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Wanderlust Blog

Here at Amazing Journeys, we’re lucky have the best jobs in the world—and we think our good fortune is worth sharing. So, when your next journey seems like a distant dream, take a few minutes to explore our WANDERLUST blog—it’s chock full of engaging tales and helpful tips from our travels around the world. Check out the most recent entry (at the top) or search by your preferred criteria. Consider it motivation for your next embarkation.

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50 Shades of Green

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Ireland blog1
by Malori

It’s hard to say which of the many highlights of our recent tour in Ireland was our favorite. Was it the scone making class at the farm and the delicious fruits of our labor we got to enjoy with tea? Was it the 50 shades of green that dotted the rolling hillsides and farmland? To some, it was the endless rainbows we spotted or our never-ending search for the pot of gold and leprechauns. Many said it was it our remarkable pub crawls with the best music in the world. And to most of us, it was the wonderful group that gathered together across the pond to explore and discover the delightful and hospitable people of Ireland who welcomed us to their country.

Ireland is a culture away, yet, just a hop, skip and a jump from America. The six hour flight and the five hour time difference made it easy to travel. The fact that English is the language made it simple, yet, the dialect so different from ours, we couldn’t understand much of what was spoken. That was part of the fun.

Enjoying whiskey tastings and learning about Guinness Beer, straight from the source, were more highlights. Most of us took on the 100-step climb up to the top of Blarney Castle. We braved wind and rain and then lying upside-down on our back, kissed the famous stone to be granted “the gift of eloquence.”

Ireland blog2
We were amazed that the food was actually better than we expected, and we got to sample potatoes of every kind!

Roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, hashed brown potatoes, potato leek soup, scalloped potatoes, garlic potatoes… need I say more? We sampled Guinness stew and savory pies of every kind. Seeing the Dingle Peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher were gorgeous and we were blessed with a sunny day so we could enjoy hiking around the cliffs.

We got to sample ice cream with names like Kerry Cream, Irish Oats and Caramel, Smoked Salmon and Guinness. It was delicious (the Irish Oats and Caramel, that is)!

Ireland blog3
Our scone making class was a memory we could take home and share with others. Barry and I made them today and tweaked the recipe somewhat. Here is our new and improved Irish Scones…straight from the farm!

2 c. self rising flour
¾ stick butter
¼ c. sugar
1 egg
½ c. buttermilk
½ c. dried fruit (raisins or other fruit…we used tart cherries)

• Pre-heat cookie sheet and oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
• In a large bowl, mix together flour and butter. Use your hands to mix to make sure butter is softened and evenly distributed.
• Add sugar and stir.
• Add dried fruit.
• In a measuring cup, mix together buttermilk and egg.
• Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in half of the buttermilk/egg mixture.
• Mix in part of the flour mixture getting it moist from the liquid in the center of the bowl.
• Add in more of the dry ingredients from the sides of the mixing bowl as needed.
• Take the dough and need it on a flat surface, adding in flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky.
• Spread out dough to about 1 inch thick.
• Take a glass or round cookie cutter, dip the rim in flour (so it doesn’t stick to the dough.
• Cut with cookie cutter or glass.
• Place on heated cookie sheet
• Cook for 17 minutes.

It’s a simple recipe and so yummy. Serve with jam and tea. Enjoy!

scones

Winter Whiskey Warmer

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

whisky

With the weather getting colder, it’s nice to have a warm drink to come home to!  Our Amazing Ireland travelers had the opportunity to visit the Kilbeggan Distillery and sample the whisky last week.  Here’s the recipe for our newest drink recommendation:

Winter Whiskey Warmer

1/3 part whiskey
2/3 part hot water
1½ t. brown sugar
1½ t. honey

In a pre-warmed glass, mix the ingredients.
Sip slowly.
Enjoy!

Satisfy your sweet tooth with strudel

Friday, August 1st, 2014

– by Erin

The passengers on our upcoming Danube River Cruise will have the opportunity to taste local specialties of the region including crafted brews, indulgent chocolate and of course, homemade strudel.  In an attempt for everyone to get their fair share of pastry, we thought it was only fair to share a recipe for this delicious delicacy!

Apple strudel

STRUDEL PASTRY

INGREDIENTS

Pastry Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ stick butter

 

Stuffing for Pastry

  • 2 lbs. green apples, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 oz. cinnamon
  • 2 oz. raisins
  • 3 oz. sugar
  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 1 egg yolk

 

PREPARATION METHOD

Sift the flour and combine with sugar and salt. Mix the egg and oil together, and them with the dry ingredients. Add the water to the dough a tablespoon at a time and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Form into a ball and set aside, covered for 30 minutes. Take the dough and roll it out as thinly as possible in a rectangle on a lightly floured pastry board. Drape the sheet of dough over your hands and stretch, being careful not to tear it. Continue until the sheet of dough is very thin, always working from the middle toward the edges until it reaches 18″ x 14″. Lay the sheet of dough on a well-floured pastry cloth. Brush with melted butter. In a bowl, mix the apples, sugar, raisins, cinnamon and dark rum. Spread immediately on the dough. Form a long, tightly tucked roll. Press the ends and seal. Butter an 18” x 12” oven tray with raised sides and preheat the oven to 475°. Beat the egg yolk and brush over the strudel, and then sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes at 475° then lower to 400° and bake for 20 minutes. Lower to 300° and bake and additional 15 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a large serving tray. Pour the juice from the pay over the strudel and set aside to cool. Serve either hot or cold, and garnish with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Makes 10 servings

 

That was close!

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, erupted last weekend sending up a towering plume of ash visible into much of eastern Sicily. Smoke billowing during the eruption of Mount Etna volcano was seen from near the Sicilian towns of Catania and Messina, Italy, on Saturday  Etna’s eruptions aren’t infrequent but this one was unexpected.

Just this past summer Amazing Journeys trekked the base of the then-dormant Mt. Etna volcano while exploring a remnant of the last eruption in 1992 – a lava river that was formed by advancing molten rock that carved its way down the hillsides.  While exploring the area this past July it is interesting to note that not a hint of seismic activiity was present at that time.

Europe’s most active volcano, Mt. Etna erupted throwing ash visible in much of eastern Sicily causing the closure of nearby air space, but authorities lifted the closure after just a few hours.  Evacuations of several inhabited villages weren’t necessary despite the lava flow.

Watch raw footage of the dramatic eruption here:  http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/2013/10/27/13/16/mount-etna-eruption-filmed-over-sicily

Rollin on the River

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

– by Malori

Ever hear of a river cruise? Are you wondering what all the buzz is about? It’s the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry and 24 new ships are being built by six different companies, all debuting in 2014.

River Cruising opens up a world of possibilities of intriguing destinations. Pulling up right alongside a local dock, the river cruise experience lets you enjoy scenery along the way, and then coming directly in to the city center to explore on foot, by bike or on an array of complimentary guided excursions. According to AMA Waterways, in business since 2002, “there is no better way to experience the soul of a destination than on a leisurely river cruise, immersed in history, culture and breathtaking natural beauty.”

Traveling along rivers, these smaller ships are built with shallow drafts and can navigate smaller waterways, unlike their oceangoing cousins who cruise the high seas. During your journey along the rivers, you can look out from your balcony, window or one of the public spaces and see the ever-changing landscape of the destination you came to see. Many of the “Next-Gen” river cruises use a “long-ship” design that allows more interior space for guest rooms, bars and restaurants, spa and workout facilities, and even a pool with a swim up bar.

Onboard, the experience is more like a small boutique than a large hotel. The staff is dedicated to treating their guests like members of their own families, and several offer a premium experience. With local musicians to entertain, cocktails and dancing, lectures on local history and culture, time on board the ship is spent feeling like you are on vacation, whether it’s relaxing, socializing with other passengers, sunning by the pool, working out or getting a massage.

On most river cruise, complimentary wines are offered with meals, further enhancing your local cultural experience. You get to try wines from the local regions you are visiting, along with regional specialties the chef prepares each night.

River Cruises offer many themed cruises as well. From Chocolate Cruises to Wine Tasting Cruises to Jewish Heritage Cruises, there is a theme that fits nearly every taste and taste bud!

Amazing Journeys is joining in on the River Cruise fun on our Jewish Heritage River Cruise next summer. Sailing from Vilshofen, Germany on August 6 and ending in Budapest, Hungary on August 13, we will transport you along the Danube River through the magnificent landscapes of the Sound of Music Country and along the shores of our Jewish culture and our legacy. From synagogues to Jewish districts, modern museums and historical monuments, this cruise will be one you will surely remember. For more information on our Jewish Heritage cruise, click here or call us for information on any other river boat cruise at 412.571.0220.

Raising the Costa Concordia

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

An ingenious $400 Million Plan is underway to deal with the wrecked Costa Concordia.  In January 2012, the cruise ship struck a rock off the shore of Isola del Giglio, in the Mediterranean. Thirty people on board the largest passenger wreck of all time lost their lives and two are still missing and over a year later, the wreck is still sitting off the Italian coast, mostly submerged. 

Because the Costa Concordia is in a nationally protected marine park and coral reef, it must be removed from the area before it can be dismantled, posing countless difficulties.  Not only is it the riskiest, most complicated, and most expensive salvage plan ever undertaken, but no one is sure if it will work. The ship weighs 60,000 tons and is filled with seawater. It is sitting on two underwater mountain peaks and 65 % of it is below the surface.  The wreck is an official crime scene. 

The operation, which will cost about $400 million, is being paid for by insurance companies and the plan is to rotate the ship upright, and onto an underwater platform. Then it will float up, leaving more of its structure above the surface and hopefully it can be towed away.  Interestingly before getting on the inclined ship, workers must take a 4-day mountain climbing course.

 The underwater platform is being built in northern Italy and the steel must be transported through the Adriatic Sea, around the boot of Italy, and up to the wreck. The steel weighs three times as much as the Eiffel Tower and will be embedded in the seafloor.  A drill bit will be enclosed in a large tube, to keep debris from contaminating the protected area.  

For now, the ship is held in place by steel cables,  but strong storms could dislodge it causing it at some point to possibly sink to the seafloor, which would make the salvage operation near impossible.  Over one hundred salvage divers are currently working on the salvage operation around the clock, in 45-minute shifts. They all live in floating barracks, next to the wreck site.

How exactly will workers rotate Costa Concordia onto the platform?  The plan essentially involves welding a new ship onto the shipwreck.  That new “ship” will consist of huge, hollow steel boxes called sponsons – the biggest being 11 stories tall. Nine of the sponsons will be welded onto the exposed side of the ship, with just 2 inches between them. Then steel cables will connect the sponsons to the steel platform and hydraulic pulleys will pull the Costa Concordia upright.

 More sponsons will be welded onto the other side of the ship and once the ship is upright, the extra buoyancy should make it float. The ship is scheduled to be floated next summer and once the process begins, there is no way to stop it, even if something goes wrong.  The backup plan is to break it up where it lies, at a huge cost to the local environment. If all goes well, the Costa Concordia will be cut up for scrap, far from Giglio.

 Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/plan-to-salvage-costa-concordia-wreck-2012-12?op=1#ixzz2HqHC3sdw

 

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!

Our first few days on the Black Sea

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Amazing Journeys and 65 amazing travelers have started our vacation, exploring the countries surrounding the Black Sea.  Starting out in Istanbul, Turkey we sailed on the Azamara Quest to Varna, Bulgaria on Monday and are exploring Constanta, Romania today.  We have had beautiful warm weather so far and are looking forward to a few days in different cities of Ukraine coming up next.  Here’s a few pictures of our amazing journey so far!

Feria

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

In the spring in the city of Seville in southern Spain, a week-long celebration takes place that draws over one million people a year – the event is called “La Feria de Sevilla”. Over the years, Feria has become an internationally known celebration of flamenco, bullfighting and fun. Flamenco is an integral part of the tradition because Seville is considered to be the cultural epicenter of flamenco culture and music. 

During Feria, a temporary “tent city” is born and the make-shift “tents” (or as they are known in Spanish, “casetas”) divide the land into different dance halls and private areas that are filled each evening with dancing and life lasting from 9 in the evening until 6 or 7 in the morning.  Every tent is set up differently with a unique atmosphere and different customs. Visitors roam around the fairgrounds until they find an open tent with a good vibe to have a drink, watch performances and experience the atmosphere.

The women are known to dress in their most spectacular gowns, usually brightly colored flamenco dresses inspired by Gypsy fashion. The most common beverage drunk in during the Seville Fair is Spanish sherry wine, very famous in southern Spain. Often, to battle the heat of April in Seville, the sherry wine is mixed with 7-up or sprite to produce a drink known as “rebujito”.

In addition the the long nights of stomping, clapping and celebrating in the casetas, Feria also offers a wide range of other events during the day. Andalusian horse parades with decorated carriages are daily processions as they make their way through the city and fairground.  The equestrian events are usually accompanied by singing groups who serenade crowds with traditional Sevillian ballads and guitar music. Many of the parade participants are members of Seville’s upper class aristocracy and normally dawn exquisite traditional Andalusian outfits with wide-brimmed “bolero” hats and short-cropped jackets. Of course, not to be missed during Feria are the afternoon bullfights. The bullring in Seville is known as one of the most beautiful in Spain and is commonly known by the locals as “the cathedral”.

Our Amazing Journeys travelers had the opportunity to experience the thrill of Feria. They sipped on sherry, explored the casetas and danced until the wee hours of the morning soaking in every bit of the tradition as possible!

Hola España!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Memories in motion: Amazing Spain is well underway–from churos con chocolate to Flamenco dancing on the streets, to the festival of Feria and the pagentry of  a bullfight, check out this montage of amazing fun from our group: