Archive for April, 2011

April 28, 2011

What Will Your Teenager Love about Turkey?

Christian at the Hagia Sophia

We are always wondering how to keep our teens active and engaged, with plenty of physical action to tire them out. But let’s not forget open and curious minds, waiting to be filled with fascinating tales and images. Turkey is perfect for teenagers because of its history, art, and culture… but then it has ocean, mountains, and rivers too that offer so much outdoor excitement. Turkey is ideal for teens.

What does 14 year old Christian Kackley have to report on his visit to the magnificent Hagia Sofia? Read on…

“10,000 workers, working from sunset to sundown, 6 days a week, and it still took 6 years to finish. Well, that’s what happens when you’re building a church with the largest dome in the world at the time. Actually it was the second largest dome but even now, 1500 years later, it is still the third largest in the world. The dome is pushing so much pressure down that buttresses were built to keep the church standing, otherwise it would have collapsed. Even so, the church is still moving, you can see it by the leaning pillars.

Mosaics cover every surface, beautiful, colorful, mosaics, with golden backgrounds. The Turks recognized their beauty when they captured the city and didn’t destroy the mosaics…they painted over them with colorful yet dull designs. The Turks also recognized the beauty of the massive dome…they decided that all mosques were to be built with a dome.

The massive pillars holding up the enormous dome are decorated with intricate carvings at the top. The largest pillars in the church are from the temple of Artemis. At the top of each pillar, in the middle of the intricate carving is the sign of the craftsman that carved that pillar. What is extraordinary about Hagia Sofia and all the intricate things is that they were made by normal people, carpenters, farmers, bakers, they weren’t skilled carvers.

There are no stairs in Hagia Sofia, this is because the empress wanted to be wheeled up to her balcony. SO in the 6th century the first handicap accessible building was built.The empress was of course very important so she had bodyguards. At one time her guards were Vikings, they didn’t have very good manners and drew on her stuff. So now on one of the balconies you can see Viking graffiti from the 1;th century carved into the handrails.

The Ottoman presence can be seen all over the church. One example is the 5 enourmous medallions with Arabic writings hanging around the church, completely out of place. Also more Arabic writing in the form of mosaics cover the face of Jesus on the top of the dome. A small building made by the Ottomans shows the direction of Mecca. The church almost faces Mecca but not quite so the building is at an angle inside of Hagia Sofia, looking odd inside of this amazing church.”



April 26, 2011

Top Ten Reasons: Turkey

The lunar landscape of Cappadocia

1) Maybe you’ve been to all the usual places… but Turkey is NOT a usual place. It’s full of more surprises than we can even tell you about.

2) History. World history was practically invented in Turkey. From the Roman emperor Constantine to the ruins of Ephesus, the Hagia Sophia to the Silk Road – so much of the world has happened in Turkey. And for so many years before you can even imagine…

3) Art. Such beautiful mosaics, tiles, carpets and pottery. The designs might make you swoon, and the chance to throw your own pot or weave some carpet? Really fun.

4) Hiking. Some of the world’s most compelling landscape is here in Turkey. The lunar feel of Cappadocia is a magical exploration, from cave dwellings to underground cities. Yes, underground cities. Like 8 stories deep.

5) Landscape. Not into hiking, but like breathtaking views? Come to Turkey. From the nightly glow of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul to the Valley of the Roses in Cappadocia to the lush Taurus Mountains, you’ll have plenty to appreciate.

6) Caravanserai. Ever wonder where those camel caravans traveling the Silk Road stopped to take a rest? Wait ’til you see.

7) Rumi. Whirling Dervishes, poetry and a shrine. Even the kids will be fascinated – and maybe you’ll share a poem or two on the way out

8) The Taurus Mountains. A beautiful drive through changing landscape, up to remote villages and the proud people who live there. Soccer anyone?

9) The Mediterranean. My kids will tell you about this slice of heaven…nights stretched out on deck with the lapping water soothing you to sleep under a star lit sky. Days exploring coastline and meadows, ruins and ghost towns. Wow.

10) Ephesus. Springing from the Dark Ages, Ephesus was the second largest city in the world in the first century BC. Can you even imagine how long ago that was?? Now the largest collection of Roman ruins in the Eastern Mediterranean, still only 15% of the site has been excavated.

Add to all of this, new friends. Any extraordinary experience will bond you with the people you share it with. Turkey is no exception. Come have some fun, in a deep and meaningful way, while Thomson Family Adventures takes care of all of the logistics and details and offers you a special guide to show you the way. Limited space still available for summer – call now!



April 20, 2011

Jim is in Turkey!

Fresco at the Hagia Sophia

In our Watertown office we are plugging along without Jim at the helm – he likes to say when he leaves town we are more productive anyway. His family is fulfilling their long time dream to visit Turkey, and we’re excited they are there enjoying all of the wonders they’ve been dreaming of. (My kids still say this was their favorite adventure)

Think it’s too foreign? Think again: Turkey is an amazing example of a secular country, where all religions and all people are respected and represented. You will be so welcomed in Turkey.

Jim writes:

“Our family journey to Turkey is over the April vacation of the Milton MA public school and happened to coincide with Holy Week leading up to Easter in the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. We looked forward to bringing our boys to see the richness of Turkey as the crossroads of the East and West. We prepared them by having many a long talk about the history of the region and it is rich tradition in the Muslin and Christian worlds.

The mosaics and frescos that were so carefully restored at the Haghia Sophia and at the Church of the Chora can’t be described unless seen by ones own eyes. We can’t express enough gratitude that these wonderful works of art were covered up so carefully and not destroyed when Constantinople fell to the Turks.

Listening to our Muslim Guide Huseyin explain the significance of these mosaics and frescos without any animosity towards the topic can’t help but make me think that there is great hope between our cultures as long as we take the time to listen and understand one another. If we learn from the past on both sides of the table maybe we can come closer together. It is clear to me that Turkey does a great job at this… I expect that this discovery is the same for my family and will be for many others who travel to this magical country.”

Come to Turkey! It is one of the most amazing places you might discover with your children. Some space still available for summer 2011.



April 18, 2011

Thailand for Families Happening Now

The Colors of Thailand

We are running our first group to Thailand July 9, 2011. I am going too, and we’re looking for of a couple of families with kids 7 – 12 to come along with our group. Space is limited! This 2 week event is being offered at cost, $3500 per person (no discounts apply); in addition we ask you to bring your sense of adventure and good spirit. There is no question we will have a great time! There are temples, elephants, rafting, biking, beaches and snorkeling. And lots of an interesting culture, and spicy spicy food (if you dare!)

What do you want to know about visiting Thailand?

Approximately 95% of Thai people are Buddhist. Their value system affects their dress and social behavior, and tends to be much more conservative than the average Westerner. So let’s be prepared to respect their culture.

Shorts are considered improper and low-class attire, only acceptable for schoolchildren. Except at beach resorts you should never wear skimpy shorts, halter tops, or low-cut blouses. In the temples long trousers or skirts must be worn. Think before you pack!

Thais believe the head is the most acred part of the body. Never pat a Thai on the head, not even a child. And the foot is the lowest part, considered dirty. Don’t point your foot at someone, it is a terrible insult. So… keep your hands and your feet to yourself.

Thailand has a non-confrontational society. No matter how frustrated you may feel, do not lose your temper or raise your voice. What a good thing to practice…

Come bring your jai yen (cool heart) to Thailand, bow your head in the wai(traditional greeting), and join a wonderful adventure with Thomson.



April 14, 2011

Why not save for 2012?

Have you noticed the last minute planning isn’t working so well anymore? Flights have gotten too expensive, and hotel space fills up too. Why not plan ahead and save big?

Book your 2012 travel before May 31st, 2011 for significant savings as well as months of delicious anticipation and peace of mind. Did you know if you buy a flight right now from Chicago to Costa Rica for February 2012, the cost is about $500. If you wait until November, the same flight will cost you $1500 or more! Booking early could potentially save you a $1,000 per person on your air. Really!

It’s pretty simple: Plan ahead so you can take advantage of our discounts as well as better airfare.

Want some examples? OK: If you book a 2012 trip by May 31, 2011: for our Costa Rica Multi-Sport Adventure, we’ll give you $200 off per person; Ecuador and the Galapagos adventures, we’ll give you $300 off per person; Tanzania Family Safari, we’ll give you $500 off per person! Our flagship destination, this is an award winning adventure. In 2011 we’re celebrating 30 years in Tanzania! Don’t miss this personal and unique opportunity to discover Tanzania.

We have early booking discounts available on all departures to all destinations in 2012. Please note, these discounts are so spectacular that they cannot be used in combination with other discounts except for large group refunds (when they may apply).

This year we’ve already had many disappointed families hoping for a last minute vacation that couldn’t materialize. Plan now and get it right!

Again, our the rules:

Travel must be booked with deposit paid by May 31, 2011.

Discount is off the 2012 prices.

Discount cannot be used in conjunction with a travel survey, past guest reward or first family booked discount.

Discount is only valid on new bookings.

Travelers will be called and matched to a date when the 2012 dates and prices are announced – in the summer of 2011

Travelers must confirm their dates by August 31st, 2011.

If there is not a suitable 2012 date, your deposit is fully refundable.

Call us now! 800-262-6255



April 14, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes

Stephen at Manuel Antonio National Park

A proud mother from California sent us this great essay written by her 12 year old son Stephen about thier recent foray to Costa Rica. Want to see it from a kid’s point of view? Read on

Over winter break, my mother, my father, and my sister and I went to Costa Rica. It was one of the best vacations I have ever been on. I had an interesting time and learned a lot from our tour guide, Jorge . Jorge was always smiling and welcoming.

On the first day, we flew in to the San Jose airport and stayed at the Bougainvillea hotel, which had outstanding gardens that we explored in the morning. The first day was short and quick, but the second day was just around the corner. On Sunday, we woke up in Bougainvillea and had Gallo Pinto (rice and beans), and fresh tortillas for breakfast. I had never had fresh tortillas before, but they were amazing! After eating we drove east towards the Caribbean coast, over the continental divide. The driving felt like it took forever, and we were all still tired from the day of traveling before. We stopped at a small market and a banana plantation to see how they worked. The small market was pretty interesting because of how it was set up outdoors.

We later got aboard a boat with about 30 other people and journeyed out to Tortuguero. Skimming through the water, my sister and I took many photos of the trees and flowers passing by. After checking in to our second hotel, Anhinga Lodge, we took another boat to the Sea Turtle Conservation Center. There we learned about why sea turtles are important to Costa Rica with a group of other tourists. Then we went to the nearby beach, and bought coconut water from a man at a stand. He was very good at slicing the coconuts, and I was scared to get too close because of the gigantic machete he used. We explored Tortuguero town a little bit, but it was soon time to go back to our hotel and sleep. Shops, playgrounds, children, and dogs filled the streets of Tortuguero town. I really liked Tortuguero town because it reminded me of Burlingame Avenue, quite close to my home.

On day three, it rained very hard a while, but the weather was nice for our 5:30 am boat ride. We rode into the national park with Jorge and Michael, our boat driver. We saw caiman, colorful birds and howler monkeys. We returned to our hotel for a lovely breakfast. We then kayaked for the rest of the morning. I love kayaking. I really liked this part of our trip because it was much different from kayaking in California. In California, the sun is always shining in your eyes and the water is much more open and wide. In Costa Rica, we kayaked in small, narrow water with the lovely shade from the trees above our heads protecting us from the sun. In the afternoon, we relaxed for a while and swam in the hotel’s turtle-shaped pool until we went on another boat ride into the park. This time we saw river otter, sloth, bats, eyelash viper, and caiman. My favorite animal we saw this time was the river otter, because I never thought I’d see one in Costa Rica. The eyelash viper really stood out because of its yellow color in the green plants.

At 7 am the next morning we flew back to San Jose on a small airplane. I ordinarily hate airplanes but this was different. This was the first time I had ever been on such a small aircraft, and I actually thought it was pretty cool. We then drove through San Jose to Irazu Volcano, elevation 11,000+ feet. Irazu Volcano was very nice because of its big craters. We ate lunch on the mountain, then drove to Costa Rica’s largest archeological site, which was a market center 1,000 years ago. The archeological site was amazing. We saw all sorts of remains from the past. Rocks were everywhere and leaf cutter ants stretched for what seemed to be miles in just one line. The ants were fantastic but they sort of spooked me out in a way. The line of ants was almost the exact length of our trail, and there were so many of them! At the end of the day we checked into Casa Turire outside of Turrialba.

The next day we went white water rafting on the Pacuare River with our guide Pablo. One word describes this event – epic. The water splashed us and tossed us around, but thankfully no one fell out. This was so fun and we all enjoyed it. We learned how to maneuver the raft quickly and quickly got used to the feeling. We stopped to have a snack and play in the water for a few minutes. During that break, we skipped stones in the water and had a great time. We ate lunch overlooking the farms of the Turrialba Valley after driving back from the river. In the evening we visited Rancho Naturalista to see all sorts of hummingbirds. We even saw a mouse who would come out every minute to get a bite to eat. Afterwards we came back to our hotel and slept like logs.

On Thursday, we visited the Central Market in Cartago to see local produce. I had never seen so many fruits and vegetables anywhere in my life! We later took a flight to Manuel Antonio on the Pacific Coast. From the airport we walked to Titi Zipline. In the jungle, we rode on lines 1,000 to 1,500 feet, and rappelled down from a platform. This might be the best family thing we’ve ever done together. The wind brushed against our faces during the zipline and our hearts all pounded on the very first line. It was really fun and exciting but scary too. Then we went to Hotel Parador high on a cliff above the ocean. We often saw spider monkeys peek out of the trees at Hotel Parador.

The next day we hiked through Manuel Antonio National Park to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. It was wonderful. The water was warm and we had hermit crab races on the beach. Jorge spotted a sloth at Anaconda Restaurant, later we left to go to our hotel. I had a fever in the evening, but it broke by 10 pm. I hated being sick in Costa Rica. Feeling sick at home is bad enough, but it just felt horrible to have to lie in bed during our adventure.

We packed up in the morning and drove to Jaco for lunch by the beach. We took the Tarcoles River ride to see crocodiles and many magnificent birds. We even saw 2 scarlet macaws. I was worried that a crocodile would leap into the boat and bite my head off, but my fear was turned to excitement once I was taking pictures of all these brilliant creatures. We drove over the mountains and back to San Jose and Hotel Bougainvillea for dinner.

On Sunday morning, we drove to the airport at 5:30 am and flew to Dallas Fort Worth. We ran as fast as we could to our next flight but missed it. We found a new flight departing at 4:30 pm and arrived home by 8:30 to watch the end of the Oscars.

This has been one of my favorite vacations so far and you just read why. It was magical, outstanding, and almost perfect. It would have been perfect if I hadn’t gotten sick, but you know, stuff happens. For anyone who hasn’t been to Costa Rica, I hope you consider going and have as much fun as I had!