Europe Travel

Rhine and Moselle Fairytale Cruise from Amsterdam to Basel aboard AmaPrima.

AmaPrima in Traben-Trarbach, Middle Moselle river, Bernkastel-Wittlich district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
AmaPrima in Traben-Trarbach

Story by Carol Canter. Photos by Carol Canter and Jack Heyman.

My first Zumba class took place on the Sundeck of the Ama Prima, our beautiful Ama Waterways ship, as Captain Ron Schuegard piloted our 160-passengers and crew through the legendary Rhine Gorge. Wellness Host André Almeida led our group to “step to the left, step to the right, then circle slowly now using your sexy move.” Latin music and the breeze energized us, as we surrendered to the rhythm and the scenic splendor. Dazzling it was, viewing turreted castles — even a few picturesque ruins — strategically built atop craggy hilltops or vineyard-terraced inclines.

 

 

Midnight Truffle Hunt

truffle tasting, midnight truffle huntStory and Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler.

Somewhere in the distance a church bell chimed the midnight hour. A heavy mist made visibility along the valley road challenging. Nearing our rendezvous site we spotted two small nondescript Italian cars hovering by the side of the road. The drivers flashed their lights at our mini-bus then, with a squeal of tires, sped off along the twisting country road. Our driver, not intimidated by their speed, followed closely behind as we bumped our way into the hills near Alba in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. We were on a midnight truffle hunt in search of the legendary “White Diamonds,” tartufo bianco, or white truffles. At a market price of nearly $2,000 a pound, truffle hunters are willing to secretly go to amazing extremes to find and retrieve these incredible tubers.

 

Norway by train: across mountains and through time

Oslo to Bergen by Train, Norway by TrainStory and Photos by Libor Pospisil.

Traveling through Norway by train, I boarded the coach at Oslo’s Sentralstasjon (Central Station) and made myself comfortable in a cushy seat. But shortly after we departed, I realized that I would not be able to simply relax because I could not to stop looking out the window. The train began to pass by large lakes, then hills, meadows, lakes again, mountain plateaus, and, ultimately, glaciers. Every new panorama beat the previous one, establishing a pattern that kept the passengers in suspense. In fact, one fellow visitor told me after the journey that despite her severe jet-lag, she was afraid to fall asleep because she might miss some of the great views.

 

Slow and Easy for a Barge Cruise in Burgundy

Slow and Easy for a Barge Cruise in BurgundyStory and Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler. Taking things slow and easy was Tina Turner’s advice in her song “Proud Mary.” Well, I’m taking her suggestion these days and the idea of a “slow and easy” barge cruise along the Northern Burgundy Canal on European Waterways barge La Belle Epoque sounded perfect. La Belle Epoque, built in 1930 to mainly carry lumber, is a barge of the Belgian spits category. Completely renovated in 1995, she currently cruises on the Burgundy Canal in central France.

 

 

Stepping out Solo in Paris

Le Jardin Des Pates Fraiches restaurant, Paris, France, for Stepping out Solo in Paris to dine

Story and Photos by Stephanie Levin

Traveling alone for a woman affords multiple advantages: she meets people she would never mingle with when traveling with a companion, she depends on herself for all decisions from where to hang her hat to switching itinerary mid-trip, no discussion. There are small courteous conversations that erupt spontaneously over a painting, the weather, politics and this summer over the World Cup.  Yet, when lunch or dinner time arrives, what comes to mind is clinking glasses of wine, romance, toes touching under the table, or starry-eyed couples in love.

Croatia Island Cruise in the Adriatic Sea

Katerina Lines Futura, Dalmatian Island cruise, Croatia, Aegean Sea
Katerina Lines Futura

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

There are more than a thousand Croatian islands in the Adriatic sea” our Katarina Line cruise director told us, “but we only have time to visit Korčula, Hvar and Brac. For more, you have to come back.” By the end of our short four night cruise, that is exactly what my wife and I hope to do – and hopefully soon. Spectacular white clouds filled the sky. Tranquil turquoise ocean water welcomed swimmers. Sparkling sandy beaches lured sun-bathers. Ancient Venetian forts and old cities with narrow cobblestone lanes beckoned walkers. Fine dining, fresh seafood and wonderful Plavac Mali; (Croatian pronunciation- [plǎːʋat͡s mǎli]), red, and Pošip, white, wines tickled and warmed the palate – what’s not to like?

 

Bergen: Gateway to Norway’s fjords

Bergen: Gateway to Norway's fjordsBergen,Norway, Old Town Bergen colorful buildings, shops and pubs.
Historic Bergen Harbor

Story and Photos by Carol Canter.

Bergen was bathed in sunshine, turning our late afternoon arrival in Norway’s second city into a Kodak moment. Painted wooden facades of historic quayside buildings glowed red, gold and brown against the surrounding green mountains, while Bergen’s busy harbor sparkled, buzzing with activity. Outdoor cafes overflowed with people enjoying the warm summer late August day. Fishmongers at the market offered samples of succulent smoked salmon, while produce vendors displayed baskets of plump red raspberries bursting with sweetness. With its enviable natural setting, Bergen draws visitors to explore its seven mountains, fabulous fjords and a coastline dotted with thousands of islands.

 

 Croatian Wine Tasting in the Dalmatian Islands

Croatian Wine, Croatian Wine, Croatian Wine Tasting in the Dalmatian Islands, Venetian fort, Hvar town, Hvar Island, Croatia
Venetian fort, Hvar

Story and Photos by John Sundsmo.

On a recent Katarina Line cruise of Croatian discovery, we learned that wine makers in the Dalmatian Islands have left an indelible mark on the fine wines produced in California, Australia, New Zealand and Chile. Remarkably, throughout wars, conquest and droughts, the islands of the Adriatic Sea, (East of Italy and South of the Alps), have produced fine wines for 2,500 years. Galleys and sailing ships transported that wine up and down the Mediterranean throughout Greek (500BC) and Roman times well into the 14th century. Greek writer Athenaeus wrote 18 centuries ago about the high quality of Croatian wine especially those coming from the islands of Hvar and Korčula.

 

The Best Way To Travel Through Switzerland

Switzerland, Swiss Travel Pass, Paddlewheel Steamer La Suiss on Lake Lucerne, Switzerlande

Story by Carol Canter with Photos by Jack Heyman and Carol Canter

We looped through Switzerland on a 15-day Swiss Travel Pass in May, taking panoramic train journeys through legendary mountain passes, boat rides across shimmering silver lakes and cable car rides to postcard-perfect Alpine villages and peaks. With almost everything included in the Swiss Travel Pass – even museums and heritage sites – travel through Switzerland was seamless and easy to plan. Service was friendly, helpful and multilingual.

 

 

Why I love European Train Travel

European Train Travel, Why I love Train Travel in Europe. TGV train, Riding the Rails in Europe from Paris to Dijon

Story and Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler

On my first trip to Europe many years ago, my sister Patty and I traveled around Ireland, England, Scotland, France and Switzerland via our Eurail Passes. I found standing in front of the big departure boards in the train stations thrilling. Something captivated me about those clicking sounds, and then new trains to magical places would appear with track and departure times. Knowing that I could board any one of those trains was a huge temptation. I loved the clicking sound. To me it sounded like adventure. To this day, I love European train travel.

 

A Lisbon Love Affair with a Famous Tart

Lisbon. The ubiquitous pastéis de nata, Portugal’s most famous pastry, a love affair tart, Lisbon, Portugal's very best where people stand in line.

Story and Photos by Wanda Hennig

 Pastéis de nata: Portugal’s sweetest and most replicated tartlets. Versions of them tempt fans in cafés, tea rooms, coffee shops and bakery delis in cities around the world. Having tasted many while on a recent month-long trip roaming cities and towns running from Porto  to Faro  in the Algarve, I can unreservedly recommend a pilgrimage to the Belém neighborhood in Lisbon to sample “the original”—the one I would unhesitatingly say is the gold standard. The one I would wager a bet designating: best in the world. It was a chance discovery, as the best ones while traveling often are.

An Appetite for Lisbon

The Lisboa Gastronómica tour itinerary, An Appetite for Lisbon, PortugalStory and Photos by Wanda Hennig.

A gastronomic walking tour takes us on a devouring orgy as we taste our way through ten of the central city’s most authentic eateries. With it, I develop an enduring appetite for Lisbon. “Meet us at Praça Luís de Camões near Quiosque do Refresco. We will have a white bag with Lisboa Autêntica  logo.”  I get the e-mail from Mafalda Pinto. She has lived and worked in Mozambique and Angola. Now she’s living and working in Lisbon, running cultural and culinary tours.  I’ve asked her to sign me up for Lisboa Gastronómica —“gastronomic Lisbon”—a culinary exploration with tastings, as the name suggests……

 

Culinary Poland in the time of Chopin

Chopin, Warsaw, Poland

Story and Photos by Wanda Hennig

When Fryderyk Chopin was born March of 1810, 29 miles west of Warsaw in Żelazowa Wola, in the annex of a manor house belonging to a count whose children Chopin’s father, Nicolas, tutored, traditional Old Polish cuisine was the table of the day. Culinary Poland had remained basically the same since the 17th century.

 

 

Imagine Peace: Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree:” From Copenhagen to Iceland and beyond

Imagine Tree, Copenhagen, Iceland, Oko Ono

Story and Photos by Lee Daley

If you should encounter a Wish Tree, this is Yoko Ono‘s suggestion: “Make a wish. Write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of a Wish Tree. Ask your friends to do the same. Keep wishing until the branches are covered with wishes.”

 

 

Budapest’s Healing Mineral Baths mend mind, body and spirit

Mineral Bath, Szechenyi Spa, Budapest, Hungary

Story and Photos by Lee Daley

While there are many reasons to visit Hungary, including the fact that right now it is one of the best values in Europe, no visitor should leave the capital city of Budapest without indulging in an extended soak at one of its grand healing mineral bath houses.

 

 

How to Enjoy Free and Affordable Copenhagen

Story and Photos by Lee Daley

A true Epicurean knows when to save and when to splurge and it’s easy to do both in Copenhagen, one of Europe’s most elegant cities. By seeking out free and affordable opportunities without sacrificing quality you’ll be able to set aside your Danish krone for those indispensable splurges found only in Copenhagen. Based on a recent stay, here are my top suggestions for a boundary pushing visit that won’t break the budget.

 

 

Norway: Cruising, crab hunting and fine cuisine

Norway,Northern Lights, port, cruise

Story by Monique Burns

In Norway, I signed on for Hurtigruten’s six-day coastal cruise in late summer when the Midnight Sun stays high in the sky through much of the night.  After a couple of days in Oslo, treating myself to Edvard Munch’s work at the National Gallery and the Munch Museum, and innovative New Nordic cuisine at waterfront Louise Restaurant & Bar and at Ekebergrestauranten high in the hills above the Oslofjord, I made the two-hour SAS flight north to Kirkenes, six miles from the Russian border….

 

When I sat down to watch the film, “The Danish Girl,” I had no idea it would inspire me to travel to Copenhagen where I would walk the cobbled streets and explore the same Old Town waterfront where the film’s fated artistic couple lived during the 1920s.

 

 

Paris Progressive Supper and Moveable Feast

Paris progressive supper, Eiffel Tower

Story and Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler

Ernest Hemingway called Paris a “movable feast,” and I have always agreed with him. On my last night in Paris, I decided to have my own movable feast—a progressive supper, with each course in a different restaurant. I wanted the restaurants to be within walking distance from one another, the last one near my hotel in the 6th arrondissement. I was feeling a bit lonely and disappointed that I hadn’t fallen in love with anyone this trip. I had already told my friends back home that this time I would meet that “special someone” while in Paris. Now, here I was, my last night in town, and still alone.

 

Burgundy Canal aboard European Waterways’ La Belle Epoque

Cruising Burgundy Canal aboard European Waterways’ La Belle Epoque,La Belle Epoque Burgundy barge cruise, Burgundy, France

Story by Carol Canter with Photos by Jack Heyman and Carol Canter

La Belle Epoque, European Waterways’ six-room floating boutique barge hotel, cruises the Burgundy Canal each week spring to fall between Tanlay and Venarey-les-Laumes. The 12 passengers who sign on will be taking a slow and sensual six-night journey from nowhere to nowhere. They could drive the same distance – 40 miles – in no time, but what illuminating and palate-pleasing experiences would be missed. For a cruise aboard La Belle Epoque is slow travel at its finest, a luxurious opportunity to explore the legendary landscape of Burgundy, France’s renowned wine region, as a staff of experts feeds your mind, body and soul.

 

Cruising France’s Canal du Midi aboard European Waterways’ Barge Anjodi

Taste of Travel, Cruising France's Canal du Midi, Canal barge tours, Canal barge Anjodi, Canal du Midi, Toulouse, France

Story by Carol Canter with Photos by Jack Heyman

Floating by barge through France’s canal-laced countryside underscores the pleasures of dining on meals prepared from fresh locally-sourced ingredients. Our first lunch onboard the 8-passenger Anjodi made this abundantly clear. The buffet was no less than a delectable culinary map of the surrounding Languedoc region in the south of France, featuring a beautiful salade niçoise (from Nice) with red mullet; tielle – an octopus pie from the neighboring seaport of Sète; brandade de morue — a salt cod and olive oil paste; warm rocket, potato and mussel salad; green salad; and a pissaladière — a provençal pizza made with anchovies, olives and onions.

 

My Dinner at Chez Didier

dinner at Chez Didier, Moule au fou, Eclade, a specialty of the Charente region of France,French dining with friendship on mussels, La Rochelle, France

Story and Photos by Stephanie Levin

It’s never about food. It’s about the people who share your table, who invite you into the beautiful blessing of friendship, the profoundly social urge to share, a small mitzvah of psychological well being. I didn’t fully grasp this concept until I moved to France; and even then, my American habit of adamantly requiring advance notice in lieu of spontaneity dictated dining, causing culinary chaos in my new marriage. “It’s not about the food; it’s the company,” my husband reprimanded. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when my husband greeted me at the train station in La Rochelle, all smiles, a sack of mussels and an announcement: we would be having dinner in the backyard of our friend’s home, Chez Didier, for my birthday. “C’est pas vrai!” I quipped, eyeballing the mussels.

 

New Faces in Céret

Céret, Céret, France, town square and plaza, murals on walls painted by local artist, FAS.Story and Photos by Elaine Koerner

Spotted any new (or should that be old?) faces of late while strolling the streets of Céret in Southern France? Before you say no, here are a few more details. These faces are acrylic, and they make their appearance on walls and the sides of buildings scattered round the town center. The artist behind the faces prefers to be known only as FAS. “I am very proud of our artistic history,” explains FAS, who lives in Céret with his family. “I decided to create these portraits in tribute to a handful of the many painters and other artists who either were locals or else were drawn to Céret’s charms as visitors. My portraits include both well-known and lesser-known painters.” FAS has completed six so far, with three more in the pipeline. His portrait project got started more than a year ago after he received a thumbs up from the local town hall called Mairie in French.

 

Floating the Loire River Canal on the Renaissance Barge

Renaissance Barge, Floating the Loire Canal on the Renaissance Barge, Burgundy, France

Story and Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler

“Madame, would you like another glass of Champagne?” “Oh yes,” I replied with a smile, holding out my Champagne flute in one hand and taking another of the delicious tidbits being passed around with the other. We were welcomed aboard the Renaissance Barge by Captain Hadrien Famy and introduced to his crew of four which consisted of two hostesses, Dani and Nicole, chef.

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