Journey Through Ireland by Train

A journey through Ireland by train on the Belmond Grand Hibernian reveals the history and legends of Ireland through her rolling countrysides and port towns. See off-the-beaten-path sites, explore the famous places, and meet local people who will bring this region of northern Europe to life through storytelling and tours. Suggested journey at a glance: 9 days/8 nights including four nights aboard the Belmond Grand Hibernian, and overnights in Dublin and Belfast This suggested itinerary is just one of many ways to see Ireland on your own customized Ker & Downey journey. Our designers are at their best when crafting a journey unique to you; contact us to get started planning, and read on to see one example of what’s possible on our Ireland by Train journey. Dublin Begin in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city and one of the world’s top cities as listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. It’s at the center of Irish culture past and present, and a historical and contemporary center for education, the arts, and industry. Its history is told in the architecture

Where to Go on Safari To See the Big 5

If it’s your first time to go on safari, your list of wildlife to see probably includes the “Big 5.” The term, originally coined by the big game hunters of the early safari days, refers to the five most difficult animals to see while on foot: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Spotting them on the safaris of today can still be challenging… unless you know where to look. The Big 5 are present in several countries across Africa. South Africa South Africa is one of the best countries to visit for first-time safari-goers and families traveling together. The country offers a lot of diversity with its cities, beaches, culture, and of course safaris. If it’s a Big 5 safari you’re after, the Sabi Sand Game Reserve is the place to go. Of the Big 5, the leopard is the most elusive of all. However, they are frequently spotted on game drives in the Sabi Sand. There are a number of excellent lodges to choose from, but a few of our favorite go-to places that provide unparalleled luxury and


“Go to Cambodia for a day or two to see Angkor Wat…you won’t need more time than that!” If you’ve received this travel advice, ignore it immediately. And never trust your sources again. Siem Reap is misguidedly viewed as just the gateway to Angkor Wat, but there’s much more to it – hundreds of temples that date as far back as 900 AD still stand, and a gut-wrenching, yet fascinating more-recent history has left its mark. Plus, Siem Reap boasts a vibrant (borderline wild) nightlife, lively markets, fantastic Khmer cuisine, and the friendliest, most welcoming locals we’ve ever encountered abroad. Do not treat this leg of your trip as an afterthought to fill the gaps in your itinerary; Siem Reap must be part of the plan! And, for multiple days – not including any time you choose to spend in Pnom Penh (we unfortunately didn’t visit). Bottom line: Certainly go for Angkor Wat, but stay for Siem Reap. If we’ve managed to convince you, here are our top five things to do. 1) CATCH SUNRISE AT ANGKOR WAT Ok, so

India and Her Incredible Hotels

Experience the enchanting sights and sounds of India and then luxuriate in her world-class grand hotels. Traveling to India is an absolutely amazing experience.  While many people are intimidated by the poverty, the crowds, the noise, the dirt, the smell, and so on, I am here to let you know that India is a fascinating place to visit.  If you enjoy sightseeing, there is an endless number of museums, palaces, religious shrines, temples, etc. throughout the country, amazing cities, unique events, and great shopping. Now, before I go any further, please understand that I spent my first time in India staying in great hotels, eating at the best restaurants, avoiding street food, and spending time on the streets only as part of our guided, sightseeing ventures.  Perhaps I will feel more comfortable in the future to spend more time living like the locals, but I had long decided that my introductory trip would be spent living the high life. Hustle and Bustle of India I’ve been asked on many occasions to describe our visit to India a couple years ago. 

Aglamesis: Cincinnati’s Ice Cream Delight

On National Ice Cream Day, July 21, I was passing through Cincinnati, and I had to stop at a little soda fountain and candy store called Aglamesis Brothers. My sister and brother-in-law, who live in Dayton, introduced me to it about a year ago. I was completely charmed, and I want to share this quaint place with folks who may not know about it. The shop is located on Madison Road there in Cincinnati (or “Cincin-daddy” as my nephew Emory says it). The building is painted pink, and has a white and pink awning—the colors of candy and sweetness. There is an ice cream place in south Florida named Sloan’s that also uses the pink motif effectively; perhaps the owners learned this trick from Aglamesis Brothers. Certainly the color scheme is redolent of sugary cotton candy twirled in wispy skeins to form a fluff of pleasure. The name of the business too carries a suggestive power, painted in gold on the large front window. “Aglamesis” can be a little hard to get your tongue around, but once you do its combination

Ker & Downey: The Lion King, An African Fantasy

The king has returned… this summer, the highly-anticipated revamp of Disney’s The Lion King hits cinemas. Its iconic story is further enhanced by an all-star cast and all-new groundbreaking CGI and virtual reality technology. Some very real places played a part in the development of The Lion King, and although the pride lands you’ll see on screen are a mixture of fantasy and reality, they are sure to inspire you to see the true African wilds for yourself. Here are just a few ideas for injecting some African fantasy inspired by The Lion King into your next custom Africa safari. Samburu National Reserve Director Jon Favreau has said that his take on the Disney classic will include “the spectacle of a BBC wildlife documentary.” The difference is that every member of the animal cast in The Lion King is completely computer-generated, from the flocks of flamingos to Simba himself. What about the landscape, you ask? Some of it is actual footage from locations in east Africa, in particular the lands surrounding Saruni Samburu. This luxury lodge was designed to hover over

Alyssa Hiller: Elephant Trekking in Chiang Mai

As you’ve likely seen on most of your friends’ post-Thailand Instagram feeds, elephants are a must. But, we didn’t just take quick pictures; we spent the entire day with the elephants, bathing, feeding and riding our gentle giants as their dedicated caretakers for the day. Needless to say, we couldn’t recommend this experience enough if you travel to Chiang Mai. First and foremost, do your research before selecting an organization; many companies do not promote safe and fair treatment of the animals. If your elephants are performing circus tricks or have rigid equipment on their backs, think twice. Additionally, book far in advance! Many people travel to Chiang Mai solely for this experience, and space is limited. We selected Patara Elephant Farm, Thailand’s only elephant breeding farm, based on its incredible reviews and mission. At 7:30 a.m., we were picked up from our hotel in a comfortable vehicle, alongside eight other passengers. After a one-hour drive through a rather precarious, Jungle-Book-like winding path, we entered an open, lush setting near the mountains of Hang Dong Valley, with several elephants hanging

10 Things You Need to Know About Cuba

UPDATE: On June 4, 2019, the US State Department implemented additional travel restrictions on Cuba travel for US citizens. Group educational and cultural trips are banned alongside cruise ships, yachts, and private planes. Despite this news, please note that commercial airline flights remain unaffected, and Ker & Downey’s Support for the Cuban People programs are still permitted. Ker & Downey has been partnering with travelers to create their own journeys to Cuba since August 2015. Recent policy changes on American travel to the country have stirred up questions about traveling to Cuba and the future of visiting a place that is so close but was once too far out of reach for many. The good news: Cuba is not out of reach with Ker & Downey. What Do the Policy Changes Mean? In short, the style of travel offered by Ker & Downey and our in-country partners is not impacted, for the time being. The changes will impact self-planners, group tours, cruise ship passengers, yacht charters, and private plane travelers the most. Arranging a journey on your own that avoids

Alyssa Hiller: 3 Things To Do In Koh Samui

Koh Samui is Thailand’s second-largest island after Phuket, known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest. And, some of the most colorful sunsets we ever did see (purples and pinks and golds – oh my!). The most popular areas to stay in Koh Samui are Chaweng and Lamai in the east of the island. On the upside, they offer the most nightlife; on the downside, the respective beaches can get quite crowded with tourists. If you’re looking for calmer, quieter environments, look into Bophut or Maenam. We stayed at a stunning beachside resort in Chaweng. While the nightlife is not as crazy as Phuket’s, there are three major hot spots in Chaweng Beach: Green Mango strip, Soi Reggae and ARK Bar. Even if you’re not looking to party, they’re at least worth the people watching. But, be advised, ladies: Hold onto your men… The famous (or infamous) Green Mango strip comes alive at night with pubs, dance bars and go-go bars. For the latter, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into at the onset by way of

Santiago Chile: Uncorked

Nature’s beauty paired with great wine and food makes Chile’s wine country a memorable destination. I had the pleasure of traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile, a few years ago.  While in Santiago, I was fortunate to find Uncorked Wine Tours which gave us an unforgettable experience. We had a great time in Buenos Aires, taking several walking tours and enjoying the wine, the steaks, and, most of all, the pizza!  Yes, Argentine pizza!  If you are a pizza lover and have not had Argentine pizza, I strongly suggest you do so! Wine Country Excursion After a few days in Buenos Aires, we took a flight to Santiago. Unlike Buenos Aires, which is a fabulous city to walk around, Santiago tends to be more spread out, so we decided it would be best to book a couple tours, including a visit to wine country.  We were really fortunate to learn about Uncorked Wine Tours, which is highly-rated on TripAdvisor. Uncorked Wine Tours is a wine-tourism agency with nine years of experience.  With Uncorked, we scheduled a trip to