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TALES FROM THE RAOD
5 DAYS IN MAINE WITH ITALIAN TOUR OPERATORS
I voluntered to show 10 Italian tour opeeratos NH and Maine after the Destination New England Summit. We started off in Portland and headed north to Boothbay. Our first stop was at the Maritime museum in Bath. If you are interested in ship building and how the wooden sailing ships were made this is a great stop. Had lunch at Cappys Chowder House in Camden and can highly reccomend this restaurant. The food and service was good and the prices fare. On our way north we made a stop at the Thomastom Prison outlet store where everyone made purchases. Visited a few light houses and made it to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden. The day was cold and raw but I had put photos from last year on my phone so I could share what the gardens in bloom looked like. Watch for the tours featuring the new lighting display this winter. Had a great meal at the Tugboat Inn however the wi-Fi at this property was not working. On to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. The views from Cadalac Mountain are always spectacular. Had an exceptional meal at the Reading Room and highly reccomend this restaurant while in Bar Harbor. When to the Jack russel Restaurant. If you are ever tempted to go into this restaurant go the other way. The food and the beer they brew is just awful. From Bar Harbor it was doen to Meredith and Hearts Turkey Farm for lunch. I had not been to this restaurant in many years as the last time I found the food expensive and over salty. The food was good and the prices fare. It is always nice when you have a negative image of a restaurant and it changes. Next it was on to Kellerhause for a chocolate making demonstatiuon and tasting. This was a real hit and is a reccomended stop in the Weirs Beach area. We did a tour of the NH Speedway which I will promote on future tours. Stayed at the Mill House at Church landing and the rooms and view were spectacular. Had dinner at Guissipies and the food and pricing was not great but not bad. The sauce was way to sweet for my tastes. The last day we went to the Dancing Lion in Manchester. This is a chocolate shop worth a visit. toured the Paclace Theater, the Merrimack Outlets and Lego Land in Boston. I was exhausted at the end of this trip.
QUEBEC WINTER CARNIVAL
Last weekend I was at the Quebec Winter Carnival, which is Canada's Version of the Madigras season. The trip was a lot of fun and it was fun to watch the adults go toboganing by the Chateau Frontinac. The shoot was all ice so the rie was fast. My guests told me how much fun it was going for a horse drawn sleigh ride. I was dressed for winter and when the wind blew it was cold. there were some peole jumping in the hot tub and then running arround outside. I kept thinking when I was in my 20's I might have done that now I just said phneumonia waiting to happen. We were parked one night right by the parade route I was sitting in the bus with the heat blasting and I was still cold. The Canadian kids are tough 2 & 3 years old they were out having a blast and did not seem to mind the cold at all. One night we were at the Buffet des Continents, the food was fresh hot and they must pump 500 people an hour through the buffet. I eneded up eating the lamp and the smoked meat which was yummy along with a nice greek salad. One day we went to the Ice Hotel and everyone said that it was a nice place to visit but would not want to stay there. ( You have to go outside if you need to use the bathroom.) I don't know, but can't imagine that sleeping on a block of ice on a foam pad could be comfortable. I am sure the hotel staff has to clean up yellow snow every morning because when you have to go you have to go and I can't imagine putting on all the winter clothes to go outside and then take them off and put them on again. We also went to St Ann De Beaupre and everyone was impressed with cbueaty of this shrine. Took lots of pictures of the snow sculptures at the Winter Carnival. I must becoming a woss as after an hour or two I wanted to go back to my room and get warm.
New York City Holiday Time
This past week I was in New York City with some First Time visitor’s to New York. I was very surprised to be in New York on the Sat of Thanksgiving weekend and found no traffic, going to the city or in the city. I was even more surprised by how few holiday decorations were up and how few stores were decorated for the holidays. In the many trips I have made to New York over the last thirty yeas I don’t recall seeing fewer decorations. When I asked merchants why no one had holiday decorations up, I was given three consistent answers. 1. We are not doing holiday displays anymore because they have become politically incorrect as some people find the displays offensive. 2. We have stopped the holiday displays because of the cost and will turn them on in Dec. 3. The displays were no longer drawing customers into the store so we stopped putting them up. Don’t know how to convince the merchants that one of the reasons New York has a tourism industry is that our customers travel to New York to see the holiday displays. As far as holiday displays being offensive who are they offensive to? I prefer to practice tolerance for all beliefs rather then start excluding traditions. If anyone is offended by the commercial displays for the holidays let them go elsewhere, rather then trying to force their beliefs on anyone else. New York was quiet everywhere we went, the noise and buzz of the big city just was not there.
While in New York we had the opportunity to have lunch at the famous Katz Deli, ( no line on a Sat at lunch time.) It was wonderful for me to listen to my customers who never enjoyed New York Pastrami, having their first taste. Hearing them say things like this meat just melts in your mouth and the expressions of delight is why I do these trips. We stopped at the Jewish Heritage Museum for a photo of the Statue of Liberty. It was a pleasure to hear that our customers still value the symbolism of the Statue. We made a stop at Venerio’s Bakery and the group loaded up on goodies. Once again my customers were expressing they had seldom tasted pastry this good.
The customer’s told me they wanted to see Time Square and Macy’s but preferred to shop on Canal St. They told me the big box stores had no draw and they could buy the same merchandise on line, but they returned to the bus with bags from Macy’s.
Those that went to the Radio City Christmas Show loved the show and brought them Holiday Cheer. Those that went to the 911 Museum found it very moving.
As a tour operator I am constantly trying to redesign our tours for the changing markets. If the stores are cutting back on Holiday displays, our customers prefer to shop on line, what should we include in the holiday tours for next year? Do we just offer Radio City and give our customers free time? Are there things that you our customers want to experience? This year no one wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building, No one wanted to go to the top of the Rock, No one wanted to stop for pictures at the Ice Skating Rink at Rockefeller Center, no one wanted to go to the Christmas Markets. Is there something other then the tastes of New York you want? We want to give you the New York experience you want, I just don’t know what it is.
“Cash is King”
This week I was on two of our day trips. The first trip went to Springfield Mass to the Hu Ke Lau Restaurant and the “ Cash is King Show.” The show was very good and the person playing Johnny Cash had a great voice. The person playing June Carter when she sang had a great voice but when she spoke in sounded like she had a mouthful of marbles trying to do a fake southern accent. Best if she sings and not talk. The food at the Hu Ke Lau was not very good. As one of my guests put it the salad was good, the baked potato was good and the dessert was good. The prime rib was tough and dried out. A little jujus on the prime rib might have made it acceptable. The fish served was cold and fishy tasting. We were there for the show but it would have been nice if the food were good. I did speak to the manager and advised him our customers were not happy with his food.
Twin River Casino
The second trip I was on this week was to Twin River’s Casino. I had not been to the casino in 15 years and it was very different then I remember. The Casino has two floors and is easy to navigate. There are escalators and elevators to the second floor. There are two food courts, with restaurants that include East meets West Chinese, 2 Dunkin Doughnuts, Subway, Nathan’s, KFC, Johnny Rocket’s, Hagan Daz, a seafood restaurant, a grill restaurant and a few other restaurants. I ate at the Chinese restaurant, which was not very good. There are plenty of options to choose from. The casino is divided into two floors with the second floor being non-smoking. Plenty of table games and slot machines virtual dealers are available. The bonus package consists of $10 slot $7 food and a $100 credit to group leader. One of the comments from passengers was it was cold in the casino. Overall the customers said they enjoyed this casino as much as Foxwood and Mohegan Sun perhaps a little more because it was smaller and easier to get around. Customers felt the casino need a lounge with entertainment so when they were done gambling they could relax. There is one retail shop mostly with junk. Customer commented that any size fountain drink at Hagan Daz was 99 cents. Customers felt they needed a lounge area and more seating in the lobby areas. Internet around the Casino is fare but slow.
1 Day in Newport Ri
This week I have been doing a number of one day trips. On sat we went to Newport and I was surprised when I had passengers that did not know what a schooner was or that the day was about sailing in Newport Harbor. As I looked at some of my guests faces I could see the fear, as several had never been on a sail boat in there life. When they saw the Madeline they started to say things like this won't be so bad. We sailed and when we were out on the water it was as smooth as a lake. When the wind started to blow the crew brought out blankets. My guests were suddenly laughing and having a good time and the comments were this is not scary at all. it is rather relaxing. After two hours my guests were asking when I was going to take them sailing again. Next it was on to the Atlantic Grill for a lunch of either, lobster roll, steak or chicken. Hard to believ,e it is only, May and I am already tired of seafood. My waitress was good to me and she brought me a thick juicy hamburger which I was craving. After getting stuffed we headed over to the Breakers and my group did a self guided tour. They must have enjoyed it as they were all late coming back to the bus. Many of my group told me that they had never seen ocean Drive so we added the Ocean Drive to the tour. My group was impressed that I knew the history of so many of the properties, when they were built, who lived there and lots of trivia about the area. I kept hearing that when we go with other companies their tour directors don't know all of this stuff. My only responce is that if a tour director doesn't know their tour they should not be doing it. I truly had a fun day with enthusiastic customers that were good sports.