Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ireland Fam Report

You need to read all of this. There will be a quiz at the end...

Last week I returned from a 6 night FAM trip to Ireland hosted by Celebrated Experiences. The itinerary (attached) was a very busy one and I travelled with 7 other agents from
all parts of the USA. I haven't been to Ireland in 8 years and the changes have been enormous. The past 20 years have been a time of unprecedented growth bringing in wealth
from all parts of the world. "The Celtic Tiger" is what these years have been titled as it was a time that sleepy Ireland suddenly became one of the most happening places on the planet. International companies came to Ireland opening offices and manufacturing plants attracting mostly younger workers. Ireland also became a part of the European Union
which has helped it modernize its roads and infrastructure.

Dublin's International Airport is just completing a multi million Euro expansion and the roads into the city are new and modern. As with the rest of the world the economic climate
has changed in the past year Ireland was hurt as much or more than any country. Dublin has changed in many ways since I last visited but the casual friendly atmosphere is
still very much in existence. The streets are alive with well dressed locals and tourists visiting the many shops, restaurants and other attractions.

Our first night was spent at The Fitzwilliam which is located right on St. Stephen's Green. The Fitzwilliam is a very comfortable combination of urban modern and traditional hotel design. The rooms are extremely comfortable with large bathrooms and many with balconies, some overlooking the park. There are 2 restaurants. Thorntons, the larger of the
two is considered by some to be the best restaurant in the country. From the front door of the hotel you can walk to many of the local attractions like Grafton St. and Trinity College.


Saturday night we stayed at the Merrion which is just around the corner but a world away in terms of experience. The Merrion is a traditional deluxe hotel with a warm comfortable
decor, furniture and a wonderful art collection displayed throughout the hotel. The hotel has gardens in the rear of the hotel that many of the rooms look out on. Other rooms
overlook Merrion Street. The lounges are warm with real fireplaces in almost every public room. The smell of the peat fire adds to the warm feeling. There is a pool and a small health club and several restaurants which I will not drone on about-they are excellent. By the way we had a site inspection on Sunday of Hotel Dylan which was named by the Times of London best modern urban hotel in Europe. This hotel is an ultracool, low attitude property that is becoming the place to hang out in Dublin. Check out their website:



Sunday we headed out to the countryside touring Glendalough with its historic monastic sites and the town of Kilkenny with its castle and design center. That night we stayed at
the Mt. Juliet which is a huge estate that includes a golf course (Jack Nicklaus), a horse stud farm and a well equipped spa. The approach to the resort is like you are in a movie with this giant home surrounded by some of the most beautiful grounds you will ever see. The rooms are large and very deluxe. This is one of the few places you can go on a fox hunt in Ireland.


On Monday we drove down to the coast of Ireland where we had a site inspection of the Cliff House in Ardmore. The Cliff House is one of the few hotels in Ireland that face directly
on the sea. It is a modern 39 room hotel built into the side of a cliff with all rooms looking on the water, Ardmore is a short drive from Waterford and the Cliff House is worth a visit
for its spa, its restaurant and the views That afternoon we had a tour of the Jameson Distillery and a tasting before heading down to Cobh to get a short tour of the immigrant experience. There are some very interesting exhibits in Cobh which was the final port for the Titanic before she sailed for New York. Next we headed to Cork which is
a vibrant city with a large university and many food and cultural festivals. Monday night we stayed at Hayfield Manor which was the one property that was a bit of a disappointment.
The building is relatively new but was designed to look hundreds of years old. First of all it is of a style that is not needed in a city like Cork. The rooms are large with some wear
showing. It feels strange to walk out of a Manor House and one half a block away you are on a college campus. Don't get me wrong the place is great but look where I had previously stayed...



Tuesday morning we drove to Kenmare stopping at a cheese and produce shop and a Chocolate shop called Lorge's operated by a relocated Frenchman. The afternoon was spent in Kenmare with a stop at Park Hotel Kenmare for afternoon tea. I think Kenmare was my favorite town of the trip and the Park Hotel was a really charming property
overlooking Kenmare Bay. This is a very traditional hotel that has a good deal of warmth and exceptional spa and indoor pool. It is walking distance from the town and
the rooms are all different and feel like you are staying at your very rich grandmother's house. About 3 miles away is Sheen Falls Lodge which is a grander version of the Park Hotel. The hotel is surrounded by the falls and most guests can fall asleep to the sound of the water. This is a very dramatic location with new 2-5 BR villas close by for families
who want a bit more privacy. Guests can fish in the river and have their catch smoked at the resorts smokehouse. Golf is nearby and the 2 restaurants are excellent.



It is Wednesday and I am tired, over-fed and slightly hungover. I wasn't aware that what I needed was a boat ride on a lake in Killarney with some Irish Coffee. Who knew?
A couple of sips of the coffee and an Irish band begins to play and I am back in business. Seriously, the scenic drive to Killarney via Molls Gap was an awesome experience.
The views are like a postcard and by noon I was at Adare Manor with a live Falcon eating chicken from my left arm. Adare Manor is a true castle experience. The grounds are
a piece of art as is the restored building itself. The guest rooms are huge with all the modern amenities you would expect. There is a golf course just outside the door was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and is the focus of many of its guests. Fishing, cooking demonstrations and clay pigeon shooting are some of the many other amenities.
After leaving with drove out to the Cliffs of Moher which are a dramatic sight. Finally we arrived at The Lodge at Doonbeg which is a 7 year old golf/resort that has a links course overlooking the Atlantic. This property is owned and operated by the same group that owns Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. This is a deluxe Manor style hotel with
a country club feeling. The golf course was designed by Greg Norman has ocean views from 16 or its 18 holes. The rooms are big and have either golf or ocean views.
There are many dining options from pub style to fine dining in The Long Room. The mattress here was the best of the trip and by now I have become a mattress professional.
Thursday begins and Shannon airport and home is just a hour away. Whew!



----------------------a word about Celebrated Experiences----------------------------

After a Fam trip agents feel that the host of the trip and the company they represent are the greatest
company you can use in the future. I really think that Celebrated can be viewed as a one stop shop for England, Ireland,
Scotland and Wales. This trip was a no nonsense fam. A true working fam attended by some excellent agents who know their
stuff and could be invited free to any of these hotels yet paid a fee to attend this trip. We were up at 8am daily and covered
over 900 miles on the trip.

Jonathan Epstein from Celebrated is a young guy was described by several of the Irish Hoteliers as more knowledgeable about their
country than they were. Every agent I spoke with who has used Celebrated said the feed back from clients is excellent.
They handle any kind of travel in the countries they deal with. They send documents with information and things to do for
even a single hotel night. They know all of their hotels personally and usually will suggest a particular room given
a description of the guest. They will do transfers, private touring, event tickets etc. They are located in Atlanta so you can speak
to them real time. I only suggest that you try them. They are a small but hard working team.


Cliff Morgan
Travel Exchange

Friday, July 17, 2009

Trendy Paris shopping

Trendy Paris shopping guides
In Paris: Made by Hand, Bijkerk divulges the contents of her little black book, focusing in over 50 shops that exemplify the Paris fait main aesthetic by offering truly one of a kind items produced or restored entirely by hand.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Antigua Curtain Bluff

If you're looking for a relaxing and peaceful vacation then Curtain Bluff is the perfect resort.

As we arrived at Curtain Bluff my first thought was...wow, how did I get so lucky? The resort is beautiful with lots of tropical flowers and a great open-air
entranceway, that gives you the feeling, as you step in, that you have finally arrived and can start relaxing. We were immediately met by Wendy, the Assistant Manager, who took us to our room. Our room was a beautiful junior suite located on the ground floor with a patio that led directly to the beach. The room was large with a sitting area, huge bathroom and a ceiling fans that kept the room so nice and cool that no air conditioner was needed. The rooms do not have a t.v. or radio but there is a place at the resort with a t.v. and internet for guests to use. The best part of the room was the view, we had a perfect ocean views and the only noise you could hear was the sound of the waves.

A View from Our Patio

Our Room

There are two beaches at Curtain Bluff: the surf beach (where our room was) and a much calmer beach. The calm beach is where Curtain Bluff has their watersports and all other activities. We played bocci one afternoon and another day took out a paddle-boat, fun but a little too much work for us while on vacation. There's lots to do if you are so inclined..... you can go snorkeling, kayaking, play basketball, tennis, etc. They also have a putting green. Although most guests used the calmer beach to hang out during the day, that beach remained quiet and relaxing. I tried to use my ipod while there, but turned it off
after a minute. I found that any sound except those of the waves ruined the perfect beach atmosphere. Curtain Bluff also has a spa located on the bluffs
with each treatment room facing the ocean. These amazing views can also be enjoyed in their relaxation room which is completely open, and which has
a fabulous infinity jacuzzi. We enjoyed massages one afternoon and then spent some time in the jacuzzi, something I would recommend that every guest
experience while at Curtain Bluff.

Calm Beach

The food at Curtain Bluff was excellent! Each morning we would start our day with breakfast on our patio (with such amazing view why leave?). Breakfast was delightful, simple. They have omelets , fresh fruit, pastries, always consistently very good. Lunch was at the beach offering a delightful buffet which featured different island specials. They offer an a-la-carte menu as well. It was easy to find something different to try each afternoon. Dinner was the main event of the day. Each evening the guests dress up and off they go to the Main dining room. The food and service is great. My favorite was the fresh snapper and, of course, dessert.... the chocolate mouse was amazing! Each night you could find Michelle Hulford (the owner) chatting with all the guests to make sure they had a great day. She gives a very personal feel to the whole resort by just simply checking on everyone and you can tell she remembers each of her guests that come back year after year.

We also took a trip over to Carlisle Bay one afternoon for a site inspection. It is a very contemporary resort while being very comfortable. The rooms are all oceanview suites with white linens complemented by dark woods. The rooms have flat screen TVs, CD and dvd players. They also have 3 bedroom suites that are perfect for families, some even have kitchenettes. The resort has a great kids club that offers a lot for the kids, with variety of activities, like one day they might get a lesson with a tennis pro and another day a lesson on how to catch and release lizards. There is also a small screening room where they show movies a few times a day. They really cater to families but there is an adults section of the resort that is quiet. Carlisle Bay is hoping to attract more honeymooners in the future. We had dinner at East - Asian food and sushi. Everything was wonderful and it was a fun night.

our room at Carlisle Bay

Both resorts are beautiful but very different, Curtain Bluff is more traditional and quiet while Carlisle Bay is a bit more hip and modern while. All in all our stay was wonderful and relaxing. I would recommend Curtain Bluff to anyone that is looking for a vacation that truly takes you away and makes you relax, it is a beautiful resort with excellent food and service.

Danielle Foley