Avalon Waterways – See the World Your Way

Written by Susan Hammond – You’ve always forged your own path…with your own distinct perspective of looking at the world. Avalon Waterways presents a river cruise experience with your unique style in mind-offering expansive views and wider perspectives. With river cruising’s only Open-Air BalconySM, these wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows open wider than any other in the industry, blurring the line between outside and in, forming a spacious seating area for six, and creating an open invitation to discover and dream. Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, you’ve never seen Europe like this.

Endless Travel recommends Avalon Waterways, whether you’d like a romantic mini-break, an extended exploration, or something in between, with Avalon Waterways, you get to choose the river cruise that reveals the very best of Europe, Asia or South America.

 

Melbourne

Written by Pamela Kniss

Pamela’s Pick Melbourne

In my opinion, Melbourne is a must see for anyone who loves good food, wants to see the iconic Australian animals in the wild, appreciates a beautiful coastal drive and finds the back streets and boulevards of a vibrant city enticing.

Melbourne has a very diverse ethnic population. As such, ethnic food is an integral part of the foodie scene and can be found in large elegant establishments as well as small intimate family owned restaurants. The best way to sample this wonderful variety is to experience a few restaurants in one evening. Join the Progressive Degustation Walking Tour with Hidden Secrets. With clusters of delicious possibilities within easy walking distance, this tour visits three unique restaurants offering carefully chosen wine tastings and tantalizing savories from their diverse menus. This is a tasty way to discover the city. If wines are not your thing, try the Café Culture Walk which takes you on a tour of Melbourne’s hidden food and café scene. You will visit places you may not have found on your own and get a real taste of the flavor of Melbourne.

Another reason to visit Melbourne is the opportunity to get out into the bush just a short drive from the city. The Great Western Plains is a natural habitat for the animals you most associate  with  Australia. Koalas and Kangaroos in the Wild with Echidna Walkabout is a small group eco day tour led by an experienced wildlife guide. Walk through natural bushland and meet wild koalas, learn about each one’s history and social life. Did you know that you can identify individual koala by the pattern of pink on the inside of their noses? Join wild mobs of kangaroos, visit the natural environments of parrots and emus, and you might even spot an echidna. Because this is an eco tour, you can make a difference for the animals who live there— remove Boneseed, a noxious weed, record sightings of native wildlife and learn survey techniques that will be useful wherever you go.

 

Another unique wildlife experience is waiting for you at Phillip Island. Only 90 minutes from Melbourne, Phillip Island provides an opportunity to join a “Waddle on the Wild Side” and witness the fascinating and fun pen- guin parade. At sunset each day, the world’s smallest  penguins  return  home  from  their ocean travels to one of the largest penguin colonies in Australia. It is difficult to describe just how magical it is to watch these little penguins come ashore and waddle across the beach to their sand dune burrows. They are afraid of the seagulls who stalk them along the beach and coming ashore through the surf is not an easy experience. Once on the beach, the seagulls are there to scare them back into the water and they must try once again to make it out of the water to the safety of their burrows. One way to experience the penguin parade is with the Ultimate Penguin Tour. Designed for groups of up to 10, this eco tour takes visitors to a stunning, secluded beach to view the little penguins with the use of night vision technology. You can drive yourself to Phillip Island, or there are tours from Melbourne. Either way, don’t miss this entertaining natural display.

Jaw-dropping beauty might be one description of the Great Ocean Road. This is a day trip out of Melbourne, although two days and one night on the road will give you more time to soak in the sights. Witness the rugged splendor of the famous 12 Apostles; magnificent rock stacks that rise up majestically from the Southern Ocean. This dramatic coast- line is created by the constant  erosion  of  the  limestone cliffs of the mainland. The 12 Apostles are stunning examples of the creative forces of nature. Discover some of Australia’s best rainforest scenery in the Otway Ranges amongst the tall trees, ancient plant life and lush ferns. Walk among giant tree ferns at Maits Rest, see the glow worms at Melba Gully or experience the full beauty of this rainforest on the Otway Fly Treetop Walk. This is another of the iconic experiences from Melbourne that can be accessed by self-drive or by tour.

Melbourne operates the world’s largest tram network that is an efficient transportation system carrying locals and visitors all over the city. You certainly don’t need a car in Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaikoura

Written by Pamela Kniss

Pamela’s Pick Kaikoura:

Kaikoura, in my opinion, is one of the most stunning of the many beautiful
destinations in New Zealand. Located on the east coast of the South Island between Picton and Christchurch, Kaikoura is “Switzerland on the Ocean” with its deep blue sea and lofty snow covered peaks.

Koura is the Maori word for crayfish and kai the Maori word for food. Put these two words together and you have food to die for— crayfish that melts in your mouth. Pair it with a glass of world class sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough wine region just up the road, and you have a gourmet treat you won’t soon forget. I ate my first crayfish cold, as do the locals. It was served with my first glass of Marlborough sauvignon blanc during my first journey to New Zealand in 1993.  All firsts! I will always remember!

Whale Watch Kaikoura is an award winning New Zealand nature based company owned and operated by the indigenous Ngati Kuri Maori people of Kaikoura. It was evident to me the first time I went out with Whale Watch Kaikoura that they are intimately involved with and protect the natural treasures that surround them. This really is much more than ‘watching’ whales. It is participating in the story of the place, the peoples and the rich diverse marine environment.

One of the stories they told was about a whale that they suspected had been in these waters for years and still had the memory of the whaler’s harpoon. We were told to be careful not to drop a metal bucket or other object that made a metal crashing sound. That whale associated that sound with injury and death and would immediately dive, not to be seen again that day. I was impressed by their knowledge and the care they expressed.

At over 500 meters deep, the waters surrounding Kaikoura are one of the most biolog- ically rich ocean environments in the world. Just offshore, in the enormous trench called the Kaikoura Canyon, two strong sea currents converge and create a great surface upwelling of vast quantities of plant and animal nutrients. Food is plentiful! Sperm whales frequent these waters year-round and humpback whales are often seen during the winter months as they migrate from the Antarctic to the tropics. It is no wonder that Kaikoura was once a busy whaling station.

The waters surrounding Kaikoura provide memorable opportunities for joining some of the other wild inhabitants in their own marine environment. How about snorkeling with fur seals in the shallow waters of the Kaikoura Peninsula? Lonely Planet lists Seal Swim Kaikoura as one of the top 10 Marine Encounters Worldwide.

Dusky dolphins inhabit this region as well. The pods may consist of individuals numbering anywhere from 100 to 800 in each pod. Now that is an example of a highly social animal! And the dolphins are fascinated by the bipeds who want to be in the water with them. Join Dolphin Encounter. The first time I snorkeled with dolphins, three of them decided to put on quite a show for us. They all jumped out of the water at the same time—just like dolphins in the marine shows I have seen. It was nothing short of thrilling!

Did you know that the wandering alba- tross has the greatest wingspan of any living bird—almost  4  meters  across?  Albatross Encounter will get you close to the albatross and over 14 species of pelagic birds. Whether you are a dedicated birder or just enjoy watching beautifully feathered flights, you will find this trip fascinating and well worth your time. When visiting Kaikoura, you will want to know more about the indigenous history and culture of the area. One of the best ways to do this is on a private tour where you have the opportunity to join a family with ancestral links to Kaikoura that span more than 800 years. Through these connections, they are able to share the history and legends of the area. Maori Tours Kaikoura provide experiences that are a combination of laughter, learning and storytelling, specially designed to give you deep insight into the bygone days and the spiritual values of Maori people, while providing an understanding of how they have adapted to the modern world of today.

A stay of at least two full days is required if you are to take advantage of the many must- do experiences Kaikoura has to offer. Discover Downunder recommends three so that you have a free day to explore on your own. Visit the i-SITE (Tourist Information Office) on the Esplanade and find out about local events, self-guided walks and other activities of interest.

Make Kaikoura a must-stop on your journey through New Zealand. Call Endless Travel and connect with Discover Downunder. New Zealand, Australia and the South Pacific are waiting to welcome you!

 

 

Greece

Written by Grace Gordon-McGlone, Endless Travel Student Intern

All around me I see the faces of naked men and women staring back at me. Some look heroic, others appear modest and young. Some have broken fingers, others have no ears. I see some with no heads at all. Each statue looks graceful, beautifully crafted long ago by the same hands that built the marble temples holding so much history. Greece is a perfect balance of history and modernity, a mix of art and culture. I loved it all.
I came to Greece on a school trip, with a group of eight girls from my high school as well as students from four other schools around the U.S. It had been planned for a year, and when the trip came I was beyond pleased.
In the twelve short days spent exploring all the country has to offer, every puzzle piece and every story I’d learned came together and felt very real. I saw in person king Minos’ infamous labyrinth where the Minotaur was kept, the temple from which king Aegeus threw himself into the sea after mistakenly believing his son was devoured by the Minotaur, the helmet of Achilles, and the Oracle of Delphi. The history coming together with the ancient religious myths was stunningly flawless. Everything made sense; there was no question of real or fake because everything was seamlessly blended.


ancient theater in Delphi

Greece wasn’t only old crumbling buildings and artifacts. Uniform white buildings with blue accents, gorgeous calm beaches, and delicious street food made the trip exciting, rather than simply educational. On Mykonos, we got terribly lost as we ate crepes and watched the sun set behind the famed windmills. In Oia, Santorini, we walked the rooftops in search of the best view, and watched street artists sell paintings of the well-known island. In Athens, we roamed the Acropolis and looked over the ancient city, then explored the street vendors and town squares in the Plaka, soaking in the bustling activity.


sunset on Mykonos

We traveled for 12 full days. In the tour group, everything was perfectly organized down to every hour. With the trip completely planned out, the group did not need to worry about the next activity, or getting lost, or missing out on anything. We traveled a lot by bus, but the long hours were split up by visiting new towns and palaces and temples. The trip was packed full, with only two free days to roam. However, the lack of freedom was made up for by the constant sightseeing that I’m glad we didn’t miss. Finally, the last five days consisted of deporting our luxury ship and arriving at a new island every morning, and we spent the majority of each day learning and exploring each new destination. We explored popular restaurants and beaches, and at night we spent drinking milkshakes on the cruise ship learning traditional Greek dances.
The people in Greece were incredible. Everyone was lovely, and most men were named Costa. There was not a single person we met who didn’t treat us kindly and weren’t more than willing to offer any help they could. The friendliness was amazing, and so was every moment. As I learned, danced, and ate, I fell in love with a country.


windmills on Mykonos