The Chicago Travel & Adventure show was last weekend and I found a few new travel ideas that include 1 new city and 2 new sea adventures.
I was introduced to Emerald Waterway which is a UK based company that focuses on river cruises primarily European. The ships are small offering full service and high end amenities. I will definitely be investigating for future travel plans.
For anyone considering a trip to Patagonia there is an option to take a cruise with Skorpios in Chile with amazing views of the glaciers and fjords. The tours are limited to travel between October through April but bookings can be made over 1 year in advance.
After a visit to the Mexico booth I have found a destination that I will be adding to my list. The city of San Luis Potosi might be the best kept secret in Mexico with a castle hidden in the jungle and unlimited adventure activities.
In other news while visiting with agents from Chicago US Passport agency I was very disheartened to learn that I do not own my passport! My most prized possession is officially the property of the United States government and must be surrendered at any time upon request of an authorized member of the State Department or the government. Yikes! I solemnly promise to be a loyal steward of “my” passport.
Hola amigos. A few weeks ago I travelled to Colombia; yes the country. Let me begin by resolving some of your possible current conceptions. I have heard these common questions from many people: “Were you ever scared or nervous?” “Did you feel danger lurking around every corner?” “Did you see any drug lords?” I can easily answer NO to all of these questions even though I travelled independently with only one female friend. The country is full of beautiful landscapes, incredible architecture, amazing coffee, good food and friendly people. Our travels included a few days in Bogota, Salento coffee plantation region, and Cartagena.
Here are the top 10 highlights I would recommend from our adventure:
1. Hike in the Cocora Valley among the 60 foot wax palm trees providing a truly peaceful and beautiful environment. The photos are unable to do it justice as unfortunately the weather was not very agreeable the day we went but trust me this is a must see item.
2. Enjoy the local fruits such as lulo, feijoa, and tomato de árbolthat are only available in Colombia that will “knock your socks off” with flavor.
3. Marvel at over 55,000 gold pieces at the Bogota Gold Museum which is one of the most visited tourist sights in Colombia. This collection is unimaginable and will leave you speechless!
4. Cook local Colombian cuisine in the home of a local resident as a tour option through 5bogota.com
5. Stay in the charming and adorable town of Salento to observe all the vibrantly painted houses, doors and window shutters.
6. Drink coffee on a daily basis taking after the locals who will serve it strong and black. I had the best damn coffee of my life at Don Elias plantation.
7. Wander the streets in the old walled town of Cartagena until you get lost.
8. Taste chocolate samples at the incredible Museo del Cocoa in Cartagena. There are also tours, cooking courses and of course many things you can purchase including chocolate candles.
9. Walk the wall which surrounds the perimeter of old town Cartagena built over 500 years ago nearing 7 miles long and at points over 30 feet thick.
10. Cherish the architectural beauty in any local church. There are numerous churches we visited that were incredible in their unique way; however every church regardless of day or time had local patrons actively practicing their faith.
This was a pretty busy year traveling on 35 flightsand staying at 19 different hotels; however nothing compared to road warriors who travel relentlessly for work who are likely to quadruple these numbers. However keep in mind this is all vacation travel and don’t dare ask the cost unless you want to pay the Visa bill.
Best Festival – Romania Annual Spring Ploughman Festival (April 2016): On our visit to Bran Castle we had the good fortune to be there at the time of the Annual Spring Ploughman Festival which is held to promote a good harvest for the crops. It was a beautiful display of local traditional clothing, music and dancing. In addition to all of this fanfare the ladies promenade around with enormous basket of pastries welcoming the public to enjoy the good harvest blessing.
Best natural site – Fall Foliage Drive near Conway New Hampshire (October 2016): For many years I have wanted to travel out east to check out the fall foliage. However as an avid college football fan historically this had conflicting weekend priorities; until I sold my season tickets.
Timing is everything for fall foliage and that window can be very limited sometimes. There is only so much planning you can do in advance as it all depends on Mother Nature. Look at the historical weather reports and peak foliage reports to get a gauge of what weekends it might peak then book your hotel room asap. There is limited hotel rooms and everyone wants to be there when the fall foliage peaks! Check out possible driving routes but be flexible to changes based on the latest peak foliage report. Be sure to take your smartphone and backup charger to plan your revised driving routes.
Best site – Bucovina Romania Painted Monasteries (April 2016): Do you remember when I said UNESCO sites do not disappoint? This is definitely one! We sat mystified gazing at the frescos dating back to the early 1500’s and wondering what natural ingredients were used to create the blue hues. When we visited in April it was off season but rarely had to
share any part of the monastery with anyone else. This may still be off the tourist radar for many people however given that it is a UNESCO site it could gain in popularity. I would highly recommend a visit if you have interest in fresco artwork.
Best Drink – Colombia coffee at Don Elias Organic Coffee Plantation (November 2016): Colombia is famous for it’s coffee production and we had enjoyed countless cups of coffee around the country. Everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to coffee but in Colombia you will never be offered cream for your coffee as it would distract from the taste. You can have it black or with sugar in general. We headed to the source to see coffee plantation region near Salento to learn more about the coffee production. While on descent you can already see the beautiful lush green landscape that you can only imagine.
Don Elias plantation is a family run business that focuses on sustainable production and utilizing your environment to peak performance. They offer tours of the plantation which are very interesting to see their simple and wholesome process that produces a large volume of coffee. At Don Elias Coffee Plantation I had the best damn coffee in my life. I prefer cream and sugar in my coffee; however I was surprisingly in agreement with the locals that when you have a good quality coffee it is better to drink it black. The good news is that he sells the coffee whole beans or ground packaged onsite and I bought several packages to take home. The bad news you can only buy it on the farm and I should have bought more! Or perhaps when you visit you can pick me up a package?
As an experienced international traveller I generally prefer to avoid organized tours. However we found Hello Bucovina as the perfect option as it offers private customi
zed tours! We had requested a 3 day private tour which covered a big wish list of sights spanning many kilometers and multiple countries. We had two guides
over the course of the itinerary who were very knowledge about the sights, country, history, etc. The guides were extremely friendly and kindly greeted us at the airport late in the evening for transport to our hotel.
We had time available while in transit to learn more about local culture and current events. We spent several days with Chip as our guide who is also the company owner. Chip is very dedicated to providing his clients with the best experience and asks for feedback throughout the tour. We appreciated that each day the agenda and rough timelines were clearly established so we knew what to expect. I am looking forward to traveling to Eastern Europe sometime soon and connect again with Hello Bucovinato arrange another tour.
I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope 2017 brings you great travel adventures!