Monthly Archives: July 2014

Portugal, Spain & The Douro River

Portugal, Spain & The Douro River.

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Portugal, Spain & The Douro River

douro - Copy Portugal, Spain & The Douro River Indulge your passion for food, history, and music as you discover the warmth of Portugal and Spain. Experience the “sunny side” of Europe, starting in radiant seaside Lisbon, then follow the Douro River through Portugal and into Spain. Feel the warm sun on your skin as you cruise past terraced hills, quaint villages, and acres of ripe vineyards. Breathe the sea air in Lisbon, the city that launched a host of renowned navigators, including Vasco da Gama. Climb the steep hills and hear the sound of fado music fill the streets as you sip a bica (espresso) at a café. Enjoy a quintessential Portuguese lunch in majestic Coimbra (birthplace of six of Portugal’s kings). And in Porto’s ancient Ribeira district, find picturesque rabelo boats, cutting-edge cuisine, and a thriving art scene. Sail from Porto through the breathtaking, UNESCO- designated Douro Valley, where vines cling to precipitous hillsides. Visit charming quintas and meet the winemakers who run them. See Salamanca, “The Golden City,” and visit its famed university (where Columbus planned his pivotal journey) before enjoying a flamenco show. Then return to Portugal with a visit to the walled village of Castelo Rodrigo and historic Guimarães. Revel in the captivating cities and striking scenery of the serene Douro River Valley on this perfectly paced cruise/tour. This is a perfect tour for wine connoisseurs hoping to indulge in this region’s most celebrated beverage, Port, and those wanting to discover Europe’s best-kept secret, the Douro River, with its spellbinding natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Itinerary:

Day 1:

Lisbon
Arrive at Lisbon Portela Airport, where we will be transferred to the hotel. We will have time to explore on our own today.
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Day 2:

Lisbon
FEATURED EXCURSION: Lisbon city tour
Stand on the banks of the Tejo River and take a deep breath. Now turn around and look at the city climbing the hills above you. This is where your adventure begins. Start with a guided tour to iconic Belém Tower and Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a monument to Portugal’s great explorers. Step inside the spectacular Manueline (Portuguese late-Gothic) Jerónimos Monastery. Sample a traditional sweet, the pastéis de Belém, at a famous pastelería (pastry shop), then see the hills of the Alfama district and Rossio plaza, with its wavy black-and-white paving and lively street life.
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Day 3:

Lisbon
Spend the day at your leisure, enjoying this breathtaking cosmopolitan city.
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Day 4:

Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto
FEATURED EXCURSION: Coimbra tour with Joanina Library visit and family-style lunch Travel through the countryside to Porto. En route, you’ll stop in Portugal’s third-largest city, Coimbra, the birthplace of six of Portugal’s kings and home to one of the oldest universities in Europe, Universidade de Coimbra. There you’ll see the university’s 18th-century library, the Biblioteca Joanina. It’s a magnificent place boasting frescoed ceilings, gilded archways, and elaborate carvings. From this hilltop center of learning you’ll head off to enjoy a typical Portuguese lunch at a local restaurant.
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Day 5:

Porto, Bitetos
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of Porto city tour or exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Porto walking tour, and wine cellars of Cais de Gaia Birthplace of Henry the Navigator (who launched Portugal’s voyages of exploration) and longtime hub of the Port wine trade, Porto combines well- preserved historic buildings with cutting-edge architecture and a booming cultural revival. Your tour will take you to the 19th-century Palácio da Bolsa and then on to the cathedral and the bustling shopping street, Santa Catarina. Or, if you prefer, see Porto from a different perspective, starting with a climb to the top of Clérigos Tower. Visit the world’s most opulent bookstore, Livraria Lello; then see the sweeping Avenida dos Aliados followed by a tasty stop at a pastelaría. A scenic cable-car ride returns you to the riverfront, where you can walk to spectacular São Francisco Church. After lunch, you’ll visit one of the city’s famed Port cellars.
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Day 6:

Régua, cruising the serene Douro River, Pinhão
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Douro Museum, Mateus Palace and Gardens, and exclusive dinner at Quinta da Avessada The Douro River winds through one hundred miles of granite mountains, carving out a valley whose steep slopes hold terraces that were cut by hand into the rocky soil and planted with grapes centuries ago. Visit the Douro Museum to learn about the river and its wines. See, too, Mateus Palace, which has one of the most beautiful gardens in the country. In the evening, you’ll tour the family-owned Quinta da Avessada, which produces premium Moscatel. Stroll the vineyard and enjoy its views before meeting the owner and learning about the winemaking process. Then partake in a rustic dinner inside the winery’s old stone walls featuring fine local wines and traditional live music.
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Day 7:

Pinhão, Vega de Terrón (Spain)
FEATURED EXCURSION: Wine tasting at a local quinta Pinhão is the center of Port winemaking. Today, you’ll take a winding road up to a quintaperched high in the hills to learn about and sample the country’s most celebrated beverage. In the afternoon you’ll enjoy breathtaking scenery while sailing through the remote Douro Valley toward Spain.
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Day 8:

Vega de Terrón (Salamanca, Spain), Barca d’Alva
FEATURED EXCURSION: Full-day Salamanca tour with flamenco show From Vega de Terrón on the Spanish border you’ll travel over the high plains of the Meseta Central to Salamanca, a UNESCO World Heritage city. The architectural purity of this charming town has endured through the centuries, during which times its sandstone buildings acquired the exquisite golden glow that gives Salamanca its nickname, “The Golden City.” Salamanca boasts monumental churches, a historic university, and a broad plaza where bullfights were once held and where students now hang out. Walk under plateresque arches and past ornately decorated masonry walls as you explore the university. Then enjoy a flamenco show.
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Day 9:

Barca d’Alva (Castelo Rodrigo), Régua
FEATURED EXCURSION: Castelo Rodrigo tour Visit the 12th-century walled village of Castelo Rodrigo (one of the twelve historic villages of Portugal), with its medieval streets and stone- walled houses.
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Day 10:

Lixa (Guimarães), Porto
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FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of Guimarães city tour or walking tour of the Ribeira district, the “Soul of Porto”
Visit historic Guimarães. As Portugal’s first capital (back in the 12th century) and home to its first king, Don Afonso Henriques, Guimarães has been called the birthplace of the Portuguese nation. This UNESCO World Heritage city is dominated by Alfonso Henriques’s grand castle, as you’ll see on your panoramic city tour. Or, if you prefer, explore the UNESCO-designated Ribeira district on foot; here, the colorful heart of the old port city will enchant you with medieval lanes and zigzagging stairways. In the evening, enjoy a Gala Dinner onboard your ship.
Day 11:
Porto (disembark) the ship and transfer to Porto Airport for your flight home, or extend your stay in dynamic Porto.
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Early Booking Bonus – $800 discount per couple (Limited time offer)
**Additional bonus – Complimentary Dinner and Wine
Call me for details at 919.708.8217
#river cruises

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Splendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence and Rome

Splendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence and Rome.

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Splendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence and Rome

 

 

993589_214074725416775_37732752_nSplendors of Northern Italy, Venice, Florence & Rome

Discover the diverse pleasures of la dolce vita as you make your way from Venice to Rome.

Birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy has given the world a splendid legacy of art, architecture, music, and poetry. No heritage is more splendid than that of Venice, the water-bound city adorned with luminous architecture and romantic canals. Experience the sheer bliss of spending five nights in Venice onboard your luxury floating hotel, conveniently docked so you can easily walk off the ship to indulge in all the pleasures this magnificent city has to offer. You will also discover Northern Italy’s superstars of Renaissance and Gothic treasures: Padua, Bologna, Verona, and Ferrara. These gems provide authentic insight into Northern Italian culture.

Travel to Florence, where the Renaissance began. See astonishing works by Michelangelo, Rafael, Donatello, and Boticelli, and savor a spectacular homemade lunch and a Chianti wine tasting at Castello di Verrazzano. A fitting ending to your Italian adventure awaits in Rome, the “Eternal City,” with all of its wonders: the Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, and so much more.

Itinerary:

Day 1:

Venice (embark) MotorcoachEmbark/Disembark
Arrive at Venice Marco Polo International Airport, where you will be transferred to the ship. After you’ve settled into your floating hotel, consider jumping right into Venetian culture with a private boat ride to a nearby arts center where you’ll see the fine arts of glassblowing and lace-making on display. (D)
Day 2:

Venice UNESCOUniworld Exclusive
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Walking discovery of Venice and exclusive special evening opening of St. Mark’s BasilicaVenice, which was founded in the sixth century, controlled all European trade with the East during the Middle Ages. Local guides will lead you through hidden alleys where tourists rarely go to the Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, which is brimming with artistic treasures. The tour concludes at Rialto Bridge; stay in the city and explore on your own, or return to the ship. Cap off your day with a most memorable experience: an exclusive, crowd-free visit to spectacular St. Mark’s Basilica. In the evening enjoy a Captains Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner. (BB, L, WD)imagesNote: It is not always possible to arrange after-hour visits to St. Mark’s Basilica. If religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening, we will visit during regular hours.
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Day 3:

Venice, Chioggia (Padua), Taglio di Po, Polesella Motorcoach
FEATURED EXCURSION: Half-day excursion to PaduaEnjoy magnificent farewell views of “The Floating City’s” grandest sites as your ship departs Venice for Chioggia. In the afternoon, you will be driven to the Medieval walled city of Padua, one of Italy’s oldest towns and home to one of the oldest universities in the world. Here, many notable scholars sought academic freedom, including Galileo and Copernicus, and two of Italy’s most famous writers, Dante and Petrarch, were students. Join your local guide on a walking tour of Padua through ancient arcades and porticos to Palazzo della Ragione, Padua’s historic city center, and then visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua. Later in the evening, reboard your ship and sail to Polesella. (BB, L, D)
Day 4:

Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara) UNESCOChoice Is YoursUniworld ExclusiveMotorcoachDining Out
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of full-day excursion to Bologna with exclusive pasta-making workshop with lunch or half-day excursion to Ferrara with lunchSpend the whole day in Bologna, called la grassa, meaning bountiful. Its portico-lined streets are home to the oldest university in Europe. But does it really have the best food in Northern Italy? You be the judge. There’s more to the city than Bolognese sauce, that’s for sure—there’s Parma ham, parmesan cheese, and perhaps the best tortellini in the world, all on lavish display in the amazing food markets. Join a pasta-making workshop and learn how to create your own fabulous pasta. Or spend a half day in Ferrara, one of Italy’s best-kept secrets, where you’ll discover how the city became an artistic hub for the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, and Petrarch, among others. (BB, L, D)
Day 5:

Polesella, Taglio di Po (Ravenna or Porto Levante), Chioggia, Venice Choice Is YoursMotorcoachDining OutUNESCO
FEATURED EXCURSION: Choice of full-day excursion to Ravenna OR half-day excursion to Porto Levante with lunch
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Ravenna, a vital seaport and Italian capital of the Byzantine Empire, is celebrated for the fifth- and sixth-century mosaics that adorn its churches. You will see the UNESCO-designated Basilica di Sant’Apollinare and the mausoleum of Galla Placidia. The buildings are sheathed in spectacular mosaics. Spend the afternoon rambling through the lovely historic downtown on your own and enjoy an artisinal foods tasting, or enjoy the morning at leisure onboard your floating hotel as your ship sails from Polesella to Taglio di Po. Today, you’ll visit Porto Levante, which is located south of Venice on the Northern Adriatic Sea. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind as you take in the beauty of the Po Delta Nature Reserve with 2 million trees of 150 different species. Be treated to a delicious seafood lunch. Later in the afternoon, reboard your ship in Chioggia and sail to Venice. (BB, L, D)
Day 6:

Venice (Verona) UNESCOMotorcoach
FEATURED EXCURSION: Full-day excursion to Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet
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Shakespeare endowed Verona with enduring fame when he wrote of two star-crossed lovers, but Verona has been an important city in Northern Italy for 2,000 years. Though Juliette and her Romeo are Verona’s best-known pair, Verona’s best-known landmark is the pink-marble-sheathed Roman arena, where many of today’s famous composers, musicians, and opera singers still perform. Savor the magic of Verona and get swept away in its romance. (BB, D)

Day 7:

Venice Choice Is YoursUniworld ExclusiveInsider
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Venice walking tour or visit a local arts centerSee Venice like a local during a walking tour of the Dorsoduro district and the Rialto, the city’s historic core. Visit the markets and indulge in a Venetian aperitivo. Or, if you didn’t join the arts center visit on day one, you can do so today. See master glassblowers and lace makers, arts for which Venice is renowned. During the afternoon, sail through the scenic Venice Lagoon. In the evening enjoy a Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner. (BB, L, FD)
Day 8:

Venice, transfer to Florence Embark/DisembarkMotorcoachMuseumDining Out
FEATURED EXCURSION: Guided visit to the Accademia Gallery and Michelangelo’s DavidToday you travel to Florence; en route, enjoy lunch in the Tuscan countryside. The birthplace of Italy’s national poet, Dante Alighieri, and of the Renaissance, Florence offers innumerable artistic treasures. The city rose to prominence under the Medici family in the 14th century. The Medicis were the greatest patrons of art in Europe, employing Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Titian, and Fra Angelico, many of whose works you’ll see today. (BB, L)
Cathedral in Florence
Day 9:

Florence UNESCODining Out
FEATURED EXCURSION: Walking tour of Florence, the Renaissance cityTravel by foot to get a close-up view of some of the city’s most glorious sights: Florence Cathedral, the Piazza della Signoria, and the Piazza della Repubblica. From the banks of the Arno, take in views of Pitti Palace and the Ponte Vecchio. (BB, D)
Day 10:

Florence, transfer to Rome MotorcoachDining OutWinetasting
FEATURED EXCURSION: Wine tasting and lunch at Castello di Verrazzano wine estate in ChiantiTravel via motor coach through the breathtaking Tuscan countryside to Rome. Stop en route for a homemade lunch and wine tasting at Castello di Verrazzano, a gorgeous estate in Chianti country. (BB, L)
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Day 11:

Rome UNESCOChoice Is YoursUniworld ExclusiveMotorcoachDining OutInsider
FEATURED EXCURSIONS: Choice of guided tour of imperial Rome with Coliseum visit or exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” walking tour through the heart of Rome
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It’s impossible to overstate the importance of Rome in European history, a historical fact you’ll discover on today’s tour which includes: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Arch of Titus, the Villa Borghese, and the Coliseum. Or “Do as the Locals Do” and walk the heart of Rome, seeing the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and the Trevi Fountain. (BB, D)
Day 12:

Rome UNESCOMotorcoachMuseumDining Out
FEATURED EXCURSION: Guided tour of Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel
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Spend the morning on a tour of the Vatican museums, ending at the Sistine Chapel, with its spectacular ceiling frescoes by Michelangelo. (BB, L)
Day 13:

Rome
Transfer to Rome Leonardo da Vinci Airport for your flight home. (CB/BB)
BONUS:  Save $500 per couple (early booking discount) (limited time)
ADDED BONUS:  Gondola Ride compliments of Cruise Like A VIP
#River Cruises, #Verona, #Rome, #Vatican, #Gondola, #Venice, #Florence, #Italian Leather, #Po River
Call me for details and pricing at 919.708.8217
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Rhine River Getaway

Rhine River Getaway.

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Rhine River Getaway

the-rhine-river Rhine River Getaway

 

Visit all the highlights of the legendary Rhine in just 8 days. In Germany, see the many charming castles commanding the riverbanks as you sail by,  tour both Marksburg Castle and the ruins of Heidelberg Castle. Admire Cologne, the jewel of the Rhine, with its awe-inspiring Dom, and experience the lush landscape of the Black Forest region. Also, explore Holland’s famous windmills and waterworks, encounter multicultural Strasbourg in France, and take part in the inviting nightlife in Rüdesheim’sDrosselgasse. On this itinerary you see a lot without spending a lot of time.  I will be on this River Cruise July, 2015.  This has a great itinerary and I know you will enjoy it as much as I do.

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DAY 1 | AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Arrive in Amsterdam, then transfer to our ship. After boarding, the afternoon is ours to relax or explore the city on our own. If our arrival schedule permits, we may wish to visit the Anne Frank House. (D)  I am all about exploring.

Kinderdijk, Netherlands

DAY 2 | KINDERDIJK, NETHERLANDS

This morning we sail to Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for a tour of this ingenious network of windmills and other flood management devices. You learn why the windmills were built and see how they work, plus you enter a working windmill for a tour of its mechanisms and living quarters. Return aboard for lunch and an enjoyable afternoon of Dutch diversions: sample handcrafted Dutch cheeses and jenever, a distilled juniper liquor, and try your hand at sjoelen (Dutch table shuffleboard). We cruise through the night. (B, L, D)

The Dom Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

DAY 3 | COLOGNE, GERMANY

Continue along the Rhine this morning; arrive in Cologne and disembark for a walking tour. Stroll through Old Town past St. Martin’s Church, and spend some time inside Cologne’s Dom, a remarkable Gothic cathedral whose construction began in 1248 and was only completed in 1880. Explore the dockside taverns, cafés and shops on our own. As always, our Program Director can help you plan your free time. Dinner is served aboard and we remain docked until late evening. (B, L, D) More exploring!

Marksburg Castle, Koblenz, Germany

DAY 4 | KOBLENZ & RÜDESHEIM , GERMANY

Proceed along the Rhine, disembarking to tour the 700-year-old Marksburg Castle and its museum. Enjoy an onboard lunch as you marvel at this scenic passage, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where castles overlook the river from their hilltop posts. Arrive in Rüdesheim in the late afternoon. Spend free time in the pedestrian-onlyDrosselgasse and sample a glass of locally produced wine at one of the restaurants or wine bars. Dine aboard the ship, or in town if you prefer. We depart after midnight. (B, L, D)

Heidelberg Turret Gate, Germany

DAY 5 | HEIDELBERG & SPEYER, GERMANY

Cruise through the morning as we enjoy breakfast and the passing scenery. Arrive in Mannheim and disembark for a tour of Heidelberg to see Germany’s oldest university, founded in 1386. Then, visit the beautiful sandstone ruins of imposing Heidelberg Castle and take in the scenery of the Neckar River Valley and the city’s many red rooftops from this hilltop post. Continue with a walking tour through the Old Town to Heidelberg’s renowned gates.

Rejoin our ship in Speyer this afternoon and take some time to look around. We dock in full view of the imposing Romanesque cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 11th century on the site of a former basilica, the building’s design influenced Romanesque architecture for centuries to come, and is the final resting place of eight German monarchs. Its soaring interior features graceful rows of sandstone columns and a large stained-glass window that was installed in the western façade during a later Gothic period. (B, L, D)

Old Town, Strasbourg, France

DAY 6 | STRASBOURG, FRANCE

We dock this morning in Kehl and disembark for a guided tour of Strasbourg. See the European Parliament and tour the interior of the city’s famed cathedral. The afternoon is free to further explore this Alsatian city’s blend of French and German cultures, resplendent churches, medieval covered bridges, verdant parks and handsome Art Nouveau and modernist architecture. Dine aboard and enjoy free time this evening in the amiable little city of Kehl. (B, L, D)  Time to explore again!

Braubach, Germany

DAY 7 | BREISACH, GERMANY

Arrive in Breisach this morning, gateway to the Black Forest. Take a scenic excursion through the area’s renowned mountain landscape, rolling meadows and dense forests. Once there, visit a local workshop and see a cuckoo clock-making demonstration. Return to Breisach or choose an optional excursion to the quaint Alsatian town of Colmar. Dine aboard and cruise on through the night. (B, L, D) This is a great place to buy your cuckoo clocks.

Basel, Switzerland

DAY 8 | BASEL, SWITZERLAND

After breakfast, disembark and proceed to the airport for our return flight.* Or, you may want toextend your journey with 2 nights in Lucerne. Enjoy the scenic landscape of the Swiss Alps with a view from your hotel, situated on the banks of beautiful Lake Lucerne. (B)  I will be extending my stay in Lucerne,  There are a few attractions I would like to re-visit again.

 The following meals are included: B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner with included complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks.
Also, all the excursions included in the itinerary are included in the price.
Added bonus:  2 for 1 cruise and discounted airfare.  Be sure to call me for details.  I am looking forward to traveling on the Rhine in 2015.
#river cruises
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Ameritage! Four Rivers of Wine and History

Ameritage! Four Rivers of Wine and History.

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