Artisans of Leisure - Luxury Travel & Tours

Luxury Travel Newsletter Autumn/Winter 2006

Russia, the Artisans of Leisure Way

Private luxury Russia tours
Red Square with GUM Department Store (left ) and St. Basil's Cathedral (right)

The special Artisans of Leisure touch now opens doors for our travelers in St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Golden Ring.

Our new private Russia tours feature exclusive activities such as special access to museum collections, early admission to major cultural attractions before they open to the general public, and tours of fascinating places off the beaten track, including impressive Art Nouveau houses and ornately decorated subway stations (complete with chandeliers, frescoes and Soviet-themed stained glass) in Moscow.

Recent travelers on our Russia tours have been enthralled with the country and impressed by our exemplary guides, unique activities— including touring the private icon collection of the head of an important monastery and learning to paint matryoshka nesting dolls—and customized services, such as arranging for a professional photographer to accompany a large family while they toured St. Petersburg.

Russia’s tourism infrastructure continues to evolve rapidly, and we’re keeping a close eye on exciting developments. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Moscow, for example, is slated to open in Spring 2007 and promises to raise the ante on the city’s luxury hotel offerings. Trust Artisans of Leisure to keep you posted.

A private tour of the Moscow Metro

Coming Soon: Central Europe

Prague tours
Prague in the winter

Artisans of Leisure continues to expand, offering private tours in an increasing number of the world’s most enticing destinations. In the near future, we look forward to bringing our travelers the most sophisticated tours in Central Europe, emphasizing the region's most charming cities—Warsaw, Krakow, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Berlin—and most interesting day trips.

Look for all new Central Europe tours on our website very soon!

Exclusive China

A new era of luxury and style is sweeping across China. Stunning new hotels and resorts have sprung up in top urban and rural destinations, and shops and restaurants offer a level of sophistication and service unimaginable even a few years ago.

We recently created Exclusive China to highlight this exciting new side of China. This innovative private tour features the absolute best accommodations and the most interesting cultural touring available in China today.

The tour combines the dynamic “must-see” cities—Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong—with two of the most spectacular resorts in beautiful rural areas: Fuchun Resort, which is set among picturesque hills and tea plantations outside the ancient imperial capital of Hangzhou, and Banyan Tree Lijiang, near one of China’s most charming and best-preserved traditional towns, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Both resorts integrate refined Chinese style, contemporary design and modern conveniences.

Contact us for the detailed itinerary of this truly one-of-a-kind luxury China experience.

  Lijiang, Yunnan tours
Lijiang, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage town in southwestern China

Banyan Tree Resort Lijiang

In the Press

Kyoto teahouse visit
Autumn in Kyoto, Japan
We’re excited to announce that Frommer’s Japan 2007 guidebook lists Artisans of Leisure as the sole tour company recommended for private luxury Japan tours.

Travel+Leisure magazine selected Artisans of Leisure's culinary tours as one of the 35+ “Trips that Will Change Your Life” in their September issue. Travel+Leisure editors also recommended our culinary tours on The Today Show and CNN.

Visit our Press page to see the latest on Artisans of Leisure in the media.

Ideal Winter Getaways: London, Paris & Rome

Warm weather draws many of our travelers to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand during the winter. (Okay, the spectacular cultural sites, great food and friendly people don’t hurt either.)

Another great winter destination? Europe. Yes, Europe. Cultural capitals such as London, Paris and Rome are exciting any time of year, and they become especially cozy and romantic in the cooler months. Streets are calmer, and restaurants and pubs beckon with crackling fires.

Cultural attractions are also quieter, making winter a great time to explore Europe’s museums, some of the best in the world. As an Artisans of Leisure traveler,

Private France tours
Grand Salon at Chateau de Bagnols, France

skip the lines at magnificent cultural storehouses such as the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Vatican in Rome and the newly renovated Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Also, stop in the most interesting—and quirkiest—small museums in each city. Your private car and driver will be waiting for you when you finish, ready to whisk you wherever your desire—another cultural attraction, a restaurant or perhaps the city’s finest shops.

We recommend balancing this urban sophistication with day trips into the surrounding regions, escorted by your private driver-guide. From Rome, for example, take an excursion to quiet hilltowns in Tuscany or Umbria. Near London, enjoy a gourmet meal at a country estate such as Cliveden. From Paris, spend the day visiting Versailles or the historic chateaux of the Loire Valley.

Travelers looking for a supremely memorable vacation over the winter holidays should consider booking a customized tour that combines Paris and Chateau de Bagnols, a stunning castle-hotel in the Beaujolais wine country. While staying at the chateau, tour Lyon, the gastronomical capital of France, visit a local Christmas market, take a chocolate-themed cooking class, and enjoy meals highlighting the best regional cuisine and wine.

Our London in Depth, Best of Paris and Rome & Florence tours are perfect options for these European city breaks. Or contact us to begin customizing your special winter escape.

Questions for Our Experts: Our Burma Guides

Luxury Burma tours
Thousands of ancient temples dot the plains of Bagan, one of Burma's most spectacular sites

“Our guides in Burma are not only incredibly knowledgeable and thorough, but also some of the kindest and most considerate people I've ever met,” said Sonja Stoerr, a member of the Artisans of Leisure team who just returned from the unspoiled Southeast Asian country, also known as Myanmar.

Our clients concur—they rave about their guides in Burma and often stay in contact with them after returning from their tour.

Sonja recounts one of her most memorable experiences: “Our guide took us to a private temple in Bagan and, while we were examining Buddhist murals inside, candles miraculously appeared along the steps and terraces of the exterior, courtesy of local children. We climbed to the top of the temple to watch the sunset, surrounded by flickering candlelight and thousands of ancient temples as far as the eye could see. It was magical!”

We asked Kenneth, one of our guides on our Burma tours, for insight into his expertise and what makes Burma such a rewarding travel experience.

Q: You speak several languages and your general knowledge seems limitless, what’s your training?

Honestly speaking, I didn’t get a lot of professional training. I met good teachers during my childhood, but I also have my own way of learning. My clients are great teachers. One thing is for sure, I have worked very, very hard to become a professional tour guide.

Q: Why did you choose to become a tour guide?

My ambition was to be a diplomat, but the situation in this country didn't allow me to do so. When you can’t be the moon, try to be a shining star. I believe that to let many people know about my country is quite a good deed.

Q: Most Burmese boys become Buddhist monks for several years. What was your life like at that time?

It was extremely peaceful. I liked the sense of insight I gained through meditation, and it also helped my concentration. But, quite honestly, I didn’t like the religious chanting!

Q: What are some of your favorite experiences you arrange for our travelers that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own?

When we make an excursion on Inle Lake, I organize fishermen to show us their fishing method and their unique way of leg rowing their boats. In Bagan, I like to take my clients to hidden temples known only to the locals, and which are not mentioned in guide books or shown on maps. I might lead them on a night walk through the centuries-old temples and stupas under the beautiful moon light.

Q: How do you help our travelers experience the best of the local cuisine?

I myself am a semi-gourmet. I try to let the clients try different types of specialities of my country. Before taking them to a restaurant, I always scout it myself to test the flavor, hygiene, environment, menu, price, etc. Burma is sandwiched between two culinary giants, China and India, but we still have a good reputation for special cooking methods and a big diversity of fresh materials.

expert Burmese guides
Kenneth, an Artisans of Leisure guide in Burma

Local Flavors: Vietnamese Chicken w/ Lemongrass & Chili

This popular recipe will give you a taste of what’s on the menu of our Vietnam for Foodies tour.

Ideal for first-time visitors to Vietnam, this tour is a delicious mix of exclusive culinary activities and cultural highlights. Dine with nuns at an ancient pagoda, visit a farming village, tour markets, learn to prepare regional dishes during private cooking classes, and visit Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon and the Mekong Delta. Enjoy immediately!

Vietnam cooking classes
Local celebrity chef at our cooking school in Saigon

Vietnamese Chicken w/ Lemongrass & Chili (Ga Xao Xa Ot)

4 boned, skinned chicken thighs
5 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass (2 stalks)
2 tablespoons fish sauce (also known as nuoc mam or nam pla)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1/3 cup chicken broth
1-2 teaspoons sliced fresh red or green chili peppers
fresh cilantro

Rinse chicken thighs and pat dry. Remove excess fat. Cut chicken into strips 1/4 inch thick by 3 inches long.

Rinse lemongrass. Cut off tops and root ends. Peel off outer green layers of stalks down to tender white portion of bulbs. Finely chop these inner parts.

In a bowl, mix chicken, lemon grass, fish sauce, sugar and garlic. Sauté shallots in oil until they begin to brown, about one minute. Add chicken mixture and stir until chicken is no longer pink in the center, about three minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and chili to taste. Bring to a boil. Add additional fish sauce if desired. Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes four servings.



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