Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes
"Travelers411" Radio Show - December 11, 2010 - Show Archive

Playing 'The Tourist' in Venice, Italy; The Boston Symphony Orchestra Kicks Off 2011 With UnderScore Fridays, Boston, Massachusetts; January 2011 Airfares From CheapOAir; Staying Safe While Traveling Abroad.

Listen to the show in Windows Media Format:     hour1     hour2

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Hour 1

Topics Include:

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams kicks off this hour of the "Travelers411" Radio Show talking about Venice, Italy. Stephanie just saw the film "The Tourist" with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. The movie opens in Paris, where the two stars catch a train to Venice. "The countryside you see is absolutely exquisite – and from Paris to Venice is a long trip," says Stephanie. Although the film shows Angelina and Johnny disembarking at the Venice Mestre train station and immediately catching a water taxi, it's not so easy offscreen.

Huge lion sculpture adorning staircase in Italy.
Huge lion sculpture adorning staircase in Italy.

Venice Mestre is in a flat area on land, about a five-minute drive from the place where the city's famous canals actually begin. Unless travelers have very little luggage, Stephanie recommends taking a taxi from the train station to the canals. From there, visitors can catch a water taxi. "It's probably a good thing that the canals don't come all the way up to the train station because Venice is sinking," Stephanie points out. "If they did, the station would be in danger of flooding."

Italy's Amalfi Coast.
Italy's Amalfi Coast.

Once at the water's edge, visitors have the option of taking a water taxi or a water bus. "In general, water buses are smaller than the Staten Island ferry, but they can carry a couple hundred people easily and tend to be inexpensive," Stephanie explains. "A water taxi is a motorboat that holds from four to twelve people and is usually pricier. It is, however, similar to a cab in that it takes you where you want to go. Or you might be able to find a water taxi that's a group ride and will let you off close to your destination instead of right at the doorstep."

The Colloseum in Rome, Italy.
The Colloseum in Rome, Italy.

Stephanie recommends a stay at the Hotel Danieli, overlooking that Grand Canal. "The middle windows of the hotel are where I like to stay, because the view of the Grand Canal and the island with the dome-topped cathedral are spectacular," she says. In the film, of course, the main characters stayed in a suite. "In the film 'Last Holiday,' which was filmed at the Grand Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, they moved some things around and made the bar into the reception area," she continues. "At the Danieli, they didn't have to change a thing for the film."

Conti Beccaris Castle in Poggie Catino.
Conti Beccaris Castle in Poggie Catino.

Another luxurious hotel option in Venice is the Gritti Palace. Both the Hotel Danieli and Gritti Palace are part of the Starwood Luxury Collection. "Gritti Palace is a very nice hotel with a fabulous history, but you had better know what room you want to stay in and get them to save that room for you!" Stephanie says. "The big thing is to get a view of the Grand Canal, so you're not looking at the back of a building."

Conti Beccaris Castle in Poggie Catino.
Conti Beccaris Castle in Poggie Catino.

Stephanie also suggests Ciga Hotels, an Italian chain, or Sofitel, which often offers nice rooms on smaller canals. "If you're going to spend big bucks, though, stay in the Danieli and get a room overlooking the Grand Canal," she says. "If you can't afford that, go for cocktails or lunch in the lobby. Just sit there for a while and luxuriate." Whether the accommodations are five-star or less, though, Stephanie adds that many hotel bathrooms in Italy still look like they came from a palace.

Doorway in Florence, Italy.
Doorway in Florence, Italy.

When out on the town, Stephanie suggests shopping at Coin department stores, which are headquartered in the Venice Mestre area. "They're beautiful stores, very modern, and the housewares sections are fabulous," she explains. "It's the second-largest department store chain in Italy. And in the stores, they generally have a restaurant on the upper floors where the food is terrific and the pricing is reasonable. That's important because Venice is probably the only place in Italy where you want to check a guidebook for good places to eat – you can't just walk in and be promised a good meal."

Fiat 500 in Italy.
Fiat 500 in Italy.

For example, Stephanie once dined at a restaurant near St. Mark's Square and was disappointed. "If you have the Grand Canal at your back, the square with a million pigeons at your left, and the cathedral at your right, you enter a long street with boutiques and shopping," she recalls. "You start to pass some restaurants, which put big display tables outside. They fill the tables with big chunks of ice and put fresh fish on top. I always order spaghetti or linguini with white clam sauce at Italian restaurants. But Venice was the only place I was served sauce with clam juice, wine, lemon, garlic, and clam shells – there wasn't a microscopic piece of clam in that dish!"

Orvieto Cathedral.
Orvieto Cathedral.

To avoid a similar experience, Stephanie suggests asking about the dish before ordering. She notes that restaurants on more expensive real estate – like the street just off St. Mark's Square – will often have pricier menus, but the food quality doesn't always match. A department store can be a safe, convenient option for a sit-down meal or a quick, cheap lunch of pasta and sauce. "You don't feel like you're eating in the cafeteria of a department store, either," Stephanie continues. "At one, they had built a trellis hung with grape leaves, so you felt like you were dining outside in a Tuscan vineyard."

Rome at sunset.
Rome at sunset.

One scene in "The Tourist" that really disturbed Stephanie involved Johnny Depp's character driving a motorboat while handcuffed. Eventually, he's thrown overboard into the canal. "That water is about as polluted as it can get!" Stephanie says. "Raw sewage runs into it. You don't want to fall in or even stick your hand in. It doesn't smell or look disgusting, but it's full of bacteria. It's romantic to go out in a gondola or water taxi, but you do not want to be splashed."

Roman ruins.
Roman ruins.

In "The Tourist," the underwater scenes are digital, but other actors have gone into the canals for their art. "Katharine Hepburn was in a movie where her character is seduced by a handsome Italian and had to fall in a canal," Stephanie explains. "After they filmed the scene, the producers had everything ready to clean her up – they soaked her down, shampooed her hair, gave her anti-bacterial mouthwash. Unfortunately, they didn't have anything for her eyes. The bacteria that got into her eyes could have caused blindness." Hepburn had to put in eyedrops every day for the rest of her life, which sometimes caused her eyes to look glassy in later films.

Italy.
Italy.

In one of the film's last scenes, the police talk to a man who appears to be standing on an island in the Grand Canal, looking at Venice. "He's looking at the Danieli, the Campanile – the tall, red-brick building at the entrance to St. Mark's Square – and the Doge's Palace," Stephanie explains. "I think he was standing on an island called Lido, which is an interesting place. It's quieter than Venice; not honky-tonky but posh. You can swim there because the beach faces the Adriatic, not the Grand Canal, and has beautiful white sand. It's very residential but there are a few hotels, including the Excelsior. If you stay at another Westin hotel, they'll often give you a pass to swim for the day at the Excelsior."


Travel Tips:

Many cathedrals in Europe require that women wear dresses or skirts and men wear pants (not shorts). Stephanie suggests bringing a sarong, which is thin, light, rolls up and packs easily, but is big enough to wrap around. Women can tie the sarong around their waists to make a skirt when needed.

The leaning tower of Pisa.
The leaning tower of Pisa.

Prague and Venice both have elaborate astronomical clocks that, according to Stephanie, "go berserk" on the hour. Her favorite, however, is in Brussels, Belgium.

In the U.S., the first floor is at ground level; in Europe, the first floor is one flight up. European countries also have different names for the ground floor. In France, for example, the lobby or ground level is the 'rez-de-chaussee,' so elevators will have buttons for 'RC' instead of 'L.'
Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Kim Noltemy, Director of Sales & Marketing, Boston Symphony Orchestra.
www.bso.org
www.bostonpops.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show plan for the 2011 season with Kim Noltemy, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops in Boston, Massachusetts. Even though there is still time to get tickets for the 2010 Holiday Pops shows, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is already gearing up for concerts next spring and summer.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra. playing at Tanglewood.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra playing at Tanglewood.

Kim is particularly excited about the BSO's new subscription series, UnderScore Fridays. The series is three Friday night concerts on January 14, February 11, and March 25. The audience at each of these concerts will have a chance to meet the conductor and performers. "The concerts will start at 7 p.m., a little earlier than normal, and the conductor will talk about the program from the stage," Kim explains. "The concerts are also a little shorter than our typical program and will be followed by a reception, where the audience can socialize with each other and the artists. It's a whole new way to go to the symphony."

John Williams conducting at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
John Williams conducting at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The January UnderScore concert will be conducted by Sir Mark Elder and feature guest pianist Lars Vogt; the February program will be conducted by Susanna Malkki, with guest cellist Alban Gerhardt; and Thomas Ades will conduct the March program, featuring guest violinist Anthony Marwood. Since Ades is also a composer, he will be conducting one of his own works at the March concert, too. "It's great when you attend a concert and really connect with the conductor," Stephanie adds. "Each one has a personality."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1416

For more information visit www.bso.org and www.bostonpops.com


Link to this segment

Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, CheapOAir.com.
www.cheapoair.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show discuss cheap international airfares with Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for CheapOAir.com. Stephanie is currently looking at airfares to the Caribbean. "I'm planning to be in Barbados in January and found a $129 fare from JFK to Barbados, one way," she says. "In the other direction it was $249, but there are still bargains all over the world. It helps to be flexible; if you can move a day or two, it can make a big difference to your purse."

Bridgetown, Barbados.
Bridgetown, Barbados.

Bill has fares to international and domestic destinations for departure on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 and return on Tuesday, January 25, 2011. All fares quoted are round-trip, taxes and fees not included. The international fares are: New York City to Moscow, $510; New York City to Prague, $624; Los Angeles to Hong Kong, $813; Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand, $1100; Boston to Nice, France, $593; and Chicago to Warsaw, $619. The domestic fares are Washington, D.C. to Orlando, $143; and Boston to Los Angeles, $215.

Barbados coast.
Barbados coast.

"It's low season, so if you can tolerate the cold in some places, you can have some great vacation time," says Bill. He adds that all airline tickets sold through CheapOAir are for flights on major U.S. domestic carriers, including American, U.S. Airways, Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air Canada, and Swissair. "There are a few carriers that you may not have heard of, like Air Royal Maroc," he explains. "But when you're buying tickets, you know what airline you're getting. 99% of the fares we sell are transparent."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2610

For more information visit www.cheapoair.com


Travel Tips:

Berkshire County Though Stephanie thinks Berkshire County is gorgeous any time of year, she invites listeners to visit during the winter. "In winter, sometimes it's good to get away," she says. "But sometimes, the snow is nice – it whispers down and looks like angels fluffing pillows. I just walked to have lunch at a new restaurant and could hear my feet crunching in the snow. It was so nice, and they had all the Christmas decorations up. I'm going to go back, sit in the window seat, and watch the snow fall – it's so romantically charming."

Joe's Diner in Lee, Berkshires, Massachusetts, USA.
Joe's Diner in Lee, Berkshires, Massachusetts, USA.

Speaking of snow, Jiminy Peak has already started making snow for the season. Stephanie recommends the mountain as a good spot for families. More serious skiers may want to head north of the Berkshires to Killington or Stowe in Vermont, which have more challenging terrain. Those who prefer to stay indoors can enjoy a show at the Colonial Theatre, which Stephanie compares to a European opera house.

Lanesboro, Massachusetts, USA in the winter.
Lanesborough, Massachusetts, USA in the winter.

Staying Safe Abroad. Stephanie has been following the trial of Amanda Knox, a young American recently convicted by an Italian court of murdering her roommate. Knox was studying abroad in Italy, was arrested and put on trial, and is serving a 26-year sentence in an Italian prison. "Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity, provided you don't get arrested," Stephanie says. "For all the wonderful things that Italy is – fantastic history and culture, unbelievable architecture, wonderful people and food – my heart bleeds for Amanda and her family."

Italy.
Italy.

"It made no sense for her to be charged with the murder of her roommate of two weeks," Stephanie continues. "From the time you're arrested in Italy, you're considered guilty until you prove your innocence – the opposite of the American system. There was no significant evidence in the trial; it was all circumstantial. And after she was found guilty and imprisoned, some other fellow in an Italian jail confessed to his cellmate that he had murdered the girl. The cellmate told the warden who told the legal system, and that's what her appeal is based on."

Italy.
Italy.

"Her appeal is going to come up, but in the meantime the prosecutor has decided to ask that her prison term be increased to 50 or 60 years," Stephanie adds. "As my grandfather used to say, 'When you know you're wrong, scream louder!' The whole thing is crazy. Stay out of trouble in Italy, especially if you don't speak Italian." The severity of the situation reminds Stephanie of the landing cards in Singapore, which warn visitors that if they're transporting drugs, they are subject to death. "I've never seen anything quite so blunt anywhere else," Stephanie says. "The point is, don't fool around – they're serious."


Guests Include:

Kim Noltemy, Director of Sales & Marketing, Boston Symphony Orchestra.
www.bso.org
www.bostonpops.com

Bill Miller, Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, CheapOAir.com.
www.cheapoair.com

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