Tag Archive | Italy

What Makes for an Unforgettable Trip to France

download (37)“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Augustine of Hippo

Are you eager to travel abroad independently, but overwhelmed by the encyclopedia of possibilities? You need to know more than what is possible; you need a plan. And you would prefer to know in advance precisely what you will be doing, and how, for a number of reasons. First you may want to know what your trip will be like so that you can look forward to it–anticipation is always a large part of the enjoyment. Also you want to know exactly how much your trip will cost, and what trade-offs and choices you will need to make to get the most out of your travel budget.

The Kind of Travel You Don’t Want

But, although you need and want to have a plan, you may have outgrown constrained and scripted bus tour travel, or you may never have liked it in the first place. You may have been abroad before, but on a group tour that ended up in a disappointing blur by the time it was over. Or perhaps you opted to strike out on your own, but became frustrated that you were missing out for lack of a clear idea of what you were doing.

These less than optimum experiences even may have discouraged you from future traveling. Still, at some point, you may hope to discover a different style of travel that is more immersive and engaging. Even though you know what type of travel does not meet your expectations and ideals, the vision and possibility of what travel can be may still intrigue you.

What Makes for a Trip That is Unforgettable?

For a trip to be unforgettable, first and foremost it is essential that you travel independently, but with a well-designed trip plan, preferably one that has been personally carried out and perfected by actual experienced travelers who can point your way. Second you need the freedom to adapt the trip plan to your likings, your schedule, your physical stamina, your special interests.

Third, it is key that your movements from place to place be manageable and comfortable. In France, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, this means traveling by train. In the USA and Canada, you will need the right mix of cars, trains, trams, trolleys and boats to keep your trip relaxing and fun. Fourth, you will need to have enough time in each place to actually “be there” and make yourself at home-to locate your favorite bakery, outdoor market, wine shop, cheese shop, deli and cafés.

Fifth, your trip will be made more unforgettable when you connect with the locals and experience their country, city or village through their eyes. Sixth, you will benefit from some pre-planning about how to balance your budget, alternating between splurges and economies (like picnics, which can be delightful in themselves). And seventh, your memories will be preserved even longer when you bring home treasures that will call to mind your experiences and encounters every time you use them or look at them.

Silent Guides to Support Your Travels

Join us on a series of remarkable and memorable 2-week Great Trips (with 1-week versions also available) to France, to Italy, elsewhere in Europe, and in the USA and Canada. Your trips will be rich in experiences you will remember forever… experiences that will have an impact on you and your approach to life. Each of these will be a “trip of a lifetime.”

History to walk around in. Phenomenal food. Parks and cafés. People-watching opportunities. Eating outdoors, with views of cathedrals, or rivers, or châteaux, or the tides coming in. Villages and old towns, some walled, some tiny, some medieval, some situated within a larger city, some perched on hilltops. Children in the squares, laughing as they ride the town Merry-go-Round. Fountains and gardens, with benches for pausing. Outdoor markets. Charming shops. Unexpected encounters. Vivid memories.

With a Great Trip book as your guide-on-the-side and companion, prepare yourself for a new experience in international travel, with no “get back to the bus”! You will not be traveling in a group. But you will not be alone out there on your own either. And so the quality of your experience will significantly surpass that of any group or ad hoc trip you’ve taken in the past.

You will know exactly what to do, why you want to do it, and how to do it, every step of the way. As you read a Great Trip book, you will begin to envision your trip in vivid detail and anticipate being there. You will be guided through the process of making the optimum arrangements without breaking the bank, then preparing yourself well for a successful journey, with clear information about needs you will encounter during your trip and options to address those needs.

Then you will be ready to embark on a kind of travel that will immerse and absorb you so completely, you will return home already planning where you want to travel next. You will feel well-prepared, well-guided, safe, confident, empowered and inspired to set off on your own travel odyssey.

Carolee Duckworth is an avid traveler, an experienced trip designer, and co-author of the book “Your Great Trip to France: Loire Chateaux, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy & Paris,” now available on Amazon. Please join our “Great Trip Travel Insider” network at www.YourGreatTrip.com to be notified when each new trip in the Great Trip series is available, and to receive updated travel tips, discounts, and the free booklet “How to Pack Like a Pro.”

 

The Top 5 Crucial European Trips to Take WELL Before You Die

download (30)You may as well admit it. You’ve always wanted to travel in Europe, whether or not you’ve already done so. And even if you’ve traveled there many times, you yearn to go back—-again and again. For as long as there’s been an America, Americans have been drawn back to Europe.

Whether this yearning to return is because many of our ancestors came from Europe… Or because Europe has such a deep, rich and long-ranging history, much of it still there to wander around in… Or because it has amazing food and wine, to be experienced at charming restaurants, sitting at tables canopied by colorful umbrellas, and surrounded by flowers… Or because it has brought together awe-inspiring art and music and culture, and made it readily accessible for all to experience… Or because it is traversed by marvelous networks of transportation – trains and boats, trams and gondolas – making it possible to go virtually anywhere at any time from anywhere else, and to enjoy the going as much as the arriving… For all these reasons, the urge to “cross the pond” is strong. And the possibilities once you get there are extensive. Travel to Europe provides experiences and memories to last a lifetime.

The temptation, given the immense number of possibilities, is to make a whirlwind tour, jumping from country to country and place to place. Or, even worse, to hand over the reins of your trip and sign up for a group trip, either at whirlwind speed, or at a more modest pace, but in either case letting someone else be the decider about where you will go, what you will see, when and how. Avoid these styles of travel. Instead plan to travel independently, but with a well-designed plan, using a Great Trip guidebook to know exactly how to plan, arrange, prepare for and make your trip.

At a bare minimum, give yourself these five crucial, rejuvenating independent trips abroad, one each year.

Crucial Trip #1: Fabled France–Loire Châteaux, Mont St Michel, the Normandy Coast & Paris, City of Lights

On this unforgettable trip, you will fly into Paris and journey immediately by train to the charming medieval village of Amboise in the Eastern Loire Valley, your first home base, and your jumping off point for visiting five Châteaux, including the final home of Leonardo da Vinci. From there, you will travel, again by train, to Mont St. Michel, where you will stay out on the Mont like the monks of old, with the water surrounding you at high tide, then receding entirely at low tide — racing in and out at the speed of a galloping horse.

Next, you will take another train to the small town of Bayeux, your home-base for exploring the tales and memories of the conquests and liberations that have taken place from and to this precipitous coastline… from William the Conqueror in the 11th century to the Allied troops in the 20th. Then on to Paris for four glorious days (and nights!) on the left bank, where you will travel the Seine by Batobus (“Boat Bus”) to visit the art and architecture, cathedrals and gardens, markets and cafés.

Crucial Trip #2: Luminous Northern Italy–Cinque Terre, Florence, Hill Towns of Tuscany & Venice

After flying into Florence, you will travel by train to the coast for four days in Monterosso, clinging to the rocks along the Ligurian Sea, one of five gloriously lovely towns of Cinque Terre. Here you will take up lodging near the water, and travel about among the villages by boat.

Then on to Florence, where you will take up residence on the left bank of the Arno River, near the Ponte Vecchio and learn “your neighborhood” for the next eight days. Prepare to be awed. There is nothing you have experienced so far in your life like standing before the Duomo for the first time, or gazing in wonder at Michelangelo’s David.

While in Florence, you will have time to devote to art and cathedrals, sculpture and science, as well as markets and shops, outdoor dining and evening music on the squares… and gelato. From Florence, you will venture out on day trips to Cortona and San Gimignano, captivating hill towns of Tuscany that date back to the Etruscans.

Then on by train to Venice for three days, and exiting the train station to the cacophony of vaporetti and water taxis queued up to transport you along the canals to the stop closest to your hotel. This entirely unique city is another incomparable destination that will etch itself in your memory forever.

Crucial Trip #3: Stunning Vistas–Swiss & Italian Lakes & Alps

In anticipation of traveling to the Alps, and their lakes, picture the breathtaking scenes from Sound of Music. After flying into Geneva, you will board one of the impeccable trains of the Swiss rail system and travel to Lausanne on the far side of Lake Geneva, home to the International Olympic Committee, where you will be staying for three days. The funicular next to the train station will carry you up to the old town or down to the lakefront, where you will be staying while you explore the charms of this Swiss town. From Lausanne you will venture out by boat on day trips to the nearby town of Montreux, known for its Jazz Festival, and the legendary Castle of Chillon.

After Lausanne you will take a train to Lucerne, another storybook lakeside town, and your home for the next two days. Here you will be able to walk across the lake using a flower-bedecked covered bridge dating back to the 14th century, and walk the stone streets of old town, with brightly colored timber-framed buildings and little squares with fountains at their centers.

From Lucerne, you will be back on the train, changing to a different gauge train for the climb up to rustic Zermatt for two days, at the foot of the Matterhorn. Here you will be transported about town by small electric vehicles, or by foot, and carried high up into the mountains using a far-ranging network of gondolas. One of these gondolas will take you up over the Alps and into Italy for lunch with a stunning view.

From Zermatt you will travel via the famed Glacier Express to St. Moritz for three days, a beautiful and hospitable showplace that has its own lovely lake, with its own towering Alps in the background, and all the “ooh and aah” views that go with them. Continuing from St. Moritz by train, you will take the Bernina Express through the breathtaking Bernina Pass, traveling south across the Alps, then shifting from high Alpine scenery to palm trees. Next it will be on to Varenna, Italy where you will delight in five matchless days living along the breathtaking shores of Lake Como, traveling about by boat from one lake-side village to another. This is another entirely exceptional haven that you will love immediately and want to return to again.

Crucial Trip #4: Incomparable Capitals–London, Paris & Amsterdam

On this trip, you will divide your time, with five days each in three of the most extraordinary cities in the world, London, Paris and Amsterdam, each entirely distinct from the others. In London you will stay in a flat or hotel near Covent Garden, and learn “your neighborhood.” This will put you within a short walk of the Theater District (and the discount ticket booth at Leicester Square). So you will be able to take in two (or, better yet, three) superb London theater performances, with at least one of them performed at the rebuilt Globe Theater that harkens back to bawdiness of Shakespeare’s days.

At Covent Garden, you will delight in the ongoing troops of open-air performers–mimes and musicians, acrobats and jugglers–as well as the shops and stalls with every conceivable offering of craft and art, adornment and style. There will be time to explore the priceless collections of art in the museums, some of it created by British artists, but much of it appropriated from countries and cultures around the world. You will stand in awe before the magnificent Cathedrals of Westminster and St. Paul’s, then sit inside to soak in the peace, and possibly take in an organ performance. And you will travel the Thames, taking the London River Bus south to Greenwich, then north to Hampton Court Palace.

From London, you will travel by Eurostar to Paris, where you will immerse yourself for five days in the delights and senses, art and architecture, gardens and music of this remarkable city. Last you will move on to Amsterdam for five days, a feast of canals and canal houses, art and history, museums and music, outdoor cafés and markets. From Amsterdam, you will venture out to small neighboring towns with familiar names like Delft and Gouda. Your time in Amsterdam will fly by in a mirage of sights and sounds, stories and experiences, and priceless encounters with the affable Dutch.

Crucial Trip #5: The Dazzling South of France–Cote d’Azur, Provence & the French Alps

After landing in Paris, you will hop aboard the TGV (“Train a Grande Vitesse”—“train of great speed”), where you will doze away your jetlag in comfort while you traverse France at 200 mph in a little over three hours. But then, when the sparkling azure waters of the Mediterranean first burst into sight, you will snap into focus, and your train will slow to hug the coastline on its way to Nice for three nights. After Nice, you will move on by train to spend three nights in the enchanting small coastal town of Cassis, with its immaculate white stone market square, and its boat rides out to see the Calanques-towering limestone cliffs, rising straight up out of the Mediterranean Sea to heights approaching 2,000 feet.

Leaving Cassis, you will make your way back along the coast to Provence for three nights in the walled city of Avignon. Once the second city of the Popes, Avignon has its own “Pope’s Palace” and Cathedral, as well as its bridge of childhood song, pedestrian streets, and vast open squares, surrounded by cafés and restaurants and lined with trees.

Then you will travel north until you reach the French Alps, where you will spend three nights in lovely Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, site of the first Winter Olympics in 1924 (elevation 3,320 – 15,780 feet). From high up in Chamonix, you will descend to Annecy for three nights, sometimes called the “Venice of the Alps” for its two canals and the Thiou river flowing through the old city. In this enticing town beside a stunning glacial lake, with its glorious backdrop of mountains, you will walk the narrow cobbled streets of Old Town and travel by boat or by bicycle to other small towns bordering the lake.

And So, Where to Begin

Where will you begin? When? Could you manage to take them independently? Should you? Can you afford to go? Can you afford not to?

Taking these questions in order… Where will you begin? Start with Trip #1: Fabled France. When? Plan to take this trip next year at the latest. Then take another trip each year from that point on (or, at the very least, one every two years).

Could you take these trips independently? And should you? Yes, you most definitely could manage to take them independently, and, yes, you should. Use a Great Trip to France guidebook to know exactly how to plan, arrange, prepare for and make each trip. Each book in the Great Trips series carries you fully through every stage and detail of the trip, from planning and preparing, to making arrangements and booking planes, trains and drivers, to budgets and packing, to arrival and orientation, to day-by-day guidance of what to do and when and how to do it, and how to have the full experience. You will have everything you need to make your own great trip, yet you will keep your freedom too.

Yes, you can afford to take the first of these trips, through some combination of saving and priority shifting. If taking the entire 15-day version of the trip is beyond reach, timewise and otherwise, then find a way to take half the trip in 8 days and save the other half for later.

And, no, you cannot “afford not to.” These are the trips of a lifetime that will become part of you and will change forever how you see life and the world. By making these trips, you will bring home stories and treasures, as well as changes in how you live your life from day to day.

Take it from a pair of habitual travelers… From Tremezzo on Lake Como, we brought home from market day the tablecloth we now use when we eat lunch in the little Italian Trattoria we have set up on our front porch. Many days we enjoy sea bass in a lemon butter sauce, with fresh spinach lightly sautéed in olive oil, just the way we liked it when we were sitting at a lake-side restaurant in Bellagio. We take time out from our busy work days to sit outside talking and laughing together, looking out across our front gardens, in the contented style we brought home with us from Italy and from France. And we turn on music first thing every morning, another habit change we adopted from our travels.

Once your perspectives and views have been broadened by travel, your eyes will be opened, and there will be no going back… nor would you want to. “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do” (Zachary Scott).