While the coronavirus pandemic may have us cooped up at home, it doesn’t mean that we have to forgo our vacations to distant lands. With the help of technology, you can now take a leisurely journey through the Swiss countryside, explore the Andes in Peru or see the cherry blossoms in Japan by way of virtual train rides. You can even travel the real Hogwarts Express through Scotland!
All aboard for these adventures:
Bernina Express, Switzerland. This is by far one of the best virtual train rides available. This two-hour virtual trip takes you from St. Moritz in the Alps to Tirano, Italy on the Mediterranean coast via the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, which links two historic rail lines through remote areas of the Alps. You be travelling through the highest railway crossing on the highest adhesion railway in Europe.
Pike’s Peak, Colorado. From the heights of the Alps to North America’s highest train, this quick ride up to Pike’s Peak provides a 360-degree view of your trip to 14,115 ft on Manitou Springs' world famous Cog Railway. It’s a short trip, but well worth the watch.
North West Coast Line – Chester, England to Holyhead, Wales. This virtual journey takes you along the north coast of Wales, and provides a wonderful commentary on what you are seeing as you travel through the countryside.
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief – Chicago to Los Angeles. Once considered the “Train of the Stars”, this narrated journey takes you from farmland to the prairie, through the Rockies and the southwest until reaching it’s final stop in Los Angeles.
Jacobite Steam Train – Highlands, Scotland. If you are a Harry Potter fan, this virtual train ride is right up your alley! The West Highland Line is the exact trip featured in the films. While it’s not Hogwart’s Express, it is a pretty ride through the Highlands of Scotland – and you’ll catch one or two familiar scenes from the movies.
Ferrocarril Centro Andino, Peru. This 4-part series takes you on a scenic ride from the port of Callao up to the Galera railway station in the Andes. You’ll see beautiful vistas of the countryside and many points of interest along the way.
Flåm Railway, Norway. Considered one of the most scenic journeys in the world, the Flåm Railway in Norway travels from the end of Aurlandsfjord, a tributary of the Sognefjord, up to the high mountains at Myrdal station. Along the way, you’ll pass waterfalls, deep ravines, snow-capped mountains, and high-altitude farms, all while watching the weather shift from sun to rain.
Venice to London on the Simplon Orient Express. One of the most romanticized trips is aboard the Orient Express. While the original Orient Express doesn’t exist anymore, there is a joint venture that operates as the Simplon Orient Express. They have restored the carriages from the original trains, and operate from Venice to London and other lines through Europe. This video takes you on a tour of the cars as well as narrates the 3-day journey from Venice to London – giving you a small taste of what it must have been to travel on this opulent train.
We hope these “trips” take you to places that you have wanted to visit. When you are ready for your next in-person trip, give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437. We’ll help you plan an unforgettable trip!
As we all continue to combat the coronavirus pandemic by staying home and implementing social distancing procedures when we do venture out, many are looking forward to taking a vacation – escaping to somewhere fun, surrounded by people, and making happy memories after months cooped up. The question is, what will that vacation look like and how does the travel industry have to change in order to accommodate the “new normal”?
Focus on Health. The one thing that will be on everyone’s mind as they begin to plan any vacation is their health and the health of those that they will be around. Crowded airplanes and packed cruises may be a thing of the past as we will most likely need to continue with some form of social distancing. You may even need to provide proof of good health when traveling by plane or cruise ship – especially if you are in one of the more vulnerable health groups.
Airlines. When non-essential flights return, air travel will be much different than before the pandemic hit. Most airlines will concentrate on high-traffic routes and may even eliminate or severely curtail those flights that weren’t profitable. Most travelers will prefer direct flights to limit exposure, and flight attendants and crews will most likely wear masks and gloves as they interact with their customers. Expect to see a ban on middle-seat occupancy and changes to boarding procedures as airlines practice social distancing as well.
Cruises. One of the hardest hit in the travel industry will be cruise lines. As we’ve seen over the past few months, cruises have been hammered with COVID-19 outbreaks, and many struggled (and are still struggling) to find ports where their passengers could disembark. This is on top of the other periodic outbreaks aboard cruise ships that we’ve heard about in the news for years. Cruises tend to get a bad rap as far as health and safety are concerned, but this is much different. There are several hurdles that cruise lines need to overcome in order to bounce back after the pandemic ends – especially trust.
Cruise lines are going to have to prove to the public that their ships are not a health risk. Endless buffets will be a thing of the past, with glass protecting food and servers in masks and gloves handing you your selections. Casinos, theaters, swimming pools and even dining rooms will limit the number of passengers allowed in at any given time. Cruise lines will have to make the public aware of what they are doing to keep the ships clean and their procedures to contain onboard illnesses. In fact, most will probably increase their medical staffs and facilities to ensure they can handle medical emergencies.
Another issue that cruise ships will need to explore is air circulation. Right now, most cruises rely on recirculated air, thus making it very easy for viruses and other illnesses to spread throughout the ship. We’ll most likely see systems put in place that bring fresh air into common areas and cabins, and an increase in sanitizing procedures.
When it comes to handling sick passengers, cruise lines will have to improve their coordination with ports around the world, ensuring that remaining passengers are protected and there is little threat to the port city as they disembark.
Hotels and Rentals. In addition to airlines and cruise lines, the hotel industry will have its own challenges. Hotels will need to promote their cleanliness, and will contend with a slow return of leisure, business and group travel. Rentals will have a bit more to overcome as people continue to be concerned about health conditions and cleanliness of those vacation homes.
In all cases, expect to find discounted rates as the travel industry tries to rebound. Travel agents, like Luxury Destinations Concierge, will have the most up-to-date information to help you plan your trip, and will be there for you in case your plans change. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437. We’re happy to answer your questions and make your next vacation memorable!
As we continue to quarantine during the coronavirus, many businesses are starting to get creative, and wineries around the world are no different. If you were hoping to plan a winery tasting tour, then you're in luck: many of California’s wineries now have virtual wine tasting sessions for you to enjoy. Here are just a few:
Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery. Located in Napa Valley, this winery is known for its sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, and additional red Bordeaux varietals. Their virtual tour starts with you ordering their tasting kit, consisting of 6 bottles of wine. Then, for six consecutive weeks, you will be guided through tasting each bottle on Zoom with St. Supéry Estate Chef Tod Kawachi, seafood purveyors and guest chefs. You also get recipes that complement each wine so that you can make a meal out of it. The next virtual tour starts April 30, 2020, and is called the Great Sustainable Seafood Tasting Kit.
Parallel Wines. Parallel Wines in Napa Valley has taken a different approach that will appeal to a variety of wine connoisseurs. They have three different options to experience wines from their vineyards: on-demand videos which offer a 3-5 minute video giving a bit of background on a specific wine and then walking you through a simple taste test; a private tasting session for you and your friends where you purchase their tasting kit and then schedule a 90-minute virtual guided wine tasting session; and finally a free Sunday Live Video Tasting from 2-2:30pm PT (starts April 19th), where you’ll be able to interact with Parallel Wines' General Manager, Adrienne D. Capps (registration is required). See all their offerings here.
Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery. Located in Healdsburg, CA, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery is a premier vintner in the Russian River Valley. When it comes to virtual wine tastings, they have several packages to choose from. The first is a 6-wine tasting package that includes a virtual experience with the winery’s Sommeliers through the wines and the Russian River Valley neighborhood from the comfort of your living room. The second is a 4-wine package with the Sommeliers leading a small group through the winery experience. If you already have a bottle of Gary Farrell at home, why not try a third option – and join a virtual cellar party where you can ask questions, and share stories and meet others who enjoy their wines as well. Reservations are required for all, and you can read more details of these fabulous packages here.
Bouchaine Vineyards. Also in Napa Valley, Bouchaine Vineyards has 3 virtual wine tasting packages to choose from, depending on your wine “experience”. Winemaker 101 provides some wine tasting basics such as how does wine get its color and how the same grapes produce different wines. Winemaker 201 explores acids, oaks, and color differences in white wines, what aromas and flavors oak barrels give to wine and more. In Winemaker 301, takes you on a tour of 4 different Pinots, talking about what makes them different and even the techniques used in Pinot vineyards (or you can customize your selections). Reservations are required. Find out more on their website.
Big Cork Vineyards. For a little east coast action, Big Cork Vineyards in Maryland is hosting weekly virtual tastings featuring their unique varietals and award-winning wines including Cabernet France, Nebbiola, and Russian Kiss. These virtual tastings are on Wednesdays from 7:30-8:30pm ET – and you can access them through Zoom. Visit their website for the link.
These represent just a few of the wineries that are offering virtual tasting tours across the country. When you are ready to plan an “in-person” wine tasting tour, give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437 – we’ll help you plan your trip of a lifetime!
Do you believe you have an international palette when it comes to food? Over the years, many foods from different regions have become commonplace in our daily lives. Whether it’s Mexican, Italian, Chinese or plain old American cuisine, we’ve become used to these tastes. But this is just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun). Here are some remarkable cuisines from around the world:
Spain: While you may think Spanish and Mexican food would be quite similar, you would actually be mistaken. Spain is one of the best food (and wine) destinations in the world. Most popular are tapas -cold or hot small plates/appetizers – that can be sweet or savory. Whether it’s a tortilla espanola (Spanish omelet made with egg and potatoes), jamon iberico (cured ham) and manchego cheese, or crema catalana (Spain’s version of crème brulee), tapas are an integral part of Spanish culture and food. Other popular dishes are paella, a combination of meats, seafood and vegetables with rice, gazpacho or cold tomato soup, and chorizo, a sweet and spicy pork sausage.
Vietnam: Usually two things come to mind when it comes to Vietnamese food: pho (noodles) and banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches). But there is so much more to Vietnamese cuisine. Bun Cha Hanoi is very popular, and consists of mini ground pork patties steeped in a diluted sweet and savory fish sauce accompanied by rice vermicelli and a simple lettuce salad. Banh Beo Chen is another fun dish – essentially a steamed rice cake topped with pork fat/skin, minced shrimp and fried shallots and served with a mild, sweet and savory fish sauce. If you are more in the mood for a fish dish, then try Bun Rieu, a rice vermicelli noodle soup made with tomato and crabs. The crabs are pounded into a paste then cooked with tomatoes until small crab patties form and float to the top. More crab is added to this easy dish to make it one of the most recognizable throughout Vietnam.
India: By far, India is at the top of the list for best cuisine in the world. While dishes vary from place to place, Indian food is known for its spices and flavors and goes well beyond the curries we mostly associate with Indian cuisine. Biryani, a flavorful blend of spices, rice, meat and vegetables, is popular across the country, with many variations depending on the region. Of course, any Tandoori dish is a must-try. Tandoori refers to the charcoal/clay oven that meats, vegetables and breads are cooked in. The dishes take on the charred and smokey flavor of the fire. Some of the best Tandoori dishes include Tandoori Chicken, Tandoori Roti, Butter Naans, Kulchas, Tandoori Gobi and Aloo. You’ll also want to sample some Samosas, which is a simple snack consisting of a fried dough stuffed with potatoes, lentils and peas or minced meat and onions. And if you are looking for street fare, Chaats may fit the bill. Chaat usually includes crispy fried dough chips, called Papadis, boiled potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, tamarind chutney, green chili and mint chutney, dried mango powder, puffed rice, yogurt and onions – all mixed in various combinations to produce some very interesting – and flavorful – dishes.
South Africa: South Africa may not be on your radar, but the food there is delicious. A melting pot of indigenous cuisine mixed with influences from the Dutch, French, Indian, Malaysian cultures makes South African food unique. Consider Boerewors, a South African sausage made with beef, pork or lamb and a mixture of spices and barbecued. The dish comes from Afrikaans boer (farmer) and Dutch wors (sausage). Another dish to try is Cape Malay Curry, which is a combines cinnamon, saffron, turmeric and chili to create fragrant stews and curries. For a bit of street food, try Bunny Chow - a flavorful South African dish made of hollowed-out bread stuffed with spicy curry. Another Dutch import and favorite dessert is Malva Pudding - sweet and sticky baked sponge pudding made with apricot jam and served smothered in a hot cream sauce.
Turkey: Turkey is also a melting pot of cultures that comes through in their cuisine. More than just kebabs and koftas, Turkish food runs the gamut in taste and texture. Menemen is a simple egg dish consisting of scrambled eggs cooked softly with onions, peppers, paprika, and oregano. A Döner is great for lunch – a pita sandwich prepared with slow cooked chicken, lamb, or beef meat served with vegetables, spices, and garlic yogurt. Manti is another popular dish made of boiled or fried beef/lamb dumplings accompanied by a various range of spices (think miniature ravioli). Served with yogurt or butter, this dish is as traditional as it gets!
The world is full of a wonderful variety of cuisines. Are you ready to try some in person? Give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437 to start planning your food (and fun) filled vacation!
Sticking to the self-quarantine guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic can get a little monotonous. There are just so many board games we can play or hours we can spend binge-watching the latest Netflix series before boredom sinks in. To avoid a bad case of cabin fever, why not escape for a while with a virtual tour?
Whether you want to visit a museum, go to the zoo or check out a piece of history on the other side of the ocean, virtual tours can give you the experience of (almost) being there. Here are some great examples to indulge any interest:
The British Museum, London. The British Museum offers an excellent “tour through history” on it’s website, where you can virtually travel through time to the distant past and learn all about the history of Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
The Louvre, Paris. If you’ve always wanted to go to the Louvre, now’s your chance. They currently have four virtual tours for you to explore – The Advent of the Artist, Egyptian Antiquities, The Remains of the Louvre’s Moat, and Galerie d’Apollon.
The Vatican Museums. Always wanted to visit the Vatican? Now’s your chance! See the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms and more through the power of 360-degree imagery.
National Museum of the United States Air Force. For aviation and history buffs, the National Museum of the United States Air Force virtual tours offers a look at models of America’s early airplanes and their history.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has 17 virtual exhibits to tour. Whether it’s fashion or art, there is much to discover here.
The Winchester Mystery House. If museums aren’t your cup of tea, then maybe a virtual tour of the Winchester Mystery House will pique your interest. Built in 1884 by Sarah Winchester, heiress to a large portion of the Winchester repeating rifle fortune, under odd circumstances, this house certainly lives up to its name.
Houston Zoo. If you need a little diversion, watch the live feeds from Houston Zoo. Whether it’s the giraffes, gorillas or ants (yes ants!) you’ll have a front seat to how they spend their time.
Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sea life more your thing? Then tune into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 24-hr livecams to catch a variety of creatures from the deep (including sharks!)
NASA Tours. If you really want to get out of this world, then take one of NASA’s virtual tours. From the Hubble telescope and NASA Research Centers to the International Space Station, you can learn a lot about our universe.
Machu Picchu, Cuzco. Take a tour of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the comfort of your living room. This 360-degree guided tour details all you would see and learn about Machu Picchu in all its glory.
Ellis Island. Want to learn about the immigration process in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? Then take a virtual tour of Ellis Island, where over 12 million immigrants passed through the doors overlooking the Statue of Liberty.
Virtual tours allow you to discover the world – from the comfort of your own home. If you fall in love with any of these places and want to see more, Luxury Destinations Concierge is here to help you plan your next in-person trip. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437 to get started.
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