CoolCruiseLuxury is relative when you are traveling north of the Arctic Circle. The expeditions of yore are full of accounts of frostbite, starvation and misery. Not so these days, if you are a passenger on Poseidon Expeditions. Great food, comfy suites, and knowledgeable guides let you explore safely and warmly.

Poseidon folks are polar pros and can luxe-transport you to the magnetic north pole with a world class icebreaker or cruise you toward the south pole to the land of penguins

Here’s a piece I wrote and photographed for the beautiful Canadian World Traveller magazine about learning to kayak among the icebergs of Greenland and Iceland by day, and enjoying the riches of the Northern Lights by night.

The Arctic is best in the warmer months of North America, and Antarctica travel in the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are opposite, is best during the colder weeks in North America. Book ahead for savings, and look forward extraordinary beauty.

A year ago today, Lisa and I celebrated our anniversary with a luxurious stay-cation at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. As the hotel and restaurant staffs pampered us in our perch atop the tallest building west of the Mississippi, the pulsing energy of the city served to rejuvenate us, as we reminisced about the day we wed.

This year, we have something a bit grander in mind: two weeks in Egypt. We leave soon for a week in Cairo and a New Years luxury cruise down the Nile, from Luxor to Aswan, with Mayfair Cruises. It will be our first time with them, and we are looking forward to having some wonderful stories to tell.

In Isafjordur, Iceland, our local walking tour guide, Lizbet, is full of good humor, and good information.

Lisbet has five children, runs a construction company, studied theology and helps with local church services, helps with the town art project to replace graffiti with murals, and after our tour, was going to contribute her research at an international conference to discuss how to end multicultural domestic violence.21752068_10213662794274798_2659682898999467356_n

She is part of a colorful story of a traditional fishing village transformed, thanks in large part to the Icelandic government sponsoring education for people of all ages — and both genders!

“I can’t believe we are so lucky to have a local guide,” intoned one of my fellow Poseidon Expedition passengers. She had just told us about her 89-year-old grandfather that went from being a fisherman to an inventor working for NASA. (When he is cutting local lads hair, he lives above the shop.) She also pointed out where the first woman minister lives and where a local midwife was so good that, for decades, people came from other countries to this fjord.

More to tell and show (it’s picturesque) but they pulled up anchor and I don’t know when we will have internet again so here goes. If you read this, I was lucky – on the tour and after!  More to come when I can!

Forget about armies marching on their stomachs.* Travelers marvel with their stomachs (or quiver).

In Iceland reflections on nature are everywhere.

In Iceland reflections on nature are everywhere.

The first culinary morning of my Arctic journey with Poseidon Expeditions begins at the Hotel Grand Reykjavik, where even the manmade reflects the natural. The buffet breakfast includes international diversity and Icelandic favorites, with multiple flavors of Skyr yogurt .

A pot of miso soup, with bowls of seaweed and tofu to sprinkle in, sits next to a pot of porridge with brown sugar for flavoring. But best of all, next to that are shot glasses and a bottle of cod liver oil with lemon slices for a citric twist. An Icelandic health ritual.

Bottoms up as we head toward the Top of the World!

Our port for departure is in the capital of this land of “Ice and Fire” — more than 100 volcanoes and even more waterfalls. The country is fueled completely by renewable energy sources — wind, water, and geothermal power unite! Travelers, too, can be renewed by the wonders of nature in the wild and in the city.

My reflections go to my last time here, with sunny days and the Wild Nights of Iceland, but also look forward to what I hope will be nocturnal reflections of Northern Lights in the waters of northern Iceland, across the Arctic Circle and into the fjord system of Eastern Greenland.

Who knows what the electromagnetic energies of dancing lights can renew?

And who knows what food marvels lie ahead?

Sometimes filling in the blanks is fun!

As I sit in this lovely hotel waiting for transport to the M/V Sea Spirit, I have filled in some blanks, but I look forward to filling in even more blanks, skies, and plates ahead!

outdoorsSo far 2017 has been the year of N travel for me—Nature to the nth degree, from the sky darkened by massive groups of birds to the sky returning to light after a rare solar eclipse, and from miles of vibrant flowers to the upcoming journey to seek Northern lights and Narwals …

I headed to Nebraska for the birds and felt privileged to see hundreds of thousands of cranes seek rest in the Platte River as a stop-over in the Great Migration of the North American Fly Away.

The Netherlands in the Spring bloomed abundantly with tulip glory! A childhood friend and I took a barge through the canals with European Waterways and enjoyed “Tulips and Windmills with Panache”.

My husband Victor and I flew to Nashville, hoping for almost two minutes of the “Totality Awesome” Solar Eclipse, August 21. I have enjoyed upbeat Nashville before and knew that if the eclipse got eclipsed by clouds, we could still have a syncopated time in Music City, as chronicled in “Ringing in Nashville.”  Fortunately we were able to enjoy music and, after some drama with teasing clouds– a full and fulfilling Solar eclipse

Victor wrote “Nashville Hosts the End of the World” for the Huffington Post and used my photos.  Fortunately, the world did not end; the sun returned spectacularly from the moon’s shadow – so there is a lot more to explore.

I leave this Saturday to seek the Northern Lights and Narwals! If all goes well, I will board the Sea Spirit in the capital of Iceland — a country enchanted with waterfalls, hot springs, puffins, and more : “Wild Nights Iceland” won a NATJA award for Best Illustrated article.

From Iceland, we will head north of the Arctic Circle on a Poseidon Expedition to Greenland to explore the largest and longest fjord system in the world. I hope to be enthralled by the Northern Lights again. It’s been seven years since I shivered with awe and cold and produced a video of the dancing lights set to some Gershwin as part of
Hunting the Northern Lights” for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC INTELLIGENT TRAVEL.

This time I hope to see Nature’s great light show upward and reflected in Arctic waters with icebergs for exclamation marks!

Please stay tuned for more Nature ahead!

And if you want to record your own Nature adventures, you can pick up a copy of The Great Outdoors: Nature’s Bucket List or My Adventures: a Travel Journal, and add to the projects I was fortunate to create for Quartos Publishing.LTM bird THANKSIMG_7830 copy copy

Want to go cruising in an American convertible in Cuba? Take a look at Havana from a ’52 Buick for a minute or two (or six or eight). It’s a video road trip!
See how one Havana neighborhood turned a water tank into an art studio, transformed trashed walls into treasured murals, and helped a five-year-old dance to the Cuban beat.
Learn how firefighters who died in duty are given the highest honor- nothing human-built can be taller than their Memorial at the renowned Christopher Columbus Cemetery.
Last Spring, FATHOM became the first cruiseline in over 50 years to provide cruises trips from the US to Cuba.  Victor and I hopped onboard the Adonia in Miami, Florida for one of her early journey’s to the ports of  Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba. Victor put together some mini-movies so you can enjoy a quick trip

Toot Toot. The sound of the train rounding the rails. The horn of a pedi-cab in Quitos or Penang. An author announcing a book coming out! On pre-order now and in stores soon, MY ADVENTURES: A Traveler’s Journey is part muse, part journal. The co-author is the traveler who wants to chronicle his or her adventures.

What chapters do you want to write in the New Year?

You can be the co-author

You can be the co-author

Both mother and father penguins feed the chicks- one of the great memories of a Hurtigruten cruise to Antarctica, (c) Lisa TE Sonne

Both mother and father penguins feed the chicks- one of the great memories of a Hurtigruten cruise to Antarctica, (c) Lisa TE Sonne

Are you ready for Antarctica? Now is the time to book your excursion to the “White Continent” where all the time zones converge and penguins play. With some advance planning now,  you can have  a “Summer” this Winter that includes gorgeous glaciers, leopard seals, and international research centers.

Winter in the northern hemisphere is Summer at the South Pole,  so your January at “the bottom of the world” may be warmer than in the Northeast of the US —- and you may see a chick being fed (by mother or father,) then go take a jacuzzi onboard Hurtigruten’s FRAM.

Check out the latest bargains and savings on the Hurtigruten cruise line.  Norwegians have a rich heritage of great polar exploration, and can share the wonders with those who sign up.

“Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” John Muir (C) Sonne

 

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”  John Muir

If you are craving portals to beauty, the Magnificent Mountain Loop (MML) of three California National Parks offers travelers uncountable “doors.” In one trip you can enjoy the tree giants of Sequoia National Park, the adjoining wonders of Kings Canyon National Park and the iconic delights of Yosemite.

This year, Yosemite shares the riches of nature and history with a 150th anniversary. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant 150 years ago, creating “the first protected wild land for all time” and the “first state park in the world” according to the National Parks website.

Below are some quotes by past famous Yosemite visitors Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and President Teddy Roosevelt to inspire your own visit. There are also some tips to add luxury to your travel.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir

 

 

EMERSON & MUIR TRANSCEND

According to the National Parks Services website: “In 1871, John Muir, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet, and Transcendentalist visited the Mariposa Grove of trees in Yosemite and Muir said to Emerson in the grove: ‘You are yourself a sequoia. Stop and get acquainted with your big brethren.’ ”

Emerson called Muir a “new kind of Thoreau” who gazed at sequoias of the Sierra instead of scrub oaks of Concord.”

Grandeurs of granite walls in Yosemite.

In Yosemite, Grandeur of these mountains perhaps unmatched on the Globe; for here they strip themselves like Athletes for exhibition, & stand perpendicular granite walls, showing their entire height, & wearing a liberty cap of snow on their head.” From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Journal.

PRESIDENTIAL AGAIN

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt requested to meet with Muir in Yosemite, and Muir encouraged him to sleep under the stars- a night that led the protected area to be expanded and transformed into a National Park.

It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”- Roosevelt

Sleeping under the stars like Muir and Roosevelt may be the richest way to enjoy the nature of the park 24/7, but if you are looking for more pampering nurture in your visit, the Tenaya Lodge offers lovely luxury rooms, concierge services, the Embers restaurant and the Ascent Spa with signature organic treatments. The Ahwahnee Lodge’s legacy dining room is worth at least one memorable meal.  Yosemite Lodge inside the Park affords window views of the Yosemite Falls, and great access to the park’s sites, trails and shuttle system.

 

Yosemite Riches- your outdoor museum. Sonne

Tenaya Lodge, Fish Camp, near Yosemite

 Yosemite Lodge at the Falls,

Wuksachi Lodge, Sequoia National Park

John Muir Lodge, Kings Canyon National Park

For those that want to celebrate the resiliency of nature with some personal rushes, OARS is now offering river rafting in the Tuolome River.  (I haven’t yet tried their river trips but hear good things.)

It’s the images of Ansel Adams that have put Yosemite in people’s imaginations for decades, but his words are also an inspiration for how to enjoy Yosemite:   “Life is your art. An open, aware heart is your camera. A oneness with your world is your film. Your bright eyes and easy smile is your museum.

                                     -Photos and text by Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens

One definition of  romantic is “an idealized version of reality.”  The same could be said of top luxury travel.  The chocolates are left on your plush pillow or baked fresh to your liking by a genius chef. Your flowers are abundant fields seen from your privately chauffeured touring car or canvases of Monet seen up close,  or  fresh arrangements delivered to your elegant suite. Your bubble baths are in marble tubs with views and aromatherapy you choose. People want you to be happy.

Romantic travel gifts can be shared experiences of inestimable value per your own values and idealized vision– from observing penguins hatch, or a family of elephants while on safari, to private showings at a jewelry store; from going to remote places to witness ceremonies rarely seen, to securing luxury booth seats behind home plate or in the royal box at a ballet.

Papua New Guinea, Sepik Spirit Boat journey

Your idea of  “idealized reality” may be visiting thriving, healthy environments with vibrant flora and fauna, and indigenous cultures preserving their ways and well-being without global franchises and homogenization.

Arguably, for today’s first-world cultures, sleeping in a five-star hotel and sleeping under a canopy of luminous, infinite stars– are each romantic and are each luxuries.

 The privilege of access can be the key to luxury travel– access to people, places, and experiences. For some travelers that access must be coupled with comfort and expense to be “luxury” — comforts like the bed at the Pierre Hotel in New York (with a Broadway show and fireflies in Central Park) or the butler drawing a bubble bath at Le Blanc in Cancun (after snorkeling with whale sharks) or lunch at the French Laundry in Napa (as a way to enjoy time with dear friends). For others, like astronauts in space or James Cameron heading to the deepest trench in the ocean, unique  “access” may be very expensive, but not at all comfortable.

Point Dume Beach, Malibu (c) Sonne

Sometimes access has little to do with comfort or expense; it is good fortune. I’ve traveled all seven continents and continue to explore in order to share the beauties of the planet– the romantic of the human and natural.  But of course, moments of “wow” and “thanks!” don’t require passports or first class seats; they can be in our own backyard. At a public beach about 20 minutes from my home, I saw a dolphin body surfing a wave. At a lake five minutes from my home, herons,cranes and egrets perform balletic moves whether anybody is watching or not.

Shoes outside a blue tiled mosque in Istanbul,

The magic of the mundane– the extra- ordinary– that sunrise that makes you swell with a sense of divine grace, the arc of the Milky Way that embraces you from afar, a song bird greeting the day with notes that make a tuning fork inside of you hum– these experiences are free, but can feel luxurious.

Romantic travel can be  sharing the Ahhs of Awe. Seeing the synchronous fireflies in Malaysia was a brighter experience for being with my husband. Walking on the Great wall of China was warmer with him despite the winter’s subfreezing wind chill. Seeing the mosques of Istanbul with a childhood friend magnified the memories.  Even an evening stroll at home, may reveal a cloudscape worth watching.

Romantic travel can also be helping others- trying to make “the idealized version of reality” replace meaner versions. Is that taking your love to  the Luxembourg Gardens in Spring surrounded by flowers, or helping build a school  in a far-flung outpost for you love of humanity?

It is a luxury to travel at all– to have the health, the time, the means, and the freedom from other constraints and responsibilities. Sometimes that travel propels us great distances out into the world. And sometimes that travel comes from inside, sitting still where we are,  taking time to awaken our senses- to smell, see, taste, hear, and feel.

Long Beach, California, a winter sunset

To be present can be a luxurious gift.

***

What is luxury travel for you? What is romantic travel?

-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens