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14

Dec 2018

Quito: gateway to the Amazon and gateway to the Galapagos

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Galapagos Islands, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Jet lag: that’s the first thing that strikes you upon arrival in Ecuador! So no matter where you’re staying, head to the café inside Hotel Plaza Grande and order “Los Corridos” which is traditional homemade ice cream …. lights dim, bells chime and a waiter wearing a purple cloak serves the desert that sits on a smouldering bed of dry ice! The perfect antidote to jaded in-flight memories.

Ecuador's beautiful capital, Quito, surrounded by a ring of snow-capped volcanoes.

Ecuador’s beautiful capital, Quito, surrounded by a ring of snow-capped volcanoes.

Quito’s high, over 3,000m (9,350’) so take it easy: stroll around Mercado San Francisco, where the locals shop sell everything from Disney-inspired kitsch toys to fresh cow’s tails and entire pig’s heads. There’s an interesting herbal remedies section. Check out the Piñata shops featuring Minions, giant beer cans and terracotta donkeys (A piñata is a terracotta container, dressed up as something eye-catching and filled with sweets. A popular party game is to whack it with a stick till it smashes and the sweeties tumble out). Then seek out some of the legendary South American coffee, and Casa Gangotena café, which overlooks Plaza San Francisco, takes some beating. Try the ‘bonitisimas’ (corn patties made with quinoa and trout) or my favourite, ceviche, which is fresh fish marinated in lime juice and served cold (much, much better than it sounds!)

Mid-day is the perfect time to visit middle earth, and Quito boasts 2. There’s the state run “Middle of the World Park” which erroneously claims to be Earth’s mid-point @ 0° latitude. But it isn’t. It’s actually several hundred metres out! Get a guide to show you the actual point and there you can do the ‘water down the plughole’ test (clockwise in the north; anti-clockwise in the south, or is it the other way around?)

Pululahue Volcano is 20 mins from the city centre. The Geobotanical Gardens cling to the slopes and the plants are remarkable to wander around. They also have various animals (Spectacled Bear, big cats and so forth which may or might not appeal). But you have to head to El Crater Restaurant, which is right on the crater’s rim, and try some cocoa tea.

If your stamina allows, visit Vista Hermosa, which is a rooftop restaurant, for supper. Live music and excellent people-watching provided free.

Coffee flower: how the story begins.

Coffee flower: how the story begins.

Day 2
Get out of town: head to Rosadex rose farm which is two hours away through the volcanoes. It’s a lovely drive matched by a beautiful destination, far from the hum of the city. The roses are mostly for export, and too many are scentless, but beautiful to look at.

On the way back to Quito, stop in Guayllabamba to enjoy the “chirimoyas” a so sweet, and utterly typical fruit (no English translation for this one!)

Hummingbird seen from a coffee-shop in central Quito

Hummingbird seen from a coffee-shop in central Quito

All Latin cities have one now: a Teleferico Gondola. Quito’s runs from downtown up the Pichincha volcano (13,450’) so take it easy. The view from the top is just superb and you get a real sense of why Quito is built where it’s built.

And to round off your two days in Quito, a choice!
1. Urko restaurant, serves traditional Ecuadorian food with a twist; for example, their version of ceviche is called jipijapa (octopus). They also have the city’s best live music venue, Misquilla.
2. Competing for your custom is a visit to Ichimbia; another great view of the city while dinner at Café Mosaico is served.

To make any or all of this happen, give the office a call, or speak to our resident Quito guide, Paulina Vivanco: Paulina@ventureco-worldwide.com

Paulina Vivanco: Pauli and pooch!

Paulina Vivanco: Pauli and pooch!

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16

Nov 2018

Virgin: the first

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Virgin Atlantic has recently flown from Orlando to London … nothing new there! Expect the flight was 100% powered by biofuel! A world first.

Vigin’s 747 ‘Queen Of The Skies’ flew the trans-Atlantic route using waste gasses captured by some scientific wizardry and turned into ethanol, also known as jet fuel! Amazing! A company called LanzaTech carried out the clever stuff that has the potential to change commercial aviation. And about time too.

Good old Richard B slipped into his high-viz to welcome the plane home. Good on you Richard!

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16

Nov 2018

An Anaconda on the Amazon

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Amazon river cruise

Paddle your own canoe in search of Amazon wildlife

Amazon river cruise

Explore the upper Amazon, sailing through the forest, to see pink river dolphins, turtles and a host of wildlife – some 1 million species to choose from!

We have been working with Paulina Vivanco Paulina@ventureco-worldwide.com for about 25 years. She is actually Ecuadorian, lives in Quito, and looks after all Venture Co travellers who visit either the Galapagos or mainland Ecuador. She’s brilliant and adds so much value to travellers who visit.

Old family friends of hers, Raul and Martha Garcia, have launched a second cruise ship on the Amazon. Check this out: https://vimeo.com/168119195 and our first two clients are heading out to Ecuador for the experience early 2019. I can’t wait for the feedback!

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09

Nov 2018

Plastic-free Holiday? There’s a challenge.

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Traveller's Tales /

Plastic-free holiday? There’s a challenge.
Do you remember when the word “Gay” meant something different? How about the word “sick”? My daughters have different definitions for these words compared to me. How about the question, “Do you take plastic?”

A diving friend of mine was recently doing a seabed litter-pick in 20 metres of water and picked up a credit card issued in the 1950’s: it hadn’t degenerated at all.

Times change; Laissez-faire holiday attitudes change. And I’ve been asked to create a holiday, anywhere in the world, which is 100% free of single use plastic (Excluding the international flights which are a disgraceful plastic-litter producing machine). I’m really struggling!

Here are some things you CAN do:

Airports: equip yourself with a quality reusable bottle before you travel. Nothing ticks you off more than having to dispose of water at airport security. Really? Surely this law needs re-visiting. Anyway, check out the excellent wateratairports.com for re-fills ‘air-side’.

Re-fills overseas: don’t assume the local tap water is undrinkable: check, because you’ll be surprised how many countries do actually have safe drinking water. And if you can’t drink from the tap, buy a filtering or purifying water bottle, or a UV water purifying pen. SteriPEN https://www.steripen.com and Katadyn filtres https://www.katadyn.com Another thing that I swear by is https://www.watertogo.eu/ which is a water bottle with a filter incorporated into the cap. Brillinat.

 

plastic-free-holiday

Water … safe to drink?

Soap: Remember soap? Forget the liquid ‘hand cleanser’ and buy a bar of soap! Simple.

Hotel toiletries: If we all tell the hotel we just don’t want them anymore, they will stop giving them.

Packed lunches: this is one of the things I’ve struggled with, particularly on the riding treks. Hotels, farmhouses and lodges often provide a packed lunch to carry in saddle bags, which is a service I really appreciate as a tour operator, but they are always shrouded in Clingfilm, complete with plastic knife and spoon. Why not take your own lunch box and camping KFS (knife, fork, spoon combo). My kids have recently done the D of E series and they used “sporks” which is a single utensil with spoon one end, sharp edge one side and fork t’other end. That’s all you require for a picnic lunch. We’ll even wash it for you each evening!

Bamboo: what an amazing wood this is! Toothbrush, soap dish and check this site https://www.bambuhome.com/?view=outdoor

And finally, a bit naff, but drinking straws: treat yourself to a stainless steel straw which makes drinks taste cooler and they look cooler!

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06

Nov 2018

What is Diwali?

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar, celebrated with great enthusiasm and happiness in India. It’s celebrated for five consecutive days, with day 3 being the main Diwali festival.

Fireworks of all colours are essential; clay lamps “diyas” and candles add to the brightness and the goddess Laxmi (goddess of wealth) is the focus of worship.

The best place to experience Diwali has to be the town of Ayodhya, which lies east of Delhi and close to the Nepal border. This is the birth-place of Rama, one of the earthly manifestations (or ‘avatars’) of Vishnu. Hindu deities tend to get a bit complicated, so best just to go with it and join in the fun! The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with earthen lamps and illuminate town in as bright a way as possible. Diwali isn’t complete without exchanging gifts, performing traditional prayers and rituals and cooking special delicacies; so in this respect, not dissimilar to Christmas.

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02

Oct 2018

Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday: 2nd October

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

The birth of Gandhi Jayanti or Mahatma Gandhi (2nd October 1869 to 30th January 30 1948) is a national holiday in India. Gandhi is known as the ‘Father of the Nation’ and his ideology of non-violence or “Satyagraha” continues to influence political leaders, and even the UN.

At Raj Ghat in Delhi and across India, people gather to observe Gandhi in various ways that include offering flowers to his picture and statues. As a tribute to this great soul, the Indian government mint rupee notes and issue postage stamp depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s photo.

This year, is response to the international outcry against plastic, the Indian government dedicated a ‘Cleanliness Drive’ to the Father of the Nation because cleanliness was very dear to Mahatma Gandhi. For a period of 17 days (15th Sep to 2nd Oct’18) people from all walks of life in India were invited to participate in ‘Swachhata Hi Seva Movement’ (meaning “Cleanliness is the biggest service”). All NGOs, schools, colleges, social, cultural and political leaders, corporates, government officials, collectors and village heads came forward to contribute. This is all part of the larger ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ (meaning – “Clean India Mission”) which is an ongoing effort.

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12

Sep 2018

Chile & Peru Combo

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Traveller's Tales /

It’s been a long time coming but from August 2018 Latam Airlines began operation of a non-stop flight between Cusco, Peru and Santiago, Chile (flight time 3:25 hr).

This new route creates the perfect opportunity to combine two completely different countries and offer a multi-destination holiday. Santiago, the vibrant capital of Chile, is surrounded by winelands on one side and mountains on the other with skiing 35 miles away from downtown. There are two different mountains offering you plenty of choice (the season is mid-June to mid-Oct).

Cusco, the Inca capital, is the jumping off point for the Sacred Valley and of course the Machu Picchu trek (best seasons May to October).

A Chilean wine weekend, skiing and Machu Picchu all in the same week

Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

? That’s a pretty neat trip!

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12

Sep 2018

The Magic of Step Wells

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Traveller's Tales /

All over north India, particularly in Rajasthan, one encounters Step Wells. They tend to be hidden away and falling in to disrepair, but they’re magical places to discover.

They were built to catch monsoon rainwater: June and July receives a profligate excess of water that has to last through the months of arid dryness. Step wells are huge and the concept is that as the water recedes, access to water level is afforded by the zig-zag maze of stairways. The symmetry is mesmerizing.

The Step Well below is behind a haveli in the centre of Jaipur, but if you didn’t know it was there, you’d never chance upon it. It’s family owned and managed with a dozen charming rooms and an excellent restaurant. The well has been lovingly restored during the past decade and is now back to its original glory. The lovely twist to this tale is that we can arrange private dining within the well itself, a romantic and magical experience.

Explore Rajasthan, India and discover the magic of step well dining

Explore Rajasthan, India and discover the magic of step well dining

 

Note: Only vegetarian meals and non-alcoholic drinks are served at this Step Well, as the owner-family’s centuries old temple is located inside the well itself.

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24

Jul 2018

What’s In a Name?

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

King Mswati III of Swaziland has announced that henceforth the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland will change its name to Eswatini. He said, “The Kingdom of Eswatini meaning “place of the Swati people” reverts to the Swazi language name for the Kingdom. As we are aware, the name Swaziland was inherited from the British. If we are to give true meaning to our independence, time has come to give our country a name of its people. It must be said that this process is long overdue. Therefore, I have the pleasure to present to you, on this historic day, a new name for the kingdom. Our country will now be called Kingdom of Eswatini.

 

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24

Jul 2018

Tiger! Tiger!

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Tiger News from India
WPSI (Wildlife Protection Society of India) has received 4 new “Tiger Conservation and Anti-poaching Awareness Vans” bringing the total to 7. They operate in the villages that fringe the forests of several major parks including Khana  and Bandhavgarh.

The problem: local people often have their lives disrupted by tiger conservation: their cattle are predated upon; fire wood collection is prohibited and access to their local forest banned; and sometimes whole villages are relocated. Great for tiger conservation, inconvenient if you’re one of the locals.

Tiger safari India

Tiger safari India

The campaign was launched in 2011 with the aim of getting local people on-side with tiger conservation. The project uses audio-visual that is taken to villages and screened, in the local language; the film is called ‘The Truth About Tigers’ https://vimeo.com/17468170 . The WPSI team is often accompanied by forest officers and meaningful discussions are held with the villagers to find solutions for their grievances.

The aim of this project is to reduce the antagonism between local people and the Forest Department, and to inform the villagers of government projects that they could benefit from such as compensation and employment schemes. The programme has been successful at reducing corruption, speeding up compensation claims and receiving poaching information. The dramatic increase in tiger numbers bears witness: 2006 there were just 1,411 tigers; 3,891 in 2016. Not too shabby!
nt here.

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