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Chile’s Jewel of the Pacific: Valparaiso

Perhaps no other city in Chile casts a spell as mesmerising as the port city Valparaiso. Certainly, it strikes a dramatic pose, nestled on a thin strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and 43 steep, rolling hills. You might think it’s a wonder that settlers built a city on this terrain at all! But as you stroll its narrow, labyrinthine streets—among mansions that cling to their once-grandiose days, stunning ocean views, and hard-working porteños taking a break over cafecitos (small black coffees) in cafés—you will be very glad they did.

Indeed, Valparaiso—or Valpo to those in the know—is nothing if not authentic and romantic. Chilean native and Nobel prize winning poet Pablo Neruda regaled the city in his works Canto General and I Confess that I Have Lived. In return, proud locals honoured him on his 100th birthday by “composing” the world’s largest poem, an epic collection of contributions from Chileans that scrolled 65 feet long and three feet wide. Other artists have been similarly inspired: the city’s rich street art—huge colourful and beautifully wrought paintings that cover the sides of buildings—appears at every turn. And a host of world-class museums dot the cityscape.

Founded in 1536 by a Spanish conquistador, Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site celebrated for its improvised urban design of late 19th century hillside structures and seaport architecture. The most glorious buildings were constructed during its heyday, when it was a major stopover for ships sailing between the Atlantic and Pacific. Immigrants from Britain, Germany, and Italy poured into the city during this boom, each bringing its distinctive culture and architectural styles into its own hillside neighbourhood. When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, the ships and the people stopped coming, but the city remains Chile’s second most important port and today is affectionately known as “Little San Francisco” for its many hills.

Its historic center is a maze of winding cobbled streets, all of it overlooked by towering cliffs crowned with richly textured suburbs. These hilltop residences are linked to the barrios below by steep stairways or by ascensores, or funiculars. No matter how you decide to ascend, you’ll marvel at spectacular vistas, but riding the funicular is rightly heralded as Valparaiso’s most distinctive and thrilling experiences.

Though they are traditionally called elevators, only one of the city’s renowned funiculars runs in a true vertical direction. The rest carry visitors and locals alike up angled tracks. The original ascensores, introduced in the 1880s, ran on steam. As many as 28 have operated since and about a dozen still operate. Fifteen have been declared National Historical Monuments as local organisations work to ensure that they continue to play an active role in the city’s rich heritage.

You’ll fall under the spell of Valparaiso during our new Natural Wonders of Bolivia & Chile small group tour. Join us!

Gate 1 ConnectionsTravel Tips

Top 10 Friendliest Cities in the World

Hello and warmest welcomes to our list of the friendliest cities in the world. Let’s be honest, sometimes travel can be a little uncomfortable and stressful, especially in a new location. A helpful culture, friendly people and beautiful sights all help make you feel at home in a new city and may even help contribute to making it your new favourite vacation spot!

10. Thimphu, Bhutan
Welcome to the tiny, magical kingdom of Bhutan, located in-between India and China. Tradition and independence reign supreme in Bhutan and you will see that instantly in the people who live here. The capital city of Thimphu gives you the perfect taste of what Bhutan is all about. This city is located in the Himalayas and is extremely isolated from outside cultures, meaning it has largely kept its authenticity. Thimphu is the most modern in the entire country and boosts a great amount of sights to see. A great thing to do here is to surround yourself with temples and courtyards that will make you feel just like a local. Top attractions here include the Dochula, a mountain pass through the Himalayas and Simtokha Dzong, an important historic building and former Buddhist monastery, Do not forget to be on the lookout for the rare national animal; the Tazin.

9. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Travel along the beautiful Sea-to-Sky Highway to get to alluring Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada. This town is a true homage to Victorian charm, through the architecture and genuine nature of the locals. It is also the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest, which means its has a lot of history stretching back thousands of years. British and Asian traditions are also prominent here thanks to the cities past involvements with trading and British rule. While in Victoria, you will want to visit Beacon Hill Park, Butchart Gardens and the Royal BC Museum. Perhaps stop in Canada’s oldest Chinatown and indulge in a delicious snack! Perhaps you’ll enjoy a stroll or have a meal along the Victoria Harbour and take in the view of the Parliament Building along the water. Victoria, British Columbia welcomes you and you will be greeted with a warm embrace!

8. Hoi An, Vietnam
The ancient town of Hoi An, Vietnam will give you a feel for the culture as soon as you get here. Many of the people in this city still wear the “ao dais” or cultural dress of the Vietnamese. Hoi An is bursting with tradition, given its past as an important Asian training port. This city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has an impressive collection of canals, pagodas, temples, bridges and shops in the Old Quarter. While in Hoi An, be sure to visit the Organic Village where you can enjoy vegetables and herbs grown in the area to support the local community. This town has no airport or train station so you will oftentimes land in the airport of Da Nang and drive to Hoi An, but it is worth it! Warm weather, happy people and a city with much to do will make Hoi An a new favourite of yours.

7. Savannah, Georgia, United States
Welcome to the “Belle of the South” Savannah, Georgia, and what a beauty this city is. A storied past and numerous landmarks give this city a heart all its own. Historic landmarks you must see in Savannah include Forsyth Park, River Street, the Waving Girl statue and the Cotton Exchange. While here, be sure to keep an eye out for the manicured gardens, historic district, antebellum architecture and horse-drawn carriages, that will transport you to another era. Take a walk down the cobblestone streets at night and get a real feel for the city; breathe in the warm weather and magnificent sights of the South in Savannah.

6. Galway, Ireland
You’ve arrived in the Emerald Isle and we have an excellent spot for you to visit! Galway is a seafaring town in this country that deeply honours tradition. The Gaelic language is alive here and can be observed in the people of this area. When in this city, be on the lookout for folk music, traditional pubs and fun shops. These are all a must to truly understand the character of this city and those who live here. Must see sights in this city include the Eyre Square, River Corrib, Latin Quarter and Galway Cathedral. If you love a city that marches to the beat of its own drum and has a truly unique nature, Galway is a must for you.

5. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is located in the mountainous Himalayas in the region of Northern Thailand. Northern Thailand is said to have a persona and food scene all its own and cannot be compared with the cities in the south. This is due to its close border to Myanmar and Laos and the Lanna inspiration that exists here. This area is rich in character and is very fond of festivals and celebrations! Chiang Mai is a perfect example of the culture of the north and has temples and wats that you will not believe. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Wat Suan Dok and Wat Phra Singh are just a few of the must see attractions. Some things to try and do here that are authentic include sampling local dishes, perhaps Larb, a spicy salad, or Khao Soim, coconut curry soup, enjoying a Thai massage, venturing through Sankampang Street for handicrafts and exploring the temples. Experience for yourself, the spirit and beliefs of Northern Thailand, with a visit to the genuine Chiang Mai.

4. Queenstown, New Zealand 
Queenstown, New Zealand was named for Queen Victoria and is located on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island of this Pacific nation. Queenstown has a rich Maori culture and history of gold-mining that helped shape what this area is today. This city is considered the adventure sports capital of the country and is a perfect place to live like the locals. Bungy-jumping, skydiving, paragliding and zip-lining are all available here. For more natural scenes, Milford Sound, Elington Valley, Mitre Peak and Bowen Falls are some of the few in Queenstown. See excellent views of the city below at Bob’s Peak and view some of the Lord of the Rings filming locations. Be sure to also get acquainted with the downtown of this resort area and perhaps visit a relaxing spa, find a good restaurant or do some exploring! Getting yourself into some adventures in Queenstown is sure to make you feel like a kiwi and meet kiwi friends as well.

3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap is your gateway to the Angkor temples and a unique city all it’s own. It is very probable that the Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat masterpieces brought you here, and that’s an excellent reason. These amazing temples were built by Khmer Kings and were once home to over a million people! These temples are truly a must see for your travel bucket list and are unlike anything you have seen. This city is very popular and safe and has adapted to accommodate travellers. Hotels, restaurants and shopping are all prevalent and excellent in this city. Many of the people of Cambodia are grateful and happy to meet travellers and people from all over the world so do not be afraid to interact! The Cambodians have had a fascinating and sometimes horrific history but they are more than happy to share their country, as well as ancient sights, with the world.

2Dublin, Ireland
Dublin, Ireland is one of those cities that is always a good idea and will always provide travellers with a good time. Whether you are walking around, exploring sights or having a drink in the pub at night, this city is full of excitement, singing and people enjoying themselves. Some of the must see sights in Dublin include Trinity College, Guinness Storehouse, O’Connell Street and St. Stephen’s Green. If you are looking for a place to enjoy a drink, eat Irish fare or do a little shopping, head down to the Temple Bar area. This area can get a bit touristy and crowded, so do not be afraid to spend a little time here and move on to another area. If you are looking for an authentic Irish experience, this is one of the best places in the country to find it! Have a bowl of Irish Stew with a local or listen to an Irish folk band at the pub and you are sure to feel more green.

1. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Hola! Welcome to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. This location tops the list thanks to its impressive history, friendly people, tasty restaurants and easy exploration of the city by foot. San Miguel de Allende also has a large ex-pat community that can make you feel more at home. The city itself is best known for it’s Colonial-era and Spanish architecture and intertwining history with Mexico’s Independence. Cobblestone streets, majestic churches and plentiful parks and gardens help add to the perfection of this story-book city. Here, you will feel safe, enjoy a friendly and exciting place and have a stress-free time exploring the sights. While in this city, be sure to visit Parroquia de San Migual Arcangel, Juarez Park and the Artisan Market to get a feel for this area. Do not be afraid to walk in this city, it is very safe and effortless to explore on foot.

Travel Tips

10 crazy superstitions from around the world

Have you ever wondered where superstitions come from? And why they’re so wildly different from country to country?

While we weren’t able to track down an explanation for them all, there are certainly some colourful ones to consider.

Our personal favourite comes from Hungary: if you sing at the dinner table, you will marry a madman. Even Hungarians don’t know where this comes from but they’re still not singing over their supper.


Read on for 10 superstitions from around the world:

1. China: The number four is bad luck

Why? The Chinese word for for four (pinyin) sounds similar to the word for death. Real estate agents and car salesmen find this particularly problematic as Chinese customers generally avoid buying anything with this number in it, or with numbers that add up to four.

2. Ancient Sumeria (now Southern Iraq): If you spill salt, you will have an argument. To avoid this argument, you need to throw salt over your left should to ‘blind the devil’.

Why? Around 3500 BC, the ancient Sumerians first took to nullifying the bad luck of spilled salt by throwing a pinch of it over their left shoulders. This ritual spread to the Egyptians, the Assyrians and later, the Greeks. Spilling salt was considered bad luck because it was very expensive.

3. Europe: Black cats are unlucky

Why? During the Middle Ages, people in many parts of Europe thought black cats were the ‘familiars’ or companions of witches, or even witches themselves in disguise, and that a black cat crossing your path was an indication of bad luck and a sign that the devil was watching you.

4. Europe: Leaving shoes on the table is bad luck and welcomes death

Why? It’s believed that this belief may be tied to the mining industry. When miners passed away, their relatives would bring their shoes into the home and place them on the table.

5. Europe: Don’t cut your nails on a Friday or Sunday

Why? According to an old European superstition, you should never cut your fingernails on a Sunday. If you did, people would gossip about you and the devil would follow you for a week. Cutting your fingernails was considered ‘work’ and also an activity related to vanity, both forbidden on the day of rest.

Cutting your nails on a Friday was equally unlucky. It was said bad luck and sorrow would strike the home if anyone in the household dared to cut their fingernails on a Friday.

Even the Vikings had strong concerns about fingernails. It was believed there was a ship called Naglfar (nail-ferry) that was made solely from fingernails and toenails taken from dead humans. No dead man was to be buried with uncut fingernails. Every precaution had to be made to ensure that corpses did not supply more material for building the Naglfar.

6. Armenia: When someone is travelling abroad, throw water out the front door as they leave for good luck.

Why? So that the person’s journey will run as smoothly as the flow of water.

7. China: If you leave grains of rice in your bowl, every one will be a pockmark on your husband’s face

Why? Rice is a basic staple food and wasting it is considered bad luck.

8. France: It’s bad luck to lie a baguette upside down

Why? This superstition dates back to the Medieval era when capital punishment was still carried out by an executioner.

On the day of the execution, the executioner didn’t have time to go to the bakery to pick up his daily loaf of bread. Thus, the baker would reserve a loaf for him. In order to distinguish his bread from everyone else’s, the baker would turn one loaf upside down.

9. Europe: Wearing opals is bad luck if you’re not born in October

Why? Medieval Europeans feared opals because they resemble the ‘Evil Eye’ and bear a superficial likeness to the optical organs of cats, toads, snakes, and other common creatures with hellish affiliations.

10. Cuba and Ireland: Don’t leave a rocking chair rocking when you get up off it

Why? The Irish have always believed that rocking an empty rocking chair welcomes evil spirits into the home. The spirits fill the empty seat that you’re rocking and fill the home with dark forces and bad luck. Bizarrely, Cubans believe the same thing via African ‘glory’ beliefs.

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10 Unmissable Egyptian Experiences

Tour like an Egyptian! Here are 10 extraordinary things you can only do in the land of the Pharoahs.

1.Exotic breakfast foods

Say goodbye to boring cereal and hello to foul medame, one of the most delicious breakfast foods on earth. Made from cooked broad beans, this traditional dish is usually served alongside boiled eggs, fresh pita bread, falafel, a side salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a feta-like cheese called mish. The beauty of this meal is that it’s low-GI and packed with nutrients so it will give you loads of energy for the day ahead.

2. Bellydancing

Egypt is home to Raqs Sharqi, otherwise known as traditional Arabic folk dancing. While many people are familiar with the glitzier performance style popular in restaurants in Cairo, there is also a strong culture of what’s called a baladi; a group dance that is central to Arabic celebrations such as weddings.

3. Swimming, snorkelling and diving

The warm waters of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are home to teeming marine life, making them among the top scuba diving sites in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a diver – there’s plenty to see with a snorkel. The Red Sea is renowned for its high salt concentration (approximately 35 per cent saltier than most seas) which makes it extremely easy to float. Many people claim the mineral content in the water is good for rheumatism and arthritis – bonus!

4. Cruise the Nile

The Nile is the longest river in the world, with the northernmost section flowing through Egypt and into the Mediterranean. Cruise through the fertile delta of the Nile Valley and witness the birthplace of Egyptian civilisation. The rich alluvial soils and plentiful water in this area allowed people to grow crops and settle in one place, signalling a critical shift from a nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural society.

5. Temples

Egypt has a temple for everything. In true Indiana Jones fashion, you can tiptoe through some seriously ancient architecture. Make sure you head to the temple complex of Karnak, the Temple of Edfu – devoted to Horus, the falcon-headed god of war – and the Greco-Roman Temple of Kom Ombo.

6. Haggle at the markets

Head to a market and test out your haggling skills. In amongst souvenirs, the real gems are jalabeyas, traditional dress-like garments worn by both men and women. The women’s versions come in a range of colours with embroidery and beading. Stock up on comfy leather slippers, woven Bedouin blankets, boxes inlaid with geometric patterns and silver jewellery.

7. Visit the Pyramids of Giza

The last remaining wonder of the ancient world, the three pyramids at Giza were built by three Pharaohs approximately 4500 years ago. Scientists still can’t be sure how they built them (and alien conspiracists think that there was intergalactic intervention) but one thing you can be sure of is that they are big. The largest pyramid is147 metres high and is made from 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing between 2.5 and 15 tonnes.

8. Visit the Valley of the Kings, Luxor

Home to the tomb of Tutankhamun, this archaeological site contains 63 known tombs and chambers. While many of the treasures were looted in the 18th Century, the hieroglyphics depicting Egyptian funeral rites remain.

9. Check out the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

You’ve seen the temples and tombs; now get a good look at the items that were found in them. Enjoyed an air-conditioned stroll past some serious antiques including gold jewellery, eating bowls, mummies, toys and Tutankhamun’s treasures.

10. Visit White Desert National Park
If you prefer your monuments nature-made, White Desert National Park’s chalk columns and quartz and fossil-littered valleys are sure to inspire awe. Home to the famous Crystal Mountain – a monolith made from quartz – this desert is unlike any other with its ghostly chalk outcrops.

Want a tour that captures all of the above and more? Check out Gate 1 Travel’s new 12 Day Classic Egypt with 7 Day Nile Cruise here. Also you can save $100 per person on your booking when you quote promo code EGYPT2019 by the 31st of March, 2019.

Gate 1 ConnectionsInspirationLatin America

The Mysteries of the Atacama

Chile’s Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth. Yet it is teeming with beauty and plenty of surprises. Our Discovery Tours small group takes you to its fascinating heart, where you’ll gain remarkable insight into its wildness, its history, and its culture. Here’s what we find most fascinating about this mysterious place. We look forward to sharing it with you during our new Natural Wonders of Bolivia & Chile small group tour.

  • This vast desertscape stretches for some 49,000 square miles between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Scientists believe the Atacama saw no significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971. Further, they call it the oldest desert on earth—at least three million years old!
  • The landscape has been compared to that found on Mars, so much so that movie crews have used it to stand in for the Red Planet and NASA has tested out some of their Mars rovers on its terrain.
  • The metallic-blue lakes of Miñiques and Miscanti were once one large lake, until lava flow from an eruption of the Miñiques volcano separated the two. Today, they occupy a starkly beautiful landscape that is home to flora and fauna found nowhere else.
  • Remarkably, about a million people call the Atacama Desert home. The vast majority of them live along the coast. But inland, people still eke out a living in tiny villages such as Socaire, Machuca, and Toconao. The latter boasts a welcoming market of textiles made from alpaca and other handicrafts, as well as a striking bell tower that is pure Atacama in its architectural style. 
  • With its clear skies, high elevation, and freedom from light pollution, the Atacama is one of the world’s best spots for stargazing. As conditions permit, you’ll visit an observatory and turn your gaze skyward with an astronomer.
  • At the desert’s edge, a 12th-century pre-Inca fortress provides remarkable insight into an ancient civilisation while the site of Tulor, with its circular dwellings, lets you imagine life here as long as 2,000 years ago.
  • Geysers, hot springs, mud pools, and fumaroles steam and bubble and burst forth from the earth at the Atacama’s El Tatio geyser field, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the third largest in the world.
  • Wind and time have sculpted the jagged contours of Moon Valley and Death Valley, a pair of geological wonders rich in vast breathtaking landscapes and colours.
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Italy’s North: A Cornucopia for Food Lovers

If you think Tuscany has the last word on Italian cuisine, think again. The nation’s less-visited regions to the north—Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna—boast their own bounty of mouthwatering, fresh-from-the-earth specialties. Journey with us on our Cinque Terre, Parma, Bologna & Lakes small group tour and you can sample them to your heart’s—and your appetite’s—content.

Lake Maggiore straddles Italy’s Lombardy and Piedmont provinces. Ringed by alpine vistas, the country’s second largest lake enjoys a mild climate that is ideal for Mediterranean gardens that yield abundant crops. This comes as no surprise when you learn that many of Europe’s standard agricultural policies were formulated in 1958 in Stresa, the charming town situated on the lakeshore and your home for two nights.

Throughout your stay, one of the region’s most significant sources of food is spread out before your very eyes: Lake Maggiore itself. People have been living off its bounty for generations, and nowhere is this more pronounced than on Isola dei Pescatori, or Fisherman’s Island, the tiny island that is named after the vocation of its inhabitants. Here, the lake still provides. Fishermen still head out each day and deliver their catch to local restaurants. And restaurants still serve some of the freshest fish you will likely taste. It is a joy not only to sample simple yet special dishes for lunch here, but to witness a culture that seems to have been lost to the passage of time.

A bit farther west, the expansive farmlands and vineyards of Piedmont gently roll toward Switzerland to the north and France to the west. It took the rest of the world a while to catch up with this agrarian-focused region: it has been living the “slow food” movement for decades. This is the land of rice, vineyards and cattle. Water-soaked rice fields here might make you think you’ve stepped into an Asian nation but make no mistake. This is the stuff of risotto, Italy’s creamy and heavenly dish. The area’s farms also produce some of the finest cuts of beef, perfect for the boiled-meat dishes, bollito misto and vitello tonato.

Piedmont is also renowned as one of Italy greatest wine-growing regions, with more than half of its vineyard registered with a DOC designation. The legendary Nebbiolo grape is native to Piedmont and is said to be named for that which makes it so unique: Nebbia means “fog” in English and during harvest season a thick mist settles over the Langhe region where the grapes are grown. Famously, the Nebbiolo grape produces the revered Barolo wine. Cherasco, La Morra, Barbaresco, and Neive are also made here—each coming from an eponymous town.

In your small group, you have the chance to linger in local cellars to learn how some coveted wines are made. But none will be so impressive as one of the “cathedral cellars” of Canelli, birthplace of Italy’s famed sparkling wine, Asti. These cellars were designed to hold millions of fermenting bottles and are so central to the local culture that they are being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Nearby in the region of Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s richest gastronomies flavors everyday life. Pasta dishes take center stage here and roll off the tongue as easily as they slide down the gullet: tortellini, lasagna, tagliatelle, garganelli, strozzapreti. In Modena and Reggio Emilia, the world’s finest balsamic vinegar is made to the strictest procedures bound by law. The beloved specialty is made from grape must and the most exquisite bottles are aged for 25 years or more. There is no more succulent way to enjoy it than with two other specialties of the area: Parmesan cheese from Parma and prosciutto from a local farm, which you will have the chance to do.

The center of Emilia-Romagna’s food scene is Bologna, the region’s capital. One visit and you will know one thing for certain: The Bolognesi people know how to eat. Aside from its vibrant arts and music scene—the city was the European Capital of Culture in 2000 and was named a UNESCO City of Music in 2006—its citizens enormously benefit from their city’s location in the fertile Po River Valley. Bolognese sauce was invented here and the custard-like torta di riso is a favorite way to end any meal. You can browse the fresh ingredients of one of Europe’s most celebrated cuisines at the Quadrilatero, Bologna’s oldest food market. Traditional shops abound here. As you explore you will be regaled with stories from the market’s rich history and culture and sample a delicious array of specialties. Among them, savor small plates known as cicchetti, the Venetian answer to Spanish tapas.

Of course, one cannot wrap up a foodie tour of northern Italy without sipping its famous sweet wine, prosecco. Though this lovely wine originated in its namesake village outside Trieste on the Slovenian border, it is enjoyed throughout northern Italy, either on its own or as part of a spritz cocktail. We’ll be sure you raise a glass of it as we toast the culinary treasures you’ve enjoyed during our new Cinque Terre, Parma, Bologna & Lakes tour!

Take a Companion for 50% Off any Italy or Spain escorted tour when you book by the 19th of February, 2019. Simply quote the promo code FBVAL19A at the time of booking to apply the discount to the tour.

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Gaudi & Dali: Spain’s Modern Masters

Among the many pleasures of visiting Spain, art lovers especially revel in the ability to witness a millennium’s worth of the world’s greatest masterpieces. Two masters stand out—famed modernista Antoni Gaudi and surrealist Salvador Dali. The former was an architect and the latter a painter, and their work seems dissimilar at a glance. But Gaudi’s influence on Dali, and the fact that both created work that shattered conventional ideas of what art could be, link them in art history as Spain’s rebellious artists.

Gaudi: The Singular Saint

Gaudi was part of the modernistas, Catalan modernists who believed art played two roles: to defy bourgeois conformity and to create change in society. Gaudi created works that elevated the influence of nature in the man-made, reflected his faith, and resist rules of symmetry and restraint that had previously defined “good taste.”

Born in 1852, he studied architecture but never managed to impress his teachers. He had the last laugh, as he designed the otherworldly Sagrada Familia Cathedral (a work still in progress!), the vividly tiled Parc Guell, countless mansions, and even the ornate signature streetlamps of Barcelona. Seven of his creations are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Unfortunately, his face was not as easily recognized as his buildings. In 1926, after he was struck by a streetcar, he was mistaken for a beggar and couldn’t convince a taxi to take him to the hospital. When a policeman finally removed him from the scene, he was left at the pauper’s ward, and his friends couldn’t find him until the next day. But as a display of solidarity with the poor, he refused to be moved to better conditions.

He died there a few days later, and the outpouring of grief was profound: it was reported that half of Barcelona’s citizenry donned black and took to the streets on the day of his funeral.

Dali: The Surreal View

Salvador Dali was born a half-century after Gaudi, and by the time he was studying art, the influence of the modernistas was waning. Expelled from art school, he threw himself into experimenting with cubism and dadaism, and met kindred spirits in Miro and Picasso. It was in Surrealism, a movement which revived and reframed the values of the modernistas, that he found his visual language.

With the melting clocks of his most famous work, “The Persistence of Memory,” he put surrealism on the global map, joining the pantheon of Spanish masters. He was exhibited in Paris and New York and beyond, and held a special affinity for the US: The artist lived in the states during World War II, worked on a scene for Albert Hitchcock, and even appeared in a US film commercial.

His time away from his native Spain allowed him to escape controversy at home. Dali was a staunch supporter of fascist leader General Francisco Franco, who he said brought “clarity, truth and order” to Spain. Despite the limited success of his paintings in the final decades of his life, he was indeed seen as one of the most important artists of the century.

A few years before he died, Dali was asked to write the foreword to a biography of Gaudi. In doing so, he paid tribute not only to his predecessor but to his own work, and he wasn’t a bit modest in his assessment. He wrote, “Gaudi is a genius; so am I.”

Learn more about these fascinating artists during our new France & Spain: History, Culture & Wine small group trip.

Latin America

Colombia: Welcoming Culture, Colonial Splendor & Magnificent Beauty

If one place in all of Colombia symbolises how far the country has come since its founding, it is The Vaults in the gorgeous Caribbean city of Cartagena. These age-old archways once housed armaments and, later, prisoners. Today, they brim with color and vibrant energy, a thriving artisans’ center overflowing with creativity, life and handicrafts lovingly made by locals so that their culture can endure.

Wandering the colorful shops and stalls of the The Vaults, it’s easy to see how a long and sometimes tumultuous history has given way to life everlasting, how past civil unrest has blossomed into creative freedom. Such is life in all of Colombia. We’ll come back to Cartagena in a moment; it is, after all, the perfect place to begin and end any discussion about this remarkable, phoenix-like country. But first, join us in this edition of Connections as we delve more deeply into this South American success story.

Bogota: Athens of South America

“Mi casa es su casa.”  It’s a greeting you’re likely to hear wherever you go in Colombia with Gate 1 Travel. Indeed, surrounded by warm and welcoming people, you’ll quickly feel at home here. The truth is, it’s a place that surpasses all travelers’ expectations – full of eye-opening surprises and lush, emerald green valleys and mountains. These days, locals and visitors alike are fond of saying that there is only one risk in traveling to Colombia, and that’s the risk of wanting to stay.

The bustling capital city of Bogotaprovides a great introduction to Colombian traditions and culture. Often called “The Athens of South America,” it boasts many universities and libraries and more than 60 museums and galleries. Its heady mix of old and modern make it one of the most dynamic and engaging cities in the world.

The historic La Candelaria colonial district is a great place to peer into its rich past. Spanish Colonial, baroque and Art Deco architecture span the centuries here. Home to half a dozen universities, it is also the proud host of the Botero Museum, dedicated to the work of Fernando Botero, who made a name for himself by creating humorous political critiques. The Gold Museum is also here, a collection of more than 36,000 pre-Columbian pieces, one of the largest of its kind. One of its highlights is the diminutive Muisca Raft, believed to have ties to the legendary lost city of El Dorado.

To mingle with Bogotanos, take a walk around the Bolivar Square, or step into a game of Tejo, the national pastime that you’re likely to witness throughout the city. The game originated with the ancient Chibcha people and involves throwing a metal disc across a 60-foot-long playing space at a target that’s been marked on a board. 

Zona Cafetera: Land of Coffee and Incredible Beauty 

Colombia is a country of breathtaking beauty, and few places prove this like the Cocora Valley.Soaring mountains, sweeping valleys and vast swathes of coffee plants dominate the landscape of Los Nevados National Park here, supporting a rich array of bird life from tiny hummingbirds to yellow-eared parrots. But one feature in the valley stands tall above all others: the towering wax palm trees. These are the tallest palms in the world, reaching up to 200 feet. 

The town of Salentois nearby and visiting here is like stepping back in time. There was a time when the main route to Bogota passed right through here. But when the road was diverted elsewhere, development stopped, leaving Salento to make a name for itself around its untouched architecture and its relaxed way of life. It beautiful buildings and colorful balconies invite you to linger a little while.

Once you arrive in Manizales, you’ll want to linger a longwhile … over its perfectly roasted coffee. Here, in the heart of Colombia’s Zona Cafetera, you’ll learn that there’s more to java than what you drip into your pot. Our tour of a coffee plantation reveals the subtle aromas and flavors that go into the perfect cup. It may be no surprise that Manizales produces so many coffee beans; this is a dramatically fertile place, a verdant patchwork of green parks, mountain views and flowing rivers. During your visit, you can visit the massive Cathedral of Manizales and admire its elaborate gold canopy and huge stained-glass windows.

Medellin: City of Eternal Spring 

Earlier, we mentioned Cartagena’s Vaults as a symbol of Colombia’s turnaround from its darker days. But nestled in the Aburra Valley, surrounded by steep-sloped mountains, the city of Medellinis the true success story. It has not only rid itself of undesirable factions; it has re-imagined itself into an innovative city that serves all its citizens amidst a landscape of green parks, public art and contemporary architecture. Its most distinct feature is the public transit system, part below ground and part above. Look upward, and you’ll see gondolas – locally known as the “metrocable” – floating in the mountain air, conveying commuters between their mountainside homes and the city below. Without them, it would take hours for many people to get to work on zig-zagging byways and congested, exhaust-filled streets. This lofty transportation system has been heralded by the United Nations as an example of smart adaptation to growing populations. You can experience the metrocable for yourself when you ascend into the hills to visit two of its small colonial towns: Santo Domingo, home to an ultra-modern library complex, and St. Elena, where the city’s rich Silleteros tradition endures in its still-thriving flower production.

It is a fascinating city that’s worth a closer look, made all the more pleasant by its temperate climate that has earned it the nickname “The City of Eternal Spring.” Its main plaza, the Parque de Bolivar, is anchored by the Metropolitan Cathedral, a vision of Romanesque wonder. Botero Plaza celebrates the city’s native son, adorned with the artist’s huge metal sculptures. And in the upscale Poblado district, known locally as Las Manzanas de Oro, or the Golden Apples, you can explore tiny shops and green parks.

Cartagena: Colonial Caribbean Treasure

Cartagena is quite distinct from the rest of Colombia, with its scenic setting on the Caribbean Sea. It is arguably one of the continent’s cultural treasures, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site for its intact historic walled city and maze of cobbled alleys. Tropical and colorful and full of life, it is rich with incredible architecture. Its sprawling fortifications that once protected it from marauding pirates are the most extensive in South America. The city’s colonial district is graced by colorful balconied buildings, the Santo Domingo Church (with its unusually wide central nave and stunning baroque altar) and the Plaza de Bolivar, a haven of large shade trees. The city’s Gold Museum boasts a significant collection from the pre-Hispanic period.

Then there are The Vaults, known locally as Las Bovedas. The history of these arcaded dungeons dates back 200 years, when Spaniards built them as storage units for munitions and supplies, only to have them converted to prisons. At high tide, prisoners had sea water up to their knees. They embody a fascinating story of Colombia, reflecting a country that was founded by conquest, bolstered by coffee, tarnished by conflict, only to rise up as one of the world’s most intriguing destinations, rich with a welcoming and vibrant culture, magnificent architecture and spectacular beauty.

Our Tour Managers Know Colombia Because They ARE Colombian

There’s nothing like a local to show you around. When you join Gate 1 Travel in Colombia, you’re in the good hands of some of the most welcoming and knowledgeable Tour Managers in the world. Simply spend an hour with any of our experts onsite and you’ll quickly see that the only thing they love more than their country is introducing Gate 1 travelers to it. They know their cities and towns inside out, and will lead you to the most fascinating corners where Colombian culture comes to life.

And of course, you’ll enjoy the signature Gate 1 value as you settle in to comfortable, centrally located accommodations, savor delicious Colombian cuisine and participate in a generous array of included activities.

Join Gate 1 Travel in Colombia and experience its colorful culture, genuine hospitality and rich history firsthand!

Mediterranean

Black Sea Treasures of an Ottoman Past

When you journey along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, you are tracing the routes of ancient traders. The Silk Road wound its way through this scenic region, linking the West and the East. Merchants stopped along the way to exchange goods such as spices, amber, leather and metal trinkets forged in fire. Some passed through on camel or horseback with their sights set on long treks over vast lands. Others headed to Black Sea shores to embark northbound ships to Crimea, Russia, and beyond. Today, this history-rich area reveals numerous secrets of its past, while boasting extreme natural beauty.

Our small group can explore this intoxicating region on an intimate scale. Our base is the small city of Safranbolu, named after the coveted saffron spice that is grown here still. Its Old Town, also known as Çarşi, is a treasure trove of remarkably preserved, red-roofed Ottoman-period houses. Their authenticity has earned the city its prestigious status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Browsing the timber-framed facades here and strolling its cobbled streets transports you back to an enchanting time. For an up-close look at daily life, we stop at the Kaymakamlar Museum House. The former home of a lieutenant-colonel, it is a showcase of typical Safranbolu living adorned with pretty ceiling decoration.

You’ll get a sample of Safranbolu’s days as a stop on the Silk Road during a visit to its thriving bazaar. Ironsmiths, shoemakers, weavers, carpet makers, wood carvers, and countless other vendors have set up shop here for centuries. To help both ancient and modern visitors find their way, many streets are named for the merchants that line them. The indoor Cinci Han Caravanserai, too, is steeped in the city’s market history. Today, this imposing structure is a hotel boasting vaulted ceilings and a fine courtyard. But it was originally built as a stopover where travelling merchants showed off their goods and rested from long journeys.

We witness another facet of local life during a visit to a Yörük Village, a living museum of residential structures originally inhabited by the nomadic Yörük people. This fascinating collection of houses, many of them quite grand, stand two or three stories tall. Upper floors were used as living quarters while the lower floors feature the kitchen, storage, stables, and the hayat, an open area where domestic tasks were performed.

Nearby, the region’s natural beauty is on display at the Incekaya Aqueduct. The canyon’s latest attraction is not for faint-hearted, a glass Crystal Terrace fans out over a cliff face some 260 feet above the canyon floor. A considerably older structure, the magnificent Incekaya Aqueduct, also seems to defy gravity as it spans the equally beautiful Tokatli Canyon. Built in the 1790s at the command of the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, this towering bridge once supplied water to Safranbolu.

Turkey’s Black Sea region is a feast for the senses, a fascinating corner steeped in Ottoman culture, tradition, and history. We hope you will join us during our Turkish Odyssey adventure so you can experience it for yourself! Plus, book by 31 January 2019 to save $300 per person on our published prices. Enter or quote promo code: CNDSCV300A at the time of booking.

 

Mediterranean

Cruise the Magnificent Turkish Riviera

Spectacularly scenic with deep blue waters ringed by jagged mountains, the coastal city of Fethiye is one of Turkey’s true gems. During its 12th-century heyday, when it was known as Makri, it was a producer of perfumes and a major commercial centre with an active port of cargo ships coming and going. Even farther back, the ancient city of Telmessos was here. Suffice to say, Fethiye’s monuments to its rich past span the ages. Echoes of its history are present in the city’s scenic marina and in the aromatic bazaars overflowing with lokum (Turkish delight), dates, and spices.

But it’s Fethiye’s coastal splendour that keeps visitors coming back. Little wonder: Sailors, fishermen, and traders have been basking in in its intense beauty for millennia.

In our Discovery Tours small group, we explore these spectacular shores to full advantage on a traditional wooden Turkish yacht, or gület, privately chartered just for us! Our full-day cruise on this beautiful sailing vessel sets out into the Gulf of Fethiye, sailing among an archipelago of 12 breathtaking islands.

All you need to do is settle in, relax, and drink in the splendid vistas from the uncrowded deck. Because our gület is small, we can duck into small coves lined with sandy beaches and dive into the warm waters for a swim or a snorkel, as we may do off of Yassicalar (Flat Island) or in Akvaryum Koyu (Aquarium Bay). We drop anchor at Tersane Adasi (Shipyard Island) to explore some fascinating ancient ruins and indulge in the mud baths of Kizilada (Red Island). Plus, you’ll savour a delicious lunch of local delicacies as you explore. It’s the most relaxed and unhurried way to take in one of the world’s most picturesque coastlines.

For your comfort and convenience, all snorkelling equipment and towels are provided by the crew and you can choose a deck seat in a sun-lounger or enjoy the shade under a canopy.

Join us for a coastal adventure unlike any other! We invite you to explore the stunning Turkish Riviera during our 13 Day Turkish Odyssey adventure!