Mary Jo Gartner’s father worked for Pan Am, so she grew up flying standby, taking whichever seat was empty. She’s still hopping on planes at 56, but her travel standards are slightly higher: Now it’s first class, Michelin stars, and lavish corner suites. Dallas-based Virtuoso travel agency owner Nancy Strong does the advance work for Mary Jo, a retired technology and business consultant, and her husband, Jay, a retired physician.
The best trips are like time travel. I love when a tour guide brings the events of a particular epoch to life in a personalized way. That’s why we always request private guides. In Florence, we didn’t just see the David at Galleria dell’Accademia – our guide showed us the city through the worlds of the powerful Medicis, as well as young Michelangelo and his conflicts with Leonardo da Vinci.
I like a complete itinerary, and by complete, I mean something scheduled every minute of the day: museums in Europe, canoe adventures on the Amazon, climbing a glacier in Alaska. I want to be exhausted coming back to the hotel.
My hobby is “restaurant-touring,” especially Michelin-starred restaurants. We just came back from Pujol in Mexico City – fantastic! In Stockholm, Nancy got us into the kitchen of Mathias Dahlgren’s two-star Matsalen, and we watched him tweeze tiny leaves onto the plate. As far as truly jaw-dropping experiences, that would be Ikarus in Salzburg – white-glove service in a private airplane hangar surrounded by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz’s art collection.