On the Eleventh Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: A New England and Canada Cruise

When people think of cruising, they mostly talk about the Caribbean, Alaska, the Panama Canal, or the Mediterranean. Sailing along New England to Canada is not the first thing that pops to mind. Once it does, however, it makes sense.

A typical itinerary typically navigates between Boston/New York and Quebec. While in New England, you can the coastal scenery dotted with lighthouses and visit Acadia National Park by Bar Harbor.

One of the cruise highlights is the natural phenomenon of the Reversing Rapids by Saint John, Canada. To truly experience the change, make sure to be there about an hour before high tide starts. Once it goes into motion, the ocean will start flowing inland. As the tide starts ebbing, the St. John River will once again continue its usual flow into the ocean.

Another stop is Halifax, where you find the fishing village of Luneburg, once known as the fishing capital of the world, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Of course, Quebec is a spectacular site with the beautiful Chateau Frontenac towering above the city. Many restaurants and boutiques await as you stroll through the romantic cobblestone streets. Don’t forget to taste Canada’s famous dish “Poutine”!

This blog post is the eleventh highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. She is a Princess Cruises certified expert. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

On the Tenth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: European River Cruising

Exploring Europe via a river cruise has gained a large momentum over the past ten years. Several river cruise companies have emerged, built new ships, and today, you have a large choice of itineraries as well as different river cruise companies.

River cruises are best planned well ahead. The pricing can seem steep initially, but a lot is included. Also, promotions and discounts are available if you plan to travel during the off-season, or chose a less popular cruise itinerary.

The most popular river cruise itinerary sails along the Danube River. The Danube originates in Germany and crosses Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea. A typical River Cruise itinerary, however, travels between the Nuremberg/Regensburg area to Budapest only, making several stops throughout Austria, most notably Vienna.

architecture bridge building structures castle

Photo by JÉSHOOTS on Pexels.com

Equally popular is a Rhine River cruise which sails between Basel, Switzerland and Amsterdam, Netherlands. It travels along the German/French allowing guests to visit the romantic Alsace Region and then continues through Germany on to the Netherlands (or the other way around).

The Seine River is a wonderful option for guests who are interested in Paris, France’s countryside, all the way to Normandy. As it travels a rather short distance, it often is roundtrip and allows for a lot of in-depth stops.

For wine lovers, a Bordeaux river cruise is an excellent option. Staying within a fairly small area, it allows its guests to visit famous wine regions like Pauillac and St. Emilion.

There are many more river cruise options within central Europe all with a different flair and unique experiences.

This blog post is the tenth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Originally from Switzerland, she started exploring Europe at a young age and continues to expand her knowledge every year.  To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

On the Ninth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Milano

Milan is not on top of the list of cities to visit in Italy. Most people end up in Milan because they are in transit to somewhere else. It could be they are flying into the airport and are heading South towards Florence or East towards Venice. It could be they have to go through Milan to travel to Lake Como.

When in Milan, the typical tourist route includes the Duomo, the Galleria Emanuele III, Castel Gandolfi, and Da Vinci’s Last Supper. These sights are good for a day of sightseeing. But, what else is there to do?

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Milan is odd. After the Romans left the Milanese destroyed most of the Roman structures as they didn’t want any reminders from that time. Milan originally was built with many canals which were the way for tradespeople to get around. These were later covered to make way for streets and cars. The city took another big hit when it was heavily bombarded during World War II.  Today, the contrast between modern buildings and old structures is quite drastic.

As I arrived for my fifth time in Milan, I was determined to find its soul. After all, it is a fashion, design, and business metropole. I quickly understood that using the public transportation system was the key to discovering the city’s pulse. The subway is fast, efficient, and incredibly affordable. It will take you to areas such as:

Brera
This enchanting district is one of the most beloved, romantic, and atmospheric quarters of Milano. The best way to experience it is by strolling along and randomly soak it in. Peek through gates, look at artworks, stop by galleries, enjoy one of the many excellent ristorantes and trattorias. If you don’t want to walk from the city center, take the subway to Lanza.

Navigli
This neighborhood is set along the original Naviglio Grande canal, the oldest canal in Milan. It was built around sometime around 1200 and is more than 35 miles in length. At the time it was used to transport goods. Today the area is home to numerous restaurants, bars, many small boutiques, and art galleries.
In the evening, it is hugely popular with the young Milanese crowd because of the so-called aperitivo hour or happy hour. Between 5 pm – 7 pm many of the bars offer free food provided you purchase one drink. It’s a fun and hip place to sit outside and experience some authentic nightlife and there are plenty of options to choose from. There are also some romantic, more hidden trattorias.

 

This blog post is the ninth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. She specializes in creating experiences across Italy and travels to Milan almost yearly, to network at Italy’s tourism trade show. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

 

The Eighth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Los Cabos

For the longest time, I didn’t understand the appeal of Los Cabos. The idea of a resort town, set in an arid desert with basically non-swimmable beaches didn’t seem like the place I would want to visit.  And then it got devasted by Hurricane Odile 2014, and that took it off the radar for a little while.

aerialloscabos

Odile wreaked havoc on the Baja California peninsula and forced many major resorts to shut down, renovate, and rebuild completely. Three years later, Los Cabos rose out of the ashes, more glorious than ever.

Numerous new resorts have opened: Grand Velas, Le Blanc, Montage, Hard Rock Los Cabos, Garza Blanca, and many more. There is no shortage of properties to stay at, from less expensive to most extravagant really. You have plenty of choices both all-inclusive and not, depending on your preference.

leblancloscabos

Los Cabos consists of three resort areas:

  • San Jose del Cabo which is a quaint, authentic Mexican town, bustling with tourists as well as locals. It offers a beautiful art district and a real Mexican experience. It is very close to the International Airport making it fast to get to.
  • The Zona Hotelera, the hotel zone, which is a desert corridor, spans for about 20 miles between the two towns. Backed by desert and hills, resorts are set between the main road and the Sea of Cortez.
  • Cabo San Lucas, furthest away from the airport is more artificial with a marina, shopping mall, movie theater and all the entertainment one could want. It is also where the boats to the famous Arch depart from.

loscabos; hotelzonecabosanlucas; marinasanjosedelcabo

The fact that you can have three completely different experiences within a reasonably small distance is one of my favorite things about Los Cabos. The local people are amiable and helpful. Food is generally excellent. The highlight though is the ocean, scrap the fact that it is mainly non-swimmable. Watching the waves is utterly fascinating. The brute force, the crashing sound, the power these waves have, it’s incredible. Admiring them over the edge of an infinity pool, or doused in the sunset from your balcony, is phenomenal!

This is the eighth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. She specializes in creating experiences across Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Seventh Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Munich and its Surroundings

Most people associate Munich with the Oktoberfest which spans over about 16 days at the end of September to the beginning of October. It is the world’s largest Volksfest with currently 14 tents, all serving beer, and festival food. It is a lot of fun!

bavaria munich octoberfest oktoberfest

Photo by Manuel Joseph on Pexels.com

But there are more reasons to visit Munich than the Oktoberfest and a less busy time might be more enjoyable. Of course, its historic city center is beautiful; there are many creative shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. It is particularly pretty before Christmas when the lights are up, and the Christkindlmarkt is running.

Munich also makes for a great hub:

Venture South East to visit:

  • Neuschwanstein Castle also dubbed the Cinderella Castle.
  • Salzburg, the city of music, and gateway to anything related to the Sound of Music.
  • Hallstatt, picturesque village set on a lake.
white castle during daytime

Photo by Pascal Renet on Pexels.com

Venture North to visit:

  • The Romantic Road, a scenic drive through Bavaria’s countryside with many medieval and romantic towns.

rothenburg germany

For WorldWar II history buffs there are many sites to visit:

  • The Dachau Concentration Camp
  • Hitler’s Eagles Nest
  • Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg

Many of our clients combine Munich and the area with some other parts of Germany, or Switzerland for example. Rachel & Lee, combined Switzerland, with the Oktoberfest and Munich, and from there explored the Romantic Road.

We are so excited that they shared some of their pictures with us, enjoy!

 

 

This is the seventh destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Growing up in Switzerland she has had the opportunity to explore Europe ever since she was little. She can help you create a wonderful European adventure. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Sixth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Rangiroa, French Polynesia

The first thing that comes up when people refer to Rangiroa is its fantastic marine life. Rangiroa or Ra’iroa means Endless Sky in the native language. It is the largest atoll within the Tuamotu Atolls, located almost 250 miles (one hour flight) away from Tahiti. The atoll consists of a string of 240 islets tied together for over 110 miles.

Narrow sandbars and mini isles preserve a prolific marine life and offer some of the world’s best diving and fishing. The abundance of the underwater world displays an array of live colors. See schools of multicolored butterfly fish, turtles, dolphins, and sharks. Whether you are an advanced diver, beginner, or enjoy snorkeling, an incredible paradise awaits.

Having had the opportunity to visit French Polynesia myself and meeting many of the local hoteliers, I was super excited when Josh & Lindsey came to me and asked to create a unique honeymoon, partially off the beaten path. Although Bora Bora, Moorea, and Tahiti all were part of their fantastic itinerary, they wanted to include an even more secluded, less visited area.

Rangiroa happened to be a dream come true. It is home to Hotel Kia Ora, a boutique luxury hotel located on the northwest part of the atoll, set in the heart of a beautiful coconut plantation, offering the most stunning turquoise lagoon and white sand beach. With only 60 villas and bungalows spread across the grounds, the beach, and over-water, the recently renovated hotel offers an intimate experience to anyone looking for a peaceful stay in paradise.

We picked the hotel for exactly that reason, but also because it offered Lindsey and Josh the opportunity to stay a couple of days on the hotel’s private island called “Le Sauvage.” It is, as the name indicates, “the wild one.” About one-hour boat ride from the resort, the private island offered five bungalows only. At the time, there was no electricity or air-conditioning. Food was provided by the only two resident staff members at a communal table for all guests of the island. Le Sauvage is currently closed for updates, so we will see what has changed once it reopens to welcome guests.

Thank you Josh & Lindsey, for sharing some of your Rangiroa photos!

This is the sixth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelSTEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating customized travel itineraries. Having personally traveled to Hawai’i, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti, she can help you create a wonderful South Pacific experience. To plan a trip contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

The Fifth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day: Grasmere, UK

There is a good chance that you are either reading this post to find out “why Grasmere and where is it,” or you love, as I do, the Lake District, and know exactly what I am talking about.

If you want to start at the beginning and learn more about the Lake District, visit our earlier post. Less developed and popular than Windermere, Ambleside, or Keswick, Grasmere successfully preserved a “best-kept secret” appeal. A couple of shops, some restaurants, basically a quaint and sleepy village. It’s a good place to get away from the crowds and immerse yourself in what the Lake District is all about when you are not exploring its stunning valleys, lakes, glens, rivers, and mountains.

If you are a lover of poetry, there is a good chance you know William Wordsworth’s work. Grasmere was his home for 14 years, and he referred to it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” He lived with his sister and wife, in a place called Dove Cottage. Today, his former home is a small museum, highlighting his work but also life in the Lake District. A visit allows you to take a step back in time and get an idea of what his poetry was all about.

Rothay Garden Hotel and Riverside Spa is where you want to:

  • Head back to after a day’s hike
  • Sleep in on a rainy day
  • Warm up by the fire when it is chilly outside
  • Read a book in the garden when the daffodils bloom
  • Relax, soak and marvel at Grasmere’s beautiful fells from the gorgeous spa
  • Enjoy award-winning fine dining while marveling at spectacular garden views

It’s a place where you can take a thoroughly enjoy taking a break from it all and indulge your “introverted” self.

Our pictures were taken on a rainy day, so we are adding the hotel’s video for another perspective. The sun does shine in Grasmere too!

photo mar 30, 6 28 11 pm

This is the fifth destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. The UK is a long time favorite of hers, having traveled all over. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

The Fourth Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Private Cave Dining – Negril, Jamaica

Let’s face it, the majority of visitors traveling to Jamaica for a vacation choose to stay at one of the many all-inclusive resorts. Whether it is out of convenience, or simply because they are scared, some never take the time to explore beyond their hotel’s borders.

Truth be told, Jamaica has a lot of small boutique properties, spread all across the island. Whether you want to stay in the Blue Mountains and marvel at beautiful vistas, enjoy the nightlife in Montego Bay, or sunbathe cliffside in Negril.

While you might not be ready to commit yourself to a vacation at a smaller, not all-inclusive resort (yet), you have options to venture out and experience something different for just an evening for example.

The Caves Resort, for instance, provides a unique and highly romantic opportunity.  Their hotel structure spans across the cliffs and has many caves. When occupancy permits, they allow outside guests to visit for a private cave dinner.

It is recommended to make your reservation at least a couple of weeks ahead of time. To confirm you will need to put down a non-refundable deposit, the remaining balance payable when you come for dinner. The Caves’ helpful front desk staff will also arrange transfer from and to the resort you are staying at, should you wish to. Your dinner reservation will include all your food and drinks while at the resort.

Once you arrive, you can spend some time at the sunset bar for a cocktail before dinner. You will likely meet some of the hotel guests who will be raving about cliffside kayak excursions, amazing food experiences, and contemplate whether or not to jump off a cliff the next day.

On a sunny day, you will be able to enjoy a beautiful sunset. For us, it happened to be the end of a rather enormous downpour. From the sunset bar, you can see Negril’s Lighthouse and Rockhouse Resort in the distance.

 

Once the private cave is set up and ready for you, you will be escorted to your table by your waiter who will cater to your every need for the entire evening. Mind you, wear comfortable shoes as you will have to go up and down steep stairs.

A private dinner at the Caves is a unique and very special experience that you will want to spend with someone truly special.

To make a reservation, send an email to info@thecaveshotel.com. They will respond quickly with availability and menu choices.


Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT

Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

The Third Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Santorini – The Most Beautiful

Photo by Jimmy Teoh

Chances are, you have seen the breathtaking images of the dark blue Caldera waters complimented by whitewashed buildings set on steep volcanic slopes, creating the most amazing contrast of white and blue, worthy of every traveler’s dream.

Greece is steeped in history and has many gorgeous islands, each with a different personality. None, like Santorini – the Most Beautiful, as one of its many names, Kallisti, means. Some people even believe that you can find the ruins of the fabled city of Atlantis buried underneath the sea around it.

Unlike other Greek Islands, Santorini makes for a great destination no matter what time of year. By nature, its geography beckons to be explored and experienced, rather than simply used for sunbathing on the beach.

Expect many ups and downs, steep stairs, and small roads. Spend time dining in romantic restaurants, shopping trendy boutiques, and browsing art galleries. Soak up the island air and its flavors. Don’t forget to taste some local wine, supposedly some of the best in Greece. Knowing a thing or two about wine it only makes sense that the volcanic island soil would produce more sumptuous grapes.

We reached out to our clients who returned from Santorini just last fall and asked them to share their experience with us. Suzanne, Troy, and Rachel are well traveled and always up for an adventure. To celebrate Rachel’s college graduation and Suzanne & Troy’s wedding Anniversary, the three decided to make their dream come true.

They immersed themselves and savored every minute on the island. In fact, they loved it so much that one day in the future, when strolling along a romantic alley on Santorini, you might just find an artisan store bearing Suzanne’s name.

We would like to thank them so much for their trust and sharing some of their favorite memories:

photo jan 18, 1 39 55 pm

 

This is the third destination highlight of twelve, leading up to the National #PlanForVacation Day on January 29, 2019. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste, plan a trip!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.

 

The Second Day of National #PlanForVacation Day 2019: Swim with Spinner Dolphins in Waianae, O’ahu

oahuwestsideSwimming with Dolphins is highly popular, but also very controversial with many traditional Dolphinarium facilities shutting down in recent years. If a dolphin encounter is on your bucket list but you want to make sure the animals are happy, and in their natural surroundings, I have a fantastic suggestion!

On O’ahu’s West Side, Waianae Harbor to be exact, you will find a company called Wild Side Specialty Tours. Offering small group experiences (six people maximum, unless it is a charter tour), you become a guest on a ship operated by a crew deeply in love with the ocean and marine life.  There are many things to love about this company, but what I would like to highlight is how this woman-owned company is committed to the ocean, its inhabitants, and their preservation. While you get to experience swimming with dolphins, you can rest assured, that your team makes sure the animals remain safe and protected and that you are doing no harm.

Unlike swimming with dolphins in captivity, Wild Side Specialty Tours makes it possible for you to swim within a group of spinner dolphins in the wild – if you dare that is! The experience is beyond amazing. What might initially seem daunting becomes easy and natural, once you allow yourself to blend into the pod. Watch mothers teach their young dolphins how to swim. Try to keep up. Time flies as you share the ocean with these beautiful mammals!

 

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Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT 
stefanie pichonnat aavtravel
Stefanie Pichonnat is an O’ahu Master Agent and Hawaiian Travel Specialist at AAV Travel; a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com