Luxe Adventure Traveler http://jdombstravels.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Fri, 30 Jan 2015 20:50:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 I Quit My Job to Travel the World http://jdombstravels.com/quit-job-travel-world/ http://jdombstravels.com/quit-job-travel-world/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 13:52:35 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=63104 Luxe Adventure Traveler

For the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with a dilemma. I’ve been working toward the goal to build this blog into a business that sustains both Tim and I financially, and I’ve been doing it for three years while also working full time at the university job I was once sure would be …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

For the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with a dilemma. I’ve been working toward the goal to build this blog into a business that sustains both Tim and I financially, and I’ve been doing it for three years while also working full time at the university job I was once sure would be my career.

Unlike many of my lawyer-turned-travel-blogger or inn-keeper-turned-travel-personality friends that have taken this road before me, I wasn’t chained to a desk in a windowless cubicle only traveling on a week’s vacation here and there. I’ve been location independent for six years with the freedom to work from anywhere I had reliable internet. That’s included my home base in Italy and, on occasion, locations like Iceland, Greece and Spain. I also had seven weeks vacation and, more importantly, a reliable paycheck that arrived like clockwork every two weeks.

Security is a hard thing to walk away from.

Security is not the meaning of my life. Great opportunities are worth the risk.But it was more than that. I felt guilty too. When Tim’s job required a move not only across states, but to another whole continent, I had nothing to lose in asking if I could telecommute. Ironically, my boss at the time and who telecommuted from another state said no. A week later, another opportunity presented itself and I accepted a new position at the university. Best of all, I would be able to have a six month period in which we would give telecommuting a try once Tim and I moved to Italy.

I worked my ass off. I worked harder and longer than anyone else for the six months leading up to our move, for the six months of my telecommuting trial period, and for the next five years that I continued to work from Italy. As the sole person responsible for social media, I answered students questions from cruise ships and the top of the Eiffel Tower. I did it willingly because I loved social media management, because it was the right thing for the students…and because my boss put himself on the line to let me work from Italy. How could I ever let him down?

Eventually I proved the ROI of offering customer service on social media and I was able to hire a team of people to do the day-to-day. I took on a managerial role that revolved around a lot of reports and graphs. I was no longer so integral to the success because I’d trained my team well. By then I was also blogging five days a week and our blog had started to take off, we were being invited on many more press trips, and I was even speaking at conferences – both in the travel and higher education industries – about social media strategy.

I wasn’t feeling challenged or fulfilled at work anymore; more like I was just going through the motions. I no longer felt guilt, but there was something else holding me back from turning in my notice.

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. Failure

I’ve wanted some sort of career that involved travel since I participated in a study abroad program in Costa Rica with my high school – that was in 1997. Those chips began to fall in to place thanks to a friend and being in the right place at the right time over a decade later. Life’s funny that way sometimes.

My friend is a print travel writer. We’d meet up at least once a month for a sushi date and I’d gush (enviously) over her last month on safari, cruising to Australia, and the never ending list of fabulous places she’d been. It wasn’t until she invited me as her guest on a cruise ship launch and just about everyone on board asked if I was a travel writer or travel blogger too, that I even realized there were professional bloggers.

I had a blog, a hobby blog that is. I updated it when I felt like and wrote travel diary posts that I’d basically be mortified for anyone to read now. It must not have been totally terrible (after all, I did write for Ranger Rick Magazine when I was a kid), because Johnny Jet followed up with me a few months after that cruise and sent me on my first press trip.

Reindeer Sledding in Rovaniemi

Driving a reindeer sled on my first trip to the Arctic Circle

It was after that trip to Finnish Lapland that I bought my domain. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I picked a stupid name and built a website to the best of my ability. It wasn’t the prettiest or most professional looking, but I wrote and wrote pushing out posts five times a week.

It’s been three years nearly to the day that I built that site. Even though more than 1 million of you visited our site in 2014 and money has been consistently coming in for the last year through a variety of revenue streams, I am still afraid of failing.

What if I fail at my dream?

Travel around the world

Iceland, Jordan, Saba, Florida and Greece are just some of the places this blog has take me over the years

Launching Luxe Adventure Traveler

So what’s next? First is getting our brand new re-branded site finally launched. It’s been about six months in the making, but over the last week I’ve had more time (and motivation) to get with my designer and get it done.

Sneak peek at the new home page! What do you think?

Sneak peek at the new home page! What do you think?

You can expect the same great content we’ve always produced, but on a magazine style website. Some changes you can look forward to:

  • Our new homepage is a static page where we can showcase the top seasonal adventures and a stream will still show our three newest posts.
  • A newly updated Start Here page where you can easily discover what we’re all about and our most popular posts.
  • A shop where you can find travel guides produced by us with our personal recommendations of where to stay and eat and what to do. You’ll also find our favorite gear, photography equipment, beauty products and more.
Another sneak peek of our new Work With Us page

Another sneak peek of our new Work With Us page

Content Creation, Consulting and Services

And for our brand partners, we have a brand new Work With Us page. Over the last three years, we’ve experimented with a variety of ways we can work with brands and we’ve put together our service offerings based on both what has been most successful and how we enjoy working.

Northern Lights in Abisko

Northern Lights selfie!

Travel

2015 is already shaping up to be a busy year. We’ve already done projects in Swedish Lapland chasing the Northern Lights and I managed to not break or bruise anything during snowboard lessons in the French Alps.

We’ve got another major life change coming up that I can’t quite discuss yet, but February and March will likely be spent mostly close to home here in Italy, though we do have a short getaway planned in Istria, Croatia. Truffle hunting anyone? April and May are going to be crazy with trips / conferences in Romania and Spain. I’m also speaking about social media campaigns at TBEX Lloret de Mar before heading off to France for a Viking River Cruise in the Bordeaux wine region. I plan to wrap up my Spain-France trip by swinging by Disneyland Paris because I’m just dying to feel rat sized at Bistro Chez Remy, themed after one of my very favorite Disney movies: Ratatouille.

Anantara Rasanada Koh Phangan

Now I learn to cook all over the world!

What do you do besides work?

There are two questions people love to ask me: “what do I do besides work and travel?” and “when do I sleep?” Good questions!

On the sleep matter, I spent six years working for a company nine time zones behind me. That meant odd hours and often not going to bed until 3 or 4am. Truthfully, I took naps for six years and it took its toll on me. So I’m still trying to adjust to actually going to bed at a reasonable time and getting a full nights rest.

Working full time and basically putting in full time hours to build this business left little time for anything else. I used to work out five or six days each week and as we’ve seen in the latest pictures I desperately try not to be in (imagine me snarling at Tim a la Carrie Bradshaw when she falls flat on her face in her jeweled panties on the runway and tells her photographer beau to “stop taking her f’ing picture”), I have not been working out. That already changed this week. 2015 is the year I’m going to be 35 and fabulous.

I also used to read books. You know, for enjoyment. Not travel books I’m reviewing. This month I’ve already downloaded one of the dozen or so books I’ve bought on my Nook account in the last year and never got around to reading. And…I actually finished it! It feels so good to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and read for fun again.

And I love cooking. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but I can still vividly remember when Tim and I toured the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary school in Scottsdale. I made a smart decision not to go at the time. I would have had to continue working full time while going to school five days per week for a minimum of 15 months. You were only allowed to miss three days over the course of the 15 month program. I’m pretty sure (now -back then I thought I was invincible) it would have killed me and the $37,000 tuition would have went right down the drain.

Though I never became a professional chef, I love trying new recipes and cooking at home. Just being exhausted all the time and only having an hour each night while on my “lunch” to prepare and eat dinner meant I made a lot of quick meals. Dinner had become so monotonous! But I’m slowly getting back to cooking. I’ve made the peppermint bark brownies I intended to make during the holidays and even tried a homemade tartiflette that turned out really good. Maybe I’ll even break out the recipes I learned at the Thai and Greek cooking lessons we’ve had.

Whew! That was a really long winded way of saying that I’m already enjoying discovering myself again. I think I lost a bit of myself for a while when I became all work and no play.

So, I didn’t exactly quit my job to travel the world in the sense that I plan to sell everything and hit the road on a year-long round-the-world trip with nothing more than a backpack and what I can fit in it. The nomad lifestyle just isn’t for me. I do plan to put everything I’ve got, and then some, into making Luxe Adventure Traveler a successful business. And well, traveling the world just happens to be a fantastic job perk.

Wish me luck!

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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France’s Ardeche is for Adventurers http://jdombstravels.com/ardeche-is-for-adventurers/ http://jdombstravels.com/ardeche-is-for-adventurers/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 18:04:45 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62862 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Mention the South of France and I know I immediately picture the yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and haute couture on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival. But the South of France isn’t all yacht parties and champagne until the wee hours. The Ardeche has a decidedly …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Mention the South of France and I know I immediately picture the yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and haute couture on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival. But the South of France isn’t all yacht parties and champagne until the wee hours. The Ardeche has a decidedly different vibe. Remote and rurual, the region is an adventurer’s dream with via ferratas, white water kayaking, and riverside camping. Pack a swimsuit, helmet and harness for these adventures in the Ardeche:

Ardeche Gorge, FranceWhite Water Kayaking the Ardeche Gorge

The Ardeche River snakes through some 30 kilometers of limestone cliffs that reach up toward the sky, some of the cliffs as tall as 300 meters high. It’s an incredibly beautiful area best seen by taking to the river in a canoe or kayak, which is exactly what we did.

We rented a sit atop canoe-kayak, which is basically a bigger and more stable sit-atop kayak. But the trip down the river is no tranquil float. The Ardeche has thrilling white water rapids punctuated by calm sections where you can paddle over to the sandy beaches and take in the beauty of the gorge.

We were given a paper map when we rented our kayak and information on how to approach and paddle through each of the rapids. La Charlemagne is the first of the class III rapids and we totally botched the path through it, but in our defense a paper map isn’t the most useful tool when you’re white water kayaking. Even though we basically paddled right through the middle instead of to the side like we were supposed to, we made it without tipping and a whole lot of laughs after.

Just after La Charlemagne we paddled beneath the beautiful Pont d’Arc, a natural bridge reaching 54 meters high. There are sandy and pebble beaches all around the arch, and it’s a beautiful spot to come ashore and have a picnic. You can also walk along the beach up to a spot where you can watch fellow kayakers make their way through La Charlemagne.

Canoe-kayak rental with life jackets and paddles plus shuttle back to the village is €20 per person for a 1/2 day (7 kilometers), €30 per person for a dull day (32 kilometers) or €71 per person for 3 days with Escapade Loisirs.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableVia Ferrata du Pont du Diable

The via ferrata originated in Italy as a way for the Italian Army to more easily traverse the Dolomites. The via ferrata du Pont du Diable might be lacking the historical aspects, but it’s such a beautiful assisted climb that you’ll want to stop and take in the view. What’s great about this particular via ferrata is that there are several exit points making it an excellent one for first timers. And if you’re climbing with someone more skilled, like I was with Tim, I was able to exit and he continued to complete another more technical section. It was, without a doubt, my favorite thing I did in the Ardeche!

The stunning Pont du Diable (Devil’s Bridge), where the via ferrata ends, was constructed by Benedictine monks in the 11th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. The Hérault River flows beneath and you can walk down a path to cool off in the river after your workout on the via ferrata, or just for spectacular views of the ancient bridge.

The guided Via Ferrata including equipment is €40 per person with Geo Adventure.

Chauvet Pont d'ArcChauvet-Pont-d’Arc

Without even realizing it, we had visited a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on our travels. Now we try to incorporate them specifically since these tend to be the most culturally significant sites and monuments. So we were thrilled to get a peek at the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, one of the newest additions to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as it was granted World Heritage status on June 22, 2014.

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc is a cave that contains the best preserved and earliest known figurative cave paintings in the world. Scientists have been dating and studying the paintings, fossilized remains, and other evidence of prehistoric life since the cave’s discovery in 1994. Their published study dates the cave paintings and other evidence back to 36,000 BC.

You won’t be able to visit the actual Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc as it’s been sealed off to the public to preserve it, and I think that’s a good thing. So instead, an exact replica of the cave and its paintings has been constructed nearby. Here you can visit and marvel at the prehistoric cave drawings of some 425 animals from 14 different species like cave lions, bears, wooly rhinos and cave hyenas.

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc replica, called Faux Lascaux, is planned to open to the general public in April, 2015.

Bolet ArdechoisVallon-Pont d’Arc

Vallon-Pont d’Arc is the perfect base to stay in and explore the Ardeche from. The small village sits at the gateway to the Ardeche Gorge, one of the most beautiful natural sites in France. You won’t want to miss the Museum of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, where you can watch a video of the cave and paintings and explore some of the pottery and other items found in the cave. Also stop by the Town Hall where tapestries of Aubusson with scenes from the Crusades are on display. The tapestries are considered a historical monument.

On Thursdays the village comes to life with the weekly market stretched through Vallon’s streets. There are plenty of food stalls with everything from roasting chickens with their juices dripping on roasted potatoes below to sinfully delicious meringues with chocolate sandwiched between called Bolet Ardechois. Stroll the market and buy some goodies to have a picnic on one of the beaches along the Ardeche.

Vogue, FranceVogue

Vogue isn’t just a fashion magazine. It’s a real village in the Ardeche and it’s on the list of France’s most beautiful villages. The chateau, which houses exhibits of contemporary art, dominates the village. A labyrinth of cobbled alleys and staircases leads in what seems every direction possible, and the crystal clear Ardeche River flows just beyond the ancient walls. It’s easy to see why Vogue is one of France’s most beautiful villages!

There’s plenty to explore in Vogue, including the art exhibits which change several times throughout the year. You can also rent canoes and here the Ardeche is quiet and calm. Or have a long, lazy lunch at one of the cafes before lounging on the beach riverside. The Hotel La Falaise has a fantastic terrace overlooking the river and a menu of delicious ice cream concoctions that are impossible to pass up.

Chateau du Vogue is open 10:30am – 1pm and 2pm – 6pm. Entry is €5 per adult. Canoe rental is inexpensive at €18 for 2 people from The Argonautes, located on the beach under the bridge. 

Chateau de la Selve

Chateau de la Selve

And a glass of wine…

Ardeche boasts some of France’s best vineyards and most expensive wines. You’ll definitely want to leave time to stop in to some of the beautiful chateaux and wineries around the region. Le Domaine du Colombier is walking distance from your base in Vallon-Pont d’Arc, so you can leisurely taste to your heart’s desire. Chateau de la Selve makes you feel as though you’re French nobility with its exclusive grounds. Domaine de Chazalis is a third generation family run winery set in a “cave,” which is perfect with the outdoor theme of a trip in the Ardeche. Though some of France’s most expensive wines come from the region, you can find reasonably priced bottles from 6 to take home as a memento from your trip.

Know Before You Go

  • There are many four and five star camp grounds along the Ardeche River, but if you seek a little more luxe comfort after days climbing and kayaking, Hotel Berneron in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc makes an excellent base for exploring the region.
  • This rural part of France is best explored by car.

Our trip to Ardeche was provided by Tourisme Ardeche in order to bring you this story. 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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Wine Wednesday: Super Bowl Wine Pairings http://jdombstravels.com/wine-wednesday-super-bowl-wine-pairings/ http://jdombstravels.com/wine-wednesday-super-bowl-wine-pairings/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:03:47 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=40899 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Are you ready for some football?! As a non-football-loving and non-beer-drinking spouse that has been dragged to her fair share of Super Bowl Sunday parties, drinkable wines are my key to surviving the hootin’ and hollerin’ game day. Wine isn’t just for pairing with a perfectly pink filet or an aromatic herb crusted lamb chop. …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Super Bowl Wine PairingsAre you ready for some football?! As a non-football-loving and non-beer-drinking spouse that has been dragged to her fair share of Super Bowl Sunday parties, drinkable wines are my key to surviving the hootin’ and hollerin’ game day. Wine isn’t just for pairing with a perfectly pink filet or an aromatic herb crusted lamb chop. Try these Super Bowl wine pairings with your greasy, salty, no-utensils-required snacks:

Wine to Pair with Cheetos and Chips

Made from California Graciano grapes, Arizona Hops and Vines Moxy has delicate and spicy flavors. With a lively fruity taste, Moxy is perfect for pairing with Cheetos or chips and is easily enjoyed for the duration of the game.

Arizona Hops and Vines Moxy $25 per bottle.

Wine to Pair with Pizza

Italy is the motherland of pizza wines and Chianti is a a natural pizza partner. Made from Sangiovese grapes, a straight Chianti is lighter-bodied and less tannic than its oakier big brother. It will bring out the spiciness of a pepperoni pizza just the right amount.

Try a Chianti DOCG which can be found for around $10 – 15 per bottle.

Wine to Pair with Chilli

The key to pairing wine with chilli is to strike a balance between the heat of the chilli and the tannins and acidity of the wine. That’s why one of my very favorite red wines, Malbec, pairs perfectly with chilli. With lush blueberry and blackberry fruits, chocolately accents, and supple tannins it’s a great bargain wine that brings out the flavors of the chilli.

A favorite is Salentein Reserve Malbec 2010 $20 per bottle.

Wine to Pair with Burgers

Hamburgers are an all-American choice on Super Bowl Sunday and the best burger wines will be structured enough to handle the savory beef, yet light-bodied and fruity to balance all the flavors from the condiments. Cabernet Sauvignon does well with burgers.

Try Provocative Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $28 per bottle.

BubbledogsWine to Pair with Hot Dogs

I recently discovered that the best wine to pair with hot dogs isn’t a wine at all, but champagne! Try dressing your hot dogs up gourmet-style with macaroni and cheese, french fried onions, and bacon bits. Pair with a Brut for a surprisingly delicious taste!

Champagne Möet & Chandon Impérial is a great value champagne at $50 per bottle.

Wine to Pair with Wings

No matter whether you like your wings in a sweet barbecue or a spicy hot sauce, Zinfandel pairs nicely with both and is a wing winner. A Zin has enough ripe and jammy fruit to balance out the sweetness of the barbecue and pick up the heat and acidity of the hot sauce.

Try Bitter Creek Winery Crusader $20.

Now grab a glass – or bottle – and tell us who you’re rooting for this Super Bowl Sunday!

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month: Katrina Raymond http://jdombstravels.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-month-katrina-raymond/ http://jdombstravels.com/luxe-adventure-traveler-month-katrina-raymond/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:14:08 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=63124 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com. This month we check in with …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Welcome to the Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month series! Here we check in monthly with regular travelers just like you – no blog, no job in the travel industry, just travel. Want to be a Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month? Get in touch with us at info@luxeadventuretraveler.com.

This month we check in with Katrina, who we think is on the go more than even us! She’s truly got the passion for travel and regularly offers tips from her own personal experiences to help others get out and travel more.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month Katrina Raymond

Katrina in Cornwall, UK

Name: Katrina M. Raymond

Occupation: Community Fundraising Executive

Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Tell us a little about yourself: I have been married 10 years and have a 9 year old daughter. I have a passion for law, fitness, travel and running. My family has lived abroad for about 8 years and we have 3 years plus to go before we head plan to move back to the States. I would call myself an opportunistic who seeks out adventure. I love finding a great deal on travel. I love that we have the ability to race in different countries and experience their culture and sights while running through gorgeous cities.

How many countries have you been to? 42

Favorite US city and your favorite thing to do there? I don’t really have a favorite city, but I fell in love with Oregon when we visited. It was some of the best white water rafting I have ever done. The views along the river were incredible!

Favorite international city and your favorite thing to do there? Siem Reap has to be my favorite city I’ve visited. The temples, culture and food were some of the best I have had. The temples were so well preserved and offered a story of cultural significance.

Least favorite country? Why? Vietnam has to be my least favorite. We visited three cities and in the northern cities the impact of the war was still instilled in many. It is the only country I have been to where I had a local spit at us because we were Americans. This one instance is not my reasoning, but many others that lead up to really disliking my time in Vietnam. This is based on my time in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay; the southern part of Vietnam was completely different we enjoyed the time there to the most.

Luxe Adventure Traveler of the Month Katrina Raymond

Big smiles after finishing the Munich marathon

You often travel to run marathons. Tell us a little about that and which destination has been your favorite to run a marathon in. As of now I have done 6 marathons in Europe (with many more to come), but my favorite destination has to be Lisbon. This was a Rock and Roll race which ran along the coast, through numerous villages and then through central Lisbon to the finish. The course was full of castles, ocean and sunshine.

Five things you never travel without? (Passport is a given). Lotion, sunglasses, snacks, lip gloss and flip flops (for the shower or pool).

Favorite travel iPhone app? AllSubway has every subway in the world at your fingertips. It has helped me so much. Most include trams and other forms of public transit in the cities.

What is your most embarrassing or worst travel moment? I did forget to pack underwear for a vacation once. I still to this day have no idea how I forgot!

My dream travel destination: The Maldives has been on my bucket list since I was a child. I am hoping it gets ticked off that list in the next year or so.

You’re a Luxe Adventure Traveler reader. What’s your favorite tip or suggestion you’ve gotten from our site? I have to say hands down the Iceland information and pricing flights were the best tips given. Iceland is vast and gorgeous. Without tips we would have not been able to see as much as we have. The flight tips came in handy when seeking off peak destinations and pricing flights. I want to see it all, so saving money in the process means more travel in the future.

What’s your favorite travel website(s) (besides Luxe Adventure Traveler, of course!)? Tripadvisor is one of my favorites. I look to it for hotel reviews and tour reviews before I book. I do take the reviews with a grain of salt as each travelers’ view point is different based on their level of travel and the experience sought.

Best travel tip: Do not feel you have to go places in season to get the best experience. Traveling off season allows you to see places without the crowds. You may have to wear a jacket or light coat, but the advantage of taking a photo without 30 other people in it is priceless.

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Why Abisko is the Best Place in Europe to See Northern Lights http://jdombstravels.com/best-place-in-europe-to-see-northern-lights/ http://jdombstravels.com/best-place-in-europe-to-see-northern-lights/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:48:15 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=63081 Luxe Adventure Traveler

We frequently receive emails, to the tune of several each week, asking where the best place in Europe to see Northern Lights is. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights as they are more commonly called, truly is one of the greatest natural phenomena on Earth and we absolutely think seeing them should be on every …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

We frequently receive emails, to the tune of several each week, asking where the best place in Europe to see Northern Lights is. The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights as they are more commonly called, truly is one of the greatest natural phenomena on Earth and we absolutely think seeing them should be on every traveler’s bucket list. As we encourage in our most popular post ever, 5 Things No One Ever Tells You About the Northern Lights, you should pick your destination based on the other activities you want to do as there is never any guarantee you’ll actually see the Northern Lights. But if the true draw for you is to watch the green curtain billow across the sky, we’re here to tell you why we think Abisko is the best place in Europe to see Northern Lights.

Northern Lights in AbiskoWhere is the best place to see Northern Lights?

The fact of the matter is that there is no easy answer to the question “Where is the best place to see Northern Lights?” That question isn’t as black and white as it may appear. Northern Lights most typically occur in the aurora zone between 65° and 72° North; however, big geomagnetic storms can push that zone lower. This is what happens when the Northern Lights are seen in places like Scotland or Michigan.

A lot of conditions all have to line up perfectly for Northern Lights to occur and be seen. When Northern Lights appear, they do so in what is called the auroral oval. This is a 3 – 6 degree-wide band that can stretch hundreds of kilometers east to west. So, if Northern Lights are appearing in one town located at 68° North, then they are appearing in many more towns also located at 68° North. You just might not be able to see them because of weather conditions, namely cloud cover.

That means that some places are good places to see Northern Lights because they are perfectly positioned in the aurora zone and have auroras more frequently. Other places are good because they are easily accessible, like Reykjavik with direct flights from a number of European and US destinations. Some places are good because they are so scenic that Northern Lights just make an already spectacular setting utterly phenomenal.

Northern Lights in AbiskoWhy Abisko?

Abisko is the best place in Europe to see Northern Lights because it has conditions that line up and make the Northern Lights appear on average 159 nights (of the approximately 212 nights that are dark enough for Auroras to be seen) each year, according to scientists. Abisko is known as a Polar desert and is located in the middle of the auroral zone at 68° North and 200 kilometers above the Arctic Circle. Protected by the peaks of the mountains surrounding Abisko National Park and coupled with the fact that Abisko receives the least amount of precipitation than anywhere else in Sweden, it statistically has the most nights of clear skies of anywhere else in Europe.

Dark, clear nights is one key ingredient in the recipe to a successful Northern Lights sighting. That Abisko also lies in the middle of the aurora zone means it also is statistically most often located in the 3 – 6 degree-wide latitude that the auroral oval occurs in. In the simplest terms possible, if you stay in Abisko for three nights you have an 80% chance of Northern Lights making an appearance.

Northern Lights in Abisko

Northern Lights selfie!

The Reality of Seeing the Northern Lights

That’s a whole lot of numbers I just tossed around, and as we’ve said in every single response we’ve ever given to anyone asking us what their chances of seeing the Northern Lights is, it’s like rolling the dice in a game of craps. We spent three nights in Abisko recently and the Northern Lights appeared on two of our three nights there. By comparison, I spent 22 nights in Iceland in September and the Northern Lights appeared on four of those 22 nights there.

Our very first night in Abisko was also the coldest we spent with temperatures dipping to -25°C (-13°F) and a slight wind. Just a quick walk to scout spots to shoot and our nose hairs were frozen, my face was stinging, and I had a massive headache while walking in to the wind within seconds. We’d also just spent 12 hours traveling door-to-door. I was honestly in bed by 8pm and because I was too tired to put the effort in to bundling up and going back out in to that cold, we missed a Northern Lights display that was dancing faintly in the sky by 8:30pm and continued until around 10pm.

Our second night was a frustratingly long night of waiting out completely cloudy skies for five hours at the Aurora Sky Station on the mountain above the village of Abisko. At 11:30pm we gave up that the sky was going to clear and made our way down to the village again. We spent several more hours setting the alarm clock to check before finally giving in at 2am.

Our third and final night in Abisko was turning out to be frustrating as well. We went out on a Northern Lights nightly photo tour with Lights Over Lapland and the crystal clear skies were promising. We spent three hours photographing the mountains and Sami structures around an outdoor museum while waiting for the Northern Lights. Again, we finally gave in at 11:30pm and our group headed back to the hotel. Tim and I had just changed into our pajamas and popped our heads out just to check one more time. There directly above us was the white wispy cloud-like band that is the beginning of Northern Lights.

Sometimes Northern Lights can last 15 minutes and other times they can dance around the sky for hours. You just never know, so I threw on my coat and boots, grabbed my hat and gloves and was out the door. At first I thought it was going to be a quick show, but waiting outside paid off. The Northern Lights finally danced across the sky and continued to do so for an incredibly cold three hours I spent outside in not much more than a pair of pajamas – my nice warm Icelandic wool thermals sitting inside a hotel room.

Two days later I got an email from one of other couples that had been in our Lights Over Lapland tour group that night. They had taken a cab back to their hostel in the village right after we’d all come back to the STF Abisko Mountain Station and gone to bed. Our photos, which they’d come across on Instagram, were the only Aurora sighting they had for their trip.

I tell this tale because I think most people think they they just need to go to a destination where you can typically witness the Northern Lights and it’s as easy as that. Sometimes it is because the Northern Lights happen to appear exactly during a scheduled tour or you’re lucky enough to be staying at a hotel that offers a Northern Lights wake-up call. But the reality is that Northern Lights photographers spend a lot of long, chilly nights doing nothing other than waiting for a natural phenomenon to occur so that they can capture it on film.

Northern Lights in AbiskoNorthern Lights Photo Expeditions

Lights Over Lapland offers 5-day Northern Lights photo expeditions with expert photography instructions from owner and world-famous Northern Lights photographer Chad Blakely. We have gotten to know Chad and Lights Over Lapland over the years online before spending a bit of time with him in Abisko. He’s a passionate Northern Lights photographer and his multi-day photo expeditions have a great success rate with 98% of his guests having seen and photographed the Northern Lights on at least one night of the trip. Lights Over Lapland’s expert low-light photography instruction will help you to perfectly capture auroras in the best place in Europe to see Northern Lights.

Our Aurora Odyessy trip to Swedish Lapland was provided by Abisko Aurora with the support of Lights Over Lapland in order to bring you this story. 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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15 Places to Travel in 2015 http://jdombstravels.com/15-places-travel-2015/ http://jdombstravels.com/15-places-travel-2015/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 15:44:13 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62915 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Each year we look forward to planning our own travels and since we’ve got a community of readers that love to live a life of adventure, just like us, we know you do too! Our 14 places to go in 2014 was such a hit with you all last year, that we’ve once again done …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Each year we look forward to planning our own travels and since we’ve got a community of readers that love to live a life of adventure, just like us, we know you do too! Our 14 places to go in 2014 was such a hit with you all last year, that we’ve once again done our research and put together 15 places to travel in 2015. From our line up of raw destinations where seal hunting is still very much a way of life to uber chic city breaks, these destinations are culturally rich, inspiring, and exciting right now.

Milan Duomo1. Milan

Milan plays host to Expo 2015, once upon a time named the World’s Fair. Milan actually hosted the World’s Fair back in 1906 and learned a thing or two. There has been huge preparation for the 1.1 million square meter fair grounds that are plotted out like a classical Roman metropolis for the “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” themed exposition. Many of the exhibits will be food focused and will feature everything from the future of the honeybee to how food will be packaged in the future. Full event info at Expo2015.org.

Travel Tips

When to go: The Expo 2015 takes place from May 1 to October 31, 2015. May and October just so happen to also be some of the most pleasant months to visit Italy when the weather is favorable and temperatures are comfortable.

How to get around: International flights are available to Milan Malpensa Airport. The city also has an excellent subway system for getting around. Download the Milan Metro app for iPhone to help you plan your route around the city.

Where to stay: The Four Seasons Milan is in the heart of Milan’s haute couture fashion district and steps away from the Teatro all Scala opera house. The hotel is housed in a restored 15th century convent with fantastic spa, fine dining, and beautiful courtyard gardens that will make you forget you’re in the heart of the Euro-chic city.

Insider Tip: Tucked away in one of Milan’s many hidden courtyards, Il Salumai di Montenapoleone is one of the city’s best restaurants. Located in the heart of the couture houses, it’s the place to see and be seen. But be sure to book one of the coveted tables in advance.

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi2. Abu Dhabi

Dubai rose from the sand with all the glitz and showiness of the Las Vegas Strip, but Abu Dhabi has been decidedly making a slower and less flashy entrance to the party. Abu Dhabi is becoming a cultural center in the UAE with the first Louvre Museum outside of Paris set to open this year and the Saadiyat Island Cultural District luring art aficionados with new museums, performing arts, and beautiful architecture. Of course, like its neighbor, Abu Dhabi still offers world-class shopping, fine dining, and adult playgrounds like Ferrari World.

Travel Tips

When to go: Abu Dhabi enjoys sunshine year round, but temperatures can soar to 49°C (120°F) in June and July. November to April are the most pleasant months to visit, and you can escape winter in the northern hemisphere.

How to get around: The best way to get around Abu Dhabi currently remains by car and the highways are easy to navigate. The city is too spread out to walk, but the public bus system is easy to use. Taxis are also relatively affordable and you can flag them on the street.

Where to stay: The Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri resort is situated on a beautiful private stretch of beach and many rooms have a stunning view of the Grand Mosque. With the CHI Spa and some of the finest dining restaurants right on the hotel property, you will hardly want to leave the luxe resort.

Fun Fact: Once a royal hunting preserve, cheetahs, hyenas, Arabian oryx, and thousands of other animals now run wild on Sir Bani Yas Island.

The White Temple3. Thailand

Thailand continues to attract a diverse array of travelers and offers an array of experiences. It’s modern capital, Bangkok, eases Westerners in to the culture and traditions of South East Asia. No matter whether a relaxing beach holiday or adventurous rock climbing experience are your dream vacation, Thailand has something to offer for everyone.

Travel Tips

When to go: Songkran is the Thai New Year and it is happening April 13 – 15, 2015. It’s basically one giant nationwide water fight, and being that April is Thailand’s hottest month, it’s no doubt a welcome relief from the heat.

How to get around: When in Thailand, do as the Thais do and hop on a tuk-tuk! As for traveling between locations, Air Asia offers inexpensive flights around the mainland and to the islands. Despite Air Asia’s recent crash of QA8501, we found the airline to be an enjoyable experience and continue to recommend it.

Where to stay: Anantara is a Thai based luxury resort company and each property is unique. We’ve had the pleasure of staying at eight Anantara resorts worldwide, include Anantara Bangkok Riverside, Anantara Bangkok Sathorn (which is home to the fantastic ZOOM rooftop bar), Anantara Golden Triangle, Anantara Koh Phangan, and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui. Making our rounds with a few days at each made for a fantastic two-week Thai holiday.

Insider Tip: The Taling Chan floating market is worth the trek out to it from Bangkok. While we saw mostly junk at many of the other markets we visited, Taling Chan was mostly food based and is mainly frequented by locals. It’s small, though an expansion was in the works, but tasty!

4. Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart may not be as popular as German destinations like Munich, Berlin or Dresden, but the capital of Baden-Württemberg surprises and delights visitors with a variety of attractions. Car lovers can discover 125 years of automobile history at Stuttgart’s car museums. Stuttgart also boasts one of the top Christmas markets in Germany and you can soak up some culture at the world famous Stuttgart Ballet.

Travel Tips

When to go: The Cannstatter Wasen (Stuttgart Beer Festival) is a worthy rival to Munich’s Oktoberfest, though often overlooked by tourists. Visit the two-week long festival from September 25 – October 11, 2015.

How to get around: Stuttgart is easily accessible via Germany’s trains and travel within the city is easy using the buses, trams, underground, and light rail systems.

Where to stay: Stuttgart is an international hub for car dealers and home to several car museums including Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Car lovers won’t want to miss sleeping in a hotel room tricked out to look like the iconic Route 66 or a vintage car wash at the V8 Hotel. (Read our full review of the  V8 Hotel here.)

Fun Fact: Oenophiles will want to head to Stuttgart, which has a wine history that dates back to 3AD. It’s the only German city with a municipal wine estate and it covers 17.5 hectares.

Insider Tip: Ritter Sport Chocolate is made just south of Stuttgart, in a small town named Waldenbuch. Kids can craft their very own Ritter Sport chocolate bar at the Chocoworkshop (reservations required).

Litter of lion cubs5. Tanzania

The Serengeti put Tanzania on the map, but less popular parks like Tarangire are worth adding to your safari itinerary. Conservations efforts are also underway to help convert hunting areas in to game reserves, curb poaching, and secure animal corridors. Low-impact camps like Tarangire Treetops are forging relationships with the Maasai people by employing them and adding to guests’ cultural experiences. And don’t let 2014’s ebola outbreaks scare you away – Tanzania is far, far away from any areas affected.

Travel Tips

When to go: We absolutely loved visiting Tanzania in February. It’s not high season, so we often didn’t see another soul, except at the popular Ngorongoro Crater. The Great Migration is also happening and seeing the thousands of wildebeest and zebras on the Serengeti Plains is something you won’t soon forget.

How to get around: Elewana’s SkySafari includes air transport via a private Cessna Grand Caravan, an executive class plane with luxurious individual leather bucket seats that holds just nine passengers. Instead of spending days on horribly bumpy roads between parks, we took to the air and often flew over herds of elephants and wildebeest before landing smack in the middle of the wild.

Where to stay: SkySafari has a variety of glamping experiences from the thousand year old trees with treehouses at Tarangire Treetops to a tented camp along the Grumeti River where hundreds of hippos grunt. Take a look at our SkySafari experience here.

Fun Fact: Tanzania boasts having the tallest mountain in Africa and also the fourth tallest volcano in the world.

6. Cuba

With Obama announcing major changes to US – Cuba relations, intrigued Americans finally have reduced travel restrictions and can explore Cuba. While many of our non-American friends have been free to explore and report that Cuba is just as stuck in time as we all dream it to be, there are new luxury golf resorts (which were formally banned under Fidel Castro), airport improvements and a renovated port with additional space for luxury yachts.

Travel Tips

When to go: Cuba has a hot and sunny tropical climate. The dry season is November through April, but even if you go in the rainy season (May through September) the rain comes down hard and fast before the sunshine breaks through the clouds and dries everything out again.

How to get around: G Adventures offers a 15-day small group trip that traverses the small island nation. Dance the salsa in Havana, sunbathe on the breathtaking beaches Cuba is known for, and ogle the classic cars in the colonial squares. Of course, you can explore independently and it is fairly straightforward to rent a car

Where to stay: Situated in the heart of Old Havana, the Iberostar Parque Central is as close you’ll get to luxury in Cuba, at least for now. After a stay in Havana, which is a must, head to one of Cuba’s breathtaking beaches for some fun in the sun. Check out the Royalton Hicacos Varadero Resort & Spa, which is situated on the Hicacos Peninsula and surrounded by about 20 kilometers of pristine beaches.

Fun Fact: Baseball is by far the most famous sport in Cuba, which was introduced to the country by American sailors who came in to port on trading ships in the 1960s. Check out the league’s calendar and go to a game!

7. Norway

After several trips to Norway we have no idea why, but Norway has long had to compete with other more “fashionable” European destinations for visitors. Since the hit Disney film, Frozen fans have been flocking to Norway to see Elsa and Anna’s Arendelle. It doesn’t actually exist, but Norway’s stunning fjords, charming stave churches, and super cute reindeer served as the inspiration for Frozen’s artists.

Travel Tips

When to go: To see Norway actually frozen, head there in the winter. The Northern Lights dance in the Polar Night from September through March and you can even get up close with real life reindeer. Of course, the fjords are green and stunning in the summer months. Basically, we’re saying there’s never a bad time to go to Norway!

How to get around: For a true Frozen experience, Adventures by Disney has a fantastic itinerary in which you’ll follow in the filmmaker’s footsteps with hiking and river rafting Norway’s breathtaking terrain. The 8-day itinerary takes care of everything from transportation and hotels to activities. If you’re seeking a more adults-only trip, you can travel independently using the trains or rent a car.

Where to stay: We’ve found the Scandinavian Radissons to be chic and luxe. Bergen served as the inspiration for Arendelle and you can check out the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Bergen. Steps away from the harbor and picturesque Bryggen district, you’ll feel like Elsa every morning as you step outside. You might even want to break out singing Let It Go!

Insider Tip: The best vantage points are from the top of Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken. You can hike between the two, which is a typical way a local spends an active day.

Puerto Rico8. Puerto Rico

A new law encouraging wealthy Americans to invest money in Puerto Rico for a tax break has spurred an uptick in luxury tourism to the island territory. Before that, nearly 5 million tourists would pass through San Juan each year from cruise ships. They barely stray from the beaten path and they don’t know what they’re missing. Coffee connoisseurs will especially appreciate the many coffee plantations and array of drinks brewed from locally sourced beans. Top it all off with stunning beaches – why wouldn’t you want to go?

Travel Tips

When to go: The shoulder season from mid-April to June is a perfect time to visit Puerto Rico. The busy winter tourist season has just ended and prices are a little lower with hotels as inexpensive as $80 per night. Weather is still quite nice until the rainy season sets in come June.

How to get around: San Juan is easily navigated on foot and by using the bus. For venturing further afield, a rental car is the best best. Be sure to have some spare change for the occasional toll.

Where to stay: Billionaire (demonstrating smart investments is why he is a billionaire) John Paulson owns two luxury resorts: the newly opened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan and the St. Regis Bahai Beach an hour to the east. The St. Regis is on a coconut plantation and is Puerto Rico’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort.

Insider Tip: You might love pina coladas (and getting caught in the rain), but the rum, anise and fruit juice concoction known as the chichaíto (cheeh-chah-ee-toh) is the drink to order, especially after dinner, in Puerto Rico.

Jennifer-Dombrowski-NYC-2012-379. Lower Manhattan

Although New York City has long been a top urban US travel destination, many travelers fail to venture below 34th Street. But amazing things are happening in just one square mile in Lower Manhattan and it’s well worth spending the majority of your next trip to NYC in this up-and-coming area. Many of New York’s most famous landmarks like Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty are in Lower Manhattan and the insiders at Walks of New York will introduce to the rest. And don’t forget to eat your way through Chinatown and Little Italy with some of the best and cheapest eats in Manhattan with Ahoy New York Food Tours.

Travel Tips

When to go: I have two favorite times to be in NYC: the spring and during the holidays. In Spring, the sun is shining and spectacularly warm on your face. The green spaces are blooming with colorful flowers and there couldn’t be a more pleasant time to stroll outside.

How to get around: Walk! The best way to explore Lower Manhattan is on foot. But you can easily use the subway to quickly get uptown or take a cruise out to the Statue of Liberty.

Where to stay: Located on the waterfront and with panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty, the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park is the place to be when staying in Lower Manhattan.

Insider Tip: The High Line is one of NYC’s beautiful green spaces and is best explored on a sunny day. The elevated park has gourmet food carts, sun loungers, art and water features. You almost forget you’re in the bustling metropolis of NYC while peering down upon it.

CS Vintage House10. Portugal

Portugal has long been a bargain destination in the Mediterranean. Prices have stayed relatively the same over the last five year period. While oenophiles flock to Italy and France for their famous wines, you can get more bang for your buck in Portugal’s Douro Valley. With terraced vineyards creeping down the riverbanks, the region is stunning and you can spend your days sailing and sipping port.

Travel Tips

When to go: Spring and autumn are the best times to visit the Douro Valley. The vines will be green and flowers in bloom. If you visit in September, you can take part in the harvest and even stomp grapes by foot at some of the wineries.

How to get around: The Douro Valley is best explored on the river or by rail. In the summer months, there is a historic train service. And if you’re looking for a more adventurous trip, you can even kayak the river.

Where to stay: You can take a multi-day river cruise, staying right on the boat. Or stay in the heart of the Douro Valley at CS Vintage House, a former 18th century wine estate with fabulous views and a spectacular pool.

Insider Tip: Indulge in the port and chocolate gourmet tasting in CS Vintage House’s Wine Academy. Chocolates handmade by the hotel’s in-house pastry chef accompany a white port, a 10 year old tawny port, a 40 year old tawny port, and a late bottled vintage port.

Budapest, Hungary11. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is still a best-value European destination for a city-break with low prices and a stable exchange rate. Renaissance and art-nouveau architecture provides a romantic backdrop to an increasingly hip destination that Danube River cruisers continually rate as their one of their favorite spots. There is plenty to do for every kind of traveler from caving for the more adventurous to sipping Hungarian wines for the wine lover. Check out these Top 12 Things to Do in Budapest.

Travel Tips

When to go: Budapest is lovely at any time of the year, though the fall colors are gorgeous and temperatures quite lovely in October.

How to get around: Budapest is an easily walkable city and for attractions a little further afield, Budapest has a a tram system. Castle Hill is also accessible by funicular.

Where to stay: The Intercontinental Budapest is located in the heart of the city and river view rooms have gorgeous views of the Chain Bridge and Castle Hill. Many attractions are within walking distance and a tram stops just steps from the hotel’s entrance.

What to eat: Hungarian food is hearty. Think goulash soup, stews, and game dishes like rabbit and goose leg. Budapest is also known for its delicious cakes; visit Cafe Ruszwurm, Budapest’s oldest confectionery that still operates as a coffee house to try some of the best cakes in the city.

What to drink: Spend an afternoon learning about Hungarian wines from sommelier and connoisseur Gábor Nagy at Faust Wine Cellar. You sip wines from all around the Eastern European country and probably go home with a few to enjoy while reminiscing on your trip.

Kulusuk, East Greenland12. Greenland

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty may not have actually been filmed in Greenland (the village of Hofn on Iceland’s South Coast served as the setting for the karaoke bar-slash-helipad in the movie), but it certainly fueled our already curious interest in Greenland. We got our first taste of exploring Greenland a few months ago on a day trip to Kulusuk. The rawness of it left us wanting more and with more companies offering cruises and expeditions, Greenland is more accessible than ever before.

Travel Tips

When to go: Greenland is not as green as it’s name would imply. Have you heard the expression “Greenland is full of ice and Iceland is very nice” before? Greenland can suffer some harsh winters, making access by ship or flight nearly impossible. Most companies that offer Greenland trips do so in August and September.

How to get around: Don’t except to rent the red or blue car that Walter Mitty did in Nuuk. There are no roads to connect the villages and most Greenlanders travel by boat or dog sled. You can easily explore multiple villages and natural sites on one of Quark Expedition’s multiple Greenland tours. If we were to pick one, we’d choose Greenland’s Far North.

Fun Fact: Nearly 80% of Greenland’s land mass is covered by an icecap and glaciers. The Ilulissat Icefjord is the largest glacier outside of Antarctica and the ice-free land is only about the size of Sweden.

13. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana regularly appears on the lists for the most affordable European capital cities to visit, and though Slovenia is mainly known for its natural wonders like Like Bled, the capital is worth a visit. The city with a name most people can barely pronounce, let alone spell, makes for a perfect city break. Beautiful alabaster bridges span the river that snakes through the heart of the city and Baroque buildings dot the squares. From street food to upscale eateries, foodies will be pleasantly surprised with Ljubljana’s food scene.

Travel Tips

When to go: Fall is a fantastic time to visit when the trees are turning shades of gold and red. The national dishes, like mushroom soup, take the bite out of the crisp air. One of the city’s biggest cultural events also takes place each November: the Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFE).

How to get around: Ljubljana is an easily walkable city, but if you want to explore further afield than the compact old town, hop on one of the Bicikelj rental bikes from the 32 stations across the city.

Where to stay: Luxury lovers will appreciate the three saunas, three bars, and garden at Ljubljana’s most luxurious hotel, the Antiq Palace Hotel and Spa. The spacious elegant rooms will make you feel like a noble family reigning in the grand old days.

Insider Tip: There is a great hike just 10 minutes from the city for those looking to commune with nature on your city break. Take the city bus number 8 (Gameljne) to Smarna Gora for a hike up to the two camel shaped peaks. It’s steep, but the hike only takes about 20 minutes and offers spectacular views over the city.

Ardeche Gorge, France14. Ardeche, France

Known as the Grand Canyon of Europe, the Ardeche in the south of France is one of those places that should be kept a secret, but is just too beautiful not to share. While the south of France typically brings to mind images of yachts moored at the most exclusive beach clubs in St. Tropez and celebs strutting their stuff on the infamous red carpet of the industry-only Cannes Film Festival, Ardeche has a decidedly different vibe. It’s an adventurer’s dream with via ferratas, white water kayaking, and riverside camping.

Travel Tips

When to go: September is a perfect time to go. The summertime crowds have left and the temperatures are just perfect for comfortably hiking, climbing, and kayaking.

How to get around: This part of France is best explored with a car to reach the gorges where you’ll find via ferrata routes. You can also take a multi-day kayak trip down the river and camp along the way.

Where to stay: There are many four and five star camp grounds along the Ardeche River, but if you seek a little more luxe comfort after days climbing and kayaking, Hotel Berneron in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc makes an excellent base for exploring the region.

Insider Tip: Vogue isn’t just a fashion magazine. It’s a real village in the Ardeche and it’s on the list of France’s most beautiful villages. With the chateau dominating the village, a labyrinth of cobbled alleys and staircases, and the crystal clear Ardeche River flowing beneath, it’s no wonder and it’s well worth taking some time out from outdoor adventures to stroll around. 

Balloons over Bagan15. Bagan, Myanmar

Myanmar, formerly Burma, was only officially opened up to international tourists and journalists in 2011. Since, it’s been touted as the next big tourist destination, though Myanmar is definitely still rough around the edges. ATMs, previously either absent altogether or only available to locals, have popped up around the country and hotels are even offering wifi. Things are changing quickly and though it can be a bit tricky to get around, Myanmar is very worth the efforts to get an unfiltered look at Southeast Asia.

Travel Tips

When to go: The best time to go to Myanmar is between November and February, when it is the driest and coolest.

How to get around: International flights are available to Mandalay or Yangon. There are trains, buses, and boats, and domestic flights all available to travel between Myanmar’s cities including Bagan. Domestic air carriers (as of 2013) still operate in an archaic fashion by simply confirming your ticket with an email. Air Bagan is able to accept payment via the internet, though make sure you have your confirmation printed out.

In Bagan, options are bicycle, e-bike, traditional horse and cart, or taxi. Not to be missed is ballooning over Bagan for a birds-eye view as the sun illuminates the stupas in shades of gold and pink.

Where to stay: Blue Bird Bagan Hotel is located at the edge of New Bagan and the archeological site. The rooms are spacious and luxurious and there’s even a lovely on-site pool and restaurant. The hotel also has bicycles and e-bikes for rent or can arrange a horse cart to get around.

What to eat: Burmese curries are rich and flavorful. Vegetable curries, like pumpkin or eggplant, are particularly delicious.

Cultural tip: Despite the hot weather, even in the “cooler” months, shorts are not acceptable attire. Pants are preferable or pick up a longhi as a souvenir and to wear. Shoes also must be removed when entering temples, so flip flops are easiest.

Fun fact: When you think of wine-making, Southeast Asia probably doesn’t even come to mind. But wine-making is a popular industry in Myanmar. You’ll find Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Inle Valley White Wine as some of the most popular.

This article contains some affiliate links. When you book hotels on Yonderbound 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!

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Our 2014 Travel Year in Photos http://jdombstravels.com/2014-travel-year-in-review/ http://jdombstravels.com/2014-travel-year-in-review/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 09:23:16 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62878 Luxe Adventure Traveler

We can hardly believe 2014 is already coming to a close. We’ve been reflecting over all the experiences we’ve had this year and travel truly is good for the soul. Travel transforms us. It transports us and allows us to take a break from our daily lives. Travel makes us step outside our comfort zone. …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

We can hardly believe 2014 is already coming to a close. We’ve been reflecting over all the experiences we’ve had this year and travel truly is good for the soul. Travel transforms us. It transports us and allows us to take a break from our daily lives. Travel makes us step outside our comfort zone.

And step outside our comfort zone we did in 61 cities in 18 counties on 4 continents. We had several repeat trips including 3 each to Germany, Austria and France. Here are a few of our other travel related stats:

42, 368 miles flown
129 days spent traveling
48 hotels, 3 apartments, 2 tented safari camps, 1 treehouse, 1 house boat, 1 teepee, and 1 camper van
30 different airports
11 new UNESCO World Heritage sites
6 ski resorts
3 Northern Lights spottings

With all of those miles covered, we snapped thousands of photos to forever remember it and share it with you. So many of those photos never even make it here on the blog and especially the ones we are actually in, so take a look back through our best memories of 2014 with many never-before-seen-photos:

January

Budapest, HungaryWe started off 2014 by ringing in the New Year in our favorite European city. It was a true holiday and the first we’d had with no blog related responsibilities in well over a year.

Gstaad, Switzerland

There just seem to be more stars over Gstaad

We road-tripped from our home in Italy to Gstaad for a ski holiday. We were blown away by the beauty of this chic Swiss town.

Ljubljana is just over an hour drive and our closest US Embassy. A trip was necessary to have a set of extra pages added to my passport for our first big adventure of 2014…

February

Tarangire Treetops

Our treehouse at Tarangire Treetops

We went on a two-week safari. Our first two nights in the bush were spent in a tree house and not much sleep actually happened. Not only did we hear the movement of big animals, but we somehow missed the part of the briefing that Maasai would come build a fire under our tree house so we could have a hot shower. It takes a bit to get used to the sounds of the bush, but now we look back and laugh at ourselves.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

We don’t take selfies often, but Tim couldn’t resist a selfie with a lion!

Ngorongoro Crater is like the opening sequence of The Lion King when you magically believe all the African animals live together. There aren’t any giraffes in Ngorongoro Crater, but pretty much any other African animal you can name lives here. We saw four of the Big Five in one day in the crater and got to see lions feast on the Cape buffalo they’d taken down.

Hippo at the Grumeti River in Serengeti

We spooked this hippo out of water on our bush walk

We spent four nights in the Serengeti in two different tented camps. Our first was right along the Grumeti River, where some 70 hippos had taken it up as home. Their grunting made us giggle every time and we even caught a hippo out of water on our bush walk.

Hyenas in Sergenti National ParkAn elephant had died fairly close to our last camp and we went to bed with the lions calling to their pride to come join the easy meal. Hyenas were also hanging around and they apparently like to steal shoes and things you might leave outside your tent flap.

March

Fassbender & Rausch

My favorite chocolate shop in Berlin

March brought me to Berlin, where I was speaking at ITB. Though I was totally nervous about my talk at one of the world’s largest travel trade shows, I took some time for fun in one of my favorite German cities.

Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo Wine Cellar

This little cellar houses the most expensive and rarest vintages found on the SBM wine menus

Monaco is a tiny country that packs a big punch. It oozes exclusivity and no more so than getting a rare look at the wine cellar beneath the Hotel de Paris. It’s not open to the public, so we’re grateful for a job that sometimes includes fabulous perks.

April

Wine Ski Safari

Tim and I at Utia l Tabla on the Wine Ski Safari

After a big snowstorm, Alta Badia had the best snow in Europe and we closed out the ski season on a wine ski safari. We could not imagine wine tasting in a more spectacular or unique setting!

ICE Campaign

Our car sitting at the demolition lot after our accident

The rest of April was not a good month. We were on our way to Cinque Terre. It was nighttime and it was raining. We came out of a tunnel on to a two-lane bridge and there was a car facing us right in the middle of the right lane. With traffic in the left lane, we had no where to go and hit the car nearly head on. Thankfully, Emma was perfectly fine and Tim only had a bloody nose from the airbag. I was taken in an ambulance to the nearest hospital and am still battling with my neck injury months later.

May

Gewölbe in Wismar

Gewölbe in Wismar

After a few weeks of taking it easy after the car accident, a UNESCO World Heritage sites trip around Northern Germany eased us back in to travel. Wismar was our favorite UNESCO old town on our trip and we found the historic brewery that seriously serves the best pretzels we’ve ever had!

Railbiking in Dalsland, SwedenWe also represented Visit Sweden and Volvo as their adventurers for their In a Volvo campaign. Basically, US customers can buy a Volvo at any Volvo dealership in the US and you get two airline tickets and a few nights hotel stay to travel to Gothenburg to pick up your new Volvo right from the factory. There are several pre-planned itineraries depending on your travel style and we showcased what adventurers can do in and around West Sweden. One of our favorite things was railbiking on an old inspection trolley in Dalsland.

June

Flying trapeze school

Legs up at the Trapeze School of New York

While kayaking and camping in Sweden were right in our comfort zone, I pushed myself way out of it all of June. In NYC, I took flying trapeze lessons and learned to do a knee hang. I couldn’t quite master the catch and I’m pretty sure I won’t be running off to join the circus, but just taking that first jump off the platform and swinging out in to no where was way scarier than I thought it would be.

Sky Combat AceContinuing my dare devil stunts, I also flew in an open cockpit bi-plane and did barrel rolls and loops over Hoover Dam. What a way to take in a totally different view of the dam I’ve seen many, many times.

Richard Petty Driving ExperienceAnd I got behind the wheel of the car for the first time since our car accident in April. But not just any car – a NASCAR, which I raced around Daytona International Speedway at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. How’s that for kicking the fear of being in the car right in the butt?

July

View over Lake Santa CroceBack at home in Europe, it was a cold and rainy summer. Instead of our usual trips to entertain Emma with swimming at the beach, we took to the mountains where the cooler weather was perfect for hiking. My favorite was definitely the Strada delle 52 Gallerie hike, which takes you through old war tunnels cut into the mountain and has some spectacular views.

Stubnerkogel suspension bridge

Can you spot Emma and I?

Speaking of caves, we heard about these controversial radon treatments at the Bad Gastein Healing Caves in Austria. With an aching neck and MRI results that said I have two discs out of place at the base of my neck, I was willing to try anything for some pain relief. One treatment didn’t heal me, but it certainly relaxed me. We also got in a short hike.

Festa del RedentoreWe have also never, ever missed the Festa del Redentore festival since we’ve moved to Italy. This year was no exception, though we did something special and splurged on a gondola to be right beneath the fireworks. We were so close, the burnt paper parts were raining down on us. Even better, the Travel Channel reached out to us after spotting this photo on Instagram and requested to use in in a commercial!

August

Iceland Northern Lights

Northern Lights in the West Fjords of Iceland

We were looking forward to August for months because we were heading back to our favorite country, Iceland. Tim and I explored together for a week in a camper van all around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and West Iceland. The camper van was perfect because we could park just about anywhere and easily escape any light pollution. We were camping the West Fjords when the Northern Lights put on one of the best shows we’ve seen yet.

GreenlandWe also took a little trip to Greenland. The untold part of the story is that there wasn’t room for both of us on the tour boat, so we went out to see the icebergs up close with a local fisherman in a tiny wooden boat. We were constantly splashed with freezing cold water, it was windy, and at one point the fisherman had to bail some water out with a milk jug fashioned in to a pail. But who wouldn’t still be smiling when you’re in GREENLAND?

September

Climbing EldfellAugust morphed in to September, and I spent the first 20 days of the month driving Iceland’s Ring Road by myself. When it comes to hiking, it usually takes Tim pushing me to get to the top of anything. I love, but hate hiking. Apparently his text messages were encouragement enough, because I hiked every chance I got in Iceland. To hidden pools, up still-hot volcanoes, for sunsets, and to boiling mud pots.

Tower of London Tower PoppiesWe had a quick weekend getaway in London and though it was frustrating trying to get to the Tower of London with all the tube closers, it was definitely worth it to see the Tower Poppies.

Via Ferrata du Pont du DiableWe wrapped up September on our second trip to France, this time a full week in which we spent the first part house boating in the Camargue. The house boat was such a cool way to travel, but completing my first via ferrata was awesome! We’ll definitely be trying more of these in 2015.

October

Wine tasting in Crete

Doesn’t this look like a fun bunch to hang out and work with?

Ever have one of those trips where nothing goes as planned and the destination is a bit of a disappointment? That’s how I felt about Crete. Even though most of our planned tours and activities fell through because it was off-season and Crete just failed to wow me, I had a great time hanging out with some of my professional travel blogger and writer friends.

Parthenon, Athens

From just the right angle you can almost give the illusion that the Parthenon isn’t full of cranes and scaffolding and surrounded by a million umbrella-carrying tour groups

Ah, Greece. I love your islands, but your mainland? Not so much. I’ve checked the Acropolis off my must-see list and added another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was beautiful and I sat on a rock just staring at the Parthenon for at least an hour, despite the hoards of people. And I did eat delicious food (thanks to friends for introducing me to saganaki!). Beyond that, Athens and I just didn’t click. But I count the trip a success anyways as I was there mainly for the purpose of speaking at TBEX. I even made it in to the Athens news for my two industry talks on social media.

November

Stubai, AustriaThis weekend the snow finally came down so ski resorts could properly open. But Stubai in Austria had enough snow for an early November trip. Tim got in a bit of skiing, but high winds shut down the lifts more than once.

Loisium Wine Spa

Ahhh, relaxed during spa time

November was another month of downs and was incredibly stressful. An invitation to relax at LOISIUM Wine Spa in Austria came at the perfect time. We had some hiking planned too, but the weather turned out to be awful. So we had a very relaxing weekend sleeping in, sitting around in cozy spa robes, and eating delicious food. It was just what the doctor ordered to forget my work woes…at least for a few days.

December

Rostock, Germany

This bottle wouldn’t fit in my bag to bring home though…

Normally a slow month for us, December turned out to be quite busy. I had a 4-day trip to eat and drink my way through some of Northern Germany’s Christmas Markets. No one in Europe does Christmas better than the Germans, which is where it’s said Santa Claus was invented. I don’t know about that, but I do know that it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without gluhwein, sausages, and holiday lights.

Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix, France

Enjoying the views from Aiguille du Midi

We spent Christmas in Chamonix. It started out with beautiful weather, which was perfect for taking Europe’s highest cable car up to Aiguille du Midi and get a perfect view over the Alps and up to Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain outside of Russia. Our last day was spent sleeping in as the snow came down and then bundling up to play in the 25 centimeters that fell. It was our second true holiday of the year without any blog related responsibilities and it was wonderful.

We’ll wrap up 2014 here at home in Italy this year. I’m not sure what 2015 holds, but whatever it brings will no doubt be an adventure!

Luxe Adventure Traveler

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Affordable Luxury at Loisium Wine Spa http://jdombstravels.com/loisium-wine-spa/ http://jdombstravels.com/loisium-wine-spa/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 15:33:02 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62817 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I’m soaking in a relaxing wine bath and after being massaged with Chardonnay-infused lotions before being covered in a grape seed wrap. Soon I’ll be off to a spa dinner with fresh, local ingredients all paired with wine made right in the vineyards cascading down the hills outside the door. It’s sounds like something out …

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I’m soaking in a relaxing wine bath and after being massaged with Chardonnay-infused lotions before being covered in a grape seed wrap. Soon I’ll be off to a spa dinner with fresh, local ingredients all paired with wine made right in the vineyards cascading down the hills outside the door. It’s sounds like something out of an oenophile’s fairytale, right? But it’s no wine-induced fantasy – Loisium Wine Spa & Resort offers a menu of vinotherapy treatments and complete relaxation at their resorts set amongst Austria’s picturesque vineyards.

Loisium Wine Spa

Enjoying wine by the fire in the Wine Library

Loisium’s Vinoble Wine Treatments

Grapes, grape seeds and grape vines happen to contain some of the nature’s most powerful antioxidants. I got to sample a taste of vinotherapy earlier this summer with a wine pedicure at the Ritz Carlton Chicago. My feet were soft for months after, so I couldn’t wait to head to Loisium Wine Spa to experience more vinotherapy treatments.

Loisium has a romantic couple’s treatment room where you can both indulge in relaxing massages, body peels, and other treatments. I told Tim that we were having a couple’s wine bath before heading to the spa. He’s not really in to spa treatments, and that conversation went something like:

Me: “We’re doing a couple’s wine bath.”

Tim: “But I don’t want to get stained.”

Me: “It’s white wine.”

Tim: “I don’t like white wine.”

Me: “Then it’s a good thing we’re sitting in it and not drinking it.”

Loisium Wine Spa ying-yang bath

Our ying-yang bath, which changed colors throughout

Bathing in wine a la Cleopatra is not actually good for you. The bath is actually water with a mixture of grape oil extract, rose petal water, red grape leaf, and oak bark added, so you’re in no danger of being stained red and it’s very good for your skin and circulation. The bath is in Loisium’s ying-yang tub, which is divided in to two. It’s really kind of perfect, because I always like the water much hotter. You soak in the bath for about 20 minutes in candlelight. Our skin was incredibly soft for days afterward, which was great as the hard water in Italy and the cold weather tend to make my skin dry and itchy.

Loisium Wine Spa

Ahhh, relaxed during spa time

I also had the 90-minute Chardonnay wine treatment. It begins with a foot bath in a mini wine barrel with grape seed oil in the water. Much needed since my last pedicure was at the Ritz Carlton Spa a few months ago, my feet were scrubbed with grape scrub that blissfully removes the dead skin, slathered with more grape seed oil and wrapped up, and then massaged. Next a full body massage with the fruity notes of a Chardonnay grape seed lotion put me to sleep. I was also wrapped up in a nourishing grape body wrap and had a head massage. My only complaint is that 90 minutes seems to go by too fast when you’re being pampered. It finishes with a glass of Chardonnay to enjoy.

Loisium Wine Spa

Spa tea time

Wine Spa Tea Time

My massage was perfectly timed to end just before spa tea time, which happens each afternoon beginning at 3:30pm. A selection of fruit infused waters, teas and snacks like fresh fruit, breads and spreads, and nuts are available. We sat relaxing in our soft spa robes near the fireplace while looking out over the vineyards.

Loisium Wine Spa

Top left: potato soup with mushrooms; Top right: duck with croquettes; Bottom: homemade ice cream and raspberry cake

Wine Spa Cuisine

Loisium’s philosphy is that relaxation comes from enjoyment and that a meal paired with fine wines is part of the entire relaxation package. There is an a la carte menu, but a nightly tasting menu is crafted with in season local ingredients. You can mix from the vegetarian and vineyard tasting menus and opt for the extensive buffet to make your own salad in place of a starter course.

Each evening we dined on delicious dishes that included starters like pumpkin from Loisium’s garden, main courses like duck breast with croquettes, and divine desserts like chocolate soffle with raspberries. Each course is paired with a local Austrian wine in the surrounding area.

Food truly enhances and brings out the undertones in wines. A wine can taste entirely different when paired with food and Loisium’s sommeliers expertly select the best local wines to compliment each dish. We tried a variety of wines, from young white Junger Rivaner that was so clear it could have fooled me as water if the fresh citrus tones didn’t dance across the air while it was being poured to velvety reds with chocolate tones.

Spa cuisine is delicious and healthy with a focus on organic, local produce and proteins. The portions are smaller so even a three-course dinner doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed and unable to move.

Breakfast is an equally delicious affair. I’m always thrilled when local honey is available and Loisium impressed by even having honeycomb at the buffet. Eggs are cook-to-order and I can never resist a veggie omelet, fresh fruit, and Greek yogurt that I swirl honey in. But no matter your breakfast routine, your heart’s desire was likely on offer.

Loisium Wine Spa Langelois

Photo courtesy of Loisium Wine Spa

Active Adventures

Rounding out the wellness spa, Loisium offers a variety of activities to get you moving between spa treatments and Michelin-quality meals. Each day there are different activities like Nordic walking, in addition to the hiking and cycling trails along the wine route. You can pick up a trail map from reception and even order a picnic in a backpack to take with you for a full day out. At Loisium’s South Styria location, Murstätten Golf Club, a leading golf course is just 20 minutes away.

The Tuscany of Austria boasts some 300 days of sunshine each year, but we happened to visit when a fog settled in for our entire weekend. We had brought our hiking gear and fully intended to hike one of the wine routes which range from 4 – 12 kilometers, but we took advantage of the gloomy weather to just relax. There is still a lot you can do right at the resort with a full gym, indoor pools, sauna, and steam room. The outdoor heated pool felt a bit like Iceland’s Blue Lagoon with the milky blue color of the water as the steam rose off the pool’s surface. Best of all, you don’t even have to walk outside to get in the pool. Loisium’s designers thought of every detail!

Loisium Wine Spa Locations

We had the pleasure of visiting both Loisium Wine Spa locations: Loisium Langenlois is about an hour from Vienna and we even popped in to the city for a quick visit to the Christmas markets, some shopping and the best soft tacos I’ve had in a long, long time at a little Tex-Mex restaurant run by an American expat living in Vienna.

Loisium South Styria is just a few hours away in beautiful the rolling hills of Lower Austria, which even in the fog, I could totally see why the area is known as the Tuscany of Austria. We passed winery after winery and I would love to go back in better weather, like spring time when the vines and flowers are in bloom, to hike or bike the wine road.

Know Before You Go

  • Various packages that include overnight, spa treatments, and 4-course dinner with wine are available from 158 per person.
  • Both Loisium Langenlois and Loisium South Styria are accessible by train to stations just a few minutes from each wine spa and shuttles are available to pick guests up. There is also on-site parking and each can be reached by car.
  • Loisium South Styria has a Vinoteca where you can purchase a variety of local wines and gifts, such as local chocolate, honey, and olive oil, and more.
  • The spas sell a variety of products, including the Vinoble products that are produced locally right in Austria, so that you can treat yourself to a wine spa at home.

This post was brought to you by Loisium Wine Spa as we were invited guests to experience both Loisium Langelois and Loisium South Styria. 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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Yonderbound: There’s A New Hotel Booking Site and it’s the Cheapest http://jdombstravels.com/yonderbound/ http://jdombstravels.com/yonderbound/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:02:07 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62749 Luxe Adventure Traveler

The whole hotel booking experience is so…regimented. Yes, that’s precisely the word. Browse to your favorite booking site, enter your destination and travel dates. The search results pop up, sometimes with hundreds of results. You can literally spend hours looking at a map trying to determine if the location is good and then reading all …

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The whole hotel booking experience is so…regimented. Yes, that’s precisely the word. Browse to your favorite booking site, enter your destination and travel dates. The search results pop up, sometimes with hundreds of results. You can literally spend hours looking at a map trying to determine if the location is good and then reading all the reviews on TripAdvisor, which we all know have come under fire for being inauthentic. How on earth do you choose? This is the point when many of you email us and ask which hotel we recommend and we’re more than happy to share our recommendations. And now Yonderbound is helping us share our recommendations even easier. Take a look at why we’re loving it:

Pinterest for the Jet Set

YonderboundYonderbound is a travel start-up that is changing the way travelers discover destinations. It’s like Pinterest for all of our favorite hotels, but better because you can book right from your “pin board”.  Yonderbound calls them Yonderboxes and not only can you create your own to save that wanderlust worthy hotel you saw, but you can follow your favorite travel bloggers’ (ahem, us!) Yonderboxes to see what hotels the travel experts recommend.

We’ve set up a few Yonderboxes already (more to come): Iceland’s Ring Road with the hotels and guesthouses we recommend in the most popular destination we help people plan for, Europe with our favorite hotels we’ve personally stayed in around Europe, and Sensational Ski Getaways.

Related: Iceland’s Ring Road in One Week Trip Itinerary

Booking can be completed at any time from Yonderboxes and you can even make notes. Your Yonderboxes can be either public, so others can see where you’re wanderlusting after, or private if you prefer. You can also toggle between a pin-board view or a map view. It’s really a great tool to curate hotels for your trip planning.

Yonderbound is the Cheapest

YonderboundI’ve always been an Expedia gal. I ran the same searches in Yonderbound, Expedia and Booking.com for multiple hotels and Yonderbound always came back with the cheapest rate, even if it was only a few dollars like in this example with Miramonti Boutique Hotel (one of our favorite ski and spa getaways in Italy, by the way!).

Yonderbound has TripAdvisor Reviews

YonderboundOkay, so I’ve already said that I don’t hold much stock in TripAdvisor reviews. The platform is notoriously used by hotel staff that post raving reviews. And have you ever read the review that makes you roll your eyes and immediately know that the reviewer clearly does not travel regularly? I have and I discount the entire review immediately. But I do scan at least the first five or so reviews to ensure I’m not booking a rat-infested hellhole, which thanks to my research and standards of sticking to four and five star hotels has never, ever happened.

Get $10 Credit

So what do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? There’s really no harm in heading over to check it out. And I’ve got $10 credit to give each of your who signs up for a Yonderbound account. Click to claim your $10 credit.

This post is brought to you by Yonderbound, which we were asked to review. We’re Yonderbound ambassadors and this article contains affiliate links; 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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4 Northern German Towns That Will Put You in the Christmas Spirit http://jdombstravels.com/christmas-markets-of-northern-germany/ http://jdombstravels.com/christmas-markets-of-northern-germany/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:07:20 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62716 Luxe Adventure Traveler

The Christmas market is one of Germany’s best Christmas traditions and the oldest ones date back to the late Middle Ages. The Christmas market started as a passed down tradition from generation to generation of the farmers from the Nuremberg area bringing their crops to sell at the marketplace during the Advent period. The seasonal …

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The Christmas market is one of Germany’s best Christmas traditions and the oldest ones date back to the late Middle Ages. The Christmas market started as a passed down tradition from generation to generation of the farmers from the Nuremberg area bringing their crops to sell at the marketplace during the Advent period. The seasonal market brought a bit of light and liveliness to the cold, long, dark winter nights. That tradition morphed in to the Christkindlesmarkt as we know it today. There are now more than 2500 Christmas markets throughout Germany and though some of the most famous like Nuremberg and Rothenburg are located in Bavaria, the Christmas markets of Northern Germany are well worth a visit.

Lubeck Christmas MarketLubeck

Lubeck is called the Christmas Capital of Northern Germany and with six different Christmas markets situated throughout the UNESCO World Heritage Site, it certainly was festive. The largest Christmas Market is on the market square with the wooden huts offering Christmas gifts and foods from all over Germany. The scents of honey roasted almonds, grilled sausages, and gluhwein drift across the marketplace as strands of Christmas carols dance through the chilly air.

Related: 24 Hours in the Hanseatic City of Lubeck

You can also visit the medieval Christmas market with more traditional handicrafts, the fairytale Christmas market which highlights classic characters from the Brothers Grimm and has entertainment for children, or head to St. Peter’s Church where you’re sure to find unique handmade gifts for everyone on your list. And for gifts from a little further afield, visit the world Christmas market with vendors selling their wares from Estonia to Italy

Christmas concerts and organ music are another German tradition and you’ll find many events happening throughout the Advent season.

Schwerin Christmas MarketSchwerin

Schwerin is like the bar Cheers, where everyone knows your name. The small Northern German town was once part of the former GDR (German Democratic Republic), but these days it’s a picturesque spot nestled upon 10 lakes with its famous castle the jewel in its crown.

The Christmas market stretches throughout the old town with the little wooden huts lining the cobbled lanes. Though it actually comes from Dresden, the most popular food stall is the Dresden Rahmklecks. It’s a fresh baked bread stuffed with cheese and you’ll easily find the stall as there is always a long queue. A local specialty to try is the sanddorn punch, which is made with the tart sea buckthorn berry typically found in the north.

Schwerin polar bear bandVery much like in the old days, the Christmas market is a place to gather to socialize and Schwerin’s residents do that around fire pits. But I doubt that in the Middle Ages that there was a polar bear band to entire the young and the young at heart. The four larger-than-life polar bears jam on their instruments while singing holiday favorites.

You can also head to the lakeside ice skating rink or take a spin on the ferris wheel. And if you’re lucky, it will be cold enough for Schwerin’s lakes to freeze over and you can ice skate with the beautiful spires of the twinkling old town as a backdrop.Rostock Christmas Market

Rostock

Rostock boasts the largest Christmas markets in Northern Germany and some of the biggest and best decorations. The 19-meter high North German spruce comes from Rostock Reutershagen, is decorated with several thousand lights, and is the Hanseatic League’s largest Christmas tree.

The Christmas pyramid that adorns the center of the market square is also the largest in the world at over 20 meters high; it has even been entered in to the Guinness Book of World Records. These Christmas pyramids have been a German tradition since the Middle Ages, when they were made from evergreen branches and would hang in German families’ homes. The pyramids are said to be the predecessor to the Christmas tree.

The historical Christmas market is a unique feature where you can taste historic foods from the Middle Ages like Mutzbraten, pork with herbs roasted over an open fire and served with a type of sauerkraut kale. When I asked one local what the best thing to eat at the Rostock Christmas Market is, he didn’t hesitate to tell me that he waits all year for the Mutzbraten. It was indeed delicious!Rostock Christmas Market Fire Jugglers

Each night there is a different form of entertains from fire jugglers to jazz singers on the historical Christmas market’s stage and the fire jugglers solicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd on our visit.

Rostock also has a fun fair at the riverside with a tilt-a-whirl, ferris wheel, bumper cars and more. Just follow the laughter as all ages get an adrenaline rush on the carnival rides that have become a staple of the Christmas markets of Northern Germany.Hamburg Christmas Market

Hamburg

With 14 different Christmas markets nestled throughout Germany’s second largest city, it might be hard to choose just one to visit. But if your time is short like ours was, the one market not to be missed is the Historical Christmas Market on Rathausmarkt.

Gingerbread bakers from Nuremberg, wood carvers from Tyrol, glassblowers, silversmiths, and many other craftsmen wait to welcome you with quality handcrafted items from all around Germany. A main attraction, especially if you have little ones, is the Spielzeuggasse (toy street) where you’ll find handcrafted toys sure to be on any child’s Christmas wishlist. And every day at 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm Santa Claus makes a grand entrance with his sleigh hoovering above the huts.

Be sure to have a gluhwein. It’s also a German tradition that began in the Middles Ages. As the story goes, it was quite a cold night and people were sitting around a fire with their wine. Someone decided to heat an iron in the fire, shake off the excess ask, and put the iron in the wine to heat it up. The hot iron in the wine glowed, giving it the name gluhwein or what translates to glow wine.

This post was brought to you by German National Tourist Board as we were invited guests to experience the Christmas Markets of Northern Germany. 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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