Category Archives: Europe

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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!

New Group GetAway Just Added – but you must act soon

Have you ever taken a European river cruise?  Have you ever cruised with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises?

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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.

kinderdijk-windmillsOK – 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.

 

 

Europe GetAways in 2017

We have 2 exciting European Group GetAways scheduled for 2017.  They may both be cruises, but they are completely different!


1-Wine_grapes07First up is the Wines of Western Europe which 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.


salzburg2Our second European Group GetAway for 2017 is in December.  Why December?  Christmas MarketsCome with us and celebrate the season as we cruise along the Danube aboard the Uniworld SS Maria Theresa.  We last visited Christmas markets in 2014 and everyone had such a great time that we knew we’d definitely do it again.

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!

  As always, we can be reached at 262.538.2140 or send us an email: paul@getaway.travel or sue@getaway.travel


 

Professional Service & Awards

At GetAway Travel, we pride ourselves on great professional service to our customers.  Travel industry surveys continue to relate that travelers that work with travel agents have more fulfilling vacations than those that do not.  We certainly believe it is true, and obviously so do our clients.  Our clients expect to be treated like friends and family.  They are confident in our abilities.  They do not expect to be “sold” on travel as we already know they want an amazing vacation, what they want is our opinions, our help and our support.  One of the ways we support them is by maintaining professional agency affiliations. The affiliation that we are always most excited about is with MAST Travel Network – and unless you are in the industry, you likely have never heard of them.  We’ve been MAST members for many years now, and in fact Sue currently is serving a term on the board of directors.   MAST helps keep us up to date on the travel industry and products, but more importantly puts us face to face with suppliers.

This week was the 12th annual MAST awards night and GetAway Travel came home with 2 awards which bring us great pride.  The first award is for “Best Travel Show”, for our “Afternoon in Italy” event last February.  The second award is the “Directors Achievement Award”, recognizing one of MAST’s smaller agencies for outstanding sales and support with highest percentage increases from one year to the next.  This was a new category and we are truly blessed with being the first agency to ever receive this award.

You should expect great things from your travel agency, and we hope that for you that the travel agency you rely on first and foremost for amazing vacations is us.

Looking Forward – 2016 Year in Travel

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.

Uniworld River Baroness Honfleur France 3-26-2009 4-32-41 AMRiver 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.

iberostar-rose-hall-beach-poolAll 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.

Irish Legends Tour – Friends You Haven’t Yet Met.

 “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”  
W.B. Yeats – Irish Poet, Nobel Laureate

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Come and make new friends as you tour the Emerald Isle on the September 2015 Irish Legends Tour –   September 18 – September 27

Click to see all the details on our web page

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