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European Travel

November 23, 2010

Get Ready for Your European Grand Tour at NYC's Idlewild Books


Idlewild-books-interior

Planning a trip to Europe next year? See out the dark days of winter and your travel yearnings with a ten-week language class in French, Italian, or Spanish at Manhattan's Idlewild Books. Instead of packing would-be Don Quixotes into some airless seminar hall, the 75-minute classes take place on the store's high-ceilinged, book-flanked mezzanine level. Idlewild, an independent bookseller located in artsy Union Square near West Chelsea and Greenwich Village, is revered for its impressive collection of travel guides and world literature, organized by country. Teachers are all native speakers, and the approach is firmly fixed on giving students practical, on-the-go language skills for their travels. Register by November 30 and get 25 percent off winter 2011 classes.

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Related Topics: Book Club · European Travel · Travel Tips

October 14, 2010

Via Alpina Top Ten



By Guest Blogger
10/14/2010

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Meiringen, Switzerland(Brandon Wilson)
Near Meiringen, Switzerland (Brandon Wilson)

I make it a point to get away and hike somewhere nearly every year: across Tibet, Spain, Norway, England to Rome, and France to Israel. It's my passion. Last summer my wife Cheryl and I decided to trek the new Via Alpina, a series of trails running through eight countries tracing the backbone of the Alps. It was a supreme physical and mental challenge with more than a few ups and downs. For 111 days and 1,200 miles, we climbed and descended almost 700,000 feet (that's more than 12 Mt. Everests). But hey, who's counting?

For fellow travelers who enjoy journeys off the beaten track, I'd like to share my Via Alpina Top Ten List:

10. Schlafen in Stroh
In English that means, "sleeping in straw." Some industrious Swiss (is there any other kind?) have turned dairy barns into hostels, replacing the straw and allowing travelers to roll out sleeping bags for a uniquely traditional overnight stay. Milk not included. Lingering scents are.

9. Weather
Alpine weather's as fickle as love; you can have sun, rain, hail, and snow—all on the same summer day. We faced biblical proportions of rain. Yea, forty days, but by August the days were sweltering. The challenge is to go with the flow... while keeping your feet firmly planted on the path.

Continue reading "Via Alpina Top Ten" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Outdoor Adventures

October 07, 2010

Lost: Black Jacket in Scotland’s Last Great Wilderness


Knoydart-remote-scotland-new

Being a New Englander, I’m not shocked by the occasional “you can’t get there from here” coming from a local. On a trip last weekend to Knoydart Peninsula on the western coast of the Scottish Highlands, I was shocked to find that in some places, it’s actually true.

Our trip, guided by Stevie Christie of Wilderness Scotland, an outfitter named to Outside Magazine’s top adventure trips of 2010, started on a gray morning in Glasgow where we quickly exited the city and drove past Loch Lomond to the base of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles at 4,049 feet. We hiked through the driving rain on a side trail to Glen Nevis, once described as the most beautiful half-kilometer on Earth by mid-century Scottish writer W.H. Murray. I was happy for my durable, sturdy, impermeable-yet-breathable shell that’s one of my must-pack travel items, double that for a trip to Scotland. But no sooner had we gotten to the glen, the clouds broke and the sun came out revealing leprechaun-quality rainbows beaming across Steal Falls.

Continue reading "Lost: Black Jacket in Scotland’s Last Great Wilderness" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · New Zealand Travel · Outdoor Adventures · Places to Stay

September 23, 2010

Madrid: Bargains, Bartering and Keeping the Budget



By Guest Blogger
09/23/2010

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Madrid-PhotoDisc
(Photodisc)

So you want to hang out in one of the coolest cities in Europe, but happen to be a bit strapped for cash? No problem. Madrid is relatively affordable compared to places such as Paris and London, and it's possible to have a great trip there without spending more than a few euros. Here are some tips for exploring Madrid on the cheap.

Accommodation
Madrid is packed full of cheap hotels and hostels right in the city, meaning that you don't have to stay out in the sticks in order to get a good deal. There are dozens lining Gran Vía alone, some with rooms from as little as 15 euros a night. Recommendations include the United World Hostel on the corner of Gran Vía and Plaza de España, the Duermo on Calle de San Bernardo, and the Eden Paraíso Neptuno, just off Sol. These are just examples: if you do your homework comparing prices you're bound to find an excellent bargain.

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Related Topics: European Travel

September 15, 2010

Seven Must-See Towns in The Dolomites



By Guest Blogger
09/15/2010

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Long horned cow in field, Dolomites in background, Italy(Laura Ciapponi,Photodisc,Getty)
Long horned cow with Dolomites in background, Italy (Laura Ciapponi)

Italy's Dolomites, the mountainous region located just south of the Alps, can easily be described as amazing, with its serenity, spectacular views, and the incredible adventures it offers to visitors. Formed some 200 million years ago, the Dolomites get their name from the unique composition of carbonite rock of which they are made. There are several valleys and towns that make up the Dolomites, where tourists flock year-round to participate in a variety of outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and sightseeing. Among them are seven cities that should be at the top of any traveler’s "must-see" list.

Bolzano (Bozen) is a beautiful city often referred to as the "Gateway to the Dolomites" and is comprised of a lovely mixture of cultural displays, open air markets, restaurants, and high-end shops. The Boutique Venier comes highly recommended; the owner, Olga, will go out of her way to assist her customers. Visitors can also enjoy lunch at the newly opened Restaurant Zur Kaiserkron or stop by the archaeological Ötzi museum.

The city of Brunico (Bruneck) is a quaint town rich with cultural history. The towering castles, along with the popular antique center, lend to the "ancient" feel of the city. Visitors here will feel as if they've taken a step back in history to a much simpler time.

Continue reading "Seven Must-See Towns in The Dolomites" »

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Related Topics: European Travel

September 08, 2010

Travel Photography Tip: Shoot from the Hip


1-DSC_0206

As much as we all agree that the advent of digital photography made everything much easier when it came to capturing the epic images of your travels, the one lost element of the old film days that I occasionally lament remains the element of surprise. In the days of film speeds and a max of 36 exposures, you never really knew what you'd get until you had the film developed. Patience became a necessity. And when you picked up the pictures and negatives, flipping through the photos was like revisiting the trip days after you returned. The only rule of thumb: if you got two or three usable photos out of a roll, you did good. 

Continue reading "Travel Photography Tip: Shoot from the Hip" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · European Travel · Travel Photography · Travel Tips

August 27, 2010

Good Times in Greenwich, London


London-greenwich-park
Greenwich Park and the London skyline beyond (Anne Marie Briscombe/The Royal Parks)

I recently visited London with my family and spent a week based out of Greenwich, the leafy borough along the banks of the Thames River in the southeastern quadrant of the British capital. I must admit to not really expecting much from London after having lived and visited there extensively over the years: too busy, too expensive, too many hassles when navigating with kids...

Happily, our sojourn in Greenwich washed away my familiarity-breeds-contempt apathy about the Big Smoke, notably because Greenwich provided welcome respite from the hubbub in central London. Transit connections are easy via overland rail from London Bridge or the Docklands Light Railway (via the Tube), though it was the river-taxi jaunts up and down the Thames that won gold with my kids. Thames Clippers operates a fleet of sleek catamarans that glide past major sights including Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Tate Modern, and St. Paul's Cathedral, with easy-to-access piers on both banks of the Thames. Service is frequent throughout the day, albeit a shade more expensive and slower than comparable commutes by rail. (Bus is another option, though it's the slowest of your choices.)

Continue reading "Good Times in Greenwich, London" »

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Related Topics: European Travel · Family Vacation

August 24, 2010

Au Pair Adventures: The Greek Fountain of Youth



By Guest Blogger
08/24/2010

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Kos Beach
Healing waters of Kios beach (jordanwelcomes.com/blog/)

As tourists head for sunsets in the Cyclades, the native Greek go to Kios (also known as Kos). The pebbly beach in the finger of the Peloponnese isn't much to see. The semi-smooth rocks are separated from the sea in a thick line of seaweed, dead bugs, and the occasional floating plastic bottle. The boulder-sized submerged rocks come next, followed by the demi-jungle of long, stringy seaweed covered in unidentifiable brown goo. At waist deep you can almost see your toes—it certainly doesn't compare to the crystal clear waters of nearby Nafplion.

But on any day of the week this beach is filled with elderly locals seeking the healing power of this Greek fountain of youth. It is the murkiness of the extra-salty water that gives this part of the ocean power—the plants and mud give the water life. In what I have come to call the Peloponnese retirement center, it is here in the grime and grit that people wade out to 100 meters where the water is waist deep. There they dig up earth from the bottom and slather their bodies with the ashy mud.

Continue reading "Au Pair Adventures: The Greek Fountain of Youth" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · European Travel · Travel Trends

August 18, 2010

To Hop or Not to Hop? That's the Question.



By Guest Blogger
08/18/2010

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Wooden Boat in reflection Hora Harbor,Greece(Darrell Gulin,Photodisc,Getty)
Hora Harbor, Greece (Darrell Gulin)

"Hopping" between the Greek Islands is a sensory overload of beauty and a way to experience a different atmosphere each day. You'll get a sense of freedom from creating your own itinerary—waking each morning with the option to stay or move on. Some of the many pluses of this getaway include that English is widely spoken, cheap rooms are easy to find, and ferries are frequent. Make sure you bring your sea legs with you as the boat rides have been known to get the less experienced sailors seasick—highspeed boats and catamarans are also used to transport if you're looking to veer from the norm. It's also best to consider how many, and in which order, you're going to take on the islands, as you may find yourself going the long way around otherwise. Most visitors start in Athens, though Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Santorini, Mykonos, and Skiathos have international airports and make for an equally picturesque holiday kickoff.

Rhodes
Rhodes, like the other Greek islands, uses the euro as its currency. This means your foreign currency exchange will be fairly simple before you leave for your destination, as most bureau de change outlets in the UK have Euros on hand.

Continue reading "To Hop or Not to Hop? That's the Question." »

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Related Topics: European Travel

August 12, 2010

Biking through Monet's Inspiration


Giverny from Monet's bridge, Giverny, France(Visions of America,Joe Sohm,Digital Vision,Getty)
View from Monet's Bridge, Giverny, France (Visions of America/Joe Sohm)

Those of you with a love of art history know Giverny as the home of Claude Monet. Less than an hour by train from Paris, you can make the pilgrimage to Monet's home and his spectacular Japanese water garden inundated with day lilies, the inspiration for many of the works that hang on the walls of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and other impressive collections of Impressionism around the globe. Fat Tire Bike Tours escorts riders from Paris's St. Lazare train station to the quaint village of Vernon. Once you arrive, you head to an outdoor market to stock up on picnic food—soft, creamy Reblochon cheese, slices of yummy Rosette de Lyon sausage, duck liver pate, warm baguettes from the neighborhood boulangerie, juicy strawberries and apricots, and a bottle of wine to wash it down. After handing out bikes, our guide Andrew led us to the banks of the Seine River where we watched a family of swans swim as we dug into our goodies. Then we were off on an easy three-mile bike trail that connects Vernon with Giverny. We entered the picturesque hamlet and were soon walking over that Japanese bridge seen in many of Monet's works. The whole trip from Paris took around eight hours and cost $85 per biker, a perfect day trip for our family of four.

Steve Jermanok is the publisher of ActiveTravels.com, a site that offers expert advice to travelers, not tourists, on connecting with nature, people, and wildlife around the world while working up a sweat.

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Related Topics: European Travel
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