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SPAIN CAMINO – Fully Escorted Walking Tour (Leon to Santiago de Compostela), June 2017

Highlights:

With nervous anticipation and excitement, our group of seven met at Melbourne airport on 1 June 2017 – bound for Leon via a night in Madrid – for our pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. With all our training of the past weeks complete, we were ready for the challenge of the next 14 days and the 300kms we needed to cover to reach our final destination of Santiago.

During the next two weeks, we walked and talked our way through numerous towns, cities and quaint cobblestone villages. We climbed many hills (reluctantly for some) and navigated several rocky descents. We trekked through green fields and vineyards as each day brought something new for us. There were plenty of rest stops along the way, many cups of tea and coffee consumed, and a mandatory slice of the infamous Santiago Cake or a cheeky beer or two to help lift the spirits of the group.

The camaraderie of our fellow pilgrims from all around the world was definitely a highlight for us as we made many friends along the way. It was fascinating to hear everyone’s stories and our table was often full of our new acquaintances each night.

We were always happy to reach our destination at the end of the day with most days walking between 20kms-30kms. Our accommodation was a mixture of hotels and charming village accommodation. We looked forward to a hot shower, a refreshing drink or two and a delicious dinner at the end of the day. We would debrief about our experiences on the trail, share stories of people we’d met, compare minor injuries or blister stories and talk about what the next day entailed for us.

Reaching Santiago was an emotional experience. Everyone was so proud of what they had achieved. Many of our group had moments of doubt about being able to complete the Camino, but they continued to put one foot in front of the other until finally we were celebrating with everyone else in Santiago.

Most of us enjoyed two nights in Santiago before we headed our separate ways. The town has a great vibe as we enjoyed our beautiful accommodation at Hotel Monumento, attended the Pilgrims’ Mass and enjoyed our last dinner together. We were blessed with great weather on the trip, good health and lovely friendships developed. A big thanks to my lovely walkers Eva, Fran, Pete, Helen, Pete and Sandra for making it such a fabulous experience.

Recommendation:

I highly recommend this Camino for anyone who enjoys a holiday with a difference, who has a sense of adventure, enjoys beautiful scenery, loves meeting new people and of course for anyone who loves walking!!! This is a definite BUCKET LIST experience that suits all ages and fitness levels.

Ginny Fisher

Hampton Travel & Cruise

Group Tour Escort

I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Antarctica!

Antarctica
March 2, 2017

I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Antarctica! This destination is like nowhere else in the world and really can’t even be compared to the Arctic. This continent doesn’t have any inhabitants (except for those that spend a year for scientific research). No towns, or villages, no shops or transport – just stunning scenery everywhere you look, and teeming with wildlife.
The best way to get there and explore is on a small ship. I travelled with Chimu Adventures, aboard the MS Sea Spirit on their 10-night Antarctic Peninsula Cruise. This ship takes just 114 passengers which is perfect for Antarctica in many ways. Most importantly, all passengers can disembark and travel ashore at the same time – regulations don’t permit more than that at any one time. It also allows the ship to sail into smaller harbours and closer to the fantastic scenery.
MS Sea Spirit cabins are luxuriously appointed. I enjoyed plenty of space in the Superior Category on Deck 4 – Double or twin beds with a sofa (converts to a bed if you had a third person) and large picture window.
She’s about to undergo a refurbishment at the end of this season, which will see all the bathrooms re-done.
One thing to note on any cruise to Antarctica – your itinerary is only a rough guide as to where you are going to end up visiting! The destinations are so dependent on the weather which can change at any time due to wind, ice, seas etc. that decisions are made and changed constantly. I must say that it doesn’t make any difference, as every landing we had offered something completely different to the next.
Expect to see plenty of penguins – we saw Chin-strip, Adelie and Gentoo penguins – all hilarious to watch in their natural habitat as they’d make their way up and down penguin highways from their rookeries to the ocean. November/December is a great time to see the penguins nesting their eggs. It was so funny to watch the males walk around stealing rocks from one nest to take back to their partners! If you travelled later in the summer, you’d enjoy seeing all the penguin chicks hatching.
There were also numerous Weddell Seals, Crabeater Seals and Elephant Seals. One afternoon on Barientos in the Aitcho Island we watched around six Elephant Seals sunning themselves whilst hundreds of Gentoo penguins and a few Chinstraps noisily moved around them.
And the scenery… like a few other places in the world, this is one that you have to see with your own eyes. Tabular icebergs on the Antarctic Sound near the Weddell Sea – some standing 27 meters high and 2 kilometres long – take your breath away. Massive glaciers, tall volcanic mountains, calving icebergs are just a few of the sights that you’ll be getting your camera out for.
Don’t forget to take your bathers – you’ll get a chance to do the Polar Plunge somewhere along the way; expect the 0 degree water to take your breath away.
Our 10-night cruise was fabulous in so many ways – there’s a couple of nights each way crossing the Drake Passage where the seas can be a little rough. Take your sea-sickness tablets and you should be fine. Enjoy this time with a few lectures by the very knowledgeable expedition staff on all topics from Antarctic history, wildlife or icebergs etc. Spend the rest of the trip with on average two landings per day with about 1.5-2 hours ashore each time.
You’ll enjoy your pre-cruise night in the small port-town Ushuaia and get a chance to pick up any last-minute things you’ve forgotten to pack. I enjoyed a coach tour to the Tierra del Fuego National Park with its pretty lakes, soaring mountains and wildlife.
I was lucky enough to also spend a few nights in Buenos Aires – the Paris of South America! There’s so much here to see and do and it’s a real contrast after 10 days in Antarctica. You’ll no doubt visit Evita’s grave at Recoleta Cemetery – it was quite moving to hear her story again. Make sure to get to a Tango show as well as visit the touristy but cultural areas of La Boca with its colourful tin homes stacked one on top of each other, San Telmo with its painted murals, and get time to sit in one of the many parks. If you’ve got any extra time, the ferry across to the UNESCO town of Colonia in Uruguay with its narrow cobbled streets and old buildings is definitely worth a visit.
We capped off our time in Buenos Aires with a couple of hours spent learning about (and of course tasting) the cheeses and wines of Argentina at the Palacio Duhau, Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. I can’t think of a better way to end an amazing trip to this destination!
Danielle Stucki.

Is this the perfect way to end a luxury cruise?

Block off the streets in the centre of Koper, Slovenia. Book out the main square – Tito Square. Hire a local choir. Put out the red carpet and seating. Offer a variety of local produce and wines for pre-concert delights. And then program it as a free optional extra excursion on the second-last evening of your Azamara Quest luxury cruise.

How good is that!

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A taste of luxury cruising at its best: Azamara Quest 8 Night Croatia Inside Passage, May 2017.

Why on earth haven’t I been to these places before? They are so, so beautiful – Zadar, Hvar, Dubrovnik and Korcula in Croatia, and Kotor in Montenegro.

They form the Inside Passage of Croatia. They are sea ports with medieval old cities, winding streets, great architecture, tight laneways, squares and terraces full of community interaction. Plus stunning views.

Why haven’t I been here before?

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We thought sailing out of Valletta would be hard to beat. And then we got Venice!

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Sicily, you are slipping past us so fast….