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stories from our clients and staff
VANCOUVER, BC --- by Reda Kay
my way to Alaska, I happened to spend a few days in Vancouver, British
Columbia. What a pleasant surprise!! Vancouver is a hub for eco-tourism,
in a word, that simply means to enjoy nature as part of travel. A
visit to Vancouver demands an outdoor experience.
this metropolitan city, where mountains tower above, and busy streets
yield to ocean views, tall trees are as noteworthy as tall buildings,
and green space is abundant amid the architecture. Our first morning,
we walked to English Bay where we took the five minute ferry ride
to Granville Island.
we were astounded by the luscious display of flowers, fruits, vegetables,
and already prepared delicacies at the Granville Island Public Market.
This is a must see! The pleasant noisy bustle of everything around
you mingles with the glorious smells coming from the bakeries and
are also art studios, craft stores, specialty shops, museums, and
live theatre on the island. Begin your walk there at the Information
Center where you will find maps and entertainment and events schedules.
Following our Granville Island experience we returned to the city
where we naturally followed the seawall, walking along English Bay,
an essential Vancouver experience with its eclectic stream of enthusiasts
from marathon trainees to young families with strollers, all heading
toward Stanley Park, a 1,000 acre gem of green space.
you can take a forest walk or cycle among Western red cedar and
Douglas fir, one of the largest native trees in Canada. Stanley
Park, so different from most manicured urban green spaces, has several
historical ties to indigenous people. Eight totem poles represent
several tribes including the Haida and Kwakwaka'wakw. They are perfect
for photography enthusiasts.To learn more about Native culture visit
The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.
of Vancouver's population lays claim to Asian heritage. It is no
surprise that downtown Chinatown has retained its separate identity,
which today adds color and flavor to Vancouver in many ways. In
addition, there is the essential Asian, Richmond, whose character
is personified by several shopping malls that offer a sense of modern
day Hong Kong or Taipei at a fraction of the cost of a plane ticket.
you are a gourmet, you will delight in the variety of wonderful
restaurants including those who specialize in seafood. My favorite
was an introduction to Dungeness crab, a NW delicacy with a sweet
flavor and melt in your mouth texture!!
advise a stay of one week or more to allow time for taking in the
various Gardens, Vancouver Aquarium, a day trip to Whistler Ski
Resort, or visit to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, and
only a 1 ½ hr trip by fast catamaran.
Victoria, I highly recommend a half day tour of Butchart Gardens,
where one can spend hours enjoying a former quarry turned into hundreds
of acres of fabulous flowers! Whether you enjoy the great outdoors,
the great dining, or the great shopping, I think you will agree
that Vancouver is one big playground!
Click to Contact a Journeys Canada Travel Specialist
Tales ...... stories from our clients and staff
TRIP TO AMAZING CHINA: a tale of twenty-one
April I set off for a long anticipated tour of China, which included
the major cities and a 4-day cruise on the Yangtze River through
the fabled Three Gorges. The whole trip took about three weeks of
staying in deluxe hotels and sailing in a superior boat on the river
portion of the trip.
first city we saw was Beijing, the capitol of the country. I was
truly amazed by the number of people, buses, cars, and bicycles
all over. I found that I used the word "amazed" very often during
my twenty-one days in China. Of course the highlight was Tian An
Men Square. It was much larger than I had anticipated. That was
followed by the Summer Palace…. fantastic and lots of walking. I
spent three more days of sightseeing around Beijing including the
Great Wall before taking off by plane for Xian.
thing of note….The Great Wall should not be missed! No matter how
many pictures you have seen, to see it in person is truly amazing.
In Xian we saw the famous Terra-cotta Army, which is still being
uncovered. It is another amazing site not to
flew south and joined our ship, The China Splendid, at Chongqing.
The ship was beautiful and very comfortable with very good food.
We were placed at a table in the dining room with an English family
of five, making it a table of ten. There were tables of Germans,
Japanese, and Chinese as well. We got large American breakfasts,
while the other tables were served according to their nationalities.
The ship was very clean and had every convenience.
4 day cruise was spectacular. Each day we stopped for sightseeing
at various towns and cities….all included in the fare. Going through
the Gorges where the new dam will be built was also amazing.
Wuhan we flew to Shanghai for several days. Again I was amazed by
the modern buildings…sort of like a visit to the future. A highlight
was a visit to the Art Museum, which included not only modern art,
but art from every age in the history of China.
we were on to Guilin for a few days where the highlight was a full
day cruise on the Li River where Limestone peaks made an artistic
site over the limpid waters. A flight then took us to Guangzhou
for the night and a chance to witness a thriving metropolis in the
midst of a gigantic trade fair.
went back to Shanghai for several days to discover new sites on
my own before catching the plane back to the USA.
a wonderful trip….for me it was the trip of a lifetime.
to Contact a Journeys China Travel Specialist
COSTA RICA TALES ......
stories from our travelers
IN COSTA RICA: an
eco-adventure paradise By:
jumped at the opportunity to take a travel agent familiarization
trip to Costa Rica in June. Journeys sends a great many clients
to this popular destination, and it was with much excitement that
I headed there myself. This trip was a "working vacation" to the
rainforests and beaches of Guanacaste where twelve other travel
agents and I experienced the natural beauty of this tropical paradise.
the northwestern sector of Costa Rica's Pacific coast, Guanacaste
is a gateway to nature and beach adventures. Boasting several national
parks and a unique topography, with its fertile volcanic soils,
white sandy beaches, spectacular rivers, amazing savannas, cozy
estuaries, superb fishing and diving, and mysterious rainforests,
Guanacaste is a captivating territory.
first three days were spent exploring the varied activities available
in the rain forests. Our first night we stayed at the Buena Vista
Lodge, nestled among the mountains near Rincon de la Vieja Volcano.
Our next two nights were spent at the Eco-Lodge located near Lake
Coter and Lake Arenal .
settings are located in the heart of the rain forests with picturesque
views and incredible tropical flora and fauna everywhere we turned.
The food served at the lodges were delicious home-cooked meals with
lots of fresh fish and meats. Also on the menu were local dishes
such as cassabe, plantains and beans and rice.
choices of daily activities included hiking, horseback riding, canoeing,
kayaking, canopy tours, bird watching, rafting, river cruises, and
just about any outdoor activity you could imagine. One of my favorite
choices was horseback riding through the mountains to a natural
hot springs and mud bath.
trip not to be missed is a visit to the active Arenal Volcano and
the nearby Tabacon Hot Springs. You can spend all day hiking around
the volcano's base, soaking in the hot springs' waterfalls and pools,
and enjoy the natural fireworks of the volcano at night. If you
stay overnight you can enjoy this view from your own bungalow porch.
This is truly a wondrous sight.
last four days were spent visiting various hotels along the Pacific
coast from the Gulf of Papagayo to Tamarindo Bay. The coast of Guanacaste
offers hundreds of beaches from small romantic coves to large stretches
of soft sand. The choice of beach accommodations vary from moderately
priced small hotels to luxury resorts with all the amenities.
region's beaches offer water activities like sailing, surfing, skin
diving, snorkeling and world class deep sea fishing. The Tamarindo
Bay is one of the foremost nesting grounds for the Great Leatherback
Turtles. From November through March they come on shore to lay their
eggs in the same place they have been doing so for two million years!
most memorable experience was spending an afternoon deep sea fishing
along the coast of Playa Conchal. We trolled around the peaceful
out islands and watched the marine wildlife and an incredible sunset
at the end of the day. We caught tuna and mackerel, and took them
to a local restaurant on the beach to be prepared for a delicious
evening meal. What a treat!
is something for everyone in Costa Rica, and I certainly plan to
return again. Whether you choose to spend your time at the beaches,
in the rainforests, or a bit of both (like I did), you are sure
to enjoy the beauty of the natural settings and the true hospitality
of the Costa Rican people. As the local saying goes, "Pura Vida"
- Costa Rica is "The Pure Life".
Click to Contact a Journeys Costa Rica Travel Specialist
stories from our travelers
GLORY THAT WAS GREECE: private yacht charter
by Reda Kay
you been dreaming about a journey to Greece and the Greek Islands?
For many years I wanted to see those antiquities; experience the
dramatic white-washed, quaint villages set on rugged hillsides;
taste the delectable Greek food which I love, but choosing where
and how was daunting, with so many islands and such a vast mainland
I made the decision to go, my trip developed into a small group,
designed and led by Journeys' own Ellen Lyon. We left in September,
an ideal month to travel to Greece, as the crowds of summer vacationers
are gone, and the water and climate are still warm.
The first days in Athens we explored the Acropolis and walked the
narrow streets of the Plaka, the old Turkish Quarter, and the best
area to stay in Athens. Delightful open tavernas offered a variety
of food and wines, and shops were abundant! A private car and driver
then took us North to the town of Delphi in Central Greece just
11/2 hours' drive from Athens. Built on the slopes of Mt. Parnassos,
Delphi offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Corinth, and is within
walking distance of the ruins of the sanctuary of Apollo and Athena.
Ancients regarded Delphi as their "navel of the earth" reaching
its height in the 4th century BC. We walked the paths of Alexander
the Great and imagined the layers of cultures under our feet. Continuing
northeast, we arrived at an extraordinary place called Meteora.
A geological enigma of massive pinnacles of smooth rocks topped
by ancient 14th century Byzantine monasteries, like icing on the
cake of this strange and beautiful landscape. For a small fee, you
can visit these working monasteries and gaze at the interior of
the chapels painted
from floor to ceiling with superlative frescoes.
As an artist, I believe this a definite must see on any trip to
back in Athens, we were met by staff of the chartered yacht company
who gave us a brief orientation and introduced
us to our licensed sea captain. The Greek sunshine, blue Aegean
Sea, islands, and calm simplicity were about to surround us and
bathe us in relaxation!
Greek people are known for their friendliness, spontaneity and welcoming
attitudes towards visitors. On our own privately chartered sailing
yacht we discovered this world and mixed easily with the local people.
sailing journey took us to the Cyclades, a group of islands of varying
sizes, which lie to the east of the Peloponnese Peninsula. Each
day we would arise to a new harbor where we would eagerly walk the
narrow alleyways of the village, and the pathways of the countryside,
visiting tiny chapels and windmills, and discovering shops where
we purchased fresh cheeses, bread, yogurt, honey, and fruits for
our breakfast and lunch. Each island had similar but distinguishing
characteristics of landscape and architecture. We soon began to
list our favorite places, meals, and ports of call.
the islands were small, we could each go our own way, meeting in
the evenings where we lingered over our meal in an outdoor café
by the balmy waters' edge. I was particularly interested in photography
and there were "Kodak moments" around every corner! The spontaneous
swims and snorkeling in the crystal clear water were a favorite
activity of the whole group. Small, private bays abound in Greece,
and traveling by private yacht is the best way to see them. Everyone
agreed Santorini is special, and the Fanari Villas in Oia the most
fabulous place to relax and be pampered.
you imagine yourself in Greece?
Click to Contact a Journeys Greece
stories from our travelers
island without comparison - By
Norm Gottlieb For me, Bali is an island without comparison. Although
I've been there three times I long to return again and again. I
found the people to be friendly and helpful, and the terrain varied
But, what sets this island apart from the many others I've visited
is the variety and abundance of music and dance performances, which
I attended every night at a pittance. I was fascinated and delighted
by the unimaginably graceful, beautifully costumed and made-up men,
women, and children who enacted ancient stories and myths in dance
form. These dances are accompanied by the beat of the Gamelon, sometimes
with as many as 50-75 musicians, usually performed in an outdoor
setting under the stars.
I was delighted by the crafts villages that I visited, many of which
specialized in specific art forms- for example; silver jewelry,
wooden carvings, stone sculpture and hand carved furniture. Prices
for these extremely creative works of art ranged from bargains to
affordable. Shopping in this setting, which I usually detest, was
an adventure with polite bargaining and haggling the rule.
I enjoyed the numerous Balinese ceremonies and celebrations which
were colorful, educational and fascinating. Importantly, I was a
welcomed stranger, as it is their habit to invite visitors to witness
and participate in these festivities.
Lastly, being a bit hedonistic, I loved the Balinese Massages. They
were so different from those I've experienced in the United States
and elsewhere. Balinese massages were a happening; lasting from
one and a half to two hours. A foot bath and foot massage was followed
by a full body massage with aromatherapy, and then a warm bath in
a tub filled with flowers and herbs, and lastly by spiced tea on
the terrace with soft Balinese music playing in the background throughout,
all for $10.00. This relaxing, meditative activity became an integral
part of everyday I spent on the island. Little wonder my
return visit is being contemplated!
TALES .....stories from our travelers
- a Mediterranean City by Peggy McLeod
remember the first time I saw a picture of the modernist architecture
of Barcelona with its fanciful curves and outrageous designs - I
knew it was a destination for me one day. So I was thrilled to have
the opportunity to join a few other travel agents on a familiarization
trip to Barcelona and its surroundings, sponsored by the Spanish
Tourist Office and Iberia Airlines.
evokes a sense of vibrant independence and creativity. There is
nothing stagnant about the city. Different areas of the city reflect
its history, from its well preserved gothic quarter where close
alleyways open up to reveal a grand cathedral or palace, bordered
by La Rambla, a pedestrian boulevard which connects the city to
the sea, to the expansion of the city in the mid 1800s, designed
in a grid pattern where you find the greatest collection of Art
Nouveau buildings of any city in Europe. Innovative architects designed
remarkable residences and public buildings for Barcelona's elite.
Antoni Gaudi was one of the most original of these Modernist architects,
and his celebrated, unconventional church, Sagrada Familia, still
under construction, is an emblem to this individualistic city.
a hill above the city, Montjuic, the site was created for the 1929
International Fair, where huge exhibition halls were erected in
grand style, and, more recently, international class sports facilities
were built for the 1992 Olympic games. Here you will also find the
Museum of Catalonian Art, with Europe's finest collection of early
medieval frescoes, as well as many other museums, including the
fanciful Joan Miro Foundation.
were fortunate to also visit some areas surrounding Barcelona, including
the beach community of Sitges where we joined the annual celebration
of Carnaval, and Tarragona, an original Roman settlement on the
coast with an extensive archaeological museum and a well preserved
a Roman amphitheatre adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. Both of
these cities make very interesting day trips from Barcelona.
favorite day trip was on my one free day when I took the train out
of the city to Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery hidden on a majestic
mountain region. This ancient hermitage can be reached from the
train station only by cable car. Montserrat is considered the spiritual
center of Catalonia and guardian of the souls of the Catalonians.
It was a peaceful and beautiful day trip out of the city.
food and the wine throughout our stay was superb, and it was a particularly
special treat to attend a symphony concert at the Palau de Musica,
where the interior modernistic décor was almost as awe inspiring
as the concert. Not to be missed was a Flamenco dance and music
show after an evening meal of delicious tapas of all sorts. Barcelona,
the capital of Catalonia, is unequivocally a Mediterranean city,
not only because of its geographic location but above all because
of its history, tradition and cultural influences. Barcelona has
something for everyone!
Click to Contact a Journeys Greece Travel Specialist
VIET NAM TALES
.....stories from our travelers
VIET NAM EXCURSION -
by Richard and Linda Howell
My wife lived in Thailand (a crazed teenager) for two years
during the late sixties. She promised to return ever since. I shared
her fascination but lobbied equally hard for a Viet Nam side trip.
As a result, we developed a two-week Extreme Travel Package - thanks
Over coffee, Linda and I listed our confusing collage of "must do/see"
items. Reda took notes and just smiled at the excess: Buddha, Bangkok,
Hill Country, elephants, Phuket beaches, scuba diving, Orient Express,
then Saigon, tunnel tour, Trang Bang, the Mekong --oh, we had it
go'n on! And we did it all, but it was a very ambitious 18-day blitz.
The particulars of our trip may not match your interests. So feel
free to dog-ear your own favorite guidebooks. Nevertheless, here's
Food for Thought.
As time zones go, Southeast Asia is 12 hours away from these parts.
Point is, you can get there going either direction. We trekked Westward.
As we flew from Minneapolis we were amazed to see the flight path
tracking sharply north -- east of the Canadian Rockies, east and
then North of Alaska, then finally arching South through the KAMCHATKA
peninsula, and into Japan. I confirmed it on a globe - a round thing.
Makes sense. That leg totaled 12 hours followed by a short sushi
then 6 more hours into Bangkok. Anyway you technique it, the flight
is a long haul. Do it First Class. It's mo' bucks, but mo' fun.
ENDS. Weather wise, Bangkok in October was about right - or we just
lucked out with a nice weather blend. We loved the big mother Marriott
- a lovely residence. It certainly was not hidden away or quaint,
but definitely spacious, open, tropical and caloric, and right on
the river - the pulsing artery of the city. The Chao Phraya River
gets you anywhere - no hassles. Well, I should admit we cheated:
we toddlered behind guides (three total for the trip) who expertly
eliminated all hassles, but more importantly, eliminated all time
wasting. Furthermore, we enjoyed their company and insights.
One of our pastimes became the challenge of getting the guides
to go "unplugged" -- extracting their personal observations - esp.
in Saigon: "Monks always have the new motor scooters!" That's priceless
stuff. On the subject of guides, yes, the days were packaged. Maybe
that sounds too touristy, but we helped do the pre-trip packaging
the best we could. And once in country, day-to-day corrections were
permissible - with some heads up to the team. But down the Mekong
River, in Vietnam, Saigon Tours held a shorter leash. The "state"
is still in control.
Maybe Viet Nam is slightly cautious as it ventures into joint ventures
(with S. Koreans and Chinese, mainly) to rebuild their infrastructure
- and extrastructure. My impression was that S. Tours would try
to get you about anywhere you desired, but they prefer to tag along.
For example, our guide tried to 4-wheel a U.S. vet into an old battlefield
deep in the Mekong. They could not reach it by any overland route.
The vet admitted he had been airlifted to the site by helicopter,
so that's what the guide arranged. Good service!
Speaking of service, there was too much food and too much time spent
eating it. In fact, at times we felt a bit isolated from humanity
during our private dinners, especially in V. Nam. Diarrhea will
find you. No guide required. Hopefully you're not atop an elephant
or careening down the Kok River in a long tail boat. But sh… happens.
Plan/ pack accordingly. Which… wat… when?
We did become overwhelmed with temple lore and Buddhas. Correction:
not Buddha. Interesting character, that Buddha - especially to an
Episcopalian in exile. The devil-may-care color schemes are at once
curious and spectacular. In contrast, one of my favorite temples
was located west of Saigon. The dark woodwork was warm and soothing.
My camera was busy. I had to catch up with the departing tour.
Read all about it. We enjoyed perusing the local newspapers.
The editorials were as insightful as any tour. Their observations
concerning 9-11 offered some concern but mostly connection. My masseuse
in Phuket was Moslem. I was not in the least worried: he was too
busy fretting about his tight schedule (a capitalist!). Maybe capitalism
is not just an economic driver. It's glue! Me to you.
We considered making a local personal connection, a nurse or dentist
in our case, to enhance our stay, i.e. tour medical facilities,
etc. Probably a good idea. But we were perhaps a bit timid or overly
concerned with our want list. Amenities. In Phuket I ran some nightly
e-mails back to the family from a nearby c'puter café. Each night
the same lovely young Thai would appear and invite me to her apartment,
party, whatever. The pressure was almost unbearable. Plus, I was
becoming concerned that because of my rejections, she would think
poorly of Americans. "Why you no help me with English?" Comments
like that. But on the last night, amid the laughs of the café staff,
she gave up on me, disclosing that she was really -- a he. Be careful
over there. Personally, I have not felt safe since 1955.
Non-tour. Next time - the next big trip, we'll design a Behind Thai
Tour or something similar in Nam: Thai boxing training camp, long
tail engine shop, white elephant care at the Grand Palace, lunch
with media reporters, lunch with a Saigon chef, a trek with the
Triangle border patrol. Yeah, make those guides work and create.
Who wants to go? Let's see a show of hands? Call Journeys. Get packing.
to Contact a Journeys Travel Specialist