Cruising on the Danube river in Budapest past the stunning parliament building is a special treat both day and night. Did you know that the Danube flows over 1700 miles passing through 10 countries on its way to the Black Sea? You can travel almost all of it on an amazing river cruise. How much time do you have? 1 week? 2 weeks? More? Let us know and we can design the perfect trip for you.
It’s up and at ’em today with a goal of seeing as much as possible. First stop St. Stephen’s Basilica. Located in a very nice area, the church is surrounded by many shops and cafés so after the visit you might want to grab a bite to eat or a glass of wine and enjoy the square.
St. Stephen’s is dedicated to the Hungary’s king who was the founder of the Hungarian State. Construction started in 1851 but the church was not dedicated until 1905. During WWII, the church roof, towers and external walls were badly damaged however visitors today will find that even the beautiful mosaics have been successfully restored. Like many churches & Basilica’s in Europe, St. Stephan’s has it’s precious relic. Here (in the chapel) you will find the mummified hand of the church’s patron saint, the first king of Hungary. I’ve seen quite a few mummified parts in my travels but no matter how many, I can’t quite get over the concept – and yes, in every church I do seek them out….go figure!
If you are ambitious (we were not) you can walk up the 364 steps to the cupula for a panoramic view of the city, or do it the easy way and take one of the 2 elevators – either way, its worth the effort on a clear day.
St Matthias church on Buda Castle hill
Next stop on our whirlwind tour is Buda Castle. We took public transportation for an easy jog over to that part of town. Located on what is referred to as Castle Hill, the 18th century Buda castle is a 200 room palace built to protect from Mongol and Tartar attacks. The castle was quite damaged in World War II however today many parts of it have been restored and now house the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. The entire complex is designated a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is worth taking the time to explore.
An amazing view from Castle hill of the Parliament building on the Danube
View of Danube from Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill
Funicular Ride up to the Castle
Take the historic funicular up to the top and be sure to marvel at the views from the top. Stay for a changing of the guards ceremony and be sure to throw a penny in the fountain. While we were exploring a festival was being set up in the castle square and we are glad we hung around until the stalls began to open. This was by far the best Hungarian food ever! The cabbage roll was to die for, the grilled chicken was moist and tasty and sausage….well with a cold Hungarian brew, what could have been better??
Sue & Ellen enjoy lunch at the Buda Castle
Onward we went – in search of one of the “most scenic tram rides in Europe”. AKA Tram #2, on the Pest side of the river is according to National Geographic, one of the most scenic trams in the world but I think we missed its beauty. Don’t get me wrong, out the river side of the tram there were some very pretty sights – when you could see them. However, the tram is crowded and used for local transportation so if you can get a seat on the scenic side you are lucky…heck that is if you can get a seat at all!
Tram running in front of Gellert Baths in Budapest
Now a word about this and other trams/public transportation options in Budapest. You must buy a ticket and you MUST validate it upon entering the tram. We bought a 10 pack and got on. One of us validated and the other 2 did not, as our main goal was seeking out a seat. Well it seems that the one who validated did not actually validate the ticket itself but rather the ticket cover….and folks that doesn’t count when the tram police step on board and check your tickets. Let’s just say that the 1 Euro tram ride ticket became about a $35 per person fine – yep, even though we had attempted to validate according to the nice lady checking tickets, we had done so incorrectly and it simply didn’t count! You see, she doesn’t “make the rules, she just follows them” thank you very much and pay on the spot! It did not matter that we had some 8 unused tickets that she could have easily stamped …nope….tourist hand over the money! And so we did….but here is the good news (according to her), we could now ride the tram the rest of the day for free! Well we rode it all right, to where we found a wonderful little wine bar to toast our contribution to Budapest tourism!
A Souvenir that won’t be soon forgotten!
All in a days fun…and something to talk about for a long time to come!
Starting in Budapest, Hungary, we made our way down the Danube River on the Uniworld SS Maria Theresa and oh what a time we had.
We arrived in Budapest a few days earlier and checked into the Boscolo Budapest Autograph Collection Hotel aka the New York Palace Hotel. This city center hotel is truly an extraordinary experience where historic combines with contemporary comfort. Marble bathrooms, plush bedding, silk wallpaper and Murano chandeliers make you feel as though you are royalty.
The service is fantastic and a visit to the world-famous New York Café located within the hotel is a must do.
Although tired, we grabbed a bite to eat while we waited for rooms to be ready and then our first stop of the trip was the famous natural hot spring baths. It was a short stroll from the hotel to the underground that took us right to the baths.
There are many hot mineral bath options in Budapest but we chose to visit Szechenyi Baths. Szechenyi is the largest in Budapest with 15 indoor baths and 3 grand outdoor options. Each pool has a different temperature, our favorite was outdoors pool because of the size and temperature. It was the warmest and together with the sunshine it revitalized our bodies, minds and spirits after that long overseas flight. Onsite, one can also take advantage of steam and sauna cabins, massage therapies and even a beer spa! We rented a cabin which afforded us a private change area and a place to store our things. This experience is highly recommended on your next trip to Budapest, there is just something about floating around in deliciously warm water while surrounded by a Neo-baroque palace!
Feeling refreshed we headed back to the hotel knowing dinner and bedtime were just a few hours away. Tomorrow was to be a full day of sightseeing….stay tuned!
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!
Have you ever taken a European river cruise? Have you ever cruised with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises?
Our customers love to cruise on Uniworld. In fact it has one of the highest rates for repeat trips amongst all the suppliers we use.
You may very well ask why that is. Well for starters, the standards of accommodations, food and service are extremely high. The ships have very tasteful interiors and yes they are all different, with each being as unique as your voyage. Typical cruise lengths are 8 – 15 days and everything is included, making for carefree and truly effortless travel. Included are: scheduled airport transfers, all dining on board, unlimited beverages (including many premium spirits), personalized shore excursions, fitness center, Wi-Fi, on-board entertainment and all gratuities.
OK – is this a commercial? Yes it pretty much is and here is why. We currently have some very special amazing prices on select Uniworld Cruises including our group cruise in April 2017 from Amsterdam to Antwerp. This “Tulips and Windmills” cruise is scheduled to coincide perfectly with a visit to the famous Keukenhof gardens which has over 7 million bulbs in bloom each spring. Additionally we will visit the windmills of Kinderdijk, the picture perfect villages of Veere, Hoorn and Enkhuizen, and the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Bruges and Antwerp. So much to see and so much to do but you need to act fast. Why? Because our amazing special pricing only lasts until October 11. Give us a call at 262.538.2140 to reserve your spot with our group.
For additional details on the ship and the trip you may also want to visit our web page.
We have 2 exciting European Group GetAways scheduled for 2017. They may both be cruises, but they are completely different!
First up is the Wines of Western Europewhich includes Bordeaux (France), Basque (Spain) and Portugal. Our group will be sailing aboard the luxurious Azamara Journey. Azamara Club Cruises is at the crossroads of where luxury and destination immersive cruising meet. This ship only holds 694 passengers and has a wonderful mix of amenities. She’s a perfect-sized vessel: small enough that it’s never too far from one place to another, yet large enough to provide variety on long itineraries. On our trip we will experience late evening and overnight port stays. The Journey was completely refurbished in 2016 – it received new spa suites in the fully renovated Sanctum spa with updated decor in marble, light wood and a cream palate. Every suite and stateroom has new beds with the same decor scheme, and the restaurants also received a modern upgrade.
Our 12 Night GetAway begins in Southampton England on September 4 and ends in Lisbon Portugal on September 16. Along the way you will experience the worlds foremost wine region in Bordeaux, spend a day at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, wash Tapas down with Rioja wine, and sip port in the Douro Valley – and so much more. You can find more details at our website. We hope you can join us.
If you’re tired of commercialism taking over the holidays, you will be very pleased with the traditions and romance of real Christmas markets where the gifts are not mass-produced but craftwork of real quality. Our group will begin in Budapest and sail along the Danube while visiting Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Every stop along the way will feature special Christmas Market excursions. You can find more details on the itinerary at our website.
Every Uniworld ship is as unique as it’s itinerary and the SS Maria Theresa is no exception. It’s opulent 18th century décor is a floating homage to one of the Habsburg empires most beloved ruler. The food, drink and service on Uniworld are absolutely outstanding – and everything is included! Call now as there are limited time promotions where even the air is included!
European vacations continue to hold great value. The US Dollar remains at historic low levels vs. the Euro. This is good news for travelers to Europe as you definitely get more bang for your buck. Our best advice for Europe is to plan ahead – this is not a destination that typically rewards the last-minute traveler. The best way to start planning your European vacation is to schedule a consultation with Sue.
River Cruising continues to grow and for very good reasons. Our clients absolutely love to take River Cruises. All it takes is to try it once and you will rave about it forever. Be aware however that not all river cruise companies are equal. You can research endlessly on your own, or you can call us to discuss. Our goal is to find out about what you want to do, how adventurous you are, what you like and what you don’t like. What are your travel dreams? Our recommendations are simply based on you and your needs, that’s it.
All Inclusive vacations will remain hot, hot, hot. The industry continues to upgrade old properties and build new ones. There are All-Inclusives for all tastes and budgets. Well we know you want a warm weather, beach destination, but are you looking for a romantic escape or a family/multi-generational getaway? Do you want basic dining choices or a more gourmet experience? How does a canopy covered bed and open air shower sound? Or a private plunge pool within mere steps of your suite? The choices go on and on. We can help narrow it down to something you will love.
According to the experts, air ticket prices are down but add-on fees are up. The simple fact, is you need air tickets to get to many vacation destinations. They are the transportation, not the vacation.
Cheap will remain, well….cheap. While the dictionary defines cheap as inexpensive, it also defines it as something of poor quality or shoddy. Continue to be cautious about anything advertised as cheap, supercheap, ultracheap, etc. A fantastically cheap vacation is not a good value if it is actually craptastic (this is our official industry word for cheap vacations!). Everyone wants good value and that’s where we help – get the best value for your money that actually gets the vacation experience you are looking for. Will it be cheap? We certainly hope not.
The best things in travel continue to come to those who plan ahead. For example, how about planning 2017? You may not be ready yet, but we are. We have 2 special group options worth considering.
Join us in January 2017 for our GetAway on the Getaway. We will do all the following: go down the highest water slides at sea, attend award-winning Broadway shows, experience Iron Chef dining, walk the plank and be endlessly entertained and pampered. Book now and choose between Free unlimited drinks, Free Specialty Dining, Free Shore Excursions or Free WiFi.
In September 2017 we will be hosting a very special Wines of Western Europe group on the Azamara Journey. Beginning in England, we will sail to France, Spain and Portugal. Azamara specializes in unique itineraries that include overnight stays in many ports. Our group will be in Bordeaux, one of the world’s foremost wine regions for 3 days. But that is not the only World Heritage region we will visit – see our web page for all the details.
We recently returned from an unforgettable cruise along the Rhine River to visit Christmas Markets in Germany, France and Switzerland. Our journey was even more memorable as we travelled with a group of close friends.
River cruising provides an up close and personal experience. The ships typically dock in the heart of town allowing easy and convenient access to the local sights and sounds. This is especially convenient for a Christmas Market Cruise. During the advent season, towns throughout Europe host wonderfully decorated markets for crafts, drink and food! Hop off the ship to go shopping all day and then back on in time for cocktail hour and a gourmet dinner before you set off for your next stop.
Advent has been ushered in since the late middle ages via traditional Christmas markets. Depending on where you are in Europe a Christmas market is also known as Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt. Christkindlesmarkt literally translates as “Christ child market”.
Generally held in town squares, the markets sell food, drink and seasonal crafts from open-air stalls accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. Popular attractions include a Nativity scene, nutcrackers, toasted almonds, traditional gingerbread cookies and hot mulled wine to help stave off the cold winter air. Many handmade items including toys, decorations and ornaments are found in the Market. Check out this photo – It’s truly a magical experience!
One of the most visited Christmas Markets is found in Cologne, Germany which in fact has 7 markets in total of which the 4 biggest are located near the amazing Cathedral. The Christmas Market at the Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive one in, due to the huge backdrop of the imposing Cathedral. Beneath the Cathedral and the largest Christmas tree in the Rhineland, you can find well over 160 festively designed wooden pavilions. Here you can watch artisans at work, enjoy original “Christmas Mulled Wine” out of festively decorated Christmas mugs or you can choose from an unlimited choice of sweets and local delicacies. The Alter Markt takes place in front of the old town hall only 200 meters from the cathedral. Shadowed by beautiful narrow-gabled houses and half-timbered stalls, this market conveys a very romantic and idyllic feel. The Neumarkt is Cologne’s oldest Christmas market located near St. Aspoteln’s (Basilica of the Holy Apostles) church. This market glows in splendor with charmingly designed chalets and a unique “stars at night” theme. The Christmas Market on the Rudolfplatz takes you to a world of brother’s Grimm fairy tales. Large fairy tale figures and festive illuminations provide a special eye-catcher, set against the historic backdrop of one of Cologne’s 3 standing medieval gate houses.
Prepare to be pampered and amazed on our special 7 day trip cruising along the legendary Rhine through Germany, France and Switzerland. Explore charming towns and discover treasures in some of Europe’s finest traditional Christmas markets. You’ll revel in the brilliant holiday decorations and in tasting the many treats and spiced wines of the season. This is truly the way to celebrate Christmas! Discover the roots of our Christmas traditions as you explore some of Europe’s most charming towns. Browse for unique ornaments in Basel’s Christmas Market. Sip vin chaud as you stroll to Place Kléber to behold the enormous, brilliantly lighted tree that Strasbourg offers modern celebrants. Find unexpected treasures in the red-roofed stalls clustered around Cologne’s magnificent cathedral.
Are you looking for a girls getaway to the Caribbean? How about a wine club tour of France, Italy or New Zealand? Would your church group like to experience the footsteps of St. Paul in Turkey and Greece? What about taking a group of your friends to Napa to celebrate a milestone birthday? How about a family reunion on an Alaskan cruise? Ski club trip to Vail? Scrapbooking club River Cruise in Austria? Choral group trip to Christmas markets in Germany? Foodies group at Walt Disney World food and wine festival? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The possibilities are endless. We can help with generating ideas, the detailed planning, the marketing and of course getting everyone in your group to where they need to go. While we work with the group leaders to help craft the whole experience, we also make sure that we meet the needs of individual travellers within the group as well.
Have an idea for a group GetAway? We need to talk – (262) 538-2140