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Five European Villages You’ll Fall in Love With

Posted by Editor3
25 Apr 2017 09:48 AM
When travelers first think of a trip to Europe, it’s the large cities such as Rome, Paris, and London that are usually at the top of their wish list to see.  But for many who have been to the Old World, it’s the time spent in the smaller villages that they remember most fondly.  Villages are intimate places … easy to explore and ripe with opportunities to mingle with the locals.

Here are five European villages you are sure to fall in love with:

1. Innsbruck, Austria

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

The Alps dominate the landscape in this winter sports village.  The mountains are so close it seems as if you can reach out and touch them.  Hiking is naturally a popular activity in Innsbruck and it’s just a short stroll across the Inn River to the foot of the Alps.  The Winter Olympics were held here in 1964 and 1976 and a ride to the top of the Ski Jump Tower offers a breathtaking panorama.

Innsbruck was the seat of royalty beginning in the late 1400s and that is reflected in the architecture of its many beautiful landmarks.  The most notable is the “Golden Roof” balcony in the village’s quaint historic section, built by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I for viewing festivals and other events in the square below.   The roof of the balcony consists of over 2000 golden tiles.  Whether it’s for natural wonders or man-made beauty, Innsbruck is always a traveler favorite.

 

2. Verona, Italy

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Made famous as the backdrop for Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’, this medieval village sits in northern Italy to the west of Venice.  Although the lead characters in the tragedy are fictional, there is a 14th century residence that claims to be the home of Juliet, complete with a stone balcony where eternal love was declared.  A bronze statue of Juliet rests in the court yard and touching it is said to bring you luck in finding your true love.

The most impressive landmark in Verona is its first-century Roman arena.  The architecture is similar to the Colosseum in Rome and originally this outdoor venue held 30,000 people.  The arena is still used today for opera performances and in recent years for rock and pop concerts.   Much of the seating inside has been modernized, but some of the ancient stone seating is still used for events.

 

3. Riva del Garda, Italy

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

To visit Riva is to experience a slice of Italian heaven.  Riva is an historic resort village that sits on the northern end of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake.  The panoramic views as you approach the lake are some of the most stunning in all of Europe.  Garda is a long and narrow lake formed by glaciers and the sight of the mountains rising out of its turquoise-colored water creates a dramatic sense of awe.

The pedestrian areas along the harbored waterfront are lovely to stroll and gelato (ice cream) shops beckon when you need a rest.  There is also a beach and park for relaxing.  The “Torre Apponale” bell tower, old city gates, and narrow meandering streets attest to Riva’s medieval history.  You may also detect some Austrian influence in the architecture as the village belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 at the end of World War I.   Other resorts in Italy may get more buzz, but it would be difficult to find a more picturesque setting than Riva del Garda.

 

4. Volendam, The Netherlands

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Volendam is a small fishing village offering a large sampling of Dutch culture.  Here, you can still see locals dressed in traditional clothing from head (lace for the ladies and fisherman caps for the men) to toe (wooden shoes).  Walking along the tiny harbor, you can see an amusing variety of boats on the water.  If you continue along the harbor street, you may find yourself walking between two rows of small homes where neighbors compete for the tidiest entrance and window displays.

Along the water, there are shops that sell the pretty blue and white Delft pottery as well as many other souvenirs. There is also a cheese shop where you can watch a video on how the cheese is made.  Friendly cafés invite you in for coffee and Dutch apple pie, while street vendors offer delicacies from the sea such as smoked paling (eel) and raw herring.   Also be sure to try Dutch pancakes or poffertjes (mini pancakes).

 

5. Rothenburg, Germany

15 Reasons to Visit the British Isles This Year

Walking into this Bavarian village is like stepping into a fairy tale.  With its timbered houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and wall surrounding the town, Rothenburg’s medieval atmosphere will make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time.  This charming village of just over 11,000 people is situated on the Romantic Road in the south central part of Germany.

There’s so much to explore here.  Climb to the top of the town hall bell tower for a bird’s eye view of the village or stroll the foot path atop the village wall.  For a refreshment, stop by a bakery to sample some strudel or sip apple cider from a street vendor in the town square.  As you might imagine, there are many interesting shops to check out such as Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf, a sprawling, year-round Christmas shop.  There are also several unusual museums including a Medieval Crime Museum, History Museum with Town Dungeon, and Doll and Toy Museum.  You’re certain to find the village of Rothenburg a magical place with a little something for everyone!

 

If this is the year you want to start looking at a trip to Europe, request our FREE 84-page Europe Tour brochure today.

 

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Posted by Mike Kasmauskis
11 Apr 2017 11:39 AM
spain-portugal

Centuries ago, Spain and Portugal ignited the Age of Discovery, which led to the exploration of the Americas, along with many other important trade routes and islands. Had these explorers not left their homes, civilization would never have expanded to the world we know today.

Make 2017 your year of discovery, and where better to start than in the countries that began it all. Here are 14 gems in Spain and Portugal where you can begin your personal Age of Discovery.

 

1. Wander through Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal.

Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, predating Paris, London, and Rome. Many believe the Phoenicians founded the city as a port, but many other cultural groups took charge of Lisbon before the Portuguese, including the Romans and Muslims of North Africa (Moors).

Moorish architecture can still be seen today throughout the city dotted between the styles of the Portuguese homes and buildings. Although it is a waterfront city, Lisbon is also situated upon rolling hills. Trolleys transport people up and down the streets to make traveling through the capital a bit easier. Whether you prefer to walk or ride, see all that Lisbon has to offer.

 

2. Climb Belem Tower, built in the early 16th Century.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Lisbon sits on the Tagus River, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula that runs from Spain across the border into Portugal, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1514 and 1520, the Torre de Belem, or Belem Tower, was constructed to protect Lisbon from river assailants.

The tower was used primarily for military purposes; the main bulwark has two levels for firing cannons at different lengths. However, the tower also contains different rooms, including the Governor’s Hall, where the first governor’s office was located, as well as a chapel on the fourth floor.

 

3. Visit the Monument to the Discoveries.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Lasting from the 15th Century to the 19th Century, the Age of Discovery brought about many revelations such as the trade route to India by sea and the exploration of the Americas.

Prince Henry of Portugal became known as Henry the Navigator after leading many voyages in the 15th Century, which began the Age of Discovery. In 1960, 500 years after Henry’s death, the Monument to the Discoveries was completed in Lisbon to honor his accomplishments.

 

4. Explore Portugal’s ancient Alfama District.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Alfama District is the oldest district in Lisbon. Walk through the narrow streets between ancient buildings or take in all of the sights from your seat on the tram.

Looking for a great Portuguese souvenir? Shops carry items such as hand-painted ceramic tiles, silver jewelry, embroidered linens, and more that make for wonderful keepsakes or gifts. Walk the streets and you may be lured into the Alfama cafes by the beautiful strumming of guitars playing fado melodies. You won’t want to miss this passionate music when you visit the charming Alfama District.

 

5. Enjoy a day seeing the sights of Seville.

Explore the many historical and cultural sights that Seville offers. Start your day by paying your respects to Christopher Columbus for discovering the Americas at his tomb in the Cathedral of Seville. Afterwards, stroll through Maria Luisa Park and admire its beauty, full of ceramic-tiled benches, fountains, monuments, and more. There you will also find the massive Plaza de España, built in the late 1920s for the Ibero-American World Exhibition. Magnificent towers flank the semi-circle shaped complex and showcase the beautiful architecture of designer Aníbal González. Don’t miss the ornate ceramic tiles dotted along the structure or the Vicente Traver fountain found at the center of the plaza.

 

6. Spend an evening relaxing in Seville.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

While visiting Seville, Andalucia’s largest city, enjoy nightlife as the Spaniards do (this is especially great if you’re an empty-nester and can stay up past bedtime!). Dinner is served late, usually not until around 9 or 10 o’clock. It is also a smaller meal, unlike the siesta-inducing lunch.

Enjoy dinner tapas-style, that is with a couple of small appetizer-like plates that can be shared with friends. Converse, eat up, and enjoy supper in Seville.

 

7. Be mesmerized by the romantic Flamenco dance.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Flamenco is a traditional Spanish dance style that many describe as emotionally intense. Danced to Spanish guitar, it is a deeply moving dance where the women are known to have their back in an arched back position, a stiff torso, and ballerina-esque arms.

Dancers often make use of props during their dance, including fans or castanets, which add to the drama. The precision dance movements match the strumming of the guitars for what is sure to be a memorable, musical evening.

 

8. Discover Jerez, where love for wine and horses meet.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

While still in the south of Spain, stop in Jerez and enjoy its most famous exports: sherry and the noble Andalusian horse.

Sherry is produced from white grapes grown right outside of Jerez. Sherry tastings can be found at bodegas, or wine cellars, around the city.

After sampling the white wine, head over to the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to see Andalusians. Bred as war horses, the breed became increasingly popular throughout the world, but in the 19th century the population was threatened as many wars (and the opposition) diminished their numbers. Thankfully, these magnificent horses have made a comeback so the world can enjoy them.

 

9. Stand less than 9 miles from the coast of Africa - while still in Europe.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

The Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea meet at the Strait of Gibraltar, a narrow waterway that separates the coasts of Spain and Morocco. At its narrowest, the strait is only 8.9 miles in width, which means that Europe and Africa are only separated by less than 9 miles!

The name of the strait comes from the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, a peninsula that shares its northern border with Spain and juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. Located on Gibraltar is the Rock of Gibraltar, which the Romans referred to as one of the Pillars of Hercules.

 

10. Shop, swim, and sip at Costa del Sol!

When visiting Costa del Sol, or the Sun Coast, it’s important to follow the three “S’s” - shop, swim, and sip!

Shop along the beachside avenidas, where you will find Mallorca pearls, gold jewelry and Lladro figurines. Swim in the Mediterranean Sea, an ancient body of water that touches Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

And finally, sip sangria on the beach to cool off or in the evenings when socializing with your friends and travel mates. Whether you’re into history, the sights, or the nightlife, the Sun Coast has something for you!

 

11. Enter the pages of Don Quixote by traveling through La Mancha.

If you’ve read Don Quixote by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, you may remember that our protagonist encounters giants he must slay …which in reality are only windmills. While the story of Don Quixote may not be real, the windmills and terrain that inspired the story are! Travel through La Mancha on your way to Madrid. Be sure to see the impressive Monument to Cervantes, with figures of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza, which stands on the Plaza de Espana in Madrid.

 

12. Transform yourself into a Spanish Royal while walking the halls at the Madrid Royal Palace.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Madrid, the capital city of Spain, is full of many museums, captivating sites, stores with world-class shopping. Make sure you allot enough time to see it all, including the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The palace is the residence of the Spanish Royal Family. It is known for its baroque and Moorish architecture. Here you can see many pieces of art and other relics, including the world’s only complete Stradivarius quintet. You’ll feel like royalty when visiting this palace of splendor.

 

13. Appreciate Spanish art, such as the Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

You’ll definitely want to take in all of the culture when you visit Spain—and Spanish art is a huge part of it. No place is better to see Spanish masterpieces than the Reina Sofia Museum.

Here you can see many works of art, including Guernica by Pablo Picasso. One of the founders of the Cubist movement, Picasso painted Guernica to show his anti-war sentiments after the bombing of Guernica in 1937. You’ll also see striking sculptures and other art forms when visiting the museum.

 

14. Travel back in time while visiting Toledo, the Imperial City.

2017 Is the Year to Experience These 14 Must-See Gems of Spain and Portugal

Toledo differs from many other cities in the world in that three very different cultures coexist - Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Together, these different worldviews have created a diverse and beautiful city full of museums, churches, synagogues, and mosques. Walk the cobblestone streets and see the medieval architecture, traveling back in time to another world.

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Final thoughts…

Discovering Spain and Portugal can be much more than just a sight-seeing excursion. Experiencing in person how people of the past combined different cultures to create beautiful art and architecture can teach us many things about our current times.

If you’re interested in your own Age of Discovery in Spain and Portugal this year, why not get in touch today?

Oktoberfest, Germany

Posted by Editor3
05 Apr 2017 10:00 AM
Our popular HEART OF EUROPE® Circle Tour features Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium and Holland.   Now offering September 19 & 26 Oktoberfest departures with AIR from New York JFK for $3640 per person based on double occupancy.  This price reflects a special $500 p.p. discount … that’s a savings of $1000 per couple!   If you aren’t near New York, we can arrange departure from a city near you (price/discount may vary).  22 meals, 13 nights hotels, air taxes, transportation and escort in Europe are also included.  Book by 5/17/17.    oktoberfest

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