It’s a Wonderful World
Note: This chapter is an excerpt from “It’s Your Life…Live IT!” (The Three Tomatoes Publishing) by April M. Merenda
Chapter 7. Top Destinations for Gutsy Women
In twenty years of creating memorable travel experiences for women, we’ve learned a lot about what women want, and their favorite destinations. We believe that there is a gutsy woman inside each of us. Over the years Gutsy Women Travel has developed a community of women who have experienced amazing adventures.
From the very first trip in 2002, our goal was to provide women with the chance to recharge their energies and travel is one of the best ways to do just that! We have always focused on travel experiences tailored to what women want. That includes a great, secure hotel location, quality and comfort in accommodations, trip pacing (guests generally stay at least two days in any given hotel), unique experiences they couldn’t do on their own, and the opportunity to meet local people, plus free time for individual exploration. We do this in the comfort of a small group (on average ten to sixteen women) while offering value and attractive price points.
Our trips have spanned the globe from Antarctica to Asia and just about every other continent in between, but there are ten places that consistently make our top ten places women want to visit.
Italy, Italy, Italy
Women cannot get enough of this country. I truly believe all women are Italophiles in disguise! The traditional Rome, Florence, and Venice tour has been featured over the years as well as combinations of Venice and Lake Cuomo or Florence and Montecatini and, of course, Sicily. But by far the biggest draw has been the Amalfi Coast. I do not say this because my roots are from Italy but as an authority on what and where women want to go, and hands down it’s the Amalfi Coast.
At Gutsy Women Travel we like to include a pre-night in Rome to gather the travelers who come from all over the U.S.A. and different parts of world to join our trips and get acclimated. We then proceed to the Amalfi Coast, stop at Pompeii on the way, and usually have a luncheon near the lemon groves for our first taste of limoncello before continuing on.
We have featured stay put packages in Sorrento where women do day trips and do not have to pack and unpack every day. Must-see stops include Positano, Capri, Ravello, and the Magna Graecia region where we visit an agricultural farm where ricotta and mozzarella are made.
By far, of the thousands of women over the past twenty years who experienced our guided vacations, Italy is numero uno!
My number one tip in Italy, and an absolute must, is to do a hands-on cooking class. They are offered in every major city including Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and Bologna. On our Amalfi trip with my mother and sisters, we went to the Sorrento Cooking School. It’s very high-end but there are others that are less expensive like Eataly’s cooking classes. It’s a wonderful and fun experience to cook with others and a great way to discover the flavor and cuisine of the destination.
A close second to Italy are our trips to France. There are so many areas to visit so women can book year after year and never tire of this destination. Paris and Loire Valley has been very popular as well as our Burgundy and Provence River Cruise or Paris and Normandy combination. I had the opportunity to join our trip to Normandy for the seventieth anniversary of D-Day. I strongly suggest every woman should take the opportunity to go there. It is very moving, and it will make you appreciate even more the sacrifices made by the greatest generation in World War II.
My top tip for Paris is to go there for Bastille Day, which is their national holiday. Over two days, the French celebrate with free entertainment, a military parade, outdoor concerts, and spectacular fireworks. The Eiffel Tower becomes a magical sound and light show. And it’s a great time to shop. The shops have fabulous sales and discounts.
Peru is a magical, mystical, and spiritual destination that seems to affect women deep down more than most other countries. Maybe it’s the history, the people, their customs…but anyone who has traveled there has said it touched their inner being.
I spent my fifty-fifth birthday in Peru. I had a shaman ceremony in the Sacred Valley and it was truly amazing. It’s an experience I recommend to anyone going there. It’s poignant and mystical, and an important part of the culture of Peru. If you have not been there, add it to your bucket list.
The medina, souks, and overall countryside are magnificent and make it a favorite destination for gutsy women. We have operated Morocco every year since our inception with the exception of 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19. The women love it and I must say our groups help the economy with the pottery dishware, rugs, leather jackets, scarfs, and beauty products you can purchase and ship home.
I highly recommend that any visit to Morocco should include an overnight stay in the Sahara desert. It is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had, sleeping in a luxury tent, with five-star accommodations and the magnificent night sky above you. The whole Sahara experience is simply breathtaking.
Women just love Costa Rica because there is no language barrier, and it is readily accessible by most carriers. It’s a trip you can do within a week and come back energized. I have been on our Costa Rica tour three times and each visit intrigued me.
One thing every woman who goes there should experience is river rafting. It’s exhilarating, it’s safe, and it’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone. Zip-lining is another exciting thing to try. But whether its river rafting or zip-lining it will make you feel invincible, and that’s something every gutsy woman should experience.
New York, New York
It’s a wonderful town. Women love going to New York and our holiday trip is always a sellout. We feature visits to MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and a Broadway show where women go backstage and have a meet and greet with the cast.
There’s nothing better than the holiday season in New York, but my top go-to attraction anytime is Central Park. Go for a walk or even spend a day walking the different pathways. You can take a guided tour and learn about the history of how the park was formulated. Many local New Yorkers would benefit from a guided tour to learn about its history and the depth of the park. It’s a monumental attraction.
New York is definitely a destination women never tire of.
I finally got to go to Iceland this past year and now I know why it sells out every year we offered it. It’s an absolutely breathtaking country. The geothermal waters, waterfalls, and northern lights make it a destination we can offer two times a year.
Iceland was our first Gutsy Women Travel pandemic trip, which I describe in detail later in this book. But of all the different places I’ve experienced, Retreat Spa Blue Lagoon is by far one of the top experiences of my life. I recommend it to anyone going to Iceland. It will be a treat of a lifetime.
Japan sells out every time we offer it. It exudes warmth, customs, tradition, cuisine, art and photography, and so much more. The Japanese people are kind, soft-spoken, and polite. And it is one of the cleanest countries you will ever visit.
From the sights, sounds, and crowds of Tokyo to the sacred palaces of Kyoto, you will find shrines, temples, gardens, zoos, the bamboo forest, traditional tea houses, and then of course more palaces usually perched high on a hill. The Golden Palace (Kinkaku-ji) is breathtaking. On a more somber note, there is an educational museum park in Hiroshima. A special thrill is seeing Mount Fuji from the little train with its wooden floor and couches. It’s a great place to experience a very different culture and cuisine.
Women like to do these countries together or on separate occasions, but they love them both. The history, cultures, cuisine, people, music, and weather make it a woman’s dream tour.
Spain and Portugal are two of my specialties. I spent five years selling tours there. One of my favorite places is the Alhambra palace in Granada. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its history and beauty make it one of Spain’s major attractions. It was the palace and fortress of the Moorish monarchs and is rich in centuries of history, artwork, gardens, and Islamic architecture.
South and East Africa
Women love the excitement of a safari, which is truly an adventure of a lifetime. The opportunity to enjoy wildlife, to see the big five up close and personal in their natural habitat, and to learn from the local people will create unforgettable memories. You will want to bring a good high-powered lens camera. Some of the photos taken by women on these trips are extraordinary. A safari is a spiritual and photographic adventure you will cherish forever.
Yes, as Louis Armstrong so beautifully sang, “It’s a wonderful world.”