Travel Tribe Up Next!

On my horizon and should be on yours for next year! As I prepare to depart to bustling Bangkok, sightseeing and staying in several five-star hotels, and then onward to an amazing 12-day Aman Resort jaunt in Bhutan, I want to remind you to begin planning for next year!

New Zealand

New Zealand – a few new lodges, exclusive activities always exceptional golf, yachting, chills and thrills with a plethora of activities for couples or families. The perfect itinerary begins with three nights at the fabulous villa ‘The Boathouse’ at The Landing Residences, located in a beautiful private property in the northern Bay of Islands region. The Landing collection of residences are exquisitely built and The Boathouse sits in a prime waterfront position in the bay. It has two bedrooms but one bathroom so it is perfect for a couple. The following day we have included a private cruise on The Landing’s own boat Iti Rangi to explore the region from the water. A day at leisure allows guests to explore the property with its numerous hiking trails, mountain bikes, tennis court, water sports and kiwi on property to spot in the evenings.

Japan

Japan oh, so very popular …plan now for spring, early summer or fall.
Obscure island locations include amazing art, biking and hiking. Add vibrant cities for cultural experiences, fine dining, museums…the list is long and wildly interesting.

Four Seasons Maldives

Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa

Maldives – There aren’t enough superlatives to fully and accurately describe the staggering natural beauty of the Maldives. From the air, nothing prepared me for the extraordinary glimpse of the turquoise seas, the oval halo of atolls and islands, in the middle of the vast Indian Ocean, crystal clear seas in a thousand shades of indigo, accented by white sugar sandy beaches…it was breathtaking!  Two stunning Four Seasons two resorts on different islands, adore both – must stay! OR Four Seasons Private Island for extended family or a gathering of friends.

Amanzoe, Greece

Athens Greece

Greece – Tourists are flocking to Athens and the sunny beaches, a major uptick in streams of travelers. The Four Seasons promises spring opening so there are several must stay options in Athens and outside the city on the beach. My recent visit to Greece was overwhelmingly positive, so much so, that I hope to return in spring for a second visit. Aman junkies will be deliriously happy in the land of myths and legends, at Amanzoe, amid the rocky rolling Argolid hillsides of the Peloponnese. According to ancient Greek mythology the Peloponnese is where the gods walked the earth. The elegant breathtaking resort, like the Acropolis, is situated on a hilltop surrounded by olive groves, underplanted rows of fragrant lavender, and spectacular views of the deep blue Aegean Sea. Oh, did I mention the soundtrack of the cicada summer symphony?

Chable Resort Merida Mexico

Chable Resort Merida Mexico

Mexico – we love the Spanish Colonial City of Merida, stay at the newish Chablé Resort, which is situated amid sleepy authentic villages and the bustling historic colonial city of Mérida. One of my favorite GM’s, Rocco Bova, has taken the helm at Chablé, if anyone inspires magic, it is Rocco! Each white limestone Casita is privately situated off a short path, with a slightly deep plunge pool, comfy dining terrace, outdoor rain shower and acres of glass to view the untamed jungle. I never closed my massive shutters or drapes, preferring to peer out of my glass box to the swaying green trees filled with jabbering jungle birds! Woodpeckers, Chic Bul, Northern Cardinals, cooing Doves, and of course, the social fly catcher chatter all day while hummingbirds dart and dance. Chablé is located in a cultural area brimming with Mayan Ruins. We have access to sophisticated knowledgeable local guides for day trips to Uxmal, Chichen Itza, The Puuc Route Ruins, among other important sites; additionally, visits to private cenotes and biosphere reserves, as well as some of the region’s best museums, art galleries and thriving colorful markets. Just 25 minutes from the Merida International Airport.

Mongolia

Mongolia on your Travel List? We can offer cultural experiences ranging from 3-4 or 7 days traversing some of Mongolia’s most remote and beautiful terrain. From the capital of Ulaanbaatar to the arid Gobi Desert to the fertile fields of Khan Khentii, you’ll not only be immersed in nature, but in Mongolian culture. Much of rural Mongolia is undeveloped and the people here lead nomadic lifestyles, raising horses and other livestock, and living in ger camps. On this journey, you’ll have the chance to stay in a selection of different ger camps for a truly authentic Mongolian experience.

Mongolia

Camelback, your style? Imagine traditional camel passage through Zorgol Hairhan Mountains.  Trace the 12-mile-long sand dune that makes up the North Gobi today, on the back of a camel. If camelback is not your preferred mode of transportation, you may also choose to trek or drive the same route. Here, you may spot wolves, who have made a home in the area. Get up close and personal with Mongolian culture on our tour of the Gobi Steppe, a treeless grassland inhabited by Mongolian nomads. Here, you’ll experience their traditional lifestyle, from the equestrian nature of their transportation, to their nomadic ger tents. Plod across a 12-mile-long sand dune on the back of a majestic camel. Make friends with local families, who will help you out along the way and allow you a window into their incredible culture.

Travel Tribe – Where is your Next Journey?
There are numerous posts on these locations at gwenbooks.com, just search!

 

 

 

Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens

Earth proudly wears the Parthenon As the best gem upon her zone. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You might reasonably assume that during my years of travel and exploration, Athens would have been checked off my list. The political and economic strife was a strong deterrent to travelers, we sidestepped it by offering yacht charters from Bodrum after a blissful week in Istanbul. Cruise the islands of Greece and enjoy countless hidden tavernas, private coves and endless ruins.  How times have changed! With the flush of summer, I arrived before the stream of tourists who are flocking back to Athens, the country expects an all-time high of 32 million visitors in 2018.

Historical Athens, the vibrant capital of Greece, is the birthplace of democracy and western civilization and its ancient roots reverberates in monuments and edifices. Any visit to this revered city must include the Acropolis, one of the most famous archaeological monuments in Europe with its Doric temple Parthenon. The Holy Rock of Acropolis dates to the 5th century BCE, the Golden Age of Pericles.

Roof Garden Restaurant–Hotel-Grande Bretagne Athens

Oh my, checking in at the classic Hotel Grande Bretagne, I moseyed upstairs for a late lunch at GB Roof Garden. My linen draped table at the edge of the garden bestowed unrivaled uninterrupted views of the Acropolis, pure enchantment. A tranquil serene location for fine dining, and in the evenings, dinner is perfected by the shimmering Acropolis bathed in golden lights, it is positively breathtaking, the Golden Age makes its mark.

Winter Garden Hotel Grande Bretagne Athens

Ancient wonders abound in Athens, this graceful city has been drawing visitors for years and it’s time to revisit. For nearly 140 years, the Hotel Grande Bretagne has been recognized as the “Royal Box” of Athens. Occupying the most prestigious block of the city’s center, the Hotel Grande Bretagne stands across from Constitution Square, the House of Parliament and the National Gardens. Ideally located within short walking distance of exclusive shopping areas, restaurants, open-air cafes, museums and the business district, the hotel has hosted countless heads of state and international celebrities.

Newly restored with meticulous attention to detail, the 320 rooms and suites marry charming old-world elegance with state-of-the-art facilities. Luxurious rooms with sweeping views over the Hellenic Parliament and Acropolis, this five-star oasis in the city is a must-stop for any visit to Athens. Service is polished and exceeded my expectations, the capable concierge team organized private taxis for me, achieved last minute tickets to Handel Opera at Odeon.

Imagine a moon lit evening in the ancient stone Odeon Theatre built in 161 AD. Music programs are offered between May and October on Tuesday & Thursday evenings – I wish I could have extended a week to see Sting perform! An imposing stage beneath the slopes of the Acropolis offering majestic ballets and arias to ancient Greek tragedies, a must do evening! And it is close enough to the Grande Bretagne to walk, the streets were well lit when I sauntered back to the hotel to meet a friend for an 11 pm drink and dinner at Milos.

Definitely pencil in a date at the destination spa, including the Amethyst Grotto after a day of sightseeing; the thermal steam room, reflexology foot spa and the mud chamber, which uses three different kinds of Mud: Body: Basil, Coral & Minerals. Face: White clay, Rose & Geranium. Hair: Pink clay, Iris flowers & Cinnamon. The Spa will provide re-energizing relief before you bounce out again for dinner at 10 or 11 pm! Indoor and outdoor pools offer a respite from Athens’ summer sun. With picture-perfect backdrops of Lycabettus Hill, it’s hard to determine which is more gratifying: the refreshing water or the uplifting views.  Sixth & seventh floor guests are spoiled with 24-hour butler service.

Syntagma Square is the heart of Athens and home to Parliament and the Ministries. But, a walk around the famous historic triangle of Plaka, Thission, and Psyri reveals old neighborhoods with historic mansions, luxurious department stores, chic shops, fine restaurants and traditional tavernas.

Alexanders Cigar Bar Hotel Grande Bretagne

Besides the Acropolis the city is home to many important archaeological monuments, including the Odeion of Herodes Atticus, Olymbion, the Roman Market, Panathinaiko Stadium, and the Temple of Poseidon in Suonio. Many museums house the country’s cultural treasures including the Archaeological Museum, Military Museum the Byzantine Museum, the Benaki Museum and the stunning Acropolis Museum. The Acropolis Museum is one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever visited.The Benaki Museum is merely three blocks walk and is jammed with artfully arranged with a permanent collection of iconic cultural items, it is one of the most beautiful neoclassical style buildings in Athens. Do linger upstairs on the roof with an icy libation and absorb the city view.

After night falls, visitors encounter a lively city with a variety of clubs, bouzoukia, restaurants and bars. And the irresistible GB Garden Restaurant has a busy bar scene and again, that stunning view of the Acropolis!

We, of course, have great guides to refresh your memories of Greek history and mythology.

Highly recommend Grande Hotel Bretagne and Athens!