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YOU DESERVE IT VILLA VACATIONS Privacy, The Ultimate Luxury AFRICA By Land and Sea LONG STAYS Malta + Portugal + Caribbean + Canada

FALL 2021


The world awaits, and we’re eager to help you travel again. We’ll be there for you— before, during and after your travels. Our Promise: To be your inspiration, insider knowledge, advice, answers, and right hand. To ensure there’s always a team standing behind you that you can count on. To relieve you from stress so you can fully enjoy your vacation. To create personalized experiences and custom touches just for you. To make you feel welcome, wherever you choose to go.

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We're here to be your connection to the world.



Editor’s Letter In the back of your mind, is there a trip you’re longing to take? Perhaps one you’ve been thinking about for many years but put off because you just felt it was too indulgent and the time wasn’t quite right? If so, you’re not alone. Many of us have a long list of vacations yet to be realized. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. So, it’s time to turn your wishes into realities and book those trips.

MICHELE SPONAGLE EDITOR EDITOR@ENSEMBLETRAVEL.CA

I’ve been lucky enough to visit more than 70 countries but I’m not done yet. My to-go list continues to grow over the years. I still want to explore more of South America. I want to sip wine at a Chilean winery and enjoy asado (Argentinian barbecue) in Buenos Aires. I want to cruise the Mediterranean with my partner and feed him grapes in Italy. And I long to return to Paris again and sit at a sidewalk café with a freshout-of-the-oven croissant in hand while I watch the world go by. Like you, I’m tired of waiting to travel, so I’ve switched into full-on planning mode and talking to my travel advisor about fantastic hotels and tours I’m going to take. Embracing a YOLO (You Only Live Once) philosophy is a growing trend

among travellers. Those big journeys to far flung places like Tanzania and Egypt, epic train journeys, and sunny destinations where you can escape from winter at least for a while have become very popular — pandemic be damned. The writers whose work we feature in this fall issue of Vacations magazine, are strong proponents of YOLO. They have travelled the world and filed copy from staterooms, airport lounges, hotel balconies and poolside. They are great ambassadors of the YOLO movement. We’re proud to share their stories about what they saw, what they did and, more importantly, how they felt and how their journeys impacted them, whether it was visiting the iconic sites of Egypt, a romantic reunion in Portugal, going on safari in Tanzania, renting a villa with family, or tasting olives straight from the tree in Tuscany. We hope their tales will inspire you to indulge your travel dreams whatever they are. Of course, an Ensemble Travel advisor is always available to help you do that. Dare to travel boldly, Michele

WELCOME TO THE DIGITAL EDITION OF VACATIONS MAGAZINE. In this issue you can view videos about the new safety protocols, meet travel industry experts and discover recipes from around the world. We have included many interactive features to experience travel from home and hopefully inspire you to travel again, when the time feels right for you. Look for these icons inside the magazine:

Click on them and get access to a variety of videos to watch without leaving the publication.

Sit down, relax and enjoy the ride in our “virtual” magazine! 4 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021


Your Your Vacation Vacation AsAs AA Force Force For For Good Good

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Featured Contributors Former Florida girl ELIZABETH HEATH is a writer and editor now based in central Italy, from where she writes about family, luxury, soft adventure and wellness travel in Europe and points farther. She loves a good hike or e-bike ride, a steamy Turkish sauna, a spectacular Mediterranean beach, snow-capped mountains and aperitivo hour. Closer to home, she tends to her human family, as well as dogs, a pet pigeon and olive trees.

SHARMISTHA CHAUDHURI lives to eat and loves to travel. An independent writer who currently calls Austin, Texas, home, she narrates unique stories for a variety of publications with a mug of hot coffee by her side. You can follow her travels and tales at www.sharmisthachaudhuri.com and @Sharmi86 on Instagram.

AMY ARORA is a freelance writer and educator living in France. She primarily writes personal essays and fiction and is currently working on a debut novel. When she isn’t exploring new places, she enjoys reading, running and, of course, eating cheese. Amy has been lucky enough to travel around the world, but Tanzania holds a special place in her heart. You can read more of her work at amyarora.com.

CHRIS ROBINSON has been the host and producer of The Chris Robinson Travel Show for 15 years, the most popular travel program on Canadian radio. He has taken listeners to all parts of the globe. Based in Toronto, he has visited over 150 countries, and every continent and ocean. His travel stories have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. “I just love enthusing readers, listeners and viewers to travel,” he says.

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12 Fall 2021 Detours TRAVEL NEWS

10 Grand Return to Travel THE INDIAN PACIFIC CROSSING THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK

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HOT LIST

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Making Tracks: Unforgettable Train Journeys

SPOTLIGHT

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Community-Focused Travel

TRAVEL STYLE

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Privacy, The Ultimate Luxury

Features LONG STAYS

TEA PLANTATION IN KANDY, SRI LANKA

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20 Surprising Winter Getaways 22 Love Connection in Portugal 26 The Mediterranean Beckons in Malta HEALTH & WELLNESS

32 Greece: Ancient Cures for Modern Woes ULTIMATE FAMILY VACATIONS

34 Peak Performance in the Swiss Alps ADVENTURE

38 Mountain Rush in the Kootenay Rockies CRUISE

42 Cruising in the Wake of COVID 44 Cruising South Africa OFF THE BEATEN PATH LOUISBOURG LIGHTHOUSE UNDER A STARRY SKY, NOVA SCOTIA

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48 Making Memories in Tanzania EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES

52 Eternal Egypt

Bon Vivant

56 Redefining Luxury: Italy’s Best Agriturismi 60 A Bite of Taiwan

Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 7 COLOURFUL HOUSES IN A NARROW LISBON STREET


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HIKER AT OESCHINEN LAKE NEAR KANDERSTEG

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Fall 2021 Credits PUBLISHER Ensemble Travel® Group

CREATIVE DIRECTOR & MANAGING EDITOR Valérie Lenoir

ELEPHANTS COOLING DOWN, ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

EDITOR Michele Sponagle

EDITORIAL COORDINATOR & STAFF WRITER Isabelle Labrosse

ADVERTISING Franca Iuele

CONTRIBUTORS

44 SEHEL ISLAND (ELEPHANTINE), NEAR ASWAN

Amy Arora Lucas Aykroyd Sharmistha Chaudhuri Heidi Fuller-Love Emma Gregg Elizabeth Heath Tim Johnson Lisa Kadane Claudia Laroye Darcy Rhyno Chris Robinson Francesca Spizzirri Janice Tober Amanda Woods

CREATIVE DESIGNER Bertrand Richer Fleur de Lysée

Ensemble Travel® Group

52 CITYSCAPE OF TAIPEI’S CENTRE DISTRICT

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER David R. Harris

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MARKETING Todd Hutzulak

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING, CANADA Franca Iuele Ensemble Vacations (Fall 2021), Ensemble Travel® Group. Ensemble Vacations®, Ensemble® Experiences, Ensemble® Exclusive, Ensemble® Hosted Cruises, Ensemble® Villas & Vacation Homes, Ensemble® On Location and Ensemble® Hotel & Resort Collection are all proprietary trademarks of Ensemble Travel® Group. No part of this publication may be reprinted or otherwise duplicated without written permission of the publisher. Ensemble Vacations® is published on behalf of Ensemble Travel® Group member agencies.

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TICO #50022140 Registration Numbers: vary by agency Cover image: © Visit Malta Photos by Getty Images unless stated otherwise. Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 9


DETOURS

TRAVEL NEWS Grand Return to Travel By Ensemble Travel Group

From embarking on off-the-beaten-track expeditions in West Africa to cruising seven of Europe’s rivers and exploring new UNESCO World Heritage sites, travellers can expect a grand return to travel this fall and beyond. Here’s what’s new in the world of travel.

A FIRST-EVER AFRICAN ADVENTURE A leader in exploration travel, Hurtigruten Expeditions is adding the West African Coast to its list of new destinations, becoming the only expedition cruise line to explore the region next year. Onboard MS Spitsbergen, guests will enjoy the best of small-ship cruising during a 13-day itinerary departing bustling Dakar and visiting four countries — Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. They will also get a unique opportunity to discover the distinctive wildlife and diverse landscapes of the untouched Bissagos Islands as they enjoy four days exploring the 88-island archipelago, home to hippos, dolphins, crocodiles, sea turtles, manatees and 500 species of birds.

A NEW SET OF WORLD HERITAGE SITES After being unable to meet in 2020 due to the pandemic, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has recently designated 34 new World Heritage sites for 2020 and 2021. Highlights of the latest additions include the French city of Nice, dubbed the “Winter Resort Town of the Riviera”; Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, home to endangered species such as the Siamese crocodile, the Asiatic wild dog and the Asian elephant, as well as eight cat species; the town of As-Salt, in Jordan, an important trade settlement under the Ottoman Empire; as well as the fresco cycles within the historic walled city of Padua, Italy, painted between 1302 and 1397. These bring the total number of UNESCO World Heritage sites to 1,154.

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A RIVER CRUISE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS AmaWaterways is adding a third sailing to its innovative Seven River Journey Series for fall 2023. Taking guests through 14 countries from Paris, France to Giurgiu, Romania, this 47-day cruise will sail on seven European rivers on board three award-winning ships. “From exploring fairytale castles and storybook villages enveloped in brilliant fall colours to enjoying seasonal wines and the autumn apple harvest, Seven River Journey — Autumn Edition takes place during the perfect time of year for guests to spend extended time in some of Europe’s most sought-after destinations,” said Kristin Karst, the cruise line’s executive vicepresident and co-founder.

A LONG-AWAITED MOUNTAIN ESCAPE Club Med Québec Charlevoix, the brand’s first Canadian resort, is set to open on December 3, in time for the upcoming ski season. Only a 90-minute drive from Québec City in the Charlevoix region, the four-season mountain resort features 302 rooms, including an Exclusive Collection space with 25 suites, and is spread across 120+ hectares among a preserved landscape with sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River. With the all-inclusive winter package, guests can enjoy all-day gourmet dining and open bar options, as well as après-ski activities and entertainment. They can also take advantage of a full roster of activities such as snowshoeing and Nordic walking, ice skating, indoor pool access, fitness classes, yoga and meditation, and the quintessential Club Med circus classes.

A NEW ERA OF MINDFUL TRAVEL Ensemble Travel Group, the consortium our travel agency is part of, has partnered with “profit for good” company Trees4Travel to allow travellers to easily offset CO2 emissions created by their trips by planting indigenous trees in chosen sites worldwide. The trees will offset the emissions within 10 years and be planted in protected areas so that they can continue offsetting throughout their lifetime. The company works closely with vetted partners who are experts in their local environments. With the COVID-19 pandemic reminding us of nature’s impact on our lives, reforestation that restores biodiversity and ecosystems is a priority to enhance human health and well-being, now and for the future.

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DETOURS

HOT LIST Making Tracks: Unforgettable Train Journeys By Amanda Woods

The luxury of slow travel isn’t the only indulgence worth embracing on these incredible train journeys

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THE CANADIAN The glass starts at my elbows and continues to the centre of the ceiling, and as I sip bubbles and gaze up at the Rocky Mountains in the Panorama dome car, I feel a travel dream coming true. It takes four nights for The Canadian train to travel 4,466 kilometres from Vancouver to Toronto. By the time I’ve watched the mountains give way to prairies then back to forests, I’m even more in love with this big, beautiful country. And when I share a drink with a woman who has completed The Canadian journey 55 times, I raise a Caesar cocktail to a train lover after my own heart.

THE CANADIAN TRAIN ZIGZAGGING THROUGH MAGNIFICENT LANDSCAPES

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rom steam trains in the Great Smoky Mountains to bullet trains across Japan, my travel memories are full of great times on the tracks. While all trains share the slow travel joys of watching the scenery change, some elevate the experience to be a luxury holiday in themselves. Ready to hop on board? Consider these outstanding journeys.


THE INDIAN PACIFIC CROSSING THE AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK

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LUXURY CABIN SUITE ONBOARD THE BELMOND VENICE SIMPLON-ORIENT-EXPRESS

THE BELMOND VENICE SIMPLON-ORIENT-EXPRESS

THE INDIAN PACIFIC

Nowhere has the romance of rail travel swept me off my feet more than on this luxury time capsule. Dining in stunning restaurant cars from the 1920s with beautiful Lalique glass panels and exquisite marquetry leads to pinch-me moments, and I love travelling on the vintage carriages that inspired Agatha Christie’s great novel after spending ten days stuck in a snowdrift in 1929. While the original sleeper car layouts are too compact for some, I happily embrace the smaller space and toilets at the end of the hall to travel in authentic style. Here, dressing for dinner is an occasion, and when a fellow guest laughs and says, “I feel like a princess!” I couldn’t agree more.

Over four days and three nights, the Indian Pacific travels 4,532 kilometres across Australia. As we leave Sydney for Perth, I watch familiar scenery slowly give way to the outback. And as the red earth outside my window stretches to the horizon, I feel a meditative calm. The Indian Pacific uses the same carriages as another train journey I love, The Ghan, which covers 2,979 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide. While the stops along the way and where you dine under outback stars may be different, the train experience — including enjoying saltwater barramundi in the Art Deco-style Queen Adelaide restaurant car — remains the same.

“It’s like a Scottish country house party on the rails for six days.” When our train host explains the Belmond Royal Scotsman experience on our first day, we smile. By that evening, we can see what he means. Up to 40 guests travel through the Scottish Highlands in 10 vintage-inspired cars, visiting castles, hiking valleys, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct (known as the Harry Potter Bridge) and more. The bar car has more than 60 Scotch whiskies to try, along with free-flowing champagne and other tipples, and for an unforgettable indulgence, you can be pampered in the spa car. My first massage on a swaying bed to the live soundtrack of a train is so incredible I immediately book another. Heaven. A PIPER WELCOMING YOU ABOARD THE BELMOND ROYAL SCOTSMAN

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THE BELMOND ROYAL SCOTSMAN


DETOURS

SPOTLIGHT Community-Focused Travel By Emma Gregg

How to plan a post-pandemic vacation that supports local communities in meaningful ways

Everyone has special memories of favourite vacations, and very often, they’re all about people. Travel brings people together, after all. What better way to reconnect with those closest to us than by spending precious days with them, doing something incredible? And where better to find new friends than somewhere inspiring, among fellow adventurers and locals? While quality time with family and friends is a gift, there’s another important human dimension to our trips. Every traveller is a guest. Whether we encounter our hosts face to face or simply pass through their home patch, we affect their environment and their lives. Most of us are eco-conscious these days. But what if you’d like to take things further? What can you

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do to ensure your trip has a positive impact on the local community you’re visiting? There has never been a better time to consider this and act. All over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has hammered communities which rely, to a lesser or greater extent, on international tourism. When we get back on the road, we can help businesses and individuals recover. An all-important first step is to choose your destination and operator with care, being mindful of differing economic circumstances and priorities. Here, the advice of a travel advisor that works closely with local communities is invaluable. Some destinations have been harder hit than others, and are desperate for visitors. If you’re making a list, you might want to put these at the top. Well-informed advisors also know which operators have been particularly supportive of disadvantaged communities during the

TEA PLANTATION IN KANDY, SRI LANKA

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s the world’s travel destinations prepare to welcome visitors again, you can take steps to become a good guest.


HIKING THE CHOQUEQUIRAO TREK NEAR CUSCO, PERU

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instead? Chances are, you’ll get all the local gossip thrown in for free.

crisis. In parts of Africa, for example, safari companies with no guests to look after used their vehicles to transport much-needed supplies to remote villages instead.

When the urge to shop kicks in, hunt down locally made gifts that help support artisans and keep craft traditions alive. Keep an eye open for local charities, too. And when you’re ready to explore, hire local guides and drivers who know the best cultural sites and wilderness areas. Clear-thinking, communityfriendly tour operators such as G Adventures make it easy by doing the hiring on your behalf.

Next, consider the health and safety protocols for your journey and destination. You’ll want to follow them to the letter, to avoid putting locals and others at risk — not to mention yourself. How else can you be a thoughtful, respectful guest? As a rule of thumb, think local. Prime yourself in local customs, ready to step outside your immediate bubble. Try seeking out small, family-owned restaurants that prepare distinctive dishes using home-grown ingredients. The breakfast at your hotel may be tempting, but how about grabbing a pastry at that café down the street

Finally, remember to express your appreciation. Try learning a few phrases in the local language, such as “How delicious!” or “That’s beautiful!” and “Thank you!” The gentlest virtue — a readiness to smile and show gratitude — goes a very long way. LUNCH AT A SUSTAINABLE COFFEE FARM IN CHACHAPOYAS, PERU

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SHOPPING FOR LOCAL SOUVENIRS IN A MARRAKECH SOUK, MOROCCO

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CYCLO TOUR TRAVELLERS IN CAMBODIA

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DETOURS

TRAVEL STYLE Privacy, The Ultimate Luxury By Janice Tober

There’s never been a more perfect time to rent a villa for a Caribbean getaway

If you lean towards the latter, there is no better place to recharge than at a villa in the Caribbean. Tranquil ocean views, tropical breezes and total seclusion beckon — with ample room to create your own private bubble for your family and friends. These days, privacy and having plenty of elbow space are the ultimate in luxury. Renting a villa fits the bill perfectly.

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The following dreamy villas are just a few highlights that set the standard for an idyllic vacation in paradise. They’ve got amenities rivalling any big resort, from private chefs and on-site spas to tennis courts, pools that never get crowded, maid service and more. Villas come in all shapes, sizes and price points, so whether you’re travelling with your extended family or a small group of gal pals for a week or a month and more, you’ve got plenty of options to choose from in your favourite sunny hotspots. Here are five notable rentable villas for inspiration.

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hen it comes to making the most of your vacay time, some people love the fast pace of a large, full-scale resort. Others want a more chillaxing stay where peace and quiet are the main goals for the day.


ELEGANCE BY DESIGN: VILLA TARTARUGA Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

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Everything in this newly built villa with eight bedrooms just works on all fronts, from the modern design to the space-age movie theatre and elegant reflecting pools at the entrance. The walls, flooring and almost every imaginable surface are made of marble and coralina stone to underscore that luxe vibe. Revel in the beauty of it all in a free-standing tub where you can gaze up at the sky while you soak. If you want to peel yourself away from the villa in search of more active pursuits, you are in luck. Villa Tartaruga guests can use all the amenities available at the Puntacana Resort & Club. You can hit the links, practice your backhand on the tennis court, go horseback riding, or spend time in the water snorkelling and windsurfing.

LOVE GOES UNDERGROUND: PROMISEAS Ocho Rios, Jamaica If some stress-free ‘us’ time is what you need, this gorgeous rental might just hit the spot. While most villas are geared to large gatherings, this contemporarystyle home-away-from-home can host more intimate get-togethers and celebrations. But don’t let the number of bedrooms (four in each of two separate villas) fool you. This property is spacious and rich with amenities.

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Sitting beachfront with a pretty piece of coastline for swimming and sunbathing, it seems like the property was meant for two, but can accommodate up to 16 guests. There are two covered verandas with full dining rooms and seating areas, two infinity-edge pools and two indoor stylish sitting rooms. You’ll also find a tennis court and a gym. And the ultimate perk? Your own private spa in an underground cave, kitted out with a massage deck and hot tub.

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At the end of the day, you get to return to your fabulous villa, which accommodates up to 20 guests, enjoy a meal prepared by your chef and served by two waiters who are at your beck and call. Finish the evening in the hot tub, looking out over the Caribbean Sea. Two housekeepers will help keep everything tidy so you can focus on just chilling.

FEEL LIKE ROYALTY: LITTLE WHALE CAY Berry Islands, Bahamas If a villa alone isn’t enough to satisfy your quest for seclusion, how about an ultraluxe property on its own island? This villa is actually three homes nestled amongst the verdant foliage of a 37-hectare estate. It comes complete with a staff of 12, a private airstrip and a fleet of boats just waiting to be boarded. The three houses that make up Little Whale Cay — Little Whale, Peacock and Flamingo — have their own charming style, but share beach-inspired interiors, exposed wooden beams, white and pastel furniture, plus plenty of period details. Once you’ve settled into your chosen house, it’s time to explore your kingdom. An infinity-edge pool, private sand beach, yoga deck, tennis court and a gym mean you can be as active or as idle as you want. Go ahead and venture out to the lighthouse at the back of the house before heading back to the villa to toast another successful day of reigning over your domain.

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BREEZY, BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL: BEACH HOUSE Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

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This four-bedroom property is as pretty as a postcard with chic interiors dressed in white. When you close your eyes and think, “Take me to the beach,” there is a very good chance that the Beach House is what you’re imagining. Located on a private stretch of white sand beach, the suitably named villa comes with its own fruit groves, pool, volleyball court and guest house, with plenty of outdoor space to dine and unwind. But it is the bright and breezy interior that makes it so special and welcoming.

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At over 500 square metres, this villa represents coastal living (for up to 12 guests) at its best, featuring an open plan design with pale wood floors and vaulted ceilings. Even if it’s steamy outside, you will feel cool and refreshed surrounded by those quintessential Caribbean colours and the tropical breezes wafting through all those wide-open spaces.

WHEN 10 BEDROOMS AREN’T ENOUGH: THE GREAT HOUSE Speightstown, Barbados

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Sometimes you just have to go big. The Great House has got you covered. This tropical beachfront property, consisting of the Great House, Carriage House, Hillaby House and two cottages, can sleep up to 30 guests. The interiors are bright and welcoming in blues, white and soft yellow, giving it a cool, earthy feel. And while there are plenty of places to meet as a group, say for birthday or anniversary parties, you will also find more intimate areas to hang out as a couple or a small family unit.

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Along with the large infinity pool and private beach, you’ll find pristine manicured gardens, a US Open-style tennis court and a motorboat or speed boat on the property, complete with inflatable toys, snorkel gear and kayaks. For quieter pursuits, you can find a cozy spot in the library, piano room or screening room, plus a gym and a game room to keep your posse occupied.

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YOUR VILLA AWAITS

As countries start their slow reopenings, our wanderlust and desire to venture beyond our immediate neighbourhoods will grow, too. Yet, we still must be hyper-conscious of the current situation. With enhanced safety and health measures, thoroughly trained cleaning staff, distanced group arrivals, sanitization packages and more, renting a villa is an ideal option to enjoy an intimate vacation with your family, safely away from the crowds. For more information about the various cleanliness and safety protocols, or to book a stay at one of these villas, contact your trusted travel advisor who is always there for you – before, during and after your travels.

Creating one-of-a-kind getaways and lasting memories at the world's top luxury villas

North America Retreats

Caribbean Escapes

There’s no need to travel far for the getaway of your dreams! With everything from mountain retreats in British Columbia to family-friendly vacations in Florida, we’re guaranteed to have the perfect villa for you. A one-of-a-kind getaway may only be a short flight (or drive) away.

Our portfolio of more than 1,200 luxury villas encompasses the very best of the Caribbean with properties from St. Martin to Turks & Caicos, Grand Cayman, and beyond. Whether you’re looking for a one-bedroom couple’s retreat or a sprawling seaside estate for the whole family, we have it all.

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To Learn More, Ask Your Trusted Travel Advisor


LONG STAYS

SURPRISING Winter Getaways By Darcy Rhyno

© TOURISM NOVA SCOTIA / ACORN ART PHOTOGRAPHY

Dodge the deep freeze and head to warmer climes beyond the usual sun destinations

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o ahead and pamper yourself this winter. You deserve it. But let’s get creative about it. Let’s rethink the winter getaway. Consider an atypical destination, ideal for a week away or an extended stay. To escape snow and ice, set your sights on these balmier spots. ANGUILLA As one of the top-rated islands in the Caribbean, Anguilla, located a short ferry ride from Sint Maarten/St. Martin, is a haven for those in pursuit of some much needed me time. To endless days on powdery, white-sand beaches, add a chartered boat tour, indulge the senses at seaside restaurants, and dance winter nights away to calypso music. What really sets the island apart is the chance to live that universal fantasy as a castaway on a tiny, deserted island like idyllic Sandy Island where beach beds, a bar and fresh grilled seafood await on a little slice of paradise. It’s free of fastfood chains and crowds from large cruise ships, which gives it a super chill vibe.

or Parque Acuático Xote. While there, take time for a rejuvenating spa treatment or a therapeutic traditional Mexican temazcal ceremony. CENTRAL VALLEY, COSTA RICA Here, the pura vida or laidback lifestyle characterizes daily life. Sleepy towns like Atenas, west of the capital San José, are perfect for hanging out in the shady central park, taking easy day trips to artisan centres like Sarchi, touring coffee plantations like Hacienda Espíritu Santo in Naranjo, or discovering the Botanical Orchid Garden in La Garita. Overnight trips high into the cloud forests, to the volcanic spa resorts of Arenal, or down to the endless Pacific beaches can all be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AT BUTCHART GARDENS

North of Mexico City, the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende are calling. The colonial architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site complements the city’s growing reputation as a luxury destination buzzing with open artist studios, fine shops and cafés. Temperate winters make days at the thermal baths especially indulgent. Relax in the healing waters of La Gruta, Escondido Place, 20 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

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SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO


THE CARIBBEAN SEA BORDERING THE ISLAND OF ANGUILLA

CANADA EAST AND WEST Rethinking winter doesn’t always mean leaving it behind. Imagine a month of cozy fireplaces, nights illuminated by millions of stars, and feasts of the freshest seafood in Nova Scotia. You may be surprised to learn that Halifax has some of the mildest winter weather in Canada with an average daily temperature for December/January/February above the freezing mark. A great way to beat the February blahs is attending the Nova Scotia Lobster Crawl, a celebration of the most decadent of crustaceans at a time of year fishermen insist they are at their best. The province also boasts a great number of bald eagles that spend their winters not far from the Bay of Fundy. Join fellow birdwatchers for the annual eagle watch from January to March near the tiny town of Sheffield Mills.

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO

For the warmest winter in Canada, head to Victoria on Vancouver Island, where you can forego a heavy winter coat, thanks to daily winter temperatures of around 8 °C. Stroll the walking paths next to the ocean, chase away a chill with a tea created by a master at the Silk Road Tea Store in Chinatown and grab seafood tacos dockside from Red Fish Blue Fish, before settling into a gorgeous suite at the Fairmont Empress Victoria and booking a west coast-inspired treatment at the Willow Stream Spa. Pure heaven.

ARENAL VOLCANO SEEN FROM THE MONTEVERDE AREA, COSTA RICA

Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 21


LONG STAYS

Love

CONNECTION By Sharmistha Chaudhuri

A couple living worlds apart reunite in Portugal for a romantic winter vacation full of local history, moonlit strolls and custard tarts

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VIEW OF DOWNTOWN ALFAMA


M

y first bite of the custard tart was everything I had hoped it would be — flaky, creamy, baked to perfection. As I devoured two, interspersed with sips of strong coffee, I smiled at my husband. We sat inside the older section of the legendary Pastéis de Belém, enjoying our first morning of a winter escape in Lisbon, each having reached Portugal’s capital from opposite ends of the world. I was based in New Delhi, India and he in Austin, Texas. We tried to meet up in different locations across the globe when our work schedules permitted. Deciding to meet in Lisbon in winter was an easy choice. The temperature would be moderate, needing only light jackets. The summer crowds would be gone, and accommodations would be relatively easy on the budget. The only dampener could be the occasional rain, as the weather apps predicted. Lisbon is an old city. Legend says Ulysses founded it. The evidence points to lengthy occupations by the Romans, Moors, and later Christian crusaders. The city has witnessed maritime explorations that brought financial growth, an earthquake that flattened everything, and, in the last century, political upheavals and economic transformation. Each has left its mark in shaping the architectural and cultural landscape. While exploring the region’s culinary heritage was on our list, we were also eager to sightsee in a city where modernity was cohesive with its past. The Tagus (Tejo) River runs through Lisbon and one is never too far away from its blue waters. We started our explorations at historic Belém, once the city’s dockyard. We walked by the riverside until the gigantic Padrão dos Descobrimentos dwarfed us. The monument symbolizes Portugal’s role in the Age of Discoveries, portraying

THE TORRE DE BELÉM, ONE OF LISBON’S ICONIC BUILDINGS

PONTE 25 DE ABRIL SUSPENSION BRIDGE

© SVETLANA GUMEROVA

PADRÃO DOS DESCOBRIMENTOS MONUMENT ON THE TAGUS RIVER

over 30 important figures of the era. Fittingly, on the pavement below lies a marble map with dates showcasing Portugal’s global conquests. The Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge that looms ahead is unmissable. Spanning the Tejo estuary at its narrowest, it closely resembles San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Over the next few days, we climbed atop Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification and marvelled at the view. We gasped at the elaborately designed Manueline-style Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a testimony of Lisbon’s prosperity at the height of its colonial empire. We stared at 20thcentury masterpieces at Museu Coleção Berardo and caught the bewitching twilight hour from the Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia’s waterfront steps. We explored the hilly labyrinth of cobblestone streets and houses boasting Azulejo façades at Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood located in between São Jorge castle and the river, in leisure. Starting with the imposing gothic Sé Cathedral, we walked until torrential rain took us to shelter in a souvenir shop run by an old couple who offered us port. There are new cafés and old eateries aplenty in Alfama, each offering culinary treats. As evening sets, the strains of fado, a local genre of music traced back to the 1820s, linger in the air.

Turn up the volume and let your mind be transported directly to the streets of Lisbon with this fado playlist. BAND PERFORMING TRADITIONAL FADO MUSIC


COLOURFUL HOUSES IN A NARROW LISBON STREET

The sweeping beauty of the city remains incomplete without going up one of the many miradouros (viewpoints). In Alfama, take the iconic yellow No. 28 tram up the narrow lanes, through twists and turns, to step out at Portas do Sol. We were greeted by a stunning postcard view — a mosaic of red roofs, white church domes, and the blurring blues of the Tejo and the sky. While tourists may flock to the Elevador de Santa Justa in Baixa, my favourite was the cozy pergola-roofed and bougainvillea-shaded Miradouro de Santa Luzia. We also took a day trip to picturesque Sintra from Lisbon. Located an hour away, Sintra is a UNESCO Heritage Site surrounded by verdant forests on a hilly landscape, boasting colourful palaces and splendid castles. No wonder Lord Byron was so entranced by this “glorious Eden”! By the end of our stay, our stomachs were full from salgados (Portuguese deep-fried snacks) and Michelin-starred meals.

24 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

The taste of the pastel de Belém with its dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon had not wavered over time. Its secret recipe has been perfected over centuries by the monks at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos next door. Bear in mind, the line outside the bakery never disappears. I picked up a sugar packet from our table as a souvenir as my husband and I headed to the airport to part ways again. We would see each other in four months, but until then, the sugar would serve as a sweet reminder of our winter spent together in Lisbon.

Learn how to make delicious Portuguese egg tarts with this easy-to-follow recipe. PASTÉIS DE NATA, TRADITIONAL PORTUGUESE EGG TARTS

© ANDRÉ LERGIER

FAMOUS YELLOW BICA FUNICULAR IN LISBON

And our calves ached from walking almost all day every day, but we had to stop by for one last tart.


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LONG STAYS

The Mediterranean

BECKONS By Elizabeth Heath

Malta’s history, culture, stunning seascapes and mild winter weather make it a top choice for cold-avoiding travellers

26 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

MARSAXLOKK HARBOUR WITH TRADITIONAL BOATS


F

rom luxury sailing around Valletta’s Grand Harbour at sunset to ancient architecture straight out of Game of Thrones, there’s no place like Malta for an extended winter break. This small island nation, located between Sicily and North Africa, is made up of three islands — Malta, smaller Gozo and tiny Comino. It has long held strategic importance to civilizations looking to control Mediterranean trade, which has left Roman, British, Spanish and Arabic influences. Combine Malta’s fascinating past with unbeatable seascapes and year-round sunshine and you’ve got the ideal vacation destination. While the summer season offers swimming and water sports, it’s less than ideal in terms of heat and crowds. However, vacationers who visit in the winter months will find a more leisurely pace and plenty of room to explore the sites. START IN VALLETTA Malta’s capital, Valletta, makes a logical base for first-time visitors since it’s close to the airport and many main attractions. The highlight is its historic UNESCO-designated centre and its ornate and abundant Baroque architecture, from beautifully restored palaces to those in glorious states of decay. Set high above the sea, the city centre is so entirely walkable that my family and I never needed to hail a taxi while we were based there. The Auberge de Castille and the Grandmaster’s Palace should be included on any walking tour of Valletta, but the true masterpiece of the city is the St. John’s CoCathedral. I live in Italy, so I’ve seen my share of ornate churches, but nothing quite like this one and its gilded, sculpted and frescoed surfaces. The church is also home to Caravaggio’s monumental work, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Across the Grand Harbour from Valletta — and best accessed via NARROW STONE ALLEYS OF MDINA

Vacations ® • Fall 2021 • 27


NARROW STREET IN VALLETTA, MALTA’S CAPITAL

a dgħajsa, or colourful water taxi, the historic fortress towns of Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua, known as The Three Cities, are also ideal for strolling. These oceanfront towns have pretty harbours, narrow streets and cozy familyowned restaurants. The Three Cities have a more local feel than Valletta, but they’re still just a short boat trip from the capital. A HAVEN FOR HISTORY Malta’s history is long indeed — its megalithic temples date to between 3600 and 2500 BCE and are a combined World Heritage Site. The temple complex at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra comprise the oldest freestanding stone structures in the 28 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

world. It feels like a cliché to call them “awe-inspiring,” but as I stood in a site 1,000 years older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza, those words truly fit. Mdina, the island’s former capital, is known as the ‘Silent City,’ thanks to its soaring defensive walls and sanctuary-like interior. Wander its narrow stone alleys just before sunset, when streetlamps glow and the golden sunlight fades away. It feels like stepping back in time and is a dreamy setting for a romantic dinner. Make time for a trip to Marsaxlokk, a much-photographed fishing village famous for its colourful luzzu boats painted with a pair of eyes on the prow — for warding off evil and


SEAFOOD IS PROMINENT ON MALTESE MENUS

bringing good luck to fishermen. Quaint seafood restaurants line this picturesque harbour, making it a great stop for an alfresco lunch.

© BOYANOO – BOYAN CASPER ORSTE © VIEWINGMALTA.COM

QUAINT RESTAURANTS LINE THE PICTURESQUE HARBOUR

© VIEWINGMALTA.COM

AERIAL VIEWS OF CLEAR BLUE WATERS, COMINO ISLAND

CHURCH OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, GOZO

If the seaside is calling your name, explore the modern beach resorts at St. Julian’s, Sliema and Paceville, where seafront promenades are lined with long-term stay condos and luxury hotels, open-air restaurants and bars, and fashionable boutiques. If you want a more low-key experience, smaller Gozo has a more relaxed ambience. Depending on your tolerance for chilly water, you may not be up for swimming in the winter months. At the very least,

© BOYANOO – BOYAN CASPER ORSTE

HEAD TO THE SEA


Get a glimpse of Malta’s incredible natural and architectural wonders in this video. do get out on the water, either in an organized boat tour or with a private tender. The view from the sea really is one of the best things about the islands of Malta, from its rocky coves and cliffs to its unbelievably clear blue water.

I’d also recommend booking a sunset sail from Valletta to take in the view of the city lights reflected off Grand Harbour with a glass of champagne in hand. There are few better ways to appreciate the city’s beauty. TASTY MALTESE MUST-TRIES The dining scene in Malta offers a mix of casual sidewalk cafés, somewhat pricey waterfront restaurants and fine dining establishments perfect for leisurely meals on warm evenings. With such a diverse history, Maltese cuisine has elements of Italian, Arabic and Spanish culture. Local favourites include a traditional rabbit stew (stuffat tal-fenek). I also loved the savoury pastizzi pastries and flatbread pizzas. And don’t miss imqaret, a dense pastry made of dates, which grow abundantly in Malta. Seafood is prominent on Maltese menus, and two of my favourite places feature truly elegant settings. In Valletta, Palazzo Preca is in a glittering Baroque dining room while at St. Julian’s, ACQUA Terra e Mare is a high-end spot for open-air dining with a view of moored superyachts. Malta’s arid climate manages to produce quality wines, so accompany your meal with a crisp, local white, or a full-bodied red (Syrah or Merlot). By the end of my stay in Malta, it was easy to see why it has been a top destination for those seeking a winter escape. Whether you stay for months or just for a week, you’ll be sad to leave behind the warmth of a Maltese winter. The good news? Your memories of this sun-kissed Mediterranean outpost will help you power through the rest of the season back home. 30 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

EXPLORING THE CITTADELLA ON THE ISLAND OF GOZO

Our Experts Suggest... MALTA BY CRUISE SHIP Malta is a popular destination on many Mediterranean cruise itineraries. Calling into the port at the Valletta Waterfront complex, passengers typically have a full day to explore the city of Valletta via a guided tour, hop-on hop-off bus rides, or Segway tours of the historic city centre. Those who prefer to explore on their own will find they’re just a short walk away from Valletta’s sights — a walk made easier thanks to the Barrakka Lift, an elevator that takes visitors up to the centre of the city. You can also book excursions to some of Malta’s most popular destinations, including Mdina, the megalithic temples of Ħaġar Qim, Marsaxlokk and the Blue Grotto. Horseback riding, scuba diving and winery tours are also great day-trip options. A few cruise ships stop at the port on Gozo, at Mġarr Harbour. On Gozo, passengers can opt to jump on a tuk-tuk tour, hire a Jeep for self-exploration, or take a boat tour to enjoy the island’s beaches.

© BOYANOO – BOYAN CASPER ORSTE

Take a trip to the Blue Lagoon of Comino, where the water is so calm and shallow you can see the shadow of your boat on the white sandy bottom. You can get there from Valletta, other points on Malta and from Gozo, via ferry or private boat hire. Or you can get really adventurous and paddle a kayak over from Gozo. I didn’t cross the channel to the Blue Lagoon, but my kayak guide did take our group on a paddle along the Gozo coastline, which offered a foray into a narrow sea cave, a close-up look at imposing rock formations, and a “secret” beach, not reachable by land.


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CONTACT YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR FOR YOUR EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS WHICH INCLUDE: $100 Shore Excursion Credit for Concierge and AquaClass® guests NOTICE: Prior to booking, please consult all applicable U.S. Centers for Disease Control travel advisories, warnings, or recommendations relating to cruise travel, at cdc.gov/travel/notices. If a certain threshold level of COVID-19 is detected onboard the ship during your voyage, the voyage will end immediately, the ship will return to the port of embarkation, and your subsequent travel, including your return home, may be restricted or delayed. Health and safety protocols, guest conduct rules, and regional travel restrictions vary by ship and destination, and are subject to change without notice. Due to evolving health protocols, imagery and messaging may not accurately reflect onboard and destination experiences, offerings, features or itineraries. These may not be available during your voyage, may vary by ship and destination, and may be subject to change without notice. ©202 1 Celebrit y Cruise s Inc. Ships’ registry: Malta.


HEALTH & WELLNESS

Ancient Cures for

MODERN WOES By Heidi Fuller-Love

Following in the footsteps of Aristotle and Plutarch to discover the healing hot springs of Greece

B

right as a red-lit Chinese lantern, the sun hovers above a pencil-fine rim of horizon as I clamber over rocks to reach the stone bath in Edipsos on the Greek island of Evia. Here, it is said that Roman general Sylla was cured of a mysterious skin disease in 115 BC.

Greeks have worshipped the healing powers of these hot spring waters since Antiquity. Rich in minerals including potassium, lithium and calcium, they are said to cure everything from eczema to depression, and Greeks in the know regularly visit these health-boosting sites.

Worn by centuries of use, the old stone basin is as smooth as a marble tub. As the mineral-charged water — which bursts out of the rocks above me at 38 °C — envelops my body like liquid chocolate, I relax for the first time in months. Watching the sun spread a last benediction over the wind-riffled Aegean Sea before slipping out of sight, I’m certainly hoping that my road trip to soak in Greece’s miraculous hot springs will restore wings to my lockdown-weary spirit.

Many water sources where the ancient Greeks once wallowed have since dried up, but there are still more than 700 hot springs in Greece. Since most of them are situated close to some of the country’s best-known archaeological sites, visiting them is also a great way to get to grips with its history.

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Leaving Evia, I drive onto an old red ferry to cross the Gulf of Euboean to Glifa. By lunchtime, I’m sitting at Nostos Psarotaberna, a vine-shaded taverna overlooking the

SULPHUR WATERS ON EVIA (EDIPSOS)


AERIAL VIEW OF ONE OF MANY GREEK ISLANDS

camel-coloured sands and brilliant turquoise waters of Kamena Vourla Bay. There, I spend the afternoon soaking up the healing sun and savouring the pop of salted, sun-dried avgotaraho roe pearls on my tongue.

VOULIAGMENI LAKE

as if I’ve had a vigorous massage, but my skin feels smooth and soft, and my mind is blissfully calm.

Thermopylae, my next hot spring stop, is signposted by a life-size statue of Leonidas, the Spartan king who launched a suicide mission against the troops of Persian king Xerxes here in 480 BC. Legends say this is where Hercules was sent to recover after killing the Nemean lion.

I end my trip at Vouliagmeni Lake. Hemmed in by high pink cliffs, the lake is actually a sunken cave fed by hot springs bubbling up from deep within Mount Hymettus, where Greeks have come to wash away their cares for some 2,500 years. A real locals-only address, this spectacularly beautiful lake, only an hour from Athens, is rarely visited by tourists.

Clambering over slippery rocks, I crouch in the pool beneath the waterfall and let the burning sulphur-packed water — said to be good for skin and bones as well as mental wellness — pummel away the tension accumulated from months of lockdown lifestyle. Afterward, my body aches

Floating on my back, I stare up at the brilliant blue vault of sky thinking of all the people who bathed here — and all the wars, plagues and problems they once had to deal with. “This too will pass,” I mutter as the fragile wings of hope flutter deep inside me once more.

THERMAL SPRINGS OF THERMOPYLAE, GREECE

Our Experts Suggest... A CRUISE TO CONTINUE YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY While Greece offers many opportunities to indulge in the soothing powers of hot springs, it doesn’t mean that the wellness experience has to stop when you get back on board your ship. With many itineraries in Greece and the Mediterranean, Atlas Ocean Cruises’ first ship, World Navigator — launched earlier this year — has the first-ever L’Occitane en Provence-branded spa at sea. The 88-square-metre Luxury SeaSpa by L’Occitane features the brand’s Relaxing Pillow Mist signature scent, two treatment rooms, an infrared sauna and plush loungers with expansive ocean views. It also offers an exhaustive spa treatments menu, including the award-winning “Sleep & Reset Massage,” an innovative 90-minute massage with proven effectiveness on sleep quality and accredited by the European Sleep Center in Paris. Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 33


ULTIMATE FAMILY VACATIONS

PEAK Performance By Claudia Laroye

34 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

BOYS CLIMB UP BOULDERS ON THE GEMMI PASS

© CLAUDIA LAROYE

The highs and lows of an overnight Alpine hike with kids in Switzerland


P

GEMMI PASS

© ALESSANDRO PRATO

© CLAUDIA LAROYE

FAMILY POSE IN FRONT OF MOUNTAIN PANORAMA

lanning an overnight Alpine hike with our sons during a family holiday in Switzerland, we knew we needed a journey that would energize their bodies and ignite their imaginations — along with a healthy number of snacks and luck with fickle mountain weather.

we settled on the Gemmi Pass. This high mountain pass connects two Swiss cantons, Bern and Valais, across the Bernese Alps. It’s graced with excellent hiking terrain, cable cars, a fascinating touch of Roman Empire history, and a fabulous, kid-friendly spa finish.

Fortunately, the country’s extensive national hiking network of more than 65,000 kilometres of trails is perfect for planning experiences of nearly any length and difficulty. There is always a charming restaurant around the bend, or a cable car to save tired legs from a final descent down a mountain.

Most importantly, it’s not so long as to produce calls of ‘are we there yet?’ or turn the kids off of hiking completely. It was the ideal choice for a comfortable overnight journey in the mountains.

We’ve done many family hikes and day trips throughout the Swiss Alps. For this particular sleepover hiking adventure,

© SWITZERLAND TOURISM/ANDRE MEIER

VIEW OF KANDERSTEG AND THE ALPS

We began our hiking trip on the Bernese side in the small scenic village of Kandersteg. After ascending up the steep rock face on the Sunnbüel cable car, we headed along the trail in a southerly direction with the sun high overhead.


©SWITZERLAND TOURISM/ALESSANDRA MENICONZI

SHEEP MAKING THEIR WAY FROM GEMMI TO LEUKERBAD

This was the opposite course that Roman soldiers walking the pass over 2,000 years ago would have travelled as they headed north on route to Gaul. That the Gemmi Pass had once been used by Roman legionnaires gave the hike priceless credibility with our sons. They felt like they were back in the Roman Empire period and eagerly searched in vain for long-lost coins along the trail.

But our journey was only half over. After a delicious threecourse dinner and fitful sleep, we rose early the next morning to undertake the 900-metre descent into the small village of Leukerbad in Valais. The steep decline and cliff edges presented no issues to the boys, who skipped down the trail like mountain goats while I carefully stepped around switchbacks and veered away from vertigo-inducing drops.

The hike’s length of almost nine kilometres with a small uphill grade was a perfect distance, allowing for coin scavenging, some adventurous bouldering, and time to enjoy a leisurely picnic lunch, including Swiss chocolate sandwiches for dessert. The high Alpine landscape was rocky and populated by sheep who spend the summer high in the mountains, grazing on delicate wildflowers and grass.

Walking into the spa town, we headed straight for its famed bad, thermal hot springs that had also been enjoyed by Romans in their day. Soaking sore legs in the healing waters of this family-friendly spa, we contemplated the success of our Swiss trekking adventure, our minds already planning our next family hiking quest.

After passing the Daubensee, a sizeable lake whose shoreline hosts an annual shepherd’s festival in July, we celebrated our successful hiking day with bowls of ice cream on the expansive patio of our clifftop accommodation. The spectacular panorama of the Swiss Alps stretched out before us.

© SWITZERLAND TOURISM/IVO SCHOLZ

HIKER AT OESCHINEN LAKE NEAR KANDERSTEG

Plunge into soothing thermal spring waters in Leukerbad for perfect after-hike relaxation. THERMAL HOT SPRINGS IN LEUKERBAD


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ADVENTURE

MOUNTAIN RUSH

Soar high among the snowy peaks of the Kootenay Rockies along the Powder Highway, home to world-class skiing and truly elevated adventures

38 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

PLENTY OF WINTER FUN AWAITS IN THE KOOTENAY ROCKIES

© KOOTENAY ROCKIES TOURISM / KARI MEDIG

By Tim Johnson


I'

m near the town of Kimberley, in southeast British Columbia. This is a place where most visitors check in, drop their bags, and immediately strap on a pair of skis to swoosh down the black diamonds. But, at least for the moment, those alpine runs can wait. Thumping out through a chilly, late-winter morning in February, the white spires of the Kootenay Rockies spread out to the horizon in all directions below. There’s not a building or road — or ski lift — as far as the eye can see. While it feels like we could just enjoy the scenery for hours, our chopper pilot has charted our course to a very specific destination. Cresting a ridge, the mountain falls away, and my heart drops into my stomach, adrenaline starting to pump. He circles once, twice, three times, and then begins to descend toward the picture-perfect form of a rustic cabin, with plenty of fun still waiting for us on the ground. Part of a string of ski towns collectively called the Powder Highway, the village of Kimberley with about 7,500 residents was once known for its Bavarian theme. And while vestiges of its German roots remain, today it has a slightly upscale, intimate feel. Its beating heart is a pedestrian street lined with cool little bars, coffee shops, boutiques and excellent restaurants. Flying in from Vancouver and landing in Cranbrook, I first take a little time to see that city, set in a broad valley,

stopping to tour its historic downtown and the railcar collection at the Cranbrook History Centre. Here, you can board many of the almost two dozen coaches, with the oldest examples dating as far back as 1907. Then I make my way north, winding through the mountains, to Kimberly less than a half-hour drive away. Upon arrival, I get a feel for the village by grabbing a craft beer at a local pub, the kind where you can pull up a stool and strike up a conversation with whomever happens to be next to you. A few locals indulge me, noting that, beyond the allure of the slopes, this is a place where you can snowshoe, cross-country ski and hike to hidden hot springs. And, of course, there’s plenty of downhill skiing, too. At the Kimberley Alpine Resort, both experts and beginners can find a run they’ll enjoy, and the snow is exceptional. The clouds boxed in by the mountains drop a fresh layer of precipitation by the Lizard Range, a rare east-west line of peaks. After tasting some schnitzel and sauerkraut at a legendary local spot, The Old Bauernhaus, visiting the world’s largest standing cuckoo clock (almost seven metres high) and riding a narrow-gauge underground mining railway, it’s time to fly. As I arrive at the small chopper base and meet my pilot, Duncan, he tells me we’ll only be flying for about 20 minutes. Despite the brevity of the trip, he’ll be transporting me to another world.

© KOOTENAY ROCKIES TOURISM / KARI MEDIG

FAT BIKING THROUGH KIMBERLEY’S DOWNTOWN

Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 39


We soar past the 2,835 metres eminences of the Steeples, then Fisher Peak and Lizard Range. The pilot tells me to watch for the elk and mountain goats that make their home below. Soon enough, we’re descending. The snow swirls around us as he sets down the chopper in the McDermott Basin. Hopping down and crunching into the white stuff — so bright on this sunny day that I need to shield my eyes — we’re greeted by a friendly border collie, her tail wagging happily. The pup belongs to an outfitter named Travis, who operates three cabins in the area available for overnight stays. He has driven a snow-cat up here — a vehicle capable of climbing mountains deep into the wilderness. While he grew up just around the corner, Travis says he’s still always wowed by these picturesque surroundings. “I always see it with new eyes,” he notes, shaking his head. “It never gets old.”

FAMILY SKI OUTING AT KIMBERLEY ALPINE RESORT

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© TIM JOHNSON

ENJOYING CRAFT BEER AT OVER TIME BEER WORKS IN KIMBERLEY

We soak up the sun, then take a spin on the fat-tire bikes he has brought. Wobbly at the best of times on a regular bicycle, I’m extra-shaky on the snow, which is somehow both squishy and smooth beneath me. But I manage to peddle around for a while, taking my two wheels awkwardly slow over a couple of bumps, meant to be jumps, set up on a downhill slope in front of the cabin. Soon enough, I’m back in the sky with Duncan again. He’s taking us past a series of hoodoos, thin spires of rock shaped by many years of erosion, and over the Kootenay River with its big bends now shining in the late-day sun. Those ski lifts and 728 hectares of skiable terrain await at the resort. But first, once we land, I’m headed back for the village to have another pint, maybe a chat, and one last glimpse at that famous cuckoo clock.

© KOOTENAY ROCKIES TOURISM / KARI MEDIG

© TIM JOHNSON

HEADING TO A RUSTIC CABIN ON THE MOUNTAIN BY CHOPPER


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Departing from Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy. Sailing May – October 2022

Contact your trusted travel advisor to learn more.

NOTICE: Prior to booking, please consult all applicable U.S. Centers for Disease Control travel advisories, warnings, or recommendations relating to cruise travel, at cdc.gov/travel/notices. If a certain threshold level of COVID-19 is detected onboard the ship during your voyage, the voyage will end immediately, the ship will return to the port of embarkation, and your subsequent travel, including your return home, may be restricted or delayed. Health and safety protocols, guest conduct rules, and regional travel restrictions vary by ship and destination, and are subject to change without notice. Due to evolving health protocols, imagery and messaging may not accurately reflect onboard and destination experiences, offerings, features, or itineraries. These may not be available during your voyage, may vary by ship and destination, and may be subject to change without notice. Royal Caribbean International reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update fares, fees and surcharges at any time without prior notice. Images and messaging for Odyssey of the Seas reflect current design concepts and may include artistic renderings and/or images of other Quantum Class ships. All ship features, experiences and itineraries are subject to change without notice. ©2021 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Ships’ registry: Bahamas. 21076680 • 8/11/21


CRUISE

CRUISING in the Wake of COVID By Gary Buchanan

© SILVERSEA

A passenger shares what it’s really like to take a voyage right now

SANTORINI, GREECE

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s the pandemic engulfed the globe, the cruise industry stared into the abyss. In limbo for 17 months, tentative shoots of recovery for cruising have appeared in unusual places, and nowhere is this comeback more evident than in Greece. To tempt travellers, the country has opened its doors to intrepid companies such as Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Seabourn, propelling Athens to the epicentre of cruising’s new dawn. Silversea Cruises went a step further with its comeback celebrations and took the bold decision to christen its latest addition to the fleet — Silver Moon — in the Greek capital during a series of highly successful ten-day cruises around the Aegean Sea. I was fortunate to join a cruise prior to the naming ceremony in late July 2021. Arrival at Athens Airport proved the resurgence in tourism was no hype. Flights from Montreal, Toronto, New York, Atlanta and Washington, alongside those from European cities, were lined up at the terminal building specifically designed for the 2004 Olympic Games. Immigration formalities consisted of a perfunctory stamp in my passport, a fleeting glance at my certificate of double 42 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

vaccination status, and a cursory check of my Greek Government Passenger Locator Form. An hour later, a black Mercedes pulled up at Miaoulis Terminal in the port city of Piraeus to take me to the Silver Moon. But first, I had to comply with some new hurdles that are integral to travel in the viral age. A member of Silversea Cruises’ staff arranged for my luggage to be tagged, she then escorted me to a passenger screening facility where personnel in full PPE gear took my temperature and performed a routine COVID antigen test. The aura was one of vigilance and the Eurofins team appeared to be well trained in diagnostic testing. In less than 20 minutes, I received my negative result and proceeded into the main terminal to complete registration formalities. I surrendered my passport, filled out a Silversea Cruises Public Health Guest Locator Form, then headed for the ship’s gangway. Travelling now requires a sheaf of paperwork, so I recommend keeping documents in a sturdy file containing hard copies of the essentials, including Passenger Locator Form, proof of double vaccination against


© SILVERSEA/FIIPPO VINARDI

© SILVERSEA

VERANDA SUITE ONBOARD SILVER MOON

AERIAL VIEW OF SILVER MOON

Moon has a capacity of 596 guests, on my cruise, it carried just 286. Guests are required to wear masks in all indoor public areas as well as during shore excursions, but not when seated in restaurants, bars, lounges and entertainment venues where they can sit in groups of up to six.

COVID-19 at least 14 days before travel, and cruise ticket. I noticed passengers who had downloaded data to their phones encountered problems with recognition of barcodes and QR codes. The additional contingencies are undoubtedly a bit of hassle, but I believe Silversea has finely tuned the procedures, which made the welcome glass of champagne presented to me in the Dolce Vita Lounge all the more enjoyable.

© SILVERSEA/LUCIA GRIGGI

Butlers take guests’ temperatures each morning, and the onboard Eurofins team does a swab antigen test on days four and eight. The day before disembarkation, another antigen test comes with a ‘fit-to-travel’ certificate that’s now required by many countries for returning guests.

I was particularly impressed with the new sanitation regime in La Terrazza where the buffet area, which is open for breakfast and lunch, has been designed to comply with enhanced food hygiene procedures. Three innovative hand-washing units ensure guests fully sanitize their hands before entering the food court. Waiters serve all requested items onto guests’ plates. I felt reassured there was no cross-contamination using tongs and serving utensils.

Undoubtedly things have changed Silversea believes that vaccinations since the advent of COVID-19, but GOURMET LUNCH AT S.A.L.T. KITCHEN form part of a comprehensive, the new procedures had little impact multi-layered set of science-based on my enjoyment of the cruise. protocols to help safeguard the health and safety of guests, Embarking Silver Moon was like entering in a safe bubble, crew, and communities visited during the tours. I feel thanks to their comprehensive science-based protocols. The generous space-to-passenger ratio aboard Silversea ships that it’s quite possible Silver Moon is one of the most also meant social distancing was not an issue. Though Silver COVID-secure ships at sea. BAR COUNTER OF LA DOLCE VITA, SILVER MOON

© SILVERSEA

© SILVERSEA/LUCIA GRIGGI

S.A.L.T. EXPERIENCE IN THE HEART OF THE WINE COUNTRY

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CRUISE

Cruising

SOUTH AFRICA By Chris Robinson

The country is a bucket-list destination that does not disappoint, but it’s a vast, sprawling country that is not the easiest to explore independently. For anyone looking for a way to experience the best of South Africa while travelling in style and with local guides, cruising is the answer.

ELEPHANTS COOLING DOWN IN A POOL OF WATER IN ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

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ver the years, South Africa has become a successful cruise destination, offering a different twist on the usual, land-based vacations. A cruise is luxurious, often all-inclusive and safe. It allows you to hit all the essential South African experiences — cities, safari, local culture and incredible landscapes — easily. I chose the Azamara Quest and its Indian Ocean Adventure itinerary, departing Cape Town in February 2020.

Most South African cruises depart Cape Town, which provides an opportunity for pre-departure sightseeing in the area. I stayed in the seaside community of Simon’s Town on False Bay, about an hour from the city. As we arrived, my driver said, “Mind the penguin!” and sure enough, a diminutive fellow waddled by us to reach its evening burrow. South Africa abounds in such remarkable moments.

CAPE TOWN

Over the next few days, I immersed myself in penguin encounters. The African penguin colony here is 3,000 strong, and it is possible to get up close and personal to these delightful creatures simply by strolling along the coastal trails. At the Boulders Beach African Penguin Colony, I hiked the boardwalks intersecting the main colony on the beach and watched various stages of penguin life, from courting and mating to egg sitting and young rearing. It was riveting.

I went from the depths of the Canadian winter to the soothing warmth of summer in the Southern Hemisphere with just one 15-hour flight. The final glide into Cape Town International Airport was a reminder of why the city is ranked among the world’s most spectacular for its physical setting. It subsides into the Southern Ocean with Table Mountain shredding the clouds and makes a picturesque entry point for the Rainbow Nation. 44 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021


© CHRIS ROBINSON

AZAMARA QUEST

I also took a few days to explore life in Cape Town, which has evolved from a port at the end of the earth to a cosmopolitan city with an intriguing cultural mélange. Sightseeing highlights include the gorgeous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, the high-energy Townships, the former penal colony, Robben Island, and taking a cable car to Table Mountain. For me, the standout was a tour of the colourful streets of Bo-Kaap, the old Malay quarter, and the Iziko Museums, which explain how different cultures came together in this remarkable place.

STREET VIEW OF COLOURFUL BO-KAAP HOUSES

© SOUTH AFRICA TOURISM

But South Africa is much more than just Cape Town. I was keen to see more as I boarded the Azamara Quest and set

sail to explore other parts of the country as I watched the sun set behind Table Mountain while sipping a sundowner in the ship’s bar. PORT ELIZABETH Rounding the southern tip of Africa, Port Elizabeth was our first stop on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The city has now been renamed Gqeberha (pronounced kabear-ha) and boasts a Napoleonic fortress and the elegant St. Mary’s Cathedral. It is also the terminus of the famed Garden Route and is known for its urban beaches. Like many passengers onboard, my sights were set on the seamless safari excursions available from our luxury liner. A full-day safari to Addo Elephant National Park, just a half-hour from the port, offered wildlife encounters of every kind. True to its name, elephants had a starring role here. We gazed in awe as single adults with mighty tusks crossed the track beside us. We spent time watching a family group nearby enjoying the cooling waters of a waterhole, the adults squirting water over the cute calves. Warthogs, ostriches, kudu, buffalo, zebra, baboons, exotic bird species and even the endemic flightless dung beetle provided more memorable encounters.

GREAT WHITE SHARK SWIMMING VERY CLOSE TO A DIVING CAGE

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© SOUTH AFRICA TOURISM

One more reason for spending time on False Bay was to tick off another item from my bucket list — a shark cage dive. The steel cage hung over the side of the small boat seemed insubstantial as I entered in dive gear through a trap door on top. This is prime feeding territory for great white sharks, which congregate in the cold waters surrounding an offshore rock called Seal Island. Ominous shapes prowled through the murky waters, sending the Cape fur seals scattering. It was astonishing how quickly these huge sharks appeared from the depths and vanished just as fast.


THE SANI PASS INTO SOUTH AFRICA

Our Experts Suggest... A SOUTH AFRICAN GOLF CRUISE 12 nights | Roundtrip from Cape Town | Departing January 15, 2023 Azamara has partnered with PerryGolf™, one of the game’s most innovative providers of international golf vacations, for this 12-night voyage to South Africa on board the Azamara Journey. The cruise will begin in cosmopolitan Cape Town before heading to Port Elizabeth, East London, Richards Bay and Durban, South Africa, and Maputo, Mozambique. Guests will get to play a total of five rounds at Humewood Golf Club, East London Golf Club, Zimbali Country Club and Pearl Valley. Your clubs will be ready and waiting at each venue for convenience! Contact your travel advisor to learn how you can enjoy an exclusive $100 onboard credit when booking this cruise.

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The best was saved for last. Towards sunset, Stephen, our local game guide, pointed out a couple of flicking tails in the long grass. We stopped silently and waited. Sure enough, two magnificently maned male lions rose from their resting place and strolled in our direction. They brushed past our safari vehicle and headed off to a solitary acacia tree for a nap. DURBAN As South Africa’s third-largest city and the biggest in the KwaZulu-Natal province, visitors appreciate Durban’s rich cultural flavours, as seen in its various markets, such as the Herb Market, Bead Market and Victoria Street Market. Zulu rickshaw pullers in traditional dress parade along the Golden Mile beachfront. I met with my local guide, Sotiris, on the quayside for an expedition through the Zulu countryside to the highest mountains in South Africa — the Drakensberg — and then up and over the highest drivable (a term used loosely) pass into Lesotho, a country surrounded by South Africa. The power of our Land Rover came into play as we negotiated along the boulder-strewn gravel road with several washedout sections and hairpin bends until we reached the summit of Sani Pass (2,876 metres).


A COUPLE PRACTICING DRUMMING IN THE KWAZULU-NATAL PROVINCE

© SOUTH AFRICA TOURISM

FLOWERING ALOES IN THE KIRSTENBOSCH GARDEN

Driving into Lesotho, the road continued to rise to 3,240 metres in the midst of mountain peaks and high, dry mountain moorlands, punctuated by Basotho conical thatched villages where we received a warm welcome. When heading back, we paused at the Sani Mountain Lodge and visited what is billed as “Africa’s Highest Pub.” RICHARDS BAY The subtropical town of Richards Bay was founded during the Zulu Wars of the 19th century. It’s the deepest harbour in Africa, making it a natural port of call for cruise ships. From here, trips fanned out to the Shakaland Cultural Village for an immersive Zulu cultural experience; to iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its hippos and crocodiles; and to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, where I decided to continue my safari adventures. Here, at Africa’s first established wilderness area, we were in search of the rare white rhino. Our guide, Bheki, found animals and birds in abundance among the rolling savannah hills, including a baby giraffe and its mother. Then, towards the end of the day, we saw her — a massive rhinoceros grazing on grasses. She sensed our presence and peered myopically through the bush at us as we returned her gaze. After our final South African port, we sailed for Madagascar. But it was March 2020, and the world was abruptly closing its ports to cruise ships — a story for another time.

VIEW FROM THE CABLE CAR OVER LION’S HEAD, CAPE TOWN

From modern cities to wildlife encounters, get a preview of the breathtaking scenery and adrenaline-fuelled adventures that await in South Africa.

AERIAL VIEW OF CAPE TOWN AT SUNSET

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MAKING MEMORIES By Amy Arora

A mother and daughter head to Tanzania and the plains of the Serengeti for their first-ever safari CHEETAH CUBS PLAYING IN THE SAVANNAH

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few months after our safari in Tanzania, my mother told me that, far more than the pride of lions sunning themselves right next to our safari car, or the baby elephant who played in the mud like a child, it was the rolling plains of the Serengeti that have stayed with her. “I can see them when I close my eyes,” she says. “I’ll never forget the vastness of it all.” That’s the thing about a safari. It’s the unanticipated moments that will get you. I had a few expectations before my first safari. I pictured animals as specks in the distance, seen through binoculars and captured on film with long, extravagant lenses. What I never imagined was animals so close that you could roll down the window and touch them. We didn’t, of course. But it was awe-inspiring all the same. On the first day in the Serengeti, our guide spots something among the long grass. It was impossible to see without expert eyes. Our

© ANDBEYOND / DOOKPHOTO

OFF THE BEATEN PATH


AFRICAN ELEPHANTS IN THE PLAINS OF SERENGETI

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SAFARI GAME DRIVE

in wonder and I take photo after photo on my phone. When the cheetah starts to move, we follow her ever so cautiously in the lumbering car. After a few minutes, checking around for danger, she makes her way into a small clearing. Quickly, out popped three perfect, adorable cheetah cubs, their hair spiked up like miniature punk rockers. They play with their

© ANDBEYOND / DOOKPHOTO

vehicle moves a little closer and suddenly there she is, a female cheetah, her spotted coat perfectly camouflaged, hunched over her lunch, which might have been a zebra or a wildebeest, but now was just red, bloody meat. “If you’re very patient, we might see something very special today,” the guide calls into the back of the car, where my mother stares

FARMHOUSE-INSPIRED CUISINE

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Our Experts Suggest... SERENGETI UNDER CANVAS

BUSH LUNCH IN THE SERENGETI

The national park is an animal playground, and by the end of the second day, we had seen all of the animals that my mother had first pointed out to me in children’s picture books 30 years earlier. The Big Five had been quickly ticked off the list: elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros. We’d even started to look for the Ugly Five on our journey and had seen them all, except the marabou stork. Armed with binoculars and cameras, with the wind rushing through the open windows, we were amateur animal sleuths, unable to believe what we were seeing. A safari is truly the stuff of dreams. In the evenings, we stargazed around the firepit in our tented camp. When I had originally told my mother that we would be sleeping in tents, she wasn’t exactly thrilled. However, when we saw the tents, which were really five-star hotel rooms enclosed by canvas, she came around to the idea. The showers were hot, the rooms were beautiful and, by night, you could hear the sounds of the Serengeti coming to life. Was that a buffalo hammering its way towards the watering hole? Was that eerie cry a bush baby, sitting in a tree nearby, trying to scavenge a meal? Sipping on a Serengeti beer, in the Serengeti, with all of the noises of nature on every side, under that endless sky, I’ll never forget it. I don’t think anyone could. 50 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

You can experience a classic tented safari in spectacular comfort at andBeyond’s Serengeti Under Canvas, with only the canvas walls of your tent separating you from the wonders of the Serengeti. Moving five times a year, the camps attempt to anticipate the movements of the Great Wildebeest Migration, bringing you as close as possible to the action. Using only private campsites, these mobile camps are the ultimate in luxury camping, with private butler service, chandeliers, silverware, crystal, ensuite flush WC, heated outdoor showers and comfortable beds with fluffy duvets.

© ANDBEYOND / DOOKPHOTO

After lunch under a baobab tree, chilled white wine and the shade protecting us from the baking sun, we climb back into the safari car and, in just a few minutes, are greeted with the sight of a bull elephant in a small valley below. He is enormous and he stands completely still, except for his ears which flap with agitation. Opposite the elephant is a lion, and it is clear that one had infringed on the other’s territory. Were we witnessing a standoff between these two majestic creatures? I stare, enthralled by the elephant in particular, wondering what he was thinking, and whether or not we were on his radar, clumsy and obtrusive in the khaki-green vehicle. Did he feel our eyes watching him? Before long, the lion slinks away and the elephant shakes his gigantic head in triumph, his trumpet echoing across the grass.

DINING UNDER THE TENT WITH BUTLET SERVICE

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mother and nip at the meat she has brought. We watched them for hours.

The guest areas also include a dedicated sitting and dining tent, with comfy sofas from which to contemplate the vastness and peace of the surrounding landscape. You’ll get to relax under the twinkling light of millions of shining stars and savour hearty food served on sparkling silver, before gathering around a roaring campfire to share stories and listen to the African night come alive.

Tune in to andBeyond’s YouTube channel twice daily for live, interactive safaris bringing the wilderness directly to your living room. Contact your travel advisor today to start planning the safari of a lifetime.


AT LAST

a small ship built for big adventures

WORLD NAVIGATOR NOW SAILING Explorers are diving into luxe-adventure journeys aboard the highly anticipated, expedition-style ship, World Navigator. Bringing travellers to remote destinations that few ever reach, we’re providing guests with oneof-a-kind voyages on a small vessel made for invigorating experiences. Contact your travel advisor for details.

COMPLIMENTARY LAND EXCURSIONS EVERY SAILING. EVERY PORT.

WE’VE ADDED 24 NEW ITINER ARIES TO 5 NEW WORLD REGIONS FOR 2022 JOURNE YS WITH WORLD NAVIGATOR © Atlas Ocean Voyages 2021. Ship’s registry: Portugal. All rights reserved.


EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES

Eternal

EGYPT By Lucas Aykroyd

The ability to peel back the layers of its history through its magnificent monuments make this North African nation an intriguing destination full of ancient mysteries

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WANDERING THROUGH ANCIENT KARNAK TEMPLE


SEHEL ISLAND (ELEPHANTINE), NEAR ASWAN

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he Great Pyramid of Cheops weighs 5.75 million tons. As I gaze up at the giant limestone blocks on the edge of Cairo, the iconic silhouette feels even weightier against the blue-grey sky. I’m poised to enter the 4,500-year-old pyramid, climbing all the way to the pharaoh’s dim-lit burial chamber, where his granite coffin awaits. And I can truly feel the magic and mystery of ancient Egypt that I’ve dreamed of all my life. As a child, I read dozens of Egypt-themed books. From comic books like Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix and Cleopatra to classic novels like E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Amulet, I loved them all. Treating myself to a November trip to this North African nation of 100 million people would bring the legends alive for me. Awe-inspiring monuments, both ancient and modern, abound from the banks of the Nile River to the Mediterranean coast. The seaside Alexandria Library — opened in 2002 as a tribute to the one built by Alexander the Great that tragically burned — features a huge, glass-panelled roof, whose shape evokes a rising sun. I marvel at the airy interior with five million items spread over 11 floors.

After indulging my love of literature, it’s time for a delicious lunch. At the Fish Market restaurant, I order fresh-caught, grilled bulti, a local fish with a delightfully creamy texture. It’s served with rice, spicy hummus, and baba ganoush. Washing it down with mint lemonade, I relish every bite as I look out over the marina from the eatery on the second floor. Taking a seaside walk to Fort Qaitbey, a 15th-century castle erected by the titular Mamluk sultan on the site of the ancient Pharos lighthouse, further energizes me. From its charming LEGO-like exterior to the maze of dark rooms within, it’s an underrated attraction. Some 840 kilometres to the south, I revel in the ancient wonders near Aswan. At Abu Simbel, it’s hard to believe the gigantic temples celebrating the 67-year rule of Ramses II were relocated here by UNESCO in 1968 to avoid having them submerged by the opening of the Aswan High Dam. Today, monumental carvings of the New Kingdom pharaoh overlook the artificial Lake Nasser. I gleefully snap breathtaking photos on this 30 °C morning in the Sahara Desert. Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 53


CITADEL OF QAITBAY IN ALEXANDRIA

GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA

GREAT TEMPLE OF ABU SIMBEL

Back in Aswan, I’m craving an authentic dining experience. I book a ride on a felucca, a traditional sailing boat, on the Nile to Elephantine Island. There, on the rooftop of a Nubian Muslim home, I feast on roast chicken, lentil soup, and eggplant cooked in tomatoes. The atmosphere beneath the black, starry sky is unforgettable.

Returning to Luxor in the evening, I relax by strolling along the marble sidewalks of the waterfront Corniche promenade. I browse through a silver merchant’s store selling luxuriously crafted cartouche necklaces with hieroglyphics and buy an English translation of Ibrahim Essa’s acclaimed 2012 novel The Televangelist at the century-old Aboudi Bookstore.

More magic awaits at the Valley of the Kings outside Luxor. Encircled by stark cliffs, it’s home to more than 60 New Kingdom tombs, some dating back 3,500 years. While the dazzling colours that adorn Ramses VI’s tomb are enchanting, entering King Tutankhamun’s burial place hits me the hardest.

A morning tour of Karnak, just outside Luxor, provides more fantastic visions. I could easily spend days, not just hours, at this sprawling temple complex. The Great Hypostyle Hall, featuring 134 giant columns modelled on papyrus flowers, spans some 5,000 square metres and honours Amon-Ra, the god of sun and fertility. Next to the Sacred Lake, a bold granite obelisk pays tribute to Hatshepsut.

Surrounded by paintings of sacred baboons and the boy pharaoh himself, I’m transported back to the time I first read about archaeologist Howard Carter’s 1922 discovery of Tut’s treasures. This is a genuine once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a short drive to the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut, the first female pharaoh, who ruled circa 1479 to 1458 BC. The three colonnaded terraces are spectacular in their own right, but my favourite sight is a carving of Hathor — the coweared goddess of love, music, and beauty — that stands out serenely against the sky. Interestingly, Polish researchers have helped to restore this temple for the last 60 years. The Colossi of Memnon, located in the nearby Theban Necropolis, perfectly embody the grandiosity of the ancient Egyptian imagination. Depicting Amenhotep III in a seated position, these two 18-metre-tall, quartzite sandstone figures evoke — even in their partially ruined state — the traditional belief that dead pharaohs were destined to become gods. 54 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

At times, it’s amusing to see how the pharaohs indulged their considerable egos in an era long before cable networks or social media. Multiple Karnak carvings and inscriptions bombastically proclaim the victory of Ramses II over the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh in 1274 BC — even though it’s not actually clear the Egyptians won. Yet that’s the power of storytelling. In our rapidly changing world, these monuments have endured for thousands of years. It reflects the grip that eternal Egypt exercises on our imaginations. There’s something comforting about that. When I go home, I’ll reread Hergé’s Cigars of the Pharaoh and Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game with fresh eyes. Metaphorically speaking, it’s like sailing the length of the 6,650-kilometre Nile. There’s always more to discover about Egypt.


VALLEY OF THE KINGS

See what a summer in Egypt has in store for you, from the mysteries of the ancient pyramids to the sights of a felluca ride on the Nile. THE COLOSSI OF MEMNON

Our Experts Suggest... A NILE RIVER CRUISE WITH UNIWORLD BOUTIQUE RIVER CRUISES Uniworld’s 12-day Splendors of Egypt & The Nile river cruise is a splendid way to explore Egypt in a manner once reserved for queens and pharaohs. This captivating itinerary begins and ends in Cairo, where you’ll visit the famous Egyptian Museum and its collection of pharaonic artifacts, and gaze upon the ancient pyramids and the enigmatic Sphinx. During your cruise, you’ll experience the most wondrous sites in style and luxury, including the towering ruins of the Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings and the Colossi of Memnon. You’ll also enjoy an exhilarating ride in a felucca, a traditional Nile River sailboat. An enchanting land of marvels, myths, and wonders old and new, Egypt is an extraordinary destination culturally curious travellers won’t want to miss. Contact your travel advisor to start planning. Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 55


BON VIVANT

SLOW TRAVEL Redefining Luxury: Italy’s Best Agriturismi By Francesca Spizzirri

© VALERIA NECCHIO

Italy’s offerings are perfect for post-pandemic travellers looking for authenticity and meaningful connections with locals in beautiful settings

AERIAL VIEW OF RÉVA WINE RESORT

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ecent events have provided travellers with a unique opportunity to reevaluate what defines luxury. The result? A movement towards slow travel and an appreciation for genuine, old-fashioned Italian hospitality.

restoring mind and spirit is important for wellness, too. As travellers redefine luxury in a post-pandemic world, the charming farmhouses and estates dotting Italy’s countryside have found their way into the spotlight.

Travellers have discovered that lasting human connections matter more than the thread count of their bedsheets. Lesser crowds and smaller groups are an extravagance. Forging friendships over family-style meals with delicious farm-tofork plates is invaluable. Partaking in hands-on cooking classes using organic, local ingredients with recipes passed down for generations keeps traditions alive. Enjoying leisurely walks to visit locals is precious. Renewing and

Unwind poolside with a good book surrounded by soaring cypresses at a Tuscan agriturismo, delight in a meal under the shade of olive trees at a traditional masseria (or country house) in Puglia, or take an evening stroll through vineyards at sunset on the island of Sicily. Agri (agricultural) Turismo (tourism) is redefining luxury Italian holidays.

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Discover Italy’s best agriturismi, from Piedmont to Sicily.


UMBRIA Agriturismo La Panoramica Located in the charming Umbrian countryside with inviting views over medieval Gubbio, La Panoramica Gubbio is a rural stone farmhouse with a pool nestled between flowers and lush nature. The property boasts two secluded cottages and three apartments set amid aromatic gardens with inviting places to laze on hammocks while listening to the birds sing.

HOME-PRODUCED ORGANIC OFFERINGS AT AGRITURISMO LA PANORAMICA

© AGRITURISMO LA PANORAMICA

Purchase home-produced organic olive oil, honey and jam made from the hectares of fruit trees, olive groves and beehives. In the surroundings, visitors can discover beautiful country roads during their excursions and walks. On request, enjoy guided tours of century-old beech forests, pottery courses, hiking, cycling and horseback riding, as well as wine tastings. The agriturismo is the perfect jumping-off point to explore Umbria’s brilliant cities and famous neighbour Tuscany, as well as Le Marche and its beautiful beaches.

Borgo di Vescine Perched on a hilltop overlooking the historic town of Radda in Chianti lays Borgo di Vescine, an ancient Italian village repurposed as a spectacular hotel. The vineyards and expanse of centuries-old olive trees surrounding the village are cultivated on ancient terraces bordered by dry stone walls, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One could easily spend all day gazing at the spectacular view from one of the 28 deluxe rooms and suites, but alas, a carefully curated selection of immersive experiences beckons visitors to eras past. From hands-on cooking classes and medieval banquet dinners in the piazza to picnics in the Chianti hills savouring local delicacies and candlelit dinners under olive trees, Borgo di Vescine has elevated country dining. For the EVOO connoisseur, join Borgo’s resident farmer, Bruno, as he picks olives and lets guests in on the secrets passed down for centuries that produce the region’s famed liquid gold. Then, enjoy lunch on a terrace surrounded by the smell of olives and wine and relish the art of country living.

© STUDIO BONON PHOTOGRAPHY

VIEW FROM THE POOL AT AGRITURISMO LA PANORAMICA

© AGRITURISMO LA PANORAMICA

TUSCANY

ELEVATED COUNTRY DINING AT BORGO DI VESCINE

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APULIA Borgo San Marco

INNER COURTYARD AT BORGO SAN MARCO

© BORGO SAN MARCO

PICKING FARM-FRESH INGREDIENTS FOR THE COOKING CLASS

© ALESSANDRO MOGGI

Highlights include alfresco meals, olive oil tastings harvested onsite, cooking classes, sunset aperitifs on the terrace, bike rides through the olive grove, massages, beach days, and visits to the frescoed caves. Rent a car and set off to explore the land of trulli and sun-kissed limestone hills that gently fade into the Adriatic Sea.

LA CAMERA LAVANDA ROOM AT VILLA DIANELLA

© ALESSANDRO MOGGI

Proudly overlooking 65 hectares of ancient olive trees and stately carob trees interspersed like sculptures of nature, Borgo San Marco is a place where visitors can inhale the true soul of an old masseria and celebrate the Puglian traditions. The rural simplicity of this 15th-century fortified farmhouse encourages moments of reflection and communal gathering. Choose among 14 suites and two residences equipped with all the contemporary comforts the modern traveller has come to expect. It’s the perfect fusion of past and present.

TUSCANY Villa Dianella - Wine Resort A dreamy oasis located a half-hour drive from Florence in Vinci, Villa Dianella is a family-operated, award-winning winery with a cosy wine resort, once the country home of the Medici. The rustic-styled villa houses four beautifully appointed rooms set in the heart of Tuscany’s rolling hills, with eight additional rooms expected by 2022. A new restaurant, as well as a glimmering new pool, means guests may never want to leave. Thankfully, the villa’s proximity to Florence allows for shopping and marvelling 58 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

at Renaissance treasures by day and sipping wine in the magnificent countryside while stargazing at night. Enjoy organic wine tastings in the historical cellars and cooking classes using freshly picked ingredients from the farm that also produces olive oil and jams. Embark on a truffle hunt followed by a truffle-inspired lunch. Don’t miss the property’s Leonardo Da Vinci vineyard that celebrates the local genius through a special lunch featuring wine tasting and a cooking class.


MICHELIN-STARRED DINING AT RÉVA'S RISTORANTE FRE

PIEDMONT Réva Wine Resort Why only visit wine country when you can spend the night? Réva Wine Resort is a place of peace, culture and beauty nestled within the UNESCO-designated hills of the Langhe region of Piedmont. Perfectly surrounded by the vineyards and woodlands of Monforte d’Alba, it offers a panoramic view of the Alps that takes a wine country getaway to new heights. In addition to sipping organic wines and savouring Michelin-starred dishes at this 12-room redesigned late

19th-century farmhouse, Réva has the largest spa in the Langhe, featuring a wellness area, two pools and a nine-hole golf course. A world of possibilities awaits guests at their doorstep. Enjoy guided tours of neighbouring villages, e-bike tours, vineyard picnics, wine tastings, truffle hunts for the region’s prized white truffle of Alba and watching the sunrise from the slopes during yoga and mindfulness classes.

SICILY Baglio Occhipinti

THE ESTATE AT BAGLIO OCCHIPINTI

© RENEE FRINKING

Set among the vineyards and ancient olive groves of southeastern Sicily, Baglio Occhipinti is a seven-room sustainable retreat in the Ragusa countryside. A working farm in Sicily’s fertile Val di Noto, the estate has been faithful to the atmosphere of the original 17th-century mill structure. With land dedicated to the organic cultivation of vegetables, fruits, olive oil and wine, it is the ideal agriturismo for food and wine lovers. In the kitchen, join Luigi and Sebastiano who affectionately share their knowledge of traditional cooking and family recipes during the on-site cooking classes. A genuine wellness retreat, everything at Bagno Occhipinti emphasizes a balance between body, mind and spirit. After breakfast, visitors could happily linger around the pool and peaceful surroundings all day. But adventure seekers will look forward to horseback riding and mountain bike tours. Hit the country roads in a rental car to visit neighbouring UNESCO World Heritage sites, seaside villages and pristine beaches. But be sure to return for the sunset stroll through the vineyards with signature cocktails and dinner under the olive trees.

To book any of these properties or other beautiful ones also available, contact your Ensemble Travel advisor who will work with TFL Tours to set up shore excursions and tailor-made tours all over Italy that promise never to disappoint. Vacations® • Fall 2021 • 59

© VALERIA NECCHIO

© GIORGIO SANDRONE

APERITIF ON THE TERRACE AT RÉVA WINE RESORT


BON VIVANT

WORLDLY DELIGHTS A Bite of Taiwan By Lisa Kadane

With cheap and cheerful night markets and more Michelin-star restaurants than the entire United States, this island nation is an appetizing place for the gourmet-minded

TAIPEI’S CENTRE DISTRICT

I

nside the open kitchen at Din Tai Fung in Taipei, four chefs expertly roll, fill, fold, and then weigh, the restaurant’s famous soup dumplings.

“All of the dumplings are made fresh here, by hand,” explains Agnes Lee as she leads our group to a table. Each one weighs exactly five grams, the right size to hold the soup inside. Perfecting the art of dumpling making to Din Tai Fung’s exacting standards takes three years of training, which explains why the restaurant chain’s revered xiăolóngbāo have received so many global accolades. When dinner is served, it’s a masterpiece on a bamboo platter, where chicken, pork, green squash and shrimp, and crab soup dumplings are meticulously arrayed. Lee 60 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

demonstrates how to eat the plump morsels of dough. Poke a hole to release the soup broth, slurp it from the spoon, garnish the dumpling with oil, vinegar and shredded ginger, and enjoy. They’re miraculous. No sooner do I gobble them down, more arrive. “Feeding people is part of Taiwanese culture,” says Vincent Lu, a local seated beside me. “Don’t eat it all. Leave some food on your plate, otherwise they’ll keep bringing more!” So begins my introduction to Taiwanese cuisine, a diverse mash-up of Chinese, Japanese and other Asian flavours. Over the next week, I’ll eat my way through teeming night markets and staid Michelin-star restaurants, in between visits


LIBERTY SQUARE IN TAIPEI

to tourist attractions like Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the National Palace Museum, and Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building until 2010. Taipei is a top destination for travellers to Asia, and a popular cruise stop. Even more than for food, Taiwan has been praised globally for its handling of the pandemic. This positions the island as a safe place to travel as the world opens up again. The island’s fascinating history of Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945, and centuries of immigration from mainland China long before Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan after his nationalist party lost to the communists in 1949, helps explain its fusion of Chinese and Japanese taste traditions, from dumplings to ramen. The Presidential Office Building in Taipei even features a display of the island’s most popular and unique foods, including gua bao, the Taiwanese hamburger. This savoury snack of braised pork, cilantro and peanuts, sandwiched between a steamed bun, is eaten like its North American counterpart. Lu’s words come back to haunt me a couple days later. A man seated at the table next to me at the hotel restaurant spies my empty plate, introduces himself as a visiting professor from Dallas born and raised in Taiwan, and proceeds to show me how to build a proper local breakfast (clearly I am still hungry because of my clean plate).

RAMEN NOODLE DISH

BUBBLE TEA FROM THE NIGHT MARKET

The result is a peculiar dish of soybean gluten, bamboo shoots and peanuts, along with a steaming bowl of danzai noodles, a Taiwanese specialty with oil noodles, minced pork, and an egg, bathed in broth and topped with bean sprouts

© LISA KADANE

MIRACULOUS SOUP DUMPLING

Vacations ® • Fall 2021 • 61


NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM IN TAIPEI

and cilantro. I scarf down everything while my new friend watches with a satisfied smile. Before Taiwan introduced the world to gua bao and danzai noodles, though, it was famous for its tea. After the Suez Canal was completed in 1869, tea from “Formosa” (what Taiwan was called until the early 1900s) finally reached New York City by ship and turned the oolong leaves grown on the island’s hillsides into a coveted product. While Formosa Oolong is still popular, Taiwan’s most beloved potable export by far is bubble tea. We travel an hour south by train to Taichung and visit Chun Shui Tang, the tea house where Taiwan’s gift to the world was accidentally invented in 1987 when a worker added “pearls” (tapioca balls) to a glass of iced milk tea sweetened with cane sugar. Bubble tea was born. My glass of creamy goodness is delicious, but it pales in comparison to the food feast that follows. I’m so stuffed with braised bean curd, rice cakes and noodles doused in egg gravy that I barely have room for tender Beijing roast duck later that evening.

GUA BAO BUNS WITH PORK BELLY AND GREENS

On my final night in Taipei, I embark on a pilgrimage to try stinky tofu. Every local swears by this snack of tofu deep fried in pig fat found almost exclusively at night markets like Shilin. I dive into the maze of stalls, passing stands offering grilled octopus, pork skewers, candied tomatoes and oyster omelets. I don’t see the stinky tofu stall as much as smell it — rancid fumes waft through the night, like a breeze winnowing past a pig trailer. Surely, stinky tofu will pull a durian fruit trick and taste better than it smells.

Maybe it’s due to Shilin Night Market’s bustling atmosphere, but it tastes good. I give him a thumb’s up and continue relishing my stinky tofu. I’m careful to leave some on the plate, though, lest more deep-fried morsels arrive unbidden. 62 • Vacations ® • Fall 2021

ROWS OF TEA SHRUBS AND TEA-THEMED STATUARY AT PINGLIN TEA MUSEUM

© LISA KADANE

“You like it?” the vendor asks, after I’ve bitten into a few hot, crispy tofu cubes forked with pickled cabbage and drenched in chili-garlic sauce.


Manulife’s COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan Manulife’s COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan Policy provides: Policy provides: • $1,000,000 CDN in emergency medical coverage for COVID-19 and related complications if the vaccine was notcoverage received for COVID-19 and • $1,000,000 CDN in emergency medical related complications if the vaccine was not received UP TO A COMBINED MAXIMUM OF $5,000,000 CDN FOR: UP TO A COMBINED OFrelated $5,000,000 CDN FOR: • Emergency medicalMAXIMUM coverage not to COVID-19

• Emergency medical coverage not related to COVID-19 • Emergency medical coverage for COVID-19 and related complications themedical vaccine was received • provided Emergency coverage for COVID-19 and related complications provided the vaccine was received • Quarantine expenses after a positive COVID-19 test result during your trip, up to $150 CDN per person $300 CDN per family per day for 14your daystrip, • Quarantine expenses after aorpositive COVID-19 test result during (this benefit is only available if your original trip duration is 31 days or longer) up to $150 CDN per person or $300 CDN per family per day for 14 days (this benefit is only available if your original trip duration is 31 days or longer)

Please contact our Pleaseagency. contact our travel travel agency.

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TO OUR VALUED CLIENTS Leave ordinary behind and let us take you on the adventure of a lifetime, a luxurious sun vacation or a unique cruise anywhere your heart desires. Relieve the anxiety of planning your vacation and focus on the fun of exploring, dreaming and discovering where you will go. Our trusted advisors will guide you through your customized travel itinerary, recommend great locations and even share a few travel tips from their own experience. If you are intrigued by any of the articles presented in our magazine or need assistance with any other travel experiences you are planning, we are ready to design tailored vacations just for you.