Travel Blog

I recently had an opportunity to visit France. France has something for everyone from history, art, architecture, food, wine, chocolate, beaches and even Disneyland! The United States and France have been friends and allies for hundreds of year which is evident in the memorials and monuments that dot both countries such as our Statue of Liberty to the monuments, cemeteries and memorials in Normandy.

My recent visit to France took me from Paris to Normandy and then to the south of France. My purpose for the first week was history, art and architecture. My purpose for the second week was a Uniworld Cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers.

Time is too short for the many museums and monuments of the city. Prioritize and go early. I chose quality time in specific locations over trying to see everything. I did spend time at Notre Dame including hiking to the top, which commands an amazing view of Paris and listening to the bells. I spent a full day at the Louvre. In one day you cannot even walk through the entire museum,. One evening I took a tour of the Eiffel Tour and went to the summit. My guide pointed out the Paris view and 1,000 years of history as your eye travels from Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arch de Triumph to the modern city of La Defense. I also visited The Medieval Museum to view beautiful tapestries, and St Chappelle to appreciate the stained glass windows.

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It is often said that you can’t fully understand Italy until you’ve been to Sicily because it, the Mediterranean’s largest island, is a microcosm of the varying cultures that have created the Italy we know today. So to complete my knowledge of Italy, I decided to go to Sicily.

I traveled in late September and found out it is a very good time. The weather was very pleasant and the crowds minimal. I rented a car and spent 9 days traveling around the island especially looking for archaeological sites. Sicily has experienced the influences of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Spanish, German, French and Papal conquest, leaving a rich cultural pastiche. And in this pastiche is included the influence of the Arabs. A fabulous gift in my opinion.

I started my journey in Catania where I just spent one night. I did not have time to Summit Europe's highest active volcano, Mount Etna! Good reason to go back to Sicily.

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First there is the dream of sailing on the magnificent Danube that you have heard about all of your life. Then comes the excitement of planning your personal vacation loaded with the anticipation of experiencing something you have never done before. The day finally arrives and after a trip across the Atlantic Ocean you get a first glance at your sleek AMA Waterways river cruise ship. You are greeted warmly and very quickly made to feel at home. The cabins are nicely appointed and the crew is searching for ways they can serve you.

The ship sets sail smoothly and quietly on this beautiful river that is surrounded by the hills and forests of Bavaria. It is now time for a marvelous dinner with excellent choices and served with care. On many of the nights there was entertainment after dinner on a small scale but high quality.

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I recently returned from an amazing educational experience to Tahiti. We started our journey in LA taking Air Tahiti Nui. I was not a fan of this airline. The aircraft were old, the flight attendants and staff indifferent and there was very little choice of entertainment on the 10 hour flight. They are getting new aircraft in November. We arrived late at night in Papeete and were transported to the Intercontinental. It was a beautiful property with very nice gardens, pools and beach. The food was good and they had wonderful entertainment our last night.

The next morning we departed by ferry to Moorea. The ride was about 2 hours long with beautiful views of islands and the turquoise ocean. We arrived and were transported to the Intercontinental Moorea which was around 1 hour from the pier. The Intercontinental Moorea was very nice, however I was not as impressed with the over the water bungalows since they seemed really close together and were over a lagoon. We had the beach bungalows which I enjoyed much more. We had the great opportunity of doing a dolphin experience. We swam in deep and shallow water with them and learned about the species from the marine expert. That was one of the highlights of the trip. I would definitely recommend it. They have many guests from other hotels come to do this experience. We ate at the hotel restaurant that evening and had an incredible meal.

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The inside passage cruises round-trip from Seattle which is convenient because you don’t have to do a pre/post night and you don’t have to have a passport. The inside passage makes stops in Skagway, Ketchikan, Juneau, and usually a night stop in Victoria. It also includes one day seeing a glacier from the ship either Glacier bay, or Tracy Arm my favorite being Glacier Bay where you feel like you are right in the middle of the glacier.

In my opinion none of the main cruise lines do a better job of cruising the inside passage than Princess does. They add extra touches that are special just for Alaska. Which includes having naturalists on board, seminars about Alaska,and special tours because they partner with Animal planet and Discovery, Alaskan food, and a new favorite of mine: puppies!

In the piazza where they bring Alaska sled dog puppies on to the ship and yes you can hold them.

Also, if you have anybody in your family/party who loves crab the restaurant at the top of Mount Roberts Tram offers an all you eat crab plate for $62.00 that includes sides, Crab bib and bucket. Delicious!

I would be happy to help you with any of your Alaska cruise requests either email or give me a call.

Amber Lee Johanson

Phone: 801.483.6314

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