April 2011

For Immediate Release                                                                        
April 10, 2011
Contact:  Judy Duran, CTA:  720 270-5767;
Centennial, CO. 

Centennial, CO.  Travel partners Trypp, the Traveling Elephant, and Judy Duran, Professional Travel Planner, returned recently from their 13-day trip to Costa Rica.  Both declare the “Pura Vida” destination a nation with wide appeal for visitors.


San Jose landmarks, from left:  Gran Hotel, Catedral Nacional    

“‘Pura Vida’ is the expression the ticos use to greet one another,” explains Duran.  “It means ‘Pure Life’ in reference to the country’s dedication to protecting its natural resources.  But the great diversity in this tiny country makes it a destination with wider appeal than just eco-tourism.”

Costa Rica is well-known as a eco-tourism mecca, with 18% of the country preserved as national parks and another 13% as privately-owned sanctuaries.  It’s bio-diversity is unrivaled:  In just under  20,000 square miles it boasts 12,000 species of plants, 1,239 species of butterflies, 838 species of birds, 440 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 232 species of mammals.  One protected strip of forest runs uninterrupted for 40 miles through nine ecological zones from sea level to 12,500 feet above.

“About the only species noticeably missing are pachyderms,” noted the Elephant.

Duran says that a wide range of options exists even within the country’s eco-tourism choices.  “You can go for adventure, like white water rafting, zip-lining or SCUBA diving.  Or you can take a more passive route, enjoying the abundant native flora and fauna from the comfort of an air conditioned motor coach, easy hike or placid boat ride on one of the many lagoons or rivers through the rainforest.”

“But Costa Rica is not just about eco-tourism.  Its major city, though relatively small by world standards, is a bustling metropolis.”

Duran describes the streets of San Jose as teeming with people seven days a week.  Several small parks and plazas throughout the downtown host political speakers, live performances, celebrations and street performers. The busy Avenida Central is a hodgepodge of colorful shops and street vendors.




From top left: 1st Row –  Ticos stroll the Avenida Central mall on a Sunday morning, colorful stores & street vendors line the mall; 2nd Row – Typical fast food restaurants are a downtown staple, street performers pose for pictures along the Plaza de la Cultura, Trypp investigates Plaza de la Cultura pigeons with young tico friend

“San Jose’s pigeon population doesn’t take a back seat to any city in the world,” observed Trypp.

Of the variety of museums and attractions she cites the Teatro Nacional as one of the best.  “It doesn’t look like much from the outside,” Duran says, “but it goes on forever on the inside. And the ornamentation is breathtaking.”

The neo-classical theater was built in the 1890’s by coffee barons who taxed their own product after a European theater group snubbed the Costa Rican capital because it lacked an adequate theater.  Today the theater is home to the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional.  For a modest admission charge audiences enjoy several performances a week from classical music, theater and dance to more modern presentations.

A charming theater café offers refreshments and light meals throughout the day. The popular open-air  Plaza de la Cultura, adjoins the theater and the Museo del Oro, featuring pre-Columbian gold artifacts.  The museum occupies a space just behind the theater below street level.




From top left:  1st Row – Exterior & foyer; 2nd Row – Ceiling mural & ornamentation, gallery


Right across the street from the Teatro Nacional is the Grand Old Dame of San Jose, with the befitting name of Gran Hotel de Costa Rica.  The 1930’s structure “Oozes elegance,” states Duran.  “It can certainly hold its own again the other grand dames of the world:  the Ritz, the Brown, Claridge’s.”

“I planned the trip with my husband to celebrate our 40th Anniversary,” says Duran, “So Trypp graciously opted to remain at our suburban hotel while Pat and I enjoyed our last day in Costa Rica without her.”  They enjoyed an al fresco breakfast on the Gran’s front terrace adjacent to the open air lobby.  Later in the day, they returned to the terrace for a cool and calming respite from the heat, humidity and humanity of shopping in the busy central city.

“We just couldn’t pass up the appeal of a cold Corona Michelada from the comfort of a leather love seat while enjoying the music of the Gran’s Sunday afternoon pianist.”

“From eco-tourism and city-tourism, there are plenty of other options to appreciate in Costa Rica,” according to Trypp.  Among the many tourism choices the pachyderm cites are rest and relaxation at the many beachfront resorts; more than five active volcanoes; hot springs; cities of historical significance; coffee plantations; whale watching; indigenous cultures; surfing; and volun-tourism, including monitoring Costa Rica’s sea turtles on both coasts.



From top left:  1st Row – Poas Volcano signage, steam flume; 2nd Row – Secondary crater at Poas,  Sarchi oxcart on road to Poas; Trypp inspecting coffee at Doka Estates plantation & mingling with pachyderm friends at Poas souvenir shop


While Duran usually prefers independent touring to organized trips, she says the trio wanted to get the most complete picture possible of the country in the few days they had to tour before their cruise.  “It’s common knowledge that Costa Rica’s highways are pretty primitive and driving is challenging.  Pat took one look at the situation and decided we’d be better off with organized tours.”  Among the options chosen were tours to the Poas Volcano National Park and the Doka Estates coffee plantation.

“We used three different tour companies purposely so that we’d be able to make the best recommendation to our clients,” says Trypp.  “All of them had well-informed and entertainingbi-lingual tour guides.  But the one company that stood out for having the most comfortable transportation was Swiss Travel.  Their motor coaches were the most accommodating for adult human and pachyderm statures.”

“We were able to get a good picture of the interior from our base near San Jose and of the Pacific Coast from the ports-of-call on our cruise,” Duran commented.  “We did not get to the Eastern provinces, which we understand have a more Caribbean flavor and ethnicity.”

“We’ll be back,” adds her pachyderm partner.  “One trip is simply not enough to enjoy all the many choices Costa Rica offers.”

“We won’t say ‘Adios’ to this spectacular destination, but ‘¡Hasta luego, Pura Vida!’”

For Immediate Release
April 27, 2011
Judy Duran, CTA
Contact: 720.270.5767; durandenver@msn.com

Announcing a New 4-Star Resort on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula 

Grand Traverse Resort Village

MLT Vacations.  The new Grand Traverse Resort & Spa is nestled along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, just 6 miles northeast of Traverse City.  Accommodations at the full-service, 900-acre resort and conference center include rooms, suites and condominiums.  King rooms are available in the Main Hotel Building.  The King and Queen rooms in the Tower Building overlook rolling hills and surrounding golf course or East Grand Traverse Bay.

A diverse selection of dining options is available at:

  • Aerie Restaurant and Lounge – casual dining
  • Sweetwater American Bistro – casual selections
  • The Grille – club fare (open during golf season from April to October)
  • Jacks Sports Bar – appetizers, full bar, and flat-screen TVs

The Resort boasts 54 holes of championship golf on 3 courses including the Jack Nicklaus-designed The Bear and The Wolverine, a Gary Player signature golf course.  Guests enjoy the thrill of a 15,000-square foot water playground at one of the two indoor pools.  A private beach is located on the shore of East Grand Traverse Bay offering a variety of rental options, including jet skis, jet boats, pontoon boats, ski boats, water trampoline, paddle boats, and 1- and 2-person kayaks. Other amenities include seasonal recreation; 2 outdoor pools; children’s center; spa and fitness center; and 5 indoor and 4 outdoor tennis courts.  Winter offers cross-country skiing and ice-skating at the resort, plus access to nearly 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.  Shopping at the Gallery of Shops is a delightful year-round activity.


From left:  Golf Course; Indoor Water Park; Dog House Pet Care Facility

Complimentary WiFi is available throughout the property.  Children 17-years-of-age and younger stay free with adult when using existing bedding. Additional guest services include bell service, dry cleaning, business center, licensed day care, and dog care facility.  The nightly resort fee is included in price.

The Grand Traverse is just 10 minutes from Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport (TVC), with air service by both Delta and United Airlines.  Packages, including air and ground transportaion, are available from MLT Vacations.

Contact Judy Duran (720 270-5767; durandenver@msn.com) for information and reseervations.

For Immediate Release
April 10, 2011
Judy Duran, CTA
Contact:  720 270-5767; durandenver@msn.com

Centennial, CO. Frontier Airline’s seasonal direct non-stop service from Denver to Costa Rica was recently lauded by professional travel planner, Judy Duran, and her travel partner, Trypp, the Travelling Elephant.  The Airbus 319 service was provided by Frontier tail, Pete the Pelican.

“It’s the only non-stop flight between Denver and Costa Rica,” says Duran.  “Our travel time between Denver and San Jose was just 5 hours.  On any other airline it would have been at least 8 hours each way.”

The Elephant noted that Frontier also offers seasonal non-stop service between Denver and Liberia, the closest international airport to the Guanacaste beach resorts along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.  “And from a multitude of other cities, Frontier has one-stop service through Denver to both destinations in Costa
Rica,” says Trypp.

“Connecting through DIA [Denver International Airport] with all flights arriving and departing on Frontier’s A Concourse is much more convenient than connections on other airlines through Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and the like.”

Frontier offers daily red-eye service to both destinations, allowing travelers to make the most of their time in Costa Rica.  In-flight soft drinks and juices are provided complimentary with alcoholic beverages, snacks and salads and sandwiches available for a minimal charge.  “The salads sandwiches are from Udi’s,” says Duran. “They are known throughout the Denver area for their fresh high-quality
salads and breads.”

Frontier and Midwest Airlines were both acquired by Republic Airways Holdings in 2009.  Shortly thereafter, Frontier began serving Midwest’s signature chocolate chip cookies during most of its flights.  “The delicious cookies were a welcome treat about 3 hours into the flight,” says Duran.  “They helped break up the monotony of a long flight and put a smile on everyone’s face.”


Sal the Cougar Profile

Favorite Play: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Hobby: Stand Up Comedy

Quote: “Aviation’s a tough business. It comes with a lot of baggage.”

Last job: Installed Mufflers. Found it exhausting.

Pet Peeves: Hecklers. Being called a Puma.  Shedding.

Words of Wisdom: “You only have nine lives. Make them count.”


Sal the Cougar, a long-time tail veteran of Frontier [see sidebar] provided the return Airbus service to Denver.  While Sal and the Pelican have not yet met, Sal insists that Frontier only hires the best.

“I haven’t heard his tale yet,” says Sal, “but rest assured his credentials are impeccable.”

Both Duran and the pachyderm recommend Frontier service to Costa Rica.  Asked if they would make any changes to Frontier’s Costa Rica service, Duran said, “Absolutely not.  I think it’s the best available.”

“I’d change the cookies,” says Trypp.  “Peanut butter is the preference of most pachyderms.”

For Immediate Release
April 20, 2011
Contact:  Judy Duran, 720 270-5767; durandenver@msn.com

 Centennial, CO. Travel insurance prevented a distressing loss when their camera took a dive in the surf, reports travel planner Judy Duran and Trypp, the Traveling Elephant. The incident occurred during a wet landing at a port-of-call during their recent Wind Star cruise in Costa Rica.

Trypp explained her travel partner was disembarking the Zodiac at Tortuga Island when the camera slipped out of Duran’s beach tote. The Wind Star cruise crew, staff and other passengers quickly gave chase to the drowning camera. “It was recovered in less than five minutes,” says Trypp. “But by then it had been severely tossed in the surf.”

“I was devastated,” says Duran. “Not only was it a brand new camera, but Tortuga was our last port-of-call and almost at the end of our time in Costa Rica. Over 300 pictures were recorded on the memory card.”

The ship’s staff assisting the disembarkation helped Duran open the camera to remove the memory card. Both were immediately rinsed with fresh water to prevent any corrosion from the salt in the sea water. “They saved my pictures,” say Duran. “When I returned home, I downloaded the memory card onto my computer and the pictures came right up.”

The camera was not as fortunate. The Elephant reports that it was determined to be a total loss from water and sand damage. “We were disappointed, but cameras can be replaced. Pictures can’t.”

Trypp with surfing camera

Remembering that she had purchased trip protection insurance for the Costa Rica vacation, Duran checked her policy. She found that coverage for loss of personal effects was one of the policy’s provisions. “So many people take trip insurance for the same reason I did,” says Duran, “To cover any loss that might occur if the trip is cancelled due to illness or injury to themselves or a family member, or from medical costs incurred while traveling.”

“The right travel protection plan can cover so much more.”

Duran’s travel policy not only will reimburse her for the loss of the camera, but also for the cost of replacing her laptop’s AC adapter/power cord damaged by the electrical current at her San Jose hotel. “My policy carried coverage for missed connections, financial default, emergency evacuation and, God forbid, ‘repatriation of remains,’ among other things.” Duran advises that trip protection purchased separately from a dedicated travel insurer rather than the cruise line or tour operator is usually the best value. “An experienced travel professional can determine the policy most suitable for an individual’s needs.”

The travel duo expects to receive reimbursement from the insurance provider in two-to-four weeks. “We’ve been pretty much left whole after what could have been a very dismal situation thanks to travel insurance,” proclaims Trypp. “The loss of the adapter prevented us from daily blogging our trip as we’d hope to do, but if catching up on our blogging now that we’re home is the worst that came out of what could have been totally calamitous, we consider ourselves fortunate, indeed.”

“I’m grateful for the Elephant’s legendary memory to help recreate our journey for our blog,” adds Duran.

“Let the blogging begin. . .”