Traveling Boutique style – in mind & spirit – not the same as just plain traveling

By:  Frances Kiradjian, Founder, The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA)

This month I had the pleasure of traveling to Europe (Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam) for the International Hotel Investment Conference, the ITB Exhibition as well as the Hunter Hotel Conference in Atlanta.

Charming Amsterdam
Charming Amsterdam

On my flight home, I was thinking about how the thrill of travel (as well as the anxiety) was omnipresent and has never really changed that much, at least as far as my own personal experience.

Through the trial and tribulations of planning complex itineraries, booking planes, trains, automobiles, hotels and conference registration, making it to and from airports and lodging and through security with different experiences country by country from lifting your arms as they take an image and body scan through giving up my almond milk while the exact same box in my daughter’s bag made it through security.

Princess Diana memorial looking over to the Eiffel Tower
Princess Diana memorial looking over to the Eiffel Tower

The real thrill is in connecting with people and cultures in hotels, in trains and buses and planes and who are attending or exhibiting at these conferences.  It’s simply a marvelous experience and I can’t help but love just about every single person I come in contact with.  Whether it’s the bellman at the front door of the hotel (I have learned to highly respect ALL hotel staff and treat them like pros), the TSA staff at the airport checking your identification, the Passport Control officers (although some are pretty cranky but if you smile, look good and are friendly, you can make it through and not have the various Dutch tulip bulbs you forgot about in your suitcase confiscated, although the sniffing dog may just find that banana you took with you from the European breakfast buffet just in case the airplane food was no good, in which case you’re screwed as you will have to have all your bags checked).

One of the best museums in Amsterdam.
One of the best museums in Amsterdam.

Additionally, I simply love connecting with people on-board airplanes.  From a couple flying back from Sydney and across America through Los Angeles to make it home, to a Delta staff trainer sitting next to me to a complete family of 10 kids / grandparents / siblings flying to Los Angeles on vacation from Venezuela.  I connected with every kid (you couldn’t help it as they were all over the place bumping into you, knocking over things and being disruptive) … but seriously, in a nice way if you can imagine that.  They were just a lovely family to watch and I can just imagine how much fun they’re going to have from San Diego to San Francisco as they create lifelong memories for all of them.  I was touched by the 7 year old boy who spoke quite good English.  I taught him to take pictures of his experience along the way, including the beautiful snow-covered mountains out the airplane window and he said with a big smile, “Thank you for giving me this idea of taking pictures so I can remember every single day of my vacation!”

Best Sushi ever at the Sir Albert Boutique Hotel Amsterdam
Best Sushi ever at the Sir Albert Boutique Hotel Amsterdam

Staying in boutiques all along the way (I wouldn’t dream of anything else), you cannot help but love the experience of unique stays staffed with friendly, helpful people who can’t do enough for you.  We were only in Amsterdam for 2 days so running around the city left us little time to make plans for dinner.  When we returned to our hotel, the Sir Albert, we were exhausted and it was very late.  The fantastic hotel restaurant was full with no seating available (I did not heed the advice of the staff in the morning who suggested I make a reservation).  So I went to the hostess and begged her to see what she could do.  She consulted with the restaurant manager and he came to the lobby to speak with us.  “For you, madame, we will serve you here in the lobby.  Please tell me what you don’t like and I will create something very special for you.”  Ginger, as HE was called, created the best sushi platter I have ever had in my life and my daughter and I were in heaven, enjoying every single bite.  This is what you can expect from boutique & lifestyle properties … REAL boutique & lifestyle hotels that is!

The people and the places around the world are what inspire and touch me on a deep level to work tirelessly for our wonderful Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association members.

New terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris
New terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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