There are few experiences more romantic and breathtaking than gliding over a beautiful landscape in a hot air balloon. It’s just enough adventure without veering into the more heart-pumping extremes of hang-gliding or sky-diving. Any kind of thrill ride that allows you to drink Champagne during it is our kind of excursion. These are some of the best places to take part.
The annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place in October and this year will feature 550 balloons. Dawn launches and twilight balloon glows take advantage of the crisp autumn weather and unveil the whole of the Rio Grande Valley as the changing light plays off the mountains and valleys. The highlight of the nine-day festival is the mass ascension, when all participating balloons take off at the same time, filling the sky as far as the eye can see.
Safari from a whole new perspective with a balloon ride over the Serengeti, where you can the large scale interaction of the whole ecosystem of animals from a bird’s eye view. Watch as predators lie in wait for their prey, which is constantly on the lookout to protect the herd. It’s like a game of chess with the ultimate stakes. The endless plains and Maasai villages dotting them are great as well.
Thousands of temples and pagodas built hundreds of years ago sit silently among the trees in the golden city of Bagan, which served as the capital of the first empire to unite the lands that became Myanmar. The Irrawaddy River snakes its way past the city, with islands galore breaking up the flow. It’s the only way to check out all the architecture without spending years trekking from temple to temple.
Those rolling hills look even better from a thousand feet up. The walls of medieval hilltop cities seem so easy to breach by just dropping in from above, and you’ll get a taste of just how many acres of vineyards and olive groves there are discover. The beauty of the region is timeless, and flights usually comes with prosecco, cheese and olive oil tastings. Hard to say no to that.
The Turkish region is littered with “fairy chimneys,” spire-like rock formations that jut out from the earth. Some even houses and churches carved into them. There are also orchards and vineyards to glide over. Cappadocia is so lovely that more than half a million people go ballooning there each year, accounting for most of the world’s annual rides.
The vast majority of the 4 million Italians who migrated to America in mass migration at the end of 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries came from the Mezzogiorno in southern Italy. Their descendants have spread throughout the U.S. especially the Northeast. As heritage travel has surged in popularity in recent years, Largay preferred partner Lush Experiences has put together this sample itinerary exploring Naples, the Amalfi Coast and family history.
Imagine your children are getting older and you want to give them the opportunity to explore their Neapolitan background, possibly meet some distant relatives. As your Largay Travel advisor thinks about connecting you with relatives in Italy, you gather as much information as you can and your advisor reaches out to Privilege Italia to take advantage of its Italian Ancestry program. Working in the “family business” all their lives, Mario and Francesco Staiano are the owners of Privilege Italia, and as cousins truly understand the importance of your roots, and the impact that connection with your heritage means.
Tracing Your Roots
Through extensive research, Privilege Italia traces your family’s lineage and discovers your family came from a small town in Campania, just outside of Napoli. Privilege Italia finds relatives who still live in this town, a true Italian journey takes root. Privilege Italia then crafts an itinerary that let your family experience the authenticity of the region through the eyes of your relatives, from understanding the culture and treasures of the historic city of Napoli to a walk through the mysteries of Pompeii.
The journey begins in Napoli, where your driver takes you to your home in the very heart of the city, the Virtuoso-preferred Romeo Hotel Napoli. Across from the port on the Bay of Naples, the Romeo is the ideal location to explore the city and the islands of Capri, Ischia and Ponza. Your family ascends to the top-floor Beluga Bistrot and Terrace for a welcome cocktail toast with commanding views of the bay and Mt. Vesuvius. After an afternoon of relaxing poolside, you meet your newfound relatives for a very special dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Il Comandante restaurant. An evening filled with laughs and authentic Neapolitan cuisine by Chef Salvatore Bianco ensues as the family reunites.
Exploring Napoli’s Rich Culture
The next day you take a light walking tour to discover the city and your Neapolitan roots. Your expert guide takes you past imposing fortresses and castles along the water to the famed Pantheon-styled Basilica, with plenty of time to admire the Greek columns and beautiful sculptures and paintings inside. You pass museums, cafes and countless monuments that reflect a 3,000-year melting pot. The final stop is the Naples National Archaeological Museum. Enter this converted 17th century palace to spend the afternoon studying prehistoric artifacts, coins and ancient works of art, as your guide shares the stories behind them. This serves as the perfect primer for the next day’s activity, a trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.
Before leaving Napoli, you venture out of the city to your ancestral hometown, sharing a meal at a local restaurant with your new Italian family.
Pompeii & the Amalfi Coast
The next morning, you say goodbye to the Romeo and Napoli and depart for the picturesque Amalfi Coast, and the Virtuoso-preferred Hotel Santa Caterina. On the way, enjoy a guided tour of the famed archeological ruins of Pompeii, located just 30 minutes from the hotel. After a morning walking in the sun with your expert, it is time to cross over the mountain to the Amalfi Coast.
Once you arrive at the edge of Amalfi town and the dramatic location of the Santa Caterina, you are instantly in awe. Owned and operated by the same family for over 110 years, the hotel is a symbol of relaxed luxury on the Amalfi Coast. Walking across the hand-painted ceramic tile floors of the lobby, you are drawn to the outdoor terrace overlooking the perennial blue of the Mediterranean Sea and sky. It’s the perfect place for a welcome cocktail while your family is mesmerized by the view of the town and the beautiful waters. A casual dinner at the hotel’s seafront restaurant, Al Mare, gives you a taste of the sea and goes perfectly with the extensive wine menu with the sound of the waves crashing below.
The next morning you take a walking tour of the charming town, filled with authentic ceramic shops, and of course the famous limoncello made with local lemons. The highlight is a walk up the steps to the beautiful Amalfi Cathedral in the main square. Back at the hotel, relax by the sea-front pool, take in a signature spa treatment, walk through the gardens or enjoy the view from the terrace. With one final meal at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, it is time to say goodbye and close the chapter on an incredible Italian journey of discovery.
There is a seemingly endless number of travelogues to choose from to inspire your journeys. Let’s be honest, it’s the best topic to write on. Travel transforms people, so it’s no wonder that it makes for such good stories. Plus, from time immemorial, tales of faraway lands have captivated the human imagination. Here are a few we love to read for your next flight.
The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
Chronicling Twain’s trip around the Mediterranean in 1867 with a group of Americans aboard the chartered ship Quaker City, the book is cobbled together from newspaper columns Twain wrote about the journey. Twain contrasts the attitude of America, where everything is new and history is being written in real time with the focus on the past he encountered in Europe and the Holy Land. He also critiques tour guides, recognizing what makes a good one and what doesn’t, something we all can learn from. He does it all with the humorous insight only he possessed.
Travels with Myself and Another, Martha Gellhorn
Perhaps most well-known as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway, Gellhorn was a talented travel writer and war correspondent in her own right and has a journalism award named after her. She and Hemingway (the titular other) fell in love while covering the Spanish Civil War, and Gellhorn covered conflict from then to the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. This memoir highlights some of the not-so-great aspects of travel — the tediousness of getting from Point A to Point B, the havoc travel can wreak on the digestive tract — along with the awe: “I saw, drugged with sleep and shivering, the great African sky which I have been seeking — a riot of stars, velvet black, felt as an arch, and the air seeming to glint with starshine,” she recounts.
A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle
Mayle and his wife moved to Provence, and this book details the first year. For every beautiful meal washed down with the perfect wine pairing, there is a cold wind or a harsh lesson in the relatively lax work ethic of handymen. All in all, it’s a lighthearted fish-out-of-water account that conveys the lesson that life is better when you take it easy, even if your projects might never get completed. There are more important things than working your fingers to the bone to meet the constant deadlines of the modern workaday world.
West With the Night, Beryl Markham
Markham grew up in colonial Kenya (then British East Africa), where she began her flying career as a bush pilot and befriended Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa. In 1936, she became the first woman to fly solo westward across the Atlantic, after several predecessors had died in the attempt. The westward transatlantic flight is harder because the wind is against you. When her fuel tank vents iced over, she crash-landed in Nova Scotia. West With the Night details these experiences in lively prose. A telltale anecdote about Markham’s rebellion against social norms, an ex-husband of hers tried to claim he wrote most of the book, despite evidence that Markham submitted a partial manuscript to a publisher before meeting him.
The Travels of Marco Polo, Rustichello da Pisa
If you have to be imprisoned, hearing some good stories to pass the time is as good as you can hope for. As cellmates go, Marco Polo might have been the best. While they were locked up together in Genoa, Polo shared tales of his travels with the author Rustichello, who wrote them down. While there is likely some embellishment, the book is a vivid account of Polo’s journeys through Asia, including service at the court of Kublai Khan. It went as viral as anything could in the days before the printing press, inspiring countless explorers.
Each year, cities around the world are chosen as capitals of culture to be highlighted and celebrated throughout the year. The European Union began the tradition in 1985 and elects two cities in member states annually. The American Capital of Culture Organization was created to follow suit, and UNESCO chooses an Arab Capital of Culture. The International Organization of Turkic Culture also makes an annual appointment, while the UK picks a City of Culture to serve for four years. This week, we spotlight cities recognized for 2019.
Matera is serving alongside Plovdiv, Bulgaria, this year as a European capital of Culture. In Southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years as travelers branch out from the usual Italian haunts. It’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with traces of civilization dating back thousands of years. Matera’s old town, the Sassi, was carved from cliffside caves on the edge of a ravine. Over the years, more and more buildings have been stacked on top of each other, creating a striking scene that has caught the eye of filmmakers using it as a substitute for the ancient Holy Land and travelers seeking new adventures in Italy.
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
This colonial hill town 150 miles from Mexico City is this year’s capital of culture for the Americas. A colorful city full of colorful people, San Miguel has attracted expatriates from the world over for its lively arts and gastronomic scenes. Artisans’ markets and galleries seem to pack every street, and the scenery itself is straight out of a painting. The weather is just about perfect at all times, with average temperatures in the 60s and an elevation of around 6,000 feet. Outside the city is a pyramid complex at La Canada de la Virgen, and the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi get all the publicity, but there are five other emirates rounding out the UAE. Sharjah is widely considered the cultural capital of the Emirates, home to a museum of Islamic art and architecture, Al Noor Mosque and a large aquarium. The Emirates Fine Arts Society is located in Sharjah, as is a museum of calligraphy. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai have embraced the ultramodern, Sharjah seeks to preserve Emirati heritage. That isn’t to say that’s it all stodgy all the time, as there are picturesque beaches on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, plus deserts and mountains to satisfy any outdoor thrill-seeker.
Osh made a name for itself producing fine silks for traders traversing the Silk Road, and in 2019 it’s Turkic capital of culture. The city remains a crossroads of cultures, with 80 or so ethnicities represented in the population. Sulayman Mountain, the only World Heritage site located entirely within Kyrgyzstan, supplies magnificent views of the city and its surroundings. There are traces of history commemorating pre-Islamic times, the Silk Road and Russian occupation. The mountaintop is considered sacred, and there are ancient petroglyphs at its base. Peruse the traditional bazaar and you’ll see more spices than you can count, another mark of the many cultures that have passed through.
Better known simply as Hull, this city on the east coast of northern England has been the UK city of culture since 2017 and will be replaced by Coventry in 2021. Hull’s Museum Quarter contains the Wilberforce House, home of William Wilberforce, who led the movement to stop the British involvement in the slave trade. The Deep is an aquarium at the confluence of two rivers with more than 5,000 sea creatures and a whopping 660,000 gallons of water inside. The city has a renowned theater culture, and the Hull City Tigers soccer team has enjoyed several seasons in the English Premier League in the last decade, reaching the FA Cup final in 2014.
We’re smack in the middle of the cooking season. Thanksgiving has come and gone and with it the first round of feasting. Maybe you’re still working your way through leftover stuffing or making soup with turkey stock. If you haven’t already started, you may soon be deep in the throes of making Christmas cookies and other goodies. With Hanukkah underway, perhaps you’ve already churned out several loaves of Challah or several batches of latkes. Whether you’re trying to keep your skills sharp on vacation or learn how it’s done in a different culture, you’ll love these cooking classes with Virtuoso partners.
Eatwith lets you start your morning by meeting an Italian grandmother in Florence’s central market, shopping for ingredients that you’ll make into a wonderful meal that afternoon. Spend time discovering Florence with a local and stop off for a nice glass of wine or coffee before getting down to business. Learn how to make homemade pasta from recipes that have been passed down for generations. Cap it all off by enjoying a meal that tastes even better because you had a hand in it.
Soak up the sights, sounds and smells of a Moroccan souk with ShoreTrips. Sample lamb, couscous and seafood, deciding what should go in your dish. Once your menu is set, head to your host’s home and dive into making authentic appetizers, main courses, even desserts. Your host’s family will arrive just in time for dinner, sharing snippets of their daily life and engaging in cultural exchange.
Eatwith takes you on a tour of the world’s largest fish market. There will be big, beautiful fillets of tuna, live shrimp jumping and octopuses wriggling. Take the catch of the day to your guide’s house, where you’ll learn the ancient art of sushi making. Your guide will help you make rolls and nigiri and share the secret of the perfect slice. Enjoy a bowl of miso soup and a healthy dessert along with as much sushi as you can handle.
Discover the history of pre-Columbian cultures through the food of the Peruvian capital. Lima Tours immerses you in a culinary experience that gives you the flavor the country. The chef shares the history, geography, and biodiversity of Peru’s regions, then instructs you on how to make a proper ceviche. For the main course, you’ll make lomo saltado, a stir-fry loaded with beef, vegetables, and French fries. By then, your mouth will be watering and you’ll get to devour your creation.
Train under a Michelin-starred chef in the French foodie mecca. Book a cruise that is a Virtuoso Voyages sailing, and you’ll be able to visit the famed Les Halles, dedicated to cooking legend Paul Bocuse. Chef Philippe Lechat will show you around, introducing you to the cooks who make the magic happen. Sample a local specialty to get the taste down, then spend an hour making the main course. Don’t worry about dessert, the chef will handle that. You get to kick back and savor the fruits of your labor.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Hoffman of Hoffman Law Firm at the Camp Happy Days Gala. We both share a common interest in giving back to the non-profit organization. Camp Happy Days is a local charity in Charleston that helps children fight cancer by filling their life with hope and some fun. We at DMC Travel Tailor give 5% of our total profit to them and volunteer our time with them to help make this world a better place.
At the gala, DMC Travel Tailor donated a research and planning service as part of an auction item package. Dave Hoffman bid on it and this is how we met. I will be planning his next trip. When we got together we spoke about why he would like to use a travel advisor, the advantages of using one and the benefits he gets from travel. Dave Hoffman expressed that he would like to use a travel advisor to take the worry off his plate, creating a stress-free environment, saving him the valuable asset of time, while having a seamless trip created for him by a travel professional to avoid some of the mishaps he has previously encountered when planning a trip on his own.
Check out this video where Dave expresses why he thinks he would benefit from using a travel advisor:
DMC Travel Tailor is affiliated with Virtuoso, which is the leading luxury network in the world. Through this affiliation, we are able to offer clients exclusive perks and benefits they cannot find on their own. It also gives us access to global partners around the world we use to create WOW moments for our clients no matter where they want to go in the world. Some of the destinations we focus on include Africa, Australia, Italy, the British Virgin Islands and Fiji. We are also part of the Virtuoso Adventure Travel Community, specializing in adventure travel. This allows us to give you insight not only on where to go and what to do for a great adventure travel trip but also give you advice on what to wear and any equipment needed to bring.
Check out this video where we speak about that:
Some of the benefits of travel we discussed were learning other cultures, having eye-opening experiences that promote self-growth, bonding with family members and or loved ones and creating memories that last a lifetime, which is priceless. At the end of the day, you won’t necessarily remember what you have bought, but I bet you will remember the things you have experienced.
If you don’t have a travel advisor and would like to speak to one, please feel free to reach out to me, Stefany Di Manno Ceccato, Dream Travel Designer at DMC Travel Tailor. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and or by phone at (917) 653-9346. I would be happy to help in realizing your travel dreams!