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As school has gone back into session and the cool nights remind us of what is to come, many of us begin to ponder where should we go to escape the bitter cold of winter. Now, after the devastating effects Hurricane Harvey and Irma and Jose, we are watching tragic images on the tv and trying to access which areas got hit the worst and which remained unscathed. Our hearts go out to the people of these regions who have lost so much and need to find the strength to rebuild amidst destruction and with little resources. One way we can provide support, besides monetary donations of course, is to visit them and provide tourism dollars to sustain their rebuilding efforts. Please contact us as we have updated information on the progress of the hotels and lodgings in these affected areas.
Please read on for our September newsletter. We have some wonderful stories on Belize, celebrating Israel's 70th birthday in Jerusalem, the best new foodie apps to download, and our recent quick escape to Philadelphia.
Enjoy reading and, as always,
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
Home to the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere, Belize has long been popular with scuba divers who head to the island of Ambergris Cay to float among the manta rays, turtles, dolphins, and sharks. As of late, however, travelers are heading inland to hike in a rainforest full of parrots and butterflies, visit rarely seen Mayan ruins, and canoe along the Macal River. This is where you'll find a 365-acre nature preserve in the Cayo district called
. Mick and Lucy Fleming opened this eco-resort in Belize long before green was the magic word.
They have grown over the past three decades to include two dozen bungalows with thatched roofs and a restaurant that serves grilled fish from the region. But it's the grounds, with its brightly colored flowers and a forest of tall mahoganies and cedars on a hill overlooking the river that gives the locale its deep-in-the-jungle allure.
The resort's expertise is setting up rainforest and Mayan tours with guides. Explore the Mountain Pine Ridge on foot or horseback or stay closer to home on the Mac
al River, where you can swim under waterfalls and very likely spot toucans. At Barton Creek Cave, paddle in canoes past the stalagmites and stalactites or river tube down the river. Whatever you do, don't miss the Mayan ruins at Caracol to view the 140-foot high Caana (Sky Palace).
Only the intrepid will want to climb the steep stairs in the humid air. There's also a chance to cross into Guatemala and see the spectacular Mayan ruins of Tikal. One of our members, an avid traveler, recently noted this is one of the Top 5 day trips he's ever taken.
f course, children can go on all of these adventures, but the resort recently introduced a kids program for ages 6-15. Called Mac Morpho Rainforest Adventures, children will each receive a blue morpho butterfly upon arrival that will hatch and be released during their stay. Kids can canoe down the Macal to meet a family in the nearby Cristo Rey village to prepare corn tortillas and have lunch together. They'll also be junior archaeologists and visit Mayan temples to unearth this lost civilization. An added bonus is that all children stay for free and those under 12 eat for half price.
Our clientele usually split their time between the interior and the coast. After adventuring in the rainforest, you can spend the rest of the trip relaxing on the beach or scuba diving or snorkeling at one of the most pristine locales on the Atlantic coast (just south of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula). Highly recommended are the beachfront casitas at the all-inclusive
Spend the day snorkeling or sea kayaking with a guide or
biking along the beach. You can also cruise the high seas with a Matachica captain and fish for barracuda, grouper, snapper, bonefish, porgy, snook, tarpon, permit and jack. That night, the chef at Matachica's Mambo restaurant will happily prepare a yummy entrée from the day's catch.
Belize offers a vast number of eco-resorts inland and beach resorts on the coast. So if we can't get you into Chaa Creek and Matachica during the requested dates, we work with a great ground operator in Belize who will find another property like
Black Rock Lodge
Cotton Tree Lodge
that's equally as enjoyable. It's the perfect retreat for a winter getaway.
Hotels We Love:
Celebrate Israel's 70th birthday-Jerusalem
Next year, Israel will be celebrating its 70th birthday. How better to celebrate than to visit this vibrant country and see its historic and sacred sights and experience the character of its people and taste its delicious food. Here are some wonderful and distinctive hotels in Jerusalem to check out when you go.
A nine-story citadel-style building, this hotel is within walking distance of the Old City and houses almost 300 rooms surrounding its wonderful airy courtyard. Awesome pool popular year round, VIP club for kids from toddlers to teens, as well as great eateries like their kosher Italian restaurant and summer BBQs next to the pool, make this hotel a great spot for all.
After Chicago's famous fire of 1871, Horatio and Anna Spafford moved to Jerusalem with sixteen other members of their church, called themselves, "The Overcomers" and lived together in a small house in the Old City. Soon after, they began to take in Western travelers and pilgrims for stays on their property based in East Jerusalem, one of which was an Ottoman Pasha with his harem of 4 wives. The hotel is still owned by descendants of the original founders. Formerly an agricultural commune, the site of the hotel boasts five beautiful gardens to explore. Four buildings house 92 rooms and suites as well as numerous bars and restaurants to try during your stay.
Built by a Turkish Architect in 1929 with the most luxurious of features, this property was known as the Palace Hotel. Now, Waldorf Astoria, the first in Israel, has scooped up the property and renovated it completely. Thankfully, they kept the historic charms of the 1930s lobby and facade and the architectural flairs. Each of its 226 rooms has been completely renovated and luxury abounds throughout. Right across the road from the Old City, this sumptuous hotel will feature a very new spa and lap pool at the end of this year. Don't miss their culinary program with gourmet fusion Israeli-South American cuisine and their cocktails and tapas on the rooftop Garden Terrace.
Located in the heart of the city, next to the Russian compound and a five-minute walk to the Old City, Villa Brown Jerusalem is housed in a renovated 19th century villa. Featuring only 24 rooms, this charming boutique hotel has the rooftop spa, cave bar with cocktails and Israeli wines and beers and onsite restaurants, Bistro-Café. If nothing else, go for their delicious breakfasts!
Tried & True Travel Tips:
Four New Foodie Apps
Let's admit it, one of the major delights of travel is experiencing new foods and checking out the distinctive and best restaurants in your destination. We are constantly updating our lists of culinary highlights of each locale. Feel free to ask us or contact your concierge at the hotel in advance as they usually compile lists of their favorites.
You may also want to download these apps designed with the foodie in mind:
Where do the chefs eat? This app will tell you! Written by a large collection of well-regarded chefs, they share their restaurant recommendations for dining spots in the U.S., Canada and London.
want to know what those items on the menu actually mean, use this app. It deciphers local foods and beverages making navigating foreign menus a snap.
Food porn! Click on this app for delectable, enticing deliciousness. Find photos of favorite dishes at restaurants worldwide at all price points.
It's the Open Table for Europe, but much better. Download this app and get maps, reviews, sample menu items, and even discounted coupons for its featured restaurants. You can also make reservations!
What struck us most about our latest trip to Philly over Labor Day was a real youthful energy on the streets. Home to Penn, Temple, Drexel, Villanova, and St, Joseph's, the city seems to be thriving thanks to a resurgence of college grads staying in the city. Our nephew, Max, a sophomore at Penn, took us to one of his favorite restaurants, Double Knot, a pan-Asian
speakeasy down two floors from the street entrance. We chose the tasting menu and were treated to a feast of 10 dishes, each one better than the last, including a tender poached sea bass, yellowtail sashimi, and a gluttonous amount of zesty beef short rib. We also loved the James Beard-award winning Vedge, rated one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the country.
Max got a kick out of the $15 plate consisting of one long carrot, but it was definitely the best carrot I've ever had. Goldie, a falafel shop owned by the same people who run the acclaimed Israeli
Philly restaurant, Zahav,
offered a divine Turkish Coffee tahini shake with bits of homemade hazelnut halvah at the bottom. Decadent and memorable!
The art scene is just as vital as the restaurant scene thanks to the addition of the Barnes Foundation. The Barnes houses one of the world's most impressive collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings. The breadth of the art includes a mind-boggling 181 works by Renoir, 69 Cezannes, 46 Picassos, 59 Matisses, as well as exceptional work by Modigliani, Monet, Degas, van Gogh, Seurat, and Manet. It houses such an absurd amount of Renoirs that by the 20th nude bather, you're saying enough already. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is just as impressive, with entire rooms devoted to Pissarro, Brancusi, and the seminal works of Duchamp, like Nude Descending a Staircase and his famous urinal. An added bonus was the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, housed in a gem of a gothic building from 1876.
Founded in 1805, it's the first art school in the US and its collection includes works by Gilbert Stuart, the Peale family, and the city's best known artist, Thomas Eakins, who taught at the school.
Other worthwhile stops were the food stalls at the Reading Terminal, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, and seeing Maxfield Parish's Dream Garden
, a mosaic of more than 100,000 pieces from 1916, in the lobby of the Curtis Center.
We stayed in a spacious room overlooking City Center at the classic Rittenhouse Hotel.
It's the perfect place to relax, either outdoors in the courtyard or in the Library Bar, after seeing the sights all day. On the edge of Rittenhouse Square, the property was within easy walking distance to Double Knot and Vedge.
Let us know if you want us to help you plan your trip to Philadelphia. It's worth a new look! If interested, please c