Äscher-Wildkirchli – Hiking in Switzerland’s Appenzell

Have you ever looked at one of the “Most Amazing Places on Earth” lists? If so, you have likely seen an image of the Aescher-Wildkirchli cliff restaurant and guesthouse. The dramatic cliff restaurant is world famous, yet many people don’t know where it is and how to get there.

Äscher Wildkirchli, cliff, restaurant, mountain, guesthouse, Äscher, Aescher WildkirchliOn an early morning in June, my two daughters (8 and 10 years old) head out from Bern for an adventurous day in Appenzell. The air is chilly, especially after days of excruciating heat, but the day promises to be perfect. We are starting with a 3 hour train ride, first-class, among business people headed to Zurich to work. As always, they look at us with a certain curiosity, but we don’t mind, playing cards as we go. The train goes straight to Gossau, and once we pass Zurich, the compartment starts to feel deserted.

Past Zurich, the landscape becomes more and more beautiful. Rolling hills, timbered houses, sunflower fields, cow pastures, and the scenery green and bountiful. In Gossau, we change train to board the smaller Appenzeller Bahn. A 50 minute train ride takes us through an incredibly romantic area of Switzerland. Mountains are green and rounded. Houses are painted with a lot of love and detail. Appenzell is one of the most picturesque and also conservative areas of Switzerland. As a result, it is really well preserved and tradition runs deep.

appenzell, switzerland, aavtravelOnce in Wasserauen we cross the street and arrive at the Ebenalp cable car station. The ride takes us swiftly in the air and quickly gains height. Drastic cliffsides as well as alpine meadows are abundant. The ride takes less than 10 minutes.
ebenalp, appenzell, switzerland, panoramaThe panorama that greets you once you step out of the Ebenalp station is incredible. Green mountain tops as far as the eye can see, snow covered mountains and Lake Constance in the distance. The air you breathe is fresh, the grass greener, and wildflowers abundant. Many cows graze peacefully along our side as we start the descent.

The walk to the Äscher-Wildkirchli only takes about 15 minutes, but is exciting on many levels. After crossing the pasture, it quickly descends to the prehistoric Wildkirchl Caves which you cross via a safe path and then leads to the ancient hermit dwellings. The hermits that settled here in the early 1600 would accompany travelers through the caves for safe passage.  The caves are dark and despite some lights you might want to bring your own flashlight. Past the dwellings you then come to the actual chapel, dating back to 1621, built into the mountain side.
Äscher-Wildkirchli, wildkirchli, Äscher, Appenzell, cliff, mountains, switzerland, aavtravelÄscher-Wildkirchli, wildkirchli, Äscher, Appenzell, cliff, mountains, switzerland, aavtravelAround the bend you go and there it is, the world famous Aescher-Wildkirchli Gasthaus. The Äscher-Wildkirchli is a restaurant as well as simple guesthouse with a few dormitory style beds. It is built directly into the cliffside and some of its back wall is bare rock. The guesthouse dates back to the 1800 when hermits and milkers (Sennen) started serving simple food and drinks. It turned into an actual guesthouse in early 1900.

Äscher-Wildkirchli, wildkirchli, Äscher, Appenzell, cliff, mountains, switzerland, aavtravelFrom here you can either return up to the Ebenalp cable car station or start your hike down towards Unterauen. The hike takes about 2 hours, and is very steep at times.

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandWe decided to embrace the challenge and started our hike towards Wasserauen. It was an excellent time although due to the constant descent, very challenging towards the end.

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerland

alpstein, appenzell, switzerland, cows, alps, alpine, mountains, aavtravelThe way down is steep and not always clearly indicated. Beautiful views, spectacular alpine scenery, many colorful wildflowers accompanied our way, and we also made new friends…


ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerland, cow

ebenalp, appenzell, alpstein, aavtravel, switzerlandWe did get lost on our way and ended up in Weissbad instead of Wasserauen which wasn’t really a problem since the train back to Gossau stopped there as well. It was a wonderful day-trip which we will treasure forever. All in all, it took us a full day (12 hours) from Bern, and we slept very well that night.

Ebenalp/Aescher-Wildkirchli makes for a wonderful day-trip from many cities in Switzerland. Here are a few things you will want to watch out for:

  • Weather in altitude is generally cooler and can change in an instant. Be prepared.
  • Bring a picnic. There is nothing more beautiful than to sit on an alpine meadow and have a snack. Don’t forget a little trash bag so you don’t leave anything behind.
  • Your shoes need good tread. The terrain is steep, there are rocks, gravel, and steps. Make sure your shoes snug tightly to your feet and your gear is adequate.
  • Trail indications are not the best. Our rule of thumb: As long as you go downhill you are going the right way.
  • You will be walking through cow pastures. Before you decide to touch a cow, assess the situation. If the animal seems restless or scared, do not attempt to approach and touch it.
  • The trail requires a certain level of fitness. You do not need to be a professional athlete, but it is very steep at times and if you have issues with your knees or back it is definitely not recommended.
  • You can do the trail with your children, however they need to be old enough to hike on their own and you need to feel comfortable to let them run a little risk every now and then. One of my girls stumbled, one slid and fell on her butt. Some tears were shed but we survived and have some beautiful memories. My daughter told me afterwards that it made her feel stronger.
  • Make sure you factor in the travel time. From Bern the train ride to Wasserauen takes about 3 hours. From Zurich it will take about 2 hours. Depending on where you are, it will be shorter or longer.
  • How to get there? You first need to travel to Gossau (St. Gallen). From there you take the Appenzeller Bahn to Wasserauen. The Ebenalp cablecar ground station is located right across the street. The adult roundtrip cablecar ride prices at roughly 15 CHF.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner and travel consultant at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specializing in customizing travel itineraries for discerning customers. Being originally from Switzerland makes her an expert and she can help you create a wonderful trip. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com


Discover the Dominican Republic on an Outback Safari Adventure

It is easy to close your eyes and not even try to understand the country you are traveling to, or the conditions people are living in. Spending a week at a luxurious all-inclusive, sipping on a cocktail, eating at your heart’s desire, relaxing under a swaying palm tree. Paradise, right?

zoetry agua, pool, punta cana, honeymoon, ocean, aavexplorationsHowever, there is always someone that calls paradise their home and might not be living the same life of luxury. I would like to hope that all my clients have a certain respect and consideration for the destination they are visiting. Tourism is vital to many Caribbean islands and we can make a huge impact on the quality of life the people have, particularly the children.

On my recent trip to the Dominican Republic I was introduced to the Outback Safari Adventures company. This company is not only interesting because you get to see parts of the Dominican Republic, its culture and what it has to offer, but the company also believes in sustainable tourism and makes a huge difference in the communities they serve.

outback advenure safari, dominican republic, punta canaThe tour is conducted in an open-air school bus and offers a great way to leave Punta Cana’s resort area behind and discover the real Dominican Republic. It is a wonderful and safe excursion for both adults and children, however, pregnant women are not allowed on the tour and people with back problems should also stay clear. The road gets very bumpy at times and the old school bus does not offer the best shock-absorbers.

OutbackAdventure013 outback safari adventures, dominican republic, village, aavtravel, punta cana OutbackAdventure012I love soaking up everything a destination has to offer and felt that driving through the different villages was very exciting. After about an hour we stopped to visit a local school to make some donations. Donations are not given to the children, but to the teacher as to avoid that the children will become beggars. Your donation allows the teacher to buy school supplies and sweets for her classroom. When making donations, remember to bring small bills, as it is very hard to exchange even $5 or $10 bills in the rural areas. Instead of money, you can also bring actual school supplies.

outback safari adventures, dominican republic, village, aavtravel, punta cana, school OutbackAdventure016Stopping at the village school and meeting the children was definitely one of the highlights of the tour. The school we visited consisted of one classroom in which all grades were being taught.

Next stop was Outback Safari Adventures’ own animal sanctuary as well as a crafting village. There you get to see Iguanas, crocodiles, as well as a cigar maker at his work. There are several local products for sale. There is absolutely no pressure to buy and the goods are really well priced. From the famous Mama Juana to handmade jewelry, carvings, lotions, and creams you are sure to find something to take home. Best of all, your money is not going to a resort but straight back into the local community. Here the company also serves a snack or lunch which was wonderful.

outback safari adventures, dominican republic, village, aavtravel, punta cana, iguanaOn your tour you will also stop in a local home where you can learn about sugar cane, cocoa and coffee.

outback safari adventures, dominican republic, village, aavtravel, punta cana, cocoaThe way back will take you through more villages and many opportunities to snap pictures.

outback safari adventures, dominican republic, village, aavtravel, punta cana OutbackAdventure022 OutbackAdventure023 OutbackAdventure021At the end of the tour you get to dip your toes in the sand and for those who like to, swim at one of the Dominican Republic’s beautiful beaches.

outback safari adventures, dominican republic, village, aavtravel, punta canaOutback Safari Adventures truly offers a great tour if you want to leave your resort behind and experience the real Dominican Republic for a day. I would recommend it to anyone traveling to the area. You can book your tour through the resort or online at Outback Safari Adventures.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is a Honeymoon & Destination Weddings Specialist. She 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


Do-it-Yourself Shore Excursion: Juneau, Alaska

Clouds are hanging low over Juneau on this morning in June. No roads lead to this city and it can only be accessed either by plane or boat.  I am not a large cruise ship fan and this particular cruise aboard the Crown Princess represents a means to an end. It gets me where I would like to go. As soon as we disembark, I am determined to lose as many co-cruisers as possible. juneau, cruise pier, crown princess, alaska, aavtravel I had researched hiking trails in Juneau and originally thought we would take the cable car up to Mount Roberts. However, once they started promoting this particular idea to the 3,500 passengers on board, I quickly made up my mind. Instead of taking the cable car, we would actually hike the trail leading up to Mount Roberts. Just before noon we disembark and our first stop is the post office. Juneau’s post office looks like a gift store. You would never recognize it, if it wasn’t for the official sign. The girl behind the open, wooden table counter, is super smiley and welcoming. She points us to The Rookery, a local favorite, famous for its house made burgers. Yes, you might argue that eating burger in Alaska doesn’t really make sense, but when you are trying to escape the other tourists in the area, one is willing to compromise. The Rookery was packed with local people, no tourists in sight. People here were mingling, chatting. The restaurant/coffee bar appeared to be Juneau’s conversation melting pot. The food was outstanding and the service super friendly. juneau, alaska, downtown, aavtravelAfter lunch we head off uphill to the Mount Robert’s trail head. We are “alone” except for the local people that are going for a run or are walking their dogs. The walk uphill to the trailhead takes us along colorful houses, beautiful and lush gardens. We also see the old Russian Orthodox church. russian church, juneau, alaska, aavtravel Just as we are about to get to the trail head we pass a young man. He curiously asked us if we were locals (I guess we did not quite look the part, but then again our gear wasn’t all that off). As we decline he suggests we continue wwalking on straight, as there are waterfalls and a black bear to be seen. On the hunt for the black bear we give up the idea of climbing Mount Roberts and instead embark on the Perseverance Trail. The Perseverance Trail is historically one of Alaska’s most significant trails during the Gold Rush. We had no idea what to expect, but what we found was absolutely stunning. Steep mountain sides, waterfalls, lush and versatile nature, offering a new surprise around every corner. Nature at its purest. We filled our water bottles in the streams that we crossed and continued our way far beyond what we had originally planned. perseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravelperseverance trail, waterfall, juneau, alaska, aavtravelperseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravelperseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravel perseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravel perseverance trail, juneau, alaska, aavtravelThe Perseverance Trail makes for a wonderful do it yourself shore excursions. Here are a few things you will want to watch out for:

  • Weather changes constantly. Be prepared for rain as well as sunshine, it can change in minutes.
  • Bring some empty water bottles so you can fill them up with fresh water from the streams
  • Your shoes need good tread. The terrain goes up and downhill, there are rocks, gravel, water to cross. Make sure your shoes snug tightly to your feet and your gear is adequate
  • About half way into the trail you lose cell phone signal, meaning you are on your own
  • If you see a bear, don’t run. Instead, curl up on the floor in a ball and pretend to be dead.
  • The trail requires a certain level of fitness. You do not need to be a professional athlete, but it is steep at times and can be a bit challenging.
  • You can do the trail with your children, however they need to be old enough to hike on their own and you need to feel comfortable to let them run a little risk every now and then
  • Bring bug spray, just in case
  • It takes about 45 minutes to walk from the cruise terminal to the trail head. By the time we made it to a spot called “Glory Hole” and back to the ship, we had walked about 8 miles.

stefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT Stefanie Pichonnat is a Princess Cruise Lines Certified Expert at AAV Travel. With her personal experience in Alaska she can help you create and customize a personalized travel itinerary. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

Finding Paradise at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana

Late afternoon, I am gently floating at the edge of the perfect infinity pool, overlooking the beautiful beach of Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. All I can hear are the gentle waves of the ocean, some birds screeching and the distant chill out music. The peace and calm is incredible. Until, all of a sudden, a dark, saddled horse flies along the water’s edge. Shortly after, a rider is coming in sight, trying to catch the escaped stallion. A fleeting glimpse of excitement before everything becomes still again. But wait, there sprints the resort’s heavy set security guard towards the resort grounds. What is going on, I wonder and then I see. The dark stallion has taken a drastic turn and instead of continuing to run along the beach, decided to escape through the middle of Zoetry’s beautifully manicured grounds.

zoetry agua, pool, punta cana, honeymoon, ocean, aavexplorationsThis is the most excitement and action I got to experience during my time at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana. But then again, the people that stay here are looking for anything but excitement and action. It is an oasis of tranquility and relaxation, and it is beautifully done. Guests stay here because they want to escape the hectic world, take a holistic approach, both via organic food as well as spa indulgences.

The resort grounds are beautifully lush with swaying palmtrees and many flower bushes. Three story palapa buildings containing luxuriously spacious suites, sprawl out along meandering pools. Zoetry Agua reminds me of Tahiti. But wait, we are in the Dominican Republic, not far from all the mega resorts that call Punta Cana their home.

zoetry, agua, punta cana, aavexplorations, allinclusive, palapazoetry agua, zoetry, punta cana, swim up, all-inclusive, aavtravelEvery suite at Zoetry Agua has a wonderful outdoor area and people here like to enjoy the privacy of their rooms. Who can blame them though, they are truly gorgeous. Some are laying out reading books. Some are engaged into a loveable embrace chatting away. Some are here with friends, gathering in one of the suites’ swim-up pools.
zoetry agua, all-inclusive, penthouse suite, aavtravelzoetry agua, punta cana, beachfront suite, plunge pool, aavtravelThe world seems perfect and there is nothing to worry about. Guests at Zoetry Agua keep to themselves but are friendly when engaged. The suites are great, spacious, every comfort provided. I really enjoyed the subtle, Balinese style décor, the Bulgari amenities as well as the awesome steam wand provided. I also liked that there was a decent hair dryer. My daughters and I have an ongoing discussion about how often toilet paper is of bad quality at hotels. Well, I am glad to report that Zoetry has excellent toilet paper.
zoetry agua, punta cana, penthouse suite, dominican republic, aavtravelDespite all the beauty, arriving on a Sunday was not ideal. Much of the resort staff is off and service is very slow. During my 4 hours along the beach and pool area, I was not once offered a drink. I ran into some guests that had been there for a while and they told me that this had been the first day it happened. And they were right, come Monday beach waiter service was readily available. There was way more staff visible around the property, eagerly cleaning and taking care of all guests’ needs. Always a smile, always a friendly hola. A truly welcoming atmosphere.
zoetry agua, punta cana, beach, oceanfront, all-inclusive, aavtravelMany of the staff do not speak enough English and oftentimes have trouble answering even the most basic questions. Personally, it is something I like, as it makes you engage more with the local culture, learn some words in a different language, and use your hands and feet to communicate. It is a lot of fun and can be very rewarding.
zoetry agua, piragua restaurant, punta canaThat evening I went to dinner at Piragua. The menu looked exciting and I opted for a tuna sashimi, followed by a pumpkin cream soup. Main course was chicken on a lemongrass sauce with couscous. The sashimi was good, very thinly sliced, almost like a carpaccio. It had slightly too much soy sauce. The pumpkin cream could have been excellent, but unfortunately was lukewarm. The chicken skewers were served in a Teriyaki sauce which, since it was supposed to be lemongrass, I didn’t expect. The food tasted good with the exception of one skewer that was undercooked. The passion fruit chocolate mousse combo was excellent but lacking in presentation. All in all I would rate my food experience as good, not excellent, but still better than many other all-inclusive resorts. Breakfast was a similar experience. Some ingredients weren’t in the omelet I ordered which still tasted fine. The bacon was overcooked, the sausages good but cold. Again, I didn’t eat badly but since this is a luxury all-inclusive resort, I expected more.
zoetry agua, breakfast, egss, all-inclusive, aavtravelAll around, I had a wonderful stay at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana and would go back in a heartbeat. The property is so beautiful, the pool area absolutely stunning and the beach peaceful, secluded and well maintained. The relaxing atmosphere of the resort is hard to come by at an all-inclusive and it is wonderful not having to worry about being able to snag a palapa, or find a great chair by the pool. With only 96 rooms it feels like a privilege to stay here. I also loved that wifi was easily available and reliable throughout the property.

zoetry agua, punta cana, all-inclusive, aavtravelstefanie pichonnat aavtravelWritten by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is a Honeymoon & Destination Weddings Specialist. She 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



Olympic Peninsula, WA – Photo-log

“It rains a lot!” “Beware of vampires!”
Just a few examples of what people might say, when they hear you are visiting the Olympic Peninsula. Located in western Washington, just across Puget Sound from Seattle, these 3,600 square miles, contain some of the last unexplored places in the continental US. As a matter of fact, the peninsula wasn’t mapped until around 1900.

During our visit we did not get a drop of rain, neither did we see any vampires. Then again, they are supposedly fleeing the area when it is sunny out. Locals assured us that the weather we experienced was very uncommon, especially for June. When planning a trip to the Olympic Peninsula you have to expect rain, and be prepared for it.

This is a photo-log of our 2 day journey, enjoy!

Ruby Beach – early morning, the inside of the Peninsula was nice and sunny, the beach however offered some eerie fog views.

ruby beach, washinton, beach, rocks, aavexplorationsOlympicPeninsula003The Hoh Rainforest – around noon. As per its name it should be raining, however on this day it didn’t.

OlympicPeninsula007 OlympicPeninsula006 hoh rainforest, washington, olympic peninsula, hall of mosses, aavexplorationsRialto Beach – absolutely stunning, you might recognize it from movies such as “The Goonies”, or “Twilight”, the beach by La Push

OlympicPeninsula015 OlympicPeninsula014 OlympicPeninsula013 OlympicPeninsula012 OlympicPeninsula011 OlympicPeninsula010 rialto beach, la push, washington, olympic peninsula, aavexplorationsHurricane Ridge – offering incredible views and some really friendly wildlife

OlympicPeninsula008 OlympicPeninsula007 OlympicPeninsula006 OlympicPeninsula005 OlympicPeninsula004 OlympicPeninsula003 hurricane ridge, olympic national park, olympics, olympic peninsula, washington, aavexplorationsLake Crescent – beautiful, clear fresh water lake along 101

OlympicPeninsula009 crescent lake, olympics, olympic peninsula, washingtonEspecially the more rural areas of the Olympic Peninsula offer a very limited number of accommodations, mainly campgrounds and some motels. It is definitely a nature and adventure lover’s playground!

We decided to spend our night on a sailboat in Port Angeles harbor which was simply perfect for our adventure!

port angeles, saiboatstefanie pichonnat aavtravel
Written by STEFANIE
Stefanie Pichonnat is the owner of AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com.





Early morning glimpse of Alaska’s Inside Passage

6am, the ship’s hallway is very quiet and empty. Bundled up with wind-proof jackets, gloves, and hats we make it outside to the upper deck. As you come out, the air is crisp, the wind stiff, the view and lighting is slowly but surely emerging. Our big cruise ship all of a sudden seems miniscule. There is water, islands, and mountains as far as the eye can see, and nothing else. There seems to be no one out there, except for our co-cruisers of course, early risers that are here to hopefully spot a humpback whale or maybe even a killer whale. The view is magnificent. Rays of sunlight perching through the cloudy sky, lighting up a mountain side, or a spot in the ocean. Just like in an art gallery, the sun highlights different natural masterpieces.

alaska, ocean, inside passage, princess cruise, crown princessThis morning we are sailing into the northern portion of the Inside Passage on our way to Juneau. After a choppy night out on the Northern Pacific we have made it to the calmer, more protected waters. Never ending pine forests and steep glacier carved mountainsides, icebergs, waterfalls, and sometimes a small glaciers. Since we are sailing early in the season we also get to see some snow. Later on, July and August, it will be gone. Looking at the stunning countryside one wonders why nobody inhabits the little islands that scatter all over. It would be the perfect place for someone trying to escape from the world, leading a life dictated by the sun and working for survival only. The lack of fresh water, however, prevents just this. There is very little potable water available in the area and hence it is as unspoiled and untouched as it was thousands of years ago.
sun, rays, ocean, alaska, inside passage, cruise, aavtravel alaska, ocean, views, cruise, princess, aavtravelLater today we are reaching Juneau, Alaska’s State Capital. On this first morning along the Inside Passage we did spot some humpback whales as well as schools of porpoises riding the waves alongside our vessel. We even spotted a bush pilot, hero of the last frontier. Alas, the killer whales will have to wait for another day, but no matter, Alaska already worked its magic. There is no falling out of love with it now.
alaska, inside passage, ocean, cruise ship, princess, aavtravelstefanie pichonnat aavtravel
Written by STEFANIE
Stefanie Pichonnat is a Princess Cruise Lines Certified Expert at AAV Travel. With her personal experience in Alaska she can help you create and customize a personalized travel itinerary. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com

My “Daily Burn” or how to stay fit even when you travel

Everybody is busy. Oftentimes so much that we don’t have time to take care of ourselves. So for once this isn’t about a destination, it is about making you feel good – always, before you travel, or during your travels.

As a business owner, single mom and frequent traveler, my days feel busy and my schedule is unpredictable. Going to a gym, or joining  a fitness class, is more of a hassle than a benefit, simply because it steals way too much of my time and I am not always sure I can make it. However, that all changed about a year ago, when I discovered Daily Burn.

dailyburn, workout, fitness, travel, on the goDaily Burn is your stream of customized workouts. I am sure you are familiar with Netflix or Hulu. This is kind of similar. You create an account, log in your basic health stats, choose a fitness level and then get to select a workout program that fits you and your personality. The beauty of it is that you can exercise at any time, wherever you want. Whether you stream it on your tv, use a tablet, or, heck, even on your phone. It is crazy convenient!
dailyburn, program, workout, fitnessYou can even take it on the road. Daily Burn streams pretty much anywhere around the globe, provided you have a good wifi connection. China and Russia are exceptions and there might be some others. Granted, you might not be up for a 50 minute workout everyday you travel, but there are always shorter workouts available. They allow you to keep your fitness level up whilst being away.

Or, let’s just say your significant other planned one of these spontaneous beach getaways and you feel your body is not quite up for the beach parade. And yes, I actually have clients that told me exactly that. There are plenty of short and very efficient programs that make you see changes in as little as three weeks provided you follow them.

In addition to your workout, Daily Burn also offers meal plans and recipes to go with your program. So if you are really serious about this, you have every tool to take it to the next level.

daily burn, workout, fitnessDaily Burn offers a free month trial before you commit. If you are busy and are looking for something that will help you keep fit, then this might just be the answer. However, these are a few things I think will influence your success:

  • Daily Burn means working out on your own. If you need a group of people to motivate you, cheer you on, or keep you accountable, you might struggle with this concept.
  • Make sure to be safe and execute the exercises properly. If in doubt, schedule an appointment with a fitness instructor so they can show you how to properly exercise.
  • Every Daily Burn exercise ends with a cool down but those are usually short. If you work your body hard, don’t forget to take some extra time and stretch.

Daily Burn has allowed me to stay healthy and fit without having to compromise my schedule or making me say “I don’t have time to work out”. I am super excited to try it on the road this summer, from Alaska to the Dominican Republic and on to Europe, I will be able to stream my program and get my workout in. It is much easier and more fun to travel when you feel healthy and fit!

Have you tried Daily Burn? How do you feel about it? I would love to hear your comments.

Avid daily burner and 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

dailyburn, stefanie pichonnat, aavtravel


10 Reasons why Bern makes the perfect hub when traveling to Switzerland

Being originally from Switzerland it is only natural that I feel very passionate about this topic. Not only do I help many clients with their trip to this mountainous country but I also return home on a regular basis.

switzerland, matterhorn, cervin, alps, suisse, aavexplorations, aavtravel

Image credit: swiss-image.ch//Max Schmid

When asked what they would like to see in Switzerland, most of my clients start with Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich and Zermatt. What they don’t understand, is that despite the small size of Switzerland, it is not necessarily easy and fast to get from one point to the next. The Alps pretty much split Switzerland in half and many times you have to travel around the mountains before you can get to a specific place. This is why I always recommend having a hub. Not only does it mean you don’t have to pack and unpack all the time, but it also allows you to adjust your itinerary depending on weather. Personally I also think it is very important that you get to experience Switzerland versus simply taking as many pictures as possible.

fondue, switzerland, cheese, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Christian Perret

Bern is the underdog when it comes to the list of destinations promoted by the Swiss Tourism Board. However, I think it actually deserves to be on top because of its central location.

Here are 10 reasons why Bern makes an excellent hub when traveling to Switzerland:

  • Bern is the Gateway to the Bernese Alps
    Granted, many say it is Interlaken and it is true, Interlaken is closer, depending on where exactly you want to go that is. Wherever you want to go in the Bernese Alps, you will either have to go through Spiez or Interlaken. Both destinations are reached in approximately 1 hour scenic train ride from Bern.

Bern, Switzerland, alps, junfrau, eiger, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger

  • Bern is the gateway to the French part of Switzerland
    Whether you want to visit one of the cities like Lausanne or Montreux, or visit the Gruyeres cheese dairy or Cailler chocolate factory, explore the vineyards of the Lavaux, a comfortable train ride of approximately an hour will take you there.
  • Bern is the gateway to Zermatt and the Matterhorn
    Without doubt, the Matterhorn is one of Switzerland’s most famous mountains. Zermatt is a charming mountain village to explore. In 2006 the Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened and cut the travel time from Bern to Zermatt in half. Instead of having to travel around the mountain range, you can now cross via one of the longest tunnels, approximately 35km/22 miles. It takes approximately 2 hours to travel from Bern to Zermatt via train.
  • Bern is a UNESCO Heritage town
    Founded in 1191 (almost 100 years before Switzerland was founded) the medieval town was developed over several centuries. The Old Town dates back to the 15th and 16th century and retains much of its original character. Not only does it offer wonderful sights like Bern’s Clock Tower or the Muenster but it also boasts numerous medieval fountains, all spouting potable drinking water.

bern, altstadt, old town, medieval, aare, switzerland, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch/Terence du Fresne

  • Bern is perfect for rainy days
    Why you might ask? Bern’s Old Town is lined with 6 km/4 miles of arcades which are not only beautiful and unique, but make shopping on a rainy day a breeze.
  • Bern is very pedestrian friendly
    Cars can only drive in the heart of the Old Town with a special permit. The locals travel around either via the public tram and bus system, ride their bikes, or walk. It is a pleasure to stroll through Bern on foot. When you get tired you hop on a tram. It is as simple as that.

bern, switzerland, zytglogge, cobble stone street, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Jan Geerk

  • Bern is perfect for a workout
    The Old Town of Bern sits on an elevated peninsula surrounded by the River Aare. Throughout hundreds of years, the river has carved out the valley surrounding the Old Town. Today, many staircases connect the lower river level with the upper Old Town. A perfect way to burn calories whilst sightseeing. Oh, and you can always climb the Muenster tower, the 222 stone steps should do the trick.
  • Bern is home to the Paul Klee museum
    The Zentrum Paul Klee features about 40% of all of Paul Klee’s pictorial oeuvre. Apart from the large collection of excellent artwork it is also an architectural masterpiece by Renzo Piano. Three undulations perfectly blend into the green countryside.

bern, market, switzerland, flowers, aavtravelImage credit: swiss-image.ch/Stephan Engler

  • Die Berner – The Locals
    When traveling Switzerland you will quickly understand that despite the small size of the country, there are quite a few differences between the cities and areas. Many Swiss say that the Bernese are slow. I will argue that this is inaccurate. The Bernese are simply less driven than, let’s say people from Zurich. Not because they are lazy, but because they want to enjoy life. They strive to find a balance between career and happiness. Why is that good for you? No matter what you wear, you will get by in Bern. People here are casual and relaxed. No need to fret over a not so fancy wardrobe.

bern, switzerland, dinner, restaurant, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch

  • Bern’s Outdoor Spaces
    Whether it is a stroll along the river Aare, a pic-nic on the Bundesterrasse, or an ice cream in the beautiful Rosengarten overlooking the Old Town, Bern is an outdoor town and people enjoy the fresh air. You will find them sitting outside at restaurants, you will find them sitting on the lawn enjoying the sun. You will even find kids playing in the 26 fountain display (representing the 26 Swiss cantons) located right in front of Switzerland’s Parliament. Bern is absolutely fantastic for anyone who loves to be outside.

bern, switzerland, muensterplatform, aare, aavtravelImage credit: ST/swiss-image.ch

Have you been to Bern? Want to go? Have a question? Feel free to comment below, I would love to hear your feedback!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Stefanie Pichonnat has been creating customized vacations to Switzerland for 8 years. She 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





AAV Romance’s Honeymoon Planning Tips or How to Plan the Perfect Honeymoon

Each year, about 1.4 million US couples take a honeymoon. The average spends close to $4,500 for their vacation. 15% of those couples take a “luxury honeymoon” which averages at close to $10,000 for 11 days. No matter where your honeymoon falls, I think we all agree, you deserve the perfect honeymoon. After all, you have a one time shot to get it right.
oahu, hawaii, honeymoon, infinity pool, aavtravelYour honeymoon is meant to celebrate your love and marriage. Every couple I meet has different expectations when it comes to their vacation. Personally, I believe it is super important that those are met. If you are anything like me, you want everything to be perfect.

First off, you need to be aware that many things can go wrong during a honeymoon and I bet you have at least one couple in your circle that doesn’t have the best memory when it comes to their vacation. There are a lot of potential traps, like for example:

  • Arriving in a country where no one speaks English, and you realize you forgot to pre-arrange your transfer to the resort.
  • Booking that cheap flight with a 45 minute layover in Chicago. Chances are, you are not making that connection and might get to your destination a day late.
  • Booking an oceanfront room not realizing that this not necessarily means you will see the ocean as the view can be obstructed.
  • Wishing for a wonderful, peaceful stretch of beach not realizing that your resort sits on a public beach.
  • Being deceived by a resort’s marketing. Trust me, even the biggest and best are guilty of altering their photos.
  • And there are many more.

merida, mexico, honeymoon, aavtravelThese are some of my tips on how to make sure you have the best honeymoon possible:

  1. Decide whether or not you want to work with a honeymoon specialist
    Planning the perfect honeymoon takes a lot of time and research. Some people prefer to do it on their own and that is fine. But if you choose to do so, your research must go way beyond TripAdvisor and a couple of reviews from strangers you don’t know. Personally, I love working with experts. I have long learned that the time they can save is priceless. After all, they know the ins and outs which can save you countless hours of research. If you want to make your honeymoon planning easy and stress-free, I suggest you contact a honeymoon specialist. Not every travel agent will do, you need someone that cares and specializes in honeymoons. That being said, do your due diligence:- How many honeymoons have they planned?- Have you heard of them before?- Do they travel regularly and know what they are talking about?

    – Do they have good reviews?

    A great honeymoon planner gets to know you, learns what it is you are looking for and works with your budget.

  2. Create your honeymoon dream!
    Cuddle up and talk about your honeymoon. These are a few topics you should discuss:- What does your perfect honeymoon day look like?- What do your surroundings look like?

    – Do you want to be very active or are you looking to mainly relax?

    – Any fun things or new things you would absolutely like to try?

    – What kind of romantic experiences are you looking for?

    The clearer your vision becomes, the easier it will be to find your perfect place!
    honeymoon dream sunrise hawaii

  3. Should you stay or should you go?
    Many couples want to leave for their honeymoon the day after their wedding. The idea is most certainly very romantic but in reality you should consider this:- Many flights leave very early in the morning, meaning you are likely not going to get much sleep, if any at all.- It also means that you have to be ready for your trip before you get married. And what if, in all the hustle and bustle, you actually forgot something important, e.g. your passport, or who will be feeding your fish?- It is always nice to check-in 24 hours prior to the flight. Chances are, you won’t have the time to do so on your wedding day.All this being said and done, doesn’t sleeping in the day after your wedding, enjoying each other for a bit, sound much better? I suggest to wait a day or two as your honeymoon departure will be much less stressful. You will have some extra time to take care of things and you will get to your destination relaxed and ready. Extra perk, you will be much calmer should something go wrong on your day of departure.
    beach, oahu, waimanalo, aavtravel
  4. Surprise, surprise!
    Who doesn’t like to be surprised? When talking about your honeymoon, listen to what your significant other reveals. The more you know, the easier it will be to come up with a surprise. Something unexpected. Maybe it is deep sea fishing, maybe it is chartering a private yacht, maybe it is a romantic, secluded pic-nic on the beach. Whatever it is, plan it in secret. It will be extra special and truly show how much you care. You will both treasure that memory forever!

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel

Stefanie Pichonnat has been specializing in planning honeymoons for over 8 years. She 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

Visit Hawaii: Which Hawaiian Island should you go to?

Hawaii is unique. Especially for a malihini (newcomer) it can be hard to determine which island to visit.

The first thing to do is asking yourself: What do I imagine my Hawaiian vacation to be like? What kind of pictures do I see in my mind?

  • Have you always wanted to see a live volcano?
  • Do you picture hula dancers on the beach?
  • Have you always wanted to play on one of the many phenomenal golf courses?
  • Or, are you a history buff and Pearl Harbor is a must?big island hawaii, kohala coast, dining, oceanfront, beach, hawaii Image credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Once you have a good idea of what it is you are looking for, check out the grid we created. This check-list allows you to determine what experiences are available on which island. Check the ones you are looking for, see on which island/s they are available. The island that offers the highest amount of experiences you are looking for should be your top pick.
aavtravel, hawaii, which island to go to, where to travel toYou should leave enough time to properly experience an island. The Island of Hawaii for example does not only have a lot to offer but is also quite big. Travel times are longer and you need a couple of days, if you want to experience most of what the island has to offer. If you only have a week, I would suggest sticking to one island. If you have 10 days or more, a combination of 2 islands is a great option. If you have limited time but want to see them all, you might be interested in one of the cruises.

hana, waterfall, maui, hawaii, hikingImage credit: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Every island is distinct in what it offers (from urban to rural and private), which makes choosing the right one a little difficult. Hopefully our grid makes finding the one that suits you best a little easier. No matter which moku (island) you decide to visit (or if you choose to island hop!) you will have an experience of a lifetime.

Written by AAV Travel’s Hawaii Expert

stefanie pichonnat aavtravel
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Hawaii Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. Having personally travelled to Hawaii she can help you create a wonderful experience. You can contact her at stefanie@aav-travel.com