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19 December 2014

In search of Christmas: Where spectral lights brighten dark winter nights—Norway

The dazzling display of the Northern Lights over Tromsø, Norway. Photo: Mark Robinson.
The dazzling display of the Northern Lights over Tromsø, Norway. Photo: Mark Robinson.

God Jul!

In search of Christmas this year brings us to the land where mystical northern lights dazzle the nights of winter while echoes of Nordic traditions resound throughout the valleys of the fjords—welcome to Christmas in Norway and with that, I wish you God Jul or Glædelig Jul (Good Christmas or Happy Christmas).

30 October 2014

A Visit to Gstaad, Switzerland

Welcome to Gstaad, Switzerland. Photo: WikiMedia.org.
Welcome to Gstaad, Switzerland. Photo: WikiMedia.org.

According to legend, it was God's hand that created Switzerland's Saanenland region when He set it down to rest while creating the rest of the world. His imprint became the valleys and within His fingers, nine enchanting villages cradled within Alpine grandeur—chief among them is Gstaad. Located in Bernese Oberland (Highlands) in Switzerland's southwestern Alps, nearly smack dab in between Zurich and Geneva, Gstaad is renowned for its popularity among the royals, celebrities and jet set.

05 October 2014

Falling in love with Europe at the movies

Peles Castle in Romania plays a leading role in 'Princess for Christmas.' Photo: Adam Shafer.
Peles Castle in Romania plays a leading role in "Princess for Christmas." Photo: Adam Shafer.

It's undeniable that every time I see a movie filmed in Europe, I fall deeper in love with the continent—"Roman Holiday," "The Sound of Music," "Chocolat," "Under the Tuscan Sun," "Letters to Juliet," "Before Sunrise," "Midnight in Paris"—among hundreds of others, my wanderlust ignites and my longing to visit all of these places becomes insatiable. While I have traveled to many of the locations mentioned in the films above, there are a few that still elude me. One day, I plan to conquer all but for now, the visits are relegated to the stuff of dreams, at least for the moment anyway.

17 September 2014

Verona, Italy—Cultural immersion in the city of love

Benvenuti a Verona, Italy—The City of Love. The piazzas dell'Erbe to the left and dei Signoria on the right. Photo: WikiMedia.org.
Benvenuti a Verona, Italy—The City of Love. The piazzas dell'Erbe to the left and dei Signoria on the right. Photo: WikiMedia.org.

In just a few weeks, I depart on a journey of cultural discovery in Italy. It all begins at the Travel Blogger Destination Italy conference, aka #TBDItaly, in Rimini along Italy's eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea. I'll be one of 30 travel writers comprising the Culture Cluster—a company of travel bloggers who thrives on exploring cultural connections in the places we visit. We'll be meeting three additional clusters of travel bloggers recruited for their expertise as well: Food, Fashion and Travel; and together, we'll engage with representatives from all points of the compass.

01 September 2014

Berlitz's 'River Cruising in Europe' guidebook lands in US

The Rhine River bisects Germany's fourth largest city—Cologne or Köln with spectacular views of the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom). Photo: WikiMedia.org.
The Rhine River bisects Germany's fourth largest city—Cologne or Köln with spectacular views of the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom). Photo: WikiMedia.org.

In July, Berlitz announced the US release of "River Cruising in Europe" by veteran cruiser Douglas Ward who's been sailing the rivers and the seven seas for the last 49 years. When Insight Guides aka Berlitz contacted me with the news, I jumped at the chance when they asked me to review the book. As you well know, I am a HUGE fan of European river cruising so I couldn't wait to get started. To make it even more interesting, I requested an interview with Ward to find out the inside scoop about his new-to-the-US release.

17 July 2014

ArtOdysseys: The Art of Norway and Nikolai Astrup

'Kari: Motif from Sunde.' Image: Courtesy of Nikolai-Astrup.no. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
"Kari: Motif from Sunde." Image: Courtesy of Nikolai-Astrup.no. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Welcome to July's ArtOdysseys—my ongoing series that unites my love of travel with discoveries in art along the way. This month, we head north to Norway to explore the art of Nikolai Astrup, an early 20th-century Norwegian artist whose brush flows with the essence, the visual romance of Norway. It was a year ago this month when I embarked on my epic voyage through the fjords but only recently did I become familiar with the remarkable work of Nikolai Astrup. It was love at first sight when I saw his magnificent paintings, instantly I was transported back to the idyllic splendor of Norway through his extraordinary talent to immerse his viewers into his surroundings. When you see his work below, I think you'll agree. It's no surprise Nikolai Astrup, "the artist of western Norway," is one of country's most beloved.

22 June 2014

Postcards from Norway—impressions of the fjords

Enchanting Fjærland, Norway. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Enchanting Fjærland, Norway. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

They call it the land of the midnight sun, where northern lights dance upon velvet skies, and in between—the blue hour—that perpetual state of twilight especially beautiful in Norway. Home to the world's most rugged coastline and Europe's longest—it's a place where unrelenting fjords carve their way through pastoral settings forging the most magnificent landscapes whose idyllic silence is broken only by thundering waterfalls and the delightful cacophony of seagulls. Voyage upon these azure waters and the mountains reveal enchanting villages steeped in Norwegian culture and tradition. Norway, Europe's final frontier, has captivated artists, writers and composers for centuries—all of whom have sought inspiration in its scenic splendor so wondrous: Edvard Grieg, Edvard Munch, Ole Bull, J.C.Dahl, Henrick Wergeland—among others! My voyage was equally inspiring and so I welcome you to this pictorial souvenir of sorts, a collection of impressions to inspire accompanied by some of my unforgettable memories.

16 May 2014

ArtOdysseys: In search of Michelangelo

Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling. All photos property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. This photo only: WikiMedia.org.
Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling. All photos property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. This photo only: WikiMedia.org.

Welcome to ArtOdysseys—a new series that combines my love of travel with discoveries in art along my wanderings in Europe. Wherever the road or river may lead, one of my missions has been and always will be to seek out artful experiences through museums, landscapes, architecture and the people. Previously, I have published these posts under ArtSmart Roundtable, however, my odyssey begins anew and with each post, I hope to enlighten and inspire!

01 May 2014

Visiting Saint-Émilion in Bordeaux, France

Looking down on the village of Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region of France. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Looking down on the village of Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region of France. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

While on a wine and chateaux tour in Bordeaux with Viking River Cruises, we stopped for a short visit in a quintessentially French village—Saint-Émilion for a journey back in time. Cobbled streets, quaint cafés, ancient relics and medieval architecture abound here but there's something positively enchanting about this place that captivated me enough to want to spend the day enjoying some real slow travel through this charming village in France's renowned Bordeaux wine country! Follow along on a guided tour through the past and present of Saint-Émilion, France.

21 April 2014

Exploring the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) in Avignon

Welcome to the Palais des Papes or Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. All photography unless noted is the property of the EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Welcome to the Palais des Papes or Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France. All photography unless noted is the property of the EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

On the morning of the day when Viking River Cruises would make history in Avignon by christening 16 new Viking Longships, we set out on a walking tour through this historic city on the Rhône River and set our paces to the colossal Papal Palace that dominates the Avignon's skyline from atop the hill. Once the largest Gothic building in the world measuring in at more than 165,000 square feet (15,000 square meters), the Palais des Papes or Palace of the Popes in Avignon is a formidable edifice that served as the temporary home for the Papacy from 1309 -1377, not to mention offices for the legates, a prison and an army barracks thereafter. Ever since I can remember, I have long wanted to visit the imposing fortress and to learn more about the transient popes of the 15th century. Won't you join me on this journey through time in Avignon?

07 April 2014

Of wine trails and chateaux in Bordeaux, France, with Viking River Cruises

Viking River Cruises' 'Chateaux, Rivers and Wine'—a voyage through Bordeaux. All photography unless noted is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Viking River Cruises' "Chateaux, Rivers and Wine"—a voyage through Bordeaux. All photography unless noted is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

After the extraordinary Viking christening in Avignon the previous day, we were whisked off from Marseille to Bordeaux for our 4-day preview cruise of Viking River Cruises' brand new itinerary—"Chateaux, Rivers and Wine," a voyage through the heart of Bordeaux—celebrated chateaux surrounded by undulating hills of verdant vineyards, followed by wine tastings of some of the finest vintages in the world! Join me on the wine trail and river cruise through sumptuous Bordeaux!

29 March 2014

Viking River Cruises Christens 16 Longships in Avignon and Shatters World Record

Welcome to Avignon and the 2014 Viking River Cruises World-Record-breaking Christening of 16 Viking Longships! All photography unless noted is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Welcome to Avignon and the 2014 Viking River Cruises World-Record-breaking Christening of 16 Viking Longships! All photography unless noted is the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

In 2012, there were six. In 2013, 10 more. And now in 2014, in an unprecedented, world-record breaking event that spanned two days but yet only 24 hours in Amsterdam; Avignon, France; and Rostock, Germany; Viking River Cruises christened 16 more Viking Longships for a grand total of 30 new ships in three years! With the recent explosion of the river cruising industry and with Viking's unrivaled marketing savvy, it comes as no surprise that this industry leader who currently enjoys 48 percent market share, fills these ships as quickly as they can build them. And the ceremony was later certified by Guinness World Records as the 'The Most Ships Inaugurated in One Day by One Company.' If you didn't know, Viking held the previous record for 10 ships launched in a single day in Amsterdam 2013. Let's celebrate in true Viking fashion, the events of the day followed by a show-stopping gala at the Pont du Gard later that evening—an unforgettable inaugural event for all!

09 March 2014

Life On Board the Viking River Cruises Longships

Life onboard the Viking River  Cruises Longships. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Life on board the Viking River  Cruises Longships. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Have you ever wondered what life is like on board a Viking River Cruises longship as you cruise from one splendid destination to the next? I invite you to savor the journey as well as the destination on this voyage, and you'll find that the time on board can be just as sublime as the exciting destinations you visit along the way. These are the highlights of my recent voyage with Viking last December, my "Danube Waltz" from Germany to Hungary—with unforgettable moments, sneak peeks behind the scenes and connecting with new friends and cultures.

09 February 2014

ArtOdysseys: Danube river cruise - Voyage of contrasts in scenery, architecture and time

Cruising into Budapest, Hungary, by night revealed a contrasting panorama of gold against the darkness of night. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited. This photo only: WikiMedia.org.
Cruising into Budapest, Hungary, by night revealed a contrasting panorama of gold against the darkness of night. All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited. This photo only: WikiMedia.org.

Welcome to the February edition of ArtOdysseys—my ongoing series that unites my love of travel with discoveries in art along the way. This month, my focus "contrast" and having just returned from my Danube River cruise with Viking River Cruises, we traveled through four countries from Germany to Hungary and along the way, discovered many interesting compositions offering striking contrasts in art, architecture and the natural beauty of the landscape.

08 February 2014

7 Lesser-Known Things to Do in Tuscany

The Duomo di Prato (Prato Cathedral) is about a half-hour drive northwest of Florence, Italy. Photo: WikiMedia.org.
The Duomo di Prato (Prato Cathedral) is about a half-hour drive northwest of Florence, Italy. Photo: WikiMedia.org.

I am honored to introduce this week's guest blogger, James Jones, of MyTravelGuidePosts.com. An avid traveler and blogger always looking for new opportunities to document his experiences and share them with people, James has visited Italy four times and among his most memorable visits were taking part in Ivrea's battle of oranges festival, visiting the Vatican and exploring the marble quarries of Carrara in Tuscany. Check him out on his site where you'll find many more articles about Italy including "Underrated attractions in Italy and places to visit."

Home to pleasant weather, picturesque rolling hills, Chianti wine, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Florence's Ponte Vecchio, it’s not surprising Tuscany is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy! However, this post is about showcasing some of Tuscany’s lesser-known attractions that fall “under the radar” of many tourists visiting the region.

27 January 2014

Top 5 Lake Destinations In Europe

It's twilight on Lake Bled's only island - the Church of the Assumption rises in the center. Photo: WikiMedia.org.
It's twilight on Lake Bled's only island - the Church of the Assumption rises in the center. Photo: WikiMedia.org.

For those who love to vacation on or near the water, there's a tendency to look toward southern Europe's incredible beaches and coastal towns. Indeed, all along the Mediterranean Sea and near Spain and Portugal's coasts on the Atlantic, travellers can find some of the most picturesque beaches, and most pleasant coastal towns, anywhere in the world. However, for travellers who like to find destinations that are "off the beaten trail," so to speak, it's important to recognize that European tourism for water lovers isn't entirely limited to the southern coasts!

26 January 2014

A journey of discovery—my hiking adventure in Lapland, Sweden

Discovering splendor in Lapland, Sweden. All photography is the property of Null & Full. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Discovering splendor in Lapland, Sweden. All photography is the property of Null & Full. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

I am honored to introduce my guest travel writer Agata Mleczko, founder and editor of Null&Full.com, a travel blog that features off-the-beaten-track destinations. She currently calls Poland home but has lived in Italy for more than six years and has traveled to more than 20 countries including her most recent visit to New Zealand. She enjoys reading travel books, jogging, trekking and cooking. Be sure to follow her on Twitter @nullnfull and Facebook too. Without further ado, I bring to you Agata's journey of discovery to Lapland, Sweden.  

Although I live so close to all of the Scandinavian countries, it took me a long time to visit the first of them: Sweden. It’s just across the Baltic Sea, not too far away really, but it seems that the closer the destination, the harder to visit and appreciate, right? Well, this was the case with me. I went to Sweden for the first time just couple of years ago but since then, I visit this country every year. Do you want to know why? Lapland.

20 January 2014

Viking River Christmas market cruise continues to Salzburg, Austria

Welcome to Salzburg, Austria! All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
Welcome to Salzburg, Austria! All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Early in the morning on the third day of our Danube Waltz Christmas market cruise with Viking River Cruises, I woke in the middle of night to see that we had already docked in Linz, Austria. I peeked outside the cabin for a glimpse of our new surrounds only to find a dazzling display of light—an illuminated building on the other side of the Danube casting vibrant hues of alternating neon colors—a stunning welcome to Linz I thought to myself. As it turned out, I was admiring the Institute of Computer Graphics. They sure know how to dazzle! My thoughts then wandered off to the day that lie ahead—our journey to the hills alive with the sound of music—Salzburg, Austria. Mostly known for its starring role in the "Sound of Music," Salzburg is also the birthplace of the celebrated composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as well as its namesake festival that takes place every summer starting in July—the Salzburg Festival of music and drama! Join me on this tour through the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria, another exciting day onboard Viking River Cruises. And if you want to find some amazing cruise deals for Viking river cruises, be sure to check out Cruisedeals.co.uk.  

13 January 2014

Brussels: the new hot spot for travellers

Brussels Town Hall in the city's Grand Place rises 315 feet into the air and is topped off by a 12-foot statue of Saint Michael slaying a demon. Photo: Valy Dumoulin.
Brussels Town Hall in the city's Grand Place rises 315 feet into the air and is topped off by a 12-foot statue of Saint Michael slaying a demon. Photo: Valy Dumoulin.

I am thrilled to introduce my guest blogger, Paula and Gordy from ContentedTraveller.com who have been travelling ever since they met 10 years ago, and for some unknown reason are contented traveller(s). They represent the baby boomer / emptynesters who are share their love of travel and unusual adventures, but also, and most importantly, their ability to embrace serendipity. You can follow their adventures on Twitter too @gordyandpaula. Without further ado, I bring to you Paula's and Gordy's take on Brussels! 

Many travellers have largely ignored Brussels, the much maligned capital city of Belgium. It has been a go through city, rather than a city break or long-stay destination. However things are changing. There are rumblings that the tide is turning and that people are re-discovering Brussels and liking very much what they are seeing and feeling. It would appear that this little gem is becoming a hotspot for travellers.

08 January 2014

Viking River Cruises to sail Bordeaux in March 2014 with new Chateaux, Rivers and Wine river cruise

The Chateau Pichon Longueville in Bordeaux, France, is just one of many you'll experience on Viking River Cruises' newest itinerary, 'Châteaux, Rivers and Wine' debuting in March 2014. Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.
The Chateau Pichon Longueville in Bordeaux, France, is just one of many you'll experience on Viking River Cruises' newest itinerary, "Châteaux, Rivers and Wine" debuting in March 2014. Photo: Property of Viking River Cruises. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Imagine eight days of sailing the waterways through the sublime Bordeaux region of France with the sole purpose of exploring legendary châteaux and rolling hills of vineyards all from the comfort of your Viking longship. Beginning March 22, 2014, Viking River Cruises heads to Bordeaux with a brand new itinerary, "Châteaux, Rivers and Wine" aboard the Viking Forseti, one of Viking's award-winning longships. Marking the first time Viking River Cruises will position one of their longships in France, the Viking Forseti will ply the waters through the Bordeaux and Aquitaine regions of France exploring along the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde Rivers in what is sure to be a feast for all senses—from exciting destinations and magnificent châteaux to delectable cuisine and some of France's most celebrated vintages. Come along as we explore the exciting ports of call on Viking Cruise's "Châteaux, Rivers and Wine."

01 January 2014

Highlights from Passau, Germany, with Viking River Cruises

Welcome to Passau, Germany—our first stop on our Viking River Cruises' 'Danube Waltz' from Germany to Hungary. Photo: WikiMedia.org.
Welcome to Passau, Germany—our first stop on our Viking River Cruises' "Danube Waltz" from Germany to Hungary. Photo: WikiMedia.org.

It's known as the Dreiflüssestadt or the City of Three Rivers and as it turned out, one of the true delights of my voyage with Viking River Cruises down the Danube—Passau, Germany. Located in southeastern Germany in Bavaria, near the Austrian and Czech borders, Passau sits on a spit of land where the Rivers Inn and Ilz join the Danube. While a medieval city in origin with roots dating back to 739, today's Passau is very much a Baroque city as I was surprised to find as I walked through its streets expecting to see the medieval half-timbered houses prevalent throughout Germany's villages. However, due to fires that ravaged much of Passau during the 17th century, it was rebuilt in the Rococo style at the direction of Prince-Bishops of Passau who wanted to mirror the popular trend sweeping through Italy at the time. Nonetheless, I loved it despite the lack of medieval Germanic architecture.