Friday, October 26, 2012

Normandy, France
All went well.  La Prieure was great.  Lots of rain, but it never really bothered our activities.  Normandy was all I had hoped for and the two guides were great.The Ahi portion was very satisfactory and delightful, but the highlights were our days together.  Chateau A'Drieu was centrally located and convenient to the Normandy portion....  You and Dee were very helpful, but I would always reommmend renting a GPS when renting a car...invaluable and makes life so much easier.  Mike
Susie:  We had a wonderful trip and were fascinated with Istanbul.  The guides and the itinerary you set up for us was the best.  Thank you very much for planning a terrific trip, especially at the last moment....  The cooking class was great and just one more way to learn about the culture.  They are very very frugal and do not waste any food and only cook with bottled water.  There was a group of six of us which made it more fun.  --Tina  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cuba Trip 2011

The most striking thing to me was the comparison with our last trip five years ago. Right from Miami Airport-seeing the many jet flights and lines of passengers--it was apparent that things have changed. This loosening up in American policy allowing Cubans to travel more frequently has obviously contributed to this--along with many more tourists than were seen on our earlier trip.  It was also striking to see the changes in Havana.  Five years ago the predominant view was of crumbling buildings with only a few signs of restoration.  I know that those of you who were first time visitors probably still focused on the decay, but the progress has been remarkable.  Last time we saw building shells in Old Havana we were told that they would be torn down and replaced by mini parks.  Personally I had no faith that they could accomplish that—but in fact they did it. Havana is one of the most exciting cities in the world.

A highlight was the tour with Mario and it would have been a disappointment if we missed that opportunity because of his illness.  For the “dancers” it was great to have the opportunity to experience several different venues.  In that regard I also noticed a change--less emphasis on the traditional.  It seems that they have gotten over the idea that tourists wanted only to hear Guantamera (and the Buena Vista Social Club revivals).  Tropicana was better than last time, and it was a thrill to be able to dance on the stage.

The Mission visits were more varied than last time and again presented us with the opportunity to interact with ordinary Cubans such as the Jewish family in Sanctus Spiritu.  It was very satisfying to see the progress with the new building in the old folks home-as that was only in the planning stage in our previous visit.

The session at the Interest Section was another study in contrasts.  The last time we had a presentation by a button down shirted, necktie wearing, business suited representative who gave us the standard line in support of the 50-year embargo.  It was not only the appearance, but also more importantly the open minded attitude. that was such a refreshing difference.  It gives at least some hope that maybe things will someday change.
It is hard to say too much about the role Abel played in making our trip so enjoyable and educational.  I am sure that everyone now understands why Dudley and I made it a condition to have him as a guide. He was even more comfortable with us this time and felt free to express some thoughts about the regime that he would have been more circumspect about before.  My hope is that the travel restrictions will somehow be relaxed so that we can travel freely to Cuba.  I would say the same thing about Cuban governmental restrictions that would permit ordinary Cubans, such as Abel, who do not wish to defect, to visit the U.S.

This was a great trip--and a wonderful group of companions.  Kudos to Susie for making it happen.

Hi Susie,

Thanks so much to you and Dudley!

What a wonderful experience! Camaguey was interesting, though I'd have rather flown into Santiago and proceed westward to Havana. This morning, Raul announced significant socioeconomic loosening, so maybe USA travelers can visit without specialized visas. 

The people…their ¡MUSICA! everywhere and so joyous, sensual and infectious. You could organize a whole tour for two of our group's couples and their fellow aficionados just around dancing across the whole island. I love what I perceived as the apparent Cubans' conscientious sense of being participants in a social experiment dedicated to community. That was important to me.Their society has tried pure socialism with its errors. Apparently Fidel said so in 1975. Citizens in our own country need to appreciate our economy, and its usually successful mix of social and capital opportunities. Puritanism of any sort is a dubious endeavor.

The Interest Section guy gave us what I feel was a profound insight into community when I asked about whether the government had the consent of the governed: people tend to be content with their everyday realities. Cuban regulations are mostly an exaggerated version of our own need to submit our plans to city councils, zoning boards, engineering and building departments, and FDA etc.. When they frustrate our desires, you could say we have "bumped up against the government" and are either temporarily or permanently disgruntled. 

Abel was great. I loved his nuance of societal self-criticism. Our country could benefit as much as theirs from mutual travel between us so that more of our thoughtless population might gain something from the social sophistication he exudes. And he was warm and fun.

Havana Havana Havana. I grew up in the country chasing cows off highway 66, so I love cities.

Though his name escapes me (I'm terrible with names), the time we spent in the presence the author, architect and revolutionary in Havana was a true unforgettable learning experience about art and honor. 
In regard, however, to the young artist we met in the wonder home/garden we met was another story for me. Having been a struggling artist, though successful enough to make a living doing just what I wanted to do with my art, I was interested to hear what I felt to be the cynical careerism (typical of all schools of art that I knew in NYC) of the artist who so nakedly sought to fit into the art "scene" in the USA. Moving to Cuba to be more interesting to Mary Broome and emulating the styles of his heroes didn't supply to my sense of what I hope artists bring to the world—struggle be damned. That's judgmental of me but that's what artists invite when they display their work. RenĂ©e had very positive feelings about him and his work. Ibrahim may have developed a bit of an artistic gimmick, but at least it is his own and I like the print I got just because I do. It would be interesting to research some other artists to visit, maybe in a dedicated tour. 

I was a bit disappointed—probably unrealistically—that each of the mission beneficiaries seemed to me to be so involved only with their specific religious sects. I was glad to support them as people, but I would have liked it better had they presented themselves as more committed to their communities regardless of one's desire for eternal life. Unfair again, no doubt. I would happily support community centers—but that's not what our visas (thank you Susie!) allowed.
 It was wonderful to travel with you all. We hope we have made some enduring friendships and look to see you again. 

OK, Susie. What's next? I hope to be able to find the time to go on an adventure with you again.

With warmest regards,

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Italy--June 2012
What an A++ experience for us.  We loved the personal attention of the tour guides and unique experiences.  It cost more than we usually spend, but the value was there.  Thanks so much for helping us plan our adventure.--Sonnie

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Art of Travel Educational
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Lecture by Ian Miller

Susie:  I wanted to say thanks for yesterday.  Amy enjoyed it also.  I thought we were lucky to get to be at the DMNS and hear that wonderful man, Ian Miller....  Nancy
Ian Miller (left) at DMNS

Hi Susie:
Well, Garrett arrived safely back in Seattle on the 4th of July....  He was full of individual vignettes but I think his favorite part was the initial "bush experience" in the Bristol Bay region and Lake Iliamna.  ...while he was at Crystal Creek he fished the local river there for two days....he did love Rainbow King and the variety of fishing that they exposed him to...pike, halibut, rainbows, salmon, grayling.

His experience at North Face Lodge was a happy one too.  He saw lots of animals and went hiking every day....  Came home with lots of photos....  He saw wolves, bear, caribou, moose and dall sheep and oh yes, a fox.  He did make the Polar Flight that you set him up with, in spite of doubtful weather in Fairbanks.  He enjoyed seeing the trucks that used the "ice road" and the pipeline....  Suffice it to say, he had a fabulous time...met lots of people and even took an all night hike in Katmai National park with some of the staff there.  Sounds scary to me, but he loved it.  Bears were in short supply in Katmal this year.  A heavy winter and very late spring delayed the salmon and along with them the bears.  He saw only one in's hard to believe since Nancy and I must have seen close to a hundred when we were there.  All in all, a successful trip for him.  Thanks muchly for all your good planning....  Fondly, Nancy

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alaska Trip
Dee:  Your help is worth much more than this!  You've been terrific!--Thank you, Jane

Friday, July 6, 2012

Paris Trip
Dee:  We cannot thank you enough for all your wonderful planning and effort on our Paris trip.  Whatever would I do without your fabulous help.  Many thanks, Nancy

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Turkey/Greece Trip in May, 2012
Trip was great, and all of the guides were very good....You did a great job for us Susie.  Thanks, Molly

Susie, Thank you so much for the opportunity to view the brilliant collection of Konovalenko's gemstone sculptures, to hear Steve Nash's lecture and then to have Konovalenko himself to stop by for a riveting visit!  Wow, plus a lovely luncheon.  Thank you for a delightful afternoon.  You are the best!  Nancy

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Art of Travel is excited to announce some new links just installed here on our blog.  See the top of the column on the right--you can now click on the link for our website, our travel videos recently posted to YouTube, and to Podbean for our educational audio lectures.  For those of you who have missed our recent Art of Travel Educationals on Burma/Myanmar--one by Patrick McDonald and another by Mary Lanius; if you have a MAC or Ipad or Ipod, you can now listen to the lectures through Podbean at your convenience.   Enjoy these new additions!  And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to call Susie Mammel at 303-722-3818!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"We had a wonderful trip.  Arrived back as scheduled last night.  Everything was fabulous.  It was like opening a new gift at each new destination.  Thank you so much for your skillful planning!"--Julie

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hawaii Mauna Lani Hotel
"It was great, thanks, Susie.  The hotel was lovely, the rooms were great, service was great, quiet time of year there!"--Jill (visited Hawaii with her family of four)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comments--Italy Trip

Lise Apatoff is the author of Italianissimo and a guide in Italy. She recently spent a couple of days with our clients in Florence. After the tour she emailed Susie Mammel to say,
I had a wonderful time with the Smith family--really enjoyed our time together, they were all 3 very interesting.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Italy Trip

All did work beautifully with the train from Rome to Perugia and then the car to Assisi. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Umbria with Anne Robichaud. We are now in our beautiful rooms at Castel Monastero in Tuscany. Thank you so much, Julie