Hacienda Bambusa, Colombia. Coffee Beans and Cacao!

My long-awaited Colombian adventure left me with yet another winter cold and a deeper appreciation for chocolate and coffee! Hopscotching around the country for 18 days, I learn that commercial flights can be challenging, charter options are available and to avoid an Andes road transfer, I opted for a short charter…we know how to solve travel problems! Partnered with our hand selected local experts, I feel visiting helps us become experts.

Not in any order of my Journey, my stopover outside of Armenia, the coffee region is a gourmet lovers delight! Flights between cities are brief, barely time to put on your headphones, the captain announces, seat backs up in preparation for landing! My guides in each city were truly extraordinary, all extremely knowledgeable and well educated, flexible to my needs and fun! Gracias to our superb Latin America team!

To begin, a leisurely al fresco lunch near the airport with my guide, pizza seemed a peculiar, choice, but everyone around us was noshing pizza…when in Rome, with my second sampling of Colombian beer, beat the heat.

Coffee region to Hacienda Bambusa, the lodge mantra: Delightful Rustic Life. Driving down a dusty bumpy dirt road in the countryside through cacao trees, groves of lime trees, colossal bamboo groves to arrive at Hacienda Bambusa! The hacienda is a working farm, with 500-plus acres actively cultivated mostly with cacao plantation.

The Lodge is a carefully preserved, two-level hacienda that was the home of the Montoya family. Well-maintained flowering gardens populated with beguiling iridescent hummingbirds and farmland with grazing herds of white Cebu Brahman cattle encircle this intimate property. Surrounded by the epic Central Andes Mountains, centenary trees, gardens, and farms; the Hacienda Bambusa is an oasis of peace and natural beauty. In Colombia, no matter where you travel, you see trees and green areas wherever you look. This country is home to more than 40,000 species of plants, making it one of the world’s lungs. The prehistoric looking Yarumo Blanco tree is abundant in Colombia, reaching massive heights with white leaves the size of a small animal.

Conserving the traditional architecture style of the Colombian Coffee Region, the house within the hacienda is built out of bamboo and clay. Adapted 12 years ago to host guests and is the ideal destination for international travelers in the Quindío area.

Built around a tiny interior courtyard with a small fountain, the eight rooms and suites face onto a balustraded gallery. They all have lovely outdoor space, with many quiet corners in the gardens and by the swimming pool. Eighteen guests total, it’s intimate and completely relaxing! Surrounded by gardens of gigantic native plants, including colossal clusters of bamboo.

Greeted by the young staff guys offering a refreshing fruit drink and minty damp towels. Welcome: I think you will like this fruity refreshment! It’s hot and humid, with an occasional breeze. Birdsong, hummingbirds, and a random cicada practicing for a symphony! I’m in heaven! Soundtrack: home to over 160 species of exotic birds, including the Spectacled Parrotlet, Buff-necked Ibis and the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Morning cicadas complement the chorus of colorful birds.

My upstairs corner suite was the best of all, private with a stunning view of the pool from my wrap around verandah. The spacious rooms and suites have ac and a slow moving, but effective ceiling fan, wide wooden doors open to the verandah and screened windows can be left open if you don’t like ac (me!).  Each room is idyllically designed for resting and relaxation. Large bathrooms have a huge shower enhanced with colorful local tile and a substantial closet area.

Marco, my driver and my guide, Camilo, suggest we acclimate to the heat and head out for a walk through the property. Finding shade under an enormous tree, Camilo presents me with a small collection of red gourds, gourds that look like squash. They are cocoa pods that look like gourds. Cracking the pod with a rock, the interior seeds look like a brain, a white brain with slimy seeds. Camilo encourages me to taste and suck on the white glop… Chocolate! If you knew this is how chocolate began… would you eat it still? Did the heat and humidity contribute to my eating what looked like brains?! It did taste like chocolate!

Cacao pods on tree, crack open for the seeds… dry the seeds and let them ferment and dry and sort… that is the abbreviated Cacao to Chocolate process, our team offers a class on property or nearby on the farm grounds with a delightful family.

We call Marco to return to the plantation; a swim, a siesta, and a glass of Champers is the perfect afternoon plan. All meals are on property, dinner in a new location every night. The servers are dedicated young guys majoring in hospitality, the entire staff is delightful. Varied delicious menus with vegetarian options change every night.

Activities: include a classic day visiting the Colonial town of Salento as well as walking, hiking, or bicycling off property in the Corcora Valley. Next morning, we depart to the charming town of Salento to the Bosque de Palmas, Forest of Palms. High in the Colombian Andes, you can hike trails amid the stately wax palms, which can live up to 200 years, and grow up to 140 feet tall. These trees and the hiking area are one of the major tourist attractions in Colombia and the coffee-growing region, specifically in Quindío. Just a few kilometers from Salento, follow a narrow country road where we were surrounded by a mooing herd of cattle, their Caballero on horseback trailing the cows. This is a well-known biking area, the paved roads are narrow and as we did, you may encounter a roaming herd of cattle. Life in Colombia!

A plethora of activities including Coffee immersion, cacao bean to chocolate demonstration, and a hot air balloon excursion can be reserved. Cooking classes on property, a visit to the Botanical gardens of Armenia and their butterfly house. Paragliding, birdwatching, wellness rituals, yoga and an inhouse massage.

Worth getting up before sunrise! The jungle of colossal bamboo, prehistoric looking trees and agriculture don’t leave much open space for takeoff and landing = smaller balloon and basket and more low flying options. The Spanish pilot was fun and an impressive flyer. We soared, floated, and just barely grazed the treetops in the brilliantly colorful jungle environment! I could have plucked flowers from the trees. The pilot carry’s lollipops, calling out to people below, dropping handfuls to kids playing in their yards. The man in the air randomly dropping candy from the sky! Apparently, the pilot is well known Spanish balloon pilot who visited Colombia, fell in love with a local woman and moved to Colombia, where they operate their business. The flying is known as contour flying. He carefully and majestically follows the contours of the terrain, a low flying exciting excursion, I loved every minute of it!  He and his wife take photos and deliver a framed photo of guests before departure. Great local company, we landed between soccer goalposts and shared our chocolate cake with the neighbors… not our Champagne! Bravo! Highly Recommend!

I opted for a full day to catch up on work at the hacienda and I’m happy I did, it’s a peaceful oasis, the other guests departed for the day, leaving the pool and property to me. Chef garden provides most of the vegetables for meals, gigantic flowers pop out of massive green shrubs. In between my pool laps, and laptop time, clusters of flitting hummingbirds visited the dangling feeder on my verandah; a ballet of darting and sipping interrupted with an occasional chase.

I would skip back to Hacienda Bambusa in a heartbeat, loved it and Highly Recommend!

Legendary Luxury Journeys by Train – Belmond Pullman Cars – Step Aboard a Living Legend.

I am obsessed with the Belmond Pullman Train Journeys and haven’t yet plotted to reserve a cross country adventure; creating my itinerary for my upcoming London visit, a light bulb moment, Belmond has day Journeys to Country Gardens, Highclere Castle, the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Moving Murder Mysteries, a long list of elegant entertainment on board the British Pullman Train.

Their schedule divulged a Journey, on Mother’s Day!  What could be better? An elegant afternoon within the unique train atmosphere for a Champagne Afternoon Tea! A bubbly day with savories, tea, amid a round-trip through Britain’s beautiful countryside.

Throughout the twentieth century, the Belmond trains have held a distinguished role in the art of continental travel. With grand interiors and chilled cocktails and flowing champagne, they pioneered the most magnificent mode of transport to tour Europe and her finest cities. Each car is a modern masterwork of vintage revivalism, seamlessly blending belle époque luxe​​​​​ with the stylish art deco adornments of interwar Britain.

My Confirmation Promise: Soon you will be transported back to the Golden Age of Travel, to savor impeccable service, exceptional Champagne, and the finest British seasonal produce, all within the splendid surroundings of your authentic Art Deco carriage.  Expect luxury, glamour, and a dash of adventure on an unforgettable outing through the British countryside.

Dress to Impress for an effervescent Journey through Kent, indulging in exquisite champagne and an irresistible afternoon tea.

Board at Victoria Station: Welcome to your afternoon on Belmond British Pullman Minerva Carriage.  No two carriage is the same and each has a story of its own. Every carriage on board the British Pullman is brimming with history and each one has been lovingly restored to its former glory.

After boarding, you’ll be immersed in art deco opulence. A smartly uniformed steward will escort you to your private table, to sink into plush upholstered armchairs. Soak up the vintage details surrounding you.

As the train begins its Journey through greater London and into Kent, an exquisite array of savory delicacies and indulgent pastries will be served with refreshing tea and a bottle of bubbly. Relax, unwind, and appreciate the changing views.

My Carriage, Minerva, named for the Roman goddess of victory, wisdom, and battle, Minerva initially ran for two years on the all-Pullman Devon Belle luxury express line between London Waterloo and Devon, where it served as a first-class parlor car.

Minerva: First class parlor car, 26 seats, built 1927 by Midland Railway Carriage and Wagon Co.  Joined the Devon Belle in 1947 and the Golden Arrow in 1951, being used in the special Festival of Britain rake. Often included in special trains for state visits and royal use in the early 50s.  She was put into storage during World War II and then refurbished in 1951 to join the Golden Arrow service as a parlor car.

As part of the Festival of Britain, train Minerva exclusively conveyed British royalty and visiting heads of state between Dover Marina and England’s capital city. In 1952, as part of the Golden Arrow, it carried guests along the English coast for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.   

Sleek, elegant, and faithful to its original décor Minerva carriage is characterized by its brass furnishings and sylvan color scheme—a subtle blend of viridian, taupe, and gold—as well as its polished veneer and Edwardian marquetry of fleur-de-lys motifs. Do you think this is a Tiara outing or will a couture fascinator be most appropriate?

In every British Pullman carriage, the washroom floors are encased with the breathtaking stone mosaics of the late British artist Marjory Knowles. In two respects, the inlays in Minerva’s washrooms are unique. First, they include the only incomplete mosaic on the train: a sepulchral rendering of the car’s eponymous deity, which remained unfinished at the time of Knowles’ death in 1998.  Second, they feature an original work by modern artist Aimee Harman, who also skillfully restored the mosaics in all eleven British Pullman cars and has since been commissioned for similar pieces on Belmond’s Northern Belle.  

In keeping with the spirit of the rich history, the travel documentation suggests: ‘One can never be overdressed on board.’ Pearls packed, I’ve scheduled an afternoon visit to the oldest hat shop in the World and the oldest British hat shop, Lock & Company Hatters to select the perfect Pillbox hat or a handmade couture headband!

With a history for hosting famed parties and intriguing guests, among them spies, authors, ambassadors and royalty, their Journeys have developed a reputation for memorable connections made over fine dining.

When plotting London, check dates for a Belmond Pullman Train Journey!