It is that time of year again! We are gathering up our blue jeans and our boots and headed for some later fall fun at the Rocking Horse Ranch. This is a perfect time to unwind before the holidays! The crisp fall air. A bounty of the Hudson celebration. Horseback riding on the trails, an indoor water park, and so much more awaits you on October 28th for two nights and three all-inclusive days! Continue reading “Rocking Horse Ranch – October 28-30, 2016”
It has been a while, but I wanted to catch you up on my travels!
My travels the past year covered a wide variety of destinations, both domestic and international, and included some unexpected events such as experiencing a major earthquake in Nepal! But, more about that later….Let’s start off with my report on a truly World Class destination….
Prior to our scheduled SPT South Africa group trip this July, I flew down to Capetown in early November of 2014 for a combination vacation/inspection tour. This is a once-in-a-lifetime destination that is worth every dollar spent. For those of you who could not join the group, the trip can still be done on a private basis, for a small additional cost. The exchange rate on the Rand vs the U.S. dollar is very favorable right now and if this is a destination you have dreamed about, give me a call (800 655 0222 x 802) or shoot me an email (Brenda@maximours.com) and we will come up with a package that is within your budget.
Capetown requires 3 or 4 nights to cover the highlights. This is an ethnically varied, sophisticated, fun loving city that charms you at every corner. And one of the most beautiful cities in the world to boot!
We spent our first day with a local guide doing what is called “The Walking Eats Tours.” More than food, it covers local history as well. We started off in the old Dutch section of town with its colorful brightly painted houses, which was an early identification method, before there were numbered houses. From there we strolled through the ethnic neighborhoods, munching on refreshing fruit drinks, Arab & Malaysian street treats, with funny names like boobootie and bunny chow, and eventually worked our way to an Indian spice store where we inhaled large vats of aromatic spices. As we gathered up little packets of spices to bring to friends and family back home, the store owner handed us sheets of recipes to go with the spices. Our next stop was the local open air handicraft markets, where drummers and dancers, many of them little children, amazed us with their stamina and dancing skill.
Our most poignant stop was a visit to the small, but immensely powerful, District 6 Museum that tells the story of a racially and culturally mixed community, including white South Africans, that lived in harmony until the Apartheid government razed the neighborhood to the ground. Some 60,000 residents were forcibly removed from their homes. Original residents of this community still gather at the museum. If you visit there, take the time to speak with them. Eventually our feet gave out, and after 4 or 5 hours of walking, we circled back to the car, stopping in the unusual unique art galleries along the way. The tour can be done by moving the car from place to place, but we chose to walk it all the way. That evening we enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner on the Waterfront, accompanied by an excellent South African wine and some great people watching. The hotel scene in Capetown runs a broad spectrum, there is something to suit every budget and taste.
Our next day was spent touring the Capetown Peninsula, a marvelous day, visiting lighthouses, beaches and the Magellenic penguin colony, whose inhabitants were happy to pose for our cameras as we strolled the boardwalk alongside them. Other day trips include a full day to the nearby wine country, where parents can sample wines while the kids sample chocolates. You can combine that with a visit to a nearby Cheetah Sanctuary, making this a perfect family day. Don’t forget to explore Table Mountain, looming overhead with its blanket of clouds known locally as the “tablecloth.” A full day is also needed to visit nearby Robbens Island, where Nelson Mandela spent many years in prison.
Following our Capetown visit, we flew to Kruger for our eagerly awaited safari. There are safari camps and lodges of all variations and costs, ranging from simple comfortable tent accommodations with private bath to luxurious lodges. All of them will provide outstanding animal viewing and a unique experience in the Bush. The schedule is the same in each place, early morning game driver followed by an afternoon rest at the lodge, and then a late afternoon game drive. We were fortunate to see all the animals we yearned to see –giraffes, a pack of lions voraciously consuming a kill, a herd of elephants trumpeting to each other while they grazed, rhino mommies with their babies, hippos basking in the waters, even some baby lion cubs who were curious enough to approach our safari vehicle. But the piece de resistance was tracking a beautiful pregnant cheetah through the bush. To watch a big cat in the wild is truly a lifetime experience.
On the long long flight home, rather than the direct flight from Johannesburg to Washington DC, we chose to route ourselves through Frankfurt and spend a few hours with my son, who resides in Stuttgart, having an early morning breakfast with him, before hopping on the nonstop Frankfurt to Denver flight. It was delightful to see him, but to get there, we had to change planes in Lagos, Nigeria, which is not a connection I recommend. This is a very confusing exceptionally busy airport with poor signage and it was one of the most stressful airport connections I ever encountered. Despite that negative, our luggage arrived promptly in Denver airport, after 5 flights getting home. And that is what I call Great Luggage Karma.
This neighboring state continues to draw us in to visit unexplored areas that are family friendly. For Thanksgiving weekend of 2014 we headed further south and spent a couple of nights at the The Lodge at Cloudcroft, up in the mountains of southern NM. This quirky charming lodge had a great restaurant called Rebecca’s, so named after the beautiful red headed woman who was killed by a jealous lover. It is said she haunts the place, but we did not see her. Only 45 minutes away, heading down the mountain is White Sands National Monument, an awesome family destination. Here you can hike the dunes, enjoy a family picnic under the shaded picnic tables, and slide down the dunes on one of those plastic saucers, available for purchase at the gift shop. Shrieks of joy from parents and kids alike could be heard near the picnic areas. This is a desert so come prepared with hats, sun screen and lots of water as there are no services within the park. As we left the park, we came upon an expected pleasure…lots of pistachio farms with roadside stands. You can do pistachio tasting (and wine tasting too, if you want). Even a farm tour! Our favorite place was Pistachio Land. Check out their website, you can order online – great holiday gifts and the best pistachios I ever enjoyed! http://www.pistachioland.com/
On the way home we overnighted at the historic Hotel Albuquerque in Old Town Albuquerque. This is a fun overnight stop and a nice family friendly charming hotel. There is plenty of Native American handicraft shopping and lovely little restaurants including the Church Street Café, behind the church, converted from a former spacious hacienda.
On another note, last July we attended the Santa Fe Opera for a performance of Carmen. Although this is not an activity suitable for young children, it is an event unique unto itself and a lovely way to introduce older children to the opera. The setting is magnificent, overlooking the mountains, and the evening is magical as you are seated in a covered outdoor area, watching the sunset. Preceding the opera are tail gate parties, but these parties are wine and cheese rather than burgers and beer. Often a local professor will give a free lecture about the opera just prior to the performance. Dress code ranges from casual to dressy.
INDIA AND NEPAL
Each year I do a Girlie Getaway with my best friend of over 30 years. This year we decided to go hog wild and kill two birds with one stone, covering two of our big bucket list destinations. We found a Gate One two week package at a good rate, leaving in April, which included the highlights of both countries. Our first stop was Delhi where we arrived after a long 16 hour flight from Newark direct to Delhi. Our first full day was spent touring the city including a temple community complex run by the Sikhs. The Sikhs are a warrior class (these are the men who wear turbans and sometimes carry a scabbard). It is their job to protect people. The enormous temple complex we visited was a study in volunteer activity. In every direction were men and women preparing or cooking food. Cooking vats the size of small automobiles were being stirred, Indian breads were popping off a small conveyor belt and fresh vegetables and fruits were being chopped endlessly by men in white and women in brightly colored saris. All were happy to pose for pictures. Outside the temple, truckloads of fresh produce and bags of grain were being unloaded, all sent by anonymous donors. The temple feeds anyone who enters, no matter his or her religious beliefs or station in life. All are welcome.
We later visited the home and museum of Gandhi, one of history’s great men, who changed the course of history and culture for India. Gandhi insisted people be treated equally and that the country rid itself of the stigma of the Untouchables. He encouraged better treatment of women and urged his fellow citizens to abstain from drugs and alcohol. And of course he was a key element in throwing off the yoke of British colonialism. The house showed his Spartan bedroom and the actual last few steps he took in the garden before being assassinated by a fellow countryman who did not like the way Gandhi handled the India/Pakistan conflict.
Our week in India included the famous Golden Triangle : Delhi, Jaipur and Agra (the city next to the Taj Mahal). Each city was only about 60 miles apart and roads were good but each journey took at least 4 hours of driving with stops along the way due to the fact that the roads go through all the small towns. There are no express city bypass roads. Traveling from city to city was like being on an amusement ride as you watched motorcycles and cars and buses miss colliding with each other, as they passed within inches of each other. Somehow it was worked out and we witnessed no vehicle accidents.
The transit times passed rather quickly as our guide often lectured on topics of interest, including arranged marriages, still very common in India. He himself recently wed with an arranged marriage which seemed to suit him fine. He explained that families marry families and divorce rates are low, despite the brief time that the potential bride and groom meet prior to the wedding. Astrology is also a major part of the process including setting the wedding date.
The highlight of our visit to Jaipur, the Pink City, was the ride up to the Amber Fort on an elephant. I had ridden an elephant in Thailand, but that time we straddled the elephant. This time it was a sidesaddle ride and I held on for dear life as the elephant loped his way up the mountain, side to side. The only thing keep me from slipping off was a thin metal bar across my waist. I clung so hard my knuckles went white. And in the middle of all this, were the hawkers selling their goods and tossing items up to the tourists. The fort was phenomenal, a labyrinth of hidden dark corridors leading out into beautiful covered open areas where families used to gather to drink tea, socialize and watch the sunset. The city had been painted pink in 1876 to celebrate the visit of the Prince of Wales.
Our final destination was Agra and our much anticipated visit to the Taj Mahal. It was everything we expected and more. Larger than I thought and even more beautiful than its photos, it is also surrounded by smaller, quite lovely temples. We got an early morning start, good for photos as well as avoiding the 100 degrees plus heat. Buses and vehicles are no longer allowed close to the Taj, you park off in the distance and are transferred by little electric vehicles so the Taj does not suffer so much from pollution.
Indians are encouraged to visit their country’s famous destinations and temples and have special low entry fees. This is most apparent at the Taj Mahal where Indians of all stations in life were happily playing tourist. Our guide encouraged us to linger at the back of the temple and there we found throngs of people, from all over the world taking pictures of each other. Indians especially are fascinated with blondes and often asked my friend and me to pose for pictures with them. We, in turn, were enchanted with their beautiful saris and dark beauty. It was a photo frenzy full of laughter and joy.
We returned to Delhi for one night before flying to Kathmandu on a Friday afternoon. Driving into the city revealed a jumble of buildings with cafes and shops beckoning us. That evening was our first Nepalese meal in a typical local restaurant. The next morning we visited the monkey stupa , then headed out of town and at noon the 7.9 earthquake struck, while we were on the road. The bus slammed on the brakes and bounced up and down and at first I thought we hit a motorcyclist. Then the bus shook side to side and we saw people on the street struggling to keep their balance. Only 50 feet in front of us, the road had heaved upward so we turned around and headed back to the hotel. Our hotel was actually a gated complex, with a conference building and high rise section with guest rooms. We were instructed to sit on the lawn where we soon experienced a second quake as the ground underneath us moved side to side. Everyone was quiet and soon the staff came around with bottled water and saw to every one’s needs. No one was hurt, the hotel was new, built to earthquake specifications, so my friend and I decided we would treat this as an adventure, rather than an ordeal. We joined other members of our group poolside. Somebody had a bottle of rum and the hotel provided coke so we had an earthquake party!
A wedding tent was set up for a wedding that day which, of course, was cancelled. The hotel staff tossed out mattresses and blankets and pillows from the first floor guest rooms and set everyone up to sleep in the tent. Pool water was pumped out to the toilets adjoining the pool, a hot meal was provided for us and we all helped clear the debris from the walkaways and pool areas. All our basic needs were met, and so we settled into our “deluxe refugee camp. “ The main negative was that communications were down and we could not reach loved ones for 2 days. The next night the monsoon rains hit and we downgraded our refugee camp to tourist class. We all huddled together in the center of the tent to avoid the rain and winds and soon it became a snoring symphony. The next day we ventured out of the hotel grounds and found 2 nearby tourist stores open. We gave them our headlamps and flashlights and bought whatever we could, which, we were told, would support their families for 2 weeks. On our 4th day we were able to fly to Delhi where we overnighted and enjoyed a hot shower and a celebratory meal before flying home. The Nepalese people were the most kind and caring people I ever met in my world travels. They saw to our needs, worked almost round the clock, despite their personal problems. Their families were safe and brought to the hotel for food and shelter, but many lost their homes. I urge everyone to contribute to rebuilding of the Nepalese tourism infrastructure. More news to follow about that.
In late May we flew off to Seattle and rented a car for a one week fly /drive vacation to this beautiful state. Eager to taste those Washington State oysters, we stopped at the Timberhouse Restaurant in Quilcene for lunch, a bit pricey but very good! Our first overnight stop was Olympic National Park where we stayed 2 nights at the family friendly Sol Doc Hot Springs Hotel with bungalows surrounding the main building and hot springs area. You are in the heart of nature at this place. We spent a day driving to the HO area where you can “Hike the Ho” on 3 easy different trails, which take about an hour each depending on how fast you walk and how many photos you take. This is the only rain forest in the continental U.S. and the moss covered trees are a beautiful sight to behold. While on the peninsula, plan or spending some time in, or staying overnight at Port Townsend, a lovely little town at the northern tip of the peninsula.
From there we drove to Mt Rainier National Park and headed up the mountain to the Paradise Inn, a charming historic inn and national landmark. Little did we realize that Mt Rainer is the snowiest place in the continental U.S.A. After driving through the sunshine we eventually reached the clouds and the fog-shrouded Paradise Inn. We almost missed the turn off to the parking lot. The inn has an enormous cozy lobby, complete with piano player and a beautiful sunken dining room with views of the mountains on either side. Guest rooms are small but they are renovating many of the wings to accommodate larger rooms. Even in late May, most of the trails feeding off from the lodge were snow covered so we checked out after our one night stay and headed further down the mountain for some hiking.
We then headed east to the wine country of Walla Walla, staying with friends and enjoying the wines of Washington State. If you stop in the town, be sure to enjoy lunch at the Olive Marketplace and Café at 21 E. Main St, with a stunning array of delicious fresh foods at reasonable prices. There are many wineries to visit, one of which is called L’École Winery as it was converted from an old schoolhouse.
Our final 2 night stay was at the Ace Hotel in Seattle, a quirky interesting property. Located in a trendy neighborhood restaurant area, with relatively reasonable prices, it has one big drawback: Parking is a bear! The local paid parking areas must be vacated by 11:00pm so around 9:30pm, after the restaurant crowd left, we moved our car searching for street parking which is free after 9:00pm. The hotel has no A/C and no private baths, but it is spanky clean with a bank of bathrooms down the hall replenished frequently with fresh towels and high end shampoos, conditioners and body washes. And the major tourist sites are all within walking distance of the hotel.
The city of Seattle has so much to offer it is impossible to list it all. We rode up the obligatory Space Needle, checked out Pioneer Square and thoroughly enjoyed exploring Pike’s Market where we had an excellent seafood lunch at Anthonys’ Restaurant. But our last excursion was one of the highlights of our trip: the Boeing plant in Everett, WA, north of the city. If you do not have a car, there are bus companies that offer half day tours at reasonable prices and the guides are very good as they point out the history of Google and Amazon along the drive. The Boeing plant never closes and tours are offered every day of the year, advance reservations recommended. The tour takes a half day with transfers and is well worth it. You are shuttled on a van to the 2 sides of the largest building in the world and then inside you walk on multi- level platforms to see the workers assembling the parts of the various planes. The body of the plane is assembled from 3 parts, plus wings and the tail, which are flown in from all over the world on a special cargo plane called the Dreamlifter. Safety is the number #1 issue here. The highlight of the tour for me, was at the end, when we saw a fully assembled latest version of the Dreamliner. The wings are swept back like eagle wings and they move while in flight to dampen turbulence. The plane was a thing of beauty, and I cannot wait for the opportunity to fly it!
After the tour, as our vehicle pulled out of the parking lot, we were thrilled to see a Dreamlifter come in for a landing right in front of us. The landing was perfect but the cargo plane was so heavy it threw up dust from the runway as the tires slammed down on the tarmac. A fitting end to our tour.
Each year we continue to explore new areas of our home state. Over July 4th weekend we drove to the quirky town of Rifle, Colorado, near the Utah border, for an overnight stay. A portion of the movie “Vanishing Point” was filmed in Rifle. Scenes include a shot of Kowalski’s car crossing a white metal bridge and confronting Utah state patrol cars. Rifle was also mentioned in Stephen King’s “The Stand.”
Nearby is Rifle State Park, popular with rock climbers and the Colorado National Monument, a beautiful drive and worth the short detour west. We ate at the Shooter’s Grill where all the wait staff carry a gun on their hip. Shades of the Wild West! The restaurant offers good food at a reasonable price and is popular with both tourists and locals.
After that we spent the morning driving across the Grand Mesa to Montrose for a 2 night stay. This is a glorious drive, not difficult, with lots of interesting stops. First stop was the Powderhorn Ski Area for a cold lemonade. We learned that the lodge offers a 2 week summer program called Wireless for Warriors that teaches our vets electrical and technical skills that help them get back into the mainstream after defending their country. Many are offered jobs before they finish the course. The expenses are covered by the federal programs for Veterans.
Another outstanding stop was in Cedaredge at the Pioneer Town. www.pioneertown.org Allow at least an hour for this excellent attraction. I have visited many historic and pioneer towns but this was tops on my list. Manned by volunteers, the museum and town was built by volunteers as well and the antique items inside the various structures were all donated and consequently the real deal. There is a jail, a small sheriff’s office and yes you can sit at his desk! The bank and the safe looked like something out of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” You can go behind the teller’s window and pretend you are a banker. The saloon has a poker table and old time mirrors plus there is a working creamery, a doll house and a wonderful old doctor’s office with the original medical equipment from over 100 years ago. Be sure to stop in the small towns advertising peaches and cherries as you are now on the Western Slope, where the sweet Palisade peaches are grown.
The next day we headed to the nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a scenic and geological wonder. We started off with a 10:00am one hour ranger guided hike along the rim which explained the history and the geology of the area. These free ranger guided hikes are always a great way to get to know the national parks. Next we viewed the film at the Visitor’s Center and learned about how the railroad and the roads and the land was surveyed. Most astonishing was the 2 surveyors who, on their second try down the river in 1901, crashed their remaining boat and decided to jump into the water, and finish the job. They survived and became famous and did complete their survey.
After that we spent about 2 hours driving the rim and stopping at all the viewpoints for a short hike and some photos. By early afternoon the sun and heat had wiped us out so we headed back to town for a cold beer and sandwiches at the Horsefly Restaurant on Main St. Another great place to eat on Main Street is the Two Sisters Bistro – outstanding breakfast. On the drive home, we stopped in the cute little town of Palisade which offers a Sunday morning artisan and produce market. We filled up our trunk with fresh fruit and little artisan gifts for family.
There are several other quirky and interesting things to do in Colorado, which I am listing below:
The Bed Race in the town of Central City
This is held in June in this historic town and yes it is a gambling town, but the focus is on its historic architecture. The bed race is a carry-over from its history and 2 men push a lady on a bed down Main Street. Everyone is dressed in period clothes and the ladies are dressed like dance hall girls. The entertainment goes on all day and is a fun day trip from Denver, only 45 minutes away.
This historic cemetery in the heart of Denver encompasses Colorado’s very early history as well as recent burials. There are ethnic sections plus surveyor sections, nurse sections and if you head over to the oldest section for our military you will find the small gravestone of Silas Soule, the officer who refused to have his unit participate in the Sand Creek Massacre. His gravestone is revered by the Native Americans who often leave flowers and tokens at his grave on the anniversary of this terrible day in our history.
LoDo Haunted Walking Tour
LoDo or Lower Downtown is the site of many saloons, brothels and railroad hotels that thrived during the rollicking days of the 1860’s and beyond. This 2 hour walking tour visits those sites that are still standing, albeit transformed into another business, and are still considered haunted. The beautiful Oxford Hotel is one of them and despite its numerous renovations, it has a long history of hauntings.
Elk Bugling excursions to Rocky Mt National Park *****
This has become our favorite annual activity in the state of Colorado. Every year from mid-September to mid or late October, the bucks, filled with testosterone, begin bugling in the wee hours of the morning and then descend down the mountains to the meadows where they spend their day defending their harem from the young bucks, or trying to increase it. It is a glorious thrilling event and the panorama that unfolds is different each year. In years past we saw 2 adolescent brothers mustering up the courage to challenge a big bull and then running away when the big bull surged forward. Last year we saw a big bull with a harem of 20 females spending the morning chasing after 2 of his females as they trotted off the get friendly with a young male challenger. When the bull brought the ladies back into the fold, he chastised them, nipping their butts and literally barking at them. Finally, exasperated, he ran across the road, and up the hill to chase after his challenger. We were only about 40 feet from him, next to our car, when he turned and chased. About 20 people were watching roadside, like us, and quickly dispersed or jumped into their cars when the buck ran by.
The best way to do this excursion is to arrive at the park about an hour before dawn. (Yes it is grueling to get up that early but it is worth it!) Drive past the visitor center, (you can use the bathrooms even though the visitors center is not yet open). Then follow the turn off to Moraine Meadow and park your car next to the meadow and on the side of the road, but off the road. Dress in winter clothes, parka, hat, gloves and bring blankets and folding chairs. Use a flashlight to get your gear out of the trunk but then turn it off. Sit next to your car. You will not see anything but the elk are surrounding you and they see you and will avoid you. Then sit and listen to the serenade of bugling all around you and all across the mountains. It is the wild call of nature and very thrilling. As dawn approaches, the elk will come down to the meadow and you can follow the herds on foot, along the road, or re-park your car as needed. About 2-3 hours after dawn, the show is over as the elk head back up the mountains to rest. By then you will have shed your parka, hat and gloves and can drive into the town of Estes Park and have a delicious well- earned breakfast in town. On the way home, about 20 minutes away (10 miles outside the park on Route 36) stop and buy some delicious cherry pies, just like Grandma made, at the Colorado Cherry Pie Company (on your left). http://coloradocherrycompany.com/
SPT IS GOING BACK TO PERU!!!
Finally, we’re headed back to Peru. Dates are July 15-23, 2016. Due to popular demand, we are returning to this outstanding destination and will visit Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the awesome Lake Titicaca. Special family activities will be arranged. Come join us for a spectacular vacation!
One of the most beautiful places on the planet is Peru. This summer, Single Parent Travel will be heading south of the Equator to visit this ancient and beautiful paradise. Our Founder, Brenda Elwell has designed this trip to be cultural, educational, and beautiful.
Your comfort is enhanced with many included meals, private tours when available, and a spectacular domed train ride to Cusco and Machu Picchu!
As with all of Brenda’s trips, there will be plenty of personal attention and surprises along the way. The details of this trip can be found in this complete itinerary (PDF). For more details or to reserve your spot, please email Brenda Elwell directly.
- Dates: July 15-23, 2016
- Cost: $5688 (adult and child under 12 at time of travel) – $6996 (adult and child 12 and older at time of travel)
- Meals: Many are included
- Airfare is additional. Brenda/Maxim Tours can provide quote and make arrangements if desired.
- Deposit: $500 per person (refundable less a $20 pp processing fee up to May 16, 2016)
- Final Payment Due: May 16, 2016
NOTICE: Due to some emergency surgery and a prolonged recovery, this trip will be canceled. Sorry! (5/29/15)
For the 15th year, Single Parent Travel is returning to Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa from August 15 to 22, 2015! This will be out 15th trip to Beaches Turks and Caicos and it is guaranteed not to disappoint. Your vacation is ALL INCLUSIVE–leave the wallet at home and enjoy the sun, sand and surf. With the addition of the exclusive Italian Village (all suite and all concierge) and the Key West Village there is something for everyone and a total of 20 restaurants–too many to sample them all, we are only there a week!
Of course we will have some SPT surprises along the way including a private welcoming reception, group activities and more!
Your week in paradise (based on the rooms we have blocked) will range from $5522 for a deluxe room. Pricing is for a parent and a child. Please call for pricing for more than one child or additional room categories. Airfare and insurance are optional.
For more details and pricing, please download our flier (PDF) or give me a call at 888-277-8543!
To reserve your spot and guarantee your price, a $400 per room deposit is all it takes. It is fully refundable until June 15, 2015 when the balance is due. For anyone that has been to a Sandals or Beaches resort before, we can arrange for your Signature Guest discount on top of these prices. Just ask us and we can check into it for you!
And here is the warning—do not wait to hold your space. The resort WILL sell out. The Italian and Key West Village rooms will sell out faster. Your deposit is fully refundable for any reason up to June 15, 2015. And as long as there is space, we can change room categories at no charge. But by having the deposit down, you are assured that you will have your first choice of room!
Single Parent Travel has a unique relationship with Beaches and we are guaranteed to have the lowest prices available. For ease in reading the flier, we round up to the next dollar. We also monitor the pricing throughout the year and if there is a sale or a special promotion that applies to your trip, we will cancel it and re-book it on your behalf.
I hope you can join us this year!
Europe’s most breathtaking scenery, the Midnight Sun, some of her most brilliant and exotic cities, internationally renowned cuisine, and world class Jazz – that’s Scandinavia!! Unimaginably beautiful!
Copenhagen, city of Hans Christian Andersen, the glorious Tivoli Gardens in-town amusement park, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbor, an endless choice of museums, restaurants, bars and entertainment of every sort!
Stockholm, city of Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, one of Europe’s most enchanting cities, the world-famous Vasa Museum, breathtaking Gamla Stan (Old Town), and the city that revived the art of Jazz Music for the world to enjoy anew!
You cruise the Stockholm Archipelago, with endless stunning island landscapes dotting the Baltic Sea en route to beautiful Finland, where you arrive the next morning.
Helsinki, your final stop, where fun on the Tram mixes with seeing all the sights of this enigmatic city, Finlandia Hall and one of Europe’s most stunning concert venues, the island fortress of Suomenlinaa in Helsinki Harbor, and a magnificent setting on the Baltic make this an unforgettable place to bid farewell to beautiful Scandinavia!
For more details and complete itinerary, please download our flier.
COST: $2399 per person which includes airfare* from NYC
DEPOSITS/CANCELLATION: $500 pp deposit required. $250 cancellation fee; 50% at 90 days, 75% 89-31 days, 100% within 30 days.
ADDITIONAL COSTS: Insurance, personal items, meals and sightseeing not included in itinerary.
* To take advantage of air inclusive pricing, the air portion is non-refundable and must be paid at the time of the deposit and will be subject to any rules and regulations of the airline in terms of cancellation.
The “Golden City” and the Rivers Moldova and Elbe. The Czech Republic, the small country in the heart of Europe, impresses with its original river landscapes, picturesque villages and romantic castles, whose history and architecture can often be traced back to the Middle Ages.
Prague, known also as “the Golden City” and “the City of a Hundred Spires”, is both point of departure and final destination for this beautiful bike and barge tour along the Upper Moldova, in Czech called Vltava, and the huge Elbe River – when the bridges of the Vltava River are ablaze with sunlight and the spires of the castle sparkle in the light, then it becomes obvious that Prague has its nickname “Golden City” with good reason! Multifaceted and unique, modern and at the same time aware of tradition – discover one of Europe’s most beautiful metropolis with its Old Town listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The MS FLORENTINA moors close to the Charles Bridge and is therefore an ideal springboard for exploring this gorgeous city – the marvelously restored Market Place, the busy Wencelslas Square or the Jewish quarter are waiting for you. And you will not be missing out on good food – beer and roast pork with dumplings, just to name one of the many specialties – when you are on the move with your bike do not miss to have a break and quench your thirst with a original Czech amber nectar.
And all along the way, we will have plenty of organized and impromptu SPT gatherings, events, and fun!
For complete details and itinerary, please download our flier!
COST: $1999 per person
DEPOSITS/CANCELLATION: $500 pp deposit required. $250 cancellation fee; 50% at 90 days, 75% 89-31 days, 100% within 30 days.
ADDITIONAL COSTS: Airfare, insurance, personal items, meals and sightseeing not included in itinerary.
This summer, Single Parent Travel will venture out west to take in the glory that is Moab, Utah and the Colorado River with a 3 night rafting trip from June 23 to 26.
Surrounded by an immense red rock playground, Moab, Utah is the perfect setting for a kid-friendly family outing–and Western River Expedition’s Southwest Sampler provides just the right amount of adventure for the whole gang. You’ll get a taste of the “best of the Southwest” on this 4-day, 3-night getaway. First, you’ll spend 2 relaxing nights in luxurious comfort at the Gonzo Inn – the perfect location adjacent to shopping, restaurants, a city walking path, and only one block from the Moab Adventure Center. You’ll explore the wonders of Arches National Park and experience one of Moab, Utah’s most renowned adventures – an off-road Hummer Safari. Top it all off with 2 days of Colorado River rafting plus one night of all-inclusive beach camping and star gazing and you’ll return with endless stories and unforgettable memories.
To view the complete itinerary and see more details, please download this PDF flier.
And of course, we have added in some special SPT goodies as well–we are working on those details now!
AIRLINE INFO: Currently there are no scheduled commercial flights into Moab. The airport authority is negotiating at the present time and people in the area are hopeful. The nearest airport is Grand Junction and a 90 minute shuttle will be required. The cost of the shuttle is $200 per direction, but the cost per person will likely be reduced as more guests are added.
HOTEL INFO: The rate to stay at the Gonzo Inn for an additional night after the rafting trip is $250 per night and is inclusive of all taxes and fees. Lower priced accommodations are available as well in motel-type properties.
COST: $1350 for an adult and a child (5-17)
ADDITIONAL COSTS: Airfare, transfer, insurance, additional hotel nights, personal expenses. Due to airline scheduling from many cities, an additional night may be required at the end of the adventure.
Well hello again, Brenda here! 2013 has been a busy year for me and I wanted to share some of the wonderful family friendly destinations I have visited. Maybe you are making a bucket list? Be sure to consider these!
2013 had me criss crossing the globe & the USA to some interesting family destinations. I tried out the new Icelandic non stop flight Denver to Frankfurt and visited my son in Stuttgart, Germany for Christmas week. After years of catering to him in his youth, the tables were now turned. He prepared breakfast and dinner for me, popped the cork on a nice bottle of Slovenian wine and we enjoyed the view of the city on his terrace. What a welcome! The next day we were off to see Stuttgart. We toured the Mercedes Benz Museum, a stunning piece of architecture which was also an excellent overview of world transportation throughout the world. We hiked downtown Rubble Mt. Greg explained that right after WWII, there was so much rubble in the bombed out German cities that, rather than cart it out, the city governments built a mountain of rubble, covered it with dirt, landscaped it , created walking paths, and – voila! – it became a place of enjoyment for the locals and a solemn reminder of the horrors of war. At the top of the mountain is a pile of rubble with a multi-lingual sign reminding people that this is the result of war. From Stuttgart we did a madcap 3 day tour to Mad King Ludwig’s Castle, Baden Baden and Austria’s charming city of Salzburg where we enjoyed a superb Christmas classical concert in Salzburg Castle, the highlight of my trip. We stayed at a reasonably priced, charming hotel in the center of the Old City called Altstadt Weisse Taub, about $100.00 USD for a single with breakfast and taxes. Rooms were small but cozy, staff multi lingual and very helpful.
Since I had never been to Iceland, I decided to stop over in Reykjavik for 2 nights to enjoy New Year’s Eve with the Icelandics , before returning home. When I got off the plane, my first thought was that I had made a very big mistake. It was cold, very cold, the wind was blowing sideways, and I had great difficulty pulling my suitcase up the slight, but icy incline to the shuttle bus. Suddenly a local Icelandic appeared out of nowhere, grabbed my suitcase and escorted me to the bus. He wore a light jacket and no hat or gloves. I guess his warm heart kept him comfortable. The cheapest way to transfer 45 minutes to downtown is to take the shuttle bus. Cabs run $100.00! I stayed at the comfortable clean 3* Best Western Hotel downtown, only 2 short blocks from the main street. Rooms were small but the price was right – about $85.00 USD with taxes and breakfast for a single. That night I went across the street to a small cozy restaurant (forget the name) that served very good fish and chips and local beer. The next day I spent the few hours of daylight walking around downtown and visiting one of the world’s most unusual museums- the Phallological Museum, which houses the world’s largest display of animal penises. The whale penis was the size of a human being. A 30 minute visit to this museum will keep your family conversation buzzing for days to come.
I had pre-booked a special New Year’s Eve excursion: dinner at a chef’s home (Chef Tyffi) complete with fireworks and celebrations in the neighborhood. We were an English speaking group of 6 from France, Canada, Singapore and the U.S. Dinner was prepared and served by the chef and his son while his charming daughter and wife played hostess. First was an array of Icelandic appetizers including everything from herring to whale blubber. We all tried bits of whale blubber, which tastes like urine and is quickly followed by a shot of Icelandic schnapps. That was our Icelandic baptism! Next was a traditional main dish of lamb followed by a light and sweet typical Icelandic dessert. After that it was on with our boots, parkas and wooly hats to join the neighbors singing Christmas songs around an enormous bonfire, as the Icelandic schnapps flowed freely. This was followed by 500 tons of fireworks set off right in the residential streets. The Icelandics certainly know how to kick off a New Year with a bang! I was so delighted with my visit that I hope to return again, in the spring or summer with friends and family. There are dozens of outdoor excursions to enjoy at all levels of activity. I am considering organizing a future SPT trip to this outstanding family destination. If anyone is interested, let me know.
In February I spent 10 days touring Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro on one of those off season bargain packages. Although famous for its beautiful coastline, I was most impressed with the number of Roman ruins in Croatia. Not only are they everywhere but the locals have incorporated these magnificent structures into their daily lives. Apartments, shops, outdoor cafes, are all built in and around the sturdy Roman walls. Croatians are coffee addicts and take several “official” coffee breaks during the day. Coffee houses are ubiquitous and serve as social centers. Most offer outdoor seating with a view of the sea, not a bad way to while away an hour as you people watch. In addition to great coffee, you can also find very good wine, especially white wine in Croatia and Slovenia. Like neighboring Italy, vineyards are found everywhere: roadside, back yards, hilltops. Due to the strong Italian influence, you can also find great pizza everywhere. The beaches along the Croatian coastline are not beautiful sand beaches, like California or New Jersey, rather they are concrete or rocky with harsh sand. It is more of a sun bathing & boating atmosphere. There are many seaside walks often connecting one town to another. As we toured through the various countries, the question came up: “What about the Serbo-Croatian war? Do animosities still remain?” The standard answer was that the war was something they all wished had not happened and they want to move on. And it appears they have.
In April I flew down to Chile for my annual South America inspection trip. This time I visited Easter Island, Patagonia (Torres del Paine National Park) and some wine areas outside Santiago I had not visited before. Easter Island was a delightful surprise. A 4 hour flight from Santiago, it is the most remote island in the world. At first it seemed like what Hawaii would have been 50 years ago, mostly dirt roads, and simple structures for housing and a Polynesian population. Over time I learned of different influences. Oral history dictates that there were 2 waves of immigration: The Polynesians who came from Tahiti and nearby islands and the Peruvians who migrated from South America (called long ears for the earrings they wore which made their ear lobes grow long). Our guide was of Polynesian descent and our driver was a Long Ear and you could see the differences in their faces. There are over 1000 Moais (the huge statues) across the island. We were in awe of the size of them and the power and energy they seemed to radiate. They all represent ancestors of the Rapa Nui and were built to protect the villages. Many years ago, when times were bad and food became scarce, in a fit of anger, the Rapa Nui toppled many of the statues, blaming them for their misfortune. When Thor Heyerdahl visited the island, he arranged funding to have these magnificent structures restored to their original state. My favorite moment during my stay in Easter Island was attending Sunday mass with the locals and singing hymns in Rapa Nui. Everyone holds hands and beautiful lively music is played by a local quartet. Tourists are most welcome, not matter what religion or non- religion they follow. It was one of those great moments of travel that I will treasure.
This was my third trip to Patagonia (first time on the Chilean side) and we were fortunate to enjoy good weather during our stay. After a 4 hour flight down from Santiago (with a 2 hour delay as we landed elsewhere while the fog cleared at our destination) followed by a 4 hour land transfer, we finally arrived at our remote lodge, the new Tierra Patagonia. Designed by a new young female Chilean architect, this deluxe rustic all inclusive lodge has won many architectural awards. The lodge nestles into a bluff, almost invisible from the road and the front , with floor to ceiling windows, faces the lake and mountains. The roof is designed like an air foil so that you neither hear nor feel the famous (and sometimes fierce) Patagonia winds. The view was captivating and could be enjoyed from the lounge, restaurant and toasty warm infinity pool. We enjoyed 2 full days of hiking and glacier tours with only a little rain with evenings spent watching the sunset with a glass of excellent Chilean wine in hand. Within Torres del Paine National Park are several moderate priced “hosterias” (all inclusive lodges). All offer various activities, especially hiking and you can hike from lodge to lodge if you are so inclined. The day we departed Torres del Paine National Park, we saw a huaso (Chilean cowboy) tending his flock of Patagonian sheep complete with his dogs tending the herd. A perfect photo op.
Last, but by no means the least, we spent several holiday weekends and Sundays touring our glorious home state of Colorado. Memorial Day weekend was spent at Crested Butte, a family fun destination with an historical downtown and lots of hiking, biking and outdoor activities. Originally founded as a mining town, it went into disrepair and later emerged as a ski destination. Be sure to visit the local history museum and have a drink and snack at Montanya’s downtown rum distillery, a family friendly place, where you can watch rum being distilled while you enjoy a creative rum drink and possibly a local band. http://www.montanyarum.com/blog/tag/crested-butte We stayed at the historic Elk Mountain Lodge, a former spacious home in a quiet residential area, about $150.00 a night for 2 with full breakfast. There is an unusual bike culture in this town. You will see old Schwinn bikes left, unlocked, all over town. Grab one or two, take a ride around town and leave them whenever you want. No charge or else a small donation is requested for maintenance of the bikes.
We headed out to Southwest Colorado for July 4th weekend. Having been to Durango several times before and previously hiked nearby Mesa Verde National Park, we were focused this time on our full day excursion on the famous Durango Silverton Railroad, one of the outstanding rail trips in the U.S.A. We selected an open car for better viewing and photos. Aside from a few cinders blowing onto our clothes, we decided it was a good choice. You definitely need sunglasses to protect your eyes. The scenery was nothing short of fantastic and the train went slowly enough to secure lots of outstanding pictures. There is a 2 hour stop in the cute little mining town of Silverton. We chose to return by train, although you have the option to bus back down. You should reserve tickets in advance and sometimes kids ride free if you book online. http://www.durangotrain.com
From there we drive over an hour to Pagosa Springs for a 2 night stay. The wildfires in that area were somewhat in control in early July and roads were open but we could see the firefighters gearing up in the early morning to climb up into the remote mountains to do their dangerous work. Hand painted signs were everywhere along the road as residents proclaimed their appreciation for these hardworking brave men. Pagosa Springs is another lively family friendly mountain town. There are amusement rides, tubing down the river, right through town, and lots of hiking. For those of you interested in history, there is a small little known history museum just at the edge of town, which contains furniture from a one room schoolhouse as well as many other intriguing artifacts. Check out the western history books as well. One of the local authors works part time in the museum and is happy to engage in conversation. Ask the locals for directions. Nearby Chimney Rock National Monument offers ranger guided tours of the ancient Pueblo sites. You need to be physically fit to do the entire hike or you can quit midway through. Bring lots of water and dress for sun protection. I strongly recommend booking the ranger guided tour in advance. There is a small fee. http://www.chimneyrockco.org/
There is one movie theatre in town and going there is a cultural event. They have only one evening showing per day and you had better arrive one hour ahead, which, by fortuitous dumb luck, we decided to do. Waiting in line is a social event for the locals. About 15 minutes before showtime, the theatre opens, everybody is serviced quickly and all are seated just before the theatre darkens. Safe metered tourist parking is available across the street from the theatre.
This summer we also checked out some additional attractions in the Denver area. In the nearby western town of Golden, the Colorado Railroad Museum is definitely worth a visit and has an extensive indoor and outdoor display of history, photos, equipment and numerous railroad cars and engines you can climb into. http://coloradorailroadmuseum.org/
The Wings Over Rockies Museum , located right inside Denver, is an amazing place. Built inside a huge airline hangar, you will feel like you are stepping back in time once you enter. The music is from the 1940’s as are all the displays and aircraft. You can climb into some of the planes and even fly in a simulator. There is a separate display for the WASPs, the long unrecognized female test pilots who actually trained many of the men. Check out the video with Harrison Ford, himself an accomplished pilot. http://www.wingsmuseum.org/
For those short on time who cannot visit Rocky Mountain National Park (2 hours from Denver), try our spanking brand new Staunton State Park, only 45 minutes from Denver , located just past the town of Conifer. The park has good signage for the entrance. Lots of hiking trails from easy lakeside to moderate mountain hiking. Bring your own food and water and start early as this area tends to get early afternoon thunderstorms.
What’s coming in the future:
I hope you can join us in July of 2014 for our SPT family trip to Guatemala. And, keep in mind, our special SPT Family Safari to South Africa in coming up in 2015. Details to follow in a future newsletter.
Labor Day weekend I am heading out to Kansas for a visit to the Cosmos Museum and the underground train ride to the salt mines in Hutchinson, followed by some good Kansas City BBQ! In October I am off to a hiking trip to Big Sur and Yosemite National Park. I will be writing about those destinations in my next newsletters. In the meantime, if you have questions about any of these destinations or the SPT trip to Guatemala or South Africa, email me at Brenda@maximtours.com
OK, I promised to not be one of those nudges and update on my progress all the time–it’s been almost 2 months since the last update and I am beyond thrilled with the results. So far, I have lost 32 pounds and I can see all sorts of changes.
- My family crest ring may need to be re-sized
- I am wearing some clothing that was previously too tight
- I am feeling a lot better in general
- My endurance is up
I am still riding the bike when I can–it’s getting cold; but I find that going faster or longer is becoming easier and easier. The days when I don’t ride the bike, I have taken to walking. Usually it is just 2 miles at a brisk pace at night after things have calmed down. I crank up the tunes on my phone and just kick it out. A few times I even walked with 5 pound dumb bells in my hands to exercise. Longest bike ride was 12 miles in just under an hour, and the longest walk was 6 miles in just under 2 hours. For that long walk, I was hanging out while my daughter was at driver’s ed and decided to take a walk partially around the airport–they have a path.
And while I abhor running, I am going to consider a 5K in the New Year.
I downloaded a free app for my phone a while ago called Map My Fitness and it keeps track of your activity–makes it really easy.
I am finding that my mindset has changed. I am looking at calories on labels and thinking smart (boring) when I eat out. I still would give my left arm for a pizza, cheese steak from Philly and the eggs benedict from the local breakfast place; but I am holding out till I really hit a big milestone and will celebrate.
I do not think I am gong to hit my 6o pounds by New Years goal as I have been averaging between 3 and 4 pounds a week. So, I might get 50. But it’s always good to have a goal to reach! On Friday, I go in for the procedure on the little magic machine. It is a scale and a magician that tells you all sorts of stuff just by holding onto these two metal poles–body fat, muscle, etc. And that will be 3 full months on the program.
The food and supplements are running between $85 and $120 a week, so it is not cheap. But, I have also not been shopping at the grocery nearly as often.
Maybe when May rolls around and we head up to the ranch (announcement tomorrow), I can ride the horse instead of the horse riding me!
Hopefully my next update will be around New Years and I will be down 50. We shall see, there are a few tough weeks of food temptation in between!
If anyone is interested in the minutiae of this whole thing, I did start a blog that tracks the ups and downs a bit more frequently — My Medifast Weight Loss
As a mom of 3 teenagers aged 17, 15, and 14 I have watched my kids get sucked into the vortex that is social media. I can hardly blame them as media technology has swept over society like an electronic tsunami. Any news item at all is followed in real time as it happens and even the most trivial post can go viral seen by millions worldwide in an instant if the masses deem it worthy. Kids and adults are tethered to their smartphones using it for anything and everything the least of which is making actual calls. My how things have changed. When I was my kid’s age, any communication that wasn’t done face to face was done over the phone in my room. If I wasn’t in my room, I was out of luck, cut off from my friends, completely oblivious to what was happening having to rely solely on my memory to share information until I had the opportunity to do so when I got home (and got my photos back from developing).
Today, the world is a completely different place. Every impression can be posted instantly, liked, commented on, shared with friends, tweeted, re-tweeted, and instagramed, and that’s just for starters. What’s truly mind boggling as a parent, is how knowledgeable and proficient my kids are at all of this. So the question is, do we let the kids stay connected electronically when on a family trip, or force them to shut down and reconnect the old fashioned way. What place if any do electronics have on a family road trip?
A Little Down Time is OK, Kids need to learn to entertain themselves
When the kids were small, I did not allow those DVD players in the car that are hooked up to the back of the front row of seats so the kiddies can watch cartoons to pass the time while driving. I don’t believe every free moment needs to be filled with television or anything for that fact that takes us outside of reality, which in my opinion does not allow kids to figure out how to entertain themselves. I like to use travel time in the car to talk about what we’ve seen or where we’re going, listen and sing along to music, and most importantly look out the window at the passing landscape. Being on the road is not just about the stops and fun activities, it’s also understanding similarities and differences as we drive from place to place.
Understand it’s impossible to disconnect completely but it’s important to set limits
As a seasoned traveler with children I have watched this issue snowball over time. As the kids have gotten older they spend infinitely more time connecting and engaging over their smartphones. As a parent, I have always preached moderation to my kids in whatever they do, eating sweets, watching television, and a host of other things. The important thing I want my kids to learn is how to set their own limits. In today’s day and age, its pretty difficult to disconnect kids from the phenomenon of social media in the electronic age, but it is important to let kids know that it’s not all access all the time. I don’t allow cell phone use during meals either at home or when we travel. I also don’t allow cell phone use during activities when we travel unless they are sharing something they have learned or find really interesting. I explained to my kids that burying themselves in their cell phones during activities on our road trips is disrespectful to me, the person who planned and paid for the activity-something that I felt they would benefit from and enjoy. My kids get that, but that’s because I’ve made a point of having a conversation about it. I’ve taken the time to explain to them why it’s wrong-not telling them, chastising them, or even embarrassing them, but explaining it to them. The biggest mistake we make as parents is underestimating our kid’s capacity to understand.
Embrace the technology, it could be your kids that come to your rescue
On our most recent summer road trip to New England, I found myself relying more and more on my kids to help navigate where we were going even finding our way back in a sticky situation when we were lost. On our first evening in Boston, we walked a good 2 miles from our hotel to the harbor to watch the fireworks. There were throngs of people and most of the roads were blocked off surrounding the area for security purposes. After the show there was a mass exodus as people headed out of the area. In our excitement to secure a good spot we hadn’t made mental notes to retrace our steps back to the hotel and found ourselves lost and confused in the huge moving crowd. The kids and I made it to a corner and the three of them whipped out their cell phones and using various apps figured out where we were and where we needed to go to get back. I am sure I could have figured it out on my own in time, but they were infinitely faster at it and more efficient than I would ever be. I was quite proud of them and it eased my mind to know that if they ever found themselves alone in a similar situation that they could rely on their electronic tools to find their way.
Technology is the future, there is no denying that, but what’s important is making sure your kids know when it’s appropriate to use and when it’s not. They don’t need to be tethered to their phone at all times and usually a conversation that results in an understanding about limits is all that’s required. They need to understand the beauty of real life in the here and now and real dialogue as a family are as important as that viral video that everyone is sharing. But as parents we also need to understand that is the norm of how kids communicate. We need to embrace the positives like sharing what they’ve seen and learned on family trips, and engaging them to use their powerful electronic tools when their help is required. With that kind of understanding a great deal of stress can be eliminated between kids and parents when it comes to electronics on the road.
About Alisa Abecassis
Alisa Abecassis is the proud mother of three children – Lilia, 17; Isaac, 15; and Joel, 14. After her marriage ended, she decided it was time to strengthen her family’s bonds and personal history by traveling and gaining a better appreciation all 50 United States. Her website, www.Exploreall50.com is filled with resources for family travel in America, as well as other groups and individuals. Abecassis has a bachelor’s degree in political science from UCLA. Connect with her on Twitter @ExploreAll50.