patagonia

patagonia

                        The Beautiful Islands of Tahiti!

I promise you a shared travel experience with friends establishes an unforgettable, life-long bond.  I am so excited by the promise of silky white beaches, impossibly blue lagoons, and islands fringed by elegant palm trees. What better way to experience the fabled islands of the South Pacific considered to be the pulse of French Polynesia, than on an award winning luxury small cruise ship?

Our ship is intimate, custom built for navigating through the dreamlike lagoons and ports with only 332 passengers, offering unparalleled service. Seventy percent of the spacious staterooms have balconies which I totally recommend!



 Our journey through the mythical Society Islands of Tahiti.


 
Greeting me every morning.  😎

          Paarara Artist's Cottage on Bora Bora. We observed the artist perfecting his colorful handicraft, including wall art as well as unique art on clothing.


Such an enchanting evening. Time to reflect.


As we marveled at the Tahitian sky on the top deck of m/s Paul Gauguin, Kim Novotny helped us to locate the Southern Cross.


The Underwater Walk in Bora Bora - beauty living in harmony featuring Trigger Fish, Butterfly Fish, Parrot Fish, Stingray, and Coral of the most vibrant colors. 


Yoga on the stand up paddle board.... anyone?


 Water sports from the back of the ship in Opunohu Bay.



            Horseback riding in the Opunoho Valley, Moorea. You can't help but to be awestruck by its natural beauty. Jagged peaks surround lush greenery, encircled by the deep blue of the ocean and sky.




A highlight for many is surely a day  on  private Motu Mahana a short distance from  the island of Taha'a, reserved only for ship guests. Swim in the warm waters, snorkel with colorful fish among the green and purple corals, take out the  kayaks and paddle boards that have been brought out from the watersports marina. Why not treat yourself to an overwater massage, and enjoy a sumptuous barbecue feast, complete with specialty drinks from a floating bar.


We were entertained by a guest presenter of many talents, Vikram Vij.  His five restaurants in Vancouver are reflections of the personal and culinary journeys that he has taken throughout India. My Shanti, one of his restaurants, received a nomination as one of Canada's Best New Restaurants..... easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world. I am looking at my travel schedule to see when I can spend some time in Vancouver.   Namaste and enjoy!
 

A Tahitian rainbow - declaring that the day will be a very good day. Although isn't that always the case in these fabled islands?


Conversation is plentiful as the open dining options in La Veranda, L'Etoile, and Le Grill are both exquisite and relaxed, with expertly prepared dishes,  unlimited specialty drinks and fine wines throughout. The ship has made every effort to accommodate new found friends!

 
The colorful Saturday morning Papeete, Tahiti market.
The people of Tahiti have a beautiful soul. They are honored that we are visiting their paradise, as they treat us as they would family. Their culture is peaceful and colorful, with a bit of magic folded in.
 

        A mother made her daughter a new head piece several times a week....just because~!


How can you leave Tahiti without purchasing a Tahitian Pearl? These black pearls are farmed in the turquoise  waters of French Polynesia. They are often referred to as black pearls but have a remarkably unique color range. 


A colorful floral arrangement and Tahitian delectables are at every turn. The locals are warm and delightful. Their wish is to make you smile and your journey memorable.


A stop in Bora Bora is never complete without dinner and/or drinks at Bloody Mary's.  This was super convenient to dine at because the ship was overnight in Bora Bora. The restaurant has a convenient shuttle that will take you from and back to the pier. Tip: Be sure to make reservations in advance.


BUCKET LIST ALERT - scattered throughout the islands are sensational over the water bungalows, inspiring romance on an epic scale.  


As the sun sets on this adventure which has been remarkable in so many ways,  I am convinced  that Tahiti should be on everyone's list. (By the way I rarely say this.) This is a destination that forces you to slow down, to reflect, and discover something new every day. I experienced the world under the water, which I had never done before. 


The gateway to the islands of Tahiti is the city of Papeete, only 8 hrs from Los Angeles and and 6 hours from Honolulu. We broke  up the flight from Chicago with a 2 night stopover, staying at a property in Santa Monica (a Virtuoso property where my clients receive amenities) which  allowed our bodies  to  gradually get used to the time change.The price to book your adventure online versus using an advisor is no different. You can book this cruise online but why would you? By using a Virtuoso advisor you receive onboard shipboard credits and  a trusted advisor to talk you thru the very important shore excursions when planning this unforgettable experience. You will be sent  all kinds of tips  gathered through my own personal travels!


"I have learned that I am not a tourist.....I am a traveler that not only sees but feels the world around me." 

Kathy Moran    
kmorantravel.com    
630.267.3054

                   OUR LOVE AFFAIR WITH ITALY

There are at least five distinct regions in Italy, all with their own style and personality. This is precisely why  so many people return to Italy, time after time after time! A superb destination management company, Italian Dream Incorporated,  is in the business of weaving an itinerary with a mix of fantasy and reality - all  in one travel experience.  This is not easy to do but my onsite of choice  I.D.I designs travel every time with a grace that is unmatched. I was given the amazing opportunity to travel with I.D.I. on a Virtuoso study tour to fabulously beautiful Italy.

Please note that I can arrange any of these experiences for you.




Our adventure began in Florence where private guides introduced a group of advisors  to privileged events, one of which was an  exclusive visit to  Michelangelo’s secret archives. We were allowed access to Michelangelo's original drawings, 500 year old unedited notes and autographed papers, and diaries pertaining to the artist. 


                                The Arno River, Florence Italy


We wind our way throughout spectacular Tuscany - so lovely in the fall with wonderful temperatures. Our first stop is in Siena, known worldwide for for its Palio horse race. Siena is a 14th century village surrounded by gently rolling hills. Our private guide was hand-selected by I.D.I and not only gave us great insight into Siena but the local  culture as well. We all were so impressed by our guide!

The beautiful property that we stayed at in the very heart of Tuscany  delivered beyond my wildest dreams, with  fabulous accommodations, exclusive wine tasting, and  a cooking class in a beautifully designed Tuscan kitchen with a fabulous chef at our disposal. Please let me know if you are interested in the  recipes of the amazing Fresh Pasta and Cantucci that we prepared.   

Ending in Rome,early morning  breakfast at the Vatican was indeed a highlight, an exclusive event with only 30 guests. Our private guide took us through the Vatican  Museum including Raphael's Rooms as we toured the seemingly endless collection of treasures. Of course Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel was fabulous, especially in the early morning before regular opening hours. An extraordinary finish is at the Basilica.

Can't get enough of Southeast Asia....

Southeast Asia continues to intrigue me - the culture is exotic and the destinations are authentic and emerging. Given that superb combination it can't possibly get much more interesting than that!


Honestly my stop in Kyoto, Japan is somewhat by accident and has proven to be  a sensational detour. Let me say that there are wonderful ways to create magic out of a ho- hum layover. When I realized I most probably would be connecting through Tyoko, I decided to route my flight through Kyoto, Japan.... a country high on my list. (Allow me to help you get creative in your layovers.) Now I simply cannot wait  for some serious destination immersion into this fabulous country of Japan.

I am so excited to be visiting Kyoto, Japan during their very busy Golden Week, a collection of four national holidays within seven days.  Kyoto has a terrific transportation system and getting around is very easy. I happen to be visiting Kyoto in April and  can still see the beautiful cherry blossoms although late in bloom.  If you can visit only one city in Japan, set your sights on Kyoto.  This ancient city was the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years and still is considered the country's spiritual capital. Kyoto is elegant, graced with an abundance of temples, palaces, gardens and museums.
 
                              Kiyomizu Temple with cherry blossoms!

The highlights of Kyoto are centered on three sites: the Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle and the Kiyomizu Temple. To maximize your knowledge of this intriguing city, a private tour is the only way to properly experience this and I am happy to arrange a tour for you!

Several Fun Tips:
Fans of Arthur Golden's novel Memoirs of a Geisha might like to stroll around the Gion neighborhood, where the story was set. It was enjoyable to walk through the Gion District and I found the souvenir offerings to be exquisite.

Do use hashi (chopsticks) for Japanese food. Use Western utensils for Western food. Note: Please avoid stabbing your french fries with chopsticks.

Added bonus: 
The flight from Kyoto to Bangkok, Thailand is only five hours and I have maximized my layover with two wonderful nights in lovely Kyoto, Japan.
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On a  very different note, Bangkok Thailand, can soothe or ruffle, and it often does both. You either love the excitement of the vibrant charm or are overwhelmed by it. Whatever the case you cannot deny that this cultural hub of Southeast Asia will assault your senses. Whether contemplating the sunrise or partaking in the ritual of the monks collecting alms, you will marvel at the peace which can be found in this chaotic city. Within a few blocks you will witness both  modern civilization and historic treasures.  Bangkok's temples are some of the finest in all of Asia.

Major sights: The Grand Palace; Wat Pho; Chatuchat Market; the sunset over Wat Arun

Memorable Meals: Ahhh, too many to list! Please call me.

The Grand Palace, Bangkok

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Please take a moment and scroll up to the map at the beginning of this entry.  You will now understand why Phuket, set in the Andaman Sea, is considered Thailand's resort area. Phuket is Thailand's largest island linked to the mainland by the Sarasin Bridge. The renowned destinations of Khao Lak and Phang Nga lie just off the island to the north, Krabi to the east and Koh Phi Phi to the south.

The exotic resort area of Khao Lak is my recommendation on the island of Phuket, allowing easy access to the Similan Islands, fabulous for snorkelers and divers. Among other things Khao Lak offers a stunning coastline and five nearby national parks. Oh do I have excursion ideas for you! What would you say to a private charter on board a 38-ft luxury boat, a Thai cooking class held by a romantic waterfall, jungle safaris or bamboo rafting? Weddings have become very popular as the bride, groom and guests are all treated to  barefoot and beachfront ceremonies.

If there is one excursion you cannot miss it is Phang Nga Bay, renowned for its dramatic limestone islands jutting  vertically out of the lime green water. I was treated to a sea canoe journey meandering through lagoons an caves exposed only at lower tides.  Phang Nga Bay's  most famous limestone rock is Tapu Island, where portions of James Bond's "The Man With The Golden Gun" was shot.
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A flight to the north of Thailand takes us to the ancient city of Chiang Mai, "the land of a million rice fields". There is a moat around the old town that still remains intact.  The temps are much cooler that Bangkok and the pace of life is slower.

Tip: Travelers with more adventurous tastes can head for Chiang Rai and other towns  bordering Myanmar. As these are emerging destinations please be sure to call me so that we can create a perfectly suited itinerary to your desires. I can keep you abreast of changes and fluctuations in travel arrangements.
 
Such gentle creatures!

                  Being sprayed by elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand!

AMAZING EXPERIENCE!!! We spent the day at an elephant farm outside of Chiang Mai. For those of you who know me this is WAY outside my comfort zone... but I did it! We spent the whole day with our elephants, ascending what I considered to be a mountain as we rode bareback.  I was extremely impressed with their conservation efforts and their kind treatment of the elephants. It is clear that the  elephants love their trainers and are well treated.
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Travelers who are looking for Southeast Asia as it was 50 years ago should add Laos to their vacation list. Unlike other Southeast Asian countries who are encouraging a rapid growth of tourism, Laos has remained low-key and has developed at a much slower rate than its neighbors, wishing to stay true to its culture.  My short introduction to Laos was in the lovely, temple filled city of Luang Prabang, hosting a fabulous night market along Sisavangvong Road and its side streets.  Ringed by mountains, the beautiful town of Luang Prabang is an ideal spot for adventurous travelers. There are plenty of opportunities for hikes with trained local guides to hill-tribe villages in the surrounding hills.

"Rice Experience" where I was shown the 13 steps of growing and harvesting.

We are set up with our small stools to give alms to the monks as they pass by in the early morning.

Have I properly conveyed just how much I love this part of the world? Than again I do enjoy all places that I choose to travel. The actual experiences are so important as I design  your amazing travel itineraries.  Please reach out to me at any time kathymoran@kmorantravel.com or 630.267.3054. I look forward to talking!

  The romance of a mountain hideaway  - and so much more!

Why do I travel to  remote and fascinating destinations? A calculated strategy made this adventure a "gold mine", as I unearthed precious gems that will help us as we work together to create a richer and more authentic travel experience for you.

Several blog entries ago  I detailed my  summer experience at a luxury  ranch.  Back in June my immediate thought was that this would also be a wonderful adventure in the winter. Which ranch to spend your precious vacation time at is an extremely important decision. Because I am immersed in this industry day in and day out, I know which ranches deliver over-the-top experiences.

                                 A herd of elk on ranch property!

I researched and chose this property because it is an ideal spot for people who are interested in outdoor activities but are not fanatical about them.  Most of my clients fall into this category. This vacation can be as busy or as laid back as you want it to be. The stately lodge has a large reading room with beautiful  wood furniture and oh so comfy sofas. Guests come here to sip cocktails in the loft  bar and gaze at the spectacular mountain  scenery.
The pool area surrounded by cabins, steps away from the main lodge.

 The dining room is glass-enclosed made for extreme viewing, and the food is delicious. It is here that we recounted all the day's adventures.  A small fitness center is located in a cabin overlooking the woods, and a masseuse is on staff. The larger one- and two-bedroom cabins have living areas with fireplaces,  a kitchenette, comfortable chairs and a dining area.  Packages are available for special events or weekend activities, including wine tastings, fishing workshops and cattle drives. Nearly everything is included in the rates, from meals to wine and fully stocked wet bars, to fly-casting lessons and ski-lift tickets.

The amenities are top notch and the service is the best I have experienced  anywhere! Couples and small groups will enjoy this  one-of-a-kind property.
After a day of skiing, horseback riding, or photo safari, could you think of a more inviting way to relax?


Design your own vacation as you plan your activities with a staff that wants nothing more than to make your stay with them an unforgettable experience. Your choices are horseback riding, dog sledding, hiking or snowshoeing,  or tubing over the snow.  Off-ranch  adventures such as  guided fly fishing, scenic river floating, white water rafting,  and down hill skiing are also offered.

 
Taken by me on a photo safari! (Hard to believe?)

We enjoyed so many wonderful activities, but my favorite was the private photo safari. A  rugged SUV was necessary to explore the places where the ranch specialists thought we would most likely be able to spot wildlife. We were each given a beautiful Canon camera with a telephoto zoom lens. The ranch than downloaded our photos and emailed them to us the next day!

Without a doubt this was an incredibly  authentic experience in a new destination which  offered it all... a diverse selection of activities, relaxation,   and of course time to  reconnect with loved ones over gourmet meals.

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A short flight to San Francisco takes me to a  different kind of heaven. The springboard for a Northern California adventure is in Sausalito, California. Sausalito hugs the waterfront just inside the Golden Gate, offering unforgettable views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and San Francisco itself.  Be sure to let me know if you are heading out this way as I can book you into an amazing Virtuoso property with wonderful access to San Francisco.

Awesome views!

 Napa Valley...am I in Tuscany, Italy?

Only an hour from San Francisco, the  Sonoma Valley is the birthplace of America's wine region and encompasses a rolling patchwork of vineyards and quaint farms.  The legendary  Napa Valley has become prominent as America's great wine capital. Home to over 650 wineries, it is a delight for food and wine enthusiasts. My mission is simply to look at properties and of course to enjoy the amazing wine choices!






70 degrees and absolutely beautiful...in January!




 I'll say it one more time!  This adventure was incredible in every possible way. There are so many wonderful properties and experiences -  here in our backyard. No passport necessary! Please be sure to give me a call as my knowledge is extensive and I would enjoy working with you in the planning process.
                                        kathymoran@kmorantravel.com   630.267.3054