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09
March
2013

Room Service? There’s a monk in my room!

This is a hypothetical situation since if you were staying at the Shukubo on Mount Koya on Japan’s Honshu Island you would; first of all, have no phone to call room service and second you would be eagerly anticipating the arrival of your shojin ryori meal and the monk who would serve it. Perhaps, however, some context is required.


18
January
2013

Castles in name only

Visitors to Rome have a treasure trove of activities to fill their time whether they are lovers of history, art, fashion or food. There comes a time however when you may want to emulate the Romans themselves and take a day trip to Castelli Romani. By doing so you will not only be following the example of contemporary Romans but of Popes from centuries past and, before  them, the Emperors and distinguished citizens of Imperial Rome.


28
December
2012

Could this be El Dorado?

There is a town in the southern region of Ecuador that has been continuously occupied for at least 7,500 and possibly as long at 10,000 years. It sits in a valley created by the confluence of four rivers, part of the Amazon watershed, surrounded by the Andes. Situated at an elevation of 8,300 feet it offers spring-like temperatures, warm in the day and cold enough for sweaters in the evenings. In Spanish a basin caused by rivers is called a Cuenca and that is the name of the town today.


10
December
2012

How to meet your Dragon…And impress your kids!

If you want to be a hero to your kids or your kids and grandkids you could take them all on a cruise or to a theme park in Florida. If you want to be a super hero however you take them to a remote, but safe, land where they can care for an elephant, learn about rice farming, explore a bat cave and meet a dragon face to face. We’re talking bragging rights at school for the next semester. All this is possible if you let Ultitude take you and your family to Indonesia.


30
November
2012

Canyon of the Condors

When you have risen at 5am, had an early breakfast, and the traveled to a spot on the face of a canyon with its bottom close to 4,000 feet below you have the right to expect something special and you are not disappointed. As the sun rises higher in the sky it warms the base of the canyon and creates the updrafts of air called thermals that support some of the largest birds in the world as they soar in search of their morning prey.


08
November
2012

Home, Home on the Puszta

When you think of Hungary you may not think of wide open spaces but just as Russia has its Steppes, Argentina its Pampas and America its prairie, Hungary has its Puszta which translates as “empty, bare grassy plain”. This great plain stretches from the Danube to the Eastern border and, with a land mass larger than Holland takes up about a third of the country.


22
October
2012

The Barrios of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is one of the world’s great cities and the 3rd largest in South America. Like all great cities it has its grand avenues, plazas, fountains and parks; so much so that it is often referred to as the “Paris of South America”. But like other melting pot cities it is a city of neighborhoods some rich some less so but each one having something unique to attract the immigrants who live there and the visitors who explore there.


07
October
2012

Where were the Spanish?

Any tourist or prospective tourist thinking about Rome will always mention the Spanish Steps as a focal point or even a place to meet. While there is a connection to Spain, they were actually commissioned by a Pope, designed by an Italian, paid for by a Frenchman, are eternally associated with an English Romantic poet, two English spinsters and an American institution that unintentionally launched the slow food movement.


15
September
2012

Far from Saigon

Although they are both part of the same country, Saigon and Sapa could not be further apart, geographically, climatically or culturally. While Saigon is situated far to the South in the steamy Mekong Delta as it flows into the South China Sea, Sapa is about as far north as you can get without being in China. While Saigon is at sea level, Sapa sits at 9,500 feet and while Saigon marks the end of the Mekong River, Sapa marks the end of the Himalayan region.


07
September
2012

A Table at Gundel

Given enough time, writing space and reader interest it would be easy to list a variety of compelling reasons why you should spend time in Hungary and Budapest. It could be the charm of the illuminated chain bridge at night connecting Buda and Pest across the Danube, the wonderful shopping experiences on Vaci and Andrassy Streets or the touristy charm of gypsy violins playing during dinner. If you were to ask forcefully however and say “Give me one good reason why I should go to Budapest!” The one word answer would have to be Gundel.


15
August
2012

Explorations in a Remote World

The Island of Pascua was initially discovered by natives of the Marquesas and was theirs alone until a Dutchman happened to come across the island in 1722. The original people were Polynesians and they developed a society that believed that the spirits of ancestors could be stored in stone carvings fulfilling a dual purpose of protecting the ancestors remaining in the physical world and enhancing the spirits in the other world. These statues carved from soft volcanic rock from an inland quarry, bore the images of the departed, were larger than life and were called Moais by the people who carved them. In turn they called themselves Rapanui which was also their name for the land. Isla de Pascua translates to Easter Island based on the day of its discovery by Europeans.


03
August
2012

A Farm in Africa

“I had a farm in Africa”… With these words Karen Baroness Blixen starts her epic work “Out of Africa”. The picture that most often comes to mind when discussing East Africa is of the great game parks with their natural wild life and indeed it is the main reason for visiting the area. There is more to East Africa however and farming is another key element.


29
July
2012

There’s a movie here, somewhere

For the first time traveler to India there is no more important stop along the way than Agra and the Taj Mahal, a testament to the love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal by the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan. While it is certainly impressive there is an equally impressive, and, in the opinion of some, more impressive edifice located less than two miles away across the Shah Jahan Gardens.


21
July
2012

The Mighty Mekong

It starts in the melting snows of Qinghai province in China and ends in the South China Sea. During its 2,700 mile journey it touches Tibet, flows through China and helps define the borders of and between Myanmar and Laos and Thailand. It flows through Cambodia past its capital, Phnom Penh before entering Vietnam where it creates a basis for a way of life both on the river itself and the delta which flows into the ocean.


11
July
2012

The Doors of Stone Town

Twenty five miles from the coast of Tanzania you find the islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago including Unguja, Pemba and Mafia. Because of their past and present exports they are also known as the Spice Islands. Unguja is commonly referred to as Zanzibar and it is home to Stone Town which is the historic part of the capital city. Because of its natural harbor, proximity to Africa and location in the path of the trade winds it started out early on as a center for trade. There is some indication that the Greeks may have visited, but the Persians definitely came and set up a trading base. Later the Portuguese conquered the island and ruled for close to two hundred years before being defeated by the Omani Sultans at the end of the 17th Century.


11
July
2012

Country Cognoscenti - East Africa

The Selous Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania is the size of Switzerland although only a small portion is currently open to exploration. A unique part of Africa

Amboseli is best known for its views of snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free standing mountain and the highest in Africa. It also inspired Hemingway's “The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

A wind-up gramophone complete with brass speaker playing Cole Porter, a table set with drinks and glasses and the sun beginning to set. It is no wonder that Sundowners are a ritual on all the best safaris.


29
June
2012

Birthplace of Empire

According to legend the sun god had his two children, a boy and a girl, spring from the waters of Lake Titicaca to create Cusco and from that the entire Inca Empire. If so the children would probably have been happy to leave the lake since at an elevation of 12,500 feet and a depth of over 900 feet, the water is a tad chilly.


14
June
2012

Country Cognoscenti - France

For the best hot chocolate in Paris stop by Angelina's, close to the Louvre, and get a chocolate fix. It’s basically melted chocolate with whipped cream on top, skip dinner.

Chateau Chambord was built by Francois I as a hunting lodge and its twenty miles of walls enclose 13,000 acres of parkland, larger than the city of Paris


14
June
2012

Hotel Napoleon… a hotel with a view and a past

The decision to visit Paris is an easy one. Which bank to stay on can sometimes be more difficult since the left bank, with its culture and bohemian aura, certainly fits a certain perception of Paris but the right bank with its iconic areas like the Champs Elysees and the Arch de Triomphe also has its supporters. It is for this reason that we offer our clients a selection of personally selected properties on both banks of the Seine. If you select a hotel on the right bank we do have to confess to a fondness for one particular property since we are pushover for a welcoming hotel that combines personalized service to today’s guests but which also has a “past” as they used to say.


06
June
2012

Sisi and the Summer Palace

Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria was never intended to be the Empress of Austria. Her mother had taken her and her older sister Helene to Austria to meet their distant relative Franz Josef who at 23 was already the Emperor of Austria. Helene was eighteen and the right age for marriage and Elisabeth, called Sisi by her family and friends, was fifteen. It was Sisi, however, who caught the Emperor’s eye and they were married a year later in 1854.



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