Traditional recipes

Snackshot of the Day: Crater Lake Blue Cheese

Snackshot of the Day: Crater Lake Blue Cheese

Photos of all things food and drink from The Daily Meal

Try this blue cheese from Oregon at your next dinner party.

The Daily Meal's editors, contributors, and readers dig into some pretty great restaurants, festivals, and meals. There's not always enough time to give a full review of a restaurant or describe in depth why a place, its food, and the people who prepare it are noteworthy, so Snackshot of the Day does what photographs do best, rely on the image to do most of the talking.

Today's Snackshot is of Crater Lake blue cheese. Crater Lake Blue gets its name from the large lake in Oregon, as the pattern of the blue in the cheese is said to mimic the clouds reflecting off the water. This cheese was expertly crafted by Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Ore. If you really want to impress your friends at your next party, order some of this cheese for your cheese board.

Read more about The Daily Meal's Snackshot feature. To submit a photo, email jbruce[at], subject: "Snackshots." Follow The Daily Meal's photo editor Jane Bruce on Twitter.

Month: October 2016

We have returned to our Vanilla Bourbon Imperial Porter recipe that we enjoyed in California. We are looking forward to this beer and hope we aren’t disappointed.

  • All grains were purchased at Hops and Berries in Fort Collins, CO.
  • 12 lbs 2 row domestic
  • 2.75 lbs Munich 15L
  • 1.5 lbs Brown Malt
  • 1.5 lbs Chocolate Malt
  • 1 lb Crystal 120L
  • 1 lb Crystal 60L

Hops (Pellet):

  • Starting gravity: 1.080
  • Brewhouse efficiency: 85%
  • Final gravity: 1.015
  • Approximate %ABV: 8.316
  • Approximate IBUs: 39 (Rager)/27 (Tinseth)/38(Daniels) as determined using the Hopsteiner and IBU calculators.
  • The city of Loveland has great water. We will pass the water through an activated charcoal filter to remove any chlorine that may be present.

Procedure: Yeast was propagated in 1.2 L of media (1:10 DME:water) in a 2L flask with stir bar that had been sanitized with Star-San. Media was inoculated from Wyeast Smack Pack. Propagation culture was grown at room temperature with stirring for 16 hours.

Strike temperature was 78 degrees Celsius. A

2.5:1 water to grist ratio (L:kg) was achieved with 22 liters of water. Mash in temperature was 69 degrees Celsius, 1 degree above target. The mash was fly sparged at 74 degree Celsius until the volume of sweet wort in the boil kettle was approximately 10 gallons. Hydrometer reading of the last wort remaining in the mash tun was 4.0 Brix.

Sweet wort was brought to a vigorous boil and boiled for 90 minutes. All hop addition times are listed as time remaining in the boil. Chinook – 60 minutes Northern brewer, 1 tablet Whirlfloc – 10 minutes. After whirlpooling and allowing the trub to settle, the hopped wort was cooled to 19 degrees Celsius with a counter-flow plate chiller with a recirculating ice/water slurry. The hopped wort was oxygenated. The yeast starter culture was immediately pitched into hopped wort. The fermenter was placed in an incubator with temperature monitoring only, until 22 degrees Celsius was reached. Temperature control was then set in cooling mode, with 20 degrees Celsius being the maximum temperature.

Fermentation profile of some very happy yeast.

After a week in the primary fermenter (Spiedel), the beer was transferred to a metal conical bottom fermenter with 5 oz vanilla beans, split and chopped. During fermentation, diacetyl character was noted at time points 28 to 51 hours, but was not present afterwards. The fermenter was kept at ambient temperature (19 Celsius) and was then cold crashed. The beer will be transferred to a keg, where bourbon will be added.

  • The shorter propagation time resulted in a beautiful profile. Happy, healthy yeast make great beers! We are definitely staying with a shorter propagation time.
  • We are now tracking temperature. More data!
  • Our brewhouse efficiency was a whopping 85%. Looking forward to trying to replicate this efficiency.
  • Our boil was not as vigorous as desired, resulting in a larger fermentation volume. We expect our original gravity would have been higher with a more vigorous boil (more evaporation, less volume, more concentrated sugars).

Del Rio Vineyards' Blog

We are still making wine, but the excitement of the wine club party and holidays placed winemaking on the back burner. It is about time we share our progress.

We left off in mid November when we were “punching down” the cap on our four buckets of Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then quite a bit has happened to our wine and I would like to mention a few particular milestones. The first big and possibly my favorite step was pressing our wine. In order to extract color we left our wine on the grapes skins for just over two weeks. The skins and seeds also contribute to the amount of tannin our finished wine will have. As we personally don’t have a press we purchased a cheese cloth, strained our wine through the cloth, and pressed with our hands the remaining berries. Although, our fingers were frozen we had a great time squeezing as much juice as possible. As luck would have it, we ended up pressing the very same day that Jean-Michel pressed his Cabernet Sauvignon, it made us feel like we were doing something right.

Check out this quick video of the day we pressed.

The second milestone, that is important to mention, is the completion of the fermentation process. In order to stop fermentation you must kill the yeast. There are a variety of ways to stop the fermenting wine such as Campden tablets, but we decided to get ours cold by placing it in large refrigerator. After a night in the cold we then experienced our third milestone, racking. Racking consists of removing the wine from the lees at the bottom of the bucket or the residue from the grapes. This will take place a number of times before our wine is finished. We also were transferring the wine from the four buckets to two five gallon carboys.

Now with our carboys full and our wine having gone through fermentation we had a few things left to do. The first is adding oak. Both Jen and I like slightly bigger and spicier wines so we decided to add a bit of French oak. As we don’t have a barrel the size we need, nor does Jean-Michel have barrels to spare our option was to use oak supplements. We quickly learned that there are a variety of oak enhancements to choose from. Jean-Michel was kind enough to offer us his sample kit. We had the choice of type of enhancement from staves, beans, chips, and rice, in addition to the choice of oak from Hungarian, American, and French and even the choice of toast light, medium and heavy toast. We chose to go with medium toasted French oak staves. Oak enhancements can be powerful so we have slowly added ours and continuously tasted the wine to make sure the oak flavor does not take over.

The next step in the process of making red wine would be to allow the wine to go through a secondary fermentation called Malolactic fermentation. This process is a bacterial fermentation that transforms the tart tasting Malic acid to the softer Lactic acid. The purpose is to stabilize the wine. We, however, have not started the Malolactic fermentation. The fermentation will only take place if the wine is kept at a warmer temperature. At the moment we are keeping our wine cold and have chosen to wait until later this winter or early spring to kick off the secondary fermentation. Our wine will remain in the cool warehouse and will be checked on periodically with tastings.

Day 1: Playa del Carmen

Location: Playa del Carmen

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: dinner

Kick things off in Playa del Carmen, which is a pretty cool place to begin a trip. In fact, you might want to chill on the coast for a few days beforehand – we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). The first thing planned for today is a welcome meeting with your group leader and fellow travellers at 6 pm. Other than that, you're free to arrive at any time and spend the day however you want. Maybe have your own snorkelling or cycling expedition, or simply stroll along the sandy playa (beach). In the evening, head out with your group leader for an included dinner at a local taquisa (taco restaurant) for a selection of tacos – make sure you order one with freshly caught fish. To improve your lingo, your group leader will conduct an informal Spanish lesson between bites, so that you can understand your burritos from your banos.

Included Activities:
- Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson
- Playa del Carmen - Taco dinner at a local Taquisa

Optional Activities:
- Playa del Carmen - Bicycle Rental (per day)

Day 2: Tulum

Location: Tulum

Accommodation: Hotel

Today, hop on a local bus along the Caribbean coast to Tulum (approximately 1.5 hours), where it's all about laidback life and the white sands of the Yucatan Peninsula. Once you're settled and got your bearings with a leader-led orientation walk around Tulum, there's the chance to visit one of the best-looking and located Maya sites around. Discover the impressive Temple of the Frescoes and see how this pre-Columbian walled ruin city clings to a cliff-top area overlooking the ocean. You can even go for a swim within the archaeological zone. In the evening, perhaps kick back and watch the waves roll in at a beachside bar with a margarita, of course.

Included Activities:
- Tulum - Leader-led orientation walk

Optional Activities:
- Tulum - Archaeological Site (entrance fee, no guide)
- Chichen Itza - Archaeological site (Entrance fee & Transport)

Day 3: Tulum

Location: Tulum

Accommodation: Hotel

With a free day to relax in Tulum, consider the optional activities on offer, and most importantly, relax into the laidback Mexican vibe. Two wheels are a good way to tackle the day, so rent a bike, cruise around the area and cover a lot of ground in a short time, as Tulum is relatively flat. The town is heaving with hip cafes and restaurants and many vegetarian and vegan options, as well as places to relax the mind and body with yoga and meditation. There's also the option of exploring Dos Ojos (two eyes): one of the most famous cenotes (freshwater rock pools) in the area – an underwater world full of stalagmites and stalactites.

Optional Activities:
- Dos Ojos Cenote - Fresh Water Rock Pool (entrance fee with snorkelling gear & life jacket included)
- Tulum - Snorkel rental (per day)
- Tulum - Bicycle rental (per 24 hours)

Day 4: Caye Caulker

Location: Caye Caulker

Accommodation: Hotel

New day, new country. Adios Mexico, hello Belize. Much of today will be taken up with travel, driving by local bus to the border, then on to Belize City (approximately 8 hours in total). Let the wind and sea spray wash the travel away with a 1-hour speedboat ride to the palm-fringed island of Caye Caulker. If your idea of paradise is white sand, blue waters and palm trees then you’re going to dig this place, and with a few days to explore, relax and get active, you’re set for an idyllic stay.

Included Activities:
- Caye Caulker - Leader-led orientation walk

Day 5: Caye Caulker

Location: Caye Caulker

Accommodation: Hotel

Your time in Caye Caulker is all about taking it easy. The pace of life is so incredibly slow it's almost backwards. If being underwater is your thing then head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to Shark Ray Alley and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel among the colourful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You can also take day trips to other Cayes nearby - each island has its own particular character, but all of them have that unmistakable Caribbean pace and charm. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier.

Optional Activities:
- Caye Caulker - Sunset sailing
- Caye Caulker - Half-day Guided Snorkelling Trip (gear, guide and transport included)

Day 6: Caye Caulker

Location: Caye Caulker

Accommodation: Hotel

Today is another free day to take up any other optional activities or to simply pull up a towel and relax along the beach with a book. If you’ve already been snorkelling, then maybe continue the marine exploration with a manatee tour. These huge, peaceful creatures are beautiful in their own way, and are quite curious to meet their visitors. Get more active with sea kayaks and stand-up paddle boards, or go the other way completely and just chill out. The island's also great for food, famed for its lobster and super tasty meals cooked on the side of the road. How about some grilled shrimp and a rum and coke made with the local fire water?

Optional Activities:
- Caye Caulker - Half-day guided sea kayaking tour (Incl. guide & transport)
- Caye Caulker - Stand-up paddleboard hire (per hour)
- Caye Caulker - Manatee boat tour (Incl. transport & guide)

Day 7: San Ignacio

Location: San Ignacio

Accommodation: Hotel

Leave the island paradise behind and return to Belize City by boat (approximately 1 hour), before taking a local bus to San Ignacio via Belize’s capital, Belmopan (approximately 3 hours). The local buses here are a little more basic than in Mexico but this is a great opportunity to mix with Belizeans and get a feel for local life. Get ready for stop and go on the journey, as there are very few official bus stops in Belize and the bus will keep stopping to pick up passengers. San Ignacio is a lively town surrounded by fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls and Maya ruins, making it the best base for exploring the region. After you arrive, the rest of the day is free, so perhaps choose to visit the Chaa Creek butterfly garden, and at night, try one of the barbeque street stalls for a char-grilled chicken leg.

Day 8: San Ignacio

Location: San Ignacio

Accommodation: Hotel

There is a heap of optional activities to choose between in San Ignacio. The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Maya relics, and you can wade through its waters until you reach a whole bunch of 1400-year-old crystallised skeletons. You could take a day tour to the Mountain Pine Ridge area to visit waterfalls and swimming holes, or go down the Macal river in canoes or tubes. If you prefer a slower pace, take a trip out to Xunantunich, an impressive Maya ceremonial centre with panoramic views. Getting to the site is half the fun, as you'll need to take a hand-cranked boat down the river. Belizeans are super friendly, so in the evening, walk down Burns Avenue and join the locals for a chat in one of the many restaurants, or at a street side stall.

Optional Activities:
- San Ignacio - Actun Tunichil Muknal Caves (Incl. entry, guide, transport & lunch)
- San Ignacio - Cave tubing (incl. entrance, guide & transport)
- San Ignacio - Butterfly Farm
- San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins entry
- San Ignacio - Caracol Ruins (Incl. entry, guide & transport)
- San Ignacio - Iguana Conservation Project (entrance fee)

Day 9: Tikal National Park

Location: Tikal National Park

Accommodation: Camping (with facilities)

Time to go jungle – Guatemala-style. Leave San Ignacio, cross the border, and get dropped at Tikal National Park by private vehicle (approximately 4 hours). You'll set up camp on the grounds of a hotel near the national park entrance before exploring the super-huge and crazy-cool Maya ruins of Tikal – it’s a bit like the set of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto movie, minus all the violence. Pass through the lush jungle vegetation, and if you've got the energy, climb Temple IV to take in the epic canopy views. While here, there's also the option to check out more of the area with a guided tour, or to fly through the canopies like a toucan with a memorable zipline experience.

Included Activities:
- Tikal National Park - Archaeological Site Tour (Entrance fee, Transport & Guide)

Optional Activities:
- Tikal National Park - Guide for Ruins (per group)

Day 10: Rio Dulce

Location: Rio Dulce

Accommodation: Multishare lodge

From the jungle to the lake this morning, as you’ll head to the lakeside town of Flores (approximately 1 hour). Here there's time to grab some lunch and have a quick explore around the town. Then it's back on the private vehicle to Rio Dulce (approximately 5 hours). On arrival in Rio Dulce, transfer to the hotel by boat. The easiest way to get back into town is also by boat, which can be organised through the hotel, or you can take a short walk through the jungle. Take some time to absorb the atmosphere of this laidback Caribbean town, which feels quite different from the inland communities. A highlight for many guests is the 'Casa Natural' - an open-air accommodation with screened-in rooms, shared bathrooms and a lounge looking out to the surrounding jungle.

Day 11: Rio Dulce

Location: Rio Dulce

Accommodation: Multishare lodge

There is a load of kick-ass activities to choose between today. Take a scenic boat trip down the river to Livingston, a laidback town on the Caribbean coast that offers a unique experience of local Garifuna culture. Go boating on the lake, relax in the thermal hot springs or explore the nearby San Felipe fort in Livingstone. You could hike through the dense forest of the surrounding Chocon-Machacas Natural reserve and go out to spot the protected manatees of the area. Remember, the best thing is that you’re in laidback Guatemala, and with the flexibility of today’s itinerary, you decide what’s on the agenda.

Optional Activities:
- Rio Dulce - Boat trip to Livingston (Price dependent on boat available & passengers)
- Rio Dulce - Natural Hot Springs (entrance fee and transport)
- Rio Dulce - San Felipe Fort (entrance fee)
- Rio Dulce - Quirigua Ruins (entrance fee)

Day 12: Antigua

Location: Antigua

Accommodation: Hotel

Travel by private vehicle to the city of Antigua (approximately 8 hours). You'll spend the night here, before heading to Lake Atitlan tomorrow. You won't spend too much time in Antigua, but you'll be coming back here in a few days’ time, so not to worry! Still, take some time for a stroll and tuck into some tasty tamales (a local dish served in a corn leaf) or a dish called Pepian: a spicy meaty stew of chicken, beef and pork in a dark sauce. You'll find the best value food in the square next to the La Merced Church.

Day 13: Chichicastenango / Lake Atitlan

Location: Chichicastenango / Lake Atitlan

Accommodation: Glamping (Multishare)

Meals: dinner

Today you'll get a seriously special Guatemalan experience. Start the day by travelling by private vehicle to the famous market in Chichicastenango (approximately 2.5 hours). This is the most colourful market in the country, where on Thursdays and Sundays locals come from the surrounding villages to sell their wares, and the streets are lined with stalls where you can stock up on cool trinkets. After visiting Chichi, head towards San Jorge La Laguna: a small Maya village overlooking Lake Atitlan (approximately 1.5 hours). Here you'll meet a Guatemalan family, and it'll be time to bust out your best Spanish to break the ice with these super friendly but shy locals. The group may be split in twos or threes, depending on the group size. The mother of the family will cook you basic but filling dinner early in the evening and provide you with an insight into Guatemalan family and culture. Bid the family adios before spending the night multishare glamping on the shores of Lake Atitlan.

Included Activities:
- Chichicastenango Market
- San Jorge La Laguna - Dinner at Traditional Maya Family Home

Day 14: Lake Atitlan

Location: Lake Atitlan

Accommodation: Glamping (Multishare)

Meals: breaksfast, dinner

Lake Atitlan is all yours to explore today when you wake up on the banks of its shimmering blue waters. There will be time to enjoy the other sections of the lake, so hire a kayak, or book in for a volcano hike or a mountain bike tour for a different scenic experience. After a day of exploring, you deserve a relaxing family-style dinner, which is all included on your return. By now, you may have realised that the Spanish name of your glamping experience, ‘Free Cerveza’, means free beer. Enjoy 2 hours of unlimited cervezas with your set menu, including soup, a main dish and dessert. You definitely won’t go hungry (or thirsty, for that matter). To sweat off the day’s activities (and food), be sure to enjoy the free sauna.

Included Activities:
- Santa Cruz La Laguna - Guatemalan Family style dinner with unlimited beer

Optional Activities:
- Panajachel - San Pedro Volcano hike
- Panajachel - Guided lake and villages tour
- Panajachel - Mountain bike tour
- Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour)
- Panajachel - Bicycle rental (per day)
- Panajachel - Zipline
- Panajachel - Water taxi to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan (Return)

Day 15: Antigua

Location: Antigua

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: breaksfast

After an included breakfast, hit the road back to Antigua (approximately 3 hours). With three nearby volcanoes dominating the horizon, you won't have been to many places quite like Antigua. Experience a leader-led walking tour to orientate yourself around the World Heritage-listed city full of cobblestones, leafy town squares and ornate churches. There are hushed museums and lively indigenous markets to explore, or countryside to be cycled with amazing views of mountain peaks and deep valleys. If you're into salsa dancing, or if you'd just like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons, so you'll be able to move your hips. This is also a city that knows how to party, so bring your best dance moves, shout a round of mojitos and get down with the locals.

Included Activities:
- Antigua - Leader-led walking tour

Optional Activities:
- Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop at ChocoMuseo
- Antigua - Coffee & Macadamia Nut Plantation Tour (entrance fee, transport and guide included)

Day 16: Antigua

Location: Antigua

Accommodation: Hotel

There will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure. Aside fomr that, enjoy a free day to explore the city. The number one stop for chocoholics should be the ChocoMuseo, where there's info all about its history and, more excitingly, a chocolate-making workshop. For those more interested in the other famous Central American bean, you can go on a coffee tour, visit the plantations, do some coffee tasting and even buy some to take home. If you're into salsa dancing or if you'd like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons so you'll be able to perfect your skills.

Optional Activities:
- Antigua - Pacaya Volcano Hike (entrance fee, transport and guide included)
- Antigua - Chocolate-making workshop at ChocoMuseo

Day 17: Cerro Verde

Location: Cerro Verde

Accommodation: Hotel

Rise and Shine! Today is an early start as you journey across the Guatemalan border to your next destination, Cerro Verde, El Salvador (approximately 5 hours). From rolling hills to rolling R’s, watch the world go by from the comfort of your private vehicle as you travel through lush volcanic landscape and endless mountain terrain all while learning the local lingo from your leader in an informal Spanish lesson. Arrive in Cerro Verde and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Included Activities:
- Leader-led Informal Spanish Lesson

Day 18: Cerro Verde

Location: Cerro Verde

Accommodation: Hotel

Today is a free day for you to get outdoors! Opt to hike up to the edge of Santa Ana’s Volcano crater for some more spectacular views of Lake Coatepeque, Juayua and Izalco Volcano. Alternatively, instead of admiring it’s view from the volcano crater, why not take a dip in Lake Coatepeque! There are many ways to keep busy in one of El Salvador's most beautiful national parks.

Optional Activities:
- Cerro Verde - Half-day Crater Hike - price from

Day 19: San Miguel

Location: San Miguel

Accommodation: Hotel

Meals: lunch

Continuing south by private vehicle today, pass through the capital of San Salvador on your way to San Miguel (approximately 3-4 hours). Resting in the shadows of Chaparrastique, an active volcano that sets the backdrop to this vibrant town, San Miguel has rebuilt itself into one of the largest and most populated cities in the country since facing a severe earthquake in 1917. El Salvador is also home to Papusas, a type of flatbread made from cornmeal and often stuffed with delicious fillings like cheese, chicharrón (fried pork) or refried beans. Today in San Miguel, visit a local street vendor and watch a papusa making demonstration, then try some of course!

Included Activities:
- San Miguel - Salvadoran Pupusa cooking demonstration

Day 20: Leon

Location: Leon

Accommodation: Hotel

Say a quick hola and adios to Honduras as you cross through two borders to reach ‘the land of lakes and volcanoes’, Nicaragua (or Nica as it’s known as locally). The 6-hour drive (plus stops) will be well worth the ride as you’re welcomed into the charming, artsy and sophisticated city of Leon. Why not refuel after your journey with some traditional Nicaraguan dishes, Gallo Pinto, with its hearty combination of rice and beans, is considered a national symbol – alternatively, perhaps try out some of your new Spanish skills and order a Quesillo, a cheesy treat made of corn tortillas, pickled onion and sour cream. Once the capital of Nicaragua, Leon has long been the heart and soul of the country’s political movements, which is demonstrated through the city’s colourful street murals – an artistic reflection of fallen heroes and revolutionary icons. Home to one of the oldest universities in Central America, Leon is considered a ‘college town’ and is known for its youthful, fun atmosphere and energetic nightlife. This evening, why not head out with the group for some bachata or salsa dancing!

Included Activities:
- Leon - Leader-led orientation walk

Day 21: Granada

Location: Granada

Accommodation: Hotel

This morning is free to explore Leon, perhaps check out the Basílica de la Asunción – Central Americas largest cathedral – or stop by the Museo Histórico de la Revolución for an insight the revolutionaries who fought hard for the freedom of their country. Alternatively, you might like to go volcano sandboarding! (This is the only place in the world that you can do it). Afterwards, if you’re feeling peckish, why not fill up on the traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs and gallo pinto before jumping on a local bus this afternoon to Granada. First, take a taxi from the hotel to the bus station, next board a local bus bound for Managua that will depart when it's full and takes around 2-3 hours depending on the amount of stops it needs to make and the complexity of onloading and offloading the passenger’s luggage. There will be about a 30-45-minute transit in Managua before taking the next public bus to Granada with a duration of approximately 1.5 hrs, and finally taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the hotel. Founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest city in Nicaragua and home to iconic Moorish and Andalusian landmarks that have survived repeated pirate invasions. Draped in colourful colonial architecture and oozing aesthetic charm, this enchanting city is set on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and is surrounded by active volcanoes.

Optional Activities:
- Leon - Volcano Sand Boarding

Day 22: Granada

Location: Granada

Accommodation: Hotel

Today is free to explore Granada, one of Central America’s least spoiled colonial towns. Perhaps you’d like to take a guided tour of the city, bargain hard in the markets, or wander the cobblestone streets, snapping photos of the colourful buildings. If you’re an adventure enthusiast, opt to hire a kayak and paddle around the islets of lake Nicaragua, rent a bicycle and ride to Laguna De Apoyo (a 200 year old lake set into a lush forest crater), or hike through the lush flora and fauna along the Mombacho volcano crater trail. For a cultural insight into the heritage of the Nicaraguan people, the city of Masaya aka ‘City of the Flowers’ offers a mixture of folkloric entertainment, from marimba music to street theatre. If you’re looking to purchase some traditional handicrafts, then you’ll also find ‘Mercado de las Artesanías’ – a craft market offering handmade souvenirs reflective of the Masaya area. After a day of exploration, why not enjoy an evening along Calle la Calzada – grab a drink at one of the many outdoor bars and watch the wandering performers, from mariachis to break dancers, bring the street to life.

Optional Activities:
- Granada - Masaya Volcano at night (Viewpoint for the Lava Lake at Santiago Crater)
- Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking tour
- Granada - Kayak rental (per day)

Day 23: Ometepe Island

Location: Ometepe Island

Accommodation: Hotel (Multishare with Shared facilities)

Meals: breaksfast

This morning, enjoy an included breakfast. Then, travel by local bus to Rivas where you'll transfer to San Jorge ferry port by taxi (approximately 2.5 hours). Catch a 1-hour ferry across Lake Nicaragua (the largest in Central America and the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world) to the island of Ometepe, and head to your hotel. Hourglass-shaped Ometepe Island was formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua (Ometepe literally means two volcanoes in the Nahuatl language) and the deep jungle is home to exotic wildlife such as monkeys and parrots. A great experience is to sit on the shore and watch fishermen return from a long day on the water with their catch.

Day 24: Ometepe Island

Location: Ometepe Island

Accommodation: Hotel (Multishare with Shared facilities)

Meals: dinner

Take advantage of a free day to discover the island. Perhaps take a hike up to the summit of either the Concepcion or Maderas volcanoes, but be warned, at 1700 and 1394 metres above sea level respectively, these are serious volcanoes and the treks are no walk in the park. You might prefer to splash around in the natural springs, soak up the sun on the shore or check out the island's petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings). If you like watermelon, coffee, banana and citrus fruits then Ometepe is the place for you, plantations abound, you’ll have loads of delicious fresh food to feast on. In the evening, head to Los Ramos, an indigenous community situated right in the middle of the island’s volcanos, for a cooking class. Learn traditional techniques used to make Nicaraguan dishes like nacatamales (a dough-based snack often filled with meat and steamed in banana leaves) before sitting down to a meal together.

Included Activities:
- Los Ramos Community - Cooking Class

Optional Activities:
- Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano hike
- Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike
- Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring (entrance fee)
- Ometepe - Petroglyphs

Day 25: San Juan del Sur

Location: San Juan del Sur

Accommodation: Hostel (Multishare with shared facilties)

Today you’ll take the two-hour journey (by ferry and public bus) to San Juan del Sur, a laidback surf town on Nicaragua’s south-west coast. Though the beach that lines the town’s horseshoe bay itself isn’t particularly great for swimming, you don’t need to travel far to find beautiful golden beaches with year-round waves. Go on an orientation walk with your leader and then enjoy free time to acquaint yourself with this fun little town. Tonight, you’ll be sleeping in style under the cover of a tepee! Connect with nature in these cosy dens and fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.

Optional Activities:
- San Juan del Sur - Surf Board Hire

Day 26: San Juan del Sur

Location: San Juan del Sur

Accommodation: Hostel (Multishare with shared facilties)

Enjoy a free day exploring San Juan del Sur’s colourful coastal scenery. If you’re feeling active, San Juan del Sur has plenty to offer. You might like to rent a surfboard and spend the day riding the waves at nearby beaches like Playa Maderas or Playa Marsella, alternatively, head south to La Flor beach reserve, where it’s possible to see olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles nesting between July and November. A huge statue of Christ (the largest in Central America) sits atop a cliff above the bay – why not hike to the top for spectacular views of the town and Pacific. In the evening, the city boasts a variety of greats bars and restaurants where you can share a meal with the group.

Optional Activities:
- San Juan del Sur - La Flor Beach Reserve - Free

Day 27: Monteverde

Location: Monteverde

Accommodation: Hotel

Say Adios to Nicaragua and continue your journey south to Costa Rica. Take a 1-hour bus to the border and then travel by private vehicle to Monteverde (approximately 5 hours). Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers, these environmentally aware settlers also established a small wildlife sanctuary, which has since grown into the internationally renowned Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve. Cloud forests are similar to rainforests, but instead, draw their water from a semi-permanent cloud covering the region. Constant mist in the forest makes it feel a bit like a nightclub! But with less bass and more fresh air, this is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2000 plant species, 320 bird species and 100 mammal species call Montverde home – be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.

Included Activities:
- Monteverde - Leader-led orientation walk

Day 28: Monteverde

Location: Monteverde

Accommodation: Hotel

Today you have a full free day to discover the reserve and experience the mystical and fragile environment here. Monteverde is not for the faint-hearted, so bring your sense of adventure, a solid pair of shoes, and have a little fun with the giddy heights. Perhaps take a hike through the cloud forest, check out the area by mountain bike, or fly over the canopy on a zip-line tour. Another way to see the forest from above is to take a tour along a series of suspension bridges 40 metres up above the jungle. You can explore the park on your own or arrange for a local guide to accompany you. The guides are very knowledgeable and happy to engage in conversation. To see some guaranteed wildlife up close, visit the butterfly and insect gardens or the serpentarium – there are also several cooperatives worth visiting in the local communities.

Optional Activities:
- Monteverde - Cloud Forest (entrance fee and transport)
- Monteverde - Suspension bridges tour
- Monteverde - Canopy Zip Lining (Entrance, Equipment & Transport)
- Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour
- Monteverde - Night walk through Cloud Forest
- Monteverde - Butterfly Garden and Insects Farm (entrance fee)

Day 29: La Fortuna

Location: La Fortuna

Accommodation: Hotel

Continue your journey through Costa Rica and take the scenic route to La Fortuna (approximately 4-5 hours). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which you'll then cross by boat. On a clear day you'll see fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue on to your destination. La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes from Costa Rica's most famous volcano, the majestic Arenal. While you're here, make sure you take some photos of the volcano reflected spectacularly in the lake. Get a good rest tonight, as tomorrow you’ve got a free day to take advantage of all the active activities on offer.

Day 30: La Fortuna

Location: La Fortuna

Accommodation: Hotel

There are plenty of optional activities to take part in today, so when you get home, this isn’t the place to say you sat around! Perhaps take a guided nature hike through the lush forest surrounding Arenal Volcano, keeping an eye out for rare plants and animals, or opt to see the forest from a series of hanging bridges. Check out the 70-metre high La Fortuna waterfall, or get wet with some water sports on the lake, such as stand-up paddle boarding. The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area is home to several thermal hot springs, an ideal way to relax in the middle of nature. Alternatively, a boat safari down the Celeste River offers the opportunity to see lizards, crocodiles and tropical birds in their natural habitat.

Optional Activities:
- La Fortuna - Ecotermales Hot Springs (entrance fee)
- La Fortuna - La Fortuna Waterfall
- La Fortuna - Nature hike around Arenal Volcano
- La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour
- La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board

Day 31: San Jose

Location: San Jose

Accommodation: Hotel

Take a local bus to Costa Rica's capital, San Jose (approximately 5 hours). Situated in the fertile Central Valley and home to over half the country's population, San Jose is filled with lively markets, intriguing museums and a dynamic atmosphere. A good place to start your exploration is the main plaza. Artisan booths are common here, so you never know when an art fair will pop up. The Gold Museum has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art or if you're in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in the Plaza de la Cultura or the city's Central Market, where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood. Then it's maybe time for a final farewell dinner (or margarita) with your new travel buds and say muchas gracias to your Central American journey.

Included Activities:
- San Jose - Leader-led walking tour

Optional Activities:
- San Jose - The Art of Craft Beer in San Jose - Urban Adventures
- San Jose - National Museum (entrance fee)

Day 32: San Jose

Location: San Jose

Today your Central American adventure comes to an end, there are no activities planned. As there's a lot to see and do in and around San Jose, we recommend staying on for a few days to make the most of the city. If you'd like to extend your visit and need further accommodation, our reservations team would be happy to assist (subject to availability). There are some great day tours you can take outside of the city, such as or Irazu Volcano.

Snackshot of the Day: Crater Lake Blue Cheese - Recipes

Drive to Wuzhen, staying at one of the beautifully appointed riverside hotels converted from ancient canal town houses.

Visit the Qing dynasty Post Office and Zhaoming Academy built in the Southern Dynasty ( 503 CE). Continue to several of the museums such as the Foot-binding Culture Museum, or the Yida Silk Workshop. In the evening, take a leisurely canal cruise in a punt taking in the delights of the attractively illuminated waterways.

Day 3: Wuzhen - Hangzhou/Shanghai

Use the morning to explore this charming canal town at your own pace using the afternoon to drive onto your next destination.



Hotel - Gyeongbokgung Palace (Deoksugung Palace on Tuesday) - Korean Folklore Museum (History Museum on Tuesday) - Jogyesa Temple - Presidential Office (Blue House) - Amethyst or Ginseng Center

Hotel - Gyeongbokgung Palace (Deoksugung Palace on Tuesday) - Korean Folklore Museum (History Museum on Tuesday) - Jogyesa Temple - Presidential Office (Blue House) - Amethyst or Ginseng Center

Welcome to

keeping the flame burning online since 1997

MATCH SUMMARY: City 3 Blyth Spartans 1 (19/9/09)
Finally, finally City laid to rest our new season home jinx at the sixth time of asking at the expense of a fragile looking Blyth side who faced a miserable long trip back to the North-East. City's attack made the most of the extra space they were allowed from the visitors, and despite riding our luck at time we were well worth a long-awaited home win. The only blot on an otherwise morale lifting display came with the sight of invaluable forward target man Mike Symons being.

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Price Rise as Jamie Leaves for Worcester City (31/10/07)
City have announced that Welsh youth midfielder Jamie Price has been allowed to leave the club and has signed for Blue Square North side Worcester City. The lank-haired left sided player arrived at City at the end of August having spent a frustrating summer trying to find a new club since being released by Birmingham City. Price showed an immediate touch of class and obviously has great talent, but after a bright start he soon seemed to lose his way and struggled to make his mark on matches. The 19 year-old made nine appearances for us but has been unavailable in recent weeks as he completed a.

SUPPORTERS TRUST: Race Night Cash Raiser at Gloucester Cricket Club (09/11/07)
An entertaining night of horse racing and nag watching is being hosted by the City Trust at Gloucester Cricket Club at The Spa in Park Road, Gloucester. This is a regular and popular fundraising event for the Trust and the need for fun, support and cash has rarely been greater. Come along and help swell our coffers, and who knows, pick a winner and go.
Trust Issues Flood Appeal (26/08/07): Fans of Gloucester City Football Club have decided to refocus their financial appeal on replacing club shop stock damaged in the flooding to the club’s flood ravaged Meadow Park home. The flooding of July 2007 was the worst in the history of Gloucester and the River Severn laid . MORE DETAILS ON HOW TO GIVE.

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Gail’s Classic East African Safari in Rwanda, Kenya & Tanzania with Zanzibar Beach Bliss

Such a powerful experience at the Genocide Memorial. And an unprecedentedly mountainous and beautiful country. Fantastic. The lodge was amazing! The gorillas were incredible!

Today was incredible. We saw more animals than we’ve ever seen. Everything except Rhinos. Amazing day, as was yesterday. You’ve done us great! You’ve outdone yourself. This trip is even better than the last one. We’ve now seen the Big 9. Lions, Buffalo, Zebra, Rhino, Hippo, Leopard, Giraffe, Cheetah, Elephant.

Tour Consultant's Overview

Upon arrival at the Kigali airport, you will be welcomed and transferred to your overnight accommodation in the city.

Transfer time: Kigali International Airport to hotel: approx. 25 minutes

This morning after a leisurely breakfast, you can have a lazy morning getting over your late night arrival before enjoying your next two days in Kigali city.

Kigali was founded in 1907 as small colonial outpost by Dr. Richard Kant, the first German colonial resident of Rwanda. The city has made tremendous progress since 1994 genocide. Considered one of the safest and friendliest of African capitals, Kigali is blessed with a moderate high altitude climate. It is inhabited by approximately 1 million people who now enjoy the benefits of peace. You will be pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it feels to be among the gentle people of Rwanda who will be delighted to welcome you to their beautiful, exceptionally friendly country.

After a leisurely morning breakfast, your guide will meet you at the hotel and transfer you to the Volcanoes National Park in the north western part of the country the area best known as the home of the Mountain Gorillas.

The drive is through beautiful rolling hills, awesome landscape, bypassing coffee and banana plantations on a comfortable paved road and is approximately 3 hours from Kigali to your lodge. Upon arrival at your lodge you will check in, have lunch and the remainder of your day is at leisure enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings of the lodge.

Transfer time: Kigali to Volcanoes National Park and your lodge – approx. 3 hours

Volcanoes National Park is situated along the border with neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The international border stretches across the whole Virunga Range and the park's boundary in Rwanda extends over some 65km from the Congo border near Gisenyi all the way to the Uganda border near Kisoro. The Volcanoes National park covers an area of 16000 hectares and is the home for the famous habituated Mountain Gorillas where ten Gorilla families are available for trekking and three families are for research.

After an early morning breakfast, you will go on a morning tour to see the Golden Monkeys. It is normally an easy trek which might take between 1 – 2 hours. After the Golden Monkey Trek you will return to your lodge, refresh a bit, have lunch and later transfer to the airport in Kigali for your flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

On arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, you will be met and assisted through customs and immigration before being transferred by road to your overnight accommodation in the city. You will be given a short briefing of your safari routine for the next few days.

Transfer time: Volcanoes National Park to Kigali International Airport – approx. 3 hours

Flight time: Kigali, Rwanda to Nairobi, Kenya – approx. 1 hour 20 minutes

Transfer time: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi to hotel – approx. 40 minutes

Today after breakfast, you will traverse the Rift Valley and ascend its western rim into the Masai land. Red-clad, with spear in hand the Maasai warriors tend their herds of cattle among the wildlife, admirably unmoved by the presence of large predators. The Masai Mara, is the northernmost extension of the Serengeti and a gem in itself. You will enjoy lunch at the camp and thereafter set off on your first game drive.

Transfer time: Nairobi to Tipilikwani Mara Camp – approx. 5 hours

Possibly the most famous of the reserves and arguably the greatest wildlife destination in Africa the Masai Mara has become synonymous with the safari and is currently being featured in the BBC's new series Planet Earth Live.

Nature doesn't recognize borders and the 700 square miles of the Masai Mara Reserve effectively continue the northern sweep of neighboring Tanzania's Serengeti plains, thus forming one huge ecosystem. The Mara lands are famous for the annual Wildebeest migration which occurs from June to October when the Mara becomes host to an almost unimaginable half a million wildebeest seeking the grasses raised by the spring rains of April and May. Having exhausted the grazing in the northern Serengeti the wildebeest head north en masse. This is an awesome sight in the true meaning of the word which, when coupled with the sound of thousands upon thousands of hooves pounding the earth, makes it an unforgettable spectacle.

The wildebeest are not the only tenants of the land. The Mara is also the home to among others, zebra, elephants, and to the big cats cheetahs, lions and leopards. Hyena, jackal, buffalo, eland, topi, impala, gazelle, warthog add to this huge diversity of wildlife.

This morning after an early breakfast you will be transferred to Mara Ol Kiombo Airstrip for your flight to The Serengeti via Tarime. At Tarime you will go through customs and immigration and onto your flight to Kogatende in the Serengeti National Park.

On arrival at Kogatende, you will be met by your camp driver/guide at the airstrip and taken on a short game drive en route to the camp for lunch. The vast grasslands of the renowned Serengeti National Park provide what many consider to be the quintessential African game viewing experience.

Transfer time: Camp to Mara Ol Kiombo Airstrip – approx. 1 hour 15 minutes

Flight time: Mara Ol Kiombo to Tarime – approx. 1 hour 55 minutes

Flight time: Tarime to Kokatende – approx. 1 hour

Transfer time: Kokatende to Camp – approx. 1 hour

As dawn breaks over the Serengeti, a gentle tap on your door will wake you to the delights of a new day. Your guide will discuss what you hope to see that day over fragrant tea or coffee and morning biscuits or rusks. Set out our specially designed 4x4 safari vehicle in the company of your guide.

Return to the lodge for a delicious breakfast, with platters of fruit and cheese followed by a selection of hot breakfast dishes. Choose from eggs, oats, waffles or a number of other options. If you prefer, you can take a packed breakfast and prolong your morning game drive. There's time for a quick siesta before lunch, which is served in the main restaurant

Head off in search of the wildlife in the cooler late afternoon. The herds head out to drink before settling down for the night, while the predators are warming up for the night's hunting. Stop at a scenic spot for sundowners as the sun sinks beneath the endless plains before returning to the lodge for a mouth-watering dinner and discussions of the adventures of the day.

After breakfast you depart with a picnic lunch and drive through the Ngorongoro Highlands to your lodge situated on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. The crater covers over 102 square miles (250 square kilometres) of land and is the home of the rare black rhino, prides of lion, elephant, cheetah and great herds of buffalo, antelope and wildebeest. Lunch at the lodge and afternoon at leisure to enjoy the sunset.

"It is impossible to give a fair description of the size and beauty of the Crater, for there is nothing with which one can compare it. It is one of the Wonders of the World" quote by the late Professor Bernhard Grzimek - famous and respected naturalist. Spanning roughly 8,300 sq kms (3,192 sq miles), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a perfect microcosm of East Africa: it combines spectacular scenery and valuable archaeological sites with mountains, forests, grassland plains, extinct volcanoes and a staggering profusion of wildlife. Central to the Area is the Ngorongoro Crater, the floor of which covers an area of 260 sq kms (100 sq miles). The road meanders along the rim of the crater affording breathtaking views and descends 2,000 feet to the crater floor. Ngorongoro Crater is really a caldera, the sunken or collapsed cone of a volcano. It is the largest inactive, unbroken and unflooded caldera in the world. Living on the floor of the crater are bull elephants, lions, hyena, zebra, wildebeest among others living on the grasslands and acacia forests. The crater also has a soda lake - Lake Magadi, the word magad translates to salt water in Maasai. The lake attracts greater and lesser flamingo and other water birds. The crater is best known as a highly successful sanctuary for the endangered black rhino. The settings in which you watch the animals are beautiful the crater is an outstanding place for photography as well as direct observation. The ground water springs are said to be highly nutritious and the Maasai bring their cattle into the crater daily to drink as they have done for centuries.

Transfer time: Camp to Ngorongoro Crater – approx. 5 hours

After breakfast, you will descend 2000 feet (0ver 600 meters) to the floor of the crater for a full day crater tour with a picnic lunch. Explore the forest areas that are inhabited by monkey and elephant, the lake area, where you may see the flamingos and the open savannah where the lions hunt for food. You will return to the lodge at sunset to enjoy an African sundowner before dinner.

Today you will enjoy your final breakfast on safari. You will be picked up from your lodge and transferred by road to Arusha Airport for your flight to Zanzibar. Upon arrival at Zanzibar Airport you will be met and transferred to your resort.

Transfer time: Lodge to Arusha – approx. 4 hours

Flight time: Arusha to Zanzibar – approx. 1 hour 30 minutes

Transfer time: Zanzibar Airport to Resort – approx. 1 hour

The “spice island” of Zanzibar, located 26 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a prime location from which to enjoy the Indian Ocean’s clear turquoise waters. Combine this with the stirring slave-trade history that comes alive in Stone Town, and you have the perfect complement to your African safari adventure.

Your days on Zanzibar will be leisurely ― you can enjoy snorkeling, swim with dolphins, try your hand at windsurfing, indulge in a luxurious spa treatment or two, walk through a forest filled with monkeys, or simply relax on the beautiful white-sand beaches. Enjoy the many amenities of your beautiful Indian Ocean beach resort. Embark on an exciting excursion to Kizimkazi where it is sometimes possible to swim with the dolphins.

It’s a very early departure this morning. You will be picked up at your resort and transferred to Zanzibar Airport for your further flights home.

Transfer time: Resort to Airport – approx. 1 hour

ONOMO Hotel Kigali is located in the Nyarugenge district, a few minutes from the city center and a short 9kms drive to the international airport. The hotel features 109 modern and comfortable rooms, All rooms offer a comfortable work space, complimentary broadband wi-fi access, electronic lap top sized safes, separate shower and toilet, flat screen TV and a wide choice of DSTV and Canal+ channels to choose from. The hotel also has a fitness room with a variety of equipment for use as well as an outdoor swimming pool, or simply relax by the pool or on the terrace area and enjoy an afternoon tea.

The Hotel has an open reception, meeting and food and beverage area where design and concept combine to offer the ONOMO urban village, a place to relax, meet and enjoy a cocktail as well as a choice form our ‘ONOMOtaste’ menus offering pan African ingredients prepared in a modern and tempting style.

Ingagi Park view Lodge is Private Rwandan owned facility located on a panoramic angle of the five peaks of the Virunga Volcanoes in northern Rwanda the Home to the Mountain Gorillas. This unique style of Eco lodge is placed on a strategic landscape in the foothills of the Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi, one of the volcanic mountains that make up the Virunga Massif. The lodge is about 5 minutes to the park ranger station and on about 10 minutes’ drive to the main entrance of the Volcanoes National Park where gorilla trekking starts. It is placed in an area of around 3 hectares and due to its privacy, it has only 8 spacious chalets in a form of your own natural house.

Situated in the Westlands suburb, the hotel bustles with activity and captures the charm and crisp service of an English country inn. It has a quaint charm and the lobby and reception glow with brass figures, wood paneling and Kenyan marble underfoot. Light flows into the hotel through louver window which allow views of the gardens.
The hotel has 171 rooms and is built in several wings rambling under mature trees. The central garden areas are traversed by pathways. All rooms are ensuite with a telephone, TV, tea and coffee making facilities. Other facilities include restaurants, bars, swimming pools, safari boutique, casino, business centre, conference centers, and hair salon and health club.

This uniquely situated luxury camp on the banks of the Talek River overlooks the mottled plains of the Maasai Mara, where vast herds of wildlife co-exist with the colourful Maasai people. Between June and October the Maasai Mara plays host to one of the most spectacular wildlife shows on earth the great annual migration of over a million wildebeest and zebra as they enter the Mara ecosystem from the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania. Tipilikwani's 20 tents enjoy river frontage and are decorated with warm, rich Maasai colours. The family tents have a stand alone bath tub in addition to showers. Excellent food, personalized service and traditional Kenyan hospitality further compliment the prime location.

Game drives offer the unforgettable opportunity to enjoy the diversity of animals and birds living permanently in the Masai Mara, as well as many migratory species. Guests can also learn more about the Masai people, proud pastoralists and warriors, many of whom still retain their traditional nomadic lifestyle.

At Nasikia Mobile Camp, 8-12 tents remain mobile throughout the year, depending on seasonal reservation requirements and location of the wildebeest migration. They endeavour to retain the uniqueness and intimacy of the camp, whilst being directed by the location, wildlife and other factors of responsible tourism. From June to October, it is located at Kogatende, in the far northern areas of the Serengeti. The game drives can easily get to the Kogatende and Mara Rivers in the hope of gaining a view as the herds run the gauntlet of crocodiles as they cross the rivers. This is typically ideal, especially between mid-July and mid-September each year.

Each tent is 12m long by 4m wide made from well-known heavy duty safari rip-stop canvas made locally at Morogoro, southern Tanzania, plus the additional cooling feature of shade-clothing over the entire tent. You are met at the entrance (on the longest side of the tent) by a patio area with chairs and a table for relaxing when you have a moment. The front of the tents zips fully open, including a layer of mosquito netting and the rip-stop canvas (which zips completely closed) with both layers. Once you step into the tent into the bedroom area, you will see an arrangement of unique furniture like a desk and chair, storage chest (with extra blankets), matting, wardrobe with robes, slippers, an umbrella and laundry bag, luggage racks, torch/whistle/camp information folder, bedside tables, bed footers and beds (depending on room configuration). All the fittings depict colours in natural tones to adhere to the intrinsic area we are located. Each bed is fully netted for custom made protection from mosquitoes and insects. The beds are fitted with imported cotton sheets, double pillows, duvets and bed runners for your comfort. The tents have netted windows down each side of the tent which you can fully open with the mosquito netting stitched strongly into the actual tent.

Then comes the bathroom area, which can be accessed directly from the bedroom with a separate doorway. Once inside, there is a bathroom stand with a ceramic wash basin with running water via stylish taps, a mirror, a supply of natural based bathroom products, and linen to suit. This area also displays a woven grass mat and clothes rack. Within this area, there are additional toilet and shower areas for privacy. Inside the toilet area is a ceramic flushing toilet, encased in a wooden frame for stability. Inside the shower area, is a stand for washing behind a shower curtain under a 20 litre PVC bucket erected on a pulley system as required. From the entrance of the bedroom and onto the bathroom, each tent is fitted with an extensive solar lighting system for your convenience.

Facing the always magnificent sunsets to the west, and located at the highest point on Ngorongoro crater’s entire rim, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge stands well over half a kilometre above the crater floor and offers unparalleled views across this enormous caldera. Themed around traditionally circular African houses with conical roofs, and decorated with examples of Africa’s rich tapestry of artistic traditions by way of rich woodcarvings and sculptures, the lodge harmonizes perfectly with its dramatic surroundings. But the drama does not just stop with the great outdoors: it also flows through the split level interiors of the main building which all offer an unsurpassed generosity of space while somehow managing to combine an almost magically welcoming ambience of both warmth and cosiness. Brightly coloured flowers of many species of shrubs border the paved pathways which lead away from both sides of the swimming pool to our guest rooms which are built to the same design.

When you step through your door, you will probably hold your breath while you stare over the two queen size beds, and through the window walling of the lower level, enclosed solarium at the view of the crater beyond. And the luxury doesn’t stop there. Because of its altitude the lodge can be chilly at night so each room has central heating hot water bottles are placed in every bed during our evening turndown service and our luxuriously appointed bathrooms have extremely spacious showers under which you can reminisce about the wonders of this awesome, almost magically mystical place called Ngorongoro.

All rooms are equipped with amenities to ensure maximum comfort during your stay with us. Among these are our wake up calls and complimentary coffee and tea, all of which will help to kick start an early morning game drive.

Some of my Treasures


That multi colored, striped fabric with the black zig zag, is the same fabric I used to bind my son's wedding quilt. I'm planning on using it again, to bind a baby quilt, that I am making with the leftover wedding quilt fabrics. Lots of lovely loot!

What fabulous treasures! I'm hoping to gather up a few treasures on our upcoming road trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway. -)

Love all the yarn and fabric colors - I bought fish fabric when I was in Oregon, too. Did you have ice cream at the Tillamook Cheese place? Homemade, warm waffle cone?

Willingly derailed

Something happened a little while after reaching that halfway point of the trail. I started growing increasingly sure that I would be able to finish walking the entire length of the trail, started doing the math in my head: “If I walk this many miles and take this many days off then I will make it by this and that date” and so on. Before that, I had simply just walked and walked and then walked some more, happily accumulating mile after mile, without knowing where the trail took me. Ironically, the smell of success wasn’t a good feeling. Something was lost. The insecurity.

There was still one major obstacle for succeeding, something that not only posed as a time-challenge but a safety risk as well: I had to make it past The High Sierras of California before the snow would start to fall. Being trapped in a blizzard at 4000m altitude without any escape-options could lead to some serious consequences. So even though I had gained confidence in my legs ability to carry me across the US, the weather was still an unknown factor. By now, the only thing that could derail me.

Maybe that explains the completely illogical decision to take a week off, drinking and partying, just before I reached the notorious Sierras, the mountains that I had raced for months to reach before the snow. Playing with the fire, till the fire plays with me.

Or maybe it was simply the desire to forget the trail for a little while and have a grand old time together with a bunch of other hikers that were on the same quest as I: walking across America. I had bumped into several other of these hikers during the last couple of weeks and as I was taking a short one-day-off, we had all gathered in a little village just 100 miles before the Sierras would start. It started with one beer and the elaborate stories of each our walks: Close-encounters with bears, people hiking double-marathon days, creepy people that had picked us up while hitch-hiking and ridiculous, way-too-detailed stories of the nature of someone’s…pooh. The beer kept flowing and the stories got better. At one point, someone managed to borrow a guitar from a local and as one rest-day led to another, more hikers joined the party. We were all camped in tents next to the village church, playing with fire in case any divinity was looking. Simply having a great time.

Finally, on day three we all agreed that it was time to get back to business and start walking again. However, by now the trail in front of us was closed for the next 100 miles due to a giant fire that had exploded in size during our isolated little hiker-party. Oops.

Minke popped another beer while we all contemplated our options and got ready for a hitchhike-attempt around the fire-closure. His girlfriend, Chaga, is staring into her smartphone, and her next sentence rips the depressed atmosphere apart: “This girl called 300 is going to a Bluegrass Festival nearby. You guys coming?”. 10 minutes later and the fire-closed trail is forgotten, 8 new beers are popped open and the whole party is restarted. You bet we are coming! Let the Sierras stand right where they are and let someone pray that the weather holds up and that the snow is not about to roll-in, cause I’m going to a Bluegrass Festival! As a foreigner, I really have no choice, it’s a piece of American Culture. Or at least it’s a great excuse to keep the party going and forget the challenge of The Sierras.

We all went and it was amazing and I spent all my money and my body had never felt more violated than after that week of non-stop partying. The idea of walking to McDonalds for hangover-breakfast seemed like a physical challenge.

Just ahead of us, the greatest challenge of them all was waiting: 400 miles of saw-tooth profiled trail, several 3500m mountain-passes above the altitude-sickness level and no escape-routes out of the misery if the snow decided to drop. Long, heavy 8-day stints between resupply options. Proper Wilderness, the longest draw-a-straight-line-section in mainland USA without any roads. As the month of October was rolling in, each of us were silently and comfortably hoping that the weather would forgive our laissez-faire attitude and postpone the snow, like we had postponed our walk.

As it turned out, it didn’t. It hit us all, full-scale on day 3: horizontal snow, complete white-out. But I’m still here and I’m still walking.

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Amazing River Cruises Through Europe & Asia

It is hard to curate this list of cruises, because they are all wonderful! There is a reason so many people are taking advantage of the greatest trend in travel! When you take a river cruise, you can see so many wonderful locations without having to pack and unpack every single day, leaving you way more time and energy than when you take the train or rent a car. For this year's featured European River Cruises, we are concentrating on itineraries to our favorite destinations from a few of our favorite partners. We have tried to include some less expensive options, which are sometimes shorter itineraries.

River Cruises in Europe and Asia are such a fantastic solution for people who hope to visit a bunch of different cities, but have limited time and are also hoping to actually get some rest during their vacation time. The river cruise concept is simple: Travel to multiple destinations without actually thinking you are traveling and only staying in the same hotel the whole time. So, you get all of the bucket list experiences without taking the time to pack and repack every day, wait at the train station or take taxi's to the airport and deal with checking luggage..

The cruises also have all of your excursions organized and world class restaurants on board, although you may choose to eat in town if that is what you want to do. Many of the cruises have bicycles available to make your tour around town more exciting. Whether you have always wanted to visit castles in Europe or visit temples in Asia, the river cruise can be a spectacular bucket list solution for you.

Here are some Great Cruise Itineraries for 2015

12 Day Cruise Along the Romantic Danube

10 Day Netherlands and Belgium River Cruise

When it comes to France cruises, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable one than gliding along the Rhône through the vineyard country from which come some of the world’s most exceptional wines. But first, spend two nights at the Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris, and perhaps discover things you don’t yet know about the "City of Light." After riding the high-speed TGV through the French countryside to Lyon, embark to begin this crème de la crème of France cruises, as centuries-old towns, each with its own unique personality, compete for your attention. with private wine tastings at the source in Beaujolais and Châteaneuf-du-Pape. a tasting experience in Lyon’s historic indoor food market. a cooking demonstration and wine and cheese tasting at a cooking school owned by an award-winning chef. dinner overlooking the Pont du Gard. and so much more! France has such great wines and history. There is no doubt that you should include a tour through France on your Bucket List.

14 Day French River Cruise Escape

one of the most enjoyable France river cruises you could imagine, journey from the jet-setting capital of Monte-Carlo into Provence to Arles to board ms Swiss Emerald for a cruise along the Rhône River to Lyon and then along the Saône. Travel into the countryside past vineyards where some of the world’s best grapes become some of the world’s best wines, stopping to taste some of them. Discover river towns with Roman roots and lingering traces of medieval magic in their streets, experience the cowboy traditions and cuisine of La Camargue, and sample the pleasures of regional cuisine and wine throughout your trip. Explore a palace fit for a pope and an abbey that was once one of the most powerful in Europe. You'll find something new, something wonderful every day. And during two nights in Paris, you'll dine at chic Fouquet's on the Champs-Élysées!

7 Day Family Castle Cruise on the Rhine River

7 Day Blue Danube Family River Cruise Tour

There is no better way to experience the heart of Europe with your family than on a leisurely river cruise along the "River of Kings" aboard your well-appointed Tauck riverboat, ms Swiss Jewel or ms Savor. Unpack only once as you travel from Budapest, Hungary, to Slovakia, Austria and Germany, enjoying action-packed shore excursions specially designed for Tauck Bridges families. Play medieval games on a visit to Devin Castle in Slovakia. Soar over Vienna on the Riesenrad (giant ferris wheel) in the Prater, the city's famous amusement park. Learn how to make strüdel aboard the riverboat. Visit Schönbrunn Palace, which Empress Maria Theresa and her daughter Marie Antoinette once called home. Go bicycling along the Danube and discover tricky secrets – and The Sound of Music locations – at Schloss Hellbrunn in Salzburg. End your family's fun Danube River tour in Passau, Germany, by checking out Europe's biggest pipe organ and making your own tasty marzipan creation!

11 Day River Cruise from Bucharest to Budapest

Let us take you to the cities, towns and natural wonders of Eastern Europe, where so many fairy tales began. Experience two nights in bustling Budapest, cosmopolitan capital of Hungary sail past dramatic natural wonders like the soaring white cliffs of the Iron Gate region visit the Serbian capital of Belgrade and the Croatian town of Osijek discover historical treasures of Bulgaria and admire the graceful charms of the Romanian capital of Bucharest where you will enjoy one overnight stay. This itinerary is, quite simply, a revelation.

8 Day Danube River Cruise

12 Day Bucharest, Istanbul and the Black Sea River Cruise

Some Key Cruise Planning Thoughts to Consider

How to Decide on a River Cruise?

There are so many more options for planning River Cruise Itineraries. And so many dates. Cruises often also feature celebrity speakers and themes. The best way to plan a river cruise, whether in Africa, Europe, Central Asia, Egypt or China is to identify your timing and your priorities for the window and we can offer you an assortment of River Cruises to choose from. Contact us with your thoughts and we will pull together some great options for you.

What should I expect to pay for a River Cruise?

There are several variables which will determine the price of your river cruise. The length of the trip is the greatest determining factor. After that, the quality of the travel company, the seasonality of the cruise. If you think sort of between $250 - $600 per day per person plus transfers, that should give you a sense of the price. But there are often deals and special pricing that can be taken advantage of. That is why it is so important to work with our cruise specialists to figure out the best plan for you.

Should I buy Travel Insurance for a River Cruise?

There is one answer to this question. YES. Here's is why. Typically, cruises are booked well in advance of your actual trip. Many things can happen in between. But the other consideration is weather. If you are travelling to Paris for a summer cruise, but there is a big storm at home, you will end up potentially needing to meet your cruise somewhere other than the starting point. Or there could be a storm where the cruise is starting and you cannot land nearby. Either way, it is a very good idea to add travel insurance to any cruise itinerary.

What if I have a larger group?

If you are hoping to do a family reuniuon or larger group of friends tour, then it is important to let us know that in advance. That will help us identify what sort of special ammenities can be arranged for your group. We can also provide a guide for you if that makes your travel more comfortable. Definitely reach out to us if you have a group of 8 people or more.

How can I incorporate my Bucket List with a River Cruise?

This is one of the greatest reasons to work with our team of experts on prioritising your Bucket List Ideas into a Bucket List Plan. We can build an itinerary that allows you to get more out of the airfare investment every time you take a trip. For example, you might fly to Egypt via Paris. So, we would have you spend a day in Paris if the Eiffel Tower is on your list. That is a simple solution to to including your Bucket List Ideas, but our team can really be aggressive about including items on your bucket list.

What is the best way to get a proposal for a River Cruise?

Send us a note including your phone number, your email address and a general description of what you want to do.

Use our contact sheet for to reach out to us with the same information. Our team will get back to your within 24 hours to identify what your goals are and get started.

Watch the video: Wizard Island at Crater Lake National Park (January 2022).