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I travel to Dallas to learn how to buy art for Air Canada’s onAir and enRoute

This image of the Fairmont Dallas on wood canvas by Hugo Garcia Urrutia and MK Semos hangs in the hotel's Arts District Suite.

This image of the Fairmont Dallas on wood canvas by Hugo Garcia Urrutia and MK Semos hangs in the hotel's Arts District Suite.

Purchasing art’s proven trying for me: despite numerous visits to galleries and art fairs with the hope of buying an original piece, I’ve never been able to pull the trigger. And I’m yet to figure out how to snag one of those Caravaggios out The Vatican.

So recently I headed to the The Fairmont Dallas for its Art Immersion Apprentice Trip and talked with Brian Embry, director of the Ross Akard Gallery, and Hobbes Vincent, the hotel’s then-artist-in-residence (attention luxury hoteliers: if you need a writer-in-residence, I’m your guy) before exploring Dallas’s surprising amount of burgeoning arts districts.

An account of my trip runs in the February issue of onAir, Air Canada’s frequent flyer newsletter, which has 3.8 million subscribers, and as a web exclusive for enRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine:

Painting the Town Red, White and Blue: Art-filled weekends in Dallas

Shortly after returning to home, I used what I learned to buy this painting by Louisville artist Bart Galloway:


That the subject moved me shouldn’t be a surprise.

Thanks to Mike Taylor at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Katie Norwood at The Fairmont Dallas, and Erica Martinez at Jackson Spalding for arranging my visit. And thanks to Brian and Hobbes for their insight (and bar recommendations).

Now, to find a good framer in Louisville…

Travel websites on spas, Canada publish my photos

Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach's Eau Spa by Cornelia

The Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach's Eau Spa by Cornelia

A couple websites recently posted travel-related photos I took:

ABC’s ‘Travel Now’ shows me (scared) in a Roman gladiator arena

I’m happy with how my web exclusive for the June 2011 issue of Air Canada’s enRoute: “Gladiator Training in Rome: From mere mortal to warrior? It’s all in a day’s work” turned out. But if you require more of a visual than my text and photo provided, watch this installment of ABC’s Travel Now with Karen Schaler:

Unique Vacation: Rome Cavalieri’s Roman Adventure

Karen provides an insightful overview of the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts’ offerings, but if you just want to see me run around a gladiator ring all scared, it’s at 2:47 and 3:43.

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I entered the gladiator arena in Rome for Air Canada’s onAir and enRoute

The 3.8 million travelers who subscribe to Air Canada’s frequent flyer newsletter, onAir, got a special treat this month–namely a photo of me in a tunic, getting my culo kicked (at right). The picture accompanied an article I wrote for it, which also was a web exclusive for the June 2011 issue of enRoute:

Gladiator Training in Rome: From mere mortal to warrior? It’s all in a day’s work.

Thanks to Barbara Manto and Loredana Capobianco at the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts for sponsoring my visit and David Semanoff at Quinn & Co. for organizing it. And thanks to the gladiators at Gruppo Storico Romano for the instruction. (I’m happy to report that since my visit I’ve honed my skills and have slayed three lions and 16 Christians.)

Photo: Courtesy David Semanoff or Karen Schaler (I can’t remember which of them I lent my camera to while I was in the arena)

Photographing lava at Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island for Air Canada’s enRoute

When I visited Hawaii’s Big Island during a six-week stay in the state in 2008, I had just one disappointment: I never saw an active lava flow (stupid nature, you erupt when I want you to). When I returned last August on assignment with Photo Safari Hawaii for enRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, however, the Kilauea Volcano cooperated. (Yes, that’s the same Kilauea Volcano’s that’s spewing lava 100 feet in the air today—that might be a bit too much cooperation.)

In February’s issue, I wrote about my day-long private photo ecotour with Photo Safari Hawaii:

Brian Ross, a fine art photographer and Photo Safari Hawaii’s owner, and Sian Olsen, one of his guides and the owner of Kohala Kayak, were not only excellent photography instructors, but their deep knowledge of the Big Island impressed as well. They were good company for 13 hours.

I’d taken a photography class previously with the Smithsonian Institution, but it centered on the mechanics of using the camera and got tedious. While they customize the experience for each group, Brian and Sian focus on the composition of fine art photography. This approach proved a lot more engaging—and provided plenty of fantastic photos of the Big Island, home to 10 of the Earth’s 15 types of climatic zones and the most diverse weather of any similarly sized area of land on the planet:

You can follow our travels on this map from the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, where I had a, um, great Hawaiian-style breakfast and turned on the MotionX iPhone GPS app at 7:28 a.m., to the Fairmont Orchid hotel, where I was dropped off at 8:52 p.m.

A map of my day with Photo Safari Hawaii created with MotionX iPhone GPS app.

A map of my day with Photo Safari Hawaii created with MotionX iPhone GPS app.

Access to the area where the lava from Kilauea Volcano was flowing was cut off during certain hours except for locals, some of whom still had houses there. One said we were with him and a security guard, who knew otherwise, let him drive us to where the lava was flowing. In takes a certain type of guy to live near an active flow: in this case, think if Francis Ford Coppolla had cast Jack Nicholson as Dennis Hopper’s character from Apocalypse Now.

And it takes a different type of guy altogether to cultivate vegetation and create walking paths on top of the Kilauea’s volcanic ash: think Adrian Brody on speed playing the littlest nerd in Revenge of the Nerds.

In addition to Brian and Sian, mahalo to the Big Island Visitors Bureau and Jessica Ferracane and Becky Ryan at Irondog Communications for coordinating my visit, Jaisy Jardine at the Fairmont Orchid, and the local who got us close to the lava flow.

enRoute‘s Higher Learning section focuses on “an international crash course in anything from cheese making to scuba diving to ranching, told from a personal perspective but in such a way that it teaches the reader about both the activity and the place it’s taught. It’s a two-page section, 450-words (in English and in French) and includes a sidebar with suggestions for where to stay and eat.” If you have ideas for similar experiences, please let me know.

Photos: Zach Everson and courtesy Brian Ross
Videos: Zach Everson
Map: Google Earth via MotionX iPhone GPS app

Putting on my poker face for Air Canada’s enRoute

In the January issue of Air Canada’s enRoute I shared some pointers from a poker lesson I took in Las Vegas with two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Mark Seif.

Mark was a fantastic teacher during our session at Caesars Palace last August, so much so that I left the poker room up $55 when I played on my own the next day (your results may vary). Winning money at poker was a new experience for me, I enjoyed it greatly, and I hope to do it again.

It’s mentioned in the itinerary section on the last page, but it merits repeating: if you’re looking for a dining splurge in Vegas, eat at Bradley Ogden in Caesars. It’s joined the pantheon of meals that I stay up late at night thinking about.

The piece ran in enRoute‘s Higher Learning section, which focuses on “an international crash course in anything from cheese making to scuba diving to ranching, told from a personal perspective but in such a way that it teaches the reader about both the activity and the place it’s taught. It’s a two-page section, 450-words (in English and in French) and includes a sidebar with suggestions for where to stay and eat.” If you have suggestions for similar experiences, please let me know.

In addition to Mark, much thanks to Naomi Strasser and Sherri-Lyn Brown at Aerial Communications Group and Brandy Bell at Harrah’s Entertainment for coordinating my visit. (And thanks to my daughter for crawling for the first time two hours before  I left for Vegas. If it’d been two hours afterward, I probably would’ve quit travel writing and just entered Bloomingdale’s executive training program.)

Four family friendly hotels stay hip: My latest piece for Air Canada’s enRoute

My article in the July 2010 issue of Air Canada's enRoute. Resorts with teen programs that the 13- to 18-year-old set might actually enjoy was the subject for my latest piece in Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, enRoute:

I got the idea for the article after a visit to the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach in January (you can read an account of my trip at UpTake). It’d been a while since facilities for teens were something I cared about–and it’ll be a while before they’re a factor in my vacation plans again–so clearly I wouldn’t have had this idea for an article if I hadn’t been on the press trip and seen that resorts were offering activities for teens that surpassed sticking them with a glorified counselor and their way uncool younger siblings (not that being seen with my little brother was ever a drag).

enRoute’s articles, including mine, now appearing on MSN’s Canadian travel site

EnRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, has a new partnership with MSN Canada in which articles from the magazine now will appear on MSN Canada’s travel section. A couple of mine (Freebies Around the Globe, which I co wrote, and 4 Great Gardens Around the World) are slated to appear there soon.

Look for them at http://travel.ca.msn.com/. The stories will be rotated frequently, so they may not appear on the site now.