Gateway Canyons Resort Receives Top Honors in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Reader’s Choice Awards

And the Winner Is…

Nothing speaks more to people than awards.  In the movies, it’s the Oscars; in baseball, it’s the World Series; in swimming, it’s the World Championships and the Olympics; and in travel, it’s Conde Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Award (among others).  I have to admit, even I am a sucker for prestigious accolades.  I am in the travel business after all, and I know firsthand how much impact a destination or a resort’s rankings can effect peoples’ perceptions.

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about my experience at Gateway Canyons in Southwestern Colorado.  I have read countless reviews since my visit to the luxury resort in May touting the destination’s unparalleled adventures, Southwestern-style retreat accommodations, and fresh Colorado cuisine, and all I can do is smile because the secret is out.  Gateway Canyons is THE place to visit in Colorado.  This has definitely been a banner year for the resort.

Curiosity piqued?  The evidence is in the results of Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Reader’s Choice Awards where Gateway Canyons recently received top honors in three separate categories.  In the category of “Top 100 Hotels & Resorts in the World”, Gateway Canyons was ranked #12. In the category of “Top 25 Resorts in the United States”, Gateway Canyons was ranked #3, and in the category of “Best Resorts in Colorado”, the resort was ranked #1.

Congratulations to Gateway Canyons on receiving top honors from Condé Nast Traveler.  In fact, we say congratulations to all of our hotel and destination partners on a successful 2014.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Katharine Heinz

Katharine Heinz has been with JNR for nine years, first as a Desktop Publisher and now as the Planning Business Administrator. When she is not researching the next hot destination or hotel, she can be found at home enjoying her family.

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Closed-Door Restaurants Offer Travelers Unique Dining Experiences

As the tastes and preferences held by luxury travelers progress, planners are commonly expected to deliver experiences that are unique, authentic and “off-limits” to the average person. Gone are the days when travelers were satisfied with only visiting “touristy” spots and staying off the roads less traveled. Immersion in the local culture is now en vogue and appears to be a trend increasing in popularity.

Not surprisingly, more luxury travelers are seeking out authentic local cuisine instead of sticking to foods familiar to them. Leaving your comfort zone when in an unfamiliar part of the world can make for unforgettable moments.

One of the most entertaining and unique ways to experience authentic local cuisine lies in discovering “closed-door” restaurants. Also known as underground restaurants or supper clubs depending on the country you are in, these private eateries are essentially dinner parties shared with strangers located in a chef’s home. Although they may not have the glitz and glamour of your average Michelin starred restaurant, they are often among the most desired spots in town and offer the most traditional cuisine around, along with an opportunity to mingle with locals.

Some chefs are professionals, while others are just enthusiasts, but prices are typically affordable and the locales are often very charming. Dining in hidden gardens and private living rooms add to the fun of the event. Closed-door dining has been around for many years, originating in family-run Cuban restaurants called paladares.  This sudden surge in popularity makes these opportunities more abundant and accessible, to those in the know.

How do I locate closed-door restaurants?

It can be challenging to discover these secret spots…but that just makes the food taste that much better when found! Thankfully you do not have to necessarily know a local or be with a tour guide to find these spots. Some great websites exist that can aid you in your search:

Feastly – https://www.eatfeastly.com/intro/

Feastly claims to be the Airbnb of the food world and seeks to create alternatives to impersonal dining.

Eat With Mewww.eatwithme.net

Social networking food site Eat With Me began in Melbourne, Australia and now has members from over 80 countries. Their events page lists upcoming dinners and other culinary happenings that are quite interesting.

The Supper Club Fan Grouphttp://supperclubfangroup.ning.com/page/the-supper-club-map-a-work-in

Created in the UK, The Supper Club Fan Group has a map of the world that highlights underground restaurants for easy viewing. The site appears to be a little dated but it is a good starting point for your research.

Ghetto Gourmet’s Supper Club Directory – http://www.theghet.com/page/links-to-our-culinary-comrades

Ghetto Gourmet’s Supper Club Directory is strongly focused on US-based supper clubs but does have several international links. Either way, it can be a great resource for domestic travelers.

If these websites don’t give you exactly what you’re looking for, try forming a connection with a local food blogger. If anyone will be in tune with this underground scene, it is them!

What should I expect?

Communal tables, fixed menus and being in close proximity with strangers are things that you will likely experience at the closed-door restaurant you choose. Sometimes the menu is shared in advance but oftentimes it is a complete secret. The location may not be revealed until just before dinner starts. It is also important to remember that many of these chefs are inexperienced and trying new things so the results are unpredictable. However, a warm welcome, fun atmosphere and unique local experience are all but guaranteed.

What else should I know?

  • In the US, they are called supper clubs
  • In the UK and Australia, they are referred to as underground restaurants
  • Puertas cerradas are their name in Buenos Aires
  • Signing up for mailing lists or social network feeds is a great way to get the news first on new events
  • Since closed-door restaurants are not licensed, regulated or taxed, there is a certain amount of risk involved in dining at them
  • It is crucial to communicate allergies or food restrictions to the club well in advance since the menu is often a secret

If you have any wisdom to share or know of any good, closed-door restaurants around the world, please share in the comments. Feel free to email me at jnrinfo@jnrcorp.com if you have any questions.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Kristopher Hewkin

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “Tea Pickle” by LexnGer is licensed under CC By 2.0

South African Spotlight: The Top 10 Attractions in South Africa

We continue our whirlwind adventure around the world by highlighting the top 10 destinations in the majestic country of South Africa. This multifaceted nation offers a wide spectrum of activities for those who are more culturally inclined to thrill-seekers craving an adrenaline rush. From exotic safari expeditions in one of the revered national parks to shark diving in the chilling waters, the wildlife in South Africa truly cannot be beat.

South Africa lies at the very most southern tip of the continent where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, creating an awe-inspiring landscape with an abundance of once in a lifetime opportunities for business and pleasure travelers alike. Between the beautiful beaches, modern cities, stunning scenery and colorful cuisine, South Africa will be on anyone’s bucket list once these top 10 attractions are revealed according to Touropia:

  1. Cape Town: This bustling urban jungle set at the base of Table Mountain is the most popular city to visit in South Africa. Its spectacular natural setting and close proximity to white sand beaches and rolling vineyards has made it arguably the most admired destination not only in the country but the entire continent.
  2. Kruger National Park: Covering a wide stretch of bush and savannah in the northern reaches of South Africa, Kruger National Park borders the countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Because of its dense animal population and the variety of its flora and fauna, the park is considered the jewel of South Africa’s extensive park system.
  3. Drakensberg: Meaning “Dragon’s Mountain” in Dutch, the otherworldly landscape is a must see in the rocky range bordering the small nation of Lesotho. The impressive peaks are sure to amaze any traveler with a passion for hiking or rock climbing these sheer escarpments.
  4. The Garden Route: One of the most dramatic and extraordinary drives in the world; the Garden Route is a scenic stretch along the south eastern coast of South Africa. This thoroughfare is dotted with exclusive foliage and diverse vegetation that can only be found in the region. Be sure to take snapshots of the numerous lagoons along the way!
  5. Cape Winelands: The Cape Winelands are a series of fertile valleys not far from Cape Town that produce some of the most sought after wines of the world. The rivers that flow through this region create an ideal landscape for many varietals, and an indulgent journey here is well worth it.
  6. Hermanus: Located on the southern coast of Africa near the Garden Route, Hermanus is a famous area for its shore-based whale-watching. The sheltered, shallow waters attract southern right whales that migrate to the region each year to mate and breed.
  7. Blyde River Canyon: Blyde River Canyon is the second largest canyon in Africa, offering walking treks through the rich diversity of flora and fauna. Visitors can enjoy views of magnificent escarpments, waterfalls and ancient geological phenomena. Guests also have the matchless opportunity to encounter all five of South Africa’s primates here, as well as hippos and crocodiles near the wetlands of Swadini Dam.
  8. Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve: This inimitable game reserve is the only park under the formal conservation effort in the nation where visitors can see the Big 5 categories of animals exclusive to Africa – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo.
  9. Addo Elephant National Park: Located in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, the Addo Elephant National Park is one of the country’s larger game parks. This particular national park is famous for its elephant population that has a special, brownish skin color due to the red soil. Amongst the elephants, other animals like ostriches, antelopes and warthogs can be seen.

10. Johannesburg: Johannesburg is the economic heart of Africa and the most common entry point into the country of Southern Africa. With more than 3 million people, it is also the second largest city on the continent. In recent years, Johannesburg has put itself on the map as a location of vibrant energy and urban opportunities to find success and fortune.

This exceptional country will leave even a seasoned globetrotter with a sense of wonder, so be sure to check out this one of a kind destination in the near future, you won’t be disappointed!

For more information on how JNR can organize a truly spectacular South African incentive trip for your company please contact jnrinfo@jnrcorp.com.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Andy Tallon

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo Courtesy of Donna Rohmer

Peruvian Spotlight: Inventions

As we wind up our adventure through Peru, we thought it would be fun to see what this glorious country has given us in terms of inventions. Let’s start with some of the earliest people in the region, the Incan Empire:

1)    Freeze-Drying

Thought this was a clever food storage solution developed by NASA? While they do use this process to keep astronauts sated in space, you might be surprised to learn that the first records of food being freeze-dried was potatoes in the high Andes. Incas would cover potatoes in a cloth and set them outside overnight. When the frigid temperatures would drop below 32° F, the potatoes would freeze. In the morning, the Incas would use the clothes to ring out any moisture from the potatoes and repeat the process until the desired level of freeze-drying was achieved.

These ingenious Incas would use the long-lasting potatoes as lightweight food rations for soldiers and extra was kept as an emergency supply of food in case of natural disaster, crop failure or drought.

2)    Rope Bridges

The Andean Mountains are not the easiest to navigate with sheer cliffs and cavernous gorges but like many other adversities, the Incas developed a way to overcome these natural hazards. Using materials abundant to the region such as cotton, grass and wool from llamas and alpacas, the Incas created sturdy rope bridges to help them traverse gaps as wide as 150 feet. These primitive suspension bridges were attached at either side to large stone structures and were often used in the morning to avoid strong winds that could turn the bridge into a hammock.  Not ones to forget safety, the Incas would rebuild the bridges each year to prevent the natural fibers from deteriorating too badly.

3)    Terrace Farming

Flat fields are not the easiest to come by in the Andes, so traditional agriculture that prospered in other parts of the world was not possible for the Incas. Their solutions…Terrace Farming!

Large stepped levels were created on inclines and clever construction meant that adequate sunshine, fertile soil and drainage let the Incas yield large crops.

The same temperatures that made freeze-drying possible put the crops at risk. The Incas built stone retaining walls around the terraces to not only hold the farmland in place, but also to absorb heat during the day and radiate it through the soil at night to stop the crops from freezing.

To make the most of limited space, “the three sisters” planting method was invented. Corn would be planted and allowed to grow to a satisfactory height before beans were planted. The corn stalks acted as support beams for the beans cling to as they grew. The last step was to plant squash at the base of the beans and the corn. This concoction of vegetation had a symbiotic relationship with the beans adding nitrogen to the soil to increase the nutrient level and the squash acting as a mulch to prevent weeds and lock in moisture.

4)    Llama and Alpaca Breeding Systems

These animals were paramount to the Incan Empire’s rise to power and daily survival. They provided fuel, fertilizer and meat.  Their hides and wool transformed into colorful garments often worn by nobility.  Through selective breeding, these domesticated animals were the ancient version of a purebred poodle. After generations of using this method, the Incas had llama and alpacas with all the specific traits they desired such as finer, softer fibers than traditional llamas.

The Incas were not the only inventive people around. Taking a look at modern day Peruvian inventions, there is the first modern rocket propulsion system by Pedro Paulet and an urban air cleaner that was built in response to the heavily polluted Peruvian capital of Lima.

5)    Rocket Propulsion System

Pedro Paulet was born in Arequipa, Peru in 1874 and by 1895 was the first person to create a liquid-fuelled rocket engine. His innovations did not stop there however, in 1900 he built what is now known as a modern rocket propulsion system and became one of the “fathers of aeronautics”.

6)    The Urban Air Cleaner

Taking a look at innovative advancements in more recent times, a group of Peruvians seeking a way to combat the ever-increasing smog in their capital city of Lima invented the Urban Air Purifier – 20 (UAP – 20).  In February of 2009, over 100 these UAP – 20s were installed in different areas of Lima, each one having the ability to filter 200,000 cubic meters of air per day or the equivalent of what it takes 1,200 trees to do. With air pollution killing more than 2 million people annually, we can all be thankful for this advancement which absorbs carbon dioxide, filters air dust and decreases harmful bacteria.

It is safe to say that Peruvians are an inventive bunch with many of the ancient developments still present in some form of our modern life today. NASA must be especially thankful for the work of Peruvians like Pedro Paulet and their astronauts happy that they have freeze-dried food to snack on in space.

If you would like more information on any of the destinations in our focus this month or on how to organize an incentive trip to Peru through JNR, please contact jnrinfo@jnrcorp.com.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Stephanie Thomas

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “Rope Bridge, Peru” by Krystelle Denis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Peruvian Spotlight: Inti Raymi Peruvian Festival of the Sun

With Peru and in particular Machu Picchu still fresh in our minds, JNR now takes you to the dynamic and glorious Inti Raymi or the Festival of the Sun, which is celebrated in Cusco, Peru each year on June 24. This festival coincides with their Winter Solstice, when the sun is farthest away from the earth, and is a time to worship the Sun God, Inti, who is the main deity of the Incan Empire religion, and his wife Pachmama, who is prayed to for a successful and fertile harvest season.

Today, the festival is a reenactment of the customary celebration and includes traditions that date back 500 years. The celebrations take part at the dramatic stone ruins of Sacsayhuamán and can last up to five hours. Each year, one lucky actor is selected to play Sapa Inca, the emperor, who delivers a thrilling performance that highlights the eternal sanctification of the bond between the Sun and humans. A mock llama is sacrificed, his head held high to Pachmama and the future is read from its faux blood.

As the sun sets, bonfires are set for the first time that day and the procession then winds through the town of Cusco where the streets are filled with lively people dancing and singing in vibrant clothing. Priests and other participants dress in three main costumes: the snake which symbolizes the underworld, the puma which represents life on earth and the condor which represents the heavenly world of the gods. You will also see women sweeping away evil spirits and streets covered in beautiful flowers and petals.

It is customary to drink and toast with chichi, a fermented beverage most commonly derived from maize, throughout the festival, and Sank’u, the Andean people’s main meal, should be tried – both can be bought from food and beverage vendors at most venues.

Quechua is the traditional language of the Incas and can be heard throughout this ceremony which more than 64,000 people celebrate annually.

Why not plan to visit the festival before traveling to the breathtaking city of Machu Picchu? If you would like more information on how to organize an amazing incentive trip to this fantastic festival, please email jnrinfo@jnrcorp.com.

By JNR Incorporated

Written by Stephanie Thomas

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “Inti Raymi” by Carlos Dίaz is licensed under CC BY 2.0