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 →
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.
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/
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
We have 2 exciting European Group GetAways scheduled for 2017. They may both be cruises, but they are completely different!
First up is the Wines of Western Europewhich includes Bordeaux (France), Basque (Spain) and Portugal. Our group will be sailing aboard the luxurious Azamara Journey. Azamara Club Cruises is at the crossroads of where luxury and destination immersive cruising meet. This ship only holds 694 passengers and has a wonderful mix of amenities. She’s a perfect-sized vessel: small enough that it’s never too far from one place to another, yet large enough to provide variety on long itineraries. On our trip we will experience late evening and overnight port stays. The Journey was completely refurbished in 2016 – it received new spa suites in the fully renovated Sanctum spa with updated decor in marble, light wood and a cream palate. Every suite and stateroom has new beds with the same decor scheme, and the restaurants also received a modern upgrade.
Our 12 Night GetAway begins in Southampton England on September 4 and ends in Lisbon Portugal on September 16. Along the way you will experience the worlds foremost wine region in Bordeaux, spend a day at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, wash Tapas down with Rioja wine, and sip port in the Douro Valley – and so much more. You can find more details at our website. We hope you can join us.
If you’re tired of commercialism taking over the holidays, you will be very pleased with the traditions and romance of real Christmas markets where the gifts are not mass-produced but craftwork of real quality. Our group will begin in Budapest and sail along the Danube while visiting Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. Every stop along the way will feature special Christmas Market excursions. You can find more details on the itinerary at our website.
Every Uniworld ship is as unique as it’s itinerary and the SS Maria Theresa is no exception. It’s opulent 18th century décor is a floating homage to one of the Habsburg empires most beloved ruler. The food, drink and service on Uniworld are absolutely outstanding – and everything is included! Call now as there are limited time promotions where even the air is included!
European vacations continue to hold great value. The US Dollar remains at historic low levels vs. the Euro. This is good news for travelers to Europe as you definitely get more bang for your buck. Our best advice for Europe is to plan ahead – this is not a destination that typically rewards the last-minute traveler. The best way to start planning your European vacation is to schedule a consultation with Sue.
River Cruising continues to grow and for very good reasons. Our clients absolutely love to take River Cruises. All it takes is to try it once and you will rave about it forever. Be aware however that not all river cruise companies are equal. You can research endlessly on your own, or you can call us to discuss. Our goal is to find out about what you want to do, how adventurous you are, what you like and what you don’t like. What are your travel dreams? Our recommendations are simply based on you and your needs, that’s it.
All Inclusive vacations will remain hot, hot, hot. The industry continues to upgrade old properties and build new ones. There are All-Inclusives for all tastes and budgets. Well we know you want a warm weather, beach destination, but are you looking for a romantic escape or a family/multi-generational getaway? Do you want basic dining choices or a more gourmet experience? How does a canopy covered bed and open air shower sound? Or a private plunge pool within mere steps of your suite? The choices go on and on. We can help narrow it down to something you will love.
According to the experts, air ticket prices are down but add-on fees are up. The simple fact, is you need air tickets to get to many vacation destinations. They are the transportation, not the vacation.
Cheap will remain, well….cheap. While the dictionary defines cheap as inexpensive, it also defines it as something of poor quality or shoddy. Continue to be cautious about anything advertised as cheap, supercheap, ultracheap, etc. A fantastically cheap vacation is not a good value if it is actually craptastic (this is our official industry word for cheap vacations!). Everyone wants good value and that’s where we help – get the best value for your money that actually gets the vacation experience you are looking for. Will it be cheap? We certainly hope not.
The best things in travel continue to come to those who plan ahead. For example, how about planning 2017? You may not be ready yet, but we are. We have 2 special group options worth considering.
Join us in January 2017 for our GetAway on the Getaway. We will do all the following: go down the highest water slides at sea, attend award-winning Broadway shows, experience Iron Chef dining, walk the plank and be endlessly entertained and pampered. Book now and choose between Free unlimited drinks, Free Specialty Dining, Free Shore Excursions or Free WiFi.
In September 2017 we will be hosting a very special Wines of Western Europe group on the Azamara Journey. Beginning in England, we will sail to France, Spain and Portugal. Azamara specializes in unique itineraries that include overnight stays in many ports. Our group will be in Bordeaux, one of the world’s foremost wine regions for 3 days. But that is not the only World Heritage region we will visit – see our web page for all the details.
We recently returned from an unforgettable cruise along the Rhine River to visit Christmas Markets in Germany, France and Switzerland. Our journey was even more memorable as we travelled with a group of close friends.
River cruising provides an up close and personal experience. The ships typically dock in the heart of town allowing easy and convenient access to the local sights and sounds. This is especially convenient for a Christmas Market Cruise. During the advent season, towns throughout Europe host wonderfully decorated markets for crafts, drink and food! Hop off the ship to go shopping all day and then back on in time for cocktail hour and a gourmet dinner before you set off for your next stop.
Rich culture and history, amazing cuisine and diverse heritage are all packed into this amazing destination. Europe has some of the greatest intellectual and artistic developments the world has ever known. The landscape is dense with museums, cathedrals, monuments and palaces. Irresistible and intriguing, Europe continues to call us to visit. to experience the rich culture, history, and warm friendly people.
There are so many places to go – where do you begin? From the oldest monument in Europe (Stonehenge) to the most amazing museums: Louvre in Paris, Uffizi in Florence, Guggenheim in Blibao, and the list goes on and on. From the rolling Tuscan countryside wine regions in Italy to the mecca of beer – Hofbrauhaus in Munich. From the pristine beaches at Normandy where the allies initiated the liberation of Europe in World War II to the defensive fortification of Hadrian’s Wall built in the 1st century AD.
There are so many places to go and so many ways to see Europe that the best place to begin is right here with us. We can help plan the perfect trip that is right for you.
Are you looking for a girls getaway to the Caribbean? How about a wine club tour of France, Italy or New Zealand? Would your church group like to experience the footsteps of St. Paul in Turkey and Greece? What about taking a group of your friends to Napa to celebrate a milestone birthday? How about a family reunion on an Alaskan cruise? Ski club trip to Vail? Scrapbooking club River Cruise in Austria? Choral group trip to Christmas markets in Germany? Foodies group at Walt Disney World food and wine festival? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The possibilities are endless. We can help with generating ideas, the detailed planning, the marketing and of course getting everyone in your group to where they need to go. While we work with the group leaders to help craft the whole experience, we also make sure that we meet the needs of individual travellers within the group as well.
Have an idea for a group GetAway? We need to talk – (262) 538-2140