Category Archives: Europe

Too many Pictures and not enough time

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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Speaking of Honfleur – here it is.  It’s a gorgeous town to visit.

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The American cemetery in Normandy is a humbling beautiful place to visit.  Words cannot express the gratitude.

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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

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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

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Water lillies and France – must be the home of Monet.  Some of Monet’s most famous paintings are of his garden at Giverny.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Speaking of hats, this one looked great on Pierre, but we don’t think he actually brought it home.

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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?

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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!

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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.

 

 

Pour yourself a nice glass of wine and discover River Cruising with us

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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.

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Register with Agency Name – GetAway Travel LLC
Travel Advisor – Sue

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Learn about what makes Avalon Waterways’ ships and itineraries so special, and hear about their incredible current promotions.

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Plus, Contact Our Agency to Receive an Exclusive $100 Savings
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The Queens Hamlet

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/

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Add Assisi to your list of places to go in Italy

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 Assisi is 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.

St Francis returns from war

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa

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 Mezquita

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.

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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

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the Mihrab

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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.

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sun streaming in through stained glass

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the cathedral

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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.

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Our fun overcast day in Ronda, Spain

Well we didn’t have the greatest weather in Ronda, however the clouds stayed high enough and held in their rain fairly well so we could get some pretty decent photos.

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Ronda is an impressive town in the province of Málaga; an easy day trip from the Costa del Sol or for us a nice diversion on our car ride from Seville to Córdoba.  Ronda is built on and around a very deep gorge spanned by an extremely impressive bridge.

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Ronda was first settled by the early Celts, and later inhabited by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. The Moors left an indelible imprint in the city, which only fell to the Christian Reconquista in 1485. In more recent times, the town has hosted a number of well-known writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Orson Welles, & James Joyce.

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This large and incredible bridge over the Tajo gorge, is called Puento Neuvo finished in 1793, is Ronda’s principal attraction. The bridge is 230 feet long and 320 feet high, roughly equivalent to a 30-floor building.  It was built following the collapse of an earlier bridge from 1735; this bridge had a single arch of 115 feet but collapsed six years after construction, killing 50 people. There are beautiful views from here of the Natural Park -Sierra de Grazalema to the west – although this was a bit tough to see on the day we visited.

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Views of the gorge and surrounding countryside are amazing, but that was not all we saw in Ronda.  We went on a self guided tour of the very quaint Santa Maria la Mayor church (built on the ruins of an older mosque) -which has outstanding views of the town from the roof and is well worth a visit.

And we of course stopped for a wine tasting.  While not world class at this point – (maybe another 10 years…or so) it was certainly a lot of fun.

Unfortunately the 13th century Arab Baths in Ronda were closed during our visit which just means that we’ll have to see them on a return trip as they are considered to be the best example in Spain.

Córdoba Spain – Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (Castle of the Christian Monarchs)

In January we took our oldest Grandson on a trip to southern Spain to celebrate his upcoming high school graduation.  Coming from the midwest US, most folks think of warm weather beach vacations during the winter.  We wanted to do something with more culture and history – southern Spain in January was a perfect choice.  Mild weather, no crowds, mostly sunshine, tons of extremely interesting history and culture – AND fantastic food.

There are so many things to blog about – but let’s start with some history in Córdoba.  Córdoba was originally a Roman settlement taken over by the Visigoths and then taken by Muslim armies in the eighth century.  The Caliphate of Córdoba encompassed most of the Iberian peninsula and was likely the largest city in Europe in the 10th century.  It was recaptured by Christian forces in 1236.

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No visit to Córdoba is complete without visiting the Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral) and the Alcázar.  The amazing Mezquita will be the subject of an upcoming blog – for now let’s focus on the Alcázar.

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The Alcázar had been around for 200 years before the monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand used it for one of the first permanent tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition.  In addition it was the used as headquarters for the campaign against the last remaining (at that time) Moorish kingdom on the peninsula which was the Nasrids in Granada.  After about 10 years, their campaign succeeded in 1492 – the same year the monarchs met Christopher Columbus in the Alcázar as he prepared his first voyage to what we now know was the Americas.

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View of the extensive gardens

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One of many security cats that monitored our visit

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A visit to Southern Spain should be on everyone’s bucket list.  Please let us know if we can help make your travel dreams come true.

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Italy will never be a normal country and we love it that way.

 

“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.”

-Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy…