All around the world, everyone is getting ready to celebrate the holidays. While we all have our family traditions at this time of year, we tend to forget that not everyone celebrates in the same way – or even on the same day. Here are some of the more unique holiday traditions in other countries:
Philippines. The Saturday before Christmas Eve, the Philippines holds their Giant Lantern Festival in the city of San Fernando which is known as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines. Eleven villages take part in the competition, trying to outbuild the others as they race to create the most elaborate lantern. Originally, the lanterns were made of origami paper, lit by candle and measuring no more than 3 feet across. Today, they are incredible displays of art made of electric lights and other materials and can measure up to 16 feet across. Started over 100 years ago, the festival is a celebration of light which symbolizes unwavering hope to the Filipinos.
Norway. One of the more unusual holiday traditions is the hiding of brooms in Norway on Christmas Eve. This centuries-old tradition goes back to when people believed that witches and evil spirits came out on Christmas Eve looking for brooms to ride on. To this day Norwegians will hide all their brooms, so you better get your cleaning done beforehand!
Sweden. Dating back to ancient pagan festivals, the Yule Goat is one of Sweden’s Christmas traditions. In 1966, they upped the ante when someone decided to make a giant straw goat. Today, this goat is known as the Gävle Goat, and measures over 42 feet tall, 23 feet wide and weighs in at about 3.6 tons. It’s set up in Castle Square the first Sunday in Advent, and has even made the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest straw goat.
New Zealand. While many associate Christmas with a winter wonderland, down under it is actually summer. Their Christmas celebrations usually entail family gatherings around the barbie (grill) and you’ll probably see Santa in sandals and a rugby shirt on the beach. Kiwis also have their own special Christmas Tree, the Pohutukawa, which blooms a bright-red color in December.
Germany. It’s thought that the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree started in Germany in the 16th century. One of the more interesting Christmas tree traditions Germans have is hiding an ornamental pickle in the tree and whichever child finds it gets a present. Full disclosure: there are other stories that have circulated that this tradition could have started in Spain when two young boys were held prisoners in a pickle barrel and Saint Nicholas rescued them.
Mexico. In Mexico, Christmas is centered around the Posadas. In Spanish, a posada is an inn or place of lodging and the Posadas celebrate the Christmas story. Held each evening from December 16th to December 24th they commemorate the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph’s search for a place to stay where Jesus could be born. Posadas in Mexico feature hot food and drinks, sweets, music, and piñatas.
Iceland. In Iceland, you’ll hear tell of the Yule Cat that roams the streets only one time per year. This is not your cuddly kitty-cat, though: It’s said to be a ferocious creature that will eat anyone who doesn’t have new clothes by Christmas Eve. You see, the Yule Cat is the “good behavior enforcer” – children who did their chores before Christmas would get new clothes (i.e., socks) and those that didn’t complete their chores would be fair game for the Yule Cat. It’s also used to inspire generosity – giving to those who don’t have “new clothes” so they can avoid the “consequences”.
Want to celebrate other holiday traditions around the world? Give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437 to start planning your dream vacation today.
Located on the beautiful Adriatic Sea, Croatia has fast become a bucket-list vacation destination. Croatia offers something for everyone: you can soak up the sun on glorious beaches, explore national parks that will take your breath away, or dive into a rich history that goes further back than the Roman Empire. Here are the places to visit in Croatia at the top of our list:
Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is one of those places that has something for everyone – especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan as much of the show was filmed here. The main attraction is Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the medieval ramparts that give spectacular views of the Adriatic, to the churches, cathedrals and shops you’ll see as you explore the streets of this old city. Lapad Beach is great for sunbathing, and you don’t want to miss the sweeping views of the city and the coast riding on the Dubrovnik Cable Car.
Split. As the second largest city in Croatia, Split is able to balance its history with modern culture. Visit Diocletian’s Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was built in the 4th century and is recognized as one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture in the world. Don’t miss the 7th-century Cathedral of Saint Domnius – the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. Take a walk on the Riva promenade or relax on Bačvice Beach. For wine connoisseurs, visit Putalj Winery just outside the city for their winetasters tour.
Krka National Park. Croatia has 8 national parks, and Krka is one of the best. Known for its stunning waterfalls. The most spectacular waterfall in the park is Skradinski Buk waterfall, where you may be able to swim on a warm afternoon. Hike the many trails through the creeks, forests and other waterfalls, and take a boat ride to see the Visovac Monastery on its own island in the middle of the lake.
Pula. The Pula Arena is one of the most complete Roman amphitheaters still standing in the world. Originally used by Augustus Caesar for the gladiator spectacles, medieval knights used the space for their tournaments over 1,000 years later. The town is brimming with influences from the Roman Empire, including the Arch of the Sergii to commemorate a 30 BC battle with France, the Temple of Augustus that was converted into a church after the Romans adapted Christianity, and the Gate of Hercules which boasts carvings of the names of two Roman officials who established Pula. You can also see the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the military forts surrounding the city.
Plitvice National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitvice National Park is home to 16 crystalline lakes that are connected by a series of 90 waterfalls. The Explore the park on foot by way of its boardwalks through lush forest areas, or take advantage of the free buses and boat rides that are available throughout the park.
Rovinj. Set on a peninsula overlooking the Adriatic Sea, Rovinj is a picture-perfect town that reflects its history with the Romans, Venetians, Hapsburgs and more. St. Euphemia Cathedral dominates the Rovinj skyline, and the view from the bell tower is breathtaking. Walk down the cobbled streets of Old Town to glimpse into its Venetian past. Enjoy the beaches along the coast of the Adriatic. Or take a quick trip outside of town to explore the ruins of Dvigrad, a medieval town that was abandoned in the 1700s and never repopulated.
Zagreb. No trip to Croatia would be complete without a trip to the capital city of Zagreb. This unique city actually developed on two separate hilltops – Kapitol and Gradec – and the differences are apparent even to today. Kapitol was where the clergy was based, and the Zagreb Cathedral was its main landmark. On the other hill, Gradec was the more secular part of the city, where you can still see the influences of the artisans and tradesmen as you walk the cobblestoned streets. Visit the Gornji Grad district for a historical look at various churches and town squares. And if you need a break from the museums and hustle and bustle of the city, head out to Jarun Lake for some leisure time.
There is much more to see and do in Croatia, and Luxury Destinations Concierge is ready to help you plan your trip. Give us a call at 805-236-4437.
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands have a uniqueness all their own. This archipelago of 19 islands was formed exclusively from volcanic and seismic activity and sits where three ocean currents converge. Combined with its isolation from other land masses has led to the unique development of both land animals and marine life. It’s no wonder that Darwin’s theory of evolution was inspired by his trip to the Galapagos Islands in 1835!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, a trip to the Galapagos Islands is certainly one that will be filled with wonders you have never seen before – and will want to see over and over again. Make sure you include these highlights on your trip:
Tortuga Bay. Tortuga Bay is one of the top attractions in the Galapagos for good reason: white sandy beaches, great snorkeling, and you’ll see your fair share of Galapagos’ wildlife. Playa Mansa is perfect for swimming, sunbathing and snorkeling. You’ll share the beach with some interesting animals, including a large marine iguana colony which are the only iguanas in the world that have learned to swim. Take the self-guided trail through the cactus forest, where you will learn more about the flora and fauna of the islands through informative signs along the way. In the water, keep an eye out for the sea turtles and whitetip reef sharks!
Rancho Primicias. Rancho Primicias is the place to see giant tortoises in the Galapagos. Located on Santa Cruz Island, Rancho Primicias is a privately-owned animal sanctuary where you’ll be able to see the giant tortoises up close and personal (just don’t feed or touch them). Explore the lava tunnels or climb into an empty tortoise shell!
Charles Darwin Research Station. To get a better understanding of the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands, make sure you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Part of the Charles Darwin Foundation, its goal is to preserve and study the Galapagos habitats. The Fausto Llerena Breeding Center allows you to catch a glimpse of the differences in the various species of giant tortoises. The baby tortoise house is especially interesting as you will see them before they are resettled in their natural environments – over 7,000 have been successfully released into the wild. You’ll also see several types of iguanas and Darwin’s famous finches, as well as great examples of the islands’ vegetation.
Concha Perla. Located on Isabela Island, Concha Perla is a calm bay with crystal clear waters that is perfect for snorkeling. The marine life is amazing, and you’ll see penguins diving for food, swim with a variety of tropical fish, and play with the sea lions.
Los Tuneles. Also on Isabela Island, Los Tuneles is a microcosm of the Galapagos Islands. Formed by lava flow, its unique arches and tunnels above and below the water is home to many of animals we associate with the Galapagos Islands – penguins, sea lions, tortoises, black and white reef sharks, pelicans and even blue footed boobies. A must-see stop, even if you don’t snorkel as the waters are so clear you can see most of it from the comfort of a boat.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The province capital of the Galapagos Islands, there is a lot to see in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Make sure you take a tour to Kicker Rock for the snorkeling and view. Or visit Frigatebird Hill if you are up for hiking and bird watching. If you want to lounge with the sea lions, head on out to La Lobería, where you’ll also spot wild iguanas, lava lizards, yellow warblers and frigates and more.
The Galapagos Islands is clearly a nature-lovers paradise. Let Luxury Destinations Concierge plan your trip to this wonder-filled destination. Give us a call at 805-236-4437.
When you think of Tanzania, two things come to mind: Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. While these both reflect the natural beauty of the land and its wild inhabitants, this East African country has so much more to offer. From pristine beaches to wildlife reserves and everything in between, it’s time to explore this unique destination.
Mount Kilimanjaro. Located in the northern part of Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in all of Africa. As you climb, you’ll experience diverse climates – from rainforest and fresh meadows to desert and finally snow at the top. And, of course, you’ll most likely spot wild elephants, blue monkeys a tree hyrax, and more exotic animals. The climb is not for the faint of heart, and requires an experienced guide. There are 6 different routes you can take up Kilimanjaro, each with its own level of difficulty.
Serengeti National Park. No trip to Tanzania would be complete without visiting the Serengeti. It’s the oldest national park in the country and most famous for the annual migration of wildebeest and zebras across the Mara River into Kenya. Go on a game drive to see the Big Five and other animals and explore the majestic plains. You can even stay overnight in a safari tent to experience the “night life” in the wild! And if you are in to hippos, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the Serengeti Hippo Pool.
Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous archipelago located off the shores of Tanzania. Known for its pristine beaches, this is a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers. Make sure you visit Mafia Island, which is surrounded by a protected marine park and is best know for its clear waters, coral garden, tropical fish and being the breeding ground for the endangered green turtle. Or visit Pemba Island, where you can lose yourself in history by visiting main town of Chake-Chake and it’s 18th century fort and museum.
Stone Town. On Unguja, the main Zanzibar island, lies Stone Town, the oldest part of Zanzibar City. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Stone Town is rich in its heritage that is a mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European cultures. Some of the highlights as you visit this area include the Arab Fort which was built in the 17th century atop an older Portuguese church (which you can still see remnants of in the walls of the fort), the Hamamni Persian Baths which were the first public baths in Zanzibar from 1870 to about 1920, the Malindi Mosque – one of the oldest mosques in Stone Town – and more. Don’t miss the House of Wonders overlooking the waters in Stone Town to get a glimpse of Swahili history and culture.
Prison Island. Once the home to prisoners, Prison Island, also known as Changuu Island, is home to a colony of endangered Giant Aldabra tortoise – some of which are over 200 years old. The beautify beaches and clear waters of the island make for a great day of swimming and snorkeling. If you’re interested, you can visit some of the cells that housed prisoners in the 19th century.
Selous Game Reserve. Selous Game Reserve is the largest game reserve in Africa, and is one of the best places to experience the beauty of the country and its wildlife. Here, you can enjoy a walking safari that will bring you up close and personal with elephants and lions. Or take a boat safari cruise on the Rufiji River to spot the many animals drawn to the water. Of course, you can always take a game drive to spot the wild dogs, hippos, Cape buffalos, an endangered black rhino and more. If you’re really adventurous, try an overnight fly-camp to experience an evening under the stars – complete with your own chef.
As you can see, there is much to explore in Tanzania. Let Luxury Destinations Concierge plan your trip to this beautiful African destination. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437.
When you think of a vacation in Africa, one of the first things that comes to mind is a safari adventure – and the best country to do that in is Kenya. There are so many ways to see the beauty and majesty of this country that you’ll want to return to this country over and over again. Here are just a few places that should be at the top of your list when you visit:
Masai Mara National Reserve. Masai Mara is probably the most popular safari destinations in the world. Here, you can see the “Big Five” animals that Africa is known for - the African elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros – as well as wildebeest, giraffes, zebras, ostriches and many more. One of the most spectacular things to see at Masai Mara is the Great Migration, as thousands upon thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle make their trek from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania across the Mara River into Kenya in July/August and return to their home in October.
Amboseli National Park. With a backdrop of Africa’s most iconic mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s best safari parks. Home to over 1000 elephants, it’s the best-known free-ranging elephant population in the world. A UNESCO biosphere reserve, you’ll find over 400 bird species, lions, zebras, crocodiles, mongoose and more. Enjoy the spectacular views along the savannahs and up Kilimanjaro.
Mombasa. After spending time on safari, take in some Kenyan culture in Mombasa. Spend time exploring the history of the city, with visits to the 16th century Fort Jesus or explore Old Town where you will get a taste of the melting pot of Arab, Asian and European cultures in this coastal city. Relax on one of its beautiful beaches. Go scuba diving or snorkeling at Mombasa Marine National Park. Or take a trip to Wasini Island for a look at the ancient Swahili villages and explore the Shimoni Caves.
Nairobi. Of course any trip to Kenya should include a stop in its capital, Nairobi. While there, visit the Bomas of Kenya where you can see replicas of traditional homesteads, or bomas, from 23 of Kenya’s ethnic groups and learn more about the culture of Kenya. If you want to see giraffes up close and personal, make sure you visit Giraffe Manor and the Giraffe Center, a nature sanctuary for giraffes. Don’t miss the Kazuri Bead Factory on the Karen Blixen Estate (of “Out of Africa”) where beads and pottery are made by over 300 mostly single women as a way to help them be self-sufficient.
Lamu Island. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, spend some time on Lamu Island. Explore Old Town Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can see the influences of Arabic and European cultures. Discover the beautiful marketplace in Shela Village. Check out the coral-stone ruins of the 17th century City of Takwa. Or just walk the idyllic sandy beaches and take in the spectacular view.
There are so many more national parks and historic and cultural things to see and do in Kenya. Why not start planning your trip now? Luxury Destinations Concierge is ready to help. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437.
The Caribbean promises warm waters, sunny days and sandy beaches for all vacationers. There is just so much to see and do in the Caribbean that it can be difficult to decide where to start. We thought we’d give you a quick overview of some of the major islands so that you can home in on where you want to spend your Caribbean vacation:
St. Lucia. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort vacation or an opportunity to hike the rainforest or explore the beautiful coral reefs, St. Lucia has something for everyone. Take time to climb to the volcanic summit of Gros Piton or get up close and personal with the volcano at the Sulphur Springs where you can experience its heat and see the boiling magma. If you want to see a little history of the island, visit Pigeon Island or Morne Fortune where you will get a taste of colonial times on the island. Don’t miss the Botanical Gardens of the Soufriere Estate for the beautiful plants and flowers of the rainforest with the roaring Diamond Falls near its center.
Antigua and Barbuda. The country of Antigua and Barbuda is certainly known for its beaches. In fact, it has 365 of them! While it is a huge draw for vacationing here, there is certainly much more to do than lounging in the surf and sand. Spend some time exploring history at Nelson’s Dockyard where ships have been docking for over 250 years and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or explore the sugarcane plantation known as Betty’s Hope, where you will see the remains of windmills that were used to process the sugarcane and extract the juices to make rum, the slave quarters and more. You can also swim with the stingrays or hike along 17-mile Beach for its spectacular views.
Aruba. Aruba really does have something for everyone: you can hit the casinos and nightlife, relax on the beaches, hike the rock formations, dive to explore shipwrecks and coral reefs, or discover the history of this Dutch island. One of the prettiest beaches to relax on is Palm Beach, with its 2-miles of white sand and blue waters – everything you would expect of a tropical beach getaway. The ruins of Bushiribana and Balashi will give you a glimpse into the Aruban gold boom of the late 19th century, with remains of the smelting works – and the fortifications to keep the pirates out! Take a hike through the Arikok National Park, visit the Butterfly Farm, or snorkel off of Boca Catalina.
Curaçao. If you are looking for something a little different, then Curaçao may be the place for you. Its Dutch heritage is apparent throughout the island – and there is no shortage of things to do. Explore the capital city of Willemstad and you will think that you are in the middle of a Flemish village in the Netherlands. On the other end of the spectrum, you get a true glimpse of the Caribbean life through color and creativity at the Curaçao Carnival in the spring. Don’t miss the stalactites and stalagmites of Hato Caves, where you can explore what was once home to the native Indian tribespeople and a refuge for slaves that escaped the plantations. Take a safari through Christoffel National Park to see native flora and fauna. And if you want to relax on the beach, visit Blauwbaai, where you’ll enjoy the best snorkeling and swimming on the island.
St. Martin – St. Maarten. The island of St. Martin-St. Maarten is one of dueling cultures – French and Dutch. One of the top attractions on the island is Loterie Farm, where you can spend time hiking or ziplining through the lush forest, lounge at the cabanas or enjoy the obstacle course. If you’re ambitious, you can hike up to Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island that offers incredible views of the shoreline and surrounding jungle. For those looking to sample the local twist on the Caribbean’s favorite liquor, head over to the Sint Maarten Guavaberry Company where you can taste various concoctions that include the island’s guavaberry and rum. Head over to Fort Amsterdam or Fort Louis for a little history from the Dutch and French perspective, and then spend time relaxing on the picture-perfect beaches of Mullet Bay.
The Caribbean is full of possibilities for your next vacation. Luxury Destinations Concierge is ready to help you decide what’s best for you. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437 to start planning!
Are you ready to take a break on the white, sandy beaches and in the turquoise waters of the U.S. Virgin Islands? This year-round destination is the vacation spot whether you are looking to just relax on the beach, enjoy the water, or explore the islands of St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas. Here are some ideas to get your imagination flowing as you plan your next vacation:
Blackbeard’s Castle. Legend has it that the great pirate Blackbeard used this Danish military watchtower as a lookout to spot potential ships to pillage. While the validity of the story is questionable, Blackbeard’s Castle in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas is a National Historic Landmark that offers tours of the surrounding Skytsborg Historic Park as well as exhibits telling the story of pirating in the Caribbean.
Buck Island. Just off of St. Croix on Buck Island sits the only marine national park in the United States. This is one of the better places to snorkel and scuba dive to see tropical fish and elkhorn coral off the barrier reef. After spending time in the water, take a stroll through the subtropical dry forest, or bask in the sun on its beautiful beach. Pack a picnic for lunch and make a day of it!
Coral World Ocean Park. If you really want to experience the marine life of the Virgin Islands, plan a trip to Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas. Get up close and personal with rare sea turtles and sea lions, stingrays and sharks. Swim with the dolphins or just admire the rainbow colors of the live coral plants.
Estate Whim Plantation Museum. The Estate Whim Plantation Museum gives visitors a glimpse into the inner workings of an 18th century sugarcane plantation – an industry that once dominated the entire Caribbean region. Through its exhibits, you’ll see the inner workings of how sugar cane was cultivated and processed, understand the lives of the enslaved workers, and even get a tour of the factory complexes.
Cruzan Rum Distillery. It should come as no surprise that the biggest export of the region is rum, and the best place to learn the history and sample some rum would be the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Tours of the facility teach not only the history but also the distilling and bottling processes, ending with a tasting session of the various varieties of Cruzan Rum.
Fort Frederik. Originally built to protect the Virgin Islands from piracy, Fort Frederik has historical significance: in 1848, over 8,000 enslaved people marched to the fort to demand their freedom. Tours of the site will shed light on the history surrounding the slave trade, the emancipation march and more.
Trunk Bay. For a relaxing day on the beach, nothing can beat Trunk Bay – rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and part of the Virgin Islands National Park. Bask in the sun, snorkel the 225-yard-long Underwater Trail of reefs, or explore the park’s hiking trails and tour the Annaberg Sugar Plantation.
Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Another beautiful beach in the US Virgin Islands is Sandy Point, where you can relax on the pristine beach and swim in its shallow waters. At night, though, make sure you visit the 400-acre natural habitat for leatherback sea turtles.
There is much more to see and do in the US Virgin Islands! Give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437, and we’ll help you plan your dream vacation!
Probably one of the most overlooked countries in Central America for vacations is Panama. Everyone knows about the Panama Canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but there is so much more to this beautiful country that needs to be explored:
Portobelo. On the Caribbean Coast lies the quaint town of Portobelo. A strategic port for the Spanish in the 17th century, there is plenty to see and do. For the history buffs, you can visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fort San Jerónimo – one of the largest forts built along the Caribbean Bay. Or visit San Felipe Church, built in 1814 in honor of Portobelo’s patron saint, Black Christ. If you want to spend time in nature, take a hike in Portobelo National Park to enjoy the rainforests, some unusual birds and animals and the gigantic Los Monos Waterfall. You can also relax on one of three tranquil beaches near Portobelo: Playa Blanca, Playa Frances, & Playa Huerta.
Boquete. Located in the highlands of Chiriquí, Boquete is an adventurer’s dream. Highlights here include a trip to the Finca Dos Jefes coffee plantation, where you can take a personal tour and learn about traditional organic coffee farming. For the more experienced hiker, take the trails up to Volcan Baru – at 3, 475 meters it’s the highest point in Panama. If you decide to trek to the top, plan an overnight trip and get a guide to accompany you. There are many other trails that aren’t quite so strenuous. For a little fun, take advantage of the Boquete Tree Trek which will take you ziplining through the extraordinary cloud forest that will take your breath away.
Bocas del Toro. Bocas del Toro is the beach destination in Panama. Whether you just want to relax on the sand or are ready for some exciting water and land activities, you’ll find it all at Bocas del Toro. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the archipelago of Bocas del Toro consists of 6 small islands is fast becoming a hot beach destination in Central America. Go snorkeling in the clear waters, take a tour of the Bluff Beach Municipal Reserve to see leatherback, hawksbill and green turtle nests at Playa Bluff Beach, or just relax in the sun.
Soberania National Park. Soberania National Park is a protected tropical rain forest that is home to sloths, monkeys, hundreds of types of birds, and much more – most of which is accessible through its hiking trails. While there, visit the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center on Pipeline Road. From its observation tower you get a beautiful view of the forest canopy. As you hike further along Pipeline Road, you’ll get a close look at much of the country’s wildlife.
Panama City. Panama City is the main metropolis and capital of Panama and as you can imagine, there is plenty to see and do. Make sure that you spend some time in the historic Casco Viejo district, which was built in the 17th century after the pirate Henry Morgan looted and destroyed the original capital, Panama Viejo (which you should also see) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit the Biomuseo, which offers a look at the of the Panamanian isthmus and its impact on the planet’s biodiversity. Don’t miss the hikes through the Parque Nacional Metropolitano - the only natural tropical rainforest located within city limits in the world.
Panama Canal. Of course, no trip to Panama would be complete without seeing the Panama Canal. Initially started by the French in the late 19th century, the endeavor was abandoned in 1893 after thousands of workers died from malaria, yellow fever and other diseases. The United States took over shortly after the turn of the century and completed the canal in 1914 that allows quick passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The journey through the 3 locks takes ships about 10 hours to complete, and the best place to watch the mechanics of the locks in action at the Miraflores Visitor Center. Or take a boat tour for an up-close experience of this engineering marvel.
As you can see, there is more to Panama than meets the eye. Let Luxury Destinations Concierge plan your trip to this Central American treasure. Just give us a call at (805) 236-4437.
Tennessee is fast becoming a top destination spot in the United States. And Nashville is the place to visit on any trip to the state. Whether you’re a fan of country music or just want to soak in the natural surroundings, there’s plenty for everyone in Nashville. Here are our picks for some of the top things to do in Nashville:
Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry has been a live radio staple since 1925, and has seen its share of country stars. This is one stop that you don’t want to miss. Take a tour to learn more about the history of the Grand Ole Opry and country music in general, and make sure that you get tickets for one of the daily live stage performances.
Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. If you are a nature or art lover, the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens will capture your heart. Meander through the 55-acre botanical gardens and its greenhouses, sculpture trail and chromatic flower displays. Then, visit the Cheek mansion for its impressive collection of 19th – and 20th-century American art and other artifacts from around the world.
The Hermitage. The home of President Andrew Jackson, the Hermitage is a National Historic Landmark that gives us a glimpse into this president’s home life. Built in the Greek Revival style, the mansion sits on a 1,000-acre estate. Guided tours will take you through various parts of the home, a log cabin on the grounds, Jackson’s tomb and the Old Hermitage Church. You’ll also learn the history of the 150 slaves that lived on the grounds from 1804 to 1865.
The Parthenon. Although we normally associate Nashville with country music, it also bears the nickname of the “Athens of the South”, due to the number of universities and places of higher education in the area. In fact, this was brought to life at the Centennial Exhibition of 1897 when a full-size replica of the Parthenon was built. Although it was meant to be temporary, the Parthenon in Nashville has endured – including down to replicas of the statues found in the original structure in Greece. Today, you can visit the Parthenon and Centennial Park for a walk along the trails, or indulge in an outdoor concert, movie or theater performance.
Nelson's Green Brier Distillery. Tennessee is known for its whiskey and bourbon, so take an opportunity to learn a bit of history from a distillery that has its roots in the 1800s. Charles Nelson began producing whiskey in the late 1800s in Greenbrier, Tennessee. In fact, his whiskey was so popular that he sold over 2 million bottles in 1885 alone! After he died, his wife carried on the tradition until Prohibition shut them down in 1909. In 2009, his great-great-great grandsons, Andy and Charlie Nelson, revived the business and brought it to Nashville. Today, you can take a tour of the distillery and tasting room and learn more about its history.
Historic RCA Studio B. Take a step back in time at the Historic RCA Studio B that launched the careers of many country music stars, including Elvis, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. This is the studio that put country music on the map, and you can relive some of that nostalgia through its tours and educational programs. It continues to pay it forward by teaching students the technology of music and the science of sound.
Arrington Vineyards. If whiskey isn’t your favorite drink, then head out to Arrington Vineyards in Arrington, Tennessee. Founded by country music star Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn, this beautiful vineyard is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the wine tasting experience. This is a great afternoon jaunt for if you’re on a Nashville Bachelorette party trip!
Belle Meade Plantation. Known as the “Queen of the Tennessee Plantations”, the Belle Meade Plantation was built in 1853 in the Greek Revival style. Here, you’ll get a taste of its history as guides dress in period costume and take you through this antebellum mansion (complete with bullet holes in the columns from the Civil War). It’s home to the country’s first thoroughbred breeding farms, and the Iroquois Steeplechase – the oldest in the US. Take a tour of the mansion, learn the history of the plantation’s slaves, or even take a Segway ride through the arboretum and grounds.
Broadway. The best place to get a taste of live country music in Nashville is the nightlife on Broadway, Nashville’s main thoroughfare. Whether it’s the iconic Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, or Robert’s Western World, there’s a honky-tonk for everyone to chill out and enjoy the Nashville music scene.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. No trip to Nashville would be complete without a stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Relive some of the great moments of country music walking through the exhibits and seeing the artifacts of the most well-known celebrities in the business.
Nashville is a great choice for your next vacation, and Luxury Destinations Concierge is ready to help you plan your trip. Give us a call at (805) 236-4437.
When you think of New Orleans, there are several things that come to mind: Mardi Gras and Bourbon Street, music and food, and, if you’re a football fan, the New Orleans Saints. But there is so much more to New Orleans that we thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look.
Jackson Square. At the very center of New Orleans sits Jackson Square. Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this public square is just bursting with live performers and artists, and is surrounded by restaurants, art galleries and shops that will give you a small sampling of New Orleans.
St. Louis Cathedral. Proudly on display in Jackson Square is St. Louis Cathedral, the longest continually active Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Dating back to at least 1789, the church is named after Louis IX of France. The current Spanish colonial building was constructed in 1850, and an inside tour will reveal the beautiful stained glass windows and Rococo-styled gilded altar. As you walk around, you may notice that the floor has a slight tilt – the building is actually sinking.
City Park. Take a stroll through City Park – the 6th largest urban park in the U.S. Built on swampland in the early 19th century, it was originally knows as the “Dueling Oaks”, where many city disputes were settled. The park is home to some of the world’s oldest oak trees – some dating back 600 years.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is New Orleans oldest cemetery and sits a block away from the French Quarter. Several famous historical figures are buried here, including the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and the aristocrat Bernard de Marigny. The cemetery is no longer open to the public, but you can take a guided tour of the cemetery, where you’ll learn more about those buried in the cemetery. You may even get a glimpse of the plot that Nicolas Cage has purchased.
French Quarter. You can’t visit New Orleans without at least walking through the French Quarter of the city. This is the heart and soul of New Orleans, and there is much that will attract your attention. To get the most out of your visit to the French Quarter, consider taking a walking tour.
Garden District. For a close look at how the upper class lived in New Orleans, visit the Garden District. Here, you’ll find Italianate and Greek Revival mansions such as the Goldsmith-Godchaux House, the Brevard-Rice House, The Manse and Colonel Short’s Villa. Take a guided tour of the district to hear more of the history and learn about some of the more famous residents.
Old New Orleans Rum Distillery. The plantations around New Orleans were known for their sugarcane, so it’s appropriate that the oldest premium rum distillery is located in New Orleans. Located in a 150-year old cotton warehouse, the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery produces rums and pre-mixed cocktails from Louisiana sugarcane molasses. There is a 45-minute tour of the facility, where you’ll learn how the molasses is fermented, distilled and aged to become rum, and, of course, taste some of the results.
Whitney Plantation. Founded in 1752, the current Spanish Creole house was built in 1803 as the plantation shifted from growing indigo to sugarcane. The plantation opened to the public in 2014, and is the only plantation in New Orleans that is dedicated to telling the story of the slaves living there. The 90-minute tour will take you through the slave cabins, the owner’s house and various outbuildings as well as a freedman’s church.
Oak Alley Plantation. On the west bank of the Mississippi lies this beautiful plantation, which is accessible down a 240-meter alley of live southern oaks. Take the tour of the grounds and learn more about the lives of the men, women and children who were kept at Oak Alley, including how one slave was the first person to figure out how to propagate individual pecan trees.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve protects six different locations around New Orleans and encompasses bayou, prairie, swamp and the site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815) at Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. Each center allows you to experience New Orleans from a historical and geographical perspective.
New Orleans Jazz Museum. There is nothing more synonymous with New Orleans than jazz, so make sure that the New Orleans Jazz Museum is on your “must see” list. Here, you’ll see an amazing collection of notable jazz memorabilia including the first ever jazz recording from 1917, Louis Armstrong’s first coronet and other instruments played by jazz greats like Sidney Bechet, George Lewis and Dizzy Gillespie. Enjoy the thousands of jazz recordings and photos that document the earliest days of jazz. And, of course, if you’re lucky you’ll be treated to a live jazz concert or two.
Café du Monde. While there are many restaurants and eateries in New Orleans that will entice you with their unique regional dishes, the one place that makes any trip to New Orleans complete is Café du Monde. Originally opened in 1862, this coffee stand is famous the world over for its coffee blended with chicory, and its beignets. Once you try them, you’ll be hooked.
As you can see, there is a lot more to New Orleans than meets the eye. Give Luxury Destinations Concierge a call at (805) 236-4437, and we’ll help make your next trip to New Orleans memorable.
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