Thinking about travelling?

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Recently I have met a few women who live on their own and they are nervous to travel alone, seriously these small group type tours are made for you. I suggest you select a tour that involves your personal interest – fishing, opera, architecture, tramping, cycling, photography, wine and food, farming etc. This way the people on the tours will have shared interests with you –  you might even like them :):)

There are tours for everyone  – use Google to discover one to suit you. I am listing a few tours to give you an idea of the broad range available. Not recommending just mentioning them. Check on Trip Advisor before you book hotels and tours; sometimes it is surprising what you learn. There are far more tours than time and money to partake of. I could travel continually – not sure I want to but I could be tempted. Lotto is the answer!

I know most of my friends travel somewhere exciting every year. Some are photographers and they tend to single out photographic tours or workshops. But not everyone wants to get up an hour before sunrise or miss their G&T at 5pm! Holidays are expensive and you need to consider tailor-made excursions. Some travel 5 star plus, some go on Intrepid Journeys. Some fly economy some fly business. However you travel or wherever you go  there are always helpful hints and ideas to make the voyage easier. I wrote a blog on packing recently, a couple of people said it helped them.

(Comment box at end…please add your tips, thoughts and favourite small group ideas, and share my blogs with your friends..)

I like to make my travel as easy as possible so I am happy to pay extra to have a car meet me in a foreign city. In New York and London especially; so much easier than fighting through hoards of people to a taxi ramp that looks like a wreckers yard or lugging luggage from one platform to another to catch a different train line in a London subway.  The extra $$ means I arrive relatively relaxed, that is worth a lot to me.  Mind you I am travelling alone. If you have a spouse to share the stress and carry the bags I’m sure it is much easier. What happened to old-fashioned porters I wonder??

I will never forget struggling up 50 stairs with my luggage over a small bridge and down 50 stairs when travelling from Florence to Cinque Terre…it nearly killed me! Europe is like that. Actually  elevators existed as far back as ancient Rome; Archimedes was building them in 336 B.C., and gladiators and animals rode lifts to the Roman Coliseum arena by A.D. 80 So why they don’t have lifts is beyond me.

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These days many folk book online but it isn’t actually cheaper, agents get paid by the hotels and wholesalers, not by you.  Recently I spoke to someone who proudly told me they’d booked everything themselves online, a complex trip with airline connections etc. That is all very noble until things go wrong, and they do go wrong. You realise you didn’t allow your self-sufficient  time and you’ve missed a connection. Then you pay;  you pay with a stressful few hours and with a cash outlay, neither are very funny.  If your travel agent makes the mistake he or she pays! Recently I missed a flight in the USA, my print out said it was departing at 11-30am and when I checked in they said the flight left at 9-15am. I showed them the paper  print out and was I sent to a different desk where  3 staff looked at their screen and announced I had to pay US$100.00. I was OK paying  as in the back of my brain somewhere an alarm bell was ringing…I remembered my agent had changed that flight but I hadn’t printed out the new details. All I wanted was to get onto the 11-30 am flight which of course was already over booked  as most American flights  are! Then the staff supervisor said “who changed the flight?” They didn’t know if it was them or my agent, so they refunded my $100.00 ushered me through an express way and I was on the flight quick as  a flash of lightning.The flight I originally wanted in the first place as well ! Had I not booked through an agent I would have been in all sorts of trouble. So I think  agents are invaluable. If you live in Auckland and don’t have an agent I suggest you call Steve at Fortis Travel.  A type of insurance. is the way I see it. I still do a heap of research but they often have hotel specials etc. On the subject of insurance, paying with your Visa Gold card gives you some insurance but some destinations it is definitely insufficient. Read the small print. When I went on safari to Africa for example, I took out additional insurance.

A friend recently arrived at a hotel all booked by her travel agent to be told they had no rooms available! A quick call to her agent and a 3 way phone chat soon had them booking my friend into a suite at no extra charge. And so the stories go.

There are many women who travel on their own ( and a few men).  I suggest you google trips that pertain to your interests. There are many garden tours in Europe and similarly painting, music or art appreciation tours. There are numerous cycling and photographic tours and other  genre too. I have listed a tiny selection here… but these trips are going to be far more rewarding than a 1000 or 2000 person cruise ship in my humble opinion.

 

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APT is a travel company renowned for running excellent coach tours, owned and operated by Australians.

Typical of their trips…10 day Discover with Botanica World Discoveries the wonderful gardens of England and Wales in Spring with this relaxed tour in Southern UK while accompanied by a Botanical Guide. Highlights include The Chelsea Flower Show and 32 hectares of Bodnant Gardens or this one : Discover the pristine lakes, Romanesque architecture and gardens of the Italians Lakes district, before crossing into Slovenia to the beautiful town of Bled. Continue into Croatia then sail along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast.

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 ART….Try this  trip  to Japan.199x199xJapan1-199x199_jpg_pagespeed_ic_9zQUXshaT3LMC-0688-Edit

Chihuly Glass – I’ve seen his work in the USA and London and love it.

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An ‘ornament’ I spotted in Bond Street and regret not purchasing 😦 as we often do when travelling.

 

FOOD AND WINE

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New Orleans

Stories by Ken Burns Tauck’s 8-day Cajun Country and New Orleans tour includes Tauck Exclusives like Stories by Ken Burns, a Cajun house party, private demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking, an authentic streetcar tour, a private jazz experience at Preservation Hall, a private farewell jazz reception and dinner at Arnaud’s, five nights at historic French Quarter hotels and more!

Vietnam

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HALONG BAY IS A BEAUTIFUL PART OF THE WORLD.

A fun tour with Peta Mathias might be the best ticket…

“We start our tour in the north in Hanoi where we find out how to make rice paper and tofu, eat street food which is THE Hanoi specialty, learn how to cook at my friend’s house and drink the famous Hanoi fresh beer. We then jump on a plane to Hué (which is like going from Paris to the South of France),where we stay at the most exquisite French Art Deco hotel. Hué is the ancient Imperial Capitol of Vietnam and is most famous for its intricate imperial cuisine, fabulous imperial sites and is a huge centre for Buddhism.

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Culinary Tour of North India 11 Days / 10 Nights

Our tour starts in Delhi, which offers a panoramic vista of heritage and modern India that you will experience during the city sightseeing tour. Mughlai Food will be our first culinary experience known for its richness, exotic use of spices, dried fruit and nuts.

I loved India and my earlier blog might be useful. How to avoid Deli Belhi etc.

CYCLING

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Take a cycle holiday in France to enjoy the scenic beauty, enchanting culture,  delicious food and fine wine the French countryside has to offer. From the iconic high passes of the Alps and Pyrenees to the gently meandering valleys famous for their wine production, it is possible to find cycling routes in France to suit all abilities and interests.

Ireland

  • Cycle along Kerry’s dramatic Emerald coastline.
  • Meet the welcoming people of Dingle and Kerry and explore the many small villages along the way.
  • Cycle the world famous Slea Head and Adelaideexample – DAY 3 Springton to Tanunda – Enjoy the picturesque scenery and infinite views as you ride into the epicenter of the Barossa Valley • Some of today’s ride includes parts of the world-famous tour down under cycling race.

 

HISTORY

Summer Antarctic Expeditions exploring New Zealand’s remote Islands are popular for the adventurous. Check out Heritage Expeditions. Galapagos to the Chathams and further south from $800.00  a day.

PHOTOGRAPHY –  “have camera will travel”

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Alaska with our best known Kiwi photographer Chris McClennan We are very excited to be putting together an exclusive Alaskan Winter photo tour for 2016 featuring the famous Iditarod dog sled race, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and of course some spectacular Arctic landscapes.

Kenya 2017 with Daniel Cox ( I’m going on his Alaska Brown Bear trip this year) read on.. 16 Guests MaximumOPTION 1: FULL SEAT Allows each guest to have a seat and window on both sides of the vehicle. This gives ample room for camera gear and allows for photographing from both sides of the vehicle –  This is what makes this tour so special, an experienced guide and space! Two different pricing structures depending on your vehicle needs/preference.

Antarctica  My dream trip –  this tour flies from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica’s King George Island and back, eliminating days of travel in the challenging waters of the Drake Passage. John Paul Capanigro is a superb photographer, one of the best!

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Photos by John Paul Capanigro

 India 2015 – hurry for this one.. but another dream photo trip. I’ve been to Rajasthan and loved every day! Led by Brendan O’Hagan and organised by CANON NZ for photographers.

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Rajasthan place in the sun.

CRUISING – I have never been cruising so this advice is from a trusty friend.

Major decisionSIZE DOES MATTER”

 Large ship or boutique vessel??  this has a huge impact on your enjoyment. Large cruises offer an exceptional array of entertainment options, dining venues, and amenities and are typically the way to go if you’re traveling with younger children or a large group looking for lively nightly activities.  However I imagine you’re hoping for a more intimate, relaxing luxury experience with attentive service and a sophisticated ambiance so please consider choosing a smaller luxury cruise.  Silver Seas are evidently top-notch. Their small ultra-luxury ships can sail up narrow waterways into the heart of a city, or tie up right at the pier while others must anchor off shore, these factors can make quite a difference to your holiday. I’m saving this treat up for my older age!!

FISHING

I hear Mexico is amazing fishing. Cabo Fishing offers world-class sportfishing charters in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, possibly the best sportfishing waters in the entire world, that is after New Zealand I say. (tongue in cheek!) April May and June are the best times so escape our winter.

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So folks, cash in your childrens’ inheritance and travel while you still can. If you are alone look at the tours I’ve mentioned.. small and manageable. ( Ideal for couples too of course) I can’t keep listing tours but trust me there are some awesome adventures waiting to be had!! And don’t take more luggage than you  can carry; lighweight with 4 wheels, passport and go!! See you there!!

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Delhi Belli is not essential when travelling in India.

Dispelling the Myth of Delhi Beli

Western folk are a minority on the planet, and New Zealanders are an infinitesimal percentage of those. Usually we bat above our average and compete internationally at the highest level with surprising success. We are gypsies at heart, perhaps it is because our families immigrated here from the other side of the world, whatever the reason we are globe trotters travelling to many corners of the globe; North Pole, South Pole, the Equator, the Pacific Islands, anywhere at all – they are our entire playground…except perhaps India.

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A few months ago I announced I wanted to visit India, what a different response met me. Why? Why? The most common comment I received was I’d love to go but I might get sick. Really!! Of course you might get sick; you might get sick if you stay in NZ. Eden Park had an outbreak of food poisoning a year or two ago…remember? I’ve had food poisoning in Hong Kong and Australia, a friend recently succumbed in Toronto, so why is India so scary? Read on and I say to you the chances are minimal if you take care! Men especially said they had no desire to visit India, but women were more enthusiastic. Consequently four of us, all women, set off to experience Rajasthan province and Agra, Orchha, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Delhi.14 frenetic fun days cramming in every opportunity available to us.

Firstly I am going to presume you are not back packing through India. Would you back pack anywhere? Not my age or friends. This is a guide for the people in their prime of life!

The nuts and bolts to having a great time in India are your preparation and the dollars spent. Firstly don’t blindly accept the word of your GP and or Travel Doctor, speak to people who have been to India, research the areas and the season, and use Google. The results and choices will play a major part in your good health. Our doctors gave us all conflicting advice so one needs to shop about and do your research. December through March is winter in India so very much cooler, a little like our summer; 28 degrees might be your maximum temp. Some mornings were 14 degrees but the days warmed up quickly. There are few mosquitos in winter and certainly not malaria carrying ones in December and January. Hence you can be spared the dreaded and expensive anti malaria drugs. Secondly there is a relatively new oral vaccine called Ducelor that combats water born nasties, certainly worth the money to dose up on this the week before you leave. Pro-biotic’s seem to help too, so ask about these tablets. Hand washing with anti-bacteria products and only drinking water from a reliable source is essential. No salads, no ice, brush your teeth in bottled water! It is so easy to get good quality water if you are travelling with a reliable company. Dynamic Tours were our local Indian company selected by WORLD Journeys in NZ, we couldn’t fault their service. We were met and greeted at every airport and station and they always had plenty of bottled water in our vehicles. http://www.worldjourneys.co.nz/

Of course take out good travel insurance. And pack a medical kit. Antibiotics, antiseptic such as Betadine, blister_plasters,electrolyte_sachets_to_rehydrate,Imodium http://www.patient.co.uk/medicine/Loperamide.htm and have it with you, not in your toilet bag back at the hotel!

Money… we were told that we needed to pay a departure tax of 200 INR or Indian Rupees, so we carefully ensured we had the correct amount and we were not asked for it.so we had a last minute spend up in the Duty Free area of Delhi Airport!

Prior to leaving we googled and read that you cannot take money into India. However this seems untrue and the ANZ Bank gave us all NZ$400-00 in Indian rupees to see us through the first week. Why the internet said this is a mystery.

 Electric plugs – take a European plug, – this has two rounded points also take a double adaptor to recharge phones and cameras simultaneously.

Going vegetarian is definitely an option and we chose this 95% of the time, but when we did eat chicken it was delicious. Watch the cottage cheese dishes, some of the dairy is not pasteurised, some is. We ate in our hotels at night and had lunch at recommended restaurants. We ate no street food – well why would you take the risk? You can see the flies hovering! My biggest problem was dehydration so ensure you drink plenty of clean bottled water…some are more prone than others.

 LMC-0338We were away for 17 days and although we had a few little stomach gripes none of us succumbed to Delhi Belly, so seriously put India on your bucket list, but near the top of the list, it takes energy and stamina. India has vast distances to travel so if anything I would change the length of time we had so our pace was less frenetic. I might cut out a couple of temples or forts but then again they are all so very different. A few half days where we could relax in our hotel/ palace grounds would have been rather enjoyable; we didn’t even have time to take a swim in the beautiful hotel pools!

Another important factor to enjoying India and staying well is to choose your hotels carefully. Nothing less than 4 star and preferably 5 star hotels is my suggestion. They are catering to western tourists; breakfasts are familiar to you with ‘live’ eggs cooked any way you desire. However the Dosa with Masala was a real hit with all of us. Dosa is a very thin pancake filled with delicious spiced but not hot potatoes.

Meals are not necessarily spicy, many dishes were aromatic and sweet…rice is always available. Naan and Roti are excellent and we had no problems finding wine and or spirits to cap of our long days. Indian Whiskey is very good as was the Indian white wine. Coffee and tea was always pretty good even if ‘flat whites’ were scarce. Some places ran to cappuccino. The local Kingfisher Beer became a favourite at lunch times and I see it is sold in Auckland supermarkets.

I booked our trip for four people with Fortis Travel in Ponsonby but I am sure your favourite agent can assist you. http://www.fortistravel.co.nz/ Ask if Dynamic will handle your Indian travel as they really are an amazing company, and I would use them again. Avoid visiting India during their summer, unless you love the heat and flies, the mossies and the crowds.

LMC-6686-Edit   LMC-6624-Edit-Edit-EditTipping was a constant – annoying at times as small change was not always easy to locate. Every toilet was 10 rupees. Although there are squat toilets we fortunately only had to deal with them on one occasion, often a male attendant but they seem innocuous enough. Then there is the guide and driver tips to fathom out constantly.

Our hotels varied from stunning modern hotels with all facilities (free Wi-Fi sometimes) to old palaces with three foot thick sandstone walls and park like settings. Beautiful ceiling decorations and murals, elegant chaise lounges, brocade drapes, four posters, bidets and very cheap and quick laundry service. In Agra security was tight and we received the famous ‘ pat down ‘ every time we entered the hotel but at least we felt quite secure.

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Airlines internally were efficient, Spice Jet waived our excess baggage once we explained we were on an International ticket; however Jet Airways charged us despite the fact the plane was 90% empty!

I haven’t even touched on what we actually saw, the sights, the shopping, the hotels, that is another story and I am happy to forward my itinerary if you want it. Let me just say The Taj Mahal is far more impressive than any photograph can do justice too.

Riding camels at sunset is fun as is the elephant ride up to the Amber Fort. Then there is the shopping, acres of stunning silk and pashmina scarves (did I mention the Shatoosh*), jewellery from a few rupees to thousands of dollars and the carpets, Durries to silk masterpieces. *These shawls were originally very few and it took very skilled artisans to weave the delicate hair (which measured between 9 and 11 micrometres). These factors made shahtoosh shawls very precious. Chin hair from the Chiru antelope found high in Tibet and Nepal.

Inlaid lapizlali flowers, silver mirror tiles, fields of mustard, camels and goats, progress as in hundreds of miles of motorways and stunning new airport buildings all interspersed with ancient and impressive architecture, century old customs as seen in Varanasi and humble self-effacing people who seemed to like the fact we came from the same place as Stephen Fleming!! Everyday bought new experiences, sights, smells and delights. India has it all – just go!!

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