Category Archives: Group Travel

Pintxos: Tasty morsels popular in Basque region

Traveling is an enriching, eye-opening wondrous experience from the scenery to the people, to the food. Sure, preparing octopus in your kitchen may seem like a daunting task that you’re likely to skip — but eating it in a restaurant prepared by chefs who make it their business to create an epic seafood dish is something entirely different. At GetAway Travel we are big proponents of adding adventurous eating and drinking to your list of things to do on vacations, because we do. That’s one of the reasons we can make your next getaway a vacation to remember. 

Every country, region, city, town and even tiny village you visit while traveling likely has specialized cuisine you should not pass up. Whether you are eating in a five-star restaurant or a cafe by the side of a canal, it’s a sure bet the wait staff can give you a great dining recommendation. When traveling in the Basque region of Northern Spain, the wait staff or the bartender, will likely advise you to partake in a pintxos or two. 

 What exactly is pintxos? 

 First, it’s not a tapa. Tapas are small versions of larger meals. Pintxos are more like appetizers, although it is possible, certainly, to make a meal of them. Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos because in Basque the tx is pronounced like the ch in cheese) are delightful little skewered bites. The literal meaning of pintxos or pinchos, is skewered.  Continue reading

Port wine: A Portugal treasure

Port wine is to Portugal as Champagne is to France. Each of those spirits have to be prepared using strict guidelines and their ingredients have to be sourced from a certain area. The only sparkling wine that can be called Champagne must come from the Champagne Wine Region of France and the only wine that can be labeled “Port” has to be from the Douro Valley of Portugal. 

Whether you are a port person or a champagne connoisseur, GetAway Travel can construct a trip for you. We’re working on a port-forward trip right now! It takes you to the Douro Valley and it’s aboard a fabulous modern ship designed for river cruising. 

What’s all the fuss about location? 

 The narrow Douro Valley has its own microclimate which makes it the optimal area to produce grapes used in port. In the 1700s, Portugal’s prime minister took measures to distinguish the specific area of the Douro Valley as being the only area where true port could be produced. It set production standards, the same way there are standards set for only some sparkling wines to be known as champagne. 

Port Casks aging at Offley

The unique aspect of the valley is that the soil as well as the terraced vineyards, were transformed by hand. The vineyard owners worked the soil to produce specific grapes and the terraces were set up to retain water as well as drain water if needed. More than 80 types of grapes are produced in the valley. Many of the vineyards have to still harvest by hand because of the way they are set up. 

Port wine must be at least two years old before it can be sold to the public and producers are only allowed to sell 30% of what they make so there is always port wine aging with producers. The port “winters” in the valley in barrels or kegs because that type of climate helps the fortifying agent mix with the wine. It then is moved to Porto (where it gets its name) because the humid, mild climate there is better for continued aging. 

Port tasting in Porto

 Tell me more about port 

 Port wine is not a chugging wine, it’s a sipping wine most often served with dessert or even as a dessert. It is considered the most delicious dessert wine on the planet! 

It is a fortified wine (more on that later) and it is richer, sweeter, heavier and higher in alcohol content than normal wines. It has an alcohol content somewhere between 19 and 20%. Heady stuff, but it goes great with fine cheeses and rich desserts. 

There are two main kinds of port, ruby and tawny. 

Ruby is slightly less sweet than tawny and it has berry and chocolate undertones. Tawny has caramel and nut nuances, but aged tawny can also have undertones of graphite, hazelnut, almond, butterscotch and graham cracker. 

There’s also white port, rose port and vintage port. Vintage port is rare, it is made from the best grapes of a single type of grape. Port houses declare a port wine as “vintage” only a few times in a decade. 

very old Vintage Port

 Do they still stomp the grapes? 

 Yes, yes they do — and here’s why. Those bitter seed nibs in grapes do nothing to add to the taste of port and feet stomping the grapes slide over the seeds and they can be drained out later. Some vineyards do employ mechanical feet machines to crush the grapes and they cross their fingers not a lot of the seeds get crushed. 

The harvested grapes, all picked in one day, are put in granite treading tanks and stomped to release the juice and the pulp from the skins. It is a synchronized process to make sure all of the grapes get crushed. When that is done and the skins are floating to the top of the tanks, the treading continues to keep moving the skins under the juice so fermentation starts. When about half of the natural sugar has fermented, the treading stops and the skins are allowed to sit on the top of the tank and the juice is drained out. The wine is then fortified with a distilled grape spirit called brandy. The sugar turns to alcohol and that’s where the high alcohol content happens. 

View from Taylor tasting room in Porto

 Tell me more! 

 Drink port with rich cheeses like bleu cheese, chocolate and caramel desserts, salted and smoked nuts and even sweet, smoky meats. You can add it to chocolate cakes or chocolate sauces and it can be simmered to a thick sauce, similar to a balsamic glaze. 

Rosé port should be served ice cold. It’s very trendy to serve it cold in the summer with a twist of lime. 

White port should be served cold, tawny port should be cool, like about 50 to 58° Fahrenheit and ruby should be served at cellar temperature which is about 60°. Port should be stored on its side and set upright about 24 hours ahead of serving and decanted if possible. The shelf life of port is about halfway between wine and liquor. 

We could talk about port all day, but we’d rather you learn more on a trip to the Duoro Valley. Contact us about that trip, or any other fabulous trip you’ve been thinking about. We can be reached at:(262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel 

Floriade goes green in a BIG way

Whether you are tip-toeing through the tulips or buying bulbs by the bushel, the Netherlands is the place to go for flowers and more. The country sells 3/4 of the world’s flower bulbs, is No. 1 in greenhouse horticulture and it’s the leading global exporter of cut flowers. 

Now imagine all that and more, much more — and you’ll have some idea of what Floriade Expo 2022 is like. 

Every 10 years, the world, yes — the world, celebrates all things flora and fauna with a fabulous international horticulture exhibition that runs from April to October. This year’s festival is in Almere which is a stone’s throw from Amsterdam. Your travel advisors at GetAway Travel are ready to help plan your trip to Holland and this epic exhibition. 

 Floriade started in 1960 

 Every 10 years, Floriade is held in the flower trading capital of Europe. The pandemic delayed the 2020 exhibition until 2022, but countries continued to work on their show contributions and attendees this year will see some spectacular exhibitions that benefitted from two extra years of work. 

The show has been held in Amsterdam and the Hague among other locations, but this year’s location, Almere, is fitting considering the theme. The main expo theme is “Growing Green Cities,” and the reason why it fits the area, is because Almere was reclaimed from the sea. 

Once the expo ends in October, the expo site will be renamed Hortus, which means “garden” in Latin. The nearly 150-acre site will be turned into a residential neighborhood with 300 eco homes and the pavilions that countries built for their exhibitions will be used by the neighborhood. 

The site has its own electric train system to take visitors around and it also has its own aerial cable system.  

 It’s not just a giant flower show 

 The more than 3,000 trees, shrubs, creepers, perennials, flower bulbs and hydrophytes have been chose for their special qualities on how they can contribute to greener urban spaces, biodiversity, air purification, food production and city climate management. They fit the four sub-themes of: Greening the city, Feeding the city, Healthying the city and Energizing the city. 

The 40 participating countries built their own pavilions and landscapes as a way to house their exhibits as well as showcase their horticultural technology in a controlled environment. 

The individual countries demonstrate new technologies, future products, solutions for making urban life more “green,” different food supplies and horticulture that helps with energy use or savings and how “green” products will help keep you, cities and the climate healthy. 

There are competitions that run throughout the six-month Floriade expo. They are set up to replicate how plants would change through the seasons because the controlled environments will have “seasonal” changes! The competitions range from “crop plants” to house plants, patio plants, bonsai and exotics such as orchids. Some have compared the competitions at Floriade to the Olympics of horticulture. 

If you are interested in plants, climate change, technology, urban planning and the environment, Floriade is your opportunity to totally “geek” out with others who have those same interests. 

During the expo run, there is live entertainment from jazz bands to orchestras. And you won’t go hungry. There are food trucks, food stalls, fast food restaurants, sit-down restaurants with seasonal fare and, yes — plant-based meals. 

 A sample of the countries participating and their exhibits 

 The Netherlands, as you might expect, has the largest exhibit area with a hypermodern greenhouse where you can trace the life of a plant from a seed to your table, if you wish. But there are flowers, roses, trees, shrubs, and dozens of exhibits of sustainable gardening and living.

Taste edible flowers in Belgium’s expo area, see a Chinese bamboo garden and experience Chinese landscape architecture in that country’s pavilion. China has the largest international garden with peonies, hibiscus and chrysanthemums. And their garden has cultural exhibits including calligraphy and fine art. Cyprus’s pavilion shows how a barren landscape can become a park and France and Germany’s exhibition halls showcase modern horticulture. At the German pavilion, you can get a “smart” bracelet which lets you participate in interactive exhibits. India’s exhibit area helps you explore the spiritual aspects of the garden experience and Thailand’s area has a huge garden with water lilies, curcuma and ornamental plants as well as a children’s playground amongst a vegetable and herb garden. Explore the connection between garden, farmland, forest and city in the Japanese pavilion and the Qatar and United Arab Emirates pavilions display plants that can thrive under their countries’ extreme conditions. 

 GetAway Travel can plan your trip to the Netherlands for your Floriade experience and we can also help you extend your trip to Amsterdam.

Many of our River Cruise partners have new itineraries that include a visit to Floriade – please call for details.

We can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140, e-mail: sue@getaway.travel 

Riga, Latvia: one of the Baltic states crown jewels

Riga, Latvia is a happening place. Really, Riga, Latvia? Yep, the city has a spectacular variety of architecture including one of the largest representations of Art Nouveau, it’s got lots of entertainment options, shopping, fabulous food and its fair share of quirky places to visit. Riga is one of the places you can enjoy during our July 2022 cruise from Copenhagen to Stockholm. More details here — Baltic tour — or give us a call at 262-538-2140. 

 Riga fun facts 

Located on the Baltic Sea, Riga is the largest city in the Baltic States with a population over 630,000. Its Old Town is a UNESCO site and it has churches that date back to the city’s origins in 1201. It has medieval buildings, wooden buildings and fabulous examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Five religious denominations existed peacefully in Riga, each with its own church. Latvia’s president lived in a palace in Riga. Latvian is the oldest European languages and most of the country’s population speak Russian, Latvian and English. 

It has the fifth fastest internet in the world! 

Continue reading

Beaune France – wine and oh, so much more!

Beaune, (pronounced bone), is south of Dijon, Burgundy’s capital city, but it is considered the capital of burgundy wines. If you are interested in wine, food, France, culture and tradition, then consider the river cruise GetAway Travel has planned for November of 2022. It will be a great way to tour and understand all things wine since you will be accompanied by experts from Spring City Wine House. https://getaway.travel/unique-getaways/spring-city-wine-house-burgundy-river-cruise/ 

Sue – ready for wine in Beaune

 Beaune is renowned for wine, but also for food, the architectural excellence and cultural significance of Hospice du Beaune, museums, markets and a family run mustard mill. 

 First, let’s talk wine 

 The vineyards around Beaune produce some of the world’s best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Joseph Drouhin, Louis Jadot, Bouchard Pere et fils, are a few of the well-known vintners that allow tours. An optional city tour is included in your tour package and you can always consult your travel advisor at GetAway Travel for more specific information. Five of the greatest vineyards in the region are in the Beaune area and you can tour on foot, in vehicle, by horse and carriage, on a bike and even on a Segway if you like! 

The original ramparts built to protect Beaune still exist and you can stroll on the ramparts to some of the vineyards. 

There are independent wine shops and cellars throughout the town. 

Wine cellar in Beaune

 Hospice du Beaune 

 You can’t talk about Beaune and wine without mentioning the Hospice du Beaune. Home of an annual wine auction that draws celebrities and cash, the auction which began after 1457, still benefits area charities. 

Hospice du Beaune

Built in 1443, the Hospice du Beaune was established to care for the infirm who could not afford health care. In 1457 a local vineyard owner donated a bottle of wine to be sold to start a fund to care for the infirm in perpetuity. Now, Christies runs the auction each year. 

formerly hanging in the hospital, but now in the museum for Hospice du Beaune

But even if you aren’t attending the auction, the gothic hospital is considered one of the finest monuments in the country and a site that should not be missed. The complex with its bright, mosaic tiled roofs is a glorious sight in the sunlight. 

The pharmacy, chapel, wine cellars and, of course the vineyards, can be toured. More than 20 prestigious winemakers tend the vineyards around the Hospice du Beaune. 

 Food, shopping, museums and more 

 On Saturdays, Beaune is home to two huge markets. In the downtown area, you can find culinary wonders including meat, cheese and produce. The regional cheeses are fabulous, there’s Chaource, Espoisses and Delice de Pommard which is a light, creamy cheese rolled in mustard seeds. A second market a short walk from the town square specializes in antiques including books, glassware, vases and clothing. 

Market day in Beaune – Olives

You likely will experience some of the local cuisine from the river cruise chefs, perhaps Boeuf Bourguignon or Escargots a La Bourguignon. And no doubt the local mushrooms and truffles will find a place in one or two meals. 

Beaune market

In addition to the historical displays at the Hospice du Beaune, there is a wine museum in town, and the Dalineum is a museum dedicated to the works of Salvador Dali. The venerable Theatre de Verdure is now a spectacular public garden and sample a variety of mustards after taking a tour of the Fallot Mustard Mill. It offers an historic perspective on mustard production and the evolution of the condiment. 

Beaune market – a foodies delight

There are a number of public parks suitable for picnics and the Parc de La Bouzaire has its own lake and a small animal farm as well as a cafe. The Cote Plage beach features grassy access to the water and four natural pools. 

One of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture dating back to the 12th Century is the Basilica of Notre Dame in Beaune. Tour the old cloisters and St. Leger Chapel. There are stunning stained-glass windows and five intricate tapestries woven in the 1500s that chronicle the life of the Virgin Mary. 

Wine, food, architecture, culture and ambiance — Beaune has it all and you can experience it first-hand on the GetAway Travel river cruise planned for November 2022.  

As always, we can be reached at:  (262) 538-2140

e-mail: sue@getaway.travel or getaway.travel@outlook.com

 

World of Travel Opening Up – Again

If travel were a toddler, it would be past the toddling stage and into elementary school. In some cases, even into junior high. The pent-up quest for adventure means as travel restrictions ease up, access to prime locations and tours are booking up.

To keep the toddler analogy going, it’s time to start planning for that “college” vacation. GetAway Travel is ready to tailor a vacation to your needs.  For more ideas –  take a look at our fabulous selection of 2022 group tours on our website.

Confusing restrictions and requirements

Sure, there seems to be a lot more rules governing when you can get to a location and what you need, but that’s where a good travel agency is important. We stay on top of those rules and restrictions for you.

Which country needs a test 24 hours before, seven days before, do you need a vaccination passport, is there a quarantine period, a limit on stays and what documentation is required?

We can help with all those questions.

And, as time goes by, more and more countries are relaxing and streamlining their requirements. That’s another reason why you should be planning your trip for the end of 2021, but probably into 2022 right now.

Continue reading

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you! 

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 shelteringinplace 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. 

 

 

Your Invited Down Under – Thursday April 23

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:

Session 1 – 11am PT, 12pm MT, 1pm CT, 2pm ET

Session 2 – 12pm PT, 1pm MT, 2pm CT, 3pm ET

Session 3 – 1pm PT, 2pm MT, 3pm CT, 4pm ET

Session 4 – 2pm PT, 3pm MT, 4pm CT, 5pm ET

For more details on the giveaways, prizes and to register http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1112006432410&ca=e2b8df2a-d6c3-4369-bbd5-249a1d9b4af8

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.

Ever take a cooking class on a River Cruise Ship?

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.

group dinner in le cave_1

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

Too many Pictures and not enough time

This happens every time we GetAway.  We take a ton of pictures while we’re travelling and then after we get home we struggle to find time to sort through them, find the best ones and share.  So for today’s post we just grabbed some random ones from our recent Paris to Normandy river cruise that we hope you’ll enjoy.  So, well…enjoy away!

Queens hamlet versailles_2_1

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

ss joie de vivre_11

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.

Paris France_7

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.

Honfleur France_73

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.

Honfleur France_26

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

American cemetary normandy_18

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

Omaha beach normandy_14

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 normandy france_2

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

Giverny_47

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

Domaine Les Crayères hotel reims_25

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!

au piano des chefs cooking class_8

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.

notre dame de reims cathedral_18

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.

hautvillers france

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

au 36 restaurant hautvillers_14

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?

Billecart-Salmon_8

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!

Ruinart_7

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.