Royal City Carlson Wagonlit Travel's Blog

For the ultimate in a getaway experience, one place we'd like to recommend is Tortuga Bay Private Beach & Vacation Villas. 

There's a reason this place is ranked #1 of 96 hotels in Punta Cana on TripAdvisor, a Travelers' Choice 2012 Winner, with reviews titled, "the height of relaxation" and "Tortuga Bay SECOND YEAR and still our favorite." 

What, exactly, is this place doing so right?

Well, according to their website, the AAA Five Diamond Awarded Tortuga Bay "offers responsible luxury, impeccable service and villas designed by th world-renowned Oscar de la Renta."

Here's a review from TripAdvisor:

"We do not often rate a hotel as excellent, but Tortuga Bay went beyond all expectations. The accommodations in individual beach-front villas were outstanding and the service was irreproachable. A personal "villa manager" is assigned to each room, who takes care of everything from booking tables, reserving a tennis court, renting bikes, setting up spa treatments, and making sure housekeeping only shows up when you are sure to be out of the room. The hotel was full the entire week we were there, but the pool and private beach were not the least bit crowded (usually it was just us and one or two other couples). It was supremely tranquil: no jet skis or motorboats to disturb the beach, and no car traffic around the property (all guests have their own golf cart to get around). There is one restaurant on site, and many others a short bike ride away. The entire staff, from the servers to the housekeepers, were remarkably friendly. It was one of the most serene vacations we have ever had. For those of you who have trouble "disconnecting", be aware that the hotel wifi is spotty."

Deeply infused with the local Dominican culture, with great care taken to practice sustainable development while still providing world-class service, Tortuga Bay is the premier Caribbean get-away location. 

Chase away those winter blues and take your loved one to a special vacation!

Contact Royal Travel to get started with your trip

Here's a great little video by geobeats with some helpful information for traveling. How to stay safe, where to shop, how to get around, what to order and more! 

Inspired yet?

Contact us at Royal City Travel to start your trip today!

We've put together a street food guide for Southeast Asia, one of our favorite travel destinations. This is a region where low prices do not mean low quality, and you can feast like a king or queen with a few dollars and some street smarts. 

Let's get started!

Temperature

Hot food should be served piping or steaming hot - not lukewarm. Fried is usually fine provided the oil looks like it has been recently changed.

As recommended by Phnomenon’s article, Food in Cambodia, stick to “drinking ice” - small, tubular pieces of ice - rather than the “cooling ice,” which comes in massive rectangular blocks that are then chipped down for your drink. The latter is where you’re more likely to pick up a microbe like Giardia.

Check to make sure your ice looks clean before drinking. In Cambodia, you can ask for anamay, which is “hygienic ice” that’s round with a hole in the center.

Avoid ice cream from street vendors, as it’s typically repeatedly unfrozen and re-frozen.

Another Cambodia recommendation (but probably true for most regions) is to go for food carts that are family-run. If more than one member of the same family works at the stall, likely the stall is lucrative enough to support the entire family - meaning it’s a top notch venue.

Spice
In Thailand, one dish you can’t miss is the Som Tam (papaya salad). It’s a sweet, sour, salty salad made from shredded green papayas, garlic, shrimp, tomatoes, peanuts and chili peppers.

As you can imagine, it’s super popular, and locals like it served spicy - and I meanspicy. Like many dishes you’ll try across Southeast Asia, the spice barometer is likely different than what you’re used to.

Play it safe. At least in the beginning, ask for your food served mild and work your way up.

Know When to Eat
Similar to the dining schedule in Mexico that's based on certain cultural nuances, in Southeast Asia there is a rhythm to how and when the food is served.

In Phnom Penh, the traditional rice and pork breakfast is served by 8:30am. Lunch starts at 12pm and runs until about 2pm. For both meals it’s a good idea to show up early, in order to eat fresh and avoid the dregs and rejects.

Once you’re there for a few days your tummy will sync up but until then, ask around and try to get a feel for the local schedule.

Take a Tour
Whether you’re still a little intimidated by all of the options, or just want some context for your food, a Walking Food Tour at the onset of your trip can set you up for successful food experiences for the rest of your stay.

Not only do you get to sample a wide array of food and drinks, both on the street and in restaurants, but you’ll learn some local history, food traditions, detailed dish descriptions, recommendations, and more.

You can find a Walking Food Tour in almost any major city. Here are some top picks:

Hoi An, Vietnam: The Last Great Taste of Hoi An: Understanding & Appreciating Vietnamese Foods in Hoi An

Bangkok, Thailand: Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tours

Singapore: Joo Chiat / Katong Districts Food Walk

Jakarta, Indonesia: Culinary Food Tour of Traditional Street West Javanese Food

Culinary Tours by Globe Taste in Thailand, Cambodia & Laos

Know the Lingo
It’s common for food carts to serve only one dish, meaning that to order, all you’ll need to do is point and indicate how many servings you want.

Even if language isn’t your thing, a few words here and there will give you an edge when it comes to ordering, eating and enjoying the local fare. If you have food allergies or dietary preferences, this is a must.

For example, in Vietnam, any food with banh in the name means that it’s flour-based. And if you’re trying to order vegetarian, you’d say khong an thit - “don’t eat meat,” or, an chay - “vegetarian.”

Use Common Sense
We say this a lot, but that’s because ultimately it’s up to what you think is right and feel comfortable with.

Over the past couple of decades, there have been huge improvements in hygiene and sanitation standards across Southeast Asia.

Most of the street food comes from small stalls and vendors who have little space to refrigerate and little capital to invest, meaning they buy their ingredients fresh at the beginning of every day and serve until they run out.

These cooks have perfected their food and want it to be safe and delicious because that’s how they make their income. In places like Thailand, most people get at least one of their daily meals from a street cart, which creates competition among the vendors and a bigger, better selection for you.

Try to avoid carts stationed along the side of busy roads where traffic and wind can stir up dust. And consider using your own chopsticks - some vendors boil theirs to sterilize while others aren’t so hygienic.

More Resources
The Off Track Planet complete guide to Vietnamese Street Food

The Best of Singapore Street Food by Venere Travel Blog.

Q & A on Street Food in Hanoi, Vietnam by SavourAsia.

Guide to Eating Through Cambodia by Wanderfolly.

Thai Food Words.

 

For more information about food in Southeast Asia - or anything else - contact us at Royal City Travel!

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."

-- Susan Heller. 

This is probably one of my favorite travel quotes. I personally try to put all my spare cash into travel funds, and when I do travel I'm thrifty. 

However, the truth is that there are times when you're travelling when spending the little extra makes a HUGE difference. 

Just ask Reena Ganga of Wanderplex.com. Her article, When to break your travel budget, takes a good look at the experiences that are worth the extra money. 

Here's an excerpt:

"1. A cab from the airport after a super long flight. Sure you could take the subway, but if it’s going to take twice as long, require you to make a transfer while lugging all your bags, walk five blocks, and oh, it’s late and you’re knackered – it’s probably worth shelling out the extra money for the taxi."

What about you? What experiences or extras are you willing to stretch your travel budget for?

(Photo by Mukumbura)

P.S.

Remember - the easiest way to save money on your next trip, before you even leave, is to plan and book through Royal City Travel. We can set you up with an amazing travel deal, just contact us for more info

We all want the best for our children, and part of that is raising them to be global citizens, with a keen sense of tolerance and cultural awareness. So we read them books, take them to museums, and sometimes, bring them along on our travels to give them a bigger sense of the world. 

How will they respond though? Some kids LOVE traveling, can't get their bags packed fast enough. Others ... aren't as cooperative. Why? And what can we do?

Elaine Ee offers 7 Tips for Bringing Up Good Travelers on the CNN International Blog; specifically, "How to plant the seeds of good travel in your children, before they go on the road."

These tips are actually really helpful. Some of them hadn't even immediately occurred to me ("treat service staff with respect"). Check out the full list!

Another way to make travel with your children easier, is to book through Royal City Travel. We can take care of all the arrangements of your next trip, plus give you some tips on kid-friendly spots to visit. 

Contact us for more info!

I know where I'm going in 2012!

Video by inspiredbyisland.com

"Iceland is more alive than ever, bursting with energy, activity and hospitality. Take a look for yourself..."

 

The next few weeks is the most wonderful time of year for many people - just maybe not for their cell phones. AVG Technologies, a leading provider of Internet and mobile security, released a new survey with some startling results.

The survey, "Lost in Transit," polled some 5,620 users around the world over the past year, and found that "35 percent of laptops and 38 percent of mobile phones are lost or stolen while in transit and that, alarmingly, 82% of lost or stolen devices are never recovered."

Given the high level of travel this time of year and the valuable data many of us store on our mobile devices, keeping them safe has never seemed more important. The last thing you want on a trip to Grandma's house is to lose your phone and worry about its return.

Using data from Lost in Transit, AVG compiled a list of tips to help keep mobile devices safe now and throughout the year. You can find the full list in the AVG press release on the Wall Street Journal: Holiday Travel is Risky Business for Mobile Devices.

Below is an excerpt, but definitely check out the rest of the article for more info!

"2. Use a password! According to Lost in Transit, 61 percent of lost smartphones are not password protected, giving thieves easy access to all of a consumer's personal information. Without exception, passwords should be mandatory operating procedure for smartphones, laptops, tablets and any other mobile device with valuable data."

This unique, glass buiding is an architectural masterpiece and home to one of the most popular restaurants in Prague. 

The Dancing House is located near the Vltava River, which along with the Prague Castle provides the space with beautiful views. Construction began in 1992 and was completed in 1996; since then the House has become a top tourist attraction in the city, and the very popular restaurant Celeste regularly draws in large crowds.

The building has a very modern and chic vibe and is centrally located, meaning you can plan a day trip around it and still see many other beautiful, historic buildings. 

The architects, Vlado Milunc and Frank O’ Gehry, originally named this building ‘Astaire & Rogers Building’ after the famous dance duo that inspired them.

Prague is an amazing city with so much to offer! Let us plan your next trip!

 

Here is a video from a wonderful series entitled "Live the Language" from the EF International Language Centers. Beautiful and moving, these videos artfully explore the process of foreign language immersion and practice. This one is Paris!

The majestic outside architecture and elaborate interior of the Lausanne Cathedral gives it international status as one of Europe's most treasured structures, and is a must-see for a traveler to Lausanne.

The Lausanne Cathedral was constructed in the gothic style between 1170 and 1240, with a later addition of the western portal in the flamboyant style. The cathedral has a remarkable multi-colored interior, with still visible paintings in the Chapel of the Virgin. The Rose Window, whose panes depict the medieval world perspective of the figure of God as creator, is among the masterpieces of European artistic heritage.

With the addition of a one-of-a-kind organ in 2003, you can now attend regular concerts held inside the cathedral. 

During the day, climb up the Cathedral Tower. The view of the city from the top is well worth the climb. 

From 10pm until 2am, a watchman shouts the hours, part of a tradition that dates back to 1405. 

Hours:

Mon - Fri, 7am-7pm

Sat & Sun, 8am-7pm

Guided Tours

July 1st until September 20th - Free of charge 

September 21st until June 30th - By appointment

Find it on a city map

Address: Riponne-Maurice Béjart, Bessières 

Tel: +41 21 316 71 61

A trip to Switzerland is closer than you think!

It might seem like a far off dream, but at Royal City Travel, we can make that trip happen in a snap. Our experienced travel consultants can plan the perfect vacation around your budget and interests. Just contact us for more information. 

 

But of course you will be sampling more sushi than you'd ever imagine while visiting Tokyo - it is as delicious as it is ubiquitous. However, even if you're on a budget, splurging at one of the city's top sushi restaurants is well worth the hit your wallet might take. Take a trip to the famous fish market Tsukiji in central Tokyo.

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Tsukiji’s restaurants can be found in alleys of Building 6, reached by walking in from the main entrance and turning right at the central square. These restaurants are stocked with fresh fish from the nearby fish market. After a long, jet-lagged night (or a night of partying) a sushi breakfast will do you right.

Arrive early!! Like 6am early. Get there on the first train or before to avoid waiting for up to 2 hours for a place at the sushi bar. Weekends are busier. Smaller groups are more quickly served. Lines are (surprisingly) very orderly, probably thanks to the appointed line monitors. If you’re with other people, have one person wait while the other does some exploring and/or shopping around the area.

Both of these restaurants serve fresh, never frozen, fish. Leave the soy sauce at home.

Daiwa Sushi 
This sushi spot is larger so you might get seated more quickly. Order the omakase (7 pieces & 1 roll) or the yummy, soft anago (conger eel). About $40 for 10 pieces of sushi. 
Hours: 5:30am-1:30pm 
Tel: 03-3547-6807

Sushidai 
The food here is so good. Try everything: octopus, tuna, baby squid, salmon, even a freshly cooked egg. Every piece of sushi is professionally served one by one, each with its own taste and texture. Chefs are super nice. Expect to pay upwards of $30 
Hours: 5am-2pm; Closed Wednesday if the market is closed 
Tel: 03-3547-6797

Bonus!

A trip to Tokyo is quite the adventure, and making the arrangements is much easier than you might think with our expert assistance. Just contact us for more information!

Parents may see a vacation as a time to bond and strengthen their relationship with their adolescent or teen. Yet for some parents it would be easier to travel with a drunk grizzly bear than with a moody teenager. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and fulfilling trip for everyone involved.

Get them involved! Incorporate your teen in the planning process and allow them to pick out some of the activities and locations. While you’re there, let them pick where you eat a couple nights. Give them responsibility - they can be the group tour guide or photographer.

However, don’t let your teen run the show. It may seem easier to cave into their whiny whims but there comes a time to put your foot down and establish some authority - for the sake of the trip. They will be more likely to remember they saw Niagara Falls than that they were forced to go in the first place.

Go somewhere where everyone in the family will be engaged, and be flexible. You may want to explore the Charles Dickens Museum in London, but compromise with a trade off to visit punk rock & fashion mecca Camden Town later in the day.

If you can afford to, consider having your teen invite a friend along. The companionship will relieve some of the family pressure and the friend’s presence might act as a buffer for bad behavior.

Give them space! If possible, book them a separate room adjacent to yours. In any case, give them mental space via down time on the trip. Don’t book up every minute with activities. “Schedule” some time to relax, when the kids can wander, go to a park, or shop at a mall. Hotels with swimming pools are great for this.

And if you’re comfortable, give them freedom to explore. Especially for older teens, allow them to go off and check out some nearby places on their own. Have them use a buddy system, enforce a curfew, and give them a hotel business card with phone and room numbers.

Set a budget for their trip spending allowance and stick to it.

Don’t ban gadgets cold turkey. You may want to use this trip to relax and unplug but don’t cut your teen off completely. Set some parameters, like no texting or electronics during meal times.

Let them sleep in. Most adults want to get up and go, to make the most out of their trip. Teenagers are more inclined to sleep late - and that’s okay. Give them an extra hour or two for a couple of mornings and you are almost guaranteed a better mood during the day. And it gives you a couple hours in the morning to yourself or with your partner.

And most importantly, pick your battles. Your teen may camp out on a bench instead of exploring the museum, or refuse to order at a restaurant they didn’t pick. Let it go. By feeding into it you’re rewarding it with attention and creating more problems.

It might seem easier to learn the Japanese language than to figure out the subway system but don't fear - what may seem intimidating isn't too bad once you get some basic local knowledge on the train system. 

Japan.jpg

 

First, make sure you do some planning in advance. Look over and print out the English Route Map from Tokyo Metro. This website also has plenty of other great info - subway mannersairport accessmetro transfer planning & fare calculationdiscount tickets, and more.

You can also cheek with the front desk of your hotel or any other tourist information information desk - they can point you in the right direction and usually have maps available for free.

The Tokyo Traveler has 6 basic steps to help make your train travel easy. Here is an outline, but check out the site for detailed information regarding each step.

Step 1 - Determine the Fare to Your Destination

Step 2 - Purchase a Ticket

Step 3 - Proceed through the Fare Gate

Step 4 - Locate your Track

Step 5 - Exit at your Destination

Step 6 - Locate the correct Station Exit

Try to avoid taking the trains around rush hour, at least at first. Though it might be one of those perfect Japanese experiences.

The Tokyo Traveler also has some great Tips & Tricks for making subway travel even easier. They recommend a Prepaid SubWay Card, either a Suica or Pasmoboth available for a deposit of Y500 (all but Y210 is returned to you).

You can also get a One-Day Open Ticket for Y710 (about $7 USD).

Bonus!

Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Contact one of our experienced travel consultants to see what it takes to get you to Tokyo. We can help plan the perfect trip for your interests and budget. Why wait?

Public was awarded the 2011 Michelin Star for excellence. This Australian-Asian fusion restaurant manages to epitomize the NoLita dining experience while still evoking and innovating entirely creative, exotic and delicious food.

1_thespace.jpg

Public is characterized by simple, industrial elegance. Sit outside on the elevated patio for some prime NYC people-watching. Perfect for a date or small group of friends. Service is wonderful and the crowd diverse. Even the bathrooms are lovely, the walls lined with complimentary bars of soap individually wrapped in Public wrapping.

The dinner menu by Chef Brad Farmerie seeks to “excite and challenge patrons by introducing new flavors and ingredients to their culinary vocabulary.” Just about all of the eclectic, global cuisine is absolutely delicious. In particular, try the Oxtail Snail Ravioli, the Pork Confit Belly, or for the more adventurous, the Grilled Kangaroo on coriander falafel. Finish your meal and cool your palate with a refreshing sorbet.

Don’t go expecting huge, generous portions but rather palate-satisfying, rich dishes, in appropriate portions. 

Full Bar. Pair your food with a Guava and Red Chili Margarita, refreshing with chili pepper kick, or the Pear and Lemongrass Fizz
PDF of Full Drink and Wine List

The Monday Room features 60 varieties of wine from Australia and New Zealand plus small plates to compliment them. Brunch at a $22 fixed price that includes cocktail, coffee/tea and meal. Try the coconut pancakes. Saturday & Sunday, 11am-3:30pm

Reservations Recommended 
Hours: Monday - Thursday 6pm-11pm; Friday & Saturday 6pm-12am; Sunday 6pm-10:30pm . Bar open late, 1am or 2am. 
Address: 210 Elizabeth Street between Spring St. & Prince St. 
Tel:             (212) 343-7011      

15 of the World's Most Bizarre Buildings

(Image: AP Photo/Frank Rumpenhorst)

Really wanted to share this list by MSN UK Travel of 15 of the World's Most Bizarre Buildings. 

The photo above is "Waldspirale, based in Darmstadt, Germany, which was the last architectural piece by Austria's Friedensreich Hundertwasser. It houses 105 apartments and was designed to rise up in the form of an afforested spiral. The architect claimed the design was an allegory of the earth's strata, sediment that has been deposited over millions of years."

Also referred to as the Paddington Bazaar, this weekly market features over 200 stalls of high quality, Australian-made goods. Arguably the best in the city, this vibrant churchyard market is a great way to kick off your Saturday in Sydney.

Market.jpg

In the courtyard of the market you’ll find the emerging designers section where you can find distinctly New Age and high fashion clothing items. All around the market are stalls with unique clothing and accessories, ranging from avant-garde to vintage.

Within the market you can also find fresh flowers, baked goods, and other local, hand-made artisan goods and crafts. This is a top-notch market where most of the wares are of high quality as the different vendors are in friendly competition with one another. 
List of Stall Holders

The vibe here is fabulous and chic and you’re bound to pick up some gifts or a souvenir for your trip from the hodgepodge of cool items for sale.

Paddington Market Website

Saturdays only, 10am-4pm. Rain or Shine 

Address: St. John’s Uniting Church, 395 Oxford St., Paddington, Sydney 
Tel: +61 2 9331 2923

Essential. Affordable. Economical. You can use the Budapest Card throughout the city for more than 150 discounts at different sights, museums, spas, restaurants, transports, programs and more!

Budapest Card.jpg

Here is a list of discounts that come with the Card. It even comes with a Travel Accident Insurance.

Starting in April 2011 are the new Budapest Cards which you can purchases according to time increments: 24 hrs, 48hrs (6300 HUF, about $29UDS/$30CAD), 72hrs (7500 HUF, about $33USD/$35CAD), and a new 'Walking' 48hrs.

Check out the Free Walking Tours.

Here is information about where you can obtain a card - there are over 250 locations in the city.

You can also order it online for free.