2018 was all about celebrating Sofia’s Travel, LLC 5th anniversary and WOW…what a year! We circled the globe twice according to our Delta sky miles report, stepped on several continents, visited countless cities and admired many world-renowned museums and UNESCO World Heritage sites along the way.
Our journey began at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to attend the Global Engagement Summit which was inspirational and set the tone for the year. The Summit ignited a fire within me to take creating awareness for the Global Goals for Sustainable Development to the next level specific to the travel industry. Of course, a little side trip while in the Big Apple to the Metropolitan Art Museum is also inspiring and good for the soul!
In Spring I would find myself back in Greece for a land tour this time starting in Athens. While I have visited the Greek Isles, it was hard not to drift off thinking about the sand, sun and water. It wasn’t long though before I was pleasantly surprised as we began exploring west towards the Corinth Canal and its breathtaking views. From there we continued along the route to the Saronic Gulf to Epidaurus to the picturesque town of Nafplio before arriving in Olympia the most celebrated sanctuary of ancient Greece. Next we journeyed across the Rio Antirrio Bridge on to the Pan-Hellenic sanctuary of Delphi, which had the most famous oracle of ancient Greece and was regarded as the center of the world. We then set off to Meteore, a rock city between sky and earth. The community of rock monasteries have been characterized by UNESCO as a unique phenomenon of cultural heritage. I then circled back to Athens for the ASTA Destination Expo where Anastasia Zanni performed the US National Anthem during the opening general session at the Herodes Atticus Theater. Goosebumps…all I need to say! We were then welcomed by The U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt and enjoyed The Hellenic Navy Band in addition to tours of the Acropolis, dinner and dance performances at the Zappeion and an evening at the yachting festival at Marina Alimos. It was a magnificent trip and all I can say is the Greeks know how to throw a party!
A quick turnaround would find me back in Long Beach, CA at our Annual Avoya Network Conference which Sofia’s Travel, LLC was recognized as one of the “Best of the Best” Agencies in the network. This of course would not been possible without the amazing team at Sofia’s Travel, LLC and our loyal clients. The celebrations continued as we enjoyed an evening on the Queen Mary for a Great Gatsby Gala followed by the inaugural sailing of the Norwegian Bliss.
Early summer would be the trip we waited a long time to finally take as we enjoyed a river cruise through Russia. We meandered up the Volga River from Moscow visiting the cities of Uglish, Yaroslavl, Goritsy, Lake Onega, Kizhy, and Mandrogi on our way to St. Petersburg. We enjoyed everything Russia had to offer from the Kremlin to the art decorated metro stations to St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow to the magnificent onion domed and wooden churches along the Volga to Babushka painting. As we arrived in St Petersburg, we enjoyed visits to the Hermitage Museum, Cathryn’s Palace, Saint Isaac Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood and a performance of Swan Lake at the Alexandrinsky Theater. We also enjoyed all the excitement and vibe the cities offered as it was energized from the world converging on this country as it hosted the World Cup. Russia will surprise you as it is very modern, open and cosmopolitan.
I returned home long enough to catch my breath before I accompanied Maria Bello, Travel Expert with Sofia’s Travel, to Club Med Cancun where she was recognized as one of the Top Club Med Agents. Having spent my childhood vacationing at Club Med in Tunisia, North Africa and now celebrating this with one of our top Sofia’s Travel, LLC team members I can only say I feel I have come full circle.
Late Summer would find us taking a long weekend to New Orleans where we went back in time on a tour of Oak Alley Plantation in addition to exploring our adventures site on a Swamp tour to include visits with the alligators. Of course, let’s not forget the cuisine, especially the beignets!
Early fall would find me back in San Diego, CA at the Manchester Grand Hyatt for the American Express Travel Forum which is always packed with educational and networking opportunities specific to the latest news and trends in the Travel Industry. The theme of the forum was “The Future is Now”. We got to hear from inspiring keynote speakers like Daymond John, Ben Nemtin & Anders Sorman Nilsson.
This seemed to be the year of many, many quick trips as winter and the holidays approached, I would find myself in New York where I had the opportunity to be part of the World Vision Strong Woman Strong World Summit at The Plaza Hotel. World Vision is an exemplary partner of the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development making long term sustainable impacts in communities around the world and in the United State for generations to come. That’s why we are a big supporter of World Vision and look forward to a long-lasting partnership. It was an amazing and inspiring event and who doesn’t enjoy New York during the Christmas season.
Shortly after arriving home from New York I took off to Jamaica for our “Best of the Best” Avoya Network recognition trip. The event was hosted by the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall which is an all-inclusive property. I must say, it was very rejuvenating and the spa was AMAZING!!!
If you followed our travels through the year you saw that I also had the pleasure to take you along to my hometown of Cologne, Germany for the Christmas season. Advent is the time for Christmas markets and Cologne is, of course, no exception. What a magical time of the year.
After a brief visit in Cologne we continued our journey on to Turkey where I have not been since 1993 and couldn’t wait to return. We started our tour in Istanbul with visits to Topkapi Palace which sits on top the most visible hill in the area, and is the symbol of the city. We continued to Hagia Sophia which is often referred to as the eighth wonder of the World. It was the largest Christian church in the world for nearly a thousand years and under the order of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the Council of Ministers the Hagia Sophia opened as a museum in 1935. The Blue Mosque was designed as an imperial show of strength to complement the imposing Hagia Sophia, which faces it across Sultanahmet Square.
On our way to Ankara we crossed the Bosporus Bridge leaving behind the European side of Istanbul to enter the Asian side of Turkey. Overlooking the city is Anitkabir, the enormous hilltop mausoleum of Kemal Atatürk, modern Turkey’s first president, who declared Ankara the capital in 1923. In addition, we stopped to visit Ankara’s Museum of Anatolian Civilizations exhibits which was stunning to see artifacts from Anatolia’s most important archaeological sites while providing a comprehensive overview of Turkey’s ancient past.
We continued our journey through the beautiful hills and landscapes passing by Lake Tuz and going off roading in 4x4’s in Cappadocia. We visited the Mevlana Museum in Konya, relaxed at the Hamam and spa in Kushadassi, enjoyed the Pamukkale Hot Springs, strolled through Ephesus, left a prayer note at Mary’s House while drinking some healing water in Pergamum. We drove by Izmir, climbed the stairs at Troy, met the Mayor of Demircidere while enjoying lunch prepared by the local ladies in the village. We visited the site of Gallipoli in remembrance of the battle between the Turks and Australians before finishing our tour on a Bosporus Cruise in Istanbul... whew I am worn out writing all of this! All totaled we travelled over 3700 kilometers (over 1400 miles) throughout Turkey and it was nothing less than amazing. The sights, sounds, food and people made this an amazing journey.
The best part of travel is the people you meet along the way and the long-lasting friendships that develop in the process. You can read in detail about each destination on our Facebook Page “Sofia’s Travel, LLC” and enjoy all the pictures.
The biggest accomplishment in 2018 though has been the relationships, partnerships and commitment to support the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development as it pertains to the Travel Industry. The Travel Industry is a great part of the SDG’s and every time you travel you are supporting the Global Goals not just around the world but also here in the United States to include your communities. As we enter 2019, I look forward to continuing our success in reaching more partnerships for the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
I want to personally Thank you our loyal customers for giving us the opportunity to turn your dreams into journeys for the past 5 years and I look forward to continuing to explore the world with you for many more years to come!