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Senior Travel Newsletter: nature, cruise, barging, volunteer vacations.
Senior travel newsletter: nature travel, educational, cultural, volunteer, cruise and barging vacations worldwide.
New stories, February 1, 2017 
TravelWatch: Senior Travel Newsletter.

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1. 2017 is Canada’s 150th anniversary as a nation, and it is a year with plenty of reasons for visitors to join in the celebrations. We spotlight some of the places to go and memorable experiences to have in the country’s 10 provinces and three territories ... all between three oceans and six time zones!
2. Cruising the Highlands of Scotland on its storied historic waterways is a bucket list travel item for many senior travelers. Now there are two luxury hotel barges to make the journey a reality and a special price reduction on the newest vessel launching in June.
3. Lascaux Cave in France’s Dordogne region conjures up fabulous images of colorful Ice Age animals dancing across the cave walls and ceiling. While no visitors have been allowed in the original cave since 1963, the grandest replica to date, Lascaux IV, is a magical substitute just opened in January 2017, that all lovers of such ancient history will want to experience.
4. Lifelong learners will be excited to hear about a residential summer program at Britain’s Oxford University where they may enroll in over 60 courses for a week or more.
5. Access to 12 of Florida’s impressively-diverse State Parks has become a reality for wheelchair users and slow walkers, and a new guidebook documents that access in detail. Check out the encouraging news.

Before planning your next adventure, you may compare accommodation alternatives with sites such as www.trivago.com or use their data base for further information about your destination and read traveler hotel reviews.

Check Travel Golf Guide. Play golf in Algarve.

In 2017 Canada Celebrates its 150th Anniversary as a Nation
See our recommendations for how and where to explore
For starters, Canada has been named Lonely Planet’s destination of the year in its Best in Travel 2017 guide. Reasons cited to visit Canada this year are a full year birthday party right across the country celebrating 150 years since Confederation, and a weak Canadian dollar pushing down prices, thereby giving visitors “plenty of pocket money to spend on Canada’s exciting fusion food and mysteriously underrated wine.” Canada also tops the New York Times’ list of 2017 travel destinations.

Both Canadian and international tour operators are also announcing itineraries that offer a wide variety of experiences. Here are some options that Travel with a Challenge web magazine happily recommends:
Ottawa, Canada Tulip Festival, May 2017.
Ottawa’s annual Tulip Festival in May features over three million blooms citywide. Ottawa Tourism
Adventure Canada and Parks Canada are partnering to offer the first Northwest Passage cruise that includes a visit to the ship wreck of HMS Erebus. This famous exploration sailing vessel sank in Canada’s icy Arctic waters in 1848 and was only re-discovered in fine condition on the sea bottom in 2014. From September 7 to 23, an epic modern-day voyage will feature visits to some of Canada’s most spectacular and remote wilderness areas and National Parks to gain a new respect for these protected areas as guests experience the landscape, Inuit history, and wildlife in the company of expert Parks Canada guides.
Toronto-based Classical Pursuits, which offers "travel adventures for the mind with the world’s best books, art and music as your guides,” has crafted two stimulating educational tours. “In Search of the Newfoundland Soul”, August 6 to 17, will explore the nature and unpack the social culture of Canada’s most easterly province. Then “Jewish Montreal: Its Mid-Century Legacy”, September 10 to 15, will offer participants the perfect in-depth introduction to one of the world’s most fascinating multi-cultural cities. Walking the streets, meeting the people, hearing the stories, and eating the food of Jewish Montreal, this promises to be an enriching experience that captures a literary voice unique in North America.
Newfoundland fishing village, Salvage.
A key to Newfoundland’s Soul is the colorful fishing villages like Salvage. Ann Kirkland/Cultural Pursuits
With a number of departures between May and October 2017, Trafalgar Tours is offering a “Wonders of the Canadian Rockies” guided vacation that captures the natural beauty of snow-capped mountains and glistening glacial lakes in Alberta and right out to the west coast of British Columbia.
Beluga whales in Hudson's Bay waters near Churchill, Manitoba.
Tours of Exploration has developed soft adventure, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, natural history, culture and ecotourism programs in Canada for 2017. It is offering a number of Polar Adventures from which to explore Canada’s Arctic and Sub-Arctic by land and sea. My personal choice with departures in July, August and October would be “Churchill: Whales and Wildlife” where polar bears and Beluga whales are stars of a very impressive nature extravaganza.
Ship-based guests watch curious Beluga whales up close during a Tours of Exploration Whales and Wildlife tour. Mike Macri
For visitors who prefer to strike out on their own, National Geographic has launched two travel guides to mark Canada’s 150th birthday: one covering the country’s national parks and another on its national historic sites. As the world’s second largest country by geography bordered by three oceans and crossing six time zones, there is always something fresh to discover in Canada. It is also worth noting that the federal government is offering free admission to national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas operated by Parks Canada in 2017.
National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of Canada.
National Geographic Guide to the National Historic Sites of Canada.
The National Geographic guides are the perfect references no matter which of the ten provinces and three territories guests plan to visit. In addition to highlighting more than 40 national parks and park reserves, the Parks guide features sections on five newly-created parks and reserves. The Historic Sites guide covers activities and special events at each of the 236 locations.
Travel with a Challenge’s Travel Article Library contains numerous richly-illustrated feature articles about experiencing diverse cultural and physical adventures in Canada … all senior-friendly! A great place to start that I can personally recommend is the national capital city, Ottawa in the province of Ontario where the birthday special events will be pretty much non-stop throughout the year. However, do browse the complete Canada collection, listed by province, before finalizing travel plans.
New Spirit of Scotland Barge Cruises Scottish Highlands Waters and Offers Introductory Discount for June and July 2017
New barge, Spirit of Scotland, cruises the Scottish Highlands in 2017.
The 12-passenger barge, Spirit of Scotland.
European Waterways, www.gobarging.com, has just announced that its new 12-passenger Spirit of Scotland luxury hotel barge will begin cruising the Caledonian Canal and famous lochs (lakes) of the Great Glen across the heart of the Scottish Highlands, starting June 4, 2017. One of the most stylishly designed in the company’s extensive fleet, the three-level hotel barge evokes the spirit of the traditional steamers that plied the lochs of Scotland in bygone eras. This new member of the fleet will join the popular eight-passenger Scottish Highlander on the same route.
Interior saloon and bar of luxury hotel barge, Spirit of Scotland.
Spirit of Scotland saloon and bar.
Among the largest in the company’s fleet, the Spirit of Scotland features three decks of living and entertainment space. The lower deck boasts six modern, air-conditioned staterooms, with en suite bathrooms and a choice of twin or double beds. The middle deck features a spacious saloon and dining area with picture windows, a bar, and an integral forward wheelhouse that gives guests an unobstructed view of the route ahead. Outside there is a sheltered aft deck with a covered dining terrace and a heated jacuzzi, while the full-length upper sundeck is the perfect place for relaxing and admiring the stunning Highlands scenery.
The 6-night itinerary will especially appeal to nature lovers, who will enjoy the exceptional scenery and diverse wildlife. It is also ideal for family charters and special interest groups, such as golfers, walkers, foodies, and whisky connoisseurs.
Itinerary highlights include a tour of the Glen Ord whisky distillery, along with a private tasting; a visit to Culloden Moor, scene of the last battle to be fought on British soil; and a tour of Cawdor Castle and gardens, the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The cruise route also crosses some of Scotland’s famous lochs, including Loch Ness, home of the legendary “Nessie”.

Regional culinary specialties are on the menu, with the onboard master chef preparing delicious creations using local ingredients such as wild salmon, venison and Aberdeen Angus beef, accompanied by fine wines and artisan Scottish cheeses. And guests are sure to join in the proper “spirit” of the cruise with a huge selection of single malt whiskies to choose from.
Ruined Urquhart Castle overlook Loch Ness, Scotland.
Urquhart Castle ruins overlook Loch Ness.
“Cruises on our Scottish Highlander barge, which also navigates this route," explains Derek Banks, managing director of European Waterways, "have been extremely popular for the past several years, and are nearly sold out for 2017. [Editor’s note: see a richly-illustrated feature article in our Travel Article Library about cruising aboard the Scottish Highlander.] With the addition of the Spirit of Scotland, guests now have even more opportunities to experience the fabled scenery, history and hospitality of the Scottish Highlands in luxury and comfort.”
Prices for a 6-night cruise in 2017 are from USD$4,450 per person in a twin/double cabin and from USD$49,500 for a full 12-passenger charter. Prices include all gourmet meals, fine wines, open bar, escorted daily excursions, admissions and local transfers. To mark the launch, European Waterways is offering 10% off all cabins and charters in June and July on the Spirit of Scotland, when booked before March 31, 2017.
Bedroom cabin of luxury hotel barge, Spirit of Scotland.
Spirit of Scotland ensuite cabin.
European Waterways, www.gobarging.com, is Europe’s largest all-inclusive luxury hotel barging company, offering vacations in nine countries and carrying around 2,500 passengers a year. Founded nearly 40 years ago, they operate a private fleet of luxury hotel barges with cruises in France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
Images courtesy of European Waterways.
Lascaux IV Cave Replica Opens in France’s Dordogne Region
Europe's Best Recognized Ice Age Cave Art Freshly Showcased
We are excited to share with readers the current opening of the new Lascaux IV cave replica, but just as we are going to press (January 31, 2017), the website for this project is “under maintenance." As soon as the site is accessible once more, we will present direct URLs for its web pages.

Located in southwestern France, the complex of Lascaux Caves conjures up fabulous images of colorful Ice Age animals dancing across the cave walls and ceilings, over 600 excellently-detailed parietal wall paintings in all. While no visitors have been allowed in the original caves since 1963, the newest replica is a magical substitute that all ancient history lovers will want to experience. It takes us back 20,000 years, when the last Glacial Maximum ended, and Lascaux’s landscape was a steppe dominated by animals.
Lascaux IV museum in southwest France, Dordogne region.
Lascaux IV museum exterior. Snohetta
Lascaux IV replica cave painter at work.
Lascaux IV cave art replica artist. Casson Mann
Based in Montignac at Perigord’s Facsimile Workshop, a nearly 4,000 meter is devoted to mineral reproduction of prehistoric painted walls using “stone veil” patented technique. The workshop team consists of 25 specialists, Fine Arts painters for the most part, but also resin sculptors, moulders, welders and locksmiths. For the Lascaux IV project, the workshop received a huge assignment from Dordogne County to create a 800-900 square meter/8,600+ square foot cave art facsimile with a two-year deadline. The end result is a 21st century museum “cave” where visitors may step inside the life and lifestyle of their human ancestors.
Lascaux IV museum replica cave paintings.
Lascaux IV cave art replica.
Lascaux IV museum replica cave paintings and artifacts.
New Lascaux IV museum exhibit. Casson Mann
Meanwhile, we offer readers an earlier Lascaux cave replica website, which provides an exciting taste of what visitors of all ages may experience. We also recommend to our readers a recent feature article addition to our Travel Article Library, by paleoanthropologist, Genevieve von Petzinger. In it she shares her top list of Ice Age rock art sites in France, northern Spain, and Portugal where travelers are still able to view in person the original paintings and engravings of our early human ancestors.
Images courtesy of Lascaux IV Website.

Did you know? The first flight attendants (all female) had to weigh less than 115 pounds, be unmarried and be trained nurses.

The Oxford Experience Returns with a Memorable Summer Learning Vacation
How would you like to attend a one-week summer residential course at England’s oldest university? No prerequisites and no exams, but stimulating and informative it is. There are no requirements and no exams, just the enjoyment of learning something new in a wonderful setting. The program takes place during six weeks, between July 2 to August 12, 2017, with each one-week course starting on a Sunday. Participants may sign up for more than one week if they wish. Summertime students study, live and dine at Christ Church, one of the most beautiful and prestigious of Oxford colleges, founded in 1546.

The courses cover some 60 subjects as varied as: Adventures in Creative Writing; The Glory of Byzantium; The 16th-Century English Reformation; Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations; Life in Georgian England; The Vikings; Introduction to Political Philosophy; Evelyn Waugh: Beyond Brideshead; Henry VIII; Heresy, Crusade and Inquisition in Southern France; Pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.
Oxford University, Great Triangle, England.
The Great Quadrangle, known as Tom Quad, is the largest college quadrangle at Oxford. Darrell Godliman
Oxford University Radcliffe Camera.
Passing under Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower, dining in the magnificent Hall made famous by the Harry Potter films and sipping champagne in the Cathedral Garden in the golden light of a summer evening are all very special. So is living in student accommodation that dates from the 18th to the 20th centuries and has housed such luminaries as W.H. Auden, William Gladstone, Anthony Eden and Lewis Carroll. And this year a private bath (well, shower actually) is included in the fee, no sharing necessary.
Right: Completed in 1748, Oxford’s Radcliffe Camera is the university’s science library. Darrell Godliman
Below:
A space made famous by the Harry Potter films, a dinner in the Hall is a special part of the Oxford Experience. Darrell Godliman
Oxford University Great Hall dining room.
Three meals daily are included in the cost of the program: a full English breakfast, a buffet lunch and a served, 3-course delicious dinner. Everyone dines together in the Great Hall and on one night during the week each participant is invited to dine on High Table, where wine is served with dinner. The entire Oxford Experience is a perennial favorite among seniors who like to mix their travel with stimulating learning events.
Oxford High Street, England.
Oxford High Street, from St Mary’s Church.
Darrell Godliman
Throughout the week there are excursions to stately homes, castles, museums and such, tours of Oxford, tours of Christ Church and Evensong in the Christ Church Chapel, which is also the Oxford Cathedral. Students can take part in the city’s cultural life and enjoy the college gardens, riverside walks in Christ Church Meadow and boating on the Thames River. After dinner there are pub walks, whisky tastings, Morris Dancers, special lectures and wine and croquet in the Masters’ Garden.
The price of a one-week course, including tuition, accommodation with private bath, all meals (except on excursions), final gala reception and dinner, and free WiFi is £1,490 or approximately USD$1,876, less than last year. The registration deadline is May 1, but early application is recommended as courses fill quickly. Complete information is available online at www.conted.ox.ac.uk/oxford-experience.
New Florida Guidebook Highlights Wheelchair-Accessible State Parks
If a trip to Florida is on your travel wishlist, then you may want to pick up a copy of Barrier-Free Travel: Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. Prepare to be wowed by the natural beauty and accessibility of some of the Sunshine State’s popular state parks.
Penned by accessible travel expert Candy Harrington, this new travel guide highlights trails, attractions, and lodging options for wheelchair-users and slow walkers in 12 of the author’s favorite Florida State Parks. Filled with access details, the book includes information about:

Accessible Trails and Boardwalks
An Accessible Glass Bottom Boat in the Florida Keys
Accessible Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
Barrier-Free Camping
Access Details and Photos of Park Cabins
A Crystal-Clear Spring with a Wheelchair Lift
Accessible Auto, Tram and Boat Tours
Discounts on Park Admissions, Tolls and Campsites
Nearby Accessible Trails and Attractions
Book cover for Barrier-Free Travel: Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers.
Barrier-Free Travel; Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, (C&C Creative Concepts, $7.95, ISBN: 978-0998510309) is available at www.BarrierFreeFlorida.com.
“I’m very impressed with the accessible facilities in these Florida State Parks,” says the author, “including a bounty of accessible boardwalks, and one of the most accessible pontoon boats that I’ve ever seen. I even uncovered an accessible snorkeling tour! No matter your ability, you’ll be able to get up-close-and-personal with Mother Nature, and even spend the night in some of the parks.”

This inclusive book is the fourth in a series of accessible travel guides to popular destinations throughout the United States. “Although it’s written for wheelchair-users and slow walkers, families with stroller-aged kids will appreciate the access information in this guide. In the end, good access really benefits everyone.”

Known as the guru of accessible travel, Candy Harrington has covered this niche exclusively for over 20 years. She's the founding editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of several accessible travel titles, including the classic, Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She also blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at www.BarrierFreeTravels.com. She has also written books on Barrier-Free Travel in Utah’s National Parks, Olympic and Mt Rainier National Parks (Washington State), and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.


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Tags: Senior travel nature vacations, cruise and barging vacations, volunteer vacations worldwide