Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Oberammergau Passion Play

In 1633, the residents of Oberammergau, Bavaria, Germany, vowed that if God spared them from the bubonic plague ravaging the region, they would produce a play thereafter for all time depicting the life and death of Jesus. The death rate among adults rose from one person per 1000 per year in October 1632 to twenty in the month of March 1633. The adult death rate slowly subsided to one in the month of July 1633. The villagers believed they had been spared and they kept their part of the vow when the play was first performed in 1634.
The play is now performed repeatedly over the course of five months during every year ending in zero. 102 performances took place from 15 May until 3 October 2010 and is next scheduled for 2020.  The production involves over 2,000 performers, musicians and stage technicians, all residents of the village.  The play comprises spoken dramatic text, musical and choral accompaniment and tableaux vivants, which are scenes from the Old Testament depicted for the audience by motionless actors accompanied by verbal description. These scenes are the basis for the typology, the interrelationship between the Old and New Testaments, of the play. They include a scene of King Ahasuerus rejecting Vashti in favor of Esther, the brothers selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt, and Moses raising up the nehushtan (bronze serpent) in the wilderness. Each scene precedes that section of the play that is considered to be prefigured by the scene. The three tableaux mentioned are presented to the audience as prefiguring Christianity superseding Judaism, Judas selling information on the location of Jesus, and the crucifixion of Jesus. 
The evolution of the Passion Play was about the same as that of the Easter Play, originating in the ritual of the Latin Church, which prescribes, among other things, that the Gospel on Good Friday should be sung in parts divided among various persons.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 5 Hot Travel Destinations

2017 5 Hot Travel Destinations

As a travel agent I get asked what is the newest or hottest destination right now.  There are a lot of different opinions, but here is a list of destinations that popping up for us.

Reykjavik, Iceland
Travel between June and August tends to be the most popular with visitors. June offers 24 hours of Arctic daylight, while July and August are the warmest months, offering the best chances for good weather. Travel between mid-September and mid-October is perhaps the most ideal, as you’ll miss the swell of high-season tourist traffic, sneak in before snowfall blankets the trails, and have a solid chance of seeing the northern lights. Although winter weather can be an impediment, and the narrow window of daylight can shorten your sightseeing, excellent deals can be scored during the off-season.
Turin, Italy 
Best known for its historic cafes and the Shroud of Turin, the city is also a vibrant contemporary art destination. Last year, superstar curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev was named director of two major institutions, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Italy's first modern art museum, and Castello di Rivoli, its first contemporary art museum, featuring works from powerhouses like Michelangelo Pistoletto and Paul McCarthy. Earlier eras can be explored at two other newly overhauled museums: the Galleria Sabauda, where visitors can see more than 500 works once owned by the royal Savoy family, and the Egyptian Museum, which houses one of the most extensive Egyptian-artifact collections in the world. Early in 2017, Turin's medieval roots will be revealed at Lavazza coffee's new headquarters in the Aurora neighborhood, when the company unveils a fourth-century basilica discovered during construction. 

Thankfully, the pace of change is not overwhelming, leaving the simple pleasures of travel in Myanmar intact. Drift down the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River in an old river steamer or luxury cruiser. Stake out a slice of beach on the blissful Bay of Bengal. Trek through pine forests to minority villages scattered across the Shan Hills without jostling with scores of fellow travellers. Best of all, you'll encounter locals who are gentle, humorous, engaging, considerate, inquisitive and passionate – they want to play a part in the world, and to know what you make of their world. Now is the time to make that connection.In 2015, Myanmar voted in its first democratically elected government in more than half a century. Sanctions have been dropped and the world is rushing to do business here. Relaxing of censorship has led to an explosion of new media and an astonishing openness in public discussions of once-taboo topics. Swathes of the county, off-limits for years, can now be freely visited. Modern travel conveniences, such as mobile phone coverage and internet access, are now common, but largely confined to the big cities and towns, where the recent economic and social improvements are most obvious.

Paros Greece
Kitesurfers have long made a playground of the breezy beaches of Paros, and no wonder: this sunshiny isle is a Cycladic triumvirate of sandy shoreline, history, and culture. Last summer the island debuted a new airport, opening it to larger aircraft and more vacationers. And the fishing village of Naousa, with its boxy white architecture and seaside tavernas, is increasingly sophisticated—check in to the modern, adults-only apartments of Porto Naousa or the elegant Seven Santa Maria, where six airy, all-white suites (and a separate villa) come with a private boat and skipper for exploring the island’s secret coves. 

Malaga, Spain
Málaga, in Spain’s Andalusia region, is now a veritable museum-goer’s paradise. The first wave included a Picasso museum (the artist was born here) and the sprawling 8,000-square-foot CAC (Centro de Arte Contemporáneo), which has hosted exhibits by Ai Weiwei and Marcel Dzama. Since then, the Carmen Thyssen, an outpost of Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum that houses the famous baroness’s extensive private collection, has opened; so has a five-year pop-up of Paris’s Centre Pompidou displaying works by Magritte, Chagall, and Kahlo. The Pompidou’s location along Málaga’s renovated waterfront is marked by a hypermodern, rainbow-hued glass cube. And in the industrial space of a former tobacco factory is a sister site of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Archaeology buffs can comb the extensive collection at the Aduana Palace (it houses both a fine arts and archaeological museum) or head to the Antequera Dolmens (a prehistoric burial site that earned its UNESCO World Heritage nod in 2016). Unwind afterward at the lavishly appointed Gran Hotel Miramar; it opened at the end of 2016 in a historic 1926 Art Nouveau building across from Málaga’s most timeless attraction: Malagueta Beach.

Friday, April 21, 2017

From the vivid wall paintings at Bonampak to the mighty temples of Chichén Itzá, the sheer variety of archaeological sites in Mexico is astounding. Add to this the brilliance of the Caribbean Sea, huge canyons and dense jungles and you have an invigorating cocktail of culture and landscapes.
Congested, polluted and gloriously manic, Mexico City was originally founded by the Aztecs. Beyond the capital, the pace slows. Colonial cities, founded on the wealth of silver mines, rest assuredly on their architectural laurels. Within easy striking distance of Mexico City, the mountains and desert plains of Querétaro are another world:  people quietly go about their business as they always have, farming and producing crafts for sale at the local markets.
The city of Oaxaca is the jewel in Mexico's gastronomic crown, home to colorful markets and a wide array of restaurants and street stalls serving regional specialties such as mole amarillo and empanadas stuffed with courgette flowers and molten quesillo (a mozzarella-like cheese). Sign up for one of the cookery courses and market tours offered by many restaurants around town.
Adventurers flock to Mexico to climb the volcanic peaks, to descend into the deepest cenotes or to spill down the white waters of the Antigua and Pescado rivers. The Caribbean offers superb diving off the Quintana Roo coastline, while on the west coast surfers ride the giant rollers beside the beautiful beaches of the wild Pacific and Baja California. In the far north-west, the Sea of Cortéz is one of the planet’s richest marine feeding grounds – where, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot hammerhead sharks, dolphins and California grey whales.
From the scorched northern deserts to the humidity of the southern rainforests, Mexico is an invigorating blend of influences as diverse as its landscape. Which begs the question – which is the Mexico for you? 
he Copper Canyon Railway is rightly regarded as one of the world’s great train journeys. But what do you do when the ride is over?
Have you heard of Mexico’s Island of the Dolls? It’s just outside Mexico City and is covered in the weathered remains of plastic dolls. 
Mexico’s remote Chiapas region, once the home to bandits and revolutionaries, it is now opening up to travelers, offering an insight into the life and traditions in the south. 
Mexicans will hold a fiesta at the drop of a very wide-brimmed hat. No matter what day it is, it will be some saint’s birthday somewhere and the fireworks and colourful costumes will be dutifully brought out.
The biggest festival, held at the start of November each year, is Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. Locals head to the nearest cemetery to commune and party with long-deceased relatives.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Here you are, blushing bride to be! You’ve narrowed down your wedding date and time, picked your dream wedding venue, and raved all about the hotel you’ve chosen for your destination wedding to friends and family. What’s next? As a bride in today’s digital age, there are endless options in sharing the deets with your guests. In hopes to make this process a bit easier for you (to ensure you stay on track with your bridal beauty sleep), we’ve narrowed down the best wedding websites our couples have used in the past, and compiled a list of things to know about each website provider so you have all of the information you need to select a wedding website that has all the features you’re looking for, and more!
Price: Uncomplicated pricing with no monthly fees, there’s a one time fee of $39 for the Boutique Collection or $89 for the Luxury Collection. The only difference between collections are the website and app styles you get to choose from!
Creative features: One of the biggest stressors for couples is getting the word out to their guests about additional activities and dinners planned in destination in the days leading up to the big day. Appy coupleprovides unique sharing features through a personalized website and app, like coordinating email templates, printable mini cards (in your chosen theme) to print and place on tables on the day of the wedding or to include with your invitations, and instant messaging directly from the app or your wedding website to stay in touch with selected guests, your wedding planner (that’s us!), or anyone you choose.
Why we love it: The trailblazer of online and mobile planning, Appy Couple features 500+ stylish website designs, free concise wedding planning tools from a wedding budget manager to event decor style guides, wedding registry advice, and (most importantly) flexible RSVPs with on-app management. Harmony Walton, founder of The Bridal Bar, with an impressive celebrity client list including Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, provides expert insight on planning process tips and tricks of the trade along with Appy brides (and grooms) all the up to the wedding day.
Price: Free.
Creative features: Word on the street is that your wedding day will go by like a blink of an eye, if you haven’t already heard. This is the most common statement you will hear from newlyweds, and results in so much gratitude for making photography and videography a top priority early on. Joy helps your guests capture and preserve the moments you may miss by sharing photos on your private timeline, and a LiveShow mode lets you display your timeline during the wedding so everybody can watch it unfold as it’s happening!
Why we love it: As wedding planners that rely heavily on in-destination vendors to execute our couples’ wedding visions the way we have directed and coordinated, we love the feature of showcasing who made the cake, bouquet, and decor. Guests always want to know who the vendors are, and now they have a way!
Price: 7 Day Free Trial, $12 / month (cancel anytime)
Creative features: An artsy, cultured, and fierce creative agency, Bliss and Bone is a destination for couples that don’t want their website (or wedding stationary) to look like anything or anyone else. Customize everything from mix and matched fonts, colors with your own hex code, specialty Monograms for your own personal touch, and any domain name you wish. Create a unique wedding flow with the expertise of clean, modern design, and generate a hopelessly romantic version of your love story.
Why we love it: Made for the design-savvy, creative bride, in addition to customizing your wedding website, Bliss and Boone gives you the ability to design your dream invitations, save-the-dates, envelopes, and reply cards, and nit-picks every little detail until it’s absolutely perfect.
Price: Free. 
Creative features: Sign up for The Knot, and you’ll get connected to a complete wedding planner that acts as a personal planning expert sending you updates and checklists throughout planning that’s personalized to your specific timeline and wedding location. Did we mention a personalized wedding spend plan based on your budgetis included….for free?
Why we love it: Aside from being rated the no. 1 wedding website tool, we are huge fans of anything that helps couples stay within budget and stretch that dollar. We love the All-In-One registry feature that allows you to pick a charity and The Knot will donate with each registry gift purchase.
Price: Free.
Creative features: Choose from 600+ website designs and match your invitations to your website with designs from top stationary providers, like minted and wedding paper divas. In comparing other free wedding website builders, there is an intuitive editing feature that’s extremely user-friendly for the less than tech-savvy couples. Everything is hosted on one page, making it easy for you to set the options the way you’d like.
Why we love it: This is your one-stop shop for wedding planning and the ultimate guide to additional events for your guests, style and decor inspiration, etiquette and advice, DIY for days, registry essentials, and even honeymoon adventures.
Price: $35 / month or $240 / year
Creative features: We like to consider Riley & Grey the Belle of the Ball for couples looking for an upscale, seamless wedding website with guaranteed one-of-a-kind website themes and an RSVP system you can count on. Customize the retrieval of guest details like reception song requests, meal orders, travel dates, and more with mad-libs, spicing up the otherwise tedious task. Better yet, guests will only see the events they’re invited to and those plus one permissions will be crystal clear.
Why we love it: In the words of Riley & Grey, “theme-y cheesiness be gone.” Inspired by the best of design and decor, it’s understood that not every bride wants flowers, hearts, and unicorns bursting from the computer screen. Traditional wedding or not, they do a great job in helping couples reflect their true style, while focusing on eliminating headaches and making the process as simplified as possible. As international wedding planners, we appreciate the respect to traditions across the globe, and the ability to change the site to a different language to help add the many travel details guests from afar need to book their travel. That’s what we call first class work, Riley & Grey!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Five Great Places To Stop In The Florida Keys
Tell someone you’re going to the Keys and odds are they’ll ask about Key West. But with more than 113 miles of coral and limestone islands at your disposal, there’s more to the Florida Keys than six-toed cats and conch fritters.

Start your journey by getting in an Enterprise Rent-A-Car – and wouldn’t this be the time to rent something exotic? – and begin in Miami and head south on U.S. Highway 1, which links Key West, the southernmost Key, to the U.S. mainland.  You could drive it in an afternoon; after all, it’s just about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Miami to the end.
But that would mean missing out by stopping at some hidden – and not-so-hidden – gems along the way.

First Stop - Key Largo: Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart have long since left but the allure lives on, especially for divers, as the surrounding sea offers up historic shipwrecks and a few man-made coral reefs. Just 18 miles south of Miami, it’s an easy day trip to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Divers will want to have their picture snapped by the underwater statue of Christ of the Abyss (the original is located in the Mediterranean Sea) by the Key Largo Dry Rocks reef.

Second Stop – Islamorada: Drive 30 minutes south from Key Largo and you will arrive on Islamorada, a 20-mile long chain of islands known as the “sport fishing capital of the world.” The Gulf Stream brims with schools of tuna, sailfish and kingfish. Those who love fish, but not fishing, can buy a bucket of bait to feed the tarpon who swim close to the docks in search of a snack.
Third Stop – Marathon: Marathon, as the story goes, was named by workers who came to build Henry Flagler’s railroad through the Keys. The work was so back-breaking that workers called it a real marathon and the name stuck. Today, Marathon is a destination known for being family (and sea life) friendly. Visitors should stop by The Turtle Hospital, a veterinary hospital for sea turtles, where they can go behind the scenes and feed the residents, and the Dolphin Research Center, where visitors can swim with and learn more about these friendly ocean mammals.

Fourth Stop - Bahia Honda Key: This quiet Key was once home to railroad workers. Today, it’s home to the Bahia Honda State Park and offers up a fairly untouched beach, thanks to being a bit off the beaten path. The park offers the chance to engage in a host of watersports, including snorkeling and kayaking, and has a campground for those looking for an outdoor adventure.

Fifth Stop - Key West: Key West is everything you want in a tropical destination and more. With quaint historic homes, a great restaurant scene, beaches galore and some pretty hot nightlife, what’s not to love? History buffs will want to check out the Little White House, President Truman’s winter home away from home, while anyone who’s ever read “The Old Man and The Sea” needs to swing by Hemingway’s former home to see how Papa once lived.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

7 Secret Passenger Rights

We already feel like airlines are screwing us enough. Add long delays, overbooked flights, lost bags, and it turns into hell on runway. But there's a silver lining, if you know what to ask for. Here are seven ways to get even.  Get refunded for bumping It’s hard not to freak out when you’re bumped off an oversold flight. But remember this: you can get paid back. According to the Department of Transportation, if you get to your destination between one and two hours of your original arrival time on a domestic flight, or between one and four hours on an international trip, the airline owes you 200 percent of the one-way fare (up to $675). If you arrive more than four hours later than planned, you'll pocket 400 percent of the ticket (up to $1,350). Still can't believe it? An AirHelp study found that the average payout is $643.
Ask for cash not flight vouchers Don't let an airline ever give you a voucher for a bumped flight, or any other inconvenience. Vouchers are like Monopoly money. They look good on paper, but they're not as useful in reality. Your best bet? Ask for cash or a check because credits almost always come with strings attached (i.e. blackout dates). So before you pass go, collect your $200 — in cash.
Opt out of a tarmac delay So you're stuck on the runway, forced to watch Taken for the fifth time as the hours tick by. (No offense, Liam.) Lucky for you, you can't be held on a delayed plane for more than three hours on domestic flights or four hours on international routes (if you don't want to be at least). Airlines are also obligated to update passengers every 30 minutes, and serve food and water after a two-hour wait. Pass the pretzels.  Cancel tickets for free Got a bad case of buyer's remorse? Don't worry, most airlines allow you to cancel or change your ticket within 24 hours for a full refund. In fact, on some carriers (like Southwest) you can even change plans until right before boarding at no charge. But there are some exceptions. Take American Airlines: You can hold a ticket up to 24 hours, but once you book, you're locked in. Also, keep in mind that third-party sites like Kayak and Expedia have their own set of rules, too.
Pay back for itinerary changes When flights are delayed, rescheduled or canceled, many passengers are forced to rearrange transportation. In situations like these, the airline must either cover all the expenses and fees to reroute you or give you a full refund — even if you bought a non-refundable ticket or were rebooked on a different carrier. So, if the only seat left on the next flight out is first-class, it's yours without costing a cent. More champagne, please.  Snag a hotel voucher This will be the last time you'll ever have to sleep at the gate, or worse, on the terminal floor. Airlines are required to offer free accommodations if you're stuck overnight involuntarily. Just don't expect the Ritz. These hotel vouchers can be claimed at any time, meaning if you decide to stay with friends instead of a Holiday Inn, you are still entitled to the coupon. It's also worth asking if they'll cover meals as well.
Cash in for lost luggage If your checked bag is lost, delayed or damaged, don't settle for the small $50 sum you're usually offered. Depending on how much your items were worth and how long your bags are MIA, you could be repaid up to $3,500 per passenger in liability for a domestic U.S. trip, and up to $1,675 on international flights. Hello, shopping spree.