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Experience Small Town USA at its best – the Capital Regions

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Few areas of the United States are as packed with history as the Capital Region. From the early American settlements of Colonial Williamsburg Virginia, to the first black president to live in the USA White House, the region has continuously played witness to the nation’s defining moments. Encompassing Washington DC and the states of Maryland and Virginia, a road trip around the area makes for a perfect summer or autumn holiday.
Whilst the big cities and monuments may be one of the main attractions, the region’s small towns are the heart and soul of the Capital Region. Stroll through charming downtown districts, relax in luxury, uncover interesting history and revel in unspoiled nature at one or more of these hidden gems.
Here are just 10 of these Small Towns – some or all of which can be incorporated into your trip
1 Frederick, Maryland
Named one of the top 25 “Small Art Cities” in the USA, Frederick is the historic and cultural hub from which highways fan out like the spokes of a wagon wheel, connecting Main Street communities, wineries, orchards and inspirational attractions. Guided walking tours show off historic sites and intriguing architecture, while rounding out the scene are specialty shops and critically acclaimed restaurants.
2 Cambridge, Maryland
“The Heart of the Chesapeake Bay” is home of the Dorchester Centre for the Arts. But history reigns in the birthplace of abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman. Walk in her footsteps along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, and check for upcoming events commemorating the 100th anniversary of her death in 1913.
3 Ellicott City, Maryland
Among the Olde English stone homes and rolling hillsides of Ellicott City is the nation’s oldest surviving railroad station. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is a must-see for train and history enthusiasts alike. Stay in one of the characterful inns or bed-and-breakfasts, and be sure to check out the neighbourhood pubs.
4 St. Michaels, Maryland
This charming port town is full of pre-Colonial influence, historic homes and maritime fun. Boat, sail, fish or tour the town’s lighthouses. Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride, stopping to sample the boutique wines from St. Michaels Winery.
5 Hagerstown, Maryland
Enjoy everything from pristine mountain views to live theatre and symphony performances to shopping the designer brands of Hagerstown Premium Outlets®. Nearby, visit historic Antietam National Battlefield, Fort Frederick State Park and Washington Monument State Park.
6 Leesburg, Virginia
Located just 20 minutes from Dulles International Airport, Leesburg, founded in 1758, offers not only historic architecture and attractions but also specialty shops, art galleries, and great dining. The charming town is home to several of Virginia’s award-winning wineries.
7 Abingdon, Virginia
This town along the Blue Ridge Highlands dates back to frontier times, and the old stone streets are preserved. Take a ghost tour through the circa-1779 homes, visit The Barter Theatre (the official state theatre of Virginia) and explore stunning Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway.
8 Washington, Virginia
First surveyed by a young George Washington, this peaceful hamlet is filled with B&Bs and rolling countryside. The Geneva Welch Gallery is a reputable shrine to fine art.
9 Cape Charles, Virginia
Marinas, fishing spots and parks such as Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge make up this haven for maritime living. Adventurous types can try Kite boarding and food lovers can visit the locally inspired waterfront restaurants and farmers markets.
10 Lynchburg, Virginia
America’s roots extend to Lynchburg, home of the Old City Cemetery which dates back to the Civil War. Nearby are Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, the new Museum of the Confederacy at Appomattox and Poplar Forest, the woodland retreat of Thomas Jefferson. Explore the town’s seven architectural districts.

Interested? – take a look at our sample itinerary on our website then contact us and we will assist with your travel plans to this fascinating area – call 01323 446550 or email info@experienceholidays.co.uk

All photographs courtesy of capitalregionusa.org

Tour of Alaska’s Cuisine

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There are really good reasons to go to Alaska – all the year round. The stunning scenery, the types of bears, the highest mountain in the USA, the wildlife and birdlife, the Northern Lights and the Iditerode. But where you aware that Alaska has one of the highest densities of restaurants or eateries per capita the the US?
It is not just about fine dining in smart restaurants but includes all levels of eating establishments and all kinds of recipes. The diverse background of Alaskans has lead to an array of influences in the food on offer, ensuring that you have plenty of choice.
It would be tempting to think that Alaskan cuisine is based on the harvest from the sea and this is a big factor when looking at the menu. However you would be surprised at how much food is home grown. During the summer most reasonable sized towns and cities have a number of Farmer’s Markets offering home grown vegetables, fruit, cheese, meats, fresh (very) seafood, honey and ice cream every weekend. And if you really want to ensure your food is super fresh, many of the farms in Fairbanks, Matanuska Susitna Valley and on the Kenai Peninsula offer pick you own fruit and vegetables.
You will be very pleasantly surprised at the high quality of the cooking even out in the remote lodges in the Parks and in the wilderness. A wonderful way to end a hard day kayaking, whale watching, hiking or wildlife tracking is with a gourmet meal and a view to remember. Or even be tempted to sign up for cookery classes while staying at one these lodges to learn how to make the most of the Alaskan provender.
There are nearly 20 breweries spread across Alaska to help you celebrate the never ending midnight sun or the long hours beneath the northern lights. Should you be in Alaska in October you could join the Alaska Railroad’s Annual Great Alaska Beer Train to the outstanding views to Turnagain Arm.
Or a bottle of Alaskan wine made from mountain berries may well suit your meal and then take home a souvenir bottle of vodka, whiskey or gin made with water from an iceberg that has just broken off a glacier.
If you mouth is watering or you want to explore Alaska and all that it has offer, then contact us on: Tel: 01323 446550 or email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Cruise to Alaska in 1890s style

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Un-Cruise Adventures S.S Legacy sails from Seattle to Alaska and is a small ship adventure with the style of the 1890s but the comforts and conveniences of today.
With just 88 guest on board you have the option of either an 11 night cruise to Alaska or joining her for a 7 night exploration of the coast of Alaska. Being a small ship it can get in close to the coast. This gives its passengers up close views of the wildlife and a chance to visit small communities that the larger cruisescannot begin to approach. Add in the chance to kayak and explore ashore and you have a different kind of cruise experience.
The cruise also boasts “heritage guides” who bring to life the history of region and an on board conservationist to explain the nature that you are viewing. The captain has the discretion to vary the cruise so that if you run in to something special, such as whales feeding, he can stay with the spectacle.
This has to be a wonderful way to see Alaska and for the full details just get in touch.

Tel: 01323 446550
Email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures

The Grand Prix Experience…

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A racing tradition since 1929, the Monaco Grand Prix is considered one of the most important and prestigious motor races in the world.

Unlike other race tracks, the narrow course of the Monaco Grand Prix is strategically laid along the streets of Monaco with many elevation changes, tight corners as well as tunnels to navigate, making it one of the most beautiful locations as well as one of the most challenging. In addition to the racing legends of the Grand Prix’s history, the racing event also draws thousands of visitors including movie stars, fashion elite and celebrities, who enhance the glamour and prestige of this world famous race.

As a spectator to the 72nd annual Grand Prix, you are in for a once in a lifetime experience as you witness the thrill of smoking tires, roaring engines, the genius of drivers navigating laps with no margin for error as well as the all-around excitement encapsulating the beautiful city of Monte Carlo.

It’s a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed!

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So why not take up this fantastic cruise, yachting the Riviera voyage on board WindSurf and experience the thrill of Monaco’s 2014 Grand Prix.

We are offering a fantastic cruise leaving on 20th May 2014, calling at: Rome/Civitavecchia, Portoferraio, Portovenere, Portofino, Monte Carlo (overnight), St.Tropez and Nice.

With this 7 night voyage you can add on a spectacular excursion package to create those lifelong memories.

Add on – Section K grandstand seating for Saturday time trials and Sunday race – Exclusive onboard cocktails party – Grand Prix gift commemorative package.

For full pricing and availability please call us today on 01323 446550 or email info@experienceholidays.co.uk to ensure your chance to take part in the big event!

Pictures courtesy of Windstar Cruises/The Cruise Portfolio

New Zealand’s Fjordland

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We’ve just received a newsletter from Destination Fjordland, reminding us of some of the many reasons to include this stunning region in a visit to the South Island of New Zealand – a snippet follows:

‘Fiordland can be explored by land, air or water – each gives a unique and memorable experience of the country’s largest National Park. Enjoy a cruise on the world-famous Milford Sound, soar over mountains and remote valleys on a scenic helicopter trip, or hire a guide and explore some of Fiordland’s spectacular trails. Of course, to do justice to the variety of scenery in Fiordland, visitors should really try all three!

The Milford Track celebrates its 125th Anniversary in October, with a number of celebrations planned for this milestone. Thousands of visitors walk the track each year and it is every bit as worthy of its ‘Finest Walk in the World’ accolade now, as it was in 1888.’

Te Anau and Queenstown are two of the main gateways to the Fjordland region, and both are widely considered ‘musts’ to include during a holiday to New Zealand. Queenstown is known as the adrenalin capital of New Zealand and has a beautiful location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu close to the Remarkable Mountains, whilst Te Anau is closest to both Milford and Doubtful Sounds. The Milford Track is a popular inclusion for keen walkers and we can discuss with you the best way to incorporate part or the whole of the track into your holiday – providing an opportunity to explore stunning scenery away from the crowds.

For more information on the region, or about New Zealand in general, please call our office on 01323 446550, email us at info@experienceholidays.co.uk or check out our website www.experienceholidays.co.uk. We can work with you to create your perfect bespoke tailor made New Zealand holiday.

Picture courtesy of Destination Fjordland.

Zambia’s 50th Birthday

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Next year Zambia celebrates its 50th year of independence and it will be a great time to visit this wonderful country. The wildlife experience is as good as other African countries and you should also consider making Victoria Falls one of your places to visit.
There is a good round trip that takes from 10 to 14 days and takes you to the key places in the country.
Start at Victoria Falls for a 3 night stay. The time of year that you arrive here will determine the volume of water that come over the Falls. The greatest amount comes over during April and May. The Falls dry out slowly thereafter and the Zambian side often become nothing more than a trickle. However it is straight forward enough to visit the Zimbabwe side to see the remainder of the Falls. There are plenty of activities to undertake here, such as white water rafting, helicopter flights over the Falls and, always recommended, is the sundowner cruise on the upper Zambezi.

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From there head to the South Luangwa National Park for a 3 or 4 night stay and one of Africa’s best and pristine wildlife locations. This is the home of walking safaris and we would recommend considering this. It does give you a completely different view of the bush and what lives there. You have time to learn about the smaller animals, the birds and the fascinating insect life.
The next part of your tour has you spending 3 -2 or 3 nights on the Lower Zambezi in a tented camp based on the river. You have time to relax in camp or continue your game viewing or a mixture of both.
The journey ends with a night in Lusaka with time to find out about the Zambian history and culture before flying home.
Prices for such a trip start from £3,300 with flights to be added.
This really does make for a trip that ensures you see the best of the country and in a year when celebrations will be on going.

So if you would like to make your very own bespoke tailor made itinerary to this amazing country in a very special year, please give our expert a call on: Tel: 01323 446550 or email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Pictures courtesy of our own Peter Ellis

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South Luangwa – Countdown to the Rains

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I hope that you watched last Sunday’s broadcast featuring Kate Humble and Simon King in South Luangwa and all about the pressures on the wildlife in the area as they wait for the first rains in 7 months. If you missed it, I urge you to download it on the BBC iPlayer and then be ready for the next instalment next weekend.
My partner and I happened to be on holiday there last week and did come across the occasional camera crew moving from on location to another or checking on equipment. All friendly people and all obviously enjoying their work.
We had chosen to go to South Luangwa as it is somewhere new for us, it is truly unspoilt Africa and this time of the year is special as the animal concentrations along the rivers is amazing.
Sadly there are no longer any direct flights to Lusaka from the UK – we caught the last BA direct flight at the end of last month. All the locals were sad to see this flight discontinued and even arranged a choir to greet the last passengers!
Another short flight and we arrived in Mfuwe to be met by John and then a short drive through the village to our first Camp at Kapani. The mangoes were coming in to season and piles of them lined the road with their owners trying to tempt us to stop and buy.

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Lunch was held overlooking the last of the water in the river bed in this area and was regularly interrupted as different animals came in to view.
It was my first siting of Puku (slightly bigger and stockier than an impala), one of the indigenous animals of this area and very exciting for me to see.
The resident hippo returned in the afternoon to reclaim his waterhole and the bushbuck and baboons entertained us through the heat of the afternoon.
After tea and cakes we headed out on our first game drive and where immediately rewarded with a sighting of a leopard guarding its kill. This was after crossing the bridge in to the Park with a huge pod of noisy hippos, crocs and fish eagles and a host of other birds below.
The first elephant, giraffe and plains game are always welcome sightings and stopping for sundowners overlooking a pool with all kinds of birds settling down for the night and a steam of animals coming down to drink kept us entertained. The night drive back gave us a first sighting of a genet.
The evening meal gave us a chance to chat to the others staying at Kapani and to hear about their adventures and sightings. So much to look forward to with hippo and hyena to sing us to sleep.
More to follow soon.

To chat to Peter about South Luangwa, and any other East and Southern African destinations, please call on Tel: 01323 446500 or
email: peter@experienceholidays.co.uk

Photos from Peters recent trip.

South Luangwa Awaiting the Rains – Part 3

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As I am writing this the first showers are arriving bringing hope to all the animals in South Luangwa, many of whom are on the edge of starvation. This has triggered the impala to start dropping their young.

Just 10 days ago I was in the South Luangwa National Park witnessing the drama of the wildlife on the edge. We did see the first of the baby impala standing on shaky legs and heading for the shade and its mother’s protection. The warthogs had also had their young and watching a family group running off in to the scant bush with their tales up, like car aerials of old, always brings a smile to your face.

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We had spent the night at Luwi Camp, one of the remotest in the Park and woken to hippo crossing in front of the campsite. At the early breakfast, 05.30, the 6 guest compared notes of what had been heard during the night. All had listened to the hyenas and hippo calls and most had heard the distant lion roar. This led to a discussion of how far away they were and which direction to head in.

The two of us set forth with Simon as our guide and driver. Before long we came across a freshly killed female impala but no predator. The most likely answer was that a leopard had killed it but we just could not find it anywhere. Shortly afterwards we came across the 5 wild dogs in the riverbed and on our side of the river. We spent time watching these very rare and entertaining animals. As we approached our next camp, we drove down in to the river bed to a pool with at least 200 hippo, numerous crocs many of whom were feeding on 4 dead hippo and a host of different birds. There was a colony of carmine bee eaters nesting in the bank and the air was filled with their calls and flashes of colour as they dived in and out of the holes in the bank.

Kakuli Camp is situated on the top of the bank looking down on the river and a pool claimed by a few hippo. After an excellent lunch we rested in the shade watching elephant and giraffe coming down to drink in the heat of the afternoon. After tea, with a lovely orange and chocolate cake, we set off with Simon again and we were joined by another couple on the drive. We headed back to the hippo pool, particularly as one of the others was a very keen birder. We then drove further down the river and just as the sun was setting we found a male lion with 9 females and cubs on a kill on the far bank of the river. Sipping a sundowner and watching the pride through the fast closing darkness has to be one of the best ways to end the day.

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Nor was it all over. As we drove back in the dark with our spotlight working, Simon and the ranger found a leopard on an extremely fresh puku kill. It let us watch as it first dragged the animal in to the bush and then started eating its haunches. More about this leopard later.

Finally back to camp for a much wanted shower, dinner and earlyish to bed.

For a full account or to make your own bespoke tailor made holiday to this fantastic place then please give Peter a call on 01323 446550 or email peter@experienceholidays.co.uk

Photos by Peter Ellis

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Thanksgiving in the USA Today…

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We at Experience Holidays would like to wish all of our USA colleagues a very happy Thanksgiving today, and Black??? Friday. For those of you that are not aware of the Thanksgiving history here is a snippet:-
The Pilgrims Fathers are credited with starting the tradition of Thanksgiving in America nearly 400 years ago to celebrate a successful harvest.
But declaring Thanksgiving Day a formal holiday on the fourth Thursday in November required a pair of presidents — two of the most famous, in fact.
Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It was Lincoln who issued an 1863 proclamation calling on Americans to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving,” partly to celebrate victories in the then raging Civil War.
“He’s the father of the whole idea of a nation giving thanks for its advantages and privileges of living in a democracy like this,” said Harold Holzer, historian and chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation.
Decades later, Roosevelt and Congress acted to establish Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, in part to lengthen the Christmas shopping season.
It took the trauma of the Civil War to make Thanksgiving a formal, annual holiday.
This is an ideal time to plan a holiday to the USA if you love your shopping as Black Friday is the start of the big sales with many bargains to be had before Christmas.

If you would like more info on this time of year in the USA and a shopping trip for all those christmas presents, then please contact us on 01323 446550 or email info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Sea to Sky Gondola – set to open May 2014

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Today we received the latest Vancouver Tourism newsletter and it had some really exciting news of things to come in 2014. One of the articles was The Sea to Sky Gondola, due to open in May 2014. This would make a great stop en-route on your self drive holiday around Western Canada.

Follow the spectacular scenery along the Sea to Sky highway as you make your way to the Gondola – located 2 km south of Squamish between Vancouver and Whistler, right off of the highway.

The Gondola promises to take you on a 10 minute ride 885m above sea level to the summit with sweeping views over Howe Sound fjord, coastal forest and surrounding mountains.

Viewing platforms at the summit provide the best outstanding views. The 100m long Sky Pilot suspension bridge, adjacent to the Summit Lodge and Gondola station, promises to be a ‘must do’ with plunging views and backdrop falling away over thousands of meters.

From the Summita selection of walking and hiking trails will allow you to escape into nature.

If you would like to incorporate this into your own bespoke tailor made holiday, then for more information please give us a call on 01323 446550 or email info@experienceholidays.co.uk

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