Last September we had the joy of sailing with a small group aboard the Uniworld S.S. Joie de Vivre cruising from Paris to Normandy. Everyone loved the experience onboard – the service was outstanding and the food was amazing. One of our (many!) highlights of the trip was a group cooking class in the on board Wine Cave – La Cave des Vins.
Being in Normandy, we had a welcome cocktail made with Calvados (local Apple Brandy) followed by a 4 course food and wine pairing. The whole group assisted with all the food prep and cooking. Our first course was an amazing sauteed foie gras atop a vanilla apple – which Continue reading →
What better high school graduation gift could there be then a trip to Europe with your grandparents. In January 2019 we took an amazing trip to Spain with our grandson Aiden. As he was still in school we did not have unlimited time to spend and had to keep things tight. We flew in and out of Madrid and spent all our time touring in the Andalusia region. Even though it was January the weather was fairly mild and as a bonus we did not encounter crowds at any of the sites. Unless your going for some beach time or just crave the heat, we highly recommend this off-season timing to others.
First stop Seville. Highlights for us were tours of the Plaza de Toros (Game of Thrones), Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos once the home of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and horse carriage ride through the Plaza de España (Star Wars)
Bratislava is one of the smaller capitals of Europe but still is the largest city in Slovakia. It sits on both banks of the Danube and is the only national capital that borders 2 other sovereign states: Austria and Hungary. It’s also a popular stop on River cruises along the Danube.
AMASonata docked in Bratislava
There are several fun and iconic statues in the old town area
Man at Work
Café Meyer was opened in 1873 and serves fantastic coffee and cakes
Licorice – Sue’s favorite candy!
Anytime is a good time to go – and of course there are always tasty treats to eat
We truly hope you are having a fantastic holiday season!
As this season draws to a close, so does the decade as we get ready to welcome the 2020’s. What better way to celebrate the New Year than to take a River Cruise. While Paul stays home and takes care of the new puppy Sue is onboard the AMASonata sailing from Budapest, Hungary to Vilshofen, Germany. Here are a few photos from her journey thus far.
The Hungarian Parliament is the largest building in Budapest. Situated on the Pest side of the Danube it first opened its’ doors in 1902
Located in the heart of the Buda castle district is the Saint Matthias Church. The site dates back to the year 1015, but the current building was constructed in the 2nd half of the 14th century. Check out those gorgeous tiles on the roof.
The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in all of Europe. It’s Moorish architectural features would definitely not look out of place in Spain.
Heroes’ Square is one of the major squares in Budapest, Hungary, noted for its iconic statue complex featuring the Seven chieftains of the Magyars.
Well I’m not sure what’s the meaning of this flask on Sue’s head, but there will certainly be stories to tell when she gets back
Enjoying the dancing and we’ll post updates on Sue’s Danube cruise soon!
This happens every time we GetAway. We take a ton of pictures while we’re travelling and then after we get home we struggle to find time to sort through them, find the best ones and share. So for today’s post we just grabbed some random ones from our recent Paris to Normandy river cruise that we hope you’ll enjoy. So, well…enjoy away!
This was our third time to Versailles, but our very first to see the Queen’s hamlet. It’s a beautiful setting and makes for a great day of touring. You can read more about it here –The Queens Hamlet
I think you can tell we love River Cruising. But it’s not just us (although we are pictured above), our friends and clients love it too. The Joie de Vivre was an amazing home for 7 days.
Yup it’s just a picture of cheese in France. Call us guilty – we are from Wisconsin and we love cheese enough to take pictures of it.
Artwork as seen through a store window in Honfleur, France. This gorilla looks to need a glass of single malt scotch to go with his cigar. We didn’t buy this painting as we don’t know where we’d hang this in our house, however if you have a place for it – a trip to Honfleur might be just the thing you need.
Speaking of Honfleur – here it is. It’s a gorgeous town to visit.
The American cemetery in Normandy is a humbling beautiful place to visit. Words cannot express the gratitude.
This is a view down a stretch of Omaha beach. The coast line is rugged and looks much the same as it did in 1944
Sainte-Mère-Église is now famous for a true incident portrayed in the movie The Longest Day. The incident on D-Day involved paratrooper John Steele whose parachute caught on the spire of the town church, and could only observe the fighting going on below. He hung there limply for two hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when US troops attacked the village. Look closely and you’ll see a mannequin with a parachute hanging from the church tower today
Water lillies and France – must be the home of Monet. Some of Monet’s most famous paintings are of his garden at Giverny.
Random visit to a pop-up market behind the exclusive Domaine Les Crayères hotel in Reims. Yes we’re in the heart of Champagne and this is a craft beer tent. It was a very happy moment for Paul!
There is a lot of limestone in the soils of Champagne. Our Wine expert is showing us the ancient sea creature shells embedded in the stone on the Reims Cathedral. He explained the calcium in the limestone is present in the wine and now that we’ve been drinking Champagne, there is a bit of the region of Champagne in all of us.
You should definitely go for the night time light show at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. But during the day you get better close up shots of the statues and this one is missing the top of his head. Perhaps his hat blew off in a strong wind.
Speaking of hats, this one looked great on Pierre, but we don’t think he actually brought it home.
Sitting outside in Hautvillers, France for a wine and food tasting. That’s a lot of glasses! It was all so we could taste some of the individual varietals that go into Champagne. Hautvillers itself is famous for the Abbey of St. Peter which existed here until the French Revolution. The Abbey was the home of Dom Perignon, a rather famous Benedictine monk whose work in wine-making helped to develop champagne. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?
Speaking of Champagne how about a place called Billecart-Salmon? They create fantastic wine and it was a great Champagne house to visit. We discovered that in his college years, our host (center of photo above) spent a year in Milwaukee. You can imagine we quickly bonded over that. Yes it is a small world!
Hmm….you may be wondering…yes it is a foosball table – perhaps the best one ever. We discovered this one at Ruinart. Come for the bubbles and stay for the foosball!
Well that’s just a sample of some of our activities and the sites we visited. These pictures don’t even include our cooking class in Reims – you can see that on youtube here. Champagne is a quick train trip outside of Paris. While it was not part of the river cruise – we went there for a few days first prior to the 7 days on the river Seine. If we can help make your France (or any other location) travel dreams come true – please give us a call or drop us a note.
Please join us for an exclusive on-line River Cruise Night with Avalon Waterways
Presented by Nancy Baumann & Sharon Pendergast – Avalon Waterways
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | 7:00 PM CST
If you want to see the world, cruise down its legendary rivers. If you want to see more of the world, look no further than Avalon Waterways. Their ships feature one-of-a-kind Panorama Suites with the widest opening windows in river cruising, open-air balconies, and beds facing the incredible views.
Beyond the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling windows is a world waiting to be explored—your way. Whether you want to enjoy a guided walking tour of one of Europe’s great cities, join a cooking class or paddle a canoe, their Avalon Choice selections of Classic, Discovery and Active excursions offer a wide range of possibilities. When you prefer to explore on your own, they can help you with all the recommendations, information and gear you need. And when it’s time to refuel, your dining options on board are as wide open as your views.
The Hameau de la Reine is a rustic retreat built for Marie Antionette in 1783 within the park which includes the Palace of Versailles. It served as a private leisure and meeting place for the queen and her closest friends. In a couple of weeks that will include us as we visit as part of an excursion on our Paris to Normandy River Cruise aboard the S.S Joie de Vivre.
Including the queen’s house there are a total of 10 cottages. The site was abandoned after the French Revolution and would be completely lost if not for later restoration efforts. Napoleon ordered a full restoration between 1810 and 1812, which unfortunately included tearing down some of the most dilapidated structures including the barn and the working dairy. A second restoration campaign funded by John Rockefeller in 1930’s saved the hamlet from certain ruin. Part of the hamlet was restored once again in the late 20th century, with some buildings including the windmill restored to their original look. The farm itself almost totally disappeared over the course of the 20th century but was reconstructed in 2006. It’s now home to a variety of animals.
We are really looking forward to our upcoming visit. While the cruise is sold out you can still follow along on our Facebook page – we hope to see you there -https://www.facebook.com/getawaytravelllc/
Assisi is a hill town in central Italy, but it is not in Tuscany – it is in the Province of Perugia in the Umbria region. A visit to the Medieval town of Assisiis essential; a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its represents “a series of masterpieces of man‘s creative spirit.” The town revolves around its most renowned citizen, St. Francis, Patron Saint of Italy: from the Basilica, which is dedicated to the Saint and contains his tomb, to the hermitage (Eremo delle Carceri), a few kilometers outside the town walls, where St. Francis used to retreat in prayer.
Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. Born in Italy circa 1182, Saint Francis of Assisi was renowned for drinking and partying in his youth. After fighting in a battle between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was captured and imprisoned for ransom. He spent nearly a year in prison — awaiting his father’s payment — and, according to legend, began receiving visions from God.
After his release from prison, Francis heard the voice of Christ, who told him to repair the Christian Church and live a life of poverty. Consequently, he abandoned his life of luxury and became a devotee of the faith, his reputation spreading all over the Christian world.
Only an hour from Florence by train, Pisa should be high on your list of sights to see in Italy. The most iconic structure to see is Torre Pendente or the Leaning Tower, which was conceived as the bell tower for the splendid Duomo di Pisa (or Pisa Cathedral). Shortly after construction began in 1173, the tower started to lean due to the soft ground on which it was being built. Tower construction occurred in 3 phases over a period of 199 years.
the tower and the duomo
Galileo Galilei is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass. It’s not known if this is completely true or not – but it does make a good story and demonstrates an important property of physics
Looking down into the top of the tower
During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. A U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral and its campanile, and thus refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction. (you can read an account of this story here)
the stunning baptistry
Numerous efforts were made to stabilize the tower and it was closed for a long time for safety reasons. In 2008 it was reported by engineers that it stopped moving for the first time in 800 years and that it should remain stable for at least another 200 years.
inside the church
There is so much to see and do in this area of Italy – We can help plan the perfect GetAway for you – just call!
The biggest attraction in Córdoba was literally a 5 minute walk from our hotel. The Mezquita is truly a must see building. It’s a massive former mosque turned cathedral with an amazing forest of columns topped by red and white striped double arches that have seen over 1000 years of history. It is not only the largest mosque in the world, but the largest temple in the world as well. It occupies an area of over 250,000 square feet or almost 6 acres.
The Mezquita with Red and White striped arches
The focal point in the prayer hall is the mihrab – which identifies the wall that faces Mecca
the dome above the mihrab
Originally built in 786, the initial construction lasted for about 200 years. After Córdoba was recaptured by King Ferdinand III in 1236, the mosque became used as a church. Currently in the very middle of the Mezquita is a stunning Renaissance cathedral, which was built in the 1500’s. Although some parts of the original column hall had been destroyed to make room for the cathedral – the building is still a remarkable and dazzling example of Moorish architecture.
sun streaming in through stained glass
ceiling in the cathedral between the organ pipes
The Mezquita is certainly a signature attraction in Córdoba and visitors should plan on spending at least a half day to see everything.