A Costa Rican Adventure

February 15th, 2016

Hello, Compass Travelers!

Here at Compass Travel, planning unique travel experiences for our clients is what we do best. We take the time to learn what you want, then provide options to help you get the most out of your time away. We could tell you all about our services, but we think it’s better for you to hear what some of our travelers have to say directly. Here is a note from a family we sent to Costa Rica on a tour with Trafalgar Tours a couple of months ago:

A Letter to Compass Travel Agent Wendy:

Our vacation was AWESOME. We had so much fun. All of our travels went smoothly. Our tour director, German Rojas, was great. It was the perfect combination of activities and relaxation—we had so many interesting things to do. Our tour group included 22 people. Traveling by bus, we saw many different parts of the country; rest stops and attractions along the way helped break up the driving.

slothThe girls’ favorite part was Tortuguero, where we took boat rides into the rain forest. We saw a wide variety of animals including sloths, crocodiles, monkeys, otters, turtles, iguanas, king fishers, toucans, and every imaginable bird, flower, and butterfly. We visited an organic pineapple plantation (delicious), stopped at a farm where we watched how hearts of palm were harvested and then tasted them in homemade tortillas cooked over an open fire, drank coconut milk and visited with a very kind and gracious couple who opened their home to us.

We visited the Arenal Volcano, walked through the rain forest on suspension bridges hundreds of feet above the ground, went zip lining (thrilling), went to a breathtakingly beautiful beach and swam in the Pacific Ocean, filmed the monkeys frolicking in the forest, visited small towns along the way, enjoyed beautiful countryside, shopped for souvenirs, sampled all kinds of delicious foods and all in all had a terrific time.

hotel

A special treat on the tour was a New Year’s Eve Party at our hotel with dinner, entertainment, and fireworks. We would highly recommend Trafalgar Tours! Thanks so much for all of your help and hard work in arranging this trip for us. We are most certainly satisfied customers!

Jeannie

bridge

Walking high atop the rain forest–an adventure of a lifetime!

Please contact Wendy to book this trip for your own family, or choose from a number of itineraries to Costa Rica for families or for couples!

Club Med Punta Cana

June 7th, 2015

Recently, I spent a few days at Club Med Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, to learn more about this all-inclusive resort. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a gorgeous view. This property is stunning: white sand beaches, turquoise water, gently bending palms. The buildings fit seamlessly into the landscape. No modern high-rises here…the reception area and main bar are open air and covered by thatched roofs. Club Med prides itself on celebrating the geography and the local building style of its location.

A 2,000-foot beach fronts the property, with a long and winding pool behind it. There are expansive lawns surrounded by palm trees, lined by large family-sized day beds, covered by netting – a perfect base from which to partake in the staggering schedule of activities offered each day. The activities are endless! And most are included in your cost. Sailing, yoga, aerobics, volleyball, dance lessons, tennis lessons, golf lessons and more are all included. Scuba, snorkeling, kite surfing, fishing, golf and excursions can all be added for an extra nominal fee. Seriously, there was something happening here every hour of every day. But you could also choose to lay on the beach or by the pool, with no interruptions. A lovely spa is on site where you can schedule your massage on the beach or in a treatment room.

The rooms themselves are in brightly colored 2-story buildings running parallel to the beach line. My room, a deluxe couple accommodation, had a lovely huge closet, a large double bed (which was two twins zipped together), tiled floor, stucco walls, a sitting room with a fridge, two televisions, and also featured a lovely porch with two teak chairs and a table…a perfect place for morning coffee or tea or an evening glass of wine. The bathroom featured a large shower, and a separate water closet. These rooms are comfortable, clean and definitely fit the style of the resort: casual, and “ beach-y.” This is a great choice for families. There are kids’ clubs for children of all ages and they all seemed to be having a blast. The recently added “Creactive” area (designed and built by Cirque du Soleil) offers trapeze and circus training for all ages. The recently added adult-only Zen section has its own pool and bar. It’s removed from the more active areas and near the spa – a perfect spot for a relaxing, romantic getaway.

To learn more about Club Med Punta Cana and other Club Med vacations, give me a call!

Amy
Compass Travel Consultant

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Cruising Along

February 9th, 2014

Hello Compass Travelers!

I know it’s only mid February, but I want to talk about Christmas! For those of you who just love the Christmas season, you will enjoy this. For those who are ready for summer green to replace winter white, keep reading, you won’t be disappointed.

This past December, Allie, one of our wonderful travel agents, did a little scouting for us (for you, really!). She sailed on a riverboat for a Christmas Time cruise through the European countries where many of our own holiday traditions originated. She returned so eager to share her experiences that we’ve decided to plan a cruise for next Christmas for you, our wonderful Compass travelers!

There is something about a river that pulls on our imaginations. A river cruise offers a unique experience where the view is constantly changing and amazing stories unfold. As many of you know, the best experiences are the ones you don’t plan; they arise from the journey itself, the uniqueness of the experience, and the people you meet. On a river cruise, the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.

Beyond the magic of Old World Europe, you will enjoy the festivities of the season like nothing you have ever known. The food on this cruise is extraordinary. No other cruise line can boast membership in the oldest and largest food and wine society in the world–the Chaines des Rotisseurs. Besides the delectable dining, you will explore some of the most enchanting Christmas markets in places like Salzburg and Prague. You will enjoy nightly entertainment, stately rooms with balconies that overlook the ever-changing views, ultra pampering spa services, intimate group excursions, unique specialty tours, and meeting a lot of happy people.

Now you see why I wanted to get you thinking about next Christmas. For more information on this special event, take a peek at Allie’s travelogue in our newsletter, Journeys and call us to help you plan a very special holiday season next December!

Holly

Another Trip to Italy?

December 8th, 2013
Dear Compass Travelers,

Today, I share some thoughts from longtime Compass traveler Pam Broadley who joined us in Piemonte this past fall. During the two weeks we spent in Italy, Pam kept a daily journal, which is excerpted here. You can read Pam’s full travelogue in our newsletter section, Journeys.

“Another trip to Italy?” friends and family ask. I first visited Italy just out of college to track down the museums and works of art memorized for my art history classes. I’ve long since graduated from back packs, foreign train stations and pensiones, those small family rooming houses with dubious plumbing. Instead, I go to Italy with Holly and Luigi knowing that I’ll have a spectacular vacation eating at fabulous restaurants, staying in charming hotels, and having plenty of time and freedom to soak up what I love about this country—the beauty, the flowers, the food, the long lunches with wine and water bottles scattered across the table, the way the architecture and landscape blend in perfect harmony, the people, so generous and welcoming. Dare I say the shopping?  The treasures—how can one country have so many?  The expressiveness of this place…

Day One: Villa Beccaris is perched above the town of Monforte D’Alba in the middle of Barolo and Barbaresco wine country. Marco, our affable tour guide, tells us that the grape harvest is two weeks late this year due to a cold, rainy June. So, we get to see tightly packed cones of plumy grapes weighing the vines. We are treated to lunch in a glass conservatory overlooking vineyards, hill towns and in the distance, the Alps. Lunch includes fresh squeezed blood oranges and a salad bar with impossibly fresh, crisp vegetables, great antidotes to jet lag. Oh, and the wine that says, “you are back in Italy.”

Day Five: I think this was my favorite day in Piemonte! We travel to the Alta Langhe to meet two food artisans. Leaving the vineyards behind, we drive through forests, villages and high meadows to the town of Borgomale. The bus drops us off on a narrow road and we walked until coming to a round, hand painted sign hanging from a tree: “Formaggi di Pecora a Latte Crudo,” loosely translated as “raw sheep milk cheese.”  There, we meet Silvio Pistone, a handsome farmer who fashions delectable cheese from his small flock of Langhan sheep.

Day Eight: We arrive at Hotel Cannero, and I have the sense that this place has been waiting for me to return. The lake is placid, the air is balmy, and the mountains rise up just as dramatically as I remember. The Hotel feels like an old friend, and I run around reacquainting myself with the beautifully appointed spaces. The staff is familiar, too—the same daughter-in-law in the wine cellar, the same Maitre d’ with his mischievous antics, the same dignified son at the front desk, and the same watchful mother. My room overlooks the courtyard fountain with a balcony facing the lake. From here I can watch the day unfold.

Thank you, Pam, for sharing your personal experiences on one of our escorted tours. As we turn the calendar to 2014, we look forward to many more wonderful adventures with our clients. Check our site often for updates – We are planning a fabulous sojourn to Portugal and we are happy to collaborate again with Words in Play for a wild west adventure in Wyoming! Stay tuned…

Happy Holidays from Holly and Luigi!

————-

Where in the World is Holly?

August 17th, 2013
Seaside town of Porto

Porto, Portugal

I know I’ve said this before – I just love my job. I get to scout out interesting places that you might want to visit. Most recently, Luigi and I spent a week in Portugal. We visited the seaside town of Porto. Originally settled as a Roman outpost, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe – you can just imagine the ancient ruins and historic architecture. In more recent times, this romantic, sensuous city has undergone a renaissance of sorts and has so much to offer visitors – music, art, fine dining, and lots of local color. The birthplace of port wine, this picturesque town in the Douro River valley is a mecca for wine aficionados.

Douro River Valley

And speaking of wine, we also visited the jewel of an island called Madeira, 370 miles off the coast of Morocco. Known for its lace, gardens, and of course wine, this island is irresistible. We loved it so much that we decided we wanted to share the experience with you all. So, we hope you will join us on our escorted tour to Portugal planned for September of next year.

Reids Palace Hotel on Madeira

We thoroughly checked out the many great hotels and activities and found all the best to offer you.

I know, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Stay tuned for more escorted tours. And, don’t forget – if you want us to design a tour for you, just give us a call.

We love to travel and we know how to navigate all the details so you don’t have to.

Holly

A New Year of Travel Adventures

February 3rd, 2013

It’s the beginning of a new year, and all of us at Compass Travel are looking forward to helping you experience new adventures and make new discoveries. Our team of agents don’t just sit at desks and sell airline tickets from our computers. We get out there and test drive, if you will, all manner of adventures—for you. For instance, when it comes to planning a Disney vacation, no one has the magic like Wendy! She knows just about everything Disney and can conjure up an enchanting trip just for you!

Allie has a flair for adventure. She just returned from a trip to the Galapagos Islands to gain inside knowledge about that very distinctive place. You can read all about her trip in our newsletter section, Journeys!

If Old World European culture is your style, we are offering some wonderful escorted tours this year – retreat to a Cotswold country house and bask in the timeless beauty of spring gardens with private tours of some of England’s most glorious floral displays.

Or, perhaps you need something a little more exotic – then Spain is your ticket. Join Colby-Sawyer’s excursion this May for a zesty treat.

And speaking of treats, Luigi and I invite you on a culinary road trip to northern Italy in September. You can’t get much closer to heaven than eating your way through the Piemonte region of the Alps, where at every turn there is a magnificent view and every meal is a delightful experience.

To top off 2013, we are planning New Year’s Eve in Paris! We hope you will join us to celebrate life and travel around the world!

So, our wish for all our clients this year – Enjoy an Adventure – the World is Waiting for you!

Holly

Send Us Away – Please!

July 19th, 2012

A family of 19 traveling together for a tropical retreat. Ten artists renting a villa in Tuscany to capture its beauty in watercolors. A college alumni group heading to Montreal for a mini reunion. Vacation and travel mean different things to different people. The world is full of wonderful opportunities to share adventure and fun with a group.

Whether skiing…

or lounging on a tropical beach…

travel can be life changing. Travel planning can be confusing—especially for groups. There are so many details to consider. But beyond that, there are many opportunities that might be missed if you don’t know what you are looking for. For instance, did you know that if you travel in a group of eight or more to Disney World, you are classified as a “Grand Gathering” and are eligible for special services, such as private safaris and behind-the-scenes activities? You might discover this little fact on your own, surfing countless Internet sites. But, how much of your time would that cost?

I just did a quick Google search for “travel with groups.” The result:  821,000,000 sites popped up. Whew, that’s a lot of browsing. And, when you find a site that looks appealing, how do you know that the trip you plan is going to fulfill your dreams? Well, that’s why we are here. We don’t have to search the Internet. We rely on our own network of great tours and vacation packages—from a wild West adventure, to a Bahamas seabirding ecotour, to an Antarctica cruise, and everything in between.

Last year, we sent a group of writers to the northern reaches of Italy, in the foothills of the Alps, for an inspirational week of poetry and prose. One excursion took them to a quaint farmhouse atop a mountain peak for a day of writing and gastronomic delights—the participants enjoyed one of the most authentic and unexpected experiences of their entire trip. It was so amazing, that we are planning another trip to that farm—stay tuned for more on that! The point is that this special place is not advertised on the Internet. I found it when I was exploring the region for ideas to share with my clients. That is what I do. My agents and I are constantly traveling ourselves, meeting with tour operators, attending travel conferences, reading up on the latest travel opportunities, and staying abreast of travel-related news and information. You don’t have to spend hours browsing the Internet and hoping for the best. We can provide the best to you.

So, open your mind to the endless possibilities and let us narrow them down to a wondrous travel experience!

Holly

P.S. Photos by Bob Popp

Quaint and Authentic Farm Art

Where is the Sun?

February 29th, 2012

Right about now, with a Nor’easter blowing cold, wet snow across the gray landscape of New England, I can easily picture myself on a white sandy beach, sun shining, crystal blue water beckoning…can’t you?

We can put you in that picture! Our travel agents, Allie and Wendy, have bit the bullet and taken a few junkets to the fabulous Sandals & Beaches resorts in the Caribbean. Sandals, known for their posh hotels and spas, offer a myriad of activities to suit any traveler’s needs. If you want to hit the fairways, we can send you to Emerald Bay, Great Exuma in The Bahamas, where you can putter on the award-winning Emerald Reef course designed by golf legend Greg Norman.

Or, maybe you are looking for a romantic honeymoon retreat. We recommend Grande Antiqua, voted the “world’s most romantic resort” 14 years running. This special resort touts unique rondovals, round-shaped villas with conical roofs nestled in the tropical foliage; each comes complete with private butler! Allie agrees—it’s very grand!

For a family vacation, the Beaches resorts on the islands of Jamaica and the Turks & Caicos have been voted “World’s Best Family Resorts” at the World Travel Awards year after year. All of these special retreats offer all-inclusive packages, fabulous food, exquisite accommodations, and plenty of fun activities. And then, there’s the world class Spas…Aahhhh, need I say more?

It’s a tough job, says Allie, traipsing to these exotic locales to test the waters, literally, for our clients. Really, we do it for you! You can’t find that kind of first-hand knowledge on the Internet!

If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, what about a seabirding expedition to the Cay Sal Bank, in the most remote archipelago of The Bahamas, with really fun wildlife biologists? It’ll be an experience of a lifetime, if you like that sort of thing!

Any way you look at it, a day on the turquoise waters of the Caribbean is a lot warmer than a day in a Nor’easter! Let us send you away…

Holly

Add a Splash of Color

July 6th, 2011

Summer is great for many reasons; one of my favorites is how colorful the world is during these hot sunny months. Here in New England, winters can be long and gray. It’s hard to imagine that now, with all the sunshine, green trees, and blooming flowers everywhere you turn. Summer is short and very sweet to us who live in these northern climes. I have traveled to many parts of the world and I can tell you that colors really do characterize a place — the muted terra cotta and soft grays of Tuscany, the rusts and reds of Utah, the bright whites and cobalt blues of Greece, the rolling green striped hills of Napa Valley. So, as we sat around the office deciding where we want to take our travelers next, we arrived at one of the most colorful places on earth – tropical Belize! Bright oranges, deep purples, blazing reds, a zillion shades of green, azure and turquoise. What a sensory delight!

We are teaming up with Words in Play Writing Workshops once again to offer a Writer’s Retreat in a very special place that will fill your need for color during the deep dark months of Winter! Join us this coming February as we venture to new places sure to ignite your imagination.

Holly

Oh, and here is a poem that one of our past retreat goer’s wrote for us:

WHISPER BELIZE

by Gini White

A gentle gulf breeze seems to whisper “Belize.”

Toucans in the trees seem to herald “Belize.”

Each black orchid

Tells me I should love you.  I do!

Anyone can see why I wanted your bliss,

It had to be, but the wonder is this:

Can it be true

Paradise, it is you, “Belize.”

Vacations with a Purpose

May 29th, 2011

All travel has a purpose, even if that purpose is just to sit on a beach and soak up some rays of sunshine. HOWEVER, if you are looking for something a bit more challenging to both mind and spirit, we can offer you some interesting options. We just returned from our escorted tour to Lago Maggiore in northern Italy for a week of creative expression. The creative energy flowing that week was second only to the warm and wonderful interaction of the group.

The participants met each day for writing workshops, then we explored the lake and its jewels. The variety of writing was amazing: poetry – even sonnets! – free verse, fiction, memoir, journal writing, and everything in between. One woman who claimed not to be a writer, told us, “I anticipated staying on the fringes [of the workshops], but got hooked by the quality of the leadership, the warmth, talents and work ethic of all participants, and our joy in each other’s drafts, the rough drafts along with the more polished ones.” This woman ended up writing a beautiful 14 line sonnet!

We are planning more of these types of writing retreats, in tropical locations (Belize in February!), domestic travel (Alaska here we come), and other European venues (France is on the list). We can plan a trip to wherever you want to go, just let us know.

Holly

P.S. Here is the view from our hotel room balcony!