Channeling my inner archaeologist in Jordan!

Visiting Jordan has been on my “bucket-list” for sometime now. I wanted of course, to see Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world! However, Jordan has so much more to offer as a destination to explore! It is home to over 100 thousand archaeological sites! It is rich in history and biblical significance. It is home to the lowest point on earth, which also happens to be a natural spa, the Dead Sea. It is also a place of beautiful nature reserves just waiting to be explored, such as the Wadi Rum desert!

Jordan being a small country, it is easy to hit most of the major sites in a week, and there are many convenient round trip flight options into and out of Amman, the capitol city. My journey was a week and both began and ended in Amman. Other countries that pair well with a visit to Jordan are Israel and Egypt! I was part of a guided tour, which is a wonderful way to travel, as all of the details are taken care of for you, and you have a guide with you throughout the trip! Our guide was a native Jordanian, and also one of the very first women guides in the country! She was a wealth of knowledge, and it was so nice to be able to ask as many questions as we liked about the history and customs of the country! Guided tours are also great, because you make wonderful friends along the way with your like minded travel companions! Traveling in a group, can also help to curb your travel costs! We can of course, always design a custom independent trip for your visit to Jordan as well!

I had a non stop flight from Chicago to Amman, and upon arrival had the evening at leisure to rest up! I met some of my friends at our hotel and went to a lovely dinner of traditional Jordanian food! As a vegan traveler, food can sometimes be an challenge, not in Jordan! This was one of the easiest countries I have ever visited to find tasty and health vegan food options! I was in heaven with all the hummus, baba ganoush, and salads!

My first full day in the country was prior to our fully guided tour began, and we arranged for a guide to take us to the Baptism site of Jesus and to the Dead Sea. Our driver met us at our hotel and we were off to our first site. The Baptism site on the Jordan river is about 45 minutes from Amman, sometimes longer depending on traffic, so it makes for an easy day trip out of the city. We arrived at the visitor center and met a guide, who took us down to the river site. Visiting this historic site was awe-inspiring! We walked along the paths to the site where it is believed Jesus was baptized, and then to another site to take a step into the Jordan river ourselves. There are changing rooms there at the river, so if you want to fully submerge, you may do so.

Afterward, we took a very short ride over to the Dead Sea. We had a day pass to the Dead Sea Spa resort, which allowed us to use their facilities, and eat lunch, as well as float in the dead sea! There are many hotels along the sea and many will offer day passes. First on the agenda, we went down to the water to get our float on! It is a bizarre experience to float so easily in this water! They had tubs of the mud there for us, so you can slather it on, and let it dry. It is said to be great for the skin! It is advised, do not shave the day you are going into the sea, as the salt will sting your legs, also be careful not to get it in your eyes! We enjoyed a lovely buffet before returning to Amman to freshen up before meeting our larger group for dinner that night.

Our first full day with our guided tour we visited Jerash and the Citadel. Both are ancient cities dating back centuries and are some of the best ancient Greco-Roman ruins to be visited outside of Athens! Both sites are still under excavation to this day! Jerash is about 45KM north of Amman while the Citadel is right in the heart of the city. It is quite a lovely view from the Citadel and lovely contrast from the modern city surrounding these ancient ruins. Jerash is large site, so wear your walking shoes and be prepared for uneven cobblestone! We capped off our evening with a lovely dinner in a local family’s home! This was such a treat to get to spend time with this family and enjoy their wonderful home and hospitality! These type of dinners with locals, are some of the special treats you can expect when on a guided group tour!

The following day we visited Madaba, the mosaic city and Mt. Nebo where Moses was shown the promised land. Madaba is home to a very famous mosaic map of all of the middle east. It was found in the floor of a church and has been dated back to 500AD! It is so intricate and detailed and just a wonder to be hold! The entire city is now known for its mosaics, and many artisans carry on the tradition still today. We then made our way to Mt. Nebo, from atop this hill you can see all the way to Jerusalem, on a clear day. There is a church there as well, with more lovely mosaic floors. They are just gorgeous! We drove onto Petra, where we will overnight at a lovely hotel and were treated to a traditional bedouin dinner to end our night.

Today was the day to see one of the wonders of the world and we were excited! We left the hotel very early, to get to the site to try and beat some of the crowds. We entered the visitor center area and heard some of the history of this fascinating place! The site was a trading post of the Nabatean people, which were Bedouin tribes, and dates back to the 4th century BC. A large earthquake hit and destroyed much of the region in the 4th century AD and drove many people away. Over the years the Romans and eventually the Byzantines ruled the area, and eventually the ornate tombs built into the rock by the Nabateans were turned to churches. You can see evidence of when the Romans ruled with the roads, columns, and gates that are still evident. After the 8th century the ruins were left mostly untouched until they were rediscovered in 1812 by a Swiss explorer, which has since attracted archeologist, historians, travelers, scholars, and Indian Jones to this beautiful location!

It is a beautiful walk down the trail towards the treasury. You walk through a long slot canyon called the Al-Siq. It is a lovely walk, but they do offer golf cart rides for a fee, should you not be able to make the trek. It is downhill going in, and uphill coming out, for reference! There is something just absolutely breath taking about taking a step out of that slot canyon and seeing the treasury for the first time! It will give you goosebumps and bring a tear to your eye! It is busy there in front of the treasury. There is a small cafe and a store, and many guides asking if you want assistance going to a view point or a ride on a camel down to the Monastery. We took a moment just to take it all in and take some photos before finding a guide to take us up to a view point of the treasury. This was something I was looking forward to, I wanted that incredible view, and to get a some hiking/climbing in! It was not too hard of a trail, but it is steep, and you do need to scramble up the rocks. Once we made it to the top, there is a small tent there, with a lovely view down below, and you can have some tea if you like. There were also kittens, which kind of made my day! We took in the view and took our photos before having some tea and heading back down.

From there we walked down the path towards the Monastery. There are ruins all along the trail, and so very many trails to explore! You can easily spend a couple of days here exploring and hiking! The hike up to the Monastery is a steep one, which includes 800 steps up! But it so beautiful and well worth the effort! Once to the top there is a cafe where you can rest and replenish, and even more trails to explore! After making our way back down, I explored a few more side trails as I made my way back towards the entrance. There were hundreds of cruise passengers pouring in by this point, so highly recommend going early!

We made our way to Wadi Rum desert to overnight. This protected area is also a Unesco World Heritage site, and it will probably look familiar as many block buster movies such as Star Wars and The Martian have been filmed here! We stayed at Sun City camp, in a tent, but it did have heating, air, and running water! We participated in a star gazing night, which was very fun and educational. They offer night walks in the desert too, which I would have loved to do!

The following morning after a beautiful sunrise and breakfast we went on a ride out into the dessert to climb some dunes! This landscape is just stunning! You can also do ATV and camel rides here as well. We then made the drive back to Amman for our farewell dinner before our flights home the following morning. Goodbyes are never fun, but knowing you have made wonderful new friends and memories makes it a bit easier.

This adventure was one I will never forget and hope to return to and explore more some day! This country is beautiful and the people are friendly and welcoming. I would love to help you plan your Jordan adventure! I can recommend a guided tour or build an independent adventure for you! Please contact me here https://www.passportforadventure.com/ or send me an email at Maci@Passportforadventure.com. You can see videos of these beautiful locations on my tik tok @passport4adventure. Let’s plan an adventure!

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Summertime in Switzerland!

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Switzerland in all its summertime glory! I was so thrilled to see this gorgeous country in the peak of the summer, with blue skies, colorful flowers, and snow capped peaks, all with the benefit of some sunshine on my shoulders! Last I visited, was during the month of November and due to low cloud cover we could not even see those stunning Alps! So I knew this would be a whole new experience! I was also thrilled to get to partake in some of the adventurous activities offered during the summer months, bring on the paragliding and E-bikes! As you may know, Switzerland is known for a few things, the Alps, watches, and chocolate, and my itinerary called for me to gain first hand knowledge of all three! With my sunglasses and sense of adventure packed, I was off!

My itinerary had me arriving into Zurich. With my overnight flight from the states, I landed mid morning and was to my hotel just in time for lunch! I stayed at The Dolder Grand- https://www.sigtn.com/s/FC1C2FB. This historic hotel set high atop the hill overlooking the city is the perfect spot from which to explore Zurich! It offers stunning views, and a 43,000 square foot spa! There is a wonderful funicular train that you can hop on to be taken down the hill and be in the heart of Zurich!

After a wonderful lunch to revive me after the long flight, I was off for a guided tour of this beautiful city! I highly recommend taking a guided tour when first you arrive to a new city. This is is a great way to get your bearings and to learn about the culture and history of the town you are visiting!

I took the opportunity to tour several other hotels in the area. As a travel advisor, I always like to see properties in person, so that I can best match my clients needs and wants to the hotel that is right for them! Baur au Lac is a lovely hotel right in the heart of town, just across from the lake. This property is so convenient to the city! https://www.sigtn.com/s/6E5F5FC

After a long day of travel and touring, I slept like a baby and was ready for another full day! While in Zurich I highly recommend a tour of the Lindt chocolate factory! It includes a lovely interactive museum that tells the history of chocolate and how it came to be famous in Switzerland. It also includes lots of tasting opportunities! After chocolate tasting a took a boat ride on the lake, which is a must during the summer months and toured a few more hotels, before going back to The Dolder Grand to explore their huge spa and a lovely dinner!

It was now time to move along to my next stop on the tour. I packed up my things and would board the train toward Interlaken for some adventure in the mountains for the day. I used the wonderful Swiss travel pass, and opted to have my luggage forwarded to my next hotel in Bern! I will be over-nighting in Bern, and my luggage will be there waiting for me at my hotel, on my arrival! This is a fabulous service Swiss Rail can provide for you!

After breakfast I boarded the train to Interlaken and took in the scenery as we traveled out of the city and towards the countryside and the mountains. On arrival into Interlaken it was time for some adventure! I was met in town by our Paragliding company and taken by van up the mountain! I had a short walk to the launching point and proceeded to get harnessed up! I was given instructions on how to take off. Essentially you run down hill towards the drop off, until the parachute catches the wind and lifts you up! And then you are flying! It was so peaceful up there, soaring over the city and lake with the mountains surrounding me. My guide/driver was SO great! He took many photos and videos of me and they all turned out great! He let me steer right at the end of our ride, and then we came in for a landing in the main park in the center of town. This experience was just so much fun and I highly recommend it!

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It was now time for lunch and to take a look at the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel, so I did both! This beautiful historic hotel is right in the center of town and first opened in 1865. It is Victorian in style and offers kids club! The Grand- https://www.sigtn.com/s/67EA, makes for a wonderful home base when touring Interlaken!

Of course, it was now time for more chocolate! I took part in a chocolate making class at the Funky Chocolate Club. This was super fun, and you end up with 3 chocolate bars to take home as a souvenir!

I then took a lovely stroll along the river to the funicular train that took me up to Harder Kulm! This excursion up the mountain is a must do when in Interlaken! You get stunning views of the mountains and there is a great restaurant at the top, which is the perfect spot to take in the view and enjoy some fondue or other Swiss foods! This is a good time to say, Switzerland in general was very easy for me to find vegan food options. It can be hard to find places that will work with special food requests, and even in this dairy heavy location, I was able to eat easily and well! After dinner at the top, I took the train into Bern for my overnight stay.

My hotel in Bern is just a treasure! The Bellevue Palace-https://www.sigtn.com/s/8B0C is the official guesthouse of the Swiss Confederation and the only Grand Hotel in the UNESCO World heritage and main capital Bern. The Palace is located in the heart of the city in walking distance to all major attractions and train stations. It over looks the river and has a gorgeous terrace and outdoor dining here during the summer months is a must! This hotel embodies old world charm at its finest!

After a lovely breakfast on the terrace, it was time to board the train to Jungfraujoch-top of Europe! I took the train to Grindelwald, where I started the journey up, via a gondola ride! After the gondola you board the train that takes you to the top of Europe! From here you can dine, experience the ice cave, and take in the stunning views! Again this is a not to miss excursion!

On the way back toward Bern, the train ride is just stunning! The scenery and views look like they have been drawn to life! I hopped off the train at Lauterbrunnen just to explore this quaint little village for a while. I walked up to the waterfall, which was not falling very fast, as it was the height of summer, but the views along the way and through the village are well worth the stop! There is so much to explore in this region of Switzerland! It is an outdoors enthusiast dream! Hiking, alpine slides, paragliding, and mountain biking, are just a few of the activities available! I made my way back to Bern and had a lovely dinner at the Bellevue Palace on the terrace and rested well. Tomorrow, I will continue the journey towards Geneva!

Again, I boarded the train towards Geneva, the views from the train did not disappoint! Lovely views of the lake and wineries, as well as, sunflower fields all along the route. and arrived to my next hotel the Metropole Geneve- https://www.sigtn.com/s/673B0. This lovely property is nestled in the heart of Geneva with a beautiful view of the lake, and is conveniently located on the left bank, within the city’s famous shopping district and just a short walk from the old town. I enjoyed a lovely lunch and then was off for a very short ride out of the city to the countryside for an E bike tour to a winery! It was time for some more adventure!

It was only about a 15 minute van ride to the bike shop where I met our guide and got fitted for my E-bike and we were off! We biked through the countryside, past rows of grapes and large patches of sunflowers and it was just a lovely way to spend the day. This is so close to the city, but you feel like you are worlds away! We ended our tour at Domaine Du Centaure winery, where we enjoyed a wine tasting and some raclette, a famous Swiss dish. The van drove us back to town. I took the evening to tour some other hotels and had a lovely dinner, before calling it a day!

Just outside of Geneva is the CERN large hadron collider. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. The accelerator sits in a tunnel 100 metres underground at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, on the Franco-Swiss border. They offer guided tours of the facility and also have a smaller self guided museum. I did not have time to do the longer tour, but enjoyed the self guided tour and visiting this monumental place! For any science buffs, this is a must visit attraction! It is a easy bus ride to visit CERN. It has its own designated stop!

After returning to the city I enjoyed a guided walking tour, to learn more about the history of this beautiful town! I then took a boat ride on the lake to visit another beautiful hotel and enjoyed lunch. I could not depart Switzerland with out learning more about one of the things they are so famous for…watches! This evening I took a watch making class! It was fascinating to take a part a watch and then reassemble it! I have a new found respect for this vocation! I then enjoyed a lovely dinner at another unique hotel the Hotel Beau Rivage-https://www.sigtn.com/s/2E1EFFF . The hotel is a historical gem, and an iconic hotel since 1865. Many of their suites are named after their many famous guests! And with that, my journey comes to conclusion, as I depart for home from Geneva the following morning.

Switzerland makes for a wonderful varied and perhaps adventurous destination for couples, friends, and families alike. From quaint villages to lovely and historic cities, and from the lakes to the mountains there is something to intrigue any traveler! I would love to help you plan your adventure! I can offer special amenities for you at any of the hotels I linked to, and many others! Let’s plan your Switzerland Adventure!

To plan your trip, email me at Maci@Passportforadventure.com.

On Safari: Kenya and Uganda

My favorite destinations to visit are ones that bring my out into nature and close to wildlife. I love to experience animals in their natural habitat. Which is why, this “bucket list trip” to Kenya and Uganda was so special to me! This trip was originally going to take place in 2020, but we all know how that played out! So it was a much anticipated and long awaited journey when we finally made it in 2022!

We landed in Nairobi airport and were swept off to our hotel in town, for the first couple of nights. It is nice to have a couple of nights on arrival in Nairobi to acclimate to the time difference and to allow you some time to see the sites and attractions in Nairobi. After a nights rest we were off to explore the the Sheldrick Wildlife trust elephant orphanage. This wonderful charity takes in injured and orphaned elephants and cares for them, until which time they can be re-released to the wild. It is a wonderful way to get up close to baby elephants and to support this wonderful organization! We also visited the Giraffe Center, another organization helping to raise funds for endangered animals. Our last stop of the day was Kazuri Bead factory, where we learned about the bead making process, and how the factory supports local women. Other ideas of things to do while in Nairobi include, the Karen Blixen Museums, the Nairobi National Museum, and Nairobi National Park.

The following day we were off to Amboseli National Park! Amboseli is famous for huge herds of elephants and incredible views of Mt Kilimanjaro! The mixed topography of plains, woodlands, swamps, and marshes allows for a wide diversity of animals to view! We arrived, enjoyed our lunch a got settled in our room, before heading out for our first game drive!

Game drives are what being on safari is all about! You set out typically, twice a day in jeeps and look for animals. The guides are very knowledgeable and can tell you the species of animals you are seeing, but also about their behaviors, and other adaptations they make to their habitats. Amboseli contains much marsh land, which elephants and hippos enjoy. We were treated with many sightings! It is also home to large flocks of flamingos, at certain times of the year. The excitement of our first evening, was witnessing a cheetah chase a wildebeest! Spoiler, the wildebeest got away!

On our second day in the Amboseli region we enjoyed two incredible game drives and also made a very educational and incredible visit to a Masai village. We were invited into their village and homes to learn more about their way of life, culture, and social structure. We were treated and invited to join in on some traditional dancing and looked in on their school. It was an incredibly humbling and touching experience.

The following day we were off by plane, to Ol Pejeta Conservancy for two nights. Ol Pejeta is a truly unique place to visit, this is not a national park, like many of the other places you can visit in Africa to view animals. This conservancy works to conserve wildlife and to generate income through wildlife tourism and complementary enterprise for reinvestment in conservation and communities. Ol Pejeta is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and home to two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos. Ol Pejeta also seeks to support the people living around its borders, to ensure wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians. To say it is a truly unique and special place, is an understatement.

We opted to go on a night drive one evening while here, for a glimpse of the nocturnal animals, namely some of the big cats! It was such an incredible night! We were treated to viewing of a Lion family, with two young cubs. We also saw a cheetah up and on the prowl! On our second day at Ol Pejeta we were surprised and delighted to get to meet one of the few remaining black rhinos in the world. He was very old and blind in one eye, but what an honor it was to pet and feed him! I must say a tear or two were shed. These animals are critically endangered and if poaching can not be kept at bay, we may lose them forever. Great work is being done here to see that that does not happen! There is also a very touching rhino memorial here that you can visit.

We stayed in a wonderful lodge and tented camp for our stay here in Ol Pejeta. We stayed at Sweetwater’s Tented camp, and our tent was very comfortable and spacious. Make no mistake this is not roughing it! At most safari lodges all of your meals are included in our stay. And I must say the food was wonderful and varied. I am vegan, so finding good vegan options can sometimes be tough when traveling, but I never went hungry and always had lovely meals!

The following day we were off to Samburu Game Reserve. This climate and landscape here changed dramatically! We were now in a much more desert like environment and it was much warmer as well. We were staying at the Ashnil Samburu Camp in another lovely tented camp. I really enjoyed getting to visit this reserve and seeing how varied the landscape can be. On our way back to camp this evening after our game drive, we were so excited to finally get to see a leopard! The leopard’s are the hardest animals to spot on safari, as they are nocturnal and so you usually see them right at dusk as they are headed out to hunt. Which is exactly how we saw ours! They are just stunning to see in person!

For our final stop in Kenya, we flew south to the Masai Mara Game Reserve and stayed at Karen Blixen Camp. It is hard to pick a favorite, but I think this lodge stole my heart! The Masai Mara is right on the border with Tanzania and is where some of the great migration takes place. There are wide open plains and views that just seem to go on and on. It is a beautiful landscape to behold. Our tent was situated along the river, and we could sit on the front porch and watch and listen to the hippos below, which was so incredible!

We had three special events that took place during our stay on the Mara and at Karen Blixen camp. We were so excited to enjoy a hot air balloon ride over the plains one early morning during our stay. It was such a treat to get to watch the animals below and just so peaceful floating through the sky!

We also were lucky to experience sun downers in the bush! On our last evening, as it was time to head back to the lodge, were so surprised to see a wonderful fire, snacks and cocktails set up for us in the bush to enjoy while watching the sunset on our last night Kenya. We even saw fire-flies! It was magical!

One thing that is so neat about being on safari, is many of the animals are not phased by the safari vehicles. They do not mind them being close and pretty much just ignore them. Two such instances that come to mind, happened in the Masai Mara. One was when we came upon a family of lions. There were several lioness’ and many cubs laid out in the grass napping. The safari vehicle just came right up to them and circled around and they just dozed on. Another instance, we came upon a mother cheetah and her cub, eating a freshly killed impala. It was incredible to be so close to them and watch them interact with each other while they fed. Because these animals are protected in these parks and preserves they have no reason to be afraid of people or the vehicles and many times you are very close to them while getting to witness them in their natural environment. It is so very different than seeing them in zoos.

On our last morning, as we were on our way to the airstrip for our departure flight, we were again surprised, this time by an incredible breakfast in the bush for our final send off! Kenya truly was magical, from the wildlife, to the people, and the lovely lodges, we could not have asked for a better visit! But, the adventure is not over! We were on our way to Uganda for the cherry on top of this incredible adventure, a Gorilla Trekking experience!

After a couple of short flights we landed in Uganda and were on our way to our lodge near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Our lodge, Tracker’s Safari Lodge was just on the edge of the National Park, within walking distance to the park entrance! After a lovely dinner and rest, the following morning we were off on our big adventure, our trek to see the gorillas!

We walked to the park entrance, where we met our guides and were briefed on what to expect for the trek to see the gorillas! We then were split into smaller groups. There are many gorilla families, but only 8 people at a time are allowed to be with any given family. So we were divided into groups with our guides. We were then given the opportunity to hire a porter. These people are only given the chance once a month to be a porter, it is a highly sought after position! They will carry your back pack with your water and lunch it up the mountain for you, and let me tell you, I was glad I hired one!

And we were off, up the mountain! It is humid and warm, and it was a steep climb for us. The thing about gorilla trekking is, they move! So several times we thought we were getting close, only to find out we had further to go. We ended up hiking about 4 hours before we reached them, but it was well worth the effort! The scenery as we hiked through the jungle was gorgeous! We had many beautiful breathtaking vistas to be hold as well.

Once you have found the gorillas, you are allowed one hour with them. The trackers and guides let you know how close you can get, which honestly was pretty darn close! They moved along through the forest, the babies climbing on mom and dad, playing non stop. They were so entertaining to watch! We visited with the Mubare group, and there were several females and babies and one big silver back in our family. After spending our hour with them, it was time to stop for our picnic lunch and make the trek back out. The trek back, we went a different route, and walked through some local villages. The small children would run out to us waving and smiling. They were a joy to see along the way.

Mountain Gorillas are critically endangered. They are endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. They are now being protected inside the national parks and the sales of the gorilla trekking permits also help to finance their protection as well. But sadly, they are still in danger of poaching. It is important to under stand that tourism dollars can make a difference in the conservation of these animals and their habitats. While this is an incredible “bucket list” moment, the dollars spent in this region will go to help the people in the villages as well as the gorillas. This is “eco-tourism” in action!

The following morning we flew back to Entebbe for one night near Lake Victoria before the journey home. We were tired but our hearts were full from the many memories made, incredible experiences shared, new friends made in both Uganda and Kenya, and the marvels of the beautiful wildlife and landscapes we were able to witness. A safari experience is something that is hard to describe to people, I have had people say “Don’t you just drive around in Jeeps?”, and yes I guess on the surface you do! But experiencing the nature, the wildlife, and the people of these countries is something that touches your soul and you just have to experience it yourself to truly understand it.

Are you ready to plan your own African Safari? Please send me an email at Maci@Passportforadventure.com or click the link below and let’s start planning!

https://www.passportforadventure.com/contact-us/

River Cruising on the Rhine: A mother and daughter adventure!

I have wanted to take my Mom on a European River Cruise for years, but for one reason or another we just never got around to making it happen.  When the opportunity to take her on one this last fall arose, I would be remiss if I did not mention we were a bit apprehensive about traveling to Europe right now, given the ever changing protocols due to Covid.  However, we opted to pack our sense of adventure and sense of humor and check this off our list!

I reserved our stateroom and we began to confirm our excursions, all while keeping a close eye on the current requirements to enter each of the 4 countries on our Rhine River itinerary.  There were cancelled flights and changes to entry protocols even just a few days before we were to depart, which to be honest was a little nerve wracking.  We obtained our Covid “passport”,  completed forms online, and took our covid test two days before departure.  We were ready for our adventure!

Our itinerary for the cruise began in Basel Switzerland.  Being that neither of us had been to Switzerland before we opted to arrive a day early and spend some time in Zurich.  We arrived in the evening and after dropping our luggage at our hotel went for a short stroll and a glass of wine before retiring for the evening.

We awoke in our fabulous hotel right in the heart of old town ready to explore the city!  We stayed at Storchen, which sits right on the river amongst cobblestone streets, and is the perfect spot to explore from.  The hotel has a lovely roof top patio and bar that is open in the summer time, with stunning views!  The rooms are spacious and newly refurbished.  You can even arrange a boat ride to their sister property on Lake Zurich for a day trip out of the city! I can offer you special amenities such as food and beverage credit, when you reserve with me, click the link for more information on this lovely boutique hotel: https://www.sigtn.com/s/37EB1772

We saw the sights of the city by foot. Taking in the two cathedrals Grossmunster and Fraumunster and of course shopping along Bahnofstrasse.  We had coffee and cakes in quaint outdoor cafes with heated seats and blankets to keep us warm.  We finished the night having dinner at Hiltl, which is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world!  Complete with verification by Guiness book of world records! They had plenty of vegan food as well.  Vegan food can sometimes be difficult to find when traveling, so I was very excited to dine here!

The following morning we set off for the train station and caught our train to Basel, where we would meet our ship, the Amaserena.  Oh, how I love the trains in Europe!  So easy! So efficient!  Upon arrival in Basel, we dropped our bags and did a quick little tour of the city.  They were very busy setting up their Christmas market that was to open in a couple of weeks. 

Upon arrival to the ship, we were greeted by the staff that was so glad to have us and so eager to serve! The travel industry as a whole has been hit hard by covid, but the cruise industry has been hit especially hard!  Everyone onboard was so glad to be back on the water!  The Amaserena is gorgeous!  I just love small ship sailing! Everything you need on 3 decks and only roughly 100 traveling companions!  We opted for a room with a French balcony and it was ready and waiting for us.  The rooms are well appointed, and designed well to be able to store all of your things.  We freshened up a bit and headed to the lounge to hear from our cruise manager about the excursion offerings for the following day and then we were off to dinner. 

Each evening, usually just before dinner during the “sip and sail” cocktail hour you will hear from the manager about the excursion offerings for the following day.  You have the chance to pre-arrange most excursions prior to getting onboard.  However, you can make changes to your selections once onboard if you choose.  There are typically 2-3 offerings with varying difficulty.  There are different walking paces on the walking tours, from slow to active.  Many of the ports do offer bike tours as well!  These can only be booked once onboard, as you must sign a waiver to participate.  They do a great job of offering something for everyone at every physical activity level.

At dinner, the chef came out to speak with me, being that I am vegan.  He asked what types of foods I liked and didn’t like, and let me know he would be making special meals to meet my needs.  Each night he did offer up unique and delicious meals and even desserts!  I will say I was never hungry or felt deprived!

Our first full day we opted for full day trip to Lucerne! Such a quaint little town with such history! I would have loved to stay longer and explore more from here!  This is what I love about river cruises, they tend to give you a taste of a city or region, and leave you knowing which places you loved best and would like to return to again and stay a bit longer or explore a bit further.

The following day we had a full day in Strasbourg, France. There were options for morning and afternoon excursions.   I opted for the bike tour of Strasbourg in the morning, while Mom did the walking tour of the city.  The bike tour was a nice long one and we got to see many areas of the city.  We did get some free time in the city center as well, and I climbed to the top of the Cathedral!  What a view!  For those that are fit, I highly recommend the biking tours for fast paced touring!  After lunch onboard, Mom and took the bus back into city center and wandered about on our own, taking photos and shopping.  This is such a picturesque little town.  It feels as if you have stepped into a fairy tale.

Our next stop was Speyer, the gateway to Heidelberg.  We took a short bus ride to Heidelberg and visited the castle ruins.  The guides are so knowledgeable about the history of which you are witnessing the physical remains of, which adds such depth to the tours.  After touring the castle, we walked around old town, where again they were setting up for the Christmas market.  Oh my, the bakeries with all the sweets in the windows!  I think you can gain 10 pounds just looking at them all! I loved this little town and again found myself wishing for more time!

That afternoon we sailed onto our next port.  It was nice to have a leisurely afternoon to relax onboard.  They did offer a talk on the history of the Rhine valley in the lounge, if you so choose to attend, or you could opt for a resistance class, walk around the top deck, or take a dip in the heated pool! This evening after dinner we had a fun night time excursion into Rudesheim, for some of their famous coffee!  It was great fun to get off the ship at night and see this charming town.  The coffee made for a nice nightcap too!

The following morning you had several options for going back into Rudesheim, from a bike tour, vineyard hike, or wine tasting! This afternoon, after lunch it was the sailing of the picturesque Rhine gorge!  All along the gorge are over 30 castles along the hill side.  It is the prettiest scenery of the cruise. Our cruise manager told about the different castles as we passed, while we were of course, served hot cocoa or Rudesheim coffee all snuggled up in our blankets!

This afternoon we docked in Lahnstein, and went ashore to take a tour of the Lahneck Castle.  We toured at night, so the castle was lit by candlelight, which made it very either romantic or spooky, depending on your mindset! Again our trust worthy guides told us the history and folklore surrounding the castle which brought the place to life in our imaginations.

Our second to the last stop was Cologne Germany.  I very large city, in comparison to others on our cruise.  We opted to explore on our own and see the Cathedral, shop, and take in the city.  On every corner, or so it seemed, were French fry stands with their signature mayo and bakeries!  Oh my goodness the food!  But “when in Rome” you must try the local cuisine!  The city looked so pretty all lit up that evening as we sailed away to our last port of call where we would disembark, Amsterdam.

We sailed during the morning our last day, which was great as it gave us time to pack.  We arrived in Amsterdam just after lunch and took a canal cruise through the city.  This is such a fun way to see the city and learn a bit of history.  I highly recommend it!  We then toured the city on foot.  We took in Dam Square and then made our way over to the canal district that is a bit more peaceful than the busy square! Everyone knows Amsterdam as “bike city”, and this cannot be understated!  It can be a bit overwhelming when walking about and constantly having to be sure you are not in the bike lane.  I had pre-purchased our tickets to the Anne Frank house prior to our departure from the states.  All tickets must be purchased online and are timed entry.  We had some coffee along a canal and awaited our time to enter.  The museum and house was so very touching and I am so glad we were able to visit during our short stay in the city.

We headed back to the ship for our final dinner onboard.  Our flight out back to the states was the following morning.  Our Covid test to return home was arranged by the ship, and was conducted the day prior with our results arriving to our email.

The cruise was a success!  We had a mother daughter adventure and made memories to last a lifetime! River cruises are such a great way to see many countries in one itinerary and to only unpack once!  Not only do you get to see multiple countries, but you get to see the heart of these countries and the heart of Europe.  You stop in whimsical villages, meet the locals, dine like locals, and get to immerse yourself in the history of the region. You have a built in concierge in your cruise manager, guides at every port, and chefs and staff catering to your every need. It is an easy mode of transportation, and makes getting from point A to point B a luxurious affair!

Traveling through multiple countries right now has its challenges.  You have to have paperwork, QR codes, covid passports, and sometimes covid tests.  However, once we were onboard, Amawaterways assisted with all of these details and arrangements and made it very easy for us to relax and enjoy the cruise.  Having a tour guide with us in each country or city was invaluable, especially now. 

Is travel right now carefree? No!

 Can it be stressful? Absolutely!

Is it worth it? Without question!

I would love to help you plan your river adventure!

Contact me at Maci@Passportforadventure.com to plan your river cruise!

For more information on river cruises visit my website: https://www.signaturetravelnetwork.com/SIGNET/index.cfm/microsites/cruiseLine?&site_id=16&sup_id=3026&agency_id=2629&agent_id=34832

Finding comfort in travel after a year of uncertainty: Costa Rica called us back!

I think we can all say it has been a crazy, uncertain, stressful, and strange 18 months! The travel industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic. From cancellation of trips, lose of income, and the ongoing protocols that change daily. It has been stressful, sad, and a challenge to navigate travel for myself and my clients. I, like many, were ready for some normalcy….and I for one was ready for some adventure! It was time to get back in the saddle again, travel internationally, and sign some waivers!

My family and I discussed at great length where to go this summer, and just kept coming back to one of our favorite places, Costa Rica. It is like going home for us, but still always an adventure and it was exactly what we needed! We decided to return to some of favorite resorts and soak up the beauty, the nature, the culture, and the adventure!

After arriving into San Jose, we picked up our rental car and headed south to Manuel Antonio. It is about a 3 hour drive, but fairly easy along a nicely paved new road. We stopped at a fruit stand along the way, and for dinner to break up the drive. A stop in Tarcoles to stretch your legs is always fun too. There you can view the many crocodiles at the Tarcoles bridge! We arrived to our hotel, Arenas Del Mar in the evening and after a bit of unpacking, and a soak in our balcony hot tub, headed to bed.

This is one of our favorite hotels in the region, due to its lovely beach front location, with amazing views and tons of wildlife on property! They have a smaller beach with a great restaurant and then also access to the main public and very large Manuel Antonio beach! Breakfast is included and the food is wonderful! The property is set on a hill, and golf carts are readily available should you want to catch a ride to the restaurant, your room, or either of the beaches. The drivers are always so kind as to point out wildlife along the way as well!

We awoke to a lovely view and my daughter and I attended an early morning yoga session before having breakfast with the family at Cafe Milagro. This little cafe is one of our favorites in town! The food is always so wonderful and fresh and they have wonderful vegan options, which always makes me super happy! They have a great back patio, and you can often see monkeys and sometimes even sloths while dining!

We had a lovely day at the beach and rented surf boards and boogie boards and had some fun playing in the waves! This day happened to be my birthday and my activity of choice was a night hike! I arranged the night hike with the hotel and we met our guide in the lobby. It was about a 45 minute drive to the nature preserve called Rainmaker where we had our very exciting hike! http://www.rainmakercostarica.org/

After signing our waiver, because as you know by now, “It is not fun until you sign a waiver!”, we headed out into the jungle to spot some night time wildlife! It was great fun and very exciting to be out in the jungle at night hearing the frogs and other insects come to life. This particular preserve has several hanging bridges so it was extra fun to walk across the swaying and bouncing bridges at night! We did see many creatures of the night, including many frogs and insects and a couple of snakes. The highlight of the hike for us and our guide was spotting a beautiful Fer-de- Lance snake! It was very large and our guide was so excited to have spotted one for us! He said it was my birthday luck, and I agreed!

The following morning we drove south to Marino Ballena National Park near Uvita. This national park is a marine sanctuary for wildlife, namely the humpback whales that frequent here. The whales migrate to the region from August to November (heading north from Antarctica) and December to April (heading south from Alaska), each year. We had a boat tour scheduled in hopes we would perhaps see some early whales. We did not have luck on the whales, but we did have a nice ride and got to see some beautiful stretches of coastline. If possible, try to time your visit to the National Park, for low tide, then you can walk out to the end of the sandbar, known as the whales tale!

While in Manueal Antonio, I went to tour some local hotels while the girls slept in. Whenever I am traveling, I always try to tour hotels so I can best match my clients to the right resort or hotel for their needs! I toured Los Altos, which is in my Signature collection of hotels and resorts. I can offer added amenities for my guests that stay here. Click here for more information on this hotel:https://www.sigtn.com/s/4B2B . I also visited Jungle Vista, which is a quaint boutique property near by!

In the afternoon we headed out to play on the beach some more. The rain came in, which is fairly common this time of year, but did not deter our boogie boarding fun! We also walked down the beach and into town for some lunch.

The following day we packed up the car and headed back north towards the inland region of Arenal. We opted to stop for one night at Peace Lodge which is a wildlife and nature preserve, high in the mountains. This is such a unique hotel! Our room was large and rustic, with a lovely fireplace and the bathroom was just incredible! With an indoor waterfall for a shower and hot tub, it was something to behold! We walked the property and preserve with its many trails and waterfalls before heading to dinner. That evening we had a guided tour of the frog preserve on property. The frogs our captive, but they are part of biologic studies and breeding programs conducted by the country. It was great to be able to see them up close and personal and to learn about their behaviors from our guide.\

Next, we headed further north into the Arenal and La Fortuna area. The drive into this region is on a narrow winding road through the mountains, and while it does take some time, it is has some lovely views! You can take in the vistas and drive past fruit and coffee plantations! This area is a very popular place to visit with many activities readily available! The Arenal Volcano national park is here, where you can hike and take in the sites of the volcano. Due to the volcanic activity, there are several hot springs in the area, which are a must to soak in after an active day! Ziplining, rafting, horseback riding, and hiking are just some of the activities available in this area.

We stayed at one our favorite resorts in the area, Tabacon! More information found here:https://www.sigtn.com/s/5AC65 This hotel is part of my Signature collection of hotels and resorts, which means I have a special relationship with the hotel and can offer my clients added amenities! The hotel grounds are lush and lovely! The resort of course has the very famous and popular thermal hot springs that emerge directly from the volcano, cascading to form waterfalls, streams, tranquil pools and ponds, surrounded by lavish tropical gardens. Hotel guests get unlimited access to the gardens and hot springs! The resort also boasts a highly awarded spa that is a must! We enjoyed relaxing in the hot springs this afternoon and just enjoyed our time at this lovely and tropical resort!

My job as a travel advisor is matching clients to resorts! So, I took some time to tour a couple of other hotels in my Signature collection while in the region! Both Nayara Springs and Nayara Gardens are in this area and are additional properties I can offer my clients added amenities at! These two properties are set on 30 acres of lush gardens and rain forest and you will feel as if you are tucked away in your own little bungalow in the jungle! Many room categories offer private plunge pools from the deck. The newest addition to these properties are their tented camp style accommodations! These luxury tents reminded me of the safari tents in Africa and I loved them! Nayara Springs https://www.sigtn.com/s/39D is adults only and makes a lovely spot for honeymooners and romantic get-aways, while Nayara Gardens https://www.sigtn.com/s/0A0DD7D9 is family friendly! They offer several different restaurants with varying cuisines. We dined at Mis Amores and dinner was simply lovely!

Speaking of food, we stopped in for lunch at one of our favorite spots in La Fortuna, Red frog roasters! This cute little cafe has their own freshly roasted coffee and great fresh food. The people are incredibly welcoming! Give them a try when you are in town! https://redfrogcoffeeroaster.negocio.site/

It had been a few days since we had signed a waiver, so it was time! On our last full day, we headed over to Sky Trek for a bit more hiking and an incredible zip line experience! This zipline takes you high above the forest canopy with amazing views of Lake Arenal and the surrounding jungle. It is a must when in this region!

We ended the day with a trip to the awarding winning spa at Tabacon and some more time in the hot springs, before dinner at Tucanes at the hotel. It was a great way to finish off our trip! We headed back to San Jose for our late afternoon flight home and our 5th trip to the land of Pura Vida was in the books. We were, of course, discussing on our drive to the airport, when we would return again! We love the people, the nature, the wildlife, and all the activities that Costa Rica has to offer and will continue to return again and again! It really does feel like going home and it was so nice to be back!

To see some videos from this wonderful trip and the hotels visited, please visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/passportforadventure/videos/?ref=page_internal

Are you ready to explore Costa Rica? I would love to help you plan! I am a Signature Travel Network specialist for the country and it is one of my favorite destinations to plan!

Read more here about my designation as this destination specialist: https://signaturetravelexperts.com/agents/maci-cozart/

Let’s plan YOUR adventure to the land of Pura Vida! #passport4adventure

Come adventure WITH us, on an Uncruise of Glacier Bay National Park in June 2022!

I am so thrilled to announce we will be sailing on the Wilderness Discoverer on June 19, 2022 and we would love for you to join us! This will be a small ship sailing exploring Glacier Bay National Park and the surrounding area. We will be experiencing the wild and rugged beauty of Alaska and its wildlife in a UNrushed, UNcrowded, and Unbelieveable way! Won’t you join us?

We will be sailing round trip from Juneau. All of your daily excursions such as hiking, skiff rides, whale watching, kayaking, and even paddle boarding are included. Our intrepid guides are very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna you will be seeing, and will impart their knowledge as you are adventuring, as well as ensure your safety! While we are in the National Park, a Park ranger will also come aboard with us to educate us as well! This is the Alaska you do not see on the big ships!

Included highlights of the itinerary are:

• TWO full days in Glacier Bay National Park
• Tidewater glaciers: Margerie, Grand Pacific, and Twin Sawyer
• Explore the shores and fjords of Tongass National Forest and Tracy Arm
• Bushwhack and hike in old-growth forest and glacial outwash fields
• Whale watching in Frederick Sound
• Search for wildlife—bears, sea lions, seals, porpoises, eagles
• Birding at South Marble Island—puffins, oystercatchers, cormorants, and kittiwakes

Our home for the week, holds just 76 guests and 27 crew! Everyone starts to feel like family after only a day or two!

I have had the pleasure of sailing with Uncruise before in the Sea of Cortez and in the Galapagos, you can read more about those experiences via these links. Also there is a link about Alaska in general.

We would love to have you join us on this wonderful adventure! Right now you can reserve your cabin with only a $100 deposit, and will receive $600 off per cabin as well! Children under 18 receive and additional $500 off. Final payment is due 90 days prior to sailing, in March 2022!

For inquiries on how to join us, please send an email to me at Maci@passportforadventure.com! Let’s adventure together!

Ecuadorian Adventure: Part 3- The Galapagos Islands

The adventure continues!  After visiting Quito and the cloud forest at Mashpi Lodge , we continued on to The Galapagos Islands! These volcanic Islands, which are a National Park, are considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing! The islands are home to diverse plant and animal species, many found nowhere else!

We experienced the islands via a cruise onboard the  Yacht La Pinta.   It is a short flight from Quito or Guayaquil to the islands. Upon arrival into Baltra, we took a short bus ride, and we were wisked away by  water taxi to board the ship!

 

Expedition sailings are different from the main stream cruise lines in many ways!  To put it simply, size matters when it comes to cruising the Galapagos!  This small expedition style vessel holds just up to 48 guests!  This intimacy gives you the huge benefit of very small groups to explore the islands with! While not large, the ship does offer all the comforts of the larger ships, and an unparalleled level of personal service!

These sailing include twice daily excursions to explore the islands and water, and view the wildlife! Everything you need to fully immerse yourself in all the Galapagos has to offer  is included and onboard for your convenience: a Glass-bottom boat, kayaks, snorkeling equipment, and large and comfortable pangas to explore in!

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Upon boarding the boat and completing our life boat drill, we received our snorkel equipment to use for the duration of the cruise, and were treated to lunch!  Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style,and the food and options were wonderful!  Dinner is served a la carte, and you have your choice of several wonderful entrees.  Being a small vessel, you get to know everyone onboard very well, including the very attentive room stewards and wait staff.

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After lunch, we made an afternoon visit to South Plaza Island and met our naturalist guides for the first time.  There are several guides onboard, all of whom are a wealth of knowledge, and have a true love for this National Park and its animal and plant inhabitants!  They lead us on daily excursions, such as hikes, snorkeling, and panga rides, dispersing their knowledge along the way! Eddie was one of my favorites!  He was so enthusiastic!  He was just as happy to see those sea lions, birds, and turtles as all of the rest of us, and he had grown up on the islands!

That first evening we were introduced to the beautiful landscape of the islands and many of the different species of animals, we would come to know well over the next few days!  We visited during the dry season, and the lack of water had much of the vegetation turning beautiful rainbows of colors! Being our first taste of the islands, and coupled with a beautiful sunset, it was a magical introduction to the Galapagos!

Life onboard feels like home, as you get to know your crew and fellow travelers.  Each morning we were awoken to sounds of classical music and a short greeting from one of our intrepid guides, before a hearty breakfast and setting off on our first exploration of the day! Afternoons, were made for post lunch naps, and lovely moments at sea just relaxing, and watching the islands sail by, or frigate birds soar overhead. Upon returning from our afternoon activity each day, we were treated to snacks and happy hour on the deck.  It was such a fun and relaxing way to discuss the events of the day and share photos and stories!  Just before dinner there is a brief educational talk about what species you saw that day, or some interesting historical information on the islands.  The next day’s activities were then presented so that you could map out your day, and make choices on what you will want to partake in.  Most often if snorkeling was offered, then there was also an option for a glass bottom boat or panga ride, for those that did not want to swim, for instance.  On the days when hikes were offered, there were alternates as well, for those who could not or did not want to hike.  There is an activity available for everyone, no matter the age or fitness level!  Each evening is topped off with a lovely meal with new found friends onboard, where all discuss their sightings and adventures of the day!

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The wildlife encounters are really what the Galapagos are all about!  This is the reason people come!   The Galapagos are home to the “Big 15”, which include: Galapagos Albatross, Blue Footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Flightless Cormorant, American Flamingo,Frigate birds, Galapagos Hawk, Land Iguana, Marine Iguana, Santa Fe Land Iguana, Galapagos Penguin, Galapagos Sea Lion, Galapagos fur seal, and the Galapagos Giant Tortoise!   We managed to check 11 off the list! Some species can only be seen on the Western Islands, while others only on the Eastern, making it tough to see all 15 in one trip!

The animals, so secure in their safety within the National Park, are so unperturbed by human presence! It is awe inspiring to be so close to them! You do feel as though you have stepped into a National Geographic documentary!  One particular outing,  we happened upon a mother sea lion who had only just given birth to a pup!  We watched the two for a while, before exploring the island further.  Upon our return to the beach, we witnessed her leading the pup down to the water for the first time! Amazing!

 

The snorkeling was so much fun!  Swimming with the curious sea lions, colorful parrot fish, sharks, and the untroubled sea turtles, was definitely a highlight of the trip!

One aspect of this cruise that I was not expecting, I think because I was so focused on the wildlife, was the beaches!  They are so beautiful!  The long stretches of untouched and unspoiled sand with sea lions laid out like dozing dogs, were reason enough to visit, all on their own!

In short the Galapagos Islands were everything I thought they would be, and so much more!  It is a destination that will thrill nature and adventure seekers, intrigue the science lovers, and make the animal lovers heart skip a beat!  It is also a great destination for families!

There are several different itineraries to choose from, both in length and in destination.  You can choose from 4-10 night sailings, or combine itineraries, for back to back sailings to see more of the islands!   We can also craft a pre or post cruise stay on Santa Cruz island as well!  For those who do not have great “sea legs”, a stay at Finch Bay on Santa Cruz island will allow for great sights, while still sleeping on dry land!  There are so many options to choose from!  I would love to help  create the perfect Galapagos itinerary to fit your needs! Let’s plan an Adventure! Contact- Passport for Adventure

 

Ecuadorian Adventure: Part 2- Mashpi Lodge

As we continued on our Ecuadorian adventure,  we were next off to the cloud forest outside of Quito.  After just enjoying a wonderful tour of the big city of Quito, which you can read about here: Quito, we were looking forward to seeing some of the natural beauty this country had to offer.

We started our day early, as it is about a 3 hour drive from Quito to reach our next destination, Mashpi Lodge.  As you may know, from previous blog posts ( Eco-lodges: Where luxury and adventure meet!),  I love eco-lodges!  I have a special fondness for the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, especially! I was therefore, thrilled for this portion of our journey!  The three hour drive took us down in elevation, and through the countryside.  The road is winding, and the last hour or so of the trip, is a bit of a rough ride, so if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to take precautions. The drive is a beautiful one, through small towns and villages, and gives a glimpse of what daily life is like, outside of the big city.

Upon arrival after being greeted with a cool cloth and welcome beverage, we were invited to lunch!  All meals are included with your stay here at Mashpi Lodge.  The breakfast and lunch buffets were wonderful and varied, from very fresh salads, soups, all kinds of lovely dishes, and desserts! Dinner is served from a menu, that changes daily as well.  We then took a brief tour of the property and checked into our stylish and modern rooms!  All the rooms offer rain forest views, that allow  you to feel as though you are staying among the trees.

 

This afternoon we had our first outing of our stay.  We traded our tennis shoes in for a pair of rubber boots provided by the lodge, and started off on a trek to the Life center!  This was a easy hike through the forest, where our guides pointed out interesting flora and fauna along the way.  We stopped to listen to howler monkeys, and smell the plants, while enjoying the breeze on our faces.  Hiking in the rain forest is a treat for the senses!  Upon arrival to the life center, we were lucky to watch many varieties of birds, and mammals, and enjoy a stunning sunset!  The center also houses a butterfly breeding area and a wide variety of orchids, all found within the region.

Upon returning to the lodge, we were greeted by Carlos, who told us all about the many varied activities we had to choose from, for the following day.  This is where things got tough, for those of us who want to do it ALL!  They offer hikes of varying lengths and difficulty to waterfalls, a sky bike, the dragon fly (gondola ride) through the trees, and a hummingbird garden to name a few!

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These are some of the variety of activity options available to you!

We all chose our activities for the following day, one morning and one evening activity.  I was having a hard time choosing, and ended up combining a couple of tours, so I could do more!  I chose the cock of the rock hike, and added a stop at the glass frog waterfall, followed up by a ride on the Dragonfly Gondola for the morning, and the hummingbird garden for the afternoon activity.  The cock of the rock hike began at 3:30am!  We hiked for 2 hours in the dark, through mud and steep trails to reach our viewing point for the birds by day break.  It was an adventure for sure, and pretty strenuous, but totally worth it! After our early and long hike, and viewing many of the very brightly colored birds, we stopped off at the waterfall for a dip in the cool pool, and then a relaxing ride on the gondola.

I can not say enough about the knowledgeable guides here at Mashpi!  The lodge takes the job of educating their guests very seriously.  The guides are all fully trained on the different flora and fauna, as well as the cloud forest environment as a whole.  Just days before our visit a professor from a University in Quito had been to the lodge to teach a botany class to all the guides on property.  The lodge is also home to a full research facility, where students from around the world come to study the forest environment and its inhabitants.  A stay here is not only adventurous and fun, but educational as well!

After a relaxing lunch and afternoon, we went for an evening visit with the hummingbirds, before enjoying happy hour, a short night hike, and lovely dinner. Due to the small size of the lodge, just 22 rooms, and the fact that you partake in daily activities with other guests, we made several new friends.  One guest was a family, the young girl and her mother, had been our cock of the rock hike with us, and that evening the girl came over to share her stories of the rest of the day, and show us her photos.  This is a lovely added benefit of a stay here, getting to know the other guests and share this incredible experience with them! You really feel as though, you are all part of the Mashpi Family!

On our last morning at Mashpi, we enjoyed a ride on the sky bike, and short hike to one last waterfall, before bidding farewell to this incredible lodge!

 

Mashpi Lodge  is so incredibly unique and is perfect for adventurous nature lovers, families, couples, or those who really want to get away from it all! Set in a private reserve that is part rain forest and part cloud forest,  you can commune with nature, while still experiencing the highest standards of comfort, service, guiding, and cuisine.

To learn more about Mashpi and the exclusive benefits gained when reserving your stay with me, please visit: Mashpi Lodge

Let’s plan an adventure!

Maci@PassportforAdventure.com

Ecuadorian Adventure: Part 1-Quito

I recently returned from an exciting first  trip to South America.  For my first jaunt to our neighboring continent to the south, I visited Ecuador!  This journey  included  a stay in the capital city of Quito, a visit at an eco-lodge in the cloud forest, and an incredible cruise of the Galapagos Islands! A wanderlust inspiring adventure is a ahead in the next few blog posts, I hope you will enjoy the journey!

South America I think for some, feels like an exotic and far off place that is hard to get to, and perhaps the perception of travel here is a bit unfounded.   For visitors from the United States, getting to and touring Ecuador , in many ways, can be easier than visiting Europe! Here are a few of the basics for traveling to Ecuador.  Travel to the capital city of Quito can be accomplished with a quick (5 hour) flight from Atlanta, or even shorter flight from Miami.  Ecuador can make an easy first trip to South America as there is no currency exchange or conversion required!  Ecuador adopted the use of the American dollar some years ago. For the novice traveler, the lack of need to worry with currency exchange and conversion, is one less aspect of travel to be concerned with.   No visas are required for stays under 90 days. There are also no electrical adapters required! Your dollar will go far in this beautiful country as well, as food and entertainment are inexpensive.  An Ecuadorian adventure is closer and easier than you may have thought!

Upon arrival into Quito, the first thing you may notice is a bit of shortness in your breath!  Quito sits at an altitude of 9350 feet!  Do not plan a strenuous hike for your day of arrival, plan a day or two of easy touring, to allow yourself to acclimate to the altitude.  I arrived late in the evening and was transferred to my beautiful hotel in the heart of old town Quito, Casa Gangotena! This lovely boutique hotel,  is a restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco.  The hotel makes a wonderful starting point to wander and explore this beautiful Unesco World heritage city.

Follow the link to more information on this lovely property, and to see the exclusive amenities offered when reserving with me: Casa Gangotena

On our first full day we enjoyed a wonderful guided tour of the city,  with our knowledgeable friend Vanessa! We started the day by visiting the Virgin of Quito statue, and enjoyed an amazing view of the entire city, and the surrounding mountains and volcanoes!  Vanessa told us of the history of the winged Mary statue that stands guard over the city, as well as much about the geology and history of the city, dating back to the Spanish colonial era.  I highly recommend taking a guided tour, when visiting a new place!  Even a short half day tour, can give so much insight into the history of the city and sights you are visiting, and give more meaning to your visit!

 

Our guide then took us on a walking tour of old town, including stops at the “panama” hat store, by the Presidential Palace,  and through the Convento de San Fransisco (monastery), all the while providing knowledge and insight into the history and culture of the country.  Did you know, Panama hats are hand made in Ecuador, not Panama?  Quito is such a lovely, walking town!  There are many shops and vendors along the streets selling hats, sweet treats, and scarves.  The old town colonial district feels much like many cities in Europe.  It is a beautiful and safe place to just wander and soak up the atmosphere and culture.

We were then off to Mitad Del Mundo, the monument built just outside the city, celebrates the equator and lattitude 0..0..0!  This is a fun touristy place to visit, and includes some shops, and educational displays about the equator. Other options for day trips outside of the city would be, a ride up the TelefériQo gondola, or a visit to the handicraft marketplace in Otavalo!

After a “welcome to Ecuador” kiss by a llama, we were off  for a good nights rest at our lovely hotel.

 

Up next on the agenda and on my next blog post, a trip to the cloud forest and a stay at one of the National Geographic Unique lodges of the world, Mashpi Lodge!

Are you ready to plan your trip? I would love to help!  Let’s plan an adventure!

Visit us here: Passport for Adventure

 

 

 

The Great American Southwest: Adventures by Disney style!

The beautiful landscapes of the American Southwest conjure images of the old west. We think of John Wayne, cowboys on horse back,  and native American’s upon a hill.  The grand vistas, landscapes, and canyons are something everyone should see!   Many people when they make the trek to see the Grand Canyon and other National parks in Arizona and Utah, strike out in Clark Griswold style by piling the family into a station wagon, or more likely an SUV, and hit the road!   For anyone who has actually endeavored to cross the country in this fashion, you will know it is not always easy…as Clark Griswold himself found out!  There is boredom in the car, potential for car troubles, arguing over who is going to drive, and bickering over which route to take!  Inevitably there is one member of the family who wants to stop at every roadside marker and tourist trap, and one who is the die hard “not stopping til we get there” type. It is not always the most relaxing way to vacation!

What if there was a way to see it all, while leaving the driving,  itinerary planning,  and hassle behind?  Come along and share in our Adventures by Disney tour of Arizona and Utah, and see what it is like to take a guided tour of some of the most iconic locations in the southwest, stress free and in Disney style!

We started our Grand Adventure in Phoenix, where we were greeted by our two adventure guides.  Once our group was all accounted for, we boarded the bus and headed toward Sedona.  Along the way, our intrepid guides filled us in on the landscape we were seeing, the geology of the land, as well as some history of the native peoples. Their invaluable information is another benefit of traveling with a guide.  You will gain so much knowledge about the landscape, environment, and cultures you are traveling through, all while be entertained!  They also handed out candy, snacks, and water for the journey!  We made a quick pit stop, for a photo op with some Saguaro Cactus, before stopping at Montezuma’s Castle National Monument for a visit.

We arrived soon at our beautiful resort for the next couple of nights, and were treated to a welcome dinner, were we got a chance to learn more about our traveling companions, and hear from a Native American musician! We also received our first pin of the trip! Each day of the trip, Adventures by Disney will bestow a commemorative pin, as a keep sake of your day.

 

The following morning we were up early, for an optional sunrise hike.  What a great way to start the day!  We then were treated to a Pink Jeep tour and some free time to enjoy Sedona and our wonderful resort.  Enchantment resort offers pools, tennis, golf, spa, and miles of hiking trails!  A big concern with guided and group travel is lack of flexibility.  Adventures by Disney has done a great job with allowing free time as well as optional activities, so you can be as active…or inactive as you choose!

 

The next morning we bid adieu to Sedona and headed towards the Grand Canyon! We made a couple of stops along the way, in historic Williams Arizona, to get our kicks on route 66, and also at Bearizona! Bearizona is a wildlife park, with animals to view and even pet, or feed.  These stops along the way, help to keep kids and adults engaged and entertained! Long gone are the days of hours of being stuck in the car!

 

We arrived at Grand Canyon and checked into our Grand Canyon National Park lodging.   While our hotel was not “fancy”, it does have the best location around!  And you know what they say…”Location, location, location!”  We were right on the Canyons edge which allowed us sunset and sunrise walks with views that changed by the minute, with the passing sun!  We were honored with a wonderful performance by a Native American family, who sang, danced, and spoke to us about their culture.  It was truly a magical evening! Evenings such as these are the types of special inclusions that you just can not gain access to, when traveling independently!

 

The following morning we were off on a guided tour of the canyon, where we learned a great deal about how the canyon was formed and the history of the national park.  We then had the rest of the day free to explore, hike, rest, or shop!  We chose an evening hike to “ooh ahh point”!

Next we were off to Monument Valley!  We had a jeep tour through the monuments, where our Navajo guide told us all about the land, their culture, and the monuments!  We stayed at Goulding’s Lodge.  Goulding’s is a historic lodge, with a small museum.  It is the location where “Stage Coach” starring John Wayne was filmed!

The following morning we were up early to watch the sun rise over the monuments before heading north again to Moab!  We made another stop along the way for a photo op at “Forest Gump point”!

In Moab, we stayed again at a historic lodge, Red Cliffs Lodge.  This lodge sits on the edge of the Colorado River.  It is a historic ranch turned lodge, that offers horse back riding, rafting, and stunning views!  After lunch we set out to raft the Colorado River, and ended our day with a sunset horseback ride!  This lodge was truly special, you felt like you were coming home, to visit your family here!

On our last full day, we set out to see Arches National Park, and completed the hike to Delicate Arch!  After lunch in town,  there was optional free time to relax a the resort, tour the winery on site, or you could choose to go on a UTV ride!  The UTV ride was not part of the official itinerary and had an additional fee.  It was a thrill to ride through this beautiful landscape, and get a bit dirty!   This evening we celebrated with a farewell dinner with the group, and were serenaded by a cowboy while eating s’mores by the camp fire.  It was a wonderful way to cap off our adventure!

The following morning we made the quick drive to Grand Junction Colorado, and said good bye to our group, that had by now, all become friends!  Often when clients return from a guided tour such as this, the thing they comment most on, is the friendships and connections they have made with their traveling companions!  Travel is an amazing way to bond, not only with your family and loved ones, but new friends you meet along the way!

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Are you considering an Adventures by Disney tour of this or another destination?  I would love to help you pick the right itinerary and answer your questions!

Let’s plan an adventure! #passport4adventure  Passport for Adventure