Admit it, it happens all the time. You meet up with friends for dinner and start talking about the events of your life, that boring thing at work, your recent adventures, and where you want to go next. Usually when you are on the third bottle of something delicious the conversation ends up with "I know, let's all go to..." Well, if it hasn't happened to you lately either change the group you are having dinner with or get a different bottle of deliciousness. It happened to me and I ended up on a fantastic adventure in Peru with some incredible friends. Sure, we knew we wanted to visit the obvious icon of Peru - Machu Picchu. But a true love of hiking never really blossomed in me - I know you're surprised. Fortunately there is more to Peru than just hiking. There is fantastic food and llamas and even more importantly baby alpacas. Lima is bursting with an incredible culinary scene. CENTRAL is currently ranked as the #4 restaurant in the world (yes, go - it is incredible - all 17 courses). The contemporary art scene is wonderful and still a great value. Both of these are good enough reasons to go in my book, but add in those gorgeous baby alpaca items and, well, let's just say the suitcase needs extra space for the trip home. Add to that the amazing sites in the Sacred Valley, Cusco, Lake Titicaca, and Colca Canyon and you have enough to see and do to last for longer than you can imagine. You are definitely going to need more fuel for the jet. But don't worry it isn't all jets and autos. You've got the lovely Hiram Bingham train to take you to and from Machu Picchu. With its fantastic views and lovely service, you might even start to consider doing more train travel. With all there is to see and do you will eventually be grateful that at 13,000ft above sea level you need to slow down and simply take in the view at Lake Titicaca. If you are lucky...your new amazing friend St. Paul will help you find not one but two small bird eggs that are just about to hatch. So close to hatching in fact that you can actually hear the birds chirping inside the egg. Then as you smile at this small miracle and sail back to your little spot of amazing with nobody else in sight you will realize yes, you definitely want to see more of Peru. Still not sure? Then take a look at these photos and perhaps you'll reconsider:
It seems that west coast destinations are naturally more laid back than east coast destinations. NY vs LA comes to mind, but the same seems true in Ireland and the UK. Perhaps it is something about seeing the sunset over water. One thing is certain the west coast of Ireland is a must visit for anyone who loves the beautiful open countryside and of course the dramatic and enchanting Cliffs of Moher. If you have the luck of the Irish on your side you'll have a nice clear day to see the cliffs in all their majesty. And staying in Adare is certain to cause you to fall deeper in love with the charms of Ireland, with its quaint town full of good food and the beautiful birds of prey at Adare Manor. Not to be outdone, the west coast of the UK has plenty of enchantment spells of its own. Cheshire and Wales alone could make you want to return every year. Cheshire is still making its delicious cheese but like many parts of the UK, chefs are rediscovering the art of country living, gourmet pub food (much to the dismay of skinny pants everywhere), and flowers by the fist full. While some may cringe at the potential change in title for the Prince of Wales, one thing everyone can agree on is that the coast of Wales is stunning with some hidden beaches that will make you feel like a bit of a Royal yourself. Or maybe Derbyshire will convince you that being in the midlands is just the option for you. With its rolling hills, easy access to fresh farmland delights, and a few of the greatest country homes ever built, you may just decide that country life is right for you. Well, at least until London beckons you back to city life. After all the city has so much to offer and even your new friends in the countryside will come to see you. So grab a cuppa and be inspired by the below slideshow.
It's been on my To Do list for almost a decade and now it's done. Bhutan, the last Buddhist Kingdom full of amazing mythology, dramatic landscapes, and their well known Gross National Happiness. The plan to actually check this off my list has been in the making for almost a year and when the moment actually arrived I became nervous. Would it live up to my expectations?
After 12 days of exploring Bhutan I can say with certainty that it is diverse, genuine, and simply breathtaking. Before you even exit the aircraft you know you are in a special destination because to reach the airport your aircraft gently starts floating between to mountains along the rushing river's path with unique buildings scattered up the mountains. As you exit the aircraft your lungs fill up with fresh Himalayan air and you realize - this is going to be special. It is a quickly modernizing destination. There were families bringing in giant flat screen televisions, monks on mobile phones, and satellite dishes on a few buildings. But for as much as it has "developed" it still retains its traditions and charm.
The best way to truly experience Bhutan is to get out and explore. The countryside is beautiful and the people are beyond kind. Of course getting out there isn't easy given you are in the Himalayas and that there is only one highway that runs across the country (one lane each way with possible mud slides). However, the vistas are unbelievable and each valley is slightly different offering up unique flora and fauna. It was out in the countryside that I had my most memorable experiences. Perhaps the most dramatic being centered around archery - their national pastime. As you drive around the country you will no doubt see people playing it throughout the country particularly on weekends. So I decided to organize a small archery competition for the kids at a school in Gangtey. It was an incredible day full of excitement, laughter, and the exchange of cultures. We brought over prizes for the kids including backpacks, school supplies, and NY Yankee baseball caps. I was the first time anything like this had been done in the area so several members of the community came out to watch. In the end I learned two valuable things, 1) I'm terrible at archery and 2) these kids are genuinely happy and showed great sportsmanship. Even those kids who just came to watch were happy to be involved in anyway. It was definitely one of those humbling moments when one feels so fortunate to be able to see so many kids just having a fun time playing a very low tech game surrounded by the most gorgeous mountains.
Much like life itself, each person's journey in Bhutan will be different and hopefully these photos will inspire you to get to this breathtaking destination that certainly exceeded my expectations.
When you think of Portugal it is almost impossible not to think of Port. But in reality that is only a small part of what Portugal has to offer. Of course you know this and you always wonder why it doesn't get more attention? But deep down you are grateful more people haven't descended on the best of Portugal. The Algarve may be considered the Cancun of Europe but like Cancun there are spots that are great. Dear friends who have a vacation home in Salema insisted I come over for a visit and I was always taught it is rude to refuse such a lovely offer. Besides, this area was once considered the edge of the world. It is full of gorgeous beaches with soft sand, fresh simple food right from the sea, and dramatic coast lines that conjure up images of exploration. It was a great way to instantly feel like I'd been away for weeks. But I'm not one to lie around in the sun all day so we drove north. Portugal is relatively small so driving from the South to the north is possible in less than a day. It also helps that the highways are very well maintained. To help break up the drive we stopped in the UNESCO heritage site of Evora to see the charming town and have a gorgeous lunch with views of the ancient Roman aqueducts. Rested and refueled it was time to get on the road to make it into the Douro Valley. Of course you are familiar with this area because you always see wines from this region on your favorite restaurant's wine list. Probably the most unique wine landscape in the world with its terraced fields. It is hypnotic and best viewed from the private boat that will take you up the river. The wine is unique and such a great value that it was hard not to buy all of it. After a few days of delicious wine, food, olive oil, and spa treatments you too will decide it is time to move on for fear of not being able to leave...ever. So off we went to the charming city of Porto. With its classic architecture and modern bridges the city of Porto feels old and new. It's no wonder JK Rowling felt so inspired here. But this historically rich city isn't resting on its history like so much of Europe. With some modern buildings and bits like Janet Echelman's installation of her amazing SHE CHANGES sculpture along the coastline you can tell there is something new and modern happening here in Porto. Of course one thing that every section of Portugal seems to have an abundance of is delicious food. From simple fresh fish to their amazing black pork, one thing is for certain you'll want to leave those slim fit pants at home. If you have decided yet when you are going to visit, sit back and watch the slide show below and then let's find a date that works for you.
Safari - the word alone conjures up all kinds of images and emotions for most of us. From Disney's Lion King to Meryl Streep telling us about her farm in Africa and everything in between, you are certain to have some connection to the word SAFARI. My connection came at a young age when my grandparents went on safari and came home with amazing stories and photos of wild animals and wonderful people. Ever since then I've wanted to go and from my discussions with other people, I'm not alone - as a Safari is on most people's list of dream vacations. And like many my dream trip just sat on the list as I was too busy checking off other things on the list. What was I waiting for? It turns out I was simply waiting for the right invitation. It came from two fantastic friends in Sydney who would be traveling in Europe over the summer and swinging through the Serengeti on the way home. Why not meet them there? Absolutely!
Given the distance from NY it was imperative to be fully rested up before starting the safari and what better way to rest up than on the lovely beaches of Zanzibar. A few days of spa, snorkeling, and stunning sunsets and I was ready. Next up, a bit of time at the charming Giraffe Manor in Nairobi to have some up close and personal time with the endangered Rothschild giraffes. From the moment I arrived my heart was enchanted by these graceful animals that were walking around like the supermodels of the animal kingdom. Although it was the three month old giraffe named Jock who seemed to capture everyone's heart. While at dinner with the new friends at the Manor I was hearing stories of the safaris that many had just completed and the long list of fantastic animals they had seen. While on the plane I started to wonder...would I really see all these animals? The Serengeti is a large area, will my game driver be able to help me see these animals? Would I have great stories like my new friends? Then as the plane began to descend it started...a few wildebeest followed by the odd zebra or two and what was that animal over there jumping off so quickly?
As we exited from the plane onto the gravel runway our driver Simon was there waiting with his warm Tanzania smile, some snacks, and a glass of wine to celebrate the beginning of our time together. As we began to make our way to the camp, Simon said don't worry you will see many animals, be patient. And he was right - and the line "Simon says be patient" was born.
As soon as we left the landing strip a few of the animals began to appear as if to welcome us to their wonderful world and my fear of not seeing things began to fade away. Twenty minutes into the drive we pulled over to see the large group of vultures finishing off a meal. That was when Simon's helper Bohke all but whispered something and we drove over to the other side of the road to find a young lion who had just killed a wildebeest. She lay there panting from her exhausting efforts. She kept one eye on us and one on the jackal that was interested in taking advantage of her efforts. And that's when it hit me...I was about to have the most amazing journey.
The above slide show provides a brief glimpse into this journey. To try and tell you every detail would be exhausting for both of us. But there are three experiences that I feel will give you an insight into this amazing journey. The first experience was really our first full day. It was a day full of animals including lions, elephants, zebras, and hippos all with young kids. By lunchtime it was clear we were having a very successful day so we stopped under a lone Acacia tree on the hill with a beautiful view of migrating wildebeests to the left and a small group of elephants dining just to the right. While sitting at the lunch table under that tree sipping perfectly chilled wine as the cool breeze washed over us it became evident how breathtakingly beautiful the Serengeti really is. Even now when I close my eyes I can hear the sound of the tall grass swaying in the breeze as little butterflies that danced all around us come into focus. As we headed back to camp that afternoon content with the long list of animals we had been fortunate to see, the elusive black rhino decided to come to congratulate us on our first day.
The second experience that really stands out in my mind is the day of the sunrise and sunset. The day started early with a beautiful private sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Mara River. It was a beautiful sunrise and seeing hippos frolic in the river while zebras and impalas running nearby, we were given a beautiful aerial view of the majestic Serengeti. After the balloon ride we had a beautiful champagne breakfast with sounds of the rushing Mara River nearby. That afternoon there was another fantastic game drive where we sat patiently waiting and watching the wildebeest by the river. Would they cross, would they all make it over? Suddenly it started and they were racing to cross the river with crocodiles sunbathing on rocks just trying to decide if they were hungry enough to attack. That's when we heard it - loud and pleading. A young wildebeest was calling for its mother as it was struggling against the strong current. The others had all made it across except the struggling baby and its mother. The mother was trying desperately to encourage it while keeping an eye on the crocodiles and the exit. It looked like she was about to give up on her child who was now exhausted from its battle with the current. Then the current began to win and push the baby back and fortunately just past the rock which gave it the chance to lunge forward and catch up with the mother. Once they made it safely to the other side they had a brief moment of tender reconnection before they had to move on to stay with the group. That evening we replayed the amazing events of the day on top of a massive rock sitting gracefully covered in lanterns and beautifully set up for sunset cocktails to watch the majestic sun set on the Serengeti.
The last experience was definitely the most exhilarating. By our 5th day the only major animals we had not seen were the swift cheetahs and we really wanted to see this super fast cat. We had been driving around for awhile when both Simon and Bohke had become very quiet and focused like intense animals stalking their prey. As we slowly drove towards yet another large group of wildebeests the air became quiet and suddenly the wildebeest started to scatter as fast as they could and that is when we saw them racing. One. Two. Three. Three young male cheetahs chasing a hare as fast as they could, dust flying, and suddenly two of the cheetahs had stopped. Their brother was the victor as he pranced off to enjoy his meal. As we watched him quickly devour his meal while trying to keep it away from his brother it was then that images of Disney started creeping into our minds with the songs of the circle of life gaining in volume all the way back to the camp.
With each sense being impacted it is hard to narrow it down to just a few memories. Of course I'd gladly share the rest of my stories with you. Just say when! But for now, these are a few of the experiences that I will remember forever. However, it makes me wonder what great experiences you will have on your amazing safari. I'm certain that a safari in Tanzania has just inched higher on your list of dream vacations!
Living in Manhattan is fantastic but sometimes you just need to get away. You don't have to go far - but occasionally you do need to get away. For years friends have been telling me about charming Milford, Pennsylvania. So on a whim I decided it was time to go. The town itself is absolutely picturesque with an interesting history and friendly people. The town is small, as in one traffic light, but within a few blocks of that single light you will suddenly find yourself transported to a little slice of pure Americana. As luck would have it, the Milford Music Festival was happening during my visit. This music festival has an organic feel to it. You have full-scale bands performing at small sponsored locations complete with fan clubs and CDs for sale to a lone guitarist playing on a bench under a tree. Even Pete Seeger came to play a song or two. People walk from place to place enjoying some free music and fresh air before moving on. Between performances some people stop in to art galleries while others hunt for interesting gift items in the unique shops. After wandering around town for a bit it was time for lunch. I was sitting on the porch of The Fauchere hotel just about to have lunch when I noticed a group was getting ready to play. By the time I had finished lunch the Gypsy Jazz Quintet was in full swing and had drawn a rather good crowd - some sitting in rocking chairs, some were dancing on the grass, while others were being pulled along the sidewalk in little red wagons. It was one of those perfect weekends when you realize getting out and doing something different is exactly what you needed. So in honor of Festival Season, be brave and go to a festival that you've been considering or one that you've never heard of. And enjoy the summer!
The old saying "Time Flies When You Are Having Fun" couldn't be more true lately. It boggles my mind how it is already May! I've been busy coming up with all kinds of fun travel plans for other people and have neglected my own travel! Fortunately, I was able to take a quick break out to Tucson, Arizona. Since I'd been so busy all I wanted to do was relax in the middle of the desert and rotate between the spa and the pool. It was a perfect break and spring was still in full bloom. The jackrabbits were out and so was the tortoise, but unfortunately no race took place. However there were a few roadrunners and plenty of golfers that seemed to have a race of their own. Fortunately the most dangerous animals I saw were one small snake and two wild new friends from Oklahoma, but no mountain lions. It looks like I'll have to wait until July to see lions. Stay tuned.
Happy New Year! Another year has come to an end and despite the end of the Mayan calendar, most of us are still around. 2012 was a year full of fun new projects and wonderful new adventures with both old and new friends and new memories for me. The beginning of a new year makes me wonder what new exciting places I'll visit and who I'll meet along the way. While I always have a list of places I want to visit, sometimes the best inspiration comes from looking back at the previous trips. Here is a quick look back at some of my favorite photos from my 2012 adventures.
I certainly look forward to trying out new places and maybe going back to an old favorite or two. What destinations are on your short list of places to visit this year?
Chances are you have a story about a crazy night out with friends. And I'm guessing one of those friends is either from Australia or spent a lot of time there. I've got one of those stories too and the next time we get together we can swap stories but for now let's focus on this story. I recently had the opportunity to attend a wedding in Australia and since it is so far from...well everything, I figured I should explore once there.
After two weeks I learned four things.
1. Nature is king. Where else can you see giant animals that hop around, small little animals that are intoxicated on leaves, and giant birds with mohawks.
2. The wine is excellent. OK fine - I knew this already but it was great to get out and see some of the wineries first hand. But since there are so many great wine areas I'm going to keep testing.
3. There is something special about water. Sydney knows how to do a harbor. No matter what, you need to get on a boat and see the city from the water. Plus, the Great Barrier Reef is massive and the fish are big and beautiful. Despite three nice dives I'm 100% certain I'm going to need to need your yacht again and get out and see more of it.
4. The people are awesome. There is something about Australia that makes people relax and have fun all while having a beer (which I recently learned is pronounced Be-ya) or some other beverage. You're guaranteed to meet some fun people when visiting Australia. But don't take my word for it - let's make a plan so you can go and find out for yourself.
Still want more? Check out these photos:
At one time Bogota was one of the most dangerous places in the world. Fortunately things change, such as that haircut you were sporting way back when. Just like your haircut, Bogota has changed too.
There are really only two real dangers in Bogota now. The first is that you may not be able to decide how many emeralds you want to bring home. (HINT: All of them) Colombia is the largest producer of high quality emeralds and you'll find all kinds of preset options but since you'll have a few days you can go ahead and pick out the perfect stone and have something custom made. Or just wait and have your jeweler do something for you back home. For those of you who aren't really into emeralds, take caution -- you might be by the time you leave. The other real danger is that you will get stuck in traffic. There is no denying that traffic is a problem for Bogota. Fortunately, the city is working on improving the roads but more importantly your driver will have a "Plan B" and will do so in a comfortable car. This will simply give you more time to obsess on those emeralds. Don't worry, there are plenty of non-emerald things worth exploring in Bogota. From great traditional and contemporary art to an explosive dining scene -- there is plenty to keep you entertained in this city. No matter what, you'll walk away with new friends as the people are fantastic. Perhaps those dangerous times have made the people here so warm and welcoming. After all, you are significantly happier with your current look which makes you a lot more fun to be around. What? You haven't changed your look? Don't worry - nobody will be looking at your hair with all your new emeralds. Bogota is now only dangerously chic. See for yourself in the below...