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Goin’ To A Land Down Under

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

In the land of Oz there are many special things that are magical.  No, I’m not talking about a twister or Auntie Em. Nor am I speaking about Toto or little munchkins, or a yellow brick road or a wizard.  I’m talking about “the land down under”, also known as Australia.  Also known, since Aussies like to shorten so many words, as “Oz”.

This is a magical land of a different kind.  Magical in the sense that as western as many of the cities are, the diversity of culture and landscape and adventure and people are so unique to the world that one cannot help but feel like they’ve entered a very meaningful place.  One day, we’re walking in a paddock among free ranging kangaroos and koalas,  The next day we’re hiking among the Olgas rock formation that was created by centuries of the earth settling around it (unlike so many mountains that have been created  upwards by thermal activity deep with the earth’s core).  Then, we’re trekking through the 100 million year-old Daintree Rainforest and before you know it, we’re snorkeling at The Great Barrier Reef.  Some went hot air ballooning and camel back riding at sunrise around Ayers Rock, and some went to a performance at the famous Sydney Opera House.  In the morning we’re cuddling a koala and in the afternoon we’re taking boomerang-throwing lessons.

One night we’re eating dinner under a gazillion stars at the Sounds of Silence experience, and the next night we’re cooking out on the barbie with skewers of beef, shrimp, kangaroo and baramundi (local fish). One morning we’re climing a bridge high above Sydney and then that evening we’re praying at The Great Synagogue where the historic relevance of Judaism in Australia captures a deep essence.   At times, we’re learning about the culture by an eloquent Aussie-linguist saying words like “Fair Dinkum” (I’m telling the truth), “Owarya” (how are you?) and “fancy a stubby?” (can I buy you a beer?)…and at times we are toasting with AJ Aussies who live where we’re visting and just can’t be hospitable enough for us.

Amazing Journeys’ tour to Oz was just remarkable. We’ve only just returned, but the memories are bound up in our souls forever.  Every day was a “G’day Mate” and we can’t wait to go back!

Wanna Get Away? A Sneak Preview for 2013

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Boy, does Amazing Journeys have a lineup for the ages!  If you are starting to think about traveling in the next year, just you wait and see what we are going to be offering!   We are aware that the information that follows will fill your plates with so many exciting possibilities that you’ll be asking your boss for extra vacation time.  This is why we are letting you know NOW what’s in store for the coming year.  Get those vacation request days in before your co-workers and lock in what we proudly proclaim will be one of the best–if not THE BEST–vacations of your life! 

You may have traveled with us in 2012 or maybe in 2011…..or maybe not for a few years. Or, dare we say….not yet at all?  In any case, you’ll need to hold on tight as we tempt, tantalize and treat you to a lineup of Jewish singles trips for 2013 that you will want to start planning for now.  We are in the throes of putting the final touches on many journeys that are amazing throughout next year, but its not too early to start planning for them. 

Firstly, check out our website (www.amazingjourneys.net) for details on Jewish singles trips that are currently available and sizzling hot:

-Northern California (August 26-Sept 3, 2012); Just ONE spot left!

-New Mexico and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (October 12-17, 2012); Only 7 spaces left!

-New Year’s Southeast Asia Cruise (December 23 – January 6, 2013); Over 70 people booked!

-Brazil including Rio, The Amazon and Iguazu Falls (February 21-March 2, 2013)

Now that’s what we’re selling today.  In the days and weeks ahead, stay tuned for this AMAZING array of 2013 AMAZING JOURNEYS….and start making plans to join us!

Israel: May 2 – 13

Irresistible Italy by Land:  June  6-16
 

Italy/Croatia Cruise: July 19 – 31

Alaska: August 16 – 23

Heli-hiking in the Canadian Rockies: Summer

Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons: Summer

Baseball Lover’s Dream Weekend: Summer

African Safari to South Africa and Botswana:  Fall

Australia and New Zealand:  Fall

Granted that some of these trips are well over a year away, but there are benefits to starting the planning process now.  Send us a note that you are interested in any of our destinations and we’ll place your name and email address on an “interest list”.  Interest Lists receive advanced and priority notice of all trips when they become available, and allow those individuals to capture what is sometimes very limited space or, as in the case of our cruises,  the very best stateroom location.

Amazing Journeys; going strong for over 22 years and heading towards even more amazing destinations.  We hope you’ll join us!

Scenes from Paradise

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

It’s hard to believe that our glorious Jewish singles Amazing Journey in French Polynesia has come and gone.   What an adventure! What relaxation!  What pristine beauty! 

Among other things, we snorkeled along our private motu, explored an island by 4 x 4, gazed at flipping dolphins, shopped for a black pearl (or ten!), kayaked off the back of the ship, dined at a fancy restaurant with sand between our toes, danced with Polynesian princes and princesses, and just chilled out on the balcony with a good book.

The islands we visited, the fun we had and the many friends that we all made will not soon be forgotten.

Ia Orana (“yo-rah-nah”)

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Ia Orana is a proper greeting (“Hello” or “Welcome”) in the Tahitian language.  This week 36 AJers will will say Ia Orana to each other, and to Tahiti as we embark on an 11-night journey to French Polynesia.  Perfect weather is an understatement as balmy days turn into moonlit nights, and where tropical breezes blow while brightly colored fish swim just below the surface of clear turquoise waters. 

The pampering begins with two nights at an incredible resort in Tahiti followed by a seven night cruise aboard the luxury ship, Paul Gauguin. Built specifically for French Polynesia, this intimate voyage will glide our group of honorary Jewish single Tahitians through some of the most remote islands of the world.  Some of these islands you may have heard of: Tahiti and Bora Bora seems to be familiar to many.  But there are 118 islands-about 50 of which are inhabited-that make up French Polynesia.  Our journey will also take us to the tiny but pristine islands of Moorea (More-aya), Raiatea (Ry-a-taya) and Taha’a (pronounced exactly how it looks).

The ship is equipped with an array of unique features such as a drop-down watersports marina where passengers will enjoy complimentary kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and waterskiing.  On board, unlimited complimentary drinks, three exquisite restaurants, Polynesian entertainment and a ratio of one crew member to every two guests will translate into one huge Ia Orana (“Welcome”) and memories to last a lifetime. The word ‘vacation’ cannot be more clearly defined than what is in store in French Polynesia. 

To share in the tranquility of these unique islands our new friends will travel from four countries to be a part of this amazing journey: US, Canada, Australia and England.  Stay tuned to our Amazing Journeys facebook  (www.facebook.com/AmazingJourneys) page over the next 2+ weeks for a front row seat on our adventures. 

And then…don’t be left out in the cold yourself.  Why not consider joining us on one of our next upcoming Amazing Journeys:  Spain, China, West Coast Cruise, India, Music Cities of the South, New Year’s Caribbean Cruise, Alaska…and lots more.   Visit: www.amazingjourneys.net  

Landmarks of the World

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Are you ready for a trip around the world?  Are you?  Really??

Sadly, the majority of Americans will rarely see any geography beyond their own borders.  The Office of Travel and Tourism Industries published a finding that only about 10% of of US residents have ever traveled to overseas destinations (Canada and Mexico excluded – they’re not overseas. )  Leisure travel is more than a vacation. Its an activity that makes you more worldly, knowledgeable and tolerant of the differences in cultures that make our planet so special.  Its an adventure.  Its a means to experience “Life” with a capital “L” – a chance to break from the routine…the norm…the grind…the familiararity…the common.  Its a purpose, not just an experience.  Humans are born to travel; we’ve been given the mobility and dexterity to do so and as Americans we’ve also been given the “land of opportunity’; a means to earn, spend and have plentiful of what most other nations around the world don’t.

Get Out There, America! Whether you’re single or married…Jewish or Christian….in your 30s or in your 60s; don’t do what the regretful elderly do when they say for decades “I’ll travel when I retire” or “I’ll get there someday”.  Go now, while you’re able-bodied, healthy and capable! You never know when you might not be, and denying yourself the greatest of life’s givings is a regret of unfathomable proportions.  Trust me, the world is an incredible place.  America is wonderful…but the world is, well, an Amazing Journey for all to see.

IF NOT NOW….WHEN?

Memoirs of a Journey Down Under

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Dear Mom and Dad, 

Well, our Australian Down Under Tour is almost over and I’m very sad to see it end.  Like a huge meal for the whole family over Thanksgiving, it seems that after months of planning and gearing up, it’s all over in a blink.  Still…it’s been a truly “amazing journey” in every sense of the word.  Every day was the best day of the trip so far

After I flew to L.A. and met our group leader Bill and all the other travelers, we had the loooooongest journey of the trip so far…but it wasn’t really that bad.  We were on Qantas’ new 380 mega jet liner and it was very modern and not too uncomfortable.  That is, until we heard a few days later that pieces of our jet fell from the sky over Singapore….soooo, we’ll be flying home on something a bit smaller. On the flight I caught up on a few good books, watched 27 episodes of “How I Met Your Mother”, and even watched us take off and land from the plane’s “wing cam”. Ambien helped too, and I did my best to sleep like a baby for 6 hours…in the full upright position!

When we landed in Melbourne we were met by our Tour Manager Barry and the fun began. 

I had no idea on that first day just how much fun Barry would be, but his personality and “behind the scenes” organizational skills would ultimately make the trip seem flawless.  Thank goodness our rooms were ready, so I freshened up and then headed out for a little exploration before we got to know the group a little better at our formal welcome program and dinner. Then the jetlag kicked in, and bed in the fully downward prone position was a welcome reprieve.

 Our first tour the next day immediately made the long journey around the world worth every minute it took us to get here.  We headed outside of the city to the You Yangs National Park and the Serendip Sanctuary for a little safari of sorts, searching and viewing kangaroos and koalas.  I’d dreamt for years for the chance to see kangaroos and koalas in the wild, and just reliving it right now is giving me goose bumps.  We walked among them and were sometimes so close that we could almost reach out and touch them.  Our outback guide, Janine was so passionate about these creatures and her zeal made the day even more fun and I have to say that this was one of the highlights of the tour.   

And it was only the first day!!

The rest of our time around Melbourne was filled with seeing the city; a bustling cosmopolitan with a buzz for food, history, architecture and a gutsy party atmosphere surrounding The Melbourne Cup horse  race that would parallel a week long New Year’s celebration.  You should have seen these getups–especially the hats!

 I loved Melbourne and all its energy, but the city soon gave way to more best days of the trip so far. About as big a contrast to the big city as we could get, arriving into Ayers Rock was like a time warp.  In a matter of a few hours, we went from a developed metropolis to an ancient monolith surrounded by desert. This was the true Outback.  Sure we had to survive some death defying turbulence on the flight over…but we were hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from any modern civilization. Human existence in this part of the world consisted of our small resort town built for tourists and Aboriginal villages that dotted the outback throughout the continent. 

 So here we were in the outback.  I…was….in…..The Outback! I couldn’t believe it.  Our first order of business was a Shabbat Service.  Bill somehow managed an Outback Challah and after a short but very meaningful service we hamotzied, kiddushed….and then headed off to what they call The Sounds of Silence.  I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect at this event, but I have to say it was one of the top memories of the entire tour.  We were taken to a small hillside overlooking Ayers Rock for champagne during sunset…and then led down a path to a small cutout in the desert where a catered setup of tables and food awaited.  We were surrounded by nothing but rocks, desert, sand and bush.  If it weren’t for the setup of tables and food, I would have felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, never to be found again.

As the sun set and darkness loomed, soon only the candles and burners illuminated our place on this part of earth. Oh, and yes, the stars!  First I saw ‘em, but didn’t really notice them…until the true meaning of The Sounds of Silence took hold.  But, first as with all good Jewish functions….the festive meal!  We dined on crocodile, barramundi, kangaroo, lamb, and a variety of other local delicacies.  We also inadvertently dined on some of the local flying critters too…who, although uninvited, chose to stay with us for the duration of the evening, despite the cries and screams of protest from a jittery few.

A didgeridoo player harmonized our experience and chit chat among the participants filled the air…until dinner was over and the true sounds of silence took hold.  We were given a moment of silence, so to speak, to take in the essence of the outback.  Some dude at another table tried to ruin the moment but he didn’t. The lights were turned off and it was so dark that that only the stars in the sky could be seen. Billions and billions of stars…constellations, shooting stars, planets and an endless plane of the universe.  Wow, was that special!  Then, our gastronomical experience turned into an astronomical experience as we followed an articulate astronomer through a passionate and story-filled tour of the sky.

After dessert in the desert, our sounds of silence experience was over, and it was time to look ahead for more fun things to come.

 When daylight hit–well, more like BEFORE daylight hit–we headed to the friendly skies for a flight seeing tour over Ayers Rock and the Olgas.  We had two of the cutest…and youngest…pilots I’d ever seen.These two dudes learned to fly before they learned to drive, but our lives were in their hands as they were the ONLY 2 flightseeing pilots in Ayers Rock.  But they were awesome. Young, fun, cute yet very professional and great guides as we viewed the incredible rock formations from a few thousand feet above.

The rest of our time in Ayers Rock was devoted to touring the rock, hiking the Olgas and hanging out at our gorgeous oasis in the desert. 

We also had a really fun dinner cooked by Bill and Barry on the “barbie” before calling it a day and heading off to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.







Our first day in this tropical beach town involved the earliest wakeup day of the trip so far, for an amazing sunrise hot air balloon ride over the plains and small communities of Cairns.  A team of 5 balloons sailed high in the sky which was a sight to behold in and of itself.  From our koala balloon we saw mobs of kangaroos, said hello to one of the neighbors from high above her rooftop and even saw our reflection in the river below. 


Our pilot Jay was hot…and I’m not just talking about the fire he used to fuel the balloon.  After we came back to earth and helped the crew let all the air out of the balloon we were treated to a champagne breakfast before heading down to the water for our excursion to The Great Barrier Reef.  Wow…first kangaroos from the sky, then fish and turtles and coral from under the sea.  My new friend Jen and I even saw a shark swim right by us! The lunch on Green Island was NOT the best meal of the trip so far, but the time on the beach, snorkeling in the water and taking in a small part of one of The Seven Natural Wonders of the World made this day befitting to the premise of “living life to the fullest”. 

Like a great meal, a scrumptious dessert is the perfect compliment to the experience. The perfect dessert to this incredible day was given to us upon arrival back on land when we went over to the Cairns Wildlife Nature Dome for the chance to hold a koala in our arms. I only got to hold him for about 30 seconds, but the feeling of his little paws around my arms will stay with me forever.

We spent a day in the Daintree Rainforest area where we had the most special opportunity to feed kangaroos and wallabies, hold another koala and see really up close and personal a variety of other indigenous wildlife. We even took a cruise on the Daintree River where learned about the mangroves, crocodiles and other living creatures that make up this ancient ecosystem.

Our final day in Cairns was really fun.  First we had a little retail therapy in an artsy village called Kuranda and then we hopped aboard this amazing gondola called the Kuranda Skyrail that took us high above the Kuranda rainforest.  This skyrail is the 2nd longest such gondola ride in the world and it was way cool being so high above the treetops.  We even saw cockatoos flying below and resting on the tree limbs. 

Once we landed, we walked among the Aboriginals.  We painted our faces, learned to throw a boomerang, played a didgeridoo and even had a few laughs as Bill and Laura danced like no one was watching on stage with the Aboriginals.  A little more retail therapy in the gift shop and it was time to go.

 Time to go to Sydney!

Mom, Dad..while I’ve been expressing my love for each of the elements we shared throughout Australia, nothing could have prepared me for how much I fell in love with the city of Sydney.  Bill told us early on that it was his favorite city on earth and now I see why. Magnificent, majestic, eclectic, fun, friendly, romantic, entertaining…the adjectives could go on forever and ever.  We toured the Opera House, climbed the Harbour Bridge, strolled Bondi Beach and toured The Great Synagogue.  We partied with the locals, met some fascinating people, dined with the most exceptional views and well, yes….shopped just a little bit more.  You could plant me on Bondi Beach…or on a chair near the Sydney Harbour….or just leave me wandering aimlessly anywhere in the city, and I’d be a happy boy no matter where or what I was doing in Sydney.  My goodness….I loved Melbourne and Ayers Rock and Cairns, but every day in Sydney was the best day of the trip so far.

 I overheard someone in my group say today, “I’ve never said the word “amazing” so many times in two weeks as I have here in Australia. In all honesty, Mom and Dad, Australia truly is a wonderland of amazing people and amazing things to see and do.  It’s now in my memory…but it is forever in my heart and soul. 

I have met some great new friends, I have seen breathtaking scenery, I have had an adventure like nothing I’ve ever had before…and it truly has been a most amazing journey.

I can’t wait to come home and share my pictures with you…and to relive the memories with my new friends who shared this experience with me.

 See you very soon,

 Love,

Me

Amazing New Zealand

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

It’s hard to believe tomorrow we arrive home after a fabulous and amazing week in New Zealand.  The week really flew by as we enjoyed nature and excitement daily!  The journey began in Christchurch where visited the Antarctic Centre and experienced a real earthquake!  We were a little shaky but anxious to see what this breathtakingly beautiful country had to offer.

Still on the South Island, we traveled to Mt. Hood, before arriving in Queenstown, which has to be one of the most magnificent spots on earth!  Surrounded by snow covered mountains on all sides, and overlooking a reflecting lake, this “Lord of the Rings” backdrop was heaven on earth.  Our days were filled jetboating and sailing along the deep fjords and narrow passages of Milford Sound.  

Heading onto the North Island, we were entertained by Maori’s in a cultural show that including native dancing and dinner.  We visited Rotorua, with it’s geo-thermal pools and geysers…the entire town smelled like sulphur!  Actually, this city is where the earth’s crust is the thinnest, and mud pools bubble and spew and churn as we observe nature. It’s really fascinating.

Continuing north to Auckland, we enjoyed the “City of Sails” before it was time to head home.  It’s hard to believe our tour to New Zealand is over, but with it come fabulous memories of one of the most beautiful spots on earth!

Cairns

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

We experienced the best travel day ever!  We headed out in the wee hours of the morning for a hot air balloon ride over the city of Cairns. We lifted off in the balloons just as the sun was gently rising to unveil the surrounding beauty.   After the flight, we came back to earth for a champagne breakfast!  Later, we boarded a high-speed catamaran for an exciting excursion to the Great Barrier Reef.  From our base on Green Island, we were able to explore the reef and see beautifully colored fish swim by in their natural habitat.

The next day, we explored the rainforest, rivers and beaches of Daintree and Cape Tribulation. We joined a wildlife cruise through the mangroves and rainforest wilderness, and looked for crocodiles, pythons and flying foxes.  We met up with a botanist who guided us on an interpretative walk through the rainforest.

On our last day in Cairns, we  experienced the beauty of Far North Queensland’s World Heritage Rainforest as we traveled on the Kuranda Skyrail – the world’s largest gondola railway.  We rode above the canopy of the tropical rainforests of the Barron Gorge National Park.  Then we experienced the unique lifestyle of the Aborigine people with a visit to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center.  We witnessed an Aboriginal dance show, learned about the Aboriginal life style, learned to throw a boomerang and to play a didgeridoo, a traditional instrument.

We’re on our way to Sydney…more later!

Ayers Rock and Cairns

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

At Ayers Rock we took a flightseeing plane over Uluru to watch the sunrise, and then had a relaxing day by the pool of our beautiful resort hotel.  In the evening we got to have “steaks on the barby”!

Today we’ll leave behind Australia’s Outback, and fly to Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. One of the world’s most spectacular natural attractions, the reef was established as a marine park in 1975 and is a collective haven for thousands of species of sea life, as well as turtles and birds.  In 1981 the United Nations designated the Great Barrier Reef a World Heritage site. This evening we’ll explore this enjoyable sea-side town, filled with night markets and restaurants galore!