A year ago today, Lisa and I celebrated our anniversary with a luxurious stay-cation at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. As the hotel and restaurant staffs pampered us in our perch atop the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the pulsing energy of the city served to rejuvenate us, as we reminisced about the day we wed.

This year, we have something a bit grander in mind: two weeks in Egypt. We leave soon for a week in Cairo and a New Years luxury cruise down the Nile, from Luxor to Aswan, with Mayfair Cruises. It will be our first time with them, and we are looking forward to having some wonderful stories to tell.

Antarctica, Hurtigruten Cruise (C) Sonne

Start of para-sailing, Caribbean coast, Cancun, Mexico (C)Sonne

Dream. Go. Discover. Explore. Set your sails.

Take a leap. Sit still somewhere new. Meet yourself.

Add kindness in different time zones. Share beauty. Create laughter.

Spark an idea. Illuminate.

Whether you want to explore all seven continents or experience  your own neighborhood better, here are some inspiring travel quotes, and some images from my travels.

“Make voyages! Attempt them-there’s nothing else.”

– Tennessee Williams

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ”

– often attributed to Mark Twain

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

Bilbao Museum, Basque Country, Spain, (c) Sonne


“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ”
St. Augustine 

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” –Mohammed

Zip-lining, Nicaragua, Austin Lehman Adventures, (c) Sonne





“Adventure is worthwhile.”

– Aristotle


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

-Helen Keller


” Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.” –

-Walt Whitman

World’s largest Hot Air Balloon Festival, Albuquerque, New Mexico (c)Sonne



“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

— Martin Buber


“Three things restore a person’s good spirits: beautiful sounds, sights, and smells.”

-Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot





Moroccan Woman in the Atlas Mountains of Africa, Access Travels trip (c)Sonne

“All life is travel through time and space. Think outside the cube.”
-Lisa TE Sonne



“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

– Maya Angelou





Buddhist, Himalayas, Royal Kingdom of Bhutan, Asia (c)Sonne



“Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.”

— Dr. Howard Gardner


“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves”

– Euripides


“When travelling, kindness can be  the greatest gift, and dearest souvenir.” -Lisa TE Sonne




“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”        -Anna Quindlen

Lady Astor, Queen Victoria, Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin, Lawrence of Arabia, Kipling, Henry James, Henry Ford, Churchill all walked the grounds and halls before Cliveden House in England became a five star hotel to top the lifestyles of Downton Abbey (c) Sonne.

Maasai walking in Kenya, Africa (c)Sonne

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

– Bill Bryson

Parenting chinstrap penguin,sitting on an egg and a chick  below:






“I  like animals. I like natural history. The travel bit is not the important bit. The travel bit is what you have to do in order to go and look at animals.”

– David Attenborough



“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”                                             – Marcel Proust

After traveling on all seven continents, I saw this dolphin wave surfing at the Pacific beach fifteen minutes from my home. (c)Sonne


“To move, to breath, to fly, to float…to travel is to live.”  -Hans Christian Andersen.

Sonne and a polka-dotted whale shark by Danny Heilprin

-Lisa TE Sonne, excerpts for Luxury Travel Mavens


(c) Lisa TE Sonne, Selects from a book she is working on

All above photos by Lisa TE Sonne. Please contact her for permission to use. Lisa@Sonne.org

Please add your own inspiration and any travel/ exploration quotes you want to share in the comments section below or email them. Thanks!



Cheers to “Beet Cancer” Recipe in the article below.

October in the United States is now providing a different kind of “medical travel” — pink travel. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness, or BCA, and pink is touted to promote awareness. Various travel venues are “tickled pink” to donate some of their revenue in October to related nonprofits.

Two destination stand-outs are Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and San Diego, California (the W, Hard Rock and Hyatt Hotels) according to J Public Relations, which offers the content below, including a cocktail recipe.

If you know of other travel-for-a-cause opportunities, please share them in the comments section below. Please also let us know what you think of these.

From J Public Relations:

“San Diego- Hard Rock “Pinktober”

“Pinktober 2013 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego | San Diego, CA

Hard Rock goes a bit pink in October to help Breast Cancer Awareness in San Diego Photo from Hard Rock Website

“Stay – Hard Rock Hotel San Diego will outfit select guestrooms with special Pink Sheets, and a percentage of the room proceeds during October will benefit the campaign. The Sleep Like a Rock® bedding features the signature embroidered guitar pillowcases and plush bedding.  Guests of “Pink Sheets rooms” will also receive Hard Rock’s 2013 PINKTOBER guitar pin featuring pink rhinestones. In addition, hotel guests can opt to add a donation of any level to their guestroom bill during their stay.

 “Sip – The property’s retro-chic diner, Maryjane’s, will serve a limited-time cocktail. The restaurant team will wear pink shirts and pink gear every Sunday to promote awareness. They will hand out pink frosted guitar cookies to our hotel guests to promote awareness. They will also offer the cookies to outside guests for a donation.

 “Hard Rock Hotel’s 207 and Float bars will be offering specialty cocktails Flamingo Margaritas, Pink Floyds and Pink Dolphins with 25 percent of proceeds benefitting Hard Rock’s PINKTOBER™ 2013 campaign.

 “Savor – Rock Spa will offer an invigorating 50-minute Pink Sugar Whip body scrub to benefit PINKTOBER™.  To book a spa treatment, guests may call Rock Spa at (619) 764-6930.

 “Shop – Located lobby-level at the hotel, the boutique will feature a variety of PINKTOBER™ merchandise to benefit the cause including PINKTOBER pins, t-shirts, Pink Sheets and more.

 “W San DiegoIn honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the W San Diego is offering a ‘Drink Pink (for a cause)‘ cocktail where 50 percent of the proceeds from October will be donated to the Keep A Breast foundation.  The Drink Pink cocktail is made with Svedka colada vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry juice.  

“In conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the W will also be turning it’s ‘W’ logo outside PINK to honor the month and help further spread awareness. Inspiring, iconic,and influential, the W San Diego offers a unique mix of cutting-edge design and passions around fashion, music and entertainment.  

 “Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The beauties of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Photo from the Hotel Terra Jackson Hole website.

“Spur Restaurant & Bar at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa Hotel | Jackson Hole, WY

 “Throughout the month of October, a portion of Spur Restaurant & Bar’s ‘Beet Cancer’ cocktail will be donated to the Women’s Healthcare Fund at St. John’s Hospital in Jackson Hole.  The ‘Beet Cancer’ cocktail includes:

  • Beet ginger infused gin
  • St. Germaine elderflower liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • House made ginger syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Shaken and served up

“CHILL SPA at Hotel Terra Jackson Hole | Jackson Hole, WY

 “Chill for a Cause

 “Join forces with Chill Spa this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Book a Chill for a Cause treatment and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer division of Saint John’s Women’s Healthcare Fund

“PINK Awareness Pink Grapefruit Facial | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179: Bring life and vitality to your complexion with a vitamin-rich burst of pink grapefruit and other Eminence Organics Skincare products focusing on hydration.

“Fight Like a Girl Facial | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179, Fight bacteria with a deeply purifying facial at Chill Spa.

“Live. Love. And get a Massage | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179: Pink out your massage by choosing our specialty treatment this October.  The Live, Love massage is available in Deep Tissue or Swedish massage techniques.”

(End of quoted information from J Public Relations about pink destinations to help Breast Cancer Awareness in October. )


If you know of other luxury venues and destinations that are donating proceeds to Breast Cancer nonprofits, please share the information in comments below.  Do you think these kinds of efforts are a good way to reduce Breast Cancer?

Please also share other opportunities luxury travelers can enjoy while helping causes.

Thirteen is a lucky number if you are in the Hilton Athens in Greece. It’s the rooftop floor with the Galaxy restaurant and bar, offering drinks, food and a wonderful view of the Acropolis and Mount Lycabettus.

The Acropolis from the Galaxy restaurant at the Hilton Athens.

The Galaxy’s outdoor and indoor tables are popular with hotel guests and nightlife Athenians, according to the hotel magazine, which interviews successful local artists and entrepreneurs that use it as a meeting spot, watering hole, and a place to swap ideas.

My childhood friend and I sat alfresco with wafting warm breezes at the Galaxy bar balcony to revive ourselves after a day of active input for the eyes and cameras, and before flying home after the Ancient Mysteries, 11-day Mediterranean cruise with the Holland America Line. It was a good perch to pause between travel modes.

The Athens Hilton offers an outdoor pool in a historic region.

When we checked in Oestrisu made us feel warmly welcomed and answered all our questions- –Yes, free WiFi in the spacious marble lobby areas with lots of comfortable, airy, sitting spaces; yes, there is a swimming pool in the building and one outside; yes, the suite would have a marble bathtub and a balcony with a view; yes an  abundant buffet breakfast is included, and yes; we were close to museums, shopping and  easy transport to the airport.

Though the hotel’s large lobby area welcomed outsiders, a room key was needed to take the elevator to the top rooms.  Each lobby floor had original art work to distinguish it. Rooms with Acropolis views were all taken but we were positioned well to appreciate city views and a splendiferous sunrise over hills to start our trip home.

On shore trips we had seen hundreds of ancient columns -upright and reclined  ghosts from the  Greek and Roman civilizations from 2,000 BC on.  Looking up from dinner at the lit row of columns from “The” Acropolis was an iconic capper to our antiquities cruise.

Acropolis translates roughly as “city on the extremity,” often a citadel on top of a steep hill.  One guide told us that “there are over 5,000 acropolises in Greece, but the one in Athens is world famous.” We also

Athens National Archeological Museum

had visited many  great archeological sites in Crete, Rhodes, Corinth, and Napfion but often our guides would tell us about the artistic and artifact finds which were  not there but in museums— in Athens. Now was our chance!

This Hilton has a desirable location in central Athens,  across from a verdant park and near a Metro station. Four Euros buys an all-day Metro Pass, so it is easy to get to the Plaka, Constitution Square, the innovative Acropolis Museum (built with see through floors over an excavation site) and the renowned National Archeological Museum.

Athens Metro is easy- and colorful. Each car appears pre-painted to avoid graffiti.

Not only is the Metro faster than cabs in the often traffic congested streets, the stations themselves can be worth the descent to some of Athen’s modern underworld.  The Acropolis station had displays of artifacts unearthed during excavation for the subway and a private guide was including it in a tour, pointing to a display with a little terracotta horse with wheels and string- a toy in a grave many centuries BCE.

The Acropolis Museum in Athens

The marathon was invented in Greece long ago and my friend and I seemed to be creating a new kind of modern tourist marathon, trying to see as many exhibits as possible in our one day in Athens and absorb the lively street life and people vignettes in between museums.

That night after our view gazing from the Galaxy,  a bubble bath in the suite’s large and deep tub was a luxurious way to soak my limbs.  Immersed, I let some of the trip’s memories soak in while out in the room at the modern wooden desk, my photo chip was downloading visual memories into my computer.

The Hilton Athens  is a “Go To ” place for locals hanging at the Galaxy. For us, it was a wonderful “Go Between” place to cap off our fun cruise of  Ancient Mysteries with visits to Athen’s world class museums, and to relax and rest up  for the long flights home.

When I woke in the morning, the view from our Hilton Athen’s balcony was an exclamation mark of color at the end of a great trip, and a welcoming start to the voyage back to our other lives.

-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens

Dawn from our balcony, Athens Hilton

Photos by Lisa TE Sonne, (Except for the Pool Photo and Acropolis View image,  via Hilton)




La Dolce Vita from La Bella Vita luxury barge!

“La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life) beckons this summer in Italy! And  La Bella Vita, a luxury barge, is waiting to take visitors through the canals of  Venice and waterways of the Po Valley on a journey through centuries of architecture, romance,  poetry, and history.

Imagine the itinerary below provided by European Waterways, with cultural riches in view and culinary treats in store —from a dedicated onboard chef catering to a max of 20 passengers to onshore dining in a 17th century villa where Lord Byron wrote verses.

Sample a list of menu highlights, boat features,  and a video preview clicking here. The itinerary below is also posted on their website  along with itineraries in other countries for other floating trips through nature and culture.

Sunday, Day 1 Mantua

“Guests are met and transferred to La Bella Vita, moored in Porto Catena in Mantua. A Prosecco welcome gives you a chance to meet the crew followed by a cruise around the lakes surrounding the city or perhaps a stroll through the historic city centre and a visit to the Ducal Palace. Dinner on board

Monday, Day 2 Mantua to Zelo

“This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Mantua. This imposing city was home to the poet Virgil, artists Mantegna and Donatello and under the Lordship of the powerful Gonzaga Family. Mantua has early Etruscan origins but today is a center of extraordinary neo-classical and baroque architecture. We view the city squares, Cathedral, the Baptistery and then lunch on board followed by afternoon cruise through the Mincio Natural Park, to Zelo. Dinner aboard.

Tuesday, Day 3 Zelo to Bosaro

“Morning cruise along the Bianco Canal to Bosaro past villages and farmsteads. This afternoon we transfer for a guided tour of the Renaissance city of Ferrara, including the 14th century Estense Castle. This ancient ducal fortress with moat, drawbridges, unusual battlements and towers, houses marble balconies and sumptuous apartments. We see the Cathedral façade with its sculpted images, described as an Illustrated Bible, and visit the Schifanoia Palace with its fabulous 15th century frescoes. We conclude with a walk through the medieval city center and Jewish Ghetto before returning to La Bella Vita. Dinner on board.

La Bella Vita cruising through time in Italy

Wednesday, Day 4 Bosaro to Taglio di Po

“In the morning we visit the magnificent Renaissance gardens and wine cellars of the 17th century Villa Widmann-Borletti. For over 1000 years wine, balsamic vinegar, organic Carnaroli rice, grape seed oil and truffles have been produced on the Dominio di Bagnoli estate, which has also been famed for its exclusive D.O.C. Friularo vintages since the 17th century. Concerts, opera and art exhibitions are regular features in this magnificent property. We enjoy a private wine tasting before returning to La Bella Vita in Adria and afternoon cruise downstream along the Bianco Canal before entering the River Po and our peaceful mooring place at Taglio di Po.

“Here we have dinner ashore nearby at the beautiful 17th century Villa Ca’Zen, a private river-side stately home where we are hosted by the longstanding family owners. It was here that Lord Byron courted the Countess Guccioli and, whilst a guest at the Villa, wrote some of his most moving poetry.

Thursday, Day 5 Chioggia to San Pietro in Volta

“Morning to Porto Levante passing through a nature reserve with flamingos and occasional heron, snipe and other wildfowl. Guided tour to the ancient city of Chioggia, city of Goldoni’s plays, with ancient origins dating back over 2000 years to Roman, Etruscan and Byzantine links. We visit the Piazzatta Vigo, Vigo Bridge and 12th century Vigo column. At the Church of San Domenico, set on its own island, we see Carpaccio’s St Paul, his last recorded painting together with works of art by Tintoretto and Bassano. Chioggia’s cathedral beckons with works by Tiepolo, Giovane, Piazzetta and Diziani.

“A visit to the colourful fresh fish market completes the picture. After lunch aboard, we cruise north through the lagoon past rustic fishing huts on stilts and the island of Pellistrina, to San Pietro in Volta. Here there is the opportunity to stroll or cycle along the 18th century Istrian sea wall, with the Adriatic on one side and the lagoon on the other. Dinner aboard.

Dining room onboard La Bella Vita with moving views of Italy.

Friday, Day 6 San Pietro in Volta to Venice

“This morning we cruise to Venice, passing several lagoon islands – San Sevolo, once a hospital for the Crusaders, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, an early 18th century Armenian monastery, San Clemente, a luxury hotel and poetical Poveglia. These islands sport brightly coloured houses, painted fishing boats and tiny churches. Mooring on the waterfront outside the Naval Museum near St Marks, we make a guided tour to the center of Venice, experiencing the unique atmosphere of this magical city by visiting The Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, that was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries as well as being the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice). Captain Farewell Dinner on board and perhaps an evening stroll to the magnificent St Marks Square.”

I am signed up to go with my husband this July on the route from Venice to Mantua, so we can savor together “La Dulce Vita” on the La Bella Vita in unforgettable ways!


Looking for a luxury hotel in Venice? Check out Luxury Travel Maven McLean’s story on the Aman Grand Canale   If you want to add Tuscany to your Italian rambles, read about a favorite Villa of LTM Kate.

If you want to add on a one time special  Italian Riviera “Transformational Travel”  trip in October,  read here.

European Waterways also offers memorable journeys in many countries including  barge and bicycle trips in France

Photos courtesy of GoBarging.com   European Waterways

- Lisa TE Sonne, posted for Luxury Travel Mavens



The Pierre, a Taj Hotel, seen from Central Park in New York

How would you make a stellar hotel like The Pierre even better? Would you like someone to fill your hotel suite in advance with your favorite flowers, books, foods, beverages and pillows?  Would you like to walk into “your” rooms and be greeted with your choice music and scents, and a butler standing by to unpack for you?    Maybe he could also draw a royal bath for you with herbs, spices and oils to ease away the trials and tensions of travel.

Welcome to the “Taj Royal Attache Services” offered at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York.   The services seem aimed at making guests feel like Raj at the Taj in imperial days of India as well as harkening back to the founding of the legacy luxury hotel on the SE corner of Central Park.

Historic Luxury

Some gems from a history provided by the historic hotel include:

Taj Tea Service in your Suite

*“The new Hotel Pierre is a millionaires’ Elysium, and it really is very beautiful,” declared The New Yorker in an August, 23, 1930 preview piece appearing under the byline “Penthouse

*Founder Charles Pierre wanted his elegant sanctuary “to create the atmosphere of a private club or residence instead of that characteristic of the average hotel. Every convenience will be incorporated into its design and construction.”

*“To serve its socially prominent clientele, the hotel was introducing two new features to the hospitality industry: a secretariat, whose staff members would perform for guests all the duties of a private social secretary, and a committee of chaperones, “companions of unimpeachable character and social recognition for the entertainment of younger persons who visit New York alone.”

Times have changed since the hotel’s early days and chaperones no longer seem a desired service, but maybe you do want someone to take care of theater tickets, sew on a button, and arrange for morning tea service in your suite. The Royal Taj Attache service provides a kind of personal butler-concierage-staff for Pierre guests who book one of the lavish suites and would like some one-on-one service. If you check in to the John Paul Getty suite with multiple rooms of elegance and original art,  and a sweeping terrace with topiary, a well-heeled, well versed Taj attache can add luxurious service.

At the Pierre, a Taj Hotel, you can go to the spa or have the Royal Taj Attache spring some of the spa to you

Your attache can help you best enjoy the great city of New York outside your windows, or let you luxuriate with-in the hotel- whether arranging a candlelight dinner en-suite, a memorable spa treatment,  or making arrangements for you to enjoy a private art tour in the hotel which harbors thousands of pieces.

And then when it’s time to go home, you have someone to pack your bags for you-with tissues between freshly pressed pieces.

“Location, location, location” is combined with “luxury, luxury, luxury.”



For additional Luxury Travel Maven reading:

My husband and I enjoyed a Honeymoon weekend at the Pierre

Enjoying Butler service at Le Blanc

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photographs provided by   The Pierre, a Taj Resort

What are your favorite “Extra Luxury” experiences when traveling?

People who have journeyed on some of humankind’s most expensive, amazing trips gathered at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York last weekend to celebrate a kind of travel that often means forgoing hotels or restaurants— exploration. The annual mid-March tradition is known as ECAD- (The Explorers Club Annual Dinner.)

Winners celebrating exploration travel. Erden Eruc, the first person to circumnavigate the globe via human-power and Don Walsh, the first human to visit the deepest part of the ocean.

John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Charles Duke, and Don Walsh all traveled in very cramped quarters (Mercury capsules, the last Apollo, and the Trieste submersible ) in the 1960s to push the boundaries of human exploration travel up- orbiting earth- and down to the deepest ocean floor.

They enjoyed greater amenities last weekend, when they joined a sold-out crowd in the three-tiered Waldorf-Astoria ballroom to receive their own kudos, and to honor other intrepid luminaries including James Cameron.  Cameron took time from Avatar movie sequels, to receive the prestigious Explorers Medal, in his words “the Academy Award of Exploration” and a greater honor. His latest feat was to the depths of the Marianas Trench.

Erden Eruc, the first per­son to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe via human-powered travel (row­boats, bicy­cles, walk­ing) received a Certificate of Merit. Exploration exemplars Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, Christos Nicola and Monika Rogozinska were also given awards and shared inspiring words about their contributions to exploration.

Crocodile or alligator? Part of the wild appetizers for ECAD.

Many of the guests, outstanding explorers in their own realms (caves, mountains, deserts, rain forests, cultures,) with their own exotic exploration travel tales came to New York for the events, and were staying at the historic and elegant Waldorf-Astoria. Every President since 1931 has rested his head at the Waldorf and the corridor walls are lined with black and white photos of famous people who walked the halls.

Overlapping the two illustrious worlds of exploration and the Waldorf Astoria  created intriguing juxtapositions of kinds of privilege.  In the Waldorf Tower suites, the bathroom alone and the chandeliered dressing room were probably bigger than the honorees’ rare exploration vehicles (space- capsules & highly customized submersibles)

Great views and lots to write home about from this corner of magnificent, antique-filled Waldorf Towers suite on Explorers Club weekend.

The lofty views of bridges rivers, and skyscrapers, from my 41st floor suite were from only a fraction of the altitude of Mt Everest, a very different vista that  seemed particularly wondrous after meeting Jim Whittaker the first American to summit Everest, and another of the weekend’s honorees.

Upscaling the kind of food that explorers sometimes eat, “The Exotics” served at ECAD have become a culinary tradition and good for press.  Appetizers before dinner included unusual game and champagne drinks with a male goat’s private skewered instead of an olive or lemon. The popular dessert tables were eaten out before I could get to the fare, but I heard about it.

The next morning at  the hotel’s luxurious Peacock Alley Sunday brunch, the pastry chef recalled, “Instead of our normal adornments, we were adding crickets, mealy worms, and tarantulas to desserts.”

In view, the Lobby’s iconic gold clock tower chimed. Other times, live music wafts from a nearby grand piano that once belonged to Cole Porter who lived in the hotel and refers to it in his song “You’re the Top.”  Celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Paris Hilton, and gangster Bugsy Siegal to inventor Tesla have also had Waldorf addresses. Last weekend the hotel was visited by people who summit and dive and crawl and kayak, and measure, record, and observe endangered species and remote geographies, when they aren’t wearing their ECAD best.

For decades, The Explorers Club  (TEC) arguably the world’s most distinguished club to honor and promote exploration, has hosted ECAD (Explorers Club Annual Dinner)  at the historic Waldorf. Tickets for members and their guests range from $350 to $40,000. Proceeds go to help further exploration for the sake of scientific endeavor and knowledge.

The Sunday after the dinner and post-parties, the Club also offered an Open House at its legacy-filled HQ building on East 70th, another New York architectural treasure.  I loved visiting with some of the honorees and other explorers including Milbry Polk who founded Wings WorldQuest and is author of Women of Discovery, underwater queens Sylvia Earle and Anne Doubilet, and Jeff Blumenfeld who publishes the captivating (for people who love exploration) Expedition News . It’s titilating to hear where they are traveling next. Sylvia to the Maldives and Jeff to Nepal on a humanitarian expedition. It’s inspiring to hear about the huge efforts being made to conserve natural and cultural systems.

A schedule of lectures about current explorations interwove with informal visiting as people cross-pollinate and gather support for future expeditions.  What advances can be made to technology and knowledge and human spirit before the next ECAD?

Post Script:

Retrieving Lost Treasure

After heady conversations about advances in technology and the glories of curiosity in action, I returned to the Waldorf for my late check out. Ironically, only when I was in the clouds 40,000 feet over the U.S. flying back to Los Angeles, did my head come out of the clouds (and sea trenches and caves) to remember that I had opened the safe in my room but forgotten to take out my jewelry and pack it.

I reminded myself that the Waldorf was among those highest-end hotels where you could probably count on getting your things back and the staff members I had seen all seemed wonderful, but it’s a rough economy and challenging times, with people’s views of entitlement sometimes morphing. I called the hotel when I landed at 11pm, and left a voice message with security. It was a “first” for me and I hoped it would have a happy ending.

Since the weekend was a special trip and I would see international friends, I had eclectically brought some of my favorite pieces – unusual amber necklaces given when I was covering space in the Soviet Union, a bracelet from a recent trip to Morocco, a hand-made woven necklace from a Karawari tribe in Papua New Guinea, sea fossil earrings from when I worked on a television series with the Monterrey Aquarium in California.

None of it has significant monetary value, especially compared to the jewels that have adorned other guests of the Waldorf like the Queen and Elizabeth Taylor. But they were unique and had sentimental value as catalysts of memories and stories. I thought about the curiosity cabinets people used to fill with artifacts gathered from around the world to inspire. And wondered how many other people used jewelry these days in a similar vein.

John Glenn and Jim Cameron had both talked about the driving force of curiosity in shaping the world’s history and economy via initial explorations.  I thought how fortunate I was to have spent the weekend with remarkable people who are still questing, and ponderd gratefully for perspective of the times I had been able to be even a tiny part of expeditions and explorations. The “things” from the trips are not the true riches of these experiences.

Still, when a package arrived this morning with my little treasures, I admit I was glad- to have them back and to witness integrity.  I would like to give call out thanks to the Waldorf’s security and house-keeping staff –Javier Carranza, Erika Gonzalez, Sam Koening and Eric Perez- for honesty and efficiency!   On the phone, Perez told me calmly, “This happens everyday. People leave things from cell phone chargers to a child’s favorite teddy bear to thousands of dollars of jewelry. We get it back to them. That’s what we do.”

-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens



 International trips organized around annual festivals and remarkable events may be packed and unpacked with “Ah!” and awe at human nature and earth’s nature.

Iceland, Solstice Celebration in June, photo courtesy of Kensington Tours

A camel beauty pagaent in India? Cherry blossoms in Japan? A solstice  celebration in Iceland? A leg rowing contest in Mynamar?  These are trips you can take that few have (and links to intineraries for that festival travel are below).

What better way to learn about a culture than by being part of the festivities it honors?  One of my most remembered (and photographed) trips was customized around the Tshechu dance festivals held in the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas.  Our private trip beautifully developed by Bridge to Bhutan included a local guide, great access to the festivals and temples, and some luxury accommodations (Zwha Ling in Paro, the first Bhutanese owned-and-operated hotel and resort to receive five stars, Uma Paro for peaceful pampering, is part of the upscale Como Hotels and Resorts,   Taj Tasha, a modern landmark in Thimphu and a Taj Resorts and Palaces.)  I hope to return this summer to Bhutan with my husband to provide luxe trav readers updated details.

LTM Festival Travel

Pushkar Camel Fair, India, courtesy of Kensington Tours

You may have a destination in mind and start checking into what festivals are celebrated as a memorable portal to unique experiences or you may know of a festival you like– St Patrick’s Day in Ireland in March, the big Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico in October, or the Water throwing festival in April that is part of Thailand’s New Year. You can start creating your own adventure with or without a company that customizes trips.

You may want to join a festival trip that has already been carefully planned. Since many destinations can be well booked by locals and foreigners for annual events, and festivals may have specialized customs, the expertise and clout of a seasoned travel company  could save you time and trouble. I have not experienced the festival trips below, but the photos and descriptions are beguiling:


Cherry Blossom Festivals in Japan Photo provided by Kensington Tours

Japan`s Cherry Blossom Trip

As described by Kensington Tours: “Picnic under trees radiant with cherry blossoms and take part in the centuries old Japanese tradition of “hanami” on this private journey showcasing Tokyo and Kyoto during the most desirable time of year. Delve into this ancient spring custom and more, as you’re swept into a land of kimono-clad geishas, zen gardens, sushi, samurai castles and shrines, all narrated by private guide.

“Stroll the flowery “Philosopher’s Walk,” tiptoe across nightingale floors, cruise the Sumida River, visit mountain temples and behold cherry blossoms season at its finest!”



Iceland’s Summer Solstice Tour: June 21, 2013

As described by Kensington Tours “Celebrate the Summer Solstice in “the land of the midnight sun” on this exclusive tour to the top of the world. Honor this mystical ancient tradition marking the longest day of the year in Reykjavik, Iceland.

“From druid priests, live music, bonfires and culinary feasts with the locals to champagne toasts, drinking “Viking blood,” carving sacred runes and unveiling legends of old with private Icelandic folklore guide, this northern adventure makes the most of all 24 hours of light.”

Nature’s spa at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon during the Midnight Sun, photo from Kensington Tours


Spain’s San Fermin Festival: July 6 – 14, 2013

As described by Kensington Tours, “Not for the weak of heart, this wild Spanish fiesta is known for the Running of the Bulls which dates back to 14th-century Pamplona. Over time it has evolved into a daring weeklong fête where 2,000 people

San Fermin Running of the Bulls Fiesta In Pamplona, Photo provided by Kensington Tours

run in front of 15 charging bulls.

“Led by a real picador guide, behold the spectacle from a private balcony as Ernest Hemingway did and head to the country where the famous bulls are raised. Not ready to take life by the horns? Fireworks, gigantes y cabezudos, contests, dancing and spirited locals will keep any globetrotter on their toes.”


Myanmar’s Leg-Rowing Festival: Oct 5 – 22, 2013

In the words of Kensington Tours: “Cruise the waters of time back to a celebration evocative of Southeast Asia centuries ago with a pilgrimage to Phaung Daw Oo – otherwise known as Myanmar’s Leg Rowing Festival. Held upon the shores of Inle Lake, a trip to this spiritual 18-day pageant is true cultural nirvana. Watch as a golden barge holding four Buddhas is towed by ornamented leg-rowers from private boat with expert guide.

“Take part in the eclectic festivities, from magic shows, dancing, leg rowing races and fireworks to fortune tellers, spiritual blessings and Burmese banquets. To amplify your experience, plan your visit to coincide with Thadingyut, the festival of lights!”

Myanmar Leg rower contest, Photo provided by Kensington Travel


Pushkar Camel Fair – India: Nov 6 -17, 2013

Kensington Tours: “There’s nothing quite as mind boggling exotic as a trip to India’s Pushkar Camel Fair. Held every year in the desert of Rajasthan during the full moon, this spectacular event attracts over 300,000 people and up to 50,000 camels.

Family at the Pushkar Festival in India, Photo from Kensington Tours

“Led by expert private guide, plunge into this cultural spectacle while staying at a whimsical luxury tented camp. From camel painting, beauty pageants, races, livestock trade, religious rituals to music, gypsies, mouth-watering feasts and other lively events, this exotic festival has it all!”


Keep clicking in for future luxury festival trips as readers and luxe tour operators share their favorites. Coming up: Food and Wine Festival Trips

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos provided by Kensington Tours


Private ski instruction in delicious powder, a long lavender treatment at the Fairmont Spa, and then the night adventure…

Good Morning!

Wake up in Canada’s Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, fresh snowfall wrapping your private roomy cabin as you emerge from plush bedding and head to a hot shower, all part of the upscale, rustic travel ensemble that is the Fairmont JPL (Jasper Park Lodge) 

Morning hasn’t quite emerged from night yet, and it’s still too dark to appreciate the forested lake path to the main lodge.  You call the pampering staff to pick you up in a van for door-to-door help with gear and transport to the main lodge.

Instead of cabin room service, you try breakfast at Cavell’s where casual gourmet is fine dining with local infusion. Morning fare includes a scrumptious array or a la carte. Much of the restaurant’s honey comes from the bees that live on the roof. The staff has been known to help pick the fruits and vegetables locally, and the chef works with Alberta farmers for the best organic produce.


Morning in Marmot Ski Basin, Alberta, Canada by Lisa TE Sonne

The Ups of Downhill

For a morning of skiing, hop on the 8 am shuttle going up the mountain to the Marmot Basin Ski Area.  Elk sightings are a bonus as the van’s headlights illuminate tree sentries in a world of white.

Arrive at the ski lodge as the sun debuts with splashy pinks across the mountains horizon. Skiers and snowboarders are already painting sinewy Ss into the snow.

If you have signed up in advance for private one-to-one instruction for snow boarding or skiing, you have a guru meet you and guide you for the rest of your day. Dave is part teacher, concierge, and coach who can help with everything from selecting and tightening your boots and skis for the best fit at your skill and fitness level, to showing you the secret bathroom that means no extra stairs in the boots.

Once out the door and near the slopes, he is photographer, historian and instructor with patience and a ready smile.

He reviews the fundamental basics and provides tailored exercises to undo bad habits. He selects the chair lifts and paths that will best help both your learning curve and your pleasure quota.

Riding ” the longest high-speed quad chair in the Canadian Rockies”  to the top provides scenery bonanzas. Dave designs a beautiful route down that includes sections of three different named runs.

At one point no other skier or snowboarder is in view. Majestic peaks are. The snow is powdery delicious, not icy and crusty, not squishy and smushy.  You understand how people become skiing fanatics.

A lunch break at Caribou includes a delicious salmon burger and salad with good company.  You hear a tale about a WWII secret plan in nearby Lake Patricia to build an aircraft carrier of ice. You meet Dave’s charming wife who also inspires people up and down the mountain runs.

You have to stop skiing to make the 2:30 shuttle. You want more, but know that less is better here.  You haven’t fallen or broken anything, you learned some good techniques to practice, your endorphins hum, and the scenery is a high;  you are glowing.   And the next luxury awaits.

The Spa lounging area, courtesy of the Fairmont, Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada

Afternoon Recharge– Blue Reflections

Your signature spa treatment awaits in your own niche of the Fairmont’s 10,000 square feet sanctuary in the Main Lodge. You skip the interior access to the great outdoor pool, the inviting sauna and steam room. You change and ease right into a 90 minute session to cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, and sooth any muscles that might be tired after skiing .

Brittany welcomes you with her soothing voice and nurturing trained hands. First you breath deeply and inhale lavender and eucalyptus , and exhale troubles.

“The Blue Reflections” for some might be to chase away the winter blues, but at JPL it’s to celebrate the blue skies and “Blue Magic” lavender.

Brittany works her magic with especially formulated scrubs, rinses, and moisturizers as she explains that lactose acids build up after a work-out and massage is a great way to flush out the toxins and get the circulation going.

You feel like a super athlete with this post ski session, and like royalty ( you heard that the Queen Mother stayed at the Fairmont JPL, but no word on whether her blue blood ever circulated better because of a “Blue Reflections.”) From head (your scalp is massaged with hot oils for deep hair nutrition ) to toes ( ahhh, massage) you feel  relaxed and revived.

To make sure your stomach is not deprived, you  asked for Room Service to deliver to the spa, and enjoy a chef’s plate of delectable cheeses and fruits artfully arranged.

It is tempting to stay in the spa’s comforts and float into dreams, but you planned to add exploration to your luxury since  Jasper National Park is a “Dark Sky Preserve” and you were told that Maligne Canyon is part of the largest karst system in the world!  Karst topology can be drainage systems of caves- above or below ground, and sinkholes formed by bedrock that is dissolved over time.

The Sundog night Ice Canyon walk, Alberta, Canyon. Photo by Lisa TE Sonne


Cool Nightlife!
In the lobby you meet with a few other intrepid spirits who are sharing their boot sizes with guide Wes Bradford of Sundog Tours . He hands out boots, headlamps, hand warmers to go in mittens, and “icers” to clamp footprints of spikes on the bottom of your boots, the better to grip for ice-walking.

.A drive later and you are walking under the mega astronomic canopy of a “Dark Sky Preserve.” Tales of shooting stars and northern lights and the huge arc of the Milky Way make the current cloud cover seem oppressive and rude.

But you decide to forget the “have nots, “ of your night, and the “haves” makes it seem like you are enveloped in a gigantic cosmic cave –seeing only what headlamps illuminate.  Wes stops to point out with a flashlight the deep canyon to the right and the animal tracks in the snow to the left.  Wolves are very large here.

It’s 20 below zero (C not F)  and when you descend into the canyon, the path ends as you walk in the stream bed, some of it moving liquid and some of it ice- solid. You are flanked by nature’s ice sculptures seen with dramatic patches of flashlight.

If you wear glasses, you will want to make sure your excited steamy breath and warming headwear are not creating fog blindness or a mini-weather system with clouds and then rain between your eyes and glasses. You not only will act like a wimpy, dorky adventurer since you can’t even see your own feet, but you might fall and miss some of the hanging icycles or the fossils that Wes points out.

When your night vision is clear, it’s fun scampering and crawling and leaping in the streambeds, grabbing onto solid ice columns to pull yourself up to peek into a cave. The elements direct a landscape that changes nightly. You can hear water behind walls of ice.  You are in geology’s drama.

Snowflakes drift down languidly.

For most of history, people had curiosity about the mysteries and beauties of nature, but they didn’t have headlamps, glasses, hi –tech fabrics, hand-warmers, and cold-tolerant cameras.

They certainly didn’t have a heated cabin at the Fairmont waiting for them.                                   by Lisa TE Sonne,    a Luxury Travel Maven

Along the path from cabin to main lodge.


A private ski lesson! Sonne with instructor Dave.

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne except the Spa photo, courtesy of Fairmont JPL, and this one thanks to Sarah Sekula. Ready to plan your own trip to Jasper, Alberta, a Fairmont?




Window view on Via Train from Edmonton to Jasper National Park, Canada

Traveler’s content is settling over me like a well- placed comforter. The train rocks me, the scenery is flocked forests and red barns with roofs of thick white snow and tribes of bare-branched birches collecting ice crystals like ornaments. So many shades of white. The Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, I need a more versatile vocabulary for the blue-whites, green-whites, and brown-whites so soothing to the eyes viewed from the pleasures of a moving train.

Train Travel to the Canadian Rockies

Train Travel to the Canadian Rockies

A bit of traveler’s dilemna. My body wants sleep. My cabin is one big cradle and the bed is so nicely pulled down. My eyes want to feast on window fare—a tall steepled church monolithically rising from the white just passed before I could get my camera on. My mind says use the time for writing stories, for overdue emails, for writing thank yous… no, it argues, don’t forfeit tracks of uplifting “now”– meditate on the cold world beautifully framed by the window, a moving canvas of a realm harsh to others and benign to the pampered traveler.

From Edmonton to Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

I have started writing about yesterday for this column, but the light is so cheerfully bright outside. I expect the cone-shaped firs to start twirling in dance like Christmassy tops. Blue sky over the clean whites, clusters of horses, curved parallel lines- ski tracks to somewhere I can’t see.


Culture and Nature

We left Edmonton many kilometers of tracks back, heading through Alberta, Canada from the bright lights of a dynamic creative urban center to the raw wilderness and muses of the Canadian Rockies. Ahead,  Jasper National Park with its Dark Sky Preserve, as well as the comforts of the renowned Fairmont “JPL”- Jasper Park Lodge.

My highlights in Edmonton –staying at the historic Fairmont MacDonald, the “Chateau on the River”;   a regenerating NVE Institute spa treatment by the innovative founders;  the private tour at the Art Gallery of Alberta, the building itself a work of art;  Chef David at the museum’s Zinc Restaurant with his creative “open concept” cuisine, Madison’s Grill with its inviting hospitality– are all physically behind me now, but they are packed in my internal luggage. Now just isn’t the time to unpack them.

I am nestled in one of Via Rail’s most spacious sleeper cars with a private bathroom, having enjoyed good service and food in the dining car.  And now the soul food of nature is out my window.

Canadian Rockies in Alberta

The Rockies thrust up assertions of tenacious glory.  The scrimshaw of geology etches jutting timetables to the sky. And the train keeps rolling forward.

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photography by (c) Lisa TE Sonne

by Lisa TE Sonne (c)

Reflections of the Rockies, Via Train rolling through Alberta, by Lisa TE Sonne