Tag Archives: winter

Holiday Hours, Open House + Hot Cocoa Recipes


Wishing you a Happy Holidays from Everyone here at Willamette Intl Travel!

Special Holiday Hours

Friday, December 23: Open 8am to 1pm.
Monday, December 26: Office is closed.
Friday, December 30: Open 8am to 3:30pm.
Monday, January 2: Office is closed.

Emergency Assistance: If you have booked a trip through Willamette Intl Travel and have an emergency, call 503-224-0180 for our 24/7 assistance.

Holiday Open House

We’re hosting a holiday open house at our office!

We hope you’ll come by to meet us in person! There will be refreshments throughout the day. Everyone stopping by will receive a gift as well as the chance to win a $250 gift certificate from Delta Vacations, along with a piece of luggage! All staff will be there—you can meet our new staff members, and let us “originals” thank you personally for being so supportive for over 39 years. Several of our preferred vendors will also be dropping in, so you may have the pleasure of meeting the faces “behind the brochures.” Who knows, this may become a tradition for our next 40 years!


3 Hot Chocolate Recipes Around the World

Feeling cozy this Holiday Season? Here are a few of our favorite atypical hot chocolate recipes around the World:

Hungarian Paprika Hot Chocolate
It wouldn’t be Hungarian without some paprika! We bet you haven’t tried this interesting recipe yet. Throw in some white pepper and smoked paprika and go to town.

4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon smoked paprika or Hungarian hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Heat saucepan on medium heat. Combine milk, paprika, white pepper, and cloves together. Head until almost boiling, then add the chocolate until its melted. Whisk to froth and serve.

Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate
Central America is all about the piquant, and this spicy hot cocoa makes a delicious addition to the holiday table.

1 cup milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1 cinnamon stick
2 TB dark chocolate mix
2 TB chocolate chips
3 pitches cayenne paper

Add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon to a pot on medium heat. Whisk together until frothy and nearly boiling. Add hot cocoa mix and chocolate chips, and mix until dissolved.

Indian Chai Hot Chocolate
Chai is an Indian tea drink chock full of spices—so just imagine substituting tea for chocolate!

2 TB grated chocolate chips
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp  ground cardamom
1 whole clove
1 whole black peppercorn

Heat milk and water on stove, and whisk in spices. Bring slowly to a boil, whisking occasionally.
Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and remove the clove and pepper.
Whisk more to foam. Remove from heat. Place TB of chocolate each into two mugs. Pour the liquid into the mugs and the chocolate and stir to dissolve.
Spoon a portion of the foam on top.

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Iceland’s Crystal Caves


The Ice Tunnel at Langajökull

Ice Caves in Iceland are truly a unique experience, as they appear only in winter. The summer heat carves out dramatic holes and caverns in the glacier. By late autumn, they freeze again into caves of dazzling beauty, so resplendent that they’ve been dubbed “crystal caves.” Since ice is an ever-changing element, ice caves often change from year to year, or disappear altogether. Officially, the season runs from November to March. 

Iceland is known for its breathtaking and photogenic crystal caves. Streaks of black silt tattoo the brilliant cerulean blue of the ice. Only a handful of reputable guides will take you on an adventure of ice and glaciers—ask your agent at Willamette Intl Travel who they recommend. Continue reading

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Filed under Europe, Iceland, News

Winter Holidays Around the World

A few weeks ago, the agents at Willamette Intl Travel teamed up with our friends at the Portland Floral Institute. We spent the evening weaving wreaths to benefit Our House, a local AIDS hospice. It got us in the mood and since then we’ve just been really excited about the winter holiday season!

So how about the rest of the world? How do cultures across the globe celebrate the wintry season? Today let’s take a look at how other countries or religions get in the spirit:

Bodhi (Dec 8) – Buddhism. Buddhists believe that Buddha achieved Enlightenment on this day. Many cultures celebrate this day differently, but modestly: studying the Dharma, eating cake and tea, or performing kind acts toward others. In Japan, Zen monks stay up the entire evening before meditating and studying sutras.

Photo by Scott skpy. Creative Commons.

Hanukkah (Dec 8-16) – Judaism. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century b.c.e. Jews observe the holiday by lighting the menorah candelabrum—one candle on each of the eight holiday nights. Other common traditions during this time are the eating of latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), the spinning of dreidals and gift-giving.

Saint Lucia Day (Dec 13) – Scandinavia. This is aScandinavian holiday honoring the Catholic Saint Lucia. St. Lucia (283-304 c.e.) is the patron saint of the blind, who died a martyr during the Diocletian persecution. On this day, one girl is elected to portray St. Lucia and dons a white gown, a red sash, and a crown of candles on her head. She leads a procession of similarly clad girls and sings a haunting melody known as Sankta Lucia.

Kwanzaa (Dec 26-Jan 1) – African American. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that honors African heritage in the United States. It was established in the 1960s as a means for African Americans to reconnect with their cultural heritage and celebrate the seven moral principles of unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Kwanzaa is often celebrated with a feast, gift-giving, libations, colorful decoration, the wearing of kaftans by women, and musical and dance performances.

Hogmanay Street Party in Dornoch, photo by John Haslam. Creative Commons.

Hogmanay (Dec 31) – Scotland. Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year’s, celebrated with traditions that stretch back centuries. Some historians believe that the festival was passed on from the Vikings’ celebration of yule. Traditionally, pieces of mistletoe, juniper and holly would be placed around the house to ward off mischievous spirits, and a rowan branch would be set above the door for luck. Nowadays, it is customary to clean one’s house to welcome in the New Year. Nighttime is a time of festivity, feasting, and socializing. The city of Edinburgh celebrates Hogmanay in style—with firework displays, a torchlight procession, and massive bonfires.

Saint Basil’s Day (Jan 1) – Greece. The celebration of St. Basil in Greece originates from the 4th century, during the time of Basil the Archibishop of Caesarea. According to tradition, Basil was a major establisher of the eastern monastic lifestyle, promoting community life, manual labor, liturgical prayer, and the care of the poor and underprivileged. On the evening of St. Basil’s Day, many Greek homes bake a special cake with a coin hidden inside. In the evening, just before midnight strikes, all the lights are turned off for a minute to signify the dawning of a new year. The cake is then cut: one slice for St. Basil, one for each family member, and the largest slice for all the poor people in the world.

There are of course many more winter celebrations, but too many for us to fit here! Want somewhere special to spend your winter weekends? How about the Triple Creek Ranch in Montana? See more details on our blog’s right sidebar or call us up for a chat!

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Book Winter and Spring Travel Now

Call now for winter and spring travel! Make sure your vacation doesn’t get overlooked because of late notice! Generally, fees are lower and availability higher the earlier you book—waiting for a chance fare drop will not help when flying over these peak periods.

Sunny destinations are usually quiet the first 2 weeks in November and the first 10 days of December (sandwiched between the holidays). If you are flexible and want an early winter escape to the sunshine, consider these periods for best pricing and availability.

Airlines typically reduce the number of flights in the winter, except during the periods below when you can expect to pay high fares. Flights have been filling up for the last 6 months—don’t miss out!

Willamette Intl Travel agents are already booking:

  1. Kids flying home for Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks
  2. Christmas/New Year Travel: Key dates are already sold out for lower airfares, so prepare to be flexible on dates!
  3. Spring Break/Easter Break: These periods are already heavily booked—so call us immediately!
  4. Sunny getaway week, February 13-24, 2013; between Valentine’s and President’s Day

 And Alaska: September and early October are terrific times to start planning for Alaska’s 2013 season. Want a cruise? Early birds are rewarded with lowest pricing, best promotions, and variety of inventory. Don’t want a cruise? Our agents design custom itineraries throughout Alaska, with lodges, car rentals, small boat explorations, trains, day trips, etc.

Craving the sun in the gray winters? Head to the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s summer from December to March! Bask in 65-80 degrees F while you:

–          Gaze at the Southern Cross in the Galapagos, Cook Islands, and on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea
–          Wander in the flea markets of Melbourne; Australia is more affordable now than it has been in the last 18 months
–          Go trekking in a natural park in South Africa
–          Feast on fresh empanadas from a café in Buenos Aires

Call us now to book: 503.224.0180 OR email info@wittravel.com.

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