A January Week in Iceland

Northern Lights
Northern Lights

Is Iceland on your list of must-visit destinations? I spent six nights in Iceland in January 2017 and I had an amazing time. Definitely one of my top five all-time favorite places, and one that I would love to return to soon.

 

How was Iceland in January? I have lived in Boston for the past thirteen years and I am finally more or less acclimated to the cold. Of course, every year is different, but when I was looking at the weather the week before I left, Boston was usually colder than Reykjavik.

Hraunfossar, Iceland
Hraunfossar, Iceland

The first three days it was cloudy and rained, which made adjusting to the time change a challenge since I never saw the sun. Typically at that time of year sunrise is around 10:30 AM and sunset is at 4:30 PM. My last few days were sunny and cold and absolutely beautiful.

 

Gulfoss, Iceland
Gulfoss, Iceland

My reason for traveling was to attend the Icelandair Mid-Atlantic Trade Show. This was a great opportunity for me to meet with boutique suppliers (from Alaska to Scandinavia) who wouldn’t necessarily attend my usual luxury travel conferences, make personal contacts, and experience as many hotels, sites, and activities as possible.

 

Of course, I flew Icelandair’s Business Class product called Saga Class. From BOS-KEF I was on one of their new 767-300s which has 2-1-2 seating. On the return from KEF-BOS I was on the 757 which has 2-2 seating. The seats themselves (all with seat-back entertainment) and the amenities were the same, regardless of aircraft type.

 

I loved that the WiFi on Icelandair is gate to gate and is complimentary for those sitting in Saga Class. I pre-ordered my vegetarian meal and was pleasantly surprised that unlike most airlines, it was actually vegetarian and not vegan.

 

I started my trip with a long nap, as I was unable to get any sleep on the short five hour and five minute flight. Then I set out to meet up with a small group walking tour in the evening. It was a great orientation and introduction to charming Reykjavik.

 

The next morning I worked from my hotel room before heading to one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, the famous Blue Lagoon. I booked the Luxury Package (of course!), which truly is the only way to go.

 

I had my own private changing room with shower, access to an exclusive lounge with private indoor access to the lagoon, souvenir flip-flops and amenity kit, one free beverage of choice, complimentary towels and bathrobe, two faces masks included, and much more.

 

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Blue Lagoon, Iceland

After my relaxing Blue Lagoon experience I went out for a night on the town with a small group Beer Tour. It was one of the best experiences of my trip. I learned a lot about the history of Iceland, met a fun group of people, and tried numerous traditional and micro-brew beers, as well as the traditional Icelandic spirit, Brennivín.

 

Polar Beer
Polar Beer

I also did a full day Golden Circle tour with a foodie spin, the Into the Glacier tour, and a successful Northern Lights tour in a Super Jeep.

 

 

Plus five hotel site inspections, twenty-five travel supplier meetings, two hotel stays, and one quick souvenir shopping excursion.

 

This all added up to one amazing travel experience. I can’t wait to go back to Iceland, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do so in any season. If you go in winter you will have a chance to see the Northern Lights, there will be fewer crowds, more availability, and rates will be lower. However, anytime is truly a great time to go to Iceland.

 

Aurora Borealis in Iceland
Aurora Borealis in Iceland

 

I would love to utilize my expertise and personal contacts to help you plan a wonderful vacation in Iceland. Please get in touch via phone at 508-485-3061 or email to get started today!

 

 

Luxury Travels in Italy: Part 3 Rome

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People love Rome for the history, art and architecture. They loathe Rome for the ever present crowds of people. Popular destinations have earned that distinction for a reason. If you would like to check Rome off of your list, but want to avoid the masses, then private touring is the perfect fit for you.

Speaking of the masses, we spend the last two nights of our trip to Italy at the Westin Excelsior. Technically, this is a Virtuoso hotel. However, the reality was that my room was in need of a deep clean and a refresh. The hotel is in a great location, has lower rates than other Virtuoso properties, and if you love the SPG program you can earn points for your stay.

Exclusively for Virtuoso guests:

For 2016

      • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
      • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
      • $100 USD Equivalent Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
      • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

In addition to my stay at the Westin Excelsior, I also did site inspections at the following hotels: St. Regis Rome, JK Place Roma, the Portrait Roma, and the Hotel de Russie.

Our first morning in Rome was an early start. We were ready in the lobby by 6:30 AM for our transfer to the Vatican, where we had breakfast before starting our tour. This is an must-do experience when you are in Rome and is well worth the additional cost.

The other must-do activity during our visit to Rome was the Vintage Vespa Tour. It was so much fun! It is the perfect way to experience the city and soak up life in Rome.

Leaving the Westin Excelsior on the Vintage Vespa Tour
Leaving the Westin Excelsior on the Vintage Vespa Tour

Of course there are many other excellent tours and sites to see in Rome, plus lots of wonderful shopping and dining options.

We said goodbye to fly home the next morning and took our private transfers to the Rome (FCO) Airport. Due to the fire that occurred in the in the international terminal in May 2015, and the large number of passengers on a Saturday, the airport was an absolute zoo. Allow plenty of time to get to your gate, even if you have status or are flying Business or First Class.

First you checked in at a counter with your passport where you are asked several security questions. Then I was handed a tiny plastic bag which was basically the size and quality of a plastic vegetable bag  with handles and told to place all of my electronic equipment in it, including cables and chargers.

Then I went to another area where I waited in line to check my bag. Then I got in line for about two hours, holding my plastic baggie of electronics, to go through security. This was followed by passport control, and then a bus ride to the terminal. I arrived to the airport three hours early, and made it to my gate fifteen minutes prior to boarding.

The wait was so bad that American Airlines held the plane and we departed about an hour late to give people time to clear security.

All in all it was an amazing trip and I can’t wait to go back and experience more of Italy.

Are you dreaming of a vacation in Italy? Give me a call at 508-485-3061 or send me an email and let’s turn your dream into a reality!

See Also: Luxury Travels in Italy Part 1 Florence and Luxury Travels in Italy Part 2 Tuscany

Luxury Travels in Italy: Part 2 Tuscany

Sunset in Tuscany
Sunset in Tuscany
Sunset in Tuscany

We left Florence at 11:00 AM for our first stop at Castello della Paneretta for a tour, wine tasting and delicious lunch. A lovely place to learn about wine and view sixteenth century frescoes from the Florentine painter Bernardino Poccetti. The food was simple, fresh, and delicious. The hosts were gracious. A wonderful stop on your journey through Tuscany.

Our next stop was a quick stroll in San Giminiano, before heading to our hotel for the evening, The Grand Hotel Continental in Siena.

San Giminiano
San Giminiano

The Grand Hotel Continental is the nicest hotel located within the old walls of the city of Siena. It is a Virtuoso property, and includes the associated complimentary amenities. However, be cautious about your room category as some rooms are in desperate need of a refreshing.

Exclusively for Virtuoso guests:

For 2016

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • A complimentary lunch or dinner for up to two people per room once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Our guided walking to of Siena was one of the highlights of our trip. This is a must-visit city when you are in Tuscany. It is truly like nowhere else on Earth. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

At the end of our walking tour we had a truly epic lunch of bruschetta, salad, and fresh pasta, finished with a double espessro and warm from the oven biscotti.

Our next destination was my most anticipated hotel stay of the trip, the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco. It did not disappoint!

What can I say? I absolutely adored my stay at the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco. The hard product with rooms and furnishings designed by Ferragamo are beyond stunning. I love that everything you see embodies not only great design, but also great function. It feels luxurious, but not fussy or pretentious. You will want for nothing.

Outdoor heated pools, a vineyard and golf course of property, stunning vistas, hiking trails, chef’s garden, and a lovely gift shop. The wine tasting and cooking class are not to be missed!

My clients also receive the following complimentary Virtuoso amenities:

Exclusively for Virtuoso guests:

For 2016

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Tuscan or American breakfast daily, already included in rates
  • $100 USD Equivalent Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
  • For guests staying in Villa, 1 ready-to-eat dinner delivered in Villa on the arrival day
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

The remainder of our time in Tuscany was spent visiting the Tuscan jewels of Montalcino, Pienza, Montepuciano, and Orvieto.

There is so much to see and do in the area, including doing nothing at all and just soaking up the beautiful views or relaxing by the pool.

Ready to start making your Italian dream vacation a reality? Contact me via email or at 508-485-3061.

See also, Part 1 in the series which is my experience in Florence and Part 3 which highlights the best in luxury in Rome.