Travel Blog

Read all about our journeys, experiences and observations from the team at Gilpin Travel.

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12 Aug

San Francisco in June 2011

Travel Blog by Kim, Corporate Client of Gilpin Travel

1313384015_Alcatraz2.jpgSan Francisco has always been on the “bucket list” and this opportunity presented itself as a stopover en route to the UK.

Staying at the Hilton on O’Farrell Street, it was conveniently located to Union Square and Market Street, where a reasonable walk leads down to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building.  However, once at the Ferry Building, it is a 20 minute plus walk along the front to reach Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.  The hotel had all the standard features of a Hilton and was very busy.  Breakfast was expensive but there are lots of eateries close by.  Tip: recommend David’s Deli on Geary Street.  Great food at a great price!  There’s also an Irish pub just along from the Hilton serving traditional pub fare and Guinness.

The Union Square area boasts a variety of shopping options from the multi-level Westfield Mall containing Macys, Nordstrom and Bloomingdales as well as other well-known stores ranging from high street to luxury.  Trams are close by as is the local BART and Muni train services.  Tip: there is a fantastic supermarket / deli located in the basement at Westfield called “Bristol Farms” – brilliant for general supplies, fresh salads and food to go.

Our time in San Francisco was action-packed commencing with a City Tour to get acquainted.  First off, Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world) with its beautiful houses and eight, tight hairpin bends where downward traffic physically can’t exceed 5mph.

Next on the agenda was the painted ladies of Alamo Square (remember the opening scene from that 90’s TV series “Full House”), that’s them!  It was then onto Chinatown (average), Golden Gate Park (outstanding) the Palace of Fine Arts (unexpected stunning architecture) culminating in a drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (the reason we were here).  Unfortunately, it was shrouded in fog and very windy.

From the bridge it’s a short drive into Sausalito – no fog there and a good five degrees warmer than SF City.  It’s a beautiful town with a great view back to the City but it felt like a different world, very serene with eateries of every description and boutique shops best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. 

Unfortunately, we were on a timetable that necessitated no hanging around and a 35 minute ferry ride back to the City.  However, there were plenty of “Kodak” moments of a “fog free” Golden Gate Bridge and the infamous Alcatraz.

Alcatraz is worth visiting and well set up for the hoards of visitors.  It’s desolate, foreboding and windy. The commentary received through personal headsets is informative especially as it uses inmates’ recollections and personal experiences to give life to the visit.  Tip: If your time is short in SF and Alcatraz is on your agenda, book well in advance – it fills up quickly and you may not get the date you want.

Fishermans Wharf is an eclectic mix of sights, sounds and smells.  The sour dough bread bowls of clam chowder, the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory, old sailing ships, multitudes of souvenir shops and many food options.  There’s also get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge here if you’re lucky!

Pier 39 is further along the Embarcadero, although when we visited there were only a few seals in situ who were oblivious to their adoring fans, but did deign once or twice to lift their sullen barking heads for a photo opportunity.  There is also an abundance of shops and restaurants.  Tip: Can highly recommend Neptunes located at the end of Pier 39 for fabulous seafood and views over Alcatraz and the bay.

In a change of pace, a visit to Yosemite National Park is a must and offers a great contrast to the SF cityscape.  It’s a journey of around 4 hours, so it is a long day trip.  Yosemite is home to groves of giant Sequoia trees, the granite cliffs of Half Dome and El Capitan, many jaw dropping waterfalls, wildlife such as black bears, birds, flora and fauna. 

Yosemite’s winter had been particularly severe this year with a higher than average snowfall, the bonus for us though meant the waterfalls were at full power, at a time of the year when they have virtually disappeared.  The outstanding vistas, waterfalls around every corner and contrasting rock formations that stretched into the sky meant the camera was constantly poised for that next photo.  You won’t be disappointed; Yosemite is well worth a visit and gave an extra dimension to this city stopover.

San Francisco really is a brilliant city and coupled with its environs will provide many “rocking chair moments”.  Try walking the hills, not only great exercise but also gives an unparalleled appreciation of the city’s magnificence.  We will be back – there’s still much to see and do. Tip: The SF weather is unpredictable, windy, foggy and sunny all at once and with the wind chill factor it was colder than we expected for the time of year.  Warm clothing layers are definitely the way to go!

8 Aug

The Residency Towers Chennai and Pan Pacific Orchard Singapore

Feedback from Gilpin Travel Customer.

1312753577_Resindency Towers Chennai.jpgWe liked both hotels in terms of location and comfort and this is especially true of The Residency Towers. We can't speak highly enough of the staff's professionalism and the food in the hotel was really high standard. The upgrade to a suite worked perfectly for us as the boys enjoyed the space and also liked the pool. The hotel is well located for travel and shopping. The Singapore hotel was a great location and again boys loved the pool.

19 Jul

Meetings Trade Show for Conference & Incentive Organisers

1311044747_mel snell.JPG22-23 June. Rotorua Energy Events Centre - Tales from the desk of Mel Snell Gilpin Travel Events

In June I was invited to attend the annual ‘meetings’ conference as a hosted buyer.  This expo is geared toward the meetings, incentives and conference  market and I was so excited to attend, being my first time. With over 200 hosted buyers it was a privilege to represent Gilpin Travel Events and a wonderful  opportunity to network with the industry elite.

The event was held over 2 days at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre, with  suppliers from all over New Zealand showcasing  products in an expo setting. Buyers are required to attended appointments every 15 minutes, which allows enough time to get a general overview of products on  offer.

Day one started with a sit down breakfast in which we heard from four key note speakers who ignited our passion and geared us up for a productive couple of days.  The atmosphere was very positive and my goal was to learn as much as I could about the various venues, accommodation and activities that our country has to offer.  I was blown away by the huge array on offer and came away with a much  larger knowledge base and a suitcase full of brochures to boot!

With a large contingency of Australian buyers it was great to chat with them about the challengers they face in the Australian market and to hear their thoughts on NZ product offerings (all of which was positive).

I was lucky to be accommodated at the Princess Gate hotel which is very close to the events centre.  This is a beautiful 19th century hotel that has been masterly restored to its former glory.  Two large fire places in the foyer as you walk in  create a cosy and very welcome sight.

Over the three nights we where  treated to a busy and fun social programme that included an Powhiri in the Redwood forest with mulled wine, an Ali Barba themed pool party, Skyline Gondola and Luge rides (in the dark!),  a stunning  formal dinner at the Blue Baths (one of my absolute  favourite places in Rotorua), and a “shuffle” gala dinner complete with bands, DJ, amazing laser lighting and a touching tribute to Christchurch. 

I left Rotorua on Friday afternoon exhausted but bursting with idea’s, fantastic  memories and new found friends.  I can’t wait to implement some of the  learning's  on our next planned event.

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