Where to Find the City of Three Rivers?

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And we don't mean Pittsburgh. This beautiful European town, in southeast Germany, is located at the Austrian border. Known as the “City of Three Rivers,” it is situated where the mighty Danube River joins the Inn River and the Ilz River.

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Passau is a historic town which can trace its roots to the 2nd Century BC. First founded by the Celts and then a Roman town for 400 years, like many European cities, it has traded hands a few times. The Old Town of Passau, rebuilt in the 17th century by Italian baroque masters after a devastating town fire, is outstandingly beautiful.

The picturesque and unique gothic Old Town abounds with museums, shops, churches, cafes, winding lanes and enchanting riverfront promenades. Left undamaged during World War II, the Old Town was left as it has been for hundreds of years and is home to multiple, quaint Bavarian shops. Cuckoo clocks, anyone?

In the heart of Passau on the Old Town’s highest point, rises historic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which houses the world’s largest cathedral organ.

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Nestled atop the St. Georgsberg Mountain, and nearly 350 feet above sea level, the Veste Oberhaus was originally built in 1219 to express the strength of the town and make those who might think of invading reconsider. One of Passau’s top destinations and most recognizable sights, it soars high above the Danube and provides panoramic views of the Old Town and rivers below.

The castle’s most notable inhabitant was Napoleon Bonaparte who used the fortress in his campaign to take Austria. Not long after, and for almost a hundred years, the Oberhaus was a state and military prison, feared as the “Bastille of Bavaria.”

Today, the Veste Oberhaus is home to a museum (the Oberhausmuseum), an art gallery, a viewing platform, a youth hostel, a restaurant and a pre-World War II amphitheater.

Would you like to visit Passau? It’s one of our stops on our Spring river cruise.

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All Inclusive Resort Pros and Cons

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Think all-inclusive resorts are only in the Caribbean and Mexico? How about the Maldives, Thailand, China, Japan, Africa, Italy, Morocco? French Alps for skiing anyone?

Adults only with emphasis on romance. Singles resorts. Family oriented with dedicated kid camps and staff. Sports and activity oriented. Focused activities such as ski resorts and dive resorts. Cultural immersion resorts. You name it, there’s probably an all-inclusive resort dedicated to it.

Disclaimer. I used to have a very snobby attitude towards all-inclusive resorts. I thought of them as an “Americanized” means for people to visit Mexico or the Dominican Republic. The last few months have been a bit of an epiphany for me and I thought I’ d share some pros and cons to this vacation option.

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Pros

  • All-inclusive. Well, duh. Not coming home to a huge credit card bill is probably number one when considering the advantages. Activities, drinks, food, entertainment are all part of the package.
  • Unpack once. You have a home for a week or two or three. The nomadic lifestyle is for another vacation.
  • Activities galore. Tennis, sailing, paddle boarding, golfing, skiing (water or snow), snorkeling, volleyball, hiking, biking, yoga, Zen meditation, cooking classes, wine tasting, and on and on and on. You can’t be bored at an all-inclusive unless you’re trying. This includes the kids!
  • Relax and chill. Want to just enjoy some quiet R&R? Spas, private plunge pools, private lanais or balconies are waiting for you.
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Cons

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  • Little interaction with local culture. This applies primarily to the gated resorts where you stay on property your entire vacation. Some people love this while others loathe it. Picking the right resort to meet your expectations will alleviate this con.
  • Too regimented. Yes, frequently, activities and mealtimes have scheduled windows of availability. But, room service and light meal options are always offered between scheduled dining. And, if an activity time isn’t to your liking, you can opt for a private lesson or schedule your own activity time.
  • One size fits all. This is true within each individual resort. I mean, if you go to a ski resort in the Alps, it is assumed that you will want to play in the snow. And, if you’re a multi-generational family, you’ll want to go where there’s a good kids’ program.

Recap

An all-inclusive resort isn’t for everyone. But, they are more diverse and flexible that many people realize.

A specialist is vital to find the resort that’s right for you and meets your group’s expectations. Whether it’s team building, multi-generational family reunion, destination wedding, sporting group, it’s critical to have a good fit.

What type of all-inclusive would you pick for YOUR group?

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Six Tips for Ordering Wine Abroad

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One of the best parts of traveling is trying out the local cuisine.  And not just the food – the beverages, too. Beer in Munich, coffee in Peru, wine in Everywhere. Just kidding. But, it’s so much fun trying the local brews, isn’t it? For some reason, wine seems to be a more challenging scenario than beer, coffee, or even the local spirits – tequila anyone?

Are you intimidated when trying to pick a wine in another country? Here are a few tips to help make it easy and enjoyable. Saluti!

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  1. Pick a color. And know how to say the color in the local language. Vino tinto, vin rouge, vino rosso? Knowing the color is a good starting point and makes it easier for everyone.
  2. Set a Price. Determine how much you want to spend. Are you dining in a Michelin star restaurant and want to splurge or a casual bistro where you might consider the house wine? Most of us don’t have unlimited funds, so don’t be shy about setting a limit.
  3. Request assistance. Probably the most important tip. Tell the waiter, maître ‘d, or whoever is serving you of your preference and ask for a recommendation. “We’re having thus and such for dinner. We’d like a red wine under $50. What would you recommend?” They’ll not only be happy you asked, but will give you some really good suggestions.
  4. Stay regional. Encourage your server to steer you towards the local wines, when practical. If you’re in Tuscany, maybe a Sangiovese or Trebbiano. A Bordeaux blend or Sauternais while in Southern France, perhaps?
  5. When in doubt, order the bubbly. If you can’t decide or don’t have someone to help you, you’ll not go wrong when ordering sparkling wine. And go for non-vintage. Unlike still wine, sparklers benefit when different years are blended together. Paying a premium for vintage sparkling wine isn’t a great spend for vacation dollars unless you know what you’re ordering.
  6. Be unconventional. Unlike North Americans, Europeans tend to drink wine only with food. We treat wine both as a cocktail and a food accompaniment. It’s your vacation. Do what you want!

Sante!

Why Group Travel Is the Best!

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Some people have a misconception that group travel means getting on a bus and being herded from one stop to another. Technically, that is a group. In reality, it’s a bunch of individuals who happen to be on the same tour.

My definition of group travel is traveling with people we already have a connection with; friends, family, club members, alumni - you get the idea. Whether you go on a cruise, hang out at a resort, or take a customized trip – the bottom line is enjoying the experience with your favorite peeps.

Let’s be clear. There are occasions when non-group travel is the perfect choice – A reflective solo journey, a romantic getaway, or perhaps a visit to your ancestral home.

But, in most cases, group travel, in my opinion, is the best way to travel. Traveling with like-minded individuals is just plain fun. You share your experiences with your friends or family instead of telling them about it when you get home. I love traveling with a group. Ask my family – I’m always trying to get them to meet on a cruise or visit a destination together. And, I enjoy traveling with others so much, it’s my specialty.

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Family travel. Most of us have fond (okay, maybe some not-so-fond) memories of traveling with our immediate families. The family vacation is always highly anticipated and fantastic fun. Now, multiply that by 2 or 3 or more families. Not just the immediate family, but aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. For the kids, there is immediate companionship. The adults can reconnect and enjoy some adult time with each other. And the whole family will have memories to share for a lifetime.

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Friends. Unlike relatives, you get to pick your friends! So, who better to travel with? Whether it is a few couples who share a passion for wine, or a Santa Claus convention. And, yes, I was once on a Caribbean cruise with about 100 Santa and Mrs. Claus’s. Gave a new definition for “Christmas In July”. Seeing Santas in the tropics wearing holiday-themed shorts and tees was very surreal.

Solos. Find a travel group for solos. There are plenty out there. Of course, I’d love for you to travel with me, but maybe the destinations I pick aren’t your cup of tea. Someone out there has what you’re looking for. Not only do you not have to try and talk someone into going with you, you have anywhere from 6 – 20 new instant best friends to travel with. Bonus: all your vacay pictures won’t be selfies!

Value. Depending on where you are headed, there are definite savings in traveling as a group. Most hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators will offer a discount if enough people are traveling together.

Perks. Besides offering discounts, many suppliers will offer some extra amenities to groups such as wine, private entrances and showings, dedicated concierge, etc.

Is group travel harder to plan and execute? Yes. But, you have me to take care of all the details!

Seriously, whether you do it yourself or let me help, group travel is more fun, more memorable, and more value.

Have you experienced travel with a group? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Why is it Called City of One Hundred Spires?

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Or, perhaps you know it as the “Heart of Europe”? Or, “Rome of the North”? "The Golden City"?

Prague, one of the most beautiful cities of Europe and a UNESCO heritage site was nicknamed “City of One Hundred Spires” in the 19th century by mathematician, Bernard Bolzano. His math was off. There are between 500 and 1000 spires, depending on who’s counting in this unique and historical city.

Prague’s history dates from the early 9th century as a capital of Bohemia, through its significance as a seat of power of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It became the capital of Czechoslovakia and then when the country split into two, capital of the Czech Republic.

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The city emerged from WWII relatively unscathed and has become one of the most visited cities in Europe. Whether you are a student of history, archeology, culture, arts, or fabulous food and drink, Prague has it all.

The Old Town Hall with the famous Prague Astronomical Clock. The winding lanes of the Jewish Quarter, which you know from the novels of Franz Kafka, steeped in the legend of the Golem. Cafes, boutiques and cruises on the Vltava. The Gothic Charles Bridge and Church of St. Nicholas in the Lesser Town, the most beautiful Baroque church in Prague. Petřín with a lookout tower reminiscent of a small Eiffel Tower and Prague Castle.

And, last but not to be missed, Czech beer. The first brewery was founded in 993 at Brevnov Monastery (those monks!) and the country currently has 400 breweries.

Are you ready to visit the City of One Hundred Spires? We have a group going in May 2018. Click here for itinerary and more information.

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