Wish you were there?

Late Breaking News: Sales For Solos

Two new excellent offers waive the “single supplement”
onerous and often excessive, required of those traveling solo

The venerable 90 year old Tauck – gold standard of U.S. tour operators, is again rolling out the red carpet for solo travelers in a variety of riverboat cruises and guided land tours… reduced rates and supplement fees eliminated as an added attraction to a form of travel already perfectly suited to solos. Click directly on http://www.tauck.com/solo.aspx to navigate their vast array of solo specials in 158 departures, 64 itineraries to five continents.

Exotic Cruises

Book quick, before Oct 21, 2013 on any of the five glorious cruises operated by award-winning British company and avoid all single supplement charges:

13-days “In the Footsteps of St Paul” departing Oct. 21 cruise from Istanbul to Athens
17-days “Windows on the Ancient World” from Athens on Nov. 2 to Sharm-el-Sheikh
16-days “Tales of India & Arabia” on Dec. 4 from Dubai to Colombo
16-days “East to Myanmar & the Orient” on Dec. 19 from Colombo to Port Kelang
17-days “Asian Capitals & the Magic of Vietnam” cruise departing Jan. 3, 2014, from Port Kelang to Hong Kong

For all info as well as details of the 540-passenger Voyager, check out one of
England’s preeminent tour operators, the multi-award winning Voyages of Discovery.

You’ll Never Walk Alone…

Travel fantasy:  be guided  gently, step by step, through the heart of a city, town or village, along intriguing paths, in special places all over the world.  Follow well-crafted itineraries, hang out with top local guides, sleep in premium, locally-owned accommodations, and scarf down fine food and wine… the best and most reflective of the local scene.


Cited as stellar in all the top travel magazines  (how about “World’s Best”  list of Travel + Leisure), multi-award winning Country Walkers is offering  a seductive discount to enthusiastic walkers who might be traveling solo:  they’re knocking off the nasty old single supplement fees on 14 of their most popular Guided Walking Adventures. The offer is two free single supplements per trip– a total of 54 rich experiences- very well-priced, throughout 2014.

Adventurous walking will place you in the midst of like-minded souls – the perfect format for those travelling solo.

Click on 14 for 2014 Solo Savings to reveal a vast array of wonderful walking adventures.

Turn your high beams onto the most exotic trip: Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia. This welcoming terrain is combined with a mega-dose of the heady Khmer, French Colonial and Chinese cultural mix.  Walk into local towns, villages and partially obliterated temples, passing silent monks in saffron robes.  3-5 miles a day.

For the macho among us, check out Europe’s apex alpine, one of Country Walker’s most challenging: The Mont Blanc Circuit requires 6-7 trekking hours a day through France, Italy and Switzerland on paths that will lead close to heaven on earth.



And for deep rooted traditional charm, the hills and dales of Dingle Bay in Ireland delivers a walk along the wildly dramatic North Atlantic beaches bordered by dense forests. Explore early Christian and UNESCO World Heritage sites, castles, half-ruined abbeys and forts… Easy and amazing at 3-6 miles a day.


Exotic Small Ship Trips/Happy Holidays!

A good company to know: AdventureSmith Explorations operates a treasure trove of small expedition ships along a vast variety of itineraries, perfect for “soft” adventure-lovers. Their ships carry from 36 to 189 guests and feel like private yachts so if one is sailing solo, one is bound to meet, travel and celebrate with like-spirited travelers. The top destination for dynamic social interaction, and thus great for solos, is always their Antarctica trips.

Anchors aweigh. “From the Antarctic Peninsula to Panama, guests can enjoy either ice-capades or blue-sea snorkeling,” says Todd Smith founder and owner, adding that “trips just before and right after the holiday season come with “terrific discounts” and better availability.

More good news: unlike mega ships that usually charge extra for shore excursions, guests on small expedition ships enjoy exciting, clever and stimulating treks, rides and outings on land at no extra charge.

A sprinkling of cabins is still available for the 2013-2014 holidays
—and here we go:

Range of prices: $3,000 to $16,000 pp.

The company is also fully set up to assist with hotels to bookend your cruise and if a particular cruise is sold out, contact them for alternatives.

Founded in 2003, California-based AdventureSmith Exploration’s Todd Smith was named Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist of 2013. Call: 800-728-2875 for full scoop.


Elegantly India

We all need someone to interpret India, most intoxicating, most beautiful, most shocking, exciting destination on earth.  We therefore suggest you travel with an energetic, highly experienced expert.

Louise Nicholson, an art historian, TV producer, journalist, and author of 26 books (!) including National Geographic Traveler guides to India and London, is a stellar guide.  She has been visiting and studying India for over 30 years.

Her infectious enthusiasm and empathy will help you gain perspective on the impossible cultural mulligatawny that is India today.

You’ve got one shot: February 1-15, 2014, to join her in-depth classical tour “North India Uncovered”. Under the aegis of the venerable Steppes Travel, pioneers of expert-led, custom-designed, in-depth itineraries for small groups. Perfect for solo travelers eager to absorb.

Plunge into the huge, jam-packed Nagaur Cattle Fair (far less commercial than Pushkar) and get up close to painted and festooned camels, bullocks, cattle, horses and the farmers themselves. Step into the magical lake city of Udaipur.  Explore Mumbai, frenetic embodiment of all India’s contemporary extremes. Visit the 2nd-6th c. BC rock-cut Buddhist caves and ancient sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora where the 34 “caves” were ancient monasteries carved into the vertical face of rock. Explore too the Rajasthani fairytale palaces built by insanely lavish maharajas.  And visit, of course, the iconic Taj Mahal, dazzling white marble mausoleum.

Stay in historic hotels, stroll in dizzily colorful markets. Meet lots of locals including master craftsmen and master chefs.  Ms. Nicholson’s trip is “a sensual feast, intellectually thrilling, and soul enriching.”  And not p.s., she founded “Save a Child” in1985, an NGO established in the UK and US, to help underprivileged Indian children.

The rate is $6905 for this 13-night tour (double occ basis.)  For an itinerary and all info, please write to:  enquiry@steppestravel.com.

Uzbekistan: Stops & Shops

Surrounded by Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — one of the world’s wildest neighborhoods - Uzbekistan is a top stop along the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia.

The country is rich in natural resources including oil, gas, gold and cotton, and Tashkent, the capital, is today a well-planned modern city with lots of greenery, many museums, wide boulevards and a cool 36-year old subway system with 29 exotic-looking, highly individualistic stations. The city has been rebuilt since the earthquake of 1966 and yet is still home to enough marvelous medieval architecture and mysterious winding streets to keep our attention.

Lots of buzz about exploring “The Stans” these days, but zeroing in on this particular one will reap thrilling cultural rewards.

It is great fun to follow the indefatigable and charming Zulya Rajabova, president and founder of Silk Road Adventures.  Cited as “Top Travel Specialist for Central Asia” by Condé Nast TravelerMagazine, Zulya will lead us deep into the heart of her native Uzbekistan for the shopping spree of the century.

Follow the giant green domes to find the iconic 2,000-year old Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent to see, smell, squeeze and buy samples of every edible native to the country, and then plunge into the exuberantly designed ikat and suzani silks and cottons, silver, gold, brass and copper, intricate embroideries, glorious carpets, spices, crafts, and distinctive silk scarves. Best ethnic bets: the doppi (the high skull caps), and the chapan (the men’s colorful long cotton coats.) Black belt bargaining is the sport of choice.  [There are, by the way, many new shopping malls now in Tashkent, but not for us - and not for this trip.]

Delve into native culture and music, visit paper and silk-making workshops, and homes. Meet artists, snoop around the 19th century Abul Kasim Bazaar for woodcarving, ceramics and miniature painting. Photograph the minarets, mosques and visit medressas (religious schools.)

Fashion designers, museum curators, handicraft aficionados, art and jewelry collectors, photographers, high spirited travelers and intrepid shopaholics – this trip is it. In addition to Tashkent, visit magical 15th century old city of Khiva, World Heritage Bukhara and its 16th c. trade domes, the 2500-year old oasis city of Samarkand and Shakhrizabz, another World Heritage site.

Only 10 travelers max for each 10-day tour.  Departing Sept.15, Oct 3, 2013 and five departures in 2014.  To see the detailed itinerary, click here and/or call 888-745-7670 in their New Jersey office.

Ice Bear Antics

Far more exciting than watching grass grow is waiting for the ice to freeze in Hudson Bay.  Why?  Because in late fall, the small sub-arctic town of Churchill in Manitoba, Canada becomes ground zero for a phenomenal Polar Bear ingathering.  Churchill is a perfectly positioned outpost in the triangle formed by a boreal forest in the south, the Arctic tundra to the north and the Hudson Bay, northeast.  It’s inaccessible by car and the temperature in the fall drops fast.  Bring mittens.

Multi-award-winning, Colorado-based Natural Habitat Adventures, partnering with World Wildlife Fund’s top scientists, was voted #1 World Adventure Travel Company by macho Outside Magazine.  This year they are offering a great new adventure: “Tundra Lodge & Town Adventure” with two departures, October 11 and 14, 2013, both are almost sold-out. Sign up for a chance to see the “King of the Arctic” polar bear unbelievably up-close and all the time. Sleep in a rolling “hotel.”  Meet a real musher and ride with a team of huskies. Explore the tundra in an ultra-sturdy, uniquely designed Polar Land Rover. And get this: outdoor viewing platforms with steel mesh floors get you inches away from the bears as they snoop around right underneath! Take advantage too of the photo opps of a lifetime. Bragging rights, no extra charge.

Their Tundra Lodge is a mobile hotel on huge heavy rubber wheels. It is driven to the busiest area for animal traffic in order to maximize bear-viewing.  Like a train, one car of the Lodge is the dining room, one is the kitchen, one is a welcoming lounge and two cars are for sleeping in berths.  Plenty of windows to watch bear from the lodge and for the more intrepid, Land Rover safaris are always available to explore the tundra.

In addition to big white bears, see rare arctic fox, arctic hare, red fox, and many feathered friends, most notably the gorgeous black and white snowy owls.

Two nights in the historic town of Churchill will be eye-opening and fun: meet hardy locals and former trappers, meet Kelly the king musher who will show sled dog basics, and an Inuit couple who demonstrate how people survived in this unforgiving climate long ago.  Not p.s.: a visit to the excellent museum of Inuit history, culture and music.

This wild 8-day small-group adventure, accompanied by two well-experienced team leaders and an enthusiastic staff, begins and ends in Winnipeg and includes the short chartered flight to and from Churchill.  $7295 pp. Click here.

Knit One, Cruise Too!

The age-old handicraft of knitting is experiencing a renaissance as a younger generation rediscovers its social and creative appeal. Knitting has become cool!  And in today’s digital world, more and more people are embracing the artisanal, the do-it-yourself, and the handmade.

Knitting is easy. It appeals to both men and women of any age, and it’s creative, meditative and sociable. Plus there’s the fashionista factor: knitting encourages self-expression and individuality.

Way-advance notice:  For the next New Year’s Eve, award-winning river cruise line, AmaWaterways, will ring in  2015 with a new theme, innovative and charming – a Knitting New Year’s Cruise on the Danube River from Dec. 27, 2014 – Jan. 2, 2015 aboard the three-year old,161-passenger AmaBella.

“Knitting appeals to a great swath of age groups these days, and we thought it would be a fun and creative outlet for our guests,” says Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner. “This cruise will bring together a community of knitters and give them opportunities to learn new techniques, find inspiration, and show off their personal style and creativity.”  It will showcase the latest in luxury yarns, fashion trend forums and new stitch patterns, and techniques. Acclaimed textile expert Barry Klein, owner of Trendsetter Yarns in Los Angeles, will host.

In the southern Bavarian Forest, push off onto the Danube from Vilshofen, a Gothic fairy tale of a city centered on a time-capsule Old Town. Guided tours (at no extra cost) of each port city: Linz, Vienna (birthplace of apple strudel,) Bratislava, Budapest and in Austria, an in-depth tour of Melk’s magnificent Benedictine Abbey founded in 1089.
New Year’s Eve will be one of music, dancing and champagne midnight toasts.

Amenities abound. One of the most advanced ship designs in the river cruise industry, the AmaBella features spacious staterooms (many with balconies), multiple dining areas, a swimming pool and fitness room, free bikes, cooking demonstrations and onboard musical performances. Very well-priced starting at $2,799.

“Young knitters may be using the same techniques and equipment as previous generations, but their use of Facebook and Twitter to form online communities and share patterns is a distinctly modern twist,” added Karst. “Think of this cruise as an onboard knitting meetup for people of all levels, from beginners to advanced. It will definitely be a unique and fashion-forward way to ring in 2015.”

Hot! Havana For New Year’s Eve

So tantalizing, our tattered island nation neighbor … Former tropical playground, Cuba is still Communist, still under a U.S. economic embargo and still off-limits to American vacationers.  It is still illegal for an American to hop on a plane and puddle-jump the 93 miles of shark-infested waters. However, travel restrictions under Obama have loosened up and a vast array of choice small-group, purpose-oriented trips is now available to those with a yen to see, hear, taste and feel the reality of Cuba today.

Just don’t try to bring home any of those legendary cigars….

Thanks not only to its tantalizing forbidden fruit feature, Cuba is a sexy place.  The island is a bubbling stew of many cultures that throbs with a distinctly African rhythm.  The air is, honestly, filled with music day and night.

It is Transition Time folks, and Cuba is hot.

Licenses to travel there are being scooped up and stockpiled by travel companies as quickly as they are issued (actually not that fast.)  So although it takes plenty of paperwork and complex planning to get a license for Cuba travel, it is doable.

And the bandwagon is filling up!  Many well-established tour companies have  plowed through the paperwork to offer new trips. Trips are centered on a theme or an accompanying expert, e.g., photography, painting, music, writing, and dance.  Check out Insight Cuba, GeoEx, Road Scholar (“Shalom Cuba” for Jewish heritage) ,Globus, National Geographic Expeditions, Cross-Cultural Journey Foundation and many museums, great and small: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian, Corcoran, and on.

Better yet: train the spotlight to pierce the salsa hubbub of offerings and focus on Temma Ecker, an educator and travel expert who established her boutique Chicago-based firm, “Journeys of the Mind,” over 20 years ago.

Depart Miami with Temma on December 27, 2013 for a seven-night adventure, five in Havana and two in the movie-set stunning seaside city of Cienfuegos and colonial Trinidad.  Ring in the new year in high spirits right on the dramatic steps of the historic Cathedral Square in Havana’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tables will be set up for dinner and a Tropicana-style midnight show under the stars. Before and after, Temma will lead you into neighborhood street parties. Attend, too, a private concert in the gorgeous National Museum and Decorative Arts garden, visit an organic farm, various museums, art galleries, meeting and greeting the locals as you go.

Temma says, “Cuba has an important story to tell inquisitive travelers:
how a marginalized society has lifted itself up out of adversity with resourcefulness, talent, charm, and dignity.”

Very well-priced at $4375 which includes the special visa fee and mandatory insurance. For more on New Year’s Eve in Cuba call her directly at 708-383-8739.






Pure China: Double Whammy Deal FLASH

Washington-based China Spree is offering a knockout 9-day/7-night winter special for $999 from November through February, 2014. This ultra-low price includes non-stop transpacific air from San Francisco, internal China flights, transfers, hotels, American breakfasts, some lunches, professionally guided sightseeing and entrance fees in China’s superstar cities. True!

In Beijing, home is the supremely comfortable and ideally-located 4-star Trader’s Hotel. See everything: Tiananmen Square; the Forbidden City, the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs, the masterful Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and walk on the truly awesome Great Wall.

In vibrant Shanghai, sleep for seconds in the 5-star Shanghai JC Mandarin right on Nanjing Road.  See, walk, smell and feel life on the Bund, the riverside promenade and former heart of colonial Shanghai, and zoom up the Oriental Pearl Tower for a bird’s eye view of the city. Shop and hop optional tours.

The $999 rate is per person, double occupancy. Well-priced add-on air fares are available from many other cities. For additional information on their “Tale of China Two Greatest Cities Tour” phone:  866-652-5656.

Language in Llamaland

Break the touristico bubble in which lots of us travel by speaking or at least studying the local language. But forget about the crazy conjugations.  You don’t have to be a linguist to absorb some of the basics, the surround sound, and rhythm of a new tongue when eager to intensify an adventure.

In Peru this fall, consider spending nine marvelous days under the wing of Llama Expeditions and your life could be transformed.  The have cleverly combined active adventure travel with living language lessons taught by Carlos Bazan, teacher and founder of  “Enjoy Spanish”, top-rated Spanish language school in San Francisco.

Andean trekking specialist, Diane Valenti, founder/owner of San Francisco-based Llama Expeditions says, “Carlos believes that a language is best learned when the whole self is engaged” and she has constructed a smart trip to accomplish just this.  An on-line Spanish language quiz helps determine skill level and, adds Valenti, advanced-beginners do best. Orchestrating the stimulation of an exotic environment under the baton of a skilled linguist, travelers will be encouraged to encounter each other and the locals communicating only in Spanish.

“Spanish Learning Vacation” highlights: tours of historic Lima, a culinary dip into authentic ceviche, visits to Pachacamac, the pre-Columbian archaeological complex, colonial Cusco, Inca ruins, a traditional weaving community in the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, and the salt pans of Maras. And not to worry, you’ll meet many cute llamas along the way.

Her company is philanthropically focused and guests are encouraged to donate gifts of food, school supplies and clothing. One great Spanish on-the-go trip only: Nov. 9-17, 2013 and designed for only six to ten people. The per-person double rate is $3,977 for all land arrangements and many meals.  Call 415-553-7731.