Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Best Trips For Retirement

In 2018, an estimated 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day and more people will be retiring than ever before.  Many of us dream of the day that we retire; it gives us more time to spend with our families, to pursue the endeavors that interest us and, more time to travel and explore the wonderful world we live in.

Time is one of our most precious assets, and, much like the old adage says, you can't buy time, the only thing you can do is enjoy it and use it wisely. If you have retired, there is no more waiting for that two-week vacation, no more excuses to get out and see the places that you have only dreamed of.  As a retiree, you have all the time in the world on your hands and it is time to start planning!  If you are reading this, you probably love traveling -- AARP's 2018 survey noted that travel is at the top of the list and clocks in at a bold 83% of newly retired baby boomers. 

Now that you know that you have the time and energy, one way to help you figure out what types of travel destinations are right for you is to contact a professional travel tour company, like Tours of Distinction that, has decades of experience planning the logistics and curating trips that are seamless and memorable.  The TOD staff will help you decide what type of trip is right for you. Perhaps you want a quiet upscale resort, a room with a magical view of the hustle and bustle of a city, a visit to the great palaces and museums in Europe,  a chance to see wildlife close up in Alaska or a cruise to the fabled Hawaain Islands. A new AARP survey found that folks that have just retired have a tantalizing bucket list of places, both domestic and international, that they want to visit.  Below are the top FIVE destinations so buckle up and plan that trip with Tours of Distinction!  

1. Hawaii is on the bucket list of 18% of newly retired boomers and is the most popular state to visit for those planning a domestic trip. Drinks with umbrellas, hula girls, lavish tropical scenery, the romance of the tropics and the welcoming aloha island vibe are just a few things that allure people here.  TOD is offering a trip to Hawaii that includes two nights on Waikiki Beach and a seven-night cruise that includes the Big Island, Kauai, and Maui. TOD is offering single, double, and cruise only options. For details click here.

2. Italy is second on the bucket list with 12% of those recently retired boomers dreaming of delicious food, excellent wines, and Italy's many historic sites that they will enjoy checking off their bucket list.  Italy's allure is just soaking up the cultural and easy going Italian vibe that makes Italy so popular. TOD is offering an ideal trip to Italy perfect for newbies and the well-traveled that takes passengers from the historic hill town of Tuscany to the beautiful Amalfi coast. Local restaurants, world-renowned museums, and cathedrals, seaside villages and the ancient ruins of Pompeii complete this Italian adventure. For the tour details click here.

3.  Domestically, Alaska is on 12% of the boomer's retiree's bucket list.  The lure of a cruise to see wildlife up close and the chance to visit glaciers and mountains, see the Northern Lights and unwind in Alaska's unspoiled beauty are just some of the reasons Alaska is a preferred destination.  TOD thirteen day "Alaska Wild and Free" excursion combine a seven-night cruise with meals and entertainment as well as excursions to many of Alaska's pristine natural wonders including State Parks and Forests, icefields and glaciers and even the chance to go panning for gold! TOD is offering single, double and cruise only options. For the tour, details click here.

4.  Ireland comes in at 11% and is popular with retirees because there is no language barrier and there are plenty of small towns and villages as well as the big cities of London and Dublin to explore.  TOD is offering an eight-day tour called "Ireland Uncovered" that fits the bill of anyone with Ireland on their bucket list. Best of all, this tour leaves directly from Bradly International Airport and is a direct flight. This trip hits all the high points from Dublin and Waterford to Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, Westport, Achill Island, and Galway. For all the details click here

5. France is known for its fabulous cuisine, delicious wine, palaces, sophisticated culture, and ionic fashion.  France is on the must-see list of 10% of retirees, and with good reason.  The pastoral countryside coupled with the excitement of Paris are noted as what draws retired boomers to this destination. TOD is offering a cycling tour in the late spring of 2019 through the magical countryside of Burgundy as well as a Cruise of the Western Mediterranean that stops in Cannes, France, on the French Riviera.  

TOD is planning two slow barge cruises of the Loire River Valley and Burgundy in the near future... and much more so stay tuned and remember, Tours of Distinction is ready to help you plan the trip before and after you retire, as we like to say, the world awaits.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday - Bourbon Tasting Etiquette & Lingo

When attending a Bourbon Tour and Tasting on our Sounds of the South Tour, July 6-12. 2019  there are a  few tips to keep in mind when participating in a bourbon tasting. 

The Color -- The first thing tasters should notice is the color of the bourbon.  The shade of amber reveals the proof of the product and hints at the number of years it was aging in the barrel. Lighter shades indicate lower proof while darker shades indicate higher proof. 

Smell -- Smell is also important to bourbon tasting.  Take a deep breath and keep your mouth open to get the full experience. 

Tasting - Everyone has a different method.  One of the best ways is to swish the amber liquid around your mouth in order to get a complete tasting profile.

A Glossary of Bourbon & Whiskey Lingo

When delving into the world of bourbon and whiskey, there is a particular lexicon used to describe this golden amber spirit.  The abbreviated glossary below is courtesy of the Kentucky Distillers Association.  For more information, check the site out!

Angel's Share: The portion of Bourbon in an aging barrel that's lost to evaporation.

Bourbon (straight): A whiskey made from a mash containing at least 51 percent corn, distilled out at a maximum of 160° proof, aged at no more than 125° proof for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. If the whiskey is aged for less than four years, its age must be stated on the bottle. No coloring or flavoring may be added to any straight whiskey.

Wheated bourbon: Bourbon made from a mashbill that contains wheat instead of rye grain.

Rye whiskey (straight): A whiskey made from a mash containing at least 51 percent rye, distilled out at a maximum of 160° proof, aged at no more than 125° proof for a minimum of two years in new charred oak barrels. If the whiskey is aged for less than four years, its age must be stated on the bottle. No coloring or flavoring may be added to any straight whiskey.

Single barrel whiskey: Whiskey drawn from one barrel that has not been mingled with any other whiskeys.

Small batch whiskey: A product of mingling select barrels of whiskey that have matured into a specific style.

Corn whiskey: A whiskey made from a mash containing a minimum of 80 percent corn and, if it is aged at all, must be aged in used or uncharred oak barrels.

Rackhouse: The building in which whiskey is aged, sometimes referred to as the “warehouse.”

Ricks: The wooden structures on which barrels of whiskey rest during aging.

Tours of Distinction - Sounds of the South - July 6-12, 2019

Tours of Distinction is offering a small group tour called Sounds of the South for no more than 24 participants to Memphis, Nashville, and Lexington July 6-12, 2019.  This seven-day tour includes roundtrip air and transfers, roundtrip motor coach throughout the tour, six nights in four-star accommodations, 12 meals (six breakfasts, two lunches, and four dinners), reserved seats to the Grand Ole Opry, all entrances and guides to attractions on the itinerary and roundtrip baggage handling.  Best of all, this tour includes the services of a professional  Tours of Distinction Tour Director as well as all gratuities for the Tour Director, local guides and the motorcoach driver.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Experience an Authentic Afternoon Holiday Tea in New York @ Caramoor

If you were enthralled with Downtown Abbey then a visit to Caramoor is the perfect way to start a  holiday tradition at this splendid Renaissance inspired estate in nearby New York.   A visit here is an ideal day trip from Connecticut that will bring you back to kinder, gentler days with a formal tea and joyful holiday concert set in a gracious home brimming with festive decorations against a backdrop of beautiful period furniture, art treasures, paintings and a mélange of decorative appointments that are amazing. 

About Caramoor

Caramoor is the legacy of Lucie and Walter Rosen.  They purchased this gorgeous property in 1928 with the intention of building a Venetian style mansion as a summer home.  Due to the Great Depression, the Rosen's put away their original plan and worked from 1929 to 1939 to transform the farm buildings on the property into a home.  They filled this home with art and decorative treasures and sometimes complete rooms from Italian palaces and important manor houses acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Rosen on their European travels. 

The Rosen House at Caramoor is unique in America because it has fifteen complete period rooms from Europe and was left as the Rosen's lived in it.  The collection includes Renaissance paintings, Asian sculptures, jade pieces, tapestries, and European furniture, just to name a few treasures found here. 

Caramoor was built to showcase the Rosens love of the decorative arts and to highlight their love of music; both were accomplished musicians.  Many soirees were held here over the decades for the couple's friends as well as for professional musicians. Walter Rosen was an accomplished pianist and his wife, Lucy was an expert on the Thereminist, which was one of the first electronic instruments invented in the late 1920s.  Lucy became so accomplished that she traveled the world with this instrument and many works were written for her to perform.   

When sitting in the acoustically perfect music room at Caramoor, remember that many famous friends of the Rosens performed here including pianist Artur Rubinstein,  Harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, violinist Zino Francescatti, and famous conductors Rich Weiner and Leonard Bernstein.  When their only son, Walter Jr. was killed in WWII, they decided to preserve their estate and musical heritage for future generations to enjoy. 

Holiday Tea @ Caramoor

Afternoon tea originated in England with the wealthy class in the 1840's and consisted of a light meal served late in the afternoon, usually around 4 pm.  It was never intended to replace dinner but rather to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner that was usually served between 8 and 9 p.m.  Traditionally, afternoon tea would include light savories and sweets and, tea of course!   Celebrating the season with an afternoon tea, listening to holiday carols, many of which are British in origin amid the festive backdrop of the Rosen House at Caramoor is tinged with a pleasant feeling of nostalgia for days gone by and makes for a memorable holiday tradition.

After a Yuletide-inspired concert in the majestic music room at Caramoor, visitors take a guided tour of all fifteen-period rooms that are architecturally stunning and worth a visit in any season.  Here they take decorating seriously, and all the rooms and the endless nooks and crannies of the house are festooned for the season.   On this special docent-led tour visitors will learn about the Rosen family and their love of collecting, music, and entertainment.  

After the tour, guests are treated to an elegant afternoon Holiday Tea in the Music Room of the house where guests can relax with friends amid this beautiful backdrop.  Tables laid out in fine brocade tablecloths and each table has a festive holiday centerpiece.  

The highlight of each table is a three-tier curate stand of savory finger sandwiches, sweets, scones, jam, and butter.  Each tier on the curate stand holds one course.  The first tier holds scones and seasonal bread,  the second sandwiches, and savories, and bottom tier holds sweets.   In keeping with the afternoon tea tradition, the wait staff always pours the first cup of tea in elegant china teacups replete with saucers for each guest. Prior to pouring, the guest is asked if they prefer milk and sugar, one lump or two.

The day trip to Caramoor is the perfect outing to get into the holiday spirit and to experience the pleasures of yesteryear at an authentic afternoon tea in a beautiful European inspired home.

Book the Tour

Tours of Distinction is offering a one-day trip to Caramoor that includes roundtrip motorcoach, Entrance to Caramoor Center for Music and Arts, Concert in the Music Room, Docent-Led Tour, Holiday Tea,  Tours of Distinction Tour Director and the gratuities for the Tour Director and Drive.  To book click here.  This tour is offered on select dates in December.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Vines of Mendoza

The old world city of Mendoza in western Argentina is known for its wine.  If you are a wine lover, then this is the best place to experience and enjoy the complexities of the premier South American wines produced here. Wines made with the iconic Malbec grape is associated with Argentina and the rich mineral laden soil of Mendoza.  The weather here is perfect for viticulture.  The dry climate, warm days and cool nights create lush red wines that are complex with a berry forward foil that is unforgettable.  Wine has played a long and important role in Argentina's economy, culture, and culinary traditions; it is so significant that in 2010 it was declared the National Drink.

Historical Roots

The Spanish colonists arriving from Chile brought grapevines to Argentina more than 450 years ago and by the 16th century, Argentina's wine industry was firmly established. The Catholic priests that came to this area planted vineyards near their monasteries to ensure the provision of wine for the celebration of mass. 

The vineyard industry continued to grow and thrive in Mendoza as waves of immigrants arrived from Italy, Spain, France, and Germany in the 1850s and 1860s.  This influx of Europeans played a principal role in expanding the wine industry by bringing their experience and innovative techniques in regard to the cultivation and production of wine.  When the railroad was built in 1885 linking Mendoza with Buenos Aires winemakers ramped up wine production to ship to the capital city, firmly establishing Mendoza as the heart of Argentina's wine industry. By 1873, Argentina had 5,000 acres of vineyards that expanded to 25,000 acres by 1893, and to 519,000 acres in 1900.

Mendoza 1890

Mendoza's wine industry survived the Great Depression and through the ensuing years experienced many ups and downs. By the 1970s the system of making table wines collapsed because of the competition of soft drinks and beer. During the years of 1982-1992, there was extensive uprooting with 36% of the vineyards removed.  

All this changed in the 1990s when oenologists from California visited the city and rediscovered the Malbec grape variety.   This was a period of expansion and foreign investment that brought along with it modernized winemaking equipment, growing systems, grape stock selection, marketing, and, most importantly, a redefined focus on the production quality of the wines. The industry switched its focus from producing table wines to creating small volumes of top quality wines both for export and local consumption. 

Today Mendoza is the leading wine region in Argentina and accounts for about 80% of the countries wine production, with Malbec grapes taking the place of pride among all varieties.

The Importance of Climate

Mendoza's wines are some of the world's best value quality wines because of where and how they are cultivated.  The fruit of these vines is unique because they are located in high altitude valleys and in desert areas far from the ocean making Argentina one of the few continental viticultural areas in the world.   Mendoza has an average rainfall of 6 to 16 inches a year that allows growers to maintain vineyards almost naturally. Due to the dryness of the climate, it is easy to produce organic wines.  If there is a need for irrigation, the water used is noted for its purity because it is meltwater from the Andes Mountains; there is no contaminating activity that detracts from the quality of this vital resource.

Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of Mendoza's viticulture comes down to altitude.  The importance of altitude cannot be overlooked because it generates a multitude of microclimates and varied terrain that distinguishes this region from others making Mendoza's vineyards special.  In this region, vineyards are planted at altitudes ranging from 1,600 feet to a dizzying 5,600 feet above sea level that are virtually pest and fungus free!  This range of altitude and climate allows winemakers to plant each variety of grape at an optimal level where it will ripen perfectly.

Malbec Wine

Malbec is considered to be a versatile, food-friendly red wine.  Malbec claims southwest France specifically Cahors as its original home where it was blended with other types of grapes. This spicy black grape has found firm footing in the high elevation vineyards that surround Mendoza where 75% of these vines are grown worldwide. 

As for a flavor profile, Malbeck is said to be dry, full-bodied with robust tannins and that it has a decidedly forward fruit foil that makes it easily identifiable.  Expect a Malbec berry medley to highlight blackberry, black cherry, and plum; round it out with delicious warm vanilla spice, pepper, and dark chocolate notes along with aspects of leather, smoke, and tobacco. The tannin and textures round themselves out in this wine to a rich, velvety touch.

Malbec is a meat lovers wine so don't miss pairing it with red meat as well as  Argentina's trademark fire grilled parrilla meats. Malbec is enjoyed best when served around 60 degrees.

Today's Vineyards

In Mendoza with so many altitudes and corresponding microclimates, visitors will find a wide variety of wine grapes and many superb wineries to explore.  Going on a wine tasting when visiting this part of Argentina should be on every traveler's bucket list.  In the red category of wine produced here, the Malbec grape reigns supreme and in the white wine category, Chardonnay is the most planted grape variety. 

In addition to these varieties, visitors will find many other grape varieties and types of wines to try.  The white grape varieties include Chardonnay, Chenin, Riesling, Sauvignon Blac, Semillon, Torrontes Mendocino, Torrontes Riojano, Torrontes Sanjuanino, and Viognier.  The red varieties include Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.

Chile and Argentina with Tours of Distinction

Journey to the Southern Cross with TOD September 25-October 8, 2019 and book by Feb. 28, 2019, and save $200 pp on this exclusive small group tour that will have a max of just 24 lucky travelers.  The tour includes roundtrip and internal country flights and transfers.  There will be 17 meals and guided tours to the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of Iguazu Falls, City Tours of Santiago, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Mendoza, and Buenos Aires.  There will be a special visit to a Buenos Aires Gaucho Ranch, a Tango Show and a Winery Tour in Mendoza. The tour also includes the services of a professional TOD Tour Director and gratuities for the driver, local guides and tour director.  The only thing not included is the easily obtained Visa Entry to Brazil.  For tour details and single, double or land only costs click here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Travel Tip Tuesday - Adaptors

Travel adaptors (and converters) are important items to have when traveling Internationally with electronic devices and appliances.  Countries around the world use different electrical outlets and configuration varies from country to country. If you are bringing electrical devices and appliances abroad, chances are you will need a specific adaptor to plug in your devices.

Before you plug in any electronic device brought from the United States make sure you check the voltage used by the country you are visiting and confirm that your device is a multi-voltage device.  

If the US and Canada use 110 - 120 volts and most other countries use 220-240 volts.  If your device is not dual voltage and not able to adjust automatically to higher voltages typically found abroad then you will need a converter to step down the voltage so you don't ruin your device.  

Adaptor Outlet Guide

Plug shapes, holes, sizes, and sockets vary in different countries. Currently, there are 15 different electrical outlet configurations used around the world.

Type A

Type A is used in North and Central America, Venezuela, the Caribbean, and Japan.  This outlet has two flat parallel prongs and almost always runs on 110-120 volts. The Japanese plug has two identical flat prongs, the US plug has one prong that is slightly larger.  It is not a problem to use Japanese plugs in the US but, the opposite doesn't always work because the holes at the tip of the prongs on type A and B plugs are there to prevent the plug from slipping out.

Type B

This is used in North and Central America, the Caribbean, and Japan and has two flat parallel prongs and a grounding pin. It is standard in North America and Japan. Most American outlets are Type B and are almost always 110-127 volts.

Type C

This plug is used in all European countries except the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta and has two round prongs known as the Europlug. This outlet is also used in South America. This outlet has two round openings for prongs and generally runs on 220-240 volts.

Type D

This is used in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Namibia.
It has three large round pins arranged in the shape of a triangle.  It is rated at five amps. 

Type E

This outlet also has two round openings for prongs and runs on 220-240 volts.  The difference between type C and Type E is that type E has a round protruding pin and is rated up to 16 amps. This is used in the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Poland, Slovakia, and parts of Africa.

Type F  

This socket is used throughout Europe including Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Spain, Eastern Europe and Russia.  It was invented in Germany and runs on 220 - 240 volts and are rated up to 16 amps. It is similar to Type C without the pin that fits into the slot located on the plug.

Type G

This socket is used in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.  It is a three-pronged outlet with slots in the shape of a rectangle and arranged in a triangular pattern.  They run on 220-240 volts and are rated up to 13 amps.

Type H

This is used only in Israel. It is similar to a B outlet with two flat prongs, but they form a V shape rather than being parallel. They also have an earth pin.

Type I

This outlet is found in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and China. It has two narrow flat prongs in the shape of a V and a sometimes have a ground prong. All run on 220 - 240 volts and are rated at 10 to 15 amps in Australia.

Type J

This outlet is found primarily in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  It is similar to a Type C outlet except that it has an earth pin. They run on 220-240 volts and are rated up to ten amps.

Type K 
This socket is found exclusively in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faeroe Islands. It is similar to that of Type F except that it has an earth pin instead of grounding clips.

Most of the images for this blog are courtesy of the International Electrotechnical Commission that has a complete list of countries and the type of wall socket and volt that can be found there. For a link to that site click here.  For a complete list of voltage by country please click here.