New York Times Travel Show Open to Public Jan. 25 – 26
Dubai Tourism Presenting Sponsor
Learn More About Your Next Travel Adventure
Discover your next travel adventure this weekend in New York City.
Where will your Travel 2020 take you? Will you find yourself at the Expo 2020 Dubai Show? Or book a flight to an exotic beach location? Your vacation of a lifetime awaits you at The 2020 New York Times Travel Show, home to more than 750 travel experts.
Now in its 17th year, the show is the largest travel industry trade show in North America with an anticipated attendance of more than 23,000 consumer travelers and media combined.
The Trade Day show opens on Fri., Jan. 24 to media professionals but on Sat., Jan. 25 and Sun., Jan. 26, consumers from around the world will get their chance to witness this annual globally-centric event. Expect cuisine tastings, ethnic performances, travel book signings and one-on-one discussions with travel experts. Visitors of all ages will also find special discounts and offers they might not find elsewhere.
This year’s show is supported by Presenting Sponsor Dubai Tourism, in association with Expo 2020 Dubai, a 173-day event that will showcase everything from mind-boggling architecture to outdoor performances and world-class cuisine. The quirky global partnership festival is designed “to fund, accelerate and promote creative solutions that improve lives while preserving the planet,” according to organizers.
According to Sponsors are Turkish Airlines, South African Tourism, MSC CRUISES, Guadeloupe Islands Tourist Board, Greek National Tourism Organization and Puglia Promozione; I LOVE NY; Visit Abu Dhabi, and Costa Rica Tourism Board are Trade Day Sponsors.
Travel Industry Association Sponsors
include Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), Africa Travel Association
(ATA), American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), Association for the
Promotion of Tourism to Africa (APTA), Caribbean Hotel & Tourism
Association (CHTA), Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Education
Foundation (CHTAEF), Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Cruise Line
International Association (CLIA), Destination Wedding & Honeymoon,
Specialists Association (DWHSA), European Travel Commission (ETA), Family
Travel Association (FTA), International LGBTQ+ Travel Association (IGLTA),
Millennials in Travel (MIT), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA),
Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA), Society of American Travel
Writers (SATW), and U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA).
Travel Industry Media Sponsors are GoNomad, Destination I Do Magazine, Healthy Aging Magazine, Insider Travel Report, ManAboutWorld, Passport Magazine, TAConnect, TravAlliancemedia, Travel Market Report and We Blog The World.
Want to read more about the travel show? Check out these articles.
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A solo media trip gives you more flexibility and a chance to conduct one-on-one interviews with key people in the lodging and tourism industries. In other words, in most cases, you can plan your own agenda, order the meals of your choice, schedule your day(s), and negotiate services and costs. Those are a few of the perks of taking charge of your destiny.
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Reserve Your “Restoration Christmas” in Charleston
Home for the Holidays at The Restoration Hotel
Charleston Christmas Fun awaits you, but of course, with the Southern hospitality tourists have come to relish.
If coastal and historic fit your vision of the perfect Christmas getaway, add The Restoration Hotel to your 2019 holiday itinerary. It’s not too late to book your hotel or residences’ suite at The Restoration Hotel, low-country, high-quality historic lodging at the heart of the New South.
A mild Charleston climate is the perfect home base to visit landmarks and connect with the outdoors but meanwhile, back in your guest room, The Restoration Hotel ‘s over-the-top Christmas Tree package epitomizes “home for the holidays.”
Scroll down to read my interview with Chelsea Nightengale, The Restoration Hotel general manager. She’ll fill you in with the package details.
“Guests feel truly at home in historic downtown Charleston,” Chelsea says. “We offer the tree placed in your room and decorated upon arrival or a DIY kit so our guests can recreate traditions and memories from home.”
Chelsea Nightengale, The Restoration Hotel general manager
Chelsea, please elaborate on the Christmas Tree Package and why it’s so much fun?
Our over-sized, apartment-style suites allow our guests to live like a local in Historic Downtown Charleston. The idea for our Christmas Tree package was to make our guests truly feel like they are “home for the holidays”. We offer the tree placed in the room and decorated upon arrival or a DIY kit so our guests can recreate traditions and memories from home.
How did you create a one-of-a-kind experience for your guests?
We are always looking for a way to make our guests feel at home, and even more so during the holidays. We want to be able to share traditions and make new memories with them.
What are some of the highlights of your Christmas tree package?
We always tuck a personalized ornament into the tree, either with the guest’s name or something that signifies their trip. We tie a small note to the ornament to let them know to take it with them upon leaving. Our hope is that our guests continue to place this ornament on their tree for years to come, reminding them of their memories of Charleston. Also, upon a requested time, we will deliver Eggnog and Sugar cookies to the guests’ room to get everyone in the Holiday Spirit. What’s happening in the surrounding community that guests should explore?
There is nothing like Christmas in the Low Country. Our winters are mild so we love to spend time outside. We have our annual Downtown Christmas Parade, the Holiday Market at Marion Square, and my personal favorite is the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park.
Debashish Dutta, a natural history photographer, returns to joanmatsuitravelwriter.com this month with a story of tranquility and peace. With sheer delight and awe-inspiring details and photographs, Debashish conveys the inherent beauty of biodiversity and why we are obligated to preserve and protect our planet. Join him on his expedition to Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
I watched her intently as she moved around the undulating and at times rocky terrain with the subtle deftness of a ballerina. The lovely golden light of the early February morning glistened against her silky-smooth coat while her big dreamy eyes reflected the contentment she felt in her life.
For those who are tuned; the cradle of nature reminds them of the existence of God and the sheer greatness of his kingdom. And the satisfaction visible on the faces of the denizens of the forest a reminder to mankind about how simple, beautiful and harmonious life can be on the same planet that also houses the humans whose destructive force knows no bounds.
The doe’s eyes were talking to the ones she loved – a small family that was happily munching on the fresh morning grass and a little fawn that was happily prancing around his mother. They were experiencing joy.
After my advent in Pune in 2015; I have been doing my bit of research on happy hunting grounds around town for passionate wildlife lovers and serious natural history photographers. That is how I discovered Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Nestled in Baramati at a distance of 70km from Pune, it is arguably the smallest wildlife sanctuary in the country. Officially that is – because in India we have enough and more delightful spots of nature still relatively or totally unknown to the marauding city crowds who would waste no time in destroying their peace and solitude. There is an unwritten but well-understood rule amongst nature lovers and that rule is to maintain the secrecy and sanctity of a natural hotspot.
Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is just about five sq. km in area. It has a big heart though and because it is relatively unknown; its peace and tranquility are still intact. The serenity has attracted a variety of mammals and bird species like the very rare Indian Grey Wolf, the Indian Fox, the Striped Hyena and the Indian Gazelle (Chinkara). The avian population on record has been the Indian Thick-Knee, White-bellied Minivet, Short-toed Snake Eagle, Laggar Falcon, Bonelli’s Eagle, Chestnut-Bellied Sandgrouse, the Indian Courser, and a few others.
When I headed for Mayureshwar; my main focus was on the Indian Gazelle. Locally called the Chinkara; Gazelles have always been one of my favourite ungulates because of their grace, charm, beautiful lithe structure akin to a seasoned athlete, flawless coat, lovely big and expressive eyes and the two-tone colour scheme of their coat. India, unfortunately, has been blessed with only one species of Gazelle. Africa, on the other hand, has a wide variety. In fact, of the 91 antelope and gazelle species in the world, the African continent is home to 72 of them. The Indian Gazelle closely resembles the Tommies or Thomson’s Gazelles visible in large numbers on the African savannah.
Back to the doe and family, I was watching. I had been on the same spot for over an hour. There was an obvious chill in the air reinforced by a relatively stiff northeasterly wind. The ability to be still, quiet, patient and watchful are good virtuous to have in the wilderness. They allow you to become one with the surroundings and enable you to soak in the unspeakable joy that only wilderness can offer to a human. The stillness allows the animal to relax and prevents a breach of the animal’s circle of fear.
Given the open terrain of Mayureshwar; it was possible for me to stay put inside my vehicle. The firmly planted bean bag on the window sill afforded my Nikon D750 a firm foundation for when it is coupled with the Nikkor 200mm-400mm/F4 VR II. The combined weight becomes substantial and a firm foundation is mandatory to avoid camera shake. My goal was to compose some nice frames capturing the doe in action solo and with her family.
Unfortunately, Mayureshwar has received some negative feedback from people who are obviously not tuned to the rhythm of nature. A simple Google search will reveal uneducated and half-baked commentary from visitors whose exposure to natural habitats and the sheer vastness of their variety is minuscule. Now, these are visitors who want to quickly see a few big animals and leave. Their heart is not in nature and their understanding of jungle craft zero. Thus, those who understand that the Earth is blessed with a myriad of forest types and terrains are able to appreciate the diversity. They are also able to appreciate the fact that nature has blessed the planet with an astounding array of wildlife and not just the big cats and mammals. Sadly, we have lost a large number of them due to our own callousness, greed, and lack of respect for the planet we live in.
The human mind is boundless and unstoppable. Sitting still and at least some distance away from the daily humdrum of life underneath a vast and beautiful blue sky; my mind had wandered to distant shores and days gone by. This is another unique state of mind of a person deeply in love with nature and one who always finds solace in jungles. While soaking in the natural beauty around and marveling at another inimitable creation of God; my mind reminded me that my beloved jungles are being destroyed cruelly all around and my heart started to lament!
Habitat destruction, ecosystem pollution, deforestation, species vulnerability and extinction, and such horrendous thoughts kept flowing in and out of my mind. Gut-wrenching photos of the recent burning of the Amazonia filled my eyes. Has the decay of the human mind reached such a nadir that those hands which set the Amazonia on fire did not tremble and hesitate? Were they not deliberately oblivious to the fact that the Amazonia supplies 20 percent of the world’s supply of fresh Oxygen?
Just then my driver whispered. We noticed that the Chinkara family had moved a certain distance uphill. To ensure that we were correctly aligned with the angle of light; we had to circumvent a bit to catch up with the doe and her family again.
In Mayureshwar; one can easily alight from a vehicle and scan around, however, that is likely to scare the animal away. The Chinkara is shy of human beings; if approached, the animal gives a series of snorts and prances away with a peculiar bounding gait. When alarmed, the herd takes off at a frantic pace, then stops 100 to 200 m away to discover the cause of the alarm. Therefore, stay put in your vehicle. Always wear camouflage clothes in a jungle except in Africa where camouflage clothing is restricted to forest staff and the rangers. Avoid perfumes for they too will scare an animal. They are not used to strong synthetic smells. Dark glasses are a no-no, especially when dealing with big cats, apes, primates and large herbivores. They can trigger an alarm and a retaliation.
I noticed that the doe and her little one had been joined by a male. How do you figure if the Chinkara is a male? Size apart, consider its horns. They appear straight when seen from the front. In profile, the horns of an adult male have an S-shape. The females have much slenderer and smaller horns compared to the males. Like other gazelles, adult Chinkara males are territorial and have a clear perimeter of operations. Other males are not tolerated but wandering females from other clans are always offered an opportunity to join the male’s harem. The male marks his territory by fecal mounds and uses these spots regularly. A Chinkara male is always around his lady in estrus and guards her aggressively. They copulate often and I was lucky to get some good shots while the couple was in action.
The little fawn was around all the time making merry. Chinkara females like most living beings make for doting mothers. I saw many tender moments between mother and baby and those scenes were heartwarming, to say the least. The fawn is with the mother for about a year and then ventures out on its own. Chinkara families are like humans with a size typically not more than five to six individuals.
The corrupt human mind looks at development as an opportunity to make money and makes development a bad word. Unfortunately, this is a global truth and as a result of the warped sense of development; our planet has lost a multitude of species and innumerable biodiversity hotspots. Extinct species will never return and damaged natural ecosystems are almost impossible to reinstate because forest ecosystems develop over millions of years. They cannot be replaced ever by plantations.
Maybe there is still some time left. Therefore, people should look around. Nurture a natural spot that you chance upon or happens to be in your neighbourhood. Mobilise sensible people and ensure peace and tranquility of that little Garden of Eden. Debashish Dutta, Natural History Photographer
Getting to Mayureshwar is simple once you are in Pune. Hire an SUV or MPV or drive down yourself. If you start at about 7 a.m.; you will be able to cover the 70 km distance in 1.5 hours. Google Maps is all you need for guidance. The entrance is at 8 AM and the fee is basic. Carry your own water bottle, tuck in a few sandwiches and munchies.
Please do not litter. Once inside; figure a tree by the side of the road where you can park your vehicle. Set up your equipment if you are a photographer or videographer. Settle down. Let the jungle take over.
Debashish Dutta is a BBC Earth and Nikon Asia recognized professional Natural History Photographer. Visit his website www.fromdawntodusk.in for a detailed insight into his wildlife portfolios. He is also Global Director & Head – Operational Risk for a major financial services firm.
SiteGround Web-Hosting review highlights several reasons why I switched to this platform and the features I love. First and foremost, five years after launching my three blogs, I was fed up with recurring issues that wreaked havoc on my ability to consistently create content.
For example, I encountered constant upselling, malware, slow website speed, and a lack of customer service with my previous host. Moreover, the support team at the other company addressed most of the issues with a pitch about a service they sell that would eliminate the problem. Eight out of 10 times they offered me help to the tune of multiple service tickets for $80-plus.
Without fail, the issues I encountered after automatic WordPress updates often caused downtime that required me to get my web developer to resolve the issue. Similarly, there were many times when I spent hours researching issues in forums. A recent issue with autosaving was one of the most annoying problems I’ve had so far. If my web developer wasn’t available, I looked to my web-host for support and diagnostic help.
Plugins, WordPress, and other non-server issues are rarely covered by hosting tech support. However, security and malware fell under my coverage plan.
Choose the Hosting Plan That Best Suits Your Needs
Now that you have a general idea about why I switched, I’ll tell you about my positive experiences with SiteGround. I chose the GrowBig plan because I have multiple websites and this plan suited my style. SiteGround also offers free professional migration for one website and a free plugin to migrate the content for my other websites. My move was seamless and the team was quick to reply and guide my developers and me along. The best part of the deal is my monthly expenses have significantly decreased with the GrowBig hosting plan. SSL certificates, security, site backups, and hosting are covered under my plan.
Better yet, my websites are reaping the rewards of faster load time and more traffic since the move to SiteGround and anytime I’ve had a question or concern, the support team promptly responded to the ticket. This is the type of service that makes me smile and I look forward to blogging. The SiteGround support team often reply within minutes, depending on their service call volume.
Rejoice and Spread the Word
Immediately after I switched to SiteGround, I knew I had to tell my readers about this awe-inspiring company. As a result, I’m now an affiliate and rejoice the move EVERY DAY. Keep in mind, I only recommend products and services I use and trust. Likewise, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about my experience.
Explore More Articles on joanmatsuitravelwriter.com
Read one of my recent blog posts that features wildlife photography and a compelling narrative about Debashish Dutta’s search for five Royal Bengal Tigers.
Debashish Dutta, a Natural History Photographer, has been featured extensively on mainstream national media like CEO India, Asian Age, DNA, Indian Express Indulge and Fever 104 FM Radio.
Join Debashish here at joanmatsuitravelwriter.com every month as he shares his extraordinary photographs and stories from his travels. Follow his journey as he continues his quest to shine a light on Royal Bengal Tigers and other animals.
A good photograph speaks a thousand words and has the power to awaken the latent love for nature innate in every human being.
The forest was quiet. And it was dusty. Fine red dust formed a thin layer all over my vehicle, equipment bag and face. At almost 50°Celsius, it was incredibly hot, and the sun was beating down the soil mercilessly. The ground in return was reflecting back the heat in equal measure. Years of scanning forests during the peak of summers had taught me many lessons. Hence, I had the upper part of the body well covered by fine white cotton “dupatta” – a sort of Stole ladies use as an accessory in India. The garment exposed just my face to ensure my eyes were ready to catch any movement anywhere around me. That tactic is a key jungle craft developed over time.
When you think the forest is calm and the denizens have retired to cooler areas – caves, thickets, undergrowth, burrows, and watering holes, you might be surprised. If you’re alert, you might catch a sudden movement of an animal. Sipping water supplemented with essential salts helps to avoid dehydration. In the meantime, my driver and I rolled along towards a water hole we knew was frequented by a family of Royal Bengal Tigers. I, too, felt at home even though the forest was a veritable oven.
Such is the hold of nature and wilderness on those who are blessed by its magnanimity. Where else can a soul find such bliss, peace and the company of those who live life so meaningfully?
My eyes scanned the forest for the “Telia Sisters” who were growing up around the Telia lake region of the Mohurli Zone of Tadoba. The area is an extraordinary gift of nature to humans who, regrettably, are hell-bent on destroying every region of solitude on the only planet we call home. The intelligence I had was credible because the folks from the BBC were in the forest as well to film the formative years of the girls. Tracking wild animals, especially the very elusive big cats in the dense forests of India, is a game of patience that’s quite often under trying circumstances. I learnt this from the time I was a kid pouring over every book written by Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson. Those books are timeless classics that are a treasure trove of lessons on animal behaviour and jungle craft. No classroom can teach them.
In my own ways; I have always tried applying them when I am in the jungle. And after 12 years of meandering across forests of India and of late Africa; some degree of jungle tuning has been achieved. Another key lesson being – drive slowly. Thus, the emissions of a series of low growls and scratching sounds did not miss my alert ears. The Mohurli range of Tadoba is dotted with Bamboo forests – thickets of Bamboo interspersed with bits and pieces of open areas. In some of these open patches; the forest department had dug large holes that would be replenished with water regularly to help the jungle dwellers quench their thirst. Such a coping strategy is employed during years with relatively low rainfall.
If you go to Tadoba today; those water holes would not be visible as they were abandoned after heavy rainfall over the last few years. The jungle took charge quickly and covered them up with wild finery. But back in May 2013; the man-made watering holes were an absolute must. Extreme heat and low rainfall meant the jungle’s own stock of water was running dry. Slowing down the vehicle even further; the four eyes at our disposal peered at the Bamboo thicket earnestly. The low growls were at times replaced by snarls and I could gauge that they were not all coming from the same area. It was evident that the family was in the bamboo thickets to my left and lounging around liberally. They had no space constraint and it also seemed probable that the sisters were trying to play around a bit as well.
Knowing this was where we had to stay put; my driver aligned the vehicle along the edge of the forest fire line in a manner that would enable me to get the right shot. It was still morning when unexpectedly, a slight breeze wafted towards us from the Telia lakeside, thereby bringing to our not so capable noses that unique smell of raw meat in the jungle. Shortly, the sound of the crunching of bones followed. My eyes popped out as I now knew that the sisters had a kill inside the Bamboo thicket and all those growls and snarls resulted from the feeding frenzy. Per eyewitnesses; the girls were very much with their mother, Madhuri, at this stage of their lives. That discovery prompted me to assess the animal I guessed was slain to feed such a big family. It was quite possibly the Indian Gaur – also called the Indian Bison, the largest extant bovine native to South and Southeast Asia and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 1986. Had we been herbivores; we would have known the presence of a dead animal a long time ago.
We were parallel to the water hole that lay next to the bamboo thicket at a distance of about 30 feet sheltering the Tiger family. A straight line drawn perpendicular to the water hole would have reached us in about 18 feet. This description is intended to give you a mental picture of the distances between the three parties involved – the Tigers, the water hole, and me. It was now a game of waiting and watching. The presence of the Telia Sisters – Sonam, Lara, Geeta, and Mona, along with their mother Madhuri, was likely going by the number of growls and snarls we heard. The question was when and if at all they would step out of the thicket? They were daughters of the legendary and massive Tadoba male Tiger called Wagdoh. Although the time was around 8:30 a.m.; the sun was blazing away and the light already harsh. Those days I was armed with the still very capable Nikon D600 and the ever-reliable and effective Nikkor 200mm-400mm/F4/VRII.
In my assessment and per my experience; Tigers cannot do without a cool pool in peak summers. I was certain they would not resist the inviting water hole that had been replenished sometime earlier in the day. The fresh tire marks of a heavy vehicle were evident. My driver, on the other hand, decided to snooze. He knew this would be a long vigil while I kept peering at the water hole and the thickets surrounding the banks. The magnificence of the Royal Bengal Tiger has held the humankind in its sway since eternity. Deplorably, that fascination has led to the murder of a massive number of this magnificent beast. As a result, today we are grappling with the real danger of losing it forever. As I rested my chin on my DSLR that was sitting snug on a fat and stable bean bag; I wondered what the girls must be doing inside the thicket and why they weren’t stepping out. They led me to believe they had fallen asleep after a hearty meal and might not step out after all. I whispered my concern to my trusted driver who said we could not afford to desert this spot. And how right he was!
His belief reinforced my will to stay put and the experience I was rewarded with will stay etched in my memories forever. The jungle was still. The early morning bird songs were over. There was an eerie calm all around when clear rustling sounds – caused by the movement of heavy bodies – came from the undergrowth directly opposite me. Thickly padded feet were landing on dry leaves and twigs causing them to crackle. The Tigers were on the move. The signs were obvious. And then came the moment – two heads broke through the Bamboo thicket on the left bank of the water hole. And they looked straight at me. The adolescent girls were tentative and curious. Albeit gingerly; one girl headed for the water hole while the other for the other bank and straight into the Bamboo thicket.
Finding a Tiger in the wilderness is difficult and here I was in the company of two! Soon enough more Tigers emerged – from the left and the right. They added up to five. My mouth was a gaping hole! It was a scene like I had never encountered. Five Tigresses in one frame! That I was overwhelmed would be a gross understatement. Each Tigress noticed my presence – the miserable human. No one else was in the vicinity. I was greeted with glares, snarls, and growls but I felt no fear for unlike humans; animals have no malice and mean no harm to us unless we breach their circle of fear which compels them to respond in self – defense.
In time, the ladies settled down for a day out in the pool in big-cat style. What an incredible show nature was putting up for me and I couldn’t have been thankful enough! The girls were free and empowered souls. They were indulging in fun and frolic without a care compelling me to compare their society to ours where women are always concerned about their safety. How ironic! A forest and its dwellers present a perfect example of disciplined and harmonious living. No one crosses the line nature has established. For three hours I watched Madhuri and her daughters enjoy their pool party – a perfect girl’s day out and shot over 2,000 frames capturing their many moods and moments. And they allowed me to enjoy their company as they didn’t take long to notice my complete love and admiration for them. The girls were so playful – splashing and spraying water on each other, gamboling and jumping around under the watchful eye of their mother.
They were too young then to have any inkling that both their home and their ilk were struggling to retain their rightful place on this planet. And there I was with a mind that was convincing me to wonder how long humans would allow such Gardens of Eden to survive! That is a fear I live with every day. Over the last 6 years; Sonam and Lara have grown into dominant Tigresses while not much is known about Geeta and Mona. I am back in Tadoba later this month with tracking Geeta and Mona being a key objective. Come to Tadoba for a tête-à-tête with Royal Bengal Tigers in raw nature. Hope this story provides the inspiration.
Debashish Dutta was also a senior banker with 20 years of core corporate experience across global banks like HSBC, ABN AMRO, Royal Bank of Scotland, Credit Suisse and State Street Bank & Trust Company.
Debashish is putting a whole new thrust on conservation and promoting visuals straight from the jungles. Voices combine together to form a movement and that is what Debashish is striving to achieve through his photography and a brand-new conservation project called Return to the Jungles. It is a two-pronged strategy – stir peoples’ hearts with evocative wildlife photographs and then leverage those emotions to motivate people to work for afforestation at individual levels.
Recognized by both BBC Earth and Nikon Asia; Debashish shoots extensively in the jungles of India and Africa. He has multiple exhibitions to his credit and is focusing on awakening and nurturing a love for nature, wilderness, and wildlife amongst school children as he believes that a significant onus of conservation is now on GenNext. His beautiful Natural History Photography portfolios are presented on his website www.fromdawntodusk.in. His premium wood-framed photographs are retailed under the brand name From Dawn to Dusk.
Royal Bengal Tigers are one of the many species of animals Debashish has photographed and you’ll be charmed by his stories and photographs in the coming months.
How My First Trip to the Land of the Rising Sun Changed My Life
Stop by joanmatsuitravelwriter.com every two weeks for a new story in Japan: Memories and Encounters’ series. Learn more about Japan from detailed notes I’ve taken directly from my trip journals and recommendations for the best of Japanese culture, art, food, and traditions.
“Japan: Memories and Encounters: A Journal,” transports readers to the Land of the Rising Sun.
In the coming chapters, I share heartwarming Japanese culture and heritage information based on my experiences during two 31-day trips to Japan. My life has been one positive Japanese cultural immersion after another. Enjoy the behind-the-scenes photos from quaint Japanese villages and other beloved national treasures.
Japan is one of the most picturesque and historically rich countries on Earth. From the downtown shopping areas to the coastal towns, the country breathes heritage with an earthy and metropolitan charm. Beach lovers will also find no shortage of sand and sun.
We celebrated our marriage with a wedding reception in Kyoto in May 1993. While visiting with my husband’s family and nearly 20 temples and shrines, we also located (with my father-in-law’s help) a woman my father knew many years ago. We found her contact information in a small phone book from the late 1940s.
Don’t miss this heartwarming story.
The search and outcome, much like our Japanese wedding reception, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Follow us on our adventures.
Each chapter offers a look back in time and paints a vivid portrait of Japanese culture, then and now. Use the information to plan sightseeing itineraries you can customize to suit your style. If you go, I assure you’ll find spectacular landscapes, romance, fashion, and culture from coast to coast.
From Fabulous Food to Festivals
Japan-talk.com estimates there are more than 200,000 annual festivals (matsuri) held throughout the year. Approximately 190,000 temples and shrines host the celebrations, according to Japan-talk. “Japan: Memories and Encounters: will guide you with recommendations for the most taste-tempting food and must-see happenings throughout the country.
Don’t leave without a tour of temples and shrines.
Spectacular Gardens and Shopping Areas
Similarly, each of the 47 prefectures is home to an array of enchanting shrines and temples, gardens, restaurants, and shops. A Shabu-Shabu and Tofu restaurant served two of my favorite meals.
Travelers find one-of-a-kind handcrafted pottery, art, Japanese paper, and home goods.
Keep a Journal
Overall, my travels inspired me to keep a detailed journal that years later undeniably led me back to journalism. But, equally, as important, I discovered, Chigirie, (Chigiri-e) a traditional Japanese art and have devoted 25 years to learning and mastering the art. Travel also sparked a renewed interest in photography and set the stage for an exciting travel writing career.
In conclusion, join me again in two weeks as I unveil the first chapter, “Kyoto: The Search Begins.”
Joan Mead-Matsui is a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer and photographer. She covers news and features’ stories that range from unique travel accessories and products to destinations and attractions. Prior to launching her websites, https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com and https://chigirie.com, Joan was a full-time freelance content and features writer for print and digital news sources and magazines.
Altmar, NY – Hilton honors the Tailwater Lodge with the Connie Award, the highest award for customer service.
A Tailwater-Hilton collaboration means guests will find even more services and amenities at the upscale Tailwater Lodge, a popular Altmar, NY, lodge known to fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Consequently, the partnership is a win-win for long-time customers of both hoteliers.
The word lodge often denotes rustic but at the Tailwater, expect Connie Award-Winning unparalleled attention to details and unrivaled customer service.
A fellow angler recently told me, “I’m done with scaled-down fishing lodges. I stay at the Tailwater because I want comfort and great food.”
About the Connie Award
Jenna Hackett – Tapestry Collection by Hilton global head
“The Connie Award is the highest hotel award for all brands across Hilton. The winning hotels are the perfect balance of product and outstanding service scores. There are only a few Connie Awards per brand awarded annually, making it extremely competitive to win,” says Jenna Hackett, Tapestry Collection by Hilton global head. “These hotels embody founder Conrad Hilton’s dream of spreading the light and warmth of hospitality and living his shared values each and every day. This distinguished award is presented to properties who have excelled in customer satisfaction and loyalty based on guest feedback and quality assurance standards.”
Before my arrival at the Tailwater two weeks ago, after four previous visits to the lodge in less than five years, I was curious how the Tailwater-Hilton collaboration affects the lodge’s overall theme. I reached out to Tom Fernandez, Woodbine Group representative, for answers.
Scroll down to read my interview with Tom Fernandez, Woodbine Group representative.
do you describe your company’s relationship with the Hilton?
We are part of the Hilton Tapestry Collection. Tapestry is a Hilton Soft Brand meaning that the hotel maintains it’s ownership, branding, original fit, and finish. We are still owned by the Woodbine Hospitality Group and we continue to be an Orvis Endorsed Lodge.
What’s the significance of the Tapestry Collection and how does the Tailwater fit into that category?
Tapestry is a grouping of hotels that are very similar to independent properties. The focus of the brand is creating a high level of guest experience in nontraditional properties. Tailwater Lodge is a perfect example of the Tapestry collection – adaptive re-use of an elementary school re-purposed into a high-end lodge. We are the epitome of the brand.
How did the relationship evolve?
Tailwater Lodge’s sister property Hotel Skyler was asked to be the first hotel for Hilton’s Tapestry Collection. In conversations, both Hilton and Tailwater believed the brand would be mutually beneficial for Tailwater. So… Tailwater was Hilton’s third Tapestry hotel and we were awarded the Connie Award, the highest award Hilton gives for Customer Service. We have had a wonderful time being part of the Hilton Family and helping to grow the Tapestry Brand.
What Tailwater qualities have you retained and where will your longtime guests notice the changes?
I would say all qualities were retained. The only customer-facing differences are the online booking engine and the ability to be part of Hilton’s Honor Program.
How did your designers incorporate the new addition, spa, and pool design, so it remains consistent with the Tailwater’s lodge-like atmosphere and the antiquity of the original building?
The Third Phase of Tailwater focused on bringing additional amenities and guest rooms. We wanted to make sure that the addition was of the same feeling as the original space but highlighted some new aspects. Guests will find similar finishes, but some different tones throughout the space. We also wanted to make sure that our amenities and common areas worked well, for families, fishermen and women, bridal parties, and corporate guests.
How do the original rooms in the Altmar school differ from the new guest rooms?
I would say they are very similar. We were no longer working within the confines of the school building so we were able to have some fun with the space. The biggest change to the guest rooms was the addition of desks and desk chairs for either some business or maybe some fly tying. We also were able to create two suites that are truly standouts at the property.
There’s so much discussion about branding. How did the change affect the Tailwater brand or is your brand a work in progress?
Hilton doesn’t really change our branding, we are still Tailwater Lodge and we are continuously adding to our brand.
How did the spa’s name evolve and who would you say is your target audience? Bridal parties? Fishermen? Do you have any anglers’ specials or deals my readers should be aware of?
Our Spa is a Hilton Spa. Eforea can be found all over the world. Again, it was inspired and designed by our team, especially the small touches like the steelhead tiles throughout the cobblestone floor in the space. We are part of a global brand but designed and operated by Woodbine Hospitality Group. Our clientele ranges from day-use, overnight leisure guests, bridal parties, and our fisherman specials will actually begin next week.
Overall, I’m curious how your teams – Tailwater and the Hilton – agreed upon the upscale fishing lodge idea? Does the Hilton partner with other lodges?
Tapestry is an interesting brand. I do believe we are the only lodge as part of the Hilton Collection but that’s not say there may not be more in the future.
Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit. The Tailwater Lodge pool is a wonderful way to wind down after a long day outdoors.
Want to Learn More About The Lodge?
Jenna noted properties in both the Curio and Tapestry Collection portfolios must feature a unique story and honor that story by weaving extraordinary elements, not limited to design components and an array of top-notch on-property amenities throughout the hotel. She explained,
“Properties in both the Curio and Tapestry Collection portfolios must feature a unique story and honor that story by weaving it into elements throughout the hotel – from design components to on-property amenities. As a result, we have been able to provide guests with one-of-a-kind experiences at over 100 unique destinations, like those available at Tailwater Lodge Altmar. This off-the-beaten-path location is ideal for the Tapestry Collection guest, who we know is an adventure-seeker that wants to experience and explore a destination to its fullest. After a long day of fishing on the Salmon River, explorers can wind down with a craft beer at The Tasting Room or treat themselves to a massage at eforea spa.”
– Jenna Hackett
As the seasons evolve from fall to winter, plan a weekend of salmon or steelhead fishing or map out a hike in Altmar. Contact the Tailwater to book your weekend getaway and inquire about upcoming events at and around the lodge.
Take a few minutes to read my Tailwater companion stories.
My accommodations at the Tailwater were comped but my opinions are my own and based on my experiences.
Joan Mead-Matsui is a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer and photographer. She covers news and features’ stories that range from unique travel accessories and products to destinations and attractions. Prior to launching her websites, https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com and https://chigirie.com, Joan was a full-time freelance content and features writer for print and digital news sources and magazines.
Salmon River Fly-Fishing Tales is a three-day account of my first-time salmon fishing in the Salmon River, Altmar, NY.
by Joan Mead-Matsui, a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer, and photographer.
If you’re looking for Salmon River fly fishing tales and stories from my freshwater fishing expedition, you’ve come to the right place.
It’s all here – the angling, flies, bait, encounter with international anglers, and the final word on my success during my first salmon-fishing trip to the Salmon River. My Salmon River fly-fishing tales are more about my experience as a whole, rather than one specific story or incident.
The primary objective for this story assignment was to arrive at the river and learn as much as I could through listening, observing, and interviews with other anglers.
Where To Stay in Altmar, NY
Keep in mind you’ll need a place to rest your weary legs after a full day on the water. My late September trip to Altmar began in Pulaski, NY, with a long-time friend who also loves fishing and culminated with an overnight travel assignment, outstanding meals, and lodging at the Tailwater Lodge.
The Tailwater’s accommodations tie in seamlessly with my outdoor recreation travel writing assignments and that’s why I’ve been a guest writer there four times.
If you’ve never stayed at the Tailwater, it is a phenomenal home-away-from-home upscale lodge that’s an independently owned Hilton Tapestry Collection award-winning property. It’s also adjacent to the Salmon River. The decor offers a lodge-like atmosphere but the accommodations are all about comfort, exceptional casual dining, and exemplary customer service. Bright and early, you can walk out the front door, hang a left, and within 50 ft., you’re on the river’s banks.
Need Room for Fly Tying?
The guest rooms are equipped with a desk and chair so you can set up your vise and tie flies should you deplete your supply.
Now that you have a place to hang your waders at night, the experienced fisher should have no problem catching at least one Chinook, Coho, or (landlocked) Atlantic salmon. The less skilled will learn a thing or two.
Longtime Goals Met Trepidation
Salmon fishery evolved into one of my goals not long after I learned to fly fish eight years ago. Only recently, did I find the courage to schedule a trip.
Why? Because I couldn’t coax any of my trout-fishing friends to take off time from their work. As a result, solo salmon fly-fishing was my only option and synonymous with wading into foreignterritory. Despite mind-boggling self-doubt that actually kept me awake for a few hours the night before I departed for Altmar, I packed my gear in my car and embarked on my travel assignment to upstate New York.
A September trip, when the water is warm, appeals to me more than steelhead fishing in late October and early November. A few years ago, on a bitterly cold November day, my friend, our fishing guide and I set out to the Douglaston Salmon Run in search of steelhead. Within an hour, my fingertips and feet were numb and I was chilled to the bone despite several layers of clothing.
In stark contrast were the recent picture-perfect not-a-cloud-in-the-sky fall days with an ideal temperature for wading. Although they set the stage for three relaxing days they aren’t the ideal conditions for salmon migration. Salmon, much like trout, is a coldwater species and the air temperature was 70 degrees or higher by mid-day. That boosted the water temperature, which slowed the relocation.
One fisherman told me to return to the river to see the mass migration in mid-October. He assured me I’d see droves of salmon coming up the river once the weather turns ugly and cold.
My mood turned more serious as my trip was winding down. Keep reading for additional Salmon River Fly Fishing Tips.
Salmon Larger Than Me?
Maybe not that big but I’d heard many stories about the weight and size of an average-sized salmon caught in the Salmon River. Twenty to 30-lbs is the most common range. As a result, I wondered how someone my height and weight could reel in a 20 to 30-pound salmon.
After watching anglers in the Sportman’s Pool the first night I arrived in Pulaski, a neighboring town, I had my doubts if I had the skills to keep a salmon on the line and reel it in.
I awakened at 6:15 a.m. on my first full day in Altmar and was ready to fish by 8 a.m. Breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts took longer than I expected and I decided to make a quick stop at a fly shop on Route 13. The sales clerk offered expert advice but my river arrival time was set back by an hour or more.
The crowd thickened on Saturday as multiple drift boats and a large group of fishers arrived along both sides of the shoreline. More people on the water seemed to have an impact on the number of salmon I saw but a change in travel plans allowed me to stay until late afternoon.
TIP: Be sure to get your hands on a fishing map so you don’t waste your time driving. You’ll find one online beforehand or at the local tackle or fly shops when you arrive.
Fly or Spin-Fishing?
I wanted to increase my chances of catching a salmon so I brought the spin rods my friend loaned me and also rigged my fly rod with a heavier-weight line and attached weight and an egg pattern I bought at the fly shop. I’m skittish about using borrowed equipment so I tried both and eventually switched to my Orvis 9-ft, 8-wt Encounter rod. I set out down the path to the Sportman’s Pool, a popular spot along the Salmon River and joined a group between the deep pool and the riffles.
After walking around fishing gear for more than a mile along the river bank, I was relieved to find an opening spot where the riffles spilled into a calmer pool. That seemed like the ideal scenario for me, a person who doesn’t feel comfortable in water above my knees.
Salmon Fishing Tips and Lessons Learned
Every year, thousands of anglers toting spinner and fly rods descend on the river but not everyone leaves with a salmon. The beauty is those who don’t catch a salmon, have an opportunity to assist a fellow fisherman.
Throughout the day, there were times when anglers were elbow-to-elbow but folks came and went throughout the day. You’ll eventually find a vacant spot. Don’t crowd your neighbor.
Move out of the way of an angler who has a salmon on his line. You might hear the phrases, “Coming up,” “Coming down,” or “Fish on.” As a courtesy, you should move out of the way and allow them to safely follow the salmon. You can also offer to help.
Female anglers are still a minority. Only a mere 10 percent of the fishermen I saw fishing were women.
Fewer than 40 percent of the fishermen I watched fished with fly rods.
Mostly everyone is willing to give advice.
Watch an instructional video before you go. There is an abundance of YouTube videos that will give you tips.
Read this Salmon River article and learn more about the salmons’ migration and spawning habits.
Salmon rise above the water and thrash as though they‘re frolicking. Who knows? Maybe they’re celebrating their last days on earth.
The onset of the salmon run is similar to a silent alarm that sets off a flurry of activity that continues for months.
Anglers from around the world fish in the Salmon River.
Wear wading boots with studs to help keep you safe in the water. Salmon River rocks are slick and the current strong.
When Does Salmon Fishing Begin?
Salmon season on the Salmon River typically begins in September, although weather plays a role in the migration. Suffice to say, schedule your trip from September to November or whenever a dorsal fin is spotted emerging from the water. Colder temps can bring on excellent conditions and you’ll be more likely to hook a salmon.
As you wade, wait, and watch for the shockingly large salmonoids to rear their heads and make their infamous splash, look around you and admire the scenery. A Yugoslavian fisherman told me salmon fishing is his opportunity to wallow in nature and cleanse his soul.
By this time, you’re probably wondering if I caught a salmon. The answer is no and as much as I would have loved to present one to my family, I went to Altmar to learn and observe. I felt a few hefty tugs on my fishing line but to make catching any fish the ultimate goal would take away from the invaluable lessons I learned and the friends I made.
Room for Improvement
5 Improvements I Should Make (Based on a Survey of Fisherman I met)
According to the Yugoslavian man, the egg patterns I had were not the best for salmon fishing. He recommended a mealworm fly.
My line was too long
I needed more weight on my line.
The salmon ignored my fly because I didn’t move it in front of them.
My casting needs work.
To Eat or Not to Eat
A salmon is a salmon and they’re all edible, correct?
Not necessarily, I learned. Depending on the salmon’s age and overall condition, not all salmon flesh is pink, flaky, and delicious. One fisherman told me some can taste fishy and others are downright foul-tasting. That was a disappointment to hear, considering I practice catch and release but would have made an exception.
Read my previous Tailwater reviews and stay tuned for my upcoming Tailwater Lodge coverage. Discover Oswego County here.
A massage IS without a doubt, one of the best natural remedies. For example, when everyday stressors are taking their toll on your general well-being, opt for a Hand & Stone massage treatment.
Now’s the time to schedule an hour of sheer massage bliss that I guarantee will help you relax and calm your nerves.
Hand & Stone, with more than 300 locations, offers a variety of spa options from massages to facials and hair removal. My lifelong friend and I elevate a Hand & Stone massage to the top of our list of “girlfriend” activities when I visit her at her home in West Chester, PA.
Make Time for Yourself
If you don’t have hours to spare, you’ll find at least one massage treatment that’ll loosen your tight muscles and lessen the impact tension has on your body.
A Massage Offers Relief from TMJ
During my most recent visit, I arrived at Hand & Stone seeking relief from an ongoing TMJ ( temporomandibular) issue — an annoying and sometimes painful jaw ailment. TMJ is, at times, attributed to jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
Try A Gentle Swedish Massage
A Swedish massage, the most popular of all massages was the perfect fit. Some of the benefits of massage are reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, and the reduction of stress hormones. Even after my treatment, the positive effects lasted for days and reminded me to take care of myself every day.
Finding a Massage Therapist
Finding a licensed massage therapist with the skills and touch necessary to soothe your tired, weary muscles is often a trial and error process. We all have different criteria for determining the ultimate massage. But for me, it’s a gentle touch and pressure that reach the muscle without the tenderness afterward.
Hand & Stone offers solutions that support health, wellness, AND beauty. Browse the products before or after your spa treatment.
Sandi, a Hand & Stone licensed massage therapist, came to my rescue. Her calming voice, combined with a gentle touch alleviated the muscle tension I was holding onto throughout my aching jaw. From the moment we met in the lounge, her immediate goal was to set the stage for a memorable and therapeutic experience. Using moderate pressure, she relaxed the muscles from the base of my neck, along my shoulders to my face and jaw.
Not sure what treatment is best for you?
The Hand & Stone menu has a variety of options from Swedish and Himalayan Salt to Decompression Therapy. Combine a massage and a facial and leave the shop feeling extraordinary.
Appointments are recommended but walk-ins are welcome. You’ll find the hours particularly convenient. Hand & Stone is open seven days a week, with extended hours.
Visit Hand & Stone
In six weeks, the shop will move to a larger location in the same shopping plaza. The new address will be 301 Buyers Drive, Concordville Town Centre, Glen Mills, PA. Call (610) 361-6171 to schedule an appointment or visit https://handandstone.com to find a store near you.
Rest assured, my massage was comped but my opinions are my own and based solely on my experience.
Joan Mead-Matsui is a five-time award-winning freelance journalist; travel writer and photographer. She covers news and features’ stories that range from unique travel accessories and products to destinations and attractions. Prior to launching her websites, https://joanmatsuitravelwriter.com and https://chigirie.com, Joan was a full-time freelance content and features writer for print and digitals news sources and magazines.