Fave Five Travel Excursions of 2011, Part I

Managing Editor Janeen Christoff recalls how this year was filled with dream vacations By: Janeen Christoff
The FIBT Bobsleigh World Championships // © 2011 Janeen Christoff
The FIBT Bobsleigh World Championships // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

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Kakadu National Park // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

Kakadu National Park // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

My daughter and I onboard the Disney Wonder // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

 My daughter and I onboard the Disney Wonder // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

The Viking Prestige on the Danube // © 2011  Janeen Christoff

 The Viking Prestige on the Danube // © 2011  Janeen Christoff

The Santa Catalina Convent // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

 The Santa Catalina Convent // © 2011 Janeen Christoff

As one would imagine, working for a travel magazine, I have a lot of “dream” vacations on my bucket list. This year, I was able to cross off several. A trip to Bavaria fulfilled my childhood dream of seeing a ski world championship, I was able to spend a week cruising on the Danube River, I visited Australia for the first time and I sailed Alaska’s Inside Passage with my daughter. Last, but not least, I got to cross one of the most amazing archaeological sites off of my list — Machu Picchu, Peru.

FIS Alpine World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Gemany
While I myself am not a world-class skier, I have always wanted to attend a world championship ski event and, this year, I was presented with the opportunity. On a trip to Bavaria, Germany, our group visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the FIS Ski World Championships, and we watched the women’s Giant Slalom, which is one of my favorite events. I got to see world championship skiers such as Julia Mancuso and Maria Riesch battle it out for the championship title.

Adding to that, we also attended the FIBT Bobsleigh World Championships in Konigssee, Germany. And, while I thought that the skiing was amazing, the biggest surprise, for me, was how awesome attending a bobsled competition is. At Konigssee, at least, attendees can stand inches away from the track — you could probably reach out and touch the sled, if you dared. And they whiz by at such amazing speeds that they are gone in seconds. It completely blew me away, and I had a great time watching the U.S. team achieve second place in the finals and witnessing the medal ceremony, as well. 

Australia
I’ve always wanted to visit Australia and, for one week this year, I immersed myself in the culture Down Under. My first stop was Hamilton Island, which provided me with a glimpse at Australia’s laidback beach culture. The small, secluded island provides everything a person needs for relaxation: luxury accommodation, golf, spa, water sports — especially sailing — and more. The island’s preferred mode of transportation is by golf carts, dubbed “buggies,” which makes for an even more tranquil and idyllic experience.

I followed my visit at the beach with a stay in the bush. While languishing beachside always sounds appealing, exploring the Australian Outback put me a little on edge. I am not really an “Into the Wild” kind of girl. But the Wildman Wilderness Lodge in the Northern Territory put my anxieties to rest with its luxury lodging and authentic Australian hospitality. One of my favorite parts of my visits to the Northern Territory was exploring the billabongs by private airboat. Another highlight was hiking in Kakadu National Park and viewing the ancient Aboriginal artwork — as well as a rare black wallaroo. 

Disney Cruise, Alaska
I've always wanted to take my daughter on a Disney Cruise, and I’ve also always wanted to take a cruise to Alaska. This year, I was able to do both, sailing Alaska’s Inside Passage with my 4-year-old daughter. While character dining and the kids’ club is what she remembers best about the Disney Wonder, my favorite part was a floatplane trip to the Misty Fjords in Ketchikan.

Still, one of the things that Disney does best is make travel — whether it is to one of their theme parks, on one of their tours or on a cruise — effortless for parents. This was definitely true onboard the Disney Wonder where my young travel companion was thrilled to spend hours on end in the kids club on sea days while mom got a little time to herself.

Danube River Cruise
One of my favorite forms of travel is river cruising. However, unlike most people who have selected a favorite mode of travel, I had only been on one river cruise, and it was only three days long. Ever since that trip, I’ve yearned to experience a “real” river cruise, lasting more than just a couple of days. This year, I had the opportunity to do that, sailing on the brand-new Viking Prestige on the Danube for seven days of discovering stunning street art and visiting gothic and baroque cathedrals — heaven.

We began our voyage in Budapest, Hungary, and headed to Vienna, Austria, where I realized one of my favorite things about traveling in Europe in the summer — running into people you know. I had the good fortune to run into a TravelAge West intern, traveling Europe with her family.

Our cruise ended in Nuremberg, but not before stopping in Melk, visiting the Weltenburg Abbey and taking in the beauty of Regensburg. 

Peru
This fall, I had the opportunity to visit Peru, where the next ASTA International Destination Expo is scheduled to take place in March. It was a dream come true to have the opportunity to visit Machu Picchu, which is a spectacular site. Even though it rained for part of our time there, it was amazing to walk around and explore all the different parts of the Incan community and marvel at the incredible skill that it took to construct the city.

Machu Picchu was definitely one of my favorite parts of my visit to Peru, but I was taken aback by how many other sights and cultural experiences can be experienced in the region. Lake Titicaca’s floating islands are one example as well as the Colca Valley and the city of Arequipa. One of my favorite spots in Arequipa was the Santa Catalina Convent. It was fascinating to step into the lives of the nuns who occupied the convent and get a taste of their way of life — so advanced in some ways and, yet, so humble in others.

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