Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes - June 04, 2011
"Travelers411" Radio Show - June 04, 2011
Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisonconsin Try a Bloody Mary, Meet the Artist-in-Residence, or Celebrate Heritage at the Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Exploring Jordan and Israel on Guaranteed Departure Tours from GoIsraelUSA and SkyLink Holidays; Descendants of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington Enjoy Irish Hospitality in Dublin.

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Hour 1

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Joe Kurth, General Manager, Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
www.thepfisterhotel.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show open the hour with Joe Kurth, General Manager of the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Milwaukee is a beautiful city, and the downtown has really become a showplace because of a group of industrious businesspeople," Stephanie says. "They've really made Milwaukee a very visitor-friendly place to be."

Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Stephanie was just thinking about Milwaukee after seeing the film "Bridesmaids." "It's not a family film, but it's fairly entertaining," she says. "The reason I enjoyed it was that it starts off in Milwaukee. There are wonderful shots of Lake Michigan and the art museum. It's a remarkable building with marvelous artwork; the roof opens and closes like a butterfly's wings."

Milwaukee Art Museum.
Milwaukee Art Museum.

The Milwaukee Art Museum, with its Santiago Calatravas-designed addition, was also a filming location for the American Idol finals round in Milwaukee, a recent Victoria's Secret commercial, and a few scenes of the upcoming "Transformers 3." "There's just that kind of Sydney Opera House view from the water," Joe says. "They've put a design element into something that opens during the day as a beautiful sun shade and closes to a sail at night. You can walk there from the Pfister, which is just up the street."

Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Stephanie compares the Pfister Hotel to certain hotels on the East Coast – like Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza or New York City's Plaza – and classic European hotels. Joe invites visitors to come talk to Val in the Lobby Bar, who has been behind the bar for 35 years and knows a thing or two about making a Bloody Mary. "It's a meal in a glass," he says. "By the time you do the shrimp, the cheddar cheese, the sausage stick, well, there's a reason it's in a large tall glass." As if that weren't enough, the drink comes with a separate beer chaser.

Bridge in Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Bridge in Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin.

For the past two years, the Pfister Hotel has welcomed an artist-in-residence. The program continues this year with Shelby Keefe; visitors can watch her work in a studio on the ground floor. The hotel has also added a six-month residency for a writer, whose task is to tell the stories of hotel guests. "We know that we're not the stars of the show; we're where the stars come to stay," Joe explains. The current narrator, Stacie, tells two guest stories each week on a blog within the Pfister website. "This is another way for guests to connect with the property," Joe continues. "When you come to the Pfister, it's not just a box hotel experience."

Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Downtown Milwaukee Wisconsin.

Other attractions at the hotel include Boutique Blu, where Joe promises Stephanie's next outfit is waiting. Beyond that, there's the whole city of Milwaukee to explore. "We hear it again and again," Joe says. "People come and say the city exceeded their expectations. It's kind of a backhanded compliment, but we're okay with it. We're a city with something to prove!" Stephanie certainly agrees with the 'exceeding expectations' part. "The architecture in downtown is exquisite," she says. "There's something to look at of value everywhere – not just a lot of mirrored buildings with chrome strips in between."

Radio show broadcast from the lobby of The Pfister hotel.
Radio show broadcast from the lobby of The Pfister hotel.

June marks the start of summer festival season in Milwaukee. Visitors can choose from several weekends of celebration, including Summer Fest, Italian Fest, German Fest, African American World Fest, Bastille Day, and – Stephanie's favorite – Irish Fest. "We're a spot for anyone to just come and celebrate their heritage," says Joe. "The ethnic festivals that come are people who really know how to celebrate their heritage." Milwaukee's fairgrounds are right on the lakefront and usually cooled by a breeze off the water. And from the Pfister's front door, the fairgrounds are just a 3-block walk downhill.

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Travel Tips:

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams just saw the latest Woody Allen film, "Midnight in Paris," and is ready to take another trip to France. "You're cheating yourself out of a real experience if you don't go and see this," she says. "It's just gorgeous, a love letter to Paris. It will motivate you to go when you see the photography and hear the music; it just romances you around Paris."

Eifel Tower in Paris, France.
Eifel Tower in Paris, France.

The film revolves around a man, played by Owen Wilson, who is contemplating his marriage as he walks around Paris. During one of his strolls, the church bells begin to ring at midnight and a vintage car pulls up. He's invited inside for some champagne and whisked off. Later in the film, he's walking at midnight in the same place when a horse-drawn carriage pulls up. The line between reality and fantasy blurs as he interacts with historic figures from Paris.

L'Arc de Triumph in Paris, France.
L'Arc de Triumph in Paris, France.

Stephanie highly recommends a visit to the Hotel Raphael, especially its rooftop. Although the hotel isn't specifically featured in the film, the characters spend time on a rooftop with a view very similar to the one from the Raphael. She also suggests visiting the Eiffel Tower after dark on the hour. For the millennium celebrations, the tower was lit with thousands of tiny white lights. The mayor of Paris decided to leave them up, and now the lights continue to twinkle for five minutes on the hour, every hour, from sunset until the middle of the night.

Suite at the Raphael Hotel in Paris, France on Rue Kleber.
Suite at the Raphael Hotel in Paris, France on Rue Kleber.

Now that warmer weather has finally arrived, Stephanie reminds travelers not to leave their pets in cars, even if it's only for a few minutes. "People might be able to recover from heatstroke, but pets cannot," she warns. "Their chances of survival are quite low." It's also important to make sure that pets' vaccinations are up-to-date before hitting the road. Travelers planning to visit Canada or other countries will need a certificate from their vet testifying that the animal has had all the necessary shots. And Stephanie recommends a visit to the groomer; a shiny coat can sometimes persuade hoteliers to be that much more pet-friendly.

Raphael Hotel in Paris, France on Rue Kleber.
Raphael Hotel in Paris, France on Rue Kleber.

Pet owners may also want to print lost pet flyers and research pet-friendly hotel chains in advance. "Take current photos of your pet and print out at least one copy," Stephanie advises. "Create a lost pet flyer and email it to yourself. If you need it, you don't have to make one while traveling and lose time." Knowing that there's a pet-friendly chain just a few miles up the road can also bring peace of mind, as can packing a picnic basket and frisbee for easy meal breaks.

Street sign in Paris, France for Avenue Victor Hugo.
Street sign in Paris, France for Avenue Victor Hugo.

Though many hotels call themselves pet friendly, there are a few different levels of friendliness. "Some places will accept pets, some are pet-friendly, and some are pet-welcoming," Stephanie explains. "Some will merely tolerate pets; others have goodie bags for your pet when you check in or a little map of the surrounding area with parks where you can walk your dog. Pet-welcoming hotels will also give you a list of everything from a groomer to a 24-hour vet, and some hotels will have pet sitting or dogwalking services. The hardest part can be finding a way to have dinner and leave your pet at the hotel."

Food at the Raphael Hotel in Paris, France.
Food at the Raphael Hotel in Paris, France.

Stephanie warns that even at pet-welcoming locations, there may be extra charges for a pet. "You want to check; they may charge anything from $10 to $50 a night to $300 that they'll hold to make sure the room is in good condition after you leave," she says. "Or they may hold $100 to steam clean the carpet, launder everything, and sanitize the room in case the next guest has allergies. Just know that you may have to pay that and don't be surprised by extra charges."


Guests Include:

Joe Kurth, General Manager, Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
www.thepfisterhotel.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

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Dina Aharon, Director, Heritage & Middle East Programs, SkyLink Holidays, New York, USA.
www.skylinkholidays.com
www.goisraelusa.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show welcome back Dina Aharon, Director of Heritage and Middle East Programs for GoIsraelUSA, part of SkyLink Holidays. After visiting Israel, Stephanie and Dina suggest that travelers explore more countries in the area, such as Jordan or Turkey.

Camels in the Judean Desert.
Camels in the Judean Desert.

"There are 70 airlines that fly into Israel; 4 of them fly nonstop from New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago," says Dina. "They also fly from Canada. So it doesn't matter where you live; you can always get to a gateway city and get a flight to Israel. If you want to do another trip while you're already there – if you want to explore Jordan – you don't even need to fly there. There are 3 inland crossing points from Israel to Jordan. It takes about 3 hours' drive and you can be in Amman or Petra, the most fascinating cities."

Horods Aqueduct in Caesaria.
Horods Aqueduct in Caesaria.

Like SkyLink's tours of Israel, tours of Jordan are guaranteed departure. "Even for one day, we have a crossing from Elad, a city on the Red Sea, into Petra," explains Dina. "It's operated daily throughout the year." What can visitors see in Jordan? "You'll see the city, carved into a big red rock, and you'll take a donkey down a very narrow pass," she continues. "When you enter the huge temple, you'll open your eyes and feel so tiny in this amazing, breathtaking city. It's one of the modern wonders of the world."

Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.
Independence Hall in Tel Aviv.

Visitors who want to explore further can see the city of Amman and its archaeological sites, the desert of Wadi Rum, or Mount Nebo, where Moses stood overlooking the Holy Land. Each SkyLink tour balances heritage, history, and fun. The company even organizes special tours for clergy who are preparing to lead a group of congregants. "This is one way for pastors to familiarize themselves with the destinations before leading a group," Dina explains. "It's 7 nights, air and land included, in a small group in Israel – and it's fully refundable when they come back leading a group from their church."

The Judean Desert.
The Judean Desert.

Tours for clergy follow a typical Holy Land itinerary: from Jerusalem to Galilee, up the coastline to Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Bethlehem, and down to Jericho, which is the oldest city in the Western world, according to Dina. "We just explore the sites; we don't need to introduce them because they've been reading and teaching the Bible," she says. "I had a dear friend, Pastor Smith, who went on one of these trips 3 years ago. Every day he would wake up and say, Dina, you cannot top yesterday. I would say that first of all, it wasn't me, it was the land. And second of all, I could top it. Every year since then, he's come back with a group."

Temple Mount.
Temple Mount.

SkyLink does not just offer trips to Middle East destinations; it's a multi-billion-dollar travel company that Stephanie has known for 25 years. "I know the founders, the people who work there, the high ethical standards, and the quality of the team that makes the travel experience happen," Stephanie says. The size of the company makes it easy to offer good value to travelers. "SkyLink is one of the leading air consolidators in North America," Dina points out. "We work with 80 airlines and get very good values because we're very big, we've been in the industry for 30 years, and we're delivering."

The Western Wall and Mosque in Jerusalem.
The Western Wall and Mosque in Jerusalem.

Stephanie is also impressed by SkyLink's guaranteed departure policy. "When TWA was in business, they were notorious for canceling departures at the last moment," she says. "They would give your money back, but what good is that when you have no vacation? People suddenly had the money, the vacation time reserved, and no place to go!" According to Dina, guaranteed departures are intended to minimize this kind of aggravation. Not only are SkyLink tours guaranteed, but they're available in a range of programs: Christian, Jewish, bar mitzvah, Catholic, classic, non-denominational, and interfaith.

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Link to this segment

Ken Morris, Descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass Foundation.
www.fdff.org

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show reflect with Ken Morris, Descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. Ken heads the Frederick Douglass Foundation. Stephanie has long been familiar with the first volume of Frederick Douglass' autobiography and was very moved by his story. She persuaded Mark Leslie, head of Dublin's Martello Media, to read the book, too, and he finished the whole thing on a flight from New York to Ireland.

Ken Morris, son of Nettie Washington-Douglas, Descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.
Ken Morris, son of Nettie Washington-Douglas, Descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.

A week and a half later, Mark had the pleasure of meeting Ken and his mother, Nettie, when they visited Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Ken and Nettie visited Ireland to celebrate the launch of a new issue of their ancestor's autobiography. Today, Stephanie is delighted to be able to speak with Ken. "I was so affected by the book; it's mind-boggling that I could have this conversation now," she says.

Nettie Washington-Douglas at the tomb of Daniel O'Connell.
Nettie Washington-Douglas at the tomb of Daniel O'Connell.

Ken is also grateful for the opportunity. "I'm always very humbled when I speak to people who have been moved by Frederick Douglass' life," he says. "I've traveled around the country talking to over 50,000 students over the past 5 years, talking about the legacies of both of my great ancestors. I have to pinch myself every day! I really believe that young people take this story of hope, inspiration, and being able to overcome insurmountable obstacles to heart – to rise up out of slavery and be able to go on and affect the lives of so many people."

The Guiness Storehouse, a Martello Media project.
The Guiness Storehouse, a Martello Media project.

The narrative was published for the first time in 1845. "It should be required reading in schools," says Stephanie. "It's a story that needs to be told, a legacy that needs to continue in future generations. I always tell people about it when they're whining that life is too much for them. The first volume of the autobiography is barely over 100 pages. But you feel like you have Frederick Douglass present with you as he tells his story. Even though the book is short, I had to put it down, because it's so tough at times."

Mary McAleese, Presdient of Ireland with Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams.
Mary McAleese, Presdient of Ireland with Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams.

When the book was first published, it was the first slave narrative to be written by a former slave. "At the time, there were some 60-odd slave narratives," Ken explains. "It was illegal to teach a slave to read and write, though, so in previous narratives, the story was written by someone else or told through a third party. They may have had motivations to not set the story down accurately, or things got lost in the transfer. But here, you have a fugitive slave – Frederick Douglass had escaped in 1838 – who had taught himself to read and write over the objections of his overseers. You know when you read the book how wonderful a writer he is."

Exhibit at Glasnevin Cemetary. Daniel O'Connell Abolitionist.
Exhibit at Glasnevin Cemetary. Daniel O'Connell Abolitionist.

Stephanie was also interested in the Irish connection of the autobiography. Frederick Douglass spent 4 months traveling in Ireland and describes in his book how he felt as though the Irish treated him as a person, not a color. Stephanie and Ken agree that the Irish welcome of today is just as warm as ever. "We just visited Dublin on our first trip to Ireland," Ken recalls. "We had a taxi driver taking us from the Guinness factory to our first event. It took about 30 minutes, and we were chatting in the back about Frederick Douglass.

Daniel O'Connell display at Glasnevin Cemetary in Ireland.
Daniel O'Connell display at Glasnevin Cemetary in Ireland.

"The driver heard our conversation and knew quite a bit about Frederick Douglass' life, which I found that many Irish people did," he continues. "After that 30 minute ride, the driver said the fare was on him. So we experienced firsthand the hospitality, the generosity, and that continued throughout the rest of our trip, which was 6 days. Everywhere we went, people were just so gracious to us."

Daniel O'Connell's tomb at Glasnevin Cemetary.
Mark Leslie at Daniel O'Connell's tomb at Glasnevin Cemetary.

The new edition of the autobiography of Frederick Douglass includes letters that Nettie and Ken wrote to their ancestors on the occasion of President Obama's inauguration, some speeches given by Douglass during his time in Ireland, a foreword by Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, and an afterword by Tom Arnold, CEO of Irish charity Concern Worldwide.

Image Placeholder
Glasnevin Cemetary.

Ken highly recommends the second volume of the autobiography. "The second, called 'My Bondage and My Freedom,' is my favorite," he says. "It was published in 1855, when he was further removed from slavery and had spent time as a free man, so he had both perspectives. I think that this book is, out of the three volumes, the one that really tells his story. And in 1855, he was really starting to get into the abolitionist movement leading up to the Civil War. So it's both a very interesting perspective and a very interesting time."

Daniel O'Connell's tomb at Glasnevin Cemetary.
Daniel O'Connell's tomb at Glasnevin Cemetary.

Ken and Nettie saw plenty of sights in Dublin besides Glasnevin Cemetery during their trip. "Our hosts packed everything into a couple days," Ken says. "The only thing not included in our schedule was sleep – but it was okay because it's such a beautiful country. We were there with Concern Worldwide, which is a non-profit founded in 1965 by an Irish couple. They do a lot of work in Haiti and feeding the hungry.

Canon Stephen Neill shows President Obama the church records from Templeharry Church on the occassion of the visit of the President and First Lady to Moneygall - May 23 2011 (Official White House photo: Pete Souza)
Canon Stephen Neill shows President Obama the church records from Templeharry Church on the occassion of the visit of the President and First Lady to Moneygall - May 23 2011 (Official White House photo: Pete Souza).

"On our first night in Ireland, we went to a debate competition for high school students," he adds. "I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did, but to see the energy of these young people getting excited about an intellectual pursuit was something to behold. We didn't have a lot of sleep on the trip, but the energy of the country and the people just pushed us along. We even had the opportunity to meet the president; her knowledge of Frederick Douglass was impressive."

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3857

For more information visit www.fdff.org


Guests Include:

Dina Aharon, Director, Heritage & Middle East Programs, SkyLink Holidays, New York, USA.
www.skylinkholidays.com
www.goisraelusa.com

Ken Morris, Descendant of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass Foundation.
www.fdff.org

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