Tag Archives: Travel

Drive Yourself to 7 Great Cities in Germany

When it comes to driving destinations, Germany has to be one of the top places that comes to mind. The Autobahn is famous for its lack of speed limits, but as one of Europe’s largest countries, Germany also boasts kilometer after kilometer of scenic backcountry driving, as well. In March, Auto Europe, one of the leading global car rental agencies, divulged the 7 top destinations for traveling motorists in Germany:

#7 Nuremberg
The city is known for malty red-beer and a maze of sandstone cellars, Nuremberg’s now revived urban center is perfectly situated between Frankfurt & Munich making it an easily accessible driving destination.

# 6 Stuttgart
Stuttgart is a top-notch European city filled with amazing architecture, culture, dining, and art. It’s also home to the Cannstatter Volksfest an ideal spot to enjoy traditional German Oktoberfest celebrations with less tourist traffic.

# 5 Hamburg
This charming port town and Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg offers travelers much to do & see and its location makes it the perfect launching off point for a European road trip.

#4 Dusseldorf
Recognized as the center of German advertising and fashion, Dusseldorf has a lively energy that offers an exciting nightlife, fun carnivals, shopping, and trade fairs. From Dusseldorf, travelers can easily drive to explore Belgium and the Netherlands as well as other locations along the Rhine River.

#3 Berlin
A global city of politics, media, culture and science, Berlin is home to some of the world’s most fascinating historic attractions, culturally significant monuments, and modern amenities.

#2 Frankfurt
Located along Germany’s acclaimed Fairy Tale Road, Wine Route and one of the oldest touring roads in the world the Romantic Road, it’s no surprise North American travelers choose Frankfurt as a top self-drive destination!

#1 Munich
The gateway to some of the most stunning landscape in the world, the Bavarian capital of Munich is host to the world’s largest Oktoberfest. The self-drive adventures are virtually limitless from Munich on a journey through the awe- inspiring Bavarian Alps, or to the area’s storybook villages & castles are all within an easy day’s drive.

No matter how long or short your vacation, or which part of Germany you’re visiting, there are plenty of amazing opportunities to hit the road. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind, though. Automatic transmissions are relatively rare in Europe, so if you can’t drive a stick shift, you’ll have fewer choices and pay more to rent a car. And, Germany’s driving laws and customs sometimes differ greatly from the U.S. A good source for basic driving advice is the website of the U.S. embassy in Germany.

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Visit Cuba by Ship!

Havana Street Scene
PHOTO: Haimark Line wants to launch cruises from Miami to Cuba in February. (Courtesy of David Cogswell)

The relaxation of rules about travel by Americans to Cuba has brought a stampede of curious travelers to the island nation. This is good for travelers, and hopefully, good for Cubans as well. One issue facing tourists (and tour companies), though, is a dearth of hotel space, especially in the smaller communities popular with “People-to-People” tours.

Cuba 3Two companies, though, are set to solve that problem by offering cruises to Cuba. Carnival Cruises was the first to obtain licenses (from the US authorities), and plans to begin offering cruises to Cuba under its fathom brand beginning in May 2016.  The fathom brand was created to offer cruises to the Dominican Republic, where passengers can engage in volunteer activities. The Cuba cruises would incorporate fully immersive People-to-People educational tours, focusing on artistic, educational and cultural exchange. Seven-night cruises aboard the 710-passenger Adonia begin at $2,990 per person, and deposits are being accepted now for next year’s cruises.

Photo of the Saint Laurent courtesy of Haimark Line.
Photo of the Saint Laurent courtesy of Haimark Line.

Another option for visiting Cuba by water is via Haimark Cruises, a small but fast-growing cruise company.  Passengers aboard the 210-passenger MS Saint Laurent will enjoy nine-night all-inclusive cruises departing from Miami, beginning February 10, 2016. The itinerary, dubbed “Cuba 360°; A Circumnavigation of the Cultures of Cuba,” offers an approved People-to-People exchange program with visits to Havana for 2 nights, plus stops in Maria La Gorda, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt and Holguin. Fares for the cruises begin at $4,599 per person, and include all onboard accommodations, meals and beverages, as well as the land-based cultural excursions and tips for local guides and drivers. 

One advantage the cruises will offer is that, like escorted tours, all of the permissions needed for Americans to visit Cuba will be taken care of by the cruise companies. But, for those who are willing to jump through the official hoops themselves, a new option for visiting Cuba will be a European-style ferry service set to begin operating this November. Florida-based United Caribbean Lines is set to launch ferry service to Cuba from Miami and Tampa, beginning in November 2015. Ferries will have cabins and hotel amenities, and can accommodate around 2,000 passengers. Voyages will depart Florida in late afternoon, arriving in Havana the next morning, with return trips to Florida later that day.

Adelphi Hotel, Melbourne, Australia

Adelphi Hotel

Adelphia1

The Queen of Melbourne’s boutique hotel scene, the iconic Adelphi opens a new chapter on its 21st birthday in 2014 as the world’s first “dessert” hotel. Adelphia5Thanks to design guru Fady Hachem, the interiors feature rich, chocolate-toned furnishings, carpets patterned like cakes, “licorice allsorts” stools, and the smell of baking in the air. The magnum opus of this sweet tale is the signature Om Nom restaurant, with French-trained patisserie chef Christy Tania at its helm. The treats continue with all-inclusive pricing that includes a stocked mini-bar, welcome drink at the bar, unlimited latest-release movies, and WiFi. A glass-bottomed rooftop pool juts out two meters from the hotel’s façade, high above Flinders Lane.

ARCHITECTURE

Rag Trade Warehouse Look

Originally built in 1938 as a warehouse for the rag trade, the building’s simple and elegant design received its first makeover in 1989 by architects Denton Corker Marshall. Adelphia2It opened in 1993 as a minimalist 34-room boutique hotel, the first of its kind in Australia, complete with private rooftop club, restaurant, and a suspended pool. Adelphi’s latest facelift, in 2014, retains the building’s signature warehouse style with metal windows and a concrete façade.

NTERIOR DESIGN

Industrial with a side of sweet

“The colors and textures of the hotel are all based on desserts,” says designer Fady Hachem. Adelphia 3“But it’s not weird. It’s not too out there. It’s very comfortable and done subtly.” Taking its cue from the former Denton Corker Marshall-designed hotel, the spiky, edgy character of its original incarnation has been retained in this update’s industrial elements, while a layer of whimsical, confection-inspiration provides an engaging contrast.

MADE BY ORIGINALS

Dion Chandler and Fady Hachem

Hotelier Dion Chandler’s fondest memories of traveling with his family as a child were the hotels they would stay in. It’s no wonder that Chandler went on to explore the boutique hotel world, having stayed in over 70 hotels and guesthouses in Europe, and also having worked in high-end independent hotels. Together with business partners Ozzie Kheir and Simon Ongarato, and Fady Hachem, the founder of one of Australia’s most progressive design studios,Adelphia7 Chandler now has a unique product of his own—the iconic Adelphi. Hachem’s innovative approach has not only won him a roster of prestigious clients but international accolades as well. When not undertaking a rigorous cross-disciplinary study of design, you can find Hachem hanging out with his two Pomeranians.

Adelphi Hotel

187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Melbourne 3000, Australia

If you would Like more information contact Susan Hickman tel: 626 – 449-3220 or E-Mail: Susan@distantlands.com

Cuba: People to People (2015-16) with Abercrombie & Kent

Cuba: People to People (2015-16)

Cuba 5

Embark on an unforgettable, enriching Cuba program, with full days of meaningful interactions and people-to-people connections, which reveal the spirit of this fascinating, culturally rich island nation long off-limits to American travelers.

  • Immerse yourself in Cuban culture, exploring its architecture, agriculture, music and dining during intimate, one-on-one experiences with residents
  • Discover Cuba’s and America’s great shared passion, baseball, at a game where you meet and engage with the players, and even have the opportunity to play a few innings with them
  • Engage in a stimulating discussion of the history of U.S.-Cuba relations with a former Cuban Foreign Services Scholar in Havana
  • Join a local architect for an education walk through Havana, discussing its historic styles, ongoing restoration efforts and their impact on the community
  • Explore Las Terrazas eco-community, and learn about Cuba’s environmental commitments at this unique UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • Gain insight into Cuba’s well regarded public health care system during an informal-yet-engaging conversation with a local physician; discuss everything from physician training to research and production during an exchange of issues on the subject
  • Meet with local musicians during a private Buena Vista Social Club-style concert and cultural discussion

Itinerary

Day 1: ARRIVE MIAMI, FLORIDACuba Map

Arrive at Miami International Airport, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. Meet your accompanying Abercrombie & Kent Program Director and fellow guests at your reception and briefing this evening.

Day 2: HAVANA, CUBA / Experiencing a Paladar

After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the Miami International Airport and check in at the dedicated A&K counter for your short charter flight to Cuba. Upon arrival at José Martí International Airport in Havana, complete immigration and customs formalities and meet your local Cuban guide. Embark on an informative tour of Havana’s historic and culturally rich neighborhoods. After lunch, check in to your Havana hotel. This evening, sit down to dinner in a private paladar (family-run restaurant), a unique, welcoming Cuban enterprise.   |   Meals: B L D

Day 3: HAVANA / Immersive Experiences

Havana Street Detail
Havana, Cuba

Today’s introduction to historic Havana begins with a brief presentation by a former Cuban Foreign Services Scholar, during which you are immersed in the history of Cuba-U.S. relations, from the colonial era to the present day. Take part in a thought-provoking question and answer session. Visit a day-care center, where you meet the teachers and get to know the students. Then, take part in an interactive cooking experience at a local paladar. Its owners share their passion for Cuban cuisine and discuss what is involved in running a private business in Cuba — an opportunity that, historically, was all but unheard of. After lunch, walk through the on-site botanical farm, as owners discuss their ongoing efforts to educate and enthuse children about organic farming. Continue to Finca La Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s former home, where The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls were penned. As you look through the windows and open doors of this remarkably preserved home, visualize the author’s life during the more than 20 years he lived there. |   Meals: B L D

Day 4: HAVANA / Spiritual Center

This morning, stroll through Old Havana with a local architect, discussing the challenges and successes of city reconstruction projects, all the while absorbing the vibrant, extraordinary architecture that surrounds you. After lunch, witness the storied Colon Cemetery. Founded in 1876, it is the site of more than 800,000 graves and one million interments. Under the guidance of a local specialist, gain insight into the cemetery’s history and its significance to the local community and pilgrims. Early this evening, transfer to the historic Hotel Nacional

Historic Hotel Nacional
Historic Hotel Nacional

for a narrative on its fascinating history. Considered a national monument, the hotel was built in 1930 and overlooks the Malecón (seaside promenade) and Havana Harbor. Over the years, the Nacional has hosted many international dignitaries and well-known entertainers, as evidenced by the photographic memorabilia displayed throughout the hotel. Here, enjoy a private concert of Buena Vista Social Club-style music, sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music. Then, engage in a post-performance discussion with musicians — a great opportunity to learn about the impact music has had on Cuban culture and the ways in which it has influenced music in the United States and beyond. Later, take a tour by traditional “Yank tank” (vintage car) en route to dinner.  |   Meals: B L D

Day 5: HAVANA / Cuba’s Capital

Cuba LifeThis morning at your hotel, meet a local physician and engage in a talk on Cuba’s well-regarded public health care system, followed by an illuminating question and answer session. Then, visit the Muraleando Neighborhood Community project, meeting members and seeing firsthand the art projects and significant restorations that are underway. In the afternoon, join an Afro-Cuban religions specialist at Casa de Africa, who reveals the country’s religious roots and how religion is practiced in contemporary Cuba. Later, meet a local salsa teacher to talk about the history of this native rhythm and the importance of dance in Cuban life, followed by a lesson under your instructor’s attentive eye.   |   Meals: B L D

Day 6: LAS TERRAZAS / Art & Nature

Today, visit Las Terrazas community, just 45 minutes outside of Havana. At this pioneering eco-village — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — interact with resident specialists, learning about its rare,

Las Terrazas
Las Terrazas, Cuba

endemic biodiversity and life amid the self-sustaining enclave. Engage with members of the local farming community during a reforestation discussion, which explores the positive impact of the ecological movement and the ways in which environmental efforts are similar or different to those practiced in the U.S. Also, visit a coffee plantation with a specialist and meet its staff to learn about the economic role of the coffee industry and its impact on Cuban society. Return to Havana in the afternoon, stopping at the whimsical studio of José Fuster, a renowned Cuban painter and ceramicist. Take part in a discussion about the artist’s work and the role the arts play in contemporary Cuba. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.  |   Meals: B L

Day 7: CIENFUEGOS / Architectural Marvels

Depart early from Havana. Arrive in Cienfuegos, the “Pearl of the South,” so-called for its stunningly beautiful bay. Set out on an informative city tour through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a stop at the Teatro Tomas Terry. Meanwhile, take the opportunity to talk with your local guide about Cuban life, be it about the two currencies used or the cost of living on the island. Take a stroll down the Paseo del Prado, the longest tree-lined boulevard in Cuba. After lunch, enjoy an orchestral performance at the Colonial Museum. Then, head to Cayo Santa Maria. |   Meals: B L D

Day 8: CAIBARIÉN & REMEDIOS / Cuban Industries Up Close

In Caibarién this morning, visit La Imprenta — a local print shop — where you meet with the shop manager and employees and discuss their experiences working with antique presses, which are still used to this day. During a visit to the nearby Sugar Museum, housed in the historically significant Marcelo Salado Azucarera (Sugar Mill), participate in a discussion with museum employees on the role the sugar industry played in Cuba’s history. Then, board an old steam train (formerly used to transport sugar cane to the factory), and travel to El Curujey for a traditional, authentic Cuban farm lunch. See a typical farmhouse as well as a demonstration of palm climbing, followed by a discussion with your host about what life is like on a farm in Cuba.

San Juan de los Remedios, Cuba
San Juan de los Remedios, Cuba

In Remedios, take a ride by bicitaxi (also known as a pedicab or rickshaw) through the town and into the bustling main square. Join the bicitaxi owners at a local coffee shop, gaining insight into their day-to-day routines and the ways in which they maintain their vehicles. Later, at the Remedios Tour Center, meet with the tour historian to discuss the town’s history and work of the parish priest who began community projects for all ages. Return to your hotel for dinner. |   Meals: B L D

Day 9: SANTA CLARA / Cuba’s Vibrant Arts

Drive to Santa Clara, stopping at the local stadium, where you engage in a shared pastime with Cuban residents: baseball. During the event, youmeet and talk with the players about sports in Cuban life, with the opportunity to play a few innings together. Cuban BaseballUpon arrival in Santa Clara, proceed to the Casa de la Cultura, where members of the Cuban musical group Melodias Antillanas performtraditional music on antique instruments. Hear a concert of Cuban classics, followed by a talk about traditional music and its role in local culture. Here, you also meet withmembers of a senior citizen community center, who perform a traditional Danzon dance, with an opportunity for you to join in. Its members also share engaging stories about Cuban life and social decorum. After lunch, tour Santa Clara, briefly stopping at the Che Guevara Memorial. Return to your hotel for a farewell dinner. |   Meals: B L D

Day 10: DEPART SANTA CLARA

Transfer to the airport to board your return flight to Miami.

Meals: B

Limited to 24 guests
Days: 10  |  From: $5,695

For more information call Susan Hickman: 626 449-3220 or E-Mail: Susan@distantlands.com

Bhutan & Nepal: Heart of the Himalaya (2016) with Abercrombie & Kent

Bhutan & Nepal with Abercrombie & Kent Luxury Small Groups

Tiger's Nest Monastery
Tigers Nest Monastery Bhutan

Discover Bhutan and Nepal, seeing Tiger’s Nest Monastery; embarking on an elephant-back safari in Chitwan National Park; and taking a rickshaw ride to Durbar Square.

  • Experience Bhutan’s age-old ways, discovering its rich artistic and cultural heritage
  • Feel the spirit of Bhutan on a hike to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery
  • Learn about the culture and lifestyle of local farmers by visiting a farmhouse
  • Embark on an elephant-back safari in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park for a unique view of wildlife
  • Enjoy a lesson in Nepalese cuisine during a Chef’s Table event in the home of a local resident
  • Witness a debate among nuns at the Kopan Nunnery, an unforgettable, age-old tradition
  • Ride Like a Local when you travel by rickshaw to visit Durbar Square and Teleju Temple

Itinerary

Nepal& Bhutan MapDay 1: Arrive Delhi, India

Arrive in Delhi, where you are met and transferred to your airport hotel.

Day 2: Paro, Bhutan/Thimphu | Welcome to Bhutan

Fly to Paro and receive a tashi khadda (traditional welcome). In Thimphu, visit the National Memorial Chorten. Later, see the Tashichhodzong Fortress, a 13th-century Buddhist monastery and fort, and then gather to attend a welcome dinner.   Meals: B L D

Day 3: Thimphu | Fine Weavers at Work

Thimphu
Thimphu, Fine Weavers at Work

Visit the Folk Heritage and National Textile museums and view Buddhist literature at the National Library. Meals: B L

Day 4: Punakha | The Divine Madman

Drive over the Dochula Pass, seeing the colorful prayer flags en route to Punakha. Stop at Punakha Dzong, continuing to the Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of the Divine Madman). Return to Thimphu for dinner.  Meals: B L D

Day 5: Paro | Monasteries, Rivers and Relics

Rinpung Dzong
Rinpung Dzong Monestary

Journey overland to Paro, stopping en route in Chuzom to view the religious thankga (scroll) paintings and the natural history collection at the National Museum. Continue to Rinpung Dzong, a monastery and fortress along a mountain river. Then, visit a traditional farmhouse to learn about local farmers’ way of life.  Meals: B L D

Day 6: Paro | Ascent to the Tiger’s Nest

Hike to the Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, spending the day with the monks. Later, visit the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong and Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s most sacred shrines.   Meals: B L D

Day 7: Kathmandu, Nepal | Historic Durbar Square

Durbar Square
Durbar Square, Kathmandu, Nepal

Fly to Kathmandu. Ride by rickshaw to Durbar Square and Teleju Temple, see the House of the Living Goddess (Kumari) and stroll through the bazaar, old city and Swayambhunath.  Meals: B L D

Day 8: Kathmandu | Learn Nepalese Cooking in a Local Home

Travel to Kirtipur and visit the temple of Adinath, the Chilamcho Stupa and the temple of Bagh Bhairav. Attend a Nepalese cooking class in a local home. Then, visit Patan, the Golden Temple and Krishna Mandir. Stop at Patan Museum to explore Nepal’s history.   Meals: B L

Days 9-10: Chitwan National Park | Elephant-Back Safari

Chitwan National Park
Chitwan National Park

Fly to Bharatpur and set out on an elephant-back safari. Attend a briefing from a resident naturalist. Start the next day with an early morning nature walk with trained guides. Enjoy an ox-cart ride through the village. Later, canoe down the Rapti River, and watch the sunset while enjoying a Scenic Sundowner along its banks.   Meals: B L D

Days 11-12: Kathmandu | A Spirited Nuns Debate

Boudhanath
Boudhanath Stupa – Kathmandu, Nepal

Fly to Kathmandu and enjoy a lecture by a Mount Everest summiter before dinner. The next day, visit Boudhanath, site of the world’s largest Buddhist shrine. Proceed to Pashupatinath to meet a local artisan, and stop in Bhaktapur. Tonight, visit Kopan Nunnery to witness a spirited debate among nuns, before your farewell dinner.   Meals: B L D

Days 13-14: Depart Kathmandu or Delhi

On Day 13, either fly to Lhasa to begin your post-tour extension or fly to Delhi, where you enjoy the use of a dayroom, available through early morning on Day 14, until you depart.   Meals: B

Limited to 16 guests
Days: 14  |  From: $7,495

If you would like more information or would like to book this journey, call: Susan Hickman: 626 449-3220 or E-Mail: Susan@distantlands.com

BritRail South West Pass

BritRail South West Pass: The All-Terrain Pass

SE Engaland

The BritRail South West Pass gives you the option to choose rail travel on most rail services operated by First Great Western, South West Trains and Heathrow Express trains with your choice of first or second class rail travel for 3, 4, 8, 15 or 22 days or 1 month consecutive travel within a one-month period, or a flexi-pass offering rail travel any 3, 4, 8, or 15 days within a one-month period.South West England 5

While the BritRail South West Pass sounds very specific, it sure covers a lot of great territory in southwest England and parts of Wales. You’ll find its popular destinations include London, Bath, Oxford, Windsor Castle, Salisbury Cathedral, and King Arthur’s Winchester. Still, rolling hills and castles aren’t the only things southwest of the UK. Southwest England is also home to seaside resorts and charming waterfront towns such as Torquay, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, St. Ives, Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance.

Though the real charm of this pass is the unbelievable opportunity it gives the most seasoned traveler to avoid high gas prices, lines at local ticket counters, and fumbling with foreign currency.

South West England

Here’s what you get:

  • The BritRail South West Pass is valid on most rail services operated by First Great Western, and South West Trains)
  • Consecutive pass available in 3, 4, 8, 15, or 22 days, or 1 month consecutive travel
  • Flexipass lets you choose from 3, 4, 8 or 15 days within 1 month for travel
  • First or second class available. First class prices take into account regions where only standard rail is available.
  • Valid for the Heathrow Express. Use of this airport transfer will use a travel day on your validated pass.

Discounted offers:South West England

  • Special Family Pass: For each adult or senior traveler, one child (ages 5-15) travels free (not applicable with a saver pass).
  • Child rates are valid for children ages 5 -15.
  • Children under age 5 travel for free when they share a seat/bed with an adult/senior.
  • Saver pass option for 3 or more adults traveling together.

Reservation Requirements with a BritRail South West Pass:

The BritRail South West Pass allows for travel on most trains that are operated n most rail services operated by First Great Western, South West Trains and Heathrow Express.

When reservations are required, they are an additional cost to the rail pass.

  • Seat reservations are required on the Eurostar train when traveling with this ral pass. Tickets can be requested up to 180 days in advance and will not require the use of a travel day on your rail pass.
  • Many regional trains do not require reservations, and so travelers can simply board with their passes and take any open seats.

South wesy England

At Distant Lands we issue passes on the spot!

If you would like more Information or would like to order a pass contact Susan Hickman at 626 449-3220 or E-mail: Susan@distantlands.com

Eurail Benelux Pass

Eurail Benelux Pass: The European Triple Crown

Belguim1Belgium, The Netherlands (Holland), and Luxembourg have more in common than a royal heritage. They have the Eurail Benelux Pass, giving you extensive travel on the national rail networks of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, with your choice of any 3, 4, 5 or 8 days of rail travel within a one-month period. This pass offers saverpass discounts for 2 or more traveling together and you can also decide whether you’d prefer those travel days to be consecutive or non-consecutive.Belguim2

Choose to see Belgium by rail, or relax during train travel in Holland. Trains in Luxembourg are also designed to be stress-free and adventure-ready. Put them all together and you not only have an extraordinary travel experience in the Benelux countries, but a journey that’s 180° from the hassles of airports and the deciphering of road signs.

Belguim3The train also allows you to enjoy the locals as much as the scenery, and immerse yourself in the culture you came to visit. It starts with rail stations that leave you right in the city center, ready for action. Visit the enchanting (and tiny) city of Bruges, is brimming with architectural and artistic finds. Stop in Amsterdam to view the masterworks of the Dutch masters. Looking to “refuel” in Rotterdam? Its nightlife rocks with an abundance of bars, swanky clubs, and quirky galleries. Stop in castle-rich Luxembourg, home to the Grand-Duke. And no journey through Benelux is complete without a peek at the Brussels Grand Place, one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe. Did I say Brussels? What a great time to mention all the travel discounts that sprout up with your pass, too– including deals on hotels and attractions.

The Eurail Benelux Pass is available from Distant Lands on the spot.

Belguim4

For more information contact Susan Hickman at 626 449-3220 or email susan@distantlands.com