Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Driving the Road to Hana: Maui, Hawaii

My husband and I have been lucky enough to visit Hawaii a couple of times. And any time we’ve been to Maui, we have to drive the Hana Highway. 

The Road to Hana is a 68-mile stretch of Hawaii State Highways. For those of us used to highway driving in a metro area, that’s about an hour of normal driving time. Not so in Hawaii. Think of small, hilly, twisty roads with many one-lane bridges. There is said to be 620 curves on the road. It’s no wonder that getting the 52 miles from Kahului to Hana usually takes three hours.

However, as pretty as Hana is, the drive is not about the destination – it truly is the journey. You’re driving over bridges, perhaps yielding to traffic, but going through lush tropical rainforest.  You just have to pull over, and take in the natural beauty.  You can bring a picnic lunch, and sit down in front of a waterfall.  You can swim in the seven sacred pools, see rainbow eucalyptus and bamboo trees, and enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna.  And you can even play a CD that will narrate your drive.

For more information, check out this website – you can even watch the video http://www.mauiinformationguide.com/road-to-hana.php

Course, you can give me a call – and I can get your vacation to Hawaii and the garden isle of Maui sorted for you!

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Hotel St-Barth Isle de France – a Virtuoso Hotel

 When I was in Vegas in August (attending the world’s largest luxury travel show at Virtuoso’s Travel Mart), I met the Director of Sales for North America for the Hotel St-Barth Isle de France. Christy Connolly kindly introduced me to the hotel during our 4 minute “speed dating” session, and I was so intrigued, I set up a follow up 10 minutes sales meeting with her.

Even still, 14 minutes is not enough time to learn about a terrific property. So, today, hotel manager Evelyn Weber was in Ottawa, and she kindly came by my office to share even further details on the property I’m checking out for a couple of clients’ families.

The Hotel St. Barth Isle de France is located on the beautiful Baie des Flamands beach. The hotel is a luxury boutique-style property with 39 rooms, suites, and villas.  This 5* property combines French culture and style, with West Indes charm. http://www.isle-de-france.com/us/plan.pdf 

Of course, it is a Virtuoso partner of mine, which means I can negotiate special amenities on your behalf!

The hotel has a main building set on the beach, as well as tropical garden room/ bungalows/ villas and hillside bungalows (as well as some new beach suites).

The hotel is on the Conde Nast Traveller UK – Gold List for 2010 as the “Best Hotel for ‘Ambience & Design” in the Americas & Caribbean. Conde Nast Traveller UK 2009 named it “Best Hotel in the Americans and the Caribbean” and “4th Best Hotel in the world”.  Tatler rated it in the “Top 100 hotels of the year 2009 worldwide.” Conde Nast Traveller US 2008 rated it “Best hotel in the Caribbean and Atlantic”, and Travel & Leisure 2008 rated it the “Best Hotel for Service in the Caribbean.”

There’s a Malton Brown spa on property, as well as a gymnasium, and a fresh water pool. And there are weekly fashion shows too.

Water sports are big on the property. You can rent sailing boats, catamarans, and motor boats – with or without a skipper.You can surf, scuba, kayak, or deep sea dive. (In addition to water skiing, windsurfing, snorkelling, and swimming.) Tennis is 5 minutes away, and horseback riding is also possible. There are options for archery, aerobics, and rugby.  

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about the Hotel St-Barth Isle de France. I can use the power of one-to-one from Virtuoso’s Travel Mart to “VIP” you with my new friends, Christy Connolly and Evelyn Weber.

 

September 26, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels | 1 Comment

Proud to be Four Seasons Preferred Partner

Besides my affiliation with Vision 2000 Travel Group, and being a proud member of Virtuoso, I am also thrilled of V2K’s additional partnership with the Four Seasons chain.

In addition to membership in Virtuoso, Vision 2000 Travel Group is a preferred partner with Four Seasons. There are only 3 preferred partners in Canada, and only 101 around the globe. Not only is Vision 2000 in rare company, we are also the largest seller of Four Seasons in Canada – which gives us terrific negotiating power for our clients.

The Four Seasons Preferred Partner programme is an exclusive, invitation-only network of high-end travel consultants from around the world.

As a preferred partner programme member, V2K has proven our dedication to providing our clients with a premium level of service, and, so, we share in the Four Seasons commitment to exceptional quality.

There are terrific benefits to V2K and me from this partnership – Four Seasons shows the value it places on the business I bring by doing everything they can to make my job easier – from streamlining the booking process, to ensuring that my clients are always treated with the utmost care and attention.

But, in addition to the Preferred Partner website, there are tremendous benefits and services that I can offer my clients. This includes a preferred partner amenity programme (where I can negotiate tremendous amenities on my clients behalf), to simplified booking process, to consistent communication, to support.

Of course, my clients benefit greatly from the Preferred Partner Amenity Programme. Thanks to my status as a Four Seasons Preferred Partner, my clients can enjoy special value-added benefits at all Four Seasons hotels and resorts worldwide. These benefits have been standardised across all properties to make the elements easy to remember — and also make it easier for me to promote the benefits to my clients.

Available on most rates and promotions, I can negotiate the following amenities on my clients’ behalf:

  • Daily full American breakfast for two people per bedroom, served through In-Room Dining or in the hotel restaurant (including buffets).
  • Extra value-added amenity, such as: Spa credit of USD100 once during stay (not applicable to products); golf credit of USD100 once during stay (not applicable to pro shop purchases); or lunch for two once during stay (up to USD85, excluding gratuity and alcohol). (Each hotel’s specific extra amenity is specified by the individual property.)
  • Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (excluding signature suites and villas).
  • Welcome note at check-in .
  • Complimentary high-speed Internet access for all suite bookings.

And, the power of one-to-one gives me access to the top-level managers at each Four Seasons. This means that not only can I get my clients preferred partner amenities, but that I can also get them enhanced recognition and personal welcome from on-property management, access to the best guest room inventory, and have priority access to wait-list clearance.

Why aren’t you staying at a Four Seasons for your next holiday? Give me a call, and let me take advantage of the Four Seasons Preferred Partner status to “VIP” you!

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Other Items, Lush Life Partners, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Examining the Broken Glass of 9/11- Thank you Gander, Newfoundland

Sometimes, loss is so all-encompassing, so gut-wrenching, so tangible, it seems you might take it out, turn it round in your hand, and examine it – just like it’s a piece of broken glass. It hurts to touch. You bleed. But you keep touching. And even though time and touch may eventually round its edges a little, it’s still glass. It can still cut – whether you hold it in your hand, or bury it in your heart.

I first wrote those words shortly after my dad had been killed. I learned that there are some hurts from which you don’t recover. Time doesn’t heal the wound. Instead, time lets you get used to the pain, to co-exist with it, so you can find a way to get up every morning.

And while the world found a way to get up every morning for the past ten years, we relived the horrors that were 9/11 yesterday. We all gathered around the TV set. We took out the buried hurt, put it in our hands, and examined it. The broken glass still hurt to touch. We bled. But we kept touching. Even though a decade of touch has rounded the edges a little, it’s still glass. It still cut.

Some think it’s ghoulish to invite the pain. To watch it all, again. I don’t. Anniversaries force us to reflect. They mark the chapters of our life. My husband and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in October – we will celebrate. My family marked the 5th anniversary since my dad’s tragic accident in September – we mourned. And with the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I snuggled with my children in bed at 8:46 am yesterday morning to watch  “102 Minutes that Changed America.”  http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/102-minutes-changed-america/

My five year old loves watching CSI. She’s old beyond her years. She’d heard about 9/11, and wanted to watch the “movie” with us about things that’d happened long before she was born. I couldn’t shelter her older sister years before, when she’d asked me why God would take her Poppy (she’d been about the same age as my youngest is now). So, I knew I couldn’t shelter the little one when she asked why men would purposefully fly a plane into a building to kill themselves and countless innocents. All of the religious, political, and metaphysical stuff  just falls away to nothingness in the eyes of a child.

So – you focus on the good.

Thank you, Gander, Newfoundland, for reminding me, again, of all that is good.

Ten years after 9/11, the world’s attention was on my home province yesterday. On September 11, 2001; US Airspace was closed moments after the enormity of the attack on New York City was realized. Thirty-eight jetliners landed in Gander, Newfoundland; doubling the community’s size in a matter of hours.

See http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/09/11/canada-remembers-september-11-gander-newfoundland_n_957214.html , and read the Jim DeFede book  http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Day-World-Came-Town-Jim-Defede/?isbn=9780060559717 

Gander has long served as an international airport. See http://www.ganderairport.com/history.htm There was no doubt that Gander airport, CYQX, had the runways for the large jets, and it could handle the aircraft. But, I’m not sure much forethought was given to the 6,600 passengers and crew suddenly in need of food, shelter, and comfort. Not that there was time for forethought…. but there certainly wasn’t a preponderance of 2,000 room hotels nearby. The people of Gander opened their hearts. They welcomed strangers into their homes. And, as Huffpost notes, “Prescriptions were filled without charge, and schools and church halls became shelters.” See http://www.ganderairport.com/911.htm

As Jim DeFede wrote, the world had indeed come to town. “For the better part of a week, nearly every man, woman, and child in Gander and the surrounding smaller towns stopped what they were doing so they could help. They placed their lives on hold for a group of strangers and asked for nothing in return. They affirmed the basic goodness of man at a time when it was easy to doubt such humanity still existed.”

Yesterday, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, travelled to Gander for a memorial service. His speech is covered here. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/09/11/canada-sept11.html The Ambassador quoted Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: “Be not afraid of greatness.” And he spoke about how greatness had been thrust upon the people of Gander. He talked about how “the plane people” had landed on a solid rock of humanity, and how, “without waiting to be asked,” the people of Gander gave light to darkness. He paid tribute to the fact that the people of Gander had no way of knowing whether those diverted planes had terrorists onboard, but: “You did not flinch. You took the planes. You took the risk. You welcomed all. The same was true across the rest of Canada… You affirmed – with grace, and with compassion, and with good humour – our faith in the goodness of people. You were the best of us.”

I am proud to be a Newfoundlander. I am proud that people of my home province showed no fear when greatness was thrust upon them. And the message I hope my daughters will take away from our watching of the documentary, the media coverage, and the memorial services yesterday is that: Yes, the broken glass may have its edges rounded a little, and, yes, it still hurts to touch. You may still bleed. But let what happened in Gander be the salve. Focus on the good. Focus on the spirit of resilience. Focus on the future.

September 12, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | 10 Comments

Icebergs, Music, & Whales in Twillingate, Newfoundland

My family just returned from a visit “home” – to the west coast of Newfoundland. Besides being enveloped by the love of family and friends, we love to explore the beauty that is Newfoundland. This year, we turned our sights towards Twillingate.

Twillingate is about a 4-5 hour drive (depending on moose, and other vehicle traffic) from Corner Brook. Driving east towards Gander in central Newfoundland, you take route 340 to Lewisporte/Twillingate  on the “Road to the Isles.”  It’s a pretty drive, past many small fishing villages.  Twillingate is a gorgeous little community whose name is drawn from the French Toulinguet (so named by French fisherman who thought the area resembled their own area.) http://www.twillingate.com/media/uploads/Twillingate_MAP.pdf

My family stayed at the Harbour Lights Inn in Twillingate. A pretty little 9 room B&B that is a converted house from the 1820’s, and owned by the Young family. The innkeepers, Wanda and her husband, warmly welcomed us upon arrival, and made us reservations for the evening’s performance of the “All Around the Circle” dinner theatre. It was an evening of terrific food, good music, and laughter. But it was a little weird to be sitting at a table singing “Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour” of the famous Newfoundland folk song, “I’se de Bye,” when you can physically see the “all around the circle” from the song.

But the highlight of the trip was a Twillingate Adventure Tour with Captain Perry Young, and his tour guide sis Kim. We cruised past the pretty town, the lighthouse, and the various coves and islands.

And we had fun playing “peek-a-boo” with a Minke whale.

We thoroughly enjoyed our day on the bay.

Did I mention the icebergs?

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

The Bellagio in Vegas – Home of the “Best of the Best”

 I just returned from Virtuoso’s luxury travel show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  The Bellagio hosted the “best of the best” travel advisors, hoteliers, suppliers, and onsite destination specialists in a one week trade show that really has blown my mind. While I’m still processing all the information I absorbed, and trying to organize the +500 business cards I collected, I can say that I loved my stay at the Bellagio.

I’d been to Vegas before, and had popped into the Bellagio for a meal and to throw some $ in the slots. But staying at the Bellagio is a different experience. Besides the terrific fountain show out front, and the central location on the strip, the hotel is beautiful.

I can honestly say I’ve never walked so much at a convention, however. The hotel is huge!  It would take me ~15 minutes to leave my room in the Bellagio Tower to reach the Convention Centre. 

The room itself was gorgeous, even though I didn’t spend much time in it. (The days started very early, and ended very late.)

I hardly got outside at all during my stay (the convention was truly that busy that there were days when I didn’t venture outside the four walls at all) – but I did manage to sneak a swim or two in at the pool.

So – if you’re looking for a terrific spot to stay in Vegas, consider the Bellagio. I just stayed there for 5 nights, 6 days, and had a terrific time. Now I have to go back to take in more sights!

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Hotels, Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

Virtuoso Names this year’s “Best of the Best” Hotels

I just returned from my first ever Travel Mart at the Bellagio in Vegas with Virtuoso.  I can tell you it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I have never felt so energised and exhausted at the same time.

The big news for the industry, though, as Virtuoso’s successful 2011 Travel Mart came to a close on Thursday, August 18 was the awards handed out.

See the news article here…

http://www.luxurytraveladvisor.com/luxury-hotels/virtuoso-names-this-years-best-best-hotels-6453

and the article excerpted below:

Last night the industry’s creme de la creme gathered at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for the Hotels & Resorts dinner where Virtuoso execs revealed VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine’s picks for this year’s “Best of the Best” hotels.

Editors of VIRTUOSO LIFE magazine collaborated with the organization’s top-tier travel advisors to select hotel nominees in 10 categories. A panel of over 6,000 advisors weighed in on the nominees.

And the winners are…

Best Achievement in Design
The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Best Culinary Experience
Le 114 Faubourg at Hôtel Le Bristol, Paris

Best Bar
American Bar at The Savoy, London

Best Family Program
Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah

Best Spa
Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach, Florida

Most Innovative Guest Experience
Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana

Most Socially Responsible
Rosewood Mayakobá, Riviera Maya, Mexico

One to Watch
The St. Regis Lhasa Resort, Tibet

Hotelier of the Year
Offer Nissenbaum, The Peninsula Beverly Hills, California

Hotel of the Year
Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin, Venice

====

If you’d like to check out any of these “Best of the Best” Hotels, give me a call. I’ve now met hoteliers/ suppliers/ onsite destination specialists from around the world, and can seek the assistance of my new +500 contacts to “vip” you for your holiday.

Don’t you deserve the “best of the best?”

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Partners | Leave a comment

Livin’ Royally at the Fairmont Royal York (esp. w Fairmont President’s Club)

I recently had to go to Toronto for a quick business trip, and my family and I took the opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Royal York for a couple of nights.

The Fairmont Royal York is perfectly located for visiting Toronto, and is within easy walking distance of the Toronto harbour front (including the ferry to Centre Island), the CN Tower, the Air Canada Centre, and various shops and restaurants.  And it’s been a Toronto downtown landmark since 1929. It commands centre stage at Front Street, and has entertained famous guests from around the world.

The hotel has 1365 distinctive guest rooms, 68 unique and luxurious suites, 9 restaurants and lounges, and a health club with pool, plus a business centre and 29 function rooms giving 63,000 square feet of meeting space.

Check out the Fairmont Royal York for your next trip to Toronto. But if you do, please:

1. ensure you’re signed up for the Fairmont President’s club before you go – not only is it free to sign up, but you get some tremendous perks (including free wifi access, and free local calls). And,

2. check with me first – most Fairmonts are also Virtuoso partners with Vision 2000 Travel Group, so I can negotiate even more amenities on your behalf!

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations | Leave a comment

Concierge at Disney’s Grand Floridian – Pampering to Die For!

I often will recommend to my clients that they stay at a Disney monorail hotel.  The benefits of the location, and the convenience of access to Magic Kingdom,  just can’t be beat. Last month, we visited WDW for the 19th time, and we again stayed at a WDW monorail hotel. We stayed at the Grand Floridian, Disney’s flagship hotel. And we splurged, and upgraded to the concierge category. Was the pampering good?  To die for!

First of all, continental breakfast each morning makes it easy to get up, grab some food, and hit the park.  Anyone who’s travelled to Disney with kids knows that something fast to satiate the morning appetite works well – kids don’t want to waste a lot of time eating before they hit the rides. So, having a continental breakfast just outside your room door works great!

Second of all, besides staying at a 5* hotel, with the attendant wonderful service, terrific amenities, fine dining and character options, recreational options, as well as great rooms; you get pampered by staff.  There’s a concierge staff (who are set up right across from the food and drink) to help with your dining, other reservations, and/or other needs. So – you can grab a soft drink or snack while they assist you. The snacks are there throughout the day, for rest time – when you come back from a swim and need to get refreshed.

Third of all, there are hot h’or d’oeuvres from 5-7 that will give you a little boost after a long day park hopping… (all with your choice of alcoholic or other beverage).

And then there is the dessert buffet from 8:30 to 10:00 pm, so you can grab a chocolatey snack, with a Grand Marnier, and then head out to see the fireworks.

Is the pampering good at the Grand Floridian?  To die for!

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice | Leave a comment

Returning to My Happy Place – Disney’s Grand Floridian

My family was lucky enough to return to the Grand Floridian for our 5th visit recently (and our #19 visit to Disney in total). I returned to my happy place!

Let’s be clear…. I LOVE the Grand Floridian. 

I love the Victorian elegance. I love the white buildings, and pastel shading. I love the service, the amenities, the pools, the dining, being so close to Magic Kingdom, and the convenience of being on property and at such a terrific resort.

How could you not like the beautiful sand beach, the canyon-themed waterslide, and being within walking distance of some terrific restaurants – and we’re not even talking about the monorail access to Magic Kingdom!

Seriously – look at the photos. How could you not want to stay here?

July 14, 2011 Posted by | Lush Life Destinations, Lush Life Disney, Lush Life Hotels, Lush LIfe Top Posts | 2 Comments