Walking & Cycling Tours

Do you prefer to get up close and personal when you’re traveling? Consider a walking tour of Northern Tuscany, or the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Perhaps Mt Everest is on your list as well. There are so many choices, and so many ways to get out there! Everything from leisurely walks, to adventurous hikes or cycling are available and waiting for you.

This is an amazing way to experience the world. Often getting off the beaten path, you’ll see so much, while getting plenty of exercise. These small groups are a good way to take in all of this. It can be a great way to meet like-minded people, to see and do as much as possible in a short amount of time, while having a local tour leader with you who can translate and fill you in on all of the details of the area. All the small details are taken care of, so all you’ll do is focus on the beauty all around you.

Perhaps a Literary Walking tour in Britain will work for you. You’ll see the most amazing scenery, world-famous lakes and incredible literary connections – a 6-night holiday in the South Lakes has it all. The inspiration for writers like Wordsworth, Ransome and Potter, not to mention a plethora of other artists and poets, the Lake District is a place of incredible natural beauty; idyllic and exhilarating in equal measure. In 2017, it was awarded World Heritage status, with the committee praising the area’s beauty, farming and the inspiration it had provided to artists and writers.

You’ll walk approximately 4 hours per day, enjoying everything around you, while your bags are transferred for you to your accommodations. Just imagine taking in these views along the way.

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For the more adventurous, cycling in Vietnam could be an ideal choice for you. A Vietnam cycling holiday offers a fascinating tour of discovery. From the capital city of Hanoi to the remote mountains of northeast Vietnam, this is a country of dramatic differences, encapsulating every element of a superb bike ride. There are challenging climbs and fantastic descents, rewarded with breathtaking views and an extremely warm welcome from the hospitable locals. The journey takes you through rice paddies and lake-flanked National Parks, the spectacular karst limestone scenery of Ha Giang. A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, this region is recognized for its high peaks and deep canyons which make for a very unique landscape.

Pick your favorite country, and let me put an exciting walking or cycling adventure together for you today!
resi@fernwehtrvl.com   (604) 568-0910
 

Cambodia & Vietnam

September 16-30, 2017

Planning for this trip took some time. Our initial deposits were applied in March 2016. This ensured that we’d have enough cabins on the 36 passenger ship that took us from Cambodia to Vietnam. Visa’s were required for both countries, and were easily obtained prior to our departure.

Our flight from Vancouver takes us to Shanghai, China. Clearing customs, picking up baggage, and then checking in for our next flight takes up most of our 5 hour connection time. It’s always great to stretch your legs after a 12 hour flight! Our next flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia is much shorter and gives us a much needed nap before our arrival. We arrive at the perfect time to get to our hotel, and settle in for a great nights sleep. Our  Cambodian guide, Sokun, picks us up at the airport and takes us to our hotel, the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. The hotel is beautiful, with comfortable beds, a couple of swimming pools and is in a perfect location for wandering to shops and restaurants.

The first day is free, as we flew in a day early to adjust to the time difference before touring. We took this opportunity to just walk through the streets. We find Pub Street which has so many restaurants to choose from. This area is very popular with tourists. There is so much to see and experience here. A stroll through a Buddhist temple and then a walk along the river before heading back to the hotel to lounge by the pool and meeting our Avalon Cruise Director, Phiem. This evening, our guide recommends a restaurant called the Chanrey Tree for dinner. The food is great, and one person in our group was brave enough to try the pork stuffed frog!

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Touring – Day 1:  This morning we begin touring Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor. Constructed between the 9th and 13th centuries, the architecture of these temples is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my travels so far. Today we visited Angkor Wat, honoring the Hindu God Vishnu. After that, was a visit to Banteay Srea, a temple dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.

The temperature’s here are hot! Each day is around 30-32 Celsius and very humid. After touring these temples, we head back to the hotel to freshen up before going to a private Apsara Dance Performance. This is a perfect way to enjoy Cambodian food and culture.

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Touring – Day 2: This morning we are riding in Tuk Tuks that accommodate 2 people each. This is a great and inexpensive way to get around Siem Reap. Our Tuk Tuk ride is included with our tour. This is our transportation to see two more Angkor Temples. Our first stop is at Ta Prohm, which unlike other temples, has been left relatively untouched. Tree roots grow over and through the ruin walls. This temple was also used in the movie Lara Croft – Tomb Raider.  Our second stop of the day is at Angkor Thom to explore Bayon Temple. This is a Buddhist temple featuring some 200 faces carved in 54 towers.

On the way back to our hotel, we make a stop at Les Artisans D’Angkor where we watch young artists learning traditional handicraft techniques to create amazing statues and artwork.img_5945

Touring – Day 3: Today we join our ship to cruise across the Tonle Sap lake, and then continue to the Mekong River. The ship is only 18 cabins, and we are a total of 33 passengers with 24 crew. To get to the ship, we board a Sampan that can accommodate all of us. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the ship. Once on board, we have time to explore and check out our staterooms.

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The Avalon Siem Reap was built in 2015 and is the only ship that can travel between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh (or vice versa). The ship is beautiful. The cabins are unlike anything I’ve seen on any other cruise ship. The air conditioned cabins, lounge and dining room are greatly appreciated while traveling in this part of the world. All we have to do today, is sit back, relax and enjoy the ship.  The crew and staff learn our names, and by the second day, they know everyone and most of their preferences.

Touring – Day 4: This morning we woke up in Kampong Tralach. This is a small town with lots of character. When we leave the ship, there are ox carts waiting to transport us. We ride these through the town, past rice paddy fields. Once the carts drop us off, there is a motor coach waiting to take us to the silversmith village of Kampong Loung, where we watch local craftsmen at work.  The ship meets us nearby this village.

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On the ship, we enjoy a great lunch. The meals on board and on land have been phenomenal. After a short cruise, we arrive to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Our first tour here has us riding in cylco’s to the Royal Palace. Here we see the beautiful Silver Pagoda with a floor that was made of 5 tons of gleaming silver. After our palace tour, we take the cyclos through pouring rain to the National Museum that house a fine collection of Khmer artifacts.

Touring – Day 5: Waking up this morning has us docked in Phnom Penh. This morning’s tour just outside of the capital, takes us to the Killing Field memorial at Choeung Ek. As we walk through this are, everyone is quiet, thinking of the many Cambodians that lost their lives during the Pol Pot regime.
Afterwards, we visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is a former high school that turned into a prison where enemies of the Khmer Rouge were tortured before being sent to the killing fields. We met a survivor from this prison. His book explains his experience.

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This afternoon, we have some free time and decide to take a tuk tuk ride to the central market. This is a huge market in the center of the city where you can purchase clothing, shoes, jewelry, and so much more at very low prices.
Back on board this evening for a show performed by children from the Phnom Penh Orphanage. This orphanage houses 66 children from birth to 18 years of age. Some performed traditional Cambodian dances and another group showed us their dancing skills to a Michael Jackson tune.

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Touring – Day 6: This morning we are stopped along the river at Wat Hanchey. After breakfast, we climb up 303 stairs to visit the temple of Wat Hanchey. This temple dates back to the 7th century. While here, we enjoy a water blessing by 2 monks. Their voices while chanting are truly amazing. After the blessing, we go to the viewing point to see stunning views of the surrounding area. Then, back down the 303 stairs to the ship.

After cruising for a short while, we pull up to the rural village of Angkor Ban. Walking through this village takes us past many homes and gardens. We stop at one house, where the woman living there invites us in to see her home.

After this, we continue walking to a local school to interact with the children. They are so excited to see all of us. They read to us in english and share some of what they’ve learned. Each of us brought gifts (books, pens etc) to share with the students.  A great day! Tonight we say goodbye to our Cambodian guide Sokun, and hello to our Vietnamese guide Huy!

Touring – Day 7: Good Morning Vietnam! Our cruise director Phiem had collected all passports at the start of the cruise, so entering Vietnam is easily taken care of while we enjoy breakfast. Once we are cleared, we continue to the town of Chau Doc. We do a short walking tour through a local market that is selling fruit, vegetables, fish, frog, eel, just to mention a few. This is a very busy market.

We have some time to check out a local supermarket. We rarely leave any of these places empty handed!
Crossing the streets here is a little more challenging than Cambodian streets. It’s important to just start walking, raise one hand in the air and do not run. We make it back to the ship no problem.

Our next stop is Sam Mountain. We board a sampan from our ship and take a scenic cruise through the backwaters of the Mekong. Along the way, we see traditional floating homes, villages and merchants. At Sam Mountain, we visit their beautiful temple. On the walk to the temple and back, we pass by a local market with shops that sell a wide array of dried fish and other local delicacies.

Touring – Day 8: This morning, we hop on a sampan to the small village of Long Khanh A, where weaving is a well preserved tradition. We walk through this peaceful village and stop at a pagoda to meet a Buddhist nun. She tells us about her life and commitment to the community.
Our next stop is at a local home. Here we meet an ex Viet Cong soldier. He is so interesting and even invites us into his home to see how he and his family live. He offered one lady in our group to wear his uniform with medals, and reminded us that we are all brothers and sisters and should not fight.

Our final stop here is at a family run weaving business. We see how they make scarves that are sold locally, and exported to Cambodia.

Back to the ship for lunch and some time to relax. This cruise had the perfect balance of touring and relaxing. Our afternoon tour takes us along the river via sampan to Cu Lao Gieng. Once there, we ride 6 passenger motor carts to one of Vietnam’s oldest  churches to chat with a local priest about his life there. We continue to a local home were a skilled family works together to handcraft sampans for a living.

Touring – Day 9: This is our last full day on board the Avalon Siem Reap. We have one excursion this morning via sampan that takes us through a scenic narrow canal to Ben Tre. When we arrive, we walk past a crocodile farm. Then we visit a local workshop to see how they make rice wine and traditional coconut candy. Our tour there includes a show with local actors, singers and musicians. We are offered honey tea, candy samples, snake wine samples, photos with a local python, and a chance to do a little shopping.

After a short walk past gardens of indigenous fruits, we board small 3 passenger sampans that take us through a peaceful narrow canal back to our larger sampan. On board there, we are offered freshly cut coconuts. Delicious!

Back to the ship to pack! We cruise and arrive at Ho Chi Minh City around 6:00pm. We will overnight on the ship before our departure in the morning.

Touring – Day 10: Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon to many. This morning we hop on a bus that takes us into the heart of the city for a walking tour. Everything is taken care of for us, so our bags are sent to the hotel for our check in this afternoon at the Intercontinental Asiana Saigon. This morning we walk to some of Saigon’s famous and historic landmarks along Dong Khoi Street past Ho Chi Minh Square, The Municipal Theatre, the Central Post office, and Notre Dame Cathedral. We stop in at the Rex Hotel for a refreshing drink at the rooftop bar. This is where the U.S. Military held the infamous “Five O’clock Follies” during the war.

Our next stop is the War Remnants museum, followed by an orientation walk through the Ben Thanh Market, the largest and oldest in the city.

For lunch today, we participated in a hands-on Vietnamese Cooking class. We learned how to prepare a variety of dishes and then got to eat them! This was at the Mai Home-The Saigon Culinary Art Centre. We all left with full bellies, and certificates for passing the class!

The rest of day is spent relaxing and checking out the neighborhood around our hotel.

Touring – Day 11: This morning, we leave the city and drive through vast expanses of rice paddies to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of tunnels more than 120 miles in length that was used by the Viet Cong as a hideout and secret village during the war. We learned how the tunnels were constructed and even had a chance to walk through a section or two for those who were brave enough!

This evening, we have our Farewell dinner with the entire group. The meal is fantastic.
We say goodbye to all and get ready to head on to our next adventure!

If you are interested in learning more about this trip, or finding out how you can go, please contact me resi@fernwehtrvl.com

Cruising to Alaska!

The fresh air and mostly sunny days made our Alaskan Cruise one to remember! This cruise started and ended in Vancouver. Boarding the ship is a simple process, with only a couple of line ups. Once on board, there is plenty of time to wander and get to know the ship before departure. This trip was on board the Coral Princess, with approximately 2000 passengers. It never seemed crowded, and there was always something to do. The main dining room is always a personal fave of mine. The food and service are well worth it. If you don’t feel like sitting down at a set time, there’s always the buffet, as well as a pizza place and grill that serves burgers, fries and so much more. You’re never at a loss for something to eat on a cruise!

Our first full day was at sea. A highlight in the morning was a vegetable and fruit carving demonstration. These skilled professionals are very creative, and showed us how to make some beautiful “food animals and birds” using mainly a small knife. I found a couple of these to be a great use for eggplant! There were many other entertaining options to take part in throughout the day. Anything from Bingo, to shopping, spa, gym or just enjoying the indoor pool!

The views while cruising are fantastic. I’ve always thought this was a perfect way to experience the rugged beauty of Alaska, while only having to unpack once.

Every ship going to Alaska, will cruise to a Glacier. Ours was into Glacier Bay where we stopped to view the magnificent Margerie Glacier in Tarr Inlet. The ship stops for some amazing views and photo opportunities. We were lucky enough to watch some of the ice calve and fall into the water in front of us. The sound is incredible!

SKAGWAY:
This little town has a population of around 1000 people. During the cruise ship season, it jumps up considerably. Various jewelry shops and other stores will open for the 5 month duration, and provide a lot of their own staff. Skagway is the birthplace of the Klondike gold rush. The precious metal was unearthed here in 1896.
Each port will offer optional excursions which you can book on board the ship, or once you’ve booked your cruise. A very popular excursion here is the White Pass Railway that takes you 3000 feet in elevation in just under 20 miles. Be sure to stroll around the town, and include a stop at the Red Onion Saloon before you leave! This was built in 1897, and was one of the finest bordellos in Skagway.

JUNEAU:
The capital city of Alaska is home to roughly 37000 people. This city is the only U.S. capital that is accessible only by boat or plane. Once here, you’ll have a ton of tour options to choose from, or if you just feel like wandering the streets or taking it easy, take the Tram up to Mt. Roberts for some amazing views!  Feeling more adventurous… maybe a hike on the Mendenhall Glacier! Whale watching, dog sledding, helicopter tours are just a few options to consider on your Alaskan Cruise. Before heading back to the ship, make a stop at the Red Dog Saloon and try their famous Duck Fart Shot. You won’t be disappointed!

KETHCIKAN:
We arrived into this beautiful city with light rain. It is a rain forest, so we weren’t completely surprised. The sun came out shortly after our arrival, and made for a perfect day to wander down Creek Street, and a quick hike up Married Mans Trail.
Ketchikan’s popluation is approximately 8000. It is well known for its many Native American Totem poles, which you’ll see all over town. Various boat tours, and float plane tours would be great ideas for this stop.


Our last day at sea took us through some of the most beautiful scenery on the way back to Vancouver. There were opportunities to watch dolphins swimming along side of us, and even a few humpback whales!
Once again, the ship offered various activities throughout the day, so you could never be bored. The cooking demonstration and tour of the galley was a great way to spend part of the morning. There is usually at least one or 2 evening shows on board, and if you really like to take part, you can now experience the Voice of the Ocean. This is an opportunity to show off your own singing talents. Dancing is offered in 2 lounges, and another bar offers a piano man.

If you’ve never cruised, and would like more information on how to get on board, just let me know.  resi@fernwehtrvl.com

 

Ixtapa, Mexico

This trip was a last minute change for our group. We chose Ixtapa based on travel dates that we already had booked to a different destination that was cancelled. What a great change it was! 7 nights at the Azul Ixtapa Grand was well worth the trip. The resort is roughly 8 kms from the town of Ixtapa. An easy bus or taxi ride. For the more adventurous, there is a well groomed walking/biking path that will also get you there. The weather was perfect the entire week. Average temperatures of 29 C everyday was great!

This destination is great for just chillin or doing a few tours. The little area of Playa Linda (about a 10 minute walk from our hotel) has a Mexican market where you can find pretty much everything that you think you can’t live without! There are also several massage tents in the area. A 1 hour massage will cost you 200 Pesos, approximately $18 CDN. At that price, you could go everyday. The reviews from our group were that the massages were outstanding.

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There are many tours to choose from. A sunset cruise, snorkeling tours to Ixtapa Island, Archeological sites, ziplining just to name a few. Ixtapa island is directly out front of the Azul resorts, so if you chose, you could join the included kayak tour to the island. You can also walk to the pier, about 15 minutes on a beautiful seaside boardwalk, and pay about 50 Pesos for a roundtrip boat ride. When strolling to Playa Linda on the street side, you’ll happen upon a Crocodile Natural Reserve. This was my morning walk each day. Some days the crocs were pretty active and a lot of fun to watch.

The resort had a lot to offer for total relaxation. There are 3 pools, including 1 adult only pool, 1 infinity pool with swim up bar, and another pool with activities like volleyball and water aerobics. Other included options were rifle shooting, archery, sailboat tours, and of course…Bingo.  Evening entertainment was held between the Azul Ixtapa Grand and the Azul Ixtapa Resort. This is a very short walk to the outdoor theatre and they offer two dinner shows each week.

The restaurants were great. There was always something good to eat. You can book your A la Carte option easily at this property. Italian, Asian and Mexican are the 3 options at the Grand, and if there is space, you can also reserve at the Oyster Bar which offers some great seafood choices. The snack bar next to the Infinity pool is the perfect option for lunch. The lobby bar was our meeting place before dinner each evening. It’s a large room with indoor and outdoor seating, with spectacular sunset views. You’ll also find pool and foosball tables here. While sitting around the pool areas, waiters will come by to make sure you never have an empty drink. You also have bottled water in your room and throughout the resort.

Every room has an ocean view and a large balcony for your morning coffee, or anytime relaxing. You will also have access to the Azul Ixtapa which is a short walk along the boardwalk or street. Because the beach in front of the Grand is so small, some people chose to wander to the Azul next door to enjoy their beach, and then still have access to bars etc while there.

If you are interested in learning more about Ixtapa, or would like to join our next group vacation, let me know.

resi@fernwehtrvl.com

Oahu!

This is my third Hawaiian island adventure. It’s a lot different than quiet Kauai or Maui. Waikiki beach is a popular area for a lot of tourists. I loved being able to wander the beautiful beaches, and still have plenty of city life to enjoy.

It’s a very walkable city. If you prefer to ride, there are a ton of busses, trolleys and taxis at your disposal.  A walk up Diamondhead is well worth the trip. The cost to enter is $1. It’s an easy trail, with some stairs near the top, taking about 30-45 minutes to complete. The views from the top are fantastic. You can see for miles in all directions. We chose to walk from our hotel, but you can definitely hop on a city bus for $2.50 each way.


We chose a hotel that was just behind the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Our choice was based on cost, as we were going over Christmas and the prices tend to be a bit higher during that time frame. The Aqua Palms is an older property, but worked perfectly. It was about a 10 minute walk to the beach, and not much further into Waikiki for the evening. ABC stores are abundant all over the city. This is usually the best place to purchase water, snacks and souvenirs at reasonable prices.


Driving around the island is pretty easy. I would recommend adding a GPS to your rental. The cost is minimal, and it makes navigating very easy. Our day trip with the car was to the North Shore. This took us past the Dole Pineapple plantation. We didn’t stop there on this trip, as we really wanted to enjoy the North Shore waves, and Waimea Falls. The entry fee for the falls is $16 per adult. This gives you access to wander through the most beautiful Botanical Gardens, and then finish with a dip in the pool at the base of the falls. This was a peaceful stroll past gardens of rare and endangered plants, and authentic archeological sites. The distance from the ticket booth to the falls is a mere 1000 meters, but you hardly notice it, as you are caught up in the incredible beauty all around you.


The North Shore area offers a lot of beautiful beaches where you can just pull over and wander away. The waves are much bigger in the area, and you will see surfers all the time! Our final stop before heading back to Waikiki, was in Hale’iwa. This is an historic, laid back surf town. There are a lot of restaurants, cafes and surf shops to check out. As well as a few galleries. You could spend a lot of time wandering and feeling very relaxed here. It was a great day away from the city.

Restaurants are abundant all over the island, especially in the Waikiki area. There are a lot of great happy hour deals, so be sure to look around and take advantage of some of these. From fast food options, to high end choices, you’ll never be at a loss to find something delicious!

I had a week to enjoy this beautiful destination, so when I return, I’ll add in a tour of Pearl Harbour, and a day trip to Hanauma Bay. You can be quite busy here, or you can just chill. The options are perfect!

For your next vacation… resi@fernwehtrvl.com


 

Las Vegas

I’ve been to Las Vegas so many times! Each time I go, I find something new. This is a city that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. If you can imagine it, you’ll likely find it here. Of course if you’re a gambler, this is a place for you. From slot machines to high stakes card games… you won’t be at a loss to spend as little, or as much as you want.

When choosing a hotel, consider what shows you might like to see, or the size of the hotel itself. This time we stayed at New York New York. This hotel is definitely a fave of mine. I love that it’s not huge, like some I’ve stayed at. The Venetian, for instance, can be a long journey from your room to the lobby/casino area. Pretty much all hotels in Vegas charge a resort fee. This can be anywhere from $18-$33 per night. If you have a players club card, be sure to check with your hotel to see if they can reduce some of your hotel costs before you check out. You will collect points when gambling and using your Players Club cards.

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The location of the hotel isn’t too important, as there are many ways to move around Vegas. Taxis are abundant, as well as The Deuce. This years cost for a 24 hour pass on the Deuce is $8. That bus will take you all the way up to Fremont Street, and all the way back. You can also transfer to other busses and make your way to the Premium Outlet mall on the north end of the city. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon, then stop at Fremont Street for the evening. If you’ve never been to Vegas, Fremont is an excellent site to see. You can zipline there under the canopy of over 2,000,000 lights, and high above the people walking below. It’s best to pre book your zipline experience, as it can get busy on certain days.

There are a lot of sites to visit that don’t cost a thing. A fairly new are between New York New York and the Monte Carlo is The Park. At night, trees are lit up and it’s a great stroll past a variety of restaurants, and statues. The Bliss Dance is a 40 foot tall sculpture of a dancing woman that is impressive at night, and during the day.

The Bellagio has the famous Fountains of Bellagio. You can enjoy this show almost every 30 minutes. Water dances to music and is a great show to stand and watch. Also, inside the Bellagio is the beautiful Conservatory near the lobby. This changes with the seasons and is well worth the extra steps off the strip.

If you enjoy walking, the Las Vegas strip is approximately 4.2 miles, or 6.8 kms long. I’ve always found that walking is the best way for me to experience this city. You can wander in and out of shops, hotels, restaurants. And when you need a little rest, just sit down and do a little gambling!

There are plenty of options for shopping. Planet Hollywood, Ceasars Palace and the Venetian, just to mention a few, have large indoor malls.

Time flies quickly when you’re in Vegas. I’d suggest finding a show or concert that you’d really like to see, and book your trip around that. Cher will be back in Vegas in 2017! Her show is truly amazing.

The possibilities in Vegas are endless!

Contact me to book your next Vegas getaway

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Greece

Starting in Athens is the way to go when seeing Greece. This city has so much to offer. Great food, lots of history, and beautiful weather! A must is a tour to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. Once there, with a guide, you’ll learn that construction began in 449 BC, and construction of the Parthenon began in 457 BC and was completed 9 years later. This temple was dedicated to the Athena, and contained a huge statue dedicated to the goddess.

Athens is loaded with museums, and you could spend days seeing them! The number one museum for most people with limited time in Athens, will be the National Archeological museum. It houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archeological locations around Greece.

The plaka is the old historical district of Athens in the shadow of the acropolis. This is where we enjoyed a traditional Greek evening with a ton of local delicacies like tzaziki, moussaka, Greek salad and so much more! The dancers and singers entertained us throughout the entire time.

Day 2-Corinth-Mycenae-Epidaurus-Nauplia

This was a full day! Starting with some incredible views, the day just got better and better. Walking in temps of up to 35 Celsius can be trying, but when you are seeing buildings and monuments up to 2300 years old, it makes it all worthwhile. Crossing the Corinth canal that connects the Aegean Sea to the Ionian started the day. Our first stop is at ancient Corinth where St Paul preached. The museum shows us impressive mosaics and pottery that have been uncovered over the years. Then, on to Mycenae to another archeological site. This was a fortified city located between two hills on the Argolid plain of the Pelopponese, Greece. The acropolis that is through the impressive Lions Gate, dates back between 14th and 13th centuries BC. The museum at this site is very informative and is a perfect starting point. It is also air conditioned!! 


Our last stop before reaching Nauplia, is Epidarus for a tour of the well preserved 2300 year old open air theatre. This theatre can seat 15000 people, and the acoustics are far beyond what in would have imagined.

Day 3 – Nauplia to Olympia

A beautiful drive through the Akkadian Mountains lead us to a great afternoon wandering the museum that houses Praxiteles magnificent statue of Hermes. Then we wandered into the original Olympic Games stadium. This was definitely a highlight, as we were able to walk (or run) on the track. The first written Olympic results date back to 776 BC. Olympia was never a city, but a pilgrimage. People would come from all over to worship at the the temples of Hera and Zeus and to watch or participate in the games. The ruins of these temples are there to see and imagine what it must have been like so many years ago. The Olympic flame is still lit at this site prior to every Olympic Games in the world today.


Day 4 -Olympia to Delphi

What a day! Picturesque views along the Ionian Sea kept us in awe for most of the morning. Then lunch by the sea before heading up to the ruins of Delphi. This is situated on Mt Parnassus. It is the site of the 4th century BC temple of Apollo, once home to a legendary oracle. It was built high above the valley below. The views are amazing from anywhere in this site.

The museum just below the site is filled with relics and statues that give you some idea of ancient times.



Day 5 – Delphi to Meteora

Today’s drive took us up steep winding roads,  past ski resort areas and then down again into a magnificent valley on the edge of the Aegean Sea. We enjoyed fresh pomegranate juice along the way. We see this fruit, along with many other fruit trees all over Greece. It is a delicious, refreshing drink!  Other crops in this area include rice, cotton and of course, olives.

We continue on toward Meteora and stop just below the most incredible rock formations for lunch and shopping. The food in Greece is so great everywhere. Also worth mentioning, is the baklava. This is found in almost every bakery we’ve seen.

After lunch, we head up to see the monestaries that are built on top of the rock formations. Meteora means… somewhere between the earth and the sky. It is incredible to imagine how these monasteries were built before roads were in place. They had nets that would lift people, building materials, and other supplies up to them. Meteora is definitely a top highlight on this trip so far.

 

Day 6 – Meteora to Athens

This was an easy day of driving and seeing the countryside. We did stop at Thermopylae to visit the site of the heroic battle of Leonidas 300 doomed Spartans against Xerxes huge Persian army. The site consists of a few monuments that commemorate this.

On the way into Athens, we drove past the Olympic stadium that was built for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Day 6-8 Cruising the Greek islands

Our day started at a reasonable time. We arrived at the port of Pireaus around 9:30am and boarded our ship — The Celestyal Olympia right away. It’s a smaller ship with approximately 1600 passengers. It’s a great way to see some of the beautiful Greek Islands, and Kusadasi in Turkey, without having to unpack and repack.
Our first stop is Mykonos. This island is popular with the rich and famous all summer long. And there are thousands of tourists that stop by on cruise ships to spend a few hours, or even to spend a couple of days. The largest town on the island is Mykonos town, also known as Hora. Mykonos is famous for its beautiful blue waters, white painted houses with brightly colored shutters, iconic windmills and colorful fishing boats. It’s a great stop for some great sunset photos.

Back on the ship for the evening, and the next days stops at Kusadasi, Turkey and Patmos
The highlight of Kusadasi is the ruins of Ephesus. This was a vibrant city with more than 250,000 inhabitants. I have seen many ruins in my travels, and Ephesus is still the most impressive so far. The library of Celsus was originally built in AD 115-25. Today, you can see the impressive restored facade while walking through the city. A little further away is the Theater which can hold 25,000 people. The Kusadasi area of Turkey has a great vibe. It is peaceful, with lots to see and do. This is also a perfect place to shop for hand made rugs, leather goods and spices.

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Library of Celsus

Next stop – Patmos

This small Greek island in the Aegean Sea is most famous for being the location of the writing of the book of Revelation. Because of this book, Patmos has a long history as a destination for Christian pilgrimage. Visitors can see the cave where John is said to have received his Revelation, and several monasteries on the island are dedicated to Saint John

Crete!

Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands. The largest city is Heraklion. There is a lot to see on this island, but with only a few hours, we chose the Countryside tour with a stop at a winery, farm. This place is high up on a hill, with olive trees, grapes, herbs, and other fruit trees. We learned from the owner, the process of making wine and olive oil. Inside, we are offered fresh tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and olives. We also had the opportunity to sample their wine, Raki (similar to ouzo), and other liqueurs, while being entertained by local dancers.

We have ample time to shop for some of the olive oil, wines etc that we can bring home with us.

Santorini! This island is spectacular. The views are incredible. Again, because we only have a few hours, our choice is to go to Oia for views of the blue domed roof tops and sunset views. It is a busy with tourists this year (great for Greece), so we do have crowds to contend with. Everyone is happy to be there, so it makes it easy. Our tour is short, but definitely worthwhile. The trip back to the ship includes a short walk through Fira, and then a cable car ride down to the dock to catch the tender that will take us back to the ship.
There are donkeys that will take you up a steep trail into Fira from the docks. Përhaps on the next visit!

Greece is a country that has so much to offer. I would suggest a guided tour, and then maybe a few days stay on a Greek Island. Santorini is my fave, but there are a lot to choose from!

 

 

The Caribbean

When looking for the perfect winter vacation, the Caribbean is the perfect spot. With more than 700 islands to choose from, you’ll always have a great variety for every desire. The best time to visit is from December to April. You can go year round and always find great weather. Cruising is also something to consider if you want to include a few islands during your vacation. Here are a few of my faves.

Antigua – This island claims to have 365 beaches. Antigua offers a great variety of resorts and hotels. A favorite tour is the Circumnavigation cruise on a catamaran that circles the island in a day.

Aruba – A tiny dutch island just off the coast of Venezuela. Dry sunny weather, long sandy beaches and gentle surf make this island very appealing.

Bahamas – This archipelago consists of 700 islands and cays, some inhabited and some not. The most northern Grand Bahama and Paradise Island with the giant Atlantis Resort are the most well known. Scuba diving and snorkelling are a big draw here.

Barbados – Offering a variety of Beach resorts ranging from humble to grand, this island is an interesting pick. Touring this island is easy, either on your own or by hiring a local driver.  Relax on the beach, scuba dive, great restaurants..so much to offer

Cuba – This island is easily accessible from most major Canadian cities. Varadero offers a 20 km beach with all inclusive resorts. Other areas to consider are Havana, Holguin, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco..just to mention a few.

Dominican Republic – Known for its pristine beaches, all-inclusive resorts and golfing, the Dominican is a popular getaway to escape the cold.

Jamaica – One of my all time favorites, Jamaica has something for everyone. Negril offers the 7 mile Beach for those who like the long walks in the sand. There are all inclusive resorts all over the island, as well as a variety of smaller hotels and house rentals.

Turks & Caicos – A lot of little islands, with pristine beaches, and beautiful turquoise waters makes for a perfect vacation.

There are a lot of ways to get to the Caribbean, to find out the best way, just let me know when you can go and I’ll put your package together
resi@travelmasters.ca   http://www.facebook.com/TravelMastersResi

 

 

Maui, Hawaii

What a beautiful island! We spent 2 weeks here last year, and another 2 weeks this year (2015), November 30 – December 14. This island is easy to get around and has a lot to offer for everyone. Accommodations are perfect for any size of group you may have. Our choice is a condo, with a kitchen and beautiful grounds to wander through on the way to the beach.
We rent a vehicle, but it isn’t completely necessary if you don’t want to. Our favorite area to stay is Kihei. It’s situated on the west shore with fantastic beaches!

We got up early one morning (about 2am) and drove to the top of the Haleakala Volcano to see the stars. It was truly amazing. The drive is on a winding road that is very well maintained. Once at the top, you’re at 10000 feet above sea level. Now that’s a climb! The views of the sky are something to see. Bring a jacket and warmer clothing. It gets pretty cold up there. We left just before the sun was rising, but were able to get some great shots on the way down. The drive itself is worth this trip. The other option would be to go up later in the afternoon to watch the sunset.

Lahaina is a short drive from Kihei. This little town is a perfect shopping day. There are a ton of art galleries, souvenir shops and restaurants to choose from. A must see is the giant Banyan tree. This tree and it’s aerial roots now covers almost .66 acres.

Depending on the time of year that you’re there, you may see whales. There are tours you can book for this, or just watch from the beaches and you’ll likely see them. Sea turtles are also abundant in the area. We saw them almost every day. If you’re into snorkeling, be sure to bring your gear along.

When you’re ready for a relaxing vacation, consider Maui, Hawaii!
For more information, or to book your getaway:
resi@travelmasters.ca  (888) 960-8601

 

European Adventure 2015

This trip was outstanding! We started the adventure in Brussels, Belgium on August 20. We spent 3 nights at the Ibis Styles Stephanie. It was a great start. The hotel was in a great location and a good price.  There was a tram stop right outside the front door, but we chose to walk everywhere. It was easy to get around and everyone was willing to help us out if we asked. This city has a lot to offer any visitor. Grand Place, the central square, is definitely a spot to add to your list. You’ll find a ton of restaurants and shops in that area. Public transportation is very easy to use in Brussels. We took the time to head out to the Atomium. This structure was built for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, and was definitely worth visiting.

August 23-30…Rhomantic Rhine River Cruise.  This was certainly a great way to travel. We boarded in the afternoon, and were able to unpack for an entire week! The ship was the Avalon Felicity. River cruising is definitely something I’ll do again. The ships are small compared to the ocean cruises. There is so much included as well. It may seem like a high price when first booking, but once you’re there, you’ll wonder why you didn’t pay more. Like most cruises, you never have to worry about food. 3 meals a day, plus snacks are included. Also, wine and beer with dinner. Plus most of the tours in each port are included. Knowledgable guides took us through various cities. We learned a lot about every place we stopped. Some of our favorite highlights were Heidelberg Castle, Cologne, the Maginot Line, Black Forest. There was so much to see and do. If you felt like doing nothing, that was also possible. You could hang out on the ship and just relax.

August 30 – September 1..  Basel, Switzerland. We stayed at the Alexander hotel here in Basel. It worked well for what we needed. It was clean, included breakfast and was close to everything. The public transportation was free here, so we could easily get to the old town area either by tram, or walking. A highlight here was the Old Town Hall. A beautiful building!

September 1 – 3.. Frankfurt, Germany. We traveled by train from Basel and arrived into Frankfurt about 2 hours later. Our hotel, the Excelsior, was across the street from the train station. Very convenient! The hotel was quite large, and the rooms were some of the biggest we’d seen on our trip so far. They even include a free mini bar!  Our day in Frankfurt consisted of walking along the Main river to the Aldstadt (old town). From there we wandered to The Zeil. This is a pedestrian shopping area. We walked to the end and continued past the Opera House and through the financial district back to our hotel.

September 3-5.. Amsterdam, Netherlands. Once again we boarded a train and relaxed for the 4 hour trip to Amsterdam. I had set up a ride from the train station to our Amsterdam hotel (The Prinsen). Our driver was fantastic. He took us through the canal area and gave us some ideas of what to experience. The hotel, once again, was in a great location. We could easily walk to all of the hightlights.  On the first day we stopped in a Hoppe. This bar was established in 1670. It is obviously very popular based on the crowds that were there. The city was very easy to get around on foot. The one thing you must watch for are the cyclists. They are everywhere, and go very fast. Always look both ways for cars, and bikes!! The Van Gogh Museum would definitely be on my list when I return to Amsterdam. It was closed while we were there.

September 5-10.. Denmark.  We flew from Amsterdam to Copenhagen. I’m very fortunate to have friends in Denmark who made this part of our trip easy and outstanding! They toured us all over. Tivoli Gardens is a must if you’re in Copehagen. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world. We also made a stop at the Little Mermaid statue, toured 3 castles, the Louisianna Museum and tried the herring.

All in all, it was an amazing trip! I think that if you’re heading to Europe, cover as much as you can. Some places would need more time, and some less.  When you’re ready to plan your European adventure, keep me in mind.  resi@travelmasters.ca  www.facebook.com/TravelMastersResi

  
  
  

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