Monthly Archives: June 2018

Family Adventure Travel Holidays

If you can find a place prettier than the Nakasendo Highway to see Japan, I’ll eat my hat. For those of you who think that’s an easy bet, you’ve never seen the Nakasendo Highway-which isn’t full of Toyotas (or any other Japanese-branded car) on some fast-lane speeding asphalt. Oh no, the Nakasendo Highway isn’t really even paved for some of its 534 kilometers.

Oh, this scenic route isn’t for the faint of heart-a walking route this long couldn’t be. But, think about it for a minute; thousands of people have come this way for hundreds of years. That’s a lot of history under your feet, wouldn’t you say?

The bigger question would be, where were they going-or where were they coming from? It depends on which way you’re traveling-the route could start or end in Kyoto, making the start or end destination a place called Edo. Perhaps you’ve heard of it by its more modern name, Tokyo.

Surely you know Tokyo wasn’t always a mega-city full of cars and people and skyscrapers. And once you’ve gotten outside the city you’ll see the Japan of yesteryear. So, to quote the still popular philosopher, Confucius-a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step (or, something to that fact).

Whew, good thing you aren’t going that far. But there are some 67 towns and 69 rest stations that you’ll hit along the way, so if you do get tired there are plenty of places to stay. Don’t worry about getting lost; there are both modern and historic mile markers throughout the entire route.

Throughout the centuries, the Nakasendo Highway has been very popular with the ladies. One of the reasons is that it doesn’t really cross any water. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t find any babbling brooks and postcard perfect waterfalls (like the one found just to the west of Tsumago-juku) along the way.

Ladies, don’t you just love that kind of stuff?

Japan’s Nakasendo Highway is great to do as a family, if only for the fact that you can really get to enjoy each other as you amble along little country lanes. No television, no Nintendo games, no iPods, or other electronics that could distract you from the southern Japanese Alps off in the distance.

Don’t panic, you’re only in the shadows of the mountains-even if its name Nakasendo means “central mountain route”. At most it should only take but a few hours to walk between towns and rest areas, and that’s including time to gasp at the natural scenery.

Some might say the best part of the Nakasendo is along the Kiso Road, a region that’s believed to be the best preserved of this thousand year old route. You can debate that all you like, but the entire thing is one big history and culture lesson. I mean, this road was once heavily traveled by the Shogun-a fun fact that the boys in your family might find interesting.

Family Adventure Travel Holidays

How does exploring a land of hilltop villages, seaside resorts, great adventure and active family vacationing sound? It’s all very doable on the Istrian Peninsula, formerly a part of Italy and today the gem of Croatia’s northern coast. Indeed, the juxtaposition of Italian-influenced coastal resorts and inland Croatian villages is possibly Istria’s most compelling feature. Both groups were preceded by Illyrian tribes and ruled throughout by Romans, Byzantium, Venetians and Austrians. However, Italian influence prevails throughout the region.

Every day is a new adventure outdoors on the Istrian peninsula. Be it active exploration of hilltop villages, water adventures of every kind on the coast, agrotourism on its olive oil farms, wine road and truffle forests, you move at your own relaxed pace here, absorbing the area’s Mediterranean Tuscan-like charm.

Opatija

Elegant Opatija lies at the center of the Istrian Riviera, its lush green scenery, warm waters and mild climate provide a relaxing setting in harmony with nature., while its stream of foreign visitors provide the excitement. The Benedictine Abbey established here in 1420, around which the town settled, lends its name to Opatija, meaning abbey. The backdrop of the city, Mt. Ucka provides some great hiking trails, and a view from the mountain top is superb. Exploring the small fishing villages in the area also make for great adventure.

The contrast of lush gardens and an azure sea, lively entertainment venues and quiet natural settings for excursions, water sports and land activities galore all combine to make Opatija a very attractive Croatian destination.

Agrotourism

The 14thcentury fortified town of Motovun, built by the Venetians, as was much of Istria, sits atop a hill overlooking vineyards and olive oil farms. This is an area to experience agrotourism at its best. Quaint doesn’t even begin to describe the mountains and hilltop villages, to the setting of purple-mauve skies, which provide an unforgettable scene of the sinking sun. Accommodations in traditional stone buildings, food grown where you’re staying, local olive oil and wine, and the pleasure of relaxed conversation with locals and guests around a stone fireplace after dinners works its magic, creating a sense of deep inner peace. Hiking and biking trails abound here and the drive to the nearby sea is short.

Seaside Towns

In Istria, the allure of the sea is ever-present. Porec, with its Italian influence has some amazing historical sites. The Basilica of Euphrasius, A UNESCO World Heritage Site, is prominent. This 16thcentury most beautifully decorated complex, with its superb apse mosaics represents an impressive synthesis of classical architecture of the times with the more ornate elements that had begun to develop in the East. The gilt-tiled mosaics literally illuminate the apse and are reason enough to travel to Porec.

Surrounded by hills covered with pines, Rovinj is the best loved towns of the Istrian Peninsula. This beautiful old town sits on a hill where you can easily lose your way among the winding, narrow cobbled streets. The church of St. Euphemia, built in 1736, is perched atop the hill, its tower modeled after St. Mark’s in Venice. From here, the view of lively seaside cafes and fishing boats bobbing in the harbor, to the backdrop of 13 small islands in the distance is astounding. This is the place for a boating adventure to Crevn, Otok or Katarina, some of these lovely offshore islands, or for scuba diving t o the Baron Gautsch wreck.

Air Travel Holidays With Kids

With the right attitude, those pesky air travel disruptions don’t have to ruin your family trip. It can, however turn into a case of “rolling with the punches” so to speak. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some tips for flying with children while maintaining your sanity.

1) Prepare your family for flexibility. Make sure you have a backup plan, and discuss it openly. Any amount of time you spend together is family time – come up with some ideas to make the most of it.

2) Make a point to fight germs. Begin before you leave getting into the habit of taking daily multivitamins. Have everyone’s vaccinations up to date. Verify the need for additional vaccines, depending on the location of your vacation. Remember to wash your hands often, eat well and get enough rest.

3) Verify your airline’s website to get an updated list of prohibited items. Personally check every suitcase before giving it the seal of approval. Explain various aspects of security protocols, such as removing their shoes when asked, or putting their belongings on the conveyor belt. This includes blankies and stuffed animals.

4) When possible, consider the use of luggage and baby supply delivery services. This will eliminate not only the headache of checking extra baggage, but also the possibility of stores in unfamiliar locations not carrying what you need.

5) Be smart about your carry-on bag. Not only do you want to stay within the assigned limits for carry-on baggage, you want to make sure you have everything needed. Ideally, backpacks are your best choice, keeping your hands free.

Don’t forget about these potential situations: diaper changes, hunger, thirst, sickness, boredom, spills and clean-ups, medical emergencies and tired or cranky kids. Make sure any medications your family takes are in your carry-on. Luggage can get lost, but carry-on baggage gets on and off with you, no matter what.

6) Charge your cell phone, mp3 players and other devices you’re bringing with you. Pack all of their chargers in your luggage. Make several copies of your “In case of emergency” phone numbers, placing them strategically in different locations-carry-on, wallet, baggage tags etc.

7) Purchase seats for everyone, including infants and toddlers. Not only will it save you from back and neck pain from holding them the whole trip, But it also keeps them properly listed on the plane’s manifest.

8) Don’t rush – it adds to your stress levels. Try arranging for extra time between connector flights if you can’t fly direct. This gives you time to board early, so you aren’t disruptive to those seated before you. And if you’re in no rush for your connector flight, allow others to disembark before you so you don’t get separated.

9) Respect that some people may not appreciate children on the flight. Basic respect for boundaries is the best way to keep peace. And yes, not many people will smile at families boarding a plane. Don’t take this personally.

10) Don’t dread the flight. Children can easily pick up on your tension or anxiety. And if they do, you can be sure they will act out as a result of it. By staying calm and collected, your children will notice that this whole “flying thing” isn’t such a big deal, and things should go smoothly.

Get Ready for an Adventure Travel Holiday

 

Spain’s ruggedly beautiful Costa Brava, the sunny “Wild Coast” stretches for 160 km along Catalonia’s northeastern shores from Port Bou on the Franco-Spanish border to Tossa del Mar just north of Barcelona. Lined with green hillsides, craggy, wild cliffs, sandy inlets and caves, this is an adventure travelers paradise, where all manner of water sports, cycling and hiking are found.

The rugged coastline is dotted with lovely resorts interposed with unspoilt fishing villages and vibrant marinas. Exploring the hidden delights of the craggy coastline by boat, you discover deserted pine and citrus scented coves, ancient castles and fortifications.

On this jagged coast, L”Estartit is a diver’s heaven with an abundance of wrecks to explore in the crystalline waters. Just a mile offshore, the Medes Islands, a small archipelago of seven islets and a few reefs, features one of the richest marine reserves in the Mediterranean. Here, snorkelers and divers of every level delight in the thousands of fish and plant species that inhabit the submarine caves and crevices. To the south, Tossa del Mar, with its 12th Century walled town, its narrow, twisting streets and its lovely sandy beaches is one of the most attractive of the coastal villages and offers excellent opportunities for windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and boating.

On the northern coast, Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dali, houses a most unique museum created by the artist – a surrealistic fuchsia building topped with gigantic golden eggs. Dali is buried here in an unmarked crypt. Just a few miles away, Cadaques, Dali’s childhood home, is the epitome of a postcard-perfect Catalan seaside village, with its striking white houses with tiled red roofs, its splendid old church and winding cobblestone streets to the backdrop of towering mountains and the cobalt blue sea. Situated on a breathtaking bay, Rosas, Catalonia’s oldest town was a Greek trading post over 2000 years ago. Across the bay, the village of Empuries is the site of many ancient, romantic cultures: Originally a small Phoenician trading post, it was replaced by the Greek colonial village of Emporio in the 6th century BC and 4 centuries later it had become a Roman naval port. The ruins of an acropolis and of beautiful Greek and Roman villas dot the area.

Away from the coast, a very different Spain greets you. Here, you’re deep in Catalonia, with its ancient traditions and ambiance. Banyoles, a historic lakeside town north of Girona dates from 812, has developed around a Benedictine monastery. Its old town is crammed with fascinating ancient buildings centered on a lovely arcaded square, and its lake offers every kind of boating, from rowing to pedal boats.

En route from the Pyrenees to Barcelona, Girona, an unspoilt, more intimate urban center than its sister, Barcelona, is a quaint ancient city founded by the Romans which later became a Moorish stronghold. The meandering Onyar River runs through the town, flanked by pastel-colored houses from the Middle Ages perched on the site of the old city walls. This charming, medieval town, with its genuine Gothic character, has a present-day personality rooted in the Middle Ages. Wandering around its winding, old cobblestone streets, you suddenly discover a section of ancient Roman ramparts, or at another turning a magnificent 12th century cathedral or the ruins of the 12th century Arab baths. The “Call”, the old Jewish quarter, is a wonderful characteristic labyrinth of steep streets and ancient buildings, a perfectly preserved enclave which was the heart of Jewish life in the north and the seat of the Iberian Hebrew intellectual, Rabbi Moses Maimonides.