Category Archives: Food

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?

river-princess

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.

 

 

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.

Waterfalls & Wine 2015

Our 2015 Waterfalls & Wine tour in the great Pacific Northwest was a tremendous success.

Heading out from Seattle, we went to see our first waterfall.  Snoqualmie Falls did not disappoint with an amazing double rainbow – this was truly a sign of all the good times to come.

Snoqualmie Falls - double rainbow

Snoqualmie Falls – double rainbow

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a great start to the tour

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Even at the falls, there is an opportunity to taste wine.

Our next stop was in Yakima at Gilbert Cellars – Hackett Ranch.  The hospitality was warm and welcoming, the wines were tasty and the scenery was outstanding.

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Happy folks in the lavender

Gilbert Cellars

The ladies are mesmerized

After a delicious catered lunch at the Hackett Ranch, we departed for Walla Walla, the town so nice they named it twice.  The group checked in a the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel.  This was our home for 2 nights while we explored the nearby wineries.

Day 2 began at L’Ecole – where the wine was very nice, but I think everyone agreed that our second stop of the day at Northstar was truly a hit.

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Wine tasting and lunch on the patio at Northstar

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After lunch we head to the vines to hear about Washington wines

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and then on to the wine blending class where everyone made their own red wine blend from 4 different barrels of Merlot, 1 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 petite verdot

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the blend is starting to take shape

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the group shows off their personally crafted wines

After eating lunch and crafting our own red wine blends there was still another winery stop to make.  At Long Shadows we experienced a custom tasting and tour that included barrel sampling.

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keep it coming!

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the sadness and shock of seeing an empty fermentation tank

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Keep your wine thief handy, we’re having a barrel tasting

On day 3 everyone packed up for our journey to the waterfalls along the Columbia River Valley…but of course we stopped at a winery along the way.  Columbia Crest in Horse Heaven Hills.

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Our server at Columbia Crest for the reserve tasting was charming, engaging and a true delight. Look at all the happy faces

After a brewpub lunch stop we travelled along the Columbia River Gorge, with brief stops at 5 waterfalls.

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Amazing view of the Columbia River

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Evening of day 3 found us just outside of the Willamette valley.  For dinner we took over our hotel lobby, ordered pizzas and everyone brought a bottle of wine to share.  Day 4 began in the picturesque Dundee Hills.  Our first stop was Archery Summit.

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Our tour of Archery Summit had frequent stops to taste wine.

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Pretty bottles all in a row

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Just one of many vineyard views in Dundee Hills

The group loved Archery Summit and did not want to leave…except it was time for lunch.  So off we went to our tasting, tour and catered meal on the patio at Domaine Serene.

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side by side comparisons

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our tour at Domaine Serene begins

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After Domaine Serene, we had a special musical interlude

and then on to our next stop – Durant Vineyards

 

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the dancing continues

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outstanding views from Durant vineyards

Our final wine tasting in Willamette Valley was at Soter Vineyards

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artsy photo of Soter glass

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the gang continues to have fun

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is it time to dance again?

36-waterfallsandwine-035 At Soter even old friendships were made new again!

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A sincere thank you to everyone that joined us on the 2015 Waterfalls & Wine tour.  We look forward to our next journey together.

Thinking about a destination wedding?

Destination weddings are very popular and for very good reasons:  They can cost considerably less than a traditional wedding, and often include more.  You can choose from many amazingly beautiful locations.  You and your select family and friends get a wonderful vacation experience you will always remember.

We have helped many clients just like you have amazing destination weddings.  We are such experts that in fact, our own wedding was a destination wedding!

#10 Destination Wedding

If it’s Monday, it must be Rome!

Pasta

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear Rome?  For most it is likely the Vatican, the Pope, Trevi Fountain or maybe the Colosseum.   Well those are all great things about the city for sure, but what about the food!

In our humble opinion one of the best things about Rome and Italy in general is the absolutely most fantastic food in the world.  Oh sure, you can go to a restaurant and order but do you really get to understand the heart and passion that goes into Italian food?  We don’t think so, that is unless you get your hands in and actually feel the love, guided of course by someone who an expert.

chef luisaOur choice is Chef Luisa who owns a private cooking school in Rome.  Luisa, knowing every secret nook and cranny of the Roman food market scene, will show you the ropes of Roman cuisine and teach your palate flavors it has never seen before.  Luisa’s cooking style is inspired by Artusi Pellegrino, the most renowned iconic Italian gastronome, food critic and author of “The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well”. Like Artusi, Luisa is a modern-day icon herself among the chef and culinary world in Italy and Europe.  Imagine getting your hands in and creating a fantastic Italian pasta dish with Luisa’s help, then sitting down and sharing that masterpiece with her and some tasty Italian wine.  Buon Appetito!

In October 2014 we are hosting a group trip to Italy with Sommelier Corienne Winkels.

If you missed out on our trip to France to 2013 – Here is the Video with highlights of all our activities.  Italy promises to be just as much fun.

Wine-Centric Italy 2014

TuscanyThis custom tour starting in Rome, and then focusing on Tuscany is not available anywhere else.  With just the right balance of history, renaissance art, amazing scenery, savory gastronomy and Italian wine – this is one tour you may not want to miss.

Our next information night is Wednesday, Jan 22 at Vino Etcetera in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  Perhaps you have never heard of Oconomowoc – no worries, you can still get details on the trip at our web page, where you can also find the tour fact sheet and registration forms.

Please enjoy some of our photos from Tuscany and inspiring quotes on Italy in this Video.

Belgian Brewery Tour in Bruges – De Halve Maan (The Half Moon)

Depending on your preferences, one of the greatest gifts that Belgium has given to the world is beer.  Some would say waffles, but they probably just need to try more beer to get their priorities right.  Here’s what English writer Michael Jackson had to say in his book Great Beers of Belgium – “Civilization may have begun with beer.  On the basis of that theory, it might be argued that Belgians have their priorities right.  In pursuing their enthusiasm for beer, they are simply seeking to be civilized people. The suggestion is that, when humans stopped being hunters and gatherers, and settled into organized societies in order to grow grain, their purpose was not to bake bread, but to brew beer.”

Belgian beer is unlike no other in the world.  Michael also writes – “No other European country has beers that are quite so complex in character as the finest in Belgium.  No other country has native beers as diverse, individualistic, even idiosyncratic.  Some are so unlike conventional beers as to shock the unwary consumer.”

So where do we start our Belgian beer journey?  Do we head to an Abbey or Trappist monestary?  Do we go in search of wild yeast Lambics?  Where can we find red beer, fruit beer, spiced beer, farmhouse ale, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels?  Well, you can’t really make a bad decision in this country, but as for us, we started in the northwest area of the country in the province of West Flanders.

1-Bruges Brugge Belgium 7-19-2013 10-49-41 AMThere are so many fantastic places to visit in Belgium, but certainly on the top of any list of where to go should be the city of Bruges.  How special is it?  Well, the entire city center of Bruges is designated as a UNESCO world heritage site.  It is one of Belgium’s and Europe’s best preserved medieval cities.  There is so much to see, do, eat (9 Michelin Star restaurants!) and drink that you should spend a couple days here at least as part of your Belgian beercation.

During the “Golden Age” in the 12th through 15th century Bruges was a European economic1-Bruges Brugge Belgium 7-19-2013 11-24-18 AM powerhouse.  Foreign merchants from Portugal, Gaul, England, Scotland, Venice and the middle east all set up trading in Bruges.  It was the home to what is widely believed to be the worlds first stock exchange opened in 1309.  Now Bruges is a picture postcard perfect tourist destination, with wonderful canals and within the historic city center, street after street of charming historic buildings.

There is so much to see and do in Bruges.  You may want to start by climbing the belfry to see the carillon in action.  You definitely should take a boat ride on the canals.  You may even want to go to the lace museum.  Eventually though, you really should make your way to De Halve Maan, the only family brewery in the historical center of Bruges that is still active.

Historical records mention existence of a brewery called Die Maene (The Moon) in 1564.  However it wasn’t until 1856 that Leon Maes (also known as Henri I) founded a “modern” brewery. In 1867 his sons took over the brewery and started applying new technology imported from England to produce stouts and pale ales.  The sons died young, but their widows helped manage the brewery through the difficult years of the first world war. In 1919, Leon’s grandson (Henri III) took over and picked up the latest brewing technology from 1-Bruges Brugge Belgium 7-19-2013 12-27-38 PMGermany.  They began to brew lagers and rounded out production with soft drinks as well.  Henri III specialized in a home delivery service system with horse and hamper, making a point to visit every customer at least once per year.   In the 1950’s Henri IV took over and helped expand the breweries home delivery service with trucks.  However, in the 1970’s this was the downfall of the home delivery system as people had their own cars and started buying beer in supermarkets.  In the 1980’s, interest in traditional regional Belgian beers was increasing and Veronique, the daughter of Henri IV launched a new special beer, brewed to honor the inauguration of the Saint Arnold (patron saint of brewers) statue in Bruges.  It was a blond beer of high fermentation and was given an appropriate name of Straffe Hendrik (strong Henri).  1-20130720_132220However, In 1998 Straffe Hendrik brewing was taken over by a different brewery, Riva NV.  In 2005 Veroniques son Xavier Vanneste revived activities a the brewery through extensive rennovation and modernization.  He launched a new beer “Brugse Zot”, which has been brewed with great success, garnishing many awards.  In 2008 Straffe Hendrik brewing returned once again to De Halve Maan.

De Halve Maan is a rather vertically oriented brewery, so during the tour you move from the brewing room up, up and up until you are on the roof of the brewery and have a great view of city of Bruges.  The old malting room and fermentation tanks are still in place (although no longer used) and make for a great combination of the modern and historical during the tour.  Tours are extremely popular and a completely international affair, provided in Dutch, French, German and English!

Honfleur – Beautiful picturesque Normandy

On the southern bank of the Seine in Lower Normandy is a beautiful town with the most picturesque 17th century harbor – Honfleur.  Painted many times by famous artists including Claude Monet, the port is characterized by its houses with slate covered frontages.

Honfleur Harbor

Harbor of Vieux Bassin, Honfleur

Honfleur Harbor boats

The sky was well overcast and it drizzled most of the time during our visit, but you could not escape the unique charm of this town.

hondfleur half timbered bldgs

The amazingly well-preserved half-timbered medieval architecture was everywhere to be seen during our walking tour.

Honfleur St Catherines church

St Catherine’s is certainly one of the most unusual churches you will visit in France.  Apparently all the local stone was used to build town defenses, so the church was built out of wood by nautical ship builders.

Honfleur sweets

Oh and there is no shortage of bakery goods available for the tourists to satisfy a sweet tooth.  There are many different ways to tour Normandy and Honfleur, one that we highly recommend is by River Cruising.  You can get more details at our partner site with Uniworld