Tag Archives: vacation

Phoenix at The Phoenician

I recently returned form a wonderful trip to Phoenix, Arizona and had the chance to check out The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, Scottsdale. The location could not have been more perfect. Situated on Camelback Mountain, it is an easy drive to shopping areas and the Old Town.

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When first arriving, you are greeted by a winding entrance through the 250 acre property leading up the mountain. The golf course and casitas entice the view until you reach the main resort. You are greeted by the valet who escorts you into the main lobby with expansive views of the surrounding area from the balcony.

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All of the 538 rooms have been recently renovated to a calming contemporary style with large bathrooms containing both a separate tub and shower. Depending on your view from the balcony, you could have the pool view or the mountain view. Either are breathtaking.

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A local favorite dining option is at their J&G Steakhouse, an award-winning restaurant inspired by renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It is perched atop the main building with again, expansive views of the destination. There are also private dining rooms available for groups and small functions.

steakhouse

Further exploring the resort, we came across shops on site which included a cute little ice cream shop that served Sweet Republic Ice Cream, a local artisan creamery. Their custom “Phoenicain Crunch” was wonderful! They even can put together a picnic basket if you would prefer to enjoy the outdoors.

ice-cream

Along the back of the property, there is a fantastic cactus garden. Guests can explore many of the different varieties of local flora and fauna as they walk the paths. There are guided tours if you would like a more in depth exploration but there are also signs by many of the cacti. One of the holes of the golf course will send the players through this area as well.

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Adjacent to the main property, there are also the Canyon Suites. This is an exclusive 60-room boutique hotel located at The Phoenician, providing guests with a Five-star experience from arrival to departure. There is private check-in and hotel amenities although you are also welcome to use the main resort areas as well. There are also great meeting spaces here overlooking the mountain. It is even possible to have the mountain lit if you are having an evening event. Guests also have the opportunity to test drive one of six available Porsche luxury vehicles for a period of time up to two hours.

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The golf course is a favorite, not just of travelers but locals as well. This championship course has 27 holes for the most discerning golfer. Views range from sweeping skyline to mountain landscape. Golf Digest has even ranked them in the top 75 courses in North America! Designed by Ted Robinson, Sr. and Homer Flint, The Phoenician’s three diverse nine-hole courses create 18-hole combinations for the challenge and fun any golf enthusiast will crave.

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Moving on to their spa…. “Absolutely Incredible” is the first term that comes to mind. With 24 treatment rooms and 22,000 square feet, this space is dedicated to a peaceful retreat for your mind, body and soul. Along with many, many treatment options, there is a guided meditation every day at noon in these unbelievably comfortable, leather gravity chairs. Unfortunately, I just missed this experience but did get a chance to experience their comfort.

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Last but certainly not least is the pool area. This large centerpiece of the resort has many different areas which makes it feel a bit like intimate spaces rather than one large swimming area. There is even a children’s splash pad complete with a water slide and cabanas for parents to relax in close proximity.

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Overall, this spectacular resort is truly an oasis in the Phoenix sun. From the newly renovated rooms to the plethora of resort amenities, this property has a bit of something for anyone’s enjoyment.

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Trip to Japan and Cambodia, August 2016

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We began our trip in Nagoya, Japan, where our daughter lives.  Our first day there, she had to work. My husband and I were proud of ourselves because we were able to walk to Noritake Gardens and purchase tickets on the hop on/hop off sightseeing bus from there.  We were able to go to Nagoya Castle and were going to make other stops.  But, it was so hot and humid that we just went back to the rail station and looked in some shops (they have 6 floors of them on top the station) until she came home and met us there.
The next day, we took the bullet train to Kyoto and dropped our overnight bags at the hotel before taking a regular train to Nara, an ancient capital of Japan.  The bullet train beat flying any day.  No airport hassles, just buy a ticket and get on.  It’s fast, smooth and quiet.  Nara is well known now for the tame deer in it’s park.  We were expecting dozens, but there were hundreds.  And, they don’t stay in the park.  People are selling wafers to feed them out on the sidewalks, so that’s where they come to meet you and continue to areas across the street.  They are cute, but can be annoying because they bite at your clothing to get your attention to feed them.

Across the street is a huge building with the biggest bronze Buddha in Japan and the third largest Buddha built of any material there.  I must admit that it was awesome.  Shinto is the oldest religion in Japan.  It’s a nature-based religion – they worship the sun, water, wind, etc.  Jessie says that most people are born Shinto, but turn Buddhist later in life.  That’s probably because Buddhists believe in a life after death and the Shinto religion is just over when you die.

The next morning, we took a half day tour in Kyoto.  We went to the Ni-Jo Jo Castle, where the floors are made creaky on purpose, so the Shogun could hear intruders.  We saw the Golden Pavilion, which is covered in gold leaf and visited the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.  Japan does have an Emperor, but he’s a figurehead, like Queen Elizabeth.  He lives in the Palace in Tokyo, but comes to Kyoto for certain ceremonies.
We returned to Nagoya and left the next day for Siem Reap, Cambodia.  We learned from our tour guide that the city name means Victory from Siam.  Siam (now Thailand) and taken away much of their land and they fought to get it back.  We arrived late in the evening.  Siem Reap boasts deluxe hotels, like Raffles, but we didn’t stay there!  We went to a small hotel, Hollywood Angkor Boutique Hotel.  It’s an old hotel with about 15 rooms.  We were greeted with cold, scented wash cloths and a cold drink.  You have to use an old-fashioned key, then stick the metal plate attached to a slot in the wall to make the electricity work.  The mattresses were like new and everything was spotless.  The service there was amazing!

The next morning we went out and came back, then went to lunch and came back, then went on an afternoon tour and came back, then to the circus and came back.  Each time we walked in, they were there with cold cloths.  In Japan, people don’t tip, but everyone there works hard on their own.  In Cambodia, the people are much poorer and they do accept tips.  They are very gracious and very appreciative of whatever they get.  The pool area at the hotel had beautiful orchids and flowering trees.  Our last day there, my daughter got a massage and facial (done in the room) for about $32.00.  While we were waiting in the lobby, someone brought us cold bottles of water – just another small way they catered to their guests.
The first morning in Cambodia, we were taken to the park across the river from the hotel.  Traffic there is a free-for-all – not for the faint of heart.  It was Saturday, so the Buddhist temple there had live Cambodian Music.  There were people in the park having breakfast, and children were playing.  There were also giant bats in the trees (at night they fly and eat the bugs).  There were also beggars.  One man only had 1 leg, probably from the land mines that were buried all over Cambodia during their war.  We had arranged private tours through TravelBound because they were the same cost as group tours.  Our Tour guide for 2 days said that tourists bring in money, but not a lot trickles down to the people from government.  They have their own money, but it’s worthless.  Their economy is built on the U.S. dollar.  They won’t accept torn or very worn bills because they know they have to use them for a long time.  Before we went, we got cash because our bank said up front that they wouldn’t approve our credit card in Cambodia.
That first day, we had an afternoon tour to a floating village.  On the way, we stopped in the country to go part way in carts pulled by water buffaloes.  The roads in the country are terrible, but they don’t bother fixing them because of the flooding in the rainy season.  The floating village is a bunch of floating shacks, mostly, where people live.  They also have a cooking school, church, school, store, etc.  Our daughter told us before we went that the school where she teaches sponsors a school in Cambodia.  The students that go to her school are from wealthy families.  Their school has fund raisers during the year to get money to send to Cambodia (the next one coming up is a Halloween Party).  They are able to provide the Cambodian children with breakfast, lunch and a snack, as well as school supplies.  For many of those children, it’s all the food they will get for the day.
The next day was our full day tour of the Angkor temples, etc.  After you get by the people wanting to sell you things, the ruins are amazing.  Both Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat are huge.  They date from the 1100’s and 1200’s.  They are constructed from huge blocks of sandstone.  There are hundreds of statues and the walls are totally covered with carvings, showing life at the time, such as enemy’s coming on boats, royalty, common people hunting and cooking, etc.  They tell the story of the time.  Ta Prohm is the area where Angelina Jolie filmed the movie, Lara Craft, Tomb Raider.  There, the Strangler Figs are taking over the ruins.  They are trying to preserve the Angkor complexes as much as possible.  Stones that have fallen are numbered and some statue heads have been replaced with concrete.

Originally, their religion was Hindu, but they changed to Buddhist.  At one point the Hindu people stole many of the Buddhist statues and knocked off the faces of Buddha on the carvings.  You can take an elephant ride at Angkor Thom and there are wild monkeys at Angkor Wat.  All-in-all, they are just amazing.  We climbed all over Angkor Thom but when we got to Angkor Wat and I saw the steepness of the steps, I let the family go up while I went to the far side to wait in the shade.  Two young Buddhists monks came along and they chatted with me for some time.  They were school teachers and were off for the day (Sunday).  At first, I wasn’t sure what to say to them, but they were just regular people and we had a lovely conversation.
When we left Cambodia, my daughter had to go back to work in Nagoya so my husband & I went to Tokyo.  When we arrived, it was raining and they said a Typhoon was coming.  We figured our tour to Fuji would be cancelled the next day.  The storm went North and the next day dawned beautiful and sunny.  We found lots of English-speaking people in Tokyo, but we were only there for 2 nights.  I picked a hotel that was a stop for the airport limousine bus and also a pick up the Mt. Fuji, Hakone and Lake Ashi tour.  On the bus to Fuji, you could see it in the distance, but by the time we arrived, it was shrouded in clouds.  The tour was still good with a cable car ride in Hakone.  We stopped at a volcano, which had pipes that let out the sulfur  gas.  Usually, they take you up to a hot spring and boil eggs in the water (they turn black, but you can eat them) but, they had a landslide, and no one was permitted up at that time.  Afterward, we had a cruise on Lake Ashi in a pirate-type boat.
Overall, it was the most adventurous and the best trip we’ve ever done.  And, the tours and hotels we arranged through Travel Bound (Virtuoso) came off without a hitch.

For more information, please contact Traveline at 1-888-700-8747.

Luxury Hotel in Brazil

Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, located in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, is the only hotel located within the Iguassu National Park, with the world famous Iguassu Falls just a two minute stroll away. As the only hotel within the national park, guests are able to enjoy exclusive access to the falls each morning before the park opens. The Iguassu Falls are a breathtaking collection of 275 waterfalls, extending over almost 3km in an enormous canyon on the Iguassu River. We are pleased to be able to offer a range of experiences within this spectacular region including helicopter flights, rafting, nature walks, jeep safaris and a visit to the bird park.

STAY 4 NIGHT & PAY 3 ( 25% OFF, MINIMUM 4 NIGHTS )

Additionally, exclusively for 2016 Traveline guests:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Complimentary one-way private airport transfer – private sedan transfer for up to two people per room, once during stay
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Click here for more information or contact us at 1-888-700-8747

 

 

Vacation Around Greece

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I recently returned from a 10 day romp through Greece, and I can’t wait to go back! The streets are lined with healthy lemon, orange, and olive trees. The smell of honeysuckle is in the air. You can feel the pulse of the city just walking down the street taking in all the sights.

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April is the beginning of the tourism season so it wasn’t very crowded. This time of year the temperatures are venturing into the upper 60’s & lower 70’s. To be honest, it exhausts me to imagine vacationing when it’s any warmer over there. The sun can really take it out of you if you aren’t careful over when outside. There is a reason most homes have marble floors and huge roll-down shades on their balconies & windows.

Athens is a wonderful, thriving city! The view from downtown in any direction is full of hillsides crammed with houses & buildings, tightly packed together. On a typical day it may take you over an hour to get from one end of town to the other by car. Most citizens use public transportation to commute. Athens is the only city in Greece with a Metro System – It’s fairly cheap and easy to use, with color coded routes. Most major tourist destinations like the Acropolis are easy to travel to using the metro. If I can use the Metro System so can you.

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Stores and banks close mid-afternoon for the day. Some of the chain stores may have extended hours. Restaurants and small shops may close between 12pm – 3pm for siesta, and then reopen for the dinner crowd. Credit cards are widely accepted at the museums & in most restaurants located within the tourist areas. That said, expect to pay cash euros if you shop for souvenirs in the Planka (market) at the foot of Acropolis hill. In general, the Greeks do not haggle on prices, but if you offer a lesser price they just may take it. If they don’t bite on your offer, just accept the originally stated price and enjoy your purchase. Haggling over prices is considered rude. The Planka area is known for is pickpockets. Be aware of your surroundings and you should be fine.

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The Acropolis admission just increased from 12€ to 20€ per person. This pass includes entry to the Theatre of Dionysus, Ancient Agora, Roman Agora, Hadrian’s Library, Keramikos, and the Temple of Zeus within a 4 day validity period. Archeological sites tend to close at 3pm in the early season, but they may extend hours as late as 5pm during the high season. Early morning visits are recommended to avoid crowds and the midday sun. A trip to the Acropolis involves a lot of uphill walking even if you arrive via the Acropolis Metro stop. I was so glad I wore comfortable shoes with good tread. Take your time getting up there, and motivate yourself knowing there is a fruit slushy store across from the ticket booth at the entrance… no joke, it was the best 4.50€ I spent that day 😉

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2.5 hours North West of Athens is the historic site of Delphi. This was a wonderful day trip that allowed me to see the Greek countryside as we ventured into the mountains. Again, it is advisable to set out early morning, and stop midway for a lite bite to eat. (Fruit or pastry with Greek coffee is a no brainer) We passed through a picturesque little town called Arachova right before we arrived in Delphi. This was a nice destination to stop on the return trip so we could treat ourselves to a nice big meal & some shopping.

A ticket to the Delphi Archeological Site run 6€ for students to 12€ for adults, and admission into the Delphi Museum located at the bottom of the hill next to the Archeological Site entrance is included. This site also closed at 3pm, but the museum was open until at 4pm. After the trek up the slippery stairs of the Archeological Site, past all the temples to the Gymnasium and Stadium, we were ready for a nice fruit slushy. Luckily they have them in about a dozen flavors at the Café located outside the Delphi Museum. I highly recommend a leisurely sip of watermelon flavored slushy before venturing into the Museum. You can breeze through the museum in less than an hour.

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Aegina is a summer vacation hot-spot for Athenians that is known for 4 things: Beautiful Beaches, Pistachios, the temple ruins of Aphaia & the Monastery of Nektarios. We had the pleasure of vacationing there over the weekend. Ferry prices range from 8€ to 16€ depending on the type of vessel you take, and the ride is only about an hour. Once you arrive in Aegina’s port you can rent mopeds or quads to roam around the island. Both vehicles are street legal. Let’s take a guess at what we chose…

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If you ever have the chance to visit Aegina, please load up on the pistachios because they are the BEST pistachios I’ve ever had. They are soaked in lemon as part of the roasting process. I miss them already! The Monastery of Nektarios is centrally located. It houses the tomb of Saint Nektarios, who was canonized by the Greek Orthodox Church during the 1960s. He is fondly known as the Walking Saint who grants miracles to the faithful. They say if you put your ear up to his tiny silver casket you will hear his footsteps. For the record I didn’t hear any footsteps, but we’ll see if my request gets granted. As for the temple ruins, they are located on the highest hill of the island. It was a fun drive getting up there on our quads. The temple has been rebuilt 3 times over the years and it is in good shape. Aphaia is a goddess compared to Athena. Local lore says this temple is the place to visit if you looking for a dose of fertility. Admission here was only 8€.

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Greek food was a wonderful discovery. Forget all we Americans think we know about gyros here in the states. Over there, they serve gyros with either chicken or pork, no lamb. Meals come in 2 styles- shaved as we are used to, or cubed and grilled on sticks. Personally I prefer the sticks, and half of the fun is to fold the gyro in half and then pull the 2 sticks out, leaving the meat inside the gyro. Also expect french-fries in your gyros. If you opt for the chicken option, they will try to serve it with mayo instead of tzatziki sauce. Greek Salads are simply cut up tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta and maybe capers drizzled in olive oil and salt and pepper. These salads are served with most meals and are quite enjoyable.

Greeks aren’t very big on processed sugar, so they drink lots of water, coffee, tea, and juices. My host didn’t even have sugar in her house?! Tap water is ok to drink unless you are on the islands. Baklava and other sweets are a rare treat to the standard diet. A Greek would have a spinach pie for breakfast for example, and look at you oddly for ordering a piece of baklava for yourself. Greece also has several alcohols in addition to Ouzo you should try: Retsina is pine sap wine made popular in recent years. It tastes similar to a chardonnay even though it contains no grapes. Rakomelo is a honey flavored mixed drink made in Crete. It tastes like bourbon, but the aftertaste is all baklava. I just love this stuff! Aegina has Pistachio liquor that is wonderful mixed with other spirits.

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It would be fair to say I will always carry a little piece of Greece with me. It touched my heart in a way I find hard to describe without getting all cheesy. My new Greek friends now consider themselves family… and I gotta admit, I feel the love in return. If you ever journey to Greece be sure to relax and enjoy it! Take part in the hospitality offered. Share some kind words with a fellow traveler or local Greek. Try new foods & beverages. Dip your bread in the olive oil on the Greek Salad plate. Shop at the weekly street markets, and browse the locals produce and meats. Soak up the afternoon sun. You’ll never forget your journey.

Journeying by Rail through Switzerland – #travel

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Journeying by Rail through Switzerland is the destination. Hop aboard the GoldenPass Tour to take in the jaw-dropping beauty of chalet-filled villages and pastoral valleys, pristine lakes, and sky-piercing mountain peaks – from über-modern, panoramic cars or elegant, Belle Epoque carriages. Enjoy Swiss hospitality in both Lucerne and Interlaken on the Tops of Switzerland; extend your travels with a night in Montreux. Or ascend to new heights on the Swiss Rail Adventure, which combines journeys aboard the William Tell Express, Bernina Express, and Glacier Express. Travel in first-class comfort through tunnels, over viaducts and along snowcapped mountaintops – with overnights in Lucerne, Italy-inspired Lugano, chic St. Moritz, and “car-free” Zermatt.

Click here for more information or give us a call at 1-888-700-8747!