Turkey – An EdenFYW Traveler’s View

A man who doesn’t think differently from his time and environment can’t grow beyond his time and environment. ~ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Please enjoy the following guest blog post from our dear client Mrs. Felicia G., who traveled to Turkey in April of 2018 with her husband.

Please put away any preconceived ideas you have about the country of Turkey! My husband and I recently visited Istanbul, Cappodocia and Izmir. In a nutshell, it is very safe and indredibly clean. The people of Turkey are warm, well educated, hospitable and excepting of all cultures. They also very much like Americans and the US, and almost everyone we spoke to had either been to the states or had a family member living in California.

The historical sites such as Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, and the Galata Tower in Istanbul will transport you to a time of ancient civilizations and their citizenry. The sites are easy to tackle and the transportation system in Turkey is very user friendly. Istanbul is a very modern city not unlike Paris for its museums and cultural offerings. The food is delicious and a visitor would have to make an effort to have a bad meal here!  I recommend a guide, and EdenFYW hooked us up with the best in every city we visited. I particularly like the shopping in the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. If you can recall from world history class, ancient Turkey was an integral part of the Silk Road which stretched from China through India, Turkey, Egypt parts of the African continent through Greece, Rome and Britain. The artisans and merchants of Turkey are well known for their rugs and textiles and we purchased several from the Turkish cooperatives we visited and we had fun bargaining with all of the various merchants who were very respectful if you decided against a particular item.

In Cappodocia, our hotel was luxurious as were all of them throughout the country.  We were scheduled for a balloon ride to see the geography of the area for which this region is know…the fairy chimneys. This is a must do. We were able to see how people lived in the caves in the local area, and in one such cave it was the owners grandparent’s home and he has made it his studio and souvenir shop. We missed the Argos castle unfortunately due to time but I always like to leave something for another visit. Again the people of the town were so hospitable and did everything they could to make your visit memorable.

Izmir, on the Agean Sea, is the gateway to the largest set of ruins of Ancient Rome and is a World Heritage Site. Our hotel was super high tech and we had a fantastic view of the water. Our guide was top-notch and even recommended some great places to dine after the sites of the day.  Once again EdenFYW did their magic. We definitely did not spend enough time here and am hoping to return!

All I can say to you is GO!  By the way, the dollar is very strong these days which made our trip even more enjoyable!

 

Epic Egypt

Epic Egypt

Can you see anything? It was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things.’ ~ Howard Carter, Tomb of Tuntankhamen.

We thought we’d have checked Egypt off our bucket list after our recent visit. It turns out we are going to keep it on, because it’s a destination worthy of a return. There is so much to see, so much to take in!

Here’s a glimpse into our adventure in January/February of 2017.

Day 1 – We arrived to Cairo late at night and our local partner’s handler and driver greeted us. It was an instant connection, one that grew into a friendship by the end of our ten-day adventure. Besides taking care of everything for us, they immediately made us feel as though we’d come home. While glued to the windows of our car the whole drive to the hotel, hoping for a glimpse of the Great Pyramids of Giza, we were briefed on the long and rich history of the city – the largest and most populated in the Arab world. We never did see the pyramids, before passing out on our comfy bed at the Four Seasons First Residence. But, we were tired from the long trip over and we couldn’t wait for our full day tour of ancient Cairo the next day.

Day 2 – We finally got our glimpse of the Great Pyramids (jaw dropping) as we drove past them to visit some even more ancient pyramids first; the Bent and Red Pyramids, and the complex and Pyramid of Saqqara. It may sound like a tease to work the tour this way, but trust us that this is the best way! Visiting these quieter and older sites first helped to put things into chronological and architectural order, it also allowed for the drama to build. After a delicious lunch, under the shadows of the Great Pyramids, at the historic Mena House Hotel (soon to be a JW Marriott), we finally descended on the grounds of the pyramids. Our knowledgeable guide walked us around the site and explained the usual details we’ve all learned about in world history class, but also enlightened us with facts that we’d not been privy to – until now. These monuments were the tallest man made buildings on earth until the erection of the Eiffel Tower, and contrary to popular history they were built by Egyptians who were honored to work on the projects, not slaves. We carried on with a visit to the pristinely preserved wooden Solar Boat, housed in a building at the foot of the Great Pyramid. Next, we met some friendly camels that gave us a ride around the complex and posed with us for a most memorable Instagram moment. Finally, we made our way to see the true beauty of the complex… The Sphinx! It’s hard not to be mesmerized by it’s thoughtful stature and gaze.

Day 3 – We departed Cairo and flew to Abu Simbel to see the impressive Temple of Ramses II and The Temple of Nefertari (his beloved wife). Do not miss this! These gorgeous temples were saved from drowning in 1968 when the Aswan Dam was built. Erected to impress the Nubian’s of Ramses’ might, they were relocated to their current site, nearly 100ft above where they once stood. We spent about an hour and a half marveling at them before we headed back to the airport for our flight to Aswan. Upon arrival and after a quick transfer from the airport, we checked into the grand dame of the city, the beautiful Old Cataract Hotel. What a great building, what great suites (with awesome views of the Nile), and what a great gym and spa! The perfect way to rest up before our big adventure started the next morning.

Day 4 – Thrilled to board the newly renovated and re-imagined Oberoi Philae, for our four night cruise down the Nile River. The ship is spectacular! Spacious, contemporary, well designed and thoughtfully planned to make the on-board experience elegant and relaxing. Our dreamy suite, the service and food for the next few days were the only things that could have possibly pulled us away from the amazing sights we were going to be visiting. Really, this is the best way to experience the Nile! First day was spent exploring the sites of and around Aswan itself; the old and new dams, a traditional Nubian village (alligators, camels, spices and all), and the gorgeously curate Nubian Museum. Next thing you know, we’re back on the Philae for cocktails, dinner and a great night sleep.

Day 5 – The day began early, so we could be among the first to explore the Philae Temple, located on Agilkia Island. The Philae is another of the many temples saved from drowning by the dams. This one, a beautiful Greco Roman influenced Egyptian temple, was dedicated to Isis. We loved that our cruise provided guide was amicable in starting tours as early as possible. We’re always up early and ready to head out anyway and we find it’s the best way to avoid crowds, which means we have more time to savor the sights and to get the best photos! After the visit we head back to the boat for a the most delicious lunch… Hawawshi. OMG, this sandwich became a favorite of ours and we had plenty more during the trip. After lunch, the captain set sail for Kom Ombo. Upon arrival there we explored the twin temples which are unique in Egypt as they were built to honor both the crocodile god Sobek and the falcon god Horus. After a quick visit we head back to ship and get ready to set sail again, for a couple of hours, before docking for the night at Edfu.

Day 6 – Good morning Edfu! We were whisked off to the Temple of Edfu by horse drawn carriage. Upon arrival we were blown away by the near perfect condition of this temple honoring Horus. It was a surreal experience to walk through doorways and into perfectly preserved sanctuaries decorated in relief sculptures that seemed though they could have been carved only years ago, not millennia. Again, our guide was always along to beautifully connect stories with everything we were seeing and photographing. After a couple of hours exploring the site, we headed back to the boat to set sail for Luxor.

Luxor was going to be epic! The city known as Thebes and once capital of ancient Egypt was home to some of its most significant archeological sites in Egypt. We could hardly wait to set our eyes on them. Upon arrival and docking, we hurried over to the Luxor Temple and explored it at night. What a vision to see is so wonderfully lit by spotlights and stars! Dedicated to the god Amun, the temple is awesome in scale. Its dramatic Sphinx lined causeway is one of the coolest vantage points for a photo. But, inside the ancient sanctuaries and along the massive colonnades that draw you into them, is where you’ll feel the true greatness of the complex. After finishing our tour at the Luxor Temple we headed back for dinner and bedtime on the Philae. We had a pre-dawn hot air balloon to catch the next morning.

Day 7 – We jumped out of bed, layered on the clothes, grabbed our boxed breakfasts and were taken to our launching pad… Hot air ballooning over the Valley of the Queens and along the villages and fields of Luxor was beautiful. There’s nothing quite like the quiet glide of a balloon, and really no better way to get a good sense for the layout of a destination. Needless to say, we loved every bit of the ride. After landing, we were driven to a meeting spot to connect back with our guide to start our full day of touring. Today’s sights included the Valley of the Kings, the artisans village, Habu Temple and the Karnak Temple. A big day to say the least!

We started off at Habu Temple, where we found ourselves practically alone, except for a couple of guards, a couple of local tourists and a friendly dog that followed us throughout the complex. What was most striking about Habu Temple was the depth of reliefs and hieroglyphics. We learned that it was an attempt to save the mark of the pharaoh from being destroyed by a future one, making chiseling it away nearly impossible. Next, we headed across the West side of the Nile to the artisans village. The discovery of this village shares some insight to the lives of the ordinary citizens of ancient Egypt. Their homes, often two stories and comfortable in size, were part of a village that housed a temple, and their tombs. It was a cool and unique glimpse into the more ordinary citizens of the ancient civilization. Next we headed to see the pharaoh’s tombs at the Valley of the Kings. Of course we freaked out, because it’s… ah-mazing! We visited several tombs in the area, each unique in size, depth, number of rooms, and quality of wall relief and/or painting. We even saw a couple of sarcophagi en-situ (in their original place), which really brings home that fact that these impressive and beautifully decorated man made caves are royal tombs – designed to last for eternity. But, the highlight was definitely visiting the tomb of the boy king, King Tutankhamen! Next, we filled up on some delicious lunch and followed that by a visit to Karnak. The largest of all temple complexes, Karnak is an impressive sight. Monumental obelisks, statues, columns and spaces dwarf us humans. Exhausted by the end of this awesome day of exploring, we headed back to the boat for our final night on board.

Day 8 – Sadly, we had to leave the Oberoi Philae this morning. But, we were happy to be met by one of our local partner’s guides again to continue the exploration of the area before heading back to Cairo. We had arranged a very special tour today, one that included Nefertari’s tomb, King Seti I’s tomb, and The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Just recently the Egyptian government had allowed more affordable and abundant access to these two tombs, and we were not going to miss the opportunity to see these two gems, known as some of the finest in the land. And, they did not disappoint! Nefertari’s tomb literally brought tears to our eyes. They majesty and love expressed in the fine wall art was unlike any other tomb or temple we had seen to this point. It was delicate, it was colorful, it was detailed, and it was one of the most moving expressions of art we’d ever seen. What made it even more amazing was that we were the only one’s in there, and the tomb guard who escorted us in was expecting our experience to be as moving as it was. He’d seen it’s affect on visitors before. Seti I’s tomb was gorgeous too. It was especially interesting because archeologists inside were in the process of exploring a new chamber, and allowed us to stick our heads in to take a peak at the giant room they were slowly excavating. Our final stop was Hatshepsut’s Temple. It too blew us away. Though ancient, it’s design looks modern. An impressive funerary temple built by the Queen to show how great she truly was, even in the afterlife.

After seeing the three sites, we headed to the airport and flew to Cairo. Upon arrival to Cairo, we made a quick check-in to the Ritz-Carlton Cairo, took an even quicker shower and we were off to our local partner’s private home for a lovely night and delectable dinner made by his wife. Stuffed and happy to be surrounded by such welcoming friends we shared stories of our epic week and exchanged big hugs before heading back to the hotel. Heads on the pillows and dreaming of our next day…

Day 9 – Alexandria was a 3 hour drive from Cairo, but we had to do it. We had to see what this place was all about, so we headed out with our driver, guide and escort. It was a busy city on the Mediterranean Sea, it was founded by Alexander the Great, it was home to what was known as the greatest library in history, it was the sight of the lighthouse that was a wonder of the world, it was also home of the legendary tales of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The ancient sites are mainly of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Not much of the ancient’s ancient archeological sites are visible. Today, it is a popular destination for Egyptians to hit the beach, to live it up in the Summer and to get there seafood fix. For visitors, it’s most interesting attractions are underwhelming compared to the rest of the sites. We were glad to have seen it, and what we saw was nice, but honestly not after comparing it to what we’d already seen in Egypt and what we’ve seen in Greece, Italy, Southern France or Spain. We did have a some great food along the way though, before heading back to Cairo.

Day 10 – Our last full day in Egypt… and we saved the city of Cairo and it’s best for last! After a fantastic breakfast at the hotel with lots of Egyptian deliciousness, including Foul (recipe below), we were off on our guided tour of the city’s highlights. First we hit the Egyptian Museum where we were overwhelmed by the number of objects and riches displayed. There is no shortage of ancient Egyptian artifacts. The place if full to the brim! So, it’s a great thing that they’re building the new GEM (Grand Egyptian Museum) at the foot of the pyramids to better house these gems. The highlight of the museum is of course the Treasures of King Tut. How lucky are we all that these treasures were discovered nearly in tact and available for all to marvel at today. They are simply stunning!

Next, we headed to see some of the Islamic monuments and sites of the city. We were transported through traffic and time to the spectacular Al Rifa’i Mosque and Mosque and Madrassa of Sultan Hassan. Both massive, both so elegantly covered in colored stone and carved stones with Koranic inscriptions and vegetal motifs. Yet, through this decoration and with carpets and lanterns, the spaces felt intimate and peaceful. We also visited the Royal tombs there, including that of the late Shah of Iran. Afterwards, we headed to the Islamic Quarter of Cairo. Behind it’s gorgeous gated walls we were amazed to find ourselves immersed in a city still looking and working as it had been for centuries. Spectacular Islamic architecture everywhere, bustling crowds, shopping, eating and vendors of all things… a feast for the senses. This was definitely a highlight of our time in Cairo! There we settled in for our last dinner in Egypt and savored every bite and memory of the trip.

Day 11 – This day came too soon, it was time to leave Egypt and head back home. We were not quite ready to leave our friends and felt like there was much more to discover in this beautiful country. They people made us feel at home and comfortable. Everyone was so welcoming and grateful that we had come to visit, despite the media’s narrow insights. We were glad we did and we’ll go back… there’s more ‘eden’ in Egypt to see!

Here is our travel video, so you can see a little bit of why it’s so epic:  EGYPT

Foul Beans – a most delicious staple in Egyptian cuisine. Great on it’s own or along side many other Mediterranean or Latin/Mexican dishes. It’s less carbs and calories than black or pinto beans to boot!

  • 16oz can of small Fava beans (ful medames)
  • 1 small red onion
  • garlic
  • salt, pepper, chili pepper flakes
  • parsley
  • green pepper
  • tomato
  • lemon
  • olive oil

Chop the onion and add it to a pot with some olive oil (save a bit for garnish later). Saute until translucent, then add the garlic and toss for another minute or two (do not brown). Add the whole can of beans, liquid and all to the pot. As it begins to heat, mash it with a potato masher until nearly all of the beans are macerated. Add salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste. Add in some lemon juice to taste. Transfer the beans to a serving bowl and top with a bit of olive oil and garnish with chopped green peppers, tomatoes, and parsley as you like. Enjoy!

Let’s begin planning your journey to Egypt. We’ll make sure you choose the best time of year to visit, design a custom itinerary that will fit your interests, choose the perfect guides and hotels and organize all the details so that all it’s epic! Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit: info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use, unless otherwise permitted. Thank you! #EdenFYW

 

The Galapagos

[The traveler] may feel assured, he will meet with no difficulties or dangers, excepting in rare cases, nearly so bad as he beforehand anticipates. In a moral point of view, the effect ought to be, to teach him good-humored patience, freedom from selfishness, the habit of acting for himself, and of making the best of every occurrence. . . Traveling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover, how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance. ~ Charles Darwin

Eden For Your World does the Galapagos – but, not the blog. Please enjoy the following guest blog post from our dear guest Mrs. Josephine M., who accompanied us, along with her family, to experience the magic of the islands!

I have been fortunate to travel to many places in the world with trips planned by Eden for Your World. They have arranged travels to Asia, Europe, South America, and the South Pacific. I can assure you that as outstanding and memorable each of those trips have been, I have truly never experienced anything like the trip we took to the Galapagos.

It all started about two years ago… John and Kasra, at Eden For Your World, thought, wouldn’t it be fun to gather a small group of people and not just book them on a trip but lead the excursion…to the Galapagos! Along with their partners in Ecuador, they designed a trip of a lifetime! They sent out a feeler email to see if anyone was interested. I saw the email and before a minute had passed my entire family was on board. We responded immediately. Our quick reaction paid off – John and Kasra were inundated with responses. Seems everyone was anxious to explore the world with the two of them. From then on it was in their hands and it was a breeze. We were given details, updates, and payment timelines. They communicated with us via email, phone and social media. They sent pictures and relevant articles to spark our imagination. They sent guidelines on what to pack, how to tip, and local customs to ease our minds. They even arranged a wonderful reception at their home so that we could meet all of our travel companions and had representatives to answer all of our specific questions. You know the pressing questions like: What is the exchange rate? (None – the Ecuadorians use the US dollar), is their WIFI? (only some places). And the ever important question; do you have ice-cream on board? (asked by my daughter and yes, they do).

We started our trip in Quito, the capital and largest city in Ecuador. We stayed at Plaza Grande Hotel in the colonial section of Quito. The hotel is full of old world charm with the benefits of all the modern day conveniences you want. The central, historic, part of the city is quite spectacular. It is a UNESCO World Heritage city, because of it’s well preserved Spanish Colonial architecture.

We enjoyed a personally guided day tour of this enchanting city and the surrounding areas. This is a city of cobblestone streets and breath-taking churches. We started our tour at La Basilica, a Gothic church renowned for its soaring buttresses and rose windows. Unique to Ecuadorian architecture the stained glass windows feature orchids in the designs and instead of gargoyles native animals serve to protect the edifice.

We were then off to the Intinan Museum at the middle of the world. Yes, the EXACT middle of the Earth. This outdoor museum showed how native Ecuadorians lived, which was enough to make it worthwhile but the real excitement came when we stood on the Equator. We were always taught that this is an imaginary line that separates the Northern from the Southern Hemisphere. It is so much more than that. It is the place where the magnetic forces of the poles cancel each other out. Did you know that it is really hard to walk directly on the Equator? The best part of this museum was that it gave everyone in the group a chance to learn and laugh together. It was a great bonding experience that made the rest of our trip even more memorable.

Then it was back into the city with a visit to Capilla de los Milagros, a small 16th century chapel. While this chapel had all of the charm that one would hope for and expect it was what followed that truly took our breath away. We exited the church into a dazzling enclosed courtyard. Whitewashed walls -hand laid stone terraces and a bell tower that reached to an impossibly blue sky. In the shade of a small group of trees a table for 18 was set as traditional music played in the background and women dressed in authentic costumes handed us traditional refreshments. It was like walking onto a movie set. We feasted on four courses of authentic Ecuadorian cuisine while enjoying traditional dances from brightly clothed dancers. And of course Eden For Your World had worked their usual magic and surprised one of our young travelers who is a budding chef with the privilege of cooking along side the chef.

Not to be outdone we were off to another grand church, the Iglesia de la Compania. This one’s interior was entirely covered in gold leaf and is home to a most spectacular altar. We then rounded out the afternoon with a stroll through the quaint plazas that dot the old part of the city to window shop (and souvenir shop) authentic handcrafts for which Ecuador is famous.

That evening EdenFYW gave all of us a spectacular treat. They hosted a dinner at Casa Gangotena for all of us. Casa Gangotena is a spectacular hotel two plazas over from our hotel. So that evening under old-fashioned lamplight we strolled through town to Casa Gangotena. This grand hotel was once home to an old aristocratic family. We walked into the marble hall and made our way to the solarium where we enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail. Then off to a gilded dining room for dinner. Ecuadorians enjoy colorful, playful food and enjoy a varied palate. This was evidence from the very start. We were served bread. Then out came a platter with eight tiny bowls lined up; eight varied and intriguing dipping sauces for the bread. My favorite was a beet and horseradish combination. The food was glorious, the atmosphere joyous and the conversation, marvelous. It was if the 18 of us had known each other all of our lives and had always traveled together. Then another leisurely stroll back to our hotel and a welcomed night sleep in a very comfortable bed.

The following day we set off for the Galapagos Islands. The organized transfer, flights and VIP arrival at the Baltra airport could not have been easier…

Then we saw her. The M/Y Grace (I refer to her as the Grace. M/Y is her official title as she is a motor yacht. At the time she was commissioned motor yachts were not as common as they are today. )

She had all of the style, glamour and old world grace we had hoped for (pun intended). The furnishings are classic yet comfortable. This was a yacht that was designed for the comfort of her guests without a lot of the trappings and space conserving mis-steps you see in more modern vessels. The outdoor space is designed to allow cooling breezes and warm sun when you want them and shade and respite from the wind when you need it.

There were 18 of us on board and a staff of 15. I could go on for pages on the virtues of the staff, individually and as a group, but suffice to say that they take their jobs very seriously and our comfort and safety were of paramount importance to them. They were warm and kind and very knowledgeable.

What many people do not know about the Galapagos is that tourism is very well controlled and restricted. The Ecuadorians want tourists to enjoy this natural wonder but respect it enough to keep numbers of people in check so that we do not disturb the natural order of the islands. Because of this the schedule that we had was dictated by the National Park. We were given windows of times to be at certain islands then we were required to pull up anchor and move on. Here lies the biggest benefit for traveling with Eden For Your World and the Quasar Group (which owns the Grace). Because there were only 18 of us we had the flexibility to make changes within our set time frames to take full advantage of opportunities as they arose. I will get to that in a bit.

We spent 8 days on the boat. The days started with a wake-up call and either a hike on an island or a snorkel. Then back to the boat for breakfast. After breakfast we would head out for another hike or snorkel followed by lunch and an afternoon hike or snorkel and or cruise to a new island. Follow that by wrap of the day’s events and with slide show of the highlights of the day (another of John’s many talents) and finally dinner under the stars.

Let me take a minute to tell you that the food on board was ridiculously good. They joked that the chef was going to try to put weight on us while the guides would try to work it off of us. I think the chef won. Every meal featured fresh fruits and vegetables, soups and salads main dishes and dessert. Yes, we had dessert twice a day every day. Correction, we had fabulous, decadent, handmade desserts, twice a day, every day.

Now, onto the good stuff. What you’ve been waiting to hear. Is the Galapagos as good as you hear? No, it is so much better. It is truly better than you can imagine. On our first day, our first excursion we landed on a beach with 30+ sea lions that were basking in the sand. Was it roped off? NO! We were there within feet (sometimes inches) of these animals. Now, they do have rules. You may not touch the wild life – and they are serious about that. But if the wildlife touches you, that is okay. One sea lion walked up to a member of our party and brushed its whiskers against her leg (that is how they explore).

The two naturalists we had with us knew absolutely EVERYTHING about everything that had to do with the islands. They knew each animal, plant, rock, bird, and all of the history of these wonderful islands and they were funny and interesting to boot. They made sure that all of us no matter our age or ability truly enjoyed our experience. They were able to custom tailor each experience because there were two of them.

I will now list for you all of the animals we saw – up close.

  • Sea lions (they love to swim with people)
  • White tipped sharks (yes, we did swim with them too)
  • Penguins
  • Land iguanas
  • Sea iguanas (little known fact that they are the only ones that swim in the world. They are black prehistoric looking and a little disconcerting when they slither through the water using only their tails
  • Sea turtles (we swam with them too)
  • Sea stars, sea anemones, huge schools of fish
  • Hammer head sharks
  • Jelly fish
  • Sea horses
  • Rays
  • Dozens of species of birds, including of course the famous blue footed boobies
  • Crabs – lots and lots of crabs
  • Giant tortoise

Wow! That is amazing. Is that all you saw? Why no, it’s not. Remember I told you about the ability of this group to take advantage of opportunities when they arose. One day before the morning snorkel, someone spotted a killer whale off the bow. Yes that is right, a killer whale. Down went to pangas (little boats that shuttle you from ship to shore), and off everyone went. Now, it would be dangerous to swim with them but the pangas got within 20 feet of the whale that breached several times. The next day, a pod of dolphins was sited – down went the pangas filled with passengers/snorkelers (kids still in the PJs). It was thrilling and wonderful.

The days were filled with so many wonderful, astonishing, memorable moments. It was truly a life changing experience. What a great “family” we had become over our week on board together.

Upon our return some of us headed back to the States, while others headed out to Mashpi Lodge, and eco-resort in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. [Please see next blog post]

If this trip sounds like a trip of a lifetime and I assure it was. The thing is every trip that EdenFYW has planned for us is a trip of a lifetime. The thought that they put into every detail is unsurpassed in the industry. They leave nothing to chance. They are always just a phone call away if you ever need them. But to have John and Kasra actually with us made the trip all the more special.

Here is our Galapagos travel video, so you can see a why you must go: The Galapagos

Enjoy more photos on our Facebook, Galapagos, album: Galapagos 2015

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use, unless otherwise permitted. Thank you! #EdenFYW

Incredible India

India – the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. ~ Mark Twain.

Well, Mark Twain nailed it! India is a land that is on practically every “bucket list” and it’s there for many good reasons. It is there because it’s a pilgrimage site for all travelers! Whether it be religions, foods, unique cultures, architecture styles, textiles & jewelry, the arts, exotic flora and fauna, geographical beauty, finding your inner yogi, escaping the ordinary, exploring the extraordinary, humanitarian travel or indulgence in luxury travel – you will find it in this massive country.

India is a “khwab ghad”, a dream land.

You will be mesmerized from the moment you set foot on it’s soil. You will be blown away by the  chaos, and by the peace you will find within yourself while amidst it. Yes, that is contradictory, but, so is India. A long blog about everything you can do and see, or even everything we did and saw is redundant. Just go! Do not be afraid of getting Delhi belly (we did and it was worth it), don’t be dissuaded by concerns of seeing things that are too third world (we did and it was worth it), don’t be concerned about having to see it all at once (you will be back!). India is rose petals being thrown upon your head, cardamom, kindness, gold and glitter – mixed with indoor cows, zippy three wheeled Autos and some heat. It works… it’s INCREDIBLE!

Here is a breakdown of Eden For Your World’s visit to India in April of 2015:

  • Delhi. The capital city and a sprawling city (the third largest in the country).
  • Udaipur. The romantic city and the “Venice of the East”. Built around lakes, dotted with palaces and home of the Rajputs.
  • Varanasi. The spiritual capital of India. One of the oldest continually inhabited cities on the planet. Built on the banks of Ganga, the sacred Ganges River.
  • Agra. You know…home of the Taj Mahal!
  • Jaipur. The “pink city”. Alive and vibrant, and our favorite spot for shopping.

Here is our travel video, so you can see a little bit of why it’s so incredible:  INDIA

Let us assist you in designing your visit to India.  With first hand knowledge and our personal connections with the best service providers and hotel operators, we’ll create the perfect experience tailored to your interests and comfort level.  Speaking of comfort level… we’d like to thank our friends at Peirce & Leslie, The Taj Group of Hotels, The Leela Hotels, Oberoi Hotels and ITC Mughal for making sure we always were.

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit: info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use. Thank you! #edenfyw

 

Luxury Hideaways in Vietnam

A day of traveling will bring a basketful of learning. ~ Vietnamese Proverb.

It was so great to be back in Vietnam!  It had been eight years since our last visit, and we couldn’t wait to discover new places and return to one place we fell in love with before.  Albeit, this trip’s mission was going to be a little different than the last…

This time we wanted to see less city and more beach!  And, that we did.  In one week we packed in three of the countries most incredible luxury beach resorts, an art deco treasure in it’s ancient capital and it’s newest and most glamorous hotel in the heart of Saigon.  Below you’ll find brief bits about each of the stops, along with photos and videos.  Hope you enjoy the tour and that we’ve inspired you to visit (or return).

AMANOI

Named for the Sanskrit-derived word for ‘peace’ and noi meaning ‘place’, Amanoi is a tranquil retreat situated on a beautiful white-sand beach overlooking spectacular Vinh Hy Bay, in one of the country’s largest natural conservation areas.  Nui Chua National Park protects an area of more than 29,000 hectares of pristine coastal and marine habitats in Ninh Thuan Province, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

All you need to do is fly into Nha Trang and the rest is taken care of by Amanoi.  You’ll quickly get whisked away in your wifi equipped SUV for the 1.5 hour drive (the roads are a bit of mess currently, as they’re under construction) to this most “peaceful place”.

  • jaw-dropping beauty in architecture and design
  • spectacular Aman Spa and large fully equipped fitness center
  • intimate and quite, perfect for those seeking privacy and exclusivity
  • two gorgeous pools and a beach club (if your villa doesn’t have it’s own pool)
  • plenty of nature related activities in and around the resort to keep you happy

EdenFYW guests recieve these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests served in the restaurant
-A comp. lunch for up to two people once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities
-Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability

See our video:  Amanoi

SIX SENSES NINH VAN BAY

The resort is nestled in a dramatic bay that gives the feeling of an island, with impressive rock formations and overlooking the sea. A golden sand beach and towering mountains add to the sense of being intimately at one with nature. The family friendly resort presents the reality of the destination, with an architectural style incorporating traditions of Vietnam. The resort is a sanctuary for all the senses while maintaining a sustainable and Eco-friendly environment.

Not accessible by land.  You’ll fly into Da Nang, drive about 45 minutes to Six Senses’ private dock.  From there you’ll catch their speed boat for the 20 minute ride to paradise.

  • eco-luxury all the way!
  • our favorite accommodations are the beach villas and the rock villas (each with private pool)
  • several dining options, from casual to elegant and comp. scoops at the ice cream shop!
  • relaxed atmosphere is great for families or romance
  • greet reef in directly in front of the resort for snorkeling or diving

EdenFYW guests recieve these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-One complimentary half-hour massage for up to two, per room
-Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

See our video:  Six Senses Ninh Van Bay

THE NAM HAI

Sitting on an enviable stretch of Ha My Beach near historic Hoi An, The Nam Hai is a prestigious luxury resort catering to the savviest of travelers. Architecture and nature harmonize in a lush setting, making the most of views across the East Sea and the surrounding tropical grounds. Each villa is an immaculate escape complete with indoor and outdoor sitting areas and, in the case of the Pool Villas, a private swimming pool.

Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Da Nang airport.

  • just minutes to Hoi An, our favorite town in Vietnam
  • beautifully appointed stand alone villas
  • incredible Leading Spa, one of the best in Vietnam
  • several wonderful dining options, including the best breakfast in the country
  • impeccable service
  • large beach resort with all the luxury fixings

EdenFYW guests receive these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
-A complimentary 50-minute massage for up to two people, per room, once during stay
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

See our video:  The Nam Hai

LA RESIDENCE HUE

The best luxury option in the ancient royal capital of Hue. Set on the banks of the fabled Perfume River overlooking the former Imperial Citadel – once home to Emperors and now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Endowed with opulence, excellence and warmth, this former residence of the French Colonial Governor was painstakingly restored in 2005 and redeveloped as an exceptional design hotel. The hotel’s distinctive bowed façade, long horizontal lines and nautical flourishes are hallmarks of the 1930’s streamline moderne school of art deco architecture.

Just a 30-40 minute drive to the Hue airport.

  • elegant and comfortable
  • centrally located for a stay while exploring the former ancient citidel and the royal tombs scattered around the city

THE REVERIE SAIGON

The Reverie Saigon is the ultimate luxury hotel, providing a one-of-a-kind modern lifestyle by successfully combining Vietnam’s local warmth and familiar comforts of home with the luxurious pampering of a five-star hotel. The hotel offers exceptional guest rooms and spacious suites in Ho Chi Minh City with breathtaking views of the Saigon River city.

Note: We visited during a very soft opening. Despite the fact that they were just getting going, the service and amenities were spot on.  We’re just sorry we didn’t get to see the amazing spa finished… next time!

Conveniently located in the heart of the city, just 30 minutes from the international airport (depending on traffic).

  • Italian design and craftsmanship on steroids, opulent and glamorous decor everywhere
  • close to everything in the city; market, luxury shopping, opera, dining, river (for cruisers) and landmarks
  • floor to ceiling windows in all guest rooms, with great views
EdenFYW guests receive these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests in restaurant
-$100 USD equivalent food & beverage credit
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit. info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use. Thank you! #edenfyw

 

It’s Time For Myanmar

You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself ~ Buddha

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard all the buzz surrounding travel to Myanmar in the past couple of years.  Well, let us tell you, Myanmar is worthy of the buzz!  But, if you like to be the one whose “discovered” a place, or you want to be ahead of the game… you best go soon.  It’s time for Myanmar – NOW!

Once you’ve discovered a place it’s likely that others have as well (and usually with an eye for development).  And, Myanmar is no exception.  It is poised for some big changes in the next few years, both good and bad.  The country is modernizing at a fast pace.  Domestic and foreign investment will inevitably bring more first world comforts to the nation; consistency in electricity and water, better roads… the usual.  With that will come growth and globalization.  In fact while we were in Yangon we heard of six new large luxury hotel projects in works, not to mention several new large scale residential/commercial developments.  Needless to say, it’ll be less likely to see an ox and cart coasting along the side of you on your way to town, and you’ll be sitting in a lot of traffic to get anywhere.  The change is happening beyond Yangon too, we saw the changes creeping into Bagan, Mandalay and beyond.  It’s all going to be good, it’s just going to get busier and be a bit more of the same same.  So, it’s time for Myanmar!

Yangon is big, busy, dusty and okay for a night or two.  It’s your port of entry, so you might as well enjoy a couple nights at Belmond’s Govorner’s Residence (if you want to be in a quieter residential neighborhood) or The Strand Yangon (if you want to be in the center of town).  They’re both great luxury options and both beautiful.  But, beyond the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda, a typical covered market selling chachkies and the crazy night market with it’s human run ferris wheel, there’s not much to hang around for.

Our suggestion is to get on board a fabulous river boat and cruise along the Ayeyarwady River to marvel at the unspoiled countryside of Myanmar!  They’re you will find life as it’s been for millennia.  Witness farming, fishing, weaving, praying and playing as you slowly make your way to ports to uncover the history and cultural wonders the Myanmar people have given all of us.  Highlights will undoubtedly be Bagan, Mandalay (and surrounds) and Mingun.  There are few wonderful options for river cruising and more are coming soon.  But, we would definitely suggest experiencing it with Belmond.  They’ve been there and doing it longer than anyone, and have been doing it really well!  We loved our time aboard the Road to Mandalay.  The ship, the staff, the service, the guests, the excursions… golden, like the pagodas that dot the riverbanks.

This blog is not going to give you political/historical facts, spout off data about the country, or give you an art historians review of the incredible marvels in architecture that you’ll see in Myanmar. The purpose of this blog is to entice you to go now and encounter Myanmar’s lovely people and to experience their beautiful culture, before it changes.  Discover the above mentioned  yourself when you visit.  But, we’d like to offer you a glimpse below through our photos and in our video.  Note:  It’s safe, you are welcome to visit and don’t call it Burma anymore.

Eden For Your World’s Myanmar Video:  Myanmar

Two of our favorite things: 

Water bowls or jugs with cups everywhere… you’ll find them in the city on street corners or in front of homes, and you’ll find them in the country along the road or at the market.  They’re thoughtfully placed around by whomever to offer a quench of thirst for anybody passing by.

Tea Leaf Salad. YUM! Here is a link to our recipe: Laphet Thoke

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit.  info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use. Thank you! #edenfyw

 

 

Rosewood London Calling

Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ~ Samuel Johnson

Welcome to London, welcome to the world… We came, we walked, we shopped, we ate, we museum-ed, we pub-ed, we stayed in luxury, but, we’ll never be royals.

Samueul Johnson’s quote says it best.  London is full of life. There is so much to see and do in the city, that you’ll feel like you can never do it all. Like any big European city it has museums, cultural sites and arts, shopping, dining and local attractions that can keep you going nonstop. But, the core of the city is quite manageable in size and you can realistically walk by everything on your list quite easily.  May we just say that the we love the Victoria and Albert and British Museums. They are both so beautifully curated! They each have just enough of the empire’s amazing booty to keep you interested in visiting every one of their galleries. In London there’s a vibe and a pace that is so similar to what we find in the big cities of the U.S., but it is definitely unlike anything at home. It’s very cosmopolitan and very English at the same time. That’s what we love about it! Friendly faces and a familiar language make it easy to strike up conversations with locals and visitors alike (usually over a pint). However, getting around is not so easy.  We found the traffic to be as frustrating as it is in L.A.. So after a few private car transfers and taxi rides we opted for the Underground. It’s everywhere, it’s easy and it’s clean. Mind the gap!

You’ll enjoy the sites of course, but, you’ll also love exploring all of London’s unique neighborhoods.  Each with it’s it own vibe and energy. Visit Knightsbridge for a glimpse at some of the most gorgeous town houses and some of the haute-est cuisine in town. Check out SOHO at any time of day (or night) for non-stop action and energy.  Bloomsbury is a good respite from the fast pace, and it’s picturesque tree lined streets are just steps away from theaters and retail therapy. You know you have to see Kensington and Chelsea, it’s so London! Needless to say, there is a neighborhood for your every mood.  Just don’t forget to wave to the Queen when you pass her pad in Westminster.

Speaking of pads, London has no shortage of excellent luxury accommodations to choose from.  On this occasion we choose to stay at the beautiful Rosewood London.

Rosewood London

Hotel of the Year 2014 – Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards

Housed in a 1914 Edwardian Belle Époque building, Rosewood London is steeped in history. Its 262 guestrooms and 44 generously appointed suites, created by renowned New York-based Tony Chi and Associates, are inspired by a traditional British manor house and evoke that of a true London residence. Rooms are designed to provide a series of discoveries to surprise, please and amuse guests by doormen in tweed caps enter through wrought iron gates, into the peaceful courtyard giving a sense of arrival more akin to a private manor house than a hotel. Rosewood London embraces guests within one of London’s most historic locales. The central location, moments from Covent Garden, near an eclectic arcade of ultra-luxury boutiques on Lamb’s Conduit Street, the British Museum, Theaterland and the Royal Opera House.

EFYW guests receive the following exclusive benefits:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability.
-Daily Full English Breakfast.
-$100 USD Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay.
-Early check-in/late check-out,subject to availability.

See London and the hotel in our video: Rosewood London

Dining (here’s where we ate or drank and loved it):

  • Gymkhana
  • Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill
  • Berners Tavern at The London Edition
  • China Tang at the Dorchester
  • Scarfe’s Bar at the Rosewood London

Contact your EdenFYW advisor to begin planning your visit to London: info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by #edenfyw, therefore, are only for us to use. Thank you!

 

Paris! Paris! Paris!

Je suis sous le charme! 

Paris is magic!  Anyone who tells you different is confused!

We happened to fall upon it during the winter holidays.  It was the first time we’d been there to witness no leaves on the trees and very little of the quintessential overflow of Parisian diners being beautiful at outdoor cafes.  Not even the bitter cold (for us Californians) could stop us from walking the city day and night, all the while in awe of it’s elegance.  Yes, it was lovely.  But, it was also a bit like guiding the lily… Paris is so incredibly beautiful on it’s own, without festooned garlands down every street and big glittery bows adorning it’s grand palace facades. Nevertheless, the city was alive and gorgeous as ever.

Paris is organized, it’s distinct neighborhoods, it’s grand, it’s manageable, it’s museums, it’s boutiques, it’s cafes (we have new favorites), it’s chic, and it’s just too pretty to describe in words.  The big, luxurious, city can be can be anything you want it to be.  Whether you’re looking to eat, shop, get enlightened or just relax, it’s all there for you to discover.  Paris is comprised of twenty neighborhoods (arrondissements) that each have a particular feel.  It’s important to choose the location of your accommodations appropriately according to how you’d like to enjoy your stay.  There is definitely no shortage on variety of hotel/apartment types in the city.  We’re here to make that decision easier for you (read more about where we stayed below).  Needless to say, we’ve done our homework on the City of Light and we’ve got you covered.

About that… City of Light vs. City of Lights thing… We are on the City of Light team.  Paris was know as the “ville lumière”, which was meant to express Paris’ enlightenment in terms of the arts, culture and learning. Thought the city it lit beautifully, it’s clear that the city was and is still enlightened!

If it’s your first visit, plan on staying at least five nights.  You would kill yourself if you stayed any less.  If you’re returning or haven’t been for a while, be sure to visit the new Fondation Louis Vuitton that Frank Ghery designed and the newly reopened Picasso Museum.  Both amazing!

Oh, and Parisians like us (if you’re cool).  Anyone who tells you different is confused!

Let’s start planning your visit to the City of Light.  Sante!

~ ~ ~

LE BRISTOL PARIS

Within walking distance of the Champs Elysées and the Louvre, the impeccable Le Bristol Paris occupies one of the city’s most elegant shopping streets, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The hotel features 188 rooms, including 92 suites, each decorated in luxurious chintz fabrics and rare antique furnishings. Guestrooms are among the largest in Paris! Le Bristol offers an air of seclusion in its peaceful garden setting. Rare for Paris, Le Bristol features a vast interior courtyard garden, the largest of its kind. Equally impressive is the hotel’s swimming pool located on the sixth floor with stunning city views.

Fun fact: On some Saturdays, the elegant Castellane salon hosts fashion high teas, featuring designer cakes (the BEST croissants in town) and the latest collections…

EFYW guests receive the following exclusive benefits:
-Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability (up to deluxe Junior suite. Higher categories are on arrival, subject to availability).
-Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests at their Bar or in our main restaurant Epicure.
-$100 USD Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay.
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.

See Paris and the hotel in our video:  Le Bristol

PLAZA ATHENEE PARIS

Practically synonymous with Paris, Hôtel Plaza Athénée brims with all the elegance one would expect of a classic hotel situated between the Champs-Élysées and the Eiffel Tower. Located on the prestigious Avenue Montaigne, at the crossroads of fashion, entertainment and business, the Hôtel Plaza Athénée represents a delicate balance of refinement and luxury.The lobby is a vision in “Plaza red,” terra cotta, gold and bronze — accents you’ll discover in your room as well. Each of the 148 guestrooms and 46 suites offers windows that open to the Eiffel Tower, Avenue Montaigne, La Cour Jardin, the inner courtyard or the rooftops of Paris. See and be seen in one of several acclaimed dining options, including Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée.

Fun fact: As part of Paris’ citywide bicycle program, called Vélib, the hotel provides complimentary bikes with shopping totes for guests’ use.

EFYW guests receive the following exclusive benefits:
-Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests.
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability.
-85 EUR Spa Services credit to be utilized during stay.
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.

See Paris and the hotel in our video:  Plaza Athenee

Photos and media are all by #edenfyw, therefore, are only for us to use.  Merci!

 

AMANGIRI

Now I walk in beauty, beauty is before me, beauty is behind me, above and below me. ~ Traditional Navajo Prayer

Fused with the ancient rock formations of the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah, AMANGIRI truly embody’s it’s namesake as a “peaceful mountain”.

AMANGIRI is in spectacular territory, just a twenty five minute drive outside of Page, Arizona and situated within sight distance of Lake Powell and Escalante National Park and about 2 hours from all the gems of the Southwest (the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches National Park, to name a few). The resort itself is no less spectacular than it’s surroundings.  It’s simple lines, concrete walls and neutral palate harmonize beautifully with the sand, buttes and brush that it’s nestled in. Owners and architects of the resort camped for weeks on the land to understand the landscape and to be certain it’s footprint would take full advantage of the areas natural structures.  They definitely succeeded in creating an extraordinary property. Built around a central swimming pool with spectacular views, the resort simply melts into it’s dramatic backdrop.  The resort offers 34 luxury suites (six with private pools), a stand alone four bedroom villa (more to come soon), dining room, private dining room, cellar, living room, gallery, library (soon to be converted into a bar), swimming pool, an outdoor desert lounge, and of course a stunning AMAN Spa.

The resort itself is enough reason to visit.  In fact, we want to go back to spend more time taking advantage of the gorgeous spa, fitness facilities, pool and to simply soak up the signature AMAN zen vibe.  It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind.  The scenery and blue skies will quickly absorb any stress that tagged along.  However, the resort’s 600 acres and it’s surrounds offer active temptations that are too good to pass.  Just try to choose from all that is offered at and around the resort:  hiking, biking, customized rock climbing (including the Via Ferrata and suspension bridge), canyoneering, horseback riding, paleontology, Navajo cultural experiences, scenic helicopter and fixed wing tours, hot air ballooning, fly fishing and float trips on the Colorado River, boating and fishing on Lake Powell, Slot Canyon tours, nature and of course historical tours to nearby National Parks.

It’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, get in touch with your adventurous self, enjoy time with the family or to simply unwind.

Your EFYW advisor is ready to start designing your AMANGIRI experience.

Rates are per room, per night, based on single or double occupancy and begin at 1,200 USD.  Rates include full board for two people, as well as complimentary airport transfers from Page Municipal Airport, daily guided group hikes, daily morning group yoga classes, daily afternoon group mat-based strength and stretch classes and access to facilities at the fitness and water pavilions.  Special yoga, and seasonal packages are available as well.

EFYW guests will receive these additional benefits:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability.
  • Toiletry kit with Amangiri’s signature sage shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and body wash.
  • Choice of 30 minute scalp massage or neck/shoulder massage.
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.

See more of the resort in our travel video.  Make sure to watch the in HD:  AMANGIRI

Recipe:  Signature AMANGIRI Lemonade
1Cup Sugar
4Cups Hot Water
2Cups Fresh Squeezed Lemons
1Cup Sage and Mint
Method:
1. Add enough hot water to sugar in order for it to dissolve.
2  Steep fresh sage & fresh mint in 4Cups of boiling water until water is noticeably green.
3. Add lemon juice, as well as the sage and mint tea.
4. Allow to cool.  Add more sugar water or lemon juice according to taste.
5. Enjoy!

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