In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: Elegant Palm Springs
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: Great Lakes
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: In the Path of Lewis & Clark
BEHIND THE SCENES: Night of the Iguana
THE WAY IT WAS: What’s in a Name?
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Rockland, Maine
VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Pullman Rail Journeys Chicago to New Orleans
DID YOU KNOW? Christopher Tidmore’s On Board
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Lobster Macaroni
TRAVEL TIPS: How to Bargain
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA: Brushstrokes of History
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up

 

EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR NEWSLETTER READERS

5% OFF YOUR SECOND TRIP IN 2015! Book two Uncommon Journeys trips for 2015 and receive a 5% discount off the second adventure! Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires Friday, June 26, 2015. Discount applies to second trip of the same or lesser value.



Featured Trip

  Elegant Palm Springs

Experience the best of the Mexican Riviera and the chic Sinatra stylings of swank Palm Springs on our 12-day Elegant Palm Springs cruise tour departing November 1. The trip begins in spectacular Palm Springs with a four-day stay and is followed by a week-long Mexican Riviera cruise from San Diego.

The desert oasis of Palm Springs. Photo courtesy of VisitPalmSprings.com

We have long been fans of Palm Springs, believing it to be the perfect warm weather destination with its beautiful setting against the San Jacinto Mountains and the fact that with a nice hotel downtown, the entire “small town” village is within a few blocks. The casual lifestyle, dozens of superb restaurants and rugged natural beauty, combined with sunshine, swimming, golf and tennis make it the ideal vacation destination. In fact, we have taken hundreds of people to Frank Sinatra’s old stomping grounds. Similarly, we have long been fans of Holland America Line and their superbly run Dutch ocean liners. With teak decks, roomy staterooms, fine art, legendary dining and service as well as little touches like beautiful floral arrangements, Rosenthal china and 24 hour room service, Holland America is near the top of our list of favorite ways to spend a week. Therefore, it was only natural that we combine Palm Springs with a short but indulgent Holland America cruise, into an affordable holiday with little or no flying required.

Our vacation begins in downtown Palm Springs with a four-night stay at the wonderfully located Palm Mountain Resort, in the center of downtown. We have included an interesting though entirely optional sightseeing adventure daily, as well as at least one meal. Naturally, if you would rather golf, bicycle or lay by the pool, this too, is fine. Since we know the area so well, both our sightseeing and dining area of exceptional quality, as you would expect from Uncommon Journeys. Everything that you wish to see or visit is a few short blocks from our hotel, making this a vacation of great ease and relaxation.

After four blissful days in Palm Springs, we have a short but scenic ride South to San Diego where the Veendam awaits. Here, too, great dining is featured including the acclaimed Pinnacle Grill one evening in addition to acres of deck space, pools, a cinema, a choice of lounges and nightclubs, a spa, casino and much more. Onboard, there are special parties and events for our guests and ashore there are a range of excellent shore tours available for purchase. One of our favorites is Mismaloya Beach in Puerto Vallarta, where the film Night of the Iguana was made. Of course, ruggedly beautiful Cabo San Lucas, at the very tip of Baja California never fails to impress.

Beginning at just $1,995 per person and offered one-time only on November 1, our 12-day Elegant Palm Springs will sell quickly so call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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 Great Lakes

Sail into history on the first authentic Great Lakes voyages by classic passenger ship in decades, leaving right from Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. These ten night voyages begin right in Chicago and travel to magical Mackinac Island, Sault Ste Marie, lovely Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, Windsor, Niagara Falls and 1000 Islands before ending in exciting Montreal. Or, sail from Montreal back to Chicago. At a time with turmoil overseas and the general discomfort of long-haul air travel, we believe that boarding a beautiful ship in downtown Chicago and sailing through peaceful calm and picturesque waterways here in North America is just the ticket. At Uncommon Journeys we have long been enthusiastic fans of small-ship cruising. In an era of huge mega-ships, we find that elegant intimate vessels where everything is nearby, where there are not long queues for everything and where one can easily meet fellow travelers, appeal more than ever. We have no doubt that given that the first real chance to enjoy the Great Lakes on a classic nostalgia inspired small ship in decades will be a huge hit. Prompt reservations are suggested to avoid disappointment.

The intimate and nostalgic Saint Laurent. Photo courtesy of Haimark Line.

• 10-night Great Lakes cruise aboard the elegant 200 passenger liner Saint Laurent, the perfect ship for a Great Lakes Holiday with nostalgic interiors and rich appointments. Elegant dining in a choice of restaurants, 24-hour room service, complimentary Wi-Fi and luxury appointments.
• Special onboard events and a fascinating program of shore excursions included in each port of call.
• Elegantly casual dining & entertainment aboard with unlimited beverages onboard, including beers, spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, juices, coffee, tea, and water.
• Spectacular sightseeing including the Soo Locks, the St Lawrence Seaway, Niagara Falls, the Welland Canal and the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit to name just a few.
• Overnight luxury hotel stay in Montreal after the voyage, or before if you are sailing from Montreal to Chicago.
• Low cost train travel available to/from Chicago and Montreal.

Beginning at just $4,299 per person, this 11-day trip departing July 5, July 14 and August 28 is much more than just a standard cruise. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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 In the Path of Lewis & Clark

Join us on one of these very special voyages of discovery that combines a journey aboard our own private vintage Streamliner train, the Great Western Limited from California to lovely Portland, where an overnight luxury hotel stay awaits you along with plenty of free time. With comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations, fine dining with our own chef (all meals, wines & spirits on this special train are included) and magnificent scenery, there is no finer way to travel to the City of Roses. Little touches abound from welcome gifts and fresh flowers to Afternoon Tea. Our guests enjoy not only Vista-Dome travel and Portland but travel aboard the 88-guest river vessel Legacy on an epic journey in the path of Lewis & Clark, traveling by river all the way into Idaho. She’s big enough to keep you comfortable, well-fed and entertained but small enough to feel like you’re all engaged in the same grand adventure. After all, what could be more rewarding than to board as strangers and leave as friends?

The classic river vessel Legacy. Photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures.

  • Travel to Portland by private Streamliner train aboard our very own Great Western Limited complete with Vista-Dome car from Emeryville, CA.
  • Free connecting train travel to Emeryville from any California point when booked early.
  • Special Welcome Dinner in Portland
  • Overnight luxury hotel stay at the historic Hotel Multnomah - Embassy Suites with cocktails and breakfast and plenty of free time in the 'City of Roses.' **The September departure features an additional second night included in Portland.
  • Seven-night Columbia River cruise from Portland aboard the authentic riverboat, the Legacy. This is no ordinary cruise. Excellent dining is featured, all cabins are outside with a window or veranda, service is superb and little extras like soft drinks, snacks, appetizers at cocktail hour, are all complimentary.
  • Sights including Mount St. Helens, Astoria, Columbia River Gorge, Stevenson, Pendleton, Maryhill, Bonneville Dam, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Lewiston, Idaho.

Our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark tours begin at $4,895 per person and depart July 16, August 13 and September 9. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details
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Night of the Iguana

A scene from the classic film Night of the Iguana.

We love old movies. Whether in black and white or color, we love them because they are like time capsules. That’s why we love Turner Classic Movies. Every few months or so they show the 1964 classic Night of the Iguana, based on the Tennessee Williams play. Starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr, and directed by John Huston, it is a fantastic movie although some of the best scenes were undoubtedly off-screen since Elizabeth Taylor, who was dating but not yet married to Richard Burton, stayed with him on the set.

Filming began in September 1962 in a small, unknown town called Puerto Vallarta nestled along Mexico’s Pacific Coast. At the time, cast and crew referred to it as a “remote little fishing village.” Though plenty of scenes were later shot in studios, the location filming lasted two and a half months. Director John Huston loved to fish and given the extended time on location in Puerto Vallarta and the area’s superb fishing, he actually bought a house just outside town in what has been described as a “cottage colony” although the $30,000 price tag for the home was far more than one would expect for a simple cottage in Mexico over 50 years ago.

Atmospheric Puerto Vallarta was as much a part of the movie’s appeal as the all-star cast and suddenly this small sleepy hamlet became world famous. In fact, Puerto Vallarta owes so much to the filming legacy of Night of the Iguana that an entire resort has been built around the old sets originally constructed for the film. Called La Joya de Mismaloya, the hotel is built along the bay in the village of Mismaloya and the some sets from Night of the Iguana have been reused as shops and restaurants, creating a true tourist attraction. Most of the original sets were long-ago abandoned and are visible but with no access to the public other than a path that ends with an iguana sculpture perched atop a pole to mark the location.

There is no underestimating the importance of Night of the Iguana to the rise of Puerto Vallarta as a sunny and popular destination. In fact, the city acknowledges its debt to John Huston for bringing the international jet set to what was once a quiet coastal community. A statue of the director stands in the heart of Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta is one of the ports of call on Uncommon Journeys’ 12-day Elegant Palm Springs cruise tour departing November 1. The trip begins in spectacular Palm Springs with a four-day stay and is followed by a week-long Mexican Riviera cruise from San Diego. It’s more than a vacation; it’s a journey into film history.
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What’s in a Name?

The second Veendam of 1923 as captured in a painting by renowned maritime artist Stephen Card.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Card.

Uncommon Journey’s office walls are covered with period posters of sleek streamliner trains and stylish ocean liners from the great lines like Cunard Line and Holland America Line. These two companies, still in business after 175 years and 142 years, respectively, are two of our finest partners. And their historic posters didn’t arrive on our walls after we joined forces; they came long before. We chose them as partners because of their history, tradition and dedication to operating true ocean liners, not cruise ships.

One of our favorite examples is that of the ship featured in our 12-day Elegant Palm Springs cruise tour departing November 1. The trip begins in spectacular Palm Springs with a four-day stay and is followed by a week-long Mexican Riviera cruise from San Diego on Holland America’s Veendam. The Veendam was built in 1996 and is a lovely mid-size ship, measuring just 57,000 tons and carrying only 1,290 guests. New ships today routinely embark more than 4,000 passengers and tip the scales at over 150,000 tons. But Holland America Line is different, a trait easily seen in its dark wood interior, traditional service, and commitment to honoring the past in the onboard artwork and, indeed, even in the names of the ships themselves.

You see, today’s Veendam is not the first to carry that name. In fact, she is the fourth. The name itself comes from a town in the peat region of the Netherlands. Prior to the current Veendam, a 1958-built ship of less than half the size, sailed the seas for over a decade under Holland America colors. Prior to that version there was a twin-funneled liner of just 15,652 tons which entered service in 1923. The first was a 4,000-ton utilitarian ship dating to 1871 built for the White Star Line as the Baltic but which entered service for Holland America in 1889. But we have to admit that the 1923 version is one of the ships we find the most interesting because she led a rather interesting and adventurous life.

Built by Harland & Wolff in Scotland, the same yard that constructed the ill-fated Titanic 11 years prior, the Veendam was a modest ship of the day. Powered by steam turbines, the best she could muster was a service speed of 15 knots, less than three quarters of the current iteration’s speed. Despite her diminutive size she was built to carry a whopping 1,858 passengers, 1,200 of whom were Third Class and only 262 First Class. Ships are often measured by their space ratio to establish just how much room there really is on board. The current Veendam has a space ratio of more than 44.2; the Veendam of 1923 had a paltry space ratio of just 8.4, In other words, on the Veendam of the 1920s, passengers were five times as crowded as on the modern namesake. The situation was rectified a bit after World War II when the ship was converted to a tourist ship and capacity dropped to 586, a space ratio of a more respectable but hardly luxurious 26.6.

In her early career, the 1923-built Veendam sailed across the Atlantic to New York and was briefly chartered in 1930 for runs to Bermuda. She was notable as being the first ship to feature a drinking fountain. During the Great Depression, she even ran some wintertime jaunts to the Caribbean from New York. Without air conditioning, the Veendam’s drinking fountains were a welcome feature on trips to the sunny, humid and hot Caribbean.

But all that was forgotten when World War II erupted. The ship was trapped in Rotterdam in May of 1940 when the Nazis invaded Holland and she found herself captured by the Germans and used as a recreation ship in Gydnia for U-boat crews and later as a submarine tender, ending up amid the bombed out ruins of Hamburg by the end of the war. Completely refitted, she returned to Atlantic service in 1947 and soldiered on for just seven more years until she went to Baltimore to be cut up for scrap in December of 1953. She was an interesting ship and though we have a poster of the 1920s era Veendam and her sister ship, the Volendam, on our office wall as a reminder of what travel used to be like and how our current partners such as Holland America Line honor what has gone before, we sure wouldn’t trade a week on today’s Veendam for the 1920s version!
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Rockland, Maine

Rockland’s bustling main street.

At Uncommon Journeys, you can turn any of our vacations into your own personal experience. And we also know that you buy one of our trips based on your own personal interests. It may be the general region we visit. It may be the time of year. It may be a specific ship or train. It may be a specific destination on the itinerary. We know that for us, it’s Rockland, Maine, one of the ports of call on our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada cruise/train tour departing September 24.

Rockland is nestled on Penobscot Bay, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Unfortunately, in many places, small towns are dying. Large box stores that sell everything from soup to lug nuts have devastated Main Street USA, with most of the locally-owned stores closing. You see the despair in the boarded storefronts, the dullness in the eyes of those left behind, and the crushed community spirit.

Rockland is completely different. Here on the rocky, spectacular coast of Maine, these are towns on the upswing. They are working towns to be sure, but also focus on tourists as well. What you notice when you come to Rockland is the vibrancy of the region. In Rockland, wander off to the Farnsworth Art Museum, an impressive building with an equally impressive collection of American art, highlighted by the work of local prodigies the Wyeths. Watch an airshow with antique airplanes at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. Stroll along a rocky shore collecting pebbles in the shadow of a lighthouse, walk a half-mile breakwater to another lighthouse, window-shop along a busy and bustling main street, eat at a restaurant run by a James Beard Award-winning chef originally from Boston and sit beneath a tree in all its autumnal glory, eating handmade ice cream in a handmade cone. It will be pure heaven.

If you’d like to see a photo from one of your own Uncommon Journeys trips featured in our newsletter, just email it to us at uncommon@uncommonjourneys.com and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.
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Pullman Rail Journeys Chicago to New Orleans

Our 12-day Passage to British Honduras cruise/train tour departing December 3 begins in great comfort with an evening departure from the Windy City to New Orleans aboard the finest train in this country for decades, Pullman Rail Journeys' superb overnight vintage train followed by a two-night stay in New Orleans at the French Quarter before the centerpiece of our holiday, passage by ship to exotic Belize, formerly British Honduras, one of the most fascinating places on Earth. With the second longest barrier reef in the world, lush jungles filled with jaguars, ocelots and wild monkeys, Belize is a place of stunning natural beauty, famed for its breathtaking Mayan ruins at Altun-Ha. During our port call in Belize, there is time to tour these magnificent Mayan ruins, a 'must-see' sight for any traveler. Happily, Belize is not the only exotic port of call on our passage from New Orleans, we also visit Costa Maya in Mexico's Yucatan, popular Cozumel and delightful unspoiled Roatan, in Honduras, rarely visited by cruise ships and highly rated by our guests. After a relaxing voyage, our guests enjoy Pullman Rail Journeys after the cruise back to Chicago.
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Christopher Tidmore’s On Board

Trace the path of Lewis and Clark along the Columbia River. Photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventures.

Not all trips are created equal; some hold special surprises. For example, on the July 16 departure of our 12-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark riverboat/train tour, step back into the uncharted America of Thomas Jefferson's Corps of Discovery. Trace the footsteps of Lewis and Clark with journalist and historian Christopher Tidmore. This internationally-known journalist, travel writer, and veteran of expeditions across the Silk Road, Siberia, India, Southeast Asia, the Australian outback, and the islands of the Atlantic, will be your guide as you experience what the intrepid explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first saw in the previously uncharted Northwest. Tidmore learned the glory of the trek of Lewis and Clark through his tenure as student and research assistant to famed historian Dr. Stephen Ambrose during the writing of Undaunted Courage, the definitive work on the expedition of the Corps of Discovery.  Join us in July, and let Tidmore paint a picture of the world Stephen Ambrose so eloquently spoke of, and Lewis and Clark first discovered. It will be the trip of a lifetime!
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Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs

Old Blue Eyes and Palm Springs are intertwined.

We have long been fans of Palm Springs, believing it to be the perfect warm weather destination with its beautiful setting against the San Jacinto Mountains and the fact that with a nice hotel downtown, the entire 'small town' village is within a few blocks making it even more appealing. The casual lifestyle, dozens of superb restaurants and rugged natural beauty, combined with sunshine, swimming, golf and tennis, make it the ideal vacation destination. Over the years, we have taken hundreds of people to Frank Sinatra’s favorite spot out west and all have praised it as one of their finest vacations in years. Even today, you can still sample what Palm Springs was like during Frank Sinatra’s heyday on our 12-day Elegant Palm Springs cruise tour departing November 1. The trip begins in spectacular Palm Springs with a four-day stay and is followed by a week-long Mexican Riviera cruise from San Diego. Don’t miss Twin Palms, Frank Sinatra’s retro-chic estate in the desert; it’s even available for rent for special events!
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John Muir

 

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” John Muir
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Lobster Macaroni

Recipe courtesy of Holland America Line and Master Chef Rudi Sodamin

Photo courtesy of Holland America Line

One of our best partners, Holland America Line, shares this recipe available on all their ships. Due to the abundance of fresh lobster available, this dish is a particular favorite on our 17-day Yosemite to Denali cruise/train tours departing June 15, July 13 and August 10 and our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada cruise departing September 24. Enjoy!

YIELD
6 to 8 servings

Ingredients
Cream Sauce

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1/4 pound white or sweet onion, very finely minced
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger
  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Lobster and Macaroni
  • 12 tablespoons sea salt
  • 4 live (1-pound) chicken lobsters, or 14 ounces cooked lobster meat
  • 3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded 3 ounces Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 cup prepared garlic-seasoned croutons, crushed finely
  • 1 pound dried large elbow macaroni
  • 6 ounces grated Italian Fontina cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • 6 ounces Delice de Bourgogne, sliced (optional, see note)

Directions
Cream Sauce
1. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 5 to 8 minutes. (Do not let the onion brown.)
2. Add the cream and bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring often to avoid scorching, until the cream is slowly reduced by about 20 percent.
3. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Remove the cream sauce from the heat and add the salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a metal bowl. Place the bowl in the ice water to chill the sauce quickly. Stir the sauce often to ensure that the butter doesn’t separate from the sauce. When cooled, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


Lobster and Macaroni
1. Cook the lobster: Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large pot filled no more than three-quarters full and add 6 tablespoons of the sea salt. When the water is at a rolling boil, add 2 lobsters, heads first. Cook for 3 1/2 minutes, loosely covering the pot with a lid, then drain and cool at room temperature. Allow the water to return to a boil and repeat the process with the remaining 2 lobsters.
2. When the lobster is still slightly warm, remove the claws with the knuckles attached. Remove the meat from the knuckles and claws and the cartilage from the claw meat. Using a large knife, split the lobster in half lengthwise, beginning at the tail encl. Remove the tail meat. Remove the intestine from the tail meat and cut all the lobster meat into l-inch chunks. Squeeze the meat out of the legs with a rolling pin. Cover the lobster meat with plastic wrap and refrigerate. (The recipe can be prepared up to this point l day in advance.)
3. Heat the broiler. In a bowl, combine the cheddar, Asiago, and croutons. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
4. Cook the macaroni in a stockpot of boiling salted water until tender but firm, 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the reserved cream sauce to a boil and reduce by about 10 percent. Stir in the Fontina until melted, then add the reserved lobster and tarragon and cook, stirring gently, until the lobster is heated through, about 1 minute.
5. When the macaroni is cooked, drain it and transfer it to a large bowl. Pour the lobster sauce over the macaroni and toss gently to coat. Pour the mixture into a large ovenproof casserole dish or divide it among individual ovenproof dishes. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese and crouton mixture. Broil the lobster macaroni and cheese about 3 inches from the heat until the top starts to slightly brown and becomes crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes (watch carefully so the topping doesn’t burn). Immediately top the casserole with slices of Delice de Bourgogne (if using). Serve at once.
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How to Bargain

 

Not everything sells for the price advertised. While some things are set in stone (Uncommon Journeys trip pricing, for example!), you’ll find that on vacation in tourist areas, you might be able to bargain for items, especially if your travels take you to a foreign country such as our 12-day Passage to British Honduras departing December 3, our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada departing September 24, or our 7-day Summer Holiday with the Queen trip departing July 29. But if you want to negotiate for that souvenir or knickknack, how should you go about it?

  • Don’t try to buy a discounted straw purse while wearing a cocktail gown and jewelry. Vendors selling their wares will judge your willingness to pay top dollar based on your clothing and appearance. So, if you’re serious about getting the best bargain, dress very modestly and hide expensive watches, cameras, smartphones and jewelry.
  • The closer to closing time you show up, the more likely a craft seller will be willing to drop their price since they’d prefer not to haul the unsold goods back home. Note this rule generally doesn’t apply to a store, although it’s possible a storeowner might be willing to drop the price a bit more at the end of the day because they’ll be tired and their negotiating skills less sharp.
  • Know how much you’re willing to pay either based on research of the type of item you’re interested in and/or knowing the most you’re willing to pay.
  • Make a reasonable offer. It’s insulting to offer less than half of the marked price and, depending where you are, don’t offer less than 75% of the retail tag. In the United States and Canada, you’ll be lucky to get more than 10% off the advertised price. In Mexico and the Caribbean, you just might get close to 50% off but 60% to 80% is more the norm, depending on the country.
  • Buy in bulk. If you want the best discounts, offer to buy three items for the price of two or five for the price of three.
  • Don’t’ be insulting. Remember that if a good is handcrafted, if you offer a very low price, you’re insulting the quality of the person’s work and the time it took them to create the item.
  • Be polite. If you want to negotiate, there’s no need to be rude or impolite in any way. It’s nice to begin by asking a seller if there’s any way they “might be able to do a bit better on the price” rather than simply demand they knock off 50% and stand there with arms crossed waiting for an answer.
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Brushstrokes of History

The splendor of Yosemite’s El Capitan, as captured by Thomas Hill.

At Uncommon Journeys, we rely heavily on modern technology to take bookings, communicate with our partners and to get the word out regarding our trips. Without email and the Internet, the world would be a much different place. We know it for a fact, since we’ve watched those changes over the 25-year history of Uncommon Journeys. Imagine the 19th century. How then did people show one another something that defied words? It turns out that painting was used not just as art but also to convey wonders of places and events that people hadn’t witnessed or had little hope of every visiting.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), “In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act protecting Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, setting the precedent for federal protection of scenic areas in the United States. Artists like Thomas Hill helped make the natural treasures of the American West known to the rest of the country and the world.”

We often think of presidents and preservationists as the key to our national parks. Yet the preservation of wonders such as Yosemite owed so much to, of all people, painters. “In the 19th century, America was a young nation still shaping its identity,” the NPS says. “Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, America’s first philosophers, wrote of our coming of age as a nation and our unique relationship to nature. This would become the beginning of the American preservation movement. Artists, particularly those of the Hudson River School, immortalized these ideas in paintings of the American landscape. Artists were among the earliest Euro-American visitors to Yosemite.”

“As their paintings, lithographs, and photographs reached homes across America, Yosemite became an icon of the American wilderness,” the NPS claims. These images were more than just beautiful objects—they introduced America to a spiritual and cultural experience that rivaled the castles and cathedrals of Europe. Americans found awe and wonder in, and a respect for, the spectacular landscapes of Yosemite and the American West.”
The NPS goes on to explain that “the writings of John Muir reinforced the need for environmental preservation, and the paintings of Bierstadt, Hill, and others enabled Americans to visualize it. The art of Yosemite helped convince the American public and the United States Congress that America’s wilderness was worth protecting.”

Guests on our 17-day Yosemite to Denali cruise/train tours departing June 15, July 13 and August 10 might be surprised to learn that they owe a debt of gratitude to painters such as Thomas Hill. It’s fascinating to find yourself standing in some of the same spots where Hill set up his easel, taking in the view and noting, remarkably, how little has changed in the last 150 years. That is the beauty of a trip with Uncommon Journeys and the true beauty of Yosemite itself.
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Guests Speak Up

“My husband and I recently had the pleasure of traveling with Conrad Tausend on an Akron AAA trip to the parks of the Southwest. I would be remiss having spent the large portion of my career in customer service, if I didn't write and let you know what an exceptional employee you have in Conrad. He has obviously been to the parks many times, but has not lost his enthusiasm and wonder for the area and managed to pass that excitement on to us. Every step of the trip, he was concerned with our safety and comfort as well as keeping us informed about our schedules, events to come, the history of the area and information regarding our stops. He was entertaining at times and informative at others. You can tell he treasures our National Parks and he is an excellent ambassador for our countries most beautiful treasures and for your organization. We would not hesitate to recommend your company to our family and friends for future travel based on this recent experience.”

-Robert and Beth M., Ohio

“We were on the recent AAA Akron tour of the national parks in Arizona and Utah and wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed the trip. Conrad, Ed and Eric make a great team and provided us with memories that will last forever. Appreciate all the extra touches during the trip such as: boxes of delicious chocolates; pre-stamped postcards; ice cream stop. Conrad was a wonderful tour manager and his love of the parks system is very evident.”
-Cheryl and John J., Ohio

To submit your own comments about a trip and to be featured in our monthly newsletter, just email us.
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* Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires on Friday, June 12, 2015 and is only available for new bookings.