Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

The Secret to Extraordinary Travel: Here’s Proof That The WOW List Works

by Wendy Perrin | February 3, 2023

How to minimize your risk and maximize your travel experience?  Know the right local fixer.  What will the right fixer do for you?  Read on.  Below is a continually updated sampling of the trip reviews that your fellow readers are submitting after using Wendy’s WOW approach.

Your feedback about the local fixers on Wendy’s WOW List is more important now than ever. That’s because the world has restarted, travel-wise, and what matters is not the WOW that these trip-planning experts delivered pre-pandemic, but the WOW that they’re able to deliver now.  So please, for the sake of your fellow travelers, send us your trip review as soon as you receive Wendy’s post-trip survey!


New Zealand: intimate lodges, wine tastings, helicopters…

HARRISON EARL | FEBRUARY 1, 2023

We just returned from 10 days in New Zealand at the end of January and Jean-Michel and his team planned an absolutely amazing trip for us. Jean-Michel quickly helped us hone in on a plan and some key properties, then Fabienne worked with us to get all of the details in place and arrange amazing activities. Both of them helped us secure some of the last rooms available at stunning intimate lodges, and put together helicopter adventures, wine tastings, and phenomenal local guides that really made the trip special for us. There’s no way we would have been able to find all of the locations and activities that Fabienne lined up for us, and we felt like we saw a lot more of the South Island than we would have on our own. We’re already plotting when we can return, and fully intend to let Jean-Michel and Fabienne help us again when we’re back in New Zealand.

Read more reviews of Jean-Michel. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jean-Michel


Portugal: oceanfront pousadas, city tours…

WANCHEE LOWE | JANUARY 29, 2023

Pousada de Sagres

Sunset. Pousada de Sagres. Photo: Benjamin Lowe

My husband and I went to Portugal for a week in mid-January 2023, spending two nights in Cascais (near Lisbon), then 4 nights in Sagres in the Algarve, and the last night in Lisbon. We spoke with Gonçalo, who gave us good suggestions of where to go. We told him we were interested in photographing land and seascapes, especially during sunrise and sunsets. After the Zoom conversation, his colleague Patrícia Gomes took over and I mostly communicated with her.

She drew up an initial itinerary and we went over it and emailed questions and answers back and forth etc. We paid a deposit after she secured the reservations and then paid the balance a few weeks before the trip began.

She booked pousadas for us because we like the historic nature of the accommodations and our rooms overlooked the ocean and we could see sunsets from our rooms in Cascais and Sagres. Free breakfasts were included in all our lodgings. She arranged a rental car and accommodated our request for a hybrid car. She also booked a full day of palace and castle tours in Sintra with a private driver and guide. In Lisbon we also did a private half-day walking/food tour, which she arranged.

I felt assured that if anything unexpected happened, it was a comfort to know that the travel advisor and team would help us. In fact, we got lost trying to find the Lisbon hotel (GPS failed) and I called them up and they were able to walk us calmly through where we were and direct us to the hotel. I highly recommend Gonçalo, Patricia and their team to help plan vacations in Portugal. We hope to use them again for another Portugal trip, maybe to the Azores and the eastern side of the Algarve, which we didn’t get a chance to see.

Read more reviews of Goncalo. Or request your own trip.

Contact Goncalo


Chile: Patagonia, Atacama, stargazing WOW Moment…

BARBARA SCHOENFELD | JANUARY 29, 2023

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile.

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile. Photo: Barbara Schoenfeld

Tom designed a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Chile for our family of six. He rose to the challenge of transporting us down and back up half the length of the continent. He organized visits to both Patagonia and the Atacama desert, securing rooms at Hotel Las Torres in Patagonia and Explora Atacama. Both were excellent choices for their top-notch adventure staff and boutique experience. He pretty much had to plan three trips because we originated in San Francisco, New York and New England, and we had three different time frames. He and his staff handled the transportation logistics smoothly. And, I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a review for Wendy’s WOW List, but the best part of the trip was the Wendy WOW Moment. We had a private stargazing evening hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury, at his observatory called SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). We have a video he recorded on my son’s cell phone where he described what we were seeing on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon — particularly the smudge where the U.S. Apollo 11 landed.

Read more reviews of Tom. Or request your own trip.

Contact Tom


Egypt: urban & rural, iconic sites & hidden gems…

SHARONNE HAYES | JANUARY 29, 2023

The plan put together for our trip by Arlene Santos (Jim was in the process of moving to Nashville, so he was not directly available) was ultimately just perfect. The accommodation choices were spot-on-amazing properties that, while luxurious, were also good value, and the service of the local team was great. All that said, it was the pace of the 2 weeks that really made the trip a pleasure. I’ve wanted to go to Egypt for about 20 years and between my schedule and their revolutions, it’s not worked out. Our trip was even better than I’d imagined or hoped for and worth the wait.

What we loved was the perfect mix of seeing “the sights” that you’ve read about and seen in photos and getting a sense of contemporary life in Egypt—both urban and rural. Our notable highlights included Sakkara, Luxor and environs (tombs), the Old Cataract Hotel Nile View suite and the amazing Abu Simbel temples.

But hands down, the most special part of our experience was our 4 days and 4 nights on the Dahabiya Orient. We are SO glad we did this rather than a larger standard river cruise boat. From the moment we boarded to the moment we stepped off, we felt well cared for by the crew, who treated us both like honored guests and close friends. We opted for the “Terrace Suite,” which was at the stern of the boat and had a large private deck at water level. Honestly, we did not use it much, since the main deck space was so large and lovely and the other couples on the cruise were delightful. That said, it was a treat to have a 180-degree view of the river from our room (as opposed to the other cabins with only a standard window looking either starboard OR port). And had the other guests been less compatible, it would have been a nice space to escape for privacy. The food was Egyptian and extraordinary, and we, as vegetarians, were seamlessly accommodated. We were amazed what the chef was able to create in the tiny on-board kitchen.

Our guide on the cruise, Dr. Abdulla, was much more than a guide. He was the boat host and the English (and other languages) interface between guests and crew. He was not only extremely knowledgeable, but a gifted storyteller, bringing to life the history, geology, stories—and the stories behind the stories. He seemed genuinely to enjoy sharing the perspective of the life along the Nile. All the shore stops were great, but our sunset walk through a farming village one evening was special and our visit to the huge camel/livestock market and local market in Daraw was an exciting, novel and sensory-overloaded experience. We saw all manner of 4-legged animal sales, including camels. We would have NEVER even known about that as an opportunity, much less ventured to something like that on our own. And it was clear that not many tourists ventured there, since we seemed to be quite interesting to locals, some of whom had traveled from far away in even more rural areas and we were asked to pose with them for THEIR travel photos!

Other observations: Coordination by the team on the ground was excellent, although sometimes it was not completely clear what the role some of the people we interfaced with played. Also, we would suggest guides ASK if clients in advance want to go on “factory tours.” In Cairo, this happened twice without notice/asking. For instance, we were dropped off in front of a papyrus vendor and guided inside, having not been even told in advance where we were headed, much less given the option to pass on it. Even when we told the guide on arrival (as the driver drove away) that David had actually been to that VERY store on a previous trip, we were shepherded in and then obliged to watch the demo and (unless we wanted to make a scene or seem ungracious) view the wares. In Luxor and Aswan the guides gave us options to skip these “tours,” which we appreciated.

Read more reviews of Jim. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jim


Costa Rica: beach, wildlife, cloud forest…

TINA HUNT | JANUARY 28, 2023

We spent a week in Costa Rica from Dec 31 to Jan 6, planned by Irene. Since this was our first time, we wanted to spend time both on the water and in the mountains. We started our trip with a charter flight to the Osa Peninsula and spent 4 amazing days in Copa de Arbol. The staff at the resort is top-notch and we really enjoyed getting to know several of them as they took great care of us. The food and drinks are incredible — we looked forward to every meal in the open-air restaurant. The accommodations were very comfortable. We went for a day trip to the Corcovado forest and saw many colorful birds and animals. The highlight was getting to see a tapir (a rare large animal). Our guide was very knowledgeable and very good at spotting birds and setting up the scope quickly. We also did a snorkeling tour to the Cano island in Drake bay. Would highly recommend Copa de Arbol — it is remote and quiet, which appealed to us. The boat rides to the forest (an hour) and Cano (45 min) were choppy because of the windy weather.

From Osa, we went to Monteverde to see the cloud forest. We were picked up at the San Jose airport by Jonathan, who was our guide and driver for the next 3 days. Jonathan took us for a walk through the cloud forest (primarily flora versus fauna) and on another day for a hike through several sky bridges in the trees. He had arranged a night hike, which ended up being one of our favorite things — we saw 2 green vipers, a tarantula, owls, monkeys, tucan. Jonathan had also arranged a special surprise for us, with a sunset on a hill with absolutely incredible 360 views for miles and no one around. It was very magical watching the sunset with wine and cheese, as the full moon rose behind us. A very memorable evening! Jonathan took excellent care of us during the entire time.

In Monteverde, we stayed at the Senda Hotel with beautiful grounds. We saw many beautiful birds and animals right on the property during our morning walks. The small town of Monteverde is a 15 min walk away and we enjoyed a couple of great meals and shopping for a couple of art pieces. All in all, we really enjoyed our trip and look forward to going back and exploring new areas of this immensely diverse country.

Read more reviews of Irene. Or request your own trip.

Contact Irene


Belize: horseback riding, Mayan ruins, beach time…

GUNILLA BJORK | JANUARY 26, 2023

It was a long trip from San Francisco, but once we arrived in Belize it was all worth the effort. We chose two destinations: the Lodge at Chaa Creek, in the jungle, and the Phoenix Resort in San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye.

We used Patricia’s team to book the hotels and the experiences. We booked the flights ourselves with points. It was a pleasure to work with Patricia’s staff. They were professional, timely, and always available. In fact, they rescued us when the FAA fiasco occurred on January 10th, which delayed our trip two days. Miraculously within hours, they successfully rebooked our entire trip. We were amazed and very appreciative. If we had planned this trip without them, who knows what would have happened. We would highly recommend them to anyone traveling to Belize.

We loved the horseback riding, Mayan ruins visit, the cave tube-riding that we did while staying at the Lodge at Chaa Creek. The stay at the Lodge at Chaa Creek was wonderful and the meals were delicious. We would definitely stay there again.

We really enjoyed the Phoenix Resort. The room was beautiful and the staff was awesome. We liked being in the middle of San Pedro with all of the activities and restaurants that are available there. We rented a golf cart to spend a delightful day at Secret Beach.

All in all, we loved our Belize vacation.

Read more reviews of Patricia and Rachael. Or request your own trip.

Contact Patricia and Rachael


London: multigenerational Christmas trip

ELLEN WEINER | JANUARY 26, 2023

We recently returned from a trip to London with our family of 10 people that we had planned with Jonathan. We traveled over the Christmas holidays with our children and 4 grandchildren, aged 10-13. Jonathan and Katie’s attention to detail was superb! We stayed at the One Aldywich Hotel in Covent Garden. The hotel was amazing in every way! Our kids each had a 2-bedroom suite to accommodate their families of 4. We arrived the day after Christmas, and the kids had gifts waiting for them in each room with their names on them. The adults all had Christmas stockings filled with treats. All of the rooms were beautiful, and it was a perfect choice for people traveling with families. Our guide, Alex, was with us for 4 days. He and Olivia, our driver, exceeded all of our expectations. Alex was great with the kids and his scavenger hunt in The British Museum was a real blast! A highlight of the trip was traveling to Hampton Court to learn all about Henry VIII and his six wives. Later that same evening, we went to the theater to see Six, which is about all of the wives. The kids also loved their visit to the Chelsea Stadium. Everything went like clockwork, from our arrival in London to the time we left for home.

Read more reviews of Jonathan. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jonathan


Paris: wine tasting, front-row concert seats…

KATIE HAUSFELD | JANUARY 25, 2023

Jennifer and team knocked it out of the park again! After several trips to Paris in the past, my husband and I were looking to have a few special experiences organized by Jennifer’s team and leave the rest of our time open. From a seamless airport pick-up and departure experience, to a delightful private wine tasting, to front-row seats at the most magical harpsichord quintet performance in Saint-Chapelle after-hours, Jennifer made sure that no detail was overlooked and we were well taken care of every step along the way. When traveling to France, Jennifer has become my first point of contact (after Wendy, of course :)) and has never failed to delight!

Read more reviews of Jennifer. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jennifer


Egypt: beyond the usual tourist sites

JAN HEININGER | JANUARY 23, 2023

Long before Covid 19 stopped the world in its tracks, Jim planned a three+ week trip for us to Egypt and Jordan for October-November 2020. In November 2022, after several one-year delays caused by COVID, we finally completed an expanded five-week version of this trip. Throughout, Jim consistently looked out for us, patiently dealing with our questions and requests for modifications. However, the long delay made us vulnerable to certain unrelated factors. During the six months prior to the trip, I developed a back problem that required surgery as soon as possible after our return. As a practical matter, I couldn’t walk far or stand long without risking stabbing pains. If you’ve been to Egypt, you know that a trip there requires lots of walking and standing. As just one example, parking lots can be over a quarter- to half-mile from the site. Fortunately, Egypt has its own version of handicapped access. If your guide and driver are firm and persistent, the police/military barricades can be opened and you can drive right up to the entrance. In some places, electric golf carts are available. My new physical limitations also necessitated a lot of attention from Jim and his on-the-ground team to find ad hoc ways to accommodate my needs. In the end, Jim was successful in finding and implementing adjustments. We are extremely grateful to him and his team. What we ended up with was far more than expected. With their help, I not only got through the trip, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I had previously been to Egypt under highly unusual circumstances. Due to regional political issues, tourism was non-existent and I had the pleasure of seeing many of the “standard” tourist sites without a single other tourist present. But my husband, Jamie, had never visited Egypt. Jim did a superb job of planning a trip to meet Jamie’s needs but added things even in places I’d already visited that gave me a deeper understanding of Egypt’s past and today. He had us go far beyond the standard tourist circuit by adding multiple days at Siwa Oasis in western Egypt, near the Libyan border, and multiple days at Fayoum Oasis, three hours south of Cairo. What so impressed us is that Jim found ways to continually surprise and educate us, even in the usual places. While at Fayoum Oasis, we went way out in the desert to Wadi-Al-Hitan (Valley of the Whales)—a UNESCO World Heritage Site I’d never heard of that contains the world’s greatest number, concentration and quality of fossils that demonstrate how the whale evolved to an ocean-going mammal from its earlier life as a land-based mammal. The fossils here are of those mammals in the last stage of losing their hind legs and feet. Who knew? It was extraordinary. While at Fayoum, Jim’s team also linked us up with an excellent birding guide for an extraordinary bird walk that included many life birds. These two oases were just two of the places we visited that went far beyond what we’d expected of this trip. Similarly, besides going to Petra, as do most tourists to Jordan (and oh, is it worth it), our guide stopped off to visit his friend Abu Ali, a local “character” who lives in a cave below the Crusader-era Shawbuk Castle. He runs the world’s tiniest hotel (a VW bug). Abu Ali apparently took a shine to me, because he gave me a genuine and valuable Nabatean coin from the reign of Arestes IV. At Siwa Oasis in Egypt, we stayed at an eco-resort with no electricity lit only by candles and lanterns and built in traditional Egyptian mud and salt-brick style. We were the only guests for our four-night stay. We got to see the suite where Prince (now King) Charles had stayed for his visit. We also were treated to the best food and service of the entire trip.

We sailed up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan for five days on a traditional dahabiya that allowed us to see sites along the Upper Nile not available to those who take typical Nile cruises. We also had a relaxing interlude with only 18 other guests. It was a memorable week. Did you know you can swim in the Nile? We did. (Note: the crocodiles are all south of the Aswan dam.) It was amazing.

In addition to Petra in Jordan, we visited the amazing Roman ruins of the city of Jerash. I’ve been to lots of Roman ruins but these blew me away. Built on the edge of the Roman Empire, the city was massive and had surprising details both large and small. So, too, were the Roman mosaic floors that had been uncovered and were displayed on the walls of a simple but impressive church at Mount Nebo, reportedly near where Moses was buried. It is a pilgrimage site and I now understand why. Overall, Jordan was a far more interesting country to visit than we had expected.

Virtually any reputable travel agency can plan a nice trip to Egypt hitting the standard sites most tourists want to see. What you get with Jim is something different. Oh, you’ll see the Giza Pyramids, but if you give him the time, you’ll see how the pyramids evolved in Egypt’s Old Kingdom. Giza is only the most famous. At Saqqara we saw early attempts (including the “Bent” Pyramid, where the angle was wrong and had to be changed midway.) But we also visited some out-of-the-way pyramids with nary a tourist in sight – but lots of military and police in residence to stop looters. These included Meidum Pyramid outside Fayoum Oasis, a key interim step between the earliest (Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara) and the pinnacle (The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza) that helps fill in the gaps of the evolution of Egypt’s pyramids. We also saw the 12th-dynasty Pyramid of Hawara to see how Romans and local inhabitants stripped the exterior limestone coating and reused its blocks for local projects.

Other highlights included seeing Abu Simbel from the air. Thanks to Jim and his team, we had seat assignments on the “right side” of the plane (that is the left side) to get good photos. Sometimes, it’s the little details that make huge differences. The art in Ramses II’s famous temple is superb, naturalistic and not to be missed. The neighboring temple to his wife Nefertari gets far less attention but is almost as impressive (if only for his recognition of his Great Wife’s importance). Discovering a just-completed Avenue of the Sphinxes linking the Temple of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor, lined with 1,200 sphinxes, was a delight for me. It had not existed on my previous trip. Gorgeously lit by night, it has reconnected the temples as they had been in antiquity. For me, the trip’s most moving moment was my tour of the Royal Mummies in the new Museum of Egyptian Civilization (not to be confused with the grand, yet-to-be-opened Egyptian Museum.) Seeing these 3,000-4,000 year-old New Kingdom royal mummies brought to life historical figures I’d read so much about and touched me by their individuality. Seeing the best-of-the best tombs in the Valley of the Kings, Queens and Nobles (especially Nefertari’s stunning tomb) was worth every extra penny. Jim’s recommendations were right-on. Tour bus groups do not include the extra-cost tombs, so we saw them with almost no other visitors.

If you are a thrill-seeker as I am, head to Siwa Oasis to surf the dunes of The Grand Sand Sea with a driver as enthralled as we were zooming up, over and down the steep dunes of the vast eastern edge of the Sahara in a 4-wheel-drive SUV. Then stop on what looks like a rocky cliff amidst this vast sea of sand to discover below you the evidence that this was once truly a marine sea and now is covered with millions of marine fossils. Thanks to Jim, his excellent logistics staffer Arlene Santos, our guides on the ground and excellent drivers, this was a trip worth the long wait.

Read more reviews of Jim. Or request your own trip.

Contact Jim


Australia: eco-friendly villas, Sydney for New Year’s Eve…

DAVID WEINKLE | JANUARY 23, 2023

Just returned from a 3-week Australian vacation and can’t wait to return! A big shout-out to Jacki and Stuart for making our trip a seamless dream. Jacki planned not one, but two Australian vacations for us, as our first trip had to be cancelled a few weeks before our travel date due to the pandemic. Stuart’s office took the time to listen to what type of travel experience we were looking for and planned our trip accordingly. Hotel options were wonderful, including both classic city properties and isolated eco-friendly villas. Our private guides throughout were top-notch and flexible. It was wonderful getting to meet Jacki in Sydney upon our arrival! She was even able to make changes and schedule new excursions for us during our trip at the last minute!

With only 3 weeks to visit, we made the choice to concentrate our time in the southeastern portion of the country. Do not try and cover too much ground when visiting Australia. Remember, the country is truly a continent and traveling between cities can take up a good portion of your time if you aren’t careful! Dont underestimate travel distances! Make sure to visit small towns and rural areas to really get a flavor of the country!

New Year’s Eve in Sydney is an amazing experience, but the crowds are huge, locals tend to leave the city, and hotel prices skyrocket as you might expect. Also, many restaurants will close over the holiday, as this is prime summer vacation time Down Under. Make dining reservations ahead of time if there are any restaurants on your bucket list!

Finally, make sure to build in some down time in the places you visit!

Thanks to Stuart’s team for helping us plan this amazing Australian vacation! Thanks to Wendy for another amazing referral!!!

Read more reviews of Stuart. Or request your own trip.

Contact Stuart


Sicily: family trip in January

VICKI PORPIGLIA | JANUARY 22, 2023

Matteo did a wonderful job of planning our Sicily family trip! He had many great tour suggestions, as he lives there, so he knows the area very well. We were there on a Holiday week in January, so some restaurants and stores were closed. Matteo found great restaurants that were open and even made some restaurant reservations for us. We had private tours every day. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and very friendly. The driver we had was exactly on time every morning. He knew our itinerary to have us to each location as scheduled. Every day ran so smoothly.

A highlight of the trip was having a wine-tasting luncheon at the winery owner’s home by Mount Etna. They were such gracious hosts. Matteo was always available with responses right away from many emails of planning the trip AND during the trip. He even surprised us and met up with us at a cafe in one of the towns.

I would definitely recommend Matteo! Our vacation was absolutely, perfectly enjoyable and worry-free because of his expertise and patience in planning!

Read more reviews of Marcello and Matteo. Or request your own trip.

Contact Marcello and Matteo


Australia & New Zealand: monthlong grand tour

NANCY BROOKS | JANUARY 20, 2023

Our family of four, parents and two late-20-year-old daughters, traveled to Australia and New Zealand in December 2022 for a 3+ week trip. Quite frankly, it would have been impossible to have put together such a wonderful trip without the guidance, counseling and bookings of our travel consultants. The itinerary that was proposed, the activities that were planned, the guides that were enlisted, and the hotel and travel logistics were perfect. Everything went without a hitch, which is saying a lot for an almost 4-week itinerary. We had initially thought we would only visit Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, but Jackie persuaded us to tour Queensland and the rainforests, snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, fly to Uluru to ride camels and experience the deep Outback, and take tours out of the cities to spots we know most tourists miss. The same held true in New Zealand, where Sara and Sarah staged a helicopter tour, kayaking, a day at a 36,000-hectare sheep station (including an elegant lunch with the owners at their home on the station), and a three-night stay at a beautiful two-bedroom cottage on a private estate winery on the North Island. We are most appreciative and know that our trip would not have been nearly as enjoyable without this team.

Read more reviews of Stuart. Or request your own trip.

Contact Stuart


Costa Rica: jungle & beach with teens

SHELBY WILLETS | JANUARY 13, 2023

Thanksgiving Break, Costa Rica

Thanksgiving Break, Costa Rica. Photo: Shelby Willets

Priscilla planned a weeklong, adventure-packed vacation for two families traveling with 4 teenage boys! She was exceptional in working with both families to ensure each family’s preferences were met. Our private guide, William, was priceless and a perfect match! He made the trip amazing—I can’t imagine visiting Costa Rica without him! By visiting two distinctly different areas of Costa Rica as well as our quick stop in San Jose, we feel like Priscilla planned and William guided a comprehensive tour of their country. Thanks so much, the Willets and Yarmus families!

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Paris: making macarons, New Year’s fireworks…

ELIZABETH GOLDEN | JANUARY 10, 2023

We had a wonderful trip planned by Jennifer. She and her team planned some really great activities that our kids would enjoy, including the Retro Sidecar tour and the macaron-making class. I loved how her team texted our itinerary with addresses, phone numbers, and any museum/attraction tickets each day, so that we had everything handy. The dinners that were suggested were yummy. And our suite and adjoining room at the Hotel Grand Powers were absolutely perfect for celebrating New Year’s in Paris. We had a front-row seat to the Eiffel Tower and the fireworks over the Arc de Triomphe. It was an incredibly smooth experience in Paris, which is what we needed for such a short trip.

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Portugal & Spain: 3 generations over Christmas

MICHELLE BODINE | JANUARY 10, 2023

Sao Pedro do Corval, Portugal

Sao Pedro do Corval, Portugal. Photo: Michelle Bodine

Our family just returned from the most magical and well-planned trip to Portugal and Spain for Christmas and New Year’s! We were thrilled to have traveled at this time of year, and especially in Europe where the Christmas lights, trees and markets made it even better. We took our four children and their spouses and four grandchildren, so fourteen all together. Wendy lined us up with the perfect people to help us plan and then succeed on a 14-day excursion with 14 people, big and small, in Portugal and Spain. Gonçalo and Patrícia were phenomenal with their hotel accommodations, food and restaurant recommendations, tour guides that fit our needs of grandchildren ages 6, 3, 1 1/2 and 3 months, and activities that enriched our trip. The itinerary was just what we wanted! It truly was perfect in every way. There was even flexibility, so if we needed to cancel a restaurant because we were going on a food tour and would not be hungry, we could. The amount of scheduled activities and free time to explore more was perfect. Gonçalo and Patricia are experts in what they do, and I would trust them again to plan the most satisfying travel experience for my family! They both took the precautions necessary to help us feel safe with Covid and continued to help us along our journey with lost luggage and further restaurant recommendations. We could not have done this trip without our trip planners, Gonçalo and Patricia. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for planning a Christmas to remember forever and ever!

Read more reviews of Goncalo. Or request your own trip.

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Morocco: Marrakech, Fes, the Sahara…

LAUREN SCHOR | JANUARY 9, 2023

Radia and her team put together a trip of a lifetime for our multi-generational family of eight. Our 10-day trip to Morocco over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays was one of the best we have ever taken together. It was the perfect combination of cultural experiences, food experiences, sightseeing, shopping and adventure! We spent three nights in Fes, one night in the Sahara and six nights in Marrakech (due to the holiday season some of the Riads had minimum stays, but there was plenty to do for the 5 days!). Radia suggested the perfect Riads for us (Palais Amani and La Masion Arabe), along with a luxury tented camp in the desert. Each day was a new adventure and our incredible guide, Bouch, really made the trip that much better. We have taken a lot of trips with a lot of different guides around the world, and Bouch really topped them all! He made sure everyone was always happy, from the kids to the grandparents, and changed things last-minute where he saw fit. We always seek out unique, local experiences when we travel and Radia and Bouch really made sure we had plenty of them! Highlights included a hike in the Atlas Mountains followed by a cooking class at a local Berber family’s home in the mountain village. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience we will not soon forget! There were even mules to help carry some of us up the mountain! We also loved the sidecar tour around Marrakech—such a fun and different way to see the city beyond the medina, where most tourists spend all their time. But, everyone’s favorite day of the trip was the time we spent in the Sahara. We felt like we were in the pages of National Geographic as we drove ATVs over the gorgeous sand dunes—so fun and thrilling with the most unbelievable scenery. And we drove the ATVs right to where our camels were waiting to take us on an unforgettable sunset ride and then on to our luxury tented camp for the evening, where our belongings were waiting for us. It was truly a dream come true. We also had another surreal experience in the Sahara when we had tea with a nomadic Berber family who lives in tents without electricity or running water. We were able to talk to them and ask them questions about their life (through our guide, who translated for us)—it was a very educational and eye-opening experience, especially for our teenagers. It is not easy to get to the Sahara, but it is most definitely worth it and there are different options for how to make the journey that can be discussed. Morocco is a feast for the senses. Even just walking around the medina and souks, the sights, sounds, tastes and smells you will experience will leave a lasting impression on you. It is such a special country, I could go on and on. My only regret is not seeing other parts of Morocco, but it is definitely a place I plan to return to and I will definitely be contacting Radia when I do (and requesting Bouch as our guide!).

Read more reviews of Hicham and Radia. Or request your own trip.

Contact Hicham and Radia


Chile: heli-hiking, rafting, cultural visits…

JEANNIE MULLEN | JANUARY 9, 2023

Traveler Jeannie inside the helicopter.

Traveler Jeannie inside the helicopter. The Lake District, Chile. Photo: Jeannie Mullen

Tom planned a fantastic two-week holiday hiking trip to a part of Chile that I had never been to … the Lake District south of Santiago … an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Of the many activities offered (hiking, floating, white water rafting, cultural visits among others), I would say that the heli-hiking in Pucon with my guide, Patricio, who is also a professional photographer, was a standout. Our pilot, Benjamin, was great fun and anxious to show us private spots, tucked away in the mountains, that had phenomenal views and absolutely no other foot traffic. What a phenomenal experience. It’s like we had the world to ourselves for the day. This was the third time that I have used Tom for trip planning in South America. He chose terrific properties which offered impeccable service and every possible amenity. Vira Vira, an AndBeyond property, was exquisite.

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Australia: wine, beaches, behind-the-scenes tours…

JENNIFER MANN | JANUARY 9, 2023

We just returned from an Australian holiday trip with our 2 teenage daughters. Stuart and Jacki put together a phenomenal itinerary with something for everyone! We began our trip in Melbourne, where Liz picked us up at the airport and we were on our way to tour, hoping to see some of the city before things shut down for Christmas, the following day. On Christmas Day, we drove the Great Ocean Road outside of the city and were completely surprised with a WOW Moment of a helicopter ride over the 12 Apostles. It was breathtaking! The next day, we drove through the wine country of the Yarra Valley with tastings, lots of animal sightings and delicious food, followed by a 2-night stay at the Jackalope Hotel in the Mornington Peninsula area, about an hour-and-a-half from Melbourne. The Mornington Peninsula was also filled with award-winning wine and food, along with charming little beachside towns. After a few days of the relaxed area and beautiful hotel, we flew up north to Cairns and stayed in the coastal town of Port Douglas, about an hour north of the airport. This is an ideal location to anchor a trip to both the Great Barrier Reef along with the Daintree Rainforest. We had a magical first day snorkeling around the reef, followed by a day in the rainforest with our guide, Guy. Both days were incredibly special, where we created memories that will never be forgotten. Our last stop was Sydney. After a 3-hour flight from Cairns, we checked into the incredible new Crown Sydney Hotel. The 3 full days in Sydney were action-packed with sightseeing, behind-the-scenes private tour of the famous fish market, climbing the Sydney Bridge, shopping and a private opera house tour along with a show. My kids even got to see one of their favorite American singers in concert while we were in town. Jacki made sure that we had dinner reservations booked every night of our trip since it was the busy holiday time. After our 12-day trip, we are exhausted but definitely feel like this was a trip of a lifetime!

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Turkey: sunny & uncrowded in Istanbul

SUSAN SULLIVAN | JANUARY 8, 2023

Karen and her team did an excellent job planning our trip to Turkey. Every transfer and tour pick-up was prompt. The drivers and guides were excellent. We loved the hotels—The Four Seasons on the Bosporus was elegant and comfortable and the view spectacular.

Late December/early January turned out to be a great time to travel to Turkey. It was chilly (although luckily for us, it was a few degrees above normal, at least in Istanbul) but the sun was shining. In addition, there weren’t large crowds even at the most frequently visited sites.

We enjoyed the restaurants that Karen recommended, and appreciate that she switched restaurants between two evenings to avoid a traffic jam due to a soccer game being played along the route from our hotel to one restaurant. The tour plan was perfect and we maximized our time sightseeing. I would definitely recommend Karen to anyone going to Turkey.

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Chile: wine region, Santiago, Atacama…

PAM ANDERSON | JANUARY 8, 2023

My husband and I had a great trip to Chile over the holidays 2022. Tom did an excellent job planning and executing every detail of our travel. We visited the beautiful wine region, Santiago, and the amazing Atacama desert. We enjoyed so many activities from horseback riding, a cooking class and wine tasting at the Vik Chile to hiking sand dunes, photographing flamingos and the salt flats while at the Alto Atacama resort. Our guides and transfers were flawless, and Tom was even able to step in and negotiate a late checkout on our last day so we could have time at the spa before our long journey home. Next time we hope to make it to Patagonia and would definitely work with Tom again.

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Ecuador & Galapagos: family Christmas trip

ROBYN SMYERS | JANUARY 8, 2023

We just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime family trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Allie was our true partner in the planning of this special experience. Allie is a great listener. She really learned the kind of trip we wanted and the diversity of activities and pacing we needed with three teenagers (ages 19, 16 and 16). As a consequence, Allie made great selections for us. We loved all of our hotels on the trip, including Hotel Mama Cuchara in Quito and Golden Bay Galapagos hotel in San Cristobal. She also made practical restaurant recommendations.

One of Allie’s best decisions was selecting Gustavo Cabezas as our guide on the mainland of Ecuador. He was the perfect guide for our family – deeply informative, fun, and energetic. Gustavo’s special connections enabled us to have special and unique experiences and his love of his country was contagious. Highlights of our time on the mainland include a visit to La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world at the equator line) and taking the TeleferiQo cable car up the Pichincha volcano.

Our time in the Galapagos Islands was flat-out incredible. We saw sea lions (including hundreds of newborns), giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, parrot fish, sharks, sting rays, eagle rays, sergeant fish, sharks and green turtles. We really enjoyed our hikes, snorkeling and kayaking. We also enjoyed the Coral I, the 35-passenger ship, selected by Allie. We met wonderful people from all over the world and our teenagers made friends.

One area in which Allie and her team really shine is logistics. Every pick-up and drop-off ran perfectly, including one pick-up at 3:15 a.m. The help at the airport at numerous points of the trip was outstanding too. The airport in Quito is strangely confusing and we were happy for the assistance. At one point, we decided to change a scheduled activity and Allie was responsive at 6 a.m. in the morning and helped us make some adjustments. Overall, the trip was an A+. We will be forever grateful to Allie and her team for a priceless experience.

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Panama: cloud forest, city sights, a WOW Moment…

SALLY BOLAND | JANUARY 6, 2023

Our family of three decided in November we wanted to travel somewhere for the New Year holidays and chose Central America for our general location. We contacted Pierre, a travel expert on The WOW List, for his help with travel options. We had used Pierre in 2017 for a fabulous trip to Nicaragua that we still fondly remember today. He suggested Panama and the trip planning began! Given that this was short notice and over the holidays, Pierre still put together another memorable trip for us.

We started out the first two days in Panama City and had an awesome guide, Rebecca, for our city tour. Rebecca showed us all the key city sights, but just as important was that she was very attuned to our interests and conversed rather than lectured. We had such a lovely day. One of my favorite stops was her recommended coffee shop, which we ended up going back to at least four more times!

The evening after the tour, we were given our WOW Moment — and what a Moment it was!! We were picked up in a Panama school bus — Diablo Rojo — with all the neon lights flashing and the salsa music playing! It took us from the hotel to the Historic Old City, where we had a great typical Panamanian dinner at a local restaurant, then enjoyed the view from a rooftop bar with a glass of wine. Finally, back to the hotel on Diablo Rojo! What a fun outing!!

Our next two locations were in the mountains of Panama — spending three nights at each place. Pierre did a phenomenal job getting rooms and guides arranged for us at these places. The first was in Boquete, at Hotel Hacienda Los Molinos. It was very charming with a gorgeous view of the area. We did two all-day tours. First was to an agro-organic farm called Hacienda Mamecillo. The family was such a gracious host, especially considering this was on Christmas Day. They produce all their food organically, as well as a special coffee. It was so interesting and impressive. The meal they served was, honestly, one of the best meals we have ever had — worthy of any fine dining anywhere.

The next day was spent with a well-known local expert birding guide, Raul, and we were rewarded with many sightings to add to our “life list.” But more than that, it was a pleasant day spent with Raul and learning about the local nature there in the cloud forest. We will request him again if we are able to return in the future.

Finally, we headed to our last destination at the Mount Totumas Ecolodge. Jeff, the owner, and his staff could not have been nicer. Panoramic views of the cloud forest from the main lodge deck were amazing and the variety of birds spectacular, all at arm’s reach. The local expert birding guide, Reinaldo, is highly skilled with sharp eyes. During our nature walks, we were again rewarded with many sightings added to our life list. Each day Alma, the head chef, prepared tasty meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was fine dining in a remote cloud forest retreat. It was wonderful!

Even though we planned this trip on such short notice, and over the holidays, Pierre was able to put together a really wonderful and memorable trip for all of us. We couldn’t be happier! Its only been 5 days since we have been back — and we are still missing Panama!!

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Portugal: cooking class, VIP access…

LAUREN SCHOR | JANUARY 5, 2023

Goncalo and Patricia planned the perfect four days in Lisbon for our multi-generational family of eight. Right from the start they were super responsive, and we traded over 100 emails finalizing all of the details up until the week before we left. This was a stopover for us en route to another destination, so we really focused on Lisbon and immediate surrounding areas. Spending a day in Sintra was a must on our list, and after being told that we would likely have to wait hours to get into Pena Palace even with advance tickets, they planned a private evening visit after the castle was closed and we had the entire place to ourselves! This was a true VIP experience and a very memorable one for all of us! Our guide, Tiego, was so knowledgeable about everything and he really related to everyone in our group, even the kids. We love trying all different local cuisines when we travel, so we did a food tour/food shopping in the morning that evolved into a cooking class in the afternoon, which everyone enjoyed—this was a highlight! All of the restaurants they recommended were perfect, from the casual places while were still fighting jet lag to the amazing dinner and Fado music show experience. And visiting Lisbon around the holidays, we had the added bonus of all of the beautiful lights and decorations around the city! I can’t wait to plan another trip to see the rest of Portugal and when we do, I will most certainly be reaching out to Goncalo and his team!

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Vietnam: private experiences with local families…

ANDY HUTCHER | JANUARY 5, 2023

We worked with Dan’s office based on your recommendation, and they were terrific. They were flexible when we needed to postpone our planned trip to Vietnam in April 2020 due to COVID, and on several subsequent potential dates, until we actually got to go with our adult daughter in early December 2022. The two-week trip went without a hitch and included some truly special private experiences with local families. Each guide had a high level of expertise, spoke English well and brought something unique to the table for each of us. We feel like we really got to cover the country from north to south and never felt we were not in safe hands — even when hanging onto the back of a motor bike in Hanoi or Saigon. There were several times when our domestic flights were delayed or canceled and Dan’s office handled the logistics professionally. After action-packed days, we ended the trip at a Six Senses resort for some R&R, which exceeded expectations!

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Mexico: Mexico City & Puerto Vallarta

BONNIE RASKIN | JANUARY 4, 2023

Thanks to Zach, Gabriela and Amalia, my husband Kenn and I enjoyed an incredible trip to Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta over the Christmas holidays. We have been to multiple locations throughout Mexico, but knowing little about all of the available options in Mexico City and PV, we again went to Wendy’s WOW List for guidance. As always, our high expectations were surpassed at every step of our vacation. In both locations, Zach and his team put together a personalized itinerary that matched our entire wish list. The Orchid House in Mexico City had the charm and location we’d requested, and our driver and guide—Joel and Javier—took us to sights and places that we never would have found on our own with a knowledge, love and fluency that only native residents would have. The same for our five-star resort—Garza Blanca—just south of Puerto Vallarta. We utilized Zach’s referrals for all of our activities and restaurants and were never disappointed. Reservations were made and confirmed for us in Spanish, and Zach’s team greeted us at both airports to assure smooth passage during the crazy, busy holiday time. We truly would have been lost without these helpful people to guide us to the proper airline windows. Even when I requested information about a workout space in Mexico City, Gabi came through with a reservation and easy walking directions. We enjoyed a WOW Moment at a lovely restaurant in Puerto Vallarta where our table was located literally next to the ocean. Amalia actually showed up in person to make sure all elements of our wonderful surprise came to pass. We have never enjoyed that kind of personalized service! Communication with the team was immediate and nothing was left to chance. Even when we requested changes, there was never any hesitation or sense that I was “bothering” our team. The main focus and mission from Zach and every member of his team seemed to have one purpose: to ensure a WOW vacation for us, which they exceeded in every way. Zach also now covers Costa Rica, which we can’t wait to experience. Muchas gracias to his team.

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Belize: 50th anniversary with kids & grandkids

JUDITH RODWELL | JANUARY 3, 2023

To plan for our 50th anniversary family celebration adventure in Belize, Wendy introduced us to Patricia, a native Belizean with a passion for introducing her country to the world. A year of planning with Patricia and Juliannie culminated in a 10-day trip, five days in the jungle and five days on an island. With us were four grandchildren, ages 9-12, so a lot of thought went into making sure we had lots of kid-oriented things to do. We truly wanted to hear lots of “WOWs” from them and we weren’t disappointed.

Imagine four kids flying into Belize City airport and being escorted across the tarmac and realizing they were about to jump into two helicopters and fly to their jungle resort, or their excitement of being whisked from the jungle, via private plane, over to Placencia, then jumping on a boat and arriving on an island? Their reactions when they walked into their luxurious accommodations, complete with plunge pools, were priceless.

Chaa Creek Resort in the jungle didn’t disappoint, upping the “WOWs” to new levels each day. Our butler, Candi, and her trainee Ryan spoiled us with private dinners for 10, breakfast deliveries early in the morning, fresh fruit drinks when we returned from a day of touring, even babysitting so the adults could dine together. At 4:00 a.m. one morning Candi was helping decorate an outdoor pavilion so our granddaughter could have a fun 9th birthday celebration that night. The surprises never stopped, the staff was so generous and kind, the accommodations top-notch, and the food delicious. Our granddaughter with celiac even got special gluten-free desserts every day!

We had a dedicated driver and guide, Darryl, throughout our 5 days of touring the jungle, and when rising water closed the ATM cave tour, Darryl seamlessly changed plans. Darryl introduced us to the Mayan world, helped us explore their temples, took us to a local coffee plantation and to a women’s local co-op where the grandchildren were able to hand-grind coffee beans, fresh corn for our tortillas, and try their hands at ancient pottery making. A trip deep into the jungle delivered us to zip-lining at the end of our cultural immersion day!

Ray Caye Resort beach days were spent in total relaxation mode so snorkeling, jumping off the two-story diving platform, kayaking, canoeing, sailing the Hobie cat, and even scuba diving kept us engaged. But enjoying gourmet meals, sipping drinks around the pool in the near-perfect weather, and playing family volleyball and puzzle games brought us together after far too many years of separation. The island was magical, the staff always ready to help us, anticipating our every need, and on our last night there, they surprised us with a 50th anniversary family meal on the beach. The resort covered the whole island and at one point there were only 16 vacationers on it. Talk about a private and perfect post-pandemic place to be! Leaving “paradise” the last morning was difficult, to say the least!

Patricia ensured that the whole trip worked seamlessly and not once did we have a glitch! She also chose the very best people to support us throughout the trip. We couldn’t have asked for a better family celebration of our 50th!

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Belize: snorkeling, day with a local family…

RANDI MAIDMAN | JANUARY 2, 2023

We recently returned from an 8-day trip to Belize planned by Patricia and Julianie. We are a family of four with 17- and 21-year-olds. We wanted a mix of activities and relaxation. We wanted to explore Belize but also stay in only one hotel. Snorkeling was our first priority, and because we had recently been to Guatemala, seeing Mayan ruins and coffee and chocolate plantations were not important, because we did those in Guatemala. Patricia recommended we stay in the Placencia region at Naia Resort and Spa. It was the perfect location. The rooms are beautiful and well appointed, the staff is very attentive, the beach is very large and the food outstanding. We were able to do both land and water excursions, with nothing being more than 45 minutes from Naia. Patricia and Julianie were in constant contact with us during our stay, including making some last-minute changes to our itinerary due to unexpected rain. In addition to a private, full-day snorkeling excursion, we did a tour of the Monkey River, a hike and river tubing in the Jaguar Preserve and spent a day with a local Garifuna family. We loved every excursion and only wish we could have stayed a few days longer.

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Switzerland: anniversary trip with nature & history

DANYELLE OVERBO | DECEMBER 31, 2022

We planned a big trip to Switzerland for our 20th anniversary together. We originally tried to go in 2021 but decided to postpone due to Covid. We are glad we decided to go this year, though things were still busy even into October. We usually love travel in October during our anniversary, because there are fewer crowds. There were fewer crowds, but it was definitely much busier than trips to Europe in previous years during the same time.

Our trip planner did an amazing job with all of our requests. In fact, they kept everything we told them in mind, from the type of information we wanted to get during our tours, to the places we preferred to stay. We never ever would have gotten to do half the things we did if we hadn’t gone through this agency.

Switzerland was extraordinary, and everything we booked was personalized and incredible because of our trip planner. Every tour guide had information about us and what we wanted before we even met them. They took us on unique experiences we wouldn’t have even known about otherwise.

We got one-on-one guided tours through the Gotthard Pass, where they built bunkers into the mountains during WWII. We drove through the Lake Thun region with the most beautiful water and mountains we’ve ever seen. And yet another wonderful guide drove us around the gorgeous Appenzell region, where we got to see the Abbey Library of Saint Gall (omg, no words will ever do that location justice!). The travel planner even introduced us to the manager of the historic hotel in Bern where we stayed, and arranged for him to give us a personal tour of the hotel (a big deal as I’m a writer and used the trip to research locations for my book). It was a trip like no other. We can’t wait to go back! I highly recommend working with Nina’s office for any trip or activity in Switzerland. They are experts!

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Argentina & Uruguay: wine country & beach time

SUSAN CUNNEEN | DECEMBER 31, 2022

This was the second time that I worked with Maita and Santiago, and once again, the trip was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. My first trip with them was to Buenos Aires and then through Patagonia (Argentina and Chile). This time I wanted to go to Mendoza and then to Uruguay. I traveled from November 21 for 11 days, and everything was absolutely amazing. We had planned this trip to take place in the fall (U.S.) of 2020 and were finally able to reschedule. I stayed at Cavas Wine Lodge (where Santiago had spent a few days just a couple of weeks prior to me going), and I highly recommend it. It is located in a gorgeous vineyard, and has gorgeous views from all angles. The people who work there are absolutely lovely and will happily help you in any way they can. Maita’s team had arranged for me to go to several wineries, and each one was excellent and so much fun! Views abound, the wines are excellent, and with hundreds of wineries to chose from, I was delighted that Maita’s office found ones that were perfect for me.

After 5 amazing days at Cavas, I flew to Montevideo, UR and was then driven to the absolutely delightful and gorgeous town of José Ignacio. Maita and Santiago had recommended this over Punta del Este, and they were spot-on. I never would have found this little town and am now considering buying property there! I stayed at Playa Vik, which I will definitely go back to—it is one of the nicest properties I have ever had the chance to visit, and had very interesting tours (arranged by Maita’s office) to Garzon winery, lunch at Garzon Restaurant where I met Francis Mallman (!), Pablo Atchugarry’s amazing and beautiful art, as well as the must-see Casapueblo. I then had a short tour of Montevideo, and flew home the next day.

If you are thinking of working with Maita’s team, go for it! Maita and Santiago will listen to your likes/dislikes, what you want out of the trip, etc., and will then create a bespoke itinerary that you will absolutely love! I am already working on a third trip with them and I have no doubt it will be wonderful.

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Ecuador: Amazon jungle lodge with kids

JOHN STRACHAN | DECEMBER 30, 2022

We are living in Quito for a year. This little country offers so much magnificence to the curious traveler, and we are trying to cram it all into twelve months. Allie was essential to creating our trip to the Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador’s Amazonia. She put our trip together, found the right lodge for our family, and got the perfect rooms at a time that was ideal. It was tough because we did not start planning long enough in advance, but Allie’s knowledge of lodges and the region made it possible to get everything lined up in an instant. Without her expertise, I would have spent weeks doing research, and that likely would have meant missing out on getting rooms. Allie also got us a private guide, which was not necessary, but we thought it would allow us greater flexibility since we were travelling with kids. Turned out to be a great idea.

Napo Wildlife Center is a world-class lodge owned and run by the small local Añangu Kichwa community. They have committed to using ecotourism to save their community and their corner of the Amazon rainforest. Bottom line: They are knocking it out of the park. I cannot express how impressive their work and commitment is. In 1998, they were a small community, dealing with acute poverty, threatened by development, oil exploration, and the contamination of their water and forest. In that year, with little knowledge or experience in tourism, they decided they’d stave off the despoliation of their corner of the rainforest by starting a five-star ecotourism program. Learning about where the Añangu community was when they started this idea, and seeing all they have achieved in a couple decades…well…I just cannot wrap my head around their achievements or put into words how remarkable it all is. I am just brimming with awe and admiration for the Añangu and what they have accomplished.

The reason to go to Amazonia (or El Oriente, as it is called in Ecuador) is to see wildlife in hyper-diverse Amazonia, and wow did we ever see wildlife. We flew 1/2hr from Quito to Coca, Ecuador, hopped in a comfortable (not fancy) power boat for two hours, then transferred to a six-person canoe for the two-hour paddle to the lodge with the two guides who would introduce us to the Amazon rainforest over the next five days.

On that trip we saw weaverbirds and innumerable weaverbird nests, which are two to four feet in length. Just a marvel of construction. On the paddling portion of that journey, about 50 squirrel monkeys crossed the creek above us, within 30 feet of us, many with babies clinging to their backs. We also saw woolly monkeys. And we hadn’t even arrived at the lodge yet!

The lodge itself was magical. The staff was as friendly and helpful as could be. Really made us feel at home. In the TV room out back where the employees live, my son and I watched the World Cup finals with a bunch of staff and locals who had paddled in for the game. We were welcomed warmly, and we joined in and cheered with (or against) the rest of the crowd.

The bartender made delicious drinks. The food was tasty and plentiful. (I have no complaints at all, but to be frank, the food wasn’t at the same level as the rest of the place. Not that the food was bad by any measure, but maybe just that everything else set a tough standard to meet. ) The rooms were comfortable. The other guests were interesting, and we had fun sharing experiences with them all.

The guides are top-notch. Ecuador has a great system for educating and licensing guides. Many were from the local community. They knew every animal and plant in Spanish, English, Latin, Kichwa, and often local nicknames. Their ability to spot animals in the jungle thicket was extraordinary, and they did a great job finding ways to get us closer.

We brought our two kids, both around 10yrs old. The schedule for viewing animals was full, and the heat and humidity were a factor (85 or 90 degree highs, 80%+ humidity at all times), and that exhausted our kids. The staff was great about helping them with their exhaustion. I mean, our kids were not in any trouble, they were just beat. But the staff went above and beyond to help. It didn’t feel like they were trying to provide great service; it just felt like they cared, and wanted the kids to bounce back and enjoy their stay. Our guides smoothly revamped our schedule on the fly so the kids could rest, and we didn’t miss too much.

Another good thing Allie helped us with was getting us the one room (or one of the only rooms) at Napo WC that has a jacuzzi. With young kids, we knew they’d need a diversion in the midst of a lot of structured activities and nature expeditions. The jacuzzi was a big help.

While at Napo Wildlife Center, we saw six species of monkeys, and so many parrots, macaws, grebes, flycatchers. We saw snakes, frogs, and crazy looking crickets. We watched caimans and paiche (400lb river fish) from the boardwalk in front of our room. All to the spectral drone of howler monkeys in the distance, like a cold north wind gusting outside your door.

And Napo Wildlife Center has nearly no biting insects! Magical place.

Amazing. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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Argentina: Buenos Aires, Mendoza, Patagonia…

LOIS CHESS | DECEMBER 27, 2022

A few years ago we went on a Seabourn cruise to celebrate a friend’s wedding anniversary and because some weather caused excursions to be cancelled, we received a credit. Not being confirmed cruisers, we decided that Antarctica would be a good choice, since it is the only way to get there! So we booked it. We thought it would probably be the last time we would be in this part of the world, so we planned to start in Buenos Aires and make several stops along the way to Ushuaia, where we would board the ship to Antarctica.

We contacted Maita from The WOW List. We worked with Malena, her associate. This trip was one for the ages! Malena helped us pick a total of six locations, starting from Buenos Aires to the Mendoza wine region to three hiking lodges in Patagonia, before landing in Ushuaia at the very southern tip of South America. We stayed three nights in each location.

This was complicated itinerary. Several flights, lots of drivers, guides in each location, and she pulled if off without a blip. The hotels were a real highlight — and we love our top-end hotels! — the food was very, very good, the guides terrific. So many highlights. Wine country surprised us. We did not know how good Argentine wine was. We get exposed to a lot of OK Malbec here at home, and it was so much more than that. We wound up sending five cases home! The hiking in Patagonia settings astonished. The lodges, especially the Explora in Chalten, are set up to maximize the terrain, the views, and the camaraderie among the other guests. Really fun.

Highly recommend Maita and Malena.

The cruise was pretty amazing too.

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Iceland: hot springs, ice caves, meeting locals…

MICHELLE KENNESON ST. JOHN | DECEMBER 25, 2022

Going to Iceland has been a dream of mine for many years. My friend Robyn and I started planning a trip. Then she found Chris, who helped turn a regular trip to Iceland into a Magical Icelandic Adventure full of private tours and adventures. His recommendations were amazing and he helped us create memorable experiences and remarkable encounters we never could have done without his help.

Iceland is a beautiful, unique island, and it has a very powerful positive energy. You are surrounded by nature everywhere you go. It wakes you up, it makes you feel alive, and you take notice of every remarkable and unbelievable view you see. It helps you appreciate nature in a brand-new way. With Chris’ help, we also met so many incredible and hospitable Icelandic people, who love nature and appreciate their land. They are easygoing, kind, and entertaining storytellers.

When we arrived early in the morning, our driver/guide Boga took us to an Icelandic Bakerí for our first taste of the many scrumptious treats. From there we went on a tour in a Super Jeep to a Hot River Soak in a geothermally-active mountain range. The views were incredible as we descended into the steaming geothermal activity in the Valley. The Hot River soak was very relaxing and really made us feel like we were connected with the gorgeous nature surrounding us. It was also invigorating, as the outside temps were in the low 40’s. After the soak and a very scenic lunch, which included fresh-caught salmon cooked in a hot spring and stories of Icelandic sagas from our entertaining guide Andreas, we continued along the Ring Road to visit the most well-known waterfalls on the South coast, Seljandsfoss and Skogafoss. We also saw the Black Sand beach in Dyrhoaley, which provided us with a sample of the crazy winds Iceland is known for.

Next came our tour of the Katla Ice Cave with our guide Ari. On the drive he entertained us with Sagas about Katla and other unique Icelandic facts. Arriving at the Glacier felt almost like we arrived on another planet, the environment was so unique. Once we climbed inside the Ice Cave, it made you feel incredible, you are standing in and around 800-year-old ice. It was beautiful and dazzling, it literally takes your breath away. It was also a little frightening, getting us outside our comfort zone.

Along the way, we had private shopping experiences at a Cooperative and then Petra’s Stone Collection with incredible Icelandic Gems and crystals. Once shopped out, we met our guide Engo to go on a Safari to look for Reindeer and discovered he had a private Car Museum that we added to our tour on the fly, after he learned we had classic car fever.

Driving North into the Lake Myvtan area was a land like no other. We heard Neil Armstrong and many other astronauts have come here to train due to the unique landscape. Traveling throughout the north of Iceland was an experience and we enjoyed all the activities, especially the Geospa. It was so relaxing, with an incredible view of the fjords.

We continued on our way with a dynamic, pastel-colored sunrise greeting us to another beautiful day in Iceland. Our journey today included a stop at Godafoss waterfall, which is powerful and tremendous to see in person. Then we spent a pleasurable afternoon in Aykureri and really enjoyed a side stop at The Christmas House, which was very whimsical in a fun way. Our drive to Sigluförður was very scenic and our view from our hotel room was stunning. I loved the deep blue color at dusk and it seemed more vibrant here. We enjoyed a beer tasting at Seagull 67 Brewery and a walk through town, which had beautiful Christmas lights shining.

Continuing to the Western side of Iceland was picturesque. We enjoyed the many beautiful Icelandic horses and farms. We had a lovely stop at Hvitserkur, a mystical stone dragon in the sea with incredible views in every direction. The night brought us to the 500-year-old seaport town of Stykkisholmur. We then headed to the Golden Circle and experienced a one-of-a-kind sensory experience at Friðheimar Tomato Greenhouse and restaurant. The scent, the views, the presentation, the sounds, the delicious tastes. Everything mixed together created an awesome experience!

At the end of our adventure, we spent a little time in Reykjavik and enjoyed exploring the beautiful architecture along with the shopping, museums, fun experiences, and lots of different tasty foods. Our last night we spent at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon. Just stepping into the lobby you could tell it would be a one-of-a-kind experience. The hotel, the Blue Lagoon waters, spa, and dinner at The Moss restaurant were the perfect way to end our magical tour of Iceland.

All the Hotels throughout our travels had enchanting views and each was unique and had its own character, charm or coziness to it. The breakfast buffets were always delicious, full of many choices and presented attractively.

Thank you Chris for the magical experience. All the drivers and guides were excellent and well chosen for this amazing adventure!

I think we have fallen in love with the country and its people, and plan to return very soon and often.

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Portugal: Lisbon, Porto, the Alentejo…

JENNIFER ANDREWS | DECEMBER 18, 2022

Our trip to Portugal was amazing. Goncalo planned every detail to perfection. We started in Alentejo — which we had not even thought of going to — and it was the perfect place to get over jet lag and recover in a gorgeous hotel and setting. From there we went to Porto, and he planned amazing day tours — walking tours and a day trip to the Duoro with an incredible winery visit and lunch. Porto was wonderful and we loved exploring it. We also had a WOW Moment at Claus Porto — a company that started in Porto in 1887 — and we had an incredible experience. After Porto, we went to Lisbon for seven nights. There had been a really bad rain the night before we got there, and Goncalo called us when we arrived and suggested canceling one of our tours due to the flooding damage. We actually had really good weather the whole trip, but it was a relief to know we were not going to trudge through wet areas after a deluge the night before.

Goncalo planned it so we had stops with tours on the way to each city, and our drivers were wonderful. All the restaurants they suggested and booked were so good. Everyone that toured us or drove us around knew so much about Portugal history and so much pride in their country. December was a great time to be in Portugal and we loved it so much, and Goncalo made it a truly wonderful experience from the second we landed until we got on the plane to come home. We did not have to think of anything — he already had it all figured out. We can’t wait to go back!

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Chile & Argentina: Patagonia, Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls…

BARBARA LOUNSBURY | DECEMBER 18, 2022

We are 2 couples who wanted to see parts of Chile and Argentina, and other tour companies did not cover all of the places we wanted to see. On Wendy’s site we found Jordan’s team. They designed an itinerary for the places that we wanted to see, which included Torres del Paine (Chilean Patagonia), El Calafate and Perito Moreno glacier in Argentine Patagonia, Buenos Aires, Iguazú Falls on the border with Brazil, and colonial northwest Argentina (Salta, Purmamarca, and environs). Originally planned before COVID to include stops in Santiago, Valparaiso, and Easter Island, Carmen and company (in Jordan’s office) stayed in touch, allowing us to reschedule our trip without difficulty. When things reopened, they helped redesign the trip without Easter Island, as it did not reopen. They arranged air, transfers, guides, and hotels, working with our preferences and budget. They listened to us and truly were great planning partners. All went superbly and all lodgings were excellent, except for the one in El Calafate. Throughout the trip Jordan’s team left nice touches—bottles of wine in a couple of rooms, chocolates, and a few others. We highly recommend flying premium economy in South America, as often the seats are similar to U.S. first class, but more importantly, the check-in for premium economy is much faster and has shorter lines than coach. Communication with Jordan’s office was excellent, especially as we rescheduled and made changes as places reopened. The pleasant surprise was that all of this detail and quality, for two couples, was only a little more expensive than booking with one of the larger tour companies that has larger group trips. We would certainly use Jordan again if we traveled to South America.

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London: France: cultural immersion in Provence & Paris

DOUG HATCHIMONJI| DECEMBER 17, 2022

Mid-November found us in Provence and Thanksgiving in Paris. Philip, Laurie and Sarah put together an enlightening, expanding and enjoyable trip to France. A special shout-out to Laurie and Sarah for their hard work, patience, and flexibility making the many changes, additions and modifications to our plans, even on-the-fly when we were on the ground in France.

Before our trip, I don’t think we fully appreciated the many facets of France – cultural, gastronomic, viticultural, historical, artistic, and the physical beauty of the South – it’s overwhelming. Those many aspects made us appreciate the difficult task of creating an itinerary for clients unfamiliar with France, especially clients who insist on “less is more,” since there is so much more to the country than we understood. Laurie and Sarah did a marvelous job introducing us to France and her many facets, and our guides, Patrick, William and Sonia in Provence, and Marie in Paris, completed the task of opening our hearts and minds to the country and her people. (We will readily attest that the American reputation of the French is completely undeserved.)

Of particular mention was one stop on our itinerary Laurie arranged that was the highlight of our trip and exemplified our eye-opening and surprising introduction to France. We visited Patrick and Estelle on their manade in the Camargue, saw their massive black ornery bulls and majestic horses, gazed across the wide-open flat expanse of the land swept by the wind from the sea, and spoke to them about a lifestyle that we did not expect to see in France and that reminded us of Montana, where we spend much of our time. They were both such warm, open and engaging people, with quick honest smiles that easily bridged any language barriers. The rancher, Patrick, and I had a good laugh, because he and I wore the same Filson and Carhartt clothing – a nice touchpoint of lifestyles. Thanks to him and William we were able to make an unscheduled stop at a session of young men training in Camargue-style bullfighting. What a thrill!

Again we were reminded of the immense value in having a local travel professional put together tours and arrange local guides. Especially in Provence, our guides all made a point of mentioning they were personal friends of Phillip, saying that he was part of their “circle of confidence.” Although we arranged our own lodging and flights (because we used points and had family connections), we are very happy that we again found a local agent through The WOW List that put together a trip that exceeded our expectations.

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Laos and Thailand: family parties and monk blessings with a local guide

TERRY MACDONALD | DECEMBER 12, 2022

My husband & I recently returned in November from a Covid-postponed trip to Southeast Asia utilizing the services of Sandy. Originally we had requested assistance with travel in Laos but extended our travels to include additional time in Thailand.

Sandy made numerous Zoom calls to discuss options and listen to our concerns (a second time, after planning an April 2020 trip that was cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic) and put together a wonderful itinerary that allowed us to travel efficiently through four separate regions in Laos. We initially entered Laos after a brief visit to Northeastern Thailand in the southern Champasak Province, then traveled north by plane to the capital city of Vientiane. From there we took a high-speed train to the charming city of Luang Prabang and then traveled further to Pakbeng with a private boat up the Mekong & into Northern Thailand.

We were met at the Laos border & escorted throughout Laos with the delightful guide Paan, who provided us with interesting destinations & memorable experiences. She never met a stranger and was effortless in her ability to introduce us to the uniqueness of her country. We particularly appreciated her willingness to include us in some wonderful family moments, including an engagement party for her cousin in Vientiane. We learned some of the customs and protocol of significant family events; meeting many of her family & friends was the highlight of our trip. We also participated in a blessing event with a monk at her own private home with other members of her family. We always felt as if we were traveling with a friend who wanted us to see the real Laos. Even though we visited many of the tourist highlights, we were able to mingle with the locals in a more authentic environment.

We found the lodging choices in Laos spot-on, in excellent locations for our day trips in each region & felt Covid safe during all of our travels.
The additional travel in Thailand rounded out our previous trips in this country, including a few days around Bangkok and Ayutthaya, Khon Kaen in Northeastern Thailand near the border of entry with Laos and the Chiang Rai/Golden Triangle area of Northern Thailand. The Thailand guide in the Bangkok area, Kat, along with the private guide & driver, Chen & Whitia, in Khon Kaen & Chiang Rai, were also excellent professionals that added immensely to the time spent in each area. They quickly became trusted allies in showing us their country & we thoroughly enjoyed their company each day.

We usually handle our travel itinerary personally but know that we would not have had such a well-guided and personal experience in this part of Southeast Asia without the expertise of Sandy and his fellow staff. We were fortunate to not have any issues during our month-long trip but knew we would be taken care of efficiently if any medical or travel-related problem occurred. We highly recommend contacting Sandy for travel assistance in Southeast Asia!

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Costa Rica: jungle kayaking, treetop dining…

BEVERLY CAMERON | DECEMBER 7, 2022

Priscilla did a fabulous job of planning a trip to Costa Rica for us and our adult daughter. From our friendly welcoming guide and driver, who met us at the airport at 10:30 pm when we arrived and took us to our hotel, to the guide and driver who picked us up at 4:15 am to take us back to the airport, every detail was handled smoothly and efficiently.

Our hotel rooms were comfortable and as promised, the staff who met us and guided us were exceptional and all of our meals were delicious. We especially loved the plates of fresh fruit and the freshly squeezed orange juice that appeared every morning for breakfast.

In Tortuguero, a highlight was the kayaking trip down an inland waterway and a short detour into a small, seemingly endless series of creeks on the side of the main waterway. It was like going into another world, even in the other worldliness of the jungle. At the end of this trip our guide asked us all to stop paddling, close our eyes and just listen to the jungle sounds. It was magical.

In Monteverde, our guide into the high rain forest was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and he had a high-end telescope that allowed us to easily see the rare Splendid Quetzal, who was some distance away. Our guide even used our own phone cameras to take photos through his telescope, leaving us with marvelous photos and short videos.

We had a special WOW Moment in Monteverde when we were taken to the San Lucas Treetop Dining Experience. Each of the delicious, small nine courses represented an area of Costa Rica that was explained to us as it was served. Our private table was in a glassed-in, small private dining area in the treetops overlooking the town. We were there at sunset and the view was amazing.

All in all it was a special family trip for us. Thank you Wendy and Priscilla for helping arrange this trip.

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Italy: food, wine, the arts…

LINDA UHLER | DECEMBER 5, 2022

When Italy beckoned for a return visit in September, we turned to Maria for assistance in building an itinerary that focused on food, wine and culture. Maria did an excellent job in finding new places to visit and new experiences. We got a firsthand look at several familiar Italian products with visits to the marble quarries at Carrara, the Ferrari Museum, a balsamic vinegar producer and a violin maker. Each was very interesting and highly recommended. We experienced the quieter side of Italy in the charming Tuscan town of Barga, as well as the more populous—and popular—Venice and Milan. All of our guides and drivers were excellent and knowledgeable. Our hotels were all comfortable with top-notch service. We never felt unsafe re: COVID. Maria’s recommendations opened up new areas of Italy for us to explore and gave us another memorable Italian journey.

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Egypt: anniversary trip along the Nile

JOE STUPAK | DECEMBER 5, 2022

A trip to Egypt has been on our wish list for quite a few years. We finally decided that the right time and opportunity would be for a celebration of our 50th wedding anniversary, November 4, 2022. We usually travel independently, sometimes arranging the trip details ourselves or on other occasions relying on a travel consultant. Early in our planning for this trip, it became apparent to us that working with a knowledgeable trip planner would be vital to help us sort through all the possibilities that Egypt offers. At that point and as we have done before, we looked to Wendy Perrin’s list of Trusted Travel Experts and found Jim and his team.

The planning process with Jim was a model of collaboration. In our conversations, Jim learned about our interests, dreams, goals and limitations. He then applied his knowledge to suggest a complete trip of an appropriate length, with stopovers and accommodations that were right for us, and specific guided, private tours in each location. The trip plan that resulted focused on the Nile River. We began in Cairo and Giza. Then we flew to Luxor, where our touring included extraordinary temples and tombs. After Luxor, we boarded the Dahabiya Zekrayaat and sailed for four nights up the Nile to beautiful Aswan. Jim’s expertise resulted in some unforgettable experiences in our trip plan. While we intended to include a cruise on the Nile by some means, Jim’s recommendation that we sail up the Nile on a dahabiya in one of the two panoramic suites on board was perfect. Queen Nefertari’s tomb and Abu Simbel were magnificent. Our exclusive dinner cruise on the Nile on a private yacht sailing from Aswan on the night of our 50th anniversary was an extraordinary highlight and most memorable celebration of our lives together.

The documentary output from Jim and his team that resulted from the planning process was impressive: a comprehensive, detailed and descriptive itinerary; entry visas for Egypt; a packing and preparation checklist; contact information for everyone who would support us during our trip; and lots of useful guidance that would help us feel comfortable, confident and prepared to make the best use of our time during the trip.

The trip plan produced by Jim and his office was executed virtually flawlessly by the staff and representatives in Egypt. The representatives in Cairo and Aswan were cordial, punctual and very effective in facilitating our interactions with hotels, airports and airlines, customs offices and any event venues. They coordinated schedules with our local drivers and guides. To the extent that any hitches arose, they resolved them. When adjustments to the schedule could enhance our experience, they suggested them and implemented them when we agreed. For example, our representative in Aswan suggested moving our attendance at the sound and light show at the Philae Temple to a different night when the primary audio presentation would be in English. Then he made all the contacts that were needed so that the remainder of our activities in Aswan were adjusted seamlessly to fit our time there.

Jim’s team arranged for the services of Egyptologists to guide us in Cairo, Luxor and Upper Egypt. Our guides in these locations – Reham in Cairo, Michael in Luxor and Amany in Upper Egypt – were outstanding. All were knowledgeable, fluent, flexible and interesting. They were adept at providing us with commentary about the sights in a conversational manner that was not pedantic. All were also effective in avoiding or overcoming obstacles that can come from crowded places, limited facilities, or other real-time complications. In just the first couple of hours on our first morning in Cairo, Reham and our local driver Mohamed felt like new friends that we had just met.

Jim, his team and all of their representatives and associates in Egypt created an awesome 50th anniversary celebratory trip that exceeded our grand expectations.

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Costa Rica: Thanksgiving trip with teens

ALANA JACOBSON | DECEMBER 3, 2022

3-toed sloth

3-toed sloth, Mauel Antonio, Costa Rica. Photo: Alana Jacobson

Irene helped our family plan a wonderful trip to Costa Rica over Thanksgiving week. After a long day of travel, Irene had a driver meet us at the airport & bring us to our historic hotel in San Jose. We had nice meal at the hotel restaurant and a good night’s sleep before taking a short flight the next morning to Quepos. Once again a kind driver picked us up and took us to our hotel—Arenas Del Mar in Manuel Antonio. We loved the resort! It was the only one on the beach & even had its own private beach. The monkeys and sloths were thrilling to watch. We saw them all the time! All of the staff was fabulous & so friendly! Our kids love activities, so Irene set us up with a zip line tour that was fun for the whole family. Some of us did a surf lesson too. The waves were pretty big because a storm had just come through, but it was fun. We also spent time with a guide in Manuel Antonio park. It was pretty busy, but our guide knew where to go for a quieter experience. The park is beautiful and there was so much to see!

Our other destination was the Osa Peninsula. A driver picked us up and drove us the 2 hours to the small town of Sierpe, where we took an exciting boat ride through the river & mangroves & into the ocean til we reached our hotel, La Paloma. It’s a lovely luxury eco-resort & we had a room with a spectacular view and plenty of space for our whole family. Once again the staff was wonderful, so thoughtful, kind and interesting to talk to. We enjoyed scuba diving (though visibility was not great after the storm), kayaking, exploring Corcovado National Park & we even did a guided night walk to see some of the evening creatures. Corcovado Park was amazing! We saw macaws, toucans, many types of monkeys, sloths, agouti, crocodiles and even a tapir! We did have some rain on our trip, we heard it had been a very rainy year, but we didn’t mind. Makes everything so lush & green! Irene was wonderful in seamlessly planning our trip and making sure everything went well. It was really helpful to have someone so familiar with the country & knowledgeable about all the hotels & activities. Thank you for making our trip great!

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Portugal: road trip from Lisbon to the Algarve

LESLIE AND RICHARD MORGENTHAL | DECEMBER 2, 2022

My wife Leslie and I traveled to Portugal this year from 11/7-17. Having never been to Portugal, the reasons we decided to venture there are twofold: to consider the possibilities for a dual passport, which we heard was easier there, and to experience the culture and climate in the off-season, which is when we would consider staying in the future for an extended period.

Through Wendy we reached Goncalo and his assistant Patricia Jesus in Lisbon. Based upon our intentions and the level of travel that we prefer, they were able to craft an itinerary that served our known needs and opened new horizons for us. Their suggestion for the itinerary was actually a road trip which included a rental car delivered to our hotel in Lisbon and then setting out east to a charming type of farm stay for 2 nights and then directly south to the eastern part of the Algarve, adjacent to Spain, which was an area that we wanted to research in depth. All of their suggestions included hotels and restaurants and areas along the way that might be of artistic or historical interest, and all were great suggestions. They arranged for a historically based guide in Lisbon for a 1/2 day and an artist as a guide for the next 1/2 day, knowing that the arts are a driving force in both of our lives. This type of experience was a tremendous opportunity for us and gave us a thorough appreciation of the art world there and informed our desire to learn more. It’s experiences like these that make Wendy’s recommendations so valuable to us, as the professionals that one comes in contact with through this service are fully vetted and of high caliber.

Since Covid was no longer much of a consideration, we were able to travel safely and carefully without worry. All of the accommodations and restaurants suggested were well thought out and to our liking, and perfectly coincided with our days of driving. After 3 days on the eastern edge of Algarve, we drove to just north of the western edge to the Costa de Vincentina, which was truly magnificent. The wind and surf and thrilling sky conditions there created an exhilarating experience, as Patricia strongly recommended a 2-night stay in another farm type country setting. A rare find indeed!

All in all we greatly enjoyed our time in Portugal, and the guidance afforded us by the superior team of Gonçalo and Patricia was instrumental in this. We will return and we will definitely knock on their door before we do so next time.

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French Polynesia: snorkeling, private island, WOW Moment…

ALBERT CEMEL | DECEMBER 2, 2022

Bora Bora

Scene outside airport, Bora Bora. Photo: Albert Cemel

French Polynesia has been one of my dream destinations. The beautiful scenery of Tahiti and nearby islands, often depicted in travel magazines, world calendars, and TV ads, was something I had to experience for myself one day. That day finally came as my wife and I began our two-week journey September 20th of this year. This put us right in the middle of spring in the southern hemisphere, a perfect time to go. We visited three Tahitian islands—Moorea, Vahine, and Bora Bora. Our trip was everything we dreamed of and more. The photos and videos we had seen hardly compare to the breathtaking views and exhilaration you feel when you set foot on these islands. The lagoons around the islands are crystal-clear and brightened by every shade of blue you can imagine. The islands are lush with greenery and tropical flowers. The atmosphere on each island was laid back and relaxing with no crowds, beautiful scenery everywhere, incredible snorkeling, warm, friendly, and happy people, and great food. It was as close to paradise as we had ever been.

Our travel planner, Kleon, was wonderful. Kleon has vast experience in the South Pacific islands, traveling there for extended trips every year to stay updated on the resorts, restaurants, excursions, flights, etc. that he recommends. Kleon was a joy to talk to, gave us as much time as we needed, listened to what we had to say, and noted our likes, dislikes, and activities we enjoyed. In addition, he made some great recommendations on things we hadn’t even thought of. The itinerary he put together gave us exactly the trip we were hoping for and more, all while staying within the budget we had set. Kleon was always just a phone call or text away, quickly resolving the few issues that came up. Kleon was also very familiar with the airlines and schedules to and from Papeete. We flew Air France to Papeete, the capital of Tahiti and a hub for flights to the other islands. We were very impressed with the service and food on Air France. Kleon had also suggested Air Tahiti Nui, which we took for the return flight. It also provided excellent service and food.

Our flight from Los Angeles to Papeete was an 8-hour overnight flight, and we arrived in Papeete early in the morning, giving us most of the day to start our journey. Upon exiting the customs area, Kleon had arranged for a representative from Tahitian Travel Services to welcome us with a flower lei, the first sign we were on a tropical island. We were also given a packet of travel documents, including an itinerary updated with any last-minute changes, an envelope with travel vouchers, and another with inter-island air e-tickets. The detailed itinerary covered every aspect of our trip and was very easy to follow. We always knew where we had to be and when, what to expect from each activity, and what items to bring along. An extensive information guide was neatly organized into sections of a notebook. This guide was loaded with information about each island including maps, history, geostats, sightseeing, recreation, boating and sailing, scuba and snorkeling, shopping, dining, weather, what to wear, tipping, internet access, currency, transportation, newspapers and magazines, tourist offices, dos & don’ts, and recommended reading. That information allowed us to become quite familiar with the islands before arrival, made it easy to plan our free time, and protected us from the unexpected during the entire trip.

Also waiting for us at the exit was a private vehicle that drove us to the Papeete ferry terminal. After a quick lunch we boarded the ferry and began a 30-minute ride to Moorea. We stood on deck the entire trip watching in anticipation as we closed in on the beautiful crystal-clear blue waters and green hills of the island. At the Moorea ferry terminal we were greeted and transferred by private vehicle to the Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort, a lovely, cozy resort. Kleon had booked us into a charming, well-equipped bungalow that sat right on the beach, giving us a full view of the large beautiful beach and lagoon, the ocean beyond, and Tahiti in the distance. The bungalow was air conditioned (as were all our accommodations), with ample space between bungalows to give us a plenty of privacy. The food at the resort was very good.

Activities for all three islands were booked by Kleon, and we thoroughly enjoyed all of them. On our first night at the Sofitel we attended a Polynesian dance show with a great buffet dinner. If you have never been to a Polynesian dance, it’s worth seeing. The next day my wife and I went on our very first ATV ride. We had a blast. It took only 10 minutes of instruction and practice to get the hang of it. The ATV was high-quality, comfortable, and felt safe. You do get tossed around a little as you navigate big rocks, but that just adds to the fun. A big advantage of an ATV is that you can get to places not accessible by cars, or even Jeeps in some of the narrower paths. Following a guide, we climbed a couple of mountains, including Magic Mountain where, at over 600 ft., we were rewarded with absolutely stunning panoramas, bordered by the brilliant blue shades of the ocean. Depending on the depth, lighting, and makeup of the ocean floor underneath, we were told that you can see about 50 shades of blue on the islands. You could never get enough of the beautiful watercolors! Even the deepest areas were a rich dark blue. Other highlights of our ATV journey included a visit to a pineapple plantation where we enjoyed the mouthwatering, sweet taste you can only get from just-picked fruit, a stop at a stream where we fed freshwater eels, and a stop at one of the beautiful mountain scenes from the movie “South Pacific.” On our last day on Moorea we took a private tour of the northern lagoon of Moorea. Highlight of the trip was snorkeling with 3-4 ft. wide stingrays and 4-6 ft. black tip sharks. The sharks were not aggressive, and any apprehension quickly dissipated. Watching these graceful creatures swim around you is awe-inspiring, a real adrenaline rush! While sailing we enjoyed a rum punch and delicious island fruits while listening to our navigator, Herve, describe the formation of the island and lagoon from ancient volcanoes.

Our next stop was the little-known, privately owned Vahine Island. This motu (tiny island), one of thousands found in the South Pacific, was formed by crushed coral and sand. The resort has only 9 guest bungalows, so we were quite pampered for our four days there, to say the least. Before our trip, we were a bit concerned about having enough to do on this tiny island, but we ended up with some wonderful experiences in this mini-paradise. The employees at the resort were as warm and friendly as you’ll ever meet. The food, prepared by skilled chefs, was amazing. Meals were served in a cozy open-air dining room and kitchen sitting right by the beach. Each day we had a made-to-order breakfast, including a delightful fresh fruit juice mixture and, in the evening, we had delicious 4-course dinners served with wine. Most couples chose to have a table to themselves, adding to the romantic ambience we enjoyed each evening.

Our rustic and very comfortable beach bungalow sat right on the water and provided immediate access to some of the best snorkeling in the islands. The coral gardens, as they are referred to, provide an incredible kaleidoscope of brilliant colors right at your feet, with many areas to explore around the island. (Be sure to bring along a good pair of rubber ocean shoes, as you’re likely to step on some of the closely spaced sharp coral.) While on the island we took a half day snorkeling trip, part of which we had to swim against a mild current for about 10 minutes. If you’re not in reasonably good shape, you may want to think twice about this excursion. It was a lot of fun, though, one of the highlights being laying our hands on the (squishy) side of a beautiful orange-pink ocean anemone (be sure to keep away from the venomous tentacles on top) and watching little clown fish coming in out among the tentacles. They looked right at you, daring you to come any closer. While at Vahine Island, we also spent a half day on the island of Tahaa, a 10 minute boat ride to the other side of the lagoon. Tahaa produces almost all of Tahiti’s vanilla exports, much of which goes to chefs around the world, as the vanilla is prized for its strong and clear taste. While there we visited a vanilla plantation and listened to a very interesting presentation on how vanilla beans are processed. I never knew vanilla beans came from the seed pods of an orchid vine that can grow to 30 ft. long! We came home with a bag of vanilla beans which are now soaking in alcohol and will produce vanilla extract in about 3 months. We can’t wait! Following the vanilla plantation we were taken to a black pearl farm where we saw a fascinating demonstration of how cultured pearls are produced. Personally, until this tour, I had no idea what was meant by “cultured.” We watched as a technician inserted a tissue graft from a donor mollusk (in this case from the Mississippi River!) into the oysters, which were then placed in a metal cage for 3 years, at which time the smaller pearls are harvested. The process can be repeated two more times to grow larger pearls. While at the pearl farm we also learned how to grade pearl quality, and saw examples of the many beautiful glistening shades of dark greens, blues, purples, silver, gray, and the most coveted coloration, “peacock.” Equipped with this knowledge, we did come home with black-pearl jewelry for my wife, daughter, two daughters-in-law, and 6 granddaughters! The pearls were probably a bit more costly than what we might have spent in some of the pearl shops in Bora Bora, but we did feel confident we were getting good quality at a fair price. Our final stop on Tahaa was a very interesting tour of a local rum distillery which used island-grown cane sugar. We were treated to a taste test of 3 progressively higher-alcohol-content rums, followed by a couple of flavored rums. With 5 shots over a period of about 15 minutes, we were feeling pretty good when we left! We brought home a small bottle of vanilla-flavored rum, one that cannot be found anywhere else in the world!

Our final stop was Bora Bora, considered one of the most beautiful and romantic islands in the world and, if that is what you are looking for, you won’t be disappointed. Even from the air, you could tell this island was something special.

After picking up our luggage and walking out of the terminal, the view that greeted us was like a WOW Moment in of itself! The dazzling turquoise lagoon, a tiny palm-covered islet in the middle, and the beautiful green shades of the iconic Mount Otemanu in the background, makes for an unforgettable, jaw-dropping scene. For our stay in Bora Bora, Kleon put us in a 1-bedroom overwater thatched bungalow at the lovely Intercontinental Resort Le Moana. The resort is on the main part of the island, just across from the reef surrounding the lagoon, with easy access to the beaches and a small town, and wonderful restaurants within walking distance. The resort sits on the island’s only road, which serves as a perfect bike route and a great way to see the island. Staying over the water with a beautiful view of the lagoon was an absolutely wonderful experience, unlike any place we’ve ever stayed. A deck with a table and a couple of lounge chairs came with an outdoor shower. A short ladder on the side took us right into the shallow lagoon, where you can snorkel and see plenty of coral, stingrays, and a variety of colorful fish. The bungalow interior is beautifully decorated, comfortable, and well equipped. One thing that is really cool is a glass coffee table attached to the floor in the sitting area. It sits over an opening in the floor which provides a great view of coral and fish swimming beneath our bungalow. It could be lit up at night.

The restaurant on site provided an excellent buffet breakfast, and very good lunches and dinners. Restaurants right down the road provided great scenic alternatives. We loved the Beach Club restaurant, which sat right on the beach and treated us to a beautiful Bora Bora sunset.

Our favorite snorkeling tour of all the islands was “Reef Discovery” by Pure Snorkeling. During the 3.5-hour tour we encountered leopard rays and manta rays—a real treat, especially if you have never seen these graceful creatures. The highlight for us, though, was a magnificent coral garden. We could have spent hours exploring the vast array (I got lost once!) of so many shapes, sizes, colors, and groupings of coral. It felt like we were in another world. The crystal-clear shallow waters made snorkeling on all the islands among the best my wife and I had ever experienced, and this one was particularly mesmerizing. We had another interesting adventure on a two-person aquabike driven by a small propeller. This unique underwater scooter had us sitting in a chamber with pressurized air for breathing and keeping the water at chest level. We were lowered to a depth of about 10 ft., then followed a guide for the 30-minute dive. At first we were completely surrounded by colorful fish (lured by food). The guide put on a comical show of sorts and made several stops to pick up and hand us strange sea creatures through an opening in the side of the vessel. One of these was a starfish about a foot long and in the shape of a big blob with a star on its underside. It was a fun experience, although the coral in the area was not as impressive as the others we saw. Plus, during pressurization of the chamber, I experienced mild ear pain for a few minutes. This tour was worth doing once, but it wasn’t one of our favorites.

In the evening we were fortunate to receive a WOW Moment selected by Wendy Perrin and Kleon. It was a private sunset cruise and photo shoot on a luxurious 21-foot Bayliner named “Love Boat.” It was a beautiful, romantic experience. The captain was a charming man raised on the French Riviera, who had moved to Bora Bora 20 years ago and never looked back. The photos of my wife and me against beautiful background colors of the setting sun have provided us with wonderful memories of our trip to paradise. We were given a USB key with close to 100 HD photos at the end of our cruise. Glasses of sparkling wine and interesting stories and history of Bora Bora added to the ambience of the evening. At the conclusion of the cruise our captain dropped us off at the St. James Restaurant (a cool experience in itself) for an excellent dinner in a picturesque setting overlooking the lagoon.

Our last day in Bora Bora started with a ride around the island. No bikes were available during our stay, so we ended up renting a tiny Renault Twizy car. It’s a cute car and easy to get around in, but my wife had to sit in back of me in an uncomfortable spooning position, with almost no padding underneath. As such, I would recommend renting a bike (electrics are available) for a half-day. It will give you plenty of time to see the entire island, stop at a number of interesting sites, tour the main town of Vaitape, and eat lunch there. Although we did not enjoy the rough ride, we did see some beautiful panoramic scenes. One of the most interesting things we came across was one of eight 7-inch naval cannons that the U.S. military placed on the hills of Bora Bora during World War II. The hike to the canon took about 20 minutes and required moderate effort. As you would expect, the views from the hill were gorgeous.

All in all, the beauty and serenity of these magical islands, and the warmth of the gentle, happy people that inhabit them, is something I’ll never forget. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up visiting these islands again some day. I just wish they were closer.

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London: soccer, food tour, boutique hotel…

KELLIE BUCKLEY| NOVEMBER 30, 2022

To celebrate my husband’s birthday I surprised him with a trip to London. And more importantly, with tickets to an English Premier football match between his two favorite teams, Chelsea and Arsenal. It was an absolutely amazing trip from start to finish thanks to Jonathan and Katie. They curated a perfect few days for us in London, and all of their recommendations were first-rate and spot-on. The highlight of the trip was most definitely the football match, but everything else was a very close second. Jonathan recommended we stay at Beaverbrook Townhouses in Chelsea, and I never want to stay in another hotel. The hotel has 14 beautiful rooms and a bar of my dreams. It is perfectly located and the staff couldn’t have been more accommodating (the manager went out to get my husband a sandwich when he was suffering from dramamine-induced jet leg). Jonathan’s office helped plan three separate tours while we were there; a walking tour of Chelsea, a history and food tour of Borough Market and a “In the Footsteps of Winston Churchill” tour ending at the Churchill War Rooms. All of the tours were fantastic and by the end of each one we felt like we were old friends with the guides. I highly recommend the food tour—be sure to go hungry, as you’ll be tasting your way through the market. It was a great trip and we’re ready to go back! Thank you Jonathan and Katie.

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French Polynesia: snorkeling, kayaking, overwater villa…

MARY JANE FURGASON | NOVEMBER 30, 2022

We had an amazing time and are so happy to have finally taken the trip. Kleon was very helpful and we worked with him for over 18 months when you factor in delays. The trip was worth the wait! We secured our own air travel to and from Papeete, but we had Kleon arrange all of the hotels, transfers, inter-island travel and excursions.

The airport in Papeete was a breeze with the expedited immigration, a suggestion from Kleon. All of his arranged greeters, tour guides, and transfers were all on time and easy to find. We thought the hotel, The Intercontinental, in Papeete was beautiful, although time there was brief.

The ferry to Moorea was quick and fun! Thoroughly enjoyed our transfer ride from ferry terminal to the Hilton. The Hilton is definitely in need of a face-lift, more specifically the rooms. The crepe restaurant was wonderful, as well as the breakfast buffet, but the other food there was just so-so. Our room location was very convenient and the resort was easy to get around. We found the bartenders/pool guys on the beach to be the most accommodating and helpful. We loved how you could walk off the beach and snorkel. The weather wasn’t the best in Moorea but it didn’t dampen our fun.

Our excursions in Moorea were a mixed bag. Loved the kayak tour and luckily had this on the best weather day. Our refresher dive was also a good tour but the dive conditions weren’t the best, as we were fighting a strong current. Good practice, though! The whale tour was not a favorite. The weather and the seas were not conducive to the excursion, in my opinion. It was no surprise we didn’t see any whales. In hindsight, we think we would have liked to do an ATV tour to see the inner part of the island, or even have rented a car to tour all around the island. But Kleon has so many great suggestions on things to do, there is no shortage of opportunity and fun.

All of the meals we went off the resort for were outstanding. Kleon was able to work with the hotel so we had reservations confirmed when we checked in. Many of the restaurants offered transportation!

Departing from Moorea was easy and we had no issues with Air Tahiti. We were so impressed with our pick-up in Bora Bora. The boat and the crew were wonderful. The St. Regis was OUTSTANDING! We LOVED it. WOW! The staff is kind, efficient and knowledgeable. Our over-water villa was beautiful and spacious. We absolutely loved the bikes and took them everywhere. Every meal there was outstanding. Loved the Vitamin Sea catamaran sail and the dives. The St. Regis has an amazing snorkeling lagoon. We had a few hiccups with excursions on the island but Kleon secured our refunds without any issue.

The airport departure in Bora Bora was a bit more confusing to non-French speakers but we got on our flight without issue. One thing we didn’t realize is we could have had Priority tickets for Air Tahiti. I think that would have been helpful departing from Bora Bora. We were glad we had plenty of time at the Papeete airport because security was slow, with a lot of cruise-ship passengers hitting the line as we did. Tourism is definitely back in French Polynesia.

We can’t thank Kleon enough for all of his guidance and dedication in the planning of our trip. He was patient, kind and a pleasure work with. His knowledge of the area is vast and thorough. He definitely made the trip better with his suggestions and arrangements. We didn’t have to worry about anything. All details were taken care of by Kleon, which makes relaxing so much easier. We have nothing but wonderful stories to tell and memories to share. No small hiccups spoiled the trip—it was the best!

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Morocco with a teen: souks, ATVs, camels…

SARAH RATHKE | NOVEMBER 29, 2022

This was an absolutely amazing trip for a first time to Morocco. First, our guide, Amine, was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about all of the locations and sites we visited. Second, the sites and towns themselves were absolutely spectacular.

We started our trip landing in Casablanca, but then found our guide and driver and immediately drove the 3-4 hours to Fes. I was a little nervous about whether that would be comfortable after a long, overnight flight, but it turns out, sitting in the car and watching this unfamiliar scenery go by was absolutely perfect—especially since it allowed Amine to orient us to Moroccan culture, a little bit of history, and our trip logistics.

When we got to Fes, we were able to immediately check into our hotel (because we had spent the time required to take the trip), and we then went out and began to see the souks of Fes. We did this again the next day, complete with a trip to see Moroccan ceramics-making in action, a working tannery, and any number of mosques and other cultural sites.

Our next major city was Rabat, which was also nice. Our guide told us that Moroccans themselves tend to find Rabat boring—lol. We did not, but when we got to Marrakesh, we understood what he meant.

Marrakesh was the absolute highlight of the trip. Our hotel was absolutely amazing. On our last day, we made an absolutely fascinating trip hiking on the High Atlas and then ATV-ing and camel riding in the desert.

It was an absolutely once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I would recommend it to anybody.

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Egypt: temples & tombs without crowds, Nile cruise…

RICHARD ASHMORE | NOVEMBER 29, 2022

Jim and his colleagues curated for us a wonderful trip to Egypt from October 23 to November 16, 2022. The itinerary was perfect, the in-Egypt personnel were excellent, and the lodgings outstanding.

The itinerary got us to all the places we wanted to go, and got us there in style. Further, the trip plan did a fantastic job of alternating busy and full days with days that were more relaxing. And it alternated busy and sometimes chaotic places with restful places: Cairo then Siwa; Luxor then the Nile cruise, with Aswan as the final cherry on top.

The folks in Egypt who helped us were top-notch. Just two examples. Farid, our representative in Cairo, is fantastic. He is on top of all details and misses nothing. He listened to us and took care of us. He was able to improvise and quickly and efficiently handled the few glitches that cropped up. Mina Atef is a top-notch guide. He fully understood our desire not just to see, photograph, and learn about the sites/sights, but also to experience them. He got us to the Valley of Kings well before the crowds (we had Ramses VII’s tomb to ourselves for almost 20 minutes) and we were the first folks to arrive at Dendera (having the whole site to ourselves for much of our time there).

As with all the trips we have taken with Wendy Perrin-identified travel curators, all lodgings were outstanding, and they were all different from one another. Just one example: The Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan. We were in room 2904. Without doubt this is THE BEST room in Aswan. We enjoyed the view from our terrace morning, noon, sunset, and late at night.

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Private trekking in Patagonia…

JEANNIE MULLEN | NOVEMBER 27, 2022

Patagonia

Patagonia. Photo: Jeannie Mullen

Since returning from two weeks of trekking in Patagonia, I can’t quit showing off my trip photos! Every time I looked, a National-Geographic-worthy photo leapt into my iPhone.

My goal for this trip was to get in as much trekking as possible—specifically, I wanted to see what my improving fitness level would allow me to do and challenge myself to do more but still get home in one piece. Tom’s trip suggestions and logistics planning were spot-on, and he was able to secure great private trekking guides in each location of the trip, as I wound my way through Chile and Argentina.

First, Torres del Paine: Oh my goodness, what a location. Scenery, wildlife … it absolutely has it all. Tom suggested that Explora was the most advantageous location to do the sort of trekking that I was interested in, and it was perfection.

My guide for three days, Francisca, was delightful, knowledgeable, and encouraging. On our first half-day trek to view wildlife, we saw everything, including the elusive puma … taking an afternoon nap. We had him all to ourselves for over an hour. On some very long, back-to-back treks over the next two days (Grey Glacier and the French Valley), she and I had some terrific conversations, shared our personal stories, and learned a lot from each other, given our different cultures and generations.

Crossing the border and entering Argentina, I was seamlessly transferred to another guide and driver, Juan and Beto, who showed me some of Argentina’s most gorgeous terrain. We hiked to the base of Cerro Torre and the very next day to the base of Fitz Roy. I have to confess I had serious doubts that I could do these hikes, but Juan was very encouraging and guided me through … he took my goal seriously … and I had three gorgeous treks in El Chalten (and sore feet) to show for it.

On our way back to Calafate to view the Perito Moreno glacier, Juan and Beto invited me to share the mate (mah-tay) experience with them—a tradition practiced by all the locals: a warm emulsion of (mostly bitter) local herbs. I was so thrilled to be offered the opportunity to experience it the way the locals do (versus ordering it at a restaurant just to say that I had). I’m pretty sure that Juan and Beto got a kick out of watching the “gringa” trying to finish it, which one must do before returning it to the one who prepares it.

On to Ushuaia for a final three days of trekking through Glacier National Park. Ushuaia is not on everyone’s radar screen, unless there is a cruise to Antarctica involved, but it should be. It’s an interesting, evolving place in a very remote part of the world that you don’t really hear that much about. The mountains on Beagle Channel make for some really striking views. On our hikes (through sun, wind, light rain, and even a curious 10 minutes of hail which happened on a clear, sunny day) my guide, Santiago, was very engaging and shared a lot about his country (current economy, government, growth and job opportunities in Ushuaia) and his family.

I leave in just under a month for another hiking trip that Tom planned for me over the upcoming holidays—in Chile’s Lake District. Stay tuned!

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Colonial Mexico: History, food culture, and beach time…

CATHY GETZ | NOVEMBER 26, 2022

We have just returned from a spectacular trip to Mexico with one of Wendy’s WOW List planners. Joe, Jose, Adriana and all of their competent staff (guides and drivers) assured that our trip was flawless. Timing was wonderful and the weather cooperated, with temperatures in the 70s every day, even at 6,000-foot altitude in Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca. All of our accommodations were perfect for us, close to the city centers. We were particularly interested in the differences and juxtaposition of the pre-Hispanic to colonial culture, visited many of the significant Aztec and Zapotec sites, as well as the colonial churches and significant buildings. We loved the personal stories of our guides and their connections to their home towns. As we were especially interested in the food culture, and we had excellent restaurant experiences at Pujol in Mexico City, going on a taco tour, mezcal tasting (really interesting and fun) and eating lots of chapulines (crickets) that were in season. Thanks to Wendy for our lovely WOW Moment dinner at Criollo in Oaxaca.

Jose was very accommodating in supplying us with names of cardiologists and hospitals at each city we visited, just for peace of mind. We have been Medjet members for many years and this adds a level of safety and security when traveling. Regarding Covid, we felt very safe, we had only one stop, where we arrived at a very small church at the same time as a tour bus. Our guide went and spoke to the guide from the bus tour and then she rerouted our itinerary to another site and came back when less crowded. A loss of 15 minutes and worth it!

We ended our trip with two days on the beach near Puerto Escondido at a lovely small resort, Casona Sforza. We had wonderful food and a lovely room overlooking the Pacific, definitely our chill time before returning home.

Zach’s office provided a great, seamless trip; timing on every event was flawless. We had great vehicles, safe drivers and guides who were willing to make changes on the fly and accommodate our every request. Wendy’s WOW List will continue to be our gold standard for international travel. Many thanks to Zach and the team at Wendy Perrin.

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Patagonia: “The most beautiful place we’ve ever seen…”

CARRIE LAZARUS | NOVEMBER 26, 2022

Our trip to Patagonia was incredible. A couple of days in Buenos Aires was a great way to break up the long travel and a treat to explore an interesting, colorful city with our guide, Claudio.

Tom’s suggestion to spend 4 nights on a small ship exploring the glaciers of the Beagle and Drake channel was spot-on. We loved adventures in the zodiacs every day, as well as amazing guides and very good food.

The highlight of the trip was Torres del Paine. The most beautiful place we’ve ever seen.

So glad we stayed at Explora, with the best view in the entire park, fabulous guides to take you hiking and great food and service!

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Sicily: meeting chefs, winemakers, vulcanologists…

DAVI HARRINGTON | NOVEMBER 20, 2022

My husband and I worked with Marcello to plan a 3-week vacation in Sicily which we took in September, 2022. Marcello was fabulous to work with! He listened carefully to how we liked to travel and what we were interested in doing. He gave us a wide range of experiences to choose from and helped us create a fantastic itinerary. He clearly loves his work and his passion and excitement for Sicily is contagious!

We decided not to drive ourselves and opted for drivers to get us around the island. The drivers he lined up for us were excellent. We always felt safe and in good hands. The drivers spoke English well and were happy to talk with us about their lives in Sicily.

Marcello has an extensive network of guides, and we used guides in almost every place we went. They were without exception excellent. They spoke English well, were knowledgeable and passionate about their area of expertise and were able to show and teach us a great deal about the art, architecture, culture and life of Sicily!

He also arranged for us to have some unique experiences. Some of the highlights include —

A morning spent with a local chef. First we went to the open-air food market, learning how he chose fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Then we went to his restaurant (which is closed at lunch) and had a cooking lesson, followed by the delicious lunch we had watched him make for us.

Another experience was spending an afternoon and evening sailing on the Mediterranean in a 52-foot sailboat. The couple who own the boat were lovely and welcoming. They served us delicious antipasti and wine while we were sailing and watching the sunset.

We also visited an organic farm/ranch. We loved spending time with the owner, who spoke so passionately about his way of farming and raising cattle and horses. He was a fascinating man and it was an unforgettable experience.

Thanks to Marcello, we had a fantastic trip in Sicily. He not only planned it well but was in touch with our guides and drivers almost daily. When we needed to change a plan due to weather, he was able to accommodate us with no problem. It was reassuring to know he was so available should any need arise.

I highly recommend working with Marcello if you are thinking of going to Sicily. You won’t regret it!

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Peru and Bolivia, with a stargazing WOW Moment…

DOMINIQUE TRAN | NOVEMBER 18, 2022

Our trip was amazing —from visiting the salt flats to checking out a silver mine, boating on Lake Titicaca, visiting cathedrals and museums, eating delicious foods, and meeting wonderful people. We were delighted from start to finish with Marisol and Mark’s exceptional advice and service, and a big thank-you to Wendy for the WOW Moment: The unobstructed expanse of the isolated salt flats make star-gazing on the Salar de Uyuni a truly spellbinding experience, as the full breadth and immensity of the night sky can be observed and appreciated with the telescope provided or with the naked eye. Located at altitude with almost no light pollution thanks to a sparse population, the Salar de Uyuni is one of the best places to stargaze in South America.

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English countryside and London: Transported back in time…

ANDREA PHILLIPS | NOVEMBER 17, 2022

What started off as a trip to the Laver Cup in London grew into a longer trip to the English countryside planned by Jonathan and Katie. I was transported to what felt like a different time period while staying at Lucknam Park Manor house in the Cotswolds, with its lovely rooms, grounds, and staff. Jonathan’s private guides were also a big part of making this trip as fabulous as it was. Peter, in the countryside, helped me navigate so many amazing sites—Bath and its Roman baths, Cotswolds village stops, Stonehenge, the Tower climb at Salisbury Cathedral—all in two days! Once back in London, touring the city with Emma was like touring with a friend. We had such a great time walking around, seeing the sights, and learning about the history of London, including its culture with tea, coffee, beer and gin. Of course, being at the tennis tournament was a highlight as well, but the other days, along with the ease of travel, were a standout.

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Germany: city walks, Alpine hikes, local delicacies…

Germany

Barvarian band playing in Braeustueberl Tegernsee beer garden, Germany. Photo: Michael Ruma

MICHAEL RUMA | NOVEMBER 13, 2022

Impromptu trip planned to visit friends stationed in the area turned out to be a well-needed time for relaxation and a stunning experience of Bavaria’s autumn colors and culture. Recognizing the prior benefit of using Wendy’s trusted travel planners, we reached out again in the hopes to gain the necessary assistance to orchestrate a two-week journey across southern Germany, arriving and departing from Frankfurt.

After receiving a quick response, we arranged a brief call with Gwen, who listened to our interests, preferences and desires for our travel. Gwen and her team then curated a delightful itinerary based on our requests for a few city tours, hiking, wine tasting and excellent food. What evolved from there really was a sublimely pleasing trip.

Upon arrival to Frankfurt we walked to the train terminal connected to the airport and boarded our train to Baden Baden. Concerned about missing our train due to a delayed international arrival, we were contacted by our in-country contact who assured us that back-up plans had been made just in case we missed our previously scheduled flight. Without a travel expert monitoring our trip, we would have been stuck worrying about how we fix our train travel.

I’ll highlight just a few of the many wonderful perks we experienced traveling across Bavaria with Gwen’s assistance. First, we received complimentary upgrades at two of the four hotels we stayed. Both of these were not expected, but greatly appreciated with more space, gorgeous balcony views and little treats each and every night. Second, we had really extraordinary guides in each locale giving us the inside scoop on the finest restaurants, hidden museums and the best ways to enjoy each city. Last, each transition to the cities we visited was seamless with either a highly professional driver or fine-tuned directions on how to find our way on our own.

With superb itinerary planning, smooth transportation regardless of mode and a watchful guide wherever and whenever we needed it, we were left with the freedom to simply relax and immerse ourselves into each site we visited, which is the real gift all travelers are after. What this meant to us included walks each morning along the beautifully forested river walk, the Lichtentaler Allee, admiring the changing colors of the trees, spending half a day soaking at a thermal spa, wondering how much more grand Neuschwanstein castle could be from a bridge suspended hundreds of feet above a roaring waterfall, sampling fine chocolates in Strasbourg, learning about riesling quality designations from our wine-loving guide, finding the local spot for wild boar and dumplings, and hiking over 10 miles high above Lake Tegernsee and enjoying a crisp German lager to celebrate the view of the Alps at the local brewery with a live Bavarian band playing next to us.

If you enjoy excellent and well choreographed travel allowing you the ability to feel like a relaxed local truly experiencing all their cities have to offer, then we think you will be pleased to have Gwen put a trip together for you. We will certainly be putting her to work again in the near future!

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Scotland: historical walks, golf, whisky tasting…

CINDY KELLY | NOVEMBER 12, 2022

We recently returned from 12 days in Scotland. To plan our trip, we worked with Jonathan and Katie – they listened to our travel preferences and designed the perfect trip for us. Scotland is an incredibly picturesque country and the people we met there could not have been more welcoming and enjoyable.

Some of the highlights….
On our first day in Edinburgh, Jonathan arranged a full-day walking tour with Paul, a dynamic and knowledgeable guide. As we wandered the Royal Mile going in and out of churches and museums, he pointed out architectural details, and shared stories and the histories of the landmarks and of the country. Many things we would have missed on our own that made us understand and appreciate the city even more.

St Andrews, a picture-perfect town with amazing golf, pubs, and restaurants. Wish we were there longer.

The Culloden Battlefield tour, our driver recommended the visitor center and tour and we were so glad she did – it was incredibly informative and gave us a deeper understanding of Scotland’s history.

Jonathan also arranged for us to drive through The Great Glen. The natural awesome beauty of the place was breathtaking.

Every hotel we stayed at was amazing and we were given exceptional treatment while there – no doubt because of the relationships they shared with Jonathan. Our favorite hotel, where they went above and beyond in every way, was the Airds Hotel in Port Appin. A small, family-run place, we felt at home the minute we walked in. Ryan, the manager, Luka and Norbert were incredibly professional, yet so friendly – I felt sad saying goodbye when we had to leave…and the restaurant served some of the best food I’ve ever had.

On our last day in Scotland, we had our WOW Moment. After our day of touring the Glasgow area, we were dropped off at The Pot Still pub – a small homey place with hundreds of whiskies lining the walls. We sat at a table in the back of the place with locals all around us enjoying drinks with friends. There we were welcomed by Chris, who knew more about whisky than anyone I’d ever met. He spent 2+ hours explaining the intricacies of Scottish whisky, the differences between single malt, single grain, and blends. He told us where the various distilleries were and how the locations and production styles affected taste. And while we listened, we ate haggis pies and tasted a variety of different whiskies. That afternoon was the highlight of our trip, and one of the reasons we’re already talking about a return trip to Scotland.

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Vietnam & Cambodia: street food, scooter tours, veterans’ stories…

AMY EVERS| NOVEMBER 11, 2022

We are extremely happy with our decision to go to Vietnam and Cambodia. We are lucky to have been able to see this part of the world before the masses of tourists come back. Our trip planner was excellent. We started off with a few emails back and forth. He asked me about previous trips we had done in southeast Asia. We then had a Zoom meeting for about an hour to discuss. After that we had many emails back and forth to solidify the plans. He listened to our goals, previous experiences, etc. and worked these ideas into our itinerary.

Our guides throughout the trip also got to know us and honed our days/tours to our specific likes. For example, we like to try all the foods. Our guides did not disappoint. Throughout the trip we went to various markets and even stopped randomly on the side of the road to try things. We had a lot of fun trying some very interesting things! We wanted to have some suits made for my husband, so for 3 days in a row, we made time to go to the tailor for fittings. We wanted to experience everything we could, so even when a torrential downpour interrupted the end of our street-food scooter tour (instead of taking a taxi back to the hotel in the rain), we rode through the streets of Saigon in the rain on the scooter…so much fun and we were soaked! When I said I really wanted to find mangosteens, we did, even though they’re out of season. Etc, etc. I could give so many more examples. Our guides really were at our disposal and were happy to modify. I decided last minute that I really wanted to see Angkor Wat at sunrise. No problem, done! One of our guides even took our laundry to get done while we were on our cruise in Ha Long Bay so we didn’t have to pay the exorbitant costs at the hotels.

We ate at wonderful restaurants, street food, market stalls, and in the homes of local villagers. One of my favorite experiences was a hot pot lunch at a local’s home near the Chinese border in Bac Ha. We bonded with the local hosts, chatting with facial expressions, hand movements and of course our guide translating, all the while drinking home-brewed plum wine. We also cooked food both at a local’s home and at a cooking class.

We learned so much more about the Vietnam war. We met a Vietnamese pilot who shot down 2 American planes during the war. What an interesting and moving interaction that was. We visited the Cu Chi tunnels, the War Remnants Museum, and a hidden weapons bunker.

We partook in the Vietnamese coffee culture on numerous occasions in every city. We stayed active, hiking, biking, and kayaking. We visited a couple schools, one planned ahead of time by our guide and one impromptu. We used multiple modes of transportation… trains, planes, automobiles, tuk-tuks, cyclos, rickshaws, motorcycles and scooters. We met locals in bars, eating street food, in locals’ homes, drinking coffee, etc. We saw beautiful landscapes, historic architecture, ancient ruins, modern architecture, etc. We learned about the Khmer Rouge and visited the S-21 prison. We awed at the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. We did all of this and more with the help and knowledge of our incredible local guides or hosts, as Dan’s office calls them. Host really is a better description than guide. Our hotels were all wonderful. All of our transfers were meticulously timed. Even when our flight from Vietnam to Cambodia was canceled, we were booked on another flight before we even knew there was a problem.

And then, the surprise for me was our WOW Moment. We had a special tuk-tuk ride to the start of our boat ride. On the boat ride on the river we had cocktails, appetizers, entertainment with a traditional singer and a musician playing the Dan Tranh, (which we got to try our hand at), and even lit lanterns. All of that was followed by an incredible multi-course dinner at a beautiful restaurant where our musician was playing another instrument. Everyone involved was amazing. Even the weather cooperated and it didn’t rain! Thank you Wendy!

Dan’s team did a wonderful job. I would definitely use them again and recommend them to friends and family. If you’ve considered a trip to Southeast Asia, do it now!

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Fiji: intimate resort with wonderful staff

MARY LOU VOYTKO | NOVEMBER 10, 2022

This year we took Wendy’s advice and visited only one country to just relax after our multicountry international trip last year that involved plenty of Covid-related entry forms, paperwork, and testing. We targeted Fiji as a place we could easily slip into total relaxation mode and contacted Lynette to help us choose just the right island and resort on which to do just that. Boy, did Lynette deliver in spades! Once we explained what we were looking for in terms of activities, culinary delights, and relaxing, Lynette knew the exact place for us, Taveuni Palms Resort on Taveuni Island, run by Colleen and Barry from New Zealand.

This resort has only two villas and we stayed in the Beach Villa. Our 2-bedroom/ 2-bath house came with gorgeous outside showers, a full kitchen, dining room, living room, pool, and beautiful Fijian woodworking and design throughout. We had a private staff of seven that were shared with the other villa and what a wonderful and amazing group of people they were, especially Sia, Manoa and Veronika, whom we interacted with daily. The staff were so friendly and welcoming we felt like family right from the start, from their beautiful singing voices when they greeted us at their salu-salu welcome, seeing them every day, to the sad good-bye singing when we had to finally leave. With 5 different gorgeous venues at which to dine on our private grounds and beach, we couldn’t wait for mealtime! And we couldn’t be anything but breathless when we sat at exquisitely set tables with seashells, flowers and candles and ate the delicious gourmet meals, including the 4-course dinner each night.

Since being home and dining out, we find that there is no comparison with the meals at Taveuni Palms created by Surnila, our day chef, and Bua and Ishi, our dinner chefs! For our 10-day stay, we had a great mix of relaxation and activities, including snorkeling with private-beach gourmet picnics on nearby islands, island hopping, and shelling. We even did a very challenging but worthwhile hike to 3 beautiful waterfalls with our very capable guide, Duncan. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect resort or island in Fiji to be surrounded by the beauty of its people and nature. On top of all this, just before we left the US, Fiji discontinued all of its Covid-related entry requirements and Fiji Airways withdrew its mask-wearing requirement. That made the entire trip extra easy and enjoyable. We can’t wait to return because after all, we’re now family!

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Indonesia: life-changing cultural experiences, rare wildlife…

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia. Photo: Robyn Needham

ROBYN NEEDHAM | NOVEMBER 8, 2022

We recently took a trip to Indonesia planned by Diane. We spent 9 days in Bali to begin our cultural immersion. We stayed at Como Shambhala outside of Ubud. This is a fantastic resort with an amazing staff that is attentive to all your needs. From that base, we had guided tours all over Bali. Our experiences included visits to many Hindu temples, a Balinese cooking class, treks to a beautiful waterfall and through idyllic rice fields, a visit to a village healer and an incredible day at a local village, including witnessing a traditional Balinese wedding. We also got to participate in a cleansing ceremony with a Hindu Brahman to celebrate our 17th anniversary.

From Bali we flew to Flores to visit the Komodo National Park region. There we traveled by speedboat to Rincon and Komodo National Park to search for the dragon. What an incredible site! We saw a rare baby, juveniles and adult Komodo dragons. An incredible animal that needs to be protected for future generations to see. We also hiked to the tops of islands to amazing views, including a view of both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Our trip here ended with a snorkeling adventure with huge manta rays in pristine blue water. We stayed at a Plantaran resort in Flores that was on the water and had fantastic rooms with equally fantastic staff.

The last leg of our trip was to Yogyakarta on the island of Java. This cultural center in central Java is home to two amazing historical temples, Borobudur and Prambanan. These archeological wonders are over 1200 years old and offer insights into the populations that now make up the Indonesian archipelago. Not only are these archeological wonders, but also iconic sites of extreme religious significance.

All along the way, Diane arranged for us to have life-changing cultural experiences. Our tour guides and drivers were well chosen and incredible people that made our trip memorable in so many ways. To experience the Indonesian people in their daily lives, the happiness, the religious convictions in many different religions all tolerant of one another, and the caring and generosity, are experiences that have enriched my wife and me forevermore.

And to think all of this didn’t happen on a pristine beach, but in the local villages and towns of these amazing islands. We recommend you too seek Indonesia in all its glory through its people. You will realize the importance of relationships, family and the simple things in life that we often forget. Thank you Diane!

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Sicily: meeting chefs, winemakers, vulcanologists…

SHELLEY GORSON | NOVEMBER 8, 2022

My husband Alan and I traveled with another couple to Sicily in early October, 2022. We hired Matteo to help us plan and book our trip. We would highly recommend him and his company for all the reasons that we have continually relied on Wendy’s WOW List for experienced travel professionals: excellent and reliable advice, good listening skills, takes feedback and executes, fantastic connections with top guides, hotels and restaurants. He was sensitive to each couple’s individual wants and needs.

He was able to help us mid-trip with a switch, and was very “present” throughout the process.

There were several “wow” moments on our trip: The market shopping and cooking demonstration in Siracusa, where I learned to make spinach and ricotta ravioli from scratch and enjoyed the most memorable lunch in a gorgeous apartment; the so brilliant and extraordinary vulcanologist on Mt Etna; the wine tasting at Porta del Vento Winery outside of Palermo with the owner, who was as charming as he was great at producing wine!

We would highly recommend Matteo for Sicily travel!

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Chile: Patagonia & the Atacama Desert

DAVID DUBOW | NOVEMBER 6, 2022

Patagonia, specifically Torres del Paine, has been a bucket-list destination for as long as I can remember. So there was a bit of pressure to get everything just right for our trip to the end of the Earth. Wendy Perrin directed us to Jordan and his team (especially Krista). During the initial planning phase, Jordan listened carefully and helped us narrow our options for how to explore the area’s beauty. After careful consideration and with his and Krista’s guidance, we expanded our trip to include the Atacama Desert to see more of Chile’s beauty. Additional conversations led us to pick Explora for our lodgings, which worked perfectly for us. Explora was the perfect mix of luxurious and laid-back with a friendly vibe that led us to meet with other travelers, which added to our experience. The hikes led by the Explora staff were challenging and rewarding. We saw and learned new things that helped us realize a lifelong dream of visiting a place we’d only read about in travel magazines. Krista also helped us enjoy our brief stay in Santiago with personal recommendations for where to stay, eat, and enjoy the best pisco sours.

Krista was always just a phone call or email away and answered all of our questions, no matter how small, with first-hand knowledge right up to the week before our departure. In the immediate post-COVID era of travel, they kept us up to date on all the frequently changing Chilean entry requirements. It was so nice to leave all the travel logistics to the team so that we could really enjoy Patagonia and Atacama without worry. We were also happy to have the help of Karina at Exito Travel (as suggested by Jordan’s office). She found us a great flight deal and solved a late flight change to keep our trip on schedule and within budget.

Thanks to Jordan and team, our bucket-list trip was everything we hoped it would be. For anyone who has ever considered seeing the beauty of Chile, we say “just go,” and go with Jordan.

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Israel & Jordan: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Petra…

TONI CASAMENTO| NOVEMBER 6, 2022

Just back from an amazing trip to Israel and Jordan. Our trip planner Jonathan worked with us in setting up a fabulous itinerary. We were very pleased with all the hotels that were selected. The Norman in Tel Aviv was especially lovely. I had never been to either country. My husband had been to Israel 3 times previously. Our guide Tamara brought the entire country to life for us. Her enthusiasm and knowledge were incredible. We have traveled all over the world and I have to say she was one of the best guides we’ve ever had. We had a WOW Moment on this trip where we were flying simulated F16 planes—super fun, also very humbling, giving us an even greater respect for our fighter pilots. We had a graffiti tour of Tel Aviv with a very talented artist, as well as a food tour in the Souk of Jerusalem. Petra was beyond incredible. It was quite an experience walking across the Israeli border into no man’s land and then walking to the Jordan border. We were thankful we had our trusted guides on either side of the border to guide us. October was a terrific time to travel. We had great weather and fewer crowds.

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Peru: Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Amazon rainforest…

MOLLY ONEILL-EMMI | NOVEMBER 4, 2022

Our trip to Peru exceeded our expectations. From Lima to the Tambopata Reserve in the Amazon…from Arequipa to Colca Canyon…from Cusco to the Sacred Valley…and last, but far from least, to Machu Picchu…we were spellbound by the warmth of the Peruvians and the beauty and diversity of the terrain and climates throughout the country.

Traveling to Peru for three weeks in September was ideal. The weather was cool and comfortable, even in the Amazon (which was an unexpected bonus). We didn’t encounter unmanageable crowds anywhere…in fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the tourism levels, even at Machu Picchu and in Cusco. Peru’s Covid protocol regarding mask-wearing was in place throughout our trip, with which we happily obliged. The majority of our activities were outdoors, so we were grateful and relieved that our health risks were minimized.

We are thrilled that we worked with Marisol and her team to plan this fantastic trip. There just aren’t enough superlatives to describe the quality of service provided by the team. From my initial discussions with Marisol and Mark to our final farewell from Raul at the Lima airport, we felt comfortable and well cared for, every step of the way.

Mark provided top-notch service throughout the entire planning process. From day one, working with him was a joy. He crafted an itinerary that was perfectly matched with our interests and allowed for acclimatization as we journeyed from sea level up to varying elevations (resulting in no altitude sickness!). I was incredibly pleased with his guidance, candid feedback, recommendations, attention to detail, and expertise.

Gonzalo and Yasmin provided excellent customer service while we were in country. They were really put to the test when the lack of functional landing lights at the Arequipa airport forced our plane to turn around and return to Lima. As our fellow passengers struggled to figure out alternative arrangements, we were comforted by the fact that Marisol’s team would be on top of the situation. Upon landing in Lima, we received all of the revised plans via WhatsApp, and Malena comforted us with hugs as we exited the terminal. We really couldn’t have asked for better support, as everyone met the challenge and made fantastic, alternative arrangements for us. We were immensely grateful that we had that team in our corner.

The logistics throughout our trip were handled seamlessly, with greeters and drivers always at the ready with warm smiles and kind words. The luxury boutique hotels were exactly in keeping with our preferences and showcased lovely settings, beautiful architecture, unique decor, and incredible service. Our guides had infinite patience and shared vast amounts of knowledge. Their flexibility and adaptability were greatly appreciated. Of particular note, Abelardo was keenly aware of my husband’s concerns about climbing Huayna Picchu. Abe’s encouragement and support made such a positive impact, helping us meet our goal of reaching the top. Huge success!

Our trip featured so many memorable moments…more than I can possibly capture right now. A definite highlight was our day spent exploring the “real” Sacred Valley. The time spent with Maria and her family was priceless. From dancing with her parents to walking the Andean hills with her llama…from a spiritual ceremony giving thanks to, and toasting, the gods, to plowing the field with bulls…from sharing a lovely lunch made from locally-produced ingredients to an in-depth demonstration of their textile artistry…we felt humbled and honored to have been offered a glimpse into their daily lives.

Another highlight was our WOW Moment in Ollantaytambo. On an organic farm, we learned the traditional Inca cooking technique of pachamanca and savored the delicious alfresco lunch while admiring the breathtaking views of the snow-capped peaks of Mount Veronica. Thank you Wendy for a delightful experience!

We are immensely grateful for all that we experienced and absolutely loved our time exploring so many wonderful facets of Peru. We owe a huge “thank you” to Marisol’s team for helping us create such impactful memories and exceeding our expectations.

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Norway: boating, hiking, meals with locals…

PATTI AND DON MALTASE | NOVEMBER 4, 2022

Jan coordinated our amazing two-week Norway trip. This was by far the best vacation we’ve ever experienced, and to such a beautiful country. Every aspect was perfectly planned. It was creative, interesting, adventurous and fun. From hiking on a glacier, to having a traditional lunch prepared by a charming woman in her quaint summer cabin, to fishing in a small 160-year-old oselver row boat with an amazing guide and his dog. Not to mention catching fish and having him fry it up on shore along with a hot pot of coffee! Our experienced guides and drivers were all wonderful, especially Isak who we spent the last 7 days with. Incredible sites and attractions either by private RIB, ferries, hiking or driving. Beautiful charming accommodations with lovely meals. I

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Tanzania & Rwanda: safari & gorilla trekking

SUSAN KETCHUM | NOVEMBER 4, 2022

Dan helped us plan our recent trip to Africa. Although this was my 6th time and my husband’s 3rd in Africa, in our opinion, having a knowledgeable travel advisor is critical to having the best experience. This is the third time we reached out to Dan for help in planning an African adventure.

We wanted to go on safari in Tanzania and also see the gorillas in Rwanda.

Dan suggested a lodge we were not familiar with for 3 nights, Chem Chem, before moving on to one of our favorite lodges, Singita Sasakwa, for 4 nights.

It was a great combination. Chem Chem is on the eastern edge of Lake Manyara and it is a beautiful setting. For 1 of the 3 nights we were there, we were the only guests! We felt like we were in our own retreat in the spacious tent-style accommodation. Service was 5-star. It’s always amazing to us how remote places like this can provide Michelin-equivalent meals, including spectacular wines. There was a watering hole right outside the window with a variety of wildlife passing by on the way to the lake at all times. Mesmerizing and great photo opportunities.

Our walk with Riposhi, our Maasai guide, was special and very informative. Our guide, Emmanuel, was one of the best we have ever had.
We then spent 4 nights at Sasakwa, perched above the rolling plains of the Serengeti. Picture Karen Blixen at her home in Africa with all of today’s modern conveniences and more! We have been to 5 of the Singita lodges in Africa and they never disappoint. Each time we are surprised and delighted by the beauty, the details, the meals, and most of all the people!

We then flew on to Rwanda, landing in Kigali. After a day and a half in the capital, including a visit to the Genocide Memorial Museum, and an overnight stay at a special place, The Retreat by Heaven, our driver transported us to the Singita Kwitonda Lodge for our 3 night stay.
WOW!

This may be our favorite Singita property, which is saying a lot! Just opened 2 years ago, it is the prime location for the gorilla treks. An added bonus is they provide all the gear you need for trekking so you don’t have to pack those things, a big help with your limited luggage allowance.

We had several conversations with Dan throughout the planning process and he also always responded quickly to e-mail questions we had. There are so many details that go into a trip like this. It is difficult to get into these camps and lodges, as they all have limited accommodations, and Dan was able to make it happen. The logistics are also tricky, as the bush planes between places, and in this case, countries, need to be arranged. There was always someone to meet us at the airports and take us to the next place. We were never left wondering what we had to do next.

We were required to get a Covid test in Kigali to be able see the gorillas and Dan made those arrangements as well.

We love Africa and look forward to our next visit!

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Ireland & Northern Ireland: landscapes, history, foodie finds…

KAREN DAVIS| NOVEMBER 3, 2022

Jonathan and Katie planned a magical 2-week tour of Ireland from July 19 – August 3, 2022 for me and my husband. From our first phone call with them I was impressed with their curiosity about our desires and goals for our trip and their professionalism in planning a detailed, illustrated itinerary. They made some small changes and additions that we requested and answered all of our questions promptly.

When I told Jonathan that I had recently watched the movie “Belfast” and loved the Netflix series “Derry Girls,” he suggested that we might enjoy traveling off the beaten path a bit to Northern Ireland. That ended up being excellent advice, as we really felt like we were on an exciting adventure instead of following a more predictable itinerary through the south.

We started in Dublin and had a memorable tour of Powerscourt, Glendalough and the lovely Wicklow Mountains with Mark as our driver and guide. We highly recommend staying at the Trinity Townhouse Hotel, which was in the perfect location for exploring Dublin.

We then traveled to Belfast and Derry, where we toured The Murals and learned the sad but interesting history of political and religious conflict from our private guides. Our hotel in Belfast, The Culloden Estate, upgraded us to a fabulous suite and provided us with tickets to the Titanic Museum (fascinating—don’t miss it!).

On to the Donegal region for perhaps the most awesome sights of our trip during our hike up Slieve League, the highest sea cliffs in all of Europe! We stayed at the Lough Eske Castle, another lovely hotel where we were treated like royalty. Our last stop was in Galway, which was a nice contrast to the previous towns. We spent several hours one day with Paula, who instantly became our friend, took us on a fabulous food tour, and taught us so much about traditional Irish culture.

After one last night back in Dublin, we returned home happy with many warm stories and memories. We were absolutely charmed by Ireland and feel like we soaked in the magic every minute of each day. It truly was a trip of lifetime that would not have been as memorable without the excellent guidance and advice from Jonathan and Katie!

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French Polynesia honeymoon

MARGARET ARNOLD | NOVEMBER 3, 2022

We married and honeymooned in October 2022 in French Polynesia. I had no time for planning and the good sense to know I knew nothing about our chosen destination, so we chose Kleon to plan for us. Kleon is a compassionate man who truly listened to all our quirks and wants and dreams, and then he turned them into a reality. He added experiences to our trip that brought me to tears because they were so beautiful. My husband just told a friend yesterday that he thought it was fantastic, and then each step of the journey was even more fantastic. It just kept getting better and better. As far as value, I joined Facebook groups for travel to French Polynesia and was surprised to see the cost others booked their travel for. Our travel costs were about the same, but we had upgraded rooms, drivers, guides, day rooms, etc., where others were asking for suggestions for where/when to go to various places, what to do with overly long layovers, etc. We never had to wonder where to go or what to do. We are ever so appreciative, and we would recommend Kleon to everyone!

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Canada: polar bears, northern lights…

SUE MRDJENOVICH | NOVEMBER 1, 2022

My husband and I traveled with another couple to Seal River Heritage Lodge, a short plane ride north of Churchill, Manitoba from October 21-27. Marc’s office did a wonderful job. Marc was wonderful in helping us plan the trip and Kate was very helpful in answering every question we had as we prepared to leave. It was a trip of a lifetime! Everything went perfectly. Our two biggest wishes were to see polar bear and the northern lights. We were not disappointed. We had seen the trips that involved the elevated buses and knew we didn’t want that experience. What Marc’s team provided was so much more. We viewed polar bears continuously for four days. The photos we took were incredible. We weren’t promised anything, but what we received was so much more than what we expected. Thank you for an amazing experience!

We will definitely do this trip and utilize this planning team again!

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Greece: autumn in Athens & the islands

CARRIE GAYKOWSKI | OCTOBER 27, 2022

WOW, is all I can say about our trip to Greece that Mina planned for us. We traveled the first week of October, which was a lovely time of year to visit Athens and the islands. Mina helped design an eight-day itinerary that best fit our desires and preferences. She had several suggestions that we considered.

Every aspect of the trip was planned and executed flawlessly. The communication both during the planning phase and while we were on vacation was smooth and easy. While we were there I had a question about one of the ferries we were taking, and her team in Athens immediately responded to my email with an answer. My husband and I would definitely use Mina again and recommend without reservation.

Thank you Mina and team!

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Sicily: sailing, biking, food & wine experiences…

JONATHAN SCHARFSTEIN | OCTOBER 26, 2022

We just returned from a fantastic trip to Sicily planned by Matteo and Marcello. Trip dates were October 12-October 22. We spent 3 nights in Palermo, 2 nights in Agrigento, and 4 nights in Siracusa. We were very happy with this trip! October is a great time to visit Sicily, the weather was perfect and the crowds were present but certainly less than high season.

Matteo did an excellent job of listening to us—how we wanted our trip set up and what kind of experiences we wanted. We wanted time to self-explore and thus modified the original plan to a few less guided days, which worked great for us, but Matteo also knew where the value of a guide was indispensable and he made that clear (and he was right!).

We wanted several experiences on this trip and Matteo delivered on all of them. We wanted a food tour of the Sicily markets—Matteo got us a fantastic guide for a great Street Food tour. We wanted to shop and cook with a chef—Matteo arranged this with a charismatic great chef. We wanted a day on the water to sail and enjoy the sea—Matteo arranged a phenomenal afternoon and sunset sail with Salvo, a very special person who set up an amazing afternoon for us. We wanted an e-bike tour and this too was arranged for us. The vulcanologist on Mt Etna, the archeologist who led us through the Villa Romana del Casale, and the guide at the Agrigento temples were all also fantastic.

We usually like to rent a car and drive ourselves. After a lot of research we decided against this in Sicily, where the driving can be crazy, and the countless cars full of dents, the confusing traffic patterns and restricted access as well as the lack of parking proved our choice was the right one for us. In its place Matteo set up drivers for us who were always on time, professional and with very nice and spacious vehicles.

We liked the fact that Matteo and Marcello make suggestions for hotels and restaurants but had us do our own research into these and make our own reservations. Not only does this provide transparency, but it’s something we enjoy. The suggested hotels and restaurants were fantastic.

A few suggestions for other travelers considering Sicily. Listen to Matteo and Marcello about Palermo. It was very interesting to visit and the market tour is a must. When in Agrigento, spend an evening in the town of Agrigento and have dinner there. It’s a very quaint town with very nice shops and restaurants. We are glad we stayed at the (very expensive) Villa Athena with an amazing view of the temples (15 min from town); this is a unique and great property with a great restaurant that is a bit formal, so another dinner experience in the city of Agrigento is worth it. We listened to Marcello and Matteo and did not see Taormina, as they felt strongly it was not worth the visit. We have no regrets—but just wonder a teeny tiny bit what all the hype there is about. Another observation—we had two wine tastings with lunch—one of which was in the Mt Etna area. They do this differently in Sicily. These were not winery visits like we have experienced in the U.S., Tuscany, France or Istria. No tour of the vineyards or facilities, no meeting the winemaker; just tasting the wines and a brief description with your meal. The meals and wine were good and we are glad we booked these, but just be aware of this kind of experience.

Matteo was always available by WhatsApp or call, but we did not need to communicate much. The trip went perfectly smoothly, with all drivers and guides on time and exactly where we were supposed to meet them—all according to the itinerary. We definitely felt we were very well “taken care of” at all times.

If you are thinking about going to Sicily, you will be in great hands with Matteo and Marcello!

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Egypt: honeymoon in Cairo & Luxor

REBECCA SWITZER | OCTOBER 24, 2022

We haven’t even unpacked our bags from our Honeymoon tour of Egypt and we are already planning to return for another one! Arlene, Jim, and everyone on the ground in Egypt did a spectacular job making us feel cared for, and the trip went off without a hitch, even in these uncertain times. Our Egyptologists (Reham and Bassem) were so knowledgeable and on top of their game that we would often have temples to ourselves, avoiding all other crowds. Our only regret is that we didn’t extend our trip for another extra week. If you’re considering taking this tour to Egypt, just book it. You will not regret it. (And don’t forget to add a hot-air balloon ride over Luxor. I promise it will be magical!)

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Malta: medieval cities, private sailing…

JANE BANKS| OCTOBER 20, 2022

We had the most amazing time in Malta! We had never been to this island nation and did not have enough time to do research on our own, so we reached out to Jason, a travel expert for Malta. He planned an amazing weeklong itinerary for us with just 2 months’ notice. I appreciated the quick back and forth during the planning stage via e-mail and WhatsApp. He presented us with lots of different activities, hotel and restaurant options. After making final decisions, the itinerary was given in great detail.

Everything was seamless from the minute we landed in Valletta. We loved our VIP meet and greet! So wonderful to have someone escort you through the airport and pick up your baggage while you sit in the VIP lounge. This was also helpful on the return, as the VIP escort walks you through check-in and fast-lane security. The Iniala Harbour was a perfect luxury boutique hotel with the most incredible view of the Grand Harbor. We also appreciated having the same driver for the week for all the outings around the island.

Some of the highlights of the trip: 1) Katherine, our guide for the Valletta food and culture tour. She was wonderful, friendly and extremely knowledgeable. She also led us on our visit to the Hypogeum, a subterranean temple thought to be 5000+ years old. 2) Gozo island exploration on ATV. This was something new for us, to explore an entire island on ATVs. We loved it! The guide took great care in terms of safety, having helmets and taking less busy roads, etc. We saw incredible sites, salt pans, small bays for a quick swim, and a secret spot for an incredible view of Ramla Bay. It was a great way to spend the day. 3) A day on a beautiful yacht with a wonderful captain. 4) Visiting the enchanting medieval city of Mdina during sunset, incredible! 5) Visit with local sheep farmers, who somehow cultivated acres of olive trees on arid landscape, sampling the fruits of their labor with olive oil tasting and a picnic lunch of local Maltese foods. 6) Private falconry experience with Lawrence. We had a great time as he explained the history of his owls and falcons. Then we were able to handle each one and watching them fly! 7) Enjoying our final day relaxing at the Beefbar beach club, with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea.

It has been a couple of months since we left Malta. We miss our incredible view of the Grand Harbor from our hotel room, the delicious food and the warm hospitality of everyone we came across.

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Egypt: behind-the-scenes Cairo

ELISA SPAIN | OCTOBER 20, 2022

Jim and his team check all the boxes.

Excellent guides, check!
Well curated—not days so full, I forgot what I saw—check!
Customized for me, check!
Flawless execution, check!
A high-quality, on-the-ground team, check!
Comfortable vehicles, check!
Flexibility with start time and itinerary, check!
Private experiences, check!
Behind-the-scenes opportunities, check!

Here are some stories to provide a flavor of what made this trip a WOW experience.

In Cairo, my hotel room wasn’t what I was expecting. Jim’s logistics person, who met me at the airport and took me to my hotel, was determined to change that. He wouldn’t leave the hotel until he spoke to the manager, and then shortly after that, despite the hotel being full, I was moved to the room I wanted.

Not only was my Cairo guide well-educated and knowledgeable, I felt as though she was matched to me. We had so much in common; we felt like friends by the end of our time together.

Jim provided a comprehensive itinerary and assured me it was flexible, and it was. The on-the-ground team was terrific about flexibility. I felt like they were my “genies in a bottle.” Whatever I wished for, they went out of their way to make it happen, even on the same day! When I thanked my guide for this, her response was, “You don’t come to Egypt every day, we want you to have the best experience.”

I could share many examples of what made this trip a WOW experience; here’s my favorite.

I wanted to see Jewish history in Cairo, in particular, to meet the “leader” of the few remaining Jews and visit the Jewish cemetery. Jim’s team tried hard to arrange these two requests in advance but was unsuccessful. The leader was out of town, and the government said no to visiting the cemetery. Unbeknownst to me, they were not giving up. Both my guide and the driver (who was also Wow, btw) were determined to make it happen, and they did. The driver drove down a road that didn’t seem drivable, stopped in front of a gate, and tested it. It was open, and in we went. It turned out this was an old Muslim cemetery. My guide spoke to some men she found. They knew about the Jewish one, called someone, I gave them some baksheesh (she told me how much), and off we went to the Jewish one, where someone was waiting to let us in for a bit more baksheesh. It was a wonderful experience seeing a centuries-old resting place of my ancestors, but what made it a lasting memory was the effort of the guide and the driver to make it happen.

I could go on and on with examples. Jim took me on rather last-minute because I was in a bind. The planner I had started working with had dropped the ball, and I was anxious because I was traveling alone. I had just learned about Wendy Perrin and contacted her, hoping to rescue my trip. Jim said yes despite being busy and in the middle of a move. From beginning to end, he and everyone on his team continued to say yes, and the process was flawless.

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Newfoundland: Norse history, local intel…

DIANE MAJESKI | OCTOBER 19, 2022

When two previously planned trips were cancelled on short notice, I turned to Wendy Perrin to fill the void left by the cancelled trips. I had wanted to go to Newfoundland to see the Norse landing sight L’Anse aux Meadows since I was a girl, and Newfoundland expert Jill stepped in and made it happen. Beautifully. And on short notice. After getting to know our travel priorities and limitations, she planned a trip that was better than anything I could have done on my own. Her insights on travel in Newfoundland—how long drives would be, where to eat, sites to see en route—proved invaluable and her involvement every step of the way kept things moving smoothly.

In a nutshell, Jill planned a memorable trip to Newfoundland for us in three short weeks. It was a travel miracle. It was my first experience with the Wendy Perrin team, but it won’t be my last.

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IItaly: artisans in Venice, special access on Lake Como…

DEBBIE GROB | OCTOBER 17, 2022

Maria planned a wonderful 9-day trip to Venice and the Italian lake district. There were a lot of moving parts to this trip, and everything was well coordinated and went off without a hitch.

We were met at the airport by our local host who walked us to our driver, who took us to our private water taxi, that literally dropped us off right in front of Londra Palace, our beautiful hotel. Our trip coincided with the Venice Film Festival, so many people were waiting at the docks for one of the scarce transports. Our “taxi” pulled up, as scheduled, because Maria had made the reservation far in advance.

As we motored down the Grand Canal, standing (to be sure we took in every detail) in the back of our gorgeous watercraft, wind blowing through our hair, we knew this was going to be a very special trip.

After a quick power nap, we headed off on an early evening “Cicchetti” walking tour where we visited several local spots for Venetian appetizers and wines.

The next morning, we met our guide for a visit to three islands. The first stop was Murano, where we enjoyed a tour of the famous glass factory, conducted by the son of the owner, who was also a grandson of one of the grand master artisans. We visited 2 other islands, observing the art of lace making by hand in Burano, and the island of Torcello.

Venice was also the site of our WOW Moment. Although I won’t spoil the details, in case others may be treated to this same experience, let me just say that it was very special and a trip highlight. People applauded as we went by.

The remainder of the trip was spent in Stresa and Bellagio. The Villa Aminta was a lovely boutique hotel. We never would have found it on our own, nor the town of Stresa, for that matter. But what a wonderful location and lodging choice for 3 days.

Every day in the Lake district was filled with a special experience—a private tour by the owner of a renowned wine cellar, a fun cooking class, a tour of the beautiful Villa Balbianello, where our guide had a key to allow us entry into rooms which were off limits to the general public.

While I have always enjoyed planning my own trips, there is no comparison to the benefits of utilizing the talents of a travel specialist. Maria had access to the best guides and knew the right people behind the important scenes. We received early check-ins and special welcome gifts at the hotels she chose. Her restaurant recommendations were wonderful.

Kudos to Maria and her staff.

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Italy: Lake Como, Milan, Florence, Amalfi Coast…

BONNIE THOMPSON | OCTOBER 13, 2022

We worked with Jennifer to craft a remarkable trip through Italy this September, and she was fantastic! There were 6 of us in our group – my husband and me, another couple we have known for decades, and their 25-year-old daughter and her boyfriend. I contacted Jennifer in the winter of 2022, and together we constructed a ten-day itinerary that took us from Lake Como to Positano. Jennifer was an excellent travel advisor – she listened carefully to what we all wanted, asked about our travel style and expectations, and made wonderful suggestions to help narrow down our choices. It was so easy to work with her, and we spent several months going over the itinerary to be sure it was just what we wanted. It really made a difference. Jennifer and her team stayed in touch with us every day with texts and reminders about the plans. Our tour guides were knowledgeable, articulate, and very friendly. Our drivers were experienced, careful, and calm in traffic. We did not use the personal escorting service at the train stations or airports, but it was interesting to note that we could have made those arrangements if we felt we needed them.

We began our adventures at the Grand Hotel Termezzo, on the shores of Lake Como. It was a spectacular hotel, and our rooms were amazing. Our first morning was spent in a beautiful classic wooden speedboat, touring the shores of the lake, learning about history, architecture, and celebrity gossip. We had timed tickets to tour Villa Balbianello, had a wonderful lunch at a quiet café, and strolled around Bellagio. (As you can imagine, we had many great meals in Italy, and Jennifer secured dining reservations at several restaurants that we were unable to book on our own.)

Next, we traveled by train to Milan, and spent several days there. The tours arranged by Jennifer were precisely what we wanted. Our city tour of Modern Milan included the Bocco Verticale building, the Porta Nouva district and the Monumental Cemetery. She also secured timed tickets to see da Vinci’s Last Supper. One day we had a beautiful drive to Piedmont for a spectacular wine tasting.

Then we went to Florence by train, and again we had a wonderful time. Hotel Brunelleschi was perfect, and within walking distance of everything we wanted to visit. Our cooking class was amazing – we walked to a local market to select the ingredients, and then we walked to the stunning personal kitchen with a view straight to the Ponte Vecchio. Our chef was delightful, and the meal we made together was delicious.

It was in Florence that we had our WOW Moment. And, again, this just showed how carefully Jennifer listened to our interests and preferences. Late afternoon we were met at the lobby of our hotel, where we discovered we would be visiting two local artisan workshops to see classic Venetian crafts – mosaics in hard stone, and paper marbling – and afterwards have a chance to relax with aperitifs and nibbles while talking with our wonderful guide. It was EXACTLY what I wanted. It was similar to what I had discussed with Jennifer, and we just hadn’t been able to it work into the schedule.

Next, we traveled by train to Naples, and then by driver to Positano where we checked into our beautiful hotel, Le Sirenuse. Oh, we know there is so much to do along the Amalfi Coast that it is hard to pick between activities. However, we have been there a few times before, and this time all we really wanted to do was just enjoy the sea, the view, and our lovely hotel. And this is pretty much what we did for the three days we were there. Eat, swim, repeat. Again, Jennifer managed to get reservations at several restaurants that we were unable to book ourselves.

The last full day of our trip we left Positano, and our driver took us up through the mountains towards Naples. We were met by a guide at Pompeii for a fascinating private tour of the ruins and museum. And then our driver took us on to a winery on the slopes of Vesuvius for a lunch and wine tasting. And finally, we got to Naples for our last evening. The Hotel Romeo was a perfect spot, very modern and groovy, right on the waterfront by the cruise ships. That night we walked to a local restaurant for, of course, pizza!

The value that Jennifer added to our trip is too much to calculate. We were a diverse group, with varied interests and tolerances, and it was great that we had worked out our itinerary so far in advance. The early portions of the trip that were carefully planned meant we all were on the same page each day, and we had all agreed to the schedule. The last few days on the Amalfi Coast were totally unplanned, which allowed for more relaxation and spontaneity. It was the perfect combination.

As for concerns about COVID, this was not really an issue on this itinerary. All of us were fully vaccinated and had our booster shots. We were mostly in our own group, with private tours and private transportation. Our train tickets had reserved seats, and we were not in big crowds very often. Our hotels were quiet and expansive. We knew our guides and drivers had been vetted by Jennifer. We felt safe.

I would highly recommend Jennifer and her team. We hope to get the chance to use her again!

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Switzerland in fall: local customs, hiking, no crowds…

LYNN HERRICK| OCTOBER 10, 2022

We just came home from a wonderful trip in Switzerland. I think October is a fabulous time to visit. We ran into very few tourists, got to see the beautiful green countryside, and still experienced enough snow by visiting the Matterhorn and other sites. Our travel planners (Ana, Simon and Nina) were very helpful. We really gave very little direction, but they created a perfect itinerary that enabled us to visit Zurich, Appenzellerland, the Rheinfall, Zermatt and Lucerne in our short 7-day trip. They were also very flexible with schedule changes and reworked the entire itinerary when we changed airports at the last minute. While we were busy every day, there was still time for relaxing and enjoying each place.

In Zurich, we took an informative “insider” walking tour our first day and felt completely oriented to the city by the end of our 3 hours. We also had a special WOW Moment dinner in a private vineyard hut overlooking the city. The rain only added to the romantic ambiance of the evening. Thanks Wendy! Appenzellerland was very special and very Swiss! We saw cows returning from the Alps, were invited into local homes and marveled at the customs and traditions of this region. Our drivers and guides were (of course) prompt, courteous and knowledgable. We enjoyed getting to know each one of them. We loved our time in Zermatt. The recommended hotel was unusual (our bed was suspended in glass over the main floor) but charming and our guide took us on a hike that resulted in the PERFECT photo of the Matterhorn. Lucerne was a very quick visit, but the stop at Chronoswiss was very special, and expensive after we fell in love with these unique Swiss watches.

As with every trip we have booked with a Wendy Perrin travel expert, all details were taken care of and we did not ever have to worry about anything. Unfortunately, we left our passports in Zermatt by mistake (have never done that before), and Ana saved the day for us. It was a very stressful moment and she was very calm and found a solution. We remain very grateful as we had to catch a flight from Frankfurt to the US the next morning. We would love to visit Switzerland again in the future and will certainly reach out to Ana, Nina and Simon when we do. If you are considering Switzerland as a vacation destination, I say go for it.

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Turkey: private guides, local connections…

MARC AND CHERI LINDBERG | OCTOBER 9, 2022

We traveled to Turkiye in late September 2022. Earl outlined an excellent literary and experience. We first considered enlisting in a group tour, but decided to go with Earl’s services as we wanted more individual attention than one typically receives with a group tour. To our surprise, this personal experience was less expensive than the group tours we considered. The individual guide and driver services exceeded our expectations. Such personalized service was excellent, as it was crafted to our desires and interests. From beginning to end, our experience in both Istanbul and Cappadocia could not have been better.

Our guide in Istanbul was Reza. He spoke perfect English, and provided a warm and friendly welcome. He openly discussed many of the issues in his country that we were curious about. He was quite engaging in his telling of the story of Turkiye, its history, and its relics from the long past. He knew the best times to go to each venue, got us in ahead of the crowds, and was one of the best and most informed guides I have had the good fortune of working with.

Our guide in Cappadocia, Basri was excellent—a very friendly and personable individual who assumed responsibility for taking care of us. He was informed by his lifelong residency in the region and provided some of the best experiences we have had while traveling in a foreign country. He brought us to a place in the country where we met with a family with whom we had tea, and we got to see spots that are not typically offered in group tours. Going to lunch was something that was also a great experience. We had him order for us, as we had tried with some dinners and it was hit and miss. He ordered some of the most fabulous food I have ever eaten, and our service was exceptional. His personal knowledge of the region gave us a passport to an adventure of a lifetime.

In summary, the quality of the services were the best we could have experienced. I highly recommend Earl and his team to show you their part of the world in a friendly, safe, and entertaining way.

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Greece: Athens, Hydra, the Peloponnese…

ELAINE GOLIN | OCTOBER 6, 2022

I have used many WOW List specialists over the years, but I have to say that Jacoline and her team were among the best. The logistics were seamless, but what I really appreciated the most was that Jacoline was such a good listener—my trip did not feel cookie-cutter at all but the rhythm and activities were tailored to my interests, as were the selection of hotels. The dialogue around restaurants was great too. I really appreciated Jacoline’s flexibility—my trip was somewhat odd in that I was in Athens with a group of friends and then striking out on my own to visit the Peloponnese (Jacoline suggested adding a stop in Hydra and it was the PERFECT add). Greece has so much more to explore—and I will definitely be doing it with Jacoline and team. I would say make the most of your conversations with Jacoline—no one knows Greece like she does—and she will listen carefully and create the trip you want.

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Costa Rica: zip lining, boating, wildlife galore…

MEG CASTINEIRAS | OCTOBER 5, 2022

We recently returned (July 2022) from an amazing vacation in Costa Rica, which was planned by Priscilla. I traveled with my three adult children (17,19 and 23) and we were looking forward to an out-of-country excursion after staying in the States for an extend period due to Covid.

In my initial phone calls with Priscilla I had mentioned that we wanted to maximize our time in the country (12 days) and visit several different locations. We also love to be active. It was planned to perfection. My only request was to stay at Nayara Tented Camp. Priscilla went out of her way to coordinate the trip around my request. The Tented Camp was wonderful beyond words, it was a nice break of sorts from our busy days and we all loved it, especially the private plunge pool.

We started in Tortuguero, which is a gem on the Caribbean side of the country. We stayed at a river lodge, right in the middle of the rainforest. It was extremely lush and with lots of wildlife sightings. From there we went to Arenal, where we did waterfall rappelling and zip lining. Our rafting was cancelled due to an impending storm. We also did an evening frog tour, which I would highly recommend. Our last stop was the amazingly biodiverse Osa Peninsula, on the Pacific side. We were in awe of all of the wildlife sightings. The mangrove tour was one of the highlights of our trip. We were in the boat for about 4 hours, with constant wildlife sightings. One night we did an evening bug tour, with loads of different bug sightings, another must if you are in the Osa Peninsula. The tours, resorts and activities were planned by Priscilla perfectly.

Priscilla listened to my requests and worked closely with me to coordinate all activities that were suited to our interests. We accomplished our goal of seeing different areas of the country, and getting an amazing introduction to the unbelievable biodiversity of this country. She was a pleasure to work with, extremely responsive, and I would highly recommend her for anyone that is considering a trip to Costa Rica.

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Greece in fall: Athens, Paros, Santorini…

MALLORY CARY | OCTOBER 3, 2022

If anyone is considering a trip to the Greek Islands on a shoulder season, we say: DO IT! My husband and I just returned from a 10-day trip to Greece, starting in Athens, on to Paros, then wrapping in Santorini. It was an absolute dream of a trip and was made so much more wonderful by Mina and her staff! Traveling toward the end of the season meant excellent weather, calmer locations, better prices, and less stress for us.

The city of Athens was so incredibly educational and thrilling, we especially loved the private tour of the Acropolis slopes and Parthenon, as well as the amazing views at the GB Rooftop restaurant. We enjoyed exploring the central city and shops in the Plaka, as well as a picturesque drive down to Cape Sounio to see the Temple of Poseidon at sunset. From Athens we took a short flight to Paros, where we enjoyed the cooking classes at Anezina Village and the wonderful staff and team at Hotel Cove Paros. The beaches of Paros were strikingly beautiful, the bright blue water against the desert backdrop was stunning. Paros was very quiet at this point in the season, especially where we stayed in Naoussa. This was a very relaxing location with easy walks to local restaurants and shops in the village. From Paros we took a ferry to Santorini for the final leg of our trip. The ferry to Paros was a very unique experience but ultimately very smooth and a beautiful way to take in views of the islands from the water. If you’re not up to navigating massive crowds, we would suggest avoiding the ferry process. If you’re in the mood for an adventure and pretty views, go for it!

Once we arrived in Santorini, we were taken aback by the incredible views at our hotel Stella Rocca A Mare. This location was so extraordinarily beautiful, Aguilas and his staff went above and beyond to make our stay very special and personalized, and the placement was so central to many activities and restaurants. We can’t recommend this place enough! In addition, the onsite restaurant, Nero, served an amazing Lobster Pasta to die for. We also enjoyed a wine tour to three local wineries, as well as an incredible catamaran tour with even more views and wonderful Greek barbecue.

Our trip planners, Mina and Faye, crafted an incredible trip for us and with perfect suggestions for accommodations, excursions, dining, and smoothly navigated all travel logistics. It was such a coordinated team effort to create the trip we had envisioned and so much more. In addition, we were grateful for the 24/7 text service that allowed us to ask any questions or make adjustments on the fly—the immediate support was incredible. The planners were very respectful of our budget and offered many wonderful options that kept us comfortable with the overall expense. All in all, the value of the trip planning and support was worth every penny! We would use this service again for our next trip and recommend to all.

Thank you Mina and team!

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Malta: waterside picnics, ancient ruins, insider access…

ELLIOT LASKIN| OCTOBER 2, 2022

My wife and I just returned from a month long holiday – traveling to Portugal, Sicily and Malta in Sept 2022. We worked with Jason to plan the Malta portion for the last week of our trip Sept 22-29 and he did an outstanding job – from the moment of our arrival being greeted at the plane by a private car and driver to the WOW Moment he organized for us and several other special surprises…it was orchestrated to perfection.

We knew we were in good hands from that first moment, and it continued for our entire stay. Given we had already been touring for about 3 weeks, Jason was right to have us start in Gozo…where it is a bit slower and not as busy. It was a long day though – flight to Malta, then a drive to the ferry, ferry over to Gozo and then another drive to the hotel. However, at every stop there was someone waiting for us and helping us with our bags. The hotel (Cesca Lodge) was a beautifully converted ancient stone building. We were tempted not to go out to dinner, but we pushed ourselves to go out to where Jason had booked us and are we glad we did!! The owner was amazing…treated us like old friends, and the food was delicious too! It was such a fun night. The next day we had an amazing tour with our private guide of Gozo which included some stunning views of the turquoise water from a hidden cave. Later that evening we had our WOW Moment, which was truly spectacular!! We had an incredibly beautiful picnic on the water with a solo musician playing guitar…some songs which Jason had personally requested that he knew we would like! We watched the sunset while drinking champagne, sitting on blankets and pillows, surrounded by twinkle lights.

The next day we took a private boat transfer to Malta. Along the way we passed Comino Island and the gorgeous waters of the blue lagoon. Jason arranged a picnic basket of food for us on the boat which was such a thoughtful touch…although the water was too rough for us to eat, once we got to the hotel we were certainly grateful to have some food. Our driver had been waiting for us…everything was organized perfectly. The hotel Jason recommended (Iniala) was beautiful and right on the Grand Harbour – an amazing location with a fabulous view. That afternoon we went exploring on our own and had dinner on an incredible rooftop terrace where an opera soloist was singing. Once again, the owner treated us like royalty, as we were guests of Jason’s.

The next day we were met again by our guide and driver, who showed us the most ancient ruins of Malta as well as an old fishing village that had a market going on. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, we asked him to join us for lunch which he did. After that we were on our own…it was a perfect balance of touring with a guide and then exploring Valleta by ourselves – which is safe and very easy to do.

The next day we had no plans which was great…we explored on our own and found our own restaurants, although Jason had provided us with tons of choices should we have needed help or wanted advice on where to go.

After a great free day, we were back to touring with our same excellent guide and very personable and helpful driver. We walked around the main city of Valletta and had a surprise visit with a 6th-generation clock maker/gilder. That was an amazing opportunity that Jason arranged for us. After that we made it to hear the famous cannon go off at noon…another highlight. We then took a boat across to the 3 cities and walked around there. Everything was organized to a tee and we never waited more than a minute for a boat or the car…it was seamless.

What we also greatly appreciated beyond the precisely organized days was that Jason took the time to check in numerous times during our time in Malta. He really cared about us and our experience…and he took the time to make sure that all was well. It was that and the other personal touches that really took our experience using Jason as our agent to the next level.

On our last day we were booked with the “father of all tour guides” and it was a fabulous way to end our trip. He took us on an amazing tour with numerous special surprises, including being able to visit a noblewoman’s private home with an incredible art and antique collection. She showed us around and was very clear that she does not do that for just anyone, but she is friends with Jason (and his brother) and so she was willing to open her home to us. It was a true highlight of our monthlong vacation. In addition, we gained access to the private summer home of the President of Malta…and we very much appreciated that Jason was able to arrange this opportunity for us.

We absolutely loved our time in Malta and are very grateful for the amazing trip that Jason organized for us. We really treasured our time there. Most of our friends have never been to Malta and many have never even heard of it…but after traveling there we are telling all of our friends that they must go and they must talk to Jason!!

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Newfoundland, Canada: hiking, fishing, music…

BARBARA PALTER | OCTOBER 1, 2022

This was our second holiday with Jill and it didn’t disappoint! She organized an eight-day trip for four couples, best friends for the last 30 years….

Before Covid, Jill organized a tour of the east coast of Newfoundland for us. We loved the area so much that we chose to return; this time we visited Newfoundland’s west coast and Cape Breton. Again, a trip full of great adventure, good food and fantastic people. The recommendations from hiking, to eating, fishing and all of the accommodations were wonderful.

In Cape Breton we toured with Harry – he figured our group out right away and told us great stories of the various communities. Misty also caught our vibe from the minute she met us, changed things up and took us to her own town’s annual fair. She introduced us to some of the families there and we instantly felt the warmth and kindness – we didn’t want to leave! On our drive, we stopped at a local artisan, Melinda by the Sea…and an engagement ring was purchased for a surprise engagement that occurred a few days later! Misty then drove us from Cape Breton to Halifax so we could catch our flight to Newfoundland the next morning. She gave us the low-down on where to eat and what to do there. We caught Nova Scotia’s Joel Plaskett at an outdoor concert – a real treat!

And on to Newfoundland…
We stayed in Woody Point at the Seaside Suites for 3 nights – what a treat! The townspeople were again, warm and welcoming (a common characteristic in this part of our country). The local pub, The Merchant Warehouse, had great food and the owner’s daughter plays her guitar and sings up a storm (don’t miss it). We had our screech-in there as well with the incomparable Aunt Sophie!!! The same owners run the Seaside Restaurant and we had an equally wonderful dinner there as well. Taste, a new restaurant down the road, was also very worth a visit.

The hikes here though were unrivalled; accurately marked and well-kept, the unique landscapes and terrain were breathtaking. We will be back to conquer Gros Morne!

Finally, we ended our vacation in Cornerbrook and stayed at the beautiful new Hew and Draw Hotel. The highlight here though was our time with Darren. He took us out in his dory to his cabin on the water. We enjoyed a dinner of mussels and cod with an evening tour of the surrounding region by boat. His mom had even baked us an apple pie! The stories he told us of his family and the region were again just part of the local hospitality.

We have travelled to many places in the world and the Canadian Maritimes is indeed a treasure – thank you Jill for all of your guidance.

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Iceland: private hot springs, ice caves…

STEVE JELLINEK | SEPTEMBER 29, 2022

Our trip to Iceland, planned by Chris, was fabulous. The hotels, restaurants, driver/guide. and specialty guides were all wonderful. I have no complaints. Chris checked in with us every day and was available to answer questions or make suggestions 24/7, literally. I don’t think he ever sleeps. A couple of the special days — the trek into a spectacular ice cave inside a glacier, and bathing in a hot spring bath “built” on the spot by our guide — gave us experiences that we would never have gotten on our own. My wife and I — both octogenarians — could not be happier with our time in Iceland.

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France: historical tours, river cruise, Versailles…

KATHY DECARLO | SEPTEMBER 27, 2022

When we first decided to travel to Paris, we went to Wendy to find the best match for our travel plans. She suggested Jennifer. We had not been to France in 30 years but knew that we wanted to focus on the French Revolution and WWII history. From the first meeting and emails we secured the perfect itinerary for us. Jennifer knew the guides that would help us and suggested several tours.

Jennifer’s choice of guides matched us perfectly. So full of life, passion and information. We enjoyed each tour with Isabelle and Edith. Tarek, the driver, was amazing. How he drives in Paris needs a courage and bravery medal, and he never lost his smile. We appreciated how both Isabelle and Edith put the tours into historical context for us to readily understand the meaning. Not too much detail nor too little. They were fun to be with – and even gave me some insights into Emily in Paris, including showing us the shooting locations. Loved it.

The River Cruise was as imagined. I only wish there was a bit more information given during the time on board. I did provide the feedback via text.

We so enjoyed Le Grand Controle in Versailles. Every detail mirrored the time period. I don’t know where they bought their towels, slippers and bathrobes but they were the lushest, plushest we ever used. Having a private tour of Versailles – what can I say, really made the tours a pleasure with no crowds to deal with. The Hamlet was the best tour – after the oppressive nature of the palace I can see why Marie Antoinette built it for her and her friends. The breakfast, sweet tea, dinner and drinks made one feel pampered and spoiled.

We liked the daily updates to keep us on track and added flexibility for last-minute time changes.

Overall, a great tour and we will definitely rebook with Jennifer.

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Norway: fjords, northern lights, meeting locals…

SALLY BOLAND | SEPTEMBER 27, 2022

We are just back from a most wonderful two weeks in Norway as arranged by Jan. So many aspects of this trip are amazing and I will try to touch on a few of them, although the entire time is worthy of mentioning.

We started in Bergen, which we easily explored on our own upon arrival. Such a pretty and comfortable — it deserves at least two days. Our first guide was Solveig Mohr, a perfect match for us. We left Bergen feeling we would love to come back and spend more time.

But we had much to see in our short two weeks, so our next day we were picked up by Erik Haukeland, who would be with us the next 3 days on our drive north through the fjords. When planning the trip, we had discussed with Jan about cruising vs. driving — and he totally recommended the drive. We were so glad we took his recommendation. It was three days of constant awe-inspiring scenery. But Erik had so much insight into places we drove through — history, stories and just talking to us about life in Norway. He was the best and we so appreciated his being our guide. Jan had arranged two different times we would be on the water in a fjord — so we did not miss the feeling of what being on a cruise might be like. In fact, possibly it was even better! We spent a 1/2-day on a RIB boat — just the two of us and the captain — gliding along the fjord waters and enjoying the experience.

I have to mention that Jan also arranged for some amazing lodging along the way. We stayed in three different places, as we had to continue our drive each morning. All three could have been a trip by themselves! We were so sad each morning to have to leave and not get to fully enjoy just staying in these incredible places for at least two nights. Each one had charming rooms, views that were like a postcard, places to walk or hike, and such friendly hosts. I hope sometime we can return to at least one of them and just stay a few days to enjoy. Oh — and the food in each place was superb. I couldn’t even compare between the three — each was that good.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Erik and fly to the Lofoten Islands where we stayed in a Rorbu in Reine. We had another Erik — Erik Fokke — who also fitted us perfectly. Just like our other Erik, he didn’t just show us scenic or interesting places — but talked to us and answered so many questions we had. I love leaving a location feeling I have learned a little about the people and customs — and that was being fulfilled on this trip.

We spent two enjoyable days in the Rorbu and had a fun WOW Moment when an excellent halibut dinner was prepared for us in our own room and we were able to enjoy this private time together watching the harbor with a great meal! Thank you for arranging this!! I’m not sure if this was also part of the plan, but a couple of hours later, we stepped outside to a show of the Northern Lights — right there on our own porch!! It was our first time to see these! Thank you for that arrangement too!!!

And finally, after too short of a time in the Lofoten Islands (detect a theme here?!) — we flew up to Alta, which is above the Arctic Circle. Our first accommodation was the Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge. This place was absolutely incredible. Our room, with floor-to-ceiling windows, looked out over the Alta River and you really felt a million miles from everything. We would have been content to stay there and never leave the grounds — but there was much to see and do! Sadly, we were supposed to stay there 5 nights, but due to a convention that had booked the entire hotel a year ago, we had to move to a different place for our last two nights. However, that was also very charming and we enjoyed it very, very much. The owner and chef there, Johnny, was amazing — and Jan had mentioned he was considered one of Norway’s best. We would agree!

The guides were all wonderful for the various activities. They accommodated us to our wishes and needs. We were able to take a boat ride on the Alta River with a BBQ lunch of salmon along the way. Very memorable. The visit to the Sami — where we met Johan — was so interesting and so glad we were able to learn about this culture. And each night, Sara took us on our Chasing the Northern Lights Safari. After 4 nights — we had success!!

A special mention of our guide, Kenneth Johansen. Jan went out of his way to arrange our time with him, as we had requested time to do some birding. Dr. Johansen is world famous for raptors and also a busy medical doctor. He is not a guide! Yet, he took the time to spend two days with us and was so gracious. We just can’t express how much we appreciate what he did to fulfill a request we had made — probably somewhat ignorantly, as we didn’t understand this was not a great time to see birds!! Regardless, he showed us what he could — and so much more. We learned about his wonderful country and special things about it, opening up to us with all our questions. We saw some birds, but more importantly, we saw aspects of Norway you can’t see without someone who lives there showing and explaining their life.

The last day in Alta was truly a surprise! Another WOW Moment and this one left both of us speechless. As we arrived at the small airport, we were a bit confused. Kenneth must have something of historical interest to show us. And then — there was the helicopter!! It was such a perfect way to end our trip! The fall colors were lighting up the whole countryside and we saw it all from the air! It was the cherry on top of a perfect trip and we thank all of you for arranging this. Nothing could have been better!!

My last thoughts. We travel to see the beauty of the world and explore famous or historical sites. But the best part is always when there are opportunities to meet the people who live there and you have the chance to gain insights into their way of life, culture, interests and way of seeing the world. We always come home feeling enriched from these experiences. Norway is a beautiful country with incredible people. What a pleasure to have been able to share their country for two weeks!

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Peru: adventure for three girlfriends

MAIRA SURO | SEPTEMBER 26, 2022

I just got back from the MOST AMAZING trip to Perú! Tom heard me loud and clear when I initially said this was an adventure trip for my girlfriends and I, and he delivered amazing guides, wonderful and challenging experiences, unique visits to learn all about the Peruvian culture and its people, and just an overall incredible 10 days! The hotels were luxurious and the attention to detail, including every transfer from hotel to airport to train, was seamless! We even made some last-minute changes while on the trip, which were handled easily. Our WOW Moment was exactly that…an unexpected WOW! Thank you Wendy. I came back to the U.S. in love with Perú and anxious to return to South America.

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Norway: fjords, hiking, northern lights…

DEBORAH EVANS | SEPTEMBER 25, 2022

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Norway organized by Jan. We had planned the trip at the height of Covid to have something to look forward to, and the trip definitely fulfilled all our expectations! We had explained to Jan that we wanted to see the fjords and also the northern lights, and he advised us the best time to travel would be September. He kept us appraised of changes that had to be made to our itinerary and provided options to substitute when, for example, ferries decided not to run in September. Other request were for hiking and good food. In the west of Norway to see the fjords we opted to self-drive, and Jan provided excellent driving directions enabling us to take the most scenic routes. We were lucky with the weather, after a very wet summer the sun came out and gave us spectacular views. Jan arranged excellent hiking guides who suggested routes suitable for our fitness, and were very knowledgeable about Norway’s history and culture. Every hotel was quiet, with excellent food and very attentive staff.

We flew to Alta, far beyond the Arctic Circle, to optimize our chances of seeing the northern lights. Jan had arranged for our trip to be guided by Glod Explorer, whose guides were fantastic. We had three days to see the lights, days one and three were difficult due to cloud cover, and despite travel only caught glimpses of the lights. However, on day 2 the skies had cleared and we were treated to an amazing display! The area around Alta has its own beauty, which we experienced both hiking and canoeing. The lodge where Jan had arranged accommodation was very comfortable and the food was extremely good.

Our final day was in Oslo, unfortunately our initial choice of restaurant was closed on a Saturday, but Jan obtained a booking at a wonderful replacement where the multi-course tasting menu was incredible.

Norway, though expensive, is an amazing place to visit and we had an unforgettable experience there.

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Ireland: history, pub lunches, a WOW Moment…

VANESSA HULME | SEPTEMBER 18, 2022

My husband and I have just returned from a fantastic 3-week trip planned by Jonathan and his team. From our first conversation with Jonathan and Katie, we knew we were in good hands. We had some idea of the places we wanted to visit and things we wanted to see; they listened to us, asked questions, made suggestions, and put together an itinerary that was better than we hoped.

Because we were traveling to different cities (Belfast, Dublin, Killarney, Cong and Galway), Jonathan suggested a driver rather than self-driving, and he was so right! Having the pressure of driving removed gave us so much more freedom to explore the areas and enjoy the days. Also, the drivers did not just drive, they provided historical facts, made suggestions of out-of-the-way places to visit, knew the best local places for a pub lunch, the best place to buy a special gift, the place to stop for the best view/photos, etc.

The hotels Jonathan suggested were truly amazing. In each, we felt very special, and we are sure Jonathan’s connections made a huge difference. The Merchant in Belfast, the Shelbourne in Dublin, and the Killarney Park in Killarney were all wonderful; it is difficult to describe how nice it is to walk into a hotel and be greeted like an old friend! And Ashford Castle…there are not enough superlatives to describe this hotel…top-notch service, magnificent rooms, excellent restaurants & bars, and an attitude that ‘nothing is too much to ask.’ We could have certainly stayed there longer.

We had too many outstanding experiences to list here, but some were: visiting the area of the ‘Troubles’ in Belfast, including the murals and Wall of Peace; tours of the Book of Kells and Kilmainham Jail in Dublin; Rock of Cashel; Dingle peninsula; the Hawk Walk and cruise at Ashford Castle; a day trip to the Aran Islands; sheepdog demonstration; Cliffs of Moher; and a food tour in Galway. Many of the activities we would not have known about had it not been for the suggestion of Jonathan and Katie.

Thank you, Wendy, for another memorable WOW Moment. Sitting on one of the columns at the Giant’s Causeway sipping Bushmill’s Reserve whiskey gives a new meaning to ‘whiskey on the rocks.’ Everyone passing by us was jealous!

Thanks, Jonathan and Katie for putting together one of the best vacations we have had. We cannot wait to return to Ireland!

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Italy: food, wine & boats in the Lake Region…

DEL CROCKETT | SEPTEMBER 18, 2022

I worked with Emanuela and was very impressed with the entire trip-planning process through to the final day of the trip. I highly recommend. Both Lake Como and Lake Garda were absolutely amazing, but very different in feel. Como was beyond stunning, just like you see online, but I’d easily visit both again.

The trip was planned for my mother’s birthday, so we requested a detailed itinerary that combined high-end accommodations and day trips that were private in nature and aligned with her interests (wine, food, boating on the lake, plus a sprinkle of history).

Emanuela nailed it.

I gave her a general outline of what we were thinking for the trip to satisfy my mother’s interests, and she went to work to curate a custom itinerary. The process of working thru fine-tuning the itinerary was seamless and so easy. Emanuela was always quick to respond and suggest revisions. She also helped with dining suggestions (all of which were phenomenal) and ensured our private travel (car and boat) were set up (all of which were high-end, on time, safe, friendly, and clean).

In addition, the guides that were selected for us during the trip were just fantastic. We had lunch several times with our guides as they fit in so easily. I would use the exact same guides again in the future.

Overall, I was really pleased with the trip and overall planning services. I set a budget and gave Emanuela a general idea of what I was thinking for the trip and sat back. Planing was a breeze. The trip itself was simply unforgettable.

I really appreciate Emanuela’s service levels during the entire process. On a few occasions during the trip I sent her a few questions (via WhatsApp) and she responded right away, which is really great to have when overseas. She was even able to move reservations and suggest additional places of interest upon request as we made small edits to our daily plans along the way.

If you are looking for a quality trip to Italy and want authentic experiences without all the tourist traps and crowds—I highly suggest connecting with Emanuela and her team, as they can curate a masterful itinerary.

This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate.  Here’s what that means.

Ask Wendy


Peru: insider city tour, Machu Picchu, a WOW Moment…

ANDREA REED | SEPTEMBER 15, 2022

How many different ways can you say the word “amazing”??? Marisol’s office of experts were the sum of all the ways it can be expressed. Our trip to Peru was postponed from 2020 until now (9/1-9/12). In that time Mark was responsive and caring no matter how small or “in the weeds” my questions and concerns were. All of my check boxes were fulfilled to make this a dream trip come true. We were looked after and felt safe both before and during our trip related to Covid protocols and in every other sense. The staff went above and beyond.

One example is upon landing in Lima our first day. A representative from Marisol’s team went out at 11pm at night and found and DELIVERED a new knee brace to our hotel as the one my husband packed had been “misplaced” by the airline. We had an early flight in the morning so this was nothing short of miraculous. Without this brace my husband may not have been able to explore Machu Picchu or the other sites planned.

Because of the almost immediate responses of the team, we were able to tweak our itinerary on the fly when the need arose (like when we got a stomach bug). It would not have been the same trip without the magic of Marisol’s on-the-ground and planning crews. They are all worth their weight in gold!

OH How could I forget! Our WOW Moment was a tour of the “real” Lima with a local guide. We got the scoop of the good, the bad, and the ugly related to the nuances of life in Lima—not just the tourist façade view of things. The fabulously in-depth tour was capped off with a visit to the CIRCUITO MÁGICO DEL AGUA—a light/laser/fountain show in Lima. The projection show story was the perfect synopsis of all of the history we had learned that day in addition to being beautifully magical! We even convinced our guide to run through the water tunnel with us where we all got drenched! A good laugh is a good laugh in any language!

My ONLY complaint is that we could not take all of our guides home with us! : )

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Germany: castles, Alps, Berlin Wall, a WOW Moment…

BILL MARTIN | SEPTEMBER 13, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We have just returned from a spectacular 2 ½ week trip to Germany. We were not sure what to expect, but we found a beautiful, diverse country with friendly people and an interesting but complex history.
Our August 22 trip was planned by WOW List Germany expert Claudia in Toronto. Claudia was a pro every step of the way. She listened to our needs and desires and addressed them admirably. She contributed great ideas which immeasurably increased our pleasure. She arranged outstanding driver/guides and hotels. She recommended wonderful restaurants for every evening. Throughout out trip, Claudia connected with our guides almost daily to ensure all was well. She quickly addressed and resolved several challenging personal hiccups which occurred along the way. We can’t say enough about Claudia.
Great guides can make or break a trip. Aaron and Sue in Berlin, Uli in the Rhine Valley, Black Forest and Alsace, and Andreas in the Bavarian Alps and Munich were among the best we have ever had. They were highly experienced, unusually knowledgeable about sights, culture, and history, communicated well, were flexible, and patient. They had been well-briefed by Claudia. In short, they were a joy to know and be with. They went out of their way to make our trip special. For example, Uli brought a scooter for me to facilitate long center-city walks. Andreas put remarkable effort into helping Lynn trace her family roots.
Without exception, Claudia’s recommended hotels were amazing. To cover a broad swath of Germany in the time available, we moved every third day. Each time, we regretted leaving our wonderful hotel. The locations were ideal, our rooms perfect, the staffs friendly and responsive, and the breakfasts terrific. Especially memorable were our room in a real castle with a patio overlooking the Rhine River and our balcony overlooking Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles in the Alps.
A variety of special experiences planned by Claudia enhanced our trip. They included visits to the Berlin Wall and Potsdam, castle visits, boat trips on the Rhine and Lake Constance, and a side trip to Strasbourg, France. In Berlin, we had the joy of our surprise WOW Moment, earned after two Wendy Perrin trips. It was a special riverside gourmet dinner followed by a wonderful nighttime cruise on the Spree River. This cruise, with all the city lights and activity, gave us a whole new perspective of Berlin. We were hugely appreciative.
I could go on and on because we can’t stop talking about this trip. We thank Claudia, her colleague Saskia, and our exceptional guides for making it successful and truly memorable.

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Portugal: anniversary trip combining beach & countryside

RITA SOLOMON | SEPTEMBER 13, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Goncalo and his team planned a Portugal trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. They secured one of the few very best rooms with the best view at our resort on the Algarve, which we could not have obtained ourselves. Very few rooms at the very large hotel had ocean views, so this was a big deal (we even had two balconies facing the ocean). All of their recommendations as to where to stay were great and took into account our preferences, which we discussed in a planning call. They planned great activities, like a lovely large private sailboat from Sintra back to Lisbon, a visit to an observatory (at night of course), and a private cruise along the cliffs of the Algarve. We would not have known about the lovely hotel converted from a farming village in the Alentejo if we hadn’t used a Portugal expert, and we wouldn’t have known which towns to visit. We loved the itinerary they planned and will use them again if we return to Portugal!

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Botswana & Zimbabwe safari: seeing the Big 5, village visit…

JANICE YONKO | SEPTEMBER 8, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Cherri helped us plan an unforgettably wonderful journey to Cape Town, 2 camps in Botswana, Victoria Falls and 1 lodge in Zimbabwe. We traveled Aug. 11-Sept. 4, 2022. It was a trip of a lifetime, one that was filled with momentous experiences, great beauty, luxurious camps and lodges, delicious food and wines, along with the most gracious and knowledgeable hosts and guides. Every detail was carefully attended to, making for a flawless experience. We had hoped to take this trip 2 years ago, but had to postpone due to Covid. Timing now was perfect. Without Cherri’s expert advice, we would not have chosen the itinerary that we had. Her help was invaluable. Because of health fears, we delayed beginning the planning for this trip until about 5 months prior to departure. Cherri reacted immediately and was able to secure exquisite lodging for us despite our late notice. Each destination, hotel, camp, lodge and restaurant was impeccably chosen. One experience in particular of note was a visit that Cherri arranged to a local village in Zimbabwe where we met with an incredibly intelligent and inspirational Village Chief. This visit far exceeded our expectations. We were fortunate to see all of the big 5 at each camp or lodge (even 3 leopards!) as well as many endangered wild dogs and their pups, beautiful birds and countless other animals. Cherri and her team helped make this dream trip become a reality that we will remember with great fondness through the rest of our lives.

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Australia: art, wine, luxe hotels…

GARY KOROTZER | SEPTEMBER 7, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We cannot recommend Drew’s office highly enough for assisting with your travel plans. Our travel advisor, Kylie, has gone WAY above and beyond to make sure we had a truly execptional experience. We were originally scheduled to go to Australia for our 25th anniversary in April 2020. You can guess how that worked out. But she worked with us for nearly 3 years (we started planning the trip in June 2019) to reschedule the trip 4 different times as we tried to anticipate re-opening dates, and we finally traveled on August 19th and had an incredible trip.

Beyond the unusual circumstances of the pandemic, Kylie has deep expertise about Australia paired with a deep understanding of the needs/expectations of luxury travelers. When we first started planning the trip, she set up a phone call to understand our needs and expectations. We told her of our interests in Art and Wine, as well as our preference for smaller luxury accommodations, and she used that information to put a terrific itinerary together encompassing Perth, Margaret River, Uluru and Melbourne. The accommodations she recommended in Uluru (Longitude 131) and Perth (COMO The Treasury) are among the nicest places we’ve ever stayed. She also arranged truly unique experiences—at two wineries not only did we have tastings, but they were with the owner and head winemaker respectively who each spent well over 2 hours with us. Amazing. If you are looking for a provider with deep expertise about Australia who will go the extra mile to understand and exceed your expectations, you can’t make a better choice than Drew’s team and Kylie.

This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate.  Here’s what that means.

Ask Wendy


Capri & Amalfi Coast: perfect hotel, day on a yacht…

STEPHAN ROCHE | SEPTEMBER 6, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We planned our trip to Italy to coincide with a friend’s wedding in Ravello. Our last time on the Amalfi Coast had been in 1996, so we were seeking some help planning 5 days in Capri to celebrate our own 25th wedding anniversary.

Jennifer and her team clearly know Capri, as they set up a fantastic set of activities along with a perfect hotel for our stay. She made sure the transfer from Rome’s airport to the hotel was seamless. Given that this required planning a 2 hour car ride, 45 min ferry, and a taxi up to Anacapri, this was a very welcomed expertise coming off of our long flight from the US!

In Capri, Jennifer helped select a beautiful hotel and a room with a stunning view of the Mediterranean. Even the porter helping with our luggage shared that it was one of his favorite rooms. For dining options, Jennifer chose options that met our desire for terrific Caprese food, wonderful service, and exquisite views.

For the most part, we just stuck to sitting out in the sun and going off to dinners in the evening. On one of the days, though, Jennifer chartered us a boat to explore the Amalfi Coast. Our captain and his crew were a perfect fit. We had a fantastic day on the water swimming, sunning, and posing for classic Amalfi photographs.

We left Capri to make our way to Ravello for the wedding. Jennifer made all of the arrangements, including a stop in the city of Amalfi itself for our favorite meal of the entire trip. We arrived at the wedding well-rested, adjusted to the time zone, and ready to party. Several days later, Jennifer had arranged for a quick and easy transport back to Naples by car to catch a train up to Rome for one last night in the eternal city before we went to the airport in the morning to fly back to the US.

Overall, Jennifer did a fantastic job listening closely to our experience as travelers, our interests for this particular trip, and our logistics for the wedding. Every decision she helped us make worked out even better than expected. While Jennifer is quite busy due to the post-Covid travel boom, we felt well-taken care of. All in all, a wonderful vacation experience!

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Indonesia & Singapore: village visit, national park, island cruise…

TRACY RELLER | SEPTEMBER 5, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL We finally made it to Singapore and Indonesia with the help of Diane! While not the same trip we initially planned for June 2020 for our family of five, I think our redesigned trip July 17-August 1, 2022 for my husband, 18yo son and me was even better. With our younger teenagers happily engaged at sleep-away camp, we were able to spend precious quality time with our older son before he left for college.

Diane was amazing to work with over the course of two years. In our initial planning back in 2019, she took time to explain various options in the region and give realistic expectations of the many areas, helping me decide what was possible with our time and budget. She was gracious once we realized we needed to cancel during COVID, spending her time canceling everything, helping us retain as much of our deposits as possible. Over the course of almost two years while Indonesia was closed she kept in touch, periodically advising us of vaccination in the country, possible opening, entry requirements, etc. Once we decided just three of us would be traveling, she was happy to make all the new reservations, change our travel insurance policy, reach out to a surf school for our son and again change reservations three months out when I decided to add a Seatrek cruise to our plans.

Our trip was a wonderful mix meant to satisfy all three of us. Two days in Singapore was perfect to see and experience the multi-cultural city state. Next, we stayed at the Four Seasons in Jimbaran Bay, Bali so our son could surf with a guide through Tropicsurf at the hotel. Despite probably never having had a client ask about surfing, Diane contacted Tropicsurf and arranged the entire package, including free breakfast for the 3 of us. Next was the 4 day sightseeing/cultural portion of the trip from Ubud. Our guide was wonderful and our days full of temples, rice terraces, village and market visits, cooking class and volcano hike. One of the most unique and memorable days was visiting our guide’s village, seeing his home and meeting his family and playing traditional instruments with the community. Finally, we loved the 7 day Seatrek cruise, from Flores to Bali through Komodo Island National Park, that allowed us to see more of Indonesia’s islands, people and fauna without the usual logistical issues. The small ship, Ombak Putih, was beautiful, the crew fabulous, the food delicious and activities amazing. We visited local, traditional communities, snorkeled, swam with whale sharks and visited uninhabited islands. I will never forget the gorgeous landscapes, sunsets and happy, smiling locals.

Indonesia is a beautiful, geographically interesting country with warm, happy people who are eager to share their culture with visitors. Thanks to Diane, this trip was by far our most rewarding in terms of connecting with locals and having authentic experiences. I enthusiastically recommend Diane!!

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Ecuador: wildlife trip for multigenerational family

ANTHONY FORD-HUTCHINSON | SEPTEMBER 5, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  We were looking for a multi-generational, active vacation with a strong nature component to it (group of 8 ranging from 8 years old to 75, with two very keen birdwatchers). Ecuador fit the bill and Allie organized an outstanding vacation for us. We started in Quito with a trip up the cable car on a perfect day where we had views of all the volcanoes surrounding the city, then lunch on the edge of a caldera, a visit to a museum on the equator (granddaughters loved this) and a quick tour round the old town. The next day it was off to the Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon basin. We had beautiful weather, great accommodation and Allie had arranged two private guides, one the top birder in the Amazon region of Ecuador and the other a more general guide for the rest who wanted a more varied trip (visit to the parrot clay licks, cultural center and views of the many species of monkeys). After three nights there, we headed off for four nights in Mashpi, an outstanding luxury lodge in the middle of the cloud forests. Again we had two different guides so everyone could participate in the activities they wanted. The final leg of our trip was in the Galapagos, where the remaining 6 of our group went on board a luxury catamaran (The Ocean Spray) with 10 other passengers and 12 crew, including an excellent naturalist. The group dynamics were outstanding and with a combination of snorkeling and land based-trips we had great views of most of the Galapagos wild life. Think hammerhead sharks, penguins, sea lions and turtles swimming next to you, and birds galore and giant tortoises on the land. The trip was a four-night trip which included one of the outer islands and I think was perfect length for our group. Our final night was in Hotel del Parque in Guayaquil and finished with an outstanding meal on the terrace at Casa Julian, surrounded by the sounds of an Ecuadorian wedding. All transfers worked perfectly, all flights were on time and no lost luggage. Thank you Allie!

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African safari: South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe

JEFF WELLEN | SEPTEMBER 1, 2022

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  This was a dream trip for my wife to go to southern Africa since she was a little girl, and Julian and Lisa planned 19 magical days that exceeded both of our expectations. We started with Julian back in September of 2019 and had our hopes dashed twice in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid. Julian never once wavered in his support of our trip and his incredible diligence to rebook our trip…twice.

2022 was the magical year and everything could not have been more perfect. We stayed in 8 different locations, had 14 flights and 20-something transfers, and incredibly we had no logistical issues throughout the entire trip.

We started in Cape Town, where Jacqui Van Rensburg was our guide. She was absolutely fabulous and you should request her if you have the option. The Table Bay Hotel was wonderful and in a perfect location for first time visitors to this beautiful city. From Cape Town we were off to our first of four safari camps, Gomoti Plains in Botswana. The main goal of our trip was animals, animals, and more animals and Gomoti camp got us off on a fantastic start. Our game drives with Oracle (our driver) were fantastic, the camp was located on the lovely Okavango Delta. We checked off 80% of our animal bucket list during our three day stay.

We then flew to Victoria Falls where we stayed at the incredible Victoria Falls Safari Club. Our main goal was seeing the falls and our two-hour walk did not disappoint. We were then off to two camps in Zimbabwe, Little Makalolo (Hwange National Park) and Ruckomechi (Mana Pools National Park). The accommodations were wonderful and the staff at both locations made sure our stay was fantastic.

Our drivers, Charles (Little Makalolo) and Tongo (Ruckomechi) each listened to our desires and did an outstanding job finding incredible animal moments for us to remember.

Due to the potential of having to take a Covid test, we had to schedule an additional one-day pit stop in Harare, Zimbabwe at the Highlands House. Thankfully, we did not need the test, but the Highlands House turned out to be an outstanding break from our schedule. If you need a stopover in Harare this is the place.

We were off next to Johannesburg for one night at the African Rock Hotel. Just like the Highland House, this is a perfect pit stop if you need one in this city. Then it was off to our last camp in Mala Mala Private Reserve. The camp is more upscale, building rooms and not luxury tents, but it was perfect for the end of a long three-week trip. Our driver, Kerry, was absolutely the best. The game sightings were not as plentiful as some of the camps, but the quality of what we saw more than made up for this.

The bottom line, Julian listened to our needs from day one and planned a wonderful trip that will live in our memories forever. I am not sure how it could have been better. The logistics, locations and the sequence and timing of the entire trip were picture perfect. The browser and app view they provided was perfect for us to understand what and when things would take place. The final transfer document, provided just before the trip, was an added bonus to understand each part of chain that moved us from place to place.

Because the logistics went so smoothly, all we had to do was enjoy the camps, the staff, the wonderful individuals we met from all around the world and of course: animals, animals, and more animals.

We cannot more highly recommend Julian and Lisa, if you want to take your first trip or your tenth trip to this part of the world.

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* Although we have compiled and reviewed these reviews for trip planners to earn a spot on The  WOW List, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or truthfulness of the reviews we receive and cannot assure that all travelers will have the same experience.

The 2023 WOW List: 86 Top Local Fixers in Countries Worldwide

by Wendy Perrin | January 22, 2023

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