Active Travel

 
 

Purposeful travel with vinitourism in Greece

Traveling has many different faces ranging from local excursions close to home to extreme far off destinations that take days to reach. Within each individual journey are many opportunities for purpose driven travel. Purposeful travel is arriving at a destination with a set goal. Volunteer travel, ancestry travel, historical travel and wine travel all fall under this category. 

Wine travel which is officially referred to as vinitourism, oenotourism or enotourism includes exploring destinations with visits to local vineyards and wineries, familiarizing oneself with a region’s history of wine, experiencing the art of their vinification and the ultimate treat, sampling the wines. If timed accurately, one may even find themselves participating in the annual harvest physically and/or celebratorily. 

Italy, France and  Spain, are some of the European regions that are most visited for this type of experience. However areas, like Greece, that sit under the radar are home to wine-producing regions that while not as well known, provide many opportunities for unique and enjoyable purposeful wine experiences paired with visiting the cradle of civilization. 

The birthplace of western culture, Greece is visited for its abundance of beautiful scenery, pristine beaches, friendly easy going lifestyles and historic architecture. Unbeknownst to many, Greece is also one of the oldest regions of the world for wine production. 

Within the Mediterranean, wine has a historical past that dates back 6,500 years with Greece as its original producer. The distribution of Greek wines made its way throughout Italy, Spain, Portugal and into Northern Europe as Europe was colonized during the era of the Roman Empire. 

Greece’s role in wine production with lesser known grape varieties are waiting to be unearthed throughout 29 wine regions as the home to 700+ wineries.

Central Greece on the mainland peninsula is the wine region of Attica. With its warm, dry climate, Attica’s main growth is the fruity and floral white grape Savatiano which is used to produce a 2000 year old table wine Retsina. Retsina is a fruity, oily wine with a pine finish that is made from a combination of Savatiano and Rhoditis grapes and then infused with resin (hence the name and the pine flavor). For the sophisticated wine drinker, the Savatiano grape as a single varietal blend will be similar to Chardonnay wines grown in the French Chablis region. Though when oaked, Savatiano wines will resemble a white Burgundy from the Cote’d’Or region in France.

In the foothills, near the former home of the Greek gods, Mt. Olympus is Rapsani, the first officially declared wine appellation of Greece. The mountain vineyards of the Rapsani region blend the locally grown red grapes, Xinomavro, Stavroto and Krassato and cask age them to produce wines with strong tannins, minerality and a fruity finish. 

The legendary Peloponnese peninsula is home to the Nemea region, near the former Greek ancient capital city, Nafplio. This region produces Greece’s most well known native growth, the Agiorgitiko grape. Grown at some of the highest elevations in Greece and oaked for up to five years, the result is a complex flavored and balanced, medium acidity and yet full bodied red wine. With a flavor similar to a spicy Merlot, the presentation of this wine can be compared to a young French Beaujolais Nouveau wine. 

The largest island of Greece, located in the Mediterranean Sea is the rugged island of Crete. One of the most attractive vacation spots in Greece, Crete is filled with luxury hotels and is home to the ancient white grape, Vidiano. This hard to grow grape produces a fruity and complex medium to full bodied wine. Grown on a smaller scale with very few vines still in existence, the outcome is a locally favored fruity wine primarily enjoyed by residents and visitors to the island.  

The volcanic islands of the Aegean sea draw visitors to its ancient villages, bays, coves and bright blue waters. As a prominent cruise destination, the Aegean islands are filled with travelers searching for the perfect sun and sand experience combined with a uniquely Greek cultural experience. But another reason to visit these beautiful islands is for the wine. 

Santorini, which is part of the Cyclades islands, is home to the white Assyrtiko grape. Considered to be one of the top white wines in Greece, Assyrtiko grapes are highly influenced by the island’s volcanic soil, producing a dry wine with a citrusy and crisp flavor similar to a German Riesling. Produced oaked and unoaked, the oaked version labeled locally as Nykteri will present a less acidic wine. 

Samos, the lesser known Aegean island just a mile off the coast of Turkey, is the birthplace of the worldwide grown white Muscat (Muscat Blanc) grape. The UNESCO World Heritage site once drew affluent residents specifically for its ancient vineyards. Visiting Samos is a primitive look into the Aegean isles before the days of cruise ships and luxury hotels. 

With various wine regions and grapes influenced by the diverse terrain, Greece offers plenty of opportunities to include wine tourism into a Hellenic vacation. Visiting by cruise ship, ferrying between mainland and islands, or taking a wine tour, even the most sophisticated oenophile can bring a Greek experience to a whole other level and travel purpose. 

More wine travel articles can be found at our website. Yamas! (that’s Greek for cheers)

Categories: Active Travel, Bucket List, Eco-Friendly, Enotourism, Experience, Oenotourism, Purposeful Travel, Sustainable Travel, Travel Bucket List, vinitourism, Wine, Wine tourism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Try Oenotourism by Bicycle in Bordeaux

Regardless if you are an oenophile, a vin lover or just getting your feet wet in the wine world, Bordeaux is the most renowned region for wine. Exploring wine, understanding the vinification process and sampling wine, Bordeaux is known for high quality, aged wines, and being  the world wine capital. Here you can enjoy some of the world’s most expensive reds and deliciously sweet white wines.

Wine’s existence in Bordeaux began with the Romans who occupied the area in the 1st century. Today Bordeaux is one of the oldest continuously producing wine communities in the world. The key success to the wines of this area is the combination of the maritime climate, the calcium rich soils, and the rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne that provide irrigation year round for continued vine growth.

The heart of the region, centered around the town of Bordeaux, is well known not just for their wines, but as an international destination filled with history and medieval architecture and for its connection to the rivers that flow through the area. The famed Cabernet Sauvignon producing Medoc region is where you will find some of the most esteemed wine villages along the left bank of the Garonne river. And the popular Saint-Émilion region on the right bank of the Dordogne produces Merlot with a reputation for superior wines. But this is not all Bordeaux has to offer, the region is also established for White Bordeaux wines produced from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet grapes. Vinified in the cooler parts of Bordeaux, sweet dessert wines are fermented naturally using a process called Botrytis. Botrytis concentrates the sugars in the grapes as they ripen and develops unique flavors that can only be found within this part of the region.  

In a nutshell, Oenotourisme is the purpose of traveling that centers around wine. Exploring and enjoying the production of the region plus the cultural heritage that unites it all together is a wine traveler’s dream. With almost 300,000 acres of vineyards and a multitude of wine options, Bordeaux is a top destination. So one might wonder the best way to explore the vast and largest wine growing region of France. The answer is by bicycle. Bicycles will take you on the streets that create Bordeaux’s iconic towns, past the historical monuments, along the rivers, and through the villages that are home to the wineries locally known as châteaux. It is within these villages where you will taste the most respected wines in the world and venture into the vineyards that grow the famed blends.  

City of Bordeaux 

The heart of the wine region is a bike friendly city offering paths of approximately 400 miles of bicycle trails. Traveling by bike through the walled city centre, you can explore sites like the grandiose Place de la Bourse square with a grand reflecting fountain and the iconic Bordeaux Cathedral. You may also find yourself stopping along the way to enjoy dining in a local cafe, popping into a shop on the Rue Sainte-Catherine or even finding unexpected historical treasures throughout this UNESCO World Heritage city centre. 

Within the city of Bordeaux, there are many paths to take you on adventures well beyond the wine regions. Bike through forests, into the outer regions to visit one of the many beautiful parks, like the nature reserve in Barails and you can even cycle all the way to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. Jumping onto one of the many paths available, you never know what hidden discoveries you will find as you explore the area guided or on your own. 

A relaxing hour-long ride is all it takes to lead you along both sides of the Garonne river. Start from the bell towers at the Place Pey Berland, cross the Pont de Pierre stone bridge to the right bank of the Garonne. Ride along the shores of the right bank, admiring the views of the city of Bordeaux across the river until you reach the Chaban-Delmas bridge which will take you back to the left bank. Crossing the river, you will find you are near the popular Chartrons district, the perfect stop to enjoy one of the many bistros or taverns before continuing along the river back to the bell towers where you began your ride. 

Left Bank

Within reach from the historic centre are the prestigious appellations of the Médoc region. Following “La Route de Vins des Bordeaux” by bicycle, you can enjoy a relaxed ride along the Garonne river into the countryside and through the villages where you will find yourself upon the famed vineyards of Bordeaux. 

Traveling from the city of Bordeaux in just 3 hours each way, you pass through some of the highest respected elite first growth wine producing château in France.  Château Margaux, Château Pichon Longueville, Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild, produce Bordeaux’s most valuable and esteemed wines. By bike, you can leisurely stop along the way and visit the vineyards of these most prestigious wine producers with plenty of time to sample some of the most expensive wines in the world. 

Alternately starting in the city, you can head south along the “Route des vins” into the birthplace of the region. The city of Graves is home to the only Premier Cru château outside the northern Medoc region, Château Haut Brion. Continuing on this path, you will pass some of the oldest château, and historical castles as you ride along the vineyards leading you into the Sauternes region to the Château d’Yquem whose vineyards are famed for its sweet White Bordeaux’s. 

Right Bank

Although not as accessible as the Left Bank from the city of Bordeaux, with the superb public transportation that Bordeaux offers, visiting the right bank is just a train ride away. Starting from the Gare de Bordeaux St Jean, a 30 minute ride will take you to the city of Libourne, the second largest city center in the Bordeaux region. Located in Saint-Émilion, Libourne is the main city of the Right Bank along the Dordogne river and the commercial location for the wines of the Right Bank and the Entre Deux Mer region. 

Saint-Émilion is the prime wine region of the Right bank and along with its neighboring area, Pomerol, as Grand Cru vineyards, produce the highly desired Merlot based blends of Bordeaux. 

Embarking on your two and half hour bike ride (without stops) will start from the train station in Libourne. Cycling northwest along the Right Bank of the Dordogne, you will find some of the largest castles, smallest villages and most approachable wines from world famous vineyards as you enjoy your ride to the town of Fronsac. Exploring Fronsac you will find historic sites dating back to Charlemagne and the Roman Empire as well as some highly reputable château vineyards. 

From Fronsac, moving east and passing through the French countryside vineyards of the picturesque Pomerol region you will  find yourself traveling to the rustic village of medieval St-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site and another historic center for Bordeaux wines. Arriving in St-Émilion, explore the beautiful hilly town, visit the historical church and stop in at a local bistro to enjoy a meal with some locally produced Grand Cru vin before traveling on. 

Entre-Deux-Mer

Making your way back towards Libourne from Saint-Emilion, you will reach the Dordogne, and cross the river into the Entre Deux Mer region on your way to Graves de Vayres. Graves de Vayres is known for its terraced vineyards that produce both red sweet Merlot wines and dry white wines produced from Sauvignon Blanc. A reward for your biking travels will be reaching one of the most prestigious medieval castle’s built in the region, the Château de Vayres. Sitting on the left bank of the Dordogne river, a visit to this historic location will offer you a fantastic view into the past royal presence within the Bordeaux region. Exploring the beautiful château and the French and medieval gardens will be the perfect stop before your 30 minute ride traveling back to the Libourne train station. 

As the premium wine producer in France, Bordeaux offers many opportunities to fully explore the famed region as a wine traveler. However biking through Bordeaux will offer an immersion that you can not otherwise experience by motor vehicle and is a way to connect with Bordeaux on a more personal level, path by path. 

Did you know, many of these biking adventures, in addition to others, are provided excursions on a Bordeaux river cruise starting at the city of Bordeaux. What better way to enjoy seven days of vinitourism on both the Garonne and Dordogne rivers visiting the many châteaux along the way. Familiarizing yourself with the region and sampling some of the finest wines are all expected when visiting Bordeaux. But imagine your experience when you explore on one of the bicycles included onboard, guided or on your own. Spend your time cruising the rivers, bicycling the beautiful French countryside and enjoying the wines that have made this the most famous wine region in the world. Wine travel doesn’t get any better than this!

If this sounds like your perfect vacation, join us starting on June 9, 2022 for a 7 night Bordeaux river cruise. Let us guide you through this fantastic wine experience. Space is limited. Learn more about Traveling the Rivers of Bordeaux and inquire for more information here

Categories: Active Travel, Bucket List, Eco-Friendly, River Cruise, Romance, Sustainable Travel, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Get to the heart of the Douro in Pinhão

The Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for being one of the oldest wine regions in the world, is recognized for its production of Portuguese regional Port wines. Along the Rio Douro, which travels east from the Atlantic coast and the city of Porto (Oporto locally) through Portugal to the Spanish border, is the Douro Valley, the prime region for the wine growth of Port wine.

The rugged and remote 60 mile area of the Douro Valley is broken down into subregions. Within the central core Cima Corgo (land above the Corgo river) is where you will find the famous terraced vineyards that produce the finest Port wines of the Douro wine region. 

As you travel the Douro river east, witness breathtaking high mountainous terrain with vineyards that expand into steep granite sloping land. From the rio you can see the grapevines growing in what appears to be a quilted patchwork. At the heart of the Cima Corgo where the Rio Douro and the Rio Pinhão converge is the small unassuming town of Pinhão. The small sleepy vila is surrounded by approximately 47,000 acres of vineyards and some of those vines date as far back as the original plantings by the Roman Empire.

The wines of Pinhão, similarly to most of the Douro region, are primarily sweet, fortified wines produced from local grapes; Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tempranillo. Blended together, these grapes create wines that are both higher in alcohol and superior in flavor. Port wines are produced in varying styles based on an aging process ranging from the standard couple year aged Ruby Port to long aged and tawny colored wines. In addition to the popular Port wines, unfortified still and dry wines are also produced here using the same grapes. White Port wines are also found produced in this region as well as some Rose’ and dessert wines. 

To fully understand these wines produced here, it is recommended that you immerse yourself in the wine culture of the town of Pinhão and its surrounding areas.

Pinhão Rail Station – considered one of the most beautiful train stations in Portugal, many visitors begin their Pinhão experience here in one way or another. For those arriving by train, they disembark and discover 25 beautiful panels of azuelos tiles each designed to portray historic scenes of the Douro wine region. As the main, central site within the town, even visitors who are not arriving by train will find themselves starting their explorations of the town of Pinhão here.

Tip: If traveling between June and October, take a ride on the historic coal burning Comboio steam train that travels above the scenic Douro river. During the ride, enjoy local entertainment while indulging in a glass of port onboard. 

Originating in Regua, the train will arrive in Pinhão, with your next stop being one of the many local Quintas. 

Visit a Quinta or two or three….. – family owned estates that feature a large manor home or possibly even a small palace, stands as the base for a vineyard, winery and even for an olive grower. Quintas, which means one-fifth, was the amount of produce that renters paid to use the properties they farmed on. The Quinta is at the center of wine production in Portugal and is part of a classification system that ranks Quintas based on characteristics of the vineyard. These include location, age, yield and topography with the highest quality Quintas receiving the highest prices for their wines.  

Quinta hopping is part of the Douro experience and is the best way to experience some of the finest Port wines within the Douro region. Taking a vineyard tour of a Quinta provides understanding of the history and the vinification practices of that particular Quinta. 

A highlight of your visit will be sampling their Port, usually while sitting on an open terrace peering out onto the vineyard and possibly overlooking the rabelos floating on the Douro river. 

Rabelo Boat ride – Part of a Douro wine experience is understanding the history and culture of Port Wine production. In the late 18th to early 19th century after being put into oak barrels, the wines were sent downriver to the city of Oporto for bottling and distribution. The wooden flat bottomed boats used to transport the wine barrels are called “barcos rabelos”. Only found in the Douro region, the historic vessels can still be seen floating up and down the river. 

A rabelo boat ride is the perfect opportunity to explore the Pinhão area from historic wooden cargo ships that transport guests between vineyards or offer a scenic cruise along the river. On your cruise as you travel from Pinhão and then back again, you will see the terraced vineyards as they have been seen for centuries.

Enjoy a late morning ride before grabbing a bite at one of the nearby cafes.

Dine like a local – When in Rome or in this case, Pinhão, sampling the local gastronomy is an integral part of your experience. Portuguese dining is essentially a farm to table experience. The Douro is well known for its fortified wines, and also grows many ingredients, like olives, almonds, mushrooms and chestnuts and more used in the fantastic dining experiences here. Honey and cured meats are also locally produced and served in Pinhão restaurants. Dining in Pinhão is all about the rustic flavors of the hearty meals and pairing them with the locally produced vins. 

Some of the recommended local fare to try; Bola de Lamego, sandwiches made with fresh breads and fillings, Alheira smoked sausage and Arroz de Cabidela, a Portuguese risotto-like dish. While there are some great dining opportunities in and around Pinhão, some of the best dining can be found in the Quintas throughout the region. Pinhão even has a Michlin rated restaurant, Rabelo, known for its high standards and reputation as being the “best of the best” in the area. Located in a small hotel overlooking the river, Rabelo offers a modern take on local Portuguese fare. Of course don’t forget the Ports and unfortified wines that will make every bite taste better then the last. 

Now that you are well nourished, you are ready for some adventure in the vineyards.

Hike the Douro Valley – One of the experiences that separates the Douro Valley wine region from others is the ability to hike your way through the area. The public trails through the villages and vineyards allow you to familiarize yourself with the famed wine region and its terraced slopes. 

If hiking on your own seems risky,  then take advantage of the opportunity to arrange a guided tour or hop onto a guided trail tour offered by one of the many Quintas throughout the region. 

As the center of wine production in Portugal, Pinhão offers plenty of experiences to immerse oneself into fully understanding the famed region. Familiarizing oneself with the grapes grown in the locally produced Port wines, learning about the historic production methods and of course sampling some of the Douro’s finest offerings are all included in time spent here.  Pinhão is the perfect base for exploring the central Douro Valley and enjoying the region’s highlights.

*Photo Courtesy of AmaWaterways

Many of the experiences discussed above are provided excursions on a Douro river cruise from the main city center of Northern Portugal, Porto. Enjoy seven days of travel on the scenic river stopping along the way to enjoy the amazing sites and flavors that this beautiful region has to offer. 

Categories: Active Travel, Eat like a local, Eco-Friendly, Experience, Food, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Wine Travel through the Italian Piedmont

Within the northern region of Italy where she borders France and Switzerland at the foot of the Alps, is the Italian territory of the Piedmont. From the mountainous alp region offering some of the highest peaks in Europe, to the flat valley along the Po river, the area draws visitors for its historical features, palaces and royal residences, the beautiful churches that make the Piedmont a popular religious destination and for sport like alpine skiing and mountainous winter and summer activities. 

The second largest administrative region of Italy in terms of area, the Piedmont is most notable as the second largest wine region in Italy after the Veneto region and is known for its famed wines based on the Nebbiolo and Barbara or Glera and Moscato, red and white grapes respectively. The majority of the highest classified vineyards can be found in the Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba and Asti Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) appellations. Respectfully known as the home of some of the greatest red dry and white sweet sparkling wines within Italy. 

A visit to this region of Italy comes not without its rewards as one travels throughout, visiting the area and tasting some of it’s best vine productions. 

Turin, the capital of Piedmont and largest section of the administrative area is the best place to base your visit with its close proximity to the top appellations of the region. Turin is well known for its baroque architecture, grand boulevards, squares and as a gastronomic center for the Northern region. The city is filled with numerous art galleries, opera houses, gardens and elegant palaces that were once the home to the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy who unified and ruled Italy from the late 18th Century through World War II. The original capital of Italy, before moving to Rome, the residences are UNESCO World Heritage sites built between the 16th and 18th centuries and also the location for the Tombs of members of the Savoy family during their reign. Turin is well known for its chocolate production of gianduiotto, individually wrapped hazelnut chocolates and bicerin, a native tradition of layered espresso, chocolate and milk. 

Alba is about an hours drive southeast from Turin, and home to the most famous of the wine productions in the Piedmont. Barolo and Barbaresco make Alba a very important site for the local wine industry. With almost 300 wineries here, Alba is among the most renowned wine areas in Italy. Highlighting the line up of the Piedmont is it’s most famous grape, Nebbiolo, a full bodied, low acid light red to dark garnet colored wine. Kept for three years in the barrel, once well aged, Nebbiolo will offer an aromatic and well balanced wine with flavors of berries, herbs and tobacco. Another popular grape, in fact the most planted in terms of acreage in the Piedmont is the Barbera grape. Within the Alba region, the lesser known grapes of  Barbara and Dolcetto produce single vintage wines that are notable and worthy of enjoying. Barbara is  acidic and lighter bodied, low tannic and easily grown wine offering ripe flavors of cherry, while Dolcetto creates a dark red, fruity and softer palette wine. When visiting Alba, walking the medieval city and a visit to the Duomo with its popular wood-carved chorus stalls is a must do. 

The province of Asti, 45 minutes east of and bordering the province of Turin is well known for its sparkling wines. Asti Spumante, the formal name for the fruity wines produced from the Moscato Bianco (Muscat) grape is the largest production of wine in Italy. Based on Asti DOCG wine laws, the low alcohol wine that is considered a dessert wine must be produced with 100% Moscato using a method that ferments the wine in  large pressurized tanks called the Charmat method. Unlike the other popular red wines of the Piedmont, Asti wines are consumed young for best flavors. Also within the Asti region, the half sparkling (frizzante) red Barbara d’ Asti wines can be found. As the name infers, the wine is vinified using the 90 – 100% of the red grape Barbara which is grown in the hilly regions of Asti. Despite it’s dark red appearance, the light bodied wine is rich with notes of berries and a full bouquet. To experience some of the many wineries, set out on the wine trail Walk, bike or trek  hills covered by vineyards, stopping by wineries and farms to sample different wines and local produce. Filled with many medieval palaces and beautiful churches, Asti is well known as the religious center of the Piedmont and the “City with Hundred Towers” and features a tower and ancient walls that date back to the reign of the Emperor Augustus.  

For the wine connoisseur, Piedmont is a must visit region of Italy’s famed wine appellations. Touring and tasting are key attractions of this northern administration however this land of mountains will also offer travelers the opportunity for active outdoor experiences within the diverse countryside or 56 national parks and historical visits within the capital city of Turin. 

For additional wine travel options, Check out 5 Old World Cities to Visit for Wine Travel.  

Categories: Active Travel, Experience, Food, Sustainable Travel, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

How to view African wildlife from the River

Africa, an outdoor enthusiasts dream. An entire continent of open space filled with five ecosystems each offering a unique aspect to the landscape. Deserts, mountains, savanna’s, rain forests and coastline. One of the few places on earth where despite being the second most populated continent still contains many locations that look just as they did hundreds or maybe even thousands of years ago. 

Visiting Africa for its amazing scenery, landscapes and its most endearing feature it’s biodiversity. Containing the most flora and fauna still in existence Africa is one of the most desired locations for travelers looking to step into a world completely different then their own. 

Excited passengers whisking off in 4 x 4 vehicles on protected wildlife Safaris led by a local guide to search for the Big 5 (Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros) among others. But there is another experience, one less considered and yet an amazing more intimate way to see wildlife in a natural and sustainable way. 

The one source that all animals need for existence is water. Which is what makes very important to the existence of Africa’s wildlife, the rivers. 


Africa has dry and wet seasons that occur annually interacting with the animal behavior driving them to and from the rivers, their main source for water.  On average Africa’s wettest season is from April to early June and they see some rain October – December. However June through September is the dry period when animals begin migration to and along the rivers for sustainability. 

Like the animals, traveling along the rivers can offer explorers a unique experience for up-close wildlife sightings and viewing of wildlife in their natural habitats as they play, socialize, feed, bathe and rest. 

*Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways River Cruises

Traveling the Chobe and Zambezi rivers into the Chobe National Park in Botswana, brings guests to the source that attracts wildlife from hundreds of miles to the only water available during the African dry winter months. Offering unobstructed views of herds of elephant, giraffe, hooved animals and hundreds of birds all visiting for the season. 

In addition to the wildlife experience, the scenery along the river offers many opportunities for unexpected views of the river and the African landscape. Don’t be surprised if you also come across some other unexpected surprises like the breathtaking sunsets that you can see from your cabin balcony.


The best part of an African river cruise is you don’t miss out on the land safari’s. Time is also spent exploring on safari in the Chobe National Park among other areas within Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. 

Visit national parks, iconic locations like Victoria Falls and private game reserves all while enjoying the best available five star accommodations that are arranged for you based on the itinerary that you choose. 

Enjoying an African river cruise can offer many opportunities for immersing in the local culture, exploring the best sites and experiencing the bucket list adventures that most interest you. 

For more information on African river cruising, check out our website and let the adventure begin…….

Categories: Active Travel, Dream Vacation, Eco-Friendly, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Beyond Wine in the City of Bordeaux

Bordeaux, a world renowned wine region and for good reason. Within the total area are many wine appellations filled with over 8,000 chateau and vineyards all produce some of the most sought after, best aging, highest quality and most expensive wines in the world. 

Chateau Margaux Grand Cru

Wine and Bordeaux’s relationship date back 2000 years, since it’s time as a commercial center for the Roman Empire. Today Bordeaux provides one-fourth of the production of the best wines in France. 

The greater Bordeaux region is located in southwestern France where crescent shaped land surrounds and is surrounded by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde river, respectively. 

Within the region of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Garonne river you will find the port city and capital of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, similarly named, “Bordeaux”. 

A popular location as the starting point for a wine experience, the city of Bordeaux also offers history, architecture, culture, dining, shopping and so much more. When taking a break from your “wine travels” or completely venturing out to see all that the city of Bordeaux has to offer, the best place to start is within the seven districts of the city of Bordeaux that each has its own flair, its own history and offers its own unique Bordelais experience.

Old Town

Porte Calihau

The birthplace of the city of Bordeaux started here as the Roman city of Burdigala transforming over 2000 years into the primary city centre and heart of the downtown area. The location of the port entrance and where the economy that developed Bordeaux into a major city was built upon. It is here that you will find some of the oldest architecture and history of the city. Visiting the local landmarks of the Porte Cailhau, the Pont de Pierre, Saint-Pierre church, the iconic and recognizable Place de la Bourse along the Garonne river and its modern counterpart the must see Miroir d’eau reflecting pool which is the most photographed location in Bordeaux. The Old Town is also the location of the Rue Saint-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in France. 

Grand Hommes

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

The upscale region of the city, known as the “Golden Triangle” of parishes offering beautifully elegant stone buildings and boulevards featuring well maintained city squares like the Place des Quinconces, the Place Tourny shopping district and some of Bordeaux’s top restaurants, luxurious boutiques and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, Place de la Comédie. Grand Hommes is the area to see and be seen as you explore the city and outer regions of Bordeaux.  

Saint Seurin – Fondaudège

Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux

The residential district northwest of the Grand Hommes, named for the oldest cemetery in Bordeaux, Saint Seurin, is within walking distance to the old town. A quiet upscale area featuring a mixture of modern architecture with old stone buildings and beautiful gardens. This where you will find the Jardin Botanique to venture out for a local experience. However if mixing with the locals is not of interest, the area is still visit worthy for the Palais Gallien, a former Roman arena and one of the only remaining forms of architecture from the Gallo-Roman era in Bordeaux and the Natural History museum located at the edge of the Jardin.  

Town Hall District

Bordeaux Cathedral

South of the Saint Seurin district and west of the Old Town, you will find the district with both visitors and locals enjoying the centrally located and symbolic Place Gambetta square. Other visitors may be searching out the once medieval residence, Palais Rohan that today is Bordeaux’s Town Hall (Hôtel De Ville) home of the Museum of Fine Arts. Not far from there is the most beautiful and primary Cathedral within Bordeaux, Saint Andrew and the adjacent and popular Pey – Beland bell tower. Within this district is also where you can discover the antique district and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design located in one of the most beautifully decorated 18th century mansions of Bordeaux. 

The Saints District

Gare Saint-Jean

In the southernmost district of the city is the Saint – Jean train station the neighborhood of Saint-Michel and the Saint-Croix church. As the central location where train passengers are passing through all day long, this area is filled with local immersion. Le Marché des Capucins is a local market open early morning until early afternoon and is worth exploring for fresh regional and popular items to sample and bring home. Come back to the area in the evening for a truly Bordelaisen experience heading to one of the many restaurants, bars and clubs where you will find an energetic and animated crowd of both travelers and locals.  Also located within this district is the Quai de Paludate popular with the locals for music and nightlife. 

La Bastide

Pont de Pierre Bridge to La Bastide District

The city of Bordeaux is not completely limited to the left side of the Garonne river. On the right bank is the recently gentrified neighborhood of La Bastide. The former industrial area has been built up with restaurants and movie theatres in a newly developed urban area and features fantastic views of the historic Old Town from across the Garonne. Within the district you can find a newly developed botanical garden. The Jardin botanique de la Bastide features six different garden areas including a water garden and an arboretum. 

Bassins a Flot

Crossing back across the Garonne via the Chaban Delmas bridge is the district of Bassins a flot. The most northern area of the city is the location of the city’s river commercial docks, once home to the largest port in Europe. Despite it’s maritime history this is where you can now find the most modernistic and futuristic architecture in the world, better known as the wine tower, the La Cité du Vin museum. Walking the paths along the river quay you will pass barges and other relics of the area’s river past and eventually you will reach the Bordeaux Submarine base. One of five sub bases built by the Italians during World War II, the bunker has been repurposed into a multicultural building with the Bassins de Lumiere art museum, and offers various concerts throughout the year.

Chartrons

Saint-Louis-des-Chartrons

Last but not least is the most eclectic of Bordeaux districts. North of the Old Town district is the original home of the 14th century Chartreux Abbey. The historic neighborhood has been restored from its dilapidated existence into a chic bohemian experience offering a centrally located public garden and featuring the Place du Marché Chartrons marketplace filled with local merchants offering river and locally sourced food like oysters, foie gras and macarons. Explore the nearby Saint-Louis Cathedral and also within this district you will find riverside dining and the Quai des Marques shopping area filled with cafe’s and boutiques for the hipster in all of us. With all the activity that happens here, it is not surprising that this is the location where the quays for river boats dock making it a popular location for tourism and travelers looking for a Bordeaux experience.  

Looking beyond Bordeaux’s wine presence, you can see that the city of Bordeaux is abundant in culture and experiences and offers an internationally cosmopolitan vibe. The many areas throughout the city are vibrant and yet each offers its own unique reasons for visiting. The city draws a romance of it’s own. Read more specifically to find Romance in Bordeaux. 

If the vins of France are on your menu, read more about Traveling the Vins of Bordeaux and its relationship to wine travel or Sample the Flavors of Bordeaux comparing the wines of the Right to the Left Bank and with the Entre deux Mer regions of Bordeaux.  

No matter how you choose to explore the region, one of our very favorite experiences that brings all of these experiences to you in one amazing week is by river cruise. Learn more about river cruising from our website

Categories: Active Travel, Eat like a local, Eco-Friendly, Experience, River Cruise, Romance, Travel Bucket List, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

How to get the most from a visit to Luxor

The city of Luxor in southern Egypt, is a modern city, once the ancient Greek city of Thebes and former capital of Egypt known as Waset in the prime of Pharaoh rule during the sixteenth – eleventh centuries BC today is the gateway to the ancient Egyptian monuments..

Located on the Eastern bank of the Nile river, Luxor is the prime location for visiting the ancient sites found on both banks of the Nile river. Luxor was originally built during the 11th Egyptian dynasty as the home of the Egyptian god Aman-Ra and over the growth and power of the Egyptian dynasty grew into a wealthy and prosperous capital city of the Upper region from the 18th – 20th dynasties.

Today as was in ancient times, the city of Luxor is the center of daily life and still where you will find the majority of the people, the airport, hotels, port and the majority of the tourism industry that draws visitors to the area. 

Across the river on the West bank of the Nile is the location of the temples and burial sites of the ancient royals who ruled Egypt from the East bank. 

When planning a visit to Egypt, what are the sites to plan on visiting on both banks?

East Bank – 

The main archeological attractions outside the city of Luxor are the ancient temples of Karnak and Luxor which sit about 2 miles apart along the Nile river. 

The Temple of Karnak and Open Air Museum

The Columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall

The second most visited site in Egypt is one of Egypt’s largest surviving temples. Originally designed as the main religious site of the kingdom during the Middle Kingdom period (2030 to 1650 B.C) of Pharaonic rule dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun – Re saw continuous building well into the Ptolemaic period from 305 – 30 BC. 

Various monuments were added by the many Pharaohs (approximately 30) who ruled through the Middle Kingdom, during the Roman era, the New Kingdom and into the Ptolemaic period of rule making it one of the largest archaeological sites in Egypt. Filled with substantially decorated courts, temples, pylons and shrines that tell the stories of religion, coronations and military campaigns that occurred throughout the time of construction. 

With so many sites to see, one of the key sites is the Great Hypostyle Hall which is a 50,000 square foot area filled with 134 columns from 33 – 69 feet tall, an archaeological feat for construction of the time. Also worth visiting is the Open Air Museum, an archaeological museum featuring reconstructed structures from the various periods. 

Recommendation: Schedule time for the evening Sound and Light show that takes you on a visual journey through the history of the Karnak Temple region. 

The Temple of Luxor

The Luxor Temple Complex along the Nile River

The second of the primary ancient temples, was constructed from sandstone between 1500 – 1200 BC. Under commissions by the Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ramses the Great (II) as a dedication to the Ka (original dynasty of Pharaoh gods) and the fertility god Amen was used for the annual Opet festival which paid tribute to the royals of Egypt. 

It is assumed that this was where the Pharaohs were crowned. Here you will find the chapels of the Amenhotep, Ramses II, Tutankhamun and Alexander the Great along with shrines that can be found between the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. During the Roman rule of Egypt, The Temple of Luxor was used as the center of Roman government. In the 11th century AD, a mosque was built on top of the temple, Abu al-Haggag, which is still active today.   

Tip: For a less crowded and amazing additional temple experience, visit again at sunset or in the evening to walk the grounds of the Luxor Temple when the ruins are lit up. 

Luxor Temple at Night

Luxor Museum

Between the two temples along the Nile river, an archaeological museum filled with antiquities from the graves of Tutankhamun, statues that were found within the Luxor Temple and the mummies of Ramesses I and Ahmose I. 

West Bank – 

As if the East Bank did not offer enough ancient Egyptian experience, the West Bank offers a deeper dive into the ancient Egyptian culture filled with Pharaonic death temples and decorated tombs. 

The Colossi of the Memnon

Former entrance to the mortuary of Amenhotep

The first site you will pass as you are headed along the main road will be the twin statues of Amenhotep III sitting facing the river Nile accompanied by statues of his wife and mother. Constructed of quartzite sandstone the 60 foot statues which are estimated to weigh approximately 720 tons each sit in ruins and are almost unrecognizable. 

Originally constructed to stand guard at his 85 acre mortuary temple which at the time of construction was considered one of the largest and most richly decorated in Ancient Egypt, the statues are some of the few remains of the original complex which eroded over time from river flooding by the nearby Nile. 

Medinet Habu 

Temple mortuary of Ramesses III

Your next stop will be the temple of Ramesses III. One of the best preserved temples of the New Kingdom period, it’s location is directly across the river from the Temple of Luxor and originally the site of the temple of the god Amun, the god of creation and fertility.  

Ramesses III enclosed the Amun temple and built his memorial shrine within the complex. 75,000 square feet of shrine are decorated with script and scenes from Ramesses’ many military triumphs and festivals that were celebrated in his honor during his reign. 

Within the complex you will see large statues of Ramesses, large halls, courtyards and a church that was added during the Greco-Roman period. 

Valley of the Queens

Necropolis of Valley of the Queens

Just southwest of the temples of Medinet Habu, built into the cliffs is the necropolis of tombs of the royal family members. Here you will find 90 tombs of Egyptian queens, princes and high officials of the New Kingdom. 

Starting in the 19th Dynasty with Sitre, wife of Ramesses I, the Valley of the Queens became the traditional burial site and by early BC and AD, due to lack of space, tombs were being reused for nobles and mummified animal remains. 

Many of the tombs had been robbed and vandalized over the thousands of years that they sat abandoned, however in 1905, the tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II was discovered. Referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt”  it is considered the most beautiful tomb in Egypt. Commissioned by Ramesses II for his favorite wife, his love for her can be seen in the level of detail and vibrant colors used within the designs of the tomb.  

Still an active archaeological site, new discoveries are still being made and some tombs may be closed or inaccessible when visiting. 

The Ramesseum

Pillard hall of mortuary temple of Ramesses the Great

The mortuary temple of Ramesses the Great (II), known as the great warrior, is one of the largest temples of the New Kingdom era. Originally named the “Mansion of Millions of Years” for Ramesses dedication to Egypt as the most powerful and most celebrated ruler of Egypt, the complex is nothing short of a fantastic step into the ancient past. 

Featuring gateways and pillared halls filled with columns, sanctuaries and the remains of one of the largest statues in the world estimated to stand originally at 92 feet. All that is left is 62’ of his base and torso. Unlike other mortuaries, the shrine features rising floors and drop ceilings symbolizing the rise of Egypt under Ramesses power. 

Also within the complex are temples dedicated to Ramesses mother and first wife Nefertari and a temple palace. One of the highlights of visiting is the preserved painted ceiling and walls decorated with scenes of his military successes and his representation as a god of Egypt. 

Valley of the Nobles

As you journey on you will see scattered through the hills the tombs of the high nobles who assisted and guided the royals during the Old and New Kingdoms and through the Golden age of Thebes when it was the most powerful city in Greece. 

Stopping in to explore some of these lesser acknowledged tombs will offer a unique experience into the history and culture of the times. Each chapel of the tomb is decorated with scenes telling the stories of its owners and also sharing details into the lives of the ancient Egyptians. 

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

Your final leg of your journey and one the more  popular destinations of Luxor will take you to the inland location where you will find hidden within the valley walls 63 tombs of the New Kingdom (1550 – 1070 BC) pharaohs and their royal family members.  

Divided into the East Valley and the West Valley, your primary focus will be the East Valley which has many available tombs for public visiting. Each tomb within the Valley has a KV number which means Kings Valley and then the order for which the tombs were opened by archaeologists. 

Some of the tombs that may be accessible for visiting are all the Ramesses with the exception of Ramesses II who has a separate tomb closer to the river (see Ramesseum above) and Ramesses the IIX whose tomb has yet to be identified. As well other New Kingdom pharaohs with the most well known being the boy pharoah, Tutankhamun. The tombs are carved into the cliffs with shafts that lead underground into the burial chambers, decorated with images, religious text and their supposed journies into the afterlife. 

Although Tutankhamen is the most well known of the pharaohs it is worth knowing that his tomb has the least to see as most of the tomb has been relocated to Cairo. 

Note that not all tombs may not be open at the same time, some are periodically closed for renovation and the more popular tombs like Tutankhamen, Ramesses VI require an additional ticket for entry. The area is still a live archaeological site and subject to closure for additional discovery, it is worth checking before arrival to avoid disappointment.  

Visiting the Pyramids of Giza

Egypt offers many rewarding experiences and definitely needs to be top of the list with a visit to Cairo to see the Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza. But also a visit to Luxor and both banks of the Nile needs to be part of the itinerary. Expect to spend at least 3 full days to explore all of the sites and experiences mentioned above.

A tour guide is highly recommended for the most enjoyment and best understanding of the sites you are visiting. Our favorite way to explore ancient and modern Egypt is by river cruise to travel in luxury with every detail thoughtfully designed for a one of a kind experience of both ancient and modern Egypt. 

Categories: Active Travel, Dream Vacation, Eco-Friendly, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Secret Lisbon

As one of the oldest cities in the world, Lisbon is located on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula where the Atlantic Coast meets the Tagus River is the ninth most visited of Southern European cities. With a colorful history that includes Roman, German & Moorish influences Lisbon offers many reasons to visit. 

Lisbon is Portugal’s hilly, coastal capital city. The old cities’ pastel buildings, Roman ruins, Moor Castles, stunning views, the local Atlantic beaches, beautiful weather, fantastic gastronomy, the Fado Houses of the Bairrio District and to top it all off, the active nightlife. As a destination she already has so much to offer.  

You can easily spend your day visiting the menu of historic and storied castles, exploring the vibrant local markets, riding the historic trolley or visiting the many museums. But if you are looking for some of the Lisbon’s “Secret” visits, here are 10 of our top lesser known worth seeing recommendations, Read on:

Misteiro dos Jeronimos 

Formally known as the Royal Monastery of Saint Mary Belem, was built beginning in the early 15th Century by King Manuel I, the building process took 100 years, which can be seen in the detail of the facility which was inhabited as an active religious complex until the 19th Century. 

It is not surprising that the monastery is Internationally recognized for the structure, the cloisters, the refectory and the library which can all still be seen today. The Manueline rich architecture and decor (as it is referred from the influences of King Manuel I), is seen throughout the complex and is considered both one of the most fantastic Portuguese churches and also one of Europe’s most notable. 

The site is noted for her design encompassing ornamental columns, statues and facade paintings, but the magnificent church hall and the silver ornamental tabernacle are one of the most beautiful in Europe. A Portuguese national monument and also a UNESCO World Heritage site, the monastery can be found in Lisbon’s historical sea-faring, Belem District overlooking the River Tagus. 

Padrao Dos Descobrimentos

The Monument of the Discoveries also located in the Belem District of Lisbon is a symbol of the historical achievements of Portugal’s Age of Existence throughout her lifetime. Originally designed in the 1940’s for the Portuguese World exhibition, as a temporary display, the 184 foot statue was reconstructed in 1960 as a permanent memorial for the anniversary of the death of Portugal’s most notable contributor and main statue, Prince Henry the Navigator who was instrumental in the maritime discoveries and expansion of Portugal throughout the world.  

The location of the structure is of important significance for its location where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic Ocean. This is the location where many ships departed during the 15th and 16th Centuries during Portugal’s Age of Discovery when expansion was key. 

The two sided display features 33 statues helmed by Prince Henry the Navigator holding a ship with others each holding an identifying artifact signifying their contributions to Portuguese exploration. You will find notable characters like Ferdinand Magellan who was the first explorer to circumnavigate the globe holding the world and Vasco da Gama holding a sword, who discovered the sea route to India among other explorers, sea captains, missionaries, writers, poets, royals, pilots and navigators who were all dedicated to the Portuguese act of discovery. 

From the middle of the monument visitors can climb steps to a platform with views of the river and the area that surrounds you. Below the statue a cultural museum was designed featuring an exhibition hall and auditorium. 

Alfama

One of the highlights of visiting Lisbon is walking the medieval neighborhood streets and alleys of the historical districts. The Barrio Alto is the most notable for its traditional Fado quarter but seeing the town of Alfama is a must for the full Lisbon experience. Like a small village within the larger Lisbon city center Alfama offers many opportunities for snapping photos of the colorful homes, the Lisbon Cathedral, small city squares and narrow hilly streets that back up to the picturesque area where the Tagus River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. 

Originally settled by the Romans, Alfama played an important role as both the old Jewish Quarter and as a central town originally designed by the Moors. Set below St. George castle which looms above, many of the buildings have been repurposed as hotels and gentrified apartments. 

The magic of visiting the area is to see the 11th century Castelo de S. Jorge and the beautiful views from above before aimlessly wandering the streets indulging in the views, visiting the Lisbon Cathedral and immersing in the local culture of the residents who live here. 

Parque Eduardo VII 

Considered Lisbon’s “central park” the 64 acre location offers so much more than beautiful green space to stretch out and relax in the perfect Portuguese weather. 

Well located in Lisbon’s city center the park stretches from the popular shopping boulevard of  Avenida da Liberdade down to Pombal Square with a roundabout featuring the statue of the 1st Marquis of Pombal that connects many of Lisbon’s busiest thoroughfares. 

One of the highest points in central Lisbon, the top of the park features panoramic views of the city. The cultured hedge maze attracts visitors to lounge in its shade while having a picnic or reading a book. However there are many opportunities for enjoying the shade from one of the benches or picnic tables found throughout the park. 

If you are traveling with young children, the park offers playgrounds, a pool and has a sports complex that is popular with the locals. You will also find the Estufa Fria a 3 ½ acre greenhouse with three separate gardens to explore and further enjoy the outdoors.  

Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

View from Our Lady of the Hill Church

Our Lady of the Hill church offers some of the highest panoramic perspective with a birds eye view across central Lisbon, the Castelo (São Jorge Castle) in the distance, the Bairro Alto historic district below, the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge and the Tagus River Estuary.  

Located in the Graca neighborhood, the church is just outside the central Lisbon area, adjacent to a popular viewpoint, the Miradouro da Graça, the church is a lesser known location to also enjoy the sites surrounded by trees and a less bustling area filled with tourists. 

The chapel is also worth a visit. Dating back to the 12th century, the original structure was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake and rebuilt in the late 1700’s. 

Tip: The best time to visit is just before sunset to see the glow of the sky upon the city or visit the Miradouro da Graça at night to see the city come alive with lights. 

Azulezhu (Azuelejo)

One of the popular attractions to Lisbon for those fascinated with architecture is the many Azulezhu designs scattered throughout the city. An iconic part of the culture, the tin-glazed ceramic tile works tell the history and stories behind the capital city of Portugal. 

Azulezhu is the proper name for the tiles the Portuguese used and continue to use among the walls of the faces of  their buildings. Originally brought to Lisbon by the Moors to function as assistance with temperature control of the warm Portuguese summer, the design was later modified to create traditional Portuguese patterns to tell stories and became an ornamental art and traditional decor. Azulejos are commonly spotted within churches and palaces throughout the region but it is also not uncommon to see them on apartment buildings, shops, restaurants, bars and even public buildings. 

Unfortunately it has become common for vandals to steal tiles and sell them on the black market to unknowing tourists and well knowing collectors. It is estimated that about 25% of the original tiles within the city were stolen and sold over 20 years between 1980 and 2000. So in 2007 a protection group was formed and in 2013 it became illegal to demolish buildings featuring them without protective measures first taken. 

Many of the tiles that have been salvaged can be viewed at the National Tile Museum that will take you on a journey through Lisbon’s history through Azulezhu tiles. 

Arco da Rua Agusta 

The triumphal arch building was constructed after the 1755 earthquake that resulted in a tsunami and fire destroying much of the downtown area of Lisbon. Formally known as the Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta, it welcomes you into the commercial waterfront area. 

Designed to symbolize the strength and rebuilding of the city of Lisbon after the devastating event. The stone building features six columns and is decorated with statues of some of Lisbon’s well known historical personalities. 

Standing at over 135 feet from the top of the arch to the bottom of the columns, the statues above the arch representing Glory, Valor and Genius each stand approximately 23 feet tall to coincide with the size of the arch. An elevator from the arch transports you to the top for 360 degree views of the downtown area.  

Located along one of Lisbon’s busiest streets, the arch leads from the Rua Agusta as an entrance to the Praça do Comércio pedestrian waterfront area that faces the Targus River, filled with cafe’s, shops, restaurants and lots of local artists and entertainers. 

Campo Pequeno Bullring

Located in the historical center of Baixa in a district named Campo Pegueno which means small field. Constructed in 1890 influenced by Moorish design and the original bullring of Madrid, Spain. The building stands as the official home of Portuguese bullfighting. 

The North African inspired circular building located at Campo Pequeno Square was created with brick featuring octagonal towers topped with domes and turrets at the main entrance. The inside of the arena is covered with sand, traditional to a bullfighting ring. 

Bullfighting season lasts from Easter to summer. During the off season the facility is used as a concert venue. Refurbished in 2006, an entertainment center was added to also feature an underground area filled with shops, restaurants and a movie theatre. 

Because slaughtering the bulls was deemed inhumane by King Miguel during his reign between 1828 – 1834, Portuguese bulls are not killed at the end of the fight, as they are in Spain keeping the sport enjoyable for all who participate.

Cristo Rei

You might recognize this monumental statue as similar to the Christ the Redeemer statue that stands overlooking the Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. That is because it was inspired by the original after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited the monument. 

Built in 1959 on a hilltop 133 feet above Lisbon in Almada, the cement shrine is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ and similarly to the Redeemer in Rio, overlooks the city of Lisbon. Standing 630 feet above the River Tagus, the significance of the statue was to give thanks for Portugal being spared from the effects of the Great World War. 

The 92 foot monument itself stands on a 269 foot high pedestal with its arms extended, similar to the original, in the form of a cross facing the city of Lisbon. The pedestal contains four arches that are each positioned in the directions of a compass rose. 

On the 25th anniversary of the monument, the area was refurbished and a sanctuary and visitor center was added. The Chapel of our Lady of Peace features a rectory and a chapel and the visitor center offers exhibition galleries among administrative and meeting rooms. At the top of the pedestal is an observation deck with a not to be missed 360 degree view of Lisbon and the 25 de Abril Bridge over the Tagus River. 

Setúbal

Views of Arrábida Natural Park

Known as the city facing the sea, Setúbal is a coastal town located just 40 minutes south of the city of Lisbon in southern Lisboa. A historic area dating back to before the Roman occupation features a historic center of  Baroque churches within a busy coastal town, the area is also well visited for the beautiful scenery and its beaches. 

Located on the Setúbal Peninsula the region offers a bustling downtown area filled with  squares imbued with fountains and gardens surrounded by shops and restaurants offering the latest catch from the fisherman whose boats line the large harbor that spend their days fishing the area. The town is filled with many locations to relax with a glass of Setúbal celebrated locally grown moscatel wine and people watch the locals, the tourists and the street artists who are fighting for their attention. 

Another reason that visitors come to the region is for Arrábida Natural Park. Just a five minute drive from the town of Setúbal, offers a mountainous area overlooking the sea. The mediteranean climate provides 27 thousand acres of preserved beauty deeper into the peninsula with fabulous views of the clear waters below. Hiking the protected area you may spot one of the many local species of mink or fox or see eagles flying above searching for their next meal. 

Within Arrábida Park you will also find a protected marine area popular for scuba diving with beautiful untouched beaches. Praia de Galapinhos beach is a remote beach 15 minutes west along the coast from the town of Setúbal that is considered one of the best beaches in Europe and not to be missed if you are looking for a beach day.  Further along the coastal road nearby Praia do Portinho da Arrábida is a quaint tiny coastal town with a beach and another great spot to stop to grab lunch and relax.

Tip: The Lisboa card will provide all inclusive access to many of the above named sites.

While a day will give you the highlights of the Lisbon region, if you want to see all of the above, at least three days are recommended to fully immerse in the area. One of our favorite ways to explore Lisbon is pre a 7 night cruise of the Douro river from Porto, Portugal. 

Categories: Active Travel, Experience, River Cruise, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

How to “actively” seek experience in Austria’s Wachau Valley?

The Danube river is one of the longest rivers in Europe, second longest to be exact after the Volta river. The traditional trade route on the Danube through Europe dates back thousands of years. The Danube starts in Central Europe and travels through Eastern Europe where it empties into the Black Sea. 

Durnstein in the Wachau Valley

As a UNESCO nature site, Wachau Valley offers active opportunities to explore the river, the castles, monasteries, ruins, small cafes, wine villages and exceptional scenery with active experiences;

Biking the Danube Cycle Path –

Possibly the most scenic biking trail in Europe, the Danube Cycle path begins in the Black Forest region of Donaueschingen, Germany and travels a total of 745 miles through Austria and Slovakia along the Danube all the way to Budapest in Hungary. It’s the 260 miles through the Austrian Lower Danube that offers the top scenery of the UNESCO landscape and world class wine region. 

From the path as you travel from start to finish, you pass mountains rising out of the river with historical monuments and ruins atop them, forested slopes with the rooftops of old villages peaking through and a patchwork of vineyards that wind through the landscape. Riding from Melk you travel through the towns of Aggsbach, Oberansdorf, before crossing the Danube to pass through Spitz, Weissenkirchen and Durnstein and then reaching your final destination of Krems. Each leg offers historical architecture dating back to the Middle Ages, unique geographical formations, medieval estates and churches that will entice you to visit and inspire you to pedal on.

Danube Cycle Path

Whether traveling along the manicured bike path, or on the cobblestone streets of the villages there are many spots to stop to rest, grab a bite to eat or just enjoy the scenic beauty that surrounds you. 

There are many options for bicycle tours; from fully guided cruisers to e-bikes or self guided with use of public bike rental systems that all allow you time to explore the regions as you reach them. Guided tours generally include visits to some of the local vineyards with cellar tours and wine tastings. 

Kayaking the Danube –

The Ruins of Durnstein Castle

A popular mode of transportation during the warmer summer months, kayakers set out to enjoy the scenic nature of the area while also cooling off with some time on the water, paddling for 25 miles between the cities of Melk and Krems through the postcard worthy Wachau Valley. 

Seeing the sites of the ancient relics, riverside villages and stopping at some of the river beaches for a quick swim are usually rewarded with a stop at one of the local vineyards for a tour and tasting of local Gruner Veltliner and/or Riesling wines. 

Offered in small group tours or as private excursions, an experienced guide will safely lead you along one of Europe’s busiest waterways on an intimate and yet rewarding river experience. With views of the river, from the river and the panoramic views above the river you will accomplish what most travelers do not get the opportunity to experience. 

Hike the Wachau World Heritage trail – 

Lastly, an active opportunity that the Lower Austria region offers is scenic trails through the Danube Valley. Connecting 15 separate municipalities of the Wachau Valley with historical paths that have been connected together to form 112 miles of opportunities to explore ruins, castles, fortresses, abbey’s, vineyards and apricot orchards that all make up this fantastic UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Hiking through the Vineyards

The trail is broken up into legs that can be hiked individually or in larger segments. With use of the river ferry, even the novice hiker can navigate their way throughout the region. 

Offering both remote trails and beautifully scenic views along the river, the landscape will both surprise and inspire you. Ranging from easy to medium in intensity, and from 4 ⅓ miles to 10 ½ mile segments. Some of the top hiking trails are the 6 ½ to 10 mile segments within the Wachau Valley. 

Trail 01, Krems to Durnstein: the easy rated 7 ½ mile trail starts at the Gozzoburg Castle in the medieval city of Krems and travels through the nearby vineyards of Krems and Stein into the nature preserves before reaching the rock and forested area below the ruins of Durnstein Castle. Then up the final 20 min leg of the trail, offering not just a unique experience to explore the almost 900 year old castle associated with the legend of Richard the Lionhearted, but offering some of the most amazing views of the Wachau Valley and surrounding vineyards.

View from Durnstein Castle

Trail 03, Weissenkirchen to Spitz: a medium rated 6 mile trail takes you through the largest area of vineyards in the Wachau Valley. These most notable terraced vineyards of the region lay high above the Danube river and provide beautiful views making this an exceptional experience. You will pass through woods and rocky landscapes before arriving into the wine village of Spitz where you can reap the rewards of your journey with a glass of local wine at one of the many village cafes, restaurants or taverns. 

Terraced Vineyards view

Not a very vast region but definitely one that is worth exploring. Did you know the best way to experience the Danube is by river cruise. Learn more about river cruising from our website and actively enjoy the Wachau Valley among central Europe’s best and most beautiful medieval cities. 

Categories: Active Travel, Eco-Friendly, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel Bucket List, Wellness, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Twelve days of Christmas Markets

As we approach the holidays, here is our gift to you:

Enjoying the season in Europe is a treat that everybody deserves. Here is our rendition of the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to describe a Christmas Markets experience along the Central Europe rivers annually from the end of November through Christmas. 

Each verse and accompanying photo will take you to more information, so click away!

Enjoy!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

A Christmas Markets River Cruise in Central Europe

An annual Christmas Market

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Two mugs of Gluhwein to sip as we explore the booths of the Christkindlmarkts

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Three nights pre-cruise in Amsterdam or Budapest

Bicycling the canals of Amsterdam is a must

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Four extra days post cruise in Europe

Chapel Bridge over the Reuss River in Luzern, Switzerland

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Five different countries to enjoy with additional holiday cheer

Decorated Half-timbered houses of Strasbourg

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Visits to six of the most beautiful holiday adorned Cathedrals in Europe

Dom, the Regensburg Cathedral of St. Peter

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Seven full relaxing and enjoyable days of cruising the European rivers

Niederwald cable car Assmannshause in Rüdesheim am Rhein

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eight handcrafted souvenirs to bring home as holiday gifts

Holiday shopping in Riquewihr, France

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Nine ornaments, one from each town we visited 

Bratislava, Slovakia on the Danube river

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Another suitcase for the 10 Christmas market holiday mugs

Nuernberg Christkindlesmarkt, Germany

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Eleven active excursions walking, hiking, golfing or biking beautiful towns and villages

Exploring Bernkastel – Kers on the Mosel River, Germany

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve full days of holiday bliss with endless memories of a river cruise experience

Cologne Cathedral, Germany

From our family to yours, we wish you health, safety and blessings during this holiday season. When you are ready to experience the joy and beauty of the Christmas Markets, BucketList Travel Advisors can assist you with planning the perfect river cruise.

Happy Holidays!

Categories: Active Travel, Celebration Travel, Eat like a local, Experience, Food, River Cruise, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: