(Seattle, WA) – MIR Corporation is excited to announce an intrepid 21-day journey delving deep into the cultures of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. Guests will share stories and warm meals in mountain villages, sample natural wines and fantastic local cuisine, and meet craftspeople who work in clay, stained glass, metal, and wood — all set to a soundtrack of polyphonic singing and traditional instruments playing the old songs of love and heartbreak. The tour is slated for July 29-August 18, 2018 and starts at $7,995. More info can be found at https://www.mircorp.com/trip/village-traditions-of-the-south-caucasus/.
Itinerary & Highlights:
Days 1-4: Baku, Shemakha, Lahij, Sheki
The journey begins in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan and black gold boomtown, exploring the narrow stone streets of the charming medieval Old Town. Near Shemakha, visit a copper master’s studio to learn about casting and engraving with the malleable metal. Stop for a family meal in Lahij, home to coppersmiths and carpet weavers, trades which have been practiced here since the Middle Ages. Traveling overland, visit Sheki, a 14th-century architectural preserve and one of the oldest towns in Azerbaijan.
Days 5-6: Signagi
Crossing the Georgian border, discover Georgia’s wine country, Kakheti. NearSignagi, take a walking tour of the vineyards at renowned Pheasant’s Tears Winery, producing organic wines from regional grapes. Enjoy a traditional “Georgian Table” feast, laden with fine examples of the country’s rich culinary and winemaking legacy. Georgia is where the wine grape was first cultivated and the flowers and fruits of the Mediterranean flourish.
Days 7-8: Shenako, Dartlo (Tusheti Region)
Load up into a 4WD vehicle for the drive into the mountains of the remote Tusheti region. Most of the region’s former year-round residents have moved to winter quarters, only coming up for the summer. Overnight in a guesthouse in Shenako, a tiny mountain village set on the south slope of a grassy ridge of the Caucasus Mountains. Only a few hardy souls stay here all winter. Participate in a mountain village celebration in Dartlo, a jumble of two- and three-story slate-roofed stone houses with wooden balconies.
Days 9-10: Tbilisi
Explore Tbilisi’s red-roofed Old Town, its houses sporting carved wooden balconies beneath the fourth century Narikala Fortress. Enjoy lunch and a wine-tasting in the art nouveau Sololaki District, built in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Georgian and European architects. Visit Georgia’s National Museum for a look at some of the country’s most significant archaeological finds, including the 1.8-million-year-old Homo erectus skulls unearthed at Dmanisi, Georgia.
Days 11-13: Kutaisi, Mestia (Svaneti Region)
Set out toward remote Svaneti, known for its massive tower architecture and its proud mountain people. Stop in at the workshop of a ceramicist who makesqvevri, the 200 to 900-gallon earthenware vessels used for fermenting and storing Georgian wines, and at a winemaker's to enjoy regional wine and snacks. Before heading into the mountains, overnight in Kutaisi. Enjoy the dramatic drive into the gorgeous mountains of Svaneti, a remote and distinct region of Georgia, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its remarkably preserved medieval appearance. Svaneti has maintained its own way of life for centuries.
Days 14-16: Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia
Drive from the mountains to the Black Sea, stopping in Batumi, whose 19th-century oil barons’ homes contrast with the slick, modernized waterfront. On the way to Akhaltsikhe, drive through a region of summer pastures and meadows, stopping at a tea plantation and a tobacco farm. Explore the recently renovated Rabati, or Old Town, of Akhaltsikhe, sitting on the hill above town surrounded by ramparts and towers, and enjoy a meal with a local family. Take a walk through the rock-hewn monastery of Vardzia, begun by 12th century King Giorgi III.
Days 17-21: Phoka, Gyumri, Yerevan
On the way to Armenia, stop at the delightful Phoka Nunnery of St. Nino to meet with some of the nuns and enjoy a tasting of the many varieties of cheese they produce. In Gyumri, visit the workshop of a master metalsmith, who demonstrates the art of working iron by hand. Enjoy lunch at a 170-year-old home, where meals are served in the beautiful old wine cellar. In the Armenian capital, discover medieval shrines hidden behind imposing Soviet-style facades; the narrow lanes of the Old Town with its stone walls; Republic Square; the new icon of the Cascade; and the soaring Mother Armenia statue. Enter a local home for a friendly meal of Armenian specialties, and visit a master rug and carpet maker. Stop in at the studio of one of the finest makers of the traditional Armenian reed instrument, the duduk, to learn about Armenian instruments and enjoy tea or coffee with the craftsman. Gather for a farewell dinner, featuring Armenian folk music and dance, to toast your journey.
Photo Rights: MIR Corp
As you know, we recently took a great family-friendly trip to Chattanooga, TN. If you're anything like me... I sometimes wake up in the morning and plan our day around the places that we're going to visit... and where we're going to eat next!
Since we were traveling with kids -- we thought we'd share our top list of kid-friendly restaurants we found in Chattanooga:
Tony’s Pasta Shop - in the Bluff View Art District. Located in the carriage house of a Victorian mansion, Tony’s features classic Italian cuisine in a casual atmosphere. The restaurant has gorgeous views of the Walnut Street Bridge, Tennessee River, Maclellan Island, the mountains and Coolidge Park.
The district is made up of 2 restaurants, 1 coffee shop, 1 B&B (consists of 33 homes), a gallery, 2 museums, bocce court and an outdoor sculpture garden. The Bluff makes their own bread, pastries, pasta & chocolates; roasts their own coffee; & grows herbs in their own garden.
212 High Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403 | bluffviewartdistrict.com
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant - located downtown next to the Tennessee Aquarium. They have live pickin’ performances just a few feet from your table and serve authentic comfort food like barbecue, smoked slow ‘n’ low over cherry wood, home-cooked sides, and even a few upscale dishes like a delectable, hand-cut filet mignon.
2 Aquarium Way, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | puckettsgro.com/chattanooga
Good Dog - Locally owned and operated hot dog shop at Coolidge Park on the North Shore; grilling all-beef, natural-casing hot dogs, veggie dogs, local bratwurst, Italian sausage and chicken sausages. All menu items are available vegetarian and boasts a “made-without-gluten” menu. The restaurant also has a breakfast menu, which is offered all day. Good Dog offers great food, focuses on friendly service, has created a funky decor using re-purposed materials, and believes that fast food can be fresh and local.
34 Frazier Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37405 | eatatgooddog.com
Lupi’s Pizza Pies - Where they have a passion for pizza! Their delicious pizzas (as well as calzones, lasagna, and salads) are made with the freshest local ingredients and served up with
friendly service, colorful surroundings, and the bestv hand-picked beer selection in town. There are five Chattanooga locations: Downtown, Hixson, East Brainerd, Cleveland, and Ooltewah.
Downtown: 406A Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | lupi.com
Blue Plate - Chattanooga’s metropolitan diner, with a beautiful front-row view of the Tennessee River. Contemporary comfort food, mixed drinks, and house desserts are their
specialties. Their food is chef-prepared from scratch using homegrown ingredients from local farms, bakeries, and ice cream shops.
191 Chestnut Street, Unit B, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | theblueplate.info
CELEBRATE LOVE AT FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH
Iconic Miami Beach Resort Offers Spa Packages and Unique Gifts for Valentine’s Day
Fontainebleau Miami Beach is playing Cupid this Valentine’s Day with packages and monthly specials available for guests at the 40,000-square-foot Lapis Spa, unique gifts from the hotel’s boutiques and lavish dining options. Spa-goers can book full-day packages to enjoy with their special someone or take advantage of a list of deals, including massages, facials, scrubs and discounted treatments available throughout the month of February.
At Lapis Spa, guests enjoy two-levels of restorative and renewing relaxation, paired with mineral-rich water journeys through mist, rain and steam experiences and a co-ed jetted pool and lounge area. With 30 private treatment rooms, including two couple’s oceanfront massage suites that feature a shower and soaking tub for two, and two spa suites that feature a Vichy shower, tub, private shower and relaxation and dining area, couples and singles alike can choose their ideal room or suite to relax this Valentine’s Day.
A full list of packages and specials include:
My Funny Valentine Certificate | $169++ per person
This certificate is valid for use from February 19 through December 21, 2018, My Funny Valentine Certificate includes the following:
Blackout dates may apply. This service is subject to availability. Tax and service charge is not included. Certificate will not be replaced if lost or stolen.
A Day at Fontainebleau For Two | $369++ per couple
A Day at Fontainebleau For Two invites guests to relax, bask in the sun and swim, and includes the following:
Tax and service charge is not included. Discounts and promotions may not be combined. Must be taken by the same person, same day. All services are subject to a 6-hour cancellation or change policy. A 20% service charge is applied to each service.
February Spa Specials
Offered during the month of February, guests can enjoy the following spa deals in celebration of Valentine’s Day:
*Terms and Conditions:
Specials must be requested at time of reservation and are subject to availability, change and/or cancellation without advance notice. Discounts and promotions may not be combined. Must be taken by the same person, same day. Specials valid for groups of eight (8) or less. All services are subject to a 6-hour cancellation or change policy. A 20% service charge is applied to each service.
To purchase or for reservations, please visit: https://fontainebleau.com/packages/miami-beach-spa-packages or call (866) 750-4772.
About Fontainebleau Miami Beach
A spectacular blend of Golden Era glamour and modern luxury, Fontainebleau Miami Beach merges striking design, contemporary art, music, fashion and history into a vibrant guest experience. A revered landmark and symbol of style and sophistication since its opening in 1954, Fontainebleau Miami Beach boasts 1,504 guestrooms and suites appointed with lavish amenities; the world-renowned LIV™ Nightclub, 12 restaurants and lounges including two restaurants from Chef Michael Mina – StripSteak and Pizza & Burger; two AAA Four Diamond signature restaurants, Scarpetta by Scott Conant and Hakkasan; the 40,000-square-foot Lapis spa with mineral-rich water therapies and invigorating treatments; a dramatic oceanfront pool-scape offering lush cabanas; and is home to BleauLive, the innovative concert series that combines intimate performances with memorable weekend escapes.
Songbirds Guitar Museum - Children will explore the museum with a guide while learning
about the origins of rock and roll and the evolution of the electric solid body guitar from the 1950s through present day. Each exhibit features the guitars that made the music as well as the stories and artists that brought them to life. Songbirds Guitar Museum is historically accurate, educational and fun for both guitar enthusiasts and those new to the world of fretted instruments. Songbirds Guitar Museum is a guitar-oriented, pop culture museum experience for the whole family with extensive permanent and revolving exhibits featuring nearly 500 instruments.
35 Station Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408 | songbirdsguitars.com
Creative Discovery Museum - In the museum’s newest traveling exhibit, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, families will travel through 50 countries without ever leaving Chattanooga. Children and families can explore ancient trade routes on a two story Indian Ocean dhow (boat) or on a camel. They’ll thrill to the excitement of a global marketplace as they pretend to buy, sell and trade fruit, fish, spice, ceramic, textiles, and rugs. The exhibit environment is rich with art, architecture and design elements from across the globe. Visitors will marvel at a 3D exploration of mosque architecture from the Maldives to China. There’s even an interactive replica/interpretation of a Pakistani truck for children to decorate. Families can also compose music using an app featuring the rebana, tabla, kora, oud, ney, and ghijak, listen to stories and view objects shared by America Muslim families and even learn how
to write and say “My name is ...” in 21 languages.
321 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | cdmfun.org
Chattanooga Zoo - Observe and learn all about the world around us and the wildest creatures that inhabit it. As you explore the Chattanooga Zoo, you will encounter chimpanzees, jaguars, komodo dragons, red pandas, meerkats, and more! Explore what it’s like to be a Zookeeper by observing creatures during the Animal Meet and Greets; chatting with zookeepers to learn about the animals and how they are taken care of; watching the zookeepers train the chimpanzees and why it is important to the chimpanzee’s health; touring different areas of
the zoo; helping the zookeepers distribute animal enrichment; and so much more.
301 North Holtzclaw Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37404 | chattzoo.org
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum - Grab an engineer cap to be an imaginary conductor for the day as you jump aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s rumbling locomotive train and take a ride along Missionary Ridge. When you step aboard the train, ask the conductor if you can punch your own ticket! This 55-minute Missionary Ridge Local excursion includes: traveling six miles (round trip) on one of the original rail lines into Chattanooga; narration of the local history historical points along the route; riding through the Missionary Ridge Tunnel that was built in 1858, especially noted for its uniqueness as a horseshoe tunnel; witnessing two unique methods of turning a train around: the better known turntable, and the wye (think of doing a three-point turn with your car and you’re close); and a brief tour of the train restoration shop.
4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421 | tvrail.com
Tennessee Aquarium - The Southeast is home to an astounding array of animals, yet many of them lead secretive lives. Kids will explore the Aquarium’s two huge buildings with the eyes of a scientist while encountering native and exotic species. Kids can become backyard scientists during spring break as they meet fascinating animals and the experts who care for them. Extra programs will be offered each week between March 9 and April 8 to give youngsters a scientist’s view into the hidden lives and wonderful adaptations of the region’s creatures. They’ll also discover how the Tennessee Aquarium’s scientists are saving threatened and endangered animals. Once their curiosity is aroused, kids will see the Aquarium’s myriad other animals — from alligators, turtles, and frogs to lemurs, penguins and butterflies — with more inquisitive eyes.
1 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | tnaqua.org
High Point Climbing and Fitness - During this special Spring Break Climbing Camp, kids will get to spend some quality time with experienced climbers as they learn all about climbing. Spring Break Day Camps are the perfect way to get kids moving during their break. High Point’s dedicated and experienced staff will spend one-on-one time teaching kids all about climbing, including an introduction to the gym, equipment usage, climbing techniques, knot tying, bouldering team, building, and the importance of trust and communication. There will also be some entertaining and engaging climbing-related activities and open climbing sessions. As the kids are learning these new skills, they will also build confidence, muscle development, coordination, balance, and problem-solving. Everyone will finish our climbing camps with a sense of self-confidence & accomplishment. Rock Climbing Spring Break Camp is a two-day session designed for children ages 5-14. Camps are available on a first-come, first served basis. They fill up fast so be sure to make your reservations as soon as possible!
219 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | highpointclimbing.com
Rock City Gardens - There are two exciting activities at Rock City Gardens. First the Enchanted Trail leads you to view more than 400 varieties of native plants and flowers. You’ll trek through massive rock formations formed thousands of years ago and have the chance to dig for your very own geode - and then break it open to find the crystal treasure inside! Your RockQuest Guide will help you look for clues to many of the geological wonders at Rock City. You’ll journey along the Enchanted Trail where you can dig for your very own geode, see 7 states from Lover’s Leap and spot a gnome or two. Rock City Gardens is a true marvel of nature featuring ancient rock formations and panoramic views 1,700 feet above sea level. The self-guided tour along the Enchanted Trail takes you through some of the south’s most spectacular natural scenery where you’ll learn about sedimentary rocks, minerals, crystals and the forces of nature that created this unique attraction.
Travel to a faraway kingdom where you’ll learn basic archery and how to use a sword as well as meet Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, and many more characters. Don't miss this chance to make magical memories! Be a sword fighter and make your dreams come to life during Fairytale Nights, an enchanted adventure awaiting you high atop Lookout Mountain. While in the enchanted forest, meet beloved characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, Snow White and Merlin; follow Jack as he ventures off the beanstalk into the giant’s lair; enjoy the radiant gardens with Cinderella; climb the 25-foot castle wall; and learn basic archery and sword-fighting skills like a real knight at the Knights Training Academy. Those completing the academy will be knighted by Queen Guinevere.
1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750 | seerockcity.com
Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain - Learn about rocks and geology and view the cave’s mysterious chambers and amazing rock formations! Another name for a cave explorer is speleologist – someone who studies caves, their history, make-up structure, physical properties and how they change over time. As you journey deep underground to Ruby Falls, use your Safari Guide to discover the answers to questions during your cave and waterfall tour. This is a recreational activity of exploring a cave, also known as caving and spelunking. You will be dazzled as your guide shares tales of folklore and history and teaches you about the rocks and geology throughout the cave’s mysterious chambers. Ruby Falls is America’s deepest cave accessible to the public and has the tallest underground waterfall! Show your completed Ruby Falls page to the staff at the end of your tour and receive a free geode – that is cracked open for you to see inside the rock!
1720 South Scenic Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37409 | rubyfalls.com
For more travel ideas and inspiration, you can visit the Chattanooga blog and find fun things to do in the city!
Special thanks to the Chattanooga CVB for hosting us for a week!
Saint Lucia Offers Special Valentine’s Day Promotions
Castries, Saint Lucia (February 5th, 2018) - For romance, rejuvenation or adventure and so much more, travelers can enjoy an unrivaled experience in Saint Lucia. The island boasts some of the most stunning scenery in the Caribbean from unspoiled rainforests and idyllic bays to beautiful palm-fringed beaches and, of course, the iconic and magical Piton Mountains. As well as its golden beaches and tranquil spas, Saint Lucia offers an abundance of activities including zip-lining, snorkeling and Segway tours. The island packs a lot into its size; it’s just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide and offers a wide range of award-winning diverse accommodation from boutique hotels and all-inclusive resorts through to spacious villas and luxury retreats. Lauded by the World Travel Awards as the World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination nine times, Saint Lucia boasts the ultimate romantic settings imaginable. No other island in the world is so completely dedicated to couples in love which makes Saint Lucia the perfect destination to celebrate Valentine’s Day with loved ones.
Below is a roundup of Valentine’s Day special offers from hotels on the island:
Capella Marigot Bay & Resort
Calabash Cove Resort & Spa
February Is for Lovers
Valentine’s Special 2018
Serenity at Coconut Bay
Grand Romance Package
The Harbor Club
Red Heart Month
The Landings Resort & Spa
February Is For Lovers
St. James’s Club Morgan Bay
Ready for Romance?
Stonefield Villa Resort
St. Lucia Romance Package
Ti Kaye Resort & Spa
20% Winter Warmer
Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort
Romance Package (All Inclusive)
About Saint Lucia
One of the Windward Islands of the West Indies' Lesser Antilles, Saint Lucia (pronounced Saint LOO-sha) is nestled halfway down the Eastern Caribbean archipelago. The "Helen of the West Indies," Saint Lucia is known for its natural beauty and diverse attractions, including the signature Piton Mountains - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a tropical rainforest and one of the world's few drive-in volcanoes. Culturally rich offerings include the bustling marketplace in the capital of Castries, quaint fishing villages along the coastline, and the annual Soleil Saint Lucia Summer Festival. Saint Lucia's wide range of accommodations includes world-class five-star resorts, all-inclusive resorts, intimate inns and value-oriented properties. Saint Lucia is also home to world class cruise and yachting facilities. The island is continually recognized as one of the leading Wedding and Honeymoon destinations worldwide.
We’ve all heard the saying, “The world is your oyster.” But honestly, that doesn’t even begin to crack the shell of our planet’s infinite wonders, natural phenomenon and cultural intricacies that are waiting to be discovered by even the most casual travelers. So ditch the armchair, put electronic devices in hibernation, and drop foot in these top 10 travel destinations for 2018.
Triphop is an online hotel booking platform that rewards travelers with unrestricted cashback via their UNLoyalty Travel Rewards program. As a points-free hotel booking site, Triphop makes freedom of choice their number one priority.
Here are Triphop’s pick for Top 10 Travel Destinations of 2018:
Bring Back the Caribbean in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
This is the year when luxury travel and “cultural awareness” happen to collide in a big way. St Croix, slowly emerging from the devastating hurricanes of 2017, is still the same island the world loves to love – and for good reason. Descriptive adjectives abound in better times, but let’s just say: playful Caribbean breezes, lush tropical rainforests, cubbyhole snorkeling coves, ancient forts, shipwreck diving and even a flashy modern casino. The Buccaneer, an iconic pink colonial plantation inn, is welcoming the world to stay-and-play as they’ve done for generations. This is how mindful travelers can pitch in, just by spending 2018 vacation dollars where they really count.
Encounter Wild Horses, Gullah Culture and Financial Ghosts in America’s Eastern Sea Islands
The Sea Islands of America’s Eastern seaboard harbor tales of pirates, shipwrecks, Civil War battles, and financial titans charting the course of history in lavish summer cottages. It’s also the heart of Gullah and Geechee culture, dating back to antebellum sugarcane and cotton plantations on the islands. Visit the genteel Jekyll Island Club for a romp through the former summer homes of America’s elite families bearing names like Pulitzer, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Within a couple of hundred miles of coastline, you can discover Gullah folk art and devour a Low Country seafood boil on St Helena Island; Stay at the Holiday Inn Resort in Jekyll Island and take in the view of tabby-shell architecture in the tiny Sapello Island community of Hog Hammock and see feral horses running wild with the wind on Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Harvest Olives, Saffron and Truffles in Umbria, Italy
Just a one-hour train ride from Rome drops you into the heart of Umbria, a land of endless olive groves stretching lazily in the shadow of the Mount Petrarvella, along with golden fields of delicate saffron and deep damp forests harboring elite black truffles. Help bring in the harvest and delve into the Italian “slow food” movement at places like Il Fontanaro, a family-owned organic olive farm with centuries-old villas and a slow-food culinary school. You’ll roll out thin ribbons of handmade pasta, and then pat rising mounds of dough into flatbread foundations cradling freshly-picked tomatoes, basil, local sausages, fresh mozzarella and the Pinelli family’s own olive oils – all under starry Umbrian skies. The medieval gated village of Paciano is only a short stroll away, where old men really do sit on benches amidst cobblestone streets and tiny ancient cottages. BONUS TIP: Make the most of your visit by staying at Residenza Paolo VI in Rome for 6 nights and get $53 cash back to spend any way you like.
Go Forest Bathing in Japan
Shake off the idea that “forest bathing” has anything to do with nudie soaks in the Japanese evergreen forests. Known as Shinrin-Yoku and sanctioned by the Japanese government with 200 dedicated trails, the practice is really all about breathing in the natural essential oils, known as phytoncides, that exist naturally in many trees and plants. This triggers a plethora of health benefits such as reducing the production of stress hormones, lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system. In keeping with Japan’s devotion to the environment, and a deeply held belief based on politeness and respect, forest bathing is an eco-travel trend that lines up with Henry David Thoreau’s admonition in “Walden” to “smell the whispering sedge” and embrace the “tonic of wildness.”
Breathe the Heady Aromas of Zanzibar’s Spice Plantations
Blanketing this East African island with ancient intoxicating aromas, the spice plantations of Zanzibar are like something out of colonial-era movies. Wafting through the humid evening air, the distinct presence of nutmeg, ginger, pepper, cloves, coriander, tamarind, vanilla and ylang ylang is overpowering. Unpack your bags at African House Hotel in Stone Town amidst the well-known red-tiled rooftops and you’ll find local guides who are more than willing to transport you into the world of exotic spices and fruits growing unfettered on fertile plantations and small farms in Kizimbani and Kindichi. They’ll arrange for traditional Swahili meals and baskets brimming with custard fruits, papayas, mangos and jackfruit. Back in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, you can roam through “duka squares” and colorful small markets offering Zanzibar handicrafts, textiles, ukili palm-woven jewelry and – of course – spices. If you’re lucky, you’ll wrangle an invitation to a Dada cooking class in Matemwe Village.
Glide With Sea Creatures in Galapagos Islands
Ever since Charles Darwin accidentally landed in the Galapagos Islands aboard the H.M.S. Beagle in 1835, this aquatic archipelago off the shores of Ecuador has held a mystique that even today’s intrepid voyagers have yet to quell. As the ship’s resident naturalist, enthralled with raw undisturbed nature, Darwin based his now-famous “Origin of Species” on his return explorations of the San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabela and Santiago Islands. Little has changed in the Galapagos of today, where you can swim freely with Galapagos Sea Lions in their unfettered, natural habitats. Due to a lack of natural predators and minimal tourism, these playful sea creatures bobble on beaches like floppy cartoon characters and nurture their young by the thousands in La Loberia Nature Reserve on San Cristobal Island.
Find Castles and Yeats in County Clare, Ireland
Spoken by W.B. Yeats, one of Ireland’s favorite pen-pushers, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” You can count on that happening almost instantly when you set foot in the County Clare, about a 130-mile train ride from Dublin. It’s like suddenly being plunged into the past with ancient castles and rolling emerald-green meadows that are seemingly untouched by modern civilization. Make your way to Bun Ráite castle, commonly known by its English adaptation of “Bunratty,” and tromp through medieval bed chambers, ballrooms, chapels and banquet rooms towering over the Raite River. Continue your travel through time by laying your head at Temple Gate Hotel which sits at what used to be a convent in the 19th century. Then make your way through the surrounding folk park, a living-history village dating back to the 1800s, and then stay into the evening for a rowdy, decadent medieval banquet with dancing and live music.
Plunge Into Mimosa Heaven in Herceg Novi, Montenegro
Having nothing to do with champagne and citrus, and everything to do with the flagrant beauty of native mimosa flowers, Herceg Novi flaunts its floral pedigree with festivals, foodie events, carnivals and entire weeks centered on these colorful blossoms. Get decked out in February and March for a Mardi-Gras style mimosa carnival with street dances and masquerade balls, culminating in the crowning of a mimosa king and queen. While in town, visit the wild and wonderful Luštica Peninsula, and explore the Bay of Kotor. Rent a kayak and paddle over the quaint fishing village of Rose with its white-stone cottages, magenta bougainvillea and trailing grape vines.
Celebrate 300 Years of New Orleans Culture
When the words “celebrate” and “New Orleans” appear in the same phrase, it’s a good bet that visions of raucous-Bacchus Mardi Gras carnivals pop into your brain. But resist the urge to pigeonhole NOLA, especially when it comes to their 300-year birthday celebrations in 2018. As one of the world’s most diverse communities, New Orleans was a city even before America was a country and you can bet there will be no stone unturned in recognizing the intricate multicultural influences. The New Orleans Tricentennial celebration continues through most of 2018 with events ranging from authentic NOLA jazz to Argentine tango, Chinese opera and a “Portraits of Influence” exhibition by José Salazar, Louisiana’s earliest known artist. Look for everything from antique “tall ships” to U.S. Navy ships, a Burlesque Opera by the makers of Tabasco, and dozens of events recognizing women’s contributions to New Orleans jazz, Cajun cuisine, the Louisiana National Guard. A high-tech Luna Fête light festival highlights New Orleans architecture and iconic landmarks. A stay in the iconic Hotel Monteleone will place you in the center of all the festivities and bring this celebration full circle.
Find Your Soul in the Matrimandir Outside Pondicherry, India
Silence is deafening inside the white-marble, gold-domed Matrimandir, sprawling across the countryside near Pondicherry, a French-colonial village on the Bay of Bengal. Although India is one of the noisiest places on earth, it harbors a pocket of absolute silence. After relinquishing your worldly goods (yes, all of them, including your cell phone, wallet and shoes), you are granted entrance to the other-worldly Matrimandir, a semi-ashram/temple that followers call a place of “individual silent concentration.” They actually mean that, as not one sound is uttered while curving quietly along solid-white marble stairs into a solid-white marble inner chamber crowned with a genuine gold-disc dome. An optically perfect glass globe allows a single shaft of sunlight through a heliostat mounted on the roof. This focal point aids concentration as you sit cross-legged in a circle inside the dome, experiencing the eerie “sound of silence,” perhaps for the first time in your life.
Looking for a new destination for a girls getaway, couples retreat, or family vacation?
Check out where we've been!