Category Archives: Europe

Architecture, history flavor Barcelona experience

Barcelona

There’s so much to love about Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. The weather is pleasant, the cuisine is tasty, there’s some very attractive beaches and the area oozes cultural heritage and dragons. In the early 19th century commerce and trade made the area prosperous and residents embraced their economic good fortune by building grand houses and landmarks. The city is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you’re interested in embracing the historical passion and cultural flare of Barcelona, your travel advisor at GetAway Travel can make that happen. 

 Modernism mixes with tradition 

La Rambla – Barcelona

 When you arrive in Barcelona, join the other tourists on La Rambla. It is the famous and iconic boulevard that links Port Vell to Placa Catalunya and it practically vibrates with energy. There are street performers, artists and vendors lining the street and it’s a great place to find souvenirs. As you soak in everything that’s going on, think of it as a prelude for what is sure to be a fabulous experience! 

Dragon in the Park

A word or two about dragons, St. George is the patron Saint of Catalonia. There are more than 400 dragons represented around the city. The most famous and most photographed is in Park Güell. 

Dragon on La Rambla street – Barcelona

Exciting and amazing are not words normally used to describe architecture, but there’s really no other way to describe the works of Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi is responsible for the design of some stunning buildings around the city as well as some of the other modernist landmarks. Two fabulous contributors to modernism, Picasso and Joan Miró are also represented in the city. 

The Museu Picasso is housed in five medieval palaces and more than 4,200 of his works are on display. Fundació Joan Miró features modern art done by Miró, as well as temporary exhibitions and some collaborative projects. 

Joan Miró Park – Barcelona

If you are interested in a shopping experience, check out the shops in the Diagonal Mar area. But don’t skip Barcelona’s La Boqueria, an urban market that has existed since medieval times. Luckily, it was roofed in 1914. More than 300 permanent stalls sell produce, cheese, cold meats, olive products, nuts and sweets. You can get beer and tapas at the bars inside. Pro shopping tip — the best deals are closer to the interior. 

La Boqueria – Barcelona

Camp Nou is a 99,000 seat stadium which has been home base for FC Barcelona since 1957. Memorabilia from one of the world’s most prestigious soccer teams is on display in the museum. 

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a magnificent concert hall. This art nouveau building is the only one of its kind to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The incredible ornate stained glass roof should not be missed! 

Palau de la Música Catalana – Barcelona

 Gorgeous Gaudi buildings 

 Gaudi disliked straight lines because he said they did not occur naturally in nature. Instead, he embraced textures, curves and shapes whenever he could. The Sagrada Família is Gaudi’s largest, most spectacular work. Started more than 100 years ago, it is only 3/4 complete. When it is finished, this Roman Catholic Church will be the tallest church in the world. It combines the architectural styles of Catalan Modernism, art nouveau and Spanish Late Gothic. It is a fantastical melding of textures and shapes that appear like delicate filigree in some areas and strong, bold statements in other areas. 

La Sagrada Familia towers

All of Gaudi’s works have softened lines so they resemble buildings that seem to be shimmering in high heat. 

La Sagrada Familia interior vaulted ceiling

Casa Batlló is a remodel he took on at the turn of the 20th century. Tiles on the building’s roof are said to resemble dragon scales. Casa Mila which is also known as La Pedrera is another Gaudi building and even though it was built in 1912, it includes an underground parking garage. 

Casa Batlló – Barcelona

Palau Güell is one of Gaudi’s earliest works. It was the home of the Lopez family until they moved to what is now known as Park Güell. Palau Güell was built with stone coated with marble and then it was decorated with intricate hand-carved wood and ironwork. 

Park Güell – Barcelona

Casa Vicens was also a private residence worked on by Gaudi and was also one of his earliest works. It has lush outdoor gardens surrounded by a courtyard with patterned walls inside and out and the exterior of the house is bright colors — green, red and white with floral patterned tiles. This summer home, which included elaborate waterfalls and fountains in the garden, was just opened as a museum in 2017. 

Casa Vicens – Barcelona

Park Güell was supposed to have been a housing complex designed by Gaudi, but the original design didn’t work out for that purpose and it is now a green space and garden complex. The park terraces offer gorgeous views of the city. A museum on the grounds has furniture and household items designed and decorated by Gaudi. It is filled with unique architectural features, serpentine benches, mosaics, colonnades, fountains, sculptures and, the famous frequently photographed dragon. 

 You won’t go hungry  

 The food is superb in Barcelona. At any given time some international food is trending. But you can count on getting pintxos, tasty morsels skewered onto bread, at most bars. 

Food market – Barcelona

You can be assured fish, as well as prawns and razor clams, will be on the menu as well as something with jamón, a fabulous flavored ham. Try fideuà which is similar to paella only made with pasta. Paella, like fideuá, has rabbit, chicken or seafood, flavored with saffron and cooked in a shallow pan. Arros negre is rice simmered with cuttlefish or squid. 

Fideuà

The olives are marvelous. Black or green, they taste fresh and bright. Beware, they are served with pits in because removing them would require soaking them in a substance that softens them and spoils the taste. Have a rich Crema Catalana for dessert. It is custard flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon or vanilla with a carmelized crust on top similar to crème brûlée. 

Crema Catalana

Now that we’ve piqued your curiosity and whetted your appetite, we’re ready to plan you getaway. We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or paul@getaway.travel 

Zurich Switzerland and surrounding area an eclectic mix of modern and medieval

Switzerland is famous for Heidi, cuckoo clocks, chocolate, the Alps and gorgeous alpine scenery, but it also leads the way in the finance industry as well as quality of life attributes. Indeed, Switzerland was ranked No. 1 in the Best Countries poll in terms of quality of life. It’s the fifth time it has ranked first. If you would like to experience Switzerland first hand, GetAway Travel is here to lend a hand with your trip arrangements. 

Heidi is having a very relaxing vacation!

 It’s not just about the mountains 

 Switzerland is a central European country surrounded by France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Lichtenstein. It actually has four national languages, German, French, Italian and Romanish. Ian Fleming featured the beauty of the alpine scenery in his Bond movies and Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein lived in Switzerland. Europe’s highest train station is here, which is no surprise because of the mountains. In addition to its fabulous cuisine, snow-capped mountains and clear blue lakes, the country’s cities are leaders in art and culture. 

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the festivals because Switzerland loves a party and loves to invite everyone. 

Grindelwald Switzerland

Of course there are food festivals and, of course, snow and ice festivals. The Grindelwald World Snow Festival features artists and sculptors who specialize in ice work. The International Balloon Festival is held during the winter. About 20 or so countries participate and just imagine the sight of 80 plus hot air balloons rising over the snow-topped mountains. 

Interlaken Switzerland

Summer festivals run from March until September. The Interlaken Music Festival highlights classical music and brings orchestras and soloists from around the world. There’s the Montreux Jazz Festival, the National Yodeling Festival and open air music festivals in Frauenfeld and Lumnezia attract artists such as Depeche Mode, the Killers and Eminem. 

If you yodel, you are a yodeler

Start your Switzerland journey in Geneva, or on the other end of the country in Zurich. You won’t be disappointed. 

 Bern, the capital, is named after a bear 

 Established in the 12 century, legend has it the city was named after a bear because a nobleman who founded the city was startled by a bear in a nearby wooded area. 

Bern Switzerland

It’s a charming city and the cobble-stoned medieval Old Town or Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The almost four-mile covered pedestrian only street has quaint shops, bars and cafes. The independent shops sell coffee, couture clothing, books and antiques. There are a series of fountains down the street that feature famous religious, folk and biblical figures. 

Above Old Town’s western gate is a clock tower or Zytglogge. The ornate 15th century clock has revolving figures including a parade of bears, jester and a golden rooster that come out and twirl around at four minutes to the hour. Above the clock tower’s entrance is an astronomical clock that has stationery and moving spheres that replicate the constellations with the earth at the center. It also shows the moon phase, current zodiac sign, sun rise and sun set and the date. 

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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 

France’s famous sandwich cookie

If you are a fan of cooking and baking competition shows, you know when a budding chef says they are making risotto, a collective gasp goes up from watchers because risotto is a fail more often than a success. Now, if it’s a baking competition and someone says they are making macarons, a similar gasp goes up because those sandwich cookies are notoriously temperamental. But they are certainly popular. There’s a bakery with several locations in France that sells 4 million (yes, million) macarons a day! You can see what the fuss is all about in person with a GetAway Travel vacation to France. We’ll even help you find a class so you can experience macaron making up close and personal! 

 Macaron and macaroon — not the same 

 A mah-kah-ROHN is a lovely, crispy sandwich cookie with buttercream, ganache or some other flavored filling. A mah-kah-ROON is a drop cookie, also lovely, but made with flaked coconut, egg whites and flavorings. 

Those delightful delicate and oh-so-pretty bites actually trace their origins to Italy and they were originally beige, like the color of ground-up blanched almonds which formed their base. Traditionally they were held to have been introduced to France by Queen Catherine de Medici who brought them from Italy during the Renaissance. 

There are two methods to making macarons, a French and Italian. The French method involves egg whites beaten to stiff peaks with granulated sugar and almond flour added. The Italian method involves mixing egg whites with hot sugar syrup and then adding almond flour and powdered sugar. The Italian method gives you a sweeter more stable meringue. 

Macarons

There are no leaveners, like baking powder, in macarons. It is the beaten egg whites combined with the mixing of other ingredients, a process called macaronage, which gives them the perfect shiny outside, softer nougat-like inside and the tiny crispy edges called feet. 

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