Even the tiniest countries have the power to surprise us with their diversity. One of those is the former Soviet nation of Georgia.
Its location on the westernmost tip of the Asian continent earned Georgia its nickname, the Balcony of Europe. Drawing together fascinating yet turbulent history, unique gastronomy, rich winemaking heritage, monastery-topped mountains, cave cities, and subtropical Black Sea coastline - Georgia is a wonder for travelers to discover.
Here are six places in Georgia to add to your radar.
Credit: Rocky Mountaineer
Your taste for adventure isn’t the only thing that’s indulged on a Rocky Mountaineer train journey. Traveling between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies, what you’ll find on your plate is almost as impressive as what’s outside the glass-dome windows. Delicious multi-course breakfasts and lunches are served on board each day you’re on the train, freshly prepared by Rocky Mountaineer’s professional culinary team.
The first indication that this will be one delicious journey comes before you even leave the station: raise your glasses for a toast as you’re all welcomed on board! Those traveling in GoldLeaf Service are divided into two meal seating groups per rail coach and head downstairs to the dedicated dining room. Perusing the menu, you can choose from five different main courses at each meal. Those in SilverLeaf Service choose from two main courses served at your seat. This really is restaurant-quality dining executed on the rails, as you pass through some of the most remote parts of Western Canada.
Arresting mountain vistas, beautiful sapphire lakes, alpine forestry, and the hope of sighting a bear - this is what we conjure up when we think of the Canadian Rockies.
Boasting four incredible national parks - Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay - the Rockies are a haven for wildlife lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. If you’re planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies, then you will want to explore at least one of the national parks.
But which one should you choose? Let’s run over the two most popular parks, Banff and Jasper, to help you make your decision.
Almost everyone is feeling cabin fever these days, making it the perfect time to get away and enjoy the great outdoors without leaving the country. There's nothing like taking a deep breath of crisp cold air on the peak of a Colorado mountain before leaping off into the powdery snow.
The best thing about visiting Colorado is the abundance of options that can quickly fill a one- or two-week vacation here. Denver is the premier starting and stopping point. This city can delight every one of all ages, and why not begin the adventure with a pampering spa treatment at the Ritz Carlton, where the aromas of vanilla, rosewood, and cedar will refresh your senses. After sampling just some of what this great city offers, the mountains beckon.
I hope you all have a very happy holiday! We are coming to the close of 2020. I know many of us cannot wait for this year to be over, but there is always something to cherish from the year gone past. For me, it was time to connect with my girls and my parents. As we reflect on what 2020 brought to us both personally and professionally, we can focus on the positive things, bless the negative, and move forward. There indeed were challenges, but through challenge comes resilience and strength.
Well, here we are in the week before Christmas 2020. Despite the chaos and uncertainty of the year, the holidays came quickly. I hope everyone is ready for the holidays. This year’s Christmas traditions will look different for all of us. We will miss our Christmas Eve together with my parents, my girl’s Nana, and aunts, uncles, and cousins. But my girls and I plan to begin a new tradition on Christmas eve of making pasta for us to enjoy on Christmas Day.
Our holidays may feel quieter this year, but that’s all the more reason to try to make them even more special. Both Hannukah and Christmas are a chance to celebrate and be thankful for our loved ones - even if we can’t necessarily see them all this year.
I’m optimistic that soon, we will be able to travel again. In the meantime, I’ve rounded up some of the most interesting holiday traditions from around the world. Perhaps you can work some of these into your own celebrations this year.
Some Jewish communities in Colombia, such as Chavurah Shirat Hayyam, have started introducing patacones to the Hannukkah feast. These fried plantains have replaced the classic latkes.
Last month, Stephen Batjiaka from AMA Waterways and myself teamed up to talk about our European river cruises.
Thank you to everyone who tuned in for these special virtual events. Steve and I discussed what to expect on these vacations and shared highlights from our own experiences of life on board. In case you missed it, here are the key takeaways from our presentation.
River cruises with AmaWaterways
“Oceans take you to countries, rivers take you through them”
- Jimmy Murphy, co-founder of AmaWaterways
That’s the essence of a river cruise with AmaWaterways! These culturally immersive trips take you into the heart of Europe, where you can experience architecture, heritage, gastronomy, and local life.
When you venture off from the Rhine River to drive inland to the Alsace Wine region of France, you will discover the charm of Medieval Chateaux and Renaissance houses along this easy route. The countryside was beautiful even when the weather is rainy. Once off the highway, you encounter narrow streets with the Vosges Mountains as the backdrop. These quaint towns are filled with vineyards, beautiful churches, and many old buildings. One bridge we drove through was so narrow that the bus only had inches on each side to navigate, glad I was not driving.
This November is a time for gratitude and being thankful for all that we have in our lives, especially after the last nine months of 2020. With Thanksgiving next week, I wanted to share with you all that I am thankful for in my life and I hope you have time to reflect on the things you are grateful for in your life.
My Daughters - I am thankful for the time given to my daughters and me this year to spend together. We could slow down and have quality time together that we may not have been giving in a normal year. I know that I look at the future past the pandemic and hope that this time together will be a regular event and not just in 2020.
My Parents - I am thankful that my parents have stayed safe during this pandemic. I know it has been hard for them not to see myself, their granddaughters, and their friends as often as they would have in a typical year, but their staying healthy and safe is more important than gathering together.
Although the holidays will be different this year, we still celebrate the occasion. And, fortunately, domestic travel remains a possibility for those of us who need a change of scene. This year, discover the spirit of Christmas right here in our northern states.
A note about winter sports
Good news for skiers! Despite the pandemic, our ski season is poised to go ahead this year. However, resorts are slated to operate at 50% capacity this season, and lift passes must be purchased in advance. So it’s important to book early if you do intend to hit the slopes - whether that’s for a day or a week-long stay.
Next week, AmaWaterways and I will team up on a live chat about how you can experience Europe's Christmas markets via a magical river cruise. These festive trips weave you on a journey through the winter wonderland on the banks of the Rhine and Danube Rivers.
If you have been fortunate to visit Europe in the lead-up to Christmas before, you will know how enchanting a time this is across the continent. And these festive Christmas markets that add a special type of celebration to the season of goodwill.
When you embark on a trip to Portugal, the northern region of Porto and the Douro River Valley are a great place for culture, history, and wine. The River Douro is in the Iberian Peninsula and runs from Porto, Portugal, to Soria, Spain. The Douro River Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since it has been deemed the oldest wine region in the world. Some of the vineyards date pack to 1756. The area has breathtaking scenery with zigzag roads that travel up and down steep hills to give you many vantage points of the valley surrounding you.
There are many ways to travel through this region of Portugal. If you decide to take a relaxing drive through the valley, a great place to stay is at the Six Senses Douro Valley. This hotel is situated in the heart of the oldest wine-producing region and has an old-world charm with contemporary interiors. The estate offers a wine library which features wines from the valley.
Something that I always look forward to when I travel is capturing the essence of a new place in my own words and pictures. I’m sure that I’m not alone in my love of taking photographs and noting down my impressions of a place in my travel journal.
But, while our travel plans are paused - there’s no reason why we can’t still indulge in these creative pursuits in our local environment. Earlier this month, I shared some tips on how to bring the flavors of Italy to your staycation. Today, let’s talk about finding some creative inspiration from wherever in the world you call home.
For the last several weeks, different countries around the world are opening their borders to American travelers. Though many are not yet comfortable traveling during this time, it is encouraging to see countries around the globe adopting procedures to keep travelers and residents safe during this pandemic. Here are a few countries open for travel and the procedures* to travel there and an inspired looked at the many possible experiences during your future trip.
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