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Travel After 50: Trip of a Lifetime

Travel After 50: Trip of a Lifetime, exotic travel in middle age, exotic travel over 50
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BY MARY JANE HORTON

 Where would you go if money and time didn’t matter? Would it be an extended safari in the African jungle? Perhaps a month in Fiji, or a whirlwind tour of the great cities of Europe. Let’s image together. Herewith some of the most exciting (and expensive) trips you can take.

Elephant back safari Camp Jabulani, Hoedspruit, South Africa. (http://campjabulani.com) In most safaris you sit in a jeep; in this one you sit atop an elephant.  Camp Jabulani is full luxury in terms of cuisine, personal attention, and accommodations (it is accredited by Relais and Chateaux). The resort has only six suites and a limit of 12 guests. But the resort’s real pull is the herd of trained African elephants that were rescued by the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. Visitors can interact personally with these beautiful animals on daily elephant rides, around the waterhole as they swim and play, and in the natural habitat surrounding their stables. On elephant rides around the camp, visitors see wild elephants, lions, zebras and other wildlife.

Each of the suites – in British Colonial décor – is private and remote. They all have stone tubs, outdoor glass-enclosed showers, and private plunge pools. Massive windows allow for uninterrupted African sunlight. And the food gets great reviews as well. Head chef, André Gerber, creates innovative and delicious meals with a fusion of flavors and fresh ingredients. Visitors to Camp Jabulani are so impressed with the fare that they request recipes for their favorite dishes such as: Butternut and Caramelized Onion Quiche, Tiger Prawn Salad with Seared Lime and Mustard Greens, Spiced Honey and Mango Parfait.

When you aren’t riding and elephant, eating like a king or queen, or relaxing in your luxurious villa, there are lots of other activities including game drives on a private reserve in the Limpopo Province where you can see buffalo, rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra, blue wildebeest, waterbuck, spotted hyena, kudu and many other species of antelope, lion, leopard, cheetah, and many smaller species. This world-renowned reserve has gained a reputation as a center for wildlife management and research.  Hot air ballooning with sweeping views of the area, and bird watching are other popular activities.

Skiing in the shadow of the Matterhorn, Zermatt, Switzerland. (http://www.zermatt.ch/en). All over Zermatt, and especially on the ski slopes, the Matterhorn is an ever-present site. I visited and skied there here times as a teenager and young adult (my father was in the watch business). It’s heaven. From the time you arrive at the train station after a picturesque train ride from Geneva, through Brig or Visp, you don’t have a care in the world, except getting to the slopes in time for a great day of skiing. The village is as beautiful as can be with alpine-style buildings, dark wood with intricate woodcarvings, and no cars allowed on the street. When you arrive at the station, if you are staying the Mt. Chervin Palace, http://www.montcervinpalace.ch/home.html (and other top hotels), a horse driven sleigh meets you and you are wrapped in fur blankets for the short trip to the hotel. Sleigh bills ringing, horses hoof clomping, show glistening. It is really a scene out of a fairy tale. The Mt. Cervin, which has been welcoming guests since 1852, is truly the epitome of Swiss hospitality. I can remember eating dinner flanked by at least four waiters, who were watching and waiting for anything they could do. They would swoop in quickly for a dropped napkin or an empty water glass. And, although I haven’t been in quite a while, I’m sure it hasn’t changed.

Zermatt, located in the German-speaking part of Switzerland (Valais canton) close to the Italian border, is built around an old village. It became famous in the last century with the English attempts to climb the Matterhorn. It is the perfect place for skiing and après skiing with spa offerings and amazing restaurants. In terms of cuisine, raclette is a specialty of this region, and it is delicious. Soft cheese is placed under a grill and when it heats up the melted portion is scraped off. Little potatoes, sour gherkins, and small white onions in vinegar are served on the side. Extras include salted ham and spicy sausages. Other culinary delights of Switzerland include cheese fondue (cubes of bread dipped in melted cheese) and fondue bourguigonne (red meat dipped and cooked in boiling oil).

Back to the Mt. Chervin; it has been updated and upgraded through the years and now, as well as being the first class hotel, where you drop your skis with the ski butler after a day on the slops, it is a spa venue as well. They have an indoor swimming pool, sauna, footbaths, a relaxation room – with heated lounge chairs – and more. The Swiss are known for great facial and body care and they offer a full array including: Swiss alpine herbal message, hot stone message, body peeling and lots more. The rooms are all elegant and beautifully furnished and range from a simple room to a suite with a Jacuzzi. I want to go back!

And the skiing, as you would imagine, is world class. There are several different areas accessible nearby – some allow you to ski into nearby Italy for the day. However, the ski area Gonergrat is the most popular. The train station to get there is right in the middle of town, so you walk, take a comfortable train trough the Alps, with the Matterhorn in your site. When you get to the ski area, there is a comfortable lodge at the bottom and at the top of the mountain with all levels of slopes available.

A treehouse in Sweden, Treehotel, Larads, Sweden.  If your taste is unusual and you love nature, this is the trip for you.  The Treehotel (http://www.treehotel.se/?pg=about) is literally a hotel built high up in trees surrounded by nature. It is close to the Lule River, and the nearby town of about 600 people, has everything you need – a restaurant and a shop. From the hotel you see miles of unspoiled land. Each treeroom is a unique and created by some of Scandinavia’s leading architects. The modern design combined with the quiet of the forest creates an instant feeling of luxurious relaxation. Treehotel was inspired by the film The Tree Lover by Jonas Selberg Augustsen. In it three men from the city want to go back to their roots by building a tree house together. “The Tree Lover” is a philosophic story about the significance of trees for us human beings. Treehotel is built in the natural forest with materials and construction techniques that make as little environmental impact as possible are chosen.

As a guest you can enjoy all meals at Britta’s Pension, nearby, in a genuine 1950’s setting or meals can be delivered to your room or the river. Almost all of the produce is local and mostly organically grown. Swedish specialties such as Arctic char, reindeer, and bear are offered.  The menu changes on a daily basis depending on what is available.

The treerooms all have good insulation and are warmed up by under-floor heating. The electricity is supplied locally from green hydroelectric power. And the lighting consists of low-energy LED-systems. Daily operations have minimal impact on nature as well. Each room has a modern, environmentally friendly combustion toilet where everything is incinerated at 600 °C. The toilets are completely powered by electricity. Bathrooms have water-efficient sinks with running water sufficient for washing hands, face and brushing teeth. All wastewater is collected in a container that is emptied daily. Showers are located in a separate building.

There are many activities to keep you occupied all year round. If the northern lights are on your bucket list, the time to go is winter. Snowmobile northern light tours are run by experienced guides and teach you everything you would want to know about this natural phenomenon. Among the other winter activities are: walking tours in the village, the treesauna, a day tour with a peak into the Sami culture (indigenous people in the arctic area), snowshoe tours, dogsled tours, and more. In the summer many of the same activities are available, but with different modes of transportation as well as kayaking on the Lule River, evening fishing, and riding on the Treehotel’s zip line.

The great expanse of Patagonia, Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, Torres del Paine, Chile. Ever since I read the book In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin, I have been fascinated by this part of the world. And, even if he probably roughed it, the Tierra Patagonia (http://www.tierrapatagonia.com/) is the place to stay. It sits on a bluff where the South American pampa meets Lake Sarmiento. The architecture complements the flow of the geology in this awe-inspiring location and showcases the magnificent views of the Torres del Paine National Park, which was declared a UESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978. All of the rooms in the hotel have views across Lake Sarmiento to the peaks of Torres del Paine National Park and are decorated with authentic Patagonian details using natural materials from the region, high quality workmanship and inspiration from the native Tehuelche people.

Chilean Patagonia is still largely undiscovered and offers one of the truly uninhabited areas left in the world. The best time to go is summer in the region – late December to early February. The immense beauty of Torres Del Paine National Park is due to its many ecosystems — mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers. There are animals that you probably haven’t seen or even heard of, such as guanacos, rheas, south Andean grey deer and caracaras. There are flamingos, swans, woodpeckers and geese. The 370,000-acre park attracts travelers from around the world including scientists who study climate change, mountaineers who climb its peaks, and explorers.

The hotel makes it easy for guests to experience the awesome beauty of the area with lots of different kinds of excursions divided into three activity different levels – easy, medium and high. There are treks, horse rides, bike rides, and scenic rides to well-known locations as well as less travelled areas. If you want to see more, the Lake District in the north and the island of Chiloé are tourist regions with good campsites, hot-spring resorts and national parks. Puerto Montt is the departure point for a range of cruises into the Chilean fjords and for the local ferry to Chaitén and the stunning Pumalín nature reserve.

Beach bumming in Fiji, Turtle Island Resort. Fiji is an archipelago of more than 332 islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. Fiji’s beaches are so breathtakingly beautiful and pristine that they have become a popular destination for many honeymoons and romantic getaways. Luxury outdoor spas, surrounded by tropical settings, have also become popular. Some of Fiji’s most loved beaches are found on the spectacular Coral Coast as well as among the Mamanuca Group, which features volcanic islands.

But as far a crowd recognition goes, The Turtle Island Resort (http://www.turtlefiji.com/, with breathtaking panoramas for miles is one of the most beautiful venues, where the movie Blue Lagoon was set.  It is in the Yasawa Islands, off the mainland of Fiji, where there is little development. From the deep blue ocean to the fresh local seafood and fruits and vegetables grown on the island, this place offers a true sensory awakening. Some of the beaches at the hotel are private and there are several other scattered throughout the island – 14 in all. Prices at this resort are all-inclusive and include snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing, sea kayaking and fishing. Land-based activities are also available – horseback and bike riding, hiking, island tours.

Each of the 14 cottages at the resort, referred to as “bures,” is located on the lagoon and far away from the next. Modern design and construction is melded with traditional Fijian craftsmanship; most of the lumber is from the island.  Fijian culture and food is very much alive on Turtle Island. The people are eager to share all of their vast knowledge.  They teach visitors about their rich musical musical heritage, explain the sea life and coral, and demonstrate the medicinal uses of trees and plants found in the forest. They will also share their vast knowledge of the sea that surrounds them and teach guests how to windsurf and snorkel.

And, finally, the food. Fijian food is traditionally very healthy and pure. Coconut is prevalent as are tuber plants. The staples of the diet consist of rice, sweet potatoes, taro, cassava (produced from a bush-like plant), coconut, and, of course, fish. One of the most popular dishes is Kokodo, which has many different variations. This is the island’s equivalent of South America’s ceviche, made up of raw mahi-mahi and a dressing called “Miti” which is made from thick coconut cream with onions, lemon/lime juice, salt and chilies.

 

 

 

 

 

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