Friday, January 4, 2008

Vacation Dreams- A List of Places and Things

TOP 10 FRESH START GETAWAYS
Ten Life-Changing Escapes for a New You

See the end of the article for why I have it here...to see this article on its original space, click here.

1. Spa Renewal
Phuket, Thailand: Some spa programs are easy: a little massage here, a big salad there. Not the Five-day Puriti Purification Program at Trisara, a luxurious resort located near the Phuket airport on a secluded beachfront sanctuary. The immersive plan starts with a physical and includes daily fitness activities, body treatments, and yoga. You’ll eat raw organic food on the first and last days and only fresh vegetable juices and organic Chinese herbal supplements in between.

St. George, Utah: Red Mountain Spa is set in the stunning and serene southwestern Utah desert—an ideal spot for moonlight hikes, rock climbing, biking, tennis, swimming, and enough other activities to exhaust the tireless. The JumpStart 2008 package for January and February includes guided walks, tai chi, unlimited fitness classes, gourmet meals, and cooking demonstrations. Also available are extras such as day trips to Zion National Park and horseback riding. Save time for treatments at the Sagestone Spa, especially the Adobe Lavender Hydrating Cocoon.

2. Health and Wellness
Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa: Guests come to The Raj for Ayurveda, the ancient whole-body Indian health-care philosophy and practice. This award-winning spa on 100 beautiful Midwestern acres has antiaging and weight-loss regimens, along with treatments for ailments like Alzheimer’s and hypertension. A one-week stay includes two to three hours of daily treatments, yoga, health coaching, and cooking classes. French provincial rooms are elegant and comfortable.

Mysore, India: Indus Valley Ayurvedic Center, an innovative clinic and spa resort, offers traditional, therapeutic treatments in a palm tree–lined setting in the Chamundi Hills. The weeklong program includes sessions with a doctor, massages, yoga, lessons in Ayurvedic practices, and detoxing treatments. Accommodations are in the lovely main house or in cottages scattered throughout the grounds.

3. Academic Excursions
Southeast Asia: Stanford University’s Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia Suitcase Seminar, led by a former Stanford art history professor, includes tours of the Forbidden City in Hue and Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang. The 20-day trip is immersive, featuring traditional welcoming ceremonies, water-puppet performances, and visits to monasteries and the Phnom Penh university.

The Nile: Smithsonian Journeys’ Splendors of the Nile is a 12-day excursion that includes a stunning visit to the Pyramids of Giza. A Smithsonian Egyptologist brings to life the region’s religion, art, and recent archaeological discoveries. Four nights are spent in hotels in Cairo and Luxor, four on the Mirage II ship cruising the Nile, and the last at Aswan’s Elephantine Island Resort. .org

4. Extreme Sports
Dalton, New Hampshire: Learn to drive like a pro during a three-day course at Team O’Neil Rally School. The first two days cover basics like braking technique and skid control, and on day three you’ll move on to closed loops of real roads with gravel, trees, and other obstacles. Instructors are on hand at all times, and safety is a major consideration. One-, two-, and four-day sessions are also available, and students typically stay in one of many hotels in Littleton.

La Jolla, California: Make your Peter Pan fantasies come true at Torrey Pines Gliderport, one of the oldest paragliding schools in the country. You’ll spend the first few days of the basic training program on the ground learning to control, launch, and fly the wing. Then you’re ready for your first solo flight off a 300-foot cliff. You’ll soar for three to five minutes and land on the beach below. The course lasts from three to five days, depending on individual ability and agility, but has one flat rate. There are no accommodations, but there are several hotels in the area.


5. Volunteer Vacations
Kali Gandaki Valley, Nepal: Volunteers on the Chairro Gompa Restoration Project help redevelop an ancient Buddhist monastery (gompa) under the snow-capped Himalayas. The setting is stunning, encompassing a high-desert moonscape and colorful, orchard-filled valley. You’ll work on projects that can vary from building to restoration and art conservation. During the afternoons, you’re free to hike the villages, pick apples, visit schools, or keep working.

Costa Rica: The Sea Turtle Conservation Project in Costa Rica helps protect the critically endangered Leatherback Turtle, whose eggs are poached for their aphrodisiacal properties. Volunteer duties include digging out eggs from nests and transferring them to a hatchery, as well as night patrols. This is a trip for beach lovers, not luxury seekers, as lodgings are rustic, with volunteers living together on the beach in a cabin or tent. But those turtles sure are cute!

6. Photography Expeditions
Argentina: You’ll click like a pro after the International Center of Photography’s Los Glaciares National Park weeklong workshop. Start with a tour of Buenos Aires, then move on to the park, a World Heritage Site with snowy mountains and glacier-fed lakes. Subject matter, setting, and variable lighting make for challenging photographic conditions, which participants master through lessons and critiques.

New Mexico: National Geographic photojournalist Carole Devillers leads small groups to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge, where snow geese, cranes, coyotes, and bald eagles are the subjects. A typical day involves sunrise and sunset shoots, with hands-on composition and light tips.

7. Yoga Retreats
Tulum, Mexico: Casa Magna, a new destination from the creators of Amansala Bikini Boot Camp, is made up of two luxurious villas on a stunning stretch of beach near Amansala. In January and February, a rotating cast of yoga instructors will lead weeklong sessions—ironic, given that this is the former home of drug lord Pablo Escobar. Guests have access to Amansala activities, including massages, snorkeling, and visits to Mayan ruins.

Big Island, Hawaii: For eight years, Yoga Oasis has been luring guests to its lush retreat in a rain forest near black-sand beaches. The Maha (“great”) Yoga program includes pranayama yoga, Chi-Hatha yoga (incorporating traditional Hawaiian healing with Qigong visualization and energy techniques), and afternoon yoga labs tailored to individual needs. In free time, visit Volcano National Park, waterfalls, and geothermal hot ponds. Accommodations are jungle-inspired and comfortable.


8. Wilderness Skills
Baja, Mexico: Sustainable living may be the latest trend in ecotravel, but NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School, has been doing it since 1965. On a two-week Baja sea-kayaking trip along the Sea of Cortez in February, you’ll learn to read tide tables, understand currents, and create camps in sandy beaches and rocky coves. Downtime activities include skin diving, spear fishing, and basking in the sun. This is leave-no-footprint camping, with backcountry meals and sleeping under the stars.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Lost meets Survivor in a weeklong Earthskills Caribbean Rendezvous retreat at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute, where you’ll learn age-old skills like hide tanning, foraging for edible plants, making rope from natural fibers, and carving spears and slingshots from local wood. Usable skills back at the office? No, but it will make outstanding watercooler fodder. Housing is modest: farm-rustic cabanas and tents.

9. Cooking Schools
Oxford, England: Connoisseurs flock to Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the English countryside for the luxurious hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant. But you can take the chiffonade home with you after a four-day course at the Cookery School, where you’ll learn how to prepare classic French dishes amid the comfort of a five-night hotel stay. All levels of expertise are welcome.

Cuernavaca, Mexico: Master the basics of Mexican cuisine at La Villa Bonita, where budding chefs are taught by Ana Garcia, the chef at Reposado (one of Cuernavaca’s most popular restaurants) and the star of a new PBS cooking show. Culinary field trips and excursions to nearby ruins round out your cultural immersion. Guests stay in a 16th-century private mansion. The four-night/five-day package does not include nightly dinners but does cover transport to and from the Mexico City airport.

10. Mountain Highs
Ecuador: Mountain Travel Sobek’s Volcanoes of Ecuador is an 11-day trip for adventurers who want a tough but stunningly beautiful above-the-clouds challenge. After an altitude-adjusting first day in Quito, the group climbs three snow-capped volcanoes (including Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world), with ample recovery time between ascents. Highlights along the way include soaking in hot springs and marveling at glaciers. Travelers stay in charming haciendas, lodges, and mountain refuges.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania: G.A.P. Adventures’ Kilimanjaro Trek follows the Marangu Route to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain. The physically challenging trip lasts seven days, with a gradual ascent assisted by local guides. The payoff, after trekking through thick rain forest and alpine zones, is a view of the world from 19,340 feet. Accommodations are in comfortable and scenic mountain huts, most of which have running water.

From Me:
There was a story on Yahoo just now about the top ten travel/vacation getaway ideas. I'm all about quoting articles and exerpting things here but I'm not an all-out copy and paste person, but this article I had to borrow liberally from because I know if I just bookmark the website I'll lose it.

My wife is a fan of vacation getaways, and I'm always looking for ways to surprise her with things. By keeping this here I hope to be able to come back to this list and maybe do some of these things.

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