Monthly Archives: January 2015

Pathways of the Pharaohs

SHIP_Mayfair_OVR_478x345_tcm21-13664Pathways of the Pharaohs

Egypt is the gift of the Nile, according to the Greek historian Herodotus. The great city of Cairo, the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, and the unearthed secrets of desert sands are all set on or near the banks of the nurturing Nile. Cruise the river in comfort and style, and sail across Lake Nasser to the monumental statues of Rameses II and Nefertari at Abu Simbel. Touch the pyramids and see the eternal Sphinx, walk through ancient temples and meet the friendly people of today’s Egypt on this fabulous 12-day cruisetour.

 

Cairo Egyptian Museum, Egypt

DAY 1 | CAIRO, EGYPT

Arrive in Egypt, the “Gift of the Nile” as described by the Greek historian Herodotus, then transfer to the moderate deluxe Sofitel El Gezirah (or similar) on the banks of the Nile for a 3-night stay.*

 

Cairo Masque Muhammed Ali, Egypt

DAY 2 | CAIRO, EGYPT

This morning we take an excursion to the necropolis at Sakkara to see the world’s oldest step pyramid. After lunch, continue to the Giza Plateau to behold the only Wonder of the Ancient World still standing: the Great Pyramids of Cheops, Kephren and Mykerinus. There, you experience the “ships of the desert” with a brief camel ride. Nearby, see the Great Sphinx, forever facing due east. Return to your hotel for dinner and a free evening to relax or explore on your own. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

 

Cairo Pyramids, Egypt

DAY 3 | CAIRO, EGYPT

This morning, tour Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and admire its huge collection of artifacts, then visit the famous gallery displaying the riches of King Tutankhamun. Today you see some of the sights of Cairo. A guided walk takes you to landmarks like the iconic Citadel of Saladin and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Enjoy lunch on your own at or near your hotel. Dine on your own in Cairo, or take an optional visit to Khan el-Khalili, a colorful outdoor souk (bazaar) where you can shop for traditional Egyptian goods and have dinner. (B)

UNESCO

 

Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt

DAY 4 | LUXOR, EGYPT

Early this morning, fly to Luxor, the city once known as ‟Thebes,” where history will be brought to life by our expert Egyptologist. Proceed to your Nile cruise ship for check-in and a welcome lunch. This afternoon, visit the Great Temples of Luxor and Karnak, long buried beneath desert sands, and walk through monumental peristyles and examine the hieroglyphics illustrating how ancient Egyptians lived. Return aboard for dinner and a relaxing evening, or attend an optional sound and light show at Karnak Temple. (B, L, D)

 

Luxor & Nile Cruising, Egypt

DAY 5 | LUXOR, EGYPT

Relax over breakfast, or (weather permitting) take an optional early-morning hot air balloon ride over Luxor’s temples and monuments. Upon arrival, visit the Valley of the Kings and the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s few female rulers and most successful pharaohs, on the Nile’s west bank opposite the city of Luxor. Also see Medinet Habu, the Mortuary Temple of Rameses III. Walk through its monumental peristyle hall decorated with complex hieroglyphics. Proceed to your Nile cruise ship for check-in and a welcome lunch. Return aboard as we set sail for Edfu; lunch and dinner are served aboard as we cruise along the Nile. (B, L, D)

 

Temple of Edfu, Edfu, Egypt

DAY 6 | EDFU, EGYPT

This morning, visit the Temple of Horus in Edfu, built during the Ptolemaic Dynasty to honor the falcon-headed god. Have lunch aboard while sailing toward Kom Ombo. There, you take a guided tour of the unusual double temple dedicated to both Horus and the crocodile god Sobek, a fertility deity thought to have created the world. Return to your ship before we continue cruising up the Nile. We arrive at Aswan during dinner; this evening, attend a Nubian party featuring the evocative traditional music of the region. (B, L, D)

 

Aswan, Egypt

DAY 7 | ASWAN, EGYPT

After breakfast, visit the small, elegant Philae Temple, dedicated to Isis, rescued from the rising waters. This temple is one of the Nubian monuments that comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tour the Aswan High Dam, completed in the 1960s, before lunch aboard. This afternoon, take a scenic ride on a felucca, a traditional Egyptian wooden sailboat, on the Nile. Enjoy an onboard dinner and spend the night in Aswan. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

 

Abu Simbel, Egypt

DAY 8 | ABU SIMBEL, EGYPT

After a final breakfast aboard, disembark your Nile ship and take a brief flight to Abu Simbel, then proceed directly to the temples. These magnificent structures, renowned for their four giant seated figures, were built in the 13th century BC by Rameses II and are thought to depict him and his queen, Nefertari. The colossal structures were dismantled and moved to this new location during construction of the Aswan High Dam, which created Lake Nasser, a major engineering feat. After a guided tour, check in to your second ship for your Lake Nasser cruise and enjoy the afternoon at leisure. Tonight, enjoy an onboard dinner and welcome cocktail, then relax or attend an optional sound and light show at Abu Simbel. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

 

Kasr Ibrim & Amada, Egypt

DAY 9 | KASIR IBRIM & AMADA, EGYPT

This morning, we sail past the iconic Kasr Ibrim Fortress. Learn the story of the last Nubian monument remaining in its original location, and see it from the ship’s Sun Deck. Enjoy lunch aboard as you cruise across Lake Nasser to Amada. This afternoon, tour the small but interesting Nubian Amada Temple. The oldest of the Lake Nasser temples, it houses a collection of brightly painted historical carvings. Return aboard and dine as we sail to Wadi el Seboua. This evening, enjoy a Nubian show featuring traditional music, dance and costumes. (B, L, D)

UNESCO

 

Wadi el Seboua, Egypt

DAY 10 | WADI EL SEBOUA, EGYPT

This morning, disembark for a walk through the Valley of the Lions, a striking avenue lined with sphinxes. Then, tour the Temple of Dakka, dedicated to the ibis-headed Thoth, and the Greco-Roman Temple of Meharakka, both located at the Wadi el Seboua Temple Complex. Return aboard for lunch and dinner as we sail toward Aswan. (B, L, D)

 

Temple of Kalabsha, Aswan, Egypt

DAY 11 | ASWAN, EGYPT

After a leisurely final breakfast aboard the ship, disembark for a tour of the Temple of Kalabsha, which honors the androgynous Nubian sky and sun god, Mandulis. We also visit the Nubia Museum to view treasures salvaged from temples and monuments flooded by the dam; the museum’s gardens are beautifully landscaped with terraced waterfalls. After a local lunch, head to the airport for your flight back to Cairo. Check in to the superior first-class Citystars Cairo Hotel (or similar) for 1 night, then enjoy free time. Return to your hotel for dinner and an evening at leisure, or attend an optional sound and light show at the pyramids. (B, L, D)

DAY 12 | CAIRO, EGYPT

After breakfast, proceed to the airport for your return flight.* Or, extend your journey for 4 nights in Jordan to see the ‟lost city” of Petra, the Dead Sea and the capital of Amman. (B)

Enjoy a 4 night Nile Cruise, 3 night Lake Nassar Cruise, 3 nights Cairo hotel.

Call me for more details on this once in a lifetime cruise/tour adventure.

919.708.8217

Limited time offer-2 for 1 cruise and 2 for 1 airfare.

#river cruises

 
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MAGNIFICENT MEKONG

MAGNIFICENT MEKONG.

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Magnificent Mekong

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MAGNIFICENT MEKONG

From its source high up in the Tibetan Plateau the powerful Mekong River courses for over 3,000 miles through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, providing a lifeline for millions of people.This week we are going on an adventure on the Mekong River visiting Thailand,

Cambodia, and Vietnam. This cruise is quite different from our previous cruises, but equally beautiful and full of culture and history.  We will be visiting many cities and towns along the Mekong Delta.  Ancient ruins, historic sites, and an opportunity to learn about new cultures, activities, and religions – this cruise vacation has it all!.  *On a personal note, I was in high school during the Vietnam war but remember it well.  I have talked to many veterans who would like to go back.  For them, it will be a trip down memory lane-not a happy memory-but one they would like to take to see what changes the war made for Vietnam and it’s people.  I hope they can join me on this memorable journey.

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DAY 1:HANOI

Fly to Hanoi, former capital of French Indochina, then transfer to our hotel for a 2-night stay, where we can relax or take a walk around Hanoi to start getting acquainted with the city.

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DAY 2:HANOI

After breakfast, we take a tour of this unique, thousand-year-old Asian capital where old and new combine in a lush setting of parks and lakes. Visit the Museum of Ethnology which includes a number of fascinating exhibits that bring Vietnam’s history and astonishingly diverse culture to life. Then tour the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” a facility where American POWs were held captive during the Vietnam War.

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In the afternoon, visit Hanoi’s Temple of Literature. Founded in 1070 as Vietnam’s first university, this mazelike compound features inviting courtyards, gateways, pavilions, walkways, lakes and a museum. Continue on to the One Pillar Pagoda, an 11th-century monument that was rebuilt after being destroyed by the French in 1954. En route, pass some colonial landmarks such as the magnificent Opera House and St. Joseph’s Cathedral. Relax this afternoon before dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)

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DAY 3:HANOI & SIEM REAP

In the morning, we take a leisurely ride through Hanoi’s Old Quarter by “green” electric car. Enjoy some free time before our short afternoon flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Check in to our hotel for a 3-night stay; tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a traditional Apsara dance show. (B, D)

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DAY 4:ANGKOR WAT & SIEM REAP

Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important archeological sites in the world.  We begin our day with a visit to one of Angkor’s largest Khmer temples, Angkor Wat, built for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century A.D. With its beautiful proportions and extensive, intricate bas-relief stone carvings, it is one of the most spectacular sights in Southeast Asia. Spend some time exploring the fortified city of Angkor Thom, which houses several of Angkor’s most popular sights such as the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper Kings with their dramatic bas reliefs.

Today we also visit the mysterious Bayon Temple, known for its giant, stone carved faces with their enigmatic smiles. Dine at a local restaurant and relax this evening. (B, D)

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DAY 5:ANGKOR & SIEM REAP

Today, ride to the spectacular 10th-century Hindu temple Banteay Srey (“Citadel of Women”) to see magnificent carvings of Shiva and Vishnu. Then, journey to Ta Prohm, one of the most popular of the temples of Angkor. Unlike many other buildings, it has been largely left intact as it was when discovered, with trees and large shrubs growing over the ruins.

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Return to Siem Reap this afternoon and learn how local crafts are alive and well in the modern-day city. Visit a vocational center that trains 650 young apprentices every year in the traditional crafts of stone sculpture, wood carving and painting; then mingle with the locals at some of Siem Reap’s open air markets or just relax before our final dinner in Siem Reap. (B, D)

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DAY 6:KAMPONG THOM & KAMPONG CHAM

After breakfast, visit a local village supported by Viking River Cruises and spend time with children at one of the village schools. Check out of our Siem Reap hotel and begin our coach tour through the Cambodian countryside which brings us to our ship in Kampong Cham, via the provincial capital of Kampong Thom. Due to its central location, this area is rapidly becoming an important hub for fishing and agriculture; it also has a rich archeological heritage, to which the 200 temples—some of which predate the Khmer empire—attest. This afternoon, board our ship; after we get settled in, meet the ship’s officers over a welcome cocktail. (B, L, D)

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DAY 7:KAMPONG CHAM

This morning visit the twin holy mountains of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srey with their many temples and pagodas, still used during traditional Khmer festivals. After visit an orphanage in Kampong Cham, whose students create beautiful paintings that are available to purchase. This afternoon the ship will set sail towards a silk weaving village. Take a walk through the village and admire the rich silk fabrics. (B, L, D)

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DAY 8:UDON MONASTERY & PHNOM PENH

This morning’s excursion takes us through a Cambodian village. After, take a short ride to Udon Monastery for a tour and to receive a blessing by the monks. Then continue to the next village, famous for its silversmiths. Rejoin our ship and have lunch as we cruise into Phnom Penh.

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Our afternoon is free to explore Phnom Penh’s historic riverfront area, with its restaurants, art galleries and silk shops, or perhaps visit the distinctive Central Market or the “Russian Market” where you can buy jewelry, curios, clothes and souvenirs. You might prefer to visit more of the city’s wats—Wat Langka, Wat Botum, Wat Koh or Wat Ounalom—each with its own special character and purpose. Late this afternoon there will be a presentation aboard on recent Cambodian history by a local expert. Dinner is served on board. (B, L, D)

DAY 9:PHNOM PENH

After breakfast, disembark in Cambodia’s lovely waterfront capital and explore the city in style, in a cyclo. This mode of transportation provides many Cambodians with a source of income and visitors with a speedy and enjoyable way to move around. See the magnificent Royal Palace with its spectacular Silver Pagoda, built in the 19th century by the French but inspired by the centuries-old architecture of the Khmer. Then take a tour of the National Museum of Cambodia, which houses treasures of Khmer art and craftsmanship and also displays art that predates the mighty empire.

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After lunch, join an excursion to the sobering memorial in the Tuol Sleng detention center, a former high school in which thousands of victims of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime died, and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, or explore the city’s maze of small alleys, markets and busy streets on your own if you prefer. Tonight’s dinner is accompanied by a folkloric performance. (B, L, D)

DAY 10:MEKONG RIVER SCENIC CRUISING

Sail down the Mekong, one of the world’s great rivers, toward the Vietnamese border. The Mekong is truly the Mother River of Southeast Asia, sustaining civilizations through the centuries. Pass by some of the Mekong rice fields—the Khmer empire was founded on a rice surplus and rice is still the main staple of Vietnamese cuisine. (B, L, D)

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DAY 11:TÂN CHÂU & VINH HOA

Today we will have a rare glimpse of rural life as it has been lived for ages. Begin our morning with a ride on a traditional rickshaw in Tân Châu. Afterward, visit the floating fish farm by wooden sampan, then take a boat ride to Vinh Hoa, known as “Evergreen Island.” Here we take a short walk to see various methods of traditional Vietnamese farming and the crafts and other daily activities of local people firsthand.

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Set sail in the afternoon, observing daily life along the river along the way. This evening, enjoy a screening of the filml’Amant (The Lover) which will prepare us for tomorrow’s visit to Sa Dec. (B, L, D)

DAY 12:SA DEC & CÁI BÈ

This morning, board a sampan boat to explore the backwaters and canals of the Delta. Small factories line the river channels here; get a glimpse of industry in the region with a visit to a brick factory. Stop in Sa Dec and you will see the house of Mr. Huynh Thuy Le, the protagonist in Marguerite Duras’s beloved autobiographical novel,l’Amant (The Lover). Duras, who grew up in what was then French Indochina, is one of France’s best-selling authors. After lunch, visit the colorful floating market of Cái Bè; see local workers producing rice noodles, coconut candy and a host of other handmade products. This evening, attend an onboard screening of the 2002 film The Quiet American, based on Graham Greene’s novel set in 1952 Saigon. (B, L, D)

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DAY 13:MY THO & HO CHI MINH CITY

Bid farewell to our ship this morning as our cruise through Cambodia and Vietnam comes to an end. Disembark in My Tho, a busy river port not far from the capital of Southern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Upon arrival, we take a tour of Reunification Palace—the site of South Vietnam’s defeat. See the Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral. After our tour, we check in to our hotel for a 2-night stay, then spend the rest of the day at leisure, getting acquainted with this lively city at your own pace—see some of the historic French colonial architecture and soak up some of the city’s youthful energy. Tonight’s dinner is in a local restaurant. (B, D)

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DAY 14:HO CHI MINH CITY

After breakfast, begin another tour of this bustling metropolis with a visit to its historic center. Take a stroll along Dong Khoi Street, the main shopping boulevard in the old colonial heart. See the grand city hall, the old opera house with its soaring arched entryway, the Chinatown area and a Lacquer Factory. Complete the morning tour at Ben Thành Market.

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The rest of our afternoon is free for exploring the city’s neighborhoods or doing a bit of last-minute shopping at the local markets before this evening’s festive final dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)

DAY 15:HO CHI MINH CITY

After breakfast, check out of our hotel and proceed to the airport for our return flight.* Or, continue your Southeast Asia adventure with a 3-night stay in Bangkok, Thailand’s astounding capital. (B)

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Added Bonus on this River Cruise:

2 for 1 cruise/land tour

2 for 1 airfare

Limited time offer – Please call 919.708.8217 for pricing and more details.

#river cruises

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GARDENS AND VILLAS OF THE ITALIAN LAKES

GARDENS AND VILLAS OF THE ITALIAN LAKES

We are taking a break from river cruising this week to go on a new tour called Gardens and Villas of the Italian Lakes region that the Royal Horticulture Society created for garden lovers.  When I researched this itinerary, I loved it and knew all my friends would love it also.  I have been to all these places in the past and always wanted to re-visit.  Our exciting journey begins in Venice and the island of Murano.  On to Lake Como, Bellagio, Stresa, Lago Maggiore, the Borromean Islands, Milan, and Lugano Switzerland.  I can tell you from my previous experience, these places are so beautiful you will not be able to decide which is your favorite.  So join me on this breathtaking journey through Northern Italy and see for yourself the beauty of our world.

Rialto Bridge at night (Venice)

Trip Itinerary:  10 days-Venice to Milan

Day 1: Our adventure begins with an overnight flight to Venice.

Day 2: Venice, Italy – We explore Venice on our own to get acclimated to this romantic city of canals.  A great time for that gondola ride.  Dinner with our fellow travelers at a local restaurant featuring regional delicacies and fine Italian wines.

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Day 3: Venice – Murano Island – We begin with a boat trip to Murano Island, one of a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon.  Here we experience a close up glass making demonstration.  Return to Venice to visit St. Mark’s Square.  Included is a walking tour of the area featuring St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and the Clock Tower with its famous moors.  St. Mark’s square is a great place to people watch.  PS.  It is also always full of pigeons.

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Day 4: Venice-Verona-Como – Today we visit the Giardino Guisti, a lush sculpted garden named after the noble family that has looked after it for years.  Here we will have breathtaking photo opportunities.  On to Verona, and stroll the historic streets that were the setting of Shakespeare’s epic Romeo and Juliet.  We visit the picturesque Italian Lake District including captivating gardens of exotic and rare plants.  We arrive in Como, our home for the next three nights.  You will see for yourself  why Como is so charming-  beautiful villas, lush gardens and spectacular views.

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Day 5: Como- Lugano Switzerland – We travel to Switzerland and explore Villa Heleneum’s gardens and museum.  We have free time in Lugano to explore this lovely lakeside town.  I know a great restaurant for lunch.

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Day 6: Belaggio – We travel by ferry this morning to the romantic town of Bellagio.  We visit the historic 18th century gardens of Villa Serbelloni, situated high on the promontory above Lake Como.  Afternoon is free to enjoy Bellagio on our own.

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Day 7: Stresa-Lago Maggiore –  Today we visit the Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, where a member of the Mozzoni family will give us a tour of this spectacular villa and gardens.  We travel to Lago Maggiore, located on the south side of the Alps to visit the gardener’s paradise of Stresa, home to spectacular views.  Stresa was one of the most beautiful cities I “have ever visited.”

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Day 8: Lago Maggiore – We journey via cableway to the Alpinum Garden, a botanical garden with spectacular views from high atop the mountain.  Later, we have free time to enjoy this beautiful area.

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Day 9: : Lago Maggiore – Borromean Islands – We travel by boat to the Stunning Borromean Islands of Isola Madre  and Isola Bella where we tour the palace and gardens.  These islands are in a word “stunning.”

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Day 10: Travel to Milan where our tour ends.

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My reflections on this tour – As I mentioned, I have visited ALL these places, and each one took my breath away.  The stunning landscapes, the backdrop of the Alps on the pristine lakes, the wonderful smell of Alpine trees makes you realize what a beautiful world we live in. And remember, all the delicious foods and wines we will be enjoying.  There are also great shopping opportunities on this tour.    As this tour was created by the Royal Horticultural Society, you can be assured the gardens we visit are spectacular.

See for yourself all the beauty and grandeur as we visit the Gardens and Villas of the Italian Lakes.  It’s as easy as a telephone call to me at 919.708.8217.  #rivercruises

SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR OUR GROUP

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