Europe Tours Archives

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

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Ever wanted to travel throughout multiple countries in Europe, but found the logistics too much to bear? Visiting two or more countries usually means lots of travel, which takes time and money.

But what if you could see four of Europe’s most beautiful countries in only 15 days? That’s right, you can see Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein in just over a fortnight.

And forget wasted travel days—you’ll be spending at least two nights at each of your hotels, getting to immerse yourself in the culture, and seeing many different spectacular sights along the way.

Take a look at a few of the dreamy locations you’ll be enjoying during your trip:

 

From the Middle Ages to World War II, history abounds in the Franconian Wine Region.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

You can’t visit Europe without stumbling upon historical sites, cities, and landmarks. In fact, it’s one of the things about Europe that is so special—just how much history the continent holds.

Start your European tour off in Franconia, known for its high quality wines, especially white varieties. Silvaner is a local favorite. This peachy and apricot wine is soft and smooth. Another white variety to try is Bacchus. It’s known as “wine for women” because of its highly aromatic nature—think honied florals.

But there’s more than just vineyards to see here. The city of Nuremberg lies within Franconia, known for its famous “trials” after World War II. During the war, Nuremberg was the location of the Nazi Parade grounds, which can still be visited. After the war, many Nazi leaders were tried and convicted here for their vicious crimes against humanity.

And for those looking for a lighter subject, the Toy Museum is always a delight!

 

Find out why “the hills are alive with The Sound of Music” while staying in Filzmoos.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Interested in seeing a city most Americans don’t even know about? Austria’s Filzmoos is a spectacular secret kept by the Europeans from foreigners. And you get to stay there for three nights to truly absorb the Austrian scenery and culture.

Although it’s primarily known as a ski and hiking town, you’ll appreciate Filzmoos’ proximity to Salzburg, the setting and filming location for The Sound of Music.

Join fellow fans of the movie-musical for a tour of the famous sights from the movie, such as the gazebo for “Sixteen Going on Seventeen,” Mirabell Gardens from “Do Re Mi,” and Saint Peter’s Abbey, home to the convent where Maria originally lives.

But don’t just see where The Sound of Music was filmed—live it for yourself. Okay, maybe don’t become a nun and then a nanny for seven children, but do go out into the hills and listen to the sounds of the birds flying above, the trickling of freshwater streams, trees from the nearby forests rustling, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear that “sound” Maria sang of so heavenly.

 

Be a full-on tourist in Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Who says you shouldn’t act like a tourist when traveling abroad? Forget blending in and take advantage of all Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, has to offer.

Host of two winter Olympics, Innsbruck is a winter sport mecca. But you don’t have to ski or snowboard to enjoy the wonders of this village which is bisected by a river and majestically surrounded by mountain peaks.

Innsbruck’s most famous landmark is the Golden Roof. It’s amazing how a simple roof over a balcony could be so impressive. Built in 1500, the roof is covered in 2,657 copper tiles gilded with six kilos of gold. While it was once used for royalty, these days it’s the perfect place to be a tourist.

Another sought-out sight in Innsbruck is the exquisite Imperial Church. This cathedral holds the tomb of Emperor Maximilian and 28 bronze figures of his ancestors, overlooking him. And don’t miss the intricate carvings of his life surrounding the exterior of his tomb.

Finally, Innsbruck is a great place for souvenirs. Peruse the spectacular showrooms of Swarovski Crystal, with magnificent displays meant for viewing only, as well as jewelry and miniature figurines you can purchase to take home with you. Or stop by Grassmayr for one of their famous bells. If nothing else, at least stop by to ring one!

 

Shout “yodel-ay-hee-hoo” from atop the Swiss Alps.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

You don’t have to be a mountain climber to reach the summit of the Stanserhorn. Take the world’s only open top cable car up to the mountain-top terrace and restaurant for stunning scenery and the chance to yodel to those below.

After your adventure up the mountain and back down, head a few miles further to Lucerne, known for its lovely lake.

Lucerne is spectacle to see. Amidst mountain peaks lies this pristine lake, followed by a city featuring both the old and new. Those who appreciate historical architecture and antiques will enjoy touring the well-preserved medieval Altstadt (Old Town), while those looking for more contemporary activities will want to hit the shops and restaurants.

Another can’t-miss activity is a scenic cruise on Lake Lucerne. An old-fashioned steamer will take you around the lake to see stunning views, both natural and man-made. You will not believe some of the homes on the lake’s shores. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, anyone?

 

Learn about Cuckoo Clocks in the Fairy Tale Setting of the Black Forest

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland

Spend a few nights in the fairy tale setting of the Black Forest, the area that inspired the Brothers Grimm in their story of Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. There is a special magic about the Black Forest – the forested hills and rustic villages make you feel as if you have taken a journey back in time.

Triberg, home of the World’s largest Cuckoo Clock is a good place to learn more about the inner workings of these hand carved clocks. The Schwarzwald Museum provides insight into the history and culture of the Black Forest. Did you know that Germany’s highest waterfall is located in Triberg?

 

End your journey with fun festivities in Rudesheim.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland
(c) Skaja Lee

Toast to the end of your trip with a glass of sekt, a sparkling white wine from the Rudesheim region of Germany. Or if sparkling wines aren’t your thing, have a glass of brandy instead, also produced throughout the region.

Escape into a German storybook in Drosselgasse, a cobbled street filled with historical buildings, shops, and restaurants. As you walk the centuries-old streets, listen for traditional music coming from the bars. The classic German culture from fairy tales and movies can’t be contained by walls.

And if the thought of fairy tales excites you, be sure to take a river cruise on the Rhine. You’ll cruise past medieval fortresses, enchanting villages, and hillside vineyards on a Rhine River Steamer, followed by a guided tour of the unique Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum.

End the day with a cable car ride up to the Niederwald Monument, a must-see landmark in Rudesheim, complete with beautiful views of the Rhine Valley.

 

Flying in and out of Frankfurt makes for efficient travel.

Make More Memories in Fewer Miles: The Beauty of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland FRANKFURT, GERMANY – MAY 21, 2011: Empty Lufthansa aircraft standing on the handling ramp expecting boarding at Frankfurt/Main airport on May 21, 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany.

Can you believe you’ve made a circle, starting from Frankfurt, down through Bavaria, on to Austria, then Liechtenstein and Switzerland, only to make it back to Germany? This way, you can fly in and out of Frankfurt, making your travel plans much more efficient.

Flying in and out of the same airport adds a sense of familiarity. You’ve already walked through these terminals at least once, so you’ll have an easier time finding your flight.

If you book your tour with a travel company, you’ll also have the guidance of your tour operator should any unforeseen needs come up.

 

Your European adventure awaits…

Thrilled to find out it’s super easy to see multiple European countries in one easy trip? We’d love to have you on one of our tours. Fill in a few brief questions here to get your travel plans started today.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Preparing for a trip to the British Isles and wishing you could leave tomorrow?

Well, even though you might have to wait a few weeks or months before you embark on your journey, you don’t have to wait to start enjoying some of the best books, music, movies, and television shows that are from or take place in the United Kingdom and beyond. After all, some of the fun of taking an overseas journey is in the anticipation and preparation.

Here are 9 pop culture experiences you should read, watch, or listen to before your trip to the British Isles:

 

Read some plays by William Shakespeare, who resided in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Did you know many popular phrases were written by William Shakespeare? “Green-eyed monster,” “wild goose chase,” and “forever and a day” are just a few of the many phrases used today, originating from the playwright’s famous works.

Shakespeare hails from Stratford-Upon-Avon, a tiny town in the middle of England. You can still visit the home in which he was born as well as Anne Hathaway’s cottage—no, not the actress from Les Miserables, but Shakespeare’s wife.

Of course, reading one or more of his plays would be a phenomenal way to prepare for your trip to Jolly Ole England. But if movies are more your thing, specifically romances, try watching the Best Picture winner of 1999, Shakespeare in Love.

 

Masterpiece’s Victoria follows the early life of Queen Victoria and is filmed in Yorkshire.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles
© Elliott Brown

For those missing Downton Abbey on PBS’s “Masterpiece” series, be sure to watch Victoria, which follows the early reign of Queen Victoria. Season One introduces us to a young Victoria, who becomes queen and meets her future husband, Albert.

Victoria is filmed in Yorkshire, one of the cities in which is York. Visiting York will transport you back to medieval times as you walk through The Shambles. Timber-framed buildings, some of which date back to the 14th Century, line the streets.

But the must-see of York is easily York Minster, England’s largest Gothic church. The stunning structure took 250 years to build. Stained glass windows depicting Biblical scenes are just a small part of the many ornate details decorating the magnificent cathedral.

 

Witness the tragic tale of Mary Queen of Scots while watching Reign.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

If you look back at history, so many lives and events really do look like a modern soap opera. The CW took the story of Mary Queen of Scots and created Reign, a popular historical drama, which ran for four seasons.

Mary marries the king of France, who dies shortly after their marriage. She then enters into a competition with her cousin, Elizabeth I, for the English throne. Spoiler alert — Elizabeth eventually has Mary killed.

Although Mary never became the queen of England, many still enjoy visiting her house in Jedburgh, Scotland. There, you can learn more about her tragic life and see artifacts from the time. If Mary’s story is intriguing, be sure to watch Reign before traveling to the Gaelic country.

 

Travel through time at Edinburgh Castle, just like Claire in Outlander.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Have you heard of the time-traveling sensation, Outlander? Diana Gabaldon’s popular book series became a hit Starz series in 2014, which only increased its fandom.

Outlander follows the life of Claire, who after being a nurse during World War II, reunites with her husband, but then accidentally travels back in time to Scotland in the 1700s. She learns how to adapt to her new century, and meets an interesting cast of characters along the way.

Season three most recently aired and many episodes took place in Scotland’s capital—Edinburgh. Although the show didn’t depict the modern-day city, you’ll be glad you get to see it in the 21st Century.

Edinburgh is full of world-class restaurants, superb shopping, and historical sites, the city’s castle. Get brushed up on your Scottish history and watch Outlander before enjoying this lively capital.

 

Jam to The Beatles before visiting their hometown of Liverpool.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Asking “What’s your favorite Beatles song?” is like asking “What’s your favorite movie?” It’s a tough question to answer. There are so many hits and deep cuts that you can’t imagine life without.

The Beatles came together in Liverpool, a coastal town in England, known for its very distinct dialect. Enjoy exploring the town and seeing many of the sights made famous by the rock n’ roll band, such as Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane.

If you’re looking for a different way to appreciate the band’s most popular songs, watch the rock musical movie Across the Universe. The movie tells an original story about Jude, who travels to America during a difficult decade in the country’s history. Using the songs by The Beatles, the audience follows Jude through love, sadness, and many friendships.

 

Romance abounds in movies set in Dublin.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles
© Giuseppe Milo

You might think Paris is the most romantic city in Europe, but Dublin may just take the cake as the most romantic city in the British Isles. For instance, many romantic movies take place at or near the Irish capital.

The movie turned Broadway musical, Once, was filmed in Dublin and follows two individuals who make music and fall in love. The film’s song “Falling Slowly” won Best Song at the 80th Academy Awards.

P.S. I Love You follows a young woman whose Irish husband passes but leaves behind many tasks for his wife to complete, including a trip to his homeland. While overseas, she finds romance for the first time since becoming a widow. The movie was filmed just south of Dublin and features Oscar-winner, Hilary Swank.

If movies aren’t enough to prove that Dublin is a romantic city, maybe knowing St. Valentine is buried there will. Bring your Valentine with you to Ireland’s capital and visit some of the one thousand pubs within the city.

 

Travel through space and time with The Doctor in Wales.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

Any sci-fans looking to travel to the British Isles? Then watch the classic television show, Doctor Who, which began in the 1960s and was revamped in 2005, creating a pop culture phenomenon.

The current series of Doctor Who films in Cardiff, Wales. Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and sits on the southern coast. Take time to tour the city’s castle, which was commissioned by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. Over the many centuries, the castle managed to survive many wars and battles. In fact, bomb shelters were built into the castle’s walls during World War II.

So even though you won’t actually go time-traveling with The Doctor, visiting historical Cardiff might just do the trick.

 

Two of Jane Austen’s heroine-inspired novels take place in Bath.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

How could you visit England and not think of Jane Austen? While she only wrote six novels in full, her stories have made a lasting impression for centuries.

Two of Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, take place in Bath, where Jane, herself, resided for a few years’ time. During your visit, be sure to swing by the Jane Austen Centre to indulge in your favorite author’s life and stories. And don’t forget to read (or watch) at least one of her famous novels.

Bath also is home to hot springs, which the Romans found 2,000 years ago. Stop by the Roman Baths Museum to learn how the ancient people used the power of the springs in their advanced engineering.

Not too far away is the mysterious Stonehenge, a large group of stones strategically placed in a circle. How did they get there? Who put them there? Will we ever know for sure?

 

Visit the London locations featured in Netflix’s award-winning show, The Crown.

Fairytale, Fiction, and the Royal Family: A Pop Culture Journey Through the British Isles

“Have you watched The Crown?” seems to be the question on everyone’s lips these days. The award-winning Netflix show has stirred up a lot of popularity as it delves deep into the life of Queen Elizabeth when she first becomes queen as well as those surrounding her.

Many of London’s famous sights are featured in the show, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Parliament. Watch the first two seasons before your trip to get a sneak peak at all of the wondrous sights around the capital and get some insight into what it’s like to be a modern monarch.

 

Time to get watching…

Are you ready to start watching, reading, and listening to the best pop culture the British Isles have to offer? What about seeing these amazing places in person? Click here to request our brochure and start planning your vacation to the UK and Ireland today.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Who says the only capital cities to visit in Europe are London, Paris, and Rome? Travel off the “beaten path” and see the capitals of Central Europe for a deep-dive into the continent’s history and culture.

These more obscure cities of the Old Continent have seen the rise of many famous figures as well as important historical events. You’ll love learning all about the unique cultures and peoples, who make Central Europe a thriving region.

Here’s a look at five capital cities and their surrounding towns that are must-sees in Central Europe:

 

1. History abounds in Berlin and its surrounding cities.


A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is most known for its World War II history and the Berlin Wall. But since Ronald Reagan famously told “Mr. Gorbachev” to “tear down this wall,” Berlin has become a buzzing metropolis waiting to be explored.

Sightseeing highlights of Berlin include the grand Reichstag Building, magnificent Brandenburg Gate, and the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the best known Berlin Wall crossing point. Definitely stop by Kurfürstendamm Avenue, affectionately called Ku’damm, for a look at the bombed tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a reminder of World War II.

During your tour of the city, be sure to stop in one of the world-class restaurants for fantastic food and beverages. You can’t miss out on trying traditional German fare, like schnitzel, bratwurst, and beer.

Outside of Berlin lie towns known for their religious history. Ever heard of Martin Luther, the religious reformer? Of course you have. He nailed the 95 Theses to a chapel door in Wittenberg, which isn’t too far from Berlin. Eisenach’s Wartburg Castle was Luther’s hiding place after becoming a wanted man by the Catholic Church.

Eisenach is also the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, and to continue with the music theme, visit Leipzig, the birthplace of Richard Wagner and last home to Bach. There, you can visit the grave of the “Toccata and Fugue” composer.

 

2. Krakow may not be Poland’s capital city, but it’s the country’s capital for science, culture, and art.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Krakow is probably one of those cities you’ve heard of, but don’t really know much about. And that’s okay! There’s no time like the present to discover Poland’s gem.

Many centuries ago, Krakow was actually a major trade centre, but after the capital was moved to Warsaw, the city deteriorated. Poland lost its control of Krakow for over a century—it remained under Austria’s rule from 1795 to 1918.

Krakow did not escape World War II. The city was under Nazi control for many years, and over 55,000 Jews were taken from the city to Auschwitz, the horrific concentration camp. After the War, Poland once again gained Krakow. The city became an industrial mecca and helped bolster the country’s economy after the fall of communism in Poland.

These days, Krakow is a vibrant city full of art, architecture, and science. If architecture is your thing, be sure to head to the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a taste of Polish culture with a visit to salt mines just outside of Krakow, followed by a delicious dinner. Art enthusiasts should head to the National Museum for a look at famous paintings, sculptures, and more.

 

3. Did you know Budapest is actually split into “Buda” and “Pest” by the Danube?

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Budapest, known as “the Queen of the Danube,” is actually split into two parts across the River. Buda is on the west bank, and Pest is on the east bank. The sections are connected by many bridges across the Danube, creating Budapest. And between the two of them, there is so much to see and do.

In Buda, have your camera at the ready while visiting Castle Hill. The Old Town is covered with beautiful buildings and the Royal Palace is a stunning sight. Fisherman’s Bastion is arguably the most photographed spot in Buda. Its seven spectacular spires tower over the side of the Danube.

Pest, the larger section of the city, holds much of the modern-day culture. Here, the Hungarian Parliament resides. Music is a huge part of the capital’s make-up. Swing by the Vigadó (romantic concert hall) for ornate architecture and a possible performance. Pest is also home to the National Theatre, Neo-Renaissance State Opera House, and Franz Liszt Academy of Music. And for even more examples of architecture, stop by Gresham Palace for a fine example of the Art Nouveau style.

Nothing compares to a cruise down the Danube for breathtaking views of the city. With Buda on one side and Pest on the other, is there really a better way to take in Hungary’s capital?

 

4. Vienna holds all of the charm Austria is known for.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

Austria may be famous in the United States for The Sound of Music, but while visiting Vienna, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the country and its capital.

Certainly the “can’t miss” site in Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The massive house of worship is a gorgeous and grand spectacle in the city center. Another breathtaking building is the Vienna Opera House.

Just outside of Vienna is Schonbrunn Palace. Think of it as Vienna’s version of Versaille. It was originally constructed as a hunting lodge, and then become a Habsburg summer residence. Wouldn’t that be the life?

Looking for something to do? Head to Museumsquartier for your pick of different museums. There is something for everyone here, including art museums, children’s museums, and a natural history museum.

The best way to ensure you see all you desire in Vienna (or anywhere abroad for that matter) is by booking your tour well in advance. A little planning ahead can take your trip from great to fantastic.

 

5. Prague is one of the few cities the Germans kept mostly intact during World War II.

A Tale of 5 Cities: Insider Knowledge about Berlin, Prague, and Beyond

The final capital of Central Europe to see is Prague, the Czech Republic’s pride on the Vltava River. Despite destruction occurring all around it in World War II, Prague mostly remained intact, which adds to the city’s popularity as a travel destination in the 21st Century.

Begin your tour of Prague with Staromestské námesti, the most photographed square in the whole capital. Head next to the Old Town Hall and Church of St. Nicholas for traditional Czech architecture.

The remarkable Charles Bridge takes you across the Vltava River to Malá Strana and the Prague Castle. Visiting these historic sights transport you from reality into a fairytale, if only for a minute or two.

 

Central Europe Awaits…

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to see the exceptional capitals of Central Europe, get in touch to start planning the adventure of a lifetime today.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

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What vacation to Europe is complete without trips to art museums, scouting out important historical landmarks, and tasting tempting treats along the way?

You’ll experience all of that and more when you travel through the heart of Holland and France, two countries with deep histories, both classic and eclectic art, and delicious dishes for every meal (especially dessert!).

Here’s the perfect itinerary for 18 days in Western Europe:

 

Day 1: Preparing for your Day of Departure.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

You’ve booked your tour of Western Europe—you’re so excited! But there’s still a good amount of time before you head to the Old Continent. Use these months to read up on the places you are about to visit. Maybe there’s even some movies that capture the spirit of Holland and/or France An American in Paris, anyone?).

Your next step is one of the most important: packing for your European vacation. As long as you follow a few guidelines, you’ll be in good shape.

First, make sure that your suitcase adheres to the baggage allowances set forth by your touring company as well as your airline.

Secondly, be sure to pack comfortable clothes and shoes for touring every day. You will be doing a lot of bus riding as well as walking, so you want to make sure your clothes are appropriate for both activities.

Additional funds should be brought with you for optional excursions, souvenirs, tipping, and the like. Read up on more advisories for your trip here.

And now… It’s finally here! The day you leave for your terrific trip to Europe! You have an amazing journey ahead of you through Holland and France, so be sure to get some rest on your overnight flight.

 

Day 2: Welcome to Holland, also known as The Netherlands!

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

It’s your first full day in Europe, and it will be well-spent in the countryside of Holland. The country is known for its tulips, dikes, canals, and windmills. Since a good portion of the land is at or below sea level, dikes and canals help control flooding that has previously devastated The Netherlands.

Your day concludes in Rotterdam, where you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner before getting some shut-eye after a long, but enjoyable, day.

 

Day 3: Speaking of windmills, see 19 of them in Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Today’s first attraction happens to also be a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the windmills of Kinderdijk. Built in 1740, these 19 ancient windmills have witnessed history unfold for centuries.

Continue on into Delft, known for its blue pottery, or Delftware. Be sure to grab a piece or two to bring back with you or give as a gift to loved ones back home.

A drive through The Hague takes you by Dutch Parliament and the Royal Family, but it’s not the final activity of the afternoon to look forward to.

You will experience all things “gouda” at a local dairy farm that produces gouda cheese. A traditional Dutch dinner is served here for a truly memorable evening.

 

Day 4: Zeeland’s Delta Works keep the island from the perils of the North Sea.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

In 1953, almost 2,000 people died in a horrendous flood from the North Sea. It was only 20 days later that a Delta commission was formed to decide how to best prevent future flooding catastrophes. And so, the Delta Works, were born. You will see them at work during your visit to Zeeland, an island off of Holland’s coast.

Your night will be spent, not in The Netherlands nor in France, but in Belgium. Dine in a cafe or restaurant along the cobbled streets of Bruges. Tomorrow, you will be in France.

 

Day 5: Rouen remembers Joan of Arc, Richard the Lionheart, and Claude Monet.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Your arrival in France brings you to Rouen, a city known for its history, art, and architecture. Joan of Arc was brought to the castle here in 1431, only to be later burned at the stake. There are now monuments to her in the city as well as a church in her name.

The Roman Catholic Gothic Cathedral is a fine example of gothic architecture. Here you will also find the tomb of Richard the Lionheart.

Claude Monet painted the Cathedral in more than 30 paintings during the 1890s. These paintings are on display all over the world, including Washington D.C.

 

Day 6: Spend a solemn day on the beaches of Normandy, honoring those who risked it all for their country.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

There may be no more memorable day on your tour than this. While it is sad to think of the lives lost in Normandy on D-Day, we will forever be grateful for their bravery in fighting for our freedom.

See Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the site where paratroopers landed in The Longest Day. Visit Utah Beach and see the bunkers there as well as the museum. The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach recognizes the heroism of those who never made it back home.

If you are interested, there is also the opportunity to see German fortifications at Pointe Du Hoc.

 

Day 7: Live luxuriously, like the French royals, in Loire Valley.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, French royals preferred living in the country as opposed to busy and congested Paris. The Loire Valley is an enchanting region to relax in, especially by the river.

But nothing compares to the charming chateau (more like castle), Chenonceau. This elite edifice spans the River Cher and is surrounded by gardens and forests. While it may look like you’ve stepped into a Disney fairy tale, it really is real.

 

Day 8: Romans planted vineyards dating back to the 2nd Century in Saint-Emilion.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Saint-Emilion produces wine from vineyards that were planted by the Romans, all the way back in the 2nd Century. The fact that these vineyards are still around today is a big deal—so much so that the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Be sure to sample the wine from these special vineyards as well as explore the village full of Romanesque churches and ancient ruins.

 

Day 9: Sip renowned Bordeaux wine at one of the many vineyards in the area.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Hopefully you didn’t get your fill of wine in Saint-Emilion because, today, you’re in Bordeaux. There are some 1,810 hectares of vineyards in this region (and guess what—they’re a UNESCO site!), so wine-tasting is a must.

You can also spend your day touring museums, shopping, dining, or strolling through parks. A drive through the wine roads will open your eyes to the lush vineyards throughout Bordeaux.

 

Day 10: Lovely Lourdes lies amongst the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of Spain.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Not all of Southern France is on the Mediterranean—quite oppositely, France’s border with Spain lies amongst the Pyrenees Mountains. And along that border is the town of Lourdes.

Many Catholics make a pilgrimage to Lourdes, where it is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. Since then, the Torchlight Marian Procession has taken place nightly to pay tribute to the apparitions.

Those participating in the procession hold candles that have a covering with the story of the apparitions inscribed upon it. Come rain or shine, the procession takes place every night.

 

Day 11: Visit the Grotto of Massabielle, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous began having visions at the age of 14. These visions were of a white lady, who many believe to have been of the Virgin Mary. As the lady never confirmed that she was in fact Mary, she now is known as “Our Lady Lourdes.”

See the Grotto of Massabielle, where Bernadette experienced these visions. Then, tour The Sanctuary of Our Lady Lourdes and learn more about the 18 visions the young girl had.

Your journey continues east to Carcassonne, a fortified settlement built in the 12th Century. This hilltop fortress is famous for its 53 watchtowers and double walls.

 

Day 12: Be in awe of the ancient, but amazing, Pont du Gard aqueduct.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Looming three tiers high, stretching fifty kilometers, and made with over fifty thousand tons of stone, the Pont du Gard Aqueduct arches stoically across the Gard River. This Roman aqueduct was built in the First Century to carry water over the river to the city of Nimes. Unsurprisingly, this architectural and technical feat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After a photo opportunity, you’ll continue on to Châteauneuf-du-Pape for an afternoon of wine tasting before settling into Avignon for the night.

 

Day 13: Go see the inspiration for many of Van Gogh’s paintings.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

The famous Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh, admitted himself into an asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where you will visit today. The hospital gardens, Roman ruins near the property, and sur­rounding landscape became the subjects for some of Van Gogh’s paintings. Too bad his life would end only a year later.

Afterwards, explore Les Baux-de-Provence, a town carved into a mountain. With sandy colored buildings set into the rocks, it is not always certain where town and mountain meet in this intriguing town.

 

Day 14: Walk amongst the stars in Cannes, on the French Riviera.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Every year, the Cannes Film Festival brings celebrities from around the world to feature their new films. Chances are you won’t be visiting Cannes while the festival is occurring, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on walking amongst the stars…

The Walk of Fame (or Path of the Stars) can be found outside of the Palais des Festivals. Be sure to search out names of your favorite actors, such as Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, and Julie Andrews.

While you’re at the French Riviera, why not take a trip to Monte Carlo for some casino fun and games? Maybe luck will be on your side!

 

Day 15: Marvel at the village that Marc Chagall lived in and painted for the final years of his life.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Famed artist, Marc Chagall, dabbled in many different painting styles, including cubism and surrealism. He spent the last 19 years of his life in St. Paul de Vence, where he painted, but also created works of stained glass, for which he was highly praised.

See the town where he lived out the remainder of his life and was buried at the age of 97. Truly, he was one of the last great masters of modern art.

 

Day 16: Travel to Paris via one of Europe’s famed high-speed trains.

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Over the last two weeks, you have slowly, but steadily, made your way from The Netherlands to the South of France. It’s time to take things up a notch with a high-speed train to Paris. In just five hours, you will be there.

Enjoy an independent dinner in one of Paris’ famous streetside bistros. Grab a glass of wine and sit outside below the twinkling stars (or perhaps it’s just the lights of the city!).

 

Day 17: Ah, Paris, the City of Light! What a finale to your trip!

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Today, be a true tourist. There is only so much daylight and so many wonderful places to see in the City of Light! Of course, you must go by the Eiffel Tower, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Just down the River Seine is Notre Dame Cathedral.

Walk down Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe or go shopping in the famous Galeries Lafayette department store.

Art-lovers, spend hours strolling the halls of the Louvre for classical artwork and Musée d’Orsay for the modern pieces.

Tonight, you might catch your last glimpses of Paris in the Old Town district of Montmartre, where at the top of the hill you can overlook the entire city.

Paris really does have it all.

 

Day 18: Bon Voyage, Europe!

The Best of Western Europe: 18 Days of Art, History, and Food

Somehow, your trip to Holland and France is over. As you wait for your airplane to depart, be sure to buy some last minute souvenirs. Postcards are a great choice—they’re easy to pack and have a picture so that you will always remember your trip.

As your plane ascends into the clouds, take time to reflect on your trip. What was your favorite part? Did you make any new friends? Plan on reaching out to them soon after you arrive home. Journal your favorite memories so that you will be able to relive your trip over and over again.

 

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5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

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People have lots of emotions when that last child leaves the nest. And not all of them are bad, by the way.

Many people find a lot of advantages in the Empty Nester lifestyle. In fact theres more freedom to come and go, more time to do the things they enjoy, and often, more money to spend on guilty pleasures and postponed plans like bucket-list travels.

If you’re an empty nester who has put off personal dreams for the needs of your kids, there’s something you should know.

Now is the perfect time to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe.

Here are five reasons why it’s going to be better than you ever imagined, now that you’re on your own.

You Choose Your Own Travel Priorities

5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

If you’re used to taking trips with your kids, you are probably used to skipping the galleries and museums that tug at your soul because you know your kids won’t enjoy them.

You probably pretended you weren’t really interested in that botanical garden anyway, just to avoid a squabble.

As an empty nester in Europe, however, all that’s about to change.

Want to spend a day Toledo, Spain admiring the Cathedral and Synagogue followed by a sipping Sangria at a sidewalk café? Does your dream tour of Spain include hours spent wandering the Prado Museum.

Exploring the fascinating grounds of the Granada Alhambra, free from the mutters of “Can we leave now?”

If you’re an empty nester traveler, that dream is your reality. You can visit every single World War II memorial and battlefield that captures your interest without constantly worrying that your children are bored.

And if you’re doing the Big Three (Paris, London, and Rome), you can check off all those bucket-list sights you’ve only ever read about until now.

Think of the places you can visit; Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, the British Museum, the Tate, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona (the list goes on and on).

You’ve got all the time in the world to see things your way.

In fact, the travel advantages start before you even leave home. Imagine being able to choose an itinerary based around the cities and countries you and your partner really want to see.

If you’d rather skip the more traditional European hotspots in favor of a deep dive into the glorious countryside of the British Isles, it’s your choice.

You shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about skipping the tourist attractions if you want.

Enjoy the Most Unusual and Delectable International Cuisine

 

5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

Let’s face it, traveling, especially internationally, with kids often means looking for restaurants that serve boring American cuisine like burgers and chicken nuggets.

You may even find yourself lunching at McDonald’s when your kids turn up their noses at that charming fish and chips place on the Thames you want to try. That’s a tragedy when you’ve waited for years for your dream trip to Europe.

Traveling without kids, however, means you don’t have to account for their picky appetites. You can enjoy long, leisurely meals in true Italian style, as course after course—the primo, the secondo, the contorno, and the dolce—arrives at your table.

If you’re lucky enough to find a tour of a lovely Tuscan winery or sample a sip at a Munich biergarten—all the better. When you’re an empty nester, the sky is the limit when it comes to enjoying international cuisine.

Of course, you can’t overlook the sheer pleasure of waking up early and launching your day with nothing but a croissant and coffee.

Children need three squares a day, but you’re free to eat what you want when you want. And if that’s a bite on the go so you don’t miss a moment exploring, there’s no one to whimper, “I’m hungry.”

Best of all, perhaps, is that you can order even the most unusual dishes—think morcilla (blood sausage) in Spain, escargot (snails) in France, or gerookte paling (smoked eel) in Holland, for example. No one at the table will pull a face and call you weird.

Just one more reason it’s not so bad to travel without your kids.

Slow or Fast, the Pace of Your Tour Is up to You

5 Reasons Europe Is Best When You’re an Empty Nester

Remember what is was like taking your children to the zoo? They could dawdle for hours at the monkey enclosure laughing at their antics, but they’d rush right by the exotic birds you love to watch without even a passing glance.

They were in charge of the pace.

As an empty nester in Europe, however, nothing is further from the truth. Imagine you’re on a guided tour of European capitals on the day you’re exploring Berlin. In just one day, you might—

  • Visit the Reichstag and marvel at the huge glass dome.
  • Walk through the Brandenburg Gate.
  • Take your picture at Checkpoint Charlie.
  • Explore the bombed tower of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.
  • Meander through the Kurfurstendamm and do a little shopping
  • Tour the Jewish Museum and the Topography of Terror—or any of Berlin’s amazing museums.
  • Enjoy a romantic dinner at the Restaurant Hof Zwei or other swanky inn.

There’s no space in that itinerary for dawdling or naps, something you have to consider traveling with kids.

And when that romantic dinner runs late in the night? Well, there’s no curfew for empty nesters. You can even go dancing in the moonlight when you’re done if it catches your fancy.

Your Schedule Is More Flexible Without School to Consider

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Empty nesters aren’t bound by the rigid schedules of children in school, when the only acceptable times to travel are winter break and summer vacation. Which are not the best times for visiting Europe, truth be told.

Of course, you could take two weeks in summer to visit Italy with the kids, but you’d have hot weather, large crowds, and higher airfare. You might even squeeze in a trip to London over Christmas break, if you don’t mind cold, wet weather and a crush of holiday shoppers.

Europe is really at its finest when most children are in school.

Springtime in Paris is the stuff of Hollywood love stories and Frank Sinatra songs. The cherry blossoms explode over the Ile de la Cite and the magnificent chestnut groves along the Champs Elysees erupt with sweetly scented flowers.

Holland is especially colorful at Tulip Time in April and early May, when the fields are bursting with colorful flowers.

And there’s nothing like autumn in Tuscany with its magnificent colors and fabulous weather. It’s the season of festivals and celebrating the harvest.

Truffles and porcini mushrooms, lush sweet grapes, and rich black olives and fresh-pressed oil are abundant in fall, making it the best time to visit for gastronomes.

When you’re an empty nester on vacation, you don’t have to miss a thing and you can stay as long as you like.

Even a three-week grand tour of the Heart of Europe® is possible.

You Can Spend More Money on Yourself for a Change

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Be honest, when you travel with kids, about 90% of your vacation budget is consumed on keeping them happy. Theme park tickets, silly souvenirs, and $6 sodas add up fast when you go to Disneyland.

As an empty nester, however, you can spoil yourself for a change.

Treat yourself to an opera in Vienna at the Vienna State Opera House followed by a luxurious dinner with fine wine and a sumptuous slice of sachertorte slathered in chocolate ganache.

Buy that one-of-a-kind Murano glass sculpture you can set on your mantle at home to remind you forever of your dream tour of Europe.

Take in the cabaret in Paris, a flamenco dance in Spain, a fado performance in Portugal or a theater production in London.

If you’re on a guided tour, go ahead and book that optional excursion to visit the Linderhof Palace in Bavaria or enjoy a Tyrolean Show. Marvel over the crown jewels in the Tower of London, glide along in a riverboat cruise on the Seine, or listen to a fascinating explanations of Pompeii.

Buy yourself something fabulous from a fashion house on the Rue Saint Honore or the Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris. Have your portrait drawn at the Tuileries outside the Louvre. Purchase a painting from a sidewalk artist or gallery.

Indulge your interests and, visit a vineyard, tour a sherry bodega, or learn how Waterford Crystal is made.

Treat your European tour like the once-in-a-lifetime adventure it is and enjoy every minute with yourself as the star. That’s something only an empty nester can do.

Final Thoughts…

Europe is always a marvelous place to travel, with or without your family.

But empty nesters have the advantage. You can make it the trip you’ve always imagined and see everything you’ve always wanted to see. And you’ll have lovely memories to share with your kids once you get home (and maybe even a box of exquisite chocolates, too).

If you’re ready to plan your empty-nester European tour of a lifetime, get in touch today. Why not spend Paris in spring next year?

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