Time for a sunny getaway to Fiji?

Beach in Fiji – only thing missing is you

Although any time is a perfect time to experience the outdoor paradise that is Fiji, the dreary days that start in mid-fall and run to mid-spring is a perfect time to getaway. From swimming to snorkeling to zip lining to just enjoying the drop-dead gorgeous scenery of any of the islands, Fiji is a perfect fit to drive the gloomy blues away. Let a travel advisor at GetAway Travel help you put some sunshine back into your life. 

 Islands offer something for everyone 

 Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago or stretch of sea containing several islands. The more than 300 islands that make up Fiji offer up activities for adventure seekers, families and those whose idea of a perfect vacation is eating, sleeping well, sunning on a beach with a book and repeating for several days until the stress level drops. It is easy enough to travel from the island to island so you can day trip to your heart’s content 

 Nadi and Suva on largest island of Vita Levu 

 Fiji’s largest island is Vita Levu and the capital, Suva, is there as well. Nadi has a large international airport and that is where most flights arrive. 

Ni Sa Bula – welcome home!

The Fiji Museum is in Suva. A huge Ratu Finau, or a double hulled canoe, is the centerpiece of the museum. There are exhibits that trace Fijian life over the centuries as well as a collection of cannibal forks, war clubs and kava bowls. Rugby is the national game, and you can watch a match at Suva’s National Stadium. 

Welcome Home

About 40% of Fiji’s population is ethnically Indian. In Suva as well as throughout the islands, there are fabulous Indian restaurants. Get hot parcels of roti (a flatbread) stuffed with pumpkin and eggplant in coconut curry. 

Fijian coconut milk ceviche

The cuisine throughout the islands is decidedly international with an emphasis on different types of curries as well as fish, prawns, lobsters and crabs. Sweet potatoes and taro figure prominently into cooking and most resorts offer visitors a chance to experience a traditional loro or pit oven feast with slow-cooked meat and fish as well as root vegetables with onion and coconut cream cooked in a pit with hot coals.  

Suva has a modern shopping mall as well as open-air markets and a busy nightlife you can enjoy after you savor a spectacular Fiji sunset. 

Sunset at resort in Fiji

The biggest shopping area is Port Denarau Island which is near Nadi. In addition to a world class golf course and some great spas, you can shop for sarongs, saris, jewelry, beach wear and shell knick knacks. The more than 40 restaurants offer everything from pizza and burgers to Fijian and Indian cuisine. Be sure to inquire about the spice levels if you are trying Fijian or Indian curries, they do vary. 

Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple, Nadi Fiji

Nadi is home to the Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple which is an example of bright Dravidian architecture you don’t usually see outside of India. You can visit the temple if you are dressed appropriately, knees and shoulders need to be covered and no photos are allowed inside. The temple is covered with intricate carvings and paintings of Hindu gods. 

The Garden of the Sleeping Giant (named for the mountain that hovers over it) is a short drive from Nadi. Started by actor Raymond Burr to house his orchid collection, the area now has more than 1,000 orchids from more than 40 different species as well as Cattleya hybrids. Wander through the covered walkways with a guide who will put a name on the flowers for you. 

Orchid – Garden of the Sleeping Giants

 If you want, adventure awaits you 

 A GetAway Travel advisor can help you plot out what you want to do, and that will determine which islands you visit. You can kayak, zip line, surf, wind surf, hike, dive, swim with sharks or manta rays, snorkel, go rafting and whitewater rafting, stay at a traditional village and eat and sleep like a Fiji native, go mud crab catching, make coconut jewelry, walk in an ancient Fiji burial ground, take a mud bath and get a spa treatment, laze on the beach, hunt for pearls, watch a pearl harvest, feed baby sea turtles, be awed by the fire dancers and other Fiji dance performances and soak in the hot springs. 

Fiji is very family oriented. Depending on where you are staying, you can get free nanny services and older children can enjoy a variety of activities with a buddy while parents are on a day trip. Everyone can meet up at dinner. 

 Taveuni is the Garden Island 

 Taveuni is the third largest island in Fiji and it is nicknamed the Garden Island because of its lush forests. It is a great dive as well as bird-watching destination. It is home to several plants that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. In Bouma National Heritage Park on Taveuni, the tagimoucia flower blooms near Lake Tagimoucia. This is the only place in the world where you can see the flower that is the floral emblem of Fiji. The liana bearing crimson and white flowers hang in foot-long clusters off the trees. The tropical rainforest park encompasses 80% of the island. 

Paul hiding in the Garden of the Sleeping Giants

Taveuni also has the most recognizable waterfalls in Fiji. The Tavora Waterfalls are three falls and the first you see in the park is the most spectacular with a waterfall of 78 feet. 

waterfall in Fiji

There are more than 100 species of birds on the island including the rare orange dove and the tiny, endangered silk tail. Take a guided birdwatching walk on the Vida Rain Forest Trail.  

If you want a relaxing beach vacation, a tropical paradise adventure or a little of both, GetAway Travel can get you there. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

 

 

 

Switzerland’s captivating charm and mountain scenery

Matterhorn peak reflected in Lake Stellisee, Zermatt, Switzerland

Switzerland is a pretty amazing place with some pretty amazing scenery, neighbors, history and cuisine. You can find cuckoo clocks, cheese, chocolate, castles and charm throughout the country. The Alps run through most of the country, but the most photographed mountain is the Matterhorn. Near the border of Italy, the Matterhorn is the mountain of mountains. GetAway Travel can map you an itinerary around the Alps, around Zurich or from one end of Switzerland to the other. Let’s talk about Geneva, Lausanne, Zermatt and, of course, the Matterhorn. 

 No, you don’t have to ski to love it 

 Of course you can ski in Switzerland, and snowboard, cycle, skate, snowshoe and hike, but you can also enjoy amazing scenery that will give you a lifetime of memories without doing any of those things. If you want to start with the Matterhorn, then Zermatt is where you want to be. There are more than 200 miles of slopes in the area for all levels of skiing expertise, but there are also more than 60 mountain trains that you can ride to get you close to the slopes without touching a ski.  

Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt is home to some fabulous international resorts and part of its charm, in addition to the shops, chalets and restaurants, is there are no gas-powered vehicles. You park in a huge lot three miles from the city and get shuttled in. 

Ski Slopes in Zermatt

The huge, graceful Matterhorn dominates the area. Described by some as a pyramid and others as a jagged tooth, three faces of the mountain are in Switzerland and the fourth face is in Italy. 

Climbing it is an adventure to be braved only by the experienced. There are plenty of other challenging climbs that guides can direct you to. 

Gronergrat Railway

But don’t skip the marvelous chance to experience the mountains and the scenery — take a train. The Gornergrat Railway is Europe’s highest mountain railroad. It takes 45 minutes to take the six-mile trip up the east side of the Nikolai Valley and then around the sweeping curve up the slope of the Riffleberg. The rail line also runs above the Gorner Glacier to the Gornergrat Observatory giving visitors a spectacular look at the Matterhorn as well as the glacier. 

Gronergrat Observatory

The Matterhorn Museum details how the history of Zermatt is tied to climbers. A relief of the Matterhorn shows the routes climbers take, there are artifacts and exhibits and outside is the quirky Marmot Fountain. Bronze marmots cavort in cascading water and behind the fountain is a life-size bronze of a large, horned mountain goat. 

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Scotland: Grand scenery, historic sites and haggis

Scotland covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it boasts a generous diversity of scenery including rolling hills, lochs with and without monsters, mountains, beaches, fabulously preserved period architecture and, we’ll just address the cuisine situation right away, internal organs of sheep cooked in part of a carcass. Granted haggis is the national dish of Scotland, but we’ll give it pass because you can also get battered deep-fried Mars bars at every fish and chips shop and they also have whisky ice cream. And, the country’s national animal is a unicorn! How cool is that! 

Scottish Highlands – Eilean Donan Castle

If you’re interested in visiting a country featured in James Bond and Harry Potter movies, the travel advisors at GetAway Travel can get you there! And, we promise, no one is going to hold you down and make you try haggis. 

Haggis

 There are things to see and do everywhere 

 Scotland has consistently been voted the most beautiful country in the world edging out Canada, New Zealand and Italy. It is a relatively small country, which means you can pack a lot of sightseeing and activities in without a lot of travel time. The tallest mountain in the UK is in Scotland, Ben Nevis. There are more than 700 islands off the coast of Scotland and several, including the Isle of Arran and the Isle of Skye, are a sort of micro-Scotland with great scenery, historic sites and colonies of wildlife including seabirds, seals, red stag, golden eagles and humpback whales. You can hit the beach, tour a castle, explore charming towns, attend major art and cultural festivals, dine and shop. 

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Some of the world’s best gin and whisky distilleries are in Scotland which makes sense since whisky is the national drink of Scotland. You can tour Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh, Glenlivet near Ballindalloch and Macallan near Aberlour. You won’t get tired of trying whisky since it is different throughout the country. There’s Highland, Lowland, Islay, Spreyside and Campbell, regions and each has a distinctive flavor because of the water used and the processing. There is also plenty of craft beer options to explore. 

 Capital Edinburgh is a cultural destination 

 Edinburgh, in addition to being home to some fabulously preserved architecture from the medieval times to the 18th century, is also the headquarters for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  

Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a 25-day extravaganza of art and cultural performances held at the stunning Edinburgh Castle. Enjoy comedy, cabaret, opera and pretty much any other “cultural” performance you can imagine. 

Edinburgh Castle

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has nothing to do with body ink and everything to do with the pomp and pageantry of military music and tradition. There’s a new theme every year, but every year you can also enjoy military displays, marching bands, bagpipers and mock battles.  

While you are in Edinburgh you can tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. The queen’s personal yacht is now a museum and the state apartments and royal bedrooms are open to visitors. Talk to your GetAway Travel advisor about booking a table on the Royal Deck Tea Room and enjoying a traditional high tea. 

Edinburgh

St. Andrews is about an hour from Edinburgh and it’s a top golf destination. If you can’t get a tee time on the course, drop into the British Golf Museum. The University of St. Andrews has some great old buildings showing off some well-preserved medieval architecture. There are art galleries and a natural history museum on the university grounds. 

St Andrews golf course

 Enjoy the coastal cities of Aberdeen and Glasgow 

 Aberdeen on the North Sea has some fascinating old homes and commercial buildings. They are made from a unique local granite that has some sparkle to it — hence the city’s nickname “Silver City.” There’s plenty of green space in this pedestrian-friendly city and don’t miss the amazing inside green space at the David Welch Winter Gardens in Duthie Park. The 44-acre indoor garden is one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe with hundreds of domestic and exotic plants. 

Aberdeen lighthouse

If you’ve got time for shopping go to Old High Street. 

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is another pedestrian-friendly town with a lot of green space. Check out the Glasgow Cathedral and the Glasgow School of Art. The Riverside Museum on the waterfront explores the history of transportation from vintage steam engines and trams to cars and sea-going vessels. If you have a chance, take in a theatrical performance at the King’s Theatre or an opera in the Theatre Royal. There is local art on display at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and works of the old masters on display at the Glasgow Style Gallery. 

 Tell me about lochs and the highlands 

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

 A loch is a partially landlocked part of the sea. The land surround means the lochs have a surface that is very nearly smooth as glass. Drop by the Loch Ness and see if you can get a glimpse of the reclusive Nessie and while you are there do some sightseeing in the ruins of the Urquhart Castle. The Loch Lomond is the largest body of fresh water in the UK and it is nicknamed the “Queen of the Scottish Lakes.” Take a boat tour or short cruise and visit the Lomond Bird of Prey Centre. 

For sure – this is the real Loch Ness monster – for sure

Revel in the romance and sublime scenery of the Highlands, most recently featured in the “Outlander” series.  First, the Highlands is the mountainous upper half of Scotland. The Castle Sween near Argyll in the Highlands is the oldest castle in Scotland. 

Castle Sween

The West Highland Museum is in Fort Wiliams. The city is named after the fortifications that were built in the 17th century. The museum houses a vast collection of furniture, paintings and art pieces, weapons and Highland costumes. Near Fort Williams is the Glennfinnan Viaduct. Take a steam train ride on the longest mass concrete bridge in Scotland. Enjoy the spectacular natural beauty and know you are taking the route that dozens of wizard wannabes took on the way to Hogwarts. 

Glennfinnan railway viaduct

Drive the Glen Etive Road in the Highlands for some leisurely sightseeing. But be warned, Etive is Gaelic for “fierce one.” The 12 miles of road winds and twists. Parts of the James Bond thriller “Skyfall” were filmed in nearby Glencoe.  

If you fancy a trip to Scotland, GetAway Travel can help you get your fill of castles and Highland adventures. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

 

 

Experience the joy of the season at European Christmas Markets

While it’s true there’s no place like home for the holidays, there’s no reason why you can’t start your holidays at one or more of the fabulous Christmas markets held all over Europe. This year when you gather for the holidays, start thinking about making some new holiday memories starting with a fabulous getaway that includes some stops at Christmas markets. Your travel advisors at GetAway can plan your trip including some stops for shopping and enjoying some new holiday experiences. 

 Markets got their start in Vienna 

 Christmas markets are street markets designed to celebrate the holiday during the four weeks of Advent leading up to and sometimes, depending on which country you are in, past Christmas into January. They are thought to have originated in Vienna, but were made popular in Germany. 

Vienna, Austria, City Centre Christmas Market

The first Christmas market supposedly was in 1296 in December when Emperor Albrecht I of Austria granted shopkeepers a one-to-two day market so the townspeople could stock up before the winter. Christmas markets are held in town squares and the little, decorated wooden stalls offer arts and crafts items, candles, toys, Christmas decorations and figurines as well as food and drinks. Some town halls transform into giant Advent calendars with different windows lighted each night. 

Nutcrackers in Rudesheim Germany Christmas Market

Now, virtually every country including Germany, Denmark, France, Austria, Portugal, Spain and England have Christmas markets. So your GetAway advisor can plan plenty of sightseeing in a country and have your trip end with a fantastic Christmas market experience. You can fill that second empty suitcase you brought with your holiday gifts, and, of course, a couple of items for yourself! 

 Festive sights, sounds and food 

 The most famous Christmas market is in Vienna, which actually has a dozen or more markets located throughout the city. The largest market is in Rathausplatz, in the square facing Vienna City Hall. Markets in Vienna are, well, grand — like the residents strive to match the fabulous, grand architecture of the city. There’s lots of light displays and Rathausplatz has an ice skating rink. And, just a note, when markets are described as having stalls with items, we are taking upwards of 200 stalls. 

Christmas Market Mainz, Germany

Markets, no matter what city in what country, serve a variation of gluhwein. Gluhwein is hot mulled wine spiced with cloves, anise, cinnamon and citrus fruits. Red wine is the most prevalent, but you can find it done with white wine. There is usually a version of apple cider if you want a non-alcoholic beverage and, of course, hot cocoa. Gluhwein, where ever you are, is served in a mug which you put a deposit on. You can return for a refill, or keep the mug for the price of the small deposit. They make great keepsake souvenirs. 

Make sure to go to the markets hungry. In France, where you should wait until dusk to go shopping because the twinkling lights are magical, you can get oysters, champagne, caviar, poutine and freshly grilled meat. 

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Visit the charming, historic heel of Italy

Hands down, the Puglia region of Italy has the best beaches and you can get confirmation of that from locals, European tourists and American visitors. Puglia, also called Apulia, is in the southeastern tip of Italy or the heel of Italy’s boot. The Adriatic Sea is on the East, the Ionian Sea on the Southeast and the gulf of Taranto is on the South side. 

The area has been recognized as an undiscovered gem — think stunning coastlines, miles and miles of olive groves, vineyards, charming towns, historic villages with cone-shaped trullo houses and unique cuisine. The Puglia region produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil, about 300,000 tons a year.  

Bari, Italy

Two of the many areas of note in the region are Bari, the capital of the Puglia region and Matera, a city that truly makes you think you’ve stepped back into Biblical times. 

If you’d like to see Bari, Matera and Lecce, nicknamed the “Florence of the South” GetAway Travel can arrange your trip, or, check back with us for details on a trip planned for that area in 2023. 

 Bari: monuments and pasta 

 Bari is home to two important monuments, the Basilica di San Nicola, or the Church of St. Nicholas and Frederick II’s castle. It is a bustling harbor town with lovely beaches. The largest port on the Italian side of the Adriatic Sea, it gave Italians numerous access to shipping routes, second only to Naples. 

Beautiful tiled floor – Basilica di San Nicola, Bari

It is still a major ferry port. There are up to 15 ferry crossings a day including an overnight ferry to Dubrovnik, Croatia. 

Bari, Italy

The Church of St. Nicholas is thought to be the resting place of Santa Claus. Built in 1089 to house the remains of the saint, the church is a mixture of architecture styles. The remains of St. Nicholas of Myra were originally in Turkey, but they were moved to Bari when the Saracens attacked Myra in 1087. It is somewhat fitting his remains are in Bari because he is considered the patron saint of travelers, sailors and children. The church interior features beautiful artwork and mosaics. 

St Nicholas, Bari

The city’s main church is the Cathedral of San Sabino. It was destroyed and rebuilt in 1170 in a more Romanesque style. Take some time to study the front facade which is decorated with monsters and other imaginary creatures. 

View down the street – of Cathedral of San Sabino, Bari

The Castello Svevo was built by King Ruggero in the 12th Century, destroyed and rebuilt by Frederick II in 1233. It became a social hub in the Renaissance when Isabella of Aragon and her daughter, Bona Sforza lived there and hosted famous artists, writers and dignitaries. 

Castello Svevo, Bari

St. Nicholas Church and the cathedral are in the Old Town or Bari Vecchia area of Bari. It’s worth taking a walk through the winding streets in Old Town. You will come upon women practicing a craft perfected by their grandmothers and mothers — making orecchiette (little ears) pasta by hand. You can take a walking tour of the area or take a pasta making class. 

Making orecchiette pasta

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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