Myanmar – Birgit Navarre

I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Myanmar in October with Abercrombie & Kent.  It is truly a spectacular destination, still fairly unspoiled and well suited for the more adventurous traveler.

 After spending a night at the Shangri La Hotel in Yangon, I flew to Mandalay where I boarded the brand new Sanctuary Ananada, a beautiful ship with only 22 stateroomsWe encountered very few boats on the Irrawaddy River and it felt as if the river belonged just to our vessel. Watching the pagodas on the hills along the shorelines of the river made me realize what an exotic destination Myanmar is.birgit boat

Along the way I visited the teak Shwenandaw Monastery near Mandalay Hill , one of the best examples of traditional Burmese style wooden monasteries,  Mya Theindan Pagoda, and the Mingun Bell.  This 90 ton bell is one of the heaviest functioning bell in the world.

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Our next stop was Bagan with over 2000 pagodas, stupas, and temples, one of the most beautiful being Ananda TempleWatching the sunset over hundreds of pagodas was one of the highlights of my trip!  I had the opportunity to observe artisans weaving stunning silk cloths and working on the ancient craft of lacquerware making.

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My trip ended in Yangon with a time exploring the sacred 2500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred and impressive Buddhist site for the people of Myanmar. This golden pagoda features over a thousand golden bells and is set with shimmering diamonds, sapphires and other gems.

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 One of the most moving experiences was the visit of a monastery in Yangon just before lunch when hundreds of young monks returned from collecting food to share at lunch.  I will never forget the sight of a little 6 year barefoot boy standing in line for lunch after returning with his food bowl having walked for hours.

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It was a memorable trip and I wanted to share the experience with you.  If you have not travelled to this part of the world, consider putting it on your bucket list!

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Terre Blanche Hotel, Spa, and Golf Resort – Erin Green

Just a short 45 minute drive from the Nice Cote d’Azur airport lies the beautiful, tranquil Terre Blanche Hotel, Spa, and Golf Resort.  Beautiful suites and villas all have private terraces overlooking the hills of Provence.  The property is extensive, ensuring privacy, and golf carts come by at the touch of a button to pick you up and bring you wherever you may need to go, whether its the beautiful spa and fitness center, the driving range, or dinner.  The suite I shared with my mother had a spacious living area in which we enjoyed our welcome bottle of wine and local olives.  I had a wonderful massage, and took my time to enjoy the steam room, sauna, and pool which are open to all guests, whether or not you are having a treatment.  Dinner was a treat, accompanied by extensive knowledge from Terre Blanche’s head sommelier who often brought out his map of France to show us exactly where the grapes we were drinking had been grown.

 

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The bedroom of our suite

 

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The view of Provence from our terrace

 

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The pool at the spa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a delicious breakfast (which is complimentary to McCabe World Travel clients through our affiliation with Virtuoso), we headed out to the Saturday morning market in Fayence, one of the neighboring villages.  Straight out of a fairy tale, this town is perched at the top of a hill and the stone buildings and passageways bring you back in time.  After a bit too much shopping, we headed to le Castellaras for an amazing lunch.  The beautiful old home converted into a restaurant is great for a meal, event, or even a cooking class if you desire!  We spent the afternoon driving vintage cars through Provence… a fun and unique experience!  Our last activity before dinner was grinding our own olive tapenade with a local expert… a great and interactive appetizer!

 

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Learning the tapenade process
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Driving the Mustang!

 

The final morning of our stay, we had the chance to visit the driving range for some golf practice!  Terre Blanche is home to two award winning 18 hole golf courses.  Their facilities are incredible, from the pro shop to their golf performance training center to their resident osteopath!  Terre Blanche was awarded the best golf hotel in both France and Europe at the World Golf Awards in 2014, which is a nice accompaniment to their two 2014 World Luxury Spa Awards!

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Already a pro!

Terre Blanche is great for all occasions… Families will enjoy the complimentary kid’s club (and teen club coming in 2015!).  Couples will enjoy the romantic, tranquil setting.  And of course, it is the absolutely perfect spa or golf getaway!

You can read more about Terre Blanche and the wonderful Virtuoso amenities you will receive by booking through McCabe World Travel here!

Mexico… Beyond the Beach! – Erin Green

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Travel & Leisure Mexico Travel Academy with travel advisors from across the globe, as well as some of the publishing and editing staff of Travel & Leisure magazine.  The week was full of interesting discussion with representatives from various Mexican tourism boards and hospitality groups regarding Mexico as a tourism destination.  One point we hit over and over again was that there is so much more to Mexico than beaches!  Of course, the beaches are a huge draw (as they should be, they are gorgeous!) but just within a few hours drive or short flight are cultural and historical attractions like none other.

During our three nights in Cancun, we got to spend a day relaxing at Zama Beach Club on beautiful Isla Mujeres, as well as eat dinner at Nizuc and the Rosewood Mayakoba, both absolutely stunning properties.  On Wednesday, our group headed two hours northwest to Ek Balam, Mayan ruins that were discovered in the jungle only 14 years ago.  They have been restored and have one of the only complete Mayan tombs ever discovered.

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The Mayan tomb at Ek Balam

We also rode bikes to a cenote for an afternoon swim.  Cenotes are beautiful pools of groundfed water that were formed when the meteor that killed off the dinosaurs landed on the peninsula.  The Mayans regarded these as sacred pools dedicated to the gods.  We had a refreshing dip and the chance to zipline over the pool.

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The cenote at Ek Balam

Onto a delicious tasty traditional lunch in the town of Vallodalid, one of the small colonial towns in the Yucatan peninsula  Just enough time for a  quick bus tour around town before continuing on our way to Merida.

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A variety of tasty foods common in the Yucatan pennisula

In Merida, we were split up among several of the hotel options in town.  I was luck to stay at Hacienda Xcanatun, a historic hacienda from the days when sisal harvesting was the main economy for the area.  The owners have invested much time and money into making it a very unique and special place to stay.  We had a short amount of time to see the city center of Merida, and from what I saw, I can’t wait to go back to spend more time there.  There’s so much history and amazing restaurants and museums.

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Merida town center

As our group parted ways, I took advantage of the weekend to visit Mexico City.  Mexico City has come a long way and truly is flourishing!  I felt very safe walking around by myself.  I had an excellent day of touring with Journey Mexico, our Virtuoso onsite partner, and was able to see the Metropolitan Cathedrael, the Aztec ruins in the center of town, Frida Kahlo’s house, which has been converted into a museum, and a few handicraft markets.  I also finally got to eat the street food I was after: tacos al pastor… a rotisserie of pork and pineapple shaved off into a corn tortilla with onions, cilantro, and a variety of salsas on top.  Delicious!  There are wonderful hotels in Mexico City… I stayed at the Four Seasons which has a peaceful inner courtyard providing a sense of calm in a bustling city, and also had the chance to see the beautiful rooms at the St. Regis and the W, which has a great location in the Polanco neighborhood.

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At the Metropolitan Cathedral

I’m so excited about Mexico and all that it has to offer… and it’s right in our backyard.  Easily accessible, incredible service and hospitality, amazing food, such interesting history and culture… there’s something for everyone!