York, England

~ City of History

One of my favorite cities in England is York. Dating from around the 4th century, York is steeped in history, playing parts in Roman conquest, Viking settlements, William the Conqueror’s expansion, and featured predominantly in the War of the Roses and serving as the seat of Richard III. York is the story of Western Civilization.

Cliffords Tower

Arriving on a Saturday, we stayed at the Hilton York across the road from Cliffords Tower and the York Museums. An excellent hotel in terms of service and location, the Hilton is close to the Jorvik Viking Center, restaurants, and one of the bars of the city wall. One of the sayings in York is “A road is a gate, a gate is a bar, a bar is a pub.” There are lots of gates inside the wall. Four bars still serve the city and there are at least 2 pubs on every gate in modern York!

The main attraction in York and one of the most popular destinations in England is the Jorvik Viking Center. In 1976, archeologists started a dig on Viking ruins found while excavating of the foundation for a shopping mall. Now known as the Coppergate dig, extraordinary finds from a 10 century Viking village are on display at the Jorvik and seeing them is worth the price of admission.

The Church with the Smiling Ghost.

Another great tour is the Original Ghost Walk of York, believed to be the oldest Ghost Walk in the world. Leaving at 8 pm nightly from The King’s Arms Pub, and costing only £5 per adult and £4 for children, it is the best way to hear creepy stories from York’s past. The gentleman that lead the tour was excellent. His voice rose and fell in dramatic fashion and it actually felt as if he was taking you back in time.

There is so much to see and do in York, so you need more than just a couple of days. For more information on York, or to plan a trip, please contact me at carolyn@amberroadstravel.com or visit my website at AmberRoadsTravel.com!


The Jorvik Viking Center

Where Vikings Come Alive!

Jorvik Viking Center
My sons and I about to go into the Viking Center. You can see the sign in the upper left of the photo.

Between the years of 1976 and 1981, archeologists discovered the remains of a Viking village dating back from the 10th Century. The Jorvik (old Viking for York) Viking Center was built on the site of these excavations.  

Probably one of the most popular attractions in the UK, the Jorvik Viking Center allows you to step into the past and experience things the way they might have been a thousand years ago. First, see a recreation of the archeologist dig through a glass floor and have the Viking next to you to explain what you are seeing. In some places, the excavations went down 9 meters, although you don’t see the ruins found that deep in the Museum.

Because the soil in York was just the right mixture of moist and peaty, objects found in the area are remarkably preserved. Wooden timbers were preserved, which is unusual, as most building wood from that time period would have rotted away anywhere else. The soil also preserved seeds, pollen, diet substances, and other substances that gives us information about what the climate, health, pests, and growing seasons of life was like 10 centuries ago.

Next, get on the most amazing time machine (aka ride) that takes you through the village, staying true to the placement of the ruins and the artifacts they found there. Butcher and weavers huts were identified by animal bones and dye in the ground. Merchants were identified by the goods they may have sold or traded. The dig found items from all over the world, such as Roman tiles for roofs, indicating the Vikings had a wide range of trade routes established. All in all, over 2000 artifacts were found.

But I said the ride would take your through the village they way it might have been, and that means the smells weren’t left out. As you ride, you smell all sorts of smells that, well let’s just say, a modern person may not be familiar with, such as the butchering of meat melding together with dye, blacksmith fire, rotting fish, and all those outdoor bathrooms! Yes, the smell of poo is included on the tour for your enjoyment!

After you come back to the present, actual finds from the digs are on display. Ancient ice skates, broaches, even the only Viking sock ever found are in the museum. Shards of pottery, coins, cooking utensils and knives, as well as beads, cloak closures and combs allow you to see the ordinary lives of every day Vikings. The children of the past have something in common with today’s kids. They had their own version of the Fidget Spinner! And it makes you wonder why quite a few of these items were found in Viking Toilets, including the toys.

During my time at the Jorvik Viking Center, I had pleasure in seeing a glimpse of the past and it helped me learn where my own ancestors came from and evolved in a changing world. I highly recommend a trip to York and the Viking Center. You won’t be disappointed.

For more information or to book a trip, email me at carolyn@amberroadstravel.com.

The Next Evolution in the Galápagos Islands

The turquoise waters of the Galapagos
The Galápagos Islands have become the world’s model for sustainable travel, and Celebrity Cruises® is making it easier than ever with the launch of Celebrity Flora.®

The isolated volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador are breathtaking in their beauty.

It’s the incredibly biodiverse wildlife and flora that draws travelers to the Galápagos Islands — from giant tortoises lumbering across rugged rocks to sweet-faced penguins expertly diving into crystal-clear Pacific waters. The islands are much more than a living zoo; collectively, they’re a national park and World Heritage site where sustainable initiatives are an essential part of your journey.

Celebrity Flora

While only authorized tour operators are permitted in the Galápagos Islands, it’s important to do your own research when deciding how to get there. Celebrity Cruises has a long history sailing in this region with an eye toward responsible measures. Now, you can be a part of a groundbreaking movement aboard Celebrity Flora, launching in spring 2019 as the first ship of its kind that was purpose-built to cruise the Galápagos Islands in style.

State-of-the-art technology sets Celebrity Flora apart as one of the most environmentally safe ships to cruise these fragile waters. That includes a dynamic positioning system so the ship can stay in position without anchors, solar panels to supplement electricity supply, and an advanced propulsion system and hull configuration to lighten her carbon footprint. Using reverse osmosis, 100 percent of fresh water comes from the sea, and even air-conditioning condensation can be reused in the laundry facilities.

While complimentary amenities are always included, conservation measures will naturally be incorporated on Celebrity Flora. Step into your suite and you’ll spot a filtration system designed to refill your reusable water bottle — a gift as part of your voyage — while toiletries are provided in refillable containers. (What you won’t find on your ships are single-use straws and plastic bags.)

On these islands, every traveler must be accompanied by authorized naturalist guides. With Celebrity Cruises, not only do you have access to certified naturalists on your excursions, but they’ll impart their knowledge on board through presentations in the Discovery Lounge.

Cruise the Inner Loop to marvel over the astonishingly red beaches of Rábida Island inhabited by sea lions and Darwin’s finches, and visit Bartolomé Island to snorkel among colorful fish and the iconic Galápagos penguins. On a voyage through the Outer Loop, your days may be spent alongside guides who point out one of the very first post offices in this remote region, followed by an excursion into dark lava fields dotted with flamingo-filled lagoons.

The Leave No Trace philosophy is a matter of life and death on these islands. That means packing out all of your trash, not introducing any food, animals or plants into the archipelago, and even choosing biodegradable sunscreen to avoid harming the ecosystem. Your guides will keep you informed on all the need-to-know details throughout your voyage.

From your first sip of rich Ecuadorian coffee in the morning, dining is an essential part of the Celebrity Cruises experience. Feast on sustainable fare curated by a Michelin-starred chef, and end each day with decadent chocolate presented on your pillow — delighting in the knowledge that even the cacao was sourced from small, local producers.

All-inclusive voyages create an entirely effortless introduction to responsible travel when you sail with Celebrity Cruises. We’ll book your overnight stays with land tours in Quito before and after your voyage, along with a seven-night voyage through the Galápagos Islands that includes excursions and gratuities. Transform your point of view about the world, and gain a better understanding of your role in preserving all that nature has to offer.

Thinking or Cruising the Greek Isles? Spend some time around Athens, too.

The Acropolis

A Day Trip for the Ages

Mycenae reveals ancient wonders as you explore the narrow walkways of the walled city before visiting Epidaurus, a village famed for its Hellenic theater.

The port of Piraeus harbors its own treasures: Within the Archaeological Museum of Piraeus stands a bronze statue of Athena, and sunset by the water is best enjoyed over local seafood at Varoulko Seaside Restaurant.

Gelato in Greece? You bet. Look no further than Le Greche, where velvety rich gelato is prepared with ingredients such as Cycladic honey and figs from Kalamata.

Step Back in Time

Hop aboard a hydrofoil from Piraeus to the island of Hydra, where you'll notice that no motor vehicles exist. Be prepared to travel by water taxis, mules and donkeys!

After strolling the cobblestone roads of Plaka, head to the fashionable Kolonaki neighborhood, which boasts upscale shops and the Benaki Museum of Greek Culture.

Enjoy breathtaking views of the Acropolis over a meal at GB Roof Garden Restaurant & Bar – part of your stay at Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens.

First-Time Cruise? Read This Guide!

It’s always smooth sailing with Norwegian Cruise Line,® from your first cruise to your next grand adventure.

There’s nothing quite like the anticipation before a cruise vacation: new discoveries that await in port, beautifully prepared meals every night and the lifelong friendships that you’ll form. Whether you’re gearing up for your first-ever voyage or inviting your loved ones to earn their own sea legs with you, Norwegian Cruise Line® brings all the elements together for a perfectly planned vacation.

Step One: Where Should I Go?

When the urge to travel strikes, it’s impossible to ignore. The only question we have is, how soon can you leave? When we arrange your voyage with Norwegian Cruise Line, you can select from 15 different regions across the globe — with options that appeal to your sense of adventure and that can be tailored for a romantic escape, a grand reunion or fun family vacation.

Go wild in Alaska on an Inside Passage cruise roundtrip out of Seattle. Nature and culture come together in the most beautiful ways as you hike through Tongass National Forest, enjoy an authentic salmon bake in Skagway, and set off from Ketchikan on a black bear safari in the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary.

For sheer island bliss, it’s hard to beat a Hawai‘I cruise — particularly one that includes overnight stays on both Maui and Kaua‘i. By spending nearly 100 hours in port, visiting four different islands in seven days, you can make the most of every sunny minute. Snorkel with sea turtles and zip line through lush rainforest, and even tee off in front of incredible ocean views thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line’s golf program that gives you access to 30 breathtaking courses.

Barcelona serves as a sophisticated base for an adventure to some of the great cultural capitals around the Western Mediterranean. On a seven-day voyage, you’ll witness the highs and lows of ancient Rome, from its eerie catacombs to the ethereal ceiling inside the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. More treasures are in store as you stroll Cannes’ famous La Croisette boulevard and enjoy an authentic taste of Naples’ greatest export: pizza.

Step Two: What Should I Wear?

A sense of freedom underscores Norwegian Cruise Line’s philosophy of Freestyle Cruising.® With Freestyle Dining, you can dine where, when and with whomever you wish. So dress up or dress down, it’s always your choice.

A more challenging decision is where you’ll eat every day and night, with up to 27 different dining venues on board. Classic Mexican dishes like enchiladas de mole get a twist in Los Lobos Cantina, and authentic pasadores carve slices of slow-roasted beef tableside in the Brazilian steakhouse, Moderno. Look forward to an evening of fun at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at Sea, while elegance — and oysters on the half shell — await at Ocean Blue restaurant.

Step Three: What Will I Do on Board?

A place as enormous as Alaska deserves two ships that loom just as large: Norwegian Bliss and her sister, Norwegian Joy, launching April 2019. Norwegian’s largest ships to date offer such cool amenities as a bilevel Race Track and the four-deck-high Aqua Racer tube water ride. Stroll along The Waterfront and watch the Tony-winning musical “Jersey Boys” before kicking up your heels to live music at the Texas-style smokehouse, Q.

Island hopping around Hawai‘i is equally exciting aboard Pride of America, which underwent a major refurbishment a few years ago and came back a whole new ship. You’ll develop a new perspective of Polynesian culture with performances and onboard ambassadors who lead hula lessons and other immersive workshops. In between activities, relax on your private balcony or on deck as you watch for whales or witness the dramatic Nāpali Coast coming into view.

In between action-packed days on land, we promise that “bored” won’t even cross your mind when you’re at sea. On Norwegian Epic, you can make a real splash under the Mediterranean sun at the Aqua Park’s two pools, five hot tubs and 200-foot Epic Plunge, the first bowl slide at sea. Roll a strike in the full-size bowling alley, get a stress-reducing massage at the Mandara Spa. And catch “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” or another dazzling production in the Epic Theater.

With all that Norwegian Cruise Line has to offer, it’s your ideal introduction to cruising or a perfect way to introduce your friends and family to the experience. Let us walk you through the process and we’ll design a voyage that creates indelible memories.

Follow Your Sense of Adventure in Hawai‘i

You won't need a road map to experience more than you imagined during your Hawai‘i vacation. It’s time to Let Hawai‘i Happen.

On the island of O‘ahu, a trip north from Honolulu takes you along a winding highway toward Hanalei Town. Stop at roadside trucks selling plump, buttery shrimp — the heavily graffitied Giovanni’s truck is perhaps the most famous, but you’ll run into many more local favorites. In Waimea Valley, cool off with a plunge into Waimea Falls and end in the surfing town of Hale‘iwa with a refreshing and colorful shave ice.

The island of Hawai‘i is filled with dramatic vistas like the magnificent summits of Maunakea and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Once you experience those essential sights, drive toward the coast, stopping at the onyx-colored sands of Punalu‘u Beach. On this magical black beach, you’ll stroll on smooth sands and spot sea life in the clear waters.

Depart the coast of Maui for the agricultural haven of Upcountry Maui. Pause to watch the windsurfers in action in Pā‘ia, then wander the mazes of lavender fields in Kula and explore the soulful arts community in the paniolo cowboy town of Makawao. Take time to go even farther off the grid and fly to Moloka‘i, the birthplace of hula , or hop aboard a ferry from Maui to Lāna‘i to discover just how luxurious true seclusion can be.

Much of Kaua‘i feels off the beaten path, considering that at least 80 percent of the island is not accessible by car. On the northwest side of Kaua‘i, the undulating Nāpali Coast is so remote that it’s only reachable by boat or air. Any way you choose to explore, your adventures here are well-rewarded, but our advice is to approach it by helicopter for spectacular views of the majestic cliff “cathedrals” framed by aquamarine seas.

Where to Indulge

Take a break from all your adventures in these naturally inspired hotel spas.

Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort

In Hawaiian language, ‘āwili means to mix, blend and entwine, and at the ‘wili Spa & Salon, relaxing treatments are crafted to suit your needs. Discover a traditional Japanese spa experience with your $100 in spa treatment credit.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

The 45,000-square-foot Anara Spa is the island’s largest and boasts open-air yoga classes and spa treatment rooms that open to a tropical garden. Enjoy these amenities with daily complimentary spa access for two.

Halekulani

Rejuvenate at SpaHalekulani with one of the many heavenly spa treatments with $100 in resort credit for room types garden courtyard through junior suite or $200 in resort credit for pool-view suite through premier suite.