Cheers to “Beet Cancer” Recipe in the article below.

October in the United States is now providing a different kind of “medical travel” — pink travel. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness, or BCA, and pink is touted to promote awareness. Various travel venues are “tickled pink” to donate some of their revenue in October to related nonprofits.

Two destination stand-outs are Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and San Diego, California (the W, Hard Rock and Hyatt Hotels) according to J Public Relations, which offers the content below, including a cocktail recipe.

If you know of other travel-for-a-cause opportunities, please share them in the comments section below. Please also let us know what you think of these.

From J Public Relations:

“San Diego- Hard Rock “Pinktober”

“Pinktober 2013 at Hard Rock Hotel San Diego | San Diego, CA

Hard Rock goes a bit pink in October to help Breast Cancer Awareness in San Diego Photo from Hard Rock Website

“Stay – Hard Rock Hotel San Diego will outfit select guestrooms with special Pink Sheets, and a percentage of the room proceeds during October will benefit the campaign. The Sleep Like a Rock® bedding features the signature embroidered guitar pillowcases and plush bedding.  Guests of “Pink Sheets rooms” will also receive Hard Rock’s 2013 PINKTOBER guitar pin featuring pink rhinestones. In addition, hotel guests can opt to add a donation of any level to their guestroom bill during their stay.

 “Sip – The property’s retro-chic diner, Maryjane’s, will serve a limited-time cocktail. The restaurant team will wear pink shirts and pink gear every Sunday to promote awareness. They will hand out pink frosted guitar cookies to our hotel guests to promote awareness. They will also offer the cookies to outside guests for a donation.

 “Hard Rock Hotel’s 207 and Float bars will be offering specialty cocktails Flamingo Margaritas, Pink Floyds and Pink Dolphins with 25 percent of proceeds benefitting Hard Rock’s PINKTOBER™ 2013 campaign.

 “Savor – Rock Spa will offer an invigorating 50-minute Pink Sugar Whip body scrub to benefit PINKTOBER™.  To book a spa treatment, guests may call Rock Spa at (619) 764-6930.

 “Shop – Located lobby-level at the hotel, the boutique will feature a variety of PINKTOBER™ merchandise to benefit the cause including PINKTOBER pins, t-shirts, Pink Sheets and more.

 “W San DiegoIn honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the W San Diego is offering a ‘Drink Pink (for a cause)‘ cocktail where 50 percent of the proceeds from October will be donated to the Keep A Breast foundation.  The Drink Pink cocktail is made with Svedka colada vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry juice.  

“In conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the W will also be turning it’s ‘W’ logo outside PINK to honor the month and help further spread awareness. Inspiring, iconic,and influential, the W San Diego offers a unique mix of cutting-edge design and passions around fashion, music and entertainment.  

 “Jackson Hole, Wyoming

The beauties of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Photo from the Hotel Terra Jackson Hole website.

“Spur Restaurant & Bar at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa Hotel | Jackson Hole, WY

 “Throughout the month of October, a portion of Spur Restaurant & Bar’s ‘Beet Cancer’ cocktail will be donated to the Women’s Healthcare Fund at St. John’s Hospital in Jackson Hole.  The ‘Beet Cancer’ cocktail includes:

  • Beet ginger infused gin
  • St. Germaine elderflower liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • House made ginger syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Shaken and served up

“CHILL SPA at Hotel Terra Jackson Hole | Jackson Hole, WY

 “Chill for a Cause

 “Join forces with Chill Spa this October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Book a Chill for a Cause treatment and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer division of Saint John’s Women’s Healthcare Fund

“PINK Awareness Pink Grapefruit Facial | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179: Bring life and vitality to your complexion with a vitamin-rich burst of pink grapefruit and other Eminence Organics Skincare products focusing on hydration.

“Fight Like a Girl Facial | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179, Fight bacteria with a deeply purifying facial at Chill Spa.

“Live. Love. And get a Massage | 50 Minutes $129; 80 Minutes $179: Pink out your massage by choosing our specialty treatment this October.  The Live, Love massage is available in Deep Tissue or Swedish massage techniques.”

(End of quoted information from J Public Relations about pink destinations to help Breast Cancer Awareness in October. )

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If you know of other luxury venues and destinations that are donating proceeds to Breast Cancer nonprofits, please share the information in comments below.  Do you think these kinds of efforts are a good way to reduce Breast Cancer?

Please also share other opportunities luxury travelers can enjoy while helping causes.

Thirteen is a lucky number if you are in the Hilton Athens in Greece. It’s the rooftop floor with the Galaxy restaurant and bar, offering drinks, food and a wonderful view of the Acropolis and Mount Lycabettus.

The Acropolis from the Galaxy restaurant at the Hilton Athens.

The Galaxy’s outdoor and indoor tables are popular with hotel guests and nightlife Athenians, according to the hotel magazine, which interviews successful local artists and entrepreneurs that use it as a meeting spot, watering hole, and a place to swap ideas.

My childhood friend and I sat alfresco with wafting warm breezes at the Galaxy bar balcony to revive ourselves after a day of active input for the eyes and cameras, and before flying home after the Ancient Mysteries, 11-day Mediterranean cruise with the Holland America Line. It was a good perch to pause between travel modes.

The Athens Hilton offers an outdoor pool in a historic region.

When we checked in Oestrisu made us feel warmly welcomed and answered all our questions- –Yes, free WiFi in the spacious marble lobby areas with lots of comfortable, airy, sitting spaces; yes, there is a swimming pool in the building and one outside; yes, the suite would have a marble bathtub and a balcony with a view; yes an  abundant buffet breakfast is included, and yes; we were close to museums, shopping and  easy transport to the airport.

Though the hotel’s large lobby area welcomed outsiders, a room key was needed to take the elevator to the top rooms.  Each lobby floor had original art work to distinguish it. Rooms with Acropolis views were all taken but we were positioned well to appreciate city views and a splendiferous sunrise over hills to start our trip home.

On shore trips we had seen hundreds of ancient columns -upright and reclined  ghosts from the  Greek and Roman civilizations from 2,000 BC on.  Looking up from dinner at the lit row of columns from “The” Acropolis was an iconic capper to our antiquities cruise.

Acropolis translates roughly as “city on the extremity,” often a citadel on top of a steep hill.  One guide told us that “there are over 5,000 acropolises in Greece, but the one in Athens is world famous.” We also

Athens National Archeological Museum

had visited many  great archeological sites in Crete, Rhodes, Corinth, and Napfion but often our guides would tell us about the artistic and artifact finds which were  not there but in museums— in Athens. Now was our chance!

This Hilton has a desirable location in central Athens,  across from a verdant park and near a Metro station. Four Euros buys an all-day Metro Pass, so it is easy to get to the Plaka, Constitution Square, the innovative Acropolis Museum (built with see through floors over an excavation site) and the renowned National Archeological Museum.

Athens Metro is easy- and colorful. Each car appears pre-painted to avoid graffiti.

Not only is the Metro faster than cabs in the often traffic congested streets, the stations themselves can be worth the descent to some of Athen’s modern underworld.  The Acropolis station had displays of artifacts unearthed during excavation for the subway and a private guide was including it in a tour, pointing to a display with a little terracotta horse with wheels and string- a toy in a grave many centuries BCE.

The Acropolis Museum in Athens

The marathon was invented in Greece long ago and my friend and I seemed to be creating a new kind of modern tourist marathon, trying to see as many exhibits as possible in our one day in Athens and absorb the lively street life and people vignettes in between museums.

That night after our view gazing from the Galaxy,  a bubble bath in the suite’s large and deep tub was a luxurious way to soak my limbs.  Immersed, I let some of the trip’s memories soak in while out in the room at the modern wooden desk, my photo chip was downloading visual memories into my computer.

The Hilton Athens  is a “Go To ” place for locals hanging at the Galaxy. For us, it was a wonderful “Go Between” place to cap off our fun cruise of  Ancient Mysteries with visits to Athen’s world class museums, and to relax and rest up  for the long flights home.

When I woke in the morning, the view from our Hilton Athen’s balcony was an exclamation mark of color at the end of a great trip, and a welcoming start to the voyage back to our other lives.

-Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens

Dawn from our balcony, Athens Hilton

Photos by Lisa TE Sonne, (Except for the Pool Photo and Acropolis View image,  via Hilton)

 

Turkish lamps and warm hospitality seemed ubiquitous

Turkey is full of fantastical lamps, but you don’t need to rub them to have at least three wishes come true. The luxuries of good eating, shopping, and spa-ing are not new to Istanbul, which has culled for centuries from Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Before we boarded our “Ancient Mysteries” cruise on Holland America’s Noordam, my girlfriend Jamey and I indulged in pleasures worthy of the Sultanas of the 1400s and 1500s.

Ottoman Eats- The Matbah

Part of the Matbah menu featuring Ottoman food, Istanbul

This unique restaurant highly recommended by friends offers culinary time travel. Many dishes were researched from previous centuries, and the 32 Ottoman Empire menu selections are all from the “Kitchen of the Sultan,”—truly palatial for the palette

Enticingly, the menu includes the date of the earliest known recipe of the dish, if it’s known.   For the cold plate, I chose the Karidye Pilakisi (Shrimp Stew), which had the notation, “In 1473, during the month of Sha’ban, the palace bought shrimps for an amount of three silver coins almost everyday.”  Still delicious today, even when paid for with plastic.

For the entrée, it was a tough choice with so many temptations. I narrowed it down to Yufkada kuzu incik, begendili: “baked lamb shank on a bed of pureed eggplant, served in a pastry bowl” with 1463 as the first known recipe (before Columbus sailed!) or Zire-ba (mutencene): “Diced lamb with dried apricots, raisins, honey and almonds baked slowly in an earthenware casserole.” The latter was dated 1300-1463, so I went for the oldest and my taste glands were richly rewarded.

Shrimp stew, an Ottoman dish, Istanbul

The menu credits Ottoman Cuisine as coming from Middle Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, Mediterranean, and European cooking traditions. It seems that fusion feasts are not new.

The outdoor, upper floor patio setting provided breezes, and as hundreds of birds flew overhead in the sky of pastels, the call to prayers of the muzzeins also filled the air, reminding us of other traditions that have survived the centuries.

Our first day in Istanbul felt complete, and we looked forward to how we would conclude our next day set to explore the standing history of mosques and palaces from half a millennia ago.

The dark pink building to the right houses the women’s Hamam founded in 1556

Spa- Hamam Style

To enjoy the kind of spa treatment that the top harem women and wives and mothers of Sultans enjoyed, we headed to the Ayasofia Hurrem Sultan Hamam, founded in 1556 by Sulieman the Magnificent, and elegantly renovated in recent times. Humams are traditional Turkish bathing houses segregated by gender. Istanbul has several high-end ones – some very old and some part of new high-end hotels.

Over 300 marble pillars support the underground cisterns built in the 6th century. photo by lisa te sonne

This humam is located in the center of the historic district and an unforgettable capper to a day of sight-seeing. Just a few-minutes walk away are the magnificent Hagia Sophia, with both Christian and Islamic beauty; the striking Blue Mosque; the remnants of the Hippodrome; and the underground waters of the Byzantine “Basilica Cisterns,” which were started in the mid 6th century. There are scintilating  treasures for the eyes, mind, and soul, but for the sensual pleasures of the body, enter the Hamam’s marbled and domed sanctuary, also a part of history.

Each visitor is matched with a personal female attendant who leads the way to an undressing room, then to a soothing bathing area. Mine pours warm waters over me from a gold bowl, scrubs me, and massages off layers of the unwanted. She whooshes soft silky soap bubbles over me, and massages me as I am stretched out on a side of an octagonal marble fountain that seems ageless.  My mind releases any worries about current times, and I wonder how closely this resembles how Sultan’s wives were treated centuries ago.

Spa for Sultanas, Istanbul

In the midst of all this pampering, she massages my scalp and washes my hair tenderly, like my mother did when I was little. It is a happy memory, but a small lump forms in my throat.

After more cascades of warm and cold water for rinsing, I am led upstairs two flights to a private room framed by an intricate wooden carving. A masterful massage of perfumed oils ensues, with any remaining knots kneaded out – front and back; top and bottom. I am again offered water or fruit drinks. My attendent beams at me “You are a Sultana!”

Delighted and detoxed, clean and smooth, I lounge near my childhood friend as we each purr contentment under a tall tranquil white dome, a nearby fountain flowing its liquid mantra to relax. When we are ready to head back out the door into the large park framed by iconic architectural wonders, we are handed little bags to take home. Mine has a kese (scrubbing mitten) and kariklar (plastic sandals) with the year 1556 imprinted.

Bazaar  Shopping

Crossroads of consumerism through the ages-Istanbul’s Bazaars

Straddling two continents, Istanbul, once aka Constantinople, is a crossroads of consumerism, from the Silk Road times to the Grand Bazaar and smaller Spice Bazaar, which are still magnets for thousands of shoppers. At the Grand Bazaar, twenty entrance gates are portals I read to a maze of more than 60 paths and 4,000 shops and cafes today—the evolution of a shopping center centuries old. Were these the original mega-malls?

The Grand Bazaar invited conspicuous consumption and beautiful production centuries ago with designated sections for the making and selling of leather goods, gold, jewels and the artistry of Turkish rugs. Today, shoppers weave through the maze under tiled, vaulted ceilings. Narrow passageways of vendors may lead to a courtyard or a wider path of stores with the labrinth including a great range these days from exquisite jewelry to junky trinkets—all waiting to be bargained for.   Amidst modern cell phones, men still scurry with silver trays of tea to serve the merchants.

An entry to the Spice Bazaar, Istanbul

Near one end of the Galeta Bridge (well worth walking), the “smaller” but still a-mazing Spice Bazaar was purportedly created in the 17th century to provide revenue for the “New Mosque” (now in its 4th century, which is still relatively new in a city with the Hagia Sophia). Spices, herbs, honeycombs, and all kinds of delectables seduce the senses and invite quick deal-making for some delicious presents.

Cruise Time

By the time we boarded our Holland America Cruise ship, the Noordam, we had tended to body, soul, and mind and had gifts for our husbands and friends in packages to carry to our Verandah suite on the Promenade Deck.

When we opened the door to our suite, more treats awaited — a bottle of champagne on ice and a dozen cut fruits waited on one plate, several kinds of finger sandwiches rested on another, and white and dark chocolates of sea horses and towers greeted us inside our well-designed cabin. Outside on our verandah, the azure of the Bosphorus, the coastlines of Asia and Europe, and a skyline of spires and skyscrapers and domes – past and present – wrapped around us.

With nearby menus for room service, onboard spa treatments and shore excursions, we were leaving port to head through the Dardanelles toward Greece as part of the Ancient Mysteries cruise, happily warmed up by Istanbul’s enduring luxuries of food, baths, and shops.

Photos and articles by  © Lisa TE Sonne

Click here for more of her Luxury Travel Mavens pieces

 

For additional Sonne articles, photos and radio pieces visit www.WorldTouristBureau.com

Please add your experiences and thoughts about Istanbul:

 

 

La Belle Vita– Serving up wines, foods, historic sights, and relaxing memories

Instead of a last gasp of summer, would you like a great grasp of vacation luxury at a special price?  European Waterways is now offering $2,000 off an August 25th cruise of culinary and cultural gems in Italy on the boutique La Belle Vita, “the beautiful life”- and it is a beautiful life!

With fewer than 20 fellow passengers and nine crewmembers, the luxury boat travels between Venice and Virgil’s Mantua in Italy’s Po Valley. As the private shore tours of castles, villas, museums, and palaces show how the wealthy were pampered in the past, current-day passengers are richly indulged in the present by a talented team.

Each day Chef Andrea Chin points to a different region of Italy on a map to set up the sumptuous courses of related specialties that he and Sous Chef Mario Sartori freshly prepared. Hostess Vanessa Santamaria describes the wine pairings for the courses. A third person elaborates on the Italian cheeses selected for that meal.

Sangria served topside while La Belle Vita tours the Grand Canal of Venice with savory appetizers and warm breezes

There’s an open bar and friendly staff who will find you topside to see if you would like a snack or cocktail. And everything is artfully arranged and delightfully presented.

The Chef is happy to share his recipes with food lovers — even before his anticipated book comes out featuring regional Italian dishes. He will also provide a cooking lesson on request. The only dinner off the boat is private dining at Ca’ Zen, the villa where Lord Byron wrote inspired poetry and pursued a great romance.

Art and Architecture are part of the excursion menu of private tours on La Bella Vita tour of Venice and the Po Valley of Italy.

To work up physical appetites and feed curiosity, Team Leader Klaudia Neri, who speaks five languages, helps tailor shore time, with specially-picked guides for each private tour, covering a range of artistic and architectural wonders of medieval and renaissance times. She can also help you with current desires — from getting a set of watercolor paints for fun onboard, to finding the pharmacy or photo store you want to answering questions about history and customs.

The affable Captain Rudy Toninata entertains visitors on the bridge while skillfully navigating through locks. Toninata and Neri have years of experience with Italy’s family run Delta Tours to work well with European Waterways for passengers to enjoy the best.

I greatly enjoyed this stimulating itinerary and relaxing venue last July to celebrate my birthday with my husband, so I encourage those who love food and arts to pick an occasion (half-birthday, “un-birthday,” anniversary, or “just because”) and savor the “Beautiful life!”

“Read All About It!” Summer special rate on intimate cruise of Venice and the Po Valley -the best of grapes and gondolas. (c)Lisa TE Sonne

And with the $2,000 savings (that’s $1000-off per person for double cabin) being offered by European Waterways,  you could upgrade to first class airfare or buy some beautiful hand blown glass on the Venetian Island of Murano, or hand-made lace on Burano, or order cases of wine, or ….. plan your next journey worth reading about.

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MORE INFO from European Waterways: “Prices for a 6 night cruise aboard the 20 passenger La Bella Vita are from $3,840pp in a twin/double en suite cabin, including all meals, wines, an open bar, excursions and local transfers. Full boat charters are also available. European Waterways: Tel: +44 (0) 1753 598555. Toll free from the US:  1-877 879 8808 ”   Check also for special prices on two upcoming fall Trips on La Belle Vita.

You can also connect by  Website * Facebook, Twitter, or You Tube

*******                                              -Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos by (c) Lisa TE Sonne

Ice Cream was a luxury for the author of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austin might never have imagined something called “movies” being made of her stories or people sitting in air conditioned theaters eating ice cream or an American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) handing out “no electricity” ice cream recipes with her name on it.

Jane Austen at the American Museum of Natural History © AMNHD. Finnin

“Known for her sharp-witted novels about love and manners among the English gentry, Jane Austen did most of her writing in the early 1800s, more than a century before most European households had electricity. Although she lived comfortably and ate well, she had fewer food choices than most English people do today. At the time, a summer treat as simple as ice cream was quite a luxury” per information provided by the museum to go with the photo above.  Only the wealthy tended to have “ice houses” in the summer, sometimes a cave-like feature in the shade far from the house.

(c)AMNH Summer of 2013

The recipe below was one of the goodies gained when I recently visited the AMNH and enjoyed this summer’s “Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture”  exhibit. Visitors can be given tickets through package deals at the nearby Belleclaire Hotel or purchase tickets in advance for the “timed exhibit.”  Such crowd control makes it easier to sample that day’s free tastings, make a “virtual meal,” explore the complexities of “farm to fork” today, or get a better look at what people of the past ate.

Thanks to the AMNH for the following recipe. The ziplock bags seem to be a bit anachronistic, but this museum houses both great dinosaur skeletons and a cosmic walk through eons in space, so I’m not questioning temporal matters.  But I may go make some ice cream- glad to have ice so readily available.

“Jane Austen” No Electricity Ice Cream in a Bag

Ingredients

  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup whipping cream (heavy cream)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla or vanilla flavoring, if desired
  • ¼ cup frozen or fresh currants, plums, blueberries, or peaches
  • ½ to ¾ cup sodium chloride (NaCl) as table salt or rock salt
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1-quart plastic zip bag
  • 1-gallon plastic zip bag

Procedure

  1. Add ¼ cup sugar, ½ cup milk, ½ cup whipping cream, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla to a blender or mixing bowl.
  2. Add the fruit and blend until smooth.
  3. Add mixture to the quart bag. Seal the bag securely.
  4. Put 2 cups of ice into the gallon bag.
  5. Add ½ to ¾ cup salt (sodium chloride) to the bag of ice.
  6. Place the sealed quart bag inside the gallon bag of ice and salt. Seal the gallon bag securely.
  7. Gently rock the gallon bag from side to side. It’s best to hold it by the top seal or to have gloves or a cloth between the bag and your hands, because the bag will be cold enough to damage your skin.
  8. Continue to rock the bag for 10-15 minutes, or until the contents of the quart bag have solidified into ice cream.
  9. Enjoy!

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens.com

If these walls could talk… Babe Ruth, Mark Twain, you?

Mark Twain stayed at the Belleclaire. So did home-run champ Babe Ruth. “I never visited a place so kindling to my imagination,” extolled Russian writer Max Gorky on his first US visit while looking out at the Hudson River from his 9th floor Belleclaire suite (New York Times, 1906).

Now my husband and I are on the same 9th floor with a 2013 New York Times spread over luxurious sheets.  Our views are up Broadway via one curved window, and across 77th to the Belvedere Castle in Central Park through another. Our luscious round room is part of the Broadway King Suite – King as in the size of the bed, not the kind of ruling royalty that Twain and Gorky criticized together, in favor of freedom for all instead!

Carillon bells from a nearby 19th century church start playing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and we can hear it over the hum of the room’s air conditioner, one of the modern pleasures that sits not far from a large flat screen TV, a mini-fridge, Dean and Deluca gourmet snacks, free WiFi, and bottled water in our round room. A multi-million dollar renovation includes a gym, media room, and coffee lounge as part of the amenities. A roof-top garden restaurant will be a stellar future addition.

Belleclaire lobby hub for people watching with silver and glass ice tea pitchers one way, wooden check-in counter under a skylight another way , Coffee Bean pastries and drinks to the right, elevators and media center to the left, from the entrance on the Upper West Side.

The Belleclaire is celebrating its 110th anniversary and its legacy and location are its best luxuries. It’s a taste of New York’s history – an Emery Roth-designed beauty – one of the first residential “skyscrapers” in the world, at ten stories high with 18-foot ceilings. The limestone and brick, Art Nouveau and Beaux Arts hybrid is also a comfortable base for today’s Upper West Side life. Guests can stroll out from the cafe lounge and sky-lighted lobby over the original 1903 tiles that Babe Ruth walked on, and head to the neighborhood’s Zabars, Riverside Park, the Anthorp, churches from the 17th to 21st centuries, the Castle in Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium.

To commemorate the building’s 110th, the hotel is offering two specials for the summer of 2013. One package includes a walk through millions of years of time with super passes for the famed American Museum of Natural History, with the Hayden Planetarium’s spiraling walkway of cosmic time. The other package special is for Yankee fans, with box seats and special stadium tours. The Bronx Bombers were playing out of town during our stay,  so we opted for the world class museum for an afternoon of time travel with the cosmos, whales, and food – all special exhibits there now. And then back to our elegant turret in the NYC sky.

The Belleclaire will continue to offer home run specials throughout its anniversary year and to provide many options to combine past and present for indelible New York memories!

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens.com

The Belleclaire today celebrating 110 years!

 

 

 

La Dolce Vita from La Bella Vita luxury barge!

“La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life) beckons this summer in Italy! And  La Bella Vita, a luxury barge, is waiting to take visitors through the canals of  Venice and waterways of the Po Valley on a journey through centuries of architecture, romance,  poetry, and history.

Imagine the itinerary below provided by European Waterways, with cultural riches in view and culinary treats in store —from a dedicated onboard chef catering to a max of 20 passengers to onshore dining in a 17th century villa where Lord Byron wrote verses.

Sample a list of menu highlights, boat features,  and a video preview clicking here. The itinerary below is also posted on their website  along with itineraries in other countries for other floating trips through nature and culture.

Sunday, Day 1 Mantua

“Guests are met and transferred to La Bella Vita, moored in Porto Catena in Mantua. A Prosecco welcome gives you a chance to meet the crew followed by a cruise around the lakes surrounding the city or perhaps a stroll through the historic city centre and a visit to the Ducal Palace. Dinner on board

Monday, Day 2 Mantua to Zelo

“This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Mantua. This imposing city was home to the poet Virgil, artists Mantegna and Donatello and under the Lordship of the powerful Gonzaga Family. Mantua has early Etruscan origins but today is a center of extraordinary neo-classical and baroque architecture. We view the city squares, Cathedral, the Baptistery and then lunch on board followed by afternoon cruise through the Mincio Natural Park, to Zelo. Dinner aboard.

Tuesday, Day 3 Zelo to Bosaro

“Morning cruise along the Bianco Canal to Bosaro past villages and farmsteads. This afternoon we transfer for a guided tour of the Renaissance city of Ferrara, including the 14th century Estense Castle. This ancient ducal fortress with moat, drawbridges, unusual battlements and towers, houses marble balconies and sumptuous apartments. We see the Cathedral façade with its sculpted images, described as an Illustrated Bible, and visit the Schifanoia Palace with its fabulous 15th century frescoes. We conclude with a walk through the medieval city center and Jewish Ghetto before returning to La Bella Vita. Dinner on board.

La Bella Vita cruising through time in Italy

Wednesday, Day 4 Bosaro to Taglio di Po

“In the morning we visit the magnificent Renaissance gardens and wine cellars of the 17th century Villa Widmann-Borletti. For over 1000 years wine, balsamic vinegar, organic Carnaroli rice, grape seed oil and truffles have been produced on the Dominio di Bagnoli estate, which has also been famed for its exclusive D.O.C. Friularo vintages since the 17th century. Concerts, opera and art exhibitions are regular features in this magnificent property. We enjoy a private wine tasting before returning to La Bella Vita in Adria and afternoon cruise downstream along the Bianco Canal before entering the River Po and our peaceful mooring place at Taglio di Po.

“Here we have dinner ashore nearby at the beautiful 17th century Villa Ca’Zen, a private river-side stately home where we are hosted by the longstanding family owners. It was here that Lord Byron courted the Countess Guccioli and, whilst a guest at the Villa, wrote some of his most moving poetry.

Thursday, Day 5 Chioggia to San Pietro in Volta

“Morning to Porto Levante passing through a nature reserve with flamingos and occasional heron, snipe and other wildfowl. Guided tour to the ancient city of Chioggia, city of Goldoni’s plays, with ancient origins dating back over 2000 years to Roman, Etruscan and Byzantine links. We visit the Piazzatta Vigo, Vigo Bridge and 12th century Vigo column. At the Church of San Domenico, set on its own island, we see Carpaccio’s St Paul, his last recorded painting together with works of art by Tintoretto and Bassano. Chioggia’s cathedral beckons with works by Tiepolo, Giovane, Piazzetta and Diziani.

“A visit to the colourful fresh fish market completes the picture. After lunch aboard, we cruise north through the lagoon past rustic fishing huts on stilts and the island of Pellistrina, to San Pietro in Volta. Here there is the opportunity to stroll or cycle along the 18th century Istrian sea wall, with the Adriatic on one side and the lagoon on the other. Dinner aboard.

Dining room onboard La Bella Vita with moving views of Italy.

Friday, Day 6 San Pietro in Volta to Venice

“This morning we cruise to Venice, passing several lagoon islands – San Sevolo, once a hospital for the Crusaders, San Lazzaro degli Armeni, an early 18th century Armenian monastery, San Clemente, a luxury hotel and poetical Poveglia. These islands sport brightly coloured houses, painted fishing boats and tiny churches. Mooring on the waterfront outside the Naval Museum near St Marks, we make a guided tour to the center of Venice, experiencing the unique atmosphere of this magical city by visiting The Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, that was the seat of the government of Venice for centuries as well as being the home of the Doge (the elected ruler of Venice). Captain Farewell Dinner on board and perhaps an evening stroll to the magnificent St Marks Square.”

I am signed up to go with my husband this July on the route from Venice to Mantua, so we can savor together “La Dulce Vita” on the La Bella Vita in unforgettable ways!

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Looking for a luxury hotel in Venice? Check out Luxury Travel Maven McLean’s story on the Aman Grand Canale   If you want to add Tuscany to your Italian rambles, read about a favorite Villa of LTM Kate.

If you want to add on a one time special  Italian Riviera “Transformational Travel”  trip in October,  read here.

European Waterways also offers memorable journeys in many countries including  barge and bicycle trips in France

Photos courtesy of GoBarging.com   European Waterways

- Lisa TE Sonne, posted for Luxury Travel Mavens

 

Is there an animal-loving kid inside you or inside your home waiting to get out in the real wilds next vacation? Summer is here and there are some wild specials for animal lovers who want to go beyond zoos, television, and stuffed toys.

Wild Planet Adventures Director Josh Cohen at Tiger Sanctuary in Thailand.

“After 23 years of feedback from families,” says Josh Cohen, Wild Planet Adventures founder and director, “we’ve selected our top five summer trips for animal-crazy families based on kid-friendly activities and experiences that appeal to all ages and attention spans.”

For best summer exotic wild animal trips, he recommends Brazil, Borneo, Galapagos, Peru, and Costa Rica. For summer planning for the top fall and spring trips, he advises you think Thailand and India. He also offers trips that aim to maximize the opportunities for wildlife in each destination.

Whether it’s customized night tours for nocturnal animals, quiet boats, walking safaris, kayaks, or remote floating lodges, Cohen works on including privileged access and exclusive activities that he has developed through years of guiding, scouting, and hands-on research.

Proboscis Monkey in Borneo

He hopes travel can ignite kids’ passions and concerns about protecting the world.

“Kids will thrill to cuddle a newborn monkey in the Costa Rican rainforest, witness the spectacle of hundreds of macaws at a clay lick in Peru, snorkel with playful sea lions in the Galapagos, glimpse a female jaguar nuzzling its newborn cub in Brazil, or wander the quickly disappearing rainforests of Borneo in search of adorable tarsiers, slow loris, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys, and orangutans, the most human-like of all primates.

A Tarsier in Borneo

“These are life’s defining moments. They provide a counter to our violent video-game culture and remind us that life is precious. They inspire, exhilarate, and provide perspective to kids growing up. They remind us that we are a part of nature.”

Keep reading for seven super-sounding family trips picked by Cohen and described in his own words (from an interview this week and his writings.)


Brazil

Jaguar’s Trail: Pantanal to Amazon 15-day “Brazil is the new up-and-coming family destination when it comes to wildlife travel, with possibilities for adventurous activities exceeding even Costa Rica. This trip includes the seldom-visited Taiama Ecological Reserve in a remote part of the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetlands.

“A Wild Planet Adventures exclusive, Jaguar Safaris in Taiama, average 1.5 jaguar sightings per day viewed from the safety of a river boat. Tiama Ecological Reserve and the Paraguay and Pixiam rivers are home to the largest concentration of jaguars on earth. Giant anteaters and otters plus silvery marmosets can be spotted from horseback, boat or jeep.

Extraordinary photo opp. Jaguar photo by a non-professional client of Wild Planet.
Image thanks to Mary Ellen Endo/Wild Planet Adventures

“Guests then transfer from the world’s largest wetlands to the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, and are introduced to Wild Planet’s exclusive Primate Program, designed by a primatologist.”

*$6,898 per person double can be shortened to 11 days for $4,998 per person double.

A Wild Planet Adventures Borneo trip where families can see families of Orangutans in Danum Valley, Borneo

Borneo

Borneo’s Weird & Wonderful Wildlife – 12 Day tour  “The primeval rainforest here harbors an Orang-Utan sanctuary, pygmy elephants, proboscis monkeys with huge noses, and Borneon Gibbons who sing to each other, among countless other rare and endemic species.

“Highlights include a special expedition to see Borneo’s unique flying and gliding mammals, and a night excursion to view tarsiers and slow loris, two of the world’s smallest and cutest primates. Borneo’s rainforest is disappearing at alarming rates due to palm oil cultivation, making it the world’s #1 ‘see it while you can’ destination.”

*$5,898 per person double.

Family watching seal pups in the Galapagos. Photo courtesy of Ecoventura.

Galapagos

“Galapagos Islands Ultimate Wildlife 8 Day Nature Cruise on 20-passenger yachts in the Galapagos.  Two naturalists accompany groups of no more than 10 people on land tours. Guests can kayak, walk amongst colonies of sea-lions, witness the mating and courtship rituals of sea-birds, track giant tortoises and snorkel surrounded penguins and other marine wildlife. Many summer dates are designated as special family departures, or family-with-teens departures.”

*$3,375 to $4,350 per person

Macaws in Peru at a Salt Lick. Photo courtesy of Rainforest Expeditions

Peru

Peru Ultimate Wildlife Adventure comes in 13- and nine-day versions. “Nine days includes the cultural meccas of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley. However, the focus of the trip is the Amazon Rainforest. Manu Biosphere Reserve is the world’s most bio-diverse park, with 200 species of mammals, including 13 species of primates.

“Nearby Tambopata Reserve is home to the world’s largest macaw and parrot clay licks where travelers can see up to 1,000 macaws and parrots transform the sky into a kaleidoscope of color. Exclusive family-friendly activities include a Wild Planet Adventures’ special ‘Jaguar Kayak Float,’ a shaman-led medicine trail to learn about the medicinal value of rainforest plants, and a special excursion to see the world’s smallest — and cutest —primate, the pygmy marmoset.”

*$3,375 to $4,350 per person

Costa Rica – In the Wild and to the Rescue!

A baby sloth for hands-on fun and education for the family at Proyecto Asis In Costa Rica

“On some tours guests, experience animals in the wild as well as at wildlife rescue centers, some of which offer ‘hands-on’ experiences sure to thrill kids of all ages.

“Costa Rica Ultimate Wildlife Eco-tour for 14-days focuses the wildlife of eight national parks harboring 10 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Included is a visit to Aviarios Sloth Wildlife Sanctuary where, says Cohen, ‘the cuteness factor is off-the-charts.’ Families enjoy hands-on interaction with animals at Proyecto Asis wildlife rescue center, and meet biologists studying the rainforest at La Selva Biological Preserve.  Activities include moderate whitewater river rafting, flat-water wildlife float-trips, cloud forest canopy tours, viewing volcanoes and hot springs, night hikes for nocturnal animals, sea-kayaking with dolphins and snorkeling at night in the bioluminescence.

Visitors can help feed a baby sloth at the ASIS Wildlife Shelter in Costa Rica


“Wild Planet is currently offering a special for the six weeks between early July and mid August, which includes free binoculars, extra nights in Corcovado and more. This coincides with a weather pattern called ‘veranito,’ (little summer) which tends to be one of the best times of year for seeing wildlife.”

*$4,598/person or 9-days at $2,998/person

Summer Planning for Other Seasons

“Not all of our most family-friendly wildlife trips are in season during the summer. November through June  – including Christmas and Easter breaks – offer a few additional options for wildlife adventures ideal for families:

Thailand

“Our #2 overall destination for families and #1 destination for women travelers, Thailand is the ‘Costa Rica’ of Asia in many ways. Wildlife safaris by jeep, foot, long-tail boat, and kayak in the national parks combine with mindful cultural experiences and end with snorkeling and relaxing on Thailand’s incredible islands.

“The Buddhist culture oozes joy and open-heartedness, and the sensuality of Thai food, Thai massage, and the Asian aesthetic combine to create a richly joyous experience. And did we mention feeding and playing with elephants and cuddling baby tiger cubs?”

Clouded Leopard on a Wild Planet Adventure

India

“India will ignite your family’s passion to make a difference in the world. It will instill a genuine sense of gratitude and appreciation for your life, for the opportunities you have, and for the things you take for granted. It is ideal for families with teens and adult children, who want a meaningful – and potentially transformational experience.

“Our wildlife expertise shines at India’s top national parks, wildlife reserves, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites where you can thrill to the sight of wild leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, tigers, and more. You’ll feel transported back to a romantic era of turbaned warriors, valiant princes, and sultry harems as you explore the forts and palaces of Jodhpur and Jaipur, the magnificent Taj Mahal, the remote villages of Rajasthan, and the contrasting bustle of modern Delhi.”

For more information and a complimentary 2013 catalog call toll-free 1.800.990.4376, or e-mail: trips@wildplanetadventures.com. To review current trips, schedules and itineraries log onto:
http://www.wildplanetadventures.com.
Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/mywildplanet

Lisa TE Sonne, Luxury Travel Mavens
Photos provided by Wild Planet Adventures unless credited otherwise in the caption.
Explore the Family and Adventure sections of Luxury Travel Mavens for more great trip ideas.

If you are looking for domestic luxury this summer, consider National Parks and stellar acommodations!  Get a nature and nurture fix when you combine first class Parks and pampering – and can get a package deal.

I don’t usually pass on press releases or information for things I haven’t tried, but I am a big fan of National Parks, and luxury-oriented  J Public Relations pairs Parks with pampering digs, and suggests some tempting trip ideas for outdoor wilderness creations with indoor comforts (no camping!). Below are words, images and links provided by them.

Tanque Verde Ranch paired with the Saguaro National Park (read on for more)

 

Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is the world’s first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals.  Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two.  At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife-watching by Snake River.

Hotel Terra paired with the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park

Hotel Terra Jackson Hole

Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole’s Passport to the Parks package provides the ideal destination for adults and families looking to explore some of the world’s most treasured natural sites.

The Passport to the Parks package includes:

·       3 nights lodging in a Terra Guest Room

·       7-day park pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

·       $20 daily breakfast credit at Terra Cafe

·       Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

·       Backpack for 2 children with kids guide book, reusable water bottle and camera

·       Rates start at $235+ per night; Minimum 3-night stay

·       Valid Valid May 16 – September 30, 2013

Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa

The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone.  Located in one of the most spectacular places in the United States, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is granting guests an all-access pass to explore both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks with Teton Mountain Lodge’s National Park Explorer Package that also includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit at Spur.

 The National Park Explorer package includes:

·       3 nights lodging at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa

·       7-day park pass to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park

·       Guidebook to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park

·       $30 daily breakfast credit at Spur Restaurant & Bar

·       $50 gas voucher

·       Rates start at $189+ / night; Minimum 3-night stay

·       Valid May 16 – September 30, 2013 (blackout dates do apply)

The Grand Canyon National Park:

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile.  Known for it’s visually overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape, the Grand Canyon boasts some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and dynamic views.

L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona

L’Auberage de Sedona, Arizona

Situated just 45 minutes south of The Grand Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, L’Auberge de Sedona is just a short drive from the country’s acclaimed Grand Canyon National Park.  The experts at the luxury boutique hotel have a breadth of knowledge to share with their guests if they’d like to tackle the trails on their own, or guests can book the Grand Canyon Package.

 The Grand Canyon Package:

The Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring monument that must be seen. Guests can relax in L’Auberge’s beautiful accommodations, then spend a memorable day on a professionally guided tour of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The travel up Oak Creek Canyon, via luxury mini coach, is one of the top 10 scenic drives in America.

The package includes:

·       Two nights in either Lodge Room or Cottage Room

·       Grand Canyon tour for two; tour times range 10-11 hours

·       $36 breakfast credit at L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek

Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest:

Divided into two sections, called districts, Saguaro National Park is 91,442 acres, 70,905 acres of which is designated wilderness.  The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus which is native to the region.  Close by is the Coronado National Forest which is spread throughout mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.  Divided into five ranger districts, each consist of multiple “ski island” mountain ranges.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tuscon, Arizona

Ideally located amongst Saguaro National Park and the Coronado National Forest, Tanque Verde translates as the “green pool,” a name given by the Pima Native Americans due to the seasonal river that runs through the land to create a mountainous desert oasis of vibrant cacti and various unique plants. Tanque Verde Ranch offers a variety of activities that allow guests to take advantage of this beautiful landscape, including expert-guided hikes through the Sonoran Desert or rugged Rincon and Catalina ranges, mountain biking tours, trail rides on horseback, birding adventures and nature walks. All of these activities are complementary with all-inclusive rates, which also include three daily meals and accommodations in tastefully decorated southwestern styled accommodations.

Coming Soon- the Salamander Resort & Spa paired with Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park, Virgina

This 200,000 acre park is haven to deer and songbirds and is an ideal location for outdoor activities for the whole family.

Be the First: Salamander Resort & Spa 

Salamander Resort & Spa is set to open this August in the heart of Virginia wine and horse country in the quaint 18th century village of Middleburg and a short 2-hour scenic drive along Virginia’s Skyline Drive to Shenandoah National Park. Set on 340 acres of farmland, the brand new resort will offer an unparalleled luxury experience in the region with 168 guest rooms and suites; a culinary program led by Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant in DC including a two restaurants, wine bar, cooking studio and 2-acre culinary garden; a world-class spa with 14 treatment rooms and a couples suite and an array of activities including an onsite Equestrian program to rival any other in the world, with a 22-stall barn, practice ring, riding trails and instructional classes. The property boasts tennis courts and an outdoor pool complex, and guests have privileges at the nearby Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Fifty wineries are within an hour’s drive of the resort, as are opportunities for whitewater rafting, sporting clays and raceway spectating.

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Where would you like to park you and loved ones this summer? If you try any of the above this summer, please let Luxury Travel Mavens know what you think!

Submitted by Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos, descriptions and links supplied by J Public Relations

 

“Getting to know you” in Costa Rica. Half inch poison dart frogs.

 

“Oh my gosh!”

I could hear Tex’s excitement down the path and ran with my camera. Two bright red-bodied,  blue-legged poison dart frogs seemed to be chasing each other. No wait, trying to mate. No wait- succeeding! The two half-inch, lively creatures performed their rite of Spring with us  “paparazzi,”  as our guide Tex called us, hovering and clicking away.

We were in lush, green, second-growth forest between two hanging suspension bridges in Costa Rica. ALA (Austin Lehman Adventures) aims to include surprise “Wow” moments on all their trips, but they are usually more family-geared.  When we finally gave the coupling frogs more privacy, we walked across a bridge with howling monkeys in the distance. As we rounded a bend, there was another surprise, this one well-planned:

Andy Austin, photographer extraordinaire, surprises hikers with chocolates from Montana, another delicious ALA surprise

Andy Austin proffered special chocolates from Montana, and on the rocks nearby, wonderfully cut-up  pineapple and watermelon waited to refresh us.

I had enjoyed the “Wow” moments  of  a new ALA trip to Nicaragua before and written about it for Luxury Travel Mavens.  I heard that Costa Rica was one of the most popular destinations for ALA fans for a wide range of ages because of the beauty and variety, so I wanted to see what Nicaragua’s neighbor had to offer.

I am back home, and, well, – Wow!

Other WOWs on the trip included the natural, the culinary, and the cultural:

On our first road trip from the capital to our river rafting departure, we saw two things unusual for tourists to witness: a bold King Vulture atop a tree (a birder’s bonus) and special parades of decorated giant tractors and beautiful painted carts pulled by oxen. It was a Festival for agricultural workers!

Agricultural festival in Costa Rica, by Lisa TE Sonne

That same Sunday morning, we saw two typical Costa Rican passions: Soccer fans in colors waving flags before a big match, and Catholic churches full of families. Our guide, Tex, made the visit to the Cathedral of Los Angeles  a “wow” by taking us first to a little shop where you could buy “body part” charms to leave in the church for specific health blessings.

Outrigger canoe-ing and kayaking along the Pacific coast of Costa RIca.

*Our group climbed in kayaks and a large Outrigger Canoe and paddled hard through intermittent warm rain and over large Pacific swells to reach a white sandy beach. The snorkeling didn’t look promising,  but it delivered beautifully, including a bright yellow puffer fish — round and cute, looking like Nemo would like to find him.

*After getting through some invigorating class 3 and class 4 rapids of the Pacuare River, we were deliberately tipped out of our raft at a calm section with a brisk current. We all floated through a gorgeous narrow canyon savoring post adrenalin peace and nature highs.

*Before enjoying an all organic homemade soup at the family run Arenal Vida Campesino,  eight-year-old Zura Rangine danced into our hearts showing us the “Pura Vida” spirit of Costa Rica.

*I gently swung in a hammock on a warm evening, talking for the first time to someone else in the group as he swayed in his hammock. As we delved into mind-body connections, with him explaining the latest in neuroscience, I saw a little light flash, and then another. There are both fireflies and lightening bugs in Costa Rica.

Even a bathroom window at a hiking trailhead had a “Wow”– a four inch “Owl Moth”

Wow!

Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos by (c) Lisa TE Sonne

 

Click for more on ALA & Kelty in Costa Rica