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

 

 

 

 

Antarctica, Hurtigruten Cruise (C) Sonne

Start of para-sailing, Caribbean coast, Cancun, Mexico (C)Sonne

Dream. Go. Discover. Explore. Set your sails.

Take a leap. Sit still somewhere new. Meet yourself.

Add kindness in different time zones. Share beauty. Create laughter.

Spark an idea. Illuminate.

Whether you want to explore all seven continents or experience  your own neighborhood better, here are some inspiring travel quotes, and some images from my travels.

“Make voyages! Attempt them-there’s nothing else.”

– Tennessee Williams

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ”

– often attributed to Mark Twain

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

Bilbao Museum, Basque Country, Spain, (c) Sonne

 

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ”
St. Augustine 

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” –Mohammed

Zip-lining, Nicaragua, Austin Lehman Adventures, (c) Sonne

 

 

 

 

“Adventure is worthwhile.”

– Aristotle

 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

-Helen Keller

 

” Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself.” –

-Walt Whitman

World’s largest Hot Air Balloon Festival, Albuquerque, New Mexico (c)Sonne

 

 

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”

— Martin Buber

 

“Three things restore a person’s good spirits: beautiful sounds, sights, and smells.”

-Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot

 

 

 

 

Moroccan Woman in the Atlas Mountains of Africa, Access Travels trip (c)Sonne

“All life is travel through time and space. Think outside the cube.”
-Lisa TE Sonne

 

 

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”

– Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

Buddhist, Himalayas, Royal Kingdom of Bhutan, Asia (c)Sonne

 

 

“Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.”

— Dr. Howard Gardner

 

“Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves”

– Euripides

 

“When travelling, kindness can be  the greatest gift, and dearest souvenir.” -Lisa TE Sonne

 

 

 

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”        -Anna Quindlen

Lady Astor, Queen Victoria, Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin, Lawrence of Arabia, Kipling, Henry James, Henry Ford, Churchill all walked the grounds and halls before Cliveden House in England became a five star hotel to top the lifestyles of Downton Abbey (c) Sonne.

Maasai walking in Kenya, Africa (c)Sonne

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”

– Bill Bryson

Parenting chinstrap penguin,sitting on an egg and a chick  below:

 

 

 

 

 

“I  like animals. I like natural history. The travel bit is not the important bit. The travel bit is what you have to do in order to go and look at animals.”

– David Attenborough

 

 

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”                                             – Marcel Proust

After traveling on all seven continents, I saw this dolphin wave surfing at the Pacific beach fifteen minutes from my home. (c)Sonne

 

“To move, to breath, to fly, to float…to travel is to live.”  -Hans Christian Andersen.

Sonne and a polka-dotted whale shark by Danny Heilprin

-Lisa TE Sonne, excerpts for Luxury Travel Mavens

@ExploreTraveler

(c) Lisa TE Sonne, Selects from a book she is working on

All above photos by Lisa TE Sonne. Please contact her for permission to use. Lisa@Sonne.org

Please add your own inspiration and any travel/ exploration quotes you want to share in the comments section below or email them. Thanks!

 

 

 

The Pierre, a Taj Hotel, seen from Central Park in New York

How would you make a stellar hotel like The Pierre even better? Would you like someone to fill your hotel suite in advance with your favorite flowers, books, foods, beverages and pillows?  Would you like to walk into “your” rooms and be greeted with your choice music and scents, and a butler standing by to unpack for you?    Maybe he could also draw a royal bath for you with herbs, spices and oils to ease away the trials and tensions of travel.

Welcome to the “Taj Royal Attache Services” offered at The Pierre, a Taj Hotel in New York.   The services seem aimed at making guests feel like Raj at the Taj in imperial days of India as well as harkening back to the founding of the legacy luxury hotel on the SE corner of Central Park.

Historic Luxury

Some gems from a history provided by the historic hotel include:

Taj Tea Service in your Suite

*“The new Hotel Pierre is a millionaires’ Elysium, and it really is very beautiful,” declared The New Yorker in an August, 23, 1930 preview piece appearing under the byline “Penthouse

*Founder Charles Pierre wanted his elegant sanctuary “to create the atmosphere of a private club or residence instead of that characteristic of the average hotel. Every convenience will be incorporated into its design and construction.”

*“To serve its socially prominent clientele, the hotel was introducing two new features to the hospitality industry: a secretariat, whose staff members would perform for guests all the duties of a private social secretary, and a committee of chaperones, “companions of unimpeachable character and social recognition for the entertainment of younger persons who visit New York alone.”

Times have changed since the hotel’s early days and chaperones no longer seem a desired service, but maybe you do want someone to take care of theater tickets, sew on a button, and arrange for morning tea service in your suite. The Royal Taj Attache service provides a kind of personal butler-concierage-staff for Pierre guests who book one of the lavish suites and would like some one-on-one service. If you check in to the John Paul Getty suite with multiple rooms of elegance and original art,  and a sweeping terrace with topiary, a well-heeled, well versed Taj attache can add luxurious service.

At the Pierre, a Taj Hotel, you can go to the spa or have the Royal Taj Attache spring some of the spa to you

Your attache can help you best enjoy the great city of New York outside your windows, or let you luxuriate with-in the hotel- whether arranging a candlelight dinner en-suite, a memorable spa treatment,  or making arrangements for you to enjoy a private art tour in the hotel which harbors thousands of pieces.

And then when it’s time to go home, you have someone to pack your bags for you-with tissues between freshly pressed pieces.

“Location, location, location” is combined with “luxury, luxury, luxury.”

 ******

 

For additional Luxury Travel Maven reading:

My husband and I enjoyed a Honeymoon weekend at the Pierre

Enjoying Butler service at Le Blanc

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photographs provided by   The Pierre, a Taj Resort

What are your favorite “Extra Luxury” experiences when traveling?

The Zen of Ziplining with Dan Austin, founder of Austin-Lehman Adventure now Austin Adventures

Dan Austin, founder of Austin Adventures, not only walks his talk.  He ziplines it, kayaks it, and  ash-boards it. He makes the world his office and playground, as he aims for each AA adventure travel vacation to be “incredibly fun and deeply memorable”, (part of the company’s mission statement.) Not an easy feat, with 80 programs “evolving” in the Americas, Africa and Europe, but his family- run company keeps getting top awards and high praise.

 He credits his family, AA team and the hand-picked local guides. It’s also clear, he is all-around hands-on (both paddles and plans,) and is comfortable with a variety of Boards ( executives and sports.) He even ash-boarded down a young volcano with fellow travelers and me on AA’s inaugural trip to Nicaragua-

Dan Austin stays plugged in (with camera, smart phone and smiles) so guests can stay unplugged if they want.

enjoying the field research with his wonderful enthusiasm and observant eye.     He  slipped in some texting to his family and AA team  between zipline stations in  jungle canopy, from a kayak, and between courses to help keep things “fun and memorable” on this trip and dozens of others.

How do you define “adventure travel “?

Austin: “That is a tough question Lisa, Adventure Travel can be anything from climbing Everest to a walk in your local dog park.  It really comes down to what it means to the individual (or company in our case).  To AA it simply means staying active and exploring a bit more off the beaten path in each and every region we visit.  Definitely not a “typical bus tour.”

Family adventure travel by an award-winning, family-run company

“As you experienced in our recent trip to Nicaragua, we tried to balance seeing the country and cultural activities, with a bit more calorie burning modes of transportation like kayaks or hiking along with some heart pounding activities like ash boarding off a volcano.  Key is knowing what adventure is to you and making sure your goals and ideas are in line with your fellow travelers or an outfitter if you so choose. Also key to trust you always have options and that everything is introduced in a way that is as good for a novice as a veteran.”

 Why did you found your company?

Austin: “Now that is a bit of an adventure on its own.  I had a bit of experience in the industry back in the late 70’s.  I was a passionate rafter and thought it would be great to get people to pay to join me. Then some 25 years later my wife talked me into joining an “adventure vacation” to the Tetons with what was then Backcountry Tours.  I reluctantly agreed. I mean I was one of those macho do it yourself guys that looked at group travel, led by a couple of young guides as it had to be painful.

LTM Adventure Travel

River Rafting continues to be part of the Austin story. Rafting the Yellowstone River on ALA’s Montana Adventure. Photo Credit: Austin-Lehman

“Boy was I wrong!  It took all of the first day for me to realize this was my first true vacation.  Everything from someone else fixing the flat on my bike, to deciding where we would eat or what trail we would hike.  That and they carried by bags to our room and were a wealth of non-stop energy and learning’s.  After that week, a group of us approached the owners and ended up buying the company.  That was back in 1995, I have had no regrets since!”

 What are some of your most popular trips over the years and what is your rate of customer return?

The lower falls of Yellowstone River, a popular Austin adventure destination. Photo courtesy of Austin-Lehman.

Austin: “Yellowstone continues to be our #1 selling trip as it has for decades!  It is simply sensory overload and offers something for everyone. From the rich history (our country’s first National Park), to its spectacular geography (a giant caldera and more geo thermal features then the rest of the world combined) and of course the wildlife!  But that is just one of many tried and true favorites.

“Year after year Alaska continues to shine, as do the Canadian Rockies.  In Europe, Holland, Germany and Italy are always at the top of the list. Heading south, Costa Rica is our #2 selling program overall, with Peru and the Galapagos not far behind.  In Africa, my favorite and that of many of our guests, has to be Namibia, with South Africa a close second.

“About 70% of our guests are either repeat travelers or direct referrals from repeats.  One of our favorite alumni couples Chuck and Judy will be taking their 52nd and 53rd trips this year. In fact they will be repeating a trip the first trip they ever did to the Loire Valley, led by our Europe Operations Manager Ron van Dijk who was their guide on that trip so many years ago.”

Do you have anything particularly exciting coming up that you want to share?

Austin:We are always “cooking” up new trips.  We just finished putting the final touches on a new Inca Trail Luxury Camping program (Glamping)  combining hiking the Inca Trail with over- the-top services and amenities like massages and down comforters. We also are just finishing up a new Montana Based Best of the West family program.  Best bet is to sign up for our E-News letter and or catalog, of course that and Facebook. We are always communicating what we are up to.

 How can your company tailor things to be more luxurious if the client wants? Can you give some examples of things your company has done along those lines?

Sweet Adventure Travel, photo from Austin-Lehman

Austin:” Now that is clearly the fun part of the business!  About 25% of our guests choose “custom or exclusive” adventures.  Fact is if you can dream it, we can create it.  I love sharing these stories.

“There was the guest that had a vision of his wife standing knee deep in the surf off the coast of Kauai on her 60th birthday, cocktail in hand, Hawaiian trip playing as the sun set, topped off with rose petals falling from the sky!  Or the grandparents that wanted to treat their six- year-old twin grandsons to five National Parks in six days by private jet!  Then there are a lot more conventional adventures where a multi-generational family just want to get together for an adventurous family reunion.

Would you say you have a “family company”? What difference does that make?

Family Adventure: Austin guests hike up Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada. Photo Credit: Austin-Lehma

Austin: “You bet I would or could say that. We are family owned and operated.   But I actually think the readers –and our guests– said it better when they awarded us the #1 Family Tour Operator in the world recognition in 2012! And  #2 overall !  It just helps that we know families!

“My kids grew up in the business as my crash test dummies (just kidding.)  We have always put a focus on doing family adventures right, not just calling an adult program “family” to sell more spots.  They are truly built for families, by families.  Here is a link to a fun webinar we did just to learn more from kids as to what kids wanted out of a family vacation.

 How would you define “Sustainable” or “Green,”  “Eco-travel?”  How important is it to your company?  Can you give examples of how you implement/ integrate it?

Austin: “Another great question and like the question on defining adventure travel, its all about what it means to you. I like to look at it in its simplest form.  The triple

In the middle of the hike, guide extraordinaire Julio Flores surprises everyone with Nicaraguan pastries. Ken sets a good example.

bottom line:

  • People
  • Planet
  • Profits

“All working together.  Another helpful definition is that of Sustainability: “ The ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their needs.

“We look to work with hotels and restaurants that follow these beliefs.  Is the produce local or flown in?  Do they practice recycling? Conservation?  But also things like hiring locals (starting with our guides).  Are they giving back to the communities they reside?

“One of our more significant programs that we are exceptionally proud of is our own nonprofit Wheels of Change.

Also check out www.austinadventures.com  for more.

What kind of awards have you gotten? What moments are you most proud of?

Austin: “We truly have been blessed in this arena. As I mentioned Travel and Leisure recognized us as the #1 Family Travel company in 2012 (beating out companies with names like “Disney”, that same year we were ranked #2 overall.  We have finished in the top 3 since we were first announced as #1 overall Tour and Safari operator in 2009.  But that is really just a start.

Austin-Lehman Awards

“National Geographic Adventurer listed us as one of the top companies in the World, several times as well as recognizing specific trips in the top trips category, year after year.  Outside Magazine gave our Cuba program the 2012 Hall of Fame award and so much more.  You can see more. You asked what award am I most proud of.. that has to be the Global Vision Award for our efforts with our bike program Wheels of Change.”

What else should potential travelers know about Austin Adventures for luxurious, adventure travel?

Austin: “I think it is not so much Austin Lehman –although we would love all your readers to join us– it is just travel itself.  As I recently penned for an email broadcast, travel is good for the soul!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, photo thanks to Austin-Lehman

“I think Mark Twain said it best ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  

“You can of course start with our website  or on Facebook.  I also just encourage all to just call or email.  1-800-575-1540 or even better yet.  email me direct at dan@austinlehman.com  Yes, you will get a personal response.

“We are all eager to talk about travel and adventure anytime!  And if we don’t go where you want, we probably know who does and does it well, and are just thrilled to help you on your way!”

by Sonne

Dan Austin in the largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua

(c)Lisa TE Sonne,  Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos by Lisa TE Sonne, unless credited to Austin-Lehman or Austin Adventures

Stay tuned for more Q & A with Dan Austin about how to Design an Adventure trip and for more on ALA’s innovative travel philanthropy

What do you think “Adventure Travel” is? Do you have Austin-Lehman trip stories to share in the comments below? Here’s my Luxury Travel Maven story and photos of the Austin Adventures Trip to Nicaragua

 

Anytime can be a good time to think about our love for this planet we so passionately like to travel on and explore.  As Valentine’s Day approaches, are there Luxury Green Travel gift trips that provide tlc (tender loving care) for the planet and the traveler?  How can we  visit places and not harm the cultures and nature we seek? Machu Pichu, Patagonia, Kenyan safaris, Belize….

The main room at Toka Leya Camp, a recommendation for Green Luxury Travel from Greenloons

To learn more about how trips might be both  “luxury travel” and “sustainable travel” and how they could count as Valentines for us and the people and places we touch, I  contacted Irene Lane founder of Greenloons.

She  describes her company: “Greenloons is the only web platform that connects mindful travelers with unique, meaningful and eco-certified travel experiences all over the world.”

Please check out her tips and five top trips, and share your own tips and trips in the Comments section to add your own “Valentines” to the earth (in what I will call “Thoughtful Luxury Travel”  as we continue to explore what “green,”  “sustainable” and “eco” and “luxury” mean.)

Why do you think it is important that we be responsible, thoughtful loving travelers?

 Lane: “Genuine green travel that incorporates the values of social empowerment, economic viability and environmental responsibility can help travelers have more meaningful journeys and enable communities to achieve on their own where charities and international loans do not.”

How can luxury travel HELP not HURT?

Lane: “When done properly, luxury travel has the power to help communities AND help create unique travel experiences that benefit visitors.  A luxury property that is built using locally-sourced sustainable materials, that links its natural resource capital such as landmarks, ecosystems and wildlife with financial capital, and that is locally managed/owned can help communities by increasing their standards of living, their collective pride and their likelihood for preserving their surrounding ecosystems for generations.  The resulting experiences can provide visitors with opportunities for authentic cultural immersion as well as enlightening history, vistas, architecture and art.”

What are some of your top trips that you recommend that are both “luxury” and “sustainable”?  Lane’s written answers are quoted below:

Salkantay Lodge in Peru, Photo courtesy of Mountain Lodges of Peru, Provided by Greenloons

South America: Machu Picchu Trekking & Lodging Experience

“It is a seven day program and the only lodge-to-lodge trek to Machu Picchu. Adventurers trek among four mountain lodges from the Salkantay Peak of the Peruvian Andes to Machu Picchu.

“These four premier mountain lodges, stretching from the Salkantay Peak of the Peruvian Andes to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu, are committed to providing exciting travel experiences for their guests in a safe, eco-friendly and socially responsible manner. There are three unique adventure experiences available to visitors including a lodge-to-lodge trek, an equestrian program and a Peruvian immersion experience.  Each adventure provides fun and interesting ways to enjoy the nature, culture and history of Peru while supporting local people and communities. The per person rate is $2,690 including accommodations, meals, luggage transport, activities and guide.”

Irene Lane traveling green

The LuxuryAll four mountain lodges, which are only used by trekking guests, have been designed and built in accordance with traditional building techniques, Inca architectural & mythological concepts, and respect for the surrounding environment. The lodges have private double, twin or triple rooms with private bathroom facilities (with hot water), outdoor Jacuzzis and saunas as well as personalized services such as professional massage.  Gourmet meals, fine wine and seamless transport of your personal belongings by pack horses/mules round out the experience.”

Central America a la Alexandra Cousteau Expedition

Central America: Alexandra Cousteau Expedition offers eight days in the footsteps of Explorer Alexandra Cousteau, experiencing Belize as she did when she was gathering information for “Expedition Blue Planet: Belize”, a documentary to raise awareness about Belize’s crucial water issues. Travelers will learn about the conservation work for endangered Scarlet Macaws, Maya Mountain Massif, Jaguars, Pumas, Ocelots and Raptors. The per person rate is $3,015 including internal air transport, accommodations, meals, activities, and guides.”

 The Luxury: “The small resort of Blancaneux Lodge is a haven of relaxation and tranquility. Offering concierge, ‘private dining’ experiences as well as full dining services, the lodge is also a center of wildlife exploration, cultural interaction and discovery.  The enchanted cottage at the lodge affords panoramic views of the Privassion Creek, surrounding valley and waterfalls all unfolding beyond the infinity pool. Luxury bathroom with steam room and open fire, full kitchen, wireless internet and private staff make this the ultimate hideaway with sustainability in mind.”

Luxury Lodge In Botswana, Courtesy of Wilderness Safari, Provided by Greenloons

Africa: Greenloons Conservation Safari of Botswana,

“An exclusive for Greenloons’ clients only, it is a 12-day Botswana safari focusing on commerce, conservation, community and culture through its wildlife and tourism businesses that ensure the sustainability of conservation and wildlife areas of Botswana. The per person rate is $13,995 including luxury accommodation, internal air transfers, meals, activities, park and entrance fees, laundry, guides and applicable taxes.”

 The luxury:Greenloons Conservation Safari of Botswana Vumbura Plains Camp is a private luxury camp situated in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta.  Vumbura Plains Camp comprises two separate seven-roomed satellite camps, each with its own raised dining, lounge and bar area tucked beneath a canopy of cool, shady, indigenous trees. Magnificent vistas across the Okavango Delta floodplains are a feature. A star-gazing deck with comfortable cushions protrudes into the floodplain, a place to gaze upwards, or a convivial campfire setting.  Each large, luxurious room is raised off the ground on wooden decks and each comprises a bedroom, lounge, shower and full en-suite bathroom. Outdoor showers are standard. It is open on three sides, and the billowing curtains between the various areas create the sense of a yacht floating through the floodplains. Each room also has a plunge pool and ‘sala’ – a comfortable area to lie and relax, watching the waving grasses of the floodplain.”

Eco-camp dome in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Photo courtesy of Cascada Expeditions, provided by Greenloons

South America: Patagonia United

“Explore the best of Chilean & Argentinean Patagonia including the highlights of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and Los Glaciares NP and Perito Moreno in Argentina with the comfort and charm of private services, high-quality local accommodation including staying in a suite at the world’s first Geodesic dome camp and unparalleled nature. “

 The Luxury:  “Patagonia United” EcoCamp Suite domes cater to those looking to combine adventure and nature immersion with a more comfortable relaxed stay in the heart of Torres del Paine. Suite domes were designed for sleeping in the highest level of comfort allowed by sustainable development in a natural untarnished environment.  They are comfortable 300 ft² Geodesic domes built in the same shape as the ancient Kaweskar tribe dwellings. Their structure produces minimal environmental impact while providing an efficient thermal and wind resistant unit, with great exposure to nature in the most magnificent Patagonian setting. Guests can gaze at the stars through the ceiling windows while falling asleep each night, after enjoying a spectacular sunset from their private terrace.”

 Africa: Maasai Conservation Safari

 “Kenya’s Campi ya Kanzi (Camp of the Hidden Treasure) is a community project with the local Maasai on their Kuku Group Ranch of 400 square miles. Set within the Chyulu Hills and overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro, the boutique eco-lodge built by the Maasai shelters only 16 guests at a time in the solitude and adventure of true wilderness. Guests stroll down (rather than ride in a 4×4 vehicle) the foothills of the savannah, go on walking safaris with a Maasai leader and learn cultural traditions from the Maasai by visiting them with their families at their homes, schools and medical clinic.

The Hemingway Suite of the Masai Conservation Safari, courtesy of Camp ya Kanzi, provided by Greenloons

The Luxury: “Located near Mount Kilimanjaro and at the foothills of the Chyulu Hills, you will be in one of the most iconic (if not the most iconic) places for a safari with many opportunities for spotting the ‘Big 5’.  Campi ya Kanzi accommodates a maximum of 16 guests (within its 280,000 acres) in six thatched roof luxury tented cottages and in the Hemingway and Simba suites. The tented cottages and the suites are conveniently located, with ample distance from one to the other, to guarantee every guest’s privacy.

“Each accommodation has a dedicated Maasai attendant and all activities are customized based on your desires, from classic game drives in many different habitats, to lovely game walks with a Maasai guide and a Maasai tracker. Furniture was made at the camp with local logs (trees fallen by elephants). A table, two safari chairs, a colonial trunk, kilim rugs, brass lamps, shelves and hangers for your clothes, and daily fresh flowers complete the interior décor of the tented cottages. The suites feature a clothes room between the bedroom and the bathroom, and a sitting area next to the bed.

“All accommodations are constructed of stones, canvas, and wood, and they feature a full elegant bath with shower, bidet, basin, flush toilet and electric light. Bathrooms in the suites have double sinks. Brass plumbing fixtures add an unexpected touch of elegance and comfort, with hot (solar heated) and cold running water.  Each accommodation has a wide veranda to let you enjoy superb views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Tsavo Hills, and the Chyulu Hills.”

 

Travel with your conscience and body comfortable? Greenloons offers trips they say are both “Luxury” and “Green”

 

South America: Galapagos Islands Yacht Cruise

“Sail through the Galapagos Islands on a yacht that serves as a means to access, with minimal environmental impact, and learn about endangered species.  With higher quality wildlife viewing spots away from the crowds and a certified naturalist on board, guests can go on nature and birding walks, sea kayaking through mangrove forests, swimming with sea lions, or just slipping into provided wetsuits and safely exploring on your own.  Whatever the activity, guests are directly contributing to the economy and preservation of the archipelago.”

The Luxury: “Built in 1991 and refurbished annually, the company’s first-class yachts accommodate no more than 20 guests and feature three decks of spacious staterooms with polished teak interiors trimmed with brass fittings. Accommodations are fully air-conditioned with private bathrooms (hot and cold water showers), bio-degradable soap/shampoo dispensers, plenty of storage space, intercom and separate climate controls for comfort.  There’s a dining room that serves gourmet international meals, a well-stocked bar and a conference area with a flat screen TV, library and panoramic picture windows. There is also the opportunity to relax in a lounge chair on the sun deck, enjoying sea breezes and a sky full of stars.”

Double Room on a Yacht in the Galapagos, photo is courtesy of Ecoventura, provided by Greenloons

How do you define “Sustainable” and” Luxury”? Hw can a traveler be comfortable and consciously thoughtful?

Lane: “Greenloons focuses on ecotourism, which is slightly different than sustainable tourism.  Ecotourism travel focuses on the discovery of a natural or wildlife habitat in a manner that maximizes local economic and social goals, and reduces the possibility of environmental degradation.  It is about preserving ecosystems, educating visitors about conservation, empowering localities, operating environmentally responsible tourist attractions – and, most of all, having fun and unique travel experiences!  Greenloons defends the principles of ecotourism in that it should:

  •  Support the conservation of natural areas and wildlife
  •  Minimize air and water pollution as well as tourist waste
  • Offer safe and enriching or educational visitor experiences
  • Respect the cultural tradition of the host destination
  • Maintain and enhance the landscape so as to avoid physical or environmental  degradation
  • Efficiently use scarce or non-renewable resources, and
  • Maximize opportunities for local prosperity for the host destination in the form of long-term economic viability for tourism, local management control, quality employment, local retention of visitor spending, and fair distribution of economic and social benefits.

Natural views from Bed, Botswana luxury

“While sustainable tourism does not deplete resources and allows for a smaller number of tourists to experience nature so as not to disturb an animal’s normal mating, feeding, or migratory patterns (i.e. rafting trips on a free flowing river), the difference with ecotourism is that there may not be a focus on the preservation of the natural habitat or a focus to economically benefit the host destination.

“Mindful travelers can search trips using various parameters including country, activity, departure date and eco-style.  There are three eco-styles to choose from namely eco-luxurious, eco-ventional, and eco-nomical. 

“Eco-luxurious trips are ones where travelers are not giving up the spirit of adventure to enjoy more comfort.  Depending on the itinerary, which is for the most part customized, travelers will get around via upgraded transportation-using private vehicles, comfortable trains, and convenient flights (if applicable).  As a result, they spend more time exploring.  While this service level offers a greater number of inclusions, it still offers the flexibility to be independent with activities.  Travelers are to expect accommodations that have been handpicked for their great locations, upgraded amenities, facilities and personalized service – all with sustainability in mind.”

For more information on “Eco-Certified” travel, click here.

For Greenloons’ “Six Traps to Avoid” in Eco Tourism Marketing, click here to download a pdf

Greenloon’s take on “What makes an Eco-Hotel”

Related Luxury Travel Maven’s articles:

Top Trips from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council

Travel in Central America: Nicaragua Adventures

Galapagos Snorkeling with Ecoventura, and other great snorkeling sites

Machu Pichu Travel by   train in Peru (two articles)

Please add your own tips and trips for Luxury Green Travel in the comments section below.

Happy Valentines Day to you and the planet!

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Bio provided by Irene Lane:

Irene Lane, leader of Greenloons, advocate of Green Travel

Irene Lane is the founder of Greenloons, which is a premier online resource dedicated to inspiring people to think different, be different and travel different – in ways that help to ensure a more sustainable planet.  An advocate of social empowerment, financial viability and environmental preservation, Greenloons is the only web platform that connects mindful travelers with unique, meaningful and eco-certified travel experiences all over the world. 

 Prior to Greenloons, Irene was at eBay where she was recruited to manage an IT group assigned to solving difficult customer service challenges.  She also spent more than 10 years working for various Fortune 500 companies as a process improvement specialist and overseeing software implementations.  Her clients included high-tech companies as well as domestic and international government agencies.

 Irene is a dual EU citizen who has lived in 5 countries and visited 30 more in Asia, Oceania, Latin America and Europe.  Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences to address authentic ecotourism from community, ecological and financial points of view, Irene is a frequent conference speaker, blogger and radio talk show guest.  She is a graduate of Boston University with a BA in Political Science, The American University with a MBA in International Finance, and earned a Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Management from George Washington University. 

 

Museum musings in Morocco

Have you ever wanted to create a destination with-in a destination? Places that both spark and sate curiosity?  Museums and gardens that restore and motivate the human spirit?

In the midst of Marekkesh, Morocco, Yves Saint-Laurent, helped create an artistic oasis that now offers visitors a wonderful Museum of Berber culture, the restored gardens of Majorelle, and a restful café . In the 1920s and 30s,  Jacques Majorelle a French artist, landscaped the gardens as canvases.

He also used blues and yellows and oranges in buildings for contrast, and the vivid cobalt like blue is named after him- Majorelle bleu.  In the 1980s, fashion designer Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge  restored the place and now visitors can walk peaceful paths between cacti, palms, coconut trees, bamboo and fountains as well as immerse in authentic Berber artifacts in the museum.  There’s even a YSL gallery that includes the “love” cards he made each year for friends as holiday greetings.

This eclectic destination within the great destination of Marrakesh was one of many memorable places we visited as part of my recent, wonder- filled  Access Trips culinary journey of Morocco, and it prompted many musings while I meant to be writing about the delightful  riads of the royal kingdom of Morocco. Good travels tend to stir dreams, memories, and ideas for new mixes.

FAMOUS MAGNETS

I grew up exploring the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, California just a few miles from the Pasadena Rose parade route.  Thanks to Henry E. Huntington, and the transformation of his former home, the Gutenberg Bible, Gainsborough’s Blue Boy painting, the Shakespeare Gardens, an imaginative range of growing fauna, and the big bell in the Japanese gardens were a part of my childhood and are available to the many thousands who visit the peaceful grounds and rich repositories of knowledge and beauty.

Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The Getty Museum, thanks J.P Getty, is another visual feast inside and out in Southern California.  Perched on a mountain top over freeways and high-rises with far reaching views outside and extensive art inside, it’s one of my favorite spots to meet friends and family for a meal, shared walks in the gardens and some satiating gawking in galleries.

Thanks also to Solomon R. Guggenheim whose eponymous spiraled museum in New York is a lovely respite from the intensities of New York city streets.  The Guggenheims also sponsored public museums in Venice, Berlin, and Bilbao, Spain.

Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

The Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, inspired the transformation of a whole region of the Basque Country for locals and tourism. Who knows how many visitors the artful destination has sparked?

 YOUR OWN

Many travelers I know, have places in their homes that are aesthetic sanctuaries with goodies culled from the globe, integrated domestic shrines to the wonders of the world. But those places are only available to friends.

What cultural public oasis would you love to leave that others could enjoy?

POSSIBILITATOR PARK
If I were to write a mega best seller or win some stupendous lottery so I had a surplus of funds, I would love to create “Possibilitator Park”  with a library full of eclectic inspiring works from around the world and different times , and gardens full of places to sit and think or stroll and muse. Trees that are symbolic and literal parts of stories would be spaciously placed so people could picnic or nap or sketch the lyrical branches.  It worked for Buddha and Newton… There would also be conserved wilderness with running water, and open spaces for cloud watching, and, and.. well I have more than a few ideas gathered over the year while thinking about such a place.

Place to reflect and revel in the Santa Monica Mountains

Right now I imagine this sanctuary and stimulus on some mountain top acreage in the Santa Monica Mountains with a view of the Pacific Ocean, but places along the Hudson River in New York also come to mind—some gorgeous natural setting not far from an urban center, accessible to locals and travelers.  The library would make available (via latest technology) all kinds of exemplary stories, quotes, art, social history,  and research about creation and invention and “dreams turned deeds”—tales of true “Possibilitators”  both the famous and the unsung.

On our first date, hours into our conversational meandering, I told this attractive, intelligent man named Victor that I wanted to resurrect a word I had found in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary)– the verb “possibilitate” meaning “to render possible.”  “How could the American language have lost the active use of a verb conveying such a great concept?” I asked him.

He leaned over the wooden table at the Miracle Grill in New York and said,  “Why don’t you and I be Possibilitators?”  He made it a noun, and a loving challenge.  I had written in a journal weeks earlier “I want to meet a man who is a victor not a victim.” Now I had met him. We were married five months later- the first marriage for both of us. We will enjoy our 15th wedding anniversary this Friday, 12/21/12 on the Solstice.  And I smile deeply thinking how fortunate I am to be in love with the person I am married to, a man who inspires musings and is amusing.

MUSE CENTERS

Musings

Whether any of us go to a museum, library or garden within our home town or seek them out in exotic locales or create our own mini-versions in our homes and yards to share, they can be places for us to both escape and ignite, to empty out and then better fuel the best parts of ourselves.

Wouldn’t a park and museum that helped you contemplate and manifest what you want “to render possible” be wonderful?

What are your favorite incubators for musings? For possibilitatings? What do you want to possibilitate in the New Year?

-Lisa TE Sonne for LuxuryTravelMavens.com

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne

Andean Woman

Peru’s Sacred Val­ley weaves together past and present in col­or­ful fab­rics and fla­vor­ful foods that can be hap­pily explored in a day before embark­ing a lux­ury train to the most famous des­ti­na­tion: Machu Pic­chu. Fly­ing from Lima, the cur­rent day cap­i­tal, to Cuzco, once a cap­i­tal of the vast Incan empire, I trans­ferred from the mod­ern day Pacific sea­side to the cul­tural gem in the Sacred Val­ley of the Andes moun­tains. After a savory fusion lunch in Cuzco, I then enjoyed a road trip to more rural sites worth visiting  – Chimchero, Moray, and Ollantaytambo- to experience the cultural weave of old and new.
Gastronomic Pleasures

Gastronomic Pleasures

The Incans grew thousands of different kinds, sizes, and colors  of potatoes in the 15th century and even invented “freeze dried” long before the space program. Hip restaurants now are being creative at serving potatoes and all kinds of culinary pleasures these days as Peru increasingly becomes a gastronomic destination.

The waiter of Limo restaurant in Cuzco brings in an appetizer described on the menu as “Golden fried yucca balls stuffed with andean cheese in a huancaina sauce and micromix salad on the side.” My selection for main course: “Trout prepared in a sudado of its own broth, aji amarillo, tomato, onion and white wine over tender yucca.” For dessert : “Purple corn shimmered with spices, apple, pineapple and quince fruit.”

Coca tea and Cola

Coca tea and Cola

At almost 12,000 feet altitude, Cusco can take some acclimatizing. In fact check with your doctor before going from sea level  (coastal Lima) to Andean Cusco. Locals recommend the Coca tea saying the stimulant makes breathing easier in the thinner air. Warning: My doctor says the coca could show up in a drug test even three weeks later. The original Coca Cola drink so popular in the US had cocaine in it, now illegal.

 

 

 

Tea Time in the Andes

 

Chinchero

Tea was also offered to wel­come us to Chinchero, 35 kilometers north­west of Cuzco in the Sacred Valley. Chinchero is a work­ing demon­stra­tion cen­ter of Andean tex­tiles.   Lla­mas, vicu­nas and alpacas all pro­vide raw mate­r­ial, and dif­fer­ent nat­ural sub­stances are used for dyes. The women weave scarves, blan­kets and hats for their own use and for sale.

The colors are created from natural ingredients

 

 

 

Weaving

 

 

 

 

Final Products

Final creations for sale

Moray

Many kilo­me­ters on a dirt road later,  Moray is an impres­sive archeological site believed to be an Incan Agri­cul­tural exper­i­men­tal sta­tion designed with tem­per­a­ture vari­ances at dif­fer­ent lev­els to test and adapt foods gath­ered within the Incan Empire.

Moray -Incan Labs for Food

Pre Incan Agricultural Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo

The Andean Village of Ollantaytambo near the PeruRail train station is well worth a visit before trekking or training to Machu Picchu. Some of the narrow streets, water channels and stone homes date centuries back to Incan times, reminders of the sophisticated irrigation systems and urban designs of the mighty Empire.

Ask your guide or hotel to help with a peek into a working home. My guide, Ruben Tello Velasque, said, “The typical family has six or seven kids, four or five dogs, three or four cats and 200 guinea pigs.” The Guinea pigs that live with the family are a popular food source.

The past and present weave in this home too. Both electrical power and a skylight offer illumination. One corner of the home has guinea pigs and in another corner a kitten sits near fabrics for sale to tourists.  A potato dish is being prepared next to a plastic pitcher under a stone wall which holds ancestor skulls. Nearby woven goods are available for visiting tourists.

Old and new, potatoes and plastic, skulls and commercial goods

Guinea Pigs and kitten in one corner

Kitten and fabrics for sale in the other corner.

 

 

A beautiful train ride away, Machu Picchu sits majestically as a monument to the Incan past. Around it, in the Sacred Valley, the new and old ways intertwine for the curious traveler to explore.

For more information on travel in Peru and for road trip bonuses between Cuzco and the train ride to Machu Picchu, contact www.Peru.Travel

Lisa TE Sonne for LuxuryTravelMavens.com

All photos by © Lisa TE Sonne  from October, 2012 trip, to be used only with permission. Please add comments below about your own travels or write her Lisa@LuxuryTravelMavens.com  Follow her on Twitter: @ExploreTraveler

 

Train view of the Andes

Train view of the Andes, going through the Sacred Valley formed by the Urubamba River, called Wilcamayu (meaning sacred) in Quecha, the Incan language still used today.

Dublin Luxury Hotel

The Shelbourne’s Constitution Room

Travelers can enjoy of the luxe of the Irish, choosing the finest places while travelling the ancient footpaths and modern favorites of Dublin and environs in South East Ireland. For some high-end hotel hopping, Lisa’s Luxury Likes include a weave of city, country, seaside and garden luxury: The Shelbourne, Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, Dunbrody Country Home, The Cliff House, and Barberstown Castle.

Shelbourne Dublin

In the heart of Dublin, the Shelbourne shines for deluxe treatment, rich historic atmosphere, and delightful location. Suites overlook St Stephen’s Greens, the renowned Victorian gardens. The concierge will greet you by name when you return from the Abby Theater or Temple Bar. Five minutes away, you can walk in the footsteps of Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and Jonathan Swift at Trinity College and see the Book of Kells, or head over to

The charms of Grafton Street Dublin, a five minute walk from the Shelbourne

peruse the nearby pulse of picturesque Grafton shops and street artists.

First opened in 1824, and now a Five Star Alliance Renaissance Hotel, the well-restored sanctuary shares memorable dining, more than 500 pieces of Irish art, and the “Constitution Room,” where Michael Collins oversaw the drafting of the Irish Constitution.

US, Irish, and European electrical sockets are all available, but the real energy of this cosmopolitan treat are the wonderful people who make you feel five star.

EXTRAS: Ask for the Princess Grace Suite, if you want to rest where royalty dreamed.

If you want to learn about own personal Irish history, book a session with the Shelbourne’s Genealogy Butler service that helps guests find their Irish roots.

For a day trip of time travel, arrange to visit the fascinating prehistoric monument of Newgrange.

The Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt

Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, Ireland

Near Irelands’ east coast, in the woodlands of County Wicklow, Powerscourt Gardens: The Ritz-Carlton is a grand scale, upscale country retreat. Play at the gentry life with horseback riding, shooting, fly fishing, and hiking in the region where scenes of Brave Heart and Excalibur were filmed. Garden lovers can stroll acres of magnificence at the Powerscourt Gardens.
For those who love eponymous luxuries, don’t miss the Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt dining experience for culinary highs, and swim laps over the 160 Swarovski crystals that light up the twenty-meter indoor pool, part of the ESPA spa facilities.

Touch pad controls for lights and curtains at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt

You can feel like a modern Lord or Lady of the manner in palatial-sized suites, with touch pad controls  for lights and curtains, and sweeping curved balconies over the expansive grounds with views of Sugarloaf Mountain.

EXTRA: The Spa is pioneering good luck “shillelagh” massages. Hand carved from wood in the nearby Shillelagh forest, the sticks have a history as ancient tools. Now they are being used in artful massage to un-do knots and tensions.

The Cliff House

For seaside luxury, don’t miss The Cliff House, a Relais and Chateaux gem and Five Star Alliance hideaway on the Irish Sea. The bedrooms are aesthetically rich and original with creative Irish arts and comforting amenities.

Sit on your seaside balcony to savor the twilight before indulging in the delectable at The House Restaurant, a Michelin one-star treat on the ground floor. The stellar inside pool offers saltwater views. Walkers can explore the churches in the nearby town, comb the seashore, or stumble upon an ancient healing well just down the row.

The lovely staff and setting make it hard to leave.

EXTRA: All the senses can be sated.

The Dunbrody Country House Hotel

Irish Countryside Outside Dublin

For memorable culinary lessons, inviting grounds, and the pleasures of country life like in the movies, relax at Dunbrody House: A Georgian Manor built in the 1830s that sits on more than 200 acres near Arthurstown, this once-private home shares charming intimacy.

Three floors offer a total of 22 rooms, each wonderfully unique. Original fireplaces and deep soaking tubs provide cozy pampering. The range of antiques make you want to see every room.

Across the way, the Dunbrody Culinary School offers lessons and tips for guests using fresh foods from the grounds and local sources, thanks to Irish celebrity Master Chef Kevin Dundon.

For day excursions, stroll the Viking towns of Wexford and Waterford. Take the Waterford Crystal  Factory Tour to see masters at work turning glass into elegant ware and art.

EXTRA: Even those who don’t think they can cook can help make great Irish soda bread and take the recipe home.

Barberstown Castle

Fine dining at the Castle built in the 13th century

If you want your Hotel to be an experience, as well as a cushy accommodation, Barberstown Castle beckons. Built in the 13th century with modern sections added more recently, the Kildare County castle welcomes exploration, and is just 40 minutes from Dublin. Once owned by Eric Clapton, the Hotel now has suites that are each named after distinguished guests through the century, including the Eric Clapton Suite. Each room is unique with antiques and special touches.

You may enjoy great conversations with the owner, meet musicians who come to play during the champagne hour, or enjoy an unforgettable six-course meal in the oldest part of the medieval castle. Barberstown Castle

EXTRA:  Stroll through the colorful village of Kilkenny and take a lesson, fun to beat, on the Irish Bodhran at the Kyteler’s Inn, (established in 1324)  or

Saunter the Castle grounds. and Candy, the dog, may walk with you through the gardens.

——

Special thanks to Tourism Ireland for making this trip possible. To enjoy additional ideas for planning your own itinerary,  you can check out www.TourismIreland.com for things to see and do all over Ireland.

Happy Travels and Good Luck finding your own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Lisa TE Sonne  for LuxuryTravelMavens.com

 Photos by Lisa TE Sonne

Which of the five top luxury hotels appeals to you  the most?