34 posts by ellenoffner@comcast.net

Laos, Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Luang Prabang Province in northern Laos, lies in a valley at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. Inhabited for thousands of years, it was the royal capital of the country until 1975. It’s known for its many Buddhist temples, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong, dating to the 16th century, and Wat Mai, once the residence of the head of Laotian Buddhism. We stayed in the delightful Mekong Riverview Hotel, with a commanding view of the ... Continue Reading

Thailand

  Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok       Figures Leading to Temple at Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Ayutthaya   Schoolchildren at Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Ayutthaya In January 2017, we visited Thailand, Laos, and very briefly Hong Kong.  The trip was full of adventure, sights, sounds, flavors, and people.  The markets are among the most colorful in the world, and the freshly picked vegetables and fruits are delectable. ... Continue Reading

Hong Kong

Aspen Colorado

    A hiker's paradise, Aspen has among the most exquisite scenery and hiking trails in the world.  It easily compares to the Alps, and has outstanding skiing in addition to marvelous summer activities.  There are delightful restaurants in Downtown Aspen and within a reasonable drive for people who are seeking a more rustic setting.  For a city of this size there are two art museums, one downtown and one a few miles' drive.  The Aspen Art Museum in Downtown Aspen is a ... Continue Reading

London

      A Bustling Modern City Interspersed with Landmarks, Palaces,  and Touches of the Old   A Bird's Eye View of London London is a city of beautiful sights, sounds, parks, buildings, museums, and architecture.  Below is a bird's eye view including Russell Square,  Parliament Square,  a view of the British Museum from Contemporary Ceramics Centre across the street, Borough Market, and beautiful Georgian houses off Lambs Conduit Street.  See the ... Continue Reading

Asheville NC

River Arts Walk The River Arts District consists of a vast array of artists and working studios in 22 former industrial and historical buildings spread out along a one mile stretch of the French Broad River. This eclectic area is an exciting exploration of arts, food and exercise. Plan on spending a day or more visiting artists working in their studios, grabbing a bite of local cuisine or a brew and taking time to find art that’s perfect for your world. More than 200 artists work in paint, ... Continue Reading

New York City

New York City is a kaleidoscope of wondrous sights, sounds, tastes, the arts, and experiences of all kinds.  And Brooklyn has been emerging as a desirable place to live as well as a compelling mix of tourist attractions, BAM, Mark Morris Dance Center, the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Museum, the Botanical Garden.  Restaurants of all ethnicities and price levels abound in every neighborhood.  Recently, my sister, husband, and I spent a few days in Brooklyn, with excursions into Manhattan. ... Continue Reading

Hungary

The Setting Budapest is an exquisite city straddling the Danube River, with Pest, densely populated and with the magnificent Parliament building and St. Stephens Basilica on one side of the river, and Buda, with the medieval castle district on the other bank; several bridges traverse the Danube, with the magnificent Chain Bridge inviting  pedestrians with its lovely walkways. This UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter, and Andrássy Avenue, ... Continue Reading

Slovakia

Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, is set along the Danube River by the border with Austria and Hungary. It’s surrounded by vineyards and the Little Carpathian mountains, crisscrossed with forested hiking and cycling trails. The pedestrian-only, 18th-century old town is known for its lively bars and cafes. Perched atop a hill, the reconstructed Bratislava Castle overlooks old town and the Danube River. The feature image shows the back wall of a building housing a children's theatre program, ... Continue Reading

Poland

Poland Feature Photo: Zapiekanka, a toasted open-faced baguette topped with mushrooms and cheese (or any number of optional add-ons), is the most popular street food in Kraków, utterly scrumptious. The rotunda in the middle of Plac Nowy is packed with zapiekanka vendors, but the best of the bunch is Endzior (Plac Nowy; 48-12-429-3754; endzior.eu), description of zapiekanka adapted from New York Times, "36 Hours in Kraków," September 29, 2011. Kraków The historic center of Kraków, the ... Continue Reading

Austria

Austria Vienna Park Hyatt Hotel (our four-night stay at this exquisite, centrally located hotel was covered, except for breakfast, by our Hyatt points) An exquisite, luxurious hotel in a converted 100-year-old bank building overlooking Am Hof Square. Situated in Vienna’s new Goldenes Quartier, within the First District of the city, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also sits within the heart of the most exclusive shopping district in Vienna, near Prada, Louis Vuitton ... Continue Reading

Czech Republic

Czech Republic Prague Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is bisected by the Vltava River. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” it's known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches, and the medieval Astronomical Clock.     The historic center of Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, the Old Town, the Lesser Town ,and the New Town reflect the ... Continue Reading

St. Lucia

St. Lucia is a beautiful island north of Barbados, only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, with the Atlantic Ocean on its East Coast and the Caribbean on its West Coast.  St. Lucia was first settled by the Arawak Indians, then followed by the Caribs.  Subsequently France and Great Britain competed for control of the island, with Great Britain victorious in 1814 and retaining control of this jewel until the island became independent in 1979 while remaining part of the British Commonwealth.  The ... Continue Reading

Uruguay

Uruguay is a beautiful, exciting country with a varied landscape and good government, where the cows outnumber the people by a ratio of 10:1. My good friend Cecilia greeted us upon our arrival in Montevideo during Carnaval and immediately introduced us to a traditional murga in a lovely open-air theatre.  Below is a murga I would like to share with you.  I hope you will enjoy this as much as we did. Cecilia also took us to the Carnaval Museum (see papier mâché figures below), a ... Continue Reading

Denmark

Copenhagen is a charming city with delicious food in charming venues.  We enthusiastically recommend the Free Walking Tour of the city. We stayed at the Westin Grand, where we used our points, and used the well-run Copenhagen Metro to get around. Save your appetite for Laura's Bakery 17 Linnesgade, a special dining spot in the culinary mecca, Torvehallerne Market. Fabulous morning pastries, kanelsnegle (intensely spiced cinnamon rolls), and Pop-Tart-like hindbaersnitters. You will never ... Continue Reading

Sweden

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is an enchanting city comprised of fourteen islands of the vast Stockholm archipelago on the Baltic Sea. There are views of water from every vantage point, sparkling on sunny days. People travel on foot over the fifty bridges or by ferry, a quick, delightful, inexpensive mode of transportation.  The Moderna Museet has one of the world's best collections of art, spanning from 1900 to the present day.     The Thiel Gallery, in a ... Continue Reading

Germany

We had lived in the Zehlendorf neighborhood of Berlin for half a year with our young children in 1972, when the Berlin Wall separated East from West, during a period of détente.  This visit was our first to unified Germany under the outstanding leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She spoke to a huge cheering crowd, estimated by the BBC at 5,000 people,  at the Brandenburg Gate during our visit, which was thrilling for us.  She began her speech by saying the 100,000 Jews living in ... Continue Reading

China

China is a remarkable country with its physical variety and beauty, mix of ancient civilization and modern cultures, outstanding cuisine, and wonderful people. Our trip included: Beijing (Peninsula Hotel), The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Old Beijing with its rapidly disappearing Hutongs (giving way to "urban renewal"), and an excursion to the Great Wall, Xi'an (Sofitel Hotel), with visit to the breathtaking Terracotta Warriors, created to guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang ... Continue Reading

Turkey

      Our itinerary, ably arranged by Travel Atelier in Urgup/Nevesehir, Turkey (founded by the dynamic  couple Y. Murat Ozguc & Pinar Soyata Ozguc, info@travelatelier.com),  included: Cooking class & lunch, Cooking Alaturka Beautiful hotel (European side of the Bosphorus): Istanbul, Park Hyatt Istanbul-Maca Palas (European Side of the Bosporus), a well-located luxurious and gracious hotel; we economized by using our points at the ... Continue Reading

Puerto Rico

On our third and fourth three-generation trips, my daughter, granddaughter, and I chose Puerto Rico, where we had the pleasure of staying at the luxurious Ritz San Juan, about fifteen minutes from the airport.  The hotel is kid-friendly, has an inviting pool, and delicious dining options.  (We did not pay attention to the in-house casino, which is not of interest to us; fortunately it is in a separate wing and not at all intrusive on the magnificent hotel ambience.)  On an excursion to ... Continue Reading

Vietnam

          Our itinerary for Vietnam, ably planned by Exotissimo, a local travel agency since renamed EXO,  included: Ho Chi Minh City, Caravelle Hotel Hoi An, Life Resort Hoi An Hué, La Résidence Halong Bay Cruise, Emeraude/Bhaya Hanoi, Sofitel Metropole, a magnificent colonial hotel   https://youtu.be/N0BIcOTSD9k Highlights of our trip included: Hoi An, with its 400-year-old Japanese Covered Bridge, colorful ... Continue Reading

Bermuda

My daughter, eldest granddaughter, and I began a tradition of three-generation trips during school break, and started with two marvelous trips to Bermuda, 2010 and 2011. We chose to stay at the kid-friendly Fairmont Southampton on the south shore of the island, with miles of pink sand beaches. Our experience was so rich and the hotel was so comfortable that we stayed there on both of our visits. The photo above shows part of the view from our window, a gracious pastel-colored house hugging the ... Continue Reading

Cambodia

Our itinerary for Cambodia included: Phnom Penh, Raffle Le Royal Hotel, a magnificent hotel in the heart of downtown Siem Reap, La Résidence D Angkor, an exquisite hotel (with an enticing gift shop) reached by a small footbridge Highlights of our trip included: Phnom Penh, a fascinating city with wonderful people Angkor Wat, a marvel of wondrous temples, stone carvings, and bas-reliefs built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century; located in ... Continue Reading

Spain

During our most recent visit, we visited Madrid and the beautiful and fascinating surrounding towns: Old Town of Avila (see introductory photo above), a UNESCO World Heritage Site Old Town of Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Historic City of Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site In Madrid, in the charming English tearoom popular with Madrilenos, we met the talented soprano Isabel Cantos with her then two young daughters, who enjoyed practicing their perfect English with ... Continue Reading

Liberia

We loved the vitality in the city, and the food was fresh and delicious.  People who had survived two civil wars had joie de vivre that was infectious.  We were sad to see the suffering caused by the recent Ebola epidemic but proud to see that the country has recovered from yet another challenge. In 2009 Abt Associates hired me to develop a strategic plan for JFK Hospital, a distinguished tertiary hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, under the auspices of USAID.  The hospital was ... Continue Reading

Argentina

Buenos Aires Plaza de Mayo Main Square with its old cabildo; “Casa Rosada” Presidential Palace and Cathedral; the elegant residential neighborhoods of Recoleta with its famed Cemetery boasting amazing mausoleums and statuary; the curvy streets of Palermo with its townhouses and blooming trees and the wide 9th of July Avenue. Take a rest stop at Café Tortoni- founded in 1858 it is Argentina’s oldest coffee shop.  Palermo Viejo  is probably the best known of the new hip ... Continue Reading

Peru

Our trip to Peru, organized for us by the wonderful Inkaterra,  was phenomenal and included: Lima, the exciting capital on the Pacific Ocean Cuzco, the exquisite and enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Center, developed under the Inca ruler Pachacutec into a complex urban centre with distinct religious and administrative functions, stayed at Casa Andina Private Collection Hotel, run by a marvelous Peruvian hotel company Macchu Picchu, UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the ... Continue Reading

Brazil

  Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, São Paulo, 2007 In 2007, my colleagues Harris Berman, M.D., Dean of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, Judi Donnelly, and I worked with the board and staff of the leading hospital in Latin America, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in the Morumbi neighborhood of São Paulo, to develop a new strategic plan.  In the years since then, the hospital leadership has successfully implemented many of the recommendat... Continue Reading

South Africa

"During my long walk to freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi.  There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that Mother Nature offers. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country."   Nelson Mandela  Our trip to South Africa started in Capetown, where we visited Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, continued on the Garden Route with stops in Franschoek, De Rust, and ... Continue Reading

Portugal

Our itinerary included: Lisbon Sintra, Tivoli Palacio de Seteais Évora, Convento do Espinheiro There are great museums in Lisbon, including the  Calouste Gulbenkian (see photo above) located near Praça de Espanha, with one of the finest art collections in Europe,  and the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, in the city’s Santos district, Portugal’s national gallery with the largest collection of Portuguese paintings in the country. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo is dedicated to ... Continue Reading