El Encanto Santa Barbara | by Orient Express

El Encanto Santa Barbara | by Orient Express

We enjoyed a quick stay over the 2013 Labor Day holiday. It’s a super place to experience the true Real California. Just restored and reopened, this resort was built in the early 20th Century over a 20+ year period. Still traditional in the rooms and suites, but the bar, overlooking the Santa Barbara bay, is more contemporary and a great place to chill. This is the perfect place for enjoying your suite, hanging out by the pool, dining and drinking on the Veranda and maybe escaping downtown (down the hill) to enjoy other restaurants, the beach and shopping.

This photo is the corner of the property where our room was located.

Call Josh for details, excellent pricing & the ultimate in service

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco
415.987.0372 | joshfriedmantravel.com
with travel experts, a virtuoso member agency

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Josh Friedman is an old-fashioned travel agent offering highly personalized 24/7 service. Specialties include high-end and bespoke luxury travel for small groups and individuals.  His areas of expertise include ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations & luxury hotel stays.  He also plans spectacular honeymoons, anniversary and birthday celebrations and completes trips that clients have started and just can’t quite figure out how to finish.

His relationships built over twenty years with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies will ensure your successful vacation. As a client you get exclusive and complimentary perks that you can’t get on your own — from VIP introduction to the hotel’s management to upgrades, scrumptious breakfasts and hotel spending credits.

affiliated with travel experts, a virtuoso agency and four seasons preferred partner, 201 spear st., ste 1100,  san francisco, ca 94105 cst# 2080753-40.


Josh Friedman Luxury Travel | San Francisco


Orient Express Hotels and Resorts l Insider Update

Today’s download from our office visit by Orient Express! Thank you, Ray.  Call or email me for details and, of course, our exclusive perks at this resorts, not available to the general public.

If you’re not that familiar with Orient Express, it’s a wonderful collection of very historic, completely renovated and ultra-luxury hotels, resorts, trains and boats, from Burma to Peru to France to Italy and more.

Maroma | Mexico near Cancun on the Riviera Maya.  Now offers a very reasonable all-inclusive option at between $80 and $100 per night per person.

El Ecanto | Santa Barbara.  Opening in Spring 2013.  Will compete with the top resorts in the area, 6 years in the making, renovation of a classic place. 95 rooms and suites on a hill overlooking the Pacific.

Palacio Nazarenas in Cuzco | A 2nd hotel adjacent to Monasterio, targeted to a client with a more modern sensibility, and a chic swimming pool. Could this be Hollywood in Peru?

Cipriani | 95% renovated. It’s the hotel/resort in Venice.  Kid’s Club too (along with Villa San Michele in Florence).  OMG – keys to the Vasari corridor or visiting the Duomo at night? Talk about access.  Ci vado Io (i’m going!)

Royal Scotsman, your rolling manor home (it’s a train).  Very traditional Scottish. Not new. Just still very unique with fully inclusive dining. And Whiskey tastings, too (extra cost). Kilts optional.

VSOE, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, now in Scandinavia.  Venice to Copenhagen to Stockholm (and return). 8 places left for April 2013 – next year’s only departure.

Myanmar |  a new river vessel and several of the top hotels here

Call Josh for details, excellent pricing & the ultimate in service

josh friedman luxury travel
in san francisco’s financial district
415.987.0372 | joshfriedmantravel.com
with travel experts, a virtuoso member agency

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[sign up for exclusive offers!]

Josh Friedman is a travel agent specializing in luxury travel for small groups and individuals – particularly ultra-luxury cruises, customized vacations and food & wine inspired journeys.  Based in San Francisco, and with clients throughout the USA, his business is focused on 24/7 personalized service to the sophisticated leisure and business traveler.  His personal  relationships with the world’s top hotels, cruise lines and local agencies often allows for exclusive amenities and VIP status. 

 If you’d like to learn more about luxury travel and our services, please contact Josh Friedman Luxury Travel in San Francisco’s Financial District via phone at 415.987.0372  or email: josh [at] joshfriedmantravel [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, too.

associated with travel experts, a virtuoso member and four seasons preferred partner, 201 spear st., ste 1100,  san francisco, ca 94105 cst# 2080753-40

Hotel Ritz Madrid | What’s Happening in 2012

Dear Traveler,[this came to me directly from the hotel MD, who I met in 2010]

In October, a year of Centenary Celebrations at Hotel Ritz Madrid will come to a close, but all the spirit and elegance that King Alfonso XIII brought to the Hotel Ritz in 1910 when he opened it still remains at the hotel.

2011 has been a particularly joyous year for Hotel Ritz Madrid and we were delighted to welcome your guests to join us in celebrating this very special anniversary. Throughout the year, they enjoyed an array of unique events including gala balls, a centenary menu composed of dishes served over the last century, amongst a host of many others that commemorated our Centenary and the true spirit of Madrid.

In 2012, Madrid will play host to a myriad of events and the Hotel Ritz Madrid is the perfect place for your clients to stay and enjoy them in full. Please find below a detailed list of these events for your reference.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your support and business so far and look forward to a continuing and successful partnership with you over the coming years.

Please do not hesitate to call should you have any enquiries.

Kind regards,
Anton Kung
Managing Director
Hotel Ritz Madrid

Guests at the Hotel Ritz will celebrate the true spirit of Madrid thorough out 2012. A variety of occasions are available to get a feel of what Madrid has to offer, month per month:
JANUARY 2012: Family Life after the Christmas Holidays

  • 1st to the 8th – Disney Live! at the Municipal Conference Centre: Mickey Mouse and his friends will sing Disney’s greatest hits in a lively show.
  • 5th – Cabalgata de Reyes parades throughout the city streets proclaim the arrival of the Three Wise Men with sweets being dispensed to children.
  • 17th – Families should not miss the fun of the annual pet blessing at the San Antón Church, observed by hundreds of pet owners.
  • The best shopping is during the Winter Sales, when bargains abound in the exclusive designer boutiques of the Barrio de Salamanca, Serrano Street or Jose Ortega y Gasset.

FEBRUARY 2012: It’s Time for Romance!
Guests can celebrate St Valentine with a dance performance full of fire and passion. The Ballet Flamenco de Madrid is back with ‘España baila flamenco‘, an emblematic production vibrating with the most beautifully orthodox Spanish flamenco. This sensual experience is best topped indulging in a Luxury Pampering package at Hotel Ritz.
MARCH 2012: Carnival Celebrations
After fancy-dress competitions and parties across the capital, Madrid’s Carnival celebrations culminate on Ash Wednesday with the Burial of the Sardine. This tongue-in-cheek ritual, led by costumed locals, marks the start of Lent. To be enjoyed in full with Hotel Ritz’s Celebration package.
APRIL 2012: Culinary Discovery is a Must

  • 11th – 14th, international “Salon del Gourmet”. A real “foodie” will not miss the opportunity to take a wander around the fair to find every type of Spanish olive under the sun, cured Serrano ham, manzanilla, and all styles of chorizo. A visit to Madrid in those dates is perfectly combined with our Gourmet & Wine Tour.
  • Easter, or Semana Santa, is a big celebration with religious parades in Spain and the perfect time to take advantage of our Madrid & Surroundings package to observe deep-rooted traditions and celebrations in Toledo or around the Roman heritage city of Segovia.

MAY 2012: Madrid in Bloom
1st week to 15th – This is the time to see Madrileños celebrating San Isidro, the capital’s patron saint. The fiestas are officially declared open and nightly gigs are held (with the odd classical performance thrown in) at the Plaza Mayor. Music, theatre, painting workshops and more are put on for kids in the Retiro Park. Relax and luxury await guests at Hotel Ritz thanks to the seasonal opening of the Terrace & Gardens, the perfect setting for a delightful al fresco lunch or dinner, or to sample traditional Spanish tapas.

JUNE 2012: Summer Party Time

  • On weekends: Festival of Antique Music. Concerts of baroque and renaissance music using period instruments take place in the chapel, theater and the grounds of the Royal Palace. The exquisite guided musical walks have pauses for concerts along the way.
  • 9th to 13th – San Antonio de la Florida festival is on: the city’s biggest street party.

JULY 2012: At the Height of Summer

  • Between Mid-June and mid-July Madrid hosts an international photography festival, “PhotoEspaña”, with exhibitions, workshops and talks.
  • During July and August the town-hall organizes a series of cultural events for what they call Veranos de la Villa, “Summer in the Village”. These include a series of outdoor films, and concerts of everything from flamenco to rock and roll all summer long.
  • Families can spend a fun day with the most famous figures in history at the Wax Museum, or head to the Zoo and Aquarium to observe the most fascinating animal species on earth, discover the Warner Bros Park new addition: the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. To top this with more excitement, the Plenilunio Centre offers Go-Kart tracks adapted for little ones. Find out more on what is available to kids at Hotel Ritz.

AUGUST 2012: Gazing at the Stars

  • Madrid´s starry nights can be enjoyed in the streets or our Concierge can arrange a special visit to the Planetarium for a close-up look at the celestial bodies in the universe. The universe is within the reach of boys and girls from four to ten years old who will be engrossed by the digital animation and impressive images from the Cosmos.
  • It’s shopping time again. The Summer Sales or Rebajas – as we call them over here – are on! Our Concierge will advise on the very best shops to hit.

SEPTEMBER 2012: Artistic Madrid
September to November: Festival de Otoño (Autumn Festival) celebrates performing arts (music, dance and theatre) with acts from around the world. Combine performing arts with a visit to Madrid’s famous museum with Hotel Ritz’s Art Discovery Package.
OCTOBER 2012: Enjoy the Colourful Days of Early Autumn

  • A visit at the Royal Botanical Garden, a natural refuge that hosts over 5,000 species of plants from all over the world. Golden and red tinted, the garden expresses the romantic beauty of the autumnal season. Families can also enjoy an educational visit for kids at the Faunia Nature Park. The park is divided into ecosystems where it is possible to interact with some animal species.
  • Opera and Ballet – the season begins at the Teatro Lirico Nacional de la Zarzuela.

NOVEMBER 2012: Jazz & Dance
Every November, top acts from around the globe assemble in Madrid to perform at the Madrid Jazz Festival. Concerts take place at different venues around the city, including the Teatro Fernán Gómez and Teatro Circo Price. During the same month, Madrid en Danza, make theatres and cultural centres come alive with dance performances. Visitors choose from graceful ballet, unusual contemporary and world dance styles.

DECEMBER 2012: Merry Christmas!

  • Over 100 stalls occupy Plaza Mayor for the annual Christmas Market, which the Madrilenos visit to buy essential items for a traditional Spanish Christmas. Families will be thrilled by Plaza de Colón, transformed into a lively Children’s Christmas World. The theatre, puppets, storytelling and dance performances are sure to keep children (and parents) occupied in the run-up to Christmas. For those looking for unusual Christmas gifts, then the Craft Market on Plaza de España is the place to find little treasures.
  • It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Let your guests enjoy the holiday season to the full with the Hotel Ritz’ festivities. From Christmas concerts to Epiphany celebrations through its world-famous New Year’s Eve gala dinner, the Hotel Ritz brings true meaning to the Magic of Christmas.

Call Josh for details, excellent pricing & the ultimate in service

josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 | joshfriedmantravel.com
a virtuoso member agency

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Botswana | Environmental Report

Enjoy this update on what’s up in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
And view photos from our 2008 trip there.
November 2010 Environmental Report
As 2010 comes to an end, we look back at the miraculous events and stories that have made this year in the Okavango Delta so incredibly different from past years, and we look forward to the dramatic changes they will bring to the future.In the Okavango, after nearly 30 years of the usual “slightly up, slightly down” water flows, the water levels started increasing in 2008 and then even more so in 2009, and in 2010 we had the whopping great big floods, the biggest in centuries. In front of our very own eyes we watched dead rivers spring into full flowing life. Such changes in our normally fairly predictable ecosystems have had a profound effect on humans and animals in the area.

Many local villagers have been affected by the floods – some with flooded crops and others having to move out of their waterlogged villages. On the positive side however, when the floods subside, the soil will be nourished and fertile and there will be no need to wait for the floods before sowing the next crop. The water, the new life, the new rivers and flowing Channels has excited every person and animal in Botswana and there is a feeling of rejuvenation in the air, the birth of a new era in the Okavango Delta.

Moving on to the more factual side of life in Botswana
Temperature and rainfall Rainfall has been exceptionally high and temperatures much warmer than average – October’s average daytime temperatures have been in the 40’s.

The Savute Channel

The most interesting and miraculous phenomenon of this year’s floods is the flowing of the Savute Channel in Northern Botswana’s Chobe National Park. (click here to read more)

Game viewing

Savute has always been known as the elephant capital of the world but the flowing of the Savute Channel into the Savute Marsh has attracted more elephants than we have ever seen before. Breeding herds of 500 elephants are currently in Savute. Magnificent to behold, but also somewhat devastating to the surrounding vegetation, with the candlepod acacia shrubland thinning away to just some trees dotted here and there.

The over flooded islands in the middle of the Okavango Delta have forced the animals to congregate onto the few dry islands, making game-spotting on walks and helicopter flights a shoe-in.

The abundance of water has resulted in plenty of delicious, fresh green food for the antelopes and they are looking fat and healthy as we approach the rainy season. This is the time of the year when they start having their babies and we are all looking forward to seeing the somewhat wobbly and fragile little “bokkies” springing around our place very soon.


The good rains and the exceptional floods have brought many birds to the Okavango Delta. An ornithologist’s paradise, the Delta is home to more than 450 species of terrestrial and aquatic birds. The endangered Wattled Crane and the rare endemic Slaty Egret enjoy their largest concentration in the world right here. 75-80% of the world’s 4000 slaty egrets are found in this area alone. Just a few of the many species found in the Delta are the exquisite malachite kingfisher, the goliath heron and the African Fish Eagle.

More and more aquatic birds have settled in the Savute Marsh. Fish Eagles, yellow billed stork and pied king fishers are now a common sight in the area.


The floods have affected the vegetation differently from one area to another. We have seen grasses, reeds and other water-loving flora fill up the Delta in areas that had been bare. On the other hand some trees, especially the acacia species, are slowly drowning as they are stand in water.

The Savute Channel has brought many changes to the surrounding vegetation. It is thick and green whereas in the past the trees, plants and grasses would turn brown as soon as the rains were gone. However with time, more trees will die as the water level increases and as the dramatic increase in elephants visiting the Marsh takes its toll on the vegetation.

While some things change, others remain constant, such as the passing of another year and happy festive seasons. On that note, we would like to share a message from our General Manager Warren Stone:

For me, Christmas time is a time of families coming together, of reflection over the year that has just past, and also a time of anticipation of the year ahead.

Orient-Express has made many impressive changes this year, including a journey of discovery, of getting to know the staff better and thus unlocking their true potential.

2010 has also been an encouraging year as the tourism industry in Botswana is showing signs of improving and so we are excited about the prospects for 2011. As General Manager of Orient-Express Botswana, I am looking forward to all the challenges that the year may hold, knowing that I have a much better understanding of my team, and with our on-going motivating training, we will exceed all expectations, both from ourselves and from our guests.

Below is a poem which sums up my wishes for everyone as we come to the end of another year:

Whatever be the colour of your eye,

Whatever be the colour of your hair,

Whatever position you occupy,

Whatever religion you might declare,

Whatever be the colour of your skin,

Whatever be your political thought,

Virtue be in your heart, or deadly sin,

Whether you have treasures, or possess nought,

In this Festive Season please turn your face

Towards a stranger and hold out your hand,

Offer him, or her friendly embrace

And try to make him, or her understand,

That we are all of the same family.

There is no place for violence, or hate,

There is no need for quarrel, or enmity,

That a just, peaceful world we must create

And we must learn to live in harmony,

Putting behind us all our bloody past,

Securing safety for our progeny,

For them to live on Earth in peace at last.

by P. J. Oszmann

Thanks to all the staff at Orient-Express Botswana for their hard work and enthusiasm in ensuring that each and every one of our guests has enjoyed an authentic journey of discovery at our camps. I also wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a prosperous 2011 and may all your dreams and aspirations be realised.

And from me, Onx Manga, I would like to extend my very best wishes to everyone who has taken their time to read all the wonderful news from the bush, to those who have been inspired by the stories to eventually find themselves in the African wilderness and to those who are still dreaming of coming to Africa one day; may your dreams come true.

“Masigo le Mathogonolo a Keresmose le ngwaga a moshu.”

Compiled by

Onx Manga
Environmental Manager

josh friedman luxury travel at casto
in san francisco’s financial district
415.248.5079 | joshfriedmantravel.com
a virtuoso member agency[sign up for exclusive offers]

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