Author Archives: Paul - GetAway Travel Service

Croatia: glamorous tourist and film maker destination

Quick quiz — what do Game of Thrones, Succession, Star Wars, Robin Hood, Knightfall and Captain America all have in common? They were all filmed, either in whole or in part, in Croatia. Where can you enjoy scuba diving, water skiing and surfing? Croatia or one of its islands. Where can you tour ancient Roman ruins AND vineyards? Croatia.  

Croatia coast line

We know, you are intrigued… and two great Croatia destinations are on deck for a GetAway Travel group in 2023, Venice, the Adriatic and Greece has two Croatia stops. 

Croatia was a Greek colony and later a Roman province. Croatian culture is a mixture of  Venetian, Hungarian, Austrian and Mediterranean influences. It has 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites, eight cultural and two natural. 

 Delightful Dubrovnik 

 Ancient ramparts, fortresses, towers and walls surround Dubrovnik which is considered a premiere tourist destination for European residents. It is nicknamed the Pearl of the Adriatic for its stunning Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, its fabulous Mediterranean scenery and its temperate climate year-round. 

Dubrovnik, Croatia

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dubrovnik’s Old Town area is great for people watching. The pedestrian-only walkway is lined with boutiques, cafés and restaurants. Enter Old Town through the Pile Gate, which shows up in a few Game of Thrones episodes. It is an imposing structure built in 1537. 

Pile Gate, Drubrovnik

Visit the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary also called Assumption Cathedral or Dubrovnik Cathedral. Built on the site of several other cathedrals, it is a great example of Roman Baroque architecture. The interior is just as lovely as the exterior. 

Assumption Cathedral, Dubrovnik

The Square of Loggia is an historic gathering place and home to some of the city’s most famous buildings and public monuments. Orlando’s Column is there as well as a 15th Century clocktower and the Fountain of Onofrio. 

Orlando

Just north of Dubrovnik is Pelješac a sort of finger-shaped peninsula along the coast. If you look up to the hillsides, you can see they are covered with vineyards. Croatian winemakers are proud of their red wines and many of the vineyards have signs inviting visitors to come in, take a tour and taste the wine. Robust reds are made from hardy grape varieties, like plavac mali and dingac that grow on the hillsides. The microclimates of the region allow vineyards to produce a variety of different wines. 

Pelješac, Croatia

 Savor history and the sea 

 Split is the second largest city in Croatia and it was built within the ancient walls of the gigantic Diocletian’s Palace. Built by Roman Emperor Diocletian, four huge gates allowed entrance to the palace. The palace includes three areas, the center Peristyle, the Cardo or main street and the cellar. Game of Thrones fans, the cellar might look familiar because it is where Daenerys kept her dragons when she was in Meereen. 

Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia

 The Cathedral of St. Domnius is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the world. Climb The Bell Tower for breath-taking views of the city — especially at night when the ruins are illuminated.  

Split is a bustling waterfront city and restaurants and cafes take advantage of the fabulous fresh seafood. Walk along the Riva Promenade and enjoy the sun, sea and the people. Sip a coffee, Croatia takes its coffee very seriously, and have a lavender ice cream. 

Split, Croatia

Speaking of the sea, there are hundreds of islands (ok, some are the size of a large rock) off the coast of Croatia, including the Dalmatian Islands. The Dalmatia region, which includes Split and Dubrovnik, is famous for its seafood platters which include mussels, shrimp, clams, squid, lobster and fresh octopus salad. 

Some of the larger islands have Italianesque towns and villages, each with a distinctive charm. 

If you travel along the coast, you’ll find towns and villages which offer boat tours and the tours usually include a seafood meal, free beverages and live music. 

 Speaking of food… 

 Unless you closely follow gastronomic geography, you will likely be surprised to learn some of the finest Croatian dishes are hand-made pasta called fuzi (a sort of bowtie pasta) covered in butter and white truffles.  

Gregada is a fish stew with potatoes, olive oil and fresh herbs and each area has a little twist on the stew ingredients. Peka is a roast meal of either meat or seafood with potatoes and vegetables. You can get pasta with tomato sauce, minced meat sauce or creamy mushroom sauce. Enjoy Croatian cheese dumpling soup and leave room for dessert. 

Peka

Between the boutiques and restaurants in the country’s cities and villages are bake and cake shops. Get strudel, with a variety of cheese or fruit fillings, fritules which are little round fried boozy doughnuts doused with rum, grappa or rose liqueur. Orehnjača is rolled dough with a walnut filling and makornjača is rolled dough with a poppy seed filling. Medjimurje is a custard layered cream cake with apples, walnuts, cottage cheese and poppy seed layers. Breskvice are to-die-for peach-shaped sandwich cookies. Not only is the chocolate ganache in the middle fabulous, but the peach shaped top and bottom layers are painstakingly hollowed out and filled with fruit preserves. Split is famous for Splitska Torta, it’s a layered cake with light meringue, orange-infused buttercream and sun dried figs and raisins. 

Fuzi Pasta dish

 Enjoy Croatia with a GetAway group, or talk to a GetAway Travel advisor about a visit that includes Split, Dubrovnik, the capital city of Zagreb and all things in-between. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

 

France beyond Paris

When you think of France, Paris is the first city that comes to mind. It’s an iconic destination because it’s home to the Arc D’Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées. But there’s plenty more to see and do in France. There’s vineyards, chateaus, museums, monuments, beaches, woods to explore and different cuisine to try. If you’ve “done” Paris, let GetAway Travel plan you a memorable trip somewhere else in the country that has so much to offer. 

 Strasbourg embraces dual cultures 

 Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region of France. The region is the part of France on the border of Germany. The area passed between French and German control several times in the 1600s. The area soaked up the culture of both countries and reflects an interesting blend of French and German influences.

Take a trip on the Alsace Wine Route and tour wineries and some of the quant villages around Strasbourg. But the city itself is gorgeous with its picturesque canals, half-timbered houses and stunning architecture. 

The Strasbourg Cathedral, or the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, is a prime example of gothic architecture and many say it has more charm than the Notre-Dame de Paris. When you finish admiring the architecture outside, there’s a gorgeous astronomical clock inside. Hike the  322 steps to the top platform for phenomenal views of the city.  

Learn more about the region and its history at the Alsatian Museum and don’t forget to visit the city’s main square, Place Kleber. It’s worth a visit any time, but during the Christmas market season, there’s a skating rink, a gigantic Christmas tree and a wonderland of festive decorations. 

The whole city has an eclectic feel because of the dual influences as well as the fact it has the second largest student population in all of France. 

 Rugged, friendly Brittany 

 The long, rugged coastline of Brittany in the northwestern most part of France, is dotted with resorts and vacation homes. It is known as the Pink Granite coast because the sand and rock has a sort of blush-tinted hue. 

It is an area with an amazing diversity of landscapes — from moody moors to verdant forests and sweeping seascapes all intermingled with medieval villages and fairy-tale castles. 

Saint-Malo is a Breton port designed as a citadel, or fortified stronghold, and the medieval fortifications are still visible around the city. You can tour the Château de Saint-Malo which dates to the 14th and 15 centuries and visit the Cathédrale Saint-Vincent which was a part of a complex that housed bishops. Visit the palace, the cloisters, the cathedral and the cannon’s houses. The interior, including the stained glass windows, is stunning. 

Quimper is a picture-postcard of a city in Brittany. There are pastel-painted half-timbered homes, cobblestone streets and pedestrian footbridges decorated with flowers. The Musée of Beaux Arts features works from Dutch and Flemish painters as well as paintings from post-Impressionist Masters. There is a museum devoted to faience which is a tin-decorated pottery made in Quimper. Brittany’s rich cultural heritage is on display at the Musée Départemental Breton.  

A fact beach-goers should pay attention to: Brittany has the fastest tides in all of Europe. 

 Marseille: a port city with a rich past 

 The oldest and second-most populated city in France, Marseille was named the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and it still has a wide variety of theaters, concert halls and museums.  

The MuCEM is the newest addition to Marseille’s cultural offerings. It is a museum dedicated to Europe and the Mediterranean. Permanent and rotating exhibits highlight the historical and cultural influences that shaped the region. You can also explore the attached ruins of Fort Saint-Jean. The island fortress of Château d’If should be familiar to readers, it played a part in Alexandre Dumas’s classic, “The Count of Monte Crisco.” On the highest hill near the city is the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. Constructed in the Neo-Byzantine style, the church’s dominant feature is a gilded Madonna. 

 The Palais Longchamp is an amazing complex of museums and gardens. It is more of a monument than a palace. It was built to acknowledge the engineers who worked 15 years to construct a series of canals to bring water to the drought-stricken area from the Durance River in the Alps. There is, of course, a stunning fountain and other water features as well as two museums. The Musée des Beaux Arts has three centuries of paintings and the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle has 80,000 animal specimens and 20,000 plant exhibits. 

Shop and stroll on La Canebière. There are clothing boutiques, bakeries, cafes and local artisan shops. A fantastic Christmas market is held here every year. Does it look familiar? The avenue was featured in French Connection 2. 

 Culture, castles, cuisine, wine — whatever your area of interest, the advisors at GetAway Travel can craft you a vacation that hits all the marks. Reach us at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Rugged beauty, adventure await visitors to Wales

Located in southwest Great Britain, Wales is a small country, but it’s a huge, scenic adventure land teeming with castles, mystery, mountains, nature reserves, rich rolling hills, beaches and pristine lakes and rivers. If you’re interested in a vacation spiced with steam trains, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, surfing, zip lining, pubs, cheese, dolphins and puffins, then GetAway Travel is ready to help you make some memories. 

 Culture, castles and coastlines 

 The culture of Wales is built on myths and legends and you’d expect nothing less from a country that has a dragon featured on its flag. Wales gave us characters like Merlin and Arthur and the Elvish language from “The Lord of the Rings” is based on Welsh. 

The Welsh people are incredibly welcoming and proud of their heritage and country. 

One of the prettiest cities in Wales is Criccieth, at the top of Cardigan Bay in North Wales. The ruins of Criccieth Castle are on the cape which pushes out into the bay. A trip to the ruins offers great views including Snowdonia National Park. The hills and peaks of the mountain range are magnificent and Mt. Snowdon reaches up 3,546 feet and can be accessed by train. 

Speaking of trains, residents of Wales have lovingly restored steam train railways. Many of the rail lines are owned and maintained by trusts. You can take a train to a destination, or just around the area to admire the scenery.  

Porthmadog is near Criccieth and is the home of Porthmadog Heritage Railway. Take the train on a stunning 25-mile trip through the Aberglaslyn Pass and pass Brecon Becons National Park. 

Conwy Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site is about an hour from Criccieth. Built by King Edward I, it is thought to be at least 1,000 years old. A restored spiral staircase takes you to the battlements and you can see Snowdonia in the distance. It has the most intact set of medieval royal apartments of any of the castles in Wales. Conwy Castle is considered one of the finest examples of military European architecture. 

Llandudno is nearby and it is Wales largest holiday resort and at the far end of the beach is a huge limestone peninsula. Rising 700 feet straight from the sea, views from the Great Orme are amazing. A cable car will take you to the top, but taking one of the walking trails means you can watch the kestrels swoop around. You could also get a glimpse of the sure-footed Kashmir goats. The goats are direct descendants of a pair gifted to Queen Victoria. Take a relaxing stroll on the Llandudno pier which is the longest pier in Wales. 

As long as you are in the area, don’t miss Portmeirion. This tourist destination is an Italian village set in the Welsh countryside. Designed and built by Sir Cough Williams-Ellis, it was created to show how a tourist site could exist and still have the natural beauty of the area around it. “The Prisoner” television series was filmed here. 

 Nightlife, books and cheese 

 Cardiff is the capital of Wales and renowned for its shopping and great nightlife and restaurants. But it has a lot more to offer. Tour Cardiff Castle and marvel at the Arab room with its gold-leaf decorated kaleidoscope ceiling. Then there’s the Animal Wall with amazing animal sculptures perched on different parts of the outer wall. 

Visit Techniquest, a science center with 100 hands-on interactive projects. Speaking of hands on, try your hand at throwing a pot or two in the historic pottery studio at St. Fagan’s National Museum of History. St. Fagan’s is actually a castle and throughout the acres of parkland are more than 40 historical or meticulously recreated buildings designed to show Welsh culture, history and traditions. 

Cardiff has large central sports stadiums for cricket, rugby and football and you can book a white water rafting adventure at Cardiff International Sports Village. 

Hay-on-Wye is on the border of England and Wales. Every spring the population expands to more than 80,000 for the annual Festival of Literature and Arts. If you are a book lover, visit Hay-on-Wye even if the festival isn’t going on. There are more than two dozen bookstores and you can get your hands on everything from new to first editions. 

If history floats your boat, Swansea, once a major Welsh port, has the National Waterfront Museum. The museum chronicles Swansea’s maritime history. Exhibits show how the waterfront has changed over the years and there are interactive exhibits to educate visitors about the local environment and wildlife. 

Remember, the national snack of Wales is Welsh rarebit which is savory cheese sauce broiled on toast. The country is home to award-winning cheddars and goat cheeses as well as a number of special cheeses such as Per Las which is a golden bleu cheese. Try glamorgan sausage which is a vegetarian sausage of bread crumbs, leeks and cheese. Welsh cakes are flat, round sweet breads baked on a stone — sort of a cross between a scone and a pancake. 

There are some pretty fabulous craft beers, ales and wines that hail from Wales, too. 

 Whether it’s a wonderful Wales vacation or some other getaway, the travel advisors from GetAway Travel are ready to help you make that happen. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

France’s famous sandwich cookie

If you are a fan of cooking and baking competition shows, you know when a budding chef says they are making risotto, a collective gasp goes up from watchers because risotto is a fail more often than a success. Now, if it’s a baking competition and someone says they are making macarons, a similar gasp goes up because those sandwich cookies are notoriously temperamental. But they are certainly popular. There’s a bakery with several locations in France that sells 4 million (yes, million) macarons a day! You can see what the fuss is all about in person with a GetAway Travel vacation to France. We’ll even help you find a class so you can experience macaron making up close and personal! 

 Macaron and macaroon — not the same 

 A mah-kah-ROHN is a lovely, crispy sandwich cookie with buttercream, ganache or some other flavored filling. A mah-kah-ROON is a drop cookie, also lovely, but made with flaked coconut, egg whites and flavorings. 

Those delightful delicate and oh-so-pretty bites actually trace their origins to Italy and they were originally beige, like the color of ground-up blanched almonds which formed their base. Traditionally they were held to have been introduced to France by Queen Catherine de Medici who brought them from Italy during the Renaissance. 

There are two methods to making macarons, a French and Italian. The French method involves egg whites beaten to stiff peaks with granulated sugar and almond flour added. The Italian method involves mixing egg whites with hot sugar syrup and then adding almond flour and powdered sugar. The Italian method gives you a sweeter more stable meringue. 

Macarons

There are no leaveners, like baking powder, in macarons. It is the beaten egg whites combined with the mixing of other ingredients, a process called macaronage, which gives them the perfect shiny outside, softer nougat-like inside and the tiny crispy edges called feet. 

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Experience the diversity of Belgium

Gardens of Annevoie

About the size of Maryland, Belgium is often overlooked by visitors because they gravitate towards neighboring France or the Netherlands. Skipping Belgium in favor of its neighbors would be a mistake. Although it is small, it is rich in cultural diversity and its size means you can pack lots of destinations into a short visit.  

Belgium is VERY castle friendly. There are at least 3,000 castles in the county and many are open to the public. Although, truthfully, some are more like palaces than castles. What is the difference, you ask? Castles have fortifications and palaces function more like giant homes on estates. In any case, both are great for sightseeing. 

Gaasbeek Castle

Gaasbeek Castle

 

There are three distinctive regions within the borders of Belgium: Dutch-speaking Flanders is to the North, the French-speaking region of Wallonia is on the country’s South side and the German-speaking population is on the East side. The country’s capital, Brussels, is bilingual and throughout the country you can enjoy beer, chocolate, quaint villages and castles! The travel advisors at GetAway Travel can help you pack in as much into your trip as you want. Why skip the Netherlands, France or Belgium — visit all three! 

Villers Abbey, Belgium

 Brussels is an art-lovers paradise 

 The Royal Museums of Fine Arts are actually five museums. You could spend days wandering through the art pieces which span the 15th to the 21st century. There are 20,000 pieces of art including sculptures, paintings and drawings.  

The Cathedral of St Michael and St Gudula

Include the Museum of Natural Sciences in your museum visits in Brussels. It has one of the largest collections of dinosaur bones in Europe. More than 30 dinosaur skeletons were discovered in a coal mine in Belgium and they found a permanent home in Brussels. 

Manneken Pis statue in Brussels

The Grand Place is the central square of Brussels and is known the world over as being one of the most picturesque areas in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the square is rimmed with guild houses. Guilds formed the economic base of the city during 1600s and each, from fishmongers to cheese makers to goldsmiths, built a headquarters in the square. Each has a distinctive architectural character and each is gorgeous — especially when they are decorated during the holidays. Festivals, concerts, cultural events and holiday celebrations are all held in the square which has numerous quaint sidewalk cafes so you can sit and people watch. 

Brussels Grand Place

The Cauchie House is only open one weekend a month by reservation and is still worth a visit. Its facade is a stunning example of art deco architecture. The front is adorned with intricate paintings as well as sgraffito decorations. Sgraffito literally means scratched away and the technique involves scratching into the surface or plaster or stucco to show the color below. 

Brussels

NATO is headquartered in Brussels, but it is not open to the public. 

 A word, or more, on beer and food 

 There’s nothing like the craft beer in Belgium. There are more than 300 active breweries in Belgium and the Delirium Cafe in Brussels lets you choose between 2,000 types of beer. But beware and drink responsibly — the alcohol content of Belgium beer starts around 6% while usual domestic beers in the United States have alcohol contents around 4%. 

Made it!

Indulge your sweet tooth with the country’s chocolate or chocolate and praline. The most popular chocolatier is Pierre Marcolini and his creations are for sale at locations around Belgium.  

Chocolate factory

Then there’s the waffles. Belgian waffles are thick with deep crannies that hold plenty of sweet or savory toppings. They are even quite tasty just sprinkled with sugar. 

Waffle fanatics!

Visit any of the outdoor food kiosks, called frietkot or snack stands, for paper cones of potato fries. They are served hot and crispy because they are double-fried. There’s a fascinating array of dipping sauces to choose from. Do try the classic andalouse sauce which is mayo, tomato paste and roasted red peppers. It may seem counter-intuitive to look for stands with the longest lines, but that means the fries as well as the sauces are fresh because of the turnover of product. Find out everything you want to know about potato fries and recipes at the Frietmuseum in Bruges. 

How about some Belgian fries (world’s greatest) while waiting for your tour

Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp 

Boat tour on the Canals in Bruges

Bruges is like visiting the most charming place on earth. From its tree-lined canals to the cobblestone streets, it is peppered with medieval homes that look like gingerbread houses. Take a canal tour and enjoy the sights and the 24 bridges. It has two great city squares, Markt and the Burg and it is recognized as the birth place of Flemish primitive painting. 

Bruges

Ever seen the movie- In Bruges? This is the tower.

Ghent is between Brussels and Bruges and it is home to the largest student population in the country. The diverse and eclectic mix of humanity makes it a super creative community with a great music scene and a distinctive vibe. It is the home to the silent disco (everyone gets headphones) and it proudly carries the title of Vegetarian Capital of Europe. There are endless restaurants with an almost endless selection of plant-based cuisine. 

The Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp

Antwerp is a fashion and design destination. Belgium’s second largest city, it is home to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Many of the world’s premiere fashion designers have their roots in Antwerp. Visit their trendy shops in the Fashion District. You can get a clue as to the inspiration and insight into their designs at the Fashion Museum of Antwerp. 

Our favorite restaurant in Antwerp – Elfde Gebod (11th Commandment)

 Fashion, fries, dinosaur bones, art and craft beer — GetAway Travel has you covered. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Joy of finding the Beer Cafe

History, culture and scenery — just across the pond

Do you hear London calling? Perhaps you’d like to see if you can spot the Loch Ness monster, picnic with a puffin or steep yourself in the mystery of ancient ruins? Then a holiday in the UK, arranged by GetAway Travel is just for you! 

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is the birthplace of Shakespeare, The Beatles, Chaucer, Robert Burns, Charles Dickens and JK Rowlings. 

Charles Dickens

There are so many amazing things to do and see in England, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland. Think museums, cathedrals, castles and country estates, iconic landmarks, art galleries, music festivals and, in spite of what you may have heard, some great food. 

 Experience England 

 London offers the full-range of royal history, monuments, ruins and the changing of the guard! There’s the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the famous River Thames, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Parliament Buildings. 

South Kensington has some of the city’s finest museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum. Of course you must shop at Harrod’s Department Store and visit Trafalgar Square. 

Harrods Department Store

You can still really take a bath at Bath where travelers have used the healing waters for 2,000 years. The waters contain 43 different minerals. 

You can go surfing in Cornwall. (Really, surf’s up!) 

Cornwall

Stonehenge, one of the oldest UNESCO Heritage sites in the world, is still a mystery and still captivates the imagination. Nearby Salisbury has one of the country’s most famous cathedrals and the original Magna Carta. 

Stonehenge

The university towns of Cambridge and Oxford are home to some of the world’s top academic establishments and Canterbury is home to the archbishop of Canterbury and is also a UNESCO site. 

Canterbury Cathedral

Liverpool will be forever famous for The Beatles. The Cavern Club in the renovated Albert Docks area is where they used to perform and indulge in your own version of Beatlemania by taking a bus or walking tour of Beatle sites. Manchester is a sports town if there ever was one. Two of the country’s most famous soccer (football) clubs are headquartered there and have their own stadiums. 

Liverpool

Make your way to Belfast in Northern Ireland and immerse yourself in all things related to the Titanic. 

 Scenic Scotland 

 Scotland’s largest city is Glasgow which offers a unique high concentration of gothic, Victorian, and Edwardian architecture as well as some pretty great shopping along the “Style Mile.” You can picnic with a puffin or two on the Isle of Lunga. Visit Islay, a Hebridean island that has whiskey distilleries and there’s an extravaganza of archeological ruins in Jarlshof in Shetland. 

Glasgow, Scotland

The Isle of Arran is an island off the southwestern coast of Scotland it has standing stone landmarks, more whiskey distilleries, castles, castle ruins, golf courses, misty moors and coastal scenery. It is a sort of microcosm of the entire country. 

Isle of Arran

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and is one of the country’s most beautiful cities. Its historic buildings are faithfully preserved and it is home to the awe-inspiring Edinburgh Castle. Towering above the city, the 13th Century fortress is perched on a rocky, barren outcropping. View the Scottish crown jewels in the Royal Palace while you are in Edinburgh, tour the Scottish National War Museum and save time for the Royal Botanical Garden and the National Gallery of Scotland. 

Edinburgh, Scotland

Old Town’s Royal Mile in the city is an eclectic combination of great architecture, boutique shopping, cafes and restaurants. 

The biggest, wildest street party in the world is held every year on New Year’s in Edinburgh. No one celebrates the dawning of the new year like the Scots. They call it Hogmanay. 

Hogmanay

You may not have a Loch Ness monster sighting in Loch Ness, but the area has some of the best scenery in all of the UK. Check out the Loch Ness Centre for some great history tidbits. 

Loch Ness

 Wander in Wales 

 Cardiff, the capital of Wales boasts fabulous national parks, great scenery and historic castles including Cardiff Castle which was built on the ruins of a Roman fort. Tour the state apartments, the Clock Tower and the chapel of the nearly fully restored castle. Wales actually has the most castles per capita than any other European country, and more sheep than residents. 

Cardiff Castle, Wales

A fun Wales fact, there are 10 million sheep and 3.1 million residents! Wales is home to the famous Badger Face Mountain Sheep which have striped faces like badgers. 

Yep, Badger Face Sheep!

The city’s redeveloped waterfront has shopping, restaurants, clubs and the World of Boats which features the development of sea vessels and boats from around the world. 

The most visited attraction in Wales is in Snowdonia and it is Snowdon Mountain. Enjoy a variety of hiking trails or take a tour on the Snowdon Mountain Railway.  

Pembrokshire is thought to be one of the most beautiful corners of the country. There is not a bad spot to take in the views along any of the area’s 50 beaches. It also has an up and coming food scene. 

Pembrokshire, Wales

 A word or two on the cuisine 

Beef Wellington

 Ok, admittedly a country that has a dessert with a name that also doubles as street slang for a piece of male anatomy and serves jellied eels and pies with fish heads sticking out might not be considered a bastion of world class eats. Ignore that. The UK draws residents from China, Vietnam, Turkey, India, West Africa and the Caribbean and they put their best food forward. Chicken tikka masala is as tasty in the UK as fresh fish and chips. The country is home to 750 kinds of cheese, bacon so good you will weep, Welsh cakes, trifle, scones, craft beef, chocolate and Beef Wellington. You won’t go hungry. 

Spotted Dick

Are you ready to go? At GetAway Travel we can design a full-on UK experience, or tailor a trip to London for you. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

 

Break out the bubbly! Exploring the Champagne region of France

If there’s a celebration, nine times out of 10, there’s Champagne. It’s that iconic bubbly beverage that is photographed showing the fabulous fizz in stunning glasses. But it’s just a pretty pretender if what you are drinking hasn’t been produced in the Champagne region of France. 

Reims

GetAway Travel invites you to contact us and book a trip to explore the Champagne region and get up close and personal with the drink that has launched thousands of special moments. 

Why is it special? 

Since the 1600s, 3 grapes: pinot noir, pinot meunièr and chardonnay grapes make what we call Champagne. The hills and plains in Eastern France between Paris and Lorraine are renowned for producing the famous sparkling wine known as Champagne. The area is about a day trip by bus from Paris. 

The taste of grapes varies depending on the area where they are grown, which is one of the reasons Champagne processed and produced in the Champagne region has very distinctive characteristics. The amount of each grape included in the blend or cuvee is proprietary to each Champagne producer.  

The grape mix is fermented into wine and the wine is then injected with a yeast. The second fermentation series creates carbon dioxide which puts the bubbles into the bubbly. 

Champagne must age at least 15 months, but some are aged much longer. When you walk the streets of Reims and Epernay, two of the larger cities in the Champagne region, you are likely walking over millions of bottles of Champagne stored in tunnels and cellars beneath the earth. 

Cathedrals, castles and Champagne 

Reims Cathedral

Reims, was the traditional coronation spot for most of France’s kings. Reims Cathedral is one of France’s greatest representations of gothic architecture. It was badly damaged in WWI, and then restored to its original splendor. Its twin bell towers and rose-stained glass windows are featured in many publications. 

Detail – exterior of Cathedral in Reims

Reims is home to some of the major Champagne producers including Taittinger. Of course tours and tastings are available but be warned — tours include the cellars and tunnels. It may be 85 degrees outside, but it’s in a chilly mid-40s where the Champagne is stored. Pack a light coat. 

Marc Chagall windows – Reims Cathedral

If you are fascinated by Art Deco, check out the Villa Demoiselle in Reims. This grand mansion has been transformed into a museum that features Art Nouveau as well as Art Deco furniture and fittings. Reims is very pedestrian oriented, and you can stroll along the streets and visit Champagne retailers, smaller tasting rooms and restaurants. 

Reims Cathedral nighttime light show

Visit the Chateau de Sedan in the region. The mid-16th century castle/fortress once housed nearly 4,000 residents. On your tour you will likely meet up with medieval costumed characters. 

Nigoland in Dolancourt is a theme park that includes a great roller coaster, a drop tower attraction and a forest and gardens. The Troyes Cathedral has a superb rose window, and it houses art as well as renaissance era sculptures. 

While you are in Troyes, you can see an 18th century apothecary with a fabulous collection of ceramic jars and painted medicine boxes. 

Don’t skip a side trip to Epernay 

 Epernay is about 15 miles from Reims and Champagne producers such as Moet-Chandon and Perrier-Jouet are headquartered there. There are many smaller cellars and Champagne houses all within walking distance along the Avenue de Champagne. It is estimated that there are more than 200 million bottles of Champagne beneath the streets. 

In the chalk caves

Admire the incredible stonework at the Portal Saint-Martin. The oldest monument in Epernay has fabulous stone renderings of animals. It is all that is left of the Abby of Saint Martin. Relax and smell the roses at the Jardin Botanique De La Presir. This botanical garden features plants from all over Europe as well as 500 types of roses. There’s a labyrinth as well as topiaries sculpted into monster shapes! 

 The seasoned, well-traveled travel advisors at GetAway Travel can help with your dream trip to the Champagne region of France and also help you book your smaller cellar and site tours before you go so you won’t miss a thing. Contact Sue or Paul, (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Stunning scenery and adventure await travelers to New Zealand

If fabulous landscapes from mountains to beaches, as well as the opportunity to walk on a glacier and drink fine wine are on your bucket list, New Zealand is the place you want to be. For its size, the islands of New Zealand pack some big bang for your buck. Your travel advisors at GetAway Travel can package you up a vacation that involves adventure or sightseeing, or some of both! 

 A natural paradise 

Without question, New Zealand is recognized as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It has scenery that takes your breath away, plenty to do and see for all ages, friendly people and, this might surprise you, some of the finest wine in the world. 

The temperate climate means you can go snow skiing one day and water skiing the next. You can go bungy jumping in Queenstown and zorbing in Rotorua (you’ve probably seen videos of this) which is rolling around the countryside in a large transparent ball. There’s geothermal marvels and glowworm caves, too! 

You can get an idea of how gorgeous the scenery is if you’ve seen “The Lord of the Rings” or any of the “Hobbit” movies. 

World’s largest Hobbit

The indigenous population, the Māori (Mau-ree) are naturally friendly and outgoing and love to share their culture and heritage. And, as we always say, be respectful of local culture and landmarks because you are a visitor and would expect the same if they were visiting you. 

Let’s hit some highlights 

 New Zealand is two islands, somewhat uncreatively known as North and South islands. Together they are about a 1,000 miles long and at the widest point, about 280 miles across. There are five million inhabitants on the islands. 

Auckland

Rotorua is famous for geothermal features and representations of the Māori culture. There are bubbling mud pools, boiling geysers, colored rock formations and the resorts feature hot springs bathing. The surrounding area is studded with Māori villages including Mitai, Whakarewarewa and Tamaki. They have cultural shows that feature traditional music and dance as well as hangi meals. Hangi cooking is cooking large meals in pit ovens using heated rocks. The meat and vegetables come out extremely tender and flavorful. 

Waitangi on the North Island is a major historical site. In 1840 the Māori chiefs signed a treaty with Britain giving it ruling power. There is a museum on the treaty grounds as well as a fascinating ornately carved marae (which is a Māori meeting house) and a ceremonial canoe. 

Hokianga Harbour is perfect for camping, dune boarding, dolphin watching and horseback riding. Coromandel Peninsula has hiking trails, some eclectic quaint towns and Cathedral Beach on the peninsula is thought by many to be one of the country’s most beautiful beaches. 

Tongariro National Park is a dual UNESCO site, certified for both its cultural and historic significance. It has three volcanic peaks, Mount Tongariro, Raupehu and Ngauruhoe. 

One of New Zealand’s premier wine producing regions, as well as its oldest, is Hawke’s Bay. More than 200 vineyards are clustered in this temperate area. It is famous for its sauvignon blanc wines, some have even said they are the best in the world! Napier in Hawke’s Bay has a large collection of Art Deco architecture buildings. 

Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. The New Zealand Parliament Building is known as the “Beehive” due to its unique architecture and you can book a tour of the Weta Workshop. A film special effects company, it was founded by Peter Jackson, director of “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Hobbit” movies. Speaking of the Hobbit, if you are fond of the shire, Waikato is the place to go for a guided tour of the Hobbiton movie set. 

The Beehive, Wellington

Kaikoura is a great spot for whale and dolphin watching. If you visit Fiordland Park, nearby Anau has glowworm caves. 

Dusky Sound, Fjordland

Nelson is known for having the greatest number of sunshine hours per year in the country. There are numerous dining spots that highlight the area agriculture with farm-to-table cuisine as well as fine local wine. 

 Let’s eat… and drink! 

 Mutton is on the menu, but don’t pass up having lamb. Served roasted with vegetables or cooked in a hangi, it’s delicious. Vegemite and marmite — ok, not many people refer to yeast extract as tasty. Try it once. Marmite is a little sweeter than Vegemite. Put a thin layer on buttered toast and you can say you tried it. 

Hobbiton

Venison is also on the menu, but it’s not like your usual venison. The deer here are farm raised and the venison is not tough or gamey.  

New Zealand co-opted fish and chips from the Brits, but in New Zealand you can pick the type of fish you like. Speaking of seafood, it’s great here. Don’t pass up the abalone, Bluff Oysters or green lipped mussels. Chow down on a sausage sizzle which you can pick up at a street gazebo. It’s a sausage eaten on white bread with tomato sauce, mustard and fried onions. Likewise, mince pies can be purchased at the dairy store which is New Zealand speak for corner convenience store or at any gas station. Mince is the traditional filling, but there are lots more to choose from including vegetarian or vegan. 

Rail Station, Dunedin New Zealand

The wine is fabulous. There’s a drink you must try — Lemon & Paeroa, which is a carbonated lemon juice and mineral water drink. And there is craft beer aplenty. Local favorites include Garage Project, Parrot Dog and Heyday. Oh, there’s sweet things, too. Pavlova is like eating a meringue cloud with whipped cream and fruit, peanut slabs are candy bars with peanuts, pineapple lumps are chocolate lumps with a pineapple center and hokey pokey ice cream is vanilla ice cream with toffee bits. 

The Giants House, Akaroa

 New Zealand is starting to sound pretty interesting and like a great place for a vacation, right? Reach us at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel