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Interviews with travel bloggers and travel industry gurus

10 Questions For no 46: Paul Johnson of A Luxury Travel Blog

Finally an interview with an “old” Internet friend

Paul Johnson IMG_9429

Paul Johnson

1) Who Are you?

I’m Paul Johnson and I live on the edge of the Lake District in the UK, about an hour and a half north of Manchester. My academic background (a long time ago now!) is in Geography and Geology, which I followed up with a PhD in glaciology.  I was writing up my thesis when the Web first came along, so my interest in the internet developed from there. I also come from a tourism background and have been a Director at The Dedicated Partnership Ltd. – an internet marketing company that caters specifically for the tourist industry – for the last 20 years. Amongst other things, I am responsible for A Luxury Travel Blog. In the last 12 months this site has really taken off and has become one of the main things I do.

2) What do you like about what you do?

Travelling around the world with my family and enjoying so many different experiences.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

Timewasters! I get so much email through the blog and so many people just want to insert a spammy link for a measly sum. The blog strives to be a useful resource with quality content, so I’m really not interested! Sadly, the good PR and SEO companies seem to be in a minority.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

My Blog started as an interest and hobby but has grown much more than I could have possibly anticipated. It’s currently serving over 125,000 unique visitors a month, is followed by more than a quarter of a million people on Twitter and has almost 50,000 likes on FaceBook. The aim is to share news, items of interest and first-hand experiences from the luxury end of the travel market.

Helicopter Paul IMG_9918

A Luxury Travel Blog is taking off

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

  1. Greenland. I worked out in Greenland in the mid 1990s. Whilst it’s a country obviously lacking in luxury hotels and restaurants, it is a fascinating country offering so many fantastic experiences which of course are a luxury in their own right.
  2. Tanzania. This is where we chose for our honeymoon so it’s a very special place to us. We’ve only been once but would love to return one day with our children. The people… the experiences we enjoyed on safari… the scenery… the island where we relaxed at the end (see next question!)…all were wonderful.
  3. Jura, Scotland. We went here a couple of years ago and stayed at Jura Lodge. The accommodation is lovely but there’s no TV or internet, and the mobile reception is poor. But this is also part of the beauty of the place. Being without these distractions meant we had some really good quality family time together.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Apart from Haagsche Suites of course… ;-)

  1. Badrutt’s Palace, St. Moritz - this must be one of the grandest places we have stayed. It’s not everywhere that you get a live harpist at breakfast and a priceless Raphael painting hanging near the lobby.
  2. Porto Elounda Deluxe Resort, Crete. We have been to Crete many times and each time stayed in Elounda. I think we have stayed in most of the luxury hotels there now, but this one would probably be our pick of the lot. Among its many attributes, it’s home to the island’s first ever golf course as well as a fantastic spa.
  3. Mnemba Island, Tanzania. This is where we spent the last few days of our honeymoon. A barefoot paradise off the NE coast of Zanzibar where you are waited on hand and foot by your own personal butler.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?

  1. As a young child, I went on holiday to France a lot and I was always an adventurous eater. I would always choose the strangest dishes on the menu, curious to find out what they were like. So snails, frogs’ legs, pig’s trotter and so on. I remember that waiters would try to say to my parents that they didn’t think the dish was right for me, and that I wouldn’t eat it, but I would soon prove them wrong!
  2. Food in the Serengeti. I was amazed at the quality of the food that was served to us on our honeymoon particularly when we were in remote locations in the Serengeti. Sundowners and roasted cashews on Mnemba were pretty memorable also!
  3. Finally, we had a lot of fun with a mystery tasting menu at Restaurant Jardin at Royal Garden Villas, Tenerife, where you had to which scent bottles had been used in the food you were tasting. We were hopeless at it but had fun trying!

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

  1. Camping on the outskirts of Rome – as a student, I went inter-railing and we ended up on a campsite just outside Rome. There was nothing wrong with the site but later that night we did discover there was a problem with our neighbours in the next tent. We didn’t know precisely what was being said as it was all Italian, but they sounded drunk and voices were being raised. Next thing we knew it was getting very heated and we heard a scuffle and a grown man suddenly scream in pain. It turned out he’d been struck on the back with a broken bottle. We didn’t sleep well that night and were glad to be moving on the next day.
  2. A forgotten arrival. A few years ago we were visiting a luxury resort we’d visited before (I’m not going to name it!). We had a long drive and ‘phoned ahead to say we would be arriving late. We were assured this would not be a problem because, although the reception would be closed, the restaurant staff were likely to be around and, if not, they would phone me and tell me where they’d left the key. We didn’t get a call so were surprised to discover on arrival that all the staff had packed up and gone home, and there was no key to be found anywhere. It must have been about 1am and we’d been driving for about 8 hours, with young children in the back of the car. We couldn’t go waking up other guests and so ended up driving around to try to find some accommodation for the night. Eventually we located a rather basic hotel with a nightclub attached which had a 24-hour reception and thankfully there was ‘room at the inn’! Needless to say, the resort was extremely apologetic the next day and we were treated to quite a few perks on that holiday as a result!!!
  3. An unexpected ‘guest’. Quite recently we were dining at a rather nice restaurant and I was presented with a starter decorated with edible flowers from the garden. No sooner had my plate being put in front of me and out crawled a maggot from one of the flowers…

Kendal Holiday Appartment

Kendal Holiday Cottages

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

I live in a rural town, rather than a city, called Kendal. It’s between England’s two most beautiful National Parks – the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales – so a great location. There is a lot going on in the town for both locals and visitors alike.

My recommendations would include a stroll up to Kendal Castle, coming to our ‘Mintfest’ street arts festival or the town’s world-renowned mountain film festival.

For dining, our favourites are the New Moon Restaurant and Deja Vu, and for accommodation I would have to recommend our own holiday apartment – see Kendal Holiday Cottages Ltd.

Sorry, I know that’s more than three… but, although I enjoy travelling, I’m also proud of where I live!

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

  • Where was your last trip?

    We are just back from Lithuania. It’s not a place you hear people go to much, but it has a lot to offer as a destination. I think it may slowly emerge during the next 10 years, and I would urge anyone to go and visit.

  • Where’s my next trip?

    I’m off to Kathmandu very soon and will be following a route to New Delhi. Should be quite an adventure! More on the blog about that later of course… ;-)

MyTake

Thank you Paul for participating.
Finally…I’m glad I finally can reciprocate an interview (that was for the tongue in cheek “old” of the intro). Thank you for the repeat kudos for Haagsche Suites. When, before I even started this blog, I was able to get you to review the suites and you gave us a very nice review you certainly have boosted our enthusiasm enormously. Also your blog was and is an example for me and made me start and continue my own blog. Glad your’s really taking off now.

10 Questions no 45 for Janis Turk

Continuing my 10 Q series of interviews

It has been a while since I’ve published my last interview, but here is another great one:

Interview with Janis TurkJanis Turk

1) Who Are you?

I am Janis Turk, a full-time professional travel writer, photographer and happy nomad who’s been greatly blessed. In the past six months alone I’ve taken 15 trips, including Kenya, Manitoba and Nevis. Over the years, I’ve climbed the great wall of China, wandered the souks of Marrakesh, watched ships pass through the Panama Canal, slept under the Southern Cross in Namibia, walked along the Malecon in Hemingway’s Havana, rode a midnight train to Moscow, run with the bulls in Spain, danced the samba in Rio de Janeiro, shopped the night markets of Hong Kong, watched the Northern Lights from the sub-Arctic igloo, married a matador, drifted in a gondola on the canals of Venice,  touched the sandstone ruins of Petra, slept in a Bedouin tent in the Middle East and prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem—just to name a few adventures. So, yeah, it’s a neat life.

Lately, I’ve done a bit of food photography for two cookbooks, and my newest adventure finds me co-hosting Try Travel Writing weekend getaway writing workshops (www.TryTravelWriting.Com) with other travel writing and photography pros. We give writers and travelers the chance to find out just how travel writing works while enjoying vacations in great locations at fabulous hotels. We offer people a behind-the-scenes look at what we do—and teach them how to get started on this career path if they’re so inclined.

I’ve lost count of how many countries I’ve visited, and I recently had to get extra pages added to my passport, so people assume I must be single and not even own a pet. But actually, I have a loving supportive family—two great kids and a sweet husband who picks me up at the airport who is always happy to see me when I come home. And yes, I have a dog, named Michael Squints Palledorous.

Panama Canal

2) What do you like about what you do?

Everything. I love airports and watching planes take off. I like landing at JFK and seeing the skyline of the Big Apple spread before me in the distance. I love hearing the call to prayer in a foreign land. I love chaotic marketplaces and countries where I don’t know the language. I adore crisp sheets and ironed newspapers in posh hotels and little budget spots where the innkeepers remember my name. I like swank hotel bars. I think of the line from Walter Kern’s Up in the Air, “Planes and airports are where I feel at home. Everything fellows like you distrust about them—the dry recycled air alive with viruses; the salty food that seems drizzled with warm mineral oil; the aura-sapping artificial lighting–has grown dear to me over the years, familiar, sweet. “ I read that and thought, “Yes, exactly. That’s me.”

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

Being away from my family is the hardest part.
I also dislike how often I have to hound some editors in order to get paid even months after a story has run—the same editors who were adamant that I turn my articles and photos in on time under strict deadlines.
I’m sometimes frustrated that so many online magazines and news sources think that they shouldn’t have to pay for quality content. Why are some stories worth $1,500 to a print magazine but only $50-$100 to an online one when it reaches an even larger audience? Screenwriter Harlan Ellison’s says, “They always want to writer to work for nothing, and the problem is that there are so (bleep) many writers that have no idea that they’re supposed to be paid every time they do something, so they do it for nothing… I don’t take a piss without being paid for it.” That’s a crass expression, but of course he’s right.
Still, I don’t always follow this advice. Often I’ll take write a Web article or do a shoot pro bono for friends. I want to be generous with others. But I don’t travel just to get a free trip; I have to pay my bills, and when writers give away their work for free , it hurts the rest of us.
Oh, and then there’s the weak airport coffee on pre-dawn flights. Ugh. That’s the worst.

CHINA PHOTO

4) Please tell us all about your blogs and your aims for them.

GoNOMAD for which I’m a contributing editor, was just named one of top three travel blogs on the Web. It is a remarkable travel resource full of sharp, well-written first-person narrative essays and ruminations on Everyman travel, as well as helpful advice from travel experts. My editor and friend Max Hartshorne owns the site, and I help out when I can.

We’re also hard at work expanding what we’re doing with TryTravelWriting.Com, for writing workshop learning on location vacation opportunities. We’re busy planning for a writing and photography trip to the Grand Hotels on Mackinac Island this October and a workshop in New Orleans early in 2014. There’s still space available on the Mackinac trip. Even if writers just have their own blogs or travel journals, we hope to encourage and empower them. The Grand Hotel is where the movie Somewhere in Time was filmed. I can’t wait to check out that historic property on an island where cars aren’t allowed and horse-drawn buggies are the main mode of transportation.

And of course I have my own site, janisturk.com and a blog called Stories from the Open Road, but both need updating and sit there neglected like my suitcase that never gets completely unpacked.

5) Your top destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

  1. Africa— I’m smitten, beguiled by Africa and enchanted by the quiet hum and pace of safari life and the starry skies over Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. I especially like Cape Town and its wine lands. In North Africa, I love Morocco. There is something magical about its Moorish wonders. I adore the city of Fez and am turned on by the expat Mecca of Tangiers.
  2. Jordan –Jordan’s beauty is subtle and surprising. The deserts to the south, the Ma’in hot springs and waterfalls that lie 866 feet below sea level to feed the Dead Sea, the Roman ruins of Jerash, the splendors of Petra: It is unforgettable. The hotels at the Dead Sea are lavish, too. Jordan is safe, and it’s so close to Jerusalem that you can just pop over the border into Israel for the day to see the ancient walled city and be back in your hotel by dusk.
  3. Hiking Huangshan Mountain in rural China. Director James Cameron got the inspiration for the Avatar setting from these high mountains that seem to hang in the clouds. The picturesque village where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed rests nearby.

6) Your top accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

  1. The Steenberg in South Africa – Twice I’ve stayed in the Heritage Suites on this green and rolling Cape Dutch farm, whose buildings are National Monuments date back to 1682. The property overlooks the vineyards of the Constantia wine lands above False Bay off the coast outside Cape Town. My friend and I had an entire house to ourselves there with a living room, office, enormous kitchen and dining room, three bathrooms, two suites-sized bedrooms, and a butler who came and lit our fireplace and brought us coffee and champagne. We also and our own private swimming pool on the edge of the vineyards. Even the smallest room here is big and exquisite, and the award winning cuisine and wine offerings are remarkable. The Steenberg Hotel, which has often topped lists as the best hotel in African and indeed in the world, also has an 18-hole championship golf course and a fine spa. steenberghotel.com
  2. The Amanjena in Marrakech, Morocco – I was watching the movie Sex and the City 2 and I loudly gasped and pointed the screen saying, “I’ve been there—right in that spot where Carrie and Aidan are kissing!” I recognized the arched walkways leading into the grounds of the Amanjena Hotel where they filmed that scene. Amanjena means peaceful paradise, and this was the first Aman resort on the African continent, located just outside the ancient city of Marrakech. An oasis of palms and olive trees, the resort’s classic Moorish heritage is evident “within pisé-walled resort, including the luxury villas and pavilions that radiate out from an ancient basin, echoing the style of a sultan’s palace,” according to their website. The Aman chain of hotels offers luxury lodgings of quiet, understated luxury and taste. I’ve also visited the Aman Summer Palace outside Beijing, and it too is sublime. The Amanjena has been named the No. 1 hotel in African and the Middle East, and it’s easy to see why. amanresorts.com/amanjena. If the Amanjena is out of reach, there is a fabulous little hotel in the Medina of Marrakech called Maison Arabe that I highly recommend. Its spa/hamam is one of my favorites, and the owners are as classy and delightful as their little hotel. www.maisonarabe.com Riad Anayela is also lovely. anayela.com
  3. La Residence in Franschhoek, South Africa – This is my idea of heaven. It has the most gorgeous suites I’ve ever seen. Located in the Franschhoek valley at the heart of a private 30-acre estate, surrounded by vineyards and plum orchards, with a spectacular mountain backdrop, La Residence’s opulence and grandeur integrate gracefully into the natural surroundings. Breezy indoor/outdoor spaces have black and white checkerboard marble floors and glittering Indian chandeliers, while original artwork and enormous mirrors grace the walls. Elegant antiques and fresh flowers fill every room. I love the bathrooms with deep claw foot tubs and little Russian tables next to them holding crystal carafes of sherry to sip as you relax, and candles that dance in the wind as you bathe with windows open to the vineyards. One special suite was created for special guest Elton John. laresidence.co.za
  4. The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa in Johannesburg – Yes, I know, another South African hotel, but this one also often tops Travel and Leisure’s best hotel lists. Royalty, statesmen, Hollywood actors, best-selling authors and Nobel Prize winners have stayed here, including Oprah Winfrey and President Bill Clinton. Nelson Mandela chose the serene surroundings of the Saxon for editing his best-selling autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. The cuisine is world-class, service is outstanding and the grounds are impeccable. saxon.co.za.
  5. Hemingway’s Nairobi – The entrance of this new hotel looks remarkably like that of The Saxon in Johannesburg—and not by accident. They wanted this luxury boutique to be just as elegant and outstanding, and it comes close. Located on what was once Karen Blixen’s farm (the author of Out of Africa) at the foot of the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi, this five-star luxury resort hotel has spacious suites, bathrooms the size of ballrooms all lined in white Carrara marble, and just as at the Saxon, Hemingways’ butlers draw your bath, unpack your bags, and keep champagne on ice. The restaurant is perhaps the best in Nairobi, too. hemingways-nairobi.com. Also look out for the new Villa Rosa Kempinski Nairobi opening this month, which will have fabulous restaurants, bars and impeccable accommodations. kempinski.com/en/nairobi/hotel-villa-rosa
  6. The G in Galway, Ireland theghotel.ie (ultra-modern—and what a spa!) and The Dylan Hotel in Dublin (dylan.ie) over –the- top- fab décor wins me every time, and the No. 1 Perry Square Hotel & Spa in Limerick is a gem. oneperysquare.com
  7. The Harbour Grand Hong Kong, with views of the harbor and a fabulous high-rise restaurant, harbourgrand.com and the Altira in Macau www.altiramacau.com for its spa.
  8. The Claude Bernard Hotel, Paris hotelclaudebernardparis.com and Hotel de Bruno near the Rialto Bridge in Venice hoteldabruno.com These are not luxury places, but little 3-star gems with good locations and affordable rates. I always return to these hotels—it feels like coming home.
  9. For safaris, I love Little Ongava near Etosha National Park, Namibia, The Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge at the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve of Kruger National Park in South Africa, sabisabi.com/lodges/earthlodge and The Ole Mara Kempinski in Kenya. For the best beaches, the Cook Islands can’t be beat, and I adore the Four Seasons Nevis fourseasons.com/Nevis
  10. Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana Vieja, Cuba. hotelambosmundos-cuba.com
  11. The Carlyle rosewoodhotels.com/en/carlyle and The St. Regis in New York remain outstanding, and I was born to be like Eloise and live at The Plaza theplazany.com I never go to New York without having drinks at Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle. I’ve heard Woody Allen play clarinet at Café Carlyle, too. That was quite a night.

7) Your most memorable food/wine experiences to date and why?

  • Any meal with my family is the best. Often it is the company and the atmosphere that make a meal memorable, though I love fine food and have an ever-expanding waistline to prove it. These are feasts I’ll never forget
  • Dining on an airstrip in the bush under the stars surrounded by Tiki torches, Land Rovers and lions near the Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge in South Africa, and breakfast in the bush in Kenya at the Olare Mara Kempinski Masai Mara safari lodge as hippos bathed in the river nearby.
  •  A late-night supper in the Escargot Room at Antoine’s in New Orleans just a few months after Katrina when we shut the doors and whispered into the wee small hours over wine. At the end of the meal, after the Baked Alaska was served, the waiter set the table cloth ablaze in a ring of fire—on purpose.
  • A supper I shared with travel writers at London’s Draycott Hotel’s dining room with windows open to the wind and the gardens.
  • Easter jazz brunch at Arnaud’s in New Orleans with my family—It was all seersucker suits, straw hats and canes for the men and sorbet-colored dresses and Easter bonnets for the ladies after the big parade. It is a favorite spring tradition along with St. Patrick’s Day brunch at Brennan’s followed by lunch under the arbor at Kevin Kelley’s Houmas House Plantation houmashouse.com
  • Dinner at Elaine’s in New York with handsome travel pro Marc Nadeau, and Actor’s Studio host James Lipton at the table to our right and actor Chris Cooper at the table on our left. Dinner at Elaine’s was always magical.

8) Your worst destination/ accommodation/food experiences to date and why?

  • A fleabag youth hostel on Montmartre in Paris, where I was sick with food poisoning all night in a dirty dive room with a down-the-hall shared bathroom that had no toilet paper. That night of horrors is still burned into my brain.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

  • I live in a small Texas town near both Austin and San Antonio and kept a pied a terre in New Orleans for the past 19 years, great cities all.
  • In Austin, I just found the Heywood Hotel heywoodhotel.com , a sustainable, green, mid-century modern retreat in East Austin. I love to eat at Justine’s, and I adore The Elephant Room for jazz. Trace at the W Hotel has a great brunch.
  • In San Antonio, I like The Mokara River Walk Hotel and the affordable River Walk Vista hotel. I like eating at The Fruteria and La Gloria, and I’m excited about the fall opening of Chef Steven McHugh’s Pearl Brewery gastro pub Cured.
  • In New Orleans, I love The Soniat House soniathouse.com, dinner or a jazz brunch at Arnaud’s restaurant, jazz at The Spotted Cat, drinks at Molly’s at the Market and The Napoleon House, and dinner at Galatoire’s. Happy Hour at Chef John Besh’s Lüke is also a favorite.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

The questions I always get are, “How can I get your job?” “Do you get to travel for free?” and “How did you get started?” and I think, “Wow, let’s see, where do I begin?” so that’s why my travel writer friends and I now offer the workshop vacations to explain all that. One thing people should know is that travel writing doesn’t pay a lot, but it is so rewarding. You know, Ludwig Bemelmans, the illustrator of the Madeleine series of children’s books was a bon vivant, travel writer and family man, and he painted the walls of my favorite New York hotel bar (Bemelmans, which now bears his name) in exchange for a year and a half residence at The Carlyle Hotel. He always said wanted his tombstone to read, “Tell them it was wonderful.” I love that. Of course they didn’t put it on his stone, but they should have. This really is a wonderful life.

Follow Janis Turk on Twitter @TurkTravels.

My Take

A pleasure having you Janis. I didn’t mind to share a bit more hotels than usual with my readers. As a well traveled lady you are an expert in the field. Makes me wish to stop my career as a (Happy) Hotelier, hit the road and inspect them all ;-)

Karen Blixen Museum - Lioness in Kenya

10 Questions For (44): “Paper” Liz Wilson

Continuing with Liz Wilson. I took the opportunity to ask for reciprocity when Liz asked me for an interview for the community blog of Paper.li which has been published in the meantime: Happy Hotelier: Promote your business the Nice Way.

Liz-Wilson

1) Who Are you?

I’m Liz Wilson, A Brit living in Switzerland – in Lausanne, on Lake Geneva. I’ve been here since 2004, since my husband moved his consultancy here from London. In my previous life I was a journalist, but nowadays I’m Staff Writer at Paper.li and a freelance writer, editor, content curator and blogger.

When I’m not working I love hiking up Swiss mountains and reading -at the moment a novel in French by Marc Levy because I’m trying to improve! I enjoy everything to do with social media.

I have always worked with words and language, be it writing, editing or curating. As a Staff Writer at Paper.li I interview members of our community which involves online research and connecting with a lot of interesting people – like your good self! That’s about half my week, and the rest is spent on different client projects – right now helping with a communication campaign for women leaders and editing an annual report for a multinational company and writing my two blogs.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I love anything to do with writing, editing, journalism, social media so my job doesn’t feel like work. Also the freedom of being a freelance. I also enjoy interacting with my colleagues at Paper.li and my clients – all of them are a pleasure to work with.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

I worry about the fallow periods when I’m not working at full capacity.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

Until September 2011 I had never really thought about blogging. I only started blogging then. I am still finding my way. My first blog, dotcomma.me is a mish mash. I started writing about things to do with communications. I wasn’t very focused when I started it. It has been very useful in learning the need to focus and picking up WordPress skills.

I’ve just started a second blog, Curation Hub, on the topic of curation. I want to create a repository of useful information and resources for professionals. I’ll be blogging about tools, techniques, case studies, tips.

Riederalp-the-Aletsch-glacier

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

  1. Riederalp, Switzerland. Small village in the Valais region at 2000m. Beautiful and silent. The people are incredibly welcoming.
  2. Jekyll Island, Georgia, US. One of the Golden Islands of Georgia – sandy beaches, bike trails and colonial architecture. I was there with a very special person.
  3. Vienna, Austria. Architecture, history, waltzes and Viennese coffee.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

  1. Hotel Eilean Iarmain, on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Full of the atmosphere of Scotland.
  2. The George V Hotel, Paris, France. Grandeur, style, service, a sense of occasion – fun to visit once.
  3. Salina Maris Hotel, Moerel, Switzerland. Spa with wonderful hot salt water pools.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?

  1. Dinner at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyon, France. Best beef I have ever eaten.
  2. Dinner at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (run by Raymond Blanc) in Oxfordshire, England. Special birthday!
  3. Christmas Eve dinner at home in Lausanne, Switzerland, every year. My husband cooks.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

The thing is, I always manage to enjoy myself … I can’t think of any really bad experiences.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accomodation / things to
do tips about the city you are currently living in?

Sure!

  1. Walk: Lake Geneva path from Lausanne to Pully. Unparalelled lake/mountain views.
  2. Outing: Train Lausanne to Vevey and change to the Train des Vignes. Meander through the vineyards of the Lavaux UNESCO heritage area and drink a glass of Swiss wine.
  3. Tip: Beware of restaurant prices – they are fearsomely expensive. A good option is the Café de Grancy, near the station. They do brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

Absolutely not! Just to say that I enjoy your blog and Paper.li and if I find myself heading for the Netherlands I will certainly be looking both of them up.

My Take:

Thank you very much for this interview, Liz! I’m glad we’ve met and through the interviews learned a thing or two about you. Actually we have 3 interests in common:

  1. Vienna: It’s our premier holiday destination, also because my late mother in law was from Vienna
  2. The UN heritage Aletch Glacier area, albeit a different town and in a different season, see my Flickr sets about Bettmer Alp – The Better Alp and Villa Cassel
  3. Curating: See My Saga about Chair Blog – Tumblr and other Curating Tools. Am sure we will be in contact about this subject more!

Where you can find Liz Wilson:

10 Questions For (43): Nomadic Matt

Time for a real Nomad
Nomadic Matt Blog Hopping - or Clogging in The Hague

1) Who Are you?

I’m a 30 year old vagabond who has been on the road regularly since 2005. I’m a native of Boston, Mass but, now, everywhere has been my home. After a trip to Thailand in 2005, I decided to so I finished my MBA, quit my cubicle job, and, in July 2006, I set out on an adventure around the world.

My original trip was supposed to last a year. I didn’t come home until 18 months later. Once back, I knew I couldn’t go back to my old life or a typical job – I wanted to travel. I wanted to make this my life. Three months later, I was on the road again and I haven’t stopped since.

Now, I make a living travel blogging and inspiring other people to travel.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I like being able to travel often, meet amazing people, and get to do amazing activities I probably wouldn’t have a chance to do if I wasn’t a writer.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

There’s not much I don’t like. The balancing act between work and travel is about the only thing I dislike. It’s often hard to travel and still maintain the site at the same time. There’s just not enough time in the day.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

My blog, Nomadic Matt, is about my journey around the world on a budget and my goal is to show people that they can travel for a long time too without it costing a lot of money. My motto is to show people they can travel better, longer, and cheaper.

Paris Replica of the Statue of Liberty

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

My three favorite destinations are:

Thailand because it is cheap, beautiful, has amazing food, and wonderful beaches. Plus, I like tropical weather.

Paris because it has that special something. I can’t really put my finger on it but its simply magical.

Stockholm due to the fact it has a beautiful medieval historic center, the architecture is amazing, the city is surrounded by nature, and I find the Swedish people to be very nice, friendly, and welcoming.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

I would say that my favorite are Kabul (Barcelona), The Flying Pig (Amsterdam), and Nomads (Queens town) for all the same reasons: they are fun, have a great sociable atmosphere, are clean, have good showers, and comfortable beds. They tick all the right boxes.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?

Oh I don’t know if I can answer this question. To only be able to pick three? I couldn’t do it. I’ve had so many good food and wine experiences in my life. I would say one of my favorite food experiences was eating sushi at this restaurant in Denver. I don’t remember it’s name but it was mouthwatering delicious. I would say my best wine experience was when I drank a 1981 bottle of Tuscany wine to celebrate my 30th birthday.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

I would say my worst destinations are Phuket in Thailand, Sunny Beach in Bulgaria, Kuta Beach in Bali. All cheesy tourist traps. Worst accommodation is hard because I’ve slept in so many different places that I can’t really remember them all. Worst food experience? Well, let’s just say England won’t win any culinary awards anytime soon.


Zaftigs’ Roast Beef Sandwich (photo by Off Manhattan)

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination/ food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

I don’t live anywhere right now as I am nomadic after all. However, back home in Boston, where I grew up, I would say my top things to do are the freedom trail, see a red sox game, and spend time on Castle Island. For food, I recommend Zaftigs for brunch and Fuygaku for great Japanese.

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

None

My Take

I’ve met Matt several times. He’s a fun guy.
Since he didn’t provide photos, I simply had to use my own Clog photo of him in the miniature city “Madurodam” here in The Hague. Secondly I thought an American who loves Paris, will also love the Paris Replica of the Statue of Liberty. Really, until now I didn’t know there are hundreds replicas of them around the world.
Thank you Matt for this interview!

10 Questions for (42): Robert Cole of RockCheetah

Continuing with another hotel marketing pro, Robert Cole (@RobertKCole)
Robert Cole of RockCheetah

1) Who Are you?

I am Robert Cole – The founder of RockCheetah, a consulting practice that specializes in aligning marketing strategies with appropriate technologies for hotels, travel sites and destinations. The goal is to help clients reach more consumers, position themselves effectively against competitors, operate more efficiently, and ultimately, better engage with travelers to provide unforgettable experiences.
Before starting RockCheetah, among other things, I ran marketing planning for Four Seasons Hotels, oversaw Sabre’s global hotel program, helped start up Neat Group (the first dynamic travel packaging platform) and headed Mark Travel’s (a major US Tour Operator) non-air product contracting and supplier operations groups.
I live near Milwaukee, Wisconsin – my wife (a retired inflight supervisor from Northwest Airlines and former Braniff Flight attendant) and I have two daughters who are also total travel junkies.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I run my own show, set my own priorities and only accept consulting engagements that interest me. I definitely enjoy working with highly disruptive technologies, developing products & processes that create customer value, and fashioning highly efficient business models.
The best part however, is working with smart clients that are not satisfied with the status-quo and not only want to improve their performance, but are sincerely interesting in raising the bar in terms of customer experience – both online and in real-life.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

Working solo requires discipline to know when to cut off from work and make time for other priorities, like my family, eating and sleeping. I have always taken a very immersive approach to my projects, so I have to consciously avoid saturating my time with too many business commitments.

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

In my spare time, I author the Views from a Corner Suite blog, where I provide commentary on any topic that interests me. This normally means long-form posts on a variety of travel industry topics, but I occasionally pursue a tangent like picking on poor Kevin May every April Fool’s Day…
The sub-head explains that I am attempting to prove hotel & destination marketing, travel technology, quality service & profitability can peacefully coexist. They can – it just takes a lot of work to keep them from killing each other…
Views from a Corner Suite provides me with a platform to share my views with people around the world. I found that it worked better than writing comments on other blogs that were longer than the original posts ( a habit I still have had trouble breaking…)
San Juan Orcas
Photo Credit: Martin de Witte – flickr

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Paris, France. Before we had children, my wife and I stayed in a tiny 5th floor walk-up studio apartment in a residential neighborhood of the 17th Arrondissement for two weeks one December. It had all the comforts of home – heat (a hot plate), a shower (a small electric pump that drizzled some water out of an elevated hose) and a small, single twin bed. It was great – instead of a grand tourist experience, we felt we were exploring the city (and surrounding area) much more like locals.
San Juan Islands, Washington State, USA. I grew up near Seattle and would spend the summers in the San Juan Islands. When I was about 10, I was alone about 200 yards off the north shore of Orcas Island in a six-foot dinghy, fishing for Red Snapper. A large Killer Whale approached and circled me a couple times. That experience reminded me that tolerance of visitors is an important aspect of hospitality.
A couple years later, on a horseback overnight while attending Camp Nor’wester on Lopez Island, I drew the short straw and “won” the 5:00am shift to check on the horses. At sunrise, a pod of about a dozen orcas were feeding, playing and breaching about 50 yards offshore. It was a joyous spectacle.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming USA. Contrary to the beliefs of many ill-informed tourists, Yellowstone is not a theme park, nor is it the home to Yogi Bear… Yellowstone was the world’s first National Park. After working in Yellowstone for three months during a summer break from college and several subsequent visits, I sincerely feel every inhabitant of earth could benefit from a visit to Yellowstone – the combination of large mammal wildlife, scenic vistas and thermal features is arguably unparalleled on the planet.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

I worked for Four Seasons Hotels for 8 years and stayed in a good number of their great properties. That would be the easy answer. As I am a strong proponent of marketing to traveler personas, instead, I will highlight three very different, but outstanding properties for very different reasons. The following are three of my traveler personas and hotels that fit perfectly for each.
Family: Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe, Riviera Maya, Mexico For this one, I polled my family – my wife and two teenage daughters who play an important role in determining family favorites (a key goal in finding family happiness & harmony while traveling.) Considering that we have stayed at a number of more luxurious properties, all-inclusive resorts and cruised extensively as a family, somewhat surprisingly, this was a unanimous selection. Great properties don’t need ultra-luxury facilities, but they do need attentive service and to exceed guest expectations. Barcelo delivered with welcoming hospitality throughout.
The 700+ room property is definitely not for those seeking an intimate getaway, but is located on the best beach in Riviera Maya and includes all-inclusive access to the dining, activities & amenities of Barcelo’s sister Maya Beach, Caribe, Tropical and Colonial properties located across the entire 2,700 room complex. There is something for everyone with specialty restaurants and extensive, well run buffets, beachfront dining, lots of bars, a great kids club, engaging entertainment and extensive water sports. Offsite, Playa del Carmen, the Tulum ruins and family-oriented parks like Xcaret and Xel-Há are not too far.
Business: Hotel Seiyo Ginza, Tokyo, Japan. 80 rooms, incredible address (1 Ginza), exceptional quality furnishings & facilities, amazing food, and best of all, outstanding service. It’s definitely an oasis within the city. The addition of personal assistants capable handling virtually any eventuality exceeds the expectations of even the most seasoned business travelers.
Romance: Young Island Resort, St. Vincent, West Indies. 30 cottages on a 35 acre island located 200 yards off the coast of St. Vincent. Great dining, attentive personal service, rooms with louvers for windows, open air showers and private yachts available for charter to tour neighboring islands. A great escape.

7) Your top 3 most memorable food / wine experiences to date and why?

30 years ago, I took my wife (then fiancée) to Houston’s Inn on the Park – at the time, operated by Four Seasons Hotels (now an Omni,) for the weekend. We enjoyed the Degustation, as I recall, pheasant mousse in blueberry tarragon sauce, frog legs in a green sauce, and three fishes in three sauces, plus a pear torte for dessert. It was outstanding.
A couple years ago on a cruise around the British Isles, we stopped in Greenock (near Glasgow.) I rented a car and drove the family 3 hours each way to Inverlochy Castle in Fort William, Scotland for lunch prepared by Michelin 1-star chef Mathew Gray (now at Chez Roux on Lake Conroe in Texas.) The meal was amazing, but dessert spoiled my girls for life… a selection of three perfectly tempered fruit sorbets, a perfect crème brulé and a heavenly-light, but devilishly rich chocolate soufflé exhibited a beauty that was only matched by the spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands.
My former administrative assistant at Four Seasons suggested that we should have dinner with one of her dear high school friends while visiting Hong Kong. We were a bit taken back to discover that her friend was Anson Chan, Chief Secretary for Administration for Hong Kong’s government, one of the few public officials that successfully transitioned from British rule to Chinese rule. We dined on classically prepared Peking Duck at her private club – outstanding food, exceptional company and fascinating conversation.

8) Your 3 worst destination / accommodation / food experiences to date and why?

My worst destination experience was bushwhacking with a full pack for 4 hours, then climbing a very steep couloir with an ice axe, but no crampons, only to discover that we had climbed the wrong peak in the Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountain range. However, as often happens with bad travel experiences, it mysteriously transformed into a wonderful experience. After retreating to a remote mountain lake to camp that night, we were able to enjoy truly unspoiled solitude and watch a lone mountain goat carefully traverse a cliff about 1,000 feet above us.
The worst food experience was accidentally getting ice in my drink from a street vendor in Chaing Rai, Thailand. I will spare you further details…
The most miserable lodging experience was easily staying in the New York City Travelodge on 42nd Street in 1978. The worst part wasn’t that the front desk was encased in bullet-proof glass, the neighboring theater marquee proclaiming “Live Sex Acts on Stage,” or another person’s room being infested with fleas. No, the greatest insult was, TrustHouse Forte, changed our planned accommodations at The Pierre (5-star) to the Travelodge (1/2-star) at the last minute (I was part of a group of Cornell Hotel School students on a week-long sales blitz for The Pierre… Forte managed both properties at the time.)

9) Can you offer the readers 3 destination / food / accommodation / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

For most, Milwaukee is best experienced in the summer and the best summer event is undoubtedly Summerfest – the World’s Largest Music Festival with over 700 bands playing on 11 stages over 11 days in late June/early July.
For food, I would have to recommend AJ Bombers – their Milwaukee Burger is a fresh ¼ pound burger, topped with double Colby cheese, double Nueske’s bacon and Schlitz onions. It won the best cheeseburger award from The Travel Channel’s Food Wars.
To stay, although it is a bit west of Milwaukee, the 38-room Delafield Hotel is a gem. It was converted from a turn-of-the-century warehouse into a boutique hotel in 2006. Not only is it a great property, but it is also the official hotel of the Ten Chimney’s, the nearby historic summer estate of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, the most famed acting team in the history of American theater – another hidden treasure not to be missed.
RockCheetah

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer

Most everyone asks me where the name RockCheetah originated. In 1974, I was an alpine ski racer for the Crystal Mountain Athletic Club in Washington State. As a slalom specialist, my races were two runs. At one race, I was sitting in 3rd place after the 1st run. On the 2nd run, I was pretty much flawless and won the event easily. A friend exclaimed “You ran that like a Rock Cheetah – That was solid, that was fast!”
Since it was so unique, I started using the RockCheetah name for song publishing rights from the high school garage band I was in. One of my band mates graduated from Harvard Law School and is a corporate lawyer, so I have both printed evidence and a reputable witness that can confirm prior usage of the name. Nobody’s going to successfully challenge me on the rights to that name.
When I went out on my own as a consultant in 2004, it occurred to me that my clients wanted solid analysis and fast recommendations. Since that aligned perfectly with the RockCheetah name, the naming decision was easy.
If any readers have any other questions they would like me to answer, I am @RobertKCole on Twitter.

My Take:

Thank you Robert for participating. We met in Berlin for the first time and I’m looking forward to meet you again whenever where ever.
I’m glad I could teach Robert – who must have forgotten what I still have to learn about running a hotel – one thing: How to carry a proper Avatar around the Internet and am proud he choose one of my portraits of him.