Archive for May, 2010

May 27, 2010

Remember the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano?

Gayle and Matthew

…Well, so do Gayle Botti and her grandson, en route to Egypt. Thanks to luck, good humor, and our included trip cancellation insurance this story has a happy ending! Gayle is a travel agent at Let’s Travel in Santa Monica CA. Her specialty is ‘unusual trips’ – and this was no exception. Her letter follows in its entirety:

“First I would like to thank you and everyone at Thomson Family Adventures for the most wonderful travel experience I could ask for. It was truly incredible and so worry free.

I recently took my 11 year old grandson to Egypt for 10days on Egypt – Valley of the Nile. I told my 3 grandchildren that when they turned 10 years old I would take them on a trip anywhere in the world they want to go. Matthew being the oldest has always wanted to go to Egypt so that is why we went there.

We did get delayed in Frankfurt, Germany because of the volcano eruption in Iceland for four days. Everyone at Thomson was on top of it and said I would be able to pick up the tour whenever we arrived. Fortunately I had us arriving in Cairo a day before we would meet the group and also stay a day after the tour ended. Beth, at Thomson kept in touch with my daughter, Matthew’s mother, in Rochester, New York with the latest happenings. Mohammed in Cairo also called my daughter to reassure her we would be taken care of.

By the time we finally left Frankfurt the group of 8 – 4 adults and 4 children, ages 9, 11 and 14 were already in Sharm el Sheikh. Well Matthew was in his element because now there were 4 boys, three of whom were 11 years old and one girl. Shortly after our plane from Frankfurt arrived in Cairo we were met my Mohammed and taken to dinner. He told us that we were confirmed on a 10:30 p.m. flight to Sharm el Sheikh but he was trying to get us on the earlier flight at 8:30 p.m. As it turned out we made the earlier flight and Mohammed never left our side until he saw to it that we were on the plane. What service is unheard of!

Matthew did miss the snorkeling in the Red Sea. He was disappointed at first but once he met the other children in our group he quickly got over it especially when he saw the Red Sea wasn’t really red! From then on we joined in the scheduled tour.

Now for a word on why Thomson is the very best in my estimation. Not only was our guide, Randa, top notch but the mentor, Temer, was fantastic. He kept the kids entertained and happy the entire time including eating with them at all meals and letting the adults eat together. Every day Thomson had some little gift for the kids to open. How they looked forward to that! Every time I asked a question about our air schedule on the return flights I was told not to worry just enjoy the trip! When they say don’t worry they will take care of everything, they mean it and you really have no reason to worry. That is so important to me. I seem to worry about everything! Another wonderful part of the trip was for the dinners we were able to order from the menu. A fabulous touch! Hotels were wonderful – all 5 star and great locations, the vans were always very clean and the drivers very professional. Snacks, water and soft drinks were provided everyday. No need to pack any munchies for the kids. There was plenty for everyone. We were even given coins to use the public restrooms. Honestly, they left no stone unturned!!!!!

I was told by Thomson to save all my receipts from Frankfurt and whatever out of pocket expenses I incurred would be reimbursed by their insurance company. What a nice feeling that was. On our last day in Cairo, which should have been on our own, Thomson said we could make up the full day of sightseeing that we missed at the beginning of our trip including meeting Matthew’s Pen Pal at the Pyramids. We had our own van, driver and guide for the entire day. Mohammed reconfirmed our return reservations for us and for the flights home all went well.

Now on a personal note, Matthew’s brother, Robert will turn 10 in November. After hearing Matthew and me talk about the trip and of TFA he asked me when it is his turn will I chose Thomson or look around for another tour. I don’t think I have to tell you what my answer was! It looks like I’ll be contacting Thomson for a trip to Tanzania in the not to distant future!

I didn’t just take Matthew on a trip, I created a memory for him that will last forever. I am very fortunate to have accomplished what I had hoped to do and I can thank Thomson for making this come true!

Thanks again for a truly wonderful experience. Look forward to working with you again.

All the best,


May 25, 2010

Portugal – The Top Ten Reasons to take your Family

Atop Lousa Mountain

Did you know Portugal used to rule the world? Now it’s a sleepy little country off the beaten path which frankly makes its vast history even more fascinating. Here are the reasons we think this was one of the coolest places we’ve ever been:

10: The climate is perfect. Summers along coastal Portugal are warm and breezy – but not hot and humid like its inland cousins.

9: Treats. You may have enjoyed a pastry or two in your life, but really you have not lived until you have consumed a warm Portuguese Pasteis de Nata. Maybe even two.

8: Learn to sing ‘Uma Casa Portuguesa’ by Amalia Rodrigues, Portugal’s beloved Queen of Fado.

7: The women selling pecans in Nazare. It’s not often you get to buy freshly roasted nuts from a tiny woman in full native dress. And one who dances too! I’ll say no more, but trust me – this is a moment your family will remember and reflect on for years to come.

6: The Amarante water park. Maybe you’ve done the water slide, wave pool thing close to home. But to join the locals in Portugal, with a backdrop of historic vistas, is really unforgettable. Don’t forget to order the Tosta Mista for lunch, along with a cold bottle of Orange Fanta.

5: Kayaking on the Mondego river. Portuguese adventurers escort you down a rushing river, with plenty of time for swimming and a picnic too.

4: Hiking to the shale village on Lousa Mountain. History here is not just in the cities. Enjoy a wonderful walk up the mountainside and discover an ancient way of life that still exists today. Don’t want to hike? Ride in a comfortable van and meet the hikers at the top.

3: Fabulous hotels. Adventure often means simple hotels in out of the way places; not in Portugal where you’ll sleep in palaces and manor houses. While everyone is busy having fun you’ll also luxuriate in European sophistication.

2: Palaces, moats, and gardens. Beautiful spaces to invite learning, encourage imagination, and expend energy. Every spot you see simply overflows with fascinating tales and history. All ages will be captivated by the spell of Portugal’s magic.

1: Portugal is a balance of history and cultural relevancy. It’s ancient but new. Your teen will relate to these contrasts. Your teen might even thank you for the experience. Mine did!

May 10, 2010

The Power of the Great Pyramid. And an iPhone.

the procession to the Great Pyramid

Thanks to the Sanger Family for sharing their story.

Our first day in Cairo, we visited The Great Pyramid in Giza. Only 200 people are allowed in each day and we were one of the lucky ones. It’s not for the faint of heart, believe me. A long, narrow ascent through a three-foot high tunnel, followed by a steeper climb up many steps to the ancient burial tomb. All the while breathing a warm, stale air – trying to imagine how this mammoth structure was created and how the tomb raiders were able to loot the place dry.

Joining myself, wife Kim, son Matt and daughter Julia were the LoPicollo’s – Greg, Gayle, Sam and Joe – our wonderful traveling partners for the week. Once we reached the burial tomb – we were the only people in the place! The group ahead of us had already vacated the room and nobody was making the ascent behind us. We had this amazing piece of history to ourselves. You could almost feel the ancient spirits in the darkened room.

Soon Sam began humming, before too long we all joined in, harmonizing an eerie sound that echoed through the empty chamber. So I whipped out my trusty iPhone. Now, you aren’t allowed to take photos in the pyramid, but you can certainly record! I tapped open the voice recorder, pressed record and came away with this.

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As we listened to it later, a smile came to all our faces, remembering the moment. That will be an experience none of us will ever forget – the Sangers and the LoPicollos. And to think, it was only the start of one of the greatest adventures of our lives.

May 7, 2010

Dogs, Puppies, and Us

Benson, the Thomson Dachshund

Thomson Family Adventures is a dog friendly office. Henry, Benson, and Jessie hang out there on a regular basis, and other dogs like Hank visit on occasion. Having the dogs with us is comforting and reassuring in so many ways. Mostly we slave on the computers and phones through the work day while the dogs drape themselves over the leather sofa in the reception area or enjoy a sunbath in the front window. And then they perk up at lunch time which usually produces a snack or two.

But sometimes, once in awhile, these dogs get called into service. A tough phone call, a difficult moment, a hard day. Maybe we reach for the leash to go for a walk. Maybe we reach for the dog for a cuddle. Either way I’d bet 100% of the people in this office are so glad we have these warm happy pups to share our day with.

And now – welcome to Ridgeback Brown, Nancy’s new pup and the latest addition to our stable. We can’t wait to meet him, though we hope he gets a name before he moves to his forever home next week. Stay tuned!

May 3, 2010

World’s Expo: Shanghai

Shanghai Skyline

Our China Adventure just got even better for 2010! Enjoy our breathtaking Great Wall, Guilin, and Giant Pandas tour this summer and have the opportunity to stay on and visit the 2010 World Expo. So once you’ve explored history with a walk on the Great Wall, visited the terra cotta warriors, and perhaps hugged a baby panda you can get a peek at the future too. Our three night package begins at just $295 per person

With an urban theme of “Better City, Better Life” the 2010 World’s Fair runs May 1 to October 31 in Shanghai. Built along the waterfront of the Huangpu River in the downtown area, this will be the largest and most expensive Expo the world has ever seen. In stark contrast to the ancient China seen on the tour, here you’ll witness stunning architecture and the latest in environmental technology while exploring different areas of urban development in the five pavilions of innovation: Urban Footprints, Urban Planet, Urban Dwellers, Urban Beings, and Urban Dreams.

In a quote from the official Expo website : “World Expositions are galleries of human inspirations and thoughts”.

If you’ve been thinking of traveling to China you just may not want to miss this year’s chance to discover extraordinary new worlds with your family.