Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Which Iconic Rivers Make for an Intimate Cruise Vacation?

Excerpted from TravelandTourWorld.com

How can travelers leisurely explore several countries and discover multiple cultures in a matter of days? The answer is sailing on an iconic river aboard a river cruise. According to Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) 2016 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook, the demand for the river cruise experience is at an all-time high.

In addition to cruising through Europe on the Rhine or Danube rivers, passengers can take river cruises through South America, Asia, Africa and even the U.S., offering access to some of the most authentic and treasured travel destinations in the world.

From Egypt to Asia, following are six iconic rivers around the world made easily accessible by river cruising:

Nile River

1.     The Magic & Mystery of the Nile: One of the world’s most famous waterways, spanning more than 4,000 miles, the Nile River offers unbelievable sights of ancient temples, lush rainforests and impressive mountains. Cruising from Cairo that takes passengers on a voyage through 5,000 years of history, visiting temples built in the time of Cleopatra, the famed Sphinx and the Great Temples of Giza.

2.     The Battles & Beauty of the Mekong: Stretching through thousands of miles of authentic Asian rice paddies and fish farms, the Mekong River’s beautiful deltas have been site to famous battles, specifically during the Vietnam War. Now, the peaceful waterways provide the perfect atmosphere for cruising. 

3.     The “River Sea” of the Amazon: The longest river in South America and world’s largest resource of fresh water, the Amazon offers thousands of years of tropical history and beauty.
4.       A Trek through American History on the Mississippi: The Mississippi River is drenched in rich American history weaving through 1.2 million square miles and multiple states.  A popular Mississippi River cruise is a paddlewheeler journey that takes passengers along the famed domestic waters and through 10 states, with such experiences as the jazz of New Orleans, French-inspired beauty of Natchez, the Gateway Arch of St. Louis and more.

5.     A Rise Along the Rhine: Known for enchanting castles and dramatic landscapes, the Rhine River has been crossed by the likes of Julius Caesar and George Patton. Possible experiences include multiple Christmas markets during the holidays, paying tribute to the fallen in the Battle of the Bulge at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, view medieval masterpieces like Bernkastel, Trier and Cochem, and experience an exclusive dinner at a medieval moated castle in Germany.

6.    The Gorgeous Ganges: Boasting the highest population of any river basin in the world and winding through India and Bangladesh, the sacred Ganges River is not only gorgeous but constantly changing. The river is slowly changing its path, naturally shifting 1.5 miles since 1990 so the river offers a truly once-in-a-lifetime course. Highlights can include Delhi’s Humayun’s Tomb, the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort, Jaipur’s City Palace, Mother Theresa’s home and tomb in Kolkata, Verdic temple in Mayapur and Kalna’s Rajbari Temples.

Bottom line: River cruising is the ultimate on-the-water experience.

#travel #traveltips #cruises #rivercruises #travelingcynthia

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Banff and Lake Louise: Jewels of the Canadian Rockies

by Cynthia Dial and appearing in JustLuxe.com

To best appreciate Banff National Park, visits to its most noted landmarks are key. Originally constructed as lures for the jet set crowd – albeit long before jets – Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise continue to draw those who seek the best. Each of these long-time national icons was built along the Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway line in the late 1800s to provide deluxe digs to those traveling the rails in style.  

Photos by Cynthia Dial
Though ensconced within a national park and surrounded by the dramatic backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, architecture alone could place each hotel in a legendary league of its own. The difference in the structural styles is striking – Fairmont Banff Springs projects Scottish Baronial while Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is reflective of French Renaissance design. However, each is punctuated with distinctive elements – whether towers and turrets, spires and swirling staircases, pitched roofs and porte-cocheres or Gothic gables – and each evokes the feel of a European castle. Through the years and despite almost complete replacement, periodic reconstruction and continued renovation, the results remain the same – majestic.

Let’s set the stage for arrival. In addition to the region’s back-in-the-day train transport, many of today’s guests travel by car. Most easily reached from the gateway of Calgary, the 90-minute drive via the Trans-Canada Highway (the nation’s east to west roadway) begins in Alberta’s flatland, initially appearing a world away from the mountainous terrain that will soon encircle you. On approach the first peek of what’s to come is the tree line running atop the foothills. Though its hue varies with the season, the colorful stripe is like a ribbon wrapping the gift you are about to open.

Established in 1885, 131-year-old Banff National Park is Canada’s oldest. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, this area of more than 2,500 square miles – complete with ice fields, glaciers, mountains, dense forests and alpine meadows – is the stunning setting of Banff and Lake Louise.

Exploring each town, along with its namesake resort, is key to appreciating the appeal. Beginning with Banff, this is a no jay walking kind of town, one punctuated with historical structures, specialty restaurants and bear-proof containers. It features retailers such as Lululemon and Northface, with pedestrians typically outfitted in fleece shirts, cozy parkas and sturdy shoes. A humorous aside is the occasional souvenir store displaying a bear-adorned tee saying, “Keep Calm, Play Dead.”

At an elevation of 4,537 feet, the village covering less than three square miles is Canada’s highest town. It is a town treasured for its natural hot springs – a year-round lure. The main drag, Banff Avenue, is positioned to face the area’s prominent pinnacle, Cascade Mountain, said to be one of the most photographed peaks in the Rockies. 

Affectionately called the “Castle in the Rockies,” Fairmont Banff Springs initially opened June 1, 1888, with the promised pledge to be a “bastion of luxury.” It’s since earned the designation as a National Historic Monument and today’s resort features 764 rooms, 27 holes of golf, the Willow Stream Spa (created to be reminiscent of the area’s famed hot springs and routinely named one of the nation’s best) and 12 restaurant and beverage outlets. 
Among its eateries are such choices as afternoon tea in Rundle Lounge (with an IMAX-like view of the Rockies) and Waldhaus Restaurant, serving up Alpine dishes in a Bavarian cottage-like atmosphere.

VIP Concierge Don Mooney’s unofficial motto, “If you can dream it, we can do it,” surmises the hotel’s attention to its guests. Among the comments in his leather bound journal is the description of Mooney by actor Christopher Plummer as “the patron saint of concierges.” However, being on the big screen is never the criteria for treatment as a king or queen – though King George VI and Queen Elizabeth have been guests.

In winter there’s downhill skiing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sleigh rides and the hot springs – there’s nothing quite like a toasty outdoor soak beneath a light snowfall amid jagged peaks.
With warm weather comes hiking, whitewater rafting, golfing, river float trips, fishing, paragliding, gondola sightseeing and horseback riding. One made-in-the-Rockies experience is provided by Banff Trail Riders – with 310 horses it’s Canada’s largest horse outfitter. Offering one-hour to one-day horseback rides, in addition to two- to six-day back country trips, an introductory and delicious choice is a barbecue steak cookout reached by horse or in a covered wagon. 

Sprinkled throughout the year (though spring and fall are the best times) are wildlife sightings for such local residents as black and grizzly bears, elk, moose, coyote, deer, bighorn sheep and many more. An insider’s tip when near railroad tracks is to look for bears as these thoroughfares often double as the mammals’ personal walking paths.

While Lake Louise’s town center is more akin to a strip mall, it is less than a five-minute drive to its high drama, glacial-backed sapphire blue and Tiffany blue centerpiece. Lake Louise, named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (fourth daughter of Queen Victoria), is fed from six glaciers, its water rarely tops 40 degrees Fahrenheit and its depth is 230 feet. 

Situated lakeside, from sunrise until sunset Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise provides an ever-changing photographer’s playground and hiking mecca. Explored by guests since 1899 when CP Railway hired Swiss mountain guides, this long ago tradition explains the hotel’s over-the-years alpine ambiance. Today the Chateau’s Mountain Heritage Program, headed up by naturalist Jeff Douglas, gets guests up close and personal with its back-to-nature terrain. 

“I’ve hiked with Warren Buffet and the Rolling Stones,” says Douglas. “Eventually, everybody comes here.” The ├╝ber guide shared an anecdote about his walk around the lake with Buffet. Stopped by a guest, the business magnate was told, “You know, you look a lot like Warren Buffet.” His reply: “I hear that all the time.” 

Another celebrity is mascot and resident dog, Marcus (Mark to his friends). Originally trained as guide dog for the blind but deemed too friendly, this white lab became the hotel’s Director of Pet Relations. As a part of the job (complete with his own business cards), he roams the hotel and is available for walks Monday through Friday. 

To best appreciate the hotel’s roots, note its details: doormen dressed in traditional Swiss attire, chandeliers embellished with torch-bearing women depicting the long ago after-dark practice of spouses guiding their hiking husbands home and the selection of truffle fondue as the specialty of the famed Walliser Stube restaurant.  


Lake Louise’s backyard is your playground. Similar to Banff, winter’s sports include snowshoeing, cross country and downhill skiing. Three distinctive mountain resorts serve the Banff/Lake Louise region: Lake Louise Ski Resort, Sunshine Village and Mount Norquay – featuring 8,000 acres of skiing, two gondolas, 26 chairlifts and 30 feet of annual dry Canadian Rockies powder snow.  Summer brings canoeing (red canoes crisscross Lake Louise), hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing by gondola (described as the Rockies’ best grizzly bear viewing), wildlife safaris, rock climbing, fishing, hiking and lakeshore strolls. 

Situated amid the Canadian Rockies, located within a national park and world renowned for its historic hotels – this is Banff and Lake Louise. It is a destination best described by only two words: picturesque perfect.

#travel #traveltips #travelpix #travelingcynthia #banff #lakelouise #canadianrockies #mountainresort

Friday, April 15, 2016

12 Hours or Less in Los Angeles

From Hancock Park to Venice Beach, Los Angeles serves up something for everyone.
#travel #inlovewithswitzerland #travelpics #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Monday, April 11, 2016

Travel Quote of the Day

"It is better to travel well than to arrive."
Photo by Cynthia Dial
#travel #travelquote #travelingcynthia

Thursday, April 7, 2016

10 Reasons Why You Should Travel Solo

by Anna Mazurek for AFAR.com 

Many people find the idea of traveling solo terrifying, but it might just be the best thing you ever do.

After traveling nonstop for over eight years, I prefer traveling solo, an idea that frightens many people. When the economy tanked in 2008, I quit my jobs and spent a year globetrotting. (Recessions aren’t good for freelance photographers.) It was my first long-term solo adventure—eight countries in 13 months. I booked the flight and never looked back.

If you have never tried it, here are ten reasons why you should travel solo:

1. Expand your comfort zone
The only way to overcome fear is to do the things you fear. Almost everything I do scares me. I hate heights, so I went bungee jumping in New Zealand. I find the idea of being alone in a foreign city where I don’t speak the language to be exhilarating. The courage and confidence gained from traveling alone can transform every aspect of your life, including your career.

2. Be master of your own schedule
Traveling solo is the ultimate freedom. Eat pancakes for breakfast every day. Get up at sunrise to go hiking, or spend your afternoons reading in a hammock. No dragging your night-owl friends out of bed to catch an early flight. And, most importantly, no fighting over what to eat for dinner! You do what you want when you want. No waiting. No silly fights. No questions. 

3. Learn about yourself
I consider travel to be an education—an in-depth look at world history and yourself. I had a master’s degree by age 25 and lived on four continents by the time I was 27. There is a clarity that comes from being 5,000 miles away from everything familiar and all of the things that influence your decisions. It cleared my head of society’s expectations and allowed me to simplify my goals and priorities to build the life I wanted, which involved traveling for a living. 

4. Make new friends
The easiest way to meet people is to travel alone. It forces you to be more outgoing than normal, and it makes you more approachable. Conversations with strangers are easier and more natural because they revolve around simple questions like “Where are you going?” and “Where are you from?” Plus, other travelers are the best resource for recommendations on food, transport, and accommodation.

I met the majority of my closest friends while traveling. Each one started as a chance meeting in an unlikely place—a pub in chilly Northern England, the humid streets of Luang Prabang. I couldn’t imagine my life without these people.

5. It's easier to plan
The stress of planning is significantly reduced when you only have to plan for one. It’s easier to find a single spare seat on a last-minute flight or a sold-out bus. Plus, you don’t have to coordinate multiple work and vacation schedules. I usually leave my options open by booking a one-way flight. 

6. Save money
It’s easier to stay within your budget when you are traveling solo. Everyone has different comfort levels, which can lead to drastic price differences for accommodation, food, and transport. I usually prefer to walk or take public transport, both for the experience and to save money. I’ve traveled with friends who insist on taking taxis everywhere because they can’t take the crowds and heat. 

7. No regrets
The best way to live the life you daydream about is to travel alone. If I want to do something, I find a way to make it happen. Sometimes it can take weeks, months, or years. I refuse to spend my life waiting on other people. If friends can join me for an adventure, then great. If not, then I go alone. When I’m 80 years old, I will never say, “Man, I regret that year I spent living in Australia and those two months I spent hiking in Patagonia.

8. Minimalism
I was THAT girl. The one dragging two suitcases twice her size through the airport. Thankfully, that girl has learned to carry on her luggage. Nothing teaches you about minimalism better than a long-term solo trip. When you are alone, there’s no one to watch your luggage while you run to the bathroom or grab a coffee. An overload of luggage makes any traveler an easy target for thieves and unwanted attention. Plus, giant bags will kill your back, energy level, and mood.

9. Singing in the car
The best part of road trips is singing horribly loud to your favorite ‘90s mix with no one to judge you or roll their eyes. Nothing makes the miles pass as quickly as singing and dancing in the car!

10. Inspire others
My courage to travel solo across five continents has inspired my friends to take advantage of gaps of time to join me for a small part of a trip or to take their own journey. I am the excuse people use to travel and face their fears. Be the inspiration for your friends to take that trip to Cuba or hike Kilimanjaro!

Anna Mazurek is a travel photographer and writer based in Austin, Texas.

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #solotravel