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

 

Travelers enjoy watching the active Arenal volcano. On their backs: a Kelty Flyway backpack, an Ultimate Destination Jurek Endure waist pack, and ISIS turquoise top & Aqua Rain Shell.

Carry On!

“Carry-on” goes the British call in the face of any challenge. “Carry-on” is also many traveler’s mantra whether it’s about attitudinal stuff in your head or physical stuff in the overhead. Seems like increasingly air travelers are trying to avoid baggage claim delays and possible lost luggage hassles by going all carry-on.

Wheels or straps? More wildlife seen thanks to great guide Tex’s sharp eyes and helpful scope. ALA trains local guides and works with Sun Tours in Costa Rica

The question I pose is “wheels or straps?”  Carry your stuff via straps on your back and shoulders and be hands-free for flexibility?  Or roll it and be “weight-free” on your body?  “Wheels or straps?” applies whether you are master-minding a “carry on” only plan, or are checking in bags and still want an optimal sized carry-on bag.

I’ve been an “omni-directional wheels on small suitcase” traveler the last couple of years, but I had a chance to re-visit the “wheels or straps” carry-on question when I was one of the writers invited on a remarkable Kelty trip to Costa Rica that included trying out different gear, clothes, and travel bags.  I was game to look for other ways to “Carry On!”

River guide Otto oars the Kelty backpacks- both Flyway without wheels, and the Ascender with wheels-that are stuffed in dry bags to forge the class 3 and 4 river rapids– part of the ALA adventure of traveling to and from the Rios Tropicales Eco-Lodge in Costa Rica.

Our one week trip in Costa Rica, customized by the stellar Austin Lehman Adventure (ALA) company,  included river rafting, ocean kayaking, outrigger canoeing, zip-lining, hiking in jungles and second growth rain forests, as well as waterfall rock sliding, hammock swinging,  river floating, and eating at local farms and restaurants.  Plans called for river rafting into the Rios Tropicales Eco-Lodge, not accessible by road or plane, and then going downriver for a road trip to the Arenal Observatory Lodge for volcano watching, then on to the famous Manuel Antonio National Park and the Pacific Ocean for resort and sea time at Si Como No, part of the Greentique Hotels of Costa Rica. That called for some diverse items in packing, and durable, flexible luggage.

 

A lovely hike with Kelty packs to one of Costa Rica’s many beautiful waterfalls. Howler monkeys heard in the canopy.

Kelty has been an iconic name in backpacks for decades. I was curious what their brain trust would create for the adventure traveler. Instead of wheels or straps, we were given both to try out:  The Flyway back pack, and the Ascender series backpack that attaches and detatches from a sturdy frame with inline skating wheels.  Both would be put through some paces on our action-filled trip.

Kelty- For Straps 

“The Flyway” backpack is designed with air travelers and adventures in mind, coupling Kelty traditional back pack features with a separate pocket for wet clothes, dirty clothes, or shoes. The padded shoulder straps have their own pocket to streamline the bag if you want to check it in. I used the Flyway to Carry On, and appreciated how easy it was to pull my laptop in and out of the interior padded sleeve for Airport Security.  Once airborne, when I could use my computer, I also could smoothly pull my laptop out of the backpack while it was in the overhead without pulling the whole bag down (something I can’t do with a small suitcase). My travel pillow was also easy to nab from the side pocket.

Less hang-ups with extra camera gear in the Kelty Flyway backpack on one of the many Hanging Bridges in Costa Rica. Howling monkeys soundtrack.

Once in Costa Rica, the backpack could serve as a comfortable day pack for hikes as well – helpful for

*photo gear awaiting sloths, toucans, monkeys, deer, colorful poison dart frogs, orchids and bromeliads,

*more activities:  towel, sunblock,  and swimsuit for hikes to pristine pools and wondrous waterfalls, a raincoat, dry clothes

*shopping for Costa Rican coffee, cigars, woodcraft, organic papayas

There’s even a rain hood that pulls out of a pocket — good the sudden downpours in the rainy season of Costa Rica

The Flyway sports exterior pockets for water bottles and interior pockets for cards, travel docs and pens.  I wish there was a little secret compartment to hide a passport and money, and that the bag sat better when taken off, but I appreciate its relative comfort and versatility to serve for both trails and travels!

Kelty- For Wheels

Andrew demonstrates how the Ascender series of bags can all use the same frame with inline skating wheels. The new Kelty line debuts August, 2013.

 This August,  Kelty debuts the Ascender 22  series of three travel bags ( a backpack, WR Duffel and  Trunk bag) that can all be attached to an expandable sturdy frame with wheels- not just any wheels, but hardy, in-line skating wheels.

The adjustable frame can shorten or lengthen to hold various new Kelty sized bags We checked out the Ascender backpack which fits with the frame in the overhead bin.  You can also extend the rollable frame to balance the Flyway on top of the Ascender bag to wheel it all through the airport.

The Ascender backpack has an expandable pocket and the frame can accommodate the added height. The bag is no longer a carry on then. I loved being able to pick up gifts for family and friends, put them in the top pocket, and watch the bag grow.

The Ascender bag can also be detatched from the frame and worn as a backpack.  This kind of flexibility makes it a desirable way to roll for trips that ask for squishable luggage — cruises and barge trips with limited cabin space, and outdoor adventure trips where suitcases don’t roll well with the rocks.

For this adventurous, memorable trip, I was glad to be both wheels and straps!

Are you a “Wheels or Straps” traveler? How do you Carry On?

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne in Costa Rica

 -Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

 

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?

Beach side lounge chairs waiting for you to relax…. (c)Sonne

To the Caribbean without a passport!  White sandy beaches, 80 degree sea water, and lots of good eating – welcome to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands! The US bought islands from Denmark in the last century, and these tropical vacation spots are steeped with European and African influences, but English is the main language, the mail is delivered via the US Postal service and there’s even an US  “National Park” there with hiking travels not far from an underwater marked snorkel trail.

 

You can be a tourist- see the childhood home of Impressionist Painter Camille Pisarro, the Western Hemisphere’s second oldest Synagogue, the Caribbean’s first Buddhist Temple, and miles of restaurants and shops. You can also just sit until you feel like immersing in the warm waters.

 

 

Glide on in with open eyes or a face mask, snorkel and fins.

Underwater world of St Thomas

Float over an endless aquarium or hold your breath, and dive a few feet  to get eye to eye with tropical fish, urchins and corals that look like sculptures. The light shimmers and plays. The water gently rocks you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No crabby people found topside, but underwater….

Sometimes there are surprises…

On a popular beach of Megan Bay, food shacks will deliver to you on the sand for barefoot dining. A few hundred yards away, underwater the fare is fresher and more lively.

 

 

 

 

This brain corral is a yard wide.

 

Your brain can relax as you take in dozens of different corals- from purple and orange fan corrals to large brain corrals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then look up………

Looking up is part of the fun of snorkeling in St Thomas. Schools of blue fish swim by. Sonne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you add St. Thomas to your “bucket list”?

-Lisa TE Sonne for Luxury Travel Mavens

Photos (c)  Lisa TE Sonne