May 2016 Travel Column

Carnegie Hall at 125

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, the famous quip goes.

Of course, a talent for music isn’t the only way to get a glimpse inside and with the 125th anniversary of its opening taking place this year, 2016 is the perfect time to visit one of New York City’s oldest and most celebrated concert venues.

Funded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, the Italian Renaissance-style building was designed as a home for the New York Symphony. Renowned for its superb acoustics, it opened on May 5, 1891, as the Music Hall, with a concert conducted by famed Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Over the past 125 years, the biggest names from the worlds of classical, jazz and pop music have graced Carnegie Hall’s three stages, including the Beatles on their first visit to the United States in February 1964. Carnegie Hall has also hosted lectures by luminaries from a broad spectrum of American life, from Mark Twain to Teddy Roosevelt to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

After Carnegie’s death, the building was sold and by 1960, it was slated for demolition to make way for a skyscraper. A campaign to save Carnegie Hall culminated in its purchase by the City of New York. Today the building is a National Historic Landmark and run by a nonprofit corporation, its future ensured for generations to come.

The best way to experience Carnegie Hall’s grandeur is by attending a concert. A 125th anniversary gala will be held May 5 with appearances by, among others, opera singer Renee Fleming, violinist Yitzhak Perlman and singer-songwriter James Taylor. But there’s more to see and hear, with concerts and recitals taking place almost every day from September to July. Upcoming events include performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra on May 11 and piano virtuoso Evgeny Kissin on May 19. This year also marks the 125th birthday of Cole Porter, and Carnegie Hall will celebrate his music with a concert on June 7. For visitors who want a close-up look, one-hour tours are offered from October to late June. Finally, the Rose Museum tells the story of Carnegie Hall through concert programs, photographs, posters and manuscripts.

The spot that Andrew Carnegie picked for his music hall, on Seventh Avenue between West 56th and West 57th Streets, was so far uptown that it was considered almost suburban. Today, Carnegie Hall is part of bustling midtown Manhattan. It’s a couple blocks from the tree-lined paths of Central Park, and not far from the stores and restaurants at The Shops at Columbus Circle. Around the corner is the Russian Tea Room, a favorite haunt of writers, artists and performers since 1927. Numerous movies and TV shows have filmed in the opulent dining room, including “Tootsie” and “Sex and the City.” Madonna once worked there as a coat-check clerk. Across the street is the Carnegie Deli, famed for its overstuffed sandwiches and chicken soup with matzo balls.

For help planning a trip to New York City, contact your travel agent.


Understanding the State Department’s Travel Alert for Europe

For Americans planning a trip abroad, State Department advisories can be confusing. Terms that may sound similar actually mean very different things for travelers.

In March, the State Department issued a Travel Alert for Europe. Alerts are issued for short-term events that the U.S. government believes Americans should know about when planning a trip. The current alert expires on June 20.

Travel Alerts are quite different from Travel Warnings, which the State Department also issues. The two are completely separate categories and are not interchangeable.

An alert does not warn against travel to a particular region or country. The State Department is not warning against traveling to Europe but is alerting Americans to be aware of potential risks and to be vigilant, as always. It’s important to understand that the recent Travel Alert for Europe is in keeping with the longstanding Worldwide Caution that has been in effect for more than a decade.

A State Department alert offers the type of advice that travelers should keep in mind whenever and wherever they go abroad. That includes being aware of your surroundings, especially during festivals, in crowds and when using mass transit, being prepared for additional security screenings, monitoring information on the ground and factoring that into travel plans, following the instructions of local authorities and ensuring that family members know how to reach you in an emergency.

As part of preparations for a trip abroad, Travel Leaders recommends that Americans follow the advice of the State Department and register their plans through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Enrollment will make it easier for the State Department to contact a traveler if there’s a family emergency, as well as alert travelers to important information about places where they’re heading. The State Department also has a helpful Traveler’s Checklist on its website.

The safety of their clients is the top priority for Travel Leaders agents, who want to ensure that a long-anticipated vacation goes off without a hitch.

Travel Leaders agents closely monitor the State Department website for alerts for all destinations, including the ones most popular with clients. They work with respected hotels, resorts, cruise lines, tour operators and others to keep informed about security precautions and to guard the safety of clients. Travel Leaders agents provide the most up-to-date information so that clients can make informed decisions about their travel plans.

All travelers, no matter what country they visit, can take precautions to help ensure their safety. Those steps include following your instincts to avoid risky areas, checking with tour guides and hotel officials about any large gatherings, respecting the laws of the country, avoiding the display of expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money or other valuables, checking medical insurance to make sure it covers overseas care and if it doesn’t, consider buying travel insurance, and checking with your cell phone provider to see if your phone is capable of roaming on international networks.

For help planning a trip in Europe or anywhere around the world, contact your travel agent.


Croatia and Slovenia: 25 Years of Independence

Once part of Yugoslavia, Croatia and Slovenia will mark 25 years of independence on June 25, making 2016 a great time for intrepid travelers to discover these two Central European countries.

Croatia and Slovenia share a border and are both members of the European Union, as well as strong U.S. allies. They’re also full of opportunities for sightseeing, from picturesque and historic town squares to breathtaking national parks, from castles to sidewalk cafes.

Croatia, with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea, has miles of pristine beaches where visitors can soak up the sun as well as take part in recreational activities like scuba diving and water skiing. Offshore are more than a thousand islands, including Hvar, a summer resort with restaurants, boutiques and a vibrant nightlife, a beautiful old town square and green hills that beckon hikers.

History buffs should head to Split, the largest city in the coastal region of Dalmatia, known for the Roman-era fortress Diocletian’s Palace, dating from the 4th century. From July 15 to 17, Split will host the Ultra Music Festival, devoted to the best in electronic music. For nature lovers, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-see. Thick forests surround 16 interconnected lakes, making the park one of Croatia’s most scenic spots.

Dubrovnik, often called the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” should be at the top of the list for any trip to Croatia. While the city is familiar to fans of “Game of Thrones” as one of the places where the popular HBO series is filmed, that’s just the beginning of reasons to visit. Take a walk along the ancient walls that have protected the city for centuries, then venture into the Old Town, where the Stradun, a pedestrian walkway, is lined with shops and cafes, historic buildings and monuments. The Dubrovnik Summer Festival takes place from July 10 to Aug. 25, offering a program of classical music, theater, opera and dance.

With 60 percent of the country covered by forests, Slovenia is a great place for travelers who love spending time in the great outdoors.

Triglav National Park, in the Julian Alps along the border with Italy, offers opportunities for hiking, cycling, mountain climbing and skiing, as well as breathtaking scenery. Lake Bled, home of the medieval Bled Castle and the 17th-century Church of the Assumption, is a popular resort in the Julian Alps.

For an unforgettable experience, go underground to explore the halls and tunnels of Postojna Cave in southwestern Slovenia. A train takes visitors into the cave for a 90-minute tour.

Ljubljana, the capital, is a small city that’s easy to explore. Bridges connect old and new sections and are popular gathering spots for artists, musicians, painters and tourists. On Fridays from March to October, Ljubljana’s Central Market is turned into a festival of street food, with chefs preparing their specialties. The city’s green spaces, including the expansive Tivoli Park, are perfect for nature lovers.

For help planning a trip to Croatia or Slovenia – or both – contact your travel agent. 


 

Argentina Bicentennial

Have you ever thought of exploring the southern hemisphere of the Americas? If so, this coming July 9 marks Argentina’s bicentennial of its Declaration of Independence, when it severed its ties with Spain. The 200th anniversary is a time for celebration and for discovering this lively South American nation.

Most travelers will start a trip to Argentina in Buenos Aires, the capital. This cosmopolitan city that gave the world the tango has a European charm, rich culture and bustling nightlife.

Must-see sights include La Casa Rosada, or the “Pink House,” which serves as the office of Argentina’s president; La Recoleta Cemetery, resting place of Argentine notables including Eva Peron and known for its elaborate marble mausoleums and statues; and Teatro Colon, the city’s ornate opera house that’s considered one of the world’s finest. Be sure to leave time for strolling through Buenos Aires’ historic and colorful neighborhoods. One of the city’s oldest, San Telmo, has cobblestone streets that are filled with cafés, pubs and street performers dancing the tango. On Sundays, the neighborhood’s Plaza Dorrego is the site of a popular antiques market.

Buenos Aires also has one of Argentina’s largest Independence Day ceremonies, with hundreds of thousands of people gathering to watch parades and listen to live music. Food plays a major role in the festivities and it’s a good time to try some of the country’s specialties, including barbecued beef, red wine and pastelitos, puffed pastries stuffed with sweet or savory fillings.

But there’s so much to see in Argentina beyond Buenos Aires. It’s a country of great beauty and the diverse landscape ­– mountains, rivers, lakes and forests, – will delight outdoor enthusiasts of all types.

To view some of Argentina’s most stunning scenery, travel south to the city of Bariloche in the Patagonia region, a 2½-hour flight from Buenos Aires. Located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Bariloche is renowned for its alpine architecture and chocolate manufacturing. Visitors will find numerous chocolate shops on the main street, along with stores selling wool and wooden handicrafts. Surrounding the city is Nahuel Huapi National Park. Established in 1934, it’s Argentina’s oldest and offers a wide variety of recreational activities, from hiking, and golfing to horseback riding and kayaking. From June to August, Argentina’s winter, Bariloche is also a center of skiing and snowboarding.

Since temperatures will be milder, winter is also a great time to visit Iguazu Falls, one of the world’s most spectacular natural features. The 275 waterfalls, located on the border between Argentina and Brazil – and just miles away from Paraguay – reach an altitude of nearly 260 feet. The closest city to the falls is about a 2-hour plane flight north of Buenos Aires. A narrow-gauge railway takes visitors through the rainforest to trails and footbridges that afford up-close views. But that’s only part of the experience. The national park that surrounds Iguazu is home to diverse plant and animal life including jaguars, anteaters, toucans and butterflies. Other ways to experience the falls include a moonlight tour and by a boat that goes right underneath them.

For help planning a trip to Argentina, contact your travel agent.


Business Travel: For Road Warriors, Aircraft Makes the Difference

If you were to poll those hearty business travelers who are always on the road – which ironically means frequently flying – they are likely to regale you with stories about their favorite aircraft. Quite frequently, they’ll tell you their favorite planes are those manufactured by Boeing.

For decades, Boeing aircraft have carried business travelers across the country and around the world and this year, the iconic American company is celebrating its centennial.

The company’s founder, William Edward Boeing, was born in Detroit in 1881, the son of a German immigrant entrepreneur who died when Boeing was 8 years old. In 1903, after attending Yale University, Boeing moved to Washington state to learn the logging business. But flying became his passion. He took lessons and in 1915, bought his first airplane.

Boeing soon became convinced that there was a future for aviation and that he could build a better plane. On July 15, 1916, he incorporated the Pacific Aero Products Co. for $100,000 and started building planes at his Seattle shipyard. The name was changed to the Boeing Airplane Company the next year.

With the U.S. entry into World War I, Boeing manufactured aircraft for the Navy and with the war’s end, began building commercial planes as well. In 1919, a Boeing airplane delivered mail from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Seattle, the first international airmail to reach the United States. By 1928, Boeing had the largest plant in America devoted solely to manufacturing aircraft, employing about 1,000 people. In the 1930s and ‘40s, the company built military aircraft like the legendary B-17 “Flying Fortress” that helped win World War II.

In 1958, Pan American World Airways took delivery of a Boeing 707, the United States’ first commercial jet airliner, which began flying daily from New York to Paris, carrying 111 passengers and a crew of 12. The 707 was the first in a series of Boeing jets that would help usher in a new era, as travel by air eclipsed travel by sea and rail.

Today, Boeing jets have made great strides in reducing noise, increasing fuel efficiency and improving cabin design. Those are all important factors for business travelers, who may spend hundreds of hours in the air each year.

The smaller, short-range Boeing 737 is the most-ordered plane in the history of commercial aviation. The plane’s design offers an open look that’s rare in a single-aisle jet. Pivoting overhead bins are easy to reach, lessening stress during boarding and upon arrival. Passenger-service units make it easy to control lighting and air circulation.

Boeing’s 777 consistently wins accolades from frequent flyers for its comfort and conveniences that make it easy for them to get work done while in the air. Business class offers a spacious cabin with a seating arrangement that affords privacy and quick access to the aisle, along with plenty of room to open a laptop and store carry-ons.

The long-range 787 Dreamliner, which made its maiden flight in 2009, offers industry-leading technology. Cabins are outfitted with soft LED lighting that generates less heat, bigger windows that provide more natural light and overhead bins with more storage space. Advances in cabin pressure and filtration systems make the air cleaner and the flight more comfortable.

Then there is the granddaddy jumbo jet, the 747. While many airlines are phasing out its service in favor of lighter planes that don’t use as much fuel, the 747 will always hold a special place in the hearts of frequent flyers who particularly enjoyed life in the bubble – the cabin on top of the main cabin – which usually offered creature comforts that make it feel as though you’re flying on your own private aircraft.

For help planning a business trip and determining the type of aircraft you’ll be flying on for long and short hauls, contact your travel agent.

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