Experiences

0 2671

Have you ever dreamed of Rio de Janeiro? Do the rolling waves of the South Atlantic and the undulating hills of the Brazilian coast call to you? Answer the call—in style—with a luxury adventure to Brazil’s Marvelous City with Up in the Air Life luxury tour designers.

Carefully curated by on-the-ground experts and encompassing food, music, art, dance, history, and, yes, a party or three, Up in the Air Life’s Rio experience is one of unexpected wonders and tropical magic. And like the defining qualities of a diamond, this upscale excursion covers the Four Cs of a memorable, once-(or twice)-in-a-lifetime adventure into the heart and soul of Brazil.

Cuisine (and cocktails)
The various cultural components to Brazil can be best experienced through the country’s cuisine, and Up in the Air Life sets the table with an array of options for edibles that sates even the most ravenous appetite, especially if that appetite is for meat. Topping Up in the Air’s list is Rio’s talked-about steakhouse, CT Boucherie, which serves up hearty meats and sides with succulent flavor and high-class flair. Rubaiyat, with views of the racetrack at the fabled Jockey Club, cooks its meats and pours its wines with Mediterranean panache.

The less-haute, more-folksy options on the itinerary include Garota de Ipanema (Girl From Ipanema), an eatery named for the renowned paean to Rio’s supple young beach bunnies and the spot for delicious meats grilled at your table, Angu do Gomes, with its zesty classics influenced by the Afro-Brazilian fare of the country’s northeast, and at Praça dos Nordestinos for feijoada, a thick and, of course, meaty stew that is the national dish of Brazil. Of course, all of these places serve up frosty imported and domestic beers, as well as caipirinhas, the national cocktail, but the bar atop Sugarloaf Mountain has unsurpassed views, scrumptious beverages, and a thumping sound system.

Culture (and how!)
Obviously, food rates highly on the list of cultural attribute Brazil brings to the fore, but the country’s art, street style, music, dance, and joie de vivre are virtually unmatched. Up in the Air Life’s curated forays into Brazilian culture include excursions to the bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood with its cobblestone streets and colonial-era architecture, the Ipanema Hippie and Art Fair and its unsurpassed selection of one-of-a-kind souvenirs and authentic handicrafts, the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue and striking Dois Irmaos massif, mansion-in-the-jungle Parque Lage (yes, where Snoop and Pharrell shot the “Beautiful” video), and, most interestingly, to the impactful, resilient community of Rocinha, one of Rio’s largest favelas.

Of course, music and dance reign supreme in the Marvelous City, as Rio is known, especially during the run-up to Carnival, and the Up in the Air Life sought out the best, most exciting events in town for ramp-shaking and samba-ing the night away. The central district of Lapa, tucked away under the whitewashed arches, buzzes with bars and botecos, where live musicians keep the dance floors hot while affable bartenders keep the libations flowing. Rio Scenarium is one of those oh-so-Rio nightspots where tourists and locals come together for a little flirting and foot-shuffling until the wee hours. But the real party is just getting started.

Carnival (well…pre-Carnival, actually)
During Up in the Air Life’s luxury Rio experience, the city is in the throes of Carnival season, and all the major parade organizations—called samba schools because the first one formed across the street from a teachers’ college—are wrapping up their final preparations for the big blow-out event the very next week. This means the Carnival spirit pervades every party and gathering, which may still be crowded, but without the crushing waves of revelers expected to descend on the city during Carnival itself. Up in the Air Life takes adventurers into the heart of the action, with pre-Carnival celebrations at the world-famous Sambadrome, where the samba schools perfect their dance moves in anticipation of the grand parade.

But it’s easy to join in on the fun, as escorted excursions to raucous pre-Carnival block parties, called blocos, and old school-style samba sets at various venues help revelers work off the calories from all those delectable dinners.

Comforts (aaaaaaah!)
And when the party’s finally over each night, Up in the Air Life sets you up in sparkling beachfront accommodations, such as the Sofitel Caesar Park or the iconic Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel. The epitome of tropical luxury, the Copacabana Palace has been hosting superstars for nearly 100 years; Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, the Rolling Stones, Princess Diana, Madonna, and Michael Jackson have all rested their heads, frolicked in the pools, and dined out at the Copa. And when not relaxing in the multi-level spa, or on beds as soft as clouds, guests swim or sun themselves along some of the world’s most celebrated beaches, alongside all the other tall, tan young lovelies Rio is so famous for.

Image credit: Charlie Phillips via Flickr

Are you ready to book your Carnival of luxury with Up in the Air Life? Do it…you know you want to. 😀

FLY BROTHER hanging out in Rio with Up in the Air Life!

0 2239

If you’re anything like me, you prefer the freedom and ease of traveling solo. When you’re alone, there’s no one else’s agenda to consider but yours. But, no (wo)man is an island, and sometimes, it’s nice to hit the islands, or wherever else strikes your fancy, with a group of like-minded individuals. Here are a few reasons why:

Connecting with Cool People
While traveling solo is indeed a great way to meet new people, so is traveling on a group tour. And if you choose the tour according to your level of interest in the destinations or experiences offered, you are likely to meet at least one other person who you can vibe with. You never know, your new friend might turn into a regular travel buddy, business partner, or significant other. Group trips create incredible opportunities for networking and, yes, matchmaking! And if you do get annoyed with the group, you can always opt out of larger group activities and do your own thing.

Minimal Dull Moments
Traveling alone often means solitude, even if you’re amid the hustle of New York or the bustle of London. Friends have to work during the day and while it’s sometimes nice to keep certain experiences and discoveries to yourself, there’s also the more mundane aspects of solo travel that would be exponentially better if you weren’t alone. If anything, traveling with a group ensures that you’ve always got someone to wait in line, sit around the airport, or do those other banal endeavors with you.

Expanded Experiences
Cost and time are factors that always affect travel plans, but when you’re traveling by yourself, these parameters can be quite challenging to optimize. While a solo traveler to Paris might have to schlep out to the Palace of Versailles on the train and wander the grounds alone, a group can more easily arrange nonstop transportation, a private tour of the palace, and lunch at a nearby winery. Likewise, a Nile River Cruise in Egypt, calling at some of the world’s oldest and most striking temples and monuments, would be an otherwise prohibitively expensive proposition. Excursions to localities a bit farther afield are always easier, or at least cheaper, in groups.

Group Discounts
One constant in the travel industry is that traveling in a group lowers the individual cost of the trip, if only because tour operators, airlines, and other service providers offer discounts when multiple participants purchase their service. You can sometimes get discounts of up to half-off when you travel with a group.

Fly Photographs
Need I say more?

Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

0 2123

As it flows northward from Aswan to Edfu to Luxor, the Nile River remains quiet and unbothered by little more than the small vessels zipping across the glassy surface. Over the course of the Nile’s various ages, it is the sturdy, wind-powered felucca that remains the most evocative and romantic of the river’s watercraft.

The name felucca, Italian in origin, is said to have come from a Greek word for “boat”—epholkion—via the Arabic fulk and Spanish faluca. Constructed mainly of wood, with three triangular-shaped sails made of Egyptian cotton and called lateens, feluccas rely on the brisk desert winds to sail upriver and the steady current of the Nile to float downriver. Plying the 300 km stretch of the river between Aswan and Luxor, feluccas are more often rented out, these days, for social events and tourist excursions, leaving the freight traffic to barges and the passenger traffic to cruise liners.

nile-river-map

While the average felucca ferries the average tourist up and down the Nile, when Up in the Air Life takes to the river, the feluccas play host to some of the flyest adventurers on the planet. Champagne pours as a mix of live, traditional Egyptian music and modern-day jams keep the atmosphere lit and live. As other feluccas pass by, the less-energetic passengers crane their necks to see what’s happening over on the hypest boats, and the pair of young guys who paddle up to the side to serenade unsuspecting foreigners with Euro-pop get a surprise themselves when our intrepid explorers launch into an impromptu rendition of “Rapper’s Delight.”
And as the lingering sun sets to the west, the energy of the river remains, constant and unchanged, as the feluccas carry history and culture with them to every port.

nile-river-scene-by-ernest-white-ii

claire-soares-of-uital-cheers-by-ernest-white-ii

jillian-and-ernest-by-ernest-white-ii

uital-felucca-by-ernest-white-ii

Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

0 1960

“For, as Mr. Ferguson was saying at that minute in Luxor, it is not the past that matters but the future.”
–Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

Ah, but the past informs the future, and with a past extending back four millennia, the lands and peoples and monuments of Nubia and Upper Egypt prove themselves as resilient as the very river that sustains them.
Exploring the shadowy colonnades and alcoves of the Temple at Luxor means stepping back into that past, when men-gods and women-goddesses commanded multitudes of builders, architects, artisans, and designers—many enslaved—and absorbing the energy of the ages, both light and dark. It is believed that many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned here, a monument to monarchy, unlike nearby temples dedicated to deities or deified rulers, and that even Alexander the Great claimed against all observable evidence, to be legitimized at what is now Luxor. Indeed, the French snagged a piece of Egyptian regalia, the obelisk at Place de la Concorde in Paris, leaving its companion to stand sole sentry over the entrance to the temple.

But to marvel at the intricate hieroglyphics—each symbol a story in itself—and the absolute size of a structure completed with ancient building technology only inspires the mind to wonder: what pasts, presents, and futures walk among the shadows and the sun of the Temple at Luxor on their way to greatness?

entrance-_-temple-at-luxor-_-ernest-white-ii

colonnade-_-temple-at-luxor-_-ernest-white-ii

birds-and-pharaoh-_-temple-at-luxor-_-ernest-white-ii

uital-at-temple-at-luxor-_-ernest-white-ii

ernest-and-pharaoh-at-luxor-_-ernest-white-ii


Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

0 1458

Timeless: the only word that can adequately describe the Nile River as it courses smoothly through the ancient lands of Upper Egypt and storied Nubia. The boats that ply the great river like ants across stone are made from reed and wood and metal, their compositions mirroring the technological advances that seem to have only made it up the Nile in intermittent spurts—a satellite dish here, 3G wireless there.

It is on one of these boats—the Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats—that I spent several days luxuriating in timelessness, exploring Egyptian temples to half-remembered gods built millennia ago and trading smiles and furtive conversation with the curious and friendly boat staff between ports of call. I can’t exactly remember how many days we journeyed through our stretch of the river, as the sun rose a golden disc in the east and set a golden disc in the west, the exact same sun every day without alteration, and every day one of relaxation and discovery.

sun-boat-iv-at-noon-by-ernest-white-ii

Thirty-six cabins, well-appointed and comfortable, provide guests a modern, Art Deco-inspired refuge from the desert heat and riverine humidity. Many of the cabins feature vistas of the fabled papyrus reeds along the river bank, earnest little feluccas with full sail raised, and the settlements and cities squeezed as close to the water’s edge as the river allows. Views from the spacious dining room and lounge reveal the true vastness of the river and the breezy rooftop terrace café and swimming pool attract guests in search of a more intimate relationship with the Nile.

Staff, attentive and anticipatory, make polite conversation while serving helpings of Western and Egyptian delectables in the public areas of the cruiser, while the on-board store provides ample opportunity to be decked out in traditional, timeless, Egyptian attire. What makes my particular trip so memorable—and timeless—was the perfect energy of the people who sailed with me, the people who came to Egypt to experience its timeless mysteries and its timeless gifts. The people who ventured to explore Egypt with that curator of timeless experiences, Up In the Air Life.

Find out more about my Egyptian Adventure with Up In the Air Life in the days ahead.

sun-boat-iv-cabin

0 1132

In the filtered sunlight of the bus window, the little boy’s straight, yellow hair streamed from the top of his head like a sparkler. He peeked over at me, again, and this time, I gave him the most sour grimace I could muster. “What are you looking at?” I thought, again, but didn’t say because he was, after all, a child. But so was I, really: a 16-year-old spending the summer between his junior and senior years of high school in the northernmost province of Sweden, a hair south of the Arctic Circle.

I must have been the last foreign exchange student placed with a host family because, of all the American students placed in Sweden that summer, I was the farthest north and the furthest away from the capital city of Stockholm, where I had requested to be placed. The hamlet of Råneå was an hour outside of Luleå, itself not even topping 50,000 people and whose most famous export was ‘70s model and Bond girl Maud Adams. A bus that ran three or four times a day connected the town to the city, and neither town nor city was very racially diverse in 1994.

In fact, aside from a brown-skinned Sri Lankan girl adopted by Swedish parents in Råneå, it seemed I was the only other person of color in that section of the province, a flat, swampy expanse with Mesozoic-sized mosquitos and a sun that never set in summer. Not so very different from Florida, after all. The adults and other teenagers I was around—mostly, my host sisters’ friends—didn’t seem too scandalized by the skin tone difference: The Oprah Winfrey Show aired on Swedish television and two of the star players on Sweden’s World Cup soccer team were half-black.

But the little boy on the bus couldn’t stop looking. And finally, I stopped grimacing and smiled. He smiled, too, then I got off the bus.

 

Image by Daniel Glifberg via Flickr.