Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to visit The Explorers Club, an elite yet eye-opening venue in New York City that has been the headquarters for this organization of world explorers since 1904. Here, I got to meet and learn more about a different group of explorers, so to speak, that Kensington Tours has brought together to kick off its latest venture.
For Kensington’s “Explorers-in-Residence” series, each explorer will serve as the main guides for specialty, small group tours whose itineraries mix in their expertise with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
This team includes celebrated Fellows of the Royal Geographical Society and Explorers Club, television hosts and well-renowned researchers, among others. Here are some of them:
- Jeff Fuchs, an expert in indigenous mountain culture, will lead “China & The Tea Horse Road,” which follows the legendary Silk Road. Fuchs spent the last decade living in China. He will apply his expertise in having trekked this route, along with his research on oral histories and his fondness for tea.
- Storm chaser and Discovery Channel host George Kourounis will direct “Iceland: Land of Ice, Fire, & Northern Lights,” an eight-day tour of country’s natural wonders. Nicknamed the “Modern Day Indiana Jones,” Kourounis will take guests along the Golden Circle and will top off his tour with a viewing of the Northern Lights.
- Lee Abbamonte, who is the youngest American to visit every country on Earth, will be focusing on his other pursuit: sports. He will be leading a pilgrimage to Augusta for an up-close view at The Masters Golf Tournament. Other plans for him include jaunts to Brazil for the World Cup and to Monaco for the Grand Prix.
In between chatting with these explorers, I walked around different floors — and, in a sense, the footsteps of past and present members — inside The Explorers Club. Being transported back to an era of high status and opulence, this Upper East Side townhouse is graced with fireplaces and other Victorian era furnishings. Objects used and artifacts found in once hard-to-reach destinations are all around, hung up on mantles and walls or stored in glass cases.
Feeling a bit adventurous myself, I headed up to the fifth floor to peak inside the Trophy Room, a members’ only area. Inside this room, other unique finds are stored. The floor’s hallway is a showplace of black and white photographs of explorer members, past and present. I recognized a few faces: astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, who recently passed away, and film director James Cameron.
Downstairs, guests were able to have a taste of adventure. In what could be referred to as “edible exploration,” certain hors d’oeuvres featured a specific item that is eaten in certain parts of the world – insects! Choices were scorpions, mealworms and crickets served on crackers or endives. And a lovely second-level open patio offered a quiet space to sip on my drink and relax after what I had just tried.
In all, the evening gave me a peek into an elite group of explorers, and the opportunity to meet those who still carry on today.