• The Year of the I - Wandering Wonder Women Blog

    3/23/2017 12:48:02 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    Wandering Wonder Women, that’s a mouth full isn’t it?

    The meaning behind the wandering part is easy, we all like to travel. Each of us has two main hobbies, reading and traveling (one of us tried to take up knitting once, it didn’t end well). 

    But really, Wonder Women?

    Aren’t we being a little boastful?

    The answer is quite simply yes, but let us explain why we’re Wonder Women.  At any given moment, one of our agent’s  is handling a private tour itinerary in Hong Kong, calculating the daily currency exchange for a trip Paris, sorting through cruise paperwork for a family reunion aboard a Disney Cruise, and filing paperwork for someone else’s Brazilian Visa application…..ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Wonder Woman is often described as strong-willed, capable of handling any situation and never backing down from a challenge. I think we can easily say that describes each of our agents perfectly. Not only is superhero–like multitasking skills required to hold a position at our office, but you must know everything about everywhere. Where is the best place to have lunch in Ennis, Ireland? Don’t know? We do. What about a good wine bar in Cusco, any suggestions? We’ve got them.  What’s the best bathroom stop when driving the Amalfi Coast? Trust us, we know that one. The smallest of details can make or break a trip, and we make sure everything is covered, no matter how complicated.

    The best part is we do not work for a cruise line, tour company, or resort chain. We work for YOU. When a client calls us to inquire about a vacation our suggestions are based on THEIR needs, not the needs of a company.  We’re upfront about all costs and make sure that we keep within every client’s budget, regardless of size (two of us are serious coupon clippers, and proud of it).

    Keeping up with all the travel trends is another part of the job. Over the years we’ve seen our fair share, but some trends continuously reoccur every few years, which brings us to our first blog post:

    THE YEAR OF THE I

    Every three to four years, the travel world sees a high demand for countries that begin with the letter I. There is no reasoning for this pattern, but ask anyone in the travel business and they will immediately know what you mean when you say it’s “the year of the I.”

    2017 is an I year and each of us has a personal favorite I country out of the list: India, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Indonesia, and Israel. 

    ITALY

    My first visit to Italy was in the dead of winter.  It was rainy and cold, and we had two teenagers in tow. My expectations were to show them the wonders of Michelangelo, DaVinci,  Donatello, and the other great masters of the Renaissance.  I had booked a suite in the Grand Hotel in Rome, complete with frescoes on the ceiling and marble throughout.  Of course, the first thing our sulky teenagers did was look for the remote for the television and loudly complain that all the channels were in Italian.  I knew it was going to be a long vacation.   However, trying to be optimistic, we promised them that they could eat as much pizza as they desired; after all we were in Italy.   Of course, Italian pizza isn’t Pizza Hut, and that’s something to be cheered.   The first mouth-watering bite of a true Pizza Margherita will spoil you from ever ordering a meat lovers pizza again. 

    I could go on forever about the wonders of Italian cuisine in Southern Italy, but I would be doing a disservice to my favorite “I” country by not mentioning the incredible experience of the other regions.  There’s nothing that takes you back in time like walking through the walled, medieval town of San Gimignano, or shopping in the market for leather goods in Florence, or visiting the ancient shops on the Ponte Vecchio . No visit to Florence would be complete without scheduling time to visit the Academia, and view Michelangelo’s “David” up close and personal.  Even my sulky teenagers were slightly impressed before wanting to hurry up so they could indulge in homemade gelato.    There’s also nothing more beautiful than driving through the Tuscan region or, better yet staying in a hilltop villa overlooking the chianti vineyards, and yes, we have a favorite, Casabella, located a short distance from Florence.   Again, back to eating, the Tuscan cuisine is something that has to be experienced, complete with a variety of grilled meats over an open hearth, and let’s not forget the local wine, as it’s cheaper than water. 

    While it took me several visits to Italy to finally experience the uniqueness of Venice, nothing says Italy more than a striped shirt boatman, serenading you while traversing the waterways on a gondola ride.  But then, when we were discussing our favorite parts of Italy, it was summed up perfectly by my husband, who said, “The best part is there’s an Italian restaurant on every corner.”

    Cathy’s “don’t miss” sightseeing in Italy:

    1.        Sip a cappuccino while sitting in a café in Siena on the Piazza Del Campo.  You can close your eyes and almost hear the sounds of the horses as they race through the Piazza in this spectacular medieval horse race. 

    2.        Ride the funicular to the top of the Isle of Capri and have lunch at a local café overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea

    ICELAND

    The older I get the more I like colder weather. Yes, it's probably hormonal; but nonetheless, cold climates are getting to be my thing. With that being said I’m going with Iceland as my favorite "I" destination.

    My first visit to the country was actually an accident. While en route to Scotland many, many moons ago, at the ripe old age of 20, I had the pleasure of crash landing at the Reykjavik airport on an early March morning. I was traveling with a group, and as many of you know when something goes wrong with a group, and it will, the first thing you do is feed them. The second is entertain them until the problem is solved; so after a full lunch this little fresh faced Floridian girl ended up on a tour of Iceland. I will admit this was my first REAL experience with snow and ice, my previous encounter was the fake stuff they blow at Ober Mountain, TN which really doesn't compare to the massive whiteness of Iceland in the early Spring. After attempting to walk (think newborn baby deer mixed with man’s first landing on the moon) and learning the value of shoes that actually keep the icy wetness away from your feet, I was able to stand back and be quite simply awe-struck by the massive foreign landscape that greeted me.

    Known as the Land of Fire and Ice, the country’s mind-blowing terrain is shaped by its contrasting natural wonders. The island is home to several volcanoes, geysers, glacial lagoons, hot springs, lava fields, gushing waterfalls and massive mountain ranges all with completely unpronounceable names like Öræfajökull or Snæfellsjökull.  This formidable land boasts scenery that is mesmerizing and almost alien-like, which would explain why it has served as the backdrop to many science fiction movies and television shows.  Much to their delight, Iceland’s tourism has nearly tripled since my first visit. Some folks come seeking the health benefits of the Blue Lagoon (it does great things for your skin, but DO NOT GET YOUR HAIR WET), or foodies arrive looking to try an exotic dish only found in Iceland, such as salted puffin. Many just want to tackle the vast countryside or are seeking a front row seat to one of the best displays of Aurora Borealis on the planet. Whatever brings you to this unique country, it wiil not disappoint.

    Lori’s “don’t miss” sightseeing in Iceland:

    1.        Gullfoss Waterfall: this massive three-terraced glacier fed waterfall plunges into a large canyon and is one of the country’s most popular natural wonders to visit.

    2.        Landmannalaugar: Only for the adventurous! Situated at the edge of a lava field, in the Highlands of Iceland, this Nature Reserve is a must for hikers.

    IRELAND

    You can’t talk about “The Year of the I’s” without talking about my favorite “I” – Ireland.  The Emerald Isle is the land where the fields are green, the locals are warm, and Guinness is King.  If I could write a love note to Ireland, this would be it.  And while I didn’t meet a leprechaun or come across a pile of gold (there goes my retirement plan), I can’t deny that there is a certain kind of magic to this place that stays with you even after you’re gone.  I could sit here all day and tell you over and over again how beautiful Ireland is – but I won’t – because that would be redundant and a bit boring.  Instead, let me tell about a few of my favorite things that Ireland has to offer.

    First let’s talk about the important stuff – the pubs.  Every Irishman (and woman) will tell you that there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved with a few pints and a few hours of good conversation.  Local pubs are the place to go for the heartiest food and drink and the best atmosphere.  My second favorite thing about Ireland has to be the locals.  The people of Ireland really are in a league of their own.  Let’s put it this way - a cabbie isn’t doing his job if you leave his taxi without getting his full life’s story and an invitation to dinner at his home that evening.  Every person you come across is willing to share a smile or a kind word.  Maybe it’s all the beer drinking…but I digress. The last “favorite” that I have to mention is the history in Ireland.  Every cobblestone you walk on has a story to tell, and around every corner you’ll see a castle ruin or stone monument.  Like any centuries old country, the past hasn’t always been pretty – but somehow it seems to come alive in Ireland.  Plus, there aren’t many places where you can stay in a 5-Star luxury hotel that is actually a castle dating back to 16th century.

    Now, maybe you’re thinking to yourself “that can’t possibly be all that’s great about Ireland”?  And my friend, you would be correct.  The three things I’ve mentioned only begin to scratch the surface of what makes Ireland so amazing. My best advice…go and see for yourself.

    Caitlin’s “don’t miss” locations in Ireland:

    1.        Blarney Castle, County Cork.  Probably the most famous castle in all of Ireland, it’s a must see.  Go hang out (literally) with the Blarney Stone and get the “Gift of the Gab”.

    2.        Temple Bar, Dublin. Think of it as more of a playground for adults, where people come from all over the world to drink, eat, shop, and be merry. 

     

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