How to Conquer Long-Hauls and Arrive Refreshed: Travel Advisor Judy Stein

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We talked to NYC-based Virtuoso travel advisor Judy Stein for her best tips and product picks while traveling.

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About to take off for New Zealand.

How do you make 14 hours in a plane feel more like a spa?

“It’s all about comfort. I have my ‘plane leggings’ and soft and fuzzy socks that I wear on every long-haul flight. After I shower, before my flight, I put on a favorite lotion, like Hermès Le Jardin de Monsieur Li. It smells so nice, but it’s subtle and won’t offend other passengers – just enough to make me feel good.

What products do you bring with you for a flight?

I always bring my Neutrogena makeup remover towelettes and micellar water. My face needs to be clean before I sleep. Then it’s all about the night creams – first, I put on Sisley Hydra-Global face lotion, then my Sisley Eye & Lip Contour eye cream.

Do you have any rituals before, during, and after you land?

I hydrate well, add new songs to my playlists, put my hair in a ponytail, and off I go. I usually work quite a bit to clean out my inbox, and then I can relax and tune out.

Do you eat plane food?

I look forward to the mixed nuts, as I don’t eat them much any other time, and I’ll sometimes have a glass of wine depending on the time of day and my mood. I’ll nibble on the salad and splurge a bit if there is a pretzel roll (the only time I’ll eat one is on a plane!). I tend to go vegetarian and eat as little as possible on the plane. I bring a bunch of protein bars with me.

Any favorite TV shows to recommend?

I’m watching This is Us, a great show!

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How Cruise Lines Help Preserve Our Planet

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By: Susan Hanson

Cruise lines and environmentally focused groups unite to celebrate and protect our planet.

Greening the Galápagos

Santa Cruz Island’s lush cloud forest is home to the largest of 15 Scalesia species found in the Galápagos. These native trees and shrubs, which provide sanctuary to numerous types of endemic birds, are often compared to Darwin’s finches for their remarkable adaptability to the archipelago’s different vegetation zones. Scalesia are among the 30,000-plus seedlings planted in Santa Cruz’s Los Gemelos highlands as part of an ongoing collaborative effort between Celebrity Cruises and Galápagos National Park. Celebrity passengers and crew members alike have taken part in the reforestation project, which aims to restore areas affected by humans and invasive plants. Their enthusiasm and hard work have helped the program exceed its initial goal by 150 percent so far.

A tree grows in the Galápagos. Photo by Celebrity Cruises.

Music of the Sphere

An indri – the world’s largest lemur – performing aerial acrobatics in Madagascar’s forest and a fearless giraffe escaping a lion trap set in the Namib desert are just a few of the stars in BBC Earth’s hit documentary series Planet Earth II. Their feats are even more amazing when accompanied by a live orchestra during Planet Earth II in Concert, now showing on most Holland America Line ships. The new multimedia production, which combines incredible nature footage from the series with music from Oscar winner Hans Zimmer, complements additional BBC Earth programming on board.

Planet Earth II in Concert. Photo by Holland America Line.Gauguin Gone Wild 

Protecting the world’s last intact wild places begins with education. Paul Gauguin Cruises’ Wildlife Discovery Series brings Merry Camhi, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Seascape program, aboard the 332-passenger Gauguin to share her research and insights on marine ecosystems during an eight-day Tahiti and Society Islands cruise.

Top photo: Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises. 

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Happy 300th Birthday San Antonio, We Love You.

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San Antonio is in the spotlight this year, as the city celebrates its tricentennial. As a native Texan, San Antonio means a lot to me. I was keenly interested in the Alamo as a kid and adored trips to see its battered walls and storied relics. But as I grew up, each trip to the Alamo City brought new discoveries. I fell in love with its rich history (it isn’t all about the Alamo), inclusive culture, vivid colors, and music (conjunto and tejano, por favor).  The city epitomizes the Lone Star State’s past and constantly changing present.

Here are five things to love about San Antonio:

1) The Missions

Mission Concepción. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

In 2015, San Antonio’s missions – including the Alamo – became official UNESCO World Heritage sites. The four southernmost Spanish colonial missions – San José, Concepción, San Juan, and Espada – are included in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and are much larger and less crowded than the Alamo. Each of these intricately designed missions, where priests and Native Americans lived and worked, date to the 1700s. Each of the four still have active Catholic parishes with regular services and are linked by the eight-mile Mission Reach, a stretch of recreational space, picnic areas, pavilions, and portals to the missions.

2) Puffy Tacos

Puffy tacos. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

Listen to me: Do not skip trying a puffy taco – they’re life changing. A San Antonio original, they feature a puffed shell, made by frying uncooked masa in hot oil until air pockets form. The tacos are topped with ingredients such as picadillo beef, cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and tomato, and other fillings. Ray’s Drive Inn lays claim to the creation; locals also swear by Henry’s Puffy Tacos. Just don’t leave without trying one.

3) The River Walk

The River Walk. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Ernie Pyle once called the River Walk the “American Venice.� The network of walkways hugging the San Antonio River is a favorite for tourists, but also residents, with restaurants, riverboat rides, art galleries, nightlife, and more. Stroll along it at night when the water shimmers with patio and storefront lights. Or hop on an evening boat cruise to enjoy a different vantage point and cool breezes (depending on the time of year!).

4) Great Hotels

Perched on the banks of the San Antonio River, Hotel Emma transformed a nineteenth-century brewery into a sophisticated boutique hotel. Today, the 146-room property offers a locally focused casual restaurant (think crispy, smoked quail with corn relish and potatoes) and spacious guest rooms with the building’s original concrete beams, exposed pipes, and colorful tilework.

Hotel Emma. Photo by Nicole Franzen.

For a taste of Texas hill country, check into La Cantera Resort & Spa, a 496-room resort situated atop one of the highest points in the city. Thirty-four private villas were unveiled last summer, and the adults-only floor comes with daily access to the 25,000 square-foot spa, where treatments are available in the treehouse-like Sky Lofts situated above the golf course.

5) Market Square

Market Square. Photo by Visit San Antonio.

Old Mexico comes to life at Market Square – more than 100 locally owned shops and stalls that form the largest Mexican market in the U.S. Vendors sell everything from tacos and margaritas to handmade Mexican dresses and authentic Talavera pottery. Check out the working artists who set up along the outdoor plazas, and look for Mexican dances scheduled on stage. The venue is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM.

Top photo courtesy of Visit San Antonio. 

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10 Things You Have to See at the Harry Potter Studios

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Fans of J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter book series know that Harry is “the boy who lived.� Harry Potter definitely lives on at “Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter,� where fans get a close-up look at magical beings, artifacts, and sets from the Harry Potter movies. Here, ten things not to miss at the studio tour.

1) Dumbledore’s Office

Dumbledore’ office.

Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, the headmaster, retreated to his quiet office for studying and peace. Located in one of Hogwarts’ highest towers, his office housed hundreds of books (which are actually British phonebooks covered in leather), alongside astrological trinkets such as telescopes and star charts, a nod to Dumbledore’s fascination with the skies. Keep an eye out for the Memory Cabinet where the headmaster kept his memories and those of others. It’s filled with more than 800 tiny, handmade, and hand-labeled vials next to the Pensieve. Eagle-eye visitors will also spot  the Sorting Hat and the Sword of Gryffindor, which are situated in the office, too.

2) Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley.

Although Muggles (those without magical powers) couldn’t access Diagon Alley in the books and movies, they can finally get a glimpse of it now – without knocking on the special brick three times inside the Leaky Cauldron. Check out Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes shop, a three-story orange storefront with a 20-foot mannequin above the entrance, where Weasley twins Fred and George designed products reflecting their love of trickery. Be sure and see Ollivanders wand shop, home to more than 17,000 individually labeled wand boxes. 

3) The Great Hall

The Great Hall.

When J.K. Rowling took the studio tour and saw the Great Hall, she said it was like “walking inside� her own head. The Great Hall (at capacity, it can seat 400 children) set the stage for many bountiful feasts at Hogwarts. Today, you can walk on the actual solid stone floor and admire the wooden tables, crafted for the films and aged with chain and axe marks. (Who got that job?) Look for graffiti carved in the tables by Hogwarts pupils (aka child actors) throughout the years – they were encouraged to make their mark by production designer Stuart Craig.

Teacher costumes in the Great Hall.

4) Forbidden Forest

The Forbidden Forest.

Hippogriffs, unicorns, Acromantulas, and other peculiar creatures live in the dark, hazy Forbidden Forest. Here, you can see one of Rubeus Hagrid’s original costumes on display, and walk beneath towering trees where the studio can change the weather like the filmmakers did. Watch out for a full-size Buckbeak (make sure to bow to him), and don’t get scared when you come face to face with Aragog, the Acromantula with an 18-foot leg span who appears before visitors with his spiderlings. 

5) Gryffindor Common Room

The Gryffindor Common Room.

In one of the series’ oldest sets, Harry, Ron, and Hermione plotted out many of their adventures. Portraits on the walls represent the Gryffindor Heads of House, such as a young Professor Minerva McGonagall. See Harry’s Invisibility Cloak, one of several made for the films – some cloaks had green fabric lining to allow the visual effects team to create the sense of “invisibility� on screen. Walk up the spiral staircase to see the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory, with Harry, Ron, and Neville’s original beds. You might notice how small the beds are – filmmakers had to get crafty with camera angles as the boys outgrew their beds.

6) Potions Classroom

The Potions Classroom with Professor Snape’s outfit.

The Potions Classroom contains roughly 500 potion jars, each with its own unique label. Look for props like baked animal bones from a local butcher shop and dried herbs. Inscribed on the archways you’ll see the English and Latin names of potions, selected from ancient alchemy recipes.

Potion jars in the Potions Classroom.

7) The Backlot

Number Four, Privet Drive.

The Backlot is home to exterior sets like Number Four, Privet Drive – home of the unbeloved Dursley family who raised Harry. Check out the 22-foot tall purple shape-shifting Knight Bus from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was created from pieces of three old London double-decker buses. Two versions of the bus were built: a motorized, working one, and a stunt version that spun on a turntable.

The Knight Bus.

8) Platform 9 ¾ and Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express train.

Harry Potter himself doubted its existence for a brief moment, but Platform 9 ¾ is real at the studio, now available for us Muggles to see. Most of the track scenes were shot on location at King’s Cross Station in London, but the station platform was created on a soundstage for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two.

9) Creature Effects

Creatures from the Harry Potter movies.

On set, the Creature Effects team made magic to create the sounds of squealing Mandrakes, or the giant serpent Basilisk. They also created the makeup effects for characters such as Griphook the goblin and the Dark Lord himself, Voldemort. Throughout the series, the team made hundreds of creatures and detailed prosthetics, including a life-size version of Dobby (the Malfoys’ house elf) and three animatronic (lifelike robot) versions of Fawkes the Phoenix.

The Basilisk.

10) Hogwarts Castle Model

Hogwarts Castle Model.

Building the model for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry took time and enormous effort  – 86 artists worked to capture every single tower, courtyard, and turret of the castle for the first film. The team would later add and enhance effects for the final movie. Artists installed more than 2,500 fiber optic lights, which mimic lanterns, torches, and students walking the halls. They used real gravel for rocks and boulders, and live plants for landscaping and trees. If you add up the actual labor hours that went into its construction, the sum totals more than 74 years.

**Tickets for Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter are available at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk and must be booked in advance. Tickets are not available for purchase on site.

Your travel advisor can work with one of Virtuoso’s on-site connections to craft a customized England [or U.K.] tour that includes tickets to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, along with visits to real-life filming locations such as Leadenhall Market and Millennium Bridge.

All photos by Warner Bros. Studio Tour London — The Making of Harry Potter.

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Where Are Luxury Travelers Going This Summer?

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Where are luxury travelers going this June, July, and August? Virtuoso has analyzed its data from $40.7 billion in travel transactions to reveal the top ten most popular summer destinations, as well as the top ten fastest-growing destinations.

Top Ten – Summer 2018

Europe’s beauty, charm, and history will always be popular for travelers and represents eight of the top ten countries this year. Rounding out the list are Canada, renowned as an adventure and family destination, and South Africa, with a buzzy arts and culinary scene in Cape Town.
1. United Kingdom
2. Italy
3. Canada
4. France
5. South Africa
6. Greece
7. Germany
8. Netherlands
9. Ireland
10. Spain

Hot 10 – Summer 2018

These countries have seen the largest growth in year-over-year bookings. Greece is emerging from financial upheaval, while Poland attracts travelers looking for something less-touristed (and with better value). For island appeal, travelers are looking to the Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, and Saint Lucia, all of which had minimal to no impact from the September 2017 hurricanes.
Number one on the Hot List? Greece.
1. Greece
2. Poland
3. Dominican Republic
4. New Zealand
5. Zambia
6. Morocco
7. Turks and Caicos Islands
8. Saint Lucia
9. Vietnam
10. Egypt

Data is sourced from Virtuoso’s U.S. and Canadian travel agency members and reflects travel for June, July and August 2018.

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Virtuoso Traveler: June 2018

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Virtuoso Traveler: June/July 2018
It’s time for your next adventure, and it begins with the June issue of Virtuoso Traveler. Get back to nature with stylish tree-house stays from Virginia to South Africa, train or trek your way to Machu Picchu, and indulge your inner child at one of our favorite summer camps for grown-ups, where time is filled with tennis lessons, cattle drives, cooking classes – and yes, campfire s’mores. Also on the roster: Alaska by small ship, long weekends in Big Sur, field-tested birding gear, sustainability in the Seychelles, and Virtuoso travel advisors’ top picks on where to get your greens (we’re talking golf getaways, though kale’s always a good choice).

-Joel Centano, Editor of Virtuoso Traveler

Virtuoso Traveler: June/July 2018

 

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