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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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A Weekend Trip to Pittsburgh

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to be on vacation.  It could be as close as your own backyard.  That’s literally what we did when we brought 40 past, present and future travelers together for our Pittsburgh Summer Weekend.  Our travelers came in from near and far – from Denver and Reno, Houston and Toronto, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Yes, many who joined us live right here!  They all came together to enjoy our fun city.  Pittsburgh is a city to be seen and experienced and has recently enjoyed many accolades including one of the “Best Places to Travel in 2016” by Travel + Leisure, the nation’s “No. 1 Food City” by Zagat and named among the “Top Destinations on the Rise” by TripAdvisor

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Pittsburgh shows itself off right from the ride from the airport when you exit the tunnel and you see the city in full view including the skyline, The Golden Triangle, the stadiums and the fountain marking the confluence of the three rivers that run through Pittsburgh.

Our boutique hotel was a fan favorite.  Kimpton Hotels has always been a favorite of our Amazing Journeys staff and the Hotel Monaco of Pittsburgh was a big hit.  From the stylish yet quirky interior design to the rooftop bar and amply sized and decorative rooms, our group loved this hotel and its location in the city center. A hotel highlight, and were we got our weekend started was at the nightly Wine Hour in the Living Room of the hotel.

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We highlighted Pittsburgh beginning with a sumptuous dinner at Nine On Nine.  With the help of Joe, its manager, we crafted the perfect menu for our group. Friday night ended with drinks and “large games” such as Jenja and Connect Four up at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Monaco.  If you get up there, Jason will take good care of you.  He was always ready with drink in hand and a smile on his face.

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Saturday was filled with lots to see and do in the city.  Beginning with a walk to Pittsburgh’s Strip District, what began as the produce market of the city years ago has become a showcase of restaurants, local food stores including fish, cheeses, olive oils and sports paraphernalia from award winning teams who make Pittsburgh “The City of Champions”. One new restaurant concept housed in one of the old warehouses is Smallman Galley, a “restaurant incubator” where each year, four brand new restaurant concepts are selected from hundreds of entries as a “start up” and given an opportunity to try out their concept in this space.

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Our next stop was an area called Lawrenceville, a recently regentrified area which housed a munitions factory during the Civil War, and now filled with funky shops, craft beer bars, a retro bowling alley and 1950’s movie theater.  There, we enjoyed a Foodie Tour where we sampled ‘Burgh Bits and Bites.  Owner Sylvia and her guides took us to a series of restaurants and stores that offered up a collection of the foods that make up the eclectic population living in “The Burgh”.  From pierogies to spanakopita and from pasta to french dip sandwiches, we sampled our way through the area.

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A walk to Market Square where a band was playing and the Summer Saturday Night Market was in full swing rounded out our day.  In the evening, we enjoyed a taste of local theater and saw Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage a fun look at ourselves and others that had us all laughing. A walk down to the river by night highlighted our colorful city.

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Our weekend came to a close with a local favorite past time in the Squirrel Hill section of the city called Bach, Beethoven and Brunch.  Amazing Journeys provided the picnic while the orchestra provided the lovely background music.  Our AJ participants enjoyed a relaxing morning of coffee, bagels, music and conversation.  All too soon, our amazing weekend in Pittsburgh came to an end.  Soon it was time to say good-bye.  We hope to have you back in Pittsburgh soon so you can see more of our incredible city!

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A Night in the Big Apple!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Amazing Journeys is coming to New York for a party!

Join us in the City for a night of “reunionizing” with old and new friends alike.  For those who have never traveled with us before and are eager to see what we’re all about, this is your night to meet the staff of AJ as well as scores of New Yorkers (and New Jersey-ers and Connecticut-ers….and out-of-town-ers who are coming in just for the fun of it)  for a fun midweek gathering.   We’ll begin the evening with a short presentation on our 2013 lineup of trips, along with some incentives, specials and prizes.  Following the show, we open the bar and restaurant for 2 hours of what Amazing Journeys does best; fun and friends!  This is what we are all about and if you haven’t yet caught the buzz, come along and catch it.  You’ll be glad you did!

If you have traveled with us before, come by to say hello and visit with old and new friends alike.  We look forward to seeing you again!

We’ve rented out one of the Upper West Side’s hottest establishment for 3 hours in total – a private event just for Amazing Journeys friends; past present and future.  We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 19 at Prohibition – 503 Columbus Avenue

6 – 7 pm  Presentation:
7 – 9 pm  Happy Hour with staff and friends of Amazing Journeys.  Join us for drinks and party food!

$18 per person if you register by February 15 ($25 after, and at the door)
*Includes exclusive private use of Prohibition, one drink and a variety of party food!  Additional drinks are available for purchase.

For Jewish Singles of all ages.

For more information and a registration form, click here: http://amazingjourneys.net/trip/party-in-new-york

Live From Pittsburgh…Its Thursday Night!!

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Your “Amazing” friend Bill Cartiff is going to be a guest on local radio talk show based in Pittsburgh on Thursday 9/15 from 7:00-8:00pm EST.   Tune in from anywhere in the world for a live stream: http://tunein.com/radio/KQV-1410-s34898/

Bill will be a guest on the MIND BODY & SOUL segment of Total Talk with host Nan Cohen and will chat about what else? Amazing Journeys and travelling! 

We hope you’ll tune in, and please pass the word to your friends so that others can learn a little more about how we make Vacations that Change Your Life.

After the show, we’d love to hear what you think.   Feel free to post your thoughts here!

…and now, back to our show!

India, Part 4 – Agra

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Taj Mahal

We arrived in Agra yesterday, home of the Taj Mahal.  We woke up just before sunrise this morning, and left our hotel in the dark, headed for what was to be the highlight of the trip, the Taj Mahal.  I was particularly excited about seeing this great work of art, from the architectural detail I had studied so many years ago while in college.  And, in addition, knowing it was one of the 7 New Wonders of the World, and has graced the front covers of so many travel magazines and brochures throughout my career. With each step we took closer to the main gates, I was hoping it wouldn’t be disappointing, after the years of build up.  It did not disappoint.  After getting a brief history of the love story between a king who created it for his queen after her death, our guide prepared us for what we were about to see.  As we walked forward through the main gates, the Taj Mahal at first appeared to be shrinking.  It was an optical illusion, made to look that way so that it fit visually inside of the arch of the gateway to the structure.  Once through the gate, it was perfectly symmetrical in every way.  Aside from the amazingly balanced façade, the inlay of fine pieces of lapis, onyx, jasper and other stones and semi precious materials was absolutely breathtaking.  I had heard it said that seeing the Taj Mahal in a book or magazine or photograph didn’t do it justice, and now I know why.  You have to see it to believe it.  20,000 laborers worked for 22 years ’round the clock until the project was finished.  I’m looking forward to seeing it again in February!

We also went to Mother Teresa’s Charity that the Collette Foundation supports.  It was so sad to see all the disparity and sadness of the orphans and the special needs kids and adults that this charity supports.  The babies and toddlers were so happy to have us there to smile at them, to touch them and to hold them.  I brought lots of school supplies and others brought medical supplies.  Next time I come, I want to bring some children’s clothing and books as I think they could really use it.

Driving through the streets of Agra you realize this is a country with  it’s own way of life.  To best sum it up, as we were driving through  town today, I saw two goats standing on a bed (the bed was outside in the  open) with a hula hoop on the bed and one of the goats standing in the  middle of the hula hoop.  Yup, that just about says it all…livestock  walking everywhere, goats, roosters, monkeys, cows, dogs, donkeys, camels.  This was all on just one city block!  Add to it men getting haircuts and shaves right out on the city streets, men using a wall as a public  toilet, baby’s without any pants playing out near the street, cars and  moterbikes racing everywhere, on the wrong side of the street, through red lights and stop signs, in front of pedestrians, all the while, horns  honking.  We are certainly not in Kansas anymore! 

I hope you’ve been enjoying the wonderful photos that Barry has been taking.  He is amazed that each time he holds up the camera, he sees a unique opportunity for a photograph, as you can see by the looks on the faces of the people, as well as the scenery.

A Taste of India, Part 2 – Jaipur

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

This is the second part from my experiences from India ~

Elephant ride to the Red Fort

India is keeping us very busy!  From morning until late in the evening, we are discovering a country and a culture that is so different from what we know, or what we could have ever imagined!  There’s a warmth to the people, and whether they live on the street, are merchants in the stores or those we are meeting along the way, the people of India have a desire to learn about western culture and want to know everything about us.  Yesterday, one of the managers of the restaurant we were having dinner in came up to us to start a conversation.  After our “hellos and namastes,” he said, “who do you think is the best, better and worst presidents: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Obama (why does nobody ever say Barack Omama?)?  Vowing to never get into political discussions with the locals, I did feel compelled to answer the question.  After Barry and I both gave our answers (we gave the same answer), he said, “correct.”  I didn’t think it was a quiz but rather an opinion!  Then we told him why we believed what we said to be true, and he said, “that’s correct.”  I wanted to ask him what he thought about his King, or was it a Prime Minister?  But didn’t we see the home of the President of India in Delhi?  Which one is right?  Oh never mind, I couldn’t even ask him about his political leaders because not only didn’t I know their names, I didn’t know who actually ruled his country.  I obviously have a lot more to learn about the country.

Note the "no honking" sign

We left Udaipur for what was supposed to be a short plane ride to Jaipur.  Before we left the US, we were told the flight was cancelled and we would be driving the 6 ½ hours.  But not to worry, they would provide us with lunch along the way.  Ten hours later, we arrived in Jaipur.  Traffic jams, getting lost on the way to lunch and “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” were all part of the adventure.  Oh, and did I mention the bus driver honked his horn the entire way?  When I’m leading a group, I never use my ipod.  Because I was a tourist on this journey, I turned up that volume and enjoyed the music…for 10 hours. 

We arrived in Jaipur, the Pink City, late in the day.  We went to a Buddhist Temple that incorporated all religions.  There was an Islam dome on the structure, a Hindu shape to the roof.  Yes, even Moses was there on the relief sculpture work, right next to Jesus.  No one was left out.  We stayed for the sunset service and just when we were about to leave, the monk sprinkled the entire crowd with holy water.  I tried to dodge the flying water droplets but he was a really good aim.  I have now been anointed or christened or baptised or something.

We walked through the market of the Old City and saw the flower market, the milk market (where the women test the milk to see whether it has been mixed with water by the merchants and stick their fingers in it – ewe!), the bangle market and more.  Fascinating.   There was even a cow walking around in the market!  Everyone just walks around them as if they were not there – like they’re invisible!  And the cows have an attitude, like they own the place.  Actually, I believe they do! 

Snake Charmer

Today we visited the incredible Amber Fort.  After riding an elephant to the top entrance and entering through the gate of the palace, we toured the richly appointed and architecturally interesting structure.  There was so much opulence during the time of the Raj, from marble inlay to hand painted walls and ceilings to hand woven rugs…it gives you a real understanding of what life must have been like for the kings and moguls of India during that time.  Taking a jeep back down the hill, we felt like we were in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie.  Again, our jeep driving honking his horn the entire way down.

Another palace, another temple and a snake charmer (yes, really!) and the day was nearly over.
But wait – a dip in the pool, a quick shower, and we were off again! 

Tonight we had dinner with a local family of noble descent.  They toured us through their 250 year old home, given to them by the Raj and we learned about some of their traditions and how they came to live in their house.  Four brothers and their wifes all share this home, along with their kids and grandkids. Twenty something people shared the same house together – like one big, happy family!  We had dinner on the patio and enjoyed speaking with some of the family members.  They weren’t all outside with us as the family were all trying to watch a huge cricket match pairing Pakistan and India.  These rivals who are often at war with each other are still playing at this moment.  Even the Prime Minister is India is there (but does he rule the country?).  We can’t figure out how to play this game, but is has been going on for the past eight hours, and the score is 210 – 9/4–whatever that means!  We can hear chants and roaring of support in the streets, along with fireworks – at least I hope I’m hearing fireworks!

More to follow…

New York City or Bust..

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Amazing Journeys is headed to New York this week for two spectacular events. If you live in the area or just want to come to THE city for a weekend getaway, we promise you some good times, good fun and good friends.

December 2 – “A Taste of the World” Wine & Cheese Reception and Presentation… at the JCC in Manhattan

December 3 – Amazing Journeys Reunion Party…at Stitch Bar and Lounge.

Advanced registration for both will save you time and money. For more informatino visit: http://www.amazingjourneys.net/2009%20Reunion%20Party/index.htm

Hope to see you there!