Luxe Adventure Traveler http://jdombstravels.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:29:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 2014 Luxe Adventure Traveler Gift Guide http://jdombstravels.com/2014-luxe-adventure-traveler-gift-guide/ http://jdombstravels.com/2014-luxe-adventure-traveler-gift-guide/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:09:20 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62420 Luxe Adventure Traveler

There are just 34 days until Christmas! You’re making your list, and checking it twice. The traveler in your life is gonna find out if they’ve been naughty or nice. And if that wanderluster did make your nice list, we’ve got everything from handy gadgets to luxe luggage that is sure to please on our …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

There are just 34 days until Christmas! You’re making your list, and checking it twice. The traveler in your life is gonna find out if they’ve been naughty or nice. And if that wanderluster did make your nice list, we’ve got everything from handy gadgets to luxe luggage that is sure to please on our 2014 Luxe Adventure Traveler Gift Guide.

Traveler Gift Guide Stocking StuffersStocking Stuffers

L’Occitane Almond Hand Cream

Flying and just traveling in general really dries out my hands. I always carry the 1oz L’Occitane Almond Hand Cream in my purse. It’s enriched with almond milk and almond oil, which really softens and moisturizes my hands. The lotion isn’t at all greasy, so I can easily use it on the go. And the scent is very light, so you can even use it inflight and not offend your fellow travelers.

L’Occitane Almond Hand Cream $12

Mandarin Oriental Gift Card

Perfect for the luxe city break traveler in your life, Mandarin Oriental is one of our favorite luxury hotel brands. With more than 25 hotels worldwide, Mandarin Oriental gift cards can be used online or at any MO hotel for accommodations, spa, dining, or boutique purchases.

Mandarin Oriental Gift Card available in custom amounts up to $2000

Tiffany Passport Holder

The luxe traveler in your life will want to dress her passport up in style. The Tiffany handcrafted leather passport holder keeps passports in excellent condition in style. It comes in three colors, though Tiffany blue is always a winner.

Tiffany & Co. Passport Holder $150

Lepow Mobile Charger

I am always draining my iPhone battery while traveling and there’s nothing worse than having it die on me when I want to take a great Instagram photo or look up directions in Google Maps. The Lepow Stone Power Charger always saves my day. It’s super lightweight and small, so I can easily stick it in my purse and have it handy to charge up my phone on-the-go. It also holds its charge and has been excellent for charging up my MacBook and phone when we traveled by camper van and by houseboat. It comes in five colors, can charge two devices at once, and is compatible with all major phone and tablet brands.

Lepow Mobile Charger $25

Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter

Perfect for the traveler that travels internationally, the Flight 001 4-in-1 adapter helps you keep your electronics working in 150 countries.

Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter $23

Photojojo iPhone Lenses

You don’t have to lug around an expensive camera to capture great vacation photos. The iPhone has an excellent camera and Photojojo iPhone Lens Series helps enhance it. You can try out fun shots with the fisheye or super fisheye, enhance zoom capabilities with the telephoto lens, reduce glare or blown out sky with the polarizer, or capture more with the wide angle. The lenses are available as a package or individually.

Photojojo iPhone Lens Series $99 or $20 – $30 each

Under the Tree

Luckies of London Scratch MapWhere I’ve Been Scratch Map

I received a scratch map for my birthday this year and had a ton of fun scratching off all the countries we’ve been to. That reminds me – I get to scratch off Greenland now too! Travelers will love framing it and hanging it up to show off their travel accomplishments.

Luckies of London Scratch Map Deluxe Edition $22

Bose Noise Cancelling HeadphoneBose Noise Cancelling Headphones

Travelers spend a lot of time on planes and trains and noise cancelling headphones can be an absolute godsend when trying to tune out the world around you. Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones are the newest in a line from a company known for quality. One reader even just told us he has had a pair for 10 years now!

Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones $299

Liquid Image Wifi Ski GogglesLiquid Image Ski Goggle with Built in Camera

Tim likes to video his ski runs and wearing our GoPro on a mount on his helmet makes the angle just a bit odd. Liquid Image Model 339 Apex HD + Wifi ski goggles are the answer as the camera is situated right in ski goggles just above the eyes. The camera even has a tilt so it is adjustable to your stance. You can also take stills and the goggles can connect via wifi to your iPhone or Android for playback. Heck, these are on our own Christmas wishlist!

Liquid Image Model 339 Apex Ski Googles $400

Ugobags

Our medium-sized UGOBAGS spinner

Custom Luggage

Even if you carry-on, all those bags basically look alike. But we can spot our custom designed Ugobags spinner the minute it hits the conveyor belt and there’s absolutely no denying it’s ours with our faces on it. We love that it is lightweight, is easy to pull right alongside you with its four spinner wheels and telescoping handle. There are also plenty of compartments inside. And yes, we know we need to design a new one now that we’re re-branding our website!

Ugobags $189 – $249. Use the promo code THANKSGIVING15 for 15% off your order.

Longchamp Le PliageLongchamp Le Pliage Tote

I love my Longchamp Le Pliage and I actually have two: the Le Pliage XL and the Le Pliage Large Shoulder Tote. Both sizes fit plenty, but always fit under the seat making them the perfect carry-on. They fold up easily for packing, so you can throw it in your luggage just in case you shop a bit too much.

Longchamp Le Pliage XL travel bag $155

Apple iPhone 6iPhone 6

Once I finally switched to Apple, I have never been able to be swayed even having trialed some of those other smartphone brands. Though my own iPhone is barely more than a year old, I am treating myself to an upgrade and can’t wait to unwrap a shiny new iPhone 6. The camera and video keep getting better with each iPhone release and iPhone 6 comes unlocked, which is essential for travelers like us that pick up pay-as-you-go SIM cards in new countries.

iPhone 6 from $199

This article contains some affiliate links. When you purchase anything on Amazon through our affiliate site, we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. It just helps us keep things running here at Luxe Adventure Traveler!

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The Secret Movie Theater at One Aldwych http://jdombstravels.com/film-and-fizz-one-aldwych/ http://jdombstravels.com/film-and-fizz-one-aldwych/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 09:19:04 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=61014 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I have a confession. After a day running around sightseeing, hiking, kayaking or whatever latest adventure it is that we’re researching, I’m exhausted! I long ago was over the nightlife scene and it might sound lame, but I’m often more than happy to just order room service and stay in. So when One Aldwych, a luxe 5-star …

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I have a confession. After a day running around sightseeing, hiking, kayaking or whatever latest adventure it is that we’re researching, I’m exhausted! I long ago was over the nightlife scene and it might sound lame, but I’m often more than happy to just order room service and stay in. So when One Aldwych, a luxe 5-star hotel on the edge of London’s theatreland, invited us to enjoy their Film & Fizz One Aldwych experience, I didn’t have to think twice. A secret movie theater right in the hotel? It sounded like the absolute perfect way to spend an evening in London.

Film & Fizz One Aldwych

Photo courtesy of One Aldwych

Film & Fizz

The Film & Fizz One Aldwych Overnight experience includes a movie in the private screening room, followed by a 3-course dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants, overnight accommodations, and breakfast. As we got seated in the private screening room, we were greeted with a chilled glass of Champagne Lallier Grand Cru Grande Réserve Brut and our choice of salty or sweet popcorn. As I sipped my champagne and munched on my popcorn, Captain America flickered up on the screen. This, I thought, is how a movie should always be enjoyed.

After the movie, we were seated for dinner in Axis and offered a 3-course menu. The sommelier made a wine pairing suggestion that would work well with both our choices from the night’s pre-fix menu selections, and we sat back to relax. I loved that the bread was served with miniature pots of delicious hummus and tapenade. As we tucked in to our glazed pork belly, we debated which Marvel film was coming next and laughed over the funny lines from the movie. Film & Fizz really was the perfect date night.

The Festive Film & Film series is about to kick off for the holidays. You can enjoy some of the holiday classics like Miracle on 34th Street or Disney crowd pleasures like Frozen. There are even mocktails for the kids. Check out the full Film & Fizz line-up here.

One AldwychThe Hotel

One Aldwych is located steps away from the Novello and Lyceum Theaters. Though the street below is bustling and theatergoers pouring out are still singing the familiar lyrics of ABBA’s Dancing Queen, we didn’t hear a peep thanks to the hotel’s soundproof glass. It was so quiet, you nearly forget that you’re in a sprawling city like London at all.

The spacious rooms are done in calming colors of beige and olive and we had a king size bed with down bedding. Well appointed, the rooms have a flatscreen tv, mini bar, and complimentary wifi. I loved the bathroom with separate walk-in rain shower, soaking tub big enough for two, and potted orchids.

One AldwychThe service was top notch. We arrived from a late flight and knowing we were probably a bit hungry, the staff sent up a cheese plate and fresh fruit. It was the perfectly midnight snack. We also loved the other tiny details and conveniences like the card with the next day’s weather that was left on our bed and a plastic ziplock bag left in the bathroom in case you had carried on and wanted to take the bath products with you. And I have to mention the spicy nuts, which I kid you not, other guests have left tips about how to order online in their TripAdvisor reviews. How do I know? Because we too loved the spicy nuts served in the Lobby Bar and left as a snack in our room so much that we too tried to Google them after our stay!

One AldwychBreakfast is served in Indigo, the restaurant overlooking the lobby, and is a la carte from their menu. I actually love a la carte more than breakfast buffets, because let’s be honest, we all tend to eat more than we normally would when breakfast is buffet style. And my favorite type of eggs, eggs benedict, are never on a breakfast buffet.

Afternoon tea One Aldwych

Photo courtesy of One Aldwych

Being in the heart of London’s theatreland, you’d expect nothing less than a theatrical affair for afternoon tea. One Aldwych has partnered with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to inspire their magical tea. With cotton candy puffs, golden eggs, and a selection of fine loose-leaf teas, this afternoon tea is sure to be a crowdpleaser for kids and the kid-at-heart.

With all the fantastic food on offer, thankfully One Aldwych does have a gym with everything from treadmills to free weights. You can even have a session with the on-site personal trainer. And there is a sauna and spa to relax in after a work out. Of course, with the West End location it’s an easy walk to the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and other popular London tourist attractions.

Know Before You Go

  • The Film & Fizz One Aldwych Overnight package, which includes the movie, 3-course dinner or weekend brunch, overnight stay, and breakfast is £430.
  • Non-hotel guests can also enjoy Film & Fizz with a 3-course dinner or weekend brunch for £49.50 per person.
  • Afternoon is tea is served daily from 12:30 – 3:30pm in the Lobby Bar is and £34.50 per person or £45 per person with a glass of champagne or a smoking Charlie Cocktail.

This post was brought to you by One Aldwych, where we were invited guests to experience the Film & Fizz One Aldwych Overnight package. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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The Camargue: France’s Wild West http://jdombstravels.com/camargue-france/ http://jdombstravels.com/camargue-france/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:19:20 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62330 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Close your eyes and picture France. I’d bet scenes of chic Parisians sipping on wine at sidewalk cafes, strolling the banks of the Seine, and biking with baguettes in their basket come to mind. I’m not a gambler, but I’d also bet that what you’d never picture are cowboys, cattle ranches, and bull fighting. But …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Close your eyes and picture France. I’d bet scenes of chic Parisians sipping on wine at sidewalk cafes, strolling the banks of the Seine, and biking with baguettes in their basket come to mind. I’m not a gambler, but I’d also bet that what you’d never picture are cowboys, cattle ranches, and bull fighting. But in Western Europe’s largest river delta, you’ll find cowboys on white horses wrangling their fighting bulls for the bullrings of the Languedoc, ancient walled cities, and salt flats teeming with pink flamingos. This is the Camargue, France.

Camargue, FranceCruising the Camargue’s Canals

The Camargue is criss-crossed with canals leading right to the Mediterranean sea and one of the best ways to explore this area of France is barging the canals on a houseboat. With only a few canal locks and no experience required, anyone can head to the Camargue on a boating holiday. And that’s exactly how we explored this little slice of France.

Houseboating in Camargue, FranceWith a short lesson on how to sail, and more importantly, moor our very own houseboat, we were confidently cruising the canals in no time. The Camargue is the sunniest area of France, boasting over 300 days of sunshine each year, and relaxing on a boat is the ultimate indulgence. I’d sit on the bow soaking up the sunshine and taking in the scenery as Tim captained us from port to port.

Camargue, France

Highlights of the Camargue

Villages with mazes of Medieval alleys, vineyards, walled crusader towns, and nature reserves all awaited us and were easily accessible by foot or bicycle from each of our ports.

Houseboats can be rented from Arolles Marine and range in size accommodating 2 – 8 persons.

Beaucaire, France

Beaucaire is beautiful even on the rare rainy day

Beaucaire

Though technically not part of the Camargue, Beaucaire is just north and worth a visit for its charming maze of Medieval alleys and its crumbling castle. The castle looks over the Rhône River and across to Provence. The current structure was built in the 12th and 16th centuries over the top of the Roman structure, which was torn down on the orders of the Cardinal de Richelieu. A small museum on the castle grounds tells the story of Beaucaire from its Roman times and the Middle Ages, when the town was home to a great fair.

Le Drac BeaucaireThough the rest of the town is fairly sleepy, it’s worth a stroll through its streets to admire the grandiose mansions. Keep an eye out for Le Drac and his son, which are from a famous French legend chronicled by Gervase of Tilbury in the 13th century. As the tale goes, Le Drac kidnapped a woman who was washing her laundry in the Rhône, dragged her to the bottom, and forced her to become his son’s nanny. She returned to her husband seven years later unharmed. Le Drac could take on human forms, and one day while the woman was walking in the square, none other than Le Drac appeared. The woman spotted him, and at being discovered, he returned forever to the depths of the Rhône River. Hopefully we wouldn’t meet him while barging the canals!

Lunch or dinner should be enjoyed canal side at the Quay. Head to Restaurant Le Soleil and try the fresh fish and seafood. Their moules frites (mussels and french fries) are seriously the best mussels we’ve ever had and it was a generous pot that was more than enough for two. We promptly recommended the dish to the Australian couple who were also barging the canals and found their way to Restaurant Le Soleil.

Bicycles come in handy so that you can bike the few kilometers to Mas des Tourelles, the most unique winery we’ve ever visited. A villa from the Roman Empire was in this very spot during and Roman wine was produced here. Thanks to excavations, ruins from the villa have partially been uncovered and the recipes of Roman wines discovered.

Mas des Tourelles

A Roman wooden press at Mas des Tourelles

Mas des Tourelles continues to produce three Roman wine recipes in the ancient method, using the same type of press that would have been used in Roman times and fermenting the wine in casks almost entirely buried in the ground and adding herbs. The winery produces around 10,000 bottles of the Roman wines each year and has a big festival for the grape harvest.

Mas des Tourelles

Roman wines

Curious, we couldn’t wait to taste the Roman wines and they are incredibly different than the modern wine we know. Mulsum, which translates to wine with honey, is made from the red grenache grape with thyme, red pepper, honey, ginger and cinnamon. During Roman times it served as a good antiseptic and the very rich tended to drink it with ice in it.

The next wine, Turriculae, is deceptive. It smells sweet to the nose, but it is made with defrutum (a grape juice syrup), curry, and sea water. It actually tastes salty on the palette. This is also the only exact Roman wine recipe found and produced to date.

We finished off our Roman wine tasting with Carenum, made from the white grenache grape and with a large quantity of defrutum added. Though not typically a fan of sweet wine, it was quite good. All three of the Roman wines produced at Mas des Tourelles can keep for 4 – 5 years before drinking, though are really intended to be drank right away.

Chateau Mourgues du Gres

Chateau Mourgues du Gres

Just down the road a little further from Mas des Tourelles, visit Chateau Mourgues du Gres to taste more modern productions. This winery is set amongst fruit orchards in the lovely countryside. Chateau Mourgues du Gres is more than a winery – it’s an experience. There are many hiking trails throughout the vineyards and guests can request a picnic lunch for the hike or even stay in the winery’s guest apartment.

Of course, if you want to stop by for a shorter visit you can easily stroll amongst the vineyards and partake in a wine tasting of Chateau Mourgues du Gres’ varieties. And don’t forget to pick up a few bottles to enjoy in the evenings while relaxing on the houseboat!

Benedictine Abbey of St. Gilles

Benedictine Abbey of St. Gilles

St. Gilles

St. Gilles is the gateway to the Camargue and home to the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Gilles. The town grew up around the abbey, which was built in the 7th century by a hermit called Saint Giles. The abbey went through periods of destruction and reconstructions during the Middle Ages and what remains is the impressive 12th century Romanesque church atop the 11th century crypt, which contains the tomb of Saint Giles.

Benedictine Abbey of St. GillesThough the church was badly damaged during the religious wars of the Middle Ages and then further damaged in the French Revolution, it is an important pilgrimage site along the Routes of Santiago de Compostela and as such was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. The church is still an active church and is open to the public for free. You can take a guided tour to learn more about the sculptures on the porticoes and visit the crypt and tomb of Saint Giles beneath the church.

In France’s cowboy country where the tales are tall and meals are robust, you’ll want to try Le Cours before leaving St. Gilles. Here you can try two Camargue specialties: Pastis le Camargue (apertif) and Gardiane la Camargue (bull and wine stew with olives from the Camargue. The Pastis le Camargue is a liquor produced from anise, licorice, and 40 different other plants and the distillery that produces it was founded in 1835. You mix it water (the more water the better, in my opinion) and slowly sip the drink before a meal.

GallicianGalician

Galician was the smallest of the villages we visited and though the village itself doesn’t have much to see, it’s worth a stop. Take a stroll about the village and bring your wallet, because you’re sure to come away with some local specialties from the charming shop La Laupio. Here we tasted some local wines, a black bull sausage, and cheese. The shop sells all sorts of things from mustard with herbs de Provence to beers brewed in the region. You can even find some handicrafts and clothing to dress like a real French cowboy or cowgirl.

Camargue nature reserve

Be sure to bring your binoculars!

Galician gives you easy access to the Camargue’s nature and if you’re a bird lover, you’ll want to plan to spend time at the Camargue National Park, which you can bike too from the village. The Camargue is home to over 400 migratory bird species and in the summer you can stroll amongst them. Even if the birds have mostly left, as they already had when we visited in September, the reserve is a beautiful place to walk. Just be sure to spray yourself with mosquito repellant as they can be relentless.

Aigues-MortesAigues Mortes

Aigues Mortes was the highlight of our visit to the Camargue. Famous for its well-preserved city walls, it is truly a must visit and is particularly spectacular as the sunset illuminates the fortification in a pink-gold hue. Like Dubrovnik, you can walk atop the walls for beautiful views over the nearby salt flats and canal and for a birds-eye view inside the walls.

As you approach the walled city, it’s impossible to know what those walls contain. Inside a labyrinth of streets contain chic boutiques, shops proudly display local artists and handicrafts, and the most delicious food shops selling everything from olive oils and herbs to caramels and biscuits.

Le Salin d'Aigues-Mortes

Mountains of salt and pink flamingos in Aigues-Mortes

Just a few minutes outside the walls, you can take a guided tour of Le Salin d’Aigues-Mortes to see the various production stages of the Camargue’s famous fleur de sel. And aboard the little train that takes you around the factory, you’ll get one of the best views of Aigues Mortes, so have your camera ready.

Camargue White Horses

Camargue horses graze along the canals

Camargue White Horses

The Camargue is famous for its white horses, a special breed that are reputedly one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. While some are semi-wild, most of the white Camargue horses are used by the traditional cowboys for rounding up and herding the black bulls.

Though visitors to the Camargue typically can’t ride the famed white horses, there are plenty of stables throughout the region that offer riding to tourists. From €15 per hour in many roadside stables, horseback riding is a great way to explore the marshes and trek across the fields.

Camargue black bullsFrench Bullfighting

Perhaps you’re as surprised as we were to learn that it’s not just the Spaniards that partake in bullfighting. But unlike in Spain, there is not a matador and the bulls are not killed. Here in the Camargue, the bulls are revered and loved. You’ll find photos of the favorite bulls in restaurants and shops throughout the region.

Bullfighting in Aigues-MortesThe bullfights are a competition of agility and the premise is that men dressed in all white try to steal trophies, which are usually rosettes or tassels, from between the bull’s horns. Also unlike in Spain, bullfighting takes place every week all summer long and is turned in to a carnival-like atmosphere as the competitions move from village to village. Just be careful when exploring – you never know when there might French bulls on the lose!

This post was brought to you by Gard Tourisme and the support of Arolles Marine. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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10 Travel Apps You Shouldn’t Travel Without http://jdombstravels.com/best-travel-apps/ http://jdombstravels.com/best-travel-apps/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 17:48:11 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62298 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Remember Apple’s buzz-worthy phrase “There’s an app for that.” used in the first iPhone commercials? Well, in 2014 there’s more like a dozen or more different apps for whatever that is. Truth be told, our busy travel lives would be a lot more chaotic without the arsenal of travel apps that help keep us organized. …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Remember Apple’s buzz-worthy phrase “There’s an app for that.” used in the first iPhone commercials? Well, in 2014 there’s more like a dozen or more different apps for whatever that is. Truth be told, our busy travel lives would be a lot more chaotic without the arsenal of travel apps that help keep us organized. We’re finally dishing on the best travel apps that help us be the savvy travelers we are and that you shouldn’t travel without.

Trip Planning

TripIt AppTripIt: TripIt is a travel itinerary planner and it is our favorite travel app. We literally could not function without it. Half the time anymore I wake up by shooting straight up in bed and wondering where in the heck I am. If I don’t even know where I’m sleeping, how on earth can I keep where I’m supposed to be when straight? TripIt to my rescue!

TripIt imports all my bookings right from my email to build a complete trip itinerary with everything from flights to dinner reservations to activities. It also includes a handy map, which opens up in Google Maps with the click to help navigate to my various destinations. There is also a paid TripIt Pro version that monitors flights for schedule changes, notifies us when check-in is available and lets us check-in right from the app, has real-time flight monitoring (it often knows which gate we’ve arrived at before I step off the plane), and tracks your various loyalty program points.

TripIt (free) and TripIt Pro (annual subscription $49) are available for iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.

Packing Pro app

Via Packing Pro

Packing Pro: I may wait until the very last second to actually pack, but once I have my itinerary pretty much set I am off and making my packing list. I use the Packing Pro app, which allows you to save your packing lists and use them as a template for a future list. It also comes in super handy for those times when lost luggage happens and the airline asks you for a list of items inside.

Packing Pro is $2.99 and is only available for iPhone/iPad.

Google Maps appGoogle Maps: Google Maps is a GPS in the palm of your hand. I’m including it in the best apps for travel planning section because I’m about to share a handy trick. Got your pencil ready? Here’s what you do. Look up the the directions between two points on your Google Maps and then go to the search bar again. Type in “OK Maps” (without the quotation marks) and you can save this map for offline use later when you might not have a data connection. Handy, right?

Google Maps is free and is available for iPhone/iPad and Android.

ViaMichelin appViaMichelin: If you’re a roadtripper like us, you’ll love the ViaMichelin app. While it works like a GPS similiar to Google Maps, ViaMichelin also estimates any tolls and your fuel costs for your trip. It’s super helpful for trip planning when you’re trying to figure out whether flying, taking the train, or driving is the most cost effective way of getting to your destination.

ViaMichelin is free and is available for iPhone and Android.

Once You’re There

XE Currency app

XE.com Inc. / Via itunes.apple.com

XE Currency: Most of us need to know how much money we’re spending and doing math, even if you know the current currency exchange rate, is probably the last thing you want to be doing on your holiday. With internet the XE Currency app is updated in real time and the free version allows you track 10 different currencies at the same time.

XE Currency is free and is available for iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.

FourSquare appFourSquare: FourSquare helps you locate restaurants, bars, and more based on your current location, when you have internet. Even better, travelers that have come before you have left their helpful tips to make your experience a better one. I love FourSquare for a couple of reasons: if a place has locked wifi, you can often find the password in the tips courtesy of a traveler that previously sleuthed it and a restaurants’ best dishes to try (and sometimes dishes to avoid) have usually been also been left as tips. Some businesses even have exclusive FourSquare specials; just show the discount on your phone to redeem it.

FourSquare is free and is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone.

Uber app

Via Uber.com

Uber: In most cities you can’t just hail a taxi like you can anywhere in NYC. And have you every actually tried to hail  a taxi in NYC? Uber hails a taxi for you right from your phone, while you stay nice and warm (or cool if it’s summer) waiting inside. Uber has a variety of options from a regular taxi to ride sharing to a private car and is available in many cities throughout the world.

We love that you store a credit card on your account or connect your account to your PayPal. We never have to worry about having cash on hand and collecting all those receipts we’ll need later for our business expenses. It’s all stored right in our account.

Uber is free and is available for iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone. Use the promo code gat6p to get your first ride free (up to $10).

Google Translate: Google Translate lets you translate 58 languages and can be very helpful in a pinch. I’ve had an entire conversation with a Russian when trying to find out information about a festival when we were in Moscow as we communicated entirely using my Google Translate app.

Google Translate is free and is available on iPhone and Android.

Staying Connected

What’s App: What’s App is a text messaging app that works on wifi and is free to text any of your contacts that have also downloaded What’s App. A feature we love is that you can ping a contact with your location and your friend can open that up in Google Maps.

What’s App is free and is available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.

For Fun

Spotify: We road trip a lot and we love to have our favorite tunes to jam out to on the road. Spotify is our new favorite music streaming app because it lets us create playlists, add the newest music, and even download and listen to our playlists offline with the Spotify Premium service.

Spotify is free and is available for iPhone/iPad, Android, and Windows Phone. Spotify Premium is $9.99 per month.

What are your favorite travel apps that you would add to our list? Leave us a comment and tell us what your best travel app is and why you love it. We may just update our list and include it!

TripIt Pro Giveaway

We love TripIt Pro so much, we’re giving two lucky readers each a 1-year TripIt Pro membership! Just click the button below to enter our giveaway.

Enter TripIt Pro Giveaway!

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Puffins and the Pompeii of the North http://jdombstravels.com/westman-islands/ http://jdombstravels.com/westman-islands/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:39:37 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60350 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Icelanders sort of shake it off if you tell them they are brave. But truth be told, they are. They essentially live on a rock with active volcanoes on and below it. Eruptions typically occur every two to three years and sleeping giants could cause mass devastation at any moment without warning. And that’s exactly …

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Heimaey from the top of EldfellIcelanders sort of shake it off if you tell them they are brave. But truth be told, they are. They essentially live on a rock with active volcanoes on and below it. Eruptions typically occur every two to three years and sleeping giants could cause mass devastation at any moment without warning. And that’s exactly what happened in the Westman Islands in 1973.

Helgafell, the volcano cone that lie at the edge of Heimaey, had been sleeping for more than 5000 years and volcanologists considered Heimaey volcanically inactive. As Heimaey’s residents peacefully slept on January 23, 1973 a 1600 meter fissure suddenly opened in the ground on the tip of the Helgafell lava field just 300 meters from the town. Spewing about 40 lava fountains into the sky, some as high as 150 meters, and the molten lava rushed down toward the town and harbor.

Luckily, there had been a terrible storm the previous day and many ships had sought shelter in Heimaey’s harbor. Nearly the entirety of the 5000 inhabitants fled for their lives by boat that night. Only about 500 stayed behind, which included police and firefighters, and they fought to save their town by spraying cold sea water on the lava.

The eruption was officially declared over in July 1973, but by then nearly one third of the homes and buildings had been burned or completely buried under 200 million tons of lava and ash. Heimaey had become a modern day Pompeii. Yet, for an island that was so devastated just barley 40 years ago, there’s a lot to see and do:

Climbing EldfellClimbing Eldfell

One of the most popular things to do on Heimaey is to climb Eldfell, the volcanic cone that formed from the eruption in 1973. At just 600 feet high and only 41 years of age, Eldfell is a baby of a mountain. Sounds simple to climb, right?

Eldfell is actually a bit of an ass-kicker and I had to climb it twice. You see, Heimaey also holds the distinction of being the windiest place in Europe. On my first ascent, that lovely wind blew in some storm clouds so quickly I could hardly see my hand in front of my face, let alone take any photos. So naturally, I had to climb it again for the photographic evidence.

Eldfell is so young and the still steaming tephra is only suitable for baking bread, not growing grass yet like its 5000-year old neighbor Helgafell. When the wind blows, which you are sure it will in the windiest place in Europe, it erases the faint semblance of any sort of trail. So on my second ascent in the off-tourist season at 6:30am when the sun burst above the horizon, it was just me and an unforgiving landscape.

I mostly scrambled my way up the black tephra, sinking in with each step. With no perceptible trail, my calves burned as I pushed upward. It only took about 20 minutes to reach the top, but it felt like ages amongst the utter absence of life.

My sigh of relief to reach the top was short lived as a gust of wind, which had been non-existent on the way up, nearly knocked me down. The ridge is narrow and on one side drops off right to the craggy lava field that enlarged the island by 2.5 square kilometers. On the other, you’d be blown right down into the crater below. I slowly made my way around, snapping photos of the crater and lava field still engulfing homes below.

Eldfell seismometerIn 1973 there weren’t even any instruments to measure earthquakes or volcanic activity, but today a seismometer stands at the very top as a reminder that Eldfell is merely taking a nap. I have no idea how to read it, but I take a look none-the-less before snapping a few photos.

Residents seriously do bake bread – a very delicious bread called geysir bread – up here in the ground. I see a steam vent rising near one of the sheltered rocks and it’s one of the few places I can distinctly make out footprints. The bread bakes for 24 hours and I wonder if there is any buried there now.

The second hiker of the day arrives and I’m a bit relieved to see another person up here with me. He hands me his iPad and I have white knuckles as I grip it with both hands to take his photo. The iPad nearly blows off the volcano as I try carefully hand to it back to him.

I figure that’s my cue to head back down and already the biting wind has erased my footsteps.

Eldheimar Museum

Excavations began in 2006 on 10 homes buried in the lava. Though it was thought the homes were likely destroyed, they were actually found frozen in time. Clothes were neatly laid out to be worn the next day and breakfast spreads were ready for fisherman.

The Eldheimar Museum was built around one home in particular, Gerðisbraut 10, the home of Guðni Ólafsson. The walls were still standing intact and even with the original paint. Ash and lava have painstakingly been cleaned away and visitors can have a look at the house.

The museum also has an exhibition explaining the eruption of 1973 with original photographs from it. It’s a must visit to learn more about how Heimaey nearly suffered complete devastation and how the clever residents saved their harbor, which is essential to the livelihood of Heimaey.

Check the Eldheimar Museum’s website for opening hours, which change by season.

Sæheimar AquariumSæheimar Aquarium

Sæheimar Aquarium is a small aquarium, but you certainly wouldn’t expect something the size of the Baltimore Aquarium on an island as small as Heimaey. It has just 12 fish tanks with fish and shellfish typically found in the waters around Iceland. The visit doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes to see all of the exhibits, including those on the bird life in the Westman Islands. But I promise you won’t want to leave…

Sæheimar’s resident puffin is sure to steal your heart. He didn’t hatch before all the puffins took to the sea after their breeding season. Rescued as a puffling (yes, that is the actual name for a baby puffin!), he has spent his entire life around people and acts more like a cat than his wild puffin friends. If you ask nicely, you might just even get to cuddle him. Totally worth the 1000 kroner entry fee, if you ask me!

Check the Saeheimar Aquarium’s website for opening hours, which change by season. Admission is 1000 kr.

Gaujulundur GardenGaujulundur Garden

In 1988 one resident couple from Heimaey began growing this garden in the lava just 15 years after the devastating eruption. It’s been cultivated ever since and today there are over 700 different types of plants in the garden. It’s easy to miss and on my visit, I had the lovely little garden completely to myself while others unknowingly passed it by. It’s definitely worth a stroll and has lovely views of the new land area that was formed in the eruption.

Heimaey Stave ChurchHeimaey Stave Church

To commemorate Iceland’s 1000 year anniversary of their conversion to Christianity, the Norwegian state presented Iceland with a replica of the Haltdalen stave church, originally from around the 1170s. It was erected near the harbor in Vestmannaeyjabær in 2000. The church is a beautifully, yet sparsely decorated inside.

Stórhöfði

Beautiful views even on a stormy – and windy! – day

Stórhöfði

The meteorological station at Stórhöfði is famous for recording the highest windspeed in the Northern Hemisphere at 220 kilometers per hour. Around 700,000 puffin also call Stórhöfði home each August. There are a number of marked paths that you can follow to get some spectacular views of Heimaey and several other of the Westman Islands. Just be sure to stick to the paths, as the puffins make holes and cause erosion.

Surtsey Island

On November 14, 1963 a cook aboard the Ísleifur II, a fishing trawler that was sailing off the coast of Iceland, spotted a plume of smoke that seemed to be rising from the sea itself. As there was no land mass charted on any map, the captain determined it must be a boat on fire. The captain turned his trawler to go investigate, but what the crew actually found was the world’s newest island in the process of being born. A volcanic eruption beneath the sea was spurting ash in to the air.

The eruption continued until June 1967, at which time the island had grown to over 500 meters in length and 45 meters high. Volcanologists studied the island extensively. Then biologists became fascinated as life took form on the once barren island. Afterall, Surtsey is one of the few islands known to have emerged from the sea in recorded history.

Because of the incredible research Surtsey has provided the scientists studying it on succession and colonization, Surtsey was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. Under UNESCO protection, it has stayed free of interference from people. You cannot technically set foot on Surtsey, unless you are a scientist, but you can take a boat ride around Surtsey Island if you want an up-close look at it.

Take a Rib Safari is see Surtsey Island. The boat only goes in good weather and is 16,500 kr per person.

Heimaey Westman Islands

Who wouldn’t love a town in which the street signs are puffins?

Getting to and Around and Where to Stay in the Westman Islands

Heimaey is worth spending at least two nights on, as the weather is often unpredictable in Iceland. It’s easy and fast to reach by ferry from Landeyjahöfn, just 11 kilometers from Heimaey and around a 1 hour 30 minute drive from Reykjavik. Book online and check the timetable here.

There are also a variety of day trips to Heimaey by both tour bus (the bus drops you off at the ferry) or by air.

Heimaey is a fairly small island and everything can be reached by walking. Taking the ferry also enables you to bring your rental car over so that you can fully explore Heimaey.

I highly recommend the Hotel Vestmannaeyjar, located right in the heart of the town. The rooms are simple, yet elegant. My favorite amenity was definitely the spa. The two hot tubs and sauna located in the spa are perfect for relaxing after climbing Eldfell.

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Go Iceland and the support of Hotel Vestmannaeyjar. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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5 Tips for Viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade http://jdombstravels.com/tips-for-viewing-the-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/ http://jdombstravels.com/tips-for-viewing-the-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:06:17 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=3451 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Since 2005 it has been a tradition for my mom and I to meet in New York City during the holidays. We’d shop and sip eggnog lattes at Starbucks in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, see the Rockettes’ famous high kicks and admire the massive glittering tree in Rockefeller Center as skaters glided by …

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Since 2005 it has been a tradition for my mom and I to meet in New York City during the holidays. We’d shop and sip eggnog lattes at Starbucks in the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue, see the Rockettes’ famous high kicks and admire the massive glittering tree in Rockefeller Center as skaters glided by on the rink below. But something we hadn’t ever done was to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a New York City Tradition since 1924. So when my mom suggested we make our annual trip to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was thrilled! We’d be joining the other 3.5 million people that flock to the streets of Manhattan to see the more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, 1,000 clowns, and 30 parade floats entertain people of all ages. Most likely, visiting NYC to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a once in a lifetime experience, like it was for us. So here are my tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
1. See the balloons being blown up.

It is far less crowded and you have a much better chance of seeing the balloons up close by attending the free viewing of the famous big balloon inflation. It is available to the public on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue from 3 – 10pm the night before the Parade.

2. Get up very early and dress in layers. 

The Parade begins at 9am but approximately 3.5 million parade-goers take to the streets wanting the perfect view. Plan to arrive to claim your spot along the parade route by 6am and don’t plan moving from that spot. Pack a bag with snacks, a thermos of hot chocolate, and games or books to keep your kids entertained while waiting for the parade to begin. And remember that NYC wind can have quite the bite, so dress warmly in layers.

There are not any designated seating areas, handicapped areas, or seats sold. The bleachers and seats you may have seen on the telecasts of the Parade are designated for Macy’s employees and are never sold or open to the general public.

2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route

2014 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade route

3. Know the Parade route.

The Parade route has changed in the last couple of years, so be sure to verify the current Parade route. The 2014 Parade begins at 77th Street and Central Park West at 9am and marches south on Central Park West. At Columbus Circle, the Parade then turns East onto Central Park South instead of heading down Broadway as it has in past years. When the Parade reaches 6th Avenue, it turns south at the corner of Central Park South and marches south from 59th Street to 34th Street. From 6th (Avenue of the Americas), it heads west on 34th Street to Macy’s Herald Square and ends there at around 12pm.

Tip: Download the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade app for your iPhone for route maps, subway maps, where to find wifi, and more.

Many agree that the best spot to watch the parade from is Columbus Circle and this is precisely where my mom and I watched the Parade from. Also note that there is no viewing access on 6th Avenue between 34th Street and 38th Street; this is the official telecast area.

4. Splurge

The most stress-free way to view the Parade is to splurge on a parade view hotel room along the Parade route. The Trump International Tower at Broadway and Columbus Circle was the perfect way for us to stay comfortable and warm while viewing the Parade. We knew which balloons were coming by having the Parade on tv and had a terrific view from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Trump International Tower also had a guest-only VIP viewing area on the street in front of the hotel where we would watch the action without fear of losing our spot or pushing through massive crowds. We alternated between the room and street throughout the 3-hour Parade.

It is also nearly impossible to see the performances by Broadway musicals and famous musicians since they take place in the over-crowded official viewing area. You’ll be able to catch the stars as they go by on floats and then watch the performances from the comfort of your room.

A room at the Trump International Tower for Parade viewing books up nearly one year in advance and you’ll need to be prepared to spend around $1000 per night for this prime location.

Other Parade view hotels include the Mandarin Oriental New York, which wasn’t yet opened when we watched the Parade from Trump International Tower. Mandarin Oriental offers the I Love a Parade package which includes exclusive access with a bird’s eye view to watch the Parade in the warmth and comfort of their Mandarin Ballroom. You can also splurge to watch from the comfort of your own Premier Central Park View room or suite with floor to ceiling windows on the 43rd to 54th floors of the hotel. And while you’re there, be sure to indulge in MO’s Afternoon Tea and a special holiday tea is offered throughout the season.

The New York Hilton Midtown also offers a number of Thanksgiving Packages from partial view to premium full view rooms. Unfortunately, I can’t endorse the New York Hilton Midtown with a glowing recommendation. I stayed here just a few months ago and the walls were so thin that I could hear every noise from the neighboring rooms. The elevators are incredibly slow, and wifi is supposed to be free for Hilton Honors members (it’s free to join) but the various codes I was given over the course of my stay never worked. These were all minor complaints, but that no care was given to my various complaints to management really shows their complete lack of customer service. It’s unfortunate as this the hotel is a prime Midtown location.

5. Find and book a reservation at NYC restaurant nearby for lunch.

Once the Parade ends, 3.5 million people are pushing their way to subways and out of the areas closed off to traffic to try to hail taxis. Instead of joining the stampede, find a nearby restaurant that is open on Thanksgiving and make a reservation for lunch. You can wait out the crowds while warming up over a hot meal.

Have you been to NYC during Thanksgiving? What other tips for viewing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade do you have?

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Climbing the Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable http://jdombstravels.com/via-ferrata-du-pont-du-diable/ http://jdombstravels.com/via-ferrata-du-pont-du-diable/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 15:11:34 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=61353 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I was about to trust my life to some metal cables anchored to a cliff face high above the Ardeche River. I don’t have a fear of heights – I’ve flown a stunt plane and mastered a knee hang on the flying trapeze this year, after all – but I’d be lying if I didn’t …

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I was about to trust my life to some metal cables anchored to a cliff face high above the Ardeche River. I don’t have a fear of heights – I’ve flown a stunt plane and mastered a knee hang on the flying trapeze this year, after all – but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the opening scenes from Cliffhanger weren’t flashing through my mind. I clipped my double carabiners to the cable and took my first steps. There was no turning back now; no chickening out of the Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable.

Via Ferrata is Italian for “Iron Road” and though not much translates literally when it comes to Italian, a Via Ferrata is literally a “road” made on mountains from fixed cables, ladders, and bridges. They were originally built to aid the Alpini, a branch of the Italian Army, in WWI to traverse the Dolomites. After the war, the Via Ferrata were maintained and became a popular attraction. Today the high-altitude adventure routes can be found in several European countries like Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and France. There are even a handful now in the US and Canada.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableAnyone can climb a Via Ferrata with no experience, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a fear of heights. Each climber wears a harness with a pair of carabiners. A safety cable runs along and is bolted to the rock-face as you cross cables and climb up. It’s essentially aided climbing and as you come to the point where the cable is bolted to the rock, you must un-clip and clip on to the next section of cable. This is where the double carabiner, or Y-configuration, comes in to play. You un-clip only one at a time so that you are always connected to a safety cable.

Via Ferrata du Pont du Diable

Don’t look down…

Ardeche River

…but it sure is gorgeous if you do!

We got the hang of using the cables and carabiners on a small training section. And then we dove right in with crossing a high wire cable across a section. Clank, clank, clank. It was the only sound as I inched my way across that first cable, the carabiners reassuringly clanking together with each step. I reached the other side and let out the breath that I’d been holding.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableVia Ferrata du Pont du DiableVia Ferrata du Pont du DiableEach section was a different challenge. Some sections we’d simply have to make our way around corners; those were the easy sections. I’d even clip in my third safety clip and felt comfortable enough to pull out my iPhone and snap some photos. Other sections were a series of rungs spaced for climbing up a sheer vertical cliff face. Thankfully our instructor had the patience of a saint. I was leading the way and I’ve never ascended anything more than a 30-foot rock climbing wall…and that was four years ago. Sometimes I’d misstep and have to move down before ascending again on a route that worked for me.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableAfter about an hour of climbing, we reached the zipline that would carry us each one by one across the Ardeche River. On the other side, we would have the option of an escape route that leads back to the car park or to continue on for about another hour of climbing on the “challenging” section. Challenging section? What had I just climbed, then?! (Officially, the route is marked a D on the Via Ferrata difficulty level scale, which means difficult and for those familiar with Via Ferrata.)

That was what was particularly great about this Via Ferrata in Ardèche, France – a first timer like me could challenge myself without getting in over my head and someone more experience like Tim could continue on. I clipped my pulley on the cable and went soaring across the zipline, proud I’d just completed the section that I did.

Pont du Diable

Ending the Via Ferrata with a beautiful view of Pont du Diable

With shaking legs, I hiked back toward the car park while keeping an eye on Tim. He looked like an ant from my perspective down below. He said it was pretty difficult to take photos on the next section that he did as sometimes the climb was nearly inverted. I definitely wasn’t quite ready for that, so I’m glad I chose the escape route. The Via Ferrata was definitely an awesome heart pumping adventure and we can’t wait to tackle some of the ones at home in the Dolomites now.

Know Before You Go

  • First timers may want to go with a guide as we did. The Via Ferrata including equipment is €40 per person.
  • Equipment can also be hired if you would like to go on your own.
  • Pont du Diable can be reached from Vallon in around 1 hour. We recommend staying at Hotel Berneron and renting a car to travel around the area.

This post was brought to you by Tourisme Ardeche in collaboration with Geo Adventure and the support of Hotel Berneron. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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Toronto Snow Show | Win a Sony Action Cam #SnowShow14 http://jdombstravels.com/toronto-snow-show-2014/ http://jdombstravels.com/toronto-snow-show-2014/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 13:24:06 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=61286 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Winter is coming and we couldn’t be more excited! Tim can’t wait to hit the slopes and I’m planning to be a bunny hill newbie after some snowboarding lessons. And who doesn’t love après-ski? Those breathtaking views, sipping cocktails in a slope side sun lounger, and mountain top dance parties. I’m totally ready to break …

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Winter is coming and we couldn’t be more excited! Tim can’t wait to hit the slopes and I’m planning to be a bunny hill newbie after some snowboarding lessons. And who doesn’t love après-ski? Those breathtaking views, sipping cocktails in a slope side sun lounger, and mountain top dance parties. I’m totally ready to break out my Moon Boots, but I’m going to need some gear and Tim’s ready for some upgrades. We wish we could hit up the Toronto Snow Show 2014, Canada’s largest ski, snowboard and travel show!

It’s one of those times where I wish I could jet off home and hop in the car. My hometown of Erie, PA is an easy 3 hour drive. Though we can’t make it this year, we’re super excited to be Toronto Snow Show 2014 Ambassadors and give away tickets, plus an awesome Sony Action Cam with waterproof housing so you can capture your best moments on the slopes this ski season.

Toronto Snow ShowAbout the Toronto Snow Show

No matter whether you’re a black diamond skier, a boarder looking to improve your aerials or a newbie, there’s something for everyone at the Toronto Snow Show 2014. It’s taking place October 16 – 19 at the International Centre and I promise you’ll want to be there!

With over 100 exhibitors, you can check out the latest gear to get outfitted to hit the slopes. “This year, we’re seeing some of the most exciting innovations in ski and snowboard gear that we’ve seen in a long time. High-tech materials, aerodynamic design, even digital technology all offer tremendous advantage to skiers and snowboarders of all ages. It’s going to be a really exciting season at the slopes,” says Tara Diaczyk, Show Manager, Toronto Snow Show.

Not only will skiers’ and snowboarders’ favorite brands like Roxy, Burton, Nordica, and Blizzard be there, but you can check out the Amphibio 82 XTI Fusion ski by Elan. A representative from Elan tells us it’s an expert ski designed with the advantage of rocker and camber profiles on both the left and the right skis, making turns easier while improving edge hold. These skis are at the top of their game offering extreme speed and stability.

Lib Tech has teamed up with Travis Rice, one of the world’s most influential snowboarders, to craft the Gold Member, an ultra lightweight board that offers an effortless ride with excellent maneuverability. Boarders will definitely want to stop by and check it out.

Tim loves his Oakley’s and their new Prizm line offers lenses crafted to deliver maximum contrast specifically for snow environments. Guess what’s on his Christmas list this year?

If you’re more interested in where to ski or board, over 125 resort operators from across North America will be there to chat about their destinations, pistes, dining, nightlife, attractions and more. You’ll be guaranteed to leave with a list of ski resorts to get away to this season.

When:          Thursday, October 16, 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday, October 17, 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday, October 18, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, October 19, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Where:         The International Centre, Hall 5, 6900 Airport Road, Mississauga
Parking:       FREE
Tickets:        General Admission: Adults: $18; Juniors: $10 (Ages 11 to 17); Seniors: $10 (Age 65+); Children
(10 years and under): Free when accompanied by an adult. Family Pass: $45 (includes two adults and two juniors)

Toronto Snow Show Highlights

Burton Riglet Park at Toronto Snow ShowBurton Riglet Park

Got a little one at home? Get them in skis or a snowboard and ready to hit to the slopes at Burton Riglet Park. Instructors are on hand to give your kiddo lessons at the miniature terrain based snowboard park. It’s fun for the whole family!

Ski and gear swap at Toronto Snow ShowToronto Ski Swap

Want some new gear, but don’t want to break the bank? Hit the Toronto Ski Swap for both brand new and pre-owned skis, boards, and gear at discounted prices. You can register your own gear for resale or just shop. And most awesome of all, the proceeds from registration and selling fees goes to the Canadian Ski Patrol to be used for upgrading their equipment and funding their programs which keep you safe on the slopes.

Rail Jam at Toronto Snow ShowRail Jam

Check out some of Canada’s top pro boarders and skiers at Rail Jam as they entertain visitors with stunts at Rail Jam. This sporting event is FREE and runs at various times throughout the show. Check the event listing on the Toronto Snow Show Website.

Sony Action CamToronto Snow Show Twitter Chat and Giveaway

So are you as pumped up about hitting the slopes this winter as we are? Even if you can’t make it to Toronto, join us on Tuesday, October 14th from 8 – 9pm EST for the #SnowShow14 Twitter chat. We’ll be talking about favorite ski and snowboard destinations, gear, and more. Plus, one lucky participant will be awarded a Sony Action Cam (value $450) at the end of the chat. There are only two requirements for entry: 1) participation in the #SnowShow14 Twitter Chat, and 2) following @TorontoSnowShow on Twitter.

Be sure to follow us (@jdomb) and the the other #SnowShow14 ambassadors on Twitter: @xpatmatt, @TorontoSnowShow, @GoAwesomePlaces, @Back2Ski and @LilMissKateCo.

Enter to win tickets to the Toronto Snow Show 2014 using the widget below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Hiking Iceland’s Smoky Valley http://jdombstravels.com/hiking-reykjadalur/ http://jdombstravels.com/hiking-reykjadalur/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:06:22 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60898 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Plumes of steam rise up around me like smoke rising from a fire. One step in the wrong bubbling pool, and the soles of your shoes could literally melt. But not to worry; the dangerous pools are marked with signs and so long as you stick to the well-trodden trail, Reykjadalur is a beautiful spot …

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Plumes of steam rise up around me like smoke rising from a fire. One step in the wrong bubbling pool, and the soles of your shoes could literally melt. But not to worry; the dangerous pools are marked with signs and so long as you stick to the well-trodden trail, Reykjadalur is a beautiful spot to hike.

Reykjadalur hikeReykjadalur, which literally means Smoky Valley, is just a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik and a popular spot for the locals to head out for a half day trek. It’s located near Hengill, an active volcano, though it last erupted over 2000 years ago. The steaming fumaroles and bubbling mud pots are a reminder that hot lava is flowing somewhere beneath our feet. A local even tells me of a family in the area that has a new hot spring that erupted right through their kitchen. You’d think it’s a bit scary, especially with Bardarbunga currently rumbling and spewing lava in the center of the island nation, but I’m fascinated.

Hiking at ReykjadalurThe hike can be done in just 2.5 hours and ascends past bubbling mud pools that are clearly just short of reaching boiling. As we ascend, we have to use chains drilled in to the rock to help us up the narrow and slippery ledges. But the bit of scrambling is worth the effort just for the views alone. Even though the clouds look like they are about to burst at any second, we can still see all the way to Lake Þingvallavatn.

Reykjadalur ValleyThe descent leads to the Reykjadalur valley where a hot, steaming stream has warning signs that the water is 100°C (212°F). I watch it gurgle, spurt and steam while wishing I’d brought an egg. How often can you boil an egg in nature?

Reykjadalur ValleyThis water is too hot, but as we head downstream a cold river merges with the hot, creating the perfect temperature for a natural hot pool. You’ll want to wear your swimsuit on this hike and take a dip. It’s otherworldly with the steam from the fumaroles rising around and the scent of sulfur floating on the air.

The hike then ascends again out of the valley, creating a loop back to the gravel road near the power plant where you can park. After, head to the nearby Sundlaugin Laugaskarði swimming pool for a shower and a soak in the hot tub with electronic massage. There is also a natural sauna, lap pool, and a shallow sitting pool. Trust me – it’s like heaven after the muddy Reykjadalur hike!

Know Before You Go

  • The Reykjadalur hike takes about 2 – 2.5 hours. There is a slight elevation gain, but this is an easy hike.
  • To find the trailhead: From Hveragerði, head north on the main street, Breiðamörk. At a division in the road, bear left onto the gravel road marked Reykjadalur. The road ends at a parking area next to the Varmá River.

This post was brought to you by Society of American Travel Writers Iceland Convention in collaboration with Iceland Travel and the support of Icelandair. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own.

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The Best Adventures on Australia’s East Coast http://jdombstravels.com/best-adventures-australias-east-coast/ http://jdombstravels.com/best-adventures-australias-east-coast/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 07:28:06 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=60337 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream. In June this …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Without a doubt, one of the most popular backpacker routes in the world is along the east coast of Australia, between Sydney and Cairns, and with good reason. In addition to the pristine beaches, stunning sunsets and wildlife parks with all our favorite native animals, this trip is an adventure addict’s dream.

In June this year, Arianwen Morris, who blogs at Beyond Blighty, traveled from Sydney to Cairns with Contiki Holidays. In this article, she highlights some of the most exciting activities on offer in the area.

Surf lessons in AustraliaSurf Lessons

Visit any Australian beach on this stretch of coastline and you’re almost guaranteed to see some surfers. Aussies are crazy for the sport and most tourist beaches have outfitters offering lessons. Close to Coffs Harbour is a place called Spot X where you can stay at surf camp for as many days as you need. The instructors are very helpful and it’s a really sociable setting.

Sea kayaking in AustraliaSea Kayaking

Further north in Byron Bay, you can go dolphin spotting in a kayak. While this might sound relaxing, the waves get pretty big, making for some interesting entrances and exits from and to the beach. Even further out to sea, the swells can be huge and not many people avoid capsizing at least once.

JetpackingJetpacking

A relatively new sport, jetpacking allows you to fly through the water and even a few metres into the air. Jetpack Adventures in Surfer’s Paradise also provide the chance to try flyboarding. Ten minutes with each is enough to get a feel for it and to start looking like a pro.

Scuba diving in AustraliaScuba Diving

Australia’s east coast has a number of fantastic dive sites. Other than the obvious – the Great Barrier Reef – you can swim through a cave of nurse sharks at South West Rocks, drift alongside manta rays, turtles, leopard sharks and wobbegongs at Julian Rocks, or check out the famous Yongala ship wreck close to Townsville. Consider a liveaboard if you want to access the best dive spots on the reef and stay away from the crowds.

Fraser IslandFraser Island

Bombing along a deserted beach in a 4WD watching the occasional whale breach on the horizon is a great experience. Combine that with a dip in the clear and spa-like waters of Lake Mckenzie, followed by dolphin watching during the most impressive sunset you’ll ever see and you will no doubt include Fraser Island among the most beautiful places you’ve ever visited.

Sailing in AustraliaSailing

The Whitsunday Islands are situated on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. This makes them a fantastic spot for sailing and snorkelling trips. Most will take you out for a couple of nights where you sleep on the boat and visit the white sands of Whitehaven Beach. When the wind picks up, the boat tips to an impossible angle, and the adrenaline kicks in. Hook your legs over the top side of the boat and hold onto the railing for an exhilarating ride, but don’t forget to race over to the opposite deck when the boat changes direction.

Bungy jumping in AustraliaBungy Jumping

Cairns is the best-known location for bungy jumping in Australia and the AJ Hackett team have gone to town making sure that even the most experienced bungy jumper won’t get bored. There’s a jump menu with styles requiring varying levels of skill and bravery. You can get into a fancy dress outfit or even cycle off the roof of the bungy tower. The Minjin Swing right beside it is a less intense option, but if you’re really not in the mood, you can sit on the viewing platform with a beer and watch everyone else’s torment.

Uncle Brian's TourUncle Brian’s Tour

While not strictly an adventure tour, Uncle Brian’s day trip to the waterfalls and forests of the Atherton Tablelands is one of the best on offer anywhere in the world. From start to finish, it’s a mad assortment of interactive entertainment, and they haven’t missed a trick. As well as taking on natural rock slides and flicking your hair at the waterfall where the Herbal Essences advert was filmed, you’ll enjoy games and karaoke on the bus, and much, much more.

Of course, your options don’t stop there. If you’re a fan of heights, why not check out the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb or the SkyPoint climb at Surfer’s Paradise. Surfer’s is also a popular spot for skydiving. The Tully river, south of Cairns is one of the best white water rafting rivers in Australia, and up in Cape Tribulation you can horseback ride and zipline through the jungle.

With a fantastic climate, friendly people, gorgeous scenery and so much fun to be had, a journey up the east coast of Australia is pretty much guaranteed to be memorable for all the right reasons.

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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