Luxe Adventure Traveler http://jdombstravels.com Adventure Travel With a Glass of Wine Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:59:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 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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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 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.

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10 Tips for Packing Like a Travel Pro http://jdombstravels.com/packing-like-a-pro/ http://jdombstravels.com/packing-like-a-pro/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 16:22:14 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62606 Luxe Adventure Traveler

I always want to be my best, stylish, event-appropriate self even while traveling. But no matter whether we’re going away for an overnight getaway or a month in three different climates with both hiking and business events, I like to travel as light as I can. Let’s be honest – it is not fun lugging …

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I always want to be my best, stylish, event-appropriate self even while traveling. But no matter whether we’re going away for an overnight getaway or a month in three different climates with both hiking and business events, I like to travel as light as I can. Let’s be honest – it is not fun lugging heavy stuff and most of us don’t have a collection of monogrammed Louis Vuitton being chauffeured door to door. So no matter if you’re headed on a business trip or a fun-filled holiday, these tips will have you packing like a pro in no time.

packing like a pro1. Write your trip schedule down and make a packing list.

Start the packing process by writing down your schedule. Knowing what is on your trip agenda helps formulate a plan for what to pack. TripIt keeps our schedule organized by importing all of our confirmation emails right in to our TripIt account. From flights to crazy adventures like learning the flying trapeze, we know what we’ll be doing so we can properly pack.

Related: 10 Travel Apps You Should Never Leave Home Without

I write down everything I’ll need for my trip, right down to the number of undies. As I pack my bag, I place a checkmark next to each item, ensuring I don’t forget anything. And though I travel in a carry-on sized bag, I end up checking it often. So my packing list also provides a record of everything in my bag just in case it ever gets lost.

2. Begin with the must-haves.

Have some non-negotiable items? Set out anything that is absolutely impossible-to-leave-behind. For me, those are my 1875 watt salon-style hair dryer and straightener (when are hotels going to realize that most of their hair dryers just don’t cut it for us ladies?!). Then work around whatever space is left in your suitcase.

3. Pack the heaviest items on the bottom. 

When you stand your suitcase up, you want the heaviest items like shoes or your hair dryer to be on the bottom. Also put your toiletry bag at the bottom. This tip is especially important if you have a rolling duffle-style carry-on as the wheels are actually under the bottom of the bag when you stand it upright.

4. Coordinate your wardrobe around one or two pairs of shoes.

Fun as a colorful wardrobe might be, pack items in the same color family that you can mix and match to create new outfits and wear with that one or two pairs of shoes you selected to bring. Stick to basic colors like black, gray, navy or beige. Pick comfortable shoes that go with everything (like my favorite travel flats: Tieks in obsidian black), bring a pair of heels or wedges for dressing up, and I like to pack a pair of flip-flops for in the hotel room or going to the pool and spa.

5. Accessorize.

Jazz up all that black, gray, navy or beige with pieces that travel light and make a statement. Scarves are multipurpose; they can add a pop of color to an outfit or keep you warm on a chilly airplane. I’m also loving statement necklaces to easily make an outfit go from sightseeing to Michelin-starred restaurant.

Go Gear Travel Tubes

Go Gear Travel Tubes

6. Travel size products.

Travel size products are much more convenient when it comes to size and weight, but travel size of my favorite brands isn’t available. I don’t sacrifice my good shampoo for a cheap travel sized one. Instead, I use my silicone travel tubes and simply refill them with my favorite shampoo, conditioner, foaming face wash, and lotion. You can even skip those travel sized toothpastes that you always feel bad tossing out when they have a bit left, but not enough for the entirety of your next trip. Toothpaste 2 Go lets you refill the reusable tubes with your favorite toothpaste. And both the reusable silicone tubes and toothpaste tubes are so much better for the environment.

Miamica Clear TSA Compliant Security Case

Miamica Clear TSA Compliant Security Case $13

7. Use a water resistant coated toiletry bag.

I’ve had my silicone travel tubes for at least eight years now and they’ve never leaked, but just in case I use a water resistant coated toiletry bag. I can easily wipe it clean and it protects everything else in my suitcase from potential spills. I also love this reusable clear travel bag (it even comes with some bottles perfect for make-up), which is perfect for storing all your TSA approved liquids in your carry-on.

8. Use cloth shoe bags or shower caps to protect clothing from shoes. 

Good quality shoes come in cloth shoe bags and these are perfect for protecting your clothing from the yuckiness your shoes are inevitably going to pick up. If you don’t have shoe bags or want to purchase them, I also use shower caps which fit perfectly around your shoes with the elastic. Of course, if you’re packing your Tieks, they fold up nice and compact in to the pouch they come with.

9. Keep all valuables with you and lock your carry-on. 

Sadly, these days it is pretty much safe to assume that valuables aren’t safe in your checked bag. Keep all valuable (or even sentimental) jewelry, prescription medication, electronics, and camera equipment in your carry-on. And be sure to put a lock or use the built in lock on your carry-on, especially if it doesn’t fit under the seat right in front of you. No one likes to think thefts happen on airplanes, but Absolute Software’s study determined that 24% of travel-related thefts take place in the air.

WineSkin10. Plan to bring wine home. 

One of our favorite souvenirs to pick up on our travels is the local wine. We use WineSkins to safely get our wine back home in our checked bag. The padded wine shaped “envelop” gives bottles that extra protection from all the jostling and tossing around your bag goes through on its journey from check-in desk to baggage carousel.

Related: Tips for Packing Wine in Luggage

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13 Best European Christmas Markets to See in Your Lifetime http://jdombstravels.com/best-european-christmas-markets/ http://jdombstravels.com/best-european-christmas-markets/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 15:46:44 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62546 Luxe Adventure Traveler

The smell of mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted chestnuts is in the air at the best European Christmas Markets. Hand-painted ornaments dangle from little wooden huts, scents of sausage waft through the air, and the sounds of carolers and horse carriages clacking on cobblestones fill the old town squares. Europe’s Christmas Markets are magical and …

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The smell of mulled wine, gingerbread, and roasted chestnuts is in the air at the best European Christmas Markets. Hand-painted ornaments dangle from little wooden huts, scents of sausage waft through the air, and the sounds of carolers and horse carriages clacking on cobblestones fill the old town squares. Europe’s Christmas Markets are magical and shouldn’t be missed! Take a look at some of our favorites, as well as ones still on our own must-see list, in no particular order. And follow along with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as we explore some of Germany’s Christkindlesmarkts next week with Visit Germany, no doubt adding even more to our list of the best European Christmas Markets to see in your lifetime.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

Getting a birds-eye views of the Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt

1. Nuremberg

Nuremberg is Germany’s most famous Christkindlesmarkt…so popular in fact, that more than 2 million people visit it each year. Though it might sound packed, head there during the daytime any weekday and you’ll be able to enjoy and browse the more than 180 market stands selling everything from Nuremberg’s famous Prune Men to blueberry mulled wine. Need more convincing? Check out our 10 Reasons to Go to Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt runs from November 28 – December 24, 2014 and you can meet the Christkind Tuesday – Friday at 3pm.

*Photo courtesy of Rail Europe

*Photo courtesy of Rail Europe

2. Vienna

Vienna is world famous for its Christmas Markets and they are some of our personal favorites. So much so that we sent a couple of our readers on a trip to experience them (read about their experience here). The Rathausplatz market is our favorite with more than 150 stalls offering unique gifts and food stuffs, but there are many more markets tucked all around the city. And if you’re lucky, Vienna might even be more charming than usual with a light dusting of snow.

Vienna’s various Christmas markets run from November 17 – December 26, 2014.

Trocadero Christmas Village3. Paris

Paris is always a good idea…especially at Christmas time when the City of Lights sparkles just that much more. A Christmas Market lines the Champs-Elysées, you can ice skate with the twinkling Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, and you can sample Galette des Rois (King cake) hoping to become king for the day! For all of Paris’ Christmas charms, check out our Guide to Christmas in Paris.

Paris’ Christmas markets run from November 14 – January 4, 2015.

Budapest Christmas Market4. Budapest

Budapest is one of our favorite European cities and it transforms into a magical winter wonderland with an ice skating rink. The more than 150 stalls are all guaranteed by a professional jury from various organizations that the products sold in the market are traditionally handmade. And don’t miss the daily advent calender window displays at the 19th Century Gerbeaud Cafe. Check out our full review (and find our own mullled wine recipe) here.

Budapest’s Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market runs November 18 – December 30, 2014.

Zurich Singing Christmas Tree

Zurich’s Singing Christmas Tree

5. Zurich

Zurich is absolutely charming at Christmastime. Snow-capped mountains, sparkling Christmas trees adorned with Swarovski crystals, and singing Christmas tree concerts set the festive mood in this Swiss city. And if the weather is frightful, the indoor Rail City market with over 160 stalls is delightful. Check out our full Guide to Christmas in Zurich.

Zurich’s Rail City Christmas Market runs November 20 – December 24, 2014.

Prague Christmas Market6. Prague

Prague’s Christmas Markets in the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square are more about the unique foods than gifts and decoration, but Prague’s stunning architecture is even more breathtaking dressed up in sparkly Christmas lights. Try the roast pig on the spit, the sugary Trdelník cakes, and sip a famous Prague beer.

Prague’s Christmas Markets run November 29 – January 6, 2015.

Tivoli Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of Visit Denmark

7. Copenhagen

Since we haven’t yet been, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens Christmas Market is on our own list to visit. With trees sure to be covered in snow, a Christmas light display that is four MILES long, and reindeer running about, it all just sounds magical. You can even take in a holiday favorite – The Nutcracker – at the Tivoli Concert Hall.

Copenhagen’s Tivoli Christmas Market runs from November 15 – December 30, 2014.

Fete des Lumieres

Photo courtesy of Fete des Lumieres

8. Lyon

Lyon’s most famous festival, The Fete des Lumieres (The Festival of Light), just happens to light up the French city in a kaleidoscope of colors. The four-day spectacle is accompanied by two Christmas Markets in the city center. With a dusting of snow, it’s like a fairytale setting sure to delight all ages. Best of all, this festival is free!

The Fete des Lumieres runs from December 5 – 8, 2014.

Stockholm Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of Visit Stockholm

9. Stockholm

Stockholm’s Christmas Market has been running since 1903 and it very traditional. Not surprisingly, you’ll find Swedish Christmas sweets and delicacies like reindeer and elk sausage. All of the proceeds from the Old Town Christmas Market booth rentals is given to charity, so you can feel like you’re shopping, eating, and drinking for a good cause. And you can even learn about Stockholm’s enchanting old town, customs and traditions, and enjoy a hot cup of glogg (Swedish for mulled wine) at one of the Old Town’s historic cafes on the Stockholm Christmas Story Tour.

Stockholm’s Old Town Christmas Market runs from November 22 – December 23, 2014.

Manchester Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of Manchester Evening News

10. Manchester

Manchester’s Christmas Market is much anticipated each year. Its well known for being not only the first, but the biggest and the best Christmas Market in the UK. With markets spanning nine different sites throughout the city, you’re sure to find a unique gift for everyone on your list…and plenty of mulled wine to keep you warm while you shop!

Manchester’s Christmas Market runs from November 14 – December 21.

Tallinn Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of Visit Estonia

11. Tallinn

We found snow-covered Tallinn so incredibly charming with its walled Old Town and wool markets, we can only imagine it would be even more so at Christmastime. The little market stalls are teeming with Estonians selling their handicrafts, many of which are not found in any of the shops or other markets. Come admire the snow sculptures while nibbling gingerbread and sipping on hot chocolate or glogg.

The Tallinn Christmas Market runs from November 21 – January 10, 2015 on weekends and holidays. You can combine it with a visit to Helsinki’s Christmas Markets.

Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of Visit Berlin

12. Berlin

Berlin has 80 – yes, EIGHTY – different Christmas Markets to visit throughout the city. You can even whiz down the 70 meter toboggan run right in Potsdamer Platz with a view of the Brandenburg Gate! Head to the Weihnachtszauber Gendarmenmarkt for one of the most popular Christmas markets in the city where you’ll find everything from glassblowers to an origami master. Michelin-starred chefs even offer their haute cuisine in the heated tents. Check out all of Berlin’s Christmas Markets here.

Berlin’s Christmas Markets run from November 24 – December 31, 2014.

Brussels Christmas Market

Photo courtesy of Visit Brussels

13. Brussels

A towering 22 meter tree that was a gift from Riga, more than 1000 lights on the Grand Palace, and some 230 stalls make up Brussels Christmas Market this year. Warm up with a mug of Belgian hot chocolate and then take a spin around the ice rink. And don’t miss the nightly light show on the Grand Palace!

Brussels’ Christmas Market runs from November 28 – January 4, 2015.

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The Luxe Adventure Traveler Guide to Christmas in NYC http://jdombstravels.com/guide-to-christmas-in-nyc/ http://jdombstravels.com/guide-to-christmas-in-nyc/#comments Sun, 30 Nov 2014 12:31:19 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=37325 Luxe Adventure Traveler

Ever since my first visit during the holidays, I haven’t been able to resist Christmas in NYC. To me, it’s when the city is at its best; when everything is the most shimmering and magical. New York City comes alive with holiday spirit and is home to some of the biggest and best light displays. …

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

Ever since my first visit during the holidays, I haven’t been able to resist Christmas in NYC. To me, it’s when the city is at its best; when everything is the most shimmering and magical. New York City comes alive with holiday spirit and is home to some of the biggest and best light displays. For kids from 1 to 92, the five boroughs have something for everyone and we rounded up the “must dos” and tossed in a few of our favorites in our guide to Christmas in NYC:

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Must DoThe Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Officially, the tradition of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree began in 1933, the same year that 30 Rockefeller Center Plaza opened. Each year the tree is scouted by the head gardener for Rockefeller Center and it is transported by a special custom trailer through the streets of New York City to its home at Rockefeller Center. The star is a Swarovski Star weighing in at 550 pounds and nearly 10 feet in diameter. Locals and tourists alike pack Rockefeller Center all wanting to pose for the perfect holiday photo in front of the tree.

Tip
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is lit daily from 5:30am – 11:30pm and for 24 hours on Christmas Day. Want the perfect photo? I hit the streets at 5am and had Rockefeller Center all to myself.
Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center, home of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

Must DoGeorge Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

The New York City Ballet’s entire cast and crew are immersed in the production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker during the holiday season. The intricate costumes, lighting, and the music itself transport you into Marie’s magical world of dancing mice battling marching wooden soldiers. As you enter act two through a child’s imagination, the land of lollipops and snowflake waltzes will leave sugar plum fairies dancing in your head for many hours after the final curtain.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker is on from November 28 – January 3, 2015. Tickets start at $29 and are available at nycballet.com.

...and while you're there
Ed’s Chowder House is like having a little bit of the Hamptons right in Manhattan. Try the pre fixe dinner menu with a starter, main, and dessert for $42. (44 W 63rd St).

Radio City Christmas SpectacularMust DoRadio City Christmas Spectacular

The gloriously glitzy costumes and the leggy high kicks of the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are practically synonymous with New York at Christmas. I’ve seen the show at least four times now and while some old favorites are staples of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, there are always a few new numbers to delight the audience.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular is on from November 20 – December 31, 2014. Tickets start at $40 and are available online.

...and while you're there
Dream of summer days gone by over a lobster and crab roll at Brasserie Rulhmann (45 Rockefeller Center Plaza; entrees from $22).
Trump Wollman Rink

Trump Wollman Rink

Must DoIce Skating in Central Park

Easily one of the most picturesque activities in Manhattan, ice skating at Trump Rink in Central Park is the stuff movies are made of. Literally. John Cusak and Kate Beckingsale skated on a snowy night in the movie Serendipity and the rink also appeared in Love Story. Just a few minutes walk from the entrance at Central Park South, you’ll forget the hustle and bustle of Manhattan for a few hours as you take to the ice. Figure eights, anyone?

Trump Rink is open from October – April. Hours for public skating are Monday and Tuesday 10am – 2:30pm, Wednesday and Thursday 10am – 10pm, Friday and Saturday 10am – 11pm, and Sunday 10am – 9pm. Admission is $11.25 for adults and $6 for children on weekdays and $18 for adults Friday – Sunday. Skate rental is $8 and locker rental is $11 ($6 returned deposit with the rental receipt). Cash only.

...and while you're there
Indulge on the lobster mac and cheese at chic BG, Bergdorf Goodman’s sleek 7th floor lunchtime eatery (754 5th Avenue; 7th Fl; entrees from $22).

A greasy burger always hits the spot and Burger Joint is one of my NYC faves. It’s tucked away behind a curtain in the lobby of Le Parker Meridien(119 W 56th St; entrees from $8. Cash only).

Macy's Holiday Window Display

A boy in a fantastical forest filled with icy woodland creatures at Macy’s Believe display

Must DoDepartment Stores Holiday Window Displays

Many Manhattanites consider it a holiday tradition to visit the festively decorated holiday window displays at Manhattan’s major department stores. From Bloomingdale’s to Bergdorf’s, you find everything from the classic fairy tales on display at Sak’s 2014 An Enchanted Experience to the titillatingly imaginative mansion at Lord & Taylor.

Tip
Easily cover all of the department store window displays, which span Manhattan from the Upper East Side to Macy’s Herald Square, and see where some of your favorite holiday movies were filmed with On Location Tours Holiday Lights and Movie Sights tour. The seasonal tour that runs from November 28th – January 1st on Thursdays & Fridays at 5:30pm, Saturdays at 5:30pm and 7pm. Tickets are $36 per adult and $26 per child.
Columbus Circle Holiday Market

Unique gifts made of tagua nuts from the rainforest of South America

Must DoShop at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market

5th Avenue is full of tourists shopping at the same Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Cartier shops you can find just about anywhere around the world. Instead, pick up unique gifts like handmade wooden puzzles, handcrafted jewelry, or French macarons (the maple bacon from Macaron Parlour are ah-mazing!) to bring back to everyone jealous at home.

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is open December 2 – 24, 2014 from 10am – 8pm Monday – Saturday and 10am – 7pm Sunday.

...and while you're there
Get a view of Central Park from the Lobby Lounge while enjoying the festive Nutcracker Tea at Mandarin Oriental (80 Columbus Circle; $52; available December 1 – 25).

Visit the Time Warner Center for the Holiday Under the Stars light show choreographed to all your favorite holiday tunes. (November 13 – January 3, 2014 from 5pm – midnight nightly.)

Ahoy New York Food Tours

Egg rolls, Italian cheese, pizza, cannoli, Thai, and dumplings are just a few things you’ll sample

Must DoEat Your Way Through Little Italy and China Town

NYC food walking tours are a great way to escape Midtown and find out the secrets of more off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods like Little Italy and China Town. Ahoy New York Food Tours takes small groups to family owned shops, restaurants, and locations that have been in existence for over 100 years – and for the US, that’s amazing! You’ll learn about the best places to eat and the interesting history from an NYC insider.

Book Ahoy NYC Food Walking Tours online. Tickets are $49 per adult and the tour lasts approximately 3 hours.

...and while you're there
Warm up after your NYC food walking tour with a hot cup of tea at Ten Ren’s Tea Time. Try the lychee! (79 Mott St; from $3 per cup)

Visit the Tenement Museum for a look at how immigrant families lived through a series of restored apartments of past residents (103 Orchard St; tickets are $22).

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights

Lucy Spata’s house started it all in Dyker Heights

Must DoTour Brooklyn’s Christmas Lights

Escape Manhattan for Brooklyn with A Slice of Brooklyn and let this team of Brooklynites guide you through some of the best holiday light displays in all of America. Italian-American and Brooklynite Lucy Spata started the tradition nearly 30 years ago and when he neighbors didn’t like it, she simply told them to move. They must have done just that because Lucy’s house has more lights than ever and her neighbors in nearly four blocks surrounding her have joined in to see who can build the biggest and best display each year. The tradition is being adopted by some other Brooklyn neighborhoods and you’ll visit a few others before warming up with hot chocolate and Brooklyn’s best cannoli.

The Christmas Lights and Cannoli Tour is nightly at 7pm from November 30 – December 31. The tour lasts about 3 1/2 hours and departs/returns to Union Square in Manhattan. The price is $55 per adult and $45 per child under 12 years of age.

Where to Stay
Enjoy exclusive behind-the-scenes access to experience a favorite New York City holiday tradition with Mandarin Oriental, New York’s Bergdorf Goodman Holiday Windows package. Guests will enjoy a personal tour of the iconic Bergdorf Goodman holiday windows along Fifth Avenue with one of the store’s visionary designers and learn about the inspiration behind this year’s theme. Following the tour, guests are invited for a personal shopping experience at Bergdorf Goodman’s “Trim the Tree” holiday installation on the Seventh Floor and an intimate dinner for two guests at BG Restaurant. A perfect way to round out the festivities, guests will enjoy two nights at Mandarin Oriental, New York in a Premier Central Park View Suite and the special Nutcracker Tea in the Lobby Lounge. Package available from November 17 – December 24, 2014.

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2014 Luxe Adventure Traveler Gift Guide http://jdombstravels.com/2014-luxe-adventure-traveler-gift-guide/ http://jdombstravels.com/2014-luxe-adventure-traveler-gift-guide/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:09:20 +0000 http://jdombstravels.com/?p=62420 Luxe Adventure Traveler

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

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

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

Traveler Gift Guide Stocking StuffersStocking Stuffers

L’Occitane Almond Hand Cream

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

L’Occitane Almond Hand Cream $12

Mandarin Oriental Gift Card

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

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

Tiffany Passport Holder

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

Tiffany & Co. Passport Holder $150

Lepow Mobile Charger

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

Lepow Mobile Charger $25

Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter

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

Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter $23

Photojojo iPhone Lenses

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

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

Under the Tree

Luckies of London Scratch MapWhere I’ve Been Scratch Map

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

Luckies of London Scratch Map Deluxe Edition $22

Bose Noise Cancelling HeadphoneBose Noise Cancelling Headphones

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

Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones $299

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

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

Liquid Image Model 339 Apex Ski Googles $400

Ugobags

Our medium-sized UGOBAGS spinner

Custom Luggage

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

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

Longchamp Le PliageLongchamp Le Pliage Tote

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

Longchamp Le Pliage XL travel bag $155

Apple iPhone 6iPhone 6

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

iPhone 6 from $199

Luxe Adventure Experiences

Balloons over BaganHot Air Balloon

It’s no secret we love hot air balloons. We were even married in one! There are fantastic places all over the world to hot air balloon and it’s such an expensive experience, many people don’t splurge on a flight themselves. A hot air balloon flight over the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, a romantic sunrise flight over Las Vegas, or ballooning over the vineyards of Tuscany is sure to be a hit.

Find more hot air ballooning experiences around the world here. Prices from about $300 per person.

View from the ShardHelicopter Flight

Take in unique aerial views of some of your favorite sights from a helicopter. Gaze down on Buckingham Palace on a London helicopter flight, soar past the tallest building in the world on a Dubai helicopter flight, or take in the awesome power of Niagara Falls by helicopter.

Find more helicopter experiences around the world here. Prices from about $200 per person.

Richard Petty Driving ExperienceDrive a NASCAR

For the wannabe race car driver in your life, the Richard Petty Driving Experience lets you get behind the wheel of a NASCAR on some of America’s favorite race tracks like the famous Daytona International Speedway. It’s an adrenaline rush that special someone is sure to be talking about until next Christmas.

Richard Petty Driving Experience from $600

Fighter Pilot Top Gun Experience

Get in the cockpit of a military-style jet and experience g-force while doing aerial stunts like barrel rolls and loops over the Las Vegas desert. It will definitely be an experience of a lifetime!

Top Gun Experience $199

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

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

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

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

Film & Fizz One Aldwych

Photo courtesy of One Aldwych

Film & Fizz

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

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

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

One AldwychThe Hotel

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

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

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

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

Afternoon tea One Aldwych

Photo courtesy of One Aldwych

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

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

Know Before You Go

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

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

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

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

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

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

Camargue, FranceCruising the Camargue’s Canals

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

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

Camargue, France

Highlights of the Camargue

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

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

Beaucaire, France

Beaucaire is beautiful even on the rare rainy day

Beaucaire

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

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

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

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

Mas des Tourelles

A Roman wooden press at Mas des Tourelles

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

Mas des Tourelles

Roman wines

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

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

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

Chateau Mourgues du Gres

Chateau Mourgues du Gres

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

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

Benedictine Abbey of St. Gilles

Benedictine Abbey of St. Gilles

St. Gilles

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

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

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

GallicianGalician

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

Camargue nature reserve

Be sure to bring your binoculars!

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

Aigues-MortesAigues Mortes

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

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

Le Salin d'Aigues-Mortes

Mountains of salt and pink flamingos in Aigues-Mortes

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

Camargue White Horses

Camargue horses graze along the canals

Camargue White Horses

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

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

Camargue black bullsFrench Bullfighting

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

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

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

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

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

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Luxe Adventure Traveler

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

Trip Planning

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

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

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

Packing Pro app

Via Packing Pro

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

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

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

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

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

ViaMichelin is free and is available for iPhone and Android.

Once You’re There

XE Currency app

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

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

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

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

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

Uber app

Via Uber.com

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

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

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

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

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

Staying Connected

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

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

For Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climbing EldfellClimbing Eldfell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eldheimar Museum

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

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

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

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

Sæheimar AquariumSæheimar Aquarium

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

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

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

Gaujulundur GardenGaujulundur Garden

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

Heimaey Stave ChurchHeimaey Stave Church

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

Stórhöfði

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

Stórhöfði

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

Surtsey Island

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

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

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

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

Heimaey Westman Islands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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