Friday, December 31, 2010

Still need votes for the North Pole

I really do want to blog my way to the North Pole.  Really, I do, and I still need your votes!  I'd like to at least get to the top 5!  C'mon, give it a go!

Happy New Year!

May 2011 bring you joy, good health, and lots of travels!  Do you make New Year's Resolutions?  Do you have a travel bucket list? 

Australia Flooding Larger than France and Germany Combined

Australia flood zone bigger than Texas.  The area in Queensland is affecting over 200,000 people, with more flooding expected.  Queensland has set up a disaster relief program, and we can probably help via the Red Cross. 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What are your favorite travel memories for 2010?

Really, I want to know.  Was it a cruise?  Lying out on a beach?  A bicycle vacation?  A hike?  Diving?  A safari?  What was your favorite destination?  Food?  Would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's Raining, and You're on Vacation: Solutions!

1.  There are museums, and then there are obscure museums.  The Paris Sewers Museum explores the fascinating view of Paris, with gothic arches and tunnels and adventure and that Parisian sense of j'en sais quois.  It's raining, you're in Paris, go explore off the beaten path!

2.  There's a funny postcard I once saw in Amsterdam:  two pictures, one labeled Summer in Amsterdam, the other, Winter in Amsterdam.  In both images, it is bucketing rain.  Every time I've been to Amsterdam, it has been rainy most of the time.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit in one of the Brown Cafes, sipping coffee or a chocolate, watching the world go by.  So relaxing!  They are good for a drink, a coffee, a snack, and conversation. 

3. I saw the same above mentioned postcard applied to London.  So, go see a play!  London Theatre is some of the best in the world, and I've seen some amazing examples over the years.  So worth it!  I saw Vanessa Redgrave in a Tennessee Williams play that was riveting; Rowan Atkinson doing Chekov one-act plays; London Theatre is captivating.

4.  Oh, you know you need some pampering.  Budapest is the city of Spas!  With 118 thermal springs, you can spend all day in the healing waters.  Or if you happen to be in Rotorua, try out Hell's Gate.  Set in a geothermal reserve (like Yellowstone or Iceland), rich in Maori Culture, you can use the thermal springs, get a mud bath, a massage, or other treatments.  Where's the like button?

5.  Take a cooking class.  It's not just wonderful to eat Italian cuisine.  You can learn to cook like a local, shop like a local, enjoy like a local. 

And if all else fails, go out and play in the rain!  It can be fun!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Western Wedge Wildflower Safari

Western Wedge Wildflower Safari

14 day flying safari highlighting some of Western Australia's best
"This tour is carefully scheduled to coincide with many significant ecological events.  On day one make a spectacular scenic flight at cliff-level along the Great Australian Bight, viewing whales and their calves from above - a view that rare few ever experience.  From there see the vast contrast of this gargantuan state from turquiose coral filled waters of Ningaloo Reef, the wildflowers in the sandy soil of Kalbarri right down to the high-rainfall tall timber country in the south where you will walk amongst the Valley of the Giants" - John Dyer
Tour highlights:
  • Stay at Wild Bush Luxury's Sal Salis retreat, Ningaloo Reef
  • Fly at cliff level across the Great Australian Bight
  • See Humpback and Right whales in calving season
  • Meander through Western Australia's wildflower spectacular in Kalbarri, Shark Bay, Margaret River and Esperance
  • Margaret River wineries including lunch at Vasse Felix
  • Australia's prettiest beaches at Cape le Grand, Esperence
  • Private tour of Kangaroo Island's diverse flora and fauna
Departure dates:
  • 12th September 2011
  • 3rd October 2011

There is no better way for you to celebrate the New Year than a trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico!

When the weather is still frigid and unbearable, an escape to the warm and sunny atmosphere of El Dorado Spa Resorts & Azul Hotels is just what you need!  Take advantage of some amazing rates. Whether you are looking for a fun family getaway or a chic couples retreat, these resorts are sure to satisfy any need. With a truly unique Gourmet Inclusive concept, which encompasses a la carte dining, 24-hour room service,
beach and pool butlers, and personalized concierge services; this is a perfect excape.  I have some incredible rates, so call me!

Book by Jan. 3, 2011 and travel up to April 23, 2011. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top Five Things To Do In Sydney Australia

Sydney is a great city, with probably the most beautiful natural harbour on earth.  Yes, I'm having an opinion.  People tend to try to cram a lot in a very short period of time, which is too bad.  I think that the cities of Australia are worth as long a visit as someone going to Paris, or London, or Rome -- really, people do spend a week or more in those places.  Why not Sydney?

So here's my list:

1.  Bridge Climb will give you spectacular views of the city, the Opera House, the Harbour - all while climbing to the top of one of the icons of Sydney.  The Sydney Harbour Bridge is as well-known a sight at San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.  You're strapped in, you get a bridge-suit, you're guided, and you're maybe thinking you're out of your mind, but this is a real thrill.

2.  You know you've always wanted to try this.    Let's Go Surfing - Bondi Beach - is a surfing school that can get even a grandma like me to stand up on a board.  It's a 2 hour lesson in a small group in easy waves.  Plus, this is the beach that has all the Surf Life Savers, ladies.  These are good looking blokes!

3.  Australia has some amazing food.  Fresh produce, and a great and famous Fish Market that also offers cooking school.  Somehow, I feel that a cooking class in a local market makes you feel more like a part of the place.  It's like a total immersion!

4. The Sydney Opera House is magnificent.  One of the most expressive buildings I've seen, I think I've taken over 500 photos of it.  And made one watercolor.  And seen a performance or several.  And done group tours, and private tours, and backstage tours - you need to do it.  Learn the history, fall in love with the building, experience it for yourself.  But don't wait til the last minute, you do need to pre-book your tours.

5.  Yes, you want to do a cruise on Sydney Harbour.  But you want to Cruise Like A Local.  Really, the choice is being on a vessel with maybe 200 of your closest strangers, or on a small, private yacht owned by a local, and really feeling the place.  Done it both ways.  I prefer Sea Sydney Cruises, and cruising like a local.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Travel Memories

One of my favorite travel memories was a trip to London over Christmas and New Years with Victory Gardens Theater, located in Chicago.  It was an amazing trip.  We saw Shakespeare, and Tennessee Williams, and Chekov - among a lot of other plays.  Redgrave was in the Tennessee Williams and I was with a group of people who didn't want to applaud because of her politics - yet her performance was so riviting, that the entire group was on their collective feet at the end of the play.  It was an amazing event - this was in 1988, and I remember only the emotion of the play.

London was like a fairy tale for Christmas. I loved the experience.  And I would love to hear your holiday travel memories.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yelam Seyalkoodum! It means ‘everything is possible'

I learned about this from Pam of Nerd's Eye View.  Pam Mandel is a wonderful blogger, and she's one of the co-founders of  Passports with Purpose.   From their mission statement:  "Passports with Purpose is an annual Travel Bloggers’ fundraiser. In 2009, 90 bloggers participated and raised almost $30,000 to build a school in rural Cambodia (complete with a school nurse and a kitchen garden that provides each child a daily meal). In 2010, we have set our sights even higher. With your help, we will raise $50,000 to build a village, brick by brick, in rural India through our partnership with Friends of LAFTI."

This year, they've reached their goal of $50,000, but you can still participate.  I am signing up to participate for 2011, and will donate a gift certificate of some sort.  But it all goes to my belief that travel can help heal the world. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Packable Holiday Gifts

Traveling with kids for the holidays?  HipTravelMama shared some tips for the best packable Christmas gifts for kids.  What with all the TSA Regulations, it's fun to pack something soft, light weight, and safe.  My personal favorite is the
Sushi Dinner shown on Etsy. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blog your way to the North Pole

Quark Expeditions has a great contest!  Blog your way to the North Pole.  I'm entering, please vote for me!

Man Arrested for Dropping Anchor Onboard ms Ryndam

What was he thinking?  Rick Ehlert, a 44 year old California man, has been arrested for dropping anchor while sailing on Holland America's ms Ryndam over the weekend.  His statement?  He knew how to release the anchor because he owns a 50-foot yacht with a similar anchor.  Really?

Although the ship was undamaged, the action did endanger ship and passengers.  So, we'll all sort of wait to see what the trial brings.  Yes, I'm having an opinion and would not be unbiased on his jury.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Game Fishing Tournaments in Western Australia

Sal Salis is an exceptional safari camp on the water's edge of Ningaloo Reef.  This is Western Australia's premier game fishing location, and October-April are the peak time for Blue Marlin and Sailfish.  You and your team can experience two of the biggest game fishing tournaments in the region, with exclusive use of Sal Salis' custom fishing boat and dedicated skipper/guide.

March 14 - 19, 2011, is the Australian International Billfish Tournement; March 19 - 27, 2011, is GAMEX 2011.  The packages include 2 nights at the Novotel Ningaloo Reef, the rest of your stay at Sal Salis (inclusive of all meals and beverages), the competition fees, and much more. 

This is an amazing opportunity.  Contact me for details about cost and availability!  818-553-3219 or

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Forget the malls.  Forget the parking lots.  Forget the lines.  Give the gift of travel this year for the holidays.  It will leave lasting memories!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Voyages Ayers Rock Resort sold - GPT sells last of Voyages portfolio

The $300M sale of Voyages Ayers Rock Resort back to the Central Australian Anangu nations of Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara is a landmark deal that puts the running of the resort firmly in the hands of the local indigenous people.  The issue being haggled about was never about price:  it was conditional upon finding a meaningful way of transferring skills to the local people.  The deal will also see the return of 104,000 hectares of culturally significant freehold land to traditional owners, while local operator Anangu Tours will play a continuing role in resort operation and management.
Also significant is the end of GPT in the tourism industry as the last of the Voyages Properties has been sold.  In my 20 + years in travel, I've always had a Voyages property in my Australian itineraries - and I'll still use the properties under all the new ownership. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Royal Wedding at Sea

On April 29, 2011, the day of the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, guests on board Cunard's three ships -  Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth - will have fantastic seats to view the ceremony and all the events.  This is an historic event, and what better way to experience it short of an invitation?

Each of the three ships feature Royal Court Theatres - West End in style and West End in size - where the wedding ceremony will be broadcast live.  The Royal Court on the Queen Mary 2 holds 1000 guests, while the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth hold just around 800 guests.  If there is enough demand, the ships can accommodate guests in additional venues. 

Queen Mary 2 will be doing a Trans Atlantic Crossing, Queen Victoria will be at sea in the Mediterranean, and Queen Elizabeth will be heading toward South Hampton.  This going to be a celebration not to miss!  Please contact me for further details.

Boycott could mean havoc on air travel

Photo courtesy of Gadling

According to an article in Travel Mole, the proposed boycott of the full body scanners could mean long delays tomorrow for air passengers.  The National Opt-Out Day is scheduled for Wednesday, November 24th.  This, the day before Thanksgiving, is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year.  The scan, which leaves little to the imagination, takes about 10 seconds.  The pat-down in lieu of the body scan takes longer, and is very invasive.  The new TSA procedure "includes a security worker running a hand up the inside of passengers' legs and along the cheek of the buttocks, as well as making direct contact with the groin area."  Isn't that what they do to prisoners?

So, between the airlines overcrowding us, charging us to check bags, charging us for blankets and pillows, charging us for food and ear-buds and the TSA treating us like criminals, it's a wonder anyone bothers to go anywhere.  Yet, we do.  We put up with invasions of privacy just to experience the wonder of a foreign place, the relaxation found on a white sand beach, the sensation of awe we share seeing a majestic mountain range.  There was a time when airline travel was part of the wonder of a vacation - we dressed up, we were excited.  We also had room for our knees and we also didn't feel like a fugitive as we went through lines to board the plane. 

I think we should do away with the TSA.  Really, my shampoo and conditioner are not a danger to my fellow travelers.  My shoes belong on my feet, and that bottle of water is not going to short circuit the electrical system on board the plane.  There are professionals who can, discreetly, watch behaviors and analyze who is a threat and who is not.  And believe me, that family of four heading to Hawaii is not a threat.

What do you think?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kaikoura, South Island, New Zealand

The Kaikoura Ranges are the second-highest mountain range on the South Island of New Zealand.  Here, where the mountains meet the sea, you can experience some world class day walks.  Walks Kaikoura provides guides, and the walks themselves require a medium level of fitness.  Some may not be suitable for children under 10, and walks can be tailored to your own specific needs such as how long you have to hike.

The Mount Fyffe Track can be done as a half- to a full-day hike (5 to 7 hours) or can be shorter, done as a Heli-Hike.  The lower mountain is lovely forest, going up to alpine tundra with spectacular sea views.  This is a rare opportunity to experience both ecologies so close together, and well worth your efforts.  Homemade refreshments are to be enjoyed at the hut, while you enjoy your reward of the scenery around you.

And Kaikoura is amazing for whale watching, Maori culture, and so much more.  Contact me for more information.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Celebrity Eclipse

Just back from a two night inaugural cruise aboard the Solstice Class Celebrity Eclipse.  Celebrity is a Premium Cruise Line, above the mass market lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and NCL.  The Premium Lines include Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, Oceania.  The Luxury Lines are Regent Seven Seas, Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises, and Seabourn. 

A few years ago, I did a ship inspection on one of Celebrity's older ships and was completely underwhelmed.  Small staterooms, frayed fabrics, just nothing to make me want to put my clients on the line.  Comparing to Oceania, they came up short.  I've also sailed twice on Princess and have been disappointed both times.  So I boarded the Eclipse with low expectations.  All I can say is "WOW."

The Eclipse is new.  She's gleaming fresh (been sailing all summer in Europe) and bright.  Initially disappointed to have an ocean view stateroom, I walked into my room and said, "Wow."  Spacious, large window, and really nice bathroom.  Wow.  I mean a smartly laid out bathroom, with a shower door that doesn't flood the floor, and cabinets with glass doors that actually close, so your toiletries don't fly about in rough seas.  The sink is a raised sink, really lovely.  Nice carpeting.  Comfortable bed.  Flat screen TV.  Not the fantastic marble you find on Crystal or Regent, but really lovely in the Premium Category.

The staff is professional, providing gracious service with an energetic, youthful vibe.  Good humor mixed with really top-notch service at a level that is way above Premium.  The food is terrific - also at an unexpected level.  The bars are show-places, and fun; they had a jazz ensemble on board that was flat out amazing.  The pools are nice, but there is one pool that's adults only and quite serene. 

There are so many little touches that just raised the bar for a Premium Cruise Ship - a lawn on the top deck that you just have to walk on barefoot.  A really outstanding gelato corner.  Nice shopping arcade.  Really good artwork throughout the ship.  On, and on, and on.

The nice thing about Premium is that it isn't at the cost point of luxury; but the experience is so far above Mass Market.  You are out of pocket for a lot on a Premium Ship - drinks, specialty restaurants - that are included on Luxury, but it makes the transition easier.  But within the Premium Cateogry, I will be putting my clients on Celebrity from here on. 

If you want to check for special offers and rates, you can email me at