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Australia: A Land of Surprises

“It was a country of continual surprises”, says Travel Advisor Erin Zetter, just returned from Australia.  Erin was one of only 60 agents from throughout the US and Canada invited to travel down under on Travel2’s ‘Amazing Aussie Adventure’.  Visiting Sydney, Melbourne, Ayres Rock, and the Wolgan Valley in a small group of 10 Virtuoso agents, Erin’s preconceptions of  Australia were challenged – and in a good way.

Erin at a Camel Farm

Erin at a Camel Farm

“First,” says Erin, “I was astonished at the amount of wildlife.  We went on a night safari drive to see the nocturnal animals, and then a nature walk the next morning to see kangaroos, wallaby and wombats.  We also visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park, where I was thrilled to be able to feed kangaroos (from ice-cream cones!) right out of my hands.  I originally thought, though, that the wildlife in Australia would be rather elusive.  But when we went to the Blue Mountains I couldn’t believe the number of kangaroos you could see – they were everywhere, in the hundreds.  I could even see them from right outside my room!”

Ern gets to hand feed a kangaroo.

Ern gets to hand feed a kangaroo.

 

“Everyone has seen photos of the Australian outback,” says Erin.  “But I found that no picture can compare.  You can’t begin to imagine the vastness, and the sunset and views of Uluru (Ayres Rock) were stunning.  The stars began to come out at the end of a ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner in the outback. They had billed it as a ‘dine under a billion stars’ evening – and for once, there was no exaggeration.  With the clarity of the sky, I could see planets, galaxies, even the full Milky Way.  It was a very emotional experience”.

Sounds of Silence dinner near Ayres Rock

Sounds of Silence dinner near Ayres Rock

 

Even the visit to Australia’s cities held surprises.  Did you know the Sydney Opera House can be toured?  And that ‘Opera House’ is actually a bit of a misnomer? Because it’s not just one house, but a full complex with five different theaters where you can hear the symphony, of course, but also rock performances, dramas, and theater in the round.

In Sydney, Erin also got to complete a bucket list item with another iconic city landmark.  Conquering all fear of heights in the name of research for her clients, Erin climbed – and crossed – the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 1.5 hours as part of BridgeClimb Sydney.  Her reward from the top was 360 degree panoramic views of the city.

See those tiny dots up there?  Those are the brave climbers on BridgeClimb Sydney.  Climbers are dressed in suits to match the bridge - so as not to distract the drivers below.

See those tiny dots up there? Those are the brave climbers on BridgeClimb Sydney. Climbers are dressed in suits to match the bridge – so as not to distract the drivers below.

And then there’s Melbourne, Erin’s favorite city.  From above, the city of Melbourne has a full metropolitan skyline, complete with skyscrapers.  But walk the streets, and you’ll discover a hidden Melbourne, one with narrow alleyways and lanes, cobblestone streets, café’s and street performers.  “You’ll think you’re in Europe”, says Erin.

Europe or Australia?  ... It's a laneway in Melbourne!

Europe or Australia? … It’s a laneway in Melbourne!

“So much of this trip was fabulous,” concludes Erin, “I couldn’t believe how much there was to see and do, and so much variety.  I visited at the end of our summer and had a great time.  Ideally, in order to see everything under the best conditions, I’d recommend booking travel for our Spring and Fall.”

Want to learn more about Australia?  Give your Santa Barbara Travel Advisor a call today!

Selfies More Dangerous Than Sharks !

Yes, we’ve written about the use of – and ban on – selfie sticks before, but we can’t help doing a follow-up on this most fascinating of travel topics.  Particularly since media reports have revealed a crazy 2015 statistic:  as of September this year, more people died from taking selfies than shark attacks.

 

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So far, the scorecard goes: Shark attacks: 8  Selfies: 12.  Four of the selfie deaths this year were caused by falling. This includes the Japanese tourist who died last week taking a selfie at the Taj Mahal.

The next leading cause of death involving selfies was being hit or injured by trains, either because the individual was trying to get a photo with a train or because the photo they wanted involved getting on dangerous equipment.

And then there’s the death by selfie-stick in Wales when the metal rod a man was holding was struck by a lightning bolt.  Other deaths have been caused by distracted photo-takers crashing their cars and even shooting themselves while posing with guns.

No, the numbers aren’t enormous. But it does make you ask the question – why?   What is it exactly that makes selfie-takers so likely to put themselves in danger?

An intriguing bit of research published by Ohio State University last year found that men who post a lot of selfies score higher in traits of narcissism and psychopathy in online tests. While all the participants were still in the healthy range, the scores suggest that they may be more inclined to focus on personal gain in situations, rather than potential danger.

“It’s all about me. It’s putting me in the frame. I’m getting attention and when I post that to social media, I’m getting the confirmation that I need from other people that I’m awesome,” lead researcher Jesse Fox told Reuters.  “You don’t care about the tourist attraction you’re destroying; you don’t care about annoying people in your social media feed … you’re not even thinking about the consequences of your actions, so who cares if you’re dangling off the side of the Eiffel Tower?”

Food for thought.  Just not shark food.

Land to Sea Culinary Immersion at Terranea Resort

Here at Santa Barbara Travel one of the hottest  trends we see is the desire for culinary travel.  No longer do travelers merely want to visit a destination, they also want to experience it – and many want that experience to include locally cultivated food and drinks.

Building on California’s allure as America’s ‘Capital of Culinary Travel‘, Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes presents a 3-day, 2-night inclusive package for two that will immerse the senses and satisfy your inner foodie with a complete ‘Farm-to-Terranea‘ dining experience.

Join the Executive Chef in Terranea's own garden for a private tour

Join the Executive Chef in Terranea’s own garden for a private tour

Join Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra on a visit to the resort’s local farm, discussing seasonal ingredients, picking produce and then preparing a meal.  Participate in a pastry & liquor pairing workshop with Executive Pastry Chef Pierino Jermonti and Sommelier Szymon Piechaczek.  Go on a whale-watching picnic. Indulge in a spa treatment incorporating salts, lavender, lemons or honey – all produced on site by the resort.
Your 'Farm-to-Terranea' weekend includes a spa treatment with products all produced at the resort.

Your ‘Farm-to-Terranea’ weekend includes a spa treatment with products all produced at the resort.

This culinary immersion weekend also includes seats at the exclusive Chef’s Table Dinner series, dinner for two at signature resort mar’sel (with wine pairing) and your choice of a honey workshop, a sea salt workshop or a fish market experience with a Terranea chef.

Book through Santa Barbara Travel and you will also receive a $100 resort credit, daily breakfast for two, a VIP welcome amenity and a one-category upgrade upon arrival and early check-in and late check-out, based on availability.Enjoy this unparalleled culinary experience December 2-4, 2015, and the weekends of February 18th, April 21st, June 30th, August 25th, October 13th and December 8th in 2016.

Can’t make it for a full weekend?  Then how about booking a Chef’s Table Dinner for an evening?  These are available now on February 18th, April 21st, June 30th, August 25th, October 13th and December 8th in 2016.

A wine-focused dinner more your thing?  Consider a mar’sel Library Wine Dinner, which takes place in 2016 on January 21st, March 17th, May 19th, July 21st, September 15th, and November 17th.

All these events are incredibly popular and fill up quickly, so book now through Santa Barbara Travel for best availability.

Culinary Croatia: With Central Holidays

With 1,118 miles of stunning coastline and more than 1,000 islands, Croatia is an increasingly well-known travel destination for adventurers with a love of history, culture and dramatic scenery.  It should also be a country that comes to mind when people think of food and wine.
croatiaThe coastal regions of Istria and Dalmatia are famed for their fresh, Adriatic seafood.  Here, you’ll find a host of dishes based on shellfish.  With its warm Mediterranean climate, the coastal region also enjoys an ever-changing array of fresh seasonal produce.Inland, the cuisine is characterized by recent contacts with neighboring cultures – Hungary, Turkey, and Austria. Paprika and garlic are heavily featured in this cooking, and the desserts, including the delectable kremsnita, are a wonderful culinary legacy of the Austrian Hungarian empire.
This cream cake, when it's made around Zagreb, in Croatia has a puff pastry top, predominantly custard cream filling (less whipped cream) and is finished with powdered sugar. The massive size is at first daunting, but the light filling makes the cake easy to eat and not too heavy. Just perfect for an afternoon snack.

This cream cake, when it’s made around Zagreb, in Croatia has a puff pastry top, predominantly custard cream filling (less whipped cream) and is finished with powdered sugar. The massive size is at first daunting, but the light filling makes the cake easy to eat and not too heavy. Just perfect for an afternoon snack.

The Croatian peninsula of Istria is renowned for truffles.  The world’s largest recorded truffle (weighing 1.31 kg.) was found there in 1999.  Truffle hunting takes place in the autumn, and local food specialties include pasta or steak with truffles.  Italian foodies drive over the border just to have a truffle lunch before returning home.  In fact, some say that the best Italian food can be found in Northern Croatia!

You can hunt, dig and taste them in the dark forests of Motovun, on the Istrian peninsula of Croatia. Especially trained truffle-hunting dogs called 'breks' are used during the 3-month season, which begins in October.

You can hunt, dig and taste them in the dark forests of Motovun, on the Istrian peninsula of Croatia. Especially trained truffle-hunting dogs called ‘breks’ are used during the 3-month season, which begins in October.

Croatian wines are equally deserving of praise.  Basking in 2,600 hours of sunlight each year, Croatia abounds in a variety of excellent wine growing regions, with both quality red and white varietals.  Croatian wine, however, is largely undiscovered.  Wine producers are generally boutique, family operations, bottled only in small batches. This means that most of their vintages are consumed by the local market.

Learn more about the culinary delights of Croatia, as well as the Northern Italian Piemonte region, at Central Holidays’ presentation on October 1, 2015 at the State Street office of Santa Barbara Travel.

The Today Show Reports on Current Top Travel Trends

Did you catch the segment yesterday on The Today Show about Virtuoso Travel Week?  As we reported in an earlier blog post, many of us here at Santa Barbara Travel braved the August Las Vegas heat to find out about the hottest new travel destinations, and to make the personal connections needed to ensure our clients have the best of all possible dream vacations.

If you click on the following clip, you will see that travelers are no longer content to merely visit a destination, and see the sights.  They also want to learn something, to immerse themselves in the local culture.   This could be through educational tours, active expeditions, or culinary travel, among others.

How do you want to see your next vacation destination?  Let Santa Barbara Travel help you fulfill your travel dreams.

The Today Show, September 15, 2015: Top Travel Trends

The Today Show, September 15, 2015: Top Travel Trends

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Heat got you down?  Are you fantasizing about cool weather?  Then this trip will both cool you down and check several items off your bucket list.  See the Northern Lights?  Drive your own dogsled team? Sleep in an ice hotel?  …. and how about that ultimate Santa fantasy: Leading a team of reindeer!

These are all possible when you join National Geographic Adventures on a 9-day sledding and cultural adventure above the Arctic Circle.  National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers.  This one begins in Stockholm, then quickly moves above the Arctic Circle to Sweden’s Lapland region.

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Embark on an authentic dog sledding expedition.  Feed, harness and drive your own team of Alaskan huskies for over three days through vast stretches of forest and untouched wilderness. Evenings are spent in the private cabins of a wilderness lodge, with hearty meals and traditional, wood-heated saunas.

Says a previous guest about this departure, “The moment the dogs start pulling your sled, the rest of the world falls away. It’s just you, the wide, open tundra, the sound of your sled cutting through the snow, and a pack of loveable mutts.”

Lapland is home to the Sami people. Experience their way of life firsthand, and discover the cornerstone of their culture: reindeer herding.  Try your hand at the art of lassoing reindeer before heading off on a 6-mile, traditional reindeer sled ride.  The remote location of this tour makes it ideal for viewing the aurora borealis each evening.


northern


This 9-day adventure is scheduled with four departure dates next March:  March 4-12; March 11-19; March 18-26; and March 29-April.  It concludes with a bucket-list stay in one of the sculpted ice rooms at the Icehotel of Jukkasjarvi, the world’s largest hotel made each year solely of snow and ice.

ice

Trip Report: Sheila Cohn with Pearl Seas Cruises to Canada

Recently returned from a ‘Canadian Maritimes’ voyage on Pearl Seas Cruises, Sheila Cohn’s first comment was, “it was much more than I expected!

With only about 200 passengers, the ship felt much more like a riverboat than a cruise ship.”  Never having traveled with Pearl Seas before, Sheila was immediately impressed with the size of the cabins; she compared them more to hotel rooms than the usual cruise ship cabins, and each room had its own balcony.

What stood out for her?  “Hands down, the service.  I’ve been on cruises on many different lines, and the service on this ship really stood out,” Sheila said.  “I was also impressed with the food.  Everything was fresh and cooked to order; there were no buffets.  Since we were travelling through the North Atlantic Ocean, a unique feature of this particular sailing was the abundance of lobster.  We had lobster tails, whole lobster, lobster mac and cheese, and even lobster rolls during this trip.”

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Pearl Seas Cruises along the Canadian Maritimes, beginning in Quebec City and ending in Portland, Maine.

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Favorite destination?  “Without a doubt, Prince Edward Island!  I could easily move there.  I’ve heard that Prince Edward Island (or ‘PEI’) is called ‘the garden of the Gulf,’ and I can believe it.  Not only was the PEI unbelievably green, I was fortunate to be there at the height of wild lupin and lilac season.  The aroma from all the flowers was almost indescribable. I was so impressed, I brought back some lupin seeds as a souvenir. Let’s see how they do in Southern California!”

Sheila suggests that this trip would be a great option for those who really want to feel they’ve traveled abroad, but without the long and taxing overseas flight and jet lag.  A great deal of this trip covers territory that was either historically French or Arcadian (in fact, many of these Arcadians migrated to New Orleans to become the ‘Cajuns’ we know today).  This means that many of the stops have a distinct French flavor.  “In fact, I’d  recommend that anyone taking this cruise arrive in Quebec City a few days early to really soak up the French culture,” concludes Sheila.

Lupins on Prince Edward Island

Lupins on Prince Edward Island

Advisor Trip Report: Kathy Reimer explores Corsica and the French Riviera with Star Clippers

Kathy with Star Clippers Representative Greg Baxter

Kathy with Star Clippers Representative Greg Baxter

Star Flyer docked in Bonafaccio, Corsica

Star Flyer docked in Bonafaccio, Corsica

Dramatic coastline and coves around Bonafaccio

Dramatic coastline and coves around Bonafaccio

“It was truly the trip of a lifetime!” says travel advisor Kathy Reimer. Just returning from a 7-day, Star Clippers voyage, Kathy can’t stop talking about her trip to Corsica and the French Riviera. “With only 128 passengers, I felt as if I were travelling on my own, private yacht. The small size allowed us to reach these unbelievable ports and private coves that would normally only be known to locals.”

Kathy says she never saw another cruise ship during her entire trip. The small size of the 4-masted, 16-sail Star Flyer provided plenty of opportunity to actively explore areas the large ships could not enter, including nature reserves. It was possible to explore the maze of local medieval villages, and to swim in isolated, aquamarine waters without the usual cruise ship crowds.

Working out of our Ventura office, Kathy has been advising clients on cruises and destinations throughout Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean for almost 30 years. “Now, I’m happy to add the French Riviera to the list!” she says.

For more details about her trip, contact Kathy at kreimer@sbtravel.com.

An Oceania Cruises Experience

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Recently, SB Travel Advisor Sheree Peterson had the opportunity to enjoy a cruise on Oceania Cruises, and she said it was the best cruise experience she’s ever had!

“We were very fortunate to have recently taken the “Mayan Mystique”, a 10 day cruise on the ship Riviera of Oceania Cruise Lines. Sailing on this beautiful ship was a wonderful experience and every crew member we met was very professional and attentive to us. The 4 specialty restaurants as well as the Grand Ballroom were over the top. We also enjoyed the fabulous lunches at the Terrace Café and Waves Grill.

I can personally say this was the best cruise I have taken!  Love the Oceania experience, and look forward to another voyage.”

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If you’d like more information on an Oceania Cruise, contact your SBTB Advisor today!