hotel, but this will cost you $30 for the night.
At check-in, we were not only offered a welcome drink of orange juice, champagne or a mimosa, but a free upgrade as well. The public rooms are chic and include four restaurants, a fitness center and a business area with free computers and Wi-Fi. The bathrooms are a must see – with separate children’s sections and automated, digital, self-sanitizing toilet seats. Now that’s “passion!” The rooms are equally chic with sparkling white down comforters and all the amenities, including a high-tech individual-cup coffee maker with a selection of different coffees and complimentary Swiss chocolates. Free bicycle rentals are available for exploring the surroundings and free shuttle buses are provided to the airport. The popular three hundred and thirty-three-room Mövenpick has the bustle of a cosmopolitan hotel, yet its Swiss penchant for anticipating needs helps to ease the intricacy of international travel.
After Dinner Mint Reflections:
As we reflect upon our “tasting” tour, having partaken of eleven different locales, we remember: the sounds of the cascading Swiss waterfalls as we traveled through alpine passes; the feel of the Positano sun glowing on our skin; images of glacial lakes, Venetian canals and fields of sunflowers; the lingering bouquet of the wines we’ve tasted and indigenous culinary tastes all vying for first place.
But most of all, we feel the sense of fulfillment as “the miracle of the full glass” comes to mind. Just when you think an entirely full glass cannot accept another drop without overflowing, a drop, then more drops, and even more drops pour in and suddenly the glass has an infinite capacity for more. So, too, with a great travel itinerary – just when you think you have experienced everything to the fullest, you are amazed by your ability to savor further, and luxuriate in allowing your senses to reach their deepest potentials.
“CB Stands for Cambridge Beaches but also Coming Back!” Reviewed July 15, 2008
My wife and I just returned home from a week’s stay at CB, celebrating our 32nd wedding anniversary. This was our second visit to CB, the first being two years ago.
This review is not meant to cast dispersions on some of the negative reviews nor question their validity, since everyone enters any experience with his or her own set of expectations. Everyone’s opinions are valid from their own perspective. We can only give you our travel background and detail our experience for you in the hope that it will help you make your own decision.
We consider ourselves seasoned travelers and have been traveling together, domestically and internationally for 37 years. Both our childhoods were filled with a plethora of travel experiences, provided by each set of parents. We are “fussy” about where we stay and expect excellent value for our hard-earned money.
Our first visit to CB was in 2006 and we had a wonderful experience, despite the fact that right outside our room, there was heavy-duty construction on the now completed new pool area. (The resort did warn us about this ahead of time.) We didn’t experience any of the few negative comments we read about in TripAdvisor at that time. We decided to go to CB that year because of the overwhelmingly excellent comments, the amount of repeat visitors and the fact that CB is more secluded, private and romantic then the other resorts. We thrive on romance and privacy.
We booked a visit to CB for 2007, the following year, but had to cancel just days before due to an unexpected family medical situation. But CB reservations was kind enough to hold our deposit for an entire year until we were able to travel again this year.
This year’s trip started out routinely enough with a JetBlue flight from JFK in NY . . . or so we thought. We left the gate exactly on time, but as soon as we began taxiing, the pilot announced a delay due to weather conditions over the Atlantic Ocean. When we got closer to the runway, we saw a line of planes waiting to take off as far as the eye could see. We waited on the runway for TWO HOURS before finally taking off! As soon as we took off there was a distinct smell of smoke in the cabin. Fifteen minutes later, we were making an emergency landing back at JFK on a runway lined with emergency vehicles. When we landed, we were escorted to another plane and by the time we took off again, another hour had passed.
So we arrived at CB over three hours late and in no mood for anything else to go wrong. And we are happy to say, nothing did.
Check in and Accommodations:
We received a warm greeting at check-in and we immediately went to our room (the exact one we reserved) which was immaculate, a nice cool temperature and smelled great. (A previous reviewer mentioned a mildew smell, which we only noticed a hint of in the front desk area but nowhere else.) It had all the amenities we would expect. The CD player on our “Dream Machine” was not functioning and was replaced immediately after we reported it. The bed was very comfortable and we slept well the entire week.
One of the other reviews found the staff lacking in friendliness and competence. In our two stays we have found the opposite to be the case. However, one must realize that on a first visit, the resort staff and Bermudians, in general, are going to be very respectful of your privacy and “comfort zone” and not ply you with phony cliché resort platitudes. But once YOU decide to initiate a more open relationship, you will experience a GENUINE and personal warmth and friendliness that is sure to enhance your Bermuda experience.
In fact, we became friendly with a taxi driver in 2006 who was an educator as we were. He had given us his card and asked us to contact him on our next visit. We did this year and ended up dining with his family and being invited to an outdoor concert in Hamilton, where he was performing with his choir. We spent a wonderful and authentic Bermudian evening with them and will reciprocate when he comes to New York in the fall with his choir.
As far as reservations go, all ours were accurate and honored throughout the week, with no problems.
On our first visit to CB we took “advantage” of the “dine around” plan and experienced the cuisine of the other resorts. We concluded that the CB two restaurants were, by far, the best and so this time we took the meal plan and except for dinner with our Bermudian friends, had all our meals at CB.
Since there truly is “no accounting for taste,” nor should there be, we can only comment on the quality of the food at CB relative to our other experiences. We live in the NY-metro area and have traveled internationally, so we have had the privilege of dining at some of the best restaurants. Relative to these experiences, we found the food at CB, both at the Tamarisk and Breezes to be outstanding, both in its gourmet quality and presentation. Contrary to another reviewer’s comment, the menu at both restaurants varies nightly. One night, there was blackened grouper on the menu, and while we both had a craving for grouper, neither of us like it “blackened.” So we asked if the chef could prepare it differently. It was “no challenge” as they say in Bermuda and we had grouper that was so delicious we had to go out of our way to thank the chef personally. So not only do you have varied menus at both restaurants, but they will try to honor your personal requests. Even when we ordered California whiskey sours, which the bartender, Barbara wasn’t familiar with, she followed our recipe and made a good first round which continued to improve as the week went on. We didn’t find the Tamarisk to be “old” as another reviewer described it. We found it to be elegant. But certainly you are free to dine on the adjacent and more contemporary outdoor terrace. We prefer “al fresco” dining, so we chose this option.
The breakfast buffet is abundant with a chef on hand to make your fresh eggs any way you want them, and the daily 4:00 tea is delicate and delicious. Service at all our meals was excellent and the staff was more than very attentive. The meals were well-timed and we never had to wait longer than expected for the next course.
Swimming and Snorkeling:
There is a beautiful new outdoor pool area at CB with an infinity pool with a waterfall and two separate levels leading some to comment that the pool is not as wide as they expected. It’s true that each level is not wide, but it is long (good for lap swimming), immaculate and a comfortable temperature. Even though the resort was full, the pool was never too crowded. If you want something with more width, there is the indoor pool area with an open sky roof and separate whirlpool. If you like even wider, there is of course the magnificent ocean or bay, also clean and perfect in temperature.
We rented a motor boat for a few hours and enjoyed exploring the many “nooks and crannies” you can anchor on to enjoy a private picnic and snorkeling. In 2006, we took the “Hat Trick” catamaran at CB for an amazing snorkeling experience, both educationally and visually.
In 2006 we golfed at Port Royal, which is now closed and under a complete renovation. This year, we golfed at the executive course at the Fairmont, which was in excellent condition and provided not only good golfing but beautiful ocean vistas. We also tried Riddle’s Bay course which was much more expensive and in deplorably dry condition. Despite that, they didn’t even offer a discount, not even for “twilight play” and didn’t tell you ahead of time about the condition of the course or that, because of the dryness, the course was “cart path only.” The fairways were like hay, the greens were riddled (excuse the pun) with little pot holes that made accuracy impossible. Although over $155 per person, they didn’t offer complimentary ice or bottled water. Although we played a good game scorewise, we found the experience exhausting and frustrating. Before playing any course, find out what the conditions are and the limitations.
The Ocean Spa:
For our anniversary, we booked a couple’s experience at the SPA, which really caters to romance. It was well appointed with knowledgeable staff in a truly relaxing atmosphere. Speaking of romance, we met a couple who had just been married at CB and they were deliriously happy with everything. Nadja, who has been mentioned positively in other reviews is really deserving of the praise. Her competence at special events planning is only matched by her infectious smile and enthusiastic manner. Including Nadja, other individuals who went out of their way to make our stay special were Richard, George (and the “brothers four”), Eddie, Dey, Borha, Yousef and Barbara.
The beauty of CB is that is can be as private and quiet or as social and filled with activities as you would like. Putting green, croquet, tennis courts and more are all on the premises. For the few scattered reviews that didn’t give CB top marks, the reviewers wondered why CB was rated 5 star. If you are looking for the kind of glitzy, Buckingham Palace guard dressed doorman, crystal chandelier type 5-star, you won’t find it a Cambridge Beaches. CB earns its 5 star rating in a more gentle and subtle way, commensurate with the character of the resort, providing a magnificent setting, with excellent staff, accommodations, dining and amenities. We found our second encounter with CB to be even more rewarding than our first.
Of course, everyone knows that the initials CB stands for Cambridge Beaches, but for us (and the countless couples before us) they also stand for definitely “Coming Back!”
It is said that the best way to teach is by example. In our more than 30 years each as educators, we found that this could not be more true than in the case of adolescent education. What a teenager learns by direct instruction from a teacher, parent, or book can be easily forgotten in a relatively short time. What they learn by example or experience can easily last a lifetime.
It is on this precept that we strongly recommend that parents consider giving their children what many, including ourselves, consider to be the ultimate learning experience and summer vacation -- foreign travel. It is adventurous and broadening and it demands cooperativeness and fosters a benign dependence upon each other. In short, it provides a busy family, with multiple schedules during the year, the opportunity to bond and enjoy that precious "quality time" together.
And speaking of quality, we believe that it is well worth the splurge to take your children to as many luxury/charming accommodations as possible. The examples and experience which they will absorb at these venues will most certainly have a positive effect on their senses, and in turn, their attitude, behavior and manners.
Sounds great in theory, but does it really work? We decided to test it out on our first vacation abroad with our 16 year old son. But everything in this article would apply to a daughter as well.
We had long dreamed of taking our son to Italy, not only to visit the land of half of his heritage, but also to bring him to the country in which he was conceived. We decided that 16 was the perfect age to take him; young enough to room with mom and dad, if necessary and old enough to remember the experience for the rest of his life. Next year we would be all wrapped up in college plans and the year after that, well, we felt that at 18, he would be a little too old to room with his parents. And who knows, he might not even want to be on vacation with us at that point. So it was settled -- a summer vacation for us in Italy. For you, it can be any destination of choice.
The Planning Stage
From the very beginning it is important that both parents and teen be involved in planning the trip and the first order of business is to decide whether you are going to take a chartered tour, go independently, or a combination of the two. If you have never been abroad, we recommend that you consider a charter. Otherwise do what we did, which was to rent a car, travel independently, but in some heavy-duty sightseeing cities, take a chartered tour. In cities where the tourist sites are closed to traffic except for buses and taxis, this is really your best bet. You can book these charters in advance or wait till you get there.
Next, it's time for the family to hit the book stores for guides, maps, language books, and travel diaries. The Red and Green Michelin guides are indispensable -- they are a must in our opinion. We also picked up Frommer's and Pauline Frommer's Spend Less Guide. (We’ll tell you why, later.) Another beautifully written and descriptive guide is Karen Brown’s. We also strongly advise bringing a GPS unit and maps from www.googlemaps.com and www.viamichelin.com to go along with the red and green guides. There are many language guides, but we found two excellent ones. The “10 Minutes a Day” series (available in many languages at www.bbks.com/products.aspx), is great as a study guide before your trip. It has these neat little stickers that you can put on objects around the house to help you learn vocabulary before you leave and comes with a CD-ROM. The pocket-sized Berlitz for Travelers is concise, comprehensive and well-organized. You should carry this book with you and keep it handy. Good travel diaries are hard to come by, but we found Complete Trip Diary by Marlor Press to be excellent. Marlor Press also publishes a Kid's Vacation Diary. If you can't find one on the shelf, you can write MARLOR PRESS, INC. at 4304 Brigadoon Drive, Saint Paul, MN 55126. You can also find a list of sites on the internet at http://isbndb.com/d/book/marlors_complete_trip_diary.html. Everyone in the family should be encouraged to keep a diary of the trip. It's a great keepsake.
The most important factor in the success of your trip is that everyone has a designated responsibility. Categories might include packing and luggage, itinerary and reservations, driving, navigating, sightseeing and photography (still and video). Of course, responsibilities can be shared or rotated. In our case, mom and dad shared the driving, mom was in charge of packing the luggage; our son was in charge of organizing it in the car. Dad made the reservations, our son was the navigator and photographer, and we shared the decisions regarding itinerary, sightseeing, and places to eat.
The vacation really begins with the planning stage, and it was a joy for us to come home from the book store, open up the road map of Italy and the guides, and begin to decide where we were going to go and how we were going to get there.
Travelwise and Gary D Travel have two recommendations regarding the planning of the itinerary. One is to keep the travel distances reasonable -- 3 to 4 hours driving time between cities, max. Figure on 80 kilometers an hour, although you will probably do a little better than that, especially on the super highways. If you are traveling to Italy, as we were, the second recommendation is to fly to Geneva, Switzerland first and pick up your rental car in Geneva. There are several advantages to this strategy. You can fly Swiss International, which in our opinion is a superior airline -- punctual with excellent service. Geneva airport is user friendly, civilized and organized. You will get your luggage in record time and be on your way. And lastly, renting a car in Switzerland is less expensive with the advantage of having your car insurance covered for free if you use your American Express Gold Card. American Express will not cover insurance if you rent in Italy (or six other countries).
Renting a car is pretty straight forward. You can get a list of companies off the internet. You really have to shop around, sometimes the European based companies are less expensive than their American counterparts, and we got the best deal from “Europe By Car,” which offered a discount for a cancelable reservation at the time of the phone call, plus an additional 5% for educators. But if you have the American Express Card, you may do better with Hertz, depending on your destination. We would strongly advise renting a car with air conditioning (most come standard with AC) and making sure your vehicle will have enough space for your luggage to be hidden from view and to accommodate your passengers comfortably. We were surprised to see the number of large cars and mini vans being used in Italy. After finding out that our car was going to be a Volkswagen Passat, a nearby Volkswagen dealer allowed us to bring our empty suitcases there to see how they would fit in the trunk. Sound extreme? It isn't. It was one of the smartest moves we made. When we arrived at the car rental in Geneva with full capacity luggage, we knew exactly how they were to be placed. No guesswork, no shifting around of heavy bags, no wasting time.
With your itinerary set and your car reservations made, you need to turn your attention to hotel reservations. Get out your Red Michelin, Frommer and Karen Brown guides and go through each city on your itinerary, one by one, making a list of two or three hotels in each which strike your fancy. Make a note of their fax number and/or email address and details which the guide books mention, like, air conditioning, breakfast included, parking, particularly nice room numbers or rooms with views. We made our reservations by using a combination of travel agent, personal email, and fax. Since we are travel agents, we did all the correspondence ourselves. Having a travel agency like Gary D Travel, who specializes in independent tours like this one is invaluable. They can check over everything including reservations.
Gary D Travel sets up a personal relationship between you and the hotel they are then able to be really specific about what you want -- double room with extra bed, junior suite, room 202, balcony with view, newly renovated room, etc. They will get specific information regarding parking or non-smoking rooms, for instance. They will get any special rates available and can you send specific driving directions from each location. Sometimes they will know things your GPS doesn’t. This will wave save money on room rates and time traveling.
Contact Gary D Travel at 516-300-9924 and discuss your travel plans with them. They will go over every detail of your travel plans and secure reservations. Make sure to include your teenager in all the discussions and correspondence.
Make Luxury Accommodations
We recommended earlier taking your teenager to luxury or "charming" accommodations. Isn't luxury and "charm" a waste on this age group? Not at all. Think back to some of your family dinners. Ever wonder as we have, where, on earth, your kids got their table manners from? We were both brought up with European table manners, and yet many times we would look at each in dismay to see our son's eating habits and how he handled food. For teenagers especially, teaching by example means needing more than the example of your parents. It means needing confirmation from a whole lot of other people. And this is exactly what luxury/charming accommodations provide -- mass confirmation that there is a demeanor, a gentility, a politeness, a propriety, an orderliness, a quiet dignity without pretentiousness, which is practiced by many. By being in luxury/charming accommodations, teenagers not only get to witness this first hand, they are immersed in it, surrounded by it, gently forced, at least to observe it and consider it.
The preparation and the serving of food in Italy, for instance is an art form, an act of love, which commands attention and makes an impression. We'll never forget the look of wonderment on our son's face at his first dinner in Italy at Emiliano's in Stresa as our courses were placed in front of the three of us, covered, and then, in perfect unison, the covers were removed to reveal our entrees. We noticed that our son's slightly slumped posture discreetly became erect; the nape of his neck took on a very dignified contour, as he quietly realized that he was in the presence of something to be respected -- not because his parents said so, but because the ambiance commanded it. We noticed also, that he began watching more carefully how we ate, to ensure that his manners would be correct. It was an amazing metamorphosis which began at that first meal, and continued throughout our journey.
Walking into a luxurious room had a similar effect. This was just not going to be a place to throw your stuff around. It too, commanded orderliness (neatness) (cleanliness) and respect.
This is not to say that every accommodation must be a luxury or charming accommodation. Lesser accommodations will provide some financial relief (although luxury and charm do not necessarily mean more expensive), as well as a means by which your teenager can compare and further appreciate the various life style levels.
Maintaining Intimacy While Traveling with your Teen
Just because we planned this trip with our teen in mind, does not mean we had to give up our intimacy as a couple. Obviously, when making accommodations, you have to keep this in mind. When we wrote our letter to the various hotels, we explained the purpose of our trip and asked, when possible if a separate or adjoining room could be supplied at the same rate as a triple occupancy. Most obliged us. Some provided a suite with a separate bedroom. So we were able to enjoy our intimacy. But of equal importance on this trip, was for our son to see his parents treating each other romantically and tenderly – to see us holding hands; for dad to hold mom’s chair as we were seated in a restaurant; to stand out of respect when mom left and approached our table; to hold open the car door for her; and to dress for each other elegantly at dinner.
In the finer restaurants, the “boys” enjoyed wearing their white dinner jackets with black bow tie as if we were James and James Jr. Bond escorting a beautiful James Bond lady. This, of course, inspired mom to dress “to the nines” as well. It is interesting that after the first few times, our son initiated holding the chair and car door for his mom and he loved doing it. We’re sure that when the time comes for him to escort his date, he will enjoy performing the same elegant manners and so will his young lady. Again, all this can be extrapolated from a daughter’s perspective. Children watch everything parents do, and in this day and age of a 50%-plus divorce rate, it is comforting for them to see their parents as a solid couple, who respect one another and even in their “old age,” are romantic with one another. You may think their reaction would be “ech,” but it’s not. They love it and sets it up as a standard for the future.
Teens Need Activity
Teenagers need to be active, especially on vacation, and another plus that luxury accommodations provide is the benefit of extra activities. Most have beautiful swimming pools, which is a wonderful refresher for you and your teen after a day of sightseeing. Kids can occupy themselves for hours in the water, and it’s a great place for them to interact with peers, and make international friendships. Other activities might include gym and health spa, tennis, nearby golf, horseback riding, biking, hiking and parasailing (in the mountain regions). And for those hotels which are on the water, most luxury hotels provide water activities, such as boat rentals, (motor, sail, paddle, kayak) as well as water skiing, snorkeling, wind-surfing and paraskiing. The concierge of a luxury hotel is an invaluable resource in your search for activities within or in the surrounding environs of the hotel. This person can gain you access to: music festivals with classical, jazz and rock concerts; seminars and workshops; film festivals and cinemas; soccer games and other spectator sports. Our son is a musician, as we are, and we tried to plan our trip around musical events that were going on. If your teen has a particular passion for an activity, you might want to get detailed information in advance and plan your itinerary around it. There are some good web sites to consult, which are easily searchable on the internet.
Our son came home with several "first" experiences that he will never forget: befriending and later attending a jam session of Nigel Kennedy (renowned jazz and classical violinist) and Lalo Shiffrin (composer of Mission Impossible) in Verbier, Switzerland; water skiing on Lake Como; snorkeling in Positano in the grottos of the Mediterranean; golfing and parasailing in the Dolomites; synchronized diving at the Lido in Venice, hearing a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons in a truly baroque setting, and of course the absolutely, not-to-be-missed gondola ride.
A word of caution about navigation. At some points, you are going to get lost, while walking through streets and driving -- it's inevitable, even with GPS. It's a bit frustrating, and everyone at this point naturally wants to chime in with his or her opinion as to the direction in which to go next. We made this mistake early on in our trip and our son was rightfully upset to have his responsibility usurped. To avoid arguments and bad feelings, it is imperative that the navigator and the navigator only make the decisions as to which path to follow. And if some of those decisions are wrong, so what -- just think of it as part of the adventure of the vacation. The navigator on the other hand should not become too proud to ask for suggestions or to stop someone for directions. In Italy, though, you are going to find that the answer to almost any directionally question is sempre dritto (straight ahead) -- which is really funny considering the amount of circles (roundabouts) and turns there are. But if you learn to roll with the punches, and become comfortable with being lost, as we learned to do, you'll be okay. It's a good idea also for the driver and the navigator to confer before traveling from one location to the other.
Driving through Italy, even on the autostrada (superhighway), will provide you with endless new vistas, each one more beautiful, unusual, and unique than the next. It is unreasonable, however, in our opinion, that on these extended journeys, that your teen will be remain fascinated by every one of them. So make sure, that your teenager takes along activities for the car; perhaps a portable CD player or iPod with some favorite playlists, or a hand-held electronic game or even laptop computer. And for when you or your child need to nod-off for awhile, a little inflatable neck-pillow comes in handy. (It's great for the plane ride as well.)
Snacks and drinks for these journeys as well as for picnic lunches can be purchased at the supermercato supermarket or Autogrill off the autostrada. We recommend this method over stopping at a roadside restaurant, because it is not only cost effective, but it allows you to experience to some degree, shopping as a "native" rather than as a tourist.
One of the highlights of our trip was filling our collapsible cooler with authentic parmesan cheese and prosciutto (ham) from Parma, along with local bread and wine and picnicking in the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Earlier, we told you to pick up a copy of Frommer's Frugal Traveler's Guide. Here's why. It is an excellent guide for finding an inexpensive (but good quality) place to eat, shop or stay. While sightseeing, consult this book so that you are sure not to pass up the family-owned drogheria (grocery), salumeria (deli), and panetteria (bakery), for they truly are a wonderland for the senses and masterpieces of art in their own right. The pasticceria (confectioners) was our son's favorite "masterpiece" because it housed the most magnificent gelati (ice-cream), he or we had ever tasted. Before leaving Italy, he was determined to sample the gelati of every town on our itinerary! We, of course, being "enlightened" parents, supported him, well, actually, joined him in this quest. [Remember; when you want to see "only one more basilica," with its "must-see" frescoes, and your teen is whining, "No more!" just bribe that adolescent with the promise of gelati.]
Final Food for Thought
Adolescence is a delicate and often difficult period of transition for families. Teens are placing spaces between themselves and their parents, as stepping stones to eventual adulthood, while parents are trying to pour in every last bit of their wisdom in the form of advice and experiences, before the window of responsibility "officially" closes. Traveling to Italy or other foreign country with your teen can provide a most wonderful opportunity and setting with which to find mutual ground. Sharing a common adventure, being strangers in a distant land, bonds you together and fosters a feeling of unity, almost equality. Shared decision-making empowers a teen with confidence in the ability to make decisions in the future. Taking on responsibilities which immediately impact on the rest of the family affirms a teenager’s action and allows for a "taste" of what may one day be parenthood.
We are delighted to say that the result of our effort has exceeded our expectation. We wanted to share some of the details that we believe were contributing factors to our success and also provide some information in the hope that it will encourage and help other parents have a similar positive experience.
Gary de Sesa & Kita de Sesa are travel agents and owners of Gary D Travel. Contact us at 516-300-9924 or
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