My Savvy Traveller

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My Savvy Traveller serves demanding travel connoisseurs that are always one step ahead of others - on the search for exclusive destinations and unique opportunities. They desire experiences and products that mirror their own enthusiastic and dynamic way of life.


Paris for Foodies

Well- known chefs like Julia Child and Disney Pixar star Ratatouille got their culinary training in Paris at some of the best restaurants and schools. But you don’t have to head to the most well known establishments in the city of lights to get the crème de la crème. Here are a couple of ideas to taste your way through one of the most renowned culinary cities in the world, that will satisfy taste buds, help you blend in with the locals, and take you down the road less traveled. Read More

Oman Journal: A Chat With Chef Mariano Liuzza

By Zehra Fattah

Mariano Liuzza has been Executive chef with The Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace for two years.

The Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace offers a variety of exclusive international restaurants.

My personal favourite was Al Khiran which offered theme nights every day of the week and I absolutely loved the concept - and the extensive buffets of course!

Route 66 (It’s a culinary homage to Route 66, all the way from Chicago, Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California. Slide into the week with a delicious selection of tacos, quesadillas, burritos, ranch burger, Tex-Mex chicken, churros, and inviting live stations) was the Sunday theme and I decided to try out a variety of American-influenced dishes while having a casual chat with the Executive Sous chef who, just like me, had been living in Germany for quiet sometime but had immigrated to the Middle East a few years back.


1. You have been in Oman and with the Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace now for two years and before you have spent quiet some time at the Ritz Carlton in Jakarta and Qatar.
What made you leave beautiful Germany?

This is exactly the answer! Once you leave your home country and get the curiosity to explore you are out. For me there is no turning back.


2. Compared to its sister properties, the Ritz Carlton in Oman is one of the oldest which I immediately figured upon entering the beautiful lobby and admiring it's high ceilings. How does this property differentiate from the others?

This is a Palace. It wasn't the intention to be a hotel. His Majesty moved out and it got refurbished into a hotel. This makes it very unique compared to the others.


3. Being a multi talent chef juggling all these different restaurants, what is your favorite restaurant to cook at and what cooking style do you prefer?

Food wise I am specialised in Italian food. In Doha and Jakarta I was cooking Italian. Since we don't have an Italian restaurant on this property here I am involved in all areas. I don't really have a preference, I enjoy being in each one of the restaurants as they are all different from each other.


4. Having tasted the delicious afternoon tea which is certainly one of a kind. How did your team have the wonderful idea of customising afternoon tea. Really great by the way!

We wanted to make a change so Jorgen, the Executive chef who I work very closely with on a day to day basis, came up with this new concept. We created this menu one of a kind where the customers can customise the high tea. We also created the Ritz Carlton cake. This was a competition between all Ritz Carlton properties wordwide. In a nutshell it was basically creating a "to go cake".

With the afternoon tea we decided to have it locally influenced so we used incidents that are typical to this regions. Some of the examples are:

- Saffron crab with smoked salmon
- Rosewater Strawberry Macaroon
- Omani Halwa Eclair

5. Do you get involved in creating menus? What inspires you?

Menu creating is a brain storming thing. We give each other a lot of feedback and take it from there. It is something that evolves by working all together as a team.


6. How would you describe the food scene in Oman? What makes it special?

The food scene is not as developed as in other neighbouring countries such as the UAE where the restaurant scene is very well known. There are no celebrity chefs yet and only a few top scene hotels such as Al Bustan, The Shangri-La, Hyatt, Chaddy. These are mostly the options you have when wanting to dine out exclusively.

As the variety of restaurants is very much influenced by the local demographics good places here are mostly traditional Omani and Indian places.


7. What can you recommend to our readers when they visit Oman?

The Cave is something new and talk of town these days. It's a 5-star venue which offers international cuisine.

Trendy concepts don't succeed much yet in this region. It is more the simple and authentic places.

Restaurants such as Turkish House is a very basic conservative place but people love it for its simplicity. Dining there you can do nothing wrong. You know that you will leave happy.

There are some other very authentic places but it takes time getting to know them.


7. Where else does an Executive chef dine or get into when he is not behind the stove?

I personally like brunches, I was off last weekend and I did a BBQ with my neighbours. I like to spend time with my family whenever I am off and keep it simple.


8. Do you usually stay with the Ritz Carlton when you travel?

I recently visited the AD Ritz Carlton. You are tempted to be shown more attention to detail because you are curious to know about how others do it. You automatically examine others and test them. It's almost being like a mystery shopper. I think once you work in a service environment the service personality will always remain.

Al Bustan Palace, with its exclusive private beach surrounded by mountains and sea, was exactly what I was looking for and I can recommend to anyone that is looking for a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.


- Savvy Angel Zehra Fattah was a guest of the Ritz Carlton Al Bustan Palace.

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Transient

Lufthansa: Long-haul Economy Class

A recent journey from Vancouver (YVR) to Munich (MUC) was pleasant with very few issues. Of course the experience on any flight in and around 10 hours duration can be radically altered if the flight is full. But LH477, utilizing an A330-300, was about three-quarters full, allowing some passengers to stretch out over three or four seats.
Lufthansa premium cabin or status passengers are directed towards the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, opposite security. It is a cut above the domestic lounge - with better quality wines and even hot entrees. The gate is about an eight minute walk, through what seems like an endless wall of duty free shops.
Boarding was professional and efficient, with an on-time departure. The food and beverage service commenced shortly after cruise, with plenty of re-fills on the wine.
The inflight entertainment system is adequate, though we have concerns about the number and quality of movies and the lack of tilt on the seat back video screens. When a seat is in full recline it makes it difficult to comfortably view the screen.
The dinner and breakfast hot entrees were better than what we see on other carriers, with a thumbs-up to the German-inspired omelette dish. The back galley had an ample supply of fruits, snacks and beverages.
While this particular aircraft was wifi-equipped, the service was unavailable throughout the entire flight. Otherwise our impression of the Economy Class cabin was clean, crisp and well-laid out - with a 2-4-2 configuration (except for the last few rows which are 2-3-2).
It is worth noting that with its main hub congested, LH is moving many long-haul flights to MUC - a welcome move as we much more appreciate this airport in the heart of Bavaria. At MUC arriving flights almost always get an air bridge.
While in MUC we also checked out the Business Class/Senator Lounge, which is also accessible to Star Alliance Gold members. This is one of our favourite airport lounges in Europe. Friendly staff, a sprawling buffet, two draught beer dispensers and a bar that creates marvellous cocktails and offers at least three different types of red and white wines. We also appreciate the quiet snooze bed area, the lockers and the showers. News junkies will be pleased with the wide selection of newspapers, magazines and TV screens with CNN and BBC.

Transient

Items to Pack for a Long Weekend Away

By Savvy Angel Zehra Fattah

A new trip is always exciting so I usually like to pack the night before.

I know this sounds really stressful but it is actually the opposite.

I can pack my bags in exactly 3 minutes (so can i create a full finish make up, different story though...:-). )

I systematically think of what to bring. Luckily my wardrobe is pretty organised so I go section by section and pack what I need. For a long weekend usually the following items are a "must pack":

Bikini, flip flops, sun lotion (SPF 50) - and depending on which country I am travelling to - either a maxi dress or shorts and tank tops.

Dinner dress, high heels and one pair of fancy jewellery.

Pyjama, earplugs and socks. (no matter how hot the country is, I am a woman..:-) )

Having been a frequent traveler my toiletries and make up bag is already packed. I have a spare one for days like these.

Last but not least - my beloved iPad, a good book suitable for the mood I am in and very important my cell phone and charger. The charger is usually the item I forget initially and I end up running back to get it.

Voila I am set, let the journey begin!

** Zehra just stayed as a guest of the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal Hotel in Abu Dhabi

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Savvy Sleuthing in Lviv, Ukraine

As we point out in our feature on Lviv in our 'Destinations' section, we are huge fans of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Historic, user-friendly and with excellent value-for-money the city continues to draw throngs of tourists from around the world. We also believe visiting Ukraine will help its cash-strapped economy recover.
On a recent visit this month we bumped into this charming Lviv resident as she strolled through the main 'Rynok' Square.
New discoveries include the On the Square Guest House on Rynok Square, the outdoor wine bar at the Vintage Hotel and the underground wine and cigar bat at the Leopolis Hotel.

On the Square Guest House
www.OntheSquareLviv.com

Vintage Hotel
http://www.vintagehotel.com.ua/

Leopolis Hotel
www.leopolishotel.com

Transient

Penny-wise, but Pound Foolish? Cutbacks on United Long-Haul Services Risky Gamble

In what some United staff agree is a commercial gamble, United Airlines took a decision earlier this year to scrap complimentary beer, wine and spirits in its non-premium cabins on trans-Pacific flights.
While the move streamlines a pay-for-drinks policy across the airline's global network - passengers on trans-Atlantic flights began paying for drinks in steerage some two years ago - it puts United at a clear disadvantage with Asian carriers, all of which offer free drinks in all cabins.
On a recent long-haul, trans-Atlantic service between San Francisco and Frankfurt, we also noticed what can best be described as modest quality on the catering side. The main dinner course (see photo) was regrettable (we are being charitable here) and the breakfast service tray came with an empty pod for a hot entry - indicating UA hasn't had a chance to change its catering supplies to reflect certain cutbacks.
We consider these moves penny wise but pound foolish. With Asian carriers stealing customers away with cheaper fares and superior fares on trans-Pacific services - and with Middle Eastern carriers doing likewise over the Atlantic (i.e. Emirates has a very reasonably priced non-stop service out of Seattle to Dubai) it could be tough going for United to attract new business or to retain loyal customers. Indeed the flight we experienced was about a third empty in Economy Class.
United also has competition to the North. It's no secret that Air Canada, a Star Alliance partner to United, is encouraging new business by funnelling American travellers through its Canadian hubs to long-haul destinations, also with premium Economy Class perks and competitive fares.

Transient

Boeing 777-200 Operated by Malaysia Airlines Vanishes Over Vietnam

Early Saturday morning local time a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 enroute from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing lost contact with air traffic controllers while it was crossing through Vietnamese air space over the South China Sea.

The airline says the plane had 227 passengers and 12 (all Malaysian) crew members aboard, with the majority of the 14 different nationalities - 153 - Chinese nationals. According to MAS, MH370 departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am Saturday bound for Beijing. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30am local Beijing time.

The crew last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement read to a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Said MAS in a statement issued Saturday at 1620 local time: "We are still trying to locate the current location of the flight based on the last known position of the aircraft. We are working with the International search and rescue teams in trying to locate the aircraft. So far, we have not received any emergency signals or distress messages from MH370."

Update: As of 1500ET a Vietnam Government official said the country was dispatching vessels to where its aircraft had spotted what appeared to be two oil slicks that might be from the plane, 90 miles south of Tho Chu island off the Vietnamese coast. "It's very likely that this is a sign of the missing plane," Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam's armed forces, told reporters.

Investigators are now believed to have widened their work to focus on at least two travellers with suspicious documents. Click here to read more.

The flight was a code share with China Southern Airlines. Earlier it was believed that the flight might have made an emergency landing in Nanming, China, said MAS. 

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, similar to the one lost Saturday between Vietnam and Malaysia.

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, similar to the one lost Saturday between Vietnam and Malaysia.

Our experts observe that, two hours into the flight and at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet (10,700m), the crew would almost certainly been operating on auto pilot. Furthermore, aviation experts repeatedly tell us that this is normally the most uneventful phase of a flight. Commercial aircraft at this altitude do however encounter such threats as severe turbulence and other aircraft. As with the Air France AF447 Airbus A330 that crashed into the south Atlantic Ocean in May 2009, a cascade of catastrophic events could endanger the aircraft (such as freezing navigation instruments and pilot error).

Like the Air France crash, the MAS crew did not issue a distress call, possibly indicating it encountered a sudden, catastrophic event - such as a complete loss of electricity, communication gear - or an explosion or a collision with an object. We do know that state-of-the-art aircraft, such as the twin-engine Boeing 777, can fly on one engine and even glide for long periods. The wide-body jet also has fail-safe equipment to allow the crew to perform basic functions.

At this early stage, there are some eerie similarities between the loss of MH380 and AF447: both disappeared at altitude, issued no distress call, encountered difficulties just after midnight - and no debris was immediately visible.

MH370 was piloted by a captain with over 18,000 flight hours. Furthermore, the Boeing 777 is one of the most popular and safest airplanes in the skies. The only total loss recorded was the crash of an Asiana 777 at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, after it struck a wall at the end of the runway.

Malaysia Airlines too has a very good safety record. Although it has struggled financially over the years and has had to rely on government handouts, the airlines has escaped any catastrophic events for the better part of two decades. In September 1995, a Malaysia Airlines Fokker 50 crashed in Tawau, Sabah, killing 34. The deadliest incident involving the airline was a December 1977 crash of a Boeing 737-200 jet in southern Johor state after an apparent hijacking attempt, killing all 100 on board.

The site, AirlineRatings.com gives MAS a safety rating of six stars out of seven.

From the moment the disappearance of the aircraft become public, Malaysian Airlines was extremely quick, in our view, to share information about the flight, its crew and the nationalities of the passengers. Its Twitter and Facebook feeds were updated frequently, a hotline was advertised, next of kin were contacted and the Group chairman made a media statement just hours after the news broke. The airline pledged to issue a statement every two hours. It was a text book response to an adverse event that other airlines will likely study.

"We are deeply saddened this morning with the news on MH370," said Yahya.

MAS is a member of the One World alliance. The flag carrier is one of Asia's largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide.

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