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2019 In Review
2019 In Review
WOW…What a busy year 2019 turned out to be! I looked back and was amazed that I had actually taken 13 trips visiting 49 cities, 17 countries, 5 continents and logged over 85,000 miles through the air while circling the globe 4 times. We were blessed to have stayed at some of the most distinguished hotels and resorts in the world, sailed on both luxury river and ocean cruises all while enjoying private guided tours through some of the most breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage sights imaginable.
All of the details including pictures are on Sofia’s Travel, LLC Face Book page for your enjoyment and to hopefully inspire some of your own travel desires.
Here is a short recap of our year…
The beginning of the year took us back to Asia by way of South Korea to our eventual stop in Hong Kong. We were able to revisit some of our favorite sites while staying at the Shangri La in Kowloon, our home away from home. On this trip we were able to explore the history of the city and territory of the former Portuguese colony of Macau, China.
After a quick turnaround in Hong Kong it was back home and a week later we found ourselves in the middle of a Polar Vortex in Chicago. You know it is cold when it shuts a place like the Windy City down! We pressed on through the bitter cold and several flight cancellations while staying at The Langham Hotel, one of the Finest 5 star properties in the World. It’s an understatement to say how disappointed we were when the cold finally lifted and we had to go home!
Shortly after Chicago we were off to New York to attend the United Nations Global Engagement Summit where we were greeted by snowflakes and my dear friend, Bernadette Martin, from World Vision. She joined me for this event as our partnership is evolving into achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development not just in the United States but around the world.
As spring finally approached, we embarked on our “Best of the Best” agency recognition trip onboard Crystal River Cruises where we sailed along the Danube River. We explored legendary museums, castles & convents in Vienna, Melk & Linz. We strolled through Churches, Forts, medieval towns as well as the baroque villages in Cesky Krumlov, Bratislava, Esztergom and Visegrad. We were thrilled to be able to attend a private concert at Budapest Castle and an Equestrian Show in Szentedre during our visit to Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I can only say that Crystal River Cruises has redefined luxury on the river throughout Europe with its extraordinary attention to detail.
The long awaited bucket list trip of Machu Picchu was finally scheduled! We flew in to Lima, Peru where we spent a couple of days and enjoyed this beautiful city whose weather resembles that of San Diego nestled on the Pacific Ocean. We took a quick flight from Lima to Cusco where we drove through the majestic Andes mountains and down to the Sacred Valley. We climbed the Ollantaytambo ruins and visited with locals and their Alpacas while enjoying some of the world’s best cuisine at the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness. This amazing property is built along the Vilcanote Riverbank and was transformed from a 17th-century colonial hacienda to an amazing Hotel and Spa and is a longstanding member of Historic Hotels Worldwide.
After a relaxing and scenic train ride from the Sacred Valley down the Inca Trail we arrived in Aguas Calientes. We were able to walk to our hotel, The Inka Terra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, which is registered as one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World. This property is an intimate Andean village with terraced hills, waterfalls, stone pathways and 83 whitewashed adobe casitas tucked away in the cloud forest. This was an experience like no other for the mind, body and soul and was the perfect preparation for our trip up through the rainforest to Machu Picchu. I can only say breathtaking as there are really no words to describe what you experience and see.
After returning from Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley (9,603 ft above sea level) we drove back up to Cusco (11,152 ft above sea level) the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Cusco is higher than many mountains and higher than any city in the United States but luckily we were staying at the Palacio Del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel. This property dates back nearly five centuries and stands in the historic center of Cusco. We did enjoy playing with baby Alpacas and even happier the property comes equipped, for its guest by request, oxygen tanks! None needed on this trip but believe me there were times when I thought about it.
As we entered the recognition period for outstanding Travel Advisors, we found ourselves again acknowledging one of our best , Maria Bello. We celebrated her accomplishments for the second year in a row this time at Club Med Punta Cana where she received her award as a Top Club Med Advisor. She is sure to receive it for a 3rd year!
Spring came to an end and I found myself onboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas for our annual network conference. I had the unique opportunity to speak to fellow travel professionals and travel suppliers about the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development and how they impact the Travel Industry followed by a panel to include Executives from Royal Caribbean, World Vision & Avoya.
I was home for two days and quickly had to fly back to Miami where I attended the American Express Departures Luxury Travel Forum being held at the St. Regis in Bal Harbor. There is always something new to learn as the travel industry is constantly evolving.
As summer finally arrived we found ourselves in need of a vacation from all of this work! We flew to Rome where we strolled through the streets enjoying all of the sites we have seen so many times which never grows old! Of course no trip to Rome would be complete without a little shopping and a lot of gelato or maybe it was the reverse. The end of the day was complete as we found ourselves relaxing and sipping Chianti on the rooftop of our hotel, The La Minerva, overlooking the Pantheon as the sun was setting. They say life is about moments and this was certainly one of them. The next day we were off to the port for a Mediterranean cruise onboard Oceania where we sailed along the Cote d’Azur. It was a relaxing trip as we simply wandered through the quaint towns of Luca & the seaside villages of Santa Margarita & Portofino. We visited the Royal palace in Monaco and the famous casino and Formula 1 track in Monte Carlo. We stopped in Marseille & Cannes and walked the red carpet where so many famous actors have stood throughout the years. We enjoyed tapas & Flamenco in Mallorca and admired Gaudi’s designs and architecture throughout Barcelona. There is truly no better place to be than anywhere in the Med!
As Fall approached it was time for the American Express Travel Forum in Los Angeles and the American Express Fall Departures Luxury Forum in Grand Cayman at the Ritz Carlton. After these forums I took off to the ASTA Destination Expo in Israel with my dear friend Sarah. We immersed ourselves in the culture and culinary scene in Tel Aviv & Jaffa, followed the footsteps of Jesus in Caesarea, Meggido & Nazareth. We watched the sun set while sailing on the Sea of Galilee… Read the bible on the Mount of Beatitudes & the Temple of Pan while dipping our toes in The Jordan River. We got a glimpse of how lives used to be in Masada National Park, floated in The Dead Sea and left a prayer note at the cracks of the western wall in Jerusalem. This truly was a spiritual experience and there is always something new to experience no matter where you go or how often you have been there!
The year had to come to an end and what better way than to spend it in Egypt. We meandered down the Nile River onboard a luxury river cruise, visited ancient temples and tombs in Luxor and rode in a horse and carriage as this is the local transportation system in Edfu to visit the ancient Temple. We experienced an exhilarating sun rise above the Valley of the Kings overlooking the Nile in a hot air balloon, drove through the Sahara to reach Abu Simble Temple which is truly one of the most amazing sites and fascinating UNESCO projects ever undertaken. We toured the dam in Aswan and floated on a felucca around a Namibian village. We visited one of the most important museums and cultural archives in the world in Cairo. After a long day of trekking through the dessert in Giza to witness the awe inspiring Pyramids and Sphinx our guide thoughtfully dropped us off at the Four Seasons where they were able to rejuvenate us. OK, maybe to spoil us! We ventured to the city of Alexandria and enjoyed a visit to one of the largest libraries in the ancient world in addition to many excavation sites. We ate some delicious food and met some of the most amazing people. Egypt is considered to be the safest country in Africa and even rates higher than the US and UK for safety. After the Arab spring and a decline in tourism Egypt is welcoming travelers from around the world with open arms and we felt every bit of it!
2019 was filled with travel memories but the biggest accomplishment is how our partnerships developed in achieving the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. It is important that we continue to educate ourselves and those around us on Eco travel. The Travel Industry plays a big part in this and it is important that we continue to support those who are making every effort to be sustainably responsible.
My favorite travel quote is “Travel- it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller” I find myself in a constant state of storytelling as I am sure many of you who have traveled the world do as well. There is no cure to this madness. The more you travel the more you want to travel and the more you realize there is so much more to see and how little you have seen.
As we enter a new decade and a new year I want to thank you for your repeat business, loyalty, trust and referrals. It is our pleasure to serve you and turn your dreams into journeys. May this decade be filled with love, joy and cherished travel memories! 2020 is going to be the perfect opportunity to do something NEW, something BOLD and something BEAUTIFUL!