Category Archives: Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Sailing the Viking Ocean!

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We’re continuing the Celebration of National Cruise Month! Virtually all major cruise lines are offering special discounts and rates this month! Call our office to inquire: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Sailing the Viking Ocean!

WIT Agent Nancy Fowler, a longtime fan of cruise vacations, is out on the open seas this week onboard with Viking Ocean Cruises!

Viking Ocean Cruises is the ocean branch of Viking Cruises, famous for their state-of-the-art river cruises. Itineraries are diverse and delightful, with ports such as Barcelona, Bergen, San Juan and Limassol. Step deep into history and natural beauty for a week or a month—it’s up to you!

Infinity Pool, artist's rendering, image provided by Viking Cruises

The Viking Ocean Cruises boasts a fleet of five all-veranda ships with elegant and minimalist Scandinavian design. Viking Star, the flagship of the line, received numerous laudations from Cruise Critic, CNN, Berlitz and more. With just 930 guests at full capacity, these small ships give access and intimacy that larger cruise lines just can’t compete with.

We have sent countless clients on Viking Cruises, which come highly recommended for their service and all-inclusive packages. Their immersive program of educational lectures, special dining, regional music performances, folkloric shows and an onboard cooking school are designed for the sole purpose of providing an enriching experience for guests.

In 2014, we organized the air, cruise, hotel, and pre-/post-cruise arrangements in Russia for 70+ of Portland’s own Royal Rosarians.

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All-Inclusive Cruises include:

  • – one included shore excursion in every port of call
  • – access to top-rated spa
  • – beer, wine and soft drinks with onboard dinner and lunch
  • – port taxes and fees
  • – restaurant dining
  • – 24 hour room service
  • – self-service laundry

See more of our posts on Viking: 

Call our agents at Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about the itineraries Viking Cruises offers in 2017. We can share our expertise and advise if Viking is right for you. Call 503-224-0180 to chat. 

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Malta!


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Guess what? WIT Agent Pam has flown over to Malta for the week–she’s staying in Valletta and checking out various day trips and excursions to some great UNESCO sites. We’re excited to see her pics and hear her tales of this fascinating archipelago!

In the meantime, let’s check out this little country in the middle of the Mediterranean:

Just the facts, sir:
Association with the Maltese Falcon: None
Capital: Valletta
Official Languages: Maltese (a blend of Arabic and other influences) and English

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Comprising of just three islands, the Republic of Malta lies a mere 50 miles south of Italy and 176 miles east of Tunisia. This unique position smack-dab between Europe and Africa has contributed to its melting-pot status throughout the centuries. At various points in its history, Malta has been the strategic base for the Phoenicians, Romans, Carthaginians, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British–phew!

The famous Knights of Malta were awarded the islands by Emperor Charles V of Sicily in 1530. They established several famous citadels and cathedrals, which you can explore in all their magnificence still today. After their two centuries of rule came Britain and France–and independence was finally achieved in 1964.

Malta’s three islands are called Malta, Gozo and Comino, and the eponymous main island only measures 95 square miles. Interestingly, Valetta’s streets were designed in a grate pattern, meaning that summer breezes bounce off the medieval walls, which is especially cooling during the hot months. Long known as a destination for sun and sea, the islands receive a whopping 300+ sunny days a year!

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So What makes Malta a stunning place to visit?

Its gorgeous heritage–embodied by ornate baroque churches, hilltop citadels and impressive megalithic temples–offers much to even the most weathered of travelers. The charming landscape, with limestone cliffs and sparkling seas, are also attractive. Diving, windsurfing, and sailing are among the more popular activities. Spend your first few nights on Malta exploring the rich architecture, then make your way to Gozo for watersports and idle relaxation.

Did you know? The Calypso Cave in Malta is said to be the cave where Homer’s Calypso from The Odyssey is said to have dwelled.

More on Malta in the coming weeks! Stay tuned!

WIT has booked several clients on recent trips to Malta. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to find out more about these intriguing isles. 

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Highlights of Kyoto

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Ever wondered what makes Kyoto such a favorite destination for Japanese and foreigners alike? WIT Agent Pam headed there from Tokyo last week to find out exactly why. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to chat the ins and outs of Japan.

City of Lavish Temples & Exquisite Palaces

Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is known for its rich history, exquisite gardens and ornate palaces. Chief among them is Kinkaku-Ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, so-called due to its pavilion that is lavishly coated in gold-leaf. The gold is meant to purify any negative thoughts towards death.

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Be sure to stop by the peaceful grounds of the Imperial Park, where you’ll find the Imperial Palace, beautiful gates and gardens. The palace was home to the imperial family until 1868, when the emperor moved his residence to Tokyo.

Just a half-hour’s walk away, Nijo Castle was originally built as a shogunate residence. It is famous for its “nightingale floors,” wooden floors that squeak to note any presence that passes through its halls. Toji Temple is also a must-see, if only for its colorful interiors and elegantly carved Buddhist sculptures. The temple grounds is also home to a flea market on the 21st of the month, where visitors can find old postcards, movie posters, traditional crafts and other souvenirs.

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Higashi Hongan-ji temple is worth a stop just for its unusual hair rope, a thick rope of human hair. This is the last remnant of the the hair ropes used during construction of the temple in the late 1800s. Historically, ordinary rope was not available–so women would donate their hair to make stronger ropes.

Other places of note is the Museum of Kyoto, which houses a huge collection of ancient pottery, and the International Manga Museum, home to over volumes and items of 300,000 manga, Japanese comic books. The latter keeps books in both Japanese and foreign languages, and is popular with the 30 and younger crowd.

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More to Kyoto than Meets the Eye

But there’s more to Kyoto than temples and museums. Hop on a bike with a small group for a healthy paced, but intimate look into the real former capital. Join a walking tour into the Inari district to learn about sake production from the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Or hit the culinary path and explore the Nishiki Food Market with a knowledgeable guide.

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If you’re only in Japan for a week or two, Kyoto is the place to go for an immersion of traditional culture. Experience a traditional tea ceremony or samurai sword demonstration. Here you can witness the elegance of Maiko, or apprentice geishas, during an evening of delicious kaiseki cuisine, dancing and festive games.

For a more inclusive experience, delve into the world of Geisha. Follow a private guide into the Gion neighborhood, savor high-cuisine at an invitation-only dinner with a geisha, learn about her hidden world as your guide translates, and enjoy her performance of dance and music.

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Did you know? Kyoto is just a short jaunt from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, Japan’s famous bullet train.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Nara, Japan

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WIT Agent Pam just returned from a fantastic trip to Japan. We look forward to hearing her feedback, but in the meantime, our blog is taking a close look at each city she’s visited so far. Next stop on the jaunt: Nara!

Established in 710, Nara was Japan’s first capital. Easily accessible by express train from Kyoto, the city and its dozens of historic monuments make a great day trip dsetination for tourists. With its abundance of trees and gardens, Nara is beautiful year-round. But one of the best times to visit is in late March or early April, when the cherry trees planted in front of the shrines erupt in stunning clouds of pale rosé and white.

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Nara Park contains most of the city’s historic temples and sites; one can easily spend the whole day here wandering its grounds. Most famously, the park is home to a healthy population of deer. According to legend, a god came into Nara riding a white deer and henceforth all the deer in Nara were declared holy messengers. These days, they wander the park freely, munching on biscuits handed out by tourists.


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Within the northwest corner of the park, you’ll find Todaiji Temple, a world heritage site, containing a Daibutsu Buddha. The temple’s main hall is the world’s largest wooden structure. Here blessings and fortune scrolls are sold. The hall houses a wooden column with a small hole carved through the bottom–enlightenment is promised to anyone who can squeeze through this hole (historically children).

Kofukuji is a beautiful temple complex, built around 710 for a powerful family clan. Once consisting of 150 buildings, now there are only two:  a three-story and a five-story pagoda. Here you’ll also find the National Treasure Museum, a must for any connoisseurs of Buddhist art.

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Kasuga Taisha is located in the southeast corner of the park, a Shinto shrine built in 768. Most notable on its grounds are the three thousand and plus stone lanterns that light the courtyard and pathways. Next to the shrine is the Manyo Botanical Garden and the Kasuga-yama Primeval Forest, both beautiful settings to get lost in.

Don’t forget to stop at the Nara National Museum, which offers incredible Buddhist art exhibitions. Every year in October/November, the museum displays the Todaiji treasury collection which is normally closed to the public–as this is a popular event among locals, expect enormous queues.

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If you book your trip to Nara in January, be sure not to miss the Wakakusa Yamayaki. This is an annual festival where the grass on Mount Wakakusayama, on the east end of Nara Park, is set on fire! Fireworks light up the sky and the entire hillside is set ablaze–quite a memorable sight from almost anywhere in the city!

For Pam’s photos from the trip, check out our gallery here.

Call Wittravel to arrange your special trip to Japan. Call us to find out more: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

All photos on this post courtesy of www.japan-guide.com. 

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Japan

WIT Agent Pam just returned from her fantastic trip to Japan, and she’s come back with some gorgeous photos. Her whirlwind tour included Tokyo, Kamakura, Yokahama, Nikko, Kyoto and Nara. For her pics in our newly updated Gallery, just click here.

Thinking about Japan for your next family getaway? Let WIT plan your trip! We can design air, hotels, trains, day trips, and tours throughout the country. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for more.

For escorted tours, we highly recommend Alexander & Roberts–click here to learn more about their small groups to Japan and beyond.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Nikko, Japan

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“Never say Kekkou (“I am satisfied”) until you’ve seen Nikko.” — Traditional Japanese Saying

Our agent Pam is currently in Japan exploring the amazing sights and sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun. We’ve taken a quick look at her stops along the way–Yokohama and Kamakura–and today we’re featuring Nikko. What’s there to see, you ask? A bit out of the way, you wonder? Well, let’s take a look:

Nikko is a small city approximately 140 km north of Tokyo in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture. The name literally means “sunlight” in Japanese, and whether its the name or the natural beauty that surrounds the city, Nikko never fails to draw the attention of local and international tourists year-round.

Here you’ll find the austere mausoleum of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the great Tokugawa shogunate. There are also many famous hot springs in the area, and nearby Nikko National Park is a popular spot for mountain-hiking and catching glimpses of beautiful waterfalls. Nikko is also home to the 8th-century Futarasan Shrine, the Cedar Avenue, Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura, and Lake Chuzenii.

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The most popular attraction, however, is undoubtedly Toshogu Shrine, home of the Three Wise Monkeys who See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil. The shrine is adorned in gold and wood carvings, showcasing both Shinto and Buddhist elements. Traditionally, the two religions have not been severely segregated in Japan. Among the colorful decorations are the five story pagoda, the Sozonozo Elephants (carved by an artist who had never seen elephants), the Crying Dragon, and the Nemurineko or Sleeping Cat.

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Nikko is best reached by Tokyo’s Tobu-Asakusa Station on the Tobu Nikko line. It’s can be a busy day trip from Tokyo, but is best enjoyed in a few days. Plus you can spend the night at a traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse and take a dip in their hot springs!

Call Wittravel to arrange your trip to Japan or to discover more about the Land of the Rising Sun, at 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com. 

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Where in the World is WIT agent? — Kamakura, Japan

WIT agent Pam recently flew into Tokyo to explore the Land of the Rising Sun. Last Monday we followed her on one of her stops–Yokohama. Now let’s take a quick peek to another city just outside the capital–Kamakura. 
  
Kamakura is on the coast just 50 km south of Tokyo, easily reached via train. It makes a great day trip, and is extremely popular with tourists, due to its high number of temples, shrines, and other historical monuments. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse a traditional wedding while you’re there. The most famous of sights is the Great Buddha statue, a bronze sculpture cast in 1252, located in central Kamakura and measuring about 13.35 meters. 
In the Western part of the city, you can find the Zeniari Benten shrine, dedicated to the God Benzaiten. The gardens of the temple offer extraordinary views of the city, and is a popular place to view cherry blossoms in the springtime. 

In North Kamakura you’ll find two of the cities’ five zen temples. Engakuji temple commemorates soldiers who fought against the Mongol invasion of 1283. Another, Kenchoji temple, is one of the oldest in the country. 

The temples of East Kamakura are less well-known but no less beautiful. Sugimotodera is a quiet temple that has see an eleven-faced statue of the goddess Kannon. Built in 734, it is the oldest temple in Kamakura.

If you’re not too worn with sightseeing, Kamakura offers a number of great hiking trials and beaches for visitors. The Daibutsu trail will take you away from the tourist crowds and to some of the smaller shrines you may have missed. In the summer, many people pitch a sun umbrella on Yugihama beach and swim or watch the fireworks during festivals. 

Call Wittravel to arrange your special trip to Japan. Call us to find out more: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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