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Sololady.com Tours/Trips/Getaways Archives

(For current entries, please click here for Tours/Trips/Getaways.)

Getaways, trips, tours, and travel ideas from previous entries, with links to intrigue, inspire, and propel you. Culled from world-wide travel media ....

by Janet K. Rodgers

 

 

 

 

Although many of the following items now have different dates, may be priced differently, or are no longer available, they give you useful details and links, an idea of what's out there, and what can be fun for you. Enjoy!

 

 On the Road Again…

Got $28,300 extra bucks in your travel budget? Got a hankering to see 6 exotic countries in 60 eye-popping days over the course of 9,400 miles too?  Well, have we got a deal for you: Drive the legendary Silk Road from Istanbul to Beijing in a caravan of Land Rovers (fitted with GPS, maps, GMRS Radio Walkie-Talkies) -- surely a peak experience of two lifetimes.

Brave hearts, start packing! The expedition starts one year from now on Friday, April 22, 2011 in Istanbul and ends in Xian/Beijing on Monday, June 20, 2011. Prepare for sensory overload as you drive through Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China, through deserts, over mountains, on rivers… visiting bazaars, gardens, mosques, and meeting the locals as you travel “on the road again.”  (The “Silk Road” is not, by the way, one weird old highway, but an extensive network of trade routes reaching across Asia into the Med, Africa and Europe.) 

Oops: There are a few extra expenses such as international airfares and visas, mandatory travel insurance (no problem with that) plus $700 in cash when starting out from Istanbul.

Ms. Yue Chi is President of the Toronto-based outfitter AAST Inc. (Asia Adventures & Study Tours).  They are specialists in unique cultural adventures to Asia since 1990 and committed to providing expert advice, planning and strong professional operations. Each group is accompanied by a leader, chosen for his/her experience, personal qualities and passion for this style of travel - and this is the person, not parenthetically, who takes care of all the transport, accommodation and paperwork en route.

Click on: http://drivethesilkroad.com/ for maps, pix, and thrilling itinerary details,
or call 866-564-1226. 

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Classy: Oxford University

Gain entrance to the oldest,(and classiest) university in the English-speaking world with no entrance requirements, no exams, no papers for “The Oxford Experience,” a one-week residential course at Christ Church, one of the most prestigious and beautiful of Oxford colleges. Sit perhaps on the very same seat as William Penn, Albert Einstein, Hugh Grant, and Bill Clinton. The program lasts from July 10 to August 13, 2011, and you can register at:  http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=134.

Choose from a marvelous menu of 50+ courses such as The Brontes, Making of Modern Britain, The Novels of Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare’s Late Romances, Victorian Scandals, English Country Houses, Opera in the Age of Bel Canto, The British Empire, Late Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories, Novels of Thomas Hardy, Riot and Rebellion in Shakespeare’s London, Cotswolds Folk Traditions, and on and on.

Mornings are devoted to classes but afternoons, to excursions - to stately homes, cathedrals and museums, the city of Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Broughton Castle. In the evening there may be a pub walk, a lecture, a whisky tasting, Pimms and croquet in the Masters’ Garden, a performance by traditional Morris dancers, or Evensong in the college chapel. Each student is invited to dine once at the High Table and on the final night everyone gathers for drinks in the flowering Cathedral Garden and a gala farewell dinner in the Hall. Could there be anything more glorious for solo travelers?

Enter the campus through the impressive Tom Gate (built in 1525), live in student dorms (some with private bath), dine in Harry Potter’s magnificent Tudor Hall and sip wine in the Masters’ Garden. Each week starts on Sunday with lunch and finishes with breakfast on the following Saturday. Three meals daily are included: a full English breakfast, a buffet lunch and a served three-course dinner. Those who sign up for two or more weeks (and there are many who do) get free bed and breakfast over the bridge weekends.  

A one-week course, including tuition, accommodations and all meals (except while on excursions), costs approximately US$1,750. Excursions and private bathrooms are extra. The deadline for registration is May 1, but early application is recommended as courses fill quickly.  Information and an application form may also be obtained by writing to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA, U.K

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Heaven on the High Cs  

Most adored, internationally celebrated and divine flautist, Sir James Galway, will enrich the air of the Corinthian II for 12 glorious days on its Mediterranean music cruise May, 2011. He set the standard for Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart masterworks, sold over 30 million albums, and was knighted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Guests will enjoy tours to historic sites as well as private musical performances by Sir James and other exceptional artists in a 12th-century Montenegrin church and in magnificent 18th-century palaces in Sicily and Spain.

The 114-guest Corinthian II, all-suites and all sweet, sails from Venice on May 4 to Croatia, 2 stops: Split and Dubrovnik, then on to Palermo, Tunis, Barcelona, Valencia, to disembark in Seville on May 16, 2011.

This cruise exemplifies New York-based Travel Dynamics International's tradition of enriched voyages that feature distinguished performing artists and scholarly lecturers. Enthralling and expensive. Click: www.traveldynamicsinternational.com or call 800-257-5767. And for aural delight, click www.jamesgalway.com/

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Panda  Perfect

The only tour in the world that offers a behind-the-scenes look at wild Giant Pandas in China is being offered by Terra Incognita Ecotours, an adventure travel company.

The future of the Giant Panda is particularly fragile today, so much so that he has become the poster guy for endangered wildlife. Its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China is fragmented, and their populations are small and isolated from one another. Poaching remains an ever-present threat. Although the Chinese government has created over 50 protected panda reserves, only an estimated 1,600 or less are left on earth.

Cited in Outside Magazine as a top tour for the “Life List 2010,” this trip is a unique opportunity for solo travelers to learn about the plight of these bamboo-loving big bears in the wild --- with exclusive access to the Foping Nature Reserve near the lush Quinling Mountains. In addition to daily Panda trekking with professionally trained guides and stunning scenery, travelers will have the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Xi’an, home to the Shaanxi History Museum, the Wild Goose Pagoda, the famed Terra Cotta Warriors and Horse Museum, and a thrilling wrap-up in Beijing with a tour of the Great Wall.

One departure in 2011: May 2-13th.  The cost is $5,999 per person and click: www.ecotours.com or call 1-877-463-9756 for more.

 

Deep   in the Desert

The ever-inquisitive and indefatigable members of the Women's Travel Club will have the chance to delve deep into the mysteries of the Moroccan desert this spring in addition to in-depth visits to the royal cities - Rabat, Fez and pink Marrakech. The deep desert is right outside your door in Berber city of Ouarzazate.

Morocco is exotic-central. The whole country offers awesome medinas, mosques, muezzin, kasbahs, camels, souks and the sweetest mint tea everywhere.  Ultra-exciting.

One departure: April 23-May 1, 2011: 9 days/8 nights. The price of $2899 from JFK includes amazingly short flights between NY and Casablanca via Royal Air Maroc, 5-star hotels, guides, most meals and more.  [Oops: $600 single supplement, sorry, but otherwise great for solo women travelers.]  For more details, click on:  www.womenstravelclub.com or phone: 800-480-4448.   

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Baltic Sea Pearls

Hit the high points of the Baltic Sea, the pearls strung along its perimeter: Copenhagen to snoop around its great museums, vibrant cafes and excellent shopping; Helsinki, the dynamic sea-city chosen as World Design Capital for 2012 and home of Temppeliaukio, the amazing underground domed church hewn from solid rock. Sail on to Bornholm, darling little Danish island south of Sweden (artists and fishermen and really round churches); St. Petersburg to cruise the Dostoyevskian canals (and, of course, The Hermitage Museum), and tie up, too, in formerly forbidden Tallinn, capital city of Estonia.

Push off from easy-going Oslo aboard the Norwegian explorer ship the MS Fram, on April 25, 2011 for 11 marvelous days. Prices range from $3,612 to $6,309. Click on: www.hurtigruten.us or call: (800) 323-7436.

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Tea with the Tuareg

Window open!  Seizing recently renewed access to Libya by American travelers, award-winning Odysseys Unlimited has crafted a stellar small-group experience, perfect for solo travelers, to this North-African crossroads of history. Travel from the shores of Tripoli, the capital, to Benghazi, second largest city, and enjoy archaeology explorations in the great Roman ruins of Sabratha and Leptis Magna (UNESCO World Heritage sites), the Greco-Roman ruins of Ptolemais, mountaintop Cyrene, and the ancient Greek site of Apollonia. Enjoy a fascinating Saharan excursion to the desert caravan city of Ghadames, a sunset dune drive into the desert, and time out for tea with local Tuareg Berber tribesmen.

Nine departures are scheduled from February 22, 2011 through November, 2011 for 13-day trips-of-a-lifetime. Priced from $3,795 includes international air.

Voted one of the “World's Best Tour Operators” in Travel & Leisure Magazine for 4 consecutive years, Odysseys Unlimited’s “Libya Revealed” is a thrilling and great value.

Call them in Boston at 888-370-6765 ext. 700 or visit http://www.odysseys-unlimited.com.

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Cuba! ... and almost directly 

Caribbean communist outpost island nation, Cuba attracts over 2 million people a year, very few of whom are Americans. The allure of Cuba lies in its off-limits (except with a special license), great weather, gorgeous beaches, crumbly colonial architecture, cool music, and one of the best in-use antique American auto collections anywhere.

Here is a chance to visit Cuba now and legally!  Join indefatigable, world traveler, Nancy Chappie, travel TV personality, 40-year travel industry leader with a big smile, and 110 countries under her belt. Nancy wants to experience Cuba before American 4-star hotels are built and the island becomes overrun. (Right now it ispopular with the Canadians and Europeans.) 

Spend an adventurous 7 nights in a licensed humanitarian group cleared to deliver medicines to those in need. One trip only: May 2-9, 2011 via a direct charter flight between Tijuana, Mexico Havana where you stay at the Occidental Miramar Hotel. The Cannon Ceremony in Havana Harbor is a highlight: each night Soldiers dressed in 18th century uniforms fire a cannon from the old Spanish fort over the bay at 9 p.m. as they did 200+ years ago to announce the official end of the day and the time to close the city gates.

Swim in the warm, crystal clear waters of Veradero Beach in Matanzas province, the most famous seaside resort in Cuba. Visit a rum and a cigar factory in Old Havana.  Meet the locals, hear the music.  

Tour will include all meals, 24-hour bar, Cuban and US tour guides, all required paper work (license and visa), insurance, and all hotel rooms, doubles or singles, no single supplements.

Nancy only needs 10 solo ladies, or solo with friends, or couples, to take off.  To be one and/or to know more, e-mail her at Nancy@Chappieconsulting.com or call her in California at 858-735-1558.

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Ask Eileen! 

An excellent big-time major travel resource, IsramWorld, has just launched “A Woman's View,” a new series tours for solo women travelers and managed under the watchful, professional eye of veteran travel pro, Senior Vice President, Eileen Lowe Hart.  Way to go!

These branded trips offer custom women-oriented itineraries to Isram’s major destinations such as Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Central and South America, Indochina and South Africa, and all led by female tour escorts and local guides. Opportunities to meet fascinating local female personalities and entrepreneurs, and to immerse in one-on-one culinary, art, music and dance experiences form the heart of the series.

The first new tour to Egypt features a home-cooked dinner in a private home, a visit to the Gayer Anderson Museum, camel rides at the Pyramids, belly dancing lessons and cooking lessons with a professional chef.
For details on all "A Woman's View" worldwide programs surf to: www.womansviewtravel.com or call 888-789-6626, or ask Eileen at: ehart@isram.

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Remote Control in Spitsbergen

The largest and northernmost archipelago of Svalbard (old Norse for “cold coast”), the island Spitsbergen, is but a mere 90-minute puddle jump from the Norwegian coast, and really remote -- a land virtually untouched by the outside world. If you’ve ever been curious about visiting the polar north, Spitsbergen is one of its most accessible destinations, and one eminently visitor-friendly.

Sharing latitude with northern Greenland, Spitsbergen is home to polar bears, reindeer, arctic foxes, walruses, seals, whales and sea birds in and around the haunting rugged mountains, icebergs and sparkling glaciers. A 6-day expedition here combines the thrill of traveling by snowmobile with the excitement of experiencing the deep polar wilderness.

The Great Canadian Travel Company, North America’s foremost experts in travel to some of the world’s least-traveled regions, offers a 6-day/5-night “Spitsbergen Winter Safari”: hotel accommodations for 2 nights in Longyearbyen, principal city of the Svalbards (population 1,500), 2 nights at the Spitsbergen Expedition Lodge, one night in the Russian settlement of Barentsburg, most meals, snowmobiles and the right clothes and gear. Experienced expedition leaders will guide the group across glaciers, mountains and ice-covered fjords.

Ready for the ultimate spring break? The best weather window is in April and they offer 3 departures: 11, 18 and 25, 2011 for $3,995 pp ($4,995 for single occ). Call 800-661-3830 or click www.greatcanadiantravel.com.

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 Flash Deal: Hot Fast and Cheap

Fly nonstop to Dubai, the man-made futuristic oasis-playground in Feb. and March - -  just the time of year when solo women yearn for hot sun, warm sands, and mysterious men. Friendly Planet tour operators has put together a $1699 luxury Dubai deal that includes round trip air from NY via Emirates (!!), 4 nights (6 days) at the snazzy and chic 5-star Fairmont, breakfasts, transfers, a city tour and an English-speaking tour manager  - a whole package less expensive than a night in their famous Burj Al Arab sail-shaped hotel. Sand, sun and do-buy to the max.

Depart on March 3, 10, 24, 2011 (and other dates) with optional extensions to Cairo and/or Kenya safaris. To make a quick rez or to know more, call 800-555-5765 and mention deal-searching Travel Zoo!  Click: http://www.friendlyplanet.com/dazzling-dubai.html.

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Cry “Wolf!”

And this time, mean it. Drive for about 1-1/2 hours east of San Diego along winding roads in the Cuyamaca Mountains to the quirky little historic town of Julian, California to take advantage of The California Wolf Center’s amazing 2-hour photography tours.

Enter one of the roomy wolf enclosures (approx 1-3 acres each) with Chelsea as your guide for incredible access to two packs of grey wolves - Alaskan and Mexican.  She will answer questions and deliver fascinating facts on wolf behavior, biology and ecology and you can snap away at this elusive predatory wild animal. Her tours are offered for only two photographers at once (no groups), and the price ranges from $75-$175.

For more, click: www.californiawolfcenter.org (see too a live wolf cam); or call/cry: 619-234-WOLF!

p.s. The former mining town of Julian makes for a fun day trip, offering one little ol’ main street, a farmer’s market, star gazing, horseback riding, the opp to dig for real tourmalines, plus famous local apple pie. Just perfect for solo travel!

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Beauty and the Beach

The 185-acre private El Remanso nature reserve and ecolodge, tucked into the heart of the rainforest on Costa Rica's still-pristine Osa Peninsula, is the perfect setting for yogis and nature lovers. Their one-of- a-kind yoga platform, edged by forest, is in fact an oasis of peace. Stretch and relax in the rainforest or on their lovely isolated beach, especially at sunset. Burn some extra calories by waterfall rappelling, zip lining, or join one of their guided nature hikes. Luxurious cabins. Busy monkeys. Gaudy parrots. Deep sleep.

Very well priced at $1250 pp in high season for 4 nights. Domestic flights and meals included.
Surf to: http://www.elremanso.com or phone them directly in Costa Rica: 506-2735-5569.

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Get-away   Girls

Enjoy downtime with girlfriends – no laptops, Blackberries, husbands or children.  See yourself this fall on a white rocking chair set on a wraparound porch with views of the Atlantic Ocean and a beach that stretches for miles at Elizabeth Pointe Lodge on Amelia Island, Florida. To do what?  Not much.  Read, chat, bike, walk, kayak, Segway, spa.  So wonderful.  And just in case, there are boat tours, horse-drawn carriages, dolphins, wild horses, pelicans are all nearby. Be a Get-Away Gal!

The Elizabeth Pointe “Getting Away with the Girls” package includes 3 oceanview nights, complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres each evening, oceanfront buffet breakfast each morning, and a complimentary bike rental. Very well priced at $547 per person (double occupancy basis.)
      
Located just 25 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport, this beloved lodge has garnered many top travel kudos –for solos and for girlfriends. For more info click www.elizabethpointelodge.com or call 800-772-3359.

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Cruise - Kayak Hike and Bike into 2011

….and it’s not too early to hop aboard.  No need to hang out at home over the holidays: consider AdventureSmith Explorations, a boutique collection of small expedition ships. “Small” is 150 or fewer passengers and the focus is on experiences off the ship – glacier exploration, whale, bird and land animal watching – delving into the authentic, vibrant local cultures – and not just borrowing through the buffet. Their 2010-2011 sampler includes:

- Voyage through The Sea of Cortez - Dec 19-26, Dec 26-Jan 2
Bird watching, hiking, sea kayaking, nature photography

- Panama Canal & the Wonders of Costa Rica – Dec 18-25, Dec 25-Jan 1 & Jan 1-8
Panama Canal transit; explore national parks and wildlife reserves

- Antarctic Peninsula aboard the Expedition – Dec 22-Jan 1
Bird watching, nature studies, photography, and wildlife viewing

Click: www.adventuresmithexplorations.com or call them in California: 800-728-2875.

Named by National Geographic Adventure as one of “The Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” their mission is to give back to the individuals and communities they visit, connecting travelers with a network of grassroots and global nonprofit partners.

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Leapin' Leopards!
Way past wild ...

Indefatigable and intrepid, multi-award-winning Biosphere Expeditions is currently offering adventures for volunteer participants to desert and mountain camps in Oman, the exotic and alluring sultanate on the Arabian Peninsula. Thrillingly, volunteers (you!) will work alongside scientists of the Royal Omani Court in the Dhofar region of southern Oman as part of a small international team to monitor the life of the elusive Arabian leopard.

From the field base, volunteers venture out in expedition Land Rovers and on foot looking for tracks that indicate leopard life, surveying the surrounding waterholes for leopard prey such as gazelle, ibex, and hyrax, setting up cameras, and talking to the locals.

Camps are well equipped. Some are reached on foot with the assistance of luggage-laden camels and others are reached by Land Rover. Sleep in comfortable dome tents; survive on Bedouin-style meals and enjoy a peak lifetime experience together with a max of 11 other team members.

The per-person contribution is $2150 and the two, two-week dates available in 2011 are: Feb 6-18, and Feb 20-Mar 4. No surprise: this expedition was named one of the "Best Ten Volunteering Wildlife Holidays."  This is not an endurance contest and they do their best to make everyone comfortable, including solo travelers.

Check this out and also their other fascinating trips on www.biosphere-expeditions.org.

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Glamping 

Short for “glamour camping” and perfect for those who relish time spent in the great outdoors but not quite fans of sleeping bags under squeaky tents. Glamping provides a welcome wilderness alternative when roughing it is simply not an option.

Award-winning Far and Away Adventures will set up the glamp-prone with thrilling whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River somewhere out there along [get this!] the River of No Return. Guests sleep in spacious stand-up tents offering almost all the comforts of home---comfortable beds, nightstands, and enough room to actually walk around set in breathtakingly rough country. Gourmet meals are produced from local organic ingredients and served on fine china. Far and Away experiences run for 6 days - 5 nights and cover miles and miles of awesome, remote out-thereness.

Click on: www.far-away.com or call them in Sun Valley at 800-232-8588.

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Spanish Virgins

Start the New Year off in the sun on a biking & sailing adventure in the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra and Vieques.  Two relatively unknown ladies that are sparsely populated. They offer fine beaches and crystal clear waters, and best of all: no passports needed!

Fly into Puerto Rico on January 1, 2011. The sailing adventure begins the next day aboard the 90 foot Wanderbird yacht, a classic North Sea fishing trawler that has been restored and refitted by Captains Rick and Karen Miles and your floating home for the next 6 nights. All meals are fresh and natural; breads and pastries made from scratch daily.

The plan is to spend 2 days biking on Culebra and 3 days on the larger island of Vieques. Each morning when the skiff delivers you ashore, the French guide, Eric, will greet you with your bike - ready to ride. A support van follows (average 5 - 15 miles per day) and the terrain varies from easy flats along the electric blue and bright white Caribbean shore to more challenging rides as the road climbs up and over the spines of the island.

The innovative company, Beyond Boundaries Travel, is based in Colorado and the price for this trip is $2499, but double occupancy only. And one date only: January 1-8, 2011.
Call: 800-487-1136, or write: admin@beyondboundariestravel.com or click: www.beyondboundariestravel.com

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 Ohhh rang-u-tans!

Plunge deep into the Borneo rainforest way out there in the South China Sea to investigate the exotic flora and fauna, local burial grounds, chameleons, gibbons, and, yes – those ultra human orangutans. Then push off down the Kinabatangan River to checkout native proboscis monkeys and rare pygmy elephant. At the Sepilok Nature Resort (est. in 1964 to return orphaned orangutans to the wild), see, hear and learn about wildlife conservation and research while visiting one of the rare orangutan sanctuaries on earth.

Bonus visit: Selingan Island, one of three pristine “turtle islands” off Borneo’s northeast coast -- safe haven for the endangered green and hawksbill turtles in egg-laying season. And not to worry, time, too, for the beach and shopping in the wild marketplace.

Three upcoming dates for award-winning Baobab Expeditions’ ten-day orangutan and turtle adventures: November 9th, 2010; and April 3rd and November 9th, 2011. Prices begin at $3,321.  

For the total scoop and an on-line brochure: click on http://baobabexpeditions.com/media/downloads/pdf/Wildlife/Orangutans/Orang-utans%20&%20Turtles1.pdf.  Or call 516-622 2279.

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“Foodoir”
The Spice Necklace Experience

Inspired by Ann Vanderhoof's newest book, The Spice Necklace: My Adventures in Caribbean Cooking, Eating, and Island Life, St. Lucia's beloved boutique hotel, Cap Maison, is offering guests the opp to create a "foodoir" – a personal culinary memory.  
 
Their glorious 3-night "Spice Necklace Experience," costs $2400 (for two) includes a Villa Suite, guided tour of the Castries Central Market, complimentary copy of the new book, airport transfers, and all meals cooked by their Executive Chef Craig Jones using an array of island spices and fresh local ingredients. Now through December 18, 2010.

Call 888-765-4985 or e-mail reservations@capmaison.com and/or click on: www.capmaison.com.  

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  Quechua  Sleepovers

Before you hop aboard the choo choo to Machu Picchu, the Quechua* Indians (pronounced Kitch-wa) will welcome you as an honored guest in their Peruvian village homes if you opt to travel with award-winning, Nevada-based, Top Adventure Outfitter Myths & Mountains.

A culturally enriching and exotic experience, this tour operator will introduce you to the age-old Incan traditions of hospitality and village life. And after shopping in the mercado in Cusco, enjoy a hands-in cooking lesson with a local chef.  

This 9-day gem of a trip also includes Incan ruin inspections, traditional ceremonies, and a ceramic workshop. Only one tour left in 2010: December 3-12.
For more, call Allie Almario at 775-832-5454 or surf to: www.mythsandmountains.com

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Samurai  Shopping

Join Diva Shopper Suzy Gershman, author of all the Frommer’s “Born to Shop” guides, on her 8th guided trip -- this year to Tokyo and Kyoto. One date and coming up fast: Nov. 4 - 11, 2010.

Even non-stop shoppers will be thrilled by the prospects for treasure and fun, packed in with authentic local experiences. Visit Tokyo's famous fish market and auctions, break for sushi in the stalls, swathe yourself in pearls, learn to wrap your own kimono, visit the paper district, a temple sale… and oh blasphemy here we come…even shop at the shrines.
 
Zoom into Kyoto (3 days and nights) on the famed bullet train for bargain hunting in case you left a stone unturned, then a rather retail farewell at the Akasaka Shrine back in Tokyo.

Have another inch left in your trunk after these 7 nights in Japan?  Well fly on with Suzy to Hong Kong for 3 nights at her fave, the Hong Kong InterContinental (formerly The Regent) Hotel.

Try to share a room. The price is only $2,800 per person on a double basis, but $4,300 for a single room. This includes 7 nights in great hotels, daily breakfasts, club floor, tea, cocktails, "Shop & Show" seminars, and explorations with non-stop Suzy as your personal guide.

For the full scoop contact her Editorial Director, Sarah Lahey at srlahey@gmail.com or call 415-435-1444.

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Bush and Beach

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world and Robin Pope’s award-winning ‘walking safari’ originated here. This is surely the ultimate way to experience the pristine wild land. Walk?! In the bush!??  Yes. Dedicated, professionally-guided walks are the way to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the bush in a totally personal and never-to-be forgotten way. Walking coerces your every sense to work to its max and delivers another level of reality. It surely leaves driving in the dust.

In South Luangwa, the river that runs through it is today one of the last untouched major rivers in the world, the life blood of this park, and home to about 60 animal species—starring the sly, rock star leopard, supported by the Thorneycroft giraffe and thundering wildebeest in a cast of thousands.

Robin Pope Safaris offers the best of Zambia and Malawi, winding up at the beautiful Pumulani Lodge, luxurious neighbor of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And for the nudgy among us there is waterskiing, sailing, diving, wakeboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, fishing and bird-watching in Malawi.

Deal: The 10-night “Hidden Africa” bush and beach safari is only $475 per person per night, but this offer is valid only until October 31, 2010.

For more:  info@robinpopesafaris.net or www.robinpopesafaris.net/

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Turtle Bed Check

Solo women sea-lovers will have one great chance to explore uninhabited islands, snorkel with technicolor fish along isolated coves, and learn plenty about marine life in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California peninsula, Mexico this October. One 8-day trip is planned for the 24th through the 31st, 2010, and novices are welcome.

Grab a pair of waders and climb aboard the panga (skiff) for 8 amazing days: hands-on helping researchers monitor and tag endangered green turtles at their nesting beach in Magdalena Bay, paddle a sea kayak alongside dolphins and sea lions in the clear waters of Loreto Bay – Mexico’s newest marine park and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, all under the watchful care of naturalist guides. 

Forty percent of the $1,650 per person price is contributed to local sea turtle conservation efforts. 

For further information, contact Idaho-based Sea Kayak Adventures Inc. at (800) 616-1943 or click on www.seakayakadventures.com

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One Whiteout Day
Lions and Lunch

Pack up those mittens!  The White Desert, the only property on the ice in Antarctica, is now set up to welcome visitors for a one-day trip to the end of the world --and one day may be just enough as the air temp down there is sub-nippy.

Solo-ista adventurers can spend their 8-hour “Greatest Day” trip-of-a–lifetime genuflecting before Emperor Penguins (+ cute chicks), exploring ice grottoes, trekking the ice and/or in a sauna at the Russian base. There’s a gourmet champagne lunch break, alfresco of course, near a high ice cliff.  

How? Meet in Cape Town, South Africa on November 28, 2010 for a polar safety and equipment briefing. The trip takes place the next day, November 29.  Private jet for 5.5 hours over the Southern Ocean to (and from) – you gotta love this: Unknown International Airport, Antarctica.

If this seems a bit of an effort for a one-day jaunt, tack on the White Lions trip: 2 nights in Cape Town, 2 nights at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in Little Karoo to spy on the  “Big Five” (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) and the rare opp to see the only free-roaming white lions on the planet. Back to Cape Town for a sunset cruise on The Princess Emma, an 85-foot luxury yacht.
The one-day trip to White Desert and the training day cost $9,670 for main cabin seats and $14,505 for VIP seating. Not bad if you consider the price also includes polar clothing and boots. To see the white lions, add more $$.
This amazing experience was created by the award-winning Mantis Group of five-star boutique hotels in South Africa and Europe. Call 877 354 2213 for in-depth detail or click on http://www.mantiscollection.com/ for this and other fabulously stylish properties.

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Shoot in Sardinia

Always on the lookout for travel combined with photography, we unearthed the “Different View of Sardinia”  tour – the perfect eye-opening combo (sorry, couldn’t resist). Professional photographer and nature-lover Tommaso Galli will share his expertise during the course of a sensuously scenic tour of Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Med.

Learn how to photograph, print, save and manage your photos while enjoying cultural experiences, meet real live Sardinians, savor local dishes. Shoot beautiful landscapes, wildlife, prehistoric ruins, medieval villages and the famed emerald waters. Learn to “see” new photo subjects and experiment with rare techniques. Learn to optimize camera settings for each photographic situation.  Instructions are delivered in a practical and relaxed manner.

Galli, personable and English-speaking, has been exhibited in many Italian art exhibitions and published in magazines and newspapers, and published a new book on Ladakh. Google him!

One departure: September 20, 2010 from Cagliari for 7-days/6-nights. The land-only tour costs $1,458 for 7 nights in a double room in an apartment in the village of Torcoli, daily breakfasts, 7 lunches, 6 dinners, a photo workshop and transportation in and around Sardinia.

For more information, visit www.tourcrafters.com.  For reservations, call 800-482-5995.

 

 

River Run

The Savute Channel is one of the greatest sources of mystery and fascination in Northern Botswana, and after 30 years of lying dormant it is flowing again. It courses over sixty wild miles from the Linyanti River to the marshlands of Chobe National Park, home to huge herds of elephant, buffalo, and antelope. Who else is coming home? hyenas, wild dogs, lion, zebra, leopard and cheetah. African Travel Inc. is offering the chance to be there now with the whole gang.

Perhaps the finest game experience in the whole of Africa, Botswana has become the go-to safari destination for wildlife lovers. Their pristine and well-managed reserves consist of small, secluded campsites camps that are surprisingly sophisticated in an uniquely African style. They offer freshly prepared meals - open safari vehicles - expert guides and local trackers, and small bush plane transfers between camps for birdseye wildlife watching.

African Travel Inc. has been catering to adventurers (solo or not) and luxury travelers who seek customized encounters with African wildlife and culture for more than 33 years. This 8-day “Last Refuge” safari starts at $3650.pp. To know more, click on: www.africantravelinc.com  or call Heidi Podjavorsek at (800) 421-8907 x115.

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Grizzly Voyeurs

For intrepid solo women who like a little coddling too, how does the Great Bear Rainforest on the coast of British Columbia sound for an extraordinary expedition this summer?  Cool, huh?  What began as a wildlife passion for Tom Rivest and Marg Leehane evolved into Great Bear Nature Tours 11 years ago. Cited by National Geographic Adventure as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth, their floating eco-lodge is beautifully set in a fjord and runs on wind, solar and water power. 

Guided trips are available in spring, summer and fall, and each season offers unique insight into grizzly bear behavior. In the spring, bears emerge from their dens to graze on wetland plants and grasses. In summer, they search for food in berry patches, grasslands or in the river for early salmon and other tidbits…. With the beginning of fall and arrival of thousands of salmon, the wild drama is played out in front of your nose from viewing stands along the river.

Under an hour by seaplane from Port Hardy, Great Bear packages include two viewing excursions per day, a warm shower and a good snooze in one of the five cozy bedrooms, fine fresh meals. You will not get lost in the crowd: 10 guests max. per tour.

Their site: http://greatbeartours.com includes an excellent little video, or phone: 888-221-8212 for rates and additional info.

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Magic Mountains        Summer School

Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), Heli-Skiing pioneer in British Columbia's remote mountain ranges for 50 years, rolls out a Summer Adventures program from July 6 to September 7, 2010.  Warmer-season offerings at its Bobbie Burns and Bugaboo Lodges include ropes courses, zip-lining, via ferrata, yoga getaways, women's weeks - and new this year: painting and cooking workshops, cancer survivors' retreat, and exclusive trips with great Canadian explorers. 

--Painting Workshop with Liz Wiltzen in the Bugaboos (August 31-September 5). real-time hiking in the storied Bugaboos and hands-on artistic guidance in painting them.
--Stretch & Stir cooking workshop, sisters Sandra Davis and Julie Sagan offers yoga, cooking and Heli-Hiking (August 20-23).
--TREAT Yourself  retreat for cancer survivors, co-presented by Look Good Feel Better at Bugaboo Lodge, August 8-11. Daily meditative yoga sessions hiking amid glacial lakes and fields of wildflowers; and art workshops, and special guests.--Or  join world-renowned Canadian explorers, Dr. Joe MacInnis (July 24-27) and Dr. Roberta Bondar (August 17-20), for exclusive expeditions in the Bobbie Burns and Bugaboo ranges, Dr. MacInnis is a best-selling author and conservationist who led the first team of scientists to dive under the North Pole and was among the first to dive to the Titanic. Dr. Bondar is well-known as Canada's first woman astronaut and the world's first-ever neurologist in space. 

CMH has always been, first and foremost, about innovation, creativity and respect for nature. 
Their Summer Adventures trips start at approx. $2,447 per person for a 3-night escape (double occ.)  For more, click: www.cmhsummer.com or call 800-661-0252.

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Insider Angles

NYC-based ICP, International Center of Photography, is truly that. The museum-school was founded in 1974 by award-winning photographer Cornell Capa to keep the legacy of 'Concerned Photography' alive and today offers 500+ courses, continuous exhibits, and a terrific travel program as well. Film - Digital - Lighting - Portraiture -- the ICP is a beehive of photography-centered brilliance.

This year: Beijing Behind the Scenes July 5-15; Lake Como-Light of the Italian Lakes July 4-14; Paris: Fashion July 24-Aug 1; and Provincetown Sept 11-12.  Expect distinguished, accomplished and often famous photographers to take you behind-the scenes to capture fascinating insider-angles, discussions of photography protocol, project efficiency, portfolio building and help in defining an artistic identity. 

Well-priced. Small groups. Call: 212-857-0001 or click: www.icp.org. = Great Deal

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Not your Grandma’s Concho’s

Even if you already know the way to Santa Fe for the massive annual Indian Market, you may get a bit lost in the excitement of 1,000 in-gathered artists and their jewelry, textiles, baskets, beads, and pottery. Trust the venerable Smithsonian to organize this most elegantly American foray.   Hang out with Study Leader. Museum Director and author Ellen Bradbury and Indian Arts expert and lecturer Bruce Bernstein, to meet top artists, visit top galleries, and attend tip top events. They’ll help you plow through those eye-popping concho’s, squash blossoms and the kachinas.

Price per person double occ $2,495, single occ $3195. From August 18-22, 2010. Click: www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours for full scoop or call 877-338-8687.

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Whitewater and Wine 

O.A.R.S.’ new “Wine on the River” is a Class III-IV whitewater rafting experience that delivers plenty of rocks and rolls, waves, bumps, and foam … plus comfortable beach camping, knowledgeable wine stewards, and gourmet meals prepared by a guest chef.  [No hot dogs and beer for this bunch.]

Exceptional, 2-day whitewater rafting adventures on Californias pristine Tuolumne River push off just outside of Yosemite.  By day, rafters navigate a series of thrilling rapids (assisted by capable guides of course) with mini-hikes into nearby canyons. In the late afternoon Gay Callan, owner of Chataom Vineyards presents award-winning wines from the Sierra Foothills to accompany delightful dinners.

Cited as premier river outfitter by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and National Geographic Adventure magazines, O.A.R.S.’ trips appeal to experienced rafters as well as to physically-fit first-timers.

Last trips of the season are offered on August 17 and August 23 (both 3-day trips, $791 pp).
For more on these and their other wine trips, surf to:  www.oars.com/our_adventures/winetrips or call 800-346-6277.

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Glorious   Green

Follow Lynn McBrien and her merry band of Ireland-lovers on a McCavan Journey in and around Southwest Ireland (Killarney and the seaside town of Dingle) and County Clare. A student of Celtic Studies, Spirituality and Transpersonal Studies, Lynn’s carefully crafted itineraries for women will open amazing personal horizons, just great for solo travels.

Any of the following sound familiar: Hill of Tara, the cairns of Loughcrew, Monasterboice, and/or Bru na Boinne?  No? Good!  Join the journey. See, feel, breathe and hear the spirit of the country, the land, the people, the music and stories. Stay in charming guest houses; meet the locals in gardens, villages, and castles.

One trip left: in September they offer an 8-nighter in and around Connemara Mountains, Sligo, Meath, and Louth. This is their fourth very successful year. To know more, call Lynn in Stowe, Vt. at 802-253-3070 or click: www.mccavanjourneys.net/

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 Solo in Siberia?

This may not sound like such a hot idea at first, but if you are a Russophile and a train traveler … read on:  The venerable, multi-award winning MIR Corp offers a cornucopia of fabulously exotic trips in and around the Russian neighborhood, and for solo women, they are currently offering 50% off the single supplement prices on 4 westbound Trans-Siberian trips:
            Trans-Siberian Classic Route from Vladivostok to Moscow
            August 6-20, September 3-17
Quick: Offer available for a limited time and/or when the space is filled.
Click: www.mircorp.com/rail_journeys.asp = Great Deal

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Cucchia-iiata

Sound cute?  It is. And that’s because it’s Italian for “spoonful.” Part of the new vocab you will pick up as you knead, whisk, bake, boil and pour during the cooking lesions held in the Umbrian farmhouse where Raffaella runs her marvelous programs. In Perugia to be exact. Small groups only. No solo supplements (yeah). And for 3-4 hours a day you learn to prepare authentic Italian/Mediterranean dishes in an informal, maddeningly charming environment. Then wash it all down with Raffaella’s very own wine - although you might want to wait until you’ve completed cooking dinner to start drinking. 

Passione…another word you might pick up, as you are up to your elbows in gnocchi.

Surf to: www.cookinumbria.it/ for the many dates, the prices, menus, all details.  Special page for solos: http://www.cookinumbria.it/solo_travellers.html.  Or write to her at: info@cookinumbria.com.

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Where the Wild Things Really Are

Papua New Guinea, unchanged for centuries, is one of the last frontiers on the planet. For a compelling and complex 10-day adventure, Baobab is offering a chance to visit the wild Baining and Tolais tribes, snorkel around coral reefs in the Duke of York Islands, and camp near the active Tavurvur Volcano.  

PNG is a misty and mysterious treasury of untold numbers of exotic birds, more than a thousand cultures and 800 languages -- an island nation of vibrant music, dance, architecture, costumes, art, and ancient rituals. Tribal culture highlights: local markets, fire dance ceremonies, lush rainforest treks.  See and feel the power of village singing and dancing. (Lotsa flesh.)
Expect, in two words: sensory overload. 

Only three expeditions remain for 2010:, July 7-16, September 10-19, and November 5-14.  Pricing begins at $4895 and includes accommodations, meals, guides, drinking water, and camping equipment. Diving extensions available.

But don’t be scared. Baobab Expeditions has been ranked by National Geographic Adventure Magazine as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth 2009,” with a client satisfaction rating of 100%. For more, contact Kathleen Cook-Hunter, their U.S. rep, at 214-282-9108 or click on: www.BaobabExpeditions.com

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Bike and  Boat Egypt

Float in your boat-hotel up the Nile (sailing south of course), and then wend your dusty way through small desert villages by bike to enjoy the ultimate in Egypt explorations -- the mysterious Eastern Desert and/or the eternal landscapes between Luxor and Aswan where you will finally “get” what is awesome about Esna, Edfu, and Kom Ombo – the ancient, unchanged sites of pharaonic Egypt.

No cycling? No problem. Full van support is provided for non-cyclists, equally packed with rich and thrilling experiences. Two venerable tour companies, Egypt Bike and Sail and Colorado-based Beyond Boundaries have joined forces to present extraordinary itineraries for one of the most exciting destinations on earth.

For the Nile tour, the Red Sea tour, and other Egypt ideas click: www.egyptbikeandsail.com or call 719-471-0222.

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Sad Sweet Grass

Page Lambert is our go-to gal for all trips literate in the American west. She is currently offering a new series of four progressive get-togethers at the Mt. Vernon Country Club (20 minutes from Denver, Colorado), to explore the nature of nature through literature, writing, hiking, and entry to the Denver screening of the award-winning elegiac documentary “Sweetgrass: the Last Ride of the American Cowboy.”
  
"Look into the eyes of a domestic sheep, and you will see the back of its head. Look into the eyes of a bighorn...and you will see a lost map to place …."  -Ellen Meloy from "Brides of Place."  

Last literate trip May 14, and/or May 15, 2010. Day-by day the cost is $125. Questions? Call (303) 842-7360 or email page@pagelambert.com.

Or another trip: Read ‘n Ride:Vee Bar Guest Ranch in Laramie, Wyoming, May 29 - June 3rd, 2010 (no horsewoman skills required, yeah!)

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School    in Style

Talk about hallowed halls.  The Oxford Experience is one-week summer program held in the 486-year-old Christ Church at Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world.  And as the British pound sinks and the American dollar strengthens, The Oxford Experience is not only intellectually exciting, it is also a really good deal.  Live and learn English history by osmosis amidst the spirits of Queen Elizabeth I, W.H. Auden, Anthony Eden and Alice (of Wonderland) and even Harry Potter.
           
Choose from 50 one-week courses, heavy and light: Castles in Britain, The Brontës, Contemporary British Fiction, Jewish Life in Medieval England, The English Romantic Poets, The Reign of Henry VIII, Romanesque Churches of England, Alice’s Adventures in Oxford…and on.

This summer: July 4 to August 7, 2010 is open to all.  No tests. No papers. Small study groups. Friendly tutors. Accommodations, some meals, excursions (museums, local tours); entertainment (strawberries and wine in the Masters’ Garden, Morris Dancing; a whisky tasting) all for $1,564 --about $200 a day. 

Registration Deadline - May 1. Click: www.conted.ox.ac.uk/oxfordexperience. = Great Deal

Extra! Extra! Courses start on Sunday and finish the following Saturday after breakfast.  But if you attend for two or more weeks you are entitled to a free bed and breakfast during the “bridge” weekends.

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The Sunny Side of France

Top travel enthusiast, educator, innovator, TV personality, all-round sunny high-energy California friend, Nancy Chappie, is gathering a small group to visit her friend, Annie Navarra, for a sensually sensational sojourn in the heart of Provence- about 20 minutes from Marseille and 2 hours from Nice.  […and by the way, where they do wear pants]

Nancy advises: This is the perfect trip for a solo woman and with the euro strong and the dollar weak as it is a super deal with so much is included. $2995 per person, two in a room, $3495. single. One glorious week: April 17 – 25, 2010.

Stay in the Clos de Saint Phare, the gorgeous picture-perfect villa, where you will rest your dazzled head for 8 nights. Enjoy three cooking classes, many dinners at the Clos, daily sightseeing and swoops into nearby villages, markets, wineries for tasting, and airport transfers.

For all details, call Nancy Chappie directly: (858) 509-9223 or write:
nancy@chappietourismconsulting.com. And for a hint of what’s in store, click on: http://www.sophie-simone-tours-provence.com/, to see her Provencially perfect photos.

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Meet the Mushers

Bulletin: The august Smithsonian Institute is offering a high-value, not-that-high-cost peak experience to witness the Iditarod, the wildly exciting annual sled dog trail race in Alaska, and a unique event on earth. Join in the ceremonial festivities. Hang out with the macho mushers and their exuberant, magnificent dogs as they race from Anchorage to Nome on the Bering Sea Coast. Travel with Rich Montagna, professional photographer and tour guide with over 30 years experience. Cruise, if you choose, Resurrection Bay on the Kenai Peninsula, and if you’ve an erg of energy to spare, ski at the Alyeska Ski Resort set in pristine wilderness, 40 miles south of Anchorage in the former gold-mining town of Girdwood.

Hurry: March 2 - 8, 2010 --7 days for $2,895 per person (double occ). Click: www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tours/

The fragile and/or fearful solo traveler can simply click: www.iditarod.com/ for an engrossing video.

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 Saigon Suzy

Plunge into the heart of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) with black belt shopping expert Suzy Gershman, author of the Frommer’s “Born to Shop” international library for an exciting urban expedition crammed with authentic local experiences, tastes, and good merch  - exciting prospects even for experienced Asia travelers.

Only one date: March 10 - 15, 2010. Suzy’s 7th annual is very-well priced from $950-$2850 and includes coveted club status in the InterContinenal Asiana in the heart of Saigon. In addition to daily breakfast buffet, evening cocktails, complimentary internet and concierge services:
             5 nights Club InterContinental
            Suzy’s famous Breakfast “Shop & Show” seminars for news, merch and maps
            Realtime with Suzy as your guide
            Gift copy of the latest “Born to Shop Hong Kong” (includes sections on Vietnam)
                        †Optional three-nights in Bangkok (March 15 – 18).

            “Shopping with Suzy Gershman is like playing golf with a pro,” according to the Miami Herald correspondent after their Hong Kong foray. And BTW: over 80% of Suzy’s followers sign up again, and again.

Not included: airfares and ground transportation. For full details or to jump in and join please contact Sarah Lahey, Editorial Director: srlahey@gmail.com or call 415-435-1444, or 415-505-7007. Reminder: Entry visa required.

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Barefoot in Brazil

Our winter/their summer, South America is perfect when a serious change of climate is required.  This year consider the new 5-star UXUA CASA HOTEL (pronounced ooh-shoo-ah) in Trancoso, Brazil, a sleepy 16th century seaside village, southern Bahia. Textiles, art, crafts, furniture, flowers, spices, fruits -- all artistically Transcoso-centric in form and function - with Bahian flair. 

This 9-casa tropical utopia has already attracted the rich and famous, celebs and socialites, from all over. Each casa has an indoor/outdoor living room, a full kitchen and 1-3 sumptuous bedrooms with baths. The lake-like swimming pool has been crafted from 40,000 pebbles of green aventurine quartz, thought to be one of the most powerful healing crystals in the world. Rates per casa are: $541 per night low season (March through November) and $706 high season (December through February).

Yoga, pilates, and “capoeira” (Afro-Brazilian combo of martial arts and dance) taught to individual guests or in small groups with instruction provided exclusively by native instructors… plus, of course, spectacular stretches of beach.

To learn “capoeira” and more, fly into Sao Paolo, Salvador, or Rio and then take your choice of many flights to Porto Seguro, then a scenic 45-minute drive. For more, please surf to: www.uxua.com or call +55 73 3668-2277.

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Little Red Riding Hood in Slovakia…

Solo women, are you ready to wend your way deep into the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia to monitor wolf and lynx populations as well as their prey?  Very “Twilight.”  Work as part of a small international team with local scientists in an exceptional and important wildlife conservation effort. Biosphere Expeditions, an award-winning volunteer travel company, just featured in National Geographic Adventure Magazine as one the “25 Best New Trips in the World.”

Learn: how to track large carnivores through snow in forest and meadow (snowshoes a must) , to  collect samples of stuff; study wolf and lynx diet. Goal: help protect a sustainable future for these beautiful beasts of the Carpathian wilderness.

Two trips: January 30-February 5th; February 6-12th, 2010. Cost: $1390 for land arrangements.
Snowshoe over to: www.biosphere-expeditions.org.

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 Spring into Spain

Flash!  A whole week, 8-day/7nights in Madrid and Bilbao -  an all-inclusive air-hotel-breakfast-and 4-day car rental package for $1,099.  The well-located and comfortable hotels included are 3-star--the Tryp Washington in Madrid, and the Hotel NH Deusto in Bilbao, but if fixated on 4-or 5-star hotels – can do! and also well-priced.

In Bilbao, see the city's architectural wonders, the centerpiece being Frank Gehry's dramatic Guggenheim Museum; drive around the Rioja wine country (tours and tastings en route); and wend your way over to San Sebastian or Santander. And in Madrid, fabulous shopping and dining, many small museums—plus the Prado.

TourCrafters, the family-owned tour operator known for its good deals has set these great rates only from March 25 to 31, 2010 or to Apr. 4. To know more, click: http://tourcrafters.com or call 800-482-5995.

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RideThe Devil’s Nose

White knucklist-alert: when in Ecuador, hop on a train named the Devil’s Nose in the old, colorfully colonial city of Riobamba high in the Andes. The train zig-zags down through clouds, via switchbacks, alternatively advancing and backing up. About 100 years old, the Devil’s Nose has always been considered a railway engineering masterpiece. And note, quote: Itinerary is subject to constant changes.

Only 40 seats, but for the pluckily fearless and desperate to see-it-all solo traveler, sit on the roof together in a crush of locals for the five-wild-hour trip. Alternatively, if a mere photo will suffice, click: http://www.exploringecuador.com/en_ar_devilsnose.htm

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Shootin’ in the Sun

National Geographic Magazine has one sunny Weekend Photography Workshop left this winter, in Miami. Settle into an art-deco South Beach hotel to spend a long weekend honing your shootin’ skills plus daily edit-and-crit sessions with Miami resident and National Geographic photographer Raul Touzon. 25 participants max. Last shot this season: February 25–28, 2010.
For more details and their extraordinary array of more exotic photo-workshop destinations—from Bhutan to Oaxaca and on…please click: www.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/triptypes/photography

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Quetzal Quest

Less-known to nature lovers and adventure travelers, Panama is often compared to neighboring Costa Rica for its similar landscape of mountains, beaches and jungles; trails to hike and rivers to raft. And Panama is the premier place for viewing the elusive Quetzal, the fabulously colorful Central American star bird (with a cute crew cut).

Award-winning Aventouras, specialists in immersive journeys in Latin America, offers Panama trips that include hiking, snorkeling, rafting, and ziplining your way through the country. Hike the Sendero Los Quetzales to look for the resplendent Quetzal, raft the Rio Chiriqui, swim at waterfalls, enjoy morning birding walks with a naturalist guide, boat out to the San Blas archipelago and meet native Kuna, tour local coffee farms.

No Ritz Carltons here. Accommodations are set in distinctive properties that work in partnership with local communities. One 8-day (small group) tour is left this year: Dec 19-26, 2009. Cost: $1998 (single supplement $350).

Surf to: www.aventouras.com or phone 800-930-2846 in Colorado.

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Bots-wanna!

= Great Deal Perhaps the finest game experience in the whole of Africa, Botswana –lovingly called “The Last Refuge,” is tops within a small circle of safari connoisseurs. California-based African Travel, Inc., a 33+-year old award-winning company that specializes in luxury journeys throughout the continent, is offering a two-for-one that is right on target using Orient Express Safari hotels and lodges.

The pristine and well-managed wildlife reserves and intimate camp sites promise highly personalized and active game-viewing adventures. The secluded camps are sophisticated in a style that’s uniquely African, and offer thrills to the max. Travel in specially-equipped open safari vehicles with expert guides and local trackers, and fly in small bush planes wildlife, viewing from the air.

Great for solo travelers who want to bring a friend, the two-for-one on “Lion Level” offer is valid from now through Dec. 20, 2009: 9 days for all land arrangements $6595 (double occ). Call 1-800-2-SAFARI or surf to: www.africantravelinc.com.

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Lions in Winter

= Great Deal Extraordinary high value spa-and-safari trips at amazingly low costs are newly available from South African Airlines.  Five-star stays in Cape Town's world-famous Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa or The Table Bay Hotel for 4 nights, both of which boast world-class spas, then game viewing in the paradisiacal Lion Sands or Sabi Sabi Private Reserve for 2 nights.  The astonishing package price, $2,399 is for travel Nov. 1 - Dec.15, 2009 and includes all air from the U.S. and within South Africa!!!

This is an exceptional opportunity for solo travelers to experience the awe-inspiring Cape during its warmer months, as our winter is summer in the southern hemisphere.

For more details on their 9-day “Winter in Style” and other vacations in South Africa, please call 1-888-722-4872 or visit www.flysaavacations.com x

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Wild Hawaii

Awesome outdoorswoman Cheryl Fleet, founder of the Arizona-based “Canyon Calling” adventure company, will lead solo women travelers with energy to burn into wild, non-touristico Hawaii for unforgettable swims with giant Pacific green sea turtles, hikes along the Na Pali Coast, kayaking up the Wailua River, walks through a lava tube, the Kilauea Iki crater, and even a zip through 200-foot tall Norfolk Pines. She says, “The Hawaiian Islands are a traveler’s dream – rugged canyons, towering waterfalls, lush rain forests, blue lagoons and oozing volcanoes…” and she oughtta know.

One trip left: January 23-29, 2010 at one all-inclusive rate of $2,496. Click http://canyoncalling.com/ for more on this and her other adventures for women.

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Cheap China!

= Great Deal    No, not your grandma’s set … we’re talking China Spree's low-cost/high-value tour. Known for first-class travel @ bargain prices, their new 10-day Golden Triangle Tour may be the bargain of the year. $888, a lucky number in China, (less than $100 a day) will purchase a fast-paced, fully-packed trip of a lifetime. In Beijing, visit the timeless imperial treasures -the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and Great Wall - then overnight sleeper train trip to Xian (Terracotta Warriors), then fly to chic Shanghai.

The $888 price holds for departures in January and February, 2010 (after that a bit higher) and includes round-trip non-stop Air China flights from San Francisco to Beijing, all intra-China transfers and transportation, 8 nights in 4-star hotels, lots of meals, sightseeing tours, professional guides. (Add $300 for Air China non-stop flights from New York-JFK.)

For additional information and reservations, log onto www.chinaspree.com and click "China Tours" then "Super Value." Or call them toll-free at 866-652-5656 in the U.S.

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Balnearios*

Many of the spas* in Spain’s are not mainly on the plain. Many dot the 8,000 miles of coastline to take advantage of the healing powers of sea water and the mineral-rich waters of mountain thermal springs. Down south in Valencia, Spain’s first macrobiotic Zen-like spa, the SHA Wellness Clinic is nestled in the hills near the town of Alicante. Five white-washed structures, linked by bridges, house 93 suites of varying sizes, all with terraces and all set in tropical gardens with large swimming pools, relaxation areas, yoga rooms, and even a putting green.

The gracious spa is divided into a thalasso-thermal zone with therapeutic pools, physio-hydromassage beds, a toning pool, sauna, tepidarium, caldarium; and a 16-room treatment zone for natural therapies, massages and beauty treatments.  A team of doctors and aestheticians are onboard to recommend anti-aging and aesthetics therapies. The tea house is set in a Zen garden and their unique macrobiotic cuisine features Mediterranean and Japanese dishes.

A seven-day “Anti-stress Program” costs about $1,654 (1,170 euros) and includes medical consultations, a customized diet, daily fitness activities and entertainment, massage and body wrap, and a stress reduction session.

To consider their treasure trove of treatments, click on their beautiful site: www.shawellnessclinic.com (the music alone is worth a click) or send an e-mail: info@shawellnessclinic.com.

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Volun-tour

To work and play at the same time in a significant setting, and to maximize meaning in a cultural experience, consider the ever-growing wealth of volunteer travel programs.  Think: conservation, teaching, community development … and think: hiking, rafting, horseback riding, swimming and language learnin’ too.

For a big picture of volunteer vacations great for solo travelers throughout the whole wide world check the massive site: www.globalvolunteers.org

More macro, check out Costa Rica’s number one volunteer tour operator, “Tropical Adventures,” for innovative trips using host families. Their Camaronal Sea Turtle Project, the Wildlife Rescue Center, the Indigenous Bambu, are highlights. They provide orientation and training, in-country support, meals, accommodations, medical insurance and activity planning assistance. For more, call them directly at 800-832-9419 or surf to www.tropicaladventures.com.

“Destination Himalaya,” National Geographic Award tour winner in Calif., has started Volun-tours in India based on the lofty goal of integrating the best aspects of travel - exposure to culture, art, geography, history and recreation, with the best of human nature, the desire to connect and improve each other’s lives.

Their “volunteer” groups work with visionary individuals who have committed their lives to meaningful community projects --  such as a school for disabled children in Kerala, a health clinic in the Thar Desert, a “medical boat” in the remote Sunderban Islands, or the first high school in a remote Himalayan valley.
   
To know more about these 5 upcoming trips call 800-MY INDIA or click: http://destinationhimalaya.net/voluntourism/index.php.

On the mysterious Easter Island, search for prehistoric dwellings, earth ovens, gardens and livestock enclosures. Uncover clues to the ancient mystery of Rapa Nui's giant stone Moai.  Archaeological tour of Rano Raraku crater, field excavations and laboratory studies, explorations on horseback of the island’s rocky coast. Click: earthwatch.org

In the Azores, spend your sunny days on a cool 45-foot catamaran, photographing and recording whales and dolphins in an archipelago home to 3% of the world's known cetaceans. Biosphere Expeditions team members also track loggerhead turtles, collect sperm whale skin samples for DNA analysis, and snorkel to whale dive points. At night in the comfortable eco-lodge, the day's findings are discussed with supervising scientists. See: biosphere-expeditions.org

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Sun and Light Shows

That is the midnight summer sun or the winter lightshow. Your choice: To see and feel the perpetual summer light of Norway’s midnight sun or heaven's awesome fall/winter lightshow (“Aurora Borealis”), the world leader in exploration cruising, Hurtigruten, is offering 2 great deals: the "Two-For-One" sale, or toss in air for the "Norwegian Coastal Value Package" which combines air, land and cruise into one discounted parcel. 

For six, seven or twelve days, explore the fjords, charming fishing villages, and unusual cities along Norway’s 1,250-mile western coast … nice cold spots like Geirangerfjord, a World Heritage site. Sail through Norway’s second largest glacier, Svartisen, where sea eagles soar. From Bodo, sail to Saltstraumen on sturdy rafts to witness the world’s most powerful tidal currents and see mountains that are 250+ million years old. 

Great Deal    Just book by August 31, 2009 for best rates. To get the whole scoop, all dates and rates on these exceptional adventures, call (800) 323-7436. For a brochure call (800) 582-0835, or surf to: www.hurtigruten.us.  (They cover the Antarctica beat too.)

News flashHurtigruten’s 18-day Greenland-to-New York cruise which departs Sept. 22, will feature Benedicte Ingstad, Professor in Medical Anthropology and daughter of the famed Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad. Ingstad was with her parents, Anne Stine and Helge, on their 1960 expedition to Newfoundland for their groundbreaking historical discovery and excavation of the “Vinland settlement” of Leif Eriksson (c. 1000 AD) - 500 years before Christopher Columbus arrived in North America. Her lectures, photos, family memories and unique films will enthrall.  Fares range from $4249-$7249 per person and include air.

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Gold Rushers  Redux

“The Great River Journey” begins in the Yukon's territorial capital of (sub arctic) Whitehorse, Canada and courses over eight days and 600 kilometers of wilderness to recreate an experience of the trip made by Klondike gold-rushers in 1896 when vast riches were discovered…ending in tiny far-northern village of Dawson.

Travel down the Yukon, Alaska’s longest river, through traditional First Nations tribal lands and experience the wild beauty, history, culture in a thrilling mix of rustic luxury.

Small groups (ten is max) travel in their own riverboat with a pilot and an experienced local guide who will focus on special interests such as wildlife viewing, nature photography, bird watching, hiking, paddling and cultural experiences. Travel also by float planes and sleep in luxurious tented cabins. Hang out in a Klondike Gold Rush encampment where log cabins, telegraph stations and shipwrecked paddle wheelers still remain.

To know more, raft to: www.greatriverjourney.com.  Hear awesomely seductive age-old music and watch their streaming Yukon River video

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News: The Iranians Await Us! Really?

Yes. The land once called Persia whose history stretches back more than 3,000 years, is the wellspring of glorious achievements in art, architecture, poetry, philosophy, mathematics, and science, yet many are unaware of the extraordinary cultural treasures ancient Persia has to offer. The complex and fascinating society of modern Iran has been way off the radar to American travelers for years.
However, in 1997 the Iranian government began issuing visas to American tourists. And more to the point, even the savviest travelers among us have been unaware of the warmth with which American visitors are greeted.

The venerable travel company R. Crusoe & Son conferred with top brass in the U.S. State Department, got the green light and designed this unique cultural journey to Iran.

And poof! Trip of a lifetime.  Classy Crusoe’s small-group 15-day tour through Iran is scheduled for September 2009. Call them in Chicago 888-490-8046. Click: http://www.rcrusoe.com for details on their “Passage through Persia” tour.  And don’t forget to ask for a real paper copy of their brochure -- the most artistic, charming and literary travel idea book out there. 

 - See my friend Rebecca’s Letter on Iran in the Sololady Blog Spot.

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Party Hearty

Hands down Tel Aviv is the most fun city in the Mideast, undisputed queen of the seaside non-stop good living -- and now celebrating her 100th birthday -- April to December 2009.  After the amped-up kick-off public parties, here are some of the remaining highlights for TA and Jerusalem too:

-- September 1st and 2nd Madonna’s music-and-dance spectacle provocatively called “Sticky & Sweet” will also blaze in Hayarkon Park.  Her 17-member dance troupe, a custom-designed stage, hundreds of costumes, and state-of-the-art special effects all come together, ultra-dramatically, in the pop superstar's second Israel concert.  For hard-to-get tickets hit: www.012netvision.net.il.

For tons more on TA’s Birthday: surf to: www.tlv100.co.il.and click “events” tab. For the big picture, click: www.goisrael.com/tourism_eng

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Snow in the Summer

Travel on the 118-passenger Clipper Adventurer, a small expedition ship operated by the venerable Canada specialist tour company, Adventure Canada, into, out of, and around the most remote reaches of the high Arctic. Zoom into small coastal towns and villages on swift Zodiacs to dramatically connect with the wildlife, culture, art and archeology. The mission of every expedition is to see “beyond the binoculars.”  

Is your image of the Arctic one big white blank?  Well here’s your best shot to fill in the blank with such places as Kangerlussuaq, Sisimuit, Ilulissat, Qimusseriarsuaq (a.k.a.Melville Bay), Qaanaaq … and … you get the picture. One expedition is scheduled this summer: August 9 - 21, 2009.  

Surf to: www.adventurecanada.com for details on this and other amazing itineraries for solo travelers and friends, like their new Atlantic Arts Float.

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Summer Spa

The 18-acre Essex Resort & Spa, 10 miles from downtown Burlington, VT and home to the world-renowned New England Culinary Institute, is offering a June-July getaway -- and at rate you can’t refuse. The $279-a-night covers a traditional room, two daily continental breakfasts, and their Spa Package (2-night minimum) tosses in $400 in extras: welcome spa gift, mani & pedicure, a choice of two Swedish massages or -- ladies, this sounds ultra-fab: their “Signature Transformational Facial.”

What else? Complimentary airport shuttle, discounted recreational fees –tennis anyone? fly fishing, climbing, and their intensely popular Chef-In-Training cooking classes. The Links at nearby Lang Farm, a championship golf course, is also offering free club rental and a sleeve of balls with the purchase of 18 holes of golf with cart.

For more on the resort, surf to: www.VtCulinaryResort.com, but to nab this great rate, call the Essex directly at 800-727-4295 and mention Travelista!! = Great Deal

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Go Green

Heads up solo women travelers. Consider a perfect 10-day loop in Ireland -- the Lakes of Killarney, the Dingle Peninsula, County Clare, walk (or pony & cart) across the Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park, ancient stone circles, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and Head Drive in Dingle. Lots of comfortable walking in the gorgeous, mysterious countryside.

Sign up now and take advantage of a better exchange rate and a $150 discount off the tour price (if paid by the end of June.) Travel in southern Ireland during the perfect time of year - September 14-23, 2009 - and with the friends you will make in this small group of 14-16 women.

For all alluring details call Lynn McBrien, student of Celtic Studies and Spirituality and owner of Vermont-based McCavan Journeys, who will also be your guide. Phone 802-253-3070 x2 or click: www.mccavanjourneys.net.

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Writing Women's Lives

Chill for the weekend of August 13-16, 2009 at the Tofte Lake Center way up in wild old Ely, Minnesota on the Canadian border. Nicole Johns, author of the newly published memoir about eating disorder treatment, Purge: Rehab Diaries, will run this workshop, help you generate new ideas, and provide a supportive peer environment with one-on-one sessions.

“Writing Women's Lives” will focus on challenges specific to women writing autobiographies. Tough issues are not excluded. Eight participants max and the $325 fee for the weekend includes housing in cabins with bathrooms and kitchens but meals are extra.

Nicole Johns grew up in rural Western Pennsylvania, received her BA in English/Creative Writing from Penn State-Erie and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. To know more, click on her site: www.purgerehabdiaries.com, or contact her at nicolejjohns@gmail.com.  For more info on the creative retreat center, click: http://www.toftelake.com.

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Beluga Babies

Churchill, Manitoba, sub-Arctic Canadian frontier seaport, is the perfect perch for polar-bear watching in the fall. And in summer, it is the perfect perch for another white wildlife wonder of the world— the beluga whale - when thousands of these playful and gentle giants migrate to Hudson Bay to feed, give birth, and sort of sing. Sign in at the Lazy Bear Lodge, which operates snorkeling tours from July to mid-August, to float belly-to-belly with the beluga babies.

How? Don wet suits, board a small flat bottom boat and set out in search of a likely location for optimal beluga encounters. Don diving gloves, hoods, boots, masks and snorkels, then slip over the side of the boat into the clear water. Holding onto ropes tethered to the boat, snorkelers float face down, drifting with the current or being towed slowly over the surface for an otherworldly guided adventure.
Beluga whales and their calves are graceful snow-white creatures. And with their flexible necks — unusual for whales — they cock their heads to look you right in the eyes!

Call the Lazy Bear Lodge directly at 866-687-2327, or click: www.lazybearlodge.com. Rate is $204. pp for a 3-hour experience of a lifetime.  Or contact Sea North Tours at 888-348-7591, www.seanorthtours.com. Their rate is $154 pp, for a two-hour snorkeling tour.

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Shoot ‘em Ups

Venerable (and gorgeous) National Geographic Magazine offers Weekend Photography Workshops in New York City and Miami. In New York get ready to shoot images in and around Union Square, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, and Chinatown plus a plunge into outer-borough Hindu and Korean communities in the company of Joe McNally, digital master. In Miami, settle into an art-deco hotel in South Beach and spend a long weekend honing your shootin’ skills plus daily edit-and-critique sessions with Miami resident and National Geographic photographer Raul Touzon. 25 participants max.

New York City: October 25–31, 2009
Miami: January 7–10, February 25–28, 2010

For details on these and an extraordinary array of more exotic photog-workshop destinations—from Bhutan to Oaxaca and on…just click: www.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/triptypes/photography

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Glamp!

If you gotta sleep in the wild, this is the way to go—Glamping is “glamorous camping” and the place to do it: the eco-luxe Clayoquot Wilderness Resort on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in BC, Canada.  They tailor each guest experience to individual interests and desires and the Clayoquot Sound region has been designated as a world UNESCO biosphere reserve.

Picture perfect: beautifully laid out white canvas tents, cedar planked floors, Persian rugs, four poster beds, antique furniture, down duvets, their Healing Grounds spa, really big cookhouse and open kitchen, locally inspired gourmet cuisine, extensive wine list, premium craft ales, 100-year old scotch, games room and private dining tents -- Clayoquot has added in more adventure to roughen the luxurious edges!

A 49-foot high tree platform affords birdseye views of one of the oldest and rarest temperate rainforests in the world, a 935-foot long flightline to literally fly over the rainforest, rock climbing, kayaking, whale watching, hiking, horseback riding, archery, skeet shooting, bear watching, biking and fishing is major this year as the region is seeing some of the strongest salmon runs in over three years. 

Short season though: rates start at $4265. for a three-night, four-day experience and lasts through September. Surf to: www.wildretreat.com or call 1-888-333-5405.

 

Midnight at the Oasis

Life in the slow lane, nomadic style:  Wake to the deep roll of the Berber drums, step outside your camel-hair tent into an ancient volcanic landscape and fresh mountain air. Hike about 9 miles a day on easy, exotic terrain.  At night, hang in with the tribal hosts and their animals around a warm campfire and eat good, organic food.

"Journey with the Nomads" is a spectacular 9-day Moroccan trek across the High Atlas brought to you by prize-winning BikeHike, lauded by National Geographic Adventure Magazine as one of "The Best Adventure Travel Companies" and one of "The Best Outfitters in the World.”  Meghan Burton, head of operations, accompanies the Sept 26 - Oct 4, 2009 trip and it is she who is credited with being a huge part of BikeHike's success - for her meticulous care of you solo travelers -- and every detail. 

All-inclusive prices start at $1,999. Surf to www.bikehike.com or call 1-888-805-0061, for the full scoop.

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Heidi Ho! 

Adventurous solo women travelers, consider an ideal hike through the gentle, rolling meadows of the charming Appenzell region at the foot of the Swiss Alps.  Explore lush green alpine meadows, snow-covered mountains, stone buildings from the 16th century, see cute miniature cattle and crystal-clear mountain lakes, and then sleep in a splendidly gabled family-owned art-filled historic chalet.

Highlights include a visit to St. Gallen, the old town and cradle of the Swiss textile industry, its Baroque cathedral, and the Abbey Library (a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)  Cooking lessons for traditional “Appenzeller Biber” and cheese fondue. Experience the “Kneipp Cure,” a popular European wellness method.  Meet local women informally, and ride scenic cable cars, chairlifts, and trains to and from the hikes.

AdventureWomen is the go-to site for small groups that promotes sisterhood, provide unique travel experiences and true cultural immersion. Cost: $3895. One perfect date: September 4-13, 2009. Click on:  www.adventurewomen.com or call Susan Eckert at 406-587-3883.

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 READ is Right

One of the top ten best adventure travel companies on earth, Myths and Mountains, together with  READ Global are offering two unique trips this fall. (READ- Rural Education and Development) was started by M & M to build library/community centers in rural communities, in tandem with local for-profit business ventures to sustain them.) Over 50 libraries have been built in Nepal and one in India, with more on the drawing board. 

            1. Nepal: Mountains, Monkeys & Books: visit the villages of Tukche and Jomsom in the Annapurnas, Baglung near Pokhara and Jhuwani in the Terai to see the impact a library has on a small village. Guests will be guided in the villages, eat delicious food, be treated like royalty, and meet with the artists and intellectuals on the READ board in Katmandu. In the mountains, ride on a Tibetan pony and on an elephant. Visit markets, temples and monasteries. Oct. 12-23, 2009 for $2495 per person, double.

            2. India: Kolkata, Ullon, Manipul, Kaziranga & Books:  This trips starts in the Sunderban in West Bengal, the world’s largest mangrove swamp, where the Ganges flows into the Bay of Bengal. A visit to the READ library here reveals the challenges of daily life. Celebrate the festival of Kut and end up with a few days in Kaziranga for wildlife viewing atop elephants, and local festivities. Oct. 26-Nov. 6 for $3795 per person, double.

Click: www.mythsandmountains.com

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So Not Chattanooga

One of top choo-choo’s in the world, Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer, is offering a book- one-get-one-free: reserve a Rocky Mountaineer rail journey by September 25, 09 and get the 3-hour Whistler Mountaineer ride tossed in free for travel this year.

The Rocky Mountaineer train wends between Vancouver, Whistler, BC and Jasper, Banff or Calgary, Alberta on a two-day, all daylight rail journey through the eye-poppin’ Canadian Rockies for magnificent views of snow-capped mountain peaks, rugged canyons and crystal clear lakes.

As a perfect complement to the Rocky Mountaineer, the world-class Whistler Mountaineer ride links Vancouver and Whistler, proud hosts of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, in a spectacular 3-hour ride through the Sea-to-Sky Corridor along Howe Sound and into the Coast Mountain range.

Call (800) 665-7245 or toot to: www.rockymountaineer.com = Great Deal

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Happy (Solo) Campers

Want to go to summer camp with Joan Lunden?  For more than 15 years, Lunden, was a morning co-host on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and, not parenthetically, also raised 7 children.  She is: www.joanlunden.com.

Committed to helping Americans live healthier she is the visionary behind Camp Reveille, a women’s weekend getaway on the shore of Long Lake in Maine, north of Portland.  For 4 days 3 nights, this year’s guilt-free weekend in camp is Aug. 20-23, 2009 for women ages 27-75.

Although women are good nurturers, Joan says, they often do not take good care of themselves.  Her Camp Reveille offers the place and time where busy solo women can reconnect, play, learn, meet, and relax. An apex experience for body and soul.

Special recession price of $899 (instead of $1150) For more, contact Carol Godwin at  carol@carolgodwin.com or 703-823-3291. And or click: http://www.campreveille.com

= Great Deal

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Thais and Thighs

A great bike adventure specifically designed for the toughies among us, aged 50 +, will hop on this new 17- day bicycle tour of Thailand.  Peddle from the wild metropolis of Bangkok up north to the Golden Triangle –geographical apex where Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam and Thailand converge.  Ride the historic Thai Burma Railway and hear the story of the POWs in World War II who were forced to endure unimaginable hardship to construct that bridge over the River Kwai. In addition to cycling, there are boat rides, kayaking, elephant riding near the Golden Triangle, a visit to the ancient temples of Ayutthaya, and a hangout on the pristine beach in the southern resort town of Krabi on the fabled Andaman Sea.

Beyond Boundaries Travel in partnership with Over the Hill Gang International is offering this thrilling trip from June 15-July 1, 2009. Cost: $4995 ($1250 Single supplement.)

Click: www.beyondboundariestravel.com

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LALA Land     For Once: Depth!

When and if you find yourself in the endless urban sprawl of Los Angeles, a quirky bus (yes!) will roll you around on an idiosyncratic architecture tour, delving deep into the uncharted wonders of South Los Angeles where compelling and unexpected landmarks rub elbows with stucco taquerias.

Esotouric is the company run by Richard Schave and Kim Cooper who studied under the L.A.-loving British architecture critic, Reyner Banham. Four tours in their “Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles” series roll through: South LA, Route 66, The New Chinatowns and The Lowdown on Downtown, each offering insights into the urban web of history, mass transit, migration and mystery that somehow holds L.A. together. The seldom-seen local gems all speak to the power, mutability and reach of the Southern California Dream.

An unusual opportunity to gain insight into cityscapes taken for granted, and probably be amazed by whomever shares your bus seat. For the schedule and more info on Esotouric, please visit http://www.esotouric.com (and while you’re at it, check out their “Blood and Dumplings” tour.) Or call 323-223-2767.A deal at $58.pp.

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Fly Baby!

No experience is required for solo lady (or any lady) wannabe-pilot who yearns to feel the thrill of commanding a complete 60-minute flight with real checklists and procedures. The adventure takes place in a flight simulator modeled after the Boeing 737 or an Airbus 320- and make a great gift for a gal with the right stuff. Wild.

After a smooth landing, there’s time for a "layover” relax in the award-winning Accent Inn located on the spot at Vancouver Airport. The hotel’s “Flight Adventure” package rate starts at CDN $235 - $275 depending on the season and includes a one-night stay for one or two in addition to your 60 minutes of flight fame.

To know more, contact Accent Inns in Canada at 1-800-663-0298, or visit www.accentinns.com.

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Anywhere but Home

The “Man in Seat Sixty-One” -- the international expert railroad encyclopaedist -- is not as mysterious as his moniker. Mark Smith is a young married British career railwayist whose antennae pick up info about every rail line on earth and he virtually maps out the world.
His overwhelmingly phenomenally amazing website unravels the mysterious connections between cities and countries and continents, delivering good deals when they occur, detours as they crop up, the scoop on rail passes, the Eurostar, visas, destination options, and day-by-day itineraries. Test him with harder trips: like London to Sofia, or even a bit farther afield, to Belarus; or in Australia: Sydney to Perth on the Indian Pacific link.
Fed up with the unfriendly skies?  Click: http://www.seat61.com/index.html and save. 
Aaaaall Aboard! 

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China Spree_

$100 a night? China? Yes!  A thrilling first-class trip is being offered by China Spree at bargain prices. Their 10-night tour starts at $999 --less than $100 a night and includes non-stop air from San Francisco to Beijing on Air China. (Do-it-yourself and it would cost at least $3,000.)

See old and new Beijing, the ancient canals of Suzhou, the water village of Tongli, cruise on West Lake in Hangzhou and wind down (or up) in sophisticated Shanghai.  Well-located first-class hotels, daily American breakfasts, many meals, all transportation in China, sightseeing, special evening shows, an expert tour director, local guides, baggage handling, a Peking duck dinner and a traditional Mongolian barbecue lunch. 

“Who could ask for anything more?”

The $999 SFO price applies to five departures in November and one on December 6, 2009. Other weekly departures from various gateways.  For details, click: www.chinaspree.com and then click "Specials."  Or phone toll-free:  866-652-5656.

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Galapagos Gala

In honor of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of the Species, Ecoventura, the visionary, family-owned travel company is offering marvelous Galapagos cruises for solo women and lucky others aboard its fleet of three expedition vessels, all purposefully retrofitted to meet or exceed the highest possible environmental standards.

Of the 27 species of reptiles, 29 types of land birds, 19 different sea birds, passenger popularity polls have declared the following as winners   … [drum roll here]:
►The Red-footed Booby (possibly for Cutest Name)        
►Flightless Cormorant, having starred in the movie “Master & Commander”
►The wee Galapagos Penguin
►Local icon Giant Tortoise; and
►The really big bird, the Waved Albatross.
In operation since 1990, Ecoventura transports 4,000+ passengers annually on 7-night awesome adventures in and around this UNESCO World Heritage Site. To reserve a cabin or private charter call 1.800.644.7972, e-mail info@galapagosnetwork.com, and for rates, schedules and itineraries, surf to: www.ecoventura.com/.

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Wilt for Kilts

Great guys and tons of them!  But that is not why we’re interested …Two imaginative and unique experiences being offered by the venerable Scotland-based Drumscot Tours for small groups (12 are max) this summer of 2009 are:

"Whisky, Castles and the Gathering” for 7 nights from July 20-27th, visits the romantic Isle of Skye, the Whisky Distillery & Dunvegan Castle, a boat trip on Loch Ness, the historic Culloden Battlefield & the House of Bruar (Scottish shopping heaven) and winds up with a grand finale in Edinburgh to attend the Clan Gathering Highland Games --the biggest event of its kind ever. Price: $2707.

“Music & the Wilds” – for 5 nights from August 7-12th is a grand opportunity to meet the "Kilted Natives" of Highland Perthshire traveling with expert guides. This trip includes an evening of classic orchestral and Scottish music while picnicking in the grounds of Glamis Castle and wraps up in style with the spectacular Pipes & Drums of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Price: $2407.

For more on these trips and others, click: www.drumscot.com or e-mail at info@drumscot.com or phone them toll free in Scotland 1-866-441-9936.

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Heeeeeathcliff 

Super for solo women walkers. If gothic romance and the embers of fiery thwarted passions enthrall, consider walking those very wuthered heights and moors of Yorkshire along “The Brontë Trail,” July 26 – 31, 2009.  Thighs! Listen up.

This is Wayfarers’ newest six-day trek and one of an enticing menu of Girlfriend Getaways, designed for women looking to savor one of Britain’s most evocative literary landscapes. Explore the Brontë Country locations of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in Yorkshire’s Haworth Village and see those spectacular ruined farmhouses, picturesque valleys and remote plains that make this trip a dream for the literary and fitness-minded.This walk, priced at $3,695 per person (double occ) of  8 –12 miles per day, begins in Haworth and ends in Chatsworth. The price is all-inclusive and guaranteed in $$U.S.

The Wayfarers specialize in eco-aware walking holidays – a grand total of 83 Walks in 18 countries on four continents – walks that combine culture and fitness, with special itineraries for solo women:  time for shopping, museums, spa treatments, cooking, side trips and high tea. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, and named one of the “Best Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure, surf to www.thewayfarers.com for more, or phone 800- 249-4620.

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Bright (Northern) Lights and No City!

See the spectacular Northern Lights, the “Aurora Borealis,” from the deck of Bakers Narrows Lodge the largest in Manitoba, comfy, and awesome. Plus select from a menu of such outdoor-sies as: ice fishing, a lake outing aboard a Bombardier ice bus (enclosed), dog sled excursion, the Flin Flon Mining Museum, Aboriginal art gallery, and a demonstration of the arcane art of caribou tufting. The Planetarium presentation of "Fire in the Sky" at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg will also offer tips on how to best capture the Aurora on film by resident astronomy expert.

This truly wonderful 3-night winter weekend, limited to 14 hardy types, costs about $1700 per solo (double occupancy basis), which also covers the internal flights, meals and activities, and a private cabin..

Zoom to Winnipeg-based: www.heartlandtravel.ca/northern_lights.htm
Phone: 204-989-9630 or toll free 866-890-3377. Or info@heartlandtravel.ca

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Summer School

Designed for the bright and inquisitive, in the Oxford Experience solo women can live and learn at England’s Oxford University from July 5 to August 8, 2009. Classes are held at Christ Church, one of the most beautiful, prestigious and historic academic centers on earth. Live in the same rooms where English prime ministers and poets once lived, dine at High Table with summer-ers from all over the world in the magnificent Hall and absorb the very essences of English life for one, two or three of the five weeks.  Solo women travelers, this is the place!

Their cornucopia of over 50 courses spills out: The Life of Sir Winston Churchill; The Crusades: Cross versus Crescent; English Country Houses; Charles Darwin and The Origin of Species; Exploring Dickens’ “Great Expectations;” Without Rules: Terrorism Today; The Life and Music of Handel; The Beatles; Popular Music and Sixties Britain; The Garden in Art; Masterpieces of Egyptian Art; and of course…. Enjoying the Cotswolds, and on.

And good news: no tests, no papers, just small study groups of like-minded people
taught by friendly tutors. 

= Great Deal:  The Oxford Experience will be far less expensive this summer 2009. Last summer the one-week residential program cost about $1,900 – but this summer the costs drops to about $1,485 thanks to the stronger dollar.  The fee includes tuition, accommodations, and all meals. Extra excursions abound.

Registration deadline is May 1, 2009, and early application is recommended as courses fill quickly. For more info click: www.conted.ox.ac.uk/oxfordexperience

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Where the Bears Are

This summer, solo women travelers can hop on a bush plane and spend a wild week in Alaska’s top-rated bear camp, perfectly set in America’s “last great place.”

AdventureWomen Inc, pioneer in women's vacations since 1982, and the oldest of its kind for active women over 30, is offering two “Alaska Bear Viewing & Safaris” for nature lovers and fervent photographers in June. The playground is Alaska's National Parks: the Kenai Peninsula and Kenai Fjords National Park and Wildlife Refuge, and their hundreds of square miles of bountiful wilderness, endless expanses of rolling forests, mountain meadows, hidden lakes, whispering streams and turquoise glaciers are all teeming with rare wildlife.

Small groups, plenty of action, whitewater rafting, whale watching, expert Alaskan guides, deluxe lodges, good adventure camps, and raw, remote nature. Are we missing anything?  Don’t think so.
Two departures: June 7-14 and June 14-21, 2009. Cost: $3995 ($600 deposit). Click:  http://www.adventurewomen.com/ and/or phone Susan Eckert at (406) 587-3883.

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Wanda Lust’s Top5 Stops

Solo women, here are my current top high-value, travel-treasure, awe-inspiring stops:
Cape Town, South Africa - Beautiful, busy, sophisticated, cheerful commercial harbor city also offers broad beaches, fascinating flora, waddling tuxedoed penguins, framed by the looming Table Mountain. Cape Town juts out in a wild place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans kiss (pretty violently, and all the time.) 
Lassen Volcanic National Park in north eastern California - Hot springs, boiling mud pots, stinking fumaroles, lava pinnacles, jagged craters, steaming sulphur vents and ponds and the world’s largest “plug dome” volcano.  Sound good?  It’s all scattered over the Park’s 106,000 acres of pure, untrammeled nature with lots of lodging bargains nearby.
Berlin, Germany - Undisputed hot spot as most vibrant, exciting capital in Europe for nightlife, art and culture, Berlin also embraces the vast Tiergarten of lakes, canals, palaces, and an eco-attentive zoo. Trend-alert Central.
Istanbul, Turkey - Sprawling, magnificent two-world city, thriving with zingy art galleries and international music intermingled with splendid Ottoman mosques and amazing Byzantine churches, twirling Sufis. Killer shopping, a zillion chic new restaurants, Istanbul is set to be the European City of Culture 2010…so go quickly - this year.
Waiheke Island, New Zealand - A quaint place just a ferry ride away from cosmopolitan Auckland, the newly gourmetized island now attracts sophisticated wine, food and olive oil lovers from all over the world. Waiheke also happens to be Kiwi holiday haven too (the celebrity New Zealand bird that simply does not fly) -- so be prepared to share.
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 Exotic  Eye-Popping China

The Yunnan province in southern China is very close to Burma, Laos, and Vietnam, and thus the anthropological epicenter of fabulous variety and proportion. Yunnan is also China’s most culturally rich province, home to 36 distinct tribes each with their own language, dress and history, and each with their ancient traditions, astoundingly, in tact.

The “Yunnan Tribal Mosaic” tour, departing May 19, 2009, is timed to include the non-touristy Gyalthang Horse Festival where expert horsemen from the Kingdom of Kham in Eastern Tibet compete for prizes and glory. Visit also the remote, traditional Shaping tribal market, the UNESCO-listed old town of Lijiang, Stone Mountain grottoes, the Tiger Leaping Gorge and the Ganden Sumtseling Monastery. 

The remarkable Marilyn Downing Staff, Founder, President and CEO of Colorado-based Asia Transpacific Journeys, together with her team of specialists, have focused on Asia and Pacific Rim for 21 years. This one 14-day phenomenal journey starts at $6,995 per person (double basis.)  Click on: www.AsiaTranspacific.com.

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Grand Hotel  Afloat

The idea of swimming the English Channel is one that never quite appealed to me, but crossing it coddled in Edwardian elegance aboard the 513-passenger MS Deutschland is another story. This 5-star “Grand Hotel” elegantly and easily delivers the cultural highlights of the great port cities of Western Europe.

May through September 2009 --big bargain: round-trip air for a crazy$99 per person from many U.S. cities and 3 shore excursions at no additional cost.  Solo women and companions will enjoy award-winning food and wine, tons of cheerful staff, 3 restaurants and 7 bars, in- and outdoor swimming pools, spa, cinema and on and on.

Contact Peter Deilmann Cruises at 1-800-348-8287 or surf to http://www.deilmann-cruises.com/theme/british.pdf for the whole brochure.

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White Literary Nights

Adventurer High Alert: The fabled Siberian Tiger Trans-Siberian Express, a really big now-private steam train, winds 4,200 miles from Moscow right up to the Arctic Circle and back again from June 13-26, 2009.  It will carry award-winning top travel writer and novelist Paul Theroux, (remember The Great Railway Bazaar … yes!) And, if you play your cards right, whether you're traveling solo or with others, it could carry you too.

In addition to Moscow, visit Catherine's Palace outside St. Petersburg (and the unforgettable Amber Room), Novogorod, Petrozavodsk, and such really remote northern ports as Murmansk and Archangelsk, and Vologda. Jump off for a quick cruise over the White Sea to Solovetsky Island where the austere 15th century monastery was memorialized in Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago.

And please remember to bring your shades … daylight up there in the Arctic Circle is 24/7 in June.  Starting at $8000 pp, this trip is not bargained priced, and no, you do not get a bathroom in your cabin at the lowest rate. Of course space is limited. Call 1-800-424-7289 or email Charity Shaller at charity@mircorp.com in the venerable, award-winning MIR Corporation.

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Skiing the Old Fashioned Way

This is so not for the bunnies among us: CMH Heli-Skiing is offering a new Ski Touring program which takes the Heli out of the ascent so that skiers --solo or not -- are free to climb the peaks. Whew.

From April 11-18 and April 18-25, 2009, a select group of ten skiers per tour will explore the pristine, unchanged Bugaboos range of the Canadian Rockies. With two guides per trip, guests will head out by helicopter to remote mountain spots, to then be dropped off for a thrilling downhill run on fresh tracks.  Instead, however, of hopping back in the chopper for a lift back up, skiers will release their skies, shed a layer, and start the Zen-like rhythmic ascent towards another gorgeous run. But beware, we hear that “the quiet is deafening.”

And then back at the lodge (via chopper): relax in a hot tub, enjoy a massage, share stories, great food and wine. The price is $3,500 CAD per person, twin accommodations, all meals, guiding, training and use of avalanche transceivers.                                                                                                                 
For more information, please call 1-800-661-0252, or visit www.cmhski.com.

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Street Smarts

Smart and slow. That’s they way we like to travel. Solo women travelers, here is a clip and save: Italy-based Context Tours now offers small-group walking modules around which you can build sensational 2-8 day trips from April to October 2009. In Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Venice, Paris and Istanbul, their luminous network of local scholars, architects, archaeologists, and culinary professionals will inject a new dimension of local intelligence into your travels.

Two of their new series:

-A Tale of Two Cities: The Food Cultures of Rome and Naples, an 8-day hands-on and teeth-in study of culinary evolution in two ancient capitals: Ostia Antica and Pompeii. Recipes-markets-seminars–leading food writers and meals in the homes of local chefs.  (You assist.)

-Across Disciplines: Florence and the Renaissance Ideal, an 8-day multidisciplinary study of the Florentine Renaissance examining the art, architecture, science and poetry of this most influential era. Start in Tuscany’s Bagno Vignoni in the beautiful Val d’Orcia for lectures and seminars on Dante and Giotto, visit Pienza, Montalcino and Assisi. On-site seminars in Florence on the Medici and Michelangelo, Galileo, and the Uffizi Gallery, and then a unique artistic experience - a hands-on fresco workshop - wrapping up with the culinary delight of an annotated Tuscan dinner with a local food writer.

Click: www.contexttravel.com for schedules and itineraries. Any questions? Contact the Context Trips Manager, Katie Parla, at katie@contexttravel.com in Venice.

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Acquoso  Italia

Starting in heartbreakingly, hauntingly beautiful Venice, including a three-island tour (by boat of course) in and around the Venetian lagoons of Murano (glorious glass-blowing), Torcello (12th c. churches) and Burano (lace-making heaven). Then sail along the coast of Lake Como, one of the largest and deepest in Europe and primetime luxe destination for centuries, to visit Villas Carlotta and Bellagio. After which you may never go home again.

This 8-day “Enchanting Venice & Lake Como” tour departs the U.S. only on March 14, 2009.  Brought to you by the indomitable Gutsy Women, this trip will deliver history, culture, and cuisine of Northern Italy in an indelible manner. According to April M. Merenda, President and Co-Founder of Gutsy’s experiential tours for women, “We’ve added our “gutsy” touch with luxury treats and out-of-the-way treasures to reveal all the little secrets that make Italy so enchanting."

Never enough for a solo traveler? add on Milan.

The cost of $2,979 pp on double basis includes the air from NYC to Venice and from Milan (ask about other departure cities), hotels, many meals and an ever-present tour manager. For itinerary and all details, sail to: www.gutsywomentravel.com.  Or call (866) IMGUTSY or 866-464-8879.

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Holistico

In the foothills of the Sierra Madre, the 220-room Ixtapan Hotel Spa and Golf Resort, set amid picturesque villages and archeological treasures, is about 65 miles from the Mexico City Airport (hotel staff transfers.) Their new 5-star Holistic Spa offers treatments at one quarter the price north of the border.

Solo women will benefit from the friendly atmosphere, the ease of meeting up with others in fitness classes, morning walks, at golf or bridge and the low single supplement (about $285 for a full 7 nights.)

All-inclusive quality spa and golf packages offer excellent values. Their one-week classic spa package includes all meals, 21 treatments with organic products, fitness classes, morning walks, golf and tennis lessons, lighted tennis courts, 18- hole golf course, 2 swimming pools, and 3 restaurants with a choice of calorie-controlled, Mexican, and/or continental cuisine. Surf to: www.spamexico.com.

For current rates and reservations call 800-IXTAPAN.

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Sail Away!!

Uniworld is uni good name to remember for boutique hotel-style cruise ships (average 134 guests), ratio of one staff member per every three guests, world-class cuisine, expertly planned itineraries, custom shore excursions.  Hey, we’re not finished:  The hated “single supplement” is waived!  Solo women can cruise at no additional charge as on select 2009 departure dates. Make a rez and send in $$ before January 31, 2009 on many European cruises. You won’t do better!

Travel+Leisure’s World’s Best Top 10 Small Cruise Lines
Condé Nast Traveler’s 2008 Gold List and their Reader’s Choice Awards

Cruise to California-based: www.uniworld.com. Call 800-733-7820 ext. 2563; or email Steve Son at sson@uniworld.com.

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Appe-THAI-zing

Not your grandma’s old chop suey - authentic Thai cuisine has gathered world culinary accolades for its creative tenets and elegant fresh simplicity. Use one of the many top cooking schools as base, and whisk (sorry, couldn’t resist) around the country. Here’s a real cook’s tour, solo or otherwise:

In Bangkok Baipai Cooking School is an ideal place to start for both amateur and professional cooks. Classes are a minimum of 4 hours and many enrollees spend a week learning the subtleties of Thai cuisine in the school's easy and charming atmosphere. Courses are conducted in English and transportation is provided from/to hotels in central Bangkok. www.baipai.com

Since opening its doors over fifteen years ago, The Oriental Hotel's Thai Cooking School in the chaotic heart of Bangkok has taught the intricacies of Thai cuisine to thousands of students from all over the world. All participants graduate with the skills to create Thai feasts of the highest standards. www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok/leisure/cooking_school/

Also in “downtown” Bangkok, opposite the Surasak Sky train station, the Blue Elephant Cooking School is housed in a century-old mansion. A typical day starts with an exciting visit to the vibrant morning market accompanied by an instructor who teaches how to select and buy the exotic ingredients. www.blueelephant.com/school

Up north in Chiang Mai, the elegant Four Seasons resort culinary team offers weekly hands-on classes for such classics as kaow soi gai (Chiang Mai curry noodle soup with chicken) and gaeng hung lay (dry spiced curry with pork and pickled garlic). http://www.fourseasons.com/chiangmai/cooking_school/

And down south on the idyllic isle of Phuket, The Phuket Thai Cookery School presents an amazing menu of one-day courses that include an introduction to local ingredients, a market tour, and then, of course the cooking lesson. Located adjacent to the beautiful private beach on Sirey Island, the school is just 10 minutes from Phuket Town. http://phuket-thaicookeryschool.com

…so as the Thai’s would say, "pai tio Sanook"  ... "enjoy yourself!"

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Asana Mexicana

The Maya Tulum Wellness Retreat and Spa on the Yucatan Peninsula is the ideal solo travel go-to for sunshine, inner balance, lush jungle and cerulean seas.

Their driver meets you at the Cancun airport for the hour-long ride to then dissolve into the wonderful week-long Mind Body & Spirit Program. There is no specific routine but yoga sessions of varying levels are offered twice a day, plus a host of Mayan-inspired spa treatments, tours to nearby ancient Mayan ruins and caverns, or snorkels on a tropical reef.

Guest Quarters? 43 breezy thatch roof, stone floor cabanas, with beachfront or ocean views. And after a day of Yogic asanas, refuel on healthy vegetarian and seafood meals in their big cabana on the pristine white beach. Priced from $1,578.  P.S. We hear the margaritas are killer.

Surf to: www.mayatulum.com, or call 888-515-4580.

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 Minuets & Minarets

“Combo City Steal” – if you actually prefer to be home for the holidays, consider travelling either before or after them to two thrilling and complex cities, wrapped up in a interesting unusual package.  Fly via Austrian Airlines between New York or Washington, DC to Istanbul with a stop in Vienna en-route. The steal is $1,259 per person which includes air, 3 nights in Vienna, 3 in Istanbul at superior tourist class hotels. Breakfasts daily. Valid until December 11, 2008 and then again from January 4 - March 19, 2009.

For the full scoop, swoop to www.austrianair-vacations.com or call (800) 790-4682.

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Asana Mexicana

The Maya Tulum Wellness Retreat and Spa on the Yucatan Peninsula is the ideal solo travel go-to for sunshine, inner balance, lush jungle and cerulean seas.

Their driver meets you at the Cancun airport for the hour-long ride to then dissolve into the wonderful week-long Mind Body & Spirit Program. There is no specific routine but yoga sessions of varying levels are offered twice a day, plus a host of Mayan-inspired spa treatments, tours to nearby ancient Mayan ruins and caverns, or snorkels on a tropical reef.

Guest Quarters? 43 breezy thatch roof, stone floor cabanas, with beachfront or ocean views. And after a day of Yogic asanas, refuel on healthy vegetarian and seafood meals in their big cabana on the pristine white beach. Priced from $1,578.  P.S. We hear the margaritas are killer.

Surf to: www.mayatulum.com, or call 888-515-4580.

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 Minuets & Minarets

“Combo City Steal” – if you actually prefer to be home for the holidays, consider travelling either before or after them to two thrilling and complex cities, wrapped up in a interesting unusual package.  Fly via Austrian Airlines between New York or Washington, DC to Istanbul with a stop in Vienna en-route. The steal is $1,259 per person which includes air, 3 nights in Vienna, 3 in Istanbul at superior tourist class hotels. Breakfasts daily. Valid until December 11, 2008 and then again from January 4 - March 19, 2009.

For the full scoop, swoop to www.austrianair-vacations.com or call (800) 790-4682.

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BA: Hot New Year’s Eves
Winter travel target, Argentina is tops for great weather,
high value, and sexy atmospheric vibes.

Live and Learn

Mansion Dandi Royal, an extraordinary Art Nouveau-style 30-room mansion set in the historic and wildly lively district of San Telmo in the heart of Buenos Aires, is now also, uniquely, a residential tango academy.  Live here while you learn to do what it takes two to: tango - and with renowned dancer Héctor Villalba.  We are now talking total immersion.

The distinguished interior features parquet floors, high ceilings, early 20th-century antique Argentine furniture, tango-themed painted wall frescoes, total WiFi, hot tubs, and even a cute little rooftop hot tub in which to soak your tootsies.

Group and private classes for all levels of skill levels in English or Spanish – a fabulously fun place if you love to or want to learn to tango. Room rates from $170.

Click: www.hotelmansiondandiroyal.com and look for the flag of England unless you read Spanish. (The music alone will drive you romantically mad.)

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Polo

For the swinging mallets, sweaty muscles and the world's most handsome polo players, Argentina is eternally and by now obviously the place. Their polo matches are a hot mix of top equestrians, fabulous facilities and Latin glamour.

Look but don’t touch

El Metejon Polo Club in Cañuelas, about 40 minutes out of the city, hosts tournaments from October to December -- the highlight of which is the Argentine Polo Championship in late November. If lucky, you will catch top player and fashion model Nacho Figueras in action. Click: www.elmetejon.com.ar

Touch but don’t look

To actually learn and not just watch polo playing, the 124-acre La Mariposa Farm is one of the best.  Run by Mariano, a 4-goal player, it is located 136 miles from Buenos Aires and offers good basic guest houses . Beginners need not fear; horses are handpicked for their safe style and good temperaments to suit all levels of players’ abilities.

Select from weekend courses, 10-day clinics, or custom designed program to get you to your goal. www.lamariposapolo.com.ar

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New Year’s Eve on the Old Elephant’s Trail
      December 27, 2008-January 8, 2009

Free for New Year's? For the most unforgettable New Years Eve of any solo traveler's life consider ”Trek amfAR in Asia.”  One of the world's leading organizations dedicated to eradicating the AIDS epidemic, amfAR conjured up an over-the-top New Year’s eve-- an unforgettable fundraising hiking adventure along Thailand's Old Elephant Trail between Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai.  This Spectacular 13-day hike wends down an ancient trade route in a section of seldom-visited northern Thailand, wends through lush forests, picturesque villages, and along stunning mountains passes.

Join “Trek amfAR in Asia” and learn from front-line medical experts about the AIDS in Asia and the work that is being done to combat it. There is a $500.00 non-refundable registration fee, and each participant is asked to commit to raising at least $10,000 (either donated or from family and friends.) Funds raised will be used in part to support amfAR's global AIDS programs to bring crucial help to countries hardest hit.

This is their 4th such trek and space is limited. Click on http://trekamfar.kintera.org/
or call Cassandra Dawes at 212-806-1753.  Her e-mail is: cassandra.dawes@amfar.org

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Hawaii Oh Oh

Nighttime fantasy: snorkel in the Pacific to watch the extraordinary underwater ballet performed by the great and graceful Manta Ray. If the fantasy resonates, here’s now:
On Hawaii’s Big Island at Keauhou Bay, a 55-foot hi-tech catamaran, the Hula Kai, departs before sunset. The Hula Kai was designed to offer ultimate aquatic adventures with posh amenities and outstanding service.

Certified divers can observe the Manta Ray from the ocean floor and snorkelers can float above, leaving a wide open water column in between for these glorious creatures to spin and somersault as they feed. A tethered float provides maximum comfort and safety for those on the surface of the water. Marine life experts and professional videographers aboard the Hula Kai will share their insights.

These 2-1/2 hour must-do, once-in-a-lifetime excursions are limited to 40 passengers (6 divers maximum.)  The cost per snorkler (including gear) is an agreeable$89, and $110 for divers.

For details, surf to: www.fair-wind.com. P.S. You might be pleased to know Manta feed on plankton …

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“Cold Smoke” Ski

Adventurous solo women who crave a skiing holiday and one a bit off- the-beaten-slope can enjoy the sunshine, blue skies, and the incredible “cold smoke” snow in the Bridger Bowl of Bozeman, Montana -- a stunning area with over 1200 acres of diverse skiing and, thrillingly, no crowds or lift lines.

Vacation pioneer, Adventure Women, Inc., is offering this women’s only downhill ski clinic and vacation (to those over 30 please) for women of all ability levels. Work with expert female instructors, enjoy lessons in small groups and guided skiing, and soak up the camaraderie. Very valuable video critiques help participants improve skiing skills and boost confidence levels.

Dates: Jan 25th-Jan 31st, 2009. The cost of $2495 per person includes a shared room in luxury twin-bedded suites and cooked-to-order breakfasts every morning. Single supplement: $400.   Schuss to www.adventurewomen.com/ …and also find out why it’s called “cold smoke.”

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Rappel and Kvell

Learn to control your descent on a rope down steep cliffs and slopes in the wild beauty of an untouched rain forest valley. You will certainly feel proud* of yourself (and your mother will *kvell.)

For solo-ettes with tons of energy, no experience is needed to feel the exhilaration of this newest adventure on Maui, Hawaii’s second-largest island. Maui Canyon Adventures, the 25-year old eco tourism company, will teach you the ropes, literally.

They will guide your rappel safely down 45-foot canyon walls and then teach you how to rappel back up. Yoik.  As a reward when you hike down into a gorgeous valley and climb down into the roots of a great old banyan tree, a magical spot awaits under 20-foot falls, complete with a heavenly waterfall shower. 

Click on: www.mauicanyons.com or call 808-271-1500 or write: hike@hikemaui.com

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Wheels and Hawks

Solos, have fun and stay at Vermont’s historic Equinox Resort- famous for its falconry, golf, archery and fly fishing - and take advantage of their newly opened Land Rover driving school.  Learn to handle the snazzy, muscular, top-of-the-line Land Rovers or Range Rovers and drive right into the rugged hills, along muddy inclines and along rocky non-roads. Their 80-acre course and trail systems are staffed by expert teacher-drivers who also teach winter ice-driving for ultimate off-road experiences.

Too tame?  Step right up and into their British School of Falconry (the first of its kind in the U.S.), and learn how to handle and fly a Parabuteo unicinctus, the big Harris Hawk, a magnificent bird of prey.

Get the full scoop at www.equinoxresort.com or phone them directly in Manchester Village at 802 362 0687.

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Heli-Swagging

OIA: Only in Australia! Yearning to sleep in a swag beneath the southern stars? Here’s exotic for you: depart from Sydney via helicopter, chop over the Blue Mountains, land deep in the bush for guided bushwalking, wildlife spotting, a BBQ lunch or dinner washed down with Aussie wines… and then sleep like a baby in a swag…that’s local for “roll-up tent.” This and other great trips into the outback are operated by Wilderness Australia who feature conservationist guides, and about $650. a night.

Click on: www.wildernessaustralia.com.au

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Gorillas in Our Midst

That is, if we travel to the Congo.

Not your usual African safari, Baobab Expeditions creates unforgettable opportunities for you single sojourners to view gorillas in the wild and a chance to visit, see, study, and feel solo naturalist Dian Fossey’s dramatic, non-Disneyfied stomping grounds. 

Doing what? Daily monitoring, assisting, protecting, and studying mountain gorillas…working with community-based preserves and national parks to help protect a unique eco-region, helping local communities with education, medical treatments, clean water, and disease prevention.
 
Trips are from 4-12 days and departure dates are year-round. Sigourney Weaver is their Honorary Chair and it’s the 20th anniversary of her Academy Award nominated movie, Gorillas in the Mist.

For more information about Atlanta-based Baobab Expeditions Conservation’s exploratory wildlife expeditions, or the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, click on  www.gorillafund.org/, or call 800-851-0203.

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Red Sea Sail

See, walk and feel the reality today of ancient Jewish and Christian biblical sites on an easy 16-night "Marvels of Christianity and Antiquity" cruise-tour departing from Amman, Jordan, on February 16, 2009 aboard the 62-passenger Monet.

Highlight visits: UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cyprus, Jordan, Egypt (including Luxor, Sharm-el-Sheikh, the Gulf of Suez,) and in Israel, from the port cities of Ashdod and Haifa, visit Jerusalem, Mount Carmel, the Old City of Acre, the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of the Beatitudes and Capernaum.

Rates begin at $4,995 per person, (double occupancy), and include all excursions as per their brochure…

For full details, surf to NY-based www.elegantcruises.com or call 800-683-6767.

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Knit Pick!

Delightful knitting workshop during the crispy fall in spectacular Woodstock, Vt. at the historic Farmhouse Inn: Popular local teacher, Rachel Kahn, using double-pointed circular needles and two colors of yarn, will help you end up with a fun hat-in-the round.  Enjoy delicious locally produced food and the warmth of this kind of an intimate group, limited, by the way to 10. So be one -- and make new friends!

The fee of $795 includes two-night stay, meals and snacks, workshop, gift bag, and the Green Mountain Spinnery Trunk Show.  For a detail schedule of the weekend and more info, please contact Tory Milstone: tory@farmhjouseinnvt.com, call 802-672-5433 or click:  www.farmhouseinnvt.com.

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Smoky Signals

In the heart of Tennessee, the Knoxville Rider Education Program is the local motorcycle rider safety class that conducts classes for new riders each weekend for a max class of 12 per class.  When Melissa of Eagle Rider of the Smokies (rentals) took the class 3 years ago, half the class was women. Last October, when her 14 year old daughter took the class … surprise, it was all women, lots of them traveling on their own!  Message received. And they’ve now designated some classes as “ladies only.”  The local Kodak, Tenn. Harley Davidson dealership offers ladies only classes too.

Solo ladies…rev up! Here’s your best op to ride like the wild ones… out in the great, gorgeous Smokey Mountains.

Eagle Riders: http://www.eagleriderofknoxville.com/  Call: 866-805-RIDE; Knoxville Rider Education: http://www.krep-tn.com/

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Hands On

Solo gals, join the ranch “hands” to wrangle horses, doctor calves, rope heifers on the Lazy E-L Ranch, a 12,000 acre cattle ranch southwest of Billings, Montana, at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains. Comfy quarters in historic turn-of-the century cabins and hearty home cookin’.

The family-owned Lazy E-L Ranch has survived and flourished since 1901, but times they are a-changing and today, more than 100 years later, more women have stepped up and taken more prominent roles. Helen Mackay, third generation, is now President of the Board for the ranch corporation and Jael Kampfe, fourth generation, is the first female General Manager.

Want to work and hang out in an authentic old place where the days are long, work is hard, and the food is good?  Nearby, in the Billings neighborhood, there’s lots to enjoy: nighttime rodeos, swimming, music, golf, hunting, fishing, fairs and even pig races. The Lazy E-L is great for small groups as well as single travelers.  For rates and more detail, check out www.lazyel.com

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A Tuscan Thanksgiving

April M. Merenda, President and Co-Founder of Gutsy Women Travel, one of the leading operators of experiential tours for small groups of women recommends we takeoff this Thanksgiving on a great nine-day Italy tour beginning on November 22, 2008. Enjoy magnificent art, architecture, cuisine in Florence, Siena, and gorgeous Tuscany. A perfect holiday for solos.

Take a cooking class in Siena; visit the Brunello, prestigious wine estate in Tuscany to learn about viticulture and taste its fine wines; see the glorious architecture of Florence -- the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral - the Academy of Fine Arts, home to Michelangelo's David, and the Uffizi Gallery. (Sounds better to us than cooking all week!)

The price of $3,789 includes round-trip air between New York and Florence, all hotels, most meals and the elegant services of a tour manager throughout. For all details, click www.gutsywomentravel.com or call 866-IMGUTSY (866-464-8879).

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The Botox Boat

Solo gals, remember “The Love Boat?”  Well, that was then.  And this is so now: the venerable Norwegian Cruise Line will be first-in-the-water to offer Botox, Restylane and Perlane facial treatments in its Mandara-operated medi-spa program.   

Under the supervision of Dr. Brad Herman, a Miami-based, board-certified plastic surgeon and his team of doctors, guests can schedule a 30-minute consultation onboard to create an individualized treatment plan. The medi-spa treatments supplement NCL's onboard and on-going menu of exotic skin, body and massage treatments. Still at sea?  NCL also offers GoSmile tooth whitening, microdermabrasion and Ionithermie cellulite reduction.  Come home looking like a star.

Medi-spas are being offered on select NCL ships: Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Gem and Norwegian Spirit, with plans to launch fleet-wide this fall. Best bet: call 866-234-0292 or check: www.ncl.com.

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Turkey Trots

Thanksgiving is coming up…but instead of boring old turkey… think tacchino  (that’s it in Italian)  and think Rome, and/or Paris, London, Dublin, Barcelona, Madrid, Vienna, Prague …even Budapest – all made easy and affordable via TourCrafters’ excellent menu of 5-day/4-night air-hotel packages. Depart on Wednesday, November 26, 2008. High-value packages are priced from $573 including round-trip air from New York.

Their Rome Thanksgiving costs $597 in the ever-popular, centrally-located Brasile Hotel with upgrades available for a bit more $$—all the way up to the luxurious 5-star Parco dei Principi. $657 is the price of the least expensive air-hotel package for Venice at the Venetian style Hotel Malibran near the Rialto Bridge. Also, a Thanksgiving in Paris, where the least expensive hotel is the small, modern $573 Quartier Republique Le Marais Hotel. In Nice, the 3-star Hotel Monsigny costs only $597 or the beautiful La Perouse, which has a view of the Baie des Anges, is only $830.

For more info, surf to: www.tourcrafters.com or call 800-482-5995.

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Thanksgiving Horse


The wild beauty of Catalonia has always been a magnet and a challenge for painters to capture the intricacies of this uncultivated, gorgeous coastline, the deep blue rivers and sky, and the red-brown lava stones strewn throughout.

Cross Country International, featured as one of National Geographic’s “50 Tours of a Lifetime,” will set you up to really enjoy this Thanksgiving as a solo traveler. Forget turkey!  Ride a noble Andalusian in Spain’s Costa Brava where the Mediterranean and mountain climates combine mysteriously to create ideal horseback riding weather year round. The trail leads through romantic little villages and into oak, cork, and pine forests where wild pigs, martens and foxes roam, and where eagles fly.

The trip from November 23-29, 2008 costs $2100 but bring a friend, and the second person goes for $1050 which includes 6 nights accommodations, all meals, 5 days guided trail riding, horse, tack and tax.

For more on this trip and other horsey exotics click: www.equestrianvacations.com. Or call 800-828-8768. 

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India by Bike!

If you’re a serious cyclist and an intense solo “adventurista” you’ll be in the vanguard cycling southern India.  Pedalers Pub & Grille’s (PP&G) - seasoned and well established 25+ year old adventure travel company – has created a journey as awesome as its neighborhood.

Departing Nov. 24, 2008, their 12-day trip takes you on a cycling exploration of the legendary temples and villages of Tamil Nadu, the tea/spice plantations of Munnar Hills, the waterways of western Kerala, and the fabled trading seaport of Cochin. The cycling itself is rated as “moderate” in level of difficulty, and will roll over a grand total 439 miles --approximately 44 beautiful miles per day.

In addition to pedaling your pants off, you will have lunch with tea pluckers; a sleepover in Cochin’s Bolgatty Palace (former residence of the British Governor); dolphin-spotting from palm-fringed Kerala beach, a visit to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (elephants, tigers, wild dogs, macaque monkeys, sambar deer, and tons of birds). 

The land cost of $3,450 (double) includes accommodations in luxury hotels, guesthouses and resorts, all meals, bilingual guides, full van support, daily route directions and maps, sightseeing and cultural activities, and airport transfers. The single supplement is $690.

For the full scoop, click on: www.pedalerspubandgrille.com/
and then: India Royal Odyssey tour.  Or e-mail: tours@pedalerspubandgrille.com.

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Moon over Italy

Solo Women traveler note: Alexei Cohen’s Moon Italy paperback guide book -- just published -- has a strong feminine perspective. Almost all the collaborators (writers, photographers, editors, researchers, and proofreaders) were women who continually raised their concerns -from the cleanliness of bathrooms in Pisan trattorias, to the best shopping in Milan. Happily, the result is a guide that addresses many female traveler specifics while providing comprehensive coverage of Italy's astounding history, culture, and dolce vita. Hotels were also selected for their proximity to town and city centers, easy to reach by train, bus, subway or foot, located in safer, more convenient areas, and prices are listed for single rooms.

Available everywhere and a must-have for your next visit.

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Shop and (Happily) Drop

Shopping samurai Suzy Gershman, author of the Frommer’s “Born to Shop” series of international travel guides, is leading her 5th annual treasure hunt deep into the heart of Hong Kong and Hanoi with a one-day visit to Guangzhou and Shenzhen in China.

Alert, you solo travelers!!  There are two spots left on her upcoming trip, November 11 – 18, 2008, as those who’ve traveled with her tend to do it again.  “Shopping with Suzy is like playing golf with Tiger Woods,” reported the Miami Herald after a correspondent took her last “Born to Shop” trip.  Hit a myriad of markets outside the cities and way off-the-main streets as well, gaining insight into the fascinating local culture. Even seasoned Asia travelers are thrilled.

Never enough?  How about a 3-night Bangkok add-on to meet exceptional jewelers, visit the night market in “girly town”, the floating market, and hidden treasure stops.

Home will be the sleek InterContinental hotels for 7 nights. Prices range from US$3557 to US$6480 pp, double occupancy, depending on type of hotel room selected and includes breakfasts, cocktails, “Shop & Show” breakfast seminars, giveaways, and Suzy’s newest invaluable book, “Where to Buy the Best of Everything.”  Even a fab reflex foot treatment is tossed in. Love this.

To nab one of the two spots left, contact Carole Klein at InterContinental Hong Kong directly at Tel: (852) 2313-2335 Fax: (852) 2724-3284 or E-mail carole_klein@interconti.com.

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Not Been There…    .. But Watched That  

If the spectacular opening of the Olympics and glimpses of China's rich history and culture has created a yen to visit, consider Gutsy Women’s “Charms of China” this November.

April M. Merenda, President and Co-Founder, says, “China is modernizing at an amazing speed and on this trip women will see futuristic cityscapes …as well as glimpses into China’s ancient traditions and culture.

Start in Beijing - Tiananmen Square- Forbidden City-Temple of Heaven-and of course, the Great Wall. Then on to Xi'an, starting point of the Silk Road, and “meet” the Terracotta Warriors. Sail the Yangtze River to the Three Gorges Dam -most extraordinary feat of engineering - and the awe-inspiring surrounding mountain passes.  Then on to Shanghai, China's center of finance and trade, amazing architecture, chic boutiques and sensational restaurants.

Departs the U.S .November 2, 2008. Priced from $3,969 and for solo women travelers, Gutsy guarantees a roommate-match program for reservations booked 90 days in advance. Click on: http://www.gutsywomentravel.com/ and then really be in and see China, escorted. Or call 866-IMGUTSY

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Big Mummy

Montana’s arid countryside was once home to lush, 80-million year old ferns and pines. How do we know?  Because clues have been found in the stomach of Leonardo, the 6.5 ton mummified 77 million-year-old adult duckbilled dinosaur, discovered with almost all of his skin and many internal organs still intact. This fossil is setting the scientific world ablaze with extensive, never-before-seen detail about the diet of plant-eating dinosaurs—details that could only be hypothesized before this incredible find.

Take a wild chance and join the Houston Museum of Natural Science Paleontology Team and Dr. Robert T. Bakker, renowned paleontologist and HMNS curator, in Malta, Montana, from May 22 – 25, 2008 as they dig deeper into prehistory. Visit amazing local museums and a nearby cattle ranch to see where Leonardo was discovered in the summer of 2000 and experience rare, behind-the-scenes modern cattle ranching where vast herds of cattle are moving out to summer pastures.

For more information on activities, travel costs log on to www.hmns.org/generic/dinosaur_mummy_malta.asp.

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 Bights, Sounds & Tickles

…local nicknames for the bays, the channels and straits along a rugged stretch of Newfoundland coastline. Venerable Maxxim Vacations is offering an 8-day/7-night fully-guided   walking and hiking tour (a moderate 3-6 miles a day) that features humpback and minke whale watching, birding (esp. puffins and blacklegged kittiwakes) in historic countryside.

This dramatic coast is where the sun rises first on the New World, where the waves of Europe crash first onto our shores, and it is also home to “Iceberg Alley,” where an awesome procession of massive icebergs drifts southward in early summer.

Two group departures: July 19 and August 2, 2008.  Package prices: $3,400 to $4,100, includes knowledgeable and friendly local guides throughout, lodging, meals, and intra-Canada air -- so check with them for rates to and from U.S.  Call Maxxim Vacations of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada at: 1-800-567-6666. or click on http://www.maxximvacations.com/.

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Think Pinke

Paradise Found!  On an eyelash of an island framed by pink sugar sand, Harbour Island off Eleuthera in the Bahamas is reachable only by water taxi. There are a couple of good hotels a couple of good restaurants, one internet café (located in the bakery), a small herd of dune buggies (no cars,) tall, clacking palm trees, a scruffy straw market, heavenly sand and sea, and possibly the cutest graveyard in the world.

For solo women, Ocean View Club is the perfect place to stay. Owned and operated with fashionable élan, Pip Simmons, a graduate of the Cordon Bleu, runs her 9-room inn with awesome imagination and skill.  Reigning queen of the isle for over 20 years, her place is charmingly decorated British colonial style with tons of art. Fall out of bed and onto the beach…you’re that close.  Meals are taken as you like, the food is fab, the kitchen is open (for schmoozing and watching but not participating,) and recipes are all signature chefs’.  Cocktails and dinner are usually served on the open, candlelit terrace, waves lapping nearby.

Pip also owns the best boutique in the Caribbean, Miss Mae’s, in the center of the tiny town, an ever-evolving women’s collection of the chic and the sensational. To nab a room or two call her directly at 242-333-2276 or email: pip.oceanview@gmail.com

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Birdland a

Forget the overcrowded Galapagos. Turn left from San Francisco and zoom out into the Pacific for about 3,200 miles (half way to Asia) and tie up at the appropriately named Midway Atoll, a pristine U.S. Gov-maintained territory consisting of three little islands and a deep blue lagoon.

Midway Atoll has thankfully been designated as a National Wildlife Refuge and has been closed to visitors since 2002.  It is now, carefully, open again.  Except for a small band of government employees, the atoll is delightfully unpopulated. It is home, however, to millions of birds, especially albatross; plus monk seals, green turtles and dolphin. Thick coral reefs guarantee great snorkeling and fish-ogling. The lack of local amenities is filled in by the non-profit, eco-serious Oceanic Society’s new week-long tours geared to handle only 16 visitors each. Trips are scheduled from March 22 to December 6, 2008 at a cost of about $5000. pp. which includes air from Honolulu, about 1200 miles away.

Surf to: www.oceanic-society.org for this and their other thrilling trips, or call them in San Francisco, 800-326-7491.

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Pajama Party

For a group-of-gals looking for a good place to hang out together, consider historic St. Augustine, Florida where horse and buggies still clop along palm-lined, brick-paved streets, and dolphins glide in Matanzas Bay. This is one of the few American cities that time almost forgot. The authentic 23-room Casablanca Inn, an antique-filled bayfront B&B, will welcome and pamper you and your friends at their Tini Martini Bar. They will arrange a chocolate tasting at Claude’s (fine, famous and French), a plush bathrobe gift, the treat of a facial, plus the fun of shopping and snooping at nearby antique shops, museums, galleries. For more details on this really well-priced “Pajama Party” package, give them a buzz at 1-800-826-2626 or surf to:  www.casablancainn.com .

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Rhodes Scholar Wannabe?

“The Oxford Experience” is a residential program of one-week courses at University of Oxford, England’s oldest. For five summer weeks from June 29 to August 2, this is an unusual opportunity for solo women to study, live and all dine together in the Hall in Christ Church (Harry Potter’s own,) the most beautiful and prestigious of the Oxford colleges.

Study what? How about “A History of the English Language, The Crusades, The Cotswolds, Opera, Jane Austen, The Garden in Art, or Castles in Britain” - to name a few of the many courses offered …and no exams, just fun of learning in an awesome environment with excursions to stately homes, museums, churches, riverside walks and boating on the legendary Thames.

The price of a one-week course, including tuition, lodging and all on-campus meals is approximately $1,950. Registration deadline is April 1, 2008, but avoid the spring rush by registering now as courses fill up quickly.

Download the brochure of this exceptional program at: http://international.conted.ox.ac.uk/oxfordexperience.php or Email ipoxexp@conted.ox.ac.uk.

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Easter Break

The mythic Easter Island, locally known as Rapa Nui, is a World Heritage Site.  Isolated off the Chilean coast in the Pacific Ocean, this is a trip-of-a-lifetime destination and full bragging rights apply. Feel the power of the human-like Moai, the 900 huge (some 33 feet tall) stylized, rock-carved monoliths. These enigmatic statues emit an aura of eternity, their backs, surprisingly, facing the sea, and contribute to the mystery and allure of Easter Island along with its network of caves and ancient, unique writings.

Infrequent flights and only a smattering of guest houses previously set Rapa Nui for adventure travel only. New on the rock, however, is an extraordinary, beautifully designed 30-room hotel, Posada de Mike Rapu, the latest outpost in the prestigious Explora Collection.  Check it out at: http://www.explora.com/rapa-nui_thehotel.php.

They offer daily guided walking explorations that vary according to difficulty and distance and limited to 8 participants.  Very good food.  Very great staff.  Open air Jacuzzis… and, oh, thirsty? Order a “Pisco,” a killer alcoholic shot made from fermented Chilean grapes.

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Panama Hatties

Solo-ettes!  Grab your best straw bonnet and sign on for a “Journey between the Seas” -- a fascinating crossing from the Pacific into the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal.

Panama Marine Adventures’ new 8-day expedition cruise aboard their catamaran-style 24-passenger M/V Discovery, will explore the amazing variety of landscapes along Panama’s inter-ocean route.
 
The small and nimble M/V Discovery will bring you right up-close with nature, history and wildlife during this delicate journey that reaches into remote areas.  Top stops: the Darien Jungle to visit indigenous Embera Indians, the Pearl Islands to snorkel and swim, Fort San Lorenzo where 16th century conquistadors defended their gold, and the town of Portobelo, founded by Christopher Columbus in 1597.

Leading tour operator in the Panama Canal, PMA pushes off once a week into April, 2008. For full details, surf to: www.pmatours.net, then click ”Discovery.”

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Whiteout Winter!! winter


Learn how to care for and harness Alaskan Husky sled dogs, and then drive a dog team yourself, safely and comfortably “sailing” over the snow in northern Minnesota’s really white winter. Practice for one day. Then stay overnight at a lodge in the north woods before you mush out into the wilderness for a night in a cozy heated Mongolian-style tent. Great food. Great snowscapes and  real honest-to-god wilderness. [Previous sledding experience not required, but energy is.]
White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures offers various itineraries from $895. Next and last trip this winter departs on March 12, 2008. Checkout: www.whitewilderness.com or call (800) 701-6238.

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Chopper Chicks Redux

The pristine powder covering the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia will belong to “Chicks in the Chopper” for five precious days this spring - March 31-April 5, 2008, thanks to renowned heli-skiing operator Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH).  Their uniquely cool concept, “Chicks in the Chopper” brings together again a group of ski-loving women for awesome skiing in whiteout wilderness.

A special CMH “Chicks in the Chopper” coordinator will liaise with all the women on the trip to provide handy packing tips, important travel information and the opportunity to connect with other Chopper Chicks before the trip begins. Everyone departs together from Calgary for the really remote Galena Lodge.
Meanwhile…back at the lodge, blazing fires, massages, hot-tub soaks, gourmet dinners, a Ski Shop Party, plenty of celebratory cocktails and well-deserved zzzzzz’s.

Although no prior heli-skiing experience is necessary, this trip is geared for strong intermediate and advanced women skiers who would enjoy supportive and fun group skiing on Western Canada’s untouched mountainscapes. The five-day trip is priced at $5,651, based on twin occupancy.

For more information, call 1-800-661-0252, or chicks, just click www.CanadianMountainHolidays.com.

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Plié et Jeté!!

For an insider's view of authentic, real Russian ballet consider a trip to St. Petersburg this March 19-24, 2008 for the 8th International Mariinsky Ballet Festival.  Thrill to a backstage tour, before-the-crowd entry to the awesome Hermitage Museum, four fabulous ballet performances in the Mariinsky Theatre, and after their final performance, a gala private party mingling with the dazzling star dancers in the landmark Astoria Hotel.

Balletomanes and Culture Vultures Alert! This one trip, an unusual insider opportunity, is offered by Exeter International, award-winning leader for East European and Russian travel. Cost: $4,900 per person on a double basis or add $725 for a room of your own.

For more info on this and others of Exeter’s creative “Through Closed Doors” VIP tours …for example: a Croatian truffle hunt, or a tour of Budapest that includes a visit to the legendary 100-year old Herend Porcelain Factory in the countryside… click on: http://exeterinternational.com.  

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Happy Talk

In the middle of the Ghost Market in Beijing, eyes glued on the prize 40-lb. tribal necklace, your guide off somewhere smoking – how can you make the deal?  Or driving through the rain on the back roads at midnight in Cyprus and you’d like to ask the cab driver to take it a bit slower… Or try to explain to the bell hop in Ulaan Bataar that your hat box is missing … get the idea?

Break the language barrier anywhere by calling a pre-programmed cell number.  Then your native can speak to their native, so simple, so perfect. For the 3-step scoop on this international service, please click on www.fone-in.com

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Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval

Copacabana, two long wild miles of white sandy beach, is party central for at least two of the nine million Brazilians, the Cariocas, who gather to celebrate the 4-day Carnaval in February (their summer.) 

In addition to spectacular views of the city and sea the 2330-foot high mountain Corcovado is the site of the Cristo Redentor statue, voted one of the Modern Wonders of the World. The Maracana “futebol” (soccer) Stadium is a 100,000-seat coliseum, and the place not only to gain insight into the intense local sports culture, but also to scream for your team.

Of the many, many tours offered, native born Professor Carlos Roquette’s idiosyncratic “Cultural Rio” itineraries sound great on www.culturalrio.com.br. Closer to home, check out the ultra-interesting itineraries offered by the Naples, FL-based company adorably called Brazil Nuts: www.brazilnuts.com.  Their phone is 800-553-9959.

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Very Velo

Paris News!  A fun, eco and new way to cruise around the City of Light is to rent a bike in an innovative city-wide system.  Just swipe your credit card into a kiosk machine, receive a card with a code, choose a one-day or one-week ticket, unlock a “velo” - that’s “bike” to you - hop on, wheel around, and drop off at a specified point.

Over 1000 stations throughout Paris opened almost immediately.  The first half-hour is free, then its only 1 euro (about $1.45) for the second half hour; 2 euros for the third half-hour and 4 euros for every half-hour thereafter. [A 150-euro security deposit is required.)

The unisex bikes have adjustable seats and come equipped with a basket in which to place les croissants and les fleurs and other purchases. The jaunty website, www.velib.paris.fr., occasionally also offers info in English.

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Some like it Hot

Start the New Year right: Solo ladies let us polish up our pedicures and fly right to Mexico—specifically to CasaMagna, the Marriott’s Puerto Vallarta oceanfront resort and its gleaming new Ohtli Spa.  In addition to serious sunshine, pristine beaches, great golfing, and crazy shopping, during the month of January, 2008, CasaMagna is offering a “No Boys Allowed” Girls Getaway: $1,495 -- no single supplement -- for 3 nights 4 days in a deluxe ocean-view room which includes four unique spa treatments, two fitness classes, and other goodies.

For the full scoop: Call 1-888-PARADISE or surf to www.casamagnapuertovallarta.com and refer to special rate code FLP.

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Shalom Star Chefs!

Run around Israel with three ultra-energetic “Foodistas” and savor the heart and soul of creative, delicious new Israeli cuisine. While always “hummus heaven,” Israel today is also a world player in culinary creativity and fine wines… to say nothing of a thrilling travel destination.

One great trip, “Food for Thought,” will take place February 3-12, 2008 and will feature the best of the best new restaurants in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the hinterlands. The clever itinerary is sprinkled with pit stops at boutique farms for honey, chèvre, and herbs, beautiful bakeries, and a grand monastery for wine and olive oil, plus meetings with chefs, famous food writers and even a volunteer stint in a soup kitchen.

Who are the fun Foodistas?  From Toronto meet Bonnie Stern, internationally celebrated cookbook author and teacher together with Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, head of the great Kolel Learning Center … and in Jerusalem, Judy Stacey Goldman, perennially popular food-lovin’ tour guide.

The price of $4928 covers almost everything including a charitable donation to Kolel as well as air to and from Toronto.  One can, however, take off from any gateway city. Single supplement is $844. Click on http://www.bonniestern.com/ for the big picture. Click: www.kolel.org/pages/culinarytour.html for day-to-day.  For more details or to join please contact Michal Shenkar at michelle@peerlesstravel.com or phone 800-479-2933 ext 26.

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Irish Angels

How does a seven-day easy trek along “magical … footpaths framed by rugged sea cliffs, flower-laden headlands, rolling farm meadows, and sand dunes in the Kingdom of Kerry” sound?  Country Walkers’ special Women’s Adventures section is offering just such a trip in Ireland departing July 24, 2008 from Dingle in County Kerry. A rich experience is planned to include a poetry reading, Celtic music and dance, meet and greet in local villages, lake explorations (by boat), good company, good cheer and good health. Cost: $3198.

In the lilt of Irish laughter,
You can hear the angels sing

Country Walkers offers a great menu of exceptional itineraries for small groups and do their best to avoid single supplements. Click on: www.countrywalkers.com/womensAdventures.asp and/or call 800-464-9255.

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 Magic Moroccan Carpet

Jump aboard the flying carpet for ten exotic days in Morocco with a small group of Gutsy Women. Their tour alights in Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, Marrakech and departs the U.S. on February 1, 2008.  Morocco is an exotic destination that inundates with colors, spices, costumes and casbahs all “designed” to thrill.

April M. Merenda, President and Co-Founder, says that "this trip is perfect for our Gutsy Women clients ...those... looking for new experiences in exotic locales but not on their own or unescorted.”  Gutsy offers camaraderie for solos, fabulous pricing and unique features: - meet local craftsmen and carpet weavers, soak in a hammam (Middle eastern-style steam bath), enjoy a cooking lesson; experience desert, mountains and seashore.

To know more, surf to: www.gutsywomentravel.com  or call (866) IMGUTSY or 866-464-8879.

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The Kangerlussuaq Express

Never heard of it?  You will.  Kangerlussuaq is the settlement where Greenland’s airport is expertly located. Air Greenland is now offering non-stop summer flights on their really red airplanes between the Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) and Greenland’s Kangerlussuaq Airport (SFJ).  Their direct flights, Thursdays only, will begin again July 3, 2008 and end on August 14 starting at $1,100 r/t.  Be the first on your block.

Exotic and awesome Greenland.  A quick 5-hour flight features extraordinary birds’ eye views of those majestic iceberg and glaciers that have captured global attention. Top tour stop is Ilulissat, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle and home of the world’s most breathtaking icy scenery.  And what to do once there?  Cruise fjords filled with icebergs, visit Sermermiut, a 4,000-year-old Inuit settlement, spot humpback whales, seals, musk ox, reindeer … and thrill to a guided tour under the midnight sun!

For more information, packaged trips or flight reservations, click: www.airgreenland.com.

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Tah-Tah to the Queen!

The QE2, launched by Her Majesty The Queen 40 years ago in 1967, was the Cunard’s longest-serving flagship -- today with 25 world cruises, 800+ Atlantic crossings, and 2.5 million passengers to her record. This fall she is to be transformed into an extraordinary destination hotel anchored where? -  in Dubai of course - and this, thus, is her last season on the move.

As a final sendoff cruise, Carol Marlow, President of Cunard, has announced a new 8-day "Iberia in Bloom" voyage to depart Southampton on April 27, 2008, to call in France at La Rochelle (for Cognac), Le Verdon (for Bordeaux); in Spain at Bilbao and La Coruna (for Santiago de Compostela); and Lisbon, Portugal.

For availability and rates, call 800-7-CUNARD or click on: www.cunard.com.

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Candidly Cameras

In New York City, the long-time nerve center for professional photographers is the welcoming, helpful, Photo Habitat – an island of intelligence, integrity and kindly customer care in a field notoriously populated by the opposite. Not a store front, Photo Habitat is tucked into the 7th floor of 928 Broadway at 22nd Street, this is the best camera shop in town to buy, sell or trade. 

So toss that Brownie Hawkeye before your next big trip!  Meet the owners, Ray and Walter, who will help you select the camera that is right for you, set it up, walk you through the basics, and send you merrily on your way.

Phone: (212) 473-5665 and their barebones website is: www.photohabitat.com/ 

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Sunny Expedition

Explore the sunny Sea of Cortés this winter on an 8-day National Geographic expedition after a flight south from LA to La Paz on the Baja Peninsula.  From La Paz, either the MV Sea Lion or MV Sea Bird will cruise along the shore, exploring the extraordinary wildlife and beauty of Islas Los Islotes, Espíritu Santo, Gorda Banks and through the Bahía Magdalena inlets - right in time to welcome the whales migrating down from Alaska. Thrill to the Zodiac maneuvers. Hike in the wild desert. Kayak among the barking, splashing sea lions.  Swim, sun, snorkel, listen and learn. 

Naturalists and marine specialists accompany all 9 expeditions offered from January through March, 2008  - but on the first departure, January 26th, the highly esteemed marine biologist Sylvia Earle, Explorer-in-Residence of the National Geographic Society, will accompany. Traveling with her, named one of Time magazine's "Heroes for the Planet,” would be an honor … and a thrill.   

For prices and details, surf to: www.nationalgeographicexpeditions.com/521.html

 

She and Sea

Follow in the wake of notorious Anne Bonny, a rare female pirate who plied the turquoise Caribbean waters in the early 1700’s -- the remarkable, nimble, cross-dressing, Irish Anne – you gotta love her.

Your own captain and your own private 65-ft schooner-rigged trimaran is an elegantly equipped 5-cabin yacht, steadied by its three hulls.  Sail in and around on a fluid itinerary to such hot hidden spots as: the tiny island of Marina Cay, Virgin Gorda, Anegada famous for its reef of shipwrecks, the Baths (boulder beach) and Norman’s Island.

Two 7-day sails are set in British Virgin Islands from Tortola: January 27-February 2, and
February 17-23, 2008.

Leave all details to the Adventurous Wench. Surf first to: www.adventurouswench.com
then phone (866) 419-3624.

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Weightless

Zero-G, an FAA-approved “space entertainment and tourism” company, is now offering commercial and scheduled weightless flights for $3,750. These flights entail a lot less time and money ($200,000) than those to be offered by Virgin Galactic. The fare includes before-flight training, a dinner party afterward, souvenirs, photo, and a DVD of your experience captured on board.

The experience: fly for 2 hours in a modified B727-200 cargo airplane which has two cabins, one for sitting and one for floating.  The flight makes 15 parabolas at a 45-degree angle ranging from 24,000 feet to 32,000 feet and back –- and this delivers the 25 seconds of weightlessness you need to fly or float like superwoman.  Similar to NASA astronaut training, but a lot less arduous.  (No medical exam is required.)  (Flight attendants will help the queasy.)

Zero-G has been operating educational and charter flights out of its home base at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Florida airport, and is now offering a series of scheduled flights from four new locations through September:  Las Vegas, New York City, and Long Beach, Calif., and at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Click to fly: www.gozerog.com/zerog.html

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Have a Ball

Sip champagne, scarf caviar, and visit the newly restored Amber Room during the dazzlingly beautiful Czar’s Ball held on New Year’s Eve in the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. (Ball gowns and tuxedoes are must-wear for this party.) The venerable 20-year old Seattle-based MIR Corporation has created this thrilling experience to include a troika ride in the deep Russian snow, a train trip to Moscow, and a visit to the city of Suzdal, the 12th century capital of Russia, to attend a traditional Orthodox service held in a glowing 16th century church.

One trip only. Ten days – from Dec. 29-Jan. 7, 2008. Price is $5,245 for a solo and limited to 16 curious travelers, max. For full details of their Winter Wonder Land tour, click on: http://www.mircorp.com/

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Suzy Gershman’s  “Born to Shop & Spa”

Travel and shopping expert Suzy Gershman, author of the Frommer's Born to Shop series of international travel guide books will, for the 4th year, lead a merry band of shoppers deep into mountains of “merch” in Hong Kong and Bangkok.  Her trips are delightful, fun-filled cultural adventures, and Suzy’s loyal followers sign up year after year.

Flash!  Deadline for sign up is now.  This year’s six-night trip (November 27-December 3, 2007) includes a deep dip into the People’s Republic of China to the special economic zone of Shenzhen in southern China, one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Visit and see why.

The glorious InterContinental Hotels will be home base for three nights in both cities and the cost of this exclusive land tour is $2751 per person double, or $3859 on a single basis.  The price includes hotel, spa treatments, certain special dinners and the high-energy  “Suzy breakfasts” where hungry shoppers are treated to insider info, samples, giveaways, the newest edition of her Born to Shop Hong Kong, and exclusive unpublished notes from her upcoming Born to Shop Asia to be published in 2008 -- and then plunge all together into the markets with Suzy-as-Guide. (Air is extra.)

For the itinerary or reservations, quick contact Carole Klein at InterContinental Hong Kong directly by phone at 011-852-2313-2335, fax: 011-852-2724-3284, or e-mail: mailto:carole_klein@interconti.com 

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The Women’s Travel Club  

Of course we are partial to fabulous female solo travelers, especially those who create whole businesses catering to world-wandering us.  Phyllis Stoller founded the Women’s Travel Club 16 years ago to counterbalance her husband’s intense work schedule and it has been one of the success stories of the travel industry.

In three words, Phyllis created a great club. For a $35 per year fee, members get full access the wealth of all their website info (detailed trip itineraries and destination photos), the newsletter, access to travel companions - and - importantly - the benefit of member-only reduced rates.

Their top upcoming trips – some for men too – are: Guatemala this October and Rome in November. Antarctica in January, 2008 (it’s “summer” down there), and China in 2008.

Holy men and holy cows

The Women’s Travel Club ultimate trip this fall will be exotic India – top to toe ….camels, elephants, monkeys, peacocks, billowing silks, glinting emeralds and possibly some of the Maharaja’s ghosts… In the North: Delhi - Varanasi - Agra - Jaipur - Jodhpur- Ranakpur - Udaipur, and if you opt to add on Southern India, visit Mumbai - Chennai - Covelong - Madras.

For full details on this great resource, please click on: www.womenstravelclub.com/  or phone 800-480-4448.

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Walk on Air

If the idea of walking on air over the Grand Canyon with at least some solid glass under your feet appeals, consider the newly-opened Skywalk on Grand Canyon West’s Eagle Point.  Owned and operated by the Hualapai Tribe and only a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, this cantilevered projection is suspended 4,000 feet above the canyon floor and extends 70 feet out from the rim. Wew. A 6,000 square-foot visitor’s center is set on three levels and the views are way beyond stupendous.

Although only 120 gawkers are allowed at one time, Skywalk is open from dawn to dusk and costs a mere $25 per person.  For in-depth info, click on their multi-lingual, very visual website: www.grandcanyonskywalk.com/mainmenu.html

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Where the Boys Really Are!

Solo women!  If you are looking to meet guys, I think I’ve found ‘em.  In Skip Barber’s Racing School, the internationally-renowned multi-faceted driving school, 95% of those learning to race and 80% of those learning excellent driving are men – movie stars, celebs, tycoons, dads with dreams, NASCAR fantasists, control freaks, and on. So if pedal-to-the-metal type thrills and skills sound right to you, please know that more and more women are signing up every year -- so don’t lose time. Skip Barber offers basic 1-2- and 3-day schools on many prestigious tracks around the country. 

For complete information, programs, schedules and venues, click: http://www.skipbarber.com/. Or call 800-221-1131.

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Sail with Suze

Suze Orman, internationally popular personal finance expert, will host her first-ever workshop cruise from December 9-16, 2007 aboard the Costa Fortuna, the mega new (2003) 17-deck, 1000-crew, 105,000-ton, 2,720-passenger cruise ship.  After its inaugural voyage from Florida this November, the Costa Fortuna will sail the southeastern Caribbean - San Juan -St. Maarten- Tortola and Nassau  - where Suze will offer four in-depth workshops, all essential for solo women financial fitness: "How To Make More Out Of Less," "Retirement Planning," "Investments" and "Estate Planning.” Many special events are planned, including personal/professional time with this $$ superstar. Early booking fares start at $1,014 per person.

For more details, click: http://www.sailwithsuze.com/ or phone 800-852-2605.

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Dudettes!

Janet Brewster Stanton, fifth generation Owner and Operator of the Canadian Kananaskis Guest Ranch (30 minutes west of Banff), has created women’s get-togethers for business groups, clubs, families and friends.  If you are at least warm to trot, consider one of her women-only western vacations, now in their fifth successful year, which offers a special reception, barbeque party, trail riding, rafting and golf nearby…and more.
Click on: www.kananaskisguestranch.com/  and then “gidddyup” and for prices and questions, phone: 403-673-3737.

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Afghanistan Anyone?

Hey, solo women, we’re not that intrepid. 

Instead of actually traveling there – yet – listen to this: Arzu is the name of a women’s collective created by Connie K. Duckworth recently retired from a stellar career at Goldman Sachs.  She has gathered the talents of over 700 Afghani women who live in eight remote villages and weave beautiful tribal rugs the old fashioned way.  And she has certainly made certain that these village women are being paid proper wages to support many needs especially local schooling and health care.  The First Lady, Laura Bush, is a customer and a fan! 

The Arzu magic carpets are priced from $900 to about $16,000 and every lovely thread is a lifeline.  For details and photos, please click on www.arzurugs.org.  Or phone: (312) 321-8663.

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Crow’s Nest not Crow’s Feet

The thrill and mystery and quiet seduction of unfurled great sails opening out from tall masts is an unforgettable experience.  The Star Clipper fleet of three small, swanlike sailing ships uniquely allows you to climb up the rigging “ratlines” and sit in the crow’s nest 60 feet above the deck.  Wow.  They do supply a safety vest, and ever-so thoughtfully attached to a safety line.  Their largest, The Royal Clipper, a 5-masted ship with 42 sails, coddles just 227 guests.

Try sailing with them into protected anchorages, private beaches, past and to tiny islands in the Caribbean first (December to April), and then you can branch out into French Polynesia, the Med… and on. 

http://www.starclippers.com/
Or for the chickens among us, how about the virtual crow’s nest view:
http://www.starclippers.com/gallery/tours/english/rc_vr_node_crow.htm

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Birds and Butterflies

Although known to adventures as a top spot for scuba diving, river rafting, and mountain treks. Honduras is still an underrated Caribbean destination.  Along the coast, Honduras offers white sand beaches, coral reefs, mangrove and cocoa forests, rocky cliffs, while inland the more adventurous are drawn to its high mountains, exotic wildlife and wild rivers. 

For a bit of coddling and non-stop beauty, the Lodge at Pico Bonita on the north coast of Honduras is snuggled neatly within a remote rainforest and seriously eco.  It is as perfect a setting imaginable for bird-watching (over 300 species), cute spider monkey and stealthy jaguar sightings, and even a well-stocked serpentarium.  The Lodge is also home to a busy butterfly breeding farm -respectful, educational and gorgeous. Standing amid these exotic, delightfully delicate wisps of color that float and swoop, never fails to amaze.  Think: Mother’s Day.

For rates and details, please click on www.picobonito.com, or telephone 888-428-0221.

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Lucky Solos in Ireland!

Dooley Vacations, well-established 50-year old Ireland tour experts, is offering a “Sights & Cities Pub Tour” exclusively for solo travelers departing November 8, 2007.  Raise a pint to toast the Emerald Isle, visit quaint seaside villages and historic towns, explore Galway and Dublin, the majestic Cliffs of Moher, visit the Burren Connemara region, and enjoy an educational (!) pit stop at the legendary Old Jameson Distillery to taste the smooth, rich Irish whiskey. 

The cost of this trip --a quickie: 6-days and 4-nights – starts at just $899 per person, including air, and hotels on a single occupancy basis. 

For more information, or a reservation, please surf to:  www.DooleyVacations.com
or phone (877) 331-9301.

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Women to the Top

The 20-year old Adventures Within Reach now offers six new dates for Kilimanjaro climbs in Tanzania for women only.  These climbs attract women from all over the world who share the same dream of conquering Kilimanjaro, enjoying Tanzania’s extraordinary wildlife and cultural adventures en route. Amazingly, the trek up does not require Olympic skills so any moderately fit woman can make it to the top.  A local guide and porters will accompany, carrying luggage, food, and equipment.

“In the past couple years, we have seen a tremendous interest in women-only adventures from groups, girlfriends, and solo travelers,” said Robin Paschall, owner of Adventures Within Reach. “While every group that sets out to achieve something as challenging as climbing Kilimanjaro will bond and develop friendships, there is definitely a different dynamic at play when the group is all spirited women.”

One 2007 departure date left: November 5. For more information on their socially responsible partnerships and the tours, please contact them at 877-232-5836, click Just For Women, or visit www.adventureswithinreach.com/.

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Beauties & Beasts

Under the benevolent eye (we hope) of Mother Nature, the Spring Creek Ranch, settin’ pretty out on 1,000 acres in Jackson Hole, WY, is offering a women-only wildlife adventure this fall. “Beauties & The Beasts” is a five-day excursion led by naturalist Jennifer Hammer who will drive deep into the beauty of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks to spot bears, wolves, moose, elk, bison -- real live American animals and not in zoos.  

One trip only: October 4 – 8, 2007. The cost of $1,695 per person/ double occupancy, or $2,100 for a single, includes lodging, meals, awesome animal sightings, a great massage, and the use of high-powered binoculars.

For full itinerary details, click to go: www.springcreekranch.com, then “wildlife/fall programs.” 
Call 800-443-6139.

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Fore!!a

Need a golf match out of town?  With 16,000+ registered members, GolfBuzz.com is the world's first golf/social networking site.  Golfers from around the world can connect with one another, and membership is free.  A goldmine of info, use GolfBuzz to:

  • Locate local courses (plus driving directions, maps, weather updates and reviews)
  • Invite friends to join you
  • Use the site to find local golfers up for a round or two
  • Airport codes reveal all the closest courses
  • Players profiles 
  • Favorite courses
  • Lessons
  • Etiquette
  • PGA News/Leaderboards

Click on: www.GolfBuzz.com and take a shot.

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Up Close and Personal

Ewen Bell, a professional photographer and writer with 25 years of assignments all over the world has developed a rare and unique 14-day China tour – perfect for solo women who want to learn from an expert and travel in a small group of kindred spirits.  Participants can really focus (sorry, couldn’t resist) on the Great Wall, photographically explore the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace in Beijing, snap away atop a skyscraper in Shanghai, and capture the drama of the fragile, dramatic karst mountains in Southwest China in the company of a great master. Upcoming tour sessions begin on March 4th, September 9th, and November 4th.
In the U.S. call (224) 588 8039  or click: http://ewenbell.com/workshops.

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Smart and Healthy

The lovely Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, N.C. is offering another Women's Wellness Retreat, this year from Sept. 9-13, 2007.  During this seriously health-oriented program, Dr. Tanya Edwards, Medical Director for the Center for Integrative Medicine Clinical Practice, will discuss integrative therapies for such major female health issues as - menopause, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Also on the agenda: preventive nutrition, healing Reiki, laughter therapy, yoga, Pilates, and water aerobics in the new outdoor heated, mineral water lap pool. 

Wellness consultants will help women identify and outline goals for the week in order to maximize benefits. The five-day woman's wellness program is priced from $1,789, with a 10% discount for early registration prior to Aug. 1, 2007.

To see this charming property, please click on: www.oldedwardsinn.com and for more information on the program, call 866-526-8008.

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ursaUrsa Major

Before the height of summer when the heat oppresses and hearts long for chill, consider a six-day adventure-of-a-lifetime. Boat to the sub-arctic edge of Ontario.Travel, in the salty Hudson Bay waters from Timmins to Peawanuck, to visit a tiny isolated community of Cree Indian set in what is now known as Polar Bear Provincial Park. But this is not a Disney offshoot. This is one of the last chances in the world to see great polar bear during the annual migration south. In addition to awesome bear, there are beluga whales, hawks, eagles and wolves to watch – thanks to Moccasin Trail Tours, specialist in professionally guided trips to this land of the First Nations and 8,000 year old Aboriginal culture.  For prices, dates and all details, please click on: www.moccasintrailtours.com.

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Darkest Siberia

If you missed the train this year, the venerable 20-year old Seattle-based Russia specialists, the MIR tour company, is offering a 12-night Trans-Siberian Rail Odyssey next July, 2008 by private train from Moscow to Vladivostok. Toot-toot to Kazan (capital of the Republic of Tatarstan on the Volga), Ekaterinburg (site of Czar’s Nicholas II’s house arrest and worse), the Siberian cities of Novosibirsk and Irkutsk, then toot to Lake Baikal (deepest and oldest lake in the world), ending up at the last stop on every Russian itinerary, the Pacific port city of Vladivostok. But if this itinerary does not sound wild enough, be sure to hop aboard next July and be front row center to experience the total solar eclipse. (and that’s daaaark).

For pricing, details, itinerary, just surf to www.mircorp.com, or call 800-424-7289.

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Viking Veritas

Sapphire-colored sea, white sandy beaches, snowy alps, and the midnight sun: cruising the legendary land of the fjords, the unspoiled 1,250-mile long western coast of Norway, is the creation of the Norwegian Coastal Voyage company, today a fleet of 13 ships.  NCV uniquely combines deluxe independent travel or escorted tours with a chance to participate in authentic lifeline activities, delivering supplies and mail to remote towns and villages. This is the best way to visit such old, authentic Viking hometowns, such as the busy cities of Trondheim and Tromso, art galleries in the town of Alesund, and the faraway fishing villages on Lofoten Islands between Bergen and Kirkenes, way above the Arctic Circle on the Russian border.
NCV offers a tempting smorgasbord of soft adventure vacation add-ons, excursions, explorations and they are offering early bird specials on 2007 trips reserved before the end of the year.
For more info on what is always referred to as the “World's Most Beautiful Voyage” contact Norwegian Coastal Voyage by phone at (800) 323-7436 or click on: http://www.norwegiancoastalvoyage.us/

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Dig

Looking to volunteer this summer, as a single woman?  If you join a dig in one of the ancient sites in Israel, you will work in the very same soil where King David walked and where Jesus trod. 

What’s in store?  Dust! Heat! Stones! History. Friends. Brains! Brawn! And sometimes even Romance! (you never know...)  But do not delay. Shake out your shovel, grab a hat with a big visor and join one of the many major archaeological excavations scattered throughout Israel.

In addition to the incredible excitement of finding authentic ancient treasures such as pottery, mosaics, glass, and gold that are thousands of years old, did we forget to mention volunteers also get to work, for low fees, like slaves in the hot sun? 

Not all of the many of digs around the country are looking for extra hands, but those now accepting volunteers are: on the Mediterranean seashore at Tel Dor and Yavney Yam, in the green Galilee at Bethsaida, Kursi, Hippos/Sussita, Hazor, in the Negev Desert at Yotvata, Har Karkom, Tel Halif, and some in and around Jerusalem at Ramat Rachel, and nearby in Gezer, to name a few.
Biblical Archaeology Society Magazine publishes a wealth of details on their excellent website: www.findadig.com.  And for more on Israel: www.goisrael.com and click “Press Room.”

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Sonesta Maho Beach & Casino, beautifully set on 10 lush acres on the southwest Dutch shore of the Dutch-French Caribbean isle of St. Maarten, is a great spot for hot nightlife and cool pampering.  They are offering solo women a $199 per person/per night package from April 15 - December 15, 2007.  This cost covers automatic room upgrades, three meals a day, most beverages, a $20.-per-woman match/play casino voucher, a half-hour massage in their innovative Good Life Spa, and admission to the island’s hottest nightclub, their trés chic Q Club, every night. 
For details please click: http://www.sonesta.com/stmaarten/, or call 1-800-223-0757.

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Into the Thinnest Air

About 700 miles of the new Qinghai-Tibet Railroad now runs the route between Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and Golmund in central China.  If frozen tundra on high plateau is your dream landscape, this trip on the “roof of the world” could be the thrill of a lifetime. Completed only this past July, this, the highest road in the world, was built to the tune of $3.2 billion.

Worried about the altitude? No problem: oxygen bars onboard will help riders adjust.

Train rides through this vast and mysterious area of the world can ferry up to 4,000 people a day which means this remote area will be far less so. Is this good news?  Not sure.   It will certainly boost Tibet tourism and trade in this corner of the increasingly less-Far East.

There’s more information on the China Tibet Info Center at: http://tibet.cn/en/
 
For incomprehensible, but fun visuals, click on:
www.chinapage.com/road/qinghai-tibet-raillway.htm

An excerpt:
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A Musical Note 
 

“Music and Markets” offers meticulously crafted European travel programs built to include premiere musical events. Owner and founder, Anne Woodyard tells us, “We are extremely woman-friendly, and enjoy welcoming singles as well as small groups of women [maximum is 10] on our unique trips.”  Guided, hosted, one-week tours enjoy charming upscale accommodations, exceptional regional food and wine, local markets and products. Upcoming summer samples: Music and Markets in Prague from May 26-June 1, 2007, in Amalfi July 2-8, 2007 with an optional Tuscany extension, and in Amsterdam, the Grachtenfestival from August 15-20, 2007. 
Phone 877-260-6383 in the U.S. or click on www.musicetc.us/

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Cycling 101 and Fun!


The Florida Discovery Bicycle Center has created a new kind of tour in Lake Helen, Florida, an historic little town between Orlando and Daytona Beach. They offer week-long tours, twice a month, that teach basic bike touring skills in small group rides, perfect for singles. Then bicycle tours roll along beautiful backroads and woodlands to off-beat destinations such as Florida's historic Lake Helen, Persimmon Holler (home of  Stetson University) and Cassadaga (the oldest Spiritualist center in the South) with time built-in for kayaking, manatee peeping and dinners in the private homes of hospitable locals. These excellent tours cost  $745 and include accommodations, meals, safety training, tour guide, and on-road vehicle support.

Phone 386-228-2121 or click: www.floridabicycle.org/ discovery

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Cowgirl Alert

Mountain Sky Ranch, settin’ pretty on 6,000 unspoiled acres in Montana Paradise Valley, hosts its successful Wild West Women Adventure again this year May 5-9, 2007 – an authentic western experience for equestrian enthusiasts, and wonderful for solo travelers. What: Cattle branding, grooming and tacking lessons, riding and hiking the ranch, fly fishing in the private trout pond, and then two-steppin’ the night away with the real ranch cowboys (no guys from Central Casting here.)  All of this in addition to optional daily horseback rides, hikes and/or a guided tour of nearby Yellowstone National Park. This all-inclusive four-night package costs $1,100.

Phone 800-548-3392 or click on: www.mtnsky.com

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Dubai – aka Do-buy!

Duty-free status, thousands of souks (markets) and eye-popping luxurious, megaplex shopping, Dubai has become the mall of the Middle East for all consumer products – fashion, jewelry, equipment, cars…and thanks to low import duties and open port policy, many prices are actually lower than elsewhere. 

Dubai is the second largest of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, and Emirates Air will whisk you there from New York on a 12-1/2 hour non-stop flight for an economical $1200-or so- ticket.Gold is front and center in Dubai’s famous super souk.  Wear sunglasses to inspect floor-to-ceiling, tons and tons of gold jewelry that is sold by its weight (not its artistry) and in a marvelous variety of gold colors – pink to yellow to green and on.  And although it may not go over in the Dubai branch of Yves St. Laurent, bargaining is basic in the gold souk. 

Second biggest market, the carpet souk, offers a treacherous, endless array of Persian and other Middle Eastern carpet treasures.

Every type and price of hotel abounds. The sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Hotel, sleepover is center to the wildly rich and architecture-enthralled, the iconic image of this desert metropolis. Click:  http://www.burj-al-arab.com/

The Al Maha Desert experience, almost as expensive, houses guests in elegant tents with  private swimming pools (we’re in the desert, remember…), with exotic activities such as camel treks and jeep rides into the dunes, archery and falconry.  http://www.al-maha.com/.

If you can’t stand the heat, you don’t have to get out of the kitchen.  Just check in to the opulent Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, which houses the biggest surprise in the Middle East – not only the most mega of all malls, but an actual, extraordinary indoor ski resort. Honest!  Click on:  http://www.kempinski-dubai.com/en/

And hey, dhows watch out.The world's largest ocean liner and flagship of the Cunard fleet, the Queen Mary 2, is about make her first call in Dubai as part of her Maiden World Cruise. She will certainly be the largest passenger ship ever to visit this hot little emirate. What an entrance! 

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4-Wheel Forays

Nestled in the rugged Pyrenees Mountains of northern Spain, the year-round five-star La Pleta Hotel & Spa has always been popular with Spanish high society as a ski resort. In the crispy light air of summer, the hotel also offers great horseback riding, hiking, fly-fishing and white water rafting. Their wild new offering is the chance learn to drive a Jeep and on the kind of terrain where they were designed to be driven.  Jeep-driving actually requires a new set of skills -- learned only via experience.
Instructors from The Jeep Baqueira Driving Academy, the only one in Spain, will teach La Pleta Hotel guests the art of four-wheeling on rugged mountain terrain. This one-hour course -- with an instructor -- will give hands-on, feet-on driving instructions in winter ice and snow as well as on off-the-road dirt trails in summer.  (Climbing and descending steep mountains instructions are thrown in at no extra charge.)  Then recoup in the pine and juniper-scented Occitania Spa.
Phone: 011-34-973-645-550 or click on: www.lapleta.com.

If Spain sounds a bit far, how about Sedona, Arizona? Owner/Instructor Nena Barlow recently opened her Sedona Jeep School to fill the gap between Jeep tours and rentals and teaches drivers to navigate dirt tracks and rock-crawls as well as trail etiquette and outdoor preparedness.  This kind of a trip is confidence-building, skill-stockpiling, and freedom-fuelling for super solo women travelers.

Phone 928-274-0570 to know more about the Sedona Jeep School, or click on www.sedonajeepschool.com

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Summer School (for Spring Consideration)

The awesomely, elegantly historic University of Oxford offers stimulating residential one-week courses from July 1-August 4, 2007 at the prestigious college of Christ Church (home to Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower).  A wide variety of (about 50) subjects, scholarly and cultural, are available:  Cathedrals of Britain, The Crusades, William the Conqueror, Arts and Crafts Movement, Shakespeare’s Romances, and Enjoying the Cotswalds, to mention a few.

Most courses include marvelous outings, tours of the campus, the city of Oxford, pub walks, lectures, whiskey tastings, concerts, and Oxford is only a bit more than an hour from London’s Heathrow.

$1850 per person tuition covers the week-long course, accommodations, and all meals (except while touring).  Bonus:  By signing up for two contiguous courses, the university treats you to a free room and meals over the bridge weekend.

The annual popularity of this excellent program requires early registration - before April 1, 2007.  Go to: www.conted.ox.ac.uk, then: Summer School for Adults.

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saver Solo-Saver Special

Tauck World Discovery Tours, award-winning classy escorted land, cruise, riverboat journeys since 1925 and acclaimed industry leader, is offering solo travelers the gift of either zero or greatly reduced single supplements on an eye-popping menu of 47 fine packages and 16 beautiful cruises.  Excellent hotels, dining, professional guides and escorts combine to provide thrilling and carefree international experiences of the highest quality.

Best bets: save up to $3,000 on such beautifully planned trips as:
-Venice and the Dalmatian Coast in the spring, save $3000
-A week in Spain or Ireland this summer, save $616- $770
-Spring in Charlestown/Savannah or the Canadian Rockies, save the $200 supplement.

Their motto, “The world is Waiting!” is actually ours too.

Click:  http://www.tauck.com/    or   http://www.taucktravel.com/ 

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ScholarShip

Intelligent and enriching:  Princess Cruises, the original TV-star “Love Boat,” operates a fleet of 17 cruise ships and offers a vast selection of on-board educational programs (up to 40 courses per voyage.)  Studying almost anything aboard the cosseted and detached elegance of a great cruising ship sounds like the right way to learn.  In addition to the latest in cooking, computer skills and digital photography, courses in beginning and advanced ceramics teach the art of “throwing” clay on a pottery wheel, plus the instant “grat” of having it fired right then in an onboard kiln.

Phone: 800-774-6237 or click on: www.princess.com/learn/

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BuzzLa Vita Nocturna!  Spettacolare Roma!  Città Eterna

Here’s the ultimate buzz: you, in the starry starry night on a classic Vespa being driven by a knowledgeable guide.  Spectac 4-hour tours of Rome to see the city’s monumenti illuminati,  and all you have to do is hang on.  Buzz through the best piazzas, gawk and stop at the Colosseum, buzz the Arch of Constantine and the Circus Maximus. Then sip a cool drink amidst the sipping cool locals.  Or, another choice, buzz through the real scenes filmed in Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s Roman Holiday (1953) which features the divine Trevi Fountain.
Too chicken for a Vespa?  Hop into of their classic Italian cars (with or without driver.) For more info, click on www.happyrent.com or e-mail: hri@happyrent.com.  They have 20 years experience in the buzz biz.

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Chopper Chicks chopper

Renowned heli-skiing operator, Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH), follows up on last year’s success with two new heli skiing trips for women with a cool concept, “Chicks in the Chopper”  -sensational spring skiing for women only.

Although no prior heli-skiing experience is necessary, these two trips are geared for strong intermediate and advanced women skiers who would enjoy supportive and fun group skiing on Western Canada’s wildly beautiful, untouched mountainscapes. 

Swoooosh: A typical day: morning stretch or yoga class – breakfast –heli-lifts for group downhill powder runs with two CMH’s experts - back to the lodge – lunch - soothing massage - hot tub soak - blazing fire – exceptional food and wine - lively conversation …then good, well-deserved zzzzzz’s.

Choice of two mountain lodges:  Adamants Mountain: April 14 – 19, 2007 for a five day - powder experience with a guaranteed vertical 21,780 m. (13.5-mile) run -- $3291.  Or for a four-day powder introduction choose the Bugaboos trip: April 21-25, 2007 with a guaranteed vertical of 12,000 m. (7.5-mile) run -- $3135.

Call 1-800-661-0252, or click www.CanadianMountainHolidays.com

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Cook

Learn to cook the most exotic Passover dinner ever in charming and brilliant Janet Amateau’s two-day workshop in Spain.  Like what?  How about Supa de gayina, Harosi, Ouevos haminados, Birmuelos de Pesah con arrope, and/or Mustachudos.  If these authentic, marvelous Sephardic traditional treats do not sound familiar, they will after studying in one of the three workshops she is currently offering:

March 10-11, March 14-15 or March 19-20.  Each session is only 195 Euros per person and her sunny site is easily reached via car, train, or bus a bit north of Barcelona.

For reservations, please her directly via email:Janet Amateau at janetamateau@yahoo.com
Or phone: +34.637.255.680.  Or click: www.SephardicCooking.com

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First-ever: Running Safari in Kenya

Micato Safaris – the 40-year old tour operator voted “World’s Best” for many years by readers of Travel + Leisure Magazine - will operate a unique Running Safari from March 15-25, 2007 starting northwest of Nairobi in Kenya through the highlands to wrap up in the exotic port city of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean.
Morning and evening scenic runs accompanied by legendary Kenyan athletes guarantee a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  John Manners, a local running expert, teacher, coach and 30-year veteran running journalist, will guide the trip which will provide a rare framework to meet and race with the country’s running elite.
However, and here’s the good news, Micato’s Running Safari is not limited to pro’s…walkers and runners of all ability levels are welcome.  Comfortable accommodations and good meals are included.  Great weather.  Unforgettable athletes.  And awesome scenic routes rarely visited by tourists.
For more information contact Micato Safaris at 1-800-MICATO-1 or click on: http://www.micato.com/runningsafarikenya.html

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New Year’s Eve –Second Chance

Even though we’re not there yet, if you miss the boat making plans for December 31st think Hong Kong -- especially in this, the Year of the Pig which does not burst out in the skies until February 18, 2007.  The New Year in China is a city-wide, on-going party featuring the truly fabulous annual Night Parade, awe-inspiring fireworks over Victoria Harbor, beautiful flower markets, tons of dim sum, and visit the nearby island of the newly casino’d Macau… not even to mention the shopping.

Of the many tour operator options, Frommer recommends:
-Pleasant Holidays– solid 12-year program that offers a menu based on different pricing tiers.  They can be reached at 800-742-9244 or click on: www.pleasantholidays.com.
-Huge Gate One Travel offers a variety of annual Chinese New Year trips with an interesting day at the horse races included.   Call 800-682-3333 or click www.gateonetravel.com

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Peach

For over 21 years, Bill Peach Journeys has specialized in luxurious innovative tours in Australia and New Zealand.  The company is well-known for their unique aircruise sightseeing (via 36-seater Dash 8’s) over the outback, to which they have now adding railcruising by private train.
Relaxed, comfortable and luxurious, and for those traveling solo  -- good news - -  many of his trips do not levy a single supplement.  This means an ideal combination of privacy and companionship, and in awesome adventurous environments. Dine under the stars, sail in a hot air balloon, photograph wild critters, sleep in luxury, meet real human beings.
Currently on their solo/no-supplement menu:  9-days in Australia, Aircruises in either Australia or New Zealand, or a 7-day railcruise in New South Wales, Australia. 
Click on www.billpeachjourneys.com.au/ and then to Singles Journeys.

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Dudes!

For an incredible array of dude ranch vacations in US, Canada and So. America , save this very well-designed, ultra-comprehensive website: www.ranchweb.com.  It assists dude-searchers to pair their special interests (e.g., cattle drives, hiking, polo, pilates(!), fly fishing, golfing, rock climbing) with authentic dude ranch experiences. 

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Brangelinaville

Passing, per chance, through scorchingly sunny Namibia to check on the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie digs?  If so, check out the sightseeing train there: The Desert Express offers a 24-hour train ride from the capital, Windhoek.  Chug off into the ochre soil and sands, stop for a late afternoon game drive in the middle of nowhere, enjoy a fine dinner with local wines, get gently rocked on the rails, listen to jackals howl, and watch stars.  For the whole scoop, click:  www.desertexpress.com.na/

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Polar Players

Quick, before global warming has the waters of the high Arctic bubbling!  Well-established 28-year old Peregrine Adventures is offering 10-day trips to the island of Spitsbergen (Norway), way north (690 nautical miles) of the Arctic Circle aboard their former sonar research vessel, The Voyager.  Their ever-adaptable Zodiacs then thread through Svalbard, a pristine, awesome archipelago so that their highly skilled professional guides can get as close as they dare to polar bear, walrus, and those cute bearded seals.  As you might imagine, departures are in summer only. www.peregrineadventures.com/

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Coach

Note received by a good friend and passionate traveler (thank you S.R.): Here is an English tour operator that is fantastic! They go everywhere, are honest and detailed about how strenuous things are and how long you'll spend in the "coach" every day.  Their thick catalogue is illustrated in b&w with antique engravings of the places they visit, and arrives from London within a week. Look up  www.martinrandall.co.uk.Check out their marvelous music tours.  They are also the exclusive tour operator for Friends of the Royal Academy so you can imagine the level of excellence in their art tours to the French Riviera, Florence, Rome, Venice, and on…  Exceptional lecturers who have themselves been instructed to “enlighten and stimulate, not merely to inform.”  Love that.

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Hot Scots The good news: 450,000 single men between the ages of 20-40.
Also good: they all live in Scotland

Clever website, www.DateAHotScot.com, offers a pre-Valentine Day competition:  simply vote for the cutest of 20 young Scotsmen. If you pick the winner and then if your name is randomly selected you win an all-expense paid visit to Scotland filled with hip people, places, shopping, sites and lots of handsome young kilt-sporting fellows tootin’ bagpipes. 
 
If you are not the competitive type or cannot wait until next winter to cast your vote, check out www.toscotland.com.  Better yet, zip over to Scotland in August and thrill to the world-famous TATOO – the outdoor MILITARY spectacular set against the looming backdrop of the 1,000-year old Edinburgh Castle.

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Jazz

Cool sounds under the hot sun…  From November 9-12, 2006 the gorgeous Caribbean island of Anguilla hosts its annual, ultra-popular four-day jazz festival.  Enjoy round-the-clock soft sounds of  McCoy Tyner, Javon Jackson, Jayne Rogers, Pharaoh Sanders and Michael Carvin.In addition to its 33 white powdery beaches, Anguilla offers six marine parks, wrecked pirate ship diving, coral reef snorkeling, hiking, horseback riding and even occasional opportunities to delicately spy on the nesting grounds of the elusive hawksbill turtle. All the best hotels participate: Cap Juluca, Carimar Beach Club, Cuisinart Resort and Spa, Kú Hotel Paradise Cove Resort and Anguilla Great House Beach Resort and the price is right, starting at $699 which includes American Airline flights, transfers, taxes, and festival tix.
 
For further information, surf to:  www.anguillajazz.org
Call 800-553-4939 or e-mail: sumfest@anguillanet.com

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Bike Around the Block Tonight

The elegant Fremont hotels (almost 40 of which are located in the U.S.and Canada) are beginning to offer in-house bicycle rentals, for fun, exercise and exploration.  Five that just popped up are: ** Boston: The Fairmont Copley Plaza is offering rentals of the iconic Copley Cruiser – a replica of the original 1877 model. ** Chicago: Wheel around the Windy City on a bike from The Fairmont Chicago; small rental fee includes helmets, maps and locks. ** Ottawa, Canada: The Fairmont Chateau Laurier will provide guest-renters with a map of the perfect route for stops at Canadian Museum of Nature, the National Art Gallery, the National Art Centre, and on. ** Napa Valley from May through September, bicycles are available to guests free at the front door at The Fairmont Waterfront. ** The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn: 8-12 mile bike tours are offered with picnics and winery visits.

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Born to Shop, Hong Kong

Original Shopping Queen, Suzy Gershman, and indefatigable, globe-trottin’ author of the trusty and fun "Born to Shop" book series is offering her third foray deep into the drama of Hong Kong.Nov. 12 to 18, 2006, together with the InterContinental Hong Kong, Suzy is offering (after two previous successes) the ultimate shop and spa trip:  - six-nights in a harbor-view room with access to the executive lounge - daily buffet breakfast - afternoon tea - evening cocktails - a one-hour jet lag relief massage - a fab farewell dinner at Yan Toh Heen, the famous Cantonese restaurant -- plus, the most valuable perk  of all: zipping around with Suzy to meet her fave merchants and learn all the sexy shopping secrets of Hong Kong. And if you have one yen left and one erg of energy: consider optional Born-to-Shop add-on packages to Shanghai and Beijing. For more information, call 011-852-2721-1211 or click www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com.

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Dream Boats
Crystal Cruises - voted “World’s Best” in Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines – gets our vote for creative programming.

Their just-published the 2007 schedule for the Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity cruises includes: 
Big Band & Ballroom Dance
Cabaret at Sea
Mind, Body & Spirit
Comedy Club at Sea
Film & Theatre Festival
Smithsonian Journeys
Crystal Wine & Food Festival.
Tall Ships" cruise with an overnight in Stockholm for the world's largest sailing event.Plus the President's Cruise, when Crystal President Gregg L. Michel and his family host a Canary Island sailing. Extended courses in music by Yamaha, language study by Berlitz, and the popular computer courses are all part of the line's Creative Learning Institute. To know more, visit www.crystalcruises.com  or call 800-820-6663.

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See Jane Rum  Rum Rum Rum!

First ever for St. Lucia, the Caribbean windward island of bustling markets, quaint fishing villages and the world renown Piton Mountains -- a Food & Rum Festival based in Rodney Bay, October 26– 29, 2006.  Tastings and demos of regional cooking, lots of rums and wines with chefs from all over the Caribbean and around the world.Plus cigar-rolling, live music, book signings and hands-on cooking lessons interwoven with rum boat cruises around the island.  Special hotel packages are available at the Coco Palm Hotel, Windjammer Landing Villas, and Coconut Bay Resort & Spa.For the full scoop, click: www.foodandrumfestival.com_

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Buy Buy

If you love ethnic markets, crafts, antiques, jewelry and all the arts that will evoke the essence of the country in which you bought them, do check out the very interesting high-end tour operator, Artisans of Leisure.Their luxury excursions delve deep into fine marketplaces and shops and private designer showrooms for unique local arts and crafts -- one-of-a-kind jewelry in Hong Kong, traditional Spanish country cookware, antique English garden furniture, ironwork in Morocco, as example.  The best hotels and sophisticated, expert advice is part of the deal, as are shopping excursions customized to the traveler’s interests, private bi-lingual guides, and the logistics of private transfers, special appointments, packing and shipping – and all within the context of cultural immersion. “Shopping overseas is a highly experiential way of traveling,” says Ashley Isaacs Ganz, president and founder. “It offers an authentic window into another culture’s history, traditions, and aesthetics… and the objects one acquires overseas remain forever imbued with the stories and memories of that place.”  For additional information, call (800) 214-8144 or click on: www.artisansofleisure.com/

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No Single Sting

Just in from Ecuador:
As single traveler statistics continue to grow (now almost 22% of the total travel market!), certain companies, like Ocean Adventures of Ecuador, are working to court single travelers by eliminating the sting of the single supplement. 

Deluxe Single cabins rates range from $3,150 to $3,500 and are almost all-inclusive -- minus air fare, alcoholic drinks, park fees and tips. The 26-cabin Eclipse, the Galapagos Islands' finest boutique expedition vessel, is small enough to dock at remote ports, allowing more time to view the wildlife unique to this remote and fascinating part of the world with accompanying pros. 

For more info or reservations call: 877-262-3496 or click on: www.oceanadventures.com.ec

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Instant Incas

No longer a week’s trek or four hours by chugging train, Inkaterra, top Peruvian eco-tourism company, now offers helicopter service direct from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, the extraordinary pre-Columbian fortress city of the ancient Incas. Half-an-hour on their five-passenger, non-polluting French-built Allouette bestows the gift of extra time to explore the spectacular, sacred, enigmatic sites in the high Andes mountains.Their Heliexplorer trip is an incredible opportunity to spend 2 or 3 nights in Inkaterra’s eco-friendly, charming Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, a little village of whitewashed cottages with great authentic food and a unique Andean-style sauna that sit prettily amongst the orchids in the Machu Picchu Cloud Forest.  This incomparable hotel becomes home base for side trips to rarely-visited Choquequirao, the recently uncovered ancient Incan ceremonial site, similar in purpose and grandeur to Machu Picchu. Click on www.inkaterra.com  and then on “Inkaterra Heliexplorer.”

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Boo!

Halloween sailings for solos - - cheerily brought to you by SinglesCruise.com - -  have become wildly successful.  About 300 unattached, costume-toting fun-seekers depart from either Miami or San Diego on sell-out 8-night cruises in the Caribbean or Mexico.Onboard relationship experts toss out insights on finding lasting love.  Interesting itineraries, big mixer-upper parties and even a roommate matching service- -the well-priced Halloween cruises sound like fun if you are game.  So dust off your Cleopatra outfit and check their site for details: www.singlescruise.com

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Cruise and Climb

Of the two million cruises available, every now and then one pops out in Technicolor and here’s the one that popped for us:

Pushing off from Cape Town next March, Crystal Cruises (rated the best ship in the world by Condé Nast Traveler) in conjunction with Micato Safari (voted world’s best tour operator in Travel + Leisure) is offering a unique 10-day trek to the top of the world, to the fabled Mount Kilimanjaro.   Hikes to the peak take 4-6 hours a day.   To experience this apex of adventure, you must commit to required training for the four months prior to sailing.  And you must agree to leave all mascara at home.  For full details plus prices, dates, etc. please click on: http://www.crystalcruises.com/

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Float

Summertime and the floatin’ is easy…

Lake Powell in Arizona, fed by five rivers, is the second largest man-made lake in the U.S. and a geologic wonder of awesome red rock canyons, thousands of miles of shoreline with pristine sandy beaches and coves, and home to hundreds of kinds of animals.

Gather together a small group and consider hanging out on a houseboat on the turquoise waters of this great lake set in the high desert of the American southwest.  Accommodations run the gamut from basic to luxe and the rates are remarkably reasonable:  The cost per person, based on 10 people (even though most boats accommodate 12) ranges from $18 - $158 per person per day, depending on season and equipment.  Summer is peak but the shoulder periods are really equally wonderful. 

Two companies rent houseboats on Lake Powell (www.lakepowell.com) which for us is houseboat heaven:
Click on: http://www.lakepowell.com/houseboats.php

And/or: http://foreverhouseboats.com/

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Forget St. Louis!
Meet me in mid air!

For high flyers who actually want to socialize up there in the clouds and not hide under an eye mask or inside an iPod, here’s an idea that’s really out-there, and the time is so now.

Frequent-flying New York P.R. man, Peter Shankman created AirTroductions™ to make it easy to know beforehand what you have in common with someone else on the flight…and heaven knows where this could lead.  Business?  Romance?  A date in Chicago?  A network intro in Tokyo? Someone to hang with during a 4-hour layover?  Or share a cab into center city?

In order to connect high in the sky, you need only to create a profile, include your itinerary, and register. A sign-up costs only $5 a flight or $19.95 a month.

There are already over 8,000 members in many countries, although the most popular routes are surely New York-LA, New York-London, and New York-Tokyo.  “We're growing!” says Shankman. “Today, the seatmate. Tomorrow, AirTroductions Global Domination!!”

Love could actually be in the air!  Click quick: www.airtroductions.com

p.s. A major TV news program has begun to chronicle some of the AirTroduction meetings…

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Some like it chaud - HOT

Just a bit outside Paris in the northern suburb of St.-Denis and at the end of Métro Line 13, is the site of a great cathedral and a wonderful outdoor Sunday market for hand-crafted cheeses and gloriously fresh produce.  It is also home to a women-only Turkish bath.

The fee is approximately $40 pp (everything is expensive in Europe) which includes a body exfoliation (“gommage.”).  Women who are not wearing fresh white cotton robes and snap-together flip flops are wearing either bikini bottoms or zero in the steam room and Moroccan-style lounge,

Hammam Pasha is at 147 rue Gabriel Péri, marvelously translated on their rather comically computer-translated website as "Perished Gabriel Street." Drop in to: www.hammampacha.com, and when you are in Paris, call 01.48.29.19.66.

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Study!

Over the course of its 30 years, LanguagesAbroad.com (LA) has grown into an incredibly rich source of inspired and inspiring travel ideas centered on the core experience of in-place language study.

Selecting the perfect program requires many decisions: study in a classroom or with personal teachers?  Study in high or low gear?  Live with a host family, in an apartment or in a school?  With or without academic credit?  Or forget studying a foreign language and learn, instead, to teach English as a Second Language (“ESL”) so you can then travel more and work as you go? 

An amazing menu of volunteer opportunities and adventure tours can be tacked on, before or after, the language study in about 50 destinations. Snoop through their very well-designed, user-friendly website: http://www.languagesabroad.com. and search by language, by country, and by length of time.

Popular samples:
BEIJING, China.  Small classes of eight students max in a school that is located 10 walking minutes from Tiananmen Square. Add-on course possibilities: Tai Chi & Chinese Painting.

MALAGA, Spain.  Study in always-sunny clime near great beaches.  Immerse in the cultural wealth of Andalusia, home of fiery flamenco music and dance.  (This is their most popular school.)

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico.  A small school (60 students max) set right on the Caribbean coast of Mexico 40 miles south of Cancun, on what is now called the Mayan Riviera.  Close to the magnificent Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Uxmal.

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Swell!

SwellWomen Hawaiian Islands Surf and Yoga vacations offer the perfect marriage of surfing and yoga on Ka’anapali, one of the most beautiful of all Hawaiian beaches on the idyllic island of Maui.  These carefully-designed week-long vacations were created by a woman named Me-Shell Barnas, a former professional snowboarder.  SwellWomen is gathering increasing numbers of women participants as well as lots of media attention.
Yoga classes, professionally taught, help you to center and stretch, and professional surfers will teach the skills and confidence to ride (gentle) ocean swells.

Six-night /seven-day vacations range in price from $2,100 for a double shared room to $3,650 for a deluxe suite in a lovely beachside cottage which include three healthy delicious meals a day, a massage, daily surf and yoga lessons, equipment and some excursions. Greet the sun anew and hang ten with Swell Women. Call (800) 399-MAUI and click on: www.swellwomen.com.

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Dream Try-outs!

Turn yourself into a:

Pit Crew member
Brew Master
Archaeologist
Chocolatier
Sports announcer
Wine maker
Innkeeper
Cheese Maker
Fishing outfitter
Dog Trainer
Sword Maker
Professional gardener

Or try out any number of other dream jobs for 3 risk-free days and under the trained eye of an expert-mentor in VocationVacations ®, a unique work-travel program that offers over 70 professional experiences with over 170 expert mentors. This is not a tag-along look-see.  All VocationVacations are hands-on, feet-in, and shoulder-to-the-wheel.

For example, click on “Auctioneer” … and you’ll find an opportunity to study with a well-established professional in Bozeman, MT for three days in a one-on-one mentorship.  $499.

Or, click on “Florist” …and study with a pro in London for two days, learning her professional secrets. $3050.

Or how about: “Wardrobe Stylist” …to hang out and learn the moves with an LA pro for two days of one-on-one mentorship.  $999.

In addition, these dream-job-vacation try-outs are bookended by pre- and post- coaching that can take place wherever the dream leads, Scotland, New York City and on.

The founder, Brian Kurth, developed the concept two years ago and it shifted into high gear almost immediately.  The program is so unusual and so rewarding, that it has become the subject of a new 13-part TV series on the Travel Channel.

Visit www.vocationvacations.com or call (971) 544-1535.

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Whisk Around the world!

Small classes, great chefs, and almost everywhere around the world -- Europe, the Caribbean, and even in the U.S.  Cooking schools are delicious cultural immersions, guided explorations into local markets for beautiful produce, wines, cheeses,  antiques, tiny towns—and most probably, fun fellow-students.  The Shaw Guide to Cooking Schools (17th annual) is a treasure trove of just this information plus career ideas.

Their excellent, extraordinary website is easy to navigate.  It also offers help on selecting the right cooking vacation for you.  Please click on: http://cookforfun.shawguides.com/

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Polo

The real mallet-swinging thing. Not the Ralph Lauren thing. In addition to high-power glam, Palm Beach is the place to rub shoulders with sexy, sweaty polo players and world-class equestrians. Nearby Wellington is, in fact, equestrian utopia. Polo matches are held on Saturdays from the end of January to the beginning of April and seats at the Polo Stadium in Wellington are complimentary! Cute muscular guys with names like Marcos, Adolfo, Lolo and Calixto are everywhere including on the field, plus there are horse shows, dressage competitions, and festivals. The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club's motto is: "Where the World Comes to Play" …. so do it!! Local hot line: 561-282-5290 www.internationalpoloclub.com or www.palmbeachpolo.com.

And let us not forget Palm Beach itself, a great place for a solo lady to hang out and feel good. Palm Beach International Airport is small and efficient, about 15 minutes from the heart of town, and where local volunteers meet, greet and assist. The manicured foliage, wide palm-lined avenues, bright blue sunny skies all sooth and comfort. And this being "The Season" (high), outdoor cafes, restaurants, sports facilities are a-buzz with energy.

Hospitable hotel suggestions: The Breakers, legendary Italian Renaissance-style oceanfront castle operates a luxurious Guerlain spa, fitness center, golf course, 10 tennis courts. Cute cabanas and bungalows line its beach, and a selection of pools. The Ritz-Carlton caters to women travelers with exclusive Bulgari amenities and plush bathrobes, good tennis and excellent Plaza del Mar shopping across the street. The Chesterfield Hotel coddles female guests traveling alone with specially allocated rooms, enhanced security features and all-female service staff. The Colony, chic landmark boutique hotel, is THE place for those "in the know." Inches off Worth Avenue, and yards from the Atlantic Ocean, it is perfect for non-stop shopping, dining and – unique in Florida – sophisticated New York-style cabaret in their Royal Room.

For the Palm Beach big picture click on www.palmbeachfl.com or call: (800) 833-5733.

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Dance!

We all know what it takes two to…and here is a terrific T A N G O option: For under $1,500, you can travel for 10 days in Buenos Aires with Coco Arregui and his lovely wife, Maria Jose - - fun, fine professional tango dancers. They know everything about tango in gorgeous Buenos Aires, which is today one of the best travel-bargain destinations in the world. The price includes center-city hotel with breakfasts, lessons with great teachers, a guided city tour, visits to the best Milongas (dance halls) at night, shopping for tango shoes and music, a day on a working estancia (horse ranch), and a stunning tango dinner show. They only escort two trips a year, in February and in October in to catch perfect weather. (Airfare is extra of course.)  For reservations or more information, click on: www.cocotangotours.com. Or phone 917-385-9698.

Foot note!  If you're not quite ready to fly south with them and live in New York City, check out their tango setting at La Nacional, the oldest Spanish-American Association in the U.S. on West 14th Street. Not commercial. No signs. No ads. This is a high energy center for tango and social dancing. Singles. Couples. Beginners and Pros. For details, please call 917-385-9686 or 917-691-6399.

If you're not quite ready to fly south with them, check out the scene in New York City at La Nacional, the oldest Spanish-American Association in the U.S., on West 14th Street. Not commercial. No signs. No ads. This is a high energy center for tango and social dancing. Singles. Couples. Beginners and Pros. For details, please call 917-385-9686 or 917-691-6399.

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Sip!

According to Women & Wine, a newly formed travel company, "travel has definitely become the ‘superglue' of female bonding!" For women with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to travel, solos and groups of friends are signing on for their well-crafted wine-oriented trips and experiences. 

Here's a sip of their exciting trips planned for this year:
In October: "Women & Wine & Wellness" at the divine Miraval Spa & Resort in Tucson . To see all options, prices, itinerary details, please click on www.WomenWine.com

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Pump!

Backroads, the well-respected Berkeley-based travel operator offers a "Singles+Solos" menu of really great cycling, hiking and walking adventures. If your thighs sigh for action (sorry, I couldn't resist), investigate their menu of itineraries, traditional ones bicycling in Europe (France, Italy, Ireland) and also some exciting new tours to more exotic locales like Turkey, China, Bali, New Zealand, Viet Nam.

Even more interesting… Backroads is now partnering with KN Ltd., to add a new program of six "Active Women" adventures: Click: www.backroads.com/activewomen."…these trips would be ideal for women's book or investment clubs, social organizations and reunions of friends or family members.

‘Women are always looking for new and exciting ways to reconnect and spend time with their friends," says Dustin Eber, President of Backroads partner on these tours KN Ltd. …[this will] offer women an opportunity to enjoy quality comfort time together at some of the most luxurious and scenic vacation spots in the world."

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Ride

International Railroads….train travel all over the world is almost limitless, and there is something mysteriously alluring, with a whiff of romance (or at least foreign intrigue) in the air. Some trains are expensive and luxurious, like well-appointed 5-star hotel rooms, with exceptional staffs and food, but many are good choices for the budget-minded. In addition to saving the cost of hotels, overnight trains deliver the thrill of waking up in a new city or even a new country.

Here is Part One of my shopping list in alpha order:

Alaska: To experience mesmerizing non-stop beauty, check out the award-winning upper-deck domed cars on the Denali Star during a 12-hour trip between Fairbanks and Anchorage . www.alaskarailroad.com

The Alps: The train between 's two top ski resorts, St. Moritz and Zermatt , offers a glorious ride of 7½ hours on the Glacier Express. www.glacierexpress.ch

From Adelaide to Darwin , the Ghan crosses the spectacular heart of the country, north to south, in a 48-hour one-way ride with two nights on board. www.gsr.com.au Although many trains stop running during freezing winters, others chug along splendidly through great drifts, mounds and mountains of ice and snow.

Out west, the Rocky Mountaineer toot-toots through the Canadian Rockies on a variety of routes. (tel. 877/460-3200) www.winterrailvacations.com In Eastern Canada, look into the Agawa Canyon Snow Train which starts in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontarioa - a 4-hour rail cruise through rugged snowscapes and "diamonds of ice." (tel. 800/242-9287) www.agawacanyontourtrain.com/

VIA Rail operates about 480 trains per week over a vast 9,000-mile network that spans and links the entire country. Huge. Excellent website makes it easy to navigate this fascinating network: http://www.viarail.ca/trains/en_trai_tous.html

The luxury Deccan Odyssey departs from Mumbai and visits towns and villages all along the gorgeous coastline of the Arabian Sea for 8 days, including hottest subcontinent beach spot, Goa . Click on: www.iyp.com
….much more train travel ideas to come….

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JAWS! Real and Live

Every fall, a company called Great White Adventures offers tours to the rocky Farallon Islands which are located in the Pacific, 26 miles west of San Francisco .Their professional crew and staff have created tours whereby one can actually witness the ferocious drama of great whites feeding on elephant seals. Whew.

You can do this from the comfort of the modern, well-equipped "Superfish" dive boat, or if that isn't wild enough, you can be plunked down into these deep waters in a diving cage (breathing by a "hookah" line.) Although you might imagine that people are "beating down the doors" to sign up, the cage only holds 4 divers at a time. Space is thus limited.

If the Farallons are not far enough, you can tour Isla de Guadalupe off the coast of Baja, and in the Galapagos off mainland . Contact: www.greatwhiteadventures.com

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Vintage Relaxation: East European Spas

Far more health-oriented than our pedi-peddling spas, East Europeans work on bodies through a fascinating menu of age-old thermal water baths; the primary goal being to heal and boost the immune system. The fact that you happen to come out looking aglow and feeling half your age is just an added value.To find the right spa in the right place, Frommer's suggests: www.spaseurope.net, an encyclopedic site for Eastern Europe and Italian serious spas. Or phone 800-268-4155.

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Cycle it Off!!

By joining a congenial group of muscle-working, nature-loving, wine-tasting cyclists, a solo traveler is guaranteed a good, if not great, vacation, plus the chance to drop a couple of ounces. Best-known is Butterfield & Robinson, elegant, expensive and exceptional leader of the pack. Find all details at www.butterfield.com, or phone (800) 678-1147.

One of their newest bike tour itineraries covers the ground in and around beautiful Cape Town . Cycle choices abound: Bike Tours Direct at www.biketoursdirect.com or phone (877) 462-2423. A beautifully organized bank of tours all over the world. Backroads at www.backroads.com or phone (800) 462-2848. is their newest. Latitude at www.latitud90.co

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Bare Feet-Wild Winds 

Sail the Caribbean West Indian islands around St. Lucia and the Grenadines, listen to massive white sales flap, stop in charming ports, lounge on powdery beaches, read under swaying palms, and swim in calm turquoise waters. “Women Traveling Together,” a tour organizer, has reserved 12 cabins aboard the tall-masted 64-berth SV Yankee Clipper for one glorious week (6 nights), November 5-11, 2006.

For prices, details and daily itinerary click on http://www.women-traveling.com/

Windjammer Barefoot Cruises are not pricey, not dressy, fun, soft adventure Caribbean trips aboard tall-masted sailing ships. Since some bathrooms on some of the boats are shared, these cruises are also for the young, at least, at heart. Many repositioning special deals are available and cruises in low season offer discounted rates, some under $1000, and some include airfare. Excellent, clear, user-friendly website: www.windjammer.com or call (800) 327-2600.

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An energetic world-wide traveler and author of two guide books, Janet Kaplan Rodgers is vice president of a public relations firm devoted exclusively to travel.


Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips, 1st Edition (Special-Interest Titles)

 

 




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