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Category Archives: 10 Questions For:

Interviews with travel bloggers and travel industry gurus

10 Questions for Carol Perehudoff – Interview 49

I have asked Carol Perehudoff of Wandering Carol, a real funny Luxury Travel Blog, my 10 questions:

WanderingCarol.com Terrace at Gritti Palace Hotel VeniceCarol and hubby at the Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice

1) Who Are you?

I’m Carol Perehudoff, aka Wandering Carol, at WanderingCarol.com – a luxury travel blog for those who love to laugh. A former freelance travel columnist with the Toronto Star, I’ve written for many publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Royal Wings and enRoute Magazine, and was voted a Top 10 Luxury Travel Blogger in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

2) What do you like about what you do?

Traveling and writing! What could be a better combination? I once read on a postcard: “She was often gripped with a desire to be elsewhere,” and that pretty much sums up my life.

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

Jet lag is the perpetual curse of travel writers. I also have trouble with excruciatingly long dinners on press trips (a press trip is when a group of travel journalists are invited to explore a region, city or hotel and their trip itinerary is organized by their hosts), when all I really want to do is be back in my room processing what I’ve seen, keeping up with social media, blogging, etc. Oh, who am I kidding? After 12 hours with the same group of people I just want to have a bath and read a book. People need down time on trips, at least introverts like me do.

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

I want it to be fun. Also, I’m obsessed with researching historical details. Often those two things conflict. Over the last year or two I’ve been making my posts more info-filled so I can provide how-to’s as well as write in a narrative style. The primary goal of Wandering Carol is to entertain, to offer travel ideas and tips and to show people that luxury travel is more accessible than they think.

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

I get asked this a lot and I always say it’s like being asked to name my favourite child (except I don’t have children.) However, some adventures stand out. One memorable trip to Europe was when my husband and I rented an apartment in an old chateau in the wilds of the Cevennes region of France. It was so out of the way and romantic that I’ll never forget it. Hot springs spas in Tuscany are always a favourite of mine and snorkelling with beluga whales up in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, had to be one of the most exciting experience I’ve ever had.

Brenners Park Hotel and Spa
Brenners Park Hotel and Spa

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

Hm. Let me think. The restored Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice was like living in a doge’s palace – my top moment was having breakfast on the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. (Mind you, it was my honeymoon so I was obligated to be happy.)
b) Brenners Park, an old world hotel in the spa town of Baden-Baden, Germany, has a gracious atmosphere, a lovely park setting and a high-end spa – and has hosted every celebrity from Bill Clinton to Heidi Klum. And since I like to imagine I move in these circles (though I definitely don’t), how could I not love Brenners?
c) The castle-like Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Canada, will always be high on my list. I grew up going to Banff almost every summer and the hotel looked like a fairytale to me.

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

Well, eating chicken anus at a Japanese restaurant in Korea was pretty unforgettable. At the other end (pardon the pun) of the spectrum the tasting menu at Cuisinart Resort in Anguilla will be etched in my mind forever (along with their eco-friendly hydroponic garden). However, my absolute favourite restaurant in the entire world is La Colombe d’Or in the tiny town of St Paul de Vence in the South of France, because of the history (Picasso used to hang out there, along with a host of other starving artists), the art-cluttered walls and because it’s where I was introduced to black truffles.

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

Much as I love Thailand, the $6 room I had in Kanchanaburi Province was slightly terrifying. I was the only guest at the resort, although you couldn’t really call it a resort, and the only staff member at night was a security guard. The problem was that I didn’t realize I could turn off the light outside my room, so every creepy flying insect in the jungle was attracted to the light and buzzing and flapping outside my door – this made going to the bathroom, which was outside and down the hall, a perilous nocturnal adventure. It was much better once I got that light turned off, and strangely enough, after I befriended the local cat and let him sleep in my room, I ended up loving the place and even went back a second time. This restored my faith in myself as a traveler – I’d begun to think nothing but a 5-star hotel would satisfy me.
Another bad experience? I was watching an elderly man’s bags for him while he went to change money in a train station in Paris and the bag with his medications was stolen in front of my eyes. Oh, the guilt.
A third less than wonderful travel experience was when EasyJet cancelled our flight from Paris to Nice. After spending the entire day in the airport, we were finally given tickets for a flight late the next day. The problem was we’d rented an apartment in Nice and were supposed to be there that afternoon, and the owner had driven in from Grasse and was waiting for us. There was no phone in the apartment and he didn’t have a cell phone so there was no way to reach him until he’d given up and driven back to Grasse. To make it worse, EasyJet’s customer service was awful to us afterwards when we tried to get compensation, even though the employees at the time had assured us we’d get it. I’m still annoyed.

Ripley's Aquarium Toronto
Ripley’s Aquarium Toronto

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

Great question! Of course! Who doesn’t want to show off their city? I live in Toronto in the swishy (some would say snobby) area of Yorkville. But in the 60s it was the hippy hangout of choice, and there is so much more to the neighbourhood than high heels and pretentiousness. People can watch my Leopard Chicks Go to Yorkville Video to get an idea of what to see (and to be amazed by how stupid my friend and I look on video).
Toronto’s newest attraction is Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. I recently went and found it a lot more educational than I’d expected to. I also had a love affair with a shark so maybe I’m biased.
Toronto has come a long way in the spa and 5-star hotel department lately, and as I am a wellness fanatic, I’d recommend checking out some of Toronto’s best spas. And if people have any more questions about Toronto they can contact me through my blog.

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

My Take

Thank you for your contribution Carol. It’s always fun to see that the people I interview in this series, have similar preferences as I have. i love Venice and Tuscany and I love the Còte D’Azure around St Paul de Vence.

10 Questions for Chandler Tomayko of The Chef with Red Shoes – Interview 48

Happy to introduce you to a Real Chef: Chandler Tomayko.

Professional Portrait

1) Who Are you?

My name is Chandler Tomayko. I am 28 years old. I am a Chef, a Traveler and a freelance Photographer. I have spent the past several years participating in culinary workshops around the world, learning about different cultures, working in different restaurants, teaching and collaborating with professionals in different fields. I have two blogs: thechefwithredshoes.wordpress.com started out as a way for me to keep tabs on what I was doing while traveling and working. My second blog: chandlertomaykophotography.wordpress.com is my online photography portfolio.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I love that cooking allows me to be completely present. I have to use all 5 senses at all times, so there is not a part of me that isn’t involved. I sensory check myself constantly to see what it is that I am seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting. I am in awe of how cooking brings people together. My travels have proven that regardless of language barriers, cultural differences and social inequalities, hungry people around a table can communicate and enjoy themselves.

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

Fortunately in my line of work I get to meet people from many countries and different cultural backgrounds. Many of these people are immigrants or ex-pats. The ugly underbelly of the culinary world is the exploitation you will find. Too many employees are overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. I see hardworking individuals who are tired and hungry, who still put forth their best effort to feed others who are tired and hungry. When was the last time you stopped to think how many hours the cook who made your dish has worked, or how much he is being paid or if he has had time to eat today? Kitchen families are unique. We miss our own family’s holidays, birthdays and special moments so we can provide those for other people. Most cooks will laugh at a 12 hour shift, because to us it is a thing of myth. I have been placed in situations where the only way for me to help, after exhausting all options, is to walk away to show my lack of support for the mistreatment of restaurant employees.

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

Recipe development and food styling 2
My first blog: thechefwithredshoes.wordpress.com has become a log of any culinary adventure, mistake, experiment, project or trip I undertake. I accept invitations, challenges and from time to time even a request or two. My main aim is to create a network of culinary oriented individuals who are generous with their knowledge. I am constantly seeking new participants who are willing to pass on a technique, host a traveling chef or share a useful tip.

My second blog: chandlertomaykophotography.wordpress.com serves as a portfolio for those interested in looking at my work for leisure or for those interested in hiring my services. I also accept photography subject/theme/project ideas to expand my repertoire. I like to be pushed of think outside of the box.

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

  • Every 2 years I attend Salone del Gusto. It is an international culinary festival that is just too awesome for words. Every time I visit amazing things happen, I meet the most interesting people and I sample some of the best food I have ever tasted. However on my first visit one of the coolest cultural things I have ever been a part of happened. At the end of each day, vendors, artisans, chefs, expositors and event staff pack up and set up things for the next day. They carry things out to their vehicles and clean their stands. This one evening there was a “traffic jam” of people carrying things and it came to a full halt in this open space right before an exit door. All festival visitors were already gone. The people from all different countries looked around at each other, kind of using body language to encourage each other to go first. This one guy while waiting set down his ice cooler and tapped out a beat like it was a drum. Another guy looked over at him, set down the box he was carrying and tapped out the same beat. In a matter of seconds an impromptu band was made with pots, pans, spoons, boxes, packages of rice and other random items. The song Guantanamera by Celia Cruz was being sung in multiple languages at once. I was pulled in by some random gentleman who tried to dance with me. We failed miserably and just swayed next to each other, laughing instead. As soon as the song was over, everyone picked up their things, smiled and filed out to their cars. It was a naturally occurring flash mob of sorts and it was incredible.

Meeting Miles in London

  • When I visited London I was walking across the courtyard for the Royal Guardsmen museum and overheard a frustrated tourist from Mexico trying to talk to a veteran in uniform. I offered to translate and was appalled when the tourist wanted me to ask the nice gentleman if he had served in the first world war, when he was obviously not a day over 70! William Miles was the guardsman’s name and he was so tickled with my unexpected assistance that he invited me out to join him for a private reception being held at the museum, treated me to lunch afterwards and we then attended a royal guardsmen concert. The following day I was invited to meet some of his friends at the Royal Chelsea Hospital and visit an art exhibit. I could not have had a better guide.
  • I worked and lived in the middle east for a short period. In Abu dhabi to be exact. It is not an experience I am fond of. During one of my lowest point towards the end of my trip I was scheduled to be on a stand by flight for a visa renewal trip. I had been sent by my employer over the border to Oman. They had guaranteed me that I would be able to get on the return flight they had scheduled. I was sick with the flu, suffering from headache, fever and chills. I was not provided with a means to get accommodation, I had packed only what I needed for the less than 24 hours I was supposed to be there. Of course, the flight was full, no space for stand bys. I had no phone to reach my employer, it was late and the next flight was over 5 hours later. Then I met Ahmed. An omani native that much to much luck worked for the airline and was on standby as well. He helped me reschedule my flight. We sat and talked at a coffee shop while waiting for the flight and asked each other all the uncensored questions we could think of regarding the other person’s culture. We became fast friends and during the remainder of my stay in the middle east, we played games, I taught him to cook and introduced him to s’mores. He was the highlight of my entire stay in Abu Dhabi. Wish I had met him sooner!

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

  • I almost never travel somewhere new without using Couchsurfing. If you are unfamiliar with the movement, Couchsurfing is a volunteer-based worldwide network connecting travelers with members of local communities. Over the years I have been hosted by multiple people from the organization and each one has enriched my trips with their local insights, recommendations, how to’s and what not to do’s and above all their company!
  • Suites del Paradiso in Osara di Puglia, Italy. It is a place that was created by my good friend and colleague Peppe Zullo. The hotel is beautiful, simple and elegant but unpretentious. You wake up to mornig dew in a vineyard and a view of a town that dates back to the 1600’s. This place is the epitome of what you would imagine the Italian countryside to be like. The hospitality is very welcoming. Far enough from the little town to create an atmosphere of seclusion, but close enough where you can visit historic sites, meet Italian locals, sip an espresso in the afternoon overlooking the square or drive to a city or beach. To top it all off, Peppe is an incredible Chef with a farm to table concept that will make you appreciate seasonality.
  • Tempo Hotels & Residences was a little place I stayed at in Turkey. I originally picked it due to its low price, after I realized I would need a place to sleep during my layover. Each floor of the hotel has a different theme ranging from nature to comic book super heroes. They humored me when I requested to change floors because I wanted to see the other themes. Their breakfast that is included with the rate is wonderful. It is exactly what locals eat, there are a lot of options for such a small place and you can start your day off very well fed. Their customer service is exceptional. Noticing I had not come out of my room during the afternoon, the front desk clerk rang to see if I wanted him to order me something from the place he was getting lunch from!

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

Recipe development and food styling

  • My colleague Peppe Zullo introduced me to Angelo from Pane e Salute. He is a baker with an oven from the year 1520 that he uses to bake bread for the town, because many of their homes are old and historic and not allowed to have modern ovens. He decided to unexpectedly make lunch and asked my travel companion and I to stay. I watched several elderly older Italian women stop by with pasta dishes and sweets to say thank you to Angelo for baking their bread that week. Lunch intended for 3 turned into a table for 5 when two travelers that had come all the way from Milan just to shake Angelo’s hand were also asked to join us. The meal was simple and homemade, but by far one of the best meals I have ever had! We feasted on uovo pomodoro, olive fritti and assorted sauteed vegetables, fresh wine and bread.
  • I spent a short amount of time in San Francisco and fell in love with a restaurant by the name of Namu Gaji. I had read about the owners and the story behind the restaurant. I was very impressed. I dined there on my first night in town and was so captivated by the meal that I promised to return the next morning for brunch. I did just that and ended up staying all the way until dinner time. The staff allowed me to pester them with questions so I could write an article for my blog. I ate to my heart’s content and ended the night with a round of drinks courtesy of one of the owners. The restaurant has flawless dishes, a hardworking staff, a cohesive ambiance and just a very welcoming vibe that made me want to just put on a an apron and help out if only they would let me stay. I am a Namu Groupie.
  • The Festa dei Frutti Dimenticati is a very obscure festival in Italy. It took two attempts, endless research and an unexpected travel companion for me to find it. Farmers in Casola Valsenio harvest fruits that date back hundreds of years and varieties of fruits that are hard to find anywhere else. Locals showcase their produce over a weekend of celebration. Stone streets, jazz quartets in the street, pop-up bistros, local artisans, culinary concoctions galore… It almost didn’t seem real. I cannot wait to visit the festival again.

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

  • When I traveled to Abu Dhabi I took a commercial flight departing from New York. I had the worst seat buddy ever! He was a very rude man from India. He took other passenger’s luggage out of the overhead cabin and placed it in the aisle so he could put his bag where he wanted to. He was very rude to the stewardess and insulted the passengers sitting in the rows in front of me and behind me. He flossed his teeth while sitting next to me with the plastic package that holds the blanket and pillows. He fell asleep and put his feet under my seat. He talked to himself and complained very loudly while people were trying to sleep on the very long flight. The worst thing was that many people though I was with him in the beginning. I was so embarrassed!
  • On one of my visits to Italy, a colleague went with me and we decided to rent a car and do a roadtrip. We were headed to Cinque Terre and got terribly lost. Our GPS kept telling us to get off of the highway, it sent us down a lot of dead end streets and sent us to the wrong town 5 times! We were lost for 5 hours which put us behind schedule and made us very frustrated. We later learned that whoever rented the car before us had programmed the GPS to avoid highways and that is why we couldn’t reach our destination!
  • One time when I was traveling I had a layover in Miami. It was AWFUL. My layover was 15 hours long and they wouldn’t allow me to check into my connecting flight for another 7 hours! I was not allowed into the airport because I didn’t have my next plane ticket. I didn’t have money to stay overnight at a hotel. The Miami airport shuts all their stores and restaurants down at night. So there was nothing to do, nothing to eat, I had nowhere to stay. I found a section of nice recliner chairs and couches where a few other travelers were also resting. I decided to try to take a nap and just wait until I could check into my next flight. All the travelers that were in that area were tired and frustrated with not being able to get into the airport. However there was a security guard who would come by every 30 minutes and shout at all of us “Remember Ladies and Gentleman, this is not a hotel, you cannot sleep here!” So no one got any sleep and by the time I checked into my flight I was exhausted!

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

Makapuu Lighthouse in Oahu

  • I currently live on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. My favorite restaurant is Yaki Yaki Miwa. It is a Japanese restaurant specializing in Osaka style cuisine located on King Street. The staff is very friendly and the chef, Takumi is awesome! i usually talk to him using a translator on my phone because his first language is Japanese and although he speaks English, we have some difficulties sometimes. The food is great, my favorite dish is the Okonomiyaki! The prices are affordable, there is parking next to the building, the only thing to keep in mind is they are closed on Mondays.
  • While you are on the island if you want to explore the outdoors I highly recommend the Makapuu lighthouse trail and tide pools. It has beautiful scenery, old military pillboxes, ancient tide pools, a blowhole and lighthouse landmark. You can choose to just hike and enjoy the terrain or you can even get into the water. If you are lucky you can sight whales at the right time of year..
  • The other activity I think is a must is visiting the USS Arizona Memorial. A homage to many of those lost in the Pearl Harbor tragedy, it is a very humbling experience. It is free to visit the museum and walk around the Pearl Harbor historic site. Get there early if you go during the weekend or at least by lunch during the week. Approximately 2000 free tickets are handed out daily for a ferry that will take you across the water to the memorial built over the sunken USS Arizona.

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

What’s next?

Well to be honest, I never really know. I have a few things I would like to accomplish in the next couple years. I would love to collaborate with my colleagues in their places of business and do like a stage tour. I would also like to herd reindeer with the Saami natives that I have met at Salone del Gusto. I would also like the opportunity to learn more in the mixology and coffee related areas of my field. I am open to invitations to any new experiences! *hint hint

MyTake

It was a pleasuree having you here Chandler, a lady with many talents. Thank you!

10 Questions for Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler – Interview 47

Happy to continue the series with Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen Gletcher

1) Who Are you?

Chris is the host of Amateur Traveler which is an award winning online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. In 2015, Chris won a Lowell Thomas Award for Travel Journalism from the Society of American Travel Writers and was called the “Best Independent Travel Journalist” by Travel & Leisure Magazine in their annual SMITTY Awards. He also co-hosts This Week in Travel with Gary Arndt and Jen Leo. This Week in Travel has won 3 North America Travel Journalists Association awards.

He is also the owner of BloggerBridge.com which is a new startup connecting bloggers and industry contacts.

He has worked for years in technology startups in Silicon Valley. He was formerly the Director of Engineering for TripAdvisor’s New Initiatives group and was the EVP Engineering at LiveWorld where his team built and ran online communities and events for companies including eBay, HBO, TV Guide, Expedia, Marriott, A&E, History Channel, the NBA, NBC, ABC, Disney, Microsoft, WebTV and American Express.

2) What do you like about what you do?

The interesting travel part is pretty great. I have been on 5 continents in the last 5 months. A cruise around the horn in South America, a press trip in Thailand, a small group tour in Morocco, a conference in Spain and a small boat cruise in Alaska.

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

Actually making a living as a travel blogger / podcaster / writer is not an easy thing to do. I have actually been making a living as a software engineer. Many travel journalists these days cobble together 2 or 3 different ways to make a living.

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

The main content of the Amateur Traveler is the podcast which talks about a different destination every week. We talk about everything from what to put on your Chicago dog when you visit the Windy City to going to Tonga and swimming with whales. The show is generally an interview with someone who lives in, visited or wrote the guidebook about a particular destination. The show will turn 10 years old July 2nd.

Amateur Traveler is used to teach English as a second language at Oxford. f you want to get a job with the Thailand Foreign Service you will be given an English proficiency exam that will require you to listen to two episodes of the Amateur Traveler. You will be graded on your understanding of them. Oddly enough the two episodes are on Yorkshire and on Narrow Boating in England and Wales.

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

  1. Istanbul still stands out for me as an amazing destination for someone like me who is a huge history buff. Egypt for similar reasons was simply amazing. We traveled there on the first Amateur Traveler group trip.
  2. I have done one trip to sub-saharan Africa to Tanzania which was also amazing.
  3. There is nothing quite like being in a herd of zebras and wildebeests in Ngorongoro Crater.

Chris Christensen Camera

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

  1. On a business trip to Shanghai, I stayed in the Marriott Tomorrow Square which looks like a rocket ship and rises above the sprawling city with great views to the Pudong on a clear day.
  2. I stayed in one of the newly renovated suites at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. It had it’s own jacuzzi and massage room. It also had a walk in closet, which I can’t imagine needing on vacation.
  3. The third would be the parador in Rhonda Spain in the old town hall, a beautiful room right there on the cliffs that make the city famous.

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

  1. Well… crickets in Oaxaca may be one of the most memorable dishes I have ever had, although not necessarily a favorite.
  2. One of my consistently favorite restaurants is Peppers Mexicali Cafe in Pacific Grove. There are many more expensive restaurants in the Monterey Bay area, but this is where I go.
  3. My favorite meal would probably be something simple and great like eating $1 street tacos in the zocalo in Merida, Mexico during the weekly fiesta. The best meals are not necessarily the most expensive.

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

  1. When I was in college, on a trip to western New York we tried Buffalo Chicken Wings with a bottle of sweet Liebfraumilch wine. No chef in their right mind would make this pairing.
  2. A hotel in Athens drove us out of the city a day early. The entire hotel smelled and the sheets had cigarette burns.
  3. We stayed above a German beer hall near Hanover Germany on the eve of Pinksterfeest (Pentecost). We tried to sleep while large groups of drunken Germans carried on below.

Chris Christensen Arena

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

  1. The best thing about food in San Jose and the Silicon Valley is the variety. We have great Mexican, Chinese, indian, Afghan, Thai, Cuban, and Vietnamese food to name a few. Try them all.
  2. A great place to both eat and stay is Santana Row in San Jose. Stay in the Hotel Valencia and eat at one of the many restaurants in this piazza style neighborhood.
  3. San Jose is in the heart of Silicon Valley so do something nerdy like visit the Tech Museum or the Computer History Museum.

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

Yes, 42

MyTake

Glad to have you Chris, Thanks a lot.
I must admit when behind my computer screen I don’t like to be distracted by pod casts or even music.
Before this interview I knew you better from your photo’s. I would like to invite the reader to look at your Flickr Portfolio and at the same time would like to ask you to either upload more photo’s there or tell us where you are hiding the good stuff ;-)
Finally it is a reason for Jen Leo to appear here as well to make the trio complete!

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?

Time wasters! 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