Holder. "hohl-der'. The American Dictionary defines Holder as a Noun, something that holds or secures. I define Holder with a name, Frank.
Frank is my 87 year old father. An incredible man with the perseverance and determination to overcome any obstacle life throws at him. I also describe him as a man with a love for my mother that runs so deep in his heart that her memory alone keep him going.
Dad is also the best story teller I have ever known. Holder and keeper of detailed memories which leaves me amazed every time he shares a story. Dad has had some medical challenges and there are days he can't remember certain things but when it comes to a memory of my mother and him, he can recollect every detail without missing a beat. When he shares a story or memory, you can't help but to become captivated.
I am the youngest daughter. I was born later in their lives so even at the age of 52, I am still learning new things from my father. Stories that he has recently shared with us that truly made me stop in my tracks. Things I have never known and things I will appreciate about my parents for the rest of my life. Perhaps I have heard them in my younger years but at a young age, I didn't appreciate the meaning of the message behind the story.
Several months ago on a visit to Dad's home, I stumbled upon an old wooden photo album that my mother started when they first met. It's a rather large rectangular shaped book.
The cover and the back are made of wood. Attached to the front cover is scroll work that simple reads, "Frank and Laverne". The cover has copper hinges and a piece of leather that holds the large black construction paper pages together in the spine. It was covered in layers of dust, the leather strap was broken and part of Laverne was missing.
Dad saw that I was looking at it and together we brought it over to the table and gently opened the book. Old photos fell out, most of the picture place holders no longer held the photos in place. Written under each picture was a description and date of the photograph in my mother's beautiful handwriting.
Dad looked happy and sad as we gently turned each page. Happy because he remembered each of the pictures in detail of our mother, or a cousin or a friend. He recalled the entire day they spent at Lake Park.. He had a huge smile on his face.
He looked sad because there were pictures missing from pages. At every turn, photos were falling out and the black pages started to separate from the spine because it was so fragile. It was as if he felt the entire album was gone, just remnants of the past remained, a piece of his history lost. I too felt sad because I could see it was upsetting him to see his cherished memories fall out of the book and onto the floor.
When we left that day, we took the album home with us. We cleaned off the dust, replaced the leather strap,and ordered new photo place holders. It was not an option to change out the black construction paper because our mother's handwriting is irreplaceable. We carefully removed the old photo holders with tweezers and strengthened the black paper in the places we could. We then carefully reattached the photos.
We returned to Dad's this past weekend and presented the revitalized album back to my father. I don't know who was more excited, my father or us when we watched his reaction. Each page we turned brought a smile and joyful reaction to my father's face.
He recollected their travel to Missouri, their time at Lake Park and his time in the Air Force. He laughed out loud as he pointed to the honeymoon bungalow and a picture of Mom posing in front of it. He laughed even louder when he found one of Mom in a home made Halloween costume.
Every word he spoke and every story he told was full of love and joy when it came to a picture of my mother, his parents or their friends. My best moment was seeing a picture of my mother at a very, very young age that I had never seen before.
My father was (and still is) totally gorgeous. When I look at pictures of my mom, I see how much my older sisters carry on her beautiful features. I inherited Dad's good looks and charm (and my mother's sense of humor, obviously)
The album is the story of my parent's travels from 1950 to 1956. Where they met, where they have been together, where they went on their honeymoon, Dad's first car, Mom's good friends and their families.
It's the story of how they got there, how long it took them to get there, who they were with and the moments they created together while traveling. The last picture in this album was taken in 1956. It's a picture of my parents standing on the stoop of my grandparent's house holding my oldest sister as a newborn.
What does my story this week have to do with travel? Not much, but it has EVERYTHING to do with how we share our memories and what those memories will mean to us in our later years of life. Memories are the story of our lives.
What will be in your photo album? How will you share your life story?
Until next week, Just Glide. Lisa
Side note: When I told Dad this morning I was writing about him and the photo album, he wanted to make sure I shared the picture of the church. This was a sign that my mother and father saw the day after they were wed. He wants me to pass on this on to you, "Make sure you read the sign"
Behind the scenes when tragedy strikes
I struggled a little this week deciding whether or not to share this story. The story is about what happened in Fort Lauderdale last Friday. I struggled with it because what happened was such a senseless act of violence leaving all of America stunned and with a broken heart. The killer in Fort Lauderdale doesn't deserve any further attention but I feel that one should know what goes on behind the scenes from a travel professional's perspective when tragedy strikes.
I am writing this through the eyes, texts and phone calls from my client who unfortunately experienced the day from Terminal 3. I want to make note that he was safe and in a totally different location from where the shootings happened. I want to share this with you because I feel it is very important for you to know that what we do as travel professionals sometimes shifts into an entirely different job description than crafting amazing vacations.
My relationships with my clients start at hello, continues through the entire planning process, vacation time and up through the day they come home. From elaborate multi-segmented adventures to simple flights. My story started January 5th with my client's simple flight from his hometown to Cancun with a connection through Fort Lauderdale.
Thursday night I checked flight status and notified my client that everything was on schedule for his 7:30 AM departure on January 6. I repeated the same thing Friday morning and wished him a great trip. When I have clients flying, I typically bring up flight tracker and monitor the flights. I also set up notifications to be sent to me as well as my flyers in case of changes or delays. Business as usual.
His flight arrived in Fort Lauderdale on time but I received a notification that his connecting flight was delayed from 2:15 PM to 5:05 PM. I notified my client but didn't hear anything back which wasn't very odd at all.
I worked on for the next 10 minutes. Then my email notifications just kept coming. "Bing, Bing, Bing"...one JetBlue notification of delay after the other. Immediately, I received a call from a colleague asking if I had any clients at the Fort Lauderdale airport. At this point I knew something was not right.
I put on the news here in the office, took in the situation and attempted again to reach my client. My heart truly sank when he didn't answer the phone. I was very thankful when he returned my call 5 minutes later.
He was aware of the situation but not the details. He said he heard that someone was shot in the baggage claim in Terminal 2. He said that people were panicking, watching monitors and getting restless because uniformed police with guns were running through the airport. I am grateful my client is a military veteran and knew how to handle stressful situations.
We agreed to keep communicating via text and he would keep me involved of the situation. My client immediately became my priority for the day.
Throughout the day I received notes, "Its mass panic here. People are running over people, even children", "There are so many police running through the terminal", "The situation is out of control, we don't know what is going on and people are screaming and crying" to finally "we are all being escorted to the tarmac for our safety".
Later the notes turned into "We've been on the tarmac for hours, they are passing out water but there is no food and we are not allowed to use any facilities", "Families are crying" and "There is no clear communication, authorities can't tell us anything".
Later in the afternoon, my client sent a few messages to let me know that the authorities were going to let them back in the terminal only to be told soon after that there were not going to be let back in. After hours of standing on the tarmac, they were all moved into one of the parking garages.
During the course of these events, I was already focused on my responsibilities as his travel professional. I knew that there would not be any further flights departing out of Fort Lauderdale on Friday, due to the nature of what happened. They hadn't announced that all flights were suspended yet but I had already been on my travel reservation system which is a direct link to the airlines rebooking him on another flight. I rescheduled him for the following day on a later flight just in case the airport was not fully operational by morning. This is what we do, I am my client's advocate, it is my job to do the best I can for him in any given situation, just as I do for all my clients.
Since his cell phone battery was running low, I also communicated with his mother and his friend who was waiting for him at his destination. I continued to keep them both up to date.
I felt sad knowing that for thousands of others affected by this who don't use a travel professional would have to wait on hold for hours to get flights rescheduled. Even more devastating, the travelers who may not have had a cell phone or the ability to make calls until they got to a hotel. For these clients, sadly, they could not get rescheduled on a new flight until the 8th, 9th and even the 10th of January.
After I had my client's flights rebooked, I immediately started searching for a hotel room close to the airport. At this point, people were still not allowed to leave the airport and all public transportation was still stopped. I knew though that once people were allowed to leave, there would be no hotel rooms available especially after a mass exodus. By 4:28, his new flight and hotel were confirmed.
I notified my client of the new travel arrangements. At 7:37 PM, it was announced that Shuttle Buses would be transporting thousands of people to Port Everglades Cruise Terminal 4. At 8:21 PM, my client was on the shuttle. At 9:53 PM, my client was safe and sound and resting.
I love my job very much but this was the first time in 24 years that something to this degree had ever happened. I have rescheduled missed flights, helped clients 'revise' their river cruise vacation when the water levels got too high and I even found a lost passport in Mexico for my clients who left it in a cab but this was totally different.
The point is that a travel professional can make the world of difference to a client who may end up in a stressful or unfavorable situation at any given moment while traveling. My client was never alone and I know from his own words that he felt comforted and secure knowing I was watching out for him. He did not worry, he knew he would be taken care of. My best note came at 4:39 PM "I know I can count on you"
We exchanged over 100 messages on January 6 from 11:45 AM to 10:07 PM. Though inconvenienced for the day, he felt happy to be alive. He had a new flight, he had a hotel room, and he had a new transfer scheduled on his arrival in Cancun. The most important thing is that he had peace of mind. (Oh, and Travel Insurance, all those out of pocket expenses will be reimbursed).
I have heard people in conversation say, "why use a travel agent", my question is "why wouldn't you?"
Written with a grateful heart, Lisa
SO, this week, just over an hour ago, I wrote an article on my newly formatted newsletter Glide.
It was really, really hard to write. And I figured out why after I hit send.
I had been reading and researching online to get some education on the 'proper' way to create newsletter content. I followed the guidelines and delivered a newsletter today, but honestly, can you remember it?
Did it make you laugh, provoke any emotions or help you imagine what it would be like and feel like sitting in the Cafe Schwarzenberg with a hot Espresso tasting your first Sacher-Tore on a cooler October afternoon in Vienna? What I presented to you today was a flat and boring review of the newest and widest ship on the River Danube (although, the Crystal Mozart is magical, majestic and amazing for all of you river cruisers and definately interesting content for our current Crystal customers).
So tonight, only a short while after hitting send to hundreds of you, I feel compelled in a way to almost apologize for such a boring piece. Do you know what I did? I went with the norm, I followed the band wagon and didnt march to the beat of my own odd and unusual drum. The one thing I always preached to my children was to be who they are and to always be true to yourself. Lesson learned, Lisa Fitzgerald is not to ever read a book called, "How to do (fill in the blank)". I like the rhythm of my own drum.
We can actually even relate this 'recall' blog to a real travel related story. What I did today is kind of similiar in a way to what some people who feel like they need to jump on the Expedia or BookIt.com band wagon to buy their next vacation because Mr. NotAReal Name told them too and without much thought in the process, they do it. And when the NotAReal Name family took that vacation, they cam back with nothing special or memorable.
Today I wrote content that I know, even as a novice writer, was beneath my story telling capabilities. There was no heart in the piece, no passion or substance. For those who do read my stories, I know you appreciate those qualities because the greatest satisfaction I get is received in your comments or emails back to me telling me how much they enjoyed the story. In fact, one of my most heartfelt stories last year touched a client so much that they decided life is too short and ate the cake, she took the trip and continued her life story. Her words to me after that piece will forever be with me. She moved me.
What lesson I learned today was to continue to be myself. The original piece literally took me hours to write and I struggled more than ever to 'get it right' by text book definition. I wasnt writing with purpose nor was it heartfelt. When I am myself and I share with you a travel experience of a true story of a life moment, it flows. I even sometimes entertain myself when I see what comes out of my head and onto that paper.
The whole premise of doing what I do is to help customers take European vacations so that they can have unique experiences tailored to their interests and likes. My goal is to help in ways that make you grow through travel. It is my purpose in life to make your heart happy by creating experiences that turn into moments that turn into lifelong memories. My thrill is to help you continue your individual story. Finally, I know my brilliance!
Today is probably the first ever 'recall' newsletter you have ever received. I am happy this happened today. My promise to you from here on out for Glide and otherwise is to deliver to you a little slice of my life through travel experiences, life lessons, stories and otherwise.
This content is written with a joyful heart, It's time to flip the page.
Until next time, Just Glide.
New Year's Eve is full of celebration and new beginnings. The 'tinking' of glasses that are full of bubbly champagne and shiny confetti made me think about new beginnings so it was befitting to start Glide this year by introducing a river cruise experience that is definitely shiny and brand new.
Entering into the river cruise market is Crystal River Cruises. The first ship, The Crystal Mozart.
Crystal is the very well-known and respected owner of Crystal Cruises which you may recognize for their luxury ocean going cruises. They have thrown down the gauntlet to the luxury river cruise market.
Crystal Mozart undoubtedly enters the popular river cruise market with a competitive edge over most high end river cruise companies because she is the widest river ship on the Danube, The Main and the Rhine. Because she is wider, she has new and different things to offer her passengers over the other luxury river ship cruise lines.
Because of her special width, Crystal was able to add in multiple dining venues (some restrictions for frequency), a promenade deck that wraps around the entire top deck, a spa, a fitness center, an indoor pool and Jacuzzi and is designed with a special bar on the top deck that will lower and raise to pass under the bridges on the Danube.
The Mozart offers the typical cabin options that include a suite with a fixed window, a suite with a French balcony, the larger Penthouse Suite with French balcony and a very spacious 2-Bedroom suite with a French Balcony.
Sample pricing for the Crystal Mozart for a 7 night April 2017 on the Treasures of the Danube itinerary start at $4925 per person for the Suite with fixed window all the way up to $11,965 per person for the 2-Bedroom Suite with French Balcony.
Until next week, Just Glide.
I wish there were my pictures from a personal experience, however, they do belong to Crystal via their website
Welcome to Glide
With the birth of a new year comes new and exciting things! Welcome to Glide, a Fitzgerald Travel Newsletter dedicated to European river cruising and barge trip vacations.
My love for the rivers is no secret to almost all of you who follow me. I lived for several years on the banks of the water in Holland. Life on the waterways seeped into my soul and stole my heart away forever so it is an obvious choice of specialty in my professional travel career.
There is just no experience quite like the quiet glide past the quaint villages and even the huge urban cities of Europe. It is almost surreal. These adventures are as unique as you are.
It is my hope that Glide will be a new and entertaining source for you to learn about the river cruise and barge vacation experiences. If you have never river cruised before, I hope that Glide will help you decide if a river cruise vacation is for you through education, my personal experiences, pictures and of course, stories.
Each week Glide will bring you information on subjects like the different river cruise brands, popular itineraries, unique opportunities, current exciting promotions that are happening, city adventures and the tours. It is my hope to bring you excellent, entertaining and well informed information.
The river cruise experience is different for all types of travelers and is a deeply satisfying journey for all individuals who take the adventure. Because I passionately believe that a river cruise is so incredible, Fitzgerald Travel glides into 2017 with a primary focus on river cruise and barge vacations.
I am happy you are here and I hope that Fitzgerald Travel can be of service to you. I would love to have you follow us on FaceBook too for daily posts and pictures!
Happy New Year! Lisa
Want Ad: In search of active couples or families who are seeking a unique travel experience like they have never had before. Seekers may be single, a family or a group up to 12 people. Must possess an open mindset with the desire to travel differently.
Description: Requires 3 to 7 nights (or even more if desired) of free time to be deeply immersed in a total cultural experience. Applicants must be open to try new palates, taste fine wine and cheese, have the ability to maneuver cobblestone streets, have an exploratory heart with the motivation to try new things. Candidates have the choice of doing as little as nothing or as much as possible, there are no parameters or company rules to follow.
Location: Successful candidates will have the choice of 6 different countries and will have the freedom to chose their base that best suits candidates interest. Base options are: France, Italy, Belgium, Holland (my favorite), Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland.
Candidate must be open to a slow steady pace towards a common goal; to enjoy, taste, smell, see and be for as long or as little as possible.
By accepting this experience you are providing a romantic escape for two or creating life long memories for you and your family. This opportunity is so rewarding, you can bring along your friends as well.
Extra curricular activities include history and heritage, glorious gastronomy, opportunities to golf, fish, bike and more
Interested in applying? Let me tell you more about Le Boat!
Le Boat is an amazing experience for you to discover Europe differently! It's your opportunity to feel the 'real' side of your vacation destination. As many of you know, I specialize in European travel, especially the rivers. I am expanding into barge trips and the intimate waterways of Europe. I spent so much time in Holland living on the canals and want to share the experience of gliding away peacefully with anyone who is interested in giving this style of travel a try.
I am serious when I say "no experience necessary'. Still having a hard time with the concept? We think of Le Boat as being similar to a "Fly & Drive" vacation, but it is a "Fly & Sail" vacation. Same thing but with water underneath our feet rather than pavement.
Instead of picking up your car rental and traipsing all over Europe, we bring you to the Boat Base in whichever country you select and provide you with your own boat for as long as you wish. It's like driving a car but way more relaxing and fun. Another interesting nugget is that you can use your Le Boat as a base, your floating hotel to just park and explore the same city all week long if you wish. Take Carcassonne for example.
The team at the Base will teach and show you everything you need to know and stay with you for as long as it takes until you feel comfortable with the controls. It is truly as simple as Up, Down, Left and Right.
Worried about crashing? Honestly, you cant. The speed of the boat is no more than 5 miles an hour. The average gliding time along the waterways is typically 15 miles. You can sail as long as you wish through the canals, rivers, and in and out of locks. If you select Italy, you can even sail the Venice lagoon (though, Venice lagoon is a bit more challenging and you may need additional training to maneuver through it).
Gliding on Le Boat is like an ever changing playground. A new place to explore, every day! And you wont be uncomfortable at all. Le Boat offers comfortable cabins, hot water, shower and toilets and a fully equipped kitchen. Everything you need to be self-sufficient for the duration of your vacation. Most vacationers prepare their own breakfast and lunch on board and can easily stroll into the city center markets to purchase fresh bread, fruit, food, wine and cheese (& chocolate).
Imagine being so close to the heartbeat of the city/town/village that you can easily walk to a local restaurant featuring amazing food specialties of the region you are visiting.
Endless opportunities as well to moor right up to a winery. Imagine how awesome that is.
Navigation, so easy. Worried you may get lost? Not going to happen because Le Boat provides you with their own custom free App therefore providing you with a reliable digital cruising companion to guide you effortlessly as you glide.
Le Boat offers over 80 different styles and sizes of boats so we can marry the right vessel to your personality and needs. It is our goal to make your unique experience a trip of a lifetime.
Applicants: Please be advised that applying for this experience is very easy and extremely attainable. The Le Boat experience begins at a comfortable $2500 for the week and can range up to $7000 for a 5 Star luxury vessel. The experience is per boat, not per person making this very attractive to anyone seeking to travel differently.
Deadline: There is no deadline for anyone who would like to apply for this experience. Our door is always open
Basic Requirements: Valid passport and willingness to explore and try something new.
We'd love to have you follow our adventures on Instagram or FaceBook! Would you stop by and give us a "Like"?
Have a wonderful week, Lisa
The past two weeks have been pretty cool. For the first time ever, I have finally been able to binge watch the first three seasons of Downton Abbey (special thanks to my friend Nancy) I knew I was hooked from the first episode. I literally have scheduled watching it around my lunch hour and when you work from home and you are your own boss, that hour may have stretched a bit longer a time or two. I got so drawn into the series that I couldn't’t stop watching to find out what would happen next.
It’s not just the characters and the unique story lines of each of them that has drawn me in like bees to honey. What I really discovered was how easily I was transported from 2016 into 1919. After a taste of being there, I now try to imagine a life without cell phones, television and social media. I transform to a peaceful and simple life and imagine what it was like for my own grandparents in their time.
If I let myself, I truly go there. I haven’t yet discovered if I would want to be a Lady or be like Anna, her ladyship’s maid. Her attitude of always looking on the bright side in all situations is so admirable and I see a lot of me in her in that respect. It’s rich, it’s poor, it’s part of England’s history. The trials and tribulations these characters of Downton Abbey magically brings you to this state of mind and you can’t help but wish you could just live a week in their life. The music, the sounds and the spirit honestly just come alive and swirl around you. It’s hard to describe because you can’t describe it with words, it’s a feeling. I humored myself just yesterday when I realized that I have been drinking a lot of hot tea this week and hot tea is not even one of my favorite things.
Then I started to think about my own life and what I have chosen as my career path. As a professional travel planner, it is my job to reach into the minds of my clients and extract their vision of a perfect vacation. Then plan it out and put it on paper. I have been successful at this for my clients. I really think to do an exceptional job, you really almost need to have a 6th sense and the ability to capture the client’s vision. What has just happened to me this week is that I came to understand that I don’t just create a trip for clients, what I do is transport them to a different time.
As you may recall, in the January 2016 newsletter I announced that I would be specializing only in custom crafted European vacations with a deep concentration on river cruising. I have always had a heartfelt connection to Europe for many reasons. I knew that deep in my heart it was the right direction for Fitzgerald Travel.
Why this was the right direction to take for Fitzgerald Travel? Oddly enough, by watching Downton Abbey these past two weeks, it has occurred to me that I don’t just plan vacations to Europe, I take you do a different time and place. I transport you and surround you in history.
What is river cruising really? You are being transported back in history and as you glide through these very old rivers. You can’t help but think about the history and the stories of the towns as you pass the shore line. In the distance you can hear the conversations of a time long gone. As you walk through the cobblestone streets, you can imagine the hustle and bustle of the street markets, smell the chestnuts roasting and business men making their way about.
While gliding past a castle alone the Rhine, you imagine the Lords and Ladies who resided there a long time ago. Do you sail by it and take a photo or do you perhaps stop to think about a different time. Do you imagine the struggles and celebrations of a time so far in the past? Would you transform your mind to a place and imagine what the life of a resident in that castle was like? What is the story behind that castle?
This entire two weeks of being so self-absorbed in a story that took place 100 years ago really made me start thinking about what a European vacation really is about. What I really hope and wish for is the opportunity to take you from your current life and transport you to a place that is magical and exciting. I want to help you exit what is and deliver you to a place you never thought was possible, to surround you with a feeling and moments of enlightenment.
What is YOUR story? If you could, would you want to be transported to a different time? Where would you go? What will happen in the next episode of your life?
Until next week. Lisa
Lisa D Fitzgerald, CTA, is the owner of Fitzgerald Travel. Lisa has 23 years of full service experience and is a graduate of the Travel Institute. She is knowledgeable in all forms of travel, with a focus on European Itineraries.