Touring the world in Print – Now Tour the World in PERSON
For 13 years my travel column “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That”
has been leading you in print in JAX FAX to my favorite undiscovered sites in famous cities, undiscovered sites in undiscovered cities and even undiscovered sites in famous places such as museums around the world. Now I’m going one step better, I’ll personally lead you to those sites and more in my new and upcoming “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That TOURS.”
Dear Jax Fax reader, you’ve been touring the world in print with me; now tour the world in person with me.
Recently I was asked by the president of a prominent high-end tour operator, a fan of my column, whether she could use sites in my “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That” travel columns in her company’s tours. I thought here was a dream come true: I could now create tours based on my decades of travel to 117 countries and writing dozens and dozens of columns for over a dozen years. In fact, I even had the perfect name for them, “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That TOURS.” While she admitted that she was a “big fan” of my JAX FAX column, she asked to use my suggested great seldom-visited sites on her company’s upcoming tours without offering any compensation. That comment made me want to tell her where she could really go!
IF a top tour operator likes my itineraries, why not create and lead my own tours? Since cities are composed of buildings and buildings are architecture, why not have a professor of architecture create and lead tours? And since “Leisure travel should be fun,” why not have a professor of architecture, who’s also a professor of humor, create tours that are also entertaining and memorable?
I have been creating and leading tours for most of my life. In college I was an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I continued to lead tours while attending Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture – giving tours of the Met – including Audrey Hepburn on a tour of the Met’s European Paintings Gallery. I now lead a tour that takes my column to my favorite NYC museum, “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That Metropolitan Museum of Art,” where you’ll see among many great sites, Marie Antoinette’s Doghouse.
While there are many tours of Paris, how many take tourists to a building that Marie Antoinette made famous, the Chateau de Bagatelle, in the Bois de Boulogne? Bagatelle is the building that resulted from a bet that Antoinette made with her brother-in-law, Count d’Artois. Antoinette bet that a building could not be built in less than 100 days. While Antoinette lost (it took 63 days) – New York’s Metropolitan Museum gained. The Hubert Robert-painted panels in the Bagatelle are now part of the Met’s collection.
Let’s cross the English Channel and visit London. From my Been There, HAVEN’T Done That column, “English Country Homes in London,” there’s a home of special interest to Americans that so far, no US tours visit. It’s the home of America’s last King, George III, where you can even see his daughter’s doll house.
London has a recent great world-class museum built in a former power station, the Tate Modern. Rome also has a much more recent great ancient-sculpture museum also housed in an old converted power station. (However, I’m not naming it and giving “power” to the president of the tour company. She’ll just have to take our tour.)
Here are a few more of the “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That” sites that will be on my Rome tours. While my actual column, “Ancient Rome NOT in Ruins,” is more than 10 years old and is no longer around, those preserved Ancient Roman buildings are there for eternity. Chances are you probably walked right by them on other tours. At the Colosseum, while there’s even a line for “Skip the Line” – my BT,HDT sites around the world generally have no lines. Therefore, besides seeing great undiscovered sites, you’ll see them without wasting valuable time in lines. (And that’s not just an empty line.)
While in Italy, why not see my favorite leaning tower – with a greater lean than “The Leaning Tower of Pisa”? It’s in Emilia Romagna, the region that’s between Florence and Venice that’s worth a tour in its own right. In fact, I’ve even led a press trip to Emilia Romagna for the Italian Tourist Office as I’ve done since the beginning of the century. I’ve also created and led press trips for hotel chains (Starwood in 2006 to Southeast Asia) – as well as press trips for airlines (Lan Chile to Chile and Argentina, 2009.) And if you like leaning towers as much as I do, you’ll also want to take a day trip from Shanghai to the garden city of Suzhou – the Venice of Asia—and ride a canal to see “The Leaning Tower of Asia.”
On my press trip to the Philippines, I discovered an Art Deco city, an American Art Deco City, in the second city of the Philippines, Cebu. (From the time the Philippines was an American colony.)
While Paris was where the term “Art Deco” was coined, at the “Exposition des Arts Decoratifs” in 1925, the best Art Deco is in the French African colony, Morocco, Casablanca, which I toured on my Morocco press trip.
By now, you know I’m a big fan of Paris. I’ve also taken you to Asia, Africa and South America, but not yet my own country. Welcome to Philadelphia, “The Paris of North America” where you can walk on the US version of the Champs Elysees, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, see America’s Rodin Museum and stand in a square that’s a direct copy of the Gabriel buildings on the Place de la Concorde, Logan Circle.
While I’ve led press trips for tourist boards since 2000, I’ve also created and led commercial tours since 2007, when I created tours to South America, Asia and Europe for AARP – before I was even old enough to become a member.
I want to thank the president of the tour company who wanted to use my sites uncompensated in their sightseeing. She gave me the idea and the confidence to strike out on my own. Who knows, maybe Doug Cooke and I will someday hire her to work for us – but with compensation.