"Where dreams turn into Journeys"
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2017 was a very diverse travel year as we cruised, flew and sailed our way around the world. It started off with a flair for the dramatic when we landed in Buenos Aires. We tangoed from the city to the country side to Puesto Viejo Estancia where we played Polo with the Argentines before boarding a ship towards our 7th Continent visited of Antarctica. Before reaching our destination we stopped at the end of the world in Ushua, Argentina and Tierra del Fuego National Park, before setting sail around Cape Horn and through Drakes Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet, in route to the “White Continent”. We visited majestic Paradise Bay and Elephant Island which are two of the harbors discovered by Adrien Gerlach. No words can adequately describe the breathtaking beauty as this has to be seen to be believed.
As we left Antarctica we journeyed on to the Falkland Islands for a date with the penguins for Valentine’s Day and then to Punta Tombo, Puerto Madrin where we walked with Penguins in the world’s largest habitat. A quick stop and one last Tango in Montevideo, Uruguay before returning to Buenos Aires made the trip complete.
Our next quick trip found us going back to one of the great cities of the United States ... “The Windy City”! Chicago has some of the best art galleries and museums in the country not to mention great food!!! Many believed it earned its nickname as the Windy City from the chilly gusts coming off Lake Michigan, you would be wrong. The city is windy, according to most local legends, because of the hot air bellowing from politicians.” Of course no visit to Chicago is complete without a stop to the Art Institute to view Whistlers Mother an American Icon.
I took a solo trip to start my spring in Europe as I floated down the rivers on Uniword’s beautiful River Duchess to see the Tulips and Windmills. The trip started off in Antwerp and meandered for 10 days throughout Brugge, Veere, Rotterdam, Kinderijk & Amsterdam and the countryside viewing the endless colorful blooms of tulips at the Kukenhof museum and windmills in Kinderijk. I also enjoyed one of the most interesting trips I have experienced as we took a behind the scenes tour to the Delta Works which is considered one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. Of course no visit to Europe is complete without a visit to museums to admire the masterpieces of Van Gogh at one of the largest collections located at the Kroller Muller Museum and Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum. The cruise ended in Amsterdam and I can only say it was a great way to end winter!!!
The next trip on the itinerary took me back to San Diego to the Rancho Bernardo Inn Resort for our Annual Avoya Travel Network Conference. While this was a quick 3 days packed with educational opportunities and meetings it was a pleasure to connect with my favorite ladies in the world from Sofia’s Travel team!
The next journey would be a little more exotic as we jetted off for the first time ever to Japan. It is an amazing country and culture as we enjoyed stops in Tokyo exploring the Imperial Palace and Skytree. In Osaka we rode escalators up the Umeda Sky Building before discovering the Osaka Castle. Kyoto had many beautiful shrines we enjoyed visits to the Shinto Shrine, Higashiyama-Ku and pictures with the Geisha’s. Of course no trip to japan would be complete without a visit and short climb to Mt. Fuji and Lake Ashi! All I can say is it was breathtaking and a symbol of national pride which you can understand when you are in the presence of nature’s beauty. What an amazing country, warm, friendly people, magnificent scenery, a long diverse history and a fascinating multifaceted culture. What a perfect host for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2025 World Expo.
This trip would also find some official duties had to be taken care of in Maebashi, Japan. My work as a Board Member for the United Nations Association Greater Birmingham, AL Chapter and my long term relationships, commitments and involvement with international communities and organizations with in the city, specifically the Sister Cities organization where the Honorary Consul General to Japan, Mr. Mark Jackson, asked me to hand deliver and present to the Mayor of Maebashi, Japan, Birmingham’s Sister City, the proclamation declaring July 3 as Maebashi Day. This was truly a privilege and honor to have had the opportunity to represent the people of Birmingham, the Mayor and Sister Cities at an international event which was a great experience.
From Japan we flew to Hong Kong for a quick meeting and a little rest and relaxation as this is one of the best cities in the world to pamper one self. Of course no matter how many times you visit a place there is always something new to explore as we found out on our tour of Landau Island where we saw Tian Tan Buddha, visited Po Lin Monastery and Ngong Ping among other temples and water villages!
We only had a couple of days to rest at the amazing Shangri-La Kowloon as our next stop took us to Singapore where we experienced the rich diversity of this beautiful city. We visited the Botanical Garden, Tanjong Pagar, Haw Par Villa, Little India, China Town, Arab Street and enjoyed lunch at the Beaulie Hause which was previously a high-ranking officer home on the naval base. However, nothing could match attending the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix. Nothing can get the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing like a Formula 1 car hitting 200mph down a straightaway in to a S turn. Singapore Grand Prix had it all. Ferrari’s Racing, The Carrera Cup for Porsches topped off by Formula 1 all on the road downtown in the Marina Bay Sands area. What an amazing time and venue. All I can say is WOW!
My next stop would be a quick work weekend in San Antonio Hill Country, Texas for the American Express Travel Forum at the beautiful JW Marriott Resort & Spa. The AmEx Travel Forum theme “The Power Of ONE” and keynote speaker “Captain Scott Kelly” fell right into my year’s theme of “We are better united” team building and believing that “The Sky is not the limit”! If you can dream it, believe it! I can honestly say I pick something up new each time which I am able to share with all of you! I am also honored and privileged to announce that two of us were selected to the American Express Travel Insider program which is a very thorough and long selection process and only few travel experts achieve. We have two now at Sofia’s Travel, LLC. We received this exciting news just before Christmas and I can only say that I was now truly ready for a vacation!!!
The last trip of the year, yes there finally had to be an end to the year, would find us enjoying Christmas and New Year’s in the beautiful City of Light, Paris! We landed the morning of Christmas Eve where we stayed in the Latin Quarter next to Notre Dame and were awaken Christmas morning to the beautiful bells of this grand old cathedral. No experience could match the choral service mass Christmas night in Notre Dame an experience I will never forget.
After a couple of days on land enjoying the food, sights and of course the shopping we boarded the beautiful, luxurious and newly inaugurated boutique river cruise ship from Uniworld, The Joie de Vivre! We spent a week sailing down the Seine where we stopped in the cities of Vernon, Chateau de Bizy for a private concerto. Les Andelys & Chateau Gaillard to admire the views, Rouen, the Christmas Markets and a private church recital. Mantes la Jolie with a behind the scenes visit to Versailles where we were allowed to enter the apartments of Louis XV and XVI and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. The last few days of the trip had us back in Paris where we docked in the shadows of the Eifel Tower and brought in the New Year! During that time we enjoyed more behind the scenes visits to the Opera House and Château Vaux le Vicomte. New Year’s Day we took our own trip up to Montmatre which is the highest point in Paris and visited Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. We were blessed to have made it to the New Year’s Day Mass where the nuns were singing which could only be described as angelic.
Not a bad way to end an amazing and blessed year but not without gratitude and appreciation for my family, friends, team & clients.
To our clients I want to personally say THANK YOU for your loyalty, support & trust for giving us the opportunity to turn your dreams into journeys and for your repeat business and referrals of family & friends!!!
I am truly filled with gratitude as we enter into 2018 celebrating 5 years of Sofia’s Travel, LLC.