Paragliding into Paradise

As a rush of air lifted our paraglider off the rugged, 1,500-foot cliff, my feet were moving so fast I had no time to think about whether my decision to do this was good or bad. Once airborne, I settled into a sort of strappy jump seat and left my life in the hands of the professional paraglider pilot.

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The scenery was breathtaking, the ride thrilling. Like a giant eagle, we soared with every up and down wind draft and flew effortlessly through the skies above the Gulf of Oman.

This – flying under a nylon sheet – is how I arrived at one of the world’s most luxurious wellness centers. Our bags were transported separately for us as we glided onto the premises of Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman.

It may seem odd to travel 7,500 miles from home to visit a wellness center in the Middle East, but don’t be quick to dismiss the beauty of this vast land and the treatment of cleansing your soul. This unlikely paradise on a desert coast remains a safe destination for travelers.

As I paddle-boarded on the calm gulf waters each day, my mind drifted to thinking, “If this is heaven, let me in.”

Most visitors to this region are residents from Dubai and/or adventure seekers. The Six Senses chain is known for its architecture and sustainable resorts offering ultimate privacy for guests. My beach fortress, complete with private pool, was simply stunning. A personalized choice of pillow, sheets and natural aromatic sleeping scents are all part of the glorious daily experience.

My days began with yummy watermelon juice or any freshly squeezed juice imaginable, followed by a wide variety of mouth-watering cuisines. Yoga, stretching, a massage by a skilled masseuse, and then off to enjoy the water sports … Let’s be serious, who wouldn’t love this?

The setting of this wellness center is truly beautiful. I took advantage of going out on their private yacht to snorkel in and around beautiful coves. We caught our own fish for dinner that evening. How perfect is this, especially when prepared by a fine chef? We saw no other boats or people. This is a place for the rich and famous to escape.

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Gated entry to my private villa with pool at Six Senses resort, Oman

As I departed this heavenly retreat, I left with a better understanding of why wellness centers are a travel destination for many. I arrived without knowing what to expect; somehow, having no expectations can lead to the greatest experiences. This adventure was exactly that.

My wanderlust to travel is a thirst to seek the unusual, so that I can have the knowledge to provide my clients with the best experience their travel investment can provide. If that means I must paraglide into a five-star resort, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make! Contact me – we’ll go places. www.adventureartisans.com

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Brazil – Rich in Culture

If you’ve never been to Brazil, you may know it only for large cities like Rio de Janeiro, site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Recording artist Katy Perry sings rhapsodically about the glamor of vacationing in “Rio.”

The beating heart of Brazil, however, lies in the massive expanses outside its cities. The Amazon River zone encompasses the largest rainforest in the world.

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My visit to Brazil left me with an indelible memory of the eye-popping giant water lilies. They’re just one example of the Amazon’s vast ecosystem. Found in shallow waters, they rank as the largest lilies in the world, with leaves more than 8 feet in diameter. These floating leaves can support up to 70 lbs., and various animals take advantage of that to walk across them in search of food. The lilies cover such a vast area of surface water that little sunlight can reach below, restricting algae growth.

We moved through the Amazon on a small cruise ship, experiencing wonderful wildlife such as pink dolphins, piranha fish, iguanas and parrots. On one of our “Jurassic Park” treks into the jungle, I nearly stepped on a huge tarantula. I saw it just in time. It made us acutely aware that there is as much life on the ground as in the tree canopy. The inhabitants of small villages we visited rely on the river and land for their food sources.

The native musical culture of this region imitates the sounds of the Amazon rainforest. Reed flutes, whistles, horns, rattles and drums are used by the native peoples to create beautiful, unique folk music.

In the second part of the 18th century, a large Portuguese population settled in Minas Gerais, bordering the States of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. This state is home to exquisite colonial and baroque architecture found in quaint, historical towns. Brazilians are proud that three are designated as UNESCO Heritage sites.

One of those Heritage sites, Ouro Preto, became the focal point of Brazil’s Gold Rush. In 1750, it was the most populous city in the New World, with twice the population of New York City cramming its beautiful hills and valleys.

Musical culture flourished during this period, thanks to several outstanding Brazilian composers. Most of their music were sacred pieces likely derived from church influences. After the gold and diamond mining industry diminished, Ouro Preto retained its musical status under the direction of local and Portuguese composers.

The Brazilian culinary experience blends three separate cultures: Portuguese, European and African. Root vegetables are commonly used in their cooking. Brazilian coffee is world-renowned.

If you want to travel to Brazil, you will need a visa. For more information about this fascinating country, you may contact travel consultants Cheryl and Susan at 844-554-6161 or online at www.AdventureArtisans.com

Dubai: A Safe and Fascinating Middle East Destination

krstin-duvoll-sunset-dubaiPicture yourself in my shoes: perched atop a huge sand dune outside Dubai, we take in a spectacular sunset over the Arabian Peninsula. We fantasize the arrival of Lawrence of Arabia on horseback, riding over a sand dune in our direction, hailing us as nomadic Bedouins. An overnight “glamping” experience actually might have given us a 21st-Century version of the desert-dweller Bedouin life. Ah, maybe next time.

My two-day visit was not nearly long enough to fully experience the City of Gold. Many may dismiss Dubai as just a lot of glamorous shopping, and indeed it has plenty of that, but this city is so much more. It is a visual, architectural and culinary dreamscape.

Through the windows of my room at The Address Dubai Mall Hotel, I was captivated by the breathtaking beauty of all the majestic skyscrapers. Just before dining at the exquisite Palace Downtown Hotel, we took in the magical fountain display set against the new Opera House. The illuminated, dancing waters were created by WET Design, the same team that created the iconic fountains outside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Their Dubai water display is the largest choreographed fountain in the world, with geysers rising 500 feet into the air, lit by 6,600 lights. The $218 million display has as a backdrop the famous Burj Khalifa hotel, sparkling like a trillion Swarovski crystals. Beyond spectacular.

You may have seen actor Tom Cruise running up and down the side of the Burj Khalifa Hotel in the “Mission: Impossible” movie, “Ghost Protocol.” It is the tallest structure in the world at 2,717 feet, and Cruise actually did those stunts himself – secured by cables, yes, but still dangling outside the Burj at dizzying heights.

For the culinary arts, Dubai has the finest of chefs, and we just couldn’t get enough of it: authentic local cuisine prepared to perfection, and every restaurant willing and able to accommodate your dietary needs.

We ventured with our tour guide to both sides of Dubai Creek to visit the old souks. This is where we felt the real life and traditions of old Dubai. A souk is a marketplace or bazaar, and we walked the Spice Souk, Gold Souk and Textile Souk. I got caught up in the impulsive “feeding” frenzy but wasn’t disappointed with my jewelry purchase from Ashish of Emirates Diamonds, located in the old Gold Souk. The Spice Souk has charm, and the fragrances are intoxicating.

I didn’t know what to expect of Dubai when I boarded my Air Emirates flight (in my opinion, one of the world’s finest airlines). I learned that it is one of the safest places in the Middle East for Americans to visit, and by hiring a professional tour company (Arabian Adventures), I left this multi-cultural city with a strong desire to return and see what I missed in my all-too-brief visit.

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