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Azul Sensatori is luxury all-inclusive in the Riviera Maya for families, couples and everyone



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The Azul Sensatori all inclusive resort in Cancun is luxury like you haven’t seen before. This resort just opened in November 2008 and as a Gourmet Inclusive Agent, (that’s what the resorts call the travel agents who specialize in knowing their resorts inside and out), I was able to visit in December and see it in all its glory and boy is it a glorious resort.

Starting with the fact that all of the 400+ rooms are suites with private in-room Jacuzzi’s and we can just move forward from there. There are the 6 restaurants and 8 bars, a fantastic state of the art kids club complete with full gym, video game room and water playground. There’s a teens club with disco as well as the Tequila Bar, for adults only of course, with 31 different kinds of tequila to taste.

All suites include the private Jacuzzi and oversize patio or balcony. The family suites include strollers, cribs, baby monitor, baby baths and changing stations, bottle sterilizers, stepping stool, beach toys and games and refrigerators for milk etc.

The swim-up suites are a favorite for honeymooners with the beach beds on the patio and some even have beds in the water just off the patio, others have not only the private Jacuzzi in the room but also boast one just off the patio as well.

The suites are also separated in that 1 building is for families, another for adult only, so whether you’re with a group or prefer your quiet time there is a place for you here.

The restaurants are all ala-carte dining, no buffets at this all inclusive resort!  From Tapaz that serves International Cuisine to Siena that is Italian, again there is something for everyone including the adult only Le Chique Restaurant with wine bar.

Throughout the resort are king size beach and poolside beds for relaxing as well as the usual chaise lounges with umbrellas and on the beach there is usually a Beach Butler around to get you a drink or maybe some sunscreen.

Of course there is a state of the art Spa and fitness center with 11 treatment rooms including VIP suites for groups, families or couples along with a special bridal suite for couples massages and treatments.

Destination Weddings are very popular at this resort with its unique ‘Sky Wedding’ packages. On the rooftop there is seating for up to 80 people where you can have your special ceremony with nothing but sky above and view of the water below, or how about a wedding under the stars?

At this resort anything is possible!!  So when you’re ready to get away call an all inclusive specialist at (800) 321-7907 or email linda@totemtravel.comMexico is calling!

Toulouse, Tarn and L’Ariege- Villages of Southern France



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As a Europe Specialist and Certified France Agent with Totem Travel I often receive wonderful reviews of specific places from tour operators or representatives and I thought I’d share this from a recent review.

Toulouse is ideally situated in the heart of Southern France, between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean. Both modern and historic, bustling with fresh markets, winding streets surrounding the main square with charming shops, boulangeries, and more. The Golden Age in Toulouse was between 1500 and 1700. Merchants thrived on the pastel trade, from the WOAD plant providing a blue pigment and became Consuls, or Capitouls, finding power and prestige.

During the same period (between 1544 and 1662), the oldest bridge of Toulouse, the Pont Neuf, was built. You could spend days in Toulouse just exploring the shops, markets and museums.
A couple other sight not to be missed are the Saint-Sernin Basilica, which was built during the Romanesque Period between AD 1080 and 1120.

The Bemburg Foundation where you can tour Georges Bemberg’s art collection in the Hotel d’Assezat, a  XVII century mansion built for Pierre d’Assezat who made his fortune from WOAD, Mr. Bemberg is an avid art collector who divides his time between Paris, New York and Buenos Aires. Without a direct heir, Mr Bemberg became anxious in the late 1980’s about the fate his collection and developed the idea of a Foundation as a mean of preserving the integrity of his collection, while opening it to the public. The collection contains Matisse, Degas, Gauguin, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso and opened in 1993.
And lastly don’t miss the House of Pastel to find to about the aforementioned WOAD. These dyes were the original source of wealth for the area of Toulouse. From 1463 to 1560 Toulouse enjoyed a real Golden Age thanks to the Pastel trade. The pastel leaves crushed and rolled-up in balls called “coques” gave the region of Toulouse its nickname of “pays de cocagne” or “land of riches” and has been used as far back as the Egyptians, who used it to dye the cloth wrappings used for the mummies.

l’Ariege boasts the Caves of Niaux. The Grotte de Niaux is one of the few cave systems where wall paintings are still open to the public. You enter from the hillside into a natural site of incredible history and beauty. About 350 m from the cave entrance is a large rock with a vertical surface. This surface is covered with dots and short lines in red and black. That is the first glimpse of prehistoric art a visitor to the cave sees. Its meaning is still unknown. Some see dots as female symbols and lines as male symbols. Much more impressive and interesting is the art in the Black chamber. There are extraordinary drawings of horses and bison. The visits to the Grotte de Niaux are extremely restricted to save the prehistoric cave paintings; only 11 visits per day so make sure you plan ahead for your tour.

Tarn is still in the Montagne Noire region and brings the stone building of the Soreze Abbey, home to the most prestigious school in France. Promoted to the rank of Ecole Royale (Royal School) it had 400 students living there from all over the world for 12 centuries; studying humanities, music, drawing and fine arts. Its sheer size and architecture give it both an air of majesty and a sense of military order. It closed in  1991 and has been renovated into a center for the arts including a beautiful hotel with a restaurant, after 1200 years the historic abbey has a new life.

Thanks to Laurelee Graham for this fun information about France. If you’d like help traveling to Southern France call Jennefer the Europe Expert at Totem Travel at (425) 765-4379 or shoot me an email at jennefer@totemtravel.com. I am here to assist in planning your dream holiday in France!

Five more unusual thing to see in London



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As a BRITagent and SCOTSmaster at Totem Travel I am blessed to travel often and a favorite stop is always London. It’s one of my favorite cities and I am always looking for new and different ways to explore the city.

In an earlier Blog I talked about the 5 unusual things to see in London and here I will tell you about the next 5 on my list.

6. The ceremony of the keys is one of the best-kept secrets of the Tower of London. It has to be the best (and shortest) ceremony in London and has been a nightly event for the last 700 years. Led by the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in a scarlet Tudor coat, carrying a lantern and with foot guard escort, he makes his way to the gates at exactly 21:53. There are a limited number of tickets available and you must write in advance to the governor of the Tower. I can get the address for you. Just do it, but don’t be late!

7. There has been a church on the site of the present Southwark cathedral, next to London Bridge for over 1000 years. Many of Southwark Cathedral’s treasures include a Jacobean communion table, a tiny Saxon coffin and one of the earliest wooden effigies in England, a figure of a knight dating from the last quarter of the 13th century.

8. City Hall is one of London’s most spectacular new buildings and home to the Greater London Authority and Mayor of London. This landmark is at the heart of the more new London development next to Tower Bridge. It has several public areas that have been landscaped with seating, water features and trees and includes a viewing platform in the building to provide superb panoramas of the Pool of London. City Hall is open on set weekends throughout the year.

9. If blood and guts is more your thing, then the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett is definitely worth a visit.  Hidden in the roof of a church, a 300-year old herb garret houses Britain’s only surviving 19th century operating theatre which was used between 1821 and 1862 in the days before anesthetic and antiseptic surgery were the norm. On display is a variety of very sharp instruments used to ‘help’ the desperate patients!

10. . It is not every day that you can see glassblowing in London. Situated in the Leather market, a distinctive 19th century building erected by the Leather Warehouse Company the London Glassblowing workshop’s are as hot as hell, since there are several ovens burning to melt the glass. Here, mostly art pieces are made in limited editions and are exhibited in the adjoining art gallery.

So, the next time you’re in London, definitely see  Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey and Hyde Park, but take a day off the beaten path and check out some unusual sight in London.

If you’d like more information about travel to Europe and the UK please call Jennefer at (425) 821-4100 or shoot me an email atjennefer@totemtravel.com, I am a Europe Expert and would be delighted to assist you in planning your holiday in the UK and Europe.

How to choose the best escorted European tour –


As a Europe Expert I am often asked how to choose the best European tour and believe me there are quite a few tour companies to choose from. Trafalgar, Globus, Brendan, Cosmos, Tauck, Contiki, Collette and even more, so where do you begin, what do you look for?

Let’s start with the itinerary as that’s pretty important, first you need to choose which itinerary you’d like. For that you could decide to see just one country in depth, like France or Italy. Or you can choose a region, such Scandinavia or Eastern Europe including Prague or Tallinn or maybe just go for the gold and see a little of a lot of places for a taste of each.

Once you’ve chosen a place or region, next figure out how long you can be gone. Escorted tours start at about 8 days and range on up to traveling for more than a month. I find that most settle for somewhere in between. A couple weeks is just about perfect for me, I think that when traveling you should always come home just a bit BEFORE you’re ready rather than waiting until you’re tired of traveling.

So let’s say you’ve decided on a country, like Ireland, with timeframe of 2 weeks, now we can narrow down the tour company that is right for you.

Cosmos is a budget company that offers wonderful tours with 3 star hotels a bit farther out of town, daily breakfast and a couple excursions included.

Trafalgar and Brendan are a bump up with 3-3 ½ star hotels nearer the center of each city, daily breakfast, some dinners and more sightseeing excursions included.

Globus and Collette bump up another notch with many very central 4 star hotels, daily breakfast, a few more dinners, a maximum of 40 seats on each coach and even more sightseeing excursions included. Collette even adds in door to door service, they’ll pick you up and drop you at your door, so from the time you leave home Collette is taking care of you.

Tauck is one of the most inclusive with 4-5 star city center hotels, daily breakfast, dinners included almost every night and all sightseeing excursions included with some added benefits such as small groups and special personalized service.

Contiki is strictly for 18-35 year olds that would rather travel with a younger crowd and has excursions with a more adventurous flair.

As you can see, no matter your personality or travel preferences there is an Escorted tour company that will fit for you. So when you are ready to plan your European tour call or email the Europe Specialists at Totem Travel. We look forward to working with you!

Sandals Negril- the ultimate all-inclusive beach resort for couples, honeymoons or destination weddings



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As a Sandals Specialist for Totem Travel– a Sandals preferred Agency, I try to get to see at least a few Sandals all inclusive resorts every year. This year I was in Jamaica and saw, Sandals Negril, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals Montego Bay. My info today will be about Sandals Negril, but check back to my travel blog in the future for more information about the other two resorts.

Sandals Negril sits on the west side of Jamaica known for the 7 miles of white sand called Seven Mile Beach. It is a beautiful beach, the sand is pale and smooth and perfect for walking and the resort and activities center around the beach.

It’s a bit of a kick-back resort, you won’t find couples running around crazy trying to do every activity available, nor will you find staff members bugging and begging you to “join in the fun”. What you will find is a beautiful beach, swimming pools, quiet coves with hammocks for 2 and many beach chairs to soak up the sun in.

Don’t get me wrong here, there are plenty of activities to join in, such as scuba, snorkeling, hobie cats, windsurfing, water skiing, banana boats, glass bottom boats, kayaks, water trikes and paddle boats. Then there are the other requisites such as tennis, fitness center, racquetball, squash and more. You will see the ‘playmakers’ encouraging you to join the activities but they are never obnoxious or pushy. It’s YOUR vacation or honeymoon; you get to choose what you do! And it’s all included!

There are 6 restaurants including Italian, Caribbean, Asian and Seafood as well as least 5 bars, again it’s all included. Some of the rooms even offer room service, so if that’s important, please ask. There is entertainment of some kind every night such as Steel Drum bands, limbo experts and fire eaters or newly-wed games, Karaoke and talent shows. They offer a chocolate buffet usually once a week and there is usually a beach BBQ at least once a week as well where you’ll find jerk chicken and pork, yum! And remember, because Sandals is all-inclusive resort you just choose your restaurant and go, you can eat at 2 restaurants a night if you want! It’s all included!!

With all the room categories at Sandals Negril your could choose a Premium room, bump up to an ocean view or beachfront, opt for an upgrade to a concierge level where you’ll find a full bar in your room as well as robes and a dedicated Concierge desk to help plan your tours and makes spa and dinner reservations or you can go all out and have your own private butler who will wait on you hand and foot if you choose or just make your stay very pleasant. It’s your choice.

There is room for any budget at a Sandals resort and Sandals Negril is no exception. So when you are ready to plan your honeymoon or vacation at a Sandals resort please give me a call at 800-321-7907 or shoot me an email at jennefer@totemtravel.com and we’ll get going on making your dreams of a Caribbean all-inclusive get away a reality.

Five unusual things to see in London-



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I am lucky to travel a lot as an agent of Totem Travel and when I do travel London is one of my favorite cities to visit. Since I’ve been a few times already I was looking for new and unusual things to see and do and I’ve listed them below.

From London Bridge to just past Tower Bridge, the Pool of London offers some of the more unusual and intriguing things to see and you don’t have to travel far to find them. This fascinating destination is one of London’s oldest neighborhoods with many maritime, historical, architectural and bloody connections with London’s history.

1. All Hallows, situated next to the Tower of London, is the oldest church in the City of London, with parts of the building dating from 675 AD. Beneath an original Saxon arch, a Roman pavement was discovered, evidence of city life on this site for over 2000 years. Open all year round, this wonderful church is steeped in history and continues to minister to a community of workers and visitors.

2. Join actors dressed in period costume aboard the Golden Hinde, berthed at St Mary Overie Dock to discover what life might have been like sailing around the world in a boat slightly bigger than a double-decker bus. The Golden Hinde is an exact scale, operational reconstruction of Sir Francis Drake’s 16th century galleon that sailed around the world 1577-80. This floating museum is open all year round.

3. If you thought you would have to travel to Arizona to see the original London Bridge, look no further than the magnificent church of St Magnus the Martyr. Inside, you can see a wooden model of the old London Bridge as well as the remnants of the foundation stones in the quiet churchyard outside.

4. Walk over the uniquely designed footbridge to see the unusual garden barges moored near St Saviours Dock, just downriver from the Design Museum on Shad Thames.

5. The yacht marina at St Katharine Docks, located beside the Tower of London and Tower Bridge offers visitors a haven from the frantic pace of the city. Once a working dock, it now boasts an attractive waterside retreat with a mixture of shops, restaurants, offices and luxury apartments as well as yachts and motorboats. When the sun is shining, you could be mistaken for thinking you aren’t in London.

If you’re ready to start planning your time in London, contact Jennefer at jennefer@totemtravel.com, I am the Europe Expert at Totem Travel and would love to help you make the most of your time in London.

My favorite things in Scotland- Whisky, Golf, Castles and scenery



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When visiting Scotland there are so many choices on where to focus your attention, as a Scotland expert I will help you plan your time accordingly to make the most of your time away. A few of my favorite Scottish subjects’ are-

Whisky- What a great focus for a trip to Scotland, there are no less than 100 whisky distilleries dotting the countryside and May is considered Whisky Month with many a festival and tasting available for all to partake of, however whisky is available all year long, so don’t limit your time to only May in such a wonderful country.

Golf- Where would be better to spend a morning on the course than the home of golf itself? St. Andrews is probably one of the most well know courses and Gleneagles, Carnoustie, Royal Troon or Royal Dornoch also have sought after tee times. Being the home of the game though, you needn’t miss out on a game of golf if you can’t get on one of those courses as there are many others available throughout the country.

Castles- are too numerous to mention, I can start with Urquhart or Culzean and keep going by listing Fraser Castle, Eileen Donan, Huntly, Kildrummy, Dunotter, Brodie, Balmoral, Fyvie, Armadale, Inverary and Kilchurn. Those are just a few, some are ruins, some are lived in and some are hotels where you can stay while sightseeing, golfing and whisky tasting.

Scenery- Rolling hills filled with heather and bracken, green pastures dotted with sheep, Highland Loch’s as still as a mirror, need I say more?

In Scotland there is so much to see and do and the people are all friendly and always there with a smile and a hello.  If you are interested in traveling to Scotland or anywhere in Europe, call Jennefer at Totem Travel, 800-321-7907, as a SCOTSmaster for the last 8 years I can help you to plan your time in Scotland or shoot me an email at jennefer@totemtravel.com and we’ll get started with your dream getaway.

Chambord Castle- one of the Loire Valleys favorite Chateaus



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Last fall I was in France completing my travel agent France Specialist Certification. While there I was lucky enough to be ale to visit Chambord Castle in the Loire Valley. A favorite Chateau of many, it’s one of the most ornate and architecturally interesting castles I’ve seen, topped with all the spires and towers. 

Started in the early 1500’s it has been added to over and over by different owners, some using the Gothic theme others adding with a more Classical theme, some Romanesque others French or Italian. With some 32 apartments, life at Chambord consisted of periods of intense activity followed by long periods of total abandon. When occupied the whole court was installed with the Royal caravan bringing trunks, beds, tables and chairs, tapestries, works of art, book and trestles and all that was necessary for the comfort of the king, actually a whole village. While in residence one of the favorite activities was the royal hunts on the vast estate and then when the court departed again the immense castle would be abandoned until next time. 

The French government bought Chambord in 1930 and has fully renovated it, filing the moats and landscaping the grounds. The castle conservation organization keeps the building furnished and even carries on the tradition of the hunt. Today the crowds of tourists have replaced that of the court and Chambord is a place to stroll the grounds on a beautiful day, you can walk for hours on trails or spend your time exploring the inside the apartments for a glimpse of the early life at the castle and beautiful and unexpected views from the many towers and keeps. 

Chambord is also known for its famous Black Raspberry Liqueur and other culinary treats available from around the region.  

The Loire Valley is dotted with Chateaus such as Chambord, Chenonceau, Villandry, Cheverny and Chateau de Blois to name a few.  If you’d like more information on traveling in France and the Loire Valley call or email Jennefer our France Specialist at Totem Travel.

Tallinn, Estonia – the unexplored Europe


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Already seen London, Paris and Rome? Have you stretched yourself to see Prague and Budapest and wonder what’s next? Try Tallinn, Estonia, USA Today calls it one of the 10 up and coming cities of Europe where there is still a deals to be had.

I traveled there and fell in love with the Old Town. Lastly occupied by Russia, is still has some of the Eastern feel and is just waking up form it’s communist past. The Old Town is a World Heritage Site due to the fact that it has been invaded numerous times but has never been bombed and the Old Town stands today much as it has for centuries, of course the city has built up around it and things are modernized but the old world charm can be felt as you enter the city gates and walk the cobbles streets winding their way past stone churches and private residences dating back to the 13th century. The walled city has something like 31 towers that are still fully intact, starting with at Margaret at one end and Tall Hermann at the other. Some house museums others are under repair simply from age.

Being part of the Soviet Union for many years left it’s influence on Tallinn, there are many Russian style churches with the onion top spires as the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, you can visit Alexander the Greats cottage where he stayed until he built his palace or you can visit the cities infamous KGB headquarters. You still hear Russian spoken frequently, in fact they only gained independence from Russia in the 1990’s.

While dropping in for refreshment at a local bar we met a boy named Pritt, I believe he was about 10 years old but he spoke Estonian, Russian and Finnish as well as English. We bumped into him over and over in the old town and he finally took us to meet his father who owned a shop where he imported goods from all over the world. I am always amazed by young people in Europe who can speak so many languages and seem much older than their years.

If you’d like more information about traveling to Tallinn, call Jennefer the Europe Expert at Totem Travel, or shoot an email to jennefer@totemtravel.com.

Sandals Regency La Toc an all-inclusive couples only resort!



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While visiting St. Lucia to see the three Sandals all-inclusive resorts for honeymooners I was lucky to stay at Sandals Regency La Toc Resort. I arrived early afternoon and landing in St. Lucia is such a treat, we flew right by the Pitons, those much pictured mountains that rise out of the azure Caribbean Sea.

One of the first things I noticed was the warm welcoming people.  On the hour’s drive to SandalsRegency La Toc I saw beautiful gardens, the drive is filled with winding roads, climbing hills, spectacular views of the scenery below, and the “travelogue” delivered by our driver.  It’s also a bit of an adventure since they drive on the left and the roads are narrow….you might also see goats, cows, and chickens crossing the road in front of you, they seem nonplused and so should you; the driver’s are actually very experienced.

Once I arrived at the resort I was whisked up the hill to the Butler Suites where I was checked in and met our butler. I wasn’t sure of the whole butler thing and felt kind of funny, what would I use a butler for anyway? Well, one of the 1stthings was to make all our dinner reservations, we chose the restaurants we wanted and gave the butler an idea when we’d like to eat and voila, we had reservations for all the nights of our stay, not only at the Regency, but we also ate at Sandals Grande St. Lucian and the SandalsHalcyon since as a Sandals guest we had full exchange privileges with complimentary shuttle transportation between the resorts.

The next day we headed to the main pool and spent a good part of the day there and on the beach. It’s a beautiful beach but with some pretty big waves rolling in, being the swimmer I am I decided to venture out anyway, the water was warm and we swam for a while, I got knocked down a couple times and ended up with quite a bit of sand in my suit trying to get back to shore but I can say that I swam in the ocean.

That evening before dinner we asked Sydney, our butler, to schedule a few morning snorkeling sessions and an afternoon massage, so the next day we snorkeled, checked out the upper pool and ate at Armando’s, the Italian restaurant for lunch, had a massage in the afternoon and then headed to La Toc French restaurant for dinner before turning in as we were still tired from traveling. About 10pm we decided that a bit of chocolate would be nice, however we had already changed our clothes so I rang up Sydney and he brought us some chocolate and hot tea, the perfect way to end another night in beautiful St. Lucia.

The next few days are filled with snorkeling, beach activities, more lounging by the pool with a book and visiting the swim up pool bars and of course over the days we found that Sydney was available to get to the pool early and reserve chairs for us, usually with a cooler full of refreshments. We also returned to our room to find bubble baths drawn with flower petals for decoration or chocolate covered strawberries or some other such treat before dinner or bed and on our last evening there we had a message written in flower petals on our bed saying ‘come back soon’. I guess having a butler wasn’t as strange as one would think. He was there to make our stay just that much more special.

I’ve now been to all the Sandals Resorts and I always leave feeling special and like the staff truly wants me to return, that’s why Sandals does such a good job for honeymoons, everything is just a notch up from other inclusive resorts.

If you are ready to plan your Destination Wedding, honeymoon or just a vacation away for you and your honey call me. I’ve been to all the Sandals resorts and I would love to help you plan your time away. Call Totem Travel at (800) 321-7907 and ask for Jennefer, the Gold Sandals Specialist, or email me at jennefer@totemtravel.com

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