WIT Agent in Switzerland: St. Gallen – Appenzeller Cheese Dairy – Grindelwald

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WIT Agent Lindsay has embarked on a FAM trip to Switzerland, to discover the world of skis and chalets!

For 6 days, she’ll be journeying on 1st class trains on some of the finest train routes in all of Europe.

Hosted by Swiss Tourism Board, Swiss Travel System and Rail Europe, the trip will take her to St. Gallen – Luzern – Grindelwald and Jungfrau – Basel.

Day 1: Appenzeller Cheese Dairy & St. Gallen

First stop after arrival in Zurich is St. Gallen, to check in at the Hotel Säntispark, an upscale business hotel with three restaurants.

She’ll hop on a bus to the Appenzeller cheese dairy, where Ralph Boese explains the process behind the strong Appenzeller cheese. At the farm, you can shop, have a tasting with aperitifs, and even make your own cheese in copper vats over a wood fire. The Mutschli matures in the cellar over eight weeks and will be sent to you afterwards.  The cheese is made in a 400-year-old Alpine hut of the Appenzeller folklore museum.

Then it’s back to St. Gallen for cocktail making at Einstein Hotel and dinner at Restaurant Schlössli. 

Day 2: St. Gallen & Rail Journey & Grindelwald

The morning begins with a guided city tour of St. Gallen, where the Abbey District is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After a quick lunch, iti’s time to hop on a train to Luzern on the Voralpen-Express, marked with rolling hills, cute villages and lovely orchards. The train climbs the 00-meter-high Sitter viaduct and the landscapes of Toggenburg.

Then it’s a switch to the Luzern-Interlaken Express with its world-famous route and glimpse of the Jungfrau region. This 2-hour ride takes travelers to the heart of Switzerland, past crystal-clear lakes, romantic waterfalls and iconic Brünig mountain pass.

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Photo Courtesy of Zentralbahn.ch

The day wraps up with the arrival at Grindelwald (no relation to Harry Potter!), the vibrant Eiger alpine village. Grindelwald lies in the Bernese Oberland in central Switzerland, a world-class winter destination dominated by towering mountains. This evening, Lindsay will check in, unwind and dinner at the Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof. 

Thinking about Switzerland this winter? Sign up your family for a ski holiday in 2020! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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On the Ground Report: Flooding in Venice

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By Wailana Kalama, WIT Correspondent

Venice has been in the news all the last two weeks, and some of you may be wondering: 

What’s it like in Venice right now?

I was just there last week and here to give my on-the-ground report!

Every winter, Venice floods. All of Venice can handle 1 meter. From 1.10, flooding starts somewhere. I won’t waste time recapping what’s been on the news, but instead give you a sense of what it was like day to day. 

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Wednesday, November 13 – Breaking News

It was two days before we were to fly out to Venice when I saw the headlines: major flooding. Destruction of sites. Highest water levels since the 1960s. I sent the news on to my brother, whom I was supposed to meet in Venice, and he replied: So what do we do? Do we cancel? I told him let’s wait and see. He’d have to cancel the hotel, train tickets, everything, and reroute his family of four to another city. It was a lot of trouble. (And for travel insurance companies, likely an Act of God.) 

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Thursday, November 14 – Should We Cancel?

“Cancel? Why would we cancel?” My partner asked me the night before we were due to fly out to Venice. I had just read that the Mayor of Venice declared a state of emergency. The news had a map with a scarlet red circle encapsulating Venice. His comments were echoed in a recent article I read about how for the tourists, “Venice’s Flooding Has Become Another Tourist Attraction”

“Tourists are enjoying the high tide, and the floods, very much. It’s picturesque. You have a very old city flooded with water. Visually, it’s beautiful. For tourists, it’s another attraction.”

Friday, November 15 – Arrival in Venice

Half a day later, we were on the train, rolling across the bridge from the mainland. It was raining heavily that day. The waters had risen up so much it looks like we were entering some sort of Waterworld, and it felt almost as if “this train exists out of time,” as my partner said. Fortunately, we had brought tall rain boots and an umbrella. By the time we had checked in at our hotel, the rain had stopped. 

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Saturday, November 16 – The Sun Returns!

An amazing day. Sunlight, warm, no rain or flooding. Some pools of water here and there. We walked around in rain boots just in case. 

Sunday, November 17 – The Flooding Returns!

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On this day, the flooding returned. This was the worst day while I was there. We were staying in Dorsoduro, one of the lower neighborhoods. Across the Grand Canal is San Marco. St. Mark’s Square is apparently the lowest part of Venice, and thus all the dramatic photos of the square flooded. 

Our hotel keeper had warned us to head North in the morning. By 10am, water levels were shin-high. Shops were mostly closed except for the odd sandwich shop and bar. Most had installed wooden barriers on their doors to keep the water out. Some even had electric pumps pumping out the water. 

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We walked to Cannaregio, the north part of Venice. It was a slow process. I could wade in the water as long as I did it slowly, in long strides. Trying to go fast would just result in splashing an annoyed neighbor. 

A lot of people were walking around with hip-high galoshes. A few tourists, bootless, stayed on the bridges in their sneakers and looked out nervously at the water. In smaller alleyways, the smell was one of sewage. 

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Monday, November 18 – Back to Normal Water Levels

The water receded back to normal levels, and there was even some sunlight on this day. Shops were reopening and everyone was talking about the flood. I asked a few shopkeepers in San Marco about the damage they had suffered. They had lost a few things, but most people had spent the better part of the day before the flooding packing the shelves. One printmaker said she had been cleaning the shop for hours, and would probably be cleaning into the next day. 

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Verdict – Status Quo

As of the time I’m writing this, water levels have gone back to normal. Shops are open and business in Venice is as usual. If you’re interested, you can keep in touch with the Tidecast for Venice, available here (in Italian). 

Our travel agents keep up to date with the travel trends and news to better serve your travel experience. Call us now for a consultation or to book your next trip: 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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Travel News: How to Deal with Record Thanksgiving Traffic

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Welcome to the weekly installment of Travel News, where we look back at this week’s articles and essays and what’s going on in the world of trips and tours.

How To’s

The week before Thanksgiving, as tradition dictates, is full of travel tips and survival How-tos. And good thinking, as it will be reportedly the busiest Thanksgiving season on record! This time we have a guide on How to deal with record Thanksgiving Traffic + Places in the US where Stormy Weather could disrupt your holiday travel. 

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

From Huffpost, find out some tricks on how to travel with friends on different budgets–because we’ve all been there.

Did you know that Southwest has a generous policy offering an available second seat to passengers too large to sit comfortably in one?

Wondering why you’re always sick once home from a trip? Forbes says it might be take some better wellness habits.

A new app Timeshifter claims to help you to survive jet lag using NASA-backed science. Targeted at people flying across three or more time ones, it gives recommendations on how to moderate your light, sleep, and caffeine to adjust quickly to your new time zone. It even calculates your melatonin intake, should you opt for it.

Whet your Appetite in France

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

We have a couple of cool culinary stories from France. First off, Lyon’s new gastronomy centre puts the world on a plate — then we turn to the small town of Valence where 3-time Michelin star chef Anne-Sophie Pic rules the culinary scene.

Solo Travel on the Rise

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Photo by Andy Vu on Pexels.com

For solo adventurers, travel is an open book. From the Tokyo bar for solo drinkers only to Solo cruising in Antarctica–learn why solo travel opens the world up in unexpected ways. Groups and cruises discounted and designed especially for solo adventurers is something we as travel agents are seeing more and more.

In the Portland PDX area? Call us for ways to make your solo adventure shine: 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com.

Bite-Sized Travel Inspiration for Thanksgiving

We predicted it–with Lonely Planet releasing their best of 2020 list, other leading travel pubs would follow. Here are NatGeo’s 25 travel destinations you need to visit in 2020 and Insider’s 15 of the most underrated travel destinations of the year so far.

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Next week there won’t be a travel news, as it’s Thanksgiving and we’ll all be recovering from turkey! To tide you over, here are some of our favorite stories for some juicy travel inspiration.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Travel News: Is Hawaii the #1 Best Glamping Destination?

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Welcome to the weekly installment of Travel News, where we look back at this week’s articles and essays and what’s going on in the world of trips and tours.

‘Tis the Season

Thanksgiving is fast approaching—how will YOU survive the holidays? Here are 8 Things to do NOW to make your Thanksgiving flights go more smoothly. 

Heading to London this Christmas? Here are the best ways to celebrate the holiday season in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.

Train lovers will likely find some joy in the gorgeous and diverse photos of train travel on CNN Travel.

Contrary to what most might think, camping is not just a summer activity — Hawaii has just been named the #1 best glamping (luxury camping) destination in the US this winter. Glamping is a growing trend and headed by 60% millennials or younger. 

Time to pack up your Glamp Tent! and head to one of the Top 10 Destinations for Glamping in 2020:

  1. The Big Island, Hawaii,
  2. Austin, TX,
  3. The Oregon Coast, OR,
  4. Albuquerque, NM,
  5. Green Mountains, VT,
  6. White Mountain National Forest, NH,
  7. Yosemite, California,
  8. Denver, Colorado,
  9. San Diego, California,
  10. Albany, NY. 

Flights & Flying

Travel + Leisure came out with a report cautioning the use of water on airplanes. According to one study, some airlines are riskier than others in terms of contamination–so bad that you may not even want to wash your hands in it! The safest water was found on Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines.

People who are nervous of flying may have a new ally on their hands. ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a tingling sensation in the scalp and may ease your flight anxiety. The rise of ASMR audio recordings designed to soothe listeners means that the practice has almost become mainstream – characterized by low frequency sounds, hypnotic sensations, calming voices, and white noise – and now it might just soothe your travel anxiety.

Environmental News

In environmental news, the world’s first hybrid electric-powered cruise ship made its sustainable debut. Of course, heralded by none other than one of our most popular vendors, Norwegian-owned Hurtigruten. 

Read about Hurtigruten in Antarctica. 

In the same vein, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators in the Arctic has announced a self-imposed ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil on their expedition voyages! Fantastic. “By formalizing this ban, the expedition cruise industry is sending a message to decision-makers that it is time to act to protect the Arctic from the risk of HFO pollution,” said Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen. Members of AAECO include Hurtigruten, Adventure Canada, G Adventures, Quark, Silversea, Seabourn and many others.

Speaking of exceptional cruises, Tauck has unveiled its newest riverboat, the , set to launch on Portugal’s Douro River in March 2020. With only 84 guests, it’s quite the exclusive cruise. 

Call us for more details on Tauck river cruises: 503-224-0180

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Finally, we all love animals, but wildlife travel has always been a tricky issue. You need to make sure you book with a tour operator who can make sure the animals you see are treated with respect. Destinations known for their wildlife tourism like Costa Rica and Australia are urging visitors to stay mindful of the animals and their environment. Visitors to Maria Island, off of Tasmania in Australia, are asked to sign pledges promising that they will not “chase you with my selfie stick, or get too close to your babies. I will not surround you, or try and pick you up. I will make sure I don’t leave rubbish or food from my morning tea.”

For more travel news, subscribe to our blog! Or book your travel arrangements with one of our agents: inquiry@wittravel.net. 

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Postcard from Riga

300$ gift certificate

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November 14, 2019 · 6:00 am

Should You Visit Japan in the Winter?

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Spoiler alert: you should! 

The Land of the Rising Sun rarely disappoints, regardless of the season you visit. In the Spring, there are cherry blossoms, in the summer, festivals galore. The autumn is a melodious eruption of colors with the changing leaves and the winter–well, the winter.

Tokyo brings in stylish events and warm, fairytale lights throughout the city.

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Here are 5 Reasons to Visit Japan in the Winter Months: 

1. Japan has Mild Winters.

While we usually associated winter in Japan with snow, the autumn and mild weather actually lasts a bit longer than in most countries. In November and December, autumn leaves and crisp air linger on.

Even when it becomes full-fledged winter, it’s still quite dry. Winter, which lasts from December to February, ranges from 10-12ºC (50-54°F) in the day, and 2-5ºC (35-41ºF) at night.

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2. Christmas is still a thing. 

Though Christmas isn’t a public holiday in Japan, it’s still celebrated, especially among couples. Rather than having any family connotation, it’s viewed more as a romantic time, like a second Valentine’s Day. This is accentuated by Tokyo bursting into thousands of LED lights. So expect magical winter wonderland if you visit in late December!

To enjoy the illuminations at their best, head out to Ueno or Roppongi Hills.

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3. New Year’s is marked by Festivals & Family Time.

New Year’s is a big event, even bigger than in the U.S., you might even say. The period from December 28 to January 5 is known as oshogatsu, a time to visit families and enjoy seasonal dishes (osechi ryori) like black soybeans, red sea bream, fish cake, and soft, delicious mochi. Don’t miss out on other events like temple rituals and ice skating rinks, a common sight during this time.

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4. Hokkaido is the Ultimate Winter Destination.

Hokkaido is a perfect winter destination you might not have heard of. The northernmost province of Japan, Hokkaido is renowned for its ski resorts, powdery snow, and hot springs resorts and towns.

If you’re in Sapporo in February, don’t miss the Snow Festival, a snow sculpture competition that attracts more than 2 million visitors each year. People come from all over the world to compete and show off their gorgeous ice sculptures.

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5. The View of Japan’s Mountains are unparalleled.

About 73% of Japan is mountainous, so don’t be surprised that some of the most photogenic shots you could take in the countryside are of mountains. And there’s no better time to enjoy the scenery than in winter. Due to the mild weather and clear skies, the view of the peaks, including iconic Mt. Fuji, are close to magical.

Take a train out from Tokyo is explore these peaks. It’s also a perfect time for quiet, introspective walks up these mountains or strolls through the countryside villas.

Thinking of Japan in the Winter? There are some amazing itineraries to explore the Land of the Rising Sun in Winter and multi-day hiking trips in the Spring. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com to learn more from our travel agents. 

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Travel News: Yes, An Epic Around-The-World Train Trip Actually Exists!

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Welcome to the weekly installment of Travel News, where we look back at this week’s articles and essays and what’s going on in the world of trips and tours.

First, our favorites: it’s that time of year again when magazines are releasing their best countries to visit in 2020: Lonely Planet kicking off the trend, as usual. 

Then, with cruise season just around the corner, Conde Nast says you should Spend the Holidays on a Cruise this Year—because, basically, whether the kids are older or still believe in Santa Claus, don’t you want to give them a Christmas they’ll keep talking about for many Christmases to come?

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Go solo or with a partner discovering the Best New Orleans River Cruises. With scenic cruising, New Zealand checks off another tab on the growing list of why this country is just a must go: 8 Reasons Why New Zealand offers the best scenic cruising in the world.

And because you’ve always been secretly wondering: learn what the Most Expensive Bed at Sea costs.

In the world of Travel Tips, Conde Nast returns with a list on the Best Credit Cards with transferable points–so you can save on all those sweet mileage deals. 

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Insert Non Sequitur Here: Learn Why Denmark Put a 120-Year-Old Lighthouse on Rollerblades.

Bingo Boarding. Cross your fingers, Gatwick and Easyjet are pairing up for a trial of “Bingo Boarding.” This is in hopes to speed up the boarding process, starting with boarding people in window seats in the back, then followed by middle then aisle seats. Sounds like a more democratic approach, and it HAS been reducing the wait times by about 10%, so fingers crossed more airlines adopt this practice. The BBC quoted a spokesman from Gatwick saying: “Passengers can be seated until their seat number comes up on the large screen and then board the aircraft without queuing.” Wow, waiting without queuing – imagine that.

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And Yes, An Epic Around-The-World Train Trip Actually Exists! Train enthusiasts around the world can see 15 countries across 4 continents in an epic 57 days. Beginning in Chicago, you make your way to New York, then hop on a Transatlantic flight to London. Board the Eurostar then it’s Paris, through Geneva, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Prague, Hamburg, and up to Scandinavia for stops in Copenhagen and Stockholm–then St. Petersburg and Moscow. Zoom across to Mongolia and China to see Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Jump across the pond to Australia from a major 3-night journey from Perth to Sydney. Then back into the USA for a tour of southwestern parks like Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, and Capitol Reef. Cap off the trip back to Chicago!

This epic journey starts at a price tag of $19,079, and includes every night in the train and hotel, sightseeing and 52 meals. Flights, though, are booked separately. Truly a unique way to see the world. Departs every since Thursday through 2020, so all board!

Live in Portland, OR or nearby? Call your travel agent at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. 

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