Archive for the ‘Escorted Tours’ Category

America’s Canyonlands

Saturday, November 10th, 2018
Dear Compass Travelers,

Today, I share a travelogue from Compass traveler Lois Watts who joined us on our Western adventure to America’s Canyonlands this Fall. Enjoy!


Lois Watts

On September 19, a merry band of 18 travelers, hosted by Compass Travel, left the ordered world of New England behind for a 10-day tour of another world: America’s Canyonlands—ancient, primeval, surreal, untouched by time and civilization.

Our first stop was Utah, where we met up with Jennie, our fantastic tour guide and “Happy Max,” our bus driver. We began our visit in Zion National Park, a world of towering red stone cliffs that surrounded us as we set off on a hike. No words or photographs can begin to capture what rain, wind, time and the Colorado River shaped over millions of years. Suddenly, we felt reduced in size and significance entering these giant red canyon cliffs of Zion. Some of us took the difficult trails, others the easy trails with our guides. We all felt the awesomeness of this towering world that enveloped us.

Evenings we stopped to check into our hotel, the bus bursting with cheers when Holly announced, “There’s a bar in the hotel!”

Next was Bryce Canyon, a vast series of amphitheaters that unfolded ad infinitum with dazzling colors of red, pink, lavender, and orange stone shapes called “hoodoos” created by nature through the millennium. The hoodoos rose from the plateau in all shapes and sizes as if a giant had been playing in the sand. Some were shaped like castles or cathedrals, all otherworldly as the mind struggled to take in the size, shapes, and colors. There are no words to describe the majesty of this natural phenomenon created by wind, ice, and rain, eroding into fantastic shapes as far as the eye can see.

13DSC_3845We then boarded small eight-passenger planes and flew over Monument Valley, the ancestral and mysterious homeland of Navajo Indians. Upon landing, we traveled by jeep with our Navajo guide along the dusty roads through the valley. Stark red stone pillars of all shapes arose throughout the desert, standing as high as 400 feet, sentinels standing guard over this land. To the Navajos who live here, this is a sacred land, rich in the ancient traditions of their ancestors, carried on to this day.

Back on the bus, we drove to the Museum of Northern Arizona, which houses pottery, jewelry, basketry, rugs, and weaving representing the Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni cultures.

The Grand Canyon is a place unto itself, stretching 277 miles long, 18-20 miles wide and 18 miles deep. The surrounding rim has many viewpoints, each presenting a unique perspective of the whole. Civilization comes close here with many hotels and lodges located near the rim. Imagine sitting on the porch of the lodge sipping a drink as the sun moves across the massive canyons turning them red, then purple, then green and then orange. An experience to savor; a moment where civilization and ancient canyons meet.


We then began our downward trek from almost 8,000 feet, the Colorado Plateau, to our destination in Sedona, with a stop in Flagstaff for lunch along the way. Jennie said we might “feel the vortex here” and, while I never felt it, Sedona was a positively beautiful town situated in a pocket with red cliffs surrounding and protecting.

By the last day, we were all getting a bit tired and the bus had grown quieter until it was announced that our hotel had a bar. Then the cheers erupted from the back of the bus as the merry band of travelers capped off their days with a cool one.

What a fun, friendly, traveling group. Here’s to Compass Travel for organizing this unforgettable trip!

For more photos, click here.

Cruising Along

Sunday, 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!


Another Trip to Italy?

Sunday, 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?

Saturday, 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.


Where is the Sun?

Wednesday, 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…


Add a Splash of Color

Wednesday, 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.


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


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

Sunday, 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.


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

Some Things Never Get Old

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

What a perfect way to spend a Saturday – day tripping to Boston to see a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious performance of Mary Poppins. We all know the movie, which debuted in 1964. But, the show first appeared on Broadway only recently – in 2006. The magic still transports us to another place, where anything is possible. The group who shared this experience will all agree, I think, that spending an afternoon in the theater is a special treat, no matter how many times we’ve heard the song, “A Spoonful of Sugar!”

We have many more exciting events on the horizon. Tom leaves for Ireland in a couple of weeks; we had a lovely pre-trip meeting for all those who will be visiting the Emerald Isle with Tom. That evening gathering reminded me that we offer a very special service to our clients who travel with us on our escorted tours. It’s not just about the week or two that we spend in Ireland, or Italy, or wherever. It’s about sharing a unique experience. The people who attend any given trip create a dynamic that can not be duplicated. Often, long lasting relationships are forged. That’s what I love about the tours we provide — it’s about the people who want to create amazing memories. It’s about the magic that happens when people allow themselves to be transported to another time and place, where anything is possible.

We are pleased to offer some wonderful travel opportunities –we still have room in our May trip to Lago Maggiore, for a week of creative writing in northern Italy. We also have a trip planned for Sicily in September. Looking ahead, we are planning a very special writing/environmental tour of Belize and a fairytale week in the Dordogne region of France. And, stay tuned for more day trip events. Also, we’d love to hear from you if you have a trip idea and want us to plan it!


Italy is calling…

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” – Anna Akhmatova –

I love this quote, because it is so true. Our clients agree. This May, Luigi and I invite you to join us as we head to Lago Maggiore in northern Italy for a very special retreat. It’s where Luigi, my husband, grew up. Together, we will join Deb McKew of Words in Play Writing Workshops for a magical week. Deb has planned an exceptional program of creative joy with two guest instructors. You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy the adventure with us in this timeless, ageless land of unparalleled beauty and inspiration.

When we plan our escorted tours, we often host fun and informational gatherings so travelers get to meet others who may be going on the trip. We’re planning two in the next week for this very special trip:

Sunday, January 9 — 4:00 – 6:00 PM at Compass Travel, New London, NH


Tuesday, January 11 — 5:30 – 7:00 PM at Left Bank Bookstore, 9 South Main Street, Hanover, NH

We hope you can join us!

Share the adventure with fellow creative souls.

Come live the dream with us!

Visit Words in Play to imagine the possibilities.


If it’s Thursday, it must be Florence

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Last Friday, Luigi and I left Logan Airport with a group of Colby-Sawyer College alumni for an Italian odyssey. What a fun group. We started our tour of northern Italy at the one place I can truly say is heaven on Earth – Lago Maggiore (aka the Lake of Dreams) in the Italian Alps. What a magical place — we spent a few days exploring the little towns around this area, taking a train through the mountains into Switzerland — an unforgettable ride.

Next, we journeyed to the fabled Italian Riviera and just lapped it all up. I heard there was snow in New Hampshire. Nothing but sunshine here!

We are now in Florence, the center of the world, if you are an art enthusiast. No matter how many times I visit Florence, the view never gets old. On Saturday, we will tour a winery in Tuscany and enjoy a cooking class with a master chef. We are really excited about that! There is no better food to be found in the world, than in Italy.

For those of you who are now drooling, don’t worry, we are planning two escorted trips to Italy for 2011 — as someone once said, Italy is a dream that keeps returning…