Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - "Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show Shownotes for MM DD YYYY
Travel with Stephanie Abrams! - September 20, 2009 - Shownotes & Audio Archive

The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas USVI; SelectWisely for those with Food Allergies; "Cheri" Filmed at the Hotel Du Palais Biarritz Imperial Resort and Spa, France; The Paper Clip Project at Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee; Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa in County Roscommon, Ireland; Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mexico; Jim Grace, CEO of in Ireland; The Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, County Down.

Listen to the show in Windows Media Format:      hour1     hour2     hour3

Listen to the show in MP3 Format:     hour1     hour2     hour3

Hour 1

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Stephanie has a special affinity for the US Virgin Islands. It is where she and her husband spent their honeymoon and also renewed their wedding vows. Stephanie says that one of the joys in being able to go to a great destination is being able to go to a great hotel. A luxury vacation offers a great chance to “get away and recharge batteries” whatever the strains of living. The tranquil environment of the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas USVI is aided by a staff focused on taking good care of its customers. Stephanie encourages travelers to enjoy moments of quiet surrounded by natural beauty.

SMark and Stephanie Abrams Renewing Their Wedding Vows on a Beach in St. Thomas, USVI.
Mark and Stephanie Abrams Renewing Their Wedding Vows on a Beach in St. Thomas, USVI.

The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas is located on the far east side of the island adjacent to Red Hook Beach and facing St. John.  It is only 25 minutes from Charlotte Amalie a large tourist city where cruise liners dock. The Ritz-Carlton creates a different kind of experience.  Marc Langevin, General Manager of the property, refers to it as “a destination within a destination”. The Great Bay area (where the hotel is situated) is more private and gives the sense of an intimate Caribbean experience as well as protection from the elements. There are two pristine beaches on the property with no surrounding housing. Both the hotel's Infinity pool and Spa overlook the ocean and there are 55 ocean view rooms in the club suites.

The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas is one of the smaller Ritz-Carlton hotels with only 180 guestrooms on site. The hotel was not originally designed under the brand but has been under its management for the last 14 years. The hotel possesses a strong sense of character and a strong sense of the Caribbean destination. The hotel consists of a series of small three-floor buildings wrapping around the bay. There are many ocean activities provided at the hotel including a sailing camp for the kids. On site dining includes the beach and pool side restaurant Sails. Though Sails has beautiful open architecture it is hurricane resistant and has a cover to protect guests from the sun and rain.

Franco and Stephanie Abrams at Coral World in St. Thomas, USVI.
Franco (left) and Stephanie Abrams (right) at Coral World in St. Thomas, USVI.

Travel Deal:

The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas hosts many weddings. It offers complimentary wedding ceremonies and a 3 night anniversary stay that a couple can use at any participating Ritz-Carlton in the Caribbean. The Ritz-Carlton-St. Thomas also offers the Caribbean “Reconnect” package for small groups (a minimum of 10 rooms is required). It includes a $100 USD resort credit and complimentary breakfast. Rates begin at $359 USD. Bookings are available through December 15, 2009.

Megan's Bay, St.Thomas, USVI.

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SelectWisely is a company that caters to the traveler with food allergies. It can often be difficult to have a dialogue with a waiter when traveling abroad. James Ahlberg, President of SelectWisely, has a daughter who suffers from food allergies. She faced the challenge of finding foods she knew she could safely eat when she traveled to Europe.

Ahlberg has created a website where customers can purchase laminated double sided cards with specific food instructions. Each card indicates the type of allergy (or food preference such as for vegetarians or vegans) in the desired language. The card is roughly the size of a credit card. A waiter in any restaurant is then able to take the card back to the chef.

Lourdes, France
Lourdes, France.

Cards come in fifty languages now. The standard Latin and Germanic based languages are included as are many East Asian languages. There has been a lot of demand for Thai and Vietnamese language cards. The company also covers less widely spoken languages such as Slovenian-Croatian.

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Stephanie has had Joseph M. Symond, president of the company Bug Bam, on the air twice in the past year. She finally had the chance to test his product. She was outside during a buggy evening and put on one of Symond's patented wristbands. It is made of recyclable materials and contains citronella, lemon grass and geranium oil. Stephanie says that the smell was strong but extremely effective. After hearing a lot about the product Stephanie was finally able to confirm that it works. Unlike DEET and other insect repellants the band contains no toxic chemicals.

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Stephanie recently saw director Stephen Frear's most recent film “Cheri” based on the 1920 novel of the same name by Colette (the pen name of Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette). She recognized the scenery and architecture of the building which had large white columns and stunning ocean views in back and realized it was the Hotel Du Palais Biarritz Imperial Resort and Spa in Biarritz, France. Jean-Louis Leimbacher, General Manager of the property, joins “Travel with Stephanie Abrams!” to discuss the recent film production. Leimbacher has been in charge of management for the hotel for over 25 years. The Hotel Du Palais is owned by the municipality of Biarritz.

Biaritz, France
Biaritz, France.

The Hotel Du Palais was originally the summer palace of Charles-Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the last monarch of France and the first President of the French Republic, better known as Napoleon the Third. Napoleon III married Eugenie de Montijo, a Spanish noblewoman. She had been brought up in Paris and summered on the Basque Coast. Her love of Biarritz inspired the couple to build “La Villa Eugenie” which in 1870 was bought by the Banque Parisienne and converted into a casino. It became l'Hotel du Palais in 1893.

Over twenty movies have been filmed at the hotel. Cheri is one of the most international productions. Stephen Frears is an acclaimed director and has received the Oscar nomination for Best Director twice. In 1991 he was nominated for “the Grifters” and in 2007 for “the Queen”. Cheri's production meant closing the hotel for a period and converting it to look as it did a hundred years ago. The crew did extensive stonework in the gardens.

Biaritz, France
Beachfront, Biaritz, France.

The Hotel Du Palais has 150 guestrooms including 30 suites. The suites are named after various members of royalty, politicians and celebrities in the arts. 

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Fun Facts:

Napoleon III holds the unusual distinction of being the first President of the French Republic and the last monarch of France.

Henry King's 1957 film version of the “Sun Also Rises” was filmed in Biarritz, France. When actress Deborah Kerr was filming the movie, her screenwriter husband Peter Viertel spent his days surfing. This popularized the sport on the Basque Coast and today Biarritz hosts international surfing competitions.

Guests Include:

Marc Langevin, General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton St.Thomas.

Jim Ahlberg, President, Select Wisely.

Jean-Louis Leimbacher, General Manager, Hotel Du Palais Biarritz Imperial Resort and Spa.

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Stephanie says there is a joy in learning and as a parent you engage in many remarkable educational experiences with your child. She says this is even more remarkable when children are responsible for the specific educational exhibition or event. The Paper Clip Project, a Holocaust memorial at Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tennessee, is an example of this.

Paper Clip Project
Outside the Whitwell Middle School, Whitwell, Tennessee.

Linda Hooper, Principal of the Whitwell Middle School, joins “Travelers411” to discuss the memorial. Whitwell is located just east of Chattanooga, Tennessee and two hours west of Nashville, Tennessee. The project started within the community with the Whitwell Middle School's committee members. The school district was looking at areas where they needed improvement in 1998 and decided to expand diversity studies. The School Improvement Council at Whitwell decided to focus on the study of the Holocaust.

As the children were doing research in association with the lesson plan one of them discovered that a Jewish man was credited with the invention of the paper clip. He was Norwegian and the children learned that Norwegian Jews wore paperclips on their lapel as a silent protest against Nazism. The class decided to collect six million paperclips in remembrance of the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. It seemed like an overwhelming project at the time. The children began a campaign of letter writing and registered their project with the National Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.  A ninety year old Holocaust survivor discovered the project and became committed to helping them reach their goal of obtaining the six million paper clips. The project grew to have input from people around the world.

Paper Clip Project
German Transport Car.

The exhibition's show piece is an authentic German transport car. Around this car are eleven million paper clips. There are also memorial exhibits held in the same space. These include Holocaust artifacts, a collection of over three hundred emails received from people on all seven continents, a collection of Holocaust literature, an antique Torah and all sorts of art and sculpture work. People have said that it is an overwhelming experience. Unlike most museum settings visitors are permitted to touch everything.

There is a documentary associated with the project called Paper Clips. The Paper Clip film is currently available on Netflix. Stephanie says that it is serious in its focus but that it is also a joyous film as it illustrates how much impact a group of kids in a small community can have on the rest of the world.

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Related Galleries:

PaperClip Project PaperClip Project

Last month the story broke that Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke had fallen victim to an extensive identity-theft operation after his wife's purse was snatched off the back of her chair at a Starbucks. This kind of thievery can be easily avoided. Visit the travel tips section on and click on the audio file Shoulder Bags and Camera Cases. One trick Stephanie has learned is to string the shoulder strap underneath and around the chair leg often with her foot looped through it.

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Stephanie is always discovering new properties in Ireland that she had never heard about before. She recently discovered Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa in Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon, Ireland. The historic property had its official opening in May of 2008. This past month the hotel opened its pool and leisure center. Stephanie says that many historic buildings normally don't have the room to accommodate the number of bedrooms needed to make the castle or home a viable business. Many destinations cleverly maintain the old part of the building but have a modern add-on section that is suited for contemporary needs and accommodations.

Lanesborough, Ireland parade
Saint Patrick's Parade in Lanesborough, Ireland, Located 20 km from County Roscommon.

Kilronan Castle is owned by the Hanly Group. It was built in the early eighteen hundreds by the Tenison family and then extended in 1876 by the 12th Earl of Kingston to include battlements and a five story baronial tower.  There are also secret passages built into the original structure. When the Hanly Group took over the property they renovated the shell of the building and also thoroughly researched the original stone work in order to accurately replicate the older parts of the castle.

There are eighteen bedrooms in the old castle and sixty six others in the new wing. There are also ten houses in a holiday village located in the back of the property. Ownership is looking to increase that number in the next few years. Because Kilronan Castle is a secluded romantic destination overlooking Lough Meelagh it receives a lot of group events. The castle is busy winter and summer with family reunions, business conferences and many weddings.

Irish Love of Guinness Emodied in Poster.

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Guests Include:

Linda M. Hooper, Principal, Whitwell Middle School, Whitwell, Tennessee. (Paper Clip Project development website)

Cora Dwyer, Deputy General Manager, Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa, Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon, Ireland.

Hour 3

Topics Include:

Click here to listen to Marc Murphy, Managing Director, Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau Hotel & Motel Association ( interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.
Listen to this segment, commercial-free featuring: Marc Murphy, Managing Director, Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau Hotel & Motel Association.

Tianguis, Mexico's premiere tourism event, is held each year in Acapulco. It's a tremendous opportunity for the leading travel suppliers in Mexico to promote their product.

2009 tianguis
2009 Tianguis in the Acapulco Convetion Center.

The Riviera Nayarit resort region is located on the Pacific Coast, ten minutes from the airport in Puerto Vallarta between Acapulco and Mazatlan. It is Mexico's “Pacific treasure” and was launched as a brand during 2007's Tianguis. Managing Director Marc Murphy says that it is “nature and luxury combined at its best”. It is Mexico's newest tourist destination and has attracted much media attention and accolades since its launch.

Riviera Nayarit is a series of resort regions located along 200 miles of Pacific coastline. Each pueblo and resort destination along the coast has a different flavor. Visitors can experience authentic Mexico, luxury Mexico and everything in between. Nayarit is one of the safest regions in the country and it offers incredible destinations at value rates.

Marc Murphy
Marc Murphy Managing Director for Riviera Nayaritimg_3613.jpg Speaking with Stephanie at Tianguis.

Several resorts are exclusive and embody an elegant sophistication. There are also surfing towns that were once major tourist attractions in the 1960's. There are 15,600 guestrooms available throughout Riviera Nayarit in different establishments ranging from boutique bungalows to world class hotels like the St. Regis Punta Mita. All of the properties are new builds. The destination is new and the brand is even newer. Riviera Nayarit also hosts 5 international championship golf courses.

Punta de Mita, also home to a Four Seasons property, hosts a championship golf tournament, the Canadian Tour, on a Jack Nichols golf course. Also in November is their Gourmet Festival held November 12, 2009 through the 22nd. It is ten days of gastronomy. Some thirty restaurants will be highlighted throughout the region offering unique plating.

The region has over four hundred humpback whales. Visitors can see between ten and twenty whales on any given day. There are also 1.2 million baby Ridley Sea Turtles in the area. The region's ecological program digs up the turtles in the evening and incubates them for a couple of months. The Kemp Ridley Sea Turtle is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and conservation efforts having been ongoing for the last forty years in Mexico.

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Jim Grace, President of, joins “Travelers411” live from Ireland. Grace and his family are currently staying at the Mount Falcon Country House Hotel in County Mayo. They flew into Belfast and Grace says that one of his daughters has described the scenery as “a quilt of green with little bumps”. He says also, “You've never seen a green like you see here in Ireland”.

conemarra sheep
Sheep in Conemarra, Ireland.

While in Belfast the Grace family stayed at Dunadry Hotel and Country Club. CEO of Mooney Hotels and Director of the Dunadry John Mooney performed magic tricks for Jim's daughters. He also showed the family the book he had written. “A Wonderful Story” is an illustrated storybook made in association with Ireland's Lion Club. Proceeds benefit Lion Club programs to assist abused children and other related charities. Stephanie says that though it is written as a story for children there is a lot of adult allegory. Also at the property, Mooney shows Jim the “unity tree”, two trees grown together. The site was one location where Northern and Republic of Ireland representatives met for peace accord talks.

The Grace Family next went to Downpatrick, a town in County Down that is home to the Saint Patrick's Centre. The visitor center hosts an interactive exhibition describing the history of Saint Patrick and how he influenced the culture of Ireland. Jim and his family also volunteered their services for a planting and created the “Grace” garden on site. The family next went to the nearby seal sanctuary which was flooded with seal pups. There were eleven common seals and one gray seal, which was rare for the time of year. The seals were rescued from all over Ireland and nursed back to health at the sanctuary. The family also visited Giant's Causeway. Grace states that the hexagonal stone structures that resulted from volcanic activity are amazing. There is much history and lore associated with the nature phenomena.

Giants Causeway
Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Grace and his family stayed at the Lough Eske Castle a luxury five star hotel on December, 2007. Structures have stood on the property grounds since the early 1400's. The first true castle was constructed in 1621 and was owned by the O'Donnell family. It has since been taken over by several families and rebuilt several times. In 1939 it burnt down and stayed in ruins for years. Though the outer shell of the building displayed stunning architecture it was in need of complete repair. The castle was bought by Solis Hotels and Resorts and has been completely revitalized. Lough Eske was listed one of the hot new hotels in the world by Conde Nast in 2008.

The family is next staying at the Lough Inagh Lodge Hotel in Connemara in the Inagh Valley. Many come to the Inagh Valley to fish for Atlantic salmon, sea trout and the indigenous Brown trout of the lakes and rivers. Stephanie says that it is also restful retreat from the insanity and craziness of 21st century living. The combination of lochs and long grassy stretches give an incredible sense of peace.

Conemarra Country Side, County Galway, Ireland.

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Stephanie is an honorary friend of Saint Patrick through the Saint Patrick Centre in Count Down, Northern Ireland. Stephanie is writing a guide book about Ireland and she recently sat down at a book store with a bunch of guide books to thumb through. She read a fairly negative review of the Saint Patrick Centre. Stephanie found this unbelievable. She reports on Jim Grace's recent positive experience at the center and says the remarks could not be more wrong. Many guide books are written by those who have not taken the time to get to know the people and don't accurately represent the destination. Northern Ireland is especially underappreciated in guide books.

Saint Patrick Centre
Stephanie and Dr. Campbell Outside the Saint Patrick Centre.

Dr. Tim Campbell, the Director of the Saint Patrick Centre returns to “Travel with Stephanie Abrams”. The Saint Patrick Centre is the only permanent exhibition in the world dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. It is two hours north of Dublin and an hour south of Belfast.  The center is dedicated to St. Patrick's “legacy of peace and reconciliation”. Within a mile of the center is the actual grave of Saint Patrick. It is also the burial site of Saint Brigid and Saint Columcille. Also in town is the Saul Church. Saul means barn and the church is named as such because Patrick created the first church in Ireland in a barn.

The Centre and town are a pilgrimage site in Ireland. The actual building is glass fronted and contains a number of interactive elements within its exhibition space. Tours of the center end with an IMAX auditorium presentation. The center also extends their message to community efforts. Organizers work with other non-profits to sponsor various charitable events including helping to feed the homeless on Saint Patrick Day.

Saint Patrick Centre
Stephanie inside the Saint Patrick Centre, County Down.

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Guests Include:

Marc Murphy, Managing Director, Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau Hotel & Motel Association.

Jim Grace, President & CEO,

Dr. Tim Campbell, Director, The Saint Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, County Down, Ireland.

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