Author Archives: Paul - GetAway Travel Service

Port wine: A Portugal treasure

Port wine is to Portugal as Champagne is to France. Each of those spirits have to be prepared using strict guidelines and their ingredients have to be sourced from a certain area. The only sparkling wine that can be called Champagne must come from the Champagne Wine Region of France and the only wine that can be labeled “Port” has to be from the Douro Valley of Portugal. 

Whether you are a port person or a champagne connoisseur, GetAway Travel can construct a trip for you. We’re working on a port-forward trip right now! It takes you to the Douro Valley and it’s aboard a fabulous modern ship designed for river cruising. 

What’s all the fuss about location? 

 The narrow Douro Valley has its own microclimate which makes it the optimal area to produce grapes used in port. In the 1700s, Portugal’s prime minister took measures to distinguish the specific area of the Douro Valley as being the only area where true port could be produced. It set production standards, the same way there are standards set for only some sparkling wines to be known as champagne. 

Port Casks aging at Offley

The unique aspect of the valley is that the soil as well as the terraced vineyards, were transformed by hand. The vineyard owners worked the soil to produce specific grapes and the terraces were set up to retain water as well as drain water if needed. More than 80 types of grapes are produced in the valley. Many of the vineyards have to still harvest by hand because of the way they are set up. 

Port wine must be at least two years old before it can be sold to the public and producers are only allowed to sell 30% of what they make so there is always port wine aging with producers. The port “winters” in the valley in barrels or kegs because that type of climate helps the fortifying agent mix with the wine. It then is moved to Porto (where it gets its name) because the humid, mild climate there is better for continued aging. 

Port tasting in Porto

 Tell me more about port 

 Port wine is not a chugging wine, it’s a sipping wine most often served with dessert or even as a dessert. It is considered the most delicious dessert wine on the planet! 

It is a fortified wine (more on that later) and it is richer, sweeter, heavier and higher in alcohol content than normal wines. It has an alcohol content somewhere between 19 and 20%. Heady stuff, but it goes great with fine cheeses and rich desserts. 

There are two main kinds of port, ruby and tawny. 

Ruby is slightly less sweet than tawny and it has berry and chocolate undertones. Tawny has caramel and nut nuances, but aged tawny can also have undertones of graphite, hazelnut, almond, butterscotch and graham cracker. 

There’s also white port, rose port and vintage port. Vintage port is rare, it is made from the best grapes of a single type of grape. Port houses declare a port wine as “vintage” only a few times in a decade. 

very old Vintage Port

 Do they still stomp the grapes? 

 Yes, yes they do — and here’s why. Those bitter seed nibs in grapes do nothing to add to the taste of port and feet stomping the grapes slide over the seeds and they can be drained out later. Some vineyards do employ mechanical feet machines to crush the grapes and they cross their fingers not a lot of the seeds get crushed. 

The harvested grapes, all picked in one day, are put in granite treading tanks and stomped to release the juice and the pulp from the skins. It is a synchronized process to make sure all of the grapes get crushed. When that is done and the skins are floating to the top of the tanks, the treading continues to keep moving the skins under the juice so fermentation starts. When about half of the natural sugar has fermented, the treading stops and the skins are allowed to sit on the top of the tank and the juice is drained out. The wine is then fortified with a distilled grape spirit called brandy. The sugar turns to alcohol and that’s where the high alcohol content happens. 

View from Taylor tasting room in Porto

 Tell me more! 

 Drink port with rich cheeses like bleu cheese, chocolate and caramel desserts, salted and smoked nuts and even sweet, smoky meats. You can add it to chocolate cakes or chocolate sauces and it can be simmered to a thick sauce, similar to a balsamic glaze. 

Rosé port should be served ice cold. It’s very trendy to serve it cold in the summer with a twist of lime. 

White port should be served cold, tawny port should be cool, like about 50 to 58° Fahrenheit and ruby should be served at cellar temperature which is about 60°. Port should be stored on its side and set upright about 24 hours ahead of serving and decanted if possible. The shelf life of port is about halfway between wine and liquor. 

We could talk about port all day, but we’d rather you learn more on a trip to the Duoro Valley. Contact us about that trip, or any other fabulous trip you’ve been thinking about. We can be reached at:(262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel 

Floriade goes green in a BIG way

Whether you are tip-toeing through the tulips or buying bulbs by the bushel, the Netherlands is the place to go for flowers and more. The country sells 3/4 of the world’s flower bulbs, is No. 1 in greenhouse horticulture and it’s the leading global exporter of cut flowers. 

Now imagine all that and more, much more — and you’ll have some idea of what Floriade Expo 2022 is like. 

Every 10 years, the world, yes — the world, celebrates all things flora and fauna with a fabulous international horticulture exhibition that runs from April to October. This year’s festival is in Almere which is a stone’s throw from Amsterdam. Your travel advisors at GetAway Travel are ready to help plan your trip to Holland and this epic exhibition. 

 Floriade started in 1960 

 Every 10 years, Floriade is held in the flower trading capital of Europe. The pandemic delayed the 2020 exhibition until 2022, but countries continued to work on their show contributions and attendees this year will see some spectacular exhibitions that benefitted from two extra years of work. 

The show has been held in Amsterdam and the Hague among other locations, but this year’s location, Almere, is fitting considering the theme. The main expo theme is “Growing Green Cities,” and the reason why it fits the area, is because Almere was reclaimed from the sea. 

Once the expo ends in October, the expo site will be renamed Hortus, which means “garden” in Latin. The nearly 150-acre site will be turned into a residential neighborhood with 300 eco homes and the pavilions that countries built for their exhibitions will be used by the neighborhood. 

The site has its own electric train system to take visitors around and it also has its own aerial cable system.  

 It’s not just a giant flower show 

 The more than 3,000 trees, shrubs, creepers, perennials, flower bulbs and hydrophytes have been chose for their special qualities on how they can contribute to greener urban spaces, biodiversity, air purification, food production and city climate management. They fit the four sub-themes of: Greening the city, Feeding the city, Healthying the city and Energizing the city. 

The 40 participating countries built their own pavilions and landscapes as a way to house their exhibits as well as showcase their horticultural technology in a controlled environment. 

The individual countries demonstrate new technologies, future products, solutions for making urban life more “green,” different food supplies and horticulture that helps with energy use or savings and how “green” products will help keep you, cities and the climate healthy. 

There are competitions that run throughout the six-month Floriade expo. They are set up to replicate how plants would change through the seasons because the controlled environments will have “seasonal” changes! The competitions range from “crop plants” to house plants, patio plants, bonsai and exotics such as orchids. Some have compared the competitions at Floriade to the Olympics of horticulture. 

If you are interested in plants, climate change, technology, urban planning and the environment, Floriade is your opportunity to totally “geek” out with others who have those same interests. 

During the expo run, there is live entertainment from jazz bands to orchestras. And you won’t go hungry. There are food trucks, food stalls, fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants with seasonal fare and, yes — plant-based meals. 

 A sample of the countries participating and their exhibits 

 The Netherlands, as you might expect, has the largest exhibit area with a hypermodern greenhouse where you can trace the life of a plant from a seed to your table, if you wish. But there are flowers, roses, trees, shrubs, and dozens of exhibits of sustainable gardening and living.

Taste edible flowers in Belgium’s expo area, see a Chinese bamboo garden and experience Chinese landscape architecture in that country’s pavilion. China has the largest international garden with peonies, hibiscus and chrysanthemums. And their garden has cultural exhibits including calligraphy and fine art. Cyprus’s pavilion shows how a barren landscape can become a park and France and Germany’s exhibition halls showcase modern horticulture. At the German pavilion, you can get a “smart” bracelet which lets you participate in interactive exhibits. India’s exhibit area helps you explore the spiritual aspects of the garden experience and Thailand’s area has a huge garden with water lilies, curcuma and ornamental plants as well as a children’s playground amongst a vegetable and herb garden. Explore the connection between garden, farmland, forest and city in the Japanese pavilion and the Qatar and United Arab Emirates pavilions display plants that can thrive under their countries’ extreme conditions. 

 GetAway Travel can plan your trip to the Netherlands for your Floriade experience and we can also help you extend your trip to Amsterdam.

Many of our River Cruise partners have new itineraries that include a visit to Floriade – please call for details.

We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel 

Experience the glow, elegance of Salamanca, Spain

Salamanca, located in the northwestern part of the country is considered one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Spain and it’s part of GetAway Travel’s Porto to Porto River Cruise. Take our river cruise and experience Portugal, Port Wine and Salamanca which visitors have compared to walking into a spectacular movie set because of its elegant architecture. 

 The “glow” and some history 

 Salamanca started as a village on top of a hill and a walk through the city especially the Historic Center, reveals architecture in the style of Romanesque, Gothic, Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque. It is nicknamed La Dorada or the Golden One because the sandstone building appear to glow gold in the early morning sun and during sunsets. Take in a breath-taking sunset on the Roman Bridge when the fading sun makes the bridge glow. 

New Cathedral, Salamanca

Salamanca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and a European Capital of Culture in 2002 due to its well-preserved cultural and artistic sites including the university and Mayor Square. 

 The university and joined cathedrals 

 The Universidad de Salamanca is one of the oldest examples of university facilities. Not only is a monument to international education, but it is also a piece of fascinating architecture. 

International students flock to the university and their presence in the city adds color and vibrancy. Founded in the 1100s, the university was recognized as a key intellectual center in the 15th and 16th centuries. 

Salamanca University

It played host to such notables as Miguel de Cervantes, Christopher Columbus, Ignatius Loyola and Hernan Cortés. The library boasts 160,000 leather-bound volumes. 

Visitors stand and study the fabulous carvings on the facade of the building searching for the frog sitting on the skull. It is a tribute to Prince Juan who fell ill and died in his teens. The frog represents his physician, Dr. Parra. 

Frog on the Skull

Salamanca’s New and Old Cathedrals were built in different centuries, but are joined together. The Cathedral of Santa Maria or Old Cathedral was built from the 12th to the 14th century. The interior has beautiful tombs of bishops and nobility as well as paintings, murals and carvings. The exterior of New Cathedral has fascinated visitors because of its mysterious futuristic carvings. One carving appears to be an astronaut and another seems to be a gargoyle snacking on an ice cream cone. Take the tour of the New Cathedral (ask us about “skip the line” tickets) and you will get to the highest point of both cathedrals with fantastic views. 

Old Cathedral Interior

 The renowned plaza and other sights 

 The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is thought to be one of the most beautiful plazas, or city squares in Spain. It is THE meeting place, day or night. Formerly a bull fighting arena, it features 88 porticoed arches with carved medallions of famous people. The architectural style of the buildings is called Churrigueras, named after the family that created elaborate ornamental decorations on the outside of the buildings around the square. 

Plaza Mayor, Salamanca

A short walk from the square takes you to the Casa Lis Museum of Art Nouveau and Art Deco. There’s decorative art from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. You’ll find glass, porcelain figures, ivory, bronzes, enamels, paintings, furniture, jewels, toys and a Fabergé egg! 

The House of Shells, or Casa de las Conches has a history dating back to the Roman times. The front is studded by carved stone shells and the door is decorated with dolphins which were a symbol of love in the Renaissance era. Legend has it that under one of the shells is a hidden treasure. 

House of the Shells

The Ciela de Salamanca is small, but worth visiting. The ceiling fresco was painted by Fernando Gallego and it depicts the symbols of the zodiac along with their constellations. As you stare at the ceiling in the darkened interior, your eyes will adjust and the golden stars appear out of the gloom. 

Hornazo

 A word about the food  — fabulous. There’s tapas, hornazo which is a pastry stuffed with ham, bacon and sausage; suckling pig, farina which is a white Spanish sausage and a great bakery at the with cakes and candies. And this is just one stop on our planned getaway!  

 

Contact us about this trip, or another adventure you’ve been yearning to take — (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Bavaria offers castles, tales of the mad king and an unforgettable production

Bavaria is a region in southern Germany bordered by Austria and the Czech Republic. The Danube River winds through the center and it’s home to a lot of endearing old world customs, but it has a culture that is all its own. From beer halls to architecture, the culture of Germany intertwines with Bavarian culture. 

But Bavaria is like a fairy land. It has high mountains, serene lakes as big as oceans, castle ruins, enchanting castles that are still standing, charming medieval towns, quaint villages, tasty cuisine and beverages and the epic Passion Play that takes an entire town to produce. 

 

If you want to experience the charm of Bavaria, including the Romantic Road and the Passion Play, GetAway Travel has a group trip scheduled. Give us a call today to reserve a spot or two. 

 Is the Romantic Road — romantic? 

 Why, yes, the Romantic Road IS romantic. Honestly, it is the most popular tourist destination in Germany, but GetAway Travel travel advisors will help you navigate your way to the trip you want with enough of the touristy spots to be interesting, but some other great spots, too. 

Germany came up with the name and the destination in the 1950s when it was felt a little encouragement and positivity about the area was needed. It’s the scenic route from the River Main to the Alps and it really has everything. 

 Three walled cities 

Dinkelsbühl  Nördlingen and Rothenburg ob der Tauber are the three walled cities left in Bavaria and they happen to be on the Romantic Road route. 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Dinkelsbühl made it through the Swedish invasion in 1632 and in 1826 King Ludwig I issued a proclamation preserving the city buildings, walls and towers. Since the late 1800s, artists from around Europe have made Dinkelsbühl their home and the city has many artist studios which makes for great shopping opportunities. It’s a lovely city with homes painted in bright pastel colors with window boxes crowded with a profusion of flowers. 

Speaking of shopping, Rothenburg ob Der Tauber, which was the second largest city in Germany in the middle ages, has some spectacular Christmas shops including Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village which also contains a German Christmas Museum. 

Nördlingen is a circular walled city and the original theory was that it was built in a depression left by a volcano. And while that is interesting, the city is actually built in a depression from a meteor strike, which is even more interesting! When the meteor struck, it created something called suevite rock which contains glass and microscopic diamonds.The diamonds are built into the buildings and St. George’s Church contains more than 5,000 carats in diamonds. 

The city has a crater museum where American astronauts underwent geological training before making their trips to the moon. 

 Palaces galore, including the Mad King’s creations 

 King Ludwig II was king for all of two years before he was deposed for his lavish and maniacal spending, imprisoned in one of his own castles and he drowned in a lake of waist high water one day later with the doctor who had ruled him insane. He had three castles in various stages of construction when he was deposed. 

The most famous of Ludwig II’s castles is Neuschwanstein. Perched on a rocky ledge overlooking a grotto, it provided the inspiration for the castle in Cinderella. It, as well as his other castles, were actually not designed by architects, but by an opera set designer. Neuschwanstein was built with creature comforts including running water, an elevator, forced air heat and flushing toilets. The grand rooms were decorated in themes concentrating on heroic legends, operas and romantic literature. 

Linderhoff Place, in Ettal, is the smallest of Ludwig II’s palaces and the only one that was completed. It is modeled after Versailles and the lavish interior has an abundance of elaborate carvings with lots of gold leaf. The Moroccan House is on the palace grounds as well as a man-made Venus grotto. The sculpted gardens are accented by the picturesque backdrop of the foothills of the Alps. 

Linderhof

Hohenschwangau

One of the other castles of note on the Romantic Road is Heidelberg Castle. Set about 300 feet above the city, it is actually several buildings which ring a courtyard. The buildings were each built at a different time so they are in different architectural styles. It offers fabulous views of the countryside and — the world’s largest wine barrel! In 1751 Prince Elector Karl Theodor decided local winemakers needed to pay wine as their tax so he had the barrel built. It holds 58,124 gallons and it has a dance floor on the top. 

Moat at Heidelberg Castle

 The Passion Play and more places of note 

 In 1634 the villagers of Oberammergau prayed they would be spared from a plague and promised if they were, every 10th year they would perform a grand production commemorating the death and resurrection of Christ. Postponed for the past two years, the play will be presented in 2022.  

Presented in German, English text is provided and it runs for five hours. Yes, five hours, but you do get a meal break! Performed on an open air stage, it takes more than 2,000 performers, musicians and stage technicians to complete. 

Garmisch-Partenkirchen are two towns that were joined in 1936. One of the area’s top winter sports destinations, Garmisch is modern and trendy while Partenkirchen to the east exudes Old World charm. 

Ten minutes away is Eibsee where you can ride a cable car to the summit of Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak. Take a break at the top, have a beer, and take in the panoramic view of the mountain peaks and four countries. 

This is just a bit of what you can enjoy — there’s monasteries, churches with gorgeous paintings and frescoes (on the walls and ceilings), spaetzle, beer, sausage, schnitzel and lebkuchen which is a soft, chewy version of gingerbread with hazelnuts, candied fruit and lemon peel. 

If this is your idea of a getaway, GetAway Travel has you covered. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Picturesque Venice: A beautiful, serene floating city

There is just something so romantic about the idea of visiting a city built on water. Venice and its canals have provided a backdrop to many romantic movie scenes and its every bit as awesome in person. Venice is one of the stops on a planned GetAway Travel trip, but your travel advisors at GetAway can accommodate your wish to travel to the Floating City any time you wish! 

 Water, water everywhere 

 Venice, the capital of Northern Italy, is built on a series of more than 100 islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Since there is a finite surface area for building, residents continue to upgrade their homes and the classic palaces and estate homes — fabulous examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture — line the canals. There are no roads in Venice, so where ever you wander on foot, you will find something worth seeing since the city’s history goes back more than 1,000 years. 

Enjoy elaborate architecture and stunning art-filled palaces. Use gondolas, water taxis and canal boats to get around. A pro tip: you can’t just hail a gondola like a taxi in New York. If you are interested in a family tour or a romantic couples’ trip, reservations are necessary. 

There are things to see on every canal, but do plan a gondola ride on the Grand Canal. 

If you are taking a boat tour, or touring on of the other famous sites, you may find yourself standing in line waiting to buy a ticket. However, Venice, like many European cities, has something called “skip the line.” Your travel advisor can book tours or entrances to venues in advance and you can just — skip the line and gain entrance without wasting your precious vacation time. 

Rialto Bridge, Venice

 Palaces, paintings and piazzas 

 The city is divided into six sestieri districts, or neighborhoods with their own character, including San Marco which is the central district. The Piazza San Marco is a prime people watching spot and it’s where you will find St. Mark’s Basilica. It is decorated with art treasures seized during the fall of Constantinople. There are miles and miles of gold mosaics covering the domed ceilings and walls. The golden altar piece was put in the basilica in the early 12th century and eventually encrusted with 2,000 gems and precious stones. Walk across the Rialto Bridge to San Polo. The ornamental stone bridge is one of the most famous bridges in Venice  and a great place to take photos. 

Giant’s staircase Doges Palace

Vendors at the Rialto Market sell fish, produce, spices and some artisan products, but the San Polo district has great artisan shopping options and find designer items in the Calle Delle Mercerie or Calle Larga XXII Marzo areas. 

The Lion is the symbol of St Mark

Other churches of note include Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari and Santa Maria dei Miracoli. Santa Maria Gloriosa was started by the Franciscan monks in 1340 and it has some spectacular art pieces including a wooden statue of St. John the Baptist. While palaces and churches in Venice feature ornate facades of limestone and marble with ornate architectural embellishments, Santa Maria dei Miracoli is an exception. Designed by architect Pietro Lombardo, the facade is entirely of matched colored marble which creates intricate more ethereal designs. The interior is just as lovely. 

The Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia, was founded in 1750 as a sort of artist incubator and now it houses works from Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintoretto, Titan and Giambattista. The more than 800 paintings chronicle the evolution of Venetian art from the 14th to the 18th century. 

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a museum for modern art lovers. One of the first contemporary art museums in Italy, it has works by Pollock, Klee, Mondrian and de Chirico. It is located in a partially completed palace, the Palazzo Venir dei Leoni. 

 

Don’t skip a water taxi ride to Murano and Burano 

There are two great museums on lagoon islands a short distance from central Venice. Murano is home to the Museum of Glass. Glassmaking is a hot, fiery — and in the 13th century — potentially dangerous process. Especially dangerous to homes crowded together which was allegedly the reason why Murano was established as the area where all glassmakers were ordered to live. As a side note, it also meant the process was safeguarded in one area. Today, Murano glassmakers create everything from small items to huge, elaborate chandeliers. Watch a glass blowing demo at the museum and also learn the history of the art. 

Murano, Italy

Burano is a Venetian lagoon island renowned for its striking, brightly painted houses and delicate, handmade lace. According to historians, the homes were brightly painted to help guide fishermen in through the mists that rise up from the lagoon waters. 

Burano Island, Italy

From 1872 until the 1970s, the Lace School on Burano was in operation. The museum in the palace Podestá of Torcello has lovely pieces on display as well as videos about lacemaking and interviews with some of the school’s last students. 

 If you need help navigating the ins and outs of visiting Venice, want to join the group tour or want to design a vacation of your own with GetAway Travel, we’re here to help. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Embrace history, the outdoors and art in Stockholm

Islands and lots of water — Hawaii? No. 

Canals — Venice? No. 

Stockholm! Yes, Stockholm, referred to as the Venice of the North, the capital of Sweden sits on 14 islands. Fifty bridges connect the area and ferries and sightseeing boats help locals and tourists get around. It’s a great biking city. There are dedicated bike lanes throughout the city and it is estimated 70,000 city residents bike to work each day. 

Museums for everyone, even ABBA fans! 

 Stockholm has more museums per capita than any place else in the world. It has open-air museums, modern art museums, museums dedicated to sailing vessels and, yes, one for ABBA.  

The best museums are on Djargården. That’s also the island where city residents go for entertainment and to soak up some culture. The world’s first national park is located in the heart of Stockholm and it covers Ulriksdal, Haga, Brunnsviken and Djargården. The National Museum or Nationalmuseum, is on Djargården. It houses nearly 50,000 paintings including some Rembrandts, a huge porcelain collection and an entire floor devoted to what is called applied art. That encompasses design, ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, glass and industrial design. 

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Alhambra – part fortress, part palace, part garden and

Alhambra – Granada, Spain

Part fortress, part palace, part garden and part government city the medieval complex of Alhambra overlooking the city of Grenada is one of the top tourist attractions in Spain.  The eightAlhambra-and-Generalife-Granada-Spain_82h century old site was named for the reddish walls and towers that surrounded the citadel: al-qal’a al-hamra in Arabic means red fort or castle. It’s the only surviving city  of the Islamic Golden Age and a remnant of the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Islamic kingdom in Western Europe.

Alhambra offers up stunning ornamental architecture, lush gardens, cascading water features and breathtaking views of the city.  The impressive complex is deservedly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Here are the 4 primary attractions (there are many more and all you have to is explore)

Alcazaba – This is the oldest part of Alhambra.  The ruins of this massive fortress sit atop the crest of a hill and provides the finest views of the entire city and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

View of Grenada from Alcazaba

Palace of Charles V – The most recent addition, this 16th century building was commissioned following the Reconquista by Charles as a royal residence close to the Alhambra Palace.  It has an impressive circular courtyard and 2 museums inside.

Palace of Charles V

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Normandy offers history, gorgeous scenery

The historical significance of Normandy can’t be overlooked for it was here that the allies landed to liberate France in a battle which turned the tide of WWII. While it has no large port, which would seem an advantage to a beach assault, the cliffs offered natural cover. Those cliffs and the beach are iconic features in countless paintings and D-Day movies. 

Normandy Coast line

In addition to the somber historic importance of Normandy, it’s also considered the seat of impressionism. It’s famous for its cheeses, cider and other food stuffs. It has quaint cities, picturesque towns and lush green hillsides dotted with apple orchards and cows. And it’s just a couple of hours from Paris by fast train! 

Let the travel advisors at GetAway Travel put Normandy on your next trip itinerary. 

 Normandy fun facts 

 There are five UNESCO sites in Normandy and two of them are related to textiles. It has two capitals — Caen and Rouen. Monet lived and painted in Giverny in Normandy. 

Normandy coast

There are more than 30 Michelin-starred chefs in Normandy, as well as more than 100 gardens and 38 golf courses. 

Normandy is France’s apple capital with 800 varieties of apples grown there. Three apple beverages are produced in the region — Pays d’Auge which is a cider, Calvados and Pommeau. Traverse the apple route through Normandy and you’ll discover 16 producers of apple liqueur, it’s actually called the Cider Route.  

Calvados Distillery in Normandy

Calvados

Calvados aging in barrels

The hills in the region are dotted with apple orchards and happy cows. Normandy produces half of France’s milk, butter, cheese and cream. 

Joan of Arc was put on trial and martyred in Normandy. 

Joan of Arc Church – Rouen, France

Interior of the Church of Joan of Arc

 Some historical highlights… 

 The landing on Omaha Beach was the defining event in WWII and the site of the bloodiest battle because Omaha Beach was the largest of the five beaches where the Allied forces landed in 1944. The beginning of Operation Overlord or as it is also called, the Battle of Normandy, began the liberation of France. The American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer is the largest American cemetery in Normandy and it overlooks the beach. Visiting the area is an incredibly moving experience.  

American Cemetery, Normandy

Nearly 9,400 Americans lost their lives in the liberation of France. At the center of the cemetery is a small chapel with a mosaic depicting America blessing her soldiers as they left the country. By a reflecting pool in the Garden of the Missing is a wall where the 1,500 names of those who fought but were never returned, are engraved. The Overlord Museum details the landing and the subsequent liberation of Paris. A number of permanent collections include war vehicles, tanks, guns and personal items from soldiers. 

American Cemetery

Mont-Saint-Michel is a tidal island at the mouth of the Couesnon River. Surrounded by the sea at high tide, it was built on the 264 foot high rock in the 10th century. You can tour the abbey and the villages in the commune below. An aside: in France, areas referred to as communes are similar to incorporated municipalities in the United States.  

Mont Saint Michel – wikimedia

Wear comfortable footwear, a walking trek to the abbey offers the best options to take pictures of the surrounding countryside. 

Here’s a great stop in Normandy!

Honfleur is a quaint port with tall, narrow slate-sided homes. It is home to Musée de la Marine, a maritime museum devote to the history of fishing and shipping building in the area. The Musée Eugène Boudin has a spectacular collection of impressionist art featuring, of course, Boudin – but also Courbet, Isabel and Huet. Tour Saint-Catherine’s Church. After the stone church on its site was destroyed by fire, residents rebuilt using wood and the interior architecture resembles two overturned ship hulls. 

Honfleur – alleyway

Honfleur, France – harbor

Rouen is home to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. Construction on the cathedral started in the 12th century, it was damaged by fire and rebuilt and it is still considered the tallest church in France. It has fabulous stained glass windows, 60 statues and its architecture influenced Pissarro and Monet. Its three spires are three distinctive types of architecture. 

Cathedral Notre Dame Rouen

 More art sites and textile sites 

 Claude Monet, one of the most famous impressionists in the world, called Giverny home. You can tour his well-preserved home and even see the lily pond that inspired his famous “Water Lilies.” 

Lilly pond at Giverny

The Musée de Beaux-Arts de Rouen has artwork from Renoir, Degas and Monet as well as other works going back to the 1400s. Every major art movement is covered and there is also a collection of rare Russian icons. 

Bayeux, founded in the 1st century, is famous for the Bayeux tapestry. The 230-foot embroidered tapestry documents 75 scenes of William the Conqueror invading England. 

Bayeux tapestry detail

The Musée des Beaux Arts de la Deutelle is in Alençon. UNESCO recognized Alençon lace and by association, Alençon as worthy of historic recognition. The process to make the lace is mind-bogglingly intricate and when UNESCO added it as a “site” it added it to the “Representative List of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It takes more than 25 hours of labor to produce a square of lace the size of a postage stamp. At the museum, you can view exhibits of the lace as well as exhibits on how it is made. 

 GetAway Travel can help you plan a historical trip to Normandy — but we can also help you out with on-the-ground tours. Revel in the history, but also enjoy the culinary offerings of the region including seafood, of course — cheese, apple liquor and liqueurs, sausages and salt-marsh lamb. Reach us at: (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Riga, Latvia: one of the Baltic states crown jewels

Riga, Latvia is a happening place. Really, Riga, Latvia? Yep, the city has a spectacular variety of architecture including one of the largest representations of Art Nouveau, it’s got lots of entertainment options, shopping, fabulous food and its fair share of quirky places to visit. Riga is one of the places you can enjoy during our July 2022 cruise from Copenhagen to Stockholm. More details here — Baltic tour — or give us a call at 262-538-2140. 

 Riga fun facts 

Located on the Baltic Sea, Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States with a population over 630,000. Its Old Town is a UNESCO site and it has churches that date back to the city’s origins in 1201. It has medieval buildings, wooden buildings and fabulous examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Five religious denominations existed peacefully in Riga, each with its own church. Latvia’s president lived in a palace in Riga. Latvian is the oldest European languages and most of the country’s population speak Russian, Latvian and English. 

It has the fifth fastest internet in the world! 

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Diverse cultures leave their mark on Cordoba

Although tourists set their sights on Seville, Granada or Madrid when they think about visiting Spain, it would be a mistake not to go to Cordoba.  

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristiano

Cordoba is the only city in the world with four protected UNESCO sites. It is one of the few places in Europe where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together relatively peacefully. It is the home of the largest mosque in the world which co-exists with a cathedral. It was an important Roman city as well as a major Islamic center. It was the largest economic and culture center in the Western world. 

In southern Spain, Cordoba is a fabulous place to visit in spring or autumn. In the summer, temperatures can reach 100 or higher making sightseeing difficult. 

At GetAway Travel we can arrange your trip to Cordoba and some of the surrounding cities and make sure you have tickets to the bull-fighting museum and/or Cordoba’s month-long flower festival. 

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