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Dear ActiveTravels Members,
We are super excited to announce our Fall Giveaway raffle winner. The lucky winner's name can be found at the end of our newsletter. However, don't skip ahead! We've got lots in store for you in between!
We were quite amazed that between the four of us at ActiveTravels, we only visited 62 countries! Steve has been a travel writer for 3 decades and the rest of us consider ourselves very well-traveled. Nevertheless, it's a big world and there's lots of ground to cover!
One of the reasons we were curious to get a count of countries, states and provinces that we've visited was that I am about to get certified as a
provider. Check out this
to learn a bit more about this amazing new product that we'll be able to offer to families, retirees, and basically people at all stages of life to take time to plan out a travel portfolio for 3-5 years at a time.
The lead traveler and each of their traveling companions curate the destinations they most want to travel to, rank their interests whether it's art, history or food and wine, etc. and fill us in on their upcoming milestones and best times they can travel. All of this is done in an incredible personal travel portal where each participant can spend time learning about various destinations and find out about tons of experiences they can enjoy in each locale. Once everyone has curated their lists, we analyze the results and present to the group the trips and time frames for each. Benefits for the group? It's FUN, and you'll undoubtedly learn something about your traveling companions you didn't know and you'll very likely save money and time because we'll be able to start planning way in advance when availability is high and prices are lower due to early booking rules. More to come after I graduate from the program at the end of the month!
Please read on for Steve's On the Road feature from his fantastic trip to Peru, his piece on a quick getaway to Rockland, Maine, and a great promotion from Grand Velas resort properties in Mexico. We've also listed some of our all time favorites places to go with the family when the temperatures drop to inspire you to start planning now for colder times ahead.
Happy 30th Birthday to Rachel (see silly picture above at her birthday party). We can't wait to hear about her trip to Sweden when she returns home.
Happy reading and, of course,
Lisa & Steve
News from the Road:
Traveling through Peru with Abercrombie & Kent
First Stop, Lima
In early September, I arrived on the red-eye from Dallas into Lima, excited to see some of the city before I met up with the Abercrombie & Kent group trip the following day. After dropping my bags off at the Belmond Miraflores Park and taking in the ocean view, I went downstairs and spoke to an excellent concierge who designed a walking tour of neighboring Barranco, known for its art museums, artisanal stores, and top-tier restaurants. At my first stop, the Relais & Chateaux property, Hotel B, they were debuting their new outdoor bar that day and to celebrate, they invited in local art and fashion designers to show their wares. They offered a wonderful selection of jewelry, cloaks, purses, even a llama purse which I had to purchase for my ActiveTravels colleague, Rachel. That just whet my appetite for the amazing store across the street, Dedalo, a former mansion whose many rooms are now devoted to Peruvian crafts, alpaca clothing, home goods, jewelry, and an elephant recycled from rubber that was ideally suited for my elephant-loving wife.
By far my favorite stop in this bohemian neighborhood was MATE, a museum devoted to the work of Peruvian fashion photographer, Mario Testino. Large scale photographs of his most famous works, including an entire room devoted to Princess Di, grace the walls. Just as impressive was a large gallery of close-up photographs of Peruvian women dressed in traditional garb. That night I would return to Barranco to dine at a local favorite, Amoramar, known for its charred octopus, fresh tuna, and powerful pisco sours. A wonderful start to what would be a memorable week.
On to Sacred Valley
The next day, I met up with my fantastic group of 18 as we toured the historical core of Lima, including the impressive Museo Larco and its vast collection of pre-Colombian art. We then flew to Cuzco and headed onward to Sacred Valley. Our lodging for the next two nights was Sol y Luna, where spacious casitas, all with fireplaces and some with hot tubs, dot the grounds of this majestic landscape, surrounded by the serrated ridges of the Andes. I loved it here.Everywhere you walk are flowering shrubs and tall cacti in bloom, another photo to be taken, especially when large hummingbirds would fly into the golden flowers of my back deck. Vases of yellow roses were also found inside the casitas, along with wonderful local painting and sculpture. At night, our group of 18 met in a ranch-style setting for cocktail hour and then a sublime dinner, worthy of the property's Relais and Chateau rating. We started with pisco mojitos, created with the sweet local mint grown in these parts. Then we dined on trout carpaccio and beef tenderloin, finishing with a dessert of tres leches. This is one Virtuoso lodging that I will recommend highly to our clients.
The Always Poignant Philanthropy Day
Philanthropy Day is always a highlight on any trip I've taken with Abercrombie and Kent. In the Masai Mara, I had the chance to talk about my life as a travel writer to the first group of women to ever attend school in the region. One of the girls who I met was continuing her education at Oxford! In Livingstone, Zambia, we visited a village, where wells were built so people didn't have to walk five miles in the bush to get a pail of water. We also visited a health clinic and bike shop, all built thanks to Abercrombie and Kent and their generous clients. You can read it about it here. The company's philanthropy is built into the fabric of the experience and it's no voluntourism gimmick. On the contrary, it's a meaningful and poignant day that often exceeds any other memory on the trip, including being on safari in Africa or seeing Machu Picchu in Peru.
Our day in Sacred Valley was no different. We started at mountainous village some 12,000 feet in elevation, where the community is known for their exquisite weavings. They showed us their technique, cleaning the alpaca wool and using dyes, all from nature, like the beet red coloring they would find from squeezing a cactus beetle. The yarn is then used to create hats, tablecloths, purses, and dolls, and sold in the market in Cuzco. We then visited a school serving underprivileged and undernourished children in the region called Children of the Rainbow. It was started by a woman from the Netherlands who was backpacking on the Inca Trail and became enamored with the kids. She came back and
adopted 18 children, all of whom went on to college, and have now unlocked the chains of poverty. She then went on to create this school, giving 170 kids ages 3 to 13 and their families hope for a better future. The children were adorable, eating lunch when we arrived. We were shown the new library and the new playground, all recently built thanks to the help of Abercrombie and Kent. Ask the 18 people in my group what their favorite day on the weeklong trip was and I guarantee the majority will say Philanthropy Day.
Mesmerizing Machu Picchu
Few sights I've seen are as majestic as Machu Picchu. After a 2-hour train ride from Ollantaytambo, you arrive at the town of Aguas Calientes and switch to a bus for a 20-minute drive on a series of switchbacks up to the base of Machu Picchu. When you arrive, you better have one of the coveted timed tickets to enter these late 15th-century Incan ruins that miraculously the Spaniards never found. Row after row of stone walls lead up the steep hillsides creating a far more vast archaeological wonder than one can imagine on that quintessential photograph from above Machu Picchu. We arrived a little after 2:30 pm, when the crowds were already thinning, to feel the smooth rocks of the temple, see the maze of aqueducts, and find the sun dial that was used to predict summer solstice. The tightly knit stone structures are impressive, but to be honest pale in comparison to the surrounding landscape, a panorama of jagged peaks that lead to the snow-capped Andes in the distance. This includes Huayna Picchu, the striking peak you see behind every photo of Machu Picchu. We had the opportunity hike this peak the next morning at 7 am, but I chose to hike part of the Inca Trail rising above Machu Picchu to the Sun Gate. Every step you took on the 3-hour round-trip trek was another breathtaking view of Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains. Fantastic!
Abercrombie and Kent really earn their money on this portion of the trip. We have all heard of the overcrowding at Machu Picchu and by the time I arrived back from my hike on the Inca Trail around 10:30 am, there were hundreds of people on the Machu Picchu grounds. But the past day, we really saw the site in relative quietude. We arrived mid-afternoon the day prior when the crowds were less (after having a memorable lunch aboard our train), stayed at the base of Machu Picchu at the only hotel on the grounds, the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge (only 31 rooms, booked a year in advance by Abercrombie and Kent), and then received one of the few tickets the following morning to enter the grounds at 6 am, when there were few if any people around. Walking above Machu Picchu as the sun rose and the clouds cleared proved to be an unforgettable experience.
Our Final Day in Cuzco
Abercrombie and Kent has just launched Wellness-Inspired Luxury Small Group Journeys to Peru, India, Kenya, and Southeast Asia. On my last day in Cuzco, I received a small taste of what they offer on these itineraries when a shaman from a mountain village in the Sacred Valley met me at the outdoor courtyard of my hotel, the Belmond Monasterio, a former 400-year-old former convent, and performed a healing ritual honoring both my family and the Mother Earth goddess Pachamama. The hourlong ceremony united Mother Earth with the mountains, signifying the union of female with male, as he created a circle of local spices like anise, candies, even a condor feather. Then the shaman wrapped it all up in a cloth to bring back to his village and burn as an offering. He learned to be a shaman from his grandmother and his last words to me were "to keep a pure heart." I felt re-energized and purified after the meditative encounter.
If interested in any of Abercrombie and Kent's trips to Peru, including the new Wellness Journeys, please let ActiveTravels know and we'll check dates and availability.
Where to next?
Warm places to go when the temperatures drop
We are in the midst of a beautiful fall, but if you're planning on a winter trip, it's not too late to start planning. In fact, if you want to secure enough space for the whole family at these premium resorts, you ought to book as soon as possible. With a limited window of time and high demand, these family friendly places will fill up faster than you think.
Families love the Windjammer Landing All-Inclusive Resort on the island's northwest coast. Available here are Family Beach Villas to accommodate your whole crew in one space, the Jacquot Fun Club for kids ages 4-12, daily activities geared especially for teens, plus 5 restaurants and 4 bars on site.
In the shadow of the pitons,
is a great base for hikers, and two kids clubs ensure no matter their age, your kids will have a great time. The sugar club is for 4- to 12-year-olds, while the spice club caters to tweens and teens. There's even babysitting for babies and toddlers.
With two beaches, there's one dedicated to activity and one for quiet solitude at Curtain Bluff. Bay Beach is buzzing, with a cafe and bar, and a barbecue every Wednesday afternoon. At the back of the beach, there's a pool, basketball court, bocce ball and shuffleboard. Surf Beach features hammocks and little else, so parents can relax while the kids play. There's a shaded sandbox and jungle gym for little kids and a game room full of movies, video games and board games.
If you and your kids love tennis, check out Carlisle Bay. Not only do they have 9 courts, 4 of which have lights at night to avoid the midday heat, but they have tennis clinics all day long. They also offer the Kids Club, a screening room as well as lots of water sports to keep everyone busy.
Turks & Caicos
With a water park, 10 pools and pristine Grace Bay Beach, you can spend all day in the water and never run out of things to do at Beaches. There is plenty else to do, though, with beach volleyball, tennis, table tennis, croquet and basketball available, just to name a few. There are Sesame Street characters, a club for teens and entertainment all day and night. Kids of all ages can take a break from all that sun in the XBox lounge. The resort is all-inclusive, and no one will go hungry with more than 20 eateries to choose from.
If you want something more low-key, Ocean Club and Ocean Club West are always great options. Located right on beautiful Grace Bay Beach, the resorts offer pools, water sports and excursions for the whole family to experience.
Hurricane Dorian left a great deal of devastation in the northwest Bahamas. It's important to note, however, that of the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, the vast majority made it through unscathed. The major resort areas, which are vital to the economy of the Bahamas and thus the recovery efforts, are open for business and encouraging travelers to visit the beautiful islands.
Grand Bahama and the Abacos islands have suffered greatly, and one of the best ways we as individuals can help is by supporting the businesses of the Bahamas. If that means enjoying a fantastic beach vacation full of unique experiences, all the better.
Farther south, on New Providence and Paradise islands, The Ocean Club, Rosewood Baha Mar, and The Reef and The Cove at Atlantis are open for business. The resorts are playing their part in assisting recovery efforts, accepting donations on their websites and participating in job placement programs for those whose lives have been turned upside-down and homes have been left uninhabitable.
Let's do what we can to help those people in their time of need by keeping badly needed money flowing into the economy.
It's a relatively quiet island as far as the Caribbean goes, playing little sister to St. Kitts. But the Four Seasons Resort Nevis makes the island a perfect destination for families. The Sea Turtle Conservancy offers educational activities as part of the Kids For All Seasons program for children ages 3-9. Sand castle molds makes it easy to have a friendly competition to see who can build the most regal castle, with a gelato bike making the rounds to make sure everyone has all the fuel they need.
today if you're ready to start planning your family's getaway!
Deal of the Month:
Fourth Night Free at Grand Velas properties in Mexico
This is the Last Call! If you book by November 15th for travel between now and December 15th, you'll get a Fourth Night Free at these three resorts if you book certain suite categories**.
Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta
, an adults-only boutique resort. If you're looking for a romantic getaway with your honey, this is the place! Only 80 rooms and with 2 restaurants and 2 bars onsite, and lots of activities like boating, snorkeling and spa, there's plenty to keep you busy.
Grand Velas in Riviera Maya
, is situated on the beach just a few kilometers north of Playa del Carmen. Consistently voted Best All-Inclusive for it's amazing food offerings, it's Balinese-style spa, and its luscious wide, groomed beach.
Grand Velas in Los Cabos
, features both an adults only section as well as kid-friendly offerings to please all. Thankfully the resort is spread out enough to never feel crowded. Both families with children and romantic couples will be more than happy here. Foodies will also be content due to the amazing fact that a Michelin-starred chef is at the helm of the food offerings.
**Conditions and restrictions:
Terms and conditions apply. | Blackout dates for Grand Velas Riviera Maya only, apply from November 26th to December 2nd.
Valid for new reservation only rebooking existing reservation is not allowed.
A 3 ½-hour drive north of Boston, Rockland, Maine, has always been one of our favorite getaways, any time of year. The highly reputable Farnsworth Art Museum houses a vast collection of Maine artists, including a whole room devoted to the work of Andrew Wyeth. They also offer tours of the Olson House in nearby Cushing, the inspiration for Wyeth's most recognizable work, Christina's World (1948). The Center for Maine Contemporary Art
is also a gem of a new art museum.
, the James Beard-award winning chef utilizes her extensive farm to create the nightly menu
. Arguably, our top activity in town is walking those large boulders that jut out into the harbor called the Breakwater.
Next door to the Breakwater is the crown jewel of Maine's mid-coast, the 230-acre Samoset Resort in Rockland. The resort has
never looked betting having undergone extensive room renovations this past year. All 178 rooms and suites now have a
contemporary coastal flair, thanks to the blue and white palette that livens up the décor.The resort also features an 18-hole golf course, outdoor and indoor heated pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, health club, spa, basketball courts, and fire pits.
The Samoset Resort has generously donated two nights' lodging and one dinner to the lucky raffle winner who correctly answered the question below. The theme is "How Well Do You Know Us?" How many countries have all four of us visited in total?
The answers are:
62 countries out of 194 official countries
48 US states out of 50
6 Canadian provinces out of 8
Much to our dismay, the first answer is only 62! Between the four of us, we had significant overlap and many of the destinations Steve has traveled to over the years-French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, and at least a dozen islands in the Caribbean like Aruba and St. Martin are not technically countries, but protectorates. That just proves to us that there's no time like the present to start checking off your bucket list of destinations!
Only a handful of you had all three questions correct. Of those few, we have a winner! And, the winner of the Samoset Resort 2 night stay plus dinner is.........
Congratulations, Barry! Very well done!