• Colombia Guide Carolina

    5 Reasons to Travel With A Local Guide

    <p>It’s tempting to say that you don’t need a guide when visiting a new country. Between the internet and the thousands of guidebooks on the market, it’s pretty hard to get lost these days. After spending many of my traveling adventures alone, my first experience with a local guide convinced me that it was a great way to go (although this was in Costa Rica, on a river paddleboarding excursion, and my guide prevented me from paddling right into a couple of dozing crocodiles), and my last experience in Italy (<a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi-tours/" target="_blank">with Sergio</a>!) confirmed it. What I truly took away, was that my trips wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable had I not been with a friendly local with tremendous knowledge of his country. Here are five reasons why traveling with a local guide makes all the difference. </p> <p><b>#1 Save Time AND Money</b><br>Visiting another country can be overwhelming. There’s so much to see, and this might be the only chance you’ll ever have to see it. You could easily spend a week in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank">Prague</a> and still miss out on some great sights. A local guide will not only take care of all the planning for your daily activities, but he or she will also make sure you get to see the things that other tourists often overlook. And a good local guide will get you from place to place in the most efficient, least expensive way possible. So, you won’t have to worry about paying exorbitant cab fees that inexperienced tourists often rack up.<br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/prague/" target="_blank"><img alt="People walking in Prague" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATNF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f844" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>#2 Eat Like The Locals</b><br>You didn’t spend 12 hours on a plane to dine at the local McDonald’s. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/local-tour-guides/" target="_blank">Local guides</a> are experts on their country’s cuisine. After all, they’ve spent years eating it and will steer you towards the restaurants that best represent their country’s cooking. They&#39;ll make sure you eat the dishes you’ve been wanting to try and introducing you to some that you might never have heard of.<br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/morocco-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Men in Morocco Market" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATNF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f849" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>#3 A Walking Encyclopedia</b><br>Local guides are an unparalleled source of information about the places you’ll visit. True story: on a recent <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys trip to the Amalfi Coast</a>, I was surprised when our guide Marco stopped in the middle of the trail we were on, yanked what looked like a handful of weeds out of the ground, and ate them. He saw the looks on our faces and laughed. “This is wild arugula,” he explained. “It’s great in salads!” I wish I’d had some balsamic vinegar with me. From giving you a detailed <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfifamily/" target="_blank">history of Pompeii,</a> to… well, showing you what plants you can just pull out of the ground and eat, local guides know their country’s history and even biology like the backs of their hands and are delighted to share it with you.<br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Amalfi tour guide with guests" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATNF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f84J" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>#4 Support the Local Economy</b><br>One way to be a good global citizen is by <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/giving/" target="_blank">supporting local economies</a>. Having a local guide is a great way to do that. Not only do you help those guides earn a living, but you’re also supporting the various businesses, restaurants, and shops to which your guide visits. <br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/giving/" target="_blank"><img alt="Woman in Panama with children" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATNF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f84E" style="height: 354px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>#5 Make a New Friend</b><br>It might seem like a cliché, but local guides love what they do because they truly enjoy the company of new people. Perhaps the best part of hanging out with your guide is just that... hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. Whether it’s sampling wine in a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/loire/" target="_blank">French chateau</a> or hiking the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/peru-tours/" target="_blank">Inca trail in Peru</a>, you’ll find that the company of a local guide is just as memorable as the sights and tastes you’ll experience.<br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/peru-tours/" target="_blank"><img alt="Guests with guide in Peru" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T000002ATNF&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T000000f84O" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p> </p>

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  • Costa Cconcordia Rescue

    Local expert reports on Costa Concordia rescue efforts from Giglio Island

    <p>Our head guide in Tuscany, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/local-tour-guides/" target="_blank">Luciano</a>, just called in with an on-the-spot report from Giglio Island. Read on to gain some personal insight into events there and how the local people rallied to help the ship’s passengers.</p> <p>I’ll turn it over to Luciano:</p> <p>When I heard about the Costa Concordia shipwreck last Saturday morning in the news, it didn’t seem real. It was right in front of the Giglio Island, where it feels like home. We travel there in our “Coastal Tuscany and Pisa&quot; tour; it is beautiful and un-touristed. So many of our guests have enjoyed the day we spend there, when we walk from the port, through an ancient trail up to the cozy medieval village with its stunning views of the sea and the continent. The water has different shades from blue to light green and when the sky is clear you can see Corsica. One of our friends there, 80-year-old Mario, works in his garden and skillfully shows us how he weaves his baskets. He even takes us to his cellar, a medieval stall, toasting with us from his own wine production.</p> <p>American friends wrote in, asking if what they saw on TV was the place they had explored with us. As a native guide, I worked together with my colleagues in the Classic Journeys’ head office in 2006 to create this wonderful exploration, looking for such warm-hearted locals as Mario. Out of other islands in Tuscany we chose this one for its beauty and for being less crowded in the southern part of the region; far away from Florence and other well-known cities. During the Renaissance, the Medicis, Grand dukes of Tuscany, named it the “Giglio”, which means “lily”, the flower symbol of Florence.<br><br><img alt="Giglio" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oA&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002sll" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>When the shipwreck happened, several of those same local people we meet in the Giglio Island were up all night, assisting the thousands of passengers that landed ashore. Shops stayed open all night: the local café with warm drinks and food, the general store with blankets and food, the clothing store with clothes, the hotels with hospitality. And the same thing happened on the mainland when they came to Porto Santo Stefano and the Argentario. No one could believe it. Inhabitants’ solidarity came out fully in one night.</p> <p>The news keeps on giving reports, as more details are coming out. In Italy it takes most of the news—prime time on TV—and people talk about it all the time. It seems that this is touching people’s hearts more because many see themselves in the people on that cruise. I won’t really get into the news details, but as an Italian guide familiar with the island and working with the public, I would like to express that my deepest thoughts go out to all the people that suffered and died and families that lost loved ones. As reports have stated, evidence shows human mistake, such as the fact that the ship was far away from its allowed course, came too close to land and the rocks. Not even local ferries that travel daily many times back and forth venture near those rocks. From a professional point of view I would like to say that what happened doesn’t reflect the way we work here. My colleagues and I care deeply, making sure guests and fellow travelers are not only having great times, but also are safe and well cared for on their vacation to Tuscany and Italy.</p> <p>Thanks, Luciano for such a thoughtful report of what’s going on in Giglio with rescue efforts.</p> <p>Luciano is one of Classic Journeys’ most popular and senior guides worldwide. He leads departures of Coastal Tuscany &amp; Pisa, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/" target="_blank">Tuscany &amp; the Cinque Terre</a>, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscanyculinary/" target="_blank">Taste of Tuscany</a>, and our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italyfamily/" target="_blank">Tuscany Family Journey</a>.</p> <p>If you have questions about events in Giglio, or if you want to talk about Classic Journeys’ Coastal Tuscany &amp; Pisa tour or any of our other <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/walkingtours/" target="_blank">cultural walking adventures</a>, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/culinary/" target="_blank">culinary tours</a>, or <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/family/" target="_blank">family journeys</a> elsewhere in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/tuscany/" target="_blank">Tuscany</a>, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/italy/" target="_blank">Italy</a> or around the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/world/" target="_blank">world</a>, drop us a line at <a href="mailto:blog@classicjourneys.com" target="_blank"><b>blog@classicjourneys.com</b></a> or download an itinerary.</p>

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  • Blue footed Boobie, Galapagos Islands

    Darwinism at work: 5 top reasons to skip the ship

    <p>When I go on vacation, I really don’t like to have to sit through PowerPoint presentations. A friend who cruised last year in the Galápagos sent me a photo of the naturalist briefing on their ship – and it looked like a cross between a school lecture and a business meeting. It’s not wrong or bad. But if I’m close enough to a blue-footed booby to hear it, I’d rather not be looking at pictures of it on a TV screen instead!</p> <p>I love to compare that to the photo below that we took on our <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">Galápagos tour</a> a couple of weeks ago. It shows our head guide, Alfredo, who is a very knowledgeable naturalist. He’s with Classic Journeys’ guests 24/7. Here, he is with us in the bush near Playa Mann on San Cristobal Island and is providing an up-close on-the-ground immersion into the flora and fauna. We have him to ourselves for the whole week. (And there were only 10 of us vs. the 40-50 people in that cruise ship lounge.)<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank"><img alt="Alfredo" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oD&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s8o" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p>It’s just one of the top reasons why an island-based Galápagos tour is a completely different animal (pardon the pun) to a Galápagos cruise. In the spirit of New Year’s countdowns, here are the other five top reasons:</p> <p>(By the way, if you’d like to read a companion blog entry on the 3 things my kids learned in the Galapagos, just <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/vadering-pooping-and-boobies-what-my-kids-learned-on-our-galapagos-family-vacation/" target="_blank">click here</a>.)</p> <p><b>5. Buffet or ceviche-making lesson?</b><br>There are two very different ways to dine in the Galápagos. One way is a buffet line on a very nice ship. It’s the way that dinner is served on board and it offers passengers a nice selection of foods. You’ll sit in the dining room at a prescribed time, with all of the other passengers, and go through the buffet line at your turn. Your interaction with the chefs will be to exchange a pleasantry as you go through the buffet line (…<i>if you speak Spanish</i>).</p> <p>The photo below is a private cooking instruction poolside at our hotel on Isabella Island. Classic Journeys’ guests are learning to prepare shrimp ceviche from our guide and Juan Daniel, the general manager of the hotel. It’s a remarkably personal opportunity to share recipes, stories and laughs in a memorable setting. The waves are crashing on the beach a few feet away.  We have the terrace to ourselves, and the stars of the southern sky are out in full force. It’s typical of the dinners we have nightly on the trip: exceptional cuisine prepared just for us and served in jaw-dropping settings.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank"><img alt="Ceviche lesson" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oD&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s8t" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>4. Divide and Conquer</b><br>What if you want to shop in town, your spouse wants to have a massage and your friends prefer a walk on the beach? On a ship, the answer is easy. Only the massage is possible, because with the fixed schedule of the boat, you’re not permitted to stay in town or linger on a beach for a walk; the zodiacs have all returned to the boat so that it can get underway toward the next port of call. This means you’re really limited in your ability to bespoke a trip to your own preferences.</p> <p>Now take a look at the options you have on Classic Journeys’ <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">Galápagos tour</a>. Because we’re based on the islands in boutique hotels, you can bespoke as much as you’d like. One night, our group of nine went in nearly as many directions as there were guests on the trip! My wife and a friend walked the white sand beach that stretched for miles with no other people on it. A friend and his son threw a ball to one another. One guest had a massage at the hotel. Two others went out with a guide to try their hand at surfing. Another curled up with a glass of wine in an overstuffed chair and read a book on her iPad. And another followed a boardwalk path behind the hotel into national parkland shooting photos of the iguanas that cross from the wetlands to the beach. The result was greater than the sum of its parts, as everyone returned to the hotel for dinner invigorated and with stories to tell of their alone time.</p> <p><b>3. Carlos the coffee roaster</b><br>A luxury when staying on the islands is time to get deeper into the landscape. The highlands are often the most interesting and least explored part of the islands. Why? Because it takes a little longer to get up into the highlands, and so a landing party from a ship will often miss these great opportunities to immerse their passengers into the local culture.</p> <p>The coffee plantation owned by the Gonzales family on San Cristobal Island is a great example. It takes about 30-40 minutes to drive up into the highlands. So on a tight cruise schedule (breakfast, on the zodiac to land, two hours on land, back on the zodiac to the ship, lunch, back on the zodiac to land, two hours on land, back on the zodiac to the ship, dinner, bed) the two hours on land doesn’t permit the time to drive into the highlands. But oh is it worth it! Mists and moisture from the Galápagos’ only fresh water lake, plus rich volcanic soil, make this perfect terrain for growing coffee. We spend time with the family and local workers on their 250 acre plantation, learning about their organic, sustainable operation and taste the freshest cup you’ve ever had.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank"><img alt="Coffee plantation in the Galapagos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oD&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s98" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p><b>2. Sunset with the sea lions</b><br>4:30 pm on December 19 brought two startling contrasts. Zodiacs of life vest-clad passengers leaving the harbor to return to their ships. Their day of exploring was over. Nearby, on the beach near our hotel our group was returning on foot from a walk to see frigate birds and snorkel in the lagoon where Charles Darwin first landed in the Galápagos. Crossing the white sand, now turning purple and orange with the late afternoon light, we came across a colony of female sea lions, many with pups at their sides. A lone male called out to any other male in the area that this was his harem. Our group stopped, lay down on the sand, and spent the next 90 minutes reveling in the personal interaction we had with the mothers and babies. Since they have no natural predators, we could crawl right up to them and they showed the same interest in us that we did in them.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank"><img alt="Sea lions" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oD&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s8y" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p> <b>1. Nine is greater than 105</b><br>Our final day found us in the on our way to see the giant land tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. They’re amazing, weighing upwards of 500 pounds, living 150+ years and walking 5km or so each day in search of their favorite food. Our destination was the national park and the watering hole where the tortoises socialize and keep cool. Our guide Alfredo let us know that it would be about an hour walk each way; we’d see tortoises along the way and an incredible number of them once at the muddy gathering spot.  (See my blog about &quot;vadering&quot; to read more about the sounds they make.)</p> <p>As we were driving along a country road in our 20 seat minibus, we came across three 45 seat blue behemoths. I asked Alfredo who they were and where they were going. He answered that they were from one of the famed expedition cruise ships and they were going to see the tortoises too. Each was filled with 35 people, making a total of 105 passengers in the three buses. Panicked, I imagined our little group of nine guests plus two guides being overrun by a heard of cruise passengers piling off the buses and scaring the tortoises into their shells.</p> <p>“Not to worry,” said Alfredo. “They’re not going where we are. They go into a private farm where they only need to walk 10 minutes to a watering hole and where they have facilities for large scale tourism.”</p> <p>We finished our incredible visit to the watering hole in the national park, and saw dozens of tortoises enjoying themselves in the mud and flowery algae. About five other explorers shared the experience with us. The late afternoon sun made it perfect for photography, and we had all the time we wanted to commune with the tortoises.</p> <p>On the way back to our hotel, I was still curious about the cruise bus option, so I asked Alfredo if we could stop at the farm to see for myself what is was like. Always accommodating, he agreed. We raced down the trail and came upon the pond. It was about the size of a large hot tub and contained about 6-8 tortoises. They were packed in, just trying to find some room.  I could only imagine what it must have been like for those 105 cruise passengers to be on the trail at the same time, and to all be at the tortoise “hot tub” together. Nine was certainly a greater experience than 105!<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagosfamily/" target="_blank"><img alt="Tortoise in Galapagos" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7oD&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002s9D" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a></p> <p>Classic Journeys operates <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank">island-based cultural walking adventures</a> and <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagosfamily/" target="_blank">family multi-sport vacations</a> year-round in the Galápagos.  Guests enjoy 7 days and 6 nights in boutique hotels. Expert naturalist guides create opportunities to come face to face with an incredibly diverse population of birds, plants, animals and sea life that are endemic to the Galápagos and which have no natural predators. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/itineraries/" target="_blank">Click here to download</a> a day by day itinerary of the trips, call a Guest Services Coordinator at 800-200-3887, or email Classic Journeys at <a href="mailto:moreinfo@classicjourneys.com" target="_blank">moreinfo@classicjourneys.com</a>.</p>

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