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Jane Daniels - Innovative Travel Brand Ambassador


Read the Viva Fashion/style/Living supplement magazine for the NZ Herald 20 April issue for Janes' travel insights


"The Jane Daniels label is iconic with New Zealand design. High end fashion garments carefully created in New Zealand, from fabric sourced from Europe's and the worlds best mills. Jane is an experienced and discerning traveller and as an avid reader of travel literature and biographies, Jane was the perfect litmus test for our Ancient Kingdoms Holidays. For over 10 years she has acted as our travel ambassador. With Jane Daniels, Innovative Travel found a great synergy. Our companies were established round 1990, both with a passion to create" Robyn Galloway, Managing Director of the Innovative Travel Company

"In the past I had annually collected and kept Ancient Kingdoms Holidays brochures, planning for the day I would start my travels .... so over the past 10 years I have fulfilled some lifelong dreams. Firstly with Ancient Kingdoms on a visit to Jordan and unforgettable Petra, the amazing rose red ancient city, hewn by hand from the rock. Next to Turkey and the busy cosmopolitan hub of Istanbul with its beautiful and ancient architecture set against the Bosphorus. Both of these exotic and ancient countries offered memorable insights and
I returned inspired with new ideas for design. With Ancient Kingdoms Holidays, there is always another mystery to unravel and  I look forward to my future travels with this inspiring company who have helped us discover the past, with commitment and style.  Jane Daniels, Designer & Traveller

 Jane Daniels - Japan - August/September 2017

My fascination with Japan's ancient artisan culture was indulged on a tailor made itinerary prepared by innovative Travel.  During my exciting 11 day holiday in Tokyo, Matsumoto, Narai and Kyoto I had the pleasure of experiencing in a very 'hands on' manner the arts of gold leafing, woodblock printing, Indigo (pictured above left) Sumi-e ink wash painting, Shodo calligraphy and Shibori dyeing.
My guides were essential in explaining the nuances of etiquette and helping me navigate the busy cities.

View more of Jane's stunning photos:                                      Read about Jane's trip in her own words:

Highlights included:
* Travelling on the high speed bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto
* Overnight in a traditional Edo period 'ryokan' with a home cooked meal
* Experiencing an 'Onsen' - Japanese Bath
* Viewing Maiko (apprentice Geisha's) on the streets of Gion (see photo above right)
* Visiting temples, bamboo groves, traditional moss and raked gravel gardens, museums, shrines, castles and a Textile Centre famous for it's Kimono production

view our selection of Japanese holiday options
view MiNDFOOD article 'In Japan with Jane Daniels"

Jane Daniels - Russia - September 2016

We arrived at our Moscow hotel at night, and from our room at the National Hotel, had a superb view of the unique candy-striped St Basil's cathedral. Highlighted by a laser show, it was such an arrival. Then, without warning, it lit up, the air exploding with the most glorious fireworks display. "Aha they know we are here", I said jokingly. We had arrived during Moscow's birthday celebrations (September 1-3) and had a wonderful start to our Innovative Russian holiday. 

The next morning, we set out to see one of the world's finest collections of French art at the Pushkin museum. The likes of Degas, Matisse, Gauguin and Picasso and works of many other significant artists were on view.  It was not crowded, and I was able to really take in some of my favourite artists. The same was to occur later in St Petersburg. I was able to walk right up to close to works by Matisse and Degas that I thought I would only ever get to see in books.

Moscow is blessed with incredible museums, highlighting Russia's opulent Imperial past. Beautifully hand-made garments in the finest fabrics of the day, gilded horse-drawn carriages, armour and of course Faberge eggs and fabulous jewels and jewellery are all in the State Armoury museum.  Religion has, and still does, play a large part in Russian life, and the city is dotted with beautiful golden onion domes which photograph beautifully when the sun glints off them. The little Cathedral of the Annunciation with its multiple gold domes is particularly gorgeous.

Stepping inside these churches you see dazzling multi-storied religious altar frescoes and icons. We became fascinated by these and with our Innovative driver and guide we were able to add on a visit to the Icons museum. This gave us a fascinating insight into the development of this religious art.

Dining in Moscow was surprisingly sophisticated and the city is lively at night. Innovative's team in Russia were able to secure bookings at both the Pushkin (a restored nobleman's house, we ate upstairs in the library) and the Turandot (very opulent theatrical surroundings) restaurants which offer fine dining to the highest standard.

The central city is very clean and felt extremely safe as we walked off our dinner wandering back to the hotel in the late evening.  Walking around Moscow's centre is very rewarding, but for efficient use of valuable time a driver is essential. The other essential in transport is the Metro. With our guide, over a couple of hours, we were able to see the best examples of Soviet era mosaics, bronze sculptured, marble, Art Deco and enormously-chandeliered platforms. A truly remarkable experience and something wonderful to gaze at should you miss your next train.

The Soviet era is proudly on display and you can shop for knick-knacks and memorabilia of this. Cold War era tanks and aeroplanes in the Victory park, long since decommissioned, bearing the red star can be cautiously approached and patted by enthusiasts.

We left Moscow by the fabulous Sapsan fast train bound for St Petersburg. The train was very comfortable and we had a surprisingly very good meal. We also got a brief look at rural life out our window. In less than four hours we had arrived, ready for the next leg of our Russian adventure.  Checking into our Hotel (Belmond Grand) we found we had a spectacular view of the "Church of the Spilled Blood" and it's colourful domes. The next day we would visit its beautiful interior.

St Petersburg, whilst a city and once the capital, felt a lot more like a town in its intimacy. There are a lot of university students here and as such the city is very vibrant. After a few days, with unique landmarks, a river, and several canals we felt as though we knew our way around well enough to walk parts of it.

Churches, forts, palaces and museums were all on the itinerary. Of note for me was the small Stieglitz museum of Applied Art: a combination of university and museum and possessing an eclectic collection of domestic artifacts and sensational interiors such as the golden Terem room. I loved the unique collection of dolls in clothing representing all the various regions and cultures of Russia. After the tour you are able to visit a shop of sorts where you may purchase artworks and sculptures made by the fine arts students.

As you enter the Winter Palace, part of the Hermitage Museum, you are spellbound by the Rastrelli Jordan staircase. It is hugely spacious, ornate and elegant. You are inside but could be outside as you gaze through massive decorated archway windows through to luxurious interiors, setting the scene for what is to come in this massive jewel box of a Palace.

Another highlight was Catherine's Palace in the small town of Pushkin, a short drive from St Petersburg. The palace is a series of breath-taking rooms including the famous Amber room. A walk through some lovely formal gardens is the perfect finish and natural counterpoint to the extreme opulence you have witnessed indoors.

St Petersburg has some really good dining options, both traditional and modern cuisine, and all within easy walking distance from our hotel. We liked Terrassa (international and modern) and we had a charming evening at the Russian Ampir restaurant in the Stroganov Palace. The beautiful china tea-cup like interior dining room is not all that is on show. After our meal, walls became doorways and we were treated to a tour of the secret rooms below.

The next day was also full of secrets with a visit to the Shuvalov Palace, the new home of the Faberge collection, it's intricately-worked eggs and the secrets the famous jeweller placed inside for his wealthy patrons: the Imperial family.

We finished our Innovative Russian adventure with a very relaxing canal and river boat trip. We cruised past the Winter Palace, the Peter and Paul fortress and countless other ornate buildings. We left central St Petersburg and as if in an HG Wells time machine, cruised up to the architecturally-stunning modern football stadium being built for the 2018 World Cup. The boat turned around here and we headed back, and back in time, to the daunting scale and opulence of Russia's Imperial ancient kingdom.

view our Russia holiday options

                          Sigiriya Rock                                Negombo                   Kandy - Perahera Festival                                        
Jane Daniels - Sri Lanka 2015

My journey had taken me to the ultimate treasure island: Sri Lanka. I would see chests full of jewels, swaying palm trees on white sandy beaches, and all manner of wildlife, but nothing would prepare me for what I would see in Kandy...

I had already visited Dambulla, and after a climb had entered the first of five natural caves. Inside, every available surface is covered in beautiful frescoes of Buddha's life and of the festival, the Perahera. And now here I was in Kandy, in late August, to witness the actual event. Many thousands had sat waiting on the pavement all day to see it. The Esala Perahera,which takes place once a year, was a spectacle beyond words. As night fell, a cast of thousands of exotically costumed dancers and acrobats,skilled musicians, fire breathers and drummers, danced, sung and contorted their way past me. Two hundred elephants, cloaked in velvet and brocade, bejewelled and highly illuminated, ridden by their mahouts carrying fringed parasols, swayed to the hypnotic rhythm of the thumping, chanting, trumpeted march. The crescendo, three dazzling elephants abreast, lit in gold. In the centre a giant 12 foot tusker carrying aloft the golden casket. The thousands of onlookers taking to their feet in excitement. A moment that is indelibly etched in my mind, and one I feel lucky to have experienced.

Sri Lanka is a land of brilliant colour. On the road, trucks and buses are made unique with flamboyant decorations. Roadside stalls are piled high with brightly coloured fruits, and little houses painted saffron yellow and shell pink seem to spring out from the lush green jungle. The aquamarine seas are home to brightly hand- painted fishing boats and high up in the cool hills of the interior, colourfully dressed village woman balance like mountain goats on steep emerald green tea plantations.  Dazzling colours are at their most intense in the gemstones of Sri Lanka. Ceylon blue sapphires, moonstones, rubies, amethysts, garnets, alexandrites, which change colour, and topaz and sapphires of every colour. It was the rare pink-orange sapphire, the padparadscha, that most intrigued me and became my own treasure hunt.  A Sri Lankan treasure of a different kind was the world famous architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa. A guided visit to his all white home and studio in Colombo was a wonderful insight into his work. He was a pioneer of modern tropical minimalism,and as such is a lure for architects from all over the world .

Colombo is a fast growing, bustling city which has some great sophisticated hotels shops and restaurants. I enjoyed the last two days of my tour exploring these venues and know I will be back to this exciting destination where the people are friendly and there is something here for everyone.

view our Sri Lanka holiday option here
view more of Janes Sri Lanka photos here

Jane Daniels - Oman 2014

I was told "expect an arid landscape blessed with hidden jewels". In Oman, I found both. 
Traditional whitewashed cube houses with their crenulated tops, arched doors and jali screens sit well against lush green date palms offering shade.  Men in crisp white dishdashas and women in black abayas offer strong contrasts for my camera.
On the blue coast at Sur, wooden dhows that sailed thousand year old trading routes to India, China and Africa continue to be built today and conjure thoughts of the exotic and old spice trade.
Did we make wooden boats in New Zealand, the man asked?  Not wanting to say the word fibreglass, I just said 'not like these'.
Woken at 2 am, I was in for a unique experience.  Giant turtles having made their way up the beach, were now laying hundreds of eggs in large sandpits.  At another nest hatchlings sand-paddled their way down to the sea in a race for survival.  An unforgettable and emotional experience.
A drive inland, through date plantations, orchards and purple craggy ranges bought me to old forts and fascinating local markets.  My endless search and love for colour has me excited to be there.  The gingery burnt orange ever-shifting Wahiba sands create massive shapes against a brilliant cobalt sky.  Oman itself has a broad palette of natural pigments to be found in its earth that could be used to make artists colours.

view our Oman holiday choices

view more photos of Oman here


Jane Daniels - Uzbekistan 2013

I'm sitting in the most extraordinary blue garden.  Stunning azure, turquoise, cerulean, cobalt, lapis and indigo blues.  A profusion of plants, vines and swirling arabesques in mosaic, majolica and sculpted friezes decorate this sacred street of tombs: The Sahi-i-Zinda in Samarkand.  For me, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and the Silk Road have always conjured up magical images of fabled oriental cities with golden walls and shimmering turquoise domes.  I am in awe of what Tamerlane, with his finest architects, created in Samarkand - it is truly spectacular.  In Bukhara I love the chaos of the colourful bazaars, the discovery of ornate madrassas round every corner and down every winding labyrinth-like street and relaxing on the charpois (divans) drinking tea around the pools of the Labi Hauz Square.

It's exciting to be where caravanserai merchants traded precious gems, spices, pearls, paper, perfumes, pelts, linens and woolens and especially lustrous silk from China - at one time worth more than gold.  The 9th century rock drawings at Saramysh George are fascinating, stylish and imaginative.  Khiva appearing like a giant sandcastle in the Kyzlkum desert, its 8m thick walls protecting its spectacular, medieval, feudal, oriental city, is like an open air museum.  The Savisky Museum in Nukus with its 90,000 paintings is a must visit.  The Fergana Valley is shere every aspect of silk production, fabric drying, embroidery, carpet weaving and ceramics takes place and for me, the most wonderful finish to an extraordinarily beautiful and alluring part of the Silk Road, providing rich inspiration for colour and design.  In the words of Omar Khayyam "Samarkand the most beautiful fact that the earth ever turned towards the sun".  Thanks to The Innovative Travel Company for this alluring journey on the Silk Road.

Janes photos & reading list ... read more



Jane Daniels - Morocco 2012

Under a chilly black starry night in Morocco, a Berber leads our dromedaries. It is 4 am and we are out in the yet to be sun kissed dunes of the Merzouga . As we wait in the perfect quiet, slowly a soft dawn creeps in. Soon it will become the most brilliant burnt orange and suddenly all you have seen in movies or imagined surrounds you from all sides. We are in the place of legend, the vast and mighty golden red Sahara desert...

more on Janes trip to Morocco ... click here
read on & view more photos  ...  click here

Jane Daniels in India - 2011

This year I travelled on the 'Colourful Rajasthan' itinerary to India, a country I had long held a burning desire to visit, and one that has provided me with many more magical moments travelling with Ancient Kingdoms Holidays.  During my 19 days in India I visited Delhi, Mandawa, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranakpur, Mount Abu, Udaipur, Jaipur, and Agra, site of the renowned Taj Mahal.  Rajasthan is one of the most beautiful regions of India, famous for its colourful and contrasting scenery, architecture, culture and people.  Some highlights for me were the floating Palace Hotel on Lake Udaipur, the Rajasthan forts and sunsets, the textiles, the people, and the time spend in Agra with the opportunity to see the wondrous Taj Mahal at both sunset and sunrise ("the best time to visit is sunrise, as there are much less people around at that time of day, and it is much cooler than later in the day").

click here to view more 2011 India Photos

Jane Daniels in Iran - 2010

In 2010 I chose to visit the ancient land of Persia: Iran, a land of hidden gems waiting to be re-discovered.  I went searching for the islamic architecture, a style I have grown to love having seen stunning examples in Venice and in the Alhambra in Granada.  My passion for Persian carpets, calligraphy and richly coloured tiles drew me to the land of the fabled Scheherazade, Aladdin and Ali Baba from the 1001 nights.

Innovative Travel work with the best people on the ground in Iran.  Their efficient system of using local people in each destination not only enabled me to see the key places of interest, but also enabled me substantial insight into the local customs and the way of life - both ancient and modern.

For all my efforts to blend in, I was often pleasantly greeted in English, and often by families wanting to chat and take photos together.  Iranians on the whole are extraordinarily friendly and in Estahan, Shiraz and Yazd I had sympathy for our guide, as it was often difficult to stay on schedule due to the number of families I met, and their offers of hospitality.

click here to read more about Jane in Iran
click here to view more 2010 Iran photos



Jane Daniels in Egypt - 2009

In 2009, I chose to visit Egypt, civilisation on a grand scale. In Cairo, a mere 20 million people occupy the city at the same time as you. My guide was invaluable, enabling me to get to see important ancient religious sites within the city in a reasonable time. The souks are fascinating and alive with the bustle of trade. Every space is utilised, walk through alley ways to get to shops and shops to get to alleyways. Khans (workshops) open out to face you as workmen ply their trade as the generations before would have over centuries. It was fun to create a keen sense of direction. Bargaining skills are a must.

A Nile cruise aboard the well appointed Tu Ya is surely the tonic after busy Cairo. During long sunny days, we looked out into small hamlets on the Nile Delta from the comfort of a lounger beside the pool, stopping along the way to visit temples built for ancient Gods.

One Temple set itself apart, Abu Simbel and was well worth the short flight. The interior of this temple is total surprise. The UNESCO story of the saving of Abu Simbel makes visiting the site all the more special.

The partnership Innovative Travel has with Elhamy El Zyat on the ground in Egypt sets them apart. Elhamy is an extraordinarily cultured man of learning and passionate about Egypt. This filters throughout his team. Everything on our itinerary not only went like clockwork, it was done with a smile.

I think Egypt leaves you wondering. These astonishing engineering feats took place so very long ago and as an achievement seems to sit apart from time. As you stand next to a Pyramid and contemplate their construction, it makes me wonder why it took thousands of years for the industrial revolution to arrive.

With Ancient Kingdoms Holidays, there is always another mystery to unravel and  I look forward to my future travels with this inspiring company who have helped us discover the past, with commitment and style.

click here to view more 2009 Egypt photos



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