UW Alumni Tours Blog

UWAA Members Make a Difference in Africa

November 1st, 2013 by Greg Flanders

In 2011, a group of UWAA members and their guests, traveling to Africa with UW Alumni Tours, visited Chiawa, a small village on the banks of the Zambezi River. While there, one of the group members, Al Jones, M.D. ’63, was asked to take a look at a boy suffering from severe skin and scalp infections. The diagnosis was straightforward: the boy, named Arnold, had ringworm.

Members of UW Alumni Tours' African Wildlife Tour

Members of UW Alumni Tours’ African Wildlife Tour

Arnold was not alone. Many of the village children had ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection marked by distinctive circular patches of discolored skin, surrounded by a raised border.

Another doctor who had visited the village had purchased and sent along a box of medicine through a clinic in Lusaka, but no one in the village knew what to do with it. Dr. Jones discussed with the children’s mothers how to use the medicine—an antifungal and antibacterial ointment. He also shared tips for treating ringworm: for example, children often need to have their heads shaved, since the fungus can live inside hair follicles. The following April, Jones received an email from his guide, telling him that ringworm had been eradicated from the village.

“This illustrates the great need these small villages throughout Africa have for bare bones medical help,” says Jones. “Even medical personnel just passing through can have an impact.”

It could have ended there. However, since their visit, this group has kept in contact with Chiawa and each other. They are in the process of setting up a solar-powered refrigerator to store medicine, and have sent a shipment of soccer balls for the children to play with.

“I’m excited and proud of the positive impact UW travelers are making for this small village,” says Pauline Ranieri, director of UW Alumni Tours. UW travelers will return to the Zambezi region several times in 2014 and 2015 through the “Africa’s Wildlife” tour. (See all of UW Alumni Tours upcoming Africa journeys)

The Pierogi: Poland’s Gift to World Cuisine

February 27th, 2013 by Greg Flanders
Mmmmm. Pierogi.

Mmmmm. Pierogi.

Make dough. Put stuff in dough. Cook dough. Eat.

It’s a simple concept, found all over the world. From bao and gyoza in Asia to empanadas and pupusas in the Americas, bread-with-stuff-in is a staple the world over. Rotis, pasties, samosas, dumplings, tamales, kreplach, pozi, pot pies, manti, pastelitos, momos, corn dogs—the varieties are endless. Big or small, sweet or savory, there’s something in the bread-with-stuff-in line for every appetite.

Poland’s version, the pierogi, is deceptively simple. The dough is just flour and water, and the stuffing is frequently just mashed potatoes and farmer’s cheese, though a version with ground beef, cabbage, potatoes and spices is also very popular, and sweet pierogi with berries often show up in desserts. Traditionally a peasant dish, every stratum of Polish society has embraced the pierogi, and it’s now widely considered the national dish of Poland. That’s for good reason: they’re delicious.

Pierogi have become staples of Polish cultural events. Krakow hosts a pierogi festival that draws thousands each year. Over the centuries, different shapes and fillings of pierogi were made for holidays like Christmas and Easter and for life transitions like weddings and wakes. Pierogi have even picked up a patron saint, St. Hyacinth. “St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!” is a rough equivalent to “good grief” or “holy smokes!”

If you find yourself at leisure in Poland (say, if you were on UW Alumni Tours’ “Discover Eastern Europe” tour, which features opportunities for independent exploration in Warsaw and Krakow), you could do worse than to seek out these tasty treats.

Traveler Feedback

January 31st, 2013 by Greg Flanders

Nothing makes us happier than hearing back from our travelers, especially when we’re planning to return to a destination. Our perennially popular Africa’s Wildlife tour always brings great responses, which is why we keep going back. Here’s what some of the UW alumni and friends had to say about their experiences on our Africa tours:

  • This is my first experience with UW Alumni Tours and I totally recommend this trip for anyone – Amazing! Christine Hanley, UW Friend
  • Outstanding first safari trip! Herb Berry ‘72
  • This was a trip of MANY great memories, but seeing animals in their native habitat that we have previously only seen in captivity was the GRANDEST memory. Connie Kinyon ‘94 and Stephen Torgesen ‘67

Africa’s Wildlife offers the opportunity to see lions and elephants, giraffes and wildebeest up close in their natural settings. From the thundering majesty of Victoria Falls to the wide plains of the Lower Zambezi, this tour brings you Africa at its most scenic. It’s a can’t-miss voyage for any nature lover.

Check out this slide show of photos from previous UW Alumni Tours Africa adventures!

Planning your 2014 travel? See where we can take you at UWalum.com/tours. Space is available on 2013 and 2014 excursions.

The benefits of booking early

January 4th, 2013 by Greg Flanders

Travel brochures are expensive. Full-color printing, first-class postage—it can really add up. That’s why some travel companies offer discounts to travelers who can commit to a tour early. AHI Travel—one of our partners offering early-registration savings—specializes in providing educational travel experiences that let you soak in the culture and history of your destination. Book by Feb. 12 and UWAA members save an additional $250 on the following fantastic tours (get the promo code):

One of the stops on the Grand Danube Passage tour is Belgrade's St. Sava Cathedral.

Belgrade’s St. Sava Cathedral, one of the architectural treasure’s you’ll experience on the Grand Danube Passage tour.

  • Apulia: Enjoy the age-old atmosphere and fresh flavors of Italy’s storied South. Featuring visits to three UNESCO World Heritage sites, this tour is limited to 36 travelers to insure each group member gets the most out of the trip. You can also “double up” with the Sorrento trip to experience two unique faces of Italy for a single airfare!
  • Grand Danube Passage: Cruise through the heart of Europe and see marvelous Old World capitals, beautiful churches, picturesque villages and incomparable Danube River landscape.
  • Pearls of Antiquity—Istanbul to Athens: From the bustling metropolis of Istanbul to the ancient ruins of Mycenae, explore the ancient treasures of the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Sorrento: Whether you experience this trip by itself or in tandem with the Apulia tour, this is an excellent opportunity to savor the culture and cuisine of Italy. Visit the famed ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, view the renowned Amalfi Coast and sample delicious, authentic mozzarella at a local cheese farm.

Don’t miss this chance to save on these unforgettable journeys—sign up today!


Protecting the World’s Wonders: Machu Picchu and the Galapagos

November 29th, 2012 by Greg Flanders

UW Alumni Tours has just added an additional departure for an amazing tour of Machu Picchu and the Galapagos. With only 20 spaces each, these packages routinely sell out, so act today to reserve your spot!

The ruins at Machu Picchu are an archaeological wonder. Nearly intact after centuries of neglect, this site truly lets the visitor walk in the footsteps of the ancients and see how they lived their daily lives. Likewise, the Galapagos Islands are a remarkably diverse and fragile natural preserve, kept safe from the depredations of hunters for millennia. How is it possible that these two places survived through the ages?

Well, for starters, for much of their histories, both places were remarkably difficult to get to.

Machu Picchu

A UW Alumni Tours group shows their Husky Pride near Machu Picchu

Nestled high above the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the small settlement of Machu Picchu served as an estate for the Inca emperors for a little over a century until the time of the Spanish conquest. Despite its location near Cuzco, the Spanish never found it. While reports of a fabulous ruined city in the mountains began trickling out as early as the 1870’s, it wasn’t until 1911, when an 11-year-old Quechua buy led the American historian Hiram Bingham to the site, that word started to get out. Even then, for decades getting to Machu Picchu involved a multi-day trek over steep mountain passes. Now a train will take you to the nearby town of Aguas Calientes (there is still no road), and you can hike the rest of the way or take a bus in about an hour.

Machu Picchu’s remote location and its fame as an archeological site have led some people to attempt shortcuts. Bridges, cable cars, and highways have all been proposed, and from the 1980s into the 1990s, it was possible to hire a helicopter to land you right in Machu Picchu’s central courtyard.

These days, the Peruvian government is taking steps to limit the number of tourists who go through Machu Picchu. Visitors are limited to 2,000 each day, and access to the inner citadel is further limited to just 400. There is only one hotel at the site, the 31-room Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge; everybody else must head back down to stay further away. (By the way: The UW Alumni Tours Machu Picchu and the Galapagos tour includes a night’s stay at the Sanctuary Lodge, meaning travelers will have access to the site after everybody leaves in the evening and before anyone arrives the next morning)

Traveler with Turtle

This traveler with UW Alumni Tours learns that, if you play it cool, the Galapagos wildlife may come to you.

While Machu Picchu was hidden away fairly close to populated areas, the Galapagos Islands owe their preservation to their extreme isolation. Over 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos have very little fresh water to support human settlement. Despite some evidence of pre-Columbian visits to the island, there is no sign the islands were ever permanently inhabited before they were charted by the Spanish in the 16th Century. The first known permanent human resident on Galapagos was an Irish sailor who was marooned there for two years in the early 1800’s. Before that, it was used as a hideout for English pirates preying upon Spanish treasure galleons headed home with holds full of Peruvian silver.

The next few hundred years brought the usual environmental impacts of growing human settlements. Along with the pirates, whalers used the islands as a stopping-off point, introducing rats, goats, pigs, dogs and cats to some of the islands. In 1820, a fire lit by a whaling crew burned out of control and destroyed the island of Floreana.  In 2001, an oil spill threatened the islands, but winds and ocean currents helped disperse the oil before much damage was done. The islands have been a national park since 1930, but it was not until the late 1950s that real conservation efforts began to take place, attempting to balance needs of the delicate ecosystems of the islands with research and tourism.

Today, the islands are home to about 25,000 people, half of whom live in the town of Puerto Ayora.  Tourism is strictly controlled, with access to about 97% of the islands requiring the presence of a licensed guide for every 16 members of a group, and access to the park islands is often booked up months in advance.

Working with a reputable travel program, like UW Alumni Tours, makes sure every leg of your trip is on the up-and-up, so these remarkable natural and cultural treasures are protected for future generations.

Find out more about UW Alumni Tours Machu Picchu & the Galapagos tour.

Paradores and Pousadas: Spain and Portugal

October 29th, 2012 by Greg Flanders
Ronda Parador

The Parador at Ronda clings to the edge of a high bluff near an ancient bridge.

Paradores and Pousadas: Spain and Portugal will help you discover many of Spain’s most distinctive treasures: Cordoba’s one-of-a-kind mezquita, a seventh-century church transformed into an enormous mosque, which then had a Renaissance cathedral set down in it; Granada’s Alhambra and Generalife, the last bastion of the Moors in Spain, still featuring the intricate stonework and stunning abstract décor that was a fixture of Moorish art; and Madrid’s Prado Museum, home to one of the finest art collections in Europe. Along the way, you’ll be treated to some of Iberia’s best, most idiosyncratic lodgings: Paradores and Pousadas.

Paradores (in Spain; Pousadas in Portugal) are luxury hotels located in historic buildings such as monasteries or castles. Scattered all over the Iberian Peninsula, they offer guests the opportunity to soak in local flavor and history while enjoying top-notch accommodations in some of Europe’s finest architectural gems.

Imagine waking up in a 15th-century monastery, upgraded for decidedly non-monastic modern comfort. You cross to the window to look out over the plaza, featuring the monumental ruins of a 2,000-year-old Roman temple. That’s morning in Évora, Portugal, home to historical and architectural treasures dating back two millennia. You’ll spend a full day soaking in the unique atmosphere of this bustling university town (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) before heading off to your next parador: a 14th-century Moorish castle nestled in the rolling plains outside Seville.

Each Parador you visit will reflect the character of the area—one clings to the edge of a 500-foot-deep gorge; another is the 16th-century palace of a Renaissance clergyman. These luxurious accommodations will be your home base as you experience this storied region. From the Romans to the Moors, through the Reconquista to the Renaissance, history has left its mark on the landscape and the culture, and this is a great chance to explore it. Don’t miss out!

Journey beneath the surface with Alumni Campus Abroad

September 26th, 2012 by Greg Flanders

Sometimes a traveler just wants to settle in and get to know a place for a while—get a sense of the daily rhythms, meet some interesting people, find off-the-beaten track spots, really explore a different land. For these times, there’s Alumni Campus Abroad from AHI Travel. Offering extended stays in small towns and villages all over Europe, Alumni Campus Abroad tours let travelers experience the heart and spirit of the land. UW Alumni Tours is proud to offer three Alumni Campus Abroad experiences: one in the Lake District of England and two in Italy—Apulia and Sorrento.

Roman Fort at Hadrian's Wall

Ancient outposts like this made up part of Hadrian’s wall at the height of the Roman Empire’s power.

Containing England’s highest mountain as well as its deepest lake, the Lake District of England has inspired writers, poets and philosophers from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter. This is your chance to get to know one of the most dramatic and beautiful regions of Great Britain. Immerse yourself in the storied history of the region, from the ancient stone circle at Castlerigg, to remnants of the Roman Empire like the Hardknott Fort and Hadrian’s Wall, to the 18th-century splendor of Holker Hall. There’s so much to explore in the Lakes! (May 30, 2013—8 days)

If your interest lies more to the south, Alumni Campus Abroad has two great Italian destinations that let you immerse yourself in coastal village life in two very distinct regions. Groups for the Italy trips are limited to 36 travelers to ensure an intimate, fulfilling experience. As an added bonus, we’ve scheduled these trips back-to-back, so you can experience them both for the cost of only a single air fare. Also, if you book one or both of these Italy trips by Nov. 20 you save and additional $250 per person per trip through AHI’s Paperless Savings program.

Pogliano a Mare

Settle in for a taste of la dolce vita in Pogliano a Mare.

Nestled into Italy’s Adriatic coast, Polignano a Mare in the Apulia region is a seaside gem with a distinctly Greek feel, and your home base for eight days of excursions into the region’s cultural and culinary treasures. One of the richest archaeological regions in Italy, Apulia has nearly 9,000 years of history to explore, including some of the first human settlements in Italy, the Sassi cave houses. Slightly less ancient are the Norman castles, Trani’s 13th-century cathedral and the conical limestone houses at the Trulli, all of which you will have the opportunity to explore. Along with the unique architecture of the region, Apulia features olive farms and wineries and a simple but exquisite cuisine that complements the sun-kissed climate. (Sept. 24, 2013—8 days)

Pompeii interior

Explore the famous ruins of Pompeii, sealed and preserved for millennia under volcanic ash.

On the Mediterranean side of Italy, the famed Amalfi Coast promises cliffside villages, centuries of history, and delicious local delicacies. Sorrento, your home for eight days, rests in the birthplace of mozzarella cheese and limoncello, a sweet, tart liqueur made from the lemons that grow on the nearby hills; you’ll have the chance to try them both, straight from local producers. You’ll also soak in the local history with visits to the famous ruins of Pompeii and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, one of the oldest cities in the world. (Oct. 2, 2013—8 days)

With its small groups, long stays and carefully chosen daily activities, Alumni Campus Abroad offers you the chance to journey beyond the usual tourist attractions and get to know a new land as a guest. We’re proud to offer you these three great chances to explore. Come see where we can take you at UWalum.com/tours.

Cruise in the Wake of the Celts—Register Early and Save

August 28th, 2012 by Greg Flanders
Iona Abbey

The abbey on the isle of Iona is one of the oldest and most important religious centers in Western Europe

Though they had no written language and never built an empire or a centralized state, the Celtic civilization spanned two thousand years and left an indelible mark on Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Normandy. Now UW Alumni offers you the chance to sail through history in luxurious comfort on the M.S. Le Boreal.

Since 2010, the M.S. Le Boreal has been cruising the waters of Northern Europe, delighting travelers from St. Petersburg to Reykjavik. Named the Best New Ship of 2010 by the European Cruiser Association, Le Boreal features all the amenities expected of a luxury cruise liner, including two restaurants, a state-of-the-art theater for lectures, performances and film screenings, wireless internet access, swimming pool, spa—the works. Le Boreal is small by cruise ship standards, allowing it to travel where larger ships cannot, and with only 120 staterooms, offers a unique, intimate cruise experience featuring destinations many ships just can’t reach.

MS Le Boreal

The MS Le Boreal

Let the M.S. Le Boreal be your home as you explore the rich history and magnificent landscapes of France, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Sail from northern France and the hallowed beaches of Normandy into the waters of the Celtic and Irish Seas to view the treasures of Dublin’s rich Celtic heritage, including the Book of Kells and Trinity College’s famed Old Library. From there, Follow in the footsteps of medieval and modern princes as you explore the castles and fortified monasteries of northern Wales. Then it’s further north and deeper into the past, as you soak in the austere beauty of the Isle of Skye and the Orkney Islands, and muse over the mysterious Neolithic stone monuments left behind by the ancient Celts.

Joining us for a portion of the cruise are two distinguished experts with personal connections to the sites you will be visiting. Dwight David Eisenhower II is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the definitive work on the actions of his grandfather, General (later President) Eisenhower during World War II. Internationally acclaimed author, journalist, television presenter and speaker Celia Sandys will also accompany part of the voyage, sharing insights and memories of her grandfather, Winston Churchill.

Reserve by Oct. 15, 2012 and save $2,000 per couple. This cruise has sold out every time we’ve offered it, so sign up early to get the berth you want!