Once a year there’s another happiest place on earth – Munich’s Oktoberfest!

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Talk about a party!  Oktoberfest started in Munich in 1810 as a celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria.  Today millions attend each year to celebrate the beer culture of Bavaria and share in gemütlichkeit, a feeling of friendliness and cheer. This two-week fun-filled event presents cultural travelers with delightful opportunities to celebrate the Bavarian tradition, spend time with Germans or tourists visiting Germany, and enjoy classic Bavarian food and beer.

A tent at the Oktoberfest in full swing!

I can assure you this is an intoxicating (pun intended) experience of beer drinking, food, song, dance, and care-free gaiety. It is a rare opportunity for engaging in an overwhelming carnival spirit on the expansive Theresienwiese, a large open area in the heart of Munich.

Each year the Oktoberfest starts with a parade that brings barrels of beer to the fest site, the Theresienwiese.

Knowing a few tips to help you navigate the parties in the beer tents helps maximize the fun.

  • While called the Oktoberfest, the fest always starts on the third Saturday in September and runs thru the first Sunday of October.  Tents are open daily from 9 am and continues through the day until 10:30 pm when the last song is played by the band and the lights to out at 11:30 pm.  On weekends and public holidays, tents open at 9 am.
  • The fest starts with a parade that brings barrels of beer to the fest followed by the official tapping of the first barrel by the mayor in the Schottenhamel tent.  Once the tapping ceremony ends, 12 gunshots are fired, signaling to the other tents that the fest is open!
  • Getting the best places in the tents means showing up at the festival early, particularly on weekends though the best time to go is during the weekdays. The partying goes on inside the tents where up to 8000 people drink happily.   If you are not inside, the only other place you can grab a beer is outside in the adjacent beer gardens.
  • During the 16 day fest, over 6 million people will attend, drinking over 7 million liters of beer and eating 510,000 roast chickens and 60, 000 sausages.
  • A simple way of finding an open seat at Oktoberfest is to download the official Oktoberfest app. This app will make it easy for you to find your way around the fest and to keep track of your friends.

Wurst, pretzels and roast chicken accompany the beer at the Oktoberfest.

  • Enjoying the traditional delicacies offered inside the tents is an important part of the fun. Tents are of various sizes, styles, decor, themes, and vibes with each one offering a unique experience in terms of beer, entertainment, and food. Check out the offerings in various tents prior to deciding on a tent.  While the classic chicken, wurst, and pretzels are served in all tents, each tent offers its own dishes as well.  Finding this out after you have found seats may cheat you out of the opportunity to find a new favorite dish.
  • Be polite, friendly, and ready to share tables with everyone. At the heart of Oktoberfest is the spirit of friendship. A huge part of the fun is making friends with Germans and other tourists.
  • Be forewarned that Oktoberfest beer is stronger than its deceptive light color.

Aloyisus watches over fest goers in the Hofbrau tent.

  • Lastly, but most importantly, learn the words of Ein Prosit and their meaning. This is a song you will hear throughout the day. You are expected to sing along each and every time. It is German for “A toast, a toast, to cheers and good times”, and when it is sung, raise your mugs high in the air, toast, and drink.

These few tips provide some basics for an enjoyable experience at the fest, but there is so much more.  Guidance from an “expert” can make all the difference.  Start practicing your arm curls and give Wizard of Odysseys a call, because it is never too soon to book, even when the fest is months away.

Pat Ogle-CollinsOnce a year there’s another happiest place on earth – Munich’s Oktoberfest!
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The often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!

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When you travel all the way to the Land of the Long White Cloud, you should also go all the way to the tip of the North Island. New Zealand’s Northland, also referred to as the Far North by New Zealanders,  is a place of cultural significance, boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country with a subtropical climate and lots of sunshine.

Let’s look at some of the places in Northland that should be on your list of must-see Kiwi destinations. Get ready for wild beaches, quaint towns, enchanting Maori legends, endless lush forests filled with Kauri trees and waterfalls, and probably more sheep than people. You might even see an endangered Kiwi in these parts!

Cape Reinga Lighthouse

Cape Reinga

Start at the top of the North Island in Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea join, and the Maori believe that deceased spirits of their people jump from an 800-year-old pohutukawa tree (a tree covered in red blossoms referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree or bush) into the sea to return to Hawaiki, their ancestral home. This spiritual place is as far north as you can travel and is an inspiring place to be.

Visit the lighthouse where the ocean views are spectacular and if you catch the sunrise or sunset, you might crown Cape Reinga your favorite place on earth.

Ninety Mile Beach

Ninety Mile Beach

Technically the beach is less than 90 miles long, but who is counting when the sandy shores are so gorgeous? You can see waves and sand for as far as the eye can see and perhaps a lone farmer walking his dog or brave surfer with seagulls for company. If you want to explore this remote beach on the western coast, the town of Kaitaia makes a charming base. Fresh mussels and fish from the Kaitaia Fish Shop should not be missed because you’ll be hungry after all that sea air and walking around the beach and its dunes.

Kerikeri

Known for its farmer’s market, Kerikeri is the largest town in Northland and a vibrant little place to visit. Rainbow Falls, where you can take a dip in the water hole, is blissfully photogenic. You will find many gorgeous walking tracks through forested areas lined by quaint streams and rivers here and all around Northland.

Step back into the fairly young colonial history of the country by visiting The Kerikeri Mission Station, also called Kemp House. Under the protection of a scary Maori chief, this house built in 1821 for missionaries, to whom he was kind, stands as the oldest surviving European building in the country.

Hokianga

Hokianga Harbour is where the first war canoe landed when Kupe, a Polynesian leader, arrived in New Zealand by using the stars and ocean to guide the waka hourua (large double-hulles oceangoing canoes) from Hawaiki (the original home of Polynesians) to Hokianga. Many people believe taniwha (sea monsters) protect the entrance to the harbor.

Rainbow Falls, Kerikeri

Hokianga is a beautiful spot with little settlements like Omapere and Opononi to explore. Enjoy a lunch of fish and chips at a cafe in Rawene, then catch a ferry to the seaside town of Kohukohu where you can see historical buildings from the kauri gum (fossilized resin of the kauri tree used in crafts and jewelry) mining days.

Walk through the scenic Waipoua Forest and see Tane Mahuta, called the God of the Forest, the biggest kauri tree in NZ, with an estimated age of 2,000 years old. Stop to see rare rock formations at Wairere Boulders, a geologic phenomenon created by acidic erosion. The trails are easy to walk and you can kayak the Waipoua River that cuts thru the park.

Dargaville

Heading south, you will discover the town of Dargaville, where you can take a rail and river tour which is run by locals who give you the real low down on farm life in rural NZ. It’s an adventure through farmland and tunnels, over old railway tracks and bridges.  Hot cheese scones and tea are part of the package.

Ngātokimatawhaorua, Maori war canoe, Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Bay of Islands

In 1840 over 500 Maori leaders and British Crown representatives gathered to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. When you visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds’ sacred site, you can see a Maori meeting house, war canoes, carvings, and a traditional haka performance (traditional Maori war dance). You can also view a replica of the treaty (the real one is archived in Wellington).  As the most important historical site in New Zealand, understanding the importance of the treaty and the events leading to the treaty reveal so much about the culture of the country.

By spending time in Northland, you gain a perspective on the entire country, while enjoying its warm temperatures, sunshine-filled days, and uniquely quaint small towns. Kiwis enjoy life at a much slower pace.  Visiting the Northlands provides time to adjust to this slower pace while learning about the culture and history surrounded by beautiful scenery!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe often missed “winterless North” of New Zealand!
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Vast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!

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Have you checked off destinations like Italy, France, perhaps a safari, and others from your list and itching for a bit more adventure?  Namibia located in southern Africa remains largely unexplored by most travelers and by man.  So before the rest of the tourism world discovers this gem, add it to your shortlist.

Expect to be wowed by large desert dunes, stunning national parks, friendly locals dressed in tribal clothing (English is the official language), and wildlife scenes that look like they came straight from the pages of National Geographic.

Aerial view of the Namib Desert

Namib translates to a vast place and the Namib Desert fits that description to a T.  Sand dunes stretch for miles with the tallest dune, referred to as Dune 7, holding the world record at 1,256 feet, just 6 feet taller than the Empire State Building! In addition to vastness and size, light and color creates an ever changing picture just waiting to be taken.  Near Sossusvlei, the white ground of the salt pan, along with the changing colors of the sand from orange to red and the dark contrast of the dead camelthorn trees create a surreal landscape just begging to be photographed.

Giraffe in Namibia

Wildlife like cheetah, leopard, elephants, and zebra exist here through their unique adaption to the desert that stretches across a good portion of the country.  Also, over 700 species of birds, from colorful European bee-eaters to giant ostriches, wait for bird lovers.  While there is considerable wildlife and most see some particularly further north, wildlife should take second place to the scenery when planning a trip.

The coastline of Namibia extends over 1,000 miles.  Along the northern portion of the country lies the Skeleton Coast because of the whale and bones once found here. Now, shipwreck remains are the skeletons of the area numbering in the thousands due to the rough seas from the currents and strong winds.

One wreck, the Eduard Bohlen wreck, stranded in 1909, now lies several hundred yards inland as a result of shifting sands.  With this area being so remote, the scenic flights from Swakopgmund provide the best means for seeing the beauty of the most untouched and uninhabited area.  For a more intimate close-up view, several camps allow you to experience the area and the incredible night sky.  For more dark skies, visit the Namib Rand Dark Sky Reserve near Sossusvlei.

Shipwreck of Zeila on Skelton Coast, Namibia

From the Skeleton Coast head northwest to Etosha National Park home to lions, rhinos, antelope, hyenas, lizards, zebras, and birds. One of the best ways to see them is at a waterhole as they come to drink. Okaukuejo Camp is a luxury accommodation with a flood-lit waterhole so you can view the animals after dark, including the rare black rhino.   Etosha also boasts the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world.

Wildlife around waterhole in Etosha National Park

Damaraland, also located in the northern area of the country between Sossusvlei and Etosha, a semi-desert region yields yet another very different landscape with hundreds of years of erosion forming mountains of granite and boulders the size of trees. Here you will find Twyfelfontein, home to more rock engravings than anywhere else in the world.  From 1,000-10,000 years old, the area became a national monument in 1952 and a World Heritage site in 2007.

When traveling around Namibia to exotic locations like the Namib Desert, Damaraland and Etosha National Park, you will find the whole country is environmentally aware. Most places are eco-friendly and sustainability a key objective of many businesses. Protecting the local culture, wildlife and natural environment is very important to the people of Namibia, and you will be encouraged to recycle and reuse items during your adventure. Over 40% of the country is under conservation management, and it was the first African country to introduce environmental protection into its constitution.

Ready to get off the beaten path and feel like an explorer?  Namibian tourism increased from 1 million to 1.6 million visitors over the last decade, compared to neighboring South Africa’s 16.7 million in 2019.  Today you can still feel like an explorer.  Who knows for how long.  Let’s make sure you get there before everyone else finds out about this land of striking landscapes.  Call me to talk more about this amazing very different destination!

Namibian night sky

Pat Ogle-CollinsVast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!
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Feel Dolce Vita on the East Coast of Italy!

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You loved Italy and your time in Rome, Florence and Venice.  You ventured out into Tuscany and explored the Amalfi Coast.  You would love to experience that dolce vita (sweet life) feeling again, but where to next?  Try Apulia!

Located in the heel of Italy’s boot, the region of Puglia, or Apulia as it’s known in English, is quickly becoming the next must-see destination in Italy, and for a good reason.  Full of stunning architecture, Italian dishes not found anywhere else in the country, and some of the bluest water you’ll ever see, this region is worth exploring.

Map of Italy with Apulia highlighted.

So, what else is there to love about this hidden gem that is unknown to so many Americans?

First and foremost, Apulia is quite literally a destination off the beaten path. Most Americans flock to the regions of Tuscany and Campania. However, Apulia offers an authentic Italian experience. In Apulia, you can expect to see stunning historic Italian villages, taste cuisine full of locally grown tomatoes, olives and wheat, along with some of the country’s most beautiful beaches.

So, why should Apulia be your next Italian vacation destination?  Let’s count the reasons.

Polignano a Mare, known for its cliffs and Domenico Modugno, who wrote the song Volare.

Scenery

When it comes to the scenery in Apulia, it’s quintessentially Mediterranean. With the region full of cacti, olive groves, lemon trees, and vineyards, you feel like you’re in the heart of Tuscany but without the hills, winding roads, and crowds.

Apulia also has some of the most charming historic villages in Italy. With cobblestone streets, limestone piazzas, and Baroque architecture, you will feel like you’ve just stepped out of one of the classic Italian movies.  Trullis, houses with conical-shaped roofs, line the streets of Alberobello.  These houses dating back to the 15th century are completely made of stone with no mortar temporary in nature as permanent homes were forbidden to protect the look of the landscape.

Not only does Apulia have some of the most beautiful scenery in Italy, but it also has more coastline than any other region in the country. The Salentine Peninsula (the southern end of the region) sits between two turquoise seas – the Adriatic and the Ionian, so you’re never short on the choice of beaches.

Locals know the towns of Torre Dell’Orso and Otranto, the most easterly point in Italy, where they enjoy laid-back beaches. Whereas further north, secret beaches are surrounded by towering limestone cliffs with an abundance of sea caves to explore like you find in Polignano a Mare.  And with the cliffs comes cliff diving!

Food

In Apulia, the food is unlike any other in the country. Simple dishes with Mediterranean freshness because of the abundance of fresh produce.  Dishes like orecchiette, pasta with the shape of small ears native to the area, with fresh greens, herbs, and olive oil.  Mashed fava beans with wild chicory or puff pastry filled with a combination of tomatoes, bechamel sauce, and mozzarella are common.  With so much of the area along the coast, you will find dishes like spaghetti with sea urchins and their roe or octopus with tomato sauce and potatoes.

Orecchiette Con le Cime di Rapa, ear shaped pasta with turnip tops.

And don’t forget the bread!  Round loaves of crusty bread from durum wheat flour give Altamura its claim to fame.  The focaccia Barese topped with cherry tomatoes and olives along with a bit of salt and rosemary make everyone’s mouth water.

Locorotondo, considered to be Apulia’s prettiest town, is surrounded by vineyards.

Wine

To go with their food, the wine in Apulia evolved to produce mostly robust reds, from the Negroamaro and Primitvo grapes, that rival some of the best from Australia and South America.  Ostuni is best known for its white wine and a nice rose comes fro Ottavianello.  A few sweet Muscats are also produced.

With the rich soil, hot sun, and sea breezes in the area, tasting the local wine while vacationing here is a must.

History

If you’re a history buff, you will love all of the things there are to see and learn in Apulia. For starters, Lecce, the capital of the Province of Lecce, has 2,000 years worth of history and an incredible Roman theater discovered by chance.

This theater, discovered in 1929,  during excavations prior to the building of the Bank of Italy. The theater is thought to have been built in the First and Second Centuries. Today, you can only see part of it, but during its time up to 5,000 people filled the theater.

Many other notable historic towns and buildings worth seeing in Apulia include Locorotondo (the prettiest historic town in Apulia, found in Bari), the Castel del Monte (built in the 1240s) sitting atop a hill in Andria, and all of the masserias (16th century fortified farmhouses) found throughout the region with many now repurposed as small hotels many of which are elegantly restored with wonderful service.

Climate

As you’ve read so far, with so much what else could make Apulia more perfect? Its Mediterranean climate, of course!

With an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, Apulia is the perfect vacation destination. Even the cooler months of December – March are warm (50 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to the rest of Europe.  And while the winter months are also its wettest, less than 1/3 of the days each month receive rainfall.

Lecce’s Roman amphitheatr.

In the spring, you can expect temperatures to range from 64-72. In the summer months of June, July, and August, the temperatures rise to the 80s, and the Fall brings temperatures of 69-77, making it the perfect time to vacation.

The summer months are the busiest in Apulia as all the locals, and many Europeans flock to the region. The best time to visit would autumn, when the temperatures are lower but still warm, and the crowds have returned home after the summer season.

Whether you are traveling solo, as a couple, in a group, or with children, Apulia is the perfect destination that has it all. With stunning beaches, rich history, and some of Italy’s most breathtaking scenery, Apulia is the next up-and-coming destination, so visit this hidden gem before it gets too crowded.

Are you ready to fall in love with this area of Italy?  Call me so I can make it happen for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsFeel Dolce Vita on the East Coast of Italy!
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Near, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!

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Submerged in a bright blue sea of water is a world unlike any other. Spots of greens, reds, purples, yellows, pinks, and oranges shine vibrantly against the simple blue of the ocean. A school of fish whoosh by, glug glugging, glugging as they go. A sea turtle floats about, basking in his surroundings as he chomps on some sea algae. This is the Great Barrier Reef.

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders; a bucket list destination for many travelers. With so much to do and see on the Great Barrier Reef, making the selection of accommodation for your reef stay important to your overall Australian trip planning.   Options abound, but key to any planning is where: on the reef itself, on the mainland, or on an island.

On the Reef

Staying on the Reef with Reefsuites provides a truly unique experience.  Anchored at sea, the pontoon Reefsuites pontoon rooms sit below the waterline with underwater views.  Factors to consider:

  • Cost- Staying on the reef is luxurious but costly. This isn’t just a hotel– it’s an experience. With any truly unique experience, your stay will rank as perhaps the most expensive of your stay.

Reefsuites, Hardy Reef, off Queensland, Australia

  • Activities- There are a variety of activities available with Reefsuites. Snorkeling, scuba diving, dinner under the stars, and helicopter rides make the time in the blue waters go fast.
  • Time- Your time while on the reef will be completely focused on this natural wonder. There are no excursions elsewhere, so most stay only a night with a few staying two nights – less than you may have originally planned.  Also factor in travel time to the hotel and back to the mainland.

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

On the Mainland

When people visit Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, stays on the mainland and particularly in Cairns.  This is certainly an option for people wanting to make a day trip of the Great Barrier Reef so they can engage in mainland activities, great nightlife, and many accommodation options.  Consider the following:

  • Cost- Staying on the mainland is going to be your least expensive option. This exact cost, however, depending on the resort and room type selected.  However, this may allow additional funds to be allowed for activities.
  • Activities: Being on the mainland means you’ll have many activities to choose from. You could go sailing, golfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, lounge at the spa, and so much more. Plus, you’ll have a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops at your disposal.
  • Time: Generally allow 70 minutes up to two hours to reach your destination on the reef. This time can vary based on where you are traveling from and which part of the reef you are visiting. Should you want to spend considerable time exploring the reef, consider the travel time when selecting the location for your accommodations.

On an Island

An island stay can offer the best of both reef and mainland accommodation locations. Of the hundreds of islands on the Great Barrier Reef, a number of resorts call an island their home offering special benefits:  they are surrounded by water, and each sports its own unique atmosphere and amenities.  Aspects of an island stay include:

Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

  • Cost: Island stays can be affordable.  Islands that actually on the reef will cost more, but to save some money, those further away may be a good option.
  • Activities: Island resorts still offer guests a wide variety of activities.  Guests can go scuba diving, snorkeling, take a boat trip, lounge at the beach, and attend island resort events. There’s so much to do!
  • Time: Travelers should factor in the time it will take to get to the island, as well as how long it will take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from the island. The journey to the Great Barrier Reef takes 30 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the island.

The bountiful marine life, the tranquil blue waters, and the feel of the saltwater on your skin are never too far away regardless of your decision.  Where the Great Barrier Reef lies on your list of priorities for your trip Downunder will help drive the decision.  Let me help you design your trip Downunder so it fits you perfectly.  I’m only an email away!

Pat Ogle-CollinsNear, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!
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Eastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?

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Roadblocks have a different meaning on safari.

An African safari?  It’s a big decision for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Wildlife is everywhere, so does it matter where you go? Activities or sights other than game viewing might be a bigger factor in your decision, but when focusing on the safari experience, being in the know will help you make the right decision for you.

When talking about regions for big game safaris, East Africa includes the countries of  Kenya, Tanzania, while Southern Africa covers South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.  Grab your binoculars as we look at these two areas.

Lodge-centered safaris dominate Southern Africa safaris while safaris in Eastern Africa are centered around the safari company, ground operator or the camp.

In Southern Africa, the lodge provides all the services around your safari from the time you arrive at the airport/airstrip until the time you leave. The staff, including drivers, guides, and trackers, are all employed by the lodge where you stay. Should your trip include 2 or more lodges, your drivers, guides, and trackers change when you arrive at a new lodge.

For moderately priced safaris in East Africa, you’re transported by vehicles between parks that are far apart with lodges for accommodations.  Your driver, guide, and tracker, who may be the same person, stay with you during your entire trip.  The whole experience is arranged through a safari company or ground operator.  These drivers/guides read their clients well and a relationship often develops.

For those with less time and/or those that desire more intimate camps, fly-in safaris in East Africa allow travelers to maximize their time game viewing using smaller camps that provide a higher level of service.  These safaris more resemble the Southern Africa camp-centered safari, where the camp provides the driver/guide/tracker at each location.

Your ride in Southern Africa is more open, but you can still get great pictures from the vehicles in Eastern Africa.

All aboard your open-sided land cruiser that lets you have a clear view of the animals in Southern Africa. You will depart the lodge and loop around a route covering a 20-mile radius from your base. You will be on the reserve roads or inside the park or reserve.

Vehicles with pop-up tops shield travelers from the sun and allow for great pictures too.

In the East, you travel in vehicles with pop tops for road-based safaris. Since you are going further distances, open-sided vehicles aren’t suitable. Don’t worry because you can still get great photos thru your pop-up top. With the option to close the top, air conditioning and small refrigerators make your long-distance drives easier.   Open-sided vehicles are used for fly-in safari camps providing greater unobstructed visibility.

Wildebeast crossing the Mara River during the annual migration.

Pros and cons of fencing: Will the experience feel like a zoo?

You will likely hear about the fence debate while traveling around Africa. Some say it helps protect the wildlife and people, while others believe it’s unnatural.

In Southern Africa, you can expect areas to be fences, but you might travel for days without seeing a fence because the areas are massive – we are talking about reserves and parks the area of a small state in

America! These reserves make their own rules so you can experience night drives and your driver can follow wildlife off-road.

In Eastern Africa, there aren’t any fences giving animals more freedom to roam, making mobile camps ideal.  As the animals migrate, a mobile safari camp can follow the wildlife and set up temporary or semi-permanent tented camps.  These camps are great for observing the Great Migration, saving significant travel time reaching wildlife at its current location.

The numbers game – People and Animals

In the South, the wildlife parks and reserves limit how many safari vehicles can be near a group of animals at one time (usually up to three). In the East, there are no limits on the number of vehicles, but time limits at popular sites or around groups of animals may be observed to reduce crowding at peak times and the stress on the animals.

Limits on the number of vehicles during peak periods around popular spots limit the stress on wildlife.

Don’t worry.  The Big Five ((elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo) live in both Eastern and Southern Africa. Larger concentrations of wildlife in East Africa allow dramatic sightings of potentially hundreds or thousands of animals as you look out over wide-open spaces like during the Great Migration.

As always pros and cons exist for the Eastern or Southern parts of Africa. Much comes down to personal preference for your adventure.  However, once having done a safari, many travelers return to Africa to experience another area and/or type of experience.  Both regions offer unique aspects and fascinating opportunities. You never know what will happen or what you will see on safari and that makes it all the more exciting!

Let’s talk more about an Eastern or Southern Africa safari and which is best for you and your travel companions. We have stories to share and more info regarding factors like seasons, the time required, specific wildlife, and more so drop us a line soon.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?
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Surprises Aren’t Fun When Passports Are Involved

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Do you know when your passport expires?  Most don’t.  It’s just not one of those things we feel like needs to be top of mind and in most cases, it doesn’t   Yet, there is nothing worse than deciding or having the opportunity to take a last-minute trip and finding that you don’t have 6 months of validity on your passport.

(Note:  Many countries require 6 months of validity beyond your scheduled return and airlines can deny boarding for less than 6 months of validity on a passport.)  Staying on top of your expiration lessens the frustration, anxiety, and cost of last-minute renewals (Wizard of Odysseys does this for you once an international trip is booked).

Recommended renewal is 9-12 months before international travel.  There are several reasons in addition to the requirement for 6 months of validity for renewing at this point:

  • The State Department generally estimates renewals can take 6-8 weeks for passports eligible to renew by mail. NOTE:  During periods of heaving volumes, e..g. Jan-May each year, limited staffing, e.g. budget cuts or pandemic, or during any time when passport requirements or policies are changing, renewal times can take significantly longer.  (Average processing times are noted on travel.state.gov).  Keep in mind that this is for those that meet the following criteria:
    • Your current passport is in your possession
    • Your passport was issued within the past 15 years
    • Your passport is in good physical condition with only normal wear and tear
    • Your passport was issued when you were 16 years of age or older
    • Your passport was issued in your current name or you can document any change in name
    • For those not meeting the criteria above, renewals must be done in person. Should you need to apply in person, the average renewal time starts from the date of submission of your passport at the passport acceptance facility
  • Some tour companies/travel advisors require information from a valid passport to complete a booking. Otherwise, you must sign a waiver of responsibility for any costs associated with differences between the passport used and your new passport.  NOTE:  Your picture will be different, the passport number will change with your new passport and there is no guarantee that the passport will come back with the same information.  Errors do occur and changes in policies have resulted in changes in the past.
  • Should a country you plan to visit require a visa, some countries require the passport have up to 6 months of validity at the time of the visa application. Applying early allows for sufficient time to obtain any necessary visas.

Obtaining a passport can be done in less time with expedited service or walk-in service for eligible reasons but at considerable time and/or expense.

Wizard of Odysseys monitors your passport expiration giving you one more level of assurance that you don’t need to spend unnecessary time or money.  Isn’t that what a trusted advisor is supposed to do?  I want you to have fun and relax thru the planning and during your trip.  Give us a call about your next trip today, but first, please check your passport.

Pat Ogle-CollinsSurprises Aren’t Fun When Passports Are Involved
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A Total Cultural Adventure Awaits in Lyon!

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Are you a culture vulture? Do new food and the arts in different forms get you excited? If this is you, then Lyon is the perfect place!  The amazing and glorious Lyon, the French heart of gastronomy comprising world-class cuisine, rich history in silk, stunning architecture, and the birthplace of cinema, all contribute to the many reasons you should add Lyon to your travel wish list.

Overlooking Lyon from Notre Dame de Fourvière

Lyon is frequently referred to as the world’s Food Capital. Acquiring this glorious title did not just happen overnight for Lyon; it evolved with more than eight decades of perfecting the mastery of presenting amazing and scrumptious meals. Lyon is positioned on the banks of the Saone and Rhone rivers. This unique location will make you not only enjoy their food but also take in the scenery, with the foothills of the Alps near enough to accentuate that Alpine vibe, burgundy to the south and the Beaujolais to the north.

Inside a Lyon bouchon

Lyon is famous for its world’s popular Bouchons and the superior quality of its chocolatiers, patisseries, and boulangeries. When touring Lyon, you won’t want to miss the Paul Bocuse (the founder father of lyonnaise cuisines) Food Hall and the Lyonnaise signature specialties such as Rosette de Lyon (a kind of cured sausage common in the region) Coq au vin (a traditional braised chicken dish that originates from French peasantry), and pistachio sausage, served with mashed potatoes and a cream sauce.

As you stroll the street, you will be passing among the homes and restaurants of a number of the best chefs of France. While you would think world-class meals would cost more than your groceries for a week, you can experience most meals at pocket-friendly prices.

Coq au vin, a Lyonaise classic dish

Just when you thought food is the only thrill you will get from Lyon, boom! There’s more! The city is known worldwide as the birthplace of cinema, with more than a century of history. After the first cinematograph was invented by the French inventor Leon Bailey, who later sold it to Lumiere’s brother who was more financially stable.

Institut Lumière that chronicles the contributions the founders of cinematography

Your trip to Lyon would be incomplete without visiting the Institut Lumiere.  Here you can see classic photo reels with prototype cameras and a reproduction of the famous Photorama, Louis Lumière’s invention that let viewers see images projected in 360-degree panoramic images to a height of at least six meters.

While you are in the cinema history mood, make your way to the Museum of Miniature Film Sets, located in the former “Maison des Advocats” or Lawyers House, a famous sixteenth-century building currently under UNESCO protection. Two floors of at least a hundred miniature film sets that were used as scenes of actual movies before the wonders of technology were available.

Silk shopping in Lyon

It will be a shame to pass on the deep heritage of silk weaving in Lyon. Lyon’s illustrious silk industry is vivid in its industrial architecture and beautiful previous silk weavers’ homes. These remnants of Lyons’ glorious silk industry can still be found today, with several heritage locations providing insight into the silk industry’s history. The Maison des Canuts and L’Atelier de Soierie in the Croix-Rousse, are among the most popular sites to learn more about the silk industry in Lyon.

Finally, as a little extra – don’t overlook La Fresque des Lyonnais, rue de la Martinière, the home to Lyon’s most attractive murals depicting life in the city.

By TGV, the high-speed French train, you arrive in Paris in a mere 2 hours so combining with the City of Lights makes for a delightful week in France.  Or add a few days to the start or end of a river cruise on the Rhone and Saone rivers.  What are you waiting for?! Contact us today to help you perfectly plan your trip to Lyon.

Pat Ogle-CollinsA Total Cultural Adventure Awaits in Lyon!
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The Unexpected Does Happen!

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Never in recent memory has travel insurance been such a hot topic.  Last year it was all the talk because most travel insurance policies exclude claims related to epidemics/pandemics so the policies did not cover cancellations due to covid.  Also, these policies do not cover concerns about traveling unless the policy has “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage.

This year the talk is all about coverage for covid, quarantine costs, and mandatory health insurance requirements by an increasing number of countries.  These are key questions, but there are so many other incidents that can occur that can significantly impact travelers.

I frequently hear “I am going on this trip no matter what.”  My response “I am sure you are, but it’s all the other things that can happen that may cause you to cancel or some other unfortunate event.”  Still many doubt it could happen to them.  Covid has shown that the unexpected does happen.

To illustrate, the following is a list of incidents that have occurred to clients for which there was or could have been a significant cost had they not had travel insurance.

  • Death of traveling companion/spouse before or during their trip
  • Death of an immediate family member before departing for their trip
  • Diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness of traveler after booking and before departure
  • Broken ankle with no weight-bearing movement a couple of weeks before departure
  • Rail strike (in Italy)
  • Air traffic controllers strike in France
  • Airport security incident canceling all flights for 6 hrs with flight then canceled
  • A rogue wave hit a shark watching expedition boat and cameras destroyed (others on the boat lost glasses or other possessions or broke bones)
  • Back injury requiring medical evacuation
  • A family member required emergency surgery requiring a family member to cancel their trip
  • Emergency return home because toilet leak caused ceilings in the home to fall
  • Snowstorm in the UK caused hundreds and hundreds of flights to be canceled and a backlog of passenger meant the client could not get another flight for 6 days (paid for a hotel, meals, telephone calls, incidentals)
  • Lost green card requiring a trip to the consulate, temporary documents for travel, and a replacement of the lost card
  • Emergency room/doctor/dental visits (asthma attack, suspected heart attack, infected hand, a broken tooth)
  • Volcano eruption canceling flights
  • Baggage delays (who hasn’t had a bag not arrive with them)
  • Missed connections due to customs/immigration delays
  • Stolen cell phones

Costs with these ranged from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars.  Not exactly the way most want to remember a trip. And if you trip has be cancelled and no insurance coverage is available, rescheduling is usually significantly delayed since savings were reduced to pay for the original trip.

Other insurance or credit cards may provide coverage.  Always check the details of that coverage to understand what is covered and the amount of coverage.  And call Wizard of Odysseys, I can assist by providing you options that address any particular concerns.

Give yourself the gift of a fun and relaxing vacation by reducing your risk of a financial burden caused by an unexpected event.  When bad things happen, you will be glad you did because you never know what may happen.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe Unexpected Does Happen!
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Don’t forget that needed cable….again!

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For many, packing and/or unpacking are the dreaded part of travel. Remembering everything, picking clothes and coordinating outfits, overpacking before your trip, and laundry add to the dread of returning. What if you could make packing and unpacking easier?

Traveling multiple times a year to different destinations and for different reasons, the risk and/or inconvenience of forgetting something increases, and then so this preparation becomes more of a chore. Now I reduce the risk by having some items packed all the time. Purchasing duplicates or extras of some items means that I can leave these items packed, reducing the time needed to pack and unpack.

Following are some of the items suggested to leave in your suitcase or other bags all the time.

  • Toiletries (toothbrush and paste, deodorant, brush/comb, contact lens solution/case and an extra lens, makeup, pill cases to remind me to fill) and more.
  • Umbrella
  • Phone charger
  • Laptop cord
  • Pajamas
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Electronics accessories, including battery pack, mini and regular usb cables, earphones, adapter plugs
  • Lightweight sweater
  • Swimsuit

When unpacking, put the clothing items from the trip in the laundry and immediately place clean items from your wardrobe. Check/refill toiletries and other items for wear and tear, replacing them as soon as possible, if necessary.

Depending on your frequency of travel and your budget, this strategy can save a fair amount of time and reduce the chance of forgetting a needed item. When behind schedule or on a last-minute trip, the less you have to pull together, the less stressful the departure.

Travel should be about joy, but few genuinely enjoy the job of packing. Making things easier means starting your vacation more relaxed and able to start enjoying your time away sooner.

Pat Ogle-CollinsDon’t forget that needed cable….again!
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