Sustainable Travel

 
 

Get In’spire’d in Prague

Rome, Paris and Madrid are some of the well known global cities of Europe attracting travelers. But are you familiar with Prague a lesser known international European city in central Europe that will not disappoint in comparison. 

Prague, the “Golden City of Spires”

The capital city of the Czech Republic is also it’s largest city. Prague has a gilded past filled with history and riches as the Bohemian Kingdom of the Holy Roman Empire and a key city of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg empire. 

Prague is culturally comparable to the formerly mentioned iconic European cities, offering modern amenities, theatres, galleries and museums scattered throughout the region. 

Having survived the second world war, “The golden city of a hundred spires” is named for the extensive number of towers that fill her skyline. Prague stands as a baroque historic center of world heritage sites drawing visitors to her endless number of architectural gems. Breathtaking cathedrals, historic palaces and hundreds of statues scattered throughout this very walkable city makes it a must visit. 

Visiting Prague offers amazing opportunities to tour attractions and sites, read on to further investigate which ones ought to be at the top of a must see list and why.

Prague Castle –

One of the most visited sites in Prague is a 9th century castle, that is Prague’s namesake. The complex has been in use continuously as the ruling location for emperors, kings, queens and presidents since its erection. At 750,000 square feet, this ancient castle has been declared the largest in the world. If that isn’t daunting enough, she also sits high above the city on a hill overlooking the Vltava River,  making her appear even larger than reality. 

Step into the past by watching the changing of the guard ceremony from the grand entrance at the Matthias gate.  All within a stone’s throw from the entrance of the massive compound are stunning cathedrals, mesmerizing from the spires outside to the glittered treasures within. The old royal palaces represent the original medieval and renaissance architecture and tell the stories of their past residents. The various beautifully manicured gardens that once entertained nobility are all waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. 

Due to its popularity and the number of sites, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets in advance.

Old Town – 

The Old Town square of Prague

Not far from the castle is the historic “Old Town” quarter of Prague. The oldest part of Prague dates back to the 10th century when it was the central marketplace. Later developed in the 12th century as the significant center of the city, it became the location for some of the Czechs most notable historical events including riots, revolutions and executions. 

Surrounded by a mixture of architectural buildings built in various styles, at first sight you will find gothic churches and a medieval Old Town Hall with an astronomical clock, one of the oldest working clocks in the world. As you venture further along the cobblestoned streets past residences and shops you come upon the rococo Kinský Palace, home to Czech National Gallery and art museum.

Located nearby the old town, crossing over the Vltava river are the towers of the famed stone arch Charles Bridge. Named after the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, the structure is lined with statues representing saints, patron saints and some of Prague’s most famous inhabitants.The pedestrian bridge, connecting the old town and the lesser town of Prague, is always popping with tourists and locals alike. Note there is a nominal fee to cross the bridge, but this iconic attraction is a highlight when visiting Prague. 

Vyšehrad – 

Prague’s less visited upper castle on the east bank of the Vltava is a 10th century fort. Believed to be the location of the original Prague settlement, here you will find a fortified castle built up with bastions, ramparts and gates. The Vyšehrad complex is a location popular with Praguer’s with many opportunities for outdoor recreation to enjoy local celebrations. 

Within the ancient fortification, many hidden gems can be found and if that does not draw you here, the stunning views over Prague makes this a location worth exploring. The castle serves as a historic monument of the reign of Czech dukes and contains many architectural riches. The Saints Peter and Paul Basilica is a neo-gothic church originally built in the 10th century featuring intricately adorned pic worthy twin towers that are easily spotted from the river. Vyšehrad cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of Czechs most famous past residents including artists, composers and writers, among others from the 18th and 19th century. Within the fortress grounds there is plenty of green space where you will find locals enjoying the area out for a jog and on weekends, frequenting the restaurants and bars making this experience more culturally immersive.

Prague is a gilded and historic destination treating you to beautiful architecture and innumerable cathedrals that draw you into the various town squares filled with friendly Czech culture. As a modern city, Prague offers all the necessary amenities with easy to access public transportation, luxurious accommodations and some of the best shopping and dining in the heart of Europe. When desiring to experience the best of central European cities, we recommend spending time in Prague among other breathtaking cities like Vienna, Salzburg and Budapest. A top travel experience is enjoying these iconic regions on a ten night river cruise traveling along the Danube River.

Find out more about the river cruise experience from our website

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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.  

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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

Travel the Danube for a Bavarian experience

Searching for history, culture and experience you arrive into Germany to embark on a journey along the Danube river. One of the longest rivers in Europe and many cities that access the river, the best place to start your travels is from memorable and medieval Germany.

The heartland of the river, the Danube in Germany offers you charming towns along the river that are filled with historic castles, beautiful cathedrals and culture that goes back thousands of years.

With many towns and villages to explore, there are three key German towns along the Danube river and the “The Route of Emperors and Kings of Bavaria”. A dedicated cycling path also runs along the Danube river for an active experience while traveling offering the opportunity for visiting multiple sites along the way. 

German towns along the Danube river offer a unique travel experience, these are some of what you will find on our itinerary when visiting the Bavarian Danube:

Nuremberg

The second largest city in Bavaria after Munich is where you will begin your Danube journey. Although technically located on the Pegnitz river, a tributary of the Main, Nuremberg is located at the Rhine – Main – Danube Canal making it a popular starting point for navigating the Danube river. 

 Nuremberg is best known for its role in World War II Germany, the Nazi Rally grounds and the Nuremberg Trials at the Justice Palace. There are many tours and underground experiences offered in Nuremberg for World War II enthusiasts. 

Not just historic, a city of art and culture, there are many attractions to explore including the medieval fortified Nuremberg Castle complex in the altstadt (old town) and the twin towered St. Lorenz medieval/gothic church built in the 1400’s and it’s three organs. 

Nuremberg is a walking city and exploring the area you can follow the old city walls finding medieval gates and towers throughout the city. Visiting the old town squares and the Hauptmarkt (open market) to interact with the locals shopping for fresh fruits, popular local pastries and a la carte dining options. The market is sitting in front of the Roman Catholic Frauenkirche church, another site you will want to step into and explore. 

Foodies will enjoy the range of offerings available in Nuremberg with its many restaurants featuring traditional Franconian fare and popular local offerings like lebkuchen German cakes and Nuremberg sausages.

Recommendation: Plan time to relax at one of the many beer gardens scattered throughout the city of Nuremberg.

Visitor friendly, Nuremberg’s old town is a pedestrian only area where you will find many options for shopping and finding specialty items. This is also the location where many festivals occur throughout the year. Additional shopping options can also be found in the Handwerkerhof area of medieval village shops featuring independent businesses selling handcrafted goods. 

Regensburg

Departing Nuremberg you will travel up river to Regensburg. Located where the Danube river meets the Regen and Naab rivers in the eastern part of lower Germany, Regensburg is not as populated as Nuremberg, yet it is still ranked the 4th largest city in the Bavarian region of Germany. A cultural center, the city played an important role during rule of Germany by the Holy Roman Empire. 

A UNESCO World Heritage site as one of the largest “old towns” in Germany, Regensburg attracts visitors to its mostly medieval town filled with many well known sites, historic buildings, gardens and parks. One of these that is highly recommended is the Dom Cathedral. Built starting in 1275 and finished in 1869 the complex is primarily made up of Gothic architecture however you will also find adjoining chapels still in existence that predate the Dom dating back to the 8th century among newer styles of architecture and notable art works. 

As you walk the town, you will find many medieval churches each offering its own stories that are visit worthy among other architectural treats like the Porta Praetoria fortress walls built by the Romans.  Other recommended visits is the medieval stone bridge which dates back to the 11th century that was used during the crusades to cross the Danube.

A not to be missed dining experience is the Sausage Kitchen. A popular destination for both visitors and locals, it is the oldest public restaurant in the world actively serving guests since the 11th century. 

Passau

As you journey along the Danube following the famed Route of Emperors and Bavarian Kings, you will pass historic castles and beautiful landscapes along the way as you travel to Passau. 

Referred to as the “City of Three Rivers” because the Danube joins the Inn river from the south and the Ilz river from the north. Passau is a smaller city then the other two but is also well known for its gothic and baroque architecture. 

You will first notice when walking the cobble-stoned streets of Passau’s Old City (die alstadt) the Veste Oberhaus Fortress which can be seen high on a mountain top facing the city. Today the museum of Passau, it is home to an art gallery, historic collections from the Bavarian region, collections symbolic to Passau’s past and an observatory. 

Tip: A highlight of visiting the fortress is the 18th Century viewing platform with fabulous views of historic Passau and the rivers below. 

Visiting the Gothic town you will find there are many hospitable and site worthy churches within Passau to visit however, a not to be missed site is the Italian Baroque Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral). Notable as having one of the largest pipe organs in the world with over 17,000 pipes. Concerts are held daily during the warmer summer months and worth scheduling your visit around to experience the organ in action for yourself.

Passau has a large University that populates almost a ⅓ of the town with students who bring a bustling excitement to the city’s taverns, restaurants and beer gardens scattered throughout. 

Your journey as you are transported along the Danube’s Route of Emperors and Bavarian Kings will continue from Passau on into some of the beautiful river towns of Slovakia, Austria, including Vienna and Hungary until you reach your final destination in Budapest. 

There are so many reasons to visit Germany, an enjoyable and unique experience is to travel the inland waterways exploring the towns and villages of Germany and other neighboring countries from your boutique floating hotel. For more information on a Danube river cruise, head to our website.

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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
 
 

Travel the Vins of Bordeaux

Find Romance in the The City of Bordeaux

Bordeaux is the world’s most famous wine region as the world capital of wine. So much so that generally 4.3 million visitors travel to the region each year.  The Gironde department of Southwest France is the most popular wine tourism destination in France for attracting both French and foreign visitors. 

Separated into 3 distinct regions, the Left Bank along the left bank of the Gironde Estuary and the Right Bank on the right side of the Gironde. Between the two, the central island of sorts named Entre-deux-Mer (between to tides) is separated by the Garonne River of  the Left Bank and the Dordogne River of the Right Bank which confluence into the Gironde. 

Most visitors are drawn to the main city of the region, Bordeaux, a port city, the capital of the Nouvelle – Aquitaine region and the fifth largest city in France. Located on the Left Bank of the Garonne river not far from the Atlantic Coast, Bordeaux is not just as the hub of wine production and distribution but also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main city offers many opportunities for exploring beautiful architecture and historical monuments, is famed for its gastronomy and yes this is the perfect place to start your journey into the vins of the famed region with a visit to the Cité du Vin museum. 

Traveling from the City of Bordeaux

We could go on and on just about the city of Bordeaux but today we are focusing on the entire region of Bordeaux and its relationship to the world of vinology and travel. The Bordeaux wine region is about 30 miles in length and 6 ½ miles in width as the crow flies which means you can get almost anywhere from the city of Bordeaux in less than an hour. 

The majority of wines produced in the Bordeaux region (85%) are medium to full bodied reds made from Merlot, the number one grape grown primarily on the Right Bank and Cabernet Sauvignon the number two grape, primarily grown on the Left Bank. Although less than 15% growth of white grapes can be found in Bordeaux, the region is known for its Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle grape blends that can be found growing in the Entre-deux-Mers and southern Bordeaux regions. 

The key to exploring Bordeaux red wines is to know that the primary wines are blends of the main Merlot and Cabernet grape growths with additional vintages like Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere to produce some of the highest rated and most expensive wines in the world. 

The Left Bank

This is where the city of Bordeaux is located, the Médoc and Graves regions make up the area primarily known as the Left Bank. Gravel soils promote the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon led blends that are highly tannic which is the component that allows for the aging of the wines for decades. The primary area for the wines of the 1855 Classification for first growth Château producing most of the best wines of Bordeaux can be found in the Left Bank.

The Médoc areas create these most prestigious Premier Cru (top rated) wines which can be found in the sub-regions of Pessac – Léognan south of the city of Bordeaux, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estephe which are all located north of the city of Bordeaux along the Gironde Estuary. 

Château Margaux

Following the Médoc route and visiting these Premier Cru will not only provide you with a deep understanding of some of the world’s greatest red wines but how they are made from growth through vinifying, aging, bottling, distribution and taste.  

Graves in the southern Bordeaux region along the Garonne river with its forests, is a cooler region of Bordeaux where you can find dry white wine blends surrounding the city of Graves and some sweeter dessert blends in addition to some popular historic sites like the Château de Roquetaillade a former fortress that was converted to a castle. 

The Right Bank

Within the Right Bank the regions of Libournais, Saint-Émilion, Fronsac and Pomerol are some of the prestigious appellations of the area. The location of the Right Bank closer to the Atlantic Ocean combined with the red clay soils are perfect for the growth of the dominating grape, Merlot. Some of the top quality long aging Bordeaux Merlot leading blends can be found around the town of St.Émilion. Although the grapes are less heavily structured, the combination of the soil and the climate create enough tannin’s that these wines can also age for many years also producing high-end wines.

The town of Saint-Émilion and it’s eight villages can be found on the right bank of the Dordogne River. A UNESCO World Heritage site for it’s 2000 years of viticulture history among historical relics dating back to Paleolithic tribes. From early man to present day, you will find many sites to explore among the town and cathedrals of Saint-Émilion. 

Visit St.-Émilion

Further east you can travel into the main city of the Right Bank, Libourne who the Right Bank region is named for where you will find a fortified medieval town and Gothic church, French markets and of course locally sourced wines. The commune of Fronsac just west of Libourne features beautiful landscapes and wine Château featuring Merlot and Cabernet Franc. North of Libourne is the Pomerol wine region. A smaller and more modern region for wine vinification, Pomerol is an up and coming area that is producing many notable quality wines from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

From Pomerol as you move west along the Dordogne, you will reach the beautiful historic village of Côtes de Bourg where you will find Merlot and a small amount of white wines. Visit the Citadel and then travel on to the rolling hills of the Gironde Estuary, more archaeological sites, churches and the vineyards of the Côtes de Bordeaux commune of Blaye. Sample traditional Red and White Bordelais blends and you can also enjoy some of the locally produced rose’. 

Entre-Deux-Mers

The misty Entre-deux-Mers conducive to late harvest dessert wines

The largest region of Bordeaux is located between the Garonne River of the Left Bank and the Dordogne River of the Right Bank. Mostly filled with forests, the Entre-deux-Mers is where you will find the smallest production of both red and white wines. With the most fertile lands and coolest weather of the Bordeaux region, the Merlot grape is prominent, but it’s the approved white blends from the Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes that the area is most known for. This is also where you will find the famed sweet Sémillon based wines of Bordeaux that are produced as a result of the Botrytis fungus that grows in the foggy and humid river regions.  

Filled with small villages, some of the highlights are visiting the beautiful port town of Cadillac, along the Gironde river, it’s many communes filled with historic ruins, stately Château, cathedrals, medieval villages and famed sweet white wines under the Cadillac AOC. Also along the Gironde, Loupiac, is known for its late harvest sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon which can be sampled at one of the wine Châteaux while also visiting the castle/abbey and church located here. 

On the opposite side of the Entre-deux-Mers, the Graves de Vayres wine region has been traced back to the Roman age of Octavius. Home to the Château de Vayres medieval castle along the banks of the Dordogne here you find both dry reds and white wines to sample as you explore the area.   

Explore the Château de Vayres

Visiting the Bordeaux region of France is a learning experience. A popular tourism destination with many attractions, but for the wine expert or the novice looking to improve their Oenology skills this is the perfect opportunity to experience the vineyards, wineries and tastings throughout each region and its sub-region. 

The best way to travel Bordeaux and discover its red, whites, rosés and sweet wines is by river cruise roundtrip from the capital city of Bordeaux along the Garonne, Dordogne and cruising through the Gironde Estuary. Visit the Châteaux, historical landmarks, the countryside and sip your way through the Bordeaux vineyards without missing a thing on a 7 day journey.  

Find out more about Sampling the Flavors of Bordeaux!

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

Finding Adventure at Victoria Falls in Africa

Despite the negative press that South Africa is receiving right now from the Covid-19 variant, when travel is safe, Africa is one of the most fabulous travel destinations for both the casual tourist and the adventurous. 

Victoria Falls during dry season

Both awe-inspiring and the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls happens to be located on one of the most alluring continents in the world, Africa. One of the seven natural wonders of the world is located along the Zambezi River at the border of the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe where lies the majestic site that many aspire to visiting on their travel bucket lists. 

Named by Scottish explorer David Livingstone in 1855 after Queen Victoria, the almost 1 ½ mile basalt cliffs form the falls where water from the Zambezi river plummet over the edge and into the gorge some 300 feet below. The power of the falls can be seen from 30 miles away, heard from 25 miles away and the mists can be felt as high as 430 yards from the falling water. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow when the water levels peak at the end of the rainy season in late March or early April. Alternatively the falls will reach their lowest points in the fall during the dry period when it is even possible to walk through specific points of the falls.  

Victoria Falls Lookout Bridge

Surrounded by rainforest, another basalt cliff faces the Main falls with a path through heavy spray  offering exceptional views of the falls. Another option for viewing, is from the Knife-Edge Bridge for panoramic views of the Main falls and the Boiling Pot area where the river switches down the Batoka Gorge. For the more weary, views from Livingstone Island during the dry season or the Falls Bridge that crosses over the Zambezia provide panoramic views. 

Depending on the time of year that you visit, after seeing the beauty and power of Victoria Falls, there are many options for immersing yourself with the area finding adventure at and around Victoria Falls. We recommend that you hire a local guide as some of these experiences can be dangerous for those not familiar with the area. Not all adventures require physical activity, but each offers the opportunity for an adventure you will remember forever:

Flight of Angels

Regardless if it is during the peak flood period when the falls are at their highest or dry season when it’s at its lowest, flying over Victoria Falls is one of the most astounding and most personal ways for seeing the falls from an angle most do not have the opportunity to.

From the windows of a small prop plane, follow the Zambezi river to the gorges that form into the massive magnificent Victoria Falls offering panoramic instagram worthy photos and an unforgettable experience. Other flight options are by helicopter to get you even closer to the action, also flying over the Batoka Gorge and Mosi-oa-Tunya National park. 

Your flight experience usually ends with a DVD of your 15 – 30 minute flight as a souvenir to take home and share your experience with others. 

Victoria Falls from the air

Swim in the Devil’s Pool

Close to Victoria Falls, rock pools have formed and the most popular for its location is Devil’s Pool. Located near Livingstone Island at the edge of the falls with a sheer 325 foot drop, the site provides the heart-pumping exhilaration of a natural infinity pool looking over the side of the falls. 

The most active part of this experience is the climb down to the Zambezi river and swim across the pool. Unless you are the fearless type who jumps full throttle into the raging waters of the pool from above. Regardless, the thrill that you will get from the view at the edge and feeling the force of the river flowing over the falls providing an invigoration and energy that you will not soon forget. 

Devil’s pool is seasonally accessible depending on the water levels. Access to the pool can be dangerous and it is highly recommended that a guide be hired for the safest experience. 

Swim below the Falls

Another unique experience is to swim the rock pools located below the falls to view the basalt cliffs as the water cascades above you. 

A more active experience involves walking the Batoka Gorge to the river where inflatable rafts and a guide await you to paddle to a location near Victoria Falls for some unique and amazing views. Once your rafts arrive at the rock pools below the falls, you can enjoy some downtime swimming and enjoying the waters that surround you. 

Although more physically demanding, this 3 hour or so guided experience allows you to immerse with the geology of the region as you walk over the rocks and interact directly with the river before walking back up the gorge at the end of your tour. 

Kayakers and Rafters on the Zambezi River

Kayak or White Water raft the rapids of the Zambezi River

From the top of Batoka Gorge, an experienced white water guide will fit you with a paddle, helmet and life jacket before leading you down the 450 – 800 feet to the river to board your kayak or raft boat. Your guide will then steer you through the rapids and direct you for safety with the ultimate enjoyment. 

Although no previous experience is required, this is an encounter for those who are both physically able and mentally prepared for this type of adventure. Other requirements may exist as determined by your tour provider.

Kayaking is usually a full day experience offering breakfast at the top of the gorge and picnic lunch as a final reward for your day’s activities. White water rafting offers a half or full day or for the active adventurous type, enjoy the “float of angels” taking a full day on the Zambezi followed by an overnight in a camp deep within the Batoka Gorge to wake up and take on another full day of a roller coaster of rapids. 

The best time for rafting all 23 rapids is during the drier season from early summer through early winter. 

Victoria Falls is but one of the many Africa experiences that adventurists venture to the farest regions of the earth for. Other exciting journeys await you with safaris within Tanzania and Botswana and spending time at the beautiful beaches and winelands of South Africa’s Cape’s rugged coast.  

Coastline of South African Cape

With so much to see, how do you explore these regions seamlessly and enjoyably? Imagine an experience that combines all of the experiences in a 10 – 21 day African experience. Start your journey on land combined with four nights on a small private luxury African boat drifting along the river all the while having an up-close wildlife experience before heading back on land for more time to explore Victoria Falls, the villages and unique highlights of the region.

Plan now for travel in 2022 and beyond. For more information on the safest and most intimate ways to explore Africa with river cruising visit our webpage.

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