Our COO Gary Cornwell isn't the only one who wants to share his thoughts and opinions. The rest of the Galactic employees do too. The Employees Blog is a place where you can read travel tips, destination reviews, incentive industry trends, performance solutions tips, and more.

 
  Our President and CEO travels to Turkey

 

This summer my wife Kelly and I decided to take a vacation, just the two of us, while our children were away at camp. Recently Galactic has had some clients express interest in visiting Turkey, so I wanted to check it out for myself. While in Turkey we visited three very distinct regions - Istanbul, Cappadocia and Bodrum. Having never been to Turkey before we didn’t really know what to expect, other than what we had read in travel guides. We ended up having a great time, and I’d like to share some of the highlights.

We flew from the Dallas Fort Worth Airport to London Heathrow, and then from London Heathrow to Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. It was about fourteen hours of flying time, so we didn’t really do much sightseeing our first day in Istanbul. We spent two full days in Istanbul where we visited famous sites like the Hagia Sopia, the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. We learned a lot about the local customs just from observing everyday life.

Since it is a predominantly Muslim country, they ring the prayer bell 5 times a day, and Kelly and I observed the Muslim customs when we visited the mosque. Kelly wore a head covering and we also had to remove our shoes inside the mosque. The Grand Bazaar was breathtaking. The sheer size was amazing and there were hundreds of different stands and booths, with everyone selling distinctive and mostly handmade items. Something else that I really enjoyed in Istanbul was the street food vendors. You could get fresh squeezed juice (many different fruits including some that we were not familiar with) and locally produced products, all very inexpensive.

I would compare our visit to Istanbul to someone from a foreign country visiting New York. Just because you’ve been to the big city in Turkey, doesn’t mean that you’ve “seen” the entire country – the regions are very different. The next stop in our trip was Cappadocia, which is located in central Turkey, and is known for its cave dwellings. The landscape here was like nothing I’d ever seen. Entire cities have been carved into caves from hardened volcanic ash. These ancient dwellings have been here since the 4th century and we saw everything from houses and churches to stables and wine-presses. It was truly amazing to think that some of these underground cities once held up to twelve thousand people. We were also lucky enough to see a performance of the Whirling Dervishes, a type of religious ceremony, at a 13th Century Caravanserai.

We spent the last leg of our trip in Bodrum, which I would say is the “Santa Barbara,” of Turkey. Located in the Aegean region of Turkey, it is the typical coastal area that most people picture when they think of the “Mediterranean.” Here, we spent the day on the sea, which was incredible. It was really unique to see the country from the ocean, as well as from the land. That night back on land, the lights from buildings lit up the night sky as we watched the sunset from our hotel. After our stay in Bodrum, we headed back to Istanbul to fly back to the USA.

Our trip to Turkey was fabulous – we could have easily spent a month touring the different parts of the country. My favorite part of the trip was that we visited 3 distinctly diverse parts of the country and saw so many different things. Tourism is a huge part of the economy and the locals were very friendly. A lot of the people that we came across spoke at least a little bit of English, so surprisingly we didn’t have very many communication problems. Turkey is unlike any other place in the world that I have visited. It is truly a unique destination, steeped in history, full of friendly people and rich in culture.

 
     
 

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  Aruba - One Happy Island Part 3

 

Kimberly Owen is a National Account Executive at Galactic with over 13 years experience in the meeting/incentive industry. She has traveled all over the world but there is one destination that tops her list, Aruba. Follow along as she shares all of her favorite things about this gorgeous island.

 

My Top 3 Things to Buy in Aruba:

  • Perfume
    • The perfumery Pen-ha has the best selection and best prices on the island.
  • Aruba Aloe Lotion
    • Aloe is grown on the island and then manufactured into very potent skin care products. I stock up on the “special care” lotion every time I visit because it works wonders for me. What I love about their products is they are not heavily perfumed, they have great packaging and they work miracles on my dry skin.
  • Jewelry
    • Coconut Trading Company
      • Located in the Marriott Ocean Club (Palm Beach) this is probably my favorite store on the island. It is a really great gift shop that doesn’t have cheap trinkets. In addition to standard gift shop fare, it has handmade jewelry and several other lovely things that will remind you of Aruba (like the driftwood and ceramic turtle wind chimes that I purchased). If I buy any souvenirs it’s usually from this store.
    • CC & Co (Renaissance Mall)
      • Large collection of distinctive and colorful semi-precious stones, crystals, glass and silver jewelry. The shop is tiny but packed full of rings, necklaces and bracelets that are high on style but easy on the wallet.  

A few tips for shopping:

·         We usually set aside one morning to go into town for shopping. Morning is the best time to as downtown can become a sauna in the afternoon heat.

·         If you rented a car then I suggest parking at the Renaissance Hotel. They have valet service and your car won’t sit out in the hot sun all day.

·         Make sure you don’t plan a day in town for shopping when cruise ships are in port.  You can ask the hotel what days are “cruise ship” days and avoid them at all cost.

 

Now that you know the best places to eat, the things to do, and what to buy in Aruba, it's time to visit the island. Ask us how we can plan an Aruban travel incentive program for your company.

 
     
 

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  Aruba - One Happy Island Part 2

 

Kimberly Owen is a National Account Executive at Galactic with over 13 years experience in the meeting/incentive industry. She has traveled all over the world but there is one destination that tops her list, Aruba. Follow along as she shares all of her favorite things about this gorgeous island.

My Top 3 Things to Eat in Aruba:

  • El Gaucho
    • We eat at this restaurant our first night on the island every year.
    • This is an Argentinean-style beef-lovers kind of restaurant with homemade chimichuri sauce to dip your bread and pour on the steaks – it’s fabulous.
    • Always crowded and usually noisy (not a quiet romantic dinner) – make sure to book a reservation in advance.
  • Linda’s Panakokken (address: Palm beach 6 B, Noord)
    • Pannenkoek is a traditional Dutch pancake that resembles an open-faced crepe. You might be a little confused when you first see the menu and realize the most popular pancake on the menu is Apple and Bacon, but trust me, it is the most divine breakfast you will ever eat.
  • Madame Janette
    • Award-winning restaurant with European trained chefs. 
    • Fine dining in a casual outdoor restaurant. 
    • This is a very popular restaurant so make sure to call in advance for reservations.

 

Next time, Kimberly will share her top 3 things to buy in Aruba.

 
     
 

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  Aruba - One Happy Island Part 1

 

Kimberly Owen is a National Account Executive at Galactic with over 13 years experience in the meeting/incentive industry. She has traveled all over the world but there is one destination that tops her list, Aruba. Over the next couple weeks she will share all of her favorite things about this gorgeous island.

 

The question I am asked most often is, “What is your favorite destination?” It’s hard for me to narrow it down to just one destination, but Aruba will always be in my top five. If you’re looking for the quintessential beach destination – long stretches of white sandy beach, year-round sunshine with cooling trade winds, beautiful snorkel/scuba spots, great restaurants and plenty of shopping –  the island of Aruba should be at the top of your list.

 

My Top 3 Things to Do in Aruba:

  • Snorkeling
    • Baby Beach
      • The water is crystal clear and quite shallow.  A good spot to learn how to snorkel. It’s actually called Baby Beach because this is where all the locals teach their babies to swim. The last time I was there a steady stream of school buses were there dropping off the kids for swimming lessons.
      • This beach is on the southern end of island and you need to have good directions to get there. It takes about 45 minutes to drive there and if you didn’t rent a car, this trip is really not worth doing. The cost for taxi will be very high and taxis do not patrol that area, which makes getting back to your hotel an issue.
      • Pack some drinks and something to eat – there’s nothing out there but beach. Don’t expect a place to sit down.  You can ‘rent’ a chair and chair tents from one of the guys out there but they only take cash. There are a few covered tree areas but they’re usually all occupied.
      • If you really want to see the fish up close and personal, take an empty water bottle and fill it up with frozen peas and carrots. While snorkeling throw some in the water and wait for the fish frenzy.
  • Parasailing
    • I recommend parasailing for everyone – it is the highlight of the trip.
    • Even though I have some anxieties with heights (and falling), I thoroughly enjoyed parasailing.
  • Island Tour
    • There are several things you will want to see and photograph.
      • The Natural Bridge collapsed several years ago but there is a second, smaller bridge that is still worth seeing. If you are adventurous take a 4-wheeler Tour (Rancho Notorious is the name of one of the tour operators on the island)
      • Alto Vista Church
      • California Lighthouse
    • You can take the island tour several ways. If you are adventurous, you can take an ATV Tour (Rancho Notorious) but know that you will come back covered head-to-toe in sweat and dirt. The other tour options are taking a Jeep Tour or you can take the KuKu Kanuku party bus.

 

     
 

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