Wow! – What a year it has been! Never in our lifetimes has the whole world faced such challenges as it has in 2020. Like many industries, the world of travel was absolutely turned upside down, with every possible facet feeling the effects of sheltering–in–place and closed borders. Much of the world is still closed to us now, but that will eventually change as we move through 2021. The desire for new experiences motivates us even now to look into the future with great anticipation of our next great travel adventure.
Here’s a great quote from travel writer Bill Bryson –
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
Unfortunately, much of this year has been Groundhog Day – over and over again with the scenery rarely changing, as we patiently and hopefully – safely wait for our next opportunity to experience everyday things as if for the first time.
Many of us have had more than our share of challenges and tragedies in 2020. We’re not complaining though as we’ve also had more than our share of blessings this year!
The travel business is still in a severe downturn, yet we remain steadfast in our resolve to go beyond our current circumstances and get to a brighter future. We are look forward to the great reward that travel truly is and we know you are doing the same. Despite the obstacles, we remain open, available, willing and more than excited to help you plan your next great adventure.
We know many of you are waiting for the world to return to normal before making plans. We get it. Don’t forget though that travel brings joys before during and after your trip. The joy of sharing travel memories with friends and loved ones, the great joy of the journey itself and the joy of anticipation from planning your next great trip.
When you’re ready again to take that first step – planning – give us a call, we’re here for you – same as we’ve been for the last 21 years.
It’s been a difficult time for everyone, trapped at home, concerned and unable to escape. A few of my Travel Adviser mates are hosting a virtual Australia information day and we’d love you to join us. You will escape your current confinement on a fabulous pictorial journey to the land Down Under.
On Thursday, April 23 we have lined up expat-Aussie, Jeff Adam to guide us through the best of Australia. There are 4 sessions as follows:
Jeff’s got a bit of a funny accent so all attendees will get a “How to Speak Aussie” dictionary, along with an Australia Map and Travel Planner. It will be balance of great information and good Aussie humor.
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.
Fjordland National Park in New Zealand is a truly magnificent place to go. On our recent cruise we were favored with fantastic weather outside, but inside Sue Adams was a bit under the weather so some of the viewing was done just from our stateroom balcony. As we were passing by another stunning waterfall, some dolphins just happened to swim by and put on a show for us. Wow! #love2getaway
You know, some people still wonder…Do I really need to have a balcony cabin? uh, yes you do!
It’s up and at ’em today with a goal of seeing as much as possible. First stop St. Stephen’s Basilica. Located in a very nice area, the church is surrounded by many shops and cafés so after the visit you might want to grab a bite to eat or a glass of wine and enjoy the square.
St. Stephen’s is dedicated to the Hungary’s king who was the founder of the Hungarian State. Construction started in 1851 but the church was not dedicated until 1905. During WWII, the church roof, towers and external walls were badly damaged however visitors today will find that even the beautiful mosaics have been successfully restored. Like many churches & Basilica’s in Europe, St. Stephan’s has it’s precious relic. Here (in the chapel) you will find the mummified hand of the church’s patron saint, the first king of Hungary. I’ve seen quite a few mummified parts in my travels but no matter how many, I can’t quite get over the concept – and yes, in every church I do seek them out….go figure!
If you are ambitious (we were not) you can walk up the 364 steps to the cupula for a panoramic view of the city, or do it the easy way and take one of the 2 elevators – either way, its worth the effort on a clear day.
St Matthias church on Buda Castle hill
Next stop on our whirlwind tour is Buda Castle. We took public transportation for an easy jog over to that part of town. Located on what is referred to as Castle Hill, the 18th century Buda castle is a 200 room palace built to protect from Mongol and Tartar attacks. The castle was quite damaged in World War II however today many parts of it have been restored and now house the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum. The entire complex is designated a Unesco World Heritage Site and it is worth taking the time to explore.
An amazing view from Castle hill of the Parliament building on the Danube
View of Danube from Fisherman’s Bastion on Castle Hill
Funicular Ride up to the Castle
Take the historic funicular up to the top and be sure to marvel at the views from the top. Stay for a changing of the guards ceremony and be sure to throw a penny in the fountain. While we were exploring a festival was being set up in the castle square and we are glad we hung around until the stalls began to open. This was by far the best Hungarian food ever! The cabbage roll was to die for, the grilled chicken was moist and tasty and sausage….well with a cold Hungarian brew, what could have been better??
Sue & Ellen enjoy lunch at the Buda Castle
Onward we went – in search of one of the “most scenic tram rides in Europe”. AKA Tram #2, on the Pest side of the river is according to National Geographic, one of the most scenic trams in the world but I think we missed its beauty. Don’t get me wrong, out the river side of the tram there were some very pretty sights – when you could see them. However, the tram is crowded and used for local transportation so if you can get a seat on the scenic side you are lucky…heck that is if you can get a seat at all!
Tram running in front of Gellert Baths in Budapest
Now a word about this and other trams/public transportation options in Budapest. You must buy a ticket and you MUST validate it upon entering the tram. We bought a 10 pack and got on. One of us validated and the other 2 did not, as our main goal was seeking out a seat. Well it seems that the one who validated did not actually validate the ticket itself but rather the ticket cover….and folks that doesn’t count when the tram police step on board and check your tickets. Let’s just say that the 1 Euro tram ride ticket became about a $35 per person fine – yep, even though we had attempted to validate according to the nice lady checking tickets, we had done so incorrectly and it simply didn’t count! You see, she doesn’t “make the rules, she just follows them” thank you very much and pay on the spot! It did not matter that we had some 8 unused tickets that she could have easily stamped …nope….tourist hand over the money! And so we did….but here is the good news (according to her), we could now ride the tram the rest of the day for free! Well we rode it all right, to where we found a wonderful little wine bar to toast our contribution to Budapest tourism!
A Souvenir that won’t be soon forgotten!
All in a days fun…and something to talk about for a long time to come!
Starting in Budapest, Hungary, we made our way down the Danube River on the Uniworld SS Maria Theresa and oh what a time we had.
We arrived in Budapest a few days earlier and checked into the Boscolo Budapest Autograph Collection Hotel aka the New York Palace Hotel. This city center hotel is truly an extraordinary experience where historic combines with contemporary comfort. Marble bathrooms, plush bedding, silk wallpaper and Murano chandeliers make you feel as though you are royalty.
The service is fantastic and a visit to the world-famous New York Café located within the hotel is a must do.
Although tired, we grabbed a bite to eat while we waited for rooms to be ready and then our first stop of the trip was the famous natural hot spring baths. It was a short stroll from the hotel to the underground that took us right to the baths.
There are many hot mineral bath options in Budapest but we chose to visit Szechenyi Baths. Szechenyi is the largest in Budapest with 15 indoor baths and 3 grand outdoor options. Each pool has a different temperature, our favorite was outdoors pool because of the size and temperature. It was the warmest and together with the sunshine it revitalized our bodies, minds and spirits after that long overseas flight. Onsite, one can also take advantage of steam and sauna cabins, massage therapies and even a beer spa! We rented a cabin which afforded us a private change area and a place to store our things. This experience is highly recommended on your next trip to Budapest, there is just something about floating around in deliciously warm water while surrounded by a Neo-baroque palace!
Feeling refreshed we headed back to the hotel knowing dinner and bedtime were just a few hours away. Tomorrow was to be a full day of sightseeing….stay tuned!
Being offered a “free” dining or beverage package seems to the be sign of the times today in ocean cruising bookings. Every cruise line has its own twist on the perks offered but these two are always in the mix of offerings.
So, which do you choose? You love to eat and…. okay you like to consume adult beverages too, thus the dilemma exists.
Now, my first recommendation is talk to your travel professional because all “free” perks are not created equally. For example, some lines charge service fees associated with their “free” while others do not. Most lines have a dollar limit to drinks available using the perk and the big difference is how they handle those drinks that hop over that limit. For example, let’s assume your drink limit is $13 but you really want to try that $16 martini. On some lines, you would pay only the $3 extra, on other lines you would not be able to use the beverage package and be charged the full $16. Note from one wine snob to another: Serious wine drinkers (those who won’t drink the house wine at a bar and who don’t drink much in the way of other alcohol) should think twice about the “free” beverage package because it isn’t likely to have wines that will make you happy. You, may want to consider choosing the free dining perk and then buying your own wine package.
Dining packages are no different, you really have to do the math regarding which perk will be best. Example: you are on a 7-day cruise, your perk is 3 nights in a specialty restaurant, on board credit, free wifi or the beverage package. What is the value of those 3 nights dining? Let’s say the price is $35 per visit to the specialty restaurant x 3 = $105 but the onboard credit is $150 per person…..which is better?
Remember a particular cruise line can only speak to and only wants to sell you their product, they cannot offer you a side by side comparison like a travel professional. We can help sort all that out and can search across all cruise lines for the best perk offering out there.
Tom Thumb, Green Thumb all I know is I’m all thumbs when it comes to gardening. In my house I have exactly 2 plants…that are still alive. I’ve been told it is impossible to kill a Christmas cactus…well I’ve just completed losing #4. Out back I have a “garden” and I use that term very loosely since we refer to it as the weed bed. So, I’d be the last person in the world you’d expect to want to visit the famous Keukenhof gardens in Holland. Yet somehow it was on my bucket list – go figure!
So, this spring we set off with a few great friends to visit the Netherlands (okay so we got the men to go because we included Belgium and you all know how good their beer is) and on the itinerary was a visit to the famous Keukenhof gardens. Keukenhof gardens is open only mid-March to Mid-May and our trip was timed right for the tulips to be in bloom. We had to decide, full day or half day visit….OMG, we did the full day and still did not see everything so if you are even in that quandary….go full day for sure.
Miles and miles of tulips (well 32 hectares to be exact), every shape and color you can imagine. Throw in some daffodils and hyacinth and you have a color mania of flowers. But it’s not all just flowers, there are activities in the park like boat rides, cycle paths, fun signs and wooden shoes to put your face and feet into for that ultimate photo op. Definitely climb the windmill to get a bird’s eye view of the vast tulip gardens. If you are taking the kids, then be sure to download the treasure hunt before you go.
Ah yes, a full day at Keukenhof gardens will inspire you…I promise. How do I know this you ask….well I left the gardens that day 300 or so tulip bulbs heavier (or shall I say $300 or so lighter since the tulips were to be shipped to the US in the fall). Yes, me the ultimate weed bed owner left the proud owner of lots of tulip bulbs without one single plan for what I’d do with them.
They arrived this fall and I am happy to say they are all planted into a brand new flower garden…now we just wait till spring. I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime, put Keukenhof gardens on your bucket list, you won’t be sorry. It was beautiful!
Have you ever taken a European river cruise? Have you ever cruised with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises?
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.
OK – 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.