Author Archives: Sue - GetAway Travel Service

About Sue - GetAway Travel Service

Owner of GetAway Travel LLC - a boutique travel agency located in Hartland, Wisconsin

Nijmegen huh?

Nijmegen (pronounced nine megan) is the oldest city in the Netherlands and is located just a short distance from the German border.  It was the first city to fall to the Germans in WWII due to its proximity.  In September 1944, resistance troops from Nijmegen were an integral part of Operation Market Garden, the main objective was to prevent the Germans from destroying the bridges so the Allies could invade.  Nijmegen is also one of the warmest cities in the Netherlands and believe it or not, some of the northernmost wineries in the world are found just outside the city.

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But you didn’t decide to read this blog for the history or weather, did you?  So, what’s the deal – why should I visit Nijmegen?  Well that really depends on what your interests are but here are some highlights we enjoyed.  If history is your thing, the Valkhof Museum offers Nijmegen from Roman times to the present.  On my visit, I decided I’d go another route.  On my list was Grote (Great) market; St. Stevenskerk and bell tower, and of course the Brouwer café (brew put) De Hemel.  And if you need the famous pot licker, this is the place to get one!


Let’s start with the main square, or the Grote Market.  Nothing really to see inside the buildings but they are wonderful to admire from the outside.  I personally love a city stroll, you can absorb the feel for the town by wandering the streets and admiring the architecture.

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Next up is St. Stevenskerk (church)with its beautiful organs.  St. Stevenskerk, located in the historical city center, was built in the 13th century with additions through the 15th century.  It was hit by bombs during WWII, destroying a large portion of the church.  Thankfully, it was restored in 1969.  When you visit, be sure to check out the monument to Catherine of Bourbon, candelabra, organs and frescos all which date from the 16th, to the 18th century.  Did you catch that I said check out the organs?  St. Stevenskerk has 4 of them, but the one of interest was built by Ludwig Konig.   There are only a few of his organs still left to enjoy.  Organ and music enthusiasts will love its unique sound.

Once you have visited inside, spend the few extra Euro’s and climb the bell tower for a fantastic view of the city from the top.  It is a twisty little climb but so worth it.  There is a gentleman from town at the top who is full of amazing little facts about the church, the town, and the bell tower.  Be artistic and take a picture of the big clock from the tower.  This exercise is well worth your time and effort!

Well, you’ve climbed and now you need a little pick me upper, right?  If so, head over to De Hemel Brouwery (brewery).  Located in a medieval monastery building just a short walk from the church, you will find De Hemel.  It is a restaurant, home brewery, home distillery and even a home roastery.    Something for everyone in your party for sure.  Upstairs you’ll even find a little chocolate shop (open on certain days/times).  Our little gang tried the beer sampler – again something for every taste – and it was well worth it.  There is a lovely little patio of the weather is nice but inside you’ll find all sorts of quirky things….so go inside for sure!

You’ve spent the day in Nijmegen and it’s time to be going but wait… need that pot licker right?  Never heard of a pot licker, well I’m about to turn you on to THE most useful kitchen tool ever.  Stop in at the Hema in town (yes, I know you can shop online but its way more fun to visit in person) – go upstairs (same floor as the bathrooms) and look for these handy little gadgets.  They are like 1.75 Euro a piece (way cheap) and they work wonders to “lick” the pots clean.  Think peanut butter jars here…they are like mini squeegee’s.  We bought every last one of them they day we visited and so glad we did.  The following day we saw the exact same items for 5 Euros each…bargain hunting is my game!  And even if you don’t have to rid yourself of a little beer by this time, check out the sign for the bathrooms…worth a good laugh.

Keep traveling….the world is a wonderful place to explore!

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Animal Attraction to Travel

There are a few things in life that I know to be true.  One, I love to travel and two, I love animals.  Almost any destination and certainly almost ever animal (okay spiders and snakes are creepy but I mean like animals not reptiles or insects).  But I digress….

Koala, Churchill Island, Australia

Living in north central Wisconsin we have the usual set of animals (think farm, normal pets and wildlife) but when we travel we are opened to a whole new world of living creatures.  Take for example a trip to Australia.  Here you have an opportunity to get up close and personal with Kangaroo, Wallaby, Wombat and Tasmanian Devil.  How cool is that!  Some of these animals you’ll be lucky enough to see in the wild but not the Tasmanian Devi.  The Devil is an endangered species due to a cancerous facial tumor that has affected 30- 50% of the wild population.  But have no fear, nearby Hobart is the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.    Visiting this sanctuary will allow you hands on contact with several native Australian animals.  You can feed kangaroos, pet wombats and koala and observe the cute little Tasmanian Devil.  Our visit to the sanctuary was a highlight for this traveling animal lover.

I know what you are thinking, well sure there are cool animals in Australia but that is a long trip and I can’t go that far.  Have no fear, cool animals are everywhere you just have to look.  Let’s take the good old USA for example.  A trip to Alaska in the summer will provide you with an opportunity to see humpback whales feeding in the kelp rich waters.  And yes, a humpback whale is a mammal so thus does not fall in the creepy category 😊 Now the very best way to see whales (all types in AK) is a small craft tour (boats that hold 18 – 36 people max).  When choosing your tour company also be sure the boats are safe for those magnificent creatures you have come to see (no dangerous propellers).

Faerie Penguins, Churchill Island, Australia

What about the Polar bear, I mean the kind that live outside the zoo?  Wouldn’t it be cool to see them fishing for salmon out of a river?  A trip to Alaska, Canada, Norway, Russia or Greenland will provide you with the opportunity to see these at animals in the wild.   Of course, you aren’t just going to happen upon them, you’ll need a guided expedition or tour to give you the best chance of watching them in their natural habitat.  From Fairbanks you can take a tour mid Aug – late Step (side note, due to global warming it is expected that the polar bear could become extinct in the years to come).   This one is still on my bucket list!

Bear at Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Alaska

Still too exotic you say.  Well as I said earlier, I love animal, pretty much any.  In particular though I happen to covet my Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Fergus.  And yes, I look for his kin just about everywhere I go.  I’ve seen them in France, Holland and Ireland, just to mention a few.  And each time I come upon one I smile and feel love.

Fergus – Our Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

So, pick your favorite animals and travel!  You’ll be surprised to see so many along the way.

Honfleur, France – Little Surprises

Sometimes the most unknown cities and towns along an itinerary can hold wonderful surprises.  A few years ago, we took a river boat cruise from Paris to Normandy.  We chose it because of the wonderful history associated with the itinerary and of course because it was an easy fly in and out of Paris.  It was so wonderful in fact that we are scheduled to do it again in 2019.

Now prior to that first trip I had never heard of the town of Honfleur and I didn’t research much about it either.  So, when we arrived in port I was understandably   overwhelmed by the quaint beauty of this little port town.  The harbor was filled with boats, the buildings around the port were brightly colored and it just felt homey.  Maybe that sounds a bit corny but the town was something right out of a picture.  As a matter of fact, come to find out Honfleur was painted by many famous artists like Boudin and Monet.  Certainly, this is a photographer’s mecca!

We took a guided tour of the town and the standout thing to see was of course, the church.  I must laugh when I write that because if you knew my husband, you would know that we have been in thousands of churches around the globe.  All I can say is, well, It’s his thing.  I’m pretty sure we have at least 2 zillion (okay maybe not quite) photos of every church wall, gargoyle, crypt, bell tower……etc. in Europe.  So, as I said, of course the highlight for him was…the church.  Sainte Catherine’s church, is a bit different from many we’ve visited, ornate in a simple sort of way and certainly not plastered with oodles of ornate gold.  Nope, it is simply the largest church in France that has been made from wood and it has a separate bell tower just opposite the church entry, above the bell ringers house.  Guests to Honfleur can visit the church for free!  Let’s face it, can’t get better than that.

Now if you were an astute reader you know the church was Paul’s thing….so what flipped my lid in Honfleur?  I already told you the port setting itself was amazing to look at but there was one thing that really caught my eye.  As we were wandering the streets…there it was…in the window of a little shop…. the purse of my dreams.  Now I’m not a girly girl, and I typically buy a purse only when the last one is too embarrassing to carry. But this beauty was something I just had to have…and yes, I paid through the nose for it and I didn’t care.   And lest you think purses are my thing…guess again (hint, look at the purse).  So, there it was, in the window of the little shop in Honfleur, France and I had to have it!

You see, sometimes little stops along the itinerary deliver such wonderful surprises and make the whole trip something you’ll remember.  You just never know until you go…. happy travels!

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Versailles – Take a Tour or Go it Alone?

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The palace of Versailles, located just outside Paris and listed as a World Heritage Site, was the seat of the government of Louis XIV.  This marvelous palace and gardens should certainly be on your must see list while in France.  The big question however is how to see it?

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Well to answer that question, first consider that the Palace contains 2,300 room and more than 3 million people visit annually.  Then consider your motivation for visiting, are you a wanderer who enjoys the sites without too much detail or are you a history buff where the story is important.

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There are so many options to choose from – anywhere from going it alone with your audio guide (comes with the admission ticket) to a private guided tour.  When choosing also consider what parts of the palace will be included (Palace, Estate of Trianon, Gardens and Parks, Musical Fountain Show and Musical Gardens and/or the Coach Gallery) in relationship to how much time you want to spend.

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Here are a few tips that will make your visit more pleasurable.

  • This place is huge and can’t be done in just one hour.
  • Regardless of what way you wish to tour Versaillas, be sure you have purchased your ticket prior to your arrival otherwise you’ll spend a good part of your allotted time just standing in line for a ticket.
  • Plan a minimum of 4 hrs.
  • Wear good walking shoes.
  • Eat a good breakfast or lunch before you arrive. Just the scores of people are enough irritation you don’t need hangry to rear its ugly head too.
  • Make sure your tour offers headsets, with the crowd it is essential for hearing your guide.

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Now for my personal (any travel professional) opinion, take a tour that offers skip the line and a small group format and access to the secret rooms – it will be well worth the money!

Whenever you go, enjoy your visit, it is a marvelous Palace.  Au revior for now.

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San Sebastián Gastronomic Clubs

What first pops into your mind when you hear San Sebastián, Spain?  Is it the beautiful seaside beach or maybe the wonderful restaurant opportunities within this Basque city?  These two things after all are what why scores of people flock to visit this region of Spain – I mean just think about a day at the beach followed by an evening of the pintxos (small tapas like food available at almost every bar in San Sebastian) or dining at one of the 16 Michelin Star restaurants.  That alone makes me want to go back!


Ah, but have you heard about the gastronomic clubs or societies?  In San Sebastian, these gastronomic clubs have been around since the 1800’s and today there are approximately 119 in existence in the city (over 600 in the entire Basque region).  These clubs were initially established as a place of refuge for men – a place for them to socialize and cook away from the women at home who were the “boss”.  Today, many of the clubs are still men only and it is not uncommon to find clubs with over 100 members.

To visit, you must have an invitation or be brought by a member.   Well visit I must – I just had to see what they were all about!  In September, I visited San Sebastián and made it a point to book a visit to Los Corcones gastronomic club.  This club has a professional chef (all clubs cook together, but not all have a member who is an actual chef) so I knew I was in for a treat.


Together with 3 friends, we met the chef and started our walk-through Mercado de la Bretxa, the 150 year old market that was bursting with sights and smells you can only imagine.  Here Bendur, our chef went about choosing items that he would cook during our visit to his club.  He shared samples of his favorite ham and other specialties as we shopped.


Then it was just a short walk until we arrived at what looked from the outside like any ordinary stone building – that was until he pointed out the club sign announcing our arrival.  The Sociedad Cultural Musical Benefica “Los Corcones”, with its 2-blue fish logo (and yes this club even has a band!).

As he opened the door, I was immediately in love with the quaint set of rooms and old country style kitchen (but with some heavy-duty ovens) and checkerboard tableclothes.  I could not wait for the gastronomical experience I was about to have.  He put us to work preparing the plate of tapas and pintxos – oh did you think this was a sit and be served sort of visit – heck NO! 6-20170911_055746

Up first was a sampling of Spanish cheese, olives, sausage and of course a sardine or two (enough food really for 20 people).  When the sampling began, we sat around a table and talked about his club, the food and the traditions…and somehow the 4 of us polished off a majority of that food.  We felt the pride he had for his country, his food and his club.  Now this is the way to really experience another countries culture.9-20170911_072455

Just when we thought we could not eat or drink anymore and the real cooking began!  We were served some traditional Basque seafood dishes and yes, I must say, they were tasty!   This visit to a private gastronomical club was one of the best foodie experiences I have ever had.  We left with a true understanding of the culture by way of not only the food but through the opportunity to dine with the chef.  It was a truly amazing experience which I encourage you to try.


Traditions, Traditions, Traditions!

Christmas is upon us and that means traditions.  What are your holiday traditions?  When did they first start, did you create new ones when you left your childhood home or did you carry on those of your parents and grandparents?  Well I did a little research about the origin of some of our Christmas traditions and I have to admit, I learned a few things….

Do you send Christmas cards as a part of your tradition?  We still do.  As a matter of fact, we send both personal Christmas cards and cards to our clients on behalf of our Travel Agency.  Did you know that the first Christmas card was sent in 1843?  Many people today have given up this tradition but we still love to both send and receive a card at Christmas.  We write a somewhat witty Christmas letter (haha, at least we think its witty) to send to our friends and family each year.  I am the author and Paul is the decorator, putting photos on the letter from our years activities.  I don’t think it is a tradition our children will carry on.

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What about the Christmas wreath?  When I was growing up we harvested the pine branches to make our own wreath which my parents always hung on the front door.  It was typically decorated with a bow, some pine cones and perhaps some red berries.  But where did that tradition come from?  Well since you asked…. Since the Roman times the wreath has been a symbol of power and strength.  Kings and Emperors wore them as crowns.  To Christians the wreath symbolizes tenacity and everlasting life.  Now I can’t honestly say I’ve ever thought of the wreath in that regard, nope just always thought it was pretty.  How simple we are 😊.  Today we buy our wreath from the local boy scout troop, and we hang it on the front of the house, just like my parents did.

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Mistletoe, hmmm, now that is an odd one.  I mean think about it.  The mistletoe is basically a parasitic plant that attaches to a tree and sucks nutrients from the trunk.  What is romantic about that? Yet mistletoe as a tradition has been traced back to ancient Greece (not as in kissing under it) where it was said to have been carried as a golden bough by Aeneas, the ancestor of the Romans.  In other pre-Christian cultures mistletoe was believed to carry the male essence and by extension, romance, fertility and vitality.  It was hung in homes because it was believed to protect from fire and lightning (again not for kissing under).  So, where the heck did the kissing under it come from?  Well truth be known, no one knows.  The first kiss under the mistletoe was recorded in the 16th century in England.  I’m thinking some young squire had a little too much grog and grabbed the first pretty girl he could find and gave her a kiss and it just so happened to be under the mistletoe!  So do you hang one?  And really how many kisses do you get?  I don’t know about your house but we don’t hang one, unless you count our mistletoad (green frog dressed in English finery holding a sprig) because after all, its cold and flu season and no sense sharing with just anyone who walks in the door!

And with that, we’ll leave you to your Christmas traditions, where ever they came from.  Enjoy your Christmas holiday and best wishes for the New Year!

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Free Dining or Free Drinks. Hmm…which to chose?

Being offered a “free” dining or beverage package seems to the be sign of the times today in ocean cruising bookings.  Every cruise line has its own twist on the perks offered but these two are always in the mix of offerings.


So, which do you choose?  You love to eat and…. okay you like to consume adult beverages too, thus the dilemma exists.

Now, my first recommendation is talk to your travel professional because all “free” perks are not created equally.  For example, some lines charge service fees associated with their “free” while others do not.  Most lines have a dollar limit to drinks available using the perk and the big difference is how they handle those drinks that hop over that limit.  For example, let’s assume your drink limit is $13 but you really want to try that $16 martini.  On some lines, you would pay only the $3 extra, on other lines you would not be able to use the beverage package and be charged the full $16.   Note from one wine snob to another:  Serious wine drinkers (those who won’t drink the house wine at a bar and who don’t drink much in the way of other alcohol) should think twice about the “free” beverage package because it isn’t likely to have wines that will make you happy.  You, may want to consider choosing the free dining perk and then buying your own wine package.

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Dining packages are no different, you really have to do the math regarding which perk will be best.  Example:  you are on a 7-day cruise, your perk is 3 nights in a specialty restaurant, on board credit, free wifi or the beverage package.  What is the value of those 3 nights dining?  Let’s say the price is $35 per visit to the specialty restaurant x 3 = $105 but the onboard credit is $150 per person…..which is better?


Remember a particular cruise line can only speak to and only wants to sell you their product, they cannot offer you a side by side comparison like a travel professional.  We can help sort all that out and can search across all cruise lines for the best perk offering out there.

And on that note:  Cheers and Bon Appétit1-Celebrity Century 3-20-2010 10-19-42 PM

Christmas is coming

Thanksgiving is over, the turkey’s been eaten.  So now what?  Well let’s see you could do the normal stuff like put up a tree, spend a bunch of money on stuff your family really doesn’t need and bake till you back breaks…..or, you could try something completely different.  Something you’ll remember and talk about for years to come.

What is it you ask?  A Christmas market river cruise through wonderfully decorated European towns.  Also known as Christkendlmarkt or Marche’ de Noel, Christmas markets are essential street markets that occur during the 4 weeks of Advent.  These markets go back to the late Middle Ages in German speaking parts of Europe and regions of France and are traditionally held in the town squares.  They offer open air stalls with local crafts, food and music.

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Did I just hear the men readers all just groan?  Hold on, seriously this experience has been both mine and my husband’s favorite vacation of all times. What could be better, a floating luxury hotel with all you can eat, drink and take in (Uniworld all-inclusive river cruising is our favorite)?  Well now that you asked, yes, the cruise part is wonderful but he Christmas market part is fantastic!

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Breathe easy, this is not your US craft fair with stampeding women, it is open air, relaxed wandering through stalls while the sights and smells of the market surround you.  Each town decorates differently so every stop is unique and beautiful.

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Imagine strolling with your best friend, arm in arm, Christmas music playing in the background.  Taking in the smell of local food specialties cooking (think giant wok sized pans making potato pancakes or salmon roasting on cedar planks over open flames) sampling as you go.  Stop and admire the handcrafted cuckoo clocks and nativity sets or try on hand spun hats and scarves. Or buddy up to the locals in the ice skating barn and learn why they love this time of year.  And don’t forget you are doing this all the while sipping on a cup of hot gluhwein (mulled wine with flavors of citrus and warm spices).  What could be more wonderful than that?

I promise, this is just the thing for renewing your Christmas joy.   So, skip Black Friday and Cyber Monday (remember no one wants that new set of towels, bedroom slippers, or socks and underwear) and try something different.  You’ll be thrilled you did!!

Even if you don’t own a garden

Tom Thumb, Green Thumb all I know is I’m all thumbs when it comes to gardening.  In my house I have exactly 2 plants…that are still alive.  I’ve been told it is impossible to kill a Christmas cactus…well I’ve just completed losing #4.  Out back I have a “garden” and I use that term very loosely since we refer to it as the weed bed.  So, I’d be the last person in the world you’d expect to want to visit the famous Keukenhof gardens in Holland.  Yet somehow it was on my bucket list – go figure!

So, this spring we set off with a few great friends to visit the Netherlands (okay so we got the men to go because we included Belgium and you all know how good their beer is) and on the itinerary was a visit to the famous Keukenhof gardens.  Keukenhof gardens is open only mid-March to Mid-May and our trip was timed right for the tulips to be in bloom.  We had to decide, full day or half day visit….OMG, we did the full day and still did not see everything so if you are even in that quandary….go full day for sure.

Miles and miles of tulips (well 32 hectares to be exact), every shape and color you can imagine.  Throw in some daffodils and hyacinth and you have a color mania of flowers.  But it’s not all just flowers, there are activities in the park like boat rides, cycle paths, fun signs and wooden shoes to put your face and feet into for that ultimate photo op.  Definitely climb the windmill to get a bird’s eye view of the vast tulip gardens.  If you are taking the kids, then be sure to download the treasure hunt before you go.

Ah yes, a full day at Keukenhof gardens will inspire you…I promise.  How do I know this you ask….well I left the gardens that day 300 or so tulip bulbs heavier (or shall I say $300 or so lighter since the tulips were to be shipped to the US in the fall).  Yes, me the ultimate weed bed owner left the proud owner of lots of tulip bulbs without one single plan for what I’d do with them.

They arrived this fall and I am happy to say they are all planted into a brand new flower garden…now we just wait till spring.  I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime, put Keukenhof gardens on your bucket list, you won’t be sorry.  It was beautiful!

Every kid should swim with the dolphins

Depending on your age, you either grew up with Flipper or Dolphin Tale or Free Willy.  Me, I’m a Flipper fan through and through.  Maybe it was the crush I had on Sandy (the cute teenager in the show) but regardless, I never missed an episode and secretly longed for a job as dolphin trainer.  If you’ve read my blog before you know I grew up in small town Wisconsin and dolphin training wasn’t exactly a sought-after career so the likelihood of that ever happening was…well let’s face it….zero!

But it’s hard to kill those childhood dreams and then one day….the dawn of swim with the dolphins started showing up in places like Mexico and Jamaica.

Oooh boy I could not wait to do it!  I got in the water, stood on the platform as instructed and then got my first feel of those lovely gray mammals.  I shook its fin, I waved to it.  I was in heaven!  I’m sure my smile was ten feet wide.  All that of course was the buildup to the ultimate dolphin experiences… as instructed, I got in the water, stretched out my  arms when my (yes my) two dolphins passed by I grabbed their dorsal fins and got towed through the water.  Hint, stop smiling here or you get a big drink of dolphin pool water.

Now that was fantastic…but wait…it gets better.  Back out into the water and floating on my tummy, toes pointed down and the next thing you know my dolphins are pushing me right out of the water.  I had my arms raised in victory!  Nothing could have been better.

At least that is what I thought at the time (circa 1980) until this past winter.  You see my husband and I had the privilege of taking our grand kids on a cruise in January and the two older ones (15 & 11) got a swim with the dolphin experience as a Christmas gift.  This time I got to watch and yes, it was even better than my own dolphin encounter.  I was able to witness them learning to love the dolphins as much as I do.  Two super wide smiles, two kids who could not stop talking about their experience.  I guess you could say it was twice as good as my own experience.  So, take my advice, splurge on the Royal swim for your kids…and the kid in you!   It is a memory you’ll cherish forever.