Take Off to Tahiti & Bora Bora Bound

Posted by Tammy Murphy

July 2, 2020 at 3:43 PM

Take Off to Tahiti & Bora Bora Bound
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A trip to Bora Bora and the Tahiti Islands is your first class ticket into discovering and exploring a new and colorful world of its own. Plush green mountains crystal clear lagoons will be waiting for in this picture perfect paradise. Tahiti and Bora Bora are renowned as a honeymooners' and lovers' heaven on Earth. Every island in Tahiti offers a multitude of activities and endless possibilities: a dive in Rangiroa, a hike in Moorea, an unbelievable encounter with manta rays in Bora Bora, swim in Tahiti's cascades, or even a chance to enjoy the authentic Polynesian culture in Raiatea. A vacation to Bora Bora and Tahiti is a one of kind experience, a tropical paradise and unique discovery which you can only understand while there.  It was really hard for me to choose just one bungalow picture to share with you from my trip.  
 
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The feeling of going down these steps into the most amazing water . . . I toured many over water bungalows while there and quickly realized there are many differences in resorts and even the range of bungalows at any one resort.
 
 
For being such quaint places Bora Bora and Tahiti offers endless adventures abound: 
  • Underwater cycling on aqua bikes. Perched on a white seat, you descend slowly as the hydraulic platform of the pontoon boat you ride out to the spot lowers us into the waves – the warm, tropical waters gradually creeping up to your bikini tops. Once in the water, spot the coral gardens looming ahead – tree-like elk horn corals and cauliflower corals, dappled by shafts of sunlight piercing through the blue. Your guides, point out a starfish 30 centimeters (1 foot) in diameter, a parrot fish hovering over an undulating welcome mat of hot-pink anemone, and what looks suspiciously like a shark shooting out from under a craggy outcrop and disappearing into the murk.
  • Aqua safari via helmet dive. This enterprise involves donning a cubed yellow-and-white helmet that keeps your head completely dry as you descend a ladder to the sandy ocean floor. Feet clad in rubbery boots, walk in slow motion through craggy outcrops of coral and lengths of seaweed fluttering in the currents, feeling like a puppet as you carefully lift one foot and then the other, hands buoyed and bobbing at waist level.Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 1.43.05 PM.png
  • Snorkeling in Bora Bora’s coral reefs. Bora Bora’s famed coral reef, which encircles the island and is accessible within 15 minutes by speedboat, has some of the best snorkeling in the world. Home to approximately 700 species of tropical fish, Coral Garden is our first stop, followed by a few other choice locations known to the crew. Slipping into the water, our guide coaxes curious moray eels from their hiding places and points out the distinctive diamond shapes of manta and eagle rays gliding through the blue.   I could not believe how much I enjoyed this!
  • Island cruises and fresh seafood. Learn that Bora Bora’s outer ring of reef and motu (small reef islets) makes its calm lagoon waters ideal for exploration by kayak or paddle board, and private boat tours abound. You can book a 23-foot Jeanneau Cap Camarat motorboat, a trimaran, a catamaran, a pontoon boat or an aluminum Quintrex boat perfect for a small group, and most excursions include a picnic on a private beach.  Of everything we did in Bora Bora, Tahiti and Tikehau, chartering a small yacht for the day was my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE thing we did.  We were treated to the most relaxing day I could ever imagine, our hosts were incredible, they served BBQ fish, caught fresh from the boat and grilled.  They sang the sweetest tunes and danced to show their gratitude to us for visiting their homeland.  The French Polynesians were the most humble, gracious hosts I think I have ever met.
  • Swimming with sharks. Saving the biggest thrill for last. Adventurous streak notwithstanding, you get the willies at the idea of being a few meters away from sharks, then you can opt for a purely observational excursion. Even so, there’s something about dipping into cooler, deeper water and being surrounded by dozens of  sleek rays and the sharks.  As I took a deep breath and slipped in this FREAKED me out, but I did it--conquer your fears right?  I was definitely making sure I saw the black tipped tail, but it was absolutely exhilarating!!!
For those not looking for a boost of adrenaline, but instead a stress relieving and relaxing sun bath on the deck of your over water bungalow!!  Bora Bora and Tahiti are still perfect for you!
 
Visiting the destination first hand was an incredible blessing and I am so grateful to our Polynesia experts for sharing so many incredible  once in a lifetime experiences.  If Bora Bora is on your bucket list, please give us a call.
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When you are ready to take your dreams to reality, we are here for you justin@viptravelexperience.com or  tammy@viptravelexperience.com  

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Boost Your Immune System!

Posted by Tammy Murphy

April 3, 2020 at 4:26 PM

Boosting Your Immune System: 

 

1. Practicing GRATITUDE

If we are beginning our days and focusing on gratitute, love and joy, it can drastically improve our health and immune system.  It instantly reduces stress hormones that rises when we focus on negative thoughts.  Its like a spinning wheel, the more we stress, the more prone we are to disease.

 

2. Eat Healthy

I know, I am craving carbs more than ever.  Even carbs I don't like.  Jump off the hamster1200px-Good_Food_Display_-_NCI_Visuals_Online wheel and  prep some healthy lunch and dinners.  If it's ready, we may be more apt to make that healthy choice.  If you are like me, I NEED my routine, meditation, vitamins and walking.   When I skip one of these steps, I usually skip them all.   At this time, more than ever, it is so important to practice proper hygiene and exercise to optimize the well being of our bodies.                Photo credit:  Wikipedia

3) Rest

Put away the screens early  so that you can fall asleep faster and try to get approximately 7 to 8 hours daily.

 

4) Meditation

Practice meditation, prayer, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, listen to 

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music, play the video in your mind of previous peaceful travels or whatever lowers your shoulders and quiets your mind.

 

 

5) Don't over medicate

I enjoy a glass or two of wine in the evenings, but we need to be careful not to deplete our immune systems by overindulging.

Sometimes we can forget that we have the power to elevate our joy, love and gratitude.

 

We CAN DO THIS TOGETHER and let's share these tips or other you think will inspire others.

One day soon there will be family gatherings, ballgames, school, graduations, weddings, travel, hugs, etc.  

Click here for your listening pleasure from one of the greatest Italian singers, Andrea Bocelli.

 

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When you are ready to take your dreams to reality, we are here for you justin@viptravelexperience.com or  tammy@viptravelexperience.com  

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Something Beautiful Always Emerges On The Other Side

Posted by Tammy Murphy

March 28, 2020 at 1:04 PM

 

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   There is always something beautiful on the other side

Search the photo above and let me know if you spot something beautiful that happened on the other side of a very difficult time in Venice.  Have you ever seen a photo of Venice without that DOME? In fact, I can't really imagine sailing into Venice without seeing that gorgeous Basilica.  The Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute (Basilica of St. Mary of Health) welcomes you to Venice at the junction of Grand Canal and Bacino di San Marco lagoon.   It is so amazing and can be seen from all over the city.  

It's iconic of Venice.  The striking Basilica in the foreground is a symbol of gratitude!!   Did you know that it was built in 1631 to celebrate the end of the unusual outbreak of the plaque responsible for so much loss of life of the Veneto population.  I was told it took 56 years to build and was built to THANK MARY for her prayers of intercession to end the plaque.

I hope when you go to Venice you get the opportunity to visit this beautiful octagonal basilica built on a platform made of thousands of wood piles and located in the Dorsoduro area.  As you walk up to it, you are overwhelmed at the height and you may miss the statue of the Virgin Mary presiding over the church.  There are additional statues of Mark, Luke, Matthew and John.  The great dome represents her crown, the vast interior her womb, the eight sides are the eight points of her symbolic star.  You can visit two small chapels on its sides, and don't miss in the sacristy there is a beautiful  canvas called "Marriage at Cana".  

In November each year, there is also an annual celebration called the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin wherein they walk from San Marco to La Salute across the Grand Canal on a specially constructed pontoon bridge for a service of thanksgiving.  

I LOVE stories of how Italians are filled with gratitude and always honoring Mary.  I know that in these uncertain times we can be filled with doubt and fear, but we know from stories in the bible and history books that we always rise higher and better on the other side of adversity.   We are ALL in this together and there is a future full of hope for all of us.  Let's be kind and help each other along the way.  

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Sharing a little happy picture of my grand demonstrating what to do when life gives you lemons.

 

  • Stay Healthy
  • Stay at Home
  • Stay Strong !!!
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Can You Imagine

Posted by Tammy Murphy

March 27, 2020 at 12:57 PM

I pray that you and your family are healthy and staying strong and at peace!  Please be safe and take care of yourself.

 

Try to remember that stress and fear are more dangerous to your immune system so let's discuss a few ways to reduce stress/fear.

 

I know everyone is facing a temporary "new normal" right now and one of the biggest issues may be feeling like you have lost control of your life and the freedoms we typically take for granted.  That is totally UNDERSTANDABLE!  Believe me, I'm feeling it too.   What I have to remind myself (and others remind me too lol)... recognize what I can and can't control.   Let the "Can'ts" go!  Focus on the
"Cans".  I've started a list here to get you started ... what are some of your suggestions? Reply to this newsletter and  I can share with others next week, how are you letting go of what you can't control and moving forward as an inspiration to others...

I CAN'T CONTROL:

-wheher or not others follow the rules of social distancing, but i CAN be sure that I and my immeditae family, follow CDC recommendations.  The sooner we contain this virus, the sooner "normal" will return.

 

-the actions and attitudes of others, but I CAN control my own actions and be sure that they are being tempered with a little extra KINDNESS, GENEROSITY and GRACE.

 

-the amount of toilet paper on the grocery store shelves, but I CAN choose to only take what I need and not hoard that  or any other important supplies so that others can have access as well.

 

-the sensationalism and constant barrage of negative news stories that incite anxiety, but I CAN control what I see by limiting my exposure to updates from a trusted source and filtering out all of the clutter.  TURN OFF THE TV NEWS!!

 

-when schools will open again, but WE CAN do the best that I can to be sure kids have some structure, good nutrition, a reasonable schedule, time to play, creative projects and lots of attention & love.  Children get anxious too and they look to us for cues.  (My fb newsfeed is filled with wonderful stories of moms killing it with the homeschooling-I'm so impressed-drop a line to a mom and tell her she's got this).

 

-how long this will last, but I CAN choose to be part of the solution and stay well by social distancing, hydrating, exercising, eating healthily, restign and finding fun things to do at home.  THIS TOO SHALL PASS, and you want to be in better shape when it does, more than ever before!

 

-not being able to physically hang out with friends, coworkers and family members, but I CAN keep socially networking using video chats, emails, thoughtful social media posts, telephone or ZOOM calls.  Our bodies may be isolated, but our SOULS NEED CONNECTION, so keep reaching out in more creative ways.  

 

-the restrictions on travel right now, but I CAN provide you with inspiration so that you keep your dreams alive.  The time will come when you can take that trip that you have been wanting to take, and I WILL BE HERE ready and waiting to help you make it happen!

 

In troubling or uncertain times, it is so hard to see the other side-but its not far away-I can just see it.

 

Please please read below as I share with you a story I learned on my first trip to Venice.  It is the most beautiful example of seeing something of beauty after a very long troubling time.  Email me if you already knew this or you're surprised!!

 

AND I CAN'T WAIT to hug people again-especially this little one and her sister!!

 

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Sharing a little happy picture of my grand demonstrating what to do when life gives you lemons.

 

  • Stay Healthy
  • Stay at Home
  • Stay Strong !!!
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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel, #australia

Keep On Dreaming

Posted by Tammy Murphy

March 23, 2020 at 11:28 AM

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“Stay home and hunker down” are not words that I, as a travel professional AND world traveler myself, ever thought I would give as advice. However, with the current COVID-19 situation and the need to be responsible, I totally understand that we all must socially distance ourselves and our family right now to help reduce the impact of this nasty new virus.

But, while I am willingly advising people to NOT travel over the next weeks, I feel very strongly that we will all get through this together and the world will once again open its arms to receive curious visitors. So, while we may not be actively traveling, it is vitally important to keep on DREAMING about your next vacation or adventure.

Since we are staying home, and most schools are closed as well, I thought I would add to the list of travel-themed movies that I sent last week.  These moveis can easily be found with the many streaming services that are out there.  What better way to spend a couple of hours with your family than watching together, dreaming together and getting inspiration for your next trip

 

 (click here for last week list) 

 

  • P.S. I Love You (2007) A young widow discovers that her late husband has left her messages intended to help ease her pain and start a new life.  Ireland is the star!  In honor of St. Patrick's Day.
    NOTE:  Read featured item below for some Irish inspiration
  • Letters to Juliet (2010):  Traveling to Verona, Italy with her busy fiancé, a young American journalist gets involved in an adventure based on a love letter a tourist left at the monument to Romeo & Juliet's unrequired love.
  • The Way (2010) - An American father takes the journey on the Camino del Santiago to understand what happened with his son, who died while attempting the journey himself. The beauty of France and Spain is prominently featured.

And especially for the kids (but parents will like these too!)

  • Brave (Disney):  A great adventure story based in Scotland that also teaches girls that they don't need that handsome prince to be awesome.
  • Moana (Disney):  The young daughter of the village chief discovers her calling and purpose by rescuing her Hawaiian island from an angry goddess with the entertaining help of the demigod, Maui. 
  • The Sound of Music:  Need I say more? The adventures of the Von Trapp family and their nanny, Maria, set in pre-WWII Austria.  A classic!
  • Madeline:  Lost in Paris:  A young schoolgirl in Paris embarks on many misadventures that cause her fellow students and teachers many headaches.  Based on the book series.

    So, pop some popcorn and cozy up on the couch together and start dreaming!  This social distancing thing is looking better already!

    When the world calms down and you are ready to turn your new travel dreams into reality, I am here to make it effortless for you….Keep on Traveling!!!

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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel, #australia

When life gives you Lemons

Posted by Tammy Murphy

March 16, 2020 at 8:35 AM

 

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1. Take a deep breath

Let's talk about YOU!!!  YOU DESERVE THIS TRIP OF A LIFETIME!!  Your decision to travel to Europe was not made in haste and I hope you won't try to make the decision to postpone in haste either.  You have worked so hard for this, and in some cases we been have designing and planning this TRIP OF A LIFETIME or MILESTONE ANNIVERSARY trip for  over a year!  So I feel it is my responsibility as your advisor not to give up until we have discussed all of your options.

 

2. Let's Remain Calm

You hired me as your travel advisor and my entire team and I are here for you.  I have shared my personal cell number with each of you so that while  you're traveling you have  VIP's service and support 24/7. As an added benefit during your travels, I share phone numbers for my travel partners in your destination in case you need to make direct contact with them.   

In addition, during this situation, I have extended my accessibility (with a few mental health breaks) to assist you with the resources  in making the best decision for you !

NOTE:  If you are traveling to the Caribbean, please note that, AS OF TODAY, that area is in Level 1 (Practice Normal Travel Precautions (same as the USA), which means it is currently safe to travel there. 

Please note the state department has issued a Global Health Advisory, you may want to reconsider travel as recommended until after April 13, 2020.

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3. Weigh the Facts

Routinely we advise that you enroll in the Smart Traveler Program before leaving the country, which enables our state department to make contact with you should an emergency arise while you are traveling.

In the current situation, we are also recommending you consult WHO,  CDC  John Hopkins for FACTUAL INFORMATION .  Let's keep some perspective, things are improving over time  (if you were traveling today or in 4 weeks-look at the warning levels of the State Department.

Drastic measures are being taken to protect us.   We think the most practical plan if you have a trip planned to Europe is to wait several weeks before making a final decision. If you decide you will feel more comfortable rescheduling your trip, we will be able to help you make these changes, but again, we recommend the "wait and see approach".

Allow the time requested  by European  and United States Government and at that time revisit the facts and improvements.  For clients traveling to  Europe at the end of April, you may consider revisiting the facts on April 15.  For those traveling end of May, consider revisiting facts on April 30 or even May 15.

 

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4. What we are Doing

If we have determined, based on the facts, that it is not advisable for you to travel at this time, we have already contacted you, shared the resources and  discuss your options--it is always ultimately the decision of our clients. We appreciate your patience and are eternally grateful for your positive thoughts, patience and willingness to work together.  

For those traveling in the next 30 days, we are available via phone, email 24 hours a day for emergencies.  For non-emergencies it will take a little longer than our normal response time, but we will respond by end of day. 

To avoid any interruption to your everyday lives, we are making hundreds of phone calls on your behalf   with suppliers, travel insurance companies  getting the details as they pertain to your specific trip.  Our first priority are those traveling in 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, 6 weeks, then 8 weeks.   

We support your personal decisions to wait and see or postpone.   We are outlining all of the options to you regarding your specific trip so that you may have all the details needed to make the decision that fits you best.

 

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5) Keep Dreaming

Since we are doing all the heavy lifting (stress eating, pacing, phone calls, on hold, etc) you are free to keep dreaming of that awesome trip.   

I recommend binge watching any of these shows to remain 10% happier.

  • Up
  • Under the Tuscan Sun
  • Mamma Mia
  • South Pacific
  • Midnight in Paris 
  • French Kiss
  • An Affair to Remember
  • The Bucket List
  • Out of Africa
  • Before Sunrise
  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Chocolat
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • Only You

We have weathered more troubling times and  THE SUN WILL ALWAYS COME UP TOMORROW.    After times of hurricanes, floods, 91, etc. clients were so ready to get me planning their trip so that they could get away when the dust settled.   It is always helpful to have something to look forward to. We are Americans, and we are strong and resilient ...we need to keep dreaming of tomorrow.  

Let's focus on the things we can control and help each other along the way.  

Ok so enough talk about lemons, let's make  Limoncello!

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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel, #australia

Australia is Alive & Thriving

Posted by Justin Murphy

February 28, 2020 at 4:32 PM

Australia is Amazing & Thriving
   
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Thursday, February 13th I packed up my bags and was chauffeured to the airport by dear old mom for an adventure I will not soon forget. I was spoiled by American Airlines with roundtrip Business Class airfare to LAX which included priority check in. That along with my CLEAR membership and TSA  Pre-check it took a total of 12 minutes from getting out of the car to sitting down at my gate. I am loving the new terminal in New Orleans.  
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Arriving in LAX we were allowed entry into the American Airlines Flagship Business Lounge which was a treat in itself. It was adorned with modern decor, amazing food, and premium liquors. For a longer layover this was just what I needed to sit and relax before my long haul flight to Sydney, Australia. As if this wasn't enough of a treat when I boarded the flight to experience the AA Flagship Business Class with fully reclining seats I WAS IN HEAVEN for my 14 hour flight! It truly flew by and I landed feeling like I had a full night's sleep and ready to take on the day.
 
Day 1, Settling into Sydney, we were whisked to the Hyatt Regency Sydney in a private luxury  van. After checking in to our rooms and dropping off our bags we hit the ground running boarding a luxurious yacht for a cruise around the 961daaa8-5c36-4b5c-a04c-c0335219c2d5Harbor enjoying Sydney's famous sights from the water. Our first stop was Doyle's at Watson's Bay for a quick appetizer which was absolutely delicious. After a few drinks and some fresh calamari we embarked on our journey to Balmoral Beach for our main course. After some wine and some delicious grub we boarded the ship and made our journey back to the wharf. We had a couple hours to relax and unpack before our own private 6 course dining experience hosted by the Hotel Manager and executive chef. The food was to die for. My favorite part of the meal was the wagyu beef cooked to perfection ...it melted in my mouth. Having eaten my entire body weight in delicious food today I decided to call it an early night before an early morning of adventure.
 
Day 2, Sydney Harbor Highlights, we woke up at the crack of dawn to get our own private Backstage Tour of the Sydney Opera House. This was one of the coolest tours I have ever been on. We explored the hallowed theatres and foyers where more than 1600 concerts, operas, dramas and ballets take place each year and our experienced guide lead us through every aspect of the building’s 14-year creation and 58-year history. Running our hands over the world-famous shell tiles, taking a seat in the elegant custom-made white birch timber chairs and marvel at the vaulted ceilings of one of the biggest pillar-free chambers in the world. 
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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel, #australia

Ever Wonder About The Land Down Under

Posted by Justin Murphy

February 13, 2020 at 10:25 AM

Adventures In The Land Down Under
   
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Anything is possible In the Land of Aus (Oz), and Dorothy you are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Australia is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. It’s known as a major backpacking, camping, road trip, and diving destination, but no matter your travel style, there is something to draw you here. The country is filled with incredible natural beauty from Uluru to the Outback, rainforests to pristine white sand beaches, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. Sydney’s Harbor Bridge and Opera House are iconic man-made wonders, and Melbourne’s café culture will make you feel like you are in Europe. Coupled with world-class surfing, and it is no wonder people never leave. Some of my favorite spots would be Cairns, The Gold Coast, Sydney, and Melbourne.
 
Cairns is Australia's northern gateway to Queensland. It is a tropical town with a lively nightlife. This amazing place is also where you will find the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Atherton tablelands, Cape Tribulation, and much much more. Right in the city's center is a man made "lagoon" for local and out of towners to swim and enjoy away from the hungry crocs. The weather is very tropical and changes with the wind. The night market is also an interesting place to checkout.
 
 The Gold Coast, Australia is east of Brisbane and full of sun, surf, and sand! It’s known foIMG_0167.jpgr its sunny subtropical climate, surfing, beaches, a rainforest hinterland, and a wild nightlife. The most famous city in the area is Surfer’s Paradise, a major stop for travelers and backpackers looking to get some sun, surf, and spend time partying. If you have time take a day trip up to Tamborine Mountain for some breathtaking views and at the peak walk among the tree canopy on a rickety bridge and the awe-inspiring bird sanctuary. Also a short drive from Surfer's Paradise is Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see many of the indigenous species of Australia and even hold a Koala, pet kangaroos, and much much more.
 
Melbourne is Australia’s bar capital and live music hub—often called the country’s “European enclave”. Melbourne is the first place in the world to ring in the New Year and thus has one of the most spectacular firework shows. The central business district not only serves its after-work drinkers, but also attracts a young, trendy crowd. Across the Yarra River, Southgate provides the arts precinct with a strip of bars and riverside views. With plenty of culture, activities, art exhibitions, and live music, you could easily spend over a week here and not regret it. There is so much to see and do even the street art has history behind it. The sporting arena is huge and cricket games can usually be viewed, the botanical garden are beautiful you can even go for a romantic gondola ride. Queen Victoria Market is a huge farmers' market that you can find anything and everything for a very competitive price. 
 
Sydney is a cosmopolitan city surrounded by iconic beaches, world heritage sites, and acclaimed wine regions. Besides being Australia’s largest city, Sydney is also its’ most visited. (And, contrary to popular belief, not the country’s capital!) With an incredible variety of attractions and sights to see, including the very famous Bondi and Manly beaches, it’s easy to see why people come here and stay a while—try to stay at least a week if you can. 
 
This was definitely my favorite city in Australia. It is just so vast and diverse you can do anything and everything that you could ever want. From seeing an amazing show in the iconic Sydney Opera House to the exhilarating climb to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge I did it all and so much more. Bondi Beach is one of the most beautiful but not just the beach, the street art is also remarkably intricate. Take the harbor cruise to get views straight from postcards, and learn all about the Opera House and Bridge.
 
The city is not based off of a grid system so it is not as easy to navigate as Melbourne, but one my favorite memories from my trip after being lost trying to find our back to the hotel and happening by this little Irish bar and hearing "Sweet Home Alabama" . . .  so of course we had to go inside. It was such an awesome atmosphere and so many friendly people. The live band was amazed that we knew the words until they figured out we were from the USA. 
 
Australia was everything I dreamed it would be and even more.  Like my mom feels about Italy, I feel about Australia. I truly hope each of you get to visit one day.  I hope I've peaked your interest a little, and when you are ready to go to the land of AUZ, please reach out, I would love to share my experiences and help you plan a perfect adventure to Australia.
 
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Have an awesome week!

 

 

 

When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a  aIMG_6323 traveler, not a tourist. 

Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment).

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Topics: why use a travel agent, luxurytravel, #australia

Cruising Through A Country

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 30, 2020 at 10:20 AM

Cruising Through Provence

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To begin our journey we boarded our flight from the US and hopped across the pond to Lyon, France. Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France with all the best eateries in as many variations you could imagine.  Here we were picked up and transferred straight to the ship. There was no line or assigned boarding time you just get to the ship and walk right on it was amazing. The ships decor was very elegant, yet casual and the main room was very spacious and staff extremely welcoming. We were ushered to our cabin which was also almost double what I have experienced on ocean cruise ship. We dropped our bags and then got right back off the ship to explore Lyon on our own for the rest of the evening.  Upon returning to the ship, we stopped in the lounge and the staff set down a favorite wine that he had recommended earlier in the day (I was floored that he remembered that already-we had only met once).   That was the first thing I loved is that there were less than 150 people on board at max capacity.

 

 

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The next morning, day 2, we got up early to discover dynamic Lyon, starting in Fourvière Hill, part of the city’s historic region that is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the 19th-century basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. We continued on to the old town of Lyon, followed by a guided walk through the St. Jean district, where you will be introduced to the city’s unique covered walkways, known as “traboules.” During the afternoon we took a walking food tour around old town, I was amazed by the murals of local living on the buildings. We boarded the ship, enjoyed the complimentary cocktail hour then headed to dinner. As we were eating dinner the ship departed for our next destination so we were able to see Lyon's skyline lit up as we cruised down the river.  Not only did we enjoy the cultural sites in the country but each day fresh local produce and wines were brought on board so that you have the convenice of traveling on the ship, but you are tasting the farm to table foods and wines of that region.  Next day, different area and different locals foods and wines. 

 

IMG_4506Day 3, this morning we woke up and headed to breakfast.  Starting with breakfast, all of the meals on board were fabulous. As we were eating breakfast we realized that we were docked once again in the small town in the middle of the Beaujolais wine region—known as the Pays d’Or or “land of the golden stones.” We had the option to indulge in a wine tasting at a traditional winery and learn about the history and techniques of their vineyard. We enjoyed the afternoon at leisure exploring the town and its quaint charm before boarding the ship and sailing to Vienne. Also something I loved about traveling during the day you can sit on the upper decks and have amazing views of the surrounding areas while coasting along this beautiful river or laugh at Tammy rushing to the front of the ship to watch every detail of passing through the locks (she did not miss one of them).

 

Day 4, We arrived in Vienne situated between the wine regions of Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône. Vienne 's  alignment with its Roman past can be seen in its marvelously preserved ruins. We had several excursion options (regular departure, late risers or active) to follow the footsteps of the ancient Romans on a walking tour to see the amazingly well-preserved

IMG_8312Augustus and Livia Temple, the Saint Maurice Cathedral, a Gothic church that took more than 500 years to build, and St. Pierre Abbey—one of the oldest surviving churches in France, and now an Archaeological Museum. For those wishing to be more active (Like me), you can either take a guided bike tour along aportion of the ViaRhôna bike route or a guided hike (Mom) from the ship to the Monastery at Mount Pipet. The bike ride is the tour I chose. It was beautiful we crossed bridges, rode through vineyards, rode along the river, and through farm land passing chateaus and beautiful ruins.  Each night we gathered in the main lounge for a brief local entertainment from that particular village.  We ended each night with a little music and dancing and wine.   There was a small wine club group from New York on board and they welcomed us to their group and we enjoyed meeting up each evening to discuss the different excursions and experiences everyone had enjoyed separately.

 

Day 5, After breakfast we were given the choice of three excursions. Take a train ride past 

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magnificent landscape carved along the Gorge du Doux, stopping at the charming little station of Colombier le Vieux-Saint Barthélemy le Plain, where the train maneuvers in preparation for its return journey. Alternatively, lovers of wine and chocolate will want to visit Le Château de Tournon for a presentation and tasting on the pairing of red wine and chocolate . For a more active adventure, cycle through the French countryside or take a hike through the vineyards of Tain l’Hermitage, followed by a visit to a local winery where you’ll sample some of the wines.

I chose the wine tasting with chocolate pairing at Le Château de Tournon. It was an amazing experience. We were brought under the "castle" to a private room and learned about the history of this Chateau, wine region, and culture of Tournon. It was such a cool environment and the wine & chocolates were delicious. Afterwards we had the afternoon on our own to explore this 

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riverside town and check out all of the shops and buy some wine to take home.   You could walk at leisure exploring or people watching or you could use the complimentary bikes on board the ship.  The ship stayed in port until 11pm that night so Tammy participated in a baguette making class as the famous Guarmandisi Bakery.  The aroma was amazing as they all returned to the ship with their freshly baked baguettes.    Did I mention that all of these awesome excursions are included in the cost of the cruise.   

 

 

Day 6, Advancing to Avignon, aptly named the “City of Popes,” was the center of the Catholic Church in the 14th century when its “Palais des Papes” was the equivalent of today’s Vatican. Depending on your interests, we had three choices of excursions. Discover the history of Avignon on a guided walking tour that includes the Papal Palace and the well-preserved medieval walls surrounding the historic center of town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively, if you enjoy cooking you can go into a local chef's restaurant to learn how to prepare a traditional meal.

IMG_8623If you preferred, you could visit three venues around Avignon to taste regional specialties including macaroons, cheese and wine, and tapenades. We decided to do the cooking class and it was the ABSOLUTE highlight of our trip. It was so much fun to learn from a local chef in his own restaurant. During the afternoon, we enjoyed free time in Avignon touring the Palais des Papes. After visiting this enchanting Provençal town, we went in search of the highly prized “Black Diamond” truffles with a farmer and his trustworthy canine companion followed by a visit to an olive farm where you’ll learn about age-old Provençial traditions from a master olive miller as well as sample the olive oils. In the evening, we enjoyed an illuminations cruise around Avignon to see the city aglow along the river. This night we had dinner at the Chef's table  Dining Experience (complimentary and reservations required) for an open kitchen meal experience. We watched the chef prepare each of our 6 courses each as scrumptious as the previous. It is located at the back of the boat with floor to ceiling windows so the views were enchanting sunset as we sailed away from Avignon.

 

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Day 6, Artistic Arles, considered one of the most beautiful cities in France. For art lovers, you’ll wish to visit Saint Paul de Mausole Asylum, where Vincent van Gogh once lived and painted.  Afterwards, we went to the Carrières de Lumières, where we were treated to a spectacular presentation of art, sound and history projected on the walls of caves. Alternatively, you could have chosen to venture to the medieval hilltop village, Les Baux de Provence, or for a different adventure, journey to Aigues-Mortes, known for its well preserved medieval walls and guard towers, followed by a visit to the beautiful Camargue National Park, a protected natural territory with more than 400 different species of birds. During the afternoon, we joined a walking tour of Arles highlighting top sights, including the Romanesque cathedral and Roman amphitheater; Also offered for those who wish to delve further into Van Gogh’s Arles, join a special walking tour along with a visit to the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, showcasing his legacy.

 

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Day 7, we had breakfast and then disembarked this magnificent journey. Not quite having our fill of adventure. We opted into their post-cruise extension and boarded a motorcoach to Barcelona, Spain. There we spent 3 magnificent nights exploring that amazing city, but that is a story for another day. I hope you enjoyed and can now envision yourself cruising down the Rhine, Rhone, Danube, Moselle, and/or Main Rivers.

 

Some of the highlights for us on river cruising were virtually everything was included so there were less decisions to be made.  Our dining, shore excursions, entertainment, wine, beer and soft drinks included during lunch and dinner.  We could tour in the mornings, return to ship for lunch then stroll the city on our own in the afternoon.  The towns/cities were small and we felt completely safe to walk around on our own.  The ship docking in the city center was a huge plus, high quality tours were high quality.   I also like the casual dinners, I wore jeans all nights with exception of the Captain's farewell dinner.

 

There are many choices of river cruise ships and itineraries.  Activities vary based on the river and destinations.  If you would think river cruising may be in your future, don't hesitate to call us.  There are some big differences by ship, we would LOVE to chat and hear which things are most important to you and help you choose the ship that is just right for you.   We have incredible connections with several cruise lines and also have some added amenities that are exclusive to our agency, we would love to share those with you on your next travel experience.  


Have an awesome week!

 

 

 

When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a  aIMG_6323 traveler, not a tourist. 

Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment).

Read more

Topics: river cruise, #VIPRiverCruise, #RiverCruise, why use a travel agent, luxurytravel

Rolling On To Roma!

Posted by Justin Murphy

January 24, 2020 at 9:00 AM

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Leaving Florence we boarded a private transfer traveling through the scenic Tuscany region, stopping in the town of Orvieto for a wine & light bite pairing. It was great to get out and stretch our legs and break up the ride into two smaller segments. After lunch we rolled on over to Rome. 

 

Upon arrival into Rome we dropped off our luggage and freshened up a bit before we were met by our local guide to explore this great city through a panoramic walking tour hitting most of the highlights. We started at the Spanish steps, 

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winding through piazzas, to the Roman Pantheon, stopped to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain (or trying to, I accidentally hit someone-WHOOPS), and ended the evening in Piazza Navona for some people watching. After our stroll we went to a local trattoria for some aperitivos and some really good red wine. After dinner, we went exploring on our own. I took this time to try quite a few different gelato stands HAHA.

 

Day 2 in Rome, I woke up early to have breakfast (cured meats, bread, and fresh fruit) before embarking on our journey through Ancient Rome. We boarded our private transfer and headed to our first stop-THE COLOSSEUM! It was much Snapseed (3)bigger than I had anticipated. We entered through the lower section to see where the gladiators were held before entering combat. Then proceeded to the upper decks to get a birds eye view of the arena. It was a site to behold and you could also get a panoramic view of the city from atop the Colosseum. We headed out the back to get a glimpse of the Roman Forum and then onto the Circus Maximus where they held in ancient times the hugely popular chariot races. From there we headed down the Appian Way, one of the oldest and most strategic roadways of the ancient republic. Getting a little extra insight into Ancient Rome we left the hustle and bustle of the big city to Castelli Romani, green foothills outside of Rome proper. Here we enjoyed lunch at a family run fraschettina (trattoria-style, informal eatery beloved by the locals) where I devoured the best carbonara I 

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have ever tasted in my life along with some delicious Frascati wine. After lunch we had a brief walking tour of the Castel Gandolfo- home to the Pope's summer palace! We made our way back into the city in the late afternoon to have the evening at leisure. I squeezed in a  few new hotel inspections and found the amazing LIVE Restaurant (city center and right next to the hotel). This was my favorite meal of the entire trip. For my first course I had the black truffle sea-bass carpaccio (OHH MY GOSH AH-MAZING). Second course was a caesar salad with fresh anchovies that I picked off of course LOL. My entree I had grilled salmon with some type of creme sauce that I wish I could spell, but it was delicious with fresh grilled vegetables. To end this meal we ALL ordered different flavors of gelato, and left with a shot of limoncello which is apparently the only way to end a meal in Roma. After this extremely busy day we called it an early night and went back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

 

The next morning, day 3, we woke up early again for early access into the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and St. Peters Basilica. We started with skip the line tickets IMG_6730to the Sistine Chapel which was actually way smaller than I expected, but never the less a sight to be seen. It was breathtaking to see all of the intricate work that was put into this artistic phenomena. Next we went up to the top of St. Peter's Basilica to see inside from above. Then we were asked if we wanted to climb to the top of the dome. It was a trek with over 551 steps to reach the top for an unbelievably spectacular view of Vatican City. I am deathly afraid of heights so I was hugging the walls, but it was an absolutely incredible experience. After reaching our viewing pleasure we descended the stairs to go in St. Peter's to see the many immaculate sculptures and Michelangelo's Pieta. Exiting St. Peter's basilica we walked around St. Peter's Square stopping to grab a traditional Roman pizza for another amazing meal. IMG_6750That afternoon we did some shopping and tried more gelato-I JUST COULDN'T GET ENOUGH! That evening we toured the Trastevere neighborhood, the Jewish Quarter, coming across a lot of stumbling stones, golden squares on the ground to remember those taken by the Holocaust. Trastevere is a very quaint residential area that has a charm all its own. For dinner, we joined Barbara, a local, in her home to have a one of a kind experience and ate way too much food and drank maybe too much wine-if that's even possible. We toasted to a wonderful time and to have experienced it with such amazing friends. It was the perfect exclamation point to end this wonderful journey. We laughed, we cried, and relived our time in this magical place.

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When you feel like it's a dream come true, it just keeps getting better!

The most important thing is to enjoy your Italy vacation.  Be  a  aIMG_6323 traveler, not a tourist. 

Sharpen your photography skills so you can capture "a snapshot in time" to remember the experience and preserve the memories forever  as you explore Venice, the city on water. Looking at my photos BRINGS ME BACK and its always such a beautiful memory! 

I truly hope you get to go to Venice.  If this sounds like the kind of ITALY trip you would enjoy, call me, I would LOVE to help you plan the perfect Trip of a Lifetime!  Please tag us when you show off your Venice Travel Adventure  @VIPTravelExperience! (P.S.  don't get too caught up in the photos that you MISS the moment).

Read more

Topics: why use a travel agent, First Time Tips to Italy, LOVEITALY, Italy Vacation, Italy Travel, luxurytravel

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