Leah started working with Carrie and Zach in the summer of 2018.
Carrie is originally from Evansville, IN, and some of her family still lives here. Zach’s family lives in Texas. Due to their military background, they have friends scattered all around the US and the world.
Carrie and Zach decided to use the services of a travel agent because they “felt most comfortable” with Leah as she is very familiar with Sandals Resorts. When they contacted Leah, they already had the idea that they were going to have their wedding at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort.
They didn’t need assistance with the wedding piece; they needed assistance with the travel portion for their family and friends. Carrie and Zach work, and they felt like they didn’t have enough time to also “work” on their wedding. It takes a lot of time to put travel reservations together for multiple rooms. They ended up having 16 rooms, for a total of 32 people, travel to Jamaica for their destination wedding.
When Leah is starting to work with engaged couples, one thing she always stresses is that not only will guests have questions about the wedding, but they will have several questions about the resort and travel in general. One way Leah preps guests is to put them on a monthly newsletter specifically related to the destination wedding: giving information about what to expect at the airport, how to find their ground transportation, information about the resort, timeline for wedding events, etc.
The picture at the top of this blog is of the happy couple and their guests standing outside of the over-water wedding chapel!
Quote from Leah: “It was a pleasure to work with this group and I wish Carrie and Zach many happy years together!”
Leah is the romance travel specialist at Haynie Travel, primarily working with honeymoon couples, anniversary couples, destination wedding groups, couples that are eloping, etc.
South Korea is a country full of contradictions between the old and the new. K Pop music and Hanbok traditional clothing co-exist at the countries’ many parks and temples. Families stroll side by side through beautifully landscaped parks while their children twirl multi-colored streamers like band majorettes.
My first stop was at the busy Incheon airport. The hotel was the Gyeongwonjae Ambassador Incheon. Beautiful, calm, traditional room with a pine soaking tub and traditional Korean architecture with unique Korean Ondol floor heating and Korean style beds. A traditional bed was also present for the skeptical.
The Hanyong restaurant next door featured floor seating and a typical Korean beef dish known as Bulgogi. It is delicious strips of beef cooked over a small charcoal grill right at the table. I had to have the waitress cut my strips with scissors because I was having difficulty with the large portion. She joked that I had a “baby mouth” and brought down the house.
We were treated to a demonstration of the making of the traditional Hanbok garments and each of us was allowed to choose and model our choice. The resident artist has been involved in Hanbok Bojagi artistry for many years. We all looked like princesses in the surprisingly comfortable and flattering outfits. (Picture below). We ate at the Michelin Balwoo Gongyang restaurant. The owner/manager entertained us with stories of traditional Korean cuisine and heritage.
We visited the Korean Furniture Museum which is a unique museum that focuses only on traditional wooden furniture. The museum’s collection boasts more than 2,500 pieces of traditional Korean furniture. The pieces are displayed in a traditional former diplomat’s home to show how these pieces would have actually been used in daily life. It was a fascinating glimpse into the past.
Our visit to the DMZ was very bizarre. After a bus ride through the country side, you arrive at a stark 60’s style barracks complete with dummies of South Korean and North Korean soldiers. You’re shown a room where the Korean War was supposedly concluded. Our hosts strictly admonished us not to touch or get to close to the soldiers or objects in the room or we would face stiff and harsh punishment. We were told to gaze across the DMZ line and maybe we would be lucky enough to see Kim Jung Un. We tittered nervously. There was a beautiful park nearby complete with bridges across the river with vendors selling all kinds of souvenirs. My Dad fought in the Korean War and I like to think he would have been very amused to see this museum and its’ contents all these many years later.
The Jeongdong Theatre had a traditional performance complete with singers, dancers, and musicians. This was the highlight of the entire tour for me. We were allowed to pose with the cast after their performance and observe the beautiful costumes up close. The traditional musical instruments were fascinating and often didn’t sound even close to what I had guessed. There was a mandolin-like instrument that had beautiful base notes instead of the reedy high notes I was anticipating.
We got our shopping credentials tested at Gukje market. Containing about 690 stalls, the market sells a wide variety of products. Apart from food and clothes, you can also purchase kitchen appliances and electronics here. This isn’t a tourist market – many South Koreans shop here. The must-try foods at this market include Yubu-jeongol (fried tofu stew), Ssiat-Hotteok (sweet Korean pancake stuffed with seeds) and Bibim-dangmyeon (spicy glass noodles). I personally saw over 10,000 pairs of socks available for purchase. Or, at least it seemed that way!
Gamcheon Cultural Village was a warren of brightly colored shops and restaurants. My friend Kim and I climbed the steep hills in search of traditional tchotchkes to take home to our families. We found some beautiful handmade change purses and backpack charms that my granddaughters adored.
The Beomeosa Temple was a spiritual experience. After climbing a small hill, you enter the temple grounds. Beomeosa Temple was founded in the year 678 C.E., during the time of the Silla dynasty. It is an oasis in the midst of a busy city. We discovered many small pebble formations that were made by visitors as a way to good fortune where each stone represents a family member. Very moving small tokens of love and family.
I was most impressed by the family life I observed in South Korea. Children and parents/grandparents were everywhere interacting with each other and enjoying the outdoors. Holding hands, blowing bubbles, flying kites, wearing traditional garments, and enjoying their time together. This is somewhat rare in western cities where you only see the hustle and bustle of business and working men and women. Children are often not included in day to day life but only brought out on special occasions.
I stayed in everything from a traditional Korean hotel with the under floor heating and sleeping mats to a luxurious hotel overlooking Busan harbor. We ate at Michelin star restaurants and Korean fried chicken shacks with picnic tables and delicious Korean beer. It was very difficult to choose a favorite. Our guides and hosts were so kind and funny. Even a “baby mouth” like me learned to appreciate the Korean culture of devotion to family and appreciation of nature.
In December, 5 agents were chosen to embark on a trip through the less traveled cities of Japan. During this itinerary, we visited 9 cities (first to last): Hiroshima, Miyajima, Imabari, Matsuyama, Takamatsu, Kurashiki, Himeji, Kyoto, and finally Tokyo.
Our first city, Hiroshima, was simply put – emotional. Visiting the city today, you could never guess that a bomb had destroyed the entire city leaving thousands with incurable diseases and more dead. My group and I visited the Peace Memorial where we experienced the bombing itself through a simulated reenactment of that day. The Peace Memorial provided words, but more than that, stories, pictures, and clothing. Afterwards, we walked through Memorial Park where we visited the memorial of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died at the age of 12. Sadako was only 2 years old when the atomic bomb “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima. Surprisingly, Sadako survived, only to develop Leukemia due to the effect of radiation when she turned 12. In the Japanese culture, making 1,000 origami cranes will cure any illness – so Sadako and her friend set out to create 1,000 cranes. The two made well over 1,000 (Sadako’s mother always hiding some), however Sadako still died. Today, the park has a memorial for Sadako, surrounded by cranes that local school children make annually.
Afterwards, we took a short 10 minute ferry ride to the small island of Miyajima. Here, we visited the enormous Itsukushima Shrine where we made some new, furry friends. Miyajima Island is inhabited by deer. These deer wander the streets, following tourists for food, but are harmless. The deer, no bigger than a large dog, are not camera shy as I and my travel mates took many adorable selfies with these cheeky creatures. Next we visited a Buddhist temple. The temple was beautiful and very purifying. Once we finished, our next appointment was…rice paddle making! Our group got to make wooden rice paddles (the tool used to scoop white rice onto plates) and then decorate them with different designs. I made one side with a deer and the other falling maple leaves. This activity was great because it combined culture with fun by having us actually engage in the culture.
The next city was Imabari. We first visited the Hakata Salt Factory, where we were shown how salt was taken from the salt water using modern technology and by primitive sun soaking methods. After the tour, we were lucky enough to try vanilla ice cream, made with the Hakata salt and then finished with a sprinkle of salt on the top. It was delicious! Now, some of you may have heard the name Imabari before – Imabari is famous for their Imabari towels. Yes, here in Imabari, towels are made and sold as some of the world’s best towels. They boast that while an ordinary towel takes 30 seconds to sink when put into water, their specially made towels only take 5 seconds to sink – thus being a more efficient towel. I can personal attest to this declaration as I bought a hand towel for myself.
From the towel museum, we traveled to Matsuyama, where we visited the Matsuyama Castle. This castle was completed in 1627 by Kato Yoshiaki who served under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan in the latter half of the 16th century. Unlike the popular Himeji Castel (discussed later), the Matsuyama Castle is black instead of white. The reason for this is during the period it was built, tension was still active within the region. Black buildings were harder to find and attack and this helped protect the castle. At the end of the day, we retired to our Japanese style hotel. These rooms were amazing as they really put you into old-style Japanese housing. Our rooms were adorned with tatami mats for flooring, rice paper doors and windows, seating was on the floor and so was your bed (that was graciously made up for us by the hotel staff). That evening, we had the pleasure to relax in an onsen, a hot spring, where no clothes or towels were permitted in the water – let’s just say, that is an experience I don’t think I will ever forget!
Our next adventure was in Takamatsu. Here, we first visited Ritsurin Garden. Although it was during winter when we visited, the scenery is no less beautiful. No matter what season you visit Japan; make sure that you stroll around Ritsurin Garden, you will be blown away by the breathtaking nature that encompasses the garden. Walking through the garden created quite an appetite, and we were taken to an udon school where we made our own udon. Udon is a thick noodle that is eaten as a soup. Our group learned how to make udon from scratch, the primitive way, and who knew the primitive way involved dancing! While kneading the dough, we boogied our way through old Japanese songs until our dough was good enough to cut into noodle strips. We danced so well, the president of the company himself asked to film and post a video onto the company website! I guess you can say we are celebrities now. Afterwards, we strolled around the Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter, admiring the white rice houses that lined the river while shopping at local tourist shops.
After arriving by the shinkansen (bullet train) to Himeji, we trekked to conquer the Himeji Castle. No one could ask for a better day to stroll along the castle grounds. We went fairly early, around 9 AM, and virtually no one was there. It was great to take pictures and not have to worry about people being in them. The Himeji Castle, as noted earlier, is white. The purpose was to show the wealth and superiority of lords who lived there. Fortunately, Himeji Castle never saw battle and was never attacked and thus has been preserved for much of its existence with renovations made when necessary. Upon just a glance, the castle may look to be only 5 floors, however there are 6 floors and a basement. The 6th floor windows were sealed when plans changed while the castle was under construction. Once the tour of the castle finished, we boarded the shinkansen once again to travel to the historical city and once capital of Japan, Kyoto.
In Kyoto we drove around by bus, with our handy tour guide feeding us with historical knowledge of the city. Kyoto is packed with cultural and historical aspects, from the city of the geishas to being the headquarters of Nintendo, Kyoto has something for everyone. Here we went to the ever popular Fushimi Inari Shrine. This shrine is a must see place when visiting Japan. The shrine boasts over 30,000 shrines. The god of rice, Inari, is worshipped here, although many worship him as the god of business. While walking through the forest of orange, you will spot fox statues here and there. The kitsune (fox) is the messenger of the gods and seen as a protector. If you walk the whole path (which usually takes around 2-3 hours) you can finish your trek by buying some fox charms at the base of the shrine so you can too be protected.
Tokyo was our last destination. Around 128 million people inhabit Japan, and around 1/12th of the population call Tokyo their home. Here, visitors can find anything related to their interests. There is Akihabara for those who are into technology, anime, and manga. Shibuya where bright lights, entertainment, shopping, high dining attract the most tourists and where the world famous Shibuya Crossing (world’s busiest pedestrian crossing) can be found. Those who really live the statement “shop till you drop” should make their way to Ginza, the large luxury shopping district. Or for those who are into fashion, dress your way through Harajuku. Those who wish to have a more international atmosphere should best visit Ebisu. I could write on and on about the different districts of Tokyo, but those stated are the most popular of all.
Our first stop was Asakusa, where we visited the Sensoji Temple and the ever famous souvenir street, Nakamise. Afterwards, we climbed our way up the Tokyo Sky Tree. Actually, we didn’t climb, we cheated and took an elevator to the top. From here, we could see all of Tokyo. The tower is 634 meters (2080 ft.), but visitors are only allowed to go as high as 451.2 meters (1480.32 ft.). Our day ended at the hotel where we were to leave the next morning to depart from Japan and return home.
I can say that this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip! I hope that more people choose to visit Japan not just for the culture, but for the food, the history, the nature, the spiritual aspects, the traditions, and more importantly, for the people. The Japanese people welcomed us with open arms and eagerness to share their home and to as well, make it your home.
Culinary tourism seems to be about the most popular ingredient in the travel demand for new and involving experiences. Food, wine, and liquors are the delicious ties that bind virtually every aspect of travel.
I am going to highlight 2 destinations where a traveler can build a custom itinerary centered around several different “foodie” experiences:
For the dedicated foodie, you can spend a week visiting Lima, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, and includes a host of culinary activities.
No Latin country draws food aficionados like Peru, long and widely heralded for the continent’s finest cuisine, produced by the creative chefs of Lima.
The ultimate full culinary experience starts with a central market visit, sampling fresh Peruvian fruits and learning about the different varieties of potatoes and peppers, then identifying familiar and exotic species of fish at the bustling stands.
Next comes classwork, preparing ceviche, a traditional sirloin-based and a dessert. Before lunching on these prepared dishes, travelers master the art of making a pisco sour, generally served before dining.
Once you arrive up into the Sacred Valley you cross over the mountains and drop down into the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The road follows the meandering Urubamba River and passes through rich agricultural lands and picturesque villages.
The colonial town of Pisac is a one-hour drive from Cuzco. Here you will visit the colorful Indian market and sample the famous bread baked in an old-fashioned clay oven.
Then, you finish the epic journey in Cuzco with a private cooking class with a local chef!
Delicious farm-to-table, locally sourced food is what is on the menu for a 6 day culinary journey in Great Britian with stops in London, the Highlands and Edinburgh of Scotland.
Start the culinary journey with the traditional English afternoon tea and sampling tea sandwiches (smoked Scottish salmon; cucumber cream cheese and chive), and time-honored desserts such as scones.
On an empty stomach, head to the Borough Market to sample the truffle honey and wild rose petal syrup while buying enough local sweet treats to last for your rail journey up to Scotland.
In the Highlands is where you will become acquainted with the richness of the Scottish farm-to-table food. All travelers love the large breakfasts’ of homemade granola, ygurt, jams, honey and fruit, plus a choice of whisky-washed bacon, scrambled eggs from the on-site coupe, with a potato scone.
A master cooking class is where you will spend the afternoon with a local chef learning how to properly cut a chicken, and filet and smoke venison. After the long afternoon comes the grand finale: a 8 course tasting menu ending delightfully with a tea.
In the final trek to Edinburgh you better put on your walking shoes! A walking food tour of local pubs and restaurants will allow you to sample mashed potatoes with braised ox cheek, black pudding, local cheeses, traditional haggis, beer, and a scotch.
A traveler can’t leave Edinburgh without going to the Edinburgh Gin Distillery where you learn about the local gin history and sample a few local gins and liqueurs.
Michael approached me a year ago about going to Brazil as a solo traveler.
When I asked him why he wanted to travel to Brazil he responded, “I have always wanted to go somewhere in South America. I decided on Brazil because it looked like I would be able to experience beaches, mountains, sightseeing and city life all in one place.”
Michael played a very active role in choosing his accommodations and the local guides that took him around the city of Rio de Janeiro and the beachtown of Paraty. Since he was planning a very active vacation, he also chose to purchase a travel insurance plan that covered a variety of medical and/or dental emergency situations.
We kept in contact while he was traveling (did I mention he was traveling for a month??).
I don’t normally “check-in” on my clients while they are traveling, but since Michael was going to be traveling for such a long time I wanted to maintain some contact in case there was an emergency.
We had short conversations here and there; he was having a great time!!
After he returned, I asked him a few questions about his experiences:
What was your favorite experience? “It’s hard to pick just one. However, taking the cable cars up to Sugarloaf Mountain was amazing. Once you reach the top, you have an amazing view of the ocean and the entire city of Rio de Janeiro.”
What was the one thing that surprised you most? “The thing that surprised me the most was the safety situation. Some things I read before I left sensationalized the lack of security. By using common sense and asking locals and guides for advice, no one I encountered had any problems with crime while traveling.”
Describe your experience as a solo traveler…. “I was able to quickly meet other tourists from Brazil, Germany, England ,etc. Additionally, it was very easy to meet people on tours. So, while I did pretty consistently have the option of being with other people, I appreciated the option of being by myself.”
Michael plans on returning to Brazil again to visit other cities, and now his friends want to return with him!
Visit the Fiji Islands and you will understand quite quickly why people return year after year to this part of the world.
There are multiple islands to explore and the native Fijians are so nice and hospitable.
Fiji is unlike any other island you may have visited in the past. You cannot compare the Fiji Islands to the Caribbean Islands – they are not even the same!
What makes Fiji so different?
Tipping is not encouraged and most native Fijians will not accept a tip and some consider it rude.
Fiji is made up of over 300 islands and less than half are inhabited. Some islands only have one small hotel on the entire island making it very possible that you might be the only ones on the beach!
Visitors to Fiji should bring along a light, tropical wardrobe. There is no need for dressy attire, long formal pants, or high heels. Your shorts, T-shirts, and bathing suits with cover-ups are perfectly fine.
Fiji remains free from malaria, yellow fever and major tropical diseases that are endemic to most tropical countries. Fresh water has been treated and is safe to drink from the tap.
Clarity of Water
Fiji has world-renowned diving and snorkeling! You don’t need to dive to great depths to see colorful coral and fish.
Truly, the Fiji Islands should be on anyone’s list of places! The experiences in Fiji will leave you with amazing memories for years.
Insider access will set your vacation in Spain apart from everyone else.
When it comes time to leave you will depart with experiences that only a few travelers in the world choose to do! These experiences are not your typical cookie-cutter items. They are private, curated events, meant to leave you with years of memories.
Make your vacation stand far apart with these ideas for your vacation in Spain:
Visit private ateliers and galleries with a local
Get to know the most exclusive places in Barcelona and experience another point of view of the upscale lifestyle of the people from Barcelona. Let your host be the key to open some of the most interesting and unknown doors. Possible visits may include a stop at a renowned shoe-maker to have a pair crafted just for you, viewing the private art collection of the owner of the oldest Spanish art galley, or treasure hunting in one of the oldest libraries in Barcelona, located in an original Gaudi building that is closed to the public.
Wine tasting and lunch at a La Rioja Palace with the Owner
The winery is one of the oldest in Europe, dating back 700 years, and it’s been under the care of your host’s family from the beginning.
Your aristocratic host will guide you on a tour of the vineyards, cellars and palace, and, of course, invite you to taste their wines. In addition, you will enjoy a full meal with wine pairing at the family’s private palace.
The palace and gardens are not open to the public, but this visit can be specially arranged as my supplier is a close friend of the family. The home of the Marqués is considered one of the best and most beautiful palaces in Spain. It boasts two coats of arms, one being from the family of Infant Don Ramiro de Navarra, who married a daughter of El Cid. As such, the members of the family are descendants of El Cid, the charismatic soldier of great courage who, during the 11th century, served both the King Fernando I as well as, at times, his enemies, the Moorish Kings.
Immersion into the World of Flamenco with a Local Host
The art of flamenco’s mysterious roots lead to Moorish, Andalusian and, of course, Gypsy influences, and tales of love, joy, grief, pain and oppression. To truly understand it, you must immerse yourself in the world of flamenco, learning about the culture, history and emotion that surrounds it.
Unfortunately for most visitors, this world of flamenco can be closed off to outsiders, and you must know someone on the inside to gain access. Your host is deeply involved in the flamenco culture, and live their lives among the elite artists. They are the first people in Spain of their caliber to give travelers such direct access , inviting you to experience the heart and soul of flamenco.
The first stop on your journey to flamenco immersion is a traditional guitar workshop where artisans still build the guitars by hand, an art-form in and of itself. Your host will introduce you to the craftsmen and chat with you about what makes flamenco guitar different from classical guitar, and the importance of workshops like this one in the conservation of the craft. Next, you will visit the most renowned school of flamenco in Madrid to learn about the formation of the artists, and what it takes to become a star.
End the night with a fabulous flamenco show, where your host will provide guidance and answer any questions that arise. There are many different types of songs and styles of dance throughout a performance, and your host will be able to offer commentary on such subtle details. By the end of the evening, instead of just having seen dancing and singing, you will have a long-lasting appreciation of this beautiful, rich and moving art form. As a result, your flamenco experience will be much more profound and memorable.
For these types of exclusive experiences I work with my destination specialists that live in Spain and will give my clients their most authentic experience. Contact me here and we can start creating your own unique vacation in Spain!
The Hawaiian Islands are truly an awe-inspiring destination. Many travelers consider the Hawaiian Islands to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, especially if they don’t live on or near the West Coast.
Make the most out of your next trip to Hawaii by going island hopping! It is very easy to go from one island to another. Build in the extra days to your vacation schedule and make the most out of it!
Take a one hour trek up the Crouching Lion Trail on the Windward Side of O’ahu. When you reach your destination you can overlook all of Kahana Bay (and would be a great spot for a proposal – just saying!).
Spend one full day at the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Visit the USS Arizona Memorial, the Pacific Aviation Museum, meet a Pearl Harbor survivor (only during certain days), take a tour of the USS Bowfin, visit the USS Oklahoma Memorial and explore the USS Missouri
Learn to surf off of the North Shore of O’ahu! Spend a couple hours learning from a local surfing expert to earn bragging rights!
Spend one full day seeing O’ahu by land and sea during a tour: hike deep in the rainforest of Manoa Valley to see a rarely visited 200-foot waterfall. Take a shuttle up into the Ko’olau Mountains to Pu’u Ualaka’a State Park. Board a bike a cruise down, stopping for lunch and overlooking Waikiki city and valley neighborhoods. Finally, board a catamaran and finish off the day snorkeling among sea turtles, tropical fish and maybe dolphins and whales (seasonally).
Brave the wild road to Hana. Start early in Pa’ia. Spend the day navigating the 620 turn drive and about 52 miles of rural coastal road. There are many stops to take along the road: Garden of Eden Arboretum, Upper Waikani Falls, a local banana bread stand, botanical gardens, Kaihalulu red-sand beach, and much more. End your day in East Maui at the town of Hana enjoying a dinner at a local restaurant!
Get tickets for the Hawai’i food and wine festival that runs from October 5th-October 27th, 2019. Learn new Ramen recipes from world-renowned chefs!
Dive into the deep at Molokini Crater – considered one of the premier snorkeling and diving destinations in the world. While many have dove in the crescent-shaped concave, the backside of Molokini is where you may see whale sharks and reef sharks.
Take a chartered boat to the “Forbidden Island” of Ni’ihau for coastal views and snorkeling off the uninhabited island of Lehua. The clarity of water is stellar – it’s like jumping into an aquarium!
Submerge yourself in Limahuli Valley. Limahuli Valley, Garden and Preserve, is located on the most biodiverse Hawaiian island, Kaua’i. Wander among the hibiscus and the ‘ahakea tree and get lost in the Polynesian history and culture.
Finish off your island adventure by attending a garden luau! Enjoy the unique flavors of the Hawaiian islands by enjoying an authentic pig roast, eating poi, and sharing the aloha spirit.
My daughter and I traveled to Dubai in May and discovered it is not a traditional tourist destination but a city engulfed in contrasts from being the pinnacle of modern architecture to the perpetual historians of the Arabic culture. Dubai prevails as a truly cosmopolitan haven with pleasing endeavors for any visitor.
Dubai is a member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven emirates along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Once reliant upon the fishing and pearl industries, the UAE now boasts a transformed economy as the polestar of regional trading and tourism. Subsequently, the population diversified with a surge in immigration creating a more progressive mindset towards other cultures. The main language of the UAE is Arabic, however English was well known by all the individuals I interacted with.
Dubai has especially embraced the Western European and American cultures. This was clearly evident when I visited the malls (Mall of Emirates, Dubai Mall, and Dubai Outlet Mall), and it surprised me how little Arabic culture was included. All of the typical American chain restaurants and retails stores were well represented. The Dubai Mall did dedicate a portion of the ground level to house a local souk (an Arab marketplace) for boutiques with rugs, jewelry, perfumes, and other specialty items. The Dubai Mall was also one of the many stops for the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours.
To get around Dubai, my daughter and I switched between the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tours and Uber. Both services were excellent! The Hop-On, Hop-Off buses were air conditioned, maintained over 35 stops, and rotated between stops every 15 minutes. Some of the sites we visited using the buses included: the Spike Souk in the Dubai’s heritage area, the Burj Khalifa (current tallest building in the world), the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, the Dubai Ski Resort, a small harbor on the Palm Jumeriah (the artificial offshore islands constructed in the shape of a palm tree), the Jumeirah Mosque, the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort (the main museum in Dubai with a historical focus), and Etihad Museum (a focus on the contemporary history of the UAE). Uber was a great way to travel to locations not included on the bus tour. My daughter used the Uber app on her iPhone to hire rides to the Dubai Outlet Mall (located about 30 minutes outside the center of Dubai) and transfers between hotels (Address Downtown, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Habtoor Palace, and Address Boulevard).
The highlight of our trip was an excursion into the desert with Arabian Adventures. A desert safari guide picked us up at our hotel and transported us to the Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve. The first activity of the evening included a live lesson in falconry where the agile bird snatched tidbits of meat from its handler with exact precision. Next, we went deeper into the desert and rode the dunes in a 4-wheel drive SUV to watch the sun set. Lastly, we ended our journey at a Bedouin-style camp where we helped ourselves to a traditional-style three course buffet. We sat on top of large cushions next to a low table that were protected from the sand with great rugs. We were entertained during dinner with a belly dancing performance, and after dinner took a short ride on a camel.
Our main concern about traveling to Dubai was ensuring we were compliant with the laws and restrictions in the area. After hours of research, we were led to believe that since the UAE was an Islamic country, there was no alcohol permitted, we were to be fully covered from our shoulders to our feet when outside the hotel, and conservative swim suits were to be worn at the hotels’ pools and beaches. My daughter and I were completely shocked to discover that Dubai was very liberal, and the recommendations on dress were a respectful consideration to the local Muslims. Alcohol was available, but we were only allowed to purchase and consume it inside the restaurants and hotels.
Our trip to Dubai was the culmination of our travels to date. Nothing in the world compared to the extravagance we observed in every part of the emirate from the architecture and man-made islands to the shopping and unlimited activities available. My daughter and I never had a dull moment on our vacation, and we left with a long list of things we’d like to do when we return.
Is Dubai on your travel list? Contact me here and we can discuss more of your travel ideas.
A wine cruise through Europe is perfect for a seasoned wine connoisseur or if you like to sip here and there enjoying a little bit of every blend. Wine cruises are a specialty cruise and right now I am working with Ama Waterways on their river cruise itineraries.
Why am I partnering with Ama Waterways?
Ama Waterways has the highest rated ships in Europe. I know that my clients will not be disappointed in their room, the food and beverage on board the ship or the sun deck pool complete with a swim-up bar. There is some entertainment each evening ranging from a local quartet to traditional Bavarian music. Their approach to wellness travel includes walking tours, morning jogs, guided bike and hiking tours, a fitness room, and healthy food choices.
Speaking of food…menu selections change daily, the executive chef uses the freshest ingredients crafting locally-inspired menus, and you will enjoy unlimited regional wines and beer. On-board you will be joined by an expert wine host from a renowned North American winery, along with wine instructors and sommeliers.
How long is a wine cruise?
The length of the wine cruises vary between 7-14 days. You can choose to travel from Paris to Bordeaux, from Paris to Barcelona, start in Lisbon, Portugal and cruise the Douro River Valley, from Prague to Budapest, and more. On many of the wine cruises you have the opportunity to stay in a hotel for a couple nights before heading out on the cruise, and possibly another hotel stay at the end. Wine cruises are a no-rush experience.
What is a day like on a wine cruise?
Here is a day experience from the Taste of Bordeaux wine cruise:
Take in the riverside scenery this morning as we make our way from Pauillac to Blaye. North of Bordeaux, this small town is best known for its red wine and historic military significance. You’ll have your choice of two activities. The first is an excursion to the city’s 17th century citadel – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that was built by famous military engineer Vauban. From the top of this famous fortress, you can admire fantastic views of the impressive Gironde estuary. The second is a bike tour on which you will wind your way through vineyards, see amazing châteaux and cross Santiago’s path, a famous pilgrimage route from the middle ages. Return to the ship for a delicious lunch and prepare for an afternoon in Bourg, to which you can cruise or bike. The bike tour will take you along the “Captain’s Road,” a scenic coastal path that leads to Bourg sur Gironde. Ideally situated at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne, this historic village still lives inside medieval walls. Built during Roman times and later fortified by the English, it is filled with rich architectural tradition. Afterwards, enjoy an exclusive festival of music and wine from the appellation of Cotes du Bourg. The ship will remain here overnight.
Here is a day experience from the Provence and Spain wine cruise:
This morning’s tour will take you through the enchanting Beaujolais wine region, also known as the Pays d’Or or “land of the golden stones,” named for the richly colored limestone used to build local homes and castles. You will visit the medieval hilltop village of Oingt as well as the home of a local vintner who will invite you for a wine tasting and vineyard tour as he shares the history of the region’s wine production. Return to the ship in the afternoon and enjoy a wine lecture and tasting on-board as you continue cruising towards Vienne. Upon arrival, make the most of your free time and venture about on your own or simply unwind on board.
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