San Francisco's Union Square is hectic every Christmas season. The city's best department stores attract thousands of shoppers who in turn attract lots of panhandlers. Overlooking this frenetic human tableaux is the historic St. Francis hotel which, as Bill Drummond tells us, has turned itself into Santa Central.
For more information on the Westin St. Francis, see their web site at http://www.westin.com/
Q&A I -- How We Celebrate the Holidays
Rudy talks with callers about different holiday traditions celebrated across the country.
American Orient Express
This is The Savvy Traveler. I'm Rudy Maxa. I bet if we played word association with the phrase "Orient Express," you'd come up with "luxury", "mystery", "romance", "elegance". And you'd probably think Europe. But the truth is you don't have to travel to another continent. You can find luxury rail travel right here at home on the American Orient Express. Judy Fein takes us along for the ride.
To find out more about American Orient Express excursions call: 1-800-727-7477
World Food Markets Interview
When I visit a place for the first time, I look for the local market. It can be a small town in China, or a city as big as New York. If you know where to look, you'll find where fresh produce, spices, herbs, meats and other foods are on display. What is on sale and how it's sold can give you a special view of a culture and a country. Former New York Times food and restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton has prowled the spice markets of Cairo, the floating markets of Bangkok and Vietnam and the splendor that was once Les Halles in Paris. She shares her passion for both food and travel in a new book called "Food Markets of the World." I asked Sheraton why she thinks these places draw us like magnets.
Her book is published by Harry N Abrams and costs $35.00.
Deal of the Week
Snow is on sale. For the next two weeks, the nation's ski resorts are cheap. Well, at least cheaper then they'll be after the 19th or 20th of December.
We surveyed the country and found that rooms that will cost you between $150 and $240 a night right now will go up sharply come the last week of the month. At Robert Redford's place in Utah, called Sundance, a standard double will cost you $45 more. At Smuggler's Notch in Vermont, prices rise 20 per cent. At the Keystone Resort in Colorado, a $165 room turns into a $248 room the day after Christmas. And the Alta Lodge outside Salt Lake City adds $20 a night to its standard double rooms. Check with individual resorts for rates AND mountain opening dates.
Here's the bottom line: You have a narrow window before the end-of-the-month holidays to ski for less, so check your budget as well as snow conditions. But take heart if you miss the chance in December: most resorts lower their prices again for the last three weeks of January before raising them.
Snow on sale--that's my deal of the week!
Rudy answers callers' travel questions.
Books on relocating or taking time off: "Six Months Off: How to Plan, negotiate and take the break you need" by H. Dlugozima
"The Insider's Guide to Relocation" by B. Roman
Hotels near Heathrow airport in England: Comfort Inn ($136.00 US); Utel International Reservation Service 1-800-448-8355
A postcard from Linda Anderson who was stopped by airport security when they suspected her 7-year-old daughter was a terrorist. Anderson is a reporter with Northeast Public Radio in Albany, New York.
Next Week on The Savvy Traveler
We'll travel to the one place where Christmas is celebrated year round -- North Pole, Alaska -- they say that's where Santa lives.
"I'm going in to purchase a Santa letter to send back home. And um the children are very impressed to know they are getting a letter from Santa Claus's house."
A visit to one town where it's always Christmas.
We hear about great gifts for the wanderers in your life and we tour the country to meet people who collect airline artifacts of all sorts,
"My name is Robert Grove and I'm from San Diego and I collect barf bags. When you tell people that you collect barf bags, what is their reaction?"
We collect airline memorabilia, hear about things you've....ahem... "collected" in your travels and get tips on how to make the best of getting stuck at the airport.
That and more in next week's voyage with The Savvy Traveler. I hope you'll join us.
If you want your very own copy of The Savvy Traveler, order an audio cassette. It's easy. Just call 303-823-8000. The price is $15. As Rudy says, it's a steal.