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29 December 2011

EuroTravelogue's 2011 Highlights Including Favorite Pictures of the Year

A stop for la café and people watching is a must-do at the quintessential Parisian sidewalk café. Photo: Property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.    

It's hard to believe another year is over and now we are standing on the threshold of a brand new year full of new opportunities and new beginnings!  I can hardly wait!  But before we flip the calendars to 2012, let's reflect for a moment on where we've been in 2011, an extraordinary year for me and for EuroTravelogue. What started out as a part-time hobby has grown into a second full-time job for me, however, I use "job" extremely loosely as contributing to my blog and sharing the content with all of my readers, followers and friends has become my addiction, my enjoyment; my passion runs deep.

26 December 2011

ArtOdysseys: Tintoretto’s ‘Sistine’ Ceiling at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice

Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, Italy, is home to Tintoretto's Ceiling.  Photography in this post is via Wikimedia.org and is public domain. 

Welcome to ArtOdysseys—my monthly feature that unites my love of art and travel. My focus is on “Ceilings” so I chose “Tintoretto’s Sistine Ceiling.” Intriguing title, huh?

22 December 2011

NORAD Tracks Santa Claus on Christmas Eve!

NORAD Santa Tracker--an exciting new Christmas tradition for the 21st century.
NORAD Santa Tracker--an exciting new Christmas tradition for the 21st century.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the lands, the people tracked Santa on NORAD’s webcams … “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” with a 21st-century spin. There’s a new Christmas Eve tradition in my family that has proven to delight young and old alike—tracking Santa Claus on his flight. With help from our friends at NORAD, you and your family too can track Santa Claus as he journeys around the world on Christmas Eve!

18 December 2011

Christmas in Bavaria, Germany – Impressions of a Wintry Wonderland

Winter splendor in Bavaria, Germany.  Castle Hohenschwangau is seen here above the village against the backdrop of the Alps.  All photography in this post: ©BrianJannsen Photography. Unauthorized use is prohibited.  

Snowcapped mountaintops, fairy tale castles and Alpine villages glistening in white—this is Christmas in Bavaria, Germany! Along Germany’s Romantic Road from Würzberg in the north to Füssen in the south, this wintry wonderland blankets almost one-fifth of Germany and offers some of the most picturesque settings in all of Europe. Home to capital city of Munich; Nuremberg with the oldest Christmas market in Germany; Augsburg; Würzburg and Ingollstadt to name a few, Bavaria is also home to the one of the most recognized castles in the world and one of my favorites – Castle Neuschwanstein. During the Christmas holidays, Bavaria’s aglow in its blanket of snow with vibrant Christkindlmarkts, storybook villages and mighty castles set against the backdrop of the majestic Alps.

10 December 2011

Christmas Markets in Alsace, France—Fairy Tale Villages Light Up With Christmas Cheer

Christmas enchantment abounds along Rue des Marchands in Colmar, France. © CRTA - Zvardon. All images in this post are property of Alsace Tourism and are copyrighted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Christmas enchantment abounds along Rue des Marchands in Colmar, France. © CRTA - Zvardon. All images in this post are property of Alsace Tourism and are copyrighted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Updated for 2016


Joyeux Noël

Do you believe in Christmas magic? You will by the time you visit the enchanting Christmas markets of Alsace, France!  The Christkindelsmäriks or Christmas markets of Alsace have long attracted visitors as well as locals since the 16th century, namely Strasbourg with its Christmas Market established in 1570. From the moment you arrive, you'll find these storybook villages come to life with vibrant markets, twinkling lights and delightfully decorated stalls brimming with hand-crafted gifts and ornaments not to mention the tantalizing aromas wafting through the air with the promise of gourmet delights and spicy mulled wine. Alsace celebrates the Seven Lands of Christmas from Haguenau in the north to Mulhouse in the south and is a journey of holiday splendor from one village decked out in its finest to the next—all welcoming visitors and residents alike to revel in the sights and sounds of Christmas! If you enjoy Christmas as much as I do, you must visit one of these Alsatian Christmas markets during the holidays!

27 November 2011

European Christmas Legends and Traditions—a Look to the Past and Present

The Jena Christkindlmarkt or Christmas Market in Germany.  THIS PHOTO ONLY: Wikimedia.org Rene S. 

From Advent to Christmas to the Epiphany, the holidays herald time-honored traditions and customs that bring the sights and sounds of the season to life throughout Europe and all the world. Truly, it is the most wonderful time of the year. But did you ever wonder how we got here and why we celebrate the religious and secular traditions that we do? As we gather with family and friends this holiday season to recount the stories of Christmas, let us not forget from whence we came. Join me on this journey through the past and present of Christmas legends and traditions.

2016 Advent: November 27 – December 24

13 November 2011

A Spectacular Summer in the Dolomites, the 'Other' Joy of Italy

A flowering meadow bursting with color provides a beautiful foreground leading you into a glacial valley in the majestic Dolomites of northern Italy.  All photography in this post is property of Gina Stark.  Please do not use without permission.  

This week, I am honored to introduce my guest adventurer Gary Scott of RightPathAdventures. You may know him as @RPathAdventures on Twitter but if you don't, he's a world-class mountaineer and guide, published author and mentor who just happened to set the world record  for a speed solo ascent of Alaska's Denali (Mt. McKinley)—25 years ago! Today, Gary leads trekkers on adventures that bring them in personal contact with cultures and places that most of us only ever read or dream about. From Australia to England to Pakistan, Italy and Nepal, not to mention 10 cities across the U.S., Gary has personally led over 100 international expeditions to many of the world's greatest wonders and now, concentrates his efforts on the majestic Dolomites mountains in northern Italy. I hope you enjoy this virtual expedition through the Italian Dolomites with Gary and if you want to find out more about him or his tours around the world, visit his site above and send him an email (address at end of article) too!

Guided Tour Through the Storybook Villages of Alsace, France

Welcome to enchanting Riquewihr in Alsace, France, the first of many storybook villages on our journey through one of the most beautiful and picturesque regions of France, or the world for that matter.  All photography ©Brian Jannsen Photography. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

I am so excited to announce my Guest Photographer Brian Jannsen who is solely responsible for capturing the splendor of Alsace, France, in this article. As soon as I saw his Alsatian photo essay, I fell under its enchantment, and you will too when you see how beautifully he masters light to convey visual romance and warmth that is beyond words. Join us on this photo tour through Alsace, France, and at the end of the article, you can read more about Brian’s photography and his tours through these and other enchanting places. Thank you Brian, for your gift of magic!

31 October 2011

ArtOdysseys: Paris’ Haunted Père Lachaise Cemetery

Welcome to Paris' Pere Lachaise Cemetery.  Dare to walk along Errazu Way at night?  THIS PHOTO ONLY: Peter Poradisch via Wikimedia.org.

Welcome to ArtOdysseys—my monthly series dedicated to my love of art and travel, my mission wherever the roads or rivers may lead! October’s topic is Outdoor Sculpture and since we’re publishing on Halloween, I thought I would combine the two themes for a little paranormal fun and art education, hence my choice of the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris for its haunting mausoleums, tombs and headstones not to mention legends of otherworldly visits. Boo!

30 October 2011

Half-day Guided Tour to the French Village of Chartres

Welcome to the village of Chartres.  This shot is of the North Tower of the Chartres Cathedral.  All photos property of EuroTravelogue™ unless specifically noted.  Please do not use without permission.   

While my anticipation to visit Paris was running at its highest, it’s ironic that once we arrived via our overnight train adventure, we left the city just as quickly on a half-day guided tour to the French-provincial village of Chartres. As it turned out, this jaunt to the French countryside turned out to be one of the highlights of my vacation in France. After touring in Italy and reveling in every encounter with Renaissance art and architecture, I couldn’t wait to explore my first French Gothic cathedral—Notre Dame de Chartres. Won’t you join me on this guided tour?

16 October 2011

Behold—Michelangelo’s ‘David’ at the Accademia Museum in Florence, Italy

Michelangelo's "David" inside the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. All content and photography property of EuroTravelogue™.com unless otherwise noted. Please do not use without permission. This Photo Only: Wikimedia.com David Gaya.

Michelangelo’s "David"—a colossal sculpture of perfect beauty and proportion awaits visitors at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. At the end of a long hallway flanked by Michelangelo’s “non-finito,” (unfinished sculptures), also known as the “Prisoners,” "David’s" graceful physique rises boldly to a total height of 17 feet above his pedestal and beckons onlookers to behold his mighty size and sheer magnificence. It’s simply breathtaking and humbling as you stand in awe to gaze upon this incomparable and exquisite achievement in marble sculpture. From the moment I first studied the "David" back in college, I immediately fell under his spell and knew I had to see it one day for myself. My visit or any visit to Florence for that matter would not be complete without seeing Michelangelo’s "David" at the Accademia Gallery.

09 October 2011

A Tour Through Saint-Sulpice Church in Paris, France

Welcome to Saint-Sulpice in Paris, France.  All photography property of EuroTravelogue™. Please do not use without permission.  

One of the first things I like to do whenever I arrive in a city I have never visited is to embark on a walking tour, or canal tour as in the case of Venice, to learn the lay of the land, so to speak. Although my Da Vinci Code Tour was limited to the journey from the 1st to the 6th arrondissements in Paris, I enjoyed every step along the way from the Ritz Carlton in Place Vendome, to the Louvre and through the Tuileries Gardens, across the Pont des Arts and ultimately ending at Saint-Sulpice—an unexpected surprise revealing many treasures within.

25 September 2011

ArtOdysseys: The Florence Baptistery—Through the ‘Gates Of Paradise’

The eastern facade of Saint John's Baptistery in Florence showing Ghiberti's "Gates of Paradise." All photography unless noted is the property of EuroTravelogue™.  Please do not use without permission. 

Welcome to ArtOdysseys—my new monthly series that unites my love of travel with my passion for art—connecting with masterpieces around the world. Combining art and travel is my mission wherever I travel and I plan to chronicle my experiences and discoveries to share with you. Each month will bring a new topic and this month’s is Religious Architecture, hence my choice of the Florence Baptistery for its multidimensional symbolism of this world and the next.

24 September 2011

Exploring Durham Cathedral in Northeast England

Durham Cathedral in northeast England as seen from the Palace Green.  All photos and editorial are property of Alasdair Carter.  Please do not use without permission.  

This week, I am excited to introduce guest blogger Alasdair Carter, a journalist and broadcaster who has appeared on radio in as diverse locations from the USA, UK, Europe and Australia. Having traveled widely across three continents, Alasdair returned home to the UK to rediscover the history and heritage of his homeland. Whether walking high in the fells or on walls built by Romans almost 2,000 years ago, he seeks often-overlooked stories in towns and cities and has a real eye for the offbeat.  

Alasdair takes us on an insightful and intimate journey through the past and present of Durham Cathedral in northeast England.

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @pixandpen and be sure to check out his website CartersCountry.Co.UK.  I hope you enjoy his story!  Jeff Titelius 

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral sits high on the peninsula above the city and dominates the skyline, regardless of which direction you approach. However, my advice is to arrive in Durham by train. The reason for this is the railway station sits high on a hill, there are many hills in the city, and provides a spectacular view from the train whether you are planning to alight or simply passing through.

19 September 2011

Santa Reparata—the Duomo Beneath the Duomo in Florence, Italy

Santa Reparata—the Duomo beneath the Duomo in Florence.  This image shows the altar of Saint Zanobius.  All photos are property of EuroTravelogue™.  Please do not use without permission.  

Imagine a portal back in time to 4th-century Florence and Santa Reparata—an early-Christian basilica that lies beneath the Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore. One such portal exists and it’s waiting to transport you back to a time when Romans walked the streets of the colony of Florentia. Discovered after a major renovation of the Duomo in 1966, Santa Reparata was unearthed just four meters below the floor of today’s Duomo and its remains are surprisingly intact. From Roman arches and mosaics to frescoes and tombs, you can retrace the basilica’s 1,600-year history to see these relics in startlingly well-preserved condition. The allure and mystery of discovering this portal compelled me to take the journey back in time to see what fascinating discoveries await. Won’t you join me?

10 September 2011

Postcards from Paris, France—A Tour Through the 'City Of Light'

Striking contrasts at the Louvre and the seemingly "liquid" glass pyramid!
All images are property of EuroTravelogue.  Please do not use without permission.  
Around every corner in the “City of Light,” awaits a quintessentially Parisian-perfect postcard that fills your frame with the unforgettable sights of Paris. From its soaring monuments and magnificent architecture to its scenic views along the Seine and charming sidewalk cafes, Paris captivates us with its visual romance that fills our hearts with cherished memories! Whether brilliant sunshine and contrasting shadows or cloudy skies casting a subdued light that saturates the colors, Paris is beautifully bathed in any light. And at night, the city twinkles in dazzling displays of illuminations at the Eiffel Tower as well as the warm glow of the ambient light along its boulevards.  It's magical!

03 September 2011

The Roman Forum – A Guided Tour Through the Present and the Past

Welcome to the Roman Forum and Via Sacre—your road to Imperial Rome. ALL PHOTOGRAPHY property of EuroTravelogue™ unless specifically noted. Please do not use photos without permission.
Standing testament for more than 2,000 years to a time when Rome held the world within its mighty grasp—the Roman Forum offers us a glimpse back in time, back to the glory days of the eternal city, back to when all roads led to Rome, back to when this small patch of earth was THE center of all civilization. From the Roman Colosseum to Capitoline Hill, we’ll walk along Via Sacre or the Sacred Way just as the ancient Romans did and discover relics and ruins dating back to Caesar, Nero and Constantine. We’ll explore monuments and sculptures and fascinating remains of colossal basilicas as well. Grab your guidebooks…what you don’t have one? Well, I strongly recommend you have some sort of guide so you are armed with the knowledge of what you’re actually looking at. So, you can print out this article, purchase a guide book from a local vendor or bring along a Rick Steves guide [the best and most detailed] like I did. Although this article may be a little long, I feel it is important to not only identify some the main sites but explain their significance in history. Now we embark on our journey—back 2,000 years on your guided tour through the Roman Forum.

27 August 2011

Exploring the Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy

The remains of a street in Pompeii.  All photos in this feature are property of Jessica Spiegel. Please do not use without permission. All rights reserved.  
Jessica Spiegel shares her visits to Pompeii and Herculaneum with her evocative images of what remains of these two lost cities. Plus, she offers helpful tips on exploring these fascinating ruins on your own. I hope you enjoy this feature and please share your thoughts.

21 August 2011

Discovering the Tastes of Tuscany – A Delectable Culinary Tour to Fiesole

The gardens at the Villa di Maiano with Florence in the background.
When most of us start to plan our travels to Italy, we start dreaming about visits to historic sites, magnificent architecture, exquisite sculptures and magnificent collections of art, however, there is one more reason to visit Italy that we should put right at the top of our lists – the food! That’s right, those inescapable gastronomic delights that most of us don’t think about until tantalizing aromas envelop us as we make our ways through the streets. Well, it’s time for a little planning. Picture this – hanging out on a Tuscan hillside sipping savory wines, indulging in Tuscan dishes that send your taste buds reeling in delight, and touring a magnificent Renaissance villa – all while you enjoy one of the most stunning views of the Florentine skyline! Well, when I read the description of this half-day guided tour from Florence, I knew this was exactly the way I wanted to spend one of my mornings during my visit – art, architecture and food – it doesn’t get any better! Won’t you join me on this tour and allow me to introduce you to the tastes of Tuscany!

14 August 2011

Postcards from Venice, Italy - A Journey Through Mystery and Wonder

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica in the Background. You must sit and people watch at one of these cafes in the square. Don't be fooled into dining here though, mediocre food and steep prices.
The allure of Venice seduces visitors and I admit it, me, with its old-world charm, scenic vistas, spectacular architecture and a culture unlike any place I have seen! Once a mighty empire that controlled major trading routes between Europe and the East, Venice prevails today as a major tourist destination, on which it relies heavily for its sustenance. Standing testament to the power and wealth once enjoyed by Venice, are magnificent basilicas, palaces and squares or campi decorated with some of the finest paintings, frescos and sculptures in the world. From Byzantine and Gothic to Renaissance and Baroque, these awe-inspiring edifices remain standing after 500 years and are uniquely Venetian! If you’re planning a visit to Italy, make sure you include the “city of love” on your itinerary. Simply put, there’s no place in the world like Venice!

13 August 2011

Bernini’s Rome and His Influence on the Eternal City!

Aerial View of Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican Shows Bernini's Grand Design.
You can hardly visit Rome today without nodding to Italy’s greatest artist of the Baroque period – Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Renowned for his exceptional talents as painter, architect and most notably, sculptor, Bernini’s influence can be felt throughout Rome’s most notable landmarks not to mention countless museums. From canvas and stone to chapels and piazzas, his talent knew no bounds. Fortunately for me, I was able to see some of Bernini's most significant contributions during my Angels and Demons tour, and added a few of my own. During your next visit, be sure to take a long look around and I’d wager that Bernini’s creative genius played a big part. For now, come along on this journey through Rome – through the Vatican, Piazza Navona, Santa Maria della Vittoria and Villa Borghese to name a few, to experience up close and personal, Bernini’s greatest masterpieces plus one particularly controversial sculpture that shows he was a rebel “with” a cause. To provide close-up details, I had to borrow a few images, properly attributed of course.  

30 July 2011

Roman Colosseum - A guided tour through a Roman wonder of the world!

Roman Colosseum still stands after nearly 2,000 years! All content property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Opening in A.D. 80, the Roman Colosseum has been standing for nearly 2,000 years – a testament to the tenacity and engineering prowess of the denizens of ancient Rome. This must-see on everyone’s Rome itinerary captures the imagination and one can’t help but be awe-struck by its sheer size, not to mention the fact that it’s been standing here for two millenniums! Are you ready to journey back to the age of the gladiator, back to be among the 80,000 spectators who attended any number of the public events to watch gladiators battle to the death, to witness public executions or to seek the thrill of the hunt? Come along on this guided tour of the Roman Colosseum.

24 July 2011

Discovering the Hidden Treasures of Rome, Italy

San Giovanni de Laterano or Saint John's in Lateran, Rome, Italy.  
On my last journey through Rome, I was determined not only to revisit the most celebrated sights like the Vatican, Colosseum, Roman Forum, etc., but also discover hidden treasures throughout the eternal city that I have read about, and that most visitors overlook because they’re off the beaten path. So, I embarked on a research mission to uncover some of these sights of historic and religious significance and plotted them on my Roman crusade to explore these often overlooked and forgotten places.  Despite the fact that my camera batteries died during this journey which is the reason for three borrowed and credited images below, I had a fascinating time nonetheless.  I invite you to come along on this journey through Rome and I hope you too, discover something new and wondrous for your next trip.

10 July 2011

Ponte Vecchio – One of Florence, Italy's Greatest Treasures


Completed in 1345, the Ponte Vecchio or "Old Bridge" is truly one of Florence's greatest treasures.  Not only is it one of the most visited places in Florence because of its treasure of gold and silver merchants, it's the only medieval bridge to survive WWII because of its historical significance.  Once home to butchers, tanners and blacksmiths who used the river as their waste disposal and were later evicted in 1593,  the bridge welcomed gold and silver smiths who continue to live and operate quaint little shops along this "treasured" landmark.

02 July 2011

The Magnificent Loire Valley Chateaux Enchant All Who Visit on This Full-day Tour from Paris!

The Magnificent Chateau de Chambord. 
Ready to embark with me on an unforgettable journey to the enchanted chateaux of the Loire Valley in France? Located in eastern-central France along the banks of the River Loire, this "Garden of France" comprises an area of roughly 300 square miles and is renowned for its magnificent fairy tale castles, French-provincial villages, impeccable gardens, abundance of vineyards, and of course, some of the most scenic landscapes in all of France. After I spent day touring this alluring French countryside dotted with more than 1,000 of these majestic fortresses, wanderlust surged and now I am determined to visit every one of them in my lifetime! To stand in the shadows of these imposing chateaux is quite humbling and awe-inspiring – imagine castles dating back to Classical, Renaissance and even medieval times having survived hundreds of years preserving intact their magnificent architecture. But it’s not only the castles, for surrounding them are the most exquisitely manicured gardens and scenic vistas adding even more elegance to the splendor of the Loire canvas. If you’re planning a holiday to France, make sure you spend a day or two or perhaps three roaming through the glorious Loire Valley!

"These wonderful estates all conjure up in our minds glamorous visions of fleeting glory and remind us how short-lived man's good fortune can be.  Yet they have triumphed over the perpetual flow of life and constitute today a prestigious legacy." Baron Armel de Wismes

19 June 2011

Discovering Montepulciano high atop the golden hills of Tuscany, Italy

Montepulciano – quaint medieval streets wind their way around the citadel. All photography is property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The allure of Tuscany with its picturesque landscapes and medieval towns perched high atop the golden hills has attracted visitors to this region of Italy for decades, if not centuries, and Montepulciano is just one of many historical citadels throughout Tuscany that beckon visitors to come and explore its medieval streets and piazzas. Mostly known for its regional Vino Nobile wines, a visit to Montepulciano delivers on the promise of that quintessential Tuscan experience that you imagine as you picture yourself on a journey under the Tuscan sun to ancient cities brimming with Italian life!

12 June 2011

Frémiet's Joan of Arc – Claims Victory in Paris, France

Joan of Arc immortalized in the Place des Pyramides in Paris, France.  
Outside the Hotel Regina in Paris, France, in the center of a little square – the Place des Pyramides – stands a striking  golden sculpture of Joan of Arc whose brilliance contrasts with the mundane stone-colored buildings that surround her.  Ready for battle, Joan of Arc astride her mighty steed, shines quite brilliantly from afar.  Luckily for me, she was just a few steps outside my hotel's front door.

Designed by Emmanuel Frémiet, this sculpture is actually an "updated" version of its predecessor originally installed here in 1874.  Because of a Philadelphia commission for a replica, Frémiet instead gave Philadelphia the original while placing a newly revised statue in the square in 1889 and it is this successor that we see today.  There is one other that stands in Portland, Oregon, the third of three magnificent and brilliant equestrian sculptures.

Au Revoir! 

05 June 2011

Santa Maria del Fiore, aka Duomo, – the flower of Florence, Italy!

Santa Maria del Fiore, aka Duomo, in Florence Italy.  

Santa Maria del Fiore – the Duomo – the centerpiece of Florence city centre evokes wonder and awe, not to mention an overwhelming sense of feeling quite dwarfed as you stand beside this titanic cathedral. Looking up, the unmistakable Brunelleschi's dome and Giotto's campanile  rising majestically alongside. Steeped in history, the Duomo and the site on which it stands has been the religious center of Florence for more than 1,600 years when Florentia, as it was known in the 4th century, was bustling not with Florentines, but Romans.

29 May 2011

Discover the Birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence, Italy!

Replica of Michelangelo's David outside Palazzo Vecchio in Florence where original once stood.  
If you’re as fascinated by the Renaissance as I am, then a visit to Florence, Italy, is a mandatory component on any Italian itinerary. This is where the Renaissance was born!  From the moment you arrive, you are surrounded by churches, museums and monuments steeped in the rich history and traditions of the Renaissance or the age of "rebirth."  During this time of enlightenment, Florence led the way out of the Dark Ages and into the light through the work of its masters of art and architecture some of whom were cultivated and nurtured by the influential Medici Dynasty.

22 May 2011

Adventures of Driving Under the Tuscan Sun in Italy


For anyone who has read the book or has seen the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” each different but equally brilliant, then you can imagine what it’s like to drive through the winding hills of the golden Tuscan countryside.  Here – where the sunflowers bloom, where rows upon rows of olive groves and vineyards offer their bountiful harvests, and where Cyprus-lined roads wind around hillsides to enchanting hilltop farmhouses – is where you'll find your Tuscany.  If ever a destination exists that delivers upon and exceeds expectations, it's Tuscany!  It's everything you would imagine it to be.  If Florence, Siena, Montepulciano, or even Cortona are on  your Italian itinerary, make sure you set aside an extra day or two, perhaps an entire week, for a drive under the Tuscan sun!

15 May 2011

Saint-Denis' Basilica in Paris – Magnificent Gothic Cathedral Steeped in the History of France and the Monarchy


Saint Denis is a journey to the end of the line, so to speak, to the end of Strasbourg / Saint Denis line that terminates in the 18th arrondissement in northern Paris. Once there, you will find one of the most magnificent Gothic cathedrals in all of France – Saint-Denis Basilica! Renowned as the burial place for many a French Monarch who ended up here..."at the end of the line" as well as its groundbreaking Gothic-style architecture; Saint-Denis basilica, France's West Minster Abbey, is one of the most fascinating cathedrals I have ever visited and should be at the top of every Parisian itinerary!

08 May 2011

A Guided Tour Through Rome With Angels and Demons Pointing the Way

St. Peter's Square
Piazza San Pietro or St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, Rome

If this is your first visit to Rome, Italy, and you’re not sure where to start, where to go or what to do, then seek out the "Path of Illumination," pun intended, on one of the most popular tours in Rome – “Angels and Demons Tour.”  Direct from Dan Brown’s highly acclaimed bestseller “Angels and Demons,” this tour introduces Rome’s most famous landmarks as you follow in the footsteps of Brown’s fictional character Robert Langdon as he sets out to rescue the cardinals and save the Vatican from impending doom.  Not only is this a great way to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, it’s quite the fun-filled adventure through the eternal city, whether you’ve read the book or not! Your guide? Well, angels and demons of course – okay, sort of.

01 May 2011

Captivated by the light!


 Cathedra Sancti Petri or St. Peter's Chair behind the High Altar at St. Peter's Basilica, Rome.  
We’re all drawn to the light; whether it’s the translucent tapestries of stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle, or the setting sun melting into the Mediterranean, or brilliant beams of sunlight radiating into St. Peter’s cupola, we can’t help but want to preserve that moment when the light is "just right" and thus we persevere until we get that “Kodak moment” captured forever – sometimes with surprisingly delightful results! 

10 April 2011

The ecstasy of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome, Italy

Exterior view of the Sistine Chapel - the majesty awaits inside these walls at Vatican City. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to visit the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome? Do you dare to be overcome with humility and awe as you stare unto the heavens to decipher the intricate panels that tell the story of man? When I first arrived at the threshold and my eyes wandered into the cavernous chapel and toward heaven, I was breathless. To stand there and gaze upon such magnificence and such glory is quite moving and I was completely awe-struck and astonished by the stirring of emotions within me I don’t think I ever really knew I had. When you experience the majesty of Michelangelo's epic masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine for yourself, you too will be overcome with profound feelings of such intensity.

03 April 2011

The Legend of Laocoön – Vatican Museum in Rome, Italy


Do you know of the legend of Laocoön?  Laocoön was the Trojan priest of Apollo who warned of the Greeks' insidious plot to invade Troy through an ultimate plan of treachery and deception – a "gift" from the gods or as we know now – the fateful Trojan Horse. A fascinating tale told in the "Iliad" of Laocoön's plight to warn to Prium that the Trojan horse was a fraud and trap, and that it should be burned.  Sentenced to death by Athena, Apollo, or Poseidon, [the actual reason and responsible party varies according to legend], Laocoön and his twin sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus, were killed by these two coiling serpents that choked the life out of them.

Victor Emmanuel stands tall to welcome visitors to Rome's National Monument of Victor Emmanuel

Standing tall and proud in front of the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or National Monument of Victor Emmanuel, this equestrian statue carries the first newly-crowned king of a "united" Italy. The monument is known by some as the "Wedding Cake" and is located between Piazza Venezia and Capitoline Hill, just outside the Roman Forum.

27 March 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the Roman Forum

Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

When we, myself and partner Matthew, planned our trip to Italy for the second time, we knew we had to begin our journey in the eternal city of Rome [where else?] to see more of the sights that we were rushed through during our trip the year prior. Upon our landing, we had three days – plenty of time – to visit the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Colosseum, churches, piazzas, tombs, and of course, the Roman Forum. While this second and deeper immersion into Rome lived up to our expectations, something extraordinary happened that made this visit a memory to last a lifetime. With that said, this article will not about the famous sights of Rome but one of extraordinary circumstances.

05 March 2011

Medici meets Ming Pei – a magnificent architectural composite at the Musee du Louvre in Paris!


The juxtaposition of the modern and the Renaissance is undoubtedly unnerving to some at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, France – however, to me; this magnificent blending of traditions separated by more than 500  years, is surely welcome!  I couldn't help myself when I stumbled upon this unique perspective of the main entrance – the futuristic and imposing glass pyramid designed by Ieoh Ming Pei set against the backdrop of the splendor of the Renaissance – a reflection of then and now –and inspiring and magnificent!

20 February 2011

Hotel Monna Lisa – Experience the splendor of 14th century Florence, Italy

Journey back to 14th century Florence when you visit the elegant Hotel Monna Lisa located in the city centre.  Capturing the spirit of the Renaissance in every detail, this convent-turned-palazzo-turned-hotel is magnificently appointed with its antique period furnishings and original masterpieces of art, all framed by original Renaissance architecture!  Plus, there's a lush and verdant courtyard adjoining the various buildings that comprise the Hotel Monna Lisa.

06 February 2011

La Sainte Chapelle – the Holy Chapel – a crowning jewel on Île de la Cité in Paris, France


Perhaps one of the most beautiful and striking chapels in all of Paris, La Sainte Chapelle, located on Île de la Cité near Notre Dame, surrounds you with its radiant stained glass windows full of a most heavenly light! Until you see it in person, you cannot appreciate the translucent majesty that awaits all who venture inside! Literally breathless after ascending the tiny staircase from the lower level, I emerged into the chapel full of streaming sunlight illuminating the details of these magnificent windows. See for yourself!

02 February 2011

Michelangelo's Pietà - Perfection in marble at the Vatican!


Are there words to describe Michelangelo's Pietà? How does one convey such exquisite perfection? What surely is one of his most defining creations of his entire career, the Pietà was completed when Michelangelo was at the ripe old age of 24! And for the last 500 years, this extraordinary masterpiece carved from block of marble has captivated every set of eyes fortunate enough to stand in awe of its magnificence and glory! Surely the hand of God has guided Michelangelo's chisel as he chipped at and peeled away the layers of stone to reveal this captivating moment in time when Mary holds her Jesus just moments after the His crucifixion. The astonishing level of detail and lifelike features that Michelangelo achieved in his Pietà are unrivaled even after all this time.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica, be sure to visit with Michelangelo's Pietà for a profound and spiritual revelation! Read more about St. Peter's Basilica and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.

Arrivederci!

28 January 2011

Lonely Venetian gondolas await guests for cruises through the timeless canals of Venice! !


Lonely gondolas lie waiting in their harbor for their gondoliers to pilot their guests through journeys unknown along the Venetian canals. Imagine gliding through waterways surrounded by the unforgettable and enchanting Venetian Byzantine - Gothic architecture that has stood the test of time - more than 500 years in most cases - while your gondolier serenades you with romantic ballads that melt your heart...ah Venice...there is nothing quite like it in the world...it's more than a destination, it's a way of life!! See and read more about the timeless city of Venice and where to stay.

23 January 2011

The splendor of the Hotel Palazzo Priuli - where 14th-century Venice comes to life!


Stepping into the Hotel Palazzo Priuli is like stepping back in time to the Venice of the 14th century. Spectacular architecture and splendid period decor fill this historic boutique hotel in the quiet sestiere of Costello in Venice, Italy. Art enthusiasts will revel in the collections that adorn the guest rooms and halls of this magnificent palace and historians will delight in the 14th-century architectural extravagance throughout the palazzo. It's hard to imagine that this building is more than 600 years old, but time has taken its toll, and it's especially evident along the staircase in the lobby climbing up to the Piano Nobile. Extremely worn down and leaning slightly to the right, which is a little discomforting at first, these very steps have been traversed by residents and guests for more than half a millennium!



Standing proudly alongside two picturesque canals in the heart of the quiet Castello sestiere of Venice, the Hotel Palazzo Priuli surrounds you with spectacular architecture, art and elegant furnishings that span 600 years of Venetian history. Although this 14th century palazzo lies just beyond Saint Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco, it seems a world away. Just outside the hotel doors, you’ll discover quiet canals, narrow “calli” or alleyways, “campi” or squares, and those irresistible cozy canal-side cafés. Yet, you remain close enough to the major sights of the city centre including St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, Santa Maria del Salute, not to mention countless museums and churches throughout the city. Location is everything so when you’re looking for accommodations in Venice, be sure it’s in a convenient area of the city because it will make ALL the difference in your Venetian experience. With that said, the Hotel Palazzo Priuli is just such a place and definitely worth "checking into." Be sure to see video and slide show at end of article.

Located on Fondamenta de l’Osmarin, a quiet canal-side street, the Hotel Palazzo Priuli is actually comprised of three separate hotels – the Hotel Palazzo Priuli, the oldest of the three and designated a Venice 4-Star Hotel. This is where you’ll find the lobby, a glorious ballroom and some of the nicest Venetians you’ll meet who go to the ends of the earth to make your experience delightful and comfortable! Across the calle or alleyway, you’ll find the other two guest houses - Ca Priuli and Casa Nicolo Priuli designated officially as Venetian First-Class Guest Houses. Collectively, they share the dining and living room, a breakfast garden room, the ballroom, and a terrace with spectacular views of the campanile in Piazza San Marco.

Stylish and elegantly furnished rooms await the guests of the Hotel Palazzo Priuli. You'll find you’re surrounded by Renaissance masterpieces, antique furnishings and Murano glass chandeliers. Combine this with the magnificent architecture of the historic palazzo, and suddenly, you’re transported back in time to the 18th and 19th centuries. How’s that for la dolce vita? There are 39 Superior and Classic rooms plus three Junior Suites named after notable Doges of Italy. Check out the hotel's website photo gallery for spectacular snapshots of these elegantly appointed rooms. You won't believe your eyes! If it’s not too cost prohibitive, let me suggest a room with a private terrace overlooking the canals for the complete Venetian experience. Sit back with your glass of wine and watch the gondoliers serenade their passengers as they traverse the quiet waterways. Ah, Venice!

Having stayed at the Hotel Palazzo Priuli in Venice for five glorious days, I found the value and the experience exceeded every expectation including the price I paid, for these elegant accommodations overlooking the quiet canal and Fondamenta de l'Osmarin (Room 304 if you’re interested). Plus, daily breakfast is included in the price of your room. At the time I stayed here, since I booked a room with a terrace, I had the option of having breakfast delivered to my room every morning. I am not sure this is still the case but it’s definitely worth asking about when you book. Rest assured, breakfast is a short walk away.

For more information about the Hotel Palazzo Priuli and to check availability and pricing, visit HotelPriuli.com. For package tours and pricing from the Orlando area, visit Priceline.com for some great deals. Check out LonelyPlanet.com for great resources to help you plan your Venetian escape!

Fun Fact about the Hotel Palazzo Priuli:

Upon checking in the hotel’s lobby, glance over to the right where you’ll find a stone stairway leading upstairs. Don’t be surprised as you ascend the stairs and find yourself leaning slightly to the right. The gentle slope is the product of more than 600 years of history and it’s an extraordinary experience to say the least. Once you reach the ballroom on the second floor, you’ll find all kinds of helpful brochures about local attractions, tours and concerts.

Arrivederci!

22 January 2011

Castle Neuschwanstein – A fairy tale castle for a fairy tale King in Bavaria, Germany



Photos courtesy of guest photographer: Debbie Apfelbaum. 

Rising majestically above Germany's Alps in Bavaria, is one of the most spectacular and breathtaking castles in the world – Castle Neuschwanstein – a fairy tale fortress for the “Fairy Tale King.” King Ludwig II ordered the design and construction of the one of today’s most visited and recognized castles in the world and although Castle Neuschwanstein appears to be centuries old and born of the Middle Ages, construction began relatively recently in 1868. Actually, it opened 1886, just a few years before the Eiffel Tower. Did you know some of the interior spaces have never been completed?

Neuschwanstein and Castle Hohenschwangau – where Ludwig grew up – lie in the mountains above the village of Hohenschwangau. Read more about this fascinating fortress, its history, and how to travel there. Plus great slide show and if you have Google Earth, you'll want to check out the link in the article as well.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Additional Reading

See my fellow travel writer Laurel's favorite German castles. Stunning photography!