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Italy Bellissimo Pt. 2



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As a travel agent that specializes in vacations to Europe, my first experience in Italy was with Trafalgar Tours on their  – Italy Bellissimo. This is part two of my Italian adventure!

The next morning we headed down to the marina for the crossing to Naples and the journey north to Assisi.  The drive through the Umbrian hills to Assisi was spectacular as was the view of the Church of St. Mary of the Angels. After quickly checking in at the hotel, we headed up for our guided tour of the basilica of St Francis.  Entering the lower basilica, one sees at the other side of the vestibule the chapel of St. Catherine of Alexandria. One of the best thing about the basilica is the Giotto frescos. The depth and brilliance of the story of the New Testament on the walls is incredible.

The following morning we started out early with Venice in our sights. Before Venice we stopped in Ravenna to visit the Basilica of Saint Apollinaris with its glittering mosaics.  After taking time to stop in Padua for lunch we head over to the city of canals.  On arrival our tour guide took us to the main gondola station and we all got serenaded while we cruised down the Grand Canal towards St Marks Square. Once there he took us through some of the winding and intricate back alleys to visit some interesting historical but little known buildings on our way to the glass blowing factory.

After getting a good night sleep we head off to visit the Doges Palace and St Marks Cathedral on another chosen optional excursion. Following the excursion we had another optional over to Murano and Burano for a fantastic seafood lunch.  The rest of the day was spent shopping and exploring.

On our way to Florence the next day, we encountered a car accident but the tour guide and driver were nonplussed and took us to this charming town of Ferrara. This was probably the unexpected highlight of the trip – all cobblestone streets and people on their bikes with baskets.  The castle in town had a moat surrounding it.  The area buildings were very well preserved and the smell of fresh baked bread invaded my senses.  Moving on to Florence we stopped at the hotel to check in and have some lunch in their beautiful courtyard before heading off to Pisa. The drive to Pisa was beautiful country with rolling hills and fields of sunflowers, grapes and apple orchards.

On arrival into Pisa before you get the Campo de Miracoli, you are welcomed by various street vendors selling their trinkets and cold soda and oddly enough hot dogs. The leaning tower of Pisa – Torre Pendente- was originally built as the bell tower for the Duomo. Tickets into the Duomo were included as part of our escorted tour so off we went to see the amazing interior of this Cathedral built in the 1100’s. Artwork in the cathedral is from such artists as Della Robbia. Having never heard of this artist before, I was astounded and amazed. Everything in the cathedral is beautiful and intricate from the carved archways as you enter to the gilded staircase over the pulpit.

That evening we were taken to a fabulous restaurant on a hillside over looking the town of Montecatini. Needless to say the food was heavenly and the music and entertainment was well worth the cost of the optional excursion. It included wine as well.  After an early morning wake up call and a hearty breakfast we went to explore Florence. We had a wonderful local city guide take us to the Santa Croce cathedral.

After a guided visit through the cathedral, we headed off for a walking tour of Florence with a local guide. I loved Florence! The way the city is laid out made it so easy to navigate using the Duomo and the tower as your point of reference you can get anywhere without getting lost. We asked our Trafalgar tour director to help us buy tickets to the Uffizi gallery and head off own our own for a couple hours before meeting up with our travel companions at the Accademia gallery to see Michaelangelo’s David. The rest of the afternoon was ours to explore on our own.

The next day we had our sights set on Siena before continuing on to Rome. In Siena we had our Trafalgar guide walk us through the narrow stone streets up to the Piazza Del Campo. After a brief history of the city he set us loose to go shopping and exploring on our own.  Sienna was amazing with its maze of streets and shops and beautiful churches and colorful windowsills.

After we leave Siena we headed south through the Tuscan hills to Rome. On arrival into Rome, the guide had us dropped off at the Piazza Navona and he gave us a walking tour of Rome through the city streets giving us the local history of the city, in particular the Trevi Fountain.  Started by Bernini and finished by Salvi – your ears are greeted by the sound of thundering water even before you see it. From there we were taken past the Spanish Steps and down to the Piazza De Popolo  where we had a fabulous included dinner  with music and singing at Cavona. The restaurant had a retractable roof so we could enjoy the night skies and stars above. After dinner, we walked out and the Piazza was lit up and was breathtaking with all the fountains lit from behind. It was magical.

After a solid’s night sleep, the next morning we head off to the Vatican. Being part of a guided tour of the Vatican, I was literally one of the first 3 people in the Vatican that day.  Our local city historian gave us so much wonderful information on the art, history and legends surrounding the Vatican.  We spent 3 hours meandering through the Sistine Chapel and St Peters basilica and then we headed over to the Colosseum. I could envision the animals kept in the lower levels and having Nero watch as the brave souls fought for fame. After a fascinating tour with our guide we wandered around for an hour on our own before we headed back to the hotel for a bit of lunch and the rest of the afternoon was free. I decided on a trip to the Pantheon and walked around a couple of the lovely squares – the Piazza Republicca and the Piazza Barberini. That evening we had a wonderful farewell dinner at hotel. In the morning we said arrivederci to our new found friends.

It was a great experience and look forward to going back to Italy soon! The next time I might decide to explore Italy on my own or try a city tour so I can explore places like Siena and Parma in depth.

If you would like to have more information about Trafalgar’s Italy Bellissimo or any other guided tour of Italy, please feel free to call me@ (425) 821.4100 or send me an email.

Molokai Island, Hawaii



Click here for a slideshow of Molokai Island, Hawaii

As a travel agent for Totem Travel, recently I had the pleasure of experiencing the island of Molokai. From Maui the easiest way to get to Molokai is by ferry. As I headed off to the harbor in Lahaina, I could just see the sun poking its head through the morning clouds over the mountains of Maui. It was a very early morning start with the Lahaina Cruise Company. The ferry I was on was the Molokai Princess. Of course being an explorer at heart, I headed topside for the best views. On the way over we were served a complimentary continental breakfast with juice, fresh fruit and muffins.  When we arrived we were met by our tour guide Kalani. Today I was going to enjoy the Molokai Ali’i tour . This tour has an excellent overview of the island of Molokai. Highlights of my tour included the Kalaupapa Sea Cliff Lookout, Father Damien’s Churches, Purdy’s Macadamia nut plantation, Hawaiian Fishponds, an operating coffee plantation and quaint and eclectic Kaunakakai Town. We also enjoyed a nice lunch at the Hotel Molokai with amazing oceanfront views.  Kalani’s knowledge of the history of the island was very impressive as well. All in all it was a perfect day.

After dropping everyone else back at the harbor, I was dropped off back at the lovely Hotel Molokai for the night. The agent at the front desk was Carly. She was very sweet and answered all my questions with a smile. I inquired about Halawa waterfall hike or other day trips. There is truly a lot to do on Molokai.  After I received my key to room 221, I grabbed my bag for a short walk through the well manicured grounds of the hotel.  Through out the property you can see plumeria trees in blossom. Right out front of the property are huge mango trees that I was invited to go pick fresh fruit from.  My room was beautiful with high ceilings and wood beams and a huge bed with views direct to the ocean. Stepping out the sliding glass door to my lanai, I had amazing views of the ocean and the Pailolo Channel that looks across to Lanai. After getting settled in, I decided to go get something cold to drink from the bar and take a dip in their ocean front pool. The view from both the restaurant and the pool as the sun was setting was amazing. That night I ordered prime rib from the Hula Shores restaurant and it was the best I’ve had in my life. It was very relaxing just sitting on my lanai, drinking a glass of wine and enjoying the music that was being played by a live band by the pool.

The following morning, I picked up my car rental from the hotel. The young lady, Iris, was very charming as she talked about working for Enterprise at the hotel.  First thing I did after I got in my rental was head back to this amazing coffee shop called the Blue Monkey. I had the most amazing cup of coffee called Toasted Coconut. After getting my much needed jolt of caffeine, I decided to head off to this lonely stretch of beach on the other side of the island called Papohaku Beach. This was the most spectacular beach I have ever laid eyes on.  After walking on that lone stretch of beach I decided to head off to Halawa to view the waterfalls. The road on the way to the falls is mountains on one side and historical fish ponds, mango trees and taro patches and pure ocean on the other.  My last stop on the way back from my drive around Molokai was to stop at Molokai Pizza Café. My guide told me that if I wanted the best burger in Molokai – this was the place. I was not disappointed. Big juicy burger layered with mushrooms, provolone and bacon almost as big as the plate! Sadly, I had to return my car and get back on the Molokai Princess and head back to Maui. From snorkeling to kayaking and horseback riding to hiking – There was so much to see and do that I have to go back!

My impression of Molokai is one of beauty and wilderness coupled with aloha cultural and sprinkled with grace and charm. The first thing you notice is the absence of background noise. My subconscious has so many images of Molokai. I basked in the feel of hot sun and cool afternoon breezes on my skin. The sound of slack key guitar was wafting into my room with the evening breeze.  As well as the gentle gurgle and splash of the waves as they hit the beach. The sound of the night wind whispering through the windows. In the distance I heard the hollow sound of hand carved coconut wood chimes ringing melodically. The smell of sea salt air mixed with the tangy scent of mango trees and plumeria while watching the sun dip into the horizon as it fades from gold to hot pink while tiny crabs scuttle along the beach.

If you would like more information about visiting the island of Molokai, please feel free to give me a call at 425-821-4100 or email me.

 

Mahalo!
-Jill

Lanai Island, Hawaii



Click here for a slideshow of Lanai Island, Hawaii

As a travel agent for Totem Travel part of my passion for travelling is that it appeals to my needs to explore and do things I have never done. On my recent vacation to Maui, I decided to visit the Island of Lanai. Lanai – At 18 miles wide and 13 miles long, Lanai is the most secluded island in the Hawaiian island chain. In my opinion, the best way to sample the island of Lanai is by taking a catamaran over with Trilogy Excursions  808-874-5649; http://www.sailtrilogy.com)

When you check in at the harbor, you can see the crew getting the catamaran ready for your adventure. We were greeted by Captain Chuck and invited to start boarding. On board they invited us to stow our bags and head up top for the best views.  Once we were all settled and accounted for we started out for Lanai. The water was a deep azul almost black in some places. Lanai was off in the distance with some low laying fog visible from our seats. The crew on my trip was Nick and his brother Dominic and a wonderful young lady named Alex.  After a few minutes a mouth watering smell of hot cinnamon rolls made its way up from the galley. While the cinnamon rolls were being served, Captain Chuck talked about the island and what the itinerary was for the day. Through out the ride over, the crew served us juice and kept us well fed with fresh fruit and later on delicious wraps.  Along the way we stopped to view the amazing spinner dolphins as they showed off their fins in the water and their fabulous dance moves as they dipped and dived in and out of the water. They were graceful as well as playful as they sped along in front of us.

Once we arrived in Lanai, we had the option of going straight to the beach or doing a local tour that took us into Lanai City. I decided to hop on the city tour. We had a fabulous local guide by the name of Moana who had live on and off Lanai for most of her life. She had fabulous knowledge of the history of the pineapple plantations and the growth of Lanai through the years.

While driving from the harbor to the town of Lanai City, it is hard to believe that you are on the same island. The landscape changes from tropical beach to wild west prairies on the drive to Lanai City.   We went from approximately 95 degrees on the beach to 75 and afternoon showers in town. Images in my head are of hot desert sand under my toes and cool green Cook Island pines (planted to collect moisture) in the fog  because water is scarce on the island.

Lanai’s central town – for a wonderful array of shops, restaurants and local businesses all centered around Dole Park. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can grab a cup of coffee from Coffee Works, dine like a local at the Blue Ginger Café, or enjoy other delicious fare at Canoes, Café 565 or Pele’s Other Garden.

After the tour we headed out to the beach to snorkel, snuba or just relax in the sun. Manele bay and Hulopoe Bay (recently named America’s best beach) are simple breath taking. Because they are protected by a reef they are great for snorkeling and swimming. The crew of Trilogy I had the snorkeling equipment set up and ready to go. My first two attempts at snorkeling were not very successful. So as I bravely asked for my size 8 snorkel fins they asked why I was so nervous. I said well I feel like I am suffocating. Alex offered to go out with me on a surf board and help me learn how to breathe using the mask so I could successfully snorkel. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated her patience and encouragement. She was fantastic! You could tell she loves her job. She paddled out with me and slowly walked me through how to fit my mask, how to use the breathing apparatus and gave me little tips like don’t smile under water otherwise water will get into your mask. I couldn’t help but smile! So naturally water got into my mask. She made my first successful experience snorkeling fun and safe! After time on the beach we head back toward the marina where they had a barbeque set up for us. The lunch was sumptuous with BBQ chicken, Chinese stir fry noodles with corn on the cob and a yummy dessert.

After a leisurely lunch, we all head back on board Trilogy I and sailed back to Lahaina with an amazing sunset for a backdrop and rainbows welcoming us in the clouds over Maui.

I loved my experience and I will be back to sail Trilogy again and visit the enticing island of Lanai. If you would like more information about visiting the island of Lanai or would like more information about booking a trip to Maui, please feel free to give me a call at 425-821-4100 or send me an email linda@totemtravel.com.

Mahalo,
-Jill

Maui featuring Royal Lahaina Resort



Click here for a slideshow of Royal Lahaina Resort

As a travel agent for Totem Travel, my specialty is travel to Europe. So where does a European travel specialist go for her vacation? Well – Maui of course! I have been to Maui several times. Who doesn’t like Maui? This time I wanted to do things I had not done before.  I sat down and created a list of the things I have done previously like the road to Hana, Haleakala, Kula Botanical Gardens, Maui Tropical Plantation and the Aquarium. This time I wanted to actually succeed at snorkeling, go sailing, hike to a waterfall, but most importantly I wanted to take the ferry over to explore the islands of Lanai and Molokai.

I have to say that this visit to Maui was by far the most flawless vacation I have ever taken. The nonstop flight on Hawaiian Air was smooth and service was excellent. My car rental from Hertz was seamless and I gave them all my information in advance so I didn’t have to stand in line and wait for an hour to get my vehicle.  My original plans were to stay at the Kaanapali Ocean Inn. However, when I arrived I was upgraded to a deluxe ocean view room at their sister property – the Royal Lahaina.

I was particularly excited to see my room because I had heard that the Royal Lahaina Resort had recently had all the rooms in the Lahaina Kai tower building renovated. When I walked into my room, my jaw dropped. It had certainly changed since the last time I was there.  The room was very spacious with dark wood accents; sepia colored Hawaiian art was on the walls. The bed was an enormous king size platform bed with a beautiful dark wood head board that ran the length of the wall. The room itself had a lot of storage space. My suitcase fit under the bed and my carry on fit nicely in the closet next to the bathroom. There was a mini fridge in the room, which is a nice touch because I bought some local pineapple wine from Tedeschi Vineyards and I could keep it chilled. What I really liked the most was the brushed steel accents used in the bathroom which looks like bamboo.  It was very classy, very Hawaiian.  The bathroom had a nice walk in glass shower.  Right outside my lanai was fabulous Kaanapali beach. It went on for a mile I either direction with emerald waters running up to meet it wherever you looked.

Throughout my stay, I would wander down to the Barefoot Bar or get towel at the Beach shack. My favorite stop was on the way back from walking on the beach or lying in the sun I would make a pit stop at their ice cream shop and have a scoop of the passion fruit sherbet. Amazing and refreshing!  I have to say that everyone from the valet who first greeted me at the hotel to the housekeeping staff was super friendly and delivered outstanding customer service.  They were always smiling! And why shouldn’t they? They live on a beautiful island and work at a fabulous hotel and the scenery just outside the door was incredible.

Maui has always been well known as a honeymoon hot spot, but it is indeed perfect for a family vacation or solo travelers.  The Royal Lahaina also recently renovated all of the cottages that are steps from the beach with enough from for a family of six.  They also have one and two bedroom beautiful suites on the top floors of the tower that can comfortably sleep four people.  The standard rooms in the Lahaina Kai tower come with either two double beds or one king with varies view from terrace all the way up to ocean front.

If you would like more information about vacation packages to this beautiful resort in Maui or information on other Hawaiian islands, feel free to give me a call at 425-821-4100 or email me.

Mahalo,
-Jill

Part 1 of my 12 day escorted tour adventure: Italy Bellissimo



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As a travel agent that specializes invacations to Europe, my first experience in Italy was withTrafalgar Tours on their  – Italy Bellissimo. This is a moderately paced 12 day tour that runs from April through October so you can choose the best time that works for your busy schedule. I also liked that it started on a Sunday and ended on a Thursday which would give me the weekend to recuperate before heading back to work on Monday. When deciding on a tourthe number of days in each city was important to me so I chose this tour because it has two night stays in all the places I had ever dreamed of visiting in Italy, plus it offered a trip to Pisa and Assisi as part of the included itinerary. How could I resist? This is part one of my Italian adventure with Trafalgar tours!

The trip started off with my overnight flight on American Airlines via Chicago. On arrival into Rome we were met by our Trafalgar tour director Dominic. After clearing customs we were taken to our hotel the Sheraton Golf. The hotel was a little outside city center but it had free shuttle transportation that dropped us off right by the Circus Maximus. After taking a hot shower and a power nap, I jumped on the shuttle to explore on my own. I walked down the middle of the Circus Maximus and stared in wonder at the historical ruins of the Forum.

As I turned left I was absolutely stunned by the view of the Coloseum and the Arch of Constantine. To my right was a view of the Roman Forum. A taxi station is conveniently located directly in front of the Coloseum. From the Coloseum I took a taxi over to the Piazza Navona and as we drove the taxi driver showed me Palantine Hill and the River Tiber. The square is lined with restaurants and cafes and artists capturing a moment in history. The sounds of the various marble fountains and the aromas of all the restaurants dazzle the senses.

After exploring on my own, I took the hotel’s transfer back to the hotel for another power nap and went downstairs to meet the tour director for a glass of wine and introductions to the other guests traveling with us.  The day by day itinerary did not have dinner included this evening; however, he suggested a fantastic place with traditional Italian Margarita pizza.

The following morning we set off for the Isle of Capri via Pompeii. On the way down, our incredible tour guide, Dominic, filled our heads with information about the role Italy played in WWII.

Whilst at Pompeii we were joined by a local guide that took us through the vast ruins of the city that was decimated by Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. The guide was brilliant and took us down alleys and hidden courtyards and displays of human frames that were left intact after the explosion of the volcano. After spending two hours with the local historian we stopped outside for a glass of the most amazing lemonade I have ever had in my life!

From Pompeii, we headed down to Sorrento. On the way we stopped and did one of the optional excursions offered by Trafalgar and that was lunch at a traditional olive farm. After Dominic and the owner of the farm met us at the motor coach, they gave us a short tour of the self-sustaining farm, we met the famous Mama and watched her strain milk and turn the curds and whey into amazing mozzarella cheese! After the demonstration they took us the restaurant and gave us samples of limoncello made right there on the farm. After lunch we stopped in Sorrento to tootle around the town for a couple hours and had a tour of the inlaid wood factory to see an example of traditional Italian craftsmanship. I was amazed at the number of vespas being driven by the locals. It seems to be the popular mode of transportation!

Sorrento was so charming and beautiful and the drive down to the pier was breathtaking! The city literally sits on a wall of cliffs. We took the ferry over to Capri and everything you see when you sail up to the pier is all white roofs and sails and greenery everywhere, with teal and aqua water all around. The street signs are dark blue and white tile, everything is done in style! The view from out hotel was of the city of Capri, but one you walk out the hotel and down about a half a block and you have this amazing sea view that brings Audrey Hepburn to mind.

While in Capri we decided to do the Blue grotto optional excursion with lunch. The cruise around Capri to the grotto was awe inspiring. I do not think I have ever seen such a vast variety of the color blue in my life and the incandescent glow inside the cave is beautiful.  After the sail around we traveled up to Anacapri for lunch and time to shop before returning to our hotel for the night for dinner.

Stay tuned for Part two of my Italian adventure with Trafalgar tours. Until then do not miss out on these amazing deals!

Last Minute Deals from Trafalgar for this Summer: Don’t wait! These deals won’t last long!

Tour Name                      Depart  /     Was     /     Now     /   Savings

Grand tour of Italy          Aug 05 / US$ 3550 / US$ 3018 / US$ 532

Flavours of Italy              Aug 19 / US$ 2625 / US$ 2231 / US$ 394

Italian Holiday                 Aug 20 / US$ 1725 / US$ 1466 / US$ 259

Best of France                 Aug 21 / US$ 2999 / US$ 2549 / US$ 450

Best of Scotland              Aug 21 / US$ 1625 / US$ 1381 / US$ 244

If you would like more information about an escorted tour of Europe please email me or call 425-821-4100.  I look forward to working with you on your dream vacation!

European Tour Special


Here is one of the hottest specials at the moment!

Tis the season of fairytale holiday markets, grand carnivals and blossoming meadows. It’s the time of storybook scenery and magical celebration. There are many reasons to visit Europe with Trafalgar in Autumn, Winter and Spring, but here are three of the best!

1.       Save up to 30% off peak summer airfare and land prices, up to $600 off per couple!*

2.       Enjoy Europe’s famous sights and attractions, but with fewer crowds.

3.       Discover Trafalgar’s authentic local experiences and special festive seasonal events.

Offers end June 24, 2011 – call today!  Buon Viaggio!


*Book your 2011/2012 Autumn, Winter & Spring Europe vacation by June 24, 2011 and save:
–          $600 per couple ($300 per person) on air-inclusive vacations or
–          $400 per couple ($200 per person) on land-only vacations

Why choose an Escorted European Tour?



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It is no secret to those who know me that I love escorted tours. and as the European travel specialist for Totem Travel, people frequently ask me “why?”

The number one best thing about an escorted tour is the convenience.  Forget all the hassles and headaches.   All the planning, hotels, meals, sightseeing and transportation are already done. Someone else is doing the driving so I can sit back and actually relax and enjoy the view and the commentary of a knowledgeable tour director.  From picking you up at the airport to suggesting local restaurants so you can experience the best local cuisine – they do it all!

Another point worth mentioning is someone else is handling your baggage and all the hotel check ins and outs. We have all heard horror stories about hotels in Europe being notorious for not having small, slow or nonexistent elevators. On an escorted tour, the cost of baggage handling is included in the tour and someone else will schlep the luggage in and out of the hotel.  The only thing I have to worry about getting up the stairs – is me!

My biggest pet peeve when I travel is waking up in the morning and having my boyfriend ask me, what do you want to do today? Then we spend the next two hours wasting time deciding what we want to do and how to get there. With an escorted tour, daily sightseeing is included on most days. They give plenty of free time in the afternoon and evenings to explore on your own as well.  Plus the cost of sightseeing tours are already included in the price of the tour so there is no  out of pocket expense unless I want to do things on my own or add one of the optional excursions offered on tour during my free time.

One of the things that I consider when traveling is the language barrier. If I do not speak the language, how would I know the road rules if I chose to rent a car? I wouldn’t be able to read the road signs. When you are on an escorted tour, the driver and the guide are fluent in the language of the country or countries you are touring.  Plus while someone else is driving, you have the tour director who gives detailed history about the area and the sights you will be visiting. Sometimes they pass out examples of local delicacies or informational maps about the upcoming cities we will visit. The  tour director on my escorted tour in Italy passed out information about local shopping in Florence so when we stopped we knew we were buying authentic, local goods, not ones made in China!

In my opinion, the biggest benefit of escorted travel is the ability to experience a destination in comfort.  The tour director helps you not only with what is listed in the daily itinerary but also can assist you with special requests at the hotel such as wheelchair accessible rooms or help  you plan something special for your 25th anniversary. The Tour Directors and the local city guides are knowledgeable and experienced. On my escorted tour of France with Insight Vacations the local guide was amazing. She took us through the chateau country and really made the history and legends come alive. It was like walking through the pages of a living breathing fairy tale story.

Most people think an escorted tour  is a nonstop frenetic pace. To be honest, that is what it used to be. However, escorted touring has evolved because traveller’s tastes have evolved. They understand that some guests seek more in depth experiences and want more time to explore on their own.  Now you can select a tour and tour company that has exactly what you are looking for!

Throughout your escorted tour, you will have the choice between participating in the scheduled activity, exploring on your own, and just taking it easy. Typical time spent on the motor coach between stops is only 1 ½ hours. This not only allows you to pursue some of your personal interests, but it also allows you to set your own pace.  Just because a tour has an activity listed for the day does not mean you have to participate in it. Just let your tour director know you won’t be tagging along for that portion.

All in all – The tour company takes care of all the details and tells you what to expect at each leg of your journey. You know your costs up front, and you don’t get many surprises. Escorted tours can take you to see the maximum number of sights in the minimum amount of time with the least amount of hassle.

  • You will enjoy a hassle-free vacation without car rental or accommodation worries
  • They have the finest Tour Directors in the industry to help you make the most of every moment
  • You will stay in quality hotels, carefully selected and monitored by the tour company for quality
  • You will travel in modern and comfortable coaches
  • You will enjoy authentic cultural experiences with expert Local Guides
  • You will experience all the ‘must-see’ attractions without the long lines

Looking to take your dream vacation? With airfares continuing to rise, there’s no better time than now to book your 2011 European guided vacation. Book by April 29 and take advantage of our incredible savings: of up to 700.00 per couple on air inclusive tours.

If you would like more information about an escorted tour of Europe please email me or call 425-821-4100.

I look forward to working with you on your dream vacation!

 

Fabulous Florence, my favorite place to vacation in Italy!



Click here for a slideshow of Florence, Italy

As a travel agent specializing in Europe vacation packages and tours, everyone asks me the same question? What is your favorite place in Italy? My favorite city in Italy is Florence.  After wandering the complicated and concentric streets of Rome and the maze of side streets and plazas in Venice, the layout of Florence was refreshing.

Florence is the home of Michelangelo, Machiavelli and the Medici family.  Under the rule of the Medici family Florence blossomed into Italy’s cultural capital with artists such as Alberti, Brunelleschi, and Donatello. In the Uffizi you will see the works of my favorite Boticelli and Titian as well as, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Raphael, and Giotto.

From the Uffizi you can either exit the front of the plaza or the rear. From the front you can turn left and go to the famous Ponte Vecchio and do some leather shopping or turn right and walk down to Santa Croce and the piazza and find some religion.  If you exit the rear of the Piazzale Degli Uffizi, you can easily walk from the Uffizi down Via Dei Calzaiuoli to the Piazza della Signoria with its open air museum and statues that rival David – straight to the amazing Duomo and the Baptistry with its golden doors. On the way to the Duomo if you look to the left down just as you reach  Via Del Corso you will see the Pizza della Repubblica. You can easily walk from the Uffizi down Via Dei Calzaiuoli to the Piazza della Signoria straight to the amazing Duomo and the Baptistry with its golden doors.  Just past the baptistry you can take a right down Via Ricasoli and walk to the Accademia gallery, home of Michelangelo’s David. Just around the corner from the Accademia is the Museo Archeologico.

As you are walking you have visual eye candy everywhere. You see either the top of the Duomo or the Piazza Vecchio tower high over the roof tops of the city  not to mention the random statues virtually on every corner. Not only do you have eye candy but the mouthwatering aroma of the bakeries and restaurants that dot every street as you are walking is heavenly! The best view is from across the river Arno either at the Palazzo Piti or the Piazzale Michelangelo with its David’s in miniature. The view from here is simply breathtaking.
The second best thing about Florence other than it being easy to navigate is its strategic location. It is the heart of Tuscany. From Florence you can visit Pisa, Lucca, Siena, Chianti and other quaint villages like Volterra and Pienza.

If you would like more information about visiting Florence or the surrounding Tuscan villages either on an escorted tour of Italy or as a city stay package, please email me or call 425-821-4100 and ask me how you can save up to  $1000.00 per couple on a trip to Italy.

Ireland a favorite European country for Totem Travel Europe Specialist


As Totem Travel’s Europe Specialist I have had the pleasure of traveling to many wonderful places and one of my favorites is Ireland. When you think of Ireland, what do you think of? I think of Kissing the Blarney Stone, beautiful stone churches, mythical stone circles and colorful green fields as far as the eye can see.  Another thought is Castles!

Picture a fairy tale castle with long winding drive up to the castle gates as the road passes an enticing blue lake and glistening green fields.  On the slope just as you ‘round the bend is the castle! It is a slate grey stone fantasy which stands out from the greenery that surrounds it. As you enter, the stained glass windows on each of side of the entrance along with the knights armor standing against the wall adds character as well as charm to the place.  Period furniture, oak paneled walls, and a 2 story high lobby with crystal chandelier complete the picture.  Which castle is being described? All of them! But the castle in question is none other the Dromoland Castle about 20 miles from Limerick.

Many people visit Ireland but I daresay not enough actually spend the night in a castle. In my opinion is the best way to experience Ireland. You are immersing yourself in the myth, the history and the people. Plus the people who work at the castle estates usually have worked there for years and can enchant you with the history of the area.

Why Dromoland Castle? Location, location location!  With its location in the countryside outside of Limerick you are a stones throw from the airport in Shannon which makes getting to the castle a breeze.  Plus you’re a short drive from the Ring of Kerry and the charming town of Killarney, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. In Shannon, Clare and Limerick which are the surrounding towns around the castle there is traditional music and entertainment all year round in the many pubs as well as in the captivating capital- Dublin.

Ahhh Dublin! It’s perfect for those people wanting museums, pubs and history.  It’s humming with activity and gracious people. No need to rent a car while visiting Dublin. It has easy train access from the airport to downtown. I have never strolled through a more walking friendly city. The walk along the River Liffey is beautiful and colorful. You will have strangers stopping you and asking you if you need help with directions instead of you asking them. Along with those directions you will probably get a story about Dublin itself. Ireland truly does have the friendliest folks anywhere!

If Castles are not something you would consider you can always choose to stay at a traditional Irish hotel or Inn or include a few days in Ireland on a multi country escorted tour. Treasures of Ireland is a favorite tour of mine but there are many more to choose from including Contiki tours for 18-35 year olds,  and Globus escorted tours of Ireland.

Please call or email me to plan your vacation in Ireland.  I can’t wait to show you the magic!

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